Friday, 31 October 2008


My route home involves a quick walk through Hammersmith tube station, which, like many tube stations, has a sad and nasty new-build pub in it. Every night as I go past I get a heady whiff of old chip-fat, spilt beer, and the quiet desperation of any pub that is nobody's local. Also... inappropriate karaoke. I can't begin to imagine what mildly deranged urge makes people want to do karaoke at 6 in the evening on a work night, at least initially sober, in a tube station pub, but evidently they do. If I had a pound for every time I've overheard some sad woman singing "Wind Beneath My Wings" (or insert name of unseemly power-ballad here) I'd be halfway to quite a nice secondhand car. Going through yesterday, and admittedly it was nearer 9pm than 6, I heard a man singing, and I swear with my hand on my heart this is true, "Can't Touch This" by M C Hammer. What kind of choice is that? It's the choice of a man who knows he can't sing, but foolishly believes he can rap. With the possible exception of "Walking In The Air" I can't actually think of anything less suited to being sung by an accountant in a suit, but I'm prepared to find I'm wrong, probably this evening as I walk past again...

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Zombie Davina, a quick tribute

Davina, in last night's Dead Set, shown shortly prior to tearing someone's throat out and feasting on their entrails, in a literal way rather than the usual figurative way of Big Brother...

Davina McCall wins this year's Lucy award for "Celeb who isn't afraid of laughing at themselves and their public image". Although it was a close shave for "Dr" Fox for his almost self parody on Peter Kay's Britain's Got The Pop Factor And Possibly A New Jesus Christ Soapstar Superstar Strictly On Ice - but Davina scoops it, partly because I just don't like "Dr" Fox.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Am I being unreasonable?

So I'm at work, and I'm on my own. An irony is that it's easier for me to have a swift cigarette (5mins) (and yes, sorry again) than go to the loo (25 seconds) - having a cigarette means waiting till the shop's empty, then standing outside. I can see people come in, I can hastily fling my smouldering dog-end down the drain in the gutter in front of me (don't worry, full of water), and rush in to be helpful or well-informed or whateverrrr. Going to the loo is another matter, as the loo is out at the back of the shop, which means I have to hope nobody comes in (while I am soundproofed behind two doors) and shoplifts/robs the till. AAAAAAAnyway. So, after 20 minutes of no customers (which is why I have time to write this!) I race out the back, and on my return find a woman standing accusingly at the till.

"There wasn't anybody to serve me!" she says crossly, having been waiting all of 10 seconds.

"I'm sorry," I say, "I'm on my own today. How can I help?"

"Can you tell me where Brookford Road is? "

"I'm afraid not, I don't live round here. Maybe if you ask in the café next door?"

"Don't you have an A to Z?"

"Yes, downstairs in the travel section."

"I don't do stairs." she says crossly, glares at me, heaves a heavy wounded sigh at my unhelpfulness, and leaves before I have a chance to say anything (or even offer to fetch her an A to Z she won't be buying, just cracking the spine and leaving).

Now IS IT JUST ME or is that fairly unreasonable behaviour? We're a bookshop, not a tourist bureau - and while I sort of understand what makes people think that libraries are a place where, to paraphrase Robert Frost, when you go there they have to take you in (untrue and unfair though that is to libraries), where's the logic with bookshops? Is it a backhanded compliment ("You're a temple of intellect and information, so your priorities can't be anything so vulgar as making money")? Or what?? And even if she hoped that I (the person, not the bookseller) might personally know where Brookford Road was, why get grumpy with me for not knowing?

Sorry, not enough coffee.

Monday, 20 October 2008


I've been tagged by the grotto of delight that is Perfume Shrine, and after trying to think of things about myself that I haven't already said (I'm hardly Mrs Enigmatic) here we go.

Six random things about me :

a)I am allergic to Metronidazole. Never heard of it? Neither had I, until I was prescribed it and nearly died. I persisted in taking it even while the migraine, double vision and swollen joints threatened to cripple me. I thought because it was an antibiotic it would make me feel better. Oddly the fact that I could no longer feel my extremities as I crawled to the loo didn't tip me off.

b) I make the finest, crunchiest, most golden roast potatoes in the world. I will take on all comers. The secret, sadly if you're a vegetarian, is goose fat.

c) Back in my Air France days Omar Sharif once sent me a postcard thanking me for getting him from Cairo to Nice during a baggage-handlers' strike. It wasn't easy, I can tell you. I had to reroute the poor man via Paris AND Amsterdam. At least he was in Club.

d) I was interviewed on Radio 4 a while back about the preponderence of parody books (Bored Of The Rings, The Va Dinci Cod, Barry Trotter et al) in the run-up to Christmas. While I had a fabulous speech all prepared about parody being one of the oldest forms of humour, it was reduced to about 45 seconds in total (including "candid" background noise of me at the till) on air. I got my name read out though! Have also accidentally been interviewed on TV twice but have already covered that...

e) When I was 7 I invented knitting. No lie. Casting on, and everything. My grandmother had to kindly explain to me that it had been around since the egyptians. I still invented it, though...

f) I have double-jointed fingers and can bend them back like a Thai dancer. While this was great when I was at school, making me top pick in certain rarefied gym activities (I can balance a netball on the back of my hand like nobody else), apparently it means I'll have terrible arthritis later in life. Never a silver lining without a cloud, eh? Also means I have to be careful when gesturing, as there's a fine line that separates graceful Pavlova hands from weird bendy E.T. hands... see bottom right.

I'm making myself popular by tagging Steve, JRSM, Reluctant Blogger, Can Bass 1, Scentself, and of course Laura because she just can't get enough memes (snicker). I would have tagged Mantua Maker and Titian-Red but neither of them has a blog (yet).

1. Link to the person who tagged you

2. Post the rules on your blog

3. Write six random things about yourself

4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them
5. Let each person know they've been tagged and leave a comment on their blog
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Just a quick one.

I was serving a customer yesterday. As she was paying she was chatting cosily to her beloved on her mobile (I presume that's who she was talking to, as she had suddenly adopted a startlingly twee ickle-girly voice and kept calling him "Baby" - presumably not her bank manager then, although in this financially unstable day and age who knows? Whatever gets you that overdraft). Her attention was caught by a pile of Mr Men bookmarks on the till - she picked up the one saying "Mr Perfect" and said "What's this?" "It's a bookmark." I replied. She put it back. "Oh no, he doesn't read." she said, and left. To which all one can say is: Well, he isn't Mr Perfect then, is he?????

Or am I being overly subjective?

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Spread the payments or share the love?

You think it's bad seeing Christmas decorations everywhere, try being the poor benighted shop-monkey who has to price them all. I speak from my dungeon of pain (actually the sunny, warm, south-facing back office) with a price gun in my hand (also a large latte and a scotch egg). It is only October the 11th, and I am half-buried in boxes of charideeee cards and slippery bundles of giftwrap.
Yes, there is a credit crunch on, a term that always makes me think of Kit-Kats (mmmm... Kit-Kats...), and I appreciate that people find it easier to start shopping for the festive season in October, thus spreading the financial load over two or three months. However, shouldn't we be crediting the great buying public with some intelligence? The Mighty Bookstore Chain I used to work for had a phase-by-phase military-style operation that would roll out in September. Phase 1 was called "Early Gifting", a phrase that actually makes me physically ill. CDs of Christmas music were played from the start of November, and by the time the doors shut on Christmas Eve, you were ready to commit homicide if you heard "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" again. Seasoned booksellers could be reduced to a twitching wreck by the repeated whispering of "Pa-rum-pa-pum-pum....".
Christmas happens at the same time every year, and I defy you to prove otherwise (Leap Years don't count). People are unlikely to be taken aback on December the 23rd; although some of us are surprised by our own lack of preparation, it's not as if we didn't know it was going to happen. Everybody knows money is tight, and will be planning their spending accordingly. So why insult everybody by reminding them, in late September even, that they may need to start buying presents? Share the love! Stop the madness! I recommend a ban on all mention of Christmas until the second week in December. Starting, obviously, from 5 minutes after I publish this post.