Thursday 13 August 2009


Being rather narrow and bound by routine, once I decide on a course of action it can be very difficult to dissuade me from a chosen path. That pun aside (I loathe puns) I had enjoyed the walking on holiday so much despite the blisters and the obvious health benefits that it seemed like a good idea to carry on.

There is much to be said for working during the night as it means the days are your own.

Caught the tube down to Canary Wharf and decided to have a saunter through London's Docklands and to see how far I got. The added bonus was that the day was reasonably fine. Not too hot and any showers were small and sporadic.

Rain is not a big problem. Never sure why we Brits worry about it so much. To listen to some of my colleagues you would think a small shower was the beginning of the flood and the whole nation was going to be found somewhere in the mid Atlantic clinging to a log. Also we forget one of the very basic principles of evolution. (If you are Creationist substitute "God’s will" here). We humans are basically waterproof. Once we get wet we soon dry out again. So off I trudged and walked all the way to Poplar and round the Isle of Dogs back opposite the Millennium Dome and continued mile after mile through miles of new build with even newer graffiti and friendly welcoming signage, eventually finding my way to Westminster. By the time I heaved myself onto the Underground I reckon that with my usual stroll back through the park I had completed about 14 miles.

The following day dawned hot and I felt like I needed to get to grip with the upper reaches of the tidal Thames so this time I caught the tube to Hammersmith, scene of many a concert at the Apollo (formerly the Odeon) as well as the fabulous Irish Cultural Centre.

Found the Thames path and off I went crossing the river at Barnes Bridge. All the place names were evocative of the Boat Race and had me thinking back to my childhood when we had to support Cambridge as my Dad had been a student there although probably as a spotty Herbert teen I had supported Oxford in a futile attempt to get a rise out of my parents. Without success. "The Surrey Water...Mortlake". It was a really hot day and passing me in the opposite direction strolled Rula Lenska. I toyed with the idea of giving her my autograph but she was with a bloke and I would imagine she could hold her own so I scurried past. Reached the point where the Grand Union Canal joins the river by means of a lock not far from Kew, and turned back.

As I crossed the bridge back onto the north bank I noticed a settlement on some waste land. A shanty town was in the making on land earmarked for development. The recession seemed to be working its evil magic in that people had been onto the streets but at the same time building work hadn't commenced due to the economic circumstances. The inhabitants appeared to be a tribe of dewy eyed idealists as a rainbow banner read: "Be the change you wish to see. The land is yours". There was also a smaller banner which read: "Topsoil needed". Which I concluded meant: "We are trying to expand our empire" or failing that: "The land we got ain't very good and we want yours which is better".

By the time I had hauled myself into a pub back in Hammersmith steaming gently in the heat another 12 or so miles had passed beneath my weary feet.

Thursday was a take it easy type of day. I am still trying to find a new watch, however there are so many that the more I see the less certain I am. With me a timepiece is for life not just for Christmas. My last one lasted 22 years. I am currently using my schoolboy one which is 39 years old and gains two minutes a day. This is no real problem I suppose unless you have had a watch that is always accurate pretty much to the second. Then (back to the top "folks") it can upset the routine. Well, certainly the carefully crafted fur lined rut I have dug for myself over the years. (Animal rights activists please note this is "fun" fur and no animals were harmed during the typing of this sentence.) So a gentle stroll through Regents Park and taking the long way round I found there was a lot more to it than I realised. Normally hurrying through it using the same paths every day, it is larger than I realised with some wonderfully laid out flowerbeds and even more ponds, water loving birds and hence more guano than is possible to walk round. At one point in one of their wilder sections I happened upon what at first glance was another settlement. Although on closer examination it turned out to be an art project. Whoever it was had had the bright idea of building some ace tree houses. As exhibition spaces. They were under construction so not sure what sort of art is going to be installed when they are complete, nor for how long.

Reminded me of my one night in a partially finished tree house as a Wolf Cub. It was about ten feet up in a yew tree. By partially finished I mean no sides, no roof and not a lot of deck either. You don't get a lot of sleep thinking if you turn over you are going to plummet to the ground. Still had that happened to any of the members of our "six" we would all have been fast tracked to our first aid badge.

Talking of art, as you know if you are regular to this blog and the show, I am a sucker of cartoons be they printed or animation. So I am a regular visitor to the Cartoon Gallery in London's Little Russell Street. Next time you are in London go visit. I was there just before Xmas for the Giles retrospective. This time it was for an exhibition of the work of the wonderful Rowland Emett. He was the genius who invented the machines for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang including the car. The centre piece of the display was his "Moonlander" which was made from old bicycles and included such inspired touches as a motorised dustpan and brush to collect samples. It seemed familiar and then I realised that back in 1981 when I worked in Leeds it had been on display in the Merrion Centre there. I found myself having a lengthy discussion with one of the volunteers of the merits of Emett v W. Heath Robinson. Pretentious moi? By the time I made it new watchless back to the flat I reckon the feet had clocked up another 8 or ten miles.

Friday and the day dawned. Dread in my heart, I boarded the train for Hull. I first visited when I worked as a boy broadcaster for the BBC back in 1979. Back then the city was grimy, run down and smelled of fish. It also had the best burger bar I think I have ever visited which revelled in the name "Mmmmm Yankeeburger!" They were my staple diet. Hull like Birmingham and so many other cities has been redeveloped. The docks are now filled in or swanky marinas and the warehouses are upmarket young people’s apartments. All this in many ways is an improvement. However in others I think it tears the character out of a place.

Why though was there dread in my heart? Why, it was Nerd Night again. The time when DJ's from around the country get together and talk broadcasting, eat and drink too much and actually have a rather fine time. I had "curated" the last one in London. This time it was Thorngumbald resident DJ Matthew Rudd who had sorted this one. He and his long suffering wife Helen kindly invited myself, Martin Emery from Tower FM and his girlfriend Debs to stay at their house rather than needing to book into the likes of the "Tokyo Love Hotel" as in previous visits.

Debra likes to come along to these events to remind herself what Dorks blokes can be. It is like a psychiatrist observing a group session through a two way mirror. We all met in a pub next door to the restaurant and within seconds someone’s mobile rang. It was the "Good Morning Britain" theme tune. I had visions of the boozer being filled with the sounds of mobiles playing "Nationwide", "Noggin the Nog" "Radio Tees 257 News" and the opening theme from Severn Sound’s jingle package that Kath Baxter composed and produced back in 1984.

We or rather Hull ran out of steam about 1am after several gallons of beer and a slap up feed. I have noticed that "Blubberwatch" - which is back on again with a vengeance after losing a stone in a month - has slowed again. Lost a pound this week. Not sure why things have been grinding to a halt in the weight loss department. Although I was sent this picture taken about 1.15am which may have some bearing on the above.


moggy said...

yum yum pass them chips over says alex

simon said...

Alex I don't know why you are making such a big deal over the watch. If I was you I would get yourself a good second hand original (another pun sorry), Omega or some thing like, this will see you for another twenty-thirty years.
I have the Gonk as my ring tone. Your fault.

Twilight said...

Thanks for reminding me of the name Rowland Emmet, Alex. I've been trying to remember it for several years, to tell my American husband about him ( he's also a keen cartoon freak).
I saw the Merrion Centre exhibit too - worked in Leeds for some 25 years. I just could NOT recall Emmet's name......age draws on!

Like commenter simon, I don't see why you have trouble finding a watch. Are you a watch elitist then? Interesting. Do tell us more.

I note that your fashion sense has returned - I see nice white cuffs peeping out from beneath dark sleeved jacket. :-)

Mike from Pudsey said...

Always did think that the contraption was the best thing about the Merrion Centre.
Never seen you "glammed up". It's an improvement on last weeks skater boy look

Annie said...

Living in Nottingham, I see a fine example of Rowland Emett's work when I go shopping - the Water Clock in the Victoria Centre. I remember it being installed and it still draws lots of interest.
Alex, I think you should take your time (sorry - just couldn't think of better way to say it!) about choosing a new watch - you'll know when you find the one that's just right for you and hopefully will live happily ever after.
You do look smart when you're dressed up and I cant help but think that if you'd worn that outfit when you met Martina McBride she would have been very impressed and a lot less bewildered.

Micky B said...

Morning Mr. Lester.

Love the sign ! Wonderful !

Being British, I'm very used to the rain, and I have to say that I'm not adverse to it. I'm very happy to be walking about in it. I would just prefer it to be when I'm homeward bound, so that I can change into dry gear sooner rather than later. But I do like the feel of it in my hair, and on my face.
Umm. I'm not called 'The Weird One' for nothing.

Mickey B

tailendcharlie said...

Down in one, down in one, down in one!

So, you dress down to meet a gorgeous woman and dress up to eat a burger? Weird

tobacco jack said...

i wish i had someone to take such flattering pictures of me!,next time i try to wedge a whole burger in at once....

tailendcharlie said...

If you think this eating a burger photo is funny - you should see some of them on Alex's MySpace page. Be warned though, the eating a burger photo came up life size!!! Not good for a woman of my delicate disposition (lol)

Innocent Monkey said...

Thought of getting a pedometer, or even a GPS (sorry gone a little far with that one). Enjoying the blog, but call that a burger, had one at the Motorcycle show a few years back, a pound an half....still recovering now. Would attach a photo but haven't worked that one out yet.