Monday, March 31, 2008

Life on the Liffey

Dublin's O'Connell Street was packed with shoppers during late-night opening last Thursday. The view from the Liffey towards the GPO and the Monument of Light, otherwise known as "The Why in the Sky".
That just about caps it all: Washed and Ready to Eat's Phil Woodford is issued with compulsory headwear.

I stayed overnight at a Hilton Hotel to the west of Dublin last week and nipped down to their swimming pool/spa area for half an hour. The guy on the desk told me that I couldn't take a dip unless I wore a hat.

Is this really a hygiene requirement? And, if so, why don't other swimming pools insist on it too? Keen to submerge for a few minutes, I coughed up a couple of euros for the regulation head gear, which was far too tight and very uncomfortable. Talk about taking the pleasure out of swimming.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

To Flybe or not Flybe...

According to news reports, budget airline Flybe was due to be fined if it couldn't boost numbers of passengers on the busy route from Norwich to Dublin. Its solution (see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/norfolk/7321306.stm) was to hire in thespians to pose as punters.

It's such a shame that the plan never actually came to fruition. I'd love to have been a fly on the fuselage as the cabin crew served the resting luvvies.

Having been to Dublin very recently, I think the solution is probably more flights from Poland rather than East Anglia.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Neigh, neigh and thrice neigh

Hawaiian hospital authorities have clarified their policy on pets following an episode in which a horse was brought in to visit a sick patient (see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/7310907.stm). The kind-hearted nag had made it to the third storey in an elevator.

It would never happen in the NHS. The only horse you'd find in a British hospital would be on the lunch menu.

We can only hope the American incident didn't take place in a psychiatric institution.

"I know you said I was stable now, doc, but do they really have to keep bringing the horses in here? I'm kinda phobic about that kind of thing."

"Step the clozapine up to 350mg, nurse. And put some hay down at the end of the bed."

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Praise the lawn

I won't spoil this link by giving too much away. Just pay a visit, wait for the streamed mp3 to download and turn your speakers up.

http://www.lawnmowerworld.co.uk/

Friday, March 21, 2008

Concealed identities

If I ever wanted to speak to a television programme off the record, I would never agree to the producer "disguising" my identity while I spoke to camera. This is because most of their efforts at concealing identity are so half-a***d that everyone would recognise you straight away.

Last night, the BBC was talking to an air traffic controller who was blowing the whistle on practices he considered unsafe at London Heathrow. A feeble shadow had been placed over his face, but this wouldn't have been enough to disguise him from the bloke who served him last week in the Costa Coffee at Terminal 2, let alone his former tin-pushing colleagues.

I just wonder how these conversations actually go.

TV RESEARCHER:
"There's no need to worry. We'll disguise your identity."

INTERVIEWEE:
"But I've seen every other TV bulletin where they try to disguise people and it never works. The whole idea is crap."

TV RESEARCHER:
"No, we're different. We'll do it properly. No one will ever know it's you. Promise."

INTERVIEWEE:
"Ok. Can you make me sound a bit like a Dalek?"

Thursday, March 20, 2008

We shall fight them on the Sea of Tranquility

Forget the D-Day landings. Think moon landings instead. One of the bizarre findings of a recent survey by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment and the Royal Astronomical Society is that a third of primary school children believe Sir Winston Churchill to have been the first man on the moon.

How stupid can you get? Everybody knows that he never even went into orbit. It was all shot at a top-secret movie lot in Hollywood.

As for Neil Armstrong, I think we can honestly say the world has never seen better jazz trumpeter.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Does he like mustard, tomato sauce or brown sauce with his chips?

As a kid in the 70s, I grew up on a diet of Mr & Mrs - Border TV's kitsch game show which tested how much a husband and wife knew about one another. Under the supervision of dapper host, Derek Batey, one contestant would retire to a soundproofed booth while their companion gave answers to a series of trivial questions about life around the home. If husband could guess wifey's answers - or vice versa - the happy couple might head for home with a carriage clock and a jackpot of, say, £50.

Fast forward to 2008, with Batey's 80th birthday looming in the summer, and the show is set for a fantastic new makeover. The hosts on this occasion will be none other than Philip Schofield and Fern Britton. And, in keeping with the zeitgeist, the couples will be celebrities who will happily to donate their prize winnings to charity. This time, the jackpot will be £30k, as inflation means that everything costs 600 times what it did thirty odd years ago. (A £6 chicken today, for example, was just a penny down the Old Kent Road in 1975. A £3 grande cappuccino was a halfpenny, but you couldn't get one for love nor money.)

The real excitement comes with news of the couples who've been lined up for the new show. Neil and Christine Hamilton, for instance. ("If your husband saw a man in a white suit threatening to take his parliamentary seat away from him, what do you think he would do?") Kerry Katona will be popping down the The London Studios in Waterloo with her own hubby. And on one occasion, Mr & Mrs will become Mr & Mr as jungle hero Christopher Biggins tries to second guess his partner Neil. I won't even mention the one with Lembit Opik and that Cheeky Girl. It's all too much to take in.

Where will it all end?

Hot on the heels of last month's depressing news that anti-depressants don't work (http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn13375-prozac-does-not-work-in-majority-of-depressed-patients.html) comes another report about the uselessness of conventional medicine. A study in The Lancet (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/health/healthmain.html?in_article_id=533748&in_page_id=1774) suggests that antibiotics are no good for most cases of sinusitis.

I admit I'm slightly concerned about where all this madness is going to lead. Pharmacists advising us against paracetamol, perhaps?

"No, I'm sorry, sir. I'm sure you're very genuine in your belief that these pills have helped relieve your symptoms of cold and flu, but actually they're completely bloody useless. I recommend spending three days feeling like s**t instead."

Maybe eventually, someone will find that morphine is useless as a painkiller. It's all in the mind. We'll start feeding terminal patients sugar solutions through a drip and watch them drift off into a blissful slumber.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Just for me?

I've always known that I'm a crazy, mixed up kind of guy, but the recommendations on the iTunes "Just for Me" service regularly confirm my worst fears.

Current suggestions for purchases include Razorlight, Gnarls Barkley, Tenpole Tudor and Bernard Cribbins. And I could actually imagine enjoying them all.

I'm sure Apple employ some kind of psychic.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The 13th-century Monnow Bridge in Monmouth, Wales. Washed and Ready to Eat's Phil Woodford paid a flying visit to the historic border town last week.

Some people

Some things just need something done about them. Like illiteracy, for instance. Here's an example of a headline that should never have gone to print. I spotted it on a train recently, while travelling on the English-Welsh border.


If I were TfL, I'd say thank you. And goodnight.

TfL poster campaign: a little thought from the ad agency would have made a big difference to the rest of us.

Prize for one of the most ridiculous advertising campaigns in living memory goes to Transport for London. In a series of posters on the tube, little South-Parkesque characters tell us how nice they intend to be to one another. “I’ll offer you my seat,” says one. “And I’ll say thank you,” replies another.
This delightful, but rather incredible, fantasy of a trouble-free journey on London’s rail network must have been created by people every bit as gormless as the cartoon friends that feature in their posters. Does anyone really suppose that some crack-addled teenage youth, who’s blasting a carriage with his music or rubbing the soles of his Nike trainers on the backs of seats, is going to change his behaviour because he’s read one of these ads? Does anyone suppose that he can actually read one of these ads at all?

I’m working on my own version of the campaign. One of the characters is holding a knife and saying “I won’t stab you if you give me all your money”. His terrified victim replies: “And I’ll say thank you”.

Look left and right

I was studying the First Great Western logo the other day and it dawned on me that the down stroke on the stylised “f” looks like a railway line curving away into the distance. Nice sense of perspective. But what exactly is the other line that’s crossing it?

Railway crossroads? Not a good idea, I feel, however good your signalling systems. It reminds me of a documentary I once saw about the airports in New York City. At La Guardia, the planes taking off crossed the path of the planes coming in. It was supposed to be safe because of the 45-second gaps they put in between.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Bad Men

One of the real shocks in the series Mad Men (the portrayal of Madison Avenue in 1960, now showing on BBC Four, 10pm Sundays) is the anti-semitism. In my naïve little way, I had a picture of the New York ad industry of the period as being predominantly Jewish. But in the pre-Kennedy world of leading character Don Draper and his associates, the Big Apple is split between the 'Jewish' agencies who deal with Jewish clients and the non-Jewish agencies like his, who don't.

The attitudes to women also leave a fair bit to be desired. While we might guess that the secretaries would be subject to unwanted sexual advances in the testosterone-charged agency, the local gynaecologist expects to conduct an internal examination before issuing a prescription for the pill. And he likes to puff on a cigarette while he does it.

The show's researchers have taken a large dose of a pill marked authenticity. Enovid was approved as a contraceptive in 1960 by the US Food and Drug Administration, but had been used quite widely in the preceding years under the cover of treating menstrual disorders. Now that's what I call period detail.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Unfortunate admission

I admit that I'm no great monarchist, but even I was a tad concerned to hear Prince Harry say that he doesn't like England much. The bloke is third in line to the throne after daddy and big bruv, so you'd expect him at least to pretend he likes the place. It is, after all, the land of Bluewater, Fray Bentos Steak & Kidney Pie and Amy Winehouse. The kind of great institutions that the Taliban would happily abolish and that Harry has just been fighting to defend.