Monday, December 31, 2007

This pooch knows exactly what he wants in the new year: a life free of worm infestation. Only Drontal - Britain's No. 1 wormer - can deliver the required results.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Worms in 2008? Absolutely not.

If you're stuck for a new year's resolution, Drontal may have the solution. The popular anti-worming brand from Bayer is running a largescale poster campaign this Christmas featuring a determined looking mutt. He's made up his mind that he will NOT suffer an infestation in 2008 and I'm sure that's a sentiment we could all applaud and embrace.

Visit Drontal's website at www.stopwormsdead.co.uk and you can play a game in which you shoot up hookworm, ringworm and all kinds of other nasty critters. Reloading with Drontal Puppy Suspension as you go.

Friday, December 28, 2007

A Christmas Casualty

My friend Aliche texted me yesterday to tell me about the seasonal episode of Holby City. I refused to believe that the plot could be more preposterous than the one a couple of years ago, when an oil tanker crashed into the middle of A&E, but the staff somehow managed to keep the facility open and just work around their new problem. It turns out, however, that the scriptwriters have surpassed themselves in 2007.

According to Liche, a surgeon ducks out of an operation in order to top himself, but is stopped just in time by a mysterious figure. The sawbones is then taken on a journey in which he's shown a version of the world in which he'd never been born. As you can imagine, this miserable parallel universe is full of suffering and woe. With a new appreciation of his contribution to medical science and the wellbeing of the general public, the surgeon returns just in time to complete the op and save the day.

It's another milestone in gritty, realistic medical drama from the BBC. I was hoping to wake up this morning and discover the plot synopsis to have been a disturbed dream, but Aliche's text is still on my phone.

This is a good opportunity, incidentally, to give a mention to the Xmas card she sent me last week. It's from a company called Modern Toss (http://www.moderntoss.com/) and features a house bedecked with garish Christmas decs. Illuminated reindeer and snowmen are casting a kitsch glow across the whole of the local neighbourhood. A neighbour knocks on the door and asks whether it would be possible to turn the lights down, as they're affecting his wife's dialysis machine. "Perhaps you'd like to explain that to my little kiddie," comes the response.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Mrs W has a dream

When I first stirred this morning, Mrs W was telling me about a dream in which she said she'd seen an apparition of Christ.

Immediately my mind started racing. I suggested that we could open up Woodford Towers as some kind of shrine, charge an entry fee at the door, maybe sell some tasteful memorabilia.

Mrs W dismissed the idea, reminding me that it had only been a dream.

True enough. But why are hallucinations about God during waking hours intrinsically more valuable than those that occur during sleep? It's assumed, for some reason, that if you nod off and see Jesus, it's make-believe. But if you bump into him during the day, it's real.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Nice work if you can get it

Thanks go to Mrs W for this one. She happened to spy a van in the street that was offering a particularly eclectic range of services. As well as basement waterproofing, the business was promising to handle bird control, radon testing and air-quality management. We can only hope they're never asked to supply all these services at one location.

I've tracked down the company's website and you can just about make out the detail on the vehicle: www.protenservices.co.uk

They are preserving the past and protecting the future, according to their slogan. That's pretty good going when you're also controlling birds, testing for radon and so on. You have to hand it to them. It's multi-tasking in action.

You can't beat a bit of Bully

Who needs panto when you can attend the annual conference of the Federation of Small Businesses? News reaches me of the organisation's 2008 shindig, which is to be held at the Novotel London West in March.

The social programme takes some beating. According to First Voice, the organisation's magazine for members, a darts competition will be hosted by none other than the 'Crafty Cockney', Eric Bristow. The five-times world champion (1980-86) will certainly bring a touch of glamour to the event, but he's not expected to provide the entertainment. That task falls to TV's Jim Bowen. The FSB have asked the northern funnyman to host a fund-raising game of his famous Bullseye quiz.

Eric Bristow? Jim Bowen? Could it possibly get any better? I'll let First Voice take up the story:

On Saturday evening, a drinks reception will be followed by a banquet and ball with a 'diamond and tiara' theme. Entertainment will be provided by a dance band - along with a Shirley Bassey look- and sound-alike - and a disco. As ever, there will be a fun casino.

As you're probably still digesting all this, I'll save news of David Bellamy and Moira Stuart for another day.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Class act

I'll resist the temptation to say that it was supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. But make no mistake. Mary Poppins at London's Prince Edward Theatre was indeed a truly first-class show.

If there's one thing that the Brits can still do better than anyone else in the world, it's a stage musical. OK, maybe you get the same standard of production on Broadway. But my hunch is that London still manages to pip everyone else at the post.

The thing that really took me aback was the elaborate nature of the staging and special effects. The "Director of Illusions" had previously worked for people like David Copperfield and it really showed. Another unexpected plus point was the quality of the new songs. They kept the old Sherman Brother standards (although rewrote quite a lot of the words) and then penned some new tunes of their own. My heart kind of sunk when I heard about this in advance, but I was pleasantly surprised on the day. The new material was of a high calibre and entirely in keeping with the foot-tappers of yesteryear.

Only a few weeks of the run left, but I think there are some tickets available, so if you haven't seen it yet, I highly recommend it.

The kids quite liked it too. Except they frowned on the deviations from the 1960s Disney movie. And kept looking for strings.

I had to laugh...

... when I heard this morning that Sir John Major had launched a "scathing attack" on Gordon Brown. According to the Telegraph, the former Prime Minister says that the government is "starting to unravel" and is warning of economic trouble ahead.

Mmm. Does this remind you of any previous British government, I wonder? I'm thinking back to a period of economic trouble and general political chaos in the early-mid 1990s.

Sir John, you have chutzpah in bucketloads, my old son.

Friday, December 14, 2007

I'm feeling all theatrical this festive season

Off to Mary Poppins at the Prince Edward Theatre in Soho tomorrow with the mini-Ws. I'll make sure that Washed and Ready readers get a formal review.

Yesterday, the theatrical entertainment came in the form of an ambitious production at the mini-Ws' school. The play was called Trouble in Pantoland and featured wicked wizards, glamorous princesses and jokes about OFSTED inspections. I have to say they made a pretty good job of it all. Notable by their absence, however, were Kim and Aggie from How clean is your house? According to my old friend Hoffy, who writes a more intellectual blog than this at http://www.hofflimits.com/, TV's number one cleaning ladies were otherwise engaged in Cinderella in Brighton.

This news prompted me to bring you up to date with other panto activity from around the UK and its dominions. Guernsey's Beau Sejour Leisure Centre (a place I can actually say I've visited) is staging Puss in Boots and is privileged to welcome Jenny Kendall-Tobias, who can more usually be heard hosting the mid-morning show on the island's BBC radio station. According to the desperate blurb on the BBC website, Jenny is playing Soldier Samantha, "a part based loosely on the character of Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous". The copy continues as follows:

Jenny, who trained professionally as a thespian at the Poor School in London (where Kat from Eastenders went), says "it's going to be hard playing away from type to such a degree", but she's looking forward to the challenge. Playgoers in Guernsey will be able to see her singing the Tom Jones number 'What's New Pussycat' with a dancing cat by her side and a backing group.
What are you waiting for? Book those tickets!!!


What am I waiting for? Well, my hesitation may be due to a diary clash. The Daleks are making their pantomime debut at the Birmingham Hippodrome in Aladdin and will be joined by none other than Don Maclean. Not the one who sang American Pie. The other one, who used to be on Crackerjack with Peter Glaze and Michael Aspel when I was a kid.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Poles apart

According to press reports (http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-23426570-details/Bosses%20pick%20'diligent'%20Poles%20ahead%20of%20British%20workers/article.do), UK employers believe Polish workers to be particularly hard working. As a result, people from other countries in Eastern Europe are pretending to be Polish in order to secure jobs.

I was wondering whether English workers should start masquerading as Poles too. It would be quite a leap to make. The accent, religion and cultural habits would be the easy part, but the work ethic could take several decades to perfect.

I have images of someone calling himself Bolek and arriving at the bus depot with a picture of the former Pope in his wallet. Everything seems ok, until he's asked to take the vehicle out of the garage.

Quick glance at the watch. Shake of the head. Pursing of the lips. Sharp intake of breath. Ten minutes later, the bus hasn't moved and his cover is blown. A genuine Pole is quickly summoned to take his place.

Bolek goes off down the road and joins the BNP, complaining that the country's being swamped by foreigners.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Tuck in

I don't know about you, but when anyone mentions Christmas dinner, my first thought is always traditional festive fare. Stuff like a Big Cheese with all the usual trimmings. Bacon and Cheese Melt Dippers, for instance. And caramelised onion dip.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

One secret I'm not prepared to keep

The older mini-W turned eight recently and we booked some tickets for the local theatre. After a pizza with her sister and some mates from school, she was escorted across the road to see an adaptation of Frances Hodgson Burnett's classic children's story The Secret Garden.

Yes, we're very posh these days, but I have to admit that I'm not good at theatre at the best of times. I've always preferred the telly. And this production was a real endurance test by anyone's standards. Someone had written a lengthy musical score and we were bombarded with melancholic, quasi-operatic performances for a good two hours. The story starts with an epidemic of cholera in India and my instant impression was that the composer had successfully captured the spirit of the outbreak.

Next weekend, it's Mary Poppins up in town. Now that's what I call music. First rule of the stage: people like happy songs about magical nannies and cockney chimney sweeps and are less keen on lyrics that focus on dead flowers.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Reality TV hell cont'd

Flicking through the cable TV tonight, I encountered interior designer Lawrence Llewelyn-Bowen doing up some country pile. The show was entitled To the manor Bowen. Watch out for the next series in which much-loved northern comic Jim Bowen attempts to win a game of darts on Eric Bristow's manor in Essex.

Talking of cable TV, I've discovered that Bravo is showing Star Trek Next Generation every night from the beginning. We're back in the days of Tasha Yar as head of security. It starts at 11pm, which is a time that I'm often finishing work. So the temptation is quite strong. Last night there was an episode I don't think I've ever seen, in which Wesley Crusher is threatened with execution on some crazy planet for falling into a flowerbed. Jean-Luc Picard rightly makes the point that no credible system of justice can be absolutist in its application of penalties. There's always a moral to the story.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Oh dear. It's for real.

Apparently there really is a sequel to Life on Mars, the crackpot time-travel romp involving a comatose copper who finds himself in 1973. It's called Ashes to Ashes (geddit?) and features the character of DI Gene Hunt, the macho boss of Sam Tyler in the original series.

Gene is now eight years older and posted to London, where he's joined by another time-travelling sidekick. Except this time, she's female. And some kind of Cracker-style shrink. I think we'd all agree that to encounter one chronologically challenged cop in your career is unfortunate. To share a station with another is just downright careless.

The result, I suspect, will be utter Confusion. Probably played by the Electric Light Orchestra.

I suggest a cameo appearance by Ken Livingstone, who in 1981 had just installed himself as firebrand left-wing leader of the old Greater London Council. Gene would no doubt see Red Ken as commie stooge and sparks would surely fly.

Becoming a Twister board

I spent yesterday evening in an old factory building off Brick Lane playing kids' games with an organisation called Fun Fed. The idea is that a bunch of adults get together and act like children for a couple of hours. We played tag and stuck big coloured discs on ourselves so that we could become human Twister mats.

There was an awful lot of running around and I was thinking that I ought to get to aikido a bit more often. Being a child is very hard work.

Monday, December 03, 2007

I had that Rachmaninov in the back of my cab...

Cabbies in London always listen to Heart, Magic or Radio 5 Live. In my experience, this holy trinity of radio stations is never challenged, suggesting that the choice is dictated in some initiation ceremony held at the completion of The Knowledge. ("I'm sorry, mate, but you failed on the left turn just before the southbound approach to the Blackwall Tunnel. I'm not able to allocate Heart on this occasion, but please feel free to listen to Magic in your cab. More music, less talk.")

Visiting Dublin at the end of last week, I was delighted to find the cabbies to be driving in the intellectual equivalent of fifth gear. My driver from the airport into town - a big guy with a shaved head - was tuned into a discussion of classical music on RTE Radio One. The presenter and his guest had those incredibly polite and rather posh Irish accents that I associate with people such as the late Professor Anthony Clare who used to headshrink celebs on Radio 4. Or maybe Henry Kelly off Game for a Laugh and Going for Gold. They were talking about arpeggios and the link between music and eighteenth century mathematics. Words such as "apotheosis" were being sprinkled liberally in conversation.

The driver who returned me to the airport the following day was listening to a political "shock jock" imported from America. This right-wing Republican was speaking to Irish callers on a phone-in and telling them how successful the war in Iraq had been. When the questions got a little difficult, the callers were cut off and he went to the next line. My driver said that he never missed the show. Not only that, but he'd actually had this pundit in his cab for two hours once and had engaged him in debate for the whole journey. Given the state of the traffic in Dublin, I suspect they'd only managed to go from one end of O'Connell Street to another.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sign of the times

Big conference at the Emirates Stadium in London next week promoting Poland as a good place to invest. The key note speaker is Zhao Jianping, who's Vice President of the China Development Bank.

If someone had told me twenty years ago that the Chinese would be coming to London to celebrate the market opportunities in Eastern Europe, I'd have responded politely that they needed a check up from the neck up. How times change.

Mind the gap between common and posh

One of the most disturbing aspects of the story about tube announcer Emma Clarke (who's been sacked for recording spoof messages on her website) is the fact that she's not at all posh in real life. I saw her on the news and she comes from up north somewhere. Her cut-glass accent on the underground - "in Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire, signal failures hardly ever happen" - is all put on. It's a case of My Fare Lady.

They've recently introduced posh announcements on the 281 bus route between Tolworth and Hampton in south-west London, but I think the messages are lost on the people who are travelling. In reality, they need to record stuff like: "Get off da bus now innit cos da feds is checkin ur passes at kingston."

Thursday, November 22, 2007

With apologies to Lionel Bart


In this life
One thing counts
In your tum
Large amounts
Breads like these
Are bound to please
You gotta Pitta Pocket or two
You've
Gotta Pitta Pocket or two

Ok, I've got it out of my system now. Never to be repeated.

Please do give this blog another chance at some point in the future.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Chorizo Iberico de bellota

My fermented and dry-cured Iberian sausage is not only rather tasty, but it also has a fine pedigree. These Spanish porkers are well fed. (These days, it's not enough to know what food you're eating. You need to know what food your food ate.)

"Wild plants, lush pasture and, above all, the acorns that fall from the trees provide the food they need to ensure their meat reaches Penalbo's high quality standards."

Above all, the acorns.

Note that the acorns weren't industrially collected. No. They fell naturally from the trees. One at a time, presumably. And some pig stood underneath with an open snout.

A more idyllic picture of Dehesa in south-east Spain is certainly hard to imagine. And if I take the sausage out of the fridge half an hour before I eat it, I will "appreciate all the taste and aroma of this gastronomic delight."

Unfortunately it comes at a gastronomical price.

Those missing child benefit disks

The news that the whole country's personal data has gone missing is rather disturbing. It seems as if HM Revenue & Customs decided to send a couple of disks in the internal post to the National Audit Office and they ended up going walkies.

Which begs a couple of questions.

What kind of disks can hold the data of several million families? I presume we're not talking about three-and-a-half-inch floppies.

And what envelope did they go in? My bet is that it was one of those orange internal ones where you cross out your name and put the name of the new recipient in the box underneath. Someone scrawled NAO, but their handwriting wasn't too good.

Friday, November 16, 2007

How much?

I was intrigued by this poster from South West Trains that warns people about the perils of fare dodging. The idea is to deter would-be criminals with news of a shocking fine.

When I first read the message, I assumed £160.70 to be their standard return fare from London to Leatherhead if travelling before 9.30 in the morning. You certainly wouldn't get much change from that kind of figure if you were travelling from Birmingham.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

It's that time of the year again...

"Oh no, it isn't," I hear my readers cry. But this poster in Wimbledon, south London shows how wrong you are. Ross Kemp is joining Bobby Davro for a short panto season in Snow White. The soap star and comic impressionist will be starring alongside 'Radio 2 Musical Theatre Voice of the Year', Aimee Atkinson. I expect she must be Ron Atkinson's daughter.

If you encounter a more bizarre collection of thespians in another UK panto, just send the details to me at the email address above. I'll feature them on Washed and Ready to Eat.

Hot off the press

Regular readers may remember my problems with the Reuters News Alerts service. For some reason, all the stories I'm sent involve either Molotov cocktails or train derailments. I'm still waiting for the one where a Molotov cocktail has caused a train derailment, but I'm sure it must come up eventually.

Reuters are also scanning readers' correspondence from the letters pages of publications around the world. For their daily alert, they only select the ones that have the most universal interest value. Take today's link, for example:

DEAR Editor

THERE is no point in upgrading petrol stations into a one-stop centre, if the equipment that delivers petrol is not maintained. I had a bad experience at the Petronas petrol station at Jalan Maarof recently. I stopped at the station for a full tank of petrol. Normally, the petrol pump will stop automatically when the tank is full. But on that day, the petrol started to pour out of the tank. I removed the nozzle and called the attendant for help. With an unfriendly look, he told me, 'Oh, nozzle rosak la' (the nozzle is faulty) and walked away. My question is, if the nozzle was not functioning properly, why didn't they close that pump? When I switched on the ignition, my petrol indicator showed the tank was only three-quarters full. Since I charged it to my credit card, there was nothing I could do. I ended up paying for the petrol that spilled out because of the faulty nozzle.

The letters column of Calibre Micro News always makes interesting reading, but this individual's tragic experience at Jalan Maarof is particularly poignant. One word of advice though. Don't even think about filling up any Molotov cocktails at that particular gas stop.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Yesterday at Waterloo Station...

... they were giving out free packets of dog food. I don't own a pooch, but I took the promotional gift anyway, as I'm a great believer that you shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth. Or should that be a gift dog?

Well, anyway, it's in the cupboard at home now. Will come in useful in the event of a terror attack by al-qaeda. Or I'll save it for when I'm an OAP on a reduced income.

Big money payout

I recently received a notification from British Gas that I was £0.03 in credit. Things like this always annoy me, because I guess it costs them the equivalent of £0.30 to tell me about it by mail.

Yesterday, the cheque arrived.

I'm not joking. They spent another 30p to return the 3p surplus to me.

I'm looking forward to paying it in at the bank. I'll get the bus. It only costs £2.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The London Paper

Nothing better than a trip home on the tube in the company of respected freebie The London Paper. It made November 6th pass all the quicker.

First of all, we must be looking at the only publication this side of Istanbul to conduct a vox pop survey among young women and find a 2:1 majority in favour of moustaches being sexy.

A few pages earlier, the paper poses the question: "Should young women take more care about how much they drink?" Someone called Jude Akpan replies: "The rate young women indulge in alcoholic beverages is becoming embarrassing indeed. They should place a lid on their excesses."

The bizarre and archaic sentence construction of supposedly real Londoners is clearly becoming embarrassing indeed. They should also place a lid on their excesses when they speak to journalists.

I particularly enjoy the paper's regular Lovestruck column, in which people who've fleetingly flirted on trains and in parks describe their brief encounter. The idea is that the object of their affection might be reading the rag and choose to get in touch with their phone number. Some of the entries, however, are truly bizarre.

"I saw you through the window at King's Cross station at 17.50. Our eyes met. I was the guy with the ponytail. Coffee?"

Do you think their eyes really met? Or did the guy with the ponytail just imagine it? And is "eyes meeting" really enough to justify a letter to a newspaper. I mean, I probably make eye contact with about twenty five good looking girls when I travel on a train to London, but it doesn't mean that Mrs W would expect me to be timing the events and inviting my fellow travellers to Starbucks. I just wonder where it will all end.

"We chatted briefly on the 6.52 from London Victoria. I told you that you looked gorgeous. You spat at me and kneed me in the b*****ks. Coffee?"

Warning: sea is wet

Comments tonight from government minister Hilary Benn on the likely flood surge expected in Eastern England:

"And it's really important, keep away from the sea because as well as the storm surge there will also be waves and this is dangerous and people need to keep away from it."

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Downmarket doctors

It's always disappointing when your image of a respected profession is shattered. Picking up a copy of the latest BMA News - the house mag for UK doctors - I find it to be depressingly tabloid.

We learn about a recent study by a psychiatrist called Brendan Kelly, who's investigated the pressing subject of romantic fiction. The Dublin-based shrink, who clearly has too much time on his hands, has found that GPs and casualty doctors are the types of medics most likely to feature in the Mills & Boon style novels.

Later in the same edition, there's a competition to win a DVD set of the American medical drama House.

Next week: canteen food in hospitals. Like it or loathe it? Text Grub to 24384.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Contrived headline of the week goes to...

... the BBC for this story about priests potentially going over the drink-drive limit on communion wine. How much are they knocking back for crying out loud?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/7076134.stm

New Dyson

Mrs W and I purchased a new Dyson today. Because the company shows the new machines being dropped from a great height on their TV commercials, I wanted to check for damage. Unfortunately, it was all boxed up, so I'm just going to have to take my chances.

How to make money from supermarket trolleys

I may already have mentioned this idea on the blog, but I'm getting so old now, I can't remember. And it's such a good money-spinner that I think it's worth repeating in any case.

If you go to Tesco, they have those coin-operated trolleys that are infuriatingly secured to one another with chains that you insert into slots. There's usually two minutes of swearing as you try to disentangle one from another. In fact, people will do anything to avoid battling with the mechanism - particularly when they're returning the trolley after loading up their motor.

What often happens is that people do an informal deal. Instead of reinstalling their trolley in the park and retrieving their pound coin, they simply hand the vehicle to another shopper who's just arrived in exchange for a coin. Perhaps you've done this yourself?

Anyway, here's the clever bit. Tesco trolleys take both euros and pounds. So here's what you do. You insert a euro in the slot when you arrive and do your weekly shop. When you need to return your trolley, smile sweetly at someone who's just arriving. They give you a pound and walk away with the trolley. You pocket the difference between the euro and sterling, which at the current exchange rate is approximately 31p.

It doesn't sound like much. But if you went to Tesco twice a week, you'd make over £30 a year.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Stella Street lives on

You may well remember the ingenious late 90s comedy Stella Street, in which John Sessions and Phil Cornwell created an imaginary suburban road that was populated solely by stars of stage and screen. If memory serves me correct, it was in Surbiton - also the setting for 70s eco-com The Good Life.

Anyway, thoughts of Stella Street came to mind when I heard about a demo to protest against the downgrading of a hospital in Chichester. Among the protesters was none other than Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, who banged his head falling out of a tree in Fiji last year. I guess his attendance was the thing that made the protest newsworthy, but it was the detail of the story that actually made it funny. The aged rocker was joined by none other than Christopher Timothy, who famously starred as James Herriot in All Creatures Great and Small. And according to the International Herald Tribune (http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/10/27/arts/EU-A-E-CEL-Britain-Rolling-Stones.php), even Patricia Routledge put in an appearance. I can picture it now. "The Bucket residence. Lady of the house defending the NHS..."

As fans of Stella Street will testify, all we needed was Jimmy Hill to turn up with a placard. And Jack Nicholson to nip down to the local Tesco and pick up some refreshments for the angry crowd.

It's all becoming clear

Have you seen that Dyson ad where they drop the vacuum cleaner from a great height as part of their testing process? No wonder my one doesn't work properly.

Just as well the Lib Dems have changed their leader

News arrives of the world's oldest living creature (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/7066389.stm). He is a mollusc who was around in the time of Elizabeth I and he rejoices in the name of Ming. If this story had surfaced at the Lib Dem conference a few weeks ago, I suspect the sketch writers would have had a field day.

Didn't the ancient marine oddity have a play written about him during his early childhood?

It was called Clamlet.

Ok, I'll get my coat.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The tension mounts

Bank branches are useful. They are convenient. They may even be friendly, clean and attractive. They are never - repeat never - exciting. That's why I'm awaiting this new HSBC in Kingston, south London, with such eager anticipation.

Good 'eavens, it's Evan Evans

So good they named them twice. Evan Evans on tour in Vauxhall, south London. Snapped with my trusty Nokia 6300.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

What's their game?

The spooks at GCHQ are apparently advertising for new recruits in gaming environments such as Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Double Agent (http://media.guardian.co.uk/advertising/story/0,,2193224,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=4).

I can just imagine the calibre of applicant that's likely to emerge.

As Russian bombers approach British airspace once again and al-qaeda 'chatter' buzzes via satellite phone from Pakistan, there will be an office full of people in Cheltenham who are too busy to notice. They'll be checking out the latest edition of Quake Wars and discussing whether Chuck Norris really did make an appearance with Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon.

Is there anything on Dave, Dave?

My Virgin Media cable package now includes a channel called Dave + 1. This is surely post-modern branding taken to a new extreme and I do worry about where it's all going to lead.

"I'm sick of Dave. It's just repeats of Top Gear and QI. Couldn't we see if there's something on Chris? Or maybe try John + 1?"

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Some mistake, Shirley?

While I'm quite an admirer of former Labour Cabinet Minister Shirley Williams, the 66-year-old Liberal Democrat's take on the demise of Menzies Campbell is a tad naive.

"It is quite extraordinary to me," she said yesterday. "Churchill was far older than Menzies. Nobody complained about his age in those days, but they would now."

But can we really compare Ming to Churchill?

One was a bright lawyer and Olympic athlete from Glasgow, who built a fairly ordinary political career for himself. The other won the Second World War.

Shirley is the same age as Menzies, but would actually make a far more credible political leader. So dare I suggest that age doesn't have much to do with the price of tomatoes?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Warm and fat

Health Secretary Alan Johnson has warned that obesity may prove to be as big a crisis as climate change (see http://uk.news.yahoo.com/rtrs/20071014/tuk-uk-britain-obesity-fa6b408_2.html). I'm not entirely convinced by his line of reasoning, but I'm sure that obesity could make climate change worse. If we have more obese people, we won't be able to fit the same numbers of passengers in planes and this may lead to more flights and greater CO2 emissions. Also, there will more food in fridges, necessitating increased use of electricity.

On the other hand, if people find it difficult to squeeze into cars, we may find that our roads are less congested. So perhaps obesity is good for the environment? It's all so confusing.

Friday, October 12, 2007

20mg of polydimethyl siloxaine, twice a day

When you clear out your house, it's amazing the things you turn up. I genuinely have no idea about the origins of this photo. I don't have a wedding ring on, which means it's pre-1998, but beyond that, I'm at a complete loss. There are two possible explanations. One is that it was something to do with an ad campaign or concept that I'd helped to create. The other is that I worked for a few years as a junior doctor, but decided I wasn't cut out for medicine. As a result of the trauma of quitting my registrar's post, I suffered severe amnesia and now can't remember anything about it.

I look pretty severe, don't I? What happened to bedside manner?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

I knew I'd find it somewhere

Washed and Ready to Eat's Phil Woodford with UK premier Gordon Brown, sometime in the mid 1990s. "In about twelve years, you'll be the Prime Minister," I said, with remarkable foresight. Or something like that. My memory's a bit hazy on the detail, but I'm sure we had a good chinwag.

Clearing out the garage at Woodford Towers in advance of our impending move, I found a long-lost picture of a youthful Phil with none other than Gordon Brown. That is not me with a mullet. It's a shadow, as the picture was taken against a white backdrop. If you look carefully, it's the same with Gordon.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Son of a b***h!

It's good news that the Judge in Kiefer Sutherland's recent drink-driving case understood the importance of the hit show 24. The 40-year-old Canadian actor's prison sentence is to be served at times that don't disrupt the production schedule of Day Seven(http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5iVM98BW0ewK4rdnGZHf9Ss8iTKIwD8S63KF82).

Of course, if the unfortunate Sutherland did find himself confined at a time when he should be on set, he'd no doubt be able to take inspiration from his character, Federal Agent Jack Bauer of the CTU.

The Corrections Department official arrives with Sutherland's daily meal. But where's the prisoner? In a panic, the guard starts to search the cell, when suddenly he's jumped from behind. Two seconds later, the fugitive is free and using his carefully charged cell phone.

"Chloe, get me the co-ordinates for the lot at 20th Century Fox. Goddammit! I gotta be in make-up in twenty minutes!"

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Under the influence

How many influential people can there be in a city like London? If you'd asked me before yesterday, I'd have said about half a dozen tops. But having attended a posh do at the Design Museum hosted by the Evening Standard, I now understand the number to be 1,000 and the list to include luminaries such as metabolic detox guru Nish Joshi and aged revolutionary Vanessa Redgrave.

Smuggled into the event by an influential friend, I was served bubbly and salted asparagus tips and was able to shake hands with Tory mayoral hopeful Boris Johnson, who had a couple of minders in attendance in case he encountered any Liverpudlian gatecrashers. The museum was full of folk who would, under normal circumstances, be waiting in the Newsnight green room. Columnist Melanie Philips, for instance. Michael White of The Guardian. And that bleeding-heart lady from Liberty who thinks we've got a bit too tough in the war on terror.

The attendance of former Tory cabinet minister Peter Lilley suggests that the timescales for influence are somewhat fluid. I think he was indeed influential, but it was for a short period during 1993.

For some strange reason, I haven't yet been able to locate myself in the glossy brochure that was handed out to accompany the launch. Perhaps there's been an administrative oversight? I'll have another flick at lunch.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The election that never was

Oh dear.

David "Memory Man" Cameron 1-0 Gordon "Feartie" Brown

And it was an own goal. Cameron, although capable of stringing together some decent moves, wasn't able to put the ball in the back of the net. He needed wee Gordon to assist him.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Neigh, neigh and thrice neigh

If you click to enlarge this picture, you'll see that horses are quite fussy about their water these days. But not so fussy about the convoluted advertising campaigns that are used to promote it.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

I'll do it tomorrow

Don't put off to tomorrow what you can do today. That's the message from a recent disciplinary hearing in which a solicitor was fined for sitting on a piece of work for ten years. The full details are here in The Times: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article2547596.ece

I've just taken a call from my lawyer about a property sale. Unfortunately, it's confirming completion on a flat I sold in Finsbury Park in 1998.

Memory man won't be remembered

I sat through a fair bit of Diddy David Cameron's speech to the Conservative Party Conference yesterday afternoon.

It was a strange affair.

He'd memorised an hour's worth of material and delivered without autocue, but made a deliberate point of telling us at the outset that this is what he intended to do. Forget Iain Duncan-Smith's "Quiet Man". Here was the Memory Man in action. I half expected him to recite the telephone number of each member of the audience.

Trouble is, Dave, people don't actually care that you can remember your lines. They just look at you and think you won't be a patch on Gordon Brown if we find ourselves in a spot of bother. Like floods. Or terror attacks. Or Foot and Mouth. Or Bluetongue. Or runs on banks.

One nice touch in the speech was a reference to facebook, which signalled the toff from Notting Hill to be an ubercool man of the people. Dave claimed to have found a group on the social networking site that celebrated his "hottie" status. This is further evidence that facebook must be banned from all workplaces at the earliest possible opportunity, as it's clearly having a detrimental effect on people's brains.

Gordon Brown didn't mention facebook in his speech to the Labour Party Conference. But I guess people who are actually credible as Prime Ministers probably don't spend too much time poking their mates and writing on other people's walls.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Even brain surgery's not brain surgery any more

Britain's youngest female brain surgeon has pioneered a new technique that allows patients to go home on the day of their operation (see http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/standard/article-23414577-details/Have+brain+surgery+and+be+home+for+tea/article.do). What next? Building spaceships out of an Ikea flatpack? Just follow the instructions. It's not rocket science.

Reality TV latest

Coming soon to Living TV is a show called Dirty Cows, starring Tara Palmer Tomkinson. The attractive socialite is apparently going to help "Britain's most eligible - and handsome - young farmer" choose a potential mate from a gaggle of city girls. They'll be put through their paces on the farm, of course. Mucking out stables, milking cows and pinning up Bluetongue warning notices. The process will allow the sexy young Barleymow to get a feel for each lady's strengths.

Excuse me while I go out and shoot myself in both kneecaps with an abattoir stun gun.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The further thoughts of Chairman Phil

Washed and Ready to Eat was created to pick over the flotsam and jetsam of life. Sometimes, however, a man needs to write something a little more considered.

My new website is called Reduced to Clear and will be a companion site to Washed and Ready. It's about the UK and the way that it's changing over time. Updates will be irregular, I suspect, so I'll let you know if you need to pay a visit. I've kicked things off with an article about the pearl of the Sussex Riviera that's commonly known as Eastbourne. A few pictures too.

http://reducedtoclear.blogspot.com

Bovine of the times

I was very surprised to read that some cows in Suffolk have bluetongue. I didn't even realise they owned mobile phones.

My kind of website

Teacher Jonty Haywood has set up a website extolling the virtues of a mythical beach paradise in Cornwall (see BBC link below). The Truro-based prankster has run into technical problems as word got round about his jolly jape and tens of thousands of people decided to check the site out. According to his blurb, famous Cornish musicians and dolphins are regular visitors to the Porthemmet sands, but police officers are banned as "the local council decided that they distress elderly locals".

I like your style Jonty. It's long been my ambition to create some similar web content, such as a mythical corporation that never quite articulates what it actually does. The trouble is the genre is pretty much beyond parody.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/cornwall/7015882.stm

Lost and found

The smallest mini-W is in my good books right now as she's managed to locate my iPod nano, which had gone missing. It was stuck down the back of a chair and I'd been suffering major withdrawal symptoms. There's also a sentimental value, as it was a present from my work colleagues when I last had a proper job. Back on my eclectic diet of Martha and the Muffins, Merle Haggard and McFadden & Whitehead. There ain't no stoppin' me now.

It's dawned on me recently that every home should have a Lost Property office. Let's say you were struggling to find your keys or your mobile, you could just pop to some kind of kiosk in the back garden and ask whether it had been retrieved. I would gladly pay a premium for a house that included this kind of facility. You could save money by getting family members to staff it on a rota basis.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Thespians in vitamin hell

Amid a load of worthy ads in The Guardian designed to influence government policy at the time of the Labour conference, one full-page insertion particularly stands out. "The Campaign to Save our Supplements" warns us that vitamins and minerals are under threat from an EU directive that's designed to clamp down on alternative, unregulated medicine. While on balance I probably share the view that we could do without this particular piece of legislation, I couldn't help but smile at the list of signatories in an open letter addressed to Gordon Brown.

Among the vitamin lovers, we find Sir Cliff Richard, Cilla Black OBE and Gloria Hunniford. Martin Shaw ("Judge John Deed" and former star of 70s action drama The Professionals) also adds his stamp of approval, alongside Eamon Holmes, Felicity Kendal CBE and Cherie Blair's erstwhile lifestyle guru, Carole Caplin.

It comes as no surprise that Dame Judi Dench and Helena Bonham-Carter are worried about the availability of their precious supplements, but I was a bit thrown by the inclusion on the list of David Moyes. Do they mean David Moyes as in Everton FC? He doesn't seem to fit the profile of the other contributors. I'm wondering whether perhaps there's another David Moyes I don't know, who's currently appearing in an adaptation of An Inspector Calls at The Everyman Playhouse in Liverpool?

Notable by his absence is grand luvvie Patrick Stewart. Posters on the tube in London proclaim his current stint in the Scottish Play to be the "best performance of his life", which is patently absurd. Haven't the blurb writers seen him as Captain Jean-Luc Picard of the Federation Starship Enterprise? He always ordered "Earl Grey Tea - hot!" from his replicator. But no vitamins as far as I can remember.

Football crazies

Carragher, Cafu and Henry having a kickabout on a park in the West Midlands? It seems improbable, but according to today's edition of the Metro, it's now become a reality. The imaginative IT workers who make up the Lynam Athletic team (Division Three, Birmingham Coronation League) have all changed their names by deed poll to those of famous soccer stars. The goalkeeper, inexplicably, has chosen to become Wayne Rooney and the captain is none other than John Terry.

It seems as if some strange psychological process is at work, because the team now have a new confidence and are winning more games. Perhaps David Cameron should consider changing his name to Gordon Brown?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Obscure legislation

Clean away: lorry can go fast... but not that fast. Snapped on my Nokia 6300. Intelligence in a beautiful body. (Much like its owner.)
Sign on a laundry lorry spotted in south-west London: "Please be patient! Vehicle limited to 56mph by law".
Now, I'm all in favour of minimising road rage and everything, but what obscure piece of legislation are we talking about here?
The Laundry Lorry and Related Vehicles Act of 1965?
Section XI (4): No lorry or similar vehicle used to transport or carry laundry, clean linen or related items shall travel at a speed exceeding 56mph.
And what's with the precision? 55 is sensible, whereas 57 is just plain reckless and likely to jeopardise the cleanliness of the contents?
Big cheeses in the City: things were buzzing today when I visited Leadenhall Market in London's financial district. Sausage for sale and a really lively atmosphere at lunchtime.

Sign of the times

I'm always fascinated by these places that offer to create personalised signs for the front of your house. Wouldn't it be so much easier and cheaper if you could just buy them off the peg?

"What would you like your sign to say, sir?"

"Well, I saw this one outside that said Linwood. That would do fine."

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Captain Birdseye and other people of rank

Regular readers may recall that I once doubted the existence of Yeo Valley. I'd never heard of the Yeo mountain range and I therefore rated the likelihood of there being a valley at somewhere between 0 and 5%. Of course, I had yoghurt all over my face when I discovered that the place really does exist. Somewhere in Somerset, I seem to recall. Today, having read an article in the latest edition of The Marketer magazine, I'm astonished to discover that there really was a Captain Birdseye.

Well, I need to qualify that just a little.

There was a Mister Clarence Birdseye who invented the fish finger back in 1955. The avuncular, uniformed figure who dominated our TV screens for about thirty years may have been an invention of over-eager advertising creatives, but he didn't blow in on a trawler during a squall. There was actually some connection to a real human being.

These revelations about fish and yoghurt are causing me considerable disquiet, because I'm wondering how many other fictional people and places are, in fact, real. I'd be grateful if loyal readers could let me know.

Is Trumpton somewhere off the A21? Is Dr Dre practising medicine in Harley Street? I'll do some digging of my own and get back to you.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Go on, Gordon, let her stay...

I thought the visit of Margaret Thatcher to Downing Street yesterday was rather touching. She apparently joined the Brown family for tea, which does conjure up marvellous images of Alice in Wonderland.

THATCHER: `Have you guessed the riddle yet?'

BROWN: `No, I give it up, Baroness. What's the answer?'

THATCHER: `I haven't the slightest idea.'

Surely, out of politeness, our new Premier should have asked Maggie whether she wanted to stay over in the spare room? I have a feeling she would have accepted, because according to Tory MP Rob Wilson, the former Prime Minister is "lonely" and "frail". He went on to remark that "those closest to her say that her grasp on daily life is some days better than others."

Indeed. I fear it was very much that way during the 1980s as well.

All I can say is it's just as well Bill Clinton never invited Ronald Reagan round to tea. If reports are to be believed, the B-Movie cold warrior could recognise the White House towards the end of his life, but didn't actually know that he'd once lived there.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Waiting for the bus. And the Day of Judgement.

I sat out the last quarter of an hour at aikido last night, as I'd been feeling sick and thought it best not to puke over the mats, which are quite expensive. My hunch was that the sickness had been caused by some of the techniques we'd been practising, which involved a fair bit of spinning around. As it turned out, I'd actually picked up some crappy bug - stomachy, heady, achy thing - and I was therefore feeling fairly fragile this morning. Most people can just call in sick, but I'm self-employed and had a group of delegates waiting to be trained in copywriting skills up in central London. So poor old Phil dragged himself down to the bus stop for the start of the journey.

I was joined by a teenage boy with a strong African accent who very politely asked me if I knew whether there was a church nearby.

"What kind of church do you mean?" I replied.

"Oh," he said. "Just the normal kind. Pentecostal."

Alarm bells started to ring. People in south-west London aren't generally that big on speaking in tongues and so on, so I directed him to the nearest Baptist establishment which is maybe a ten-minute walk away. I expected him to leap up from his seat with a cheery word of thanks and be on his way. Instead, he subjected me to a grilling about my personal habits.

Had I ever told a lie?

"Err... well, I don't think there are many people who have never told any lie."

"So you are a liar?"

"Err... well, um, I think liar implies that people are telling lies on a regular basis or particularly big lies."

And so it went on.

Had I ever stolen anything?

Did I lust after women?

He concluded after a few minutes that I was a lustful, fibbing thief who needed to watch my step when it came to the Day of Judgement. Thankfully, at this point, the 281 arrived.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

But what size is their plate?

News that a couple have spent an astonishing 22 years in a Travelodge (see http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,2166732,00.html) has inevitably led to media comparisons with Steve Coogan's enduring TV character Alan Partridge. The fictional Radio Norwich presenter clocked up 182 days in the Linton Travel Tavern and brought his own out-sized plate down to breakfast, so that he could stock up on extra food. The Davidsons strike me as the kind of people who would never pull this type of stunt. Indeed, they seem remarkably grateful to their hosts.

I've often thought that if I were rich, I'd like to live in a hotel. But in my mind's eye, I had images of Dirk Bogarde in the Savoy. Now, I feel I've had a glimpse of a much more likely scenario. And it lies just off the A1, near Newark.

My name there

People keep sending me fake credit cards in the post. I'm thinking of changing my name by deed poll to "Your Name Here".

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Juliet Bravo can't make out hotel

Mrs W was involved in a collision in the motor the other day. Not her fault, I'd hasten to add. Anyway, she called the police operator and started giving the reg plate of another vehicle in the three-car incident.

When referring to the letter h, Mrs W was challenged on her pronunciation. (She says it "aitch" cos she is like well brought up.)

"Do you mean haitch?" comes the reply.

Mrs W was very controlled and gave a "whatevah" response, but I think I would have lost my temper in these circumstances. If I'd been there, the conversation would have gone:

Her: "Do you mean haitch?"

Me: "Do you have a tattoo around your belly button piercing?"

Not that I'm a snob or anything. But you do wonder what would happen if you were phoning up to report mass murder.

It rots your brain from the inside

A client has asked me to create a pastiche of a well-known sleb magazine, which has forced me to purchase the latest issue, purely in the interests of research.

The strange thing is that, even though I know these publications are mind-rotting crap of the first order, I always forget quite how bad they really are. There's always an element of shock as I refamiliarise myself with the genre.

When the journalists express disappointment that Big Brother's Chanelle "went down the glamour route", she responds that it was all very tasteful. "I wouldn't show my nipples," she comments. Her philosophy, apparently, is that you should be prepared to try anything once. I'm too much of a gentleman to suggest a sprint across the M25 after dark or a full frontal labotomy.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

My daily news alerts

I subscribed to a daily news service from Reuters and ticked various boxes to suggest my particular areas of interest. Ever since, I've been receiving strange stories about train derailments in obscure parts of the USA and the reported use of Molotov cocktails by criminals and rioters. As I can't imagine I ever ticked a box marked "rail incidents" or "petrol bombs", I'm not quite sure what's going on.

Typical content:

"Police in Sergeant Bluff, Iowa say a train derailment has closed down a Siouxland roadway."

I'm like so hold the front page.

Will keep you posted.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

A tip for Channel 4

I watched the first episode of Dumped tonight - a reality TV show in which a group of misfits are sent to live on landfill site for three weeks.

Having studied the participants closely, I've concluded that many of them seem well suited to their new environment. Is it too late to suggest to the programme makers that we make the show permanent?

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Smart answer

Nice to see an interviewer caught off guard on TV once in a while.

The BBC were covering the Beard and Moustache Championships currently taking place in Brighton (see http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/09/01/europe/EU-ODD-Britain-Mustache-Competition.php) and stopped one of the participants who was sporting some particularly fine whiskers.

"How did it all start?" asked the eager presenter.

"I stopped shaving," replied the interviewee.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Breaking my Rehab habit

I see that Amy Winehouse's father-in-law is recommending a boycott of the singer's music in a bid to get her back on the straight and narrow.

I'm pleased to reveal that I have been at the forefront of this boycott for some considerable time. Long before it became fashionable, in fact.

Penny for the guy, guys?

Since when did "guys" become the generic form of address for a group of people?

I've noticed that kids are frequently spoken to like this, particularly when they're in a larger group. If, for instance, I take one of the mini-Ws to a party at a gym or sports centre (a popular choice of parents in south-west London), the staff will say "This way, guys..." when they're leading the youngsters from one part of the building to another.

The mini-Ws and their mates are not guys. They are children. They are kids. They are boys and girls. But I sense these alternative forms of address are now thought too twee, too patronising and too politically incorrect to use. "Guys" implies that the staff and the children are all on the same level. (Intellectually, I fear this may indeed be the case, but I'll leave that for another day.)

When we took the kids to Pizza Express yesterday, we were collectively addressed as "guys" by the waitress. Now, it's one thing for my young daughters to be "guys", but I think it's quite another for me and Mrs W to be tarred with the same bruschetta. We are Sir and Madam. Or if this is too olde worlde and square for the likes of Pizza Express, I'd suggest the conversation could happily progress without any formalities at all. "What can I get you?" is perfectly sufficient and doesn't need to have the new and increasingly ubiquitous "guys" added as an extra topping.

I watched as the waitress moved to another table and - as my friend Eve-Marie would say, this is the God's honest truth - she used the g-word to a middle-aged lady, her husband and his octogenarian mother. The old lady may not have heard that she was a guy and so no damage was done. Nevertheless, I think it's pretty shoddy treatment for someone who probably sat out the Blitz in an underground station.

Monday, August 27, 2007

American radio

I've just been listening to an extraordinary commercial for Viagra on a US radio station. The opening creative gambit was "Are you doing the erectile dysfunction two-step?"

This is a question which, at every level, surely demands an emphatic "no" from the average listener.

It was the blurb at the end of the ad that really fascinated me though. Before popping the blue pill, you were supposed to ask your doctor whether your heart was strong enough for sex. And you were advised to seek medical attention if your ardour couldn't be suppressed after four hours. Surely they meant four minutes?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

That's my man

I'm a great believer in catchphrases and standing jokes that are repeated endlessly.

There's a guy in the ticket office down at my local railway station who always greets passengers with a cheery "Evening", whatever time of the day it is. Regulars get used to it, but it will always catch out the odd newcomer.

I thought for a long time that the party piece was reserved for customers. Recently, however, I observed the ticket man arriving on shift at lunchtime and saying "Evening" to his colleagues. It's his way of making the day go that little bit quicker and all power to his elbow. It reminds me of the shop floor at Grace Brothers:

"Are you free, Mr Humphries?"

"I'm free, Captain Peacock."

"Are you free, Mrs Slocombe?"

"No I am not free, Captain Peacock. I was up all last night with my pussy and cannot possibly go to Mr Rumbold's office now. And I am unanimous in that..."

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Good London viewing

New to my Virgin Media cable package: Celtic TV and Rangers TV. While I admire the ecumenical spirit of this initiative, I'm not quite sure why I'm getting free feeds from these giants of the Scottish game.

My nearest team is Brentford and for family/historical reasons, my support goes to the mighty Nottingham Forest FC.

I expect in Glasgow, they show Arsenal and Tottenham.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Charity muggers in action in Farringdon

Heading to Farringdon tube earlier this afternoon, I was accosted by charity muggers who were under the illusion that I would stop to talk to them in a torrential downpour. I snapped them on my Nokia 6300 and have been inspired to create a musical tribute:

I'm chugging in the rain
Just chugging in the rain
What a God awful feeling
I'm hated again
I'm laughing at clouds
And hated by crowds
Just chugging for
Diabetes in the rain

Ok, I'm very childish. I should know better. But they were taking the mickey. It was absolutely tipping it down and there was no way that anyone was going to stop.

Ryobi 524 H, 512 H, Roland 202, GTO 52-2, Shinohara

My spam friend Tatjana Fengler has been in touch again from Cologne and says she is ready to buy a range of machines. The Heidelberg GTO 52-2, for example.

Tatjana, if only I were ready to sell. It could be the start of such a beautiful relationship.

Test them on the buses

I watched a TV report yesterday that said children's IQs had been climbing steadily over the past 30 years. This no doubt explains how 99% of today's youngsters manage to pass their GCSEs.

It's difficult to dispute the figures, but I'm certain of one thing. These IQ tests haven't been conducted on the 281 bus route between Tolworth and Hounslow.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

No need to forgive or forget. But a little demolition wouldn't go amiss.

The war's over now: Liberation Square in St Helier, Jersey. The good shopkeepers and restaurant owners of the Crown Dependency liberated a lot of money from my wallet during a week-long stay. That's an enlarged facsimile of a ten-pound note they're holding in the picture (see blog entry below).

When I visited Guernsey a couple of years ago, I was very struck by the legacy left by the Second World War. I can report that things are pretty much the same in the nearby island of Jersey. As the only British territories to be occupied by the Nazis, you can imagine that these "Crown Peculiars" suffered real trauma. I was astonished to discover that there were 11,000 German soldiers stationed on Jersey between 1940 and 1945 and some estimates suggest that this figure rose to 16,000 at certain points. (To put this in perspective, fewer British troops have been policing large swathes of southern Iraq for the past few years. Jersey is about nine miles across.)

So the war was a nasty old business in the English Channel. But I can't help feeling that the relationship with the era is all a little bit weird. On both islands, the Nazi fortifications are left standing and are sometimes promoted as tourist attractions. Of course it's important not to forget the past, but why exactly would I want to sunbathe in front of an anti-tank barrier built by Russian slave labourers in 1943?

How do you spot a genuine Jerseyman?

My considered answer to this question - having just spent a week in the Channel Islands - is that you don't spot a Jerseyman. He spots you. A mile off.

He then charges you £14 to ride a bike down a promenade for an hour or £18 to park a car while you go on a day trip to France.

Don't get me wrong. It's a nice island with some very beautiful beaches and a fascinating history. But it's not as cheap as Aya Napa. Somehow or other, I always end up going to places on holiday that I can't really afford. That's Mrs W for you. She favours Switzerland as a general rule (see blogs passim) but has a sideline in tax havens and Crown Peculiars.

The Mrs really pushed her luck this time though. On a day trip to Brittany, she knocked a whole load of china off a shelf in a shop in St Malo. I was forced to shell out 43 euros on one of the most hideous china tea sets I've seen in a long time. L'ebay beckons. We have a sneaking suspicion that the miserable proprietor of this knickknack emporium had balanced things on the shelves in such a way as to make an accident likely. There was some wobbly wooden ornament that generated a cascade similar to those that you get in a money-toppling machine on an English pier. Only this time, the jackpot was claimed by the owner.

"C'est la vie, n'est pas?" I quipped as I coughed up on my Mastercard. The little sod just gave me a textbook Gallic shrug.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Tatjana, du bist eine spammerin.

Interesting email from Cologne today, sent by a lady called Tatjana Fengler.

"You yourself or somebody you know," she writes, "has submitted this eMail to our mailing list in order to receive periodically our offers and demands from (sic) second hand printing machines and equipment."

Let me say categorically, Tatjana, that I myself have no interest whatsoever in second-hand printing machines and equipment. I doubt very much that somebody I know would presume to subscribe on my behalf. Which leads to me to one very obvious conclusion: you yourself, Tatjana, or somebody you know has done it. And that's very naughty indeed.

I'd accuse you right here and now of being a spammer, were it not for the small print in your email which seems to let you off the hook:

"This message is forwarded according to the new electronic mail legislation: Section 301, paragraph (a) (2) (c) from S.1618 under the title 3 of the S1618 decree, approved on the 105th SPAM international regulations congress, this email will not be considered SPAM while we have provided ("opt out"/websiteaddress.com) e-mail contact so you can be deleted from our mailing list."

When 9 to 5 becomes 24/7

A lady called Diane Duffin has run into trouble with authorities in Sheffield for playing Dolly Parton tracks around the clock. Apparently, neighbouring tenants haven't taken too kindly to her non-stop country music festival.

It reminds me of the lyric to a 1970s Parton hit called "Two doors down", in which the prescient songstress clearly foresees events that are to take place in the UK some three decades later:

Two doors down
They're laughing and drinking and having a party
Two doors down
They're not aware that I'm around
Cause here I am
Crying my heart out and feeling sorry
While they're having a party two doors down

Press reports suggest that Diane may be evicted and given an ASBO, but I have a more inventive suggestion. Why don't they turn the estate into a British version of the Dollywood theme park? That way, the neighbours could get involved too.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

There's a hole in my bucket

While enjoying a meal in a Birmingham restaurant last night, I nipped to the toilet and was shocked to discover buckets serving as urinals. This is something I've never encountered in London. Luckily, I had my handy Nokia 6300 with me. The washbasins were green washing up bowls and looked very cute, but I decided one photo was quite enough. People would be wondering why I'd been gone so long.

Bucket cleaner wanted: Birmingham restaurant takes the... er.... mickey.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Walford in mourning

The death of Mike Reid - former stuntman, comedian and star of BBC TV's Eastenders - deprives British popular culture of one of its last genuine cockney accents. And when I say genuine, I do expect you to be rhyming it with bottle of wine.

Having lived in London all my life, I'm very conscious of changing accents. Face now rhymes with Miss rather than Vice, which is all rather confusing. To hear people talking like the late Mike Reid, you need to head out to the Essex caravan parks around Clacton or maybe play a round of golf on the Costas. You just ain't gonna 'ear it darn the Ole Kent Road, my son.

I can't help having this image of Walford recreated beyond the Pearly Gates. St Peter is, at this very moment, slapping Frank Butcher on the back and challenging him to a game of arrers down the rub-a-dub. "You're a bleeding saint, you are. Go on, mate. Watchu 'avin? Pint of bitter?"

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Is anyone allergic to Piriton?

Whatever you do, don't glue carrots together with sweat: the manufacturers of Piriton alert us to a wide range of potential allergies. Poster snapped in south London with my Nokia 6300.
GlaxoSmithKline's current advertising campaign for Piriton is rather disconcerting, as it presents a world that's packed full of dangerous allergens.
I've never personally met anyone with a glue allergy, but who's to say that they don't exist? I'm just troubled by the thought that someone might be allergic to all the things on the Piriton posters. It would certainly make a trip to the supermarket a bit of a mare.
Reminds me of news reports I saw as a kid of people who were said to be "allergic to the 20th century". They had to live in hermetically sealed bubbles, as everything modern posed a danger. As you never hear of people who are allergic to the 21st century, I'm comforting myself with the thought that they may now have recovered.

Strange holiday ideas of our time

A current posting on a Gloucestershire website from an Italian called "gianluigi".

i will come to cheltenham for holiday tomorrow. i have here my girfriend and i want to know if there still is flood alarm for the next days.... can yuo tell me? please? i know about water, but i must know if can also rain more and more like these days.... sorry for my english. thank you. (maybe if is possbilble i will go to london 1 week and later i come here again)


Friday, July 27, 2007

The slope of hope

The recent plunge in the Dow Jones index has given rise to a lot of commentary in the media and some of it takes a bit of puzzling out.

Associated Press quote Don Gher - a former chief investment officer at an American capital management company - as saying investor sentiment has shifted from "climbing the wall of worry" to "sliding down the slope of hope."

"Today," states Gher, "bad things are being interpreted as negatives, whereas earlier this year they were being interpreted positively."

The stock market, eh? It's too complicated for us ordinary human beings, isn't it?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

BB8 update

Brian to Charley on tonight's catch-up show: "I'd rather watch the Antiques Roadshow than look at you."

It's very rare that I ever agree with anything a Big Brother contestant says, but Brian does have a point. Two minutes with Charley would leave me screaming for Michael Aspel.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Do me a fave, Dave.

I was just reading that in the recent parliamentary by-election in Ealing, the Tory candidate Tony Lit was presented on the ballot paper as belonging to "David Cameron's Conservatives".

Can you imagine anything more puke-inducing? I'd have been struggling to hold down my breakfast as I went to mark my cross.

No wonder the bloke came third. Despite all the accusations of Blair's cult of personality, I don't think I ever once voted for "Tony Blair's Labour" when I stepped into a polling station.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Honesty training

I understand from news reports that around 17,000 BBC staff are going to be sent on compulsory training courses to teach them the difference between right and wrong.

Who exactly are the trainers here, do you think? Are there people who specialise in honesty training? And what kind of exercises would they do with the participants?

"Ok, we're going to do a role play now. Pick a partner. Imagine one of you is a granny who's just collected her pension from the post office. She's flashing the cash around, almost inviting you to take it. Would it be so terrible if you helped her to spend some of it?"

Monday, July 16, 2007

Caught in the act

I was just listening to the classic 80s ballad, Tonight, I celebrate my love for you by Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack. One of the lines is a little confusing.

"Tonight, no one's going to find us..."

Does this imply that on previous occasions they'd been interrupted, do you think?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

You'd be surprised how good a surprise can be


If Evie's 40, I must still be 38. From left, Washed and Ready to Eat's Phil Woodford joins the party in Liverpool.
It's frightening when your friends start turning 40. But not as frightening as being 40 yourself, of course. As someone who still wears the "late thirties" label with pride, I see myself very much as part of the younger generation of this great country of ours. And I was delighted to fly the youth flag at a surprise party in Liverpool for my old university pal, Eve-Marie. We met at the LSE twenty years ago in a hall of residence, where we'd been allocated rooms opposite each other at the end of a long corridor. I was a shy and retiring sociology student, while she sweated over law textbooks. Every couple of weeks, a "friend" called James would pop down from Liverpool to visit little Evie. I thought the relationship was all perfectly innocent and charming, but another of our neighbours - a serious-minded American postgraduate called Malory - did voice some doubts. Mal was later vindicated, as the two of them got married and now have three great kids. They also introduced me to Mrs W, but hey, that's a whole other blog. Anyway, somehow or other, James managed to organise a surprise party. It was absolutely textbook - the kind of stuff that happens on the telly, rather than in real life. Evie was getting a bit annoyed that no one seemed to be taking her big four-oh that seriously and had reluctantly settled for a meal out with her hubby. After various toings and froings, she ended up at a College north of Sefton Park where we were all hiding and waiting to jump out on her. Really good fun for all of us and Evie herself was "made up". That's Scouse for "enchanted and delighted". But don't go organising anything for me. Remember, I'm not even 39 yet.

Stags and hens make Liverpool their own

A reassuring police presence at Liverpool's Adelphi Hotel. At night, bouncers are employed on the doors to deter all but the most determined and respectable stag parties. Snapped with my Nokia 6300.

Visiting Liverpool for little Evie's 40th (see above), I stayed in the famous Adelphi Hotel that once featured in a fly-on-the-wall documentary. The rack rate (which readers will be glad to hear I didn't actually pay) was an astonishing £299.00 for a single room.

£299.00? Down in London, this would be called having a giraffe. No one - I repeat no one (with the exception of a very confused American tourist who's arrived to visit with The Beatles) - is going to cough up three hundred quid to stay in a hotel that seems to have become the focal point for the stag and hen capital of Europe. We're talking girls in fake bridal outfits with plastic hands clasped over their breasts and men parading in the lobby in clown outfits and wigs, while a wedding party enjoys afternoon tea nearby. I shut myself in my room and barricaded it with a chair.

The confused American tourists who'd come to visit with The Beatles just looked on with bemusement. They had name badges around their necks in case they got lost and were unwittingly dragooned into a pub crawl.

On 1st January 2008, Liverpool becomes European City of Culture. According to my local sources, the joke currently doing the rounds is that the culture will be delivered in December, just in time. My advice is to point the stags and hens towards John Lennon Airport and give them a map of Riga.


Friday, July 13, 2007

What's sinister, futuristic and full of s%*t?

Why does modern art get such a bad press? The promotional blurb for the current Atelier Van Lieshout art installation on the South Bank might give us something of a clue:

"Board Room presents a series of models and urban plans alongside a dinner table laid with hand-illustrated crockery, all of which relate to the fictional SlaveCity, a dystopian metropolis which Atelier Van Lieshout began to develop in 2005. This sinister futuristic city acts as a model for social and environmental self-sufficiency, at once utopian and authoritarian, employing communist working methods to take the notion of productivity and profit to the extreme. SlaveCity is an evolving, ever-expanding project that envisions this hypothetical business-cum-city and its economic structure in elaborately worked out detail."

I'm intrigued that SlaveCity is both dystopian and utopian at the same time. This may represent a fundamental ambivalence on the part of the artists involved and be evidence of a powerful dialectic at work. On the other hand, it may suggest a writer who hasn't yet invested in a dictionary.

True story from the old country

One of my uncles is over from Dublin and he was telling me about an occasion when his daughter (then a teenager) managed to knock herself unconscious in a swimming pool. Although she was rescued and recovered, she had problems with her vision for some weeks and they thought they ought to get her eyes double checked.

Eventually my uncle managed to speak to a consultant, who was rather dismissive of the whole thing.

"Get her to read the death notices in the Irish Times, Mr Anderson," he said. "If she can do that, sure she's ok."

Remind me to get private medical insurance next time I travel to Ireland.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Jack the lad in Jalalabad

A young boy called Jack Egan has recently enjoyed an unusual holiday in war-torn Afghanistan. You can see an endearing picture of him clutching a Kalashnikov at http://www.metro.co.uk/news/article.html?in_article_id=56689&in_page_id=34.

Jack was visiting his dad (a bomb disposal expert) and enjoyed round-the-clock protection during the trip. Mum is reported as saying that she felt safer in Jalalabad than in Plymouth.

Personally, I think that's a ridiculous comparison. If I had a couple of ex-military minders with M16s and martial arts training, I'd happily go out in Plymouth. Before it got dark.

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blew

It's always nice to hear about a Shirley Valentine style holiday romance, but the news that 51-year-old Jane Felix-Browne - a former Parish Councillor in Cheshire - is going to marry one of Osama bin Laden's twenty-something sons is rather special.

Obviously it's traditional for the bride's parents to pay for the wedding, so I don't suppose the al-Qaeda bank account is going to take much of a pounding. Disappointingly, the nuptial venue seems to be in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. This is quite a long way for Hello magazine to travel, even on an exclusive.

Friday, July 06, 2007

The toilets at Bristol Temple Meads station


Bristol's distinctive Temple Meads station, snapped by the camera on my Nokia 6300.

Two oddities about the public conveniences in Bristol. The first is that they’re free, which is quite rare at bigger stations these days. So if you’re ever caught short, you should certainly consider Temple Meads as an option. Save yourself 20p. The second is that they have glass-fronted noticeboards in front of the urinals that allow you to read pages from the latest edition of The Times. My own particular slot yesterday afternoon featured the ladies singles championship at Wimbledon.

Great Western Trains

The people who serve the delicious sandwiches and selection of beverages and hot snacks on Great Western are known as “buffet hosts”. It’s almost enough to drive you out of curiosity to the buffet car, isn’t it? Just to experience the legendary hospitality of your host, who no doubt has a good stand-up routine lined up. “An Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotsman walk into a catering car…”

Train jargon

Have you noticed that you never arrive in a station with British Rail? You arrive “into” it instead. “We are about to arrive into London Paddington, which will be our next and final station stop."

Spa thriller

A gaggle of twenty-something girls heading on some kind of hen-style spa trip in Bath. They have to pretend not to know each other when they go into the venue, because if they declare themselves as a group, they’re restricted to certain time slots and activities. So mum’s the word. They can meet up “airside” once they’ve got through the security. One of them has brought along some horror movies for them to enjoy on DVD tonight. Evil Dead and Halloween 25, she says.

They called him Good Time George

I don't go in for many obituaries on Washed and Ready to Eat, as death is usually sad and my aim is to bring a little smile to my readers' faces every day. The passing of musician and author George Melly, however, does deserve some comment.

I saw Melly perform live with his Feetwarmers backing band a few times over the years and the playful mix of trad jazz, blues, camp and joie de vivre always made for a fun evening out. The bisexual singer's arrival on stage was heralded by his signature tune "Good Time George" and the lyric set the tone for the entertainment that was to follow: "Hey mama, hold on to your man, 'cos my equipment's on the AC/DC plan..."

Many of the old standards he liked to perform - from artists such as 1920s blues singer Bessie Smith - were based on double entendre. Songs that spring to mind include "Right key, wrong keyhole" and another number about a hot dog man, which left little to the imagination. "You want a big one? Is that what you said? I got a dog that's gonna fill your bread..."

Sex and music weren't the only themes in Melly's life though. He was an intelligent raconteur and expert in art history - particularly the surrealist movement. And in that respect he seems very much to belong to a bygone era. How many talented musicians today - even with a public school education tucked in their back pocket - can also claim to be a lecturer, critic and author of books such as A Tribe of One: Great Naive and Primitive Painters of the British Isles?

Melly refused treatment for lung cancer and sang on stage until he was 80. If there's an equivalent of Ronnie Scott's beyond the Pearly Gates, let's hope he's still finding a way of having a good time.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

My advice to doctors tempted to get involved in terrorism

Go home, rest as much as you can and drink plenty of fluids.

If you're feeling in any way psychotic, don't drive.

Because I'm worth it...

"Product" is a terrible jargon word beloved of hairdressers.

"Do you use any product in your hair?"

"Er... well... it depends what kind of product you're talking about. Generally speaking, I try to avoid products like Castrol GTX or Ambrosia Cream Rice."

I usually humour the salon staff by allowing them to put a bit of gel in my hair just after they've cut it. I've no intention of using any on a regular basis, but I can tolerate it for 24 hours and it keeps them happy.

Today I was asked whether I preferred it "wet" or "matt".

And there was me thinking the opposite of wet was dry. And the opposite of matt was gloss.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Is the doctor on the golf course?

No. He's busy packing a car full of propane gas.

There's been much speculation in the press about the involvement of a locum doctor in the recent botched terror attacks. If it's true, it just goes to show that you should never trust a locum. Always try to see your regular doctor, if you can.

I always ask for that nice Dr Shipman by name. It's his bedside manner.

If any medics are tempted to get involved with al-Qaeda related suicide attacks, can I suggest they first wander down the corridor to see some of their colleagues? Just follow the signs for Psychiatry and tell them you have a strange fixation about George Bush and Tony Blair.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

A spud story I definitely like

Great article in today's News of the World about a guy who's been given an ASBO for kerb-crawling. Prostitutes in Chatham, Kent have dubbed him "Mr Potato Head" because of an uncanny resemblance to the well-known toy.

According to the newspaper's staffer Sara Nuwar, the gentleman concerned was a "hooker-like" for Potato Head and will no longer be asking girls to "peel" off for him. She then manages to produce gags out of the words "mash", "bangers" and "chips" in the space of a few short paragraphs.

Her sign off? Mr Potato Head will still be "unzipping his fries", because he plans to invite local ladies around to his house.

A tabloid badge of honour is surely owed to Ms Nuwar and her sub-editor for this spudtastic piece of copy. An award crafted, no doubt, in the shape of a chip.