I sometimes worry that my approach to life lacks a certain seriousness – and, more recently, that I may be passing this deep inner frivolousness onto others. This blog is clearly one vehicle for such transmission but I fear that the contagion hazard is far higher if one is directly, physically exposed to the author on a regular basis. At the time of writing, there is no known vaccine to protect against such exposure – but I like to hope that in a laboratory (somewhere) scientists are developing weaker versions of the author that can be used to inoculate those at particularly high risk. In the remainder of this post, I will use yesterday to illustrate the potential scale of the problem to act as a spur to funding agencies and government to take the issue seriously…
The day started seriously enough with an update on my mother’s condition: which is unclear but does not seem at all good. I suppose this event might give some explanatory context to the rest of the day: though, I’m not aware of it having any direct bearing on my foolishness.
In the morning, I (or, more accurately, my robotic assistant) prepared the dough to make a batch of bread rolls. These needed to be left to prove around lunch-time and I used this opportunity – and my desire to impose meaningless thematic unity on my life – to go and see an actual Rolls. This rather fine, if impractically large, motor from the early 90s was delivering a version of the Queen to NST City as part of the build-up to their staging of The Audience which starts later this week. This was a gloriously surreal experience as the actor playing the Queen arrived in fine style to be greeted by a class of primary school children and staff from NST waving Union Jacks accompanied by a few bemused passers-by. The Rolls itself is was somewhat famous having had a starring role delivering other ersatz Queens on both our cinema and TV screens. On this occasion, “Her Majesty” was accompanied not just by a chauffeur, an equerry and a footman but also by a stuffed, plush corgi: this final arrival, if I’m honest, rather upstaged its human companions. She also came equipped with a rather modest sceptre, which I believe was sourced from Ann Summers: who, as yet, lack a Royal Warrant of Appointment – I assume the royals must be looking elsewhere for their expertise in sexual innovation…
The afternoon was spent relatively sensibly, though on bumping into a friend while enjoying the sunshine on the Common I did somehow become embroiled on a conversation on Fleming’s Left (or Right) Hand Grip Rule. As a result, I did feel compelled to remind myself of the details: something I had last covered in the early eighties.
The early evening was spend at a Pint of Science event, among other things having my first experience of virtual reality in a fabricated Alpine landscape designed to create a safe space for cancer patients where they can improve their abilities at self-compassion. After this, I wandered over to the Guide Dog to continue with the pint theme, but transition from science to music. This is where matters started to spiral out of control and draw in, relatively, innocent bystanders.
The musical gathering I was attending is known as the Southampton Swing Steady Session: a reference to the swing-style of music being played. In attempting to post about the fun on Facebook, I attempted to “check-in” to the event and in doing so entered the character stream “southampton swing”. At this point, I did not find the desired event but did find the Southampton Swingers Association. This, of itself, was enough to make me giggle (look, I did grow up – if at all – in the seventies) but Facebook provided further information which transmuted my titters into guffaws. The SSA has not been the rip-roaring success that its founders might have hoped, as Facebook reported that only two people had ever checked-in. I can’t help feeling that this is not enough for a successful night of swinging: you may throw your keys into a bowl but you will still find yourself driving home with the person you came with. I was sorely tempted to check-in, just to give the other two members hope – but then decided that this was just too cruel… Trying to put a more positive spin on matters, perhaps the SSA’s members are so busy swinging that they are just too sweaty, or lack the time or free hand(s), to update their social media presence with all their gene-flow high jinx.
It was not long after the swinging incident, during a break in the music, that a friend – and member of the musical throng – announced a plan to leverage his possession of an Instagram account to eschew traditional, pensionable employ in favour of becoming an influencer. So far, so 2019 (or at least 2017) you may think. However, his choice of the domain on which he was going to bring his influence to bear came as something of a surprise: cockles. Far be it from me to malign the economic analysis of another, but I am far from convinced that ‘big cockle’ has the financial mussel (sorry, muscle), or marketing budget, to support an influencer in the manner to which he might wish to become accustomed. Cockles themselves certainly have no head for business: or indeed for anything else.
His choice has the advantage that competition on Instagram will be limited (though more than 10,000 posts do somewhat give the lie to my theory): so the mantle of the world’s premier cockle influence is very much his oyster! However, as a regular visitor to Dublin, I am all too aware that reliance on big cockle (even with additional support from big mussel) for your income does not always end happily: just ask poor Molly Malone. She may have been immortalised in busty bronze (known to the locals as ‘The Tart with the Cart’) but neither her embrace of the seafood business nor her sweetness were enough to save her from an untimely death.
On the plus side, our proto-influencer did recognise that not everyone is ready to accept cockles into their lives (and more importantly mouths and digestive tracts) for reasons of health, religion or morality and so was also willing to act as a mouthpiece for the cockle’s more vegetative counterpart/stunt double: the chickpea. However, I fear that the chickpea already possesses a range of cheerleaders celebrating its many merits across social media and the message about its use as a cockle-substitute may be lost. Perhaps if each chickpea were given a pair of artificial ‘shells’ – ribbed (and possibly branded) for your viewing pleasure – it would allow it to stand out from the hordes of naked chickpeas not being touted as a cockle-ternative? (BTW: I am claiming the intellectual property rights on the neologism cockle-ternative: I suspect it may have applications beyond seafood.)
The evening’s final foolishness was the elaboration of a marketing plan for (N)YTMG originally developed on Saturday thanks to the ministrations of the Steam Town and Red Cat breweries (though remembered by only one of its parents, viz me). In addition to the red rotating light, tea tray and guerrilla film crew (or at least camera operator) originally envisaged, this project now also requires a substantial cast of extras and at least one (preferably two) brass bands. If we manage to pull this ambitious – and completely ridiculous – project off, I have hopes that it could go pandemically viral and eclipse any level of influence big cockle could hope for in its most fevered of dreams. I like to think it could put Southampton and its music scene on the map (or at least a map and/or watch-list).
I think we can now all agree that the concerns expressed in the opening paragraph are totally overblown and it is entirely safe to associate with the author: both through this blog and in person…