Sunday, November 19, 2006

Put the Ch-rist! back into Christmas












As a way to personally resist the tyranny of Christmas merch that floods our entire field of vision each holiday season, I collect Christmas ornaments that inspire more horror than happy. These are usually at least 30 years old, from a time when irony and cynicism were not equated with cool, (or maybe they were - what the heck do I know, I was six). Each of these items posesses a kind of heavy pathos - earned either through neglect or through poor manufacturing standards - that I find particularly appealing. Some may find that attitude alarmingly cynical, but I approach it in a different way. I look at it as resurrecting these long-forgotten items, giving them a place of honour on my freshly dusted mantle (and I hardly ever dust), seeing the inadvertent (and therefore priceless) humour in the faceless, nameless glut of our capitalist-driven world, which, nostalgia or not, is the wheel that drives this whole mad, mad Christmas machine. Current mass-produced seasonal ornaments have not yet earned this badge of (dis)honour. Any dollar store today offers row upon row of equally tasteless crap (not yet kitsch as kitsch implies nostalgia, which these are too young to bear. It's all in the timing, friends. Nostalgia is a privilege, not a right!).

The problem with modern-day ornamentation is that, unlike decades past, we are far too well-versed in the practices of a throwaway economy that tells us new is better, and yesterday's trinket is tomorrow's trash. We all know where they're headed in a couple years' time when their recent-dated-ness proves to be no match for the latest twinkling accessory: the mid-July yard sale, where they will languish all weekend on the 50 cent table before their shameful demotion to the FREE box that's left by the curb when you've packed 'er in. And there they remain because they are totally, utterly charmless. This is why I prefer to mine the aisles of junk shops where the real survivors can be found. These aren't the Grinch-in-a-Santa-suit bobbles from some Hollywood movie, but rather the decades-old trinkets, the used and abused, the sad, worn and forlorn, the dirty and the denigrated, relegated to the dusty bottom of a cardboard box amidst the loose glitter and tinsel.
Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses longing to be free... I'll give them a spot on my Christmas tree.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Fluff



My local grocery store in Little Italy (say Little Italy three times fast) has uncharacteristically stocked its shelves with this very un-Italian item: fluff.

I don't remember this from when I was a kid in the early '70s (we were a Koogle household), but some of my friends do. They tell tales of looking on with a mix of horror and envy as their friends strutted their fluffer-nutter sandwiches: a layer of fluff over a layer of peanut butter between two slices of white bread, as illustrated on the back of every jar of fluff - undoubtedly as a way to introduce some sort of "nutritional" element to this otherwise sugary marshmallow muck. How any parent can willfully serve this to their child is beyond me but I suppose sometimes you just gotta relent. I imagine fluff to be the upper-white-trash equivalent of the sugar sandwich.

The attraction is obvious. I haven't even opened it (and I never will) but I was instantly seduced. It's a fine example of effective advertising design. Everything about it evokes happiness. The baby blue and white topped by that jaunty red cap. The jolly retro font (which is extra marshmallowy in its French translation: guimauve). It's just simple goodness and smiles all around, one lovin' spoonful after another. Scoop yourself a puffy little cloud, a pillow, a snowball, a cotton ball. It's all soft and cozy and harmless until your teeth rot out. Kids are probably buying this as a snack on its own (at $2.19 it's cheaper than a pop and bag of chips). And if they manage to get their sticky hands on one of those big bubble-tea straws they can just suck themselves into sugar oblivion (it's a gateway to crack!).

check out the official fluff website here

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Emote this!










The lexicon of emoticons - that visual shorthand for human emotions - is a trend in emailing and instant messaging which I can't %#!**%#@* wait to see bite the dust.

Alright - I admit - I am not totally pure of intent here. I must confess to having, on occasion, typed one in at the end of a sentence when I suspected my tone may be misinterpreted. But I have always immediately deleted it. I prefer to believe my friends and correspondents are quick enough to detect subtle humour or sarcasm to not require the aid of a visual prompt.

The problem with this is that sooner or later, someone gets into a bit of a literal quagmire over the questionable tone of their emails. Was that some kind of back-handed insult? Was he making a pass at me? What exactly does she mean by "shut up!"?
Oh, we've all gotten so paranoid!!! See what political-correctness has done?!

It's understandable in many ways how the more thin-skinned among us may want to punctuate our sentences with the occasional winky-wink or smiley face, or even a >: - ( when we really mean business. That way, there's no room for confusion and misunderstanding. Only straight ahead infantilization.

The worst - I mean THE ABSOLUTE WORST - are those yellow smiley faces you see in ads on the web, which have become increasingly elaborate and moronic. In the world of on-line dating they are the compositional crutch of choice - and this, in a forum where beyond your looks, the bait to beat is charm, intellect, and wit (ie: originality). Usually the more obviously illiterate a person is - and there are a depressing number of those - the heavier the use of emoticons, to the point where each sentence is punctuated with a different one. Like they know they don't have the means to express themselves in simple English (or any other language for that matter) so emoticons are a sort of stunted visual Cyranno. Often the choice of emoticon has nothing to do whatsoever with what's just been said. An appreciation for Quentin Tarantino films, for example, could easily be paired with a dancing hot pepper.

I don't instant message. I think I've done it twice in my life and that was 3 years ago before children were doing it. I am way behind in the technological times here so luckily, I am imune to the 'need' to instant message. I don't have a cell phone either. I'm sure one day this stubborn luddite stance will all come crashing down on me as I sit in an upside down car in a ditch wishing I had a cell phone to call CAA and 911, but for now, well, no car, no cell. My, this is all very dark! It's about opening the channels of communication, silly! Don't you know suicide rates have dropped in Finland since they pioneered the use of cell phones in that country?
Now there's something to call home about.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Going Postal






Let me start this off by saying I love mail. I love sending mail, I love getting mail. I've written an inumerable amount of letters. Long ones. Funny ones. Lovey-dovey ones. Care packages. Fan mail. Letters of complaint and protest. I collect vintage post-cards. I've been to post-card trading shows. I can even say, with no word of a lie, that some of my best friends (two of them in fact) are Posties. There are worse jobs.

My beef is not with these intrepid carriers, but with the Mothership itself and the inane amount of Postal-related doodads and gewgaws it manufactures and tries in vain to sell. I'm talking about the junky trinkets that crowd the display shelves of every postal outlet in the land (display shelves that are installed expressly for this questionable merchandise). I suspect they keep generating all this stuff just to distract people to keep their minds off the fact that they've been waiting in line for 20 minutes.

Here's a list of what my local Canada Post outlet has in stock:

-commemorative pen & pencil sets
-collectible coins and dollar bills encased in a clear resin
-commemorative stamps
-greeting cards (Hallmark)
-plush toys (Postie cats and dogs)
-tiny plastic mailboxes, replicas of old and new
-toy mail delivery trucks, old and new
-commemorative Canadiana plates
-stickers
-decorative envelopes
-Pop N' Play Simpsons, Disney, bouquet, etc. pop-up cards
-playing cards
-snow globes (to remind us of the Postman's Creed)
-Harry Potter and E.T. coin set
-junior stamp collecting starter kit (do you really want your kid to get beat up?)
-postcards of Niagara Falls (in Montreal)
-Tickelopes
-watches (to remind you how late the mail is again)
-packing materials (Label it! Pad it! Box it! Shove it!)
-commemorative golf frame (??)
-stamp albums
-Christmas tree ornaments
-decorative gift bags and boxes

Who buys this stuff? More disturbingly, who thought it was a good idea to pour resin over perfectly good money and sell it for three times the value of the money itself? Oh, right, they're uncirculated. Sorry.
Maybe all those Olde Tyme postal delivery trucks and mailboxes are just a way of tugging at our heartstrings, hardened as they've been by the cold and fast world of email, cell phones and chat rooms. What that little plastic mail truck and that stuffed moose with the mail bag and jaunty cap are telling you, as you sweat profusely under your parka, is that they still believe in the power of a hand-written letter or thank-you note. And that e-cards are just another way of saying I was too late or too cheap to spend 51 cents on a stamp (52 cents effective January 15, 2007).

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Socials: A Prairie Tradition



















The Prairie phenomenon known as the Social has a long-standing tradition. Originating ages ago in the small Ukranian towns that populate Saskatchewan and Manitoba, they were a way for families to come together to celebrate and fundraise for an upcoming wedding by holding a dance in a rented hall or community centre.

The benchmarks for a good social are simple:

1. A heavily stocked bar. Include only domestic beer, and of course, the Champagne of the Prairies: Rye and Coke.
2. A DJ -usually playing a wildly irregular range of tunes in a vain attempt to satisfy the multi-generational crowd (post Pixies polka, anyone?). It's the aural equivalent of someone grinding the gears and popping the clutch every three minutes.
There's a strict method to follow for playing the music. Three fast, three slow, three polkas. Sometimes if people are really getting into the fast songs (which back in the 80's meant Trooper or April Wine in heavy rotation, with a dash of Duran Duran or Eurythmics just to jar things up) then the count may be increased to six. Never would you have more than three slows, however, because then people would just start making out or getting slapped. Either way, someone would end up crying.
3. Each table must be graced by a generous basket of Old Dutch chips. Preferably plain. Rippled if you want flash. Old Dutch chips are manufactured in Winnipeg, and are sadly unavailable in Quebec. The Salt n' Vinegar will make you weep.
4. The decorations: usually an assortment of dollar-store or hand crafted items of the matrimonial sort - those fold-out paper bells are popular, as are crêpe paper streamers (in the colours of the bridal party, natch), some balloon clusters for fill, and, just in case you've forgotten why you're there in the first place, the fêted couple's names are usually spelled out on the wall with puffy tissue-paper flowers. Hearts everywhere. It's all very optimistic.
5. The midnight snack: a kaleidescope of deli meats, kielbasa, cheddar cheeses (yellow, white and marble, some cubed, some sliced), dill and sweet pickles, loads of sliced rye bread (notice the rye theme?), and nary a vegetable in sight, unless it's a garnish. Not that anyone would touch it anyway. The beauty of this bonanza is that (at least in my home town) it's unveiled at around midnight, when they flick on half the lights and people file hungrily to the back counter to sample the offerings. Almost as frightening as all that meat is the sight of all those sweat-drenched guys and makeup-smeared gals who, just moments ago, busting a move on the dance floor under the influence of all those R & Cs, looked kinda hot. Now, under the unforgiving glare of fluorescent light, you think to yourself, I may just skip that slow dance. Prairie folk sure know how to kill a party.

Almost everyone I know who's still living in a small town met their significant other at a social. That is, after all, what they're for. Socializing. And when you live in the country, there ain't that much socializing to be had. The handy thing about them is that they act as a kind of giant gene pool Mixmaster, as people from other small towns flock to one another's socials to check out the goods. You can imagine the anticipation. Anything looks good when it's unfamiliar (and when you're pretty sure you aren't related). Chances are the couple whose social you're attending met at a social the year before. So a social begat that couple, who are now having a social which will begat more couples, who in turn will begat more socials, and so on, and so on, for generations on end. It's all very Biblical.
It's been at least a dozen years since I've been to a proper social. People tell me they've changed a lot, and are now closer to mini-capitalist ventures than an excuse to see family and (get blasted with your) friends. It now costs about $15 to get in (I remember paying $5 in 1988). As a consequence, the raffle prizes have also grown exponentially. Raffles used to be 50/50, that is, you got 50% of the pot, or say, about 50 bucks cash. Now people are winning weekend resort getaway packages and slick patio furniture sets. It's completely out of control.

I heard there are so many Winnipeg ex-pats living in Toronto that someone started throwing Winnipeg Socials. And people actually came. If anyone out there knows of these, you must let me know. I'm due for a love-in.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Patron Saints




Catholics have an inexhaustible list of resources to cure whatever ails you: Patron Saints. The actual rate of canonization has slowed somewhat over the years, but really, I think they've pretty much got everything covered so there mustn't be too many job openings, at least as far as patronage is concerned.
Luckily for us, the divinity is not above the World Wide Web, which means you too can check in at www.catholic-forum.com to see who to call on the next time you find yourself suffering from gastro-intestinal problems or are running late for the bus.

Here's a list of highlights:
Patron Saint of...
-girls from rural areas: Ste. Germaine Cousin
-fear of mice: Ste. Gertrude of Nivelles
-happy death: St. Joseph
-doubt: St. Joseph (double duty)
-art: Ste. Catherine de Bologna
-art dealers: John the Apostle
-against arm pain: St. Amalburga
-craftsmen who work with a wheel: Ste. Catherine of Alexandria
-falsely accused people: there are several, my pick is Ste. Elizabeth of Hungary
-against oversleeping: St. Vitus
-pastry chefs: St. Philip the Apostle
-against the devil (what a responsibility!): St. Dionysius the Aeropagite
-pigs: St. Anthony the Abbot
-lunatics: St. Job
-scrupulous people: St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguori
-seekers of lost articles: Ste. Anne

Many on the site's list reflect concerns and occupations of days gone by, such as shepherds and parents of large families. But they are keeping up with the times. Someone special has been assigned to answer each of your modern-day prayers related to computers, social workers, television writers and chemical manufacturers. My only question is, who in this day and age is saintly enough to get the job of Patron Saint against reality tv?

Friday, August 25, 2006

MFA : short for...



I was doing some research on music and aggression a while back, which naturally led me to heavy metal. I am, I would say, more than peripherally aquainted with this genre, having spent my high school years caught in the thick of a banger maelstrom (or should I say Maëlström) in my tiny home town in southern Manitoba. Whatever I absorbed and have retained since then was done entirely through osmosis, as I have never in my life pressed play and cranked it up to 11 when a Judas Priest tape was on deck. All the really cool kids were bangers. Their standard uniform of dress was the raglan-sleeved metal band shirt (Mondays = Iron Maiden, Tuesdays = AC/DC, Wednesdays = Mötley Crüe, etc. reserving that most special of days, Fridays, for the Mother of all metal bands: METALLICA), paired with super tight black jeans (this is before stretch denim, so rips beneath the arse were de rigeur), high top runners, and lessen there be a slight chill in the air, the LUMBERJACK SHIRT. Preferably in black and red. Astrologically-speaking, black is associated with the planet Saturn, a male planet, typified by dominant behaviour. Everything in the universe is connected.

My Internet research led me to the Metallica Fan Association, (of course, now that I'm trying to track down the source to provide y'all witha handy link I come up with nothing. Why don't I write these things down when I find them? Apologies to the author). Anyway, this logo (above) appeared on their site. MFA are three letters that I've been branded with, because in my world, they stand for Master of Fine Arts, which I am. Yes, you may call me Master. Or Mistress if you prefer. The point is, my original thought was to screen print a bunch of t-shirts and sell them to MFA students who are in the thick of this utopian "it's all about memememememe!!!!" bubble. I never did get around to it, but now that's what this bloody blog is for!

Back to the heavy metal. There is something strangely appealing about it, I must admit. Something that puts you in touch with your inner neanderthal, reaches into your inner core and makes your jaw go slack and your tongue stick out and your eyes bug out and your limbs play air drums or air guitar, whichever you fancy. I'm partial to drums myself.

In "Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal", Ian Christe writes: "As ordained by Black Sabbath, heavy metal was a complex maelstrom (there's that word again) of neurosis and desire." That's what I was looking for - that mix of emotional and psychological unease that is the basis for much creative activity.

For a brief primer on the basics of metaldom, here's an article in The Manitoban that could save you from looking too square the next time you inadvertently find yourself strolling into an outdoor metal fest. Good luck.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Sadies : HOT HOT HOT



Phew!
Toronto-based quartet The Sadies played the Main Hall in Montreal on August 18. The sweat was flying as the tallest band in Canada blistered through a marathon set of songs from their previous four albums. Seeing The Sadies play their special brand of high energy country/surf/rock live before your eyes and ears is an experience worth repeating again and again (as I've done). I think I lost about 15% of my hearing as a result of standing at the front, but a couple days later the old eardrums seem to have fully recovered. One highlight was a surprise appearance by Greg Keelor who was in town to do a show with Blue Rodeo. He joined them up on stage to do a few numbers for the already-drunk-on-love-gone-berserk crowd. Mr. Keelor, along with over 20 other guests, including Neko Case, The Good Brothers, Jon Spencer, Jim Cuddy and many others appear on The Sadies' latest release, The Sadies In Concert, Volume One. Good times indeed.

The Sadies are (left to right in photo): Travis Good (guitar, fiddle, vocals), Sean Dean (upright bass), Mike Belitsky (drums, vocals), Dallas Good (guitar, vocals, keyboard)
Photo credit: Amanda Schenk (Dallas' woman)

Curios, collectibles and other crap

A few of my favourite things to collect are old 'home economics' type manuals, such as recipe books, etiquette and hygiene books and how-to encyclopedias from the 1940s - '70s.


Spot the ham: 20 points
From The General Foods Kitchen's Cookbook, 1959


Now that my student days are over, I've grown to hate potlucks. Next time I'm invited to one, this is what I'm bringing: Liver-sausage Pineapple. You've been warned.
From Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, 1953




Since knitting has made such a huge comeback (or is that over already? I can't keep up), I thought I'd show the world just how creative it can get. This is from a book called Royal Knits, by Nicolette McGuire. Don't ya just love that British wit?
Thanks to Tod and Joanne for this little gem.





I live for this stuff. I think it should be compulsory reading for every adolescent in the land, even if it's hilariously outdated by now. LEARN SOME MANNERS KIDS! Read on... (click on the images to enlarge)



Pay close attention to Chapter 22: NECKING. This will be on the test.



While we're on the subject, you girls out there may want to get your hands on these volumes. Their tables of contents list many informative topics such as: The Form Divine - The Ideal Breast, Racial Differences; Making the Most of Your Figure - The Psychological Approach, Dangers of Breast Massage, Mechanical Aids; The Art of the Corsetière - Subterfuges and 'Gay Deceivers', Special Support for Special Occasions.
Sorry - no sneak peek at the pictures inside. This is a family friendly blog.
Thanks to Shari. (How could she ever part with them?)
From 1948 and 1944 respectively.


I found this at Fanny's Fabrics in the basement of The Bay in downtown Winnipeg. They had a post-Christmas sale and this item looked quite forlorn in the discount bin. Deceiving as it is, it's actually a uh, candy cane ornament for the Christmas tree. It has a little slit at the top through which you can stuff some pot-pourri to make your fake pine tree smell like cinnamon and roses or something. Looks to me something else could be stuffed in there...

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Wicked!!!


Winnipeg is strange. My sentiments for it have changed since leaving 10 years ago. There was a time when I could never imagine moving back there for fear of being smothered by its smallness, over-familiarity, and isolation. Now each time I go I try to experience the city as a tourist would, but one who is familiar enough with it to know where the real gems are.
Winnipeg is one of those plucky cities that has grit and history and enough strange-but-true facts that make its citizens proud, no matter how preposterous they seem. The 'Peg's got CBC "Heritage Minutes" galore (Winnie the Pooh, anyone?). But many of its citizens possess another strange sense of pride - like being dedicated to the pathos of living there.
I was there visiting my family and friends recently and had been warned by another ex-pat that the province is in the throes of another of it's "take-pride" campaigns: Manitoba - Spirited Energy! as evidenced by this massive banner right smack dab in the middle of the city's most famous intersection, Portage and Main, which is, of course, completely cut off to pedestrians.



In 1994 or thereabouts, Winnipeg attempted another civic pride campaign titled "Winnipeg: 100 Reasons to Love it!" which featured a checklist of unique features our city can boast about such as "the beaches", or "the women". Some people would sport this list on various merch like t-shirts. I remember the list was printed askew so as to suggest, oh, I dunno, a certain cool edginess or something. This current "re-branding" of Manitoba was launched in an effort to change the pervasive attitude of cynicism and negativity that many citizens feel about their home province (who, me?), as evidenced so acutely by local bands such as The Weakerthans, and by this image below that a friend sent along.



So to redeem this situation, here is my shortlist of things to love about Winnipeg:

Located in the Exchange District, the Royal Albert Arms Hotel is home of The Albert, a legendary watering hole where the early evening shift-change from drunken old men to indie and punk rockers still occurs every night. I have fond memories of this place from when I used to frequent it in the early '90s, on their infamous Thursday Draft Nights - I reckon the draft is probably not 69 cents a glass anymore, but just as watered-down. The Albert is where I saw The New Duncan Imperials, Duotang (pre-boom and bust), where I had my first kiss with my first love (classy!), and where, for a brief but intense period, I inaugurated The Star Wars Pinball Club. Good clean fun.



Next stop: Albert Street Burgers, home of the Fat Al. A tiny, homemade fast-food joint like no other, it's unique characteristic is the arrangement it has with the Fleet Framing shop across the street, which has the front of its store set up with modest tables, chairs, napkin dispensers a mustard and ketchup bottles. Just keep your greasy paws off the mat board.


(image: Colin Kent) urbanphoto.net



There's a cluster of three Nutty Club buildings just off the Exchange District which house among other things, artist studios. I doubt they still make candy there but I'm glad they haven't painted over the signage.



This was encouraging. The Forks Market (a big touristy area at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine rivers) developed a skate park which actually seems to attract real skateboarders. What's most impressive is the inclusion of not only the usual bowl-type facility, but a reconstructed plaza-type area complete with stairs, railings and concrete benches. Just like downtown! Now maybe those pesky kids will quit terrorizing frightened business people with their board-flipping antics! Get your own stainless steel handrail!



Any self-respecting burger lover visiting Winnipeg must make a pilgrimmage to VJ's on Main street near Broadway. Get the Double Special. There will likely be a lineup, but it's worth the wait. Honourable mention goes to the Dairy Whip on Marion who make a super duper chili burger n' fries. I'll try to get a pic the next time I go. They've got a great vintage neon sign with a big pink springing arrow.



Some more great spots to visit:

Rae and Jerry's Steakhouse (they have a great 'Columbo' style lounge in black and red which hasn't changed since the late 1950s)
http://www.raeandjerrys.com/index.php



Bridge Drive In (BDI). Great ice-cream. Walk off those calories by taking a stroll over the bridge onto Kingston Row.

Still much more to come. Winnipeg truly is one great city. Too bad the people behind those feel-good re-branding schemes don't know where to look.

http://www.exchangedistrict.org/

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Odds and ends in La belle province


These are a few of my favourite things - dans la belle province

Le Bismark - eat it and weep.
Consists of a foot long hot dog wiener nestled in a custom-made white spongey sliced-bread-type bun, topped with a golden cascade of thick, slightly undercooked french fries. Your choice of toppings (I recommend lots of onions, with a side order of poutine for your dairy content, and a large Coke, no ice.) Window shattering belches guaranteed. Available at finer street-meat stands in the lovely town of Shawinigan, QC. Hand model and Bismark/poutine combo ingestor (she did it!): Joanne Hui



"Attention à nos enfants. C'est peut-être...le vôtre"

This comforting sign can be found all over small town Quebec. The caption loosely translates to: "Watch out for our children. This one could be yours." It features a once care-free androgynous child, fresh from an encounter with a speeding car. Bloody gruesome!

Notice how the child's left shoe is missing, and the sock has been slightly yanked from his/her foot. That explains all those single shoes I keep finding on the street. I've always wondered, how can someone just lose one shoe and not notice?



Restothèque - Somewhere off highway 138

Boogie on down to the salad bar! I made my friend Tod slow the car down and hold up traffic so I could get this slightly blurry shot of this great sign. Unfortunately, we'd already eaten, otherwise I would have enjoyed a bit of BeeGees avec mon 'amburger all dress, pas d'oignons. That stretch of highway between Québec City and Montréal (the longer scenic route, not the 2 lane speedway highway 40) is one of my farourite drives in the province. You see loads of the real-deal 'villages d'antan', small towns that still have many 100-year old houses right on the main drag.



Restrooms at Bar laitier Le Grizzly! Granby, Québec

I love the clash of artisanal woodworking, outhouse aesthetics, anthropomorphism, and 1950's B-movie poster inspired font.
Summer 2004

Friday, July 14, 2006

London calling



I was in London a couple months ago for a quickie holiday (England, not Ontario. It's amazing how many people ask "Ontario?". As if!) I spent a lot more time in pubs than in galleries, but that was due to my impeccable timing as a lot of galleries were between shows. I did see a fantastic exhibit at the Whitechapel Art Gallery called Inner Worlds Outside (http://www.whitechapel.org/) It had loads of Henry Darger drawings which were great to see in person.



This photo was taken at The Golden Heart, a little gem of a pub on Commercial Street, near Spittalfields market. It's apparently a YBA local - or used to be before they became tabloid regulars. Bet you that's Tracey Emin under that giant puppy head.



I also got to indulge in one of my favourite grotesque delicacies: HAGGIS. Thank you Emily and Christian for preparing such a fine meal of neeps and tatties to go along with that steamy ball of goodness. Mmmmm!



This was a shocker. Had some amazing Indian food at Sweet n' Spicey on Brick Lane (beware the hawkers who try to lure you into their far inferior eateries! This is the only place to go!) Lo and behold, emblazoned on the plate we'd just practically licked clean was the St. Hubert logo! (St. Hubert is the Quebec equivalent of Swiss Chalet, but better - that is to say, lots of family-friendly chicken-fries-n'slaw combo dishes. Your sort of typical Sunday dinner outing with the family when you just want good basic grub for a good price and there are no outside guests to really impress kind of restaurant.)


For more of my views of London, see my long-neglected flickr page