Another favourite interview for Crack, this time with Seattle’s Chastity Belt.
Also, the ladies making the outdoors their bidnis.
My homeland has received some uncharacteristic attention of late – everyone I meet under the age of 18 asks me why Derry-Londonderry has so many syllables (thanks Radio 1) and/or if Obama and my Mum are now bezzies after the G8. But by far the newest and most popular subject broached by those who inquire about the land beyond the grey Irish Sea is Game of Thrones. Whether they be Lannister, Greyjoy or Stark, Game of Thrones fans love to ask me whether I’ve been to any of the places in which the HBO dollar-spunking series was shot. And I greatly enjoy telling people that I have been to many of the beautiful places onto which dragons and boobies have been rendered. I also enjoy shouting “I KNOW THAT HILL” in the midst of sometimes tense political moments during the show, ruining the experience for everyone in the room. They are some very nice hills.
The Northern Irish tourist board has had publicity-hungry babies over the Isle’s new found popularity. Twitter blazed during a BAFTA acceptance speech in which the residents of Belfast were thanked for their hospitality and now bus companies are cobbling together tours of the country that highlight landmarks from the series. In the Titanic building there is currently an exhibition of some of the props used during the show, including a chance to sit on the Iron Throne. You heard – there are fictional attractions inside a building built to commemorate a real life event that was made more famous by a fictional feature film. When I heard of this opportunity I actually cursed the fact that I live in (the brilliant) London. That’s how much I want to sit on the Iron Throne. And my desire to do so has resulted in me reflecting on what my cultural priorities truly are.
I’m currently travelling around the UK to pretty much every nook and fanny you can imagine. It’s all for my new job and I’m undertaking these trips with only my Spotify account for company. I have a car, a sat nav, and a relentless desire to explore the country’s pop culture sights. When in Edinburgh I completely ignored the beautiful architecture that surrounded me and instead took photos at JK Rowling’s old haunt, the Elephant House, and streets where Trainspotting was filmed. In Manchester I pretended to be Morrissey outside the Salford Lad’s Club and waved at Marc Riley through the window at MediaCity. Aside from a brief stop at the Angel of the North (ACTUAL REAL-PEOPLE LANDMARK) I’ve been uninterested in anything that doesn’t appear in a cult film or my childhood memories.
And the more I think about my gravitation towards ludicrous and altogether fictional hotspots, the more I realise that my life has played host to a succession of these ridiculous trips. I’ve been to the shop where Black Books was filmed in Bloomsbury, skipped past the house used in the King’s Speech, nearly exploded with joy when I was an audience member inside the now empty Television Studios, and contemplated my existence at Postman’s Park – a piece of green featured in Closer. I’ve gazed at a bridge in Dublin featured in the film ‘Inside I’m Dancing’ (good, but by no means a favourite). In fact I’ve earned my living on and off for the last two years by showing people locations from the Harry Potter films and have even visited the sets out in Watford. Since I moved to London three years ago I’ve had a visit to Tufnell Park, home of the fictional ‘Meteor Street’ from the sitcom Spaced, on my list of things to do. Douglas Adam’s grave, home of 90s debauchery The Groucho Club, and the Beatles Zebra Crossing are all boxes waiting patiently to be ticked.
So, it appears if left to my own devices I will exclusively seek out fictional places to visit. I recently had the terrifying realisation that if I ever make it to New York I would rather go to the pub that MacLaren’s in How I Met Your Mother is based on than to the Empire State Building. I don’t even really like How I Met Your Mother. I think it is incredibly average. In Manchester I stopped myself from going to the original site of Coronation Street because I’ve never watched it in my life. But TV history seems so much more relevant to my existence than actual history. When I walk down Whitehall I tend to envision myself as James Bond and I always consider my alternative Sliding Doors universe whenever I board a tube train. My immersion in film and musical culture is so absolute that a visit to Wordsworth’s old gaff in the brilliantly named Cumbrian town of Cockermouth is actually my most high-brow venture to date.
After some consideration I feel that this is somehow an extension of wearing a band t-shirt – an attempt to convey how fantastically niche your interests are without having to come out with douchey sentences that may be greeted by blank faces. A quick snap and a Facebook upload later I’m getting my ‘like’ kicks whilst still safe in the knowledge it’s only other obsessives like myself that know the significance of the backdrop I’ve draped myself against. And in an era where the whole world can come to you via print-screening street view, there’s something incredibly novel about getting a train to a place in order to stand where someone else once stood. It’s also, perhaps, about trying to will the place, TV show, character or episode into existence. If I stand beside the book shop long enough and wish for it hard enough then maybe Bernard Black will invite me in. If I don a quiff and strike a pose maybe I’ll magically be transported back in time to when The Smiths were fresh and new. People may say they feel ‘a connection’ to characters from stories that are factual, but I don’t quite see how it’s possible to empathise with Marie Antoinette when the time she lived in had a completely different set of values and structures. Game of Thrones may be set in Westeros, but its morality is fully cemented in 21st century beliefs. So why shouldn’t I be more enthralled by the fact that V for Vendetta was filmed outside Westminster than the fact that Guy Fawkes was hung drawn and quartered there? In the end, Natalie Portman has probably had a considerably larger influence on my life than Guido. Welcome to reality, ladies and gents.
– If you have any suggestions as to pop culture sights which I could visit, please LEMME KNOW
pillow fight, trafalgar sq
I have managed to bag myself a pretty impressive house. It’s around 2000 sq ft of space that my flatmates and I have filled with bearded twins filming theatre promos and safety glass-wearing makers of emotional furniture. If any of us had a clue how to fill out a form then we’d probably be receiving arts funding. However, our pitched-roof haven has come with an unexpected downside. Despite being a total steal, it doesn’t technically exist. Whoever owns this space didn’t tell anyone they were shoving humans into it and as a result we have negated our right to vote and our duty to pay council tax.
The biggest problem we’ve encountered is that it is difficult to get internet into a house that’s about ten meters away from the road and about the same off the ground. It has been five months since we moved in and we are due to finally get connected come Friday.
If I were a better writer I probably would have seen the opportunity in this predicament to deprive myself of any access to the net until it was sorted, thus providing folios upon folios of testy prose examining my relationships with the world and indeed, the wide web.
However, after all this time I have realised that a pseudo-investigative project would not only have been boring, but an utter waste of time. Because I have come to the conclusion, after months of tethering, cafe-ing and midday grimy pubbing, that not having the internet at home just… sucks.
There is no higher knowledge that can be gained by moving your aura exclusively into a physical domain. It is dull. It is unpractical. No nirvana can be reached. This experiment would only be beneficial for masochists and gambling addicts. And as someone who has been forced to complete this experiment in a kind of half-assed ‘stillusingyoursmartphone’ way, I can provide insight into why not having the internet does not result in becoming a Zen master (although one of my flatmates has, strangely, taken up bonsai).
Nobody I know owns a map. Our house is not filled with all the useful stuff parents still own – the relics of a bygone era in which the words ‘i’ and ‘phone’ merely reflected the confirmation that yes, that previously referred to object is a phone. Finding a route through London is impossible whilst harbouring a brain that can no longer store data about its surroundings. The bit that used to do this is now busy remembering keyboard shortcuts and the name of that new band with the wishy washy photo and the word GIRL somewhere in their name.
Banks don’t open ever. I know our seniors would have us believe that things were actually worse in that respect back in ‘the past’, but I find it hard to believe. Life without e-banking has made me constantly edgy. I actually have nightmares about dipping my toes into a lake named Overdraft. I am not in a position so lucrative that I can happily remain in the dark about my accounts.
People don’t real-life ‘share’. I have missed countless gigs and soirees because I lack a continual background stream of information. Twitter and Facebook used to provide the white noise to my day; blogs I like punctuated rountine dreariness with sparkling annoucements tailored for me. We now so heavily rely on said interwebs to arrange our calendars that people rarely refer to events in person until after they happened, and even then that conversation is accompanied by glancing over a photostream of events.
Everyone under 30 has been so heavily conditioned to do things in this way, in this order, that it is truly impossible to work and have a social life without relatively constant access to the internet in 2013. Lambast me for first-worlding all you want, but when this is coupled with a crappy job and a post graduation lull as it has been for me, things get shitty. The thought of phoning someone to ask them what they’re doing this weekend with a view to invite myself would undoubtedly be considered by said friend as ‘a bit rapey’.
When I do access the internet at the moment, it is via my smartphone. I had hoped that after a number of weeks my mobile data usage would begin to slump as I slowly came to the conclusion that my life was more gratifying when I did not spend it entirely looking at a screen. The opposite is true. Due to the hideous app ecosystems (and I use that word with a distain for it’s recent appropriation) that govern our mobile internet usage, things become fiddly to say the least. I have probably spent twice as much time as I ever did staring at a screen that is infinitely smaller than the screens I looked at before.
The move to mobile has strained my eyes and nerves as I have become mired in a completely unlined cloud, silver or otherwise. Skydrive, Google Drive, and Dropbox all compete for my attention because no one I work for or with can stick to one system. Excel documents fly hither and thither vying for a platform on which to stand and articulate their valuable data. Files open, but god forbid I’d want to do anything else with them as the privilege will cost me an app upgrade and my last pipettes worth of optimism.
Of course I can read everything I normally would via my mobile. But it’s awkward. Following daisy-chains of interesting information is not QUESTish in the same way on your phone. If anything can put a full stop to a fact-finding mission, it’s finding a website that isn’t smart enough to adjust it’s column size for your device. It’s such a mundane thing to complain about that my fingers are cringing. This mundanity, spliced with disproportionate anger, now governs most of my day.
And then there’s the fact that tethering has been so excruitiatingly vilified. My own provider expressly disallows the practice of using my phone to create a network to which my laptop can connect. Well lads, I’m not uploading this via my WordPress app for shit.
Conclusion? There isn’t one. I’d love to have a frisson with optimism here – the thought of claiming that life cannot only be possible but indeed wonderful without constant access to the internet would be a lie. It’s terrible. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this depressive tirade on your massive desktop monitor. I’m now off to hug my knees and make out with our soon-to-be-useful router.
(Update – just got a phonecall to say that we are not getting the internet on Friday)
(Update on update – we did get the internet! Huzzah!)
At the age of fourteen I formed an online Death Pact. This was not some form of cult based on the premise that if you reverse the HTML code of your favourite bands Myspace page it actually spells out instructions on how to end your life. We did not plan to commit suicide together by sending out a bulletin exposing Good Charlotte’s real motives before listening to their seminal debut enough times that our brains exploded. However, now I wish we had just so I could have tittered at the Daily Mail headline from the afterlife sofa.
This ‘death pact’, which I now realise was somewhat sensationally named, actually involved a very simple exchanging of Myspace and Bebo passwords (just to clarify, this is circa 2005). This took place so that in the event of either of our deaths the other person would dutifully delete the other from the internet in order to avoid the now-deceased’s page from becoming not only an online shrine but also a bank of images that people could pillage in order to create Youtube tribute videos emblazoned with misspelt sentiments. In our beautiful and self-obsessed youth, our utmost worry in life was that we’d be misremembered in death – “but what if they soundtrack their ‘***Memories**’ video with McFly?! Everyone will think I was a fan of them and all my alternative street cred will be null and void!” As a teenager who felt life was proving to be underwhelming and slow moving, nothing was more satisfying and simultaneously infuriating than to fantasize about how our deaths could be a continuation of the unjust way our parents were treating us in life.
I’ve been extremely lucky in my twenty-one year existence to have lost very few people prematurely. Those who I knew that have passed on were old friends or merely good acquaintances. These deaths were heartbreaking not because of relationships untimely severed, but because I watched my friends who had been closer with them have to deal with the travesty at such a young age. I saw many of them use the ghost online presences of the recently departed as a way to reach catharsis. They posted memories of good times and gullet-wrenching testimonies of their journeys to acceptance. But for every one of these messages from the supremely effected, there were five from people like me, who hadn’t been that close to the teen, stating their utter devastation at the loss.
Now this is totally natural. Teens are not only dramatic but also endearingly empathetic. And I do not doubt that all of these people truly meant every ❤ typed by their chipped nails. But being what I thought was an enlightened child, I made the decision that this practice was ridiculous. I theorised that this was the interwebbal equivalent of propping up a corpse at a party, sticking your hand up it’s arse and making it proclaim “Yes, that’s exactly what I would have wanted”. To me it seemed both perverse and illogical that these pages would remain interactive gravestones – venues for not only true sorrow but also melodramatic death fetishists who sought to release their own ill-informed memory of the time “they lent me a lighter” into the pool of true despair.
Once upon a time when a person died calls had to be made to insurance companies and landlords. Now something far more personal must be dealt with – Facebook constitutes that person’s entire representation of him or herself to the world. Facebook have their own death protocols, including the ‘memorialisation’ of a page. When this happens (after the submission of an obituary or some other proof of death), Facebook disallows any logins to the page and stops it from coming up on lists of ‘recommendations’ to avoid being downright insensitive. This memorial page allows friends to post memories and thoughts without the danger of the page being hacked or misused.
Now, I do not doubt that my opinion on this will be unpopular, especially after my admission that I’ve never had to cope with the pain of losing someone incredibly close to me excluding a grandmother whose age preceeded a level of expectance. But I do believe that Facebook pages do not need to be a sort of cyber Statis House. The thought of an online museum of the life I curated to impress others is now, as an adult, much more terrifying to me than the idea I might get a multimedia sob-fest dedication on Vimeo. Yes, our lives are moving online. Our deaths need not do.
And thus we return to the pact. I can’t help but think that in my death I can afford a degree of selfishness that would be deemed rude when alive. And at the end of my current animaton my posthumous egotistical act will be the deletion of every iota of my online presence via a good friend armed with my passwords – everything from my Facebook and Twitter accounts to a once accessed Vampirefreaks username. It will all disappear. And this is because, despite the fact it may help some, I do not want the proclamations of those who are more generous with their emotions online to make others feel guilty for their lack of impulse to shout from every virtual rooftop.
My original pact partner is probably unable to remember our first arrangement. We no longer spend any time together and I’m sure he finds the fact that I still remember his password (which I do), utterly terrifying. If you are reading this, my old friend, then do not fret for I will never use it. Your opinion on internet memorialisation has probably changed since then (as well as, more probably, your passwords). As for me, I finally changed the passwords I’ve had since I opened my first Hotmail account quite recently after I had my phone stolen and decided it was about time. And now I’m on the hunt for someone that will, in ideally a romantic scene which involves tears streaming down their face, wearing a defiant ‘it must be done’ expression, expunge me from the internet after my untimely demise. And, with a bit of luck, it’ll be replaced with an article on TIME.com about how frickin’ great my beating the crap out of that dragon that threatened to destroy the earth was.
AN HONEST CV
Dear Generic Online Publication
I am a new graduate with a mediocre talent for arranging words. I think I’d be just alright at fulfilling this role, because inevitably my enthusiasm will wear off after a week and then I will be zombie-like for the remainder of the time spent at your PR/NEWMEDIA/RAZZLEDAZZLE company. And when I say zombie-like, I am referring to old-school zombies that walk listlessly, not the Left For Dead ones that can climb stuff and run at you.
Although I’m pretty decent at stringing sentences together I lack any ability to come up with original ideas. I did once or twice and I’ve been riding off those pieces ever since.
I’m smart but I didn’t get all As at any point and I got a 2.1 in my degree. It was a few more marks off a 1st than I tell people because I’m inherently dishonest when it comes to my own ability.
I’m an all-rounder when it comes to stuff that doesn’t really matter. I have an encyclopaedic knowledge of 90s sitcoms that were aired on the short-lived TV channel ‘Trouble’.
I think your company will probably fail within the next few years. I really just want this job so I can buy a nice dress and make my Mum proud. I think your editorial team is terrible and you have the wrong ideas about everything. You will not be the next big thing but I would be mildly pleased about getting a wage from you until you have to file for bankruptcy.
I’m also a team player and have excellent interpersonal skills.
Thank you for considering my application.
Simon Amstell laughed at me with pity whilst I played jingle bells on the recorder at the top of the escalator.
Build A Bear Workshop
Bear Builder (Yep.)
Didn’t murder any children while working at this crèche that masquerades as a shop.
Had a lovely time but you’ll not care because it happened in Ireland, which you equate with the Shire.
The word intern means I worked for free and therefore you do not care.
Muggle Tours & Alternative Promotions
Walking Tour Guide
Bellatrix is latin for ‘female warrior’. Increased my skill set dramatically.
I graduated in July. Since then I have applied for hundreds of jobs, all demanding various levels of competence and experience. These are all of the rejection letters I have received. There are three.
From: Kate Duckham
Subject: Re: Copywriter
Date: 9 November 2012 16:32:56 GMT
To: Suzanna McCracken
I just wanted to write and thank you for applying for the role of Copywriter here at Poke.
We have now taken somebody on for this role but I will keep your details on file incase any other Copywriter roles come up in the near future.
I hope you are doing well in your search though and wish you the best of luck.
Subject: Job Ref: 913675 – Journalism Trainee Scheme
Date: 16 October 2012 09:27:09 GMT+01:00
To: Suzanna McCracken
Thank you for your application for the position of Journalism Trainee Scheme which we have carefully considered. We regret to advise that your application has been unsuccessful on this occasion.
We hope you will continue to look for further career opportunities within the BBC or sign up for the Vacancy Alerts service at www.bbc.co.uk/careers
The BBC Recruitment Team
From: Jobs <Jobs@timeout.com>
Subject: RE: Music & Clubs Assistant
Date: 5 October 2012 17:38:41 GMT+01:00
To: Suzanna McCracken
Thank you very much for your recent application for the position of Music & Clubs Assistant at Time Out; it was good to read your submission.
We have had so many applications of such high quality, including yours, that unfortunately on this occasion, we won’t be taking your application further.
However, we really do appreciate your interest in Time Out. We hope that if any other suitable vacancies arise in the future, you will apply to us again; sadly, we are not able to keep your details on file or give any more detailed feedback at this stage.
Best regards and good luck for the future,
STUFF THAT TOURISTS IN LONDON SHOULD KNOW
I’ve been a walking tour guide here for nearly a year. People say some really stupid stuff to me. Here’s 10 suggestions to make my job and your life easier.
1. The City of London is an area within London. It is London’s financial district and not shorthand for ‘central’ London. A trip to The City involves time spent navigating streets filled with people that are the equivalent of creativity-sapping dementors – their ability to make everything go dark comes from their massive ex-rugby player shoulders obscuring the sun.
2. A walking tour in central London usually costs £10. ‘Free’ walking tour guides actually pay their boss an amount for every person who comes on the tour. If they say “tips are welcome” they actually mean “£10 is a fair amount – I’m sorry the company I work for misled you with the word ‘free’.”
3. Fish and Chips are overrated. British food is ropey unless you want to pay premium prices. At Borough Market you get awesome produce from all over the UK, but it’ll put a dent in the budget of a teenage backpacker. Go for foreign food to avoid paying £10 for a pie.
4. The Time Out website is pretty good. Londoners use it too. Don’t bother trying to find somewhere ‘off the beaten track’ unless it was recommended by someone you trust/think is well dressed (i.e me).
5. The Changing of the Guard sucks, Trafalgar Square is just a square, LONDON BRIDGE IS NOT TOWER BRIDGE, policemen are not there to be in your photo and BIG BEN IS THE NAME OF THE BELL, NOT THE TOWER.
6. If you are in a hundred year old greasy spoon in the East End do not order a flat white.
7. UK stands for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Great Britain includes England, Wales and Scotland. Please try not to refer to the whole of the UK as England, but also bare in mind if someone talks about Great Britain they’re probably referring to the whole of the United Kingdom. It can be a confusing synecdoche, I realise that. Sorry. But get used to it.
8. According to the scale of most countries it’s true that London and more northern cities are pretty close. But please please please don’t make the mistake of thinking you can get the tube to Old Trafford or that you can see both Abbey Road and Liverpool in the same day. These places are NOT in London.
9. Buy an oyster card. It makes things cheaper, even if you just use it pay as you go. TFL don’t make that clear enough to tourists because we like the ticket barriers to be an embarrassing experience for you. (TFL – Transport For London).
10. Bring change everywhere in central London as you’ll have to pay to use to loos unless you brave Burger King. London’s best toilets – London Bridge’s new ones are pretty swanky and the ones south of Covent Garden have won Loo of the Year so many times that the certificates obscure the bathroom attendant’s view.