Category Archives: Mumbo Obsessions

In Defence of Obsession


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Two men present at the gates of Heaven.

The first tells God he’s in a relationship; has a stable job; plays sport twice a week; sees friends; does some cultural stuff; quaffs a few beers (max) at the week-ends.

The second says he is obsessed by a woman with whom he can’t have a relationship, spending hours at a time lying on a bed where he once slept with her, usually in an alcoholic fog, rolling a ruler she has touched around his mouth, to the detriment of his business.

Assuming he’s not doing one of his hmm-it’s-not-what-you’d-expect-parable-things, we think we know who God’s going to wave through, don’t we?

It’s going to be the well-balanced, healthy-living chap with the wide social circle and the almost-finished inspirational TED talk on his side table, isn’t it? It’s not going to be the lone wolf weirdo fetish guy.

This is the belief called into question by Orhan Pamuk’s engrossing novel, The Museum of Innocence, which scrutinizes the all-consuming love of guy 2, Kemal Basmaci, 30, for a shopgirl-turned-thwarted-actress, Füsun Keskin. He steals her 18 yr old virginity lightheartedly while engaged to an aristocratic beauty, only to lose himself heavily in her thrall, alone, for the rest of his 32 years.

The neat device of the story is that Kemal creates a museum of  Füsun-infused artefacts- her hair barettes, photographs, coffee cups, 4,213 cigarette stubs- that exists in the real world, at Firuzağa, Dalgıç Sk. No:2, Beyoğlu, Istanbul.

Not simply a personal collection, it is also a chronicle of political, economic, and social life in the city in and around the 1970s. (A selection of it visited Somerset House quite recently, too.)

Interwoven in the tale are themes of romantic love, familial love, companionship, recollection, personal narrative, status, suffering, and success.

But it is the value/ affliction of obsession that lingers most powerfully, as Kemal exhorts his ghost writer (Pamuk) to close this 728 page opus with one prevailing message: ‘Let everyone know, I lived a very happy life’, leaving us as readers to decide whether we would agree with him.

Is this the story of a delusional saddo, rendered beautiful by interpretation? Or, does it relate a valid and true-hearted (if unconventional) experience?

Can obsession be worthy?

Obsession is a preoccupation: if you’re in medicinal research, this is a good thing; if you’re chasing Eckhart Tolle’s wild goose of receptive consciousness, it isn’t.

We allow for romantic love as long as there are two people involved, and it is bookmarked within a reasonable time-frame; that’s OK, we think: you focus on me, and I focus on you until we’re both familiar with the view, and can start talking bin-liners.

When one person alone takes the plunge, it feels limiting, or (worse) futile. All that intense channeling, to the exclusion of all else, carries with it the implication that ‘all else’ might offer an opportunity for reciprocation that will, necessarily, be missed.

But, is it such a crisis to be in primary relationship with oneself, or with one’s passions?

Given that we all react to how we feel about things rather than the things themselves, anyway, isn’t there an honesty in indulging wholeheartedly with that communion itself? (Woody Allen’s Annie Hall masturbation quip springs to mind: ‘It’s sex with someone that I love.’)

In collecting items attached to his beloved, Kemal finds a creative expression for his obsession- indeed, the creativity becomes one with it.

He manifests memories, and makes emotions material. He curates his love artfully, processing his urges aesthetically. This means of therapy in coping with his estrangement from Füsun may prevent him from finding a cure; but, if he were to find one, where is the evidence to suggest another ‘illness’ wouldn’t simply take its place?

In fetishizing, anatomizing, projecting, and fantasizing over his amour, he gains more satisfaction, arguably, than he would from interacting with her human imperfection and unpredictability. The sacrifice, certainly, is that he fails to grow from the learning that only input from another can invite. He turns in on himself, becoming as much obsessed with himself obsessing as on his object of desire. But, in another sense, he has conquered the quest to conquer: he ‘owns’ her already.

If it seems tragic Kemal cannot enact his dreams, we might turn to his friends in Turkish society to ask how their ‘real life’ fulfillment compares. In their empty visits to brothels, and false notions of traditionalism and status, their self-realisation holds little by way of contrasting appeal; the novel’s parting snapshot of wronged ex Sibel’s rabidly functioning marriage, replete with two beautiful rugrat daughters, is surely enough to send even the skeptic racing to fondle Füsun’s cheese grater.

Ostracized from this outwardly respectable crew, Kemal finds a meeting of minds in the rubbish dens and hoardings of his fellow obsessives. Restless, and stripped of his reputation, he has, nevertheless, found a way of ordering and memorializing his proclivities in a way that speaks uniquely to him, and speaks to him uniquely.

Though driven by his desire to be in true relationship with Füsun, Kemal experiences as many blissful moments reflecting on his concept of her as he does moments of acute pain at her flesh-and-blood hands.

I think this is the dark reason obsession deserves a screwy break in the midst of its insularity: it allows for the exercise of control over intent; it gives imagination license to do its best thing: run wild in service to our joy.

It becomes a fiercer, bolder attempt to sustain happiness no more absurd than any others we undertake.

And, if we seek a sign from our beloved that we’re not alone in suffering for our desires (hoping at least to connect in our misery), obsession short-circuits this neediness by declining to reach out in the first place.

Just as a fire results from the intense boring of the sun onto dry matter in the right conditions, so obsession powers an emotional energy to life by brute will. It eschews temperance and abstinence and apathy, knocking aside the faint of heart, to put a stake in the ground.

It’s a cousin of addiction, of ecstasy, of ill-advised box set marathons.

It’s not a Cath Kidston pinnie, or a member of the gang, or a good idea.

It’s an outsider with a strong point of view that doesn’t give a flying fuck for opinion. (Yet, it will eat you up with your own saliva, too.)

Like many habits that thrill and vivify, obsession is wanting in virtue.

But, for as long as we are slaves to our cravings, it may be just another pleasurable road to hell.

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Purpose

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The first two decades of this millennium might be remembered as The Era of Happiness. 

Apparently, we all want the stuff, and some bugger’s walking around somewhere who knows perfectly well how to get it, but is keeping schtum.

Meanwhile, all manner of gushing hobbits are banging their swedes on the revolving doors of TED’s headquarters claiming, definitively, it’s in the issues they happen to have struggled with their whole lives: self-esteem; a rubbish job; gratitude for how mind-bogglingly irritating they find their toddler: this is the key it all boils down to, you sweet-but-very STUPID IDIOTS.

Unpopular, but there’s a school of thought that if you haven’t found your life purpose by the age of 40, you should basically stop looking. 

In your twenties you didn’t give a hoot about fulfilment.

You were in the wrong job, battling the legacy of faulty childhood wirings, dating aliens, and drunk 90% of the time.

If anyone asked you what you felt passionate about and what you got out of bed for, the answer would have been martinis and espressos, preferably dancing with each other in a glass.

In your 30s you realised the answer to life, the universe, and everything was to have a house with a picket fence and a herd of funny, same-surnamed muppets. 

You trudged on through Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, gathering firewood and doing your bit to help bakeries maintain their turnover.

Then, DUMP!, forty lands, and suddenly there’s you and your soul and your mother on the phone with a new dead friend every 15 minutes.

Aren’t I immortal?, you query. What the hell’s been the point of me? Why aren’t I smiling like a monk?

Sad to say, there was a window in there with a nettle sticking through it that you could have grasped. It might have been the 24 hours before your 38th birthday- hard to tell- when things could have clicked into place, and you would have felt alive and smooth in the breathing area.

But you missed it: shame- now what?

You pump desperately at what you’re good at, as on a resusci anne.

You put out a call to the universe, asking it to provide.

And if you can fit these tasks in-between trips to the osteopath and being put on hold, that’s a definite win.

Alternatively, you could do what any person in a fix would do, and panic tactically. 

Protracted probing into your hidden desires for breakthroughs eats into lotto win fantasies and the downloading of social survival strategies onto your offspring.

Unless you’ve got a hot lead, it can feel like chasing a fairy. 

So, invert the received wisdom.

Take a top-line inventory of yourself from a stranger’s p.o.v and ask, ‘Who, knowing absolutely nothing about me, would find me impressive? Who doesn’t know my average score at University Challenge? Who, relatively speaking, is going to think I’m a sharp-toothed, rip-roaring genius?’ 

It’s not a snidey thing: you’re not looking for losers. Just for one paltry skill gap, otherwise known as a ‘gold-plate opportunitette’.

It doesn’t have to be the sole reason you were put on this earth. You don’t even need to be better than anyone else at doing it.

You just need to find a person who is more clueless at that particular thing than you, and stick your face in theirs.

Seeing as you’re in your own personal witness protection programme, your U.C score may remain a mystery. 

As for the longed-for contentment, that comes from not being exposed and, perhaps, being a bit appreciated.

Does Stephen Hawking want dinner on Saturday night with an eminent physicist, or with Professor Cox, his moon made of cheese, and heart-shaped pupils for eyes?

Alignment with one’s gifts is overwhelmingly special. 

But if you get stuck, remember the other type, too- the one that comes from how you position yourself.

The oldest kid in the class feels like the king.

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Soho Farmhouse

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Once upon a time, the privileged were lonely.

They were forced to huddle in their 80,000 square foot properties, looking at pictures of each other in Hello!

Now there is a place where they can go and ignore each other in the flesh.

That place is Soho Farmhouse, the not-in-Soho, not-so-country-bumpkin latest addition to Nick Jones’ brace of stylish leisure centres for non-hipsters with a party pulse.

Belonging here is serious business. It’s not uncommon for the Aspirational to kill founder members and wear their skin, in the way Hannibal Lector might if he once worked in media, but now lacked the clout for his application to be seconded by a Lord.

There’s a swell of anticipation on the approach, down roads only visible through Celine prescription sunglasses. Based on the feverish development underway, you glimpse a Soho Gloucestershire on the horizon; one field’s being prepared as an underground propolis city for Cowshed toe cream.

The car park would square up comfortably to a premiership footballer’s front drive, motoring prize poodles lined up cheek-to-jowl sporting ‘my other car’s a helicopter’ stickers. You’re not sure where best to slip in: apparently, a Maserati drops £20k in value every time a Honda stops alongside.

Ah, but when your feet first connect with that socially-rich soil, can it matter how you got there? If there’s no-one from security chasing you down at 5 mph in a sleek buggy, then you’re IN.

It feels rather special to gain access to a member’s-only fiefdom in a county where ordinary people get electrocuted for using the wrong paint colour- like being rubbed all over with insulating smug butter.

The mix of exclusivity with wholesome fresh air is so destabilising, for a moment you fear you might forget to ‘check in’ on your iPhone.

Regardless, it’s important to betray no elation while gliding around these grounds; smiling here indicates you are having a nervous breakdown and heading straight back to The Priory after your weekend release. Or, worse, that you are very, very grateful to have a friend to bring you along.

I stand on the path and drink it all in, feeling very, very grateful.

It’s a phenomenon less country club, more urbal settlement (that’s an odious little truncation of urban and rural).

There are wooden cabins and outhouses and gyms dotted all around, like a 3-D avatar village for aesthetes who eat artisan tempeh and remember Playschool.

There’s a small lake with boats and steam rising from a cool, heated outdoor pool; bicycles to borrow while the Bentley rests; outdoor sofas with cushions in faultlessly-nice colours; log pits burning; table tennis tables; snooker.

You can go ice-skating or film-watching or people spying and unless you pass a mirror you could up-end every nook and cranny, and you wouldn’t see one solitary unbeautiful object.

God week-ends here, occasionally riding around in an SF vintage-style trap pulled by one of the horses, trying to look like a feature film director.

And entertainment’s not the end of it.

There are stores that offer an opportunity to replicate this perfection at home- delicacies, and dinner jackets, and Elephant’s Breath plants.

Everywhere you look- every turn of the maze you take- tastefully-displayed premium quality wonder goods are available for purchase. The entire premises is, in fact, 100% bullet-proofed against naffness. (Note: Farmhousers don’t find naffness funny; they let their nephew get on with that in Dalston.)

Inside the main food hall, the honey-hued hum of success emits.

Whether gained through fame, hard graft, good looks, or good luck, money is talking.

These are people who live life in capital letters. Their hair is Hair. Their coat is a Coat.

They look at you a fraction too long, in order to conduct on your body a Terminator scan of social relevance.

When they see that not only are you not Amal Clooney, but you’re also not Kelly Hoppen, you have to absorb the disappointed-dismissive balancing essential oil mix that’s sweating from their newly-massaged bodies.

The food is amazing. The service is amazing. Everyone’s shoes are amazing.

There’s a woman with fluorescent teeth playing boules and a comedian having lunch as if he’s just a regular guy who needs to eat. Children in cashmere wellingtons are being chased around the courtyard by Cara Delevigne wearing a Scooby Doo onesie. What, will Angelina’s lips soon be booking themselves into the cinema room with copper mugs of Moscow Mule?

Where are all the real people? your head spins. ‘Take me back to Kansas.’

Then a teenaged member of staff with spots and a local accent asks if you left your antibiotics in the bathroom and- crypes- it’s really happening, after all.

Like squeezy honey or penicillin, Soho Farmhouse is so necessary you wonder why it hasn’t been invented before.

The answer may lie in the Soho Empire expansion strategy, which mirrors the life stages of an adman: Central London in his heyday (chop ’em up); stints in the States (can I powder prescriptions drugs?); wife and kids in Chiswick, with weekends at Bab house (did you bring the viagra?) whoah, still got it! in Shoreditch (mdma bombs): enjoying his career spoils in the countryside (how could you even suggest it? Oh go on then, rack me up a Cheeky); keeping it real/ feeling a bit shot, tbh, in the Bush (weak tea, 2 Candarels).

Soho Beachhut’s planned in for Bournemouth 2030: ermine-trimmed zimmers and a Soho Font ‘Bowling Alley’ sign re-housed from another location, with the ‘alley’ blacked out.

I wallow in the glow. I never want to leave. Life at Soho Farmhouse is too damn good.

But I falter. Do I belong? With my fake Hermes bag, and unmanicured nails, and my hair that is just hair.

Then it dawns on me. If there’s one thing that fabulous needs more than fabulous, it’s an audience.

So I complete this daydream on a gorgeous sofa in front of the fire with my own (more quietly) fabulous friends.

Drinking jasmine tea, and wondering whose skin would fit me best.

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How To Write A Novel

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Novelists are in the wrong profession.

They make lies believable in order to illuminate Truth, when they should be writing self-help books about real-life Process.

That’s because writing novels has as much to do with words and imagination, as cooking a meal has to do with food.

The clue is in the verb, or doing word.

This is the difference between mooning over the magic formula of Donna Tartt’s running routine, and sitting your pseud derriere down at a computer without a Starship Enterprise dashboard of accessories to ease the unbearable agony of tapping on a keyboard.

On Family Fortunes, 78% of Our Survey would say ‘Talent’ when asked what successful novelists have in common- and this would be about 92% true.

What’s 100% accurate of 100% of them is that they have mastered ‘Application’.

Application sounds practical and level-headed and about getting your homework in on time.

Actually, it’s more akin to the fruits of 17 years’ regressive therapy.

So if you’re thinking about writing a novel, consider narrative voice and plot structure.

Finesse your style, envision well-rounded characters, and hone a compelling theme.

Do a course, buy books on your craft, and draw inspiration from writers you admire the most.

Then take all of this impressive papery stuff into your little-used study, and pop it away in a draw.

For the first work to be done is personal.

1. Think Negatively

You are almost certain to fail; embrace this.

You have a greater chance of bumping into David Cameron in Streatham outside of election time, than your fiction has of venturing out of Microsoft Word.

Don’t try to believe in yourself, or mouth affirmations in the mirror: ‘Your voice is unique’; ‘Your conjunctions are beautiful’ etc.

Make peace with the misery of your reality, so that you can enjoy the misery of your journey authentically.

At the heart of tragedy is hope.

2. Be Fearful

If the wannabe novelist’s fear set was matched to a sound, it would be the cowering, whimpering, whingey one of a two-year old narcissistic Emperor.

Fear of not completing.

Fear of completing, and it being rubbish.

Fear of completing, and finding it OK, but others thinking it’s rubbish.

Fear of completing, and finding it OK, and others thinking it’s OK, and then not knowing what to do next.

Fear of disappearing up your own arse while doing the above.

A shrink would rather wave Sean Penn clutching a bad film review into their treatment room, than listen to your paralyzing ‘concerns’.

Fear is an advance paycheck on something that might not happen; try to find a senile benefactor to apply this to your novel in a monetary sense.

3. Make Gargantuan Sacrifices

Just because you have dreams about pouring out the immortal closing sentence of your oeuvre in the shade of Eucalyptus trees, doesn’t mean the preceding 79,962 words will waft out effortlessly in monthly quarter-hour chunks.

Same as going on a diet, what are you prepared to give up?

What’s your battle plan?

It almost certainly doesn’t involve ‘you’ time; withdrawing from your friends’ bank of goodwill over beers, by walking them through your narrative arc; or Box Sets of any sort (and, no, ones based on literary works are not research).

Take every habit and adorable ritual that puffs out your day with perceived value, and pulverize it.

Novels don’t get written in spare time; that’s the preserve of Amazon customer service questionnaires.

And blogs.

4. Seek No Support From Friends and Family

There is a school of thought that espouses the virtues of setting an intention, and keeping motivated by sharing it with as many people as possible.

This comes from the same school that gave you the English prize, and encouraged you to read your moving story out to the class, thereby cementing in you the godforsaken notion that you are a gifted writer, and that after you’ve read to them everyone will clap, with love in their eyes.

No-one has asked you to write a novel.

Few people will want to read it.

Most of those you tell you are writing one will humour you, and tell their partner you’re a wanker when they get home.

Your nearest and dearest will pity-whoop and cheer you on, in the same way as if you were coming last in a marathon wearing a Simon Cowell suit.

Stay silent and secretive.

Better for people to regard you as a waste of space, than as a deluded flunker.

5. Stop Being Kind To Yourself

Unless you have a story that so blindingly needs to be told you feel like the woman at the bus-stop, (only with a gag and a laptop) chances are you think you can wait another day to spill 500 more words of your protagonist’s fake journey.

Self-love is the novelist’s nemesis.

Over-ride every single natural instinct in your body, which is hard-wired to protect itself from all energetic output, including the gym, and thank you letters.

Don’t wait until you are flooded with warm, fuzzy creativity.

Don’t ‘check in’ to see whether this is the right time for you, or decide you’ve got a cold, and can’t think of any good adjectives.

You have no deadline, because nobody gives a flying horse if you write a tome, or not.

In fact, they’d consider paying you not to write it, so then they won’t have to read it, and your failure will throw shards of forgiving light on their own cretinous life.

First, visualize the highest-achieving, most venally repellant person you know laughing in your face, and fashioning the ‘L for loser’ sign on their foreheads in the excrement of John Updike.

Then, be your own worst nightmare; if you feel uncomfortable, and out of your depth, you’re doing something right.

6. Have Fun!

You’re not raking over dead bodies.

Nobody’s life depends on you.

You like language, and made-up stuff.

Relax.

Escape.

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Lab Mice Garden Centre Shocker

Scientists have been using mice to better understand the impact on children of grand-scale exposure to garden centres.

In an ambitious study conducted over the equivalent of a two-week school holiday, a dozen juvenile rodents were released into a clutch of the most prominent ‘day trip’ plant emporiums in East and West Sussex.

The unsettling conclusions could have serious implications for grandchildren in all of the southern counties where old people creep.

‘We suspected that serial browsing around garden furniture sectionals and personalised mug stands might have long term effects on the soft brains of kids.

But we didn’t expect to see this kind of damage.’

When the mice first arrived they adjusted favourably to the airy open-plan feel, and incredible choice.

But it took only twenty four hours for them to age thirty years and seek out mice-sized powder blue macs (available next season, in a twofer offer with all-new miniature peace pipe relaxation cds).

One started responding to the name ‘Barbara‘, and repeatedly re-presenting itself at the dwarf bonzai trees, with pawfuls of Baby Bio.

‘It was going gently insane,’ a researcher confirmed.

Other tendencies exhibited by the mice included a declining ability to tell which orchids in glass jars were real- a problem exacerbated by the sheer number of material ones.

‘More worrying still was that they failed to differentiate them qualitatively, even when they knew which was which.

If you translate this into human behaviour, you’re going to get a lot of young adults who place equal value on dead and living things,’ one researcher explained needlessly.

‘Or at least a subset of interior designers who specialise in kitting out 2-star B & Bs,’ added another.

In an effect psychologists call ‘anti-screening’ (a phrase in opposition to the selective hearing phenomenon in pensioners) the mice became quickly accepting of having the piss taken out of them.

On week one they balked at £9 for the brie and bacon panini with salad garnish.

Just seven days later they didn’t find it that dear- particularly when followed by a stale slab of triple- layer coffee and walnut cake.

‘Of course, kids don’t generally pay for their dinosaur lunch boxes, where they can choose four other dolls-house-sized items to supplement the nutritional content of their jam sandwich square.

But the habitualisation principle is the same.’

In one of the study’s darker twists, no one had considered what the repercussions would be if the research subjects were to wander into Pet World, which is between the faux homemade preserves and inoffensive scooped-neck tops.

‘When twelve lab mice whose next gig might be eyeball perfume testing, meet two wannabe-pet guinea pigs, it ain’t going to be pretty,’ said lead researcher Timothy.

‘It was more depressing than Watership Down’, said his colleague, who is now helping out in the Aquatics section of Roundstones in Hastings to help heal his trauma.

At the end of the April fortnight three of the twelve mice refused to leave Home Decor, saying they were waiting for the Christmas decorations to arrive; five were obsessed with cactus coupons: two were toying with Emma Bridgewater polka dot plastic cupcake transporters; and one insisted the beanbag lap-tray with the country kitten scene on the front was not too big: it was just the ticket.

The rest had stopped reading newspapers.

‘Overall, it’s scary that a slice of this generation is being raised on resin geese ornaments with handbags. Systematically. Every half term.

Put simply, what the fuck kind of deviancy will they be into in their 80’s?’

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Against Finding Your Purpose in Life

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What’s the collective noun for ‘start-ups?’ Is it a glut?

I mean, those borne of a glint in the Founder’s eye that tells you they’ve found their purpose in life.

The ones with Alan Watts videos in their Youtube Favourites, who now know what really makes them tick.

Those catapulted out of bed every morning with the conviction they’ve found out why they were put on this earth: organic mole-hair baskets.

Ideally, work should feel worthwhile and rewarding- can’t argue with that.

But where does it say this has to be THE THING that boils you down into your essence?

The bastard working man’s answer to Jean-Baptiste Grenouille in Perfume?

Why does it have to be our driving force- our elevator pitch to God at the gates of Heaven?:

I AM the delivery of eco-friendly banking solutions / the knitter of artisanal rye-flavoured tea cosies/ the carer of LGBT animals. Trust me, the rest was musak.

Isn’t it occasionally possible to integrate these purposes into life without encumbering them with the need to bring home the bacon?

I’m being Devil’s Avocado, natch, to make a connection between something I keep noticing and something I want.

The first is the preponderance of busy little companies wopping a kooky name on their foreheads, and heading off to the internet with a red handkerchief tied on their stick.

‘About Us’ will tell you more about what gives them a dual personal/professional hard-on, than you feel comfortable knowing.

Not that it’s anything other than passion that makes a service good.

But there seem to be so many companies all getting very aroused about the same thing- with just a tiny tweak.

There’s a gap in the market and a market in the gap, but…

…here’s the second thing…

There’s probably a bigger market in bridging the gap between the market and the gap.

So, on the one hand you’ve got a maelstrom of information, services, gizmos, earnest reasons for being.

And on the other, the people who need, want, respond to them.

The eager start-ups are all wanting a slice of that giving pie.

I can offer what you offer. Only better. And with CEO after my name on LinkedIn, and my dietary preferences in the blurb.

Or curating it:

Look, see. I’ve aggregated your news/ house buying options/ washing machine costs, thereby cutting your time investment, and customizing your experience.

The point is this: What if I don’t know what news I’m interested in, or what kind of house I should live in, or what sort of washing machine would suit me best?

I’m not talking about trawling through Which? Guides and ‘Well, at first when I got the dustbuster home…’ reviews.

But the customizing, time-cutting bit that precedes the customizing time-cutting bit.

I’m talking Advanced Boolean pre-Google Searches.

Most service providers, and their middle-men, work on the assumption that we know what we want; we just need help finding it.

This is fine if you have a blocked drain, or know that you’re a family of 4 who want to stay in Cleethorpes, are who are in need of Wifi in order not to kill each other.

But some of the biggest decisions we make in life end up finger-in-the-air at best; based on stale ideas at worst.

Where to live; where to go on holiday; where to send our kids to school; what sort of alternative health route to pursue.

Or professional: what genre of marketing agency to commission; which wholesale fleece supplier to engage; what steel manufacturer to use.

What EXACTLY is it that we’re TRULY looking for?

The start-up glut is surely out there waiting by their passionate phones to give it to us.

However, in order to connect with the fruits of these passions, we need to know what ours are first.

I fancy more businesses operating on the dating game model, where likes and preferences are probed thoughtfully, and matches suggested.

Not jokey, ‘Which city should you really be living in? Berlin’, after 3 unrelated, multiple-choice questions.

But streamlined, meaningful questionnaires that cross-reference our subconscious desires with millions of variables, and tell us stuff we didn’t even know we should be investigating.

Old skool agent expertise, for the 21st Century.

For example: How do we choose holidays?

1. Pick Sun/ snow, Beach/Pool, Mountains/City

2. Bump into neighbour in the park

3. Cruise Owners Direct for somewhere pet unfriendly

Bang! You’re in France. Again. Bumping into your neighbour…

How about:

Q: What are your favourite moments of a holiday? Are aesthetics important to you? What’s your favourite view in a painting? What brand of chorizo do you like? Do you prefer perky or weird in a restaurant? Give an example. Do you like flying? Flying mice? Characterful churches? Germans? Have you got a gsoh? Are you allergic to English tourists? Flies? Intimate massages? Are you a tight arse? What sum is 1.5 times the amount of money you think you have to spend on accomms? Trinkets? Does tipping annoy you? And the wife? Does tipping annoy her? Does your wife annoy you? (That’s another website: click on this link.)

A: Pulau Seliron. Small town on the north coast of Brunei. Wasn’t in this week-end’s Sunday supplement. Your neighbour’s never heard of it. Plenty of tapas restaurants with trinket boutiques attached. Clientele of German comedians. Now bugger off and cruise Owners Direct.

What am I asking for?

– To discover more about my preferences than I have ever bothered to probe.

– To have the world of information brought to my time-poor, self-knowledge poor, fingertips.

– To marry more of all that stuff out there, with all the stuff I now realise I want.

Full-on risk-assessment, pyschological-profiling, aspiration-hunting, dream-burrowing, passion-sniffing, intelligent questions, to help put as big a bespoke life-is-short-smile as possible on my miserable, high-expectations, greedy little face.

Those are my needs.

Now, whose purpose in life is it to meet them?

 

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Goodbye, Urban Shed

This will be my most boring-ever post (I hope).

I’m going to get away with it because it’ll be tagged under ‘commemorative’ and ‘writing therapy’, and because the hordes aren’t stopping by in their droves for my wisdom anyway.

Silly to get attached to things, but I’m feeling strangely sentimental about getting rid of the car.

A smooth piece of kit is lush, and a ride in someone else’s cracker’s a thrill.

But I’ve never been seduced around a showroom, or put myself in the market to shell out chunky monthly payments for an irresistible nift-rocket; if it displaces from A to B, and struggles to go above the speed limit (thereby curtailing Speed Awareness course compulsory attendances), then job done.

So why can’t I bring myself to scrap the Picasso?

Seven and a half years ago we pitched up at a car dealers in Sussex and ‘chose’ the car.

Which is to say, we stumbled in blindfolded, spun around, and pointed wildly, hoping there were no fridges on the forecourt.

They tried to launch into a cute back-story, but we stopped them with a version of  ‘You had me at hello’, which was the bit when they made the introduction: ‘Or how about this cheap car…’

Nevertheless, it seemed like a lot of money at the time, Mum reminding me only recently that I had cried writing out the cheque- surely an unrecorded level of lameness.

Once home, the Picasso went about under the radar doing its job quietly, which is perhaps what’s imbuing it with this sense of nobility.

Because, really, it defied medical science. It should have perished years ago. When I drove it in last for its M.O.T, the garage guy said, ‘What the hell are you still doing with this hunk of junk?’

There are fond memories of denting the side on a trip to the countryside, and of customizing it with black-smudge parallel lines trying to squeeze out of a Horsham multi-story car-park; the pinging-off of the wing-mirror cruising off-bonk through the bollards before Barnes bridge, the stump to be hence-after lovingly duct-taped by Mum or Dad every time I hurtled South to see them.

Or the punctured tank in Cornwall, necessitating pit-stops on blind hills- a motor-vehicle with a man’s legs sticking out between the back wheels.

… or the dropped exhaust pipe, the caked-on bird poo, tree sap residue, and weird African dust wind thing.

… the jaunty penalty charge photographs captured of the Picasso in a loading bay; turning right on a left-turn only; now zooming freely down the bus-only lane, wind in hair.

… the way it was referred to by its name and mark, like there are some people who seem to need their surnames for the sake of completeness: ‘Auntie Sophie was talking about it in the Citroen Picasso’; ‘Waved at you in the Citroen, but you were jumping a red light’.

And the interior… sweet baby lamb, no excuse: C.Ds, sticker books, gas bills, wetsuits, fishing net, cricket bat, coal pieces, Buzz Lightyear, Haribo wrappers, plastic dinosaurs, the sun-stained re-usable ‘machine not working’ note written in eye-liner on the back of a receipt- all manner of slovenly paraphernalia belonging to a family contributing more than their fair share to the downfall of a civilization, leaving Westfield’s valeting team with an annual look of PTSD on their exhausted, disbelieving faces.

Quietly cranking on regardless. Failing to read C.D’s. Giving false LED messages about servicing requirements. Interior door handle staying in hand rather than on door. The giving-up of the remote locking system.

But faithful, cute as a button, and thief-immune in its sublime undesirability.

So the garage guy’s sold us his ex-wife’s car, and a new low-rent love affair begins. It’s got a special space to put your coffee and water bottle- fairly upmarket.

Meanwhile, Bruno’s incubating shit-car lust: ‘Are second-hand cars better, because you already know they can work?’

Time to breathe deeply, and get onto rewardingrecylcing.co.uk.

R.I.P, Citroen.

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