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Archive for April, 2011

Exile On Dean Street

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Dear Rachel

While I understand that a phrase like ‘Power To The People’ has a simple goodness and rightness about it, it’s probably worth spending a bit of time among the People first, before being absolutely sure you want to Empower them with anything more complex than a rotary washing line. For example, the average reading age of an adult in the UK is reckoned to be between 9 and 12 years old, which is an extraordinary achievement for a society which somewhat fancifully claims to cherish education above all things. Worryingly enough, that last sentence – which is hardly complex – would simply be beyond the literary grasp of most of the adults you’ll pass in the street today as you go about your business. In fact, come to think of it, it might be useful if twelve year olds taught reading and comprehension to classes of adults, as statistically such a measure is likely to result in a net literacy-based gain, and doing things the other way round doesn’t really seem to be getting us anywhere.

Be that as it may, I’m not sure what the national age for miming words is, but I’m sure you’d need a pretty high one to mime a word like ‘phonetic’. I think we’ve already touched upon the subject of words that are hard to mime somewhere among these posts, and I’d like ‘phonetic’ to be added to that list. Not that I’ve actually had to, but I did consider it as a response to someone who looked at our phonetic tube map for about forty seconds – which is a long time to look at something which is a pretty straightforward, concept-wise – before saying ‘This map.   What’s phonetic about it?’ Another tricky word to describe is ‘Cryptic’, which appears on the Cryptic Crossword tube map. The word ‘Disturbing’ is easy enough to cater for, as is the word ‘Determined’, however, pointing out that what the person is looking at is not a ‘Slightly Determined Map of the London Underground System’, after – and it’s very important to remember this – they have demonstrated that English is their first language and have enjoyed a considerable length of time to study the map  undistracted and in thoughtful silence – accounts for my well known tactic of pretending to be either Polish or claiming to be looking after the stall for someone else in order to avoid boring conversations with disappointing people.

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Kitchen Kommandant

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Dear Rachel

If you were to unlock my smartphone by drawing the security pattern, then dragged the Google bar out of the way, then flicked across a couple of pages and dragged my Spotify icon around to the bottom right, then got distracted by something else so that the screen timed out and went blank, then left the phone in such a way that the light fell upon the marks left by your fingers as they moved across the screen, you’ll find – as I did when I carried out this sequence of actions on Tuesday afternoon – that to your considerable and horrified surprise you’d traced an almost perfect swastika.

Another way of having a swastika about your person is to have one tattooed on your arm, in the manner of a Nazi I had at the stall a few weekends ago.   Well, I say he was a Nazi  and he might not have been I suppose, although having a swastika tattooed on your arm is an entirely different league of ill-advised playfulness to having, I dunno, a cheeky devil tattooed on your arse, so I don’t think I’m running away with the idea too much.   He asked for a couple of quid off the somewhat Germanic ‘Kitchen Kommandant’ apron, which I felt was probably fair enough, what with him actually being in the Third Reich and everything, and therefore probably qualifying for a staff discount or, I dunno, being able to write if off as expenses for tax purposes.

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I Once Laughed At Something

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Dear Rachel

The recent census must’ve been tricky for for habitual online daters, as I should think old habits would’ve kicked in and they’d have taken a few years off their age – thus rendering themselves fraudulent – and in the case of the ‘race’ section would’ve ticked everything in order to maximise their chances.

I myself have never internet dated.   I was going to go speed dating once, curiously enough with my girlfriend at the time, at the National Portrait Gallery.  Our logic was as I recall that we both fancied seeing what all the fuss was about – speed dating was big news in 2005 – the National Portrait Gallery is a nice place to hang out, and if we didn’t get a date we’d still be winners.   If one or both of us had got a date, it would’ve been awkward as, looking back, most of the best dates I have ever been on would not have been so good if I’d shown up with my girlfriend.

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Free Tribet!

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

Dear Rachel,

I thought Tibet was one of the Wombles until China invaded it. Subsequently finding myself trading next to the Free Tibet marquee at WOMAD in 2005, I decided to test the mettle of the middle class petition-signer by stating that all t shirts – our main line at the time – were a tenner, but if you wanted to pay more I’d give the extra to Tibet, whereas if you wanted to pay less, I would make up the difference and give it to China. In the end, Tibet won by something like £255 to £17, which was a huge victory for those concerned about human rights in Tibet but not, curiously enough, in China.  I also discovered that the people staffing the Free Tibet tent never tire of correcting you if you call it ‘Tribet’, which I did for the duration of the weekend.   They just say ‘Actually, it’s TI-bet’, while smiling nicely, over and over again, in the kind of ‘there, there’ manner more usually associated with a nursery school teacher attending a soiled and weeping infant.   Eventually, I whipped them up some ‘Free Tibet – It Won’t Free Itself!’ t shirts, which I should imagine are collectors’ items and worth thousands of pounds each by now.

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