Sign of the times

May 31, 2008 at 1:13 pm (Anecdotal)

Picture: Hackney, east London

Given the rise in oil prices, I guess your car has to run on something

Permalink Leave a Comment

The phone with no ring

April 11, 2007 at 9:54 am (Anecdotal, blog, Double espresso)


Yesterday I went to the basement of Carphone Warehouse in London’s Oxford Street, a first-aid centre for mobile telephones. The older gentleman in front of me looked familiar. I asked if he was a writer. “Yes,” he said. It was, as I had suspected, the novelist and essayist John Berger. I was chuffed. Even great writers line up to get their phones fixed. He asked what was wrong with mine. It has a torch that works, I said, but doesn’t ring. (Like a car that has spell-check but no wheels.)

I told him I met Salman Rushdie a few months back. He was in a pub with his partner Padma Lakshmi. I patted him on the shoulder and said, “I’m Iranian and on behalf of my country I apologise”. Rushdie laughed but gave me a look of unease as if I might shout “Blasphemous swine!” and stab him. That was my cue to leave but I asked if he would endorse the book I have written. He said he might and that I should send it to his publisher. I haven’t yet. Written it, that is.

“Why don’t you ditch Salman for me,” I wanted to tell Padma, who is beautiful and my age. “I’m not quite as distinguished yet but I am rather hip.” Imagine prising Rushdie’s wife off him. In what would be a poetic role-reversal, he would issue a fatwa on an Iranian.

John — we were on first name terms now — asked if I did any writing. I told him, sir, if you write, I scribble with a blunt pencil. I didn’t actually but I wish I had. Bugger. His wife appeared. I forget her name, maybe Bernadette. I asked how things were in Switzerland — John was being served now. “We live in France,” she said. “Not Switzerland.” She told me that a Berger season is running in London and that’s why they were here. She quizzed me about why my family had left Iran, after which they left the shop. I refrained from insisting on coffee lest I frighten them. They both seemed surprised someone had recognised John in Carphone Warehouse.

At the repair desk the image of a mobile phone with hands and feet, its head bandaged, white coat on another — the doctor treating it — decorated a glass panel behind which was the fix-it lab, with a green hospital cross on the door. I was glad to have told John that I think the cell phone industry should be nationalised, with people’s phones, dull as East German Trabants, issued free-of-charge to single mothers among others. No cute ring tones and no cameras, I said — like mine. His wife smiled. Although I admitted, “If I did have a camera I could take a picture now with Mr Berger”. Consumerism has its merits, after all.

I checked my phone in at the counter, oddly humanised in cartoon form, with arms and legs, in a mass communication culture that dehumanises the poor, especially if they sit on oil, so that they can be colonised and their limbs blown off. Fortunately the couple escaped this lecture. That’s what you do when you meet big writers, you want to impress them with your ideas. Berger was one of few whose writing influenced me as a student, partly because his seminal book Ways of Seeing had bold type and pictures, perfect for when you’re stoned.

The cell-phone doctor, wearing puppy stubble, name badge, shirt and tie, examined my Nokia so thoroughly it belied a suspicion that I have no friends who might call.

(“Can’t fix your social life here mate, there’s a bar next-door.”)

“That man you just served”, I told him, “he’s a great writer.” He looked at me, nodded and pressed a button.
First published on in April 2005. Off to US.

Permalink Leave a Comment


November 12, 2006 at 7:46 pm (Anecdotal)

Covering religion 
A journalist said to me: “I’m writing a piece about women and Islam and I don’t know a thing about it.”

“Wouldn’t worry,” I said. “That’s the first qualification for writing about Islam.”

Joy of text
Predictive text messages spell my name, Peyvand, as “sexual”. When my mother-in-law got a mobile I sent her a text: “Look forward to lunch on Sunday. Sexual.”

In the timing
Before the Iraq war the British public were told Saddam’s missiles could reach the UK in 45 minutes. Iran poses no such threat. Even if it did, the missiles would be 45 minutes late.

Energy drink
If the Iranians invade Britain, we should kick them out. Fight on the beaches, fight on the landing ground, fight in the fields, the streets and the hills.

What if Britain attacks Iran? Well, if you’ve stayed in a B&B you’ll know the best way to humble the British is hospitality. They’re not used to it. We’ll give them bacon, eggs, sausage, beans and extra toast free of charge. And then we’ll make them a nice, hot cup of oil.

Whole picture
Everything is in place for my wedding, it’s in a castle, I’ve got the best caterers, no bride as yet, but that’s a minor detail.

Insider knowledge
A friend of mine in the Pentagon is confident Hilary Clinton will be the next president, of Iran.

Permalink 7 Comments


November 10, 2006 at 12:32 pm (Anecdotal, Technology)

This week I went to Wales for the first time since 1995 when I graduated, just about, from the University of Glamorgan in Pontypridd, a town near Cardiff. A stand-up comic friend of mine had a gig there. It’s was something, going back. The uni used to be called the Polytechnic of Wales but a law came in in the 1990s that anywhere that taught you something could have university status.

There is still no internet cafe in Pontypridd. But it still has a lovely art deco cafe and a train station (called, imaginatively, “Pontypridd”). SatNav, flat-screen TVs in pubs, email, mobile phones, technology has moved on since ’95, the first year of Microsoft’s Windows. I will write more later, my broadband connection is dead and I am at my parents’. Also, while jumping on to a rock in a brook, I fell on my arse and smashed my i-Pod. Poor i-Pod. It makes a squealing noise if I press it. Gadgets have souls, I tell ya. Dad and his SatNav aren’t talking.

Permalink 2 Comments


November 5, 2006 at 10:18 am (Anecdotal)

Had this published in FT Magazine in the summer. If yer interested.

Permalink Leave a Comment


November 2, 2006 at 10:26 am (Anecdotal)

Never saw a menu quite like the one below. Shoreditch, east London, last night. It’s actually a Thai cafe. But still, v. charming. Food wasn’t bad. Am on to fish. Too much meat of late. Put it all in freezer. Might get into fish for a while. Hmm. Fish. Punched three trick-or-treaters at Hallowe’en. Of course, I didn’t. Am surprised people allow children to knock on doors in Camberwell though. The other night a 19-year-old male was killed by an Uzi, at club called, get this, Aristocrats. That’s like having a club for toffs called Peasants.

Given that we keep hearing British troops are under-equipped in Afghanistan, it’s odd our street thugs are so well-equipped. In my day, we had pistols at dawn. None of this machine-gun toting nonsense.


Permalink Leave a Comment

Pac-Man days

October 31, 2006 at 4:42 pm (Anecdotal)

When I was a teenager we used to load computer games using audiocassette players. It would take several minutes. Two vertical bars exchanging a chunky pixel constituted ‘tennis’. Things got more advanced. One game, Paper Boy, involved a boy delivering papers. I don’t know how points were scored, maybe the trick was to avoid the dog, or getting shot and molested. Arcade games were always more advanced than what we had at home, but these required money. I was never much good at any of the games, and although I liked Pac-Man, I didn’t appreciate being called it at school (a derivative of Paki). It only happened once or twice, but that’s enough.
Even today, when I come across Pac-Man it doesn’t take long before I get frazzled. I always make the mistake of going for the disempowered ghosts just as they are about to regain their normal colour – and lethal potency – and getting eaten. Then, that terrible noise tells you you’re a loser – video games are good at those – and Pac-Man disintegrates.

The other week I saw my nine-year-old cousin, Dan, playing a video game in my parents’ house. There he was, both on TV and watching it: the gadget allows the child to be involved with the animation on screen, using kung-fu moves to deflect oncoming aliens. Viewer and viewed were one, my cousin’s imagination snared by that of an overpaid geek in a Slipknot T-shirt, who designs computer games in Slough. I got called Pac-Man, my little cousin is Pac-Man.

Permalink Leave a Comment