February 2012 Archives

Blogging isn't Writing, it's just Graffiti with Punctuation!

by Paul Singer - MD, London Fine Dining Group

The comment which lends itself to the name of this article is attributed to one of the characters in the film "Contagion".

Whether that character was suffering from a contagious disease at the time he uttered it is not known, but it surely rings true with some of my critics who share that same opinion (thanks, Mum!).

There are others who go even further and say blogging is just verbal masturbation.

Speaking of which, which we mustn't, of course, I was fascinated to read a report about a 36 year old female Brazilian accountant who suffered from a chemical imbalance that triggers severe anxiety and hypersexuality, who won the legal right to masturbate at work ... up to 47 times per day. Apparently, her lawyers likened her condition to that of a handicapped person (well, she probably had RSI). And anyone who is thinking what I am now thinking about accountants, you should be thoroughly ashamed of yourself, for such generalisation.

Compared to Ana Catarian Bezerra, however, I am practically a Saint, although I do seem to have worn down the F key on my keyboard, recently, writing all those complaining letters.

Lately, I have noticed an alarming similarity between myself and Richard Wilson from One Foot in the Grave. Not that I have suddenly developed a Scottish accent but I have begun to complain more frequently. No; constantly.

Richard Wilson recently presented a Channel 4 TV documentary entitled "On Hold" where he attempted to use telephone car-parking payment systems, voice-controlled cinema booking systems and supermarket self-service tills, with pretty much the same disastrous results as the rest of the human race, except the man who invented them.

I tried to park my car in Golders Green last week. It was an urgent call of nature. I was driving past the bagel shop and was desperate for a smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel. Fair enough? The parking system outside was pay by phone only. £1.20 for 30 minutes should do it, I thought. It took me about 20 minutes to work out how to do it and actually do it and then I had a telephone call from a nice Indian lady at Barclaycard who warned me that my credit card had been the subject of an attack. Really? I was holding it in my hand at the time of her call. "Yes", she said, "our systems have detected a potentially fraudulent transaction in a gift shop for £1.20. All small transactions are suspicious, she said". "What's the name of this gift shop?", I asked. "It's called LB Barnet", she replied. "Would that be the same LB Barnet as in London Borough of Barnet", I asked sarcastically, feeling my inner Meldrew about to burst forth. "No", she said, "It's a gift shop and the transaction has just been processed. I am about to block your card". I think I might have gone from Meldrew to Incredible Hulk at that stage as my other half reported sounds of growling, and shirt splitting as I tried to explain through gritted teeth that LB Barnet was not a gift shop and that the £1.20 was in fact the price for 30 minutes parking in Barnet. Maybe it was an omen that I was not supposed to be eating that bagel on my new no-carb diet? Maybe LB Barnet is really a nice gift shop selling things for £1.20. If they are, I don't give them long in this recession - especially by the time Barclaycard have blocked all their transactions as suspicious.

But the call of nature can be urgent, as we had found out the week before. Fortunately, in Central London, you are never far from McDonalds or a nice hotel. You've heard of Tea in The Ritz. Now think P in The Dorchester. We were in the West End when I suddenly needed a P. The bodily function, not the Letter or the Vegetable.

We wandered into a posh hotel so that I could make use of their facilities. I didn't bargain for personal assistance but, as usual, there was a man lurking in the men's toilet offering all kinds of "assistance" although he was very cagey about the services on offer, just saying "How can I help you today, Sir?".

I couldn't help thinking that, these days, if a man came up to you in a public toilet and asked if he could help you, outside of a five star hotel, he might soon be helping the Police with their enquiries.

He was standing next to a collection of after-shave bottles which would have put Selfridges ground floor to shame, a stack of paper towels, a shoe polishing kit and a saucer of carefully arranged £1 coins so, presumably, the services he had in mind were handing you a towel, in case you were too tired or lazy to pick up your own towel, spraying you with after-shave just like they do in Selfridges, but he was not as pretty as the girls who do it there, or offering to polish your shoes in the expectation of being rewarded with a bright shiny coin with the Queen's face on it to add to his collection.

I opted to unzip my own fly, thank you, pick up my own towel and passed on the Aramis and shoe-shine so left a few moments later feeling relieved but guilty for not availing myself of the services which the hotel had kindly laid on.

Am I the only person who thinks that these men who lurk in public toilets (shall we call them "toilet lurkers"?) are a bit superfluous and intrusive, these days? But there I go, moaning again.

In this final section of this month's blog, I thought I would examine the effect of the recession on retail prices but rather than having to stoop to checking out baked-bean prices in Aldi or knickers in Primark, I thought I would check out how the toffee-nosed upper classes were faring just up the road in Marylebone High Street.

There now follows a series of photographs of actual items in shop windows from Marylebone High Street. These photographs have not been retouched and those people of a nervous disposition should sit down before looking at the prices which just go to show that even Marylebonites (or should that be Marylebonians?) are not immune to hardship.


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Was £925 for a single pink chair! Now £648. Bargain!


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Coloured Wellingtons reduced from £399 to a mere £199.50!


And so I thought I would end with a (true) story about a tramp (I am not sure if I can say that, now, or whether the PC term is "homeless person") who lives in Marylebone. I will call him "Charlie". I saw Charlie the other day standing in his usual pitch offering the Big Issue or a polystyrene cup to passers-by to make donations to his alcohol and cigarette fund.

Seeing that he was only wearing one shoe, I remarked, casually, "Hey, you lost a shoe!" to which he replied, "No, I found one!" which only served as a modern and poignant reminder of the half-full/half-empty bottle positive-mental-attitude story.

I didn't have the heart to tell him about the pink patent one in the window right behind him which could be his for just £133.

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A pink patent shoe. Down from £265 to £133 (I assume for a pair!)

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