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.