Posts Tagged ‘wandering’

[As I wrote this piece, I found it harder than I anticipated, and actually was pleased when I stopped writing to take a break and realised I’d said enough; I didn’t want to write any more. How odd.]

As I write this, I’m sitting outside a coffee shop in Charing Cross Road; I’ve been a’wandering in central london this afternoon after taking a PCR test and

Huh, I wonder whether, years from now, I’ll read the foregoing and faintly recall when that was a thing, or whether it’ll be ‘ah yeah, 2021… that was when we realised it was here to stay…

Anyways, yeah, I’m sitting outside a Nero, with a nice hot coffee by my side, processing – that’s a horrible word but it does the trick – the memories of this afternoon.

Or rather, more accurately, the memories from long ago that I’ve recalled this afternoon.

Because, you see, pretty much wherever I’ve wandered this afternoon, I’ve been before. And not in the ‘Oh, I remember this, I’ve walked this before‘ way. Neither the ‘Oh yeah, I walked past here last week‘ way.

No, more like the ‘huh, I spent a chunk of my life walking down this road every day for years‘ way, and ‘oh blimey, I remember getting drunk in this pub with [comics person] and [comics person]‘ way, and the ‘oh, right… yeah, I remember this because this happened, when I was in the process of cracking up…‘ way.

So, not entirely wholly pleasant memories… but not entirely wholly unpleasant either. And if that’s not a decent summing up of any year, or any period of time longer than a few days, I don’t know what is.

But here are three places I walked past or into which provoked some memories.

Denmark Street
For years, long before it moved into a huge place, Denmark Street was the home of Forbidden Planet comic shop.

Jasper Carrott used to have a line about why Brits feel a sense of deja vu when visiting New York for the first time: because they’ve seen it on telly so many times, it feels familiar in a lot of ways. Well, when I first moved to london, and walked into the place, it was the same feeling. Because I’d seen the comics shop depicted in several comics stories over the years.

But what was different, I recall, from the depictions was the people. Inter stories, they’d never easily been in the background, or there as comic relief. The main stories usually involved one hero or another being in a fight in central london and crashing through the window of Forbidden Planet. Whereas when I first visited the shop, what struck me was how nice the people were who were running it; they positively welcomed everyone who walked into the place, were warm and friendly and… well, nice.

(As a general rule of thumb, by the way, that’s what I’ve found with most comics shops and most of the people who work in them. It’s not a hard rule; sometimes you come across an idiot, or someone who views customers as a necessary evil, but on the whole, yeah, I’ve encountered nice people in comics shops.)

But as I walked through Denmark Street and up towards Shaftesbury Avenue and the bigger, Forbidden Planet ‘mega shop’, I felt a tiny bit of sadness for the shop that once was but is no more.

Percy Street
When I was at work, my local coffee shop was on the corner of Percy Street and Charlotte Street; the coffee shop is no longer there, and nor is anything else other than an empty building. But while I was hit by any number of memories while I was walking past it today, one very pleasant indeed hit me.

It was early 2010, and I’d wandered over for a coffee and a break from work, which was – I recall – rough at the time. I just wanted to turn my mind off for a bit and read a book for an hour before returning. I got my coffee, sat down outside, and after a few minutes, I noticed someone had sat at the next table. I glanced over and managed to retain my composure as I realised, sitting next to me, was Tom Baker.

Years earlier, while working as an entertainment accountant, my then boss had tutored me on how to deal with such circumstances. First off, when introducing yourself call them by Mr/Ms [surname], apologise for bothering them, and say that you know that they’re very busy (that gives them the chance to agree, and very politely tell you to go away after you’ve said more) then tell them how much you enjoyed their work, and thank them. And then shut up.

All of which I did… at which point, Mr Baker waved off any concern about time or whatever he was doing and we had a gloriously wonderful chat about acting and Doctor Who and humour and radio comedy, and his other work I’d enjoyed over the years.

After about three-quarters of an hour, I glanced at my watch and started to make my excuses. “Oh, do you have to go?” He asked. Now, I was financial director of the company, so no I didn’t. Not quite then. So I said so… and about 45 minutes after that I strolled into my office, ready for the rest of the day.

A lovely, totally unexpected, meeting that was genuinely unreservedly lovely.

Newman Street
Yeah, a biggie. I walked past where I used to work, where I was working when my brain and mind went a bit… gaga (to use the technical, medical, expression.)

Of course, according to the one psych I actually liked and got on with, it had been going gaga for a long time before the 12 years I spent working there. The building may still be there – it is – but the company moved elsewhere some years ago, and indeed, to my surprise, I found that they shuttered the channel in the UK last year.

I’ve walked past the place a few times over the years; I’ve no idea what triggered so many memories today – both good and bad – but for the first time in years, I recalled some stuff as clear as day. Both good stuff and bad. I was honestly shaken a bit by the strength of the memories, and how vivid they were.

I had some recollections that made me smile, genuinely. Some silly stuff, some serious stuff, people I worked with.

And the end of my tenure at the company, which wasn’t let us say under the most ideal of circumstances. And I remembered it in clear, vivid, detail. Every bit of it. And what immediately followed.

Yeah, ok, that was weird and very very not pleasant at all.

And that’s where I’m drawing a line today.


See you tomorrow, with… something else.



Sixty-one days. Sixty-one posts. One 2022 approaching.

I’ve signed up to, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of quid every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to the new year. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

Todays’ post was intended to be a ‘Ten Things‘ post, this time on comics I’d reread during lockdown, but, to be honest, I’m both demob happy because I got out of self-isolation at 11:59pm last night, and really not in the mood because I had an awful, just awful, night’s sleep last night.

And – to be brutally honest – while I was keeping a promise to myself (and one other person, an old friend) to write and publish one new piece of fiction every week, I feel no such obligation to keep to my own wholly arbitrary and invented rules about any ‘Ten Things’ posts that I entirely made up for this countdown run.

So, the entry that was planned for today? You get that next Friday.


Instead today, since right now I envy a gnat’s attention span, you get some odds and sods, various things that are on my mind right now before flickering away.

No, this definitely isn’t a multi-part goingcheep, how dare you think that? #WhistlesNotQuiteSoInnocently

Self-isolation – it’s ended!
Well, just after 11:59pm, last night, my NHS Covid app did something weird. I expected to get a notification that my self-isolation had ended, and that I was now free to go out, if I wanted.

I mean, ok, as I said in the entry on Sunday – 57 minus 30: So, I was pinged… – I then discovered from calling 119 that I wasn’t actually, y’know, legally obliged to self-isolate.

I hadn’t been contacted by NHS Test and Trace, I’d been pinged.

And being pinged, if you haven’t tested positive, just means that you’re obliged to consider isolating, although the advice, the very strong advice, is that you definitely, definitely, very definitely, self-isolate.

Now I don’t hold myself out as a paragon of virtue, by any means. And I’m as hypocritical as the next person. (Unless the next person is a British politician, in which case, yes, I’ll acknowledge that I’m not as hypocritical.)

But I do try not to be hypocritical, and given that everyone, including me, benefits from me staying at home and isolating, and no one, including me, is actively harmed by me doing so, it made sense to follow the best advice and self-isolate. And yes, there is a ‘hypocrite’ charge to be levelled at those who tell others they should always self-isolate no matter what when pinged, but who choose (for all sorts of reasons) not to do so themselves.

So, yes, I self-isolated. And it wasn’t pleasant, to be honest. While I’m neither the most social nor sociable of people in general, I loathed being stuck in the flat, not being able to go to the shops, not being able to see my few regular contacts-in-person, and not being able to grab a coffee outside.

But back to the weird thing my app did just after 11:59 last night.

(Oh, and well done, seriously, to whoever designed the bit of the app that ended isolation at 11:59pm rather than at midnight. I’m not even slightly kidding. Had it been at midnight, you’d have had confusion; if your’e informed your isolation ends at Thursday midnight, is that midnight as the day ends, or midnight as the day begins? Someone thought about that, and it shows.)

I didn’t get a notification that my self-isolation had ended. Instead, I got a notification that I had to self-isolate for ten days.

Yeah. As I say, weird.

I hadn’t seen anyone since I’d been pinged, so how could I have a new potential contact? And when I opened the app to check what was going on, there was no ‘you have to isolate for 10 days’ or anything. Just the usual indication that all’s well. Fortunately, in the ‘settings’ part of the app, there’s an opportunity to discover both “date of exposure” and “date of notification”.

Mine showed:

Date of exposure: 12th July 2021 (ie the original contact for which I’d been notified to self-isolate, and was 10 days ago, crucial.)
Date of notification: 23rd July 2021 (this previous showed last Friday, when I was pinged)

So, it was the app resetting itself. OK, but you saw my congratulations earlier about the 11:59pm? Yeah, someone didn’t think about this bit. I’d hate to think how many people panic on seeing that second ‘false’ notification about having to self-isolate again.

Anyway, my enforced stay at chateau budgie ended and… so I went for a wander at midnight to celebrate my own personal Freedom Day. (Sorry, but you knew that was coming, right?)

I won’t lie; I thoroughly enjoyed the wander, more than I think I enjoyed almost anything else in the past week. I was, for once, precisely what my twitter profile says: a wanderer and a wonderer.

I wasn’t, however, accompanied by the usual audiobook nor podcast. I wanted to enjoy the walk, as long as my foot would allow, and so I just let my mind wander, and hoped like hell it would retrun when I arrived back at the flat around 1:10am.

Here’s a couple of things that I was thinking about…
But he lied!
A Labour MP, Dawn Butler, someone generally I’ve not got a lot of time for, though, vanishingly rarely, she surprises and impresses me – called Boris Johnson a liar in the House of Commons. Now this is a no-no, and she was asked to withdraw the comment as unparliamentary language by the Deputy Speaker, who was in the Chair. Butler refused and was then ordered to leave (‘withdraw from’) the chamber for the rest of the day.

Now there are two entirely valid ways of looking at this. The first is that she knew what she was doing, she’s more than aware of the rules of the Parliament as set out in both Standing Orders and Erskine May. She knew that by accusing the PM of lying (and it’s the accusation towards another MP that really counts, not accusing a minister, since the latter is decided by, erm, the PM) and therefore she deserved everything she got. She’s got nothing to complain about and anyone supporting her is just plain daft; it’s not like she’s a novice who made a mistake. She broke the rules of debate in the chamber, and then refused to obey the Chair. Doesn’t matter which rule was broken, the House of Commons’ rules are set by all MPs, and deliberately breaking them for publicity is puerile and immature.

As I say, that’s one view.

The second, very different, take is that she thinks, as do many, that the rules barring an accusation of lying in the House of Commons are, today, ludicrously anachronistic. That the rules were created in a time when it was genuinely expected that MPs would not lie nor mislead the House; deliberately misleading the House was if not a resigning matter than certainly an incredibly serious offence, one that could end a promising career or certainly pause one for a while. It certainly wasn’t expected that a minister or, heaven forfend, The Prime Minister would mislead the House on a frequent – oh my gods, it’s frequent – basis for no reasons other than political expediency and because he can get away with it. Taking this view, the only way to bring home to the public how ludicrous the rules are, and to get some publicity for the move, is to challenge the PM by name, call him a liar, and take your lumps when the Chair kicks you out. It’s not that serious a punishment, after all. You get kicked out of the chamber for a few hours. So what? You go to your office, answer some constituency email, do some correspondence, and then wait for the news media to ask for interviews.

(Readers who remember my naming Boris Johnson our primus inter mendaces may speculate at this point which view I have more sympathy with. Who knows, you might even be right. Possibly.)

Both of the are valid interpretations, I think. I should say that one journalist I admire hugely for his writing views the allegation of lying as a no no, no matter what. I think he’s wrong when it comes to serial liars, but his view is, apart from anything else, it only and always adds heat to a discussion, and never light; it never accomplishes anything and if anything prevents any possibility of moving forward. It’s abuse, plain and simple. As I say, I disagree with John Rentoul on this.

However, what I struggle to consider as valid view is the professed surprise by so many British people who frequently (frequently? Daily to the extent that it’s rare they talk about anything else) comment on British politics. This is far from the first time this subject has come up, and to pretend that a) Butler didn’t know what she was doing, or b) that the Speaker had any choice in the matter before she threw Butler out, is false ignorance.

The Speaker really didn’t have any choice in the matter. The most liberal interpretation of Erksine May is that accusations of lying are allowed but that the Speaker’s permission must be sought in advance and it should be in the form of a formal motion to the House, a procedure that hasn’t been used in decades.

To pretend the Speaker did have a choice both lowers Butler’s intention, and achievement, and the perceived knowledge and intelligence of the person making the charge.

And just as I was finishing up this entry, I came across the following thread on Twitter, which I heartily recommend to all.

Anyway, moving on to one last thing.
Something silly
Something very silly to end today on. Not silly, or not silly-in-the-same-way, so that it should be part of a Saturday Smile, but silly nonetheless.

Many years ago – far, far too many years ago – I first heard Alistair Cooke’s tale of when he was told “Cooke, you must learn to murder your darlings.” Cooke said it was said to him by a tutor at Cambridge while the latter was brutally excoriating an essay of Cooke’s which contained, Cooke thought with typical modesty, some superbly excellent writing.

It always reminds me of the no doubt apocryphal tale of Noël Coward, when he was directing a young writer’s play. The play was overrunning, and Coward was cutting bits to bring it within the time allotted for the production. He came to one passage, hesitated for a moment, then with a brisk movement, struck out the line with a thick blue pencil.

The writer had remained silent until now but at this specific line, he could stay silent no more. “But that’s my favourite line!” He protested.

Coward is reputed to have languidly looked at the young writer and reassured him not unkindly. “It’s a lovely line indeed; a beautiful line.” Then: “Use it in another play,”

I’ve remembered both lines and used them on myself occasionally,.

Neil Gaiman was asked last week, as he sometimes is, from where he’d came up with the name Coraline, the eponymous hero of the novel. Neil told the tale that he’d once typed “Coraline” instead of “Caroline” in a letter; hethen thought it would make an excellent name for a character. Larry Niven had written “Treasure your Typos” and he did.

I mean, I’d heard “Treasure Your Typos” before, but this was the first time I knew who said it.

It had two immediate effects.

The first was to remind me when I once did treasure my typo. I’d written a story for a horror anthhology comic called Trailer Park of Terror; the story was called It’s Been Done Before, and was a ‘twist in the tale’ thing.

One panel was the one on the right.

It’s fine, a perfectly serviceable panel. Did the job.

But the letterer had made a small mistake, which fortunately we caught during proofing the story.

He missed out the L in the word PUBLIC.

So the caption read…


Well, you would, wouldn’t you?

And that little moment of joy gave me the idea for You’ll Never Believe A Man Can Fly. So that was nice.

But, I hear you ask…


No need to thank me.


See you tomorrow, with… something else. It’s Saturday tomorrow, so you know what to expect.



Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.

I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.