Indulging my inner nerd

I say inner, though in truth it’s hardly well-concealed.

I’m home alone this weekend and with hours to fill, I’m spoilt for choice. Often I’ll be paralysed by this choice and wind up wasting hours tied up in indecision: watch the football, a movie, go to the cinema, go to a museum?

But by happy coincidence this weekend I had a few things on the horizon that needed doing and with all this free time I can take a free run at doing them.

First, I have been writing my new book at some pace of late and the last 20,000 to 30,000 words have come in the space of about a month to six weeks. It’s all first draft stuff but nonetheless, it is a heckins of a work rate by my previous standards. So when I got home from work about 6 last night I decided to sit down and do some before I got gripped by channel surfing and staring into the fridge trying to decide what to eat. I popped open a cold beer and got typing and by 8.30 I was two more chapters along and ready to stick on a movie (Close Encounters) and chill out.

This morning I was up at a decent hour, another 1,000 words along by 9am and after a bit of sausage, egg and black pudding, got the cricket on in the background and as Pietersen and Cook put together a decent knock, I rattled off another 1,500 words.

That done, it was time for a different type of nerding and I donned my waterproof jacket and slung some London walks books in my bag and headed off.

I have mooched around an old church that should have been closed (some top Gatecrashing) found the church that was featured in Four Weddings, through a very old looking gatehouse (which it turns out is not that old, just very well restored), criss-crossed Smithfield Market and all the Dickensian streets and alleys from there to Clerkenwell and Farringdon and been thwarted in my attempt to find a Roman Baths near Temple, both access points to the secluded little alleyway locked and bolted.

Once I’ve finished here having a warming pint in a quiet cosy Fleet Street pub I’ll head home and watch some wilfully obscure foreign film just because I can and then tell my wife that I enjoyed it very much.

I love it. Sitting at a keyboard for hours. Walking around quiet wet streets in search of little London oddities in a relentless downpour until my camera phone packs up. Discovering in this last place not just a decent pint, or that the table I am sitting at used to be some sort of strange pedal based Singer sowing machine but also that it was here that Britain’s greatest post-war secret was very nearly exposed – the notebook of a careless/traitorous journalist left on the pub floor containing information about Eastcote, later to become GCHQ. Handed to the police by a sharp eyed barmaid.

I am cold and wet and sitting next to the fireplace, wishing that they would light the bloody thing.

What a ridiculous, marvellous way to spend a Saturday. Cheers.



Teeth grinding fury

My train was late this morning. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

In fact, the train was cancelled, the next one was late and so not only was it effectively two trainloads of people (to make up for the cancelled one) on one train, plus anyone who turned up during the fifteen minutes before its late arrival. Except it was, when finally it arrived, not even a full length train. But inexplicably it was only half the usual number of carriages. Cue impotent fury and no outlet whatsoever to help right this awful wrong. Just getting to work a half hour late when I was actually, for a change, on course for getting in a smidge early.

What infuriated the most though was the reason for the cancellation. This was ‘due to an earlier broken down train’. Now then. An earlier broken down train. Nothing wrong with the train they cancelled. But an earlier one broke down so apparently the next one gets cancelled. But of course.

Fuming, I was left to ruminate on the other tiny injustices and irritations that plague me. Consider these horrors, if you will.

As something of a language/grammar nazi, I find I am most often affronted by odd words, or word usage. Expiration for example. When did that replace expiry? My credit card was doing just fine with an expiry date but the expiry date expired and got itself a fancy new extraneous syllable. Now it has an expiration date. Show off.

There exists a useful system for denoting times of day, a couple in fact. One is to specify with the word ‘morning’ or ‘afternoon’, for example. Or to use the 24 hour clock, if you believe yourself to be of a military persuasion. Then there is am or pm. If you tell me that something occurred at 3pm, I require no further specification. In particular I do not need to hear you say 3pm in the afternoon. Or 9am in the morning. You’ve already told me what I need to know. Stop repeating yourself.

Then the Olympics gave me a whole new one. Athletes did not win medals. Rather they were said to have ‘medaled’. Pundits discussed the prospects of competitors and their chances of ‘medalling’. And so a noun becomes a verb. At which point in fact, the word verb becomes a verb. The verb to verb. ‘I’m pleased that he medaled.’ ‘Yes, but I can’t believe that you just verbed.’

‘I could care less.’ This is I believe an Americanism. It’s strange because it is wholly illogical. The correct term is ‘I couldn’t care less.’ If you could care less, then by definition, you do care. Because you could care less than you do. It is really very simple and I really should care very much less about this than I do.

But just so you don’t think that I’m an awfully intolerant word-fascist who polices conversations, I’m also ridiculous about the way people walk. Specifically the way people in front of me walk. When I’m trying to walk. They’re slow, they zig zag in my way each time I try to get past, they read their text messages, they fail to know precisely the direction they are headed at all times, they chat with their friends, they walk through the ticket barrier or off the escalator and then they stop dead. How dare these people, all people, occupy the same public spaces that I am using at any given time, or walk the same thoroughfares? Who do they think they are, slowing me down a very small amount as I get from A to B, from train station to office, from office to pub?


My train was late this morning. Sometimes that’s all it takes.