Ooops!

So there I was, back in work, with this nagging feeling that there was something I should have done this week. Couldn’t put my finger on it at all.

And then last night, as I started thinking about what I was going to post this weekend, the penny dropped.

I was supposed to start The Chain up again this week, wasn’t I?

It seems I’m still in that post-Christmas and New Year fug when you’re not quite sure what time, day, week, year it is. So sorry folks: I completely lost track of the days,  thinking I was due to post the 35th edition of The Chain next week when, in actual fact, it should have been this week.

As it happens, I spent Wednesday evening huddled over my laptop anyway, listening to the dulcet tones of Phil Neville, whispering about how much he loves watching Dele Ali pulling off at the back post between two defenders. By which I mean, I was watching Spurs bring Chelsea back down to earth with a bump. Yeh, we showed them, those pesky top of the Premiership seven-points ahead of us chaps.

Anyway, the upshot of all this is, and I’m sure come the middle of next week I’ll regret saying this, if you still want to make a suggestion for The Chain, feel free. The song we’re linking to is Malcolm McLaren’s “Buffalo Gals”, and all you need to do is go to The Chain #34 and post a comment naming the record that you’re suggesting and an explanation of the link between it and the aforementioned McLaren tune.

In the meantime, here’s a sort of appropriate record, an absolute favourite of mine:

lloyd-cole-and-the-commotions-lost-weekend-1985

Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Lost Weekend

More soon. (No, really!)

Name That Tune

Ok, so it’s been a while since I did one of these. Admittedly, I’ve been struggling to come up with songs which mentioned famous people – not singers, that’s Charity Chic‘s patch – in their song titles to post here.

And then my beloved iPod gave me today’s song, which doesn’t have any famous people in the title at all (unless the title refers to Piers Morgan, which I wouldn’t want to rule out), but does name-check an Oscar winning actress and one of them there intellectual types that Michael Gove says we’re all fed up with.

Looking back, I can see this record as a stepping stone to me adoring bands like The Smiths, who I didn’t fully appreciate until their time was almost done. Bands who referenced intellects and authors; as my youthful thirst for intellectual stimulation expanded, so I began to listen to records which at the very least pointed me in the right direction. But by now, I wanted something a little less ham-fisted than The Police’s reference to “the old man in that book by Nabakov” on “Don’t Stand So Close To Me”, and Lloyd Cole and The Commotions seemed to be able to provide everything that I needed.

“Rattlesnakes”, for that is the record I’m talking about, references  French writer, intellectual, existentialist philosopher, political activist, feminist and social theorist Simone de Beauvoir. As I realise that paragraph above makes me look a little wanky, I should stress I have never read anything by Nabakov or de Beauvoir, but at least I knew who they were, and aged 16 that seemed to be enough somehow.

Similarly, it makes mention of Eve Marie Saint in “On The Waterfront”, a film she won an Oscar for (Best Supporting Actress), and a film I’ve never got round to watching. But I know she’s in it.

My life is full of these little bits of half-knowledge. When I was younger, I watched “Apocalypse Now” and found it was based on “Heart of Darkness” by Joseph Conrad, which I rushed out and bought. And there it still sits, thirty-odd years later, unread and dusty on my book shelves.

What I’m trying to say is: I’m a pretty handy person to have on your pub quiz team.

When you’re a teenager, struggling to work out who you are, to assume your own identity, you clutch and grab at these things. To my mind, it didn’t matter that I’d never read de Beauvior or Conrad, or never seen Marie Saint act; what mattered was that I knew who they were, which many of my peers did not.

lloyd-cole-and-the-commotions-rattlesnakes

Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Rattlesnakes

What’s spectacular about that record, is that as well as referencing a fixed point in cinema, there’s something cinematic about the record itself: you can picture Jodie, looking like Eve Marie Saint in “On The Waterfront”, speeding down the freeway, trying her luck with the traffic police. David Lynch directing, I think.

I didn’t buy the “Rattlesnakes” single or the album when they came out, but I remember my mate Paul having the album, and loving this song, along with “Perfect Skin”,  and “Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?” from it. Of course, when I finally got round to buying the album, I realised that every song on it is utter perfection.

If you already own the Rattlesnakes album, I would hope the mere mention of it would entice you back to listen to it again. Just writing this has made me do so.

And since I mentioned “Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?”, here it is:

are-you-ready-to-be-heartbroken-lloyd-cole-and-commotions

Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?

Since I’m posting that, I may as well post a bloody wonderful record which references Mr Cole and that song (CC: sorry if I’ve nicked this one off your toes!!):

camera-obscura-lloyd-im-ready-to-be-heartbroken-elefant

Camera Obscura – Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken

More soon.

Smile!

It can’t have escaped the attention of any of my friends residing in England that on Monday we finally caught up with the rest of the UK.

Sadly, not in terms of hating the Tories, though hopefully that will come soon.

No. As of Monday, if you went into a supermarket you would be charged 5p for every plastic bag that you used.

I was blissfully unaware this law had come in until I went to pay for my lunch at the self-service tills in the mini-Morrisons (soon to be rebranded “My Local” following some corporate buy-out or another) and was asked by the unusually complicit machine to tell it how many plastic bags I had used.

On the way home that night, I called into my local Asda, and it was fucking carnage. Massive queues everywhere, and people kicking off about being charged for what had previously been a free commodity.

I’m kind of with them, in one respect: if you didn’t know about it – and it wasn’t exactly heavily advertised – then it would have come as a surprise.

However, in the other respect, it’s only 5p – which goes to charidee by the way folks – and surely anything to reduce the amount of shit we’re dumping into landfill has to be a good thing, right? So, y’know suck it up. Or just try to make a run for it with your shopping trolley, until the wheels lock up at the edge of the car park, or “the shopping trolley graveyard” as it’s more commonly known.

Much as I hate the idea of them, reducing jobs as they inevitably do, I must admit that I do quite like the self-service tills. This stems back to when I was unemployed a couple of years ago, and often had to pay for my groceries using nothing other than 2p and 1p coins, which is just plain embarrassing if you’re counting them out into an actual person’s hand as the queue behind you glares hatefully at you.

There’s a chap who works on the Asda self-service tills, the guy who comes over and types in his password when the machine is telling you whatever you just placed in the bagging area is the wrong weight, and he’s lovely. Always says hello, always calls me sir even though I tell him not to. I worked in retail for quite some time when I was younger, and encountered many an obnoxious wanker, so I always try to be pleasant and nice to the staff because I remember what its like when you get shouted at by some prick who thinks he’s been overcharged for his crate of Monster Energy Drink. A lot of people are incredibly rude to retail staff, and the way I look at it, if I can go in there and be nice to them for just one minute, then that’s one minute when they haven’t got to deal with someone horrible. Of course, this is a bit of a reciprocal deal, for if you are nice to them, they are nice back. You get great service then. Try it. Everyone leaves the scene happy.

(NB – this is the same strategy as I used to use with bouncers – sorry, security – on the door at clubs, when I was young enough (ahem!) to go to them. Be nice to them on the way in, and, provided they don’t then call your bluff and search you, they’ll remember you next time and be pleasant back. For they are stupid creatures, easily tricked.)

And yes, I have just equated going to the supermarket with Jeremy Corbyn’s “being nice is nice” philosophy. (Strong message here) It’s quite simple to apply, really.

Anyway, the Asda chap was working on Monday evening, racing around the self-service area with a rack of plastic bags over his arm like a wine waiter’s tea towel (that’s what it is, deal with it, poshos). Because of all the people kicking off at the poor sod, the queue just to get into the self-service area was long (also because at least half of the tills weren’t working), and after I finally made it in, scanned all my munchies and lubes…er…I mean just my munchies, nothing else, paid and bagged up (brought my own bags, thank you very much) I bumped into the Asda chap as I left.

“Hello sir!” he said, affecting a cheery tone.

“Hello. I don’t envy you today mate. First day of the bag charge, right?”

He gave me an “oh god thank you someone is aware of this and how torturous my shift has been” look.

“Mhmm” he replied through pursed lips.

“I don’t envy you” I said. “Try and make it through your shift without decking any of the idiots, won’t you?”

He smiled. “I’ll try, I can’t promise anything though.”

Anyway, today I had another 5p bag experience, this one much more sinister.

I went into Morrisons at lunch time as usual, to find three of the staff frantically trying to get  all of the recently delivered sandwiches, wraps etc into the fridge ready for the lunch time trade. Fair enough. Can’t buy them if they’re not out of the cardboard box and in the fridge. I selected mine from those they had unpacked – Chicken and Bacon, not my first choice, but them’s the breaks – collected some fruit (yeh, get me and my semi-healthy lunch) and a drink and made my way to the self service tills.

There are two of these in this store, right in front of the counter where the actual tills are. There was nobody on the “real” tills – they were all sorting the delivery – so customers had to use the self-service tills. That’s okay, I usually do anyway.

The left hand self service till is being used, the right hand one appears empty, so I approach, only to note a cluster of produce in the bagging area, a list of them on the screen, and…no bags. The bloke trying to pay for them is hunting high and low for a bag to use. In the end, he leans behind the counter and liberates a couple.

Now anyone who has ever worked in a shop, and I would have thought that most people who hadn’t, know that behind the counter is the preserve of staff only. Not this bloke though.

He is spotted by one of the staff, who calls from the refridgerated area “Excuse me! You are not allowed behind the counter” as she hurriedly makes her way over.

The bloke, clutching one bag, does not do as any decent person would and apologise, he decides to continue the argument.

“There’s no bags on the tills” he shouts

“Well just come and ask us for some and we’ll give them to you” is the assistant’s reply, as she makes it behind the counter.

She’s a nice lady, this assistant. I see her every day, she always says hello, tells me when they have my favourite sandwich in but they just haven’t unpacked it yet (I don’t wait for it), laughs at the ridiculously trainspotter-ish pac-a-mac I’m wearing one day when the rain has unexpectedly comes but in a nice “Oh that’s a nice coat!” kind of way (I agree, telling her it’s not the most fashionable item I’ve ever worn – that was a pair of dungarees circa 1990 (almost there folks!) – and she knows I’m having a little joke with her and poking fun at myself) – because we have spoken before and although we don’t know each other, she knows I can take a bit of a ribbing and will even make it easier for her by taking the piss out of myself to save her the effort.

I do this in quite a lot of shops. In one, every time I went in to buy a packet of cigarettes, the bloke behind the till would ask me if I wanted to buy a Lottery ticket.

“No thanks”, I said the first time, “buying these is enough of a gamble for me!”, waving the packet of fags at him.

This is great. They remember me every time I go in there now. But, annoyingly, since I (sort of, tried to) quit, they remember to such an extent that as soon as I walk in, there is a packet of my brand of cigarettes waiting for me on the counter. Which, when it happens in three or four different shops, makes it rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrreally hard to quit smoking.

Anyway, this bloke starts shouting about how there should be someone behind the counter at all times and as there wasn’t, he thought it was ok to help himself.

And then this exchange happened, which made me see the situation in a whole different light:

Her: “You can’t just go behind the counter and help yourself. That’s not how it works”

Him: “Yeh? Well it is in my country”

Oh yes. Some context. he is a frankly massive grumpy as fuck white Caucasian male. She is a lovely, glorious, cheerful and friendly lady of colour, if I had to speculate I’d say maybe Eritrean or Somalian. But I don’t have to, so I won’t.

Thankfully, she misheard him.

“Well it is in this company” she said.

He left, further ranting as he went, about how awful the customer service was in there.

She just looked at him. “Well don’t come back then” she said.

After I had bought my lunch, I approached her, and told her that if he happened to write or call in to complain, she should let me know and I’d be happy to give a statement that she had done nothing wrong and that he was a racist arsehole.

Least I could do, innit? I mean, this lady has memorised my favourite sandwich. Props are due.

See? Being nice is nice.

It is that this point that I realise you may not have come here to listen to me waffle on about my relationships with local store-workers, and may want some tunes. So, something appropriate (well three things actually):

sting - spread a little happiness Sting – Spread a Little Happiness

the-supernaturals-smile-food The Supernaturals – Smile

lloyd-cole-and-the-commotions-my-bag-polydor Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – My Bag

PS – That last song would have cropped up later in my usual “Dubious Taste” series, but I would have had to talk about – and play you – the godawful “Dance Mix”, so consider yourself spared. Though I might post it anyway.

PPS – When writing this, I was desperately trying to remember who it was that did a comedy sketch about a guy getting very upset about being charged for plastic bags. I was about to throw myself prostate at your feet asking for help in identifying who the hell it was. And then, it sprang into my head, literally as I typed this. The ole synapses are still working (just about).

PPPS – although there is this slightly contradictory view.

PPPPS – I used to write about Wedding Present cover versions on a Wednesday night didn’t I? Sorry, will get the defibrillators onto the chest of those posts in time for next week.

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