Saturday, 28 January 2012

Merseyside Musings

Euston station hasn't changed much.  It wasn't that long ago that I was there quite often, spending around one early morning a week traipsing my way across London to take an early train to Manchester, only to join the tail end of the Manchester rush hour to take a local train out to Guide Bridge.  Those were the days.  I speak as though it were a long time ago, when it was only 2011.  How quickly things fade into nostalgia.

Before heading out of London this morning, I popped to the local shop to pick up the obligatory copy of the Guardian.  Standing in front of the chocolate bars was a woman wearing a cigarette vending machine around her neck.  She looked quite bored.  Well I'm sure it wasn't a thrilling occupation.  The guys in the shop made no reference to her, and all of the customers walked past her as though she weren't there.  I still have no idea what she was doing there.

It's funny how a train journey which takes two hours from London can seem like an undertaking worthy of buying pads of paper and books and staying overnight at the other end, whereas two hours from home in London would only take us out to somewhere in the Western reaches of London - we wouldn't even expect there to be a toilet on the train if we were doing that journey. 

Talking of toilets (don't worry, this isn't going anywhere unpleasant) we were sitting relatively close to the toilet on the train up here yesterday (really don't worry, it's really not going anywhere unpleasant!).  Many times throughout the journey we heard the apologies coming from inside the toilet when someone had accidentally opened the door on someone else. Either the toilet door was broken or people kept forgetting to lock the door.  Interestingly, the apology always came from the person who was in the toilet rather than the person who had erroneously opened the door. Seems like the right way around actually.

Today, we had the joys of a visit to Birkenhead.  I remember going to Birkenhead as a kid – it never seemed as run down then as it does now, but maybe that’s the passage of time and the rose tint which gets applied as memories turn into nostalgia.  These days, it’s mostly shops selling cheap sportswear to people who never set foot inside a gym and an alarming number of shops where every item is a pound.  I’m sure they’re all very useful, but it doesn’t answer the question of where one would actually go to buy anything specific you may need which wasn’t either a multi-pack of white socks or a brand of shampoo you’ve never heard of.  It’s a shame, as it used to be nice walking around the shops there.

There is, of course, my favourite coin dealer.  I’ve been going to the same coin dealer since I was a kid, and over the years my tastes in what I collect has changed with the increase in disposable income, but it’s still nice to go somewhere and spend ages trawling through a trays of coins looking for interesting things.  I was very good today – I did buy something, but I was rather restrained.

This has been rather a flying visit up north, and this evening we’re heading back on a late-evening train back down to London.  As I’ve said before, coming up here doesn’t feel like “coming home” anymore. For me, the part of the journey which is “going home” is the part we’ll do this evening when the train pulls out of Lime St and we head south. 

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Is 193 prime and does it matter?

Sometimes I worry about myself.  Only sometimes.

The other morning, it was just before 7am and I found myself in the changing room at a health club.  It wasn't the fact that I was at there at such a stupid hour of the day which worried me, it was what happened next.

I was standing in the third bay of lockers, with the higher numbers, and I happened to be standing in front of locker 193.  And then it occurred to me that I am usually at the lockers with lower numbers, and instinctively I always use a locker which is a prime number.  This is easy when you're standing near the first 20 lockers, but in that second, rational thought deserted me, and I realised that I could only use the locker if 193 was prime.

So there I was, standing with a pound coin in my hand trying to work out at 6.50am whether 193 is prime.  It didn't take me long to work out that it is prime, and I made it into my session on time for a 7am start.  I knew you'd be pleased.

Now - just to be clear - there may be those who think I have made up this story for comic effect.  I offer two objections to that notional.  Firstly, I assert that the story is absolutely true.  Secondly, I assert that there is no comic effect present at all.

Sunday, 15 January 2012


I said I was going to write in regularly in this year, and this feels regular; certainly more regularly than last year.

I have had a run of breaking things recently.  Of course, I don't believe in such nonsense, but I was hoping that things broke in groups of three - so that once I'd broken a third thing (the third thing to be broken was the screen on my phone) it'd stop, and I could carry on with life without having to continually pay for repairs to things - but as it happened, in taking my phone in and out of its case so many times, I managed to break the case.  So there's another one in the post to me from Amazon.

This experience of breaking things has made me grateful for how immediate modern life has become.  When something breaks, it's just a couple of phone calls and usually within a day or two, your phone (or whatever) is repaired and working again.

The run of breaking things extended to the strings of my badminton racquet (racket? I'm never sure...) this morning.  I wasn't playing brilliantly, and then suddenly I played a clear (high long shot to the back, for those who don't know) which just made a slightly weird noise and dropped short.  Then I looked at my right hand and the string was broken.  Bugger.

It's now in for repair (on a Sunday and everything!) so hopefully I should have it back by the time I play on Tuesday.

It seems that my run of things breaking around me has surrounded me with an impermeable shield of "things staying working".  This evening, most of Wapping lost power.  I took the photo below from our garden, looking across Wapping.  The big black area is actually buildings full of apartments - but they (along with the streetlights) are dark.  We had a couple of wobbles but the power stayed on throughout.

For the avoidance of doubt - just in case anyone thinks I've lost the plot - I don't really believe that things break in threes, or that by having lots of things break I had paid some sort of cosmic debt meaning I was protected from a power cut.  Though whatever reason did keep our power on, I'm quite glad, as I had some roast potatoes in the oven crisping up nicely in goose fat, and I wouldn't have wanted them to go soggy.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Playing by the Cambridge Rules.

It seems it's the custom at this time of the year that the first time you speak to someone since the holidays, you start the conversation with "Happy New Year".  But how long are we supposed to do that for?  If I bump into someone at the end of January, am I still supposed to say "Happy New Year" - maybe with a bit of a sarcastic smile by then?   How about February?  March?  Am I supposed to still start the conversation with "Happy New Year" if there's a friend I don't see until August?

I am not a great fan of New Year.  Admittedly the London fireworks were great this year, but I'm sure the Olympic ones will be better.  It's nice to see people, and nice to have a few cocktails (of which more later...) but it's possible to do that at any other time of year without the transport troubles and the inability to order a takeaway or pop out to the off-licence.

Cocktails are always fun though.  This New Year, we decided to play by the Cambridge rules. That is to say - you take four or five different alcoholic ingredients and mix them together until the whole thing turns a nice colour.  Then you taste it.  If it's nice, you drink it and if it tastes nasty, then you down it and start again.  It's a fun game, but best played just once a year, I think.

Christmas passed me by completely this year.  There were a few cards on the sideboard and a big tree in the corner covered in lights, but the festive feeling completely passed me by.  I ate a few mince pies and even tried singing Christmas songs at the piano but still I couldn't bring myself to feel Christmassy.  I guess once you're not a kid anymore, Christmas becomes a time to relax with time off work rather than a time to get excited and have high energy levels.  It was nice to rest though.

Anyway, it's 2012 - how did that get here so quickly?  I've promised myself I'm going to write in here more often this year... let's see how that goes...