Category Archives: Weird shops

To Be A Pirate King

After the signing on Saturday, Izzi and I rushed off to complete my pirate costume. Pirate costume? Perhaps I should explain.

You see, on Wednesday, my good chum Tiny Emma, who is well versed in the ways of debauchery, invited me along to an event held by an organisation known as Corset and Diamonds. This, I was told, was a burlesque-and-electro-swing evening themed around Pirates of the Caribbean, which is a film that I understand enjoyed a certain amount of success a few years ago.

Unfortunately, I’m currently rehearsing for a play that is on next week (you should come and see it, it’s going to be awesome) and so the amount of time available to produce a suitable outfit was somewhat limited. So, a certain amount of improvisation was needed. I decided a little research was in order.

Of course, it almost goes without saying that most of what we think of as “piratical” is more-or-less BS, invented by fiction writers, based on misunderstandings and half-truths, reinforced by years of retelling. For -instance, you know the old pirate voice, the “ha-harrr, Jim lad, splice the mainsail, keelhaul the mizzen-mast, belike and by thunder!” accent? That dates all the way back to 1950, derived from Robert Newton’s performance as Long John Silver in Disney’s version of Treasure Island. Now, there was some truth in his performance – he was a Cornishman by birth and based the accent on the sailors he used to see. But the near-universal Mummerset growl of Hollywood movies was nowhere near as prevalent as you might think. Particularly given that so many pirates were, you know, not English.

And you know the Jolly Roger, the black flag with the skull-and-crossbones? Again, nowhere near as common as the movies would have you believe. More common was the plain black flag, or the plain red flag. They both indicated that this ship was not part of any navy and therefore not obliged to follow any niceties of international law, and if you’d like to surrender now then I’m sure you’ll save us all a lot of bother. Most common of all, however, was to simply fly the colours of whatever country you were pretending to be from until the other ship was too near to run. This would arouse less suspicion than having, you know, a flag that basically says “HELLO WE ARE PIRATES” from a distance. Of course, for the pirate with a sense of style, an off-the-peg skull-and-crossbones wouldn’t do, and many prominent buccaneers went with a custom design. I rather like Blackbeard’s one, pictured below. By the way, the red flag was also commonly known as the “jolie rouge,” from which we get the term “Jolly Roger.” So there you have it.

But what about clothes? Your basic pirate costume seems to come in two forms. You’ve either got the foppish Captain Hook-style outfit, very elaborate, lots of brass buttons, or you’ve got the raggedy seadog look.

The reality, in fact, lay somewhere between the two extremes. Pirates did indeed like to dress up, they were basically the pimps of the sea in sartorial terms. But commonly, the elaborate clothes they were able to get were stolen. So you might get a seadog acting the foppish macaroni in the coat several sizes too large, tottering along in shoes a size too small.

However, your average sailor was also pretty handy with a needle and thread – they had to be, with sail repairs to be made. So they could rustle up their own clothes if needs be. And if a recent haul included silk, lace or other fancy cloth, those clothes could be extremely… do people still say “bling?” Am I using that word correctly?

So the conclusions I drew:

1. There is a lot of freedom, the only limits on an authentic costume being period accuracy.

2. The party is tomorrow and I don’t have much money, throw something together.

So, what I went with:

Shirt: They all laughed at me when I bought a frilly white shirt at the Stables in Camden, but WHO’S LAUGHING NOW? It came from that basement stall run by that rather theatrical-looking woman.

Trousers: I don’t own any breeches, sadly. There is a shop in Camden that has a lot of theatrical costume, including several pairs of breeches, but these were around the £35-40 mark, which was a bit much for me. However, in the Paws charity shop in Tooting I found a pair of black trousers. I hacked the legs off below the knee to create a raggedy look that might, if you didn’t look too closely, pass for breeches.

Waistcoat: I have a rather elaborate and shiny red waistcoat with brass and mother-of-pearl buttons. The style is a bit too modern for the Golden Age of Piracy, but with it worn open this wasn’t too noticeable. Just the sort of thing a dandy sailing lad might steal from a fat unarmed merchantman.

Footwear: If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from years of amateur dramatics, it’s that if you wear a pair of breeches and a pair of long socks, nobody can tell you’re not wearing stockings. Shoe-wise, I just wore my trusty black Oxford brogues. Ideally I’d have liked a buckle, but I didn’t have any.

Headgear: At Izzi’s suggestion, I picked up a black bandanna from a stall in Oxford Street. I also managed to get a brown tricorn at So High Soho on Berwick Street which looked a lot more elaborate than its price tag would suggest. The shop was closing for the day, but they let me dash in, which was cool of them. Incidentally, do you have any idea how hard it is to get a decent pirate hat that is both affordable and doesn’t look crap? Very hard.

Accessorising:  Primark really came through here. I found a cheapo pendant for £1.50 in the Tooting branch along with a battered-looking brown belt which was free because the guy on the till forgot to ring it through har har. I also added a couple of pocket watches and two more pendants to give the whole ensemble that more-plunder-than-sense look. The finishing touch was a sword from Escapade in Camden.

I met up with Anna K and we made our way to the party. I think the outfit was pretty successful, it was reacted to favourably at the event. It also seemed to make the hobo outside Colliers Wood Tube Station quite angry, but I don’t speak derelict so I couldn’t tell you why. On the way back I had a number of drunks shouting “Captain Jack Sparrow!” which would be quite witty, only I actually was deliberately dressed as a pirate, so not really.

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Filed under 18th century, Bloomsbury, Booze, Camden, Clubbing, Current events, Fashion and trends, Film and TV, History, Literature, London, Markets, Shopping, Soho, The City, Weird shops, West End

A League of their own

Now, get any group of comic book fans together and ask them which comic creator still living has had the greatest influence on the medium, and you’ll get a lot of different answers. My own answer would be Alan Moore. The only creator I can think of who’s had a comparable influence would be Stan Lee, but there’s a certain amount of dispute over the extent to which he “created” many of the characters credited to him.

Alan Moore, basically, has changed the face of comics. You may not know the name, but he was responsible for writing (among many other things) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, V for Vendetta, From Hell and – most famously of all – Watchmen. The latter, along with Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns, took the superhero genre in a darker, more adult direction from which it has never returned – although none of the imitators has had quite the same success as those two.

My personal favourite of his works is The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,  which is rather more fun than some of the works for which he’s best known. The basic concept is that every character within the fictional universe of this comic is from a pre-existing work of fiction. In the first volume, for instance, Mina Murray (from Dracula), Allan Quartermain (from King Solomon’s Mines), Dr Jekyll, Captain Nemo and the Invisible Man form a team under the supervision of James Bond’s grandfather and foil a gang war between Fu Manchu and Professor Moriarty. In the second, they participate in the events of War of the Worlds with the assistance of Dr Moreau and the father of the Wolf of Kabul. You get the idea. The number of works alluded to is immense, and much of the fun of the series comes from looking through to see how many allusions you can spot. Many of these come from artist Kevin O’Neill, whose manic and highly-detailed panels overflow with incidental characters and background references.

So you may imagine my excitement when I heard that the newest volume was due to be published and, not only that, but Moore and O’Neill were doing a signing in London at Gosh! Comics. Gosh! is, to my mind, about the best comic shop in London. It emphasises unusual and indie stuff,  and judging by the calibre of some of the creators they’ve had in to do signings (Gilbert Shelton and Dave McKean among them), it seems to be pretty well-respected. It’s based in Bloomsbury, but is about to up sticks to Berwick Street in Soho.

Yesterday, Succubusface, Izzi and I went up to indulge our inner geek at the signing. As you might imagine, if you know anything about comics culture, the event was huge. Succubusface nobly arrived an hour early and bagged us a spot – even so, we were queued right around the building. The line snaked considerably further than that, and God only knows how long the last fans in the queue were waiting. We were in line for several hours, in fact. We’re just that cool.

Eventually we got in. Now, you read interviews with Alan Moore, he comes across as a very grumpy man. He’s had public fall-outs with movie studios and comics publishers alike and is not afraid to express his feelings – combined with the often eclectic and obscure nature of his comics, the impression one gets is that he’d be this huge intimidating monster who’d have you thrown out for saying that you’d even seen the movie of V for Vendetta. And Kevin O’Neill’s scratchy, intense style leads one (well, me at least) to expect some sort of insane, wide-eyed boho who talks only in a stream of consciousness and reserves the right to bite you at any time.

This is Alan Moore.

Actually, they were both lovely. Very obliging, very willing to chat – Succubusface had a brief discussion with O’Neill about researching his artwork. The overall impression I got was that while Moore has his disputes with a lot of the men-in-suits, he has plenty of time for his genuine fans. Which is awesome. We left thoroughly pleased with our signed purchases.

The volume I was there to get was Century: 1969. Century is, officially, the third volume of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, although in practical terms it’s actually the fourth (Black Dossier, basically a series of supplemental material for the League universe framed by a shortish story, was published before Century but is not counted). It’s being published in three parts and is, as the title implies, a story spanning the twentieth century. In the first part, 1910, the League – now consisting of Mina, Allan, Raffles the Gentleman Thief, Carnacki the Ghost-Finder and Virginia Woolf’s Orlando – attempts to foil an occult scheme by Aleister Crowley-analogue Oliver Haddo (of W. Somerset Maugham’s The Magician) and find themselves caught up in the events of The Threepenny Opera. In 1969, Haddo’s scheme resurfaces in Swinging London, where he has enlisted the help of Turner (from Performance) and Tom Riddle. Organised crime, the hippie movement, pop music and the occult clash, with the remains of the League and Jack Carter investigating the murder of Molesworth’s Fotherington-Tomas.

It’s been a long wait for this second part, but again, I feel it was worth it. Following Century, which often felt obscure to the point of self-indulgence in Yr. Humble Chronicler’s opinion, Century is a return to the kind of storytelling that made the first two volumes so enjoyable. While it’s not essential that you know that, e.g., this character is from The Long Firm or that character is from Round the Horne in order to understand the story, it adds immensely to your enjoyment if you do. Cameos abound, with such diverse personalities as the Second Doctor, Andy Capp and Dame Edna Everage all putting in background appearances.

The characters, particularly Mina, are developed and expanded in Moore’s usual thoughtful fashion – the implications of the characters’ extended lifespans (long story if you’ve not read the previous volumes) are considered in some detail, but without the irritating navel-gazing that bedevils many comics that try to be mature. There are lots of callbacks to previous episodes and, knowing Moore, plenty of elements that will become significant in the next.

The art, too, is up to Kevin O’Neill’s usual high standards. As I mentioned, his style is very weird, so much so that the Comics Code Authority banned it simply because they found it too freaky. 1969, which contains many psychedelic and generally bizarre sequences which allow him to unleash his full freakiness. I don’t think there’s another artist who could have done this quite as much justice as he.

Overall, it’s a worthy addition to the League canon, and I look forward to 2009 eagerly.

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Filed under Arts, Bloomsbury, Current events, Literature, London, Occult, Shopping, Soho, Weird shops

Good Friday? I’ll say!

Happy Easter, chums. I hope the weekend finds you well. I am fine. At the time of writing, it’s Good Friday and I’ve just come back from a rather unexpectedly pleasant day out which was, I feel, in the true spirit of psychogeography.

I mean, it was a lovely sunny day outside, and as it was a four-day weekend, I was feeling rather chipper. I wasn’t at all sure what I wanted to do, so I thought I’d explore the canals around Limehouse a bit more. Alas, when I got to Bank, I discovered that the Docklands Light Railway wasn’t running. Yes, I know, I know, could have seen that when I started the journey, but that’s not how I roll.

So, vaguely at a loss, I decided to just go for a wander. I broke the surface (not literally) and wandered vaguely North-East through Leadenhall Market. This place, pictured right, is an absolutely gorgeous Victorian shopping arcade. During the week it houses a food market, but at weekends is rather peaceful – I have yet to sample the weekday wares, alas. You may know it from the film of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, in which it appeared as the area around Diagon Alley. I got the impression Chris Columbus was going for the Bridget Jones’ Diary school of London film making, in which London is a magical place that hasn’t quite moved out of the Victorian era.

Heading out beyond Liverpool Street, I came upon Petticoat Lane market. I’ve never been here before, and I must admit that I’d never really thought about going there before. I’d heard of it, but had no especial desire to visit. It’s not one of the top tourist destinations, and as such doesn’t cater to tourists. It’s primarily a clothing market, which is great if you are me. However, I do have to say that there’s a lot of duplication between stalls – if you’ve seen one selection of shirts, you’ve seen them all. The market has historically been a place of dubious legality, only becoming official in 1936, but despite this and the lack of tourism, it remains a firm local institution. While I wouldn’t go out of my way for it personally, it’s worth a look if, like me, you get stupidly excited about clothes.

Speaking of places where one can get stupidly excited about clothes, Brick Lane is very nearby, and so I made a beeline that way. With it being a bank holiday and thus less crowded than usual, and with the sun out, it was an utterly delightful experience. Sadly, at present, I find myself having to hold the purse strings – I’m moving house shortly, you see. And so it makes perfect sense that the universe should choose this point to taunt me with an incredible stripy blazer in black, red and grey (which I could totally pull off, I’m telling you) and a pair of Chelsea boots in exactly the style I’ve been looking for. Sadly, I could afford neither of these. Not even in the “can but shouldn’t” way. Instead, I consoled myself with a bagel, and now my fingers smell indelibly of chopped herring.

It was at this point that a teenager told me to get a haircut. I have thus out-fabuloused both the teens and the Shoreditch kids, which I believe is what is termed “bi-winning.”

This being done, I decided to finish my journey by walking up City Road to Islington. Wandering around Camden Passage, I came across one of the most amazing canes I have ever seen. It had a silver skull-shaped handle with a jawbone that doubled as a cigar cutter. But sadly it was £150, which I really, really, really cannot afford. Finally, I know the pain of unrequited love.

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Filed under Current events, East End and Docklands, Fashion and trends, Geography, Islington, London, Markets, Photos, Psychogeography, Shopping, Shoreditch, The City, tourism, Weird shops

Fame, of a sort

You know, one of those odd things that always surprises me is how often I get recognised. I don’t mean this in a big-headed way, though inevitably it’s going to come across as such.

Allow me to explain. Now, I’m fairly distinctive, visually speaking. I don’t know what it is – I don’t think I’m outstandingly handsome, but nor to I think I’m memorably ugly. I do have distinctive hair and fairly distinctive clothes, but I get recognised even when dressed normally and when my hair is short. I’m not exactly in the public eye, despite the popular perception that the life of us bloggers is an endless round of parties, soirees and women throwing themselves at us demanding sexual favours (in reality, that sort of thing is mostly restricted to weekends).

Yet I am always recognised. And I don’t mean by former work colleagues or friends-of-friends. I mean by everybody. People I’ve met maybe once at a party for a minute or two. People I’ve walked past. I’ve even had people treat me with great suspicion because they felt sure we’d met, though I denied it (in this case, the person in question was up to something semi-legal at best, so perhaps suspicion was justified). I am at a loss to explain this.

For example, take the other day. I was on the South Bank, where there was a rather good food festival on. The previous day I’d stopped by on my way to rehearsals (did I mention I’m in a play next week? You should totally come and see it) and got a pork and apple burger that was utter heaven. That day, I was pleased to note that Jaz and Juls had a stall there.

Jaz and Juls, if you’re not familiar with them, are a company that produces organic hot chocolate. Now, as you know, I’m a complete monster who cares little for the environment – I devised a braking system for cars recently that worked by choking the wheels with dead kittens. However, I do enjoy good chocolate, and Jaz and Juls produce very good chocolate.

One of these days, I'm going to fire that picture researcher.

See, one of the problems I have with hot chocolate is that it can be a little bland – too watery or just plain flavourless. For this reason I have little truck with instant hot chocolate. Jaz and Juls has the advantage of actually tasting like it’s made out of chocolate. There are several winsomely-named flavours – I’m somewhat limited in the ones I can pick due to my inability to say the word “choccy” in a non-sarcastic tone of voice. However, I recommend “Orangey Tang.” although “Gingerbread, Man” and “Chilli con Choccy” are also very enjoyable. Enjoyable for everyone else is my inability to drink it without spilling it down my shirt.

Anyway, so I went up to the stand, and was instantly greeted with a “How are you?” of recognition from the young lady manning the place. Womanning the place? I forget whether militant feminism is still a thing. Which was a little unexpected. I mean, yes, I’d bought hot chocolate from these people before, but that was a while back in Camden. Unless I’m their only customer, I was a little freaked out at being remembered. Not unpleasantly so. I did briefly try claiming that I was actually one of a number of identical Toms produced by a factory, and she offered the alternative explanation that I may in fact be a Terminator.

Damn that researcher. Damn him.

This led on to a discussion about how the T-1000 never has to worry about forgetting his keys, and the difficulty of finding one’s glasses when one is already wearing them. It was all rather jolly. Maybe you had to be there.

Then I spilt hot chocolate down my shirt.

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Filed under Current events, Food, London, Markets, Meta, Waterloo and Southwark, Weird shops

Attack on the Clones

When walking on Twickenham Green, I would often pass this shop:
As you can see, in most respects, it’s a fairly normal shopfront. It looks like the sort of thing that would be used by a small firm of solicitors or accountants. The one minor detail that caused me to scratch my head in puzzlement was the freakin’ Star Wars armour in the window.

Twickenham Green is a more villagey part of Twickenham than the town centre, lying between that and Fulwell, a place that probably wouldn’t even exist were it not for the railway station. It’s a place of respectable middle-class housing, restaurants and small shops. It is not, in short, the sort of place where you could in the normal course of things expect to see Imperial Stormtroopers.

The shop offered little by way of clues as to what the hell it was. It didn’t look like a sci-fi memorabilia shop – as I say, it looked like a regular high-street office aside from the symbols of semi-theocratic fascistic oppression in the window. It might have been a company that made costumes, but why Star Wars armour and nothing else? And it can’t have been an Imperial recruiting post, because as we all know, the Empire collapsed following the Battle of Endor in 4ABY.

It wasn’t until I saw this week’s copy of the Richmond and Twickenham Times that the mystery was finally solved. It turns out that this shop is actually the headquarters of Andrew Ainsworth, an industrial designer whose main claim to fame is that he actually designed the original stormtrooper armour.

Back in 1976, Star Wars was just this low-budget sci-fi film that nobody particularly expected to go anywhere. Nick Pemberton was commissioned to come up with this armour for the stormtroopers, and approached Ainsworth to actually make the damn things. In 2004, Ainsworth started producing replica armour for sale to the hardcore fans. Lucasfilm subsequently noticed he was doing this and told him, in legal terms, to cut that shit out. In 2006, the courts in the USA ruled against him, and so Ainsworth decided to go to war – this time involving the High Court in Britain.

The case has been a curious one. The argument on the defendant’s side rests on two factors. Firstly, that Ainsworth was not technically under contract to Lucasfilm when he designed the helmets, and therefore his moulds are not covered by copyright. Secondly, and somewhat more bizarrely, Ainsworth’s lawyers are arguing that the Stormtrooper armour can’t fall under copyright restrictions because it is a practical set of protective clothing, much like a hard hat or riot gear.

Having seen the original trilogy, it didn’t seem all that practical to me. I mean, seriously, one shot and those guys were down. Indeed, Ainsworth actually admitted during the court case that it was impossible to see while wearing one of those helmets, which goes a long way to explaining this.

While I feel like I should be rooting for the little guy, I don’t know enough about copyright law to say whether I think Ainsworth or Lucasfilm are in the right. Ainsworth’s argument strikes me as one of those irritating technicalities, but on the other hand I think it’s a bit rich on Lucasfilm’s part given that the first Star Wars film swiped heavily from Flash Gordon, Dune, 633 Squadron, Dambusters and The Hidden Fortress. At this point someone will usually mutter something about how George Lucas raped their childhood, and I will be forced to slap them until their nose comes off or until they are able to satisfactorily explain how “making lacklustre additions to franchises that weren’t exactly Citizen Kane to begin with” equates to “childhood sexual abuse.”

In order to distract you from my fence-sitting, here is a video of an unemployed Stormtrooper.

According to the Richmond and Twickenham Times, Ainsworth is “hoping for a triumphant end to mirror the finale of the original Star Wars trilogy.” Presumably this means that Lucasfilm will return twenty years later with a much more spectacular and expensive set of lawsuits that is unpopular with fans but makes a Lucas a huge amount of money anyway.

Further Reading
All about Stormtrooper armour. If you were curious.

Stormtroopers turn up in the strangest places.

Also
Went to the Acton Depot open weekend today. Very strongly recommended if you’re a transport nut or a London enthusiast or just bored in West London. More on this later.

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Filed under 20th Century, Arts, Current events, Film and TV, Suburbia, Weird shops

Sweet Charity

So often in life, our ambitions far outweigh our ability to achieve them, as anyone who has attended an orgy can confirm. In my case, I’m a chap on the kind of income that allows me to live comfortably with a few little luxuries to keep life bearable. However, that’s not to say that I’m exactly rich, particularly if you work for the Inland Revenue.

What I’m saying is, I can’t splash out quite as much as I’d like to. Therefore, as someone who likes to dress up and who reads a lot, I’ve become something of a devotee of charity shops.

The first charity shop in Britain opened in 1941 on Old Bond Street, and was owned by the Red Cross. There are estimated to be over 9,000 charity shops in the UK and Republic of Ireland, which is quite significant if you follow Internet memes.

They are a fine place to find vintage clothes at bargain prices – I’ve obtained some superb items for really very little money. The only thing is that charity shops these days have wised up to the vintage movement, and in many cases have raised their prices accordingly. Not that they are as expensive as your average high street vintage shop, but jaw-dropping bargains are harder to find in some stores than they used to be.

They’re not so great if you’re looking for something specific, but on the other hand you’re far more likely to be surprised. I’ve been introduced to some of my favourite authors purely by having found their books in charity shops. I’m not too inclined to gamble a lot of money on an author who I’m not familiar with and who comes without recommendations, but a couple of quid for a book isn’t exactly going to ruin me if I don’t like it.

These days, your average charity shop comes in three flavours:

1. The Specialist

Certain chains of charity shop have begun to organise their shops into categories. For instance, a number of them have stores that specialise only in books, or only in furniture. The great advantage is that, if you’re looking for something specific, you’re more likely to find it there than in a “general” charity shop. Unfortunately, they tend to be quite rare, and damned if I can work out how they decide on locations.

The New Sort

Charity shops have spruced up their image these days, and particularly in the case of the larger chains (e.g. Oxfam, Cancer Research) they’re much more inviting than they used to be. The specialist shops would appear to have sprung out of this revamp. A few of them, notably Oxfam, have branched out into selling new goods as well as secondhand. The aforementioned Oxfam does a rather tasty line of fair trade goods, for instance.

The Old School

It’s not so long ago that all charity shops used to be like this. They tend to be gloomy and disorganised and staffed by slightly odd individuals. I was hunting through one of these in Camden once, and was rather taken aback by the elderly lady also rifling through the clothes and muttering, “I’ll spend what I like – not just a pound here and there, not like he would have wanted.” At that point I remembered I had an urgent mumblemumble in the rffrrnmnrr and had to leave.

These shops are a relative rarity in London, but tend to be located on the less prestigious high streets, owned by the smaller charities.

Tips

  • Consider the area. Somewhere like Kensington tends to chuck out a higher quality of goods than somewhere like, say, Tooting. A bookish place like Bloomsbury is an excellent place to find books. However, note also that more expensive areas tend to charge higher prices. They’re cunning like that.
  • Vintage clothing shops get a lot if not all of their stock from charity shops. This was brought home to me when I saw a couple of waistcoats for sale in Wimbledon, only to see them a week later in a Covent Garden vintage shop for four times the price. Ergo, the optimum place to find a bargain is a fairly well-off place without a vintage scene.
  • Not that I’d normally advocate leaving the city, but when you get out of town you’re more likely to find places that meet the well-off/no vintage scene criteria. However, you’re more likely to find shops of the old school in these places.

And, of course, it’s all for a good cause. A much better way of raising funds than the use of chuggers, and you’re getting something out of it yourself. It’s ethical, environmentally friendly and money-saving. Give yourself a pat on the back.

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Filed under Fashion and trends, London, Shopping, Weird shops

I am hardcore

It’s been a funny sort of week, comrades. My grandpa’s funeral was on Tuesday, Hurricane Jack returned to the country on Friday, work has been stressy as the Dickens and in between a lot of strange things have been happening. The plan this weekend was therefore to relax as much as possible, which hasn’t quite happened.

Friday, as I say, was marked by the return of Hurricane Jack, who has been mentioned in passing in these pages before. This was celebrated in the traditional manner, i.e. helping to take care of the nation’s alcohol surplus. During the course of this evening, I was introduced to a place in Twickenham known as the Koyote bar. I suspect I was not really the target audience for the place, which is rather noisy and features scantily-clad young ladies dancing on the bar. On the plus side, it’s open late, entry is free and alcohol is at pub prices – I think most of the people in there who weren’t actively on stag nights were taking advantage of these facts, though there were one or two who seemed to be entirely there for the femininity on display. Why they’d go there when there’s a strip club down the road I don’t know.

The night ended with a trip back to Hurricane Jack’s place in Teddington, where we talked a lot of crap, ate some food and watched Thunderbirds at four in the morning. We speculated that Gordon Tracy has so little to do that he actually purposely loses his family’s possessions so that he can “rescue” them later in front of everybody. Sad really.

I eventually got to bed at six, which I believe officially means that I was up all night (Yeah! Still got it!), and strolled into Kingston via Hampton Wick, pausing only to stick my head into the vintage shop that’s opened there. No menswear, though, so continued into Kingston. I bought a really rather delicious brownie in the market, which I will pretend I did because I needed to get rid of the hangover and because I was supporting independent traders or something, but in reality it’s because I just like eating brownies. Brownie as in interestingly-textured chocolate cake, not as in young girl scout. I mean, obviously, right?

I came across a Louis Wain print in the antique market, which I would dearly love to own but can in no way justify spending money on. If any of you have enjoyed this blog so much that you’d like to give me £90 for no reason, drop me a line.

The evening was set aside for a Boys’ Night In at Shoinan’s place out in West London. Shoinan himself describes the area as being undistinguished, but I think it has a certain J. G. Ballardesque charm, but then, as I’ve described in previous entries, my taste in urban landscapes may not be entirely normal.

As well as shooting the shit, drinking a lot of beer and getting through enough Mini Cheddars to kill lesser men, we watched a few of those movies that between us, we missed out on.

Brief review:

Forgetting Sarah Marshall = Good

Scott Pilgrim vs The World = Alright, but definitely a case of style over substance.

Black Dynamite = If you have not seen this film, I order you to go away right now and watch it.

Once again, I totally failed to get to bed at a sensible time, this time finally crashing into bed at some time after seven. I am officially hardcore. What this did mean was that my original plans for today had to be curtailed somewhat – I did have to nip into town. On the way I fed my burgeoning addiction to frozen yogurt at Yog, a small chain of whimsical frozen yogurt shops that should in no way be confused with Snog, which is a small chain of whimsical frozen yogurt shops.

The Byocup

While in Fitzrovia, I saw a product known as the Byocup on sale in one of the shops. This is essentially a response to the problem of wastage that comes about as a result of the huge number of disposable coffee cups that get thrown away every day. The idea behind the Byocup is that it’s like a disposable coffee cup, except that it’s reusable. It’s made of silicon, and so won’t burn your hands when filled with hot coffee. Whereas you would throw a disposable coffee cup away, with the Byocup you simply wash it and reuse it.

Actually, I had a similar idea myself about a year ago. Although I thought that, given that the cup was supposed to be a lifetime’s possession, I could go to town a bit more on features – not slavishly adhere to the design of the disposable cup. My version was ceramic, and had the added design features of a sturdy base and a handle. A photo of the prototype may be seen on the right.

After sticking my head into Cass Art in Berwick Street, I encountered a drug dealer who tried to sell me some hash. I didn’t actually realise he was talking to me – he just sort of ambled around in a circle that happened to intersect with my path while mumbling about “hash” and “weed.” When I didn’t react, he became upset and accused me of being rude and snobbish. This means that I achieved the unusual accolade of being one of the few people against whom a drug dealer felt able to take the moral high ground. I am a “bad ass.”

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