Where there's a Willesden there's a way

Friday, December 24, 2004

Thank God it's them insteead of youu

I was stocking up on alcohol just now, on the basis that I'd probably need it by tomorrow, when the checkout guy said something that tapped into how I was feeling. He said, "Everyone who's come into day seems so miserable. I don't know why that is, it's Christmas Eve."

I explained everyone could really be happy on Christmas Eve. However, it's not really Christmas Eve, it's Fucking Christmas Eve.

Fucking Christmas is an exclusively late 20th/21st Century festival, confusingly held on the same day as Christmas. However, it's easy to tell the difference. Fucking Christmas has a three-month build-up. And Christmas makes people happier, whereas Fucking Christmas is specifically designed to make people miserable. Go to any town centre (as I'm about to) on Fucking Christmas Eve and you'll see what I mean. For sheer fruitless desperation and despair you can't beat it.

Whereas Christmas is all about peace & joy, Fuckring Christmas is about obligation. Its motto: Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without... Gifts? Therefore you must buy some. Cranberry sauce? Therefore you must buy some.

Just as the new religion of Christianity declared that Christmas would occur on December 25th, therefore replacing and subsuming the ancient pagan festival that occured on that day, the new religion of unrestrained consumerist frenzy declared its new feast of Fucking Christmas to occur on the same day. Christianity fed off and assimilated the traditions of the past, and tomorrow we celebrate the feast of our new gods and rulers through the symbols they now lay claim to and sell to us in shiny boxes.

There was a queue forming and the checkout guy was starting to get distressed, so I wished him Season's Greetings and left.

As with anyone who can't get carried away with this whole thing, I was starting to sound a bit bah humbug. And yet I may have just stumbled upon the secret of having a good time.

The first pagan who lit a fire in the dark night started this tradition and answered a basic need- to have some light and warmth in the dead of winter. And that's all I want, and a few days off. I see everyone weighed down by the obligations of a feast they're supposed to enjoy and realise we're going really badly wrong here. Acknowledging the true nature of Fucking Christmas frees us of all its obligations and leaves us free to just enjoy and spend a few days together. And as little money as possible. No matter who currently rules the world.

Which is why I can say this to all of you out there with honesty and love:

Merry Fucking Christmas, everybody.


Wednesday, December 15, 2004

We're not worthy

Nice of Sean, books editor at London News Review, to drop in and apologise. I'm quite pleased about that, as I remember boring people rigid.for days with my enthusiam when Issue Zero came out, and then it all went a bit quiet. So I got bitter.

I've probably been a bit hard on them. I was so incredibly lax when running the paper I'm lucky I didn't get more complaints. Admittedly I stopped opening the post by the last term, and if it wasn't a student paper we would have gone under in 12 weeks.

But it's nice to know what's going on and good luck to them. Hopefully there's still a lot of goodwill out there for a magazine we all need. Let's face it, they'd never have to worry about this sort of thing at Heat.

Wow, and the legendary Alan Connor's just dropped in. It's like a royal visit!

Sunday, December 12, 2004

A Christmas Letter

Dear (name),

Well, Christmas is with us once more with 2004 having flown by, and I can scarcely believe it's time once again to write the Christmas letter! It's been a hectic year with so much to tell, so without further ado I'll tell you all our news.

Work's going fantastically at the minute, and maybe it's just the experience talking, but I have to say it almost seems as if I've got less work every week. I think as one of the company's older employees, the whole company looks to me for those "pearls of wisdom". My manager's often coming down to my new office in the basement to ask my advice- just last week he asked me what I'd do if I had an employee who's just not up to their job anymore!

Steve's still looking for a job, so fingers crossed it'll be any day now. He's joined a local community group to protest about some new gypsy camp or something on the outskirts of town. It seems like every night he's out there in his favourite England shirt. It's so nice to see him taking such an active interest in the community- particularly with this recent spate of violent attacks in the village which we all worry about. I think he's also joining a rounders club, and his room's just full of bats and facemasks (he says they never have any balls, because he can hit really hard)- maybe that will help him work off that "beer belly"! We do so wish he'd grow his hair too- he's got such lovely curly hair when he grows it longer than a grade one.
Jenny's currently studying for her AS-levels, and taking a real pride in her appearance. She says she's down to a size 8 now- hardly the teenager with the "puppy fat" we all remember! Surprisingly, she found out she was diabetic earlier in the year, and did so well to go to the doctor's all by herself and not worry her poor old dad! Indeed, if I hadn't found the syringes in her room I'd have no idea at all!!

As for little Paul, his violin playing is really taking off, and he's practicing so many hours a night we hardly see him anymore. He sometimes needs a bit of encouragement from his parents when he's tired- but one can't expect to achieve one's lifelong ambition of joining the BBC Symphony Orchestra without making a few sacrifices. He puts so much passion into his performances he's getting through bows at an astonishing rate- and he's always catching his wrists on those sharp strings. We've taken him up to the hospital so many times I'm sure they must be getting the wrong idea!!

Helen's flower business is going from strength to strength at the minute, although it does mean she's often working in the shop until the small hours! A few weeks ago she had a hilarious moment with a long-stem rose when a particularly thorny specimen managed to tear all the buttons off her blouse- she tells me the poor delivery man was frightfully embarrassed! It's good having the two incomes too- sometimes I just don't know where all the money in my wallet gets to!

On a sadder note, Grandma's still quite poorly, and hardly gets a chance to leave her house anymore. Despite her worsening health, she's really kept her sense of humour, and I have to laugh when she comes out with such gems as "If I was a cat you'd put me down" or "Where's Dr Shipman when you need him?" I had a dreadful disagreement with her doctor, who really seems such a cold man, but eventually I threatened to report him unless he take mother off that terrible morphine- we really can't run the risk of another accident like last Christmas.

I hope to see some of you at midnight mass this year, although I must say I will miss Reverend Feltham's sermon this year. It was quite inconsiderate of the bishop to move him so abruptly to another parish, without even letting us have a "whip round" for him first. Still, I have high hopes for his new replacement, who is a quite excellent preacher and popular with the young people-he has already told Jenny that he would consider having girl altar servers which is a quite timely development.

Well, I hope next year is similarly successful- who knows what it may bring?

Wishing you a merry Christmas and a prosperous new year.
"The Gang"

Saturday, December 11, 2004

You pays your money and you takes the piss

Well, I notice that the London News Review has discreetyly dropped the subscribers login from its front page. And I still have no new issues of the magazine, or any answers to my emails asking when this might happen. So now I want my money back.

Fact is, they encouraged us all to support them, a lot of us paid £20 for the privilege, and, if it wasn't for the bit of charity from the Friday Thing in giving us all a subscription when it split, I really wouldn't have got anything for my cash. Apart from the LNRe, which is free anyway.

So what's going on? Anyone know. Do they?

Friday, December 10, 2004

Got the Job (part two)

I've just been looking through some old posts. I've been keeping this blog for nearly 15 months now, and it's a very strange feeling to go back to a mix of the mundane and the profound from a whole year ago. I mean it, it actually made me feel a bit dizzy to read about a dream I'd completely forgotten from November 2003. Something about a dentist, and I suddenly remembered it with disorientating clarity.

Anyway, remember this?

With slightly fewer anguished posts, I've got a new job. And the interview was *much* easier this time. It's only for three months to begin with, and it's in the same team, but it's going to be as a proper social work assistant. So now I can have my own caseload, drive around and see people, and get to experience the stress and, well, stress of social work first hand, seven hours a day.

And if today's anything to go by, that's not looking like the wisest move. But it's about time I got out of the office and applied myself and everything I've learnt to being out there. And "unlikelysecretary" had worn a bit thin.

It's also going to be the first "proper" job I've had that hasn't been admin. Thank god for that- I was starting to go crazy staring at that desk all day. Instead I can go crazy out in the community, just like everyone else.

All I've got to do now is pass my driving test. And not screw this up.

And call off Christmas!

There's been angry muttering in the office this week. And it's got some very dark undertones.

I knew something was going wrong when my colleague unexpectedly went off on one. And then I noticed a few, slightly less right-wing ones do the same. The mumbling always took the same form
"and no-one's going to stop me celebrating Christmas. It's my right. I don't care if it offends anyone."

Depending on their political beliefs this may be followed up with a further:
"Whose country is it anyway?"

I'd been dismissing it all week as, well, poorly informed paranoia. It all stems from some unpleasantness a while back, when an overzealous manager asked a particularly lippy member of staff to take down her flags she put up for St George's day. She cited "multiculturalism", whilst appearing to fundamentally misunderstand the concept of a multicultural office. I'm not a fan of nationalism, but the English flags went pretty well with the Portugese flag nearby, and I thought that was how it was supposed to work. And this issue has raised its ugly head ever since April, frequently with that sinister undertone of "Whose country is it anyway?" floating to the surface.

So I didn't really take it seriously until yesterday, when the culprit immediately seemed to become clear. The Sun (who else) lead with the scream "IS THIS REALLY THE MOST OFFENSIVE IMAGE IN BRITAIN?". No, this wasn't trailling a topless teenager on page three, but instead featured a nativity scene. The caption read "Bureaucrats in Birmingham city council banned....may offend muslims"

Yes, the classic right-wing scare story about the left: Political Correctness. Throw in the words "Council" "Bureaucrats" and "banned" and you can pretty much make your own phrase. And as an extra bonus they got to blame muslims too.

Obviously I wasn't impressed. Although the right-wing all agree that Political Correctness is th biggest threat to society, banning Christmas is just so comically ridiculous, there's no way anyone could fall for that one. Like the Grinch or Alan Rickman in "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves", it's just not believeable.

I was thinking about this story with a little trepidation this morning. The only thing that could make the feast of conspicious and economically useful consumption accelerate still further is the vague suspicion that it may be cancelled. Even though if there's one festival that's definitely not under any threat, it's Christmas. It's gone from being a single day to taking up a whole season, and shows no sign of letting up.

When I arrived at work this morning, I was stunned to be told by one of the other secretaries that staff in the other team had been asked not to put up Christmas decorations.

"Who said that?" I asked, still not believing that could happen in the real world.

"Greasy Slimeball", she said. (These weren't her exact words).


Half an hour later, my segment of the office was glittering with stars, tinsel and evergreen leaves. As I balanced a pinecone on the end of the desk, I went off on one.

"...and the point of multiculturalism is that everyone is able to celebrate any festival that's important to them. I want incense for Diwali, candles for Chanukah and seamless robes for Eid...even if that's likely to be a token gesture at best, as Borehamwood's pretty monocultural and this office has all of 3 non-white employees....Hell, I'll even take Christmas lights. It has to be all or nothing, and if we banned all festivals and all diversity, life would be grey and meaningless."

Or words to that effect. I just can't help but think that I just fell into a massive trap to get me to put up Christmas decorations. And dragged everyone else into it.

Although if anyone asks, they're actually solstice decorations (and trust me, it's got more to do with solstice than the birth of Christ). I'm just hoping Greasy Slimeball comes over and asks me about it.

Maybe I should blame the muslims. Everyone else does.

Monday, December 06, 2004

And if you think it's bad so far...

Annoyingly, I totally forgot about International Buy nothing day (http://www.buynothingday.co.uk/)

In case you haven't noticed, I really appreciate the sentiment behind Buy Nothing Day. We're increasingly defined by what we own, and, by extension, what we buy. And so many major parts of our culture have been reduced to what they can be used to sell. The ultimate one being Christmas, the two month long festival of shiny mediocrity which can only be described as Mankind's ultimate V-sign to God ((C) Brother's mate).

It really shouldn't be like this. Since when was trawling through soulless malls running up a credit card bill a leisure activity? And over the coming weeks, we can look forward to this escalating into a frenzy of buying crap, misery and rudeness. And what for? Because us wasting our money is the only thing keeping our way of life afloat. Which is why so much expectation is placed on the pre-christmas sales figures, and, quite possibly, the only reason we bother with the whole waste of time in the first place.

Co-incidentally, Buy Nothing Day co-incided with the w0rst of my finacial problems. And that day was the one day I managed to stay out of trouble and not spend any money. Nope, not a penny. And I had no idea until now.

Weird. Maybe I was supposed to be an anti-capitalist after all.

That would be more convincing if I hadn't just applied for a bank loan.

Cheating heart, lying eyes, false teeth

...or "I'm sure I've done this one before"

Well, I'm back from Oxford. And exactly as I thought in the last post, I feel *so* much better for that. I feel a bit more like myself again.

Looking back on this week though, I've realised I'm really good at telling lies. Or more often, not telling the entire truth. And it's starting to bug me.

Problem is, most people find truth a bit much. And there's two people I can think of who would be a little freaked out if I tell them the truth. Or it might be a brilliant move.

Oh, I sound so cryptic. But it's good to be back, even if it means I have to be up at 6.30 tomorrow.