In praise of the graphic novel

bovery.jpgHave you ever read a graphic novel? Don’t blush, it’s nothing to be embarrassed about – not graphic in that sense but like a grown-ups’ comic book. There are some really amazing ones and I should know. I’ve read two and therefore count myself a world authority.

Contrary to popular assumption, neither was about crazed sci-fi worlds or fantasy warlords. Fun Home is a funny-but-sad family memoir and Gemma Bovery is a dramatic whodunnit but also a really wry take on Brits abroad. Both have great drawings that make me wish I too could control a pencil. Both are also deeply interwoven with literary references and allusions – almost like the authors are eager to show their credentials as “proper” writers. But, no need to apologise for the format. It’s great. Try one.


A productive ailment

cough.jpgIn pharmacy-speak, I have what is known as a productive cough. Back in the day, when I worked as a lowly pharmacy assistant, there were a series of questions we had to ask spluttery, wheezing customers including “Are you taking any other medication?” and “Is your cough productive?” Oddly, nobody ever answered, “Yes, it is actually. So far today it’s painted the bathroom, rearranged my sock drawer and filled in my tax return.” It seems the general public know that a productive cough means that your cough, er, produces something. Best not to dwell on such things.

Yes, those pharmacy days were good times. I used to especially enjoy laughing and pointing out to my co-workers any customers who purchased something called Stud 1000 (and that happened more often than you’d think). Can’t think why I never made it as a pharmacist.

Note: I was just looking for a picture to go with this post and came across this: the cough muffler. This ingenious item is designed for hunters who don’t want their “spontaneous morning cough” to startle the deer they’ve got their air rifle trained on. You wear it round your neck, cough into it and it muffles the sound to an almost inaudible level. What’s best is that its “matt black finish blends with all of today’s modern camo patterns.” Thank goodness! Don’t you just hate it when your cough muffler clashes with your camo gear?

Thai green worry

thai.jpgHosted a small dinner party last week that included three of my favourite things: wine, poker and Thai food. The Thai delicacies were followed by a box of Thai Fortune Rolls.

Now, these are similar to Chinese fortune cookies except they are actually edible. The other main difference is that the fortunes aren’t really fortunes. Some seemed more like mild threats designed to make you question your sanity. Here’s a selection that range from the harmless…

You have a curious smile and a mysterious nature.

…to the funny…

Please someone at work by remaining clam and impartial.

You have so much to be thank you for.

…to the alarming:

Schizophrenia beats being alone.

But this one has to be the winner – if you’re not already trying to keep ‘clam’ despite concerns that you are in fact a schizophrenic, this might just tip you over the edge:

If the enemy is in range, SO ARE YOU.

Kebab Institute

hen_cottage.jpgThe names of kebab shops are getting a bit highfalutin if you ask me. Chicken shops have got it right – simple variations around a theme give you Chicken Cottage, Chicken Spot, Chicken Hut, Kentucky Chicken, Tennessee Chicken, Dixy Chicken…you get the idea. All quality establishments.

Then you’ve got your crossover restaurants like Dallas Chicken & Ribs. And good old kebab places like Gizel Kebabs and Kebab Feast. But now, just round the corner from my own home, I give you Kebab Centre. It’s not just a takeaway – it’s a centre for all those interested in kebabs and furthering our collective knowledge of the kebab world. What next?

Two further establishments deserve a mention:
-Again, near my own home: Tower of Pizza and Chicken
-Somewhere between my home and IKEA Croydon: Jerk Chicken Centre

Any more for any more?

Radio obscura

hay.jpegAs well as mad people, a recent daytime discovery of mine has been the joys of radio, particularly Radio 4. It never fails to surprise, veering between the mainstream and the just plain odd. The other day I caught a 20-minute interview with a lady in Wales who, using seaweed, weaves special covers to keep bales of hay dry. Of course, there isn’t much demand for her unique skill these days (since the roof was invented?) but she is paid to keep it going. Who was the person at the BBC who heard about this and thought it would make great radio? Possibly the same person who commissioned all the geology programmes – minute descriptions of the colour, shape and texture of bits of rock is surely not ideal radio matter. Still, it’s the random bits of weirdness that make it great.

At the other end of the spectrum is Pandora Internet Radio. You just type in a song or artist you particularly like, or are in the mood for, and it streams other similar songs. Type in Celine Dion and you’ve created your very own Radio Celine. You can then rate the individual songs it throws up to further refine future selections to your own taste. I just created Radio Barbra Streisand as a joke but am clicking the thumbs up icon on all the songs. This is a little frightening – back to geology.

The truth about hens

Some people say hen nights are just an opportunity for girls to get together, drink lots, dress up and behave irresponsibly. The naysayers call them another symptom of “boozed-up Britain,” “ladette culture” and general idiocy.

What do they know. I was at a hen weekend last year that brought together some brilliant, talented people and gave us all an opportunity to not only debate topical issues but also to gel in a more creative, freeform sense. Thank goodness I had the presence of mind to grab a video camera and capture the moment:

Hands off my heggs

cider.jpgI think a whole different breed of people roam the streets during normal working hours. Let’s call them Daytime Crazies (DC).

These people must shut themselves firmly behind closed doors when the other half of the population emerge from their workplaces after the 9 to 5 stint so that never the twain shall meet. I, however, have crossed over…

Outisde my opticians last week, a boozed-up DC was barking “Happy New Year!” at passers-by and insisted on opening and closing the door for all visitors to Dolland & Aitchison. Hmm. Then in Tesco this morning, a lady DC marched up to me, pointed at my basket and demanded, “Where did you get the heggs?” For a second I thought she must be some kind of undercover store detective who had rumbled me. “Sorry, the what?” I asked, panicking. “The heggs!” she replied, thrusting her hand into my basket and grabbing a box of eggs. “Oh, up there on the left.” Daytime Crazy is all around it seems.

Clearly, if I want to survive in public during the day I am going to have to get my crazy on. So I shoplifted a six-pack of White Lightning. Delicious.

An editor to admire

olay.jpegAs an editor, I always keep an eye out for inspirational figures in the media. People doing something different and eye-catching. There are some amazing writers and editors out there and I take every chance I get to enjoy their work in books, magazines, newspapers, blogs and websites.

But if there’s one editor out there that’s really left an impression on me, it’s Nadine Baggot of Olay Regenerist fame. Have you seen her advert? See how she writes in her notepad! See how she points at her interviewee! See how she says long words (“pentapeptides!”). See how her face never, ever moves!

This could be me one day. I dare to dream. But what I need first is a celebrity beauty product without the celebrity price tag. Ah well, baby lotion it is.

I can see again

clens.jpgThose with perfect vision will probably never understand the pure joy that is a contact lens upgrade.

I am trialling some new lenses for the next two weeks. Apparently contact lens technology has “moved on somewhat” since I first started wearing them back in 1996. So on the bus back home from the opticians it was a joy to read all the signs I’ve never been able to properly make out: “Kebab Feast,” “Poundland,” “ASDA Wal-Mart 24-hour store.” Heaven.

Bonus fact of little import: The title of this post is also a quote from one of my favourite films.