Hell in Hove

It has been mentioned by lots of people, in lots of ways, and lots of times, that parking in the area of Brighton & Hove is hellish.

 

That my friends would appear to be somewhat of an understatement. I need to go back and re-read some of my Dante, as I’m fairly sure one of his circles must have been all about parking in Hove.

 

We had headed down to go to the Brighton Book Fair, being held in the church hall of All Saints Church, on the corner of The Drive. What had been a nice morning had transformed into a drizzly afternoon. We were stopping for food first so had aimed for The Stoneham, some way away from The Drive, and tried to find some parking nearby.

 

Now every street in Hove is either permit parking, or pay and display, or both. There is no such thing as free parking. I don’t know what that space is on the Brighton & Hove version of Monopoly, but it sure as hell isn’t going to be free (unless they are deliberately taking the piss).

 

When we eventually found a non-permit space, it was then the fun and games of trying to find somewhere to pay for said parking. By no means an easy task. Along the whole of the street we had parked on, on both sides of the road there wasn’t a parking machine to be seen where we could put in some money and get a ticket to display.

 

Instead every lamppost and railings had a sign about phoneandpark. A number to ring to pay for parking. A number which when you do ring refers you to a god damn app to download for your phone to pay for parking regardless of the option you choose, and then cuts you off. So you have to download the app. Then you have to register your details, then the car details, then your payment card details, and all of this using your data on your phone because street parking doesn’t have free Wi-Fi.

 

And then when you’ve wasted ten minutes of your life registering the app, choosing your location, and the time to park and you press the pay button what happens? You find that the robbing bastards charge you an extra forty pence surcharge for paying for the parking via the app.

 

The app that they forced you to use because there are no fucking parking machines on the street where you have parked. The app they have forced you to use because they are too much of a cheapskate to pay for people to answer the fucking phone.

 

Brighton & Hove council, you are a bunch of thieving cunts that deserve to be shot. Fuck you and your shithole of a city.

Hanging Basket Gardens Of Crawley

I’ve walked along Malthouse Road more times than I can remember. On both sides of the road. And travelling in both directions. And yet somehow in all those times I had, I have never noticed the hanging basket house before.

 

Have I always had my attention elsewhere when I have walked past? Staring at the pavement in front of my feet perhaps? Or looking at the cars parked next to the pavement? Or across the road at the houses on the other side of the road? If not, is this hanging basket house a new phenomena? Have suddenly tens of hanging baskets gone up on the front of this house overnight?

 

On closer inspection, it doesn’t look like it. The baskets and their brackets show signs of age. They look to have been attached to the wall for a long time. Have they only just been put out for the summer? Having spent the cold and damp winter months in storage somewhere to the rear of the house; and so when I have glanced at the house in passing previously, they haven’t been there?

 

Or is it that all along I’ve been walking around blind, oblivious to the obvious cornucopia of hanging baskets? I didn’t actually stop dead in the middle of the street and stare open mouthed like some kind of slack jawed yokel. But I did slow enough to take the scene in.

 

There were hanging baskets in all shapes, sizes and colours, all at different heights from a couple of feet above the ground to the ones besides the upstairs windows. All affixed to the red brick walls of the Victorian terraced house. Some were lined up with each other, but a number weren’t, giving it a quaint, higgledy-piggledy look to them.

 

None of them were in full bloom yet, but you could imagine the kaleidoscope of colour that will appear there over the coming weeks and months. The little paved front yard didn’t miss out either. A variety of different sized metal tubs sat there with more earth sat in them and the early shoots of green poking out or the dark brown, well-watered earth.

 

Now that I’ve noticed the hanging basket house, I’ll be looking for it every time I walk down Malthouse Road. Something will trigger inside my little pea brain and shout ‘look out for the hanging basket house’, whilst another part of it will be wondering if there will be more hanging baskets this time? Will the whole of the house be lost in a smothering of flowers? Will it attract visitors from all over the town? The county? The country?

 

Will people flock to see the “Hanging Basket Gardens of Crawley”? One of the modern Seven Wonders of the World?

 

That might be a little bit over the top I suppose.

Break The Ads

There are a lot of annoying adverts around, but the one that really gets my goat (and every other farm yard animal you could care to mention), is the series of highly irritating Sixt adverts.

 

Drive Smug!

 

Fuck off! There are enough arrogant tossers driving high-end German cars without dicks like you encouraging the bastards. If that’s what you want drivers to be like then we would all be better off if no one ever hired a car from your irresponsible excuse of a company.

 

It can’t be a coincidence that when which ever “That’s Nothing!” twat comes out of the advert showroom, there isn’t another car in sight; either on your forecourt or the road in front of it. That must be because everyone with even the slightest modicum of sense avoids your premises like the plague, so they don’t get crashed into or cut up by one of the halfwits who are getting encouraged by your company to hire a battlewagon from yourselves.

 

Hold up, as I write this diatribe against Sixt another advert comes on that challenges your position as the most annoying ad of the moment.

 

Fucking Chris Kamara and another of the never-ending series of shite Ladbrokes’ ads. “We want in now in cash”, sing a line of demented dumbass fuckwits. I know you can’t believe us, but whoever thought the tone deaf chanting of out of tune morons heading to the bookies was a good idea deserves tarring and feathering. Or better still mowing down by someone in a Sixt hire car.

 

If only we could fast forward live TV.

A Pirate Party

Now I’m not one for fancy dress. At all. Ever.

 

Yet there I was in full pirate regalia, at a sixtieth birthday party. It was a family affair, so it was more of a chatty do that a rave up. When the party expired we decided to go into downtown Taunton.

 

We got their eventually, after two unsuccessful attempts to get through the park to the High Street due to closed, locked, bolted and chained gates. With pointed spiked tops to prevent clambering over, we managed to find a way out without having to go all the way around.

 

We headed to the Bierkeller, where we could hear the venue before really seeing it. The bouncers just waved us in. No asking for ID, not a single batting of an eyelid at full pirate outfits, no weapon check at the door, anything. In fact, watching the bouncers in action was a joy to behold. They did their job efficiently. A couple of ejections went without punches being thrown or heavy handiness. They interacted with the heaving crowds with a smile, and even taking time out to dance, and displaying a general friendly demeanour.

 

Now, this is something the SS storm troopers that are employed in some of Crawley’s drinking establishments (Octopus and The Punch Bowl, I’m looking at you), could do with taking lessons on. When someone is obviously in their forties, there is absolutely, positively, no fucking need to be asking them for ID. No need to be punching people. You are allowed to smile occasionally.

 

Anyway, back to the Bierkeller. A good mix of danceable, and sing along music from all eras. The place was set out in the style of a German Bierkeller, with long tables down the room, with benches either side. Not that the benches are used much for sitting down. They actively encourage you to dance on the benches. Much in the style of Walkabout in Manchester back in the early noughties.

 

It was a really good atmosphere. The kind of place that had people of all ages in there dancing and drinking together. The kind of place where no one cares or notices that you are dressed up as a pirate. The kind of place that Crawley could do with, but will never get. Mainly due to the fact that the police and the council wouldn’t allow a license for somewhere like that. Plus Crawley bouncers wouldn’t know how to be friendly if their lives depended on it.

 

Therefore for good nights out, with or without full pirate regalia, we have to rely on doing it in any other locale apart from Crawley. And it was a good night out, thoroughly entertaining and fun. Roll on June and more days out of Crawley.

Fizzling Out

It’s that time of the year for the wheels to completely fall off Spurs’ season. An FA Cup semi-final looms against Manchester United. Despite the fact that the game is going to be played at Wembley – our temporary home stadium for the season will mean nothing. We have lost the same amount of games at Wembley this season as we have in the rest of our away games.

 

United may not have been playing spectacular football this season, but they have been grinding out results nonetheless. In a one off game, Mourinho is more than capable of putting a game plan together to win. I fully expect this to be the case this weekend, and the last chance for us to win a trophy this season will vanish into the ether. We will look to stretch our record of successive FA Cup semi-final defeats from seven to eight.

 

An insipid performance at Brighton in midweek points the way for how the season will finish, there are four games left, Watford, West Brom, Newcastle and Leicester, three of them at Wembley. Four more draws beckon as the season limps to the end. It will give us enough points to finish above Arsenal for the second consecutive season, but it won’t be enough to prevent Chelsea finishing fourth and taking that final Champions League spot.

 

To top the season’s disappointing finish off, Arsenal, spurred on (pun intended) by wanting to give their long term outstanding manager Arsene Wenger a fitting send-off, will win the Europa League, and therefore claim their place in next season’s Champions League as well.

 

Even with all that, a fifth placed finish, semi-final of the FA Cup, and getting through the group stage of the Champions League was a lot better than I expected at the start of the season. I thought that playing every game as an away game, and playing so many teams at Wembley, giving them a big boost in motivation would see us struggle more than normal.

 

At the start of the season I predicted we would finish seventh (I expected Everton to do a lot better after their summer spending spree), get knocked out in the first round of both domestic cups (at least we obliged in the Carabao cup), and not make it through the group stage of the Champions League – even before we drew Real Madrid and Dortmund.

 

We will struggle to keep all of the squad we have together, and another hard season follows, as although we will have a home stadium, it will be brand new and take some getting used to. It will still be shit to get to, only it will be worse than usual as instead of 36k people trying to get there, it will be 62k. On the same poor transport links, at the same time. Late arrivals will be the norm and the atmosphere will suffer. As will Spurs unfortunately.

 

I hope I’m wrong though.

Sweary Rant Number 2 – Southern Trains’ Barriers.

Aaaaarrrgghhh!!!!!!!

 

You fucking useless Southern Trains muppets. Seriously, how difficult can it be to fix your shit so that it all works properly? Especially with how much you charge to get a travelcard that includes an early morning train.

 

At first there doesn’t appear to be anything wrong. For a start your ticket machine was actually working for the first time in six weeks, and it took less than three hours to actually print the tickets out. Your barrier was open, so I could walk through fine. I got into Waterloo station and the ticket worked perfectly well on the South Western Trains’ barrier. The ticket worked perfectly well in four different underground barriers. It even worked on the Thamestink barrier at St. Pancras.

 

Yet, back in Crawley, the station i bought the fucking ticket at, guess what I find? Yep, once again your excuse of a company’s barriers refused to accept my ticket. “Seek assistance” the barrier flashes.

 

Chance would be a fine thing, it’s after five o’clock and all your staff have packed up and fucked off home. So i had to do what many other people have to do on a regular basis and tailgate someone else whose ticket was working.

 

Just for once, I’d like to buy a ticket from a Southern Trains’ ticket office or machine and it work on one of their own barriers. It can’t be that fucking difficult you morons. Every other fuckwit train can manage it.

Automatic Pilot

When was the last time you had one of those automatic pilot episodes?

 

I had one today. This afternoon i left work, it wasn’t even my normal office, and got out on to Tottenham Court Road. From there things go a bit hazy. I remember wandering along, bumbling into Warren Street tube station and heading down the escalators and getting on to a train.

 

The next thing I know, I have travelled along on the tube, got off the train, come up escalators and appeared out blinking in to the afternoon sunshine. Nothing wrong with that you might think. However the plan was that I was going to head to Victoria and get a train direct to Crawley. Only there I was stood outside Euston station.

 

So, not only had I gone the wrong way, but I’d got off a stop earlier than I should have done if I was thinking of getting the train from St Pancras to Three Bridges.

 

I couldn’t find any traces of blood, so I will assume that I didn’t stab anyone whilst I was in my fugue state.

 

At least it was a nice sunny day for a walk down Euston Road.

Sweary Rant Number 1 – We Hate Tall People

Honestly, all this inclusiveness bollocks gets more annoying everyday Mainly because for everything people and companies do to make them seem more inclusive, the more they end up excluding people.

 

It’s very much in vogue for new offices being built, or old ones being refitted to have everything fitted at a much lower height than had previously been the case. Entrance access swipe pads and exit buttons have dropped by a couple of feet. Desks, tables and chairs are all lower down, and the worst of all, toilets in cubicles are so low, that if they got any lower they would just be a hole in the floor.

 

The reasoning behind this is to make all these things more accessible fro disabled people and people of limited height. What the fuckers who did this failed to take into account was tall people. Now, at just over six – one, I don’t consider myself to be that tall, especially not nowadays as the average height keeps going up. Yet it seems that most new office builds that I go to now actively discriminate against tall people.

 

You want to swipe yourself in to the building, then you have to bend down.

You want to let yourself out of the building, then you have to bend down.

Sit at a desk at all, here’s a winch to lower yourself down with. Don’t worry about your knees being rammed in against the bottom of the desk.

As for toilets, who in their right mind thinks it’s acceptable to have the seat at mid shin level? For fuck’s sake, the toilet seats weren’t that fucking low when i was at nursery school. I’ve seen potties higher up than that. No one needs to have to go to the toilet, only to find they can’t see the cubicle door because their head is lower than their knees.

 

Stop discriminating against tall people and have multiple height access, seats, desks and bogs.

 

Fuckwits.

Eye Eye

It had been reasonable weather during the week, so knowing that every other weekend of April had something planned, I’d booked tickets for the London Eye. We had a voucher to get two tickets for the price of one, and neither of us had been on the Eye for several years. We had collected tokens to get free tickets last year, but never got around to booking the tickets in time. We were determined not to miss it again this year.

 

The plan had been to get up to London early and have a wander about first. However, there were many things conspiring against that happening. First up there was the quite usual issue of the trains not being any use. Lots of rail replacements meant that only half of the normal trains into Blackfriars or London Bridge were running.

 

Then there was Sniffles. He’d been involved in some kind of skirmish earlier in the week, and although he’d appeared to be getting better, he was limping, not wanting to put any weight on his rear left paw. So, it was an emergency trip to the vet. There was a brief panic as he disappeared, but he was hiding on one of the patio chairs under the tarpaulin out the back. I managed to coax him into the cat carrier, and despite him seeming keen, I was told not to give him the loop-the-loop ride in it. Of course, when he got out of the carrier at the vets he was walking normally. Little sod.

 

We got the Victoria train, so we could change at Clapham Junction and head into Waterloo, and the five-minute walk from there to the Eye. It was the only way we would make our time window. Not that it seemed to matter when we got there. There were more people checking tickets than at one of Brick-Top’s fights. And not one of them cared what time the tickets were for as we snaked our way through the queue and barriers. Including the section that turned out to be unnecessary queuing.

 

The last time I went on it, it had been the EDF Energy London Eye, now it was Coca-Cola, and that meant lots of sub-standard drink choices every couple of yards along the queue. Plus, their tie-ups with Cadbury’s, Pringles, and Walls. All of which we ignored. We also ignored the bit where you stop in front of a green screen to get your photo taken. No point in stopping when you know full well there isn’t a hope in hell of buying the overpriced piece of crap when we got off the Eye. But, you have to feel sorry for the pressure it puts on beleaguered parents.

 

There has been a hell of a lot of building work gone on in the five or so years since I last went on the Eye. A whole host of new tower blocks and distinctive looking buildings can be seen all over the city. There are so many new tall buildings up in the actual square mile of the City, that you can’t see the Gherkin from the Eye anymore. Because of all the new buildings that surround the Shell building, we are more than halfway up the circle before we can see the tip of the Shard. The Oxo tower is lost amongst new buildings, especially the new curved shiny one just behind Doggett’s Coat & Badge off Blackfriars’ Bridge.

 

What had promised to be a sunny day ended up being a bit overcast, but there wasn’t any rain, or low cloud, so the view was good. I couldn’t quite make out Wembley’s arch this time. Though I wonder with all the building work there has been in that area recently whether it can actually be seen from the Eye anymore.

 

The smoothness of the journey always impresses, the only time you really feel movement is when the wheel stops for a few seconds to let wheelchairs on or off, as the pods sway slightly as they come to a halt. The height the pods get to at the top always surprises me as well. Such are the size and scale of a lot of the buildings you look over, you never realise just how high up you are until you look down at the people. They really do look like little ants, scurrying around.

 

As the pod starts on its long lazy descent and focus is changed on where we look, the House of Parliament and especially the clock tower housing Big Ben looks strange covered in scaffolding. By contrast, the light colouring of Westminster Abbey behind it shows what a good job they have done in removing centuries of city grime from its walls.

 

The half hour journey goes by so quickly. We ignore the calls within the pod to go and stand in the designated areas for the phot opportunity, instead taking the time to look at the various boats on the river. To look at the colours that Westminster and Lambeth Bridges are painted to match the colour of the seats in the Commons and Lords. To wonder what the display in the raised area of what is now the aquarium in County Hall. And then the doors to the pod are opening and it is off we go. Exit through the gift shop.

 

We headed along the south bank, looking for food, but were distracted by the arena set up for the Underbelly Festival next to Hungerford Bridge. There were an array of bars and stalls there, and the variety of acts and shows look good. Something to consider for later in the year. We carried on down the river, under the bridge, and found a little Mexican street food shack opposite the well graffitied skate park under the Festival Hall.

 

Burritos crammed with rice, beans, chicken, salad, cheese, salsa, and guacamole (and extra hot sauce in my case) were ordered and consumed. Great taste and value for money, for what was a quite late lunch.

 

When we got to Waterloo bridge, it was good to see that even if the BFI café under it was closed for refurbishment, some things never change. The usual Saturday book market was going strong. Plenty of old and new books to sort through. Plus, maps, lots of old maps, genuine original Victorian, and Edwardian colour lithographs. It always had the possibility of being a time suck, but I thought I was reasonably restrained. Less than half an hour and I didn’t buy anything. (My temperature is fine thanking you very much.)

 

We carried on heading east, passing the brutalist buildings housing the BFI, IBM, and ITV before coming to the older setting of Gabriel’s Wharf. With there being a lack of sun, it was quiet compared to the lunacy of summer weekends. We were able to take a slow amble around the shops and check out the prices of the various eateries there for future reference. We also had a wander around the other side of the Oxo tower building where there are now new shops and additional exhibition space. Some of the future exhibitions looked interesting. So many things to do, in such a finite amount of time.

 

At Blackfriars we decided to head home, we needed to be back by six as we were expecting a friend, so wandering all the way along to London Bridge would have been pushing it. As it was we only got home with a quarter of an hour to spare.

 

We finished the day off by going for a curry. Yes, I know, such a surprise. We wandered up to the top of the road and across to the Downsman, where lots of curry and a few drinks were consumed, to the extent that rolling home was considered the best option. Thankfully it was downhill.

 

Sniffles was still walking normally when we got back. Let’s hope it remains the case. Especially with the price of vet’s bills.

 

Visions of Splat!

For the second time in under a year, I thought that I’d killed Charlie this afternoon.

 

The first time was when he keeled over like a punch drunk boxer on a hot day last year. I’d had him chasing balls and sticks around the park at the back of the house. He’d tried to walk and couldn’t. He had overheated and his poor little legs wouldn’t work. Having never had a pet I didn’t know that he did this occasionally. I carried him home only to get there and for him to run about the house like a loon.

 

Today was different. We’d been out walking Charlie around Southgate playing fields and the Hawth woods. We were walking parallel to Southgate Avenue, and Charlie had been chasing the ball all afternoon. I threw it down the path in front of us as normal. Only it didn’t quite go as planned.

 

The ball hit a dustbin by the side of the path, and being a circular bin it shot off at an angle. The angle happened to be straight down the slope and path that led to Southgate Avenue. Charlie didn’t care and carried on chasing it. We both shouted for Charlie to stop, and thankfully he did, just at the point where the path disappeared behind the hedge.

 

When we got to the path we could see the ball sat in the middle of the road. Well for a split second we could. Just before the number 10 bus ran it over and it disappeared up the road at thirty miles an hour.

 

I had visions of that being Charlie on the road. Thankfully it wasn’t, but it was enough to give us both palpitations.