How to be safe in a Subway.

A subway is an enclosed path for pedestrians, usually under a busy road.  Americans say ‘subway’ to mean their underground trains.  Subway is also a chain of low-quality sandwich shops, selling rolls full of cheese, processed meat and mayonnaise to people who have somehow been tricked into thinking they’re healthy.  The first of these subways is the one I’m talking about.
Some people call a subway an underpass.  Morrissey sang about a “darkened underpass”, although I think he was in a car at the time so he might’ve been singing about something else.  Anyway, the underpass I walk through hasn’t been darkened; it’s just not been very well lit.  And I’ve never thought “oh god, my chance has come at last.”  But then sometimes a strange fear does grip me – the strange fear of being hospitalised by a drunken thug.
It feels weird to walk through a subway every day and think ‘this is the scene of my future mugging.’  At least, I hope it’s a mugging – I’d hate for something strange and Irreversible to happen to me.  Most people don’t use the subway at all; they prefer to run across a busy dual-carriageway.  I don’t know if I’m braver than these people (for using the subway) or they’re braver than me (for crossing the road.)  I don’t feel like I’m scared of crossing the road – in the last thirty years I’ve got rather good at it, even if I do say so myself.  Also, on some level, I can’t help thinking that it’s a bit rude to cross the road when a subway has been so lovingly built underneath.  Surely, if the designer of the subway were passing, wouldn’t he see people not using it and feel terribly disappointed?
Here are three ways to stay safe when using a subway:
1.    Pretend to be texting, but use a really old phone.  Even if you’ve got a new iPhone in your pocket, a potential mugger will see you using a big old Ericsson and think that you’re not worth bothering with.
2.    Stamp your feet.  The loud noise might trick a criminal into thinking that someone big and strong is coming.  Be careful, though – the sound can echo in an underpass and you might think someone big and strong is coming your way.
3.    Pick your nose.  Nobody wants a bogey on them, and thieves will think twice before robbing someone with a finger in their nostril.
There may be other ways to protect yourself, but I don’t know them.  Thanks for reading – stay safe everyone!
Incidentally, the other day I was walking through the subway and I saw two banana skins next to each other on the floor.  How can this have happened?  I’m used to seeing rubbish on the ground – beer cans, chicken bones, Greggs bags – but never before have I seen two banana skins.  It seems statistically improbable that two people would have finished their bananas at exactly the same spot, so one person must have eaten both of them.  It doesn't make any sense.  I can understand someone taking Heroin in the subway, but who goes down there to eat bananas?  It’s absolutely bonkers.

Unfocussed New Year Post

This New Year I’ve made one simple resolution – to stop wasting so much time, to write a novel and to just generally sort out my priorities.  This sounds like it should be quite easy, but unfortunately it’s exactly the same resolution I seem to make every New Year.  When I think about how much time I’ve spent just playing backgammon against the computer it makes me feel quite unwell – I could’ve written three good books in that time (or six rubbish ones.)
One New Year I did actually start to write a novel.  I was determined that it should be a serious, literary work so I filled every paragraph with depression and regret – in the first chapter, one of the characters was left disabled by a failed suicide attempt.  Apparently, at the time, I felt that even having a plot would be too low-brow, so I wrote page after page in which the characters just walked around doing nothing:
“He placed his coffee on a coaster close to the edge of the table and sat back in his seat.  He looked at the cup.  It was fully on the coaster, but not quite central.  Careless, he thought.  He tried to tell himself that it didn’t matter, that nobody would be looking at his cup.  But what if they did?  Leaning forward, he adjusted the cup’s position; just slightly to the left, but it made all the difference.  Now, if anyone looked, they’d see that his cup was right in the middle.  Right where it should be.  And, if they didn’t look… well, at least he’d know it was there.  At least he’d know.”
Anyway, it carried on like that for 35,000 of the most tedious words ever written.  When I read it back now I half expect MS Word to have underlined the entire thing in green, so I can right-click and be told ‘Boring (consider revising)’.
After giving up on the novel, I tried to write something for children.  Unfortunately, after spending months on fiction for miserable adults, I found that some quite upsetting incidents were creeping into the stories.  I came up with a number of ideas but almost all of them featured animals behaving in bizarre, unnatural ways and I wasn’t sure that they’d be an easy sell.  For example, very few parents want to read their toddler a bedtime story in which an elephant tries to drown himself in a lake, but he can’t because his trunk keeps floating to the surface.
My most recent children’s story idea is called ‘The hole that Digger the dog dug’, but I don’t really have anything beyond the title.  I do like the way the title sounds, but I think I’m probably going to have to come up with some kind of plot (hopefully not one involving Digger trying to bury himself alive.)  Another option is to simply have a list of things the dog finds in the hole; possibly things that all rhyme with the word ‘hole’:
In the last few weeks I’ve started to write a new novel for adults.  My intention is to keep it quite light (and to sneak in some embarrassing personal information under the pretence of fiction.)  I don’t think it will be too similar to my previous attempt – in the first chapter, instead of a failed suicide bid, the main character shits himself in his next-door neighbour’s garden.  It’s a pretty bold opening scene, especially for a gangster story.  In The Godfather, for instance, you don’t get Al Pacino taking a dump on his neighbour’s lawn.  Of course, that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen, just that Coppola decided not to film it.  For all we (the audience) know, maybe Michael Corleone was always shitting himself outdoors.  Maybe Sonny was too.  And Tom Hagan.  There’s really no way of knowing.

James Bond – Skyfall Review

The new James Bond film is called Skyfall.  Skyfall sounds like something exciting, doesn’t it?  It isn’t something exciting though; it’s the name of James Bond’s house.
I don’t think I like James Bond, but somehow the adverts always trick me into watching.  They say “best Bond ever” and I believe them, time after time.  Skyfall is not the best Bond film ever – there isn’t one, they’re all exactly the same.  When a Bond film comes on TV I make an effort to avoid it, so why do I pay £12 to watch one in a room full of whispering hotdog-munchers?  It doesn’t make any sense.
Someone else who doesn’t like James Bond is Raoul Silva, the villain in Skyfall.  He doesn’t like James Bond at all – he tied him up.  Silva is played by Javier Bardem; an excellent actor in Spanish, but one whose recent English-language characterisations have relied quite heavily on having unusual hairstyles.  Silva is an international cyber-terrorist but, worse than that, there’s a suggestion that he might not be 100% heterosexual.  In James Bond’s world, this seems to make him some kind of scary double-villain.
Raoul Silva starts all the trouble in Skyfall by causing an explosion in M’s office – apparently simply by hacking into spy-HQ and leaving the gas on.  He then sends M a number of weird-looking emails containing crudely cut up pictures of her face.  It’s fair to say that, for a cyber-terrorist, Silva’s photoshop skills are a little bit shit – they’re the visual equivalent of the most basic computer program:
10           Print “MI6 is horrid”
20           Go To 10
Having said all that, the man’s clearly not right in the head so maybe we should all try being a bit more supportive.
About halfway through the film, I got an itch.  I don’t know if this was connected with James Bond or not, so I thought I’d better mention it.  The itch was in the middle of my head; right at the very top.  I didn’t want to scratch it because I thought my hand might block the view of the people behind me, and they were all concentrating hard on the film (at the time James Bond was having a fight in a pit with a CGI Komodo Dragon, so it was pretty important.)  I tried to wait for a boring bit where the characters were just talking, but the itch got worse and worse.  I moved my hand up in front of one side of my face, and then bent my head right down until I could reach the itch.  I scratched it as quickly as I could.  I don’t think I ruined anyone’s enjoyment.
Towards the end of the film, after James Bond and Raoul Silva have taken it in turns to capture each other and escape, the action moves to Skyfall.  With a (deliberately mysterious) name like that you’d expect it to be some kind of special spy-house, but it isn’t.  It’s a normal house, made of bricks (although, as the film shows, these bricks will explode if you drive a helicopter into them.)  Before the bad guys arrive, James and his friends run around the house setting traps – it’s very much like Home Alone, but with Dame Judi Dench instead of Macaulay Culkin.
The film ends with a confrontation between Bond and Silva.  I won’t tell you who wins, but I do think they’ll be making some more James Bond films.