Add to Technorati Favorites Janette Griffiths: April 2008

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Sad St George's Day on Ealing Broadway

On Sunday morning in front of Tesco's in the shopping precinct in Ealing, a blonde woman behind a lone market stall announces rather timidly, "it's free." Nobody pays any attention. I feel a bit sorry for her and walk over to the stand. "What's free?" I ask not quite believing that the cucumber sandwiches, scones and cream, digestive biscuits, tea and juice are being given away. "All of it," she says. "What would you like?" It's eleven o'clock in the morning and I don't really want anything. "Why is it free?" I ask.
"St George's Day," she replies. "Ealing Broadway are doing it to celebrate St George's Day."

A Jamaican approaches. "I'll have a tea and biscuit." An Indian arrives behind him and takes a sandwich. Then the stall goes quiet again. There are blossoms on the trees but this weekend a freezing east wind has been blowing in, carrying in the smell of manure from pig farms in Germany. This morning, the smell has let up and the sun is out but shoppers scurry past, looking alarmed when the blonde calls out, "it's free. We're giving it away."

Then I notice the hand-painted poster. There's St George and the dragon and someone has written "for England and St George. English high tea - Free" But nobody in the shopping centre cares. There are so many sandwiches on the stand, so many carefully buttered scones - it all looks so forlorn that I take a sandwich.

I walk away feeling exasperated. If Ealing Broadway has decided to celebrate St George's Day then they should do just that- celebrate - not be so timid and embarrassed about the national day. I'm not a fan of patriotism. George Bernard Shaw had it about right when he said "Patriotism is your convinction that your country is the best place on earth because you were born in it." But a bit of Elizabethan exuberance - remember the Elizabethans? - wouldn't hurt on a day like this.

Later in the afternoon I walk down to take a picture but the market stall has folded up and gone. A man dressed as a pantomime St George with a horse's ass tied around his waist is talking to a couple of Sikhs.

Monday, 14 April 2008

My Google Page Rank Nightmare

The reviews for my two novels were good - with one exception: an article about my Paris novel that came from a newspaper in South Africa. It was a small, spiteful piece of writing. The reviewer had latched onto a sentence in my biography that said that I had once worked for Air France in Paris. Her critique seemed aimed more at her own thinly veiled resentment of 'trolley dollies' than with anything I had written. I knew that I would be wise to ignore the thing. That's precisely what I did.

Years went by - over eight years until one bored afternoon, I googled myself. Years of writing on travel for a national newspaper in the UK meant that I would, inevitably, have multiple entries under my name. Alas, none of my good reviews appeared but on page 7 - it was a very dull afternoon so yes, I got as far as page 7, there was the small, spiteful South African review. After a few stunned moments of "Where the hell did that come from?" I decided, again, to ignore it. But it was resolved not to ignore me. Within a few months it had wormed its way up to page 2. A year later, it was the first entry. And there it stayed. Any editor, film producer, potential employer would type in my name and up it came. Still small, still spiteful but always there.

I emailed Google who sent me what looked like one of my old school algebra classes in reply. I contemplated travelling down to their headquarters on a Greyhound bus and just sitting in their waiting room - I assumed they had a waiting room - until some nice clerk came out and saw me and then removed the offending entry.

"Why don't you just call the newspaper in South Africa?" asked a friend. So I did. I got a nice man whose name I have forgotten - he seemed like an old school journo, and when I explained the potential sabotage of a writing career that this old, old archive page from his paper could cause, he was genuinely concerned. He was sure that something could be done but said that I must go through his online content editor, a Mr Trench. I remember that name. I should. I've emailed him repeatedly and he has never replied. Eventually that nice, first man emailed me to say that Mr Trench could not tamper with archive material. I can see his point - up to a point, but archives used to be hidden, dusty, musty things. You consulted them if you really wanted to know something. I don't think that anybody REALLY wants to read this piece of writing. And for obscure reasons connected to links, regular updating of pages etc, this review has toppled even mighty Amazon from the top of the list.

Just recently I've gone into battle. And I think I might have won. But that's for the next post.