There are 35 posts filed in London (this is page 1 of 2).
Snowpoet @ Green Note
Now that was a delightful night out. The Green Note is a lovely, intimate venue just a few yards away from Camden Town tube station. I got there early and brazenly plonked myself right at the front, a good move as the place was sold out and ended up fully packed. As it filled up I had the good fortune of the seat next to me being taken by Peter Freeman, a stalwart of the jazz scene who goes to gigs almost every night of the week. He was delightful company. Everyone in the band seemed to know him, and I overheard one of them say to him at as I left at the end that they always need to be on their game when he’s in the audience. What a wonderful way to spend your retirement.
Snowpoet were brilliant from start to finish. Lauren Kinsella‘s voice, and her delicate control of it, was the centrepiece. The band played a couple of songs where Lauren was accompanied by very little, and it was mesmerising. The rest of the band were amazing, with members jumping between instruments for each part of the set, playing seamless segues between songs and letting the music build, leap and soar.
In many ways it must be more daunting to play smaller venues than larger ones, with every last piece of the performance under the microscope, and a dependency for the audience and the performers to tune in and respond to each other. Awkwardly, the stage was placed at the entrance to the room which meant that anyone needing to go to the toilet, needing to come back from the toilet, arriving late or getting bar supplies had to shuffle past in between songs. After the first number, a latecomer tripped on the guitarist’s music stand, sending the sheets flying everywhere. The band coped admirably with the pauses and flying paper, keeping the audience engaged and sustaining the vibe.
I felt like a stranger when I entered, but fully part of the room by the time it wrapped up with a wonderful encore of Love Again. I’m really looking forward to seeing Snowpoet again sometime, and hearing more from them on record again soon.
Euston Square Museum of Art
London home of the Hoff?
Found on a lunchtime wander close to my office.
Barriers, forms and looking after your customers
I pay London Midland nearly £4,500 for my annual season ticket. On Monday morning after arriving in London, bleary-eyed and limping along from my weekend's cycling, I discovered that I had left my ticket in the wrong wallet. Due to Berkhamsted station not having any ticket barriers and my train rolling up to a platform at Euston that was also devoid of ticket readers I only realised my predicament when I descended to the tube for leg two of my commute. Tube journeys aren't that expensive if you use a contactless card so I just sighed at my dozyness, resigned myself to having to pay for a couple of tube trips, waved my credit card at the yellow reader and figured I'd deal with it when I got back to Euston.
On the way home I was in a rush to catch my train in order to get to a school governors' meeting. There is always an attendant at the barriers at Euston and I thought that just perhaps there would be a chance that I would be able to let him or her know what had happened and he would wave me through. I couldn't have been more wrong.
I have discovered that the process you have to go through is as follows:
- Get directed to the customer service window, usually staffed by only one person with a queue of people in front of it. On this occasion it meant that I missed my train.
- Explain your predicament to the customer service agent.
- Buy a ticket home (£14.40 off-peak from Euston to Berkhamsted!)
- Start your journey but remember not to put your ticket in any barrier at your destination as you need to hold onto it.
- At a later point, when you have your season ticket with you—probably in peak hours if this is when you usually travel—speak to another customer service agent and get a pink 1970s-style (actually revised in 1996!) carbon-copy form to fill out with your details. These details include your full credit card number and expiry date for all to see.
- Hand the form over along with the ticket to be refunded, your season ticket, your photocard and wait about ten minutes for the form to be added to and stamped.
- Be given the carbon copy of the form (see below) and be told that “they will call you if there are any questions, otherwise the money will be refunded in about ten days or so.”
At first it seemed bizarre to me that a company would treat its season-ticket buying customers like this, making them jump through hoops when there is a simple error. Then it dawned on me that there is probably no incentive to change—the process is such a pain that there is automatically a barrier to people pursuing refunds, resulting in more money for the company. They also have a monopoly—there is no other way of going from Berkhamsted to Euston on the train—and so it isn't that I can go to another train operator that makes a point of having better customer service than their peers.
To give the firm a little credit, they have made some things easier over recent times such as giving us the ability to log a 'Delay Repay' claim using their iPhone app. Perhaps this could be the next area to look at. I know that the company couldn't replace the outdated paper ticket system on their own, but having something on my phone that proves I am a gold-card holder would make life much easier.
The Art of the Brick
Although a lot of the artefacts in the exhibition were impressive, the notes about each exhibit came across as pretty cheesy and at £47 for all of us to get in it didn’t feel like great value for money. Still, we had fun and enjoyed a look around the market afterwards. Photos from the exhibition are below.
A windy day in London
Earlier in the day, looking out of my office window I had seen birds being completely batted away as they tried to fly into the gusts of wind. Newspaper was flying high up into the sky and the fence around the building site opposite my office had come down. One of my colleagues told me that he had nearly been hit by a flying hard-hat that had been blown off of a site workman (which would have been quite an ironic tale to tell for years to come, I think.)
The journey home was a bit of a mess – lots of tube lines were experiencing delays and it took me a while to feed myself into the crowd slowly flowing into Moorgate. I’d been warned by a text message from Mat that the Silverlink trains at Euston had scrapped their timetable and were just waiting for trains to fill up before sending them on their way so I knew what to expect. The staff at Euston seemed to be prepared and have everything under control – as I descended the ramp to the usual Silverlink platforms there were a bunch of British Transport Police and Silverlink staff keeping everybody back from the platforms and only letting people through when trains arrived. I misheard what they said and wandered through with a crowd heading for a Watford local service so waited at the barriers and took a short film of the goings-on:
I’m sure tomorrow’s newspapers will be filled with pictures of the aftermath of the storm but if you want to see more, somebody has just set up a Flickr group to collect photos.
Hopefully things will be back to normal tomorrow!
Fame at last!
Run, Fat Boy, Run
Not that exciting but worth a blog! The film doesn’t look that original but at this early stage I’m not sure I can judge. Would be cool to see the Exchange Square scene in the final cut, though.
The play itself was just okay as well. We had paid £28 each for tickets right on the roof of the theatre and could barely see the characters’ faces. The reviews were very good but I didn’t really feel that I got into it – it didn’t help that as time went by my bum started to feel as though it was leaving this world behind and the heat from everything below seemed to be collecting around us. Bits of the play were enjoyable – Kevin Spacey was very good when he was having an angry rant and Eve Best was excellent as the Irish farmer’s daughter – but the script seemed a bit too ‘theatre for thespians’ for my liking. At times I felt like shouting down to the characters when they were playing dumb and couldn’t see what was going on around them – I felt as though it was so obvious as absolutely nothing else had happened during the play apart from the central plot so why couldn’t they see it too?
Still, for all my grumbling it was great to go out for a lovely night of dinner and theatre with my wife – hopefully we’ll pick a better one next time!
Chloe Catling Cycle Challenge 2006
Jez, the event organiser, had a problem when his tyre burst on the first mile so we all scooted past him while his friends hunted around for a bike shop that was open early on a Saturday morning. The rest of the ride was pretty much problem free. Jez had roped in a number of friends and family to help with registration, signage, marshalling along the course etc and they all contributed loads to a making it a really enjoyable event. It was great to get out and about; I’m tempted to try some more charity rides this summer – watch this space.
Thanks so much to everyone who donated to or sponsored the ride – it’s all really appreciated. If anyone still wishes to contribute some sponsorship money you can do so at the justgiving.com page. Thanks!
See you on the ride next year?
We had a great time – two videos that I would recommend viewing are New Me by Jamie Lidell and Geisterschloss by Oliver Laric – both fantastic. In fact, Oliver Laric can be seen in the first video as well – he’s the guy bopping along dressed in white – as it was directed by his girlfriend, Aleksandra Domanovic. Finally, if you haven’t seen the Plan B video to No Good, you should definitely take a look – it’s like Sledgehammer revisited!
It was fab to do something different – London offers so many great cultural events and we don’t go to enough of them. We may well be back!
Cycle for Cystic Fibrosis
Cycle for Cystic Fibrosis
If you’re not doing anything on the 24 June why not join us for a ride? If you’re not a rider you can still donate using the justgiving.com page. Every penny helps!
Moving from Finchley to Berkhamsted
Seriously, how would this work? Sounds like a raffle to me – does that mean you completely avoid stamp duty since you’ve not actually bought the house even though you win it?
I think the idea behind the Critical Mass rides is a good one – reclaiming public places in a peaceful way by using the sheer number of people involved. It sounded great to me since I read about the movement in the book No Logo by Naiomi Klien. It made me think of the photography exhibition on El Salvador I saw at the International Center of Photography in New York – people from El Salvador had no concept of land ownership until the Spanish invaded, which I find totally fascinating. It’s an important statement and one which I hope continues.
Next time I think I’m going to say something. Fellow passengers, you have been warned. Can we please get ‘no farting’ added to the Underground Etiquette?
JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge cancelled…again!
Many, many thanks to all of you who sponsored me – the money has gone to a good cause and it’s really appreciated. Hopefully next year I’ll be able to earn the money properly!
Yesterday in London
I first heard something in the news about a power surge at Liverpool Street from one of the RSS feeds that I receive at work, a little after nine o’clock. I was interested in the story as I had just disembarked from a Metropolitan Line train and hadn’t noticed anything unusual – it turns out that I had got off the train 12 minutes before the bomb went off.