Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Bloggers Block, and why it never happens if you work at a certain online news site

What with not having spent much time in London over the past few months I've been struggling to get back into my former city blogging patterns.  Being frantically busy at work has not much helped either, thus every spare moment on the bus is taken up by worrying about programme reports and fieldwork data, not by devising fascinating blog topics.  Right now I am marooned in Copenhagen, amidst weather that can only be described as 'classic Danish crime thriller gloom', freaking out about tomorrow when I will have to run a day-long workshop with many, many people all a hell of a lot more competent and experienced than I.  All on my own.  And I've had no supper.  So I'm grumpy as well as stressed.

So naturally, rather than prepare my presentation slides I would rather apologise for my lack of blogging of late.  And proffer instead yet another thing I wasted time on several days ago when I was also NOT BLOGGING.  Because as I cursed my Bloggers Block I realised that there's one place where online writing is so, so easy and simple that the new content just keeps on coming.  (The site's name rhymes with by the way.)  Sure, nothing on this site may feel entirely new, due to its ridiculously formulaic style, but the turnover of content is undeniably impressive.  Give me an article headline and I could write the whole thing with my eyes closed, recalling the mindlessly cliched choice phrases used over and over again.  It would be word perfect.  All you need is a handful of paparazzi shots and away you go.  Take one photo, young online journalist, and work your way through a simple question tree.  Et voila! Un blogpost...

Sunday, 4 November 2012

The pub on the corner

The pub sits beside a junction in Holloway, but there are plenty of seedy corners of London in which it would not look out of place.  From the outside it looks large and square and blank.  It feels oddly uninhabited, despite the business - which appears to be fully operational - housed within the building.  Its dirty walls, accessorised with red trim, were probably once painted cream.  Twisted brackets for hanging baskets screwed to the side of the building are entirely free of anything green or flowery.  Multiple British flags dangle limply outside, but this vexilloid show feels less like national pride and more like a threat or a warning to stay away if you're not a certain kind of person.  A sign running around the top of the pub invites patrons to 'Eat. Meet. Drink. Chat.'  Each time I pass the pub I mentally re-write this: 'Drink. Argue. Leer. Fight.'    

Once or twice I've heard music blaring out from the place (although some nights the pub is so quiet you would be forgiven for thinking it was closed), and through a fire door propped ajar I have caught a glimpse inside; peeling wallpaper, broken floorboards, bare walls, empty tables.  Through the blacked-out windows you can see nothing.  It is not the sort of place you would pop into for a cosy pint and a leisurely perusal of the Sunday papers.
A pathetic-looking 'beer garden' at the front of the pub features a collection of picnic benches, cracked concrete slabs and usually a huddle or two of smoking patrons.  I wonder whether these patrons are being created by way of a cloning machine in the back bar - there is only one kind of person who seems to frequent this pub.  He is male, white, with a close-cropped head, several days of stubble across his chin, and an 'England' tattoo on his arm.  Often he has a murderous-looking dog on a chain held in the hand that is not busy transferring a pint or a cigarette to his lips. 

Despite the fact that the pub sits on one of the more populated sections of my late-night walk home, I always feel uneasy walking alongside this building.  And not just because of the leering, tattooed men; none of whom is less than about forty, or capable of summoning up a better heckle than "Alright, darlin'?".  There is just something creepy about this place.  I quicken my pace and keep my head down as I walk on by.
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