The surprising thing about Hamlet

Regular Twitter friends will know that, on Friday, I went in to London to watch the Young Vic’s ‘Hamlet’, featuring Michael Sheen in the title role.

A full and detailed review is in the works, and will be published soon.


Imagine my surprise as, settling down, five minutes before the performance, the stranger seated next to me leaned over, offered me his hand and said ‘It’s Brennig, isn’t it?’

And the world visibly shrank around me, as that list of ‘Random People You Know But Are Never Going To Meet At A Performance Of Hamlet At The Young Vic’ had a line drawn through a name.

London is a parasitic heaven. Discuss

Ah, London.

But not the London of old.

Not the ‘turn again Dick Whittington’ London.

Not the London of the 50’s, 60’s or even the relatively uncluttered 70’s.

London of today:

Crime levels beyond belief

Failing schools

A public transport system that is so wholly unable to cope with the daily commute that it is an international joke.

That the very worthy TfL manages, either directly or through its contractors, to shift the same number of people home and back, as the entire population of a small Scandinavian country, almost every day and without incident, is staggeringly awesome.

But the reality is that most of London’s commuters struggle and sweat their way to work; shoehorned in to train carriages, charged hyper-inflationary fares and dehumanised to such an extent that invading the personal space of at least half-a-dozen other passengers somehow becomes the accepted norm.

That’s not right.

Meanwhile, over on the road, cyclists partake in the daily lottery that they call ‘alternative transport’, and anyone with a grain of common sense would call ‘stupid’; so caught up in their routine bid to survive are they, that a significant number of cyclists ignore the rules of the road in their bid to outpace road traffic.

The streets of London are no longer paved with gold; they are filthy, rubbish-strewn, rat-infested and cursed with more pot-holes than the inhabitants of most third-world capitals would believe.

The systemic decay of the city is visible to any discerning eye.

The urban population of London live in ghettoes, where the cultural subdivisions are stark and uncomfortable.

When ‘this area is Bangladeshi’, ‘that is a Romanian district’ and ‘over here are the white middle-classes’, there’s something evidently diseased with a city.

London has out-of-control elements of the population who seem to be able to operate beyond the law with impunity; only suffering a relatively minor crackdown when a five-year-old girl gets shot on the street.

Oh, I appreciate that London makes small contributions to the nation, but I put it to you that London’s contributions are outweighed by its parasitic tendencies.

Londoners claim that the city produces wealth beyond our wildest dreams, yet the true cost of that wealth production; the vile waste that spews from the arse end of the temple of Mammon, is dumped elsewhere for others to deal with.

The alleged ‘wealth-producing’ Londoners want their toys, their electrical-powered gadgets, their gizmos. The supposedly ‘green’ motorists of London want their recharging points.

Yet every single one of the places that produce London’s electrical power are elsewhere in the country.

The nuclear generating stations that power the bloated capital are in Wales, Scotland and the prettier parts of England, as are the gas-fired and a significant number of the coal-powered electricity generators.

And yet the vast bulk of these power stations exist to serve the parasite that is London.

Electricity is ferried across the country, through the national grid, to the electrical black-hole that is our national capital.

So while Londoners preen themselves and crow about how great their city is and how much wealth the city produces, the true cost of their existence is a suffocatingly enormous daily drain on the English, Welsh and Scottish countrysides.

Because, to put it another way, nuclear power stations – and all of the other generating stations – are a tax for having London, and this tax is being paid not by Londoners, but by the residents of the countryside.

London sucks people in, the gravitational tug is difficult to withstand, I appreciate this. But the dazzling five card trick hypnotises people in to overlooking all of the ills of the city.

But the truth is that London cannot sustain its continued population growth.

The water system continues to provide clean drinking water to the population, yet millions of gallons are lost through leaks.

Millions of gallons. Why? Because digging up the capital’s roads wholesale – what is needed to fix the problem – is unpalatable to the local population and the politicians alike.

So the waste continues, pretty much unchecked.

The sewage system was built by Victorian engineers who had no idea that the small population of London would grow to today’s levels.

The hundreds of tons of daily landfill is taken away and buried in the precious green and pleasant English countryside.

London’s roads are a joke; barely able to cope with off-peak traffic, the ‘rush hour’ consists of up to two hours of near-paralysis.

The trains are amongst the most expensive – yet, conversely, the most heavily subsidised – in the world; consisting as they do of rolling stock that, for the most part, is substandard and unable to cope with passenger demand.

London’s underground system is, if we’re honest, overcapacity to the point of being criminal.

Am I the only person who remembers the damning reports on tube overcrowding, that were published in the wake of the Moorgate disaster?

Am I the only person who thinks that if the tubes of the Moorgate era were dangerously overcapacity then, how would a Health & Safety enquiry view today’s passenger levels, should we have another disaster?

It’s the transport elephant in the room. And that is sitting beside its larger sibling, the transport infrastructure elephant in the room.

And yet the workforce and the local population continue to put up with Third World living and travelling conditions on a daily basis.

So here’s the big question.

In the 21st Century, when almost every household has the capacity for speed-of-light communications via the internet, is it really necessary to inflict the degrading, dehumanising, cattle-transporting-qualities of Big City life on the public?

Is it really necessary to cram so many employers, employees and even unemployed in to such a small space?


No, of course it isn’t.

One story, more than one angle

Students are revolting.

Today has seen the second student revolt in a couple of weeks.

The first student revolt didn’t go down too well. There was bad behaviour, wanton destruction, mindless vandalism and mob rule.

Yes, the police were caught with their trousers around their ankles; they admitted as much.

But for today’s revolt, the police were prepared for a violent, rampaging mob of uncontrolled thugs, vandals and violent protesters.

Anyone who thought the police would not come down hard on today’s protest is clearly devoid of all common sense.

Let’s ask a question.

Do you:

  1. think the police would, as happened last time, paddle about ineffectively, whilst fires are set, public buildings are ransacked and private property is wantonly vandalised? Or do you
  2. believe that, at the first validated report of serious crime, the police would assume full riot mode, and come down hard?

If  your answer is 2. welcome to planet Earth. If your answer is 1., you’re wasting fresh air, please leave now.

And let’s stretch things even more: what do we imagine is going to happen at future protests?

I have seen 400,000 protesters – get that kids, at least four times the number of the people you have turned out with – peaceful protesters turn out for the Liberty and Livelihood march in 2002.

I have seen one million peaceful – I’ll say that again – peaceful protesters take to the streets of London for the StWC march.

And yet less than 100,000 students, who expect to be taken seriously and treated like adults, are incapable of organising, policing and passing off a peaceful protest.

In what I can only take as a sign of irony, various Tweets are being pulsed around the internet this evening.

I’ve seen several people retweet the thoughts of @josayoung:

  • Wish Teen Son would come home from protest. Last time he got kicked in the shins by a policeman for getting too close.

What? Last time out he got so close to a policeman that he got kicked in the shins? And this time you *let him go out again*? Really? See question 2. above. Where was your common sense? More importantly, where was his?

  • They were kettled immediately, even though to begin with they were simply and peacefully protesting. They are all young students

Young students who caused damage assessed at hundreds of thousands of pounds. Of course they were contained! How dim does a person have to be to imagine that riot procedures *would not* be enacted?

  • Young were not trying to cause trouble, just making their views known. Education is lifeblood and leads to jobs and social order

There has been no evidence on this, or the last student revolt, of education or social order. Well, maybe in your world, but not in that of anyone else.

  • The protesters are not revolutionaries, quite the opposite. They want the right to eduction (sic), development and jobs. They are very worried.

I’m worried too. I’m worried at the obvious lack of common sense and intelligence of the protesters. I’m worried about the lack of common sense and intelligence of the parents of the protesters. And also, not wishing to contradict you but… these little thugs are behaving *precisely* like revolutionaries.

Therefore they’re going to get their arses kicked.

I appreciate that @josayoung was concerned for the welfare of her sons during the riot. But a person with just a smidge of foresight would have been able to see what was probably going to happen.

I see no evidence of ‘learning by repetition’ here, not by the parents, not by the offspring.

As examples of of dumbed-down Britain, I don’t need to look any further.

But, just to refresh the collective memory:

London 2012 Olympic prices

It’s almost as if the organisers of the London 2012 Olympics are incapable of learning anything from anyone.

Earlier this month, the gaze of the equestrian world was focussed on the World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Kentucky USA.

The WEG is the World Cup of all equestrian disciplines. Like other World Cup competitions, the WEG is held every four years; the venue changes on a ‘bid’ basis, this is also like other World Cup competitions.

In terms of competition ‘difficulty’, the WEG is a CCI**** (four star) competition, this is the highest degree of difficulty in the equestrian world.

The only other four star competitions in the normal *annual* Eventing calendar are:

Lexington (US), April
Badminton (GB), March
Luhmuhlen (DE), June
Burghley (GB), Sep
Pau (FR), November
Adelaide (AUS), November

To this list we have to add the two four star events that occur on a periodic basis:

WEG (US), October 2010
Olympics (GB), July 2012

Let’s add, to the list of *annual* four star events some additional information:

Lexington (US), April US$50 (incl car parking) – £31
Badminton (GB), March £101 (incl car parking) – £101
Luhmuhlen (DE), June €80 (incl car parking)  – £70
Burghley (GB), Sep £70 (incl car parking) – £70
Pau (FR), November €51 (for VIP pass incl car parking) – £45
Adelaide (AUS), November A$80 (incl car parking) – £50

This tells us that, for those of us in Europe, amongst the annual four star competitions, Badminton Horse Trials is exceptionally poor value.

Elsewhere in Europe, Pau, Luhmuhlen and Burghley all seem to be more or less in the same financial ballpark.

So we have a market.

Let’s add to the marketplace, the prices for this year’s WEG in Ketucky: £200 (incl car parking).

Fucking… ouch!! That’s painful.

OK, so now let’s add the final ingredient, the prices for the London 2012 Eventing competition: £275 (*not* incl car parking).

Fucking, fucking, fucking OUCH!!!

A point of clarification: the prices for four star Eventing competitions are not set by the local/national discipline. Oh no.

The prices for four star Events are set by the sport’s international governing body, the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI).

Unfortunately, the organisers of this year’s WEG have taken a financial hammering. According to today’s Sunday Telegraph, the FEI managed to sell just 52% of their tickets.

I can’t help wondering how many of the £275 tickets the FEI reckon they’re going to sell.

I’m seriously pissed off with the FEI, they seem to be guilty of what the Americans call ‘price gouging’.

The prices the FEI charged for the CIC*** (three star) competition at this year’s Gatcombe Horse Trials were absolutely criminal.

What is it with sport governing bodies that seems the make them see the punters as nothing more than cash cows?

Sending signals

Journalists, WTF? I know the house style of the The Sun is best summed up as ‘aim for the worst of all that is bad in society and then lower your sights 45 degrees further”, but what, exactly, does this headline in today’s copy of the Sun convey to readers?

Doesn’t it convey ‘gay slayer or foreign spy, meh, they’re all the same’? And what is the divine intervention that The Sun journalist has, to enable him (or her) to *know* that either a foreign spy (not a British spy!) *or* a ‘gay slayer’ (what is one of those, anyway?) did this awful thing? Don’t you just love the British tabloid press and the standards they evidently have? Don’t have, I mean.

Listening to music is one of life’s great enjoyments. I spend huge amounts of my time in a world filled with pleasant sounds. The continually-falling price of personal mp3 players and mobile phones with the same capability, coupled with a decent pair of earbuds, have given all of us the opportunity to have a private, portable place of pure phonic pleasure. (yeah, sorry about that alliterative whimsy there) But when I was in London the other day, there were two teenagers on the tube, listening to music on their mobile phones. Without headphones. Let me use different words. A pair of teenagers, sitting and chatting together, were listening to different tracks of music *aloud* on their mobile phones. Did I mention they were chatting over their music? Hey kids, here’s a message for you:

Planning a magazine cover can’t be an easy job. There must be so many different factors to consider…

There has been a significant amount of traffic and chatter about Mary Bale and her alleged feline-binning proclivities. I can’t help wondering what a person with similar tendencies would do if they came across little Koda…

I’ll tell you one thing, I’d rather be in the company of Koda anyday, than having to sit on the tube in the presence of two teenagers, shouting their conversation over the loudspeakered tinny din of two portions of noise pollution.

A day trip

Today I went to London. Just to see if it was real. I took a HUGE bag of Sandwich Spread sandwiches. Unfortunately the sandwiches were mostly gone by the time I got there. How did that happen? I wish I knew. Really. But it seems to happen almost every time I take home-made sandwiches with me. Bizarre. Anyway. It was an enjoyable trip; I do like the broadband WiFi on the journey.

Starbucks have taken the process of buying coffee, ripped the heart and soul out of the experience, burned the mortal remains until there is almost nothing left, liquidised the ashes in to a smoothie, fed the drink to a 23-year-old, lame, partially-sighted mule and then shot the mule. Twice. This afternoon I went in to a branch of Starbucks. The length of the queue should have put me off, but no, I stood in line with all the other lemons. As I slowly shuffled forwards, like a cold-war Babushka gradually taking root in a queue for half a loaf of mouldy bread in a Moscow bakers, I could hear the rat-a-tat interrogation of the guy behind the counter. All I wanted was a coffee. With every passing second, my desire to be *there*, in that queue, surrounded by tourists waiting for the inevitable ‘grande non-fat ice white mocha no whip rikki-tikki-tavi fellatio cunnilingus MOT-fail welding heinz 57 with extra giraffe and a side helping of kangaroo and brick catfood‘ interrogation at the cash till; my need to be *there* just unwrapped like the peel off an apple, and dropped away until all I had left was the word ‘coffee’. I turned and walked out.

Twitter is currently enduring my one-word-a-thon #twitterporn. I feel a bit sorry for it.

Chocolate is about to be taken, and accompanied by a mug of hot tea. Oh yes!

A new kind of ‘unwell’?

  • I’ve been in London all day
  • I have had three meetings with clients
  • I had one particular meeting with two people who were downright friggin’ hostile

Despite these things I have been incredibly patient at all times and even found myself walking around the shopping precinct and the streets lunchtime… SMILING AT PEOPLE.

I am obviously in danger of losing the few marbles I had left.


A day in the life of an Oxford Tube commuter

It’s the first working day of August 2009 and we’re flying down the M40 towards London. It’s about 06.40 and we’ve just gone past the junction to Princes Risborough, if you care.

This journey is being brought to you courtesy of one of the Brand New Super Dooper Oxford Tube Executive Luxury Coaches.

OK, I don’t know if that’s their official title because I made it up.

But these coaches cost, I’m reliably informed, £250,000 each; the Oxford Tube is replacing their old fleet of coaches with a large number of these behemoths, for that’s an accurate description of the size of these big boys.

As well as being larger they also have a modified seating layout.

The lower deck still has the two tables, one on the left and one on the right. Each table is ‘surrounded’ by two forward- and two backward-facing seats, but the tables are the width of the average emery board.

The seats on the right of the aisle (as one stands beside the driver, facing backwards) are about a foot lower than the seats on the left. I don’t know why, they just are.

The seats are very comfortable, as is the ride, and the noise levels are consistently quieter too.

The colour/décor in here is predominantly light blue, it’s not unpleasant.

The internal lighting has a slight blue tint to it too which, in my head at least, makes the ambience slightly reminiscent of the lounge area of a 1980s disco. The heavy tinting on the windows generally adds to this effect.

But there aren’t any people in here wearing big hair and bad clothes so the ambience is acceptable.

‘Safety’ is a highly visible feature; I can see four of those little ‘in case of emergency, break window’ hammers and a compartment right at the back marked as ‘First Aid Kit’. And two CCTV camera lenses. I’m not sure what they’ve got to do with ‘safety’ but that’s how CCTV cameras are being ‘spun’ these days.

Unfortunately the WiFi doesn’t work; bit of a bummer on a brand new coach. But the 13amp sockets are up and working. Mine is, at least.

The drivers seem to love these new big boys. The two I’ve spoken to so far have said that the gearbox is brilliant to play with and the controls are all far more ‘positive’.

So well done Oxford Tube.

I know the old coaches have all done over a million kms; that’s quite a distance!

One thing I would point out; the re-recorded safety announcement seems to have been produced in the cellar of The London Dungeon; the quality of echo is bordering on the ghostly and may well instil nightmares in small children.

If we’re lucky.

Here we are, Victoria, and the starting point of tonight’s journey home on the Oxford Tube.

It’s another one of the new coaches.


Unfortunately the internal colour scheme of the coach clashes beautifully with what the woman sitting opposite me is wearing.

She really chose her colours carefully to achieve a brain-numbing effect of this quality; the artfully-crafted symphony in clashing colours is more a case of ‘car-crash couture’, rather than an accidental ‘getting dressed in the dark’.

Her name is Sharon. Everyone knows this because she has announced it, loudly, to the five people she’s called on her phone. As in ‘Hi Deidre, it’s Sharon calling…’

She says that because she’s leaving voicemail. She’s left voicemail on all of her calls so far.

That’s either a really bad run of luck on trying to get hold of your friends or they’re trying to tell you something, Sharon.

And there’s a girl about to get on with a cello. And massive dangly earrings. The girl, not the cello. And now the conversation of inevitability takes place.

No, you can’t bring that on here. Yes it’s too big. It’ll have to go in the luggage compartment. No you can’t put it on the seat beside you. No you can’t put it in the aisle.

She looks as though she’s a very nice person and she’s very single-minded which, I suppose, one has to admire. But she’s not going to win this one.

And she doesn’t; the cello goes in the luggage compartment, she pays the fare and stomps upstairs wearing a loud frown.

Don’t ask me about the loud frown, it just was.

There’s a three-person family trying to board the coach now, and this causes me to wonder why people don’t get their money out before they attempt to board the coach?

It’s almost as if they’re expecting a different conversation to the one that goes:

Three day-returns to Oxford please
That’ll be £xx.
[stunned silence followed by] Oh!
[rummages around in handbag large enough to contain Mary Poppins and the two annoyingly smug children. Eventually money is produced and the fare paid]

Hmmm… time for a change of topic:

Selfish seat-baggers (being those who bag seats selfishly by claiming a seat for their personal items), I think we need to have a quick headcount.

There’s the old woman who must be well in to her late 60s; she’s chosen the aisle seat and put her handbag and raincoat on the window seat beside her – thus making it doubly unattractive to a new passenger.

There’s the young guy opposite her, he’s in his early 20s; he began by employing precisely the same tactic – and then trumped her by deploying a pair of iPhone earbuds on top of his lightweight rucksack and then feigning sleep.

Cunning, my friend, very cunning; the old woman is clearly not in your class – although I can tell from her body language that she is banking on the late flourish of The Daily Mail to put any indecisive seat-hoverers off.

Then there’s Extremely Hot Girl, the one sitting behind the kind of weirdly creative guy who is laughing at Twitter on his laptop (that would be me).

She’s using the Many Bags Of Shopping technique; Next, M&S, Anne Summers, Carphone Warehouse, some shoe-shop I’ve never heard of, she’s piled her baggage high in an attempt to keep ‘sitting next to her’ people at bay.

Thirty-something guy has opted for the one-dimensional approach; choose an aisle seat and feign sleep. Low-tech, simple but effective. Especially with all the drooling and the occasional twitches he throws out now and then.

Anyway, that’s enough of what’s going on inside for now.

Outside a German coach (and is it only me that finds it funny that the German word for ‘travel’ is ‘Fahrt’?), anyway, this German coach has cut right across us; pulled straight out from the kerb directly in to our path. We only avoided shunting him up the arse through immediate anti-collision techniques (i.e. slamming on the brakes) employed by our driver.

Or perhaps the German driver wanted to get shunted up the arse? Who knows?

And so we go through Shepherd’s Bush, past the enormous roadside poster that advertises some guy’s debut album, except the eye-attracting qualities of the font makes the words look like DEBT ALBUM and we all forget to look for the artist’s name. What a shame. Ad Agency Fail.

Amazingly, by some complete fluke of the universe, We are through the roadworks with almost no conceivable delay and out on to the A40 towards Hillingdon.

If I had the capability of being worried I would be very worried.

Where is the traffic? Why am I not nose-to-tail in miles of stationary metal? Is it because everyone on the road is intimated by the size of this big boy?

We zip past RAF Northolt where a couple of North American-registered executive jets are parked on the western-sector perimeter track, incongruously separated by a fully-armed RAF Tornado IDS.

Hillingdon, where no-one gets on but MILFY woman from upstairs gets off.

The police are having some kind of a ‘stop all traffic and check for things untoward’ party in the layby opposite. From the amount of cars parked on the side of the road the police are having a bumper harvest!

Sharon’s on the phone again. Leaving another voicemail to another of her friends, poor love.

We hit the M40 which continues the journey speedily; I’m still wondering where all the traffic has gone.

This coach has working WiFi.


But the 13amp sockets don’t work.


Home soon.

Why am I so knackered?

So today, Friday, I got up at 04.45 and did stuff and went to work and finished and came back to Oxfordshire and drove to the yard and did carrots and groomed and cuddled and then tacked up and rode and we schooled and afterwards I untacked and groomed and carrotted and drove home and Soph and I went to bed and a couple of hours later we got up and showered and dressed and went out for a meal and now we’re back and are both deadly tired.

So yesterday I got up at 04.45 and did stuff and went to work and finished and came back to Oxfordshire and drove to the yard and did carrots and groomed and cuddled and then tacked up and rode and we schooled and afterwards I untacked and groomed and carrotted and drove home and got changed and then we drove to the Leisure Centre in Witney and played Badminton for an hour and then drove home and ate and went to bed and fell asleep as I was getting in.

So the day before yesterday I got up at 04.45 and did stuff and went to work and finished and came back to Oxfordshire and drove to…

How’s your week been?

Getting felt

No, not a synonym for touching cotton

So I was in the Westminster tube station at 12.59. There was more human traffic around than usual – the Victoria line is on strike today.

My mind was wondering so far away I really don’t know where it was. ‘Zoned out’ is the phrase that Soph and I use to describe that kind of almost but not quite hypnotised state of ‘other worldliness’.

I was on the ‘up’ escalator from the Jubilee line. The hand that was caressing my bum was gentle, soothing. I shifted my weight and it slipped across and cupped my right cheek.

And then the penny dropped. Where I was. And that Soph was not standing behind me. I snapped upwards from my ‘leaning on the banister’ position and turned around.

Female. Blonde. Early 30s. Dyed blonde. Black dress. Cleavage. Leather jacket. Smile.

I think I smiled back.

She removed her hand as the escalator fed itself in to the jaws of the floor and I scampered on my way with more alacrity than normal and left her behind.

I’m not too sure how I feel about the incident.

Kind of flattered I think. But a little… strange.

Does that make sense?