Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Easy shopping

Mrs W and I were pondering the fact that kids' clothes in stores are often categorised by age.

Why stop at 14?

Couldn't we have categories such as 21-30 or 55+? It would make shopping so much easier. No more queasy feelings about something being too young or too old for you.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

All change please

Anyone who travels on the London tube will be familiar with the terrible genre of ad that plays around with the familiar underground map. Stations are renamed and embarrassing puns about routes and destinations are linked tenuously back to all manner of brands.

If you've ever wondered how creatives in advertising agencies come up with this crap, there are usually two explanations. The first is that the stuff is done at gunpoint on the instructions of the client. The second is that the copywriters and art directors are at a loss for anything to say about a particular product or service and have been tipped over the edge after their fifth double espresso of the day.

I would therefore formally like to forgive whoever is responsible for the Otrivine nasal spray campaign on the tube right now. But let me make one thing absolutely clear. I am not getting on any train departing from Blocked Nose. Especially when it is being diverted via Little Sneezing, Sniffingham, Stuckin House and Sick-of-Being Hill. And if there's any extension of this campaign, the people responsible for the account will be paying a visit to Much Slapping in the Face.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Are you an extremist?

An article in The Sunday Times draws my attention to a disturbing phenomenon called 'extreme couponing', which has migrated to the UK from America. According to journalist Kevin Dowling, more and more people are attempting to get bulk purchase discounts by spending up to 40 hours a week researching deals online.

The word sad doesn't really do justice to this. 40 hours a week looking for discounts? Perhaps if the coupon extremists went out to work instead of surfing the web, their groceries and household goods might suddenly seem more affordable?

Believe it or not, one of the interviewees flew out to the States for an extreme couponing training course. Presumably the savings she makes quickly recover the cost of her transatlantic plane travel, workshop fee and accommodation costs. After all, if you come back and bulk buy enough Andrex to last you a year, you'll be quids in.

Think I'm joking? Someone from Greenwich in London claims to have bought 'a year's worth of shaving foam, hair wax and skin lotion', along with cereal, cleaning products and so on. Let's hope the warehouse facilities come cheap, eh?

Perhaps I'm missing a trick here and shelling out hundreds of pounds needlessly. But at least I know that when self-respect was being handed out, I didn't settle for 75% off.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

What a load of rubbish

UK Business Secretary Vince Cable is still probably best known for his parliamentary attack on Gordon Brown, in which he described the transformation of the former Labour Prime Minister from 'Stalin to Mr Bean'. If anyone looks like Mr Bean now, it's surely the Liberal Democrats' bumbling brainbox who represents the leafy suburban constituency of Twickenham in London.

Remember how Cable blurted his mouth out to a couple of undercover female journalists, revealing how he was going to nail Rupert Murdoch? Perhaps you caught the report about Vince's unfortunate backlog of VAT payments? Well, he's now been found discarding confidential documents in recycling bags outside his local office.

Although his Letwinesque approach to data protection did attract some national press coverage, the really interesting detail can only be found in the original Richmond & Twickenham Times scoop.

Waitrose bills found in the paperwork make interesting reading, for instance. Might they reveal Vince's refined tastes? Two packs of wholesome dried cranberries. Alpen - no added sugar. Dressed, layered crab and a six-pack of perfectly ripe plums.

A local Lib Dem supporter - yes, they still seem to exist - will be disappointed to discover that their cheque for £2.00 has been recycled by Shell's former chief economist.

According to Cable's discarded diary, a painter called Henry Mee visited him in March and May to paint his portrait. I wonder if the government minister was depicted amid piles of discarded rubbish? The odd confidential report? A few constituents' personal pleas for help?

Let's hope this joker eventually finds his way into retirement. In the meantime, it's probably best not to drop him a line.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Fracking hell

If you're promoting an energy technology which results in alarming seismic activity, you have an uphill PR battle to fight. And given the relative unpopularity of earthquakes and self-igniting tap water among the general population, maybe it's a battle you're never going to win. I have a hunch, however, the task might become just slightly easier if the word 'fracking' were buried beneath a pile of subterranean shale rock. Remember, Windscale became Sellafield. Who needs fracking when you could be releasing the potential of pure shale energy?

Monday, October 03, 2011

What a morning

No fewer than three ads got my mind working overtime as I travelled by train and tube into central London today.

I discovered that Gok Wan is the Vodafone 'World of Difference Ambassador', which bemused me until I realised that the role was all about encouraging people to give up their day jobs for charity. No one is better placed than Mr Wan to persuade us we need to leave the UK and spend a year in a refugee camp on the other side of the world.

First Direct meanwhile are encouraging me to sign up for one of their accounts. I get £100 if I like it and £200 if I don't. I have to admit that I am starting to like them. But I am starting to dislike them about twice as much.

The most disturbing of the ads was the one which told me I can make a purchase 'in less than a second' with Visa Contactless technology. I reckon they're experimenting with neutrinos. Before long, I'll be buying things before I know I want them.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Commuter hell

The Evening Standard yesterday ran a feature on people who commute outlandish distances to London for work and pay through the nose for the privilege. Julie and Jonathan Shepherd pass through six counties on their way to the UK capital from Nottinghamshire and shell out about twenty grand between them. On principle, Julie refuses to buy a coffee on the train as she thinks she's been fleeced enough already for the ticket by East Coast Main Line. Quite how features hack Jonathan Prynn kept a straight face while he penned the following line though, I really don't know. "The couple have noticed a slow deterioration in the buffet service - they now stock Walkers rather than Tyrrells crisps." It's hard for us to imagine the suffering that is being inflicted on these poor souls, isn't it? Only one step away from hitching a ride on an open-top freight wagon.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Catch up soon

Excitement at Woodford Towers as a postcard arrives depicting a paradise island in the tropics. In time-honoured fashion, the card bears the legend 'wish you were here?' and shows gleaming white sands and crystal clear blue ocean. Which of our lucky friends could be enjoying such a well-deserved break?

The reverse is something of a disappointment. A fake stamp and one of those 'handwriting' fonts beloved of marketers. The missive is addressed to Jo B Seeker and reads as follows: 'Hi, I heard you were looking for a new job and thought this would be ideal. I have found this great company that publishes lifestyle magazines...'

Turns out that I could be working as a Media Sales Executive for Sheengate publishing. 'Catch up soon...' concludes the gushing copy, as it tells me of phone numbers to call and addresses to email.

I don't know about the job, but one thing's for sure. I pray I never go on holiday with the sad individual who sent the postcard.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Feels so right, it can't be wrong

News that the Fonz has received an OBE from the Queen will warm the hearts of all those who grew up watching Happy Days.

It appears that actor Henry Winkler has been recognised for the work he's done in highlighting the problems of dyslexia, rather than the hard graft he's been putting in during the British panto season.

The only question, I guess, is who's next for an honour? Anson Williams, perhaps? According to Wikipedia, Potsie now owns a cosmetics company and was last seen addressing the US Patent & Trademark Office's 2008 expo, where he expounded on the importance of intellectual property to small businesses.

Or how about Don Most, who played Ralph Malph? Unfortunately, advisers to the British government might have a harder job making a case for a medal. His Wikipedia entry is rather threadbare. "Most makes a brief appearance," we are told, "3 minutes into the 17th episode of the fifth season of Family Guy titled It Takes a Village Idiot, and I Married One".

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Second Coming of Vladimir

Ever worried that Jesus is a bit too wimpy? I mean, sure, the guy goes around preaching all this ‘love thy neighbour’ stuff and extols the virtues of turning the other cheek, but he’s also the dude who stands up to ancient Rome and turns over the money tables in the temple. Isn’t it the muscular antics of the Saviour that we should savour? Crazy as it may sound, the ‘feminisation’ of Jesus appears to be a real debate within contemporary Christianity and some people have decided to rebel against it.

According to a recent article in The Guardian, Stephen Sawyer is one of the renegades. He likes to depict the Lord in manly situations. Dusting down his gloves in the boxing ring, perhaps. Revealing his latest biker gang tattoo.

I’m still trying to work out the relationship between Macho Jesus and his more familiar alter ego, Trendy Jesus. The two figures seem to come together in a Christian lads’ mag called Sorted which is endorsed by BBC TV presenter Jeremy Vine and describes itself as ‘a good, wholesome alternative for blokes’. A flick through the columnists’ biogs will give you a flavour of what it’s all about.

Jojo Meadows is involved with the skateboarding/inlining community, while fellow scribe Sam Gibb lists his heroes as ‘the apostle Paul, Alan Shearer and Garfield, though not necessarily in that order’. Reverend Victor Farrell is ‘passionate about communicating the Raw Bible to Real People’ and likes to develop Bible apps.

Although my conversion and salvation are probably a long shot, I do crave the safety, certainty and security of a conservative, well-meaning Jesus who’s distinctly uncool. You won’t find him down at the skateboarding park or the piercing parlour. He’s not lifting weights or riding pillion with the California Highway Patrol.

Am I the only person who’s reminded of another major figure on the world stage? Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin may not be an obvious candidate for the new Messiah, but he likes nothing better than stripping to his waist for a bit of horse-riding on the steppe or rolling around in a macho fashion on the judo mat. Recently he was pictured dressing up in leathers and driving a three-wheel Harley around Novorossiysk.

Bizarrely, this report from May in The Telegraph tells of a female sect in Russia which worships Putin. They believe him to be the apostle Paul – news which is in danger of baffling Sorted’s Sam Gibb. Perhaps the Second Coming is closer than we think? And timed to coincide with the former KGB hardman’s second term as President from 2012?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Shazam Shoulder

I've noticed that I adopt a very strange posture in the passenger seat of our Peugeot when the kids ask me to Shazam a track on the radio. I stretch forward to place my iPhone close to the speaker with my left hand, while tapping instructions to the music app with my right. I'm wondering whether medics are now being confronted with a bewildering new range of strains and injuries with no obviously identifiable cause.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Plastic sculptures and bath toys out of Fairy Liquid? It's Easy...


Shake it Daddy... when you're spoonfed DIY tips, you'll soon have the perfect unit for your new stereo hi-fi

It's high time that WARTE had a new featured publication and I've plumped for the DIYer's must-have read of the late 1960s, Easy. Styled as 'the magazine that pays for itself', the title is full of handy tips for the man about the house. Some projects are serious (see the desk construction sexual fantasy below), while others are just designed to make life that little bit more fun.

Why not explore 'the full potential of expanded plastics', for instance, and start making sculptures out of polystyrene? One example quoted is a model volcano that gives the 'cine enthusiast' a thrill as he plays with his railway set. Later he's shown creating a plastic swan that 'almost fooled passers-by into feeding it with bread crumbs'.

Bathtime a little bit boring? Not any more. In November 1968, writer Steve Burrows tells us how to create a 'Sub-Aqua-Observation-Craft' out of nothing more than two empty detergent bottles. Blue Peter's Valerie Singleton would no doubt have raved about the ingenuity behind this extraordinary contraption, which is joined together with plastic tubing and a number of one-and-a-half-inch wood screws.

'Release the pressure on the bottle and the diving bell will sink to the ocean depths,' writes Burrows, gushing faster than a cold tap. 'Squeeze the bottle and the bell will rise to the surface. By experimenting with ballast and pressures, a remarkably realistic degree of control can be exercised, which will probably appeal to Father as much as to the kiddies!'

The finished picture of the submersible looks very much like a Fairy Liquid bottle attached to another Fairy Liquid bottle by a bit of tubing. Roll on the 70s, when we could splash in the bath with Matey, eh?

Next time when Washed and Ready to Eat takes it Easy: how to make a ten-minute book trough.

Mmmm...I hope this really will turn out to be the desk of my dreams...


It's just as I imagined it. But don't tell the wife.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Wolfmen

Flicking through the London Evening Standard the other day, I read about the arrest of Neil Wallis in the News of the World phone-hacking saga. The former deputy editor of the now-defunct Sunday tabloid was known in press circles as 'The Wolfman' - a moniker which grew out of his bushy beard or, alternatively, his lycanthropic theories about the behaviour of a criminal he was pursuing, depending on which source one turns to.

A few pages later, there's a story about a court case involving friends of renegade rockstar Peter Doherty. One of the people mentioned is Peter 'Wolfman' Wolfe, whose nickname is perhaps easier to fathom than that of Neil Wallis.

Two legal cases in one paper involving Wolfmen? This suggests to me that perhaps it's not the most auspicious of labels.

I wonder if the Bullingdon had a Wolfman? If so, he could be right at the heart of government as I blog.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cleaning has never been so much fun

I note that Domestos has a product called 'Total Blast Toilet Gel'.

For someone like me, who's never found cleaning the toilet a very enjoyable experience, it's great to know that the process can, in fact, be a total blast.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Her card was marked

At my local old folks' hall, which I visit for the mini-Ws' tap-dancing lessons and in mental preparation for my own admission, someone has posted details of the funeral of a former member. After the crematorium service, there will be some food at the hall, followed by a game of bingo in the deceased's memory.

My mind is wandering skywards and I'm thinking of an old lady - freed from the limitations and travails of earthly existence - looking down from the biggest bingo hall of all. With a ghostly hand, she marks her ethereal card and waits for the opportunity to call 'house' one last time.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Paws for thought

News that scientists are running ad campaigns for monkeys will come as no surprise to those who believe the advertising profession preys on people’s more primal instincts. The bizarre experiment does, however, raise some exciting possibilities. If, as boffins believe, apes can be influenced by sexually provocative billboards to prefer one brand of jello over another, couldn’t the idea be extended further? Fast forward a few years and perhaps dog food will be advertised to the ultimate four-legged consumer rather than his two-legged owner. At this point, we’ll need to check the brand messages and creative approaches with representative targets before the campaign goes live.

“I’ve found two Cocker Spaniels and an Alsatian for the focus group, but we can’t fill our quota of Labradors. They just don’t seem to respond to the usual incentive of Hollings Pigs Ear Strips.”

“Bring back those golden retrievers we used last week. The client won’t know the difference.”

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

DLT and...er... Aung San Suu Kyi?

In what must surely be the weirdest news since we learnt that the Nazis trained dogs to speak, it’s been revealed that Burmese figurehead Aung San Suu Kyi was sustained through captivity by radio broadcasts from veteran DJ Dave Lee Travis. After his untimely departure from Radio One in the 1920s or sometime soon after, the Hairy Cornflake seemed to make his way back on air – this time for the BBC World Service. His ‘Jolly Good Show’ made Suu Kyi’s world more ‘complete’ according to reports. For all I know, the feisty democracy campaigner was up for playing snooker on the radio with DLT if the Burmese junta had given her an outside line.

I am bracing myself for further revelations.

Perhaps, in those dark hours when Nelson Mandela was held captive on Robben Island, he was comforted by the sound of Steve Wright in the Afternoon? The south Londoner’s chirpy characters helped him make light of what would otherwise be a grim situation. “It makes me SO ANGRY, I could throw the whole apartheid regime down...” How he laughed.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is pacing the icy wastes of the Soviet gulag. Goodness gracious, goodness gracious, guys and girlskis. Could that be the sound of Jimmy Savile, as it ‘appens?

Make the madness stop. Just make it stop. Please. Unless someone from Viz is reading and sees an opportunity for a comic strip.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Richmond? Nah, it wasn't for me...

Interesting new approach from a local estate agent which I need to report to WARTE readers.

I've previously been sold the line that there's an eager would-be purchaser who's paying the agent a fee to find him a property. This act of insanity and benevolence to potential vendors means that I am able to sell at no charge.

Now, a twist. We are told in a letter addressed to 'The Legal Owner' of Woodford Towers about a named individual - let's save his blushes by calling him Mr Peter Miller - who has expressed a particular wish to move to our street. He used to live here, before heading for nearby Richmond. Now he wants to return to his 'much-loved road'.

"Obviously," writes the agent, "this is a genuine enquiry."

Obviously.

The genuineness of it all was the first thing that struck me. Because people who go to Richmond often realise what a terrible mistake they've made, don't they? The river. The wine bars. The cappuccino.

"Darling, I don't think I can stand it another day here. I promise to bring you back every so often to Max Mara. But I must return to my roots."

Worried that I might not be convinced by the story so far, the estate agent gets out the violin bow for the final sentence.

"We are merely using our best endeavours to find Mr Miller a home."

Shucks. Is that a bit of grit in my eye? I've misjudged the situation. Perhaps Mr Miller moved to Richmond and took on some very large mortgage. He lost his job and is now without a home. Probably camped out by the Thames in a tent and looking to downsize. By selling him my house, I'd not only be doing myself a favour. I'd be helping society too. David Cameron would approve I'm sure.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cataloguing successes in the crusade for literacy

In a heartwarming twist to the London Evening Standard's literacy campaign, the little girl who told her teacher the only book she had at home was the Argos catalogue has received big piles of books from benefactors.

Strangely, Argos has got involved too, shelling out £500 to present the young Aurella Brzezowska with a ready-made library. While I can only applaud the retailer's generosity and sense of corporate responsibility, it does seem odd to me that they won't stick up for their catalogue. Who says you can't learn to read from the compendium's bubbly promotional blurb? After all, the Bible was often the only book in a poor Victorian home and formed the basis of an education.

A is for 'air straighteners.

B is for bargain.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Before you fire me, you'll have to hire me.

I am in big trouble.

Compliance may get involved. My Head of Division at the bank may be informed.

My misdemeanour? The mandatory fire safety training that I was supposed to do is now overdue.

The training people are quite persistent. And the fact that I don't actually work for the bank doesn't deter them from sending further emails.

Where's it all going to end? I can see myself getting sacked from a job I never had. It'll make a great employment tribunal case.

The situation is reminding me a little of the pickle I got myself into a few years ago and recounted on the BBC Radio 4 show Home Truths. I started receiving voicemail messages that were meant for a maintenance guy who worked in a big building. The electrical socket near the paternoster lift on the sixth floor needed fixing. There was a plumbing problem in one of the toilets near main reception. I liked these calls so much that I just allowed them to keep coming, which I guess meant none of these things ever got mended.

Eventually, I managed to work out that the messages emanated from the Ipswich Civic Centre. They stopped abruptly after I'd discussed the issue on national radio.

Who can blame him?

Further to my earlier observations about the badges people wear at Tesco to identify their hobbies, I noticed a guy in my local store making quite a brave, anti-corporate statement. He tells us that he likes holidays.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Cop out

I’ve always been amused by the strange formula used by UK police forces to announce the progress of their investigations. They never like to give away people’s names – even when everyone knows who’s involved – so we’re told they’re “questioning a 32-year-old female in connection with an incident in Nottingham city centre” or whatever.

Imagine if British cops had been first to Hitler’s bunker in Berlin during 1945.

“In a statement, police confirmed that they were called to premises beneath the Reich Chancellery yesterday after local residents reported hearing gunfire. The body of a 56-year-old male was recovered. Enquiries are ongoing, but the circumstances are not thought to be suspicious and the police say they are not looking for anyone else in relation to the Second World War.”

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Seeing double

I happened to encounter two identical twins sitting next to each other on the tube the other day. They were fairly atractive young women - Americans, I thought - and were the spit of each other to look at. What was interesting was that they wore exactly the same clothes, but in different colours. Matching checked puffa jackets - one in pink, the other in purple. Tracksuit bottoms, trainers, carefully applied lipstick. Eerily similar, but each with a unique hue. It was almost as if they wanted to make a statement about how they were separate people.

To the keen psychological observer, however, the conscious display of individuality didn't cut any ice. Both girls crossed their right feet over their left feet in exactly the same way and spent the whole trip on the Northern Line in silence, fiddling with their long hair. Biology beats wardrobe every time.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Bag lady


I'm no dummy: mannequin wraps up warm when sleeping rough in south-west London

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

If only zay could talk...

I've always held that truth is stranger than fiction and spend rather too much time on social networks posting links to stories which demonstrate the point. The news, however, that the Nazis planned to train dogs to speak takes us to a brand new level of wtf.

The so-called 'Woofen SS' has been uncovered by a British academic, trawling through archive journals in Germany. Essentially, a contingent of fascist Fidos was trained to imitate human speech - a little like the mutt on That's Life in the 1970s who was able to say 'sausages'. According to reports, the specially-trained canines were taught to tap out messages with their paws and converse about poetry and political matters.

I'm not sure we needed any more evidence about just how barking mad the Nazis were, but this is definitely one to file away for future reference.

Are you a talking hound with something to say about this story? If so, please use the comments button below.

Friday, May 20, 2011

It's all Greek to me

Loving the ad from EuroMare Forwarding Ltd in The Guardian's special pullout on Greece today. The company provides what it describes as a 'containerised and intermodal transport service' and dramatises this exciting proposition with a number of starbursts and speech bubbles.

"Greek Lemon Juice for your Barbeque"
Yes we can deliver it with Efficiency

"Greek Canned Peach for your desert (sic)"
Yes we can deliver it with maximum safety

"Mediterannean (sic) Cuisine orginating from Greece"
No Problem! will be on time to your plate!


My message to the Thessaloniki-based business is "English Speaker for your advertisement". And best of luck in delivering those peaches safely to the desert.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

A good feed in Falmouth

As regular readers will know, I'm not in the habit of plugging businesses on Washed and Ready to Eat, but I'm happy to make an exception for Clarks Restaurant in Falmouth, Cornwall. The owners - Carolyn and Ian - made me very welcome on a recent business trip and served up a really great meal. If you drop in, tell 'em Phil sent you.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

You go to the gym? So do I!

Every time I visit the checkout at Tesco, I can't help but pity the poor workers who are forced to wear ridiculous badges that tell me the year they joined the team. They are also encouraged to give me details about their hobbies and interests.

What exactly am I supposed to do with this information?

Strike up a conversation?

"You know what, Mike? It is Mike, isn't it? I just couldn't help noticing that you're a keen gardener. The thing is, so am I! I suppose it's what they'd call a coincidence, but isn't it weird that two such keen horticulturalists could end up in exactly the same place at the same time?"

If I worked for Tescoses, I'd want to liven my badge up a bit.

My name is Phil. Joined the team in 2011. I like smashing plates at Greek restaurants. I was on the last G20 demo. I have an obsession with Lady Gaga.

Friday, April 29, 2011

How long will this soap continue to wash?

I would describe myself as a half-hearted republican. I don't really support the idea of the monarchy, but can't be bothered to turn it into a crusade. One thing I'm absolutely sure about though is that the British Royal Family is one of the strangest real-life soap operas ever invented.

Look at the role of Prince Charles in today's events, for instance. He's out on the balcony with Camilla, while everything about the occasion must naturally remind him of Diana. His daughter-in-law, a few feet away, is of course even wearing the sapphire engagement ring that once announced Charles' own rock-solid commitment to the belle of the Spencer clan. You couldn't make this stuff up.

The Queen, meanwhile, seems pretty good for 85 or whatever she is. I reckon there's a few more years in her yet. By the time her state funeral has been arranged, Charles will be an old man himself and the pressure will be on for him to abdicate in favour of the newly appointed Duke of Cambridge. Today's ceremony only sought to underline the weakness of Charles' position.

As with all good soaps, there are plenty of colourful minor characters who drift in and out of the script over time. Whether it's the latest quip from Prince Philip, the antics of the persona-non-grata Fergie or an intervention by the likes of Mohammed al Fayed or Paul Burrell, there's always someone ready to spice the story up.

The sleb hangers-on are perhaps the weirdest part of the whole business. Today, former West Ham footballer Trevor Brooking rubbed shoulders with Blackadder and Posh and Becks. Elton John - who famously rewrote one of his classic songs as a tribute to Princess Di - seemed strangely reticent about joining in with the hymns. (When it came to 'speak now or forever hold your peace', I was waiting for him to jump up and say that he wanted to kiss the bride.)

All in all, the fairytale pageantry sits uneasily with the recent history of this troubled and slightly preposterous group of figures. And I doubt that we have seen the end of the twists and turns in the ongoing plot.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Grace Bros meets The Good Life

An addendum to my earlier tribute to Trevor Bannister, star of Are You Being Served? According to my local rag, the former menswear counter assistant died on the roof of an allotment shed in Thames Ditton. He had a hammer in his hand. Perhaps, in his mind's eye, he was about to fix one of the faulty mechanical shopfloor displays that were such a staple of Grace Bros.

Even Mrs Bannister can see the funny side. “I’m afraid the way he died was straight out of Last of the Summer Wine," she's quoted as saying.

Either that or The Good Life.

RIP Trevor.

Waitrose Cookery School

According to the promotional blurb, it's 'for the cook in all of us'. Waitrose are offering one-day, half-day and evening courses in the culinary arts, run by a 'friendly team of experts'. The events all take place at the Finchley Road store, which kind of figures. My abiding memory of this particular branch is the queue of taxis outside waiting to whisk wealthy shoppers back to their north London pads.

Sit back, relax and enjoy the sound of APR...

It used to be the case that would-be DJs auditioned for the big time on hospital radio, spinning tunes for a captive audience on the wards. Today, if you want to build a reputation as a rock jock, financial services is the place to be.

Every bank has a studio a bit like that 'ISA ISA baby' one that the Halifax show on the telly. In fact, every time I go into a branch, there's in-store radio playing in the background which must drive the staff truly round the bend. A few days ago, the presenter on HSBC FM was recounting her weekend to me as I waited to pay in a cheque. The monologue went something like this:

"I was out sunbathing over Easter and I felt a bit guilty, as all my neighbours were out doing DIY and home improvement. They were working hard and there was I just relaxing and enjoying myself. Well, if you're thinking of some home improvement, why not talk to HSBC etc etc blah blah blah..."

Do you think the people who read these scripts dare to show their faces in public? What do they tell their friends they do for a living?

On the other hand, I really ought to do some home improvement.

Next up it's Tears for Fears.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

You're late, Mr Lucas...

Sad news a few days ago that another stalwart of the Grace Bros department store is now measuring St Peter's inside leg. Trevor Bannister, who played the cheeky youngster Mr Lucas in the much-loved British sitcom was originally intended to be the star of the show, but was upstaged by the high camp of the late John Inman and Mollie Sugden.

Slowly, but surely, the cast is now being reassembled in the greatest department store of all, where the mannequins are angels and young Mr Grace doesn't have to worry about his ticker as he cavorts with his nursing staff.

Trevor must be grateful that Frank Thornton is still with us here on earth. As he arrives via the celestial lift, there will be no floorwalker to tell him that he's late once again.

Look, no hands... bizarre advertisement from leading pharmacy company sticks out a mile (see below)

Wherever I lay my hat...

Still trying to puzzle out an extraordinary ad for Lloyds Pharmacy's theonlinedoc.org service. We see two naked men. One of them is black, quite muscular and has a full head of hair. He is holding a hat in front of him to protect his modesty. A slightly tubby, balding white guy stands next to him. This bloke also has a hat in front of his crown jewels, but he doesn't need his hands to hold it in place. The headline reads: 'Guess which of these men got treatment from our online doctor?'

My mind is boggling and racing. I shall try to supply photographic evidence soon.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Hail the Supreme Commander

Sometimes you just have to admire a person's chutzpah. There's a guy called Yupeng Deng who's been accused in the US of creating his own army unit and recruiting immigrants with the promise of a fast-track to citizenship.

The self-styled Military Forces Special Reserve cost a few hundred dollars to join. It's alleged though that Deng (who called himself the Supreme Commander) charged people extra to progress through the ranks.

In a bid to add authenticity to the military experience, troops were supposedly taken to a decommissioned aircraft carrier in San Diego.

This is one case that WARTE will watch with interest. The local District Attorney's office promises a preliminary hearing soon.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Buttahz

Belatedly made it to the excellent Evolving English exhibition at the British Library. When I arrived, I found a curator talking to a large group of inner-city London teenagers who'd come with their school.

"How do you spell Butters?" he was asking them.

The kids volunteered different spellings of the slang term. Museum man then posed another question.

"But you don't actually say it like that, do you?"

He was referring, I think, to the glottal stop that replaces the t in London English, although phonetics isn't my strong point.

The youth were sent off to record slang in a booth for posterity and my attention was drawn to another class. This group was much younger and seemed to attend an exclusive private school.

"Joanna! Come over here and listen to a bit of Romeo and Juliet!"

The precocious little kids ran hither and thither, listening to samples of regional dialects on a superb interactive display or speeches from statesmen such as JFK and Nelson Mandela.

On my way out, I read excerpts from Mr Tickle by Roger Hargreaves into a phone. I was told that my dulcet middle-class London tones would be studied by scholars for generations to come.

All in all, a very well staged exhibition with a great range of relevant books for sale outside. One that caught my eye was Das Krapital - the definitive compendium of Viz magazine's Roger's Profanisaurus. I was like bare impressed.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Just desserts?

On the Novotel sweet menu: 'Blackberry financier with lemon foam'.

Now, I know we don't like bankers or their smartphones, but I'm not sure cannibalism is the answer.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Tough choices

The Metro in London is asking readers to vote for the most influential woman of the past 100 years. We can choose from a selection of nominees featured in an exhibition at City Hall to celebrate the centenary of International Women's Day.

It's so hard though. Should we go with Margaret Thatcher - first ever PM and giant of the 20th-century political stage - or Justine Roberts, the founder of mumsnet? I am so tempted by leading judge Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, yet keep getting distracted by X-Factor winner, Leona Lewis.

Let's call it a draw. We'll share the prize between Barbara Windsor and singer-songwriter MIA. That way, everybody will be happy. And intellectual life in the UK will have advanced a few paces.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Electronic fix


A ciggie you charge on a USB? Ain't technology a wonderful thing? But how can they be sure the smoking ban doesn't apply to e-cigarettes? I can't wait for the test case.

Helpful


This map is a great way to introduce tourists to the complexities of the London Underground, isn't it? I am waiting for the conversation with the next coachload of middle-aged Americans.

"Jiminy Cricket, sir, we're looking for Truth but sure are having a time findin' it. We think it's somewhere between your St Paul's Cathedral and your Notting Hill."

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Are you going to the ballet, Viscondessa?

Visiting the Royal Opera House website, I was required to register in order to access the booking system.

In the field that asks for your title, they're not content with the regular Mr/Mrs/Miss/Dr/Prof choices. This, after all, is a world-renowned centre for dance and operatic performance. I am given the opportunity to register as a Dowager Marchioness, Ambassador, Brigadier or Rabbi among numerous other options. But that's just the start of it. Some of the menu selections are a lot more specific and bizarre.

George Osborne and Angela Merkel will find the website a breeze, as they click on the 'Chancellor' tab, for example. No worries for Camilla Parker Bowles, as she calmly selects 'HRH the Duchess of' and finds herself a seat in the Gods. All kinds of foreign honourables and potentates are catered for too. If you're an HRH Sultan Shah, you'll feel right at home.

Things take a rather extreme turn, however, with 'HRH The Prince', 'HRH The Princess' and 'Queen'. I wonder if the Royals are online right now?

"This website is most irritating, Philip. It requires one to register before purchasing one's tickets. Do you have your Mastercard handy?"

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


I like the idea of a 'retro' prawn very much, but isn't there a danger it's a little past its sell-by date?

Will this advertising gamble pay off?


There is so much I could say about this extraordinary ad. But then there's my sanity to consider. I think it's best I let WARTE readers draw their own conclusions.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Someone's taking the mick


Do you think the guys responsible for the iPad advertising are trying to poke just a little bit of fun at Twitter users in this poster? Come on, dudes. My tweets are topical, discerning, incisive and witty. And you can read them by following me at @philwoodford.

Now's my time


Do they still do those strongmen competitions where people rip up phone directories? If so, I think I may now enter. The new design is so dinky, it sits in the palm of my hand.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Sounds like a plan

I am sitting across from a guy who has a branded jacket promoting 'Plan B Fitness Camps'. Presumably the original fitness camps didn't work out.

How not to write a poster headline

On the 'neighbourhood' board of a local Starbucks branch, there's a landscape A4 notice from the NHS. Headline: 'Does physical activity affect the risk of vertebral fractures in older adults with osteoporosis?'

What happens when the world of advertising collides with a paper presented to a medical symposium.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Me old china

It's the little newspaper stories that are often the true subbing gems. Forget The Sun's take on Mubarak's exit speech yesterday ('They sphinx it's all over') and turn instead to page 24 of today's London Evening Standard. We discover that former football legend Jimmy Greaves, who later became partner in punditry of Ian Saint John, is selling his £40k collection of Clarice Cliff porcelain.

The headline? Quaint and Greavsie.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Looking for an expert in isotope ratio determination? Try the Job Centre.

The people at Job Centre Plus take a full page ad in my local rag showing the range of vacancies they have on offer. Amid the kind of opportunities you'd expect - for Care Workers, Drivers and the odd Butcher's Assistant - one job stands out from the crowd. To apply for the advertised Science Leader Inorganic & IRMS role, all that's required is a PhD in a 'relevant scientific field', knowledge of high accuracy quantification and a passing familiarity with laser ablation.

I'm not sure which amazes me more: the idea of the employer thinking they'll find their mass spectrometrist down at the local labour exchange or the civil servants finding it appropriate to promote the vacancy. Even if we accept there are a number of middle-class professionals who have lost their jobs in the recession and that the Job Centre probably wants to demonstrate it doesn't just deal in cooks and bottle-washers, I think it's safe to say that the number of locals fitting the Science Leader profile will be a little on the low side. In fact, if anyone does have the necessary qualifications locally, they'll already be working for the employer that's advertising.

Eventually, I suspect, the scientists may be forced to take radical measures. Like paying for an ad in a scientific publication or maybe listing their job on a website read by spectrometrists looking for work. In the meantime, I can only imagine the conversations:

"Yes, Mr Jones, I can see from your application that you're very interested in isotope ratio determination. But how exactly did your career in retail management prepare you for it?"

Sunday, January 23, 2011

France will never look the same again

STOP PRESS... A full-page ad in The Sunday Express tells me about a sale of long range, 24x magnification binoculars. So precious is this cargo that sales were embargoed until midnight last night. Did you manage to secure your pair at the unbelievable price of £29.95 + p&p?

The copy tells me that if I were on the cliffs of Dover, France would 'appear to be just ONE MILE AWAY!!!'

Why, that's practically close enough to see the snails frying in the pan and Frenchmen shrugging their shoulders as they exchange onions.

Later on, we're told that we 'can see the expression of the jockeys' faces as they race towards the winning post'. Are these French jockeys, do you think?

Friday, January 14, 2011

Who better?

Coming up at the London School of Economics in February: 'A Celebration of the Work of Professor Christopher Pissarides'.

The speaker at the event?

Errr... Professor Christopher Pissarides.

Presumably there was no one better qualified.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Airport measured at zero decibels

Booking an airline ticket online today, I received a message warning me that London City is a 'silent' airport. This apparently means that no announcements are made about arrivals and departures. You're on your own. Just you and the departure boards.

What exactly is the motivation for the silence, do you think? Perhaps the airport is a well-known stop-off point for Trappist monks en route to their Norman monasteries? Or it serves as a major transit hub for people travelling to librarians' conventions?

I very much hope the silence extends to the planes.

"This is your captain not speaking..."

Saturday, January 01, 2011

After 60 years, it be time to say goodbye

In one of the promos the BBC has been running for the 60th anniversary of The Archers, a lady talks about how a particular scene in the yokel radio drama moved her to tears. I must be a lot more sentimental, as I find that I'm crying as soon as the theme tune starts. In fact, the only thing that can stop the pain is reaching for the 'off' button after the first couple of bars.

How can it be that taxpayers' money is still, in 2011, being spent on producing this utter drivel? Radio 4 seems to bumble along in an extraordinary timewarp. As I've noted before, its excruciating dramas, twee parlour games and philosophical university seminars would not pass for acceptable radio output in any other country in the world.

People will no doubt defend shows such as The Archers and Start the Week as being quintessentially British. But this is a vision of Britain drenched in sepia and packaged up in cotton wool. The BBC is expecting a generation brought up on the broadcasting equivalent of takewaways and convenience stores to feast at a formally laid table, complete with fussy fish knives and wine-pouring flunkies.

If you fancy staying up after Midnight, what a treat you have in store. Book of the Week. A couple of shipping forecasts. Highlights from the BBC World Service. By 5.45 am, my Prayer of the Day would be for a heavy dose of barbiturates. Through my drug-induced stupor, I might imagine I heard someone milking cows in a farmyard, taking a walking tour of Tasmania or profiling Prince William.

One day, it will all come to an end. Someone - probably motivated by the need to save public pennies - will pull the plug. And Sandy Toksvig, Arthur Smith, Nicholas Parsons, Harriet Cass and all the rest will go spiralling down the hole with the antedeluvian formats they help to preserve. There would be an outcry, of course, from a vocal group of Radio Fournatics, but I doubt they actually number much more than the population of Ambridge.