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.