Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Jet Pack Jousting

January 8, 2011

There never seemed much point in having a car when we lived in London. What with the traffic, the lack of parking, the congestion charge and the rampant car theft, getting rid of it and jumping on our bikes seemed like the obvious choice. We rarely missed it either. We enjoyed navigating London by bike and actually found it far more accessible by two wheels rather than four. The canals and rivers that run beneath London provided a network seldom seen by people on conventional transport. Journeys that would take hours by car would take a fraction of the time by bike. And, you never had to worry about parking, congestion or even sobriety. Hot dark tube rides and sardine packed buses were eradicated  from our lives and our knowledge of the city expanded with every ride.

Unfortunately, as with most utopian undertakings, everything wasn’t quite as ideal as it had first appeared. There were in fact, some rather large holes in our plans. With the bicycles as our primary form of transport, carrying anything larger than a six pack was impossible. If it didn’t fit in a backpack or a pannier, it simply didn’t go. There were so many things we needed that were just too big to carry on a bike. We couldn’t live our lives surrounded by extremely small or foldable objects, so we had to think creatively and innovate.

One (of many) oversized essential item was a trash can for our kitchen. I knew I could get one at a reasonable price from B&Q, which was about four miles away across Hackney Marshes down the Lea Bridge Road. The only problem, how to get a 40 liter steel chrome bin home on the bike! I figured, in this spirit of innovation, I could strap it to my backpack using bungees and then ride it home on my back, kind of like an oversized jet pack.

Surprisingly, this circus act approach actually worked out quite well. The trash can strapped to my backpack securely and the bags buckles and straps secured it to me. Apart from looking like Evil Knievel on a bike, I was good to go. In hindsight, this was my point of miscalculation, the tipping point if you like. As everything was coming together so well, I decided to add to my load. It was only a wardrobe rail. We needed it to optimize our limited storage space and buying it now would save another journey. It weighed nothing and it would slip down the back of my pack. It protruded slightly above my head as I rode but, as it looked like a radio receiver, it seemed to add to the whole rocket man image thing.

I rode out of the car park and proceeded gingerly onto the main road. Everything was going well. As I stopped at the lights a white van pulled up beside me. The driver was pointing at me while laughing hysterically. He wound his window down and, between bouts of laughter, asked “What the f*&k are you doing mate?” I thought for a second before replying. ‘My wife asked me to take the trash out’, so here I am, taking the trash out’. The lights changed and I pedaled on leaving the van driver laughing behind me.

I had gone barely twenty yards when, out of the blue, something very hard and very heavy hit me in the back of the head. The blow sent me careering across the cycle lane and straight into a fence. I hit the fence then the ground hard. Fortunately, I was saved from serious injury by my jet pack absorbing some of my fall. I staggered to my feet looking around to see who or what had hit me. There was nothing near me, no vehicle no person, no animal. Nothing. There was, however, a bike traffic light five yards behind me hanging forlornly from a post swinging from side to side upside down. It’s innards smoked and sparked and a pile of glass lay beneath it.

It took me while to figure out what had happened. But, as I stood staring at the smoking traffic signal, It hit me, again! My wardrobe rail, which protruded slightly above my head as I rode, had skewered the light as I went underneath it. It had pierced the light as cleanly as a jousting pole and had forced the whole light fitting into the back of my head.

The same white van driver I had joked with moments earlier was now parked by my side. He was laughing so hard he could barely talk. “You all right mate”, he enquired between fits of laughter. He pointed at the sparking signal. “Only it looks like your lights ave gone out”…….

I rang my wife. ‘Meet me at the pub’, I barked as soon as she answered. ‘I need a drink’. Startled, she asked what was wrong. ‘What’s wrong’ I spluttered. ‘the trash can rocket pack took out the traffic light and the van drivers wet himself.’ She was silent for a moment before asking, “are you sure you need a drink?”

I strode into the beer garden still clutching the bent wardrobe rail in my hand. I scanned the noisy scene looking for the reassuring sight of my wife. As I stood there, bent steel bar in hand, the garden went quiet. Everyone stared. No one moved and no one spoke. My wife appeared by my side. “What are you doing! You look like a f*&king psychopath!” “What”, I said, as I wiped the sweat from my brow. “A psychopath?”, I mumbled staring down aimlessly at my hand.  It was bright red. My head was bleeding. Not badly, but, added to my vacant stare and my clutching a bent steel bar, it was enough to make me look like a nutter who was about to go postal. “Maybe we need to buy a car” I muttered.


John Bird

September 19, 2008

This is an abbreviated version of an article I wrote a few years back. Reading it back, I’d forgotten how impressed I was with John Bird. He is a real legend. Although, I will blank out the fact that he ran for Mayor of London against Ken Livingstone.


John Bird, is the co-founder and driving force behind The Big Issue, an award winning entertainment and current affairs magazine. The Big Issue is a groundbreaking publication, written by professional journalists, but sold on the street exclusively by the homeless. John Bird, is a maverick rogue who has made his career outside of the mainstream, championing the cause of the less fortunate through his unique and radical approach.

I caught up with him in Putney Bridge, an area he has lived in for most of his adult life. I attempted to find out how someone who, in his own words, “had problems with aggression, violence, drinking and theft”, was awarded an MBE by the queen. Had John Bird become part of the mainstream?

“I actually come from the working classes. I come from the underclass, from the real f*****g culture-less underclass. You come to my family and you see those kinds of people. People who have been on benefits since the thirteenth century. There was nothing in my life that was cultural. There wasn’t anything soft. There wasn’t anything loving. It was vicious nasty and bitter. I had a lot of problems with violence, my aggression. I’d drink to much and get into fights, get arrested, be a thief and that kind of thing” .

It doesn’t take a lot to get John talking. The honesty and transparency he brings to the conversation is disarming. He talks frankly about anything without prompting in a quick-fire, animated manner.  He is easy to warm to and is obviously appreciated by his fellow Londoners, who recently named him winner of their BBC Living Legends listeners poll. His no nonsense approach, although uncompromisingly acerbic, wins respect. 

He continues a pace. “So, I met a girl and I wanted to get into her knickers. She was a Marxist. So, I had to get involved with the Marxist movement. The problem was, they were all middle class and had no way of relating to me, and I had no way of relating to them”.

This struggle with the middle classes is a recurring theme in John’s life.  He may now sport a Savile Row suit and drink latte, but the brooding working class rage still lingers behind the eyes and I feel he may not quite be done.

The problem was, those people wanted to brow beat”. He jabs the air repeatedly. What Marxism and Trade Unionism [have in common is] they all have social democracy, but they want to represent. They don’t want to get down amongst the shit and the scum and get people out of there. I’m the only person in homelessness that I’ve met who comes from the problem, but has become part of the solution”.

John Bird may now own a media empire, but he still counts the homeless amongst his friends. He is a true everyman, untouched by fame or success. The man before me was truly everything I imagined a working class hero to be.

Add Campaign Decapitated

August 8, 2008

We have all had those moments when we realize the game has changed way after play has begun. In advertising there is certainly nothing astounding about a client moving the goal posts, changing the direction of a campaign on a whim or suspending the whole thing completely, sometimes mid meeting. But I have to say, I have never come across a campaign which has hit the buffers as hard and as late as this one.

Greyhound has just scrapped an ad campaign they had already rolled out after this story broke late last week: 

A traveler aboard a Greyhound bus repeatedly stabbed and then decapitated his seat mate, pausing during the savage attack in central Canada to display the head to passengers who had fled in horror, witnesses and officials said Thursday.

The add campaign, which extolled the virtues of bus travel had to be hastily terminated as the tag line read: “There’s a reason you’ve never heard of ‘bus rage.'” 

Greyhound spokeswoman Abby Wambaugh said “Greyhound knows how important it is to get these removed and we are doing everything possible.  This is something that we immediately asked to be done last week, realizing that these could be offensive.”

Talk about having to go back to the drawing board! Maybe their new tag line should be Greyhound, Head and Shoulders above the rest? Here is the never to be seen again add:


North American bus company Greyhound Lines said it had pulled ...


June 5, 2008

What is it with the art world? You wait all day for one L’enfant terrible………. Hot on the heels of yesterday’s quashing of Yazmany Arboleda’s exhibition in New York, London suffered an art shock of it’s own. Viewers of BBC1’s 1pm news bulletin got rather more than they bargained for, when, during the preview for the BBC London regional news summary, artwork hand picked by Tracey Emin for the  summer exhibition at the Royal Academy popped up on screen. A quick glance at the image (below) will give you an idea of why the unsuspecting public were so shocked and of what a huge cock up this really was! 

The piece is a 1992 work by Mat Collishaw, Emin’s ex boyfriend. It is owned by Emin’s friend Damien Hirst. Some people may see depravity, others eroticism. Personally, I can’t get past the nepotism.