Monday, 3 March 2008

What's the buzz?

There's a certain kind of moped on the streets these days that sounds like an angry hornet, only much louder. You know the kind I mean? Generally piloted by teen boys with skin complaints serious enough to justify the apparent death wish that propels them, and always, for some reason, much louder at night. They're smelly, noisy and dangerous, and the machines they ride are even worse.
Pumping out sufficient fumes to make the geranium cough on its windowsill and a racket to drown out the passing 40-tonne trucks, these things are a blight on anybody's environment.
I hate to think I might be turning into a grumpy old man, and I'm sure the kids relish the freedom to annoy the adults as much as I used to, but sometimes the needs of gilded youth must be put to one side in favour of the interests of those of us upon whom the first blush may have started to fade.
London's beyond all traffic salvation of course - it's been here for 2000 years but they're still fixing up the roads and the building work isn't yet complete - but there's hope for the planned new 'eco-towns'. They have the opportunity to design in a tranquil pedestrian environment to keep man and motorbike a sensible distance from one another. Now if somebody will just invent a silent engine and an acne treatement that works, we can start setting the rest of the world to rights.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Glittering Prizes

Before he fell asleep in a convenient patch of sunlight on top of the wall, Alley Cat had been complaining about his lack of recognition.
"I do more than my share of the grafting, Al", he muttered. "And what thanks do I get?"
I assumed that he was just being rhetorical, and chose to keep quiet about the nutritionally balanced, ethically sourced, plaque inhibiting, crunchy and delicious catfood he'd been eating at Fellowship Office Tea&Biscuit Fund expense for the last six months.
Evidently, he'd seen too much of the coverage given to the Academy Awards in the media, and now thought he deserved some glamour himself to reward his unspecified duties. I made him a shiny, rattling windchime from a couple of CDs that have been lying around on my desk for the last twelvemonth, knocked up a red carpet from an unused cardboard file, snapped a photo with my gimmicky mobile phone, and tickled his chin for a while.
It doesn't take much to make a difference, to make someone happy, by showing one's appreciation in a small way, does it?
Al

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Down by the river

I've escaped Fellowship Office this week, deserted the alley cat and snubbed the geranium. This is the week when the next issue of avanti is put together at the publishers' swish offices just behind London City Hall (the building that supposedly looks like a car's headlight) and I definitely feel that I'm mingling with the mighty.
I haven't spotted Ken or Boris yet but there's the undeniable whiff of power in the atmosphere around here (mixed with the cigarette smoke from tobacco exiles freezing in the chill riverside breezes). The whole 'More London' development (not the best of names really) is dotted with interesting modern sculptures, illuminated fountains and hardy plantlife, but it's the shopping and dining that's now centred on this once unlovely part of town that's the area's real attraction.
Once the weather improves I'll explore further and will get back to you: today's conditions are far too arctic to step outdoors unneccessarily.

Monday, 11 February 2008

While foghorns boom across the Thames...

A wisp of fog descends over the nation's capital and that's it; everyone's late for work. Truth be told, it was pretty thick fog, and it was the first morning we've had of it in months but you'd think, in the twenty-first century of civilisation here, that people might have learned to cope.
I always like to call my folks on mornings this though - they live in sheltered housing with a bunch of their ageing peers, and I generally check everyone's OK for essential supplies when the weather turns peculiar or particularly horrible.
They're too proud and independent to let me become over-involved but I think they appreciate the gesture - and according to the alley cat here at Fellowship Office, I'm building up good karma points for the future.
If anyone out there sees this as an ill-disguised prompt to go out and check on an elderly neighbour, relative or friend, then my work here is done. Go on, reach out to someone today.
Al

Monday, 4 February 2008

Telly Tickets Anyone?

Oh I do enjoy the Monday postbag; there's nearly always something interesting in it. This week's special item was from sro audiences: the tv audience company. As the more astute of you might have guessed by now, their daily bread and butter comes from putting together groups of people to attend the recording of programmes who'd be prepared to laugh or applaud when asked. This firm covers everything from Alan Titchmarsh to Graham Norton so they can be fairly certain that there's a show on their list to match everyone's tastes.
Heaven alone knows where they found my address but it reminded me of the few occasions when I've made the trek out to the studios. I always enjoyed the recordings immensely but found the trek back into town (and out again - the studios were invariably on the wrong side of London for me) a bit of a grind.
The recording sessions were however fascinating both technically and for the level of skill shown by presenters and behind-the-camera staff alike. sro audiences are of course just one of the many firms involved in this modern-day press-ganging, and they seem to concentrate on London and the South East but there must be similar outfits scattered across the UK doing more or less the same thing. It struck me that this kind of afternoon/evening out would perhaps be popular with those groups that have access to transport, and I thought I'd pass on their details. You can chat to them on 020 8684 3333 or check out the website at www.sroaudiences.com. Let me know how you get on, all the best
Al

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

What's another word for "volunteer"?

No, don't worry; I'm not asking for your help with the crossword again. I've been thumbing through my thesaurus looking for a snappy term that suggests the joys and rewards associated with helping other people.
Anybody with experience of the days of National Service will have heard "never volunteer for anything" often enough to be put off by the whole idea; but most of us wouldn't hesitate if asked to "lend a hand" or "do our bit". Either we need a completely new word or we have to change people's minds about what volunteering means, particularly in a friendly organisation like ours.
I'd be very pleased to hear any of your tales of volunteering and how you became involved in the first place, and will make certain the best of them are printed in avanti. Drop me an email c/o info@csrf.org.uk and I'll be in touch.
Al

Monday, 21 January 2008

Digital Snowstorm

The alley cat, office geranium and I were sharing a Monday morning cigarette earlier today (we all know the risks but the cat doesn't inhale, the geranium's exposed to traffic fumes 24 hours a day, and I'm too stupid to give up), and musing on the range, variety and sheer permanent availability of television, film and radio these days.
We've finally cleared the fog of "500 channels and nothing worth watching" and appear to be breaking away from the chore of remembering to set the video to record - online video players, "listen again" functions and downloadable radio shows mean that soon nobody will need ever miss a favourite programme again. Taking into account the audio/video streams that are available, live broadcast and archives, there's enough good quality entertainment to keep us inside and glued to the screen for the rest of our lives.
The cat, geranium and I were as one though - life's too short to watch all the good stuff, and no matter how high the definition on your telly, real life and the outside world are unbeatable. With a cough and a sigh from me, and a scratch under the chin from the alley cat, we adjourned back to work.
Philosophically yours
Al