Category Archives: London

Heathrow = Electoral Suicide (Hopefully!)

Well it’s been a busy couple of days in Westminster, we’ve had the frankly ludicrous assertion from Lady Vadera that we’re already seeing the green shoots of recovery from recession – announced ironically on, yet another, day of massive job cuts and announcements of long established firms falling into receivership, we’ve had the Ball’s up say that the ‘excuses culture’ won’t be tolerated anymore, presumably meaning that Schools and Academies will now follow the nulabour model of not apologising at all and then blaming the yanks, and we’ve had the contemptible attempts to hide expenses from the public by MPs with the week ending on the lunatic idea of creating a super–bad–bank from deep in the Brown bunker, presumably part of his plan to leave scorched earth when the voters kick him out.

And of course we’ve also the Heathrow decision, which has seen everything from Emma Thompson and Alistair McGowen threatening to go all swampy on us, to Labour MP John McDonnell running off with the parliamentary mace in protest at the lack of a vote in the house.

Heathrow is a funny one, I can see the economic arguments for better connectivity with the rest of the world – but, expanding Heathrow, as far as I see it at least, is entirely the wrong way of doing it. If we had joined up thinking we’d be looking at London’s airports as one large entity, joining up Stanstead, Luton, Heathrow and Gatwick with high speed transit which would allow them to operate as a proper hub, removing the need to expand Heathrow when Stanstead is the most obvious airport to expand in the coming 15 years.

But even before we think of expansion, the most clear way of clearing landing space at Heathrow would be to cut internal flights, it is outrageous that over 80 flights a day go between Birmingham and London, these journeys should be made on our railways, infrastructure that’s desperately needed money ploughed into it for years; and as for flights to and from Paris… for crying out loud we built the longest under–sea tunnel in the world to link us to Paris – people should be using Eurostar, it’s quicker (taking into account stacking and check-in/out times) than flying and it’s considerably more friendly to the world; just doing that would free up a tonne of landing slots, something the government could do quickly and effectively, but of course won’t do – because it’s fixated with air travel in an entirely unhealthy way.

What’s most concerning to me is the complete lack of attention given to the environment and public health which would seem to have been entirely ignored in the Government’s consideration of the Heathrow expansion; an expansion is going to almost double the number of flights stacked over the capital every year, it’s estimated that living under the flight path already shaves 6 years off the average life, what will a doubling in flights do? And while we’re on that doubling of flights when are Londoner’s going to sleep – I know they’ve conceded that ‘mixed’ operation (i.e 24 hour landings) won’t happen, but how long will that promise be kept, if at all? In the centre of town the stack releases a stream of traffic over Kensington & Chelsea at about 5 in the morning, and it does affect people’s sleep patterns, having also lived in Hanwell many years ago, the rumble was even more noticeable, god only knows what it must be like in Hounslow.

They’ve scored a massive own goal here if they think this is going to be a popular scheme, it’s the easiest option for them – it didn’t require joined up thinking, and it provides Brown with 60,000 jobs he can claim to have created out of thin air. I urge you to do whatever you can to protest against the expansion, not just in it’s physical form, but also at the contempt that the Government have shown for our democratic process, the London assembly seems united against it, most Londoner’s I know are cautious to completely opposed, and in an age where air travel is going to have to be thought long and hard about as we attempt to tackle climate change it is quite simply unbelievable that Labour have pushed this through with two fingers up to anyone that disagrees.

I do hope this battle is a long and sticky one, even more I hope it’s a final shot of poison to the Government that finishes their long-running electoral suicide.

I’ll have a water butt please!

Having been fortunate enough to have spent a good deal of my formative years in continental Europe, there are some things about dining out in Europe that you come to take for granted. One is that the table will be brought ice cold fresh water in a bottomless jug as standard. Next, bread will be brought to the table and will most likely be topped up as courses arrive and depart, and third that a tip is recognised in most Restaurants not as an extra charge, but as a reward for a decent service throughout the evening.

So it’s not surprising that dining out in the UK irks me so, because I’ve yet to find a venue that can get all three of these key areas right every time. Bread doesn’t bother me as much because, frankly in the UK, bread is a lost cause – at the cheaper end of the market the bread won’t be worth eating and once you’ve passed the £40 a head mark you normally only have to ask if it’s not already provided.

Tipping and Water however are two totally different animals, and they are the things that are almost guaranteed to irritate me when eating out in the UK, and of those, water is always the first thing to raises my hackles in a restaurant. Now I’m a businessman, I’ve run enough businesses to understand the mark up and the important of linked sales, so I understand that it’s important to get people into the booze as quickly as possible, but for crying out loud, at least start with a jug of ice water on the table!

In London I’m more than happy to just drink Thames water, chilled with a few cubes of ice chucked in, and maybe if I’m lucky a lime – I don’t want to buy a bottle of water because frankly the green part of me balks at the idea of paying for water that’s been hauled around by truck, bottled water often tastes insipid, and the expensive and pointless packaging leaves me agog, especially when we have some of the best tasting tap water available in Europe straight from the tap here in the capital.

So I’m always the first of the group to ask for a jug or pitcher of ice water, unfortunately I’m often left frothing at the mouth in rage when having asked for a jug of water all that’s delivered (usually late) is a single tiny glass. Now this has become a bit of a joke between my friends and I, but it really does wind me up; and in one particularly group of restaurants I’ve started to make exaggerated ‘Andrew Marr’ like arm gestures to denote just-how-big-a-jug I’d actually like delivered to my table, to the extent that if they delivered to my specifications I’d be drinking from a water butt. Of course this is all to no avail as four out of the five times I’ll still be left with my tiny glass (that they ‘forget’ to refill), and even then I’m lucky if that’s delivered much before the first course is finished. It seems that restaurants in the UK fail to understand that a good proportion of diners would be more amenable (and in my case almost guaranteed) to buying a bottle, or indeed several bottles, of wine if the establishment delivers a jug of water without fuss or bother of having to ask for it – maybe if this message were tattooed somewhere on my forehead I might have more luck?

As if they want to add insult to injury having not delivered water or bread to the table without some huge fuss being made of it with shrugged shoulders and looks of amazement that anyone should want to drink water that’s not fresh from a bottle, most establishments nowadays will automatically expect a tip, however dreadful the service may have been, and I dislike this approach for a multitude of reasons: first and foremost because of the lack of information about ‘service charges’ – I simply don’t believe that service charges and tips go together, especially not when the restaurants are so cagey about explaining where the money goes, I take particular umbrage with the idea of paying the restaurant for the privilege of eating in it when the service charge doesn’t go to the waiting staff directly, not to mention service charges being applied even when the service has been appalling all night; but that’s just a mere irritation compared to what really rocks my boat when it comes to tipping: the one thing that is guaranteed to set me off like a veritable Catherine wheel in the middle of a restaurant is tip expectation, and I don’t mean the smiley face on the bottom of the bill even after the service & food have been utterly lousy, no…

The thing that will set me off explosively is the bare-faced cheek of some London waiting staff who, on bringing you the card machine, place your card carefully in the bottom of the device and punch up the total into the handset before pressing the ‘gratuity – yes’ button just as they pass it to you to enter your pin. The sheer cheek of it is beyond reproach, and it’ll always end in the manager being dragged kicking and screaming from the darkness to my table to explain, apologise and refund the entire drinks bill, and that’s nothing in the scary restaurant patron stakes compared to my other half who I half suspect enjoys clipping his tones as he re-educates a manager in the intricacies of basic restaurant management.

So come on UK restauranteurs! It’s not rocket science. Stop being so tight, start treating your customers with the respect they deserve, give them the complimentary items, serve them efficiently and bill them fairly and believe it or not they’ll not only spend more, but they’ll most likely return more, recommend you more and tip more.

Deep, deep joy.

Tube Fucked.4 days of sunshine, and oh, what’s that… a tube strike, oh yes: Bob and his cronies are on the war path again! They’re bringing this city to it’s knees holding our tube system to ransom for their jobs; well excuse me Mr Crowe, but your members now work for a private company, that company’s fucked, mainly because of massive inefficiencies, caused; if general consensus is to be believed by ‘your members’ just not working hard enough, you got the guarantee you asked for, but you still went on strike – why on earth should anyone believe you in future? You keep on apologising to Londoners, but that’s not really good enough is it? Maybe, shock horror you could communicate with the companies in question rather than simply resorting to strikes left, right and centre you militant communist fuckwit.

Free Paper Hell.

That’s it. I’ve had it – right up to, well… here. I. Don’t. Want. Your. F’ing, Newspaper! I really do not understand why you can’t walk 5 feet in London without being assaulted by some utter scumbag shoving a paper in your chest, while at the same time making you deviate enough to end up off the kerb, into the gutter, or worse into the path of a rabid city woman with her bingo wings swinging in the breeze.

Fuck off. Both your papers are rubbish, little more than re-hashes of the morning’s Metro with a sprinking of extra pointless D-list gossip stolen from Heat interspersing the already sparse content. If I want a paper, I’ll buy one, but please just keep the fuck out of my way with your pointless, environmentally unfriendly litter rag, or god help me one day I’ll shove your paper where the sun doesn’t shine.

London Needs You!

London needs you!

Tell Everyone, London’s Future Depends on Boris!

Early Start

I woke at, by any reasonable measure, a ridiculously early hour this Sunday; I’m not sure whether it was work still playing on my mind, or just the heavy dinner from the night before, whichever it may have been it was accompanied by the all too familiar ache in my side crying out for pain killers.

Leaving Dave slumbering I fumbled around the bedroom, eventually pulling on my favourite rugby top, a pair of moth-eaten old jeans and the softest socks I could find, before making my way to the bathroom, downing a few pain killers then padding through the house opening the blinds taking in the rainy morning before making my way to the kitchen going through the familiar motions of making a strong morning cup from tea that we seem to buy in excess from Whittards on Kensington High Street every couple of weekends.

Supping my tea at the open French windows there’s that wonderful soul cleansing freshness in the air, the sort that only a rainy morning can bring, and as the rain is coming down in slow and steady sheets the one thing that’s evident more than anything else is just how cold it is – it’s unusually cold for May, all the more so considering the heat we’d enjoyed throughout April.

I can hear the distant rumble of the westway above the pitter-patter of the rain, but other than that it’s quiet, the wood pigeons are cooing in the direction of Holland Park, and it’s still that glorious time of day that’s just before London’s gets going, and being a Sunday there’s no chance of the peace being shattered by Porsche Cayenne’s thundering up and down Campden Hill Road filled with Notting Hill über-mummies delivering their numerous offspring to any number of the hideously expensive private schools that scatter the whole area.

I’m wondering what to do, this is the earliest I’ve been up on a Sunday for as far back as I care to remember, so having finished my tea I decide it’s too cold and wet to warrant braving the weather for a Sunday paper, so instead I bunk down for an hour with a book and leaving Radio 4 on, ignoring the less than soothing tones of Sunday Worship. Quite why they still have that programme on is beyond me, in our secular society you’d think we’d be above wasting tax payers pennies on religious programming, but Radio 4, like the seasons carries on regardless.

It’ll be interesting to see where we end up in the coming months, I’ll miss this view across the roof tops of Kensington and Notting Hill, but with the building having been granted planning permission for ‘re-conversion’ into two massive quad-plex apartments the death knell is tolling on this particular building, hopefully the next house we get will be nicer thanks to a larger budget, and won’t have the usual rush of one lease to another, which almost always influences what you actually end up buying – more so than I suspect most people would like to admit.

Oxford Street vs Notting Hill Gate

Compare and Contrast:

Eco HaloOxford Street 'eco halo'

It looks like someone’s basically ripped an idea for street art right from one London Street and moved it to another (the same street practically) but 2 miles further east. Smacks of a wee bit of laziness to me, even if it’s only in the due diligence – but that doesn’t desperately surprise me considering how long it’s taken all the parties involved in ‘rejuvenating’ the west end to actually get moving…

Fuckwit Builders

We have the idiot workmen from hell digging up the road outside our house, bearing in mind how parking is at such a premium they’ve decided to ‘help’ residents by forgetting to get a proper parking suspension and have proceeded to dig massive holes in the road effectively beaching cars in little islands of tarmac.

You think I’m kidding, then behold…

Idiot Builders

Marooned Car

Apparently this is only the beginning, and it’s going to get worse, with them performing open heart surgery on the gas main along the whole street for the next 3 weeks, I’m dreading it frankly as they’re noisy, the mess is appalling and it’s going to be a nightmare to get deliveries to the house… and the irony of this, is that even to use the road we now have to pay eight quid a day for the privilege

Snow in Campden Hill

The view from my balcony’s french doors..

The view from my Bedroom.

Mizzling.

I woke with a start this morning, partly due to the realisation that I was in fact already dreadfully late and partly due to our new found alarm clock that is St.George’s Church, just behind my house on the corner of Campden Hill Gardens which dutifully rings it’s bells in what seems to be no particular order at eight in the morning, midday and sometime around six.

From the moment I opened the blinds it was clear that the weather was going to be against  me all day, and as I walked out onto the balcony clutching my early morning dose of caffine it was became rapidly clear that it wasn’t just sheets of cloud flying across the sky above Trelick Tower on the horizon, but a fine drizzle was also starting to fall, the sort that can only be described as miserable drizzle; that stuff that soaks everything it comes into contact within mere seconds, which effectively  leaves you looking like a drowned rat for the whole day no matter what you try to do to dry off.

The only good thing weather wise was the cool stiff breeze, which was blowing the leaves around Campden Hill road in great swirling vortices, showing the first real sign of autumn taking hold that we’ve seen this year, as I strode out the flat I was a man on a mission, 30 odd photos needed sourcing, setting up, taking and finally processing – not the easiest of tasks when some of the things you’re taking photos of are entirely shrouded in cloud, and by the time I’d walked the familiar 400 yards from house to tube station I was utterly soaked; they say that the man with the weather has a sense of humour, if he does – it’s an evil one.