Starbucks muffin

November 22, 2010

Well what would you do?

It’s meant to be a treat. A few years back I might not have thought twice about a coffee and a muffin in Starbucks. But when I’m spending just over a fiver that I could use on a one way coach ticket to Sheffield, well, I have to be careful with my treats these days.

It shouldn’t matter should it?

It all goes down the same way.

But what would Marco say to a wonky Yorkshire Pudding? Would Nigella give you a lop-sided bun?

But this is just Starbucks. The one opposite Charing Cross Station. Why should they care about quality control when they can pass the (star)buck on to the customer.

I eye my muffin as I wait for my coffee. I know it shouldn’t matter, but that doesn’t look right, I say to the coffee man.

Would you like me to change it?

See? Pass the buck. So, I have to decide. If I say yes, they will throw it away. The guilt sets in. I don’t even say no. I don’t say yes. I just smile like a fool, take my coffee and my lop-sided Lemon and Poppyseed Muffin (my favourite! My treat!) and sit down and glower at it. I hate it.

After a while I change. I eat it. It’s ok. As good as any of the others. Maybe it was more of a treat. Maybe it was a special muffin, just for me. Maybe it had a few more poppyseeds, or a drip more icing.

But really. Starbucks. Life should be easier.

Wave goodbye

November 22, 2010

Pop and Death go together well; something the X Factor fails to recognise. Hell, If Aidan had done the right thing and sang something by a-ha he’d still be living in the house and the fun imposter, the man in the Scream mask, chess-losing Wagner, he’d be out in the cold, looking to cross the Styx.

Pop, Death, Misery. Even when it sounds like Pop it’s usally not. Take Forever by Roy Wood. Forever… is it going to be something good that’s forever Roy?

And I wonder who she’ll be
If she’ll put the hurt on me
Forever, Forever.

Seems not. I bought Forever in 1973, when I was 11. But it was always the B side that interested me more. What was an 11 year old supposed to make of a track called Music to Commit Suicide By? And I wonder… has anyone ever committed suicide to this piece of music? I would guess so. I knew as an 11 year old, possibly introduced to the notion of suicide for the first time, that it would always be my first choice. I’m still here, so possibly sometimes Pop is just Pop and not Death.

But it lingers doesn’t it? Proper pop never strays far from it. In the midst of life we are in death etcetera.

Last night I saw the Kings of Death Pop.

To some a-ha are all cheekbones and Take on Me. Well, that’s just fine. But come on, don’t be afraid, sing along:

Take on me (Take on me)
Take me on (Take on me)
I’ll be gone
In a day or two

Gone? It’s not all cheekbones. There’s a skull beneath.

Morten’s always been troubled. I’ve read the interviews. Those cheekbones, they’re only like that because the skull is pushing its way out. He’s thin-skinned. It’s a fine line between this and this.

Don’t think of a-ha as just pop. And banish any thoughts of guilty pleasures (a foul concept that should be reserved solely for the liking of abominable acts against mankind). a-ha have, for the past 25 years, been the Kings of Teen Misery Pop. Here’s just six songs:

  • I’ve Been Losing You
  • Dark is the Night For All
  • Lie Down in Darkness
  • The Sun Never Shone That Day
  • Forever Not Yours
  • Shadowside

They’re the jolly ones.

Last night, at Trent Arena in Nottingham, they were glorious. And they’re going. After 25 years they are calling it a day. It’s true! This is their last ever tour. I believe them. Get a ticket. There’s still a few dates left: Sheffield tomorrow, then Cardiff, Bournemouth, London, before it all ends in Oslo on the 4th December. Go! They’ll be gone, in a day or two.

And if you’re still not convinced by the death thing, please watch and enjoy their 2000 single Velvet.

Goodbye a-ha. And thank you.

Doctor Steel

November 15, 2010

A few months back I bumped into some of Doctor Steel’s Toy Soldiers. Look! Here they are! Do they scare you?

They scared me a little; a whole gang of them, invading Trafalgar Square. All dressed in black, looking not unlike a new army of Nazis.

Now, when it comes to being scared I usually do the sensible thing and run away. But when it comes to Nazi-looking folk, if they are seemingly harmless, I can’t help myself but confront them. I need to ask if they are indeed Nazis. And then? Well, I will reason with them and they will change their minds.

So I cornered these two. I asked them, “are you Nazis?” I can’t recall now if they laughed or just smiled. They weren’t Nazis. They are Toy Soldiers. They are the Army of Doctor Steel.

Not much help there. It still all seemed a little mysterious, possibly a wee bit sinister.

So many questions. Who’s Doctor Steel? Who are the Toy Soldiers? And… well, just answer the one question; who the hell is this Doctor Steel?

He’s Dr. Phineas Waldolf Steel and he plans to take over the World. And he is crazy! He says so himself.

He has a manifesto. He plans to turn the World into a Utopian Playland. He’s redefined the word ‘toys’ as anything that makes us happy. He want us all to be happy. To have fun.

It sounds ok. Ish. See what you think.

And the two guys above? They were lovely. Ok, so they dress like Nazis, but what the hell.

You can find out more here. Lots of lovely videos too. It’s all very entertaining. But should we be afraid? You decide.

If you want to get a head

November 12, 2010

Hats! Hats off to them!

If you want to get ahead, get a hat!

My minimal research shows that this was a phrase coined in the 1940’s by either Dunn and Co. or The British Hat Council. Go on, try finding them! I can’t find a council or any history of it. There’s a Guild, but try clicking on their website; it takes you to Banarnia!

And Dunn and Co. vanished from our high streets so long ago I can only vaguely recall the days when me and Mr. Trev ransacked the closing down stores, buying up their fittings and fixtures; old prints of long forgotten pugilists, antlers- yes antlers! Antlers, stuck on a wooden plaque. No deer head, just antlers. And even then they were plastic.

And umbrellas with dog-faced handles!

I’m losing the point. Hats!

Yes, sure, we get it. If you want to get ahead… a little play on words.

Get a hat and you’ll succeed. And we see it now in the glam hat revival that is Mad Men (I love this pic, whoever they are).

It’s as simple as looking. Here’s John Hamm as Don Draper.

Don Draper (image courtesy of Esquire)

And here’s John Hamm as someone else. Possibly John Hamm.

Photo by Rachel Sklar

There’s a difference. And the hat makes it.

With a hat, you don’t just get ahead, you get ‘a head’. It makes the man’s head.

But there’s a reason why men stopped wearing hats. (Sure, there’s a supposed revival on, but again, there’s a reason for that too.)

First, why did men stop wearing hats? Because, simply, we all realised we’re no Cary Grants, Frank Sinatras, Clooneys or Hamms. Even John Hamm has realised he’s not John Hamm. Or, put another way, John Hamm has realised he’s not Don Draper.

Don Draper is a fictional character (and let’s not get all meta-whatever now, I’m talking fiction as in made up, by a writer, not as in a character with a secret life etc. etc. oh, come on now, you know what I mean). He’s TV. And TV hat wearers have people who follow them around and when they take their hats off… Bingo! Stop filming! Maude! Touch him up! (I don’t know why Maude, it just seemed right). Hey Maude! John’s looking a little sweaty. He’s a little shiny. A little greasy. Get in there Maude! Touch him up. Make him Donish.

You get the drift. John gets Maude. We get no one. We take our hats off and we look like this.

Ken Dodd in Blackpool

And don’t get me started on antimacassars. Antimacassars!? Who thought that bloody word up? What the hell are they? Ok, so they’re anti… anti bloody what? Macassars? what the bloody hell is a macassar?

Oh… I see… thank you Wikipedia. So, macassar was an oil used in the 19th century. On the hair of course. Really, an antimacassar, should be called an antibrylcreem.

Are you still with me? (I haven’t written a blog post in a while so I may be getting a little carried away. Sorry). Antimacassars! Thery’re those intricate handkerchief-like things people of a certain age will be familiar with from their trips to their grandparents in the 1970’s. They look like this.

(I pinched the above image from nothingisnew; a lovely blog worth taking a look at, and with a whole post dedicated to antimacassars).

They look nice yes? The antimacassars you dope, not the girls! Well, they might look nice, but here’s what they really are. Horrible grease collectors. (No! Not the girls! Stop that now!)

Antimacassars were put on furniture to collect Brylcreem from men’s greasy heads. Sweaty greasy heads under hats. Hats now stained with greasy sweaty brims. Heads full of hair that, when hatless, had a deep rut marked in the grease from where the brim had once rested.

Wearing hats. It’s thankless without a Maude around to touch you up.

So we stopped wearing them.

And that’s that.

But… it’s starting again. Hats are back! Sure it’s one of those nostalgia things. But could there be another reason why we are wearing hats once more? Yes! We’re all bald!

Here I am in my new hat. If you like it get it. Primark £4.

Photo by ben Norris using Darrell K. Morris' camera

Here’s Primark’s blurb on ethical trading.

This isn’t a blog post

November 11, 2010

Well… tomorrow it will be a month since I last wrote a post. Shocking isn’t it. If anyone reads this regularly and they are wondering what’s up… well, I’m sorry. I’ve let myself go haven’t I. It’s just not good enough. There’s no excuses. Just inertia.

I’ll change my ways. It’s one of those things you can just let slide. But I will fix that.

This isn’t a blog post. It’s an apology. To my blog and to anyone who is kind enough to read.

I will be back! I promise. This isn’t a blog post. But there will be one tomorrow. At least one. And, I promise from now on I will do my utmost to getting back to regularly blogging. I will endeavour to get back to one a day. Ok, maybe not everyday. Five a week. That will be my aim.

But don’t read this one and don’t count this one. This is not a blog post. Tomorrow’s will be.

Thank you if you are still sticking with me.