Thursday, July 28, 2005

Business as usual, but not quite

My days at work are hectic and intense; my nights this week, by contrast, have been much calmer affairs, involving little more than hanging out, eating, and being randomly inconvenienced by "suspect package" scares and arrests.

Our week began with dinner at Belgo in Covent Garden, where the bowl of moules were delicious but everything else -- chicken drenched in what tasted like a chilli and ginger sauce poured straight from a bottle; over-cooked, dry frites; and a platter of supermarket-like charcuterie on watery lettuce leaves -- was bland and nondescript. In fact, it reminded me of a Berni Inn meal from back in the day. The dungeon-style decor was also uninspiring, being a mish-mash of styles and colours that felt cheap and plastic.

On Tuesday, we stayed in and cooked a beefy chilli con carne wrapped in soft tortillas with cheese and salad, and baked in the oven; surfed the internet and read.

Last night, we were delayed after work by a Tube evacuation (at Kings Cross) and road blockade (at Stockwell) due to a bomb scare and the arrest of three people suspected of being associated with the recent explosions. But we eventually made it to a friend's house in Pimlico for a delicious dinner of spicy, homemade beef and coriander kebabs with a mixed green salad (including peppery Mizuna and red mustard leaves), tomatoes, grilled halloumi cheese, green olives dusted with dried herbs, homemade garlicky houmous, and pitta bread. We chatted away about work and relationships until the small hours.

Tonight, a rare night in of TV watching beckons (Bank of Mum and Dad, perhaps, and Ricky Gervais' Extras which I haven't yet seen).

It's been business as usual for most Londoners -- and having lived through the IRA bombings, many older residents are simply philosophical and pragmatic -- and the basic routines of our lives are unchanged.

However, I'm now a little anxious travelling around on public transport on Thursdays -- day of the failed 21 July attacks and of the 7 July fatal bombings. When I travel on a bus, I try to sit on the bottom deck; if this is not possible, I try and sit as near as I can to the front of the top deck. I'm more likely to miss a Tube train if I'm uncomfortable for any reason. I scrutinise my fellow passengers more closely, just as they scrutinise me, I'm sure, with my brown skin and bulging office rucksack. And where once I took the high-pitched wails of police sirens forgranted in our crime-ridden capital city, my first instinct when I hear them now is to think "bombs". If I'm near internet access when I hear a particularly noisy flurry of sirens, the first thing I do is check BBC news online.

It's business as usual for me, but not quite.

Links today:

+ R We D8ting? Dating in the age of SMS. "I'd sped through all the stages of an actual relationship almost solely via text message. I'd gone from butterflies to doubt to anger at his name on the screen, before we even knew each other."

+ Bengali literature online. For my mum and dad.

+ The art of failure. Can failure be good for us? Of course it can.

+ Konfabulator. The original desktop dashboard, for Windows as well as for Mac, is now free courtesy of Yahoo.

+ Craigslist London. The best online classifieds in London.

+ The Economist's Style Guide is now online. Examples: "In Britain, though cattle and pigs may be raised, children are (or should be) brought up" or "Grow a beard or a tomato but not a company" or "Do not put apostrophes into decades: the 1990s".

+ CNet's Top 10 web fads. Remember the dancing hamsters, the kid enjoying his day as a Jedi Knight, Mahir Cagri's "WELCOME TO MY HOME PAGE !!!!!!!!!I KISS YOU !!!!!"?

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