The Swipe Volume 1 Chapter 9

I am the worst haggler in the world. The traders in the Moroccan souks would have a field day with me. A lamb amongst lions. So when I was forced by the threat of a big rate hike to call my broadband supplier and negotiate a better deal, panic was my default setting. Hate phones. Hate haggling. What could go right?

People, with the upcoming bill-bump coming in April, now is the time to give your supplier a ring. If Virgin were anything to go by, they want you to call. Hell, while I was on hold they were already offering discounts. Twenty minutes of idle chat and no pressure cut my bills by 25% for the year. I’d feel proud if I didn’t honestly believe I had nothing to do with it but pick up the phone.

There’s probably a lesson here about embracing your fear and doing it anyway, but it would be crass and trite of me to do anything so obvious. I’ll take the smug points for making a positive contribution to the household budget, though.

This week: tots! Getting your tweak off! And let’s all enjoy the life and times of Big Larry.

Featured image via Dominic Wade.

Wherever you are, whenever you are, however you are, welcome to The Swipe.

Rob is reading…

Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Duerr. From the guy who brought us the incredible World War 2 drama The Light We Cannot See, this is—very different. A whirling time-travel epic ranging from Ancient Greece to the far future, it seems to be about the enduring power of the story. It’s a bit hard to tell where the tale is leading, but I do feel like I’m in safe hands and am thoroughly enjoying the ride.

Rob is watching…

Two of my favourites are back with third seasons on the streamers—Picard on Amazon Prime (thank gawd, I didn’t want to spend out on a subscription to Paramount Plus when I barely use the services I’ve got) and The Mandalorian on D+. Both are heavy on the fan service. Picard in particular goes hard on winks to The Next Generation in typography and music cues. The Mandalorian, meanwhile, is exploring characters and themes from the animated shows like Rebels and The Clone Wars. I never followed them but for a younger generation which includes my 20 year-old nephew Ali, those programmes are Star Wars. I won’t complain. The show is just so darn good, I’m happy to let the odd deep cut reference go over my head.

Rob is listening…

to M83’s new album, Fantasy Part One. This is big, swoopy widescreen music, made to soundtrack slow-motion drone footage of crashing waves under towering cliffs or a fast run over the ridge of a snow-capped mountain. Extremely cinematic (M83 wrote the music for the underrated Tom Cruise SF movie Oblivion), I got a sharp taste of eighties synth-pop (the guitar sound is very Flock Of Seagulls) with, towards the end, strong vibes of Beck’s Morning Phase period. Give it a go as driving music, it’s a rush.

Rob is eating…

The remains of a massuman curry stuffed into a pitta with some cheese and extra hot sauce and warmed through in a griddle until toasty and gooey. A lunch for cold weather and, if you crimp up the edges of the flatbread, eats in a way weirdly reminiscent of a spicy Cornish pasty.

Reading Writers ran a recent member-led session on education in creative writing, with a specific focus—can an informal group like ours offer different perspectives on the wordly life that a degree course can’t? We came to the conclusion that a community-based approach, without a fixed end point could be valuable. Obviously it helps to offer solid, non-judgemental feedback. More on that from Eugene Yan.

The School Of Hard Knocks

It frequently embuggerates me that tater tots are not more widely available in British supermarkets. To my knowledge, only Morrisons offer them, sneakily disguised as ‘potato crunchies’. We have to settle for hash browns which are, my friends, not the same. What’s a boy to do when he wants his tots? Well, I guess I could try the Bon Appetit kitchen approach and make my own…

The Tao Of Tot

Exercise is good for the soul. We all know it. But if you’re like me, finding the motivation to get up and move can be difficult, especially in a damp English winter. Thing is, when I do pull my boots on and have an amble, I immediately feel better. Clearer of head, calmer of soul. Brendan at Semi-Rad calls it ‘getting your tweak off’. It’s not just about physical health, ya know.

Get Your Tweak Off

Of course the theme park dedicated to all things Miyazaki would be the antithesis of Disney or Universal. No rides. No major attractions. Tucked away in an existing public park. It’s utterly, utterly perfect and I wanna go.

Ghibli Park

When browsing in a bookshop, I use the ‘three paragraphs’ rule—that’s how long an author has to hook me. Don’t muck about, grab me by the scruff and drag me in. Adam Sternburgh offers his five strongest openings in fiction. Mine? I’d instantly throw in the openings to William Gibson’s Neuromancer, Hunter Thompson’s Fear And Loathing In Los Angeles, Anne Rice’s Interview With The Vampire, Iain Banks’ The Crow Road and Peter S. Beagle’s The Last Unicorn. I’m sure you have your favourites. Let me know what they are in the comments.

Start Strong

Another top five angling towards a very important question—your very favourite sandwich. It should be an impossible question to answer. Your favourite sandwich is the one you want at a given moment. The times when all I need is a peanut butter and lime curd are different to the times when I crave a Tuna Turner from Shed in Reading which are different to the times when all I want all I really really want is a simple, beautiful grilled cheese with strong cheddar and a smear of hot English mustard. Again, your turn. Go.

The Best Sandwich Ever

Of course, a burger is not a sandwich. But where do we put the glorious pleasure of a patty melt?

What Makes A Great Burger?

Let us consider To The Lighthouse, and more specifically how we have mapped our own feelings and meanings onto the text. You could say that about any beloved story, but Virginia Woolf’s magnum opus does have a way of sneaking into our heads, kicking off its boots and making itself at home.

Of The Lighthouse

Margaret Atwood has a Substack. Who knew? Not I, who let out a delighted squeal when the knowledge was brought to me. There are many treasures to find, none shining more brightly than this celebration of her pal Big Larry. I feel sad never to have met him.

Big Larry

Speaking of gigantic, terrifying personalities—Nina Simone.

If I’d Had My Way, I’d Have Been A Killer

Let’s throw The Last Word to Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the producers who built, polished and delivered the sound of 90s R&B—slick, machine-driven, but still loaded with soul. Anil Dash explores the methods they used to bring the flavour.

Incidentally, I’m always fascinated by the way chefs and musicians will describe their art with reference to the other discipline. Jamie Oliver talks about adding a hum of garlic. Countless others will throw in a twang of lemon. And how do we describe musicians getting together for a little musical improvisation? A jam.

M’lud, the prosecution rests.

The Seasoning

I’m sticking with Janet Jackson for The Outro, because I haven’t played Rhythm Nation in years and it rocks my house to the foundations every single time. Stand up, count time. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1.

See you in seven, true believers.


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Writer. Film-maker. Cartoonist. Cook. Lover.

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