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.