Showing posts from October, 2011

No sex clubs please, we're Tower Hamlets

It's the end of a sexual era.

After a change in the law that gives local government more power, Tower Hamlets has a draft policy of zero tolerance for its 11 legal "sex establishments", otherwise known as strip clubs, lap-dancing and pole-dancing clubs. It has the power to shut them and looks likely to do so.

A consultation exercise finished last week, and I took part in it because I live very close to one of the clubs and am on a neighbourhood panel.

It was clear from the way that the issue was dealt with that the official position is that "no one in Tower Hamlets wants these clubs near them".

Personally I don't have an ideological problem with the places. While thinking that it must be humiliating for an averagely sensitive man to be treated like a co** with a wallet, I guess the humiliation's part of the draw: that and the guilty puzzle of trying to figure out who's exploiting whom exactly. I think there's probably some truth in the suggestio…

Islington's anti-capitalist chattering classes?

I saw this the other day, on Raleigh Street in Islington, near one of those new city academies.

Here's Wikipedia's entry on fractional reserve banking. Apparently the anti-capitalist protesters at St Paul's cathedral are holding discussion groups and classes about what the roots of our financial difficulties are, whilst stoutly holding out against the reactionary forces of the right-wing press (try banging "St Paul's protest" into Google today).

I ran this pic past Robert Peston, the BBC's business editor, since he recently appeared in my other blog and is the person I know most likely to say something sensible on this subject. His response was: "Fractional reserve banking is our system. The issue isn't really theft but its stability."


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Will Bunga Bunga restaurant survive Berlusconi's demise?

Bunga Bunga in Battersea is extraordinary.

I went a few weeks ago, with a friend who was intent on reviewing it for a newspaper. Sadly because his keenness to see the place outstripped our ability to plan the evening, we hadn't booked. So we had to make do with a seat at the bar, from where there was a good view of the place and its goings-on, and my lugubrious, Italy-loving friend went back another eveningto try the food.

Bunga Bunga is owned by two friends of Kate Middleton (Duncan Stirling and Charlie Gilkes, below). But it's noteworthy for other reasons too.

It's a bar and restaurant themed around the Carry-On exploits of Silvio Berlusconi, where you can drink a cocktail from a vessel modelled on the Italian prime minister's fake-tanned head, or the Colosseum, or the leaning tower of Pisa. Yum. Oh, and "Bunga Bunga", in case you need reminding, is a reference to Berlusconi's sex parties, populated by women young enough to be his grand-daughter.


Ken Livingstone on why the Tubes don't run all night

"Well," said Ken Livingstone, in that world-weary nasal whine you either love or hate. "In the rest of the world they have two sets of tracks, so you can use one and fix the other. But it didn't occur to the Victorians, so we're screwed."

I was asking about Boris Johnson's pledge to get the Tube running for an hour longer on Friday and Saturday nights and why, in his opinion, it hasn't been possible to do it?

"It's not unique, is it? Almost everything Boris promised hasn't happened. He went into that election not expecting to win and having no knowledge of local government. It was only after the event that he realised things were a lot more difficult than he thought. It'll be Brian Paddick this time around, saying 'We'll keep theTubes open later'," he said, referring to the forthcoming London mayoral election campaign.

Last week I spoke to the mayor, Boris Johnson's office about his election promise and heard fro…

Monkey magic

So police in Ohio have called off the big game hunt for any remaining zoology on the lam after being released from the private Muskingum County game reserve.

Terry Thompson, who ran the place, let his collection - which included eighteen Bengal tigers, six black bears and three grizzlies - out of their cages before shooting himself dead for reasons best known to himself.

But I think it would be safe to say that he probably wasn't a man who set great store by neighbourliness.

His act of kindness towards his menagerie led to each and everyone of those unfortunate creatures being itself shot dead by an overwhelmed local police force.

Except one.

Word has it that there is a snow monkey unaccounted for, although the police are putting it about that the creature was "probably eaten by one of the big cats".

And I say why not leave it at that?

At least until next spring...

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Why 24hourlondon is now a free app

Running an app when you don't have a marketing budget is hard. It's why I started this blog: it's something I can do without spending too much. Plus I've worked as a writer and I've got to play to my strengths, right?

But I do need the app to make some money one day.

When it first went on the market, last June, I priced it at £2.39 reasoning that this was less than the cost of a pint and that this mattered because users would probably already be out and about when they decided to download it. (Apple has a series of price points for its apps - 59p, £1.49, £2.39 - and you have to pick one.)

However, I've realised that this is the wrong way of looking at it because (1) people tend to download cool sounding apps as soon as they hear about them - that's part of the fun (2) they compare the price of apps mainly with the price of other apps, not with the value of the information contained within them. This is annoying but there's not much I can do about it. An…

Why the new citizenship test is like a maths exam designed to exclude Jews

I took the government's new citizenship test and I got 57 per cent. I'm not proud. The pass mark was 75 per cent.

I felt should have been good at it. I've got a 2:1 in politics from a reputable university, I've spent my working life at newspapers dealing with statistics and I've got nothing against the kind of history that involves learning dates. I just, ahem, didn't know many of the answers.

Obviously this made the the girly swot in me feel a bit of a failure, though I can at least take some comfort that I'm not on my own. It appears to be the kind of test for which your teacher has to tell you the exact answers beforehand because the syllabus is very narrow. GCSE anyone? I mean, if I ever knew which year women received the right to divorce their husbands, why would my adult brain retain that information?

Moreover I'd maintain that the final question - what is the difference between the average hourly pay rate for men and women? - is not only vague (a…

Why don't the Tubes run all night?

When Boris Johnson stood to be mayor of London in 2008 his transport manifesto, called Getting Londoners Moving, included this on page five.

"I want the Tube to open for one hour later on Friday and Saturday nights, so Londoners can get home safely."

A modest proposal, you would have thought. Especially since this is precisely what happens in Paris, where the Metro usually shuts at 1.15am but stays open until 2.15am on Fridays and Saturdays. If a country notorious for the strength of its unions can negotiate such an arrangement in its capital, you would have thought that our Can Do mayor would have no trouble - especially since his election victory rested largely upon the votes of outer London, which has the most to gain by longer Tube hours.

And yet - judging by the fact that it hasn't happened - he has had trouble.

By way of limbering up on the subject, I contacted Transport for London to ask them in general terms about the justification for shutting the Tube. After al…

Smithfield is 24hourlondon in a nutshell

While the rest of the country sleeps, Smithfield's meat market buzzes and slams. Right through the night during the week, the ownership of huge slabs of meat is transferred and refrigerated lorries come and go.

Time was that cattle would be driven there on foot from all over the country for the same purpose: the records at the London Metropolitan Archive are full of the trouble that ensued. Locals getting trampled by herds that stampeded their way along Cowcross through to their steaming, teeming destination; the complaints of customers who'd been short-changed; and the traders done out of a livelihood by market administrators trying to clamp down on this kind of behaviour. These are the Rigs of the Times...

Originally called "Smoothfield" because it was once a flat, grassy area, over the centuries it's been a place of execution, the site of the oldest hospital in the country (Barts is still there), a fairground and a market. It's also home to one of the olde…

24hourlondon is go, go, go

Before 24hourlondon was an iPhone app, it was a twinkle in Horatio's eye.

It was born when I was working as a sub-editor at The Daily Telegraph and the office had moved from Canary Wharf to Victoria. Sub-editing news meant late finishes - usually around 10pm - and there's nothing like the catharsis of a deadline to make you want to have a drink and talk about whatever it is you've just delivered to the next day's breakfast tables.

We'd get to the pub at around 10.15pm only to discover that closing time was looming and have time for one or two drinks at breakneck speed before being thrown out by someone burly, tired and unfriendly looking. Couldn't blame them: they had a job to do. But the whole experience was less than relaxing which was, after all, supposed to be the point.

And yet we were in central London. The Tubes kept going for an hour and a half longer and wouldn't it be great, we moaned (because sub-editors can do that to international competition s…