Archive for the Observations Category

Poor old Mrs Woolie

Posted in Observations with tags on December 7, 2008 by James Osborn

Click to check if she's still breathing

So now you care, do you?  About the elderly neighbour who would let you play in her garden when you where little, and give you humbugs when you were playing out on your bike.  But who you came to gradually ignore – a nod if she was lucky when you passed her in the street – as she became ever more frail and increasingly… obsolete.

Time passed, and it didn’t occur to you that you might pop round, check if she was okay, enquire as to whether she needed anything.  Oh, except that time you needed to borrow a screwdriver.  And that time you lost your front door keys and, as a last resort, thought she might still have the spare set.

But then, one evening, a knock at the door.  It’s a doctor.  “She hasn’t long left, you know”, he revealed solemnly.  “She said she knew you and I wanted to see if you were around this week, perhaps check in on heGone but not forgottenr if you can?”

“Of course doctor, I didn’t even know she was ill.” 
“When did you last pop round?”
“Oh, let me see.. now you mention it, probably not since a couple of years ago – when I needed some Sellotape in an emergency.”

The next day you jump over the garden wall, just like old times, to visit her.  And there she is, stoic but slumped in an armchair and breathing laboriously.  She looks pleased to see you – and you’re glad to see her; an old friend from another time. 

But it’s too late.  You wish you’d come earlier, more frequently.  There’s nothing you can do now, and think only that if you’d realised sooner then it wouldn’t have had to be like this.  You say goodbye and, on your way out, pick up a couple of brooches from the sideboard by the door.  Slip them into your pocket.  Wish you’d visited sooner.  Oh well, nothing you can do now.


Too big to be allowed

Posted in Observations with tags on September 12, 2008 by James Osborn

I don’t know what the weather is like outside; I’m not sure I even know what day it is. I am poised at an unnatural angle, with my head and neck craned to try and gasp clean air. But all the air is sweet and dusty and it makes me feel sick. Pressing against me from both sides are the foul bodies of men and women I have never seen before and will never see again.

I try to take my jumper off but my hands are held down against my thighs and I can’t lift them up. There is a bottle of water in my bag that no one else knows about. Even if I could reach it I don’t think I could tip my head far enough back to take a sip. Time seems to have slowed, and if I don’t escape soon I think I will die here; die here alone with these men and women who, it seems, are already only half-human.

Ah, I hate the tube. People only put up with the brutal conditions because, as a means of transport, the tube is so bloody brilliant. Imagine being whisked across the metropolis in a matter of minutes – underground! There must be a catch. Indeed, sir. The snag of every excursion is that you are required to rub your freshly flannelled face into the grotesque, sweaty breasts of the world’s most unclean man.

They should have showers at the exits, although any such sensible move to try and improve conditions of hygiene and comfort might make each tube station seem rather too much like a voluntary extermination chamber, used only by people who hoped they hadn’t survived the journey because now they have to go to the office.

London, on the whole, is rather ridiculous and if you think about it too hard it makes you laugh nervously. It’s like a weird experiment that’s gone on for too long and now it can’t be stopped. It and its people will just get bigger and dirtier until the whole corpulent mass finally implodes when everyone decides that, really, it would be better to live in a normal town and get home from work before 9pm.

But Shelley said that Hell is a city much like London and, 200 years on, everyone’s still here. Shelley must think we’re idiots. And Shelley didn’t even have to get the tube.

Wholesome consumerism

Posted in Observations with tags , on August 16, 2008 by James Osborn


People aren’t buying much at the moment.  All the shops have sales on in a last chance bid to entice the indebted, who gaze longingly at the window displays.  Newspaper supplements are filled with features on self-sufficiency and going ‘off-grid’.  I’ve started making my own sandwiches.  Credit crunch cuisine.  I don’t know if it’s because I have less money than this time last year – if I do it’s because I’m drinking too much overpriced beer – but I like to join in with the collective sense of penniless foreboding.


Hans Aarsman has dived in head first by deciding to detail his credit crunch cut-backs in an exhibition at the Photographer’s Gallery, near Leicester Square.  Photography against consumerism is split in to two sections, one which captures in photograph several sentimental items owned but ‘got rid of’, and another which depicts items which the artist desired but did not purchase. 


On the basic level this is, as the photographer admits, an experiment in space saving –why let your grandmother’s figurine clutter up your house when it can exist quite easily in one-dimensional form on a memory stick.  This theory is less easily applied, however, to the exhibition’s second section; why bother to buy an espresso maker when you can make do with a picture of one in your kitchen instead.  Certainly space-saving, but he’ll soon get bored of water.  Perhaps he’s sold his taps too and is living off rain.


If this is, as the title suggests, an exhibition about (or against) consumerism, then it is problematic.  I can drink instant coffee, but I had no idea that in order to fight the capitalists I also had to throw out my dead grandfather’s binoculars. 


Aarsman did not include his camera in the exhibition, not even along with a guilty explanation about why he needed to keep it once he had finished creating the exhibition.  That would’ve been the ultimate; before putting it in the skip he would’ve had to take a photo of its sad face with a disposable.  Presumably he sees it as an extension of his own body, like a dog that paints with its paw.  But most likely it is because he, like many other people are not quite sure where the camera sits on the scale of relative frivolousness. 


Cameras are, to almost all of us, entirely nonessential.  But how many nonessential items can you think of that, say, a lawyer, a left-winger and your aunt would agree on as being a worthwhile purchase?  The camera is one of the few wholesome indulgences that even hippies can get away with, and disclosing one as a recent purchase receives a nod of approval from almost everyone, regardless of age or life outlook.


I’m sure that, as winter sets in, Mr Aarsman will wake up, a camera his only possession in the whole world, freezing cold and naked in a bin, down the road from where he last saw his parents as he ushered them into a disused garage, a rusty key clenched in his left fist, and wonder whether it was really all worth it just for a bit of space at the Photographer’s Gallery.  Anti-consumerism is a bit like drugs.  Fun for a bit, but when you see someone get really messed up it kind of puts you off.


I think I’ll start buying my sandwiches again.