Where there's a Willesden there's a way

Monday, December 29, 2003

For some strange reason Borehamwood tesco has decided people don't eat sandwiches over 'Christmas', a fact which resulted in me, nemo and geezer taking a journey this lunchtime. The music was cheesy, the rain was lashing down. The objective, too, was bleak: to find somewhere else in Borehamwood that serves something i'd like to eat. But nothing had prepared them for the horror that was... Borehamwood shopping park!

"Shopping Park'.

Think about those words for a minute. What comes to mind? Trees, perhaps, some grass, maybe a few idyllic shops nestling in the trees? Or how about a huge, tarmac carpark surrounded by concrete rejects from Stalinist russia, together with the obligatory hastily-constructed hangars selling cheap acryllic sportswear. Only someone who really hates this town would dare call this a park.

I thought i hated Borehamwood, but That's before i found the 'park'. Now i can't think of a word for it.

Well, that was work, and in a way it was actually nice to get back. Not a popular opinion i know, but christmas is only really special if it doesn't happen everyday. Besides, if i always drank that amount i'd end up asking george best for his old liver.

Friday, December 26, 2003

May sound slushy, but check the time

...and so this was christmas...

i had a good day, overall. I like to think that i stuck to the plan i'd set myself, everyone liked their presents, even if i did manage to get mum the same book i got her last year. That's the downside with last minute shopping- too many leaps of faith involved.

Overall i'm quite happy. The great thing about this time of year is you get to take stock of your year, and think about what you're going to do with the new one. This year, my resolutions are going to be targets, and the thing to do is stick them to the wall, and say for certain i want to have done A by march, B by may, and make sure i stick to them. If i do, 2004 could be a great year. Also been organising my new year party- if you know me, email to find out more. I hope you all had relaxing christmases, and may nothing but happiness pass through your door in 2004.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Wishing you a pragmatic and chilled out Christmas

Every year I spend three days telling myself "I can't believe it's Christmas. Pay attention, blink or you'll miss it. It's a special occasion, focus." Then, before I know it, like any other three-day period in my life, it's over. Just like everyone else- I set myself up for disappointment. I've been spending today doing what friends & colleagues have been doing for weeks, what we call "getting ready for Christmas". In reality this refers to tidying, trudging round shops, decorating our houses, putting up them trees and all the other things that need to be put in place to make our Christmas Day look like a Christmas Card. We fetishise the idea of a white Christmas for this reason, we want our lives to ressemble this ideal image of a Christmas like the idealised ones we pretend to remember.

As a country we've been building up to this day for the best part of three months. Short of the Second Coming/Dawning of the Age of Aquarius, anything else is bound to be a disappointment. I don't know if it's my imagination, but we seem more cynical and jaded about the whole thing. Maybe I just hang around with like-minded people, but no-one I know is inherently miserable and joyless, but as a whole they can't be bothered with this whole charade. Personally, if I'd been spending all my free time in shops for the past three weeks and spending an average of £300 on presents I would need something almost supernaturally fantastic in order to make it all seem worthwhile. As you can see below, just one afternoon in the shops brought me to the edge of despair. I think in general we're starting to see through the whole thing- this is potentially a good thing, but a possible outcome is that we'll just greet it with cynicism and misery, or try and ignore it.

But what's the point in feeling down?- the whole aim of solstice/christmas was to cheer us up in the middle of winter (and to subvert a pagan festival- see "Born in June" below). Let's focus on the positives for a change shall we? We get a few much needed days off, get to spend them with families and have a decent meal. Loads of people would kill for less. So why not just accept Christmas for what it is- a holiday, nothing more and nothing less (unless you believe Jesus really was born on December 25th, but you've got your sure and certain belief in an afterlife to keep you going.). Rather than spending a fucking fortune and trying to be superhuman, why not just chill out, lie about as much as possible, and have some fun. It doesn't mean you've sold out to the consumerist dream, after all.

So that's my wish for all of you. Chill out, eat some mince pies, chat, take the piss out of the Queen's speech, and don't be a hero. Anything else is just crying out to be disappointed.

Monday, December 22, 2003

At the top of the upward escalator is the logical place to put the store guide. There's two theories that could explain this- either god loves us so much he sent his only son, or he hates us so much he sent up christmas. Maybe god's passive-aggressive.

There's a book staring at me with the title 'dr f atkins revolutionary diet', with three letters coloured in to spell 'FAT'. Very witty, except i can't help but notice that this makes the most prominent letter on the page 'DIE'. In case you hadn't noticed, my christmas shopping is not going well. So far i have 3 out of 5 presents, tonight's dinner, a hat and a stabbing pain in my shoulder. And no money.

Large out of town supermarkets are fuelled by three factors: a commitment to low low prices, quality customer service and a barely disguised hatred of humanity.

Take tesco extra in Watford. There's at least 500 tired, harassed individuals in a state of barely disguised misery. So they don't play something soothing, like 'mad world' or realistic 'this is the end' but 'merry christmas everybody'. For sheer crassness it's like playing 'always look on the bright side of life' in an icu.

Any benefit that may have been gained from that at best questionable choice was immediately cancelled out by the announcer, who called for a checkout runner during the final moments of the song. May i suggest an alternative to 'every little helps'? 'tesco:we hate you. Scum.' at least it's honest.

Dear arriva buses, overall, your bus drivers in this region are a friendly, helpful sort, which has been the subject of previous correspondence. This morning's driver on the 8 35 number 1 from the junction, however, has been truly an exception. This time of year i often fall into the trap of thinking i'm the most miserable person in Watford, so heartfelt thanks to your driver for proving me wrong and making me feel so much better. Yours, once again, john

I'm tired and have an early start tomorrow, but it's worth reflecting that i had a lovely Solstice, and i owe it all to one person. It provided me with the insight and peace i need to acknowledge the time of year, and i needed to reflect on a few things. Also went to a lovely carol service, so overall i feel a lot better. Time to sleep through the rest of the longest night.

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Brother's still ill. Fortunately mum picked him up, took him to the doctor and fed him soup. He looks a bit better now he's full of pills. I'm glad that happened- i was treating him like he had a cold and not looking after him that well. In social services we call that abuse through neglect. I'm glad he's getting better, albeit slowly, but it does mean he's not back for at least a week. Hence all the guitar playing and cleaning.

The dawn it breaks/and glory shakes/
and Solstice comes once more.

Within the scope of my wildly unpredictable mood swings, i feel quite peaceful today- i like solstice. The best thing about it is you can celebrate it any way you choose, and choose which traditions you adopt. I don't think I'll ever have that with christmas. Plus none of my solstice things involve spending any money.

I'm heading over to Angela's for a shared meal and meditation, then over to picadilly for a carol service. Ok, so it's in a church, so i don't know if it's wildly optimistic to hope it's not too christian. It is Solstice after all!

Happy solstice to all of you from diary of a frustrated writer.

Saturday, December 20, 2003

I don't agree that misery loves company, but maybe it does love validation.

After all, We're supposed to be happy, it's christmas after all. But it's also dark and cold, and sad people somehow look sadder against a background of festive cheer.

So i've an idea. You won't meet more miserable people than a town centre on christmas eve. So just for a dare, i want to take my guitar to Watford and sing. "Simon the boxing day arsonist", "born in june", and my new one, "so here it is bloody christmas..."

Like krishnas and christians, i'm going to spread the word through song. On three..

'so here it is, Sodding christmas,
everybody's looking down.
Shopping for tat
in this dismal concrete town.'

I've never really had a problem talking to complete strangers, in fact some of my best conversations have been with people i had never met and never will again. But this evening that just failed me.

I'd been looking forward to smooth b's party for ages, but when i got there i just didn't know anyone. And something conspired against me- if i got chatting to someone, suddenly another person would see someone they hadn't seen in ages, and stand in between us talking loudly. And when i did get chatting I just brought people down.

I'd talk about work(depressing) christmas and winter (ditto) and suicide seemed to come up a lot (although i never mentioned it). I suppose when it comes down to what's really happening, there's no such thing as an inherently depressing party. Just a fairly depressed guest.

I have a friend who, when i was miserable on a night out would grab my arms and whirl them around in a sort of tragi-comic imitation of dancing. I only mention this because i'm on my way to smooth b's party, and i'm really not in a party place. The man v. Christmas tree battle at my mum's really didn't help. At times like this you have to try at least to be open to a good time, and if not, try not to inflict it on too many people.

I'm glad to say wapblogger seems to be working again, which allows me to send in observations from all over the uk. Like the sign at harrow on the hill which says 'armoured glass- handle with care'

I hate sounding just like everyone else, but i seem to be falling into the same christmas trap. There seems to be loads of stuff to do, and with brother out of action i'm finding it hard to balance everyone: home, work, family and friends. Not to mention money. But it was inevitable something was going to give, so now, despite trying hard, i'm in trouble. And all i can think is that i don't care any more. More people should say this at xmas, but as we say at work, 'it don't ma'er'. Time to face the music.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

The clue's in the word "secret"

For something I organised, the Secret Santa thing actually worked out surprisingly well.

With just an hour to go, I still hadn't wrapped up Nemo's present- I'd been looking for some tissue paper (I can't be doing with wrapping paper), and failed. In the end Blondie helped me wrap up the admittedly awkward looking shape using some orange A4 we had in the stationary cupboard. And I got one of the other secretaries to write Nemo's name so no-one would recognise it. She looked at it as if it was the result of careless driving down a forest road.

"It was obviously wrapped up by a man, wasn't it"

There aren't many men in the team, so as it sat on my desk I knew it would be a giveaway. It almost seemed to be staring at me, so I drew a little eye on it. Then inspiration struck, and I stuck a band of white paper on to it, and drew in a little black line.

At the restaurant, Nemo really liked her present. I could tell because she was trying to work out who sent her it.

"It was obviously wrapped up by a man, wasn't it?" She tried out a few theories before turning to me. "It was you, wasn't it?"

Fortunately she chose that moment to notice the stripes. "Hang on a minute, that's supposed to look like Nemo. That's well cool!"

And that threw her off the scent completely- men aren't supposed to be that creative with their wrapping. Besides- it's a secret- you're not actually supposed to know who got you the present.

As for me, I got a little book called "365 smiles from Zen"- it's full of the kind of Zen parables I love- whoever got me that must know me so well. I'd love to know who got it.

Brother's *still* ill!

I suggested if bored and ill, the thing to do is to take Sudafed. It simultaneously unblocks your sinuses and messes with your mind.

Back in the second year, Mr Fusion told me all about it. He had two Sudafed tablets before bed, and woke up in the middle of the night, thinking "Oh no, I've got Russian hands. Better go and wash them off." Which was what he was still doing hours later.

Obviously I didn't believe him, and as breathing was difficult and let's face it, I was bored, I took two pills. It should have been a clue that he let me keep the packet.

It should also have been a clue that all was not well, but it really seemed like my flatmate was trying to kill me. He was banging on the door and shouting out my name. I should really have got up to see what he wanted, but there was a big scary monster* on my chest, pinning me down. And besides, I wasn't in my room. I was on the floor of a bar.

Obviously none of this really happened, apart from the banging on the door bit. But I was convinced all of that was true.

*A spare duvet

..who sadly could not be here tonight

Brother's not well.

With just nine days left until Christmas, he's failed to get out of the way of one of those cold bugs which are doing the rounds in Borehamwood at the minute. Which means he's barely got the energy to do anything but sit on the sofa, breathe and fart.

I'll be glad when he's better. It'll be nice to see him watch TV again.

I'm just worried this will be the Virus With My Name On It. I haven't been ill in ages- and it is nearly Christmas.

I suspect I've just doubled the readership, by making Northern Nurse the only colleague to have the address of this page.

Seeing her name should be enough to freak her out.

I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad...

Strange old night last night. It seems this cloud of misery has just been following me around.

I went to the Alternatives Solstice talk at 7, which I usually enjoy, but I really don't think I was in the mood for it last night. Which is why I stormed out and ended up describing the lead speaker repeatedly as "a gobshite" to a long-suffering (and lovely) friend.

I just kept telling myself "I paid £8 to listen to this gobshite", "£8" and, "this gobshite". At certain points in his talk/song, he demonstrated the full vocal range he doesn't have, compared his suffering to that of a Brazilian street-child with a metal grille for a bed, and (and I'm impressed he wrote this so quickly) compared the darkness in parts of his heart with Saddam's dark hidey-hole.

Like I say, I stormed out. And I ended up at Somerset House, chilling by the Ice rink. As i arrived, lights were flashing and people were skating around to "Let Me Entertain You". As soon as I bought a coffee and sat down by the ice, the tempo switched slightly, to "Mad World."

And as the chorus wept
"I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad,
The dreams in which I'm dying are the best I've ever had"
two skaters crashed right into each other.

I think I may have disgraced myself too. After getting very annoyed about paying all that money, I was less than happy when I paid £4 for a whiskey at another friend's party, who then tried to charge me £5 for a ticket. So I left- I really didn't feel like a party anyway.

Mine aren't as glamourous, but at least they're free!

Sunday, December 14, 2003

Interesting view of justice

I hope Saddam gets the same "fairness" in his trial which he gave his Iraqi victims.
Stu F, London, England

From Talking Point

...and I found him too

For days the words "Secret Santa" have been whispered around the office, like the motto of some underground cult. All the teams have arranged to do one, and if you listen carefully you can hear people furtively betraying their secret.

Of course, in my team I know who everyone got, and not least because for half the team I fixed it. People have also been confiding their secret in me, in the hope I'll suggest something appropriate. Others, realising this would happen, have been dropping hints to me.

I drew mine at random, and ended up with Nemo. You'd think with a name like that she'd be easy to buy for, so I left it until the last minute- tomorrow Santa is coming to the office. Which is how I ended up asking this question
"Don't laugh, but I'm looking for Nemo"

I have many problems with this present; not least that giving money to Disney is for me like contributing to the BNP. And also, much as a Nemo soft toy would look quite cute, I can't quite shake the admittedly delusional feeling that Nemo's a fish, and so should really be kept in water. And also, it's impossible to find for a fiver a Nemo toy that isn't just an orange beanbag with stripes.

So after looking everywhere for Nemo, I eventually said sod it and overspend on a cute set of bath toys, turtle and fish, apparently all from the film. OK, so it's plastic tat, and I'm very against buying plastic tat because it's Christmas, but I know Nemo (the colleague) will love it, and it was either that or bath salts. But this doesn't bode well for secret santa- if I, the poorest member of the team with the most free time managed to overspend, I suspect everyone else did too. And also, I think (someone please check this) statistically you could expect that one person should draw their own name, but no-one came to me having done this. So somebody's cheating.

Of course, if I was really into fixing it, I'd draw it so that one of the rich managers got me. But I'm not that dishonest- and I only just thought of that.

Been watching the footage of the beginning of the press conference. Bremer begins with "Ladies and gentlemen, we got him". A segment (guess which one) of the press corps jumps up and begins cheering and whooping for several moments, and there's a pause as the assembled journalists attempt to recover their objectivity and professionalism.

How dare they spoil the best moment of Paul's overlord career. Even he looks embarassed.

Ladies and gennlemen, we gotim!

Paul Bremer has just announced they got 'im. Great moment for democracy, end of terrorism, democracy to middle east as long as they do what we say etc.

With that big beard and glazed look, does he remind you of anyone. That's right, Osama. Who half of Americans seem to think is the same person anyway. This is not going to help that misconception, is it?

I think if it wasn't for the fact that it clearly serves their own purposes, this would be the moment to declare the war on terror over. Job done. World safer place. Definitely has made another September 11th less likely.

Yes, think of all the damage Saddam could have done from that hole.

Saturday, December 13, 2003

Eye screwed it

Well, the good news is that my contact lens troubles didn't stop me from enjoying last night's work Christmas Party. The bad news is, it was awkward, vaguely surreal and deafening. I had this fear that all we'd do would be talk about work. Fortunately, we certainly dodged that bullet.

In situations where I'm forced together with unlikely combinations of people (and, as generally happens to me at parties, a woman substantially older ended up wrapped around me during a cover of 'teen spirit') I tend to rely on my sense of humour to bring people together and defuse the sometimes awkward tensions. However, within a second of the band starting up, it became apparent that this was going to become one of those "Here's my ear" moments. After shouting at people six inches away, I was forced to rely on a rudimentary form of Makaton (itself a rudimentary form of sign language), and was disappointed to find that most of my jokes really don't translate that well. So during what was supposed to a much-needed sociable occasion (I've only been in the office a year, but by all accounts it's been an exceptional one), I found myself retreating further into my own little world, contemplating my usual unanswerable questions.

Like this one: if I sleep in my contact lenses do I dream in focus?

Eventually, it became apparent that the sociable sitting-round-having-a-chat approach wasn't going to work. So my unlikely combination of people moved onto the dance floor. It's hard to really enjoy yourself when you're aware that one bit of inappropriate dancing could diminish an entire year's effort to be taken seriously. Then 'Teen Spirit' started up.

I don't know where I know her from. Either way, I'm probably going to find out on Monday.

And then I slept right through my contact lens check-up with the over-friendly optician. Dammit. I think.

Thursday, December 11, 2003

The eyes really don't

Again, I'm having issues with my contact lenses. I've gone in a very short space of time from the whole world being very clear to the whole world being very spooky in my left peripheral vision. It's hard to explain, but the minutes I think I know where the weird cloudy bit's coming from it goes. And as I can't quite describe it, I can't do much about it.

Which raises the question- do I wear them tomorrow? It's the team Christmas party, and loads of people I used to work with will be there, which means I'd really better not embarrass myself by failing to recognise them (and one in particular). On the other hand, if I'm continually doing that weird blinking thing I've been doing with these lenses, she's going to think I'm even weirder.

OK, when I last ran into this woman I hadn't been to bed in two days and I had the hangover from hell. I was in Asda looking at the pasta and swaying. I'd really like to banish the memory of that one.

So far these lenses have brought me nothing but grief. I've had a headache from what can only be information overload, I'm still smarting from the 'inappropriate contact' I received from my optician whilst having them fitted, and as I'm going to be taking them in and out all day, I decided against cooking my legendary pea and mushroom (and cumin and chilli) curry in favour of a rather disappointing pizza.

Great moments in my secretarial career

I've been taunted for the past two months by the Big Red Tray. The idea behind setting it up was fine- I have to do a lot of filing, and so rather than leaving it in a pile on my desk to pile up during social work emergencies I solved the problem. I piled it all up in a big red tray.

So with a three inch thick pile of paperwork testament to my failure, I solved the problem again. I abolished the tray.

Now it's all in a little black briefcase. There's still the same amount of filing, but now no-one can see it. Problem solved.

Amazingly, Borehamwood has the opposite effect

Wapblogger has been frustrating my creativity. Like a more tuneful version of when I write songs, when you've been happily blogging away for a while, even a simple act like walking through Tescos can inspire rants and flights of fancy. Sadly, wapblogger's been down all day, and as I can't blog at my desk for *so* many reasons and my short team memory is just a little depleted, so many great postings have been lost forever.

But here's a sample of the postings we lost:
- The impossible dilemnas of the bus fares. Followed by more reasons why Arriva buses hate human beings.
- Torrential rain suddenly doesn't seem too bad when there's Christmas carols on in Tesco.
- More about the local people, still queueing outside that new Marks and Spencer.
- Musings about why the leisure centre is called "The Point".

Come to think about it, everything happens for a reason.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Touch of class

In probably the biggest event to happen in Borehamwood since the final of Big Brother 3, the new Marks and Spencer in the High Street is now open. People were queueing around the block since 8:20 this morning to get a glimpse at the new food shop. They even got someone famous to open it. He works 100 yards away.

It's a depressing thought, really, but I suppose that it's time Borehamwood got its own little touch of luxury. For some strange reason, it's been spurned by the bigger, classier chain stores. It's about time.

Sadly, I didn't get to see the big opening. With a big thick fog hanging over the town all day (except strangely absent over London) I kept my distance. In the East End of London 60 years ago it was customary to use a pea-souper in order to embark upon 'orrible bloody murdah. I was a little scared this might have transferred to the town, and that the High Street might seem a little intimidating. So I went to Tesco instead.

Busting a blood vessel, courtesy of the NHS

Looking back on it, the panic should have set in when I first saw Sassy Nurse holding a stephoscope. Obviously, I've been working with this woman for six months, and know deep down that she's a nurse. And I'm actually quite fond of Sassy Nurse. But somehow, through all this time, I've never actually seen her with any medical equipment or perform any sort of medical procedure. So when I suggested a game of Doctors and Nurses, in the form of her taking my blood pressure, I was looking for the kind of harmless fun that I like to fill my day with.

However, her face dropped somewhere between the cuff and the stephoscope. "That's really high", she said, barely supressing the note of panic in her voice. Apparently 175/120 isn't just high blood pressure, it's begin to panic, alarm-bell-ringing, ready-the-stroke kit sort of a number.

So she tested it again. After setting my heart racing, and convincing me that I can almost feel the blood vessels in my head straining, she fixed the cuff over my arm again. As she pumped, the velcro began to fall apart.

"What are you doing?", asked Senior Nurse. "I'm testing his blood pressure, it's really hi-GH!" Her voice trailed off. My blood pressure, as if it was possible this time, was even higher.

So Senior Nurse took over. And in a few moments she determined that my blood pressure is 120/90, which is perfectly normal. At that moment, the pressure behind my ears bagan to fall away.

So either Sassy Nurse can't take blood pressure, the cuff was faulty, or having her in the vicinity simply ups my pressure. My money's on three.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

In my murky past

Sometimes you hope your sins won't come to the surface. Ever. But lets face it, no matter how hard you pretend that it didn't happen, someone's just bound to notice one day.

Smooth "B" has been surfing the excellent new London News Review website where a figure from my past cropped up.
"the 'Sinners and Winners' man with the loudspeaker who we hear every day on Oxford Street? He's also been spotted on a Saturday by one of my colleagues at Waterloo station."

I suppose it's about time I held my hands up and admitted that if it wasn't for me the "Sinners and Winners man", or Terry as he's actually known, would be substantially less annoying if it wasn't for me. You see, it was actually me who bought him his megaphone.

To understand the combination of circumstances which lead to me buying an angry, prejudiced Christian street preacher a megaphone, we have to go back to Earls Court in the Easter of 2001. I was Editor of Felix, Imperial's student newspaper, and being the sole employee of quite a large weekly magazine was beginning to take its toll. I'd end up working through the night on Wednesday and easily working until the small hours on Monday and Tuesday. Every week. Which as a life-long insomniac was particularly difficult, and so by Easter I was pretty much awake all night, every night. Given that everyone else I knew was a student, with morning lectures and stuff, my nights were starting to get a little lonely. Which is why I started hanging out with the street drinkers around Gloucester Road. The less said about those conversations the better. But this at least gives some context.

Anyway, to Terry. I first met him at Notting Hill Station in 1997 on my way back from the Reading Festival. I was tired and a bit singed waiting for a circle line train when he came up to me. The Terry I remember was quite friendly, and I chatted to him for a bit, and he told me all about heaven and hell, which I found quite soothing. As I got on the train, he said to me "We'll have to meet for a bevvy on the other side mate."

Fast forward to 2001, when I pretty much knew every, ahem, character, on the circle line. I walked straight into him in a crowd outisde Gloucester Road, where he pulled out his new scrapbook. "What about you mate? How about a bit of Christianity?" I looked into a photo album full of crosses and pictures of churches, decorated with the word "Christianity". "Why be a sinner when you can be a winner?" Bizarrely, considering how many people he must 'meet' in a typical day of preaching, he recognised me. So we chatted for a bit, and he talked about how he'd had a great idea for spreading his word to the masses. And he seemed harmless, in a scouse christian sort of way. It turned out we knew the same homeless man, who I was a little worried about, as he'd just lost his job and been beaten up, and we talked about his circumstances for a bit as the nighttime crowds surged past us.

I still don't know what possessed me to lend him a tenner towards his latest idea (I'd assumed it would be for a new scrapbook or maybe a guitar and he seemed so genuine and harmless. Discussing the issue with friends at College, it turns out Terry could get a little nasty if you pressed the wrong buttons (ie, Catholicism, homosexuality, hippies etc). And about two days after lending him a tenner, I heard from friends that he'd somehow acquired a megaphone, and was now using it to hurl Christianity and bile in equal measures at people he didn't like the look of. It turns out After buying his megaphone, Terry began to lurch to the right a little bit. I moved out of the area a short time later, and didn't hear about him for a long time.

And then London by London started up, and people began to discuss him. I didn't think they were talking about the same person, having never seen this side of Terry, but sure enough, at the anti-war demo, there he was. Yelling into his microphone "Even you can be saved! Yes you! Why be a sinner when you can be a winner?" He either didn't see me or pretended he hadn't.

So that's my confession, London. I have no idea how much an old megaphone costs, but that can't have helped. And he never paid me back. Bastard.

In my world...

I had to take today off work to give my eyes a bit of a chance to go back to normal. I'd love to know the difference between cross-eyed and boss-eyed, but I think I've finally readjusted now. Little scary though.

So I've been writing Christmas songs again. To the tune of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer. Take it away!

Simon the boxing day arsonist
Really f'ing hated Christmas
At seven he torched his front room
Saying "Daddy can't drink now"

All of the kids in the care home
Used to leave him well alone
They said "It's the quiet ones
You've gotta watch for"

Then one rainy boxing day
Simon said "f'k it all"
He burnt down the Disney Store
Chanting "Minnie is a whore"

Oh how the people hated him
Papers roasted him alive
Simon the boxing day arsonist
You'll get out in three to five

Monday, December 08, 2003

It's day 3 of my new set of contact lenses, and i have a splitting headache. Everything seems just that bit too clear, a bit too raw without those layers of short sight to hide behind. For the first two days i was frozen in amazement at the beauty/ugliness i could see, now car headlights seem to be boring into my brain. It could just be that all this extra information is too much to take in. Either way, i need a lie down.

In tesco there's an androgynus santa and an elf swaying vaguely in time to what sounds like the one foot in the grave music. Santa's rattling a collection tin.

I ask the cashier if this is making her like or hate christmas. She just smiles at me disinterested. So i up the ante a little. 'Because i'm hating it already. She finally answers. 'you've gotta get into christmas, haven't you?'

No i don't. Any time of year I'll be jolly or miserable when i feel like it, and borehamwood tesco at lunchtime would not be my first choice.

Ok, so i'm having a bad morning.

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Well, most of them anyway

I feel this post needs a disclaimer. So here goes:
Free market capitalism is evil. The primary role of any corporation is to make profits, as enshrined in law. So considerations such as social and environmental damage and the welfare of its employees are defined, in law, as being subservient to the profit motive.

The example Michael Moore uses is that of relocating overseas. He apparently likes to ask free-market envangelists "If a factory is the sole emplyer in a town (ie Flint), and can save money by relocating to Mexico and laying off all its US employees, does it have a right to do this?" It sounds a little like a straw man argument, but to be fair, in law the company does have more than a right to do this, it has a duty, in spite of how many people will have their lives wrecked by it. Although companies may seem greedy and, yes, evil in their relentless pursuit of profits, that's just the system that's been created, ever since governments lost the right to withdraw charters if a company was not acting in the interests of the country.

But whilst the system is evil, the people caught up in it are just swimming with the tide and trying to exist in this cruel and harsh world. So until we recognise that it's the system we've created that breeds evil and selfishness, we have to enjoy seeing the good where it lies.

There we are, I feel better for that. So now I can safely say I had a nice chat with a man from my bank yesterday. He was calling up to offer me a Gold credit card, his job being to encourage me to get further into debt, which I will resist. On the other hand, I want to get my own place, so at some point I need to borrow enough money to buy a boat and a strip of land (and a solar panel, but more about that later).

The great thing is, he said that didn't seem impossible. Not only that, he was very positive about the whole living on the river idea- he told me a friend lives round that way, and wouldn't live anywhere else. He said he'd look into it.

I like that- I was talking to someone I've spoken to before (rare for my bank), he wasn't a machine, and he was very encouraging. He even said it makes good financial sense as well (no-one ever tells me that). And not only that, someone from a bank made me feel as if my hippy living on a canal writing books fantasy could be more than just a dream. I feel good about that.
Somehow, the kindness and friendliness of my personal banker almost makes me feel better about the years HSBC didn't care that I starved.

Of course, it's the profit motive moving behind all this again. But he seemed genuine.

And he's going to send me the application for a gold card.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

Born in June

Oh yeah, then Blondie reminded me of the fact that Coca-Cola redrew Santa in their colours. Except it's worse, because they didn't just recolour, they pretty much invented Santa. Yes, the magic of Christmas, brought to you by the Coca Cola corporation and Disney.

Which is why I've been singing this. (To the tune of Silent Night)
"Born in June
Born in June
He was bloody
born in June
There wouldn't have been much snow on the ground
Because he was born in the Middle East
And he was born in Ju-NE!
And he was born in June..."

Really, did the Catholic Church really think it could take over Solstice and get away with it? Do they think all their followers are stupid?

Forget I asked that one.

If you're not part of the solution...

I think I might have been a little harsh with one of my colleagues.

Blondie was expressing surprise at the fact that my family don't spend in excess of £70 on consumer electronics for each other at Christmas. Call us stingy, but we prefer to stick with a more reasonable, sensible, not get yourself into debt until next Christmas amount like £15-20. She said, "But what can you get for £20?"

Um, well there's a book. Two in fact if they're on a sale. A nice sweater. A coffee machine. A CD and an ironic novelty item. It's not exactly rocket science (although on £20 you can do). None of the best presents I've had have broken the bank. Mum got me a coffee machine one year (£19.99) which I used every day for two years. Angella made me a present last year (£0) which I still look up at every day and smile. You just need imagination, knowledge of the person, and yes, a little bit of love.

Ah. There's the problem. Don't use your imagination, we'll do the thinking for you. Look, how about a shiny DVD player? A laptop perhaps? You love this person don't you? Well how about a widescreen TV? And look, with this little plastic Christmas card, you could have it today. Right now. Buy. Pay later.

And then she went on to justify even contemplating buying a TV for her partner. Not just any TV, but one costing £750. On the basis that the one she's got has lasted 20 years, so it's an investment for another twenty years. Because they still make them like that.

Justify it to yourself. Show them you love them. Shiny new technology. It just never fails to amaze me the logic people use to prove that they're actually being sensible, definitely not being taken in by the bright lights of commercialism, at this, the feast of commerce. So naturally enough I went on a ten minute rant, pretty much to the effect of this posting. I don't think she's talking to me now. It's Christmas, after all

OK, I promise to stop using that voice.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Cheers Google!

Very pleased last night to get an email from Paul Carr, Editor of the London News Review and founder of The Friday Thing. Quite an honour really. He assures me that lnr is coming along and will be worth the wait. And if issue zero is anything to go by, he's right. I suggest you do what i do,and go harass your newsagent. Daily.

Wow, Paul Carr. If you're religious its like seeing god, and if you're cynical it's like hearing from Paul. Shame he didn't offer me a commission though, would have jumped at that.

Every morning when i get off the bus i say thanks to the driver, a little non london habit i've picked up. Sometimes i wonder what i'm saying thanks for. Is it thanks for not killing me? Thanks for not weiving the fare despite several good reasons why? Or thanks for landing me in this concrete high street in the cold and fog? I've just noticed the local newsagent is called the 7th circle...

It's the first really foggy morning here in hertfordshire, and given that i still haven't saved up for contact lenses, my vision's at an all time low. With the traffic to worry about too, all i know is that we're going somewhere slowly. But it's not all bad news, passing the lake this morning, i couldn't see the other shore, and for a minute i imagined Borehamwood was a little town by the sea. Then i remembered i'd been to bournemouth, and it's just as bad.

Monday, December 01, 2003

He will come. He will come.

Being a lapsed catholic, I've never really had the chance to see the Liberal Wing of the Church of England at work. So although the journey sucked and I spent part of the evening in a very weird dream sequence, it was nice to experience that. Because although I can't stand to experience catholic ritual, I need liturgies and rituals I can relate to, in order to make some sense of my life.

Amongst the darkness we've finally lit the first candle of advent. Whether we fear getting behind with our christmas shopping, family arguments or just disappointment, Christmas will come. If I've learnt anything from going through this same personal ritual every year, the next four weeks will fly past. And if four weeks can fly past once, before I know it I'll be travelling home in daylight again.

My defining moment of this year was walking to work in February, and being so thrilled at the first daffodils and that official confirmation that I had got through another winter that I was grinning like an idiot for days. Soon, that will happen again. And then it will be August, and I'll be nostalgically thinking of when I fell in that snowdrift in February, just 2 weeks before I saw my first daffodil.

Of course, Summer was a big disappointment. I wasn't just looking forward to it being summer, I'd attached all these other hopes to it, and when despite the heat I still got to spend an hour a day out in Borehamwood High Street (instead of maybe making out with lots of indie chicks in a field in Hampshire), I was disappointed. Ditto Christmas Day never looks anything like a Christmas card. But in both cases I really looked forward to these.

There's two ways that I can stop spending the rest of my like wishing the year away. I can stop attaching unrealistic hopes to days and seasons, and learn to appreciate them for what they are, nothing more and nothing less. Or I come to realise that it's anticipation I enjoy, so why not just let myself enjoy it for a change?

Or I can do both. Either way, whether I sort this out in my head or not, Christmas will come. And then it will go.