Working Late (again)

Working. I want to work, that’s for sure but I am not sure what I want to do for a living. My job is OK and pays well but it’s hardly the most stimulating of careers and, what’s more, I was in the office until almost 9pm. 9pm on a Friday night. Somehow, I don’t think this is right:

  • I do not think it’s right for me to work so many additional hours. It’s not the first night this week by a long shot. I do get paid reasonably well but I want to work to live rather than live to work.
  • I do not think this is right for my relationship. I am so exhausted by the time I get home that all I do is eat and sleep. This is not much of a life really.
  • I do not think this is right for my health. Lengthy hours equal stress in the desire to get home (and I am sure must lead to mistakes somewhere along the line). I need to eat (decent food) at a decent hour and not (fast food) at some late hour before I fall asleep on the sofa or crawl to bed.
  • I’m not even site it’s right for the company that employs me. I’m sure that by putting this much pressure on me, they are not getting the best out of me.
  • And above all it’s not right for my spirit. It depresses me to spend so long working. I know I am lucky to have a reasonably paying career but if this is all life is then I am not sure I want it. The career, that is, I do want the life!

But at last, the weekend! Time to re-charge.

Our Country Friends

How many of us who live amidst an urban sprawl would rather be living in the countryside? I suspect it’s a conversation that keeps the wine bars of large parts of London alive. The quest for a quieter, simpler life is something many people search for. Indeed, it is something I have thought of many times. Move all my worldly goods to the South West and see what happens. Well, in truth, at this moment in my life I don’t actually want to do it. Sometimes, however, I wish I could lose the congestion and stresses of inner-city (or, in my case, suburban) living.

And why am I asking myself these questions? Well, last Sunday was the day The Countryside Alliance marched through London. I avoided the centre of town for most of the day but I did enjoy a lunch at Wandsworth Common. Seated at most of the tables surrounding us where groups of people who, quite evidently, had been on some part of the march. What intrigued me was why so many of them had taken a train out of central London to Wandsworth Common.

Of course PY, who seems to have a greater understanding of many of these things than I, claimed that many of those people sat there on Sunday afternoon were in fact local residents but they had been marching for the countryside cause – “Liberty and Livelihood”. Upon reflection, I think he was right. Many of them may have other houses in the country, perhaps even own large amounts of land. But what struck me most was a simple economics. If all the money they spent in the restaurants of Wandsworth Common each Sunday was spent in the countryside then rural communities would be booming. Not only that, but if they all went and lived outside the city and enjoyed the life they were marching to protect on a daily basis (rather than at weekends), then they would free up a great deal of housing stock in urban areas. Thus, the countryside benefits (it’s full of people spending money and supporting the “lifestyle”) and those of us wishing to remain (for the time being) city dwellers would also benefit from less ridiculous housing costs. Doesn’t everybody win? (Well, I know there is the matter of jobs, schools and other infrastructure etc. but you have to admit it’s starting point, if not wholly thought through. And more importantly it’s plainly hypocritical to march for something you don’t actively – economically – support).

For a more interesting read on tweed in the town, see here.

Nike 10K

I want to pass comment on the fact that PY, my significant other/partner/general love of my life, ran the Nike 10K Run London event yesterday in a time which beat his run last year. I was nearly in tears when he crossed the line – isn’t that sad?

The event itself did not seem as well organised as last year. We waited at Wimbledon where there were not enough shuttle buses. The transportation problems lead to a delay at the start and, I imagine, a good number of competitors who didn’t make their allotted start time. The atmosphere was not as good as last year either. In Kew Gardens and with half the number of competitors, last year’s race seemed more intimate and fun. This year, Richmond Park, was spread out and didn’t seem to have the same number of things for those non-runners amongst the throng, to do.

The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband

… on seeing the three-headed comedy, The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband at The New Ambassadors Theatre.

After much walking around London yesterday, I eventually got PY, American Colleague and Myself tickets to The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband. It’s on at The New Ambassadors Theatre, which can be an intimate and interesting venue. It stars Alison Steadman and Daisy Donovan.

It’s a three-headed almost-farce like comedy (I was waiting for a Vicar and no trousers) and it’s only mediocre. Firstly, the title gives the game away. Secondly, the story is too weak to be carried for ninety minutes and thirdly, sadly, some of the acting isn’t great. There’s an old adage that everyone’s a critic and at £32 a ticket I think I bloody well deserve to be. Daisy Donovan, who I find hilarious on television, seemed out of place – although maybe that was just me as reviewers seem to think she handled herself well. However, when the main comedic thrust of her role was the comedy dancing – which might work on TV but looks very strange on the stage – I didn’t think she stood a chance. I imagine that Alison Steadman did her best but I think, the material was just not up to it. It didn’t give Daisy Donovan anything to make her West-End debut with and it didn’t give Alison Steadman anything to get her teeth into. This review says all this in a much more articulate way.

Still, despite its shortcomings, it was an OK evening. Middle aged couples and pairs of gay men. There is something faintly disturbing about that mix. And, perhaps, one should always remember that food is as important as sex.


Another night of entertaining on Old Compton Street

Bet you’re thinking, not another entry about food. My office (more-or-less) took American colleague out for dinner again last night and, again, on Old Compton Street. Pizza. Huge pizzas (not had such a big pizza in London for some time) that were bigger than any plates that the restaurant had available. Many office-type things to speak of but I will reserve judgement on the evening for another time (how mysterious).

So now I am dog-tired. I have been entertaining or being entertained, all week. I have to arrange theatre trips for tonight and other things for the rest of the weekend. It’s very strange, as I haven’t felt this physically exhausted in months. I feel really drained but I couldn’t sleep any longer than I did. My brain was awake and I was getting to that point when lying in bed hurts more than the thought of getting up pains me. Maybe it an age thing.

South Bank. Friends from North.

I could have spent much of this week writing about going out eating and/or entertaining but decided that would be too dull. On the other hand, on Wednesday night we (American and I) went on the London Eye (always a fantastic treat) and then wandered down the South Bank. It is, probably, one of my favourite areas of London.

I could have spent much of this week writing about going out eating and/or entertaining but decided that would be too dull. On the other hand, on Wednesday night we (American and I) went on the London Eye (always a fantastic treat) and then wandered down the South Bank. It is, probably, one of my favourite areas of London.

  • Old County Hall. It’s a pleasuredome of treats but the best bit, is the aquarium. We didn’t go in this time, but I love the place and am writing this as kind of note to self: go back to the London Aquarium.
  • The London Eye. My thirtieth birthday was spent on The Eye in a hired capsule with a whole bunch of friends – all of whom had almost no notice but arrived for drinks, ride and pizza. This time we were on The Eye as the light started to fade – which actually made it all the more magical. We even bought the tacky tourist snap that they take on the way down.
  • New Hungerford Bridges(s). I have spent years walking over the old, narrow bridge avoiding the winter floods and the summer camera-wielding tourists. The new bridges look stunning. They are boulevard wide and, actually, very pleasant to walk across and each bridge has very different, but fabulous, views.
  • Royal Festival Hall and National Film Theatre. They may be concrete and they are certainly not photogenic but they are some of my favourite locations. Long may the concrete jungle live.
  • Oxo Tower. A great building with a great restaurant (even if I can never afford to eat there) and, if you don’t want to go on the wheel, the viewing gallery at the top (free and near the restaurant) provides a stunning view of St. Paul’s Cathedral.
  • Tate Modern and Millennium Bridge. After all the fuss at the turn of the century these are two worthy additions to the London landscape. The interior of the Tate Modern is fantastic (the sheer size of the entrance is great). And the Millennium Bridge is in just the right place and looks gorgeous when lit (although the last few times I haven’t seen the lights on).

On the way back from these sights (we didn’t do new City Hall or Tower Bridge, Hayes Galleria or Butler’s Wharf) we stopped for a psudo-traditional pub meal of chips and beer. Even though, I suspect, the pub was full of tourists it felt as though it was the kind of place I went to regularly, so I guess, had an air of authenticity.

After all this on Wednesday, I was looking forward to last night. Last night was meant to be an evening not operating as tour guide (not that I mind but the break would be good). I was having dinner with some friends (and some old friends who were coming down from Scotland). My friends in Worcester Park were preparing dinner and it was to be (in fact, it was indeed) and evening of memories and fun. However, things did try and put a blocker on the evening.

  • I was late. I was attending some presentations with a client they over-ran.
  • My friend Jo, who was cooking, had been taken ill and been in and out of hospital for two nights (nothing too serious, thankfully). So, she didn’t feel like cooking – her husband decided to and he the food was excellent.
  • We were all so tired (me from working, them from the illness/hospital adventures) that we called a halt to proceedings at 10.30pm.

It’s a shame when things don’t quite go according to plan and you have been looking forward to them. I had been hoping to have a long catch-up with the folks from Scotland and we ended up with the briefest of chats. Ah well, maybe next time Â…

Fast Food Nation

It did not come as much of a surprise to find that so-called fast food is not the healthiest food in the world.

Fast Food Nation BookIt did not come as much of a surprise to find that so-called fast food is not the healthiest food in the world. It was certainly no surprise to discover that the fast food chains are not the greatest employers in the world. It wasn’t unexpected to read that the big brands employ so many people that they wield great economic power.

What did, however, surprise and alarm me was the sheer influence Eric Schlosser claims the fast food companies have over the whole food chain and related economies. Is it really in the consumer’s best interests for the large food giants to have such a firm grip on the production of the raw materials that make up their final products? It is suggested that this power has knock-on effects on the health of (not only) consumers but on the shape of the entire economy.

Schlosser’s book makes disturbing reading. It’s unashamedly populist in its approach, suggesting that economic gain and corporate profit are more important than the well-being of the consumers. However, regardless of the author’s standpoint much of the evidence he produces is damming and that makes it a compelling read. If you’ve ever eaten fast food you should read it. It has certainly made me think harder about ordering anything “with fries to go”.

Old Compton Street At Night

Late at night in London’s gay heart, Old Compton Street, I have a change of heart about the place.

So, I have just told you how having an American in London with me has made me see London in a new light. Once again, I love it. Last night we went to dinner again (with some other people this time) on Old Compton Street. Sometimes, I have a problem with Old Compton Street and I am not sure why. As a gay man I should be able to celebrate the area for the visibility and safety that it brings London’s gay community. My problem is that I find I am not a scene-loving gay man and so I am, generally, made to feel alienated by the people there. I also feel slightly wary of taking straight friends to Old Compton Street in case they feel I am either trying to make some kind of point or that I am, somehow, testing their acceptance of me. All of the above is, of course, personal paranoia and my own insecurities which a therapist, of some sorts, would take lots of money off me to talk about. Instead, I blog it.

Anyway, back to the point. We were on Old Compton Street. It was late-ish (for me, not for Old Compton Street) and the place was alive. It being a Tuesday night I suspect that the worst aspects of the weekend drinking crowd were not to be seen which made it a pleasant, friendly place to be. It was a wonderful feeling to walk out of a restaurant into a heaving mass of happy people. It was cool, but not cold, and (as OCS Queens will) people were sitting at tables outside. Maybe I should be less judgemental about Old Compton Street. The mood was relaxed and fun; people were smiling and chatting and even the music drifting onto the street seemed appropriate and not excessive.

I seem to be painting a picture of a pack of hysterical, laughing people. Of course, it was not like that. It was just that the mood was great, people seemed relaxed and it made me feel positive about life when so much of this city has been making me feel depressed of late. Isn’t life sweet?

An American in London

Every time I meet an American co-worker I go through the same process. I must try to stress that the UK is different and instil an expectation that, although speaking (more-or-less) the same language it’s not downtown NYC.

For several years, I have worked for American companies. Working for a satellite office of a US company is difficult for all concerned (including the US parent). A ex-colleague (and now good friend) of mine used to say the worst thing about being an American working in London was that, as a native English speaker, you put less effort into understanding the culture of the UK. You felt it was, somehow, the same as New York, Boston or whichever US city was applicable. The problem is, the UK is not the same. We have different sensibilities, a different outlook, a different way of expressing ourselves and a whole different way of working. This, of course, leads to a whole range of new problems over-and-above the more obvious (why can’t this software work in Sterling?) procedural, production or product issues. I did vow that I would never work for a US company again as the effort required just to do some of the more menial minutia of day-to-day working seemed unnecessarily hard (when will they get my tax code correct?). Still, I did it and this week we are playing host to a colleague from our New York office.

Today has been her first day in the London office and, it’s strange, because every time I meet an American co-worker I go through the same process. I must try to stress that the UK is different and instil an expectation that, although speaking (more-or-less) the same language it’s not downtown NYC. Except this time, she (I am refraining from naming for no real reason except, dear readers, you will have noticed I do not name many people in this blog) is a real Anglophile. She loves England. Tudor England, maybe, but loves it. She understands that things are not the same. Warm beer is not a crime against civilisation; it has a whole heritage and history of its own. It is truly refreshing and, in a bizarre way, made me quite happy.

This evening, therefore, we went to dinner together at Joe Allen’s restaurant because I like the theatrical nature of the place and I know it serves great food. We had a fantastic evening just talking (and, of course, we discussed office politics but not too much). I thoroughly enjoyed spending the evening with somebody who was wide-eyed to London (in fact, who seemed to be falling in love with the city that I fell in love with) and not jaded (as many of us who live here are). I even vowed to take more buses so I could see the city and not live my commuting life in an underground hell. A new perspective on my city has done wonders for me.

The Full Monty

I saw The Full Monty at The Prince of Wales Theatre, London, last night. I have to admit that it was a lot better than I expected it to be. The central story that you’d recognise from the film is there but it has been adapted for the stage and re-set in Buffalo, New York.

In particular, the introduction of some new characters (the excellent Lynda Baron as Jeanette and the lovely Julian Essex-Spurrier as Keno, a professional male stripper) helps the story along well. The songs were strong and I shall be looking forward to getting the CD. In my opinion, Ben Richards (Jerry) was excellent as the show’s main character – which is useful, as he does seem to have a majority of the show to carry. The rest of the cast were great: Paul Keating made Ethan into a amusing character, adding a slap-stick dimension to the humour and David Ganly carried Dave’s insecurities and vulnerabilities well.

Without taking anything away from the show I would have liked to see it set back in the UK and the main narrative driver (Jerry’s need for money to keep seeing his son) was somewhat unbelievable (even for a West-End Musical). However, if you fancy an evening in a theatre that is 70% groups of women (although it didn’t seem overly hen-nighty) then I would thoroughly recommend it.

Matt Damon is Jason Bourne

Matt Damon is pumped up in The Bourne Identity

I saw a pumped up Matt Damon on The Bourne Identity last weekend. Sadly, I am a sucker for this kind of action-movie. They have little point but tell a tale that absorbs your for 90 minutes and gives you an all-action thrill for some of that time. What more do you want from a cinema-going experience?

My Review: Who would that thought Matt Damon could, convincingly, play the international agent? Yet a beefed up-Matt holds his own in the world of blockbuster-espionage – that’s a world of martial art acrobatics and high-speed car chases down back alleyways (and flights of stairs). Franka Potente manages to keep the role of Marie convincing when many would have just walked away from Jason Bourne (Damon) at their first meeting. It’s a Friday night, action-packed, spy-game blockbuster (with a twist of amnesia) and, unfortunately, nothing more.

See also: Matt Damon as Man of the Moment.

Around The World

Two contrasting stories from around the world.

Two contrasting stories:

South Africa’s highest court ruled Tuesday that gay and lesbian couples can adopt children, becoming one of only a handful of countries to sanction the step [CNN].

A recent report by Los Angeles County shows that hate crimes were up in 2001, with the bulk of new attacks based on Sept. 11 backlash and an increased number of assaults against the GLBT community [PlanetOut]

Old Friends

Today was a good day to get reacquainted with people who I haven’t seen for a while.

Bristol is only a two-hour ride from my house. I have an old friend who lives there and I haven’t seen him for ages. Today was the day we met up again (after something like 18 months without seeing each other) and it’s great when everything just slips back to the way it was. You know how, with some people, it’s hard to talk to them sometimes. You get on really well but there’s just nothing to say. Well, it usually gets worse with the passing of time and, if you haven’t seen somebody for a while, then it can be very awkward (how many strained meetings must have happened thanks to Friends Reunited?). Anyway, today wasn’t like that. We slipped into our old conversations and habits. It’s nice to be reacquainted with people. Today was a good day.

Confusing, Image-Saturated Culture

When did you learn about the birds and the bees? I have to be honest and say that I really don’t recall any parental talk and I am not sure how I would have felt about it – especially since I knew I was gay.

Well, according to The Christian Science Monitor (obviously not something I read everyday)

while it may seem that youths are more attuned to peers, media, and pop culture, experts and teens alike say parents are needed as role models and cultivators of values in today’s confusing, image-saturated culture

Source:  The Christian Science Monitor | Story Via Metafilter

I am sure I should say some more here but I’m not sure what.