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When you've got some pictures up, your books sorted and that, see how it goes, eh? [Aug. 17th, 2014|11:46 pm]
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Avenida 9 de Julio [Aug. 15th, 2014|11:31 am]
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Avenida 9 de Julio
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Haven't had internet in months; I'm posting this with two tin cans and a taut length of string [Jul. 21st, 2014|12:13 am]
I'll miss crowds in the avenues: Córdoba, Corrientes, Belgrano. And talkative traffic.

Flutter and clap of the doves in the courtyard each morning. Dogs in the streets.

Wheeze of buses; their colours, each route distinctively dressed: the 68 promising ice and the sedate brown of the 39.

Rasp of the scrap collector's loudspeakers; howl of the policia sirens.

Motor pollution and the charcoal tang of dinner in the offing.
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All that and the early starts, does your head in [Jun. 21st, 2014|11:49 pm]
On the train in. Four men, talking of the building trade, then social matters. Getting stuck into the beers at nine in the morning; they're going up town, one of them's having a birthday.

"Jack, he says let's get off at Gravesend, Grave-o's banging! What are you on about, look at it. We went in this pub up Northfleet way, there was more animals than people."

As I'm going into the cinema I see an FBU picket outside the Shaftesbury Avenue fire station. They've got a stereo booming away, armchairs making a living room out on the tarmac in front of the accordion doors.

Later, my friend would show me a piece in a magazine about the restaurant that's opened in the old Chiltern Street fire station. It's pretty foul. That was my fire station: if my kitchen caught fire that's where the engines would be coming from.

The film was Greek, and full of family dysfunction, like the last two Greek films I saw. This is by the by, but I like the Greek for 'no': the aspiration of the second syllable.

Afterwards, passing the union encampment, a man, who I presume is himself Ghanaian waves a Ghanaian flag on the opposite pavement. The FBU guys have found the Ghanaian national anthem for him and are playing it full volume to the flag-bearer's delight. At the end they cheer: Ghana! Ghana! Ghana!

On the train back. Several young women are getting stuck into a pass-around, I can't tell what, it's a 2-litre botellon special. One says to another: "You're quiet, what's on your mind?" Her companion replies: "I'm getting completely cunted tonight, and if he don't like it then fuck him. Won't be any fucking breakfast tomorrow..."
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...with a number of commercial, employment and community hubs... [Jun. 12th, 2014|09:43 pm]
I was going into town for lunch. He was sitting in the row of seats in front of me, by the aisle. Every now and then he'd look up and down the carriage and through the glass panel in the connecting door. Shifty, but not what you'd call hazardous.

He twisted around, and said, what are they doing there, then? We were passing the fresh concrete podium for the platforms to sit on. I explained about the new station. Oh yeah, he said, they're regenerationing all this, aren't they?

We got talking; I reckon he knew about the station, that was just his gambit. He asked me if I thought it was rough round there, the towns we were now leaving behind. He told me about when the Dutch came up the river and took the King's ship because the English cannonballs didn't fit the cannons. Nothing changes.

He told me, he didn't have a ticket; he was watching out for the guard. He was going to hide in the toilet. He was going all the way into town. I said the guard didn't come around on these trains, but there might be an RPI team once we got into town. I said the barriers would be switched on at the terminals, so if he wasn't up for tailgating he'd be best off trying one of the suburban stations. He clearly didn't do this often enough.

He told me about fishing in the river, down where it turns from salt to fresh, what you could catch.

How old do you think I am? he asked. I said he looked mid-thirties, he said forty-one. He seemed a bit surprised. I said, there you go, you're getting away with it. He said, I'm fucked, I've got no job, I've got no girlfriend. They've started me on a two-year scheme and if I miss it once, I lose my benefit.

Around about zone 4 he started nodding off, quite suddenly, narcoleptically. I wondered about diabetes, medication, something else. I think I woke him up when I got off for the DLR, saying goodbye, to say mind how you go. As the train passed me, from the platform I saw he had slumped back over in his seat.

I wonder how he got on with the gateline once he got to town.
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Bus replacement service [Jun. 7th, 2014|09:04 pm]
She said: 'the greatest advances in revolutionary theory have been written in exile'. Yes, I thought, because the exiles were that bored.

He said: 'imagine it's a foreign country'. That's not hard; I left London and now I live in England.

They said: 'we'll visit you'. As if I were going to prison, or a long stay in hospital, or voluntary confinement.

Today I went to Morrisons, I went to Argos, I went to Asda.

Now I'm going to sleep.
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They all say I can come back and visit, but it's not the same. I'll miss you, even when I'm with you [May. 8th, 2014|09:02 pm]
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4 ALL THE SHOP-LIFTERS
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Notes on a relocation [May. 8th, 2014|08:59 pm]
There's a knackered castle. There's a church passing itself off as a cathedral. There's a station that's filthy because they're going to build a new one.

There's a river, a bridge, a defunct submarine.

There's too much sky.
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Residential interior, W1 [Apr. 29th, 2014|08:12 pm]
Curtain
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Notes on a dislocation [Apr. 29th, 2014|07:48 pm]
"If you'd joined the library, way back, you wouldn't be having this problem now."

An accurate comment, if not terribly helpful at this point. In front of me, a couple of hundred books to be got rid of to the charity shop, behind me a thousand or so to travel onward with me in boxes and crates.

I found books I hadn't seen in a decade. I found books lost so long I had already bought duplicates. Which one do I keep: 'The Vatican Cellars', or 'Lafcadio's Adventures'? Same book, different title. The book I thought I'd never get back when the borrower died: sometime later, after I'd closed it all off buying a replacement, it arrived by post, and I still can't guess how the family of the deceased knew it was mine. Perhaps that wasn't so difficult: another duplicate was the book someone got me because (I shan't name it) "it's so you": it was so me, I already had it.

No Kunderas though. I've said this before, they get borrowed and never come back. There are some who spend half their wages buying replacement Milan Ks, and others who have the man's full stretch on their shelves and have never paid for one. Unfair, I call it.
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Croydon [Mar. 24th, 2014|09:12 pm]
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Croydon
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Euston Road, where else [Feb. 24th, 2014|11:50 pm]
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Euston Road
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My bus broke down. I mean, it was inconsolable. [Feb. 24th, 2014|11:38 pm]
I gave him twenty for a taxi. Didn't know him so well, but he said he'd pulled; I didn't see her, but it was a matter of urgency for him. Later I asked the barmaid if he was regular, she told me his name; I just as soon forgot it.

Didn't expect to see him or the twenty again. Same time next week, same place, he wasn't to be seen until close on last orders. He appeared beside me at the bar, gave me back my score, and insisted on getting my round for me. Insisted.

And he said: "That bird, last week... yeh."

"Nice one."

"Did you see her."

"Not really."

"Her body, I'm not being... from her hips to her ribs... she went on forever. Look."

He's fumbling with his phone. Again he says: "Look".
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East Road, N1. Yesterday, as it happens. [Feb. 10th, 2014|12:21 am]
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East Road, N1
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All this in one evening, it's going a bit fast for me [Feb. 10th, 2014|12:12 am]
I put my foot in it - I wasn't to know - we were talking about the choreography of young couples on the tube, visitors, on the escalators. For a short while their respective heights are altered by one being a step above the other. The way they lark about with it, for the duration of the ride up or down. She teared up, apologised. They'd been broken up for a while but this was some kind of anniversary... The other two filled me in later. Some kind of escalator memory I suppose; you don't know, do you?

Two women, braced between them a younger one needing support. So that made three, making slow progress down Clerkenwell Road.
One on the outside said to the one on the inside: you wait 'til you're forty, my girl! Then it starts, then it starts.

In the pub there were screens, videos. Massive Attack, 'Unfinished Sympathy' at one point. He said: do you remember this? I was in Wigan when this come out, with Marie. Fuck. Takes me back, you know?
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We had fought in a campaign of war; our enemy had been ourselves [Jan. 13th, 2014|09:55 pm]
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-
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. [Jan. 10th, 2014|12:59 am]
"Halfway through our second interview the next day Norman asked me if I was tired. I’ve spent time with elderly people and I know what that question means: he was tired."

Andrew O'Hagan on Norman Mailer, LRB 7 November 2013
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You need a drink [Jan. 5th, 2014|01:27 am]
We met in a Costa on Piccadilly. He was passing through; we were catching up.

His hairline had receded. I noticed that. Once I would have pointed it out, taken the piss.

There somehow seemed less of him now. The tics and traces that I had come to know as indicators of this man's happiness were missing.
As a friend, albeit an old one not frequently refreshed, I wanted to draw that out. But there wasn't time. You need a whole evening to get to that. You need a proper drink.

I now think the anecdote he told me then was a feint, a means of distracting me from a fundamental distress by focusing my attention on a small discontent. In this respect it worked. Though further from me than my friend's plight, it still troubles me now.

He told me that he'd been supermarket shopping earlier in the week. His girlfriend would be in her native Pomerania, so he was buying only for himself. He'd seen the local food bank were collecting, and decided to make a donation; he thought the most appropriate approach would be to buy for others what he'd buy for himself. He said:

What I did was, one for me, one for you, all the way along.

The food bank lady took the food he offered, but then there was a problem. They wouldn't take his drink. The diet Coke and the fruit juice weren't a problem, but the four cans of Grolsch and the bottle of red they refused. She said:

It wouldn't look right.

He told me he fair went into one: how could it not be right for people to have a drink at Christmas? But there was only so much he could say, and nothing he could do. He didn't want to be having a pop at the food bank volunteer, she'd only be following orders. He said to me:

So I walked off, left it there. They're not going to throw them away, are they? But I'm fuming about it. Now, still.

We wished each other a good new year as we parted. I'm a bit worried about him, but just for now that thought gets associated with and cut across by his experience with the food bank. So now I'm thinking how squalid things have become that we need food banks in the first place, and that for some petty puritan reason they can't or won't pass on a few cans of cheap Dutch lager or a bottle of supermarket plonk to people who can't afford them.
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remote access [Dec. 22nd, 2013|12:03 am]
The IT people were trying to make something on my computer work. It would have been too time-consuming, imprecise and laborious for them to talk me through the process and rely on my account of the changes on the screen. They had to access my computer remotely. So I watched the cursor as it was moved around by a mouse in Lancashire, transferring files, switching from one application to another. I slouched in my seat, phone pressed to my ear. I think I was fiddling with some paper clips.

Then I realised a colleague was standing behind me; he was watching too. In an uncharacteristically small and uncertain voice he asked:

'How... are you doing that?'
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In ten years, nothing has changed [Dec. 15th, 2013|08:53 pm]
Not a commercial... [Dec. 15th, 2003|12:20 am]

At the Algerian they grind the beans for you on the premises. Stovetop espresso, electric espresso, paper filter, permanent filter. Cafetiere, if you must. It’s a floor to ceiling place, shelves crammed. Tea, yerba mate. Nougat, too, high cocoa content chocolate (80+%)…

I carried my coffee to the cinema. 2 kilos of Algerian, half a kilo of Mocha. All through Soho and Bloomsbury whiffs of aroma were rising up at me. The auditorium was sparsely populated when I got there, I stowed my goods beneath the seat then covered them with my coat. But I could still smell it, could almost hear it, humming the Marseillaise, with a Rai backbeat.

The cinema filled around me, busy for a Monday evening. I thought I was in a peripheral position, out on the wing, the screen an irregular rectangular, exercising perspective. But they swooped in around me, UCL kids and their lecturers, people getting in out of the damp cold, devotees of Icelandic cinema.

Trailers and adverts, but not so loud that I can’t hear the voices of my fellow patrons. Oh, hell is other people when they chew and fidget and kick my seat-back. But some proportion of the reason I come here is their presence. Anonymous and different. Whole lives of depth and hope in warm bodies to left and right. The blue and green glowing screens of their mobiles distract me in the darkness, but that’s all right.

‘Do they do coffee in the bar up there? Would they let me bring it down here?’
‘I think someone here has one.’
‘I could really do with a cappuccino. But I’ll be pissing…’

I reached down to cover the carrier more completely. Damn, the smell was getting to me, too. I could feel it first as a beguiling notion, then as a brute craving at the back of my jaw, top of my oesophagus. Down in the bag the packets were warm, taking the chill out of my fingertips. It wasn’t a chemical reaction, the grinding process generates heat through friction and that afterglow stays for several hours.

Gradually we all became inured. At one point someone left, then returned.
‘Can you smell burning? Or roasting or something?’
‘[whisper, whisper] …fire detectors..[whisper]’
‘No, it’s nice.’

In the film, almost everyone died in an avalanche.

[The film was Nói albinói]
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