stray shots

this post involves the events of and surrounding my brother dan ([soon to be ex-games journalist] and [pun merchant extrordinaire])'s birthday.

i met dan in soho. eventually we found each other, coming in from
opposite directions, at the john snow, which was rammed and crammed
and creamed, and even reamed. so we took a wander down the main drag looking for somewhere friendly, sauntered through china town, stopping in at his favourite bakery where i had a custard tartlet like the ones i used to adore as a child when our mother managed the yang sing in manchester.. they'd be all i'd eat. it's amazing what you can do with sugar and egg. and you know what? actually, they're not that nice. i think i even realised that as a kid, but maybe in that case it was only after 12 of them.

this is my kermit the frog impression.

then a man with a pyramid frame in brass resting on his head quicklywalked past us and dan chased after him with his camera.

we went for a sit down in 'garlic and shots', where dan was being bought dinner later by the bioshock pr people for giving them a good review. can i write that? is that too much information? dan is always remarkably candid (with me) about the score he gave it; "it's a 10/10 game, for the xbox. regardless, they were absolutely lovely. later tim turned up:

in a very nice, convienient stopping through kind of way.

many words can be said about the cuisine of garlic and shots. indeed, for days after, many were. the next day, my boss remarked that everywhere - not just me, or this room, but everywhere - stank of garlic. i owned up to it and explained what had happened. for at least two days later, every pore of my body was seeping out garlic juice. washing didn't help, it just unclogged the holes so more could come out [citation needed]. both dan and i went off to see our respective girlfriends after dinner. stifled, they were.
understand, the garlic was everywhere. i started with a garlic and
honey brandy, followed by a bloodshot (uber-thick bloody mary in a
shot glass) and then half pints of beer with raw garlic in the foam. starters were fried cloves on a skewer - remarkably textured like chicken - and roast bulbs with bread - remarkably textured like potato. for dinner i has one of the sadly only two veggie options, the halloumi noodles (also very meaty). we didn't have any pudding, but had we done, garlic chocolate would have been served. it was delicious. by the end it was enough. and then you realised it was too much and there was nothing you could do.

given that i then went round rachel's after that, i can't figure outwhat i did with friday. the only clue i have is a text saying 'where are you now?' from rachel at 5.20. there's no communication with her on gmail. we must have discussed something 'off the record' the night before. why can't google just record everything? if you remember, rachel, leave a comment please.

So what actaully happened was it got to 10 o'clock and i'd not gone
round yet and she;d only just got in, cue a hilariously protacted
conversation of refelection and indecision as to whether it was worth the hour long journey, just to go over and go to bed, as oppose to coming over in the morning for breakfast. well of course it was. the next day we met her ex-flat mate seb and her friend heather. as an aside, i must say there is a complicated relationship pattern here; heather's brother is james who went out/lived with seb for, like, ever, with rachel in the flat too for at least some of it. so he, being the actual thing that binded the three of them together, in a way, was absolutely not to be mentioned, sadly. damn these soap opera life styles that we have.

so then i went home to get some jewish-style food for the party. it
was a bit of a disaster; getting home took a lifetime, sainsbury's had sold out of kniedles, or anything interesting, and pretty much the whole jewish section is made by either nestle or unilever. so i just got 6 different boxes of falafel mix (a nod towards dan's barmizvah present from our father, except that this time, they weren't empty). sadly this left me with no time to prepare a rabbi costume. i wish everyone else's (or even my real) excuse was that good.

so when i got down there, way down at the bottom of everything
(catford), our father dimitri was still there with iona. it had taken him two hours to get there from the other end of south-west london. dan had several silly beards he'd bought, photo-a-gogo with everyone trying them on, and then taking them off. there was a nice and small selection of people to begin with - the bath contingent, james petit, and the family. quite soon the telly went on so that a couple of people could watch the rugby, not exactly a great way to start a birthhousewarmingday party, but never mind.

The party was a little subdued for the most part, but it was pretty
vibrant and cosy too. eventually, when only the over-stayers were
left, the lads started trying to complete the advance challanges on
portal, and despite it being the first time i'd ever seen it, i
couldn't help but move over to the other half of the living room,
where all the girls were sitting, and having a conversation, and
stuff. mostly about how their men were completely ignoring them, and largely each other, but still. anyway, i could still see the screen from where we were sat - best of both worlds.
Rachel Wheeler and Maria Vasiliopoulos are now friends. they spent
most of the evening, once they realised they both grew up in the same square mile in kent, digging for further co-incidences, going as far as including a loathing of the peak caps that dan and i have
similtaenously taken to.

party pictures are here

the next day, we woke up to the sizzling childhood joy of vosht (a
kosher sausage, which according to a thorough google search, doesn't appear to be a word in use outside my family) and egg. us veggies just got egg, and i wish i'd thought to pick up the similar-looking meatless equivelent from the health food shop. course it wouldn't be the same without marks and spencers ketchup and instant mash....

once everyone but me had gone, i got the chance to play portal for
myself. i'll write up my experiances after i finish it tonight.

then we went off to meet our father and family and ann mitchel at kew gardens, a pointless hour before it was due to close. instead we went for a walk around hampton court woods or perhaps they're just gardens,and got a curry in. then went home and fell asleep in front of the


earache xmas party

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the arcade

so amongst my rambling last post, i managed to not include the funniest and most interesting part of rachel and i's journey around soho.

after we'd come out of maoz, i spotted the 'amusement' arcade across the road, and because being a grown up is all about being able to make decisions for yourself (ha!), i asked if we could go in to play pinball. we went on the pirates of the carribean one this time (last time ed and i played the lord of the rings one), and we did okay, rachel doesn't seem to have played ever before and considering i didn't explain the fine physics of it, she was alright. after our go, she wanted to go on the coin pushing machines. there was no stopping, or reasoning with, her. i started to feel very confederancy of dunces all of a sudden. "they probably push them all back every night" i said. but it was no good. i stopped myself before i completely ignatiused out everywhere and let her have her 'fun'.

i made her at least use some sense and go for the far left unit, where they were obviously in more of a state where you could imagine they might fall than the other two. she put a ten p in, to no effect. on her second however, a remarkable thing happened; it worked. some coins fell off the top row, a couple of pushes later and the knock-on effect had forced the row below right to the edge and omfg the coins were falling. clatter clatter they went, down the silvery dark hole at the front. i couldn't believe it. sure, i had stats on my side but she'd gone and won.

as we bent down to collect our winnings ('our' winnings now), i noticed i was finding it difficult to get the coins out of the hole at the back. in fact, it was difficult to feel any coins at all. in fact, an impartial observer, who had not just seen and heard the coins, might wonder what exactly we were doing down there because there were clearly no coins to pick up. when we came to our senses, wondering now if indeed any coins had actually fallen down at all and it wasn't just some kind of random hallucination, we decided to ask the attendant for our money (lebowski). she pawed pathetically at the security locked machine and said there was nothing she could do. we heckled her a bit, and she said she'd get the manager, which could take five minutes. rachel wanted to leave, but now i was digging in. this is their scam right here, we figured, and i thought it not too much to just hang around a bit.

EVENTUALLY a woman in *white* came out, and in broken, beyond-accented english, she tried to explain what might have happened. i can't remember much of what she said, but she seemed to be implying that this was somehow normal or reasonable, and sometimes, if you rock the machine like this - and she pushed the machine backwards, making sirens ring out and lights flash - then the money goes into a separate place. no, we explained again, we put the money in, more money fell down, but it didn't appear. ok, she said, she'd get the engineer, but it'd be ten minutes.

we had too many questions after she'd left. they need an engineer to open the damn thing now? what if her rocking the machine back had caused the alarm circuit to trip, which we hadn't done, but it would reverse-legitimise us not getting our money since it would be recorded in memory that it had happened. obviously someone would have noticed the alarm go off.

so this is their scam. if you actually get any money, you don't get to touch it, and you get increasingly severe attempts to put you off. we hung around for about five minutes, mooching around looking at the various gambling machines. i had to persuade rachel not to go on any of - what would be the point of giving them the money straight back, before we'd even got it? the situation got more and more political between us the longer we waited; she accused me of only wanting to stay so that if she left i could say 'it was you that walked out'. i genuinely wanted to hang around and see what would happen if we did. would the mythical engineer ever turn up? ten minutes is an impossible time; either he's on-site, or he's miles away, right? so either they're making us wait needlessly, or they're getting our hopes up only to be crushed. after some time, even i began to falter. perhaps we'd made our point, and leaving now would inconvience them the most, also sending the message that we didn't want to hang around in their crappy arcade, even for the money that we had won. after some more time, rachel simply walked out without any more todo. so we'll never know. but at least i got an anecdote out of it.


a not-very vegan weekend

last week, mother was down, so i did spend some good time with her, shmying round the bookshop in the hideous o2 centre. in the music section, a wonderful book of early photos of the smiths, many taken in the abandoned and ruined manchester central station, before it's renovation as gmex. another book was a full-colour history of simply red, including a cv written on notepaper headed with my father's late holiday company logo, which shell claimed to have helped him write. sharon osbourne's _second_ autobiography (why doesn't she just keep a blog like the rest of us? surely she'd make more from the ad revenue). we had sushi, with some bloody great aubergine dish. it made me miss dimitri's though; everything would be so much bigger. tapas, sushi, thali, call it what you like, little plates of everything rock. we went to waitrose, and spent a gigantic amount on some fairly rudimentry ingredients for tea, a nutritionaly complete pasta dish. we should do that the end, what with leslie being in india, it was uncle neil, cousin georgie, brother dan, mother shell, and i.
the night after, i came round again, where shell and georgie were watching the dance x final together, shell describing to georgie the difference between the good and bad routines ('feet like kippers,' she'd say), polished off some left overs, then went round rachel's, where james was already. in this way, by living off other people, i mananged to make it through the week on only ten pounds (plus travel &c.). i confessed to her how i'd had a hankering for her to pretend we weren't going out, so i could relive the thrill of unrequited love. that's what 'circumcised' means in the context of the forthcoming song.
on friday i had a quiet word with my boss, and in the tamest way i could manage, asked whether she thought it possible if i could maybe just have a little more money in my pay? i felt so small, and afterwards like bashing my head into the wall. but at least the concern is there. from there, i was having a shit night, my aparrent lack of concern towards rachel coming to a head in a painfully protacted phone call when i should have been on the train to london bridge to see girls girls (ed was ill so it was just the two of them), with andy and sarah, plus andy's lovely friend who's doing a pro-tools course. which reminds me, that french drummer who i met the previous friday at the george never got back to me. why don't people like what i do? why is it so difficult to find anyone here? by the end of the evening i felt pretty good (drunk), got back home and shared the wild garlic tofu fillets i'd bought for tea with adrian, then stayed up til 2 on command and conquer. i can only worry that my regenerated computer games habit is connected to my lack of concern for my suffering girlfriend.
so saturday we went out for lunch in soho. we stopped outside govinda's, with looked great and will be taken on one day, but soldiered on because, frankly, i really was in the mood for falafel. we went to maoz, despite the chain-iness of it, because it's great, and she'd not been. after that, we brazed the cambridge circus crowds to get to a cash point, and had coffee and cake at the curzon, because it's where all the cool people hang out. for the first time of the weekend, we played 'polity chicken', the person who can't divide the remaining portion of food in half and pass it back being the loser. then we had a good nosey poke around the really wonderful shops in soho - that brilliant little coffee shop (she bought thank-you chocolates for her comedy dad), we must have stood half an hour outside the vodka shop window (bought a minuture snow queen and full size boston waltz), anne summers (i've never been! i seemed to worry rachel by knowing what everything was _for_), the sweet shoppe (cinder toffee and butterscotch, but _no moffatt toffee_), then into the glasshouse stores for a swift half and finally the tube back home. phew.
saturday night, then, and it's the great dinner party. sarah and andrew came over, ed made some french apple/cream/mushroom recipe (with prawns for everyone but me) which was very good indeed. there was so much wine we never got to the vodka. we listened to some of ed's good jazz, as is apt, then in rainbows, making andy slowly capitulate because it's actually quite good, the new girls girls girls album in the agreed order, from there into remixes and comdey and stuff. by the time andy and sarah were leaving, we'd missed the pub, so we just sat outside with candle and guitars and wine.
on sunday, upon rising about midday and leaving about half one, we thought it would be nice to get a curry and eat it in queen's park. on the way, there was a farmer's market just closing, where we started fressing on homemade chilli preserves, even a little too obviously hungry. it's a lovely area, but all skirt and no knickers; despite so many lovely places there was nowhere that actually sold anything we actually wanted to eat. eventually we found ourselves back on kilburn high road, and _still_ no curry. finally, we were almost back at small and beautiful near the station, so went to a nice italian for a 16" pizza to share. i dropped her at the train and came home. did a little music, played a little computer, relaxed into my sunday evening.


the credit trap

i accidentally paid my rent twice this month - once by transfer on the friday, then an invisible direct debit came out the monday after (it doesn't show up on your account until after the first payment comes out, so how are you meant to be able to be sure if it's set up or not?) thus i incur another 25 pound 'informal over draft arrangemt' fee, along with a letter to the same effect.

i figure, i'll call them up, say if they don't cancel the charge, i'll switch my account away and close it... as soon as i've paid them back the money i owe them.

and i realised how futile that is. i realised how it was absolutely in their interest to keep me on the edge of my overdraft, they get to keep charging me interest, they keep getting to charge me overdrawn payments. we haven't got the same goal at all. damn.


being sucked in again

i remember speaking to someone - a nice guy - a couple of weeks ago. he spoke, i listened, i disagreed, and now i realise, looking back, i was disagreeing for the wrong reason. here's how our conversation went.

he said that, since plastic bags barely contributed to your carbon footprint, so recycling them was a waste of time. i said, well however little they matter, if you go around with the attitude of changing your habits and being enviro-conscious, it would have an impact.

i should have said, there's more to the environment than just c02, plastic bags are full of poisons, it's idiotically wasteful to throw something away that can be reused, just because it's cheap and labelled 'disposable', if it takes centuries to rot. plus they're ugly.

all of this was out of my mind due to his unintentional misdirection. i'll try not to let it happen again.

this joke is sponored by sam smiths pubs

bloke walks into the white horse in soho. he goes up to the bar and orders a bottle of oatmeal stout and a glass. he asks the barman to pour it for him.
"fair enough mate," says the barman, and as he pours it asks "what's up with your hand?"
the bloke's hand is a large oblong mass of iron. he says, "well i work as a blacksmith, see, and i lost my hand in a greeting accident. what with my work, it seemed to make sense to have it replaced with this here mallett."
at some point a wealthy cockney jeweller has walked in, spotted the bloke, and is not even trying to contain his excitement. he spritely walks up to the bloke and says "you! your 'and! i'll give you anything for it - 6 million pound! 10 million pound!"
"what - for this?" replies the bloke. "how come?"
the jeweller, gesticulating wildly, says, "it's the biggest 'ammer-fist i've ever seen!"

...and the joke is on sam smiths, because they don't advertise.


the fiasco

wednesday night was euros childs; once again i didn't go. the real tradgedy is the lack of the gorky's forum; i'm sure i'd have been egged into going by strangers on the internet if that had still been operative. which reminds me, must get that gorky's family tree sorted.

thursday i was meant to be meeting aaron mcmullen, which would have been nice. i looked for a decent eastend pub on beer in the evening (dot com) and found the wenlock arms (dot co dot uk) near old street. having ran out of energon cubes at a crucial point, i nipped round rachel's after work, and got unexpectedly fed a proper meal with her dad and his wife. to whom i bequeathed a good puzzle off the xkcd forums, to which i have laurence to thank for pointing me to. he gave me a puzzle which he gave me far too big a clue for, but if he hadn't, i don't think i'd have got it because of the technology i'm used to. then i hightailed it back out, met adrian, michelle, and a friend of michelle's in the pub, to which aaron unfortunately never made it. the wenlock is a remarkable place; an 'old man pub', as michelle's friend put it, at the top of her voice, daubing us all with the pooey stick. a drunk old grey haired man was wandering about singing smiths songs, with remarkable accuaracy and length, while supergrass's innit for the money played in it's entirity in the background and a jolly looking quiz master set up. i'm not even getting to the endless line of handpumped real ales they had lining the bar.

so friday i was knackered - work and a full week of socialising. by the time i got home and et, i couldn't face heading out again to the roaring spectacle of central london on a friday night, and ultimately 'oh my god i miss you!' at the other sid eof town (bethnal green, actually) for michelle's official leaving do. failing even to meet up for a post rehearsal drink with girls girls girls, i was falling asleep at home when i realised i said i'd meet rachel outside the jonna newsom gig, since i had planned on being in town; i set off, and ultimately returned to the tube empty handed since by the time i'd got to edgeware road she was out and at the tube and it was just quicker to meet back at willesden green. the excercise took an hour and 15 minutes. this is why london sucks.

saturday i had planned on going to brighton to see everyone, pick up my qy70 from the old house, go to veggie shoes, and so on. it got to one o'clock, i'd just finished watching trapped in the closet through with rachel, who can explain it's shortcomings better than me. we took in a classic episode of fry and laurie too. so there we were, one o'clock, and part of the brighton plan had already fallen through - i'd pulled out of rach and robin's sukkot party because she had to come to london instead, so i signed up for jo's birthday meal instead. so here we were, at home, and it's seven hours before i have to be in dalston, and my auntie says to give up. so the plan changes, rachel will take her foot and herself home and i stopped off in camden to buy some shoes. and buy some shoes i did! from a shop called, according to my bank statement, scorpion, where i went in and asked if they had anything leather-free, and you know, i think i just got the right man, because he directed me to these very nice, vegan, on sale shoes, made by a company called macbeth. they were half price down from 45, and he called it 20 because one of the insoles was a little too big. stick that up your 65 quid arse, vegetarian shoes in brighton. i was thinking about blackspotting them, but rachel asked why i would blackspot a vegan brand? it's a difficult predicament ain't that the truth.

jo's meal was a fine affair at 'lmnt' (erroneously pronounced, i imagine, as 'element'). this place is like a missing section of the crystal maze, and i mean it actually is like that, the missing egyptian zone. it's got table on top of other tables, tables in pots, it's a little adventure world, and antique porn in the toilets. to be honest, it's a shame about the food. the mushroom starter, a little stack, was nice if light, but the main course, one of two veggie options was some crappy pasta bake. at least it actually had pieces of vegetables in, and it was fairly tasty, but not really up to the 9 quid i paid for it. i guess that's novelty restaurant prices. in the end a 21 pound meal at a fascinating place. maybe if you're the type of idiot who thinks it's ok to eat meat then you'd have a good feed, yeah you've got it fucking made haven't you. then we went out to the jazz bar, a strange, waiting-room style, well-stocked bar, packed to the brim - fortunately for everyone they banned indoor smoking because i don't know how all those addicts would fit inside too. so we hung around, danced a bit, and they played all the songs rachel said they would, so i can't imagine why people would go. 'to socialise' you might say, but who wants to do that when you could be at a decent night club? if there is such a thing.

sunday, after attempting to rescue a cat from a building site and a nice fry up, i headed off to brighton. i went down, i got there at four. i went to meet jess in queen's park and saw a woman with two ferrets on leads. the ferrets were ignoring her as much as a tied animal can do. jess came up with stompy, a very handsome hound, and we sat and talked for a merry hour, watching the dogs play. then i went to pick up my package, grabbed a grub's mango chilli burger, caught the 6 o clock back up. at 8 i was at london bridge, having missed dan by a whisker, and from there i came home. picked up some booze, and introduced michelle to munchkin. and also, &c.

candles are great.