Friday, October 20, 2006

"There's just too many of them! I look away, I look back and there's more..."

We got a new oven recently.

Our flat is very small.

We have lots of books.

Neither the old oven or the new oven could be moved through the corridor because our bookcases narrowed the path by too much.

So we moved about a third of our books off the shelves, moved the bookcases and hoped for the best.

In the picture you can see three bright yellow volumes - this is the Phaidon Design Classics Mr Hypatia Avenue contributed to. In amongst the pile is the London Collection for which he was one of four writers. All excellent presents for Christmas - to receive or to give. Order now. You won't be disappointed. A more detailed and annotated picture of the books is available here.

My favourite bit in the London Collection is the dedications page at the back: I'm there as Mrs Hypatia Avenue with whom Mr H.A looks forward to more adventures in our town. It's a lovely book, not just for the dedications page, and I urge you all to have one in your home or about your person at all times.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

"I wanted to take you somewhere special. It's just through here, through this door..."
My friend G, who has come from Tokyo to London for a bit of work with MTV Europe, arranged to meet me last Thursday and I was stumped as to where to take her. It just so happens that the folks who brought us the fantastic Tropicana under London Bridge are now using their extraordinary space as a bar. And so we met in London Bridge underground station and I led the unsuspecting G to an unmarked door in the station wall... and we walked through into total darkness.

We had to hold hands and clutch each other in a completely non-lesbian way to get to the bar area without screaming in the dark - it's a long walk through the drafty vaults and there were only a few stage lights leftover from their summer show to light the way, but we eventually got to the bar area and sat down in the candlelit space.

We sipped cheap red wine while crouched around a battered old coffee table. Every chair looked like it had been rescued from a skip. It could have been the Blitz or an artists' happening in the crypts under Paris or the chill out space of a mega-rave from the early 1990s. It was special. If you're in the London Bridge area, go to the tube station and look for the plainest, most unsuspecting door in the brick wall of Joiner Street. Go through it into the dark and keep going... it's quite magical how you suddenly find yourself in a bar. And it's a bar with a garden shed.

After the Shunt Lounge, we tottered half-cut into Tito's, the Peruvian cafe I used to go to with my brother when he was working in the same part of town; if he was feeling generous or if I had whined persuasively enough, he would treat me to one of the mega six egg omelettes with chips or alternatively, a salad that had more ingredients than I would buy in my week's shopping.

The place is transformed after 6pm and the menu is unrecognisable from the lunchtime standards - it's all Peruvian favourites and pan pipe music with the promise of some saucy South American dancing to extremely loud and insistent Latin grooves in the basement afterwards. We both chose vegetarian dishes and while G picked delicately around a grilled aubergine smothered in a fragrant, creamy tomato and cheese sauce with a bit of rice, I ordered the pumpkin dish.

What I got was... a small mound of white rice, a pool of molten orange cheese with what looked like diced carrot floating in it, two fried eggs perched on top of that and an enormous deep fried banana split in two bordering the whole lot like golden parentheses. It was delicious if a bit unusual and it was only when I had cleared half the plate that I realised there wasn't any pumpkin. I suspect the diced carrot was actually small pieces of pumpkin, being the correct shade of orange and a bit tough and woody to chew... but I could be wrong.

Got home a bit overexcited and tipsy and submitted Mr Hypatia Avenue to yet another breathless and unintelligible monologue, this time about Peruvian waiters playing panpipes while we payed our bill, holding hands in the dark, cheese and pumpkins and fried bananas and... he was nice enough to just let me exhaust myself and talk myself to sleep. Even asleep, I was still burbling about big brick arches and the garden shed with no roof but a nice table inside. A great evening in great company in a great place.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

"Top 10 Influential UK Blogs: No. 8 - Londonist"

A good piece of news: Londonist is in the top ten list of most influential UK blogs. It means a lot to me that we're considered one of the most influential blogs, by Technorati, no less - not best designed or funniest or quirkiest, but instead, its a matter of influence and effect. What we say on the site really sticks and we seem to be used as a point of reference quite often by people and institutions abroad: we are seen as a genuine London voice to a lot of people.

It's a responsibility the team takes very seriously and though we have a lot of fun keeping the site in motion, we know our duty towards our regular readers and we never copy and paste, we never cut corners, we never resort to cliche and the quick, slack, crap that gets thrown up, unedited and unplanned on so many other sites just doesn't happen to us. We won't let it happen to us. And our vigilance, our diligence and our care is beginning to be recognised. It's a good note on which to end a rather long and trying day. Congratulations to all, and in particular to Editro.

And... another sign of Londonist being adopted as the voice of London: I'm being interviewed by a Spanish radio station tomorrow afternoon, as food writer for the site. Bloody hell - I've only had two Spanish lessons and I'm going on air to southern Spain and the Balearics. Londonist: it rocks to read it and it rocks even harder to write for it.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

"I need to sit down. I'm bored now. Can we stop? I'd like a coffee. That's it. I'm going home."

I did it again - and one minute faster than last year. My Londonist opponent and his wife were running against me, representing south of the Thames (the bad side of town) and managed to cross the line two minutes before I dragged myself, whining and wheezing over the finish. I was faster this year but I was in more pain: I should have stretched more often in the weeks before the run and I really should have tried to do more than half an hour of huffing and puffing around Pimlico each time I attempted some training. However, I do not feel responsible for north London losing out in the race: we can't help being a little slower than the south... because we can get black cabs to take us home on our side of the Thames.

In fact, once I was finally done with the run, I located Mr Hypatia Avenue who had been draining the coffee tent of their beverages while we athletes pounded our way around the park and he took one look at my red face, weak knees and sore feet and hailed us a cab. I sat with my face covered as we sped along Park Lane past all the other exhausted runners, all queueing for buses or limping home on foot. Oh, the shame of being a spoilt brat.

Full Flickr set of photos to be found here.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

"I think you're missing the point... you're supposed to be wearing clothes"

I've been applying for new jobs and therefore procrastinating by spending a lot of time on the internet, surfing for movie spoilers (I'm not about to watch Right At Your Door but the promise of a massive, cunning twist at the end sent me scurrying around various movie spoiler sites. Gaaaad, am I glad I didn't bother with that film - not so much a twist as instant demand for a refund) and video clips of kittens falling asleep. This one is my favourite: it's the way it topples over backwards then swings back upright, still with its face scrunched up in sleep.

Then I was shopping in my local supermarket and found a discarded shopping list in my basket and it set off a chain of thoughts that I wanted to put down here... instead of chucking away the list, I scrutinised it, put it in my pocket and had a smile on my face as I went around doing the week's shopping. I was recalling an interview on Londonist with a chap called Scott who collects shopping lists, analyses them then scans them and puts them up with his thoughts on his site. It's a harmless, quite charming, whimsical project and he's recently been featured in The Times for a "what teachers do outside term-time"... and his wry, amusing efforts at making the ordinary a little extraordinary made me feel a little brighter and more uplifted just by finding a discarded shopping list in my basket that wet, rainy, miserable Sunday afternoon.

The internet is transformative. It offers people a different view on the world around them and gives them a chance to interact with their world in the widest range of ways with other people in ways that were previously unthought of - chat forums, group blogs, ARGs and MMRPGs, fansites, music and image sharing...

The last ARG I played was two-thirds online - I'm playing another one at the moment by the same folks and that's turning out to be about the same ratio of physical, geographically specific, IRL activities and clue-hunting with a hell of a lot of stuff carried out across a range of internet-based applications. The last ARG was based around the National Theatre and I spent some happy evenings in the theatre bars, crawling around the car park, going up and down in lifts, interviewing statues and hanging around on the terraces with a radio, clutching a biscuit (yeah, I'll explain later). But I also had a great time flitting between the various online things that were part of the game:

... at least three blogs on Blogger
... the edit history pages of the National Theatre entry on Wikipedia (this was a very clever way of making one of the characters from the game communicate with us from the shadow National Theatre, speaking from a very odd unreal yet existing bit of cyber space...)
... a bizarre and frustrating online chat application called Habbo Hotel (which I couldn't log into while at work but everyone who managed it thought it was a marvellous idea and all in real time too)
... hidden bits of the real National Theatre website that was password protected for those elite few who stuck with the adventure long enough to work out what the password could be
... YouTube clips of the mystery tracks played during the National Theatre Late Lounge club night; these music tracks had secret messages hidden within them - sonorous bells and half-whispered words from the shadow NTT and it was useful to be able to listen to them again and again on the blogs in our attempt to work out the next clue
... the initial set of photos on Flickr and then more photos on Flickr from myself and fellow adventurer MykReeve


Also,during my research, I discovered that over time I have joined the following Flickr groups:

And I've contributed my own photos to all of them.

I love Flickr. I love the people who use Flickr. I love the person I am on Flickr.

Ah. The internet. It's not just for porn.