Sunday, March 28, 2010


My latest obsession are local newspapers. Every time I find myself in a new area of London, I seek for a gazette of that borough or district, grab it and read on my way back.

As I had written already, plenty of events happen in a walking distance from almost any place here - from boxing matches for the local garland to dog shows and charity parties - and those events are announced before and criticized/praised after. Local crimes are described. Local restaurants, all on the same street, place advertisements claiming that they are the best on it.

But what really does fascinate me is the fact that some local newspapers even have separate culture supplements.

For example, in the two weeks old issue pictured above, one can read about:

  • An artist who's creating 2012 Olympics stamps for Royal Mail

  • The Pitman Painter - a coal miner who became famous for his autobiographic drawings and paintings

  • A historic excursus to 1984-85 explaining miners' tragedy and providing background for better understanding of Cornish's works from the previous piece

  • Film reviews (The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and Green Zone)

  • Play reviews (of two local theatres)

  • An interview with one of the authors of South African constitution

  • A number of smaller articles, promotions and ads

Now let me remind you that this is not even a London newspaper - it is distributed in one particular borough of London only.

Before, I used to say that there is no journalism in Russia as a joke. Now, unfortunately, I am sure. There must be another word for that.

Another day in the parks

Kensington Gardens fountain:

Seems that the proper use of watercolour pencils is just to add accent instead of trying to make colour drawing's main speaker with them. I mean, you must remember that you're still drawing, not painting.

In this case, they are very nice are pleasant to use, pure entertainment.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

My very first experience with watercolour pencils

First, you draw just like with ordinary pencils:

Then, time to apply water. The only water available around was £1.50 bottled still water. Meh.

Finally when in the bus already, I have erased some of pencil strokes and added few with a ballpoint pen:

As a result, I am not fully satisfied. First, special technique must be developed when sketching for strokes not to appear through degraded colour later (or to appear, but where is needed). Second, colours are hard to blend and shading the same object with different pencils doesn't help much. Hence, if what you are sketching fits your pencils set everything is okay, otherwise you're in trouble.

Still they are much easier to carry around and to use on the streets than watercolours and when used smartly, really add life to drawings. A nice instrument, but not a silver bullet.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

"A future fail for all"

With General Elections approaching, various political leaflets appeared in the mail.

Today it came from Labour:

Note that the leaflet is dedicated entirely to the local borough, saying nothing about global country's problems. That's because of the electoral system of UK: people do not vote for parties here, they choose between particular personalities fighting for the chair in the Parliament that represents their geographic constituency. So instead of winning party placing deputies in the parliament, MPs are elected directly, and the party to which most of them belong becomes a ruling one.

It is also interesting that those who are bashed by local Labour with this agitation are not Conservatives as one can expect, but Liberal Democrats (who were last in charge in 1922):

Of course that's Haringey specificity, but I've looked in the statistics and discovered that the rule is common. If you take a look on this picture from Wikipedia, you will see LibDems' and Labour's graphs being almost ideally symmetrical for the last three decades - hence, they're obviously sharing the same voters not only here, but countrywide.

Wasn't aware of that.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Another Saturday

When drawing this symbolical CCTV camera mounted on a tree, I was stopped by a policemen for the first time in UK:

"Do you draw security cameras often? Why did you decide to draw this one?", I was asked. Everything ended okay, but still I understand those people better now. It came as a surprise to me that artists and sketchers are also under suspicion.

Anyway, I moved to a park then, and then walked the streets a lot, having a pleasant time.

P.S. Also, jogged for the first time this morning too. 3.5 km, much less than when I exercised regularly, so I've got a way to go, ugh, to run.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


A local event has gathered different performers last night, but all of them living nearby in a walking distance from the club:

That's what I really love here - nothing is heavily centralized. You can always find something interesting literally just round the corner.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Markfield Beam Engine museum (wiki) was open today for the first time this year. To be honest, I expected something semi-abandoned (you know, a small museum in the area with no tourists etc.) and boringly dusty, but surprisingly the well lighted building was full of people.

The engine which had been pumping sewage for the Tottenham till 1905 is a perfect piece of Victorian era engineering. Really, seeing and being able to touch that is a great entertainment:

Now the main thing - today, after the reconstruction at 1970s, it's fully operational. Moving pivots and plungers are greased with oil (threatening your clothes), and tools with spare parts seen around aren't just a decoration:

On April 5th it will the first so-called Steam Day of 2010 - the engine will be working, again available for public access. Woo-hoo! We were offered of steam clouds and authentic noise, and I only regret for not being a child.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Comfortably numbered

Only two numbers are required to make a payment to somebodys bank account in UK: payee's account number (8 digits) and their sort code (6 digits). That's all you need to know, and it's barely longer than a phone number in international format.

For international transfers, IBAN code is generated from these two parameters.

It's getting warmer

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Pimple for a dimple

Some mistakes are considered typical for native English speakers and at the same time are very rare when English is a second language, i.e. confusing "then" and "than", "whose" and "who's", "it's" and "its" etc.

My only idea is that native speakers first remember how word sounds and than then write it down mixing up different variants of representation, and as against to that those who acquired language knowledge from dictionary first remember its spelling.

On the other hand one of my personal very annoying problems is with prepositions and phrasal verbs. Translating literally and using Russian prepositions doesn't work, resulting in numerous silly faults. Also, there is no rule allowing to derive a right conclusion and you depend entirely on your vocabulary realizing how modest your skill is slightly more often than it is needed to keep yourself in tone.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

A tough call

[bigger version to read text]

Poor David Lammy! It's a real challenge, and I don't even mean reclaiming people's money. I mean finding bankers in Tottenham for that.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A grammar lesson from 007

MI6 seeking for "relationship-building skilled" people:

This is not a rare occasion - you can easily find similar ads in newspapers and surely you'll find them surfing popular job boards.

Also, note the pronoun "they" used with a "person", a legal method to avoid the problem of choosing between "he" or "she" when gender is unknown.

It is also okay to use "she" in that case (at least I've met that in literature and press), for the male gender is understood by default, so it's less impolite. And I've encountered clumsy "he or she" turn many times before. Apparently, the only way to make a mistake here is to use male chauvinistic "he".

Monday, March 1, 2010

Decision point

I possess really poor skills in chess and usually my phone beats me or drives to the point where the defeat is unavoidable very soon. This time, started on my way to the office, I'm still standing after 15 turns:

White pieces are mine, as the turn is. Although I have a feeling that almost every turn from this point will worsen my position. Gotta think about it while commuting home today.