Friday night, at a friend's instigation, I headed up north to Camden. I don't normally get up to Camden much as, A: It always struck me as more of a hangout for rock types (and I'm more of a techno suede-head at heart) and B: I don't really want to buy a t-shirt some chancer's ripped off Threadless to hawk on their stall. Still, Camden's a cool enough place, if you dare to pierce the veil of incense smoke hanging over it.
The night's destination was 'Hootchie Cootchie' night at The Jazz Cafe. Kinda lame name, I think, but actually quite good fun. The Jazz Cafe is actually a venue of some pedigree, I'm aware (like the Band on the Wall in Manchester) and my mate Jules, eyes glowing, later related going to see Pete Rock and CL Smooth there in about 2002 (before they fell out, and started slagging each other off, again) I'd never been though, so was keen to check it out.
The remit of the night was 50s Rockabilly, with a DJ spinning 7 inches and a live band with a luscious singer who looked like she'd just stepped off the set of South Pacific. All of which was fine, but I was mostly absorbed in staring at the sartorial pageant surrounding me.
Whenever I go to nights like this, eg: Northern soul events, I'm always struck by the amount of effort people put into their get-up. And I sometimes wonder, aside from the obvious nostalgia inherent in people affecting modes of fashion from a specific era, whether it represents a certain yearning for a time when people belonged to identifiable tribes, rather than that generic hipster melange of tight jeans, plaid shirts and PE pumps we see strutting round our city centres today.
Here, there were plaid shirts in evidence, but they were mostly tucked into wide legged chinos, or crisp wide-legged selvage jeans with turnups, over oh-so-shiny boots. Leather flight jackets were in attendance, as were immaculately Brylcreamed barnets, a la Mark Lamar (or even Mark Kermode). Chain wallets were in effect, as were Hawaiian shirts, and, I would hazard a guess, polyester.
And the girls... again lots of sculpted hairdos, and the much deprecated high waisted skirt, along with more leopard skin on display than your average safari. Ranking a close second in the swatch stakes were polka dots (followed by stripes), but the big cats stole the show, definitely. Some of the girls were also wearing those glasses you generally only see in Gary Larson cartoons. Awesome.
Of particular note were a triumvirate of angular-looking girls who stood by the bar staring waspishly about and boozing, who sort of resembled 50s Super-villainesses in mega-tight leggings, and beehive hairstyles that probably actually contained bees. One of them even seemed to have sculpted her hair into cat ears. Any single one of looked like they could, and would, have scratched Amy Winehouse to bits for a pair of nylons.
So, all in all, fun anyway, though the three buses home were less so.
Saturday night, after watching an incredibly misconceived Kenneth Branagh adaptation of Shakespeare's As You Like it, (whose sole redeeming feature seemed to be squeezing Brian Blessed into Samurai armour) me and a flattie ended up in The Funky Munky in Camberwell (which incidentally has the worst name of anything, ever). We just wanted a beer, basically, and the Hermits was shutting. The guy who's been DJing there for the last four years or so (DJ Dazzle) always plays pretty much the same set every time I see him – ie: tried and tested funk/disco/pop numbers – and he didn't disappoint in this regard. The crowd certainly seemed to be loving it, though I really wonder how he manages to play the same records so often without A: going clinically insane, or B: coming to loathe them utterly. Perhaps he's succumbed to both eventualities.
I watched the last X-Men film tonight, which was OK, I suppose, if a bit of an overblown FX fest. Another week looms, anyway. Bought a load of Tria markers the other day, which I'm going to enjoy some spending time with.
On Wednesday I went to Abney Park cemetery, on of the 'magnifient seven' of cemeteries built in the first half of the 19th century to accommodate the deceased of the city's burgeoning population.
I'd been once before with my mate Ed, on a hot day in Summer two years back. Then, when we made it to the disused chapel at its centre, there were a couple of groups of distinctly gothic looking individuals, sat around drinking beer in the sun.
Ironically this time around, when the weather was of what I would assume to be a much more gothic nature (cold, wet, sepulchral) there was not a single leather trenchcoat or facial piercing to be seen in the impending twilight. Whaddya know. Roy Ayers was right: EVERYONE loves the sunshine.
After that, me and my travelling companion went to the Lemon Monkey cafe on the high street, where I had a slice of pear tart thing (bit like a bakewell, with pear, obv.) and a peppermint tea. Nice enough place, though the back room where we found a seat was full of people silently communing with powerbooks. It felt wierd talking.
After that, went for a wander round Stoke Newington while we waited for a train. I quite like it!
As episodes of Sesame Street came courtesy of individual letters of the alphabet, breakfast today owed its existence to my mum, or more precisely some hens she's got stuck in a trailer on a hillside in Wales.
Before and after shots.
Damn those eggs look like huge Cadbury's Mini-Eggs!
I made an omelette with sliced up chunks of chorizo in it and some Worcester sauce. If I'd had some tabasco I'd have probably wanged that in, but I didn't, so I didn't. It tasted better than it looks.
Next time: with some salsa perhaps? like our American cousins. Incidentally, I kind of wish I was in the States right now, positive vibes n' all that.
Listening to Spotify right now (streams albums over t'net for free, basically). I'd forgotten Ade told me that part of the deal was every once in a while it drops in an advertisement, so when a commercial from the Inland Revenue came on, I thought for a moment that Lupe Fiasco had sampled Moira Stuart for the intro on one of his tracks. Most odd.
Last night I took a last minute deviation from the Air night at Matter (attached to the 02 Arena) and instead headed North to highgate, where 'Gerry's Joint' were having their fourth birthday party. I was meeting some friends at Old Street tube where a group of Police Officers, with the help of a couple of enthusiastic golden retrievers, were frisking people for narcotics. Kay didn't seem to think so when I told her later, but it looked like at least one of the 'retriever keepers' was blind – and as I stood at the top of the steps waiting for my clubbing buddies, he entered the ticket hall arm-in-arm with a member of the public (who appeared to be assisting him) and whom a trio of police officers swiftly escorted to one side 'for a chat'. It took me a moment to work out what was going on.
After that jumped on the Northern line to our destination. I sometimes forget, dwelling in the 'Well, that huge swathes of London's assorted boroughs are actually quite easy on the eye, and that area around Muswell Hill is a case in point. It's just... quite nice really.
Anyway we headed to The Boogaloo, where the night was, and were early enough to get in free – and get a table, which was a result, as it rapidly filled up. Basically the remit of the night seems to be 50s and 60s rock n' roll and soul, hosted by the guys who Deejayed at It's Bigger Than at 93 Feet East (along with my buddy Sam, of Allez Allez fame, who I went with). They appeared to have carried over their penchant for 'all things party' and it did have a convivial, swingin' atmosphere, somewhere between a cool pub-disco and club, though not a cat-swingers party, no sir, too busy for that.
The crowd itself was a blend of young to middle aged, though did have a healthy turnout of the usual hipster/prankster types, who were capering drunkenly around in plaid shirts by the decks. In fact, what is it with plaid shirts? specifically those slightly wooly, lumberjack-esque ones Brick Lane seems to have adopted as some kind of informal team kit? Enough already. You should wear skinny jeans, from Uniqlo, like me *trails off, uncomfortably*
Also ran into a friend of a friend who was there with her mate. Was trying to chat, but the music was too loud. Increasingly I find I just can't chat in clubs, perhaps because I can no longer be bothered attempting to lip-read, guess what an appropriate response might be or lean in close enough to get deafened when they bellow in your ear to exceed the music's volume. Not much of any import was communicated.
About twelve we headed off to catch the last tube, as attempting to get back to South London by bus at that time is a fool's errand. Otherwise I might have stayed later. Who knows.
Bitterly cold today. Walked over to Dulwich, and back via Peckham. Just ate a slightly stodgy Thai curry I made. It was OK.
Open letter to businesses, re the 'Christmas decorations thing' (especially the Chinese takeaway downstairs).
Re Christmas decorations. It's now January the 13th. Twelfth night was seven days ago. I believe I stand for everybody when I say: "Probably best to take them down now, hey?"
(Having said that, I note that the pound shop fairy lights cling still to the weary rubber plant in the living room, and though I had prepared myself for it, I nearly physically flinched the other day when my housemate said, in comment on them:
"Hey, they make the room look quite nice don't they? shall we just leave them up?"
I disagreed, albeit tactfully. Christmas decorations – the clue's in the name, innit.)
I was chatting to someone in the kitchen at a party, the other Saturday, when the subject of Woolworths came up, and I wondered out loud, whether there actually will, y'know, be any high street shops, in ten years time.
I said it more for dramatic effect than out of any certainty, as I'm sure there probably will be, but still...
These are, rather obviously, tough times to run a business, and no business more so than one involving an actual, physical venue as a shop-front (as opposed to a virtual one). I've lost count of the number of independently owned, interesting small businesses – such as restaurants and shops – that have fallen victim to spiralling overheads, most notably rent. (From what I have heard, this was also the issue that put pay to all the record shops on that once jewel in Bristol's independent shopping crown, Park Street).
As dust was scattered on Woolworth's coffin, voices could be heard expressing regret at its passing. Some even noting the irony that if Woolworth's had been as busy in the last few years as it was in it's final hours, it may not have had to close. I am simultaneously bemused by the sentimentality expressed here, and the fallaciousness of the statement. They saying goes "they never really miss you till you're dead or you're gone", and I would certainly argue that insofar as buying practices go, people were only nominally aware of Woolworths as a shopping destination whilst it was in supposedly rude health. And of course the liquidation prices that drew the crowds in the end would, presumably, have been unsustainable in the long term.
And while we're on the subject of unsustainable business models, let us not forget that part of Woolies plight originated from the fact that it made 90% of its profits in the six weeks before Christmas (which suggests to me that it would only take one particularly fell Winter to put pay to their uniquely tawdry world of averagely priced gewgaws and niknaks). (Yet another surprising revelation to a layman such as myself is the fact that many of these larger, supposedly profitable retailers, have an inherent reliance on readily available credit to pay suppliers: the minute that stops, the wheels come off.)
We all mourn the passing of institutions such as Post Offices, local cinemas etc. whose presence we tend to take for granted, but ultimately we as the consumers have, however involuntarily, voted with our feet or (by proxy of favouring shopping on the internet) our fingers. It is, presumably free market economics that have allowed business to flourish in this country and make it the global player it is. Government intervention – as some have claimed was a viable solution to Woolies plight – is only another way of paying for something we evidently do not care much for. The question is, I suppose, do we want high street shops, in ten years time? Because it seems to me, perhaps the only retailers equipped to weather the storm might be those with enough financial clout to achieve enonomys of scale, or who own property outright and are hence not beholden to spiraling rent from landlords
Perhaps, in the future (say, 2020?), all we'll do is work, then come home – maybe we'll even all work from home, by then. There won't be anywhere to go in the evening because all the pubs and bars and clubs have been turned into luxury flats or demolished to make room for new train lines. No, instead we'll just get drunk on supermarket-bought, loss-leader Stella, whilst hunched over a flickering screen, ordering DVDs off Amazon. It'll be like 1984 but with Facebook. By then local government will have capitulated to the seemingly inevitable and turned the centres of all our cities into huge coffee shops. There'll be concessions for the high street retailers, all of whom will be Phillip Green.
Mid-to-long term readers of this blog might remember way back in the mists of time (ok, July) I got caught on one of those notorious whipping boys of public transport, the nefarious number 12 bendy bus, without having swiped on with my Oyster.
I have little to say in my defence, really. Save it was the end of a long, hot, fairly crappy day at work in the grey London heat, and I just scrambled for a seat, forgetting to slap my wafer of blue plastic against the reader. It later transpired I also only had £1 on it, as well, to compound my oversight. My bad.
Well, nearly a full 6 months later, I've just received a court summons for it, with the option to not attend court, and simply plead guilty and pay up £100. I'm fairly pissed off about all this, obviously, as I seem to be in a 'Lose/Lose' scenario, i.e.: pay £100, plead guilty and get a record, or attend court, probably lose on the basis of own fairly frank admission to the inspector ("I forgot") and get a criminal record and pay the legal costs.
I think it would be naive of me not to admit culpability for having not swiped or having checked my Oyster was fully topped up, and indeed never intended to deceive. This was a first time offense, and I was fully open about it. I'm frankly exasperated that something that occurred the best part of six months ago, has been hanging over me like some blandly bureaucratic sword of Damocles, until the new year (when incidentally, I don't currently have any work) when they've finally got round to issuing a court summons, and indeed that they would even bother doing such a thing, for a £2 ticket.
I actually suspect that it's largely down to TFL haemorrhaging money out of the backside due to the unpopular, unsuited to London bendy buses, which they presumably introduced to dispense with ticket inspectors – the only problem here being that they have to then hire the surly 'Revenue Protection Inspector droids' (the traffic wardens of the public transport system) to patrol the buses on what seems like a permanent basis to recoup losses, and occasionally, truck loads of our boys (and girls) in blue, who hang around at bus-stops to back them up, when presumably they could be out 'fighting real crime' like, I dunno, terrorism or something. In all honesty, fare dodging is endemic to those buses, which practically invite you to jump on without paying, and I see it every time I get on one. I always pay, apart from this one ocassion, when as luck would, or wouldn't have it, I got caught. I 'fessed up then, but rather than deal with my transgression with what might be seen as an appropriate and commeasurate response to my exceedingly minor transgression (like, a fine), this farcical palaver has been taken to the courts. FFS.
So now, as the the peripheral gears of the British system grind exceedingly slowly up to speed, I potentially face some form of legal footnote to efface 31 years of (mostly) good behaviour. I'm kind of resigned to it now. I suspect my admission of an oversight, rather than being taken in the spirit it was intended, will, in the eyes of the law be tantamount of intention to defraud TFL. Having done a bit of poking around, I've read that a crime of this order might only be a problem if entering a legal/financial career (unlikely) or attempting to emigrate (unfortunately increasingly attractive), but still...
So there you go. I'm seeking advice on this, but who knows, by this time next month I could be a felon, sporting prison tats and dodging the 5-0 (OK, exaggeration). If such is the case – and I warrant it extremely likely – I doubt I will ever have a good word to say about the maladministered public transport infrastructure in London, ever again.
ps: Advice gratefully accepted, though I suspect I know what the outcome of this will be...
Finally got this settled out of court, after a visit to Peckham CAB Bureau, who were tremendously helpful (in spite of being extremely busy – I got there when they opened at 10am and was still there for two and a half hours). On their advice, I was given a number, and able to settle out of court with TFL, after speaking to someone in their 'Enforcement and Policing Directorate' (who seemed like a reasonable enough chap, to be fair).
Nonetheless this resolution had a faint air of 'beware of the leopard' (see the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy) about it, insofar as I had to visit the CAB in the first place to be made aware of this solution. In none of their written communications to me was the option (as a first time offender) of settling out of court made clear – and I know of a few people who have simply pleaded guilty and hence received a criminal record.
Last Friday went to the Rothko exhibition at the Tate Modern, which felt like a pretty fitting postscript to the departing festive season, and indeed accompaniment to the nascent cold grittiness of January: large sombre squares of muted colour, displayed in subdued lighting, arranged according to obscure variations in repetitious technique and layout – the dub techno of modernist art, perhaps. I ended up sitting in front of one particular canvas in black and grey, bordered in unpainted white, and felt like I was looking at a remote moonscape.
Afterwards went for a pizza, then ended up in the Archduke pub, underneath the arches on the South Bank, which reminded me of nothing so much as an 80s 'wine bar', replete with with tiered seating, a mezzanine, lots of bamboo furniture and green anodised aluminium fittings. A faded poster from a Milton Glaser exhibition regarded proceedings from beside the staircase, whilst folky violin-led jazz, a la those Papa/Nicole Renault ads from the mid 90s trickled from hidden speakers. We settled in the conservatory and got outside a few beers, before heading home.
Saturday was Kay's party, where I had my first vodka martini (boozy) and tried a bit of a 'Dirty Martini' which is much the same, except with the addition of olive brine *pulls face*. After that went over to cargo and threw some half-hearted shapes.
Monday now. Just been out to pay a couple of cheques. Bitterly, bitterly cold out there, the first specks of snow borne aloft a bone-cutting wind. Need to look for work...