Ooh my word, if last night's Sigur Rós extravaganza wasn't the most fantastic gig I have ever been to!
By rights I shouldn't like "the" Rós, as I'm a terrible traditionalist and I like songs with nice lyrics that I can understand. Whereas Sigur Rós do quite otherworldly instrumental stuff, whose lyrics, when there are any, are either in Icelandic or a made-up language*.
But I was in no way prepared for the fact that they were going to play some of their set from behind a big white curtain, with fantastic leaping shadows and other similarly eerie effects. Or that the rest of it was going to be accompanied by fabulous swirly lights and huge video projections. Or that at one point, a miniature marching band was going to appear stage left and march to stage right. Or that each of their songs would be illuminated in a different colour, thus helpfully colour-coding them for philistines like me who can't really tell them apart. (If the Sigur Rós boys are reading, I liked the green one near the beginning best). Or that there would be a huge hallucinatory lightshow finale that actually left me quite speechless.
Wonderful stuff. Everyone should go and see them live, even if they don't like them. I had to walk home in the rain afterwards, and I didn't even care.
Many thanks to the legendary PP - whose pre-gig concerns about the quality of the proscenium at the Hammersmith Apollo fortunately turned out to be unfounded - for the ticket. Woohoo!
I wasn't going to post this, because it's far too Nathan Barley even for me, but then I remembered that the whole point of this blog was meant to be to document how technology is changing the way we - and more specifically, I - live. So, apologies in advance for the gratuitous references to postmodernism, Baudrillard etc. I'll try not to do it too often...
In the last few days, I've discovered that I can't read a book without falling asleep. I'm trying to read for my dissertation, but I can't seem to stay awake for more than ten pages.
I could attribute this to several things: I've been staying up too late watching the GW repeats; I read while lying on the...mmm...really comfy sofa; I'm too short-sighted to read the words comfortably; I'm lazy; I'm not committed enough, and so on.
But I don't think it's any of those things. I think the way I want to receive information has changed so much that the book has more or less become obsolete.
If I'm reading Sherry Turkle talking about how postmodern culture is a culture of simulation, I don't want to follow a reference number to the back of a glued-together pile of paper to discover that she's making a reference to Baudrillard. No, dammit, I want a shiny hyperlink to Baudrillard right there on the page. Like that one.
Yes, I want my books thin, and back-lit, with hyperlinks. I want to skip back and forth between texts, and copy and paste stuff into Word as I please.
Suddenly, the books on my shelves look all musty and noxious, as if they might be harbouring disease-carrying spores. Some sort of old-style Victorian disease, probably. Like typhoid. Or whooping cough. I don't trust them.
This is no good. I'm never going to finish this degree.
Ironically, the book I'm currently not reading because I keep falling asleep is all about how reliant we've become on computers. So I'm not going to be able to finish (read: start) my dissertation about how reliant we've become on computers, because I can't read a book about how reliant we've become on computers.
Not much time for blogging this week, as I have Very Important Stuff to attend to, like going to see Sigur Ros, mentally preparing myself for Green Wing Series 2, and hanging around the LSE pretending to be a privileged daughter of the European bourgeoisie.
So just a quick note to inform anyone who's interested (that'll be very few of you) that it's officially Indietronica, Folktronica and Countrytronica Week here at Quinquireme Towers!
And in honour of this auspicious occasion, here is a little playlist of indie/folk/countrytronica songs what I found on the internet:
The sun shone for half an hour yesterday morning, momentarily lifting London's ambient temperature above minus seven, and turning my fancy lightly to thoughts of summer music festivals.
I've sworn never to go to Glastonbury* again, following that unfortunate incident in 2000, and I'm far too old now for all that V and T in the Park-type nonsense. And since All Tomorrow's Parties is already sold out, there's no choice but to look further afield.
So it was with a glad heart and a hasty fumbling for my battered Egg card that I noticed the line-up for what could be the Greatest Festival Ever. The crème de la crème of the US indie-rock and freak-folk (don't look at me, I don't make these up) "scene" united in one place for two whole glorious days. So what if that place is thousands of miles away? It's only $30 a ticket! With the current dollar-sterling exchange rate, that's practically free! Yes, there's the small matter of transatlantic flights and hotel accommodation, but still - bargain!
Hmm, and I wonder why I'm always so broke.
But then, it's not like I'm also planning to fly to Helsinki in August for the Koneisto Festival of Electronic Music, is it? It is? Oh.
Well, I could always save money by not going to the Bestival on the Isle of Wight in September. What's that? I *am* planning to attend that one too? Ah.
Still, hac via semel, as they say. Party on!
* Tabby Rabbit has pointed out that Glastonbury isn't actually on this year, so I couldn't go even if I wanted to. Which is probably just as well.
I had a lovely, happy walk to work, listening to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on repeat on the iPod and planning a splendid blog post containing amateurish and unsolicited advice about How To Write Blog Posts.
This plan was instantly derailed when I got to work to discover that my Dad, who started blogging all of three days ago, has already got in with all the cool, funny people. (You go, Dad!)
This led me in turn to Vicus Scurra, whereupon I was seized by a) fits of apoplectic laughter, closely followed by b) one of those terrible fits of blog envy that have you sloping off to the Blogger Dashboard to hang sulkily around the "Delete This Blog" button.
It's by no means the first fit of blog envy I've had - previous catalysts have included Wyndham, Latigo Flint and Betty - and I'm learning to live with the knowledge that there are hundreds of people out there who are cleverer and funnier than I'll ever be. You clever, funny bastards. I hate you, and yet I love you beyond measure.
So, with that in mind, on with the original show, eh? On my regular cruises around the blogosphere I sometimes come across sad*, self-doubting people who are given to fits of anguish over the fact that their stats are up or down, or that fewer people commented today than yesterday.
Although it might not seem like it, I'm a professional writer in the "real" world. So perhaps I can lend a hand with some amateurish and unsolicited advice - in the form of a handy list, of course.
So without waiting for so much as a friendly "fuck off, you - we're just fine as we are, thanks", I present you with my Amateurish, Unsolicited Advice on How To Write Blog Posts!
1. Template. The popularity of your blog has less to do with your writing than you might think. It's mainly about your template. Fact: white on black is hard to read. You can be the best writer in the world, but if you've got one of those black templates, people won't read it unless they really love you.
Warning: if you're going to change your template, copy and paste your template code into a text editor like Notepad (NOT Word, which will trash it) and then paste it back in when you're done. Also, get some better advice than this about changing your template. I haven't done it for a while, and I hate to think I might ruin someone's blog with my slapdash advice. Will post a good link if I find one.
2. Paragraphs. People, no one will read a huge, unbroken chunk of text unless they really, really love you. Split it into paragraphs, for the love of god. And the shorter, the better. White space is really, really important.
3. Opening sentence. Someone coming to your blog for the first time will make a split-second decision to keep reading based almost entirely on the first sentence they read. Make it a good one.
4. Lists. Why are glossy magazines full of lists? Because they're easy to read, especially on a screen. Lists are good. Make lists. Not *all* the time, mind.
5. Personality. Your blog is all about you, however much you might pretend it isn't. Your content doesn't really matter, as long it reflects your personality (which may not be your "real" life personality, but that doesn't matter either).
6. Comments. This is where all the best stuff happens, so have fun with your commenters. Not *that* sort of fun. Although, on second thoughts, why not? Blogworld is as much a giant virtual singles bar as it is anything else it's purported to be.
7. Spelling and grammar. More important than you might think, but at the same time, less important than you might think. But spellchecking is always a good idea.
8. Content. Doesn't matter. Honestly. Stop worrying about what you "should" or "shouldn't" be writing about. Just write stuff. As long as you remember to break it into paragraphs and make lists occasionally, it's all fine.
No time for more. Apparently I have a real job to do. Gahh.
PS Please feel free to disagree heartily with anything I've said, criticise me for not following my own advice, slap me for being patronising, add your own tips, and so on.
UPDATE: I know nothing. Mr Robert Swipe of Rothergavenny has the definitive guide to achieving untold blogworld popularity. Go to it!
...and also my 300th post! It's taken me four long years to get to 300, so I take my extravagant red velvet hat off to the more prolific and more talented Surly Girl, who's reached 200 seemingly in no time at all. Happy 200th, surly!
Anyway, to celebrate this blog milestone, here's a lovely, if slightly morbid, mp3 for you all:
It's from this album by Seattle-based purveyors of mopy Americana Band of Horses, which is coming out next week. So if you need an antidote to your GW Series 2-inspired euphoria, this one should bring you right back down again. In a sort of quietly jangly, melodic, alt.country-ish kind of way, mind.
Nice artwork, too.
UPDATE: Tabby Rabbit has asked me which of my 300 posts is my favourite. Actually I hate them all in equal measure, but I do quite like this one from March 2003: Troops Poised to Attack Iraq. Because it makes the media look silly, and it has Eagle-Eyes Action Man in it.
Sorry for the hiatus in posting, I've been temporarily neglecting the blog in order to have much fun talking nonsense and catching up with old friends over at Channel 4's spanking new Green Wing chat forum.
[start public service announcement]
The Series 1 repeats are on all this week circa 11pm, which is really too late for me, but I did watch the whole of ep 2 last night. I'd forgotten quite how gloriously silly and rude it is. And for anyone who has yet to discover how gloriously silly and rude it is, might I remind you that the ridiculously long-awaited Series 2 starts next Friday 31st March at 9pm on Channel 4. Miss it at your peril.
[end public service announcement]
In order to justify talking rubbish on a chat forum at all hours of the day and night, I like to think of it as research for my future PhD*. The subject of which remains nebulous in my mind, but it's something to do with the existence of parallel universes, whether they are as "valid" as the "real" world, and how we behave and interact in them.
As far as I'm concerned, all online "worlds" - from chat forums to instant messenger conversations to online role-playing games - are equally valid parallel universes that we dip into and out of without really thinking that each time we do so, we're entering a completely different plane of existence. So people think of things like the holo-deck in Star Trek Voyager as science fiction, when in fact it's right there in front of you all the time, you big fools.
The GW forum is particularly interesting because almost everyone in there is female (which may or may not have something to do with this chap), and as it's a new forum but most of us know each other already, it's a lovely example of how women go about organising themselves in a new community.
Which is interesting, because a self-organising female community isn't something you see a lot of in "real" life. Well, it's not something *I* see a lot of in real life, anyway - you may beg to differ, and I'd be interested to hear it.
I shouldn't really go on, as everyone'll get paranoid and/or hate me. Also because I haven't worked out what it means yet, and I've got a brochure about middleware to write.
Bloody real life. Hmph.
* This is the kind of sentence that I'll re-read in six months' time** and think "Why? Why must I always be such a twat?". Heigh ho.
Six hundred miles is a long way to go just to go to the bank, especially when you manage to miss the flight you were booked on and have to pay extra to get on another one that lands in a completely different town.
(Even if it is a town that was once the filming location of a terrible Hollywood blockbuster with a dreadful theme song that was number one for so long that I went to live abroad just after it reached that position, and when I came back some months later it was still laying waste to the top of the charts with its soft-rock naffness).
But anyway, there are times when you do have to go to the bank, no matter how far away it is. And one of those times is when the bank in question has Blatantly Stolen All Your Money.
I’ve been strangely fond of losing money since the age of 12, when I experimentally threw my purse out of the window of the family car as we sped down a French motorway, and found it deeply satisfying. But even I draw the line at letting my bank make off with a fairly large sum of cash that belongs to me because they "thought I didn't want it".
So while I’m away, and in celebration of the fact that the unutterably lovely Wyndham has come to my rescue in fine style regarding the Unfortunate Calexico Tickets Saga, here’s this week’s song of the week:
Best enjoyed while reading one of comedy genius Latigo Flint’s tales of the squinty-eyed Ol’ West.
* This mp3 is apparently the French version, which I haven’t heard, and the one I have heard is only half in French, so my apologies to any non-Francophones who may not be able to make any sense of it. Basically it’s an everyday tale of scorpions and gold mines and summary justice and femmes fatales wielding pistols, and the like. But without Mr Flint's particular brand of comedy, sadly.
After following just one piece of "de-stress your life" advice from the fifth anniversary issue of Glamour mag, I had one of those terrible mornings where people keep phoning up to shout at you just when you've stuffed another handful of M&S fruit 'n' nut selection into your ravening maw, denying you the opportunity to respond with a brilliantly argued Kevin-Costner-in-JFK-style courtroom defence.
This got me to thinking: what on earth would happen if I were to follow *every* piece of advice that the fifth anniversary issue of Glamour mag has to offer? Surely it can be no coincidence that my horoscope, as foreseen by this august organ, predicts that something Incredibly Bad will happen to me around about mid-April?
But I'm an adventuress*, a risk-taker. I've white-water rafted on the mighty river Zambezi. I've battled swarms of killer flies in the Venezuelan jungle. I've swum in the North Sea on New Year's Day. I've climbed Britain's highest mountain wearing nothing but a swimsuit and some hiking boots. I've sung to David Bowie. I'm *hard*.
Well, actually, I'm a terrible coward and I cried all the way through most of those things, but still. Glamour holds no fear for me, oh no.
So tomorrow I am going to follow every single piece of advice offered by the fifth anniversary issue of Glamour, and see where it gets me.
Expect thrilling hourly updates on my progress as I:
1. Stick to the facts when criticising colleagues
2. Use props to demonstrate my point
3. Take up a sexy new hobby like pole-dancing
4. Do something drastic with my hair
5. Push my boundaries and ask whether I'm happy being a "passenger"
6. Strategically hang a mirror to reflect my bed
7. Eat a few almonds
8. Ask myself if I need it, and if I don't, walk away
9. Try not to fake a talent I don't have
10. Keep my bathroom habits private**
Don't go away now!
* Scroob has pointed out that this means "I like men with lots of money", rather than "I like doing dangerous things in exotic places". Er, clearly I was just trying to reclaim some patriarchally-inflected language for the sisterhood. Ahem. NB: Wouldn't it be more correct to say "adventureress"? Not sure.
UPDATE: It's my own fault, really. I made the mistake of buying Glamour magazine, which advised me that for greater peace of mind I should try varying my journey into work. So I got up extra early and walked to work via Ravenscourt Park and Hammersmith, and very nice it was too. Listened to a bit of Elliott Smith on the way, because there's nothing more cheering than hearing a dead junkie harp on about how he actually liked himself better when he was on smack*. Anyway, got to work, waited for the promised greater peace of mind to materialise, but NO. Oh no. The morning was instead characterised by a whole cavalcade of fuckwits - myself among them - contriving to jam spanners in all the works and press flies into all the ointment. Fortunately this has now escalated from the blind fury stage to the "this is getting quite comical" stage, so it's all fine. At ease, then. Phew.
* Just kidding - I love the boy Elliott dearly, God rest his soul.
(Don't worry, I'll get tired of this part-work thing soon).
Last night attended top Shortwave Set gig at Bush Hall in the company of Brightonian* comedy genius LC, professional Bristolian spinster Spinsterella and A Third Person Who Has No Blog To Link To.
I love the Shortwave Set, with their scratchy Louis Armstrong** samples, toy instruments, charity-shop accoutrements and honey-voiced, Sandie Shaw-esque Swedish singer. In a funny way they remind me of my other favourite non-American band, Husky Rescue, but this might just be because both bands are fronted by a Tall Man and a Tall, Beautiful, Scandinavian Girl, and are both very sweet and charismatic.
"The" Rescue probably have the edge in artwork terms, but the Shortwave Set have quirkier things up their polka-dotted Mary Quant sleeve: halfway through their set they stopped and held a raffle, pulling the prize (whatever it was) out of an old gramophone speaker. Awwwww.
As I've mentioned before, I grew up in the far North of Scotland. Throughout the 80s, my Mum, Dad, brother and I lived in an isolated farmhouse in the middle of a flat expanse of barley fields. For me as a teenager, it seemed to be as miserably far away from civilisation as it was possible to get*.
But even though the nearest Top Shop was 80 miles away in Aberdeen, we did in fact live at the centre of something: the global geo-political situation. Inasmuch as there ever was one, we lived right on the front line of the Cold War.
Our house sat at the end of the runway of the local RAF base, from which Nimrod aircraft would take off at 30-minute intervals to go scouting the North Sea for Soviet nuclear submarines**. Most days we would pass the main gate of the base, where there would always be a sign indicating the level of general military alert. Usually it was green, but occasionally it would escalate to orange or red.
I never paid much attention to this (after all, I had Nik Kershaw to think about), but looking back I like the fact that the expression of complex events on the global stage could be reduced to a choice of three colours on a rickety metal sign outside a military base in the middle of nowhere.
That's not to say I wasn't conscious of the Cold War. The nuclear threat terrified me most of the way through the 80s. We were well aware of the legendary four-minute warning, and I don't think there's been anything before or since that's frightened me so much. I was vaguely comforted by the fact that living next to an air force base meant there was a greater likelihood of our being killed outright in the event of a nuclear attack. I'd seen Threads, and the prospect of surviving into the nuclear winter was unimaginably terrible.
The The's "Infected" album is one of several from the 80s that deal with Cold War politics, and my brother and I used to listen to it a lot when it came out. I've owned it on and off ever since, but my current copy of it had been sitting around untouched in my CD collection for a few years. I got it out again recently because some of Barry Adamson's songs reminded me of it, and wow, it's still pretty great.
Matt Johnson was at his top lyrical best when singing about politics, and at his absolute lyrical worst when singing about relationships, so it's the political songs that stand out. "Heartland" is a fabulously bleak picture of Thatcher's Britain***, while my favourite, "Angels of Deception", has Johnson as a poor helpless individual crushed by the mighty forces of the US "occupation" of Britain (think Greenham Common), War and Religion.
The thing that strikes me about it now is that while everyone else (from Frankie Goes To Hollywood to, er, Sting) was singing about the Soviet Union, and Red Army chic**** was at an all-time high, Matt Johnson chose to write portentous agit-pop songs about the tensions between the US, Britain and the Middle East. Which is why, even though this album is 20 years old this year, it still sounds spookily relevant.
Also, they're currently selling it for a fiver in Fopp. Go to it, I say.
Sorry, that was all a bit long, wasn't it?
* Although the crushing loneliness never reduced me to eating flowers, cardboard or cleaning agents, unlike some.
** And lost climbers in the Cairngorms, but that doesn't really fit with the story.
*** Although let's not forget that for every miners' strike, Falklands Conflict, three million-plus unemployment, Chernobyl disaster and collapsed car industry, there was a member of Duran Duran. So the 80s weren't all bad.
Sonic Boom was that guy from Spacemen 3 who didn't go on to become Spiritualized, but who nevertheless specialised in the same sort of tripped-out-psychedelic-fuzzy-guitar-type music. Both him and the other one - who did go on to become Spiritualized - really just wanted to be the Velvet Underground, and in general they made a pretty good job of it.
I had this album on vinyl, because in the early 90s I'd come by a gigantic 1970s record player thing that had its own cabinet with a lift-up glass top, and a gigantic pair of speakers with the most fantastic bass. It was incredibly low-tech and I loved it.
I'm deeply disappointed that there are no pictures of the album cover on the interweb, because it was truly a thing to behold. It had a transparent plastic disc on the front with coloured stripes on it, which sat over a circle with different coloured stripes on it, so that when you spun it you got a pleasing kaleidoscopic effect.
This amused my friend S and me for a short time, before we realised that there's only so much fun you can get out of spinning a piece of coloured plastic. And what with us being students and therefore possessed of minimal amounts of cash, maximal amounts of free time and very little in the way of common sense, it soon occurred to us that it would be infinitely more rewarding to engage with this album as its makers intended - i.e. while in the reality-altering grip of LSD.
I won't bore you with the details, as hearing about other people's acid trips is about as interesting as hearing about other people's babies teething, or whatever it is that babies do. Unless they're acid trips as described by Hunter S. Thompson and filmed by Terry Gilliam, of course, but even then it's pretty borderline.
Until my lovely colleague D mentioned it at work the other day, I'd completely forgotten I ever owned this album. Like most of my other possessions of the time, it was a casualty of The Day I Left University. On that day I got up, packed as much as I could fit into a big black bag, left the house, walked down to the bus station and got on a Eurolines coach bound for Toulouse*. Leaving behind my stereo, my records, my CDs, my books, my horrible armchair, various other items of furniture, my duvet, a rug, various ornamental items, and a man in my bed.
Those were the days.
As far as I know, the records and the stereo ended up in Penzance, and a lovely green glass vase I had now adorns my ex-acid-buddy S's mantelpiece in his swanky Georgian townhouse in Southampton. The fate of the horrible armchair thankfully remains a mystery.
* In the interests of accuracy, the more I think about this, the more I think it's likely that I actually got on a train to London, and then got on a coach to Toulouse. I don't expect the demand was really there for a direct Exeter-to-Toulouse coach service.
Saying goodbye to James on the sub-concourse of Tottenham Court Road tube station on Thursday evening, where in the past someone might have put their thumb and little finger to their ear to mime "I'll call you", he mimes typing on a keyboard.
When I told my tutor I was going to write my dissertation about "the liberatory potential of blogging", he got this strange glint in his eye that I took to mean:
"Ha-ha! I am going to completely hijack your dissertation project by making you write hackneyed stuff about how blogging is undermining the mainstream media, and how it gives voice to downtrodden people in countries with oppressive régimes, and all the other worthy, big-picture stuff you can read about week in week out in the Economist."
(It was quite a long glint).
But I don't want to do that. *Everyone* does that. I want to write stuff about what it means that we write actions in between asterisks, and what our screen names say about us, and why it's so exciting that we can move between physical and virtual planes and masquerade under different identities, and why comments are so important.
So I woke up this morning thinking "I know! I'll make it all about how blogging liberates women from thinking they have to look like women in glossy magazines all the time, and getting depressed when they don't. That'll show him!"
This seemed like a great idea at 6am. However, I've spent an entire day reading up on feminist theories of technology, and I now feel like throwing myself out of the window.
This feminism is tricky stuff, alright. You have to be careful with every single word, because apparently the language of academia was made up by men (hiss) while we were still tethered to the sink, washing their socks, giving birth to their children and muttering primitive thoughts to ourselves in crude Anglo-Saxon monosyllables.
This means that using "their" language to write a feminist essay is, like, tantamount to *totally* giving in to patriarchal oppression. So before I write it, I should really make up some kind of new language that doesn't have any Western, capitalist, phallocentric connotations.
Man, that's going to be hard.
UPDATE: If we're talking about metanarratives (which Urban Chick is, in the comments), then I should like to draw everyone's attention to Occasional Poster of Comments' new blog: Not 4'33". Go forth and investigate - you won't be disappointed. Although it does seem to be heading in a different direction from everybody else's - literally *and* figuratively.
Hmm, that's quite enough with the pretentious academic language now. Back to the hats tomorrow.
June 1988: The day I left school, my Dad drove me to John O'Groats. I don't know why; perhaps by taking me to the northernmost point of mainland Britain he intended for me to contemplate the finite nature of existence. Or maybe it was meant to mark the passing of a specific phase of my life. Or perhaps it was just a day out. In any case, he took a photo of me sitting at the end of the jetty, wearing his hat, which was some kind of jaunty, nautical peaked-cap affair.
I loathed the resulting photo, since it provided unwelcome and incontrovertible evidence of the fact that I look nothing like Kate Moss. My Granny, however, was determined that this photo should be on the cover of Vogue. Fortunately - for me and for Vogue - this never transpired.
To this day, my brother, my two cousins and I continue to disappoint Granny by completely failing to live up to her expectations. Over the years she's learned to get around this inconvenience by simply making stuff up about us. There's a whole coterie of elderly ladies in the North of Scotland who believe that I am a multi-millionaire property magnate with an army of servants, my brother is the art editor of Country Life, and the Divine Ms P is a strategic adviser to the Filipino government.
All evidence to the contrary (which, as you might imagine, is extensive) is explained away as wilful eccentricity on our part. Luckily wilful eccentricity is also an admirable quality in Granny's eyes, as it indicates a profound, Bohemian intellect. It's my Bohemian streak, for example, that prompts me to go around in jeans and scruffy cardigans when I could easily afford to wear a different Chanel suit every day.
My cousin M's glittering career is harder to fabricate, since he lives next door to Granny and quite evidently works as a team leader in a warehouse belonging to a dotcom company that sells outdoor equipment, but she does her best. Last I heard, he'd been invited to join the Board of Directors and was on track to become the youngest CEO in the FTSE 100.
And I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder: One of the four beasts saying: "Come and see." And I saw. And behold, a white horse.
I live in Shepherd's Bush, but I work in Chiswick. I wouldn't *live* in Chiswick, because I have that whole reverse-snobbery thing going on: I like living near broken cashpoints, crackhead-infested Co-ops and the sort of pub that, if you ever ventured inside, you would almost certainly never come out again. Interspersed with charming little pavement cafés full of middle class, Guardian-reading, left-liberal types who like living near broken cashpoints, crackhead-infested Co-ops and the sort of pub that, if you ever ventured inside, you would almost certainly never come out again.
There's a man going round, taking names. And he decides who to free, and who to blame.
I also quite like walking. In fact I'm not happy unless I walk at least three miles a day during the week, and five each on Saturdays and Sundays. Lately I've started to think of it as good training for the apocalypse, which I understand is due in 2012* - about the same time as the "London" Games and the second series of Green Wing.
Everybody won't be treated all the same. There'll be a golden ladder reaching down. When the man comes around.
So it's lucky that my cosy, centrally-heated office is almost exactly a mile and half from my cosy, centrally-heated flat. It's a great walk, and I go to work quite early, so it's also largely unimpeded by the things that irritate my fellow urban bloggers: dog-walkers, bus-stop-gatherers, mobile-phone-talkers, diminutive umbrella-wielders, expansive smokers, pimped-up double-decker buggies transporting squalling infants, and so on.
The hairs on your arm will stand up. At the terror in each sip and in each sup. For you partake of that last offered cup, Or disappear into the potter's ground. When the man comes around.
And I get to listen to my iPod as I pick my way around the patches of desiccated vomit, wind-blown sections of the Observer, used condoms and toasted focaccia crusts that litter the pavements of W12. The music means I don't really notice the walk; the other day I fell over in the road while listening to "Safe" by Canyon Country, and I scarcely noticed that I'd cut my knee, nearly been run over *and* dropped my copy of the Financial Times. That's such a great song.
Hear the trumpets, hear the pipers. One hundred million angels singing. Multitudes are marching to the big kettle drum. Voices calling, voices crying. Some are born and some are dying. It's Alpha's and Omega's Kingdom come.
But fuck me, it's cold at the moment, isn't it? And I left my gloves with some gay men on the Isle of Wight, which means the hot-cold-hot thing has wreaked merry havoc with my hands. They've gone all grey and scaly and cracked and bleeding. Which makes me think I should perhaps hold them out in front of me, arms outstretched, and teeter slowly around the place moaning and trying to bite people.
And the whirlwind is in the thorn tree. The virgins are all trimming their wicks. The whirlwind is in the thorn tree. It's hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
Err, that's it really.
In measured hundredweight and penny pounds. When the man comes around.
I really wish I'd done the hat one now.
And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts, And I looked and behold: a pale horse. And his name, that sat on him, was Death. And Hell followed with him.
Well chaps, it's proving to be a hard week, what with moving the office, and sitting at my swanky new desk listening to agreeable music, despairing at my zombie hands (don't ask) and being brought tea and chocolate biscuits by my delightful colleagues. Doesn't leave a lot of time for thinking about fascinating topics to blog about.
So, to borrow a motif from a number of my blogging comrades, I'll leave it up to you to choose a subject for my next instalment. What's it to be?