Season’s Greetings 2005

with very best wishes for Christmas to you all.

santa on my christmas treeI guess it’s time to wish everybody a very Merry Christmas – wherever you are in the world Season’s Greetings to you. Christmas lunch this year will be made at home in London: a nice peaceful Christmas. Last night we spent several hours in the bars towards the City and had a very peaceful time sitting next to an open fire, drinking expensive Bloody Marys and laughing with friends. A very good way to end the working year. Next week I am working from home but I am not expecting it to be too busy.

I’ve admitted before that I love the whole Christmas vibe. Actually, I love the whole stereotypical, christmas card vibe rather than the rushed reality. Each year I buy a new decoration for the tree and this is the one I found for this year. Truthfully, a friend of mine had one and I copied her but I couldn’t resist the whole Santa-on-skis image – it’s far too cute for words. See, I’m just soppy for Christmas!

Kew Garden’s Winter Wonderland

See the lights and the ice rink at Kew.

somewhere warmer inside kew gardensthe 2004 ice rink at kew garden

Maybe I claim I am not as aware as I should be about Christmas but I have to admit I do like the whole season. Today, PY and I went to Kew Gardens in South London (or is it Surrey?). They’re having a winter wonderland. As the darkness falls the gardens/trees are lit but thousands of tiny lights making parts of Kew’s ground shimmer. There is also a ice rink (although it’s booked in advance and I stayed standing) which makes an interesting contract with the temperate and tropical houses. It’s strange how much I really do enjoy this kind of thing – maybe I am a sucker for the magic of Christmas.

Going To The Dogs

I will feel slightly awkward when four of us head to wimbledon dog track.

You realise Christmas is on its way don’t you? I should be very aware of this fact. Last weekend I spent time with my Mum as she won’t be in the UK for Christmas. But it’s creeping up on me no matter what they say. Today, PY and I were going to host a pre-Christmas party for some friends: mulled wine, beer and a trip to the greyhound races. Somehow, however, it got here and we didn’t invite anybody. Plus, I had a guilty feeling about going to the dogs because a good friend of ours rescues them. Nonetheless, I will feel slightly awkward when four of us head to wimbledon dog track. I am not sure I will stop feeling guilty so it might make me part with some money to somebody who looks after the dogs.

A Pointless Rant About Trains

I am not shocked at the mediocre service. I am not shocked that the staff on board couldn’t care about the confused passengers. What amazes me is that I took two trains and for the majority of both journeys the trains were full.

Today’s illogical rant follows in a moment. Do not be alarmed. An emergency exit is located here and here.

Virgin Trains have made a big deal about the investment in new trains. And the trains were very nice – the airline style at-seat audio was a nice touch. But the service was still below par. On the way north last weekend¬†¬†the train had been changed and so seat reservations were no longer valid (yet our seat numbers were still there). They seems to have removed the at-seat buffet (which is handy on a full-train so you don’t lose your seat) and the train terminated early.

I am not shocked at the mediocre service. I am not shocked that the staff on board couldn’t care about the confused passengers (are you in my seat or not?). What amazes me is that I took two trains and for the majority of both journeys the trains were full. And by full I mean people were sitting in the parts between the carriages, on the floor in the cold, draughty bits (as an aside, how come it can be so draughty and ventilated and the toilets still smell?). Every train I ever take is full. To work in the morning. Home in the evening. North to visit my parents. South to visit PY’s parents. So why do we always hear about the lack of money in the railway system?

Gary Lucy’s Birthday

Happy Birthday Gary!

happy birthday gary lucyReally, I should know better. The other day I spoke of the Man of the Moment project for the first time in a long time and the only request I have ever had to enter a male into Musak’s Man of the Moment project is to include Gary Lucy. Sadly, I haven’t got round to that yet (despite the fact he has been Musak’s calendar boy of 2004) but, I noticed yesterday was Gary’s birthday (I think he was 23) and so I dedicate today’s entry to the star of Hollyoaks, Footballers’ Wives and, recently, the ITV drama, She’s Gone.

Related from Listen To Musak’s Archives:

Perhaps I will make Gary Lucy Man of the Moment one day.

Does Remote Storage Work

Is it possible to have the things I use regularly available on remote servers and never need to care about them myself?

Like many people I signed up for all the free web-based email accounts (RocketMail – now Yahoo, Lycos, Excite, Hotmail etc.) but I never really used them. Over time I let most of the lapse and only really use Yahoo and – now – Gmail but I do not use any of them as my main mail account. I didn’t use them primarily because I didn’t want to pay to be connected to the web to read my mail (my POP accounts were better) and I wanted to maintain addresses at my own domain and – at the time – none of those interfaces allowed you to be seen as another mail address. Yahoo, of course, also provides photo storage, address books and calendars.

My web hosting company allows me to use my space as a virtual hard-drive (if I work out how to configure it) and – as I have noted – Flickr is becoming my personal choice for photographs (even though I could try and manage it myself on my own servers) while I use Bloglines for feed aggregation. So, the question is, can I now run my life using storage space away from my own computer?

Here are some of my considerations:

  • Outside of work (which I am not proposing to move) I have precious few documents so I don’t need masses of file space for them (I suspect my Yahoo account would happily cope).
  • Photos: I can’t get away from the lack of storage (even at Flickr) for them but I suspect it will cope with all the photographs I care about (the rest would only be archived to CD anyway).
  • Music: This is the difficult one as I upload music to my Treo’s mp3 player so I am not carrying it all around with me all the time (in a iPod style). Perhaps it is time to re-address that issue.
  • Mail: I have archives of mail in Mozilla Mail format. What I think I need is Mozilla’s roaming profiles but I have idea how they work.
  • Bookmarks: Ditto (but in the mean time Yahoo Companion bar and Yahoo Bookmarks should work).

Do you have any tips for me? Will it work? If it works I only need a reasonable internet connection to have my whole life on tap. What I really need is a proper method for synchronisation – but I’ve ranted about that before.

Regent Street, London

What has this to do with Christmas?

regent street lights, lonfonChristmas is coming and I am a bit of a sucker for it but I have to say that the lights on Regents Street, London, do nothing for me. Perhaps I just haven’t seen them in the right conditions – a cold, damp, grey London afternoon is not conducive to enjoying the exterior lighting. It’s Disney tie-in with The Incredibles that alarms me. Sure, I see that Disney get the promotion and somebody gets some money for the lights but – really – what has it to do with Christmas? Or maybe it’s just that I missed Busted switch them on.

Another Grid Lock

Traffic From Hell would make a great name for a TV show. Have they already done that?

PY and I had some errands to run which partly entailed us driving to Heathrow airport. Then we went onto High Wycombe to do some shopping. And yet again we were stuck in traffic for hours. I think it may be time to consider alternative forms of transport. It seems no matter which way we go, south or north, we’re going to get stuck. Now I don’t enjoy being stuck in traffic but PY hates it and lets his frustration show. Maybe I should let him select the music from now on!

Evening In The City

If you’re in London you should have a least one drink in The Counting House.

I don’t often go out in The City of London (that’s the financial heart of London). I am a much bigger fan of hanging out in the the West End – which is mainly where I have worked and socialised for all the years I have been here. I’ve just got back from a drinks with some colleagues in The Counting House – which is on Cornhill and a few seconds walk from Bank station. It’s a fabulous place full of character and ornate splendour (the domed roof is wonderful). Then we went for a curry and a decent Indian restaurant which was, unlike the ones on the West end, quiet at the end of an evening. The only downside on the evening: it was just a little harder to get home. I must do this more often.

Grid Lock

Traffic hell on the way home from a nice weekend on the south coast.

So I spent the weekend in Brighton: it was a fantastic idea for a last minute get away and I am really quite pleased that I went. The weather was cold and crisp but very sunny and PY and I had a fantastic time roaming the shops, walking the pier, drinking coffee and doing all sort so of good things.

We left earlier this afternoon for the hour car ride home only to end up stuck in four hours of non-moving traffic at the end of the M23 (where it joins the M25). Sitting in a car, going nowhere, starring at the rear brake lights of the vehicle in front (and watching people dart form lane to lane to try to move 100 metres forward) was a very depressing way to end what had bee, until then, a relaxing weekend. It’s such a shame our transport system means I am now more stressed than when I left the office on Friday night (it also means we’ve just eaten a stack of take away junk food but that’s another story).

Maybe I should start looking forward to the week ahead!

The Point Of Art?

Paintings and installations don’t come high up on my list of things to do

Can it really be a whole year – yesterday – since I lay on the floor at The Tate Modern on the South Bank and looked up at that bizarre, yet compelling, installation that was Olafur Eliasson’s Weather Project? The very fact that I loved it, and wrote about it, made me realise that, generally, art doesn’t feature a great deal in my life. I mean paintings and installations don’t come high up on my list of things to do. I have spent time in most of the major London galleries since I have been here but nothing ever ‘clicks’ with me and, to be honest, apart from an Annie Leibovitz exhibition a few years ago I can’t recall much that I have seen. I wonder why paintings, sculpture etc. don’t resonate with me? I went to the Dali museum/gallery on the South Bank months ago as I thought the surrealism might be more appealing – but it was only marginally more so. In 2001 I went to see Martin Creed’s Turner Prize winning lights (going on and off in a room) and just didn’t get it (at all). It’s very strange really as I would like to appreciate art more and I would love to be able to take good photographs. It’s not that I don’t see that it’s good (or bad) art but more that most of the art I have seen simply washes over me. It doesn’t grab me. Maybe I should just keep looking! As for other things that I did last year, I really won’t mind being on a plane back to Helsinki but my boss went instead.

I Love Firework Displays

After returning home and talking about Borough Market, we headed off to meet some colleagues for the fireworks at Battersea Park, where the lighting of the bonfire lead up to fireworks set to music

Battersea Bonfire 2004After returning home and talking about Borough Market, we headed off to meet some colleagues for the fireworks at Battersea Park, where the lighting of the bonfire lead up to fireworks set to music (I think my bonfire picture looks a little sinister somehow). Yet again, there was a huge crowd and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Before the actual fireworks commenced there was a display of arial acrobatics with trapeze artists who were performing some kind of mid-air ballet set to music. The performers were all suspended from a huge crane which allowed the audience on the fields below to watch the spectacle. They also used dancing kites set to music and illuminated from below to add to the effect. Sadly, many of the crowd were only there for the explosions and starting jeering. I was not impressed by those that starting booing – I thought the show was a great attempt to try to do something a little more than just have a series of spectacular fireworks and the council and the performers deserved much credit. The fireworks themselves were, as the Battersea show always is, spectacular. I was trying to explain the origins of bonfire night to one of our group who comes from Italy and was not aware of the traditions. Sadly, I was unable to remember much of what I learnt last year:

Responding to papal denunciations and pressure from radical Protestants, Queen Elizabeth’s government severely penalised practising Catholics. Catholics hoped for greater toleration from James, whose Queen was herself a Catholic. Instead, James reconfirmed Elizabeth’s anti-Catholic legislation; he also ended England’s war with Spain, removing any hope of imposing Catholicism by force [source]

Great London Food Market Revisited

Today we managed to eat at the Spanish Chorizo stall that I previously mentioned and had a good old look around Borough Market again.

The Cutty Sark on 6 November 2004Today we managed to eat at the Spanish Chorizo stall that I previously mentioned and had a good old look around Borough Market again. It really is full of some of the most fantastic food and I still wonder why on earth there aren’t more markets like that around the UK. Borough Market was, once again, heaving with a wide range of people. Some, clearly at the tourist end of the scale, just looking and, perhaps, picking up a bite to eat. Some, like us, were wandering in search of both the bit to eat and something to bring home and cook over the next few days. Others, clearly more local (many seemed to have come on bicycles), appeared to be doing their weekly grocery shop. The market thrilled me yet again – if you’re in London at the weekend it’s a must (and trust me, the queue for the Chorizo burgers really does indicate how great they are). If you’re looking for directions, Borough Market is just behind Southwalk Cathedral (and near London Bridge underground station) and near The Cutty Sark (that’s the picture – food stalls didn’t seem photogenic).

UPDATE: Julian just mailed me and pointed out that I am not really talking about The Cutty Sark at all (which is the big thing down Greenwich way) and my picture is of a replica of The Golden Hind. I knew this (I’ve even been to a wedding on board) so why I got it confused is a mystery. Thanks for pointing out my stupidity.

More Say About Trains Than Bush

As almost the rest of the world wants to talk about the US Election (what on earth have you done to the world now?) I want to talk about trains.

As almost the rest of the world wants to talk about the US Election (what on earth have you done to the world now?) I want to talk about trains. Yesterday I mentioned my trip to Edinburgh and I noted that I travelled by train. I didn’t tell you of the sheer pleasure of travelling on a high-speed GNER train and I won’t have all those nay-sayers who want to moan about the service stop me. Clean, comfortable and (except for one brief 15-minute slow down as we criss-crossed track works) very high speed. An at-seat buffet trolly with things you’d like to eat and a well-stock buffet car (I skipped the sit-down lunch in the restaurant car despite the fact it looked good). Apparently, there was a wireless network (although I couldn’t find it) but, sensibly, there were power-points near my standard class seating to charge my lap-top and mobile ‘phone. All that and no waiting around at airports and ‘please turn off all electrical items’ until we are quite high. The last time I went to Scotland the journey was turbulant to say the least, but that’s another story.

On the way back yesterday afternoon the train was older and more crowded (as we hadn’t booked seats there was a little more of a scramble). Still, two comfortable seats, coffee served at your seat and a newspaper seemed like a good way to travel home (no roadworks or turbulence). We were in the Quiet Carriage which, in principal, is a nice idea. However, the quiet was lost on:

  • a Japanese student with an annoying high-pitched ring-tone and a line in friends who wanted to hear the detail of his journey home
  • the larger lady who turned off the ring on her ‘phone only to talk all the way from Newcastle (or was it York) to colleagues about how she’d turned her ringer off and – while she was heading back to the office to tell them about the meeting – it went very well, darling, sweetie.
  • two women on a shopping trip from Newcastle who were so excited about their purchases they unpacked each one and cooed at each other all the way to London
  • a man whose iPod was so loud I know he was listening to Keane
  • a woman who (I think) was doing very badly at whatever game she was playing on her portable game-thing as it made lots of those baritone beeps that I associate with people failing to answer questions on Family Fortunes

All such activity made it almost impossible for anybody to hear the announcements from our train’s Customer Service Leader (whatever happened to The Guard?) that it was a quiet carriage and you should turn off all equipment that makes annoying sounds and hold mobile telephone conversations in the vestibules (which used to be the cold bits between carriages but seem to have been given a new lease of life).

Reading The TV News Headlines

So TV News tonight has only one topic – an election on the other side of the world. Is nothing else happening?

TV News always looks exciting and glamorous: being a TV news anchor carries authority and power and doesn’t have to come with all the trapping of fame; a TV journalist has the travel, a sense of excitement and, sometimes, even the risk. The cameras and the lights: a heady mix of worthiness, weight and touch of showbiz! However, right now I am watching the talented people of Sky News trying to fill the hours covering the American elections with nothing much to say. It must be a horrible task – hours and hours to fill and nothing at all to say. Hopefully, tomorrow, there will be some facts that can be reported on. Right now 74 votes to Bush anmd 78 to Kerry. The future of our world could, easily, be in the hands of one of them.