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Shepherd’s Pie

Continuing the hopeless homely series… A distinctly autumnal day deserves something wholesome: homemade Shepherd’s Pie all set to go in the oven.

Shepherd's Pie

Google have been doodling…

googleYes, yes I know it’s the design story de jour, but it’d be awful remiss of me to let the rebrand of one of the most influential companies in my generation’s lives go without commenting.

It’s not that I don’t like the new logo – I mean granted it’s not entirely dripping in inspiration, but I just don’t think it’s Google.

It’s a clunky typeface which I can’t help but feel isn’t kerned very well, and the heavier weight of the new typeface probably contributes more to that impression optically. It’s just too dense. Google of yesterday had an airy lightness to it, an openness which represented a key facet of Google’s corporate identity as a new moon-reach company of the future.

The new logo’s heaviness just lacks that transparent optimistic feather-light transparency. Instead replaced by something; I feel –has all the optimism of  a sullen teenager brooding in the corner frowning so deeply as to give the whole room the impression that the world could quite possibly end if you were to try and engage – and yet that isn’t the worst part!

That e – christ alive, it’s such an utterly clunking catastrophe – it totally misses the mark of being a nod to the previous incarnation; instead it just gives me the  impression that Google might have stalked Dell up a back alley only to rough it up and run away having stolen it’s corporate typeface for shits and giggles.

It’s not just that it’s a bad technically though, nor just that it no longer seems capable of symbolising the corporate culture, No. The hub of the matter, what has really upset the designer in me about this change, is Google’s total blindness to how influential it’s brand is.

Overnight in branding terms Google went from zero to ubiquitous, a brand on par with Coca-Cola, or Ford. A brand recognised by almost every human on the planet… With that level of ubiquity has to come the intelligence to understand the responsibility of being a good steward. You of course can argue that Coca-Cola and Ford have updated their logos – quite a lot in fact as younger companies – but the point was that they weren’t icons when they did that; and since then they’ve recognised the importance of key strands and features of their identities; of course they meddle, but fundamentally what you expect them to be is just what they are.

It’s easy to be glib, but as a man who grew up in the middle of the dot com boom from my perspective – in the context of my life – Google changed the fucking world – it’s brand is an icon of our age, and it just feels like this redesign has entirely failed to grasp the weight of it’s own identity and in doing so they’ve fundamentally failed to act as a steward of a global icon.

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It’s beginning to feel a lot like Fall.

CoffeeHopelessly homely update; but today with the driving rain, grey skies and slight chill that makes you reach for a jumper before the sun has gone down. I love autumn, I can’t wait for the season to kick in properly, the light is amazing for photography.

So it’s been a while

In fact it’s been almost a digital lifetime: but I can’t think maybe it’s time to blog a bit – don’t expect a terrific amount of long form: do expect some picture essays and maybe the odd history and architecture tidbits.

I will not be cleansed.

I’ve lived in Tower Hamlets on and off for quite a while – and now more than ever before it doesn’t feel safe to be the person I am in the street. Homophobia is chronic and becoming increasingly violent in this self-imposed ghetto of medieval fantasy… The whole Muslim community need to take this on board, they must not allow a minority of violent extremists to drag the area down still further.

Strong words from Merkel

It was good to see Angela Merkel today calling on her European counterparts to take serious efforts to cut their national deficits with a stark warning that the biggest threat to the economies of Europe, and specifically those of the crisis-hit eurozone is debt.

In a politically charged statement, Merkel pulled no punches, telling all attending the Davos World Economic Forum that: “Indebtedness is the biggest danger for prosperity on this continent” strong stuff indeed. But nothing compared to the sledge hammer language which she chose to use to cut through the never-ending bullshit with an emphatic statement that there was: “no crisis of the euro as such. This is essentially a debt crisis [which we must now]  overcome” and that “If the euro fails, then Europe fails“. Her comment echoed French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who earlier passionately defended Paris and Berlin saying that they would “never abandon the euro“.

Possibly the strongest words from a European leader yet on the on-going spiral fuelled by an on-going crisis of private banks and markets speculating with public currency on the basis of advice given by almost totally unregulated credit agencies.

Talking about the German economy she said that “sound fiscal policy and growth do not need to be a contradiction in terms“, and it’s a good point; let’s face it Germany’s economy is booming, it’s Europe’s number 1 exporter, even though it’s actively beginning to rebalance it’s trade deficit. It’s got Europe’s most qualified workforce, and unemployment is lower in Germany than Britain even with an additional 15 odd million people more than us.

It’s really is reassuring to see this economic strength emboldening the Germans to push for the reforms of the eurozone that they’ve wanted for some time: Germany will undoubtedly push through reforms which can only be a good thing for the EuroZone – and quite possibly for the UK too – if the coalition is bright enough to engage directly with Berlin now to advocate strong change in Europe to protect the future of the EU.

Rip off Britain.

We live in a country which is notorious for overcharging the tax-payer and under-delivering on quality and quantity: and amidst the cuts it would seem to make sense for the government to examine why Britain consistently pays over the odds for all it’s public infrastrucutre projects.

A good example is the ‘new’ Forth Road Bridge: the current bridge – despite being less than 50 years old it’s now at the end of it’s life – bear in mind the Golden Gate Bridge is now entering it’s 80th decade straddling a fault line, and closer to home the Forth Railway bridge is now 120 years old and still faithfully performing the task for which it was originally built.

Looking at the plans for the replacement bridge a 2.2km long concrete and steel affair with the aesthetic complexity of a cardboard box you do wonder why the original bridge was engineered to be such a short-life structure, especially when you note the estimated cost of it’s replacement which from the government figures presently stands at £4.2 billion.

How on gods great earth can a 2.2km bridge cost £4.2 billion? It’s a farce.

Let’s just look across the North Sea to our European neighbour Denmark, where the completed Fehmarn Belt Bridge which is nearly ten times longer at 19km serving both and rail traffic came in at a cool €4.7 billion (that’s £3.9 billion just in case you can’t be arsed to google it).

Just exactly how can our government continue to accept figures which are clearly more value both for local regions and the greater public purse? The idea of allowing contractors to abuse the public purse either through under-bidding and then over-running on costs or building in margins of up to 80% is ludicrous.

They’re pissing our money up the wall – and we’re allowing them to continue: despite many many ministers and opposition MPs having involvements with construction and infrasturcture companies, despite being the 6th largest economy in the world with all the buying power that brings, despite having lower wages that for instance, Denmark, despite times of austerity where they’re taxing us more and delivering less, despite being told their ‘is no more money’.

This madness must stop. Now.

We are falling behind in Europe because our infrastructure is poor: if we want to change that in an increasingly competitive world we must now demand that our politicians stop treating our money like a teenager treats a parent’s Gold Card.

Told you so…

So there we have it – an answer to my previous post, what was wrong with the press office is that it’s head honcho was resigning… It’s been covered endlessly elsewhere, and to be honest the whole phone-tap marlarky isn’t a topic that I’m all that interested in, so I’m not going to give it any more air here other than to say that the ex-hack in me can’t help but chuckle when the likes of John Prescott, himself of a profession steeped in corruption, lies and thievery, can even begin to keep a straight face saying he thought that hacks might have had ‘higher standards’.

Higher standards? He’s lucky most hacks have any standards at all these days!

Conservative Press Machine in Crisis?

It’s not been a good week for the Conservatives in the press: they’re being slammed over interest rates, job cuts, still-rioting students, and now Baroness Warsi has put her foot in it with a speech which for the most part I think we can agree with, that there is a level of casual discrimination in the UK where all of those who follow Islam as a faith are either moderate and quiet, or extremists with suicide vests.

It could have been dealt with as a quiet matter, a general rebuttal that the PM/ Cabinet/Government agree broadly that all forms of discrimination should be tackled openly – but no. Furious ex-ministers led by the swivel-eyed-past piled into studios up and down the country, a messy operations note came out from No.10 that the speech hadn’t been ‘approved’ – possibly the worst thing that they could have said about it.

So we all looked at this, and we scratched our heads and wondered – just what the hell is going on in the Downing St. press office these days? How did they drop such a clanger in a week of on-going bad news…

This week should have been easy: Miliband is the most ineffective party leader since Iain Duncan Smith, the opposition are in disarray flip flopping, the Shadow Chancellor can’t add up, and today we find out that he’s allegedly (according to the Daily Mail) a cuckold. On top of all of that the golden goose of bad labour press is back: Blair is all over the news dragging the expensive and potentially illegal war back into the public consciousness all over again.

One can only assume that there is something bubbling under the surface about to break miserably all over the Government.

A little story about waste.

It’s the war cry of the left – our public services are underfunded, undermanned and overstretched. Do try not to giggle on the right… it’s a perpetual and entirely circular argument: the more money they get the more people they get, the more people they get, the less hours they work, the less hours they work the less productive they become, the less productive they become the more they moan, the more the moan the more non-jobs are created to keep them happy and overpaid, which eventually someone has to pay for.

And that someone, is you.

So let me tell you a story about a farce I watched unfold today on the streets of the borough which lends its name to the palace that the people that spend your money fill out their expense forms in.

I was perched by a window today, working hard to pay my bills, wages, taxes and so on, looking out over Wardour Street in Soho in the grandly titled City of Westminster, just below my perch is a public bin, next to said bin at some point earlier in the day someone had deposited three white bin bags and some cardboard, neatly propped up against the bin, not spilling out into the road or obscuring the pavement… overall not particularly pleasant to dump your rubbish on the pavement, but in Soho there’s very few other places you can put it and they’d made the best job of wrapping it up and putting it out.

But this breaks several rules – the first being that it’s not using the Westminster business bin bags, these ludicrously thin bags are available in rolls which cost £50 a go, that works out to about £1 per bag – that’s if you can get the bag out of your premises without it splitting requiring yet another. Second even once you’ve paid for your bags you have to put the rubbish out in certain windows, these last for only 90 minutes and on average most streets get two collections a day to cope with the detritus that this tourist hub creates, and failure to observe said rubbish curfew results in fines of several hundred to several thousand pounds.

To police this policy, the council employ enforcement officers, lord knows how many, but there seem to be one for just about everything, noise, sex shops, rubbish, traffic, parking, street works, you name it, there’s a council employee – clip board in hand – waiting to enforce it.

So it came as no surprise that later in the afternoon a portly looking lady came along, said clipboard grasped firmly, kicked the rubbish a bit, took some photos, made some calls then off she went. I thought, well some poor sods going to get a fine and that rubbish will be gone at the next collection… but oh no, the next collection came and went, leaving said rubbish leaking out onto the street now it had been given a bit of a kick. Then along came the same woman to take more photos of it – presumably to ‘prove’ how long it had been sat on the street for making our environment unpleasant. Surely now someone will remove it? Another collection van scoots by, empties the public bin but leaves the rubbish in the now sodden from a downpour street – then along comes a new man, who looks at the rubbish, cocks his head from side to side , scribbles something and wanders off. Then another: this time bolder, accompanied by the woman, this chap is clearly on the look out for evidence, so in he plunges – no gloves, no awareness of sharps, no health and safety – straight into the bin, rummaging he drags out a discarded office catalogue notes the address it’s been sent to and throws it back on the now totally sodden, disheveled leaking rubbish pile – surely now the bin men will remove it? Someone will pop around any minute with a cage van to get rid of it.

Well.

No.

In fact it was still there when I left at quarter to seven having been there for the all of the afternoon. I counted no less than 4 people  from the council in one form or another who could have arranged for it to be binned: I saw 5 bin lorries pass by collecting rubbish who all ignored it. And there it sits, probably still – leaking into the street, spilling across the pavement, a health and trip hazard for all.

It’s exactly this sort of waste that has to stop: we don’t need hundreds of enforcement officers, with the money you save sacking them you could afford to just pick up the rubbish to make our streets clean.

For gods sake can someone in our Government both national and local have the balls to take a stand and say that ‘we’ the government are going to spend more of your money on the services you need and less on trying to fine you for every infringement of every rule we care to make up to justify employing hundreds of entirely sundry staff.