Friday, 19 March 2010

As compound adjectives go...

As compound adjectives go 'unintelligent' is one of the more polite ones which comes to mind most often followed speedily by an expletive whilst walking around Soho battling through tourists, drunks and protein-shake fuelled baldies desperately trying to look tough in a Ralph Lauren skin tight pink cashmere. I don't claim to be a genius, to be honest I don't even consider myself to be above average and have been quite happy to bumble along through life enjoying a fair amount of luck to get me where I am.

However its days such as today which leave me wondering how the Stupid People survive? I do see the need for health and safety and refuse to squeeze the fuel pump of Clarkson’s turbo-charged bandwagon in condoning it however I’m also of the belief that by making our lives too safe we have in fact stopped The Stupids from being weeded out and removed from the DNA pool.

A colleague who I approached about this earlier today pointed out the possibility that these 'people' might be in fact the clever ones amongst us having survived for so long. Without wanting to chant the 'cleanse society' far right mantra, I disagreed as they have not been cleaver, rather saved and cushioned by a cotton wool society leaving them free to impose their unavoidable acts of foolishness and frustrating behaviour on those of us who do know better.

Elaboration on what has triggered this rant is unnecessary as I am sure it will only serve to further feed my anger. However rest assured the next person who imposes their stupidness upon me or enters my vicinity attempting to disprove Darwin’s 1859 revelations on evolution where we are supposed to have left behind ‘monkey-logic’ will receive a firm kick in the shins. Be warned Soho.

On a lighter note over the past few months I have been doing my bit to maintain Britain's status in the global hierarchy and challenge China, the US and India at the whole carbon footprint thing by flying up to Scotland - cold, wet and gray, across to Madrid - warm, sexy and full of things I want to grab and wafting, via 1st class Euro Star bubbles, to Paris.

This City of Lights and grumpy post-Napoleonic Parisians was teaming with beautiful moody young nymphs on the metro dressed in long tweed frock coats, creased white Darcy flowing shirts and black scuffed pointed shoes. Paris, as ever, lived up to all my expectations. The only downside of these adventures has been the side effect of filling O’Leary's pockets as we scramble aboard a RyanAir flight and my utter lack of blogging. Apologies, must try harder.

I’m always amazed at how the Scottish are often portrayed as a welcoming race. Within minuets of touching down at Aberdeen airport and being herded through Control I was greeted by a red faced, red haired and red tempered haggis of a Scott who ran me down with his mobile suitcase and then proceeded in threatening to punch me after I ‘accidentally’ de-railed it sending it skidding across the floor. Scottish charm, what an amazing oxymoron.

Madrid was a Christmas escape and whilst raining for the majority of the visit the place was so full of denim-clad, black haired boys with brown puppy dog eyes that it seemed unavoidable to feel warm and fuzzy. Even the ‘authentic’ English pub on the Puerta del Sol added to the air of charm. Being happy to adopt the ‘dodgy Spanish’ mentality we left after drinking our fill without paying the bill. New Year’s Eve saw La Tour Eiffel sparkle. Filled with perfect memories, good food, a cornucopia of art and architecture mixed in with a dreamlike bath for two and a bottle of extremely drinkable wine. It was the perfect escape from everything.

Every time I travel mid-air with my headphones in and the ipod chanting in stereo I find myself drift off to thoughts of sex and driving fast cars, sometimes at the same time, sometimes separately, sometimes one precedes the other but always dominating is a soundtrack made up from base-induced tunes. One such fantasy combines a black Mercedes-Benz S600L being driven at speed, privacy glass keeping the stupids out but maintaining enough visibility to ensure a thrill. The faint outlines of passing cars shadow by, a cocoon of soft electronically warmed leather and polished walnut, a motorway lit sporadically by the pulse of an overhead orange glow and, of course, company filling both my glass and well.....

In all probability this series of daydream images stem from Duran Duran's erotically charged 'The Chauffeur' and it’s accompanying music video beautifully shot in black and white with a theme of nudity, soft abstract sex and a chauffeur driven car. No wonder Andy Warhol, responding to a reporter on Duran Duran, admitted he "masturbate(s) to Duran Duran videos."

After my recent rediscovery of this '84 classic via YouTube, the desire to create my own beautiful images overwhelmed me and thanks to a skilfully wrapped Nikon gifted at Christmas I have become the most avid voyeur documenting everyone and everything around me, paying homage to the music video which left such a lasting impression.

Flickr, Facebook and friends, both virtual and those in the real world, have all been filled with my monochrome keepsakes. Captured via a digital map and brought to life through careful cropping and subtle use of Photoshop, if only everything in life was so easy to manipulate and beautify. Stupids and ugliness would cease. A pre-Jove Saturn would regain his rule and the Golden Age would replace the Silver. Idyllic but probably, ultimately dull.

Thankfully photography has moved on from my time as a Fine Art student. No more barbaric exposure of photosensitive film to a blast of light, dark rooms tinted red filled with formaldehyde fumes and yellowed fingernails from testing strips and dipping baths. Instead my image cleanly glides through the lens and morphs into an electric charge enjoying a game of photon-dodgems instantaneously meshing to become a digital bookmark.

Even Einstein’s 1905 paper drew attention to this beautiful process, all be it well in advance of the digital camera. It was indeed an Annus Mirabilis when the photoelectric effect came into the light and one which created a process which is going to serve as my next project, a Spring and Summer of digital replication and beautification.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Capital Vices or Cardinal Sins...

The Catholic Church, as only it could, initially divided sin into two types: ‘Venial Sins,' which are relatively minor and the more severe ‘Capital’ or Mortal Sins. Apparently mortal sins destroy the life of grace, and create the threat of eternal damnation unless absolved through the sacrament of Confession. Scary stuff. Ultimately both forms of sin could be forgiven by The Church; it all depended on how large a donation you make at the end of mass. Direct debits, cheques and bank transfers are also accepted means of easing the path to forgiveness I'm reliably informed.

Whilst the concept of sin is pretty easy to grasp The Church decided to also opt for a seven stroke approach just to really clarify what counts as sinful activity and ensure that at some stage we have all fallen and so must pay up or burn in damnation. I therefore have to admit that I have fallen and fallen hard. Yes, I have sinned. There is no need for Tom Hank’s Langdom to race around a Parisian art gallery or decrepit cathedral chasing an assortment of cryptic clues, battling with The Illuminate, even Opus Dei can rest easy, I will save time and admit I have been seduced by the deed considered to be the original and most serious of the deadly seven. Indeed the ultimate source from which the others arise. It is identified as a desire to be more important or attractive than others, failing to acknowledge the good work of others and excessive self love.

Superbia/Hubris/Vainglory – three names, one meaning, Pride. Just as Lucifer succumb to it, desiring to compete with God resulting in a speedy fall from heaven, I too have stumbled on the path. The penny jar next to my desk has started to quiver and turn green knowing well that it is about to vomit out it’s contents to ensure my easy passage back into the light. Whilst in Dante's Divine Comedy, the penitents were forced to walk with stone slabs bearing down on their backs in order to induce feelings of humility I have opted for a brief journey back to Cambridge for the night, a full rucksack with a lap top and charger inside strapped to me tortoise-like to serve as penance for the pride I feel over completing my fifth blog.

In the past I have succumbed to Sloth and so to combat this I have imposed deadlines, ensuring a blog gets written, edited and published in a timely fashion, creating a cathartic sense of worth even though I’m pretty sure no one is reading my ramblings. In the past I have fallen foul to these ‘deadlines’ and felt a gravitational pull towards Adams’ view in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy "I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by." With this the fifth instalment of my life in and around Soho I am proud to see the virtual pages stack up. Initial hesitation has given way to enthusiasm, for now, and whilst there is little point in producing a blog and sending out my thoughts into the ethereal abyss, even if eternal damnation or an empty bank account is the end result, I am proud of what I've produced and so embrace this sin.

To keep Pride and Sloth from getting lonely Michelin starred Gluttony has at times appeared in my life and so I found my recent work-imposed trip to Manchester via the 9.42am train from Euston a bit of a squeeze. Like all things Virgin it was a tight fit. Their trains, planes and I imagine their future 'Galactic Express' promising to launch us into 2012 are all designed to fit the slimmer gentleman. Whilst maintaining the status of a man of means I am well proportioned edging towards a more ample stature. Due to the financial implications I’m not overly concerned that I won’t be comfortable on the Virgin rocket, at $200,000 a pop it’s not looking likely that I will appear on the passenger shortlist. However with a planned trajectory overlapping the Earth’s atmosphere at 70,000 feet (21,000 meters) and the sub-orbital journey it’s the short period of weightlessness which really does appeal especially after lunch.
Manchester was work and I can't really justify writing much more than to confirm that the most exciting part was leaving. Returning home and walking through Soho you can hear, see and unfortunately smell all seven sins on offer. Open doors with provocative signs promising somewhat optimistically 'models,' exclusive member-only clubs full of A to Z listers and their sycophants, £5 eat as much as you can Chinese buffets on every corner and Greek Street's L'Escargot pushing heart-attack inducing foie gras and gravlax de salmon for the same price of a bungalow in Surrey. Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Sloth, Wrath, Envy, and Pride, each supposed to strike fear into the church going masses however to an agnostic such as me they each in turn form the components of a promising night out.

Picture the scene - Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Holly Golightly glancing into the mirror

Picture the scene - Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Holly Golightly glancing into the mirror, hat in place and through a radiant smile she chirps 'how do I look?' A rhetorical question. In one word Miss Hepburn looked amazing, and she knew it!

Last Thursday night whilst in Freedom on Wardour Street deep in the throng of Soho life surrounded by the great and good of the metro-sexual media world I realised I look anything but amazing. No mirror moment for me. Clad in my 8 year old once quilted, now deflated Barbour jacket, cords the colour of grubby hay and a pair of Campers still muddy from the past weekend trudging through the Fens, it was painfully apparent that I didn't fit in. Golightly had perfected the art of sophistication, effortlessly hanging around with the phoney people, both clients and friends. Her humble beginnings only given away once in a while when you hear in her voice the "country-girl" drawl peek out, a glimpse through the façade. However the overall package is über-perfection. I on the other hand whilst coming from a similar background once again ‘must work harder.’

I’m just not one of 'them' and for that moment of realisation stood at the bar surrounded by the beautiful people I really wanted to be. I wanted to sparkle with gay glitz from the fairy-Fairy.

Not that I've ever really fitted in. At school I always saw it as one of those defining elements that I'd be remembered favourably for. I was proud of my ability to stand out without having to resort to pink hair or a carbon copy wardrobe crowbared out of The Lost Boys. I perfected the ability to make my voice the loudest without being that annoying guy, drink, eat and be merry whilst refraining from looking like a twit and entertain what I perceived as ‘my’ gang of friends with true stories of past experiences with the occasional smattering of slight exaggeration for comic effect.

However stood in that bar, the birthday drinks of an aspiring actor currently performing as a receptionist on Dean Street, I realised I had lost my edge and was in need of sharpening up. A shopping trip was planned, mental notes taken on what passes for fashion and a decision on the pointy or not pointy shoes debate made. I even decided to give a respectful nod towards Tiffany’s as I saunter past, laden with bags. As my good intentions became firmly planted my mind I moved back to the current situation and whilst in this oh-so-trendy bar I opted to make the most of it and so adopted one of Capote’s lines aptly spoken by Holly – looking straight at my very own George Peppard I too chirped – ‘Promise me one thing: don't take me home until I'm drunk - very drunk indeed.’

Monday, 19 October 2009

It amazes me how women have friends they just don't like...

It amazes me how women have friends they just don't like. Last summer a close friend of mine asked me to be her +1 at the wedding of her lifelong best friend who, she admits when pushed, she doesn't really enjoy spending time with and has let her down more times than she can count.

The Hampshire venue was one of those majestic stately piles, a neo-gothic book mark serving as a reminder of how gloriously wealthy and decadent the past was when fortunes equalled dresses in their vastness and even 'the help' had staff. Sadly time moved on and if the in-bred Lord hadn't blown his ancestors copper fortune on rent-boys, opium and the kind of parties that would leave even 'One Night in Paris' blushing, Harcourt's 1894 introduction of death duties and the 1st World War would ensure these grand houses fell out of private hands, becoming a country curiosity enabling the normal folk to play aristocrat for the day.

Thanks to it being pay day and to make a weekend of it we decided to stay the night expecting a good party and entertaining night fuelled by a complimentary bar. Once booked into the Windsor Suite, outfits tweaked and hair freshly fluffed, a short drive followed by three large G&T's we faced the village church with suitable gusto. Threats of eternal damnation, promises of faithfulness and donations for the roof made and purgatory was over. Hallelujah! An entertaining drive down country lanes avoiding pheasants, following a dated silver Golf crammed with pink-clad bridesmaids and we arrived back at the oak panelled pile. Polite conversation, escapes attempted, seating plan read and finally food was served whilst the harpist frantically plucked away.

Mumm was quickly replaced with sparkling wine and so once again Gordon's stepped in with a little assistance from tonic. As the evening began to fade a well watered bridezilla thundered towards us, mascara streaming, and through the tears announced that her wedding was 'an utter disaster,' '...a total and utter nightmare!' All in earshot of her father who was at least £35,000 worse off thanks to his charming princess and her apparently unfulfilled demands. Our retreat was quickly accomplished and we hurtled back to our Laura Ashley draped four poster to evaluate the day, my companion admitting that she couldn't stand her best friend. However, and this is the bit I'll never understand, she would still send her a quick text later in the week to organise post-honeymoon catch up drinks. This was quickly followed by 'she can't help being a spoilt cow.'

In contrast to this us boys only have mates who we actually like. Most of our conversation circles around things which come with LCDs/LEDs/STDs and legs, cars which go faster 0-60 than my attention span during a party political broadcast and how ugly Nick's new girlfriend is. We enjoy being with like-minded souls who won't cry over lunch or give you a look of utter disgust when you suggest 'just one more - for the road.'

Women however seem to have carefully selected and regularly audited groups of friends many of whom they don't really like but still meet up with for catch-up sessions noisily bursting with delight over iced tea from Long Island and gossiping about the latest 'facts' in low lit, high priced bars. They then go home wondering why they just blew a months pay on drinks with people they wouldn't save from a burning building.

I don't believe even they know why this is, I'm certainly not brave enough to ask, but the whole girl friendship thing has always puzzled me.

To be honest I've always had a bit of an issue with the concept of 'friends.' Don't get the wrong idea, there's no Tommy-no-mates story here, I have accumulated a respectfully sized group of them over the years and regard a number as close. If Facebook is to believed I have collected over 150 to date and, thanks to my rule of only accepting people who I have actually met in person, I know more than just their email address and IM tag.

Myspace, the breading ground of bands which will never quite make it, passed me by thanks to a real life and I successfully avoided 'people-you-hoped-you-would-never-see-again - now reunited' the thought of which filled me with dread. There are reasons I chose not to keep in touch with someone who remembers a 15 year old me with bleached orange hair and a regularly squeezed crop of pimples.

Thankfully I also never felt the desire, or had the need, to join an online dating site. A colleague, who had at the time over 12 profiles and a fiancee in Brazil, reliably informed me that these were for those looking for a no-strings shag rather than a deep, meaningful relationship. Those searching for that someone special to sit in front of roaring log fires with whilst sipping Chateau Neuf De Pap and gobbling a combination of milk tray and each others faces, the image the dating websites like to portray rather than the quick fix shagfest actually on offer, best look elsewhere.

Whilst the occasional urge for some no-strings release sourced via the lap-top and a monthly deduction discreetly appearing on my credit card statement sounds like fun I have always been of the opinion that god created clubs and bars to enable people to pull and that it was only natural to view a potential conquest in this habitat. The abundance of confidence in liquid form encapsulated in a one inch glass, two centimetres for those of you not of a metric disposition, also eases the process and improves the chances of a successful kill for both parties. There are exceptions to this rule which I am sure to cover another time but for now I'll stick to my conclusion that when dating 'real' is always better than 'virtual.'

However with the cyber-birth of the blue logo'd Facebook I was dragged into the fold by a select group of converts claiming I'm not actually real until my innermost thoughts are accessible through a click on that little blue icon. I therefore now have a Facebook 'presence' which, after initially being hesitant to trust, is now teeming with all that is Me. Memories via my daily updated gallery, hourly status and links to my 'significant other' profile telling anyone accepted that yes I have a boyfriend and yes I was very happily married for 6 years to a girl.

In the majority of cases this revelation has not shocked those invited or accepted into the blue icon guarded inner sanctum of my virtual Facebook world giving them a gentle introduction into how I tick. So I'm now straddling both worlds, virtual and real, thankfully finding a pleasant middle ground, blogging is yet another affirmation of my virtual online self balancing out the real.

As the train hurtles back to Euston, the relief that I've escaped after a week held captive in a soulless cement clad conference centre on the edge of a rainy, gray, overcoat shrouded Manchester. Soho and all it can offer beckons and I can't wait...

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Just as a father says to his son after being given his ‘C’ filled end of year report...

Just as a father says to his son after being given his ‘C’ filled end of year report and reading that his prodigy ‘talks during class’ and 'must try harder' I too am disappointed.

I'm disappointed but not surprised, a once familiar feeling now only cropping up on occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries. Paired with the work thing which relentlessly and rudely intrudes into my day, living life has once again got in the way. It's been four months since my first well intentioned 'blog' in which time I've painted the flat, endeavoured to attach a monstrously large TV to a 19th century wall covered in 19th century plaster, not something I would recommend to a close friend, and once again fallen foul to Ikea's gloss, attempting to replicate page 232 in the living room, page 342 in the bathroom and page 421 in the bedroom. Returning home is now like the scene in Fight Club featuring Tyler's apartment, pre-destruction, thankfully without the Schizophrenia and hopefully less allegiance to bare knuckle fighting.

Having put the house in the country to bed after a succession of weekend house parties fuelled by a combination of Tesco Cava, M&S Finest grabbed from Cambridge station on a Friday evening and blissful pints of cider sat besides the River Cam, I’ve headed back to the City to resume a normal service of rain, grime and Greek Street. Gone are the summer BBQ’s subjecting guests to test their friendship as they tuck into a charred stick which only a few moments ago, they're assured, was a succulent pork and apple sausage.

Cambridge to Liverpool Street, King’s Cross is down as it’s a Sunday due to never ending engineering works. Liverpool Street to Tottenham Court Road care of a thankfully calm and almost tourist free Central Line and then the game of dodgems down Charring Cross Road, Shaftsbury Avenue, the warm neon greeting of Ed’s Diner and home. Door, stairs followed by another door, more stairs, door, sofa, shoes off and lap-top open. A curtain of yellow Post-It notes brushed away from the window reveals Soho in all its finest.

It’s wet and full of the usual crowds of lost tourists looking for the Central Line or Les Miserables, drunks and media types. The latter two mostly combine to create splashes of colour standing loudly outside bars frantically puffing away, sauvignon blanc in one hand, duty free cigarette in the other.

Nothing much has changed from the summer months; city-people are much the same whatever the season. Thankfully the death of summer brings with it less sweat, sadly it also results in less flesh on show which is never a good thing. General grubbiness prevails and thanks to autumn bringing with it more frequent bouts of rain and fallen leaves from Soho Square the grub has become a mud-slush hybrid sticking to everything. Amongst all this the orange clad Krishna, fingers still tinging with suppressed insanity peering out from behind his eyes, stands under the canopy of the theatre opposite and I can’t help wonder why I left my country idle for this cornucopia of...well…everything a city can offer. I guess that’s precisely why.

My job mainly revolves around meeting people, eating with people and listening to people. Soho seems the natural habitat for such a creature, someone who gets to meet the great and the good, the not so good and the utterly dodgy. As someone who deals on a daily basis with a mix of lawyers, accountants, bankers and brokers developing relationships to make rich people richer and do deals with deal doers I’ve been feeling less and less willing to be a people person as the months roll by. With the sad death of a long term relationship behind me and the birth and toddler steps of an exciting and fulfilling one starting up I have been finding it increasingly hard to care about things not directly related to me.

An example of this took place just a few days ago. Soho House full of its Groucho rejects sparkling just a little too much were partying late into the night, a school night, and after an extremely early start and an insanely busy day I put my best Victor Meldrew head on and called Joe the manager to ask if the music could be turned down as the sound of bongos was keeping me up. My request was politely fulfilled and apologies made. After some time mulling over what had happened I decided I should know my rights on what time really is ‘too late’ to be making such a noise. Therefore I opted to call Westminster Council 1st thing in the morning.

Unlike the pile of paperwork sat on my desk all marked urgent, morning came and went and as early afternoon cropped up along with the feeling of hunger I remembered my nightime resolution and picked up the phone. Westminster Council's service team picked up and I was greeted by an utter numpty of a woman. She found it difficult to pronounce her own name and so, having a somewhat exotic surname, I opted to keep things informal and stick to a first name basis. This utterly threw her and kicked off what became one of the most bizarre conversations I’ve ever been involved in.

We finally, mutually, decided on ending the call. It was at this point I realised I just didn't really care anymore. I, the guy who used to look forward to getting a parking ticket just so I could argue my case, explore the joys of NCP's customer service and revel in Paula/Sharon or Mark's utter incompetence as I strive to have my ticket quashed, just couldn't be bothered. Life really was too short and so I put the phone down, abandoning my quest to penetrate deep into the workings of the council's services team and went out for lunch.

Monday, 29 June 2009

So...what to write...

So...what to the saying goes, so many blogs, so little time. So why should anyone dedicate their valuable spare moments to reading this when they could be surfing the web for something with the potential to be far more exciting such as 101 flavours of porn or how to remove a kidney with a broken milk bottle and a squirt of fairy liquid.......What makes me so special to think that anyone outside of my immediate family would be interested in the day to day goings on in my life and the corridors of Babylon also known as London Soho? Well, hopefully a large G&T, mainly G, a barrel of M&S' mini rolls and the desire to appear busy at my desk whilst actually doing anything but work will inspire me, so lets see where we end up.

From my desk/dining table/potential nuclear bomb shelter peering through a rather grubby window across the roof tops of Greek Street, looking down Old Compton towards Ed's Diner one way, G.A.Y. and American Retro to the other I can see the throngs of 'individuals' clad in their aptly named Birkenstocks, Burks-in-socks, and those annoyingly indecisive half-trousers, not quite short enough to be shorts and yet unable to stretch to the ankles ruling them out of the trouser gang. These packs of marketing managers, advertising execs and PA's jostle with bronzed gymbox boys clambering for a front row seat outside Balans, Bar Soho and Cafe 'corporate' Boheme with it's copper bar and similarly-coloured enticingly cute waiters.

It's late June, it's summer and it's hot. Blissfully hot. Unsurprisingly Compton's is full and spilling out onto the street the usual mix of men, boys and indefinables. The barefooted, orange clad Krishna with his desperately eager smile and dead eyes finger-tings his way past groups of Matthew's, Luke's, Jennifer's and wannabies, greeted with a assortment of nervous smiles, blankness and the odd drunken glare. I can almost smell the heat, stale beer, Spanish sweat and hot rubber - thank god for aircon and the humming Argos 'extra' fan I have aiming every 8 seconds at my back.

Since calling myself a 'Westminster Resident' and more specifically the temporary custodian of a tiny studio in the eves of what was once a fine old building I have become fascinated by the street's history as well as the surrounding area. Poor old god fearing Henry Compton would be joining the masses on a Friday night and vomiting outside Kettners if he could see what's become of his namesake street. His church which once proudly stood near the crossing of Greek and Compton now lost to overpriced hamburgers and lumpy milkshakes. God only knows what the founders of what is now the Walkabout would make of it all.

Being a country boy of origin and at heart and whilst still maintaining a deceptively named 'country house' somewhere in the Cambridgeshire / Suffolk mud I have always lusted after the idea of living centrally. I dabbled in a past life but I don't think East London really counts as being in the thick of it. Lets see how this new one pans out...

Any case I digress, what is this blog going to become? A history lesson? PLEASE NO! so, the gentile ramblings of a guy watching Soho-World go by.........sounds about right..........oh well...............until the next time...............