Friday, 29 February 2008

Sensitive flowers

Apparently, some American teachers have been instructed not to grade papers in aggressive red ink for fear of hurting students’ feelings, denting their self-esteem. Another generation of ‘approval junkies’ is being nurtured. Slap!

In the meantime, I am correcting the 78th draft of my own translation (the deadline is soon, very soon) in red ink, but not any red ink: it smells of roses.

I just hope I don’t scar myself for life.

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

My lucky day

I don’t go out a lot these days – I don’t mean I don’t go out in the evenings; I mean I don’t set foot out of my building much. I’m not agoraphobic, just very busy. And, it’s cold out there. And, if you’ve tried to use London public transport recently you will know that it’s a hassle at the best of times. And, it certainly doesn’t help that our nearest Central Line tube station has now closed for eight months (this deserve a slap of its own – some other time).

Anyway, from time to time, I get the urge to leave my postcode, and yesterday was one of those times. The abiding reason was this: I wanted to buy a French beauty product that is not widely available in the UK. I couldn’t find it on the Net (or rather I could, but the postage and packing costs would have been exorbitant) so I got in touch with the company, who gave me the name of their UK distributor, who in turn told me where I could get it in London. (I’m very good at this kind of sleuthing.)

It so happened the said product was apparently on sale at the ‘pharmacy’ (chemist’s shops are called ‘pharmacies’ in posh areas) I used to go to when I lived in Notting Hill Gate (obviously, at the time, it was just a small local chemist’s, whose owner was very good at not noticing things: ‘I can’t see anything,’ he said once, when I pointed to a huge gap in one of my eyebrows – caused by stress, in case you’re wondering). So I called the pharmacy (hey, Pooh Bear wouldn’t set off on an ‘expotition’ into town without checking everything in advance, and neither do I) and this very nice, but practically unintelligible man, assured me they stocked the product I was looking for. I still couldn’t be certain, but decided to take a chance. I hopped on a bus and walked along the streets I used to know so well. Notting Hill Gate is only minutes away from where I live, but I feel as if I’m entering alien territory now. One thing I noticed on the way was that all the still-familiar stores (Tylers, Boots, WH Smith, etc.) now had automatic doors. Posh people don’t ‘push’ or ‘pull’ like you or me: they glide in or out, unobstructed, whether or not they’re carrying armfuls of posh bags.

The guy from the pharmacy welcomed me like a long-lost friend when I put the product in question on the counter. We were both very pleased with ourselves and each other. Had he not told me he carried it? Was I not as good as my word when I had said I would pop in? Encouraged by my good humour, he asked me to fill in an NHS questionnaire while he was torturing my credit card. It was about how satisfactory my ‘experience’ had been in his establishment. It had been fine, thank you very much. To make sure I expressed the ‘correct’ opinion, he pointed to all the ‘Very good’ boxes and prompted me to tick them, which I cheerfully did – well, it had been very good.

What I didn’t know yet was that the experience was soon going to be even better.

As I always do when I buy cosmetics (especially rather expensive ones), I asked if I could have a sample of ‘something’ – after all I had filled in a questionnaire in a way that made his pharmacy one of the best in the country. He nodded and motioned me to the displays; there he opened a drawer and took out a basket full of Caudalie samples. I exclaimed with delight (I’m so girly sometimes) and prepared to select one suitable for my skin type, but before I could do so he said, ‘Open your bag!’ I obeyed and he tipped the entire contents of the basket into it; then he turned to another display, opened a drawer full of Avène samples this time and filled my bag with them. It was preposterous and delightful and made up for all those years of being refused ‘a little tube of something’ by snooty sales assistants – all in one go. (Of course, there was the time when I was left alone with a basket of Alexander McQueen perfume samples in a large Oxford Street department store... but that is another story.)

I could slap the above-mentioned snooty sales assistants, who lie through their teeth when they tell you they don’t have any samples of ‘anything’, but today I’d rather pay tribute to that lovely, generous pharmacist who made me laugh so much yesterday.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

Where shall I go?

Already, living in Hammersmith feels like being in Eastern Europe sometimes (my parents would have felt at home and been appalled at the same time), now it looks like we might become an Arab country. The Archbishop of Canterbury said earlier today in an interview on BBC Radio 4 that the introduction of Sharia law seemed ‘unavoidable’ in the UK. Over my dead body, I say, and, judging by the thousands of people who left comments on the BBC message board and elsewhere, so does the majority of the country, thank goodness.

Still, things can change in the blink of an eye. So, please suggest where my fiddle and I could go if we suddenly found ourselves in danger of being stoned, etc.

Slapping old religious men who shoot their mouths off!

Friday, 1 February 2008

Talking about unread books...

Woolworths have had to remove a range of bedroom furniture for six-year-old girls. A member of staff had had the bright idea of calling it ‘Lolita’. No one at Woolworths knew what the name referred to or meant. Parents did, though, and complained.

The fact that Books etc., the only bookshop not a million miles away from where I live, is due to close in three weeks’ time won’t help with the pervading ignorance. Although, I can’t really be too outraged because I haven’t patronized it as much as I should have (I buy my books on the Net, like a lot of people these days). But the café attached to it was cheerful and the store itself – on two floors – brought much-needed brightness to an otherwise fairly dreary shopping mall (you should have seen it a few years ago, before it was renovated: it used to make me feel suicidal... and it might again if all the fun stores abandon it).