Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Honey, I Blew Up The Squids

Someone who commissions stories for BBC news online is entranced by the miracles of the animal kingdom. Enormous creatures, tiny creatures, creatures who think their parents are a totally different species of creature – these stories find a home on the BBC website with surprising frequency. I think that the individual responsible used to be a zoo keeper, a shark hunter or lion tamer, forced into a more gentle way of life by an exhausted spouse, sick of worrying about the day she'd go to meet her partner after work to find him waiting for her with an arm missing, or with his legs dangling from the mouth of a python. He's happy enough in his new job, but misses his daily brush with danger, and is known to confront any errant journalist missing their deadline with an upturned chair and a whip.

Today he is enraptured with the eyes of a colossal squid, which measure 11 inches across. And who can blame him? I anticipate the gelatinous lenses alone will be in huge demand from now on as organic breast implants. And just imagine the deep-fried squid rings – you could hula-hoop with them, if you were wearing a grease-resistant leotard. Fully grown, the creature in its entirety is almost twice the length of a double-decker bus. And on just such a bus – I am nothing if not an effortless welder of topics – I overheard this conversation on my way home from work this evening:

Commuter 1: 'Will you be voting tomorrow?'
Commuter 2: 'I might do. It depends what the weather's like.'

The power of democracy.

Happy birthday

It is Jones major's birthday today. Happy birthday, Jones major, over-38s record holder in the long jump for Biggleswade Athletics Club*, from Jones minor (Miss).

Please observe how on trend I once was in my patent Mary-Janes from the Start-rite atelier. Also, I appear to have once possessed the chicken legs of Amy Winehouse.

*Awaiting official IAAF ratification.

Monday, 28 April 2008

My favourite things on TV this weekend

No 1: Tim Burgess's hair on Later… 

It is a fact women discover sometime during their 20s: pretty boys do not always grow up to be pretty older men. In the early 90s, everyone was wild for the waifish charm of Burgess, Albarn and the like, their teeny snub noses and planed cheekbones. But fifteen years on? 

Most women shift their criteria of physical attraction as they get older, in response to their own softenings and widenings. They begin to feel increasingly warm about paunches and heavy jaws, overlooking bald spots and bad shoes, and indulging the kind of imperfections that would have been dealbreakers years before. The thicker-set and rougher-hewn start to take their turn in the spotlight of hotness, while the gamine-featured are left behind, like an ageing child star. As supporting evidence, I would refer you to the individual members of Take That. 

But in addition, I wonder if there is an element of self-sabotage at large with the once-cute. Johnny Depp has immersed himself in roles of steadfast oddness for years (though he is, strictly speaking, beautiful not cute). Mark Owen borrowed from the wardrobe of a clean-shaven Catweazle and the physical onstage quirks of Michael Stipe.  And how else to explain what on earth is going on with Tim from the ears up? The density… the gloss finish… and does David Copperfield know someone's stolen his foils? 

No 2: the world's worst escapologist, as seen on Britain's Got Talent. The first moment of brilliance: his name – Nicky Flash. The second: his interview in the contestants' waiting room, where he said with unwitting yet deadly accuracy, 'Tonight escape-apology will be done.' He pushed his equipment onto the stage in a supermarket trolley, knocking over a couple of floor lights as he went, and took the microphone to introduce his act, oblivious to the fact he was being upstaged by his trolley which had carried on freewheeling downstage towards the pit. He had pledged to break the world record and escape from a bound-up sack in less than 30 seconds, but ended up being unceremoniously dragged off stage some minutes later by volunteers from the St John's Ambulance Service and released from his predicament, now apparently battling some kind of panic attack, instead of his padlock. I'm only sad that the apposite YouTube clip does not yet exist but imagine if you can, conjure if you must from the darkest of places, a Frankenstein-like creation stitched together from Bobby Davro, Andrew Marr and Rhydian Roberts. 

Those are names I never thought I would type – well, at all. Never mind in the same sentence. 

Try not to have nightmares.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Being Michael Schumacher

The most amazing thing I've heard today came from the radio news – and regular readers may recall that I am not a fan of the medium. Subsequently, I discovered that the story had also been in the Metro, meaning it is 100% truth with no lying bits.

Bruce Willis is being lined up to play elderly motor racing commentator and bumbling genius Murray Walker in a film about the life of Michael Schumacher. Bruce Willis? As Murray Walker? This is even more extraordinary than the fact that someone would want to make a film about Michael Schumacher.

What could come next in the alternate universe of sporting biopics? Sylvester Stallone as Alan Hansen? This would be perfect, since Sly would be required to demonstrate absolutely no emotional range whatsoever. But personally, I would pay literally all the money I have to see Clooney play Hansen. In fact the idea of these two titanic men being somehow fused via celluloid into one male colossus is so incredible it necessitates a lie-down with a damp flannel across the forehead, perhaps for the rest of my life.

But back with F1 – who to play Schumacher? I think that perhaps Bill S Preston esq could do some good work within the role.

But dye his hair, and Beaker is surely a shoo-in.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

The kids are… really really dumb

I don't think I can listen to XFM any more. This afternoon they had a phone-in quiz to win some gig tickets. The question was 'Which band had hits in 1996 with Govinda and Hey Dude?'

The caller said 'Is it The Beatles?'

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Dear Mr Slash

Dear Mr Slash

I'm writing to apply for the position of lead vocalist with your band Velvet Revolver, as advertised on various popular websites.

I don't know if this has ever happened to you, Slash – if I may be so informal – but lately I've had the feeling that I'm drifting, career-wise. I'm at a crossroads. I've been looking for a fresh challenge, a sign, if you will. I wonder if this is what it was like for you when you left Guns 'n' Roses, although perhaps Axl Rose's insistence on behaving like a drug-addled megalomaniac may have had more to do with your desire to seek pastures new.

I know you're a busy man so I won't waste your time. I feel that this is exactly the calling I've been waiting for. Let me first tell you something about my 'vocals'. I was regularly picked to sing solos at primary school, although I was always controversially overlooked for the prestigious first verse of Once In Royal David's City at the school carol concert but THAT'S JUST FINE. Choose a photogenic small boy, if you must, and don't blame me if there's some kind of nervous bladder incident. Then only a few years ago, at a Christmas karaoke work party, someone who was no more than very drunk told me I shouldn't sing with anyone else because 'they would spoil it'. However I do believe in total honesty, Slash, so let me say this. I'm not very good at singing the high notes, but since your previous vocalist was a man, I can't see that this minor shortcoming would hinder my application. 

As regards references, I would refer you to my friend who works at Kerrang, who I bumped into in Uniqlo at lunchtime. She told me that in a recent interview with the weekly rock bible, you had stated that you're fed up with unreliable frontpersons, and that you're looking for someone who can turn up on time and get the job done. Mr Slash, this is your lucky day. My timekeeping is excellent, as long as I am not required to be anywhere before noon, which I think is unlikely in the world of contemporary music performance. And as any of my friends would testify, I am extremely sensible. I have never even lost my mobile phone. I thrive on responsibility, and should my application prove successful, I would be happy to take on any additional band-related duties, eg starting birthday collections for members of the crew, organising quiz afternoons or editing the Velvet Revolver newsletter. I really think this could go places with a few new fonts and the addition of horoscopes or perhaps some fun puzzles, such as a heavy rock-themed wordsearch.

In addition to my not inconsiderable vocal skills, I believe we have a lot of other things in common which would make life 'on the road' go smoothly. Firstly, I, like you, am afflicted with naturally curly hair. Imagine the late-night chats we would have in our bunks on board the bus (I would have to take the top one as I get travel sick), discussing the merits of Bumble & bumble Curl Creme versus Aveda's Be Curly, and comparing wide-toothed combs. It would be a truly bonding experience, I believe, and I hope you don't think I'm speaking out of turn when I say you really would reap the benefits of a good six-inch trim. Those split ends are not going to grow themselves back together, whatever the latest 'miracle' product promises you.

I also have a keen interest in baking, which I know would go down a storm with you rock boys and your 'munchies'. And I'm not just talking leather-trouser-straining cakes and biscuits – I can also provide a range of healthy muffins and flapjacks. These are ideal as a nutritious slow-release pre-show energy boost, as opposed to the usual quick-fix pick-me-up. And by that I mean drugs.

Anyway, enough about me. I look forward to hearing from you very soon and keep up the good work.

Miss Jones

Saturday, 19 April 2008

For my scarf, wherever I may find her

Grave news. I have lost my favourite scarf. I say lost. That would imply that I don't know where I left it. But I do know, most exactly. It was in Masala Zone on Marshall Street just after 2pm on Thursday. The service had been slow and we were late getting back to work, so I left in a hurry. As soon as I was a few yards down the road I felt a biting chill across my chest area – doubtless sensitive scar tissue from this calamity – and realised my mistake. But I couldn't turn back. I was late already, and no one is interested in your excuses when you're freelance scum.

I went back after work but no one could find it. Come back tomorrow lunchtime, when the same staff are working, they said. So I did. This time they disappeared to the back of the restaurant and returned with a hideous green tie-dyed number, a monstrous insult to the memory of my elegant, understated former companion. 'Is this yours?' they asked, delighted with their discovery. I had to steel myself not to shout back 'LOOK AT IT! AND LOOK AT ME! DO YOU REALLY THINK THAT IS MY FUCKING SCARF?' 

Instead I just said, 'No.' And felt my sad face become a little sadder. 

Then a strange thing happened. They said, 'What does it look like?' And I realised I couldn't exactly remember. I had always marvelled at its chameleon-like ability to look blue when worn with blue, or grey when worn with black. But were the stripes in it gold or silver? Did it have tassels? I felt like Elton John in Your Song when he's forgotten if they're green or they're blue, just because these things he does. Which doesn't rhyme in this conjugation. Still, could it be possible that I had taken our happiness for granted and never really appreciated my scarf, never taken a true, good look at it in all its splendid detail? (I can't help myself here in channelling a scene from Act 3 of Our Town, staple play of the US high school English syllabus and once performed in The Wonder Years – Kevin operated the spotlight, as I recall. I saw a production of it up West when I was a teenager with Robert Sean Leonard, who I was in love with then, and Alan Alda, who I am in love with now.)

Now, without it,  I have only  a vague impression of its beauty, its reassuring cushion around my neck, and the strangely comforting smell of all those daily layers of perfume and moisturiser, lovingly built up over our months together.

Forgive me this shallow outburst of self-indulgence. I am drunk with grief.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Thinking of title posts is the hardest part

As I got off the train last night at London Bridge, I passed a man crouching down in the corridor, minding his bike, who was wearing an age-softened polo shirt that had the words 'Great Britain Team – Sardinia Cup 1990' printed somewhere over his heart. This biological detail had to be significant, otherwise why would he be wearing a shirt that was nearly 20 years old? (Apart from poverty – but if things were that bad, he'd surely have sold his bike…) I'm not making any judgements – until recently I was still sleeping in T-shirts I'd bought at various gigs I attended when I was in sixth form, which was scarcely more recent.

I think it's fair to say that history has not been kind to GB's 1990 Sardinia Cup team. We wouldn't, for instance, mention them in the same breath as the England football team of the same year. We wouldn't actually mention them at all. It is only through the medium of the internet that I have learnt that the Sardinia Cup is something to do with sailing. But perhaps The Man In The Shirt cleaves to the belief that if he keeps the faith shirt-wise for long enough, the cult of the 1990 Sardinia Cup team will grow and blossom into immortality years later, like Nick Drake or Van Gogh or Emily Dickinson. And everyone will claim that they were actually there, in Sardinia or wherever it was, when yachting's equivalent of Lineker did that really awesome thing with, oh, some sails or something.

Maybe TMITS was trying to say yes, I'm hutched up in the lobby of a filthy commuter train now, but back in 1990 I used to be someone. I was a panther on the water. I was the best in the country. Still, my friend Colin represented England at American Football some years ago, and he doesn't go to work in gridiron padding. Although I suspect he would like to. As I carried on with my journey home, I realised TMITS had reminded me of the time a couple of years ago when I saw the former rugby international Mick Skinner getting on a rush hour train, protected against the uniquely grey London Bridge microclimate in an England rugby cagoule, a good 10 years after his sporting retirement. Perhaps he was still involved with the game, of course… or perhaps he too wanted everyone to know that maybe not today, maybe not yesterday, but not so very long ago, he meant something more than just being a fellow commuter, to more people than the number who shared his carriage that day. It was the kind of random spotting I felt excited about reporting to my dad, in the split second before I remembered that I couldn't. And yesterday, when I thought about that – about how many things float away that we can't hold on to – I  couldn't begrudge the alumni of the 1990 Sardinia Cup his way of keeping the dream alive.

Hair diplomacy

When a friend or colleague has their hair cut, there are many warm and complimentary things you can say to express your appreciation of their new look. 'Oh you look gorgeous!' 'I love it!' 'You must be really happy with it,' all strike the right blandly positive note.

But among these inoffensive affirmatives, I would not include: 'Oh, it looks so much better. Really, it's 100% better,'  which I have just overheard. Because, however warm and enthusiastic you are in your delivery, what you're effectively saying is 'You looked awful before and everyone knew it. You were walking around for months, years probably, with dreadful, dreadful hair and now we can uncover our scalded eyes, let them recover from the heinous blight dealt to them by your personal appearance and just get on with our lives.'

It is the kind of comment that rankles with a person. It would rankle with me, but I am easily rankled.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Happy hour again

Many years ago, I upgraded my most beloved cassettes to CD format. And recently, with the premiership long since taken care of, I've turned to the lower divisions of my tape collection, now that their CD cousins are ubiquitous enough on eBay to sell for less than the price of a KitKat. So today I enjoyed a belated reunion with this:

The years have been kind to it since I was presented with my first CD player, and faithfully promised the tape-bound NTWICQG  it wouldn't be long till we met again in a new technological dimension. That was a lie, of course, it was almost 20 years, but I'm confident we can put our years of separation behind us. I wonder when I will feel overcome with sufficient nostalgic fondness to upgrade Keep Your Distance by Curiosity Killed The Cat or Turn Back The Clock by Johnny Hates Jazz.

On my way home from work, I am 93% sure that I saw Sebastian 'Lord' Coe walking down Berwick Street in Soho. This is not a place I would ever expect to see Sebastian Coe in his camel-coloured overcoat. Places I would expect to see Sebastian Coe include: a garden party, Austin Reed, Kloisters, Putney. Sebastian Coe's middle name is Newbold. I found this unaccountably hilarious as a child when I first discovered the fact many many years ago in my brother's Guinness Book Of Records. I disliked him, even then. Coe, that is. Not my brother. He's nice.

Simon has sensationally been fired from The Apprentice, despite being marked out as an early favourite. By the end, his mistake was blindingly clear. In his black-cab exit interview he said he gave 100% to the mission. The first thing they teach you at the Business Academy For People Who Pledge To Sell Until The Surface They Are Selling On Literally Bleeds is that you have to give 110%. Idiot.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Day tripper

I had a doctor's appointment this morning, so I did my commute at 10.30 instead 0f 8.30. And I found out that in those two short hours, London is rinsed an entirely different colour.

On the train, instead of sitting opposite someone in a grey Next suit who is robotically applying concealer or reading A Thousand Splendid Suns or listening to Mika on an Ipod Mini (if the Enigma code was comprised of tinny headphone emissions, I would be the Bletchley Park poster girl), I sat opposite an elderly couple, both dapper in their his-and-hers Burberry overcoats. She maintained excellent posture while he read a small text book on Mechanics (maths, not cars) and laboured with paper and pencil over a lengthy equation that outran my 15-years-distant maths A-level. When they got off at Charing Cross, he carried her British Museum shopper for her as they walked out of the station arm-in-arm, beaming.

I walked through Trafalgar Square, where, on any other day, I think the world is spinning off its axis if I see a pigeon with a leg missing. Today Keith Chegwin was excitedly interviewing (does he interview in any other style?) a gaggle of thirtysomething women. Cheggars is very grey these days, but has a super-nice overcoat.

Then I walked past the church on Wardour Street which smells of piss at 8.30am. At 10.30 it does not smell of piss, and a group of beginners were receiving instruction in t'ai chi on the grass outside. 

For an hour I felt like I was in a film that makes living in London look full of warmth and wonder. But at no point was my path crossed by Hugh Grant in bermuda shorts, and soon I was at my desk with my usual cup of tea, watching the rain clouds gather, and normality crowding back in.

The earth mooved*

* immediate shame-faced pun disclaimer

I may be in love. 

It began yesterday at London Bridge station at 6pm. I was waiting on platform 5 with my friend Stefanie, on our way home from making brunch at a friend's. I am not in love with Stefanie, although she is extremely nice. You will recall that it was London Marathon day. He – will I ever know his name? – was edging gingerly down the steps in a tracksuit, carrying a giant furry cow's head in one hand. I pointed this out to Stef, and he heard me, and smiled a bashful 'Yes, I have been wearing a giant cow's head for 26 miles' smile. And then he was gone, round the corner, on to a different platform, to live a different life. Now I can't stop thinking about him, his blisters that may need tending, his freaky furry animal head that may need carpet-shampooing. I am actually considering the submission of one of those 'Lovestruck - Change Your Fate' ads in The London Paper: 'You: cow's head, tracksuit, limp. Me: brunette, consumptive pallor, carrying a griddle. Fancy an ice bath?' I have resisted the temptation to say 'you're udderly gorgeous', because, Christ, I've got my pride.

If Shakespeare was alive, I think he would be renaming his draft of Romeo & Juliet tout de suite…

Friday, 11 April 2008

'May I admire you again today..?'

I'm still not quite sure about Gossip Girl. The best bits deliver flashes of the John Hughes films I rented compulsively as a young teen. Snooty-turned-sensitive queen bee Serena Van Der Woodsen is embarking on a fledgling relationship with outsider Dan Humphrey. His family are sorta kooky and don't quite fit in. She's the princess of the populars. It's love arching, like a giant preppy Alice band, from one side of the tracks to the other, don't you see. And doesn't it remind you of anyone?

In part then, Gossip Girl is a third-rate Pretty In Pink, with less OMD and a gender switcheroo (although John Hughes completists will recall that he ticked that box already with Some Kind Of Wonderful). And so if Serena and Dan are the new Blaine and Andie, where is GG's linen suit-clad baddie to equal the marvellous, malevolent Steff? Praise the lord for the best thing about the whole programme, the decadent, callous and fabulously dapper Chuck Bass, who is determined to destroy everything that is true and pure and right and good and poor and ugly and badly dressed. He is truly James Spader with magnificent eyebrows.

Chuck, I'm so glad you're here, as your male co-stars are painfully lacking in… oh, everything. Chace Crawford, as Nate, is apparently cut from the same highly flammable, manmade cloth as Zac Efron. You imagine if his underwear was to be removed, there would be nothing more than a smooth mound of rubberised plastic where his manitals should be. And should you happen to shine a bright light into one beautiful bland ear, it would come straight out of the other, as strong and unbroken as the beam from a lighthouse.

Then there is Penn Badgley. By far the best thing about him is his name, and that is not a quality to be applauded in a heart-throb. As the lovable, verbally incontinent, slightly bumbling geek Dan, his character would ordinarily be catnip to me. Instead, every time I look at him, I think of Paul Cattermole from S Club 7. 

But Chuck… he has panache. And he has purpose. And that purpose, other than pure evil, seems to be to dress like a member of the cast of an extremely wealthy am dram production of The Boyfriend, all paisley, pastels, linens, scarves and stripes. I cannot wait till he has a scene at his home, as I am convinced he will have a wonderful line in smoking jackets and other silky lounging attire. If I was head of the network, I would be greenlighting the production of Dress Up Chuck dolls, the kind I was enamoured of when I was too young for John Hughes films.

Outmoded now, of course, in the digital age. But, metaphorically, already top of my Christmas list.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008


When I was on my way to work yesterday morning, the train stopped in South Bermondsey as usual, and while we were waiting for the customary comings and goings to happen, I could see that a funeral cortege had stopped outside Millwall's football ground, which is next to the station. I wondered if it was the final farewell of a former player, so I did some rather maudlin news-googling, but could find nothing. However, it's good to know that, at any time, I can get the latest news on 'millwall funeral' with Google Alerts.

So I made the assumption that it was a fan just wanting one last simulated match-day shiver of excitement before his soul vaporates elsewhere. Or hers, obviously. It must be nice to feel so strongly and emotionally about a place. I think it's hard to achieve that when you live in London. People move around too much to find that sense of belonging. I wish I knew where I'd want to be taken on the way to my date with the hereafter. I don't think you could very well ask a hearse to pull up outside Topshop at Oxford Circus. Or the food hall at Fortnum & Masons. I'd want to go all over the country, I think, to scenes of childhood holidays and favourite concerts and anywhere I feel I might have missed while I was still breathing, which would demand a heroic feat of stoicism and indulgence on the part of my loved ones. This seems like it would make a good subject for a novel, but I'm not sure that the world either wants or needs a hybrid of As I Lay Dying and Weekend At Bernie's.

Anyway, since the last couple of posts are looking a bit image-lite (and this is a technical blogging term), it's time for a gratuitous YouTube clip. Let's talk about funeral songs as that's the sort of thing people do on blogs. Imagine if Nick Hornby had a blog. That's probably all he'd talk about. Actually Nick Hornby probably does have a blog. ANYWAY. This is on my short list. 

And while I'm in a Nilsson mood, and for some light relief, YouTube brings us this: 

Sunday, 6 April 2008

'Get me Peter Elliott…'

Can anyone, anyone at all, man, woman or child, explain to me what on earth Denise Van Outen was doing carrying the Olympic torch? 

Obviously we are not the world's most illustrious sporting nation, but surely there was some figure of vaguely athletic competence who could spare half an hour? Is Kris Akabusi ex-directory these days?

Let us imagine what was going through the organisers' minds. 

'Well, Matthew Pinsent has a bit of a head cold. He just feels a bit, oh, you know, run down. So we need someone else.' 

'Can we get James Cracknell?'

'Swimming down the Ganges.'

'Ian Wright?'


'Mick Hill?

'He's at a wedding in Cumbria.'  

'John Fashanu?'

'Doing a matinee of Oh What A Night in Bromley.'

'Well, in that case…'

I have just watched a documentary about the torch relay, showing how the flame was lit with great solemnity using the rays of the sun in Olympia. How better to continue this dignified ceremony than with one of the flame-bearers winking at the camera, chirping, 'My wrist's getting tired. Oof, that's not what I normally say!'

Give me strength.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Dear Russell T Davies

I'm a big fan of your work. I loved Queer As Folk. I adored Bob And Rose. I didn't really 'get' some of The Second Coming, but that's probably my fault. I have issues with concentration. I also enjoy your popular Doctor Who programme, although I can't remember the difference between any of the monsters unless someone shows me a picture. Apart from the Daleks, of course. And the Cybermen. And sometimes I find David Tennant a tiny bit annoying. But these are all trifles compared to one colossal problem I have. Who is dressing the doctor's assistants? And why do they hate them?

Let us firstly remember Rose, and her hugely unflattering collection of leisure gear – I'm thinking fleeces, parkas, hoodies, stonewashing… 

Piper, all of female kind shares your look of contempt. 

Let us next turn to Martha Jones (no relation, other than spiritually), and her hideous, omnipresent, boxy maroon pleather jacket, strangely reminiscent of a Russian sex worker.

I had high hopes for Donna and her black suits of power. Even though she looked like she was wearing what was known in the 80s as a 'body' underneath, which probably fastened with poppers in the undercarriage locality. At least she looked like she had a waist. Until she was off duty on Bernard Cribbins' allotment, wearing a shapeless long cardigan/knitted coat affair.

Finally, in tonight's denouement, we caught a glimpse of Rose Tyler – back, back, back, as they used to say in Smash Hits. Had her absence caused the head of wardrobe's heart to grow a little fonder, sartorially speaking? It had not. There was a jacket. It was pleather. The pleather was midnight blue. Let us once again allow the Piper's expression to relay the rest.


I know these are meant to be ordinary girls. But I am an ordinary girl and so are most of my friends. And we know better.

I just wanted to get that off my chest. Which is absolutely not clad in imitation animal skin.

Love you!

Miss Jones

Friday, 4 April 2008

2012 reasons to be cheerful

I just want to say this. I'm sick of people moaning about what a terrible thing it is that the Olympics are coming to London in four years, and that it costs a bit of money and there's a bit of building work going on and it might cost a bit more than someone originally thought. (Is anyone at all surprised by this? Has anyone ever employed under-budget builders?) I was watching the regional news yesterday (admittedly that was my own stupid fault) and they reported that six out of ten Londoners said there was nothing in the Games for them.

Nothing in it for them? Who are these emotional zombies? I can't have been the only non-member of the bid committee doing a little on-the-spot dance of joy in my personal space, wherever it was, when I heard the news. Actually I remember. I was standing in the More magazine office, and the only other people who seemed in any way excited were people who'd recently bought property in east London and were going to be able to cash in on it. Like, go team GB. 

There hasn't been an Olympic games in London for over 60 years. That's a long old time. If it were a comet that hadn't been seen for 60 years, or a rare classification of kestrel, everyone would be far more excited. OK, that's because those things are free. And Olympics cost billions of pounds, and sometimes have to borrow those pounds from other places. I don't know where the money should come from. Regular readers will know, I don't like to trouble myself with reasoned thinking. But the fact is, great feats will be accomplished. People will do things higher, faster, stronger (I'm paraphrasing Daft Punk here, obviously) and more perfectly than mankind has ever done before. Events of magic and wonder will happen, in the very city where we wish for them every day, on our journeys to and from work, or while we're putting the rubbish out, or doing a little jig to avoid stepping in some dogshit, or pushing a trolley around the supermarket.

And best of all, there will be many brilliant montages to music to watch on telly afterwards, which is practically my favourite thing about any major sporting occasion. Fields Of Gold by Sting, will be used many times, and I will weep during each of those times. Actually, being in charge of making montages-to-music might be my ideal job. But I digress. 

I do believe that half the population do have an interest in some kind of sport – boxing or football or tennis or things with people on horses (I mean, some people really, really like horses). And for people who don't, there's synchronised swimming. And even if we all hated all of it, what I want to say is: Where's the famous British emotional repression when you need it? Why is everyone suddenly vocalising their disapproval? Having an opinion? 

I want to see the British doing what the British do best – which is certainly not actually any of the Olympic disciplines. I want everyone pretending that everything is just fine, pretending to like things they don't like because they don't want a fuss, and that it's all OK, no really, I mean, the Olympics is not really our cup of tea, but nothing ventured, eh? I want to see the whole population pretending they're terribly, terribly excited, forcing out the words through gritted teeth, mangling the sounds through forced, rictus grins.

Never mind chivalry. I honestly believe that enthusiasm is a dying art.


In other competitive sport news, the other night I went to the local pub quiz with my mum. We came equal fourth, which I consider highly respectable given our number. If either of us had been dog enthusiasts – and I certainly have a brown and blue checked winter coat that makes me look a lot like one of these people – and been able to identify various species of canine, we would have done even better. There was a gang of brayers on the next table. I heard one of them say to the group: 'Do you think you have one side of your face that's better than the other? It's such a nightmare when you go to read for a part with someone and they put you on your wrong side.' He was like Mariah Carey in a striped sweatshirt.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Don't shop for it, Doctor…

I would not advise anyone researching a textbook on customer service to turn to Currys in Peckham for positive examples. However, anyone putting together a manual on retail in the 1980s should definitely head to the SE15 branch of Argos, where you can wait for your deckchairs or foot spa or Gent's Gold Plated Silver Bulldog Ring to the strains of The King Of Rock 'n' Roll by Prefab Sprout and Criticize by Alexander O'Neal*. Yesterday, someone was also wearing a Christmas at Argos sweatshirt. Given these factors, I'm disappointed to have missed a play of Last Christmas, because, honestly, you can't have too many. Argos is a living, working miracle to me. How can they keep that enormous number of different things in the confines of a medium-sized shop. Imagine the labyrinth of aisles and sky-scraping towers of shelving that must stretch back miles into different counties and continents. Imagine the ever-evolving technology that is propelling the gophers to the farthest corners of the stock room. Jet-packs, robots – any mode of transport that would make a splendid new attraction in Michael Jackson's Neverland (and from what I hear, he could do with the money). Anyway, my point is, I have discovered what the A in Tardis stands for. And it's not And.

My business in Argo was to buy a portable hard drive for my computer, so that the 91 per cent of my life that is gathered inside it can be protected. This is as a direct result of the calamity that befell Miss W's beloved machine (and you can read her quite beautiful elegy here). I have decided to keep it in one of my kitchen cupboards. This is in case of fire, of course. My spare bedroom, customary home of my computer, is at the front of my flat. My kitchen is at the back. I am reasoning that in the event of flames bursting out in my home, our location on a busy road that thousands of people use and observe every day will ensure that the emergency services are in attendance in enough time to save at least one of my virtual lives (and hopefully my real one, too). This is the kind of thinking that Richard Madeley and his millennium cupboard would be proud of.

(*This video for Criticize contains some of the greatest pre-song 'acting' I've witnessed. It is right up there with Janet Jackson's What Have You Done For Me Lately. I would invite other nominations, were I not quite so scared of the long, lonely silence. It is the blogger's torment. Every night we dream cold, lonely dreams where two words are scrawled large all around us on walls that are ever closing in, and shrieked in the guttural tones of vile hags: '0 Comments'.)