Book Club… So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

Discussing today: So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

Hi everyone and welcome to today’s Book Club on http://www.themagichappinessof.com. Today we’re discussing Jon Ronson’s ‘So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed’.

It is an uncomfortable truth but lots of people buying this book will have been guided by the same motivation that causes us to slow down at the scene of a car accident on the motorway. In the UK this behaviour is called ‘rubber – necking’. Though most of us would attest that we find it disagreeable to rubber – neck, the tailbacks on Britain’s roads every Friday night would suggest that plenty of us are morbidly curios enough to see what it looks like when a life spins out of control.

The modern phenomenon of Twitter shaming described in ‘So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed’ ranks fairly highly amongst the things that can wake me up screaming in the middle of the night. Just how bad does it feel when 20 thousand or 50 thousand, or in the case of Justine Sacco, the PR executive who tweeted an ill advised joke, when over 1.2 million people focus their fury on you?

Ronson chronicles public shaming from it’s medieval role as a weapon of justice to some of the worst social media shamings of recent times. He travels the world interviewing the victims about their experiences before, during, and as they try to piece their lives back together, after the shaming. The case studies range from journalists caught fabricating stories to a learning support worker who defiled a national cemetery. In each case the spiral from basically happy, ordinary people, to central figures in the story of their own demise, is precipitously fast.

Social media presents a fascinating opportunity to study the dynamics of large populations. Never before in human history have we all been so interconnected. The theory that everyone is connected to everyone else in the world by just 6 degrees of separation was postulated by the Hungarian author Frigyes Karinthy in the 1920s but new research shows that the figure needs updating. Studies of Facebook reveal it’s more like half that number, and with the opportunity for complete strangers to follow you, I would imagine that Twitter returns an even smaller degree of separation.

The upshot of all this connectedness is that we’re dealing with a social landscape that we didn’t evolve to operate in. In his book The Organized Mind (incidentally also the subject of this week’s self help binge) Daniel Levitin gives and illuminating analogy,

Imagine you are living in the year 1200 […] You know a couple of hundred people, and you’ve known most of them all your life. Strangers are regarded with suspicion because it is so very unusual to encounter them. The number of people you’d encounter in a lifetime was fewer than the number of people you’d walk past during rush hour in present – day Manhattan.

Now the number of people we can reach in the click of a mouse button dwarfs the world population in the year 1200. Something humans are particularly bad at grasping is the scale and the reach of social media. Just why do otherwise normal, well – adjusted people descend into a vicious frenzy of denouncement when a target emerges on Twitter? Ronson investigates the theory of group madness as a possible explanation.

Published in 1895, Gustav Le Bon’s The Crowd, was the central text in the study of crowd dynamics. The work is referenced in Bill Buford’s superlative study of British football hooliganism in the 1980s. During the 80s displays mass social unrest could be witnessed in virtually every city centre in the country as rival hooligan ‘firms’ battled each other for supremacy on the terraces. The scale and brutality of the violence is staggering when regarded from a contemporary vantage point.

Buford addresses the question of why thousands of young men up and down the country would turn out every Saturday afternoon to gouge, kick, punch, stab, slash and burn their way up and down the country:

why do young males riot every Saturday? They do it for the same reason that another generation drank too much, or smoked dope, or took hallucinogenic drugs, or behaved badly or rebelliously. Violence is their antisocial kick, their mind-altering experience, an adrenaline-induced euphoria that might be all the more powerful because it is generated by the body itself, with, I was convinced, many of the same addictive qualities that characterize synthetically-produced drugs.

Social media certainly has it’s addictive properties. That adrenaline – induced euphoria that Buford talks about? Every re-tweet, new follower or like that you receive on Twitter creates a little release of dopamine – a hormone associated with the brain’s response to pleasurable stimuli. So social media has a measurable effect on the brain’s biochemistry.

Ronson discusses the feedback effect:

We express our opinion that Justine Sacco is a monster. We are instantly congratulated for this…

And so we are more likely to believe that it is true. He also notes that you are only likely to share information on Twitter that is likely to go down well with your circle of followers.

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed is a difficult read in many ways. Not because of any defect in the writing which is lucid and intelligent, or the arguments which are backed by infallible reasoning. It is a difficult read because it holds up a mirror that shows a distorted reflection of society. A society viewed through the warped lens of social media. A social world where the voices of moderation and reason have been filtered out of the conversation leaving only the raging poles of opinion. Is 170 characters too short to sum up all the shades of meaning and nuances of language needed to communicate effectively? I think it probably is, and maybe the move to abolish the character limit for a Tweet might be a good thing.

Comment below or tweet me. Let me know what you thought if you’ve read this book or any of the others mentioned. Happy reading.

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It's not how good you are, it's how good you want to be. By Paul Arden

One book to change your life? Could it be this one? The Magic Happiness of… thinks it could.

Every week I try a different self – help guide’s life advice. Last week I reviewed Marie Kondo’s The Life – Changing Magic of Tidying. This week I tackle Paul Arden’s It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be.

Sandwiched somewhere between a career’s advice lecture and an evangelical call to self – improvement for anyone with a creative bent, this little book is small enough to fit in the pocket and short enough to read in a matter of minutes. That’s not to say the ideas in it aren’t profound though.

Arden’s little book was a sensation when it was first published in 2003 and has entered the hearts and minds of many an ambitious, bright young thing since. Arden’s prose is direct and bossy, but his message is never less than engaging and thought provoking.

‘So how good do you want to be?’ he asks at the outset.

So how good do you want to be asks Paul Arden
So how good do you want to be?

Well, I don’t know, you think. Probably quite good. Fairly soon though you get the sense that this isn’t good enough for Paul Arden. ‘You can achieve the unachievable.’ he exhorts. By the third page in I’m feeling ecstatic.

Many of the messages are counter – intuitive: ‘It’s right to be wrong,’ ‘fail, fail again, fail better,’why do we strive for excellence when mediocrity is required?’ And Arden’s wisdom is delivered with such clear – eyed certainty that you get caught up in it. The layout of every page is delicious, the bold titles and large text allied with clean, monochrome images mean that it’s easy on the eye. You wouldn’t expect anything less from a former  Executive Creative Director at Saatchi and Saatchi though would you?

So I’ve been trying to apply the book’s message of ambition, self promotion and positive thinking to my life. I’ve been relentlessly chipper at work. Emma, my colleague, took me aside to ask me if everything was alright. ‘You keep talking to everyone like you’re reading from a leadership manual,’ she said worriedly. ‘Have you been getting enough sleep?’ ‘Without a goal it’s difficult to score,’ I replied, assertively.

I’ve designed myself some business cards. I’m a teacher so they say ‘Headteacher’ on them.

Design your own business card says Paul Arden. Impress people with a completely made up job title.
Get your own business cards. With a made up job title on them.

I handed them out in the staff room at work which went down well. People asked me if I’d gone mad and the real Headteacher said he wants a meeting with me. ‘Getting fired can be a positive career move,’ Arden assures me on page 70. Which is comforting to know.

It’s not How Good you Are…’ is not really a self – help book. You will find it in Waterstone’s in the grey area to the right of the self-help section headed ‘smart thinking’. I’m not sure how much of this book is smart thinking and how much has little thinking behind it. If you suspend your judgement then it’s freshness and energy is infectious.

And then sometimes you come across a picture of some pigeons on a plinth and you are a little baffled.

‘Don’t be afraid of silly ideas.’ (Page 58)

Next week I’m trying Daniel Levitin’s The Organised Mind. If you have read any of the books I’ve discussed on my blog or would like to suggest a favourite self – help book for me to try out then please comment, tweet @TmhoLudek, check out my Facebook or email themagichappinessof@gmail.com.

Look forward to hearing from you all.

 

 

 

Charity Shopper #2

Charity shopper is a weekly blog post. The rules are that I have to visit a charity shop every week and purchase something from it. I cannot leave the shop without making a purchase and I must use the purchase at least once. I will report every week on what I buy.

It’s more fun if you play at home: if you would like to be next week’s Charity Shopper all you have to do is contact me on twitter @TmhoLudek or email: themagichappinessof@gmail.com with details of what you’ve purchased and be able to answer some simple questions about why you bought it (otherwise I’ll just do it again!).

Date: Sun 7.02.2016 

Shop: Age UK, 15 Market Place, Pocklington, East Yorkshire YO42 2AS

Purchase: 1 book: How to Be a Brit by George Mikes and a CD: Shall We Dance? Elegant Classics from the 30s.

Cost: £1.98

 

Lets start with the CD; what motivated you to buy a collection of Jazz standards from the 30s?

I thought it had ‘Cheek to Cheek,’ on it – the song Fred Astaire sings to Ginger Rogers in the film Top Hat.

fred and ginger

So romantic!

Indeed.

And does it?

No.

The cheek!

Though I believe the answer to the question, ‘shall we dance,’ should always be ‘yes’ so I bought it anyway.

And the book? How to Be a Brit?

Correct.

Sounds like a pamphlet from a right leaning think tank. Nothing to do with the government’s ‘British Values’ agenda is it?

Hardly. George Mikes was a Hungarian immigrant. It’s his take on British manners. Regarding English attitudes he has this to say: ‘In England it is bad manners to be clever, to assert something confidently. It may be your own personal view that two and two make four, but you must not state it in a self-assured way, because this is a democratic country and others may be of a different opinion.’

A clever dick by the sounds of it.

Umm… possibly, though I didn’t buy it for the witty analysis of the famed British stiff upper lip.

Well why did you buy it?

The cover design caught my eye. I thought it would look good on my bookshelf. Or on the coffee table.

Tsk! Shakespeare and Milton will be spinning in their graves. Don’t you know you should never judge a book by it’s cover?

Not true. How to Be a Brit is published as a Penguin Classic. The minimal, two tone design with large blocks of colour has represented quality since its’ inception in 1935.

Some of the cover designs are as lauded as the books inside them. There are Pinterest boards dedicated to them. You can buy your favourite cover on a T -Shirt, as a Penguin Classics deck chair, tote bags… the list is endless.

What were you saying about quality? Wasn’t Morrisey’s debut novel published last year as a Penguin Classic?

You mean List of the Lost? Ah, it’s not in the Classics imprint. It’s merely a Penguin book. His memoir Autobiography, however, was slotted straight in the Penguin Classics stable.

Have you read List of the Lost?

Umm… I try not to.

Mmm. Didn’t get great reviews did it?

Michael Hann called it ‘an unpolished turd’ in The Guardian.

Yes, he did didn’t he?

And the Telegraph published a list of the 10 most embarrassing lines from the book.

Including: “Preciously kneeling on the upper-crust carpeting, the boys were inexpressive and almost beloved…”

And, ‘Tracey finds the manly central issue too slight to grip…’ Snigger.

Now that’s going too far…

‘Bulbous salutation…’

Enough.

Sorry. Talking of Penguin book covers and The Smiths, have you seen the work of Chris Thornley?

Eh, sorry, what? I was just mopping my brow. I’ve come over all florid…

Chris Thornley has taken a number of Smiths lyrics and turned them into Penguin inspired book covers. They’re really rather good.

Ah. One thing though – if you click on the link above and look carefully you’ll see that Chris, although a very good graphic artist, should be careful what he wishes for!

chris thorley

The charity shopper will be back next week. If you have any particular items you would like to see me discussing (with myself) or if you would like to have a go at being the charity shopper yourself then comment below, Tweet me @TmhoLudek or email: themagichappinessof@gmail.com. 

In the meantime, if you can’t wait until next week, have a browse of last week’s Charity Shopper and the other fabulous content on http://www.themagichappinessof.com

 

 

 

Talking shop: conversations overheard #2

I work Saturdays in a shop on H____ Road in Hull. Let’s call the shop Oddbury’s. Every Saturday I write down the funny things I hear. These are real conversations with real people about the things they’re buying and what they mean to them. Names have been changed to protect people’s identities. Paul is my co – worker.

Saturday 6th Feb 2016, 12:05pm Scottish Malcolm 53, unemployed, Margaret 44, care worker and Paul 59, shop assistant 

Margaret: I’m looking for something to get the weeds out of my patio – you know where they sprout up between the flag stones? And we’ve got some on the drive too but that’s got – well, I don’t know how to describe it but like…

Paul: You need a flame thrower.

Margaret: A flame thrower? Well I haven’t got one of those have I?

Paul: (Rolls his eyes) Then you’ll need this stuff – follow me.

(He paces to the other side of the shop very purposefully and Margaret has to trot to keep up with him)

Paul: This is the stuff (proffering something that looks like screen-wash in a frosted blue 1 litre plastic bottle). It’s brilliant. Do any job that. Kill absolutely anything.

Scottish Malcolm (from last week’s post) enters the shop loudly clattering his shopping bags through the doorway.

Scottish Malcolm: Paul! Where’s Paul! (Then to me) – those Christmas lights did’nae work.

Me: You brought them back?

Scottish Malcolm: What for?

Me: For a refund if they’re broken.

Scottish Malcolm: Och nae- they’re nae broken. They just did’nae work like. I did’nae get a shag out of it! Where’s Paul?

Spying Paul he strides over.

Scottish Malcolm: Paul, those Christmas lights were a waste of money.

Paul: (Ignoring him, carries on serving Margaret). Do you know what the best thing for killing mice is?

Margaret: (Bemused by this turn in the conversation) A mouse trap?

Paul: Ha! (as if that were a ridiculous thing to suggest). No, this stuff – the same stuff you use on your weeds.

(In a conspiratorial whisper): You put a cap full of it out on the night, before you go to bed. Then, during the night they come out and take a drink of it – it’s sweet you see – they like the taste of it. Then when you wake up in the morning they’re all lying around the cap, kind of asleep like.

Scottish Malcolm: Asleep?

Paul: Yeah – well -dead mainly. It burns a hole in their stomach and their intestines fall out.

Scottish Malcolm: Disgusting.

Paul: I can’t stand them either.

Scottish Malcolm: I mean it’s animal cruelty. But, hey, do you suppose it gets them pissed?

Paul: I don’t think so. I think it just damages them.

Scottish Malcolm: Do you think humans can get away with drinking it?

Paul: (Surprised) I wouldn’t have thought so. I mean it’s quite dangerous to…

Scottish Malcolm: Aye, nae, you’re right, probably not. (Holding a bottle of it thoughtfully) I’m just thinking off the top of my head, like. I mean, it’s quite cheap.

Margaret: (Exasperated) Will it do my bloody patio?

Paul: Definitely. Yes… And kill mice too.

Margaret: Then that’s all I need to know.

Scottish Malcolm: I’ll take a bottle too.

Margaret: There you go! It’s selling like hot cakes!

Paul: (Indicating Scottish Malcolm) It’s selling like alcohol to him.

Talking shop will return next week. If you’ve enjoyed this post please check out my other related content:

6° of separation

From Kid Wave to the Vaselines in 6 reviews. Click the links to listen on Youtube.

  1. Kid Wave, reviewed in the Guardian, 26 March 2015

‘The jangly melody and lush harmonies of opener Honey recall the sweet, dreamy pop of legendary 1980s independent label Sarah Records – except Emmery’s vocals aren’t winsome. They’re aloof, hushed and so restrained as to be almost uninterested. It’s like Nico fronting the Field Mice

kid wave

2. The Field Mice, Reviewed on Pitchfork Media, March 16 2005

‘But if the Field Mice were just adorable indiepop amateurs, then why do they sound so slick and stylish? Yeah, they have their sunny strum-a-longs and wistful laid-back jangle– songs so “pop” that it feels like someone must always have sounded like this. But then not so long afterward, didn’t Ride come along in the same stripey shirts and fuzz the exact same stuff up into “higher” art?’

field mice

3. Ride, reviewed in the Telegraph, 25th May 2015

When Ride split up, in 1996, it seemed like the end of an exciting but short-lived musical era. After a few heady years in the early Nineties, their brand of shoegaze rock – defined by a wall-of-sound style that layered effects-laden guitar parts, droning vocal melodies and thundering drums – had burnt itself out, and Britpop was on an inexorable rise. By the end of the decade, Ride’s former guitarist Andy Bell had joined Oasis, and the rest had largely faded from view. For fans of the band, it was all rather sad.

RIDE - 1992
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Brian Rasic/REX (197678b) RIDE RIDE – 1992

4. Oasis, reviewed in NME, Originally published August 27 1994

‘… we’re somehow supposed to have evolved from beyond these simple pleasures; the buzz of an electric guitar and a young voice yearning simple truths and uncomplicated desires ought to leave us cold because, by definition, something better must now exist. Oasis prove that this need not be so.’ Noel Gallagher is a pop craftsman in the classic tradition and a master of his trade. Of his generation, probably only Kurt Cobain wielded the manipulative power of melody better, and you can’t imagine Noel having many guilt pangs about whether or not ‘Live Forever’ was just that little bit too perfect.

oases

5. Nirvana October 1991 show at the Paramount Theatre, Seatlle, Wa reviewed at http://www.livenirvana.com/tourhistory/

As Nirvana come out on stage, Kurt introduces the opening song, Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam by saying “This song is written by a band called the Vaseline’s. They’re from Edinburgh, Scotland, and they’re very punk rock”. What follows is a truly powerful performance of the song, Kurt really getting into it, noticeable from his voice. When the song ends, the band doesn’t stop to breathe, and Kurt strums into Aneurysm, and turns out a solid performance. At the end of School, Dave jokes with the crowd, “So like 2 percent of you people are in costumes, and personally I think that’s pretty lame, unless you’re all supposed to be punk rockers”.

nirvana

6. Vaselines reviewed at http://diymag.com/2014/09/24/the-vaselines-v-for-vaselines-album-review

V For Vaselines’ is a summer album. Its purposes include providing the soundtrack to long, hazy trips to the beach and BBQs in your best mate’s garden. When the British weather prevails, ‘V For Vaselines’ is only a set of headphones away. Throwing a sepia tint over the world with each song that goes by, this is a record that will make you pine, long and lust for the past months spent basking in the sun.

The-Vaselines

Tooled up.

Since his earliest ancestors man has set himself apart from other species by his use of sophisticated tools. In this weekly offering I consider what our choice of everyday items and accessories says about us based on the reviews people have left on Amazon.

In this week’s offering I consider what our choice of flask says about us. Here are some flasks and the distilled reviews about them from Amazon.com.

1. Stanley Classic 1L Vacuum Flask

Stanley

You view your flask as an investment (indeed you tend to view any purchase of more than a fiver as an investment). You work an allotment or drive a heavy goods vehicle (though worryingly seem rather clumsy – ‘must have dropped it hundreds of times’ – and value your flask’s sturdiness. You drink tea, not coffee. You are also quite pedantic. If it says it is drip free then it better bloody well be drip free. You are the kind of person who conducts a temperature control test before using your flask for the first time.

 

2. Web Tex Ammo pouch flask

web - tex You own a gun and enjoy shooting things with it. You tend to describe the things you own as kit rather than what they are. You are a fork lift truck driver but wish you had joined the armed forces. Of a weekend you like to spend time lying outdoors in heavily wooded areas covered by a heap of branches, damp leaves and bracken. You call this bivouacing.

You are quite concerned that other people who have purchased the Web – Tex Ammo Pouch flask do not use it in an ‘abnormal’ way. You are willing to defend your right to purchase a green plastic drinks flask. With force if necessary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. SmuggleYourBooze.com Fake Tampon Flasks
5 fake flasks

You are a woman and you want very much to be drunk. You have an impending hen – do in Blackpool and you’re buggered if you’re paying the bloody prices they charge for shots.

You don’t mind waving a tampon applicator around on a packed dancefloor either. After all – you’re only young once. Or, you were young once and now you want to get pissed to remember what it was like.

 

 

4. OCC One Click Premium Travel Mug

occ one click cup

You are a busy mum, or a busy business woman, or you are a go – getter who is busy. The emphasis is that you’re busy doing something and you want to look good drinking a mug of tea whilst being busy. You stand on the sidelines at the footy or ice – hockey. You cheer on hubby when he scores a goal but you don’t spill your tea because you’ve rigorously tested a million such cups and found that this one alone does not spill. It comes at a premium price but you get what you pay for, right? And you also get admiring glances on the train in the morning. And that’s fine with you.

5. Andrew James Designer 8Oz hip flask.

andrew james

You describe your drinking rather more lyrically than your friends and family might. ‘I like to have a nip of J.D. from my hip flask when I’m settled on a rock to survey my surroundings.’ You might be an eagle. Alternatively you might be very pissed and by ‘settled on a rock’ mean lying on the pavement.

Drink is a social lubricant for you. ‘You’re always welcome if you have a hip flask.’ You might have been drunk when you penned your review – ‘Anchors Aweigh, my boys.’ Hic. You walk around a lot and are sometimes drunk when you do this. ‘I tripped over the dogs and a man laughed at me and it’s hard to put a price on things like that.’ It’s unclear if the reviewer’s emphasis here is on the price of his drinking or the comic value it provides the rest of us.

Lost in Ikea…

ikea-map

I have long been a fan of the ‘heroic age’ of exploration: Mallroy and Irvine, Captain Scott, Ernest Shackleton, Ray Mears. These names echo through the ages. Finding the Poles and Everest somewhat inaccessible I have conducted some of my own, more modest, but nonetheless equally perilous, expeditions through modern life. Here I bring you my experiences and some advice for fellow explorers.

The map on first glance is not overly complicated though the ‘find your way in the Self Serve Furniture Area’ diagram looks like a schematic of a nuclear reactor.

The more you wander the show room though, the more the map starts to take on the appearance of a diabolical maze. The clean, ordered white lines of the Showroom and Market Hall diagrams, and the gently meandering dotted white line that marks out your seamless progress through the store, bears no relation to the reality of the situation you find yourself in when ‘on the ground’.

Upon arrival in the entrance foyer you are immediately presented with a scene reminiscent of the American withdrawal from Saigon, minus the helicopters. The flow of humanity through the seemingly haphazardly arranged layout of the store presses you onward. No beating against the tide here. Missed the stylish chrome towel rail you saw on their website last night? Can’t find that discounted storage unit that you thought would be in the ‘bedroom area’ but wasn’t? Thinking of turning back for a second look? Forget it.

I turned back, like a salmon seeking it’s spawning ground. I decided to swim against the tide to locate a desktop lamp that I thought would look nice on our kitchen table. The name of the item was a string of vowels, some with umlauts hovering over them, no consonants, which made pronunciation inadvisable. Asking for help was rendered futile. ‘Are you looking for the Äeoiae or the Øöeaüo?’

I saw grown men weeping.

Advice for fellow explorers

Items to pack for your journey:

  • Tamazepan or Valium and/or sizable hip flask containing spirits depending on the length of stay.
  • Mindfulness colouring book and pencils in case things really do get testing.
  • Compass, in case you find that the map you pick up at the entrance doesn’t match the layout of the store (as I did). I had to escape through a ventilation duct.
  • Credit card: just as the 1921 expedition members to Everest found the silent whiteness of the ice – bound world they discovered powerfully alluring, deciding to go back several times until most of them were dead, so will you find the siren call of cheap, minimalist Swedish designed furniture difficult to resist.

 

 

Review: Marie and Me, The KonMari method

Every week I try a different self – help guide’s life advice. Here’s how I got on with Marie Kondo.

Here’s the thing with me and Marie: at first everything was great between us. There was the initial excitement of a new relationship, the butterflies in the stomach every time I opened ‘The Life – Changing Magic of Tidying,’ counting down the seconds until I could get home from work to be with her. Then there was the physical stuff: tearing our clothes off the shelves, arranging our cups in the cup drawer, folding our socks – all the usual ‘new relationship stuff’. After that though, things fizzled out a bit between us.

Don’t get me wrong, Marie’s a great girl. She’s upbeat (relentlessly), she’s organised (goes with the territory really), I mean – she’d never forget to remind you it was your mum’s birthday. And she’s got a great sense of humour too, I think. When she’s in the mood she can say some pretty funny things, possibly unintentionally, but nevertheless – she’s entertaining company. And she smiles – a lot.

But that’s kind of the thing really. You could never take Marie down the pub to meet your mates. You’d always be a bit concerned she might say something odd. Robbo’s pulled a muscle playing footie for instance. Marie’s advice is along the lines of: ‘a firm but gentle massage by human hands does more to loosen knotted muscles that being pummelled by a massage machine.’

Fair play you think. Nothing too controversial in that. ‘The energy that flows from the person’s hands into our skin seems to heal both body and soul,’ she continues. She’s had a fair bit to drink  by this point: ‘The same is true for our clothes.’

Sorry? What was that Marie? ‘When we take our clothes in our hands and fold them neatly, we are, I believe, transmitting energy…’ and on she goes.

And then there’s the jealously to deal with. My wife Annie was well and truly sick of Marie by the end of the week. ‘Marie says this, Marie says that… why don’t you just go and bloody well live with bloody Marie bloody Kondo? I mean, where have all my hair grips gone?’

Oh sure though – credit where credit’s due. If Marie’s taught me one thing I’ll take away from this it’s that focusing on what you want to keep and the joy that those items bring you is more important than the tidiness aspect of it all. Just don’t let the lads here me saying that.

With less stuff to sift through I spend less time worrying about what to wear, which shoes go with which shirt, whether the lime green cords really go with anything. I’ve kept a few shirts and jeans that just go with each other and to hell with it.

We ‘Kondoed’ the kitchen and the bedrooms and the house feels fresher. We threw away enough paper work to build and igloo out of and about a dumper truck full of crappy plastic toys. That bit felt liberating. Now that we’re liberated and the house is very spartan it could, ironically, pass for the interior of an East Berlin condominium circa 1978. It feels a bit cold without all our old stuff.

On the plus side. Now that we’ve got nothing left we’ll need to go shopping. Just for some essentials. And I love a good shopping spree.

Next week my self – help binge continues with Paul Arden’s ‘It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be.’

Charity Shopper #1

Charity shopper is a weekly blog post. The rules are that I have to visit a charity shop every week and purchase something from it. I cannot leave the shop without making a purchase and I must use the purchase at least once. I will report every week on what I buy.

It’s more fun if you play at home: if you would like to be next week’s Charity Shopper all you have to do is contact me on twitter @TmhoLudek or email: themagichappinessof@gmail.com with details of what you’ve purchased and be able to answer some simple questions about why you bought it (otherwise I’ll just do it again!).

Date: Sunday 31.01.2016

Shop: British Heart Foundation, 11 Goodramgate, York YO1 7LW

Purchase: 1 plain black T – Shirt

Cost: £1.50

black t shirt

Why did you purchase it?

A plain black T -shirt is the timeless uniform of the existential rebel. Think Marlon Brando in The Wild One.

Wasn’t he wearing a white T – shirt in that film?

Well if you’re splitting hairs then: Gregory Fitoussi

Who?

Tsk! French actor described as the ‘heart throb du – jour’ by The Times.

Ooh la la!

Indeed… on the cover of last week’s Times Magazine he looks effortlessly cool in black T – shirt, black jeans and brown boots. See also: David Beckham stepping out in his recent acting bow playing ‘The Stranger’ in the Belstaff promotional film Outlaws.

You mean the ‘surreal film within a film’ where Becks plays a ‘motorcycle stuntman, haunted by memories of a beautiful trapeze artist’?

Umm, I think that’s the one.

Bit highbrow for our Becks isn’t it?

He’s reinvented himself of late: no longer a footballer – now a cultural icon, a brooding biker in black leather, stubbly with goodness, as Phillip Larkin might have put it.

I imagine a universe where Phillip Larkin might take any kind of interest in David Beckham’s stubble but it is difficult to sustain the fantasy.

Perhaps…

A bit of a boring purchase to kick things off though isn’t?

Not at all. It’s achingly stylish. Haven’t you heard of normcore?

Normcore?

Psssh! Have you been living under a rock? It’s a term coined by ‘New York trend agency K – Hole,’ to quote Vogue, (which I do always) that means absent of labels or adornment, basic and functional. Think unbranded Fruit of the Loom sweatshirts, black plimsolls, Primark jeans and you’re somewhere close.

You’re so normcore.

Thank – you. But seriously – in a busy world where stressed out twenty – somethings are consumed by work and Twitter and sharing picture of cats licking their balls on Instagram normcore is a look that makes sense.

How so?

Let me draw your attention to Daniel Levitin’s Sunday Times bestseller ‘The Organized Mind’. Levitin argues that in a digital age we have too much information and too many decisions to make which leads to a lack of attention and feelings of being overwhelmed.

Sorry, what? I was just checking my Facebook… someone tagged me in a picture of a cat licking it’s… Hang on, what does this have to do with your black t – shirt?

Well making decisions about what clothes to wear can take time and mental reserves which detracts from time spent on more important decisions. Think Marc Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs: both sport a normcore uniform which takes little thought or time to assemble.

Blimey, I wasn’t counting on all this…

Well, you asked.

Normcore fashion

Charity Shopper continues next week.

Talking shop: conversations overheard

I work Saturdays in a shop on H____ Road in Hull. Let’s call the shop Oddbury’s. Every Saturday I write down the funny things I hear. These are real conversations with real people about the things they’re buying and what they mean to them. Names have been changed to protect people’s identities. Paul is my co – worker.

Sat 30th Jan 2016 2:15pm Malcolm 53, unemployed and Paul 59, shop assistant

Scottish Malcolm: You got any Christmas lights?

Paul: Blimey, you’re getting organised early.

Scottish Malcolm: What for?

Paul: (Puzzled) Well, Christmas.

Scottish Malcolm: Nah, cannae stand Christmas.

Paul: oh?

Scottish Malcolm: Hate it!

Paul: how’s that?

Scottish Malcolm: (sniffs) Just cannae. You got those lights or what?

Paul: got some in the back. Wait here.

Scottish Malcolm: Be quick.

Paul (returning): Got these ones – different colours, light up, flash in different ways, you can have them fast or slow flashing or twinkling. What d’you want with Christmas lights if you don’t like Christmas?

Scottish Malcolm: They’re ‘cos ma wife’s comin’ home t’day.

Paul: she been on holiday?

Scottish Malcolm: Prison.

Paul: oh.

Scottish Malcolm: Domestic violence towards the dog. But she’s OK now.

Paul: she like Christmas?

Scottish Malcolm: Nah. Ah’m gonna make a love heart in lights above the bed. So she can look at it. While were f***kin’ like.

Paul: right you are.

Malcolm says about his purchase: I’ve missed my wife while she’s been inside. It’s been tough for both of us but I’ve not been able to visit her as much as I’d like. I haven’t been with anyone else like. I just couldn’t afford the bus up there every week. We’ve had our ups and downs, what married couple hasn’t? But I’m going to buy some rose petals and sprinkle them on the bed and with these lights in a nice love – heart shape I think she’ll see I love her. I need a nail gun from B&Q and then I’m off home to put them up. Maybe she won’t batter me for not coming to see her! The Christmas lights are going in the bin if I don’t get any action tonight.