Archive for the ‘General’ Category

It's the terrorists, stupid!

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

I'm astonished that nobody has pointed the blame at terrorists for the current economic woes. I'm the last person on earth to subscribe to any conspiracy theory, but it would make a lot of sense, wouldn't it?

Our "Al-Quaeda" chums are sworn enemies of our western culture, citing capitalist greed as being the root of all evil (well, they've got a point there). They've tried chucking bombs, crashed a few planes, ranted on websites – all with little effect. So why not trash our system from the inside and play the western world at its own game: financial trading.

Derivatives exchanges have "market makers" – a bunch of traders paid by the exchanges to inject liquidity into the market. They flood the market with orders that will never quite trade to give the illusion to other traders of a healthy market. Where are these people trading from? Which country would be awash with cash from recent high oil prices…Saudi Arabia? Am sure that equity markets have similar systems – all these complex financial products that are available to affluent, anonymous global traders.

All they would have to do is buoy up the markets, pull the plug and watch it all come crashing down. Sound familiar?


Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

Fear is spongy opaque blob
of irrational terror
that feeds off your oxygen
streams through your veins like hot tar
sits in your stomach as a spiky knot,
invades your thoughts
makes frowns
throws your balance off centre.


You run away from fear, but not very far
You bury it in distractions, and it rises to the top
It sits there nagging, spitting,
gripping, fixating


Pause for thought and turn to the fear
Stroke it’s ugly head
Give it a piece of bread
and cheese with pickle
Sit with your fear and sing it a song
A lullaby, a nursery rhyme
Give it plenty of time

The fear now sits and skulks
Turns to putty, soft and mellow

Now take your hands and inspect what’s left
Peel off the layers, one by one
Each one getting softer
And warmer
And finally,
the centre

Where there’s a note written in fear:
From the fear, saying nothing but

Help! I’m scared! Help me please!

There’s nothing to fear in fear
except the fear that
you’ll never fear.


Written in 7.5 minutes flat and dedicated to abp, with love.

London's Cycle Network – Letter to Ken

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2007

Dear Mr Livingstone,

As a resident of Shepherd Bush, I recently picked up a leaflet entitled "White City Development" that details the new £1.6bn "Westfield" retail and leisure complex, and I have some questions concerning the transport links that I very much hope you can answer. This letter concerns the following three specific issues:

1. Cycle route around Shepherds Bush roundabout for the Westfield Centre.
2. Cycling across Hyde Park
3. Lack of cycle route information on the TFL website.

The leaflet details all the benefits that the new centre will provide, including changes to the transport infrastructure to support new facilities: new tube stations, renamed tube stations, new bus stations, taxi routes, proposed tram routes and, eventually, cycle routes. Under the auspicious co-heading "Taxis and Cycling routes" there is a cursory indication that "New cycle routes are planned", but no details are actually provided.

Looking at your "London Cycling Action Plan", Feb 2004, I was delighted to hear that objective number 1 (which I presume would be of highest priority) was to "Introduce quality conditions on the London Cycle Network plus (LCN+)". There appears to be no mention of this network in the Westfield leaflet. Furthermore, cycling is apparently "integral to the Mayor's vision to develop London as an exemplary sustainable world city", but cycling does not appear to be particularly integral to the Westfield site. I would have hoped that the Westfield development would provide an excellent opportunity to design cycling access and routes into the heart of the transport infrastructure and not, as it appears, as a reluctant afterthought.

My concerns for your cycling policy extend to the rest of London, as I feel that TFL alone has the mandate to actually transform the cycling infrastructure into a coherent, accessible network. I have seen no evidence of this as yet. The majority of the massive investment in the underground network appears to have been spent on station cosmetics and not in improving the tube service per se. I am sure that a fraction of these funds could have a significantly greater impact on London's transport infrastructure had they been allocated instead to the cycle network.

I ride my bicycle from Goldhawk Road to Hackney each day, and I invite you to take this journey to witness the issues first hand. The first obstacle is Shepherds Bush roundabout where one has to wrestle with 3 lanes of frustrated traffic (not to mention the ridiculously inappropriate bendy-buses that have the enviable ability to completely block all 3 lanes of traffic at the slightest turn of the steering wheel. I wonder, did the person responsible for commissioning these things ever actually visit London?). It might be a good idea to re-consider the design of this roundabout and put cyclists as a priority. Has this been considered?

So, assuming that one survives this roundabout ordeal, the next part of the journey is up to Notting Hill and onto Bayswater, around Lancaster Gate. Again, this is a convoluted junction where taxi filled streets aim at you from all directions, creating a foaming mess of exhaust and danger for the cyclist. I once mistakenly thought I could just pop over to Hyde Park to avoid this area but, alas, Hyde Park doesn't really do bicycles – now why is that?

And so onto London's Peripherique, Marble Arch and Oxford Street. This is not so much a road but a car park for buses and an exercise yard for pedestrian lemmings. This road is thoroughly unsuitable for cyclists. And so it continues to Hackney where I arrive 40 mins later with lead filled lungs and a few more grey hairs.

When I attempted to plot an alternative cycle route to work, I duly consulted the TFL website for guidance. I was delighted to find a link to the London Cycle Guides. Here I am presented with a convoluted menu from which I select a particular zone or zones of interest, input my most personal details and wait for the postman to deliver the appropriate leaflet. One week on from embarking this procedure, my postman still only brings me pizza menus and utility bills. I think it might be technically possible to make these cycle guide leaflets available on-line. Perhaps you could enlighten my as to why they are not?

I also attempted to use your on-line route planner. Having entered "Goldhawk Road" to "Kingsland Road" in the appropriate fields, it then presented me with my instructions:

1. Start Goldhawk Road
2. Cycle to Kingsland Road.
3. End Kingsland Road


Pressing the "Map" link generates a 17 page pdf document of directions, constituted of no less than 117 explicit instructions and 15 road maps (unfortunately in no particular order).

So, in summary, I think it is about time we utilised this city's resources properly and considering the issues of global climate change that I am sure you have heard about, I would like to see the implementation of a coherent cycle network carried out with as much gusto as the Congestion Charge. Perhaps I am being cynical, but I sincerely hope that the lack of taxation and surveillance opportunities will not prejudice any progress.

I look forward to hearing your views on this, as well as answers to my above questions.

Yours faithfully…

Golf Sale!

Monday, February 19th, 2007

It's quite a challenge to walk down Oxford Street and not be impeded by someone carrying above their head a large sign announcing "Golf Sale!", with a fluorescent arrow instructing you where you must go. Most UK high streets suffer from this. To me, it reads "Cheap Social Mobility This Way!!", an opinion, tainted by my loathing of exclusive golfing communities, encapsulating our social ills.

Richmond Park.
2500 acre oasis of nature inside a mechanical city
the sky weighed down with a thick rug of grey, shrouding the calm sharp air
Kites swell and soar with each gasp of wind,
joggers trudge the grass,
lovers holding hands, oblivious to the world, interlocked hands breach the paths
Huge tree stumps look despondent as they litter the ground,
like a war zone, muttering tales of tragedy from a violent history
The ones that remain, of which there are many, are vibrant and proud, the base of the leaves all start at the same height,
precisely the reach of the tallest deer, plus a hair's breadth
I cycled around the park, twice, maybe, I somehow lost count
Puddles of mud fling to my face
Gradients conspiring against my wheels, always up, then always down, too fast
And as I marvel in the beauty
The purity of the park
A place of space, a city's holy grail
I speed past an old wooden shack
Proudly declaring
A goddam Golf Sale.