Sunday
Jan312010

Guest Blog by Dan Bridge 

A friend of mine is writing a book in the style of a diary. The Diary of Dan Bridge. It starts back in April 1976 and here is the first day in the life of Dan. I'm told it's a fictitious account of life back then but has some events woven into the story that did actually happen. The names have been changed to protect the innocent and no doubt the guilty.

 

The Diary of Dan Bridge

April 12th 1976

After school I was hanging around outside the Catholic Church on the main road with Tracey Cannings when Martin Cox went by in his MK1 Ford Escort with the fancy spotlights on the front and the rear spoiler. It’s not as fast as an Escort Mexico but goes like the clappers all the same. Mr Cartwright our technical drawing teacher told me about the rally driver Hannu Mikkola winning the 1970 London to Mexico World Rally in an Escort and then Ford started making the Mexico after that. Hannu Mikkola sounds like a funny name and Mr Cartwright said that he was from Finland. Not sure where that is but must be somewhere between London and Mexico I suppose.

As Martin passed us he flashed his lights three times. Must have been at Tracey because the last time I saw him he went past me on his bike and then did a U-turn in the road. Came right up to me. Jumped off his bike letting it fall to the ground, grabbed me by my school tie and pushed me up against a garden fence.

 ‘What you looking at punk?' he asked me in a very threatening manner.

As if holding my tie so tight that I could barely breath wasn’t threatening enough.

 ‘I said what you looking at punk?’ he asked again but this time he pushed his fist up under my chin.

I just shook my head. How could I answer such a question? I was, I suppose, looking at him but that isn’t a punishable crime.

Martin was well known in the area for bullying younger people for pretty much looking at him. It seemed a bit ridiculous to be physically threatened for merely looking at somebody. He kept a grip on my tie for what seemed like 10 minutes and kept asking me

 ‘What you looking at punk?’

He finally let go and got back on his bike and as he went to ride away he said

 ‘If I catch you looking at me again punk I’ll kick your head in! You understand punk?’

 ‘Yes, I understand’. I replied.

I’m not sure why Martin called people ‘punk’. He must have seen somebody do it in a film.

Martin Cox used to go to my school but then had to go to another school because of his bad behavior. He used to have a sidekick who was considerably smarter than he was but they had been split up and left unable to be the Ronnie and Reggie of the bullying world. I walked back towards school and saw David Barnes and Paul Moony. They had seen what had happened and rather than take the mickey out of me they sympathised. He’s had a go at them a few times before for looking at him. It can’t be easy for Martin Cox. I mean who can go out in broad day light and not get looked at?

Tracey Cannings told me that she had kissed Martin Cox at a disco at the Civic Hall a few weeks ago. As soon as she told me that I decided to say goodbye to her and make tracks back into school to get the bus home. Before Martin Cox did a U-turn in the road and come back for me and repeat the ‘what you looking at punk?’ scenario again. Besides, if I wasn’t in the bus line I would get done by Mrs Elwood again.

Waiting in the school bus queue Andy Hunt was pushing people over. This time he had learnt a new trick that involved his brainless mate Andrew Bragg. Braggsy, as he’s known would go behind somebody and kneel down on all fours. Then Andy would push the person causing them to fall over Braggsy and then onto the ground with quite a thud. The pair of them thought they were hilarious. I hadn’t seen them laugh this much since they spent the whole of one lunch time going around and asking all the boys if they were ‘heterosexual’. When they answered with a ‘no’, mainly because they were unsure of what a heterosexual was and didn’t want to be branded as something not normal, Braggsy and Andy Hunt would laugh hysterically whilst saying ‘Urgh! You freak you’re not a heterosexual. Urgh!’

The bus came. We all pushed and barged our way on to it. I had to sit near Elaine Tracy and she had been making Cod Mornay in Home Economics. She sat with it proudly on her lap all the way home. She carried it in a Quality Street tin that had a hole in the top. It really smelt horrible. Mind you, most things that the girls make in Home Ec seems to smell horrible and smell the same.

When I got home I went straight out to the rec and played football. My mate James always wants to be Pele but I don’t mind too much as I like to pretend I am Johan Cruyff. I think his name is pronounced yohan and James takes the mickey and says Johan like Joanne. James gets on my nerves sometimes but we have been friends for 6 years since we were 5 when we moved into the house on the new estate. I scored a magnificent volley in the style of Cruyff. Not quite as great as the goals scored by James ‘Pele’ Barratt but in my opinion one great Cruyff volley is worth 10 goals scored by overhead kicks. The beauty of the Cruyff volley cannot be matched by the ugliness of the overhead kick. It’s just messy.

After football I went home for tea. We had mash, carrots and fishfingers. Mum said she couldn’t be bothered to cook much because she was tired from work. Dad didn’t say much and was watching the news on telly.

My Sister Bev was really excited because today is David Cassidy’s birthday. He’s 26 and she wants to marry him. She’s 18 and could marry him but I think the only problem seems to be that he doesn’t know who the hell she is. I think he’s rubbish. Went upstairs to listen to some records. Played my brother Paul’s Hawkwind album Doremi Fasol Latido. Paul really likes heavy metal and rock. I have to make sure that I put his records back properly otherwise he moans at mum and says I should stay out of his bedroom. I swapped my copy of Bohemian Rhapsody for Slik Forever and Ever. It is brilliant. My favourite song. It sounds like the tune from World In Action at the beginning and then gets a bit like Bay City Rollers but not so girlie. I think some members of Slik used to be in the Rollers.

Didn’t want to go back down stairs and watch telly so I shouted from the top of the stairs that I was going to bed. Dad shouted back up the stairs at me to tell me off for shouting from the top of the stairs but I pointed out that that was exactly what he had done to me so why was it wrong when I did it. He said he would give me a clip round the ear if I gave him anymore lip. I went to bed and looked through my football coin collection by torchlight.

 

 

Friday
Jan152010

Book: The Incomplete Handbook

On Wednesday I caught up with a friend at Leon in Spitalfields for coffee. We sat down and Gillian stuck her finger in her coffee and complained ‘This coffee is cold. Look you shouldn’t be able to stick your finger in it like that!’. She was absolutely right and took the coffee back. Mine was OK. She returned and we sat down and talked about Christmas and how things were turning out in the new year. I could see an orchard of Apples in the back area of Leon. There were around 7 or 8 illuminated Apple symbols as people surfed and worked away. They may have  been the unemployed beavering away whilst saving money on heating bills, in this very cold spell, as they wrote books about boy wizardry. They may have been transcribing their partners night-time ramblings and dreams. As they sat doing whatever they were doing we chatted about life but didn’t mention the Universe. I’m sure a lot of people don’t. We decided to wander out and have a walk around Spitalfields. As we left Leon I picked up a copy of the free magazine Shortlist that had been left by the front window.

We walked into the furniture shop OneDeko and I’m sure they recognise us in there by now as ‘those two that come in all the time and look around and moan about the prices of things without ever buying anything’. Well, we couldn’t disappoint them and did just that, only this time things were in a SALE and still seemed to be really expensive. One day after writing something that I get paid for I may return to OneDeko and purchase one of their cheapest items. Possibly a mug.

We wandered in and out of other shops for a while and stared into Pimps & Pinups the hairdressing salon that Gillian has her eye on for a haircut. One that doesn’t just offer up the asymmetrical Shoreditch cut. I’m not entirely sure what that is but it is widespread, apparently. Gillian decided to head off home and so did I. She boarded the 133 bus and I the 135. I opened up Shortlist and began to read through it. Inside I found an article about Ian Dury and the new film about his life. ‘Danny Wallace Lands US Sitcom Pilot’ and on the same page were some headphones inspired by old skool Sony Walkman headphones. A Danish company AIAIAI has designed them. I read the article and flicked through the rest of the magazine as the bus slowly made it’s way through the London traffic.

Most people have old books sitting on shelves and in cupboards that they once read, maybe read more than once or never quite got around to reading. I don’t like a lot of clutter around me and therefore, I tend to clear out books from my home. Some remain though and some I pick up from charity shops when I’m rummaging around. Usually those books are the ones I think maybe, one day, will be picked up and inspire something within me. Of course, a lot of them don’t and end up back in a charity shop.

This morning I picked up Harry Armfield’s Cool: The Complete Handbook. It’s a book that was first published in 1986 by Pavillion Books. I didn’t buy it in 1986 but I did find it in a charity shop a few years ago. The cover features celebrities and well-known people. Twelve in total including Jack Nicholson (so cool he doesn’t need to wear Raybans), Oscar Wilde (I think it is him as he looks an awful lot like Jonathan Ross), Winston Churchill, Bob Dylan, Grace Jones, Queen Victoria and a self-portrait of Vincent Van Gogh who luckily has a bandaged head to hold his Raybans to his face.

You may be wondering why I have chosen to write about this book? Well, It’s a book I don’t see around much - only at home. Many of my coolest friends would be totally unaware of its existence. The true essence of cool is that it is hard to define. It’s a word banded about often to describe a myriad of things but many of those things, if analysed properly, would be perhaps uncool. I’m not sure who is the leading authority on cool in today’s world. As I was looking through this 1980s handbook of cool I stumbled upon the mention of a once very cool gadget. The headphones I had seen in Shortlist the other day had been inspired by this very gadget which was the iPod of it’s day. The Sony Walkman. Admittedly when you see Cliff Richard roller-skating to ‘Wired for Sound’  then the Walkman seems quite uncool but in it’s day it was one of the coolest gadgets on Earth. I  think Wired for Sound was one of Cliff's finest moments since Summer Holiday.

In Harry Armfield’s book Cool: The Complete Handbook the Sony Walkman is described as follows,

Sony Walkman

Mozart in the privacy of your own head.

The finer musical principles of a Bolivian flute ensemble privately making your audience nauseous on a crowded tube train. An essential beach accoutrement. An item of modern jewellery.

Walkman users are elevated above the miserable, downtrodden throng. You see a mundane urban landscape and it suddenly takes on the appearance of your directorial film debut - a social comment without words, just your carefully selected soundtrack. Warning: while enjoying a cerebral tune or two it’s v.v uncool to suddenly break into song or a Nils Lofgren routine.’

The Sony Walkman is a device I certainly haven’t seen on the London Underground for many years. I did see a man holding a Sony Discman recently but unfortunately for him he wasn’t a young Japanese guy draped in complete retro but still managing to look like he was from the future. He looked, instead, quite uncool. Why should he care though? I shall be keeping my eyes peeled for my first sighting of the Walkman inspired headphones. Somebody in Shoreditch, who lives their life by what they see in style magazines, will surely have ordered them on Amazon immediately after seeing them featured in Shortlist.

I would recommend Harry Armfield’s Cool: The Complete Handbook. It has some interesting things inside and is a lot better than many of those books that seem to appear around Christmas that are given away by the middle of January. Things to do with dead cats etc. It’s become a fascinating piece of history for anyone that was around in the 1980s or is interested in the period. Cool: The Complete Handbook must be due a reissue with updates. The piece on the Walkman could be slightly amended and adapted for the iPod. I like to have my iPod on shuffle sometimes when travelling around. In the old days of the Walkman it would have been necessary to travel with a camel caravan to carry all the tapes needed to shuffle in quite the way the iPod can. There’s something about wandering around a decaying urban environment to the sound of 'Betcha by Golly, Wow' by The Stylistics that does make it seem like your own directorial - in the style of Tarantino - film debut.

Certain things in Cool: The Complete Handbook like the Leica camera will remain cool, possibly forever but one thing listed as uncool back in 1986 did make a bit of a comeback. Greyhound racing was deemed so uncool in 1986 but made its way back thanks to a helping hand by Blur in the 1990s. Unfortunately though Walthamstow Dog Track finally went to the dogs not so long ago.

The book of cool. A cool book? I will leave it to you to decide if you stumble upon it. According to my friend Pete young people often refer to things that are cool as book. ‘That is well book. Totally book’. This, he tells me, is due to predictive text offering up ‘book’ when you type in ‘cool’. What the dual will they think of next?

 

 

Thursday
Jan142010

January 2010: The Year In Review

It really must be time for a review of 2010. Nobody seems to be doing it at the moment as they all seem too busy writing about how to shed pounds and save pennies. It's been quite a good year. I turned £7.00 into £40.00 by gambling online. Some years ago I signed up for Jackpotjoy to see if I could make my fortune with an investment of £10.00. I played some games on the site and then forgot about my fortune. I was deleting some emails the other day and found one from Jackpotjoy and logged in. I hadn't realised that I had £7.00 in my account and I played some games of Deal or No Deal Slots. I won £50.00 but like it is for most gamblers that didn't seem enough and I continued. My winnings went down to £40.00 and I decided to quit there and have that £40.00 paid into my bank account. Not a bad result and I didn't have to sell anything to pay back the debt. I may have another go at online gambling one day but I like the idea that I quit whilst I was ahead. 

Not much else has happened in the first two weeks of 2010. Perhaps, I should have waited to review the year some time in February. Oh, I did go to Mandy's Birthday party which is usually the first party of the year. It was a really good do and the after party held at Mandy's Brother Richard's flat was really good fun. He is a great host and I enjoyed talking to what's-her-name (can't remember what she is called) about Tom Hanks and how I think he is really overrated and that life isn't like a box of chocolates. You do generally know what you are going to get in a box of chocolates as they often have a picture of the chocolate that shows it's shape and mentions what's inside of it. You see the shape and read what's in it and then you don't get that nasty surprise that you get when you wanted orange and instead get strawberry.

On January 3rd  I went to the final day of the Sophie Calle Exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery. I had been before Christmas and really wanted to see it again. I don't use the term 'awesome' that is so often heard these days but if I did I would have attached such a word to the Sophie Calle Exhibition. She's an incredibly creative and interesting artist.

That's the year so far. I suppose I should mention some other highlights before signing off. Well, Wallander is back on TV.  Brilliantly played by Kenneth Branagh. I like the Swedish version very much and was sad to see that finish but it's good to have a well made BBC version to see me through the abisymal TV offerings of the 21st Century. 

Things to look out for in 2010. Well, on coming traffic. Celebrities just being celebrities. Lots of people dieting and developing all types of intolerance to a variety of food stuffs. Lots of films that we could all live without and some really mediocre music manufactured by people that only care about cash. Well, it does rhyme with trash. 

Monday
Nov232009

Lost and Found but More Likely, Just Overlooked

Yesterday, I found an old memory card with some pictures on it that I'd taken back in the summer. Nothing special but I liked the image of flowers (see below). Canary Wharf is a place that people often find soulless. There are those that love it and those that hate it. I find myself somewhere in-between those two very emotive positions. Personally, I long to see a charity shop there but think that is probably a long way off.

You can buy a Mont Blanc pen, a Hugo Boss suit but if you are looking for a gravy jug decorated with periwinkles then Canary Wharf is not your place. All those city-types would surely like somwhere to browse through old vinyl, cassettes and second-hand books? One day my dream may be realised and Oxfam can live side-by-side with Moulton Brown.  One thing that does make Canary Wharf more than just an endless stream of fancy shops and eatery chains are its gardens. The gardening team at Canary Wharf do an excellent job to ensure there are always beautiful flowers and plants to look at. All year round. No wapping great bonus for these men and women for working outside in all weathers in order to bring sensory pleasure to so many.

Finding the memory card got me thinking about some old undeveloped film catridges I have that date back at least 6 years.  I keep meaning to get them developed. They may have faded to grey by now. It'll be interesting to find out one of these days what I had photographed back then.  I'm sure when I see the developed pictures it will be easier for me to work out how long the film catridges have been hanging around in a cupboard. The old days of taking photographs was a very different experience to the non-stop, click-fest that you often see these days. It would be interesting to take an old SLR out along with a digital camera and take a maximum of 24 or 36 pictures with each. Of course, with the SLR camera it would be functioning in the way it has always done but things would be very different for the digital camera.

The forgotten memory card, upon which I found the flower picture, is the smallest memory card I have. That's probably why I had forgotten all about it. It wasn't lost, just overlooked. It's 256MB which is still capable of holding around 69 pictures on the finest quality. Somehow the digital revolution has made less seem, well, even less, than it really should. I think 69 pictures is quite a lot.  Just one look at a Facebook picture upload of a drunken night out, a wedding, a new born baby and you can often see way more than 69 pictures, where quite often, just 9 would be ample. I must start that '36 Exposures Only' Facebook Group. It may already exist. I'm off to check.

Sunday
Nov222009

Anti-Social Networking

I have a Twitter account. I got into it first via Startle TV in order to drum up interest in the website. I then took a bit more interest in my own Twitter account. Initially, I only had a couple of followers. In fact, the number was 8. All of them people I knew. Over the past few days I have been tweeting more and following a few more people. I now have 33 followers. Not a great amount but 4 times as many as when I first started out.  I try not to follow the usual people that so many do; Stephen Fry, Barack Obama, Larry David and Perez Hilton. I'm not really interested in doing that. I'm more interested in the less well-known.  I also like the idea of 140 characters coming to me via a long-distance route. I follow some people in Alaska, some Americans, a guy in India and an art group in Tokyo. I can't understand what the group in Tokyo write but I like to look at the pictures.

There are some people closer to home that I also like to follow. A London Cab Driver called Mike. Yesterday Mike tweeted  "Dropped the boss at LHR off to play in the merc later!! Take the wife out she will be chuffed!! (Boss did say its ok!!)." (sic). This wasn't a quote from a bygone age but almost the opening line to what could end up being a fascinating novel, or not.

One thing I have found with many American tweeters is that so many of them don't have much to say. Instead, they just type in quotes about how to become successful, remain happy, achieve all they want to achieve. I blame Oprah Winfrey myself. I'm sure a lot of them keep 'The Secret' by their  beds. Personally, I wonder why, if  The Secret is so great,  so many people are still bothering to try and win their fortune on a double roll over lottery? Get out and read The Secret. Then it really could be you!

I have decided to  adopt a new Twitter policy which is to stop following people if all they ever do is type in  quotes. It seems pointless to me. I would rather read a tweet like "Just had my fringe cut and now I am going to drink a yard of ale" than some words of wisdom once written by Abraham Lincoln or  Father Abraham. The latter may have once said some words of wisdom he picked up from his time spent with the Smurfs. If I want quotes, then  I will reach for one of those books about quotes of which there are so many. I enjoy Twitter and certainly don't see it as a  waste of time. As Auguste Rodin once said "Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely". Which, of course, I hope I do.