Archive for August 2nd, 2008

West London Man (20): A trip to Sainsbury’s Audio version

Run Time: 5.27 mins
Produced: West London

The Part of George was played by Charon.  The parts of the sales assistant, the elderly lady and Bronwyn were played by a voice text to speech synthesiser by Cepstral

Listen to West London Man (2): A trip to Sainsbury’s Audio version

Saturday afternoons bored George. It was not so much the gap in the day between lunch and an evening of hedonistic pleasure, but the general administration of life – the trip to Sainsbury’s, the trip to the dry cleaner, the trip to the bloody delicatessens in Turnham Green Terrace. George decided to do the Sainsbury’s run himself this afternoon while Caroline took the children for a walk at Chiswick House.

Parking his BMW 4×4 in the Sainsbury’s car park, George walked into the supermarket and headed straight for the cigarette counter.

Assistant: Good afternoon, how are you?

George:  As well as can be expected, given that I am having my wooden leg changed later this afternoon, thank you.  You OK?

Assistant: I’m fine, thank you.

George: Well, that’s good.  Can I have a pack of Marlboro fully leaded please?

Assistant: I’m sorry, I don’t think we sell fully leaded ones.  What are they?

George: Sorry… The red Marlboro, please.

George paid for the pack of cigarettes and looked at the label.

George: Sorry about this, but the label on the pack says that these cigarettes will make me impotent. Would you mind changing this pack for some cigarettes that will give me fatal lung cancer instead, please.

Assistant: That’s not very nice.

George: I’m sorry… you’re quite right…  it is a joke in excellently bad taste.  Read it in The Guardian Weekend section this morning… an amusing article by Julian Barnes.

Assistant: Oh.  I don’t read the Guardian.  I read The Sun.

George: Excellent…  plenty of jokes in that.  The Guardian doesn’t usually do jokes, it has to be said… in fact, The Guardian is altogether too serious for any day, let alone a Saturday.  .

The assistant looked baffled and an elegant middle aged lady, standing in the adjacent queue, pursed her lips and gave George a disapproving look. George wandered off to collect a trolley and headed down the meats aisle.  An elderly couple were moving at a snail’s pace, weaving uncannily into George’s path as he approched them at speed.

George muttered to himself: God in heaven, how do these old people manage to have eyes in the backs of their heads.  They have all week to go shopping …. why do they have to do it on a bloody Saturday?

George found a gap and went for it, sailing past the old couple and down the aisle to the roast lamb arrea where he picked up a large leg of lamb. It took George approximately ten minutes to fill the trolley with shopping.

George saw a check-out with only one customer.  He also saw the same old couple he had barged past heading for the same counter.  The race was on.  George broke into a trot and just reached the check out before the old couple.George smiled at the elderly man and woman.

George: Sorry about that, but have to rush, getting my wooden leg changed today and have to leg it, pronto.

Elderly woman: You have a wooden leg?

George: The foot fell off the other day when I playing golf. Most unfortunate,  I was playing a difficult seven iron to the green and ended up slicing the ball into someone’s garden.

Elderly woman: Well I hope your new leg won’t cause you any problems.

George: Yes… no absolutely… can’t wander about worrying if my foot is going to fall off.

At that moment, George heard a familiar voice, the soft lilt of a very clever woman, a barrister by training.

Bronwyn: George… behave yourself…  You don’t have a wooden leg… that was a disgraceul performance, running with your trolley to queue jump these lovely people.  I insist that you let them go first.

George laughed: My apologies…. my learned friend is right…. I find shopping very boring – please go first…

Elderly lady: I didn’t think you did have a wooden leg.  You did manage to trot quite fast with that trolley though.

George turned to greet his friend, an attractive blonde in her mid-forties with bright blue eyes.  An amused smile played on her lips as George bent to kiss her cheek.

Bronwyn: I think you need to buy me a cup of coffee when we get out of here.  I want to know what you have been up to.    I heard that Caroline has gone back to work.


Listen to West London Man (2): A trip to Sainsbury’s Audio version

EPISODES 1 – 19 of West London Man – may be found here

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I had the opportunity some years ago to visit Moscow and  stand in Red Square. That I did not do so is a cause of some regret.  It would have been good to see Lenin,  to have spent time in a different culture and see some of the remarkable architecture and art of pre and post Soviet Russia. I still reckon the Russians have one of the best national anthems – but there we are…  I also enjoy listening to Frank Zappa, Led Zeppelin and Italian Opera. I do not hold myself out, of course, as having any knowledge of music.  I like a good tune!

Lest you think that I have started taking an interest in Russian owned English football clubs or I am  changing my thoughts from moving to Brighton to moving to Moscow, I am not. Russia is a country I would like to visit.  I recall, just over thirty years ago, sitting in a Jurisprudence tutorial.  We were asked to look at the theory of Soviet Jurisprudence. It was a difficult decision, one of many that I was to face in later life; but on this occasion   – Soviet jurisprudence versus a night of hedonistic pleasure in a bar.

The fact that no-one seemed to have done any work at all for this tutorial was ironic given that the Stalinist jurist Andrei Vyshinsky expressed the view that law would wither away – when he wasn’t castigating, denouncing and attacking the old Bolshevik cadre as traitors and “swine.  Unfortunately, as students, we were not sharp enough to tell the tutor that there was not much to discuss – given the Soviet ideal that laws would not be needed in a communist state – so we were treated to an hour of surreal pleasure;  listening to a tutor, who did not seem to know much about Soviet Jurisprudence,  demonstrating his news reading skills by giving us a fairly comprehensive reading from the chapter of the book we were supposed to have read.  It may well have been his own book.  Time dims the memory of that bizarre afternoon.

Anyway…. on to the events of these turbulent times we live in …and talking of ‘turbulent’ – this week we had Jack Straw, sitting quietly, biding his time – as I like to think King Richard III did in his day –  while the young King Henry IV of the Labour Party, Brains Miliband (the youngest looking Foreign Minister the world has ever known – possibly) decided to write an essay on what he would like to do while Gordon Brown was on holiday and he was PM and published it in The Guardian.  Meanwhile…  The Minotaur, resting his clunking fist and taking a break from being hounded by the mob with flaming torches wishing to drive him out of office, dressed in navy suit trousers and an improbably beige jacket, went around Suffolk, trying not to scare holidaymakers,  for the delectation and delight of the Press and sundry photographers.

The Silly Season has started…
It is August. The political press has little of substance or ‘hard news’  to report on…  so, smelling political blood in the water after disastrous byelection results, polls and a bit of apostasy on the part of a senior member of the Cabinet, the Knights of the Fourth Estate, the defenders of our liberties,  veer between speculation and hyperventilation.

Last year, at this time, the Jedi of journalism, seasoned on a diet of self and peer administered adulation, hailed Gordon Brown for being able to walk on the flood waters drowning large parts of our sceptred isle.  This year they wait, implying tumult in the most trivial of signs, sharpening their vocabulary, preparing their prose and wait to be fed the political body of the son of the manse, a man who waited ten years to be the Prime Minister, who may well now be put to the vicious sword of hubris…  who faces the abyss and political exile and whose leadership of the Labour Party, some say, may consign the Party to worse than a wilderness… political armageddon, not a single seat in Scotland, extinction – and….   I can’t think of any more hyperbole to complete the sentence.  But… I am sure that some journo will think the word ‘diaspora’ could well be shoehorned into a paragraph somewhere in his or her column.

We must not, of course,  forget those implausibly handsome and good looking men and women who have perfected their ability to read English, written by others…  our television newsreaders who, rain or shine, make their way each day to make up and then, using a fairly limited range of approved expressions, hand down their knowledge of what is happening in our country.

I get up early each day – as it happens, at 3.30 – 4.00 am.  At about 5.00 in the morning, BBC News 24 unleashes one of the loudest newsreaders I have ever heard. I do not know his name. He has a curious habit of nodding his head to punctuate pretty well every point.  He always looks very serious – and sometime appears to grit his teeth, clench his jaw (as he nods)  to make himself look even more serious. .  I watch with fascination as he does this – and, thereby, do not listen to a word he shouts at me…. and I presume, others who are watching the news at this time of day.  At first,  this repeated nodding irritated me.  No longer.  Now, I sit with my coffee and a cigarette watching the television in my bunker to the right of my two computer screens  to see if he reaches the number of nods I estimate he will execute during a five minute period.

I have been ‘reading’ the news most weekdays since 7th January for my online magazine. I do not, it has to be said, do this task with the same skill as the professionals – but one day, I am tempted to mimic the mannerisms of the nodding newsreader, shout the news and nod at the end of each paragraph. Unfortunately – I only do audio podcasts…. but the simulation to the left will give you an idea of how I  might look if I was looking serious and about to nod while reading televised news.

Part II of Postcard from the Staterooms will follow… if I survive the night.

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