Thursday 24th November

November 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

It is the time of the year when Nottingham city centre adopts a somewhat Germanic feel, with model cottages, decked with wurst and beer and pretzels and Christmas-themed goods. Walking through the centre late the other night, it was quite endearing to see men at work in their small wooden houses; the sound and smell of pine to the saw.

But besides the initial kitsch appeal, the stapled snow and giant figurines have little in common with my dream Christmas. This hugely commercial construct is picturesque, but to someone else’s (deranged) palette- a picture book yuletide imbued with a kind of cartoon romance, replete with a ten-foot fibreglass snowman in a pose of unwitting sexual aggression. (Hips forward, hands thrust to the groin, like some kind of marsipan deviant flashing a bus of elf children)

It is an all encompassing image of the modern Christmas: traditional (but sassy), homely (but funky), home-cooked like mamma used to make (in a temporary shed in Bavarian purgatory). It is a Christmas carol performed by rapping middle-classed reindeers. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1uaqKhp8WQ&feature=related)

It is interesting to see this spectacle of our age brought into to close contrast with its diametrically contrary opponent (and predator, I hope): the angry socialist. But a few feet from the pneumatic fun fair and sweet vendors of the Christmas Market, lies a small improvised campsite, a kind of enclosure of tents, which houses protesters who see themselves as part of the global Occupy movement: a campaign for the end economic and social inequality. To see how the relationship between these two develops could be interesting (who would win in a fight- Karl Marx or Santa?).

The Occupy movement has apparently found its unifying global focus in the idea of a “Robin Hood Tax”, so it is quite apposite that concerned Nottingham citizens should begin to identify with the concept of Occupation, at the time of the year when cities become a unified shop-tapestry, woven by a sea of consumers forming a chain from the Victoria Centre to Broadmarsh, with borrowed cash lubricating the flow. The Occupiers won’t move until they have had their political impact. Well, apart from the few yards they did budge, when asked by the City Council; in preparation for our winter wünderland. No dream is perfect.

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Friday 18th November

November 18, 2011 § 1 Comment

I miss the time somewhat when emailing was a fringe activity. There were the wonderful dial up tones, which I genuinely miss (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gsNaR6FRuO0); a sound perhaps only bettered by the old Dot Matrix printers (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mios8GuM12k).

A quick browse in Youtube proves the appeal is wide.

I remember my first email account. I would log in at a friend’s house (remember your friend who had the internet?) and send my internet-buddy a rude message, or simply ‘hello’. I would log out, allow my friend to log in, and he would check his message. I still have that email account, and still use it for some things (over 5000 unread messages and counting), though the password is no longer “Password”.

If you have text-to-speech on your computer, then select the classic “Microsoft Sam”, or “Fred” as he is commonly known on Macs, and have your machine speak the italics below. Who ever thought Stephen Hawking couldn’t do impressions? Here are his Welsh, Scottish and Jamaican accents, with the sentences all written using real words, out of context. They look much like the nonsensical streams of pseudo-language you get in Canadian Pharmaceutical spam messages (Re: Fw: Fw: Hello freind); almost making sense, but not quite.  It makes me want to copy those spam messages into Word, and have Sam/Fred/Stephen read them out to me, to reveal the hidden meaning. In my version, Welsh is first, (as if you needed to be told) then Scottish, then Jamaican, then Scottish again.

Aim fun way-else.  Andy ewe?
Score-tash. Imp me axe-scent hack-loo?
Am Jam ache-can. Year won sum beer-can?
Peg meet? As-train Jew tar off-for. Bat eye. At-turd bee soup-err. Al tick sum fair me waif.

And if you’ve ever wondered what you sound like, if you’re British, or how to do the British accent if you’re not, then watch this video. Soon you will be able to ask a bobby if his dog’s coffee is lost in a foggy loft:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iGTPWbLvrz8

Monday 7th November

November 7, 2011 § Leave a comment

I make a real effort not to shop in Tesco. Their ubiquitous presence in British cities has undoubtedly changed the landscape of the places we live, for the worse. In recent times, Tesco has come to represent the antithesis of all I want this world to be. So it was with heavy heart that I breached the automatic doors (ooh, convenient) of one such superstore this weekend, whilst visiting friends in Sheffield.

I have always made great efforts to distance myself from the frontline of my pet hates, and even at my most unemployable, I am lucky enough to have never worked in a supermarket. For a time I worked in a warehouse, “picking and packing” orders of uniforms for commercial franchises such as Pork Farms and Asda. This hangar of shelves and conveyors offered enough dark, secluded dead-ends to allow for occasional off the radar naps. (In hiding, I was too nervous to actually sleep, but hiding somehow was enough. One other ‘agency casual’ adopted a more foolhardy and perhaps counter-intuitive approach to skipping work. After clocking in, he would leave for the pub instantly, remorselessly, returning only at the end of the day to clock out. “But don’t you just spend all the money you make in the day?” “Yeah, but I’m only going to spend it on beer anyway”)

In Tesco this Saturday then, we stood considering the frozen meat, whilst a busy shelf-stacker beavered away, replenishing stocks, whistling the theme tune to Laurel & Hardy. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mD8NjVVKvuE

He observed a brief pause with a handful of sausages, during which I took up the tune myself. He turned his head with a look of shock and appreciation, and a smile. He soon left with his trolley, picking up the melody from me as he went. Reciprocal whistling doesn’t happen enough- it was a nice moment.

I imagine working in a supermarket -with its tedious restocking and till work- must be a bit more palatable if it is experienced as a Laurel & Hardy movie. That stray twelve-pack of white torpedoes which refuses to stay where it should, sliding down, to be replaced, to slide down, to be replaced again, to hold balance for a few seconds before releasing an avalanche of wholemeal baps.

Holding to my moral values, I made sure I had not left the shop before engaging in at least one rebellious act of middle-class ambient sabotage: One scrubbing brush in the toothbrush section. Just playing my part in bringing down Capitalism.

Tuesday 1st November

November 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

There is a real game of etiquette involved in public toilets; various dos and don’ts that are largely prescribed and cultural, but also partly personal. It is a space that is both private and public, where personal values negotiate with public norms. I don’t know if (and doubt) this is the case with women, but with men, there are real schools of thought in bathroom philosophy; distinct approaches, if you will. Men like myself prefer cubicles to the alternative of displaying our genitals in a line with others. We release our farts in sudden torrents, masked by the flush of the cistern. We open doors with our hands covered by our jumper sleeve, and wash our hands properly (but sometimes dry them on our trouser legs). It seems some blokes have established for themselves a kind of handicap system, and treat public urination a little like golf: the further away from the bowl you stand, the better the score. This philosophy has a butterfly effect on the cubicle’s players; the ambient slick of other men’s wee exponentially widening the berth between the safety of dry floor and the ceramic target, and thus, with every turn, we must take a further step backwards, or else adopt the “John Wayne”, and straddle the toilet whilst touching no surface (much like a toddler held over a drain). Then there is the defining issue, which separates us from those we don’t want to be too close to, both rhetorically and literally: to wash or not to wash. Of course, the answer is emphatically WASH YOUR FLIPPING HANDS YOU TWIT. It’s a small gesture, like reigning in sexual jokes in front of older relatives, which makes the world a bit more palatable. “But what about the germs on the taps?” WASH YOUR BLOODY HANDS. Although, worse still would be catching the eye of a man who is lost in concentration washing one finger with particular rigour and extra soap.

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