Friday, 27 June 2008

West End Grrl

So, what happens when you take the High Altar of Geek and plonk it in the very heart of mainstream, high-culture London?

Aside from a personal visit by the Mayor (who once collected Marvel comics, so he said) and an amazingly rude anchor girl from a national news team (I don’t care if you’re ‘on the telly’ luv, you’re not using my display as a dressing table), a great deal of fun, frolics and photographs.

Yes, Westminster City Council invited Forbidden Planet back to West End Live.

You know I’m intrigued by the nature of geekdom – the marketeer in me labels it the customer-base of my company – but I’m still a fangirl at heart and Forbidden Planet’s people are less statistic and more friend. Not so the milling hordes in Leicester Square last weekend! Busier than even the organisers expected, the shoulder-to-shoulder crush was sightseers, tourists, families, theatre lovers and luvvies; the urban(e) heart of the West End who stand outside my demographic and who don’t give Star Wars so much as a sniff of disdain.

Yet we were busier than we’ve ever been.

Aside from our giant Spidey, we took with us a dressing up box – masks, helmets, hats and props from now-hot comic book culture. Unsurprisingly, the guys wanted to don The Hulk mask-and-hands and roar at camera-wielding girlfriends; unsurprisingly, the Who voice-changer was a massive hit with every kid of ten or younger; unsurprisingly, the Indy hat-and-whip caused much amusement among the ladies. The ‘surprisingly’? The appeal was universal.

Dressing up is one of those things we never grow out of. It breaks our boundaries, transcends the faintly bitter taste of ‘role-play’ and embraces the sweet allure of ‘stage and screen’. With us, once again, were our friends from the UK Garrison – this time clad in a variety of movie-class costumes – and fronting the ‘come-as-you-aren’t’ theme of the FP tent. They epitomised what the packed throng of visitors were teasing at the edges of – the desire to be the legend, the hero, the star.

Returning to my personal mission statement about the new age of geek credibility, it seems that West End Live blurred the ever-fading line between geek and chic even more… On a weekend where the Mayor collects Marvel and the ol’ comic store becomes the new green room, there’s no limit to how cool a geek can get!

Thursday, 12 June 2008


Last weekend, I returned to a place of haven and refuge – Holland’s Wood, Brockenhurst, New Forest.

The forest is glorious, an easy place to abandon yourself in air and trees and sky and sunlight. It makes a tranquil resting point from which to venture outwards.

The tourist-friendly gravel paths are all very well – but I’ve done those. This time, my weekend’s biking was a shimmering, superheated cross-country fight that had me facing pathless, treacherous heathland; mud and mosquito, slope and shingle, rut and ridge – and one apparently spontaneous river.

Rattling loud protest at the pounding it was taking, my bike showed me something I haven’t seen in a long time.


Somewhere outside Ringwood, the sun blistering my shoulders, my entire attention sharpened down to a perfect, searchlight-like beacon illuminating the forward motion of my front wheel.
My knees still absorbed the shocks, my feet still pushed, my hands still gripped the handlebars like they were a white-knuckle ride… but all I could see, feel, think, the only thing in my head, was the next metre of upcoming ground. Everything else had just… ceased.

One thought.

Created by apprehension, it came with confidence and complete control. It was timeless, intense, white-hot – and unbelievably freeing.

As the ground levelled out and my concentration receded, I found myself laughing – relief or release, I don’t know – but its sheer force brought an insight.

Our lives are increasingly about multi-tasking – in the home, on the web. How many Social Media sites do we maintain; how many tasks do we complete while we schedule more, while we write, draft, chat, code, listen to Last FM? On Twitter, we continue multiple conversations; on FriendFeed, we flick from tab to tab. We group our friends into sets just to keep track of ourselves and we jump dementedly from URL to URL like we jump between the brightly-manic stepping stones of Plurk.

Every day, our minds range outwards along so many lines - our attention is scattered and we rarely bring the full force of our concentration to bear on a single thing. When extremity pulls all those lines, hard, in the one direction – it’s astounding what you can achieve.

Sometimes, it's good to take your head out of the screen. It reminds you what else you can do!