Wednesday, October 13, 2004

September 11 (third anniversary Saturday): Blundetto. This morning hurts. My body clock on form, I wake up just past seven and I really need not do this, I need catch up sleep! Today, so much to do, so little time to do it. Things currently feel like they are getting on top of me, it never ends; there is no cure for life.

Procrastination out of the way and an end to too much thinking and I am able to get a move on with today. I do my duties (buy the Saturday newspapers and post an Ebay Gringo CD to Moscow) and I board a train to London at 10.40, only half an hour after originally planned. Today’s plan is to get tickets for Millwall’s first ever UEFA cup match against Ferencvaros and Mark wants to come along for the ride and hang out in the capital. Off the back of yesterday’s bad news, today as per usual I am feeling a tad morose and I figure no better time to go and see the holocaust exhibition at the Imperial War Museum out of morbid fascination and then later on we might add to that watching Super Size Me.

Welcome to the best day that I have had in a very long time.

The train ride happens and I am able to get off my ride at Stratford. As I unboard the train (is that a real term?) I see who I think is the young blonde girl I wound up sitting next to on my English course on Thursday. Was that her? I’m not sure, I just smile and look away just as to not appear totally antisocial/unsocialable. I must appear so weird to some people, especially the young ones but at least I am in London doing stuff.

From the train, I head straight from Stratford to Canada Water to Surrey Quays. Perhaps I should be heading to Tower Bridge and South Bermondsey but this route just seems/feels quicker and more direct. I wonder what I will have awaiting me at the Den; will it be mass queues? Will it take hours to get my ticket? Will I get mugged between Surrey Quays and Den? Regardless, after early threats of rain, today has turned out to be the most beautiful of days.

I arrive at Surrey Quays and nervously make my way through the tower blocks and industrial mess of the Football Factory route to the Den. The legend goes that the bushwhackers got their name from hiding in bushes prior to jumping out and hitting people and there definitely are ample bushes on the way to Zampa Road. Today however, the worst thing I have to face is a group of four pre-school kids playing and two female joggers running under the rail bridge. I am so paranoid at times. When I get the ground, it echoes ruck, the ground sounds like it has people inside, is the ticket queue kicking off from frustration? Maybe there is a training session in/on the ground? There isn’t a reserve game today, they’re generally Wednesdays. Sadly when I arrive at the gates, the entrance from this direction is all locked up and I now know I should have taken the Zampa Road option. I walk around the industrial, seeing parts of Millwall I have never seen before. This is full on industrial estate South London and this looks being like the future of big city football. This could be any industrial estate, anywhere in the country, only difference being there is a fucking great, mod con football ground/stadium smack bang in the middle of it.

When I finally get to the ground, oh my there is hardly anyone about. Where are the queues for UEFA tickets? I check that the ticket offices are open and banging on at the window is some punter from Eastern Europe having it explained to him that he needs to be a Lions member to purchase a ticket to see Millwall v Ferencvaros. When I get my chance to step to the plate, once more I get my mind blown by the rudeness of the seemingly YTS kids that Millwall employ in their ticket offices, it really is like some secret gang runs things. It is obvious he thinks I am an idiot when I ask if there are any tickets still remaining and I think I surprise him when I ask for Block 17. I ask if I can get a second ticket (for Stevo) but the allocation rules (just like the Cup Final) again are a fucking brick wall.

I feel semi smug when I walk away with my UEFA ticket for seats where I want them and done without wasting half the day away. And sadly my glee sees me staggering into the club shop to buy more shit from Millwall, my purchases ending up as being a Cup Final replica home shirt (which I thought were long sold out) and a polo shirt with the old Millwall badge on. Nice.

Job done at Millwall then, I head to South Bermondsey station and back towards to the city with view to hooking up with Mark. When I get the station, I find myself following a very scary looking rough man there that I suspect my enjoy skag. On the platform, I miss the latest train to Tower Bridge by minutes but there is a train immediately approaching going in the other direction towards Crystal Palace (fucking Beagles). The train is heading to Victoria via Peckham and with time to waste, I find myself bang up for some sightseeing, the sightseeing being looking for Del Boy and Nelson Mandela House.

The ride from South Bermondsey to Victoria is fantastic! My love affair with London once more sees me in almost seizures of excitement as I finally get to see Peckham, real London! This all probably sounds utterly dull but seeing these streets humbles me to feeling like a hick from the sticks and I feel gives me a glimpse into real life. Anyone living in London would/will probably see me as condescending and naïve but it’s still exactly exciting. Peckham however tastes plain and then the ride over top of Brixton shows some things never change. As I head towards Crystal Palace and Clapham, there it is, I finally see it; Nelson Mandella House. Now I have since been told that there is absolutely NO WAY that this can be the actual tower block from the TV show but I don’t think you’ll a closer looking one. Ultimately, I think I am right. Why on earth so I fill so much with glee/joy at seeing such a blot on living conditions? Am I getting some quaint-esqe thrill out of it all? Hope not. Whatever, this is some people’s Buckingham Palace. Yeah, fucking nutcases. I would also like to add at this point, Crystal Palace looks fucking rubbish. As I near Victoria and my journey comes to a conclusion, to my right, there it is: Battersea Power Station (as designed by the bod that did the original Tate Modern building). It turns out that I have real fetish for ugly large building that are just recognisable hideous landmarks. What a wanker. Eventually the train ride ends in Victoria but I would so recommend the ride and will definitely be taking it again myself eventually.

I arrive in Victoria feeling something of a lost soul. Victoria has a kind of notoriety for me because of the fact I saw a pro lady here once (back in the day). That was back in 2001 but for some reason I expect/suspect things to have remained the same, I almost expect/fear I might be bumping into Yasmine (aka Chloe Hayek). Who knows? The sun keeps blazing without the suffocating heat and today feels young and fresh. I walk up Buckingham Palace Road and pretty much find myself hurdling over the best dressed people in the City and one hundred and one tourists from Asia and the America. Although the area is vaguely recognisable to me (for dubious reasons), today becomes an exercise in “getting lost on purpose� once more. That is, until I discover/find the place I always intended to revisit (in more ways than one). I walk up Lower Grosvenor Road and wonder just HOW expensive these places must be and then I pass the dingey the door way to the dingey flat I once stepped into on hot August Friday evening excited and frightened to death. The place/area still makes me somewhat nervous. I look up and realise that time has passed so far that I would no longer remember exactly which flat/apartment window it would have been that was open and I looked out on, very cosmopolitantly of course. I walk up and down the street one time and try to recapture memories but fall short, my mind’s eye has so moved on. I wonder if the girl still lives/works/operates here and I would so like to know but would never consider attempting to find out and why. Its sad how some of the most interesting people you meet in your life end up being/participating in it for such a small/short period. I look around and take mental Polaroids for another a day (and a couple of Nokia crap phone pictures) and get a move on before Jason becomes too much of a stalker boy.

Back in the march with the tourists, I find myself wandering along with satisfaction feeling as if the world surrounding me (the one of such great wealth) it just the stuff of a different planet. So generally, as with when in Rome, I find myself becoming a tourist amongst the tourists. Half by accident, I find myself winding up the gates of Buckingham Palace and the building is not half as exciting as seeing what may have been Nelson Mandella House. This is the first time in probably twenty years that I have ever been here and it dawns on me just what a great sacrilicious act it was to see a pro lady so close to where the queen houses herself, high class! Around the palace is the usual swarm/rabble of tourists, which actually surprises me in its volume. More impressive to me, than the palace, however are the statues and the fountains. I walk up the steps and it is here I take a time out, to just chill and people watch. As I sit, looking around suddenly a barrage of motorcycles come flying past the palace on their way to who knows where. And when I say a barrage of bikes, this totals roughly a million of seemingly never ending Hell’s Angels out to police a Rolling Stones concert. Maybe.

Here today is an abundance of Orientals and their apparent enthusiasm for life is so enviable but sadly not so infectious. As I sit pretty much monging (and catching my breath, getting old Jase) the most beautiful little girl (oriental) sits close by to me and her dad takes a photo of her, posing with the palace in the background. Me and him smile at eachother when he picks up his daughter and says to her “when did you get so big�, it was the perfect beautiful moment, immediately I found myself in more than 100% awe of the man, those are the moments I know I want from being a parent and with each day I am more likely to miss out on. In the distance, a fiddle is playing for Jason. Just sitting on the statue/fountain, I find myself the most relaxed I have been in weeks and perhaps the most clear headed and happy, at this point part of me decides that this should always be a special place for me to come and think, especially in its ability to sink in and become anonymous/invisible and be able to just blend with so many different people from different cultures/backgrounds.

Around this point my phone beeps and Mark is getting in touch, suggesting a meet up around 2pm, I tell him that I may as well meet him at Liverpool Street. After about half an hour at the Buckingham Palace fountains, I toss a penny into water, make a wish and make moves towards meeting up with Mark. I walk looking for a tube station, not having any idea of where I am going or where I am headed, desperation almost reaches the point of asking a tourist where to go. Dickhead. I wind up at Charing Cross/Trafalgar Square though and all things are safe as houses as I get ‘Nam-eqse flashbacks of the second City interview I had in the summer.

I eventually get back to Liverpool Street to hook up with Mark but this is not before I get caught up in a tube breakdown between stations which these days just think/fear is the result of some kind of Taliban attack. Whilst sitting patiently on the train I find myself macking some interesting looking prim woman sat opposite me and then I notice some male model looking guy (who may or may not have been somebody) giving me evils in his sandals. What’s all this underground train paranoia about?

Believe it or not, I do actually get back to Liverpool Street and finally hook up with Mark. Immediately we head to the Elephant & Castle and make our way to the Imperial War Museum. After a bit of a walk, suddenly there we are, at the Imperial War Museum faced by two of the biggest guns you will ever see in history. With our minds already blown, we make steps inside. In my youth, I used to be a regular visitor to the Imperial War Museum in Duxford but I have never been to the one in London and it is really an amazing place to visit, really interesting and exciting. Inside we immediately found ourselves faced by all manners of heavy artillery and weapons including a replica of the A-bomb dropped on Hiroshima, which is just mind blowing because the size of bomb is just so small in comparison to all the damage it did. The vehicles are particularly interesting, they are so well kept and I found myself questioning as if they are actually real. At the end of the day however you can give a tank a new paint job but I would imagine it to be next to impossible to accurately recreate the dents.

After milling around we head to the Holocaust exhibition and things become somewhat serious and sombre. It is an amazing exhibition, very emotional and all too easy to get caught up in all the horror. The whole scene really plays on the senses as you find yourself bombarded by image after image and video stories of one of the scariest moments in history. One of the first images you see is Goebbels off on a rant which would be read as sinister even without the background knowledge. Also early on, featured is some literature by Moseley. The exhibition runs chronologically, always showing where the action was occurring at such specific times and personally I learned of the early involvement of Russia which I previously was not aware of. The Night Of Broken Glass period gets covered and leads into stories about concentration camps, where the truth hits home hardest. One of the most staggering items on show is a portion of one of the trains that would have been used to ferry people to the camps and this leads onto a Hornby-esqe model of one of the camps (Auschwitz I think). At this point I become choked when I see the broken belongings recovered, not least sets of broken spectacles which for some reason trigger something in me. Also the other choker items turn out to be recovered toys of children involved in the exodus. Soon afterwards the exhibition ends with the liberation of the camps and we leave the exhibition next to silence having got just what we were expecting in earnest.

We skip quickly through the remainder of the Imperial War Museum, the other main exhibitions currently being war crimes and the secret war, an exhibition on spies and the hidden enemy. We leave the museum and stroll down to the Thames via Kennington Road where I know a Radio One DJ lives. When we eventually make it to the Thames and cross a bridge looking over the Houses Of Parliament from the river’s direction, Mark notes that we are actually really close to the Tate Britain, so we head towards the gallery to give it a peak.

After my experiences at the Tate Modern a few weeks, I enter the Tate Britain a little with reservation but the gallery turns out to be pretty different to the Modern but oddly houses a LOT of modern art which you might imagine be housed in the Tate Modern. The first piece we are hit/met/faced with is Semi-detached by Michael Landy. This is an amazing exhibit which Mark had heard of before and kind of made me feel that I should have also. Anyways, what Landy has done is basically recreated a full size replica inside the Tate of his parents house in Essex, split it into two parts and on the flat/back side of the each house side there is a video wall which images playing an audio track of his father whistling songs on a loop, the most recognisable of these being Danny Boy. The whistling is thoroughly eerie and adds a spooky dimension to the piece, making it feel almost haunted as if there are people/spirits inhabiting the house. There is also a dark background story to his father’s involvement in the piece and how him having to finish his working life being part of Landy’s inspiration. From there we move onto various other modern artists, choosing to completely ditch the old tired “classics�, very rude of us. We spend most of our remaining type checking out the Tracey Emin exhibits. If nothing, the woman is notorious and prolific. On the whole though, I find most of her stuff trite and amateurish/immature. On the wall are scraps from a notebook of her as a teenager pouring her heart out, confused after some kind of indecent assault event. The pages run for about twenty sides of A4 and only the most maschochistic of person will actually bother to take any of it in. Elsewhere on display are rips from one of her notebooks quoting Nirvana songs and doilies by her Gran (surely credited to the wrong person Emin!). With time running away on us and the Tate about to close, Mark and I leave barely having scratched the surface, this really is a place I should return to one day.

Outside, we opt out of getting another train to Trafalgar/Leicester Square, instead choosing to hop on a bus and take in some sights. Eventually a big red bus comes along and we get driven around the Houses Of Parliament and past Downing Street, this really is the greatest place on earth. The bus ends and we get dumped back onto the streets and foot again as we see Nelson’s Column in the distance as we head towards Leicester Square and all the cinemas there.

When we finally reach Nelson’s Column we can see the stage that is being set up for tomorrow night’s Pet Shop Boys live show of them soundtracking a live screening Battleship Potemkin. This place is tourist land a-go-go complete with pigeon shit and wankers driving around the capital in hired limos. We waddle up Pall Mall, past the site of my second City interview from the summer (as mentioned above) and we go up past Haymarket Theatre and finally When Harry Met Sally has gone, which represents yet another thing in my life I would have dearly loved to have done but never did.

We hit a cinema and check on tickets for a showing of Super Size Me and we have just enough time to buy ourselves a McDonalds before sitting down to the movie. We eat in the main Leicester Square branch and it seems like it must be the busiest McDonalds in England but very quick and professional with it. I have no idea what it is I order, a flat bread chicken sandwich? I think it supposed to be part of their new health conscious line but it’s just kind of crappy. I also order one of their “new� cappuccinos and it turns out to be the most pathetic frothy coffee I have ever sampled in my life. Mark seems to enjoy our efforts at trying to recapture our youths but I just don’t seem to manage to get into the vibe, sometimes I really lack enthusiasm and direction. However, as I people watch I see the people leave the booth next to us and two sets of people run to get the seat, each occupying a side of the table. One side is a group of three young pre-teen black girls and the other side is a real obnoxious white guy in his thirties with his mother it seems, grabbing seating before he has actually got their burgers in. I watch as the girls argue with the guy over ownership of the booth and the guy begins to get really arsey and territorial over a McDonalds and soon it becomes obvious he isn’t joking or messing when he is telling the girls to “fuck off�, the guy is a racist bully. Eventually the poor girls, resembling pop group Cleopatra (© Mark Boyle) give up the seats and start whining, with one girl remaining behind giving the guy some final doses of shit. I check with Mark to see if he is done and we get up and give our booth to the girls who begin not singing but SHOUTING our praises saying what “nice people� we are. Its embarrassing as much as it is flattering and funny, dude recognition from the hood! Martin Luther King could not have done it better himself.

After attempting to get me a student discount on my Super Size Me ticket, I wind up paying £8 for a cinema ticket! Super Size Me actually turns out to be pretty entertaining and I find it a lot more enjoyable than Fahrenheit 9/11. I do however make the conscious decision that this will be the last ever documentary I watch in a cinema. Super Size Me starts totally preachy and pretty much maintains that air the whole way through the “movie�. The real big problem with the film is that the centre piece, Morgan Spurlock, is just so fucking smug the whole way through. For a person pointing out the blinding obvious, he seems very proud of himself. But it doesn’t spoil the movie, it only taints it. However when Wesley Willis pops up on the soundtrack with Rock N Roll McDonalds you can’t help but warm to what you are watching. Once Mr Spurlock get into his 30 day binge, things begin to liven up as it becomes something of a minor travelog but things really do get off to a poor start when he makes the biggest meal out of eating a super size, what a fucking pussy vomiting over eating ONE McDonalds meal. As his little martyr continues, I personally found myself looking at the food and licking my lips, if anything, the guy is making an inadvertent advert for McDonalds and as your mind begins to wander out of boredom, you consider whether Ronald McDonald had actually decided to make this film in the first place to put his restaurants into the media (hey, all press is good press). Crunch time appears to occur around day twenty when the doctors/GPs begin to tell Morgan Spurlock he may be about to commit permanent damage to his body, mainly his liver. However by this point, the Jackass sensitive nation our youth culture has now become, I find myself almost cheering the guy on to complete his 30 day marathon even if it is fucking killing him in the process, by this point I have to admit I do not care if Morgan Spurlock dies, I just want to see the man complete his feat. And complete it he does, along with his bitching shit of a vegan chef girlfriend sticking with his arrogant arse all the way. I actually wish some of my “friends� who are PC new agers would try something similar and come close to permanently injuring themselves all in the name of art. Fucking people, go back to eating meat, it doesn’t kill you, just comes pretty close to it. And if the guy wants another McStomach Ache, I’ll happily punch him there, especially if he ever makes another such condescending movie ever again in his life.

On a brighter note, I now have my idea for a reality based, documentary, edutainment movie. So, once I get to borrow a camcorder from somewhere/someone and my parents will pay for my mortgage and living expenses while I make it, coming to a cinema next summer may be Jason Graham: The Movie.

After the film, we fall out onto the streets of Leicester Square, which once more is tourist central and a horrible sight at that. Mark becomes paranoid of pick pockets amongst other things and suggest we get out of Central London FAST! To be honest, I’m in no hurry but in reality there is nothing left to do with today, so I give in and we make moves out of there. Suggestions are made to going to Brick Lane, but I’m not really down with Asian stuff/culture at the moment (for many reasons) so instead we hope off the train at Oxford Street in the hope of finding a Waterstones open at past 8pm on a Saturday night. I have to admit; at times I am not the sharpest tool in the box. Needless to say we don’t find an open book shop (and thus no Christina Rossetti) but there is an open McDonalds on a next to empty Oxford Street and I buy a McFlurry making the latest score: McDonalds Corp 2 Morgan Spurlock 0.

By the time we get back to Liverpool Street, after finally throwing the towel in on the day, we stop off for an urgent Costa coffee. These turn out to be the best coffees in history, a proper cappuccino (as opposed to the McDonalds wannabe) served up by the most bored coffee shop employee in history attempting to make funnies with me and failing. Myself, I fail in my attempts to get the Sunday newspaper for the ride home but Mark prevails and gets his (mine being News Of The World versus Mark’s Observer), so I guess I find myself technically riding the loser train home. After initial blips of Mark getting a bit pissed off by thugs on the train (“he had a knife in his back pocket�) our train ride home is a pretty refreshing and interesting conversation about dating Asian ladies.

Upon arrival back in Colchester, the pair of us are exhausted and next to falling asleep as we get into my car and I drop Mark off and I head home. When I get in though, the movie Heartbreakers starring Jennifer Love Hewitt and others (including Jason Lee) is on. That’s some good movie.

np: A Tribe Called Quest – Award Tour


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