Saturday, March 17, 2012

To Market, to market...

 We went off today to buy, or rather trade, a new Wacom tablet for Bob at the Covent Garden Apple Store. She's found that for her work there's an expectation that she'll fiddle with assets in Photoshop, quite outside the nature of her actual roles, and doing that with a mouse is like trying to sew with a block of soap. We ducked into the store on Thursday night after work to grab the tablet, initially, but she wasn't able to try it out in store. Unfortunately once we got it home and had a look at it, we found that it had an active area roughly the size of a postcard. Which was annoying, because the tablet itself was about the size of an 11" netbook, and the box it came in was too big to fit in her backpack. So we went back today, swapped it for the next size up, parted with more cash, and wet our merry way.
Which was across the road to Covent Garden markets. There are a lot of these spaces around London that we've found - historical markets that are near churches, with an associated open space and a covered market hall, generally dating back to somewhere in the 19th century. They're pretty varied as to what they now provide, but all feel like they've been active markets with unbroken traditions dating back to, well, forever.

The Borough market is under and around the rail bridges and flyovers at London Bridge, and specialises in fine food. The Camden markets sprawl around the canal locks, and specialise in tourist tat and cheap T-shirts. Covent Garden is arts and crafts, and some cafes, and specialises in really nice affordable art pieces. It's on three levels, with the lower level below street level and full of cafes, including someone with HUGE pans of fresh paella
 As we proceeded I heard opera being sung, and we found this couple of buskers - an actual couple, with their baby waiting patiently in it's pram on the sidelines - singing opera at each other, at the crowd above them, and at the people in the caf├ęs. To my delight, they concluded with "Tonight, Tonight" from West Side Story, playing it out up and down the stairs and around the courtyard.

I was delighted by the way that Tony was singing down from the stairs to Maria, while the crowd pushed past up and down the stairs, and really struck by the way that Maria was singing to the crowd below - playing out her part and telling the audience what she was feeling, as if they weren't playing out parts.
We've been going well, although we've been frantically busy still. Bob's been finding work, although it's been short term contracts so far, and I've been working longer hours than I intended, a habit I'm trying to break. 

My work is good. I'm working for a company called Somo, who are a full-service mobile advertising agency. Not quite an industry I ever expected to be in, but I'm enjoying the energy and creativity in the company. We really are a full-service agency, able to do everything from design to implementation of mobile solutions for advertising (including Android and iOs applications), and my role is closing the circle on the process - we're building out an application which will enable the ad agencies to accurately correlate advertising about the applications to downloads and use of the applications, and the response to any banner ads in the applications themselves.

It's a great position for me - the application exists in beta form provided by a third party, and I'm the first Java hire in the team that will take it to production, with development bought back in-house. It's exactly the sort of thing I want to be doing, and gives me the chance to finally put into practice the beliefs I've been developing and espousing.
And back to Tony and Maria. At the end of their song, she walked slowly toward him, and they embraced, while the crowd applauded.

This is the sort of thing that makes this city amazing. There's always something interesting around the corner, something breathtaking, or amusing, or inspiring.