This term I'm taking a writing course for university. It's supposed to funnel me into a mindset from which I can write mind-bogglingly fantastic, original, witty and yet audience-friendly screenplays, radio plays and short stories. Of course I shall send them to the Beeb and have them commissioned, produced and broadcast (on BBC4 don't you know), become brilliantly well known, and be able to pick and choose ace stuff for the rest of my writing career.
Only I won't, because our tutor recently brought my (small - there are only seven of us) writing group's attention to the rough statistics over in the Commissions office at the BBC. Apparently, of every 100 projects that get commissioned - i.e., the writers have already got through that first rat race of having their scripts read and chosen - ONE gets made.
This makes me want to crawl into a hole somewhere. I wish I'd been good at science. Or pursued a career in maths. I have to admit it doesn't really help matters to constantly be reminded of The Crunch being felt by jobless graduates nationwide, manifested particularly in this depressing article in the Guardian warning that although it might be bad now, things are only going to 'get worse for the classes of 2009 and 2010'. According to the advice that article gives, rather than setting my sights on a mid-range graduate entry job when I finish next year, I should think myself lucky if I manage to find a job stacking shelves at Aldi. Super! That's just what I imagined doing when I signed up for a £30k debt-inducing education.
Anyway. The writing class. As part of some research I'm doing for my piece, me, John, Jeffrey and Li found ourselves walking down Great Portland Street searching for London's Best Aquarium and Tropical Fish Shop whilst munching on two of Walkers' 'they're mental!' new crisps flavours. (Chilli and chocolate was a unanimous disappointment, especially after looking at the ingredients list and finding that there was more garlic and paprika in the flavouring than chilli or chocolate; but Cajun Squirrel - which contains NO squirrel (!?) was a bit tastier.)
The shop was like walking into a parallel universe, so it wasn't hard for the others to humour me and stay there for half an hour while I had a good look. It turns out fish-sellers' rules are surprisingly stringent. I overheard lots of funny conversations, including one between a couple and a shop assistant who was solemnly instructing them to bring in a water sample from their (empty) tank so that he could check it was suitable for aqua-habitation. There's also a million and one products ranging from bubble tanks and oxygenating filters to 'spider's web' rocks for the bottom and 'ceramic noodles' (no idea). The best product I saw was 'Feng Shui Pebbles'. To zen your fish out.
Upstairs was all trickling water and steamy windows with tanks lining the walls, full of tiny breeds of fish; but downstairs there were about a billion different species of sea-plant and coral, and some very bizarre sea creatures including the ugliest turtle I've ever seen.
All in all a good, if unusual, way to try and forget about the nightmare that is my fiscal future. Followed up with a more traditional Saturday-shopping pilgrimage to the behemoth that is the Shepherd's Bush Westfield mall. Which was mostly uneventful (except for a sale Tod Lynn tuxedo jacket and socks in rainbow shades to go with John's new saliva-inducing Grenson Stanleys) until we walked out past the ridiculously overpriced Reiss and delicious, entirely reasonably priced Cos. John and I get the pick of the sales since he grabs the L (S and M seem to go so quickly in men's sizes! No sadomasochistic pun intended) and I get the puny size sixes (there are two reasons my twitter profile describes me as a 'pancake prodigy', and only one of them is related to cooking) which nobody seems to want either. Needless to say, some excellent bargains were snapped up...I'm looking forward to the debut of John's desert boots and woolly jumpigan, and racking my brains trying to think of a posh-ish event to wear my new Reiss dress to.
On a side note, we think that Bamboo Basket is a better instant/inappropriately timed dim sum stop than Ping Pong, plus they do lychee and guava juice by the glass, even if the service at Westfield is a bit chaotic - but that's understandable really, since the food court there is pretty traumatic at the best of times.