Sunday, August 23, 2009

Back to basics

A bride-to-be was having her pre-wedding wedding shots done at the end of Stanley Main Street. With the groom nowhere to be seen, she twitched uncomfortably as a busybody attendant slicked extra make-up (wholly unhelpfully) onto her face. She looked altogether rather uncomfortable with the whole thing. I stood on a wall behind her to get the shot of her back.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Jude the Obscure

From the window of a taxi in Happy Valley: poor old Jude Law in a very uncomfortable-looking pair of "slacks", the latest in a highly risible campaign by Dunhill starring the man looking more ill at ease in every one. Look closely; he's perched on a canister, "reading" a "script", with, for no apparent reason, a pair of headphones at his feet.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Take it to the bank

Further evidence of infantilism in Hong Kong culture: the Hello Kitty credit card, brought to you by Dah Sing Bank. Hello Kitty, it appears, also has a towheaded boy friend, Dear Daniel. Wouldn't it be cute if couples were to have one each? Why look, if you put the two cards together the oversized hearts toted by each of them are perfectly aligned. Incongruously enough, the platinum version of the Hello Kitty/Dear Daniel credit card appears to be as black as pitch, albeit with a freakish outline of the pair of them emblazoned upon it, so that's something.

It would be my opinion that anyone immature enough to want a credit card which sports images of Hello Kitty is too immature to be extended a line of credit.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Dear catastrophe waitress

In the year I finished my degree and before I went back to Glasgow to do the postgraduate Diploma in Legal Practice, I spent a miserable summer back in East Lothian. I'd split up with my boyfriend just before graduating; I didn't want to sign on; home was only the place I'd always longed to get away from and seemed cold and damp; I wasn't getting on well with my Mum; I thought I wasn't going to get a grant for my course, and so on and so self-pitying. I took a job as a waitress in Musselburgh ("The Honest Toun"), in a place called Medaci's. Near Musselburgh's one bright spot, Luca's, it was a "Mediterranean Restaurant", which was really just a big room at the back of the kebab shop which the tubby owner had fancied might make a good place for fine dining. The locals viewed it with amusement: as they waited for their kebabs they'd poke their heads through the bead curtain and mock me as I stood there waiting for customers that rarely came.

The chef was a foul-mouthed, ex-Merchant Navy chef, an ancient, wiry little man called Tommy; in the absence of any customers, I used to spend most of my time in the kitchen eating delicious spaghetti arabbiata freshly cooked by Tommy as he regaled me with his stories of shagging on the high seas and knocked back whisky. There I learned the waitress's conundrum: you don't want it to be quiet because it's mind-numbingly boring waiting for customers; but when customers do arrive, you loathe and despise them for choosing your restaurant and wish them gone with all due dispatch.

For a while there was a Greek waiter there, who used to stand uncomfortably close to me behind my little counter. The boss told me to re-heat the cold coffee from the day before to offer to customers. I couldn't work the cappuccino machine. I had to invent a banana split from scratch as I had no idea what was supposed to go into one. We had the Gypsy Kings on continuous loop. The boss's nasty little son, an equally tubby 11 year old with a lightning bolt shaved on the side of his round little head, used to sneak in behind my back into the fridge and spray canned cream from the tin straight into his mouth. Tommy became an unlikely ally; he hated the boss as much as I did and even began offering me a drink of his whisky. The summer seemed to last an eternity. At its end, I returned to Glasgow, having received a grant to do my course, and it was no surprise that Medaci's closed not long after that.

Musselburgh's being recommended by The Guardian as a place to visit to get away from the hubbub of the Edinburgh Festival. When I read that, I was instantly transported back to being paid £2.50 an hour at a failing restaurant; and I just can't see anything attractive in the idea of visiting the place. Even now, though the kebab shop is long gone too, I shoot a bad glance in its direction whenever I'm unlucky enough to pass by.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Completely barking

Net-a-porter is currently selling up leather slippers called NewbarKs. The irritating, pretentious and unnecessary capital K aside, there is something quite nauseating about the tone of the puff that's written about them: "Stay ahead of trend ... Take a style tip from off-duty models and wear these achingly hip alternatives to ballet pumps in between appointments ... Go from lounge to plane in magnificent style ... They go with everything! Diamonds, candlelight, Chloé and delicious cuisine... ". This torrent of aspirational flimflam fails to disguise the fact that, made out of buttersoft Moroccan leather though they might be, these look like old man's slippers. And I am not paying £300 to look like an old man in his baffies.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

A thing of beauty

Big Bill lives in Jurong Bird Park in Singapore. He is a bird with a great deal of dignity, despite, or perhaps because of, his massive beak. Humiliatingly, Bill is sometimes called a "whalehead", but not by his friends. Bill is a shoebill; there are 5,000-8,000 left in his habitat of tropical east Africa and he is classified as Vulnerable. However, he can eat a baby crocodile, although it seems unlikely that he ever gets the chance in the civilised confines of Jurong Bird Park. Shoebills are magnificent in flight, appearing almost prehistoric, but it is not clear whether Bill ever gets to fly.