October 14th, 2008

operesque

Notes from London 1

A tube ticket to go one stop in Zone 1 now costs £4.

On TV everything seems to be platoons of soldiers attacking things. The only thing that isn't soldiers is chef Gordon Ramsay. But he's depicted at the head of a digital line of chefs attacking pans of food. "Don't let me down!" Ramsay barks at his platoon.

I eat the buffet-style breakfast in my hotel (MyHotel) assuming it's free. Nope: a bill arrives at the end. My two bits of bread and cheese, one orange juice and one tea cost £14 plus gratuity (in this case, zero).

The hotel does provide free newspapers, but only right wing ones: The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail and The Financial Times. The pink paper has a pull-out Japan special which congratulates the nation for not deregulating its banks. The fact that Japan still makes stuff (Toyota is the world's most successful car company, and Kyoto-based Nintendo has the highest per-worker profitability of any company in the world) makes Japan better-placed than Britain to weather the current crisis.

The cleaner in my hotel is Polish.

British women all have "toxic highlights", peroxide blonde. Sign in Soho hairdresser's window: colourists wanted.

At Boots they have self-service pay stations now instead of human cashiers. You take your purchases to a post, swipe the barcode, and feed cash into slots.

I go into RBS to pay in some cheques. A young black employee cuts off my path to the vacant teller's windows. Can he set up an interview with a financial advisor? There are products that could save me a lot of money. "Paying these cheques in will save me money by getting me out of overdraft!" How much is my overdraft limit? How long have I been with the bank? "£2000! Since 1978!" Eventually I get to the teller window and pay in my cheques. As I leave I want to compliment the young man on his tenacity by saying "I hear this bank has room at the top!" (CEO Sir Fred Goodwin has resigned) but then pause to wonder where exactly the "top" of RBS is now that the government owns 60% of it. I guess that makes Gordon Brown its CEO, and my hungry young promotions man a potential prime minister.

I buy Studio Voice and Ku-nel at the Japacen. London for me mostly means better Japanese shopping than we have in Berlin.

Downstairs at Zavvi, which used to be Tower, then used to be Virgin. The Afropop trend is confirmed by articles in Frieze and NME (which, like me, slags Keane). Modern Painters seems to be finished -- their ad-famished July / August issue hasn't been replaced. (Update: In fact the magazine has relaunched.)

I consider buying Animal Crossing for Hisae's DS, but it's thirty quid. No wonder Nintendo is so profitable!

Zavvi contradicts my rant about the plethora of categories in record shops; here there's just "Music", and within that "Rock / Pop". The extensive shelf space is taken up with multiple copies of the same CD. This aggressive promo is the opposite of the global diversity which was Tower's USP when it opened here in the 90s. Zavvi is anti-diversity.

Zavvi has two Momus CDs, Circus Maximus and the Creation years compilation. Sister Ray has two too: Summerisle and Otto Spooky. So on Picadilly Circus I'm an 80s artist from London, and on Berwick Street I'm a 00s artist from Berlin.

I buy The Wire -- which has a Joemus ad headed "Live gloriously through art!" on page 2 -- in Selectadisk. They're playing a band called Noah and the Whale, who sound quite good.

District Line services are suspended because of a Person Under a Train (PUT) at Earl's Court.

Inflation in the UK has hit 5.2%. The bank bailout amounts to £288 for every person on the planet. "Death of City Bonus Culture" is the Evening Standard billboard. The headline on the paper is "London Property Prices Fall by 20%".