rashbre central: April 2007

Sunday 29 April 2007

sofa and yet sofar

My new sofa arrived!

I had ordered it quite a few weeks ago and the order had buzzed its way to the Italy, where craftsmen would toil long hours to hand construct this seat of wonder. Then, further communications before it would be gently placed into the back of a large container and driven, by road, all the way from Italy, across mainland Europe, to one of the ferries from whence it could make the last part of its journey to the United Kingdom.

It would go to a depot first, where it would wait until the friendly showroom person could call me to let me know it was ready, and to arrange a delivery, thoughtfully, on a Saturday. And not only that, it had arrived at least two weeks quicker than expected.

So Saturday, the delivery truck arrived, and two uniformed delivery people brought the packaged item to the room, still swathed in cardboard, bubble pack and lots of plastic wrappering. They slit carefully through the packaging..."I hope the testo di moro brown looks as good here as it did in the showroom", I was thinking.

DSC_1258It was yellow! Bright yellow!

There had been a big mistake. The professional delivery folk looked on the outside of the wrapper. Was it the right name? Was it the right order? Yes it was! I had been sent a yellow sofa instead of a brown one. Hand built. To order. From Italy. Taking twelve, no, ten weeks!

My other sofa was already outside of the house. Time for the telephone and a long expanation to the store.

This morning, I'm sitting on the temporary bright yellow sofa, whilst redesigning the room and waiting for another hand built sofa to start the order process in Italy.

Yup, you guessed it...

Saturday 28 April 2007


Westminster from Vauxhall Bridge
I had my Member of Parliament around this morning. He was in a casual blue shirt that looked as if he added a tie it could soon be made suity again.

And why was this?

Elections of course.

On Thursday we have the local elections and I think he was trying to encourage me to vote for his party. I explained that I would be visiting the polling station. He looked a little crestfallen that I didn't tell him who I would vote for.

Friday 27 April 2007

nuts from a hippy in camper van

camper vansI thought I'd feature the improbable prize won from the recent photo competition.

Actually we did win more than one book, but the others are similarly cutting edge. I've chosen to feature the one about camper vans, which comprises a celebration of the various forms of home on wheels from a tiny Fiat albago to the Winnebagos of North America.

And thank you the Fratellis.

nutty camper van

Thursday 26 April 2007

Thursday Thirteen (V43)

sun in splendour
Its ages since I did a Thursday Thirteen, so I'll have a go tonight, Actually, its nearly Friday although I've only just got back home. I shall have to think of something simple this evening.

I know; a few things about my week.

1) I started slightly late this morning. I'd been out late yesterday evening and awarded myself an extra half hour snooze.
2) The previous evening I'd also been out late, spending part of the evening in a debate about Afganistan.
3) Because of my prior commitment, I couldn't attend the Shoot Portobello private viewing in Notting Hill where one of my pictures had won a prize.
4) Luckily, Team Rashbre were represented, however, and we claimed our prizes which included an intriguing coffee table book about camper vans. I saw it late in the evening, when I stopped off for a cup of expresso.
5) I've spent a long time in traffic jams on the M3 this week too. There seem to have been some unfortunate circumstances which have created very long delays.
6) That means I've heard more of the news commentary than I normally do. I heard about the further extension of the "no cover up" Princess Diana inquest, which has now been in process for around ten years and is on its third judge. It still all seems rather clandestine when even figures at the very top of the British Establishment can't get facts established after such a long period.
7) And the related news that Prince Hal is probably off to Iraq now. Let's put the heir to the throne in harm's way, where there are already at least a couple of groups considering him a high profile target.
beanz meanz hughz8) But the other high profile target today seems to be the photographer that the highly press harrassed Hugh Grant allegedly threw a tin of baked beans at...Beanz Meanz Hughz? If true, I wonder if he will be asked to do fashionable community service like Naomi?
9) Tomorrow, I suspect I will work from home. I have been on the road a fair amount recently, and it will be good it I can have a travel free day.
10) Luckily I bought some milk this evening, so I could probably stay in doors all day withour being distracted by the need to shop for groceries.
11) Unfortunately, I chose to buy the milk in a nearby supermarket gas station, but because it was after nine o clock, they would not let me into the shop part. I therefore had to visit the main store, and then to queue for ages to buy the milk.
12) I noticed a regional newspaper in the store refered to upcoming local elections with an online voting option. When I got home, the television news was explaining that they have inadvertantly given a Conservative candidate a Labour logo and in another place allocated the Conservation Party instead of the Conservatives. Almost as much fun as the Florida chads.
13) Well I seem to have reached 13, even if they are somewhat random this evening. Next stop, the kettle for a cup of tea.

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Wednesday 25 April 2007

Gliese 581 C

gliese 581For some reason I remember that light travels about one foot (30cm) in a nanosecond. So people building integrated circuits eventually have to start taking account of physical path lengths when they build fast circuits. I can remember when the speed of light seemed pretty fast (approximately 186,000 miles per hour to we Brits or precisely 299,792,458 metres per second to we Europeans). So how come it seems slow now?

Because now we've found a planet like earth only bigger and it would be interesting to pay it a visit. The thing is, its 20.5 light years away. So at that high speed it would still take 20.5 years to reach this nearest source of quasi human life. Maybe thats a voyage worth experiencing at the speed of light, but thats around 5,873,012,352,000 miles away, or in jumbo jet terms it would take 195,767,078,400 years to fly there to check it out. In a fast space ship travelling at the speed of the space shuttle in orbit, it would take 334,073,513 years to get there. So we need to drive past Einstein's limits to some sort of hyper warp if we wish to say 'hi' to our neighbours.

I think its great to know that this new world supports life like us. Because its bigger, it will have a stronger gravity and than means that the human-like forms are shorter and squatter than us. There's also a race of fish like creatures which are quite squishy and they work well in the oceanic parts of the environment, with additional capabilities to move around on land. Thats a kind of walking octopus. The equivalent of cows and so forth are quite thick skinned more like rhinos and armadillos as a consequence of the density and closeness of their nuclear flaring sun.

The planet has water and dusty bits like us too, and there are still large uninhabited areas because of the harsh wind and weather conditions in parts. Its parent star is Gliese 581 and this planet C is in what is referred to as the Goldilocks zone. Just like the proverbial porridge, its not too hot and not too cold, but just right for the surface water to exist as a liquid. The planet has lakes, rivers, seas and even tides created from the even smaller and so far undiscovered moons which orbit the planet.

The lifeform there is more intelligent than we are and this is partly a function of being there much longer than we have been on earth. They have more advanced technologies and still use the type of communications we have, but can use wave frequencies that we can see as part of their communication spectrum. Thats why it has been difficult communicating with Earth, because we keep thinking the communication are sun spots and flares. And they are only just getting 20 year old repeat editions of the Lucy Show and trying to make sense of our humour.

Tuesday 24 April 2007


snookerThere's an old urban myth about policemen booking cars for speeding in a particular sequence like in snooker. A red car between every other coloured car and then in a particular sequence finishing with black.

So yesterday when I was in central London I smiled when I saw four unmarked police cars in different colours blue lights a'flashing speeding in procession through the traffic near to the City of London. They were all in different colours, but I don't think there were any reds.

Monday 23 April 2007

half a sovereign, or the dragon gets it

half sovereignHappy Saint George's Day, today. The dragon-slaying patron saint of the English doesn't get any where near as much press or attention as Saint Patrick, but still has an official and largely uncelebrated day.

At least Saint George is on the reverse of a coin of the realm, that well known 'half sovereign', which has fallen in to complete disuse. The official value was ten shillings (fifty pence), but as the coin is made of 22 carat gold, I suspect its probably got a street value closer to $100.

Sunday 22 April 2007

London Marathon 2007

This morning I travelled to Canary Wharf to watch the London Marathon, which is a spectacular event crossing London with a 26.2 mile race. I’d looked at the varied maps of the race to try to find somewhere that I could get a good view, with some atmosphere and some recognizable symbols of London. I’d also worked out that there would be other parts of the runners’ route that would be much busier, such as the Embankment, the Mall and the area around Tower Bridge and where the Cutty Sark is supposed to be moored. With the major traffic restrictions in London because of the road closures for the race, it also needed to be somewhere that I could reach fairly easily by public transport and walking.

Consequently, I took a tube train to Canary Wharf, listening on the way that the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) has some kind of train failure and was not running. No surprises there. As luck would have it, there were people around, but not too many. It was pretty easy to walk around and pick a vantage point. I initially selected one on a corner, but then I noticed the lack of sunlight because of the tall building shadows, so instead I found another location by one of the water pickups, around Mile 19.
Cup of coffee in hand, the area I’d selected also had a convenient wall (a) for sitting on and (b) to get a better vantage point later, if I needed it. Choosing a point at two thirds of the way around also had the advantage that by this point the runners had separated out sufficiently. It gave several distinct races- the wheelchair race, the elite womens’ race, the elite mens’ race and the mass race. Altogether around 35,000 people enter this marathon, ranging from the super fit, to people who dress up as bakewell tarts.
And what a fantastic atmosphere. The races, the participants, many running for charity, the supporters – who cheer everyone. Watch it on television by all means, but if you are from London it is one to also experience, whether from the run itself or from the sidelines.

I took quite a few snapshots, mainly from Docklands, but also a few from around Buckingham Palace near to the finish line. I’ve put a bunch of them onto flickr or you can watch the slide show
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Saturday 21 April 2007


DSC_1115Sometimes when I'm out and about with other people who know about my blog they will comment about what they see as a 'bloggable moment'. The last week has been a case in point and I've noticed that I've been somewhat busy working and that quite a few of the moments that I'd have considered worth an entry have been skipped over.

Let's see: I could have commented about the trip through the New Forest to catch the ferry to the Isle of Wight. Maybe a snapshot or two of the harbour or the crossing of the busy waters of the Solent. I could have reflected about the Isle of Wight Pop Festival exhibition or even on the life-sized statue of Jimi Hendrix in a garden, along with his lyrics, including the original version of Purple Haze.

Ellen Terry - orig Margaret CameronThen there was the Photography Exhibition of the evocative works of Julia Margaret Cameron. The dramatic picture of Hershel the Astronomer, the sleek picture of Ellen Terry and the portraits of Alice Liddell, who became the inspiration for the Alice in Wonderland books of Lewis Carroll.
John Hershel - orig Margaret Cameron
But of course the real reason for being on the sun drenched Island was the Jazz festival, so we met others and then wandered between venues. I had an excursion to The Crab in Shanklin one evening to bring back more of our number, who'd travelled down by train from London, used the catamaran from Ryde and then the ex London tube trains to reach the nearby quaint Shanklin.
Of course, there were the bands, between the free jazz of Sax Appeal, the world groove party sounds of Konkoma Maximum Love Garden Orchestra, the sultry evening clubbiness of Laura Zakian, the modern improvisations of the Dave O'Higgins and Simon Purcell Quartet and then the ultra modern musos Porpoise Corpus at the Spyglass Inn. And thats just a few of the 120 acts playing in Ventnor during the weekend. With the competition of the fine weather and the seaside as well.

Added to that we met friends who live on the island and enjoyed a great Sunday lunch together in a tranquil venue in Totland. I had to catch an early ferry back to the mainland because my week had to start with the four o clock alarm call to catch the plane to Amsterdam. Like spies, I was meeting someone outside the airport by the big plasma screen television and he came in on another plane about ten minutes after me. Then we drove to the meeting spot for some busy sessions.

Later in the week, we returned to Heathrow, to a waiting car to bundle us to a hotel in London for other meetings. A reminder that I was supposed to host an early supper somewhere that evening and a last minute reschedule to take advantage of a nice spot on the River Thames.

The next evening I'd semi forgotton that I'd agreed to go out for a drink in the evening, although this became a friendly evening to catch up on news. So now we're back to Thursday and I feel I've completed a few gaps in the week -even if I've somehow omitted sitting on the floor eating Sushi in a Yurt one evening when the soy sauce made a bit of a mess.

Friday 20 April 2007

nikki sarko

sarkoThere's plenty of causerie de note about the elections this weekend in France. There's been an asssertion that as Tony Blair gets ready to leave the British premiership, a gallic equivalent arrives in the form of Nicolas Sarkozy.

The thought of anything 'Anglo-Saxon' amongst the Parisiennes may not be quite the done thing, but the other amusing discussion has been around London as the seventh French city (after Paris, Marseilles, Lyon, Toulouse, Nice, Nantes, and before Strasbourg, I presume).

I suppose the fast train links make it quicker to get from Paris to London than to Cannes, say. And the French investment bankers certainly inhabit the City of London in large numbers. But I suspect there is some French humour in the statements about the seventh city. Actually the population of London is probably larger than the rolled-up population of the top seven French cities.

So with the upcoming election, the main coverage from Britain seems to be going to Sarkozy. Front page pictures, and much discussion of his approach. The problem is that France has been broken for a long time. Low working hours (35 per week), many jobs are state related, theres high unemployment, with maybe 20% of the youth unemployed. There's a high level of state debt and a low growth rate. Generally in need of attention, and if France sneezes, much of Europe risks catching a cold.

So who else to choose between? Ségolène Royal may dish more of the Chirac same, centrist François Bayrou is reputed to favour a Germanic approach, which is probably not a strong election tactic in France. Le Pen is still hanging in there as a National Front candidate. So Sarko, Sego, Bayrou and le Pen, and I'm guessing thats the order they will finish.

And Sarkozy could win as a consequence of additive support from party followers and those anxious for reforms to put France back on the rails. And not just those leading to London.

Thursday 19 April 2007


I was confused on tonight's television news and apparently the Daily Mail which have run a story about the removal of a banksy picture from Shoreditch.

The thing is, the picture disappeared ages ago and was replaced by some crude writing and then by someone else's attempt to recreate the original picture, albeit with the bananas as a costume worn by the two characters.

Bananas, or what?

Wednesday 18 April 2007


schiphol restaurant
After a busy day, the three of us sat together in the bar at the hotel chatting before an early supper. I had been up since around 04:00 and was somewhat tired, but my colleague from Cape Cod hadn't slept in a bed since the previous day because of the flight from Boston to Holland.

We asked the waiter about visiting the nearby restaurant and he said he'd check whether there were any tables. We all smiled because the end of the restaurant nearest to us looked pretty deserted. How wrong we were as we were escorted inside. The middle of the restaurant had a starry dome and the majority of the tables were packed with people engrossed in earnest conversations.
schiphol atrium
We then enjoyed a buffet supper as the hours slipped away. It was around 23:30 by the time we finished, and we drifted back to the elevators and our rooms. Mine faced the Atrium where even the bluish light simulation of dawn was unable to keep me awake.

Tuesday 17 April 2007

never hold a gun?

I've never held a real gun. Toy guns - yes. Even paint-ball guns. A real gun, never.

In England, unless I joined a military related group, a gun club or was a person of the land, it would be quite difficult to gain access to a gun. I'd still have to be background checked, could have medical records sought, would need two people to vouch for me and would need a certificate/licence. The gun would need to be locked away and the ammunition would need to be in a separate location.

The USA appear to let anyone over 18 years old buy a gun, after some rudimentary background checks. If the person wants to buy from a private collector, even the background checks are bypassed. When I'm in the USA, I noticed Wal-Mart has a whole counter similar in size to a mobile phone counter, dedicated to the sale of guns and ammunition. Actually, without a credit record, some mobile phone subscriptions may be harder to purchase than a cash sale for a gun.

In some States there seems to be a limit imposed on this. You can't buy more than one gun a month, so building a collection would take a little while. For the more adventurous, some States permit the purchase of semi automatic weapons and even of AK-47s and Uzi Sub-machine guns. The American Constitution says people are allowed to "keep and bear arms." The National Rifle Association in the USA doesn't talk for long on its home page without using words like "patriot" as a way to reassure that this is all okay.

Maybe the Second Amendment was right about citizens needing to have the right to protect themselves (including from an unjust Government), though interpreting this - comma by comma - as everyman can keep and bear arms seems to deliberately cloud the point. I'll stay unarmed.

Monday 16 April 2007


The sea was still quite cold, although the weather was doing its best to simulate midsummer during the weekend's Jazz festival. We took an early ferry on Friday to the island and then mixed sightseeing with hitting the festival. Part of the fun was having tickets which allowed us to visit any of the venues and that meant we could take a meandering course and spread our attentions between the seaside, bars, restaurants and the jazz venues themselves.

Sunday 15 April 2007


Sublime, sunny and musical weekend but now to the Netherlands.

Saturday 14 April 2007

Friday 13 April 2007

ashes to ashes?

life on mars
I just watched the last episode of Life on Mars, which is the entertaining series about a policeman who gets bumped back from the 21st century into 1973. The speculation is whether its a result of a traffic accident which has thrown him into a coma and will he recover?

The real life he sees in 1973 is a politically incorrect cop force in Manchester running villains to ground with all the swagger of the old Sweeney series, right down to the use of beige and brown coloured Ford Cortinas. Amongst the street scenes are a few incongruities like closed circuit television, the occasional satellite dish, an overabundance of airconditioners, modern number plates and so forth but that actually adds to the parallel worlds aspects of the series.

There's a clever link to the WIzard of Oz concussion too, with hero Sam being refered to as Dorothy by one of the other characters and then a whole sequence of Over the Rainbow being played in the last episode. What could this mean?

The last episode featured a colliery payroll train robbery and a plot about whether the central character would be able to be brought back to the 21st Century. Suffice to say the coma-based life in the 1970s seemed more real to our hero and there are effectively two endings to the series which have been spliced together. Take your pick, but be careful or the Test Card girl will switch off your television.

I enjoyed the mind games of the series and will wait with interest to see how they flash it forward to the 1980s and maybe send someone else backwards to converge with this set of characters as they roll forward through time - assuming they make the series named after a different David Bowie track.

Of course there is life on Mars.

Thursday 12 April 2007


Fritz Lang would be proud of us
Meetings in the Isle of Dogs today, in Canary Wharf, which is a part of London which has risen out of the old docklands area over the last few years. This once thriving Port of London cargo based dock area sank into uncompetitive urban decline into the 1980s then becoming a designated enterprise zone for redevelopment.
Towards the Isle of Dogs
Nowadays, the area has a strong skyline of modern buildings and in a fairly compressed area has some the squeaky cleanest streets in London. Everything still has the sheen of the recently created and at this time of the year, the trees renewing their leaves only underline that feeling. There's something like 75,000 working in the area now and many high end shops and services at ground level and in the underground linking areas.
From Fisherman's Walk
Global bank logos dominate the skyline. The area bustles the whole time; theres the folk in the offices, but also many of the cafes, shops and pubs filled with a well-heeled business clientele.

Wednesday 11 April 2007

a cleaner post

my beautiful laundrette
The pictures are up on shoot experience from the recent Portobello photo quiz. I found it interesting to see how 65 or so teams interpreted the same clues and how they then generated their photo moments, veering from the straightforward factual to some rather more bizarre and strange angled shots. Theres a couple of hundred shots across at shoot experience, so enjoy.

Tuesday 10 April 2007

pulp power tool fiction bunnies

angleA choice of viewings today; somewhat R-rated and based upon an improbable google search that hit my site. I also noticed that clarissa passed this way and her smoking hot power tools somehow added to the basis for today's choices:

a) Power Tools
b) Women with Power Tools
c) Bunnies with Guns

The bridge from B to C is not as strange at it may seem (lets say Jackie Brown.. Quentin.. Pulp.. Bunny)

So make you choice - I might be counting.

A) Power Tools

B) Women with Power Tools

Satisfaction By Benny Benassi - video powered by Metacafe

C) Bunnys with Guns

Monday 9 April 2007

five minutes

danger 2
Despite my concerns earlier today, the route through London was surprisingly direct. I picked roads that a taxi driver would be proud of, even if most of it was somewhat sarf. In addition to Kingston, there was an emergency retail detour to Smuggler's Way in Wandsworth in order to walk around a very French store. I also had to use my advanced parking technique in this area and found a spot on a switched off yellow line away from the maniacally busy car parks. And yes, there were traffic wardens patrolling the red routes today.
slimed with more contrast
After the shop visit, quite near to the parking spot I noticed a row of bollards and a mystery footpath. So as a reward to myself for the support of relentless store hunting, I took a five minute stroll along the footpath, which led past barbed wire and a warning sign saying "Danger of Death".
walking on water
A few more yards and I spotted a somewhat forlorn boat, capsized in the mud, and then glancing towards the main River Thames, saw a bird making a noisy running take-off. But my time was limited, so then it was back to the car and off across Wandsworth Bridge.

sweeping through London

Garden Broom 1
Its a sunny Bank Holiday today splashing brilliance across the orange coloured broom in the garden (cytisus scoparius -the shrub - not a sweeping implement) and I'm headed for Kingston upon Thames.

There is a risk with this plan that a large proportion of south west London will do the same - unless they decide to visit Hampton Court instead. I may need to use my finest Zen navigation today to reach the destination by a route of ever decreasing circles.

Saturday 7 April 2007

What Kate did

katewalsh3.jpgI put Kate Walsh's mainly acoustic-sounding album into my car a few weeks ago and have listened to it frequently ever since. I didn't even know the name of it until today, but its called "Tim's House" - after where it was made.

I'd considered the album to be a somewhat obscure item, that I happened to like.

Today I noticed Kate in the Times in an article which said that this record was now outselling the Kaiser Chiefs new album and was number one on iTunes. Not bad for a home made recording of songs of heartache and growing up in Burnham-upon-Crouch.

The thing is, Kate sings and plays really well. Its an album that catches you off guard and then seeps into the consciousness. I like it as a collection of songs and I like it the more that somehow Kate has managed to navigate the twists and turns of the record industry to put out her music, her way.


Friday 6 April 2007

ere be dragons

Recently I decided to feature a few London snaps in my blog, but whilst out and about I've noticed that there are increased powers to stop people with cameras in the central part of London, on security grounds.

The police around the Houses of Parliament, for example, can question anyone taking photographs in case they are reviewing the security measures. This must be quite a difficult judgement call, because Parliament Square is slap bang in the middle of tourist London.

The ring of steel security and surveillance has been in place since the early 1990s and now we have the congestion charge cameras as well as just about every corporate building having a camera cordon. The City and most of Central London must be one of the most well filmed places on the planet.

The original City boundaries were guarded by statues of griffins (dragons), and I'm pleased to say, like this fierce one by the Law Courts, they are also still in place.

Thursday 5 April 2007


OK, I admit it.

Today, I was given a creme egg.

And I ate it.

My way.


(life size example above)

Wednesday 4 April 2007

crashed invader

crashed invader
I spotted another one of those space invaders half way up a wall. This one looks the worse for wear, but I suppose that gives it a character of its own. Its a matter of observation to spot these small art exhibits in major town centres like London; this one was in Talbot Road. Its not exactly a treasure hunt, but for those that would like one, I see that Time Out is running a London Treasure Hunt this week, with around 40 clues. The clues look easy, but I'm sure visits to the locations are required to solve them.

Oh, and I received an interesting email today; apparently Team Rashbre won a prize from last weekend's Shoot Portobello. Our winning picture should soon be on show in an exhibition in Portobello Road!

Tuesday 3 April 2007


Making idle chatter whilst we waiteed for people to join a telephone conference call today, we were comparing the yellow tulips in our area with the daffodils in Philadelphia. Then I looked out of the window and saw sleety rain. Our season seems to be somewhat confused. A couple of days ago we had the bright sunshine and blossom, which I think makes a better picture.

train à grande vitesse

A prototype French TGV train, the T150, broke the world rail speed record today, reaching 357 miles (574.8 kilometers) an hour. Thats faster than a light aircraft or about half the speed of a passenger jet in normal flight.

Meanwhile, the engineering works on the services from Waterloo to Portsmouth Harbour have been extended from their target date of the 18th March and Network Rail are unable to confirm when they will be completed.

Monday 2 April 2007


One of the extra snaps taken during the Sunday afternoon treasure hunt.

Sunday 1 April 2007

smile, you're being blogged

Portobello Hotel
Portobello Hotel
There were large quantities of people with cameras roaming the Portobello Road and generally around Notting Hill this sunny afternoon as part of the Shoot Portobello game. Our little gang didn't really start until early afternoon and headed to one of the clue locations as a starting point. It was the hotel where Alice Cooper had stayed with his pet boa constrictor, which was kept in the bath. To be honest, we thought our problem solving may have been rather wobbly, but as we approached the hotel, we could see other people with cameras standing around and eyeing up shots. We decided to go inside and the delightful person helping in reception agreed to pose for a snap.
In addition to the clues requiring specific problem solving, there was one which asked for a free-choice around the theme of performance. There were a couple of buskers working the traffic intersections, but this shop owner demonstating the ukelele is much more evocative of the market trading of Portobello.
rough trade
Of course, along the way, we had stop at the counter cultural establishment known as Rough Trade.