Friday, 25 September 2009

If you don't know me by now...

Around 5 or 6 months ago Facebook was infested with an array of 25-point lists. Each user had their own individual slant on it and ranged from people talking about 25 things they'd regretted to 25 things they are proud of in their lives. Some were very entertaining reads and others really said all you needed to know about that particular person. A couple went down the deep and meaningful route and one in particular chose to (and I quote) "Chronicle my 25 Epiphanies". What followed was a list of sanctimonious (and somewhat deluded) dross which and was capped off by one point in particular which read, “Cherish your parents – they gave you life and if they chose to, they can take it away from you.” In hindsight finding out that your parents are trained assassins is probably a bit of an eye-opener.

Below I have decided to give you 25 things you may or may not know about me- some things I haven't told a lot of people and one thing I haven't told anybody. Enjoy...

1) I am afraid of heights, to the extent that I genuinely get scared when I see clips on TV of steep drops or elevated, panoramic views. It’s one of the reasons that The Dark Knight can never be one of my favourite films after I saw it at the IMAX (the bit where he jumps off the top of the sky-scraper nearly made me scream the girliest of all screams).

2) I love coffee. Usually I don’t have breakfast; all I need is two cups of coffee. Its best form is the Vanilla Cappuccino and for the last 10 years it has been my favourite drink (regardless of how twat-ish it sounds when ordering it).

3) Whenever I find a song I like, I have it on repeat. As a result those around me start to hate it. This is worsened by the fact that I then whistle said song for the next month or so. It’s a wonder how I still have any friends.

4) I've never been in a fight. The closest I've come to a full blown conflict is when a friend of mine decided to grope a man who was standing behind me at a cash point. His mate, having seen his friend being caressed by a 4ft 9 half Yemenese/half Sri Lankan man decided to punch me, an innocent bystander, in the face. Despite the shock of the sudden attack I kept my cool and diffused the situation. One could only imagine what would have unfolded had I not had such a compressible nose.

5) I find it very hard NOT to make jokes about things, regardless of how bad they are. Like right now, I’m thinking of a punch-line for the end of this point. It will provide a slant on the story I concocted in previous sentences and create a false ambience that will throw you, the reader, off course ...............................penis.

6) I am obsessed with New York - not in the way that those infatuated with Seinfeld, Friends or Sex in the City obsess about indulging in the day-to-day antics of the character they feel they most resemble (FYI George, Chandler and Charlotte) but it’s a city that genuinely excites me. It’s a personal travesty that I have yet to go there and this is something I am looking to rectify in the next year or so.

7) I can’t stand Tamil rude-boys. Where to begin...
(a) The struggles your parents went through to get into this country and thus allow you to grow up in a country that values democracy does not give you an excuse to walk about like you’ve managed to escape the Projects with your life intact. For the love of God 40% of the time you spend outside of school is spent at some form of tuition (be it academical or musical).
(b) FUBU, Evisu hats and do-rags – just some of the things you probably shouldn’t wear to a temple (or ever).
(c) Shaving the sides of your head and leaving the top untouched does not constitute a haircut.

8) Give me all the time in the world and I will waste it without a moment’s hesitation.

9) Give me all the cheesecake in the world and I will eat it without a moment’s hesitation.

10) When I was eleven I went on a 10 day skiing trip which ended after 3 days when I badly injured my knee. When I was helped back to the chalet, my trousers were removed and the gash was so bad I could actually see my knee cap. If you ask, I will show you the scar; if you don’t then I will casually slip it into the conversation and show you anyway. If you refuse to talk to me about it then I will start wearing short-shorts.

11) As an extension of point 5), I cannot help making stupid remarks or doing stupid things at inopportune moments. Usually this involves members of the opposite sex and can range from putting my foot in my mouth to pulling out the inappropriate high-five.

12) I once taught one of the younger members of my family, who had recently just started speaking, to say “ass-candle”. To this day it is one of the funniest/greatest things I have ever witnessed and regardless of how my life pans out I can’t see it leaving the Top 3.

13) I used to have a love for Eva Longoria (no, not Longoria-Parker). Currently her vacated thrown is being shared by Sophia Bush and Kristen Bell and I’ll be damned if another 6ft 2’ French, Black, millionaire Basketball player steals them from me (though I can’t say I’d really blame them).

14) Going to Edinburgh was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life so far. The people, the places, the experiences are things I would not change for the world and what I’ve gained from that place is invaluable. Nipple-chaffingly cold though...

15) Before going to University I was totally unaware of the North-South Divide. Having spent time around Northerners and thus becoming very close with them I have to say that I am so glad that I’m back in London... Banter.

16) I cried when ET went home.

17) When I was 5 I wanted to be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle when I grew up. At the age of 9, having finally accepted the scientific impossibility of the matter, I settled for Power Ranger.

18) ‘Horrible Histories’ taught me more about Ancient Rome than any tweed wearing, Guille from Street Fighter look-a-like teacher ever could.

19) When I joined my Primary school my parents decided it would be a good idea for me to learn the violin. I toiled away for 4 years only to reach the heights of Grade 1. At first I was excited by it but after a couple of months it became a chore; I stopped practising and just left my violin at school, only moving it from my locker when I actually had a lesson. One time I went to get my violin for another tedious lesson. I opened up and to my ‘despair’ I found it broken in two. The headmaster was alerted to this, partly because the only explanation was an act of mindless vandalism. In assembly, with the entire school present, the headmaster condemned the breaking of my violin and vowed that the perpetrator would be severely punished. It was at that point that I realised only a couple of days prior to my lesson, I had dropped my violin case down a flight of stairs.

20) I taught my brother the F-word. It was a morning before school and I don’t know why I did it but part of me thinks I shouldered the responsibility of educating him on all things crass. I made him repeat it after me and the odd thing was that I really didn’t find it that amusing. My parents caught me and, aside from a clip round the ear, I had to write out the whole of one of my ‘Peter and Jane’ books. I fucking hate Peter and Jane.

21) I am one of the few people to see the film “Head of State” with Chris Rock and Bernie Mac. Aside from my brother, the other person is one Rajan Vig, whom I lent the DVD to and has yet to return it. This resulted in me buying another copy. I account for 40% of the film’s revenue.

22) It took me 6 years to learn how to drive. In that time I failed my Theory 3 times and my Practical twice (including once on my birthday).

23) I am addicted to YouTube. That shouldn’t be news to anyone but it’s not about the videos it’s all about the comments. If you ever want to stay abreast of the latest profanities, go to YouTube, type in Soulja Boy, pick a video and scroll straight to the comments. An insult-ridden goldmine...

24) Every time I’m reminded of the demise of Woolworths I cry a little inside. Woolworths was where I bought my first Ghostbusters figure, where I bought my first water-gun and where I lost my parents for the first time. Whilst the shop may now be a thing of the past, the memories are still strong.

25) During my last couple of weeks at Bunny Park Nursery (Ealing) one of the teachers told us a story about a couple of animals who were friends in the wild (animals who would clearly never converse outside of a fable). The moral of the story, essentially, was that we should always lend a helping hand to each other. At the end of the week there would be a prize for the kid who was the most helpful. Over the course of the next few days I shared chocolates with my friends, cleaned up the play-area when it wasn’t my turn and was always on hand to pick up Zoe (a 2 year old girl who had just joined the nursery) whenever she fell or stumbled. By the end of the week I had done more than enough to win said prize. The truth of the matter is, I found the chocolates in the nursery foyer (they were a present for the Dinner Lady’s birthday), I took credit for the cleaning because the kid who actually did it had trouble speaking (he was autistic) and the reason I was on hand to help Zoe up was because I was the one who was constantly tripping her up. I can’t tell you how good it feels to finally get this off my chest.

Friday, 30 January 2009

iThink therefore...

I’m angry – last Monday my iPod deleted itself. I don’t know how. I don’t know why, but it did. Every single song, video, audio-book and podcast removed as if it was never there; my iPod had amnesia. I suppose in i-terms it might as well be senile dementia - I’ve had this iPod for nearly 2 years which in human years must be mid to late 60s. Given my indefinite unemployment and the current Economic climate I’ve become pretty close with my iPod; we go for walks into Ealing and ride the train together, occasionally we’ll go jogging together and now, thanks to the creativity of a Polish builder, we can shower together. On that fateful day I was getting ready to walk into Ealing and reserve a copy of a game that I had little intention of actually buying (seriously I need a job/help).

I take a left out of my drive and click play and wait for the music to hit – soon I’ll be walking down the road listening to {insert appropriate guilty-pleasure band here} pretending I’m in an OC-esque montage as I give a casual, brooding nod to Mischa Barton (elderly woman waiting for the 226 bus). But nothing, just silence – I take my iPod out and press the play button again, and again, and again, each time slightly harder than the previous. I removed it from its jumper (yes I said it, jumper) and take a closer look. Nothing on “Now Playing”. I scroll through...why does it say I have no playlists? What, no songs too?? I’m dumbstruck. I scroll through one more time with the futile hope that I didn’t look properly (hoping that I’m actually a f**k-tard). Nothing. 30 Giga-bytes of music and videos, gone. Whilst I had some of the songs on my computer, I had taken a lot of music from other people’s iTunes and this accounted for about 60% of my iPod.

But the playlists as well, the carefully calculated playlists! “Random Mood” and “Chilled”, whilst almost identical were both brilliant in their own right. And what of “On the Go 4”? The breakthrough playlist which opened the door for the likes of “On the Go 5” and the critically acclaimed “On the Go 6” (basically the “On the Go” family differed by one or two songs that I suddenly thought I’d like to hear again and couldn’t be bothered going through the hassle of plugging my iPod up to my computer, dragging and dropping and then waiting 10 minutes for my computer to disarm my iPod thus making it safe to be removed, just to make sure I remember who’s really in charge...). Seeing as I was on my way into town, I figured I would drop into the Apple Store to seek help.

On the journey there I started reminiscing about my last iPod and how I had similar problems (and then quickly remembered it might have had something to do with the endless times I dropped it and one time when I was thrown into a swimming pool whilst it was in my pocket). Then I went further back, the Land before iPods - Mini-Discs, CD Players, the original cassette walkman. Before I bought my first iPod I used to have a CD player and an array of poorly constructed compilation CDs to go with it (all courtesy of yours truly). None of these CDs made any musical sense; they were all just random songs, thrown together regardless of tone, mood or genre. I believed at that time that the CDs should contain examples of every type of music I liked and as a result there was no flow to it whatsoever; from M.O.P to the Goo Goo Dolls. Just going from lyrics such as “Hunt you down n*gga, run your ass down”, to “I’ll give up forever to touch you,” whilst compatible on paper , just don’t sit well with you when they’re howled by Busta Rhymes or whined by some Bon Jovi wannabe.

I arrived at the Apple Store to find two people next to the Help desk; one was a Chinese guy, probably about mid 20s and the other was a tall brunette guy with glasses and a tattoo on his forearm. I’m not one for stereotypes, but I headed straight for the Chinese guy. Turns out he didn’t work there; I apologise and tell him that I didn’t assume he did. He doesn’t seem convinced and leaves as I start to ask him if he could fix my iPod. Fine. I went over to the other guy and explained my predicament to him. As I was talking to him, I noticed that his glasses were in fact the fake, thick black-framed kind and then lost my train of thought. I have nothing against people who wear fake glasses, it confuses me but it seems quite a common accessory nowadays. The odd thing is that glasses are essentially a corrective measure; certain people HAVE to wear glasses because they struggle to go about their lives without them. Is that an avenue that fashion looks set to go down, disabilities? Give it a couple of years and people may well be walking around with fake hearing-aids.

“Dave, what’s with the new bop?”

“Orthopaedic shoes b*tches!”

I just about shake myself out of that day-dream in time to hear his advice. He points to the scratches on the back and asks if I have repeatedly dropped my iPod on hard surfaces or thrown it against walls (essentially domestic abuse). I assure him that I take good care of my iPod, but admit that occasionally it does “fall” down the stairs. He then tells me to switch it on and off again. After doing so he takes the iPod off me and stares at it for about 2 minutes. He then brings it to his ear and starts shaking it for another 20 seconds, hands it back to me and then tells me I can send it off to people who actually know what they are doing but it will cost me around £100. What a clueless gimp; he knows as much about iPods as Beyonce knows about being a boy.

Since then I’ve let my iPod rest for a bit, charge up and added a few songs back onto it, just to ease it into some sort of normality. But whilst I will be taking extra care of it, it will never be the same again. I’m not sure if it remembers who I am, but every now and again I’ll talk to it about how things used to be and even though it says nothing and strangers avoid me in the street, I think it helps. Since yesterday it’s started stuttering during songs and even skipping some altogether. The end is nigh for my Mass Storage soul-mate, but when it does eventually pop its i-Clogs, it won’t be a surprise and chances are, like Mick Jagger, I’d already have my sights set on a slender, younger model to replace it.

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Chak De Imbeciles...

Last Sunday saw the 66th Annual Golden Globes Awards ceremony take place at Beverley Hills, California. This formal ceremony marks the start of the film industry’s award season which culminates with the Academy Awards (to be held in February) and thus is generally considered a good indicator to those who may want to dust a space in their cabinet for a gold, asexual, sword-yielding statue. This year it looks like those behind “Slumdog Millionaire” may need to clear a space, and then some as they walked away with 4 Golden Globes for Best Motion Picture - Drama, Best Director - Motion Picture (Danny Boyle), Best Screenplay (Simon Beaufoy) and Best Original Score (A. R. Rahman).

Having seen countless reviews and features on TV I started to get used to the fact that this film is something that will be dominating the media space. Newspapers were full of talk about the new dawn of British cinema and how finally it will emerge out of the shadow of its eccentric, trans-Atlantic step-brother. I’m not a film buff by any stretch of the imagination (only in the last 4 years have I seen films like Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction and The Usual Suspects) so I can’t really comment on what kind of resonance this film would have but my main gripe was one specific theme brought up by a couple of these articles. Buried beneath the Asian related puns (Indian Summers et al) was a shared opinion that the film will sweep the Asian population of Britain and bring about a sense of incentive and pride. It seemed that it was not just the dynamic of the film world that would shaken up thanks to Slum Dog Millionaire, but that of society around us.

At first I laughed at the naivety of the thought; surely they can’t imply that it takes a multi-award winning film and the spotlight of fame for those of a similar ethnic persuasion to feel proud or just be proud enough to acknowledge their heritage? I chuckled in that self-righteous way one does when one has internally mocked a more educated, more respected and wealthier adversary. I then thought this would be a decent topic for a blog, until I made a quick pit-stop on Facebook. After the standard browsing and light-prowling I was drawn to the “Status Updates” tab... Humble pie is like the worst pie, and it doesn’t taste any better when it’s forced down your throat by the e-world. Looking down the list, amidst those donating their hard-earned statuses to show their support for Gaza from the comfort of their Ctrl + V buttons (simultaneously) and the futile complaints that burst ear-drums might be a thing of the past, were messages of “wanting to return to the Homeland” and wishing to “dance around the streets of Mumbai”.

Forgive my Grinch-esque stance on such statuses, but it is those responsible for them that really grinds my gears. In fact, on one occasion I remember discussing family backgrounds with the person who longed for the “Homeland”. After a bit of a heated debate I asked them whether they had actually visited their place of origin (India, specifically Hyderbad). They replied with a firm yes; Goa! Cue an expression of bewilderment where your lips say nothing, but your eyebrows pronounce “I couldn’t have less respect for you”. That’s the equivalent of saying, “I really want to get back to my Spanish roots and find out who I truly am; one return ticket to Ibiza please!”. Of all places...GOA! That place is the exact opposite of Southall – sunny, pasty and not a single jalebi stall in sight. Whilst I thought this may just be restricted to the cyberspace, a quick trip in and around Ealing confirmed to me that this was a much more universal occurrence. On a particular train ride into Central London I was lucky enough to have my iPod run out of battery for the 2nd time in the 3 years, therefore had to rely on the conversation of others to pass the time. According to one group of Asian girls, Slumdog Millionaire was “bare deep”, and as a result their chances of getting laid that night had increased ten-fold as in their eyes their Indian-ness was cool again...

This reminded me of the Goodness Gracious Me era of the nineties. Its sudden popularity brought about an impulsive sense of pride in of those who had previously washed their hands of their Indian background; because it’s better to be associated with those on Television rather than those who inform you that their shop is not a library (or a strip club as one of my friends was told, but that’s a different blog altogether). To be fair it grabbed the nation by the ‘chuddies’ and administered a cultural wedgie that would take a couple of years to readjust. After 6 or 7 years of walking freely are we witnessing the reincarnation of this cultural fad? Far be it for me to judge, I as much as anyone get caught up in fads and social phases.

My first memory of being unnecessarily obsessed with an inane entity came in the form of POGS. They were small circular disks with each having a different design; they flooded playgrounds worldwide in the 90s and eventually had to be banned by schools due to the manic popularity they enjoyed. The game of POGs was simple, as wikipedia confirms;

Before the game, players decide whether to play 'for keeps', or not. 'For keeps' implies that the players keep the POGs that they win, and forfeit those that have been won by other players. Finally, the game can begin as followed:

(1) The players each contribute an equal number of POGs to build a stack with the pieces facing down, which will be used during the game
(2) The players take turns throwing their slammer (also called a 'kini') down onto the top of the stack, causing it to spring up and the POGs to scatter.
(3) Often, a special juke (also called a 'slam frizz') is used by the defender to prevent the slammer from overturning more POGs. Jukes include screaming, taunting the opponent, waving hands, slapping, or other distracting moves.
(4)Each player keeps any POGs that land 'face up' after their throw.
(5) After each throw, the POGs which have landed 'face down' are then re-stacked for the next player.
(6) When no POGs remain in the stack, the player with the most POGs is the 'winner'.
(7) All players keep the POGs which they have collected (if playing for keeps), or redistribute them to their original owners.

I didn’t have many POGS, but the ones I did have I cherished each and every day. It wasn’t the participating in the game that appealed to me, but the chance to be part of the POG community. I even had a t-shirt, one which I will not dare look for and will not be taking questions on. But just to be part of the community was enough for me, just to know of the big players in the game, just to get front row seats to the major bouts. All the big players had special POGS and more importantly special Slammers. In fact I still remember where I was for Metallic-gate... It was nearing the end of our double French lesson; we’d just learnt how to ask directions to the library whilst being very aware that we would NOT be able to buy books there. As we left the classroom, there was a buzz of excitement in the hallway- no one knew exactly what was going on but people were slowly piecing together the puzzle from overheard conversations. There was a METALLIC SLAMMER! No one was sure who had it or where it was; some say it was made in the depths of a Chiswick basement- others say it was found in a crater left by a recent meteor shower. Whether it be Frankenstein or Kryptonian, we all knew we had to get to the playground as soon as possible. I hurried to the playground just to catch a glimpse – my it was glorious. Shiny grey with streaks of black, it shone like a sun devoid of life. But there was uproar as to whether it could be used in combat. The playground elders voted against it, and POG players were told not to play its owner, Takahiro (come on; you know when it comes to Pimp My Fad, Xzibit’s got to step aside for the Japanese). But in an act of defiance he launched his slammer into the already assembled pile, flipping every single one over, leaving a dent in each and every one of us...

From then on POGS went downhill, culminating in people bringing in POGs that they had made themselves with the use of a tacky printing machine that was now readily available from Woolworths. Call me a purist but there was little satisfaction in winning a set of POGs harboring the face of your opponent’s pets.

Go-Gos soon took over the mantle from POGs – these were little collectible figures which people swapped and of course played games with.

The popular game at our school included both players lining up 4 or 5 Go-Gos in a row opposite each other and then using one spare Go-Go to try and knock over those in your opponents line. Those knocked over were kept by the active player and the game continued till all Go-Gos on one side had been slain. This fad took an odd route in our playground; gangs were formed where players would play each other internally with their best players battling their superior counter-parts in rival gangs. This manifested itself for a while, till one ambitious 12 year old came into school with a bum-bag of 200 limited edition Go-Gos. He then set about recruiting the best players from all the different gangs to form an elite group with an aim to monopolize the playground and seize power which he had tried to obtain earlier in the year by becoming Milk-monitor. Each recruited member invested their Go-Gos into the bum-bag and in return was allowed to use the limited edition figures to demolish and destroy, in style. One member however was having particularly bad luck and ended up losing 20 limited edition Go-Gos – the big cheese wasn’t happy and informed him that he had to make up the 20 with an interest of 5 before Easter. It never happened and as penance he was ordered to hand over one item of his lunch-box every lunch time till the end of term. School is tough, I’m just glad I got out alive.

In fairness this ethnic makeover instigated by Slumdog Millionaire is really more of a bandwagon; one towed by a rickshaw with 3 times the recommended allowance of people and, of course, an ornamental tissue box. Fame breeds imitation; we just need to turn on our TVs and flick between the likes of MTV and E4 to see the world littered with spitting images of the rich and famous. Take for example the skinny jeans generation...When did some men feel that the regular jean offered a little too much freedom for their junk? When did getting your phone out of your jeans when sat down become too easy for these people? It seems that Mark Ronson has shouldered the responsibility to lead these people from where Pete Doherty had left off.
Ironically Mark Ronson’s recent peak in his musical career was brought about due to his last album (Version) which contained a vast number of covers of hit songs performed by other hit artists. Whilst being a big success, it was hardly surprising; taking a song by a certain Coldplay and adhering to the musical backbone is hardly a route riddled with pot-holes. Don’t get me wrong I think Mark Ronson is very talented and that was a decision I came to BEFORE his last album, a thought that was lost on one avid fan I met a year ago in Edinburgh. This floppy haired gimp insisted to me in a drunken stupor that every cover present on the album blew the original out of the water... If anyone is keeping score, that’s the 3rd reason it is ok to Tomahawk someone in the temple. You want to be considered a true musical re-mastering deity? Have a trawl through Dane Bower’s back-catalogue and make what you will of that (heck, why not throw in a trumpet or 6?)!

Sticking to the musical bandwagon; last year Boots brought out a series of adverts containing the song “Girls” by Ernie K Doe (an old rhythm and blues singer, 1936 – 2001). Up-beat and on the mark, the adverts seemed to grip the nation and as a result the song experienced countless hits on YouTube and numerous downloads on iTunes. All was well- Boots had a good advert and Ernie K Doe’s music had found new publicity and thus new admirers who may have otherwise remained oblivious to his work. But hold on... what’s this? Oh look it’s The Interchangeables Sugababes! What are you ladies up to? Surely not planning on whoring yourselves out in the name of fame and a quick buck? Oh you do, please right this way, don’t forget to leave your shame and originality at the door! Nothing about that song needed to be covered, least of all by a manufactured band that have had so many changes in personnel that surely they can’t STILL be called the Sugababes? It’s the equivalent of a family moving into my house and thus calling themselves the Ehantharajahs...

Slumdog Millionaire’s eruption, as I admit now with my tail between my legs, really has given these plastic Indians a great excuse to “come out”. The fact of the matter is that they shouldn’t suddenly decide that embracing their culture is a good idea because of the current short term benefits they perceive it to have. Thankfully they are very few and far between; Indians are such a proud race. You only need to look at the history of the Great nation with its struggles against invaders and its struggles with itself, and its identity. A country that has grown and still continues to do so despite others trying to hammer it back from whence it came; a country that rose up and won its Independence from British rule. A country that didn’t let a savage act of terrorism affect its vibrancy and glory. A country that has given so much culture to the rest of the world not to mention the great icons; Gandhi, Tendulkar, Shahrukh Kahn...

But if all you really care for is the popularity and social credence that your background can give to you when others give it credit then honestly, I pity you. Check please...

Monday, 15 December 2008

The First Cut is the Dearest...

So last week I woke up, as I do most days (touch wood) and found myself staring at my reflection in the bathroom mirror. Usually what is staring right back at me never tends to surprise me- as a matter of fact I have to admit that it’s a pretty accurate representation of what I look like. Though this time something was different. As my eyes started to gain focus I noticed something emanating from the back of my head; after ruling out the possibility of it being some kind of spout I realised it was in fact my hair. See I have this subconscious tick where I twist the hair on the top right part of my head. Usually it’s not particularly long but having not been to a hairdresser for a while, due to my investment in a hair-cloaking device (a ghetto fabulous hat), it had started to remain twisted and jut out. After 30 minutes of trying in vain to flatten it down with water and then (painfully) a comb, I reluctantly decided it was time I sought professional help. It’s not that I dislike hairdressers, nor do I think that the Sri Lankan floppy Afro is a good look, but because I find that hair salons are one of the most awkward places I’ve ever had to frequent.

My youth was spent sporting a number 4 all over- nothing fancy, lawnmower treatment, 20 minutes, done. Getting my haircut tended to be a family event with my dad, my brother and I heading to this one barbers around 20 minutes away from our house. It wasn’t the closest barbers but the fact that they were run by a pair of brothers from India had my dad sold (the “Brown Factor”). They were quite an eccentric pair sporting floppy black hair and tight Levi jeans, and always spoke in a very matter of fact way about how this was merely a hobby after their youths spent enjoying themselves in India – very Mumbai Vice. Occasionally they would give suggestions on how I could look “cool” and attract all the ladies by shaving the sides of my head shorter than the top. I left that day a 13 year-old with a false sense of hope and exposed temples- all I needed now was a can of Lynx and a box of Milk tray and I was set. Eventually I got bored of the hour long round trips and casting careful glances at last months Page-3 model and purchased my own set of clippers. After a few teething problems I was consistently cutting my own hair to the distress of those sharing a bathroom with me. People would always try and encourage me to grow my hair but I often dismissed this as I was well aware of how ridiculous my microphone head would look if it was given time to flourish. On occasions that I would let my hair grow for an extra few weeks it would start to get quite bouncy. During a particularly inane Latin double-lesson, one of my friends observed that I was able to balance pens and pencils on it. The longer it grew, the bigger the stationery; from pens and pencils to staplers and folders – thus “The Amazing Balancing Head” was born. To me, my friends’ insistence to let my hair grow out just meant that they had set their sights on bigger and better things to balance on my head and frankly I had to nip it in the bud before someone (namely me) got hurt.

About 4 years ago one of my friends was emigrating down under and begged, for one last time, to let my hair grow. I succumbed to the emotion of the situation and decided to give it a go. At first it was fine; my head was warmer, I was flirting with different types of hair products and I had a new point of vanity. And then came my first post No.4 hair cut…

Up until this point I had never ventured into a modern hair salon. The hub of creative and vibrant twenty-somethings would surely have turned their noses up at my under-whelming follicle exploits but now one of them had their chance to be part of history (in my life anyway). I called in and booked an appointment, which was later confirmed by text; I would be with Katrina

On entering the salon I was greeted by the most veneered of smiles and told that Katrina would be along shortly and that I should take a seat. I was too excited to read the latest edition of Vogue, The Sun was nowhere to be seen; this truly was a magical place. And in she came; she looked like an extra from the video of the latest trance/dancehall anthem sweeping the iPods of Eurotrash everywhere (or at the very least a cover-girl for Ibiza Anthems). She introduced herself as the “Stylist” (a contemporary Geisha) and took me over to the seat and then proceeded to give me, what seemed to be, a pitch worthy of the Dragons Den.

First she was going to thin out the top of my hair and then hack into it to give it a bit of texture. Having done this she would then trim the sides and then shave the excess so that she could blend it in and then would proceed to clean up the back. I couldn’t be sure, but I THINK I was going to get a hair cut, or quite possibly, minor surgery. Either way I was excited.

So far so good, until the cutting actually took place. We started chatting (it took me a while to get started seeing as there was an attractive woman waving about what looked to be extravagant crocodile clips, a fantasy which had long since died since I ditched Physics at GCSE). Between wincing and grimacing I managed to maintain some type of decent conversation, though after a while I started to notice a subtle change in the tone of her voice. The more I spoke the more she seemed to be uneasy (at this point I was totally oblivious to the parameters of the hairdresser-client relationship). But, as it happens, after a basic interlude of your future plans (usually the upcoming weekend) the chat must then come to an eventual halt. I realised at that point that I had been asking questions as well as answering them, questions like,

“How long have you wanted to be a hairdresser for?”


“What’s your favourite thing about hairdressing?”

would have probably cropped up sounding drenched in irony. It was at this point that I started actually listening to what she was saying. She was going on about her 6 foot-5, former Rugby playing boyfriend whom she had been going out with for 3 years and went on to inform me that she goes for tall, athletic guys… something told me that she thought I was making a pass at her… I promptly shut up and let her get on with the rest of the job before she felt the need to inform me that she had a rape alarm.

At the end she held up a mirror so I could get a look at the back of my head…too short. Brilliant. It wasn’t as if I could say to her that she had cut it too short (despite pointing out that I don’t like it too short at the back). What could I say? Other than, “Yep that’s fine.” Like the first house party you go to as a 14/15 year old; you walk over to the booze table, pick up THAT can of Stella and take your first few sips of many and release a gentle yet audible sigh, as if it were a refreshing taste- wanting to save face in front of your mates that it’s something you’ve been missing all week because you’ve had a rough time putting the finishing touches on your book report for “Of Mice and Men”.

“Yeah that’s the good stuff… (Looks at can) 1336, good year for beer that.”

Lord knows you don’t what to be the square that says no to beer, even if it does taste like fizzy piss.

I don’t want to make out to this woman that I don’t really like my trendy £35 hair cut and be met by boos from the hip and trendy around me tutting with their skinny jeans and unnecessary piercings. “Go home Grandad”, they say while surfing MySpace searching for unknown bands and longing for unprotected sex. I can be cool. I must be cool.

“Yeah I really like that, cheers – like the way you’ve given it a bit of character at the back”

I am so cool.

Since then I’ve grown a pair and found round-a-bout ways of telling “Stylists” that I want something done differently – I can’t say my demands are always met enthusiastically but at the end of the day they’d want people to be seen leaving their salon looking better than how they walked in (random digression – isn’t it weird to think that the best hairdresser in the world will never have the best hair? Given potential rivalries between such Stylists they probably won’t even have the 2nd or 3rd best hair cut…and now we’re back).

Since that fateful afternoon I’ve dabbled with different hairdressers (as a result of being back and forth between home and University and not wanting to break the £30 mark again) and have met some relatively interesting characters along the way. One of the salons near my house is located in a shopping centre and is run by an Arabic man. My brother has gone to him a few times and says he’s not too bad but is cheaper and, given my financial situation at the time, I decided to give it a go. I walked in as he was just finishing off with someone’s hair whilst talking to what turned out to be his cousin. Having finished with the first customer he then sits me down in the chair and informs me that he has to pop out but that his cousin will be able to cut my hair. He mutters something in Arabic and hands over to him. By this point I’m almost fluent in salon-jargon so I tell the guy that I’d like the top thinned out a little because it gets too bushy and that I’d like the sides trimmed down and faded into the top. He stares at me blankly, gestures with his hand and utters,

“You want cut yes?”

Fantastic… he must’ve been merely hours off the boat and yet here I am, entrusting him with a rusty pair of scissors. I watch on as my hair is taken apart like it’s wronged him in some way. What makes it worse was that it was the middle of July and being inside a dingy barbers within a shopping centre meant that it was hot and humid. This coupled with my insatiable desire to sweat rivers meant that I was soaking up whilst being assaulted by a burly Arab man. On noticing that I was struggling a bit with the heat he then takes the water spray and starts spraying me in the face between periods of cutting my hair. So now I have diluted sweat running into my eyes at a faster rate whilst also having discarded hair stuck to my face and neck. Though no awkward chat, so every cloud…

Cutting hair must be quite a unique job; whilst the mirror is there to aid you, I’m sure it’s off putting watching someone follow your every movement whilst trying to do your job. No doubt you get used to it pretty quickly but one mistake and you have an angry customer and/or part of their ear. I've had four years of getting my hair cut in salons and I’ve still yet to devise the perfect routine for a polite, forgettable chinwag but I do feel I am getting better. That being said my propensity to be awkward and spout gibberish should never be underestimated…

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

The Wrath of Venus

Last Saturday I was on the train into central London on my way to meet a friend. The train was busy but not excessively so; there was the odd free seat, some of which had turned into some kind of newspaper orgy spot, but there was still plenty of space to stand. So I’m on the end of one of the 5-seater rows next to one of the aforementioned tabloid “romps” (thus securing myself an arm rest and reading material) and across from me are a couple (probably both late 20s). A stop later, a mixed group of about 10 people get onto the train and are standing near the couple; they’re quite merry and as the train starts to set-off it jolts, sending the high-heeled members of the group stumbling over. One in particular is floor bound when the guy in the couple reaches out and grabs her to stop her hitting the deck. Flustered but grateful, the girl gets helped to her feet and thanks the man profusely and they exchange a few chuckles (I struggle to remember what exactly was said as I hadn’t stopped laughing by this point). Still grinning and obviously quite proud with himself, the man turns back to share the joke with his girlfriend... and is met by the mother of all evils. Words cannot describe the contempt contained in this stare; like if Darth Vader had just returned from a blind date with Kerry Katona only to find the Death Star had been towed and he’d forgotten his Oyster card.

Unfortunately I had to get off at the next stop but lord knows how that evening progressed. Having done something quite chivalrous for a stranger, one man was left dealing with an irate girlfriend (see Praying Mantis). The astonishing thing is that this happens to guys everywhere, in fact every 4 seconds a guy is judged by a woman (though the same woman is often imagined topless in this time). And frankly it’s not fair. This phenomenon is not just restricted to men receiving grief from their partners, it can often come from the person you are actually HELPING (as I found out a year ago...). Let me set the scene...

It’s your standard student night out (Wednesday to be exact) and it’s 1am - so about the time that people are hitting the strong stuff to push them through (and beyond) the social awareness barrier just in time for the Baywatch theme (scheduled for 1:43am). Basically the bar is packed. Having been here far too often I know the weak points of the bar so I get myself a decent spot as bar staff go back and forth serving people, in an order which is still yet to be determined. When I get to the bar I notice there is a brunette girl standing relatively near to me who appears to be losing it as people around her are getting served while she is being constantly ignored. I take pity on her and 10 minutes later one of the bar staff comes up to me asking what I want. Seeing my chance to put myself in contention for Mr Nice Bar-Guy 2007 (thus pitting my wits against guy-who-held-back-girl’s-hair-when-she-was-throwing-up-so-that-she-perhaps-would-maybe-touch-him-one-day) I proudly announce;

“Sorry mate but I think she was here before me...”

Her face breaks into a reluctant smile and she gives the barman her request and then turns to me and offers a,


Knowing that the barman would be a couple of minutes with her drink I figured I’d indulge in some light conversation;

“Yeah I hate it when that happens. I’m tempted to invest in a big neon sign to bring out...”

She then smiles, turns to me and says...

“I’m sorry I’ve got a boyfriend.”


I actually waited for a good minute in case she followed up with, “... and he’s selling HIS neon sign; £50 or nearest offer.”

Needless to say it didn’t come, and she paid for her drinks and walked past me, in a way that gave me the impression that she thought I might mount her. I did a nice thing for this girl, who was clearly peeved off at the fact that the bar staff were constantly ignoring her, and yet it’s more or less thrown in my face. This feeling of frustration was compounded when the barman went on to serve someone else next...

IS it really the case that we, of the XY clan, are the manic sex-craving douche-bags that our female counterparts take us for? Don’t get me wrong we’ve all been on enough nights out to realise that there are some guys who will dry hump anything their crotch bounces off of (a manoeuvre not just reserved for women, male friends in the vicinity will also suffice). I’m just glad I didn’t ask for her name, I’ve heard mace stings.

Sometimes words don’t even have to be spoken in order to bear the brunt of a blind rejection; a few years ago in a pretentious club far, far away a group of about 10 of us were waiting at the bar for a mate of ours to join us. He spotted us from the other side of the dance floor and made his way through the slow-dancing minors. Right on the edge of the dance floor there was a pillar which meant he would have to squeeze past a group of girls trying to perfect the latest dance move (I want to say the Cha Cha Slide). He politely excused himself through the majority of them and as he put his arm on the shoulder of the girl closest to the edge to ebb past her, she turned around and gave a smug, over-pampered glare and sniggered,

“Look yeah I’ve got a boyfriend.”

To which he replied;

“That’s nice; I’m just trying to get past to see my friends. (Points her in our direction. We wave, she cringes) Say hello to your boyfriend for me!

Is it an egotistical thing? Are there girls out there who really feel that they are so desirable that every guy who approaches them every day just wants to get into their unmentionables? Probably, yes.

If we look back at the train debacle, the girlfriend clearly holds the man in high regard as she decided to go out with him; she trusts him, she thinks he’s not a tool and is attracted to him on a few levels. Helping the girl who was in the process of losing a tooth should surely highlight the fact that this guy has some sort of decency and his split second instinct was to help rather than to contemplate helping. Commendable, surely?

It could’ve been the case that she thought the girl was making moves on her man after he saved her; it’s not unknown that the majority of women hate a large majority of women. Reasons can range from anything such as similar shopping habits, to the general “skankiness” of a fellow female. With so much distrust flying about inter/intra-sexes one thing is always sure; men cannot be trusted.

We can’t help it; women will forever think the worst of us- whether it’s holding a door open for them, or subsequently following them in (for the record, I thought the changing rooms were unisex and I hate wearing ill-fitting scarves).

Friday, 31 October 2008

"I Don't know if you've heard but I've done over a thousand...'

Dear All,

I've decided to start a blog to chronicle random thoughts/occurrences I come across throughout my current life as an unemployed wanna-be writer/reluctant engineer. I can't say that I've researched too much into this medium although a friend of mine insisted that I should refrain from writing about pets or hobbies (I say insist, it was more of an ultimatum; one where he would be obliged to thump me).

But as it is I have neither a hobby nor a cat whose purr is worse than its saunter so I’m good for now. I wouldn’t describe myself as an angry person but every now and again I’ll come across something that would instantly make me question the presence or reasoning behind it. Having spent the better part of my teenage years as a coy ‘yes-man’ I seem to have a build-up of angst and a bitter outlook on life. Don’t get me wrong I don’t hate my life nor do I think I am unlucky in any way but more and more, as I enter my mid-twenties, I find myself becoming acutely aware of insolence around me.

For instance, a year ago I met a guy at University who when asked ,by a friend of mine, what he did back home informed us that he couldn’t tell us because he worked for the Singapore Secret Service and thus top-secret.

Just the 2 things about that...

a) Those at the Singapore Secret Service may have an inkling that such a statement could potentially blow your cover &
b) At the very least one would expect a cover story

Everyone’s prone to a white lie or two but talk of being some sort of International Man of Mystery; what is this primary school?

At the very least he could’ve combined the two and given a cover story with uncomfortable pauses and sufficient plot-holes to give off a sense of ambiguity and bullshit. But our I.M.o.M just wasn’t having it; it’s the equivalent of shouting a cumulative tally of the number of reps you have done while on a gym machine and then starting at yourself in the mirror afterwards – no one believes you, no one could really give a shit and you look like a tool (NOTE; try to avoid going into the changing room when said man is about – struts about nude as if he’s doing us a service and uses his towel like floss).

On a lighter note, a man knocked on my door today (Friday) at 1:30pm to preach the word of God. His opening pitch was,

“I’m sorry I don’t mean to disturb you, I’m sure you are very busy
given that you are at home during the day but I was just wondering if I
could give you this leaflet about the Afterlife and what prospects it could
have for you.”

Sarcasm is never the best way to sell Timeshares on the banks of the River Styx to an unemployed Hindu.