Friday, October 20, 2006

Identity theft

I know, I know, ok, that there's no point having a blog and just leaving it for days on end, like leftover pizza in the fridge. My reasons for not blogging are both tedious and manifold, so let's get them over with as quickly as possible. First, I was hurt by the suggestion my blog was boring (I know, diddums, but still - everything I could think to write suddenly seemed deeply mundane) which you will find in the comments below.

There's also the fact that I have ingested so much Charlie Booker (through my eyes, I hasten to add) over the past fortnight that I was concerned that anything I wrote would just turn into a poor Screen Burn pastiche. You know: Lots of descriptions of me shouting "How DARE you? ACTUALLY how DARE you?" at innocent bystanders, references to shitting pine cones and the use of the word 'bumpoo'.

Thankfully, this week I put aside Screen Burn, Screen Wipe, Screen Saver (I made that one up, but it's only a matter of time) and TV Go Home and so have some possiblity of thinking - and writing - like myself again.

But then I got ill with a cold. Properly ill, as well, in a 'is it meningitis?' way (the lesser form of the cold is the 'is it flu?' variety). And decided instead to start reading every Modesty Blaise book in existence. Six down, and I have to take a breather. When I left Willie and Modesty, he'd been pushed out of an aircraft somewhere over Africa without a parachute, in a straitjacket, strapped to a chair, and she'd been imprisoned in a cage with an irate mountain gorilla and a bumbling English doctor called Giles.

Words can't express how much I am enjoying these books (and there's another half dozen left!), so much that I have suspended all cynicism and simply coo over them with a sense of slack-jawed awe. I just can't bring myself to criticise them, even though the scenarios are preposterous and Peter O'Donnell has a distressing need to describe exactly what Modesty's wearing at inappropriate moments. I'm human, ok? I love.

Wait. That was a Charlie Brooker quote, wasn't it? Shit. I need to detox.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

L'Atelier means workshop, you know.

On Friday, the Boyfriend took me out for lunch at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, the kind of place that makes me want to say, "It's so hot right now" Zoolander-style.

On paper, it sounds brilliant. One of the world's best chefs comes to London with a formula that's succeeded in Paris and Tokyo, opens restaurant on the same street as the Ivy, plaudits and Michelin stars follow. Except somewhere along the line, it went wrong and is now getting some distinctly cool reviews.

So what was wrong with it? Well, for a start, it had gone with this new fifteen-bazillion-menus-in-one thing that seems to be all the rage in London's hottest new restaurants. We could have had the tasting menu, or another tasting menu, or an indeterminate number of tapas sized dishes, or a proper starter and main.
The tasting menu was £55, but the only thing I really wanted on it (quail with truffled mash) wasn't available. Or not on the tasting menu. It was still available on the proper mains menu, and perhaps even on the tapas menu. Or not.

By this point, with my searing hangover, I was hopelessly confused and inadvertently ordered the lobster salad to start (£32!) which arrived in a little cake, like one of those prawn cocktail rings. Now I appreciate lobster is expensive, but there was about 25g of - admittedly delicious - crustacean here, and three inches of iceberg lettuce.

It turns out that iceberg lettuce is the Achilles heel of haute cuisine - there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that you can do to it to make it taste any more exciting than it does when you pluck it from your salad tray at midnight and arrange a few disconsolate leaves in a ham and margarine sandwich.

Boyfriend, meanwhile, had had soup with foie gras ravioli in it. Approximately two spoons of soup and four ravioli - and remember, this was the 'big' version. They probably have to give you a magnifying sheet like they sell to old people to read books if you get the tapas-sized one.

Somehow, he had managed to cajole some quail out of the waitress too, leaving me to flounder around for a different main. Eventually I went with roast chicken.

Now, as I was toying with the last hundredweight of iceberg lettuce, I noticed the serving staff were eyeing up our plates. Oh, that allows me to mention the other 'USP' (standing for 'unfortunate seating position'): we were sitting on high stools around the kitchen, which is separated from the ravenous masses by glass boxes about a foot high. This means the waiters have to elaborately lean over bodily with your plate. It's a lapful of foie gras ravioli waiting to happen.

Anyway, I put down my fork on the plate, and the waitress practically rugby tackled the glass box to snatch it away. Odd, I thought: then I realised why, as our mains arrived in a span only measurable with an atomic clock. Clearly, they'd had them racked up under the heat lamp waiting for my lettuce odyssey to finish.

Now I was cross and determined not to like anything. The chicken was nice (if faintly dry, I insist) and there was a little chunk of foie gras with it, and some unfeasibly small potatoes. Veg took the form of a hewn-off bit of cabbage, which I forked aside with disdain. Irritatingly, the guinea fowl was much nicer, and the truffly mash potato everything we were promised, and more.

Anyway, I was so dispirited by the experience I couldn't summon the enthusiasm, or the second overdraft, to have pudding. Gah.


In other news, Decline and Fall in site update shock!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Wicked Hitch of the West

Like Harry Hutton, I am obsessed with Christopher Hitchens. We just approach him from different sides, as it were - I love the Hitch with an uncritical adoration which borders on the teenage crush. Oh dear. What a shameful thing to do to one of our top public intellectuals, turn him into some kind of adolescent fantasy object. Still, better than fancying Peter Hitchens, I suppose.

Anyway, I fulfilled one of my few remaining ambitions (not that I have fulfilled lots of my ambitions; I just have very few) on Saturday by talking to the Hitch. OK, so there were hundreds of other people there, but still, he was looking at me with those piercing blue eyes, saying things like 'a priori' and quoting Homer. Hot. Oh, and he's shaved off that horrible Trevor Eve beard and was looking, er, sleeker than he has recently.

It was the Intelligence Squared London Paris Festival, and he was there to talk about Thomas Paine (totally coincidentally, he has a book out on Thomas Paine), and his contribution to the American and French revolutions. Dammit, I thought, I must ask a question. Even if it's lame. Question. Question!

Eventually I came up with some fluff about why was Paine underappreciated in Britain, and raised my arm. But some American got about and started yakking about the Norman Yoke. Eventually, the Hitch discarded the yoke. This was it! My moment!

No! Some other American started asking a question. "If you don't mind," cut in the Hitch, "I think we should hear from a female questioner next." The Hitch had noticed I was female! Joy!

Later, I saw him smoking outside the refreshments tent. Boyfriend suggested I picked up his discarded cigarette butt and put it on eBay. I laughed, but also genuinely considered keeping it for myself.

From the recent New Yorker profile of the Hitch:

  • "Hitchens claims to be unperturbed by his critics... 'People say, "What's it like to be a minority of one, or a kick-bag for the Internet?" It washes off me like jizz off a porn star's face.'"

  • "Hitchens told me, 'When I was younger— this will surprise you, seeing now the bloated carcass of the Hitch— I used to get quite a bit of attention from men. And, um. It was sometimes quite difficult, especially when you hadn't seen it coming. I was considered reasonably pretty, I suppose, between seventeen and twenty-five. I remember noticing when it stopped, and thinking, Oh dear. What? None of these guys want to sleep with me anymore?'"

  • "Hitchens has the life that a spirited thirteen-year-old boy might hope adulthood to be: he wakes up when he likes, works from home, is married to someone who wears leopard-skin high heels, and conducts heady, serious discussions late into the night."

  • Sunday, October 08, 2006

    Party politics

    There are two types of parties - ones that make you feel good about yourself, and ones that make you feel bad.

    My birthday party last weekend was of the former type - I was wearing a ridiculously tarty cowboy outfit, I was tipsy, it was dark, I knew most of the people there - oh, and they were mostly men. I felt like a social butterfly, flitting between groups of witty, interesting people, saying witty and interesting things. I was being witty (or so I thought, in retrospect I was probably just shouting as usual).

    The housewarming party I went to on Friday was very different. For a start, I had had a hair crisis which involved the front sections twirling into something that resembled candyfloss, and a spot of frankly impressive dimensions erupted on my right cheek earlier that day.

    But the real problem was the other people there. They were gorgeous. And so young, with such abundant hair, and so thin! One was wearing a minuscule sweater dress with a print like an Axminster carpet, and she looked amazing. I felt like I had wandered into a Razorlight lookalike convention which had collided with a High Street Honeys after-party.

    They stumbled round, drinking vodka and cokes, continually embracing each other and generally larking about. One of them accosted me to tell me about a particularly fine specimen of manhood: "He's gorgeous, isn't he? I'm definitely going to snog him before the end of the evening." I was taken aback. What, she was actually going to try to pull him? At a party?

    On the other side of the room, my group of friends stood in the corner, talking about Guitar Hero and cars whilst drinking steadily and unemotionally with our usual Friday night. We had no ambition to snog anyone before the end of the evening; nor were we riotously drunk. Instead, we'd all worked out the precise minute we could leave and still catch the last tube/bus home. We smelled of disappointment and Beck's.

    Our host, Laura, had the explanation: the rest of her housemates had only just finished university. At Nottingham.

    For the uninitiated, Nottingham is a university attended only by fit people (although the occasional homely type sneaks through every so often). Whilst intelligent enough not to be easily despised, its graduates are nevertheless not so intelligent they become bogged down by the terrifyingly large questions of life (How will I buy a house? Am I rubbish at my job? Where's all my money gone? Is this a cold or meningitis?).

    "Oh god," I said to Laura. "I'll be leaving. I'll come back when I'm much more attractive."

    Oh well. I console myself in my bitterest moments with the thought that if I ever achieve a position of importance in my forties and fifties, I will employ only people who used to be really attractive. Then I will taunt them about their fading charms, before sending them out to buy my coffee and wear in my shoes for me.

    Thursday, October 05, 2006

    Tired of Life?

    Yesterday was most easily comparable to a forced death march down memory lane. I'm writing this from my parents' laptop (noting with horror that their wireless broadband, as installed by my dad, works better than mine) because I have returned to the Shire.

    It started off well - a brisk yomp through the City centre, where I am accustomed to sneer at the rubbish shops and poor selection of ethnic take-aways. But something has happened - Worcester has become, well, cosmopolitan. Hang on, I need to say that again: it's become cosmopolitan.

    No, still doesn't sound any more plausible. What has happened to the grey twilight hinterland I remember from growing up? The land of limited opportunities and stunted dreams? As I walking up the hill to my house, I even started to think, "Hmm, walking distance from the town centre - that must be convenient!" Not for people here the two daily hours I spend on the Circle line, cursing my existence, and more particularly, the man next to me who feels some kind of divine entitlement to ALL the arm-rests.

    Perhaps it's Worcester that's changed. But I can't believe the opening of a falafel bar and a branch of H&M can really turn it into European City of Culture. No, it's got to be me. Am I really tired of London?