23 April 2007

Promising signs

Promising signs this past week: I had three job interviews. They aren’t all concluded yet, so I’ll refrain from discussing them for the time being. It’s certainly good to know that the employers are finally prising open their purses and hiring again though.

What I can report is that one of the last things a chap wants to occur on a Tube train when he’s rushing to make a job interview appointment in Canary Wharf is for a chap in his carriage to keel over and faint in mid-tunnel en route. It wasn’t too hot in the carriage, so I’m guessing it was some minor medical thing. Someone pulled the emergency cord and the train put out its anchors and ground to a halt. A woman who evidently had a nursing background was sitting nearby, and she took control instantly, instructing the driver to move along to the next station so the passenger could be evacuated and given some fresh air. Good thing she didn’t decide to conduct impromptu open-heart surgery with a Swiss Army knife, because bloodstains on my suit would’ve seriously undermined my chances at the subsequent interview. “It’s alright, I was just knocked down by an offal cart” just doesn’t cut it with potential employers these days. (As it happens, I still managed to make the interview with a few minutes to spare).

On Friday morning, after my last interview of the week, I experienced what I hope was an excellent omen. On the way back to my temp job at the BOA, people were giving out free Kit Kat bars outside Holborn station. What greater mark of a robust and healthy society is there than the free dispensation of chocolate to the needy? It’s the modern-day version of Roman emperors scattering sestertii to the plebs. After I’d been handed mine, I noticed that one of the other Kit Kat girls was busy responding to a text message, and so was neglecting to hand out chocolate bars to passing pedestrians. Londoners being Londoners, people were thrusting their hands into her open Kit Kat satchels and rummaging around for dairy milk booty while she studiously ignored them and continued texting. It reminded me of those nature programmes where a sow is suckling fourteen piglets at once, and just sits back and thinks of England.

After work on Friday I had a proper social night on the town. First I met Craig Penn at his regular haunt, The Champion pub on Wells Street, just off Oxford Street. It was nice to catch up with Craig and meet some of his animation industry buddies. Then I legged it to a Japanese restaurant called Ribon on Holborn Viaduct near St Paul’s, where Felix’s mate Hannah was having a karaoke birthday celebration. I performed a show-stopping rendition of Dean Martin’s “Ain’t That A Kick In The Head”. Show-stopping in the sense that it was half decent, not that it caused the venue to be evacuated due to my strangulated howling, that is. A very successful evening out.

On Saturday morning, Richard, Sam and I flitted into town on the train to browse at the Borough Market, which is a collection of dozens of food and produce stalls arrayed about the fantastically-named Green Dragon Square near the southern end of London Bridge on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. The tower of brownies was a highlight for me. Obviously has stronger foundations than the one in Pisa.

Afterwards we walked along the sunny South Bank past the Globe, where a policeman was regaling tourists with Shakespearean sonnets (see below), then crossed the Millennium Bridge and had a nose around the shops at Covent Garden, where a brass band was playing as flags of St George fluttered in the breeze, and the officially posted market regulations state that ‘no person shall shell Peas or Beans, trim Vegetables, shake Nuts, peel Walnuts or sort Fruit, in, on or over, and of the Footpaths’, with a potential penalty of ten shillings to transgressors.

After R & S departed for other engagements, I took in Little Miss Sunshine at the Prince Charles. Its strong cast and good indie cinema appeal at the Oscars had raised my expectations, and it proved to be as appealing as everyone says it is. Naturally, the genuine sweetness of tiny Abigail Breslin is a proper delight – yes, Dakota Fanning, this is how not to be an annoying little girl in a movie! – but the other cast-members, particularly Steve Carell and Greg Kinnear, also pitch their performances just right. And the film’s ending at the child beauty pageant in California, which I won’t give away in case you’ve not seen it, is a real comedy treat.

On the train home my carriage contained numerous suburban football supporters on their way home from seeing Tottenham’s 2-2 draw with Arsenal. As neither team had won, it meant neither team had superior bragging rights, so their post-game bluster and bravado led to a certain degree of ritualistic shouting and chanting. And – cover your ears vicar! – quite a bit of blue language too. Lucky the trip to Croydon doesn’t take too long…

Sunday was even busier than Saturday. Richard & I went to Tower Bridge to enjoy the cheering crowds encouraging the London Marathon runners onwards. Then we stopped at Southwark Cathedral briefly to see the start of a Venetian-style masque parade from the churchyard to the Globe in honour of Shakespeare’s birthday. And as the morning turned into a sultry afternoon, we joined the crowds outside Buckingham Palace to watch the end of the men’s marathon. A tight parcel of male runners rounded the corner in the distance and sprinted for the line while the crowd whooped and cheered them on, making it an exciting and dramatic finish. (Pics are on Flickr).

After some lunch and a philosophical discussion of the English national psyche at a pub in Carnaby Street, I showed Richard the myriad electronics emporiums of Tottenham Court Road, where he was absolutely in his element.

Book of the week: Big Money, written by P.G. Wodehouse in 1931. A recitation of the plot in this case seems rather superfluous (although I’ll shortly do so anyway). It’s a Wodehouse plot exactly like omnibus-loads of other Wodehouse plots, and excellent for it. Mistaken identity, posh scroungers, irascible millionaires, double-dealing lawyers, suburban blackguards, American heiresses, false beards, and a fail-safe get-rich-quick scheme to rescue the woeful finances of our worthy heroes, Berry and The Biscuit (aka Lord Biskerton), who find themselves accidentally courting each other’s fiancées. What more could a chap want in a page-turning paperback b.?

DVD of the week: Although I’ll probably wait until I can watch it on a proper TV screen, I’m indebted to the kindly soul who ordered me a history DVD on Alexander the Great for my birthday. Unfortunately there wasn’t a From address, so I don’t know who to thank. So, if you’re reading this, do make yourself known and I’ll bestow my proper thankyous!

And happy St George's Day to you all...

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