commonpeople1: (Avatar)
There was commotion outside Bethnal Green tube station this evening.

Walking from the station to the nearest bus stop, I spotted an elderly man sat in the middle of the road, surrounded by passersbys and the driver of a black minivan. Cars swerved around him, cyclists slowed down to take a good look, pedestrians lost interest in where they were going or the conversations they were having on their mobile phones to stop and watch with furrowed brows.

The man, it seemed, had been jaywalking with some other people when he was knocked over. An elderly Polish lady touched his shoulder and he swatter her away. She crossed over to the bus stop and told someone: “he’s rude! He’s rude!”

The black minivan driver rubbed the old man’s back, got into her car and drove away. New people arrived and formed a human shield around the man. One bespectacled gentleman got off his bike and became a traffic warden. A few of them spoke into mobile phones (emergency services?) The old man remained seated on the cold, wet asphalt, hunched over, cradling his arm.

Buses arrived and people climbed in. I decided to wait for the next one, as did the Polish lady.

“Did anyone call an ambulance?” I asked her.

“He’s lying!” she blurted back. “There’s nothing wrong with his arm! I touch it. I touch it hard. If it was broken, he would feel pain. He feel nothing. He’s pretending.” [1]

“Oh,” and I looked back at the old man (now turned into a con artist in my eyes) and the group of people (suckers.)

“I was behind him when he fell. Nobody touch him. He just fall by himself. He make this to get money from the government.”

“I’m sure the ambulance crew will figure this out when they check him.”

“I fell down my building’s stairs once. I get bruises on my back. I can’t bear even a small touch. So that’s how I know he don’t break arm. I touch and he feel nothing! I know what to do in this country. You go to hospital and you get doctor to write everything down. That’s how you get money from government. But he wants people to believe what he says, and not what the doctor says. He do the wrong way.”

A much emptier No.8 bus arrived and we climbed in together. Her Oyster card was a Freedom Pass. I climbed upstairs and sat on the seat right at the front, where I could look down on the man as the bus drove by. He had now been moved to the median strip. He looked a bit confused.

[1] Recreation of the lady’s Polish accent may be slightly incorrect due to author’s incapability of remembering verbatim what she said.
commonpeople1: (Default)
tube, london by milenavan
tube, london, a photo by milenavan on Flickr.
I walked past a young man this morning in the Tube (Bank station), sitting with a Transport for London staff member and holding a cup of water and a bar of chocolate. She seemed to be explaining to him something. (Don't travel on an empty stomach? Drink more water?)

On Friday, the same happened on the Northern line, only it was a young woman who fainted inside the carriage. The crowd on the platform gathered at the door instead of giving her space (bunch of nitwits) but luckily she quickly revived with the help of TfL staff and was led away.

These two incidents made me think of the growing amount of anorexics I now see wandering around London. (in a sort of unrelated way). People go on about the obesity epidemic - that Britain is trailing close behind America - but I think there's a directly opposite problem growing in the background.

If I go on my lunch break to - say - Russell Square - I'll walk past at least 3 of them. Perversely enough, either in cafes or supermarkets. And just as many young men as young women. Today, Tumblr announced it's banning blogs that promote self-harm and anorexia, which has been hailed by some charities like Mind as a good move. There's also this interesting blog post about Pinterest and how it's become a favourite site for pro-ana and pro-mia users.

I don't really know what's the answer. Western society has been skinny obsessed for a long time now, but it's more enforced I think in big metropolises like London - especially with people who feel they have to compete with others on the way they look or fit into fashion. There's a difference between wanting to be slim and healthy (e.g. mine and your case) and wanting to starve yourself to beyond size 0.

Also... I kinda think gyms should have the power to ban anorexics from working out/joining. (Is that harsh?)
commonpeople1: (Default)

Today was looking bleak and depressing until halfway through the afternoon, when a co-worker asked if I'd like to have the office's lamps.  We are in the process of moving and most of the desks and lighting are up for grabs; but I assumed that others would have laid claims.  Oh no - the lamps are mine for the taking as well as a brand new desk to put in the living room and finally move away from the rickety picnic table I've been using for writing all these years.

I've brought some magic to people's commute this evening. Curious stares, little smiles, double takes. One of the staff in Camden joked he'd never be able to afford the lamp. A boy who climbed in at Old Street said "nice lamp." It's now in my living room, by the sofa.

I'm in bed, about to watch Source Code. Then I'll read a bit of Robinson Crusoe on the kindle (the first book I read on an eBook, and I love the fact that it's the first novel written in the English language!)  Then the land of dreams.  And may February be kinder to me (to all of us) tomorrow.

Commuting

Jan. 10th, 2012 09:31 am
commonpeople1: (Default)
8.29am, Mile End tube station West-bound platform. The Central line arrives and the crowd surges towards its doors. A woman shouts at a man as she tries to get out of the train. He shouts something back at her. She grabs his coat and pulls him; he shoves her back. A minute later she's inside the District line, a carriage away from me, reading a newspaper. Not a hint of disturbance on her face.

9.05am, Albert Embankment. A car and two white vans face each other in the middle of the road, blocking traffic both ways. Men start to come out of the vehicles, screaming at each other. A woman in jeans, carrying a backpack, calls out for one of the van drivers to calm down. The hoard of commuters heading for the buildings lining the Thames stop for a minute to watch the scene.

White poodle spotted on District line by St James station. Black lap dog spotted on Victoria line, sitting on the lap of fairly glamorous middle aged woman.
commonpeople1: (Default)
Seen after rain by Roland Ramanan
Seen after rain, a photo by Roland Ramanan on Flickr.
I leave the flat at 8am. Storm gushing down on the EastEnd, the sky dark like a fairy tale. People huddled underneath the bus shelter on Roman Road, their umbrellas open and protecting their flanks. I walk past them and avoid the puddles because I know the holes in my Doc Martens won't be able to resist a drink. I hold my UNIQLO umbrella against the wind pushing me towards Mile End, admiring its resistance.

On a crowded platform I wait for either the District or the Central line to arrive. I edge my way in and stand at the foot of the aisle. A short woman keeps elbowing me from behind. I've got a copy of the book published by the British Library last year for their Sci-Fi exhibition - essential read for anyone who loves the genre.

When I finally get a seat, a guy I recognise from my gym walks in and stops by my feet. We avoid eye contact. He's reading a Clive Cussler paperback and sporting autumn colours. His beard has really grown this winter.

I switch at Oxford Street and finally come out at Vauxhall. The sky is now blue, sunny - clear. I can almost hear the seagulls above the Albert Embankment din. I've entered a new city - the start of my work day.

Ma Journée

Dec. 7th, 2011 09:00 pm
commonpeople1: (Default)
Start your day at 7am, in the dark, rising from a creeking, lumpy mattress. After a shower, put the coffee maker to work and bread to toast and check your e-mail.  It's still dark outside.  8am, it's time to bundle up and step outdoors. iTunes plugged in, a playlist on rotation that only includes new purchases and unrated songs (5 stars gives you goosebumps; 4 stars are well loved; 3 stars are liked; 2 stars are OK; 1 star will be deleted soon).  Walk to Mile End station just under 15 minutes.

Join the masses pouring onto the platforms. Keep hands in pocket so not to slap someone on the back of the head or push them onto the train track. If the Central line arrives first, travel standing up, hot, pressed against people incapable of putting their grubby hands to their mouths when they cough. If District line arrives first, play tactically to get a free seat and read a book or check Twitter until having to switch to the Victoria line.  Re-emerge into the open air at Vauxhall; be surprised at any visible sun light.

Ride elevator up to the last floor. Say good morning to female colleagues that sit around you and ask if anyone wants a cuppa.  Work until 1pm with the occasional glimpse at your personal e-mails/Facebook. Eat a packed lunch at your desk then take the elevator down to the cafe on the ground floor for a coffee and some "fresh" air. Watch cars and buses drive down the six-lane Albert Embankment. Write stuff on your journal which you'll later (maybe) type into your Livejournal.

Return to office just after 2pm. Feebly resist candies and chocolates that keep getting placed on the table next to yours. When the sun begins to set, saunter to the nearest window and take a picture with your iPhone's Instagram. Comment with the secretary/whoever is nearby how an office with big windows makes all the difference in winter. Return to your desk and ask if anyone wants a cuppa. Rinse/repeat work delaying tactics.

Leave the office 5.30pm on the dot. Freeze to death on the walk back to Vauxhall station and join the masses descending the stairs. Keep hands firmly in pockets so not to slap anyone on the back of the head or push them onto the train tracks. Switch at Victoria to the District line where you are resigned not to find a seat. Play solitaire on your iPhone. Get off at Mile End and throw away your plans for cooking something healthy for dinner when you walk past the chippie shop.

Dinner, Livejournal, Television, Books, Bed, Bad Sleep.

Commute

Jan. 26th, 2011 12:28 pm
commonpeople1: (Cappuccino)

The Tube
Originally uploaded by mvizcarra36
When I'm in the Tube, just by the yellow strip, with hardly anyone about and the train speeding in my direction, I sometimes get this occasional thought of jumping on the tracks. Or of someone from out of nowhere about to push me. Then I see the face of the train driver, bored and looking down (at a crossword puzzle? A gun?) and I wonder what it would be like to have Freddy Krueger's metal fingers run across the carriages as the train comes to a stop.

More and more people abandon newspapers and books for electronic games during their London commute. A woman in her forties was playing some game on her iPhone this morning. Her finger flicked over cars speeding down a street intersection. I was listening to R.E.M. and the song turned her look of concentration into something melancholic.

A young guy down the carriage was wrapping a scarf around his neck. He reminded me of a colleague from the temp agency I briefly worked for last summer. They'd make a beautiful couple. When I looked over again, he was staring back at me.
commonpeople1: (Spring Break)
I travelled this morning on a 45 degree angle, somebody's butt clinched against mine, my crotch in the face of a startled guy. The Central line ride ended at Marble Arch and I decided to take my chances above ground. What a gorgeous day to cut through Hyde Park! Felt like spring; I took long deep breaths as I crossed that large field on the east side, the sun in my face, enjoying the sense of space and freedom.

Yesterday eve was my first horticulture class at Regent's Park. A class of thirty people, most already working in the business and older than me. A few true English eccentrics. By the end of these 18 months I'll be able to name most common plants by their latin name, prune them at the right time of the year, grow and propagate to my heart's content. I wonder if in the near future I can have a part-time job in the arts and a part-time job in horticulture. Would be ideal.

It's going to be a bitch getting home tonight. I might just sit in some cafe and do NaNoWriMo until the crowds have dispersed.
commonpeople1: (Wein)
I rode the Tube's Central line yesterday evening beside Jason Orange from Take That. He's about 6 foot, with muscular arms and chest stuck on a tiny dancer body with designer beard. He looked around when I first came in - that look celebrities give when they wonder if they have been recognised - and that's when I knew it was him. Otherwise, I'd have just thought it was some cute gay guy on his way to meet friends downtown.

Was he testing the waters because tickets for Take That's shows had just gone on sale and crashed a website? I tried to not pay attention to him but kept getting reminders of his presence from the double-spread Take That story in all the Evening Standard's being read. I'd say all the commuters were unaware of him apart from myself and two girls. When he was about to leave at Bond Street, he smiled at one of the girls (I think she had quickly waved hello at him or something). That must have made her day.
commonpeople1: (George O'Brien)

Old man on the Tube
Originally uploaded by christinaa
I was sitting in the Tube, on my way to work after a morning workout, when I noticed an old man enter the carriage. He had a cane so I made eye contact and stood up while gesturing for him to take my seat. He rushed down the aisle and grabbed my hand as I was moving away. "Just a minute, just a minute," he said sitting down, one hand in his brown winter coat's pocket. He fished out three wrapped candies.

"Oh no," I said but he insisted. So I smiled, feeling myself going red (how quickly a scene like that turns into a spectacle for the other commuters), and thanked him. I zipped the candy in my jacket's pocket and went back to my book.

Of course, I thought about the LJ post I'd write about this encounter. Something which would end with the sentence: "Mama always said not to accept sweets from strangers."

A few stops later he stood up and whispered in a slightly bad smelling brogue that I now had candy for my good deed. I wished him a good day and he replied "every day is a good day at my age" before leaving the train.
commonpeople1: (Cabbie)


I bought a copy of the new i paper this morning, partly because I agree with [livejournal.com profile] dickon_edwards that it's about time a newspaper was named after a Magnetic Fields album. The man at the stall asked me if it was any good. "I don't know! I'm buying it to figure that out," was my reply.

My verdict: better than the freebies content wise, but not much different from them in style or range and definitely London-centric. If anything, there's more variety in the Metro (more gossip and weird news) whereas the i paper regurgitates stories throughout its pages (e.g. Take That and Robbie Williams tour story in the first few pages, which then reappears towards the end - same with the story of the giant stag, which appears on the front page, page 2, page 4, and probably a few other ones.) Surely there's enough content out there to stop repetition?!

Things I've learned: Cheryl Cole's hooker tights from Sunday night sold out after her performance and that Cherie Blair has put an autograph of Tony Bliar up for sale on eBay for 10 quid.

I was tempted to leave it on an empty seat in the tube, beside a copy of the Metro, and see what people went for first. But my £0.20 expenditure made me bring the copy into the office with me.

Baby Haunt

Oct. 18th, 2010 08:33 pm
commonpeople1: (Glasses)
I had to stand on the tube ride home today. As is often the case, I aimed my eyes at an ad in front of me so I wouldn't have to look at the great unwashed that fill the train carriages each morning and eve. This one particular ad had the photo of a baby in diapers. Not a particularly cute baby; a bit of fuzzy hair on its bald head, a friendly smile, rolls of baby fat. Probably a baby from Sheffield. He was advertising an upcoming showroom event for men wishing to donate sperm and get paid for it.

In Bethnal Green's Sainsbury's, I added this evening's dinner into my shopping basket (£16.01) and got in the queue. When I got close to the cashier my eyes wandered over the baby products section and stopped at a box of Rice Milk for babies. There was the same baby again, this time in a green T-shirt. Probably from the same photo shoot session.

I wish more people would adopt or foster.
commonpeople1: (Morrissey)
Long day at work then the struggle to get home in packed Tube trains. Find a seat in the Central line and listen to my iShuffle as the doors open and close at each station.

An Indian family enter the carriage and the mother sits down with her baby on one knee and a seven-year-old boy on the other. The father stands and takes care of the carrier. When the person beside me leaves, the mother quickly orders the boy to take the empty seat. I close my eyes and fall into a half-sleep. Feel a nudge against my side and realise that a warm head is resting against me. I'm a giant pillow for the next few stops.

[livejournal.com profile] wink_martindale is preparing curry for dinner. I want to lie on the couch for the rest of the evening reading a good book and listening to music.
commonpeople1: (Paris)
This morning, during the Tube strike, I took the District line to work and actually arrived half an hour earlier than usual at work.

At night, when the Tube strike was supposed to be over, I walked for miles trying to find an empty bus because none of them had enough space for me and all the supposedly functioning Tube stations were locked shut.

At least the launch for our festival went really well tonight: we had about 60 people despite the terrible Mondayness of it all. The poet enjoyed himself, the organisers were happy and my boss congratulated me on getting the high commissioner for the poet's country to attend. We are all feeling so much more positive and hopeful that the marketing and press is finally working and things will turn out OK this month.
commonpeople1: (George O'Brien)
I woke up yesterday at 7.30am. [livejournal.com profile] wink_martindale made me scrambled eggs on toast and coffee for breakfast while I checked my e-mail. I left for work at 8.30 and traveled on a fairly empty District line until South Kensington, where I switched to the Circle line (is it just me or the Tube is emptier on Fridays?) I spent the whole day tying up urgent marketing stuff related to an upcoming festival we are promoting. The office was quiet and I managed to get a lot done, finally feeling more in control of my role after five days of feeling anxious about the festival. My new line manager has been good at reassuring me that we can only do our best and not worry about what's beyond our control.

When I got home, there were two gifts waiting for me: a copy of Tim Moore's Spanish Steps and the Oulipo Compendium. We shared some cod, chips and Coca-Cola from the local chippy while watching two queer films: Gay Sex in the 70s and Circuit. The first one is a documentary on how wild and excessive the gay scene was in the 70s - a carefree time that was short-lived and will never return. Did you know Bette Midler started her career singing in gay baths, wriggling her tits to gay men and throwing poppers to the crowds?! Or that saunas had dancefloors where gay men disco danced with only towels wrapped around their bodies? It's like another planet to me. The second film was a dreadful piece of porn acting without the porn, as Wink put it, about a horsey-looking gay cop that moves to L.A. and joins its gay party circuit. All the clichés wheeled out over laugh-out-loud lines. A great stoner movie actually.

Today, woke up at 5am to a frozen London. Played a bit of Nintendo then met a friend for breakfast in Stratford before heading to the community garden. Stratford is the new Hyde Park Corner: every few meters there's a God-bothering nutter screaming off their head or singing religious songs. The sunshine was great but as soon as you stepped into a shadow your blood cooled. Did some weeding then participated in a meeting about the future of the garden. Hopped on the tube and met up with [livejournal.com profile] loveinsuburbia and [livejournal.com profile] yaruar in a café by Islington Green. A couple of their friends joined us and they bought me a piece of cheese cake with a cappuccino before we browsed a nearby art store.

Hopped on the No. 277 back home and got comfortable on the couch as Wink prepared dinner. Now we are watching the X Factor and complaining about the lack of chocolate and popcorn in the house.

I'll never grow a moustache.

Cold Feet

Sep. 15th, 2010 08:44 pm
commonpeople1: (Mr Stamp)

Shower in gym 1900's
Originally uploaded by gaswizard
Our boiler malfunctioned three days ago and we haven't had any hot water since. Yesterday morning I went to the gym before work and noticed for the first time that they pump music into the shower room. Black Eyed Peas don't make good showering companions. Today, I went after work and there were many guys about but I was lucky enough to have the shower room to myself. Our landlords have offered their home's bathtub while they sort someone to check the boiler. They had us over for dinner last night as a thank you for watching over their cat Blanche on the weekend.

I only have two days left at the recruitment agency. A famous Bollywood star came into our building today, according to the security guard at reception, but my team didn't see him. He looks a bit like Antonio Banderas on his Wikipedia page. My co-workers tease me about my new job, about who's going to substitute me, about the little inside jokes we have built over these past weeks. I have no energy to join in the fun because I'm fighting some kind of cold (brought into the office by my line manager, who had a chest infection over the weekend). We are all getting sick.

I'm still reading Joe Orton's diary on the bus rides to work and home. He was very raw and very smart. His entries, though, on the Moroccan boys he brought home and shagged are troubling. I'll be commuting on the Hammersmith line as of next week, which will give me lots of hours underground to get through more books. Anything to keep me distracted from the weather getting cold and grim.
commonpeople1: (Steven Lubin)

Jardim da Pousada
Originally uploaded by olliefern
I'm back at my mom's guesthouse after a 12-hour bus trip from Londrina. The first 8 hours were done overnight and involved a woman who vomited into all available sick bags near her before panicking when she couldn't find the toilet (the bus had two floors). Her screaming and knocking on the driver's door woke me up but I thankfully never smelled anything or heard her with the sick bags.

I crossed São Paulo in the Metro during rush hour, which wasn't as scary as I imagined, then took a 3-hour bus ride to the guesthouse and arrived around 11am. Lunched and napped for 3 hours. Now my right foot hurts like a Saw prop.

Have some great photos which I'll post tomorrow. Good night!
commonpeople1: (Steven Lubin)
The busker in Waterloo station was playing The La's "There She Goes" this morning. I should have gone up to him and dropped a pound coin in his hat.

Memories of my friend Sue in high school, Hong Kong, So I Married an Axe Murderer, summer, sunshine, youth...
commonpeople1: (Under Water)
I got that job! I received an employment contract through the mail yesterday and I start on the 14th of July. I'm a little nervous from thinking too much about my future co-workers, the organisation and the job itself. I'm tired of moving around; I want to settle with a job that keeps me happy; I hope this is the one. I'm handing in my one-week notice today (one of the perks of being a temp.)

Yesterday evening, Vanessa Redgrave walked past me as I waited for my train at Embankment station. She smiled at the couple with the baby sitting beside me. There's a glow about her, something soothing. Maybe it's the realization in my head that she doesn't think public transport is beneath her, eventhough she's somewhat famous. She was on her way to the National Theatre, I believe, where she's starring in Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking. Would anyone like to go see it with me?

Mile End tube station cracked this morning under the cackle, screams and laughter of a group of teenage girls by the ticket barriers. Their voices kept rising and rising until I couldn't bear it any longer: I grabbed a waterhose from the wall, turned it on and directed the powerful jet at them. The water pressure was so strong that I had to hold my ground. Their clothes got drenched, their slapper faces melted, their bodies were pushed against the soggy posters on the walls. A perfect way to start the day.
commonpeople1: (Rockasilly)
Hot, young flesh is pouring out of Mile End Tube. Skinny jeans, low waists, droopy eye lids, bangs, boob tops, T-shirts, fresh fresh fresh-scented skin that is going to rub up against each other in Victoria Park when Radiohead plays - very soon. I'm at home with all the windows flung open; since the park is just a stone throw away, I want to see if the sound travels here and I get to hear a concert for free. I am standing, they are there - two worlds colliding - and they can never tear us apart.

I went for a job interview today - the first one since I left the National Theatre last July (I don't count the one from The Guardian since I cancelled that one at the last minute after I realized how little they were going to pay me.) I've got mixed feelings: I talked a lot and yet described myself as shy; I called myself highly organised yet described my biggest weakeness as "managing" (I meant the opposite of administering, but did they understand me?) The job is for a small arts organisation in Hackney, a bike ride away from home. Not much money, but plenty of sunlight through the large windows that rise all over their spacious office and exhibition room. Well, if I don't get it, at least I had the experience of going to an interview; I can work on what I did wrong for the next one.

Thank you to everyone who gave suggestions on how to write a job statement. I took your advice on board and it worked! I think the secret is to be candid and warm, yet show that you have the skills they need. People want to know there's a human being behind the application form. Being too formal and general makes them think, I imagine, that you are just cut & pasting job statements from one application to another and don't really care about their organisation.

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