Tag Archives: eccentricity

Adham Fisher, record-breaking Extreme Commuter. Why? “No reason”

Adham Fisher in the Soho Theatre Bar, London

“So what are you?” I asked Adham Fisher in London’s Soho Theatre Bar.

“I’m not a comedian,” he told me. “Not a proper one, anyway. I have held a Guinness World Record but I have never been in the Guinness Book of Records. It wasn’t considered for the book because there are thousands of records and they can only put a select few in the book.”

“What is your world record for?” I asked.

“The fastest time to go to every New York subway station.”

“How long did that take?”

“22 hours, 26 minutes and 2 seconds… I must stress that I no longer hold the record, but I did hold it for 14 months. The current record is 21 hours, 49 minutes. There were 468 stations at the time I attempted it; there are now 472.”

“And why did you want to hold that record?” I asked.

“It stemmed from my attempts at the corresponding record here in London: the fastest time to go to every tube station. There are 270. I have been attempting that for 13 years. I have been a dismal failure at that and everything else.”

“Do other people do similar things?” I asked.

“There are a lot of people who have attempted the tube record or the various other unofficial challenges and races. There is a yearly one for Zone One stations only.”

“Why have you been a dismal failure at the tube record for 13 years?” I asked. “Is there a trick to it?”

“The trick,” Adham told me, “is the tube running as it should. Every single day there is a delay or suspension or a trespasser on the line or whatever.”

“You should go to Germany,” I suggested. “I imagine their trains run on time.”

“I did go to every station in Berlin – 8 hours, 2 minutes and 56 seconds. There are only 173 stations.”

“Have you met any of the other people trying to visit stations?”

“Yes I have.”

“Do you find they are kindred spirits?”

“Not really.”

“Why,” I asked, “do you want to do this at all? Just to get into the Guinness Book of Records?”

“Not necessarily,” Adham replied. “I have no reason.”

“Well,” I told him, “that is a very good reason in my book. But it must cost an absolute fortune going round the world doing this.”

“I have only done it in Europe and North America.”

“What is the ultimate?”

“Just to go on every rapid transit system in the world.”

“Do you have a full-time job?”

“Everyone thinks I don’t, so I will let them carry on thinking that. It makes for some very interesting comedy. If, for example, I happen to court some media attention, people will comment online, saying: Well, obviously he doesn’t have a job. And these are people who are able to spend tens of thousands of pounds following football teams.”

“Have you had media attention?” I asked.

“Yes. My moment of fame was appearing in the Guardian.”

Adham took the cutting out and showed it to me.

Adham’s own copy of The Guardian, 28.11.16.

“You carry it around with you?”

“Yes.”

“How did all this start?”

“When I started trying to ride every single bus in Leicester and Leicestershire. I was 16. When I first attempted to travel to every London tube station, I was 19.”

“How old are you now?”

Adham did not answer.

“What did your parents say when you were 16 and went off to ride buses?”

“Well, I had to leave the house at about 4.00am.”

“Did you tell them why you were leaving that early?”

“No… Well… I said: I am just going to ride buses all day. See you later.”

“And they said: Fair enough…?”

“They might have done. I shut the door before they could answer.”

“Do you live with your parents now?”

“Maybe.”

“Are they in any bizarre way related to transport?” I asked.

“No. In fact, I don’t think my parents have ever liked me being interested in transport and so that has led to me just not talking to them.”

“What did they want you to become?”

“I don’t know and I never cared. I never really talked to them about that sort of stuff.”

“16 is an age,” I suggested, “when people start thinking about future careers. What did you want to be?”

“I have never had a career plan.”

“Are you,” I asked, “trying to make order out of disorder?”

“I suppose.”

Adham still always plays the revered Human League on vinyl

“I have all my LPs in alphabetical order,” I confessed. “I am so old I have LPs… Before your time.”

“I was,” said Adham, “the only person at my school who liked the Human League and I was the only person at my school who knew what vinyl was. I sometimes DJ at Leicester railway station… with vinyl.”

“They employ you to do this?” I asked.

“Oh no no no. I just ask them once in a while if I can turn up and play.”

“You sit in a corner of the station and play vinyl LPs?”

“Pretty much.”

“Inside or outside?”

“On the station front. Not in the foyer: that would interfere with the announcements. There is a nice bit outside by a coffee bar.”

“You have two turntables and loudspeakers?”

“Yes. A little busking amp.”

Adam Fisher - The MMs Bar Recordings

“The greatest record ever made”

“What sort of music?”

“Anything. There is a record I almost always play, called the MMs Bar Recordings – a compilation of buffet car announcements from the old Midland Mainline trains before they became East Midlands Trains. It consists of various staff saying things like: Good morning and welcome to the 1054 service from London St Pancras. The MMs bar is now open and clear for service with a wide selection of sandwiches, savouries, sweets, hot and cold drinks and complimentary Midland Mainline tea and coffee.”

“This was released commercially as a record?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“To acclaim?”

“Yes. I actually think it’s the greatest record ever made because it’s so stupid it’s great.”

“Who released it?”

“An artist named Sandra Cross. I have met her.”

“Is it,” I asked, “edited in a creative way so it has rhythm?”

“No. It’s just as the announcements were recorded.”

“Do passers-by get confused by this as they enter the station?”

“One or two have. Very few of them stop. About 99% turn their heads with either smiles or bemused looks.”

“You only play announcements?”

“No. Absolutely anything from Peter Gabriel to…”

“How long,” I interrupted, “do you do this for?”

“The longest stint has been about 13 hours.”

“Is there a record for this?”

“Not yet.”

“You know the Rule of Three?” I asked. “So far, we have had the Guinness Book of Records and you playing vinyl records. Is there a third type of record in here?”

“There is the Public Records Office.”

“Have you been there?”

“Not yet.”

Adham’s publicity for a 2016 MOvember record attempt

“You have been doing this since you were 16,” I said. “How are you going to develop it? You could play your records on every station platform. You could play Midland Mainline announcements on the New York subway system. Do you think you will still be doing it in ten years time?”

“I would like to.”

“Are you married?”

“Not last time I checked. I am the least likely person I know to be married.”

“Why?”

“Marriage just isn’t really my thing.”

“Your main passions are transport and music?”

“I describe myself as a very unpassionate person. I don’t consider myself very passionate about or an advocate for anything. I have just somehow wound up doing certain things. I never wanted to be a DJ. Public transport and comedy and music are just things I have happened to do. I would not describe myself as being any good at any of them. Or anything.”

“You should,” I suggested, “be working for some transit system somewhere.”

“I think if I worked in the transport industry, I would end up hating it. Rolling stock track gauge, infrastructure; I know nothing about that; I don’t particularly care for that sort of thing. So far, it has always been a novelty for me, especially in London because I have never lived here. So taking the tube, the bus, any commuter rail or the tram or the cable car is always a novelty for me.”

“You did a comedy show at last year’s Leicester Comedy Festival.”

“Yes.”

“What was it called?”

Extreme Commuter.”

“And this year’s show was called…?”

Publicity for this year’s Leicester Comedy Festival show

“Extreme Commuter 7.”

“Because?”

“The Comedy Festival gig this year was my seventh. I have done one since, which was the 8th and the next one will be in Sheffield. My ninth.”

“Have you got Asperger’s?”

“I have no idea. I have never been diagnosed with it, but… I don’t even know what I would have to do to request a diagnosis.”

“These comedy shows you do are anecdotes about you riding the rails?”

“Exactly. Rails, buses, trams, whatever.”

“Do you want to do the Edinburgh Fringe?”

“To have a successful show in Edinburgh is the Holy Grail of all fledgling comedians but, because I don’t consider myself very good at this comedy thing, I am not actually bothered if I go to Edinburgh or not. If it happens, great; if it doesn’t happen, great. It would be nice, but I don’t expect ever to be a success there.”

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Bizarre UK cannabis laws, photos of readers’ wives and drug-taking budgies

Rain – In my long experience, it seldom goes up AND down

This is often described as a comedy blog.

Sometimes it is. But I have always really seen it as an insight into seldom-reported sub-cultures with some quirkiness, eccentricity and WTF stirred in.

Yesterday Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent used the line “Strange things are happening”.

Yesterday, too, I was walking through my local outdoor shopping centre. It had started to drizzle and a woman whom I did not know, passing me by, said: “Rain! It’s up and down all the time, isn’t it? Up and down. Up and down.”

Afterwards, thinking about it, I figured out maybe she was referring to umbrellas not the rain itself. But she was not carrying an umbrella and neither was I.

Soft Secrets: a paper with a growing readership

Later, I had a visit from someone I used to work with at Granada TV in Manchester. I shall call her Mary from Manchester, though that is not her name and she was not born and does not live in Manchester. She is not in the comedy industry.

She was passing through London and had taken time off to visit a seed centre in North London. I thought perhaps she had been buying some geranium or petunia or marigold seeds but, no, she had been buying some cannabis seeds.

My disdain for the English legal system knows few bounds, but I was amazed to find out this was perfectly legal. And that, in the North of England, there is a major trunk road lined with emporia perfectly legally selling cannabis seeds.

Because, in the UK, it is perfectly legal to buy cannabis seeds even though it is illegal to grow cannabis plants from those same seeds.

I am an innocent in a weedy world.

Mary from Manchester showed me a copy of Soft Secrets, which bills itself as “The Cannabis Newspaper Since 1985”. It was full of relevant articles and advertisements. It was clearly a right-on paper read by right-on people.

So it came as a surprise that there was a Readers’ Wives page with photos of female wives and partners in various states of undress posing amid cannabis plants.

Fleshing it out – legally acceptable but politically incorrect?

As Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent said yesterday: “Strange things are happening”.

Then the subject of budgerigars came up.

Mary from Manchester told me – and I can only pass this on in good faith – that, in the 1970s, the famed budgerigar food Trill (which is made up of a fine and presumably tasty-to-a-budgie variety of seeds) contained – amid the various seeds – cannabis seeds.

If you were of a curious and adventurous disposition, you could throw handfuls of the aforementioned budgerigar food into the borders of your back garden and, with luck, after a time, some cannabis plants would appear.

Did budgerigars of the 1970s got high without flying?

Mary from Manchester and I paid a visit to my local pet shop yesterday and picked up a packet of Trill to read the ingredients but, alas, the variety appears now not to contain cannabis seeds. It does, however, make me wonder if it affected my grandmother’s budgie who was named Uncle Mac and who chattered away the whole time with a glazed look in his eyes and who, when ill, was given neat whisky by my grandmother.

We lived and live in strange days.

We always have.

 

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The late singer Leonard Cohen and the philanthropist Donald Trump and some strange things happening at the marina.

 

In the early hours of this morning, a missive arrived from Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent. She lives on a boat in Vancouver.


Strange things are happening at the marina.

An old man on the dock, whom I’ve never met before, just greeted me with a cheerful “You’re back,” even though I have been nowhere for a month.

A friend of my extended family is an exotically dressed elderly socialite from Brazil named Benita. I feel imaginarily glamorous when I run into her. She thinks we are related. She tells me that I remind her of her aunt, the model Georgia Quental.

“She had red hair,” she tells me. “She was a free spirit like you…”

I don’t know Benita well but she is very fond of me and often wants to go out for tea. Sometimes I run into her as I am leaving the library. The last time I saw her, she greeted me, full of enthusiasm: “Anna, my darling! How was Brazil?”

I have never been to Brazil.

Benita grew up in Rio but attended an exclusive girls school on the eastern seaboard of the United States. She won an award for her artwork there. She says that one of her ancestors was a famous Scottish poet. She borrows his books from the library. I forget his name.

Sometimes she asks me: “Anna, don’t you miss South America?” as if I had left there recently

I have not been there since I was five. I missed it a lot as a child and well into adulthood. I still drink mate.

The last time I saw Benita, she told me she had just been in Greece.

“Ahhh, my darling,” she said. “You must go there. It is absolutely beautiful. I was on an island.”

“Did you go with your daughters?” I asked.

Two of her daughters live in Manhattan. They are very beautiful blondes and have worked as models. One designs jewelry and one is divorced from the heir to Budweiser. I am never sure which is which…

“Of course my dear,” Benita replied. “We were the guests of the designer, my daughter’s friend. What a gorgeous place he has, but you have to take a boat to get there. We were constantly on boats. It was beautiful. We went to Leonard Cohen’s house. He had a house on the same island. His grandchildren are living there now.”

Benita wants me to visit Rio with her. I tell her I can’t go yet, because my health is still a bit delicate. Which it is.

“You need,” she told me, “to take Palo Santo (a herb) and Ayahuasca ( a powerful hallucinogenic).”

We don’t have to go to Brazil to get Ayahuasca. There are people in North Vancouver doing it in their basements.

Two years ago I ran into Benita after I had been at a small protest against Donald Trump. There were only twelve protesters. The others were all Mexican. It was after Trump had made his comment about Mexicans being rapists.

I thought Benita would be glad I had been standing up for Latin Americans, so I told her: “I protested against Donald Trump.”

She looked a bit confused. “Why?” she asked. “What did he do?”

I told her about his comments.

“That’s strange,” she said, looking puzzled. “He is always very nice to my daughters. He always pays for their ski trips to Vermont when they go with his daughter.”

Strange things are happening.

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Something to do together on Thursdays

A 19th century Christmas card by Louis Prang, showing a group of anthropmorphized frogs parading with banner and band

19th century Christmas card by Louis Prang, showing some anthropomorphised frogs celebrating

With one of the Christmas cards I received from the US this year was one of those A4 printed “update” sheets on “what we did this year”.

I seldom care.

But I thought I would share this brief extract as a useful tip for what to do on Thursdays:


Every Thursday, we rise early in the morning, check the newspaper for estate sales and head out.

In the middle of the day, we get home and congratulate ourselves for buying nothing.

We have checked out every room of a stranger’s house, as well as a lifetime of their quirky collections.


With equal irrelevance, here is a 92-second song from Oh What a Lovely War! – arguably a simile for life in general.

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The woman who started a fire on an ice floe to hide evidence from the police

The latest missive from this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith has arrived.

She lives on a boat in Vancouver.


Anna Smith took this selfie in Antwerp

Anna Smith – a selfie in Antwerp

Where the Nechako River converges with the Fraser, a woman fleeing the police tried to escape them by jumping onto an ice floe where she lit a fire in a bid to destroy evidence. She was eventually captured by boat.

The ice floes sometimes make it all the way through Hell’s Gate canyon and down here to the Fraser delta. I have never seen any with women on them though.

One year, hundreds of icebergs the size of boxcars came down from the Thompson River. They went past single file, like a train going by… for days.

When the tide changed, it was like a two-lane highway, with the icebergs going slowly past in both directions on the currents. It was fascinating to watch.

There is still a lot of snow on the mountains. The river is still really low. In a few months the freshet will be going and it will probably look like Bangladesh by June. I made friends with a lady from there on the train and when I told her I lived on a boat she looked really upset. I told her it wasn’t that bad.

“What about the snakes?” she asked. “Aren’t you afraid of the snakes?”

“What snakes?” I asked her.

She told me that all the rivers have snakes. I told her there are no snakes in the Fraser and that reassured her a bit, but not completely.

There is a rickety old fishing boat that goes past every spring. It has a hot tub in the back and a naked lady jumping around in it… That happens later on, though.

There is a big cat who lives next door who likes to dart around. He is not the friendly sort and he looks a bit like an ocelot. His name is Bill.

There is a mast lying above the reeds on the riverbank and, in the summer, I like to watch Bill prowling along the mast as if it’s his personal walkway. I take photos of him from my boat. He is very handsome and wild-looking. I don’t know who he belongs to or why he is called Bill.

Speaking of ice floes, did I mention that I’m doing another striptease show at The Penthouse?


There is a rather odd news report about the woman trying to escape the police on the ice floe on YouTube.

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David Beckham and a kinky sex party

A bunch of bananas photographed by Augustus Binu

Bunch of beautiful bananas photographed by Augustus Binu

… and still my post-Edinburgh Fringe vagueness continues…

I was walking along the high street in Borehamwood at lunchtime yesterday when I saw two little boys pointing bananas at each other like they were guns. As I passed by, all I heard was one saying to the other:

“…and your mother’s poo smells like David Beckham.”

I have no explanation for this.

Jason Cook, yesterday. In the case were £50 bookmarks

Jason Cook, yesterday. In the case were personalised £50 bookmarks on sale for £2

I was on my way to the local Tesco supermarket to see Jason Cook signing copies of A Nice Little Earner, the third mostly-autobiographical gangster book in his quadrilogy. Jason has cropped-up in this blog a few times before. He is seriously dyslexic but has written three of these books. A fourth is out soon. His first book There’s No Room For Jugglers in My Circus has sold out and is being reprinted on the back of a re-order from WH Smiths. And that’s not even to mention his children’s book Rats in Space. He is a sign that anyone can turn their life round.

Meanwhile, from near Vancouver, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent Anna Smith reports:

Anna Smith ignores the BBC in Canada

Anna Smith – an everyday story of Canada

I found a thin, paperback-sized piece of yellow plywood floating in the river, with the message ‘E15′ painted on it. I do not think it is a reference to an area of London, but is a marker from a log boom. It has two nails through it, so I might attach it to something.

My phone is still not working despite being inside a bag of red rice. I put the rice bag inside my favorite red hat, but that has not helped.

I also saw a sign today which said: SWORDS INTO PRUNING HOOKS. It was loosely pasted on top of a larger poster advertising a kinky sex party for 400 people to be held on a yacht (location to be announced the day before sailing). It has playpens and cages apparently…. I don’t think I would like to be in a cage at sea with all that going on around me. I could not take a photograph of the poster, because my phone was in the bag of red rice back home.

The streets are awash with pretty, fashionable young women tonight, roaming in packs. It must be something to do with school starting in a couple of days.

Jason Cook’s personalised £50 banknotes - yours for £2

Jason Cook’s personalised £50 banknote bookmakers on sale yesterday – yours for only £2 in cash

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Sex, drugs and thievery in Canada and Scotland… Boredom is so, so subjective

Anna Smith had a red umbrella day

Anna Smith held a red umbrella one day in Vancouver (Photograph by Andrew Sorfleet)

After a suspicious pause, during which I don’t even want to speculate what she might have been up to, Anna Smith – this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent – sent me two photographs.

The first shows her holding a red umbrella atop a sign saying SEX FOR ALL and a red logo with a wheelchair in it. She tells me:

“The photo was taken at the end of our annual Red Umbrella Rally.”

I know no more, dear reader. Anna lives in Vancouver, Canada. It is a foreign country. They do things differently there.

Normal for Glasgow?

Flamenco? Normal for Glasgow?

“The other weird photo,” she tells me, “is of two posters beside each other, one advertising Classical Italian Art from Glasgow Collections with a poster for a flamenco version of Alice and Wonderland. I suppose they do that in Glasgow all the time.”

Her view of the exciting lives led by Glaswegians may have been influenced either by Janey Godley’s Tweets and Periscope videos or by an article Anna read in The Economist declaring how ‘mind-numbingly boring’ Vancouver is.

Anna tells me: “Actually, nobody here gives a shit because they have never heard of The Economist. And I was laughing my guts out because I only read The Economist if there’s no other choice because IT IS SO BORING! Although,” she added, “Vancouver, aside from all the strange people, actually IS pretty boring.

In the boring river, beware of brush wolves

Boring river? Beware of Molly the brush wolf (Photograph by Andrew Sorfleet)

“Look at myself for example. What do I love most about living here? Watching the river flow by.

“The last major uproar in Vancouver was about a plot to close the road on the Burrard Bridge for a massive yoga ‘Be-In’ by people wearing yoga pants, sponsored at enormous cost by the Provincial Government, which is helmed by an idiotic bimbo named Christy Clark, also known as ‘Gidget’.

“Taxpayers became enraged. The Yoga Pants manufacturer’s headquarters are at one end of the Burrard Bridge. I don’t know where its hindquarters are. Then rumours started building that the Russian gas company Gazprom was also involved and the whole thing exploded.”

Drug article in Vancouver Sun

Vancouver Sun headline

On The Province news site, Premier Christy Clark announced that the event on 21st June would be live-streamed online “for the world to witness.”

She told members of the public: “Bring your yoga mat, bring your best yoga poses, get on the bridge and make a statement about who British Columbia is.”

I have to say that, closing a bridge to do this, does not make Vancouver seem boring. Mildly eccentric, yes. But boring, no. And, to undercut the boring image even more, Anna tells me:

“In the headlines here are the ever growing number of marijuana storefronts. There are more dispensaries in Vancouver than the entire rest of Canada. The dispensaries are supplied by illegal drug gangs.

“Also, medical marijuana users battled against the federal government in The Supreme Court of Canada and won their right to imbibe THC in whichever form they choose – cigars, salves, oils, cookies, cake or pizza.

“I was on my boat, listening to the radio, when the decision came through. The CBC announcer said joyfully: “Canadians are now free to partake in whatever form of marijuana they choose, including suppositories! This will really open the floodgates!”

Notice on tree in Vancouver about a dangerously violent man

Notice on tree in Vancouver about a dangerously violent man

Anna lives on a boat in Vancouver.

“I was up on the road two marinas upriver,” she tells me, “saying to a man: Did you notice that our marina has ‘ WANTED ‘ signs up?

“The signs said: WARNING. VIOLENT AND ON DRUGS. IF YOU SEE HIM TELL HIM TO LEAVE!!! IF HE DOES NOT? CALL THE POLICE!!!

“Then another man came up and said: That’s my son. He’s NOT wanted. I keep moving and he keeps finding me.

Meanwhile, back in what still remains for the moment the UK, today’s Scotsman newspaper reports:

The remote Hebridean island of Canna has been targeted by thieves for the first time in half a century – with the culprits making off with woolly hats, coffee, biscuits and beauty products.

Uamh Rìgh Lochlainn, grave of the king of Norway, on Canna (Photograph by Peter Van den Bossche)

Uamh Rìgh Lochlainn, grave of the King of Norway, on Canna (Photograph by Peter Van den Bossche)

The theft on the idyllic island… has left the tiny population of only 22 stunned… The crime, committed between 8pm on Friday and 8am on Saturday, is believed to be the first on the remote island since a wooden plate was stolen in the 1960s. 

Boredom is a comparative and subjectively-used word. A Norwegian king lies buried on Canna. Well, so it is said. There is no archaeological evidence for the claim, but it is a story that maybe brightens up the bleak winter evenings.

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