A Word on Introductions

Byron

Lord Fcking Byron

Ironically enough, a good number of minutes have passed whilst I have spun round eating rice cakes in my college’s Learning Resource Centre trying to find a suitable opener for this article. Maybe I should start with a joke? A poem? A musical number? A rash comment? A racist remark? This is awfully difficult. I’ve also run out of rice cakes and people are starting to judge me for spinning in my chair.

Person to person introductions are much easier. We follow a formality: you want to find out how they are [which you don’t], to which they respond that they are fine, [which is a lie], you comment on how much weight they have lost [you mean gained], they thank you [and think about the chocolate éclair they had at lunchtime] and then you will disintegrate in to some form of menial conversation. Formality is jolly good fun.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be this way. It was Lord Byron that, whilst holidaying with Mary Shelley + Husband + “friend” with questionable benefits, enters a room and simply remarks “NOW WE SHALL EACH WRITE A GHOST STORY”. And one does what Lord Byron says, because, well, simply, he’s Lord Fking Byron. Just because I’m not Lord Fking Byron, does that mean I have to fall into the clutches of meaningless small talk? Well… Apparently so.

Society has a tendency to stick with what it knows, and people just get on with it. We’re all too busy worrying about whether our ankles look fat or whether the avocadoes have gone brown, or if you really have been sent the same issue of Surrey Life twice. Considering the boundaries of conversational reform just seems a bit too much stress.

Wallowing in formality is a serious problem. To whoever has attended a large organised meeting of new people will understand that the phrase “Say your name, and then tell us something interesting about yourself” Is really a code way of saying “Tell us who you are, then spend time worrying finding the identifier of your personality in 30 seconds and then desperately trying to sound interesting to impress the attractive person sat next to you, and then realise that you don’t even have an identifier to your personality because if you did, you wouldn’t be trying to meet new people in the first place. Suck on that”.

But now, I must leave. I have a ghost story to compose…

Aside

The Olympic Trolley Dash

Jolly good, it’s here again! The quad-annual sports party started off by our toga clad friends in Greece is back. And it’s in London, in case you didn’t know.
Sebastian Coe is the man in the Chair, and if you ask me, he’s probably got a pesky toddler who has been taking the £50 notes out of Olympic budget and pushing them down the floorboards. How else do you plan to spend £81 million? Other than buying 540,000,000 Freddo bars (which have really taken a hit from inflation BY THE WAY) I’m struggling to find a reason for hovering up this much cash.
The first Pirates of the Caribbean film had a similar budget to this cultural shin dig. I’m serious. But will the opening ceremony have Johnny Depp in it? Will Keira Knightly float across London, flouncing about in a big dress shouting PARLE at every available opportunity? NO. Neither will Orlando Bloom take off his shirt and start a sword fight.
What’s more likely is that we’ll have David Cameron plodding about with his wife (who didn’t wear a hat to The Wedding. I know), K-Midz in an LK Bennet number jamming with the Queen and Boris on a bike.
It’s a sad outlook on Britain if you think of all of the places this cash could have been put instead. We’re still getting up off the floor from a hit of recession, and the rumour has it that there’s more to come. I don’t know what the outcome of all this will be, but I really hope the individuals who have suffered from the public sector spending cuts really, really enjoy the ceremony. There goes your pension everyone! It’s turned into a firework!

Electric Newspaper

Since Apple’s new operating system, IOS5, came to our handheld i-prefixed devices, a new app has graced our home screens whether we like it or not. Newsstand is the way to organise all of your e-magazine subscriptions in OCD fashion. In the past you might have just had a folder, or just bought real magazines, but now Apple have devised this way for you to spend more money at the iTunes store by getting all of your favourite publications straight to the device. Sounds great doesn’t it?
The crux of the matter is that there are less people buying their copy of The Organic Way and Best Sheds Weekly in the shops, and they’d much rather read the editions in glorious Retina display. But who wouldn’t? Comparing the best shed doors just isn’t the same on paper
Books were in the same situation. Bound literature was doing just fine before our fruity friends decided that they were going to grace our screens and stick a vowel in front of the medium. iBooks and the iBooks Store pushed themselves onto the scene, tugging on our sleeves and throwing tantrums for our attention. Our hardback copies of The Complete Shakespeare Collection exhale loudly and move aside, joining the awkward corner with tape cassettes and VHS players.
But what does this really mean? Magazines will suffer a decline, but I doubt that they will have the same wounds that the music industry have come away with. Magazines still stand as a status symbol. The ability to go into someone’s kitchen and see their collection of Devonshire Life and Horse and Hound editions nonchalantly spread across their sparkling marble island countertop, you can gain a few ideas about the kind of household you are in. Especially if you are then offered an organic banana muffin with your raspberry and ginseng tea.
I suppose there is a certain nostalgia linked to opening the broadsheet on a Sunday morning or irritating fellow commuters as you push your elbows into their coffee cups and doing a mass inversion of personal space. Or would you rather skip the whole ordeal? Who knows. As the concept gains momentum, we’ll just have to wait and see for it all to pan out.

Image

Gig Review: The Vaccines & The Arctic Monkeys

If you’ve ever been to the O2 Arena, you’ll know what I’m talking about here. You will probably have queued for more time than is necessary, have been herded like cattle and had a gold wristband shoved on your wrist to cut off circulation. Sound familiar? No? Well then, you CLEARLY were not at the Arctic Monkeys and the Vaccines on the 30th October.

The venue is big. Seriously, and in a space that large you don’t have many thoughts (other than if we have to evacuate I am going to die). It’s too hard to judge the space of the standing area so one half runs, half walks, feeling self-conscious of the other 23,000 people judging your gait. Once over that initial catastrophe there is more waiting. The Vaccines, who are too hipster turn up on time mince on twenty minutes after their allotted start time “yeah we’re the Vaccines yah” and then play album. The lead singer is wearing a shell suit jacket with his name on the back, and the drummer keeps standing up so we don’t forget he’s there.

Don’t get me wrong. The Vaccines are good. I like The Vaccines. They just seem to have stereotyped themselves as a set of washed up hipsters who have a song a with title that sounds like IKEA product. I’m serious! Nørgaard anyone? Oh yes! I’ve lost the assembly instructions for my Nørgaard. I suppose I’ll just have to hop back on the tram to Croydon and get another plate of meatballs and exchange my Nørgaard.

The Vaccines mince off and then more waiting, quick rig change. The tech team at the O2 keep turning the lights off to fool the crowd, then putting them back on again and playing rap music. Patience is shortening. Hands are turning numb from tight wristbands, and then finally the shadowy quartet makes their way into the light.

My misfortune came from only knowing old Arctic Monkeys songs. I sort of bumbled along to the new stuff, until frontman Alex Turner makes an introduction. “WHO LIKES ROCK AND ROLL WITH LOTS OF WORDS?”. The crowd cheer; I suppose that’d be us then. They’ve come a long way from ‘chip-shop rock’, and that’s a general criticism of them these days. They’re not exactly comparing the prices of avocados in a collection of fair trade retailers, but they’ve admitted to becoming a little too middle class for their image.
Credit where it’s due: they really don’t miss a trick playing live. They come across as a little awkward during interviews but the stage is where they really know what they’re doing. After a round of encores, they thank the audience for “having us”, making it sound like they’ve come round for chips and peas on a Thursday night. It’s been lovely having you, Arctic Monkeys. You’re welcome anytime.

Cycle Chic

I went to my work experience and they asked me to formulate content for www.top10bikefixes.com.
This is what I achieved.

In terms of cycling gear, there seems to be three ways to go about it. What you wear is defined by what stereotype of cyclist you identify with, so are you…
There’s the type who commute via bike and turn up at the office red faced and smelling interesting, one of the more serious guys who’d write club cycling at high level on the interest section of their CV, or one of the ones who pull their fixie bike out of their London flat and casually push it to Brick Lane and back to pick up some organic avocadoes?
If the first one seems to appeal, you’re probably reading this on a fancy tablet computer on the way to pick up your Barclay’s Boris Bike. Yes, sympathy due to those who can’t take their [fancy bike model] on the train during peak time. Perhaps you are wearing a suit, and finding it a little difficult to achieve the ‘cool factor’ as you struggle to push the pedals? It’s alright, help is at hand. Levi® have heard your plea, and are coming out with the 511® Commuter Series. “The 511® Commuter comes in two styles – a full length and cropped version – and both denim and non-denim fabrics” Exciting! Unfortunately, these trendy garments are not released yet, so you’ll have to settle with looking like Boris until then.
If you spend your weekends with your club around the hills of Surrey, perhaps you don’t need much assistance. H.G. Wells once said that “When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race”, so throw on your club jersey with the Lycra shorts and fulfil Wells’ faith in humanity. But what if you don’t belong to a club? Or you want to pretend you do? Well, cycle chic tenderfoot, this is an easily solved problem. Design your own. Make up a club name, upload some fake sponsorship. People will look at you in awe. Or, you could combine your other interests with your cycling clobber? If you’re a Redditor, get yourself one of these.

And finally, if you see yourself as the remaining category, put down your Chai Latte and listen up. Mountain bikes are so mainstream, so you need one of these. It’s white, vintage and you will look like a pro. Fixed gear bikes do the same thing, and they come in bright colours. Ideally, stick a basket on the front in which you can stash the vinyl EPs of an obscure avant-garde French band you purchased from Portobello Road.
In this instance, what you wear has very little relevence to whether it is suitable for cycling. Ray Ban Wayfarers, low cut vests, hats, turned up chinos…Need I go on?

But whether you turn up to work trying to get the bicycle grease marks out of your trousers, prance around in your fake sponsorship kit, or you use your bike mirrors to preen your ironic moustache, getting the style right will greatly enrich your cycling experience.

I’ll have two avocados and a pilates mat.

Now I don’t know whether its because I live in Surrey or if I am just unlucky when it comes to social encounters, but I’ve had an overdose of the upper middle class lately. I’ve had shots of organic-extra-virgin-olive oil-hand-picked-by -well-dressed-Italians left right and centre, and they are only set to increase.

My first and biggest faux par was joining a gym. One of the hallmarks that separate the Upper and Middle classes is whether you have a gym suite in your own home, and it seems like the second of the tiers seem to all have a membership to an exercise establishment of some description.

The establishment I have joined is one of the epicentres of UPM action, displayed most evidently in its ‘weekly activity programme’. Members can attend classes from Zumba Dancing to Aqua Aerobics (yes, that’s the jumping around thing that ‘curvaceous’ women do in swimming pools instead of, you know. actually swimming), and everything in between. Including pilates.

Pilates is an exercise programme that was developed by a German bloke in the 1900s. It grew in popularity and went mainstream in the latter half of the twentieth century. It is now a popular pastime for the spouses of lawyers and the all lunching all cooking housewives to fit in between choosing washing detergents and nurturing their darling offspring’s musical talents.

Today was my first session, and soon realised I fitted into neither of the demographics [faux pas numero deux] I awkwardly sat down in the studio, awaiting the participants.

Two women sat on their mats facing front. The personalities of the two women were of archetypes I have dealt with before. Observe, Participant A.
“Have you done pil-ar-teys before? What’s that? You’ve only done yogar? Well. They are very different you know. You really aught to have gone to a beginners session.”
And Participant B. Of Eastern European descent. Most likely a dancer.
“She iss right you know. I have ssseen many peuople attempt and done much injury.”

I sit their awkwardly after listening to their comments. They then resume conversation as I hunt for a mat and pretend to do some warm up stretches. I can still overhear them. Participant A is training to be a yoga instructor and complaining about beginners going to their first class without induction. B is agreeing. I pretend not to hear.

More people turn up. Slightly comforting. The gym stereotypes appear. Mrs. Post Pregnancy, I Once Had A Great Body And I Need It Back arrives and unrolls her mat. Miss Size 20 places herself in the corner so she can’t be seen.

The Instructor strides in. (And Ms. I Commute to my Well Paid Job in the City Every Day So I am Therefore Late for Everything nods in apology). Instructor puts on some sort of ethnic music, and the hour of insanity begins.

The hour concludes. We applaud ourselves. Participant A throws me a dirty look and then goes off to talk to Ms. Commuter about some silverware of the latest Lakeland Catalogue.

I wonder if they have this trouble at Yoga.

Yearbook Entry

“We cut out girls’ pictures from the yearbook, and then we wrote comments”

If you are here to do that, then by all means, go ahead. I have provided a photograph of myself, so if it facilitates the content of a burn book I am glad to have assisted you.

If not, then you can laugh inwardly about the Mean Girls quote. I suppose that is what a yearbook is all about really. Listing textual exerts from authors without citation, then reading them back years later and finding them vaguely amusing.

With no useful hints from Google on what to fuel one’s yearbook entry, I suppose I am on my own here. I tried to turn to film and television for advice on such matters, but it seems that high school movies tell of an American setup, which is a little different to what we are dealing with here. In the Land of the Free you only have to jot a line or two underneath a photo of yourself, and this is seen as sufficient to represent four years of academia. In the Land of Hope and Glory you have to write up a whole page scribble to summarize the ‘happiest days of your life’.

I can tell with upmost certainty that a yearbook page does not traditionally consist of comparing cultures and education policies of our transatlantic cousins, but I fear that I have managed only to achieve this.

Some Words About Food

write about a pleasurable food experience.

The story of a pleasurable food experience is something that I am yet to find to use as my defining anecdote. For the time in which that I have been living, I cannot say that food has been treated as much more than a necessity for survival. With that said, I do occasionally dip into my copy of Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals, more to look at the pictures than to actually take any of the recipes. I have been known to put my creative efforts into making a mess in the kitchen and producing a cake or two, or maybe a batch of cookies that last little over half an hour as I sit in potato fashion in front of the television watching endless re-runs of Friends.

But can I really be blamed? Fine dining isn’t really on the top of many teenagers’ lists, the exception being the kids that find themselves on Junior Masterchef, constructing elaborate savoury soufflés. Those of my age feel unwelcome in restaurants, what with the undeveloped knowledge of social etiquette and general fiscal irresponsibility that leads to having to tip the waiter in two pence pieces.

So if restaurant experiences are off the table, I suppose that leaves Sunday Roast with the grandparents and the all too frequent excursion to MacDonalds (who give themselves the title of ‘restaurant’, but I do beg to differ). Or does it? I suppose that an eating experience is not all about the food. If dig into my memory banks a little further, I consider the people I’ve met, and the situations I have witnessed, whilst posing with a snatch of provender. I once watched a fight at Hinchley Wood station, whilst standing on my balcony, absent-mindedly eating a pot noodle.

i sent my mother it to read. her reply was this.
Hope you don’t really thing your food experience has been so dull thus far
in your life… or is it another blow to the parenting efforts that do in
fact go on almost continuously, and have occupied much of the last 15 years
of my life

oh shi.

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