Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Quiet please, you're looking at some art.

So behave properly. And no chewing.

Welcome to the first floor of London's National Portrait Gallery.

As you can see, it's not exactly crowded. As usual. That's because it's full of portraits and busts of lots of scary people. The sort of people who 'built the British Empire'. In other words, men with strange facial hair who went around the world shooting the local tribes for the crime of not having been at Eton.

Here's one of them...

Just look at those whiskers. I believe the correct anatomical term is 'bugger's grips'.

The type of man who was born to say things like:

"Some of these chaps actually live in mud huts."

It is of course a history lesson, which may well be another reason why it's never busy: the history of stern-faced men not having much hope of attracting the masses when set against crowd-pullers like the recent Hockney exhibition or photographs of the late Princess of Wales.

But if peace and quiet is your bag and, let's face it there's precious little of that in London, then this place could be your thang.

So, up the steps, turn right and leave the tourists and parties of school children asking if Paul McCartney's still alive far behind. Now enter a world of military heroes, cannons to the right of them, zulus to the left of them; eccentric scientists posing with skulls; frowns, moustaches, side-whiskers... and the undying belief that Britain was jolly well the best place on earth, and if you disagree we'll come and ruddy conquer you.

So there.

Monday, January 21, 2008


Very occasionally on the London Underground the advertising contractors will strip away the layers of posters all the way back to whatever it is they're pasted on to. I suppose they don't do it often because there's so much to get rid of but when they do it's like going back in time.

In this case, back to 1992. I suppose 16 years between bouts of cleaning isn't too bad by the standards of London's tube but I daresay they could manage it a little more regularly.

Anyway, at Piccadilly Circus station they've uncovered this romantic double-bill that was showing at the MGM cinema in Chelsea. Where the phone number began '071'.

I suppose that if the poster thus uncovered had not been advertising a cinema classic before it actually was one, it wouldn't be as interesting. Although, even if it was for something shit, it would at least give you the opportunity to wallow in nostalgia and think to yourself, "huh, I remember that shit".

Then again, what if they uncovered an old cigarette poster and didn't cover it for a while? Would London Underground be prosecuted for breaking the ban on tobacco advertising?

Sheesh, I guess anything's possible in this crazy world.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Has the year's best headline been written already?

I realise the 'best of' accolades are dished out in December but may I humbly submit what I consider to be an early front-runner in the 'Copy' section.

The writer has evidently got to the nub of the issue. Namely, what it means to be a terrier with an itchy arse.

He (ok, or she) has interrogated the product and hasn't been afraid to get his (or her) hands dirty in the search for ultimate truth.

A place on the podium should also be reserved for the art director and photographer who have worked their collective magic with the visual. They've managed to pull off that most tricky of artistic feats: capturing the look of intense irritation on a small dog's face as his anus plays merry hell for the umpteenth time.

The 17th century philosopher Thomas Hobbes is famous for his notion that life is 'nasty, brutish and short.' Perhaps he could have added that it's also a bugger if you're a small dog with worms.