Wednesday, 26 December 2007

Radical carol singing

Last Saturday I went carol singing with the Slackers choir. We sing Christmas carols with the lyrics changed to critique the consumerist angle of Christmas. Here's some of the lyrics:

To the tune of Little Town of Bethlehem
Oh gentle folk of London Town
Think how they feed us lies
All through the streets the shops compete
Urging us to buy and buy
Whilst elsewhere explodeth
Another bomb tonight
As innocents fall
Were in the shopping mall
This doesn’t quite seem right.

Spend all our cash, we’re feeling flash
As the queues continue to grow
Buying luxury goods and loads of food
for folks we hardly know
Whilst in so many places
The people starve and die
As I carve my bird
It’s quite absurd
that we buy into this lie

Then at new year the sales appear
And everything’s reduced
In store we see new product lines
And know that we’ve been duped
We wish that we had waited
Until now to buy
The model’s been updated
It makes us want to cry.

To the tune of Once in Royal David’s City
Once in dirty London City
Stood a huge big fuck off shop
Where they sold their goods aplenty
And the shopping did not stop
Branded bags all overflowing
All their savings quickly going
Thus consumerism wild
Yule’s cheer message has defiled
Thus consumerism wild
Yule’s cheer message has defiled

To the tune of Silent Night
Silent night holy night
Bombs go boom,Soldiers fight
Round the stores the suckers trawl
Buying crap for one and all
Shop until you drop
Shop until you drop

To the tune of Oh Come All Ye Faithful
Oh come all ye shoppers
Burdened and despondent
Come all ye followers of ma-a-mon
Come and buy things
Sparkly and redundant

Oh come let us ignore it
Oh come let us deplore it
Oh come let us abhor it
Money and greed.

Ring tills with profit
Ring in exploitation
Ring all ye registers of capitalism
Glory to profit
At it’s highest

Oh come let us ignore it
Oh come let us deplore it
Oh come let us abhor it
Money and greed.

To the tune of Away in a Manger
Away in a sweatshop
A pittance for pay
Work under age children
With no time to play
Making trainers and T-shirts
And luxury goods
Threatened with violence
And given no food

The stars in the media
Encourage our greed
Making us want things we don’t really need
Wasting resources
And coercing our brains
Using up carbon with little to gain.

We started out in Carnaby St and soon had an appreciative audience of tired shoppers...
Then we stood in the queue for coffee at Starbucks and after a few minutes we started to sing. The queue moved up gradually; when I got to the part of the counter where you order, I just kept singing. The staff were so sweet, they offered us free coffee. The others, as hardened anti-capitalists,  fled, but I felt it would be rude to refuse. Afterwards I was criticized for having drunk 'capitalist brew'. The incriminating video footage is on Indymedia.
Next stop was the Apple store, Regent St. We mounted the glass stairs to the first floor and serenaded the shoppers. The Apple staff were not cool with it. Handled it alot worse than Starbucks. Which is strange cos the whole ethos of Apple is that they are alternative. (In fact I did a quick poll amongst us and over half of our activist crew use Apple products). The security guy was getting quite angry. I said to him "Just chill. The more you chill, the sooner we will be gone". Shaking slightly, he said " If I don't get you out, I'll be sacked". I felt kind of guilty then. As we were being pushed out of the shop I said " well you know I'm an Apple user... I'm a customer actually and you shouldn't treat us like this". 
We moved onto Nike town, House of Fraser and Selfridges. House of Fraser were cool, took absolutely no notice of us, partly because they have hardly any customers. In fact I have to admit that in all my years in London, I've never even been in that shop before. Nike town, one guy told me I had the voice of an angel. With a straight face he claimed he thought I was Charlotte Church for a minute.  
Selfridges had a scruffy dyke push us out from behind. I have to say it was quite difficult to concentrate on being anti-consumerist with so many shopping goodies winking at us. Selfridges had an amazing gold brass bath tub that cost £22, 000. 
Naturally my darling teenager stayed home. She didn't want a repeat of last year when she was hugely embarrassed by us in her favourite shop Topshop. I was practically arrested while she skulked in the designer handbag section. 
I do love singing carols...
Update: MacUser and Apple news ran stories saying that we left firecrackers outside their shop half an hour later and caused mayhem. Many people commented on how irresponsible we were and what a terrible way to make our point. I posted on both sites saying that the report was untrue. We were at another shop at that time and that as we were all peace activists, there was no way we would do something like that. So either Apple mac was lying or it was another group altogether! 

Boxing day in London

Saw Beowulf in Leicester Square. Very good, the special effects were impressive and we got to keep the 3D glasses. Ray Winstone did the voice for Beowulf but did not look like him. A hunky great viking rather than a podgy East Ender. 
On the way home, the bus was full of returning shoppers from the sales. There was a huge tiger on the bus, taking up several seats. I wanted to ask the little boy who was its owner if he had paid  for the tigers seats.
When we got home I made cheese fondue. Then we watched Ballet Shoes, one of my favourite books. So disappointed. They put romance in...Garnie gets off with a lodger! Posy clearly couldn't dance and all the children were far too old to play their parts. The story kept jumping. Bloody awful production.
On the news we saw that another tiger had escaped and had killed somebody in California. 

Monday, 24 December 2007

Christmas eve

Well it's just me and my kid. We are huddled on the sofa, heating on full, a blanket thrown over our legs. Each of us has a mac book on our laps. We've watched Gordon Ramsey kick arse in Kitchen Nightmares (US). We've had a big bowl of garlicky tomato sauce on pasta. I've had a kir and a whisky. 
Later I will wrap her presents...she's already had the laptop. I've been to Primark and bought some sweaters, socks, pyjamas and beads. At Fenwicks I got her a little black sequin shrug. Today we went to Topshop with my mum and got her a little black dress. After all every girl needs one, she's almost 14 now... And a cool shiny tuxedo, reduced from 50 quid to 25 and some nice purple lace ups with  3 inch heel. My little girl is growing up. But still it's sickening to go shopping with someone who is a size 6 (size 2 in the states). 

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Parent Teacher Meeting

Last night I went to my teenager's Parent Teacher meeting. Started crying my eyes out after the first teacher, a particularly hatchet faced French women who teaches SVT (Sciences de la vie et de la terre). She made it clear that my child was an utter disappointment. I struggled to hold in the tears for the next session. 
Most parents are Francophile. French mothers are thin, chic and wear velvet-covered hairbands.  They wear a lot of navy and are still tanned from various holidays. The men wear pink shirts and carry expensive looking satchels that look suspiciously like handbags. Other English mums don't come, having the choice to send in their French husbands. 
I'm on my own as usual. I scan the hallways for the next teacher. We have appointments at 15 minute intervals.
Then came a long evening with a selection of teachers saying that my teenager is lazy, arrogant, rude, doesn't work, doesn't listen, is overly physical with boys in school etc.
Some of this criticism was in French. 
"Elle ne travaille pas."
"Elle ne participe pas". 
Worse, considering all the years and money I have spent in ensuring she gets a bilingual education: 
"Elle ne parle pas le francais".
The real low point came when her male music teacher, almost sobbing, said that boys were 'bluetoothing' nude photographs of themselves to her mobile phone. In class. Great.
Everybody else seems to have perfect kids. 

OK. take it all back. mac sorted me out handsomely with a 20% discount so all is forgiven!
I have been working on the photos that I took this summer on our travels to Mexico, Guatemala and Utila, Honduras. 
The only bit my teenager liked was learning to Scuba dive in Utila. 
She tolerated the Guatemalan jungle, mainly because we stayed at a guest house which you had to get to by boat and there was another teenager. She would have preferred to be in London in the rain, on her computer.
The live volcano left her cold. Even though we toasted marshmallows and sweet corn on the lava. The sound of a lava flow is like aluminium cans being crushed.
The brightly hued weavings and artesania's were dull.
The Mexican food she hated except for Guacamole (a new addition to her very limited diet). 
Her Spanish didn't improve either. 

Monday, 3 December 2007

apple mac's terrible customer services

I've been a mac user since 1992. I don't even know how to use a p.c. But since the ipod came out the customer service has gone down the drain. 
Last friday I went to the Brent Cross apple mac shop to buy my daughter a laptop for xmas. My card was declined. They put it through 3 times. Declined each time. I insisted on calling the credit card company. I'd been charged 4 times. The mac shop disagreed and refused to refund me or give me the laptop, saying i had to return the next day to sort it out.
Over the weekend they sent me emails confirming that they are in the right and i haven't been charged. The credit card company equally insist that they are right and that I have been charged 4 times. I'm out of pocket by £2,600 and have no laptop. 
Called apple mac help line: "no we are the manufacturers and we can't help you." I insist. " Well then you have to get your statement and prove that you have been charged 4 times." Stifling an inward scream of indigation and frustration, I say "well that will be after christmas which is no good to me, plus i'm a customer, and why should i be running around when obviously your system has a fault!". 
I'm still waiting for an answer to that one.