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It’s time to end the body fascism

You might be thinking that you can’t get away from fat people on TV at the moment after a glut of programmes featuring life’s larger people (the amusing drama “Fat Friends” and the rather more poignant documentary “Christie’s Story”) but the reality is that the media does its best to exclude images of anyone who can’t fit into a Gap size 10.

As an Evans gold card account holder myself, I am often hesitant to put my head above the parapet to stand up and defend the rights of plump people like myself to be as plump, chubby, stout, corpulent, fat, big or large (whatever you call it) as our bodies make us. For there is, without a doubt, a small voice within me that does whisper to me sometimes that it might be pretty nice if I could also fit into those impossible size 10 jeans myself.

However, common sense and 30 years’ experience within this body tell me that it won’t ever happen and, even if I did spend the rest of my life on the non-stop diet and exercise treadmill that it would take me to reach even a modest size 14, I still wouldn’t look like the girl on a magazine.

And it is magazines and the printed mass media who are the biggest body fascists and purveyors of stick insect beauty that exerts colossal pressure on people to conform to an unnatural, often unobtainable washboard stomach slimness.

When I noticed recently a national newspaper using male models with sunken cheeks, pipe cleaner legs and lifeless eyes, I dared to complain that the images were not attractive (to me as a woman) and that I thought one particular model was obscenely, skeletally thin. I was offended that the ‘heroin chic’ wafer-thin fashion creed was now being applied to male as well as female models. Of course my letter did not get published.

Whether this was just because of lack of space, or because I had dared to question the style elite’s right to decide exactly what level of emaciation would be chic in December, or because I had affronted the fashion editor by imprudently noticing (from his jowly byline photo) that he was not as drainpipe thin as the images he was promoting, I will leave for you to decide.

The notion that clothes look good on a skinny, walking clotheshorse is a nonsense, as can be evidenced by countless beanpole, flat chested women on the catwalk: clothes don’t “hang well” on malnourished people – they hang loose, shapelessly and baggy.

If more people were as shocked by pictures of seriously underweight women in the media as I was shocked by the pictures of that male model, the fashion lie that “we’re giving people what they want” would crumble in no time.

A life less ordinary

One of my New Year resolutions, or should I say Millennium resolutions, (to stiffen my determination not to break it!) was to manage my money better. I made lists galore of everything it seemed to disappear on and I promised my ever-suffering bank manager that the year 2000 would welcome the arrival of a financially revolutionised Christelle Randall. The problem is, Millennium resolution or not, it cannot be done. I am suffering from a deadly combination of “living and working in London”.

When I left my cushy existence as a student, I thought my years of living in debt would be well and truly over. I entertained high hopes that my student loan debts would be obliterated with the Millennium Bug Crisis and that after graduating I would land a job in PR, and a well paid one at that. Things have not gone quite according to plan…

Although I have an interesting job, it certainly is not well paid and once rent, travel, bills and food money have gone out, it does not leave me with much to play with. So, in order to soften the cruel blow of my monthly paycheck, I have devised ways to minimise my own weekly spending. By day I am suitably armed – shunning all the tasty sandwich places surrounding me – with my packed lunch.

Every Sunday, I buy a variety of tasty ingredients to brighten up my lunch box – Parma ham and nice cheeses – rationing that armed as such I would save money. I fail miserably. My sandwiches always look shriveled by the time I unravel them, leaving me to wonder, as I tuck into an M&S sarnie, why mine are never the same?

By night, Soho is a whole new ball game. Bars, which are inconspicuous by day, suddenly loom up bigger and bolder and it takes more than a packed lunch to avoid them. Of course I could always replace my faithful Ribena with a flask of Absolut Vodka…

The adjustment from student to professional is a hard one. Most people experience a huge sense of relief on leaving school or university, eager for the break into their chosen career field. But it is easy to become disillusioned when you realise that few career paths are immediately paved with gold. In particular the media field is a difficult ladder to climb.

Then pop culture force-feeds us a diet of beautiful accessible things that glamorous young Twentysomethings cannot do without but which we cannot afford. The right clothes, bars, restaurants, any gimmick really. Magazines, aiming to cater for a younger audience, do not always offer a realistic portrayal of life in a city like London and most of us have a fair while to go before we can even begin to enjoy the life advocated by the media.

However there is light at the end of the tunnel, pay rises do happen and I am told you will gradually cease from feeling like you are still 60% student and more like you are 60% professional. And although this may or may not be a good thing, if it means I never have to look at my homemade sandwiches again then I’ll be a happy girl.

Movie horrors

When was the last time you went to the pictures on a Saturday night? I used to think that the cinema on a Saturday night was a place frequented by a breed of people clad in corduroy trousers and trench coats. I preferred Sunday night cinema viewing in my heyday. But now that those good old days seem to be over and I am joined in marital union to my sofa, a picture house on a Saturday night is where I am most likely to be found and a normal one at that.

Last weekend my boyfriend and I decided to go and see The Bone Collector. We were looking forward to watching a good thriller and instead had the unexpected pleasure of witnessing a circus act. People whose pants seemed to have been invaded by an army of ants surrounded us. If not toilet hopping, they were wandering along the aisles trying to spot other pals and then coming back to ask their partners what they had missed. We then had three women sitting directly in front of us who talked throughout the entire film. Not only were they bantering inanely about post-cinema plans, they were also keen to indulge in a little detective work, “I reckon it’s ‘im,” being a fairly consistent observation. I can tell you that after two hours of listening to their rubbish, I was keen to do a bit of bone collecting myself!

I mean, you expect kids to misbehave. Where the sanctity of silence reigns supreme – places like the cinema, school assemblies and churches – you’re always guaranteed to get an ample quota of children clowning around. Perhaps the thrill of making noise in places that are out of bounds never really leaves us – confinable in some people, visible in others. Although this is a theory that can thankfully no longer be put to the test in a school assembly.

Then, on a more general note, you have the industrial popcorn chewer or the serial cola guzzler, with the prize for torturer extraordinaire going to none other than the smelly food eater. This specimen is usually found any place where there are a lot of people crammed together in a tight space with no easy way out. He or she prefers to eat Wotsits, burgers or that latest unwelcome addition to the cinema menu: nachos. Nachos smothered in lashings of Mr Squeezy cheese. Hello? Who thought that would ever improve picture house politics?

But I do think that suburban cinemas are definitely the least favourable – possibly because my worst experiences (and it seems those of my friends) have taken place in these cinemas. I can only guess this is because there is perhaps more of a “treat factor” involved in going to the pictures in town. These mega cinemas are usually very expensive and so you would guess that most people willing to fork out this money are interested in seeing the movie.

Being disturbed in the cinema is like being awakened from a really good dream, then you try so hard to get back into it, but it’s gone. The cinema is a place for relaxing. A place where the viewer has paid the money for his or her license to dream and fantasise. Whether you have opted for a romance, a thriller or an action movie, you are paying for the cinema experience as much as for anything else, otherwise it would be cheaper and easier to wait for the video, in my case glued to the sofa!

Email flirting

When I became a member of the rat race after a nice long holiday at Uni, email became my new toy. Most people had used computers at college, either for typing up coursework or emailing their mates. I never quite made it that far so for me it was a novelty. My first cyber “partner” was my friend Kate, through her I built up my email network and before long, with more of my friends online; I acquired an entire repertoire of people to distract me. Hey, I even met my last boyfriend over email. In fact, meeting potential romantic encounters over email seems to be my thing…

Email is great. It’s good for distraction; you can flirt brilliantly over it and assume a whole other persona. I have had countless email frissons where I cheekily emailed friends of friends, picked up from a circular mail (the cyber equivalent of picking someone up from a bar I guess) and indulged in some heavy duty flirtin’. It is also very good for building up a relationship. When I started seeing my ex, we spent hours mailing and it made it a lot easier to get to know each other. I guess any boundaries that might have been there in the first place were gradually lowered. You feel like you are in control and can monitor exactly what you want to say and how you want to say it. Naturally, as with any kind of drug, it does not always smell of roses. Email can be quite an impersonal way of communicating, particularly if you are trying to get to know someone. It becomes easier than phoning or interacting on a normal basis and so the communication can actually suffer in the long term.

You are plagued with the same worries except there is an even greater sense of urgency. If you don’t receive an email for the first half of the morning from your cyber playmate then a heart attack is imminent. It’s not like you can call and do 141 with your identity concealed. So if playing hard to get is your thing then you have to sustain all temptation and spend the day looking wistfully at your inbox.

The worst thing is spending an entire day panicking and irritating everyone else in the office only to discover later that the server was down. Then of course you still have to play it cool. “No emails – oh don’t worry honestly, I didn’t even have time to send any” – forgetting in the meantime the million undelivered ones floating in your inboxes and the subsequent tears. As for email servers being down, I think in every job I have ever had, the IT department has come to rely on me as a vital source of information. I always seem to know well in advance when my email isn’t working.

Then again there are countless email woopsies waiting to happen. Emails have a knack of occasionally straying and ending up in the wrong person’s inbox, usually boyfriends, ex’s and your Managing Director. There is also the lack of intonation in mailing, which doesn’t help and can lead to many an email fracas if taken the wrong way. It is a dangerous thing. Although an email relationship can be thrilling, it can also be fairly stressful once technology waves its magic wand. Plus it really is addictive and is not conducive with a good day’s work. Having said that I am still well up for a spot of email flirting, so guys…

My life is not going well

My life is not going well. In fact it is not going at all. In the space of a fortnight I have left my job, moved out of my flat and split up with my boyfriend. Regular readers of my column will know that the latter addition is not a welcome one. To say I feel like the rug has been pulled out from under my feet is putting it mildly, a much clearer picture would be painted if I said that the rug has been pulled out so quickly that I never even knew it was there.

I have spent the last two weeks analyzing my life in true Bridget Jones-style. In this time, my travels have taken me far and wide. From my friends living rooms to the comfort of a self-help book, and a barman. Yes, dare I say that on one occasion I sat at this bar, on my own, pouring my woes out to the barman as he eagerly poured more booze down my throat.
I felt like a character from Sunset Beach. But they all agree on the same thing. I need some control in my life apparently. CONTROL.

Fucking fantastic. Well let’s just see if I can rustle some up then. Control is now one of those words going around my mind, in much the same way that happiness swims around the mind of a manic-depressive. Where do I get it? How do I feel it? Has it really been so long since I had this precious commodity that I actually don’t know what it is? Quite a scary thought. This is one of those times when you know you have to do some serious soul searching, but I honestly do not know where to start. I mean I feel like a bit of a hippie saying that I “need to find myself, dude”, discover what I want, think about the guy I really want to be with. And isn’t this all a little clinical and calculated?

I don’t want to be thinking about the right man and nor do I feel very capable of making any life changing decisions. I shall simply surf the wave of my suburban lifestyle until I do know what I want but will I ever? I have visions of waking up one morning with a parcel awaiting me, bursting with my control and direction. In fact, make that a parcel hand delivered by God, so we can have a little pep talk afterwards, just to make sure I know what to do with it all.

Some people never even have to face this kind of crisis, or so it seems. There are some girls who have never had and probably never will hear a guy tell them that they cannot commit any more. I mean, surely if the guy had strong feelings for you in the first place then that would be enough. He would be so scared of losing you that he would have to face “commitment”. Well there are obviously girls out there who, with a flick of their eyelashes can convince a guy to forget his phobias. How do they do it? Is there a club that teaches them their tricks? Am I wearing the wrong mascara? Or is it because they are in fact in control of it all from the start? And if you wear your heart so fucking obviously on your sleeve, like I do, then have you lost the game before you even started?

I don’t think any of us really expect an answer to such questions. Things are just never that black and white are they? Well, right now, the right answers, the only answers are at the bottom of that bloody bottle!

Update……

Some thoughts on your situation.

Control isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. It’s inherently restricting, because it’s generally based on stability, security etc. and therefore offers little scope for spontanaiety, experiencing new things, etc.

People with safe jobs, a good pension, and nice wallpaper have control. They’re also frequently dead from the waist up (probably down too). You’re 24 – you can and will meet new people, you can and will get a new career.

About 18 months ago I lost contact with every single close friend I had. Overnight almost. People I’d known for 10 years. I imagined it would be devastating. In fact it opened up a wealth of new opportunities and experiences. I’d gotten into the habit of behaving a certain way, talking a certain way, doing the same things. Scary though it is, it’s incredibly liberating to have your life thrown into chaos. There are no boundaries, no restrictions.

As for women batting there eyelashes, and casting a “commitment spell” over us guys -d’you really want that?? There are thousands of guys dying to commit as soon as possible. Only because they’re scared of being alone, or scared of not having control.

A final thought – I recently got promoted at work, and it’s a little scary in the sense that I don’t know how to do all the things I need to. But it’s also tremendously exciting to face a new challenge. The point is that our perception of change is relative – a job promotion is viewed positively, a relationship split negatively.

Let me end on a cliche – the grass is always greener on the other side. If you’re relationship had lasted for years and years to come, d’you think you might have started to miss the freedom and excitement of single life?

Keep smiling

Thom.

 

 

 

 

Scare cuts

Ok, when did you last have your haircut? In fact, my question should be “Have you ever had the misfortune to go to a XXXXXXXXX salon?”. Well, I have.

This chain of hairdressers can be found hidden away in tube stations or random shopping centres, usually in places like Bromley or anywhere in Essex. They charge a basic price, usually a tenner (bit of a clue there), and you do not need an appointment. You simply walk in and walk out a smiling, hair happy person. Um, not me.

Not that I am a XXXXXXXXX spotter, but the only people who ever seem to be in these salons are people who want an easy trim or a simple blow dry. And then people like me come along with their uncontrollable impulses. People like me who jump in right at the deep end. So on Monday night, I went to my underground Tescos and lo and behold, there was a XXXXXXXXX salon. Indeed, it was begging me to come and have a look. It was already quite late so I did not think they would be able to see me, perhaps I was testing them or testing myself to see how far I could go. Unfortunately they made me an appointment. I waited for half an hour. In this time I became more ambitious and thought, well I might as well go for a bob. XXXXXXXXX have to employ trained hairdressers I thought, trying to ignore the fact that one of them was a mullet head. I concentrated instead on the Paul Mitchell products by the till. My label antenna told me that with products like these then they had to be all right.

My turn soon came. I had been hoping I was going to get the pretty hairdresser with the nice sleek hair. Luckily the mullet stayed well away but instead I got something equally as frightening. My male hairdresser was Irish and drunk. I could smell the alcohol on his breath. He took me off to wash my hair and ended up washing my eyes with half the shampoo (Paul Mitchell). XXXXXXXXX don’t “do” towels, so I dripped back to my seat and sat down nervously. He picked up my hair in and in one clean sweep he began to chop. Fearing the attack of his scissors, I smiled meekly and told him I didn’t care what he did as long as it was even. He smiled a shark smile back at me and told me: “ We’ll see what we can do”.

He chopped along to Britney Spears and off it all went. Instead of the two inches I asked for, he took off four. And now I look like an elf, I look like I should be auditioning for a part in ‘Lord Of The Rings’. A mullet would probably have been better.

I am so displeased with my haircut that I considered having hair extensions. I even surfed the net to find out about them. Is that really vain? And can you believe that they cost £500 for a full head? £500!! I think the upshot of that little discovery would be that I shall remain elf-like for at least another couple of months…

Besides, having a haircut can sometimes be like splitting up with someone; you don’t realise how much you appreciated your long, luscious locks until they go. You grieve them for a little while, you don’t feel all that attractive and then suddenly the cloud disappears and you realise that in fact shorter hair is better. You have more freedom, more body, it’s in better condition and hey it doesn’t take as long to dry… even if you do look like an elf.

Keith’s wedding

I know NOTHING about computers. Yep, that’s right, despite 12 years in the industry, I know NOTHING. I thought I used to know something, but apparently, I don’t. Before you start writing to me asking if I’ve started suffering amnesia or wanting to know if my 12 years experience were equally shared between the ZX81, Vic 20 and Dragon 32, the answer is no, and no. And it’s certainly not because the technology has left me behind.

The simple reason is this. This August, an occasional friend of mine is getting married to his long-term girlfriend. This friend of mine “works with computers” in the same way that a postman “works for the government”. He’s an IT recruitment consultant. This enables him to have the most dangerous knowledge there is – a little knowledge. He’s heard of the World Wide Web and everything that’s “in it”. He’s no stranger to words such as Java, ActiveX, CGI, scripting, Flash, querying, active server pages and so on. I mean he really does – he knows which ones are nouns and which ones are verbs, and that’s everything as far as he’s concerned.

I thought I’d heard of the Web and what was “in it”. But it turns out it’s as much as I like driving my car, and I know there’s oil “in it”. For his impending wedding, this friend (lets just call him Keith – after all, his mum does), approached me saying he’d want a Website for it. I was slightly bemused. I’d put together websites before, albeit simple ones, but these were for companies, and products. What would he want a website for? I had mental images of him sat round the kitchen table with his wife-to-be writing out their infallible list of everything that had to be perfect, and nestling somewhere under stationery and above choirboys was “Website”.

What did he want? Did he want wedding photos? Invites? Maybe an interactive present list? I started thinking of actual good uses for the site. A map to the church? Details of nearby accommodation? Did he want to go the whole hog – a domain name? www.keithswedding.com? Which I believe is still available.

He stared blankly at me. Good God no – what he wanted was Java. And Flash. He wanted secure elements. Some scripting. Browser detection. “Why?” I responded. “What do you want in the site? I can do it for you in HTML.” A dark cloud passed over his face – I felt like I’d insulted his mother. He didn’t want HTML, oh no, he wanted a good site, and apparently, you couldn’t do those without the best technology. Oh dear, he didn’t have a clue, and I’d just admitted to being able to ride a bike – but only with stabilisers.

I’m not sure the site will actually happen now, as Keith has not asked me to do anything for it. Guess if I’d have feigned ignorance and just told him “I know how to make a website” it would have been a great wedding present. It could have been something old, or something new. Something borrowed (with graphics from other sites), or something blue (with graphics from adult sites).

Danger

I’m saving up. It’s February, the credit card’s paid off and I’m putting cash away as fast as I can… for a new sofa. Now before your eyes glaze over and you start scanning the page for quick ways back to the home page, there is a very real and dangerous reason for this bold, bold step of mine. You see: I have a perfectly good, (almost) new sofa already. I’m certainly not expanding – my front room wouldn’t take two sofas and I don’t have enough regular visitors to get my money’s worth of sitting. No – the problem is this – ‘danger’ has become the social smart drug of the year 2000. And my sofa won’t be able to cope. I shall explain.

Like most people, I have a group of friends who are basically, crossbred hippies and yuppies (yipees?). Like all hippy folk, they like to go travelling – but that’s only because their top city jobs give them 30 days-a-year paid holiday, bless. Top pastimes in these regular breaks include snowboarding, white water rafting, and skydiving – in fact it always contains at least one activity that is made up of two of the words from the following collection (water, snow, ice, surf, air, skating, boarding, diving) added together.

I tried snowboarding once, and being an extremely average skier (I can go, I can stop, I can turn – anything else is showing off), I found that you needed a fair amount of upper body strength. This is because when you fall over you can only use your arms to right yourself – and seeing as your legs are practically cuffed together, you fall over a lot. I remember trotting back to the hire shop with the board after 2 hours of said torture and listening to the man there using his pigeon English to rally me back onto the slopes. “No more,” I said. “No more?” he cried. “You must have faith! You must have courage!” No. “I must have SKIS.” But years after this nightmare, people are still harping on to me about the near death excitement they pay through the nose for. Their brown runs. Their black runs. Hell, the photographs they’re bringing back are giving ME the runs. What is this fascination with entertaining near-death experiences in a foreign country? Surely that’s why people join the army?

And it’s not just a fad – it’s a style statement. The rush of mortal danger is the new drug of the millennium – and I’m Captain Spod for staying at home. “Come bunjee-ice-death-boarding!” they cry. “Where’s your sense of adventure?” Sense of adventure? If I want a 50/50 chance of instant suicide, I’ll save myself the airfare thanks – I’ll just get out the bath and do the light switch a few times while my hands are wet. Oooh! Life on the edge!

But where does my sofa come in? Well – it’s like this. In 2000, the danger drug is coming to your home – as horror films. Scream 3 broke all box office records for a horror in the US last week – and now you genuinely CAN have that earth shattering mortality rush in the comfort of your own home. I watched The Mummy last week and by the end I was shaking, sweating, wide-eyed and hyperventilating – and it’s not usually those sort of videos that have that effect. I went to put the vid back in its case and I saw the cover – 12? 12???? This was a 12? I looked behind me at my sofa. My buttocks had clenched so hard round the cushions I’d practically ripped out a chunk of foam. If this is how we’re all going to be getting our kicks this year, the sofa won’t last till Easter.

Anonymity

I know the intimate goings on of people who don’t even know I exist, thanks to the wonders of the internet trying to promote anonymity. As well as all my writing jobs, I have a sideways profession as a comedian. Stand up comedy is odd – having a job where you tell strangers lies for a living (not to be mistaken for law) is fairly fickle at the least. And it’s certainly not for the shy – most people think they know me by the end of it, and anonymity is next to impossible.

Now, to most people of the world, that would seem fair enough, but to the British, it’s still a travesty. We value our privacy like no other people – and most of us seem to be happy spending Monday to Friday as part of the background. Lets face it, if we can get on a train and do a 2 hour journey WITHOUT eye-contact and burbling noises from the nutter sat opposite us, it’s a complete result.

And yet… we’re obsessed with the lives of others. Our tabloids are the most explicit in the world, and yet we only match that enthusiasm for snooping around, with the effort we put into closing our doors to strangers. Internet wise, we seem to be similar – but as the internet is a global phenomenon, that glorious British reserve just isn’t working. I signed up for a free web-mail based (like Hotmail) account a while back, with a company that lets you have 20 addresses in one mailbox. One of the email addresses I chose was someone@something.co.uk – I thought it sounded funny (I also own I.dsaam@mywitsend.co.uk). The beauty of these web based accounts is that there’s no user information (if you don’t give it or give ‘made up’ names) and you can read and write your mail in secrecy.

However, it turns out that I’m doing a lot more ‘reading’ than I am ‘writing’. Every day, people filling out their email address on webpages, application forms, and even cereal packet coupons, are choosing dummy addresses. Why? Don’t they want that glorified spam about free diplomas from the University of RedNeckVille? Do they want to look clever because they secretly don’t have email? And one of the addresses they are choosing is…. You guessed it, someone@something.co.uk. They think it’s a dummy address, but oh no, I *own* it. Testing your new database system and thought you’d type something randomly? Thanks for the passwords. You think that free 5 minute ‘home video’ of Pamela Anderson was going to be posted to you? Don’t be silly, I’ve got that too. Valentines day? I got over 20 emails from people wanting to know who I was. Someone from something’s a busy bunny… it appears he’s got a fair share of his efingers in onlinepies.com. Assuming that he is a he, of course. I’d best email him and find out.

I’m beginning to find out that the best thing about being anonymous, is that nobody wants to talk to you, but in my case, everybody does. Douglas Adams once devised a race in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that could read each others’ minds, and as a result they had to talk bollocks all the time just to stop themselves from going mad. In the same way it appears the internet is stripping us British from any ability to keep our inherent perversions to ourselves. Forget them finding out our credit card numbers, what if they know that I get turned on by the noise of rubbing brillo-pads? Secrets are getting few and far between. Maybe in this digital age it’s time the UK stood up and opened its heart to the world… and if we do, then all I can say is this… bagsy last on Rikki Lake.

Monster Drive

I’ve never really understood the meaning of ‘shrewd’. Webster’s dictionary describes it as, “marked by clever discerning awareness and hard-headed acumen , given to wily and artful ways or dealing”, but for me it has only ever been considered a mild form of socially acceptable paranoia. For a start, reading the ingredients on the side of a box of cornflakes for most people is a space filler. It passes the day. Other people actually care – maybe they’re vegans and they don’t want to poison their Soya milk. The more anal amongst us (I’m now standing, proudly waving my arms) are actually curious as to what’s in it. And in some cases, it doesn’t make for good reading. If I stumble across a foodstuff that I adore, which it turns out has got more ‘E’s in it then 90’s pop sensation East 17, it ruins the taste. Call it psychosomatic – because it is – but the flavour inexplicably changes.

In the wacky, wibbly wobbly world of the web, packaging takes on whole new forms. A ‘shrewd’ purchase no longer involves the ability to search out the small print – it turns you into a fully-fledged private detective. So you want to join this new ‘free’ ISP. How much will it cost? But how much will it REALLY cost? Are they a good company? Who owns them? Are there any reviews? Are they from magazines? Who owns those magazines? Is it fast? Who says so? Do we trust them? What about bulletin boards? What do other people say? Is that newsgroup moderated? Are those postings false? Is it all a big scam? HELP ME MUMMY! THEY WANT MY CREDIT CARD DETAILS AGAIN.

In the internet world at the moment, the NBT (next big thing) is 0800 access. Oh yes. We all want it because we all NEED it. And all of a sudden, there are hundreds of companies offering it. But, hang on, this offer doesn’t exist yet. And this COMPANY doesn’t exist yet! And they want to change my telephone company? I remember writing a shortlist and looking at all the what-ifs of completely ‘free access’. If I took the worst case exceptions to all the services out there, your ‘classic’ 0800 provider would give you unlimited 24 hours a day 7 days a week access – so long as you changed your telephone company, fitted a box to your wall, paid a 50 pound joining fee, made 20 pounds worth of calls a month, bought 45 quid’s worth of clothes, subscribed to a motor racing magazine, bought a new PC and took out a 120 grand mortgage. If I had a definition problem with ‘shrewd’, just look at the grief some people are having with ‘free’.

It all reminds me of about 1 year ago when I moved house, and I found an old box I used to hold books in. It had previously held an external SCSI hard drive for my old Atari ST. Big box. But best of all, was the writing down the side, where the company had happily splashed, “Monster 20 Meg drive!” on it. And as an after thought, “ALL YOUR STORAGE PROBLEMS SOLVED!” It’s a frightening thought, but it looks like these people found long-term niche jobs in the service industry.