bored of excitement – the griefjunkie blog 

Exile On Dean Street

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.

I’ve only really started going on about reading and reading ages and such because, as you might have guessed, I am in  Pret a Manger on Great Marlborough Street, Soho. If you were a person who was into people watching, this would be a very bad place to do it, as there are only two sorts of people in Soho at eleven in the morning: gay men who work in the media, and straight women who work in the media, and they are basically identical. In a similar vein, I recently found myself designing our lavish tea towel range in Starbucks, and discovered that the whole place was full of women writing what I would imagine is exactly the same novel as each other. It comes to something when I am the most exotic bloom in the hothouse, but then, as now, I somehow managed to be. Anyway. Pret a Manger is a company that uses Unspontaneous Kookiness throughout its product descriptions, and in this particular location it is bound to work well. Essentially, Unspontaneous Kookiness is a sub-cultural linguistic device that nice people use to make you want to punch them hard and repeatedly in the face, and carry on doing so long after they have lost consciousness.

The problem with any manifestation of  Unspontaneous Kookiness it is that it manages to combine endearingness with knowingness, thereby replacing authenticity with what is essentially a form of condescension. In that sense, admittedly, it has a water-into-wine quality which borders on the miraculous. However, it is pretty easy to replicate: all you need to do is say ‘plus’, ‘best’ and ‘first up’ instead of  ‘and’, ‘favourite’ and ‘first’, use the phrase ‘to be fair’ and the word ‘yay’ a lot, start sentences with ’so’, and only describe things as ‘good’, ’so good’ or ‘amazing’. Pret a Manger is a lovely company, as is Innocent Smoothies and Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream – although I find all their ethical blurb a bit pleased with itself, as no large business started this century will stay in business if it adopts ethical practices – and I would doubtless consume a great deal more of their products if they would use the same copy writing style as Happy Shopper, instead of any episode from the last six seasons of Friends.

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Photards: This weeks delve into the photographic archives has revealed:

Top: A Pot ‘Noeldle’, which I had during the Christmas run and which made me feel lonely. If they’re going to do them again next year, they should include anti-depressants instead of soy sauce.

Middle: A seventeenth century cannon at twelfth century Rochester Castle, Kent. There exists a picter of me astride this very same cannon towards the end of the twentieth century, at the age of about 5, off my tits on sherbet lemons and shouting with hysterical laughter.

Bottom: The Gypsy Moth public house, Greenwich. Been in here a few times, I quite like it.

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