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Archive for April, 2012

Working For The Bad Guys

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

Dear Rachel

The shipping forecast, in case you are unfamiliar, is a weather report on Radio 4 for maritime vessels in British coastal waters.  I’ve discovered that whenever I hear it, I can smell Vosene.   I’m sure this stems from my old dear using the eye-melting shampoo classic on my lovely locks while bathing me in the kitchen sink as an infant, with Dettol in the water.  For some reason, she always had the undeniably classy Radio 4 on in the background as she did so, presumably in an attempt to introduce some culture into proceedings, but I hadn’t listened to it – or indeed gone near a kitchen sink – for many years until recently receiving a digital radio for my birthday.  I wonder if, perhaps, the association would also work the other way round too, and if I washed my hair with Vosene in the kitchen sink, it would prompt the shipping forecast to appear.   You never know.

A Common Shop Girl of my acquaintance and I considered this on Wednesday, during an afternoon which consisted of tea and the critical analysis of passers-by in a gift shop in a deserted seaside town.   Despite the phantom smell of haircare products, I find the shipping forecast, with its reassuringly monotone run down of gales and rainstorms at Fair Isle and Rockall and Main, nicely comforting.   This must be because in childhood I only heard about these remote and watery places while bundled up in warm towels or possibly newspaper in a state of post-kitchen-sink-bath drowziness.   I certainly remember them more fondly than another feature of my youth that I had to work hard to persuade the Common Shop Girl had ever actually existed: Protect and Survive booklets.   These were found in libraries and other public places in the eighties and told you what to do if a nuclear war popped up, and they warrant further explanation.

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Arrivederci, Bob

Friday, April 6th, 2012

Dear Rachel

Camden Market is the most famous market in the world.  It’s also a nutcase magnet.   All markets attract nutcases, but Camden more so.   In fact, it has the highest ratio of nutcases, recovering nutcases, and nutcases-in-waiting to normal people of any place on earth, and this is a ratio that can be equally applied to both traders and punters.   It has all varieties of nutcase too, from friendly to psychotic, via boring, incoherent and needy.   It’s like a mental health pick n mix, and some nutcases gain localised celebrity celebrity status.   Myself, I particularly liked the bloke with the bewildering number and combination of physical deformities who for many years used to sit outside the pizza shop playing Nowhere Man on a weird metal harp, although he has long since moved on somehow.

I can’t remember ever talking to him, so it would be lazy and wrong to list him among the nutcases.   He would, though, fall squarely into the category of General Market Person.   These are a very different breed from the nutcases, and they inhabit the strange twilight world between traders on the one hand and punters on the other.   This group includes managers, porters – who I am convinced are superhuman, such is their work rate and application – cleaners and an enigmatic sub category: the people who, despite having no real purpose, are the market.    Into this last category we must place Camden landmark and brandy enthusiast Old Bob.

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