Joeblade

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  1. Notes on a train

    A recent trip to Oxfordshire let me try out the recently-refurbished 'GWR' trains, introduced after First Great Western rebranded to their historical title of Great Western Railways, a rebrand so exhaustive they've designed their new trains for 19th century body shapes. โ†’

  2. Remembering David Cameron

    As a history graduate, I'm interested in how we remember political figures, and how our memories of those figures frequently differ from how those figures intended to be remembered. An important detail to understand about historians is that if circumstance gives us an easy-to-swallow narrative, we'll take it and head to the pub for the rest of the day. It's why we tend to remember our Prime Ministers only for one thing: Chamberlain for appeasement, Churchill for easily-tweetable witticisms, Attlee for the NHS, Eden for Suez and Thatcher for having seven heads and ten horns, and upon her horns ten crowns. Equally, if a Prime Minister never manages anything particularly juicy, good or bad, we don't much remember them at all; nobody's going to write their dissertation on John Major. โ†’

  3. A misanthrope abroad

    Back in 2010 I wrote about how hard I found it to go on holiday for a variety of reasons, but the last few years has seen me get steadily more adventurous, though not so adventurous that I don't retain my inherent hostility towards people the entire time I'm away. People don't get suddenly more tolerable just because I'm carrying Euros instead of Pounds, so my holidays tend to be structured to avoid other people as much as possible while still staying within the walls of civilisation, with its soothing flow of coffee and reassuring presence of flushing toilets. โ†’

  4. On the function of dictionaries

    The news that several authors and naturalists, including Margaret Atwood and Andrew Motion, wrote a distressed open letter to plead that a collection of nature words removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary โ€” catkin, acorn, pansy, etc. โ€” be reinstated has naturally made me think of McDonalds. โ†’

  5. Fat January

    January is the most miserable month of the year. It's dark when you leave for work and it's dark when you leave for home. It's properly cold, and not the bullshit December cold where it never drops below 13C, but serious, gale-force windchill cold with sleet, rain, and snow. You don't have any money because you got your last salary on December 20th and you've already spent it because you're terrible at managing your own finances. There's nothing to look forward to in January except the end of January. โ†’

  6. Reading women

    Around the start of last year I was performing my annual "Stroking of the books" ritual, where I saunter around my living room admiring my collection and my tremendously good taste in literature. I paused to stroke the largely-unread collection of Dickens' Penguin Clothbound Classics, I gritted my teeth at the irritatingly mis-matched, incomplete and incomprehensible set of Prousts, I briefly fondled my expansive collection of BFI monographs on serious, important films such as The Big Lebowski, and I stopped to feel the weight of my oversized books on film poster history and the Sega MegaDrive. I made my annual resolution to re-read books more often, and then promptly forgot all the books on my shelves in favour of reading something new. โ†’

  7. The cinema at the end of the world

    Welcome news this week that the Shaftesbury Avenue Cineworld, a cinema that looked and felt like it had only narrowly survived the apocalypse, is to close and be refurbished into a seven-screen Picturehouse, the only other option being to take off and nuke the site from orbit, just to be sure. โ†’

  8. Amsterdam

    After four barely-tolerable days in Brussels, taking in all the graffiti and scaffolding that the city had to offer, I did better with four days in Amsterdam, trading concrete and roadworks for picturesque canals and a laid-back, friendly, tolerant atmosphere. Finally, here was a city I could feel at home in; a city where everyone would leave me alone because they were all too busy getting high or getting laid. โ†’

  9. Brussels

    To sum up Brussels with one anecdote: the Palace of Justice, built between 1866 and 1883 by Joseph Poelaert and the largest building constructed in the 19th century, sits opposite my hotel, covered in scaffolding and seemingly disused. The renovation of this building has been so slow that in 2013 it was discovered that the scaffolding itself was now also in need of renovation. โ†’

  10. The Non-swimmer

    I discovered a walking route home that takes me along a canal and shaves 20 minutes off my journey time. It's a route that's peaceful, practically deserted, and neatly cuts out almost the whole of Camden. A 45 minute walk where I can, for a short time, forget that I'm in London; the advantages of this just have to be weighed against the terror caused by being a non-swimmer mere inches away from an open body of deep, cold water. โ†’

  11. Marylebone Road

    A new year has led to a new job, and with it a new commute. Being grimly determined to take exercise as and where I can, for fear of one day being the focus of one of those news stories where a fire crew has to demolish the front of a house in order to prise the occupant from a sofa and into a waiting truck to be taken to the morgue, I tend to walk as much as I can, distances that wouldn't bother, say, a child from 1904 walking nine miles to school every day, but to a typical Londoner who'll take the tube or bus to avoid walking 200ft, a marathon. โ†’

  12. Acclimatising

    Being a long-serving bachelor, and with British weather helpfully providing me with a plausible excuse for not travelling, I traditionally spend Christmas alone, and when I say "Christmas" I actually mean about three weeks, starting a week ahead of the day itself and ending a few days into the new year. No expectations of going out, enough food and drink to feed about three of me, and so many films, games and books that I'd do ok keeping occupied on a return trip to Mars. Solitude and over-consumption; what a magical time of year it is. โ†’

  13. Getting a haircut

    Like most metrosexual males, I get my hair cut at a hair salon. I stopped going to a barber after too many years of having my request for a grade 2 undercut blindly accepted when what I actually needed was an intervention of some kind. Hang on, are we still called metrosexuals? I lose track. โ†’

  14. Why I won’t subscribe to your newspaper’s iPad app

    My newspaper of choice, being a discerning liberal gentleman and having had my appreciation of the Guardian burned out of me after four years of working there, is the International Herald Tribune, i.e., The New York Times for people who wish they were reading The New York Times. โ†’

  15. The upper deck

    I regularly use the bus to get around London on the grounds that the Tube is a place where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. Tiring recently of the limited seating on the lower deck of the bus and the constant ethical dilemma about whether to stand for the elderly disabled pregnant woman or just keep on sitting like every other cold-hearted bastard Londoner, I risked a trip to the upper deck, a deck previously avoided because of the belief that you only sat upstairs if you wanted to be murdered by schoolchildren. โ†’

  16. Notes from the Regent Street Apple store iPad queue

    I had ordered an iPad online but the delivery date wasn't for a full month, which is bullshit. What's the point of being a fat, entitled Westerner if I have to wait a month for something? As I was passing the Regent Street Apple shop I decided to see if buying one in person was possible. This was two days after the launch so I'd imagined the masses would have dispersed, though the hundreds of thousands of March 26 protesters might have taken the opportunity to stock up as well. โ†’

  17. Viktor Mayer-Schรถnberger’s Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age

    Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age by Viktor Mayer-Schรถnberger examines how humanity has used technology to augment human memory over the ages, and how we are now entering a period where technology gives us near-perfect memory through digital archives. He argues that this is an abnormal situation for our societies, and that we ought to be finding ways in which we can facilitate forgetting rather than remembering. โ†’

  18. Snap, crackle and pop

    I was in a pub the other day that had a record player behind the bar. On it was playing an old Ella Fitzgerald album, and it had all the hissing, bass and crackle on it that vinyl aficionados harp on about. It was nice. It lacked the pristine sound quality of digital music; its analogue nature told a story. โ†’

  19. This is how I go on holiday

    It's a mystery to me how anybody manages to go on any holiday, ever, given the range of destinations on offer. Aside from a few warzones -- and even they will likely offer some sort of human-shield package tour -- the budding traveller can go anywhere on Earth. How does anybody ever pick a destination? Literally the entire planet to choose from. I can barely manage to choose which loaf of bread I want. โ†’

  20. Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin

    Spin by Robert Charles Wilson won the 2006 Hugo award and deservedly so, it describes an Earth enveloped in a opaque membrane that blocks starlight and slows down time. Not a challenging read (I blitzed through it in a few hours) but enough great, Clarkian concepts to keep my mind buzzing. Recommended. โ†’

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