Tuesday, May 23

Tiptoe Through The Tulips.

The weather over the last few days has been awful in London. Cold, high winds, dark and either drizzly or torrential rain. It tends to be like this each May, the second or third week. The reason? I suspect it is because of Chelsea Flower Show.

The show, which opens today to R.H.S. members, is almost always cursed by inclement weather. I remember last year the folk selling Pimms looked downhearted most of the day and the Ice Cream sellers looked positively suicidal. The only people doing a good trade were the girls handing out rain capes sponsored by an insurance company.

We will be going tomorrow, with sandwiches and flasks of tea to be consumed perched on a folding chair near the bandstand. We will probably play our usual game of celebrity spotting. Last year we got all the usual suspects, Dairmuid Gavin, Monty Don, Carole Klein, Alan Titchmarsh and Linda Barker.

Watch this space for news and photos…

Ooops. Where did that week go?

Ouch! All of a sudden a blog-free week has shot past.
My apologies. The weekends have just shot past without stopping to say “hello”, and the weeknights just don’t seem to be long enough.
My good lady wife is working late three nights a week at the moment. By the time I have got home from work its time to get dinner ready. Then bedtime arrives! It’s been busy at work too, so no chance there to pre-write a blog for posting later.

I thought I was going to have time to write last night, then foolishly thought I would start by upgrading the anti-virus software on our laptop. Silly me. After I downloaded and installed the software (and Paid for it too I may add), I started getting a persistent error message I had never had before. Up it popped every time I clicked on anything. Download six emails, up it popped, six times. Thank you Norton Antivirus! I ended up having to uninstall the programme, locate and rename a hidden file, then install the antivirus all over again. All in all I must have restarted the laptop about eight times and spent about three hours working on it. The Norton help files were useless. It was good luck that I found a fix by Googling the error message, even better luck that the first fix I found worked first time.

That’s computers all over, higher maintenance than a fashion model and just as unpredictable.

Monday, May 15

Another one bites the dust...

And no, I’m not talking about a Spurs fan’s hopes..

Only a few short weeks after I blogged about the rich diversity of shops in the Nags Head and our oldest Greengrocer, Gibber of Holloway has closed down for good.

This end of the Seven Sisters road isn’t exactly short of fruit and veg emporia. But at its best, Gibbers was something else. It had real personality.

John, the shop manager, was a real character. He worked the shop like a Maitre’D in a restaurant, welcoming people, keeping two conversations going at once. He would ask you about the cricket and sell you six boxes of jam strawberries at the same time. If anything on the show looked a little less than perfect you just had to ask John and you would be escorted to one of the massive coldrooms at the back and invited to pick your choice from the freshest of the fresh.

I even remember one year, around Christmas time, when he gave my wife and I a bottle of wine! I think the majority of their business came from supplying the restaurant trade, including some rather posh West End kitchens. This meant that anything could be found for you, you just had to ask. And as always, there is nothing a food seller likes better than an enthusiastic customer.

Sadly, years of hefting heavy sacks around took their toll on John.(I remember swapping hernia stories with him) and a crushed wrist bone caused him problems for quite a while. Finally his wife became seriously ill, and John retired to look after her. Thing started to go downhill for Gibbers at that point.

You know when standards start to slip in a greengrocers. The quality of the veg goes down. Beetroots and Swedes sit in corners going soft and wrinkled like an old boxer down on his luck. I went in their a few weeks back and they had a whole box of broccoli on the show that was practically yellow with age, blousy and loose instead of vibrant and green. The old Greek ladies in their widow’s black started going elsewhere, and I must confess I followed them. I popped in now and then, half out of loyalty, half hoping things would get better. They never did. On a Saturday in the past Gibbers would have two or three extra staff serving and shifting. Recently they have only had one girl on the till, and she wasn’t busy.

This stretch of Seven Sisters Road now has two prime double shop sites empty and practically next door to each other. (The other is one of the two decent butchers in the area which shut just before Christmas). We can only hope that the planners don’t let the sites get turned into yet another kebab shop or general “grocers” selling exactly the same as all the others.

This area is fast turning into a shopping wasteland. I feel a letter to my Councillors coming on. Feel free to join me.

Sunday, May 14

Only In Islington.... Part Two of an occasional series...

I won’t go on about the term “old folks”; irritating as it is. It is a newspaper placard, space is important. “older persons” is clumsy, and longer.

No. What gets me is the “pub sing songs” bit.

It automatically conjures up images of good ‘ole cockney types in caps and mufflers, drawing deeply on Capstan Full Strength as they quaff ale and sing Roll Out The Barrel and Knees Up Mother Brown.

“Never mind the bombs falling Duck, get another drink in and we’ll sing Roll Me Over In The Clover”

But hang on a minute. Let us define “Old Folks” as those of 75 years of age. That means they were born in 1931. Now, say for the purpose of argument that one’s musical tastes are formed by the music you grow up with, what were the contemporary hits of 1953, when these wrinklies were 22 years of age?

Guy Mitchell “She wears red feathers.” (13 March 1953)

Lita Roza “How much is that doggie in the window?” (17 April 1953)

Frankie Laine “I Believe” (Various times for something like 18 weeks in total).

Now pardon me, but I have never heard a pub full of old timers belting out “How much is that doggie” before trashing the place and steaming down Upper Street in their mobility carts.

And as for “I Believe”, well anyone who can sing

“I believe for every drop of rain that falls, a flower grows”

In these drought-ridden times deserves to be bought a drink, not banned from the pub.

Monday, May 8

We Was Nobbled!!

When I married my good lady wife nearly twenty years ago, I also married into a family of ardent Arsenal supporters. I have never regretted marrying my wife. But sometimes having Gooners as in-laws can prove to be a test of character in the face of adversity. Yesterday was one such time.

If I have to hear "Spurs did really well this year" said with a smiling irony akin to talking down to the village idiot (who has just crossed the road without being run over) I will simply implode.

But to suffer all this, all the "It ain't over till its over" smugness, the "just you wait" cockiness, all this, and to be beaten by a lasagne?

Life really isn't fair.

Oscar Wilde got it right:

"Football is all very well. A good game for rough girls, but not for delicate boys."

Wednesday, May 3

Overheard Today at the Health Food Shop.

Beard One: "What you need is one of my crystal essences."

Beard Two: "how d'you make them then?"

Beard One: "well, I make them during the summer. I get spring water, and I put the crystal in it. Leave it in the sun, see. Then the sun energises the crystal, and the water catches the energy."

Beard Two: "yeah? Then what?"

Beard One: "Then I get organic brandy, mix that with the water, and bottle it for later."

At this point I was turning blue with the effort of keeping my face straight.

It makes homeopathy sound scientific.

Tuesday, May 2

Post-Modernism to your Collection Point Please.

Piped Music must be one of the greatest irritations of modern life. Enduring the Customer Non-Service of your average Argos Store comes a close second. Piped music in an Argos Store should therefore be insufferable.

Yet today, whilst I dutifully waited for ten minutes before being told I was in the wrong place, something magical happened. A little glint of humanity caught my eye. Or rather, ear.

Some subversive soul in head office had added a Kinks track to the piped music.

Which one?

"Tired of Waiting."!!!

".... you keep-a me waiting
All of the time
What can I do?
It’s your life
And you can do what you want
Do what you like
But please don’t keep-a me waiting
Please don’t keep-a me waiting’
cause I’m so tired
Tired of waiting
Tired of waiting for you..."

Corporate Irony No Less!