Thursday, 15 April 2010

Rockabilly Switzerland

I'd like to be in Switzerland on the second or fourth Monday of the month sometime, because then I could tune a radio to Lora 97, 5MhZ and sit with a view of the snowy peaks listening to Nighttrain radio play music from the Forties, Fifties and Sixties. I wouldn't understand what the DJ was saying in between the tunes, but I'd be happy.

There are no plans to leave London any time soon. Brilliantly, though, my chance of happiness is not lost. You don't even have to go to Switzerland on a Monday or be anywhere near a radio to hear all the shows. Just make sure you have a computer, and then when you feel like listening to cheering music instead of staring glumly at prospective election candidates, go straight to Lil'Pearl's Nighttrain radio podcast.

Here's a taste:

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

An official sign

I've stopped thinking that the day-to-day is prosaic. The most boring of tasks such as, say, having to nip into a high street shop to get some things, not being able to find those things, asking a shop assistant where they are, being told that those things are upstairs, not being able to find the stairs to get upstairs, so going out a door to use the lift, reveal that real madness lurks behind most corners.

It's usually to do with letting human beings enter officialdom. You see, somebody somewhere thought this was an instruction that needed to exist. So they came up with the sequence of words, got them approved by someone with more authority than them, and used a budget somewhere to commission someone else to make those words into a sign. That sign was duly delivered, and then they got someone else to hammer it up.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The Robert Elms show 7th April

** if you don't listen to my slot on The Robert Elms Show, probably best to skip this one. It will seem perplexingly niche **

Hello everyone who listens to the RE show. Because I'm back with such renewed enthusiasm after so long, I thought I'd put everything I talk about in one place. Gary Crowley was fun to chat to today - next to him, my enthusiasm and vigour for the job is mere apathy.

So, today, I interviewed Noel Lynch who is the freelance auctioneer presiding over the crazy array of goods in The Green Room charity shop at 192 Archway Road N6. This was thanks to my friend AS who was always under the impression that the shop she walked past was owned by someone "with a great sense of humour", due to the hilarious descriptions of items in the window ('Roman ring, 9AD', 'tile from Hitler's bathroom', 'Cherie Blair's party dress' etc). Little did AS know that Noel Lynch's sense of humour had nothing to do with the actual literal nature of the objects he sells. He was, however, very funny. Alas, that Roman ring went for £20 yesterday. But dinosaur poo was, I think, my personal favourite - it "polishes up nicely", apparently, and is a great hit with children, or for people trying to get a present for the person who has everything...
You also might have heard me talk about how much I like the idea of sending flowers via Flowe(red) - note how hard that was to say in my accent when communicating to English listeners, given that it sounds like 'flaard'. All the profits go to The Global Fund to help fight AIDS in Africa. Which seems better to me than the profits not going to help fight AIDS in Africa. Flaard is a very good idea. (For more about (RED) and the $140 million it has already generated for The Global Fund, click here).

The shop called Totally Swedish is found at 32 Crawford Street, W1, though you can buy things from there online too. The name is a more than adequate description for what it sells - go there for moccasin sock-shoes (really, they are good) and cheese and chic home goods and, if you're actually Swedish and not just someone who thinks the Scandinavian aesthetic is aspirational, for books and magazines in Swedish. On that note, the cafe I told Gary about on Golden Square is the Nordic Bakery - seriously good warm cinnamon buns and strong coffee. One of my favourite places to go.

Wedge card has arrived in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea, which reminded me of its existence, and what a good idea it is. A loyalty card for independent shops, it's an attempt to keep local business thriving and to act as a bulwark to the generic high street. There are 1,400 shops so far across London where you can use your card for discounts and special bargains. It costs £10 for a year, with £1 going to a local charity OR in some boroughs (check here) it's free. Set up by John Bird - founder of The Big Issue - and his daughter Diana, so you can be sure it's reputable...

Finally, find out about the designer sample sale I mentioned here - it's at the Truman Brewery 23rd - 25th April (unless you sign up as a member, and you can have a sneak preview on the 22nd). Expect to find D&G, Vivienne Westwood, and other such luminaries.

Done! See you on 21st April for the next installment.

Monday, 5 April 2010


So, someone in the Metropolitan Police design department took inspiration from that ubiquitous 'Keep Calm and Carry On' poster (which, incidentally, was discovered by an English bookshop owner in a dusty old box. No copyright, so not the lucrative goldmine you'd think.)

The problem is that rather than emanating reassurance, and the take-a-deep-breath stoicism of the original, the police designer got the wrong end of the stick a bit. Unless, that is, they were deliberately trying to evoke the kind of state Kafka enjoyed writing about so much. In which case, they've done a fantastic job.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Uneasy jet: power of language (ii)

Sometimes people use words that are so familiar you expect them to connote a particular meaning. This can be, I'm afraid, an error. I came to that realisation on a recent trip with a low cost(everything is relative) airline called easy (no guarantees it actually WILL be easy. Just a name) jet. It dawned on me while I waited in the snaking line for the service called bag drop(drop still means 'to set down or unload' (OED) which sounds like a fairly fast action. Tricked.), and was reinforced as I noted that 'priority boarding' actually means the elderly and people with children have less priority than those passengers who have paid for 'speedy boarding'(there is no evidence that time actually does speed up for these people while boarding, or that Easyjet provide some sort of whisking-through service: speedy boarders still have to do everything that the slow boarders have to do, just ten seconds in front).

What was indisputable, however, was the sudden and unmistakeable presence of a policeman in the departure (not necessarily an adjective; think of it more as a conceptual term) lounge just as the airport staff prepared to make an announcement. The delayed flight wasn't actually going to take off, and as it was the last one that night, we'd have to retrace our steps to arrivals(technically, we had arrived - from departures) to pick up our luggage, and then queue up to rebook our journey.

A policeman.

He was necessary, you see, because it turned out that that final announcement really was unambiguous, and all the words meant what you'd think. Which was a triumph for language, but not for getting back home.