Monday, 28 November 2011

A fur too far!

Call me naive (and many a person has), but I always thought that Etsy.com was an innocent sort of (virtual) place where people could buy handmade necklaces, browse homemade greetings cards, that sort of middle class suburbian activity. I was shocked then, to discover recently via another blog, that people are selling coats made out of real wolf skin. In fact, no, not even coats, wolves. They are selling wolves, just with their inner gizzards, guts and whatnot removed.

I know that taxidermy is a long standing tradition and unlikely to be going anywhere soon. But stuffing dead animal skins with humans is effectively what is going on here, and for me that’s a step too far.

This wolf , for example, is cute, right? I mean, you probably wouldn’t want to get too close, but nice to look at from a distance. Well as it goes, that’s not actually a wolf. Not a whole wolf anyway. It’s the person who made the ‘pelt’ modelling it on their Etsy site for people to then spend £1200 or there abouts to then dress in a wolf’s skin and...I don’t know...lie in a field pretending to be a wolf and praying you don’t get shot I guess. It’s not the sort of thing you’d wear down the high street when you pop out for a bit of Christmas shopping, not least for the fear of PETA pelting you with rocks (although I guess if you can pass as a wolf, that’d the last thing they’d be doing), but also because I imagine it must be somewhat unpleasant, knowing that your head is placed precisely where a wolf’s living brain was in the not too distant past.

Further research on Etsy and similar websites showed that there are several sellers producing these products, suggesting that it’s a pretty wide spread thing, and perhaps more popular than imagined. I don’t know, perhaps I’m the only one who didn’t know that this sort of trade went on (I did tell you I was naive), but either way I find it shocking.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Stratford Westfield-review

Since its opening in mid September, Westfield Stratford City shopping centre has been widely talked about, and on visiting this shopaholic’s paradise, it’s easy to see why.
Some shops still unopened

The centre is home to almost every high street retailer you can imagine, from Primark to John Lewis, Armani to H&M, making it easy to do all your Christmas shopping in one foul swoop. However, it’s disappointing that two months since the centre opened, several main high street retailers such as Disney Store, Oasis, Vodafone and Hawkins Bazaar are still yet to open.

As well as the everyday and designer shops, there are some less well known brands, such as
 French Eye (men’s suits), Pulp (not entirely sure) and Puzzle Club (more calendars than puzzles by the looks of it). Perhaps the most surprising of all is the presence of a full size Waitrose supermarket at one end of the centre, giving more than a brief nod to the target clientele of the centre, and adding a very French twist to it.

Designer labels...
The initial problem on entering the centre, particularly for a first time visitor, is the lack of printed maps that you normally get in such places. Although this is no doubt beneficial for the environment, it does little to help those with a poor sense of direction, and there are not as many of those new fangled touch screen maps as you would expect either. Even coming over the bridge from Stratford station, you are faced with the choice of heading inside or browsing the outside shops first, with little signposting to aid your decision. The centre as a whole was less open plan than the Westfield centre in White City, adding to navigational problems.  Whilst this is fine for browsing, it is not at all helpful if you are looking for a particular shop. The Concierge staff are very helpful, although you get the impression that they have learned directions to every shop, cafe and restaurant off by heart and have been trained to regurgitate such information to you in a robot-like fashion.

The centre is organised much the same way as Westfield White City-all kids’ clothes and toy shops are located in the same vicinity, making for an easier shopping trip that all parents will be grateful for come Christmas Eve.

Champagne bar, anyone? I'll stick to McDonalds thanks.
As with all modern shopping centres, seating areas seem to be few and far between. There was quite a bunfight for a seat in one of the several food courts at lunchtime, a situation that is no doubt going to require nerves of steel for visiting any closer to Christmas. For a more peaceful lunchtime, head to the area near Waitrose, where there are more unique (and hence more expensive, but also less rammed) eateries, such as ElCantara, a Moorish deli and tapas bar. Outside of food courts, seating was also lacking, although a couple of strategically placed armchairs offer lovely views over the outside walkway and towards the Olympic park.
Christmas in John Lewis...no sign of the kid from the ad though!

Staff in all shops are very helpful and attentive, hardly surprising considering the centre has only been for less than two months; their nerves may frazzle entirely during the Christmas period.

The centre is attracting celebrities too-just last night Danni Minogue attended a book signing in the newly opened Foyles book shop, and Justin Bieber switched on the Christmas lights recently.

 Overall the centre is impressive, not least for the fact that they have squeezed so many shops in under one roof. And if you do run out of stores inside, there are further shops outside in the area named “The Street”, plus a cinema, bowling alley, casino and soon a Christmas ice rink too.

The centre is dwarfed by the adjacent casino


Tuesday, 1 November 2011

The Young Apprentice-Episode 1

Overinflated public school egos, oversized suits and irrelevant shots of London skyscrapers, just for dramatic effect. It can only be a new series of The Young Apprentice.

This mini-spin off of The Apprentice relaunched on Monday, with another group of adolescents keen to impress Sugar and his homies, and it seems the contestants are as egotistical as ever. Their opening statements were all going so well, if cliched (although you get the impressions that whoever scripted them neglected to inform  Mohammed of the relevance of the words "I have a dream") with one young lady proclaiming within the opening sequence "No-one intimidates me because I know I am better than them." Little charmers.

Either Sugar is going soppy in his old age, or he really does have a soft spot for the youth of today. In his opening speech to them he declared "I love you lot" and throughout the episode went on to joke with them more readily than he usually does with the more mature contestants of The Apprentice. It was good, if slightly unnerving to see a softer side to the man behind The Finger.

The task turned out to be making and selling frozen treats for maximum profit. Fairly simple you would think? Yet the girls ended up disposing of a large proportion of their ingredients before they'd even left the factory and fluffing their maths entirely. It was shocking to see Sugar's aide Nick supporting their unethical selling method of putting toppings onto ice creams before customers had the chance to protest, then charging them for the privilege, not to mention charging for the cones.

The boys, on the other hand, opted for the more straight forward method of press ganging passers by into buying ice creams. A couple in particular were overly aggressive in their selling tactics, resembling an East End market stall. Most ingenious idea of the day was offering deliveries of ice cream to sunbathers on the beach.

Both teams ended up slashing their prices at the end of the day to sell off their stock, a move which did little to impress Sugar.

Back in the boardroom, amid a frenzy of shouting and squabbling, it was revealed that the girls had won. Off they went to frolic down hills and leave James and Mohammed to squabble over whose idea the pirate theme was, a scene which became painful and cringeworthy to watch, particularly when Mohammed refused to back down despite there being footage attributing the idea to James the bulldozer.

As it turned out, the words Essex and entrepreneur didn't bond together as well as Mohammed had hoped, as he was on the receiving end of those immortal words "you're fired". Ah well, back to satellites for you, my friend.

My early prediction at this stage would be for Harry Maxwell to win, or at least to go far. He was kept quiet during this episode, mainly drowned out by the immature squabblings of his peers, but he was seen in the background working on the maths for his team with more success than the girls. One to watch, perhaps.