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.