Monday, 24 December 2012

Count

Here's the third and final short story, with hopes that you've now forgiven me and/or left me forever. That's right. You get to leave now. No, not now. Once you've read this.

I can't remember how I came up with this one. But it's pretty good. I hope you enjoy, and I hope you have a wonderful Christmas  and I hope that this story inspires you to give money to a charity, or visit that lonely old lady next door to see what she's doing, or forgiving someone who has wronged you, because Christmas is a time for things like that, and it can be really crappy if you're alone or have something on your conscience.

If you do find yourself in need of company on Christmas, feel free to come over here, for a complimentary Pringle and maybe some Heroes for afterwards.

Merry Christmas. I love you all. Masha'allah.

COUNT
Image Courtesy of Abi Jones - www.ajones-design.com
The Finsbury Place Hostel for Working and Elderly Men was, as the name suggests, a place with a purpose. Whilst the wrought iron gates and aforementioned name signposted upon them offered only a slight misinformation – working men had ceased to inhabit the building decades ago – the grey speckled walls within offered no illusions. It was no Victorian salon, fifties diner, intellectual commune, nor any place that might conjure grand images in the mind of the reader. It was simply a place where men of a certain age sat, and smoked, and sighed.
However, let me not allude to the dear reader that Finsbury Place was a particularly dull location. All this talk of iron and grey and smoke may seem like an indicator of a boring place, but those details were merely the rough and unappealing peel on the outside of a juicy orange of a location.
You see whilst the walls of Finsbury Place hardly breathed, and the heart of the building in dire need of a pacemaker barely beat, it was the inhabitants – ex-bankers, ex-builders, ex-bookies, and ex-bouncers alike – that made Finsbury Place Hostel for Working and Elderly Men such a wonderful building for persons of the people watching persuasion – like myself, a resident.

Oh if only you could turn on your television set and see – banter blowing through the thick smoke in the rec room, the click of what balls remain on the snooker table, the glug of old Pete pouring his morning glass of Guinness – a medical drink, he always says. If broadcast live I swear on my Sunday shoes that audiences would flock daily to watch the residents at play.
Allow me to give you an example – this morning, aforementioned Pete with his aforementioned Guinness was having an enthused conversation with Charlie – this toothless Irish sod that nobody can understand outside of Finsbury – about a toaster.
Now, even to look at, the pair of them are odd. Charlie, the more conventionally dressed of the two wears this big fleecy jumper thing, a bright green reminiscent of pine leaves, with little wolves printed on the chest. It’s one of those tatty ones you buy in the markets, but incredibly warm and comfortable – you can tell, because he wears it 365 days a year, come rain or shine.
Pete, however, is on another level – both literally and figuratively. He stands at 6’7” and is a skinny man whom without clothes might look like a stick insect with a gravel grey beard. He wears the garb expected of a Wild West cattle rancher, with a patchy leather waistcoat, floppy leather ten gallon hat, and props himself up on a tall stick with a hammer head at the top, the type of thing that the police might confiscate if only the man wielding it didn’t look so close to death.
Anyway – this morning, Charlie was telling Pete about how this toaster exploded. I won’t transcribe the conversation word for word, but Charlie nearly blew his hand off with ‘the damn thing’ and when he went into town to buy a new one, he tripped up whilst saying hello to the ladies on the bus, and dropped the brand new one right out into the street.
The way he told Pete all serious and goofy had everyone in tears by the time he had finished. Charlie is funny to laugh at because he gets so mad about it – he wants you to take him seriously. It was hilarious. I guess you’ll just have to trust me.

But when it comes to characters, the leading legend of Finsbury Place has to be the Count.
It says an awful lot that nobody knows his real name – he never has any visitors, and Mary, the landlady, likes to keeps us wondering, a nod of respect to how shrouded in mystery he has now become.
So instead, people have made names for him – Count, the Accountant, Count Dracula, all because of what it is that he does. You see, the Count – he counts.
He comes down in the morning and starts at one – and then carries on. He pauses to eat and drink, and presumably to sleep – although I have heard rumours. He never loses count, and never speaks a word that isn’t a number. He has, over the course of Finsbury Place history, become a legend, a piece of furniture, and an ambient noise, like the clock, or the radiator. Whether or not the radiator is meant to make a noise is a different story entirely.
Where the Count is concerned, there are a number of unwritten rules. You don’t speak to the Count, you don’t touch the Count, and most importantly, don’t make the Count lose count.
So as far as other Finsbury residents were concerned, the Count was an unimportant yet crucial element – he disturbed no one, and in return, nobody disturbed him. It fact, it was almost as if for a long time, the Count only resided within the residents collective imagination. Of course, like all things that stay the same for long enough, things were destined to change - but not until the arrival of a certain Jon Crow.

Jon Crow was a plump man who stood at 5’4”, the required height for a bad case of angry short man syndrome. The only personal details I know relating to Mr Crow were gained second hand – you see Crow had a drinking problem, as well as a nervous disposition, which made him rather awful company. He also has no patience for chess, which is how I do most of my socialising.
What I will include concerning Jim Crow are three facts. One – he was fastidiously adjusting his slicked back black hair every waking hour of his life. Two – his favourite colour was orange, and he always wore at least one item of orange clothing. Three – he hated the Count.
The Count and his perpetual counting annoyed Jon Crow to no end, and every time the Count came in he would run his fingers through his shiny black scalp and assert himself in his chair, his whole body visibly on edge whenever the Count passed.
So it was that from the day Crow arrived at Finsbury Place, the reign of the Count as chief enigma was somewhat threatened. Whenever there was a dip in the conversation and the Count was not in the room, Jon would pipe up and make countless threats that whilst countless, all concerned the Count.
People would sigh and shake their heads whenever Jon said it, but as the frequency of the threats increased, it got to the point where whenever the Count and the Crow were in the same room together, the tension became almost unbearable.

Now the Count was a very well-dressed man – he never failed to wear a shirt that was tucked into freshly ironed trousers, held up by braces, and on Sundays, would be adorned with a dark red bow tie.
Crow, on the other hand, was not so daintily arranged. He wore a bright orange t-shirt, a shirt so ill fitting that his gut protruded from the bottom like a gluttonous prisoner begging for sunlight. His jeans cut into his waistline leaving bright red marks, and a comparatively tiny pair of spectacles sat unsteadily on the end of his pock marked nose.
This contrast of characters and clothing made the whole scene all the more dramatic for the other residents, and Jon had started getting into the habit of standing up purposelessly whenever the Count entered the room, leaving everyone in a tense silence. The Count, however, never seemed to notice – until one afternoon.

It was a quiet afternoon, and as luck would have it at the time I was practicing my chess in the corner of the room. Crow was engaged in a conversation with Pete, and when he entered the Count was around 4000.
Immediately, as if on cue in a play, Crow stood up, leaving the conversation dead in its tracks. The counting stopped – and the silence started.
I feel I should add at this point that the biggest question of all surrounding the Count is why he did what he did. There were many a conspiracy theory surrounding the matter, but the truth – and something that annoyed Crow more than anything – is that no one knew why the Count counted. This is probably why at that moment, Jon yelled:
‘Count!’ The ticking clock was the only noise remaining. It occurred to me at this point that nobody has called him the Count to his face before. ‘Why do you have to keep counting like that?’
And then the Count paused. And waited. And looked pensive, as if this was a new question for him.  Suddenly, in a voice that came from his direction, but didn’t seem to come from him, he said:
‘My name is Herman. And I’m bored, god damn you. Entertain me!’

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Waiting for Jesus

As promised, here is the second short story, part of a trilogy of Christmas presents because I'm broke, and it's apparently the thought that counts.

This one is called Waiting for Jesus, and it's been read by about two other people. I wrote it one cold night after in taking the peculiar mix of gin and coffee. I don't recommend it for taste, but I do for creative writing, and if you ever need to drink something from a mug that tastes like mental breakdown. Come to think of it, the mix of coffee and gin was probably what resulted in the choice of dialect for this short.

I hope you enjoy.

WAITING FOR JESUS
Image Courtesy of Abi Jones - www.ajones-design.com
It wis nine o’clock in the evening, minus four degrees outside, and my Gran and I were waiting for Jesus to arrive. It’s not like he wis late for a cocktail party or anything – in fact quite the opposite – I wis drinking a lukewarm Coke and Gran wis drinking a gin and tonic. Gran lives in this cushy wee place, a bungalow with crazy patterned curtains and cats on the mantelpiece and a milkman. It wis Christmas and so the whole place was illuminated in all the cheesy lights of the rainbow, and a crummy Santa hanging in the window. She didn’t always live there though – before she lived there ma parents made her live in this stale old folks home over on Brampton.

I can’t quite remember because I was only a wee bairn at the time, but I remember me Ma saying she couldn’t look after Gran anymore so she had to be sent this nice place where other people could look after her and feed her and that. It wasn’t a nice place – at least, that’s what Gran said. Gran did everything in her wrinkly power to get out of that place. Like I said, I can’t remember myself but I’ve heard stories of her spiking the meals with tramadol, running round in her knickers shouting obscenities, and accusing the help of being bourgeoisie pigs there to enslave her. Needless to say, she swiftly and artfully got herself out of there and negotiated a new place to live. Everyone thought she’d be safer there. Turns out she wasn’t.


About four weeks ago this guy turned up at her front door in the evening with a mug and a carrier bag full of random shite – there were stones in his cup and he shook it at her and told her he was Jesus. Now my Gran ain’t religious or nothing but for some reason or other she keeps a crucifix hung on her front door. Nobody asks her why, but I reckon this is why this mad bastard came a knocking telling her he was Jesus – either that or he genuinely thinks he’s the messiah, either of which seem plausible.

My Gran being the type of person she is she lets this Jesus fellow inside, sits him down and brews a cup and asks him about the weather and what he’s being doing recently and whatever else popped in her wee heid. I don’t think it occurred to her to ask for proof of his piety or any reason why the son of god would come to the house of a random old bird. In fact no – she probably did think of that. But it’s these sorts of things that Gran just takes as normal. When you get to that age I guess you don’t want to question anything in case it turns out to be normal and people start thinking you’re going senile. The irony of the case is that instead she let this random guy into her house to stop people thinking she’s crazy.


That wasn’t the end of it either. The next week on the same day the same guy turns up at her door, shakes his cup and announces that Jesus is back for another cup of tea. This time she asks him if he wants a dram of scotch in it and he says yes. God almighty, I feel mad just telling it back to yous. Anyway he sits down again and they shoot the shit about whatever springs to mind, carefully recounting what they’ve both done since their last meeting, a detail which Gran can’t really recall back to me when she finally tells me two weeks later about her visitor. In fact no, she tells me Ma, I just happen to be there.

So by the third week this is coming to be a regular occurrence and Gran is building up quite the rapport with Jesus. A week later she tells Ma and once she’s gone back home Ma barks at me to go and keep an eye on her. I say bark as if it was all her idea, but I was starting to get worried myself like – you see all those stories about old ladies getting murdered in their homes on the news and that and it all seems a bit mean them blokes on telly making these horror stories to keep people in their homes, but as soon as I heard about this Jesus fella I was scared for me Gran. I love her, and I don’t want to see her dead on the news.

So that evening, on the Jesus evening, I strolled over to me Gran’s place all casual like, knocked on her door and told her I was gaunnae hang around so I could meet this Jesus fella cause if I were acting all shady and protective like, she wouldnae of gone along with it. My Gran enjoys being an independent woman who doesn’t need family to protect her, which in retrospect is probably why she rebelled herself out of the home.

So I sit down and she gets me my Coke and makes herself a cup and sits down with me and we make small talk about the weather and how I’m doing finding a job and that – not very well, by the way. So eventually I steer the conversation towards Jesus and she instantly looks up at the clock on the mantelpiece. For a moment everything is silent and she’s looking up at it like a dog that just heard a loud noise. Its pure eerie, like something out of a horror flick or something. It turns out it’s almost the time he arrives.

A car pulls up outside and all my hairs stand on end and I feel like we should turn up the heating or drink more of my Coke which has now been warmed by my hands or anything to get rid of the damn hairs on end. Does he drive? I didn’t think he drove. I peer out the window. Gran is still being silent. I can see the car but I can’t see anyone, and suddenly Gran gets out of her seat. I want to stand up and say no she shouldn’t do whatever it is she’s doing but she’s carrying on and I can’t move because I feel like I’m in a horror movie and I’m petrified that I’m about to watch my Gran get bludgeoned to death by a mug full of stones.


She goes towards the door and I get up to follow her and just as I turn into the hallway she opens the door. For a moment I stare, perplexed, looking through the open door, and waiting for my eyes to adjust to whatever is there. But they don’t. It’s still black and I’m worried, because I can’t see Jesus. I lean forward, squeeze my peepers all tight like and try to focus on Jesus. I start to feel pretty stupid because I’m sure he’s not there. That’s when Gran moves her hand away from the door, welcoming in nothing.

“Y’alright there Jesus?”

-Lewis

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Four Hundred and Forty Miles

It's been an awfully busy year for me, in terms of off-of-blog writing projects, college work, and university applications. Regrettably, this has affected my blog output. Whilst I'm definitely not closing the blog, I feel as though I've done a disservice to all you lovely people who come back daily to see if there are any more blog posts. And so, as a Christmas gift to all of you and as a slight apology for my lack of activity recently, over the next three days I'm going to be posting a short story a day, which saves me writing Christmas cards to everyone around the world who has supported me this year. As a little team up, my fabulous girlfriend Abi has provided a yummy graphic for each of the stories, to help promote her blog, which you can find a link to below.

The first one is Four Hundred and Forty Miles, a quite personal story which a few weeks ago won me a Runner Up prize for the Richard Compton Creative Writing Award. I know that 'Runner Up' sounds a bit second-rate, but I got a big piece of glass with my name on it and a nice round figure of dough, so I'm more than happy with it. I hope you enjoy.

FOUR HUNDRED AND FORTY MILES
Image Courtesy of Abi Jones - www.ajones-design.com
It’s a simple story, one you can tell with a few objects. A guidebook in a foreign language, the old smell of a military cap, a faded Polaroid with bent edges and a bier stein gathering dust on the window sill. It’s not a really sad story, nobody dies, but things have a start and an end, they open and close, like flowers. We’ll start with the guidebook.

They must have been white at first, but they’re all yellow now, and held together with frayed strings. Even the words seem old – they might have popped once, they may have sounded fresh. Now he speaks them like a language nobody speaks anymore, with awkward intonations and accents. You see, Father’s Father was a traveller. He pointed at the pictures in the book, of the Big Ben and the Buckingham Palace and the dirty river that seemed to shine under the lens. He told stories in the language the guidebook used, stories that gathered the children around the feet of his chair, stories that made my Father gather his bread one day and leave, to try and go and find the places those pictures were taken, to find somewhere that didn’t speak in an old language and merely make books about the outside world. He wanted to breathe it in.

Four hundred miles and lots of bread later, he arrived in that outside world. They didn’t wear bowler hats and drink tea like his Father had said, though. They hurried everywhere; they bought big newspapers and looked at the pavement everywhere they went. My Father needed money if he was going to survive, so he got a job. They gave him a cap – green, with a badge, and I bet it looked real fancy when he got it, but not now – now it smells old and musty. They paid him to go around the world, to fight people and see things, to do what he was told and when people asked him why he had to say ‘For the Queen!’. Then he wanted to get better at the job, and it seemed that to do that he had to change. He had to talk differently; he had to learn which way to pass the port around the dinner table - he stood in front of the mirror with a picture of Lord Kitchener, cutting his moustache with a pair of scissors to make it look just right.

Then, just as he was getting tired of going to all the places they sent him, they sent him all the way back to where he started. He knocked on my Father’s Father’s door and said ‘Hello!’ and they all looked at his clothes and his moustache, and they flinched when he spoke. He got out the guidebook – he pointed at the pictures of the Big Ben and the Buckingham Palace and the dirty river that shone under the lens, and he compared stories with his Father and they all became friends again. Then he talked about leaving, and they wanted him to stay. A light-bulb popped up over his head and he smiled. He told them to go live with him in the outside world, and they shook their heads and looked at each other. But he must have been good at talking then, my Father. Because within a year, they were able to sit back in a garden, to wear new clothes and to pose for a photograph – a faded Polaroid with bent edges, a picture of my family in a new place, in new clothes, all looking very smart and happy and together.

My Dad quit his job, and got one that didn’t need so much travelling. He met a girl and they fell in love and she met his family and laughed at how strange they all were, and they settled down and ate meals together and talked about the world. Then, one day in Summer she was sent screaming to the hospital, and she had a baby and that baby was me. I grew up in a world where people hurried everywhere, where people bought big newspapers and always looked at the pavement. I grew up in a family with new clothes and new voices, but I had my guidebook to read, the cap to smell, the picture to look at. I had memories that weren’t mine to form; I had a whole history to write that I hadn’t lived through.

My Dad talks a lot. He talks about politics and work and money and the news. But he doesn’t talk about what happened. He doesn’t talk about the bier stein. It sits up there, gathering dust, old words carved into it. It was made for drinking beer, but I don’t think anyone did – how would I know if nobody talks about it? 
It tells me about things I weren’t around to see – it tells me how my Father changed himself and that it made him feel happier, that it made him fit in. He can’t talk about it because it reminds him of what he felt before, and that makes him feel sad. He didn’t tell me all this, but I felt it flowing in him. I felt it in the stories, in the way his Kitchener moustache bristled against my forehead when he kissed me to bed at night, in the way he talks about his brothers and sisters.

A teacher once told me that a picture can say a thousand words. That may be true, but for me, a beer stein says more.


-Lewis

Thursday, 1 November 2012

To Meat or Not To Meat? (tl;dr, meat)


As far as activities outside of work, writing (Yeah, some people don't count that as work) and University Open Days, I really haven't been doing much of anything recently, and as far as penning an interesting and adventurous blog goes, not doing much of anything is pretty unproductive. However, one thing I have been doing quite a bit of recently would be meat-eating.

By any measure, I haven't been doing a noticeable amount of meat-eating more than I normally would, but as anyone might guess from my manly food baby stature, my normal amount of dead animal intake is pretty sizable by anyone's measure. But the thought of meat-eating sprung into an actual in-mind conversation recently, when I overheard someone saying that if you wouldn't kill an animal, you shouldn't eat it.

I've been eating meat ever since I had the appropriate teeth in my jaw, and have never had a go at being a vegetarian, however much poetry I may or may not have written in my emotional 'down-times'. Now don't get me wrong, I love vegetables and I'm fine with people not wanting to eat other living things, but the digestion of other animals has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. However - as much as I love a slice of turkey or a chunk of gammon on my plate, I couldn't stop myself thinking that the whole can't kill/can't eat argument was a reasonable assertion.

Of course the whole argument has connotations of flag waving animal activists trying to instill violent imagery into your mind to stop you eating bacon, but once you get past the mental images of stabbing a cow in the face with a rusty spoon, you find yourself in an interesting moral quandary.

Now your average blokey-bloke would immediately stand up at this point and say, in his most gruffest of tones, 'Yeah, yeah I would kill an animal to eat it.' and then quickly follow up with a whispered justification to his girlfriend, something along the lines of 'If I found myself in the situation in which that was necessary for my own survival, of course.' because such is the nature of masculine identity nowadays. In the most polite of tones, this is of course bullshit.

I don't speak without experience - I come from a family of red-blooded males who would (And indeed already have) kill an animal for their own consumption (See: Chef father, Pig Farmer uncle). Naturally, this is something I have asked myself on many an occasion - I won't give my answer, by the way, purely because either answer would completely invalidate my argument. But I have been raised in an environment that I fear a lot of people haven't - being aware of where my food came from - and occasionally, even having a pet name associated with the meat. It's a principle that I myself have even instilled in younger members of the family - calling beef 'moo-cow' and showing them the gutted fish before and after cooking to allow them to understand where delicious Mr. Rainbow Trout came from.

Now of course at this juncture some people will be laughing and others will be booing me internally for being such an ill-mannered savage, raising innocent children in such a gruesome environment. But you see, the whole 'To Meat or Not To Meat?' issue is one of a thin tightrope. If a child is led to believe that a chicken nugget comes from the oven and not from an animal, the discovery that a cute animal has died for them can come to a shock later in life and potentially cause another seat to be filled at PETA meetings. But on the other end of the spectrum, if a child knows where their meat is from, isn't it easier for them to make an informed decision about what they're eating?

Of course, I'm not addressing the issues of animal abuse that inevitably does occur in some sectors of the industry, and I'm no bonafide expert as far as being a responsible Uncle is concerned - but I love my meat, and I for one am thankful that I was told early on about the grass my food once walked on, that the thoughts of my meat making a noise once upon a time can help me to form my own opinion where killing and eating creatures is concerned.

-Lewis
off to renew his Meatpaper subscription

Monday, 20 August 2012

Fangirls in the City: SiTC 2012

Photo - Lewis Shaw

“This stinks. This stinks of sweat, and fan girls.” They’re Kaiman’s words to me – it’s a hot and hectic day in London town, and we’re just leaving Summer in the City.
Back in 2009, Summer in the City started in Hyde Park as an annual, decidedly popular and now much imitated gathering of the fans and stars of YouTube. It was a chance for people to make friends, meet the people they spent so much time procrastinating watching, and of course to spend ridiculous amounts of money on train tickets. Whilst many things like it have happened before and after Summer in the City’s genesis, there are a number of things that make it different from the crowd – namely a regular A-list of YouTube stars who’ve generally attended from the outset.
Having only attended gatherings similar to it, my expectations are set decidedly high as I sit on the  hour-long train journey to London - the event being surrounded by an air of positivity from friends who have been before. Whether it lives up to its reputation or not, seeing old friends for the first time is set to be a high in my summer, especially after getting both my A-level results and a tooth extracted in one day yesterday. At Liverpool Street I learn that Fizzy and Kaiman – whose house I am sleeping at tonight – are late, and I meet up with three new people staying with me: Jodie, ex-scene kid from Essex, and two globetrotters from Colorado, US – Dylan and Masala – the latter of whom I affectionately nickname ‘Tikka’.
Kaiman and Fizzy – who kept up to her renowned ‘communication faster than the speed of light’ – turn up, Kaiman blaming their timing on Fizzy brushing her teeth and Fizzy blaming it on Kaiman needing a massive shit. Reserving judgement, our motley crew of mixed nationalities – Jodie turning out to be half-German as well – jump on a tube train to Barbican, where Summer in the City is about to begin its first year in an actual venue and not outside.
The venue is decidedly swanky – big brick walls and porters with suits and bowler hats indicate that perhaps the organisers are taking Summer in the City into new realms of professionalism, reminiscent of the fabled Vidcon in the US – transgressing somehow, from a gathering and into a convention. No tickets just yet, but there’s a queue to get in that you simply don’t get in Hyde Park.
Photo - Lewis Shaw

As we get in for our first day of SiTC goodness, it quickly occurs to us that things have changed, but in a recognisably good way. Walking through the lobby of what could easily pass off as a Bond-movie style hotel, friendly women in matching black dresses hand us YouTube emblazoned Ray Bans and direct us to the free smoothie bar and laptops, conveniently not too far from the ball pit where you can get free t-shirts. At this point you might expect me to write ‘I wish I could say I was joking’ – but I don’t wish I was joking. Because it was awesome.
Walking around the (rather large) venue things seemed monumentally different to park-style gatherings – sexy-sound-equipment is played upon by the regular onslaught of delightfully mannered and talented musicians, pre-plays of FIFA 13 and Resident Evil 6 are available to play, and the floor is suddenly a more popular seating option. Doubts from veteran gathering-goers about the sudden rise in fan girls and drop in actual YouTubers are in the air, but effectively nulled by the skilful awesome-party-throwing by the organisers.
Photo - Lewis Shaw

The day rolls out in the way you might expect a roll of carpet to if it was a metaphor for the internet – fan girls, memes, free stuff - and actual living internet that you can reach out and touch - being around every corner. Friends are made, humorous t-shirts are laughed at, and everything generally goes nicely, except for the one rule that if you go outside the venue for a smoke or for food, you have to queue up all over again – a weird rule, considering nobody paid for tickets, but one accepted nonetheless, not wanting to argue with the security guard who looked like Tinie Tempah (Am I right, or am I right?).
For a multitude of reasons, none of our group can make the gig in the evenings, so we roll out early to the Americans’ hotel near Bond Street: a surreal experience that culminates in setting off alarms in the most expensive hotel I’ve ever been in, taking vodka from a mini fridge that makes you pay for everything you take out, getting in bed with my first Essex girl (I’m sorry, but banter) and eating my first Lucky Charms out of the box in one of the world’s most expensive shopping districts.
Stressing that Tikka and Dylan have to stop being tourists at some point, we override their protests and take them to Kaiman’s house in East Ham – the ‘real London’, where we tell them all about rapes and riots and stuff whilst we walk through a pitch black path running through an estate. Things get weird as I try to sleep – Carlsberg calls me to bed but we have Netflix on – we start with British comedy, The Inbetweeners, and move on, in a surprising twist, to Thomas the Tank Engine, one of the few kids programmes whose theme tune makes a good rap beat.
In the morning, groggy and tired, we wake up late and make the pilgrimage back across the class divide into the swank of Barbican, finding a long queue outside of the venue full of disgruntled faces. A three hour wait we’re told, made only slightly better by managing to jump in where internet bro Conor recognises us. A famous YouTuber – who I shall not name because I name-drop him enough – was near us, but swiftly disappeared in a puff of stardom.
Photo - Twitter

The news tells me it’s the hottest day of the year so far, and I’m feeling it, slapping on the sun-cream as we settle down for the wait. The line moves slowly, but in a blur reminding us that we’re surrounded by people who have similar interests to us – a blur of Mexican waves, games of Ninja and impromptu Pokémon sing-alongs. It’s a hot day, and although we’re jovially making our own fun, it’s also an opportunity for doubts about the changes made this year.
It seems to me - sitting and talking with Conor and other veteran Summer in the City goers – that the move from gathering to convention, whilst all very fun and professional, is very unlike Batman: it’s what the majority of people want – namely the influx of fan girls and younger kids – but not necessarily what we need. Conor reminisces to when you could sit down with a successful YouTuber in a park and have a good honest conversation with him, without him being mobbed by fan girls – a position which, I would like to clarify, is particularly unpleasant if what you do best is making videos in your bedroom.
Photo - Lewis Shaw

Once we get inside, the party has lost some of the power that it had the day before, and the hot weather and considerable rise in people from yesterday brings us to sit down and talk instead of run around meeting people. One image sticks in my head: a pair of doors in the main hall upstairs, surrounded by fan girls, a mob of crazies who don’t seem to understand that the fabled VIP room behind the doors isn’t some sort of Hollywood A-listers party, but more of a blank room with scared YouTubers drinking bottles of water. Whilst I’m sure everyone who gets it is in some way grateful, the only person who seems to actively enjoy it is Sam Pepper – who if you haven’t heard of, just imagine the epitome of guys you would love to punch in the face. I’m not a very violent minded person, but we all agree that Summer in the City would be better if Pepper was ‘silently eliminated’ and his riotous attraction of 14 year olds dispersed.
As the day draws to a close, I meet up with some YouTubers as they escape the crowds, and whilst they put a brave face on for anyone asking questions, you can overhear their quietened protests to how the event has changed. Something YouTubers are often able to do is put a happy face on something – it’s not expected of a comedian to raise an issue or criticise, especially when his or her views are at stake.
That, I guess, is where I come in in my own way. As I bid goodbye to my travelling friends who I’m not to see for another year, and get on the train home, by head is thumping with a migraine and torn between how I write this post. There’s so many choices to make – whether I wax lyrical for two thousand words about how my friends are awesome and the party was amazing and namedrop non-stop (Which you’ll notice I haven’t done once) or whether I should actually confront the issue that stared me in the face on sweaty Saturday.
In their own way, the organisers of the event definitely deserve commendation – having run events like this before myself, I’m in awe of how they managed several thousand teenagers with so few hiccups. Whilst changes to the SiTC format are enjoyable, it’s not what people are used to, and a gathering of friendly people who won’t try and pull out your hair to sell on e-Bay seems lost forever, whether it’s a case of the wrong people being invited, the way the event is organised, or people not seeing their internet idols as people too.
Whatever has changed for all this to happen, I enjoyed myself at Summer in the City – I enjoyed seeing all the talent and fun and nerdiness all congregating once again – but if I’m honest, I can’t wait until I see everyone again. Just in a park this time.
- Lewis

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Olympic Opening: The Whole World Armchair

Photo: Lewis Shaw

My Sweet Chilli Chicken and Noodles ready meal swill around my plate in a congealed lump, and I get the worrying feeling that this isn’t going to mix well with the terrible digestion I get from even being in London Waterloo. ‘Chicken nuggets,’ I tell myself. ‘That’s all Usain Bolt ate when he became the fastest man on Earth.’
On our way to the station Mike tells me how much Wenlock and Mandeville – the Olympic mascots – sound like the names of two gay antique dealers, and whilst I’m not disagreeing with him on that note, this really is an embodiment of the cynical attitude most Britons have towards ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’ coming to their capital. In the train station, we make petty bets on how unprepared Aljec – our third group member – is going to be for the night ahead.
‘Ding dong, its ping pong!’ says Aljec, reading out headlines from the newspaper on the train. The relentless coverage of every aspect surrounding the Olympics in the media and advertising has made most people sick of the games before they’ve even started – yet somehow, we three cynics are on our way up to Hyde Park to watch the opening ceremony on the screens there. We’re out for a slice of ‘Olympic Fever’, to catch a glimpse of history, and to maybe be within a few miles of a terrorist attack.
When we get to London Waterloo thankfully my dinner sits soundly, but as we make our way up to Leicester Square to get some dinner the world seems to swell around us. In my short absence, London has become ridiculously clean and new-looking, the Jubilee Park looking like it was planted yesterday and the whole atmosphere making the city feel like a different country all together. The roads and pathways are filled with every nationality, every mode of transport - roller skates, bikes, cars, Americans, all travelling at varying speeds but in huge anarchic packs you swerve to avoid on your way to a good honest KFC.
Media outlets from around the world move in gang like formations, filming landmarks, interviewing patriots and getting in our way with big cameras. In one night we count ourselves getting on at least 10 news channels. Anticipation had been building all day as to what would happen at 20:12. Three things happened – It began to rain, Red Arrows flew overhead, and some South African bastard turned up blowing a vuvuzela.
We get to Hyde Park at nine o’clock, just as the opening ceremony is to begin, only to find a concert blocked off from entry. According to a handy pink-shirted Olympic person, the newspapers had printed false information, and if we were to watch screens of any sort, we were to either break into someone’s house or drag ourselves over to Victoria Park in Hackney. Being the (mostly) law abiding citizens that we are, we drag our feet over to the tube, sweating it out for an hour before we get to Mile End.
Photo: Lewis Shaw

On our way through Hackney we see a group of people gathered outside a front garden watching a television that’s been hoisted through the window. Before we move along we take a moment to joke that it’s the screen we’re looking for, but also to admire the community spirit this obvious group of strangers has gained.
As we finally approach Victoria Park, anxious to be not turned back again, we are searched and stripped of all liquids – something that slightly irritates me – until we get in.
What follows in the dark, hectic, Hackney night is, for me, a revelation. People from all walks of life sit on rugs and blankets together, engorged watching huge screens, drinking, cheering and chanting together. The atmosphere could only be described as that of a living room – one that’s been magnified to fit thousands of people, gathered like a fine box of chocolates from countries around the world, sat in slightly tipsy harmony in a field that just over a year ago was surrounded by rioting and fire.
As we make our way through the main screen, we find ourselves in the armchair. An hour late, we miss the ‘spectacular’, but arrive for something that in the given circumstances is much better. The flag march begins, and one by one, small groups from around the sitting crowd stand up and go wild, letting everyone know that it is their country up there, their flag on that screen in this field far from home. It became a festival of identity, taking a stand to let everyone knew who you were, and as it turned out – when the Netherlands flag was raised – we were completely surrounded by Dutch people.
All stood for Team GB, and we make our way to the front of the crowd as the Arctic Monkeys take to the stage. We’re surprised at how quickly the whole event turns very ‘Woodstock’ – rock music in the air, plastic beer bottles on the ground and the unmistakable scent of marijuana up our nostrils. It’s not about identity anymore, because we’re all one now, maaaaaan.
The crowd becomes insanely jubilant as the speeches begin, and as Lord Coe declares ‘Welcome to London’ the crowd erupts. Everyone knows we’re in the place to be.
Things quickly get dramatic as we cheer on those who now represent us, and I can feel tears welling up in my head – I know it’s too early for that, and instead let out a good manly roar into the already packed air – one for Redgrave, the most successful Olympian of all time, one for Muhammad Ali, a living legend who stood shaking in his fragile yet strong way, and one for somebody who had somehow gained the moniker ‘Champion of Earth’. I have no idea who she is or what she did to get that name, but I know I’m proud of her for it.
The final run of the torch begins, and you can feel the unwinding tension of the past 70 days. The game is up, and as the group of ‘chosen ones’ light the much talked about cauldron, there is – to be completely honest – a moment of confusion. A monumental ‘Is that it?!’ followed by an ‘Aaah’ As the prongs rise to create the huge flame.
It’s now that the most amazing part happens. Fireworks fly from around the edge of the on-screen stadium, and simultaneously, everyone around us looks up to see those very same fireworks hanging in the sky before us. Amongst the roars of the crowd my mind’s eye flashes back to all those times I had stayed up to see fireworks as a kid, looking into my television into a different part of the world. Looking into a screen and not even two miles away from it all – this time, we are part of that world.
There’s a shot from space – the Olympic Logo looking down on us – and my eyes explode with tears and I gasp for air. In all my life of hearing stories and learning emotions, I’m suddenly left not knowing how to feel this feeling. All I know is that this immense feeling is that of being the centre of the world, if only for a second.
Despite the packed trains, despite the miles to go and the delays, despite the leg that needs medical attention from running to the tube station – I can’t wipe this stupid, tired smile from my face. A smile that now knows what people feel when they can say ‘I was there’.
- Lewis


Saturday, 9 June 2012

Ross Kemp on Morris Men

My name is Ross Kemp. You may know my gruffer-than-a-Rottweiler-chewing-gravel voice from my roles in Eastenders and Ultimate Force, or my hard-as-nails documentaries about gangs and wars and pirates. However, today I went even further, investigating for the first time one of Britain's most infamous cults - the Morris Men.

Over the last 500 years Morris Dancing has grown across Europe, a shadowy tradition of terrorising innocent bystanders by threatening them with weapons such as sticks, musical instruments, and drugged handkerchiefs. Traditions vary from place to place, but I caught up with the elusive Hook Eagle Morris Men, at a rare appearance at a village féte in Hartley Wintney.

In disguise as a teenage boy, I observed their attack from a distance. Their arrival on the scene was noisy - they wanted attention. They stomped around with bells on their feet and played their instruments as they entered, a show of skill and power.

They formed a group, bashing their weapons - large wooden sticks which they later changed for larger ones - against the ground and each others sticks. As the threatening behaviour continued, one of the men walked up to the surrounding crowd, telling them to put their money in the bucket, claiming that it was for charity.

I observed their gang uniform - bright blue and yellow waistcoats to draw attention to their presence. They wore top hats adorned with assorted badges, as well as the tails and feathers of dead animals. They wanted the crowd to know their adeptness at hunting, karate, and 50 metres swimming competitions.

Stunned with fear, locals gave the men money to try and make them go away. Another part of the Morris Men's costume stood out to me - black facepaint and sun glasses. I read this in two ways - firstly, to hide their identities, but also as a racist jaunt towards the locals.

As I ate my hotdog, I saw that now all the men were turning on the crowd, bashing their sticks and demanding money. I saw that things were about to kick off, so I entered a raffle, and got out of there. Next time, I delve into the sinister world of the mysterious Rotary Club.

-Ross


Sunday, 3 June 2012

Finding the Time

Found it!


When people sit you down early on and talk about growing up, they always cover what seem to be the basics: how you'll get hair in strange places, how you'll grow, at what ages you can buy alcohol, cigarettes and hatchets and how to act in a mature and sensible way way (That last one evidently being lost by the majority of my peer group). However, there seems to be one factor that was never communicated to me before it happened.

Hidden Rule of Growing Up #482:
As soon as you hit 17, everything will instantaneously get ridiculously busy.


Now for those of you who didn't know, the month of May saw pass my 17th birthday, an event that saw comparatively little celebration due to May also being time for exams, and an event that saw the arrival of many varied and often crazy happenings which pretty much put me out of the writing world full stop. Being the busy bee and avid diem capere that I am, I spent the majority of time trying to make the most of these randomly placed and equally strange opportunities and responsibilities. 

So as I sat in the sun, in a Jaguar, after a hard day of smashing up a building with my fists and various tools, I thought back to what had actually happened in May. It transpired, after five minutes of failed mental-list-making, that an awful lot had happened. Whether I was getting rat-arsed in fields, attempting to banter with armed soldiers, or failing to get an interview with a gay-porn salesman, I always seemed to be doing something in May.

In order to illustrate and to excuse myself for not blogging for a whole month, I shall split a selection of these vivid memories into some non-chronological vignettes, for your reading pleasure and to try and exercise my now beaten memory.

The First Memory
A Long Walk

So last year after our GCSE's had finished, me and a selection of friends (Including Tegan, Brownbear, Erin and Mike) decided to grab some drinks, and without any supplies whatsoever, walked deep into the forest to sleep overnight in a shipping container in a derelict army compound, in the way that only no-common-sense 16 year-olds can.

This year, in an apparent attempt to simultaneously reminisce and get plastered, Mike, Erin and I trundled off into the very same woods with a - very frankly - ridiculous amount of alcohol, the sort of swag bags that would get you thrown away and locked up if they were ever considered drinkable by law enforcement agents. Spoiler: We had to buy more.

So we walked, and we walked, and as it got darker we decided to try and walk a bit faster. We got to the compound just as the sky turned grey, and as we approached, I could have sworn I saw the silhouetted shape of a helmeted head in one of the towers.
"Mike... Erin..." I said, thinking the drink was muddling my senses. They carried on walking. The helmet moved. To say the least, it wasn't so derelict - in fact, it was filled with a number of gun-toting silhouettes, my confident communication with whom impressed Erin to no end.

Left on a road in the middle of nowhere, we looked back to the forest and shook our heads, and after failing to bribe our way into the irradiated black-spot mega-factory that is NGTE Pyestock, took to the road, which turned into a motorway, which turned into drinking at a service station, and hitching a lift with Superman-S.A. member Clare Weston, who happened to be rolling past close to midnight.

The Second Memory
World's Weirdest Human Traffic Jam

It's sadly something I've never had the chance to cover on the blog, but I happen to be an avid attendee of MCM London Comic Expo, a safe-haven of nerds, awesome stalls, and plenty of attractive girls and guys cosplaying every pop-culture character under the sun, and there was an awful lot of that this May.

One particular stall, selling yaoi - Japanese comics that focus on homosexual male relationships, to put it lightly - is hosted by Yaoi Guy, a loud American man who waves his rainbow flag around and starts chants such as 'Makes you feel good in your hands and your mouths, makes you feel good when these men go down south' and so on and so forth, you get the idea.

Yaoi Guy is loved by many, and as a result this time round his stall, with its new found legion of paddle-holding assistants, was placed right in front of the entrance. The entrance, around mid-day, becomes crushed full of people, and as I entered the hall again, hot and sweaty, I found myself confronted with a fort of Yaoi, and surrounded by people dressed as monsters, not moving.

"Dommie..." I said. "Do you ever get the feeling you're surrounded by sociopaths?". A pause. Before Dommie could reply, I turned, and a little grey person on a chain-lead turned to a taller grey person and said "Master, may I climb the stairs?".

I turned to Dommie. Laughter.

The Third Memory
Wake Up Call

When I woke up the other day, the first words out of my mouth were 'Oh, sh*t.'. There are a number of things that can make you say that when you wake up, but my particular reason was that I had just been told that the building housing the salon I'm a co-owner of had collapsed

Of course it wasn't as bad as it initially sounded - the ceiling on the ground floor had collapsed after a pipe burst - but it's still put us out of business for weeks, and put me into manual labour for a number of days, breaking bits of wall and ceiling with my bare strength skills

My motto of the moment: if you can find a silver lining on this cloud, rip it off and sell it for scrap, we could do with the money.

The Fourth Memory
Celebrating the Queen's Jubilee

Aha, I'm joking. The extent of my Jubilee celebrations have been eating a Starburst with a Union Jack on it.

Until next time, whenever that pops up.

-Lewis
Get slightly more regular updates on my Twitter: @Luciano_Shaw

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Falling out of Formation

Photo - www.saawinternational.org

When I woke up this morning I had a positive frame of mind. The Queen classic Don't Stop Me Now was playing on the radio and I could think of nothing better and self-fulfilling to do than do some college essays, and if I was still feeling good after that I would write some more of my book or watch Back to the Future. I did not, at any point in my morning routine, envision a day stood in a cold country lane in the rain, in my pyjamas, no socks, and an umbrella.

I finished breakfast and sat down in the office, turned on my laptop and sipped a cup of coffee, making idle chat with Dad about a documentary I watched over breakfast. I was making notes for my sociology essay when my Dad's phone rang, and the frantic motherly tone of my brother's girlfriend Lea entered my earshot. She sounded worried - this wasn't just something about the salon we ran together, this wasn't a question about her computer, this wasn't a request for information or product. Dad hung up, and I heard three words leave his mouth as he flew out of his chair: 'Pete' 'Crash' 'Kids'.

Pete, for those of you who don't know, is the name of my brother. Kids, was in reference to Finley, Lola, Max and Emma, Pete and Lea's collective of kids. Crash. Crash. Crash, a horrible word that tied the other two together in a series of horrible mental images.

I rushed upstairs into my bedroom. I was wearing my pyjamas still, thin cotton bottoms and a Threadless t-shirt. My jeans, socks and shoes were on the floor, but as I reached for my socks I imagined my brother unconscious in a car in the middle of nowhere, and just slipped on my shoes - another adventure for the nearly dead Vans mentioned in my last post. I barely managed to throw on a suede flight jacket as I ran out the door to the car, looking particular under-dressed for the weather - black clouds overhead signalling imminent rain.

'When a goose gets sick, wounded, or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again. Then, they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.'


The goose analogy slipped into my head, a relic from a documentary I watched years ago: the importance of family at times like this made any notion of University or moving away from home seem like a suicide mission, a ridiculous and unsafe fantasy. We picked Lea up from the salon, and she sat in silence in the back,  having a daytime nightmare of all the things that might have happened to her kids and it hit me - Emma, seven years old, suffers from panic attacks. As we drove, the jolly Caterpillar-Cake cuckoo calls of the radio counterpointed the anxious, serious silence inside the car. 

As we drove, I saw a black sign that stated 'Welcome to Crondall - Please Drive Safely Through Our Village'. Cars and people in the rain began stopping us, telling us the road was blocked, that there had been an accident. The way my Dad told them his family were involved gave me tingles.

We pulled up and Pete was standing, pacing backwards and forwards in a way that made me see cigarette filled thought bubbles floating above his head. A beige Volvo estate and a black Vauxhall Zafira people-carrier sat squished up against the country banks, metal intertwined like two children that had watched kissing in movies and tried to recreate it. Police, Finley and Lola's mother and now our car, were all pulled up by the crash. The kids were alright: Emma's spate of panic wore off when she discovered a packet of sweets in each pocket.

Finley and Lola got in with their mother and they drove away - 'Socks!' I shouted at my Dad as he drove away with Emma, Max and Lea: I was to stay with Pete, until the car died or was able to fly again.

Everyone on scene stalked back and forth with phones clamped to their ears, trying to work out insurance policies, a task made harder by the police not wanting to take statements, my brother having different insurance to most people (Truck driver) and it being Lea's car that he crashed. Despite police presence, the other driver recoiled fearfully everytime my brother talked to him - Note: He didn't use his polite tone. The bureaucracy seemed bizarre here, in a country lane in the middle of nowhere, and I realised that whilst rain made a good atmospheric effect in movies, it was a terrible compliment to this situation.

I tasked myself with turning away cars trying to get past - a wedding, of all things, was happening nearby, attracting a hoard of people who had no idea where they were going. I realised that this must have look amazingly suspicious, as from a distance, the scene was this: a country lane with three cars, a policeman, another man, and two Eastern-European blokes wearing trackies, a hoodie and a flight jacket. Turn away? Sure thing, that guy in the flight jacket looks like he's packing heat.

One woman however, was not on her way to the wedding, and pulled over and came out to talk to us. Lydia, who turned out to be a nurse on her way to a patient, wanted to see if she could help, which she did, by providing some good banter for me whilst I waited. 'My husband wanted me to go to a football match today. I told him No, I don't want to be standing in the drizzle for ages. Now look what I'm doing.'

A tow truck arrived, and pulled the cars out of their embrace: crumples in the metal made sad faces, and they whined as bare wheels ground against the road. Catherine Wheels were made of the mud-filled tires spinning, and we hitched a ride with the first tow truck down into town, where another one arrived, driver bitching in a Manchurian accent about the terrible job the other guy had done, even giving us the number of two men who could 'sort it out' if the insurance companies couldn't, sounding like a very British deleted scene from the Godfather.

After hours of standing in the cold, my Mum pulled up and we got in: she handed me some cookies, a flask of coffee and some socks, because she's amazing. We flew back into formation and drove home.

The moral of the story? There's two of them: if you have a good family, take them for granted - they can perform miracles for you, whether it's falling out of formation or bringing you coffee and cookies in the cold. The second thing? Take socks, and take them for granted as well, because warm feet are a blessing.

- Lewis

(Goose Info taken from www.brightlaunch.com/resources/blogging/team-work. Please don't sue.)

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Meanwhile, in the Year 3000

Photo - Lewis Shaw
(I don't mean to brag, but I took a photo of my shoes.)

These are my shoes. They're from Vans, a brand that despite coming and going trends I have been wearing solidly for all of my shoe-buying life, and a brand that I trust and know will be comfortable, durable, and get compliments from drunk people at parties. I've been wearing this particular pair of Sex Pistol feet covers for almost a solid two years, and they have the wear to show for it - see rips up the side from feet growth for examples of that.

I've worn these shoes through lots of different situations, some incredibly boring, and some incredibly incredible. Today was, in terms of coincidence, walking, and celebrity come-across-ing, one of the more incredibly incredible days that this pair of soon to be dead shoes has witnessed.

I woke up this morning, unlike most mornings of my time off college, with no hangover, and a plan. A certain Lucy Browett, who goes to my college, happens to be a part of the YouTube community in London, a community that I also happen to have friends in. Today she had a Gathering organised, where various nerds (Such as myself, past experiences documented here) can meet up and talk and stuff. I didn't know this until the other day however, when tiny Asian friend Fizzy asked me if I was going to this gathering.

'Yes.' I said. 'I just don't think she knows yet.'

Lucy continued to not know, up until this morning, when she arrived at the South Bank centre, not expecting to see my hobo-silhouette against the Thames, but simultaneously seeing it, alongside Fizzy, Fizzy's boyfriend, and my Russian model friend Vickya.

People began to file along and introduce themselves/recognise people they know from either past gatherings or from YouTube (People get really happy when they get recognised). Meanwhile, I was hugging strangers, making conversation, and trying to stop Fizzy from tormenting tourists with her crazy moves. The gathering wandered up the choral elevator of the Royal Festival Hall, where Vickya suggested we go to Camden to get some food.

Camden is an ideal location for Vickya, as Vickya is Vegan. For those of you who don't know, vegan's can't eat meat, milk, wear leather, or generally do or have anything that has had bad morals anywhere near it - "They put the sweet and sour sauce from the chicken on my spring rolls!"
So with a little help from Fizzy's boyfriend's travelcard (Thanks Kaiman!) I got a bus with Fizzy, Kaiman and Vickya over to Camden, the fabled town of markets, really-really-fast food, and stalls that sell any colour bong you desire. Somewhere along the way, Vickya stopped talking about her recent holiday to Israel and mentioned that Charlie Simpson was doing a secret gig in the brand new Vans shop in Camden.

Photo - Lewis Shaw
F*cking fan girls. Getting in my way.

'Charlie Simpson...' I thought to myself. 'I've been waiting since Busted's 2002 self-titled LP to bask in his gloriously manly pop-punk midst...' the fact that it was in the new Vans shop only added to this realisation of man-crush. 

We arrived in Camden, ate some fried chicken/Chinese cuisine crossover, bought some stuff, looked at some stuff - all the while I was trying to act not-excited about meeting Charlie f*cking Simpson and trying to hide the piss-stains in my corduroys because I was within a miles radius of Charlie f*cking Simpson. At some point this guy called Alex arrived, but I wasn't really paying much attention because of Charlie f*ckin- yeah, you get the idea.

We were milling around the Vans shop, having been there nearly two hours when we noticed that there were very few people around, and a lot of Kerrang-worshipping 12 year olds gathering outside the store. "Look like you're buying stuff," said a friendly security guard, who looked more excited about Charlie than I was - "Or I'll have to kick you out into that lot".

Average fan.
Gutted Abbie.

Eventually all the kids came in, and there was lots of bustling around and waiting whilst the other musicians and set their stuff up. After ten minutes of awkward waiting, there was a cry of "CHARLIEEEEEE" as I one of the fangirls saw him coming out of the changing rooms towards the back, sporting a nice new pair of OTW Vans which he probably got for free, what with him being a world-famous BRIT award winning multi-instrumentalist hunk of man-candy.

He played songs and looked beautiful, something he seems to be very good at, whilst people looked in through the windows and screaming little girls - who probably no idea what he went to school for or what the year 3000 was going to be like, and probably only heard about him from Fightstar anyway - took pictures on their Blackberries and wondered what bit of tat they had in their pockets they could get signed whilst TRUE LIFE LONG FANS LIKE ME (And that guy who got his lyrics tattooed on his chest, he was pretty cool) GET SHOVED TO THE SIDELINES you whores.

Because yeah, that's pretty much what happened. It's not like I'm bitter or anything. We fit in some nice Busted jokes, and he seems like a really nice person. So yeah, that's how I met Charlie f*cking Simpson in a Vans shop in Camden after surprising Lucy through a mutual acquaintance from London.

If that isn't enough coincidence for you, two guys who were on my train this morning were on the same train back with me, and when I got home, there was a new hawaiian shirt waiting for me. If this article wasn't enough Charlie f*cking Simpson for you, I'll post a link to a video I got of his performance in the comments once I've finished uploading it.

I love you Charlie.

-Lewis

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Day of Reckoning: FSFC Election Results and One Year of SWIW

Envelopes opened, dreams relinquished. Apparently.
Photo - Lewis Shaw
 

Today, for those of you who haven't been outside for the past 12 hours, was sunny. As well as being uncharacteristically shiny, today was also regarded by candidates, the countries Treasurer and I with the ominous title of the day. Inside Café D, people who I had seen with confident smiles but an hour earlier were now lip-bitingly, hand-shakingly nervous, side by side with their competitors and the sudden realisation that everything they had been working for may or may not be crushed in the next 10 minutes. Whilst outside the sun was shining, inside there were clouds, and it reminded me of a line from Richard III I had misquoted earlier - 'Now is the summer of our discontent'.

Café D wasn't packed to the capacity that it had been last week, which left a bad taste in my mouth concerning the debate as to whether people actually care or not. However, the cheers were still loud as Simon Jarvis, College Principal and certified legend. He could have chosen any number of words to describe what was to happen, but he chose to go with 'The current SA members coming up and relinquishing their positions to the next generation'. What followed was gracefully so, as all the current members came up, were given the envelopes, and announced their new protegee's.

Without any further drama, here is - in list form, for the sake of the uninformed - what was in the envelopes:

Kieran Eyre - President
Edd Jones - Vice President
Amara Odidi - Treasurer
Lucy Magri-Overend - Communications
Tiffany Le - Publications
Katie Hopkins - Sports
Oliver Cole - Charities
Claire Weston - Equality, Diversity and Community Links
Jess Turnbull - Learning Experience
Indeera Shankla - Performing Arts
Anna Brown - Environments
Carmen Vieria - Events

Old dogs, new tricks. That's not to say that they're prostitutes.
They're not. I promise. *digs hole*
Photo - Lewis Shaw

Because I'm a faithfully informative and completely unbiased journalette I can't broadcast my opinions on the results in public, let alone have those sorts of thoughts, so instead of ranting for a few pages about how I hate/love each and every one of them, I asked Mr. Jarvis to spill his excitedly staccato thoughts over my dictaphone:

Are you happy with the turnout of the elections?
Fantastic turnout, terrific. The amount of people voting took their responsibility seriously, great candidates, great result, and I'm sure they're going to make a fantastic SA.

Is there anything you look forward to working with them with?I just think it's a terrific opportunity for all the students at this college to develop, to grow in-role, to mature, to understand how the college works better, and also to improve the place itself - they're going to transform this college.

How are the new SA going to be introduced?
They'll start after Easter, and their first real engagement will be on the Information Evening on the 25th of April, where they'll be helping me with that. There'll be a little bit of a handover from the old SA, and then they'll be up and running. September will be when they really hit the ground, but we'll run them in before then. 

However, as I mentioned earlier today wasn't just an important day for the future of the college. Today was also the announcement of the new budget in England, changing the financial outlook of the country and the way that we are going to be living for the next year. However, something that is more relevant to the countries fate was going on here - as StuffWhatIWrote celebrated it's first birthday. 

It's strange to think that one year ago, I was sat in a field at school writing into an exercise book about how much I hated my life. The irony being that the consequent posting of it on the newly made blog changed my life over a year, giving me so many new and awesome projects, people, and pudding to work with. Okay maybe not so much pudding, but alliteration is hard work.


In celebration of this, I've posted a short history of the site under 'About this Blog' in the side bar - because let's be honest, it would have been self obsessive before now. All I can say is that I hope everyone who has read from the beginning all the way to the new readers who are part of the hundreds of new people I gained over the last couple of weeks will keep on reading this blog, as I have some pretty big plans for new and improved stuff - whether it's interviews, adventures or some slightly different pieces - that I think you're going to really dig. 


Thank you all,
Masha'allah,
-Lewis

Friday, 16 March 2012

Blood, Sweat and Saxophones: FSFC Elections Day Four

Photos - Lewis Shaw

Sweat is settling on your brow. You can't stop fidgeting. Every second brings a new thing to worry about. Meanwhile the crowd are displaying their arsenal of techniques - booing, popping balloons, air horns, chants. Your academic career might just be about to change for good, and the only people who stand between you and that goal are stood around you. So what do you do to them? Sabotage? Assault? Bribe?

Shake hands and swap tips - that was the general consensus, as the Presidential Candidates gathered at the side of the stage this afternoon. Considering these were people who for the past month had debated, competed against, and belittled each other, the atmosphere was surprisingly friendly - nervous, but friendly. 

The afternoon offered up a diverse array of candidates, who - despite all writing about chairs in their manifestos and all attempting to bribe me in some way - had no real common ground. This hustings asked for a lot - while the week had seen some purely gimmicky candidates and some abundantly serious ones, Presidential candidates had to hold the crowd whilst simultaneously convincing them that they weren't complete morons. Luckily, they all seemed to take the advice of my panel of experts - in one way or another anyway.

Photo - Lewis Shaw
Blake Howell

Before Blake went on stage, I told him he was the first person I had ever seen going on stage with a saxophone around their neck. I wasn't lying, either. 

After a jazzy sax solo, the sharply dressed ginge took to the microphone, outlining all the things that are 'essential' in a President; juggling, saxophone playing, big posters, nice suits, completing a Rubix cube in under a minute, and being able to make ginger jokes whilst doing all of these things. 

Despite the Obama-esque sheen of his manifesto and propaganda, Mr. Square Mile Investment Banker Blake seemed to ditch his professionalism for hustings, instead injecting a metaphorical syringe of swag into a few minutes of gimmicky goodness. Although this was a relief in some ways, I felt a bit deprived of a candidate who took himself too seriously. You can't make jokes about well-rounded candidates.

Photo - Lewis Shaw
Edd Jones

I know for a fact that Edd had been reading these blogs, paying close attention to the tips given by the panel and taking mental notes of what was good and bad - and it showed. 

As well as bending down to the microphone to make himself look as much like BFG as possible, Edd adopted a unique tactic - an almost completely 50/50 blend of entertainment and thoughtfulness. This took the form of giving the audience a motivated and passionate piece of his mind, whilst slowly stripping out of a full wedding suit to reveal a 'VOTE FOR ME' shirt. 

However, he did also say the words 'Let's make this year a party year!' which was a bit cringey. 

Photo - Lewis Shaw
Dan Bright

If I had to choose one 'Wild Card' out of the candidates, it would be Dan. This is partly because he was the only candidate not to take to the stage in formal attire, and partly because I can barely remember what happened when he went on stage.

All I can remember is a lot of booing, a bit of rapping, a bit more booing, him reciting bits of his manifesto from memory, him saying the word 'cotch', and subsequently him being booed off stage.

Sorry Dan...

Photo - Lewis Shaw
Piya Mandal

Efforts for Piya Mandal to get herself elected as the (first?) female President of the SA included a hilarious array of posters, depicting her grinning face on various monuments, old propaganda posters and cartoon characters. Other efforts included telling me how much she enjoyed my blog posts whilst simultaneously telling me to what degree she could ruin my life if I wrote bad things about her.

To be fair, she was very nice about it, but the unfortunate thing is that Piya sung a song: and that is something that I have to stretch my abilities of bullsh*t to write anything about whatsoever. However, to help me along a bit, she wore a leg-cut dress, throwing out an Angelina Jolie leg-bomb several times during her husting. You go girl.

 Photo - Lewis Shaw
Kiran Eyre

Describing himself in his posters as 'The Magic Guy' (Something I resent due to being in different circles of wizards) Kiran Eyre is quite frankly the master of hype. The roar of cheers and applause he received as he came on stage would  make you think that he went round giving free blowjobs beforehand, and judging by the tired look in his eyes, that wouldn't have surprised me. 

However, he took to the stage with a guitar, busting out a frankly incredible solo before doing something that was just a slightly bit strange. Claiming that hustings required him to be 'thick-skinned', he took a knife from his pocket and began cutting into his arm, inspiring screams and giving the audience the amount of blood they had been asking for all week. 

Once finished with his self mutilation he began talking with such speed, volume and passion, that for a moment I completely forgot that I was in hustings, closing my eyes and envisioning a packed club with a severely bleeding DJ. 

Voting has now begun, votes being electronically gathered from any computer on the network until Tuesday. Before I report on the results with Simon Jarvis next Wednesday, I simply wish all the candidates the best of luck, and all the voters some wise choices. Have a good weekend.

-Lewis