Sunday, September 27, 2009

Telling pork pies

I can't help having a sneaking admiration for Neil Stansfield. The bloke's starting a two-stretch for a fraud which has a chutzpah factor of 10.

His scam was to buy bog-standard food from Tesco, take it out of its wrapper and repackage it as 'Swaddles Organic'. It was then ready for resale by mail order or to upmarket retailers such as Fortnum & Mason at a premium price.

By the time the business had been going for five years, Stansfield was turning over £2.5m. If anyone doubts the power of branding, this tale should be a real wake-up call. If the grub comes out of a fancy wrapper and costs a packet, we quickly believe that it tastes superior to that stuff we buy down the road at the supermarket.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Room with a view



I stayed the other day at the MacDonald Hotel in Manchester. On arrival, the receptionist handed me a card which read: 'You have been upgraded. Please enjoy the view with our compliments...'

Excited, I headed for my posh room on the sixth floor and drew back the curtains. Above, you can see the moment recorded for posterity on my iPhone.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Just what the doctor ordered

The news that patients in England may soon be able to choose their own family doctor, regardless of location, is generally something to be applauded. But how many people would have chosen to travel to visit that nice Dr Shipman, I wonder? He had a marvellous bedside manner with the old folk.

Monday, September 14, 2009

I'm having a hygiene freak moment

As a parent, I'm often under great pressure from my kids to allow them to playwith animals. On holiday in Austria last year, they spent a lot of time in a small farmyard in the grounds of our hotel. There were rabbits, guinea pigs, horses and goats. The place stank to high heaven, but I comforted myself with the thought that the mini-Ws would be forced to wash their hands afterwards.

The recent outbreak of E.Coli at a farm in Surrey shows my optimism to be rather naive. Kids don't wash their hands. And when they do, the activity tends to be perfunctory. Rather than having signs advising cleanliness, we should have warnings that say 'look but don't touch'. After all, what's the point of binning your swine flu tissue if you're then going to cuddle a goat that's covered in its own poop?

Sunday, September 13, 2009



The social problems of north London... an RSPCA shopfront near Highgate tube.

The taste of pure pretention

Just looking at an excerpt in The Observer from food writer Nigel Slater's latest book. He talks about the lists he keeps in notebooks and the backs of envelopes. Some refer to 'books to read or read again', while others cover 'plants to secure for the garden'. One that he thankfully hasn't yet committed to paper is his list of favourite smells. This includes old books, a 'freshly snapped runner bean' and 'a fleeting whiff of white narcissi on a freezing winter's day'.

Personally, I couldn't read a page of this self-indulgent stuff without a fleeting whiff of one of my least favourite smells: the contents of my stomach freshly regurgitated into the nearest wastepaper basket.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Do they have a screw loose?

The Howard League for Penal Reform thinks that prison officers should have degrees. Criminology and sociology are believed to be suitable subjects.

As someone who actually has a sociology degree, I can tell the Howard League that it would be as much use in a prison as a GCSE in tourism. It's one thing to know something about the dynamics of incarceration and to be able to speculate on whether deviance is functional for society. It's quite another to face down some badass son-of-a-b***h on a landing when he's coming at you with a makeshift blade. No textbook will save you then. Unless you're using it as some kind of shield.