The Christie/Who/Potter Matrix of British Guest Stardom

If you're a middling-successful British TV actor, you can rate your success by seeing how many of the following you've appeared in as a guest star:

1. The ITV Poirot/Marples. No chance of you having to carry the whole thing, there's the eponymous star to do that (David Suchet/Geraldine McEwan/Julia McKenzie). You'll be surrounded by other middling-successful British TV actors, and if you're the murder victim you get to be a central character but without having to actually do much acting (unless they overdo it on the flashbacks).

2. Dr Who. Baddie of the week? Pretty good, but there's a chance that you'll have spend six hours in make-up. Better to be the well-meaning-but-naive local bureaucrat who eventually comes round to the Doctor's way of thinking before dying at the end to save the world/spaceship/human race.

3. The Harry Potter films. This one is definitely a step up from the others in prestige. Lots of minor characters that you can do as a cameo and you get to mingle with proper stars who wouldn't been seen dead on mere television (Maggie Smith notwithstanding).

Is there anyone who gets all three? I can think of one, Roger Lloyd Pack: Inspector Caux in Poirot: Mystery of the Blue Train; John Lumic in Who's Rise of the Cybermen and The Age of Steel; and Barty Crouch Senior in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.


Despite it being "the most important General Election since time immemorial" I cannot help but be underwhelmed by it. Living in the constituency predicted to be the safest Conservative seat in the UK doesn't help, although there I'm continuing the family tradition of being a leftie in a true blue area. However, it's the essential similarity of the three main parties (basically each trying to out-technocrat the others) and the iniquity of the electoral system that wears me down. I'll still vote, but given that I actually maintain an interest in politics (in both senses of the word) and I'm a tepid voter, I suspect we're probably headed for a rather low turnout.
Old school

Metro's "five of the best for 2010"

Today's Metro paper had one of those classic puff pieces for selling you things that they've been bribed to promote by various PRs. The subject? "Greet the coming of spring by turning over a new leaf by cycling to work on one of these splendid contraptions." So what did they pick? I'd have gone for a tourer or hybrid. Maybe they'll put a folder like the Brompton in, possibly one of those sit-up-and-beg Dutch-style bikes, maybe even a slimmed-down mountain bike. Nope. They went for: a cyclo-cross bike; a BMX; a lowrider cruiser; a folding mountain bike (with suspension forks); and a penny farthing!

Trends in London Hipster Cycling

I don't do a huge amount of cycling in London, and that which I do do is mostly out in the 'burbs and beyond. However, I do work in Islington and go through/visit the centre often, and here's my update on the latest trends in more-money-than-sense* London cyclery.

1. Fixed-wheel bikes are definitely in. Long a favourite of cycle couriers due to their mechanical efficiency and nuanced speed control (I once rode one in the late 80s, great in built-up areas, not so good for going down steep hills), they've now broken out into the mainstream. Although having said that, the couriers in Cardiff seemed to favour single-speed freewheels (to which I thought... "huh?)

2. Steel frames. A couple of years ago it was looking like it was going to be wall-to-wall aluminium-alloy frames in the world of £100+ bikes. Now it appears that steel is making a comeback.

3. The return of large flanges (no sniggering at the back!) Many years ago, you'd get the choice of having your wheel hubs in small or large flanges, but since the 90s it's been small flanges pretty much by default... until now.

4. White paint jobs.

So overall, there seem to be a bunch of Nathan Barley types pedalling around central London on bikes that look like they belong to a 1980s track racer with no sponsorship.

* A track bike (with a front brake) is about as cheap a non-cheap bike as you're going to get, but I doubt anyone's paying less than 350 quid for a new one. Earlier examples of this category include: a 1000+ quid mountain bike (including 1.95 inch tyres) for exclusively urban use; and the use of any titanium anywhere by anyone who wasn't a sponsored/professional rider.

Keeping the Literary Classics Undead

Via Crooked Timber, it's:

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies!

Will the first line be something like:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in
possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife (who can kick zombie ass!)

Surely there must be other Literary Classics that can be improved upon with the addition of zombies (or some other form of the undead). I like the suggestion of "War and Peace and Zombies" from the CT post.

Trivial observations (New Series, free binder with part one!)

1. Huzzah for the recession! [Provided it means fewer maniacally-driven vans on the roads: I was almost run over by two in quick succession on my walk down to the train station yesterday).

2. Boris may be a Tory, but at least he's as pro-bike as Livingstone was. I don't think I'm in the target demographic for his 6,000 bikes for hire plan, but I'm amused that one of the co-authors of the feasibility study (PDF) is the intriguingly-named German Dector-Vega.

3. We got one of those automated sales calls this morning at work, claiming to be able to reduce our debts (I must let the VC know, although the obvious answer is to, y'know, pay it off). Now, normally with sales calls one of the few factors stopping me from putting the phone straight down is that there's a Real Human Being With Real Feelings on the other end. I have no such compunction when it's computers speaking to me. File this with "Automated Railway Announcers Apologising For Late Trains".