Boris Johnson, King of the Cornflake People, Mayor of your City

The Tories don’t like nuance. For a start it’s too nuanced. They like to put a finger in the air and then let you have their certain conclusions. The mild mannered expert, the academic, emailing a hefty, nuanced report is just a wishy-washy bothersome waste of time.

And we know what time is.

It’s obvious to say, but the Tories do like money. They trust things that make money. Just as they are confused by and distrustful of things that don’t.

The NHS, old people, the unemployed, art galleries, forests, foreigners, spare bedrooms, academics writing hefty reports or trying to preserving wildlife, or cyclists – to people like Boris Johnson, these things are all deeply suspicious.

When Boris talked openly about lovely old greed, and the natural order, and the Good Samaritan being necessarily a wealthy man (ergo even Jesus Christ likes greed), and the tax-avoiding true-Brit Margret Thatcher  being an inspiration, and people with high IQ’s being the natural engine behind economic success in London, it’s difficult to know which of his dim-witted delusions to think about first.

Just equating money-making with high a IQ, brainy equals rich, is profoundly simplistic. As is equating people to cornflakes that rise or fall in the packet.

Boris overlooked all those clever cornflakes, the people with high IQs who are not interested in money or self aggrandisement. There are far more High IQ Cornflakes who object to greed and an idea of a happiness index linked to the economy, just as there are plenty of low IQ Conflakes who make piles of money. You only have to look at Michael O’Leary or Simon Cowell to know that.

Johnson’s ideas about people and cornflakes and IQ’s and greed are hopelessly deluded, and on so many levels, but the most unforgivable thing is that as the Mayor of a major city, he hasn’t looked at the plentiful and nuanced data readily available on how cities work best.

Cities that at least chase an idea of equality (rents, road usage, planning permission, shared spaces, sports and arts venues) are happiest.

The happiest cities in the world (they publish lists every year) are the ones that work well for all citizens. Not just the ones with high IQs or lots of money.

No British city ever get’s onto these lists, by the way. Not even at the bottom. If you think of these lists as a sort of ‘rich list’ (just to help the Tories grasp this concept) then London, and every other British city, is miserably poor.

Again, you see Boris’s confusion about things that don’t (at a glance) make money in his attitude to those terribly bothersome dead cyclists.

When a handful of cyclists are killed each month in his city, under his watch, it’s most commonly a lorry or construction vehicle that’s done the squashing.

Boris looks at this situation and thinks this: lorries are important, they are the machines of industry, busy making money. Cyclist should respect that and be more careful to make way.

The nuance any mayor could and should have picked up on by now is that cycling makes money for the city.

Besides all the benefits to health, and the consequent effect of individual productivity, there’s the huge reduction in wear and tear on city infrastructure. Cleverer Mayors than Boris (there are many) have engaged with this idea. Their cities are on that list I mentioned above.

When a lorry kills a cyclist, let’s say a doctor or a news reader, this is confusing to Boris too. Despite being a cyclist himself, he see’s cyclists mainly as poor people who can’t afford the train.

But lorries are no respecter of income. Doctors and News Readers and nice bright high IQ Cornflakes get squashed by lorries just as often as people in other social classes.

In the nuanced scheme of things, a smart mayor might have concluded that it might be more cost effective for the Lorry – let’s imagine it was off to deliver sugar sachets to a tax-avoiding coffee shop chain – to stay off the road and let the Doctor arrive safely at work to help keep hundreds of Londoners healthy.

Of course the biggest delusion of all that Boris is helping to perpetuate is this idea of clever people being rich, and vice versa.


Let’s paint a picture. There’s a man living in a shack by the sea. He catches a fish each day and eats it while watching the sun go down. He’s fictional so we can describe him as being happy with his life. Far more content than say multimillionaire George Osborne.

His life may be simple but he’s not interested handouts. He’s against a ‘something for nothing’ culture. Not like people who inherit millions from their Dads. No, but he is interested in carefully judging the least amount of work-related stress he can put in for an acceptable, livable return.

For return, read life. He’s doing the intelligent thing of putting in just enough effort to be happy and free.

The Tory view of the world is that the poor and lower-middle income earners are all proto-rich. They could all be wealthy, they just haven’t applied themselves yet. If these people just pulled their fingers out and worked much, much harder, they’d have Air Miles and Range Rovers and be a huge help to the economy.

It’s hard to see the world through someone else’s eyes, but most of us – let’s stick a Tory-like finger in the air and say categorically it’s 60% of us – have no desire to spend a single moment working any harder than we absolutely have to in order to be happy.

And it’s not because we’re feckless. It’s not because we hate the idea of owning a yacht. It’s because we want to have a good life.

We want time with friends and family. We want to sleep in. We want simple things that take time, like reading books, redecorating the spare bedroom, listening to music, walking in nature, kicking a ball around the park and unhurriedly eating a bowl of cornflakes.


Screw-top wines have no romance – Published 26 Aug 2010

Wines without corks

Most wines available in supermarkets in the UK seem to have screw-caps these days. I don’t know why, it must help the supermarket in some way but I would imagine most people find them cheap-looking and unromantic.

Besides not liking to open a bottle without the familiar pop of a cork, I’ve also long suspected that the dregs of Europe’s wine production are shipped to the UK in bottles with screw caps and passed off as drinkable to a nation with a notoriously indifferent palate.

In France and Italy, even in large supermarkets, you will never see wine with screw-tops.

If you know nothing about wine and want to be an expert in 10 seconds, read this: spend more than £8 and only buy a bottle with a cork in it. Doing this will ensure you bypass 95% of the dross.

And More. It turns out there’s a good ecological reason for supporting the cork…

Put a cork in it: the environmental cost of the screw cap

So that settles it.

The British attitude to wine…

Somehow this seems to say a huge amount, perhaps even everything you need to know about the British.

Wind in plastic cups with a tin foil peel-back lid

What we are seeing here are pre-poured glasses of wine (plastic glasses) with tin foil peel-back lids  (yes, yogurt-pot-style) for sale in Marks & Spencer’s, of all places. Cheers gluggers. (clack!)


A visitor‘ left this comment on 7 Sep 10
Point taken but it all tastes the same after the first glass. My mate nearly severed his arm off trying to open a bottle of wine without a cork screw. Plus I witnessed my Mum and Aunt hacking away at a cork for half an hour in the same situation. The screw cap gets you quicker to the good stuff. Once you’ve knocked a bit back, romance is definitely in the air! Know what I mean?

How the skies clogged up after the volcano ash – Published 14 May 2010

A visualisation of the northern European airspace returning to normal after being closed due to volcanic ash.

Airspace Rebooted from ItoWorld on Vimeo.


A visitor‘ left this comment on 5 Dec 10
Wow, great video, looks a bit like snow

Modern Life is Rubbish #23332 – In the future, all shops will…

[ Published: 12 May 2009 ]

Asda. In the future all clothing will work on a buy one get one free basis (already successful with socks)…

But jacket, get trousers free. George at Asda.

But jacket, get trousers free. George at Asda.

And at the news stand in Tesco…  

In the future all magazines will be distilled into one magazine called Jamie.

Jamie Magazine

Jamie Magazine

Each page will have a flavoured picture of Jamie that you can lick.

If you lick it enough, the picture wears away to reveal TV listings showing when the next cookery programme is on.

In the future cookery programmes will be on all the time, meaning the Editor of Jamie can just use the same listings issue after issue, saving time and money. This saved cash will be put to better use buying more page-flavouring.

In the future, after Jamie is dead, licked to death by an obsessive fan presumably, the magazine will fold. That will be the end of the printed word because people won’t read anything that doesn’t have a flavour.

In the future, Asda will produce a suit that has the shirt, tie, socks, pants and shoes all conveniently sewn in. If you buy one you’ll get a second one free. When you get a hole in a sock you’ll just throw it all away or give it to a tramp.

In the future, tramps (many of them redundant Listings Editors) will all wear suits and ties as these will be cheaper than jeans, T-shirts, tracksuits etc.

The reading material they will sleep under will also be their evening meal.

Profound messages printed on T-shirt packaging at NEXT – Published: 25 Mar 2009

Next Tshirts

NEXT, makers of blue, grey and brown clothes, lead the way when it comes to making everyone in the UK look roughly the same.

Well done I say. Having to coordinate colours, if we’re honest, is beyond us. Go into any living room in Britain and you’ll know this is true.

Limiting clothing to two and half colours is a weight off, frankly.

But for Next, the help doesn’t stop there. Oh no. They have plans for our minds, not just our legs, arms, rude bits and upper torsos.

Witness Next making big strides into to world of high street, off-the-peg Confucianism (see picture).

Whether you work hard, play hard or both, from time to time we all need to relax.

That’s just beautiful, that is. On a packet of three t-shirts they expect you’ll sleep in (consecutively, not all three at once).

If you analyse this profound message, it breaks down like this: whether you a [where a is any activity] or b [where b is a different sort of activity], or a and b, from time to time you’ll need to x [where x is a not-necessarily-related essential bodily function].

So, let’s try reworking it with new a, b and x‘s.

Whether you lick the end of pencils, see visions of death in puddles or both, from time to time we all need to visit the toilet.

A suitable maxim to stick on the packaging of an air freshener, perhaps? 

Whether you enjoy touching the surface of your eyeballs, collect things you find on buses or both, from time to time we all need to reproduce.

Actually, I wish I hadn’t started writing this. I mean…if you stop and think about this too deeply you’ll despair.

Grown adults, paid wages, intelligent graduates all, working in teams, and they get out of bed each day and think up a massage to print on the plastic wrapping of a packet of t-shirts.

That’s what our economy is based on. People doing jobs like that.

There aren’t emoticons to express…


Hello sir, welcome to Next.

Close Encounters of the Morrison’s Kind – Published: 17 Aug 2008

It’s one minute to eleven on a Sunday Morning and dozens of people have assembled at the doors of Morrisons, Shepherds Bush. People from yards around, acting on impulses they can’t explain, have felt compelled to come to this place, to watch and wait….


Then suddenly there’s a bright light, strange humanoid forms appear at the dazzling portal… There’s a sudden rush of air, the smell of fresh bread and not so fresh fish… Perhaps this is where Spielberg stood when he had his idea for…

close encounters of the third kind


Christian‘ left this comment on 17 Aug 08

Over-packaged Item of the Week

Astonishingly over-packaged vitamins from Morrisons. The 30 tablets you get [yes, the amount in the picture] barely cover the bottom of the thick, sturdy plastic container with an over-engineered safety lid. Well done Morrisons.

Vitamin C

Things That Just Aren’t All That Convincing – Published: 29 Feb 2008

Press photographers in movies.
They tend to have rubbish prop cameras that don’t click right (have you ever seen a real Pap with his massive mile long lenses??).

Also they just snap away at anything, in all directions. They take pictures of the sky or the tip of a man’s chin. I’m not claiming to know the newspaper industry but I’m guessing you flop those onto the editors desk and s/he is going hand you your P45.

“Did you get the JFK assassination?”
“No, but I got a really nice cloud.”

Ditto for the above re musicians.
Witness the great actor Gerard Depardieu in Jean De Florette playing a gentle melody on his harmonica, literary swinging it left and right across his gob, like he was sawing wood. And look at Sam’s hands in Casablanca; they just go up and down like he was a Thunderbird puppet having a stroke.

Those Why Not Become a Writer? Ads in the national press.
I seriously suspect it’s not as simple as they claim. Though, come to think of it, maybe it is. You send off a cheque for £20 and the next thing you know you’re doing rather well in the top 20 Best Sellers list. It would certainly explain the success of Dan Brown and Tom Clancy.

Santa Claus.
Kids might believe in him for longer if his beard wasn’t obviously just a foot and a half of cotton wool. Kids know what a beard is. They must also look at Barney the dinosaur and get confused by such an abstract concept of teeth.

Pre-packed Sandwiches.
They promise so little, and deliver even less. Thousands of us queue up at Pret or M&S everyday for them, yet these sandwiches begin dieing a soggy death the moment they are sealed in those packets. You can’t spit without hitting a place that will make you a fresh one.

The only ‘fresh’ tasting pre-packed sarnie I ever had was from The Bread Shop and they had hit on the genius idea of packaging that breathes, having 1000s of little teabag-like holes.

The Great British toilet seat
What could go wrong? It’s basic hinge technology, right? That’s all the science that’s involved. Yet somehow the British make the worst toilet seats in the world. You sit, they slide sideways. You fix ‘em, they break.

Vladimir Putin
Come on. He’s not happy being President of Russia. You just know he’d be a lot more at peace with himself if he was a work-a-day henchman, killing people in dark alley ways with his bare hands.

Recycled Toilet Roll
Punctured through more times than a porcupine’s pyjamas, this stuff just isn’t fit for purpose. I persevere with it simply because I object to Andrex mercilessly hacking down the rainforest. So, reluctantly, I type to you with brown fingers, imagining it will somehow help what’s left of the planet’s lungs.

Aerial Boosters
Can’t get Channel Five? Freeview box only picking up The Hitler Channel? Then buy an aeriel booster, a small plastic box that sits between your aerial connection and the TV, and which is full of dried peas and sawdust. In reality the only thing it will boost is the economy of some highly productive Pacific Rim country.



A visitor‘ left this comment on 13 Mar 08
A visitor‘ left this comment on 6 Mar 08
Undoubtedly the funniest thing I have read in a while. And I quote… “like he was a Thunderbird puppet having a stroke”!! Hah!! Just the thought of a Thunderbird character wanking has me rolling around in hysterics. Brings new meaning to the phrase “I’ve got wood”. I guess when they cum their strings get tangled up.

Things I’ve Been Thinking About at the End 2007

Published: 23 Dec 2007 
are the answer to so many of our problems. Yet councils do next to nothing for cyclists. If town councils took the same devil-may-care attitude to disabled access as they do to provision for cyclists, they’d probably be dragged bodily into the street and burned.

We really haven’t built anything but crap since the end of World War II. 4000 plus years of art, culture and society to look back and learn from, and we still build shit environments for ourselves. We ain’t poor. But we build like we’re poor. Crap towns make crap people. A bold statement but I stick by it.

I experienced my first ever ‘total gridlock’ today. A proper nose to tail stand still. But I wasn’t on the road, I was in Sainsburys. It was a trolley gridlock, two days before Christmas. I was stuck by the pre-packed bacon, between a crying woman and an exhausted-looking pensioner, for quite a long time. A child was singing Jingle Bells and the checkout queues went all the way to the back of the shop and bent left.

Noel Edmonds…
has been with us a long, long time. Even if you can’t stand the little helicopter-hopping ego-gnome, he’s mesmerisingly watchable. Observe him trying to get a sneaky look at any exposed female flesh on Deal or No Deal. You can almost hear the calculations in his head (…look for 2 seconds then go over-shoulder, as if you were looking at one of the boxes the whole time).

Let’s never forget that New Labour made the museums free. To my mind it’s the one unequivocally good thing they did over the last 10 years. Enjoy your museums.

There are more branches of Starbucks in London than there are in New York. Some countries are able to impose a limit, in order to preserve something of a ‘local feel’. But we don’t. This land is not our land.

A major part of Liverpool city centre is now privately owned by the Duke of Westminster. It’s being turned into a shopping centre (what else?). A city centre? Privately owned? Shop nicely or get out.

Great acting on TV is so common these days you hardly even notice it. I assume British drama schools must have stopped telling students the key to seeming real and natural is to have telegraph pole-posture and to enunciate very forcefully from the diaphragm.

By contrast the occasional bit of bad acting now stands out like a sore thumb. For my money the most piss-poor acting of 2007 was perpetrated by the blinking, gurning Paul Clayton character (a cocky chef and fraudster) in Coronation Street. His face moves about so needlessly whenever the camera is on him, it’s as if his head is a paper bag full of concert violinists.

The woman who plays Chief Inspector Barnaby’s wife in Midsomer Murders was a distant second.