“Eh-oh, Laa-Laa”

‘In this sense, & in lots of others, the UK outdoors has been moved relentlessly indoors over the last two and half decades.’ Indeed. And in a related shift, so the indoors has been moved relentlessly outdoors.


We now carpet outdoor space with special fibres so that little Jane won’t dirty her knees or her frock and exhausted Mummy won’t have to spend so much time bent over the washing-machine and the tumble-dryer, known as the teletumble-dryer in a household near you. Up my street, at least one set of parents has turned their small London back garden (which might once have been referred to as a yard since it’s no larger than about 18ft x15ft) into a teletubbies play-pen. I want to say a real-life teletubbies play-pen but I resist since teletubbies aren’t really real-life, are they. Are they? Where most might once have laid a lawn, today’s parents lay astro-turf. These parents have also built their kids a sort of tele-castle. Made from medium-density fibreboard, it’s about five feet high and includes an arch that a small child could walk through as if entering a castle. The garden also has a small mound a little like (but not that like) the ‘real’ teletubbies garden. You are left in no doubt as to where the inspiration came from. And that thought always makes me picture these parents spending hours watching the real teletubbies – for their fully mature inspiration.

teletubby 2

I recoiled with a deep and instinctive revulsion when I first saw this local garden, and have sought support for my feelings with other adults nearby. Why would anyone build that for their kids? Don’t the parents want to enjoy the garden too? Do parents really want their kids to grow up thinking that real life is teletubby life? I might have added (but it only strikes me as I write now), Do parents today want their kids to grow up? What has shocked me most have been the responses from other grown-ups, people in the main I’ve always thought, until recently, are perfectly down-to-earth and rational beings. Almost without fail, they have said things like: It’s a great idea! The kids must love it! If I’d had the idea when my lot had been younger, I’d have done the same. So I’ve begun quizzing people I meet and friends I know with children of tele-age what they make of the notion of a real-life teletubby back garden. And I have discovered that there are hundreds of people out there who are planning on treading the same path – or turf. Even a scientist I know (someone who understands string theory so well they write papers deconstructing it and then reconstructing it and then presenting it to teenagers and others who haven’t a clue) is investing in, well ok not quite a teletubby garden but an astro-turf play space for the child.

Perhaps, though, there is little difference between a garden that is laid in astro-turf for the sprog to a garden laid in decking for the lazy adult who can’t get its head around mowing a lawn the same size as the lounge. It’s so much easier to hoover it, don’t you see?

Now why didn’t I think of that?

The turf is about control of space and nature and whatever we still might imagine (if we have any imagination left, beyond that inspired by Laa-Laa, Tinky Winky, Dipsy & Po) the wild might be. The teletubby garden is surely about control of human personality with parental thinking following some set of ideas about what makes a child happy and what will stop my child (a) joining a gang, (b) taking drugs, (c) hating me when it’s a teenager, (d) still hating me when it’s an adult. The fear of what the world is, what life is, and the inevitable gaze into that void is reducing ever larger numbers of adults, especially those of us living in what’s dubbed The Western World, into some sort of terrified (or even telefied) blot of blubber in which we seek to fend off the growing number of crises by retreating into astroturf tele-world. In fact, what upsets me most of all about my local teletubbers is the way in which their children’s play-pen emerges seamlessly out of their very grown-up, modern kitchen worth (a word I use lightly here) several tens of thousands of pounds. There is no divide between teleturf land and the Italian marbled balsamic world of dinner parties and dreary discussions about the state we’re in. The very adult kitchen is at once babyish back garden. Which, when you come to think about our lives, is about right.


august 09 053

all an atheist can hope for

I’m enjoying a lot of music again, forgetting how much I used to listen to music then stopped listening and now am listening again. I heard Soweto Kinch at a Patrick Neate booklaunch a cupplamunthsago, and enjoyed. I wasn’t so keen on Neate’s book, Jerusalem. He’s a bold and brave writer but the book left me with nothing to take away and progress with. Sorry Mr Neate. And I’ve dug out my old Jan Garbarek albums which I used to listen to at SOAS during my masters year there. He was by far at his best in the 1970s, methinks, with the likes of Afric Pepperbird (1970). Twelve Moons (1992) is just plain irritating and I don’t even know why I bought it other than as some kind of come-down post Shoreditch Whirlygig as it was then (when I realised that Ecstasy was very much loved by Margaret Thatcher and this was why the coppers across the road never raided the club).

Reading: Austerlitz, W.G. Sebald and Germs, Dai Vaughan, and other bits and pieces. I keep thinking I’m reading Fugitive Pieces whilst reading Austerlitz.

BT customer care

‘Hello. I’m moving house and I’d like to take my phone number with me.’

‘Sure . . .

‘Running through the checks on your new house, it doesn’t appear to have a BT line.’

‘Oh dear.’

‘But don’t worry because one of our engineers can put one in for £122.50 spread out across the year into your normal bill so you won’t really notice.’

‘Right. That sounds quite expensive all the same.’

‘But if you want cable TV, we’ll include that in the price.’

‘That would be great but we don’t have a TV. We gave it away a week ago.’

‘I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t have a TV. How did you do it? Why did you do it?’

‘We realised that we don’t watch it enough or when we do, we watch it too much and it’s usually rubbish. I miss Channel Four news a bit though.’

‘I could never give my telly away. It’s my life. I simply couldn’t do it. It’s what I do every night – I watch the telly.’

He laughs nervously then says very seriously, ‘I’d rather die than live without a telly.’

world brand programme

I must sign up to that anger management programme this week.


a marxist revolutionary married a woman

in white

in a church just a few months after

Iain Sinclair agreed to work for Audi and

a couple

of weeks before Evan Davis muttered patronisingly about the impunity of another one of

these corrupt African leaders

so unlike

all those other leaders like

Kissinger (and here and here and here)

who John Humphreys juxtaposed in another context


the Today team apparently

never noticing the irony or

downright ignorance and


of their foolish presenters and editors

during the last three minutes of their morning show today. So

a couple of ex-BBC journos promoting aid agency branding

in Eastern Congo whilst

Alain de Botton

scrabbles about to give Heathrow a boost



not worth getting angry about.

sensitive group sex

Back to the Vortex in Dalston for the second time in a less than a single week, drawn like a paper clip to the magnet that is Hannah Marshall’s musical talents. This time she was playing with Mopomoso (also here), for what has been dubbed Fete Quaqua. You can catch these miraculous musicians at the Vortex tonight, the last night they are playing in this three-day festival. It’s just a tenner if you’re waged or seven if you’ve been caught in a credit crisis crunch or some other kind of life crunch.

If you can’t get there, fear not. You can have a watch and a listen here in which the whole clan – that’s John Russel feeling up guitar, Jean Bordé climbing all over double bass, John Butcher training a saxophone in yoga, Luo Chao-yun tickling pipa, Lol Coxhill contemplating his soprano (I think) saxophone, Satoko Fukuda singing to her violin, Shabaka Hutchings coaxing reeds, Henry Lowther blowing trumpet, Hannah (hooray!) Marshall corking cello, Angelika Sheridan flying fingers on flutes, Pat Thomas rumbling keyboards, Ute Völker slamming accordion and last but so obviously not least it’s outrageous, the phenomenal Sabu Toyozumi recreating percussion – are playing. Or go here to see four of them. And for a real paper spectacular – one which all children should watch before they are boxed in by unimaginative education methods – unreal insists that you watch the video featured in this post. Fucking great. And well done to Helen Petts for her excellent video work (go here too).