Thursday, 26 April 2012


Pop-up. That's what it is IN right now in London. Somebody even invented a random Pop-up event generator that must be somewhere there online.

Temporary stuff. Because limited edition is THE thing to be right now. Sometimes it is a justification for overpriced goods or booze. In occasions, it gets originated from brilliant ideas, and in other ocassions is a way of masking more and more high street franchises dressed trendy.

I remember how, a bit before Christmas, the begining of Bethnal Green Road, junction with Shoreditch High Street was the place to be for the dodgiest bums selling car-boot sale style, or, better called unsellable crap. Giving the impression of the non-glamorous corner of hip Brick Lane Market, it suddenly disappeared one day, taken over by a bunch of upcycled shipping containers painted in black highlighting the temporary status of the new established Pop-up mile.

One cold morning, I found myself in the place. Adventurous me, I was hoping to find a few quirky presents outside the ordinary  typical stuff, to gift my loved ones. To my surprise, I could only find that that great idea, turned out to be a huge disappointment.

Yes, Puma was one of the shops.

There was a Pie and Mash shop too. Pies were alright, but franchise.

And turns out that what they once called Boxpark, the so-called first Pop-up shopping Mall, is still part of that same corner and looks like it's there to stay.

But anyways. Here I am today. A bit underdressed for the occasion, surrounded by black leather, tattoos and elaborated pin-up hairdos, covering myself from the umpleasant rain that still cannot get rid of the hosepipe ban. Another pop-up store promoting an American rum with the name of a famous tattooist pioneer. According to one of the PRs, the place just opened 4 days ago. In a very good location next to Soho Square, they found the venue all painted in white from top to bottom.  I look around and the aged wooden floors looked like they had seen Victorian times. A floor that now suggests that this could have been a tattoo parlour for years, but in reality, it is a place that probably a week ago was still smelling like new wood varnish and paint. Put it is a Pop-up thing, and in the land of the arts and crafts, making somethig look like another thing is everyday's homework, and they did it well.

That's the magic about temporary things. Relative low investment, not very compromising contractual agreements with letting agents, high priced booze and good revenue. Everyboy is happy. -"I attended an exclusive event and won't happen again", some would say. We all love EXCLUSIVE, don't we? Come after June and this night pub, coffee-place slash t-shirt shop during the day will most probably be converted into a high-end permanent cosmetic centre by July and nobody will be able to tell what happened here before.

But anyways. Sitting in the floor, like waiting for a school play to start, and from the front, an innocent looking ginger girl appears and the rest of the band suddenly jumps into little stage and the gig commences. A short 20 min performance with a mix of ska and punk happened with a loud main singer, a sweet looking guitar player and a smiley 50s hairdo drummer with access to a bell. Pop-up performance indeed. Now, it looks like nothing happened. The band crew has now blended into the pub crowd, like part of the spectators.

But hey, I just came here to see Dirty beaches. And I really liked it. Alex Zhang Huntai, a taiwanese-born Canadian, that formed a unipersonal DYI band as a necessity. Currently, as success progress by his side, now has the luxury of affording a bandmate, a guitar player and what it looks like a good buddy, to help him out. Melancholy looking guy he is indeed. He was greeted by one guy with an infinite hug to the sound his signature pre-recorded base music, as he descended from the stage. That's what I call love.

And it all started as an innocent tweet. It is all about the social networks nowdays, isn't it?

But that's another story.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Sugar and spice

Because in London, it is not all pasties and cream tea.

'Shite' also happens.

Sunday, 15 April 2012


There I was. Stranded at Luton Airport. North and not even London. Doing what I do best. Sitting down with my laptop, drinking a massive franchise coffee, from the well known but unmentionable American coffee shop waiting for something to happen.

Yes. I was stranded.

I paid 40 quid of taxi. Slept for just 3 hours and I was missing my conference. I was not even dress to go on holiday. I was extremely grumpy.

I should had probably checked the flights status at home, but I wouldn´t had made any difference at all. Who would imagine Berlin would go on strike on a Tuesday?  Well, it happened indeed.

Even though this airport was well awake, 05:01 means maybe a couple of hours of sleep for the rest of the country, and at least another 4 to be fully functional and capable of receiving calls. 05:05 and just had a coffee, but the rest of the travellers had already started to enjoy their smelly breakfasts.
05:30 I decided to seat there and go mental while the world wakes up and somebody steals my belonging while I have a nap in about one hour time.

It is funny me, eternally complaining about disruptions and cancellation on the London Underground, but I always end up making it to my destination. No matter how much I hate Northern Line, but I know that it is always there, waiting for me when Victoria, Bakerloo and Jubilee go wrong at the same time. Because s*** happens, and it has happened before. However, there was not Northern Easy Jet line. I just couldn't reach my destination and there was not much I could do about it.

I could not really run away and treat myself with some random quirky street around the City. I was in the middle of nowhere, with my suitcase, two books and two business cards holders that most did not put into use that day.

06:14 and I was surprisingly keeping my cool. I was absolutely knackered, and tiredness had an unusual effect on me. It boosted my sociability. Out of the blue. Good. My newfound chattiness had earnt me a barista friend at Starbucks (yes, second coffee already) and 20% discount in my order. Looks like I can be good at networking after all, but it is a shame I was not practicing it in Berlin.

It took me 3 rounds around the airport to decide about my breakfast. Unavoidably overpriced, I decided to go for a recommended skinny blueberry muffin’ after a negative answer at Costa to my request of scones. I really fancied a scone.

8:01 after a couple of hours of update emails and thousands of thousands of photo editing after, it was time to call the customer services. Very calmly, I informed the telephone operator of the current situation. Looked like all flights to Schoenefeld had been cancelled for that day even though the strike was held just until 12 am. Well, no chance to make it to the conference. Rescheduled for the next morning, same hour, and I realised at that same second: I was in the middle of nowhere, and coming back to London and returning net day would have ended up costing me around 80 more pounds and again less than 3 hours of sleep. Claim! I did it. Got accommodated in Luton town centre and taxis from and to the airport are also agreed.

Sweet. Managed it.

9:34 Made it to the hotel. Advised by the Pakistani taxi driver, I went for a walk around the town centre, The Mall, while the room was being prepared. Luton hotel was fully booked and although I had been awaken for the last 6 hours, the town was still just opening its doors.

The day certainly gifted me with the perfect weather for going for a walk around but unfortunately the location is not helping much. All of a sudden a very strange feeling of homesickness invades me. Suddenly my daily criticized neighborhood back in London doesn’t seem that bad. My hotel telephone and kettle looks like a trip back in time and I can tell there is something wrong. 

On my first walk around the town centre, hunger was knocking on the door, so I decided to go breakfast hunting. A task quite normal and easy to complete in London with a whole rainbow of possibilities got suddenly reduced to bad, worse and non-existant solutions. I just wanted a nice cuppa, probably some poached eggs on toast and the day newspaper. However, all I could find was pretty nasty and greasy 'sausage' vans, dodgy dodgy pubs and not even the local Wetherspoons seemed like a fairly decent option.

A glimpse of hope illuminated me after sighting what it looked like a typical english coffee shop. In the lapse of probably 10 seconds of quick scanning of the situation it is when it hit me. That wasn't either the place for me. A coffee shop in the middle of the covered marked was a very cliché granny place. Indeed, all the customers where couples of lovely grand-nans and grand-pas having their breakfast, and again, it looked to me like carefully studied supporting characters on a very weird movie.

I ran away.

Full of disappointment, I resigned myself to manage the situation acquiring some cold and soul-less sandwich from M&S. And still no decent cup of tea or coffee.

On this peculiar hunt for a decent coffee shop, again, I deeply missed my not-so-nice neighbourhood. No matter how miserable the day could be, I know I could always go to X place round the corner and get myself prepared for the day. But not in this town. This was different, and I was clearly the strange there. Like in a movie, and probably due to my exhaustion, the characters of my film, walking down the street looked grotesque, live-less and dangerous. The worse thing is that considering my fairly amount of experience in different countries, cities and cultures, this place definitely looked one of a kind. And I felt kind of scared.

I decided to go back to my hotel room.

The room was ridiculously small, but the views were great. It certainly felt like being imprison in those hunted castle chamber, at the top of the tower (and considering my current imagination, I probably imagined that the princess was waiting for me downstairs, waiting for me to wave from the window and ready to save me, but unfortunately it got killed by some street gang that was hanging out around the area). After my sad sandwich, I laid dead on the bed, forgetting about all dragons, castles, dodgy sausage vans and the coffee. And the world stopped for two hours.

I woke up disoriented and sort of disappointed to still being there, but my not very favourable awareness of the city had faded away. I made myself decent and hit the streets again to give it a second opportunity and look more carefully.

This time I made it. I found it.

Coffee shop with Wifi.

And there is were it wrote IT. 

But that's another story. 

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Fellas #2

Just when I thought I could have a nice relaxing journey, all my wishes were flushed down the toilet.

New commuter on my train and he's driving me absolutely mad. Actually he is not that new, but I just couldn't be bothered to observe him.

Until today.

Arrived later than yesterday to my usual train, so I was forced to be sociable and sit on table seat. Sharing the table with Subject J, for starters, all his belongings were spreaded around the table. Well, doesn't matter, I don't really use the table that much.

Once accommodated, I carried out my usual tasks of putting away all my tickets, preparing my iPod, checking trending topics on Twitter and finally yoghurt time while reviewing the interesting articles of the day in Metro.

Very rightfully, Subject J decided that it was also time for his breakfast so proceeded to do so. He took out from his Holland & Barrett paper bag a mini lunch box with a fork and unveiled the content of it. A solid and liquid vanilla ice cream substance was revealed under the black lid. The disturbing part of the story was not the mysterious edible matter, but the action of the subject J. As if there was no tomorrow, he started to eat that yellowish thing with a fork, mannerless, spattering me with little drops of the thing, to my big disgust.

After overcoming the increasing anger for that carelessly way of munching, the tension increased in the room after Subject J decided that his 7:35 train was the perfect place to have a telephone conversation with who knows whom.

'Hello!!!' - in a very loud and annoying pitch voice disrupted our very pleasant morning silence. Then the conversation, carried out in an unidentifiable, was a completely unintelligible speech that gave me instant head ache and grumpiness. I am never fussed about noise on trains, but after some loud Graham Coxon to mitigate the voice and some even louder Death From Above to disguise the noise I decided that the situation was getting quite complicated.  

Angrily, I turned off my iPod, put it inside my bag, and looked furiously towards the walls of the carriage, to show that I was looking at the sign of not speaking or the phone or make noise, 'this is a quiet carriage, please respect the other passengers'. Said subtle action did not have any effect on subject J, as he continued his loud conversation.

And then it is when it hit me. This subject was the same person that has daily endless chatting on the phone but I never reach (or can't be bother) to find out who he is.

Just when I was about to said very politely that he was being highly disturbing, nature exerted its power, weakening the reception on his phone and forcing him to hang up.

At that precise moment, is when I took I my new book from my bag and I opened it on the first page, while trying to remember the plot relating it to the title.

'Beep beeeeep beep beep' - The sound of Blackberry keys being pressed in order to make a call.

It was happening. Subject J was dialling again. Reception recovered, and again, that loud and painful 'Hello!!!!'.

Like in an edited mobile telephone company commercial, same scene happen again and again, during the lapse of 10 minutes: loss of reception, peace for a minute, beep beeep beep, Hello!!  


and over again.

Unfortunately, my face is uncontrollably expressive, and it directly related my feeling to my facial gestures. After 5 of those cycles of pain, my face most probably showed a mixture of anger and violence that, not even by looking deep in his eyes was able to mitigate the situation. Probably he did not care at all.

After minutes of failed facial persuation, again, unconsciously, my hand grabbed my ticket wallet and furiously hit the table, emitting an angry and dry sound of disagreement.

And then is when it all stopped. My hopeless signed finally bear fruits and the mobile was put away.

Proud of my victory, the feeling of success lasted less than two minutes. It was 8:17 and therefore, time for running after the bus.

There he was by the door. Subject I in his usual position, playing with his Nintendo DS, and facing the inclement weather.  There he was, what a maverik! No coat, no jacket.  

For the record and your interest, I just raced Subject G for a race of death down the stairs. I did not only win, but also managed to stop my impossible 8:18 bus with a gentle hand gesture while crossing the street even though it had already departed from the stop.

The driver, Mr T's skinny brother with less golden chain, and called Subject K for the sake of the privacy here, provided me with a terrible disapproval face by the time I was showing him my ticket. He seems to be indeed a very serious person, not very talkative and certainly not very friendly. Nevertheless, he waved me with a friendly 'Thanks' by the time I reached work.

I don't get it.  

Anyways. Racing during commuting is part of my Social Experiments. But that's another story.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012


Royal Wedding - 26th April 2011 - Hyde Park

Fashion models - 21st April 2011 - Trafalgar Square

 Chinatown - 7th May 2011 -

 Notting Hill Carnivals - 29th August 2011 -

Navratri Festival - 16th October 2010 - Near Wembley

Holi Festival - 20th March 2011 - Twickenham

Wedding - 16th April 2011 - Holland Park

Sunday, 1 April 2012


London, Paris, Barcelona, Lisbon... you name them. We keep travelling around the world, visiting the most stately status, reigning in the middle of a square, at the top of a building. They are always full of history, couple of centuries at least most of them. Have been there for a long time, being witnesses of time, crucial events for the cities and all of them gracefully erected to represent one of those moments. Sometimes they get ignored, others, tourists cannot really figure out the history behind them. Other occasions, they serve as a stand for the filthy pigeons.

But I am pretty sure that if they had a voice, they would have a lot of things to say.

What if the statues could talk?