Sunday, March 09, 2008

DSC_0403 - Brewer's DroopThis week I learnt that is fragile. And that doing a little checking before ranting might be a good idea. But I still say showing last activity times to the nearest minute is absurd when preceded by hours and days.

But instead of attempting to resurrect that post in the light of new found knowledge (oh, the live-stream bit can be masked) I'll simply skip to something less arduous. Just to counter the young-with-it-ness of (who kid I? I'm longtailling it) I have to admit to recently managing to find absolutely nothing attractive or wearable in H&M. I know they're really into the 80s-retro thing at the moment, but somehow they've turned into M&S during the infamous grey year. The only colours in the place that don't look like they've been plucked from a lahar are purple and lime green. Considering I used to own a polo shirt which featured both colours heavily back when they were last fashionable I won't be repeating that mistake. Having wandered round I can only protest that the eighties weren't that bad. The only thing which vaguely tempted me (other than a £2.99 t-shirt, but they had no whites left and I have all the other wearable colours) was a red-based checked shirt, which I didn't buy because not only is it channelling Brokeback Mountain somewhat belatedly, but largely because I used to have a shirt in the same check when I was three. And I've never been convinced by buttoned-in-place permanently rolled-up sleeves. If I wanted to wear inflatable armbands to emphasise the skinniness or my arms I would (hmm, maybe the world's actually my very own Ashes-to-Ashes imagined reality, hence a shop full of ill-disguised childhood memories. Swimming lessons obviously come quite near Swedish clothing chain in my brain's index).

So having been exposed to the disturbing thought that I may be too old for the shop where the clothing actually fits me (it could just be they skimp on material), I then ran away down the road to the haven of the sensible. It would appear that my Tiffany's - the place where nothing bad could ever happen - is John Lewis, where the only flaws are the bewildering appearance of a Waitrose where no Waitrose has been before and that the Cavendish Square stairs have three floors of female loos to one male. Oh, and a dismal male clothing section, but one goes there for cards and curtains not cardigans.

Other Londonings have included the Duchamp, Man Ray and Picaba thing at Tate Modern and the Tate Britain's Peter Doig (however that's pronounced; one can get a gorgeous smile at the helpdesk if one unintentionally happens to call him Peter Doigt while asking the way). Both good. Watch the video outside the Doig; it helps and explains why they all felt so photographic. In lieu of the heaving From Russia I did a quick flit round the miscellany of the RA's free rooms (same name as the V&A courtyard; can't spell it) which currently includes the works of an architect called Shaw, who seems to have made a certain county what it is today. The Sluggard's still best thing in there.

And then south to meet friends under a tented grill on Lilac Hill. I supposed putting a patio heater under the plastic-and-canvas-walled awning is probably less wasteful than having one exposed on a patio, but I can't help thinking that there must be a more effective way of doing things (although possibly that might entail planning permission). So if you see my ears and neck peeling you know why. Oh and do try to make sure you aren't going to end up splitting the bill if one of the party both earns an obscene about and if feeling miserable about everything (there's the sister who came off the pill with woefully predictable results which entail a feckless fellow who evidently isn't fuckless, the grandmother - the one who I helped smuggle out of a home - back in the home, but with the carer she needed out of the home [don't ask; this is more unfathomable than someone not figuring out that copulation might lead to procreation], no doubt a few other family things she declined to discuss and work wanting their money's worth). You know that wine rule of thumb about never-full glasses, the one that thinks about half or maybe two-thirds on a really bad day is about right? The friend not only managed to serve herself and only herself with the house white (there's being morose and there's being antisocial), but was only saved from puddling and the resultant quaffing by the meniscus. Which then launched a reservoir race among the rest of the table, with me being far too good-natured (or possibly just well-brought-up) to either join in or swig straight from the bottle.

So know-no-bounds conversation ensued, which probably makes it just as well the small boy who'd taken intent interest in one of our party was trapped inside the windows of the restaurant and had to satisfy himself with peekaboo round a spindly mullion. And then after much waiting to pay the bill (why do I never dare to follow through with my inevitable suggestion that if you make it to the exit without someone appearing then they obviously aren't that keen on collecting the money and so the meal's on the house?) we adjourned via an off-licence (with much opprobrium deluged upon me for suggesting I'd just eke something out, which was thought to be not in keeping with the spirit of a Saturday night [well, if you lot hadn't just bankrupted me with your multitude of drinks and nigh-on most expensive thing on the menu meals. And yes, I had already worked out how much the discrepancy was before we'd left the restaurant]) back to the friend's. Whereupon we argued over music, mocked the friend for still using both Internet Explorer and Hotmail, then I broke ranks and flat rules because I was trying not scream at her over her stupidity - just because you've already had cancer is not a valid reason to take up smoking; chemotherapy does not inoculate - and she later retaliated by proclaiming, just after I'd described the blue on the end of a row of houses in a shot on her wall as duck-egg, "God, you must be gay". Knowing words, knowing the name for things, is not really an indicator of homosexuality. What should I have said instead? That it was a dense eau-de-nil (which somehow in my mind is much paler and much bluer than Wikitionary claims it to be. I always thought it was a slightly light inky ecru [another YMBG word? Who cares; it's good for Scrabble]).

And speaking of YMBGs, a funny thing happened on the way back from the forum. I'd just got off the train at the frankly unimaginative place, when slowed by the sheep (the bleats were very public school) gathering by gate, I noticed a couple behind the carriage window opposite clearly attempting to discover if dental enamel can spark fire as well as flints. Then I thought that for an emo he's quite cute, and so is, er, he. It's a sight that's fairly rare beyond sticky corners of darkened rooms in London, let alone in the valley of the thoroughly blinkered. PDAs if they happen at all here tend to be among the artfully scruffy and beBarboured to the clack of great-aunt pearls and gurgles from off-road pushchairs. And even those draw stern and scornful looks from those who know where they can still get twinsets.

In this town the nearest one normally gets to any such thing is the laying on of hands by a certain shop proprietor and knowing eye contact from the only man in the High Street wearing a hat along with mustard cords and matching scarf (there was apparently a gay bar marooned by an inner ring round in the nearest bigger settlement, but the brewery decided line-dancing was a bigger market). The joys of being a small-town boy. How's it go? Run away, run away, run away?

I am of course neglecting to mention to the rather frumpy girls clearing enjoying the entertainment on the other side of the table. No idea if they fit the description of fag hags (I thought they all either had to look like someone's mother or a drag queen, or for some unfortunate children, both. I'm also suddenly wondering if the quaffing friend above is one. In fairness most of her coterie were friends before the gayness struck, and she does have straight male friends (however odd) and flatmate, who wasn't quite sure if I was joking when it was pointed out that unlike other combinations within the party we'd never been together and I added the single word 'yet'; granted this was in the same conversation as pondering whether incest is still incest if no inbreeding can ensue, so it might not have been wholly serious) or if they were the respective girlfriends daring their drunk boyfriends to break all taboos and do the most outrageous thing conceivable (here it's not such much the love that dare not speak its name but the affliction that dare not). Obviously I'm assuming they were an irrelevance rather than attempting irreverence.

Oh, and a general tip. Don't fall over the white painted step near the Hayward Gallery. It hurts, the paving where your hands skid out in support will be left noticeably cleaner and your big toe may never forgive you, at least until the internal water table drops.


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