Thursday, March 31, 2011

Unleash the Zombies!

Well, UKCMRI (aka The Kings Cross Death Camp) have written to us all to smugly announce that they really have got planning permission to spend the next 4 years building their one-size fits all solution to The End Of Civilisation As We Know It. Next door to my flat. And the Eurostar.

Quite how they've achieved this on land that was supposed to be used for building affordable homes for key workers is still a little bit of a mystery, but their leaflet is very pleased with itself.

Oddly, now they've got the go-ahead, the artist's impression has got a little bolder. Here's how they used to publicise it:

And here it is now:

Gone are those lovely friendly trees that helped to hide how big it really was. Gone is the suggestion that the roof is a shimmering waft of gossamer glass. Instead, it's a massive "fuck you" of a building. This isn't any ordinary Scary Bio Lab. This is a Shiny One.

Also, you can now clearly see the chimneys. Which when quizzed at a meeting turned out to be mostly for the incineration of corpses. Coo.

In return, we get three community support police officers for three years. Who I'm sure will do a great job in dealing with the understandably alarmed protesters.

It's not all doom and gloom. As part of the coup de grace to the community, they're closing down the allotments that have stood on the site and have launched an exhibition to show the rich architectural heritage of the area that they're now gloatingly destroying.

I look forward to the next edition, which will probably have the headline "Say goodbye sunlight, hello smallpox".

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Why I hate Halfords

Sometimes a firm has an utter disconnect between a great online presence and the grim reality of their stores.

I tried buying a bike from Halfords. Yes, I know, but their site offered a brilliant "reserve and collect" service - you reserve it, and they'll assemble it for you to collect when they open the next day. No sooner had I placed my order than they texted me with the order code. Fantastic online service!

The next day I turned up at the Halfords store in Mile End. It was empty apart from two people behind the bike desk, both playing with their mobiles.

I handed over my reservation code. The guy made that "kiss my teeth" noise so valued in Customer Service. "I've not built any of today's bikes yet. So...."

"But," I protested, "Your website...."

KMT again. This time with a shrug. After prompting, he tears off a till receipt, scribbles down the phone number of Customer Services and then gets back to talking with his colleague about sneaking off for the afternoon. As he wore a badge labelled "Duty Manager" I hardly think this was the perfect crime.

I rang customer services and explained that there's a difference between their amazing website and their awful shop. The response was an audible shrug. It would have been better if she'd said "Well, we're Halfords. What did you expect?" What's most puzzling is that someone at Halfords has clearly put so much money into trying to rehabilitate their brand online, but they're still wearing the concrete boots of their shitty shitty stores.

To cap it all, when I get home empty-handed their amazing website had emailed me with tips to help me enjoy my new bike. Way to twist the knife.

Sadly, I probably will end up having to buy a bike from Halfords. But I'll be thinking "Fuck you" every step of the way. Because I know that's what they're thinking about me too.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Avengers: In Colour

Well, you've probably heard about The Midsomer Murders race row (where the producer announced that there was no place for ethnic minorities in his show).

My friend Lee reminded me that this isn't the first show to play the "last bastion of Englishness" card. He was talking about The Avengers - a show which had a "no blood or blacks" policy written into its writers guide ("NO COLOUREDS" got block caps, just to make sure). Just like Midsomer, kinky sex was fine, but not mutliculturalism.

What makes the Midsomer debacle all the worse is that The Avengers tried this policy in the 1960s. It was a silly policy then, designed to preserve The Avengers' picture postcard never-never England which made it such a scrummy international sale (it's the only English show ever to air on US network television, and was so popular in South Africa they made their own radio version. Go fig).

However, as a policy, it was also a failure. Quite a few black people ended up in The Avengers. They all appeared to have gone to Eton, but then so did everyone in The Avengers, even the gals. The show just couldn't tell interesting stories without them

So it's interesting that what The Avengers couldn't manage in the 60s some crackers bloke's managed to do in the 21st Century. Well, I say interesting. I probably mean repellant.

Mind you, racism is one of those bafflingly old-fashioned things. Like pressing flowers or shitting in the street. I still remember staying late at work to read the inbox after the first episode of new Doctor Who went out. It was an amazing evening. Reading through over a thousand emails, people who'd just got in touch to say what an amazing time they'd had, proud Dads sending in photos of their happily terrorised children... and one man who'd emailed to say "The best bit was when she dumped the c**n."

Yeah. Still makes me feel queasy.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Out of the closet

As I write this, the boyfriend is eating cornflakes at the exact time the cat is using her litter tray. It's a singularly awful collision of sound.

Anyway, the point is, many years ago, when I first moved to London, I had all my Doctor Who books on a shelf in my bedroom. I say all, I mean about 20. Which is probably more than enough for some people. I was, at the time, trying desperately hard to date a man called Christian Fletcher (you would, just for the name, wouldn't you?). He was over one time when he spotted the books, lurking at the bottom of the shelf. "Oh," he said. "Are those DVDs? My flat mate loves Doctor Who DVDs." He then realised they were books and his startlingly pretty face fell.

Things cooled shortly afterwards. Mind you, it may also have been me not realising that mobile phones record each missed call and me trying to get hold of him six times in one evening when I was at a play round the corner from him... "Did you call?" he texted. "Many many times?"

In a bid to seem more sane, I took to calling boys less and also decided to hide Doctor Who from my life. After all, this was the Space Year 2001 when Doctor Who was not cool and if I wanted to impress people to get laid I'd tell people I worked on the Fame Academy website. What a difference a decade makes.

When I moved into my own flat, my room had two wardrobes. As most of my clothes were novelty t-shirts with kittens on, I didn't need to hang much up, so I turned one wardrobe into the Cupboard Of Sad. This was because a week after I moved in, my parents sent a van along with ALL of my stuff. Crates and Crates of books. Including... hmmmm.... treasured relics of my fishbowl-lensed-mouth-breathing childhood.

So, into the Cupboard of Sad went hundreds of Doctor Who books. Novelisations, Novels, The Doctor Who Knitting Book, Junior Doctor Who And The Brain Of Morbius (being a bowlderised version of a particularly gruesome adventure. In hindsight, as wise a move as Junior Hannibal Lecter And The Silence Of The Lambs. Junior Doctor Who also tackled And The Giant Robot and then fell silent). The Doctor Who Cookery Book, the first volume of an illustrated encyclopedia (notable for pastel drawings of monsters and for missing out the letter 'K'), a book in which two baffled American lesbians toured the space quarries of England, and even a hardback alarmingly called "25 Glorious Years". Basically, all of my parents' wearisome love and pocket money slapped into a cupboard. Along with books that were still coming out. That were all read, adored, and then quickly hidden away.

Oh, that glorious decade of luring people back without them even realising that a few yards away lurked my shameucopia, hidden behind two MDF doors. It looked like an ordinary cupboard, but it was much sadder on the inside.

Things have changed. Maybe it's growing up. Or getting a boyfriend who doesn't care about my obsessions so long as they don't get in the way of following the Swedish heats of the Eurovision Song Contest. Perhaps it's that Doctor Who is very cool now. Or just that I need somewhere to hang my shirts (I still have one t-shirt with a kitten on. I wear it down the gym and you can fuck off if you think you're taking it away).

But I've now stuck all my Doctor Who books on shelves. Well, nearly all of them. There's still a couple of hundred to find space for somewhere. The urge to re-read them all is almost overwhelming. The cat likes them too. She's eaten quite a bit of The William Hartnell Handbook. I think he'd approve.