Platform 9

The northbound platform out of Euston towards the Home Counties got used by me for the first time in about 14 years yesterday.  Not since the days of early adulthood had I stumbled (without ticket mostly) through the barriers to get on the 1534 Northampton Line train, but an motoring episode that can only be classed as both distinctly disagreeable and disappointing in equal measure led to me being carless.  Non de voiture. Io non ho macchina.  I am back, into my natural way of life – as a walker, busser and trainer.  A flaneur, passing through, utilizing the forces of metal and power and energy that push and pull our city about whilst we loiter in a shabby nylon seat watching the countryside ripple by the window.

Ok, well not exactly the countryside but the way there – Harrow & Wealdstone, Watford Junction, Kings Langley… and I am so old that when I first started taking this train on my own I used to use the smoking carriage.  First Class Smoking Carriage, of course.  It only had two seats.  Then there was a thick glass partition between us and the non-smoking First Class.  There some blustery, Crombie-coated, middle age company director would be, with thinning pale brown hair and making smacking noises on a cigar, and on the other seat, yours truly, sparking up a Silk Cut Menthol, straightening my Rob Newman as “Jarvis” T shirt and flicking through TV Hits to look for pictures of Val Kilmer.   There used to be red and grey painted scenes at the back of each carriage of Hertfordshire windmills, watery artist’s impressions of the Grand Union Canal and brave, grey blocks of high street buildings.  There used to be lino on the floor and large metal bins between the backs of seats that looked like giant’s ashtrays.

Now the trains are warmer, carpeted and much narrower. It seems perverse that as British people have got wider the train aisles have got narrower.  Is aisle jamming going to be an Olympic sport this year?  An athletic event which you may enter, unimpeded by your ginormous girth?  The colour tone of the interior of the trains is vastly improved from municipal swimming pool blue of the 90s to a rich green.  “Welcome aboard this London Midland train for Milton Keynes Central!”  announces an unsavoury, excited female voice through the tannoy.  Why the thrill?  It’s a commuter train full of hospital frontline workers and balding Hertfordshirians sipping cups of tea.  For whatever reason then, our lady narrator is bloody excited to be narrating this gem of a journey.  And she doesn’t stop. “Please take your belongings with you and thank you for travelling London Midland!”,  like we had a choice, and then there’s the grim “Welcome aboard this London Midland train!  Please take a moment to observe our safety facilities and emergency exits!”  She nearly chortled at the end of that one, as if delighted if only one of us passengers thought we might – just might –  die before Berkhamsted.

I haven’t taken this journey in a while.  It’s the journey I took throughout my childhood and youth whenever we were going “up to town” and I’d forgotten that I can remember every part of it.  You get out of Euston and once past the Legolike blocks of Somerstown the view is exceedingly Victorian : Mornington Crescent still looms up in gentrified, down at heel glamour and the rice pudding colour of St Johns Wood homes are just visible over the tops of the railings.  Then suddenly – eeurgh – that old, horrid, vast Morrison’s at Camden Town thrusts itself forward looking like an unloved prefab.  Belsize Road still has its schizoid personality that is visible from the carriage (Social housing on one side of the road and private housing on the other and a whole load of irrascible tension in between) and it alarms me as much now as it did 20 years ago that South Hampstead station appears to be made entirely of wood.  But the journey is much quicker and quieter than it ever was.  Nothing reminds me more of the space between childhood and adulthood as much as the view from the window between London Euston and Harrow & Wealdstone.  On the M1, you don’t see the houses, the flats, the tops of pubs, the Royal Mail sidings, the cargo trains that sit in Neasden sidings and which always reminded me as a child of Westerns, the supermarket car parks, the waving child from the top of a bus over a Willesden bridge.  In other words, if you’re not in a train you don’t see the journey.   Pubs I hadn’t realised I remembered veer up at the sides of the tracks, untouched and unchanged.    I know the rhythm of the line, I recognise a patch of trees and know we’re approaching Watford Junction a minute before the tannoy tells us so.  How on earth did I remember that?

Do not worry, fair reader, I am not a proponent of G.A.S.  (Golden Age Syndrome).  I don’t hark back in the quaint and deluded belief in better times in the past.  I may have Golden Arse Syndrome but not Golden Age Syndrome.  Even my rampant Victorianism doesn’t stretch far enough to love all things Victorian (syphillis, anyone?) but I do wonder what the same journey would have been like 120 years ago.  Darker, smellier, slower. Colder, and infused with the smell of coal and sulphur.  Louder with constant belches of hot steam and the clanging clatters of mechanical parts and definitely much less eco-friendly.  Perhaps a moustachio-ed ticket inspector popping his head around the mahogany door of the ladies carriage on this line was the inspiration for the big music hall hit “She’d Never Had Her Ticket Stamped Before” (I do not jest)?  After 40 minutes of fairly uncomfortable seating and negotiating a bustle around the rest of you to try to get comfortable you would have alighted here, 20 miles from London and it would be the middle of the countryside.  In the deep evening gloam a bellowing cow, a horse and trap, a few clip clops of horseshoes on the untarmacadamed road and little else.   A cluster of flickering gas lights half a mile in the distance, with a pub in the middle of it and beyond that silence and darkness and rows of fields. 

It’s not difficult to see that the railway changed everything. 

We take the routes and walk the station platforms that have been walked for a century and a half, coated with the echoes of fellow Londoners before us. Every time you drop your ipod on a concrete floor, you pick it up and touch were Edwardian shoes have trod, where evacuees have waited.  People roll off the train with handy suitcases on wheels, dragging the suitcases behind them as Victorians dragged parasols, attache cases and hat boxes.  Travellers pocketing paperbacks in coats tread where travellers in the 1880s clutched their W H Smith Railway Bookstall purchases in tightly gloved hands.  Thousands of eyes have watched the same darkening countryside whistle past the window as we watch – eyes under army hats, eyes behind pince-nez, eyes of governesses, of servants, of Dukes, eyes of natives and the eyes of strangers, not to mention the dreary eyes forced to look at blackout curtains instead of the countryside during the war.   We’ve settled into train seats for nearly 200 years.   We remain steadfastly loyal to a great fear of change, of losing a sense of oneself, of the idea that time marches on, rudely inconsiderate of us, fragmenting the fabric we hold dear and leaving us distressed at the side of the track.  But the truth is that if you take a train anywhere in Britain it becomes astonishing how little has, in any true sense of the world, changed.  The Victorian Age was characterized by an overbearing sense of anxiety surrounding the vast developments in transport, productivity and social upheaval, by a fear that the pace of these developments would outstrip our ability to keep up with them and that we would be annihilated by our own pursuits for commercial and financial success.  You see?  Nothing really ever changes at all.

Please return to The London Bluebird if you enjoyed this.  This blog is updated every Thursday.

Sensational Stuff

Dear Reader,

The Bluebird Book Club requires another entry as we launch from each gothic winter day to the next here in London town. No one seems to want to do anything other than curl up on the chaise longue of life, draw the shutters and settle back with a good yarn at the moment.  The icy winds and dark nights are making hermits of us all.  At Bluebird Towers we have just brewed the Darjeeling, a riotous cake has been stumped up with the helpful addition of Dorsetshire apples and we invite you into our gas-lit drawing room reading club for a slab of gothic Victoriana.  What shall we thrill ourselves with this January afternoon?  A ghostly tale of shock and madness, oh yes, that’ll cheer you up, dear Bluebird followers!  Draw nearer the fire.  Do you take sugar?

I first read The Woman in White back in 2002 and it blew my fucking mind.  When published in 1859 it was a trailblazer of the genre known as sensation fiction and it totally kicks everything up the butt.  Everything.  Thackeray couldn’t put it down, the crazy old loon.  Gladstone had tickets to the theatre and forgot to go as he was too busy reading it.  Prince Albert started giving copies of the book to all of his friends as Christmas presents, but then he was a German so we can’t really trust anything he did.   M E Braddon, an author we have focused on before here at Bluebird, tried to imitate this novel with many of her own, but she never quite clinched it.  The Woman in White  is a bona fide, Class A, 24 carat gold, Derby Day winner.  A grim, sinister country house?  Check.  A series of unreliable and suspicious characters?  Check.  An asylum?  (What Victorian novel would be a novel without one?)  Check.  A modern, inspirational heroine who is forced to tackle a man’s power and control as a woman?  Check.  A deep family secret that threatens to destroy an entire family?  Check.  A car chase?  Check.  All right – no car chase.  I just wanted to check you were concentrating at the back.

There is skullduggery, blackguards, tomfoolery, arch aristocrats, madness, illness, peculiar Italians and a drawing master who has the hots for his pupil.  If this set up seems slightly cliched and melodramatic by today’s standards, remember this novel was the first one of its kind to present the characteristics above.  And who is the Woman in White anyway?  Aha.  I would be spoiling something wonderful for you if I told you and if you have not read this entertaining yarn, nor were unfortunate enough to see Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical of the same name.  I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you, but sufficed to say it’s a book that causes a feverish, obsessive reading in a bid to find out the truth.  In addition, for those of you with a keen mystery eye, it’s one of the first detective stories ever written, setting into motion a new literary “type”, the brave, detective renegade, a character type of which Miss Marple and Sherlock Holmes are direct descendants.  In this book it is a strong, lone, spinster woman who is forced to become amateur detective to save herself and her sister battling against any number of difficulties and obstacles from outside the home and within.   

The advent of the multiple narration in which characters “write” their own chapters in a series of interviews and diaries, puts the reader in direct association with the narrative and the characters, without the usual nineteenth century safety net of the strong authorial voice and, although this is a technique that Wilkie Collins’s friend Dickens had used with Bleak House six years earlier,  it is still rather unusual in the mid-Victorian canon.  But what it reveals is the most important aspect of the Victorian sensation novel :  Collins is intent on revealing the corruption, moral decay and danger inherent in that most English of desirable objects : the middle class provincial home.  It doesn’t matter how many factories you’ve curtailed into existence in the Midlands, or whether you’ve been earning philanthropy marks in your life as a respectable banker : the shadow of murder and corruption and madness lurks behind every single William Morris wallpapered wall, and the contagion of insanity is, it appears, catching.  No one is ever more than an itinerant player in life, in Collins’s novels, a player walking through a peculiarly English landscape of plots of mismanaged inheritances, wrongful imprisonments and people being incarcerated in nuthouses.  The law is an ass, ever faithful to its own long purse.  The women in his novels tend to inhabit liminal spaces; women intent on puncturing holes in the dividing line between public propriety and feminine domesticity, women who are manly and fail to conform to the feminine ideal and flagrantly immoral women who get up to all sorts, frankly.

Giggling yet?  I admit, it doesn’t sound like that much fun.  And I know what you’re thinking – you there, at the back of the class, ink-stained elbow leaning on your defaced wooden desk – “This is a LONDON blog.  Have you just gone culturally supercilious on us?  We want sparkly, happy LONDON things!” you protest, as you kick your sandaled feet against the wooden floor and gaze longingly outside, anticipating breaktime with its orange squash and bright sunlight and shortbread biscuits nibbled under the climbing frames.  Do not fret, kids.

The beginning of the novel opens on Hampstead Heath – that urban piece of magnificent rural wildness that is so beloved of George Michael and birdwatchers.  Our first narrator is striding over to his family homestead having spent too much cash recently (Amazon.com splurge over Christmas?) and been reduced to staying in his mother’s “Hampstead cottage” for the foreseeable future.  Whilst a Hampstead cottage in today’s London could seriously be categorized as a des-res, in 1859 it seems to be a bit embarrassing.  I mean, he’s a bit of a bitch about it. Anyway, on he marches for supper.  At supper in his mother’s awful, horrid, downmarket and utterly uncool Hampstead cottage, he is delighted to find his old Italian friend, Professor Pesca, in residence.  Pesca knows of a drawing master’s job that has come up and instantly recommends our narrator for the post.  They drink sherry and do nineteenth century stuff with pianos, and then our narrator walks home towards Camden Town.  But what exactly happens at the place on the Finchley Road “where four roads meet”?  He collides with a mysterious woman dressed head to toe in white and who is being pursued by two chaps in a brougham with horses, who race forward, in blatant disregard for the traffic calming measures outside the Swiss Cottage Odeon. All right, the Swiss Cottage Odeon wasn’t there in the olden days, but I find it nigh impossible to imagine a part of London I know very well into another age, i.e. to re-imagine it in it’s Victorian splendour.  As far as I can tell, the Woman in White first makes her appearance at the junction of Finchley Road, Avenue Road, Belsize Road and probably…er..another road which, as one time long term resident of the area, I find I cannot identify.  Frognal?  West End Lane?  Where has she been – in Waitrose?  Or merely having a shufti around the O2 Centre, weeping around the dull aquariums, and searching for a long lost squire or governess in the multiplex cinema? 

I tried to shove my head back – back through decades and on and on and I wonder if anyone’s mind can truly do this – through the greying 1980s, the tower blocks ricocheting up in the 1960s, the transient, European wartime population of the region scattering up through the 1950s, back through to the 1930s and the vast monolith of the Odeon being constructed in the middle of one of North London’s most dissatisfying one way systems, back through the 1920s with its austere apartment blocks, onwards through suburban Edwardiana until there is nothing  but hush and quiet as there are no stations or tubes on the main Finchley Road.  Back even further, to the smell of camphor and the squish of horse shit underfoot, to the custardy yellow of gas lights and the dark red fortresses of Avenue Road houses of the 1880s, to the absence of proper pavements and the musty mist of Victorian fogs set against the rattle of the carriage, to the dark red omnibus that trundles over cobbles and hay through the mid-evening gloam…  And then BANG!  Suddenly a branch of “Amy’s ‘Ardware” store and a brash branch of “Costa” appear in my mind’s eye, and I’m suddenly startled back into the real world of 2012 again.  No sooner has Wilkie Collins painted his scene than my frontal lobe wants to paint it out again, and, disturbingly, put in a traffic cone where a Victorian top hat used to be.  Our London, the city we pass through, curse at, love and loathe with equal abandon and which has, astonishingly, been voted the best city on the planet this week (who voted?  Pigeons?) can’t be nudged aside in our mind with all the other cultural London’s that compete – Dickens’s London, Shakespeare’s London, Sherlock Holmes’s London, Martin Amis’s London – Stop STOP!  Too many Londons.  My brain is tired.  I don’t know where I am – or when I am. 

That said, and back to The Woman in White, this is not a London novel.  Most of it is set in Northumberland. And you can’t get further from London than that, otherwise you topple off the top of the country.  It glides beautifully along and I must demand you read it forthwith.  Should you enjoy it I thoroughly recommend Sarah Water’s Fingersmith which deliriously takes all of the literary conventions of the gothic sensation novel, reconfigures them, exploits the reader’s expectations of the genre and turns it all upside down before you know it – an ingenious read.   

Meanwhile, dearest Bluebird readers, I instruct you:  Get a bar of chocolate and a big mug of tea and settle in for these January nights : go forth and read The Woman in White

For more to whet your appetite, here is an interesting article from The Guardian, writing on the 150 year anniversary of the novel’s publication : http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2009/nov/26/woman-in-white-150-years-sensation

Please return to The London Bluebird if you enjoyed this.  This blog is updated every Thursday.

Deer Stalkers

“SHERLOCK IS BACK AGAIN” said the sign this morning at the corner of the Everyman Baker Street cinema.  Of course he is.  I mean the other one.  The one with Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law, which is apparently a sequel to their first one.  I feel I have to explain this because no one in this country cares a bean for the film because they are still going nuts for our Sherlock.   Sherlock is everywhere.  Twitter users are being #Sherlocked (apparently a type of pleasant televisual paralysis ones emotions and glands go into when exposed to Benedict Cumberbatch on Sunday nights)  Mid-market dailies are crushed full of Benny Cumberbund staring meaningfully at photographers lenses, sucking his cheeks in and raising his coat collar up against a dastardly detective plot.  We sit, curtained windows against the dark, January evenings, watching Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman sit around their moodily-designed Baker Street bachelor pad in its olive greens and murky browns, as Sherlock unblinkingly assesses another case with his usual blend of psychotic detachment and illuminating pragmatism.  The New Year schedules, normally a three week rickety drawbridge between the excesses of Christmas and the sharp, desperate launch of the January season, have had Sherlock as its crowning glory.  Every Sunday for three weeks at 8.30pm, BBC1’s ratings shoot through the roof, hitting Morecambe & Wise-esque proportions.  Of course we can’t follow the plots.  That’s not the point.  I can barely work out how the tumble dryer works, let alone understand how an enigmatic lady has given me the code to her safe by walking about naked whilst emitting her vital statistics.  The point is, we are stunned – stunned by the quality of visual presentation, stunned by the deducting skills of this nation’s favourite detective, and stunned by Martin Freeman’s tasteful range of Marks and Spencers pullovers. Are we getting Sherlocked out?  Is it all a bit, well, too much?

Of course, we adore Sherlock over here at the London Bluebird.  Last year’s post proved that (see https://thelondonbluebird.wordpress.com/2010/08/05/detection/).  Una Stubbs looks terrific.  Martin Freeman gets to play our endearing and reliable blogger / narrator and Cumberbatch is a delight.  But it is wise that the current series format is only three episodes.  It’s too rich to digest in bigger numbers.  Barely forty minutes had gone by of the last episode, and I was lost.  There was something about a rabbit that glowed in the dark?  And a pub in rural somewhere-or-othershire, and Martin Freeman looking woefully underwritten and Sherlock having some sort of meltdown by a pub fire?  When people started seeing imaginary dogs I sort of left my own head for a bit.  But this Sherlock over-exposure is an ordinary thing if you ever take a bus down Baker Street.  You would think, for example, that no one had ever lived in Baker Street other than Sherlock Holmes, which is ironic when you take into account he is fictional.  One of the endearing things about Holmes fans is that they treat the Sherlock Holmes Museum with the same sense of devotion and idolatry which Dickensians would give to the Dickens Museum, without ever really coming to terms with the fact that Sherlock Holmes is made up.  When the Everyman Baker Street announces that “Sherlock is back again” the truth is he hasn’t gone anywhere, not when there is that eerie, enormous statue terrifying commuters at the exit from Baker Street tube station.  Conan Doyle killed Holmes off in his tale The Final Problem.   But the demand for Sherlock was so intense, and the sense of the man in the public consciousness was so strong that he, quite simply, refused to die.  Conan Doyle ressurrected him in The Return of Sherlock Holmes to sate the appetite of a passionate Holmesian public.  Sherlock has never rested easy.  And you, too, can own a bit of Sherlockian magic in your own life : The Sherlock Holmes Museum Shop even sells a pen that looks exactly like a syringe (“A blood-curdling pen shaped like a hypodermic syringe! Thankfully there is only ink inside!”  screeches the website) so you can write cheques and Tesco shopping lists whilst looking like Sherlock Holmes just before he shoots up.  And all for £3.

Over on Twitter, the Cumberbitches are a faithful, deeply loving breed.  “Seen Benedict getting out of car!”  “Seen Benedict OMG in Asda CUMBERBITCH!”  They warn Steven Moffat over the Twittersphere that they will hunt him down if this series of Sherlock is the last.  One of them has acquired the character of Mycroft Holmes as their Twitter identity.  Reality and fiction are intertwined so closely that no one knows where one ends and the other begins – which is part of the fun, after all.  The Cumberbitch limps from Sunday night to Sunday night, exuding undying romantic love in 140 characters or less, dribbling over the telly and chomping at the bit for their Cumberbatch fix.  After the third episode of Sherlock this coming Sunday, they will be bereft on a sea of nothingness – until War Horse opens and the sight of a moustachioed Cumberbund on a rearing steed going into battle renders them dizzy with Sherlock-esque carnal desire once more.  Cumberbatch would be wise to head for the hills.  He spoke out recently about a disturbing incident in South Africa in 2005 where his scuba diving holiday was rudely interrupted by vagabonds intent on kidnap.  This they did, tying him up and putting him in the boot of a car with his fellow diver, an actress who was apparently once in Coronation Street.  Cumberbatch pretended that he had a dual brain/heart disorder and that he would surely die in an imminent seizure.  When hearing of such bravery and heroism every Cumberbitch in Britain fainted.  So brave and convincing and lovely was he that the kidnappers released him.  Is this incident anything compared to what the Cumberbitches would do to him if they got their mitts on him? Would he be taken off to a laboratory somewhere to be cloned, in order for a whole batch of mini-Bitches to be released on an unsuspecting and ill-prepared world?  This is not helped by the fact that Cumberbatch has spoken out in public about the fact that he is not yet a father, but that he hopes to become one immediately.  Like, now.  The Cumberbitches excitement has now transcended anything we can possibly imagine, and they are forming a (dis)orderly queue.  Trust me – I’ve seen ’em.  I only hope our Benedict likes his women to be currently studying for Sociology AS Level, and to be wearing nothing but a unsettling grin and a deerstalker.

What does it do to an actor’s mind to encounter this kind of flattering, but unhinged, love?  I imagine it’s all fun and Benny Cumberbund is chortling his way to the BAFTAs.  He is an unexpected, unorthodox looking sex bomb.  But it is a trifle unhinged.   Of course, they aren’t in love with him, they’re in love with Sherlock and his devastatingly appealing mind.  It would be unsettling if his character in Atonement  or Starter for Ten exhibited such fiendish, loyal sexual devotion.   Attendances at the Sherlock Holmes Museum have risen vastly since Sherlock was first aired on the BBC last summer, and many afternoons on the bus home, I pass the museum, and see the visitors troop in.  They are all sixteen year old girls.  Perhaps I am too old to really understand the lure of love here, but it seems Sherlock has become the Morrisey of the late-noughties, the late adolescent poster boy for the young adult female, as he hovers about her consciousness as a misunderstood, gothic intellectual.  This series has spawned a whole riot of dear stalkers, intent on finding Benedict Cumberbatch and grabbing him and kissing him.  Who are they in love with?  The enigmatic and characterful Benedict Cumberbatch for his remarkable acting?   Or are they truly in love with his creator – with the great mind of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for his marvellous invention of Sherlock Holmes?   One thing is certain:  it is no coincidence that the only human who truly and utterly bamboozled Holmes was a woman, aka, “The Woman” – Irene Adler.  Although many things may be easily deduced when we follow Holmes’s advice of observation, clarification and the removal of the impossible to see what remains, even he would balk when faced with a adolescent girl mushed into Cumberbitch-land and tweeting pictures of Benedict Cumberbatch between her friends.  But whilst a male detective is confused and his concentration flustered by the arrival of the woman, to a young woman the male detective is the man she needs to rescue, the keeper of a sentimental heart she knows truly beats somewhere within him, the object on which the redemptive powers of both emotional nurture and copious sex are pinned.   It is not Cumberbatch, but Sherlock Holmes they are all in love with.  Cumberbatch’s achievement is that Sherlock is made so remarkably real to them.  Holmes’s mode of emotional detachment and mental control is ripe for the daydreams of an Upper Sixth Former, desperate to unleash him, whilst he gets to explain the science of deduction in a fruity voice all through the lovely unleashing, and they get to reveal the emotional damaged soul underneath the brilliant, scientific facade.      Elementary, my dear Watson.

Please return to The London Bluebird if you enjoyed this.  This blog is updated every Thursday.

Mayoral Madness

The Olympic torch has not yet been lit, and already the mayoral elections are high on the news agenda : which one, we are asked, do we want?  Do we want the sexually incontinent, rapacious classicist who reintroduced the Routemaster, or do we want the milk-supping, newt-catcher, who introduced La Bus de Bendy, which looked like one of those plastic snakes that children get in sticky party bags, and which move and jolt around corners of their own accord?  And is this our only choice?   The idea of either makes me want to throw up but there you go.

Even more depressing than the London Mayoral elections is this:  if you start Googling “Who are the London Mayoral election candidates?”  you can get only as far as “Who are the….” and Google Instant pops up with “Kardashians”.  This means that despite millions of stupid money being wasted flooding our media channels with the Kardashians for reasons that are not apparent, most people on Google don’t know who they actually are.  Even worse, most of them want to find out who they are, because they feel their store of knowledge will be enriched in the process. 

I am not at all sure whether Kim Kardashian, or the other Kardashians, would make a better mayoral candidate than Johnson or Livingstone but she can’t do that much worse.  The Liberals have got Brian Paddick who has a friendly face and a winning smile but basically he looks like a chartered surveyor whose wife has just left him.  Meanwhile, over on the extreme right wing fringe, the two brain cells that exist in the entire British National Party have selected a Uruguayian who sounds like a brand of travel agent : Carlos Cortiglia, and whose national origins appear to be in some conflict with one of his party’s policies.  Oh, no hang on, all of his party’s policies.   The opinion polls suggest Johnson will walk it.  But that’s after he has had considerable opportunities for dropping the Olympic torch, slapping the Italian Ambassador on the back and saying “What ho” and accidentally sleeping with half of the Argentinian Ladies Aerobics team.  Twice.

Personally, I’m routing for Dick Whittington, but since 1419 he only appears in the panto season, whereupon he is played by a lady.  I’ve always liked a man who likes cats:

I think as Mayor he should basically rock on up in a pair of his fruitiest medieval tights and – once he has sorted out the tomfoolery that is being carried out in the hospital of his own name – sort out shit.  Check out the cosmopolitan beret.  Look at those sexy ears.  Note how the cat on his lap has the face of a piglet on its way to the slaughterhouse.  Look at that distant, concerned glare in those 15th century eyes, staring off into the distance, as if he is looking at one of those electronic update boards on a Northern Line platform, hoping that the next train will be for Barnet.  Look at this fabulous mink stole (clearly been shopping at Libertys).  I trust this man.

Of course, modern politics is all about being media savvy and I understand perception is all.  We need to track Whitters down and give him a mayoral makeover.  We could put him in stilettos, like this one:

That should sort him out ready for the voting populace.  And the cat’s upgrade:

Put them both on the top of the Routemaster bus and wait for the votes to flood in.  What we don’t want is this sort of Mayor:

Where do we begin with THIS Dick Whittington?  With the fact that the lady in the middle has garroted herself and swapped heads with the lady / chap on the right?  Or that Johnny Depp’s understudy / body double from Pirates of the Caribbean  has crashed the shoot and appeared on the left?  How can the Mayor sign state papers if he doesn’t have any hands?  Why is the gentleman on the right wearing a Debenhams shower cap?  The cat, on the other hand, is downright creepy. 

We need a strong Mayor – like Dick “Call me Richard, peasant” Whittington, who can sort out London’s medieval drains as he did, who kindly organized a hospital ward for the use of unmarried mothers, who opened a library and a public loo and who loved London so much he left his money to the City.  Now.  How about having a mayor these days ethical enough to do that?  We have two dramatic possible Mayors in the principal Conservative and Labour offerings with brush-brandishing Boris and Kinky “I’m a cat” Ken but I wonder, frankly, whether they are both mired in the depths of moral bankruptcy.  When did either of them actually open a public toilet?   Newts may be Ken’s thing, but I am not sure I’d trust Boris to post a letter let alone remember to look after a cat.   What do we then, want our London Mayor to do?:

1.  Cap annual public transport cost increases at 4%

2. Invert the charge rising system on black cabs, to reflect the New York cab system : i.e. fares rise between 10am and 2pm to accommodate business fares and drop to standard rate between 10pm and 2am to accommodate revellers, not the current system, which has a detrimental impact upon entertainment revenues.  This leads me to my third point which is…

3.Take that odious simpleton who’s some kind of parking meter kinky perv at Westminster and who has a parking meter installed in his living room, and who has been spearheading the proposal to abolish free parking in the West End on weekends and evenings and feed him to the gorillas at London Zoo.

4.  Install clocks in tube carriages.  It seems peculiar this has never been done, when we have constant, digital screens reminding us what to change for and where and yet no one knows what the bloody time is.

5.  Make it legal for every Barclays Cycle Hire rider to wear a safety helmet.

6.  Make Johnny Depp Mayor.  Let us kiss his garments and rejoice in his Johnny-ness. 

Simples, eh?

Please return to the London Bluebird if you enjoyed this.  This blog is updated every Thursday.

2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Syndey Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2011. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.