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Reputations have a habit of being in constant flux. A good reputation does not take much to tarnish, and similarly even the most bruised apple can bounce back.

But there is something that has suffered for too long to ever really be respected again: the humble lanyard. Once used in corporate offices to denote who is responsible in case of a fire, the lanyards use by charity muggers on high streets has turned it into a shibboleth, a way of identifying that the person in a North Face jacket cantering towards you like an excited Spaniel is, in fact, about to bother you with something you don’t care about.

Do you donate to charities? I don’t, really, but there have been exceptions. If someone I like/know in real life is running a marathon I like to offer support, but seeing my paltry £2.50 up against more generous donations can sting. If my weekend plans involve watching Paul O’Grady’s For The Love Of Dogs while clutching a bottle of Hendricks gin, I can also find myself bawling my security code down the phone to the Battersea charity, pledging to adopt all the dogs, all creeds and colours, like some canine incarnation of the Jolie-Pitts.

Charity mugging irks a lot of people, so maybe it’s too easy to bark on about how annoying it is. I still think, though, there’s a time and a place. On Oxford Street, after I’ve taken out a mortgage on a pair of brogues or decided to buy a new Paul Smith suit in lieu of keeping one of my kidneys, maybe it’s not ideal.

Part of the problem lies in the sociolinguistic construct between charityperson and shopper. That sounds more complicated than it should. What I mean is, when someone wants you to sign up for a charity, there’s a pretty basic level of interaction you can have. You can say yes, and make their day, or you can say no.

A lot of people act like cunts when they do the latter. You hear about them shoving charity workers or telling them to do one or flipping the finger. But being pleasant – ‘Oh hi no I’m not in a hurry actually you can probably tell by my slow saunter of a walk even though thats mainly because I have a blister from running yesterday man exercise sucks I’d love to know more about this charity and what you do’ and having a solid rapport kind of makes refusing to sign up to their charity more difficult.

Case in point, last week I was on Oxford Street; I was waiting for a friend who works nearby, and I work nearby, and had some exciting news about work, so we decided to have a quick pint.

I see the lanyard first. Then the North Face jacket. Then that the mugger looks like Theon Greyjoy from Game Of Thrones (Alfie Allen to the rest of you). Theon has spent a lot of S3 being tortured, mocked, hurt, flayed, and spread on a cross, so to see someone so strikingly similar made me think it would be nice to talk to him.

He was from the Sunday Times! Not a charity. I was thrown.

Anyway he’s selling subscriptions, so I listen, because the more Sundays I wake up feeling hungover AND alone, I realise that not having to leave the house to buy a paper might be really amazing. And I’d get a subscription to the website, meaning I can stop remaining ignorant of people tweeting ‘Amazing; you MUST read this interview on the Times [£]’. That would be good.

So the packages range in price but for me – a vigorous young go-getter, in Theon’s words – I would probably enjoy the weekend one. The Times on Saturday, and The Sunday Times. Those are the good ones, I thought. Maybe I could read them at the breakfast table. I could make those waffles I saw on Buzzfeed! Life would be a fine thing.

Thing is, my mate is here now, having only been marginally late for our going-to-the-pub thing. I’m umming and ahhing about getting this subscription – especially since Theon explains I have to pay an extra pound to get them delivered to my house. (“How am I paying for a subscription if they’re not being delivered?” I ask, sensibly. “We’d post you a coupon you can redeem for a newspaper at selected newsagents,” he explains, which to me is shorthand for THIS IS A LOAD OF FAFF WHAT AN UTTER FAFF).

Whenever I try to figure out if I’m being fleeced I multiply the deal by however many weeks/months are in the year. This deal, for the year, is £208. It’s good, but I am wanting to have a think about it. My mate photographs me being, in his words, ‘mugged off’, and I turn and wave as he does it, making me look a bit like Alan Partridge. He tweets it 😦

MUG

“Look, I mean it sounds great,” I say.

“Ah, Chris, don’t let me down man!” the guy says. And herein lies the problem. We’ve been having a chat, I’ve been making some hilarious quips, he’s been laughing in all the right places. Our chat is nice. But it’s crunch time now, and the whole thing becomes tricky.

“I don’t think I’m interested in signing up today,” in what I think is a flat, serious tone (NB: I probably grinned like a mug the whole time).

You are! He says. You said so! He adds. Such good value, he reminds me. Can I get some kind of leaflet and think about it, I ask, ever the diplomat. No. The offer stands right now, it will be gone after today.

I think in 95% of cases, forcing someone to make that kind of decision in a fleeting moment will result in them backing away and ducking out. I gave the guy my number (???) and said he should call me at the weekend and I’ll think about it, but I have made up my mind at this point.

(He rang today actually but I turned the phone on silent and went and made a pot of coffee. He predicted this would happen on friday, but I laughed it off with a ‘HA classic Theon Greyjoy’ remark)

It’s the same thing with charities. At this exact moment, on my lunch break, do I want to sign up to a charity? Probably not. And because of my saunter (/blister) I walk awfully aloof, so people catch me. Once, when someone from a dog charity approached me, I told them I was very interested but my partner and I just adopted a retired greyhound from that EXACT centre. We called him Chester, and he was a kind of mottled colour, very quiet, and friendly, and he was fitting in really well, but we had spent so much on his vet bills we couldn’t commit to a charity right now but maybe next year! In truth there was no dog. No adoption. Chester does not exist. I didn’t even have a partner 😦

Then you feel bad because even though they say it’s nice to chat to people instead of having scrunched up copies of ES magazine hurtled at them by commuters, you do feel like you just wasted their time. Theon said he had to sign up one more person and he could go home. Maybe that person was walking past while he and I talked.

So what’s the lesson here? Maybe it’s that being nice isn’t always enough. Or that diplomacy can be detrimental. Or never to meet friends on Oxford Street.

Then again, if I saw Kit Harrington in a lanyard, I don’t think I’d have it in me to be rude.

Intoxica

As CD sales continue to decline, vinyl has seen something of a revival. Leave iTunes to the side for a moment – there’s nothing quite like going to a record store and spending an hour having a good rummage around. In London, there are loads of places you can pick up some new records, and here are some of our favourites.

Though Portobello Road might seem like the kind of area where residents buy vinyl just to hang on their walls, there are some good shops worth checking out. Intoxica! (the exclamation mark is mandatory) is no dusty old store; there’s huge tribal masks and bamboo everywhere. They have a really diverse collection of records, so it’s not a bad place to start if you’re new to buying vinyl or are just starting your collection.

Just down the road is Honest Jon’s, who specialise more in jazz, soul and reggae music. Founded in 1974, it’s gone on to spawn Honest Jon’s Records, a record label run in conjunction with Damon Albarn (his side-project The Good, The Bad & The Queen was released through them).

Not far from there in Notting Hill is the original Rough Trade. Originally specialising in US and Jamaican imports, they soon established themselves as a leading outfit during London’s punk scene. This store still has amazing artwork and posters from when it traded in the 80’s, and even if you don’t end up buying any records, it’s worth the trip here just to take in the atmosphere. In 2007, they opened a 5000 sq ft flagship store in the ultra-trendy Brick Lane, which has become renowned for its book collection and incredible coffee almost as much as it has for its music.

Soho is not to be overlooked either, with some of the best record stores in the capital located within a few minutes’ walk of each other. Phonicaon Poland Street and Reckless Records and Sister Ray, both on Berwick Street, are well worth your time.

Finally, in Islington, and Crouch Hill, there’s Flashback Records, with helpful staff and a great stock, ranging from new releases to classics of the 50s. Why not clear the afternoon and visit them all?

This article first appeared in The Telegraph on August 11th.

This week’s X Factor theme was Halloween. I can’t quite remember when Halloween became a ‘thing’ on X Factor, as it seems a pretty difficult, pointless and confusing theme to master on the paved road to stardom, but there you go. Scream as Rylan does something unnerving! Shiver as Tulisa’s ‘game talk’ reaches irritatingly new lows! Recoil as Christopher Maloney wears the unshiftable grin of a seaside puppet!

Drunk Judge Of The Week: Nicole Scherzingher

My favourite thing about X Factor last year was Kelly Rowland. She was brilliant because she had a very poor grasp of what being an X Factor judge actually entailed, so watching her come up with catchphrases, jive-talking to her acts and flicking her weave in Tulisa’s face was brilliant entertainment. Though she’s gone, her bashful unprofessionalism lives on in Nicole ‘Ruiner of Rachel Crow’s Dreams*’ Scherzingher, who this week decided to cannonball eight buckets of wine before taking her seat.

To District 3, dressed as Clockwork Orange: ‘I know we’re being spooky but those eyes? I’m… I’m scared’

To James Arthur: ‘I love the way you just taste and feel… your songs’

To some other contestants: ‘Slrrnnhg… Hhmbz? Ghrsssnn VOTE RYLAN sluzzyr’

Amazing.

 

Unusual Throwback To A Script Lyric Of The Week: Tulisa, to Jahmene

After singing a very nice song**, Jahmene received glowing feedback from the judges (guess which one likened him to a young someone something). The weirdest praise was from Tulisa ‘Connoisseur Of The Urbane’ Contostavlos, saying ‘I have a nickname for you. You’re The Man Who Can’t Be Moved’. Reports that Jahmene will Break Even next week For The First Time, allowing him to enter The Hall Of Fame (ft Will.I.Am) are as of yet unconfirmed.

Least Endearing Nickname Of The Week: Ella Henderson, ‘Cupcake’

Carrying on from last year’s ‘Likkle Muffins’ – Tulisa’s term of endearment to her girlband Little Mix – comes this slightly horrible remark to Ella. The fact is, cupcakes are bad for you, sickly, a bit twee, popular with hipsters and stud the streets of London like intricately frosted prostitutes. WELL DONE TULISA. Also, if she doesn’t stop putting on that fucking horrible ‘up North’ accent when she says it I’m calling OFFCOM.

The P45 Award For Not Being Particularly Missed: Spraggo ‘Lucy’ Spraggan

Oh Spraggo. After being too poorly to perform, you’ve gone into the X Factor’s loftiest heights of notoriety – getting a free pass to next week. This has happened rarely (Diana Vickers was the only other one I think) but there’s something worrying about the X Factor hoofing everyone out to Mahiki for Rylan’s tragifest of a birthday then being concerned that the contestants have sore throats. What would Spraggo have sung anyway? Some rambling sentimental love-whinge that was interspersed with ‘Thriller’, maybe. It makes me angry just thinking about it.


So Humble and Normal Award: Jade

Just when you worry her great track-record and constant praise from the judges might go to her head, we have a helpful VT that informs us just how down to earth Jade actually is. Forget a clip explaining her song choice, or the judges weighing in on how she is doing as a singer, this week was all about Jade picking her daughter up from school and having Tulisa round for a cup of tea (ARE YOU KIDDING ME X FACTOR) because she’s so normal. Next week: Rylan visits his hometown and his family tell him they’re so proud of him for sticking to his roots (while he gets his roots did at a posh Essex salon).
NEXT WEEK: There is one less person, so naturally the programme has more adverts.

 

* If you haven’t seen this, watch this clip of Nicole’s stint on US Factor last year. It’s tragimazing because she basically ruins everything for one contestant by going to deadlock, with what follows carrying a bleak, emotionally fraught atmosphere you’d sooner expect from an explosion at an animal shelter.

** Something that has annoyed me for a while is the way singers of opposing gender to the original maker of a song swap the gender round so it sounds like they are conceivably singing it to a heterosexual lover. Jahmene did it on Killing Me Softly and all it did was make it really jarring and obvious they changed it round. Why bother? Do they think if he keeps ‘he’ ‘man’ and ‘him’ in a song people will think he’s gay? Because Jade, who if you believe the papers (and why wouldn’t you we check our sources etc etc), has no problem singing lyrics addressed to a man despite the fact she is attracted to women. She isn’t doing a disservice to her sexuality or anything ridiculous like that – she’s covering a song. RANT OVER.