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Archive for May, 2012

The Man Who Loves Cufflinks

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

Dear Rachel

I was discussing which shows and festivals to do over the summer with Richie, our Head of Provincial Development, yesterday.    He is a 31 year old man with a net worth of £18.    As a market trader, though, he has the winning combination of poverty and gameness which are necessary to navigate the choppy waters and changeable tides of the Informal Economy.    Despite this, as we discussed the merits of various events, we realised we couldn’t afford any of them and, in a rare triumph, prudence won the day.    Instead we decided how best to spend £18, were it to be bequeathed as part of a last will and testament.

The particular sum struck a chord because it’s the average price of a cufflink box from John the Boxes.    The retailing of cufflink boxes is perhaps my favourite evolutionary oddity in that it represents the literal conjuring of money from thin air, and is an activity with both heroic overtones and historical precedent.    This is a bold statement, and I shall outline it in more detail.

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Me And The Girl From Clapham

Sunday, May 20th, 2012

Dear Rachel

Anyone who, like myself, was glued to rolling news coverage of the London riots last August will doubtless have swiftly concluded that what London needs more than anything else is a velodrome. Fortunately, the Olympics have given us one, and as if this wasn’t bounty enough there is also a swimming pool and, basically, everything’s going to be alright forever. The Games themselves will bring many new visitors to London, which is always nice but will inevitably result in hilarious cutting edge social comment about Londoners being miserable and stand-offish, based upon their behaviour on an overcrowded and frequently malfunctioning underground railway.

I think this is a subject we may have discussed before, but I can only guess at the disappointment of people mistaking the entrance to Tufnell Park tube or wherever for some kind of magic portal to a non-stop party world. The London Underground isn’t Alton Towers. There is no log flume at High Barnet. There is no Ibiza-style foam party at Kennington. If you started chucking a beach ball about at Stockwell people would probably be a lot more amenable than you might think, but even so, don’t. The reason is simple: if you look closely, you’ll notice that the London underground is not Disneyland Paris, but a Victorian mass transit system operating surprisingly well under the considerable pressure of serving a major world city with an urban catchment area of ten million people. While there is the occasional conga at King’s Cross and hokey cokey at High Barnet, it’s a bit unfair to expect people quietly going about their business to be wearing novelty headgear and endlessly blowing those paper whistles that unroll and have a feather on the end in order to get a party that no-one’s asked for going with a bang. That said, while being at ease with people on the Northern Line being less than ecstatic, you don’t expect one of them to get on at Clapham North and weep in front of you all the way to Tooting Bec, a slightly awkward scenario I encountered myself last Friday.

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Supernatural Porters

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Dear Rachel

Market porters are a breed apart. By this I don’t mean that they are a breed apart from other men, but that they are a breed apart from every other species on the planet. At Camden, their main roles are the enthusiastic consumption of competitively priced lager and the ferrying of traders’ stock between storage areas in the Middle Yard and stalls throughout the Lock market. This is an important duty, as most traders are too busy drinking tea and swearing at each other to manage this for themselves. When I was at Camden, I was usually too concerned with hunting down the component parts of my stall to bring my own stock up. Especially tricky to locate were the wooden table tops, which I would usually have to carry in from the West Yard, a chore which I made less annoying – for myself at least – by saying ‘I always get wood in the morning’ or ‘Every time I see you I’ve got wood’ or some similar inane wood-related innuendo to fellow East Yard urchin Slack Matt every single time I walked past him, regardless of how large a number that might be. He left eventually, possibly due to inevitability fatigue.

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