Friday, 12 October 2012

Sweet Friday Afternoon: Half-Arsed Weekly News Round-Up

Reports came in this week of a wild stag attacking an innocent pensioner in
Bushy Park. Last Thursday a man of nearly 70 had to take refuge in a tree when the incensed deer took exception to him taking a stroll in his personal space. The dear gave chase, growling and puffing loudly, and pursued the man around the trunk of a tree. The species of the tree is unknown. After several circuits the sprightly codger took an opportunity to climb the tree to place of safety. Fortunately a helpful passer-by was on hand to stand at a safe distance and record the whole thing on her phone before eventually alerting the police. If you too would like to watch an elderly man being chased up a tree by an enormous deer in order to sympathise with him, you can do so here.

In similarly upsetting news, Niall Horan, a member of this year’s unoriginal, pre-pubescent boy bland, One Direction, revealed on Sunday that he has recently had to undergo painful surgery on his knee following an attack by a wild animal in Battersea Park. The luckless but highly talented star revealed that he was left with torn ligaments when he was suddenly and mercilessly set upon by a squirrel. Yes, a squirrel. Regrettably no one was on hand to film the grisly and distressing event, otherwise you could be sure that I would have posted it here so that we can all have a good sympathise.

"Shit! Run for it! He looks like he’s going to go for the knees"

I have previously highlighted the plight of the poor put-upon London motorist, and it seems that things are not getting any better. Yesterday morning drivers in North Finchley were left "bemused" when they awoke to find that some cheeky rapscallion had painted over controversial parking signs. The area was thrown into chaos as drivers spent all day in their cars as they could not park. Those with plenty of petrol drove repeatedly around roundabouts in a state of bewilderment until the paint was wiped from the signs. Helen Michael, a local café owner, offered a theory as to what was behind the vandalism of the parking signs: "I believe this is done as a protest," she elementary-my-dear-Watsoned.

Meanwhile a van driver was attacked by a bollard as he attempted to drive on the pavement yesterday morning. The victim was the latest in a long line of drivers who have come a cropper on the bollard allegedly placed there to protect pampered pedestrians. Sarah Davis, a manager of a lettings company near the junction, witnessed the incident. "I am just speechless because this keeps happening," she blathered before miraculously and instantaneously recovering her power of speech: "The same thing kept happening about eight or nine times last January and February, during the dark winter afternoons. Personally I think the junction is in the wrong place and needs to be moved back down Worple Road." Yes, that’s it – the junction is in the wrong place, and that’s why people keep crashing into pavement furniture. Once again the formerly elusive truth jumps out at us like a bollard on a pavement.

And finally if, like me, you are starting to think about what calendar you are going to buy for next year (it’s warrants serious deliberation – you have to live with it for 12 months) then you could do a lot worse than consider this.


Thursday, 11 October 2012

Ghostly Goings-On in London's Pubs

With the nights drawing in and Halloween just around the corner evenings in the capital are beginning to take on an eerie aspect. London has a sinister past, having been the site of the horrendous reign of terror of Jack the Ripper, the atrocious sufferings and mammoth death toll of the Black Death, the wholesale hangings at Newgate, and the formation of N-Dubz. Bearing this in mind, I feel it would be naïve to think that there are not some spiritual traces of the city’s past sufferings left behind on our ancient streets, waiting in the darkness to reveal themselves to people sensitive, perceptive and schizophrenic enough to be aware of their presence. In fact there have been so many reported encounters with messengers from the spirit world in London, the odds are heavily against you not bumping into Anne Boleyn or Guy Fawkes on your way to the pub, and even more heavily against it on your way back from the pub.


But even more terrifying is the prospect of meeting someone from the ‘other side’ whilst you are in the pub. Imagine if you will the abject horror as a thirsty poltergeist downs your pint of Stella before you even get it to your table, or a hungry ethereal being eats one of your dry roasted peanuts, or Roy Castle appears in the beer garden and smokes your last fag. It doesn’t bear thinking about, but it is more likely to happen in one of London’s boozers than you might think. Take the Flask in Highgate for instance; it has been haunted by a ghostly figure of a woman whose identity is uncertain for some time now. According to Haunted London dot com, the go-to website for accurate accounts of London’s ghostly episodes:
“A full blown manifestation [at the Flask] is a rare occurrence, but lights certainly begin to mysteriously sway back and forth, glasses are moved across tables in front of surprised customers, and some people even suffer the alarming sensation of feeling her invisible form blowing gently down the backs of their necks.”

It sounds like the source of the mysterious occurrences could be exorcised with the careful placing of a few draft excluders. But you never know…

If you are a lady and go to the Bow Bells on Bow Road it is wise to exorcise your bowels before setting foot in the pub, for if you get caught short and have to visit the toilet it is likely that you will encounter an irritating but hygienic spectre who flushes the toilet whilst patrons are sitting on it. In 1974 the landlord held a séance in an unsuccessful attempt rid the pub of its unwanted guest. However, it doesn’t appear to have occurred to anyone to try ridding the pub of the phantom by having the plumbing looked at. Or could I be wrong…?       

One of the most mysterious cases of public house haunting is on the northern outskirts of London at the King and Tinker pub in Crews Hill. The pub’s landlady Toni Duke is convinced that it is haunted by a former landlord who died of a heart attack upstairs. Mrs Duke, who describes herself as a “believer and non-believer” (possibly indicating a good level of schizophrenia required for ghost spotting) describes incidents of pictures falling off the walls and objects falling from shelves. Subsidence? Apparently not, as North London’s local investigators of paranormal activity – North London Paranormal Investigations (NLPI) – have been investigating and are convinced that this phantom is the real deal.

Toni Duke is concerned about the ghostly presence of the former landlord but is apparently unperturbed by the two spectres in her kitchen

After a thorough over-night investigation of the pub, chief nut job paranormal investigator Mickey Gocool described his findings:
“I felt a presence of a man who had a chest pain, like a heart attack. I described my feeling to the landlord and he said we had just described Paul [the former landlord].”   

Further evidence that the former landlord is the cause of the mysterious activities came when a customer asked the spirit through a Ouija board if he liked sausages, and  the reply was a resounding yes. This was enough to convince Mrs Duke that it is “definitely” him, as sausages were indeed his favourite food. 



Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The London Underground is No Joke

A trip on the London Underground, particularly in rush hour, is an underrated occasion. It offers a plethora of experiences, including the warm, up-beat banter with those behind you as your ticket or Oyster card fails to open the barrier at the fifth time of asking; the relaxing ride on the escalator when you forget to squeeze over to the right as much as your body will physically permit in order to allow red faced, suit wearing, laptop wielding, office hours enthusiasts to barge past you so that they can narrowly miss the southbound Jubilee line train that was so packed with commuters that you’d have to fold a postage stamp in half to add it to the load; the hilarious confusion as you suddenly find yourself in the wrong wave of marching humans and begin spiralling out of control, buffeted this way and that, back toward the escalators from which you had just alighted, like a preoccupied salmon. And that’s before you’ve even reached the platform. 

Jump in, London, the water’s warm

All good clean fun, and it simply serves to perpetuate the widely held belief that Londoners are among the most friendly and gracious people in the world. But not everyone is satisfied with their Tube experience, with the underground system regularly accused of being expensive, archaic and unreliable. Ingrates often look to the subway systems of Paris or Munich, which are cheap to access, modern and dependable, and then demand something similar in London. But what they forget is that while the aforementioned systems appear to be better in every way, they are in fact full of foreigners, unlike the London Underground system which is peopled predominantly by English gents in bowler hats.

It stands to reason that the minority of travellers that are not English gents in bowler hats often need to be instructed on how to behave during their journey, which is why London Underground helpfully adorn their trains with didactic messages, such as “Do Not Obstruct the Doors” for people who in general like to obstruct doors, “No Entry Unless Authorised” for people who frequently like to enter private areas without authorisation, as well a signs indicating that priority seats should be given to those less able to stand, directed primarily at people who have somehow grown up with no sense of decency.           

It appears, however, that not everyone sees the benefit of being told how to behave by those that know better, and are hitting back with a childish campaign of subversive vandalism. A growing number of anarchistic idiots are placing spoof signs on tube trains which give misleading and often dangerous instructions, such as this:

This was recently placed on a tube train giving the impression that travellers using these seats would have to move at 8.30pm to make way for a dinner party. The party did not turn up, and all that was achieved was that a friend of mine had to stand for the remainder of my his journey. Bastards.

Another sign my friend fell foul of was one which read "Peak hours may necessitate you let other people sit on your lap." I will refrain from going into details regarding the events following this so-called prank, but suffice to say that I am no longer welcome on the eastern branch of the central line.

I mean my friend is. Isn’t. Fuck!

And don’t get me started on this one:

In my opinion shooting’s too good for them.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

London Imports Celebrities as Tourism Wanes

Tourism has always been central to the capital’s economy. Tourists flock here from all over the world to gawp at our many attractions, including the history-steeped Tower of London, the forcefully borrowed international treasures stored at the Museum of London, the consumer and bus fancier’s Mecca that is Oxford Street, and the not-to-be-missed waxy joys that can be found in Madam Tussauds where the latest exciting installation is Francois Hollande – a thrilling treat for all the family. But, incredibly, it appears that even a wax model of the charismatic French premier has not been enough of a draw to boost London’s tourist trade which has flagged dramatically this summer. Sited causes for the dip in visitors to London’s top attractions (London Zoo and Kew Gardens being among the worst hit) have been the bad weather and the lure of the Olympics. The concerning attendance figures came from the well known and universally loved Association of Leading Visitor Attractions (Alva). Alva’s data suggests that some of the capital’s attractions played host to 60 per cent fewer visitors than last year – a figure that Bernard Donoghue, Alva’s chief executive was almost inconsolably hysterical about this week, describing the report as “sobering reading.” Calm down Bernie, you’ll give yourself a stroke.

Top London attraction and runner up of the International Convenience Retailer of the Year Award, Spar in Walthamstow Village has been eerily devoid of tourists recently

It is all very well worrying yourself sick about the situation like Bernard Donoghue, but if no one actually does anything the only sources of income left to London will be the production of gin and the privatisation of the royal family. But it seems that help is at hand: as it becomes clear that Londoners and the traditional tourism sites are clearly not attracting visitors, a new initiative has been launched to import interesting celebrities from other parts of the world in the hope that they will bring in much needed tourists.

This week self-obsessed derivative ‘rebel’ Lady Gaga was flown in to take part in a high profile marketing event for her new perfume at over-priced Egyptian twat magnet Harrods. The stunt did not go quite as planned, however, due to organisers underestimating what a unconscionable prick Lady Gaga (real name Sadie Gaga) actually is. Fans who had waited hours to see the star for some reason were left devastated when she haughtily breezed past them without so much as an impromptu concert. One teenage fan, Luke Reader, was left gutted by the snub. “It’s quite ironic it’s called Fame because it just shows how much fame has changed her,” he said struggling to grasp the concept of irony.

Gaga tells her fans that she needs her own space to grow as a person and an artist

All is not lost though, as Bromley has paid a small fortune to import cuddly Northern motorcyclists, The Big Fat Hairy Cookers for the evening in an attempt to attract both tourists interested in motorcycling and those interested in old-fashioned stodgy British cookery. The evening promises to be an absolute riot as the bewhiskered gastronomes “rattle through countless stories from their trips across the globe, including decadent dinners and culinary catastrophes.” Smashing.

Even Croydon is doing its bit in the drive to pull in tourists. The horrendous concrete urban nightmare has played host to none other than someone who used to be in the popular special needs documentary The Only Way is Essex. Maria Fowler, who was apparently on the programme for a period of time, attended a hairstylist’s in the area, and attempted to drum up visitors by Twatting about it on Twitter. "My hair is bright copper. Woo @amaisalon amazing haha!" she Twatted incomprehensibly during her visit. The event was reportedly a success, as two teenagers from Kent glanced in at the window as they were passing, and a man from Surrey bought a Mars Bar in the newsagent next door, bolstering the local economy.

And if the tourist trade continues to suffer despite these efforts, Perivale has a little something up its sleeve that is certain to bring in the foreign wonga.   

Monday, 8 October 2012

The Urban Fox: A Menace to Owners of Diminutive Dogs

We British are a nation of animal lovers, and the people of London are certainly no exception. Why, you only have to take a stroll through the Broadwater Farm estate in Tottenham to see a number of young men with Rottweilers or Bull Terriers wearing spiked collars and positively frothing at the mouth with friendliness. I too love all kinds of animals: dogs, cats, ants, birds, sheeps, monkeys, platypi, elephants and beef. I, like most Londoners, treat all animals with love and respect, and only rarely spit at wood lice. In the capital we are surrounded by our animal friends; as well as urban wild animals scampering about in our great city we also like to keep them in London Zoo where they truly belong, where we can ensure that they don’t become delicious roadkill, and where we can take our children to watch the big cats languidly having sex.

On the whole we Londoners coexist peacefully with the local wildlife, but on occasion animals get the hump and do things they later regret, as in the recent lamentable case of Dale’s pet pooch.  This terrible story of animal suffering illustrates the damage that London’s fauna can do and how we humans can have our lives turned upside down by the little fuckers. And few animals are more fuckerish than the urban fox. Whether they are spreading rubbish along the street on bin day when searching for a scrumptious sanitary towel on which to chew, making sounds like a strangled chicken whilst copulating under your bedroom window at four in the morning, or befouling your front doorstep with the putrid results of last night’s panty-liner supper, the urban fox can prove to be a real pain in the sphincter. 

One of their most irritating traits has got to be their penchant for attempting to devour people’s pet Chihuahuas. This has happened to luckless Pepe the hamster-sized canine from Sutton not once but twice. The first foxy attempt on his life was in 2008 which resulted in poor petite Pepe losing an eye. How annoying. Having made a full recovery (with the exception of his now having 50 per cent of the ocular organs that he began with) Pepe was subjected to a second vicious attack on Sunday. His owner Vicky Neophytou was not too pleased about Pepe’s latest adventure  having been alerted to puny Pepe’s plight when she heard squeaking in her back garden she went out to investigate:

“I went out and Pepe was just lying there on the patio with the fox over him and there was blood everywhere. I shooed the fox away, but he didn't go far. He saw all this blood, that Pepe was close to death and obviously thought he was going to be his lunch.”

She then indulged in a mild bout of hysterics whilst on phone to the vet: "It was awful, I couldn't talk on the phone I was hyperventilating, the words wouldn't come out.” But fortunately she did get the words out and Pepe was treated for three broken ribs, several puncture wounds and severe blood loss. He is being kept at the vets under observation for the next few days and is undergoing counselling to help him come to terms with his trauma.

Pepe, Vicky and a veterinary surgeon who doesn't seem to be taking this at all seriously

I think the moral of this story, if there is one, is that all of God’s creatures deserve respect and love, except, of course, for the urban fox, who you’d be well advised to hit in the face with a spade or broken bottle, especially if you own a dog that is the size of pencil case.      

Friday, 5 October 2012

Sweet Friday Afternoon: Half-Arsed Weekly News Round-Up

A Barnet dog owner revealed this week how ‘devastated’ he is for the owners of the dog that his pet savaged in a local park recently. The man, known only as Dale, described his horror as his Staffordshire Bull Terrier mauled Esther Short’s Cavalier King Charles Spaniel  rendering it dead  whilst out for a walk: “I’m absolutely devastated. It makes me sick just talking about it. He’s not a vicious dog – I don’t know what to do with him,” Dale sobbed before adding, “If he constantly went after other dogs then fine, but he doesn’t.” Then fine? But while Dale’s misunderstood mutt doesn’t ‘constantly’ go after other dogs, it’s not as if he doesn’t have previous; it later immerged that the dog playfully murdered another puppy last year. To prevent lightening from striking a third time Dale has finally decided to muzzle his dog and put it on a ‘leash’ (American for lead). “I’m totally gutted,” Dale reiterated.

My thoughts are with him at this difficult time.

Dale's adorable doggy in a playful mood

In happier animal news, a church in Old Malden played host to a service for parishioners’ pets on Sunday. Reverend Kevin Scott, who lead the service at The Parish Church of St John the Baptist, was evidently delighted with himself for coming up with the dippy idea. "The reason we did it apart from being a good thing to do was we wanted to affirm to people that God is concerned with the whole. Pets generate a huge amount of love and such love comes from God," he babbled piously whilst fishing budgie poo out of the font.

A quadriplegic man is taking legal action against organisers of the London Marathon (or London Snickers as it is now known) after he was refused entry to the event on grounds of health and safety. Matt King, an Olympic torch bearer, has twice taken part in the Great North Run and completed the New York Snickers in his wheelchair, but London top bods are refusing to let him take part in case he hurts himself or other people by rolling along in his wheelchair – an activity he manages to do on a daily basis without hurting himself or other people. It is rumoured that his cause is being supported by Hornchurch UKIP candidate Lawrence Webb, who is famously sympathetic to the plight of disabled people.     

It was revealed this week that a filthy pervert managed to gain access to a school sports day at Fern Hill Primary School in Kingston. Shockingly the dirty paedo even has a child at the school and was using this as an excuse to watch the event. Luckily a vigilant member of staff quickly realised what was going on and demanded to see her Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) check. The persistent sicko protested that as she worked for the NHS she had a valid CRB, but the ever-alert staff member immediately retaliated by stating that a school approved CRB was required by parents in order to watch their own children take part in the egg and spoon race. Thankfully the disgusting deviant then backed down and was forced to wait for her child outside the school gates.

And finally, if you are a man and have always wanted to spend £44 on afternoon tea but have previously been put off by the feminine image of the meal, then Fortnum and Mason has the answer to all of your prayers. They are now offering an afternoon tea menu aimed specifically at men, serving up manly delights that self-respecting builders and mechanics would be proud to tell their friends about, such as sun-dried tomato savoury scones. A perfect choice for post-match munchies.

"A nice table for five by the window please. Oh, and I like my tea sweet and milky" 

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Environmental Tragedy in Greater London

There is no arguing with the fact that environmental disasters are disastrous. It is a disaster when they happen. When such disastrous occurrences occur it often occurs to me that we are almost wilfully destroying this planet of ours, that humanity seems to have an in-built tendency towards self destruction, a death drive employed as a coping mechanism when progress pushes us along at a rate too rapid for us to manage, causing confusion and bewilderment; we destroy the planet with technology in order to destroy that technology, to return our surroundings to their natural nakedness, to return us to a state of simple being, the state of the noble savage, if you will.

Or maybe we're just fucking careless. Either way, when environmental catastrophes take place even the hardest of hearts must soften when a sea bird covered in crude oil struggles up on the beach looking a bit sorry for itself, or a polar bear falls off some melted ice, or a rainforest monkey gets confused when his favourite tree is cut down in order to make way for a McDonald’s chip factory. I am personally deeply affected by these things; my bearskin rug is often soaked with tears of frustration and I frequently have to go on long, pointless drives in my Range Rover in order to clear my head and divert my mind from the slow death of Mother Earth.

I always burn the old tires from my Ranger Rover in order to ensure they don’t end up in landfill 

I have witnessed many outrages against the environment on television programs, including natural disasters like flooding in Pakistan, as well as man-made atrocities like British Petroleum’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, but nothing could prepare me for the environmental catastrophe that has recently taken place in Wolmer Gardens in Edgware. Residents of the quiet Greater London road were ‘horrified’ when they discovered a gaping hole had been chopped into the trees and bushes that lined their road. And to make things worse, the act of savagery was not carried out by a foliage hating maniac with a grudge to bear against life itself, but by Barnet Council, the very organisation that should be protecting its residents from this kind of tragedy.

Understandably most inhabitants of the disaster area are still too upset to speak about what has happened, but one brave soul, Debora Goldman, has spoken out hoping that her story will prevent anything like this from ever happening again. Not long ago Mrs Goldman requested that the council send a member of the working classes to her road to trim some overgrown branches, but what happened next was something she will never forget. Struggling to compose herself she explained:

“All I asked was for the council to trim the overhanging branches because they were hitting cars when they drove by. But when I came back from work I was horrified to see they’d actually cut them down. I was so shocked.”
Sickening. Despite visibly shaking with fury and disbelief Mrs Goldman managed to continue her story:

“The trees and bushes was what made us want to move here. It used to be very green and you couldn’t see the houses across the road. Now, just sitting looking out is upsetting”

It is truly hard to imagine what it must be like to live in a road where the houses across the road are visible to the naked eye, but these are the conditions in which Mrs Goldman and her family are now living, if indeed you can call it living. Despite this a spokeswoman for the council tried to play down the calamity by wheedling, “Staff cut back the top heavy shrubs, thinned out the overgrown shrubs and removed the self set trees. This will of course grow back.” That may be so, but until then Mrs Goldman and the remaining few residents of Wolmer Gardens who have not escaped the road to move in with friends and relatives will have to live with on-street greenery that some distraught witnesses have described as ‘unsightly’.

"Think of the children!"

Let us hope and pray that we can learn from what has happened in this quiet corner of Edgware, and that Mrs Goldman and her neighbours will one day find peace. 

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Sex Mad Londoners Are Sex Mad

Sex. It seems like everyone’s at it, whether it’s missionary, doggy-style, or…um…any of the other ones, everyone likes sex. I tried it myself once, but I found it to be awkward, messy, extremely brief and I couldn’t find one of my socks afterwards. And I missed the first seven minutes of Countryfile, which rendered the rest of the program unwatchable as I couldn’t follow the plot after that (something about changes in farming practices over the last century and how this has affected the landscape). Needless to say, I won’t be doing that again, but I don’t mind other if people want to.

It appears, however, that Londoners can’t get enough of it, especially those that only do it by themselves. Not content with the various erotic delights that can apparently be found on the internet, compulsive toggle-tugger Nicholas Holt, 41, from Romford made a habit of filming up the skirts of unsuspecting tube passengers until he was caught in the act at Tottenham Court Road Station. At the time of his arrest police discovered two up-skirt videos on his phone, while a subsequent search of his house uncovered a further 128 videos on hard disks. Holt managed to avoid a prison sentence by telling the judge that he was a sex addict. The sentence was made more lenient by the fact that Holt works with computers and so is unlikely to ever come into contact with a lady’s undergarments in real life.

But even the police themselves are so obsessed with erotic physical pleasures they are not keeping their minds on the job, so to speak. Undercover cop Mark Kennedy admitted to inserting himself into two women suspects during a prolonged police investigation. The randy officer’s antics have drawn complaints from the women he was involved with, but Kennedy was unrepentant, insisting that during the operation his superiors “knew his every move.”

Mark Kennedy displays the expression of a man who takes satisfaction in a job well done

Is it any wonder that so many people in the capital are so obsessed with physical relations, when sexual images are all around us, even at a tender age? One branch of Waterstones in Croydon was recently caught actively promoting lewd reading material to youngsters. Fortunately Caroline Ashlee, a local mother and anti-sexualist, was on hand to be outraged after she found an unsuitable book being displayed in the children’s section of the bookshop. Having flicked through the book to discover a graphically described sex scene, Mrs Ashlee was highly displeased. "What I find upsetting is I don't think teenagers go looking for that sort of thing and then they have it forced upon them without any warning,” she naively blurted, clearly never having met a teenager before. When asked exactly how graphic the scene that Mrs Ashlee, mother of six, stood and read in its entirety was, she replied, "It was very graphic. I won't be able to look at a Colgate toothpaste dispenser in the same way again.” She then stormed out of the shop in disgust clutching the copy of Fifty Shades of Grey that she had purchased earlier, stopping only to retrieve a tube of Colgate toothpaste that had fallen from her bag.   

She looks delighted but perhaps she should have saved a bit for her teeth

But if, like me, you want to enjoy the intellectual and artistic aspects of life rather than obsessing over the erotic and physical, why not visit the Tate gallery where this year’s Turner Prize nominees are currently being displayed?   

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

London Housing: Grab Yourself a Bargain

London is a crowded place. Last year I undertook a project to count everyone in the capital, and after seven weeks of mostly hard work I came up with the figure 8,174,100 which I later verified on Google so I knew that I hadn’t wasted my time. Furthermore, its population is growing all the time, and after extensive research involving pie charts, bar charts and tables containing lots of numbers, I can confidently predict that by 2020 London’s population will have increased by a considerable amount. Yes, it puts it all into perspective, doesn’t it?

It is not really surprising that London is such a draw for people who live in other parts of the world. London is without doubt one of the greatest cities in the world with its vibrant clubbing scene; a wealth of historic places of interest; a huge number of places to eat, including a seemingly endless supply of fried chicken shops; safe, clean networks of streets in which to make your way about; a fantastic transport system ensuring that everyone arrives at their destination on time feeling refreshed and unmugged; and, of course, tuberculosis.

Thrilled South London residents enjoy the feeling of community that you just don’t get in other parts of the country

But all of the benefits to living in the capital come at a price – and that price is money. Whereas prices of homes in the country as a whole have fallen by around 20 per cent since the beginning of the credit crunch, prices in London have remained fairly static and have even risen in some areas. Indeed, the average house price in London is nearly 30 times that of somewhere a bit, you know, Northern like Hull or Ipswich.

So with London being so crowded and expensive it is hardly surprising that sacrifices have to be made when buying a house, but that doesn’t mean that suitable abodes are not to be had. For instance, if you want to live in Knightsbridge and you have £85,000 lying around then you can pick up a compact bargain just opposite Harrods. The entire property is a petite but comfortable 10’4 x 8’4, but this does have the advantage of allowing the owner to cook dinner, watch the TV, clean his teeth, kick the dog and defecate simultaneously, saving precious time.

Too central? Then how about a property in Erith that comes with a 285 foot wind turbine right outside the house. The current resident Graham Saunders was delighted to discover the attractive feature had popped up outside his abode last week. “We didn’t exactly have a skyline to begin with but now all we have is a wind turbine,” he enthused before explaining excitedly, “If we want to sell the house and prospective buyers come round to view it, the first thing they will notice is the giant wind turbine outside.” Great. And the good news is that you may be able to grab such a house at a bargain price, as apparently views of 285 foot wind turbines from the bedroom are not to everyone’s taste.

If that doesn’t float your boat how about spending your evenings relaxing in some public toilets? I don’t on this occasion mean in this way, I mean why not move into one? While not strictly in Greater London, Ewell Village has good transport links into the city, including the bus stop outside of the property where old folk get off expecting to go for a piss. What more could you want from a first home?

Even adolescent pop shagger Harry Stiles has had to make a small sacrifice to live in a desirable London location. So desperate was Stiles to live on the edge of Hampstead Heath that he bought a £3 million property that is actually haunted by Dick Turpin. The apparition is not, however, the only Dick to be found popping up from nowhere in the Hampstead Heath area after nightfall.


Monday, 1 October 2012

Is London at Risk of Becoming a Cultural Desert?

London has long been famous for being a cultural hub, with its many theatres, art galleries, publishing houses and thriving street art scene, but is our cultural heritage, our reputation as the home of art and culture beginning to slip away from us? Are we starting to sink into a quagmire of ignorance, soullessness and mediocrity; a bland artistic wasteland full of near identical, dense half-wits whose idea of progressive art is the latest album by Jessie J? Is London becoming the new Milton Keynes

Another poor turnout at the Milton Keynes book club 

To some this may seem a ridiculous suggestion, but is it? Is it?

Probably, but even so I am not without concerns about the capital’s artistic future, as small warning signs have been recently making themselves apparent. Warning signs like this.

Sorry, no forget that – I meant this. Yes, apparently, despite being home to the Globe Theatre, 12 per cent of London’s inhabitants have never heard of Shakespeare. William Shakespeare, the playwright.  Wrote a play called Hamlet. Wore a ruff. Massive forehead. From Stratford-upon-Avon. Baz Luhrmann did a version of one of his plays staring Leonardo Dicaprio and – yes that Shakespeare. Anyway, during the study which brought this disturbing ignorance to light, those that did not know who Shakespeare was were encouraged to guess what his profession might have been. There doesn’t seem to be any reason for this other than to compound the poor participants’ feelings of stupidity and provide additional mockery material for those of us who had the wherewithal to Google Shakespeare months ago. Whatever the reason, it turns out that 2 per cent of those who did not know who he was thought that the man who played such a significant part in the development of our language was a Roman centurion. Not just one person decided that this was the case – 2 whole per cent of those asked. Where and when did this rumour begin?  Is there an alternative version of events being bandied about suggesting that The Tempest was knocked up in between the manufacture of viaducts and throwing Christians to the lions? Seems unlikely. And in a telling reflection of modern society, another 2 per cent had decided that if they had not heard of him Shakespeare must be a celebrity. Of course.

But is it any wonder that the cultural landscape of the average Londoner is so barren when our artistic heritage is being sold out from underneath us without consultation? Tower hamlets council are planning to sell a £20m Henry Moore sculpture that was dedicated to the people of East London by the artist himself. And that’s not the worst of it; the sculpture, which is not very good, has not been in the East End for the last 15 years, as it was removed in 1997 after one too many Graffiti attacks, and moved to Yorkshire. The lucky Yorkshirians have shown the piece a bit more respect than it enjoyed in London, preferring to look at it rather than spray it with paint. Is this because they are more receptive to art and respectful of the cultural artefacts around them than the people of London, or is it just that they don’t have such a thriving street art scene?