Monday, 26 October 2009

Knitwear news

Winter is creeping in. How do I know this? Because it's a) cold, b) dark and c) because you start seeing pavement-kill knitwear hung up on walls, hedges and fences - like these gloves, which I saw on my walk to the station one morning last week (What is more sinister than a belted glove? I will tell you: a leather belted glove. Brrr):

Most days, you avert your eyes from the woolly carnage. You turn the other rosy winter cheek. You've got both your gloves, thanks, your hands are nice and warm and you aren't that interested in a damp, trampled child's mitten. But on another day last week, I saw this:

Wait, hang on… that looks like… is it…? Yes. It is. It is a Jo Gordon scarf. A beautiful Jo Gordon scarf. Precisely the kind of scarf, in fact, that I have coveted for years. The kind that is four times as expensive as the usual scarves I buy. Also, I really like stripes. Look, here are some of my other scarves:

Soon, my brain was grappling with the politics of keeping the pavement-kill scarf. Firstly, given its obvious superior quality, it had clearly been lost, not abandoned. Its owner had simply failed to notice it being lifted away by the breeze, so intent was she (I'm assuming) on pedalling the bicycle-cum-wheelbarrow that steel-thighed middle-class mums now like to transport their brood to school in. Or it had been mangled under the wheels of a pushchair. In picking it up off the wall, I would, to the passing and curious, look like a) a thief or b) a vagrant. Unless… I picked it up with a kind of fabricated whoop of relief, a Surprised Face and a cry of, 'Thank God, it's found. My scarf! MY scarf. I've felt so worried! And so poor because it's really expensive. And also stripey.' To be honest, this was a tall order for my GCSE in drama.

Anyway, whichever way I chose to appropriate the scarf, it was a high-risk operation given the insularity of Dulwich's middle-class hangouts. I could never relax and enjoy a roasted vegetable and tapenade sandwich in one of the area's lifestyle cafes, or join the snaking queue outside the organic butcher, for fear of someone tapping me on the shoulder and saying apologetically, 'Excuse me, I think you might be wearing my scarf..?' In which instance, I would obviously have to say, 'No! Of course not! What on earth do you mean? What's that? A name tape? Oh yes. Yes, that's my name. Oh, it's yours too. What an ABSOLUTELY INCREDIBLE COINCIDENCE.'

I did not take the scarf. The next morning, it was gone. But a little further down the road I saw this:

A banana skin, on a narrow wall, under a tree. So, maybe that scarf had been left out in the cold to make me look like an idiot if I couldn't help but take it. And now, someone was trying to play one of the neighbourhood squirrels for a fool.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

In which I demonstrate that palaeontologists are cruel and unfeeling

When you are returning to South Kensington tube station from the Royal Albert Hall late in the evening, after they have closed the tunnel that promises to be a short cut, yet never, ever feels like one, you walk down the side of the Natural History Museum. Last night, I noticed that the palaeontology boffins had left the lights on in one of the back rooms – yeah, big up our planet with your all-singing, all-interactive exhibits, boffins, but at the same time, KILL IT with your profligate attitude towards energy usage.

Anyway, through the window I saw this:

There, abandoned on top of some lonely cupboards, like a broken tennis racket or an ugly, inherited suitcase, was a small diplodocus*†.

Jesus, palaeontologists, show some respect. She's 150 million years old. She lived every day in mortal fear of the Tyrannosaurus rex** so you could dick around at university for the best years of your life.

* or effigy of
** probably not. Diplodocuses are notoriously dim, so she probably lived every day thinking, 'Woh! My tail's really long. Cool!' and also 'Mmm, delicious foliage.'

Saturday, 24 October 2009

In which I once again demonstrate to you my gift for live concert photography and, according to my prerogative, wholly contradict a previous post…

…in which I expressed my contempt for individuals taking out-of-focus mobile phone photos at gigs. Anyway, voila, as they say in France, and some parts of Switzerland:

Missing in action: Chapman.
Missing in alimony: Cleese.

Due to the considerable emotion of this occasion, I may have mixed up Cleveland and Gilliam when labelling this picture. Soz, Carol.

Monday, 19 October 2009

What not to wear

Here is a screengrab from the front page of Ebay earlier today.

Ebay are suggesting that the black velvet number above is a dress you might want to wear to your Prom.

I am suggesting that if this is the dress you wear to your Prom, you will spend most of the evening crying in the toilets, while mocking shouts of 'Oi! Jane Eyre! Who's in your attic?' ring in your ears.

You have surprisingly literate bullies at your school.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Beware the Dreadlock Of Unusual Size

There are a great many Things about London, and one of those Things is that on any day, a day that may start just like all the others, you can suddenly notice a person in the street that you've never seen before. And then, the day after that, you might see them again, and you wonder how this should be, and why they've suddenly arrived in your life, and where they've been up until this point, and what the men who sit in the high, high cabins of construction cranes above the city who, as everyone knows, orchestrate everything that goes on on the streets beneath them, have in store for the pair of you.

And then you never see them again and the drudge consumes you once more, and you forget any of those thoughts that went before.

Yesterday, on the short journey between London Bridge and Southwark Street, I found myself walking behind this man and his… well, I would like to call it a mono-dreadlock, but it was not working alone. However, its considerable girth far outstripped that of its siblings. In keeping with my ongoing fad for allusions to the icons of 80s light entertainment, in the dreadlock Roly-Polys, this one was definitely Mo.

Then, this morning, I found myself following the same man and his prolifically unwashed hair once again and I was gripped by a chilly terror – that the end of that dreadlock would rear up towards me like a furry, unwashed cobra, and two beady red eyes would open, and a terrible, tiny jaw would unlock, and a set of pernicious, pointy little teeth would come right for me. I am slightly scared to go to bed tonight for fear that this is a portrait that will have been painted inside my closed eyelids. It is the night of the living dreadlock.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Exciting/doomed interactive element

At the weekend, I won this:

What is it? I don't know. Let's find out together, because the internet is all about sharing.

I am fairly confident when I say it is used in the cooking/baking arts. The mystery object has two not-quite-pointed ends, with a ridged middle section. It could be a rolling pin, and maybe it is, only you would end up with a rubbish criss-crossed pattern all over your pastry, which I quite often do, but not intentionally. Here is a picture that gives an indication of its size, in comparison with the 30cm Mr Men ruler I have had since I was about 6, and a regular household teaspoon, that I have had since I was about 28, probably.

I am hereby setting a competition in which enormous amounts of prestige and an actual genuine prize will be awarded to the best person/the first person/a person/someone/anyone/seriously, anyone at all (roll up, roll up to watch me crash and burn!) who either a) guesses the correct identity of the object, or b) provides the most entertaining explanation, in the case of me never finding out the answer to a) myself.

'What is the prize?' I am deluded enough to think I might hear maybe one of you briefly wondering, before you go and read some other, more interesting blog. I will tell you. The prize is a delicious jar of marmalade made by highly desirable, adored-by-upmarket-lifestyle-magazines company Daylesford Organic. I also won this at the weekend, yet am prepared to give it to you. This is not the benevolent gesture it may appear. My congenital hostility towards marmalade has been well reported on these screens.

Here is a picture that allows you to judge the size of the jar of marmalade alongside another jar of preserve, in this case the hyberbolically named St Dalfour Rhapsodie de Fruit raspberry.

Basically, I just like the look of these two jars next to each other. Daylesford is the Eddie Large to Dalfour's Syd Little, the Gary Barlow to its Jason Orange, the much fatter Paul Simon to its Art Garfunkel, the Ted Bovis to its Spike Dixon (Hi-de-Hi seems to have become my go-to sitcom for lame comparisons). The Daylesford marmalade also comes in a rustic, I-made-it-myself-in-my-Cotswolds-farmhouse-while-wearing-a-Boden-dress, clip-top jar which, while being stylish, does also look a little like someone has opened it already and stuck their hand in, WHICH THEY HAVEN'T. Well, not me anyway.

So. Hit me with your best shot. Somebody please.

Terms and conditions: 1) I am basically in charge and will give the prize to whoever I like. 2) This does not affect your statutory rights. 3) I don't really know what your statutory rights are, but I don't see how they could be affected, right? 4) No purchase necessary. 5) There is no cash alternative. 6) This competition is open until I finally become resigned to the embarrassingly slim number of entrants and put us all out of our misery.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

If your name's not down…

Here is the bespoke sign that marks the entrance to my youngest niece's bedroom.

It says, 'Hattie room. Keep out. Ore else. My den room. Secret fun. Say password. Only freinds allowd.' A smaller sign below shows a straight-down-to-business list of exactly who the chosen freinds are. There are no grey areas, apart from maybe when it comes to spelling.

Oh, sweet, sweet candour of youth.

Young girls, it's true, can be a thoroughly toxic species with the capricious nature of their friendships. The female population of any school is essentially an unfathomably complicated and constantly shifting Venn diagram of who is talking to who, and who isn't. Dialogue comes from an ever-evolving and logic-free lexicon of rumour, counter-rumour and supposition. Do boys operate this way? I think maybe their abuse is purer, less machiavellian – a simple arsenal of physical aggression and myriad synonyms for 'homosexual'.

But the casual decimation of other people's feelings aside, I am strangely jealous of my niece's scruple-free frankness. In my former working life – which ached with thankless responsibility, and jangled with the sound of idiots asking me questions which I had already answered, I would conservatively estimate, at least three times before – a sign like this at the approach to my desk would have been a dream. I wonder now why I didn't think to make one, out of flatplans I diligently handed out that were barely read, and decorated with a colour palette of highlighter pens that Dulux might call 'Chemically Anxious Flowerbed'.

Instead of a list of freinds allowed in, I probably would have focussed on those who had to stay out, with a self-assessment questionnaire for anyone thinking about approaching my work station which would have read thus:

If you answer 'yes' to any of these questions, please assume I am out of the office and speak to my deputy. Even if I appear to be sitting in front of you, eating a banana and swearing at Radio 1, please be assured that this is, in fact, a hologram, which cannot respond to your requests.

1) Do you work in advertising?' (There are some excellent people working in advertising. Peggy Olson, perhaps. I have not worked with those people.)
2) Have you ever called me 'babe'?
3) Have you ever attempted to give me a shoulder massage at my desk, which I clearly found uncomfortable?
3) Are you in the office on work experience? Has anyone ever described you as an 'eager beaver'? 'Enthusiastic'?'Keen'? These are all excellent qualities, but if you are in possession of any of them, please don't ask if you can shadow me any time before noon.
4) Are you hungry? I am in possession of some snacks, but I do not wish to share them with you. Please refrain from forcing your stupid, clumsy hand uninvited into my bag of cashews/Maltesers/rice crackers, splitting the sides and sending tiny treats skittering over the precipice and into the doomy abyss between my desk and the wall, thus catering a buffet for the building's rodent colony and taking up my valuable filing space.
5) Are you here to ask me the question 'What is the latest date I can write/shoot/start/finish [insert name of feature/task here]? The answer is almost certainly a negative amount of days.

This is by no means an exhaustive list.

Also, I can tell you this, because you are all my freinds: the password to gain entry to my desk area is 'contempt'.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

My Olympic bid

If you are a long-term reader of this blog – and there actually are some, actually – you will know that I have feelings for the 2012 Olympics in the same way that Peggy Ollerenshaw on Hi-de-Hi has feelings for her yellow coat*. I ache for them. (Strictly speaking - not Strictly speaking – it's any Olympics. I'm an Olympics slut. When it comes to me and the Olympics, I'm a sure thing.)

Bearing this in mind - and I bear it in mind ALL THE TIME - you will not be surprised to learn that I long ago registered to work as a volunteer at the Games. My mind is not that of a brilliant strategist. My plan is basically this. a) I volunteer at the Olympics. b) That means I will surely be entitled to better tickets to watch stuff. c) I will be Part Of Things and it will be Great. Deluded as I am, even I can tell that I am placing a morbidly obese sense of expectation on the rickety bridge that links (a) and (b). But I'm pretty sure that the bridge between a) and c) is strong enough to support the weight of the whole Olympics. And some of those weightlifters are really big guys.

Things I would like to do as a volunteer: have a cool costume; ring a bell at the end of one of the swimming lanes; write things down on a clipboard; look after Kenenisa Bekele's tracksuit.

Things I would not like to do as a volunteer: wear a matronly, below-the-knee white pleated skirt, unflattering blazer and panama-style hat; lie outstretched on a jetty holding on to the end of a boat before the start of a rowing event; stand around at a tube station all day explaining the benefits of buying an Oyster card in GCSE-level German to people who are Portuguese and NOT SEE ANYTHING.

Since I first feverishly signed up last year to volunteer, I've had occasional emails from 'London 2012' (that's the name that appears in the 'From' field in your inbox. First name: London. Surname: 2012. Like, wow, the Olympics are personally emailing me?). These emails have two objectives. Firstly, to say don't worry, you big Olympics-obsessed freak, we haven't forgotten about you, we just don't start the proper volunteer job process until next year. Secondly, to say read on because we are about to passively-aggressively make you feel bad about not volunteering in your community on a regular basis.

There is an initial bit of chit-chat about how worthwhile volunteering can be; volunteering is for life not just to get seats at the 2012 Olympics, etc etc. Then they lay down their trump card. It reads thus:

Although such experience will not be a prerequisite should you choose to apply to be a volunteer at the Games, it may be of use in the decision you will need to make next year.

I think we all know what this means. It means, 'If you don't do this, obviously it's absolutely fine, it's no problem at all. Only… it's just that everyone who's in the Olympics, including Usain Bolt who basically likes everyone, will think you are a MASSIVE BITCH. Also, you will get given a SHIT JOB.'

So when Jones Major asked me to help him officiate at the end-of-season meeting of his local athletics club, deep in the wilds of Bedfordshire, for love not money, I whooped and shook my clenched fists at the sky and shouted, 'Are you watching, Olympic Volunteering Overlords? This is how much I CARE!'

I didn't do this. I was at work. But I did it a bit inside.

So that is what I did last weekend. I helped with the long jump and triple jump.

Here is the Jones empire:

My incredibly important and 100 per cent VOLUNTARY job was to stick the marker that is attached to one end of the tape measure into the pit at the earliest point of contact between jumper and sand.

It taught me some very valuable lessons. Among them:

1. Pushy parents are sometimes out-pushied by their offspring.

Jacob, an extremely excited junior athlete: [To the Joneses] Are we starting now? Are we starting now? Are we starting now?
Joneses: Yes, in a minute.
Jacob's dad: [Weary] Just wait until they call you, Jacob.

Pushy parents are, however, far from extinct: 'Well done, Kate. Not good enough, but well done.'

2. If you are tasked with a job where you are constantly stepping forward on one leg and bending forward, into a sandpit, over and over again, for many athletes, each taking multiple jumps, this is the equivalent of doing about 100 lunges. If you are a person who, in going about their daily routine, does 0 (zero) lunges, the result of this over-exertion is that you can't walk downstairs properly for the following four days.

3. If, on the occasion of repeatedly bending forwards, you have chosen to wear hipster jeans, you may find yourself repeatedly mooning the car park/grandstand/men's hockey pitch [delete according to the circumstances of your sportsground].

This is the kind of sagacity that will leave the 2012 volunteering chiefs reeling. At this rate, I will probably be firing the starting pistol in the 100m final.

*Tessa Jowell is my Miss Cathcart. Or is it Lord Coe?