Thursday, 27 September 2007

Modern architects deny allegations of masturbatory fantasy...

London's listed Victorian Baltic Exchange (top left) - former centre of British Shipping, which was demolished to make way for the Gherkin (right) as near-neighbour St Paul's Cathedral (below) was a little dull.

Gravitas and Gherkins

Give me an imperious Romanesque building
That looks down on me from austere portico-hooded eyes
that issue their Orders, any day of the week
Rather than a prefab glass ‘n’ steel gherkin
That I can look down on and laugh at
Where is the grandeur or permanence in that?
I want to take my buildings seriously
If of my times they’ll bear testimony
Well you can have too much “inclusivity”
Too much excuse for landscape blots
‘Disabled access’ is just part of the plot
To demolish all that went before
Leaving us history and heritage-poor
I want to aspire to architecture
Not have it bend down to design me in
I want to marvel at buildings
As I marvel at the stars
I want them to be -
God-like in their awe-inspiring ability
Grandiose echoes of vastness
Emphasising my littleness
Monuments to craftsmanship
Memorials to the went-before of humanship
What’s so bad about Classical mausolea
If they stop you taking life for granted,
Urge you on and up to meet their greatness?
So dwarf me, tower over me,
Keep me in my place
Dominate me, intimidate me
Spare a thought for poor posterity
We can modify you in sympathy
With 21st Century needs
Buildings of a splendour rivalling countryside
Sure beat the pants off a landscape backside
If greenbelts must be tightened.
But look at the pennies saved
Spewing buildings short-lived as fashions
For impressionists in substance
Trapped in now egos

© LS King 2004

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Why I Love Oxford

Within the space of one hour last Saturday morning I encountered a minstrel and giant, a free jazz band and a group of Red Indians. Oh and some poets!

Who needs shopping?

Friday, 21 September 2007

Unfairly-Slaved Fashions - Enough To Make You Green?

For some while now I've been perturbed by the strange dichotomy that while we Brits will happily pay through the nose for a beverage in order to ensure it is fairly-traded and the cafĂ© staff paid a living wage, ten minutes later will see a sizeable number of us browsing the likes of Primark/New Look/Bon Marche gleefully marvelling at the wonders of cheerful bargain print dresses for £6 - doubtless made by blind one-armed Guatamalan lesbian five-year olds on 3 quetzals a day.

I mean, does no one make the correlation? Does no one idly wonder how these amazing 'bargains' could possibly be possible without some kind of major exploitation going on at the other end of the supply chain, every bit as unconscienable as squeezing third world farmers of their due?

Let's break down the likely maths of a £6 dress.
First-off the raw material, then; -
Someone has to spin it into yarn, someone has to weave it, someone has to print/dye it, someone has to cut it, someone has to sew it, someone has to pack it, someone has to transport it (not usually less than halfway across the world), someone has to warehouse it, someone has to pay import duty on it, someone might then wholesale it, then the retailer buys it, then further 'distribution' transport to the shops before it can finally go on sale.
In short at least 13 processes required for a £6 garment, and that's before accounting for any retail PROFIT on the dress. As virtually no items are sold for less than 100% mark up of the production costs at least, thus a £6 dress has to pass through 13 pairs of hands expending no more £3 of its final cost. Of that £3 approximately 45p per process then, to be broken down between master and slave of each process (hmm, I wonder who gets what percentage there)

Are you as horrified as I am yet? As for the £4 shirt or the £5 under-8's school uniform, let's not even go there!

As if all this weren't bad enough the single-season throwaway fashion industry makes a complete mockery of any pretensions to earth-saving greenness we may kid ourselves about.

As someone who's always made a point of buying reasonable quality clothes to last a good five years (preferring to possess a few good clothes rather than a wardrobe full of rubbish) and who prided herself on buying them from what she thought were reputable outlets such as Next, Gap, Long Tall Sally etc, I find in the last fortnight that I have no room for the smugness I thought was mine as I read to my disgust that the likes of Next and Gap (and even M&S) are also now exploiting the Third World just as badly - only with an obviously far larger mark-up than the chains who brag blatantly (but not openly) of their exploitation via their prices.

So where does the clothes shopper who wishes to be ethical (but isn't uber-wealthy by any stretch of the imagination) go from here? And could this help...? Clean Up Fashion

Dispiriting though, that having been led to believe this whole sweatshop business had been stamped down in the 90's, it bounces back in the naughties stronger than ever.

And while we're on the subject of exploitation, should we be asking if punters insist on fairly slave-traded prostitutes in our red light districts?

On a lighter note, here's my favourite story about the consumer who tried to take advantage of Nike's offer several years ago to have his new Nike trainers embroidered with a slogan free of charge! He chose the word 'Sweatshop' and you may recall, became internet-famous for a while when his fascinating e-mail exchange with Nike went global.

Taking the Nike

Monday, 17 September 2007

Voyage Round the Midlands...

No, really! All taken along the route between Stretton-On-The-Fosse and Atherstone! The only bit that looked just as bad in canal land was Nuneaton.

A great getaway from the modern world though. I hardly missed the internet @ all!
However the compulsory dog 'n' beard required for this caper eluded me somewhat (apologies if naughty Blogger is jumbling my piccies by the way - I lined them all up in neat 3-picture rows honest, but I suspect they'll publish as anything but!). A big thank you to Crew Sycamore by the way, without whom we'd probably be somewhere up in the Highlands by now.
Rose Narrowboats can be found at

Friday, 7 September 2007

Duck-filled Catty Puss

Some kitty porn for my fellow cat-bores (taken in my parent's garden recently). Not that either Tiggy or Ginger was about to indulge me by posing in a daisychain collar even as long as my shutterspeed took to capture their humiliation! (do you think the Cat's Protection League can prosecute for enforced cat hippydom?). Saw a great book recently called 'Stuff on My Cat' where someone had gathered together photographs of cats wearing all manner of weird and wonderful garb unwittingly - a near-impossible feat considering the single-mindedness and uptake speed of most cats! Sometimes I think even people who profess not to like cats must surely admire their independence and the way they'll only do things when *they* want to and it suits them, no matter that they are just as dependent on you for food as a more slavish dog! Though I suppose when pounce comes to shove, cats are probably better at hunting than most dogs if they have to. Actually I love all furry critters equally, but stray cats would always find their way to my family's house for some reason and sneak into our affections before we could stop them, never mind get round to taking them to an animal shelter. Can there be anything finer than the smell of a cat's head I wonder? Or a pneumatic purr making your ears tickle with vibration as they snuggle up to your neck while you're on the phone.
'Damp dog by a fireside', I hear you cry!

Off to Captain a canal boat for a week now, but back soon, so don't go away!

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Daleks in Bourton-On-The-Water

A strange scene greeted my friend and I on a recent trip to Bourton-On-The-Water - two daleks raising money for The Joshua Foundation (a foundation to help the children of middle-class parents who've named them 'Josh' apparently).
We left before their charity bungee-jump though.

Monday, 3 September 2007

I always keep the receipt when buying wedding presents these days..

Actually my colleague's wedding on Saturday was far too charming and sincere to dare give him a copy of this poem, and disappointingly, no sleazy DJ with bad PA system for added entertainment value either! (isn't cynicism a terrible thing?)

Wedding DJ

Weddings are easy – the same hoary old hits
With a special thrown in for the bride and groom
Sound system clanging on an overloaded bass
A few random flashes from the coloured light box
Children are our future Whitney crescendos
A bit of 60’s for the parents –
Some cheese from Tom Jones
Abba, if you’re lucky.
He hardly ever opens his CD case
For his three hundred quid
Just lugs his equipment
To this naff hotel and that
Sets it up, announces first dance as man and wife
And sits it out with a ciggy
And a six pack,
Pre-empting no one will buy him a drink
Decides whether he would give the bride one
(and 11 brides ago he did),
Or whether to dread her thank you kiss.
Bets with himself how long it’ll last
As he watches them cuddledance, cameras flashing,
She, trying not to fall over her ivory silk train.
(it’s all ivory silk these days).
A ropey fade-out and in, to the next track
When it becomes a hesitant free for all
Adults shyly taking the floor
Uninhibited children throwing themselves
Tumbling and squealing in princess outfits
An elegant dame swaying in lilac palazzo pantsuit
And her attentive husband, represent the older happy.
Then there’s the couple who can dance really well
Far too well for Stevie Wonder.
And all the bad dancers
The impossible wobbles squeezed into impossible sheaths.
He still likes to watch though,
Remembering how once it swept him away
The sheer happiness, despite the bad food and his music
The effort, the optimism, the children’s buzzing
How bliss could exist even in a Travel Lodge
With contract carpets
No matter, the obligatory vomit, drunken guest, bit of a scene
But now he’s aware of more disturbing impulses
When he goes home and toys with his Joy Division CDs
To play or not to play…

© LS King 2003