Thirty Thousand Streets

Thursday, June 29, 2006


What have I been doing.

Last thursday I went on a sort of date thing with someone I met off t'internet. It was an experience I don't think I'm going to repeat any time soon. Nice enough, but I couldn't quite get over how out of sync she was with the mental picture of her I'd built up in my head. We went for a drink in Camden, before making mutual excuses and heading our separate ways. Actually, she made the excuses, but it's my blog.

The most annoying thing about the night was, while waiting at the top of the escalators at Camden tube, a policeman came over and started talking at me while I was trying to send a text.

"Can I ask you what you're doing sir?"

he enquired.

"I'm waiting for someone" I answered

"and do you often wait for them here?"

"it's the first time I've met them"

"and who might they then"

"it's a date"

"Oh a date is it" he said, staring off at an angle perpendicular to my head. All the time he was maintaining a studied bored monotone, and I didn't much care for the sardonic edge to his voice that suggested all this was the dramatic build-up to some cretinous punchline. He was going to ask me to move, and I found his circuitous route both irritating and irritating.

"look, shall we cut to the chase here?" I asked, wolverine style claws pricking at my knuckles.

"don't take that attitude with me" he said, all traces of flaccid humour suddenly having evaporated "move out of here and stop causing an obstruction"

Which I duly did. What annoyed me was the moment I exited the turnstiles I was duly pestered by various people trying to sell me 'skunks', all of ten feet from robocop, who stood officiously staring at the hall of the tube station, ready to thwart wrong-doing in all its static, loitering forms.

Don't get me wrong, I've nothing against the police (some of my best friends are police) but shouldn't he have been out trying to catch some real criminals? James Blunt and the person ultimately responsible for the 'Tom Tom' sat-nav advertisements are a couple of obvious examples, but I could go on.


This week I've been working at a Corporate Identity consultancy with lots of Germans, which was either miles better than that sounds, or lots worse, depending on your perspective. The grid system was king, and there was no decent coffee – for me at least.

Their offices were in a huge victorian terrace with white walls and wall-to-wall blue carpeting. It was pretty much silent but for the ocasional conference call and the incessant clicking of mice. Every once in a while an insect would stray into one of the uplighters on the wall and perish with a piercing smell like burning hair.


Now it's the weekend. Went for a bite to eat at a Spanish place in Hackney with Sam and Kay, before going back to theirs for a couple of glasses of wine and a game of 'Buzz'. Also bought a copy of the Guardian, soley because today it came with a free poster depicting various types of octopi and squid (and cuttlefish). It's now pinned above my desk and I can tell it's going to be a slow month.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Post 100: Charity Shops

When I finally get around to assembling my 'Fantasy Football' band – 'The London Ipods,'* (consisting of me, Brian Eno, KRS1 and I dunno, one of the Cheeky Girls) my first single is going to be called 'Charity Shops Are Crap These Days', which is basically going to be a wailing lament/torch song about the current charity shop circuit, which as any dedicated charity shop scenester will tell you, has gone well downhill.

When my friend Sam got back from LA recently he was all like "The second hand shops out there are amazing man" he was all like "Dior t-shirt" and "Camper-style-shoes", and "vintage dresses" (Kay's, not his I might add), while I could but sit there agape.

Time was charity shopping here used to be one of my more preferred methods of wasting a Saturday, trawling through bins of mouldering old vinyl, and rails of motheaten old clothes in the hope of uncovering that elusive holy grail (which I'm reliably informed actually happens in a Neil Gaiman story).

Generally I'd operate alone – as dedicated charity shoppers do; you don't want to be sharing the goods with another enthusiast should you actually strike a seam of metaphorical charity gold, nor boring the shit out of those of your friends lacking the shopping chromasome.

Still the times were good, and there were bargains to be had. The shops you were after were those run by two little old ladies who loved cats, (and thats's about it) and who had an absolute absence of what might be termed 'street smarts'. By this I mean they had a howling void in place of anything which could vaguely be termed A: an aesthetic sensibility, B: an appreciation of design merit or C: any kind of nose for value. Sounds harsh? Well that's word to ya moms B; the last record any of these girls bought was probably a waltz on Shellac or a music hall number from the mid-late 40s. Other good signs were if it smelled of some enigmatic cocktail of mothballs and sick (the exact breakdown was never clear), and was for a singularly odd charity such as 'Pigeons for Jesus' or somesuch.

I remember triumphantly purchasing a Phillip Starck lemon squeezer (admittedly a bit of designer tat if ever there was one) boxed, for a couple of quid in the Royal Society for the Protection of Blind Sparrows shop by the Heaton Mersey Somerfield.

"Eh love, you really want to buy this?"

Queried the old dear behind the counter, eyeing the chrome object suspiciously. I did indeed.

And records.. not often but ocasionally you'd arrive just in time to snap up someone's collection of disco 12s or Soul lps – an entire crate of sometimes pristine wax for an absolute song (so to speak).

And clothes of course.. retro, ironic, it was all there.

But that was before 'the dark times'. I suspect that there was a golden era of charity shopping towards the arse end of the 80s and beginning of the 90s, when people rushed blindly to ditch their old clothes and records in favour of exciting new fabrics and those shiny drinks coasters we call CDs, little realising the kudos that these scorned artefacts would be garnering scant years later.

With the advent of ebay, and perhaps more so the arrival of the well worn rut of cheap BBC daytime programming – 'Tat Hunt', "Crap in Your Attic" etc, a phonemenon ocurred wherin the same crud people would pay other people to take off their hands a few years back suddenly became as potentially valuable as reconstruction contracts in recently deposed dictatorships; through some mysterious sleight of hand and under cover of relentless jocularity David 'The Real Lovejoy' Dickenson became apotheosised as some kind of sloganeering antiques neo-christ. Things were never to be the same again.

When charity shops got smart, the laminate flooring moved in and the bargains moved out, to be replaced by tat of such calibre I'm genuinely aghast any of it sold in the first place – the kind of synthetic jive St. Audrey would have been ashamed to have in her living room when she was rocking a lace necklace. While these once holy bastions of the bargain buy masquerade as shops, all the good stuff is creamed off in some warehouse to be auctioned for a premium on ebay, leaving me to panhandle through shelves of crap I'd deign unfit to throw rocks at. Now where's the fun in that I ask you?

It has to be said, it may just be symptomatic of the wider malaise that is the rampaging webber-beast devouring the high street, as it's not like anyone's going to root through racks of crackly Kanye West MP3s in ten years time is it? (or is it?). Only the other day I noticed Dixons had got eaten.


Anyway. Here's a top ten of things I'd like to find in a charity shop. Pretty unrealistic I guess but you get the picture.

10. A stack of well thumbed 60s design magazines such as Avant Garde.

9. A load of brightly coloured seventies glass sculptures shaped like fish. They'd look really ironic in your bathroom at a party.

8. A cardboard box full of seventies science fiction paperbacks on the Panther imprint. Art direction on the cover is generally a stylishly shot photo of a lava lamp, or one of the glass fish from number 9 above. Stanilsav Lem might be well represented here.

7. Some cool t-shirts – badly screenprinted shirts from holiday destinations, obscure local businesses, and old computer games such as "Shadow of the Beast" earn extra karma points in the afterlife.

6. A clutch of original Blue Note lps from the 60s, slightly worn maybe, play fine though.

5. A pair of nicely worn in 'Big E' Levis.

4. Some retro electronic 'Grandstand' game, such as 'Munchman'. (Wimpey to Pacman's McDonalds, basically)

3. A couple of prints from the seventies – frame is cracked on one. Maybe from the Moebius 'Starwatcher' series? Yeah that'd be nice.

2. Shit.. I dunno, some Star Wars figures? Actually fuck that.. FUZZY FELT.

1. A Louis Leathers 'Super Sportsman' jacket, brown, size 40" please santa. (ironically, my ex housemate Paul did actually find one of these, it immediately rocketed to my number one and proved there is hope yet)


And Now, a top ten of the kind of raw shite you're going to have to wade through in your vain quest to find anything worth posessing.

10. Some James Last LPs. Never heard anything by him to my knowledge, never intend to. The art direction alone elicits the kind of panicked fearful response in me as some dogs have when they walk across the sites of ancient battlefields.

9. Some crappy home decoration book such as "Stencil Your Way To Success!", which isn't even on some ironic Readers Digest type flave. Avoid.

8. A 'Windows 98' handbook, though as Ade noticed the other day, our flat inexplicably owns one of these already (though I suppose I could take it to a charity shop).

7. Nylon shirts. Lots of them.

6. Mid 90s Topman t-shirts bought for the unreconstructed lad by his girlfriend. There'll probably be a faux-distressed picture of a mini on it, or a six-pack of some beer with the legend 'Six Machine" written on it; or (most heinously) the name of a developing country or suitably ethnic quarter of New York: 'Harlem', 'Bronx' etc. n.b. – this 'isn't the same' as the 'tourist' t-shirts described under 'good' in point 7. That cannot be emphasised enough.

5. Same weak assed chic-lit with titles such as 'Chardonnay Wedding', 'Man shopping' or 'Shopaholic Crimes'.

4. Some slightly sweaty looking Nike Trainers in size 6. And no they're not Dunks.

3. A simpsons tie. Though actually, it could be any Simpsons merchandise ie: boxer shorts, waistcoat, bubble bath.

2. Some god awful toy that has been spawned by some corporate sponsored tv franchise, A 'Tweenie' maybe, or that horrible purple dinosaur.

Fuck this is getting boring.. but you get the idea. Any ideas for the number one gratefully accepted.

ps: Hey-yah. One hundred posts deep. I'm popping the Chandon as I write.

*Apple's lawyers allowing.

Friday, June 16, 2006


Proving that my mum's blog is more interesting even than mine, here's my uncle kissing a certain stoney sea-lord somewhere high above the streets of London.

She gets all the scoops.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Ol' Brown RIP

I'm cat-sitting in Hackney at the minute, which makes for a change. The cat's nice anyhow, and so friendly you could mistake it for a dog. It was mewing and scratching at the bedroom door the other day so I let it in, thinking it would just sleep on the bed. Instead it stood on my chest rubbing its face against mine and pacing up and down incesssantly until I ejected it from the bedroom of eden, to the wasteland of the hall outside.

I got in quite late last night, having sat outside the Hermits for a bit with Marv and Gregg, who was stranded in London having missed his coach. As I was crossing a junction in Shoreditch the bag I've owned for nine or so years caught on a railing by its strap, which prompty ripped in two. There were a couple of hipster girls crossing the road behind me: "nice" commented one in passing, as they strode by.

I mourn its passing. In it's short life it's carried weighty tomes of critical theory from college and back (often largely unread), stacks of vinyl and cans of lager to parties, and socks and t-shirts to weekends away across this green and pleasant land.

Back in Soho again this week. This place has got air conditioning too, which after last week, is a godsend, especially considering the weather today was like a hot day in Spain. Shame to have to work, really.

I'm tring to sort out a tax return for 2005. I don't want to. I keep getting stern looking letters off the Inland Revenue urging me to get it in soon or else.. Or else what? You sent it to me late for starters.

When I tried to fill in the self assesment form I found that you have to send off for a subsiduary form about employment – which has just arrived a week later. To save time I tried to register to self assess online, and when my password didn't work, rang the IR helpline up to confirm it.

He said he'd send it in the post, as they don't give out such details in the post. And it'd take about a week. Sigh. What gets me is all this password would enable someone to do is potentially complete my tax return for me. If anyone fancies doing mine, they're welcome to it.