Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Nazi Uniform Faux Pas Horror

In an excruciating plot twist straight out of a Ricky Gervais script, I have a mortifying update on the Nazi uniform issue.

Some of my colleagues and me were discussing the relative merits of World War Two Teutonic military garb this morning. In that typical London creative agency way, we were having a bit of a post-modern ‘how shocking can we be?’ laugh about it. I happened to notice that a freelance Information Architect nearby, an American woman, kept looking up and scowling. Not much of a sense of humour, I thought.

So, a little later, I had a meeting with her about some work, and I said up front that I’d seen she’d been uncomfortable with the conversation and I hope she realised that I wasn’t a fascist and that my interest was unsympathetic.

She looked really shocked. “Sympathetic?!” she said.

“No no no! God no! UNsympathetic!”

“Oh OK, well – I did think it was a little peculiar. You know, a number of my relatives were killed in the holocaust.”

This was when the floor dropped from beneath me and I began to seriously rue what can only be described as a god-given ability to say the wrong things in front of the wrong person. Not to mention regretting my crass, prurient personality, of course.

It was also when I began to eat a huge serving of humble pie. Then came back for seconds and thirds at the foot-in-mouth buffet.

I am still genuinely horrified. Thinking about it seriously, it’s no different to discussing how cool Ku Klux Klan outfits look in front of a black person.

I hasten to add that I’ve never made THAT particular faux pas.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Does Anyone Else Do This? No. 5 in an Occasional Series

Er...Guiltily Want To Try On a Nazi Uniform

OK, first things first. It’s just so wrong isn’t it? I abhor what the Nazis did, I really do. I’m not a fascist, anti-semite or misanthropic sexual deviant. However, I’m going to bare my warped soul and admit that I think Nazi uniforms look pretty damn good and I’d love to parade about in one, perhaps clicking my heels a bit and smoking a fag in a cigarette holder.

While the Britisher Tommies were stuck with skulking around crappy khaki serge, the Gestapo were swanning around in sexy black with silver death’s head skulls. In fact, even ordinary German soldiers had far cooler kit than our boys. When I was a kid, I’d always dress my favourite Action Man in the German uniform (even though the Germans were always the villains in my games). Then, when I was slightly older, I have strong memories of seeing a still of Charlotte Rampling in ‘The Night Porter’, wearing a Gestapo peaked cap and very little else.

I suppose the reason the Nazi uniform looked so transgressively sexy on Rampling (and was indeed, I think, designed that way in the first place by the image-obsessed and theatrical Third Reich) is that the SS was, essentially, a death-cult. It’s this air of evil that attracts those with darker imaginations. Admittedly, unlike the elegantly scarred Aryan stereotypes in war movies, they were all inadequate bespectacled freaks. Banal monsters indeed.

After having kind of admitted the fascination to myself, I had a look on eBay for WWII German uniforms and found there’s a disturbingly strong demand for Nazi memorabilia. I don’t know whether they’re people like me, or fucked-up members of the BNP in Farnborough looking for something to put on their mantelpiece with their Samurai swords. I suppose the difference is, I wouldn’t, in reality, go as far as buying this stuff…

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Stan Plays It Cool

I think it’s true to say that we really couldn’t have moved into our new house without the help of Emily’s family. On top of labouring long and hard to help us shift all our stuff, Emily’s sister, Lucy, also took some very charming pictures of Stan. As you can see from this one, he was pretty unruffled by the move!

The Retreat to Welwyn Garden City

I’ve been thinking about class a lot since moving to Welwyn Garden City. I get the feeling that it’s a bit of a dead issue these days, apart from a few columns in the New Statesman and whatever Trotskyite groups still survive on University campuses.

A delightful view of WGC

I’m thinking about class because I feel irredeemably middle class having moved to Welwyn, with its John Lewis, Waitrose and Daily Mail Model Village. Of course, although I come from a working class background, I was irredeemably middle class before I moved. I work as a poncey creative and read the Guardian. I just think that living somewhere as white, affluent and just plain NICE as WGC has confirmed it in some subtle way.

According to my leftist mother, leaving Leytonstone for Hertfordshire is a form of cowardly retreat – as urban neighbourhoods need a mix of classes to stop them from becoming even more deprived. I’m not sure I really understand this argument, as part of the reason we didn’t buy a place in E11 is because house prices are booming to the extent that we couldn’t find anywhere we could afford. If anything the middle classes are moving in.

So is it better to stay on the frontline and live somewhere gritty, urban and deprived? I remember particularly how Stoke Newington changed as the well-off middle classes colonised with their 4x4s and 3 wheeler buggies, driving up house prices, patronising ridiculously expensive organic bakers and vegetarian toddler-friendly restaurants. It feels like a form of tourism – getting off on the ‘vibrant’ authenticity of a poor area, while causing that area to lose its identity through your presence.

Of course, it’s particularly middle class to worry about these things. I think I’ll just enjoy the bird song, trees and politeness of WGC without guilt.