Sunday, 25 November 2007

Broderick's Sunday Special #7: Martin Amis - still a twat

Saturday, 24/11/07

The Martin Amis: Racist or just a bigot? debate rages on. Ronan Bennett publishes a column in which he takes Amis to task. Christopher Hitchens retorts. For those of you who are just joining the debate, let me briefly, but rationally, sum up both sides: Martin Amis is a racist.

All hilarity aside, however, this week I did write a letter to The Guardian in response to Hitchens' article "Martin Amis is no racist." Last time I wrote into the Guardian I was expressing my indignity after a well-known British circuit comedian with a G2 column stole several lines verbatim from Margaret Cho's concert DVD I'm The One That I Want. Brazen as you like! I called for her to be taken to criminal court. They didn't respond.

This week I write the following:

Dear Editor,

Re: Martin Amis is no racist - Christopher Hitchens - G2 - 21/11/07 pg 10-11

I am not going to weigh in regarding whether or not Martin Amis is a racist. His views certainly had racist overtones and were distasteful, but in the multitude of shifting contexts it is important that they are aired and debated. However, whether or not he is a racist, Martin Amis will always be the author of Yellow Dog, and for that deserves no less than to be locked in a perspex box filled with fire ants for the rest of his curmudgeonly days. The Eagleton v. Amis dust-up has unfortunately drawn attention away from the real issue: debating whether or not Amis' books have any merit or are simply the literary equivalent of serving up a dog turd on a fancy square plate. I have gotten less pleasure from reading Amis' novels than I have from being puked on by children on long-haul flights.

They don't print the letter.

The only reason I can think for this is that Charlie Brooker somehow got a hold of my letter and saw its comic GENIUS as a threat to his job as writer of Screen Burn, and subsequently had all trace of it destroyed.

Yes. I'm certain that's what happened.

Sunday, 25/11/07

I ride my bike from Cricklewood to Belsize Park. I'm dressed in shirt and sweater vest, woolen blazer and comfy scarf. This is wonderful!, I think, pedaling down Mill Lane. This is exactly how I'd behave on a Sunday if I were a famous writer! Only I'd be carrying my laptop down to the local French cafe and languidly tapping out a second draft of a brilliant, Miranda July-esque short story, not about to start a double shift at a sushi restaurant.

I stop at Starbucks. I'm going to have a Starbucks!, I think, perkily. I go inside and join the extra long queue. Venti-sized queue, if you will. No matter, I shout inside my own head, I have loads of time!

Starbucks is an armageddon of screaming middle class children. A boy is removing the lids of all the travel mugs, spitting inside, and replacing said lid. A barista comes along the line to take our order in advance of us reaching the cashiers, as one might in a queue at immigration, or hospital.

"Can I take the next drink order?" she says to the couple in front of me. They aren't listening. They're talking about whether their front room should be painted "mushroom." What a stupid name for a colour, I think, mushrooms can be anything from black to red. Sometimes blue. "Can I take your drink order," the barista says again. I interrupt them. "Excuse me, I think this lady is asking if you'd like any drinks," I say, politely. The man looks at me as if I'd kicked his grandmother's wheelchair off a cliff. "Two extra shot soy lattes!" he snaps at the barista, affronted by the fact his mushroom tete-a-tete has been interrupted.

Behind me the mother of the kid who's been befouling the travel mugs struggles to keep him in line. She's cutting in front of me as he wails. (He wants a pastry, probably a limited edition Starbucks Christmas Cranberry one). The mother turns to me. "Was I in front of you or behind you? I don't remember."

"You don't remember? That's very weird. Well, I was behind these people," cheeky, horrible woman, I think. Just because she has kids she thinks she can have cuts.

She ducks behind me. "Excuse me," says the man who used to be behind me, "You just cut in front of me!" A full scale row explodes behind me.

Why are people so rude in Britain? my subconscious wails. We're waiting for our drinks now, me and the interior design loving posh twats. "Two extra shot soy lattes!" the drinks-maker says, plunking two paper cups down on the counter.

Watch this, I think, I'll bet he won't even say thank you. His sour-faced wife won't so much as look at people serving her. If I had telekinesis, I'd make their house, their stupid mushroom-coloured house, burn to the ground.

Go on... FLAME ON! I think, furiously.

I look at the man. A panicked look crosses his face. "Thank you very much," he says to the barista.

Puzzled, I collect my drink and leave the store. As I unlock my bicycle I can smell burning wood in the air. It smells like Christmas.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Somerfield; or the miracle of market research

My local supermarket, Somerfield, has recently replaced their ubiquitous plastic basket, that symbol of global standardization, with a new and improved basket, twice as deep, and tapered on the bottom. It’s like shopping with a gardening bucket. I’m sure the tapered design was meant to echo the straw panniers of French markets, allowing loose vegetables to spill gloriously over the edges like Nigella Lawson’s naughty bath fantasies, however, all it does is make it exceedingly difficult for the people of Cricklewood to balance their fish fingers on their chicken kievs. Best, or worst, of all is what I imagine these research and development geniuses consider the coup d’etat: an extendable handle and set of wheels, which allows this new wonder-bucket to be placed on the floor and dragged along like a cosmopolitan Louis Vuitton luggage set, or an old lady shopping trolley.

I’m in Somerfield, doing a weekly shop. I do pride myself on being able to handle change, but I cannot handle this. For one thing, the shopping bucket’s elegant tapered design tapers to a point the size of a mouse’s testicle, meaning that the first part of my shopping ritual is already spoiled. Generally, I go first to the newspaper rack and take a copy of the Guardian. It’s excellent berliner format fit the dimensions of the standard shopping basket precisely, and I would lay the Guardian down on the bottom of the basket, like a bird lining its nest. What am I supposed to do this time? I think. “Well I suppose,” I mumble to myself, and roll the newspaper up. Polly Toynbee’s sensible face will be creased like a drying dish towel now, I think, and something irrevocably dies inside me.

It gets worse. The new shopping buckets are twice as heavy as the old ones, which I imagine is the consequence of R&D geniuses trying to force people to use their slick wheelie trolley design: “lets put these lead weights in strategic and unbalanced places so that not only will old ladies not want to carry the basket in their hands, it’ll break all their bones if they try to! Yayyy!!!!” Tossers.

But I refuse to play their game. I’m a twenty-five year old man, I’m not prepared to wheel around my shopping bucket like I’m acknowledging the unstoppable approach of Senor Death. Fuck that. So I shop, defiantly, basket in hand, vegetables, meats and cheeses stacking upon each other like the world’s worst game of Tetris. But it gets even worse. The extra long size of the bucket, while not actually accommodating extra goods due to its patented mouse-testicle taper, means that the edge of the bucket bashes into your knees with every step you take. As you set off on your weekly shopping adventure, it’s merely frustrating. Later, when the bucket is filled to the brim and rather heavy, it’s agonizing. I must be bruising, I think, I bruise very easily, after all… that’s what people say all the time, isn’t it? Maybe I don’t bruise easily. But I’ll bet I’m bruising now. Maybe I could show my bruise to the checkout lady and get a bit of a discount.

“That’s it!” I suddenly cry. “I’m doing it, I don’t care!” I put the basket on the floor, extend the handle and wheel forward. A thousand angels sing; it’s heaven. This, I think, is the glory of the aged. I feel the years pile on to me and a grin spread on my face as I wheel my basket to the checkout. Good times up ahead, everybody.

Monday, 5 November 2007

Broderick's MONDAY Special #6: Celebrity

A belated column to celebrate Bonfire Night.


It's becoming increasingly cliched to take swipes at celebrities. They're easy targets, after all, like overfed ducklings. This week it was reported that Heather Mills-ex-McCartney has decided to design a line of furniture. Now, I could take up precious space making an easy joke about what a stupid business choice that is, because no one wants to buy a range of furniture where one leg is always shorter than the others, but I won't.

But I will tell you this. I was having my hair cut last week at this place called The Men's Lounge, which is basically like what an old fashioned working men's barbershop would look like if it was inside John Barrowman's ass. It's very pretentious. But they do have free beer, and Playstation 3. Although all they seem to play is FIFA World Cup (that's football). I've tried to get them to get something I'd be interested in, like Metroid, or Legend of Zelda, but I don't think that fits with their image.

Anyways, I'm getting my hair cut, enjoying my hairdresser's calming, dulcet tones, like a wave crashing against a duvet cover. We're talking about my fascinating work at the sushi restaurant. I am relaxed.

This is good. Since an early age I have always been petrified of haircuts. This, I believe, is due to:

a) a worry that cutting my hair will rob me of my virility
b) seeing a kid run screaming out of Richmond Barbers with a bloody rag cupped over his dripping, incarnadine ear at the age of 5.

But this dude's good. I'm totally at ease. The conversation turns to the fact that there's a sushi restaurant next door to The Men's Lounge.

'Yeah, it's pretty depressing inside,' he says, like a caramel voiced pigeon, 'but there's good sushi.'

'And,' he continues, 'you know who I saw in there the other day? Fuckin' Heather Mills-McCartney!'

'Really?' I'm skeptical, mostly because eating inside that sushi restaurant would be like eating inside an onboard toilet on a bus. But filthier.

'Was she with other people?'

'Nah, just by herself. I had to do a bit of a double take. She wasn't even reading a book or newspaper or anything. Just staring out the window with her dead zombie eyes.'

'That's very sad.'

'You're telling me. You'd think she'd be in Nobu. Hey, did you see her flip out on GMTV?'

The haircut's over. I look like a fuzzier version of myself. I hand over my money and put on my coat. I've left a good tip.

'See ya next time, B,' he says.

Then I realize. I have no idea what this man's name is. I've been getting my hair cut here for nearly a year, in twelve monthly installments, and I have no idea what his name is. Not even a first letter, or number of syllables. Blind panic strikes me. He knows my name, in fact, knows it well enough to forgo the use of all but the first letter of it! But I have to phone in and give over my name to get an appointment. That's why he knows my name! That's cheating!

Did he ever introduce himself? Maybe he never even said his name. What does he have to hide? Or, oh god, what if this is another one of those things where I can't understand what people are saying because the English accent is so thick!

I've been stood there, grinning, for a significant length of time. 'Yeah, uh, see you later... You!'

Triumphantly, I walk away.

I have to find a new hairdresser now, because next time, that bleeding ear'll be mine.