In the late 1960s the very recently late Neil Armstrong stepped off a vehicle made of aluminium foil and toilet rolls powered by a computer the size of a young hotel and proclaimed “One small step” etc. You know the rest.
It was true; the moon wasn’t made of cheese.
At the same time the very recently alive Lindsay Williams wandered, hand in hand with his PVC booted brother’s girlfriend along the achingly trendy King’s Road. It was a Saturday afternoon, and I’d just been to feed the pigeons in Trafalgar Square. Boutique after boutique eventually gave way to the destination of my treat, the Chelsea Kitchen.
For a kid whose Mum (bless her) had served him a diet of dead dog garnished with baked beans for all his brief life, this was a culinary and social wonderland.
I had Spaghetti Bolognaise. The Italian waiter chucked a handful of parmesan on the steaming mass of exotica, and in I tucked. Sorry Mum, but there was no going back after that. As I sat in the red leathered booth slurping the spaghetti that was as foreign to me as the waiters that served it, I was in heaven and nothing would ever be the same again.
A few years ago I wandered down the Kings Road on a pilgrimage to the Chelsea Kitchen.
What an arse I was. Did I honestly think that something so beautiful and simple and honest would still be thriving four decades later? Well actually, yes, in a way I did.
It’s now Coffee Republic, or Costa’s Coffee, or some other ghastly chain owned by a global corporate and patronised by people in suits. It serves super- heated coffee in branded vessels to passing bankers on their way to work to put together a deal to fund another chain of faceless fucking coffee shops.
Numbed by the loss of my childhood friend I popped to the pub, the Chelsea Potter. I potted.
If we acquiesce, if we stand idly by, the homogenisation of our lives will continue unchecked. The corporates have so much cheap money to borrow and so many greedy shareholders to satisfy that they are gobbling up everything in their path.
‘G Star Raw’ is a shop I used to frequent when it was acceptable for me to wear jeans. Not just any old jeans, but jeans that were stitched and fitted and that lasted. (So they should at R3,000.00 a pop). Last week I was there to buy my two teenagers a pair each in the sale, and while flirting with the assistant found out it had just been bought. By Foschini. Oh dear.
Gareth Cliff has niftily managed to combine fierce independence within the rigid structure of a giant, lumbering state owned ‘corporation’. Others haven’t been as adroit. Browse the FM airwaves and you’ll see what I mean. Wander into YDE (Young Designers Emporium) and see what a JSE listed retailer has done to that once great shop.
Corporations are of course a necessity. We all need their stuff. But please don’t let them have it all. Please listen to radio that has integrity and passion, please occasionally buy vegetables that need to be washed and that don’t glow in the dark, and please buy clothes from a shop owned by a girl with a bone through her nose.
Neil Armstrong was a pioneer, an original. He knew the Moon wasn’t made of cheese, but he went there just to make sure.
I had an idea that not all cheese was bright yellow and wrapped in plastic, but the waiter at the Chelsea Kitchen made sure my suspicions were correct.
Armstrong is dead, and so is the Chelsea Kitchen. Help stop the killing.