Lost in London

A look at London and life in general through the eyes of someone who sometimes can't bear to watch.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

What they go to school for

I don't enjoy feeling like an old fart who's hopelessly out of touch with 'ver kidz', because it's my job not to be, but I watched a TV programme last night that made me a) feel 1,000 years old and b) unleashed my inner working class rage.

Don't Mess With Miss Beckles is one of those 'I can change your life' shows, but rather than stick a pipe up someone's bum and flush out decades-old curry, or run around their house with a duster slagging off their ornaments, Miss Beckles is hoping to get some lazy schoolboys to achieve in their GCSEs what they should be achieving, rather than what they think it's cool to achieve, i.e. nothing.

Statistics show that boys are being outperformed by girls at school in just about everything bar pissing contests, so Miss Beckles's mission is to motivate (at first) two male pupils and help them get good grades in their mock GCSEs. Her charges, Luke and Josh, were your archetypal teenagers. Luke was crippled both by a controlling mum and also a kind of lonely jealousy that his mum had met a new man and had his baby. And guess what? The stepfather was a bit of an authoritarian. I could empathise with Luke a little: there's nothing worse than your mum's new man coming in and crapping all over your cushy teenage life, but some cope with it better than others. The other 'victim', Josh, was a mummy's boy through and through and while his mum seemed absolutely lovely, it became increasingly clear that it was her relaxed attitude that was contributing to the fact that her son thought he could breeze through life and it all would be OK; that and their frankly huge house in the not-too-shabby area of Muswell Hill in north London which would no doubt all be his one day.

I liked Miss Beckles straight away, as I have a soft spot for tough-talking black women who won't take any shit and unlike some of the other self-help shows that ridicule and belittle participants, Beckles really seemed to care about the boys and it turned out to be the parents who were standing in her way more than the teens.

As if by magic, when Beckles announced she'd take the lads to see football club Arsenal play if they stuck to her rules, a third boy wanted to join the 'project'. The over-indulged Tom, who had a face like a French bread pizza that had been rolled around the floor of a barbershop at closing time and the sneer of a fox caught doing a shit on your rockery, was a happy participant right up until after the football match. As soon as Beckles suggested that Tom might want to pull his right hand out of his girlfriend and pick up a pen and paper and do some study instead, he flicked his golden, ne'er-do-soap hair and got his parents to agree that the whole thing was a stupid idea and that he never wanted to see Miss Beckles again. My eyes narrowed as Miss B patiently sat and nodded while Tom's deluded, holistic, muesli-headed mum debunked the Beckles method (which is essentially 'do some fucking studying') and said that her son hadn't achieved anything because of it. And so, Tom chose a term full of dry rides and love bites instead of a decent stab at some good grades.

Miss Beckles saw her role change from educational motivator to family counsellor when the dysfunctional relationship between Luke and his mother deteriorated. Whether Luke's laziness was driving her mad or she had a lot of issues she had to deal with herself I don't know, but as mum dumped Luke's possessions at the school gates and aired years-old dirty laundry about the boy's dyslexia, bullying and divorce trauma, I couldn't help but think this woman would have been better off in therapy rather than screaming in a Formica-topped school kitchen about how unfair everything was on her. I wasn't entirely surprised that her son hated her.

Despite the trials and tribulation endured by the boys during Miss Beckles's time in their lives, they did admit that they had made progress, even if the parents wouldn't. The programme was great, although it did make me a little bit sad. I never said 'fuck' to my mother in an argument, nor did I think it was OK to openly drink, smoke and shag in or around her company when I was 15. I had more respect for her and also I wanted her to think highly of me. I'm not saying I wasn't doing any of those things, but I didn't feel I had to flaunt it or rub my mum's nose in it. I mean, isn't the whole fun of being a teen doing this kind of thing in secret? As a teenager, I would have given anything to have grown up in these guys' huge houses and have a super-liberal mum and a nice, middle-class upbringing. I realise now, in hindsight, that I would much rather have my working-class background, with its rules and a mum who cared about me but stopped me going off the rails. It makes me appreciate achievement a lot more.

Perhaps if we removed these families from their cosy Muswell Hill life and plonked them in the middle of a Peckham sink estate, the boys would work that little bit harder to better themselves and the mums would encourage them to do exactly that. Just a thought...

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Ray of light

Do you like the lighter nights that British Summer Time brings? If one campaign is successful, we could soon be sunbathing way past closing time (almost).

So, the clocks have gone forward. This is always a confusing week for me. All of a sudden mornings seem lighter and it's not dark as I make my way home. It's nice; as if a weight has been lifted. Then I remember what a light sleeper I am and as the sun comes screaming through my obviously-not-thick-enough bedroom curtains in the morning and I lie there wide-eyed and half-crazed with tiredness, I sometimes wish for it to be January. Bit only for an instant.

I was on the tube the other day and picked up a free paper called The Londoner. It's the propaganda sheet of the Greater London Assembly (GLA)rather than a paper containing actual 'news' and in amongst all the articles about how the streets are much safer and 'you do like bendy buses, oh yes you do; they are your saviour and you don't miss the old kind of buses at all. Look! This survey taken in Kensington proves it!' type of features, I espied a short piece about the campaign to make it summertime all year round- kind of.

Apparently, there is a movement that is pushing for a change in the way we use BST (Daylight Savings) in the UK. This lobby group, which has the backing of the GLA, would like us to not bother putting the clocks back at the usual time in October, instead carrying on with British Summer Time. The following March, when clocks usually go forward, we would advance our clocks an additional hour, making us two hours ahead of GMT, one ahead of BST and with very light nights. When October comes around again, we would put the clocks back an hour, meaning that our time zone would be BST again. Are you still with me? Have you lost the will to live yet?

The GLA says this will help tourism, because tourists want lighter nights so that they can explore London more because, as we all know, London shuts down complete when the sky darkens and Londoners' skin turns into whole grain porridge. We've been living with dark nights for many, many years so quite why this campaign has got the idea that darkness at night is 'so over' I've no idea. The whole campaign bemuses me rather than annoys me, but have they really thought this through?

What the campaigners are quite conveniently forgetting is that a time shift like this will most likely leave Scotland in darkness until around 10 in the morning in winter months, but, as I learned when I lived there, nobody cares about Scotland 'down here', so it's tough luck for them. I can hear the reasoning of the campaigners now: "Well, they spend most of their time on sunbeds or in pubs with blacked-out windows anyway so they'll hardly notice the lack of sun, light and indeed daytime. Another sherry"?

I can't help but wonder what the Daily Mail thinks of it all. I'm half-tempted to write a fake, outraged letter about it but I don't think they need any further fuel in their fire of hatred. I can almost see the headlines now: 'They're stealing our GMT', perhaps.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The bitch is back

Now, I must admit that this isn't usually my area. The celebration and denigration of gay icons is usually the domain of Caress Morell, and very well he does it too. On this occasion, however, my tongue cannot be held. I simply have to speak up.

There has been much fuss in the press about the arrival of camp-as-knickers Dynasty megastar Joan Collins in the much-loved soap Footballers' Wives. The premise sounded delicious: Joanie plays bitchy celeb mag publisher Eva de Woolfe who gets in trainee vamp Tanya Turner's way when it comes to bagging a hot Brazilian stud. Sounds great, doesn't it? Then why, in reality, was it on the shit side?

To be honest, Footballers' Wives as a series and concept has been past its best for a long while. The so-called glamorous lifestyles portrayed in the show are now easily attained by anyone with a credit card and a subscription to OK! magazine. When you can see folk much more ridiculous than Tanya and Shannon propping up the pages of Heat, why bother watching this? Characterisation has got so lazy that I reckon eventually they'll stop pretending that the footballers and their spouses are based on no-one in particular and start naming them Bavid Deckham or Lank Frampard.

The rot set in with the departure of Tanya Turner, arguably one of the best comic characters of the (cringe) 'noughties'. She plots, schemes, shags and snorts her way through each scene as if her life depends on it, and the show was a sorry state without her. Her subsequent return in the most recent episode seemed to fall flat. A pretty much straight rehash of Tanya's previous relationship looks to be playing out, and the actress that plays her, the fantastically swivel-eyed Zoe Lucker, looks as if she's here on pain of death. Perhaps the show's producers have got her loved ones at gunpoint in a shed in Huddersfield?

Enter Joanie stage left. It's a long time since Joan was knocking back scotch and blowing up oil tankers on Dynasty, and I fear that her days as a sex symbol are long behind her. She looked bored and knackered and might as well have phoned in her lacklustre performance. Comparisons to Alexis were inevitable and I'm afraid even piss-weak Fallon could have out-bitched Joan's Eva.

To be fair to the leading ladies, the script was atrocious. Obviously, Footballers' Wives has never been up there with Stephen Poliakoff, but clunking lines, dull scenes and glaring errors all served to make the episode more of an ordeal than a pleasure.

Despite my better judgement, I am sticking with it. I was all for giving my TV away until I caught the sneak preview of the next episode which actually gives Joan some decent lines. I caught the delightful "Get your coked-up nose out of my business" and a showstopping "I think you've outstayed your welcome, bitch", delivered with such venom that it gives me hope that maybe, just maybe, Joan can pull it out of the bag for us.

As for the rest of the storylines outside the Tanya/ Eva story arc, now that the bonkers Amber has been despatched, they might as well perform the show with Sindys and Barbies on string. In Swahili. At three in the morning. On ITV3. Nobody cares.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Smile like you mean it

My grandma always told me that good manners cost nothing, but the way people act in London, you'd think an 'excuse me' would break the bank.

London's a rude city. Now, there are around five main definitions of rude and all of them would apply to London, but it's the ill-mannered kind of rude that concerns me today. In short: living in London means never having to say you're sorry.

I was in Tesco the other day, buying some provisions for lunch. As I queued miles down the aisle to pay for my stuff, I was knocked out of the way twice, had my foot trodden on once and on arriving at the checkout was met with the kind of face that would sour milk at twenty paces. Your original 'torn face', if you like.

Because Londoners like to be seen as tough, ruthless go-getters, being happy or polite is, in their heads, a weakness. So your car almost hit somebody because you were a bit late in stopping at a pedestrian crossing? Don't stop and see if everyone's OK! Don't raise your hand in an admission of blame. That's not the London way! Drive on with a derisive smirk, turn your radio up and- hey- why not gently caress your genitals; you're a Londoner now! So you've barged past somebody and sent their basket of shopping flying? Don't look back! Stride on, proud that there's now one more person in the world that thinks you're a dick.

I'm not saying I'm blameless in this rude culture. I've been known to barge my way along a busy street and I perfected my sneer years ago when first presented with a lemon meringue at three years old, so I won't pretend I'm a saint. I do, at least, always say 'excuse me'. It doesn't take much.

I have found a way to deal with the rude shop assistants, waiters, people just aching to get past you and slack-jawed, shrunk-pupilled pondlife trying to stop you in the street to donate to charity, take part in a survey or buy something you don't want like a makeover or portrait in a photographer's studio: I blind them with politeness.

My smile widens to the length of the Forth Bridge, my tone of voice softens and I emit pleasantries not unheard of in a particularly whimsical chapter of the most flowery Jane Austen novel. The recipients of this ray of sunshine in a black world don't know what to do; they're baffled. Sure, they expect a terse 'fuck off', monosyllabic grunts or a blank look but chuck them a smile and a 'sorry I don't have time right now' or 'thank you for help today' and it throws them completely.

And the thing is, you're not even faking it; you genuinely feel like being nice to these miseries because you know that it's their life's work to inflict their bad temper on everyone else. This way, you win and they lose.

Try it next time a checkout girl's looking at you like you've got shit on the end of your nose. It's a great feeling. Can I stop smiling now? My face hurts.

Friday, March 17, 2006

You got the love

I've decided London's not all bad. I'm bowing to pressure and saying nice things about the city I call home.

I've been getting emails, which is very exciting because it means people are reading what I write. Most egotistical, narcissistic writers say that it doesn't matter if anybody is reading their output but, frankly dear readers, they're lying through their stained, decaying teeth. Unless you're keeping an ultra-private journal which contains secrets that could bring down a monarchy, the whole point of being a writer is to be read.

Most of the emails are complimentary, some of them are weird and a couple of them are concerned that I'm shedding a negative light on London. After all, as 'Miranda' writes in her email: 'If you hate London so much why do you live there? You've never got anything nice to say about it.' She may have a point, so here goes the first part of my top ten on why London's marvellous (this may take some time).

1. Anonymity
It's nice to belong and feel part of a community abut most of the time it's also nice to have your own space. I moved from a relatively small capital city to a pretty huge one because the former was starting to suffocate. Despite the traffic fumes and halitosis of passers-by, I do think that I breathe a little easier in a city where not everybody knows your business.

2. Beauty
It's dirty, smelly, cramped- yes; but London is also one of the most beautiful cities I've ever visited. It's hard not to walk across London Bridge and, as you try and steady yourself in the vicious crosswind, look admiringly at the view of, on one side, Tower Bridge and, on the other, the City. There are some truly gorgeous buildings here and even the shit-holes like Soho and Hoxton have a certain charm.

3. Happening
I don't mean 'happening' as in (and I feel a bit ill saying these words) 'hip' and 'trendy'. The simple truth is that there is a lot happening in London. Exhibitions, clubs, openings, launches, crimes, meetings, scandals. You name it: if it's happening, it's going off in London.

4. Stuff
Whatever you want, you can get it here. The only downside is that there's so much to choose from that you need a weekend at a health spa just to recover from a shopping trip. London can also render visits to other British cities redundant for some people. I have heard the phrase 'But what's the point? You can see all that here' from more than one Londoner's mouth at the prospect of visiting some lesser town. Of course, these people are idiots, but hey, they're entitled to their opinion.

5. Progression
Oh 5 at last. Thanks God, I was struggling for a moment there. I've lived in a few cities in the UK and London is the first one where I have felt that things were actually moving forward. Unlike City 1, which suffered as the poor relation of a much superior city; City 2, which felt as if it hadn't been given any good news since the last WW2 bomb dropped on it; and City 3, which depended so much on tourism that it forgot to provide any fun stuff for the locals to do for the other 11 months of the year; London is an all-year-round, non-stop, upbeat, hey-kids-we-are-cooking-with-gas, tits-out, fuck-me-can-we-get-any-faster-than-this, shoulders-forward uber-city. It's moving forward, but still has one eye on the past with its clutch of old stuff for the tourists. London's not afraid of looking stupid for trying something new; in fact London encourages it. I mean, the Olympics! In London! They'll be a disaster! But oh what fun!

Part 2 imminent (or, to be honest, when I can actually think of five more good things about London). Have a lovely weekend.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Going postal

London's found a new way to weed out the newcomers. What does your postcode say about you?

In the few years I have lived in the throbbing metropolis, I have noticed a little quirk that its inhabitants seem to have acquired. Aside from the tossing of hair, swaggering and general 'more clued up than thou' attitude, there's a linguistic tic that's consuming Londoners: they're talking in code. Postcode.

I actually first came across this phenomenon before I handed over my soul and moved here. Because of the nature of my old job, I had lots of contacts who lived in London and I would 'speak' to them online on a daily basis. One day, as I minded my own business, I received the following communiqué via a group email: 'It's raining in NW1'. No sooner had this bizarre comment hit my screen than another Londoner hit 'reply to all' with the supreme 'Oh it's still sunny over in E14'.

I rapidly began to feel as if I had been dropped into the middle of a sci-fi TV show, where planets were divided into zones which had these bizarre codenames that sounded like strains of flu. I soon realised (in a probably a shorter time than I'm describing here, to be honest, but you'll have to allow me a bit of dramatic licence) that these people were not auditioning for Barbarella; they were talking about areas of London.

It's a common problem; I think I've even fallen victim to it myself. Ads for flats for rent or goods for sale don't even bother telling you what area they're in, just that it's in some postcode or another. At first this can be frustrating for the London newbie; it's yet another way of Londoners making you feel awkward and left out. After a while you acclimatise but you can't help but wonder what's wrong with these people. London's areas have perfectly good names, which have taken centuries to evolve, like Hampstead, Highgate, Camden- even New Cross Gate sounds better than SE14- so why break them down into nothing more than zones which were only invented to assist that most moronic of former public sector companies- Royal Mail.

Perhaps it makes Londoners feel as if they have more of an identity. Maybe sharing a postcode with someone is as intimate as most of them get. More likely it's another way of outsnobbing whoever they're talking to. The entire population of London is, after all, eternally keeping up with those elusive, invisible Joneses.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Reality used to be a friend of mine

I used to love Davina McCall. I've watched her on my TV ever since she first staggered her way around the studio attempting to read the news on MTV. I've witnessed her demean men in their early 20s by making them strip and cover themselves in whipped cream on the execrable God's Gift, watched through my fingers as she fronted the dullest daredevil show of all Don't Try This At Home and I have sat grinning as she brings her unique charm to the cartoonish public lynching that is Big Brother. Just recently, though, I'm beginning to wonder if Dav hasn't lost her touch.

I think the rot started to set in around the time that we, as viewers, were subjected to the minor prang that was Love on a Saturday Night. Basically Blind Date with its brain removed, Davina mugged to the camera as several council estates sat in the audience watching manual labourers attempt to woo helium-breasted pub karaoke stars. I don't watch a lot of Saturday night TV as a rule, because it's a) requires a lobotomy to fully enjoy and b) I never stay in the house past 9 on a Saturday unless I am gravely ill; but I did expect better of Davina.

Further series of Big Brother came and went and I slowly realised that it wasn't just this format that was becoming tired: Davina's schtick was starting to lose its sparkle too. The contestants weren't her 'mates'; she clearly was no longer 'addicted' to watching the show. Week by week, Davina's star began to fade and in our house a phrase was uttered that I never thought I'd hear: "Isn't it about time they got someone else to do this?"

However, it's not Big Brother that's buried Davina. The two straws which have seen the proverbial camel admitted to the spinal injuries' unit go by the name of He's Having a Baby and the eponymous chat show shitsack that is Davina.

He's Having a Baby seemed to be a new take on Pets do the Funniest Things, but instead of a dog balancing a cat on the end of its nose, you get a lager lad shitting himself and attempting to shop for babygros in order to expose how unready he is for his partner's impending childbirth. Davina was on top ringleader form in the episode I saw: lots of eye-rolling to the camera and a few shrieks here and there to make the men feel even more incompetent. It was almost as if Davina wanted to shove the guys out of the way and say "Look, I've got breasts and a uterus; let me deal with this!"

Davina should, on paper, be TV gold. It aims to bring Ms. McCall's skilful interview techniques, perfectly honed thanks to her stuttering card-reading attempts on that reality show, to a wider (i.e. BBC) audience by having Davina grimace opposite a celebrity, as opposed to a recent evictee. Press releases promised that Davina would be cutting through the celebrity crap (I'm clearly paraphrasing; this is the BBC after all) and taking a hard line when it came to questioning. Somewhat predictably, she's dying on her arse.

On the last one that I could bear to sit through, Davina was 'interviewing' glamour model Jordan a.k.a Katie Price. Now, I've seen Jordan interviewed before; she's as media untrained as its possible to be without just standing up and taking your top off, so I was expecting the usual scenario of Jordan slipping up and embarrassing herself. Instead, Davina asked the safest, cosiest questions; all of which had been asked a million times before. I felt like I was intruding on two W.I. members swapping recipes. Exchanges with GMTV egg-in-a-suit Eamonn Holmes and pop princesses Girls Aloud were equally strained and dull. It seems that unless Davina is berating one of her evictees or asking them how many times they wanked in the house, she's a little lost at sea- and she's not even making a good job of the reality thing any more.

I've met Davina in 'real life' and found her to be very personable and genuine. She's a true pro and seems to garner total adoration from a wide sector of the public. Everyone who's worked with or met her has only good to say about her. I don't know why, then, on TV she makes me want to reach for the off switch. O once great Davina, where art thou?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Loud and clear

There's no getting away from it. People who make too much noise make me want to scream.

Even before I begin to write this I can feel myself rapidly ageing and my general character altering. If I were to look in a mirror, my hair would no doubt be almost completely grey; the lines on my forehead (or 'tube map' as I like to call them) deeper than ever before; bona fide wrinkles surrounding my eyes. You see, I'm about to turn into a whingeing old man because, and I can keep this secret no longer, excessive noise- nay, any noise- really pisses me off.

I can't remember when my 'issue' with noisiness and those who create it started, but judging by the fact that Kylie and bad early '90s house used to blare out of my teenage stereo at decibels loud enough to keep a coma victim in Los Angeles awake, I can't have carried it with me for ever.

London's a loud place, so it's not the right town for somebody who shrieks and jumps in the air every time a cat farts, but it's not the hum of the city that bothers me really, anyway. Horns blare, buses trundle, mugging victims scream and newspaper sellers hawk, but I'm oblivious. Put me on a bus with three shrieking teenagers, though, and I'm on the brink of triple homicide.

Beery City twats in too-shiny suits honking like seals in a pub drive me to drink; flaxen-haired Cressidas braying like Eeyore as they slope from Clapham cafe to Battersea Rise make me want to rip my ears off. It seems nobody is happy enough letting the city as a whole be the loudest; they all want to shout it down and be heard. Trouble is, I think it's only me that's listening.

I know how irrational and Victor Meldrew-like this whinge about noise may sound, but there's not much than can kill a lucid, intelligent train of thought quicker than a crowing voice or heavy foot.

I have a theory about people who makes lots of noise, whether they're loudly describing the size of their wife's tits on the tube or clanging up a set of steel stairs in nine inch high stilettos: they are desperate to be noticed. Too dull for anyone to give them a second glance, they compensate for this by making sure that everybody knows they're around; it's kind of like 'Can you see me? Can you?! I know you can see me!! No? Oh well heere goes louder!'.

From the girl who laughs at the least funny joke in the world for five minutes at a noise level that would cause coastal erosion, to the guy on the bus who screams into his mobile phone and then looks around him to check that everybody's within earshot of his latest tirade, they're all desperate for someone to acknowledge them. Your audience might want to kill you, but at least it's a reaction. It's almost as if without it, they'd disappear. After all, one of the oldest riddles is 'if a tree falls over in the forest and there's nobody there, does it make a sound?'.

So how do I deal with these people? I refuse to give them what they want. I do not turn around to see where the noise is coming from; I refuse to tut as me personal audio space is invaded; I will not react at all. More often that not, my only reaction is to ramp up the volume on my iPod, which solves one problem of drowning out the noisemakers and yet creates another at the same time; now I'm the one causing a noise disturbance to everyone else. Oh well.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Get thee behind me London

Five more truths you have to deal with if you're shackled to the capital.

Oh look, it's Monday. Boo! I'm sure you've been on the edge of your seat waiting for the other five truths about London; I know I have. Ahem. Anyway, here they are.

6. There's no such thing as customer service

As you enter London, you all but sign an invisible contract with Satan agreeing that shop assistants only have to be nice to you before you buy an item. Once debit cards have changed hands and the product has been bagged, you're on your own; so if it doesn't fit, is a duplicate present, is faulty or is not what you thought you were buying, then tough shit. I have lost count of how many stand up arguments I have had in shops for things like shoddy repairs, bad service, faulty goods and oh, just about everything. Most of the time in fact, shop assistants show nothing but indifference even before you've purchased the item. They breed shop assistants in a factory in Middlesex and feed them on food injected with 'Don't give a shit' hormones and 'I'm sorry but I can't help you with that; you'll have to write to head office' flavour enhancers.

7. You'll get mugged at least once
Practically everyone I know has either been mugged, assaulted, hassled or threatened at some point in their 'London life'. You can avoid areas where mugging is quite common, but it's pointless; London's muggers can sniff out someone who hasn't been turned over and so they will come to you. As long as you're not too attached to your phone, you'll be fine.

8. You can spend £10 without even opening an eye
It's frighteningly easy to spend money in London. Every corner you turn, there are people waiting to rip you off; whether they're hanging around on a street corner trying to sell you a laptop for twenty quid (who actually falls for this shit?); a newsagent marking up a bottle of water by 500%; a restaurant adding an 'optional' service charge upwards of 15%; or an ironically-haired Brick Lane stall holder flogging charity shop tat at 'vintage' prices. Everybody wants to screw you over. Living and shopping in London is like being trapped in a computer game where you are a character that has a certain amount of money given to them every month and it's the job of the rest of London to try and extract it from you. You can't get from one end of Neal Street to the other without spending at least £10- even if you don't buy anything. And hey, if you're not going to spend it, a pickpocket's probably going to relieve you of it, anyway. The answer? Throw all your money down a well and live in a carrier bag on the Strand.

9. Everybody thinks they're a celebrity

You can't deny that as UK cities go, London is probably the most star-studded. Stars of stage, screen and, er, Big Brother house call this sprawling metropolis their home. All of this showbiz glitz has the unfortunate side effect of making your average Joe and Jane Public want a slice of this mythical pie. VIP areas are springing up all over the place, members' clubs are booming, private dining rooms are all the rage; yet nary a celeb to be seen in any of them. They're usually full of booming City types with too much cash and dubious sexual morals, living the high life that they reckon stars live; drinking Cristalle as if they're Damon Dash and Missy Elliott, as opposed to Damon Smith from Wanstead and Melissa Jones from Loughton. Limos and stretch hummers trawl up and down Regent Street packed to the gills not with Hollywood's A-list but with fat, perma-tanned secretaries and hairdressers on a hen night. Designer shops are everywhere but there's nobody in them except Jodie Marsh and whoever's just got a new credit card. The real celebs are being driven underground, which thankfully means that it's easier to get a table at The Ivy or Sheekey's these days. Ahem.

10. You love it really
You may grumble about it or spout unending vitriol and curse it under your breath every time you step on a tube, go into a shop, get shoved by a passer-by, hand over way too much cash for what you've just bought, listened to yet another twat drone on for hours and hours about how fab they are etc. etc. but you love it. You can't imagine living anywhere else and what you love about it usually outweighs that which annoys you and makes you cry hot, salty tears of frustration. If it weren't for the fact that you hated London, you'd have fuck all else to talk about. And so, finally, you have to admit it: London owns you and it always will. Say its name, bitch.

Friday, March 03, 2006

It's a London thing

If you move to London, you become its bitch; there's no getting away from it.

One of the blogs that I read regularly, the brilliant Skewed Worldview of Lubin Odana, describes a pretty miserable visit to London that the author had the other day. While this doesn't surprise me- let's face it, most Londoners are having a miserable time too- it saddened me that even occasional visitors are now seeing through that thin veneer that London has. The pavements aren't paved with gold, no; and people are horrible, yes; but you're not supposed to notice that London's crap until you've lived here for a few weeks and your illusions have been shattered, resolve broken and morals drained from you; every last drop wrung out of you like a dirty old dishcloth.

After a while, though, there comes a thing called 'acceptance'. This is similar to that load of old bollocks about 'submissive wives' that surfaced a few years ago and got feminists and lesbians and feminist lesbians into a bit of a tiz, because it involved women just accepting that men were wankers and letting them get on with behaving like outgrown schoolboys, just to make life easier.

People who live in London inadvertently become its submissive wife. There are at least ten truths that you just have to 'deal with' if you're living in London. Here are the first five:

1. Nobody gives a shit if you live or die
Even if your family live in London too, they are hard pushed to give a monkeys about you. You're part of the rat race; you're invisible; you don't exist to other Londoners. That's why people just barge into each other on Oxford Street or on the Tube: they can't see anybody else there; they think they're alone.

2. You're alone
It can be cripplingly difficult to make friends in London, unless you're a student or one of those extremely sociable types that'll talk to anybody (these types usually get found decapitated in a skip in Camden after taking to the wrong kind of person). Or a very, very pretty girl.

3. The Tube's horrible
Even after living in London for many, many years, the Tube continues to horrify those who travel on it. It's been dirtier, it's been slower and it's been smellier, yet day after day Londoners stand aghast as if they can't quite believe what they're doing. This is why Londoners are rude to each other on the Tube: they just want to get the fuck off and get home. My advice? Avoid it. It's easier than you'd think.

4. Everybody's having a better time than you
As you struggle home with five Sainsbury's bags after a hard day at work, it's commonplace to pass at least five or six groups of laughing people going in the opposite direction, on their way out somewhere. On a Wednesday. You're missing out; they're going somewhere fabulous and you're not invited.

5. Everything you like, somebody else liked five years ago.

Oh, this can be a pain in the arse. When meeting someone relatively new, or talking to one of those friends that thinks they discovered London in a cave, just casually mentioning a bar/ club/ restaurant/ event that you've patronised will result in a 20 minute tirade from your conversation partner about how they went there at the 'very beginning' and how it's now far too 'commercialised'. These are the sort of people you need to cross out of your address book. Right now.

It gets worse, but I'll save that for another time. Ooh, it's like a cliff-hanger at the end of EastEnders or something but with added misery. Have a wonderful weekend.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Me myself and I

If there is anybody out there reading this blog, you may or may not have noticed that I'm not really one for giving out many personal details. For example, my sign-off name is Lost Boy, yet my parents obviously didn't name me that. Can you imagine the relentless bullying at school? I have alluded to my profession but spared you all the gory details and I have mentioned in passing that I am in a relationship, but that's about it. And that's the way it suits me.

I can't think of anything more boring than sitting here and writing here and writing out the minutiae of my daily life; to be honest I'm a fucking dullard in the flesh and do little of import during my working week and loads of crap that none of you would give a shit about at the weekends. Some blogs, however, are very good at being online journals. I read quite a lot of blogs and often gasp at the days my favoured bloggers manage to have. In the time it takes me to get to work, sit at work, leave work, arrive home and eat dinner, other bloggers have been to gay saunas, worked in bars, revisited childhood holiday destinations, written a chapter of a novel, read the whole of Jodie Marsh's autobiography, been busted for shoplifting, made a pop record and held an art exhibition, to name but a few.

Sadly, my daily life is nothing to write home about; a phrase which I'm sure will eventually be superseded by 'nothing to blog about' in years to come as computers and the internet take over the world even more. I guess I treat my blog like a column, where instead of telling you what I had for lunch and moaning about people I know, I spout forth my often wildly misinformed opinion on just about anything, with the 'theme' being that it's happening in London (erm, although there are times when I can't be bothered shoehorning that into every post). I used to have my own column 'back in the day', long before blogging was all the rage, and I supposed in a way I've missed it.

So to summarise, if I don't 'bare all', it's not because I'm trying to be mysterious or exciting or whatever; I'm just boring. However, if you really think that you won't be able to sleep tonight unless you know what I'm having for dinner tonight (some people blog this in great detail so it must be important to some readers), I'll be sampling some grilled chicken and vegetable skewers with either couscous or egg fried rice; I can't decide which. Phew, all that soul-baring has worn me out...