Monday, July 31, 2006

Women get more beautiful all the time

I've always suspected it, but now we have the scientific proof. This article in The Sunday Times says that beautiful people are more likely to have daughters (something I instinctively knew since becoming the father of two girls). The implications in evolutionary terms are enormous, because it means that girls will, over time, become more and more beautiful, whereas men will become more and more ugly. But this isn't necessarily a problem. Think, for instance, of Lyle Lovett and Julia Roberts.

St Tropez, eat your heart out

Eastbourne at the end of July 2006. I spent a few days on the coast with the family and we were lucky enough to have some glorious weather. I also managed to take a few photos, which will be included in a forthcoming travel piece I'm writing about the town. Watch this space for details.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Spark plugs, Spitfires and Great Windmill Street

As I was walking through the West End this morning, I became conscious of a man talking very loudly on the opposite pavement. At first, I think he was addressing another passer-by, but when I temporarily caught his eye, he started walking in parallel with me and holding a one-way conversation across the street.

"When you haven't been out for four or five days," he yelled, "you just want to talk to people!"

I smiled, kept my head down, and headed for Lexington Street.

At the junction, he went in another direction, but not without this parting shot:

"I'll be alright. I have to be. My grandfather put spark plugs into Spitfires!"

Saturday, July 22, 2006

One day, someone will take a decent picture of me


"And in conclusion, ladies and gentlemen..." I lead a workshop at the recent Association of Graduate Recruiters conference in Wales. Sponsored by advertising agency ThirtyThree, the seminar discussed whether it's possible to judge advertising creativity objectively.

How much difference does a celebrity endorsement make?

Six wholemeal pittas in Tesco cost 34p. But if you take those six wholemeal pittas and stick them upright in a cardboard base with a picture of Loyd Grossman, they're 89p.

Can you really taste the difference? David, it's over to you...

Warzone texting

I was fascinated to read in today's Times that the Israeli Defence Force is sending SMS messages to people in Southern Lebanon, warning them to evacuate their homes. While this is a commendable use of modern technology and beats the old-fashioned, airdropped leaflets hands down, it's difficult to imagine the content.

u is gonna b blasted innit. move out da way coz da idf is comin to sort hezbo grillas lol.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The things people do with direct mail

Don't mutilate: dire warning issued by credit card company Capital One

As someone who writes direct mail from time to time, I'm used to all the techniques that people use to get you to open the envelope. This official-looking letter from Capital One goes perhaps one stage too far, however, in advising me that I shouldn't mutilate the contents. I know that people can sometimes get a little annoyed at the volume of mail they receive and might - in a fit of frustration - get involved in bending, folding or tearing. But the idea that anyone would mutilate an offer for Capital One Platinum MasterCard® is just too awful to contemplate. Particularly with 0% interest on balance transfers until 1st November 2007.

Monday, July 17, 2006

School reports ain't what they used to be

My daughters are given marks for how well they operate a mouse and work the printer.

Whatever next?

Johnny is making good progress with his downloading and is able to distinguish between a .mp3 and .wav file. Although he struggled with the concept of anti-virus software at the start of the term, I am pleased to report that he's now able to seek out and destroy any Trojan that comes his way. Unfortunately though, the little bl***er still can't add up.

Granny's shopping trip

Mrs W is helping me to spot interesting characters in the supermarket check-out area. She reports an elderly lady with a copy of The Radio Times, a tin of Spam and one of those pork pies with egg in the middle of it. She says there were other interesting things too, but she can't remember them. I've explained that detail is important for my blog and she promises to take notes next time.

How far would you go for organic food?

How about Mexico?

That's where the Tesco organic spring onions come from.

I bought the unorganic ones. From the UK.

Which of these options, I wonder, is better for the environment?

Part-time guerrillas

I was reading in The Times today about the strength of the Lebanese guerrilla army, Hezbollah. The paper categorised the membership into "full time" and "part time", which I thought was an intriguing concept.

"What do you do, then?"

"Well, I've got a couple of part-time jobs. On Mondays and Tuesdays, I work at the pharmacy."

"So, what do you do for the rest of the week?"

"Oh, I fire a few Katyusha rockets and kidnap the odd soldier. Nothing much."

Very often, part-time jobs can be great way to get your foot in the door. If a full-time vacancy comes up - perhaps during a full-blown war with a neighbouring state - you'd be very well placed.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Overheard in Newport


I was in a coffee shop in Newport, Gwent today and the girls who worked there were talking about "textses" they'd received from their respective boyfriends. One revealed that her man didn't write his own original SMS love letters, but forwarded back her own messages saying things like "I love you" and similar. This obviously saved him a great deal of time. As any copywriter would tell you, there's no point in reinventing the wheel. If you have ready-made material, just use it.

Another interesting observation from Gwent is that taxi drivers don't wear seatbelts. Even when they're belting up the M4.

Swine conference

My old mate Russ has identified an interesting event that took place in January 2000 in Virginia, USA. Click here for the agenda of the 33rd Annual Virginia Pork Industry Conference.

It sounds as if it was a corker - or should that be a porker? - of a meeting. Mark Estienne, a notable Swine Physiologist gave a presentation entitled Developments to Enhance Boar Performance and Fertility, while Allen Harper, an Extension Swine Specialist, treated delegates to a discussion of Non-Traditional Methods of Finishing Pigs in Confinement. I've always been a traditionalist on the issue of finishing pigs in confinement, so I definitely would have been interested to hear of Allen's innovations.

Sadly, registration closed about six and a half years ago.

Russ says he found this while searching for a conference that I was speaking at in Wales. I haven't yet asked him what search terms he was using and why.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Things you never knew about your family

My mum can juggle.

Perhaps not to circus performance standard, but she's got the basics, which she claims she learned in Ireland as a kid.

I am 37 and until yesterday I had never - and I mean never - seen her perform this particular party piece.

Which just goes to show. We don't know jack. Even about our own parents.

Thinking with my eyes shut

Catching up on some much-needed shut-eye in my sister's garden last month. All this copywriting and training is a tiring business.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Professional begging

There's a sign at Liverpool Street station in London that warns you about 'professional beggars'. It's good to know that the whole business is now on a more professional footing, but I'm wondering where they get their accreditation? Perhaps there are courses run by the railway authorities - or 'concourses' - where they're taught the correct way to approach a commuter and extract the biggest possible donation.

I think the professional beggars should have some kind of certificate to display, so that we can distinguish them more easily from the unprofessionals without qualifications.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

I team up with an outlaw in Nottingham

I joined Robin Hood's merry men last month, while on a trip to Nottingham to visit my new nephew. The sculpture - one of the icons of the city - was created by my grandfather back in the 1950s.

Odds bodkins

Travelling down to the West of England recently, I saw an ad for one of those terrible events that the UK specialises in. It is called “Joust” and takes place at Berkeley Castle in Gloucestershire late in July. Attractions include “pelt the peasant”, “face and wound painting” and “wandering minstrels and lepers”. The £10 entrance fee also will also allow access to “mediaeval baebes concerts”. Gadzooks! Forgive me sire if I retire to my chamber and spende my olde tenner on having my eyebrowes plucked insteade. Thy joust is ye crappiest jest of 2006 methinks.

Some questions for my favourite sandwich shop

In Pret recently, they’ve started introducing stickers on the food that say ‘just made’. In inverted commas, like that.

‘Just made’.

What do you suppose is meant by those inverted commas?

That the sandwiches are just made? Or that they’re not?

Or that maybe it depends on your definition of ‘just’?

How do you choose your mineral water?

I select mine on the basis of the blurb on the bottle. Take this compelling read, for example:

The Yorkshire Pennines – a backdrop of steep valleys and rolling hills scattered with mature oak trees – is one of Britain’s most scenic landscapes. Deep within these Pennine hills water slowly filters through a sandstone layer known as millstone grit. It can take up to 50 years for this process to create water with a unique combination of minerals. It’s this Natural Mineral Water that is Pennine Spring.