Jun 04

The Post-TV Diaries (aka I Don’t See): part 3

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The Post-TV Diaries (aka I Don’t See): part 3

This will be the first year I’ve not watched any Big Brother at all. Each year previously, my viewing has followed a similar pattern: resolution not to watch it at all, then grumbling, cynical half-watching, then horrified curiosity, then shouting at the TV, then sage ‘psychological insight’ and moral judgement, then finally tantrums when my favourite housemate gets evicted.

And the sense of relief this year that I won’t have to, indeed won’t be able to, put myself through the charade again is immense. That’s the devil of television: as long as it’s there we WILL end up avidly watching something we really didn’t think we wanted to have anything to do with, and justifying it to ourselves. I’m not sure what it says about me that I need to have the ‘choice’ removed from me, but I suspect it says just as much about TV itself.

We don’t need TV; TV needs us. And just like all good dependants, it knows how to get what it needs.

As Dave B advises, visit White Dot for further common sense/fascist assault on your freedom to be entertained (delete as applicable). Their UK base is just round the corner from my house, incidentally.

Jun 04

The Post-TV Diaries: Part 2

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The Post-TV Diaries: Part 2

Now that I don’t have one, I see television EVERYWHERE. I feel like Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense. My days are full of annoying glimpses of Eastenders in the launderette, Hell’s Kitchen at my grandmother’s house (and my word, wasn’t ignorance bliss), tennis and football in the pub, CNN at work… not to mention every radio station being saturated with adverts and references to TV, which I simply hadn’t noticed before. When did television become acceptable wallpaper for our entire lives? I can run, but I bloody well can’t hide.

Jun 04

The Post-TV Diaries: Part 1

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The Post-TV Diaries: Part 1

Well, it’s been about two months now. Taking the fact of our aerial breaking as a sign, we decided to give up television. And I can now be found waxing lyrical to anyone who will listen about the benefits of a TV-free life.

It’s not all easy though: last night I started to dream TV. An entire crap soap opera (well a pilot episode at least) sprung fully-formed from my sub-conscious, starring Nigel Havers as a floppy-hatted geologist, Sally out of Home & Away as a young oil heiress, and, predictably, Stephanie Beacham as her bitchy stepmother currently controlling the company and destroying important geological sites in the process.

Implications for my general mental health aside, the presence of an old character from Home & Away (lost to me for even longer than most programmes since it moved to Channel 5) raises a particular worry – for as a TV ‘abandoner’, like someone going blind as opposed to being born that way, I do have TV memories. And those memories will undoubtedly continue feed into my language, my identity, my perception of the world, and seemingly my dreams… But with no new TV ‘experiences’ to replace the memories, will I become a walking anachronism, stuck forever in a world of Friends, Frasier, Sex and the City, Big Brother 2003, and The Office, talking a language that nobody else can understand?

Nov 03

Tempting though Tom’s accounts of Macdonalds are,

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Tempting though Tom’s accounts of Macdonalds are, I still won’t be visiting my local (horrific) branch. Mainly because I have the fantastic GRUBS on my doorstep to cater to my every burgery need. There are four or five branches in Brighton, not including the sadly short-lived Gobs, an organic variant. (There is now Sobs instead, which is, inexplicably, pizza.)

At Grubs you can get 100% beef or 100% vegetarian burgers in three different sizes and with a dizzying list of relishes covering two large blackboards (and there is no restriction on your choice of these if you’re having a veggie burger, which is nice). Your basic burger comes in at around ‘1.80, but for real value go for the chips… the portions are MASSIVE. ‘Regular’ is about three times as many as the Burger King/Macdonalds equivalent, and ‘Large’ is completely unmanageable. What you CAN eat are exactly the right thickness and crispiness though.

I’m rather fond of the mushroom burger at the moment, but there are exciting blue cheese and hawaiian experiments still to be carried out… the chilli burger is frankly dangerous though. Another hazard is hungry local vagrants who come in and hang about until the unwary staff call out a completed order, then claim it before anyone else can. A pitfall of the prepaid burger, alas.

Nov 03

It’s rare, disappointingly so, to find a poet who loves language

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It’s rare, disappointingly so, to find a poet who loves language, not in a fetishistic or clever or simply musical way, but robustly, lip-smackingly, instinctually. I saw Keith Bennett read last night, and he struck me as one of the few. Reading his poems on the page later, it wasn’t so obvious; I noticed that he had a way with rhyme and half-rhyme and liked to bury it inside his lines, and that he was funny, and had a great unforced sense of rhythm… but that applies to lots of poets. It was the way he delivered the poems – great ranting torrents of words like water spouting erratically from a hose, in a range of accents and personas but never less than BIG. A reminder of an oral tradition where rhyme and meter weren’t just conventions, but throbbed with the intention to hit home and be remembered. Other poets read last night and they were good (I am in awe of people who actually entertain the audience between poems like they were born to it) but Keith was something else. Keep an eye out for him (New Forest based but sure to get around…)

Nov 03

My bus stop has been invaded by soup

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My bus stop has been invaded by soup. Not only are there Heinz microwaveable soup posters on every available bit of glass, they have also turned the seats in the shelter into giant plastic replicas of the packaging. I was quite confused yesterday morning. Vandalism? Hangover? No, they really had integrated huge, slippery red and yellow tub things into the existing seats. Nobody was sitting on them, naturally. The Heinz website admits nothing about this promotion, and although it might be a personal foible that the sight of wall to wall tomato soup before 8am makes me want to heave, the wish to sit down on something a bit more substantial that a buckling plastic pot is surely universal. However, I did discover from the website that you can download a handy screensaver: “As you make Heinz ketchup a part of your breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack, the Heinz Screensaver keeps track of the hour in 29 locations around the globe.” How did I live without it?

Nov 03

Condiments I Have Known #2: Hellman’s Mayonnaise

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Condiments I Have Known #2: Hellman’s Mayonnaise
There’s a general rule of thumb in our house that if there’s a food product you like and buy regularly from the supermarket, try making it from scratch at home and see how much better and cheaper it turns out. This applies to bread, bagels, pizza, cakes, biscuits, flour tortilla and its derivatives, sauces, juices, humous, fishfingers and most importantly ice cream. But when it comes to mayonnaise, I come over all rockist and won’t even entertain the thought of home-made. I know full well that Hellman’s is probably full of crap, is probably not even what discerning folk would call mayonnaise, but god it’s good – thick and creamy and indulgent, and lacking the acidic edge and unhealthy yellow sheen of salad cream. I can’t have chips or battered fish or pizza crust or cheese salad sandwiches or raw veg or (my favourite) garden peas without it. Without wanting to stray into the realm of food porn, I think I love particularly the fact that it’s so unnaturally white; there’s an aesthetic pleasure in creating contrasting shiny pools of ketchup and mayo next to your chips. The White Stripes would surely understand.

Oct 03

Any day now I expect to receive my invitation to appear on

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Any day now I expect to receive my invitation to appear on the new talking heads show Grumpy Young Women, in which I will, for some inexplicable reason, be allowed to air my grievances about random collections of male C-list celebrities [no link; they really don’t deserve it] who complain about how damn DIFFICULT life becomes when some hapless call centre worker doesn’t fully understand that in fact the world revolves around THEM and THEIR apparent inability to follow recorded instructions even when the lack of an option to do so would result in about 12 hours more of that hold music they so despise. Bill Nighy and Lemn Sissay, I’m disappointed in you. You can DO things, so why don’t you DO them instead of whoring yourself to BBC 2 and whining on like a schoolgirl who got a pony for Christmas then found out that it shits a lot? At least Will Self gives REASONS for his heroically petty gripes. (I could also use my airtime to say a few things about the really quite annoying throbbing in my right temple every time I see or hear Matthew Parris, but who on earth would be interested in that?)

Oct 03

Condiments I Have Known # 1: Pickapeppa Sauce.

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Condiments I Have Known # 1: Pickapeppa Sauce. A fairly recent discovery this, as there’s only one place in Brighton where you can buy the stuff. It’s imported from Shooter’s Hill in Jamaica and is made from tomatoes, onions, sugar, cane vinegar, fruit, peppers and spices, then aged in oak barrels for a year. And now I’ve found it, there’s no going back. It’s amazing with cheese (better than Worcester sauce), but also does great things to chips, eggs, rice dishes, tomato sauces, most vegetables… It’s a bit like brown sauce I suppose, but hotter and fresher. Last night the resident Cook (who fell in love with Pickapeppa in Jamaica and is ecstatic at having tracked it down here) made a puff pastry mushroom tart thing and added Pickapeppa to the mix – a happy marriage of tanginess and melt in the mouth umami. I am told it can be a marinade as well but time is short and cheese on toast is quicker…

Oct 03

National Poetry Day (Thursday 9th October) highlights:

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National Poetry Day (Thursday 9th October) highlights:

(Apologies in advance for UK-centricism.) This year is the 10th National Poetry Day, and the theme is ‘Britain’ and national identity. That should bring in the punters…

The big guns can be found at St Paul’s Church, Bedford Street, London, for a Poetry Society reading in association with Faber & Faber and Penguin – Lavinia Greenlaw, Roger McGough, Andrew Motion and Don Paterson. It starts at 7pm and is cheap at the price (‘6).

Radio 4 will feature National Poetry Day content all day, including a programme announcing the winners of A Poem For Britain. The competition was the brainchild of evil poetry populiser extraordinaire Daisy Goodwin, who earlier this year launched this national search for new poetry summing up 21st century Britain. I dread to think, frankly.

More interestingly on the theme of ‘Britain’, the Poetry Society has developed a Poetry Landmarks website, which takes the form of an interactive map of British poetic heritage and activity, each Landmark nominated by the public: www.poetrysociety.org.uk/landmark/front.php

Again there will be a tie-in Radio 4 programme, presented by Ian McMillan.

It’s also worth looking out for the Poetry Jukebox Tour (2nd October – 27th November), marking the launch of 57 Productions’ www.poetryjukebox.com and their 2nd CD of performance poetry.