Sunday, April 26, 2009

Touch of the flu

Good news that Britain's first suspected pig flu case turned out to be a false alarm. Most probably the bloke was told to go home, take plenty of fluids and pop a couple of paracetamol. Unless, of course, he waited a few hours to be triaged and decided to give up before anyone actually saw him.

Friday, April 24, 2009

You're 'avin a giraffe

More scary than the deepening recession and the threat of pandemic pig flu from Mexico is the news that councillors in Essex are setting up their own bank. I'm sure it's a good thing in principle for people to have access to loans that are unavailable elsewhere during the credit crunch. But the Bank of Essex? Do me a favour, me old son. The brand lacks a little of the gravitas and stability that I'm seeking in the current climate.

I can picture the Romford branch in my mind already. 'You want a loan, Mr Woodford? Got a geezer out the back who'll see you right. Only you don't want to miss any of them payments if you know what I mean. We had a customer last week who took liberties. He went for a little ride on the roller coaster at Clacton. Anyway, while your 'ere, I couldn't interest you in a Rolex, could I?'

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

On our Jack

There's only a small and exclusive band of people who've had their names adopted as cockney rhyming slang. Former trade union leader Jack Jones, who died yesterday at the age of 96, was a member of this elite group.

Now that he's gone, we're truly on our Jack Jones.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Green shoots

Once in a while, I allow Washed and Ready to Eat a serious moment. Regular fans needn't worry. The usual rubbish will resume shortly.

It just seems to me that there's a desperate attempt to talk up the UK housing market right now. A few spurious figures showing an upward blip and some quite serious people appear on the TV telling us that the market has "bottomed out". I'm not so convinced. If you take a look at the graph from the last major recession in the early 90s, there were a number of little upward spikes during the long downward cycle. In other words, a couple of Halifax surveys don't make a summer.

Of course, mortgage finance is becoming more available again and this helps fuel speculation over the 'green shoots'. But we are also in a severe recession, which was precipitated by the credit crunch but exists independently from it. And house prices don't rise in a recession.

Over the next year, unemployment figures will continue to climb - possibly breaking through the three million barrier. As people become unemployed, they will lack the finance and the confidence to commit to new properties. Some will default on the mortgage payments for their existing homes. As a result, the number of repossessions will continue to rise, despite various attempts by the government to provide homeowners with some protection.

If there's an economist out there who can explain to me how prices can go up - or even stabilise - in a climate like this, I'm interested to hear your thoughts on the Comments page. As things stand, I see a lot of desperate estate agents clutching at rather large straws. And politicians who want to tell you that an upturn in the housing market is the precursor of an upturn in the general economy. The reality, of course, is completely the other way about.

Monday, April 20, 2009

How busy is busy?

Passing a phone box in Aldwych this evening, I saw a card advertising the services of a 'busy blonde student'. I think the writer probably meant busty. Unless, of course, the word 'busy' is supposed to have positive connotations for the target audience. The lady concerned is busy because she is much in demand, perhaps? My immediate reaction was that she'd be too busy to fit in any other than her regular customers. Or maybe busy with her studies, bless her. Exam season is coming up, after all.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Snap decision

An Austrian wrote to The Guardian today saying that he was forced by police officers to delete pictures of double decker buses on a recent visit to London. Leaving aside the absurdity of this action and the implications for civil liberties, things don't bode well for train spotters, do they?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Are you sitting comfortably?

One of the mini-Ws was looking at a tribute to two loving pensioners on a park bench. 'Did they die here?' she asked.

This conjured up images of elderly people wandering the streets until they found a seat without an existing commemorative plaque. Having located one, they could sit down and wait for nature to take its course.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

A weight off our minds

Rowlands Pharmacy have been sponsoring a meal replacement programme called 'Celebrity Slim'. It seems to be the kind of thing where you lose weight by abandoning regular meals in favour of sachets.

On the tube, they advertise the success of the product by telling us the total collective weight loss of all the participants. Eight tons to date. That's a lot of weight evaporating in one go.

It got me thinking that if enough people joined the programme, maybe we could counter global warming by raising the UK another couple of inches above sea level.

Which benefit, I wonder?

A lady from the National Association of Pension Funds tonight said on the BBC News that pensions were the second most popular employee benefit after salaries.

I've always thought salaries to be a very over-rated benefit. In the days before I was self-employed, I always waived my right to a regular wage in favour of gym membership and luncheon vouchers.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Harsh, but fair...

If you haven't read it, I highly recommend Stephen King's book on writing, which in Ronseal fashion is called On Writing. Penned when the horror writer was recovering from a serious accident, it contains a lot of sound advice and some amusing autobiographical stuff too. Rather shamefully, I've only just read it myself, even though it was published at the turn of the century and has been on my radar for a long time.

King is particularly brutal when describing the kind of love-in that tends to happen in writing classes for budding novelists. 'Babbling idiots' explain how much they like their classmates' work, although they often can't articulate their feelings and are - according to the author - 'maddeningly vague'.

King's take on all this well-meaning waffle? He says that if you're studying writing and you have a feeling you can't describe, "you might just be, I don't know, kind of like, my sense of it is, maybe in the wrong f***ing class." Ouch.

While academic research shouldn't be sneezed at...

... I can't help feeling a little dubious about suggestions that sex is a cure for hayfever. If this were true, surely we'd see a huge increase in hayfever symptoms after people got married?

Friday, April 03, 2009

Forget banana skins



You're in grape peril: supermarket Waitrose warns of the dangers posed by fruit.

Am I being slow?

This is a family blog, so if anyone under the age of 25 is reading, please switch to another website now.

I couldn't help but notice an ad on the tube in London for a product called Stud 100. This 'desensitizing' spray is designed to give men 'enhanced performance at the touch of a button'. When you're desensitized, you see, you're unlikely to be premature. A quick spray and - hey presto - a problem which I understand plagues some other unfortunate blokes is solved instantaneously.

The spray is also designed for people who have a problem with 'over-rapid' performance. This confused me a bit more. I've heard of premature, but over-rapid? This sounds positively dangerous. And exactly how rapid is over-rapid? My worry would be that you wouldn't have time to get the spray out.

Virtual vows

A friend on Facebook has updated his status to say that he is attending a virtual wedding today. Is this a case of "...for Gawd's sake get me to the website on time"?