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Sunday Miscellany

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Ok, so it is a cold Sunday afternoon. I am a smidgen hungover from Saturday’s unexpected debauchery so I have decided to just write randomly about things with no significance whatsoever.

Following on from my previous blog I am going to start this entry with my two new words from Saturday and Sunday.

Saturday’s little gem is ‘ersatz’, a German word meaning replacement but used in English to mean substitute, artificial and often inferior. I won’t bore you too much with the etymology of the word but its worth looking it up in Wikipedia just to see an example of how words come in to being.

Sunday’s addition to my ever expanding lexicon is ‘bucolic’. Bucolic is defined as ‘of or pertaining to shepherds; pastoral; of, pertaining to or suggesting an idyllic rural life; a pastoral poem’.

During the week I read that hedgerows, a distinguishing feature in the landscape of both the UK and Ireland, are a relic of what is called the ‘enclosure movement’. I am sure that I have studied enclosure as part of the history programme at school but must admit that I had lost any memory of this and felt the need to find out what enclosure is.

The enclosure movement was the period when common land was taken into fully private ownership and use. Obviously in order to distinguish various plots and define ownership some form of definition was required. This was solved by means of hedgerows. I know that this particular topic is not the most interesting thing to discuss on a Sunday evening but I have always been amazed by awesome human feats which have mostly gone unpraised.

Just visit the west of Ireland and and I defy you not to be taken aback by the seemingly endless rows of stone walls which define the Irish landscape. Its easy to take these for granted but when you touch one, when you realise the work that must have gone into laying stone upon stone for miles and miles, it is a feat nothing short of extraordinary.

In the UK it was hedgerows and not stone walls that did the trick. It had never dawned on me to look at a hedgerow as something wonderful and worth keeping. The only manmade thing older in the UK is Stonehenge. Between 1945 and 1985 96,000 miles of hedgerows were ripped up in England to make way for housing developments, business parks and shopping centres. I am strangely understanding just why quirky little ‘Save the Hedgerows’ movements exist. I also feeling a slight empathy with their cause.

Moving on. Those of you who visiting Selfridges on Oxford street should take note of the original front section of the store. Not only is the building architecturally beautiful, the interiors are stunning also. When you get store training at Selfridges they are very focused on a particular look, a particular selling style and also giving customers the best possible retail experience.

Gordon Selfridge was a visionary, the first retailer to focus on advertising. He acknowleged the emancipation of women and created the notion of shopping for pleasure. His writings on retail were ahead of his time and many of his sayings are still used today. Here are a few of them:

* People will sit up and take notice of you if you will sit up and take notice of what makes them sit up and take notice.
* The boss drives his men; the leader coaches them.
* The boss depends upon authority; the leader on good will.
* The boss inspires fear; the leader inspires enthusiasm.
* The boss says “I”; the leader, “we.”
* The boss fixes the blame for the breakdown; the leader fixes the breakdown.
* The boss knows how it is done; the leader shows how.
* The boss says “Go”; the leader says “Let’s go!”
* The customer is always right.

Bill Bryson’s ‘Notes from a small Island’ is a great read. I was sitting in a coffee shop the other day drinking a black Americano and engrossed in his account of a particular coincidence that happened to him at a time when he was struggling to write an article about coincidences. Lounged on a comfy leather sofa I was totally oblivious to those around me. As I closed my book and prepared to leave I looked to the seat opposite me. Sitting there was a young man, drinking an Americano and reading Bill Bryson’s ‘Notes from a Small Island’. Now, there’s a coincidence!

Over the last couple of days I have noticed an abundance of small change in my pockets. I really have never seen the point of coppers. I know the old adage – ‘Watch the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves’. The pounds have never looked after themselves and all the pennies ever do is gather dust in some dirty jar on my bedroom shelf. Now I’m finding more and more coppers every day. Its because of that gobshite Gordon Brown and his Darling cutting VAT. A coffee that was once 1.80 is now 1.73. For the sake of seven pence I would rather pay a rounded price and save myself from gathering dirty brown coins in the bottom of my pockets thank you very much.

Did you ever read Alice in Wonderland as a kid? I remember having a hardback illustrated editions of the writings of Lewis Carroll when I was a child. I remember the story keeping me spellbound as it rained in Limerick and the plush illustrations are still embeded in my memory. You can understand my certain disappointment when I discovered that Lewis Carroll’s interest in the young Alice Liddell, the inspiration for the Alice stories, was a little more than just literary if you get my gist. What is it about these genius’ (geni?, geniuses?) who create wonderful children’s tales yet also feel the need to have sex with them too? Wasn’t it the same with Baden Powell and the dude who wrote Peter Pan?

I love market stalls in London. They have such character and atmosphere. There is a really great farmers market in Muswell Hill/Alexandra Palace on Sunday mornings which is well worth a visit. I knew a guy who runs a stall there selling his brand of exotic soups. At the time he was working on branding his product in the hope of selling it to some of the bigger retailers. I could see at the time that he could be on to a winner. His recipes were tasty and diverse. His logo was stylish with a subtle hint of the organic and he had a good business brain. I was delighted to read in The London Paper last week that his products have been snapped up by Harvey Nics in London. If you find yourself in the store or in Ally Pally Farmers Market look out for Stewed

The leafy streets of Wood Green are full of little individual street market vendors. Normally you find them down dodgy little laneways but I have heard that their produce is second to none. I always feel a bit sad for these guys and wonder if they actually make enough money to get by. These people are not stupid and most have been in the market trade for generations so I’m sure I have no need for concern.

I did pass a stall the other day, however, and was slightly bemused by this entrepreneur’s particular offer. ‘Galia melons and Christmas trees’ said the crudely hand painted advertising billboard. Galia melons and Christmas trees? Who in the name of God wakes up one morning and decides they are going to set up a business selling Fir trees and fucking Galia melons. Not only that but the Christmas trees in question were the smallest most miserable looking things I have ever seen. The sort that would make a child cry and would make the angel look like Michael frigging Jordan.

Finally (I do hope I’m not boring you) a little story about the London Underground. I have no quarrels with this institution. I am rarely late and the trains are clean but when things go wrong the can go specacularly wrong. Last evening I made my trip to Piccadilly Circus. Upon arriving at the station we were told that no Piccadilly line services were stopping at Piccadilly. We were also told that we would remain in the station for a few minutes as the service was regulated. 40 minutes later I was still sitting on a packed train in the very station at which I wanted to embark. The driver informed that because no trains were stopping at the station he could not open the doors. After 50 minutes London Underground decided that they would let us out at Piccadilly after all. In a scene resembling a mass exodus, frustrated families late for their ice skating a Hyde Park forced their way past each other in a controlled panic. Upon getting to the escalators a man guided us to one which was not actually operating. Isn’t there something quite disconcerting about walking up escalators that are motionless?! As the crowd got halfway up the stairs some dimwit operator decided to give us a little bit of help and turned the escalator on. The only problem was the machine was programmed to go down. As we all walked up the stairs brought us right back to where we began. What a nightmare.

Enough for now. Im hungry.

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