London and Why Have I Not Used Buses Before?

At the weekend Con and I took to London for my sixth time and her first (proper) time. It was a mixture of getting away from Glasgow, a short city break prior to our wedding, one of Connie's friend's wedding (to another Brit, yeah) and also to go and fulfil a Christmas present, and go to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London: the Making of Harry Potter.

Some context: Connie's favourite film series is the Harry Potter series. And it is also one of my favourites. The latter ones (basically the ones not by Christopher Columbus) are very good and towards the end become true blockbusters. It's kind of crazy that a film series got to it's eighth instalment before it peaked. That really breaks the Sequels are shit rule.

The wedding was lovely, and it was great to dance and party like nothing else - a lot of champagne really helped me to dance my way into a dreadful and almost endless hangover that killed a full day of possible sightseeing and any chance of meeting for drinks later that night. We were staying with Jayna and her place is located in Wandsworth, a place I'd never been before.

Not near a tube stop, we had to rely on buses and trains. Previously, I've avoided buses in London because they were impenetrable. I had no idea how to buy a ticket (the first time I went was before the Oyster system) and I also had no quick way to check where buses go and which one to take. I downloaded Citymapper to my phone and it was a sudden change - the bus is dirt cheap and the app told you which buses to get, where from, and where to get off. So, instead of the dirty dirty tube we got the bus to Westminster for our first bought of tourism, and it was great.

We got a short tour of London, with myself acting as "tour guide", and I pointed out a few places here and there. It wasn't until we looked up how to get from Westminster to Buckingham Palace did I realise that I had a golden chance to ride the New Bus for London, the much touted and expensive replacement for the old routemasters.

We hopped on the back and said hello to the conductor and sat in a kinda cramped seat, but it was a routemaster. It felt like the old ones - I remember them as a boy running around Glasgow city centre. It was fun, and quick, and a bit of a novelty. The bus looks great on the outside and seemed confortable on the inside, though the lower deck was really small (two stair cases and three doors, mental).

Harry Potter was not in London, despite it's name, and is located out by Watford at the Leavesden Studios (where films are still being filmed today). Getting the train to Watford Junction was made more difficult by the temperamental Overground cancelling services (and stopping me from getting to use the service, which was a shame).

The tour was brilliant - I was amazed at the sets that are still standing the costumes - personal highlights were the Ministry of Magic floo network fire places, the Knight Bus, the Magic is Might sculpture (that I was certain was a CGI creation) and the endless nick nacks here and there that made up the world. It felt like a wizarding museum, it was so lovingly craft and created.

We did miss Frank a lot though.

I Could Never Have Been an Actor.


A few weeks ago I ended up in a live studio audience for the recording of a new episode of a tenth series of the venerable Red Dwarf. Despite it ranking up there as one of the geekiest things I have ever done, amongst the geekiest crowd of people I’ve probably ever been amongst, it was great fun and enlightened me to the ways of television studio recording, something that I had just assumed knowledge about.

I was swore to say nothing about the actual show, of course, but I will say this: it’s good.

What seeing the show did do was give me the sudden realisation that despite everything I had thought when growing up, acting was not a calling I could’ve actually done. Many people will say “I wish I could’ve been an actor” but watching Craig Charles and Chris Barrie have to act out the same scene numerous times due to errors, stumbles, fumbles and mistakes with the script, as well the director changing ideas and ways in which the scene had been filmed, it was evident that I would’ve lost my mind early on.

I am patient, as I have already mentioned recently. I guess my type of patience doesn’t work for working repetitive and arduous things every couple of minutes, repeating scenes and changing slight inflexions of tone and emphasis. Interestingly, I guess, it also made me realise that work that these actors have to put into not messing it up – every time there’s a take, you have an enormous amount of pressure on you. Not only because there’s an expectation to not get it right, you can see other people working away, doing their job correctly. If you don’t do yours, then they don’t get to do theirs.

Another point that confirmed to me that acting would’ve been an incorrect career path is the entire detachment from the creation of the show the event seemed – we were in the studio for a show that will be released onto screens in September 2012 8 months before hand – this is not the case for all shows, granted, but it still felt like an age between the filming and showing of the series.  Oddly, I’d never considered this before. I guess the gap between the show and my TV is not something I think about when watching a TV show.

It wasn’t the dashing of a dream though, don’t get me wrong – apart from playing games and imaginative worlds created, I had no aspiration to be an actor. I had no dramatic drive in my body as a child, preferring to be hidden – once even being back stage crew at a performance of Oliver! in my high school, which I immensely enjoyed. You would have never caught me attempting to act in anyway, doing any kind of drama production, or anything like that.

It’s just one of those what it things that plays out in your head – it’d be a great job to have, sure, and looked like a hell of a lot more fun than calculations and driving Excel spreadsheets, but that’s where it ends. It’s not a “what if”, but a “never if”. Consider a dream not shattered, but ruled out.

Next, I will discover there would be no way I could’ve ever been in a band. That’s a true dream shattering moment.

London: Alone

They say two’s company, and three’s a crowd. I don’t know who “they” actually is but people do say that, don’t they? Anyway… what’s one… all alone and never more has been so? As has been covered in a couple of posts here and there, I like music and I go to a lot of concerts taking with me the unimpressed friends and family that have no choice but to humour my one true passion in life. It’s obvious for me that I need to take someone as music and live music is a social experience and something that I have grown up doing with friends. It is here where I point out I have never been to a concert alone.

So I bought two tickets to London to see New York hipsters LCD Soundsystem at the O2 Brixton Academy without really worrying about who to take with me. It’s not that I assumed that I could find someone to go, but I just thought that maybe someone would want to come along for the fun and the company of myself – it turned out that I couldn’t rustle any of my highly paid friends to come along and went alone.

Alone on holiday for 5 days. Not only had I never been to a concert alone, I’d never actually been on holiday alone either. It seemed less “plonkerish” of me to go to London and do some sight seeing alone than go to the concert alone for some reason. Indeed, the three days I spent in London alone were surprisingly great fun. It meant that I could go and see what I wanted and for as long as I fancied. So, when I was sitting in the sunshine on the Camden Canal sipping a fruit smoothie, I had only myself to worry about. When I spent 5 hours looking at the exhibits in the Natural History museum I felt no pang of disappointment or guilt as there was no one else to worry about boring. I spent a whole hung over morning walking amongst the Marathon runners and the Tate Modern in a daze without once having to talk to a single soul and it was cathartic.

The problem was at night. Having dinner in a pub on your own is not the most fun, though I broke the barrier of that by roping in some old timers to talk to about the Fulham team, of which none believe my opinion of “They’re pretty good huh?”. I managed to find a friend of a friend to tag along with to the LCD gig after punting my second ticket to a hapless fan for face value. On Saturday night I danced and jigged my way across Central London to find my self locked out of my hotel room in my under pants for a reason that I still can’t quite fathom.

After several holidays to places with people it was a refreshing change of pace to just be able to hang about London at my own speed and style. It felt relaxing compared to other City Breaks I have done and whilst I have absolutely no doubt that I would have much a million times more fun had a friend came (laughing at the Modern Art, drinking in the pub, laughing at the hipster cunts in the park) it felt great to try being on my own for a while and that, actually, while two’s company and three’s a crowd, one maybe be all alone… but that’s not a problem at all.