June 30: ice cream never occurs to me

Ice cream never occurs to me.
I stepped outside today – 32 degrees – and people had ice creams, cornets, lollies popsicles. These were methods of cooling off. They sat around on doorsteps and at bus stops. When the weather is hot you sit anywhere. And I thought: why does ice cream never occur to me? Maybe because I don’t love it. People love ice cream. It’s like fireworks. You say ice cream; you say fireworks. And they go Ahhhh! or Ooooo! I’m indifferent to both of them. Fireworks are a real pain because they entail you standing around in streets late at night But on a hot day… ice cream… why not? So I went to Tesco and looked in their big fridge just along from the oven chips. I bought 8 (eight) choc ices (£1) and 4 (four) cornetto-style ice creams (£1). At that price you can afford to waive your indifference for a day. Anyway, two cornettos and one choc ice later I’m remembering why I don’t love ice creams. I don’t even like them. I think I needed to have just one, a single old fashioned one sitting on a doorstep somewhere. A Choc-top Whizz or something with hundreds and thousands on it. And pay more for it! £3.99! A proper price. Now all those ice creams are sitting in my freezer rubbing shoulders with the kidnies I bought about two months ago.

June 28: the supermarket contract

I have no qualms (when did you last have a qualm?) in stealing cherries or grapes or salted almonds from displays in supermarkets. I say stealing; I mean sampling. I feel we have the right to do this with a small piece of fruit. Probbaly not an apple or pear. I also am not averse to flipping up the transparent plastic sheet on a case of pick ‘n’ mix and sampling the odd jelly bean or even a fudge cube. This, for me, is part of the supermarket contract. But there are friends of mine who quickly scurry off when I am doing this, as though they are being associated with theft, shoplifting. I temember my dad used to do this supermarket or market stall sampling and we kids would cringe or blush or scurry. In a way I disapproved but in a way I was proud that he wasn’t afraid of the huge authority of the supermarket or the lesser authority of the market stall holder. When I do my sampling now I am half fulfilling my side of the supermarket contract, half acting in hommage to what my dad used to do.


June 23: on leaving parties

(This is a guest contribution from Boxette)

Leaving a party can be a very tricky business. London etiquette dictates that to leave early you need a valid reason. For members of hard working families this is easy: we’ve only booked the babysitter till 11! and off they pop, floating on a sympathetic chorus of we’ve all been there.

Work is another excuse but you’d better be a big hitter: We’ve got to skidaddle because Jeremy has to get up at an ungodly hour for a meeting with the IMF in Geneva. I know. It’s insane. But he loves it! fares rather better than someone who has low-level anxiety about all the things on their list but can’t be specific about what they will do first in the morning.

When all else fails, we can’t leave the dog for too long will charm animal lovers.

But what if you don’t have a big job, a family or a needy pet? Citing a super early Ocado order will not wash. Saying I forgot to water the plants is a slap in the face.

There is one final trump card that workshy, commitment-phobic, pet-allergic South Londoners can play: I’ve got to catch the last tube home can really open doors, particularly in Islington and Hampstead where the residents are scared to cross the Thames after dark.

But what’s this? London Underground has now decreed that the tube is to run all night. The last barricade has fallen. It will be compulsory to party till early morning, to stay until the shots are all drunk and everyone is seriously beginning to question whether they like each other.

The only possible remedy is to do the unthinkable. Move out further even than zone 6, into the badlands of Bedford or Surrey where the tube doesn’t run. Or get a dog!


21 June: a roller-coaster ride; the language of ambivalence

Many years after the Battle of Waterloo Geoge IV (was it IV? I think so) used to tell everyone that he had fought in the front line at the battle. Wellington who was now Prime Minister used to say to him when asked for confirmation ‘I have heard your Majesty say this on many occasions’. There is a language to use when asked to complement someone or something that can, if you are skilled enough, leave open the interpretation whilst appearing to praise. The word ‘roller-coaster’ springs to mind. When asked to comment on whether or not you liked someone’s book, say to the author that the reading of the text was a real ‘roller-coaster ride’. They will be flattered. Do not add that you dislike roller-coasters and that for you they induce vomit. You may find other terms that fit this bill. They are words that for many have a positive connotation but for you are negative. Here, as in so many cases, the more different you are from the throng, the more your capacity to retain ironic distance is enhanced.

June 18: talks

They are having more talks about the Greek debt in Luxemburg today. The Greeks have to pay one and a half billion euros by the end of the month and they say they won’t. The IMF and the EU say they must. So they are having talks. Talks can go on for days. Mostly there is no resolution. They all go home and then, a few days later, come back to another Eurovision song contest city and resume talks (resume is the word they use). Talks have been going on for months. They resume a lot. Just what exactly they are really talking about is never revealed. We are supposed to be satisfied with the word talks. Now, when I have a debt with my friend Jim (let’s say I owe Jim a fiver) and we have talks, Jim says pay us that fiver back you bastard and I say no way Jim and he says go on and I say I can’t and he says I bet you can, you’ve given it to Julie, get it back from her and I say I can’t coz she needs it to buy a new pair of stockings and so Jim says all right I’ll let you off for now. But when the EU and the IMF and the Greeks have talks they must talk about more stuff but, for the life of me, I can’t think what bacause the Greeks have used those billions to pay for Greek pensions and stuff and don’t want to give it back. Julie won’t give her stockings back; she needs them. I sometimes try and imagine the EU and the IMF and the Greeks in some big room in Luxemburg, but when I try and think how they spin the debate out for hours, I just can’t. They must be very clever.