Thursday, November 06, 2008

John Peel was once asked what was the strangest place he'd had sex. He replied "Ipswich". After some of my experiences there today, I have a rough idea what he meant. I'd made the journey down on the East Suffolk line to be interviewed by Luke Deal on his BBC Radio Suffolk afternoon show. That bit was good fun, but train timetables meant that I'd arrived with an hour and a half to spare. So, I'd popped to a pub for some lunch. I stood at the bar, watching people come and go, turning up after me, but getting served ahead of me. Maybe I'm exaggerating, but I must have spent five full minutes being bypassed. When, eventually, nobody else was around and the barman deigned to serve me, I thought about it as a game of soldiers and just said "No thanks. I'm going to go somewhere else".

Looking for alternative sustenance, I passed a fish and chip shop on my bike, and decided that I suddenly fancied saveloy and chips. As I placed my order, the chief fryer gave me a quizzical look. "You want saveloys? You mean the red sausages?". As I was hungry, feeling unaccountably charitable and not reckoning much on a stranger's mucus as a condiment, I bit my tongue and nodded, but surely a saveloy is a saveloy and a sausage is a sausage?

As I sat on a nearby wall, eating my (very nice) red sausage, chips and mushy peas, I noticed a superb poster in a newsagent's window. This one, in fact.

In the shorthand of headline writing, putting something in quotes means that "we've heard this, and nobody will confirm it, but we're desperate so we're printing it anyway". Similarly, a question mark indicates that they're making it up as they go along. In this case, the Ipswich Evening Star was trying desperately to find a local angle on the big international story of the moment. Of course, the headline is designed to make the casual viewer think that the leader of the free world may be about to enjoy a break on the Norfolk Broads before taking office. On closer inspection, it turns out that Obama might land at Stansted on his first official visit to Britain, before being whisked to London as soon as humanly possible. Anyway, the poster made me laugh, and I hope it amuses you a bit too.

What happened next wasn't so jolly. Having taken the picture, I was approached by a chap in a hoodie, his eye movements indicating that his bloodstream contained something stronger than 2 jumbo saveloys, chips, peas and a can of ginger beer. "Are you taking my picture?" he asked in a threatening tone of voice. "No," I replied. "You were taking my picture," he continued. Taking great care to maintain a vice-like grip on the camera (street value: unknown), I showed him my picture on the preview screen, and reassured him that I had not and would never want to take his picture. By this time, he'd been joined by a motley crew of smackheads of both sexes, all bollocking on about how taking pictures of people in the street was against the law and an infringement of their civil liberties. I know, the irony wasn't lost on me, but I settled for staring at them quite hard (something were too whacked to achieve in return) before moving on. I was, however, boiling with rage.

I live in the same county, but Ipswich would appear to be a different world.


Robin Carmody said...

Very much like going from, say, Whitstable to Dartford, that last bit.

That headline reminds me of the Lancashire Evening Telegraph's headline on 12th September 2001 (I knew it was worth keeping back copies of Private Eye): "US ATTACKS: BLACKBURN STUDENT'S PLANE GROUNDED".

I wonder if the Eye will now run a feature called "Obamaballs"?

LF Barfe said...

Almost: Southwold to Ipswich is the equivalent of Whitstable to Dartford. Lowestoft is more of a Margate or Herne Bay. But yes, same principle.

If the Eye does start Obamaballs, it will have plenty of material. Having been through something quite like it in 1997 and been bitten shortly afterwards, I can't buy into the current mass rejoicing. He was emphatically the better option, but I very much doubt he's the saviour of the world, as some appear to believe.

Robin Carmody said...

No doubt you've seen this already, but the Eye *is* now doing Obamaballs. And fuck me, they've got some crackers: from the utterly bizarre (the British Transport Police saying that football fans might behave better on trains because he'd won - WTF?) to the genuinely enraging (Michael Gove claiming kinship between the NuTories and Obama, for fuck's fucking sake).