Monday, December 29, 2008
I'm sure there are some difficult ethical issues to grapple with here, but at first glance, it seems as if Dr Alan Bittner has hit upon a win-win idea. The United States has the biggest obesity problem in the world and simultaneously makes one of the largest contributions to climate change through its use of fossil fuels. Biodiesel from fat therefore kills two birds with one stone. (Or at least allows some very rich birds, who are about 25 stone, to say they're helping to kill off global warming.)
Unfortunately, some US states have a very specific law which prohibits people from powering vehicles with medical waste from humans. Quite how legislators were ever this farsighted is difficult to fathom, but it clearly spells trouble for fans of lipofuel. The prospect of a four-pump gas station - diesel, unleaded, superunleaded and lipo - is still, I suspect, a bit of a pipedream.
Thursday, December 25, 2008
Staying with my family and in-laws in a fairly decent hotel outside London for the Yuletide festivities, I was surprised to find a poison pen letter outside the door of my room. It warned - in broken English and quite a few capitals - that the writer had been disturbed by last night's noise and if there were any repeat, the situation would be reported to the hotel reception.
Not having been in the hotel the previous night, I think I could claim to have a reasonable alibi. But I didn't like the cut of this anonymous nutter's jib. I therefore reported the threatened reporting to reception. And I've just put the chain on the door.
Monday, December 22, 2008
A Doctor came hurrying round, and he said
"Tut-tut, I am sorry to find you in bed.
Just say 'Ninety-nine' while I look at your chest....
Don't you find that chrysanthemums answer the best?"
I checked the date on the book and it was first published in 1924. So humans and dormice alike have been saying "ninety nine" for at least 84 years. (For those of you who haven't had the pleasure, A A Milne's poetry is better than his Winnie the Pooh stories by a factor of about ninety nine, so it's worth a trip to the bookshop - particularly if you have young kids.)
The real question is whether Mrs W is going to be offered some of the other treatments that were supposed to set the dormouse on the road to recovery. The tiny creature was ordered "nourishment, tonics and rest", as well as "milk and massage of the back". Whether we'd have time for all that nonsense at Woodford Towers, I don't know.
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Can it really be true that in these days of satnavs, mobiles and wireless internet, there are people who choose to keep in touch by CB? I feel like phoning up some of these big oil companies and asking them what century they're living in. But how would the conversation go?
"Hey there Good Buddy, got your ears on? Parked up my four-wheeler the other day and saw your sign. Says the smokeys will be after me if I power up my CB. Ain't no Kojak with a Kodak gonna stop me hitting the airwaves. We down, we gone."
I don't know about you, but whenever I play roulette on the web, the pedigree and history of the site is always at the forefront of my mind. I check back in the archives and if I find that it wasn't on Google before, say, World War II, I start to get very suspicious.
Friday, December 19, 2008
This stands to reason. I've noticed a lot of women sneezing when I get on the train. Particularly in the past month or so.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Why the unusal moniker? "No one else in the world would have that name," commented dad, when asked to justify the burden he had placed upon his three-year-old boy. Umm... I think if pops digs just a little further, he may find that someone did once share that name. But he was involved in genocide in Europe about 65 years ago, so there may not have been that much coverage in the Bayonne Bugle.
Hold on a second though. What's this? Adolf's siblings have unconventional names too? Say heil to JoyceLynn Aryan Nation and Honszlynn Himler Jeannie. According to press reports, Honszlynn is an oblique reference to SS Chief Heinrich Himmler. One can only imagine that the parents didn't want anything too obvious which would have raised eyebrows in der Schule.
I am praying that this story is a spoof and that Mel Brooks will suddenly jump out of the birthday cake. "I said to Martin Bohrmann, I said Hey Marty, why don't we throw a little Nazi Party?"
Saturday, December 13, 2008
The best story was about a man on a bmi flight, whose bladder was so full of beer that he stood up and relieved himself on his seat as the plane was coming in to land at LHR. He created a bit of a mess, as you can imagine, but seemed unperturbed. The report revealed that the miscreant had sat right back down again in his self-created pool. That's one landing on water that I'm really glad I didn't see. A judge's comments on his behaviour were summarised in the pithy headline "Urine trouble now".
In football news, Immigration beat BA Flight Deck 4-0. Good result that.
A regular feature column called Fly Past (geddit?) examines aircraft of yesteryear. In this edition, we were treated to a tour of the elegant Boeing 377 Stratocruiser, which graced our skies after World War II.
The ads were interesting too. An establishment of dubious standing was claiming to be "the place for all your sexy Christmas outfits". Exactly how many sexy Christmas outfits do the workers of Terminal 5 actually require? The Mile High Club must be a particularly exciting place at this time of year.
Friday, December 12, 2008
Generally, life in the early 1970s was pretty bleak. It was Life on Mars and That's Life and, if you were very lucky, The Good Life. The Webber and Rice rock opera phenomenon was different. The roots of shows such as Joseph and Jesus Christ Superstar actually stretch back to the end of the swinging sixties, but they were tailor-made to inject some belated hippy joie de vivre into that dismal period dominated by Ted Heath, Harold Wilson and Jim Callaghan.
The music is exuberant, accessible and borrows from a range of different genres. The lyrics are genuinely funny and are based on that unshakeable 60s principle that no subject is too worthy or important to avoid humorous treatment or satirical commentary. Even much-loved Biblical stories can be turned into song-and-dance routines.
Somehow, bringing Old Testament characters into 1972 works so much better than setting a Shakespeare play in the First World War, doesn't it? It's just a lot more fun.
"Potiphar had very few cares. He was one of Egypt's millionaires. Having made a fortune buying shares in... pyramids."
This was an era when organised religion was trying very hard to be cool. If Jesus were here today, what would he think of us? What would he say to us? Would he, like, dig the scene, man? Books such as Carl Burke's Treat me cool, Lord epitomise the desire to marry traditional religious values with a world of Flower Power and protest. The Webber and Rice musicals reflect this changing environment, even if the writers are not consciously trying to promote any religious message.
One final observation. In the 70s, anything was a potential musical. If someone had asked for a show about Jesus and his apostles, we'd have been taken fishing on the Sea of Galilee and Webber and Rice would have penned "Any bream will do".
It was a glorious, if rather crazy, era. And we're still the richer for it.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I hope soon to post some reflections on this great icon of the British high street.
Woolworths: did it have to end in tears? Coming soon to Washed and Ready to Eat.
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Thousands of pounds off a local house?
Yep, that's right. You've got it in one. Not to be outdone by the likes of MFI or the bean-counters who've taken responsibility for Woolies, Countrywide plc are holding an "end of year property sale" later this week. Their local subsidiary has written to me at Woodford Towers and given me the details.
"A genuine Sale (sic) of this magnitude," gushes the letter, "has not been seen in the UK property market." I'll take their word for it. "DO NOT MISS OUT ON THIS OPPORTUNITY," the copy continues. "It is unlikely to be repeated."
(That last bit I'm not so sure about, if I'm honest. Given the state of the market, I suspect the sale may be repeated a number of times between January and July next year. But with rather lower prices than we're seeing this Christmas.)
My correspondent predicts "significant uptake" and tells me that appointments will be on a "first come first serve (sic)" basis.
Isn't it exciting? Hurry, hurry, hurry! Everyone MUST come, because every house MUST go.
Monday, December 08, 2008
"It baffles me as to why he is so popular," comments a bemused Manuel. "There's no style or structure to his work. He speaks off the top of his head."
Leaving aside the rights and wrongs of Brand's poorly judged phone calls to the veteran star of Fawlty Towers, I'm not sure that the absence of style or structure is necessarily a barrier to good comedy. If every comedian followed a script in which he endlessly repeated phrases such as "Que?", the world would certainly be a safer place. But not automatically a funnier one.
Jonathan Ross (in style of John Cleese):
"There is too much butter on those trays."
"Que? Eh? What you talkin' about?"
"There is too much butter on those trays."
"No, no, Mr. Ross, uno dos tres. I wore a condom. Put the phone down."
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Mr Kipling clearly needs to double the size of his exceedingly good packs. After all, you frequently hear people tell you they're four mince pies short of their target on Christmas Eve and aiming for a superstitious binge just before Midnight.
The editors at Deutsche Welle should know about another common British superstition. We're only allowed to open our presents and tuck in to our turkey when we've exposed a foreign TV channel for talking absolute cobblers in one of their festive broadcasts.
A mobile goes off in a handbag.
"I'm ringing!" exclaims one of the ladies, as she rummages for the eau de cologne.
It's at this kind of moment when I wish my grasp of Greek rhetoric was a bit better. Metonymy, I think. The lady has substituted herself for the phone.
I was picturing her back at home, with her ready-made Tesco Finest meal pinging in the oven. "I'm done!"
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
The big draw is the attendance of John Wright.
Yes, that's what I said too.
The John Wright who coached the Indian cricket team a few years ago? Johnny Wright, the Northern Ireland 'B' international, who once played for Norwich City?
Ian Wright's long-lost brother, perhaps?
No. We're talking about the Hon. National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, who'll be switching on the Christmas lights. Orpington has never seen the like of it. The event is apparently being filmed and the press will be in attendance.
Anyway, there's no one better at denial than estate agents. A recent door-drop at Woodford Towers from a local property pusher refers to the 'many hungry buyers' who are 'on the hunt' for cottages in our south-west London enclave.
I'm like yyrw. Which is like yeah yeah right whateva for those of you who aren't up with the lingo.
We're then encouraged to call their "busy" office where a lady called Ann will pick up the phone. Unless, of course, she's just too snowed under. If it rings and rings, it would probably be that she's dealing with a flood of hungry buyers who've decided to besiege her desk. It absolutely wouldn't be that Ann had chosen to go out for an extended lunch break between 11 and 3.
All this kind of stuff reminds me of the Japanese salarymen who lose their jobs but continue going to work regardless. They dress up in a suit, collect their neatly packed sushi from the Mrs and head off to the local park, where they sit until it's time to head home.
"How many properties did you sell today, love?"
"Oh, I lost count. And we had some great new instructions. Potential for loft conversion (STPP) and gardens being laid to lawn and... and... I'm sorry, darling... I just... I just can't keep up the pretence any more. Please forgive me. I've been lying to you ever since the spring of 2008."
It's a weird old psychology. If I were a shrink, I'd look at these super egos and consider their brains very worthy of study. Internal viewing highly recommended.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
According to the Sky man, if a homegrown Indian organisation turns out to be behind the bloodshed, it will be an example of the "AQ franchise" at work. Franchising? Do you think the locals buy in? A couple of million Rupees up front and they're sent a full kit of grenades, AK-47s and anything else they need to sell terror door to door in their local area.
Unfortunately, it's probably not too far from the truth. They even throw in an introductory training course if you're able to make your way to a cave near the Afghan/Pakistan border.
Monday, November 24, 2008
Unfortunately, there's some small print. You have to be prepared to take on around £300m in debt. Given the current credit crunch - and what with Christmas coming up and everything -that's more than I want to take on at the moment.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
I don’t want readers to think the credit crunch has hit so hard that I’m habitually posing as Alan Partridge, but when I travel my accommodation is often organised by other people, so mistakes can happen. I've brought shower gel from another hotel I stayed in the other day. And I'm shortly going to retire to my comfortable bed. Complete with an incontinence undersheet. I kid you not.
How can you star in a panto without actually being in a panto?
It's easy if your name is Stephen Fry and you're performing as a video projection on a mirror in Snow White at the Theatre Royal, Norwich.
Unfortunately, this virtual role means that Stephen won't have the pleasure of meeting at first hand Nick Aldis (TV's The Big O) or Caitlin Stasey of Neighbours fame.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
For Stan's sake, we can only hope that St Peter doesn't resemble his former nemesis, Blakey.
"No, Butler. You ain't comin' in. You 'aven't finished your shift, 'ave you? You 'eard me, mate. Sling your 'ook!"
Saturday, November 15, 2008
In April 1945, a plane departs Nazi Germany, carrying Adolf Hitler and a bodyguard of around 40 or 50 elite stormtroopers. The aircraft crashes on a remote island off the UK and everyone survives apart from the Fuhrer, who goes into a coma. His Nazi pals manage to preserve him cryogenically and kill time for about 20 years or so, posing as monks and spending their days producing fish extracts. Being short of ammunition, they keep their Luger and Schmeisser firearms for show and subdue the local population through the use of poisoned fish hooks, which they cast from rods.
Eventually, they hear of a brilliant German doctor who is able to bring animals back from the dead by means of injections. When he's on a lecture tour of the UK, they kidnap him and smuggle him to their island hideout where they order him to revive the former Nazi dictator.
Now, here's the improbable bit. Somehow or other, before their plan can be activated, Joanna Lumley, Gareth Hunt and Patrick Macnee intervene. The final sequence shows them frogmarching the Nazis away from the island while whistling the tune to Colonel Bogey.
That last bit would never have happened. It was one of those fabricated TV moments.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Nicola McLean £7.5k
Carly Zucker £10k
Robert Kilroy-Silk £15k
George Takei £20k
Esther Rantzen £25k
Martina Navratilova £30k
Source: Daily Telegraph
I can't comment on Nicola McLean, as I'm not sure I know who she is. All I can say is that it would take more than seven-and-a-half large to convince me to spend time in a jungle with Robert Kilroy-Silk. Carly Zucker is set to marry footballer Joe Cole and I'd like to think that he could stand her 10 grand out of his weekly paycheck. Her engagement ring supposedly cost five times as much. Which does beg the question as to whether any of these celebs really need a financial incentive at all.
Former Wimbledon tennis champion Martina Navratilova must be a multi-millionaire and the same is surely true of the erstwhile helmsman of the Federation Starship Enterprise, George Takei. Hell, even Esther Rantzen of That's Life fame has probably got a little bit stashed away for a rainy day, as well as a few erotically charged vegetables that she could sell on eBay.
But it's still interesting to see the relative values of the slebs. One Mr Sulu buys you a couple of Carly Zuckers. Or to put it another way, West Coast American screen royalty still wins out over Welsh WAG.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
If you look closely, you’ll see that the Roman in question has a rather ancient looking mobile. Probably produced by the God of Communication, Mercury One-2-One, sometime around AD 1996.
Want to chat? If so, you’ll need to learn the lingo. For texting, for instance, you should substitute the words “to”, “too” or “two” with the abbreviation II. Sample message: goin II pompA II c gladi8as innit back ides of march. But perhaps I'm taking things ad adsurdum.
"I'm like, OK, God, if there is an open door for me somewhere, this is what I always pray, I'm like, don't let me miss the open door. Show me where the open door is. And if there is an open door in 2012 or four years later, and if it is something that is going to be good for my family, for my state, for my nation, an opportunity for me, then I'll plough through that door."
The moose-munching Bible basher certainly added some colour to the 2008 contest, so I can't say I'm completely opposed to her getting involved again in the future. But I'm like, God, can you like make sure that the ultimate door to the White House remains, like, closed.
According to the leaflet, the station has been ‘gated’ – a hideous piece of rail jargon which could easily have been translated into plain English. And there’s a boast too. This is the longest ‘gate line’ in Europe. Don’t it just make you proud to be British? It’s a record breaker… dah-da-da-da-da-daaah! Why don’t we get Norris McWhirter and Roy Castle down there for the grand opening already?
The reality, of course, is likely to be chaos, as Waterloo isn’t a station with the capacity to cope with folk held up at barriers. It’s overcrowded and cramped. As people wait to enter the platform, they will be standing in queues that will probably stretch back into the concourse and cause major obstructions. I predict some disgruntled commuters in the coming months and possibly even a bit of a revolt if the station becomes dangerously packed. This is what the jargon-stuffed boneheads of the rail industry would call “passenger action”. Not saying I’d instigate it or even be a part of it. Just observing the potential outcome. And speculating about another entry in the record books: for the shortest-lived and most expensive gate line experiment in the Western world.
Monday, November 10, 2008
On his website at http://www.melvynhayes.com/, the cockney funnyman - who once starred alongside Cliff Richard in The Young Ones - talks openly about his decision.
"I did have several offers," he says. "The last was to direct one in Stoke-on-Trent. I asked the producer if he'd like to spend xmas in Stoke. He said (after a long pause), 'No, not really.'" At which point, the Bombardier replied: 'Well, that makes two of us.'
Good for you, Melvyn. It might not be politically correct, but you're speaking your mind and we have to admire you for that - even if your direct approach won't win you too many fans in the Midlands.
"People ask me why I'm not on the television as much as I used to be," continues Hayes in the opening blurb to his web page. (It's certainly a question that's been on the mind of many Washed and Ready readers.) The answer is - apparently - that the former star can't cook, hates gardening and isn't yet ready to throw himself out of an aeroplane or swallow a kangaroo's testicles.
How we long for those halcyon days when television really was television. That bygone era when 18 million people would sit down to watch some Welsh bloke with a tache yell at members of the Royal Artillery Concert Party.
Saturday, November 08, 2008
Thursday, November 06, 2008
In the end, I decided not to interfere in what must be a decision for American citizens alone. But let's put it this way. They managed to get it right on this occasion. The absence of my personal endorsement didn't seem to make a fundamental difference to the result.
One of the most surprising aspects of this election has been the victory of a candidate who is a fairly unashamed intellectual. In recent times, the Americans have opted for Republican Presidents with few intellectual pretensions (Ronald Reagan, George Bush Sr and his son) or elected Democrats who have gone out of their way to hide their book learning. Jimmy Carter is better known as a Georgian peanut farmer than the physicist and philosopher he actually is. Bill Clinton cultivated a folksy, down-at-home kind of image - carefully disguising his academic track record as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford and an alumnus of Yale Law School.
I thought the basic rule was that it was ok to be clever, provided you didn't show it too much. Obama is ripping up the rulebook with his earnest press conferences and willingness to reflect publicly on the important issues of the day. When asked about the puppy he promised his kids, we had a minute's sober contemplation of the various options and the need to avoid a breed that triggered daughter Malia's allergies. This is rather endearing in the honeymoon period, but might make folk a little weary in the longer term.
If Obama is setting a trend and cerebral politics is making a comeback, the bookies must be currently slashing the odds on David Milliband making it to 10 Downing Street.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
My worry is that this revelation may come back to haunt us. After all, our own age and experience are our only claim to authority over the mini-Ws. Without the aura of wisdom that comes with advancing years, Woodford Towers may descend into Lord of the Flies.
Monday, November 03, 2008
We all want to know that our sausages come from the right kind of places, don't we? Well, these ones come from Harrogate. Or at least 97% of them do. The rest must come from somewhere else. The important thing is that the meat is sourced from farms that are "personally approved by Debbie & Andrew". And if Debbie & Andrew approve of them, that's surely all any of us need to know. Even if we've only become acquainted with them via their new recyclable cardboard sleeve made from renewable FSC approved paper sources.
According to the gushing blurb, penned by the eponymous stars of the sausage brand: "Our weekly family tasting sessions with the children help us ensure we continue making the tastiest, loveliest, most perfect of sausages."
Just as long as you're not tasting my sausages, Debbie & Andrew. I'll be looking out for teeth marks.
Sunday, November 02, 2008
Warburtons Pancakes. Can be eaten hot or cold. Delicious served as a dessert with ice cream and chocolate sauce or summer fruits, whipped cream and raspberry coulis.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Heinze's bizarre response was to accuse Ferguson of coming up with "an absolute work of science fiction". Not sure you really mean science fiction, Gabriel, my old son. Unless Fergie was claiming you'd been abducted by aliens and travelled via a wormhole to Spain.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
I reckon a good proportion of the complainants have a picture of Manuel in their minds rather than Andrew Sachs. That poor little man. He got enough stick from Basil thirty years ago, didn't he? Doesn't even speak the Queen's English. And now he's being hounded again. Leave him alone. He's from Barcelona.
Before anyone gets carried away, I am NOT saying that the behaviour was appropriate or should have been broadcast. Just that if they'd done the same thing to someone else, maybe there wouldn't have been quite the same public outcry.
One more thought. I've read Russell Brand's autobiography and it opens in a sex addiction clinic on the west coast of America. The guy has a reputation for a lifestyle that is the absolute antithesis of old-style Radio 2. No one can say that the BBC weren't warned. Jonathan Ross is also known for humour which a Corporation executive would probably describe as being "near the knuckle". You gets what you pays for in this life. The fact you pays rather a lot for it doesn't mean you don't know what you're buying.
Friday, October 24, 2008
First question: what exactly is a 'toilet' germ? How does a germ know that it is only supposed to occupy one room in a house?
Second question: do rival bleaches kill the germs with less than 100% efficiency? The germs are dead, but not 100% dead. A bit like in that movie The Hitcher when Rutger Hauer has to be killed about three times at the end before he's confirmed as toast.
I think (Jeyes may care to take note here) that the writer actually means "Kills 100% of all toilet germs". This means something rather different from the current formulation, but we don't want to open up a philosophy class here on Washed and Ready.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Now that we're in 2008, it's clearly acceptable to drop Hitler into the conversation as if he were just a regular celebrity. No need to qualify the reference with any mention of genocide or the destruction of large swathes of western Europe and the former Soviet Union.
To the right of the column, we're shown a Nazi poster for the Garmisch-Partenkirchen Olympics in which an Aryan athlete gazes skywards as he breathes in the rich Alpine air. The caption tells us that the resort is a contender to host the games once again in 2018.
My tip to Bayern Tourismus Marketing GmBH of Munich - and their publishing house, Publicom International - would be that Hitler and his 1930s Olympic propaganda exercises are not the best way of selling Bavaria as a modern tourist destination. Just a hunch on my part, guys. Particularly if you're looking to secure future Olympic deals.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Mrs W was wondering whether similar body farms exist in the UK. If you know of any, please email and we can maybe post a map of places to avoid.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Watching programmes like Newsnight and listening to Today on Radio 4, I gain a small degree of comfort from the fact that even the brightest brains of the media world seem a little bit uneasy when talking to traders, academics and authors who are specialists in this obscure field. The BBC is fortunate to have people such as Evan Davis (Oxford and Harvard) and Robert Peston (Oxford and the Free University of Brussels) who really do understand this stuff. But the generalists - who would be quite happy analysing Turkey's potential entry to the EU or discussing the influence of Arthur Miller on twentieth century American literature - start to struggle when confronted with physical settlements and cash settlements in a CDS contract.
I've come to the conclusion that you just need a particular type of brain to get to grips with it all. And short of a transplant, I'm never going to be an owner of one of those brains. You could put me in a classroom for weeks on end and I'd still come out none the wiser. I just hope that some of the people trading in these instruments have a better grasp of it all than me.
I'm certain there are people who left school at 16 or 18 and started commuting into the City from Billericay, who just have a knack of picking up stuff like par quotes, reference entities and z-spreads. The fact that they're reading The Sun on the train is all part of an elaborate cover.
Friday, October 10, 2008
It struck me that life could become a lot simpler if we were able to conduct all our conversation in text. We could, for instance, simply say "lol" or "rofl" rather than actually going to the effort of laughing. All suggestions welcome here on the Washed and Ready to Eat comments board. On the other hand, you may just shrug your shoulders and say yyrw.
Monday, October 06, 2008
With free gripper rods and door bars on offer, there's no doubt that I'll soon be able to forget about the turbulence on the world financial markets. House prices collapsing? Unable to get a loan? Don't worry, mate. We'll dispose of your existing carpets free of charge.
Saturday, October 04, 2008
"Lavatories" (don't you just love the twee, middle-class period character of the language?) were not to be used. The recently nuked populace was encouraged to make "alternative toilet arrangements". In an emergency, one can imagine people perhaps being willing to build pits and latrines in their back gardens, but remember, they were also being told not to go out of the house because of the radioactive fallout. So exactly what the alternative toilet arrangements were supposed to be, God only knows.
The end of the announcement is particularly confusing: "We shall repeat this broadcast in two hours' time. Stay tuned to this wavelength, but switch your radios off now to save your batteries until we come on the air again. That is the end of this broadcast."
Note there's no mention of any actual update in two hours' time. Just another BBC repeat. I personally wouldn't want to listen to the message again for, say, another six months. After all, the content wasn't exactly cheery.
According to press reports, the BBC planned to follow the message with entertainment programmes, so that people would chill a little and be less inclined to pop their head out the door into a radioactive cloud. I'm just trying to picture the scene:
"Don't you think you should go outside, John? See what's happened to the street? We don't have any food."
"Don't talk so bleeding stupid, Pam. Steptoe's coming on in a minute."
Actually, it would probably have been The Two Ronnies.
It's goodnight from me. And it's goodnight from everybody else too.
Thursday, October 02, 2008
Sunday, September 28, 2008
We won't dwell on the disastrous results of today's Austrian general election. With the far-right parties mustering 30% of the vote between them, this may be the last visit I choose to make in a while. It's a shame that in 2008, a large number of people don't seem to have got over 1938.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Have you ever encountered an airline which has invented its own, unique brace position? Or produced a peculiar alternative to the toggle device that inflates the average lifejacket?
My hunch - and it's no more than a hunch - is that there are probably legal and regulatory requirements which pretty much standardise the whole safety procedure. BA, for instance, couldn't unilaterally decide that they would dispense with oxygen masks or require passengers to pull them out of a headrest rather than wait for them to drop down from the ceiling.
So when you're next told that your aircraft may be different, why don't you stand up and ask the stewardess exactly how? You'd have my full support.
Monday, September 22, 2008
I shouldn't really be writing about Holland when I haven't even updated WARTE readers on my trip to Austria last month, but I'll throw in a couple of observations.
Amsterdam is still pretty much exactly as it ever was, except with knobs on. Coffee shops, bicycles and canals, along with an all-pervasive smell of wacky baccy - at least in the square mile around the central station. Ladies are still plying their trade in shop windows and everyone speaks excellent English. Not the ladies plying their trade, you understand, as I didn't stop to speak to them. Everyone else.
I had a really good tomato soup in one of the side streets in town. The kind of tomato soup that you only ever get in continental Europe, made out of delicious things like tomato. And fresh basil.
Travelling this morning by taxi between Amersfoort and Leusden, I was astonished to see whole loads of school kids in their mid-teens riding in convoy at the side of the road. When I say convoy, I mean 60 or 70 of them at a time. English teenagers would only gather in a group this large if they were planning on steaming a bus and robbing all the passengers of their watches and mp3 players. There was something wholesome and uplifting about seeing the Dutch children heading off cheerfully to their studies. They looked for all the world like characters from an Enid Blyton story, setting off on a happy adventure together. My driver said that some of them pedal 10km to get to school, so they must be pretty fit too.
Anyway, enough already. It's beddy-byes time in the Netherlands and I have a full day's work tomorrow. Austrian pictures and commentary coming soon. Promise.
Friday, September 12, 2008
Let me rephrase that slightly. It wasn't Scott himself who was the misfortune. He's a bright lad and gave me a lot of coverage when I organised my 35th birthday party back in 2003. It was his choice of guest that presented me with one of the worst examples of car-crash TV I've seen in a very long time.
Sir Cliff Richard - who, believe me, has clearly stopped popping the Peter Pan pills - sang a truly God-awful valedictory song called Thank you for a lifetime, which he'd penned to celebrate his half century in the music business. I have absolutely nothing against novelty records, excessive kitsch or even a little bit of self-indulgence from ageing pop stars. My tolerance level for this kind of stuff is a good deal higher than most people's. But Cliff has produced such a turkey that I found myself involuntarily closing my eyes and grimacing in the privacy of my own front room. If you want a sense of what I endured and have three or four minutes to spare, check out the tune on youtube.
Monday, September 08, 2008
Saturday, September 06, 2008
Friday, September 05, 2008
I have to say, hand on heart, that I was a Hillary Clinton fan. Not because she's a likeable politician or someone who lights my emotional candle, but because I thought she'd have the guts and balls to really stick it to the Republicans. She'd get down and dirty, which is what you need when you're in a street fight. I like Obama, but that's not necessarily a good thing. I remember once choosing a solicitor because I liked her, but she was pretty crap. I ended up advising her on things that were wrong with a property contract. Perhaps I should have sent her a bill?
My confidence in Obama has been growing steadily as the campaign has progressed. I have my fingers crossed that he won't buckle under the relentless onslaught that's coming in the next couple of months. But having seen the Republican Convention, I admit my anxiety is rising. McCain-Palin must be one of the barmiest tickets ever produced in modern American politics. The introduction of the moose-munching Alaskan Governor is the equivalent of a hand grenade being thrown into the race.
Let's just imagine that the eccentric Vietnam vet and self-styled 'maverick' makes it into the White House on 4th November at the grand old age of 72. Moose features - who seemed such a good idea during the Convention season - will suddenly become a bit of a problem. I expect she won't shut up. And her forthright views on guns, evolution and God knows what else will cause McCain no end of trouble, as she becomes a magnet for every rightwing crackpot across the States. It will make an interesting spectacle and no doubt cause no end of amusement. Until such time as McCain's ticker gives out. And then we're in a whole new ball game.
So, for everyone's sake, Mr Obama, please give it everything you got. The whole nine yards. Because this Londoner is worried that we may soon be looking back fondly on the George W Bush era.
"It is simply a matter of time before we see a recovery," blusters one, although I note he doesn't specify exactly how much time. Another contributor seems to deal only in properties worth several million quid and, unsurprisingly, reports this market as being largely unaffected by the credit crunch.
Some agents are, however, clearly at a loss to know what to say. One of them has invited a TV programme into a house which they describe as "an eccentric four-bedroom family home". Another tells the readers frankly that if they're selling and have found a buyer, they should jump into rented accommodation quickly. The biscuit is awarded, however, to the firm which sidesteps the market turmoil entirely. "Keeping spirits high," they write, "we recently held a company softball night in Marble Hill Park."
That's the spirit. And they've included a very fetching picture of the lady estate agents in their softball gear. I predict a deluge of calls from interested male buyers early next week.
Monday, September 01, 2008
In the meantime, I thought I'd mention that I tried out the new website developed at UCL in London which allows you to trace the geographical origins of your surname. I was disconcerted to discover that there are more Woodfords in Australia than anywhere else, which can only mean one thing: criminal ancestry. It's worrying to discover stuff like this at the age of 39, when you've quite happily been sailing through life assuming your lineage to be pure as the driven snow.
Friday, August 08, 2008
We may as well throw in a few fireworks too.
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
To give you some context, a two-bedroom apartment in Willow Avenue, SW13 is still going for £875,000. Probably would have been about a mill this time last year.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Aleksey Ivanov has written to me twice this month to warn me about a major German car manufacturer. I won't mention its name, as I suspect the author's observations might be construed as defamatory, but the essence of the message is "Achtung!" A Russian mate of Aleksey's (who was transporting his mother and her wheelchair around) discovered something wrong with the brakes on a particular model of motor and Aleksey now sees it as his moral duty to warn the world. He is contacting the manufacturer, "mass media agencies" and auto-dealers around the world. Oh, and me as well.
"...Recently thanks to GOD," my Russian correspondent writes, "they did not participate in the car-crash on the federal road due to the not-reveal disrepair of the brake and the BAS/ESP system."
Thanks to GOD, indeed, Aleksey. And through your helpful spam campaign, I'm sure that others will saved from reliance on divine intervention in the future.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
I just saw this great Commodores vid on VH1 Classic and was concerned by the sheer weirdness of the dude playing the guitar on the right of the screen about a minute in. First of all, he's holding his instrument vertically, which I think we can safely say isn't normal. And his facial expressions are something else as well. Not sure the grainy reproduction on youtube does them justice, but you may get some of the vibe. Nice song though.
Friday, July 25, 2008
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
One of the ex-squaddies was none other than Ronnie Corbett of Two Ronnies fame. Just as well a war didn't kick off when he was in uniform. You can imagine how he would have put the fear of God into the enemy, can't you? Were there really no height restrictions? Given that you could get an exemption for flat feet or by pretending that you couldn't see the optician's board, it all seems a little bit odd.
I'm now imagining Ron's capture and interrogation by a KGB official.
"We need to know the details of your service in the British forces, Mr Corbett."
"Service? Well, it's strange you should mention that. Because the standard of service in the BBC canteen has really gone downhill recently. In fact, the other day, an Englishman, an Irishman and a Russian were all trying to get served, when..."
Monday, July 14, 2008
Yesterday's suggestion from Labour Home Secretary Jacqui Smith that young offenders should go on guided tours of accident and emergency departments is one of the barmiest things I have heard in recent years. So barmy, in fact, that it's been pretty much dropped within 24 hours. How exactly would it have worked?
My first observation would be that my local A&E department is full of young offenders anyway, so they don't need to be on a government programme to observe its workings at first hand. My second would be that they could easily wait five hours being triaged before even getting to meet a victim of knife crime.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Two things particularly stick in my mind. The first was the star giving a rendition of his own song, "Oh, Strongbow", which he'd set to the tune of "Mandy" by Barry Manilow. The second was the extensive family tree which he'd had tattooed on his back. Bizarrely, one of his estranged relatives - a daughter perhaps? - had seen it on display at some open-air event and had managed to work out that she was a blood relation. Who needs those genealogy websites, eh?
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
How exactly does an individual driver stagger his or her journey?
While it might be a good idea if the owners didn't all return to their vehicles simultaneously, I doubt they're in much of a position to know when the other visitors have had enough of the flowers.
I wonder what a psychology professor would make of it all? Or a philosopher?
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
The aim was obviously to simulate the actual task facing a postie, but how realistic was the experiment? I think it's time the Royal Mail added a draught excluder to their pretend letter box. Or maybe erected a full-size front door in front of the counter. You'd be able to post your own package through to the counter assistant. And if it didn't fit, you'd be forced to ring the doorbell.
"We have this great idea for a new comedy. It's set in a prison."
"Really? That's a highly original idea. I'm surprised no one's suggested it before."
Perhaps the executives are too young to remember the 1970s? Or maybe they didn't have the guts to tell the writers to naff orf.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
Last night, mini asked me why prices were dropping and I talked to her about the credit crunch. (I didn't go into inter-bank lending rates and so on, but gave her the essence of the thing: too much lending of lots of money to people who couldn't pay it back.) When she heard that banks were not lending so readily any more, she nodded sagely and said she could see why the prices were falling, as people were no longer able to get the money to buy. No flies on her. Next week, we'll do a session on interest rates and whether the long-term trend will be upwards due to inflationary pressures in the economy.
It was actually a separate discussion about carbon monoxide though that really made me laugh. I was explaining that you couldn't smell the gas, which is why we need a detector near the boiler. She'd heard that historically miners had taken canaries down the pit to act as an early-warning system, which we agreed was tough luck on the birds. Her next logical leap was, however, quite inspired: we could all keep canaries in our homes rather than carbon monoxide detectors.
I don't know quite why this tickled me in the way that it did. I suppose it was the image of countless homes packed full of canaries, all of whom would be chirping merrily in the absence of flue blockages. Safety-conscious householders would have one on each floor and would probably all end up with pigeon lung or bird flu or something.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Anyway, imagine the scenario. You're completely deaf and - for various reasons, too difficult to explain here - you're arriving at the hospital unaccompanied. You walk into the lift, which promptly gets stuck between floors. You ring the alarm bell, which connects you with the outside world. And you wait for the instructions or rescue plans to be delivered over the intercom.
There is, of course, just one small problem. You can't hear the intercom. So I think it's fair to say that this must have been a pretty scary experience all round. In a few weeks, when the cochlear implant is switched on, maybe we can start to have some sort of conversation about it.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Since then, things have moved on. I was talking to a lady on one of my copywriting courses recently who said that her company communicated primarily by realtime instant messaging. When she wanted a break, she used email to slow things down.
So just how instant can the world become? Perhaps your company insists on realtime messaging over your mobile while you're driving? Or maybe you've been sacked via Twitter? Let me know by emailing the address above. It may be slow, but it gets to me.
Saturday, June 21, 2008
I've set up a website to celebrate those rather obscure queries that are only of interest to someone else. Welcome to Phil Woodford's Infrequently Asked Questions.
Friday, June 20, 2008
For my 500th entry, I wanted to share with you the warning message on the back of my new notebook power adaptor:
This device may not cause harmful interference
This device must accept any interference received, including interference that may cause undersirde (sic) operation.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
One property went yesterday from being something over half a million quid to the magical figure of £499,950, which is under a stamp duty threshold. Even better news this morning, however. The same property has been reamended. It's now £469,950. Give it a few weeks at this rate of decline and I'll be getting my credit card out.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
One interesting trend I've observed is that Washed and Ready to Eat is steadily becoming more international. There was a time when 80% of the visitors hailed from the UK, but now it's only just over half. Over 20% of WARTE fans are based in the USA (howdy-doody y'all) and even Germany clocks up a respectable 8%.
The reason I'm really interested in the stats program, however, is the function that allows you to see the search terms which have led people to your site. Recently someone typed "Dennis Waterman's teeth" into Google and ended up right here. It's hard to imagine exactly what was going through their head. But they're very welcome. And worryingly, I suspect they'll feel right at home.
I travel on that line regularly and all I've ever seen are discarded copies of The Metro, a throng of bored commuters and a handful of disaffected hoodies. But Washed and Ready to Eat has a reputation for breaking important stories, so I'm going to keep my eyes peeled for anything marked TOP SECRET in big red letters. And you'll hear about it on these pages at least five minutes before I sell to a national.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Walking through the London College of Communication today, I noticed a homemade poster featuring the lyric of Rehab by troubled songstress Amy Winehouse. The words had been transl8d into txt msg lingo. I started to chuckle, because some pedant had scrawled corrections over the text. I think they were missing the point just a little.
Saturday, June 07, 2008
Spare a thought, if you will, for the faithful hound who's no longer quite as sprightly as he used to be. Once, back in 1998, you could rely on him to jump onto your bed in a single bound. Today, riddled with arthritis and only a short tug of the lead away from that ultimate celestial kennel, Rover needs a bit of extra help. House of Bath obliges with an easy-to-assemble staircase which comes with a machine-washable cover.
The alternative option is to dismantle your bed and put the mattress on the floor.
Apart from the obvious - the former group is rich, while the latter group is probably a tad richer - the main difference is in the form of address. Sleb medics and shrinks attach the title "Doctor" to their first name, whereas real quacks connect the prefix with a surname. At a local surgery, therefore, you see Dr Smith or Dr Jones. On the telly, you meet Dr Rosemary or Dr Gillian.
Big Brother's resident psychologist is Dr Tomas, a rather good-looking lecturer from Goldsmiths College in London. We'll forgive him for using his first name, as his surname - Chamorro-Premuzic - is unlikely to trip off the tongue anywhere east of Buenos Aires or west of Zagreb. His early analysis of the BB9 household suggests that he is able to slip out of the conventions of academic discourse with relative ease. Luke, for example, is described as a "geek" (which Dr Tomas admits is a "non-psychological term"). Mario is the "non-Italian stallion", while Rex is a "tough cookie".
No doubt we can expect further probing analysis as the series develops. And perhaps a paper at a symposium in Vienna? Redefining psychological paradigms through the prism of the mass media: a study in popular culture, voluntary incarceration and stuff that helps fill web pages.
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
I've seen some bizarre kitsch in my time, but it would have taken a real tit to come up with this idea.
If you're patient and very well behaved, I have some more House of Bath treats in the pipeline. Like the staircase that allows elderly dogs to get up on your bed. But only if you're good.
"No," she replied. "You still have the label on."
My panic was immediate and my reflexes were quick. The offending item was removed just a split second before a mother came up and started making conversation.
It was actually one of those transparent, sticky strips that reveals your waist and inside leg measurements. They'd hidden the b****rd thing just out of my line of sight round the back of my right thigh.
Friday, May 30, 2008
If you want a handle on Euromaxx, think Eurotrash meets the South Bank Show and you're kind of 25% of the way to understanding what it's about. Cultural trivia and strange arty stuff from Limerick to Lublin. The lead story on their website today is fairly typical: a Berlin gallery is displaying a grand piano made out of a Porsche Carrera.
Anyway, the Mrs wrote to one of the presenters - a guy called Robin Merrill - about an item she'd seen a few weeks ago and she actually got a personal reply by email. So hats off to DW-TV and Herr Robin. It's hard to imagine the same personal touch from some celebrity in the UK. Unless, of course, it's Gordon Brown trying to convince you that he's a really, really nice guy.
There's another Euromaxx presenter, who's a pretty young lady with very impressive teeth. I think I might try getting in touch with her. Mrs W couldn't possibly object, could she?
How mushroom do you have for hand-crafted art in your garden? You'll certainly be "intrigued to study" this fake fungus. Click to enlarge.
Many treats lie in store for WARTE readers over the next week or two. I have in my hands the June 2008 edition of the House of Bath catalogue. It is packed full of must-have furnishings, functional home products and assorted objets d'art.
I'm starting you off with fake mushrooms that you can put out in your back garden. Alongside the real ones.
Coming soon: the panama hat bird house.
Thursday, May 29, 2008
Webster met a man who described himself as a "forager". Every day, this bloke would go out and pick fresh leaves from the countryside and make them into a tasty salad for lunch. He'd top them off with a couple of snails from the garden and reckoned he was saving about twenty quid a week. I can assure readers that this particular salad tray would not be washed and ready to eat.
Monday, May 26, 2008
It was, however, the dessert that took the cheese and biscuits.
Mrs W asked for cheesecake and was told that, sadly, it wasn't in stock. Gritting her teeth, she chose bread and butter pudding instead.
And we waited some more.
And then we waited just that little bit longer.
The smaller mini-W had only asked for a banana and we had the strong impression that someone must be flying to Costa Rica to pick it. Eventually it arrived, along with a banana split for her older sister. But nothing for me and the Mrs.
Five minutes later, my cheese platter emerged. But all Mrs W got was an apology. Bread and butter pudding was now off. The good news - every cloud having a silver lining and all that - was that the cheesecake had now been located! The waitress would bring it in just a tick.
All's well that ends well, you might think. Except that when the cheesecake finally made it to the table, it was accompanied by a warning: it might not, in fact, be fully defrosted. Mrs W declared it to be rock solid and sent it back to Basil in the kitchen. Negotations over refunds are still ongoing.
Friday, May 23, 2008
Today, you can purchase a shirt bearing the legend "Wild baboons tear through city streets" or "Goldfish trained to herd other fish". A tagline on the shirt reads "I just saw it on CNN.com" and provides passers-by with a date and time stamp. Now, that's my kind of merchandise.
They're quite selective about which stories they fashion into apparel though. "China quake: Millions of tents needed" is deemed a little too sensitive for streetwear.
Monday, May 19, 2008
As the LSE attracts a number of high-profile speakers, my hope is that sometime in the next few weeks, I'll barge into the room to find Bill Clinton or former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan making a few last-minute notes. "Oi!", I'll shout. "What do you think you're up to, mate? I've got a class to teach in here. Now sling your hook before I get one of the porters to throw you out."
This evening, it was a Canadian professor of philosophy who'd come to give a lecture in memory of the 19th century sociologist Auguste Comte. I waited patiently outside.
Friday, May 16, 2008
Earlier this evening, I caught a few minutes of An audience without Jeremy Beadle - a touching tribute to the late, much-loved British prankster. Chris Tarrant counted down the public's favourite set-ups from Beadle's About and then led the audience in a rendition of the theme tune, accompanied on piano forte by the bloke who'd composed the music.
When British culture is reviewed once a week on Newsnight Review, this is the kind of important stuff that Kirsty Wark mistakenly tends to overlook.
Saturday, May 10, 2008
Surely the biggest risk with Last of the Summer Wine is the audience watching a whole series of the p**spoor sitcom without laughing?
Tuesday, May 06, 2008
At first glance, one might think that Amy isn't too great a role model for the youngsters of Johannesburg and Cape Town. But I mustn't be too cynical though. She has, after all, been dragged off the streets of NW1 by agents of the police state and forced - against her will - to stay in rehabilitation facilities. As a result, she'll clearly empathise strongly with the former President.
Sunday, May 04, 2008
Friday, May 02, 2008
My friend Hoffy, who's a regular on this service and blogs at www.hofflimits.com, assures me that this kind of incident is very rare indeed on National Express East Anglia. I'm glad to hear it. Because if it's this rough in Ipswich, God knows what it's like in Diss.
Monday, April 28, 2008
The buoyancy they're talking about is, I think, the type normally exhibited by a corpse that's bloated with water and heading towards a rocky shoreline.
Prices are down 10% on last summer's high and Mrs W reports seeing local agents nodding off at their desks. But they still have a great line in patter, don't they?
The figures, incidentally, that you read in the papers are lagging wildly behind the reality on the ground. "Growth" in the Greater London housing market is not static or in the + 1 or 2% bracket. It's in serious negative territory since the start of 2008. Watch this space. The times, they are a changing. And what was it that Dylan said? "The first ones now will later be last"? Perhaps that was a message to the likes of Foxtons.
Saturday, April 26, 2008
While I'm on the subject, there was a lady on the telly the other day from a ridiculous site called www.petrolprices.com The idea is that you search for the gas station within a 10-mile radius that's selling the cheapest fuel.
"Where are you off to, love?"
"Oh, I'm just off to get some petrol. May be a while. It's a 20-mile round trip. But I've found this station that's a penny a litre cheaper. Or at least it was half an hour ago."
Friday, April 25, 2008
Although the cultural and political ramifications are probably big enough, I'm still trying to get my head around the idea of posh English airmen, who speak make-believe broken French, being translated into German. Aren't the viewers in Berlin and Frankfurt in danger of losing something? Not on the scale of 1945, perhaps, but losing something nevertheless.