Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Backstreet Nutritionists

You can tell a lot about a place by looking at its retail topography. The centre of any town or city is a combination of the usual high street homogeneity (Boots, Body Shop, Argos…) blended with local shops. Sunderland shows its true colours by the nature of the local shops wedged in with the big names: ‘the pie shop’, Greggs (6 at least), ‘Poundland’, ‘Supercigs’.

There is a branch of Holland & Barrett, but it is hidden away down an obscure backstreet – the kind of location usually reserved for sex shops. Healthy eaters tend to walk past a couple of times (raincoated) waiting for a moment when the street is almost deserted before dashing in. The local gossips tend to be merciless if someone is seen frequenting the shop and life can become very difficult at ‘the club’.

Local bodybuilders do use the shop to buy protein powder and this seems to be accepted. These shoppers usually decline the offer of a bag, so that the nature of their purchase is clear to see on the street. The more insecure among them are inclined to emphasise their contempt for the seedy world of health food by growling at passers-by and flexing their biceps as they leave.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

That's where the art will go....

I was coerced into attending some more irrelevant training this morning. The purpose of the session was to update staff on the progress of a new ‘Single System’ – an attempt to bring together all the various current strands of red tape and combine them to make one big, fat strand of red tape. This has taken a whole family tree of subgroups and well over a year to reach a stage at which the ‘update’ was able to tell us that the launch of this procedural panacea was still well over a year away. I suspected that some people in the room would no longer have all their faculties by the time the system was ‘live’ – indeed, they might not even be ‘live’ themselves.

The presentation was painfully dull – with moments of inadvertent hilarity. Notably, we were told that the new system would feature ‘art’. Space had been made at the top of the red tape screens for the inclusion of ‘art’.

‘And see where that sunflower is at the moment….that’s where the art will go. You can even choose which kind of art you want to see while you’re working.’

Bite-sized art for the rd tape monkeys of the art system – how thoughtful. We were then made privy to the high-level thinking behind this innovation.

‘They’ve done that because they reckon ‘Art’s good for the Arts Council’.’

There were a few titters at that point, but not the great clamour of derision that this statement deserved. It could, on reflection, have been a very cunning way to keep the listeners’ attention – moments earlier I had been toying with the idea of jabbing my leg with my car keys.