Such An Inflating Day Trip

I went to meet a bunch of people in London. The congregation was meant to be part of a stag do. I mean, it was a stag celebration but I didn’t really attend most of it. The plan was brunch, a rugby match and then whatever followed. I knew that the brunch was going to be either outside or in a well distanced restaurant and so I was happy with that but as the time approached to attend a rugby match travelling via crowded trains and being in a stadium I felt unsure about the covid-ness of it all. Now, I had been to a gig where you had to show your vaccinated status to get in and there were quite a lot of people but it felt mostly safe. I didn’t want to be in an England crowd at Twickenham.

Belfast, London
Belfast, London

Another things that’s been bothering me recently is the pay rises the government has paid teachers over the last ten years. I find this really interesting, partly as I’m a teacher and partly because I can’t believe teachers are not as angry as they really should be. Over the last ten years the government has deliberately followed a policy of austerity. This was their political choice. We now know it wasn’t necessary as when the covid pandemic hit they decided to spend a fuck-ton squared and even then the controls were so poor that BILLIONS was lost. Here’s a graph showing teacher pay over the last ten years compared to where it would be if we had JUST received pay rises in line with inflation.

Teacher Pay Rises Versus RPI
Teacher Pay Rises Versus RPI

Back to the stag. We met at a place near Waterloo station but I walked in from London Bridge station which was about a twenty five minute walk along the South Bank. It was a really nice walk and I started on the river close to HMS Belfast and then walked past the City Of London, the Golden Hind, and a lot of eateries. Fortunately I didn’t have to walk past too many of those “people who stand still for money” as they annoy me intensely. The brunch was nice and the restaurant staff were very tolerant of the pranks played on the stag.

Cityscape, London
Cityscape, London

Here are some numbers for you wrt the pay. The pay rise over the last ten years amounts to around 13.2% total pay rise since 2010. Inflation in that time has caused an increased in prices of around 37%. For comparison the CPI, and clearly you are going to use whichever inflation measure works best for your argument, has increased 25% in that time period. I used the Office for National Statistics to get my data. If my pay had increased by the CPI it would be around 46,000 now which is still clearly above what I am actually paid. In essence I have had a real terms pay cut every year for the last [over] ten years.

MP Salary
MP Salary

There’s nothing like mixing up all your graph types when you are trying to make a point but I was curious how much MPs have awarded themselves over the same time period. They’ve had a pay rise of around 25% meaning that they are inline with the lower of the inflation measures. So, the people voting to not pay public servants according to the lower rate of inflation have awarded themselves that exact rate. We all know that’s not even the best of it. Over that time MPs have given themselves plenty of expenses to be able to pay for things that they would say are required as part of the job, and I would mostly agree, but I would also argue that many MPs play the system to enrich themselves. This pay doesn’t take into account any other jobs and directorships that MPs take on.

I think the problem is that too many of us do our job because we like being a teacher. We feel a “calling” or feel we should do the things that are considered normal of us. I personally don’t think that. I don’t feel the calling and I don’t feel this job is a vocation. This job is one that is bloody hard work and no one will be there to thank you at the end of it. That’s not how all this works. You don’t get a special seat in heaven. You just stop doing this shit one day and it leaves your life. Salaried jobs are bollocks. We should be paid for what we do and in a specific time frame otherwise the organisation is stealing from you.

Comms#1985 and so here are some things that happened in that year:

  • “Neighbours” starts on Australian television.
  • First mobile phone network in UK.
  • South Africa ends its ban on interracial marriage.
  • 56 die in the Bradford City football ground fire.
  • 39 fans die in the Heysel Stadium disaster.
  • Windows 1.0 is released.

This Is London Calling

I recently traveled to London for the day. I did plenty of walking along with a few train rides and underground journeys. Not going to say a huge amount about what I saw but here are some of the highlights:

There you are. Some of the classic sights of the city of London and Greater London and the City of Westminster.

Freakangel – Zigfrid von Underbelly

Last night coincided with a charity gig in London and so I ensured my position was sufficient to be there. It took place at Zigfrid von Underbelly, in Hoxton Square, which is the basement of a steak house as far as I could tell. There were four bands and the money raised went to the Beat Cancer charity which is a pretty good cause. So, here’s my review:

The first band up played about five songs. It was mostly electronica with some signing. My notes say:

Two blokes, woman green hair. She looked nervous. Electronica. It was ok. Nothing special. Not my stuff but they interacted well.

When I say they interacted well I think I mean the main male signer was busy with the crowd but then he also organised the whole event.

DEP
DEP

The second band were called Room 1985 and it certainly felt like their set was 1985 years long. It was Indie mixed with prog rock and it was pretty boring. There were some lyrics but they weren’t interesting. I was polished but fucking dull. Of note was the guitarist who played left handed and a standard strung guitar upside down, that was quite cool. I did not take a photo of them.

NeonSol
NeonSol

Thirdly were Neonsol a Danish band which was mostly upbeat europop with a hint of electro, it was good dance stuff but not really dark enough. The “drummer” played roughly two pads on the machine and I wondered why he was there!

Finally Freakangel were on. I’d listened to their stuff over the previous couple of weeks and it was pretty good. A decent heavy guitar with aggrotech over the top. The shouty vocals work and I actually don’t mind them in this case.

Freakangel
Freakangel

Things of note were poor sound quality for the first 10 minutes. There was no guitar sound in the beginning and it was worrisome as there was definitely something missing from the sound. Just before the band Smith and I had gone outside to get some air but it was actually colder in the basement with people jumping around than outside [FYI it’s about 30C today]. I don’t know whether to mention the fact that the drummer was female, in this day and age it shouldn’t matter should it? Everyone can do whatever the fuck they want and it shouldn’t be a “thing”. I guess it’s still not that common. The audience was at least 50% female which does not happen within metal.

Freakangel were pretty good and I think I’d like to see them again in a slightly busier dedicated venue with decent sound.

Butterfly Display

I met up last night with two friends whom I have known for ages. Smith I have known since I was a kid and Jimbo I met while we were in the Air Cadets together. Oddly both went to the same school as me but they were in different year groups. You didn’t mix with other year groups in school in those days. On the matter of friendship I am currently in touch with no-one from my friends at school and I am not bothered by this fact [why should I be?].

We met in Green Park and I noticed all the anti-terrorist barriers and it saddened me slightly. It is such a shame that politicians and those we think are in charge believe they have to adjust the beauty and freedom of the city for our safety.

First drink was in the Running Horse Tavern at 128 Piccadilly. It was a nice atmosphere there and busier than I expected. I think we lowered the average age of patrons though.

Feeling hungry and wanting spice food, dinner was partaken at Masala Zone in Camden Town. It was one of the first times I really looked at the artwork on the walls, some of it was beautiful.

Although you can spend a whole evening in a curry house that doesn’t mean that you should. We walked the very short distance to the World’s End pub. A heavy metal pub with curious art work including a collection of butterflies mounted and displayed proudly on the wall.

I like heavy metal even though my tastes have evolved over time but sometimes, when you want to chat, loud music is a little obnoxious. So a walk down towards Mornington Crescent was required.

We attended the Lyttleton Arms for a while. It’s a nice pub. A few years back I did shots in there with my niece. But, the pub had an 80s disco playing. Too loud for comfortable chatter. Which is a shame. Another move required.

The Cobden Arms proved to be a sanctuary of calm and quiet. No music or if there was I didn’t notice it. We spent time here chatting before walking back to the transport hub of 51°31’49″N 0°07’27″W.

Contrasts

Saw a lovely part of London today when I walked along the Regent’s Canal today. I was learning some maths in town and I had to walk from St Pancras to the venue and rather than walk along the main roads I took the tow path. I’m glad I did.

Part Of The Canal
Part Of The Canal

I also saw this exquisite book shop. There was music playing from loud speakers as I walked past and plenty of vinyl on display.

Bookshop
Bookshop

I also saw a lovely old industrial building that, if I had loads of money and the relevant experience I would turn this into a music venue.

It’s a shame I don’t have money, the contacts, the experience or any industry knowledge at all!

My Future Venue
My Future Venue

When I got back home I went for a run and jogged past this quality piece of Kent countryside. I think this is the second burnt out car to grace these pages!

They cut out the VIN
They cut out the VIN

But, there is good news: This lovely view over the Medway and Tonbridge and Malling Borough.

Countryside
Countryside

Walk That Way

I had a nice day in London on Thursday past. I was attending a course which should give me decent information to help people at work. It was interesting and also quite difficult at the same time. It was good to be challenged and made to do new things. I had to walk down Marylebone High Street to get to the venue and it looked quite a nice place with small independent shops that were selling stuff way more expensive than I could afford.

I had a spare ninety minutes in the day before meeting Smith and so I went for a walk, mostly to help work off the flap jacks I had eaten. London is nice and calm, as long as you stay away from the main tourist routes. Don’t walk down Oxford Street use Wigmore Street instead.

This gives you an idea of my activity through the day. The red bars are when I was doing maths. The other bits show me walking around. I walked 20km that day compared to an average 12.4km.

This chart shows total steps per month over the last year. Quite clearly we can see that when the weather is warmer and daylight lasts longer I walk more. That’s not really a surprise.

Rams Lose

Yesterday I sauntered to Twickenham. It was time to see another NFL match as part of the NFL International Series. Normally these matches are at Wembley but I was interested to see Twickenham as I had only been there once before for a Bon Jovi concert. I followed Google Maps all the way there, even though that meant going around the North Circular. Once I found the car park I had to allow security people [who I assume know what they are looking for but I doubt it] to look in the boot and under the bonnet of my car. These “security” steps annoy me as they aren’t evidence based.

Then I walked the short distance to the stadium and boy is it a fucking ugly stadium:

I waited for my ticket to arrive and had food. The pre-game show was performed by Craig David, it was shit. Then there was the national anthems and time for the annual “Jason having a moan at Ian” thing. I don’t stand for anthems. I don’t understand why I should. I also don’t get the patriotism associated with anthems. They annoy me. While it has nothing to do with the blacklivesmatter movement I’m not against their movement. I wrote some stuff here. I’ve probably written loads of stuff about my feelings towards patriotism but you can search for it yourself.

The match was interesting. Not the best one I’ve seen but good enough to justify the money I spent on the ticket!

In the final quarter we were hoping that the Rams would score and bring the game to a tie for overtime. That would have been quite exciting. But they threw an interception in to the end zone with about forty seconds to go. Such a shame, but a good afternoon anyway. I supported the Rams as I had previously when I saw them at Wembley. They are the first team I have seen twice. Also, Rich couldn’t be there and he’s a Rams fan so it made sense to support them. I would never support the Patriots. It is quite possible I have seen the Jaguars twice but the following should clear that up.

I am now going to attempt to log the games I have seen so that at least I have some form of record.

2008
San Diego Chargers @ New Orleans Saints [New Orleans won and are my team following this match]

2010
Denver Broncos @ San Francisco 49ers [49ers win]

2011 – I’m reasonably sure I saw the Bears this year, but am not sure.

2012
New England Patriots @ St Louis Rams [Patriots won – boo]

2013
San Francisco 49ers @ Jacksonville Jaguars [49ers won]

2014
Miami Dolphins @ Oakland Raiders [Dolphins won]
Detroit Lions @ Atlanta Falcons [Lions won]

2016
New York Giants @ LA Rams [Giants won]

London Has Fallen

I feel ashamed. I was told not to see London Has Fallen but still I went. I went to see White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen a few years ago and they were both quite terrible films. They seem to make out that terrorists are superbly intelligent people able to undertake huge operations involving hundreds of people. In reality terrorists are rarely that clever or good at terrorism. So, as ever, I rated this on IMDB and you should read the guide to my system here.

This film was terrible. It replaced plot and intelligence with gunfire and explosions. It didn’t make sense. Perhaps I was hoping for too much realism and not hoping enough for shooting everywhere with guns that have a LOT of ammunition. Holy crap the Gerard Butler character and POTUS seemed indestructible. If you have ninety minutes of your life that you want to waste watching London get blown up while people mill around [the background people don’t react how I would if there were explosions and gunfire] then please watch this.

So, Morgan Freeman turns up playing the Vice-President. Which confused the hell out of me as I was sure he played the president in the previous film and I spent about five minutes trying to figure out what happened politically that would cause the President to swap places with his VP. Then I remembered: that was the other shitty terror film! I was in the wrong franchise!

[So I fucked up. The other film franchise had Jamie Foxx in it. I feel like I’m a racist old fucker now. Shit, damn and bollocks. I was still confused.]

There’s an MI6 man who is part of the CATERING for the wedding at the beginning and confirms that the EVIL MAN is present, at his own fucking house. The wedding is blown up and the USA is surprised that there’s a lot of civilian death. It was a WEDDING. It was clearly a WEDDING. There was a man on the ground who was catering for the WEDDING. The overhead views CLEARLY showed a marquee and many people around who wouldn’t have been there a week before. It was a WEDDING. Anyone with half a brain would have known it was a WEDDING, you know, where lots of people gather to celebrate and probably have not a lot to do with the evil man. The explosion was HUGE. And yet evil man and two of his sons survived? Really?

There was an MI6 safe house in London. Why would MI6 have a safe house in London? They don’t do domestic. That would be MI5.

“The President doesn’t go anywhere without a satellite overhead recording him”. Really? That’s some fucking observation system you have there! I’m impressed. You can manoeuvre a satellite to make it overhead of the President all the time? Haven’t you heard of orbital mechanics?

Gerard Butler makes a hand signal that is spotted by the satellite and interpreted correctly by the bods in the situation room? What? How? What? Seriously what? I laughed, out loud, by myself, in a packed cinema.

“The terrorists have hacked into all communications”.
VP calls Gerard Butler telling him a SEAL team are on their way.
Looks surprised when a SEAL team turn up too quick and then determines they are baddies because they aren’t SWEATING. Nothing to do with brown skin and a beard. No, this film isn’t racist.

The explosion at the end was HUGE. It killed all the terrorists but didn’t get POTUS or Butler? Really?

This film replaced any form of sense and fun and action with gunfire and bullets. Too much gunfire and bullets. And I quite like action films.

My lessons from this film are that white people are OK. Black people are OK. The British are incompetent. Brown people are bad, especially if they have beards or are over 50 and look distinguished. Pakistan and Yemen are really bad. POTUS knows how to handle ten different types of gun and is indestructible.

This is a terrible film and I need to stop pointing out the bullshit.

Kent By Car

I have some good friends. Back in the summer a good friend, AG, leant me his Mazda MX5 for a weekend. I think I picked it up on a Friday evening and then returned it late afternoon on the Sunday. I would have to say that it is a great little car, really fun to drive. Sally and I explored the countryside around Kent and also took a trip into London.

So, we bombed around Kent. I drove the car out and about and we went to Scotney Castle. It was pretty good weather while we were there, but we didn’t go into the Castle itself as we would have to pay around £14 each. We did walk around the grounds and suffered a short while with fine rain.

It was soon lunchtime and so we drove to the Three Chimneys pub near Biddenden. The Mazda looked good in the car park. Lunch was nice, I had Welsh Rarebit and Sally had a posh sausage roll.

After that we visited the Biddenden Vineyard shop to purchase some of their fine cider. I had been persuaded to try some of this by Sally. I’d never really enjoyed cider before, especially from the pub, I just didn’t like it. This real cider from a decent maker was really tasty. When leaving the car park for the vineyard I *may* have wheel spun and also handbraked a turn a little, you know, just for kicks.

From there we drove through the fine countryside of Kent towards a hairdressers shop in Parkwood, Maidstone. Sunday morning was going to be interesting and Sally wanted to make sure her hair looked awesome.

Sunday was a special-get-up-early day. We had to get ready for a photoshoot in London. For some reason, mainly my exhibitionism, we had met a photographer at a club night and she wanted to expand her portfolio and offered us a free photoshoot. This took a while and plenty of emails to arrange but organise it we did. We dressed, did make up and checked hair before driving in the Mazda to Lincoln’s Inn Fields. We had to keep the roof of the car up for most of the journey else hair would have been blown around and looked bad.

We found [free] parking and met Marisa, our photographer. We then spent about 2 hours posing in various locations around the square. Onlookers aplenty were staring and some cheeky fuckers (mostly men) even took photos of us (or mostly of Sally) as we posed in the street. The results of the official photos are stunning and we are both really happy. We will be ordering some for the walls.

As the photos were now complete we decided to tour around parts of London with the roof down. I had sunglasses on so my make up didn’t show too much and Sally wore extra clothes to keep warm. We toured around the Embankment, Trafalgar Square but we couldn’t get to Buckingham Palace as The Mall was closed.

After wandering around London we drove home and got changed. It wasn’t long until it was time to give the car back. It was great fun to have and drive around. I want to do it again, or maybe buy my own.

We plan to explore the Midlands and Cotswolds and so a Mazda would be very good for this. I’ll have to ask AG if I can borrow it again! Maybe even for a week!

Burnt Sticks 2612W

At the end of May Sally and I went to stay in London for a couple of nights. I now give you a run down of those days including various comments and things I remember.

We arrived on a Sunday evening. After parking the car we walked to our apartment block, carrying enough kit to survive for two nights and days. We stayed in the Pan Peninsula West Tower on the 26th floor. The décor was interesting. The apartment was mostly black walls and floor along with no bedrooms (studio flat) and built in appliances. Many thanks to Mazza.

Once in the apartment we settled and spent time on the balcony overlooking the docks and most of London. We drank champagne and watched the sun set over most of London. The champagne sunset contributed to a partial completion of a promise I made a while back. I intend to complete the promise fully later in the year.

London Sunset

Once the sun had set we tried to find somewhere to eat food. The problem was that most places were shut, it being around 21:30 on a Sunday. I ended up downloading an app, signing up and getting kebab delivered to the apartment! Classy.

On Monday we made sure to get breakfast at a Café Nero in the Canary Wharf shopping complex. Now, I will admit that I really struggled with the layout of this shopping area. Here’s a link to the map, see what you think. It seemed there were three or four main shopping halls, all on different levels and all connected by strange walkways. The map seemed a fanciful sci-fi work of art to me and walking around stressed me intensely. Sally seemed to work out the map and so I relied on her to find our way.

The Shard At Night

A flight on the Emirates Air Line was next, taking a cable car from south of the river near the O2 Arena to the north side of the river near the Excel Arena. One shocking thing was that the price of a tube return from Canary Wharf to the O2, which is one stop, was £9-60 because it crosses a “zone line”, how pathetic! The cable car journey was much smoother than I expected, it was most enjoyable.

Cable Car

We then wandered around towards the Excel Arena before heading back to the O2 and looking at the Emirates display thing. They had a Lego model of a Rolls Royce Trent engine. This made me very excited.

RR Trent (Lego)

Our lunch was in a Brazilian themed restaurant within the O2 complex. There were lots of different eateries there but the Brazilian tempted us most.

Cocktails

The cocktails were very nice, as was the food.

City Airport from Cable Car

After lunch we wandered (by Tube) into the centre of London. A short visit to the M&M shop in Swiss Corner was completed. The whole shop smelt of chocolate, which was nice at first but sickly afterwards. Also, the people were just annoying. It was a shop that sold tat. M&M branded tat. It was full of shit. We purchased some M&Ms though, it would have been rude not to.

Next up was drinks at The Chandos, always a great place to go for a cheeky pint when near Trafalgar Square. We had lager and a short with mixer for me.

The Shard beckoned. You can feel this beast looming over London. The Eye Of Sauron is missing though, they need to create that and insert it at the top, then perhaps we could steal some tourists heading for New Zealand.

I think you’ll find that the Shard is really a Star Destroyer waiting to be launched.

Star Destroyer?

The observation deck of the Shard is on Level 69. I kid you not. This made me giggle a lot. I am sure there is an architect somewhere who wakes up every day with a wry smile at this.

20150525_151243129_iOS

The view from the top is just stunning. We had a glass of champagne while walking the perimeter of the glass just staring out at London and its surrounds. We could see the QE2 Bridge, which is a bit of a Kent/Essex landmark and well known to anyone who uses the M25. Many of the buildings nearby were highlighted in electronic viewfinders so you could find out about them. Here’s a picture of Canary Wharf and the apartment block we stayed in.

DSC_4348

Although it was murky and not very bright we could see a long way. At one point a helicopter flew by at eye level. I liked this. Dinner that night was at a GBK somewhere in the freaky Canary Wharf shopping complex. The next day was the end of our London adventure. We packed and drove out by City Airport to head to the Midlands.

DSC_4373

The last thing I need to say on this matter is what were the burnt sticks in the apartment? Why would you have them? Why?

Burnt Sticks