Monday, March 30, 2009

The Internet Is Broken

I changed ISPs last week - and during the crossover, had one day without any Interweb connectivity at home. I say one day, actually it was just one evening. But, for that handful of hours I don't think I've ever felt so cut-off, disconnected and cold turkey-ish. Unbelievable.

Holidays, sick leave etc... you factor in days away from the mainframe. Getting unexpectedly dropped is like Superman being stripped of his powers. No email, music downloads, bidding, browsing or blogging.

TV I can take or leave (when I take, I generally see why I leave). Radio I'll dip and dunk now and again. But the Internet is surely the most addictive of all plug-in-drugs, and so locked and loaded into your lifestyle - it's almost impossible to be without.

Meri Wilson - Internet Man

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Something To Declare - Not For The Squeamish

Every area of employment must have it's own career related horror stories. You know, the sort of niche/job specific, urban myths, late night legends or even occasionally true tales that are related and reheated with shifty whispers and knowing nods.

In a former life I was a low-level civil servant working in the Train-The-Trainers department of Customs and Excise, where most of the senior staff, trainers or managers had served some sort of stretch in The Field being based at ports, airports or the Investigations Division (C&E's equivalent of The Sweeney) keeping a stealthy eye out for smugglers, stuffers and swallowers. A few of the tales told at leaving dos or seasonal drink-ups included...

A manager I worked under, who had previously been based at Dover (in the pre H & S 80s) was regularly required to carry out strip searches on any pulled-in suspects. His cut-off point came at lifting their 'old fella' with a ruler. If he hadn't found anything by then - they could keep it.

Part of the training for new field staff included role-play strip searches on volunteers (usually the same over-fifties volunteers everytime). I say role play but the searchees were completely starkers during the searches, with one of the ladies stow-it-away specialisms including tucking a pencil under the folds of her heavyset chest, where it usually stayed undiscovered everytime.

Now this one may be a shaggy dog story, but, I only heard it once while at Customs, and have never heard variations or re-tellings of it since - so you never know.

Medics became a legal requirement at strip searches after an incident where, a thread was spotted trailing party popper style from a suspects Parsons Nose. The over-zealous Customs Officer taking it as the sure-fire sign of a 'stuffer' grabbed the cotton whipping it out with the force of someone starting an outboard motor. The suspect collapsed concertina-style as the thread had been the tail end of internal stitches..

I could add intestines being sucked into aeroplane loos, clear perspex toilets to collect swallowers deposits, an overpowering lack of personal hygiene employed by stuffers to put people off the scent - literally. But perhaps I'll save those treats for next time..

Enjoy your lunch

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Magical History Tour of King's Road's Hipsters and Hitmakers

There really is no other street in London quite like King's Road, it's an area so saturated with rock royalty, drama queens, designers and sites of special pop-culture interest, that you're never more than a few meters shy of some heavy-hitting historical location. I don't think it's an over-exaggeration to suggest that no other post code has shaped what we watch, wear, listen to and laugh at quite like SW3. You may not have been to King's Road, but the offspring and influences from this spawning ground of sounds and styles - will have stealthily woven it's way into your life somehow.

With a one way walk (of 1.4 miles) from Sloane Square to Edith Grove. It's possible to complete a tick-list of London undergrounders and embryonic icons including :Angry Young Men, Beatles, Bolan, Dracula, Droogs, Feminists, It Girls, proto-punks, Pythons, Rocky Horror, Stones and Ziggy Stardust.

So, starting from Sloane Square then...

The Royal Court Theatre
John Osbourne's Look Back In Anger premiered at the RCT in 1956, the success of the play payrolled the production of Saturday Night Saturday Morning movie, which in turn, kick-started the 'Kitchen Sink' genre. Almost ten years on David Frost spotted Michael Palin and Terry Jones, starring in a '65 Oxford Revue and invited them to join the writing team for The Frost Report, a team that included Graham Chapman, John Cleese and Eric Idle. And in 1973 The Rocky Horror Show made it's flouncy debut.

138a King's Road
The site of Mary Quant's first boutique 'Bazaar' - which opened in 1955.
Now a West Cornwall Pasty shop

A few doors up, at 152 you'll find The Pheasantry. A rat-run of shabby flats in the mid-to-late sixties, but home to Germaine Greer, Clive James, Eric Clapton and Martin Sharp (designer of Disraeli Gears and Oz Magazine) - A location, that a few decades before had been the Russian Dancing Academy - attended by a young Dame Margot Fonteyn
Now a Pizza Express

Just across the road at 49 King's Road once stood The Chelsea Drugstore. Referenced in the Stones song You Can't Always Get What You Want, and used for a several interiors in Stanley Kubrick's Clockwork Orange.
Now a McDonalds

Staying on the south side, a short hop takes you to number 85 , former home of The Great Gear Market. A dingy network of Leather Shops (the Boys Town type), Antenna hairdressers (the birthplace of extensions), Rusty Egan's Record Cage, Tik and Tok's clothing shop.. an eighties hang-out for all alt.types
Now a Marks and Spencer

If you're feeling peckish, why not pop in to Picasso's at 127 for a bite? It's one of London's endangered species - an original fifties coffee bar, that's not been Starbucked. Yet.

Flood Street is next on the left, and Chelsea Manor Studios at 1 - 11, the site of the Sgt. Pepper's photo-shoot .

One more Beatles location to come Fabs fan's

153, now Ad-Hoc, but used to be punk-turned-eighties favourite BOY. Head west along King's Road and you'll soon come to Oakley Street - I would recommend looping south to Cheyne Walk and ticking off...

Oakley Street
89 - Bowies seventies house of residence
87 - Lady Wilde, mother of Oscar Wilde. And Later, George Best

Cheyne Walk
48 - Mick Jagger's house '68-75
27 - Bram Stoker

3 - Keith Richards until '78

Back on King's Road, keep heading west and take a left into Old Church Street looking for 46a and Sound Techniques Studios - it's no longer used for recording, but while active produced a pitch perfect pedigree of - Floyd's 'Syd' period singles, and classic albums like : Nick Drake - Five Leaves Left, Bryter Later, John Martyn - Bless The Weather, Solid Air, Fairport -Liege and Leaf.

A jump to the north side of the street takes you to The Vale, and another The Beatles site - Robert Whitakers Studio at 1A being the site of the 'butcher' sleeve photo shoot..

Stay on this side for 380, where in the seventies Marc Bolan was a regular at Alkasura (closed long ago) for most of his swishy bits and satin jackets..

Marc Bolan in his Alkasura jacket

Round the bend, and into the World's End stretch of the street. Where nestling next to the Chelsea Conservative Club, like a neighbour from a hell, is 430 King's Road - the birthing pool of Punk. McLaren and Westwood moved in 1972, setting up shop as Let It Rock and selling fifties collectables and creepers to Teddy Boys. But it was the shops refitting and reformatting as SEX that pulled punk's earliest groovers and shakers - the art-school Bowie/Roxy crowd and safety pinned estate urchins - into it's orbit of Hate-Couture
Still Vivienne Westwood - Hurrah!

Finally the sixties 'scene' shop Granny Takes A Trip was sited at 488, and just around the corner you'll find the young Rolling Stones notoriously sqalid lodgings at 102 Edith Grove.

I could cram in James Bond's unamed square, Duke Ellington's earliest recordings, Judy Garland's death, George Melly and Quentin Crisp, The Killing of Sister Georgie, Don Letts and Acme Attractions, The Who, John Barry, Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Mozart, James Whistler, Edith Sitwell and the invention of cotton but, perhaps I'll save that lot for later..