Friday, July 27, 2007

All This Has Just Got To Mean Something


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.


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.'


Friday, July 13, 2007

Short, Part 2


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


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.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Never Mind All That

You know what the blogosphere doesn't have nearly enough of?

It doesn't have nearly enough sweary rants about doors, Aristotelian principles of symmetry, battery corrosion and the course of the ancient river Fleet.

Fortunately, veteran commenter and fellow Everyone Hates Attachments alumnus chuffy!, in the mythical guise of 'Jack Door', is addressing all of these lacunae in a long-awaited new blog.

I heartily recommend that you slake your ranty door-thirst by visiting Perceptions of Doors immediately!

UPDATE: Hardcore door fans will also enjoy browsing the fabulous pictures at Vic's Flickr page here.

Never Believe What You Read In The Papers

I'm writing an article for a client that's partly about the growing use of internet banking in the UK.

When I asked the client if he had any figures illustrating the growth of online banking, he directed me to two recentish press releases.

The first press release was issued by Apacs on the 28th December last year, and says that 'over a third' of UK adults now bank online, with the 16-24 age bracket growing fastest.

The second release was issued 25 days later by Lloyds TSB, and says that 68% of UK adults now bank online, with the over-50 age bracket growing fastest.

Both stories were reported faithfully by the financial newswire Finextra, with no acknowledgement of - let alone attempt made to investigate - the gaping discrepancies evident therein.

It annoys me intensely that a lot of 'journalism' is actually just re-printing press releases about spurious surveys that miraculously support whatever it is the companies who wrote them are selling.

Next time you see some survey data in the paper, take care to note who sponsored or carried out the survey. If it's a company promoting an associated product, pay close attention to the small print, especially about how many and what sort of people were surveyed and what they were asked. Nine times out of ten* it will turn out to be statistically invalid, spurious bollocks.

I wish more journalists had the presence of mind to do the same.

* Hee.