Last week it was the letter through the door warning us that, next summer, several roads near us will be re-routed. On Saturday it was construction work on the Tube, and at Stratford station. I live on the opposite side of town to the sprouting Olympic park in the East, but the first signs of the Games' arrival are already felt almost every day, and not many are a cause for joy.
For months, though, the inconveniences that accompany a huge international sports event rolling into my home town have been tempered by excitement. Last year, in a moment of unexpected fervour, I even volunteered to work at the Games, at the fencing events, to be held in the ExCel centre (applicants don't find out until November whether they'll get to help out or not, so I may yet have to fulfil my ambition to help test athletic urine).
But this weekend was the big test of Londoners' enthusiasm for the event. Do we actually want to see the swimming, the cycling or the Greco-Roman wrestling? Will we actually reach into our pockets and pay (once again, it feels like) a little more towards the sporting fiesta that seems to be a non-stop PR party for Boris Johnson and Seb Coe?
And on the issue of tickets I find myself conflicted once again. There's a lot to be annoyed and pessimistic about, in the best possible British tradition. The first major gripe is the high price of seats. The cheapest, "category D" seat in the Olympic stadium is £20. The lowest-price seats for the day which culminates with the men's 100m final are £50; the most expensive, £725.
In other disciplines, the prices range from £20 to more than £3,000 with most more than £90 a head. The question is, of course, just how bad are the £20 seats? The ticket website gives you no handy map of the seating arrangements, as you would when booking in a cinema or theatre. So I assume the worst: if, by chance, one gets a ticket in the ballot for the bigger-ticket events, not only binoculars but perhaps also a live stream of the event on your phone will be essential if you want to see anything but tiny ants blurred on the other side of the athletics track. Oh, hang on, spectators may not be able to take mobile phones to the Games, either.
Other quibbles include the monopoly of Visa – pay with one of their cards or you're not coming in; the fact that 13,000 of (VIP) tickets are being allocated to politicians, with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport taking 9,000; that almost all of the A- and B-grade seats will inevitably end up underneath the bums of London's corporate classes as a sort of sporting bonus; the embarrassing manner in which Thomas Cook have cranked up package prices for foreign visitors.
Then again, I thought, as I stuffed as many cheap tickets into my online "basket" as possible yesterday morning, when the time comes, I'll kick myself if I didn't buy them when I could. For years I will have endured travel disruption, price hikes and Sebastian Coe's self-importance, all for nothing. So see you on the back row at the beach volleyball final.
A new take on the idea of the misery memoir
I've felt rather furtive about reading on the Tube over the last week: the paperback in my hands is the so-called "new Lolita", Margaux Fragoso's Tiger Tiger. The twist is that this story is told by from the point of view of the "nymphet" herself and, furthermore, that the rather grisly tale is true.
That the memoir of a relationship between a seven-year-old girl and a molester 44 years her senior has been published is surprising enough; Fragoso remembers each glance and grope of their decades-long affair, from their first meeting in a swimming pool to his eventual suicide, in detail, which has caused some to question its veracity. It also made lots of publicity for the book on its publication this month. The great art of Vladimir Nabokov's book was the moral slippage one experiences as Humbert Humbert is allowed to justify his abuse as the tale unfolds. But it is just that: art, a creation, a great literary fiction. The reader of Tiger Tiger is asked enjoy the true story of a paedophilic crime, told with tenderness and sympathy – yet also fully revealing the abuser's manipulative nature – from the viewpoint of the victim. It deserves to be told, but with this romance and in such a compelling style?
I thought that bunny was looking unusually sad
Does your box of Tetleys teabags run dry sooner than expected? Is your bag of Maltesers rather light, that Toblerone rather shorter than you remember? Your senses do not deceive you. Faced with the soaring price of cocoa, sugar and wheat, the giant food manufacturers have admitted they are downsizing the standard proportions of favourite brands rather than risk what they term "sticker shock", or what I call "Bloody hell, where's my change?"
Juice cartons, bottles of fizzy drinks, multi- packs of crisps are all targets for shrinkage as "soft commodities" soar – fuelled at least in part by speculation, so thanks once again to our wonderful financial services industries.
Perhaps I can manage with one less chunk in a Dairy Milk bar, but what of Easter eggs? The indication so far is that eggs will maintain their standard sizes, but will be super-priced: some big brands want us to shell out up to 140 per cent more this year – for instance, the Galaxy Minstrels egg that cost £2.50 last Easter is now £6. Cue parents across the land waffling about the Easter Bunny being rather malnourished and only having very small eggs in his basket this year...Reuse content