Saturday, January 31, 2009

Something Else For The Weekend...

I am finding a distorted reality comes in handy a great deal at the moment.

Fulham really are by far the greatest team the world has ever seen.

The credit crunch is just an illusion.

Lower Marsh is a brilliant shopping street in the winter.

Poetry will save us.

See what I mean?

Friday, January 30, 2009

Something for the weekend

"When I was a boy, the bestselling books were often the books that were on your piano teacher's shelf. I mean, Steinbeck, Hemingway, some Faulkner. Faulkner actually had, considering how hard he is to read and how drastic the experiments are, quite a middle-class readership. But certainly someone like Steinbeck was a bestseller as well as a Nobel Prize-winning author of high intent. You don't feel that now. I don't feel that we have the merger of serious and pop -- it's gone, dissolving. Tastes have coarsened. People read less, they're less comfortable with the written word. They're less comfortable with novels. They don't have a backward frame of reference that would enable them to appreciate things like irony and allusions. It's sad. It's momentarily uphill, I would say.
And who's to blame? Well, everything's to blame. Movies are to blame, for stealing a lot of the novel's thunder. Why read a novel when in two hours you can just go passively sit and be dazzled and amazed and terrified? Television is to blame, especially because it's come into the home. It's brought the fascination of the flickering image right into the house; like turning on a faucet, you can have it whenever you want. I was a movie addict, but you could only see so many movies in the course of a week. I still had a lot of time to read, and so did other people. But I think television would take all your day if you let it. Now we have these cultural developments on the Internet, and online, and the computer offering itself as a cultural tool, as a tool of distributing not just information but arts -- and who knows what inroads will be made there into the world of the book," - John Updike.

Scooter Don't Work? Scooterworks!

Following a small crash (fog, ice, skid, splat - ouch) my trusty steed (Piaggio Zip 50) gave up starting in the mornings. Naturally I tried to fix it myself. Using my vast experience in mechanical engineering I decided the battery was flat and proceeded to try to charge it from a large boat battery my dad brought round in a shopping bag. When this failed I swore at the bike a bit. Then I unscrewed some screws and took off a plastic cover. Now I could see the engine and the spark plugs. I looked and looked. I stared really hard. I tried to fix the bike with my legendary psychic powers. This didn't work either.

So, eventually - after swearing some more and throwing stuff about - I phoned Craig at Scooterworks.

He came, he collected, he fixed the bike. My diagnosis of a flat battery was wrong. (Surprise surprise) The air filter was clogged with oil, probably from when the bike fell on its side.

So repeat after me - If your scooter won't work take it to Scooterworks.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Westfield - Lots of space in this mall!

Ah, Westfield.
In delightful,
Shepherd's Bush
Which once was a field,
In the west, Of London's fair fields.

I lived once,
In the west's fields.
I grew up in Bristol,
It's in the West
Country, It has Malls too.

Oh, fair Westfield,
You remind me,
Of a Country Fair.
Only covered over with glass,
And underfoot,
With concrete, not grass.

(Forward to 1:58 in. I hadn't seen the Blues Brothers for ages. Thanks ITV4)

Heads Up Peeps - Literary Sensation of the Year Alert

This looks brilliant.

The 'silver bees' are fighting back against crime and vandalism in their neighbourhoods, mainly by turning themselves into walking booby traps. 'If we can't save ourselves from attack,' they say, 'at least the criminals won't escape either!'

Yvonne Jerrold has come up with a great idea. This book will make any young hooligan think twice before they mug a granny. What if that fragile old dear had a nasty surprise in store. Exploding knickers? Or maybe a brick in her handbag?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Film VS Book - Reversed?

I was walking along the South Bank this morning thinking about Revolutionary Road and The Reader - two books that have recently been made into films that are in the cinema now.

What percentage of films are based - either directly or indirectly - on books?

Has there ever been a film of a book that was better than the book?

If I were to write a book that was based on a film what film should I choose?

I am thinking of a scene by scene attempt to write a film if you see what I mean. A book like Revolutionary Road has so much more detail in terms of what characters are thinking and feeling than it is possible to convey via the medium of film. A meaningful look in a film remains just that. In a book you have to spell out what the character is thinking and so the reader has a deeper understanding of what the author is trying to say. (I have no problem with film in itself as a medium just why are so many based on books? Do the people who make films have extremely impoverished imaginations or something?)

My plan would be to take a film - a pure film - and write it. So you get the meaningful look - and I would then write what was going on in the character's head at that point...Do you see what I mean?

Obviously I would upset 99% of the people who had watched the film. My version would not tally with theirs. But I would love to do it - if only to get revenge for all the great books that films are guilty of turning to dross...

Oh Dear

Is it just me or does this seem, well, a bit off. Let's hope the people who made the film had nothing to do with the trailer


Appointment with the accountants in the morning, appointment with the dentist in the afternoon! What a day!

At least the sun's out...

Monday, January 26, 2009

You Gots To Giggle

Further insight into the bizarre goings on around about bedtime at our house.

1: Finn has taken a real shine to Peter Kay's Comic Relief version of Amarillo.

We have to put this on 2-3 times an evening while he marches (naked) and yells "Look at Mr Bobbly" (Mr Blobby).

And then stories after that...

Incidentally we came across some classic Tom and Jerry on Youtube as well and he loves them too. Why not eh? All that whizbang technology and you still can't beat the old cat n mouse routines.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The future...?

Literary Criticism and a pleasant reminder given the circumstances...

'In 1903, in Paris, Emile Tardieu brought out a book entitled L'Ennui in which all human activity is shown to be a vain attempt to escape from boredom, but in which, at the same time, everything that was, is, and will be appears as the inexhaustible nourishment of that feeling. To hear this, you might suppose the work to be a mighty monument of literature - a monument aere perennius in honour of the taedium vitae of the Romans. But it is only the self-satisfied shabby scholarship of a new Homais, who reduces all greatness, the heroism of heroes and the asceticism of saints, to documents of his own spiritually barren, petty-bourgeois discontent.'
-Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project, p.102

ps FAO: Dr Rick: Your books in.

'Beggar's' Opera Ctd.

I know it was Bobby Darin's song but given Frank's 'alleged' mob connections I think he rocks it...

Maybe you'd all prefer Lotte...

Or is it Nick's gig really...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

But those in darkness are lost to sight...

Consolations of Philosophy

Far be it from me to step on Alain De Botton's shiny pate but in these days of illiquidity and busted credit doesn't this seem a trifle apposite?

The Future Is Now!

I don't want to be pessimistic as our business depends upon it but really, honestly, when you look at something like this, what future is there for dead tree media in it's current form?

How long are we looking at here, 5? 10 years?


'Four of the five best-selling novels in Japan in 2007 belonged to an entirely new literary form called keitai shosetsu: novels written, and read, on cell phones.'
- Time magazine (online)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A world changing event...

Our street is becoming part of a CPZ (controlled parking zone). We had one of these parked outside our flat this morning. Then a bloke in a yellow jacket came along, climbed inside and made it go. He even raised the scoop at the front and waggled it up and down for us. As far as young Finn is concerned this is just about the most important, historic and exciting event to occur in history. I listened to him burbling something along the lines of "It was yellow and a man did come and make it go (screams with delight) it was a digger and it did have all lots of levers and buttons to press and it made a BIG NOISE" all the way to nursery.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Good luck mate!

Aretha Franklin singing the national anthem - dude.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


The Review section sat, unopened, beside his empty coffee cup. He thought about having a shower then glanced back at the paper and picked it up. Arturo Pizaro was on the cover. As if a full-page advert on the back last week wasn't enough. He opened the paper and began to read. And then there were tears in his eyes and he had to fold the paper quickly and get into the shower right away, but his wife had noticed his crumpled face and was already asking...

"Frustration" he heard as he closed the bathroom door and lost himself beneath the savage heat, felt the fierce rain against his skin, washed the dirt of self-indulgence from his face murmuring "Money money money it's always money how do you get it through your dumb head?" And when he shaved he was still angry and sad and angry at himself for being sad and so he dragged the skin-thin blade without a care, knowing he was wide open and bleeding and still he kept at it and finally felt better, dabbing the red with tissue that stuck in the cuts and had to be washed away a few minutes later.

Brake on. Ignition. A little gas. The engine refused to fire. It tried and failed, tried and failed, tried and failed and he saw the curtains twitch, felt the neighbour's gaze and so he stopped and sat there. He remembered seeing a deep-sea diver finish a marathon years ago on the Mall and he felt just as ridiculous, just as far removed from the correct context but so much less heroic. So he raised his eyes to the sky and stared into the blue for a while. When he tried it again the scooter started. It always seemed to start at the very last moment and in this he found some consolation.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

An Award! (And we are 88% Men)

Everything is so shite at the minute I am absurdly happy to have received an award from the Caustic Cover Critic.

Thanks mate!

According to Gender Analyzer we are 88% likely to be men. A relief after so many years of doubts and fumblings (ahem). It would have been interesting to know how much Marie's posts would have affected things as she is (undoubtedly) a woman.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Photographic Memories

That's a photograph of our shop in 1989.

And in again around 1950. (When it was two shops - one a sweet shop!)

We received these photos from a man whose father was born in the flats up above the shop. At that time it was a sweet shop - a pretty good place for a kid to live I would have thought. It seems people used to take shelter in our cellar and the cellar of the Camel and Artichoke pub next door during bombing raids in WW2.

Looking at these photos it is clear that in some ways little has changed since the 1950's on Lower Marsh. The stalls, the rubbish, the small shops and assorted folk drifting along the street. There is a patch of waste ground next to the shop in 1950. Now there is a library and job shop but only in a portacabin - a temporary structure that has existed for many years now...

In the photo from 1989 you can see a small tree or bush growing on the roof of the pub. That tree or bush is still there! We also still have a sign on the side of the shop advertising Brights.

Friday, January 09, 2009

When The Going Gets Tough, The Tough Read Tough Books (preferably over 1000 pages long!)

My response to the cold weather and the general economic gloom seems to be to immerse myself in really long and rather nasty books.

I keep trying to get my head around The Kindly Ones. There are three areas I want to address.

1: It is a deeply unpleasant reading experience. 1000 pages in the head of a total - the word has yet to be invented that is powerful enough to describe an SS officer. But is that a reason to avoid reading it? Life isn't all fluff and love - surely there comes a time to face the darkness?

2: It is a work of fiction. To a certain sort of reader this will be an immediate turnoff. Why write novels about something as awful as the Holocaust? If you want to know what happened read one of the many excellent histories. And yet again I disagree. The Kindly Ones is a novel and so it allows Littell a freedom that is denied the historian. Who can know if his efforts are accurate, if the picture he gives us of a Nazi SS Officer's war is accurate or not? This reader found it utterly convincing. I now feel a renewed disgust for the Nazis and feel reminded of the very real horror of the Holocaust. That is a good thing and to me says Littell has succeeded.

3: Littell has no direct experience of the war. He had to learn about what happened through his own research. Such secondary experience could be seen as a handicap. But how many people who were there survive? How long before WW2 exists only in books and newsreel film? My generation need to keep re-imagining, re-experiencing these terrible events or, as Littell makes clear, it could all happen again.

Well that's probably all very obvious and stupid and confused but it's my 2p on why you should at least consider reading a 1000 pager narrated by a Nazi. The book is out in March so you have some time to gear up to it. By then it will be spring. You will be able to raise your eyes from the page and gaze at those first optimistic greens - a brief reminder of some of the pure joys of life - before you slip back into the pages of death...

Thursday, January 08, 2009


I really couldn't say which Supermodel wot used to be in Friends was in earlier asking about books on lingerie...

But what I can say is that the windows of our Fulham Road shop are all steamed up this evening.

That's got nothing to do with lingerie and everything to do with Somerset Maugham award winning author James Scudamore who is launching his new novel Heliopolis in the shop.

James is a top bloke and surely destined to be a top author if he keeps producing books this good.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


Well I finished The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell before Christmas.

It was disgusting. Horriffic. At times I found I wanted to scream with rage at the horror of it all.

In other words it was an excellent novel.

Then I read the Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson. In a similar manner to The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo I found the book took a while to build up and then exploded at a certain point and became almost impossible to put down.

Now I am sitting writing these words with just minutes to go before closing time. Then I will drive home on my Scooter to read some more of Roberto Bolano's 2666. Know what? I'm just 44 pages in and already I know this is the best of a recent crop of excellent books.

Some books call to me, I could read them FOREVER. Bolano has the magic people, he has the magic...

Monday, January 05, 2009


Happy New Year folks! We're back! (At the Marsh anyway, F'lham never closes...)

Don't know why but this song kept popping into my head over the holiday break.