Monday, December 29, 2008

Recycled waist

Time now to reflect on a bizarre story which broke just before Christmas. An inquiry has been launched into claims by a cosmetic surgeon in California that he's been using the fat extracted from his patients in liposuction procedures as fuel for his Ford Explorer.

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

A 'do not disturb' message from someone disturbed

First of all, I'd like to wish all readers of Washed and Ready a very happy Xmas. It's been another fun-packed year on one of the web's most eccentric and eclectic blogs and I'm grateful for your support.

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

Our chocolate future?

I was offered a chocolate coin today and noticed that it was a euro. That is one hell of a cocoa-laden slippery slope.

Mrs W and the Dormouse

Mrs W has had a nasty chest infection and is starting her second load of antibiotics. When the doctor listened to her through a stethoscope today, she asked the Mrs to say "ninety nine". Why ninety nine? Who knows? But it's an age-old tradition. I was reminded of the classic children's poem by A A Milne, The Dormouse and the Doctor.

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

Breaker 19, I think we got ourselves a throwback...

When Mrs W and I recently filled up the Woodford Peugeot at a local station, I noticed a sign that warned against the use of CB radios near the pumps.

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."

Winner, winner, chicken dinner...

Some interesting spam this week from people telling me about one of the "oldest and most trusted Online Casinos".

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

A tissue of lies

Next time someone sneezes, you shouldn't automatically accept their assurances that they're suffering from a cold. According to an ENT specialist at Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital, sneezing can often be brought on by sexual fantasy.

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

They wanted to have their cake and eat it

American couple Heath and Deborah Campbell might just have gotten away with naming their kid Adolf Hitler (see http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/blog/2008/dec/17/adolf-hitler-birthday-new-jersey), had they not made the mistake of going to their local ShopRite in New Jersey and asking for his name to be plastered over a birthday cake. For some reason, the staff thought the request somewhat inappropriate.

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

Reach for the Skyport

Glancing over someone's shoulder on the 285 bus yesterday, I was fascinated to read the latest news in Skyport - the racy tabloid distributed to workers at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted.

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

Any theme will do

I saw the mini-Ws' school production of Joseph and his Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat last night and it was a great hour of foot-tapping entertainment. The kids did very well in terms of performance, but it did strike me again just how fabulous the writing of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice really is.

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.

A great idea... every time

Have you tried the new, re-usable shopping bags at Tesco? They're much better than the wafer-thin regular ones, which always split open as you're heading for the door. And the good news is that the sturdy, eco-friendly carriers are only 9p each. I pick up a couple of them every time I go to the store.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The blunder of Woolies

I popped down to my local Woolies in south-west London this morning, just as it threw open its doors, and captured the excitement on my trusty Nokia. Inside, there were a lot of disappointed punters. It seems the failing retailer can't even get its closing-down sale right. Where were the 50% discounts? 10% and 20% certainly. But according to regulars, nothing much seemed to have changed from yesterday or the day before.

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

Estate agents in a state

We're used to Christmas sales in the high street. In the dim distant, they used to start on Boxing Day, didn't they? Today, with the credit crunch on top of us and a major recession looming ahead, the retail reductions are already in full swing. Knock-down toys, cheap electronic goods, two packs of mince pies for the price of one, thousands of pounds off a local house, bargain basement decorations... er.... hold on a second. Let's rewind. The one before last.

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

Manuelgate: the aftermath

Elderly comic actor Andrew Sachs is said to be shocked by the award handed to Russell Brand at last weekend's comedy Oscar show (see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/3659933/Andrew-Sachs-angry-over-Russell-Brand-comedy-award.html).

"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."

Russell Brand:
"Que? Eh? What you talkin' about?"

Jonathan Ross:
"There is too much butter on those trays."

Russell Brand:
"No, no, Mr. Ross, uno dos tres. I wore a condom. Put the phone down."

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Dutch courage

According to The Telegraph (see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/netherlands/3659670/Amsterdam-to-halve-shop-window-brothels-and-marijuana-cafes.html), Amsterdam is planning a crackdown on the sex trade and "coffee" shop culture in the city. While Dutch burghers may succeed in reducing the amount of vice, I somehow think they're on a hiding to nothing when it comes to wacky baccy. If my last visit in September was anything to go by, there's more being smoked there than at any time in living memory. A kind of all-pervasive haze of marijuana hung over the centre of town. You can't solve this kind of narcotic pollution through a few more police cars. It would take the equivalent of a Kyoto Treaty.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Britain as you've never seen it before

A report tonight on Mrs W's favourite German TV channel, Deutsche Welle, examined how the economic crisis was hitting mince pie sales in the UK. I learned - for the very first time - that in Britain we believe in eating 12 mince pies every Christmas - one for each month of the forthcoming year. It's a way of ensuring good luck.

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.

Is it me? Or is it my phone?

Two very posh girls on the train this evening, both of whom work for a publishing company.

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

One for the diary

News reaches of me of an event organised by the Greater London region of the Federation of Small Businesses. A "festive one hour" (sic) has been arranged tomorrow at the Memorial Roundabout, Orpington High Street. I think limiting things to an hour is probably a good idea. We wouldn't want the yuletide excitement to get out of hand.

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.

Kings and Queens of Denial

Of all the ideas derived from psychoanalysis, the notion of someone being "in denial" is perhaps the one that's wormed its way the deepest into popular culture. (I won't probe too deeply into why I chose the word "wormed" in that previous sentence. Or why I chose probe for the subsequent one.)

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.