A* Life Choice: Impromptu Tourism

On Tuesday afternoon I thought it would be fun to take the Underground from Angel to Tower Bridge, walk by the Tower and across the Bridge then through Hay’s Galleria to London Bridge station and back to Kings Cross. Here is what I learnt:

  • In England, you can never wear enough layers. Ever. Especially if your umbrella is of debatable quality and folds up in anything stronger than a breeze.
  • You should always carry change, because although you might not begrudge the city of London 50p to use a well-maintained public toilet, you will be pretty bummed out if the machine doesn’t take change.
  • They used to keep lions at the Tower of London. Like as extra-toothy burglar alarms or something.
  • I shouldn’t have walked so far when I had work the rest of the week and recently made the decision to use a standing desk.

Tower Bridge

Least it was pretty though… and even if I did spend all of yesterday feeling like a zombie, it was not wasted on me that I could have been in an exam instead. Francesca’s life choices: 1, naysayers 0. Didn’t even get lost. Much.

Olympics Post I: Transport, Toilets and the Villiage

Yesterday my family and I went to the London Olympics to watch athletics. I pretended to be a journalist and kept a diary throughout the trip… This is the first half of it – I wrote too much to include it al in one post. The second part will be online tomorrow!

Wednesday 7th August 2012, 12:45pm

We have boarded the train for Liverpool Street after a fit over clothing, a taxi ride and a mini-panic at the ticket office regarding Cheap Olympic Train Tickets if You Can Prove You Aren’t a Fraud, or something. The clothes panic involved a conundrum regarding the state of my wardrobe and the Great British Weather. I look more Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge than ‘Three Cheers for Team GB’, but at least my shoes are comfy.


We have stopped somewhere outside Romford because, according to the driver, the train in front has a problem and is at the station. The journey has been relatively uneventful, actually, with a surprising amount of empty seats and Dad pointing out that the Velodrome and its adjacent buildings look like the USS Enterprise.

He has a point. [In this fortnight’s issue of Private Eye it was pointed out that Sir Chris Hoy looks not unlike a certain James T. Kirk. A conspiracy?]


We are on the move again. I am pleasantly surprised that we didn’t need to get comfy for several hours. I approve, Network Rail.


We arrive at Stratford and at the command of a voice on the tannoy, hit a ‘subway’ (a tunnel) and some escalators. Everywhere is ‘WESTFIELD!’, ‘London 2012!’, pink! We emerge outside the park and are ushered down more walkways by volunteers alternating between Aerosmith and the reminder nor to take liquids through security.

  Our tickets get checked a few times before we go through a metal detector, presumably to sort out the riff-raff.

  My grandmother, whose pacemaker prevents her from going through the metal detector, trots off and we go through another detector while our bags go through an X-ray machine. The officials, who are a mix of volunteers, Army and Air Force, are far more helpful [I think I meant ‘friendly’ in retrospect] than airport security ever have been. Our tickets are checked once more – scanned this time – we collect my grandmother and make our way to onto a concourse.

By this time – since we stepped off the train, in fact – we are surrounded by every type of person from every type of country. Australians, Dutch, Americans, Spanish and the French are all identifiable by their outfits, and I spot a dwarf and a handicapped volunteer. There are wheelchairs, pushchairs, mobility scooters and giant golf buggies for people who, er, didn’t want to walk.


After programme buying, a trip to the toilets and a queue at the ladies (surprise! Although the facilities, by public-use standards, weren’t too bad), we go on Mission Find a Food Place. It isn’t difficult, with kiosk-type buildings offering Indian, a deli and a chippy, and the world’s largest McDonald’s. Since we are here celebrating my grandmother’s eightieth birthday and everyone wants to sit somewhere with seats, we go to a ‘seafood and champagne’ place.

  Considering it’s in a tent only slightly more insulated than the local garden show (okay, maybe not. There’s floors and doors.) and I don’t eat much because I’ve been ill, it’s pretty good. The staff are lovely and what I do eat (some sort of salad-y thing with an egg on top) is great.

So’s the fish wallpaper [My picture came out fuzzy, Google it.] and the people watching. A waitress at another table tells customers that they make fifty thousand quid here; every table is used, multiple times – so I’m assuming she means per day.

If that doesn’t start making a dent in the billions of pounds of debt the universe is in for building these Games, I don’t know what will.


We finish eating and Mum, Nana and I take another trip to the ladies. We are not as impressed with this block, as there are doors missing from frames, a lack of soap and, in my cubicle, a lack of sanitary towel bin. Trust me, that can make or break a lady’s experience of the Olympics.


We spend a happy half an hour in the gift shop. I saved money for here since we got the bid in 2005 and spent the lot (sixty quid. No mean feat for a nine-year-old). I am now the proud owner of a Team GB bracelet, a multi-flag flag, jogging bottoms and a 2012/13 diary. I am a bit miffed to discover that it only leads up to July next year, but it has old Olympic posters on it, so.

   The only disappointments have been the t-shirts with specific sports on and the crap music. I hate tennis, water polo, running, etc., and I heard an F word in a song! There are children about, jeez. In the same song, there was ‘nigger’. There are ex-Empire spectators present, jeez.

I know nothing about rap, so I’ll blame Kanye.


Maxim and Dad go to the Mini/BMW exhibition and Mum, Nana and I sit in a ‘garden’ – a bench near some grass and carefully cultivated wildflowers.

  A phone call from Dad sends us into the exhibition. We are issued with luminous bracelets (see above) and look at a larger-than-the-name-dictates Mini. We are nearly sent into a phone box by an attendant to record some cheering. We don’t fancy this, and since Dad and Maxim have disappeared into a cinema or to oggle more cars, we leave.


Strawberries and waffles time! The queue is tremendous and it turns out the sign for ‘cake and cookies’ is for the wrong kiosk. Mum is not impressed.

The weather has become rather nice. Quite warm, in fact…

A few overheard gems:

  • [Posh English accent] “It wasn’t like this at Wimbledon, was it?”
  • [Another posh English accent] “When I came last week for the equestrian…”
  • [Tannoy] “Ladies and gentlemen, Stratford station is currently very busy and we strongly recommend using the fastest way into central London via West Ham.”

It was too easy to assume the transport wouldn’t go wrong, wasn’t it.


Time to go to the Stadium!

Thank You Boys!

    Once upon a time, there were three young girls named Francesca, Ellen and Elizabeth who shared, amongst other defining qualities, a deep love of a rock band named My Chemical Romance.

  When this rock band decided to tour after two years absence from the rock and roll scene, the girls jumped at the chance to see them play live at the Hammersmith Apollo, London (well, two of them did. One needed gentle persuasion that if she didn’t see them now, they would have died before they next came to England). After trawling the Internet and various websites looking for tickets that were less than a hundred pounds, they – well, the one doing the Googling, Francesca – found a website called www.getmein.com.

  Francesca phoned her friends and it was decided that they would each pay the extortionate amount of eighty-five pounds to see the band they so admired. The tickets were purchased from the website, but did not appear for several weeks. After many phone calls and stressed-out conversations, it emerged that the tickets resided at the Apollo box office. This meant that the girls would travel to London with only a slim hope that they weren’t being ripped off.

  However, they made the long and perilous journey up the A127, playing Spot the White Person in London to pass the time. For the record, once they got into Hackney, the game was pointless. No one won. When the sat-nav directed them to their destination, the girls were amused to find a rather odd collection of people queuing up. There were girls dressed as pandas, girls with crosses over their eyes, girls obvious with insecurity complexes as they were wearing the whole of Boots’ makeup counter and a bottle of hairspray each. Also a man who was playing the oh-so-popular game How Many People Mistake Me For Gerard Way Then Realise I’m a Poser, and quite a lot of Killjoys.

  After spending time in a slightly odd cafe that prompted the game Make Fun of the Polish and Russians When They Serve/Stare At Us, the girls and their chaperone, Laurence, made their way into a queue for the box office. Where this video was shot:


  Thankfully, the group was allowed inside to collect their tickets eventually. Said tickets were, surprisingly, legitimate. Cue lots of shrieking, hugging, declarations of love for god, etc. Sadly, the people on the door weren’t in such a good mood and threw Elizabeth’s water in the bin.

  Like they are a band are important enough to throw things at.

   Time for this video:


  After more queuing, for both the toilet and the merchandise stand, in which more money was handed over to various already-rich corporations, MCR took to the stage.

  This was when the world exploded.

  Gerard, with red hair and rips in his t-shirt, demanded that every man in the room took off his top and swung it around their head if it was their first My Chem show – thankfully Laurence refrained – during You Know What They Do To Guys Like Us In Prison. Frank only looked up from his confusing guitar pedals twice; once when Gerard talked to him and once when two girls took to the stage during Honey, This Mirror Isn’t Big Enough For the Two Of Us. One wore stripy trousers and the other had a two-foot (no exaggeration) blond mohawk. They were twins.


  Mikey, hair dyed a newly apocalyptic shade of platinum, was glued to his, quote, “Rocket-shaped and shiny” bass and Ray actually didn’t stop playing. At all. Well, maybe when the twins attacked him with a ‘hug’. James Dewees, who played the keyboard, made his insanity public by wearing a jumper onstage and the drummer (who may or may not be a permanent addition to the group) seemed relatively talented. Well, they played songs from Bullets which hadn’t been played in five years – according to Gerard.

  Here are the first twenty-five seconds of Welcome to the Black Parade. There are only twenty-five seconds because it was much more fun to mosh to the music than hold a camera – and no one needs to hear Francesca’s singing for five minutes. Plus, you know, you can’t see anything except strobe lights…


  The show, unlike most other My Chem shows, didn’t end with Helena, but with a new one called The Kids From Yesterday (or something like that). There were the usual hits as well as maybe twelve other songs. Here is a well-recorded version of The Only Hope For Me Is You, where you can get an eyeful of the band’s outfits.


  May it be noted that the nicest thing to hear (other than Mikey’s solo at the end) was Gerard saying, “Here’s to the next ten years of this band.” He frequently said other things too, but Elizabeth felt the need to talk over him and discuss how gay he sounded with Ellen.

  Which was quite gay. Especially when he did the shirt thing. There will be a song about that up here soon.

  Did you get to see them this weekend? Are you seeing them in Europe? Are you American and only going to see them when they tour your country?

Tea At The Ritz, Being Part One of Two Blogs, ‘In the Last Week Frank Has Left the House’

  Last Tuesday it was my mum’s fiftieth birthday (I’m sure she appreciates my informing the Internet of this fact). Because she is Mum, and a secret Mrs. Bucket, my immediate family plus one grandmother took a trip to London. To The Ritz Hotel. For afternoon tea… At half seven in the evening. Apparently you have to book a while in advance to actually get an afternoon cuppa. 


  Yeah, that’s Mum. Anyway, because I’m too lazy to think of descriptive words, here is what I wrote in my diary while sat on a posh sofa, in The Ritz:

9:00pm, The Ritz Hotel, London

  I’m writing from the freaking Ritz!!! There’s gold edging on the picture rails, it’s not considered the doing thing to clap the live band and the food was served on a triple-tiered tray. The toilets are called ‘powder rooms’, with SILVER TOPPED SANITARY TOWEL BINS, painted walls and flannels which you dry your hands on before disposing into a large wicker basket. There must be fifteen types of tea on offer, my glass of water wasn’t from the tap and there are lions on the teapots. Proper silver teapots. There are tissues with ‘The Ritz’ printed on them. I stole one as a souvenir.

  Mum kept saying I wouldn’t be allowed in because of my bloodstained biker-style boots, but I decided that if the porter tried anything I would simply say, “These were bought in Paris, don’t you know.” (They actually were.) Or, failing that, “Don’t you know who I am?” He didn’t even blink though.

  All the waiters are foreign, but I’m pretty sure their immigration status was checked when they applied for the job. We stopped at Covent Garden earlier, and everyone who served us was of the non-English variety, one of the waitresses at an overpriced coffee shop said “Shit!” when she dropped a fork loading a tray. In a Polish accent.

  By the way, I walked in here earlier and the ‘push’ sign on the revolving door was above my head. As the average height for a woman in the fifties was five foot one (my height), and this hotel was established in 1906, I can only say that the management discriminates against short people. [I have since found out that the average woman’s height in 1951 was five two. Wikipedia does not shed light on the height of man circa 1900. Lets assume that the bloke who built The Ritz knew that we would get taller, or invent platform heels.]



Part Two of ‘In the Last Week Frank Has Left the House’ will appear on Wednesday, 1st September, to commemorate the end of the summer holidays.