Monday, December 28, 2009

Who do you think you are kidding?

The older mini-W was keen on buying a goat for Christmas - one of the 'living gifts' that charities invite you to send to the developing world. Delighted at her early sense of social responsibility, I said that if she saved up enough pocket money to buy one of the trusty ruminants, I would get one too. It was a kind of BOGOF deal with a benevolent twist.

Little did I know that I was about to enter a world of extreme kitsch. On the Oxfam website, our goat 'couple' is pictured dressed for a wedding. Mrs Goat is wearing a veil, while the groom proudly boasts a top hat. All that's missing is the Best Goat making his after-dinner speech.

'Go on,' the excitable copywriter urges us. 'Do it for the kids!'

It's good to know that the animals we're sending are happily married, as co-habiting goats are probably frowned upon in many parts of the developing world. Two goats of the same sex would be absolutely out of the question, even if there had been some kind of civil ceremony.

The mini-W has an idea that the living gifts are being flown out to Africa. In my own fevered imagination, I wondered whether they might be taking the honeymoon suite on a cruise ship. The reality - that they're probably found in Africa anyway and are simply given to communities that need them - was causing some confusion among the younger generation at Woodford Towers, so I decided to let the subject drop. Until Mrs W happened to chip in with an idea for a TV sketch.

She envisaged a scenario in which the gift vouchers go to Africa by mistake and the goats end up at the door of the well-meaning donor in Hampstead. Nice idea and copyright Mrs W, all rights reserved. Of course, in that kind of mix-up, it wouldn't matter if the goats weren't married. They'd be made welcome regardless of their marital status, gender or sexuality.

Nothing like the taste of hedgerow...

I have my doubts about the decision by M&S to name one of its jam products 'Hedgerow Conserve'. While the berries that come from the typical English hedgerow may be very tasty, I'm not sure I want to be reminded of the hedgerow itself. After all, I don't add Orchard Sauce to my roast pork, do I? Or wolf down Field Yogurt, for that matter. Where does it all end? Abatoir Nuggets?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

My work-related travel during 2009


View Where I've worked in 2009 in a larger map

One of the things I've enjoyed the most about self-employment over the past few years is the opportunity to travel more with my work. I've covered a fair bit of ground within the UK during 2009 and also managed a couple of short trips to Milan and Paris. Thanks to everyone who's made me feel welcome. I look forward to new friendships and business partnerships in 2010.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas wrapped up

I've noticed that furniture store DFS doesn't just sponsor individual yuletide programmes on ITV. It sponsors the whole of Christmas. Maybe there's an appropriate sponsor signed up for Easter too? Pontins perhaps? Or Mr Kipling.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Spirits moving with the times

I've long wondered why spirits communicate through mediums. It seems a remarkably inefficient and old-fashioned method of contacting the living.

Just imagine that you found yourself in the afterlife and were able to move freely through time and space, unencumbered by the restrictions of corporeal form. If you wanted to make a guest appearance in a haunted house or historic National Trust property, I guess that would be your prerogative. No one would be surprised if you decided to move some furniture around or maybe wander up and down a staircase. But when it comes to conveying a meaningful message to an earthbound former acquaintance, it seems that you're stuck. It's a case of join the queue at the Living TV studios and hope that Colin Fry doesn't get held up in a traffic jam.

Very often, if you do make contact, you only come through faintly. It must be a little like shouting through a brick wall with a sock in your mouth. Odd snatches of conversation make their way through, but they're pretty indistinct.

I can't understand why there haven't been more protests in the spirit world, particularly from those who have passed in recent years. "Look, mate. This medium thing. I know it's the way you've always contacted earth, but it's too much like hard work. Six months ago I was using an iPhone 3GS."

It seems to me there should be a mobile app for this kind of instant messaging between the living and the dead. Spiritworld v2.34 or something. Ghosts could search us and we could search them. "Leonardo da Vinci would like to be your friend. Do you know Leonardo?"

My old friend Hoffy says that someone called Barry Sheene is following him on Twitter, an honour Barry only bestows on Hoff and BBC Question Time. This could potentially be the first evidence of heavenly microblogging. On the other hand, it may be just the evidence you need to confirm that you shouldn't be on Twitter.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sold a pup

Copy on an M&S poster: 'We believe in sustainable fishing. Hook, line and sinker.'

Err... doesn't this mean that they have been told a lie about sustainable fishing and have been gullible enough to believe it? Or am I just a little too much of a perfectionist when it comes to this kind of thing?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Tales from the gym...

Overheard a middle-aged guy talking to his personal trainer about India. The customer was planning a trip to the sub-continent on the advice of his brother, who'd spent four months trekking around.

"Once you get over the begging, it's fine," he said, relaying the frank advice he'd obviously been given.

Personally, I wouldn't get over the begging, which is one of the reasons I'm not inclined to go. Who has the more morally dubious position, do you suppose? The first-world tourist who swans around a poverty-stricken part of the world and blots out what he sees? Or the one who stays at home because he doesn't want to see it in the first place?

Meanwhile, a number of ladies were in the pool for an aqua aerobics class. They were working out to Shalamar and Odyssey, although I judged by their ages that Bill Haley & The Comets might have been more appropriate. I swam on the other side of the pool, the only man brave enough to intrude - even remotely - on their space.

I actually admire those who participate in these classes, because you're in a public area on full view, rather than behind closed doors in a studio. But I wonder what would happen if I volunteered to join the group? Presumably they couldn't refuse? But I seem to be the wrong gender. And perhaps they'd tell me to apply again in twenty years.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Just a thought...

Do you think strippergram businesses are affected by the recession? Or do people just downgrade from a Police Constable to, say, a Police and Community Support Officer?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Thanks, Lucy...

Lucy is O2's online avatar. You can send her a question and she'll do her best to respond in real time. I asked whether the network was down, as people were getting a 'fault' message when they dialled my iPhone. Here's her instantaneous reply:

"You are allocated an anniversary date the first time you top-up your Online Pay & Go account with £10 or more. This anniversary date is when your free 300 text messages or 75 media messages starts, and your 300 minutes of WAP allowance starts.

If you wish to keep the same anniversary date, you need to top-up your account with a minimum of £10 each month at least 48 hours before your anniversary date..."


The shame of it. I'm not even on pay and go. I have a proper contract and everything. But I like the concept of having an anniversary with O2. Provided, of course, that people are actually able to ring me between one annual celebration and the next.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Hey you...

Yes, you. The copywriter for those Orange posters telling me I'm covered by the UK's biggest 3G network. You're a smug b*****d.

Fancy a drink this Christmas? Sell your house...

A local estate agent is offering a crate if wine to anyone who puts their house on the market during the Yuletide festivities. You can just imagine those conversations, can't you?

'We need another load of booze for the party, love. I'm just nipping down the offy.'

'Wait a second, sweetheart. It says here we can get a crate of plonk for free. We only need to sell our house.'

'Hey, that sounds too good to be true. Let me have a look...'