Friday, September 23, 2011

The True Cost Of A Castle

This post is about being given things and getting rid of them... and, at the bottom, how much unread books cost you...

A while ago, I muttered on here about trying to buy a new bike. Well, a reader on here gave me one. Yes, the lovely Hugh gave me an old mountain bike and I've been flying around town on it ever since. Which is just marvellous of them.

In a similar spirit, we had a party the other weekend where people brought along old books and DVDs and swapped them with other things. Less bring-and-buy, more give-and-take. Any books left over goes to charity. It was almost successful. Well, it was a lot of fun (we got drunk and ate cake), but taught me some interesting things about possessions.

Here goes:

They just do. A pile of spare Agatha Christies went in seconds. In fact, most of the crime fiction vanished. The literary fiction got tutted over - especially the more recent stuff (How The Beach and Brick Lane have gone out of fashion). The science fiction was either carried away instantly or sneered at loudly and longly (it is, actually, rather awkward trying to explain, at a distance of 20 years, exactly why I loved Greg Bear so much. As far as I can tell all his books ended with the world going explode).

But anyway - a book is a thing beloved and shared and tutted and picked over. They're not dead yet.

When did DVDs stop being shiny things that we all loved massively? I was shocked when a friend announced he'd archived his entire collection onto a harddrive and was throwing them all out. Shocked and appalled... until I started going through my collection and ended up with a massive pile of things (CSI? Even for the tasty crime twink with nice hair? No). But what stunned me was that no-one wanted any of my DVDs (apart from a spare copy of Firefly). So, we took them to Cash Converters. Armfuls of them. Hundreds of pounds worth of shiny shiny discs... and got £18 for them. Sad, but then, unless it's rare, it's hardly even worth ebaying them. Isn't that odd? It's like they're obsolete. It's a good way of stopping me spend money buying more of the buggers. It's like my inner "50 quid at HMV" man died there and then.

The nicest thing was admitting defeat. It actually felt liberating accepting that I will only ever like two Woody Allen films, that I will never finish a book by Angela Carter, or re-read London Fields. It's nice to look at things on shelves and think "crikey, when they released the X-Files on DVD the first time, they really got it right", or "Those reproduction Agatha Christie first editions look a lot nicer now that there's no Robert Bloody Browning near them". That said, there are still things on the shelf that I'm keeping as a badge of honour (I've suffered through Jude The Obscure. I want people to know this) or as a threat to my leisure time (Throwing away Ulysses is a step too far). It's also lovely having empty shelves... and knowing I'll fill them again.


Talking of cash, there's got to be a value to throwing things away.

Let's assume my flat is 300 cubic meters.

And let's take the average rental value of a flat in London to be £2k a month.
Some maths tells me that that's 24 grand a year for 300 Cubic meters. I get a bit confused here, and go "hrr, hrrr, hrrr", but I think that's £80 a cubic meter a year.

Let's take James Ellroy's The Dudley Smith trio (20 cms x 13 x 5), which clocks in at 0.0013 m3... 80 x 0.0013 tells me that that book costs 10 pence in rent a year. Every year it just sits on the shelf. And, as I've read 2/3rds of it, that 3p just hanging out there.

Taking this to extremes, a lego Castle takes up 0.036 m3 - which costs a whopping £2.88 a year.

And the cat, surprisingly, has a volume half that of a Lego castle. So she only need pay £1.50 a year.

I am now wondering about whether to introduce a levy on my boyfriend for being so damn tall.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Loving the Travelodge

Good morning. I've just wasted £80, and I'm actually quite happy about it.

A few weeks ago I needed to book a hotel room next week for work. And, after about five goes at the Travelodge website finally managed it. I've never quite worked out what it is about their site, but at busy times I get the feeling their server throws bookings up in the air and then sees which ones stick. Anyway, on my second day and my third computer I finally managed to book a room for next week.

This morning, Travelodge emailed me to ask if I'd enjoyed my stay and my heart stopped. Of course, obviously, as some point during the booking-seven-times-stress-tastrophe I'd booked a room for the wrong night. Which is a terrible thing to find out and a waste of £80. But... better to find out now than next Monday. When it would be awful.

I like to think that, in a parallel world, there's another me who had a brilliant time in a Travelodge last night. Perhaps I met someone - ooh, in a bar, or something, and said "Would you like to come back to my hotel?". Which, even when it's the Travelodge, sounds classy. Although, what would you seduce them with - there's no minibar. There's not even a shortbread finger to break in two.

It's not the first time I've done this with Travelodge - during one of their £10 deals I accidentally booked my parents a room in Canaray Wharf. In fact, I bet there are thousands of ghost rooms spread across the City, every night patiently waiting for people who will never come....

Monday, September 19, 2011


Twitter's a funny old thing, really. Obviously, it's killed off the blog and replaced it with the chance to watch famous people RT charity walks and missing hamsters.

But it's also that odd thing that in no time at all the people I follow are mostly topless men and Caitlin Moran.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Gaylita (or the Masque of the Deadly Twink)

Where have all the messed-up gay teenagers gone? I'm sure they're still all out there somewhere, queueing for the Glee Concert Movie, but the public face of Gay Youth is very different.

Picture the scene - a birthday party of gays with beards, all of us drifting happily through our thirties... but someone had brought along their work experience student. Who was 17.

Now, this would have been fine. Really, utterly fine if he'd done what 17 year olds should do - which is stand around, mumbling and not making eye contact. But at some point there's clearly been an upgrade. And none of us coped with it well.

I watched him scythe his way through the party like a twinkling version of the Masque of the Red Death. I vowed that I would not fall. I would not become one of his giggling victims. And then he was standing in front of me. Smiling.

"What is that cologne you're wearing?" he said to me. "It suits you."

I blinked, mumbled and looked at my boots.

"Where did you get those boots from?" he asked.

I muttered something again and shifted nervously. A tiny bit of my brain went "Oh. Pay people compliments. It clearly works, but damn it's obvious. Learn to do this when you grow up." The rest of my brain just fizzed.

When I opened my eyes he was still there. Smiling. "So, ah," I began, just about not adding "My boy". I knew he was from Oxford. That seemed safe. "What college are you at?" Phew.

A tiny laugh. "I'm not. I'm still at school." The same smile.

I ran away to the bar. When I returned he was smiling at someone else and I felt both relieved and jealous.

But he came back. To tell me stories of how he'd been travelling the Pigalle, performing stand-up in French and having sex with businessmen in cars. All said with a dreadful, confident shrug.

Someone staggered to our table - in any other circumstances he'd have been the belle of the ball, but no-one noticed him. Not really. Desperate for attention, he'd have set himself on fire if he could, but instead covered himself with birthday cake while roaring about how drunk he was. Then he slunk away, unmourned.

We didn't have eyes for him. Just for Gaylita. We had eyes for each other, ust about, but hooded cautious looks that said "Are you? You're not, are you?"

And then he left, off to catch a bus home, and the spell was broken.

One of us sat there, almost in tears. "He made to kiss me, and I said no. But I could have... I could have... why didn't I? Oh, he said I was special. I was special to him, wasn't I? Would it have been so very wrong?"

We consoled him with the concerned air of Colonels dealing with a fellow making a spectacle of himself in the club over a Chee Chee girl. But we all knew... there but for the grace of god.

I patted the old boy on the shoulder. But I knew. Before Gaylita had left, he'd leaned over to me, pecked me on the cheek and whispered "You're so hot." And then he'd gone. But I knew. I knew I was special.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

To the drugs dealers outside

Dear Drugs Dealers outside -

You know what I really hate about you? Yes, you bring the area down, you piss on the stairs, you deal drugs in front of a playground full of toddlers, you beat up your clients at 1am, you talk late into the night about how you hate fags and the pussy that you are banging, you set fire to the flower beds, you prey on the recovering addicts at the local hostel, you still insist on saying "ohmydays", you have nicer phones than me, and the police seem completely powerless to stop you, whether it's dealing bicarb or setting fire to the swings... but what I hate the most about you is that you are smoking Marlboro and it smells like HEAVEN.

Yrs, an ex smoker with a loss of perspective.