Dispatch from the Razor's Edge, the Blog of Michael Stephen Fuchs
2005.10.28 : A (Birth)Day in the Life (In Pictures)
And Rather Heavily Annotated
With Quite A Lot of Random Observations About London and Life In It

"Ah, love, let us be true
  To one another! for the world, which seems
  To lie before us like a land of dreams,
  So various, so beautiful, so new,"
                 - Mathew Arnold, "Dover Beach"

"Vanity of vanities! All is vanity!"
                 - Ecclesiastes 1:2

     And but so on the Friday one week before my birthday, when I was out on this really glorious sunny breezy lovely London day, the exact precise 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, and the flags of the Royal Navy flew on the stately buildings, and I squatted outside the National Gallery, waiting to go in and see a lecture on Turner's "The Fighting Temeraire", and was playing with the pigeons, and everything was so beautiful, I got this idea for a new bit of a project.

Basically, I realised in a flash that I could conceivably take the narcissism, self-absorption, and exhibitionism that are so startlingly inherent in vanity web sites in general, and blogs in particular, to great new uncharted depths . . . a brave new nadir of self-promotion and life minutiae documentation. I realised I could photo- (and/or video-)document virtually every moment of an average day of my life. I could catalogue every step I took, every move I made – and shoot nearly every image that fell on my eye.

Aside from amusing me, this project would have two ends – both more or less in line with why I publish here in the first place: 1) It would sort of be the apotheosis of this Dispatch from the Razor's Edge project of sharing with loved ones on the other sides of oceans just what (my) life here is like. And, 2) (slightly more defensibly) it would also be the apotheosis of "experience cold storage", or perhaps "memory prothsesis" (which is, again, the other reason I do this). So, twenty or forty years from now, I might be thinking, Remember that time in the mid-noughts, when I lived in the UK, and I worked right in the very heart of London, and went running in the Royal Parks, and everything was so really lovely and I lived without care? And when I do think that then I can go back and look at this dispatch and see – as faithfully as one might – just what it was actually like in that time, and which all times are fleeting (*).

The only problem was: that Friday when I this occurred to me I didn't happen to have my camera. So I made a date with myself: the following Friday, 28 October 2005, on my 35th birthday, I would pin the entire swarm of butterflies. I would track my whole day. I would shamelessly star in (and script, and direct, and shoot, and score) the 24-Hour Michael Show. And this is it. I don't genuinely expect anyone in the world to look at all this. Unless, perhaps, I tell you there are pictures of me starkers. Well, nearly starkers. Well, there may be pictures of me totally starkers, but they may be hidden. If they're there. Which they may not be.

Somewhat Important Technical Consideration: This page contains nearly 10 megabytes of images. Due to the way DftRE works, technically, these are essentially embedded images. They load in the background while you are reading (hopefully before you get to them) and are positioned and made visible when you click on an image link. However, I never reckoned on putting this many images on one page. So, depending upon your connection speed (or, really, no matter your connection speed), it is very unlikely that all of the images will finish loading before the web server times out and gives up (which will happen in 300 seconds). So I've implemented a hack: every 300 seconds, the page will check to see if all the images are loaded – and if they're not, will reload the page. Reloading the page will reload the text – but will also restart the loading of images, basically where it left off. (The images already successfully loaded will be cached.) The net is you will likely find the page reloading itself every 5 minutes or so, at which time you'll have to twiddle thumbs for a few seconds. Sorry! As an additional note, if you find missing images, try giving it some time – and/or reloading the page yourself, which will kick-start the process. Finally, you might do well to go get a coffee (or a coffee and a waxing) while the images load. Reading all this tripe was a good start!

And, oh yeah, there are about a half dozen short movies. But these won't try to load until you click for them.

And so I began by cheating – or, at any rate, violating the spirit (if not the letter) of the project. I didn't go to bed until after midnight. Here's my phone, demonstrating that it is officially my birthday. I also shot my Mondaine Swiss Railway Conductors Watch (going-overseas gift from Joe & Laura) – but only as a transparent ploy to get my bookshelf in there, so you can be all impressed with what I've been reading. Then I retired.

I awoke – giddy as a boy on Christmas morning. I was so excited to begin. I rolled over and shot the phone again to record the beginning of the day. I turned on the light – and shot the view from my flying loft bed. I climbed down the ladder. (Carefully as heck, ever since I fell from the top, a boner from which my rotator cuff, it appears, is never to recover.)

I checked myself out in the mirror, as I do first thing every morning, lately – but this time, you have to check me out, too. (*) I took my morning drug cocktail – starting with the brain drugs and moving through my daily mega-multi-vitamin and other, erm, supplements. Then I looked at the clock – it was four o'clock in the bleeding morning. (I doublechecked by looking at the picture of the phone I'd immediately taken, which I'd been so excited and busy photographing it I hadn't looked at it at the time.) Boy on Christmas morning indeed.

I went back to bed.

I awoke again, this time when the phone alarm actually went off, at 7AM. I proceeded with the first really non-negotiable activity of the day. I checked myself out again (for obvious reasons after the non-negotiable activity). I stumbled to the closet – picking out something casual (it was Friday) but stylish (I'd be going out straight from work). I threw my book, phone, and other junk into the urban survival bag. I checked myself out dressed (at least we all do this – I think). (Yes, I know, my mirror is filthy. I'd been awfully busy and hadn't cleaned properly in rather too long. Didn't think about that I'd be photographing stuff in the mirror.) I grabbed my security badge. I locked the flat – with the tell-tale style of key of the central Londoner.

I do all this every morning, just to be clear. All except the obsessive photographing bit.

I descended the one flight to the entryway – where I discovered to my horror that four large dirty mattresses were still being stored there. Rather detracts from the pretty canary yellow walls, no? I'd indignantly been trying to get these removed for several days. Along with a new toilet seat. My flat is nice, the building generally lovely, the price right, and the location unbeatable; but the property is managed by an alcoholic Irishwoman who is pissed out of her mind when I go in there to pay my rent, generally around 3pm – and maintenance (or perhaps memory) are not her strong suits.

I emerged onto my street. Blighting dark! And rainy! Daylight savings time just ended; and, moreover, this is the part of the year when the nights really close in. (*). Much more to the point, I was miffed by the rain! When I'd planned this caper, of photographing lovely central London, a week earlier, it had been glorious. The day before, when I'd gone through my day sort of framing everything up, planning shots and captions, it was also lovely. Now it was black! Curses!

I rounded the corner, where the lovely church on the next block was just visible. I turned onto the garden square the church occupies – the very block (little did I know then) Sara was to move into, just a couple of weeks later! Sara lives on the next block from me now! Yip! It was rubbish pick-up day on this block, as I discerned by the flashing yellow light. The next street leads straight to my Underground station, the back pleasant way. Along it, I passed a mews. (*) There are a lot of hotels in this part of Kensington, including, lamentably a Holiday Inn – but one which at least has concierges in tophats and tails.

A wide variety of professional services are available in my neighborhood.

Just round the corner from the station is the cute little French-style cafe where the cabbies hang out of an early morning. They park right out front. (*) And at last: sweet little Gloucester Road station – my local Tube.

On the way in, I tried to shoot myself swiping my Oyster card on the scanner. (The Oyster card is your all-London pass, the smart travel card for Tube, train, and bus – I live by mine.) No luck. But one of the Londoner commandments is Thou Shalt Not For the Love of God Stop, Slow Down, or Otherwise Clog Up Traffic Flow at the Ticket Stiles.

And so Transport for London has this Platform4Art initiative where they do art installations (typically in partnership with one of the major museums) ON Tube platforms. Gloucester Road, with a big unused platform with arched brick alcoves, is pretty much one of the permanent galleries. They're just taking one down now. Honestly, this one was kind of rubbish. Actually, many of them are. But the concept is fantastic.

Transport for London is so technically advanced, their Help Point runs on PHP 11! Six versions ahead of the rest of us! Wow! On the downside, they've still got the old-style departure boards. But that picture certainly gives a feel of what it's like to wait for a train on my platform at quarter to eight.

Here comes my train! Here's me standing on the very edge of the platform to get an action photo and nearly being creamed by my train! Also lamentably, all my snappy-happy has delayed me – and my train is as result the proverbial cattle car. (*).

Nonetheless, on with the serious business of reading! The only way to fly. Well, okay, who am I kidding: on this day, I'm taking pictures instead. Here's the first stop on the way, people getting on and off at South Kensington. Here are the ubiquitous Tube adverts, many of which are quite amusing, and which provide reading material for those who don't read books. (*) Here's the platform at Victoria, which I wanted to, but wasn't quick enough, to get audio of the huge, booming "Mind the Gap" voice, which is huger and boominger at Victoria than anywhere. Here's the penultimate stop on my commute, Westminster, which is one of the newest stations – and also my favourite on the whole network. (*)

The guy standing next to me is reading something called "Bloody Foreigners, The Story of Immigration to Britain", which strikes me as just the thing to be reading on the Tube in London, and is going on my personal list. Unfortunately, when he sees me sighting in, he assumes I'm trying to shoot something behind him and solicitously moves out of the way, blurring the shot. But it's still a cool shot.

Then my stop, Embankment – and another attempt at capturing the Oyster swipe, not much more successful. Outside – the local fruit vendor. These guys are great – fantastic fresh fruit, cheap as chips; and friendly service by a couple of guys who periodically dress in costume (once, memorably, as nuns) for no readily apparent reason. This is on Villiers Street, a lovely little revitalised conduit between the river, two stations, and Trafalgar Square, and for which I have a soft spot, more on which later.

Then, duck into Victoria Embankment Gardens for the pleasant, four-minute walk to my office. There it is: The Adelphi! A glorious, art-deco, former 1920s-era grand hotel, overlooking the Thames Embankment. Just next to it you can just see (but will better see later) the Shell-Mex building – which is also art-deco (the clock that tops it could go on a very large, art-deco mantlepiece), and was the first corporate headquarters in the world to cost 1,000,000 to build. Here's a nice shot of the front exterior of my building.

When I went inside brandishing my camera, the two badge-checking security guys made as if to manhandle me – indicating that I needed permission from building management to take pictures! Plonkers. I sneaked one of the lobby after I got past them, albeit not the best part of the lobby. Here's the stairwell. Marble, innit. Like I said, former grand hotel.

And here's where the magic happens! The beating heart and soul of the IT group of the Information Directorate of the Department for Work and Pensions of Her Majesty's Civil Service! And here's the beating heart of the beating heart: Mr. John Ballinger – jaded, sardonic, very funny, and a prince of a guy. And the only other person here at this hour, due to having a two-year old son whom he likes to play with in the afternoons. He rides a motorcycle and used to run a diving shop and worked in Israel for three years and sits across from me.

First order of business: work mail. (*) But then on with the much more serious business of . . . FuchsMail!!!. Naturally, I can't telnet or POP3 through the firewall here. And, also naturally, all of the commercial web-based mail services are blocked. Which is when it's really helpful to run your own. And I'm rewarded with: the first birthday mail of the day, from darling Abbe! Isn't she sweet? (*)

Here's the view out the window behind my desk. (The windows were unopenable when I got here – until I applied two American virtues to mine: self-reliance and disrespect for arbitrary authority. Plus a pen knife screwdriver.)

Then on with the other inviolable business of the morning: caffeination!. (Yes, we have tea points rather than coffee rooms.) Speaking of that ole Civil Service work ethic, check this out. God forbid they should consider trimming the workforce to anything remotely in line with the work required! Or putting the workers where they're needed! Jesus. As long as I'm making you look at break room flyers, here's one detailing our newest (and probably most effective) IT strategy. Here's one I sort of always mentally take the piss out whenever I have to look at it, and now I can take the piss out of it for your amusement.

Here's one of the few really impressive technical innovations around here. Some IT guy missed his true calling in carpentry.

And after coffee, onto the second round of the first really non-negotiable activity of the day – but with different reading material this time.

Then I can get down to slinging some code, being as they're paying me to do so and all. Sodding Oracle client errors! Here, by the way, is what I've been building for the last year – when it works.

Before I know it, it's time for my (also non-negotiable) late morning workout. I exit the building, waving to Rudy, a very nice South African bloke who works in building security. Here's another shot of the Adelphi facade. And in a few steps I spill out into the manic energy of the Strand, where Chicago has been playing since I got here (and probably will do until I leave). I dart into the middle of the Strand, to give you a bit of the whole vibe.

So as I might have mentioned, my health club is next door, and I duck into the courtyard of the ShellMex building. It has this cool above-ground walkway I never noticed until recently. I swing down into the lobby of Holmes Place (the chain of health club) where I'm greeted by Keri. I'm rather sweet on Keri; it's something to do with the hair, the glasses, and the very slinky figure. Also, she's extremely nice. I sneak down to the locker room with my shameful haul of three fluffy towels.

Here's my locker (the little one's mine, the big one I just try to monopolize, for obvious reasons). Fire down my pre-workout supplement (still can't swallow pills – have to open the capsules and spill out the contents onto my tongue), dress out, load up my "thrash" playlist on the ole MP3 player, and hit the gym!

First stop: the stretching room, which I have to share with a personal trainer inflicting baroque contortions on a high-earning out-of-shape person (*) I proceed with my stuff, starting with legs, then the never-popular groin stretches. Then upper body, where I really still feel that rotator cuff injury.

Then, more's the pity for everyone, particularly you, chere reader: it's leg day! (*) First stop: squats!. I'll take a lot of bonus points for innovation and not to mention total stupidity for getting these shots, by the way. Then lunges! Followed by the equally never-popular calf raises. And, finally, resorting to a machine for quad extensions. (My leg workout has gotten a lot more effective, and also enjoyable, since I went to freeweights.)

The only thing more reprehensible than a "gentleman" peeking into the Ladies Only gym has got to be one peeking in and snapping a photo. You can just make out the shrinking violets on the left, and almost make out the keep out sign on the right.

Then dash back into the locker room (before I'm busted) to dress out for running – where I also very naughtily got this totally unwitting guy's naked bum in the frame! Billion web surfers, say hello to this guy's arse! Then (before I'm busted again) it's out into the lovely London autumn afternoon!

First, it's back out onto the Strand! Now, the thing to bear in mind looking at these shots from the running segment, liebe reader, is that I didn't stop running once to take a single shot. All are on the hoof (or, well, jogging in place). Luckily I had decent light, so focus more or less holds up.

Quickly past Charing Cross Station! Then Nelson's Column springs into view! Around the south side of Trafalgar Square, opposite the National Gallery. Underneath Admiralty Arch! (Lots of government buildings are flying the flag of the Royal Navy – a very rare occurrence – in honour of the Trafalgar Anniversary.) And, finally, onto the Mall – the Queen's front drive. When they have state visits, they drape the Mall in flags of the visiting country, and I'm ashamed to admit that as of this writing I still can't name the flag in the preceding shot, though for some reason it looks kind of Scandinavian to me.

Lovely, stately St. James's Park borders the Mall, and into it I swerve. But to my shock and horror I immediately come upon a murder! But they're obviously enjoying the carpet of leaves, and so am I. (There's another rare smiley picture of me, fam.)

At the other end of the Park, I jaywalk in front of Bucks House (here's a bit more of Liz's front yard), then dart into the next royal park on our tour, the Green Park. (That shot, by the way, shows the row of houses that at one time included Marchers from Brideshead Revisited, as I noted elsewhere.) Up that, the east, side of the park, then left along the north side, which borders Piccadilly.

And that, carissimo reader, you will be horrified to learn, brings us to the halfway point of the 200 photos in today's dispatch. Probably time to break for a movie or two.

     Believe it or not, I actually do sing a bit better than that. On pitch/key at any rate. I was just nervous from the camera. Actually, my ambition is to become known as the Royal Parks Air Drumming Guy – running through every morning air drumming wildly (and reasonably technically accurately).

I've got me . . . some horses . . . to ride on . . . to ride on . . . Here's the sort of southwest edge of the park (it's triangular). Along here I decided maybe my singing would work better with accompaniment, so I innovated and stuck one headphone up to the microphone on the camera.

     It's just not a run in the Royal Parks without a random unbidden marching band.
Me Saying the Above Out Loud (realmedia, 310kb)

     This bridge bisects St. James's Park and I take it to extend the run a bit. And, despite generally being mobbed with tourists, the view from it is listed in the "London: Hidden Secrets" guide that Sara gave me for my birthday.

After cruising this side of the Park, I exit and the Clock Tower (which houses, but isn't, Big Ben) hoves into view. I emerge into Parliament Square – where the Great Man himself presides. I'm kind of hoping to catch the 1pm lecture at the National Gallery; it isn't looking good, but I really like how I check the time in my world.

Video Farewell (realmedia, 213kb)

     Left at the foot of Westminster Bridge, and onto the Embankment – with views of the London Eye and Old County Hall (for now home of the Saatchi Gallery). Into (the other half of) Victoria Embankment Gardens, where lots of statues live: including this memorial to, I think, the Royal Navy Air Arm; Gordon, the British Army general who was killed by the Madhi at Khartoum along with most of his men, which the British Empire couldn't be having that, so they sent General Kitchener along with another army to lay down the smack, which they did with authority; and these other guys who I don't know who they are.

Back into the garden extensions (where we started the day walking to work), where you get a photo (a blurry one, sorry) of a man on a camel (Royal Camel Corps memorial) and a Romantic poet (Burns) and how could that be wrong? Loop back up to the Strand and back to the club. Nice hot shower, clean fluffy towels, get dressed, and exit. Ahh, the pause that really refreshes.

Back at my desk, I find that I've filled an entire memory card – before lunchtime. Wow. So I get busy downloading and processing some of the pictures, to be ready for tonight. Now, how's this for meta-dispatching? Truly behind the scenes where the magic happens, yeah? ;^p

Then! livin' for the nighttime, hit the city, dead on! (*) Here's Charing Cross Station – or, rather, what people take for it but is really Embankment Place, which was built on top of Charing Cross station – without even disrupting train service. Then up onto the Jubilee Bridges – crossing the river, where I will traverse a bunch of the South Bank on the way to my official birthday get-together at the Founders Arms, in front of the Tate Modern.

But first there are some amazing night-time views from this bridge: Here's the City, anchored by St. Pauls. Here's the Adelphi and ShellMex House – and a bit of Embankment Pier, all lit up, lovely at night! Here's the City again, with a ferry or two on the water.

     They've recently finished this redevelopment of the front of Royal Festival Hall (which sits at the other end of the bridge), which includes shops and restaurants and a nice promenade. From the South Bank, here's, inevitably, another shot of my buildings. In this one, you can just make out the silhouette of Cleopatra's Needle. (*)

Here's the National Film Theatre (NFT) – with their always-lively bar/cafe in the front. (*) Here's lovely Somerset House, another of London's great (and, in this case, little-known) cultural blandishments, across the water.

For reasons undetectable (except that they sometimes do things like this) they were showing Andy Warhol's 9-hour film of the Empire State Building (which consists of one 9-hour shot of the Empire State Building) on the side of the National Theatre (NT). You can sort of see it here. Here's a better shot of the NT, which is a cool building.

Here are some festive lights in the South Bank trees (St. Pauls slipping into the frame, as it will do). Here are those lights, with OXO Tower in the frame. (*) Here it all is with a bit of Gabriel's Wharf (where you can get a bite if you're desperate and don't mind tourists).

And but so there I was squatting at the dock railing, using it to steady my camera, when a voice offered, "Want one with you in it?" Julia! Julia is also an uncivil servant – she works for HM Treasury, near me, but actually right on the corner of Whitehall and Parliament Square. She'd indicated she was leaving for the gathering about the same time as me, but I had ungallantly not offered to walk with her. She'd caught me up. In revenge, I took this deer-in-headlights picture of her (but with a slow shutter and fill flash, so I got a bit of the other bank, albeit blurry. Then a rather decent one of the two of us. (*)

Here's a nice shot of Blackfriars bridge with, inevitably, St. Pauls. Here's the somewhat well-known Doggett's Pub, with al fresco drinkers. And at last our destination: The Founders Arms! (*)

On the patio outside, we find the beginnings of the group. They proceed to do this routine, lovely, Ryan-inspired thing where everyone already there sort of cheers out loud ("Heyy!!!") to welcome anyone new who shows up. I take drink orders, and I duck inside to buy a round (with Julia to help carry). We re-emerge, and now that I've remembered to take my camera out, I make everyone recreate the cheering thing.

So, it's Son, Ryan, and Paul (Korean, American, English – an entirely London proto-crowd) sitting across from me and Julia. And St. Pauls looking on benignly, from across the water. Very shortly, along come Henry, Yu Kyoung (Ryan's partner), and Jaeri – plus Sinae, Henry's partner, actually shown here (in the middle).

Did I mention it's glorious out? I verbally speculate that this is not only the last nicest night of the year – but with global warming and the probable collapse of the mid-Atlantic conveyor which keeps the British Isles a lot warmer than they have any right to be on this latitude – possibly the last nicest night of all time. And because of my birthday we all get to spend it having drinks on the river! Yay!

     Adaora turns up! Double yay. Adaora's a filmmaker (writer, producer, director), an Oxonian (no, nothing to do with Oxo soap, she went to Oxford; silly Americans! ;^), Nigerian, and everyone loves her (with good reason). She brought me a card (pictured). She also gave me a non-speaking part in her film RagTag, in which I got to play a North London tough roughing up a 9-year-old boy. I was born for that part.
     Nicole (Paul's partner, American, doctoral candidate in English) and Rael (also American, doctoral candidate in drama, inseparable from Nicole) turn up and order cow burgers. The Founders Arms continues to stand (in nice light). Son, Ryan, and Paul continue to sit across from me.

Adaora's a very dynamic individual. Son, who is a real ace photographer, insists on taking the camera to quite thoughtfully try to get some of me in. At first, we're all posing and pensive. But, of course, soon enough, Son gets us at ease. Adaora leaves all too soon, but after spending a dozen frames, I manage to pin the butterfly of her incomparably lovely smile.

Speaking of smiles: I'd silly let my phone battery run down, so I'd been keeping it off – and missing birthday calls. When I fired it back up, I had a number of really lovely bday messages. This one from Pops inspired an unfeigned reaction which speaks for itself.

Here's lovely Nicole. And lovely Rael. However, and absolutely no slight to the numerous other lovely women in our group, Son is by popular acclaim the most beautiful woman in the world. (And even more so in her Motorhead t-shirt, I assert.)

And then Jo and Ali turn up! These two (short for Jolene and Alistair – slightly confusing short-form names, gender-wise) are, in our group, the official ludicrously-bottomlessly-absurdly-nice-not-a-malign-bone-anywhere-in-their-bodies couple – and that's in a rather crowded field. Why does every group always seem to have one of these? Ali is Scottish and just finishing up a doctorate in mechanical engineering (while he's just started with an engineering firm on the south coast). Jo is half English and half Chinese and is a doctoral candidate (all these hyper-educated people) in meteorology. She gets to do things like cruise around over the Med in aircraft tricked out with flying airborne chemical analysis labs. (And, if Ali doesn't mind me pointing it out too much (or even if he does), Jo gives Son a solid run for her money in the Sheer Stunning Pulchritude Sweepstakes.)

Gareth (a sardonic Irishman) and Soojeong (also Korean, like Jaeri and Yu Kyoung, in addition to Son) appear! These two are the longest established couple, at something daunting like four years.

Okay, so all this time the Tate Modern has been perched over us like God's own, well, like God's own bankside power station, which is what it used to be. I wait until 15 minutes before they close to make the group (well, those that can be cajoled) dash over to pretend that it's a cultural birthday outing, rather than just another birthday piss-up at a pub. Dash dash dash! Stop for a photo! Dash dash dash!

We duck down the side-entrance ramp and into the Turbine Hall – the Modern's lobby and, in my view, the single coolest room in the entire world. Here we are in it!

At any given time, they typically have an installation in the Turbine Hall that tries (and it's a tall order) to really make use of the space. A new one's just gone in (they normally change yearly), and that's what we're here to view. Hmmm. Normally, blocks stacked in the corner is one of my pet examples of contemporary art that pegs my personal Wank-O-Meter. But, in this case, it at least has to be given points for drama and scale. The artist in question, Rachel Whiteread, is apparently a bit of a one-trick pony, dealing solely in negative space. In this case, she's dealing with 30,000-some casts of empty boxes.

We agree that it does at least provide a nice Alice in Wonderland-y vibe. But, then, we're a bit pissed. Jaeri and Yu Kyoung follow us up and we squat for a group photo avec boxes.

When we get back to the patio, Sam has turned up! Sam is an ex-public schoolboy (he's still got the accent) who recently lost a decade to, oh, substance and mental health issues. Lately he's been in the (very successful, and very brave) process of pulling together and rebuilding. He's got a really fine mind (including a keen interest in philosophy – which, come to consider it, probably correlates with mental health issues) and a great heart. God bless him.

Here's Fifers (that is, Ryan) in front of the Millennium footbridge (that is, the Wobbly Bridge). Here's a (for once focused) shot of St. Pauls, which was practically like an honourary attendee. Here's everyone at the table. Here's Fifers again, but smiling. Here's Sam in front of the Tate again, but cut off. Here's Fifers and Sam and a bit of Julia in front of St. Pauls. And here's Paul and Nicole, in front of St. Brides (which I've taken the liberty of bringing out of the photo a bit) and into which symbolism you may read plenty.

And then it was closing time! Awww . . . We begin to stumble back along the bank, passing Blackfriars Bridge again, glimpsing the Eye (which is green at the moment) – and weaving now in a rather pronounced fashion. We're pissed enough, in fact, for Fifers to avail himself of one of the – rather shocking when first encountered – outdoor public urinals. (Hey, it beats having people pissing in the streets!)

Somewhere along the line, the decision is taken – by the more hardcore, at least – to extend the evening. We decide on one of the semi-secret Korean joints (for obvious reasons, we're down with the Korean community) near the Tottenham Court Road. A supplemental decision is taken to make it one of the Korean karaoke joints. Yeah, cheers. A number of people grab a minicab or two; but, for no readily apparent reason, other than drunkenness, Fifers and Julia and I grab a bus, realise it's heading toward precisely the wrong end of Oxford Street, then get busy hoofing it up Regent Street, and then Oxford Street (in the rain).

After egregious delay, we locate the joint, hook up with the others, have preliminary (or, rather, supplemental) drinks – then descend to a private room with a bank of karaoke video monitors and get on with the serious business of making drunken singing fools of ourselves.

But it's awfully good fun. (Son is good even with my camera lens egregiously fogged after coming in from the rain.) (Oh, that's Charlie, there – English, a City accountant, and Son's partner.) That's Fifers' head. Yu Kyoung and Jaeri kick it old school.

     Eventually, they call us up to our table. Shortly after, food hits it. Ultimately, we all spill out onto Oxford Street, where I do my best to avoid a troublesome 36th birthday by standing in the middle of the street to shoot an oncoming bus (with Centrepoint Tower in the distance). As we totter along, I peer down a random alley to find this. (You have to look around in London.) Eventually, this walking business gets old, and we punt and grab a cab – here's the view out the front. And here's the Natural History Museum blurring drunkenly by as we zip through South Ken. These photos capture the end of the evening quite nicely.
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close photo of Michael Stephen Fuchs

Fuchs is the author of the novels The Manuscript and Pandora's Sisters, both published worldwide by Macmillan in hardback, paperback and all e-book formats (and in translation); the D-Boys series of high-tech, high-concept, spec-ops military adventure novels – D-Boys, Counter-Assault, and Close Quarters Battle (coming in 2016); and is co-author, with Glynn James, of the bestselling Arisen series of special-operations military ZA novels. The second nicest thing anyone has ever said about his work was: "Fuchs seems to operate on the narrative principle of 'when in doubt put in a firefight'." (Kirkus Reviews, more here.)

Fuchs was born in New York; schooled in Virginia (UVa); and later emigrated to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he lived through the dot-com boom. Subsequently he decamped for an extended period of tramping before finally rocking up in London, where he now makes his home. He does a lot of travel blogging, most recently of some very  long  walks around the British Isles. He's been writing and developing for the web since 1994 and shows no particularly hopeful signs of stopping.

You can reach him on .

THE MANUSCRIPT by Michael Stephen Fuchs
PANDORA'S SISTERS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
D-BOYS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
COUNTER-ASSAULT by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book One - Fortress Britain, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Two - Mogadishu of the Dead, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN : Genesis, by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Three - Three Parts Dead, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Four - Maximum Violence, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Five - EXODUS, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN Book Six - The Horizon, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Seven - Death of Empires, by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Eight - Empire of the Dead by Glynn James & Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN : NEMESIS by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Nine - Cataclysm by Michael Stephen Fuchs

ARISEN, Book Ten - The Flood by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Eleven - Deathmatch by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Twelve - Carnage by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Thirteen - The Siege by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN, Book Fourteen - Endgame by Michael Stephen Fuchs
ARISEN : Fickisms
ARISEN : Odyssey
ARISEN : Last Stand
ARISEN : Raiders, Volume 1 - The Collapse
ARISEN : Raiders, Volume 2 - Tribes
Black Squadron
ARISEN : Raiders, Volume 3 - Dead Men Walking
ARISEN : Raiders, Volume 4 - Duty
ARISEN : Raiders, Volume 5 - The Last Raid
ARISEN : Fickisms ][ – This Time, It's Personal
ARISEN : Operators, Volume I - The Fall of the Third Temple
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