Over the course of the past few months many of you may have been wondering about my absence from this blog, Twitter and Facebook whilst an even bigger number of you will not have given even the tiniest of shits. Some of you have tried to get in contact with me whilst others have felt an unconscious relief at not being presented day in day out with a moronic slideshow of dick graffiti, poorly conceived shop fronts, mysterious signs, pigeons eating sick and other number of sights which make London the classy city that it is.
I feel it’s time for an explanation.
I started Shit London back in 2010 as a place to show some of my photographs and air my witterings which, up until then, nobody, save for a few patient friends and my often tormented cat (sadly now deceased, R.I.P Captain Pussy 2003-2014), had any real interest in seeing or hearing about. Then for some reason, perhaps that week everyone was in a particularly cynical mood, the photos and comments seemed to become popular in a small and weird corner of the internet. The project to capture the crappier side to city life had somehow caught the shitegeist and the blog went from strength to strength. It produced two spin off books in Shit London and the controversially named Shit London 2 which certain people were unlucky enough to receive as secret santa gifts or as an ill conceived souvenir of a visit to London from a relative. The British Library, in what can only be described as a moment of madness, then decided to archive this blog in its entirety deeming it ‘essential reading for future generations” which to me is final confirmation, if any were needed, that this country is well and truly fuckered. In a further twist I was then sent abroad to produce a New York version of the book called Shit New York (!) and an Australian version which is being published in a few weeks.
This is all preamble to me telling you why I’ve been off the radar. It seems that word of the blog and books had reached Asia and I was surprised to get an e-mail asking me to meet with a publisher in Tokyo to discuss the possibility of putting together a Shit Tokyo book. Tokyo has been somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit and photograph. The city seems exactly like my kind of weird so I jumped at the chance and flew over to meet with them. The meeting place was set as a small cat cafe in the Shinjuku area of the city and I met up with two gentlemen wearing suspiciously shiny and out of fashion suits. Both seemed nice enough and talked enthusiastically of my work. They bought me a watermelon bubble tea and proceeded to outline their idea for the book. This is where things began to get a bit hazy. The last thing I can confidently remember is having a feeling of being sucked into the sofa and cats, so, so many cats prancing around my spinning head. I remember the hostesses concerned face as the men carried my limp body from the cafe and thought that the valium I’d popped on the flight over must’ve had some delayed fuse and had only now just kicked in. I worried that I’d made a bad impression and had blown the whole deal. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
An indeterminate amount of time later I awoke on a hard wooden pallet in a grey concrete room. My mind felt cloudy, my thoughts sluggish. Where was I? My shoes had been taken away. Looking for my phone instead I found in my pocket a small laminated card featuring a photo of divvy looking cat dressed as a bumble bee on it. I remembered then that I was in Japan. What was this room though and how did I get here? A small slot opened in the door and a pair of eyes looked at me before the slot shut fast and was followed by the sounds of many locks being undone. The two men in the shiny suits stepped into the room but this time they were wearing grey, vaguely militaristic outfits. Their smiles were replaced by stern, fierce looks and they hauled me to my feet. For the first time I noticed that my legs were shackled. One of them rubbed my face with a wet rag before they carried me from my prison, along a corridor and into a lift. To say I was confused would be a gross understatement. I’ve had my fare share of waking up and baffled and confused in strange places but this was on a whole new level of batshittery.
As the lift doors opened I found myself not as I’d feared in some weird sex factory where authors of impulse purchase gift books are enslaved by bored rich Japanese business people for their twisted gratification, but instead a huge corridor of what looked to all intents and purposes like a palace. The walls were decorated with astonishing murals depicting pastoral scenes of healthy, joyful looking families toiling under the rays of a golden sun, gathering crops and having a splendid time. It was at this point I started to suspect where I was and in moments had my suspicions confirmed when I was led into a room and confronted by the chubby smiling face of none other that Kim Jong-un, the supreme leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea.
I’m not going to lie, at this point I was more than a little surprised. Things like that don’t tend to happen to me very often. My surprise only increased when he embraced me warmly and through a translator told me he was very pleased to meet me. I learnt that my books had become incredibly popular in North Korea, mercilessly pirated with no royalties forthcoming but incredibly popular nonetheless. Lil’ Kim ( as he’s affectionately known by friends ) told me that they showed perfectly the decadence and decline of the west and had as such become required reading for legions of North Korean children. Each family had been issued with copies which apart from some minor tweaks to the copy were identical to any sold in back in the West. Obviously this was quite a lot to take in. He made it clear that although he was a fan I would by no means be allowed to leave the country. I would be kept in comfortable surroundings, be allowed some access to western television and if I so desired I could marry and integrate myself into North Korean society. I would be put to work for the glorification of North Korea. I felt I didn’t have much of a choice so I agreed to his terms and was installed in an apartment building in uptown Pyongyang.
The Fonz and I try not to look terrified at one of Kim Jong-un’s cheese and wine evenings
My neighbours there were a mixed bag to say the least, some it seemed had been snatched as I had to propagate the myth that the west was dying and others seemed to have fallen on the mercy of the Dear Leaders hospitality having been rejected back at home. It wasn’t always clear which. Just some of my neighbours included The Fonz (pictured above), NBA Star Dennis Rodman, former TV presenter and human lion head Justin Lee Collins, Police Academy actor Michael Wilmslow who played Jones (the one that made all the noises…pew pew pew), WWF’s Ultimate Warrior who had faked his own death especially to defect to North Korea, the live half of Milli Vanilli, 80’s British comedian Gary Wilmot, Sisqo, Dr Gillian McKeith, some iteration of the Blue Man Group who never removed their make up and who never mixed with anyone else (grim rumours abounded they’d been surgically altered to look that way permanently), Michael Flatly (cock) and somewhat bizarrely 90’s Britpop band Menswe@r who seemed the happiest out of everyone there. George Galloway was often spotted but he seemed to come and go as he pleased and never spoke to anyone.
I was put to work delivering lectures showing highlights from the blog and books three times a day, five days a week in one of the huge theatres constructed in Pyongyang. Mostly it was the same rent-a-crowd who attended but they always clapped enthusiastically and never failed to laugh at the photos of cocks drawn on people’s heads even after the 50th time they’d seen them. After a few months I began to get used to it and was actually happy with my new life. One day everything changed. Word got to me that Kim Jong-un was not pleased with me at all. I assumed it because of a joke I’d made suggesting it would make more sense for him to be called Kim Jong-deux instead, but soon found out that an official monitoring my twitter feed had discovered that somebody had tweeted a photo of a poster in a hairdressers window in London which ridiculed the Dear Leader’s distinctive flat top hairstyle. Their logic was that since I had created the feed it was my responsibility. Since Kim Jong-un liked me he decided to be lenient and told me I had a simple choice, execution or banishment. I chose banishment. To cut a long, but not altogether uninteresting story short, days later I found myself spat out in to South Korea and onto a plane back to London.
So, yeah, that was all pretty weird.
I’m back in the city, I am alive and I’m ready to start things up again. It may take some time to get back up to speed as I’m a bit rusty at this and have a lot to think about. For all those who have tried to get in touch I will endeavour to get back to you as soon as possible and to all those who have carried on sending me your photos, thank you and I’ll try and get them all up soon.
Have a good bank holiday weekend, it’s good to be back.
All hail our glorious leader Kim Jong-un,