December 25: mediocre pedestrians

I was walking down the street and a young man asked me how to get to Farringdon station. I said, walk ten minutes down this road and then it’s basically on the right. He went off, waalking a little quicker than me but in the same direction. As we walked I noticed that he was slowing down. I did not want to overtake him so I slowed down too. Then he stopped and asked somebody for directions. He hadn’t walked ten minutes, as I had advised. I said to myself, probably audibly, because I can get audible, you haven’t walked ten minutes. He started up again, in the same direction, needless to say. I started up again. I had had to stop to avoid overtaking him. Then, after a couple more minutes, he stopped another person to ask for directions. This time they were both looking round as though to get themselves orientated. It wasn’t complicated. I’d told him ten minutes. I, of course, had to hide in a doorway so as not to be spotted. I peeked out sfter a couple of minutes. The young man was on his way again, now stopping at a road, waiting for the lights to turn green for him. I followed at a snail’s pace, taking the opportunity to look into shop windows. At this rate I was going to be late as well. He was a long time crossing at the lights. I got the same light but a few seconds behind him. Now I was dicing with death, just a few paces behind him. Danger. If he decided to ask another person it might be me again, so I had to stop and look into another shop window. Imagine the encounter. Would we both decide to pretend not to recognise each other, or would we attempt to negotiate the moment openly. At this juncture I had no confidence in my communication skills for such a conversation and this was one very nervous pedestrian, a mediocre pedestrian, probably unused to the trials and tribulations of pedestrian life. Although I say this myself, I am a professional in pedestrian matters and have no time for the neophyte. Eventually we came to the right turn for Farringdon. He missed it. I turned right and went into the station. Ah well, only so much aid to one’s fellow man is appropriate, don’t you think, even at Christmas. Happy X-day.

December 21: mushroom thoughts for christmas

According to James Wong in a useful Christmas present book about the relative goodness found in various types of fruit and vegetable, if you leave a mushroom in the light for a few hours before cooking the poor devil, its vitamin-yield will increase by 300% (I think this was it). And yet, I think to myself, the humble mushroom seeketh the dark, the obscure woods, the Brothers Grimm forest floor where light never penetrates the thick canopy of foliage. Therein lies all the Romantic literature and philosophy of the West. We value in the other one thing, but the other values the opposite. All unhappiness is there. Our uniqueness is our tragedy. Of course, it is a more complex metaphor than that. The humble mushroom must needs seek the dark, for too much exposure to the light will prematurely wither and corrupt it. More metaphors for life. We flourish in the spotlight but over-exposure will be our undoing. Like the humble mushroom, temper introversion with your extroversion. What else can we say? Heinz Cream of Mushroom soup is one of the classic soups of the range. When picked, cooked, processed, canned and stored, the mushroom continues to give. Mmmmm. More food for thought.

December 19: a tip from less of mind

At this darkest time of the year a snippet of merry advice from the usually morose Mr What he does to change the colour of his life is simple but effective. Change your words! The streets you trundle down can become so monotonous. If Mr has to use the word Vauxhall one more time (it is his local tube station) he will lose the will to go on, so now he calls it Vauxinghall, as though it were an equestrian activity. He bought a tin of cornered beef this morning in Tescoid. He is now on the Interiornet and will later get the bus to the Western End and get the 59 bus back from Uselesston station. Try it. Change your words and the head will follow. This and more can be found in the Less of Mind collection from all Peoplerubbishington suppliers and purveyors.

December 12: being rich

When you go into the Steinway piano showroom in central London or the auction house at Christies or Bonhams you need quite a lot of courage to walk through the doors in your scuffed shoes and Zara jacket. It is because mostly the people who push open the sparkling glass doors are rather wealthy. They are the kind of people who might buy a Steinway grand bottom-lining at a couple of a hundred thousand pounds or so. What is required from you is an ability to look and talk at home in these places. You play the piano and the saleswoman comes across, seduced by the stream of notes and the possibilities for a sale of a Steinway grand. Are you looking to purchase a grand? she says. Here, obliquely, non-committed, you say maybe. You are spare in your articulations. She perks up at your sovereign and patrician manner. You had looked away when you said maybe, ignored her even. this dismissiveness of manner is in line with the ways of the very rich. She likes this. The saleswoman comes back for more. This is a lovely piano, she says, or something like that. It’s just a question of where to put it, I say. She has not noticed my scuffed shoes and Zara jacket, or maybe she has reinterpreted them as a feature of the casual eccentricity of the very rich. It must be that I am troubled by moving my collection of Cubist painings out of the drawing room of my London residence to make room for this grand. It would be so inconvenient and such a nuisance for the staff. Where are you from? she asks. Here, I say, non-committedly, remaining costive of words. In London? she says. I smile. We are leaving now. She wants to give me her card. I’m not far away, I say, as though I live in Mayfair. I am a potential sale, she feels. I’m pretty good at acting rich. Maybe I’ve missed my calling. I probably should really be a rich person, I think, on the 159 back to South London.

December 5: the mostly distrust what big culture offers you back stop

I was on the bus and the woman next to me was looking at her phone. She was trailing down a list of feeds on facebook. All big culture coming and hitting you in the face on the 36 bus. She was looking at a video of a woman doing stomach exercises. The woman was a kind of top model type. And I thought: well, there you go, it’s not all bad, it’s good to exercise, big culture can be a nudging force for good. But then I thought that often it isn’t because the next post down will be some attempt to get you to spend £300 on a pair of trainers manufactured for a fiver in South East Asia so that a set of guys in California or Florida can put even more cash into their back pockets. And that model doing the stomach crunches will be sporting those trainers maybe. There is a constant discordant battle going on in big culture. Radio Five Live will run a piece about Mindfulness or How to get good sleep and with the next sentence they’ll ask you to tweet in or share some social media page or contribute to what they call the conversation, whereas if you really want to be in a position to get a good night’s sleep you really want to stop contributing to the conversation, cut it out the constant whirr of opinion and liking or loathing. Yes, on the whole, all things considered, I apply what I now call the mostly distrust what big culture offers you back stop. Join me here on…