The Worst Journey Anyone Has Ever Had

So dear readers it’s been about a month since I returned to London town from glorious Amsterdam, and in that time I have mostly been attempting to recover from an absolute disaster of a trip, a nightmare of journeys so shocking I’ve thought twice about writing of it all, lest the terrible badness of it leaks straight through my keyboard and back into my BRAIN leaving all living folk within a five mile radius bereft and melancholy of the mind. I’m not being dramatic. It was that bad.


This is how I came to return from Amsterdam. If you’re thinking of going there at any point, and returning some time later… don’t. It’s not worth it.





Step 1: The Lying Train


The first step in a journey of many halves was a train, a train travelling from the centre of Amsterdam where all the fun is, to Schipol Airport, where there is none of the fun.


After a brief battle with an argumentative ticket machine we secured tickets and bounded excitedly onto the platform, enthused by the idea of double decker trains and slightly drunk.


Unfortunately what awaited us at the platform was not a train, but a screen. A screen bearing bad news. There was no train. There was never to be a train. This train was delayed. By ten minutes. And then twenty. And then twenty five. And oh look, another train leaving shortly from another platform. Off we flounced.


Moments later we emerged on our second choice platform, where we enjoyed an uninterrupted view of our first choice train pulling away from the platform, full of smug little faces who decided to stick with the elusive double decker train of deceit. Whatever.



Step 2: Is There Really a Plane at All?


Some time later we emerged (long after we were supposed to emerge) at the airport. We ran through the departures lounge, desperately hurling our bodies through the air in the general direction of some sort of gate. We needn’t have bothered. The plane was, obviously, delayed.


A 10 minute delay became 30, and then an hour, and then two hours, and before long we were, of course, unforgivably drunk. Disappointingly our time in the glorious bar of the departures lounge (where free nibbles were provided) was then cut short by the annoying arrival of our plane. We rushed towards the gate, before commencing another twelve hours of sitting.


At this point I thought we best check we had all our required documents. We, of course, did not.


What followed was a sort of reverse chick-flick scene in which the man sprints through the airport away from the girl asking various strangers if they happened to have picked up his tickets whilst girl becomes increasingly fretful about the “gate closing” sign above her head and wonders if the boy will ever return at all or if she’ll just be stuck here, in this airport, for the rest of time.


Boy remerges 15 minutes later, slightly sweatier but still without tickets.


Idiot lost tickets couple then approaches wizened hag of an Easyjet representative, who tells them to stand in the corner because she’s too busy for this shit and she thinks they’re on a later plane because she ISN’T LISTENING TO THE WORDS THEY ARE SAYING.


Soon after she realises everyone is on the plane except this strange panicked pair and decides she should probably let them get on the plane before they stab out her eyes with the tiny orange biros provided. So she escorts them on personally, to make sure everyone knows it’s them who are to blame for the hold up and no one else. Just them. Glare at them, people of the plane. They are to blame. (This is what she says with her feral eyes).



Step 3: The Pilot Who Cannot Be Trusted


Delighted by our appearance on the plane, we begin to relax. At this point the pilot appears at the front of the plane. A hushed silence. He speaks.


“People of the plane,” announces this man who may or may not be a qualified pilot. You can buy pilot outfits anywhere these days.


“Beware! There’s a storm afoot.” This is what he said, but I have adapted it to make it sounds more piratey. I like pirates.


“London’s having a HURRICANE. It will be very bumpy. Hold on to your hats. We’ll be jumping around all over the shop. It’ll be like a roller coaster, but not a roller coaster of love. A roller coaster of DOOM.” (He didn’t say that bit. The first bit though he really did say, I swear.)


He then sauntered back into the cockpit and just started driving the plane. He didn’t even give anyone a chance to get off. We were stuck in this tin tube of terror whether we liked it or not, and there was a mad man at the helm!


It wasn’t actually that bumpy, as it turned out.



Step 4: When is a Gatwick Express not a Gatwick Express?


We arrive! At last, we trundle our little suitcase through miles upon miles of corridors. We then come across a passport reading machine which apparently is qualified to decide whether you are you or whether you are actually another person entirely. How does it know? Who does it report to? These are questions which need to be answered.


After it was confirmed that we were ourselves and not pretenders, we began the 18 mile hike to the Gatwick Express.


The Gatwick Express was, of course, not working. We were left to fend for ourselves, i.e. board another train which was not express at all. We reluctantly wandered towards the required platform, then stood awhile waiting for the train to crawl into the platform.


At this point I was stung by a wasp.




The End

Five Reasons Never to go to Elephant and Castle

There are some places in London you should never, ever go to. And one which lies about having elephants and/or castles should definitely be high up on that list.

This nightmarish mishmash of roundabouts, subways and gloom has been plonked right in the middle of London but is studiously avoided by most, who are wisely untrusting of its intentions.


Here are five reasons never to go to Elephant and Castle:



1. The Ungodly Smell

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Take a short tour around this marvellous web of roundabouts and you may notice a certain whiff. “What is it?” You will wonder to yourself as you gallantly attempt to negotiate a tangled web of pedestrian crossings which can only have been designed as some sort of macabre death game. It is the smell of hopelessness. Of sighs. Of depravity. And also of fried chicken.



2. The Strata Tower


One bedroom flats in this monstrous thing go for 800k, which is pretty good going for a giant tower voted Britain’s ugliest new building. It’s won a Carbuncle Cup and everything. People nominated it for its ‘plain visual grotesqueness’ and ‘Philishave stylings’. One person even moved out of the area because the sight of it made him FEEL ILL.



3. The Frighteners


Regeneration is big news in Elephant and Castle at the moment. Planners and developers are enthusiastically trying to wipe out the area’s current inhabitants to make way for a better breed of cappuccino-drinking suits. But they haven’t quite succeeded, as is evident from the continued presence of a troop of people we shall call ‘the frighteners’. These terrible beings lurk in alleyways, gulping on cans of lukewarm white lightning, staring. One chased me the other day. It was 8:30am.



4. The Subway

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Have you ever tried to negotiate a spaghetti junction many miles beneath the ground in near pitch-darkness with only a foul smell and a vague, often completely wrong sign to guide your way?


If not you must head to Elephant, and fast. This subway is like a magical puzzle game made of fun. There are around 85 tunnels, they all look completely identical and half of them aren’t even joined on to the other ones so sometimes its entirely IMPOSSIBLE to find your way out of there alive.


Bring flares.



5. The Shopping Centre




A shopping precinct so ugly that many cannot bear to look upon it, this hot-pink monstrosity has repeatedly won awards for its sheer shitness. Within it are a handful of shops you’d never want to go into, and also a Tesco where the shelves are completely bare, which is just as well because the shop assistants are too distraught to serve anyone anyway.


Its neighbours are roundabouts. It’s been known to reduce grown men to tears. At night the whole area is filled with the spine-tingling sounds of its shrieks. But don’t worry, someone bought it last year for £80m and they’re going to PULL IT DOWN AND BURN IT HOORAY!!!

Hixter Bankside

I’m a big fan of Hix in Soho, which is probably why Mark Hix just opened up a whole new Hix right next to my office. For those of you that don’t stalk me regularly, that’s near Borough Market (London Bridge). It’s called Hixter though, not Hix.


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The restaurant has only just opened – it’s housed within an old metal box factory, and it’s a bit of a tardis, as it happens. Walk through a huge bar and there’s a big, light restaurant where you can see the chefs bustling about. There’s also, of course, much fancy looking artwork (Hix’s other restaurants include pieces by masters like Damian Hirst).


The idea is simple: it’s chicken or steak to share.


You can order bits of meat in various sizes, all sourced with perfect precision from (mostly) Great British producers. There’s mighty-marbled Himalayan salt dry-aged steak from hand-selected cows and barn-reared chicken from Swainson House Farm in Lancashire.


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There is also another Mark’s Bar in the basement, but it’s much bigger than the Soho version. This one’s even got table football and a tiny tube carriage you can get drunk in! There’s a market for that now, what with actual drinking on the tube being banned in a terrible oversight a few years ago.


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The restaurant currently does a lunch menu for a perfectly reasonable £9.95, with quite a big selection of dishes (sandwiches, burgers, salads etc.)


We tried a few of the sandwiches – the Cock ‘n’ Bull – that’s a half chicken, half steak sandwich, the Swainson Farm chicken sandwich and a chicken, Sillfield Farm bacon and summer vegetable salad. All came accompanied with more chips than four people could possibly eat, which is never a bad thing.


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The food was, on the whole, a little underwhelming. The sandwiches were cold (we didn’t think they were supposed to be) and the chicken in the salad was a bit dry, but on the whole it wasn’t bad. If Hix’s other restaurants are anything to go by I’m sure things will improve…


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Gluten Free? Yes – quite a few options.


Hixter Bankside
16 Great Guildford Street,



Hixter Bankside on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Would you pay £1000 to get married on the South Bank?

Because you can. Soon. To celebrate the year in which same sex marriage became legal, the Southbank Centre has created a Big Wedding Weekend (Saturday 30 – Sunday 31 August), as part of their Festival of Love!




All couples, gay or straight, young or old, are invited to marry or renew their vows on the stage of the Royal Festival Hall, with its world famous organ, followed by bubbly, all day dance and entertainment, an optional wedding buffet and the opportunity for you and your guests to enjoy the wonderful riverside setting at Southbank Centre.


This is how it works:

There will be six ceremonies over the weekend – Saturday 30 – Sunday 31 August. Saturday will have ceremonies at 11am, 1.15pm (SOLD OUT) and 3.30pm (SOLD OUT) and 5.45pm. Sunday will have ceremonies at 1.15pm and 3.30pm.
Each ceremony will last for 90 minutes and comprise of 20 couples who will all declare their vows separately in front of their family, guests and registrars.

This is followed by music, dancing and entertainment for the rest of the day and evening.




There are two packages to choose from:


Package One – £1000

  • A 90-minute ceremony with choirs, fanfares and live music on the Royal Festival Hall stage
  • A glass of  bubbly for all your guests
  • Registrar
  • Photographs with stunning backdrops
  • 2 bouquets of flowers
  • Day-time and evening  activities
  • Riverside location
  • 40 guests


Package Two – £2000

  • A 90-minute ceremony with choirs, fanfares and live music on the Royal Festival Hall stage
  • A glass of  bubbly  for all your guests
  • Wedding buffet  (This is a cold tapas menu and a dessert and doesn’t include drink. Please see the Wedding Menu.)
  • Registrar
  • Photographs with stunning backdrops
  • 2 bouquets of flowers
  • Day-time and evening  activities
  • Riverside location
  • 40 guests




Book your wedding via, go on!



About the Festival of Love:
Saturday 28 June 2014 – Sunday 31 August 2014



Over two months, Southbank Centre brings together hundreds of artists, communities and partners to create its Festival of Love. The festival, which celebrates the Same Sex Couple Act, features an exciting programme of free events, differently-themed weekends, performances, poetry, talks and pop-ups. The Thames-side site is also being transformed by several large-scale indoor and outdoor installations and artworks.

30 August – 31 August: Hackney Flea Market Goes DIY

The monthly Hackney Flea Market gets a DIY twist this month – independent creatives and vintage market stall holders are getting together in Stoke Newington to sell you their fine creations!


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Everything will have a DIY Art theme, and there’ll be over 60 hand-picked independent creatives and makers, small press publishers, photographers, illustrators, DIY wear & goods makers, printers, textilers, record labels, comic folk, bookmakers, zinesters, screen printers, ceramicists, all exhibiting, and peddling their wares at some very reasonable prices!




There’ll also be DJs and BAKED GOODS.




Exhibitors include:

Louise Kyme

Faith Taylor





30 August – 31 August

30 August at 11:00 to 31 August at 18:00



73a Stoke Newington Church Street,

N16 0AS