Friday, December 09, 2005

London - I like the viewThis post is simply here to shunt the previous one down a bit. I shouldn't post when intoxication by tiredness.

But can one actually be intoxicated by tiredness? On the basic level it sounds impossible, yet is it? Various forms of psychological stress manifest themselves as physiological stresses. One result of physiological stress is the reduced functioning of organs such as the liver and general degradation of homeostatic systems. Such reduced capacity would result in an inability to cope effectively with physiological challenges, and so levels of toxins within the blood and body tissues would rise.

So if tiredness is taken to be a psychological stress, or have an aspect which is such stress, then comparative intoxication may occur. But tiredness also is not only a symptom of stress, but is a direct form of physiological stress, and so would have a direct impact on somatic toxin levels.

I think the fact I just became completely distracted probably proves that I'm still not getting enough sleep. Either that or yesterday's sudden willingness to kick small boys does.

In mitigation, I didn't. And he was a little shit. Having popped out on a brief errand (more on that story later), I'd really had enough and was tired, dehydrated, hungry, and enjoying the full body temperature regulatory buggery of running up the broken escalalors in the heat of the Underground, to emerge into the enforced go-slow of a damp London in December. So walking back stuck in a line of pedestrian traffic, a mother is holding her son's hand was she walks the other way.

The stream in my direction narrows a bit to let them pass. The child seems to be playing up a bit. It's only as I pass him that I realise that he's trying his best to trip up people the going the other way (or maybe just kick them). The mother is either oblivious or beyond caring. But by this time I've dodged out of his way and am past them.

I'm bloody livid, but slightly to exhausted to turn back against the flow and chastise the woman. And in the mood I was in, chastising would consist of screaming at the woman and her son, probably teaching the child a few novel swearwords in the process, shortly followed by dropping my voice and speaking very clearly and slowly (which is verbal shorthand for "Run. Run screaming to the hills. Except screaming right now is probably not a good idea as it might draw to much attention to just how annoying you really are. Just know that I've been through my loud warning stage, and this is my self-imposed calm before the dangerously violent storm, and I'm not all that good at self control, so admit defeat now. Understand?"). Except the stupid woman probably would have argued back, which normally would cow me into silence, but in that mood that mood I'm as stubborn as water (and before you try suggesting water isn't stubborn, go and have a chat with any rock).

If I'd realised what the kid was doing earlier, I very likely would have mirrored his action, except I'm a bit bigger than he was, and if my knee meets his face then that's his own bloody silly fault for having one in the first place. Worryingly, I'm still getting positive emotions being generated by the imaginary image of his flailing body soaring above the pollution.

Maybe it's just I'm owed something kickable having damn nearly broken my wrist on BHS's doors. They have many doors. They choose to look them at random, so the world is treated to the sight of shoppers slamming into panels of unmoving glass as if there was a giant bird-feeder left on an internal window sill. Way to go BHS. Piss off every customer and injure about half of them before they get into the shop then do it again as they leave. How to create a perfect Pavlovian response by which every shopper associates your brand with annoyance, embarassment and pain. Perhaps behind some discreet door in Kings Cross this might be the desired effect, but for a dull shop with sells C&A clothes at M&S prices, it's not the greatest plan on Earth. Even if they sold stuff I wanted to buy, after those doors there's no way they'd be getting my money.

Having just been injured by the door, I was very tempted to retaliate by taking a good kick at it, just to see how much force it would take to open the bloody thing (and if the glass happens to convert into a spider's web, well, these things happen. But I didn't, because I had the wrong trousers on. So BHS, you have until I get a decent pair of boots, and a pair of trousers I can Can-Can in, to sort it out, otherwise I will come and create openings where your none opening doors are.

Of course, some you might have noticed that I'm not BHS's biggest fan (no, that's the triple screw, 3 bladed, 8 speed Electrolux Supercool 9000i), and would therefore be wondering why, if I despise the shop so much, I was trying to go through its doors in the first place. Well... because I wanted to go to shop next door, and it's quicker to take the side road off the northern part of Regent Street, continue the same line through BHS, and then into the side of John Lewis's. And it's probably because of the through traffic that BHS lock most of their doors. They don't seem to have connected the impact it has on the people trying to use those doors to get into the shop to spend money there, nor why people use it as a short cut. It's because BHS is always much less crowded than Oxford Street. It's quicker to dodge the three people in there (two of which are staff) than it is to brave the glacial crowds passing in front of the shop. If they really wanted to get rid of the through traffic, either they need to close the side doors completely, which would have the brilliant effect of further alienating their customers (and why tolerate customers messing up the displays? Think of the savings to be made by closing the shop completely), or they need to take the truly innovative step of trying to get some of the crowds passing their door into their shop.

And perhaps my perpetual loathing of the place stems from this semiconcious feeling that it's just not a nice place (much like all M&S's. Have you ever wondered why children burst into tears within seconds of going in? It's because the staff all wear thin uniform shirts and blouses, and the customers are all wrapped up in thick layers of clothes with hats, gloves and scarves. The shop is heated for the [usually somewhat aged] staff (including the gargantuan hairdryer above the door). So the customers are always too hot. The adults take off some of their clothes, and carry them, feeling the weight add to their general exhaustion. The children have spent their lives being told not to pull off clothes their parents have just put on them (just think how much fun putting on shoes and socks can be when the child decides to play). They're constantly told not to lose things (and do anyway). Children are also fairly good at picking up on their parent's mood. So a child who lives in mortal fear of dropping a mitten, and can tell that Mummy's cross (because they've only got the one nice top in the shop in a 26, and they're not restocking it), is not going to start undressing in middle of some shop full of people when they're constantly having to keep up with their parents. So the child rapidly overheats, and, much like a pressure cooker, starts to let off steam. End result: the shop is seen as hell. You think I'm exaggerating? Find a suitable M&S. Now walk fairly fast up the hill to it in February. Go in. Now tell me that the place couldn't do with freezing over. If you disagree, then go and stand outside waiting for the park and ride bus for half an hour, and let me know if you freeze over. It is physically impossible to wear the right clothes for outside and M&S's standard temperature at the same time. So either the outside temperature needs to change (and if it can't then M&S should work to the tourist season) or M&S's corporate standard temperature needs to. And if that means the staff have to wear thicker uniforms, so be it).

Getting back to hellish shops, the last time I braved a BHS with the intention of buying something, or least buying something if I could find anything I liked (which given the last article of BHS clothing I had was a jumper I was given, which was too small for me, wasn't very nice, and I was probably 7 at the time...), I went in and immediately the security guard, who was standing in full view, started speaking into his radio. I walk towards the men's section. He follows me. I can hear his radio repeating back his description of me (which wasn't all that flattering). I try to browse. He stands a few feet away, watching. I move towards a different stand I can hear him relaying my movements. I camera nearby whirs round towards me. I move on again, and the crackling voice and whirring are repeated. I try to pretend I'm interested in something in the vain hope that he'll get bored and go away. It doesn't apparently work. Realising the futility of the attempt, and that it has made me look far more suspicous, as not even I can convincingly feign interest in a round-necked black, grey and beige Argyll pattern acryllic jumper with too-short sleves*, I give up and leave, with the guard following me to the door. It's only once I get outside that I realise that I hadn't seen anyone who was a member of staff in the shop. Can't think why.

Haven't been in one since (oh, except for the purposes of getting from A to B, but that doesn't count).

Maybe they were trialling a personal shopper scheme, but hadn't got the budget to get more staff.

* And it was the most wearable thing in the shop. Come back C&A, all is forgiven (well, not quite all, but at least they made some clothes that didn't look like they were made by them).

Anyway, the reason I passed through BHS in the first place was because I wanted to by some glue. I'd be sent out earlier with the words:
"What are you doing? Oh, you're not doing much. You're not really doing anything. You're doing nothing. We need some glue. Go and get it. Get this one. Make sure it's this. Only get this type. It needs to be the same. Get this. Get from [place down the road]. If they do not have it get it from somewhere else. Make sure you get this one. Only this one."
To which I agreed, simply because I wanted to see how long it would take her to realise I was doing something she needed done soon, and because she was really annoying me, and that I'd had enough beating myself against her false notion that she is my boss.

So I went down the road, cursing inability of London drivers cope with the fact that they are part of the traffic and that the waves of hooting aren't going to make the traffic in front of you move, and anyway, the light's red so you can't go anywhere (oh what naivety. Traffic lights mean nothing in London. Pedestrians soon develop standardised swearing for people who ignore red lights. Cyclists are worse, as they assumed the fluidity of pedestrians but haven't figured out that they have a 5 foot metal barrier between their legs, so trying to sneak over a pedestrian crossing when moving perpendicular to the crowd is not the way to make friends, but it is quite good for losing spokes. And as for one way streets, there must be an aging process for pedestrians in London. At first when they cross they look both ways because they don't know the road. Then the begin to know which are one way streets, and so only look in the direction of the traffic. Then they nearly get killed by someone with rather selective vision and after which they revert to looking both ways). I'm also cursing air so thick with fumes that you could bounce off it, or at least, if you breathe it long enough, think you've bounced off it. As well as remembering someone else's rant about glue-woman (I would call her glue-girl, as she is young enough, but girl implies something too likeable), which I wasn't really listening to at the time, but have now realised was worryingly similar to my own thoughts.

I get to the shop. I go up to the right floor, find the glues, have a bit of an M&S feeling, which was more the shop than the glues, search in vain, search the rest of the shop, search a bit more, and leave. So now what? I can't get the proscribed glue at the proscribed shop as they don't even have shelf space for it. So I'll try to find next nearest source of it.

Another non-stocker.

Walk on a bit more. I'll try Superdrug, as the one at home sells glue. Again no luck (but a magically unyeilding door; this one was permenantly thirty degrees ajar in warning though).

What I need is a Smith's, but I can't see one.

There's a Boot's, and it's quite big, so it might stock glue (what? the alternatives were a couple of hundred electronics shops, so the comparitive chances were high).

On further still. Past the glue sniffers (really should have asked them). Then on a bit more.

Into another branch of Ryman's and still no luck.

Realising I should have turned back ages ago, I carry on, drawn only by my faith in John Lewis's. After the debacle with BHS, I get there. I'm a little disorientated for a while, having ignored the "I need water" and "I need food" signals when I left as I was only popping out for a bit.

But I find their glue selection. There's not very many. But they do have the one I've been ordered to get. Only one packet left, unpriced. I wait for a while to ask the price, then buy it, strongly suspecting that at least 50p of the £1.50 price is because the bag has the same stripes as Waitrose. I try not to think about how much of the money is going to the utterly miserable and supercilious cashier (it's quite fun seeing a short Asian woman try to sneer down her nose at a guy who out does her in terms of both height and size of nose to sneer down).

Taking the glue, I head out to Cavendish Square to get high among the handbags being clasped in expensively manicured hands (and have you noticed how the entire traffic system of the square revolves round cars coming to pick up people and shopping?). Ok, so what I actually do is wander in a small circular trying to remember the way out of the shop (ah, two central ailses, of course), then realise that it'll be quicker to get the tube back. So much for just popping out.

This is were small boy rubgy comes in (still having images of Kick the Baby in South Park, superimposed on the gridlocked building sites of London).

I get back, hand over the glue. Glue-woman takes in the JL bag, the way the grey from under my eyes has bled into the whites themselves, the perpetually twitching muscle near my left eye, and that I'm swaying slightly, and decides not to get cross with me for taking so long.

She does say "You are back. I should not send you get glue. I will not send you again."

I've still no idea if she meant that she should not because she should not command supposedly equal partners and generally be rather rude, or if she meant that I am incompetent and not to be trusted. I suspect the latter. I think she thinks that I did the typical male thing of not wanting to do something, therefore doing it so badly that I'll never be asked to do it again. Whereas I did the very female thing of persistently not making the most rational decision (i.e. not saying, when instructed, that she ought to go fuck herself, or possibly "We need glue? Ok then. Could you get me a muffin while you're out? Oh, and post this"). What can I say? When I'm tired, I lose my ability to think, and sometimes that means I act like a female.

Ok, so I don't quite beleive that, but given the readership of this blog, if the females present stormed off, I'd only loose 20% of the regular readership (and isn't it strange how that figure can so easily be displayed as a simple fraction? It's almost as if I've only got 5 readers, rather than the many thousands the tracker informs me I have (what do you mean "total"?)).

But a gained Twix soon had me back to normal (ish. From my normal base level, a whole adult Twix sends me a bit hyper, then I slump back down). That was until glue-woman decried that she had a new idea for what I was doing. Her idea was [drumroll please]... the one I'd suggested about 8 hours earlier, which she had ensured sank into obscurity, so we could all work to her idea. And what had I been doing all day? Working on making her idea real. So now she decides that the new idea must happen, and all previous work must be abandoned. Not a good thing to say to someone who has spent a long time working on something he disagrees with, while generally being arsed around by someone he increasingly can't stand, and happens at that precise moment to be holding a knife.

So I did the logical, adult thing and ignored her. I know the new idea is my idea, but we've made the decision and don't have time to restart the entire thing. But then I suspect other people's time (or even just other people) doesn't ever enter her calculations.

Once she left I had time to discover that she'd spent her day being so pedantic about irelevant details (which happen to be hugely inaccurate) that she hadn't quite done what she was meant to. So the rest of us coped with her efforts while she wasn't there.

I overhead her earlier in the day discussing housing with people. She doesn't like where she lives. She doesn't like London full stop. I have a sneaking suspiciousion that if she's treated other people the way she treats people I know, then it's probably fairly likely that London doesn't like her, which might explain why she doesn't like it.

And that's quite a lot of rants all rolled into one. Maybe I still do need sleep. Or maybe just food or water. Or at least an end to the headache which I've had since time immemorial (ok, Wednesday).


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