Thursday, May 31, 2007

Urgently need ambitious one who can assist the President

For some reason, I’m in regular receipt of emails from a company called VieclamBank in Vietnam with headers reading Thong Tin Tuyen Dung Trong Tuan. Although I’m not up with the local lingo, I think it roughly translates as “This week’s great job opportunities”. If I want to be a Japanese-speaking Customer Services Officer in Hanoi or a Sales Supervisor in Ho Chi Minh City, then my birthday and Christmas have come at once.

Some of the English copy could do with a bit of tidying.

JV-IT, we learn, “usually send its good trained engineers to Japan for various IT projects with full supports of life, accommodation, etc”.

And sex/age discrimination legislation doesn’t feature large in this part of the world either, by the looks of things. Supermarket Managers for Uni-Charm (Vietnam) need to be men aged between 28 and 40. I thought I just about qualified until I read that "data thinking & analytical ability & challenge spirit is requested.” That knocks that one on the head, then.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Tapasians have arrived

Aliche calls us the Tapasians. She's referrring to people who are prepared for a real night on the town and aren't content with the idea of heading home after just a couple of quick G&Ts in a local boozer. Unfortunately, Aliche herself isn't a Tapasian, as the lure of a Ruby Murray prepared by her boyfriend was more attractive to her than a trip to the Navarros Tapas restaurant in Charlotte Street.

Whatever.

Russ, Kevin, Caroline and I weren't going to be deterred by la Liche's lack of enthusisam. We went completely loco and tapped into the local Spanish tapas with el gusto. Caroline told us about her holiday plans and is worried there may possibly have been a misunderstanding that has led to her sharing a room with two female companions and a jacuzzi.

Russ discovered a unique dessert on the Navarros menu which is described as being "literally the Gypsy's arm". Kevin has an instinct for anything that might be ever-so-slightly politically incorrect and thought he should sample said delicacy with a view to bringing a prosecution under human rights legislation. Photographic evidence below.

All the people featured in this story are paid up subscribers to Washed and Ready to Eat. Well, not paid up as such, because I couldn't actually charge anyone for reading, but they do check it out once in a while.
Kevin's legs, Kevin's elbow, but without a doubt, that's a Gypsy's Arm. Quite literally.
La Caz creeps up on Washed and Ready to Eat's very own Phil Woodford.
On holiday, Caz will be sharing a room with two other women. In the meantime, she's making the most of the male company available to her in a fashionable London tapas bar.
Aliche's former boss, Trusty Rusty, with a protective and fatherly arm around her shoulder.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Modern art not too bad shock

Don't do it! One of Gormley's men threatens to jump from the Queen Elizabeth Hall. Click to enlarge.

Took the family up to town today to see the Antony Gormley exhibition on the South Bank. I have to say - and I'm not really much of an arty farty kind of person, if I'm honest - that a lot of his stuff is actually quite good. It's genuinely thought-provoking and original, although there's quite a bit of pretentious guff in the programme. Gormley's an old-school Cambridge archaeology and anthropology graduate, who clearly sees deep meaning in 400 pieces of toast slapped on a wall. I just see breakfast. Well, that's not fair. I see quite a fun idea that doesn't really deserve too much analysis.

The highlight was when we went into some kind of glass room that was completely filled with water vapour. You really couldn't see your hand in front of your face and it was very weird. A bit like how I imagine an old pea-souper fog might have been. We managed to find our way out, but I suspect there's one or two people stuck in there overnight.

Early morning regression

One of the best things about having kids is, of course, that you don't need any excuse to watch children's TV.

Of the programmes that the mini-Ws view regularly, my favourite is Raven. Groups of youngsters are given faux celtic names like Kinsa and Venga and taken off to the Highlands to compete in a series of tasks. Some games are designed to test their physical prowess and involve elaborate assault courses, while others get them solving riddles. The whole thing is held together by a presenter called James MacKenzie who motivates the children (or "warriors") with promises of gold rings and feathers which they can fly on their medieval standards.

His patter is scripted in cod McOlde Worlde vernacular. "Make haste, brave warriors, for the sun is getting lower in the sky and we have but one task to complete before the morrow." My eldest daughter doesn't like my impressions of MacKenzie's Raven character - probably because they're so uncannily accurate. She imagines that Woodford Towers will, at any second, be transformed into a woodland glade and that she'll be asked to do a bungee jump from the top of a 60ft pole. All in all, the show is excellent entertainment and makes the BBC licence fee somehow seem a little more worthwhile. And the likes of Kinsa and Venga get to do something other than hang around on street corners saying Whateva.

Hider in the House is a truly bizarre programme in which a family secretes a celebrity in their home for two days without the mum being aware of what's going on. The TV crews have an ostensible justification for being there - shooting a documentary or some such nonsense - and the kids have to undertake a number of tests which bring them ever-closer to being rumbled. I think it would be genuinely quite exciting for a mum to discover that Jason Donovan had been in her house for 48 hours without her realising, but today's episode involved a girl called Sarah Cawood.

Sarah who?

This blog entry on her website last month gives us a clue:

"...Oops, forgot to mention that i'll be on the panel of "Through The Keyhole" on BBC2, 3pm-3.45pm on the 10th April, 11th April and 17th April. David Frost is a total legend. S X"

Who would appear on a show as old hat as this? David, it's over to you...

This post wouldn't be complete without a mention of The Chuckle Brothers, Barry and Paul, who star in a 15-minute programme called Chucklevision. On http://www.thechucklebrothersontour.co.uk/ (which could do with a serious grammatical makeover) we learn that the northern comics were 'born in a suitcase', sometime around the end of World War II. Some viewers will no doubt wish that particular suitcase had never been opened, but I can't help having a soft spot for their old-fashioned sense of humour. A typical gag would involve the Chuckles trying to expose the wrongdoing of an evil scientist who was threatening the world.

Barry: "I think we need to go to the laboratory now."

Paul: "No, it's alright. I went before we came."

Barry: "No! I said laboratory..."

One excerpt from their online biography tells you everything you need to know: The Chuckle Brothers then starred in Britain’s biggest Pantomime ‘’Mother Goose’’ at the Hippodrome Theatre, Birmingham for the 1996/97 Christmas Season.

Sadly, when one of the brothers was recently involved in an accident on holiday, British tourists didn't provide the kind of help he might have expected. Instead, they started taunting him with one of his catchphrases: http://www.thesun.co.uk/article/0,,2001320029-2007190559,00.html Whatever you may think of the Chuckles, no one deserves that kind of treatment. At the very least, the passers-by should have escorted him to the nearest laboratory, where he could have given himself a wash and brush-up.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Library may have to police border by the book

An intriguing story from CNN caught my eye tonight. It's about a library that straddles the US/Canadian border. People who park up in Quebec to return their Margaret Atwood have to cross the national boundary to enter through the front door, which happens to be in Vermont. Within the building itself, there's a line drawn across the floor. On one side, we presume the books are in French, while on the other they're in American. US federal authorities are now twitchy about the potential for illegal immigration.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/05/26/border.quirk.ap/index.html

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Wise words from Pizza Express

Our genuine new Roman pizzas are not 'like mama used to make'. We have no idea who 'mama' was.

Special Constable update

I've now studied the Special Constable poster in more detail (see blogs passim) and can reveal the idea is even more complex and bizarre than I first thought.

You'll recall that a Special is on some seedy looking street corner, just yards away from where a drug deal is in progress. He's keenly observing events and looks ready to take some kind of action.

The copy says that Specials wear uniform and always have back-up. But this guy is on his own in plain clothes.

Worrying.

Perhaps he's off duty but just can't leave the policing thing alone? Once a part-time copper, always a part-time copper.

But wait. There is back up. It comes in the form of the constable's own reflection in a puddle.

If he took his eyes off the criminal activity for just a second and took the trouble to look down at his feet, he'd see that in Puddle Land, he is wearing a uniform and carrying a radio.

There's enough material here to fill a semiotics seminar for a day. If I discover any further layers to the creative concept, I'll let you know.

Turtley smitten

In my local rag, there's a touching story about a tortoise called Baby who went missing for week but has now been recovered. Her owner, Linda Hay, blames the adventure on the creature's hormones. "I think it was the time of the year that made her escape - I think she was on the look out for a male," she tells the Richmond Guardian.

Maybe I'm being a bit thick, but how exactly does a tortoise make an escape before you realise? It may be looking for a boyfriend, but it isn't likely to be speed dating.

Unsure about rickshaws

I'm teaching just off Aldwych on a Thursday night and walk back across the river to Waterloo station. At around 8.45, there are a surprising number of empty rickshaws on the road, touting for business. I've been very close to giving one of them a try. After all, I've been on my feet for a couple of hours talking about marketing and advertising and suchlike, so I deserve a bit of comfort. The problem is that I don't know anything about rickshaw etiquette. Do you hail them like a taxi? Where's the meter? How much does it cost? Can they charge whatever they like? Do they want a tip? I just have no idea how it all works and this rather puts me off.

I suppose like all these things, once you've done it, you've done it. And then you know how it works for ever more. I remember trying the internet for the first time about ten years ago and not knowing my Ask Jeeves from my elbow. Now I'm a dab hand with the old blogging and whatnot.

I have another five or six weeks teaching this course and I'm determined that I'll rickshaw my way back to Waterloo on one occasion and supply some photographic evidence for readers of Washed and Ready. The conversation I can already picture. "Blimey, guv. Weather's taken a turn, hasn't it? So much for global warming, eh? I had that Ken Livingstone in the back of me rickshaw the other day..."

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Wise words from Royal Mail

If you receive mail one day and no mail the following days but you are expecting mail, there may be a straightforward explanation.

Not everyone receives mail every day.

It may be possible that you don’t receive mail every day. Before contacting us, please make sure that there is a pattern of missed mail deliveries.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Philately will get you nowhere

Like a mug, I got sold a book of 'novelty' stamps a month or two ago. When I opened it up, they had messages like "thank you" and pictures of balloons and suchlike on them.

One stamp was particularly difficult to use because it bore the legend "New Baby". I thought about encouraging my sister or one of my female friends to have another sprog, but worried the stamp might get lost in my filing system during the gestation period. As a result, I've finally taken the plunge today and sent it to my bank.

Friday, May 18, 2007

A Spielberg moment

I've blogged before about the "panoramic" lift in the Novotel Euston that has a panoramic view over the... er ... Euston Road. Back for another overnight stay, I discovered that the manufacturer is a Swiss company called Schindler (www.schindler.com).

I've therefore concluded that this must be the famous Schindler's Lift that everyone says you need to see at least once.

This kind of advertising is really special

If you live in London, you'll almost certainly have seen the current posters designed to recruit Special Constables to the Metropolitan Police. These are the people who get into policing because they like it and don't mind the fact that they don't get paid.

The ad in question shows a constable in action. He's on the mean streets of the city, where a drug deal is in progress. A girl in an alleyway is getting her regular fix from a fat bloke in a hat. It's a sickening sight, designed to make the blood of any law-abiding citizen run stone cold. The dope-peddler is a vicious bruiser with a cavalier disregard for the victims of his trade and the junkie is an exploited wretch who finds herself enslaved to an addiction that she's unable or unwilling to kick.

But never fear.

The activity is being meticulously observed by our 'special' hero, who is dressed in plain clothes and peering around the corner with all the subtlety of John Prescott in a china shop. His hand is raised to his mouth, but I haven't yet got close enough to the posters to see what he's actually doing. I think he may be radioing for assistance, which in my view would be a serious mistake, as he's almost certainly within hearing distance of the dealer. A faint crackle of the wireless and the villain will have pulled out his shooter quicker than the part-time copper can say tango whiskey. But perhaps he's not worried. After all, he's leaning so far round the corner during his surveillance operation that the dealer can probably see him anyway.

I've never been trained as a police officer, but my gut instinct tells me that if you're visible to the person you're trailing, you make yourself ever so slightly vulnerable.

On the other hand, this whole Special Constable business does look very exciting.

Dolphins talk in Welsh. But what about whales?

This story in The Times caught my eye. Nice headline, if a tad over the top. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/science/article1805711.ece

In essence, an academic has discovered that dolphins off the coast of Wales whistle in a different dialect from those off the coast of Ireland. Let's hope that none of our tax dollars were invested in this wacky research.

If the boffin concerned extends his investigations, I think he'll discover that the dolphins' traditional costumes vary too. And that the cost of living is much higher for bottlenoses in the Irish Republic.

My stick is a little bent

It's my USB stick that I'm talking about. I was teaching at the LSE the other night and the computer equipment there seems to be a little old-fashioned. The USB port is right down at the bottom under a flap, at an angle of about 80 degrees. Know the kind of set-up I mean? Very difficult to get it in. And I should have taken much more care when it came to removing it. Instead of delicately extracting it vertically, I wrenched it horizontally. It now has a kink. If I have time in the next couple of days, I'll see if I can take a photo to show you.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

It's Thursday, so let's draw some pollution

Much as I admire the education system for alerting the mini-Ws to the plight of this small Class M planet that we inhabit, I have a feeling things may be going a little too far. As part of a government-sponsored "Walk to School Week", the kids have received a colouring book with rather overt political messages.

What next? Draw a picture of a house. Then show sea levels rising until it's engulfed. Make sure to depict the wretched inhabitants as they yell helplessly for assistance.

I always knew I was nuts

A lovely testimonial from a lady called Mary who's written about Washed and Ready on Richie's Smart People blog (see posts passim).

"His blog posts," she writes, referring to those penned by yours truly, "are like salted peanuts--hard to stop with just one." I know exactly what you mean, Mary. I always intended to stop with just the one myself, but I got carried away.

"Thanks for adding one more potential addiction," she continues, "to the dangers awaiting me in the blogging world. :)"

Serious fun with a taser gun

I was reading today about Michael Todd, the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, who agreed to be tasered by his officers to demonstrate just how safe the non-lethal weapon is (see http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/s/1007/1007128_top_cop_tastes_a_taser.html). I think he survived, but I can't help feeling this kind of stunt is on a par with former Tory Ministers feeding their kids beefburgers in the height of the mad cow scare.

Batons are often highly effective too and don't usually result in death, but you don't see so many people volunteering to try them out, do you?

Monday, May 14, 2007

A smart person in a stupid world

This seems to be the position in which my old friend Dickie (aka "Richie") Dowling has found himself. His blog, which has a good following among the ex-pat community in Spain, is well worth checking out: http://smartpeopleinastupidworld.blogspot.com/

Sunday, May 13, 2007

How events turn you into a geek

I'm increasingly conscious that I've become a rather sad little man who writes embarrassingly pedantic letters. This is not something I'd ever have imagined would happen to me, but it's the natural outcome of any atrocious kitchen installation involving various companies, their contractors, their sub-contractors and the regulatory body that's responsible for electrical certification.

I won't bore you with all the details, as I'd prefer it to be a surprise when you see it on Watchdog in due course. I can reveal, however, that I've spoken to a solicitor about it all more than once. I've also spoken to Trading Standards. I've even been to visit my MP for the first time in twenty years. (Back in the 80s, I used to hassle some terrible Tory about the Thatcher government's policy on nuclear weapons. Now, I queue up to talk to the resident Lib Dem about Part P building regulations and the practices of a multinational that has the nerve to demand about £3.5k for one of the worst services I've ever received in my life.)

Soon, I imagine, I shall be writing in CAPITAL LETTERS and green ink.

If there's one genuinely interesting fact that I've picked up for UK readers in all my research about consumer rights, electrical installations and so forth, it's that your credit card company is jointly and equally liable for any poor service that you receive from a trader you've paid with your card. This gem is contained in the Consumer Credit Act 1974. So I would strongly recommend you pay all plumbers, jobbing builders, clairvoyants and life coaches by Visa. If their service is crap and you're not getting any joy, you can pursue your flexible friends.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Swing for your supper


Click on the image above to enlarge and you'll see a rather unique kitchen feature spotted by Mrs W in the local property paper. In London SW14, parents clearly understand the need to entertain the kids while they wait for their food. Next door are planning to install a see-saw.

One red paperclip

This guy claims to have traded one red paperclip for a house. In about fourteen easy stages. Nice idea. You can read his story here: http://oneredpaperclip.blogspot.com

Friday, May 04, 2007

Students still revolting

I've started teaching an evening class for Birkbeck College and the rooms we use are at the London School of Economics. It's a bit of trip down memory lane for me, as I was a student at the LSE back in the late 80s. The place is a hell of a lot smarter now - a great deal of money's been spent - but some things never change. I spotted this poster, for instance, advertising a meeting about an obscure nineteenth century German philosopher. The speaker, Alex Callinicos, is a Marxist academic and long-time member of the Socialist Workers Party Central Committee. I'm pretty certain that you could have attended exactly the same meeting with the same speaker back in 1987. The only difference is that the collapse of capitalism is obviously much closer today.
Obstructing the highway: Washed and Ready to Eat maintains its reputation for cutting-edge cultural reporting with this close-up of an Antony Gormley figure on Waterloo Bridge. Taken, as always, with the trusty Canon A95 Powershot. Click to enlarge.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Tune in next week, when we'll turn another pretty woman into a high-class hooker...

I like to think that I keep up with most of Mrs W's viewing habits, but she's been watching more and more trash since emerging from her hospital trip and things are spiralling out of control. I understand the need for rest and recuperation, but fear the virus has eaten away at the part of her brain responsible for quality control.

Somehow or other, I've never previously settled down to How to look good naked on Channel 4. For the uninitiated, the show is presented by a man called Gok Wan who has the kind of face you could happily slap for a week. No, make that a fortnight.

Mr Wan is a firm believer that a woman hasn't lived until she's dressed herself up as a tart and paraded herself naked in front of TV cameras. The only thing holding her back is her self-esteem. With the help of hairdressers, make-up artists and a load of disingenuous patter about how great the girl is now looking, he persuades her to sway down a catwalk in lingerie and pose on a chair like Christine Keeler.

Miss Keeler, of course, was a topless showgirl who somehow managed to look classy in her iconic 60s photo. The poor unfortunates selected by the Gokster are quite classy women who end up looking like topless showgirls.

Forgive me while I switch channels. Dog Borstal Unleashed is waiting on BBC3.

Mystery shopping. Is there no end to the madness?

Regular readers may remember my post last year about an old friend (anonymous for obvious reasons), who's a mystery shopper. His job is to check on the quality of pies on sale at Craven Cottage, home of Fulham FC. The club slip him a fiver and he heads off to a pre-selected pasty vendor. Nice work, I thought. Mystery shopping surely doesn't get any more bizarre.

How wrong I was.

I picked up the spring newsletter today of my local Primary Care Trust and the front-page story is Young mystery shoppers target sexual health services. We learn that youngsters across the borough of Richmond in south-west London have been specially trained to go and ask for advice on sexual matters. They then report back on their findings. A council official congratulates them for the "skills" they've developed. Skills that will no doubt come in highly useful in the future. When they... er... need to go and ask for advice on sexual matters.