Sunday, 30 August 2009

South West London has something X to shout about

It's been a while, but finally South West London has something to shout about on the X-Factor.

last night a pub singer from Putney blew the judges away with a fantastic performance of "Sex on Fire" by the Kings of Leon.

With confidence and personality exceeded only by his hair style, Jamie "Afro" Archer had the audience in a frenzy and, for what must be the first time in television talent show history, even had Simon Cowell signing along.

As is always the case with these shows, there is a mixture of the talented, and the talentless. (or would the politically correct say "talent challenged"?) But what is fair to say is that those we have seen go through in the first two rounds are very talented, and Jamie and Danyl Johnson will be just two of a talent studded cast featured in later episodes.

Enjoy Jamie's audition below - and look out for the fantastic crowd interaction - and Simon singing along!

Apologies for the poor picture quality.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Smiling can be infectious - pass it on

I found this video purely by chance.

Be warned - it is a long watch, but it is well worth the viewing...

When I found it, it was being used to promote "commenting" on blogs, and you can see the link. But I think it is just such a good story and can apply to so many areas.

I hope you enjoy.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

High Speed Rail Link to Scotland announced

It is odd to think that the United Kingdom only has one High Speed Rail link, and that was only recently completed, linking St Pancras to Folkestone, and allowing the EuroStar to journey between London and Paris in less than 150 minutes.

However, today Network Rail has announced plans for a High Speed Rail link between London and the Scottish cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh, passing Birmingham and Manchester en route.

This line, estimated to cost £34bn, is a significant step forward for the UK, and will surely be welcomed by road and air users alike.

Currently the air journey from Heathrow to Manchester takes 65 minutes, but that does not include additional time requirement for checking in and getting your luggage on the other side, nor the travel to get from Central London or Manchester to the respective airports. Compare this with the anticipated 66 minute rail journey between these two cities.

For business users, consider also the fact that travelling along terra firma allows you to continuously utilise such things as your mobile phone or Blackberry, and be less concerned about use of a laptop en route on a train than you would be in a plane.

If you have ever tried to travel by car between London and Manchester, you would quickly realise that it might take you 66 minutes from London just to reach the M25 - let alone get anywhere close to Cheshire!
beyond the traffic, the anticipated speeds of 180mph that the high speed train is expected to achieve is two and a half times faster than the motorway speed limit.
Oh - and you are likely to miss the nasty traffic on the M40, M42 and the lovely M6.

It appears that national Rail's research into commuter preference supports the fact that commuters are likely to embrace and switch over to the high speed route, were it available, preferring this to the road or air options.

But there is a down side.
One report I have seen this morning refers to an anticipated construction time of 20 years to complete. I find this mind boggling, given that in the Middle Ages great cathedrals took that amount of time to be built. I cannot fathom how in our advanced age we cannot get it right to construct a railway line in a reasonable amount of time.
Secondly, it was announced yesterday that the upgrade work on the Jubilee Line of the London Underground system is running late, and is not likely to be completed by the 2009 year end deadline. London Mayor Boris Johnson has branded this "unacceptable" - but regardless of what you call it, we still won't have the Jubilee line back in January of 2010.

And that begs the question - will a project of this magnitude ever be able to be completed within the schedule and on time? It took several years more just to complete Wembley stadium.

So whilst the high speed line north from London would appear to be the cleverest idea that anyone has come up with since Richard Trevithick put a steam engine on wheels, it might be some years - even decades before you or I get to benefit from this.

In the mean time, I suggest you check the travel information for details of what traffic jam is currently holding up the M6.

For more see:
BBC Business News
Evening Standard

Monday, 24 August 2009

Thriller dance world record attempt

I am not sure how "flash mobs" work, or whether one is supposed to advertise these things, or pass on the details.

Regardless of the etiquette involved, I am going to pass these details on...

This Saturday, 29th August, there will be an attempt to break the Thriller World Record, currently standing at 1,500.

The event gets going at 12:30. For more details see the Facebook event page here.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

A (last) day in the Sun

Once it gets to September, every day that is sunny and warm always feels like potentially "the last day of Summer" and seems figuratively welcomed with more open arms than its predecessor.
Today was such a day. The mercury touched the nose bleeding heights of 28 degrees (that is degrees Celsius) and you felt like you simply had to be outside the house enjoying the sunshine.

I ended up doing something which felt quintessentially English, I had an afternoon picnic in a local park. It felt very much like the Village Green, though it wasn't near a village - else I would have been pronounced Village Idiot.
But there were two local cricket games happening, and dotted all around were families and couples and groups of friends all enjoying the sun. Some were lying tanning on the field of play, and would scuttled like startled birds when the ball would occasionally be struck in their direction. An Ice Cream vendor in their little colourful van scurried from one gate to the other, noisily playing their little tune to give notice of their presence, and with every chord of that little tune, you seemed more drawn to the idea of a soft serve in the warm sun.

There was something remarkably English about today, a remarkably "non-English" day, in terms of the weather.

And given that the forecast for tomorrow is for light rain, who knows, we might well have enjoyed our Last Day of Summer.

But, if so, then what a day to end Summer!

Saturday, 22 August 2009

X-Factor : Danyl Johnson

I must admit - I don't often watch the early episodes of an X-Factor series. I very often find the auditions cringe worthy, and find myself hiding behind the couch as some poor soul tries to battle through nerves and indescribable lack of talent, attempting to woo the judges and audience with a song that God himself would find difficult to master.

However, I seem set to be in for the long haul in this series, having already been enticed in to what quickly became an X-Factor evening in my house this evening.

And yes, I found myself cringing, I found myself hiding behind my hands, wishing that a hole would open up under the contestant or our TV and that the pain would end. "End the suffering!", I found myself saying, wondering what I had done in the last 24 hours to deserve this.

And then, quite out of the blue, Danyl Johnson walked on to the stage and I realised why I had spent 54 minutes of my life in agony. he delivered one of the best ever auditions, and I think, even at this stage, he must be one of the favorites to make the final. Even if he doesn't - his will be a name that you will become far more familiar with, as this guy has a future in entertaining us, his audience.

Remember his name, Danyl Johnson is going to be famous!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Brightening the gloom of the recession

It's not often that someone happily gives money away, but that appears to be exactly what is happening in London for the rest of August.

Talk Talk, a british mobile phone and broadband supplier have enlisted the help of 20 former pick pockets and converted them into "putpockets" and for the rest of the month these 20 convertees will be "putting" money back into unguarded pockets and bags in busy spots around London, including Covent Garden, Leicester Square, Westminster, Oxford Circus and the South Bank.

Having spent this evening in several of those spots I can tell you that I was not a "victim" of any "put-pocketing" - where Londoners could find themselves with anything from £5 to £20 more in their pockets.

The premise from Talk Talk is that they are the best value for money product on the market - literally putting money back into your pocket.

The idea will run throughout August in London, before being rolled out to other UK cities. In all, it is anticipated that £100,000 will be "put" into pockets.

That's assuming they aren't pickpocketed first.

For more read the Talk Talk blog here.

Monday, 17 August 2009

On a sombre note

It is sad when something serious becomes so mundane, so normal and accepted - almost anticipated, that it loses its sting, its ability to get us to sit up and take notice.


No, that's not the Ashes cricket score.

That is the number of British troops that have been killed in Afghanistan.
What is really sad is that just a few weeks ago that number stood at 150, but over recent weeks almost like some kind of morbid role call, the daily evening news has informed us of another 2 or 3 troops killed in a foreign land, in some foreign war.
And every night the photograph shown is of a young, fresh faced soldier, cut down in their prime. Another family told that their son or daughter will not be returning home, another gap in the ranks to be quickly filled by another young, possibly fresher face.

I am not advocating one side or another in the war. I am not supporting or arguing against the war.

But every day more and more families receive the devastating news that their loved ones have fallen, have given the ultimate sacrifice for their country, and tragically, as the list of dead soldiers gets longer and longer, that country for which they have fought and died becomes more and more desensitised to their death and less and less appreciative of their sacrifice.

Sky News Roll of Honour

What's happening in Blighty...

One of the principles I learned in radio was to only say something when you have something to say... Well, the recent radio silence means I haven't had much to say...

But now I can at least bring you up to speed...

Football season has started once more. This means that finally loads of British men have something to do with their Saturday afternoons and the garden and other DIT projects can be neglected until next May, the end of the season.
It also means that Autumn is starting to take a foothold. Well, that's not entirely true. Whilst the long days are becoming shorter, the temperatures are still mild enough to allow shirt sleeves to be rolled up and fleeces and jerseys are still safely locked in cupboards.

The country continues to endure a recession. Well, that really depends on who you talk to. Apparently France and Germany have recovered. In truth, it doesn't feel like the recession is lifting too much, and the increasing number of unemployed people seems to simply underline how bad things are. That, and the increasing number of empty shops on the High Street.

On the up side, Britain has a World Number 2 tennis player. Apparently for the first time since the ATP rankings were first used (which is just a grand way of saying "in the last few years") Britain has a World Number 2 - Andy Murray. Scotland must be SO happy that England are claiming Andy as British. So cue uninhibited public pressure and tabloid pressure on the young chap to perform in ways no British tennis player has performed before.

Yes, it's been a busy old time in Blighty... Just not busy enough to shout too loudly about...

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Reflections of London

We experienced another very sunny day today in London - the kind of day that couldn't be ignored, nor spent on the sofa.

So I headed to Canary Wharf and the City of London, and rather than looking around me at road level, looked upwards.

London is such a mix of architecture, and the more recent building that has taken place has seen far more glass and steel being used, and this gives a whole new feel to the area - modern, dramatic, and rather reflective.

What's more, in amongst this dramatic "glass jungle" an atmosphere has been created that draws one in, rather than scaring away. So today, on a Sunday, the business district of Canary Wharf, with it's mega glass towers and centres of financial business were awash with people, families, couples enjoying the sun, enjoying the parks and the fountains - Canary Wharf was not dead - it was alive and almost vibrant with activity.

London City centre was quieter - more deserted. A mix of stone, concrete, steel and glass, but no less mysteriously attractive.

And whilst the deserted streets might have left you feeling alone, and the surrounded, though bathed in sunlight, just a dreary black and grey monotone of theatre of financial endevour, it was only when you lifted your gaze and looked aupwards that your heart was lifted, as if you were staring up at some angelic masterpiece.

London weddings...

It is true to say that in London, sometimes things are not done in a "usual" way - normal does appear to sometimes give way for simple abnormality...

So I shouldn't be surprised by two wedding entourages I have seen over the last few weeks.

The first was in London Central, close to Oxford street. Thank goodness that not every Route master red bus has disappeared from the streets.

And the second was seemingly a far grander affair - needing not one, but no less than four limousine 4x4's, including 3 Range Rovers and a Hummer.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

The Wild Life in London

Despite there having been several complaints recently about the weather, the lack of Sun, the end of "Summer" and it starting to rain once more, Friday evening was a fantastically sunny evening, and even the call to the gym had to be ignored. I took myself rather into Central London just to mosey around and explore.

I ended up enjoying a fantastic evening in the company of some Inner City Wildlife.

From Westminster tube I strolled past Parliament and through the grounds of Westminster Abbey, with the massive stone buttresses towering above me. From there I walked past the Methodist Hall towards Horse Guards, passing the the Cabinet War Rooms, the back of Downing street and the Bali Bombing memorial. Just then St James's Park caught my attention and I went to explore...

I was amazed at the amazing wild life I found, and how people and animals were just kicking back and enjoying a fantastic summery evening in the shadow of Central London's most well known buildings.

Apparently someone had gone and stolen either the map for where the nuts had been buried, or the nuts themselves, as every squirrel on display seemed to be lost in the task of digging and then digging some more in search of some kind of nut product. A few had taken it upon themselves to beg from the passers by, using no more than cute looks as bait to unwitting humans. While taking photos one even came right up to me for a closer look, placing a small paw on my know to get close enough to ensure that I had no hidden food that I was keeping back.

Having enjoyed the little squirrel performance, I walked around the lake and took in the mass of bird life, all starting to get ready to settle down for the evening. A final bath, a quick paddle or simply paddling across the lake, there seemed to be masses of birds of all varieties.

And every so often this panorama of wild life had a fantastic backdrop - either Buckingham Palace or Horse Guards Parade or even the London Eye.

It really is amazing how much there is to see and explore right in the middle of London, and by no means is it just a stony, cold concrete city with no personality. London invites you in, you just need to listen out for the invitation.