Tag Archives: Amazon

Holiday Beer Goggles

This is just great, look at this.  It’s so much better than the way I live my life at home and I know why: because it’s simpler and there are only 2 rings on the kitchen stove. Why do I think I need more? Mostly for resting another unfinished pot on, but you wouldn’t do that if you lived here. You’d just eat everything straight away and you wouldn’t eat so much because it’s more delicious and there would be no Fox’s biscuits in the cupboard.

And you wouldn’t eat Heinz and Hellman’s because you’d be so pure and carefree, the food wouldn’t need it. You’d just grow all your own veg and it would be ripe all the time and extra-nutritious and when you felt hungry between meals you’d basically eat nuts. And you would go hours- days- without even thinking about chocolate and, if you did, it would be the 100% cocoa solids type, which is the equivalent of picking the bean off the tree in an organic way.

And you’d have so much less stuff and bed linen. You wouldn’t have a drawer full of miscellaneous items (why would you ever need rubber bands here?) or a box of wrapping paper or extra bathroom wotnots because you’d just use the essentials. That’s why you’d be so happy and friendly to strangers.

And none of your energy would go into soft furnishings. You wouldn’t need cushions or throws and nothing anywhere on the floors, unless it’s a really practical rug for collecting the water off feet or an exquisite one woven in good colours. And another reason why everyone here is smiling is that they know you just need a few effigies of Mary the Mother of God on the wall or a locally-made ceramic plate and absolutely no photographs.

And you’d be uber-relaxed the whole time because people here don’t do admin. They don’t have car insurance or diaries or passports. In fact, I bet hardly anyone here has a bank account- you just wouldn’t need one.  Because say you went into the city to buy a floaty dress or some stylish sandals or to eat at a restaurant with delicious ancient recipes and white tablecloths and cold wine glasses, you’d definitely have enough in your beautiful leather wallet.

Everything you’d be doing would be so natural and simple and authentic.

And when you went to buy flowers from the market- which you would do every morning, with your long hair- you would just swap it for the passata you’d made or the singing you’d do for them at the Christening of their niece.

And you’d always be tanned and laughing because you wouldn’t have to remember family birthdays and if you did it would be in a really genuine way, where everyone celebrates by dancing till 1 in the morning under the stars; it would have nothing to do with ordering from Amazon.

And you’d be drinking local firewater but not so much you’d have a hangover- more a dizzy swirling of bees above the head, like in cartoons. Yes, hangovers would be comical here. You’d have a laugh about them!

And you’d mostly wear white and you wouldn’t need to go to the hairdressers and you’d never have to de-tox because you hadn’t been eating tomato ketchup or thinking dark thoughts.

And the days would be longer and emptier and you’d be full of energy and inspiration to pour into a creative project- a meaningful, single-minded one, like re-creating the anatomy of a bee using minute mosaic tiles hand-painted by an old master craftsmen in his charming, decrepit studio on the outskirts of the village.

And the kids would run wild and free and grow bleached hair. They’d never need to learn an instrument or stroke plastic toys and they’d stop being interested in computers because they’d be tripping along with sticks and hoops in the local squares, licking ice-creams all the time.

And when they got a bit older they wouldn’t get into any trouble; they’d just jump on Vespas with other good-looking teenagers and drink Fanta till 2 in the morning, cracking jokes and doing cheeky dances in their long shorts and plimsolls and knowing what it feels like to feel alive inside.

And ‘so long’ to Facebook because no-one here has ever even heard of the internet- you can tell. I think the stove-top rings and soft furnishings and Facebook are at the heart of what gets me down at home. People might think the swimming pool helps but I think that if you lived here you could strip it right down and pretty soon all you’d need would be an espresso machine and a lipstick.

I wonder if I could move my entire life here with no Facebook and be in one of those articles about people moving their families to the coasts of Guadeloupe and rubbing sand into their children’s body all day and night, in-between eating oranges and not looking at Facebook.

I wonder if I could leave every worry and fear right back there in that dishwasher guarantee direct debit standing order pile and start living a real life here, buying all my meat from large, cigar-smoking men in candy-striped aprons who’ve wrestled the animal to death themselves while smoking.

I’d never need to go to the doctor or sleep with the Vicar or pay taxes or argue with anybody ever and I’d hardly need an income because I’d be eating figs all the time and being content.

And it would be even better if I could get rid of the whole family and just live in a tiny apartment with shutters and walk around in leggings like Jeremy Irons at the end of Damage, where he manages to survive causing his own son’s death by carrying a string bag and eating comte.

So if I can shade the screen of the iPhone from this perpetual sun and when it has cooled down and is prepared to do more than make emergency calls, I am going to Google some local property prices and pretend you still get 4 Euros to the Pound.

And if it still seems a bit expensive and I can’t figure a way to get rid of the family and the creative project sounds like it might turn me a bit mental- albeit in a natural and authentic way- then I am totally and most definitely going to eat only fruit and yoghurt for breakfast every single day when I get home and only do Facebook at certain pre-designated times.

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Kids

This evening, a man comes to the door.

It is right in the middle of homework and making dinner and Third World Debt solving so he would have had to be delivering news of a Premium Bonds win to get a warm welcome.

He is mid-40’s and weathered, with clearly more than a care in the world.

He gets out this little card that says he’s Polish and deaf and trying to sell drawings for money. I can see them poking out the bag he’s holding under his arm and he makes a move to reveal them further.

I don’t want to get involved in this. I don’t want to give him the time. I don’t want to embarrass him and myself by looking at drawings I probably won’t like and get his hopes up and then have to dash them.

I don’t want to give him money because I’ve just spent £30 on Amazon buying birthday presents for a privileged 6 year old.

So I make an I’m-really-sorry-but-no-thank-you face (which I’ve already offloaded free today onto Jehovah’s Witnesses) and he steps away with understanding and dignity.

There’s not a shred of persuasion or appeal. He slightly raises his hand in a gesture that says, ‘You don’t need to go on’, and moves to the next house, like this is just part of the path he knew he was going to tread.

Now I’m feeling bad and guilty. So I scramble to find £5 in coins to give him because I still don’t want to see the drawings but he’s just trying to make his way in life and he’s had the guts to knock on doors.

I track him down and give him the coins and he looks a bit surprised but says, ‘Thank you’, and seems grateful but not in an ingratiating way; he’s not offended either.

I take this to mean he’s trying to earn his money but he needs it enough for charity to be an acceptable means of getting it- a powerfully poignant confrontation of pride and desperation.

Back in the kitchen, Bruno questions me:

B: Why did you give that man money?

Me: I regretted being hasty in sending him away. I wanted to help him out so I gave him £5.

B: If you really wanted to help him, why didn’t you give him £10?

Me: Silence.

B: And why did you give him money for nothing, anyway?

Me: I felt sorry for him because he’s deaf and trying to make money.

B: He’s trying to make money from his drawings, not for nothing. Just because he’s deaf, doesn’t mean he’s sad.

Me: Silence.

B: Why didn’t you look at them, then?

Me: I thought I might not like them.

B: But if those were your feelings, you would just say your feelings.

Me: Silence.

B: And anyway, you might have liked them. They might have been really good. Just because he’s deaf, doesn’t mean he can’t draw.

Me: Silence.

So to summarise on Bruno’s behalf, now the man:

1. has some money but not enough to make a difference.

2. has not been afforded the courtesy of having his work considered.

3. knows he is assumed to be talentless.

4. knows he is pitied.

Kids: if you value your hypocrisy, don’t let them anywhere near it.

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Shoe Shops

While most Western retailers tumble over themselves to deafen their merchandise with marketing noise, there is one still humming a fifties tune: the shoe shop.

Not one whiff of originality has since darkened its doors: the same little display tripods for the left shoe in a size 5; the boring soft-top stools being hogged by the huffing-and-puffing shopping expedition hangers-on; functional lighting, music, labelling- all flicking The Bird at the shoemakers’ elves on every British high street.

More vexing than this environmental stagnation is its resolve to retain the customer service model of an old-fashioned department store- the one where the outlet-to-client shoe transaction is mediated by the lengthy intervention of a Member of Staff, using visual stocktaking to communicate news from the warehouse basement, with all the efficiency of a snail on valium.

‘Do you have these in a size 7?’

‘I’m afraid I only memorised the men’s slipper section, Madam. Let me leave you sitting in this store while I transport my body mass down a flight of stairs, amble along an aisle and separate the shoe boxes by lifting, shifting and other means of physical manoeuvring, to investigate. Then I’ll transport my mass back up the stairs to deliver the results, whereupon the boredom induced by my absence will have driven you to find another pair certain to dispatch me on a similar mission.’

The method in this madness could lie, of course, in the re-appearance of said assistant with other options (‘I don’t have a child’s size 9 football boot but I do have these size 8 ballet shoes’. ‘You’re right. He’s a spoilt little shit as it is. Let him curl up his toes and dance.’) But could not this also take place in the digital arena, a la Amazon?

I dream of a store of inspirational presentation that propels me to a screen where- in the manner of weighing a banana at Tesco’s self-service check-out- I punch in my preference and am immediately informed of its availability or, failing that, a photographic orgy of similar size 7’s for my deliberation. And (in the mad REM bit at the end of the dream) to receive that choice via a grabbing arm, like those machines that push you out a Twix after a swim at the leisure centre.

They’re already doing it in Tokyo, for sure- the only shame being that robots have rendered people and their footwear, redundant.

Online shopping is an alternative- though (not unlike internet dating) the profile picture is bound to conceal issues and you’ll end up having to send them back to a Greater London suburb you’ve never heard of.

In the meantime, it’s back to a reality of cheese counter tickets and pop socks; of agonising decisions at the till over whether to invest in the sensible up-selling suggestion of protective boot spray, that will dry out over 7 years under the kitchen sink; of searching for a full-length mirror rather than an ankle-only fragment because the foot part is how the shoes feel but the look on one’s face wearing them is what really matters.

Come what may, buying shoes for children looks set to continue as a lesson in sufferance, the success of the exercise being dependent on the reliable feedback of a nonsensical person given to random motion operating in a confined, soul-sucking space.

Assuming the turbulent river of taste has been navigated between parent and child, a miserable debacle ensues whereby sprog is released to run back and forth (but not in that silly way with the bendy legs and don’t you dare wander onto the no-refunds pavement) before being asked questions about toes touching ends and issues of comfort and prospective suitability, even though they have never once been able to satisfactorily respond to their own name.

All of which could reasonably send a parent to consult the little machine, where- after 3 hours of foot contortion and tangled tape measures- a size will be concluded that has no correlation to shoe world, where all brands differ. ‘Your measurement is your pure size,’ will explain the nice girl. ‘Imagine your face if you hadn’t abused it for years with alcohol and resentment- that’s your pure image; it doesn’t mean much but it helps when you’re trying on hats.’

Eventually, a pair will prevail. This will never, ever be the one you want- not because they don’t have it but because the shoe industry considers it a duty of their profession to test your ability to make decisions: would you rather your little darling wears the right size trainers with pink hearts or the wrong size ones with Fireman Sam? Do you hate flashing lights in the heel more than the thought of going to another shoe shop in Brent Cross on a Saturday?

It’s like Deal or No Deal but with man-made upper soles instead of Noel Edmonds.

And don’t even think of bringing them back unless they’re still in the box, as technically they would no longer be shoes. Once they’ve left the cardboard protection it’s like they’ve been defiled. Did you marry a virgin? Do you understand?

‘So let’s just check you’ve got everything.

Your child needs school shoes for school, plimsolls for school sports, trainers for other sport, boots for wet weather, sandals for holiday, a fun pair for parties and a smart pair for the grandparents.

Plus one pair of Crocs.’

‘What are they for?’

‘Everything. They’re the only shoes they’ll wear.

So that’ll be £2,000 and this little ticket.’

‘Which is..?’

‘A reminder to come back in 6 weeks.’

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James Morrison Agony Aunt Letter

Dear Auntie Soph,

Something bad happened in my life last week and I don’t know where to turn.

I was driving along listening to the radio and this song came on.

It was easy to listen to, catchy: I liked it.

I didn’t hear who it was by but it reeked of dairy products so I tried to put it out of my mind.

But the next day it was on again and, damn, I wanted more.

The next time I got into the car I started channel surfing to find it.

It got nasty. I ended up on Magic FM.

I turned it up loud- so loud I had to sing and close all the windows.

My son was sweating. He was asking me to stop.

The whole thing was Wrong.

Finally, I Googled some of the lame lyrics and, Holy God, it was James Morrison.

Worse than that- James Morrison with NELLY FURTADO.

It’s been less than a few months since I stopped knifing her in my dreams and replaced her with Amanda Holden.

I’m a mess and Broken Strings is only the half of it.

My finger slipped on Youtube (I was looking for ‘Two Girls One Cup’, honestly) and I ran into one of his love ballads, If you don’t wanna love me – hell, even the title knows what I’m saying.

Now I’m angry.

It sounds like Otis Redding and it’s O.K. to like Otis Redding.

Why can’t I like a song by that man too?

Who makes the taste rules anyway?

I’m guessing you’ll tell me to buy an album and try to get it out of my system.

But I can’t go fouling up my Amazon recent orders list with stinky artists.

Do I wear a hoodie to HMV? Book a long-haul flight and plug in?

Please help.

Yours,

musically compromised from hammersmith


*

Dear musically compromised from hammersmith,


Of all the mail I received this week, yours stayed with me the longest.

You’re struggling with a big issue here but some people touch children and that’s almost certainly more shameful.

It seems to me that your musical sensibilities may have been damaged when you were young.

Maybe your mother liked Richard Clayderman or there were a lot of pan pipes on in the house.

Either way, the most well-meaning of parents can unwittingly make it difficult to provide their children with the foundations for healthy musical appreciation when they reach adulthood.

Also, you’re trying to Google scatological porn so you probably went to a girls’ boarding school- the odds have been against you right from the start.

You don’t say how old you are but elsewhere you mention that you’re partial to a bit of a duet so I’m guessing you were a child of the 80s: Always by Atlantic Starr was probably a seminal moment for you.

If I typed in ‘D’ on your computer’s Youtube would ‘Dollar’ appear?

When I scratched the tippex off the bottom of the letter I could just about make out the word ‘Bolton’.

Just how much Mariah Carey is at the back of your C.D. cabinet?

In conclusion, I think you are asking for the wrong help.

You want to know how to rid yourself of bad musical taste because agreeable people disapprove of it.

In actual fact, you should embrace your true feelings and recognize this affliction as a part of you.

If you carry on listening to some good stuff this may eventually take a more natural place in your preferences.

But essentially you need a more rubbish crowd of friends, who will not judge you- ones who laugh at Russell Brand and wear t-shirts with hilarious slogans.

Then you can relax and indulge.

So James Morrison is lispy and wet and looks like Chris Martin’s weaker Siamese twin (the one who didn’t get the vital organs) but he’s not James Blunt, unless…

james_morrisonchris_martin000x0591x600james-blunt


If you finger-tap to any of his stuff go to a door and repeatedly knock on it using your head.

Yours back,

Auntie Soph x

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