Sunday, October 29, 2006

You heard it through the grapevine

I took a trip round the UK's biggest vineyard on Saturday. Denbies is near Dorking and produces an astonishing 400,000 bottles of wine a year. The vast majority of the grapes have now been harvested, although only within the past few weeks. The owners tend to wait a month or so longer than the continent, to take advantage of whatever extra sun they can get during an Indian summer.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Rory Bremner impersonating Ben Elton

I went on Friday night to Teddington Studios and sat in the audience for the final Bremner, Bird and Fortune show of the current season.

On arrival, I gave my name as "Woodford" to a charming gentleman with a clipboard.

"Would you be the gorgeous Phil Woodford?" he enquired.

I replied in the affirmative.

"I love you," he said. "In fact, I love you so much that I'm going to give you one of these."

I steadied myself, not knowing quite what to expect, but was reassured when he produced a wristband that identified me as a genuine ticket-holder.

It would be churlish to say that this was one of the funnier moments of the evening. Rory Bremner is a clever man and obviously an incredibly talented impersonator. If I'm honest, however, the best bits were actually all the ad-libs and asides, rather than the pre-prepared monologues and video sketches. There's quite a lot of faffing around in these recording sessions and there's plenty of opportunity for a bit of banter with the audience when the comedian s***ws up and another take is needed. We all have to laugh again at the same gags, but somehow we don't mind.

It's the scripted satirical material that I find just a bit heavy-duty. When Bremner's attacking the government for its record on climate change, for instance, he actually shows charts and graphs of carbon dioxide emissions. It's all just a little too earnest and po-faced for my liking, although the liberal/lefty audience were clearly lapping it all up. I fear that Bremner has transformed himself into a kind of Ben Elton figure, who only really connects with people who already agree with him.

Another thing that was very noticeable was the reliance on old favourites for impersonation. We were treated to John Major, Bruce Forsythe, Billy Connolly, Chris Tarrant, Michael Howard, Jeremy Paxman etc. He does them brilliantly, but we've heard them all before.

Of course, Bremner does a very good David Cameron too. But he looks too old for the part!

There's a danger that he might become like Mike Yarwood, who always had his stock Ted Heath and Harold Wilson up his sleeve, but seemed to struggle when they faded from view and Mrs Thatcher came to power.

On the plus side, there was a very good warm-up act. And I think we were in the studio where they shoot Trisha. There was a tray that held a number of pieces of equipment including her earpiece.




Friday, October 27, 2006

Sunday, Monday, Panto Days

As the panto season fast approaches, I'm on the look-out for celebs who appear to have fallen on hard times. News, for instance, that Henry Winkler - aka The Fonz from Happy Days - is appearing as Captain Hook in Wimbledon, South London is enough to bring a tear to the eye. His co-star is comic legend Bobby Davro.

My idea for a twist: Bobby Davro impersonates the Fonz as part of the act.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Seasonal soup

I'm indebted to Aliche - long-time supporter of Washed and Ready - who sends me news of a sparkling piece of copy on the packaging of New Covent Garden's 'sweet, smoky and autumnal' Soup of the Month. Who could resist 'cheerful' orange pumpkins and softened haricot beans? Blended, of course, with carrots, oak-smoked garlic, smoked paprika and a warming hint of chilli.

On the side of the packet, readers are treated to the following seasonal blurb:

The gap-toothed pumpkins glow a ghoulish orange and the bonfire crackles with mischief when our marketing supremo, Andrew Ovens, holds his annual Halloween party. The centrepiece of Andrew’s Witches’ Oven (so-named by a waggish friend) is a cauldron of Pumpkin & Haricot Bean soup.

No eye of newt or toe of frog in this bubbling orange broth (so Andrew assures us), just masses of glorious smoky flavour. The trouble starts when party-goers gather round the cauldron to predict foul deeds in the coming weeks. Nothing fires the imagination on a damp and spooky autumn night as readily as a pot of Andrew’s soup.


From what Aliche says, New Covent Garden would be well advised to spend as much time on the soup as they do on their copy. She wasn't that impressed. Aliche's in my good books right now, because she thinks I look 25 in the photo from the Isle of Man (see blogs passim). She and I both know that I'm really well into my...er...my...early thirties.

Mrs W is one-nil up

I was talking to Mrs W about the Yeo Valley dairy products brand. She said she thought that Yeo Valley must be a rather idyllic part of Somerset. I laughed and replied that she'd been taken in by some cynical marketing ploy.

I am now eating humble yoghurt.

Yeo Valley really is an idyllic part of Somerset. Presumably near the famous Yeo mountains. I stand corrected and embarrassed.

I'm now off to investigate Chad Valley - the place where Woolworths make all their toys.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

One fright in Paris

According to the Reuters newswire (see below), a number of Japanese tourists need psychological treatment following trips to the French capital. They expect to find a picturebook city of romance and passion and go into a state of shock when they get an 'Eiffel' of the reality.

Shrinks have dubbed the condition "Paris Syndrome".

Things got so bad for one bloke that he thought he was Louis XIV. Which begs the question: could the real Louis XIV actually have been a Japanese tourist who somehow just found himself in the right palace at the right time?

http://today.reuters.co.uk/news/CrisesArticle.aspx?storyId=L22809247&WTmodLoc=World-R5-Alertnet-2

I've started talking Latin, so I'm Finnish

I'm indebted to my friend Ropey for this amusing piece from the BBC about the passion for Latin in Finland. Apparently, an astonishing 75,000 Finns tune in to hear the news read in the long-defunct language.

Unfortunately I'm not enough of a classical scholar to translate my own blog postings for the would-be Centurions of Helsinki. I reckon Washed and Ready to Eat would be something like Lavare et apto pappo, but if you happen to know better, please feel free to post a comment. Who knows? I might turn it into a Woodford motto.

She's like so right

My mate Aliche says that I look very young in the picture below, taken in the Isle of Man. I've asked her exactly how young and will report back.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

They ain't makin' gubernatorial candidates like Kinky any more

One of the more interesting races in the forthcoming US elections is the battle to become Governor of Texas. The Republicans and Democrats have been thrown off guard by an eccentric candidate who rejoices in the name of Kinky Friedman.

Those of us with a taste for country music already know the Kinkster. Not only is he an authentic son of the Lonestar State, but he's also a talented musician and published author.

He's been in trouble recently for some rather dubious comments he's supposed to have made during the campaign and I certainly wouldn't seek to defend his political views, which seem to be all over the shop. Nevertheless, you can't help having a sneaking admiration for a Jewish cowboy whose discography includes songs such as They ain't makin' Jews like Jesus any more, Asshole from El Paso and Get your biscuits in the oven and your buns into bed.

Get Kinky online by clicking here to see one of his latest commercials.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Caught on camera

Here I am speaking at an event in Douglas, Isle of Man on 16th October (see previous blog entry for more details). Picture courtesy of Andrew Wake from the Chartered Institute of Marketing's event organisers, Don't Panic Projects. After the presentation, I spent a pleasant evening in a local bar with the Don't Panic team and discovered that Andrew and his partner Nicky Pennington are also keen bloggers. You can read about their work at http://www.eventualities.blog.co.uk/

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The comeover returns

I believe the Manx word for people like me is a 'comeover'.

I paid my first ever visit to the Isle of Man this week and spoke at a meeting in the Hilton Hotel and Casino on the branding and promotion of the island, sponsored by the Chartered Institute of Marketing. Despite the fact that I'm a Londoner born and bred, everyone was very welcoming and I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Douglas. A couple of snaps from my Canon A95 are shown below.

On the way back to the airport, I met a lovely lady taxi driver who seemed to have done all kinds of things in her time - including running a bookshop in Switzerland. She liked the glaciers and the mountains, but just knew that she had to return eventually to her Manx roots.
Looking north: the promenade at Douglas in the Isle of Man as it sweeps round towards Onchan. Click to enlarge.
The sea terminal in Douglas. From the air, the structure appears to form the shape of the island's distinctive, three-legged 'Triskelion' symbol. Click to enlarge.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

What am I missing, missy?

A charming young spammer called missy chapman sends me an email with the subject header "gimme your thoughts on this".

As you've asked for a direct response, missy c, here are my thoughts: Xanax seems overpriced at $2.00 a miligram, when I get 100mg of Viagra at the same cost.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The two extremes of subbing

Loved the headline in the Currant Bun today about a new alternative to cremation which involves bodies being freeze-dried and shattered into powder. REST IN PIECES. It's great to know that the sub-editing community is still able to turn on the magic.

Bad subbing, on the other hand, can be an absolute disaster.

I was persuaded in the late 90s to write a couple of articles for a short-lived and ill-fated newspaper called Planet on Sunday. You won't remember it because it was short-lived and ill-fated. It had a kind of alternative, eco-warrior theme and the first couple of editions led with messages that Princess Diana had supposedly sent from beyond the grave.

Anyway, I wrote a feature in which I interviewed a number of politicians, including a Member of the European Parliament called Caroline Lucas. By the time the article had been subbed and appeared in the press, she was called Mr Mucus. As you can imagine, it wasn't one for the journalistic portfolio.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Understanding market trends

It's always good to know you're dealing with a specialist.

At first glance, this law firm in the North East of England appears to have chosen an unusual niche. Its ad in The Sunderland Echo proclaims expertise in Legionnaires Disease. Research by Washed and Ready to Eat suggests, however, that the market for their specialism is actually growing. According to this medical report, cases of the deadly bug have substantially increased in the latter part of 2006.

What is it about kids and birthday surprises?

I took the mini-Ws out about a week ago and bought them some perfume that they can give to Mrs W on her birthday. I told them not to say anything, so that it would be a surprise.

So far, their mum has been told where it was hidden (necessitating a change in location), the fact that it begins with the letter 'p' and that it comes in a bottle.

I'm thinking of getting some paraffin or peanut oil and wrapping it up as a joke.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Autobiographies

I haven't written my memoirs yet, mainly because I'm struggling to think of a title. It's important to get it right.

I saw Ronnie Corbett's autobiog on the shelves today, which is called - rather predictably, I felt - And it's goodnight from him. Gary Barlow's book, which he was promoting on the Jonathan Ross show the other night, is entitled My Take, which I thought was perhaps a tad cleverer.

One of my all-time favourites is Murray Walker's Unless I'm very much mistaken.

We won't get on to Jodie Marsh's Keep it Real, which - according to the Amazon blurb - takes us "from her unhappy school days and her teenaged nose job to her current success..."

M&S put some sizzle into their banger blurb

"The natural sharpness of juicy British bramleys (sic) cuts perfectly through the richness of the roast pork, providing the perfect pairing."

These succulent, traditional British bangers have certainly been soaked in alliteration by copywriting connoisseurs.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Some retail questions that are troubling me

Tesco. The self scan facility. How come there's no chip and pin number required? If some tea leaf swipes your card, all he needs to do is swipe it through the reader at the supermarket and he's walked away with a bag of groceries. Bang out of order.

Another local retailer - I'll keep this one anonymous, as I don't want to victimise the poor souls that are working there - has signs up at the tills warning the checkout people not to steal. I had to do a double take, as I'd originally assumed the messages were directed at the customers. But no. They're warning the employees that the tills are monitored remotely. When I see stuff like this, it makes me really glad I'm self-employed. (I'm the best boss I've ever had. Firm, but fair.)

One final thing - and I know I've blogged about this before - is the extraordinary radio station that's piped to convenience stores around the country. I was in there today and a commercial was telling me that I was probably dehydrated and needed to buy a drink. Not a particular brand of drink. Just a drink. Any drink.

Bizarrely, the station is also used to relay messages to the shopkeepers. The other week, they were saying that if there was any problem with the reception of the radio station, there was some technical team that could be called out. But if the radio were down, the people running the shop would never hear the message, would they?

It's all too much for me. I'm like so outta here.

Off for some retail therapy.

Or just some therapy.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Bad back to the future

News reaches me that a chiropractor has given up his licence to practice in the US, following concerns over his unorthodox treatments. The Ohio-based practitioner claimed to cure people by travelling in time, back to the moment at which the injury took place. Conveniently for customers, he was able to provide this service remotely over the web.

Read a full report: http://www.wbir.com/news/national/story.aspx?storyid=38273

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Tesco Organic Fresh British Lamb Half Shoulder

A picture of farmer Colin Wilcox is accompanied by the following blurb:

"Colin farms cattle and sheep in Gloucestershire. The cattle are Hereford cross and finished on home-grown forage, clover and meadow grass. Colin works hard to ensure his cattle and sheep meet the high welfare standards that Tesco require."

While the cows are finished on clover, I have a feeling the copy must be finished late at night over a stiff drink.