Archive for the ‘Posts by Delilah’ Category
Just a quick update to say that I have, while shamefully neglecting this blog (and without Mill’s excuse of starting at a rather prestigious university), been moonlighting over at Madame Guillotine’s blog again – this time to burble about sexy Romans.
Unpaid tourist board work and/or gushing endlessly about London continues! [I have been living in this city for 10 years this September and I am still not sick of it].
PUBS & BARS
Green Carnation, Soho
An admirable partner to dinner at Balans and a good night out. Costly, flash, comfortable, and usually packed after about 7.30pm. The decor is incredible – greens and golds, flock and pannelling, squashy fireside chairs, a DJ for later in the night – and it has a bookable downstairs. Covered in Oscar Wilde quotes, with an extensive selection of cocktails to go with the enormous choice of spirits, wines and bottle beers. A gay bar with a slight lean toward professional, older men, but pretty much welcoming to anyone who fancies drinking there. I’ve celebrated my birthday in these environs several times, and quite frequently end up making friends doing so; barstaff are occasionally ditzy but attentive, friendly (and very easy on the eye). Worth the extra cash, particularly if you manage to steal one of the good seating areas, or book one for your party.
Three Compasses, Hornsey
A proper Local. There are two open fires, a decent amount of food, guest ales and wines, plenty of places to sit, and an apparently endless selection of activities taking place: I’ve been there for quiz nights, carol singing, big-screen sports, there’s a pool table, last time I ended up in there the back room had an Elvis impersonater … there is a “takeaway” service for two pints in a box if you so desire, and it’s entirely possible to spend all day in the pub vegetating on their extremely comfortable sofas. Barstaff range from efficient to friendly, and the set-up goes out of its way to make the place feel more like home than home does.
The Elk in the Woods, Islington
The website describes this Camden Passage hideaway as a “restaurant bar” but it is listed here under drinking places for the superb and delicious range of virgin cocktails it offers. The food is mid-to-good quality, but it is recommended as a mid-day stop-off while wandering the shops of Camden Passage, for both the drinks and the atmosphere. Try to grab the exceedingly comfortable armchairs by the fireplace as you come in, and don’t be put off by the large stuffed deer’s head hanging above you.
The BFI riverfront Bar, South Bank
Located directly under Waterloo Bridge on the South Bank of the river, right next to the excellent South Bank Book Market and within spitting distance of the National Theatre, this bar has become a favourite of mine in the last couple of years for many reasons: the location plays a great part, as does the year-round outdoor deckchairs allowing you to look out over the river while enjoying your drinks, but what’s kept me coming back are the friendly and inventive barstaff (on one occasion, unable to provide me with a strawberry daiquiri, one of the bartenders created a new cocktail for me), the seasonal cocktails, and the delicious pint-glass-of-sausage rolls. Obviously recommended for pre-screening drinks if you are attending a film at the BFI, but a worthwhile stop if you are visiting anywhere along the South Bank.
Post by Delilah. More recommendations can be found in the “where to go in London” tag.
I love sounding like a pretentious dickface. Anyway, just updating to let anyone following know that Melanie Clegg’s second novel, Blood Sisters, is out soon and that I did the cover art. At lightning speed, no less.
Post by Delilah.
I was reminded recently that my “where to go in London” post which I made in about 2006 hadn’t really been updated in a while, so I thought I’d make a series of new ones. Click the “where to go in london” category for more of the same.
Atmosphere: Located smack bang in the middle of the Gayest Bit of London. I would say it’s impossibly trendy, but trends change every second, so what I will say is that it is very flash, very “vibrant”, and very loud. It’s the kind of place you go to eat if you have plans to do something afterward, like heavy drinking, dancing, or watching a show (very well situated for this given that it’s a stone’s throw from the West End, and you can walk in off the street and get a table).
It’s snazzy and loud and excitable and filled with cocktails and cute young waitstaff; there are mirrors on the walls and indirect lighting and floor-to-ceiling windows and a general sense of happening.
Food: Good stuff, reasonably priced. There is a wide range on the menu and a good selection of specials, and it serves breakfast through to supper; my favourites are the Big Chips and their steak is really quite good. Definitely worth indulging in the cocktails.
Atmosphere: This is in Mayfair, so there is an instant sense of upmarketness; it is also quieter than a Soho restaurant. Unfortunately this does mean you will occasionally have to rub elbows with wankstain businessmen, but thanks to Goodman’s being large you at least won’t have to sit too near them. Waitstaff are not only polite and soft-spoken, they are knowledgeable about their area (MEAT) and will bring the cuts out to demonstrate exactly what you get when you order each thing. Recommendations are given with restrained enthusiasm.
“Quiet” is absolutely the key to this place – the oak panneling and and depth of the rooms from the street give a sense of being removed from the world in order to enjoy good food. This place is all about the food.
Food: Superlative. Their deserts are mouth-bothering, their starters are inventively delicious, small enough to whet the appetite but not to diminish it, and the meat is beyond description. Lindsay has made so-so motions about their burgers (the best burger place in London is Byron’s in High Street Kensington) but you don’t go to Goodman’s for burgers. You go for steak.
Guys. I cannot say enough good things about their steak. There simply aren’t words. I can fling about specifics of my favourite there – Irish grass-fed dry-aged for 28 days, T-bone – but it won’t do it justice. This is BEEF. BEEF the way BEEF should be fed to people – rich and red and virtually raw (well, the way *I* ordered it, which was blue, because I am a disgusting carnivore), and tasting extremely meaty. It stuns people to silence.
Succulent, perfectly-prepared beef. To use the sauce (choice of four) given with it would be sacrelige. Save that for the chips. Which are also delicious.
Banners, Crouch End
Atmosphere: Homely. Crouch End is a middle-class-ish area with a history rooted in stand-up comedy and 60s music, and although Banners is on a busy road it’s still a fairly secluded busy road. I cannot stress the eclectic, comfortable, laid-back charm of this place; covered in ancient posters, cork-boards advertising local community things, and framed prints in a strata of interesting things, a motley collection of naked, unvarnished wooden tables and chairs, odd hanging lamps, and a bar equipped with a cinema popcorn warmer. The menus are garish and strange and drawn by children; there is a slight emphasis on ethical interests, long-past boxing matches, and biker culture. It is like being in the living room of someone with a wealth of funny and fascinating anecdotes to tell and a warm and welcoming nature.
Very, very-much child-friendly.
Food: One of the things which sells me on Banners is their variety of choice which, in opposition to Ramsey’s rantings, they cook to an equitable and thoroughly delicious standard. There are small-portion options, a children’s menu with free ice-cream, and a slight bias toward Caribbean dishes. However, like the decor, the selection of dishes is delightfully eclectic and not wedded to one particular style or place.
The quality and presentation of the food is gastro-pub rather than restaurant, in that it is not fussy or frilly, and comes in sizeable, satisfying portions. “Comfortable” is the key with Banners, and rolling sittings from breakfast to supper it would be quite pleasant to spend an entire day there.
NB: While it is possible to book at all three so far, Goodman’s is about the only place it is really necessary to make a reservation at; walk-ins at Banners and Balans are the norm.
Traditional English food. Extremely good traditional English food and justly famous for its steaks. The key word for everything – fish, starters, prawns, steaks, pie, anything they serve – is succulent. Idiosyncratic and anachronistic setting, an impressive winelist and good service. Not for the faint of wallet.
Abeno Too, Leicester Square
Small and closely-packed, busy at every time of the day and therefore worth making a reservation; service can take a while due to this and the nature of the food, but it is worth the wait; food falls within the £10-£30 range and is mind-bogglingly tasty. The restaurant specialises in okonomi-yaki, a kind of Japanese Spanish Omelette which is prepared in front of you on a hot plate; the process of preparation is honesty some of the best dinner entertainment I’ve had in a while and there are few things as pleasing as watching a skilled professional plying their art.
Advice: Order smaller-sized okonomi-yaki as they are extremely filling, and try the plum wine squash, which involves diluting plum wine with lemonade to create a less sickly-sweet cocktail which pairs very well with the mains.
A gourmet burger place within easy stagger of Camden station, sandwiched between bars and a market, Haché is narrow and gregarious, and very welcoming; the décor is interesting to the point of distraction. The burgers themselves are fat and juicy, prepared however you wish, with a variety of themes – my party ate our way through the Mediterranean with a Spanish-themed burger featuring choritzo, a Scillian burger topped with parma ham and mozzarella… the most charming touch, to my mind, was the fries, served in tiny little frying baskets.
Recommended: the chocolate brownie. Highly satisfying, if you can fit it in after one of Haché’s substantial burgers.
Not recommended: hot chocolate. It was rather unpleasant.
I was fortunate enough to see Emmy perform some of the material from this album at the Purcell Room at the South Bank Centre back in March (which is, by the way, an excellent venue to experience any kind of music in, given how perfectly acoustically designed it is for listening), and so listening to the album now does tend to bring back images of blue filtered lights and Emmy tapping hypnotically at a string of sleigh bells. It also moves me to use that tired old saw of reviewing, “it sounds better live”, with the addendum “please don’t listen to this album through rubbish laptop speakers”. Really, Ms Moss’s voice deserves better reproduction than that.
As to the album itself, I suspect the term “mature” should be used to describe what has happened both to the subject matter and the lyrics; imagine a whole album of “Absentee”, with the aching undercurrent of loss toned down to barely subliminal levels. This is what maturity means in writing – becoming more literary, with more allusions to more out-of-sight touchstones that can be appreciated by a wider audience, but losing some of the bite that characterised First Love.
“Creation”, for example, is an examination of the coming-of-age story and the way it is always focussed on the achievements and trials of the young man, never the young woman; it is musically beautiful with hints of threat, and Emmy’s voice has become clearer and more powerful with time, it is a more passionate and chilling essay than anything anyone has ever written in their exercise books come exam time, but it is still an essay.
“Cassandra” is one of the the more solid songs on this album, and has been the one which caught in my head for the longest. The song itself cycles through images and notes on the unavoidable nature of beginnings and endings, with the motif of Cassandra (“keep it down”), the tragically-ignored prophetess of Greek legend, revising itself downward toward the question that makes up the backbone of it all: “What good is love if it always ends?”.
“Iris” is an uptempo track, which makes skillful use of dissonance; the twinkly melody and mentions of radiance bouncing off “what if the sight of you could take my eyes”. Like “Cassandra”, Iris is a single-statement/question song, in this instance, what the word is for the emotion the narrator or the subject (it’s not clear) is experiencing. It seems a little empty, made up of syllables to encase the central question, unlike the capsule stories which filled out much of First Love.
“A Woman, A Woman, A Century of Sleep” is, along with “Dinosaur Sex”, for me the stand-out track on this album; performed at the Purcell Room gig as the first of Emmy’s new material it produced shivers under the blue light, and the floral imagery seemed to crawl along the verses as it does over the walls of the house in the lyrics, punctured and punctuated by reference to pipes running bleach, or pipes running bone. Ordinarily I am not a great fan of anything which declares “I am a w0man” (being raised by second-wavers tends to leave one groaning “oh not this bloody affirmation again”), but as with “We Almost Had A Baby”, the shadows at the edge of the words keep the affirrmation from becoming too saccharine.
Leaving my favourite song from this album for last, there is “Dinosaur Sex”, which I am going to include a video of (from the performance of it that I saw, in fact – isn’t YouTube wonderful?).
“Dinosaur Sex” has a broader, almost country feel to it musically, and shows a return to the darker and more final imagery and language which I am more familiar with from songs like “Paper Trails” and “Two Steps Forward”. The chorus is simple and catchy, the verses haunting and somehow sounding like the memory of long-ago summers. It is a very evocative and ties in with “Cassandra”, prophecying doom in sweet tones.
In conclusion, then, Virtue is a more mature album, a more literary album, but one which in moving away from the adolescent themes of death and love has lost some of the emotional weight that First Love carried; however, almost all of the songs Virtue contains are given a significant polish by being performed live, so if it is possible I would advise going to see Emmy’s gigs.
Now, it’s been a while since I had a job, as I scampered back to full-time education and have been using this as an excuse not to get on with the demoralising business of lying to HR departments about my level of enthusiasm for filing things and trying to convince them that I am in any way a sociable human being. However, when I was in full-time employment I had a wonderful selection of terminally awful bosses, and one or two really good ones. The really good ones did things like give me free food, instill a sense of team unity without getting into disgusting bonding exercises, and ensure that they didn’t give us all contradictory instructions; the bad bosses did things like talk to me as if I was a dog, lean over my shoulder while I was working, and change the goalposts every five minutes (and refuse to train me to do my job because it was time-consuming and then yell at me for not being able to do my job: advice for large companies, if someone has been in the same role for 30 years and it doesn’t require specialist skills, you may want to consider keeping a close eye on them for psychopathic tendencies).
So here’s a nice list of ways you can get more out of your workforce when your workforce is someone like me:
- Don’t micromanage. Everyone has different ways of getting a job done and if the end result is the same, whinging at them for doing things in the order you personally wouldn’t or for slumping while they do it is pointless timewasting. Go sit behind your desk and play minesweeper or something instead.
- Make sure there is a steady workflow. If at all possible, give everyone a list of shit that needs to get done over the course of the day. If it’s supposed to be in a specific order, say so. And then let them get the fuck on with it. Interrupting to give people new work should only happen if the new work is urgent, otherwise just tack it on to the end of the list; and for fuck’s sake don’t take things off people when they’re in the middle of doing them. It’s disorienting and despiriting and depressing and nothing makes people more resentful and less productive than that. Furthermore, don’t give people one task and assure them it will take them all day, because it pretty much won’t. You can only ever have at best a vague understanding of how long your employees take to do something, and if they’re like me they will finish quickly, get bored, surf the internet while waiting for more work rather than interrupt you to get some or “take the initiative” and risk getting that wrong.
- Be aware of how people work. Your employees aren’t machines. They have different needs and approaches; some people like to chat while they work, others prefer to listen to music on headphones; some people like to work in one long lump and then have a long break, others like to take lots of little breaks; some people dip between projects, other people concentrate on one at a time; some people have their most productive periods in the mornings, others after lunch; some people are sticklers for deadlines, and other people need to be told they’re two weeks earlier than they actually are. It’s to your benefit to adjust to their methods of working rather than panickily trying to impose the same sense of order onto everyone and failing to get the most out of them.
- Either sit down or piss off. If you work in the same room as your employees, work in that room. Sit down and type or make calls, but don’t prowl around the room like you have radio-controlled underpants. It’s distracting and threatening, and as you must know, nervous people make more mistakes than calm ones. If you have to flounce around, do it outside.
- Set a good example. If you want your employees to be on time, not spend their entire time on the phone to their friends, have fewer coffee breaks, and dress smartly, you have to do the same. It gives a proclaimation a little more weight if you say “you don’t see me chatting away all afternoon” rather than, as one of my former line managers did, spending all day every day on the phone to members of your family within earshot.
- Be flexible. A workforce that’s rewarded for its loyalty and hardwork with understanding and patience doesn’t even require as much in the way of material rewards. Most people would rather have a pleasant working environment – ie. one in which disputes are settled quickly and the boss (that’s you) doesn’t behave like a gorgon, a lunatic, or a prison-warder – than a large bonus, particularly if we’re in low-responsibility jobs. It also makes us more likely to volunteer for overtime.
- Aim to be authorative. Not bossy, domineering, or shrewish. Don’t wheedle. Don’t attempt to explain the significance of the tasks you’re setting – we’re minimum wage slaves, we do not fucking care, and you cannot make us care. You’re the boss. I don’t give a blind monkey fuck why you want the files moving, just tell me to move them and I’ll move them. Don’t try to convince me of the worth of the work I’m doing, or cajole me into doing something. You are boss.
- Don’t hotdesk. You can’t prevent friendship groups or cliques from forming, it’s a deeply ingrained part of human nature. Instead of forcing everyone to move out of the position they’re comfortable in, let them have their own dominion, and remind them not to glower at other people and to save their work gossip for outside of work.
- Never make work socialisation mandatory. Just because we can get on with each other when we’re being paid to doesn’t mean we have any desire to see each other outside of the workplace. If we want to come, we’ll come, and if you make it an offer it’s far more likely to breed camaraderie than if everyone is required to spend additional unpaid time around people from work. Furthermore, not everyone is a great socialiser. They may well be a great employee, but you don’t get anywhere forcing the leopard to change her spots for the sake of “workplace spirit” – all this does is breed resentment.
- Keep calm. You’re in charge, here. Your panic is contagious, and so is your anger. There are other ways to convey the gravity and importance of a situation or timeframe than by being emotional: they’re called words. If you’re straightforwards about the relative importance of various tasks and projects, people will respond accordingly.
It feels nice telling the boss what to do. Maybe I’ll try this again sometime.
On Wednesday I went to see Thor with my boyfriend. On Wednesday, during the day, on one of those Orange Wednesday deals, cinemas almost relent in their pocket-gouging, wallet-devouring expense sufficiently to make them worth going to. Also during the day the Wood Green Vue is empty enough that the desire to commit genocide doesn’t begin until after the film has finished and I’ve been spat back out into the middle of a hideous shopping thoroughfare.
It is important that you understand the circumstances: this was a cheap film, I was bored, and I have a lot of homework to distract myself from. So when I say “it wasn’t a waste of money” you will be aware that I didn’t actually spend any money, and that when I say “it wasn’t a waste of time”, you will be aware that I was actively looking to squander some.
I’m less educated about Norse myths than my other half, who is something of a fan (possibly because he looks like a wizened version of the God of Thunder himself), but the film is of course based on the Marvel Comics Avengers-member Thor. Now my opinion in this area is probably unpopular (they usually are), but I think I liked the comic-book Thor best in Ultimates – the Marvel reboot which also saw Captain America turn into a raving dickhead, and fulfilled many a teenage boy’s long-lived dream in Ultimate X-men by making Colossus gay; in Ultimates, it’s actually debatable whether Thor is really the god of thunder from Asgard, or whether he’s just a mental with superpowers. Oh, and he’s a rabid environmentalist.
The movie, which if there is any justice in box office returns will not make a great deal, leaves us with no such ambiguity. It also leaves us with approximately no surprises whatsoever, broadcasting every single event, character, and line from a thousand miles away. You do not have to be Heimdall, possessed of world-penetrating sight, to spot them, either.
Every single fight scene is dotted throughout the course of the film with precision, and I can’t help thinking someone has sat down with a stop-watch and a copy of the script and some focus group responses in order to place them in exactly the right spots to maintain peak interest from the core audience. Said audience are clearly not me, as I found them enormously boring: continuing the current tradition whereby so much swooping, shaking camerawork is involved in hand-to-hand combat scenes that it’s no longer necessary to choreograph them to make sense – no longer necessary and no longer even possible.
There is little point getting into the dialogue, which thuds along, merrily pleased with itself and its banal quips and occasional knowing asides to Marvel fans in the audience OH LOOK THERE’S HAWKEYE and a lot of the Asgardians standing around Talking Like Wankers. At least the last part is, unfortunately, canonical. I promise I am expecting very little from comic book movies – some jokes which actually make me laugh, a little charisma from the lead, a little chemistry with the romantic lead that is mandatory in almost every big-budget movie, and some heavy-handed moralising which I’d rather not have but know I’m not allowed to live without. Oh, and Stan Lee, who in this turns up in a truck trying to pull Mjolnir from the crater in which it has landed.
It is customary to find things one liked, or didn’t actively hate, about a movie one is reviewing (
no but seriously do we have to have explanatory flashbacks and the same computer-animation sequences from Lord of the Rings but in different and highly implausible armour?), so I shall lay off Anthony Hopkins phoning in his performance in favour of being pleased with Stellan Skasgard instead; I shall be pleased with Kat Dennings in general for being at least vaguely interesting, and praise Natalie Portman for gamely struggling with an abysmally dull character who – in spite of being a driven and apparently intelligent woman in the manner of female Hollywood scientists who Do It Because Daddy Did – magically lost her spine and personality the minute she became infatuated with a large blond wall, Nickelback in a plaid shirt, the All-American Hero as portrayed via Norway.
Norway in this movie, incidentally, is rendered in CGI.
The title character and supposed hero of the story actually does very little in the way of character development – he’s boorish and annoying, gets a slap on the wrist, can’t lift his hammer, falls in love with a pretty girl, becomes less of an asshole, is suddenly able to lift the hammer (because he’s PROVEN HIMSELF WORTHY, DO YOU SEE?), and then has a fight with his brother and mopes around being all manly and sad while his father blames the Little Freak he adopted.
Which is the main thing I found iffy about the film: Loki, who is one of the great characters of mythology, is masterfully portrayed by Tom Hiddleston. He is determined to act while all those around him are standing around reciting lines, chewing scenery, or extending a hand for their paycheques, and he brings far more sympathy to the role of the envious, nervous, devious outcast than anyone manages to bring to any of the Good Guys. He is also the only person from Asgard who doesn’t suffer from Talking Like A Wanker syndrome; possibly because he’s not an Asgardian, but an Ice Giant. This is painfully obvious from the get-go; what’s less obvious is his motivation, until he more or less spells it out during a final fight with his adopted (blond, huge, All-American, Shiny White Teeth) brother.
Such exposition is at least in keeping with the grand tradition of Marvel. It is very hard to forget, for example, the precise moment and manner in which John Byrne had Northstar out himself …
What about Loki’s storyline left a bad taste in my mouth? Well, apart from the idea that anyone not physically strong is automatically a traitor, the distrust of eloquence (although given the quality of writing it’s not hard to see why the script might favour a Wit Is Bad approach), and the undercurrent of “adoptees are not to be trusted”, there is the crescendo of the movie, in which Loki looks to his father for validation that he could at least have successfully destroyed Jotunheim (yes! He wanted to destroy the Ice Giants instead of defecting to them, and all for his father’s approval) had Thor not prevented him. Rather than a tactful “you could have done it, but you shouldn’t have and you didn’t need to prove anything to me”, Odin’s response is effectively “LOL NO”, after which Loki commits Pseudocide, or Disney Falling Villain Death of the “there’s no corpse so he can have him back later” school, over the edge of the world. Charming.
Women who do anything: Frigga, Thor’s mother, draws a sword against Laufy, the King of the Frost Giants (in Norse Mythology, Laufy is the mother of Loki), but immediately gets walloped aside; Jane Foster chases “disturbances” and then large blond men with unsupportable claims without doing a great deal of questioning and is more or less portrayed as a pair of delighted ovaries with a passing interest in sciense; and Lady Sith kicks some arse for a little bit while hanging around with the most boring, badly-scripted, pointless non-sidekicks imaginable.
Take away message: Adopted kids are evil, it’s okay to play favourites with your kids, everything works out if you’re big enough and blonde nough.
Special effects: Excellent when in our world, but Asgard and Jotunheim appear to have been envisaged by an imagination-deficient savant after several watchings of Lord of the Rings and a few leafings through the Encylcopedia of Fantasy & Sci Fi Art.
VERDICT: Kind of dull but an inoffensive way to pass spare hours. Will not be watching it again.
Both of us are afflicted with a certain degree of, well, how shall I put this?
Delilah has long-since perfected the art of “making my boyfriend do absolutely everything short of wiping my arse”, but even in the dark days pre-partner had mastered the delicate science of doing as little as possible, and Amelia is single.
There are several domestic areas which take up far too much time, effort, and unexpected monetary expenditure, and you will recognise them by this: they are the ones which students almost invariably neglect first.
Pots, pans, plates, palaver. With good cooking comes ten thousand things to wash up, especially if you’re operating under mis-en-scene for the sake of ease and speed; this, however, needn’t be the case. There are myriad dishes which only really require one pan in which to cook them – you can, after all, fry mince-meat in the same pot you just boiled the pasta that is now draining over the sink – and this business of eating off a plate is sorely over-rated. Eating out of a pan is entirely preferrable, and if you can do it standing next to the sink or the cooker you don’t have to walk as far to put it in to soak.
[Note, as environmentally conscious lazy people we're not recommending that you use paper plates or eat disposable dinners. That would just be crass.]
The other trick to doing as little as possible when it comes to washing up is not to leave your dishes for as long as humanly possible – laziness is not equal to procrastination, because putting things off makes for more work, not less. The smart indolent person rinses regularly; whether it’s your coffee cup or the saucepan you just made spag-bol in, if you sluice it immediately after finishing there’s a good chance you won’t have to scrub it at all. And voila, no soaking, no elbow-grease, and no expensive detergent required.
Cleaning your house
A clean house is a sign of an empty mind. It’s also a signal that you intend to have people over to visit, which is not compatible with laziness. Take it from us, it’s far better for your reserves of effort to live in relative squalor and head out to be entertained in style elsewhere than it is to maintain a perfect home but save yourself the trip; apart from anything else, hosts have to cook, clean, put off the washing up until everyone’s gone home, and deal with the stress of wondering if people are fornicating in your watercloset. Meanwhile, as a guest all you have to do is show up looking presentable and with whatever bottle of cheap plonk you salvaged from the bargain bin at Morrisson’s, and try not to get too hopelessly lost on the way to the bog. Advantage: visitor.
For optimum cleanliness there are really only a couple of things to remember:
- Mice and cockroaches can’t get at things in metal containers. Army surplus stores sell fantastically stable footlockers in which to stash non-fridge foods, and they stack well. No, your kitchen will not look like a magazine showhome, but that takes effort, and effort is what we’re trying to avoid, here.
- Keep the lid of your kitchen waste bin closed at all times and both the stench and the likelihood of insect life taking up residence in there is greatly diminished. Also, while it may seem tempting to wait as long as possible before emptying the bin, if it’s summer and you live below the arctic circle your garbage can produce a thriving population of maggots in two days flat. Empty it frequently.
- The less stuff you have sitting out in the open, the easier it is to vacuum the accumulated dust out of your house every six months (or every six years, if you’re Delilah and don’t have any dust mite-related allergies); keep things in boxes. Those army surplus footlockers we mentioned, or nice big clear plastic boxes. [NB: If you sort out a system for what goes in which box at the start, it will save you a tonne of effort later on].
- It’s easier to wash slippers than carpets – go with wood laminate flooring and you can pretty much just kick dirt around instead of grinding it into the carpet.
- There is no shame in having to wear Doc Martens to safely walk through your own kitchen.
Not only is washing your clothes annoying, it’s also expensive and a waste of water. Oftentimes, you can avert doing the washing for weeks at a time with nothing more than some floorspace or a towel rack (or, for particularly stubborn cases, Febreeze.) All you need to do is make sure that your clothes are aired out, preferably over night. In the morning, if they pass the sniff test, they’re good to go–if not, hit them with the Febreeze and leave them for another night. You can extend the wearability of your clothes for weeks just like that. With undergarments (bras, knickers, boxers, singlets, etc.) washing can be slightly more important; bras and undershirts can be aired out, but will usually need washing before the rest of your clothes, and for the sake of hygeine underpants should be washed more regularly.
On the plus side, regular washing of your undergarments means your clothes can go even longer before they need a wash. If you’re lucky enough to be female, pantyliners can be an invaluable resource; if you’re lucky you can make your knickers last an extra week or more.
When neither airing nor Febreeze will stop the stink, or when you spill something on them, you will have to wash your clothes. There’s really nothing to be done to simplify this part of the process; just suck it up, follow the instructions on the machine, and above all remember to seperate the darks and the lights. Trying to fix clothes affected by running dye is annoying, and the antithesis of laziness.
The whole process of reusing clothes also becomes simpler if your wardrobe has a tendancy towards the nondescript. People tend not to notice if you wear the same pair of plain blue jeans for several days; jeans with artful rips, sparkles, or excessive embroidery are much harder to rewear without arousing suspicion. Plain black shirts work in much the same way, with the additional bonus of stains showing up less on dark materials.
Now the TV is the friend of the lazy person, but sometimes it is a lot of effort to turn the wretched box on. Fortunately, there are even more indolent alternatives for the truly idle. People-watching, for example, or people-listening (also known as “spying on the neighbours”) can provide one with hours of drama, comedy, and occasionally accidental pornography. And, naturally, there is the joy of self-love; masturbation is not only sex with someone you love, but cheap, entertaining, and not even something you have to get out of bed for.
We do not advise combining the two suggestions in this section: masturbation while people-watching is creepy and ultimately leads to either restraining orders or blisters.
The lazy man gets around the sun as quickly as the busy one.
– R.T. Wombat
Driving is filled with effort and rage. Walking involves moving your legs too much; public transport requires organisational skills which require thinking, and hitch-hiking both calls for perky conversation with strangers and carries the risk of dying in the back of a Ford transit at the hands of someone who has unresolved mummy issues. Fortunately the internet, or “Satan’s own plaything”, has the answer; you don’t need to transport yourself when you can let the world come to you. With the except of friends’ parties, which a simple “I can’t drive” will avail you of lifts to, there are few things that people cannot deliver to your door, often within twenty-four hours. Most of them seem to come from Amazon these days, and we are eagerly awaiting the launch of their “order Alexander Skarsgard for free next-day delivery” service (customers who bought this also bought Peter Skarsgard: 2%. Sorry, Pete).
As mentioned, the internet is a wonderful resource. There are even websites that will deliver food to your door. Unfortunately, these websites are often limited in their range of delivery, and the meals themselves can be expensive, so the occasional trip out of the house can be valuable.
The key thing is to shop in the same way teenage boys have sex; in and out in two minutes flat. When shopping for food, stick to things that are both cheap and filling. Pretty much anything with excessive amounts of starch gets a thumbs-up here–bread, pasta, ramen, and rice are good places to start, and can easily be augmented with things like peanut butter, frozen vegetables, and sauce in a jar, if scurvey isn’t your thing. Buying in bulk is also a must; carrying a ten kilo bag of rice home may be annoying, but it cuts down the number of times you have to leave the house drastically. If you’re shopping for something other than groceries, take a moment to plan your attack carefully. Try to figure out where the thing you want is in the store, and go straight there. Do not allow yourself to be distracted by the bright lights and vivid colours, and do not let yourself be suckered in by signs that say things like On Sale or Reduced. After all, the less time you spend in the outside world, the more time you have to entertain yourself.
Or, to give it its full and wonderfully unwieldy title, An Utterly Exasperated History of Modern Britain: or Sixty Years of Making the Same Stupid Mistakes as Always. The sequel to the equally unwieldy An Utterly Impartial History of Britain: (or 2000 Years Of Upper Class Idiots In Charge), this employs the familiar facetious tone and modern angle on recent history that O’Farrell previously used in summarising vast swathes of British History until the end of WW2.
Once again, O’Farrell abandons the “people were different in the past and everyone knows that” starting place of drier history books and adopts a childish, irony-heavy, almost Carry-On approach to the past, littered with modern references and elbow-nudges designed to link the situations in years past with the current world via humour. It is childish, quite frequently, but the silliness is part of its (very British) charm.
There is one area, which O’Farrell notes in his introduction, in which Utterly Exasperated differs stylistically from Utterly Impartial; the clue is in the title. Most of the events – or certainly, a sizeable portion of the book – take place within the author’s lifetime, and he can hardly be expected to be as without opinion on them as he might have been about the antics of William the Bastard. Heavy hints are dropped in the introduction – along the lines of “yay, Nye Bevan” and “Boo, Thatcher”, rather less hints than outright flagwaving – of his bias, but as it’s a bias I agree with (having grown up in the 80s in a single-parent, unemployed family and therefore been one of Thatcher’s bete noirs I am more than comfortable with loathing almost everything she did) .
As this book is covering a mere 60 years, rather than roughly 2000, in the same number of pages, there’s a lot more detail on individual events and figures than in the prequel. It is also, I’ve discovered, a lot easier to find oneself moved by the idiocy of one’s government when their pettiness, sloth, cowardice, or incompetence, and their general scrabbling efforts to stay in power at the expense of the well-being of the country (or to pander to their pet discredited theories at the expense of the country) is still having palpable effects now.
Moreso than Impartial, Exasperated is a political history. It discusses technological developments, but the majority of the book is given over to the circumstances and consequences of political decisions and the way in which various elements of life in the country were (and continue to be) affected by the most unexpected combinations of forces. Entire weapons programmes were drawn up because someone was once rude to the Foreign Office, and whole industries razed because someone got some ridiculous idea into their head and didn’t want to be seen to back down.
As a catalogue of human failings in Britain from 1945 to roughly 2009, An Utterly Exasperated History of Britain is quite depressing and angering; that it succeeds in being funny at the same time is a credit to the author.
However, I would recommend this book not to those who are already well-versed in modern British history, but rather to those who, like me, either opted to take Geography instead or who just weren’t paying attention in school, as it is – sneakily, facetiously, and surprisingly – very informative for the “layperson” (where layperson = “I spent my history classes lobbing pens at Jimbo”).
An Utterly Exasperated History of Britain by John O’Farrell generally retails for about £7.99
Post by Delilah
For information regarding the publication of books there is now my GoodReads Author Profile, and I am also vaguely maintaining a sound engineering blog/reminder site at soundslikeariot. Recently I’ve been to see Emmy the Great play at the Purcell Room in the South Bank Centre (and been impressed by the acoustic engineering of the room as well as by the excellent and moving performance), finished reading The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall with mixed feelings, finished reading Caravaggio: Painter of Miracles by Francince Prose with glowing ones, and started reading An Utterly Exasperated History of Britain; or 60 years of Making the Same Stupid Mistakes as Always by John O’Farrell with high expectations. What I have not done recently is written any reviews, sorry about that, please feel free to blame a mind-devouring college project. In the meantime, Melanie Clegg has been kind enough to namecheck me in her post on Kindle Publishing over at MadameGuillotine.org.
Amelia meanwhile has some extremely good news to share, but I don’t want to steal her thunder so you’ll get that from the horse’s mouth, when someone’s managed to stop her playing Pokemon: Black and squeaking in bat-bothering frequencies about the new George RR Martin book finally having a release date.
Post by Delilah.