I went on holiday:
I went on holiday:
I recently gave a talk at an event called The Lost Lectures. The Lost Lectures is a brilliant idea – a series of talks every couple of months, in a different venue each time. People talking, but talking in nice places.
My talk is sort of a handy guide to my entire aesthetic and everything I believe in. There’s a bit at the end – a particular line – which I accidentally skipped. I didn’t mean to, I think I was just glad to have got that far without humiliating myself too badly and in the excitement I missed a bit. So really, what you should do is watch the video right up until 11:44, then pause it, then say the following sentence in my voice:
Attention and focus and patience can take a sneeze and turn it into a page from a diary. It can take a packet of Munchies and turn it into a museum.
Here is a list of things and people mentioned in that talk (in approximate order of appearance):
“The transformative power of attention” – I’m going to use that phrase all the time. Where did that phrase come from? I must have stolen it from somewhere.
During yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions, David Cameron (the prime minister) responded to a question from Ed Miliband (leader of the opposition) by saying “as usual, he writes the questions before listening to the answers”:
As usual, he writes the questions before listening to the answers.
I found this quite a confusing statement. Surely it is impossible to do anything else? It is a consequence of the question/answer dynamic that the question must come before the answer.1 In fact, the answer only exists once there is a question to which it can be attached. An answer without a question is not an answer. It is just some words or numbers. The words may contain facts, or opinion, but they are just facts or opinion, not answers. “Kiki Dee” is just Kiki Dee. She is not an answer. She is a human. Someone needs to say “Which female singer recorded the 1976 hit single Don’t Go Breaking My Heart with Elton John?” first2.
Questions come first. Questions, then answers. Sometimes there aren’t even answers. The questions just float around, alone, for all eternity. Questions can exist independently of answers. This is why questions are best.
Of course, I have only shown part of David Cameron’s response in the above video. Here is another video which shows his response in a wider context. It’s a bit longer, but worth watching in full as it shows the standard of debate which takes place in the very heart of our democracy and the civility with which our elected leaders conduct themselves:
I imagine that what David Cameron meant is that Ed Miliband had written the next question before listening to previous answer. But “next” and “previous” are important words here. They are the difference between a statement making sense and a statement being gibberish. It would have been nice if just one Conservative backbencher, amid all of the jeering and cheering3, had shouted “Hold on, what the bloody hell are you going on about?”4
1. The quiz show “Jeopardy!” attempted to reverse this question/answer relationship, but really, the dynamic remained the same; it just involved a reworking of the related sentence structures to disguise questions as answers and vice versa (answers as questions).
2. This possibly isn’t a great example as I imagine someone has already said this. The answer is Kiki Dee, by the way.
3. I hate the way MPs always jeer at everything anyone ever says and pretend every retort uttered by their leader is the funniest thing they’ve ever heard. Even if it made sense “As usual, he writes the questions before he listens to the answers” would be a rubbish comeback. “Yo momma is so fat she writes the questions before she listens to the answers.” “My mother-in-law, my mother-in-law. I wouldn’t say my mother-in-law is ugly but she writes the questions before she listens to the answers.” Rubbish. Even Anne Robinson wouldn’t accept a line like that “Whose dog taught them to say ‘sausages’? Who gets fed by the pigeons? Who writes the questions before listening to the answers? It’s time to vote off the Weakest Link.” (both the “taught to say ‘sausages’” and “fed by the pigeons” lines are genuine by the way. Anne Robinson actually said that on television, and someone was paid to write it for her).
4. A question which is always worth asking.
I think Timothy Spall leaves an unneccessarily long pause between the words “It’s got our name on it” and “Wickes” in the current Wickes advert.
A while ago, I had an idea that maybe it would be interesting to take a day off work and spend the whole day at Waterloo station. I’d get up at the same time I normally get up to go to work. I’d get the same train I normally get, but then instead of getting the Bakerloo Line to Oxford Circus, I’d stay at Waterloo, then I’d get the same train I normally get in the evening on the way home. It would be brilliant. McDonalds for breakfast, maybe sushi from Wasabi for lunch. Dinner at Burger King.
The day started well. I arrived at the station, bought a paper from the WHSmith on the concourse, then went to McDonalds and had a Big Breakfast meal. After that, I had a little wander around and went to Costa to have a coffee. Another wander around and I went into Starbucks for another coffee. By about 12noon, when I’d been at the station for about three hours, I began to get a bit bored. I’d more or less exhausted all of the things you can do at Waterloo station by this time.
I sat on a seat and filmed people as they walked past:
As well as feeling bored, I began to feel a bit self-conscious by this point. Had a member of British Transport Police noticed I’d been lurking around the station all this time? How would I explain my actions? “I’m just… well, you see, this is what I do. I do things like this. I’m harmless.” Would they accept that? I thought of those people in Greece a few years ago who were taking photos of planes and got arrested. At least plane spotting is a semi-legitimate hobby. It’s not even as if I could claim I was train spotting, as I hadn’t paid any attention to any of the trains. At the most, I could claim I was train station spotting.
I was sick of coffee, so I went into the Wellesley for a pint. I sat in the corner and had only taken a couple of sips when there was an announcement:
Due to a reported emergency, would all passengers leave the station immediately.
People looked round at each other, sharing the same amused look you display when the fire alarm goes off at work. Is this a drill? A mistake? Do we have to actually leave the station? Is there a bomb? Everyone gathered outside, squeezing onto the narrow pavement on Station Approach Road. I suddenly got scared. What if someone had reported seeing me wandering around, taking photos and making little videos? What if I was the reported emergency? I kept expecting someone to tap me on the shoulder and say “Excuse me sir, would you mind answering a few questions?” I didn’t want to be sent to Guantanamo Bay.
After a few minutes, staff were allowed back into the station. Then, they let passengers back in as well. I went back to the Wellesley, finished my drink and left.