Monthly Archives: June 2013

Sweet Shop

Acton is an unbeautiful place and we live in cynical times.

Corner shops are unglamorous and formulaic.

This is the Seven 2 Eleven at the end of my road:










Picture it inside: it is entirely regular, with a central aisle shelf of essential tin items, one brand of kitchen towel, toothpaste etc; a rack with crisps; chiller cabinet with chocolate milk and Lucozade and plastic cheese.

This corner shop was robbed a few months ago in a nasty balaclava raid my lovely neighbour was unfortunate enough to be involved in as she walked past.

This evening I went to get some milk and noticed these little pictures with prices on all over the large, tiered chocolate display. Some are resting, others are mounted on lollipop sticks.























It’s hard to see from these pictures but every one is a small original painting. When you pick them up they are stiff with the paint.

‘Look at these little paintings,’ I said. ‘Who did them?’

‘I did’, said the chap. ‘I wanted to make them like naive cave paintings.’

Time, imagination and talent attached (unnecessarily) to a cheap, fast-moving consumer good: sweet.


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Filed under London Mumbo, Mumbo Life

War of the Roses

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Filed under Mumbo Life, Mumbo Nature


A few weeks ago I went for a massage. Like all therapies, massage is considered an indulgence because it is a costly non-necessity. Actually, it is a way to heal and we all need to do as much of that as possible.

I sourced a Thai parlour in W3, not self-described as such but in need of re-branding should it wish to attract Smarties. Undeterred by the offer of an evening slot and the ghostly moans of gentlemen seeking help to accomplish an abridged version of Phileas Fogg’s travels, I booked.

Scaffolded outside and down-wind from Morrisons, the venue requires you to ‘think of your happy place’ to get in the mood.  Once in the door, a Thai receptionista (who quite surely had not always had the ‘a’ on the end of her job description) greeted me with the waft of suspicion, as a brothel-keeper might Anthea Turner. It seemed the Gods hadn’t considered growing up in Acton with gender confusion to be sufficiently character-building, for I couldn’t help but notice she was blessed with an extra thumb.

‘What massage you here for?’ she asked.

‘Swedish,’ I replied. (not joking.)

‘What?’ she leaked, probably thinking her day was only getting weirder.

‘Sorry, I was thinking about something else. (Clocks?!) I mean a full body.’

Unconvinced, she asked me for the dough and I was in.

No waffley surveys asking about neck problems or Doctor’s surgery postcodes; no attempts even to sell waffle dressing gowns or Chai tea. Just get-your-kit-off: great.

Discombob ensued when I realised the non-Swedish Thai massage therapist was going to be the non-Thai Hungarian girl who had been polishing off a finger snack at Reception.

As I tried to do a mental risk analysis of Wotsit-infused massage oil (protein enrichment from the cheese flavouring vs. topically applied calories) I thought, ‘Hold on a Quavering minute!’

Because if you book a Thai massage, you expect a Thai to be doing it (extra digits are a Brucie bonus). Don’t you? Is that racist? Aren’t the people in the title of their skill the best at it, possessed of some sort of ancient, visceral wisdom? Or would Jamie Oliver be somehow less punchable as Nobu’s head chef?

This was never going to be a real-life conversation (‘Will you be able to do that walky up and down thing, with your gangly European limbs ‘n all?’) so face-down goes I, on goes Relaxation Tape 3 and bang! we’re touching skin.

Fifty nine minutes later (shrinks aside, no-one respects the second hand on a time machine quite like a masseuse) and there had been pain. There had been deep uncomfortableness and reserved wincing, punctuated only by drilling outside and the distant laughter of the receptionista on the phone to a friend- an Eastern Sybil Fawlty with some of Basil’s chromosomes thrown in.

I was bent, stretched, pummeled and punished in a fashion most expert…

Hungarian Thai massage in Acton: get one.


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Have You Known The Sea?

Dad pic










On the Sussex Coast mid-point last century

Lapping waves of single purpose

Beckoned a boy to Dartmouth and to the taste of salt.

Sub-marine the knots to learn,

Emerging as the loyal servant of a silent capsule fish.

Such tales and whales- the Dolphin Mess!

The toasts, the boasts, the wit so sharp and dry,

Its ocean provenance a mystery.


Then Mobe at home his girls he’d join

For runs ashore on Bognor beach,

In dinky boats the windmill-ed Broads to roam.

Or to the Lock-jewelled Thames

The mooring and exploring to commence,

While Windsor’s picnic cruises

In wooden pleasure craft

Were but a twinkle in the captain’s dewy eye.


The years they rolled on with the tides

As on its truest path does water flow.

The sky-high view of Worthing’s Avenue

Affording daily reassurance

That still She rages, plays and rests on the horizon;

Powerful and constant,

Never other than Herself,

An unapologetic force of nature.


Yes, you have known the sea implicitly,

And now the sea knows you.



Filed under Mumbo Life, Mumbo poems