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.