Yesterday I spotted this note tacked up around Islington Green in Angel.

“Dear Trend Victim”, it begins.

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As you’ll probably have gathered by now, I’ve lost my fair share of stuff in London – mostly Oyster cards – but also some expensive items. And somehow, whether it’s an iPod left at Baker Street, an iPad on the bus, or, yes, one of the nine Oyster cards, they’ve always made their way back to me.

Once, years ago, when iPods were a thing you kept in your pocket instead of the bottom drawer of your desk alongside a collection of Ericsson T10 phone chargers, mine got lost somewhere between Baker Street and Pinner on my way home.

“Well, that’s that” I thought, adding it to the list of things to be miserable about that week – because I was 23, and when you’re 23 you’re always miserable about something you’ve failed at that week.

Then a few weeks later a note popped through the door and it was from a man who’d picked up my iPod, and he’d done some detective work and found my address on there, and sent it back along with, if I remember rightly, a Christmas card.

It heralded the start of beautiful relationship.

Not really. 

Along with the iPod he also sent me a not altogether positive analysis of my musical tastes, because even when they’re doing something nice, Londoners still like to assert their superiority in some way. Anyway, the important thing is I got it back.

So hopefully the Trend Victim will get their stuff back too. And hopefully, they won’t be too sensitive about being called a Trend Victim in the process.

Here’s to doing the right thing, London. 

As of today, you can no longer pay with cash on London’s buses.

Lots of people aren’t very happy about it, and as someone who manages to lose between 5-8 Oyster cards a year, I also fall into the group of those who would rather be able to pay £2.20 than beg, plead and weep at a bus driver to let me on so I can get home at 3am on a Saturday morning.

If you think it’s a stupid idea too then I’d encourage you to read this blog post or maybe this one, not because it’ll make a blind bit of difference when you’re stranded on Waterloo Bridge without any Oyster credit or a contactless payment card, but because nodding at your screen in an indignant way while imagining hypothetical bus payment scenarios which may or may not happen might make you feel a bit better in the short term.

Apparently the whole cashless buses thing happened so that TFL could save some money, and while that is largely agreed to be horse twaddle, it’s been a quiet weekend so I’ve been giving it some thought anyway.

Here are some other things they might like to consider to save money and improve London’s buses.

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1. Make windows that open.

Boris sorted out all these new buses which was good of him – thanks, B. Can I call you B? - but on a sunny afternoon they’re like being stuck in a tropical fish tank without the pleasing coolness of water, and instead of cute little terrapins snapping at your fingers you get a conductor yelling “MOVE DOWN INSIDE THE BUS PLEASE, RIGHT DOWN, GO ON, MOVE”.

The air con must be expensive to run on full blast all day, so TFL could save lots of pounds by introducing ventilation in the shape of “windows” that “open” thus allowing a “breeze” to flow through. Think about it. You know, like the Victorians did.

2. Sensors on doors.

Save thousands in passenger injury compensation claims by putting sensors on the doors to prevent them closing when there is something in the way. Like a person. Either that, or ask your drivers to stop shutting doors actually on people’s faces.

And by “people’s faces” I mean “my face” because it’s happened twice now and I’m about to take it personally.

3. Allow passengers to get on the bus.

By training drivers to recognise well known signs such as “hand held out onto road”, “waving hand” and “polite smiley girl tapping on door when bus is stationary at a red light and hasn’t yet left the stop”, you could increase on people actually getting on the bus and paying for a journey.

4. Save paper by not throwing people off the bus.

When any other service in the world runs late, the attitude is very much “oh my god, so sorry, let me make sure you reach your destination now the traffic has cleared.” Not so on a bus, where after keeping you on board in stationary traffic for half an hour, they simply terminate early and drop you off wherever so they can catch up on their schedule, thus making you even later and wasting precious ££ on paper for “transfer vouchers”.

Solution? Don’t do that. Get people to where they need to be. Save paper. Save the WORLD.

5. Bus loyalty card.

Introduce guaranteed boarding for regulars to stop the fair weather cyclists nicking all the seats when it rains. I’d totally pay 30p for that. Or someone would, anyway.

6. Offer seat reservations.

Because now there are not one but two different ways to get onto the top deck of the 38 bus, the race for a seat has never been more tactical or fierce. Get some reservations on that shiz. Like Eurostar.

7. Sell earplugs.

Available for purchase from the conductor at the back, and particularly useful in the morning when fellow passengers are failing to respect the “no talking on your phone before 9am” rule that I made up just now.

8.  Let people pay cash for their bus trip.

Because otherwise when they’ve lost their Oyster card for the 18th time that month and all the ticket selling places are shut, and you can’t activate the money you just topped up with online because the tube stations are closed, and it takes 24 hours and you want to go home now, you won’t get any money at all. You’ll just get me. Crying. All the way to Dalston. On foot. And no one wants that.

If you have any additional money saving ideas for TfL, put them in a survey and send them over here so that I can put them in the bin. Thanks.

Image: κύριαsity via Flickr

Last Saturday I went to Field Day.

Field Day is a music festival in Victoria Park. It’s one of those ones where you don’t have to bring a tent because there’s no camping, and besides, your tent would probably get stolen anyway.

It’s a good place to go with a group of mates if hanging around in a park with beer and music is your bag (it’s my bag), plus if it’s sunny and the line-up’s decent, you can do a lot worse things with a Saturday afternoon in June.

(Although at £50 for a one day ticket, admittedly those worse things will probably be a bit cheaper).

That said, if you’re going and really want to enjoy the day to its full potential, you should reconcile yourself with a few basic truths first.

1. You will see four out of 50+ possible acts.

This is because most of your conversations will go like this:

“Oh, we could go and see Temper Trap…oh no we can’t. They’re not on the line up any more.”

“Why don’t we go and watch SOHN then?”

“They’re over the other side.”

“Let’s walk over.”

“Or we could just get a drink and sit here, I can sort of hear it.”

“Yeah. Let’s sit here for a bit and work out where to go.”

“We should go to the bar.”

“Yes, let’s go to the bar.”

line up

2. You will lose your friends.

Despite this festival taking place in what is basically a large garden, you will lose everyone. Some will wander off to watch an obscure Syrian rapper, others will naturally drift towards the bar, and before you know it there’s a split in your group that no amount of Whatsapp pin dropping can bring together.

Eventually, unable to decide what to see, who to meet or where to go, you’ll just sit down on a patch of grass, take photos of yourselves and wait for things to come to you.

None of this apply to your gay friends, however, who will find everyone they know, immediately, all the time, wherever you are.

I don’t know how.

field day

3. Mobile phones will not work.

With thousands of people all bumbling around like demented moths trying to locate their friends, the 3G air above Victoria Park will be blocked with 10,000 variations of exactly the same text message, all of which will arrive long after you have moved on to somewhere else.

I recommend finding someone taller than you, hopping on their back, and doing The Meerkat instead.

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4. Everything sounds bad in a tent.

Let’s be honest, there’s a reason the best nightclubs in the world aren’t built with large sheets of plastic for rooves. But this isn’t a nightclub, it’s a park, and something’s got to give.

Unfortunately, and not ideally for a music festival, that thing is volume.

Thank god for beer. Speaking of which…

field day tent

5. £5 Red Stripe.

Let’s just look at those words for a minute. £5 for a can of Red Stripe. Five pounds. For a can. Of Red Stripe. Red Stripe. The Jamaican beer which sells for 50p in most Dalston cornershops, and £1.50 at Ridley Road Market Bar.

Five pounds.

For a can.

Of Red Stripe.

Five.

And yet devoid of any other option, you will pay it.

me with red stripe

6. There will be queues for the toilets.

Use this time to refocus, meditate, drunkenly compliment the girl wearing a patterned all in one next to you, and imagine a world where festival toilets don’t have queues.

Or, use it as an opportunity to relocate your friends by knocking on every Portaloo door and asking everyone outside it “Did a girl go in here? Dark curly hair? Asian? About 20 minutes ago? SUE, SUE, ARE YOU IN THERE?”

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7. Fairground rides are a good idea in theory.

In practice, they’re £10 a go.

And as we’ve already discussed, you can get not one, but two Red Stripes for that.

It’s a no brainer.

ride at field day

8. You should get cash out before you arrive.

The queues for the cash machines are quite long, but the fun really starts once you get to the front, debit card in hand, and see this:

cash machines field day

9. You’ll go again (but not next year).

This is because it takes two years to forget all the irrevocable truths that make Field Day not quite as good as other things that cost £50 in London. Then, one day in April 2016, you’ll see a big poster on Kingsland Road and think “yes, that is a good idea. I cannot recall having anything but a marvellous time there.”

And you will go back. 

 

Most people in London have a “to do” list thing on their phone.

This is generally a sprawling iPhone note filled with highly recommended places and events that they absolutely plan to do when they get paid / a day off / a boyfriend.

Generally, these recommendations come from either

1) Time Out London

2) Drunk conversations in the pub

3) Productive People, for whom weekends spent lying in a darkened room battling the Hangover of Death and napping intermittently between episodes of Girls until it’s dark, and therefore time to go out again, are a long distant memory.

On my list there are things like go up the Shard (whey! Sorry, in-joke with the rest of London), eat at Duck and Waffle circa 3am, and also

See the monkeys at London Zoo. 

london zoo ticket

Maybe neck-s time.

I’d been once before in the summer for Zoo Lates, which, like most people, I envisaged to be a novel, slightly boozy way to visit my top 5 favourite animals.

But in reality, by the time we’d drunk all the ciders, left the pub and walked up there, the animals had gone to bed and no amount of tapping, shouting and bounding around in front of the glass would wake them up.

(And trust me, did we try to wake those lazy little bastards up.)

So essentially, we paid £25 to go to London Zoo and drink a load of Pimms.

As anyone who has ever been to Oceana Nightclub (née Destiny) in Watford can attest, there are worse places to spend £25 and drink Pimms – but I came away thinking that if a captive gorilla can’t even be arsed to stay awake for your party, you’re probably better off just going to the pub.

But this time, I knew it would be different. 

This is because my ex-colleagues adopted me a monkey called Rolo as a leaving present from my last job. Not only did this give me

a) stickers

b) a certificate and

c) AN ACTUAL REAL LIFE SQUIRREL MONKEY,

…it also gave me a free zoo ticket to go and see him.

So with the sun shining and an entire Tuesday at my disposal, I got the bus to Regent’s Park and went to see my very own adoptive monkey.

This is what I learnt.

1) Regent’s Park is the most Virgo-friendly place in the whole, entire world. 

Us September-born kids have been banging on about it for years, but Regent’s Park has this neat, symmetrical, all trees were made on-equals-sides-of-the-path-thing down. Just look at the SYMMETRY. It’s BEAUTIFUL.

regents park 2

Anyway. Back to the zoo.

2. To avoid kicking children out of the way, visit after 2pm.

It goes without saying that you should probably leave the zoo the hell alone at the weekend unless you’re mental, a parent with no other choice or a tourist. But my zoo insider* told me that the school trips usually visit in the morning, leaving the zoo basically empty after about 2pm on a weekday. This means that if gorillas liked eye contact, you could get close enough to initiate a staring competition. But they don’t like it, they hate it and think staring is rude. So good luck with that.

(*the woman making sure visitors don’t steal their adoptive monkey children)

gorilla

Seriously, don’t try and catch his eye. Hates it.

3. Giraffes have black tongues.

This is because in Africa they spend so much time with it hanging out of their mouth while they stuff their faces with food that it’d get sunburnt if it was pink. How do I know that? I learnt it. At the Giraffe Feeding Time Talk. Because when it’s not busy you can actually go to the talks, see what’s happening and not have to yell “OH MY GOD, BE QUIET, I’M TRYING TO LEARN ABOUT OWLS.”

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4. Stealing a monkey is very difficult, even if it’s rightfully yours.

Eventually I found the Meet the Monkeys enclosure. This is the best bit because the monkeys are just there, hopping around you, ripe for the taking. This is where Rolo lives. The ZSL staff member saw me hovering suspiciously standing with a large, zippable bag near the bushes and was kind enough to point out Rolo when he came near. You could spot him because he was the one with half a tail, which meant he was harder to grab his balance is a little off and therefore, didn’t have the finesse one might expect a monkey to possess when moving across a rope.

Aww. That’s my monkey, the half-tailed little scamp <3

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5. Meerkats have let fame go to their heads.

Seriously: one was just lying there licking its own bum – because evidently Mr Meerkat don’t need to play to a crowd no mo’ now Mr Meerkat on telly – and the other one was all draw me like one of your French girls.

Honestly, meerkats. You’ve changed.

meerkat

“Draw me like one of your French girls”

6. Penguins are overrated.

LOLZ! Not really. Look at this guy! Penguins are off the SCALE. Best things ever, hands down.

penguin

7. Some animals don’t get the same attention as the others.

I don’t think many people take photos of these guys because they’re not the most aesthetically pleasing animals in the kingdom. And out of all the people who take photos, I bet none have ever put them on their blog.

So here you go, pig warthog things, I still love you, with your mucky pool and your furry noses. Even if no one else does.

warthogs

8. And you, llamas.

Likewise, everyone just sort of went “uh, llama.” and moved on. Not me. I stood and marvelled.

llama

9. But mostly, I learnt that these birds are the best things ever. 

I basically just stood here all day.

penguins

All too soon I was getting thrown out of London Zoo (because it was closing) and despite my best attempts, I did not come home with a monkey.

But I did leave armed with an array of exciting animal facts that I’ve been using to entertain people ever since, as well as a very, very, very tiny penguin.

(I’m joking. Or am I. I’m joking! Honestly. OR AM I.)

Now, back to the list. Can someone adopt me lunch at the Shard?

It’s MONDAY AGAIN.

Seriously. Why? Who DOES THIS TO US?

If, like me, you’re easing yourself into your first full, five day working week in what feels like months and years but is probably only two weeks or something, you might need a bit of afternoon therapy to get you through the day.

Yes?

Stop for a minute, then, and observe this lovely time lapse video of London.

It was created by a 16 year old college student called Lewis Symonds, and has the immediate effect of making you feel creatively inadequate yet also calmed by the wonderfulness of London and the soothing melodies of Beethoven (musician, not dog).

There, that’s better isn’t it.

Happy New Working Week, everyone. Be strong.

I’m relocating for work.

Not actually relocating, obviously. Just going ten minutes up the road for a different job, but in London terms that’s basically like moving to Africa.

This is slightly daunting because I’ll now have to negotiate the minefield that is deciding where to eat lunch in an entirely new area of the city, which, as everyone knows, is the most crucial part of every office worker’s day.

Hold me. 

Alas, after two years working just off the Strand – land of the pre-theatre meal deal, posh hotels, lost tourists, Gordon’s Wine Bar, and the excellent sort of colleagues who adopt you an actual monkey as a leaving present – it’s time to move on to a new stomping ground between the hours of 9:30 and 6pm.

But in the meantime, here’s what I’ll miss about working in WC2N.

1. Fake Number 10

It’s Downing Street! It’s not Downing Street. It’s David Cameron’s gaff! It’s not David Cameron’s gaff. It’s Number 10! Ok, it is Number 10, but instead of politicians you just get the occasional news reporter pretending they’re at the real one. I KNOW, CRAZY.

downing street adam street

 

2. The 3,456,936 branches of Pret within lunch-walking radius.

They say you’re never more than one meter away from your nearest Pret A Manger in London. Actually that might be mice. Or rats. Given the proximity of your friendly neighbourhood branch of Mutant Rodent Tesco, it could be either of those things. But look how many. LOOK:

pret radius

3. Inconspicuous tourists

Lunchtimes just won’t be the same without a daily game of Dodge the Daytripper, coupled with a round of Stupid Things I Heard a Tourist Say in Covent Garden. Where is all the grass around here, anyway?

tourists in covent garden

 

4. The wide assortment of local wildlife.

Ponies, ferrets, Olympic athletes, dogs, WC2N has them all. Although my new area of work does have men being walked like dogs, to be fair – so onwards and upwards ‘n’ all that.

wildlife

5. Crossing the Impossible Road

With no less than four lanes of traffic, a weird cobbled path thing down the middle, and a pavement scattered with beady eyed, clipboard wielding charity workers, crossing this street is nothing less than a minefield. Think Krypton Factor, but with more Potsu noodles.

strand

 

So see ya later, Covent Garden.

Aurevoir, excellent colleagues.

Gordon’s, Embankment Gardens and Bag Bike Man…you will remain in my thoughts.

Goodbye, Strand. It’s been emotional. 

 

There are 567,087 music events happening every night in London.

That’s complete bollocks, obviously, but the fact remains: after Staying a Bit Late at Work Because You’re So Busy (isn’t everyone so busy these days?) and negotiating the Tube Strike Which Is Going to Really Bugger Up Commuting for the Next Two Weeks, most of us are too knackered to attend any of them.

Are we busy though? Are we? Really? Because personally, busy for me could mean working through lunch, or it could also be time allocated for watching True Detective in bed on a Sunday – so, swings and roundabouts you might say.

Anyway, in an attempt to win the War Against Being Busy, I’ve decided to go to one music-y / gig thing (am I cool enough to say “gig”?) per month. Aim low, and all that.

So far this year I’ve done alright.

Nothing in January. Nothing in February. March was the Broken Bells at Shepherds Bush Empire, so that was good, and now here we are in April when – SUCCESS! – another gig was got.

Last night me and Harriet went to one of a series of “music + technology” nights called Convergence. This one was at St. John’s Church in Hackney which, as the name might suggest, is a church. In Hackney.

st johns hackney

This isn’t just any church though. No, no.

It looks like a normal church, doesn’t it? All religious and clock-wielding, all those concrete pillars and crosses and stuff – there are even normal church-like pews inside and everything.

But if you think this is just your bog standard church, I’m afraid you’re very, very wrong.

You missed the clue, guys – it’s in Hackney.

Hackney’s in East London.

Therefore in Time Out’s eyes, this can never just be a church.

No. It must be a Hipster Church.

hipster church1

So off we went to East London’s Premiere 221-year-old Hipster Church™ for a Hackney Hipster Gig™ full of Hackney Hipster People™ who are really just people with age on their side who like music, but hey, don’t let that stop you painting an entire swathe of society with a lazy moniker.

Tell you what though, that Hackney Hipster Church™ was pretty good.

They’d cleared the pews away and shoved all the Hipster Hymn™ books into a cupboard – apart from the one that Hipster Harriet™ realised she’d been standing on the whole way through at the end – and we watched Vaghe Stelle, Koreless and Jacques Greene do their thing while the speakers, screen, lights and lasers did theirs.

hipster rave

It was most enjoyable.

I know it’s difficult for you to tell how good it was because I failed to capture every moment on camera, and that’s how you can usually see whether someone had a good time or not.

Unfortunately I didn’t take any videos either so you won’t know how it sounded; you’ll just have to make do with me saying that if you like loud music and lasers and basslines and beats and stuff, you’d probably have liked this.

I’m assured that everyone else in the Hackney Hipster Church™ was having a good time too.

How do I know? Because of the attendee to iPhone Screen Glow ratio: look! Not a Facebook update in sight. Anyone would think it was 1992 down there or something:

ratio

So there we go.

April’s music-y thing all wrapped up in a brilliantly different kind of venue. Thanks Koreless and Jacques Greene for the right little ear-treat, and Hackney’s St John Church for being Hipster enough to venture away from hymns and into electronic music. If this sort of thing is your bag, then there’s still more Convergence stuff you can catch this weekend.

I’m currently missing a Music Thing for May, so currently my next stop is Field Day in June.

If you know of anything happening in May that I can shuffle along to, then give me a shout. (Hipster credentials optional).

Image: Fin Fahey via Flickr

What’s the Dog Breed Du Jour where you live?

For a while in Dalston it was sausage dogs. They were everywhere, scurrying up the Kingsland Road like little miniature, land dwelling, stumpy legged submarines.

After that came the French Bulldog Revolution, although lately I’ve heard reports* that you’ll now find that particular breed being covertly exchanged for beagles and basset hounds at Ridley Road Market, as they nip their way to the top of the Dalston Dog Chart.

*there have been no reports 

Pugs, on the other hand, have remained a constant. And in my experience, can usually be spotted poking out of the back of cyclists’ rucksacks on Shacklewell Lane as they make their way home in the evening.

But it’s a different story down in Peckham – better known as The New Dalston or The Latest Area to be Way Out of Your House Hunting Budget Even Though You Would Only Joke About Going There When You Were 14 - where the residents have shunned dogs for a more wet weather friendly pet.

meanwhile in peckham

 

Or of course, if you’re looking to branch out in your area, there’s always horses and ferrets. Alternatively, you can always rely on the staple of all London households – a good old fashioned mouse.

Edit: Or, alternatively – if you live in Knightsbridge – follow the locals and opt for a parrot.

What you got?

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Where: On the bus to work

Time: 8:45am

Who: Girl and boyfriend.

overheard on a london bus

Coming up next week: top 10 UK cities where it’s normal to have savings.

Image: Bev Goodwin via Flickr

Weird stuff happens all the time in London.

Pillow fights. Goat races. Nutters running 26.2 miles around the city.

You sort of get used to it.

A lot of the time you just don’t really take much notice – you might give it a second glance, make a mental note to tell your colleagues, draft a tweet.

But such is the volume of weird stuff that by the time you get into work or open up your Facebook or Twitter account to tell the world about the weird or annoying stuff you’ve seen, something else has come up, or a tube line has gone down, and the man with a box on his head just doesn’t seem that important any more.

But today, lots of Londoners saw a man being walked like a dog along the street. And collectively, everyone just went…

….eh?
dog man

On the grand London Weird Stuff scale of things, this was rating pretty high.

So much so that Journalists from all the big newspapers have been busily carrying out relentless investigations to find out who the man is, and why he’s being led around Farringdon on a lead.

dog man 2

At time of writing, no one knows the full PR / advertising agency or product launch story behind it. The city is temporarily baffled, stunned and confused by the man on a lead.

But one thing’s for sure – this is London, which means everyone who cares now will have forgotten about it by the time they get to the pub at 5pm.

And thank god for that.

Have a good one all, and good luck to everyone who will also be crawling to work on Monday after running the London marathon.

Update: The Dog Man of Farringdon Mystery has been solved.

Reaction: no one really cares. 

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