Lost in London

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

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The beautiful ones

Sick of the unattractive riff raff on MySpace? Got killer bone structure? Your special area is right this way...

Social networking appears to be taking over the world. It seems that if I want to get in touch with my friends or find out what they’re up to, I have to log in to MySpace or Facebook. Gone are the days where emails and texts and- gasp- actual conversation on a phone or even- shock horror- meeting up in person were de rigueur.

Alongside the more general networks like MySpace and Bebo there exist a few which cater for particular types of people, divided up by profession or interests. One such network, however, has only one criterion: you have to be beautiful. Imaginatively named Beautiful People, this site is a kind of roped-off area of the net where only the gorgeous are admitted. Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and on looking at some of the profile pictures, I can only assume that some of these beholders are blind.

I can’t think of anything worse than a social networking site exclusively for lookers. While I’m no dog and don’t want to surround myself with the ugly, experience has shown that when you throw too many hotties into the equation, things get boring. As well as the nasty side-effect of vanity, beauty regularly also accompanies dullness. The congenitally lovely never really have to try that hard, be it in social skills or academia; they’re just happy knowing they’re sexy. Even worse are the gorgeous people who pretend that they’re ugly and constantly seek reassurance about their looks, when it’s their personality, or lack thereof, which should be worrying them the most.

So why would anyone want to be a part of Beautiful People? Well, I guess we all like to think we’re hot and this site, which is little more than the internet equivalent of being wolf-whistled at by a builder or groped by a bouncer in the queue for a club, seems to offer a quick fix for those who need telling they’re pretty. And for those not hot enough to make it? What of them? Probably best not to think about it; I’m sure they’ll be OK. They’ve got their ‘great personalities’ to fall back on, after all.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Only happy when it rains

I can barely keep track of time at the moment. It seems just a few seconds since I was frowning in frustration at my mobile and trying to call people to say Happy New Year and half of that year is almost gone and summer is just about round the corner. Sunglasses are being purchased, shorts are being considered and layers are being reduced. And, of course, it’s pissing it down.

When I first moved to London from Edinburgh, I enthused about how rarely it rained compared to Scotland. I must have been punch-drunk from the hellish experience of moving from one end of the country to the other, because as years have gone by, I’ve noticed that it rains just as much as anywhere else.

We have a strange relationship with the rain, don’t we? When it arrives unexpectedly we act as if it is poison being poured on top of our heads. We would rather look idiotic pathetically waving a news paper above our head in a vain attempt to keep dry than allow our carefully-coiffed hair to be exposed to moisture. Rain can cause traffic chaos, bring on bad moods and, save for gardeners and meteorologists, few people are ever pleased to see it. Speaking as someone who trailed out and about for two days solid in the lovely Bank Holiday rain, I think it’s time rain was given a new image by a PR company, to help change the public’s perception of it. Perhaps a good starting point would be to feature it more in general advertising. Take those execrable L’Oréal adverts, for example. The current boring piece-to-camera in generic studio could be changed to Beyoncé extolling the virtues of whatever shampoo she’s flogging while standing at the side of the M5 in a downpour. Imagine how much more interesting Andie MacDowell’s anti-wrinkle sales pitch would be if she were filmed giving it on a market stall in sodden Chapel Market as torrential rain whipped around her penta-peptides.

More radically, perhaps EastEnders could be relocated to somewhere that had a long monsoon season. Showing household favourites coping with sheets of rain in glitzy locations would surely be a ratings hit and help associate wetter weather with normal, everyday life instead of the great wet plague we see it as now.

Another problem is that clothes which protect against the rain are quite boring. Sure, Cath Kidston may sell flowered wellies but no way does rainwear have the same kudos that beachwear and summer collections do. Perhaps designers could start slinging models down perilous, waterlogged catwalks wearing a variety of sexy, revealing pack-a-macs. Designers could flirt with danger and bring a frisson of excitement to rainmacs by including electric strip lighting into the hemline.

Whatever way we do it, it’s time to start getting excited about rain, because for the moment, it looks like it’s all we’ve got.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Another think coming

The fabulous Minge has tagged me and challenged me to list the five blogs that make me think. This, of course, begs the question ‘think of what?’, because different blogs can make you think about different things. Blogs written by lonely park rangers with nobody but a chainsaw and a jar of raw steak for company might inspire me to think of one thing while blogs written by housewives zonked out of their dome from sniffing those smoke-emitting air fresheners might make you think of something quite different altogether.

So, aside from the lovely Minge himself, here are some blogs that make me think. I’m not doing five, though; I’m not that thoughtful, to be honest.

Lubin Odana
The blogger formerly known as Trash Addict makes me think quite a lot about gay identity, snobbery (and how it is generally a good thing), poshness, being clever, growing up in the north of England, living in different places, being old before my time and, oh, lots of things. He was one of the first personal bloggers I ever read with any regularity and in some ways we’re quite similar, while in others we are light years apart, which is probably why I find him so interesting. ‘Same’ is so dull, isn’t it?

High Camp Caress Morell
Another blog I’ve been reading since what feels like the dawn of time, Caress makes me think about Scotland, doing whatever takes your fancy and having a riot. He’s done lots that I haven’t done and some things I would never do, but is consistently entertaining. He has an eye for the best of trashy TV and brings back great memories of some of the fantastic crap I used to watch when American TV was primetime stuff. We have even broken the ‘fourth wall’ and talked over MySpace!

One more, then, because I’m getting RSI, but third and finally, I’ll go for Betty’s Utility Room
Her observational style makes for a great read and her take on news events or general chit chat is usually acerbic, withering and humorous; I love it. She makes me think about all sorts of things.

As I imagine the idea of 'tagging' is to, er, tag people back, I'll tag the blogs I listed above. And even if I didn't tag you, why not list the five blogs that make *you* think. You don't even have to say what of; keep us guessing if you like.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The S word

In the week that the NSPCC warns about the danger of online paedophiles targeting children and teens using social networks like MySpace and Bebo, a ten-year-old I know came home from school with a letter telling her mother that the children were shortly to be given sexual and puberty education.

I was quite surprised at this because I don’t remember getting any such education until I was at least 12, and that two years does make a hell of a difference. The children’s parents have been invited to a ‘preview’ of what the children will be shown and the ten-year-old’s mother (who also happens to be my mother) has decided not to go and stand watching sex ed for children with a load of other parents. If the child had been my daughter and not my sister, I would have liked to have gone. Not to get my rocks off watching someone baby talk over diagrams of sex organs, but purely because I’m hugely curious as to how they teach someone as young as ten about the birds and the balls. Will it be puppetry? Through the art of dance? Will the nurses flick through a dog-eared leaflet? I can’t help but wonder how exactly are they going to approach this because, according to my mother, my sister is more or less clueless. I’m willing to bet she’s heard those whispers we all hear at that age though; it’s unavoidable. “A preview?” shrieked my mother, barely containing her laughter. “They make it sound like an invite to the Academy Awards!”

I’m not sure how I feel about her getting this ‘education’. In one way, I start to feel really Victorian and prim and horrified that my precious angel’s sensibilities will be defiled and that her childhood will be over and in another, I’d rather it was got over with now because I don’t want to see her end up pregnant at 12 by some loser. And as anyone who reads the paper knows, it can happen.

If it is as ridiculous as my sex education I needn’t worry. Most of us sat, at 12, with one eyebrow raised as the word vulva was thrown about like a tennis ball. I’d never heard that word before and I wasn’t alone. Badly-drawn overweight illustration moved about under a blanket which then cut to a live action birth scene of a woman with really pale thighs squeezing out a monolithic fur-capped egg dipped in snot. I knew right there and then that I would never stand at the end of a bed, cigar poised, anticipating the birth of my first-born. It seemed as if something else was born that day; I’m not quite sure what it was but it has stayed with me.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Post 101

Continuing the whinging for which I am famed.

When I ‘saw’ you last, I’d just finished counting down the first half of my lazy, self-absorbed list of what I’m sick of the sight of in London. I’m always very conscious about my levels of negativity and it’s referred to every now and again by people I know, but I have to say I’m not being entirely serious and writing shiny, happy shit has never been my ‘thing’. Blogger’s new horrendous uploading system tells me that this post is my 101st, so in the spirit of Room 101 from not-really-that-scary old book ‘Nineteen Eighty Four’, I’ll finish my countdown. Before I do, I must say that I do actually like living here. Most of the time. Really.

5. Disregard
Nobody cares about or takes notice of anything but themselves. Cyclists whiz through red lights and mount packed pavements, barmen serve the blonde rather than those who’ve been standing in wait for hours, teenagers play really, really crap music through their mobiles on busy trains and best of all absolutely nobody says please or thank you. Perhaps we all exist in our own worlds. Come the revolution, nobody will notice; they’ll be too bust jostling in the queue at the bar. Which leads me nicely onto…

4. Queuing
Queuing in its purest form does not exist in London. Rather than a long orderly line at my bust stop in the morning, there’s a huddle of pissed-off commuters staring angrily forward at the exact spot where they hope the doors of the bendy bus will stop, as if removing their eyes from it would bring down world order. Similarly, it’s every man for himself in sandwich shops, pubs and at clubs. At a recent night out, I queued an astonishing five times before I’d even taken a swallow of drink and set trainer upon the dancefloor: once to get in, followed by a queue for the loo, third to put a coat in, fourth to queue for tokens to buy drink and fifth and finally at the bar itself. At each queue someone tried to push in and most of them succeeded. My brain was too tired to react.

3. Scenes

Lots of people in London are into scenes: indie scene, band scenes, fashion scenes, underground scenes, club scenes, art scenes, burlesque scenes, roller-skating scenes. You name it, it’s got a scene thriving in London. London is a wholly multicultural city, which is fantastic, but in a city so rich in culture, the amount of people who don’t have any or belong to any is remarkable. Such is their desperation to be part of something that London’s inhabitants cling to or create their own scenes, which Time Out revels in waxing lyrical about. Non-one’s just happy to be themselves any more.

2. The South Bank
Yeah, I know. It’s a great place really but ye gods if I find myself walking along it because I’ve nothing better to do ever again I shall throw myself into the Thames. It’s always chock full of tourists, cyclists (wow, I’m quite a velophobe on the quiet, aren’t I?) and performance artists and there’s never room to breathe. But then, I suppose you turn your head away from the man pretended to be made of gold and the out-of-tune flute player and towards the views across the river and realise why you moved to London in the first place. And then a cyclist’s bell trills behind you and you eject juice down the front of your T-shirt.

1. Myself, and others, moaning

I mean, seriously, where the hell else would you rather live? Nowhere. Exactly. So pipe down or piss off.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Total eclipse of the chart

So the singles chart has been revitalised by downloads and every magazine worth its salt has been listing just about anything from top 100 best albums to top 30 thongs Jordan might or might not have worn to premieres, so it’s fair to say, charts are BACK. So I'm launching my very own chart of MOAN.

Charts and lists are piss-easy, lazy-arsed journalism but the public love them and, for that reason, so do I. So I’m going to do more of them. This is, of course, nothing to do with the fact that I haven’t got time to write real blogs about world events/ Jodie Marsh and am scared you’re all going to forget me, oh no. So here are the top ten things I’m sick of the sight of in London, part 1

10. Boys on bikes
Courier bag? Check. Shorn hair to a grade 3? Check. One rolled-up trouser leg? Check. I kind of get the idea about cycling. You know, carbon footprints and all that ‘jazz’ but why is it that as soon as you step onto a bike (*can* you step onto a bike?), all identity is lost and you become one of those generic ‘boys on bikes’ who fill the streets, terrorising pedestrians with their disregard for traffic lights and becoming front bumper fodder for motorists. You may think you’re being individual by cycling, but you’re all utterly interchangeable to me.

9. Dead-eyed cashiers
I worked in a supermarket once and didn’t mind it too much, probably because I knew it wouldn’t be my career and I was a young, impressionable schoolboy. I understand why checkout boys and girls might be a little down in the mouth, but a little ‘please’ or ‘thank you’ would be super, thank you very much. You hate serving me, I hate being served by you. Can’t we find a little camaraderie in our mutual anguish.

8. Freesheets
Not only do I detest being attacked by their demented distributors as I go about my business, I’m thoroughly bored of laying eyes on their dull and uninspiring copies as they litter the pavement or bus. A few facts cobble together from Wikipedia and a double page spread on Prince William do not a newspaper make.

7. Traffic lights

If Ken wants us all to get the bus, why has he reprogrammed every traffic light on the city to be green for approximately three milliseconds, thereby elongating a short bus journey into an epic, traumatic expedition? This is why I walk to work.

6. Smokers
This ban can’t come soon enough. Whether it’s a bored secretary desperately puffing on a Rothman’s outside her office (I am fascinated by bored secretaries and think I may have been one in a previous life), or the greasy-haired dullard smoking a joint in front of me on my journey to work, I am so over smoking and its devotees that it’s almost impossible to hold my tongue and displaying my displeasure. My other half smokes and I am hoping that the ban will spur him into action and make him quit. We shall see…

Part 2 when I get time. I’ve always sneered at people who claimed they were too busy to do things/ stop/ email as I kind of thought it was another way of saying how much more important you are than someone else, but sometimes it’s just as simple as that: I've no time. Hopefully things will calm down and I’ll become a much better blogger. Forgive me, do.