Thursday, April 21, 2005

Terror on the Holloway Road pt6 - and out

Originally uploaded by StefZ.

One of the really neat things about living in a police state is the scope it gives you for dealing with troublesome neighbours.

Are YOUR neighbours playing their stereo too late on a Saturday night or leaving their cars in front of your driveway?

Well, denounce them!

Is your wife/ girlfriend/ husband/ sister/ father/ boss/ dry cleaner/ bloke taking up two seats on the bus becoming too demanding?

Well, denounce them too!

Denounce everybody!!!!

Until relatively recently you couldn't have very much fun here in the UK or in the US denouncing people; not much fun at all. Irritating little concepts such as evidence and juries would get in the way. But now the situation is a lot more fun and people can get locked up without trial or being told what they are being locked up for, for three years or more.


The people next door have been really getting on my goat lately.

Of course, the trick is to get them before they get you. After all, what if they get round to denouncing me first?

Just in case my neighbours are thinking what I'€™m thinking I'€™ve just performed a quick, five minute inventory of potentially incriminating items in my flat. Looking for the kind of stuff that could form the basis of a Wood Green style Terror plot.


I would definitely be onto a sticky wicket if the police ever came round. There are instruments of mass death lying all over the place.

Unfortunately I'€™m a gadget freak, though more so in the past than recently. And, on top of that, my flat contains a kitchen, bathroom and a small garden. All rich treasure troves of components for WMDs.

The situation is worsened by the fact that I'€™m also one of those people who likes to know things; movie trivia, David Blaine's secrets of magic, how to improvise poisons, explosives and incendiaries, that sort of stuff.

So, what did I come up with during my five-minute inventory?

  • Assorted GPS units, electrical components, batteries, multipurpose knives, alarm clocks and a first generation Russian army surplus night vision monocular (a lot less effective than you might think. If they had ever invaded Western Europe the first casualties would have been the trees)
  • Several mushrooming field guides, weed killer, fertiliser, a bottle of linseed oil, some rusty iron pipes, a litre of camping stove fuel, a magnesium fire-lighting flint, an aluminium ashtray. All sorts of solvents and glues. Plus, it'€™s a bit early yet, but foxgloves grow in my garden in the Summer.
  • A suspiciously large jar of Vaseline, an equally suspiciously large jar of potassium permanganate, copious mounds of cotton wool, tobacco. I've also just noticed that we have three unopened toothbrushes underneath the bathroom sink. Damn those Two for One offers.
  • A month old sack of potatoes, some almonds left over from Christmas, tinned salmon, various pieces of fruit, raw eggs, sugar, some frozen meat past its sell by date, kitchen knives, a mortar and pestle, a garlic press, a coffee grinder, two sets of scales.
  • Extensive video and photographic surveillance equipment plus videos and pictures taken in numerous high profile locations in Europe and the US. Maps and guides to many Western Capital cities, some of which have famous buildings such as the White House and numerous railway stations and hotels marked out in biro.
  • Internet access. Which means I probably am a paedophile or a terrorist or, worse still, the first of a new breed of Islamo-fundamentalist paedo-terrorists. The ultimate tabloid nightmare - Crazed with unnatural sexual impulses and a belief in the afterlife; a small boy under one arm, the Koran under the other and a tub of poisoned Nivea held somewhere else.

This isn'€™t a complete list. It doesn'€™t need to be. There'€™s already enough stuff here to send me to the chair ten times over. With the materials I've listed I could plan and execute a terrorist attack using botulism, anthrax, digitalis, nicotine, thermite or a variety of grades of explosives.

Shit. This is exactly the kind of trouble you can get yourself into from watching too many episodes of the A Team and McGuyver as a kid.

Personally, the most disturbing item in my flat is a half-used jar of Kashmiri Masala. Formulated for '€˜a richer more rewarding flavour'€™ the label tells me that I can keep it opened in the fridge for '€˜no longer than three months'€™. This means that particular spice paste has a level of potency somewhere between penicillin and plutonium. It'€™s less of a food item, more of a course of chemotherapy and I'™ve never administered more than a single teaspoonful in any seven-day period. I dread to think what a whole jar would do placed in London'€™s water supply. I reckon things would get, um, messy.

Just as well I'm not a Muslim then. Phew.

(Another reason why I'm happy to be of Catholic Italian extraction can be found here... )


Anonymous said...

it reminds me of the old saying 'you can make weapons with everyday household items', you know the old crap they fill daytime TV with?, well they're right, I had a look behind the cupboard and I found a small lump of plutominium, how the hell did it get there? Well i can tell you I scratched all three of my heads thinking where I might have got it.

Nice post btw :D

Stef said...


BTW remember that plutonium is a 100% all natural ingredient and can serve as the base for an absolutely fantastic vindaloo curry or chilli.

Anonymous said...

hmmm don't get me wrong mate, but perhaps it's just me but I seem to sense a slight edge of silliness entering your blog. Either way I'm sure you'll be back to your no-nonsense pro-Sainbury's, Tony Blair is god self soon.

Up the revolution (mines a Korma!)


Stef said...


To misquote John Paul Jones

'I have not yet begun to be silly'

I will never forgive Sainsburys for introducing the expression 'Buffalo Mozarella' into the public domain. To think we used to snigger at the Americans for referring to 'French Champagne' ...

Also, when I take over all curries below Madras grade, especially Kormas, will be abolished on the basis that they are a tool of the capitalists overlords who seek to keep the masses lethargic through feeding them tedious, high calorie food that looks like chuck.

Anonymous said...

I was of course kidding about the Korma, it's a bit like having Low-fat butter, or mild chillies, or deathless wars...pointless (as well as tasteless :))

Off topic time, as a user of a Canon 300 I wonder if you have any views on the new 350D? I'm thinking of sawing off at least one limb off to get one. I read a review of it today and it said the build quality was better than the 300 (but then again what does that mean?...a tin tray? ). The review did say the screen was a bit small and 'some' of the buttons were in the wrong place.


Stef said...

I, of course, was not joking about the Kormas and agree with your observations 100%.

Re. 300d, mmmmmm ...

I, personally, haven't been tempted at all. This could be something to with the fact that I'm currently unemployed but also because I'm quite happy with the 300d. If I had £650 spare I'd probably buy a few good lenses rather than a new body. Lenses have the potential to last a lot longer than bodies and that's where the money should go.

Re. the build quality thing. I've had my 300d for 18 months, run 40,000+ frames through it, taken it on numerous trips and dropped the poor bugger several times. It still works.

Digital cameras currently have a viable life of no more than 3 years, maybe nearer 2. After that they are so out of date their 2nd value is bugger all and you'll be feeling left out because something much better will be available for less money. That's why it's better to focus on the lenses which are potentially a lifetime investment and do hold their value.

So, 350d-wise

Most of the differences with the 300d are trivial, except maybe the fact that the 350d turns on quicker and can take more pictures in a burst. The 350d is smaller and I like that. For urban work with a low profile lens this is an advantage, unless you have large hands. The small size does mean the camera may be unbalanced if you start sticking Gonzo 400mm telephoto lenses on it but ornithologists are sad and deserve everything they get.

If I was starting from scratch and didn't have a 300d I would pony up and buy the 350d. 300ds can be bought cheap now but they are at the end of their product cycle.

If you do buy a 350d bear in mind you'll be looking for something new in 2-3 years time though. Also bear in mind that you'll be looking for at least one lens on top of the kit lens. To get the most out of buying a digital SLR you really should be looking at a fixed focal length prime lens - a 28mm f2.8 or 35mm f2. That'll be another £120-160 on top but it will outlast the body and hold a decent 2nd value. I swear by primes as they work in low light, attract less attention and are at least equal in image quality to expensive pro standard zoom lenses.

Also, bear in mind when reading web sites, particularly user comments on camera equipment, that all manufacturers employ trolls and shills to muddy the waters. You can, of course, trust me though ;-)

If you've got a more specific question drop me a comment

Anonymous said...

Cheers Stef, useful stuff mate. Re the lens, well I've already got them as I have a EOS100...with a few USM lenses (I've also got Canon T90 and two T70's with the old manual FD mount).

At the moment I'm using a small Fuji FD 401...which is great for carrying around and doing grab shots, tourist crap and the like, bar two things:
1.It's totally shite in low light
2.If I miss another shot cos it takes a photo a week after I press the shutter release, then I'm going to loose it and run around shouting in the underpass at the Elephant and Castle (or something like it). Don't get me wrong, the poor sod (the camera, not me) has helped me take more photos in the last 3 years than I probably took with all the old hernia inducing stuff I ever did (did i really drag two bodies, 5 lenses and a Billinghamd bag round with me?...jesus).

Spot on about the reviews, that's why I asked.

I'll read up a bit more on the 350D i think, and get back to you


Stef said...

You've summed up the reasons to buy a DSLR pretty well. I had a Canon G3 before the 300d and used it pretty heavily. I still have it. Bought the 300d for low light work and for faster handling - DSLRs are streets ahead in that regard and well worth the effort/ expense. I've shot more frames in the last couple of years than the previous fifteen.

Low end Canon DSLRs can't be beaten on price or image quality. The build is pretty plasticy but it is tough plastic.

Anonymous said...

I tried the 350d this morning (in the world's worse branch of Jessops, and that's saying something), so after waiting for some time (I think it was the Jurassic period):

Hmmmm the build is quite good, the LCD (if on the small size) looks ok, but as they didn't have a card I had to judge this by looking at it for the 1 second it was illuminated (Click...ah...blink...oh!). But...the grip is way too SMALL!!! I've got fairly small hands (no laughing at the back), but I could barely fit three fingers on the grip. What about the grip extension I asked?

Them:...blank look....'er is there one?'

Me...'Yes, it's a battery extension with a vertical shutter release'

Them:...'right, we'd have to order that...£129'


(several minutes later after the nurse had removed the screens)...

'Ok I'll buy the camera, just the body though'

Them: 'we've only got the lens kit, well have to...blah blah'

I think I'll try another time, or wait until later in the year.

Stef said...

I am Silurian period man myself. As geological periods go it's sadly underrated.

Yes, Canon grips. For some reason these things that sell in the US for $90 work out costing £129 in the UK. I wouldn't worry too much about that. Sooner or later, once initial demand has been met, someone always breaks ranks and starts knocking them out for £70-80. It might take a few months though.

Me, I usually hold the camera by lens so small grips don't bother me too much but I know the 350d bothers some people in that respect. I'd almost suggest looking at the 300d as they're going cheap now but feature-wise the 350d is more than worth the difference.