And a raw onion on the side, please

Remember when kebab shops used to display plastic vegetables in their glass-fronted heaters, to make up for the fact that they didn’t sell any fresh food? Maybe they still do it; it’s some time since I’ve visited one (and I’ve still never had a kebab – my kebab shop adventures all took place during my decade of vegetarianism, so I used to make do with chips in pitta bread, which I still crave from time to time).


But a variation on that theme seems to have emerged in sandwich shops, where increasingly I see whole fresh raw vegetables plonked between the trays of sandwich fillings. I hadn’t given this trend much thought until this morning, when I caught the sandwich man next door by surprise as he was carefully arranging green peppers, red onions and tomatoes in a fetching tricolore pattern around the various bowls of tuna mayonnaise (I expect there were more fillings on offer than just tuna mayonnaise, but they all looked like tuna mayonnaise). He was clearly giving it some thought, and it made me wonder what, exactly, he thought he was doing. I wonder if they keep a separate collection of vegetables aside to use purely as decoration? And, you know…why?



My office is on the thirteenth floor, and has picture windows all the way around, so that – with the exception of a small part of the northwest corner which is blocked off by a similarly-sized building next door – we have a 360º view of London. And what we don’t have is a clock, so whenever I’m not at my PC and want to know the time, I have to look down Victoria Street to Big Ben (or St. Stephen’s clock, or whatever it’s really called). Which is great: using Big Ben as your office clock is like keeping your jewellery in the Tower of London, or getting your groceries from Harrods.


All of which reminds me that when I lived on Tooley Street we used to refer to the mini-supermarket on Shad Thames as “Harrods”, because its wares were similarly ambitiously priced. In fact, I’m fairly sure you could buy the constituents for a meal more cheaply at the real Harrods than you could have done at this place, whose name I have conveniently forgotten. Still, I’d undergo worse hardship than that to live on Shad Thames.

Small pleasures

There’s a man whose job it is to stand outside my building holding a placard that directs passers-by to a tanning shop down a side street. Generally, and especially on slightly miserable days like today, he does this with a fixed expression of gloom on his face, as well he might. But once or twice a day, he lays his placard down flat on a wall and retreats to a sheltered spot about five yards away from his pitch, to stand for a few minutes without holding up a placard, out of the wind and rain. And when he does this, the expression on his face is one of sheer delight. I admire his ability to find a reason to be cheerful in the least promising of circumstances.

A shamelessly self-indulgent post

Well, it’s my blog.

And it’s likely to be getting a rest for the next week or so, while I disappear to join the ranks of the propertied classes, or “smug middle-class bastards”, as I believe they’re officially termed.

In preparation for this, I have done all the “things to do” on my “things to do” list. There will, naturally, be a new “things to do” list come Monday, but for now there are no “things to do”, except fun ones. Excuse me while I snoopy-dance my way out of the building.

The burbs

My two-week period of homelessness has meant I am spending more time than usual in London’s leafy south-eastern suburbs. A couple of nights ago I went truly off-piste and ventured out to Biggin Hill by bus. And you know what? It’s nice out there! What it lacks in 24-hour shops and, well, people, it makes up for in prettiness and a cheery fellow-feeling that you don’t see so much of in town, largely because everybody is in too much of a hurry to stop and make conversation (and anyway, if you start a conversation with the wrong person you might get stabbed). All the bus drivers said “hello”, including the one who took me, and only me, from Keston to Bromley in about the same time it would have taken by car (thank you, Ken, for all the new bus lanes).

Also, I got to see horses in fields. I like horses in fields, as long as they are quite far away and separated from me by something solid (e.g. the side of a bus).

Beard badness

Never mind the funereal procession of black gowns (you have to say “gowns”; “frocks” at a push – never “dresses”) on display at last night’s Oscars ceremony: I am more distressed by the profusion of poorly-thought-through beards. Witness the otherwise-attractive Seth Rogen, James McAvoy, Viggo Mortensen (although in his defence, he’s never looked good, apart from in comparison with the rest of the cast of LOTR, all of whom were playing monsters) and the master of the ill-advised facial hair arrangement, Johnny Depp. Sigh. Such a shame.