Monday, December 31, 2007

Patroclus And Mr BC Discuss...World Politics

INT. COSTA COFFEE, FALMOUTH - DAY

PATROCLUS and MR BC are reading the Guardian, paying close attention to the fallout from the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and reflecting soberly on the possible ramifications for East-West relations, the War on Terror, and the rising tide of anti-Islamist sentiment in the UK.

Presently:

PATROCLUS: That Bilawal Bhutto's got really nice glasses.

MR BC: He really does.

Party Like It's 1979

Tonight I will be staying in, admiring James Spader's ...erm... performance in Boston Legal and going to bed at 10.00, but for those who insist on 'going out' and 'having a good time' and all that, I give you this to get you in the mood for the inevitable Soirée of Horror ahead of you:


Dan Hartman - Relight My Fire (mp3)


Accept no substitutes. That Loleatta Holloway could totally have Lulu in a fight any day of the week.

Happy New Year!

There's No Point Waiting For Tomorrow; It'll Come Of Its Own Accord When It's Ready

"Another year over and what have I done?/All my aspirations have shrivelled in the sun..."

So sang Matt Johnson*, but he was a miserable bastard, and anyway he wasn't exactly right. Well, not if one of his aspirations was to be immortalised in a postmodernist, Verfremdungseffekt-bedecked one-act play written by me when I was in the sixth form, he wasn't. Not many people had that honour, Matt Johnson, I can tell you.

(One day my precocious juvenilia will be sensationally discovered, as a direct result of which there will be a huge The The revival, and a whole new generation of rock writers (probably led by Tim 'I've never heard of David Bowie' 'Jonze') will take great pleasure in deconstructing jejune lyrics about overgrown gardens and weeds and stuff, and wishing they'd been around in Thatcher's Britain when everything was gritty and bleak and real and you could look cool by wearing metal badges with Soviet iconography on them and there were real issues like Greenham Common and British Leyland to sing real songs and write real journalism about.)

Oh right, yes, where was I?

Yes, I decided this morning that I was going to draw this blog to a close today, in a sort of '...and they lived happily ever after'-type way, but then the lovely (and funny and deeply knowledgeable about electronica) Fat Roland said something nice about it, and I decided to continue it forever and ever, so you know who to blame.

And on that cheery note, I wish you all a very happy New Year and I hope that, unlike Matt Johnson, you will realise all of your aspirations** and just generally have a splendid year in 2008.


* Apparently the correct lyric is "Another year older and what have I done?", thus ruining my entire New Year's Eve riff. No gratitude, that Johnson chap. None at all.

** Try keeping them out of direct sunlight, that would seem to be the best approach. Maybe store your aspirations in a cool, dark place. Like under the shed, or in Beth Ditto's loft.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Also...

Now blogging at the mighty rate of ONE POST PER YEAR, all hail the glorious return of the incomparable, inimitable and peerless PEANUT!

UPDATE:

News Just In (thanks Betty for the tip-off): And what's more, the mighty Willie Lupin, of Musings from Middle England, is also back (after an even longer HIGH ATUS than PEANUT's), and is just as funny as he ever was, if not more so. Welcome back, Willie, and not a moment too soon.

NB I fully realise that Messrs PEANUT and Lupin have both actually been BACK! since November, but I catch on to things very slowly.

Next week: Dirty Den and Nick Cotton return to Albert Square (although for all I know, this might have actually just happened. Again.)

Look Out At The Station

Mr BC and I get on the train at Truro. Presently, a well-spoken lady comes up to where we are sitting.

WELL-SPOKEN LADY: (indicating seat next to Mr BC) Is this seat free?

MR BC: I think s-

FLORID GENTLEMAN: (having just arrived on the scene) No, that's my seat.

ME: (indicating seat next to me) This one's free.

WELL-SPOKEN LADY: (with evident disdain) Oh, I couldn't possibly sit there, back to the engine. I would be sick.

MR BC: Me too.

FLORID GENTLEMAN: Me too.

ME: (inwardly) Why, you shower of lily-livered weaklings, honestly. Look at me, I've clambered out of a river gorge in Africa in the beating hot sun, not to mention battled with killer flies* in the Venezuelan jungle and swum in the cold North Sea on New Year's Day, and you can't even contemplate sitting on a train looking backwards? What's the country coming to, I don't know, tut tut, blah blah blah....

Outwardly, I give the well-spoken lady a disapproving frown.


Later:

MR BC: That was Jenny Agutter.


Crikey. I wonder what the karmic retribution is for frowning at a National Treasure.



* Well, I *thought* they were killer flies. It was only after our guide had shouted 'No pican!' at me for about the 80th time that it dawned on me she wasn't shouting 'Run for your life!'** but in fact 'They don't bite!'.

** Or, more cryptically, 'No pecans!'.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Shabby

One of the great things about Britain, apparently, is that it's very easy to set up a new company here. Sometimes you hear that in Britain, you can set up a new company in a day. Woohoo the land of the free market economy, milk & honey, Richard Branson, etc.

In practice it doesn't quite work like that. Not - amazingly - because of government red tape, but due to the MASSIVE BUMBLING INCOMPETENCE of the companies you have to deal with in order to get frivolous perks like a working phone line, an internet connection, a working mobile phone and a business bank account.

The past six weeks have furnished me with enough examples of institutional bungling to fill several instalments of Tony Levene's column in the Money Guardian. Follow me now as I probe the compacted strata of inefficiency lurking beneath the shiny surface of some of our nation's leading 'brands':

Phone line/Internet connection: I ordered two phone lines from BT on the 19th November. They came to install them on the 5th December (two weeks with no phone line or internet connection - luckily Mr BC had his old flat until the 30th, so we could go there for such things). Then it turned out that they could only install one, but that was OK, because at least we had a working phone line and broadband connection. On the 7th December BT engineers came to install the second line, and in doing so broke the first one. They then left without connecting the second line to the house. With no landline and no internet connection, I was completely stuck*. I spent days trying to persuade BT to fix the first line - or just to get through to BT at all. On one occasion I was told that their systems had been down all day, so they couldn't tell me anything. On another, I was on hold for an hour and 20 minutes before giving up.

(Let us pause briefly to reflect on the fact that BT's tagline is 'Bringing it all together'. I propose this be amended to: 'Fucking it all up to an almost unbelievable degree of fuckedupness, then not answering the phone when you call us, while merrily charging you £249.98 as if nothing at all amiss had occurred.')

After a while it occurred to me that I might have more luck persuading them to complete the installation of the second line, but when I phoned them about that they claimed to have no record of me ordering a second line - despite the fact that it was at that point sticking up outside the front door waiting to be connected into the house. Eventually on the 13th December - almost a month after I'd first ordered the lines - a nice man came and fixed up the whole lot, but not before I'd made about a thousand chargeable calls to BT on my mobile. Super.

(* During this period I spent a lot of time in Falmouth's free wi-fi enabled bars, and can thoroughly recommend the tea in the Q Bar and the interior décor in the Townhouse - and the early 90s indie soundtracks playing in both of them.)

Mobile Phone: I went into Phones4U to upgrade my embarrassingly retro mobile phone to a shiny new model with a camera and everything. The girl in the shop recommended I move from T-Mobile to Orange, as Orange has better reception in Falmouth. I spent an hour in the shop going through the whole procedure of moving my number to the new network, setting up a direct debit for monthly payments, etc. The shop girl presented me with my new phone, plus - for some reason - a second, free, pay-as-you-go phone with £20 loaded on to it, and the promise of £120 cashback from Orange for moving to their network. A week later my number hadn't moved across to the new phone, so I phoned Orange, who had no record of me asking for a transfer, and no record of any direct debit being set up either. So I had to go through the whole procedure again. The pay-as-you-go phone doesn't work, and the £120 cashback hasn't appeared. However, it does appear that I am paying Phones4U for insurance on both phones.

(Phones4U's tagline: 'We'll find the right deal 4U'. I propose this be amended to 'We'll find the right deal for us'.)

Bank Account: I first went into Abbey in Chiswick on the 5th November to set up a business account. They asked me to come back on the 8th at 10am. When I asked if there was anything in particular I had to bring, the girl told me 'there's a kind of number - you'll need that.' She then fetched a colleague who confirmed that this number would be my company registration number. I duly returned on the 8th at 10am with my certificate of incorporation and various other proofs of identity, to be told by another lady that I didn't need an appointment, and that her colleagues didn't really know anything about business banking and had told me all the wrong things.

Much faffing about then ensued, including the Falmouth branch of Abbey losing my company secretary's faxed proof of identity, then losing the replacement proof of identity she sent them in the post, then the woman dealing with my application going on holiday for a week during which nothing was done.

Yesterday, a mere six weeks after I first went into a branch of Abbey, I received confirmation that my business bank account and my business savings account had been set up. Everything is fine, other than that they've mis-spelled my name on both accounts, my current account and my savings account mysteriously have the same number, and there's a sentence on one of their letters that says 'Abbey and it's employees will never ask you for your PIN number'.

I rang Abbey to ask how it's even possible that two separate bank accounts have been allocated the same number, but they told me their systems were down and I should call back 'early this afternoon'.

Still, they've sent me instructions for operating my account by fax (still awaiting instructions for operating my account by carrier pigeon, vacuum tube and shutter telegraph), and they've asked me to send them my password, security question & answer and mother's maiden name in the post. I dread to think how they're going to react when I ask for a dollar account.

(Abbey's tagline: 'Part of the Santander Group'. I propose this be amended to: 'Part of an international conspiracy to ensure that your business goes bust before it's even started'.)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

No, Wait!

This always happens...the minute I decide I'm too miserable and self-conscious to blog, I always suddenly feel much better about it again, hurrah.

This miraculous turnaround is thanks to Miss Newham, whom I found via Beyceyar, whom I found via Miss-Cellany.

Miss Newham has a great meme - the Wikipedia Band Name Meme. You go to Wikipedia and click on 'random article' in the left-hand navbar, and the first article title is your band name. Then click 'random article' again, that is your album name. Then click 'random article' another however many times, and those are your album tracks.

Here are mine:

Band Name: Volksbank Beograd

Album Title: British Rail Class 325

Album Tracks:

1. Arbutus Pavarii

2. Andorra

3. Komorów, Świdnica County

4. Bonnerveen

5. Dianne Feinstein

6. Erica Carnea

7. Carroll Borland

8. Balochistan Forest Dormouse

9. Sopot

10. Shinobu

11. Gediminids

Hurrah, I have a 1980s industrial chamber pop band with fey indie overtones, and I am every bit as pretentious as I always knew I was!

Blogging

Don't really feel like it at the moment. Back after the 'festive' season, no doubt.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Yes, Well, I Spoke Too Soon, Didn't I

During our prolonged sojourn in the horrid prelapsarian Eden that is a home without broadband, the lovely Mr BC and I have been amusing ourselves in the only other way we know how: making compilation CDs.

This is a bit of a competitive activity in our household, as I refuse to admit that Mr BC has better music taste than I do, and every time I hear some fabulous tune he's unearthed from some impossibly cool mp3 blog, instead of enjoying it, I feel compelled to avenge the slight on my honour by discovering something EVEN MORE AMAZING.

Of course not having access to the internet makes this quite tricky, as it means I have to rely on finding stuff in my existing mp3 library that a) is AMAZING and b) neither of us has heard before.

It's not going too badly so far, as the two below offerings should attest, but if BT keep arsing about for much longer I'm going to have to start resorting to obscure album tracks from second-rate late-80s chamber pop bands, and that's not going to win any prizes.

Anyway here are two fabulous things I discovered, although I'm not sure whether the first one is actually fabulous or just two already-fabulous songs smooshed together:


Legion of Doom - Crazy As She Goes (mp3)

Black Grass featuring Dominique Noiret - Don't Leave Me This Way (mp3)*


In other news: Falmouth appears to be having a mini early-90s revival, if the music playing in its various wi-fi-enabled bars is anything to go by. I'm off to dig out my Carter USM t-shirt and order a pint of snakebite and black in celebration.


* Mr BC is now claiming he originally sent this one to me. Nice try.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

I've Got The Internet Again Now, Thankfully

During the long, dark, lonely evenings when we didn't have broadband, the lovely Mr BC and I took to amusing ourselves the only other way we know how: by building things out of lego.

I'm quite worried that the lego has revealed a Dark Side of me that I hadn't previously suspected. Some recent 'vignettes' that just seemed to build themselves in my hands include:

1. A paraplegic who is learning to walk again. He's struggling along those walking bars towards the pretty nurse. In front of him, behind the pretty nurse, there is a mirror, and in the mirror, where his reflection should be, is a grey ice demon.

2. A naturalist, examining a spider on the fronds of a flowering shrub in the park. Unbeknownst to the naturalist, the spider is radioactive, and the radioactivity, filtered through the naturalist's magnifying glass, has caused a grey ice demon to break through on to the physical plain, intent on wreaking destruction (this signalled by raising his arms a bit and going 'auuuggghhh').

3. A horde of villagers who have gathered in a clearing in the woods with pickaxes and flamethrowers, intent on burning down the new modern art gallery, whose bold modernist lines and liberal use of Luxcrete have offended their more conservative aesthetic sensibilities.

4. An injured man being cut out of the wreckage of the modern art gallery by a fireman with an axe. (This may be the injured man from vignette 1.)

Also: 5. An entity that is one-third human, one-third machine and one-third reptile: the human brain controlling the long reptile arm, which operates the machine, which acts as the human's body.

I'm thinking Jeff Goldblum for the naturalist, Bruce Willis for the fireman, and a cameo from Zaha Hadid as herself. If anyone's interested in auditioning, there are several minor roles, mainly as road sweepers, spacemen and fruit sellers.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I Am A London Twat

Despite my country upbringing, I don't seem to be adjusting very well to this 'living in Cornwall' lark.

The first clue was when I pitched up at Costa Coffee yesterday morning at eight on the dot (I was hoping it might open at seven, but this proved unfounded) expecting to find it teeming with Falmouth's business and media elite ordering extra-shot lattes to go. Instead, I found it empty save for one barista sitting peacefully drinking hot chocolate and reading the paper.

And then this morning, as I was beetling back out of town in my fancy city coat, with my laptop bag on my back and skinny latte in hand, I found myself in the midst of the farmers' market, where I promptly demonstrated a total inability to a) correctly identify a goose's egg*, b) correctly identify any sort of fish at all, not even a cod, or c) express any kind of intelligent opinion whatsoever on the bacterial culture inside a lamb's liver.

Mr BC is going away for a couple of days on Thursday. I'm not sure I can cope on my own. I'll probably embarrass myself by accidentally trying to organise a flashmob outside Woolworths, or asking which zone Perranarworthal is in.

I really hope my London twatness will go away soon.


* Apparently it was actually a duck's egg, doh.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Random Access Memory Lane

This blog's been going so long it's now a bona fide part of internet history.

Like every other website that's ever existed*, it's been archived by the Wayback Machine Internet Archive, a project that aims to preserve old web pages for the edification and entertainment of future generations.

Earlier I enjoyed looking at what my blog used to look like in the olden days, before there were comments and post titles:




I was clearly much cooler then than I am now, what with living in North London, going on trips to San Francisco, reading weighty books about feminism and technology, and writing things in lower case. And didn't my blogroll look all neat and lovely, sigh. Mind you, I was on medication then, which probably explains it.

I also rediscovered the randomly-generated spoof Elle Decoration article that my brother and the lovely S and I (but mainly my brother) created, and which you can enjoy at your leisure here. Click refresh for more silliness.


* This may be a slight exaggeration.


UPDATE: Also, some of my apocryphal missing blog posts from 2004!

UPDATE 2: Sorry all, I know this is of no interest to anyone but me.

Never Mind All That Now

News reaches London from the market town of Saint Chinian in the Languedoc that local estate agents Ariane Immobilier have sold my house!

Not only that, they've sold it to a young French couple who work in said market town, thus repressing the seemingly irrepressible tide of retired expat Brits who already make up the large majority of the population of the tiny hamlet where I have my house.

This is A Good Thing.

And even though I have to give half of the money to ex-Mr P, it means I'll finally be able to pay off the massive debts I accrued in 2004 from:

a) getting married

b) trashing my mum's car and having to buy her a new one

c) paying the rent for three months when ex-Mr P didn't have a job

d) paying for my Granny's house to be done up after she it mysteriously burned it down

2004 wasn't a great year for me, money-wise, and I've been practically penniless* ever since, which has been instructive, but not a lot of fun. I'm really looking forward to paying off the credit cards and spending whatever's left on LEGO, TEA and MAGAZINES.


* Not literally, obviously - I've been able to keep myself in M&S microwave meals and Calexico albums and other necessities.

Monday, November 12, 2007

This Blog Post's Rubbish Too

I've spent at least some part of every working day of the last month meticulously crafting the text of a promotional postcard for a new client.

The client - the CEO of a startup software company - and I have discussed the semantics and semiotics of practically every single word on this postcard. I've dished out my best professional advice on how he should position the company and its product to his target market of procurement directors in large companies. We've negotiated over the placement of Oxford commas and capital letters. I've tweezed out widows and orphans to make all the bullet points the same length. We spent an entire week debating the most suitable URL to put on it.

After four weeks of delicate discussions and tiny, incremental modifications, the thing was finally declared by the client to be perfect. It duly went off to the printers, to be printed and delivered to a huge conference in California where the client's product is being launched.


Where it turned out they'd only been printed on one side.


And it wasn't the side with the text on it.


Over the past ten years I've occasionally been troubled by the thought that my contribution to society isn't perhaps among the most valuable. That if I had never existed, nothing would have been much different. That in fact the world might even have been a slightly better place. Today was one of those occasions.

The Remote Cove Cake Hut suddenly looks like quite an attractive proposition.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Women Too Ignorant To Blog - The Times

Just when we thought we'd seen the back of the whole 'women are too stupid/too busy cooking to blog' thing, LC has just sent me this article about this week's Society of Editors conference.

Apparently Anne Spackman*, the head of Times Online, thinks that online journalism (and that includes blogging) will be the preserve of men in future, because women lack the technological skills to, er, write stuff on the internet.

And I thought *I* was the one betraying the sisterhood!


* Insert your own joke.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Habitual Lack Of Forethought

One of my most vivid childhood (probably early teen) memories is of my Dad shouting at me for exhibiting a 'habitual lack of forethought'.

Even though about 25 years have gone by since then, I don't really think my capacity for forethought has improved any.

One indication is the fact that right in front of me is a whiteboard, which is divided up into three to-do lists: one for my current job, which I'm leaving at the end of the month; one for my new company, which starts trading on the 1st December (a Saturday, but I'm keen, and I've got a project to start with the Economist, which is terribly exciting for me because I like the Economist in the same sort of way that Apple fanboys like the iPhone), and one for The Big Move.

The first two lists are terribly busy and organised, with tick boxes that are progressively being ticked off, asterisks to denote urgent items, scrawled-on phone numbers, meeting appointments and exclamation marks.

The to-do list for The Big Move is a different story. It has one solitary item: 'Call Removals people'. This has a tick next to it, because I *have* called the removals people, on several occasions, to the extent that I'm now almost sure they're going to turn up next Friday and take all my stuff to Cornwall.

I think that a large part of my brain is actually convinced that I've now done everything I need to do to prepare for the move. A mild ripple of concern ruffled the stillness earlier when I suddenly half-remembered that normal people tend to make entire spreadsheets for moving house, but I managed to put it to the back of my mind. I've called the Removals people, after all. Everything will be just fine.

Magpie

6.30am: Get up, write and send off a detailed proposal for fantastic new project that on its own would constitute half of my entire first-year revenue target for the new company I'm setting up. Woo!

7.30am: Wander into Hammersmith with the lovely Mr BC, source grande skinny latte from Caffe Nero. Mmm.

8.00am: Walking back to Shepherd's Bush, notice lone magpie hopping about conspicuously in Wingate Road. Think 'Nice try, magpie, but I'm having a brilliant day. Nothing could possibly go wrong.'

8.30am: Arrive back at desk, do some work, carefully prepare documentation for opening new business bank account, using the checklist the bank gave me on Monday. Everything is in order. Am very proud of self.

09.30am: Walk to Chiswick, arrive at bank.

10.00am: Leave bank. Apparently I can't open a business account today as I was given the wrong information by bank staff on Monday.

10.30am: Arrive back at desk to find that the detailed proposal I wrote and sent at 7.00am had managed to send itself as a blank email, so I have to write the whole thing again.

Bloody magpie.

Monday, November 05, 2007

House For Sale, Languedoc, France

Public Service Announcement:

If anyone fancies (or knows anyone who fancies) buying a house in the lovely Languedoc region in the south of France, here's the ad for my place, which (as you can see) is on the market for 110,000 euros.


Tell all your friends!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Tropophobia

I'm quite worried about moving to Falmouth. I've lived in London for nine years, after all, and before that I lived in Slough, which is practically in Zone 6, and before that I lived in Windsor, which is practically in Slough, so all told I've lived in the Greater London area since about 1873, which is one of the reasons I find the idea of moving to the other end of the country quite alarming.

Here are some of the things I worry might happen in Cornwall:

1. I will be lynched by Cornish Nationalists, paraded through the streets of Mawnan Smith and then burnt at the stake, naked and tied by the tongue to Jamie Oliver, while the Owlman of Portreath recites ancient incantations as our flesh starts to melt and combine.

2. No one will give me any work, and I will become penniless and eventually starve to death in Costa Coffee, slumped over a nice flowery notebook from Becky Biddle's Notebook and Lampshade Emporium, in which I will have made copious notes for my never-to-be-published anti-chicklit novel.

3. The lovely Mr BC will go to seek his fortune in Hollywood, leaving me to fend for myself. After ten years he will return to find that the Owlman of Portreath has claimed me for his bride, and that I have borne five owl-children and grown old and pock-marked.

4. I will turn into some sort of hippy.

5. After four months without access to a Caffe Nero, I will suddenly snap, leg it back to London for a grande skinny latte and an almond pain au chocolat, and never come back.

6. A seagull will make off with me in its beak.

7. That's enough bad things that could happen in Cornwall now.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

NHS Fails To Live Up To Expectations

The other day I had occasion to visit an NHS hospital for the first time since 1976.

(I haven't gone private or anything; I've just never been ill or injured.)

My only knowledge of NHS hospitals having come to me through newspapers and television, I was expecting it to be like a cross between Bioshock and 28 Days Later: filthy, cracked windows; floors swimming in blood; groaning, MRSA-infested patients swarming through pus-encrusted corridors, etc.

Instead, I found it to be an oasis of hygiene and efficiency: I was attended to straightaway by nice people with clean uniforms and fancy equipment, there were pleasant cafés and shops, and a general atmosphere of lightness, airiness and commodiousness.

I was most disappointed.

Still, perhaps they were hiding the zombies in the gore shed round the back.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

I'll Pack Next Weekend, Honest

For someone who's meant to be packing up her flat ready for the Big Move, I'm having a lovely time merrily filling it with more stuff.

Here are some things that have found their way into the flat over the past few days:

1. A 1940s wardrobe that I bought ten years ago, and which has been in the possession of my brother and the lovely L for the past five years or so. Inside it's divided into wood and glass compartments with neat enamel labels reading 'Shirts', 'Hats', 'Ties', 'Pyjamas', and so on. 'There's one section that leads to Narnia,' said my brother, matter of factly, 'but I got bored of that one. I prefer the 'Hats' section now.'

2. Two office chairs, one orthopaedic, one not.

3. A large, old, seaman's chest (the wood and metal sort, not a torso, that would be horrible), of the sort that, if my life were a Susan Cooper novel, would probably yield up an ancient brass telescope case with a rolled up map inside with obscure instructions written in Old English, pointing to the location of the resting place of the Holy Grail. (I've checked though, and it only has air fresheners in it.)

4. Two more Pantone mugs. I already had the orange one, and now I have the lime green and the red one* as well. These are the greatest mugs ever, and I will not stop until I have them ALL.


5. A black silk 50s-style dress with a big bow on it, for the awards bash on Thursday. In my mind I look like Audrey Hepburn in it. Then I remember that Audrey Hepburn wasn't five feet tall with a scruffy blonde mop, and that I probably look more like a dwarf version of Jilly Goolden.

6. A second-hand copy of The Fields Beneath, by Gillian Tindall, which I had a copy of before and then lost**. It's the most engaging and beautifully written bit of social history you're ever likely to read. It's a very female take on history: eschewing dates and battles and timelines for a more organic view of how London's ancient past can still be sensed and detected and felt in the present.

(In fact if Tim is still on his mission to read more stuff by female writers, then I highly recommend this, and I'm sure Chuffy! will back me up.)

Here's an extract:
In this sense, the past can be said to be still there, not just existing in the minds of those who seek it, but actually, physically, still present. The town is a palimpsest: the statement it makes in each era is engraved over the only partially-effaced traces of previous statements.

Freud used the image of the ancient city as a metaphor for the Unconscious: he envisaged a city 'in which nothing that has once come into existence will have passed away and all of the earlier phases of development continue to exist alongside the latest ones.' He was talking about the Unconscious of one individual, but perhaps the city is a more obvious metaphor for Jung's Collective Unconscious of the race: we may know nothing about our nineteenth- or seventeenth- or fourteenth-century predecessors on the patch of territory we call ours, but their ideas and actions have shaped our habitat and hence our attitudes as well.

In Blake's poetic vision 'everything exists' for ever: experience is total and cumulative, nothing, not one hair, one particle of dust, can pass away. And in point of fact he was right. Matter is hard to destroy totally, even though it may be transformed by time and violence out of all recognition. In the pulverised rubble lying below modern buildings is the sediment of mediaeval and pre-mediaeval brick and stone [...] Many of our London gardens owe their rich topsoil to manure from long forgotten horses and cattle, and vegetable refuse from meals unimaginably remote in time. [...]

Seeing the past is not a matter of waving a magic wand. It is much more a matter of wielding a spade or pick, of tracing routes - and hence roots - on old maps, of reading the browned ink and even fainter pencil scrawl of preserved documents, whose own edges are often crumbling away into a powder, themselves joining the fur, flesh and faeces to which they testify.

I think it's probably because of this book, which is a social history of Kentish Town in London, that the four years I spent living there seem somehow more meaningful than any time I've ever spent elsewhere.

7. A green shield bug, which has been put out of the window twice, but somehow keeps finding its way back in. Which is amazingly tenacious, seeing as I live three floors up.

In other news, today Mr BC and I met Billy and Llewtrah in the street. Imagine that, eh, just running randomly into other bloggers in the real world! It was as though the very fabric of space and time had been rent, and creatures from the Otherworld had crossed into this one.

It was raining, though, so we didn't chat for long.


* I have been gently reminded that the red one is not in fact mine, and that I must curb my mug-lust lest in my delirious state I also falsely claim ownership of this one.

** It would have been very fitting if the one I bought yesterday in the Oxfam bookshop in Turnham Green Terrace had turned out to be my original, lost copy, but sadly this was not the case.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Is Poking Flirting?

These days I get more people searching for 'is poking flirting?' than any other kind of Google search, due I think to this post.

Frankly I don't know and I don't care, but for anyone who really wants to decode the socio-sexual-cultural semiotics of their latest Facebook poking experience, this bloke has made an exhaustive list of possible meanings. Pick the one that makes you happiest, I suppose.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Question Time

People keep asking me questions that I can't answer. All I can do is gape at them and say 'well, er, I don't really...I mean I haven't really thought about it much, to be honest.'

Which is fine if the question is something like 'Are Ant & Dec a gestalt entity?', or 'Do cats have souls?'. Unfortunately, the questions that I keep getting asked tend to be more along the following lines:

  • Why are you leaving your job?

  • Why are you moving to Cornwall?

  • What are you going to do there?

  • How are you going to make a living?

  • Why do you keep making cakes?

I'm not sure that 'gaping' is an adequate, adult or mature response to any of these questions, to be frank, so later on I am going to sit down and write a detailed life plan for the next five years in a nice notebook.

Or I might just make another cake.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Humiliation Of The Long-Distance Blogger

Tonight my alter ego has the dubious honour of having been selected to liveblog an awards bash whose logo is a massive purple cock.

As if that wasn't enough, I've also been promised that in between picking up gongs for 'most egregious twat' and 'services to misogyny', attendees will be encouraged to poke me, pick fights with me, and stroke my multicoloured fur.

They did call me 'A-list', though. 'A-list idiot', I expect they meant.

Monday, October 22, 2007

iPM

On a completely unrelated note, I see that Radio 4 has officially launched its new blog round-up programme, which is now called iPM.

It has a blog, where you can submit ideas for stuff they could include.

First broadcast is on Saturday 10th Nov, at 5.30pm. Tune in to find out if they cover Spinny's recent fling and Hannah's latest saucy escapades! This could be bigger than The Archers!

'F' Is My Second Favourite Letter, Though

I tend to avoid the F-word, because whenever I use it I always end up unintentionally horribly betraying the sisterhood in some way.

And also I can't help thinking that a lot of feminism only serves to ghettoise women further, and is therefore completely counter-productive, and that what we should really do is just get on with things without drawing attention to our gender every five seconds, and oh arse, I just did it again.

But sometimes I do get a bit riled up, like just now when I was perusing a leaflet that fell out of our industry rag, the inimitable PR Week.

The leaflet is for the Fast Growth Business Awards 2008, and the categories are as follows. See if you can spot the incongruity:

1. T-Mobile Fast Growth Business of the Year

2. Service Business of the Year

3. Product Business of the Year

4. Retail/Leisure Business of the Year

5. Online Business of the Year

6. Best Use of Technology

7. Innovative Business of the Year

8. International Business of the Year

9. Angel or VC-Backed Business of the Year

10. PLUS New Business of the Year

11. AIM New Business of the Year

12. Female Entrepreneur of the Year

13. Financial Director of the Year

14. Green Business of the Year

15. One to Watch

I can't work out if the award organisers have established category 12 because they think that female entrepreneurs deserve a little pat on the head for doing something that's the preserve of men, or because they think women are unlikely to win in the other categories because their companies won't be good enough.

Still, at least they didn't say 'women entrepreneurs', eh, English language fans?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Guardian Fails To Turn Britain Middle Class

In a front-page story today, the Guardian newspaper admitted it has failed in its attempt to turn Britain middle-class.

A poll commissioned by the paper revealed that "of people born to working class parents, 77% say they are working class too. Only one fifth say they have become middle class."

The survey points to extensive failures across the board at the Guardian, including those of high-profile education initiatives aimed at persuading oiks to eschew McDonalds for wood pigeon roasted in truffle oil, cultural policies including the promotion of Hot Chip and TV On The Radio as healthy alternatives to 50 Cent and Rihanna, and efforts to persuade readers that driving to the nearest Sainsbury's to buy a designer canvas bag is better for the environment than nipping out to Costcutter for 20 Superkings and a copy of Closer.

"I just don't understand it," said Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger. "We even made the paper smaller so that proles could read it more easily. And this is the thanks we get. Honestly, to look at these survey results, you'd think some people were actually proud to be working class."

Unbowed by his lack of success, Rusbridger cheerfully announced a new initiative: to bring a little bit of Islington to a small village in Uganda. "It's amazing when you think about it, but some people in Uganda have never even heard of Carluccio's," Rusbridger said. "We asked one lady what one thing would make her life easier, and she simply said 'more time to talk to my friends'. We can do better than that - we're going to fly in copies of Observer Woman every month so the women of Katine can fully understand what they're missing out on by not participating in 21st century society."

"Thanks to our amazing experiment, pretty soon every woman in Uganda will be queuing up for Dr Hauschka Rose Day Cream and high-waisted pencil skirts," he added. "These people need never be unhappy again."

Friday, October 19, 2007

Blogger: Its Part In My Downfall

Lynn threw me into a fit of navel-gazing existential anguish by asking me in the comments of the previous post: 'Why do you blog?'.

My first reaction was to assume Lynn was telling me that my blog is pointless rubbish and that I shouldn't bother, but after two cervezas, some execrable doo-wop music and a stomachful of popcorn, I became slightly more sanguine.

My reasons for blogging have changed a lot over the years. When I started, it was because I wanted to learn HTML, and blogging seemed like a good way to do it. I could learn HTML while writing about myself, which was irresistibly self-indulgent. Also, it was what all the uber-geeks you read about in Wired were doing, and I wanted to be an uber-geek and be in Wired too.

As it turned out, I failed the entry-level test for blogworld geekdom by a) not living in San Francisco's Mission District, and b) not being very good at HTML. You can tell this by the fact that my early posts have no titles - in those days Blogger didn't have a field for entering a blog post title; you had to code titles in by hand. There was no comment functionality, either - you had to use a little commenting plug-in built by someone else, usually a chap in a garage in Sacramento, and the comments used to crash every time the garage chap's server fell over due to MASSIVE WORLDWIDE DEMAND. Happy days.

Anyway, then Pyra Labs sold Blogger to Google, and Google fixed it so you didn't really need to know any HTML at all, so that plan went out of the window, although it turned out, much to no one's surprise, that I quite liked writing about myself, so on I went.

Or rather I didn't, because I moved to France and fell out of the blogosphere for a couple of years, before making my glorious return in April 2005 [hmm, I decided to take this bit out...]

Later [and this bit] I left the marital home in a desperate bid to retain my own sanity, and kept on blogging as a kind of outlet for all the things that I would have discussed with ex-Mr P had we still been together, and to try and make some kind of sense of my life, which seemed to have gone horribly, incomprehensibly wrong all of a sudden, and for the company of the readers and commenters, who are all lovely people and who saw me through some quite emotionally difficult times (thank you all, lovely blog readers and commenters).

Nowadays I'm terribly happy and emotionally quite calm, so these days I blog because I get to use words and writing styles that I can't get away with using at work, and because when I find something funny I like to write it down, and because I really, really like tiny mundane minutiae that might never get recorded otherwise. And if other people sometimes like reading it too, then even better.

Along the way I've met some wonderful, fascinating, interesting, lovely and gorgeous people, several of whom have become good friends in real life. And by reading other people's blogs I've learned lots of things - the blogosphere is a massive cornucopia of people and things and ideas that you would never have known about otherwise, and that's why I love it.

So I don't expect to stop blogging any time soon, and in fact I now have two blogs, one personal, one professional. All the better to write about myself with.

I'm still rubbish at HTML, though.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Man With A Horse

Mary said: 'I stayed at the same hotel a few years ago. I seem to remember that there is a rather wonderful sculpture in the town, but memory fuzzy, someone on a horse I think?'

It turns out there are a lot of sculptures in the town, including a massively ambitious effort depicting The Meeting Of The Old World And The New World, but the only Man/Horse (indeed Man/Horse/Pigeon) combo we've seen so far is this one, which is, let's say, a *non-traditional* equestrian statue of Alfonso IX apparently granting a royal charter to the town of Baiona:


Note that even though Alfonso reigned in the 13th century, he was very fashion-forward, in his belted smock dress, leggings and Ugg boots. I fully expect to see Sienna Miller wearing a crown with a live pigeon on it to Glastonbury next year.

But I wouldn't be surprised if this were not the same statue as Mary saw, because Mr BC and I have been heroically unadventurous on this holiday, opting instead to spend most of the time indoors with the curtains drawn; he writing sketches about dentists, and I reading the local papers.

Even with my shaky knowledge of Spanish (exacerbated by the fact that the paper seems to oscillate at random between Castilian Spanish and the local dialect Gallego) I can tell that El Correo Gallego's worldview isn't dissimilar to that of the Daily Mail. Tuesday's lead story is about a group of villagers who have clubbed together to buy a flat in order to prevent gypsies from buying it, moving in, and turning the kiddies' playground into a drug emporium. "We're not racists," a local resident is reported as saying. "We just don't want gypsies here."

Later, an entire page is devoted to the tale of an abandoned dog and the apparent refusal of 'the authorities' to do anything about it. The Correo's intrepid reporter hies himself to the scene, accompanied by a photographer, to discover the dog in situ. Intrepidly, he phones the council himself, only to be told that the dog man is out, the dog van is at the garage having its brakes repaired, and that he should call back later. He intrepidly calls back later, to be greeted with an answerphone message informing him that the office is now closed, whereupon he goes home.

I think things have gone a bit quiet round here since the days of Columbus and Pinzon.


The Meeting Of The Old World And The New World: not the sort of thing that happens a lot these days.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Three Magic Kinds

We have a new contender for 'Best Mistranslation into English':



I was going to post a photo of the eight-poster bed too, but I think some things are best left to the imagination. Instead, here are the Atlantic waves breaking on the rocks below our window:


The Atlantic: not the Spanish Main, apparently.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Galicia Is Far

I'm in Spain for a week or so, sleeping in an eight-poster bed in a suite that's bigger than my flat, in an ancient walled fortress overlooking a marina in which Columbus's tiny backup caravel, the Pinta, is casually moored among the yachts*.


Are these battlements, or crenellations?


You came in that thing? You're braver than I thought.


* Just discovered the Pinta is a replica. I have a feeling the fortress may be, too. The lichen, is, however, real.


Lichen: real.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Westward Ho, Then

You know that thing where you meet someone on a chat forum, but they've got a made-up name, and so you don't realise straightaway that it's the same person whose blog you've been reading (until you start to notice some lexical similarities in their writing and begin to suspect it), and then someone* proposes a real-life forum meet-up, and you go along, and it turns out that the person whose blog you've been reading and who you've been conversing with on the chat forum is actually really very nice and likes Neal Stephenson too and everything, but you're married so you don't think anything of it, and anyway you aren't actually sure he isn't gay, and then later your marriage ends for unrelated reasons and you start hanging out with this person a bit more and you seem to get on quite well and everything and then about nine months later you ask them out on a date and they decline, and you aren't really surprised because you didn't think they were going to go for it anyway, and then three months after that you're both sitting on your sofa discussing how pleasant it is being single when the other person quite unexpectedly leans over to kiss you and says that they would like to see more of you after all, and you're very happy, but at the same time it's all quite complicated because you have to leave the country the next week, and then eight months later you come back to the UK and it's all still going very well with this other person and so you decide to leave your swish London job, your fancy London office and your nastily-carpeted London bachelorette flat and move to Cornwall (which is nicer than London, and a one-bedroom flat there doesn't cost three million pounds) to live with them?

Eeek.

And hurrah!


* That 'someone' being, of course, the lovely cello, to whom I am indebted, probably along with Neal Stephenson, for my current state of happy Cornwallwardsmovingness.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

I'm Thinking Of Setting Up A Whole Separate M&S Blog, Actually

INT. QUINQUIREME TOWERS - EVENING

The lovely Mr BC and I are in the living room, comparing our respective diets.

Me: I have a banana every day for lunch. And I used to have M&S Fruit and Nut Selection, but they seem to have discontinued it, probably because of the grub. So now I have something called Cranberry Surprise. At least I think it's called that.

Mr BC: What's the surprise?

Me (not listening): It might be called Cranberry Explosion.

Mr BC: Yes, that would be a surprise.

Me: The thing is, though, it has a picture of the cranberries on the front, and it says 'not actual size'. But when you tip them out, it turns out they are actually that size.

Mr BC: ...

Me: And that's another thing, on the picture it says 'serving suggestion', but it's just a picture of some cranberries on a table.

Mr BC: I bought a tin of plum tomatoes once, and it had a picture on it of some plum tomatoes in a bowl, and it said 'serving suggestion'. But it was just some plum tomatoes in a bowl.

Me: M&S don't even bother with a bowl. They're just, like, 'tip them on to the table'.

Mr BC: At least they didn't suggest you just tip them on to the floor.

Me: Or into the bin.

Mr BC: They should do that. 'Serving suggestion', and a picture of some cranberries in a bin.

Me: That would be quite nihilistic.

Mr BC: Yes.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I Blame M&S

Last night I dreamed that I was Twiggy's housekeeper.

I knew Twiggy was hiding something from me, but I didn't know what it was. But when Twiggy sent me out on an errand, I hid behind the curtains and saw that she was hiding something in her hand.

Then I woke up.

Dreams are rubbish.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Pedants' Corner

In which I pick holes in things other people have said, with arrant disregard for whether or not the totality of the stuff the other person said is wise, clever, funny, interesting, heartwarming or otherwise Good.

EXHIBIT 1: The Guardian Film & Music supplement, yesterday:
New Yorkers Okkervil River's fourth album is the first that really hits home, but it's so good, you want to go back to the others to make sure you haven't missed out...blah blah...FOUR STARS.

ITEM: Okkervil River are not from New York, they are from Austin. But I'll let David Peschek off because of the four stars, and for his description of Will Sheff as 'a gothic Ray Davies'.


EXHIBIT 2: The Independent Travel Supplement, today:
I emerged from the mobile cocoon of the Durness bus, which flopped to a halt at the end of the long haul from Inverness. Five hours' worth of human breath and perspiration had formed an early autumnal mist on the vehicle's windows. Outside, an early autumnal fog was doing its best to smother and smooth the roughest edge of the world, but the acute serrations of mainland Britain's most distant shore cut through the gloom with the sharpness of diamonds.

ITEM: 'mainland Britain's most distant shore'? Most distant from what, exactly? Durness isn't very distant at all from Tain, or Thurso, or Wick. Brighton beach is a more distant shore than Durness if you're in Glasgow. Oh, let me guess - you meant 'distant from London'. Blimey, it's a good thing no one outside the capital reads the papers, isn't it, Simon Calder? Next time, try 'northernmost', or if you really want to make me happy, 'most septentrional'.


EXHIBIT 3: New US teen soap Gossip Girl, a 'preview' of which was 'mysteriously' 'delivered' to Quinquireme Towers this morning:

Mr BC: That's the dad.

Me: That can't be the dad, he only looks about the same age as us, he can't have teenage kids, that's not right.

Mr BC: No, that is the dad.

Me: He can't possibly be old enough! Look him up on IMDB!

Mr BC: It says he's 38.

Me: Tch. These American dramas are *so* unlifelike.

I suddenly remember that my bestest friend from school, the lovely Smat, has a fourteen-year old daughter, and fall strangely silent.

My Interesting Life

It was brought to my attention by Annie Rhiannon that I had not blogged for some time.

Here then is a quick roundup of things that happened during my blogworld absence:

1. Visitors from Cornwall came, intent on spotting celebrities in That London. Within 48 hours they had racked up Tara Palmer-Tomkinson, Noel Gallagher, Dustin Hoffman and Jodie Kidd, most of them in the organic wholefood supermarket in Kensington. Not to be outdone, Mr BC and I went to Sainsbury's and saw Rula Lenska. Chiswick is a hotbed of A-list stardom and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

2. I had an email from an informant, informing me that the informant had seen Peter Serafinowicz's brother in the High Road Brasserie, and that he looked just like Peter Serafinowicz (the brother, not the informant).

3. I retrieved a cat from SE27.

4. LC and I sold something we'd made* to a very big company, which made us happy. Capitalism rocks.

5. I watched Mr BC play Bioshock. At no point did he exclaim 'that's what you get for messing with the J-man!', but it can only be a matter of time.

6. The television broke. No one was unduly bothered.

7. I attended an event about how no one in the television industry knows what's going on any more. A man from Channel 4 said the channel had run out of money** and had asked the government for help. A scuffle broke out in the audience. It was a bit like the last days of the Roman Empire, but with free canapés.

8. I offered to be interviewed for an online magazine on the subject of fear of public speaking. The thought of talking to the journalist is making me anxious.


* When I say 'we' made it, what I mean is LC made it, while I hovered behind his shoulder making helpful suggestions like 'I think the logo should be bigger'. I am very much the Pointy-Haired Boss to LC's Dilbert.

** My commitment to factual accuracy and editorial integrity compels me to add that this may be a slight exaggeration. Although it might go some way towards explaining this (the bit about the sitcom, not the bit about the mobile phone).


UPDATE: In accordance with my new editorial policy of 'telling lies then correcting them in the footnotes', I should acknowledge that my informant points out that Peter Serafinowicz's brother didn't look 'like Peter Serafinowicz' so much as like 'what you would expect Peter Serafinowicz's brother to look like'.

Friday, September 21, 2007

I Think It's All Over

My cousin is staying at Quinquireme Towers this week.

Me: Ooh, how's that website of yours going?

Cousin: Oh, that. Well it turned out that one of the developers was sick of social networking, so he didn't want to do it any more. And then it turned out that Facebook had the same sort of application already, so there wasn't any point.

Me: Oh dear. So what are you going to do instead?

Cousin: I'm going to become a lawyer.

Full-time score at the end of the Second Dotcom Boom: Facebook 1 (Zuckerberg 07), Everyone Else 0.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Earwigs: Less Worrying Than You Thought, But Not Much

Elegantly drawing together a couple of recent blog themes, my colleague D. instant-messaged me today to say he had opened a new carton of apple juice and found a live earwig inside the lid.

'Was it male or female?', was my immediate - and possibly not entirely relevant - response.

D. didn't know, as it was 'only small', so we looked it up in Wikipedia, where we discovered the following rigorous scientific data:

The name earwig comes from Old English eare "ear" and wicga "insect". It is fancifully related to the notion that earwigs burrow into the brains of humans through the ear and therein lay their eggs. This belief, however, is false. Nevertheless, being exploratory and omnivorous, earwigs probably do crawl into the human ear; even if they are only looking for a humid crevice in which to hide, such behavior provides a memorable basis for the name.

So there you have it: earwigs 'probably' do get in your ear, but not to lay eggs or anything.

That's all right then.

NEXT WEEK: Cottage pie 'probably made of cottages'.

Friday, September 07, 2007

West End Final

In late breaking news, it appears I have passed the Rupert Murdoch Test and have been judged aesthetically pleasing enough for the Times, who are coming to take my photo on Monday.

My image consultant advises me to "pull a 'terrified, vulnerable yet strong and empowered face". I expect I will manage the first bit.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Hobbit

The lovely Mr BC and I are dining in Pizza Express in Chiswick. A young man comes in to order a takeaway, wearing jeans that are really quite daringly tight for W4. Then he goes away again. Presently:

MR BC: That was a hobbit.

ME: Hmm?

MR BC: That was Merry. Or Pippin.

ME: Oh gosh, yes, so it was! It was him out of -

MR BC: Lost.

ME: I was going to say Hetty Wainthropp Investigates.

MR BC: That's him. Dominic, er, Thing.

ME: Yes.


CUT TO:


INT. QUINQUIREME TOWERS - MORNING

MR BC and PATROCLUS in bed, drinking tea.

MR BC: ...and we saw a hobbit.

ME: Ooh yes, I'd forgotten about that! I'm going to write a blog post about it. Something about collecting the whole set, in various chain restaurants in Chiswick. I'm going to look out for Elijah Wood in Zizzi's, that sort of thing. I'm not sure I'd recognise them all, though.

MR BC: You could recognise them from the tattoos.

ME: What tattoos?

MR BC: They got tattoos at the end of The Fellowship Of The Ring.

ME: In Rivendell? I don't remember that bit.

MR BC: (pityingly) In real life. All nine of them, they got tattooed with a 9, in Elvish, when they finished filming.

ME: Nine? I was only collecting four hobbits!

MR BC: Only John Rhys-Davies, who played Gimli, didn't want a tattoo, so his stunt double got it instead. But his stunt double doesn't look anything like him, so he'd be harder to spot.

ME: This is all too difficult now. I think I'll just put up the Lord of the Rings video from Flight of the Conchords. It's funny.



Monday, September 03, 2007

Fame At Last, Fame At Last*

Fellow bloggers, it seems you (or rather, we) have an opportunity for unimaginable fame, fortune and celebrity.

As previously noted by Chuffy! in the comments of this post, BBC Radio 4 seems to be starting a new programme that will highlight good things from the blogosphere, compiled from suggestions that its blog-reading listeners send in.

The official BBC blurb goes something like this:

"The Blog Prog is a new weekly programme for Radio 4. It aims to set a new standard for radio production and its relationship with the audience. The 'Blog Prog' will distil the best and most challenging discussion and debate from the blogosphere. The half hour programme will also generate its own stories through its own blog & will open up the editorial process to take advantage of a well informed and blog savvy audience. At it's [sic - good thing they're not aiming to set a new standard for spelling and grammar, eh, hoho?] heart it's about how we take these ideas and this transform this online debate and personal testimony into arresting and thought provoking radio."

There is an almost completely indecipherable discussion thread about it here.

If any of you good readers work at the BBC and can explain exactly what's going on, it would be much appreciated. It looks like a nice opportunity to bring attention-worthy blog content to a wider audience, but I see no info about how to submit suggestions nor where to submit them to.

Apparently it's going to have its own blog as well, but I can't see any evidence of that yet either.


* Not for me personally, although a journalist from the Times emailed me today to say they might want to take my picture for an article they're doing, but they wanted to check what I look like first. I haven't heard back since I sent my photo, so perhaps I'm too hideous for the Murdoch Machine.


UPDATE: Occasional Poster of Comments reminded me that Radio 4 did a series about bloggers last year, featuring several of yer usual suspects. It made me think about how things have moved on, and about how the media drifted away from the blogging 'craze' and latched on to Second Life, and then Facebook. (Facebook!)

And then I actually, genuinely found myself thinking "people these days, on Facebook, they have all their entertainment provided for them, Movie Quiz application, Stripper Name application, Zombies and what have you...don't know they're born...in *our* day we had to make our own entertainment, we had to make our own games, we didn't have anything provided for us...."

In our day! This was last year! Things are moving far too fast for my liking these days.

UPDATE 2: James from Miscellany Symposium reminds me that BBC Radio Five Live also has its own programme dedicated to blogs (and podcasts) called Blogs and Pods, which also rounds up interesting things from the blogosphere. And he was featured on it last night apparently, good work young sir.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

This Is Not A Blog Post Or Maybe

I once had a very long instant message conversation, which led almost directly to the end of my marriage.

At some point along the way, the interlocutor and I had an argument about whether lyrics or music were more important in the grand scheme of things. I reckoned lyrics, since in those days they were all I was really equipped to appreciate.

The interlocutor didn't think much of this. 'What if a song had great lyrics, but was musically rubbish?,' said he. 'Would you still buy it?'.

I reckoned yes. The interlocutor told me I had a lot to learn. This led into an argument about Badly Drawn Boy, and the next thing I knew my marriage was over and I was living on my own in Shepherd's Bush.

But I was reminded of that snippet of conversation today upon investigating Okkervil River's new album, The Stage Names. As previously advertised, this band have really quite fantastic lyrics that are really more like intensely intricate prose poems set to music, which is all very wonderful and everything, and they do also have some marvellous instrumentation, with trumpets and accordions and what-have-you, but I can't really be doing with singer Will Sheff's voice (and also his long face freaks me out, but that's face-ist, and anyway you can't see it when you're listening to the CD), and sometimes they start a song all promisingly alternative-y and alt-rock-y, but it all turns a bit mainstream rock by the end (see also Calexico's last album), or sometimes you think if only Will Sheff could growl a bit more and whine a bit less, then Okkervil River might be a bit like Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds*, but the lyrics are brilliant.

Here's the opening song off The Stage Names; it exhibits most of the traits outlined above, but it has some excellent 'ooh ooh's in it. And great lyrics.


Okkervil River - Our Life Is Not A Movie Or Maybe (mp3)

(Buy from Amazon)


I do really like them, though, despite their flaws. Although apparently their latest flaw is to be less flawed than they used to be. I don't know, tricky stuff, this indie music.


* Someone on iTunes has suggested that this album is more reminiscent of Elvis Costello's My Aim Is True, which makes a lot more sense (same sort of combination of pop melodies and wordplay and vitriol), especially as 'the' River have covered Elvis Costello in the past. This is why it's important never to listen to anything I say about music, as I know nothing.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Why I Love Wikipedia

Having had an instant-message discussion with the lovely Mr BC earlier about Falmouth in the Elizabethan era, I was moved to look the place up in that founte of all truthfull knowledge, Ye Wikepaedia.

Joyless people are always going on about how 'the' Wikipedia is scandalously unacademic and untrustworthy and all that, but the sooner you accept that some of it may not be strictly and accurately true, the sooner you can get down to the real business of appreciating its gloriously flawed nature.

Who wants stuffy academia, for example, when you can have lovely bits of user-generated bathos like this:

The name Falmouth comes from the river Fal, which is a Norse/Danish Viking name, strongly suggesting that the Danes used the deep water habour [sic] as a landing/resting place. During the Viking Age, the Danes did ally with the Britons of Cornwall, and the Vikings helped their Cornish allies by making pillaging raids on the South coast of Devon and Dorset, which was then controlled by the Saxons of Wessex, who were historically the enemies of both the Danes and the Britons.

Falmouth is the terminus of the A39, which passes in succession close to the neighbouring town of Penryn.

Which prompts the question: had the Vikings *known* about the A39, would they still have gone round the boaty way?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Never Mind All That...

...Spinny's back!

IN OTHER NEWS: I just found a grub in my M&S 'nuts and fruit' selection. A grub! What were they thinking? I'm not eating that!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Where Are The Viewers?

Right, I have a favour to ask. You may or may not be aware of an online-only sitcom called Where Are The Joneses?, in which a woman finds out she has 27 long-lost siblings and goes to find them all.

(I say sitcom, it's actually an incredibly over-engineered advert for Ford, who either fancy themselves as the future of television (shudder), or don't mind forking out millions for someone else to indulge their vision of the future of television, but that's beside the point.)

What I want to know is: have you ever watched it? Do you know anyone who has? Have you even heard of it? I'm trying to establish if it has any kind of actual fan following outside of the people who created it (mainly Steve Coogan's production company Baby Cow) and the people who wish they'd created it (mainly viral marketing people at impossibly hip digital agencies).

NB it's actually not too bad - it's nicely underplayed and has quite a lot of subtle jokes in it - but you have to sit through 14 or 15 two-minute Ford ads episodes before its humour starts to become apparent. And you can submit your own script ideas and stuff via the wiki, because it's achingly cutting edge and interactive and that.

Although frankly, if two-minute corporate-branded YouTube episodes of 'not too bad' comedy are the future of television, I think I might retreat to a cave for the rest of my days.

Monday, August 27, 2007

And Finally...



And with that I pronounce silly season to be over once more, and I shall now return to writing Very Serious and Very Considered posts about Very Important Things.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Best Museum Display Ever

Why did no one tell me the V&A had an entire gallery dedicated to wrought iron? It's officially the most fabulous artistic medium known to man. Just look at this lot:


(This - above - is the best picture I've ever taken, apart from that one I took at the May Day protest in 1999 of a bunch of lefty wastrels with a French Revolutionary placard, which I have now sadly lost. I think my outlook on life has altered somewhat in the intervening eight years.)



And just for good measure, here's a picture of a filthy frieze on Exhibition Road:


And just because I'm having such a splendid, photograph-y day, here's a plaque from under the railway bridge at Stamford Brook. I have no idea what it means, but it must mean something to someone:


Ahh, London on Bank Holiday is great.


UPDATE: I made the nice picture into a negative using The Gimp (because I am too stupid for Photoshop), and I'm posting it here just because I like it:


I Like Cats Best

We interrupt this extended period of neglectful torpor to alert you to a piece of shoddy reporting from yesterday's Guardian:

"People may be desperately seeking the sun after the wettest recorded summer, but at least one species would have had it no other way. Britain's favourite mammal, the badger, may be found this weekend at home in his sett, with his larder full, his babes fattening beside him and very little need to go out and hunt."
(My emphasis)

A search for 'Britain's favourite mammal' on Google elicits no evidence of a collective national preference for the badger. But it does reveal that the Forestry Commission is confident that Britain's favourite mammal is the red squirrel:

"Pupils of Inverness's Smithton Primary School will on Friday kick off the great Highland Red Squirrel Hunt - and National Red Squirrel Week - and do their bit to help save Britain's favourite mammal from further decline and possible extinction."

...while a third faction claims the title for our spiky friend the hedgehog, and Swansea City Council makes a daring counter-claim for the otter.

None of these people cite a single shred of evidence for their claim, although the Guardian certainly has form (or, if you will, sett), having proclaimed the badger as top mammal as long ago as 1999.

Personally I would have put good money on Britain's favourite mammal being 'dog', 'cat' or, Heaven forbid, 'human beings'. But the category of 'mammal' has a long history of being appropriated by interested parties for their own political ends, as any feminist critic of Charles* Linnaeus could tell you, and on the strength of the evidence presented here, I can only assume that this continues to be the case.


*Carl. Ahem.

Friday, August 17, 2007

And Now On 'Postmodern Review'...



Yes, I know there hasn't been much writing lately; it's all the fault of the catalogue people with their bullet point machine, which has been taking up all my waking hours. Normal service will be resumed shortly.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Gah

When will it end? When?


UPDATE: It has ended now.

UPDATE 2: No it hasn't.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

And Thrice Bah

What I am supposed to be doing this weekend: going to Canterbury, dining by the sea with some staff and alumni of Britain's most creatively fecund chain bookshop, staying in a fancy hotel, relaxing.

What I am actually doing this weekend: sitting at my desk, editing a catalogue of IT companies.

Still, I can do bullet points now.


UPDATE: All this has possibly been made worthwhile by the fact that the catalogue includes the word 'dramaturgy', a word which has surely never before been uttered in the entire history of the enterprise software industry.

(I excised it immediately, to avoid putting fanciful notions into the heads of the fortysomething Home Counties-dwelling golf enthusiasts who make up 99% of the industry in the UK, like when my parents banned me from watching The Kids From Fame in case it made me want to run away from home and become a dancer.)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The One Where I Had To Work Late

What I am supposed to be doing tonight: having dinner in a swanky Notting Hill eaterie with the lovely cello, the lovely Pashmina, the lovely Mr BC, some other lovely Green Wing writers and a multi-multi-multi-multi-millionaire* Hollywood writer-producer, who might also be lovely, but I don't know that, and neither am I going to know at this rate.

What I am actually doing tonight: sitting at my desk, editing a catalogue of IT companies.

It doesn't help that I am doing this by means of an online editing system that I only learned how to use this morning:


INT. PATROCLUS'S OFFICE - DAY

ME (on phone to helpdesk man in Holland): I can't make it make a bullet point.

HELPDESK MAN: Yes. Have you tried clicking the 'bullet point' button?

ME: I can't see a bullet point button. It's all in such a tiny window.

HELPDESK MAN: Yes. Have you tried clicking the 'maximise window' button?

ME: Oh look, a bullet point button!


And I was planning on gleaning an entire year's worth of insider Hollywood gossip from this evening's bash as well. Oh well. Instead, stand by for a series of tutorials on bolding and indenting text. Don't say I don't bring you all the best content.


ALSO: All this stuff about how Facebook is killing blogging is making me want to cry, and then punch Facebook REALLY HARD.


* 'Allegedly'.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

It's Too Hot To Write...

...so here's a poster for the most terrifying and yet the cutest motion picture Hitchcock ever made:


(Elements of the above artwork may be attributable to my very talented little brother.)

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Just Don't Ask Me How I Know

The lovely Mr BC and I are in a minicab, on our way to Paddington Station.

RADIO ANNOUNCER: And now on London's Heart 106.2, Toby Anstis enters the Time Tunnel.

There is a slight pause.

ME: Toby Anstis's cat once shagged my cat.

Mr BC: ...

ME: Yes, I know, it's not one of my better claims to fame.

Mr BC: ...

ME: Actually it sort of is.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Block

At first I couldn't think of anything to write. Then I thought I would post Three Great Songs About Jesus. But then I could only think of two great songs about Jesus, and one of them wasn't about Jesus, and neither was the other one.

I'll try again tomorrow.

Friday, July 27, 2007

All This Has Just Got To Mean Something

INT. CASTLE FANGSKULL* - DAY

The lovely Mr BC and I are watching the 'Clubbing' episode of Spaced.

Mr BC: When you were a raver, did you have a clubbing name?

ME: Don't be ridiculous, of course I never...oh wait, I did actually.

Mr BC: What was it?

ME: 'Technopup'.

Mr BC: Technopup. What does that mean?

ME: I have absolutely no idea.


* The response I received upon asking Mr BC if his flat has a name.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Stuff And Nonsense

For the first time in about ten years, all my stuff is in one place.

Oh, how I've dreamed about this day, about how great it will be to just be able to see all my stuff around me, without having to get on any ferries or aeroplanes, cross any national borders (real or emotional), traverse any bodies of water or endure heatstroke, damp or fleas in order to consult my book of medieval illuminated manuscripts or watch my DVD of Independence Day.

After a decade of travelling around Europe like Apthorpe's gear, my stuff has finally been brought home to Quinquireme Towers, London W12.

It is a great day.

Unfortunately, however, it turns out that I hate my stuff. My living room, which previously exhibited a kind of pleasing low-grade modernist emptiness, now looks horribly like Lovejoy's attic. It's full of hulking 17th century furniture, lurid Spanish lampstands, acres of blue and white china, some brass candlesticks that my Granny foisted upon me, and a suspiciously asymmetrical Persian carpet.

Fig. 1 - A scene from Lovejoy's attic, yesterday.

I've given a lot of things away in desperation, but even so, a strange heraldic chair has crept into the bathroom, there are about 800 more books than I have shelves for, and at least two more televisions than I need. And as if this wasn't bad enough, I've also got ex-Mr P's priceless collection of 2000AD comics, a metric tonne of Ralph Lauren furnishing fabric and the entire contents of my French neighbour's son's Moroccan-themed salon, which is propped up in my hallway waiting for me to deliver it to an address in Bromley.

Brrr.

Maybe I'll feel better about all this when I've had my hair cut.


UPDATE: I have had my hair cut. I feel better about all this. Although a man at Gunnersbury station told me I looked 'confused', which triggered a violent fit of agoraphobia that prevented me from viewing the giant badgers' sett at Kew Gardens. In other news: I am going out now to buy a geranium* and some washing powder.


* Pelargonium.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

I Love Caroline Phillips. No, Really I Do.

I'm off to France for a week in a Transit van, so in case you hadn't seen it chez Mr BC, I will leave you with Caroline Phillips's brilliant follow-up piece to the legendary My Tornado Hell:


Tornado Alley - The Final Fallout


I'm overjoyed to see that La Phillips has learned nothing about perspective, self-awareness or the proper use of metaphor.

My favourite bit: 'My muscles screamed like elastic bands stretched to their outer limits. Christmas photographs show my face looking as grey as my sweater.'

Marvellous.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Short, Part 2

INT. QUINQUIREME TOWERS - DAY

There is a carrier bag on top of the Mysterious Edwardian Hallrobe that I need to retrieve, but I can't reach it.

ME: Can you reach that carrier bag down for me?

(Mr BC dutifully retrieves carrier bag.)

ME: You know, I never thought of myself as being particularly short until I met you. It didn't even occur to me.

Mr BC: Aww. I don't think of you as short.

ME: Oh, good.

Mr BC: I think of you as tiny.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Meeja Pundits: Your Help Needed

Hello blogchums, I wonder if anyone out there fancies helping me with an article I am writing for our work newsletter.

I'm doing a little analysis of the MediaGuardian 100* list that was published on Monday. The list is supposedly indicative of a shifting balance of power in the UK away from traditional media and towards digital media. I'm interested in hearing anyone's opinions on whether it does genuinely represent a shift in who has media power and influence these days, and if so, in what way? Also, was there anything you found particularly surprising or interesting about the list?

Feel free to comment (anonymously or otherwise) in the comments box, or send me an email. I'll be writing it tomorrow morning, so any time today is good.


* Sub required, but it's free. Although still annoying.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Supernatural Doings Afoot

I just saw a spectral apparition of two huge black boots in my hallway, moving towards my bedroom door.

This wouldn't normally bother me, but I was already feeling quite jumpy*, and it wasn't that long ago that I saw the spectral apparition of a huge man in an aran jumper standing in practically the same place, which for some reason at the time I interpreted as 'a giant from the real world come to get me'.

(Sometimes I have these sub-Philip K Dickian notions that I am not in the real world, but in a dream, and that soon I will wake up into the real world, and it won't be as nice.)

My parents were looking after a haunted house in France once, and I went to stay with them, and saw the ghostly apparition of a pair of shoes, a pair of grey socks and the bottom of a pair of trousers standing next to me as I was brushing my teeth.

When I lived in Slough I often used to see the otherworldly apparition of a lone black sock, darting from the living room into the hallway. My brother lives there now, and he and his girlfriend see the sock ghost quite regularly. Apparently the house used to belong to Aleister Crowley, but I don't know if it is his sock.

I sort of believe in ghosts (although not to the extent that I strew special ink and trigger objects about the place at night to see what they get up to) but I'm at a loss to explain why so many of my brushes with the supernatural have involved footwear.

Still, I'm glad, because it's quite hard to be scared of ghost shoes and socks.

But all the same, brrrr.


UPDATE: Following this disturbing experience, I had to select the least frightening book from my bookshelves to take to bed with me. This turned out to be Piers Morgan's memoirs.


* It later occurred to me that the reason I was feeling jumpy was because I'd been reading Tim Footman's analysis of 'Climbing Up The Walls' by Radiohead, which really unnerved me. Top marks for incisive and unsettling deconstruction, Mr F. Although it doesn't take very much to freak me out - I had nightmares for days after watching Edward Scissorhands.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Tea And Antipathy

INT. PATROCLUS'S OFFICE - DAY

I am in the office kitchen, looking in the tea cupboard.

INNER VOICE: Hmm...Chai...Lapsang Souchong...Goji Berry and Arrowroot...where's the Earl Grey?

Seconds later:

INNER VOICE: There's no Earl Grey. Why the FUCK is there no Earl Grey?

Seconds later:

INNER VOICE: I specifically asked the office manager to get Earl Grey. Honestly, you can't get the staff...wait, what's this?

(It is a new packet of Earl Grey teabags, recently purchased by deeply efficient office manager)

INNER VOICE: These are Whittards teabags! I specifically asked the office manager to get Twinings! I *only* like Twinings! I told her that! Whittards Earl Grey is too strong! Also, Whittards isn't a proper tea company, it's only a pretend tea company, which sells over-perfumed girly doll tea in an attempt to lend a more upmarket air to its frankly pedestrian china. And they turned me down for a job once. Bastards. Although actually that might have been Cargo Homeshop. But still. This is going to upset my entire afternoon!

INNER VOICE: Patroclus, do you ever consider that you lack a sense of perspective?

INNER VOICE: (meekly) Yes.

I make a cup of Whittards Earl Grey, in my special Alan Turing 'magic' mug. It doesn't taste too bad.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Call Off Cthulhu

The lovely Mr BC has been attempting to draw me into the world of role-playing games by slyly positioning them in terms I can relate to.

While we were strolling along Nairn beach last month, he casually mentioned that it's possible to play the game Call of Cthulhu as any character from the 1920s, before giving me a sideways look and adding 'even Lord Peter Wimsey'.

Sadly this intelligence hasn't* given me a taste for complicated rulebooks and unusually multi-faceted dice so much as for re-reading all of the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries.

I've started with Murder Must Advertise, which is a splendid period novel in which people take the tram down Theobalds Road (where I used to work) and say things like 'it's going to rain like billy-oh in about two ticks'. It's also deeply entertaining for me personally, because in it Lord Peter, the aristocratic detective, goes undercover as a copywriter in a London advertising agency.

And that's my job too!

It was also Dorothy Sayers's job, which is why she was able to describe the daily life of an advertising copywriter in the early 1930s in such great and witty detail. I swear nothing has changed, except we now type into computers instead of passing handwritten bits of copy to typists, and we send text by email instead of by messenger boy.

Otherwise, it's exactly the same. Take a deep breath and read this:

Mr Bredon had been a week with Pym's Publicity, and had learnt a number of things. He learned that the word 'pure' was dangerous, because, if lightly used, it laid the client open to prosecution by the Government inspectors, whereas the words 'highest quality', 'finest ingredients' and 'packed under the best conditions' had no legal meaning, and were therefore safe; that the expression 'giving work to umpteen thousand British employees in our model works at so-and-so' was not by any means the same thing as 'British made throughout'; that the Morning Star would not accept any advertisement containing the word 'cure', though there was no objection to such expressions as 'relieve' or 'ameliorate'; that the most convincing copy was always written with the tongue firmly in the cheek, a genuine conviction of the commodity's worth producing - for some reason - poverty and flatness of style; that if, by the most farfetched stretch of ingenuity, an indecent meaning could be read into a headline, that was the meaning that the Great British Public would infallibly read into it; that the great aim of the studio artist was to crowd the copy out of the advertisement and that, conversely, the copywriter was a designing villain whose ambition was to cram the space with verbiage and leave no room for the sketch; that the layout man, a meek ass between two burdens, spent a miserable life trying to reconcile these two parties, and further, that all departments alike were united in hatred of the client, who persisted in spoiling good layouts by cluttering them up with coupons, free-gift offers, lists of local agents and realistic portraits of hideous and uninteresting cartons, to the detriment of his own interests and the annoyance of everyone concerned.

Having just spent the day writing and re-writing a junk direct mail piece for a Large Software Company, during which time I was told by the 'layout man' (actually a layout woman) that what I'd written was too long, too wordy, too unspecific about the benefits of the product and too difficult to illustrate by the 'studio artist', before being told that the client had decided to scrap the idea altogether and go with something completely different, I find the above passage enormously comforting.

Sayers wasn't long out of her copywriting job when Murder Must Advertise was published. I like to think of her using it to exorcise years of frustration with difficult clients and meaningless marketing drivel. And I can actually feel her glee at writing the massive 275-word sentence above as revenge for all those snappy five-word slogans she had to write in her job.

Aww, Dorothy Sayers was great.


* Yet.