helenic: (CCTV - one well-placed balloon)

This article was published today about Boris reducing bus crime in London:

Bus-related crime across the capital fell by 18 per cent in the first year of Boris Johnson’s administration, and has fallen by a further 10.5 per cent in a ten month period taking the figures to a six year low.

Dedicated to patrolling transport hubs in specified areas, the Mayor introduced 32 transport Hub Teams last year, including a team serving Harrow Bus Station and Harrow-on-the-Hill tube station, to increase visibility of policing on the transport network.

Which is interesting, because a couple of weeks ago when I was cycling to Turnpike Lane, I saw this:



That's a 29 bus with upwards of thirty police officers in and around it. You can't see it clearly in the photo, though, so I got a bit closer.



"Excuse me! What are you taking a photo of?" yells the cop striding towards me.

I blink. "The bus," I reply glibly. I'm thinking, if she starts to tell me I can't take photos of police officers this is going to be hilarious, but as it happens I'm late to meet someone and would rather not get into an extended debate about Section 44 abuses.

"What for?"

"For my blog."

She doesn't seem to know what to make of this, so to my relief she decides to drop it, although not without taking the opportunity to tell me off for riding a bike on a public path.



There were several people getting nicked, in little clumps of officers. I considered stopping to observe, but figured that this might not be the wisest course of action after antagonising one of them already. The whole thing seemed bizarrely over-the-top. I mean, I assume it's a fares raid, as they'd be unlikely to bag several violent criminals or vandals in one go. So why the show of force? Most of the people I saw were teenagers, old people. Are 40 police officers descending en masse really necessary? It's the 29, which tends to be used by a lot of people of colour because of the neighbourhoods it goes through, and it's probably spurious but I found it really hard not to see the numbers overkill in a social context. Are the scare tactics really necessary? Is there any purpose to the hordes of yellow jackets other than to scare people?

The bus crimes that worry me are violent assault, sexual assault and sexual harassment. Let's be honest, the chances of those forty coppers jumping the bus at exactly the moment that you're being threatened by someone are slim. It can't be about that. I can also see the need to police fares and vandalism; CCTV pretty much deals with the latter, and fares are usually dealt with by conductors. I understand that the bendy buses have made it easier for people to get off through one door while a conductor or copper enters through another. So having a cop or two at each door is a plausible solution to that. But ten at each door? Really? Is that necessary? Is this about reducing crime, or is it about intimidating people, being seen to reduce crime, and getting some drugs busts in there while you're at it?

Mind you, I probably just find it hard to take any policing strategy that prioritises catching fare-dodgers from the poorest areas of the city over bringing people like, say, Lord Ashcroft to justice. I am sure that London is being defrauded in more significant ways than by the passengers on the 29 bus. But passengers on buses are easier to intimidate. Especially if there are forty of you.

helenic: (sachiko: pensive)

Someone (probably [personal profile] denny) sent me a link to this list of independent candidates running in the next election on Your Next MP. 28 so far - one the ex-leader of the BNP - including only two women. Which is interesting in itself - why so few female Independent candidates?

Anyway, I idly scanned the list to see if there's an Independent standing in my constituency. And - what are the odds? - there is! Disappointingly, there's no information about him on the website (in fact, there doesn't seem to be any information about any of them on the website, which somewhat limits its usefulness). So I'm doing a bit of investigating.

Neville Watson is apparently an executive member of the Independent Network. His campaign page seems very community-focussed, which is good, I think, but doesn't tell me much about his more general policies. He talks about mental health support, alternative education, working with young people to reduce crime, providing farmer's markets for people to sell locally-grown organic produce, affordable low cost housing and energy conservation projects. He seems to be an active social worker with youth groups, managing the local football club, doing volunteer work prisoners and psychiatric patients. Which are all good things. He seems to be passionate, engaged and inspired on a local level.

But an MP isn't just a local leader - they're also an elected representative. And his campaign says nothing about his wider politics - nothing on how he's likely to vote in Parliament. One page of his site says both "he believes in equality and justice for all" and "a strong family unit is imperative for the development of our children", which leaves an amibiguous impression - does he favour the conservative idea of the family, or feminism and LGBT rights? Race politics are arguably more of an issue in Tottenham, and he addresses that to some extent, but there are a lot of gaps. How does he feel about civil liberties? The war on terror? Democratic reform? When you're voting for a member of a party, you can (to some extent) look to the policies of their party for anything they don't specifically mention. With an Independent, there are no such guidelines.

The current MP in Tottenham is David Lammy - a Labour minister whom I am inclined to distrust. His voting record goes against many of my principles, and he seems to tow the party line most of the time. On the other hand, I remember hearing from [livejournal.com profile] steerpikelet that he spoke very well at the Labour party conference, and the left seems to generally approve of him, although I'm not clear on exactly why. He's never responded satisfactorily to any of my letters - he leaves it late enough to reply that I have marked my letter "unanswered" on writetothem before I heard back from him, and I've only ever got form letters vaguely related to my question. (For instance, when I wrote to him expressing my concerns about police brutality and strategy during protests, I got a form letter six weeks later about Ian Tomlinson, which completely ignored my actual question.)

This election is the biggest opportunity Independents are likely to get for some time. (If the Tories get in, the current democratic system is rigged to keep them in for two or three terms - the yo-yo effect between the two big parties is well-established. Democratic reform is necessary to undermine that, and what are the chances of the Tories voting for something that will decrease their chance of staying in power?) The MPs expenses scandal combined with general disillusionment with the two-party system is going to give Independent candidates a better chance than they've had in years. Neville Watson, like David Lammy¹, is an Afro-Caribbean (important in a constituency with the racial demographic of Tottenham) family man (Tottenham is very Christian, and the last six MPs have been male). Lammy's expenses record isn't too bad, but it seems to me that Watson has a reasonable chance.

Locally, he may be as good a bet as the LibDem or Green candidates (or better - David Schmitz doesn't have much of interest to say). But in Parliament? I have no way of telling. Of course, I may well not be here anyway - even if we move in March, I might well be voting here as I'm not sure there'll be time to get on the electoral register of our new constituency before the election. So in some ways it's in my interest to vote for a national representative rather than a good local MP. But I'm not sure if that's missing the point.

1. And, apparently, the 2010 UKIP candidate, although he's not listed on Your Next MP so I'm not sure what's going on there.

helenic: (little book)

A few weeks ago I joined my local library, the Marcus Gavey library in Tottenham Leisure Centre. It's a big building with a swimming pool (which I don't visit often enough) and gym classes (I keep meaning to investigate their beginners' yoga), and it also has a library which I'd managed to fail to visit in my two and a half years of living nearby. In the end it was Denny's good influence that persuaded me, with all his talk of having big piles of sci-fi books to read next to the bed in a tantalising, delicious stack. Like pancakes. Or sci-fi books.

I'm quite tired.

Anyway, I have a running list of sci-fi I want/need to read, which goes something like:

  • everything by Charlie Stross except Glasshouse and Singularity Sky, which I've already read. (Glasshouse is one of the best science fiction books I've ever come across. Beautiful, thrilling, awesome book - also the most intelligently feminist work of post-humanist fiction I've read by a male author.)

  • All the Culture books by Iain M Banks (which I haven't read any of, although I've read a couple of the Iain Banks novels)

  • The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold, about which I have heard great things from [livejournal.com profile] steerpikelet and [livejournal.com profile] cyrus_ii

  • Everything good by Neal Stephenson (including the non sci-fi ones like Cryptonomicon and the Baroque Cycle), probably starting with Snow Crash.

The library is quite nice, but the fiction seemed to all be jumbled up together. I couldn't find most of the stuff I was looking for, although I picked up The Family Trade by Charlie Stross and Anathem by Neal Stephenson - the only book they had by each author. I also grabbed The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters (because I love most of her stuff and I think apart from her new one that's the only novel I haven't read) and Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier (which looked like cheesy girly fantasy and I figured I'd want to give my brain a rest after Anathem). Then I found Denny in the sci-fi section, which consisted of two columns of shelves - not much, but better than nothing. Still couldn't find any of the Bujolds, but I did grab both of the Philip K Dicks they had in - A Scanner Darkly (which I need to read so I can watch the film) and Valis (in case I like A Scanner Darkly and want more Dick. As it were). Denny got one out for him - Air by Geoff Ryman - and then it was closing so we hastily checked them all out with my shiny new library card and their shiny new digital system (probably not that new, but new since I last used public libraries).

Now I have a big tantalising pile of sci-fi and fantasy books to read, and it makes me feel happy in my happy place.

reviews (and spoilers) so far - 'Air', 'The Family Trade' and 'Wildwood Dancing' )



One disadvantage of shiny digitised library systems: no datestamps in the front of the books. Instead there's a web address where you can login and check your account and renew books online. Which is pretty cool. I kept meaning to check the due date but didn't get round to it. Then I finished Wildwood Dancing today and it occurred to me I'd read nearly half of the books I'd got out, and I should probably find out before I started incurring fines. For some reason, it seemed easier to find the twitter I posted on the day I withdrew them and do some mental arithmetic than to actually find my card, register on the website and check there. Turns out they're due back Monday. Good job my subconscious is paying attention to the passing of time, even if I'm not organised enough to set reminders in my calendar.

helenic: (polkadot!)

A couple of weeks ago I went over to the warehouse to help Stef paint her bedroom. The warehouse is a huge, bohemian space in Hackney with twelve residents. The landlord is in the music industry; bought the place as a shell and built all the rooms inside. Downstairs is the basement, bike store and recording studio; upstairs is a huge communal open-plan lounge and kitchen space, bordered with mismatched sofas and one wall lined with a long, heavy wooden banquet table. The windows stretch up to the ceiling, eclectic bits of furniture skirt the edges of the room (including leather-upholstered folding chairs of the kind one might expect to find in an early 20th century bus or cinema, a bunch of old-school lockers, odd little chests of drawers and a couple of bookcases) and there are half-finished canvasses propped up all around the walls. The roof is slanted and a high ceiling is measured by wooden beams stretching through the middle of the space.

The bedrooms are tesselated into corners, no floor or ceiling the same height as another. The walls and floors are constructed out of wood and chipboard; metal beams and staircases lend an industrial, futuristic feel. Some of the rooms are enormous, stretching from front to back of the warehouse. There is a communal bathroom downstairs, dark-tiled with a huge tropical plant with rubbery dark green leaves taking up the whole of one corner. The bath is free-standing on four ornate feet; at the first warehouse party I came to it was candlelit and strewn with rosepetals. There's a tiny cabin shower-room upstairs with a perpetually damp floor, and Stef's room is next to this. She travels so much that she needs somewhere with low enough rent that she can afford to keep the room while she's out of the country. Her room is a bed-width space tall enough to stand in, with awkward metal rungs leading up the wall beside the window to a cabin bed built into the very rafters of the building. Bed above, bed-sized space underneath. That's it. There's no furniture except a low shelf/desk space under the window, made out of chipboard resting on car tyres. The walls are covered in paint, mannequins draped with chunky African jewellry, and clothes are bundled everywhere.

She shows me some of her artwork - postcard prints of minutely detailled, decorative art. Figurative studies in the style of henna tattoos, every inch of paper covered with tiny, beautiful decorative designs that shape the contours of body and background. Some are layered with translucent paper bearing subtly different designs, the visible layers combining to create three-dimensional structure. She works in pen and ink, calligraphy ink, acrylic and glass paint. The walls downstairs in her cabin are already sprawling with paint in similar designs. Birds and tiny figures are glimpsed among the endless floriate swirls and spirals. The resulting effect is reminiscent of illustrated manuscripts. She wants to paint the tiny, angular walls above the upstairs bed.

navigating the space )

helenic: (windowsill; cafe; people-watching)

I was in Camden this morning averting a rent crisis (by depositing large amounts of borrowed cash in my current account; but it's okay, I have a big cheque that will clear before the end of the week) and I decided to get the bus home. I've used buses far more than the tube since I moved, but Seven Sisters from Camden was a mystery. So I looked at the map in the bus stop, and decided that the 29 to Wood Green was my best bet - it went from Finsbury Park to Turnpike Lane, and I figured I could get off at some point between the two and walk across. Except Green Lanes is much shorter than I thought it was, and I ended up not getting off until Turnpike Lane. At first I thought I knew where I was, and struck out confidently towards home across a beautiful triangle of green covered in crisp orange leaves. I don't know why I have this nostalgic love for Victorian terraced suburbia, for the grey and red stone of it, the doctors' surgeries and the buses, the schoolchildren, the over-enthusiastic borough councils putting up big signs encouraging local spirit, the slightly dreary play-parks rescued by ever-beautiful, vast swathes of horse chestnut trees. I love it, and I was almost skipping across the green, kicking at the leaves and loving the autumnal smell in the air, and wanting to bring Chris here soon and show him how lovely it all is round where I live. Except then I realised I didn't know where I was after all, and had to spend another ten minutes studying maps in bus stops and waiting for a 67. But in the end it turned out that I was only 5 minutes away from where I'd been trying to get to. So that was all alright.

And now I'm home, with a pot of strong Ceylon tea and an inquisitive cat sniffing my ankles. I spent a long time yesterday sorting my room out - emptying boxes, reboxing books and folders for long-term storage and carrying them one by one down the precarious steps into the cellar; tidying and rearranging. My bed's been in the middle of the room since I moved in, facing the windows. I've now pushed it up against the fireplace, which means you can't walk round it on both sides and you have to kneel on the edge of the bed and reach down to get at the bottom shelf of my clothes storage unit, but there's much more space on the other side, enough to paint in, and since that's the side the door opens onto the room immediately feels much bigger. I've hung pictures, and while the room isn't finished yet, it feels so much more spacious and liveable in and me.

Today has been productive. I've bought new canvases, I've paid my rent despite the many financial disasters of this month, and set up an ongoing standing order; I've sent emails, including a couple of really rather exciting ones; I've finally fixed the final irritating bugs in the last few websites for Online Galleries, which is a HUGE weight off my mind. I'm now going to make more tea and eat mozzarella and tomato salad, and then I am going to spend the rest of today painting. Painting! For the first time since the exhibition, really, apart from a brief attempt at gouache with Kristen the other week. I have missed it SO MUCH. Yay.

Speaking of which, these two paintings were the most popular in the exhibition - they were the first to sell, and the ones most asked after:


Bird of Paradise

     
Dragonflower (we don't have a full image of the finished painting yet; the first of these is a work-in-progress photo, the second is from the launch party, and cropped from this photo by [livejournal.com profile] arachne)

[livejournal.com profile] synthclarion very kindly took lots of high-quality photos of all the finished paintings a couple of weeks ago, and I'm waiting to get those back from him before I do things like updating the website and organising print orders. But in the meantime, I want to do more brightly-coloured tropical paintings like these two. My parents have said they'd be interested in buying one if I do a series, but not in commissioning one especially. It occurs to me that the people who would have bought Bird of Paradise or Dragonflower if they'd got there first might well be interested in something similar. If this is you, feel free to let me know; it would be useful to know in advance what sort of interest there is :)

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