rashbre central: September 2011

Friday 30 September 2011

Annoying short con in Westminster

Traffic Lights Out and about again in 28 degree Westminster today. When I'm with other people in the know, we usually cross over to the upriver side of Westminster Bridge if we are heading across it. It's a way to avoid some of the barricades of tourists who are making the most of the fine weather and decidedly out in force.

It's actually quite funny walking along chatting to someone and having to dodge dozens of people taking pictures of Parliament, buses, traffic lights, taxis, the River, the Eye and so on. It requires a sort of crowd mastery to stay close and able to talk in a tourist mayhem.

To make it even more challenging, there's one of those gangs of tourist fleecers operating on Westminster Bridge at the moment, complete with home made plastic disks and metal cups for the three shell game.

Its always interesting to watch the edges of such games. There'll be someone standing in the road looking for police. There'll be a couple of extra large people around for 'management purposes' and the actual crowds around the makeshift tables seem to comprise quite a few people of similar ethnicity as the people operating the games. The marks seem to frequently be from the far east.

A couple of days ago a single policeman on a motorcycle arrived and in seconds half the bridge's hustlers had disappeared.

But I don't think of this offshore short-con as a London thing. I've seen it in Paris and Milan, but in truth am a little appalled we have it operating across the road from Parliament.

Thursday 29 September 2011

the pipistrelle bat swoops around me again tonight

pipistrelle batI have been away from home intermittently over the last few days, but was home in daylight tonight.

It was a close thing though as the sun was just setting.

I decided to make a cup of tea and look to see if the pipistrelle bat would make an appearance.

Sure enough, just after sunset, the little bat appeared and began its swooping and weaving flight around the garden.

I've come to regard it as 'our garden's bat' because it does pretty much stay within the perimeter.

I have previously tried to capture it with a camera, but it is way too fast for that, unless I were to set up some kind of flash rig.
Some people are terrified of bats, but I find the swooping aerial ballet performance as it hunts for insects quite magical.

It seems fairly unruffled by my presence and I can stand outside watching it perform at not much more than arms length and occasionally see it do an extra spiral around me as it takes more of a sounding.

What is less apparent is that the bat is firing out bleeps of very high frequency sound to check for insects using a sort of echo-location. The sounds are actually extremely loud but too high for us to hear except for an occasional click like fingers being snapped.

...and we are not even in the Halloween month yet.

Monday 26 September 2011

I wake to see another pink pig fly over Battersea Power Station

Flying pig at Battersea Power Station It was one of those accidental great London moments this morning. I woke up and looked out of the window.

I could see them preparing the white bubble tents for the dance series on the adjacent land.

Then I looked towards the river.

A pig.

Not just any pig. THAT pig. The one on the cover of the Pink Floyd record.

The third most iconic London album cover (Abbey Road is number one). Number two (23 Heddon Street) is pretty good too.

But to wake up to Number Three.


At another time, the correct thing to do would be to pop along to the King William IV pub on the embankment, order a pint and play the album whilst sitting at a table on the pavement. But I had to go to work. Flying pig at Battersea Power Station

Sunday 25 September 2011

from small acorns

acorns A Sunday morning bicycle ride today, whilst most people were still asleep.

Tyres re-pumped to 100psi with the main noises being squarks of nearby birds and distant sounds from traffic.

I did see one person carrying a tell-tale shotgun bag, but what with it being Sunday and all, I'm assuming it was simply being moved, and not deployed. There's a couple of areas that if I pass in the week I'll hear the crack of shotguns, but I think Sunday is supposed to be silent in England.

And further along I spotted an open gate, leading to an interesting landmark that is usually padlocked away. Worth a short detour to explore, and then on the way back to stop to pick up a few acorns.

I doubt if they would grow, but it might be worth throwing a few outside to see what happens.

And soon, nearby bells begin to peal as the rest of the area begins to go about its business.

Saturday 24 September 2011

in which i get a draft trailer for the triangle novel

Triangle Trailer 2 It's not ready for general publication yet, but I'm amused to say I've received an early copy of a trailer related to the Triangle (clickable confidential preview above).

I must admit I sort of laughed out loud when I played it, but in a good way.

This all links in with the "Hollywood adventures" related to the Triangle and the components of what will be in some sort of distribution pack.

I gather its got some fancy name (not EPK - Electronic Press Kit) - Something more film industry specific. Anyway, for the moment the fledgling trailer/sting is looking okay, even if they have got the story slightly wrong.

I suppose in time I'll have to decide whether to settle for a mini series or to hold out for a Hollywood blockbuster.

Decisions, decisions...

Meanwhile, here's the old video I made where a couple of the characters meet at an airport and Patricia is on the search for a Cinnabon franchise.

Tuesday 20 September 2011

no breach of the peace around this national security

Downing Street I'm having a few interesting days in London locations that are quite often featured on television. The most obvious area is around Westminster (throw in a taxi and a red bus), but there's a few slightly less well-known places that can also feature on the 'been there' list.

There's also a few anomalies, like the relative scarcity of cash point machines around this part of town. Considering I'm so central, I'd expect there to be 'hole in the wall' cash dispensers for tourists on every street corner.

Unfortunately not, and those that are available had all run out of cash when I tried to use them. It could have helped the day I accidentally brought Euros instead of Pounds.

But then someone told me there was a cashpoint by the Treasury building - although, he added, it was out of order.

Maybe a sign of the times?

Saturday 17 September 2011

Through the brightly lit eyes of the glossy romance of fashion

For some, the black tie wearing season may run throughout the year.

Here at rashbre central it's normally more of a winter pursuit, probably peaking around the turn of the year. It can also mean that the relevant clothes need reviving or replacing from whatever scrape they were in the last time.

So my illustration above from last weekend's early foray into black tie territory may be a little unusual because it also meant arriving bow-tied in daylight, which felt most strange.

Still, the evening passed eventfully and a good time was had by all. Even the moment when a police car pulled up on the gravel drive to ask one of us some detailed questions didn't squash the mood. And don't panic, I had a chauffeur from the fancy palace.

Since then, I've been back modelling tee shirts, including my recent cycling addition*. Hate Jams * Thanks for location instructions, mb

Friday 16 September 2011

being very central

Parliament Square

Well, the establishing shot featuring a red bus and a black cab by the Palace of Westminster gives away that I've decided to take the work in the centre of London at the moment.

It's pretty close to where plenty happens and the chimes from the big clock can be easily heard from where I'm working. It's also quite amusing dodging through the dozens of tourists standing in the middle of the road taking pictures of the Clock Tower and the many related sights.

The nature of my work does take me to plenty of interesting places, although its been while since I've had anything quite so central.

Thursday 15 September 2011

Lanterns on the Lake - Gracious Tide, Take Me Home

Lanterns on the Lake It's a while since rashbre central featured new bands, although we've struck good here in the past with newbies who subsequently make good like Laura Marling, whose third album is just released, although with a somewhat unexpected American accent replacing Berkshire on some of her new songs.

We've also had the now global Adele featured here when she was still playing acoustic guitar and before any albums.

Right now covert agents of rashbre central are ensuring that Newcastle (rashbre north-east) gets attention as part of the new scene.

So who to include? Today's obvious choice is the not new but newly released Lanterns on the Lake, who made their debut album on an eight track recorder in various Northumberland homes including the basement of a shop on the Heaton Road.

Well, it's a lovely sonic landscape, folky but with a spectral and ringing guitar backdrop. You can hear north-eastern weather in the soundtrack and there's some of those creaks that might be instruments flexing or the hull of a slow moving ship riding the waves.

The album is called Gracious Tide, Take Me Home and its one to play and immediately enjoy. The live recording I intended to use had rather a bad bass overload on it, so here's one from Glastonbury.

Tuesday 13 September 2011

return of the sparrowhawk


This week kicked in with a new form of busy as I get back into work.

There's been a sort of ground rush effect as the phone calls and different opportunities beckon. The trick is not to be phased as the phone gets busy and the plates again need to be spun in unison. I'm not sure I could hunt with the calculated precision of this week's garden visitor, but I've certainly got some options to work with.

At the moment I'm deciding between an out of town assignment, some work close to Parliament or a trip to Sweden.

We shall see.

Monday 12 September 2011

as the evening starts to glow

Beverley Knight Quite a busy weekend, including attending the last festival of the summer.

I'm sure its not really the last event, but it certainly feels like the start of the transition from standing outside to standing inside.

Among the performers was the excellent Beverley Knight who blasted out a terrific set in the sunshine, ahead of what then became a drizzle and later a downpour.

I also broke away from recent small camera obsession and took an SLR for this one, to get a few pictures. It still a lottery about big cameras at gigs though, I still remember getting turned away at Exeter and having to take a long lens back to the car park.
No such problems here although admittedly I used the 'get close' manoeuvre to good effect. Beverley Knight

I've been to quite a few gigs in Hyde Park and it is a very pleasant venue if the weather holds. This one started with a Bart Simpson sky although later the moodier clouds arrived. I'd travelled light relying on a cycle waterproof and baseball cap to improvise weather protection.

Others were more prepared with proper chairs and picnics but then later the umbrellas were out in force. I've no problem with either further away from the stage, but think the first rows should be kept for fans who don't want to block the view for others.

My picture below illustrates a perfect configuration; quite distant from the stage, somewhat improvised plastic bag-like waterproofing; fizz at the centre and a generally happy demeanour.
Yes, I did take a street camera as well.

Sunday 11 September 2011

World Trade Center

World Trade Center looking down to Plaza

Look carefully into this picture and you'll see my feet, or at least my shoes. The pictures are from my old snapshots.

It was my first ever trip to New York and I'm standing at the top of the World Trade Center looking down to the Plaza below. I was with a small gang of friends and we were on our way back from a meeting in North Carolina and had routed via New York to spend a whirlwind day 'doing the sights' before hopping a plane back to London.

New York Our visit to New York was uneventful. It was in the days before zero tolerance and we'd moved around as slightly cautious wide-eyed tourists. I'd been back to the World Trade since then, for a proper business meeting many stories high.

Then forward to ten years ago. Like pretty much everyone, I've the solemn memories of that New York morning, viewed as an afternoon from the UK. In my case I was driving an old white car to a garage to pick up a brand new blue one from the show room. As I arrived there were people huddled by a television in the corner of the dealership.

"Someone has flown a plane into the World Trade Center," came an explanation to me. I thought they meant a light aircraft - like a Cessna - or even one of the many helicopters that flitter around New York. I walked to the television and people there were explaining "It's crashed into the Pentagon."

It was the early stages of the news coverage and didn't make total sense. I picked up the shiny new car and tuned to a news channel on the way back home. It was at least another ten minutes into the journey that the proper news reports started to come in about the atrocities that were unfolding. I drove home and flicked on the main television coverage from CNN.

Then, like many, I watched shocked as the terrible events unfolded on camera.

View From World Trade Center The world permanently changed that day and even now it is difficult to join some of the dots on things that happened afterwards. Living right in the middle of a major event, in a connected world, it is still difficult to piece together the cause and effect linkages between the brutal and callous act of terror and some of the decisions that followed.

A few days after September 11, I received a mail item from the USA. It was some sort of minor financial transaction. The address on the transaction was World Trade Center, and the date 9/11. World Trade Center

Friday 9 September 2011

new lists and hold the ice cream

It might still be the ice creams and holiday season for a few people, but most of us have gone back to work now from the Summer holidays.

My proper switch-on was Monday and by Tuesday I was on client calls and by Thursday I needed to start making lists again.

Of course, in my case it a different operating model for me now. I haven't even fully got all my revised technology working. Still, I can't help noticing how quickly the familiar signs of early morning calls and mid to late evening calls are occurring. I'm thinking I may also need a revised form of self discipline to make my new approach work.

But, as I was explaining to a few people on over a pleasant evening, it's possibly the way of the future with more people developing 'portfolio careers'. I'll have to see how this all plays out but at the moment I'm thinking it could be rather good fun.

Although I'll be going easy on the Cold Stone Creamery*. DSCF6742

* my new favourite ice cream, discovered in Albuquerque and mercifully unavailable in the UK.

Tuesday 6 September 2011


spinning clock Yesterday saw the start of my new work regime. I've been adapting from 25x8 and taken time out in the summer before resuming under a "new operating model."

Keen as anything I had my sharpened pencils ready and the metaphorical gleaming protractor and compasses prepared to measure angles and draw circles.

I'd also kept 'silent running' until Monday on the basis that things might get busy quickly.

I was not wrong.

I started Monday at 06:00 and was quickly sending out a few starter emails to announce my presence. The early replies were coming at me before 07:00 and progressively increased as the day proceeded. I'm already having to prioritise and start to turn a few items away.

And that was how it continued with calls running to about 19:30 in the evening. I'll admit to a short bicycle ride during the afternoon; I took my phone and had to stop in the first ten minutes to take a call.

This morning was a later start, but then I noticed I'd somehow missed an 06:00 conference call with Sweden.

I may need to think further about fine-tuning this "new operating model".

Monday 5 September 2011

izzy wizzy, let's get busy

sooty and Sweep I see that Sooty and Sweep have returned to UK television.

It is being presented in a modern setting, but with the original glove puppets instead of a CGI or equivalent rendering. Afficionados will know that where ever Sooty goes, there's a custard pie or water pistol not far behind.

It gives a small excuse to feature the Sooty Club website here, with its range of free games.

My favourite is the Sooty Soaker, which captures the essence of the simple fun that Sooty and friends provide.

For a glove puppet, Sooty can be quite edgy and I see managed to slapstick a pizza so hard that one of the guests had to call into hospital afterwards.

And there's already an episode discussion of the first of the new series on Facebook.

Sunday 4 September 2011

Cycling London Skyride 2011

It's the third London Skyride I've cycled, each year with a slightly different route. This time I arrived quite early (before the official start time) and that meant I could crack around the mainly flat route relatively unimpeded. An addition this time was a short spell south of the river over Westminster Bridge.

By the second loop (Westminster/ Buckingham Palace/ The Mall/ Trafalgar Square/ Whitehall/ Embankment/ Blackfriars/ Tower of London/ Embankment/ Westminster Bridge/ Waterloo/ Parliament) there were a good number of people joining in, but the route was still free-flowing.

Already there were a wide variety of cycles, from super fast carbon fibre machines being spun by Great Britain athletes to trikes and mini-bikes with stabilisers being driven by four-year-olds. Not forgetting the penny-farthings, recumbents and vintage steel frames.

There were also noticeably more of the London cycle scheme bikes being used this time. I guess now they are access for all it makes it a lot easier. Everyone was smiling and I could see proper shadows on the ground.

This was a good moment for a brief stop and a chance to take a few pictures in St. James Park whilst sipping a cup of coffee (free Gatorade for all if preferred) as well as a short listen to the entertaining (don't know name) rock band. See if you can spot the 'friends of the band' in amongst the photos?

On circuit three there were rather a lot of traffic jams caused by the reported 60,000 people attending the day. There were also a few minor spills, which seemed to mainly involve a few tearful younger ones who had slid to the ground. The general spirit was very good-natured with everyone giving way and generally enjoying the views around London.

My cycle helmet and the high viz bib provided helped keep the spots of rain away on my final lap although the sky did look as if it was getting ready for something more significant.

logoGreat fun as London and Great Britain also becomes more bike-friendly.

I noticed my tee-shirt is looking somewhat the worse for wear as I returned home.

Thursday 1 September 2011

Thursday Thirteen V50 - back to work?

snapper I'm back around London this week, so the September First Thursday Thirteen V50 can have more of a street theme.

1) September is Spider month Except the spiders arrived early. I think it was the disruption I caused when I was clearing space in the garage. The biggest so far have been house spiders. We've had two or three stomping around. I can tell they are all different ones as I help them leave the building.

2) September also means work: Following my adaptation of my working model, I'd set September to start wearing a suit again. Actually, I was a couple of days early with the first tie being sported on Tuesday.

3) Back in the business zones: Wearing a tie also means I'm back in the London business zones although I've been holding out until we are really into the new month before getting too busy.

4) London Cycle : Zipping around London can be quite mixed mode: walk/car/bus/tube/bike/taxi. My bike pass stopped working sometime in late August. It was a credit card change that meant it didn't auto renew. I finally discovered it after 2 or 3 racks didn't work. Fixed now so I was using the system again today (Cycle Superhighway 8 amongst others).

bikes 5) London Cycle Day: The London Skyride day is this Sunday, although I will use my own bike for that. Probably the Brompton folding bike. Of course all styles of bike will be present on Sunday.

6) And more Bicycles: Tomorrow I plan to whizz around on my 'road bike'. It's bigger than the Brompton but I suspect it weighs less.

7) Page Eight and Spooks: To encourage us all to be out in the Summer months, the television programmes are usually rather poor. I expect there's good stuff somewhere in the 400+ channels but it can be a challenge. I managed to find a couple of good spy films to watch though; one was the old "Spy who came in from the cold" - a le Carre classic filmed in great Monochrome.

And a recent production called Page Eight, with Bill Nighy and Rachel Weisz. I enjoyed both, even if the latter was quite slowly paced and understated in many scenes. It also moved around quite a few familiar places, Chelsea Bridge, Battersea Embankment, Princes Drive.

Others watching it with me were calling out the places. I also found an old series link of Spooks on Sky+ and have been working through them. There were 19 in all and I've watched 3 so far. All good.

8) Places I recognise: Sad but true that I also sometimes call out 'been there' when somewhere 'foreign' that I've visited shows up on telly. A couple of recent obscure ones were Mykonos harbour at the end of Bourne 1 (where they meet when she is running a taverna) and the US 91/US 1 intersection in Marina Del Rey, which I recognised in an end of the world movie called 2012 a few days ago.

9) A different type of leaf smell: Last week I commented about the early smell of leaves, heralding Autumn. This week its a different type of leaf as I see the story about the charity sponsored research into child smoking data has been requested by hardball lawyers from Philip Morris. Their only reason for this can be to use it to argue a contrary position. Outrageous.

10) Event season approaches: Summer is more about outdoor events. I notice I'm getting emailed about theatre style gigs again now ready for the dark evenings!

11) Helping buy scarce tickets : I was asked to help get some scarce tickets for an upcoming music event. It had a 0900 start time for ticketing and I was online by 0845. It was a pre-sales arrangement but I am suspicious that the tickets being pre-sold were the edges and back of the theatre. Mission successfully accomplished but I'm suspicious of the way this works. Update: Another request to help for a different band on Friday morning. All the 'Standing' tickets went in the first 2-3 minutes.

12) Hollywood Project : I agreed today to let my novel get represented for the Hollywood treatment. If nothing else it will make an interesting serialisation of what happens!

13) Trashed Organ project : The isn't my project but I did say I'd write about it, not least because a short poem I wrote ended up in the first issue of the magazine. I'll post about it properly when the 'shop' is open.

Mykonos windmills - 'been there'