Posts Tagged ‘The Times’

We had reason to visit Horsham in West Sussex this weekend, a not too distant town, on a drop off mission and en route to somewhere else. Imagine how interested I was then that, quite by coincidence, I happened to read in the Times last Friday that Horsham is one of the happiest places to live in Britain. According to property experts. Well, what do they know?

Driving round the ring road nose to tail certainly doesn’t provide one with an immediate impression of happiness. Soulless buildings, a multitude of insurance head-offices with minimal corporate planting of unsuitable tropical greenery in dreary brick-built window boxes only serve to highlight how out of place such architecture is in a West Sussex market town. At least, that’s how the property experts market it: a Market Town. I wonder what constitutes a market town these days – a yokel in a white smock shepherding a herd of swine across a local stream with waddling geese in their wake, a loaded hay-wain in the background?  (I didn’t see any of those). Or a few barrels of cider and a cheese stall, displayed on straw to make it look rustically authentic?  Horsham would appear to favour the latter. (The fruit and veg stall we swiftly passed was selling Spanish strawberries and asparagus from Peru. But I’m getting ahead of myself here).

Eventually we arrived at a multi-story car park. Which was sporting a new ticketless parking system called Smart Park.

Oh, Horsham is nothing if not cutting edge. The technological advances pounced on by the local district council here knows no bounds.

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apologies for the poor quality – snapped quickly on my phone…

 

A camera photographs your number plate on entry and then all you have to do after a successful (or not) morning’s shopping, on your return to the car park, is remember your registration number. Because to release your car from this concrete hell hole you must tap your number into a machine, pay your dues and then, when you get to the exit barrier in your vehicle, your car will be automatically recognised and you’ll be let through. Allegedly.

 

In practise, it was utter chaos. In front of the only two machines were two snaking queues of glazed-eyed shoppers wearily waiting to key in their numbers behind other shoppers who had clearly forgotten theirs. They appeared as discombobulated as would-be apocalypse survivors, nervously jingling their change while mouthing a series of numbers and letters as if their lives depended on it.

When we eventually got back to our car we then had to wait in a jolting line of other vehicles attempting to make it through the barrier. One driver several cars ahead of us left his vehicle and remonstrated loudly with a young chap wearing a ‘happy to help’ high-viz jacket. Well, at least he was trying to promote happiness. I can’t imagine his feeling of well being will last long though, with constant verbal abuse from frustrated car drivers.

I counted four of these high-viz-happy-to-help attendants. How can that be cost effective? Surely one person, employed to replace a ticket roll and empty the machine, is a cheaper option than four people required to placate angry shoppers. Not to mention the cameras at bumper level that have been installed and connected to the state of the art machines that are causing all the angst amongst Horsham’s happy crowd.

Now, before any Horshamites take umbrage I’d like to make it clear that I have nothing against Horsham. I’m not criticising the place: it’s a perfectly nice town. It has all the shops you’d expect plus plenty of cafes and eateries. There is a bandstand around which several market stalls sell a range of produce. The buildings are a mix of old, not so old and new. I just don’t like their parking system. (Or the ring road but then to be fair, most places have one of those).  I’d still like to know what makes it a happier place to live than say, Guildford, which seems to me to be a reasonably happy place to be. Let’s just hope our Borough Council doesn’t adopt this Smart Park idea. Happiness could plummet over night.

 

 

 

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Do you buy a daily newspaper? I do, by force of habit – but I never read it properly – I skim and scan, as I learned in my early press office days.   We used to produce a list of relevant daily press cuttings for the company’s top brass to peruse at their leisure and while I quite enjoyed this exercise, I always secretly wondered why they couldn’t each take a different paper every morning and find their own articles of interest, and then swap them amongst themselves. It would have given them something to talk about at their endless board (bored) meetings.

 I always buy the Times because you get a reasonable view of what’s happening in the world without too much bias. That’s not to say that it doesn’t have a preferred leaning – all papers do – but I can see through that and I buy it for its legendary letters page and the Times Two pull-out entertainment and culture section where I can manage the smaller crossword in the time it takes to do a London commute and there is usually something worth reading.

So I was a little irked that the publication in which I have invested so much of my time and loyalty over the years, (not to mention hard cash), decided to run a series last week, telling its readers what they should be doing with their leisure time. Their ‘experts’ produced lists. Twenty films you should watch; twenty plays you should see; twenty paintings you should know; twenty-five books you should read and twenty classical works you really should have listened to.

Now, I read books all the time and I‘ve only managed seven of the titles on their higher than highbrow list. (This doesn’t necessarily mean I enjoyed them). The only two plays listed that I am able to agree are worth recommending were ‘Death of A Salesman’ by Arthur Miller and Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet.’ There were others on the list that I’ve seen but I certainly wouldn’t suggest anyone sitting through any of them. The film choices were so beyond belief that I’m not even going to mention them here and if you couldn’t pick out Masaccio’s ‘Expulsion from the Garden of Eden’ in a line up of early Renaissance works, then you’d definitely be at the bottom of the intellectual pile.

According to my paper of choice, I am an unenlightened philistine and have several years of hard reading/watching/contemplating to do before I can hold my own in polite cultural circles. How dare they? Who are these so-called ‘experts?’ It was the dictatorial ‘should’ on the title page that I found offensive. Why should I? I’ve never been good at being told what I should be doing, I know that, and some might consider it a flaw. I like to think of it as having a questioning and open mind.

I have pulled out these articles and am preparing to circulate them amongst my colleagues next week in an attempt to prove I’m not the only ignoramus in the staffroom. Meanwhile, I’ve thought about making a list of my own, but in no way will I expect you to have read or enjoyed the same things, and I’d be interested to hear what book/play/work of art/piece of music means something to you.

To kick off, here are a few books (in no particular order) that I’ve read and which have stayed in my head over the years, which must indicate that they mean something to me:

Peter Pan by JM Barrie

Sons and Lovers by DH Lawrence

The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen

Going Solo by Roald Dahl

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger

Earthly Powers by Anthony Burgess

The Lady of Shalott,1888, John William Waterhouse

The Lady of Shalott,1888, John William Waterhouse

The first painting that wowed me as a child was ‘The Lady of Shallott’ by JW Waterhouse and I have a soft spot for Van Gogh’s ‘Café Terrace at Night’ painted in Arles  because I’ve been there for coffee.

cafe-terrace-on-the-place-du-forum-arles-vincent-van-gogh-1369250548_org[1]

Café Terrace at Night, 1888, Vincent Van Gogh

There are so many other works of art to choose from there is no way I could write a definitive list of my favourites – and the Times didn’t include installation art or sculpture – hey, what do they know, anyway.

Film wise, Cabaret would be right up there, along with The Great Escape, The Killing Fields, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,  Saving Private Ryan, Forrest Gump and The Deer Hunter with Toy Story as a surprising late entry. (There is a Tom Hanks theme emerging,  for which I make no apologies).

So meanwhile, as I’m wallowing in the mire that apparently is my cultural wasteland, what would be on your list?

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