Tuesday, after midnight - just had a lovely dinner with dear friends....making the late night trip back from Angel to Willesden Green, a bit of a tricky one sometimes as that particular journey doesn't follow the normal transport corridors littered throughout north London. Coming off the bus at Swiss Cottage, I drop out of warp to dive down a dark staircase and into another small, barely noticeable entrance to a tube station. I register the fact that there are two large signs either side of the gate, but the half open gate fails to stop me.
Assuming my quickened stride down the corridor, I get a little further on and suddenly notice piles of construction materials and equipment carefully laid out, taking up the left hand side of the walkway. Great, so what happens if I'm some crazed loon and I decide to take a nose dive into those silver pole thingys over there...instant litigation, court battle with City of London et al....
Passing the glares of three construction workers in hard hats and orange vests, I reach a second closed gate...turning to go back up the corridor with an annoyed but complicit smile, one of the workers goes, "There were signs at the gate, you know...but don't go back, you've come all this way." And so as I turn again to open the second gate, he calls back, "There were signs, you know," and then someone shoots back, "Yeah, but the gate was open, mate." I open the gate, stride on down but the guy calls back, "Shut the gate!?", and before I can fight the impulse I turn and shut the second gate for him (it is the country code I suppose)...
So how is it that between two large signs and three guys in vests and hard hats that a hurried commuter like myself is allowed to walk past potentially dangerous construction equipment?
This place is frayed at the edges - a sense of bodginess pervades throughout the city:
* - Crossing the street at traffic lights, the green man lights up and you walk, and then as soon as he disappears the lights change and traffic starts to come at you....
* - For the country that was the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, how is it that the Tube is regularly delayed and breaking down due to things like signal failures and lack of safety measures?
* - And how is it that in one of the financial capitals of the world, on any given day in central London, about half the cashpoints are actually working?
I'm whingeing again I know, but when you live daily amongst all this stuff it just adds up....is this place turning me into a whingeing Pom?
On a much more positive and totally unrelated note, I had an awesome out-of-town gig last Saturday night at a place called Gatsby in Berkhamsted (see photos)...formerly a 30's era cinema with all the Art Deco trimmings, chandelier sprouting from a pressed tin ceiling...extraordinary! The whole place had such a great vibe...cranking bar out the front for the punters, with a few stairs up to a swish dining room up the back, and in the middle of it, a white baby grand (it's been a while!). Three sets, the last one being a little more animated, with applause (!!) at the end of the set...food looked great, friendly management, gorgeous waitresses....what else is there!? Berkhamstead (or 'Berko' as it was referred to by some local ladies who accompanied me on my walk back to the station) is a rich little village on the way to Birmingham, about an hour by train from my place, so it was an easy little jaunt out of the M25, and it was so noticeable that everyone looked a little healthier and happier...the crowd felt a lot more human than some of the central London herds I play for. Put in a good word to the guy who depped it to me (the day before), and it looks like it could happen again. Just gotta line up a couple more of them a week and I'd be home and hosed!