Lost in London

A look at London and life in general through the eyes of someone who sometimes can't bear to watch.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sure shot

To some newshounds, blood is like crack: they just can't get enough.

Like most people, the news that yet another gunman has gone on what the press are breathlessly calling a rampage made me sad when I heard. The fact that this has happened in the US has meant that I am not remotely surprised, however, and I suppose there’s a great debate to be had in there about how desensitised we’re all becoming to violence and bloodshed but I really can’t be bothered having it either here or in real life so for anyone who’d reached for their soapbox in anticipation, I apologise.

What has struck me most about this incident is that the news channels have been reporting it as if it were some great big fun event for all the family. Every report I’ve seen on it as it pays on perma-rotation on every channel has gone to great lengths to list just how many people were killed- sorry, SLAUGHTERED- and just how long it took for the gunman to carry out the crime- sorry, I mean EXECUTE everybody. It’s being reported as if it were a death defying stunt on Blue Peter, a record-breaking attempt or an adaptation of an Andy McNab novel, hopelessly detached from the reality that is a very awful set of killings and instead giving people too young to remember Rambo something to get hard over.

I realise that as a blogger I should advocate the use of citizen journalism but I’ve had my fill of shaky footage taken from a vodka-splattered Sony Ericsson and panting ‘eye’witnesses telling their first-hand account of absolutely nothing. I guess I expect it online but on the television I’d rather something a little more substantial than what amounts to having a freesheet flickerbooked before my eyes. People have been moaning about sensationalised journalism for years and it has always been a problem but when I hear yet another recount of how this is the ‘biggest mass shooting in America’ I start to wonder if people aren’t getting a kick out of all the drama. I wonder how long it will be before EastEnders incorporates some kind of high school massacre in its storylines. Hollyoaks is already pretty prolific in mass-murdering its cast at strarlingly regular intervals.

I guess the news doesn’t create such horrific scenes and merely reports them but I can’t help but think that these situations are horrible enough without every last detail spilling out onto the floor like an old, dropped handbag.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

I remember you

Sometimes, the North-South divide happens inside your very own head.

I’ve never felt so adulterous in my entire life. I’m shocked at how easily I’ve been seduced by an old flame. Just two days together and it seems like we have picked up where we left off. Already I’m harbouring thoughts of leaving my current life behind and starting anew far, far away.

No, I’m not having an affair, but instead of been back to a part of London I haven’t set foot in for a while. It’s around two years since I worked in the Islington area but this week I’ve been back there for a training course and, quite frankly, I haven’t felt the same since. I rarely bother crossing the river except for work or going into town so it’s been quite a shock to actually spend some time in the world of the N postcode. Maybe it’s because the sun has been shining but walking along Upper Street I’ve kind of started feeling that maybe everyone who slates south London has a point. For those of you unfamiliar with Islington, Highbury and its environs, it’s that mythical place where pretty much every broadsheet’s Sunday supplements are written for. If you are baffled by baby yoga, a stranger to smoothie seminars and organic trainers are a mystery to you, then clearly you’re not in their target demographic. Upper Street is a swathe of clothes shops, antiques stores and artisan bakeries. Sure, there’s a McDonald’s at one end ad a few ropey pubs here and there, but Islington has fallen victim to that spreading disease of thinking it’s a village in Hertfordshire.

Like most other affluent areas of London, there’s little permanency. In the short time since I was last here, businesses have been and gone and buildings have been erected and demolished. This might make a traditionalist sulk, and admittedly I was disappointed to see that a really cool pub had been turned into the blandest of clothes shops, but I kind of like it that things constantly evolve.

Walking around today and yesterday I felt wistful and nostalgic: something that’s happening more and more the longer I live here. The sight of something familiar has made me smile more than a few times this morning, but as I walked past where my old office used to be, I felt a lurch that I couldn’t quite place.

While I know that all areas of London have plenty of horrid pockets, north London felt more positive, more hopeful and just MORE than south London has been feeling for me recently. Is it time I headed back north of the river for a fresh taste of London life or should I keep it real and stay on the south side? As my bus rumbled over London Bridge and brought me back to the right side of the river, I realised that while it’s nice to go on ‘holiday’ to another part of London, you’re better off sticking to where you know.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

That was the week that was

This time, it's personal.

What an odd, unsettling couple of weeks it’s been. I left my former job on Tuesday after almost three years and it felt very strange saying goodbye for the last time. It was almost like a love affair was ending or I was moving out of a treasured childhood home. I was neither particularly popular or universally hated at my old job but lots of people turned up to my leaving drinks so I suppose if I were the kind of person to whom those kind of things matter I would have been ‘touched’. I became that person after about ten drinks, hugging my old boss as I left the pub and tripped off out into the cold Shoreditch night.

The last few days before my departure had been fraught, with me writing notes for whoever was to do my job after me in a blind panic. It’s very strange deconstructing your daily grind for a stranger’s eyes. It was after I’d spellchecked my fortieth page or so that I realised why I was so fucking knackered all the time: this job is no picnic. I’m not a particularly emotional material but those old familiar feelings of romanticising everything came flooding back during my last days at work. ‘This is my last Wednesday sitting in this chair’ I would think as I plonked my arse down on the dirtiest, most uncomfortable chair I’ve ever sat on in my entire life; ‘I’m going to miss this kitchen’ I would ruminate as I swished a teabag around in a cup. I was like that as a child: I would build up mundane events as if they were huge gestures which really meant something and then, when they were over, never think of them again. As I read through the comments on my leaving card I smiled but knew that in a year’s time I’d have trouble linking some of the scrawls to a face.

And so, onwards and upwards. After my leaving drinks, I endured a trip to the dentist. I apologised for my red wine breath on arriving in the sterile, humourless room but almost wished I hadn’t. Being an NHS patient, I was treated to a super fast check-up, informed I had gum disease and recommended an appointment with the hygienist (£40 for half an hour), and then dispatched back out into the waiting room and asked for my debit card. All within around 30 seconds. I finally give in: I’m going private just so I can be treated a little more like a human. My last socialist leaning has been wiped out by a red-haired tooth prodder. How depressing.

Two days in the Cotswolds with throbbing gums followed. I couldn’t really relax as I was feeling a bit ‘weird’ about leaving my job, and it was too quiet and smelled of cow shit but it was nice to be somewhere other than London. I must be getting old; I looked at a hill (a ‘Cotswold’ I suppose) and remarked how lovely it was. Ten years ago I’d have rolled my eyes. Growing up at last.