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Manchester Riot: Madness at the Malmaison

10 August, 2011 2 comments

this is a rather stream-of-consciousness report based on my experience of the last 7 hours. apologies for the lack of critical thinking or reflection (or proper punctuation). more of that tomorrow, perhaps.

It’s like looking through reflective glass onto a different world – only it isn’t… it is clear glass and the policeman on the other side of the glass is looking at me with a face that says “for god’s sake, man, what are you doing – get away from the glass and let us get on with the job”. so I do.

There’s a woman in a decollete little black dress and high heals. The fake tan is too much but she’s giving it everything and her date is in awe of the glamour, but it takes just a moment of standing out on the pavement looking for a taxi to realise that they’re not going anywhere this evening… that they’ll be better to head back inside and get a drink.
The Malmaison staff were excellent. keeping a lid on things. behaving as normal. still serving the steak tartare, still taking the orders and taking the soup off the list because it wasn’t to sir’s liking. but there was an underlying tension. the assistant manager had a cool, calm, jovial face. right up to the point where she said “gentlemen, are you staying in the hotel tonight? well then I suggest that you go to your rooms. They’ve just smashed up the Mint Hotel round the corner and they’re coming this way”. We took her advice.

Little Black Dress and her date are oblivious… they’re virtually sitting in the middle of the foyer, locked together by mouth.

Fourth floor viewpoint

But we stopped off on the 4th floor by the lifts to look out over the front of the hotel. Every now and then a group of young men would saunter by. swaggering. confident. cocky. and clearly cold because their hoods are all up. This, I reflected, was the best moment of their young lives – or at least it looked like it was – they owned the streets. maybe this is the only time they’ve owned the city – felt like it was their’s – dominated.

A young, female, mancunian colleague tweets: “@richardayers There are gangs running round here with axes and hockeysticks”. I suddenly feel like sitting and watching it from a fourth floor window is like watching a roman games. I’m a bit embarrassed. I worry about those of us who have spectated – on tv, in person – and how much that builds the desire for these idiots to act. I worry about my colleague. To be clear, I’ve got nothing to worry about – it’s the people who live here, the people whose community is getting smashed up for no good reason who’ve got the trouble.
The two security guards from the Mal stand outside on the street – looking at the groups that walk by. Doing nothing but looking. nervously.

We started at the stadium

At the start of the evening we’d been in the office. It was 6.30 and I was settling in for another evening’s work at City@Home. But the call came from the police and quickly the word spread … “Police advise that we leave the building. They say that there’s been trouble in the centre of town and they’ve blocked it off so the gangs will be heading this way. The Mercedes showroom have removed all the cars from their forecourt and we should just leave now”.

Now, I’ve spent the last 3 days living in a quiet part of Islington – just a mile or two from the centre of the riots in London… and i’ve left my wife, baby and friends down there… and I remember the IRA bombing campaign in the 80s… and I remember the 7/7 bombings and the t-shirt that had a london underground sign with the station name as ‘Still not scared’. So I’m more annoyed than scared. I had a lot of work to do. But it’s sensible to leave and there’s a lift on offer, so I give myself over to the general mood and head out.

Mr Portugal, Mr New York and myself are all dropped off near the Malmaison which is our home for the evening. On our way walking there we come across groups of teens. Sweet looking, non-hoodie wearing, kids. You can tell there’s an excitement. As we pass, I hear one girl say to another ‘you’ve got to be here – just to see it – haven’t you. you’ve just got to, to see what’s going to happen’.

As we came round to the front of the hotel, it was an odd sight. A main street quietened. Police in a line at either end. Some strewn rubbish up the road. A smashed bus stop. The ‘gang’ – or do we call them criminals? ‘horde’? – had just been through. Police were directing us down other roads – but “not through here, sir”.  I can only think to say to the young PC “thanks for all you’re doing. I don’t mean to be patronising, but carry on the good work.” “thank you sir,” he says “enjoy your evening”.

As we stood looking at the officers and the debris, 4 kids cycled into the area on street-versions of mountain-bikes. All 4 between 17 and 20 years old, dark clothing, two of (I’m guessing of course) Somali descent, two with blackberries in hand as they were riding. Nothing unusual so far. What *was* unusual is that they cycled up to where the police stood, circled around, then over to where the debris was, circled around again, then back to where they entered the street and circled once more – checking, looking, assessing, chatting between them… and then there was a decision to move on and they accelerated off back down the side-street where they’d come from.  Now I’m all for encouraging pedal power – and normally I’d say it’s good for the environment – but there was something oddly threatening as these kids were scoping what was going on. It’s all too tempting to get drawn into dramatic analogies, but the movement on the bikes had a sweeping, stealthy and threatening grace to it… it felt like a 4 hawks swooping to check out a field. “Why don’t the police just arrest them?” my colleague asks – and we hear from the hotel assistant manager that the police *have* been taking suspicious people off the streets earlier in the evening, but nonetheless I answer, “What are they going to arrest them for? Cycling with intent?”.

The American I’m with just can’t get over what’s going on. He’s been in the country for 5 days – literally – and it’s blowing his mind. Several times he says “but this just wouldn’t happen in the states. we’d have the navy seals on the street”. I don’t think you would – but i get the point. “we’d have the army. this would have been stamped out right away. what’s stopping the police sorting it out?” His disbelief is palpable, and perhaps even endearing. I try to explain that we have a tradition of not calling the army onto the streets – and caveat that Northern Ireland isn’t a good example. I try to explain that our police often take a more steady approach – intervene if there’s something life-threatening, but otherwise, let it settle of its own accord… and then use the unparalleled cctv coverage in our country to make sure that the right people are prosecuted.

“What caused this?” he asks again and again. … and I don’t have a better answer than, ‘it’s complicated’. Socio-economic reasons – kids frustrations- underclass – disenchantment – criminality – yobbery… even just plain ‘doing it for the hell of it’ – like the tweet that said “It’s like grand theft auto” ..these are all too complex answers and the combination of them and others make it even less fathomable.

I came up to Manchester this morning and tweeted “feels odd to leave my city in the wake of the riots and to be heading to calm Manchester”. Not calm any more. But Little Black Dress and White T-shirt Man don’t care. They’ve taken the blitz-spirit to heart and head to bed. Love, or something, conquers all.
For most of our meal we didn’t really notice the riots outside our hotel. We were talking business, putting the company to rights, ordering the burger and thinking about where my Portuguese and American colleague should live. Sadly, this madness interjects. What a welcome to our country.

Beard Infographic

29 June, 2011 1 comment

Excellent work by Matt McInerney of pixelspread.com – and I think, as someone who’s done some time on the unsavoury/threatening borders but now, hopefully, resides in ‘very trustworthy’, that it’s pretty accurate too. (click the image to make it bigger)

 

 

 

 

Thor goes Triple A

15 June, 2011 Leave a comment
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The Meaning of Life – according to Highbury

11 September, 2010 Leave a comment

Christ Church in Highbury put up signs advertising a course. Ten signs all saying the same thing: “The meaning of life is…..”
I’ve no idea whether they meant people to fill in the blank – but the did. These photos are taken two days after the signs were put up – and the answers reveal so much about my neighbours. Click here or the pictures to get the full set of 10.

Girls’ Dealbreakers

25 August, 2010 1 comment

Yesterday India Knight mentioned dealbreakers on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour programme and lots of people picked it up on twitter.  In fact, there’s an individual dealbreakers twitter account as well set up by a lady called Emily.

I remembered that in February 2004, when dating dealbreakers was a very relevant topic for me, I’d done a survey in the office and found that lots of people had a list. And as I had the list of dealbreakers for guys to hand yesterday, I put it up here.

So, here’s the full story. In pseudo-scientific way, I’ve included the question I asked – and all the responses are in the order they were submitted and are unedited.

The email I sent to colleagues: “Recent discussions have led me to try to put together a list of minor quibbles that a yound woman might have with a man. you know – those tiny things you notice where you suddenly think “oh no, this is never going to work…”. We’re talking the immediate turn-offs, dealbreakers. give me your suggestions and i’ll put together a list for a vote…”

The Summary: “hardly scientific, but in summary…

– girls seem to have a greater tendency to pick up the small details early on – spotting things which are immediate turn-offs. ones which got lots of votes were: bad teeth, white socks (not on a gym day) and there were various opinions on hair – but the gist was that back/neck not ideal.

– boys have a tendency not to pick up small details at first – tends to be the obvious physical points – but then can build a big list of what i’d call bug-bears later on – attitudinal things which they notice once they’re in a relationship.”

GIRLS will find the following things about BOYS a “dealbreaker”…

  1. * someone who gets their nails done
  2. * someone who spends more time in the bathroom than you
  3. * use of the word “lounge” or “toilet” (as in “I’m just going to the toilet”)
  4. * VEST TOPS – ESPECIALLY IN THE WINTER – ESPECIALLY WHEN WORN AS EVENING WEAR
  5. * EAR HAIR , NOSE HAIR, VERY BUSHY EYEBROWS THAT NEED TO BE TRIMMED
  6. * EARRINGS
  7. * A WALT DISNEY TYPE TIE
  8. * NAFF BOXER SHORTS WITH SILLY PICTURES ON (IF IT GETS THAT FAR)
  9. * KEEPS HIS SOCKS ON  (IF IT GOES FURTHER)
  10. * SOVEREIGN RINGS ARE ALSO A BIG NO NO!
  11. * FLASH WITH CASH
  12. * TIGHT WITH MONEY (ed. jeesus – you have to get it just right, don’t you!!)
  13. * puts x at the bottom of a text when he hardly knows you
  14. * hairy back
  15. * hairy chest
  16. * A SMALL GATHERING OF HAIRS ON CHEST IS WORSE!  A THIRTY SOMETHING STILL GOING THROUGH PUBERTY!
  17. * comb-overs – go bald with grace!!
  18. * hairy backs of necks
  19. * HIGHLIGHTS
  20. * bright white trainers
  21. * bright white trainers with jeans
  22. * WHITE SOCKS WITH DARK SHOES
  23. * wears briefs, or God forbid speedos to the beach
  24. * being effeminate
  25. * Obssessed by any sport!
  26. * Into crap music but thinks he’s cool
  27. * Maniac driver
  28. * Sexist
  29. * Bleaching of any kind
  30. * Sweaty armpits – that is insistent on displaying – bo of any kind
  31. * Fast cars
  32. * Men who lean in too close and spit on you as they gibber at you.
  33. * brummie accent
  34. * tracksuit bottoms
  35. * won’t dance/ can’t dance
  36. * general scratching
  37. * bad table manners
  38. * sweaty/ clammy hands
  39. * Excessive PDAs (Public Displays of Affection for anyone not in the know!)
  40. * Dwarf qualities
  41. * BAD TEETH
  42. * sitting strangely
  43. * Goatees
  44. * Men who collect anything (this happened to an old flatmate of mine. She went to a new man’s house for the first time to find his bed
  45. covered in soft toys).
  46. * Men who spend an excessive amount of time in the gym
  47. * Men who still see their ex girlfriend. A lot. And alone.
  48. * Men who refer to you as ‘babe’
  49. * Men who still live with their parents
  50. * Men who drink wine in the pub (maybe that’s just me)
  51. * no socks
  52. * no socks and loafers
  53. * Men who sit with their legs excessively wide apart
  54. * Picks his nose
  55. * Uses excessive amounts of hair gel
  56. * Overly tactile and clingy
  57. * or not tactile AT ALL
  58. * Carries a man-bag
  59. * A GUY WHO TURNS UP SMELLING AS IF HE’S COVERED HIMSELF FROM HEAD TO FOOT WITH 5 BOTTLES OF AFTER SHAVE
  60. * walking strangely
  61. * non-manly hands
  62. * sends red roses (ed. too much cliche apparently, not enough imagination)
  63. * books a romantic weekend for two – but chooses paris
  64. * being too masculine… farting in bed, etc.
  65. * bad breath
  66. * man without a plan
  67. * makes comments on your weight/eating
  68. * being a football hoolie
  69. * cheapness
  70. * white socks on non gym days
  71. * high trousers
  72. * Cheap Argos jewellary and lots of it
  73. * Crap Ringtones on fones ( i.e. feminine ringtones)
  74. * more make up than me
  75. * Hair worn brushed forward with pleanty of gel re prime trisha contestant
  76. * fussy eaters
  77. * brogue wearers
  78. * nasal hair
  79. * small hands
  80. * using a carrier bag as a main bag (i.e some men carry lots of stuff with them in carrier bags)
  81. * carrying loads of stuff in trouser pockets
  82. * Long Finger nails and long toe nails
  83. * Extra Long Last finger nail
  84. * Masses of Armpit hair

Boys’ Dealbreakers

24 August, 2010 1 comment

Some years ago I came across the concept of dealbreakers when a female friend chucked a bloke on a third date because two dealbreakers combined:

1. his use of language: he used the word toilet instead of loo/bathroom, as in ‘I’m going to the toilet’. And he said ‘lounge’ rather than front room / sitting room. I know, bizarre. This was combined with  2. his use of jewellery: he had a pinky ring and wore a thin gold chain round his neck. Combined with no.1 this was just too much.

So, I did a survey round the office – and it turns out that almost everyone has some kind of dealbreaker – however relaxed they say they are – however much they only care about the character.

Today, as India Knight has mentioned her dealbreakers on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, I thought I’d post the dealbreakers that my then work colleagues came up with. If you’re faint of heart, then read with a gentle health warning – these comments are word-for-word what was written down and in the order that they were sent to me. Enjoy, and please post your own below.

I’ll post the Girls’ dealbreakers tomorrow.

BOYS will find the following things about GIRLS a “dealbreaker”…

  1. her hands are more manly than yours /   nails bitten raw
  2. insists on driving with her nose right up against the steering wheel when there’s no need at all
  3. she’s plump but still has a pierced belly button (and it really doesn’t work…)
  4. Too much make-up, or wears any base/foundation whatsoever
  5. Eats more than you at dinner
  6. Drinks pints
  7. Has big feet (ed. forgiveable if there’s a pay-off…)
  8. Has a wonderbra disguising a tiny bust. (If they’re small, that’s fine, just don’t dress them up to be something they’re not) (ed. also known as Millenium Dome Syndrome – ie looks big from the outside but fuck all to see when you get in there)
  9. False Titties!!
  10. Cellulite
  11. Smelly (fishy in particular) noony
  12. fat ankles
  13. Insists on telling you a non edited version of her day
  14. Thinks that its no longer taboo to talk freely about periods
  15. Wear those really horrible half tight popsock things
  16. Thinks they can get away without shaving their legs
  17. Turns regular events into moments, eg don’t you remember this is the place we had our first larger top etc etc
  18. speaking with your mouthful
  19. girls who give more attention to their cat/dog than you.
  20. cant stand aftershave
  21. takes all the pillows
  22. earns more than u and cant stop talkny about it/making reference
  23. film watching – asks questions you cant know the answer to,
  24. Starts talking in coo chi coo
  25. she has a brummy accent
  26. she laughs with a piercing cackle
  27. she’s carrying a few pounds but still thinks she is entitled to wear a bear midriff top or worse a thong
  28. she replies to very question with I don’t mind (apart from the saucy ones that is)
  29. She thinks she has a good signing voice and would go far on fame academy
  30. Has had a “difficult past”
  31. Never buys a round
  32. Everything’s an allergy
  33. At dinner don’t notice that they have got mayonnaise on their chin even though it has been there 10 minutes
  34. Insist on putting that lip gloss stuff on that makes you feel like you are kissing a post it note
  35. Get lip stick on your glass when they want to try a bit of beer (ditto cigs)
  36. Don’t understand that lying in front of the TV on a Saturday does constitute “doing something”
  37. Indicates when driving when only a slight swerve is necessary
  38. Wears trainers with a suit skirt
  39. After you have finished a telephone conversation with a friend she asks you if you asked him a certain question when she has been listening all along anyway and knows you haven’t.
  40. has a bigger dick than u
  41. red heads….no hair just a red head
  42. long hair down her back…none on her head just all down her back.
  43. more than usual allocation of fingers and toes.
  44. always sporting a camels toe.
  45. think that men don’t mind standing aimlessly in ‘birds’ shops feeling like an arse (apart from Top shop where chairs are provided)
  46. can’t understand that guys will know what they want, where it is and how much it costs and will only spend the absolute minimum shopping for it.
  47. always always asking ‘does my bum look big in this’, when her bum IS BIG, and looks big in everything.
  48. freely admits that blow jobs aren’t her thing.
  49. Has the ability to come home bladdered and wake you up to tell you every detail of the night – yes ….every detail
  50. Inability to open doors quietly past midnight after one glass of white wine
  51. The need to phone 40 times of an evening on her journey home – again after one glass of white wine
  52. very hairy nipples
  53. Shoes shoes shoes and more shoes
  54. Your clothes always get the smallest amount of room in cupboards and draws
  55. Loo seat always has to be down
  56. Thinks it is ok to go to the loo while your in the shower……..going to the loo
  57. If you forget to put a ‘x’ at an end of an email/text gets in a huff
  58. Can’t pronounce the names of certain wines
  59. Makes you watch the full series of Sex in the City and Friends on dvd
  60. Never happy when going to the cinema if they have not picked the film
  61. she uses all the towels in the bathroom because she ‘needs to’ – usually cos she’s washed her hair.
  62. she spends an hour on the phone to someone she’s going to see 20 minutes after the call ends.

100 views from the tower

12 July, 2010 1 comment

In March 2009, I started work for a media company based on the 19th floor of 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf – also known as the tower. This is a photo journal of the view from my desk. Click here or any of the images below to go to the slideshow.

The view is looking west across London with the River Thames in the foreground, the Gherkin and Tower 42 (formerly the NatWest Tower) in the distance on the right and the BT tower in the far distance. My favourites are the sunsets, the snow and the window cleaner.

Almost all shots were taken with an iPhone 3, those of higher quality/more zoom were a Canon Ixus 430. Oh, and it took me till shot 15 to standardise the position of the camera.

June's summer sun

Christmas lights

Visitor outside

The view from my desk: 100 image slideshow

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