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Sat, Aug. 12th, 2006, 07:27 pm

So, the neighbours are having a party. Fine.

So, they've got a bouncy castle in their garden. Fine.

So, their friends have parked all their cars along the road. Fine.

So, I can hear little kids making lots of noise. Fine.

So, they're playing Addicted To Love by Robert Palmer. Not fine

So, they're playing Dancing In The Moonlight by Toploader. Very not fine.

Sat, Jul. 29th, 2006, 07:52 pm

If there was one academic lesson I learned from Benny B, my English teacher at secondary school (oh but there were plenty of non-academic lessons that I learned from him, which were exclusively lessons in avoiding turning out like him), it was that 'all right' was two words. This, he was very insistent on:

"All right is TWO words. It is TWO words. 'Alright' is not a proper word."

Of course, why should I have believed a bender like him? Then again, considering that he read the English dictionary for fun (probably) in his spare time, why shouldn't I have believed him?

Since then, I've been using 'all right' as two words. However, the rest of the country's population hasn't. It started with Supergrass writing a song called Alright. Most recently, it's been Lily Allen's turn to name her albm, 'Alright, Still'.

Alright is now included in the dictionary. So Benny B was wrong. But in tribute to his ways, I will continue writing all right as two words.

Sat, Jul. 29th, 2006, 06:45 pm

As the rush hour hadn't started yet, I was looking forward to getting a section to myself on the Metropolitan train. This would have been perfectly feasible in the current circumstances, seeing as there were few people around. However, my hopes were dashed when a nerdy-looking guy in shorts and a t-shirt came and sat next to me. Arghhhh. And this was in a near empty carriage.

Anyway, I tried to ignore him but at each stop, I could catch him shooting glances over in my direction as though he was annoyed that I wasn't getting off the train and leaving him with the section to himself. I then began to think that he was probably one of those obsessive compulsive anal habitual twats who do things like sit in the same seats or sections of trains every time, even if it means sitting next to someone in an empty carriage.

About 3/4 through the journey, my phone rang. I answered it and almost immediately, the annoying guy (Mr. OCAHT) stood up and went to stand by the window facing the next carriage (it was open and thus standing by it would mean that the noise created by the breeze and the train's movements would cancel out the noise coming from my phone conversation). That rude bastard. He was obviously trying to use his body language to tell me that I was an idiot for using my phone on the train. Perhaps if he had been sitting in that section first, he may have been entitled to be annoyed but that clearly wasn't the case.

When I hung up the phone, he went back to his seat.

A few minutes later, my phone rang again. Ha ha. This time, I was planning to speak as loud as I could on the phone but I suddenly lost reception. I had to move down the carriage to a place with reception and by the time I had finished speaking, the train had pulled into my stop.

Victory for Mr. OCAHT. But you wait until next time. I'll get you!!!

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Ah, it was extremely pleasant sitting outside the Tate Modern, in the shade, watching the joggers. A pigeon landed and proceeded to peck at a cake wrapper on the ground. Then I realised that it had no toes/claws on one leg. It had a stump!

Another pigeon landed. A young girl walking past remarked to her family, "Look. What a thin pigeon!" I too looked at the pigeon and could see quite clearly that it was normal sized. Maybe the girl owned lots of fat pigeons which she considered normal-looking and healthy. If that was the case then she'd be in for a whale of a time, pointing at all the pigeons in London and remarking on how thin they looked.

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Bond Street tube station: as I approached the escalators leading up to the station exit, I heard some muted screams. A lady with a headscarf appeared to have fallen down and a woman was struggling with a pram. Somebody must have pushed the stop button on the escalator. At that point, a couple of police officers started running up the stairs, shouting, "POLICE!!!" 'Great,' I thought to myself. 'A police chase. Maybe it'll be like in the movies.' Alas, there were no movie villains or any villains for that matter. It just seemed that someone had fallen over on the escalators and, being unaccustomed to falling over on an escalator, proceeded to do what they do best, and that was scream, causing someone at the bottom of the escalator to think that something more serious was happening and press the escalator stop button.

The fall-out of this incident was a chaotically packed section at the bottom of the escalator. Another woman with a pram, standing in front of me, was wandering how to proceed. I would of course have helped her ( I once helped a woman carry her pram up the stairs at Highbury and Islington station and she had the cutest baby ever who was wearing this helmet which I think was there to correct some problem with its skull) had it not been for the quick thinking of the middle-aged businessman in front of her who offered to help.

"Let me help you carry that" said the businessman, avoiding eye contact and maintaining a very serious expression on his face.
"Uh..it's quite heavy" replied the woman.

Did that deter him. Of course not.

As I approached the exit to Bond Street station, I saw the head-scarf wearing woman who had fallen over along with the first woman with the pram. It seemed that they knew either knew each other or were related. They were talking in a foreign language, whilst looking a bit pissed off and confused.

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Marylebone station has a number of stairs to get to the top. Sometimes I'll run up the stairs but this time I decided to take it easy and walk up the escalator. As I neared the top, I saw a woman walking up the stairs, struggling to carry her pram. What was the point of that??? She was either very macho, very stupid or very paranoid that the gaps in the escalator would swallow her pram.

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One morning on the Shilton, two guys in conversation came on at Rickmansworth. They were quite fat so had to sit one in front of the other. They continued their conversation nonetheless. One of them smelt like shit  but I think that perhaps he farted because after a while, the smell went away. Either that or my nose became so accustomed to it that the smell disappeared.

Sat, Jul. 29th, 2006, 03:27 pm

"Hi there. Would you be able to spare a few moments...."
" I'm already donating money to Amnesty International every month"
"Oh..cool. Keep it up *approving head nodding*"

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"Excuse me, would you be able to spare some time.."
"I'm already donating to Amnesty International"
"OK"

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"Hi, how are you doing? I'm Dave *hand extended to shake*"
"I'm already donating to Amnesty International every month through my...payroll thing"
"Great. Thank you *double thumbs up*"

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"What's up dude? Can you spare a moment.."
"I'm already donating to Amnesty International every month"
"Er...actually, this is for Oxfam"
"Fucking Bono..."

OK, I made that one up.

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Maybe it's part of some macho physical challenge but whenever I see lifts on the underground, I'm always tempted to run up the stairs instead (often it's a lot quicker too). Goodge Street station had 137 stairs. No problem. 2 at a time. In the heat. In a suit and tie and boots. The easiest set of stairs to run up and down are at Holloway Road station. I can beat the lift every time. The hardest set of stairs are at Covent Garden. I think it's near to 200 steps.

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So, it seemed like business as usual in HMV. But then I started to hear lots of noises, as though a crowd had gathered somewhere. Looking to my left, I realised that there really was a crowd. A crowd of kids had gatherered, waiting for a band to come onto the makeshift stage. Now, there were massive Razorlight signs by the entrance and behind the tills but these days, I'm less inclined to make personal  assumptions on weak evidence so I asked the security guard who was due to come on, in case it was a band worth sticking around for:

"Erm..it's Bullet For My Valentine. They're an emo-metal band"

At least that settled things.

Mon, Jul. 24th, 2006, 08:58 pm

The final interview question:

"OK, one last question. May I ask how old you are?"

"I'm 25"

"Yesss! I had 24 or 25 written down." Smug look ensues.

Mon, Jul. 24th, 2006, 08:46 pm

Asians at risk from 'alcohol gene'

A gene which stops some ethnic groups getting rid of an alcohol by-product may be contributing to cancer cases.

It is well known that drinking heavily increases the chances of certain cancers, particularly those of upper digestive tract.

But some ethnic groups appear more prone to these cancers.

An international research project has found that a key genetic difference can make the saliva more carcinogenic.

Its work is reported in the journal "Alcoholism: clinical and experimental research".

Alcohol is toxic, and as soon as it enters the body, the liver starts trying to get rid of it by chemically breaking it down with natural body chemicals.

The theory is that it is not the alcohol which triggers the development of cancer, but a by-product of the way the body deals with the alcohol.

Gene missing

There are two stages to the breakdown - the first chemical converts alcohol to acetaldehyde, then a second chemical turns acetaldehyde to acetate, which can be dealt with more easily by other tissues outside the liver.

Some people lack the genetic code which lets the liver make the second chemical.

This means that such people have far more acetaldehyde in their bodies than people who have the necessary gene.

As many as 50% of Chinese and Japanese lack the gene. This causes obvious symptoms when they drink like facial flushing, dizziness and nausea, caused by the excess acetaldehyde.

But if these people drink more heavily, there is more of the toxic chemical in their saliva.

The study found that in the gene-deficient Asians, acetaldehyde levels in the saliva were two to three times higher than either Caucasians, or Asians who had the gene.

The scientists believe salivary acetaldehyde can cause cancer as it passes across the tissues lining the throat.

Mon, Jul. 24th, 2006, 07:30 pm

It's been difficult finding a good opportunity to go running because the days have been so hot and the nights have been so humid and, if there are two weather conditions that I really dislike exercising in, it's heat and humidity.

Last night was cooler though and I took the opportunity to go for a run at around 9:10pm. I chose the off-road route because it had been quite pleasant in the past. This time, however, the sky was darker and, due to the foliage covering parts of the route, there were times when I couldn't see the ground. This was not very helpful when running downhill on an uneven dirt track.

Additionally, the darkness, the fact that I was completely alone, away from civilisation, a recent news story and my imagination made the experience a lot more interesting. There was a story in the news a few weeks ago of a European woman who was murdered when she went for a run in some woods. But surely that wouldn't happen in a town where I lived? Surely not. Then again, when murders take place, it's certainly not uncommon for people to remark, "It's so shocking. This place is usually so peaceful. Nothing bad's ever happened here before". I started to pick up my pace. Then I started thinking, "OK, it's highly unlikely that someone would just jump out of a bush. However, what if someone was following me? What if I turned around and saw some guy running with his head down and an axe in his hands. Or what if it was a woman in a dress floating along the ground?" I picked up my pace. Then I started thinking, "What if this ghoul could match my pace? Then I'd have to run even faster!" I picked up my pace yet again.

I made it to the bottom of the hill in about 12 minutes, some 3 or 4 minutes quicker than my previous time. Now, I had the option of running up another path which would eventually link up with a footpath to the sports ground of the Chiltern University campus (but I don't have a reason to go there anymore...or at least not for the foreseeable future). I decided it would be too dark to do that so I started to complete the U by running uphill, parallel to the path I had run down. At this point, I was somewhat tired and was focussing on making it to the top of the hill. I really couldn't be bothered if the bowed-head-axe man or the eerie-floating woman caught me.

Eventually, I made it back to civilisation and then started to realise how hot it was. I decided to walk for a minute to cool down and get my breath back before continuing onwards. On the second leg of my route, I passed an old lady hobbling along a rocky path really slowly. It was dark and I couldn't see her clearly but it was quite clear that if I did look her in the eye as I passed, her eyes would have been black and she would have wailed like a banshee.

I'd do this run again, though.

Fri, Jul. 21st, 2006, 10:16 pm

If a stadium-selling artist plays relatively smaller venues like Brixton Academy, would the music press be justified in calling such shows 'intimate' when, to most artists, such a venue would be considered 'absolutely massive'?

Wed, Jul. 19th, 2006, 06:31 pm

Overheard conversation on train:

"What's worse than getting sneezed on?"
"What?"
"Getting sneezed on....by a PAKI! But I'm not racist"

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Overheard remark in street:

"That was such a pity but it looks so much better shaved off"

Sat, Jul. 15th, 2006, 06:50 pm

The plan was to get the last train home but circumstances meant that things were never going to be easy. After leaving the pub at 11:50pm and making the short walk to Highbury and Islington station, I was shocked and annoyed to find that delays on the Victoria Line meant that the gates were shut and that passengers weren't allowed onto the platforms. After the words, 'shit' and 'fuck' crossed my mind, I had to find an alternative route to get to King's Cross:

"Right, King's Cross. Get the Northern Line train from Angel. Where are the buses to Angel? Fuck. The buses suck. Not enough time to wait. I've gotta run up Upper Street."

So run up Upper Street I did, dodging past the people leaving the expensive bars, pubs and restaurants that littered the streets. I was obviously in a rush to get to Angel so I had to run at a fast pace. A few months ago, I might have been unable to reach Angel without stopping or, at the very best, I would have reached the station completely out of breath and ready to keel over and die. However, with several good runs behind me, I was able to run the 15-20 minute walk to Angel in one attempt in around 3-5 minutes. And how useful this was. By the time I got to King's Cross, I just made it onto the platform as the last train home pulled in. Most fortunate but damn the London Underground twats for messing up the trains at such a late hour when people are obviously in a hurry to get the last trains home.

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