Thursday, November 25, 2004

So I’ve moved house. My new abode is in the merry borough of Islington, North London. Which officially makes me a beardy, Guardian-reading, sandal wearing liberal. Little does it matter that I never wear sandals and aspire to never sport a beard of any kind whatsoever – excepting perhaps for any cool looking goatee type apparitions.

Perhaps my opinions of facial growth and footwear will subtly change over the coming months as who one is appears to be defined by where one lives. Over the coming days I will be carefully scrutinising newsagents for evidence: I am expecting to see large piles of Guardian and Independent newspapers and a tiny to pathetic collection of copies of the Daily Mail and Express on the shelves. I will be scanning shoe shops for sandals; chemists for beard-treatment products; supermarkets for tofu; grocers for organic greens; and of course streets for bicycles scooters.

That geography can affect personality is fairly easy to spot. Go to many of the commuter towns on the inside rim of the Home Counties circling London (or indeed run down areas of central London) and do some chav spotting. These individuals are so alike that it takes significant effort and application to talk to one and find the true human being underneath. Their souls are encased beneath shells of tracksuits (rather sportingly entitled “shell suits”), oversized trainers, ridiculous looking baseball hats and too often white jumpers emblazoned with the logo of some awful clothes manufacturer. During the winter evenings the females like to advertise how hot they really must be by exposing as much of themselves as possible to the cooling frost. This might sound like gross over-stereotyping, but having lived in such an area for a not inconsiderable time I can assure you the stereotypes are unfortunately justified. And many chavs – and I have seen this all too often – are responsible for much of what is now politically termed as ‘antisocial behaviour’.

Now being a softy liberal I have only sympathy for these unfortunate individuals who are after all only born into the British equivalent of the American red neck situation. I now feel duty bound to say that if only we weren’t so antagonistic and ready to judge these kids they would not feel the need to react like a horse fed with a large flagon of Tabasco Sauce. They really do need their problems to be understood by others. How isolated they must feel in the land between urban and rural Britain – how symbolic their geographical position is of their lives in modern British society.

Of course if you travel from chav country in either direction towards or away from London you will encounter Tory Country. Enter a newsagent’s on a Sunday morning before the young paperboys have collected their morning’s work and gasp at the mighty pile of Mail on Sunday’s stretching to the ceiling. As a penniless teenager I was employed to do a paper round in such an area. The leafier the road, the greater the percentage of Mail readers – I even distributed one daily to the ex-Arsenal manager Bertie Mee, who in 1971 delivered the league and cup double to Highbury.

What would these people say about chavs? (I discourage you from attributing the late great Mr Mee to any labels as dealing with individuals would clearly be neither accurate nor fair and I’m trying to stereotype wildly here. He did give me a fiver at Christmas once as well.)

I suspect it would be a gloomy view possibly connected with a sense of decomposing societal and family values allied with an incompetent judicial system.

Thinking about it, I have lived in all these areas. Everyone knows in reality that these places are in fact veritable rainbows of political thought and only loosely pertain to my extremely basic pigeonholing. But the point is, now I’m in Islington I have to philosophise wildly about the world around me until I too hide behind the shell of a beard and possibly a side parting.

Question: So have I found my political home in trendy liberal Islington…?

Analysis: I have been rambling meaninglessly about politics with no discernable direction.

Conclusion: So yes it seems like it.

Analysis: But I have enjoyed thoroughly slating and mocking common folk.

Conclusion: So perhaps not.

Analysis: All of which goes to show I’m confused about my politics.

Conclusion: So actually yes.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

At times being a Londoner in London can be an odd experience. Last night I was at a party in Kensal Rise at which my friend and I were the only two English people present. Swedes, French, Candians, and a spattering of individuals from elsewhere wandered round a large house probing each others social skills. And very weird it was too. I would have thought, having returned from travelling and meeting such people, that I would be comfortable in such a scenario. Obviously I spoke to many people but one finds oneself resorting to old and unoriginal conversation techniques when nothing else comes to mind. Whilst travelling the questions that get all too frequently asked would be:

What's your name?

Where are you from?

How long have you been travelling?

How long are you staying here?

Where are you going next?

What do you do at home?

What's your name again?

Snore. I guess such interrogation gives the questioner a sense of who they are dealing with and a start to a conversation.

Last night these questions got adapted to:

What's your name?

Where are you from?

How long have you been in London?

Do you like it here?

How long are you staying here?

What is your job?

Pretty dull then. I found myself in the hallway in the vicinity of a girl and I decide to find out the answers to such deep and fundamental questions. She is from Norway, she's been here two months, she quite likes London but hasn't really seen much of it, and she is working at her restaurant for four more months. Interesting. I flirted around such questions as "have you visited the Tate Modern?" I tried to ask what sort of films she likes or music she listens to. I am asked about good clubs to visit or cheap places to eat. I wasn't chatting her up; I was probing the variety of my own social skills in an unfamiliar situation. I noticed that the whole evening consisted of asking or being asked questions. I'm sure it wasn't like this on my travels...

Having said all this I did meet some interesting people and did have a fair few more interesting conversations. The party was made up mostly of young Europeans who have come to London and are generally working in bars, as nannys, or whatever else they can get their hands on. In general they don't meet too many locals - and we locals don't often meet them. It's a world away from the London I have known.

In hindsight I wish I'd asked more random questions; it would have made for a more interesting evening:

Toilet rolls. Front hanging or back hanging?

Are you a man or a woman?

Do you find it a bit unnerving doctors call what they do practice?

Does anti-freeze freeze?

What colour does a smurf turn when you choke it?

What are you going to say next?

Why isn't there mouse-flavored cat food?

and so on.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Sorry Everybody is the site that has attracted millions of hits over the past days as Americans photograph their ugly mugs and post them on the internet apologising for the re-election of lunatic leader George Bush. That the American electorate only had the option to choose between a right wing leader and an extreme right wing leader goes some way to excusing them.

In response to this phenomenon, pro-Bush started their own copycat We're Not Sorry site. But it seems to have fallen by the wayside and now leads only to a domain hosting site (although perhaps this is a temporary fault - clicky clicky to find out). However not before it encouraged the piss take site We Is Not Sorry which lists the top states by IQ pointing out that only those states at the bottom actually voted for Bush. Be warned that the photo page contains images that some may find difficult to stomach. Not that I want to encourage you. This site also features an apparent quote from an author who I'm faithfully told by a librarian friend is one of the best writers alive today, Hunter S. Thompson. Which I faithfully plagiarise here:

"We have become a Nazi monster in the eyes of the
whole world--a nation of bullies and bastards who
would rather kill than live peacefully. We are not
just whores for power and oil, but killer whores with
hate and fear in our hearts. We are human scum, and
that is how history will judge us... No redeeming
social value. Just whores. Get out of our way, or
we'll kill you.

Who does vote for these dishonest shitheads? Who
among us can be happy and proud of having this
innocent blood on our hands? Who are these swine?
These flag-sucking half-wits who get fleeced and
fooled by stupid rich kids like George Bush?

They are the same ones who wanted to have Muhammad
Ali locked up for refusing to kill gooks. They speak
for all that is cruel and stupid and vicious in the
American character. They are the racists and hate
mongers among us--they are the Ku Klux Klan. I piss
down the throats of these Nazis.

And I am too old to worry about whether they like it
or not. Fuck them."

- Hunter S. Thompson

We Is Not Sorry is certainly not the only piss take site on the internet oh-no-siree. Others include:

The Flat Earth Society

George W. Bush's Re-selection Site

Psychedelic Republicans

UK Adverts

UFO Abduction Insurance

National Rifleman's Kooky Kids Korner

...and then of course there is the classic and utterly utterly brilliant White House.

Not that any of this signals America's increasing polarisation.... Fuck The South...

Saturday, November 13, 2004

With the Green Cross Code Man as his mortal enemy, Obi Wan tries his hand at road safety...

Two-headed tortoise? I ask yer...

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

I have recently acquired a copy of Football Manager 2005 so you’ll understand why the date shown above is so distant from the date shown above my last posting. Hmm, actually I wouldn’t want my friend Rob to leave a comment revealing that in reality I got the full version of the game only yesterday so I’d better alter my initial comment: I have recently acquired a copy of Football Manager 2005 so you’ll understand why the date shown above is likely to be some distance from the date shown above my next posting.

I’ll try not to let this happen too much.

So, it’s been a while. Apologies. You’ll understand I’m sure that on my return I had much to do. Including getting my old job back – although now in freelance shape and appearance. I had many friends and family to contact and much photography to exhibit. Sadly I returned home in time for… Family Karaoke! But it was good to see the people involved. Out of the usual pathetically poor choices on offer I felt the least offensive was "Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me", I sank to my knees in mockery as I warbled. Seven months abroad and karaoke had loomed large. In a guesthouse in Saigon my room appeared to be situated next to a rather loud karaoke-singing man who was consistently far less tuneful than a cats chorus. Any karaoke CD production company who produces a CD with anything approaching half-decent music rather than this vacuous clean cut middle-of-the-road shit will surely clean up. As will any camera manufacturer who markets a mid-priced camera that actually takes a photograph the moment one presses the button rather than three seconds after. Who wants to capture a moment three seconds into the future?

When that same karaoke-plagued room in Saigon was infested with over thirty cockroaches I took the situation calmly: for it was a silent afternoon. I’ll never forget the cleaner somehow cramming dozens of cockroaches into a cigarette packet before drowning them with ‘roach spray – many legs stuck out the top of the packet all thrashing about furiously as the spray took its deadly effect.

Karaoke wasn’t the only thing I came back to which cushioned my return. In Asia I had been eating much rice and noodles. And since restaurants are actually cheaper than buying food and cooking it, I hadn’t eaten home cooked food since Australia – and that was my home cooked food. So it probably doesn’t count. So when I met my dear Mama she offered me two options: a trip to the Chinese or a trip to the Indian restaurants. Not that I want to complain – I was very grateful. Actually I had missed a good old English Indian curry. Nothing beats it I assure you. The next day my Mum prepared chicken with rice…

Another reason for my posting ineptitude was that there was a certain laziness there – a desire to lay back and enjoy the comforts of home. So I‘m not too depressed to be back. I actually enjoy a quiet evening catching some television, although I’m disappointed to have spotted few changes for the better. My Playstation 2 was unpacked with great relish, and my bass guitar has been cradled somewhat. Plus it’s been interesting to stalk through London with fresh laser corrected vision. Marvellous really.

I lucked out on my flight home. Cheapo cheapo Kuwait Air aren’t exactly the most luxurious carriers I’ve travelled with and their food was as gross as I have had on a long haul flight, but I had a window to my left and two empty seats to my right. Up go the arm rests, every blanket is taken out of its wrapper and I bury myself under a sea of pillows. Bliss.

And so I’ve seen many of my friends. And almost every one of them, plus many members of my family said:

“You look thinner.”

“I didn’t realise I was fat before.” I replied in almost those exact words every time.

“You weren’t.”

“So do I look very thin now?”

“No. You look good.”

“Did I look bad before?”


“But my stomach was flat then and is flat now.”

“Don’t show me that.”

I still don’t understand. Perhaps it is something to do with the fact that I had a dodgy tummy for about a month before I returned. It was such that I felt both hungry and full up constantly. So probably my present ‘healthy’ condition is as a result of an illness. Such are the pressures of today’s society that one has to become gaunt from sickness to look attractive. No wonder the world is rife with anorexics and bulimics.

Either that or the small bit of facial hair I’ve cultivated on my bottom lip – a kind of Hitler moustache but underneath the mouth – lends a kind of stripy look that helps to make my face look thinner. Vertical stripes and all that.