Friday, October 20, 2006

From A To Zeno

The problem is this: how does one ever get back to Islington from Battersea, if it first necessary to travel halfway there, and then halfway there again, and then halfway there again?

Perhaps a call to Wyndham will provide an answer to the question.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

New Beginnings At The End Of The Line

The Karl Katz of cross-town travel, I awake from a deep and prolonged slumber to find myself alone on the 19 bus, which is parked in the depot at the end of the line. A picture of serene languor, dribble cascades down my chin and I have an erection.

How long I have been comatose is unclear, but the driver evidently believes I have outstayed my welcome, because he is poking me with a rolled-up Evening Standard and instructing me to get off his fucking vehicle.

‘But we’re in Battersea,’ I say weakly. ‘Please take me back to Islington.’

‘Do I look like a cabbie?’

‘Is there a stereotype?’

Indifferent to the possibility of a dialogue on this most interesting of subjects, the driver growls and raises the newspaper above his head, as though it were a tomahawk. Not wishing to be dismembered by any journal to the right of The Independent, I show him my palms and take the cue to leave.

‘All right,’ I grumble, rising to my feet. ‘But I hope you realise that in making me get off down here, you’re throwing me to the wolves.’

‘Piss off.’

Being tired, confused and of north London descent, this is not the reaction I was hoping for. The first law of geographical snobbery dictates that forays south of the Thames should be approached with nothing less than extreme caution. The denizens of SW11 don’t take kindly to impostors, and tend to point at you and shriek like posh incarnations of the alien clones from Invasion of the Body Snatchers, if they sense you are from the other side of the river.

Yet given the threat of a messy tabloid castration, I’ll have to take my chances. It seems there's little choice but to continue my search for a raison d’etre in Battersea – among the abandoned power stations, Japanese pagodas and satellite shopping channels. To paraphrase Raymond Chandler: ‘Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither in public relations nor a Sloane.’

And so it is that I find myself back on the beat.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Round The Houses

Riding the 19 bus in search of a purpose is not as easy as one might imagine. As yet, there has been no great epiphany, just a raft of distractions. Here is a list of them.

1. The question of whether or not it’s legitimate to sleep in the same bed as your best female friend, even if they are married and you have a girlfriend.

2. The truism that the quality of one’s decision making is inversely proportional to the amount one has had to drink.

3. The realisation that the only thing that has passed my lips in the last 24 hours is alcohol.

4. Inexplicable guilt.

5. Ineffectual air-conditioning.

6. A ghastly stench, which may or may not be emanating from me.

7. The greasy patch of liquid which has gathered where my forehead was resting on the window.

8. A sudden craving for a sausage and onion baguette.

9. The random play facility on my iPod. Trying to guess what will follow this cool slice of Scandinavian electronica (that I didn’t even know I had) is very exciting.

10. Oh no! It’s Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes. Who downloaded that?

11. The sight of Patrick Swayze’s squashed face on a poster for Guys and Dolls, which prompts me to spontaneously mumble the words ‘I am crushing your head’ in a silly Mexican accent.

12. A dead-ringer for the Nazi villain in Raiders of the Lost Ark, who is now staring at me as though I am a lunatic.

13. The near-certainty that I have unwittingly encountered a murderer on public transport at some stage in my life.

14. A gut-wrenching pang of fear.

15. The conclusion that it is easier and less uncomfortable to make eye-contact with strangers who are not on the bus than with strangers who are on it.

16. An exchange of glances with a tall man on the pavement, who is getting into a chauffeur driven car and bears a startling resemblance to Kevin Spacey.

17. Good god, it is Kevin Spacey.

18. The possibility that Pete Postlethwaite, not Kevin Spacey, is Keyser Soze.

19. The thought that I would find my raison d'etre more speedily if I had a chauffeur, and didn't have to use public transport.

Gosh. 19 distractions on a 19 bus. What a coincidence.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Mission: Imponderable

There comes a juncture in any flaneur’s life when he or she is consumed by a crippling sense of aimlessness. They reach a crossroads (normally a mouth-watering moment for the peripatetic soul) and think – drum roll, please, Ringo – getting busses and haircuts hardly makes one an ‘analytical connoisseur of the urban fabric’.

For me, this juncture has arrived sooner than expected. In a flash of Damascene clarity outside the barbers, it occurs that never-ending metropolitan peregrinations are all well and good, but require some kind of direction. They need a purpose . . . a goal . . . a raison d'être.

But what could that raison d'être be?

Well, it obviously has to be pretentious; finding the best Pivo in town simply won’t cut the mustard. Instinct tells me metaphysics should feature strongly, alongside lashings of cod-philosophy. There must also be opportunities for self-discovery, stumbled across in litter-strewn alleyways and abandoned warehouses. Clues that help me complete the mission should be found on creaky metal fire escapes or deserted tube trains. I imagine the whole enterprise will be shrouded in a creeping air of menace.

All of which leaves me absolutely nowhere.

Exasperated, I run a hand through my recently-trimmed hair and jump on a passing bus, where I shall ponder the next move.

Friday, June 30, 2006

The Rape of the Locks

I feel like a new man. But as David Icke and Michael Jackson will testify, new men are not necessarily improved.

As you’ll probably have gathered, I made it to the hairdressers eventually, via a queue that extended to the wonderful (if skin-pockingly, I-need-a-cold-beer-NOW-Goran-NOW-if-I’m-not-to-shrivel-up-and-die, hot) Croatia.*

So, was it worth the wait?

Well, the good news is that the walnut whip has gone. The bad news is that it’s been replaced by the tonsorial equivalent of the green plastic grass you see in a butcher’s window.

Except, of course, it’s not green.

It’s ginger.

I mean strawberry blond.


* In Croatian, beer translates as ‘pivo’. I have decided this is the best foreign word for beer I have ever heard - a word that quite literally needs to be spread. I will thus attempt to single-handedly incorporate pivo into the lexicon of British slang, by sharing it with every old soak I know. Bierre? Zut alors! Use your imagination, mes amis.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

... Gone Tomorrow

Turns out that the queue for the barbershop has an estimated wait-time of two weeks, and stretches all the way to Croatia.

Ah well, needs must. Might as well have a holiday while I'm there.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Hair Today ...

On averting my gaze from the first floor window of Ali's Kebabs (no naked cockneys, just a Dalmation puppy, blindfolded and roped to a chair), I make eye-contact with a beautiful woman.

This woman is what Charles Bukowski would call one of nature's wild tricks. To elucidate, in his words: 'Everything is perfect undulating motion, quicksilver, snake-like, you see an ankle, you see an elbow, you see a breast, you see a knee, it all melds into a giant, taunting totality, with such beautiful eyes smiling, the mouth turned down a bit, the lips held there as if they were about to burst into laughter over your helplessness.'

And sure enough - swapping stares with her, here on the 73 - I am helpless, and she is on the verge of laughter (in the best possible way).

Embarrassed, if not a little aroused, I turn away, and catch a glimpse of my reflection in the window.

My barnet looks like a walnut whip.

I need to get off this fucking bus, and into the hairdressers.