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Monthly Archives: September 2009

Scene: 10:30pm Parliament Square. I am sitting on a curb, drawing the famous statue of Churchill, lit only by street lights. An older gentlemen in a suit with a striped tie approaches.

2 characters – M: the old man. D: Duane

M: “You’re drawing that?!?”

D: “Yes sir.”

M: “…that statue?”

D: “Yes sir.”

M: “You know who that is, right?”

D: “Of course, sir it’s Winson Churchill.”

M: “He was a great man, wasn’t he?”

D: “Yes he was. It’s a great statue too. I admired this statue before I even came here.”

M: “Where you from?”

D: “The midwest of the United States.”

M: “Looks good.”

D: “Thank you, sir.”

Older man walks to the corner, as if to cross the street, turns around and returns, pointing at tie…

M: “You know, my regiment (continues pointing at tie) the … (didn’t catch the name – see footnote) … they called us “Churchill’s Butchers” because he relied on us so much.”

D: “That’s incredible. Where did you serve?”

(dramatically, with a wave of the hand in the air) M: “Everywhere. But Northern Ireland mostly. Take care, now.”

Scene: 10:32pm Parliament Square. I am sitting on a curb, drawing the famous statue of Churchill, lit only by street lights. An older gentlemen in a suit with a striped tie departs.


Cursory internet “research” has turned up multiple “Churchill’s Butchers.” So who knows which division he actually served with, but he was a nice old guy.

In the process of finding a flat here in London, I’ve seen lots of shady stuff. But one of my favorites is not a patent scam, but what I call the Contact Leader.

Here’s how it works – you get the newest apartment listings (from Loot or Gumtree) – I mean, hot off the presses. And you see listings – always at the top of the estate agent’s full page ad. They are always unbelievable deals.

And they are always gone by the time you call, even that very minute… and they don’t even bother to pause as if they’re looking up a specific property, they just say “Sorry, that one has been rented…” And the next line is “but we DO have this ____ (same apartment type) in _____ (same neighborhood) for only _____ (1-1/2 times the price of the deal) if you’d like to take a look.” This kind of shady selling isn’t dangerous, just annoying. There’s always a phone contact, because they to rent places out quickly.

So if you see one that’s email only (more prevalent on Gumtree than in Loot) it’s probably a scam.

I emailed about a couple “too good to be true” flats whilst in the apartment hunting process a few weeks ago, figuring they were either contact leaders or outright scams. And I cannot make this up. It’s absolutely precious

Thanks for your response and Enquiry, the flat is still available to rent.
My name is [_____] and i am a private landlord.although i own the flat,i do not live in it because i am actually  practicing medicine in [_____].However,i will be willing to meet you,get to know you and show you round the flat so that you can see what you are renting.
The flat is  a fully furnished.
– Toilet and Bathroom with Shower
– Kitchen with modern fittings
– Dish washer/Dryer
– Washing Machine
– Cable TV
– Wired Internet connection
– Street Parking space available
– Tube station five minutes
The price i am looking for is £500 per month  including all bills.
Meanwhile, Below are the lease terms:
* An advance payment of the 2 months rent and one month deposit shall be paid.
* The Rent shall be paid on Monthly.
* If you will need to vacate the flat, notice shall be given a month prior to intended day of moving.

Will you be able to take good care of my Flat like your own?
Do you have the money to pay me if you like the Flat after viewing?
Waiting to read from you.


Now, it’s obviously a scam. Which is what I expected. But what was so hilarious to me is that I got one of these back from EACH person I emailed about the unbelievable deals…

As in – I got two copies of a form letter where the perpetrator-to-be just changes the random name and the random place they’re practising medicine, and the rest is identical.

You see a lot of innovative stuff out there, but these guys aren’t breaking any new ground. I would, however, love to get everyone’s opinions on the individual elements in the email that are indicators that it’s a scam… for example, why is the “doctor” around to meet you if they are practising medicine in [_____]? One of the ones I got was a guy apologizing for his poor English, even though he owns property in England and purports to practice medicine in Denmark. I don’t know if you know, but the Danes speak excellent English…

What are the other red flags you see?

[thought process follows]

Man. This movie score sure is awesome…

I really do love those 20th century composers. Shame I don’t have the money to buy ALL the music I want, or friends who listen to it from whom to borrow.

WAIT. I belong to a University. Universities have music libraries. Even if no one else has it, music libraries have 20th century modern composition.

That means I bought a friend I can skeeze it all from.

This is going to be a very good year.

[end thought process]

Just got the wordpress app for my (jailbroken. got a problem with that? Didn’t think so. Move along, narc.) iPhone. So I can easily upload stuff like this on the fly.

Here is an “aged person crossing” warning in Brighton. Cute, eh?

And here also is my new favorite intersection, Vague Gyratory. Erm, “Vogue” Gyratory rather. Still, I can’t make this stuff up if I tried, folks.

Sometimes in the life of the superstar blogger, so much has happened since you last posted that you almost fear having to catch your large and rapt audience up with those thrilling events that have pulled you away from your solemn duty to your dear reader. I am filled with that fear right now.

So here’s how I’ve spent my time…

After booking my flight in a previous post, and deciding not to take my bicycle in another, I was all set – my funding was going to come in, my visa had time to go through, and I was going to attend the expensive but impressive Architectural Association School of Architecture.

36-37 Bedford Square

36-37 Bedford Square

Driftwood on Bedford Square

Driftwood on Bedford Square, across the street from the AA

Ridiculous paperwork snafus delayed my funding, which delayed my visa. So I came over to the UK on that previously booked ticket to arrange housing, get the lie of the land of the school and of the city. And I booked a flight back to the states to take care of the visa, for when the requisite paperwork would finally be in, but before school started. I got to London, had some tasty food, got to know the AA a bit and toured an endless succession of apartments of all qualities all over the boroughs. Searching for the right apartment is a great way to learn a city really well.



Ten years ago, an American wouldn’t have gone to Whitechapel or Mile End without reason, but now they are common places for AA and Bartlett students to live. I looked at multiple apartments there – it’s a really interesting area. Had I not turned up the unique situation below, I would have limited my search to that area of East London.

Idea Store Whitechapel

Adjaye's Idea Store Whitechapel

Mile End

Mile End

So – I helped a really cool diploma student at AA find a great place in North London and other room mates, and almost signed on with him… But I had to balk. Because it seemed for a little while that I might not be able to go to graduate school this year at all… I’ll spare you the details save to say that when the dust settled, I decided to jump the AA ship and instead to attend the Bartlett School of Architecture’s AVATAR program.

Through the apartment search, I found a place with a self-described “crazy vegetarian granny” in Tufnell Park. AND I also got an offer from housing from the University. I toured the very nice single room they were offering. The dorm is down the street from Kensington Gardens. Since I was in the neighborhood, I swung by. Currently outside the Serpentine Gallery there is the Serpentine Pavilion by SANAA. And it is amazing.

The Serpentine Pavilion epitomizes "affect"

The Serpentine Pavilion epitomizes "affect"

I got such a good vibe off of the “crazy granny” that I decided to forego the dorm to live in her spare room. And I was proud to realize later that week that Tufnell Park is also where Spaced is set. In fact, the house they used for the exteriors is one street away from where I’ll be living.

One thing you should know about London before you come to visit me is that it is torn apart. In every rebuilding, there is a stage of maximum deconstruction. London is all loose ends awaiting re-weaving in preparation for the Olympics.

Mind the Mess

Mind the Mess

Of course, I am personally and academically interested in the aesthetics of this state of incompleteness, and will be soaking up the states-of-becoming in the London public works while I’m here.

Back to the narrative – I was all set to return to the US for this visa deal, but first there was some cricket to be dealt with.

Mitch Johnson of the conquering Aussies

Mitch Johnson of the conquering Aussies

My best friend Charlie works for a sports team, and through his connections, he was able to score tickets to the one day match between England and Australia. I didn’t understand cricket one bit when I showed up to Lord’s Cricket Ground that day. I understood it one – or maybe two bits when I left, eight heat exhausted hours later. And I mean literally heat exhausted…

I'm barely together here

I'm barely together here

And as is their penchant in cricket, England lost. And badly this time. But they were taking a whole lot of solace in having quite improbably regained the Ashes last month. Which is a big deal, I guess.

Despite the loss, that was the last night of the Proms, so it was time to stiffen that upper lip and break out the Union Jack. Charles’s wife Kate, and their upstairs neighbors Matt and Paul – all English – explained to me that the Last Night of the Proms is the only time of the year when otherwise progressive Brits are pretty much under order to turn flag-wavingly patriotic and sing along to orchestral versions of Land of Hope and Glory and Jerusalem, celebrating their Imperial history. It was a strange transformation.

...and was Jerusalem built on England's Satanic hills?

...and was Jerusalem built on England's Satanic hills?

So the day after that, I went back to the states for a week – originally intending to have a full student visa by the time I came back. But, all this craziness with switching schools made that impossible. So I just relaxed a bit, and did the necessary leave and return routine to get at least a temporary student visa to initiate my studies. I’ll have to go back at Christmas and make things more official. But I just got back to London today, and I am looking forward to working hard, kicking ass and learning a lot. The last two and a half months have been full of business that was unfortunately not architecture, studying, or making money. I am happy to leave it behind.

Everything seems to be coming together well for the Bartlett – I start orientation this Wednesday, and I am incredibly excited by what lies ahead. Thanks for your interest. I will keep you posted, my dear adoring public.

View from University College London

Belgravia Tower from University College London