Monday, 3 August 2009

Happiness in Magazines

In a fortuitous bit of eBay bidding, I am now the proud owner of a magazine rack. I also owe a friend at work about 19 cups of tea. When you get the chance to buy a “designer” magazine rack for 99p, you take it, but then you have to pick it up from Sevenoaks, but – hey – Al lives there! I’ll drop him a grovelling email while he’s on holiday, and before I go on holiday, and forget a few pertinent facts (like how he might have a life, be on holiday for longer than I thought (he wasn’t but I didn’t check) live in a completely different part of Sevenoaks, (the magazine rack was actually in a village where Sevenoaks is the nearest town), and hopefully when I get back from holiday there it will be, all chrome and shiny and waiting for me.

The plan worked beautifully. It sat on my desk all morning, and drew a few comments, and I explained to the office that we have a problem with magazines. That sounds like I’m referring to magazines like the man who hangs around outside the tube station has a problem with cough medicine. This is actually as true as the original meaning I had when I wrote that sentence, that we have too many magazines for our (yeah right) minimalist lounge.

Lisa the hardcore runner, and me the casual runner and potential triathlete, means we have plenty of copies of Runners World, Running and Fitness, Triathlete’s World, Triathlon Plus, Triathlon 220, Cycling Plus, Lisa’s gardening fixation (in combination with my sister-in-law’s) means we have a pile of Gardeners Worlds, I enjoy Empire, and generally have a few months worth hanging around, as by the time we get round to watching a new film, it will be because it is out on DVD, Lisa was given an Okapi at London Zoo, so we have their magazines, and finally I subscribe to FHM.

It was the admission to buying FHM magazine (I know that would make “For Him Magazine magazine” – kind of like when people refer to their PIN number but I think FHM has moved on since when it launched, as pretty much the first proper magazine for us guys) that raised most eyebrows in the office. The question asked was “how old are you?” My reply was that “I’m 32 and I like Girls Aloud” which is both true, and a damning review of FHM magazine. Maybe a couple of years ago, but not anymore.

Back in the day, FHM was to men, what Cosmo was to girls. As likely to have a picture of a guy on the cover as a picture of a girl, the articles ranged from cookery, books, investigative journalism, and fashion. Yes – there would be photo shoots of the model or singer of the moment, but it was all part of the mix.

I probably started buying FHM a few years in, and I’d occasionally buy the competition – GQ (for richer men) esquire (for older and richer men) Loaded (for men who only bought magazines for the photo shoots) and then, a few years ago, a couple of weekly magazines came out – Zoo (from the makers of FHM) was originally a quarter of FHM (literally – the same stories, often the same photos) for a quarter of the price and Nuts (from the makers of Loaded I believe) was Loaded’s equivalent. Very quickly, both degenerated into a cacophony of girly photos and unpleasant pictures of people with skin missing (who wants to look at that?) with a TV guide and some out of date sports news thrown in. One stand up comic described them as “porn for men who are scared of vaginas”. They are both still around, and I guess they are doing ok. In London we have a couple of free pretenders – Shortlist (which I never pick up) and Sport (which I do if it doesn’t have cricketers on the cover), but I have no idea if they are making money yet.

FHM went a little down market for a while, moving further into the “Loaded” territory of page 3 type shots, celebration of laddishness (drunken stories, confessions from girls, verging on porno mag letters page faire and sex tips (and not a great deal else if I remember correctly). I’m guessing that it is this FHM that my work colleagues were referring to, and they would be right to mock my continuing devotion to such a publication.

Just over a year ago, FHM realised that its readership had grown up. Nuts and Zoo and Loaded were still bridging the gap between the adolescents realisation that girls aren’t smelly, and the ability to actually see real ones in the nude (or buy proper pictures of them from the top shelf – although they all have access to the internet, I’m sure there are some pictures of nudey girls there somewhere...) I think it started when one of their regular columnists left, and as his parting shot, he confessed to all the things he did on the expense account (including getting a Ukrainian prostitute to give him a receipt saying “taxi - $100” while researching Chernobyl) and FHM realised it should grow up too.

I’m just the kind of guy who grew up with FHM, through my university years, sharing the purchase with like minded 19 year old blokes, and can now afford my own (although I always share my used up copies with those less fortunate), and FHM have realised this, so they have grown up with me. I’m probably still a bit old for FHM, but then, I recently watched and enjoyed High School Musical 1 and 2 (three was bloody awful though), and – as previously stated I like Girls Aloud (good songs, great production, and yes – 5 pretty girls (even the ginger one)) and I like FHM’s interesting mix of serious articles, reader interaction, jokes, heroes, fashion, reviews, cookery (yes – they get a chef in each week), gadgets and yes – Pretty girls.

But no nipples.

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