Christmas shopping

Christmas shopping is stressful enough, without making you feel entirely inadequate as well. But inadequacy flooded through me as I entered Jack Wills, the young person’s fashion shop in Brighton, situated near The Lanes and carrying the depressing tag-line “University outfitters”. It was, with the exception of Highways Agency spokesman promising to clear the roads during wintry weather (knowing full well that a herd of comatose antelope could make more efficient organisers), the most hateful thing I’ve ever seen.

The lights are dimmed and convincing enough to make you think you’re in a seedy little nightclub and the music pounding over the stereo reinforces this, yet vintage wooden tables display endless rows of preppy jumpers and scarves, all surrounded by fawning knobheads discussing whether their student loan will stretch to a pair of jeans costing £200.

There is not one redeeming feature about the place; it is just a monochrome money-making machine, with stunning till workers who look at the shoppers with as much disdain as they can muster. Apparently, you have to be model-level attractive to work in there and the staff can wear the outfits on sale in the shop, meaning it is impossible to decipher who is a member of staff and who is just a twat for shopping there – an important distinction.

I feel out of place in most fashion shops, especially those which differ from the basic jeans, shirt and jumper template. In my humble opinion, any store where you cannot get a full outfit for £50 is an over-priced, over-rated load of bollocks (although my advice shouldn’t be heeded as I look like a TK Maxx has been violently sick over me). So entering Jack Wills was a glimpse into what life would be like if I was cool. And I’m glad I’m not.

Anyone who can pick up a jumper, which to all intents and purposes looks like any ordinary jumper with ‘Jack Wills’ in massive white capital letters emblazoned on the front, and not recoil in horror at the price tag of £85, should be disqualified from walking the streets like a normal person as a threat to public order.

The shop was self-consciously wacky and the old saying that there is nothing more boring than being controversial for the sake of it seemed to be the most applicable. There were random chairs atop dressing tables. Some of the items were hanging up in actual wardrobes. The walls were bare and peeled back to the building’s stone. It looked like a cross between a medieval castle, a party held in an underground crack den and a Primark.

I needed clinical attention after seeing this one lone example of pathetic coolness, but my vital stats were plummeting when I discovered somewhere even worse: Hollister’s, an impossibly classier version of Jack Wills. A new branch has opened in Churchill Square and was severely delayed because of building work. On seeing Hollister’s, the transformation from its previous incarnation – a regular clothes shop – should have taken longer than the construction of Wembley Stadium and cost at least twice as much.

The entrance is not just a sliding set of automatic doors, for that would be what an ordinary shop would deem acceptable. It includes six sets of saloon bar doors stolen from a Hollywood studio circa 1928 and a grand conceited hallway which looked like something you would step under in an Oriental garden.

Inside, the place was darker, louder and even more ridiculous than Jack Wills. The till-workers made the staff in Jack Wills look like they had been picked up at a drug rehabilitation centre. The boys were all six feet, ruggedly handsome and nodding serenely to Scouting For Girls, with just the right amount of facial here so as not to be confused with something from Planet Of The Apes but then again not pre-pubescent enough to be mistaken for bumfluff.

The girls were all blonde, perfect and would probably have been accepted on to Noah’s Ark as human being’s only representatives for they were the perfect specimen of our species. Looking at the queue and the slowness of the cashiers, I got the feeling that the extortionate prices were only in place to keep the staff on board as they could be making big bucks doing L’Oreal adverts.

Walking around the place I felt like some hunchbacked servant ferrying glasses of champagne to more worthy people than myself. I felt I should offer a courtesy to the workers or at least address them by a proper title like Duke or Marquess. Yet both these stores get more free advertising than they could ever purchase because the people who wear their clothes do so with the name of the store shining like a bus stop advert on their chest. And this is supposed to be the dizzying height of sophisticated fashion.

Bah humbug.

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Hang the DJ

“Hang the DJ, because the music that they constantly play… it says nothing to me about my life”. Many a true word has Morrissey spoke, but few as convincing as these. In Brighton, most of the night clubs on the seafront habitually play the same retinue of berserk crowd pleasers to get the thronging masses bumping and grinding. Yet last night I saw a sight which made me chuckle all the way home.

After Dizzee Rascal’s ‘Bonkers’ got the crowd in Oceana shouting “There’s nothing crazy ‘bout me!” like mentally ill patients convincing their parole officer they are equipped with enough sanity to buy a pint of milk, the opening guitar salvo of Bryan Adams’ ‘Summer of ‘69’ came over the sound system. The dancefloor looked bemused and everyone spent a few seconds looking curiously around the room, as if appreciating the architecture, searching for the source of what must be a practical joke. Bryan Adams was one of my first musical loves and even now I come over all funny when I hear one of his songs but to hear the Canadian’s throaty rasp in a club is something I never expected to countenance.

Either the DJ was doing it for a bet, I dreamt the whole thing or there is a secret soft-rock soft spot to the kind of person that three minutes before playing Adams’ most famous hit, shouted “Come on Brighton, let’s make some noise!” like the wankstain I thought he was.

There is a downside to this, as I decided to start singing along in the kind of way you would give instructions to a foreigner who is slow on the uptake, pronouncing every syllable as if I was using a poor voice recognition service – the kind that is useless because it’s supposed to recognise your natural voice and the last time I checked, WE. Don’t. ALL. SPEAK. Like. THIS.

Anyway, there I was, enjoying my three and a half minutes of Dadrock, mouthing all the words like a spiv (and remembering the time I discovered the sexual connotations of the word ‘69’, meaning the song lost its innocence) when the track was abruptly halted and replaced by fucking dubstep. I wasn’t best pleased because to my ears, dubstep is a repetitive wob-wob-wob which sounds like a tramp suffering from flu having aggressive sex with a plugged-in amp.

Only when you’re pissed can you be dancing with your hands in the air to a bit of Bryan Adams (just two vodka and red bulls away from getting out a lighter and waving it madly about like a Coldplay fan) and then find yourself, seconds later, dancing in an identical manner to a completely different genre.

Our group of lads were all drinking Jägerbombs, a rather strange drink containing a shot of Jägermeister surrounded by half a can of Red Bull. Individually, the drinks are sour and disgusting. Together, they’re a one-way ticket to dancing like a tosspot and becoming one of ‘those’ people for whom nothing but a walk home in the freezing cold can sort you out.

Usually on these nights, I end up leaving at an absurdly early time to catch the last train home but thanks to the startling ineptitude of the public transport system, there was a rail replacement bus at 1.30am.

Earlier in the night I necked four bottles of Weston’s Organic Cider, a mind-blowingly dry drink which leaves me walking around with my tongue hanging out, looking like an eager dog with its head out of the car window. This is what done for me, as I vaguely recall leaving the replacement bus at Polegate and walking the two hour journey home, shouting into thin air “If you voted Tory, you’re a cunt” because I was walking through a particularly Tory-looking suburb, with semi-detached houses containing a garage bigger than most people’s first flats.

If I’d have done that in Oceana I would have been kicked out by the surly looking bouncers, who I believe only talk into their walkie talkies to appear more threatening and on-the-pulse. They are probably exchanging blancmange recipes with their colleagues on the door. “Then you add the sugar, but make sure you stir it in properly… hold that thought… someone is being a dick, let me sort him out”.

I love that people who go out on any kind of regular basis pretend they know the bouncers or the bar workers in each club. Some lying so-and-so always has a sister or girlfriend or cousin or pet chinchilla that works in the bar and can get everyone in for free.

So you stand around outside freezing to death while they try and phone the respective person, only for them to be mysteriously not working or ill, until you have to admit defeat and pay the full whack because your lips have turned blue and you couldn’t be arsed to wear a jacket.

‘Tis the good life, young sir. Oh to be properly young and not notice these things.

FIFA follow the oil

After a sporting summer in which the England football team could have been outclassed by a flu-ridden German women’s volleyball squad, we can’t even bring football home and win the right to host the World Cup in 2018, losing out to Russia and Qatar – who will host the following tournament in 2022. I’m all for taking the World Cup to far-flung places and injecting some unpredictability into the bidding process but if things continue like this, the Isle Of Man stand a good chance of winning the rights for 2046.

I’m sure it’s not a coincidence that on the same day Russia were announced as World Cup hosts, Wikileaks released secret US cables detailing how the ambassadors of various nations believe Vladimir Putin’s Russia to be “a Mafia state”. Who knows what bribes were offered to bring the tournament to deepest, darkest, Eastern Europe but something tells me Roman Abramovich, Chelsea owner and one of the prominent faces of the bid, had to stroke a lot of sinister-looking white cats while in meetings with top FIFA executives to come out on top.

It is especially disappointing since Tweedle Dee (Prince William), Tweedle Dum (David Beckham) and Tweedle Tory Twat (David Cameron) were lobbying the FIFA voters intensely. According to Sepp Blatter, FIFA top bod, England’s bid was “excellent”. Yet in FIFA’s infinite wisdom, the tournament is awarded to a country which will have to build new stadiums, infrastructure and hotels from scratch and construct vast new railway systems, as most current proposed sites for stadiums are just a water well, three mud huts and a yak.

Even more astonishingly, the following tournament is to be held in Qatar, a bid which triumphed over the US, Australia, Japan and South Korea and promises to design stadiums with in-built air-conditioning to battle the high temperatures in the Middle East, before demolishing the sporting arenas and sending them to a third world country, which impressed the gullible executive committee.

Great. You’re a starving African child, struggling to get enough nutrition to stay alive, but wait! Some rich Arabs are giving you an air-conditioned football stadium! It’s not exactly Children In Need, is it?

So the tournament is following the gas in 2018 and the oil in 2022. Football was supposed to be a game the Yanks didn’t much care for, but favouring the producers of energy is straight from the US of A textbook on ‘How To Balls The World Up (Again)’. Mexico and America have had the World Cup three times between them since our famous home victory in 1966 and we were rejected in favour of the Germans in 2006. It’s a sad, sad time to be English.

Then again, the defeat could be seen as a relief, mainly because revelations in the past few months have seen FIFA embroiled in scandal. Two executive committee members were suspended after being accused of corruption by The Sunday Times. The chair of FIFA’s ethics committee, Claudio Sulser, nonetheless criticised the paper for being “sensationalist”. Surely suspending the members indicates that a serious breach of ethics must have taken place, yet Sulser deemed fit to criticise journalists doing their job of exposing corruption in high office. It’s like a policeman hunting down a murderer, witnessing the prosecution sentence the criminal to life behind bars, and then having the judge turn to the copper and say: “You’re actions were a bit sensationalist… The victim may have died but there wasn’t much blood and it was quickly cleaned away by a squirt of Cillit Bang”.

The BBC also aired a Panorama expose in which they alleged three more members of the FIFA executive committee had taken bribes totalling £64.2 million. However, England’s bid team were so desperate to win, they declared the BBC broadcast an “embarrassment” and pleaded with the corporation to show the investigation after the vote, for fear that it may influence some key decisions. Basically they were saying: “Call them all corrupt bastards once we have what we want but until then, mum’s the word”. Even The Sun, just months after its sister paper the News of the World splashed on a story of match-fixing in cricket, called the BBC “unpatriotic” for showing the film. How dare they expose serious corruption and fraud! How dare they put England’s chances of hosting a World Cup at risk! How dare they get to a story before we could to sell more papers!

And somehow people are sad we haven’t won. Like we don’t have enough corrupt, money-grabbing hate figures clogging up our corridors of power, eh?