Monday, 20 September 2010

No Pain, No Fame

One of the benefits of living in London is that you are bound to spot a celebrity or two, whether it’s at a premiere in Leicester Square or whilst sipping a pint in the Hawley Arms. Or so I am told. You see, I’ve never really spotted a celebrity in London, partly because I have become exceedingly good at switching off from the rest of the general public when I am on my travels, and partly because I don’t read OK or pay much attention to Z list gossip. In fact, up until a couple of weeks ago, the best I could come up with was some indie kid from Fame Academy spotted on the escalator at Kings Cross.
However I recently met someone outside a court when a particularly prominent celeb was due to leave after yet another scrape with the law. The paparazzi were held at bay by a half a dozen cops, allowing a path between the court exit and the Said Celeb’s waiting car. It all seemed quite amicable. Until Said Celeb appeared.
Like I say, I don’t tend to go celeb spotting, so I wasn’t prepared for the behaviour of the paps. A pack of wolves is the closest I can get to describing them, interested in nothing but getting a photo of their prey. Never mind that this is a fellow human being. The notion of human compassion is clearly not one the average pap is particularly familiar with. When they started to climb onto his car I struggled to see these people as human at all.
I have told several people about this experience, and how shocking I found it. Most people shrug, and tell me that if you use the media to promote yourself then you have to expect it.
Really? I mean, if you are a performer, then surely it is inevitable that you will be seen in the public eye. And, unless you live like a hermit, of course you’re going to get snapped leaving pubs and clubs. What worries me, though, is how the media are so quick to jump on the mighty when they fall. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing people who have made something of themselves disgraced. Whether it’s being arrested, being sectioned or putting on weight, people suck it up with relish. You have to be thick skinned to be a success in this town, because as soon as cracks begin to show people will line up to watch your life come crashing down. As for those who try to break away from a harmful lifestyle, whether it’s using drugs or committing crime, I wish them luck, as there is always someone ready to pull them back down as soon as the going gets tough.
I am not religious in any shape or form, but I often quote a line from the bible that I actually agree with: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It’s quite straight forward really. Treat other people as you would like to be treated in their situation. With courtesy and respect. Not a lot to ask. Is it?

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Tube Boob

I love my flat. Not because it is particularly big or in a posh area, but because it is within walking distance from work. Admittedly, half an hours’ walking distance from work, but it gives me a chance to wake up and wind down on a daily basis. Something I would definitely miss if I had to catch the tube every day.
So, technically, the tube strike shouldn’t have affected me this week. Unfortunately this was not the case. I had a meeting planned for 9am on Tuesday in Camden Town. Not being used to a daily commute, the thought of catching a bendy bus during rush hour didn’t faze me. This was a big mistake. The first five buses to pass our bus stop didn’t even open their doors. The first one that did spewed out a handful of harassed commuters who were quickly replaced by the feisty among those of us stood at the bus stop. Luckily, a 253 finally stopped and opened its back doors. Determined not to miss my meeting, I got my elbows out and joined in the scrum. Amazingly I secured my place, albeit precariously close to the door, and hung on for dear life. Incredulously, at the next stop, I secured a seat. Result.
Throughout the rest of the day I managed to get a seat on every mode of transport I used. Okay, so when I jumped on the Northern line I had to jump straight off again after hearing an announcement that they were not stopping at Mornington Crescent, but the latest I was for any of my meetings that day was 15 minutes. Not bad.
However, the next day the tube was not so kind. Yes, the strike was over, but I had to travel across London, north to south, in order to arrive at Clapham for 9am. Again, my lack of recent experience travelling at rush hour hindered me. The first train to Morden was rammed to the rafters, so I jumped on the second train that pulled into Archway and changed at Camden. After running from one platform to the other, it would have been easier to wait at Archway and at least guarantee breathing space if nothing else. Needless to say I was 15 minutes late, decidedly hot and bothered and gasping for a little bit of personal space. Not a good first impression for your first day at college.
So, next week I shall be giving myself an extra half an hour to ensure that I arrive cool, calm and collected. I shall also be more mindful of any tube strikes that happen to lurk around any future corners. I’ll also be praying to anyone who listens that they don’t fall on a Wednesday and be looking very closely at commuting routes if I ever end up moving further away from the office. Let’s face it, the only mode of transport you can rely on in this town are your feet, and even they need servicing once in a while. A car is becoming more attractive every day...

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Don't Cry Over Spoilt Milk...

On Thursday I returned to London after a few days out of the capital. I admit I felt my anxiety rise as soon as our train pulled into Kings Cross. The hustle of the city was just a reminder that I was back home and soon to be back at work. It didn’t help when, the following morning, I realised that the pint of milk I had bought the following day was three days out of date. Foregoing cereal and settling for toast I later popped back to the shop I had purchased the white stuff from, expecting a straight exchange.
I took the offending item out of my bag and placed it on the counter. The shop assistant looked at me disapprovingly.
“What is the problem?”
“It’s out of date. And I only bought it yesterday.”
He finished serving another customer before turning back to me.
“When did you buy it?”
“About 3.30, I think.”
He shook his head. “You can’t have bought it from here. I re-stocked the milk before then.”
I looked at him incredulously. “But, I did. We caught a bus from Kings Cross at about three and came in here to buy milk.”
He shrugged. “You’ll have to come back after 6 to see the person who served you.”
Dumbstruck, I went off on my other errands, vowing I would not be patronising that shop again unless I was apologised to when I returned that evening. I popped back at about seven and spoke to the woman who had served us the day before. I explained my earlier conversation with her colleague.
“Did you buy it from this shop?”
“Did you take another pint when you came in earlier?”
“No, I was told to come back after six.”
She shrugged. “Just take another one.”
So I did. But I was not satisfied. What happened to “the customer is always right”? And apologising when you sell out of date produce? Apparently the customer is assumed to be pulling a fast one to get a free pint of milk. More than a little insulting, especially when it comes down to something of the value of 50p.
By Saturday, I was in a grim mood and decided I needed to chill. I arranged to meet a friend on the Southbank to go to the Tate Modern. The riverside was packed with tourists so I was relieved to get inside the gallery and wander around the impressive space and ever-changing collection. Feeling much better, I headed back to the Southbank with my friend to grab a bite to eat at the food market. Luckily it was late in the day and the bread and cake stall were selling off their produce BOGOF, so I headed home with two foccacias and a piece of banana bread for Him Indoors. Happy days.
Today I persuaded Him Indoors to go out for Sunday lunch to mark the end of my week of leisure. We headed to our local and tucked into roast chicken with all the trimmings. The staff were great, asking us if our food was okay and recommending desserts. Attentive, but not in your face. My faith began to return in London’s customer service and I headed home full of good grub and ready for an afternoon nap.
Tomorrow I have to go back to work and deal with the real world again. But at least I know that I can always escape from the grindstone if I need to.