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Showing posts from 2006

Saint Weed

We took the mini-Ws to a free art workshop at the National Gallery in London. The artist presiding took the kids to see a picture by Leonardo and then treated them to some his own work. We learned that his abstract creations represented a parallel universe called Updown, where there was no gravity. In this world, no one could sit on the ground, unless they were a saint of the calibre of Saint Weed - the star of one of the pictures. Lots of rather blank looks among the assembled six-year-olds. And quite a few among the grown-ups too.

Some recent obituaries

Not sure I would have wanted to see James Brown lying in his coffin in New York. He didn't look too good when he was alive, if I'm honest. Old-time comic Charlie Drake (who was so small he needed specially adapted shorts while serving in the RAF) died in the same nursing home in South-West London that played host to the late Alan 'Fluff' Freeman. This home is exclusively earmarked for former stars of stage and screen and you do have to wonder what life must be like there. A kind of geriatric Stella Street, I suppose. Sources tell me that there used to be rival camps of luvvies: those who had been on the TV had nothing to do with ageing variety and music hall performers. The good news is that the number of residents is kept fairly constant. Norman Wisdom is due to move in soon, I believe. Saddam's application was unfortunately turned down. Although the former Iraqi dictator had provided a great deal of entertainment over the years for viewers of 24-hour rolling

Who wants to be a millionaire?

There's this programme on the telly - don't know whether you've seen it - where they send a millionaire undercover into an impoverished local community. He spends some time there and then shells out much-needed cash to those he judges worthy recipients. I think the programme could work the same way in reverse. They could send me undercover to pose as a millionaire at a place like the Savoy. In order to be credible, I'd need to be holding some serious folding. It would be a useful insight into social relationships and the state of the British class system.

Once, twice a lady

I was in W H Smith the other day and handed over a Lady Godiva to pay for a newspaper. As I passed it across the counter, it split in two. The shop assistant held the pieces up and I was thinking that I'd have to dig deep into the Woodford Reserves, but she actually accepted it! She even gave me change. A heart-warming story this yuletide. Gawd bless 'er. Wonder what Smiths will make of it all?

Complaints about my footy quiz

The Hoffmeister reckons the quiz on is too hard. I hate to be blunt, Hoffy, but quizzes always seem hard when you can't think of the answers. Just like in Bullseye, you need to take your time. Just like in Catchphrase, you need to say what you see. As Loyd Grossman would say, "Who lives in a quiz like this?" The clues are there. When I ask, for instance, who was managing Huddersfield in 1957, it's safe to assume that it was someone quite significant in the footballing world.

Christmas iMix and some fun and games

My Christmas website is now live at This iMix is just one fragment of the festive fun that you'll find there:

24-hour teeth

Mrs W was trying to renew her dental insurance and was outraged to discover that the call centre closed at 4.30 on a Friday afternoon. I completely understand her anger. If someone wants to renew their dental policy, they should be able to do it at three in the morning if they want. Whatever happened to good, old-fashioned customer service?

Something very fishy in Tesco

This morning, I was in Tesco at 7.05 am. Not my usual time for supermarket shopping, but I needed bread, as well as some cash for a guy who was delivering flooring to Woodford Towers for our new kitchen. In front of me at the checkout was a man with four tins of tuna, three tins of sardines and two tins of pilchards. Nothing else. He asked to pay for the sardines and pilchards separately from the tuna. After he'd made his initial payment, he realised that he didn't actually have enough cash for all the tuna tins. One had to be left behind. My view was that he probably had enough for his breakfast anyway and the extra tuna was unlikely to be missed.

Stamp has tourist licked

True story. Post Office on High Holborn in London earlier today. Tourist wants to send an airmail letter but is struggling with the blue "par avion" sticker. A member of staff shows him how to peel it off its plastic backing. The guy then starts trying to peel the stamp he's been given, but is struggling with that too and can't seem to make it work. The member of staff informs him that he needs to lick it and then stick it on the envelope.

My latest enquiries

Fishy business: Polonium 210 found at Gunners' home ground I haven't quite got to the bottom of the Russian spy business yet. But I think we're at the stage where dodgy sushi can be categorically ruled out as the cause of death. News that Arsenal's Emirates stadium suffered a minor nuking adds another bizarre dimension to the case. Come to think of it, Polonium 210 sounds like it could be a football team. Recently defeated in the Russian Federation Cup by Dynamo Chernobyl, who were ahead over two legs. Or all had two heads. One or the other.

Who next?

Hoffy informs me by txt msg that Patrick Duffy - once renowned as sex symbol Bobby Ewing in Dallas - is now reduced to panto in Guildford. I say reduced, but according to the Mirror's 3am Girls, the Dallas dish is actually clocking up ten large a week. Altogether now: "Oh no he isn't!" I'm afraid to say that, yes, he probably is. Watch this space for news on Britt Ekland's role as a Fairy Godmother in Swindon. And I wish I were joking.

Skating on thin ice

Received in my inbox this morning... Your message Subject: "And that an ammonia-chilled glycol solution runs through piping under skating rinks to freeze the ice?" could not be delivered to some or all of the intended recipients.

Feline spam

The stock-hyping spammers are generally the most successful right now at getting their stuff past anti-spam programs. The latest techniques involve some of the lengthiest and most bizarre email headers I've yet seen. An example from Nina Downing this morning: We find those qualities repulsive in humans, yet strangely appealing in cats.

Sorry, Stephen Hawking, but you've got it wrong

The emiment scientist Stephen Hawking recently suggested that human beings will have to colonise other planets if we're to survive as a species. Far be it from me to dispute the wisdom of someone who's obviously got more letters after his name, but I can't help feeling that he's a little off the rails with his off-the-planet plan. Just think about it. At the moment, I have a local bank based in Mumbai. Under his scheme, the call centre would be outsourced to Ikkyon 4. And that's a very long way to ship videos of Eastenders.

Atomic clocks

For her seventh birthday, the older mini-W was given a clock that projects its time on to the ceiling. I have to say it's quite neat. It also checks the time with an atomic clock in Rugby by means of a radio signal. Why Rugby? And how, exactly, do atomic clocks work? I expect they have some polonium 210 or similar inside. Quite why this makes them better at telling the time though, I'm really not sure. It may be the mini-Ws will learn about it at school and explain it all to me in due course.

Frankenstein at Christmas

The bigger mini-W was going on about Frankenstein recently and I wondered whether she'd been introduced to the classic Shelley novel at her school. Although she's only just seven, they do teach her Shakespeare and suchlike, so anything's possible. Turns out she was actually talking about one of the gifts that the Wise Men brought to baby Jesus.

Who ate all the pies?

The answer is my old friend N***l. I have to protect his anonymity, as he's employed as a mystery shopper at Craven Cottage - home of the mighty Fulham FC. I joined him last night for the West London team's momentous - and much-deserved - victory over the Arsenal and discovered that he's regularly asked to sample pies from the stallholders in the ground. N***l reports back on whether the vendors are crusty towards him as pie. I can't reveal all the details, as it might lead to N***l's cover being blown and his having to enter a mystery shopper protection scheme. Let's just say that a fiver is slipped his way at a secret location and he's sent off to a particular stand to buy a 'Cottage' pie and a soft drink. I guess he's allowed to keep the change, which is probably about 10p at inflated Premiership prices. The game itself was a corker. I was honorary Fulham for the evening and they certainly laid on some decent entertainmen

What happens when you cross youtube with Sheena Easton?

You enter the wonderful world of Karen Sokolof Javitch - a songwriter from Omaha, Nebraska, who has composed a striking musical tribute to the late Diana, Princess of Wales. I was alerted to its existence by my old friend Ropey, who has a better-than-average track record of spotting suitable Washed and Ready to Eat material. Generously, the composer allows us to download four tracks for free at , but they're not for those of a nervous or sentimental disposition. Be prepared. Your memories of the Queen of Hearts are set to become all too vivid once again. Ms Javitch is also keen on more personal tributes, as this youtube video demonstrates: As Sheena Easton herself might remark, Karen is clearly a one man woman...ooh, ooh, ooh...

Currant Bun on a roll

I can't help feeling The Sun is on fine form with its headlines right now. Hot on the heels of "How do you solve a problem like Korea?" - an analysis of nuclear proliferation in the post Cold War era - we were last week treated to "Hey hey we're the junkies", which highlighted the payouts to 'lags' who were forced to go cold turkey. Today they excelled themselves with the story of the former KGB agent who's been poisoned in a sushi restaurant. The front page read: "From Russia with Lunch".

A tenner, guv? Ain't you got something smaller?

Strange taxi experience in Rockin' Radlett. For those of you who don't know it, the town is near St Albans and was given its racy epithet by a lady I knew called Babs, who used to live there. Anyway, I arrive quite early in the morning and take a cab from the station. When I reach my destination, the driver has no change for a tenner, which is a pretty strange state of affairs given that most journeys are probably between a fiver and a tenner around those parts. I'm wondering what the hell we're going to do when he suggests I simply call his company later in the day for the return leg and pay up then. Or, if I'm coming back to the railway station, I could maybe pop into their on-site office and cough up. I was gobsmacked. It was like the taxi driver equivalent of an honesty box. And, yes, I did go back to the office at the end of the day and pay its rather bemused occupant.

That old chestnut

Texting thumb damaged by nuts. E2eg n lol. Aliche informs me that she can't text properly because she's damaged her hands peeling chestnuts. I've heard some sorry excuses in my time, but this one seems to require complete suspension of disbelief. I will encourage her to post a comment explaining in more detail. Is she telling the truth? You decide. b4n.

Girls allowed. And Phil.

Drying out at The Priory, Farringdon. From left to right: Bethany McCrackers, Gee, HJ and Cazza. Find out the girls' thoughts on men, relationships, the offside rule and the latest episode of Lost by reading the post below.

One Friday in Farringdon...

Although this blog has been going for less than a year, I’m pleased to report that it already has big following. The audience is mixed, although certain key trends can be observed. There’s a tendency, for instance, for the typical visitor to be a Class A nutter. And the site also seems to have been a big hit with the ladies. On Friday - before setting off for Tom and Katie's wedding in Bracciano - a team from Washed and Ready to Eat went to meet some typical readers at a bar in London’s ubercool Farringdon district. News of our attendance must have spread quickly, as there was a good crowd there, although most kept a respectful distance. Full report follows. Any relation to actual conversations is purely coincidental. Meet Helena, Gee, Bethany and Caz. Fun-loving career girls, with demanding jobs and deadlines to meet, they like nothing better than getting together at the end of the working week for an informal drink and a goss. With a £14 bottle of house white to keep them compan
Bethany: now drinking for two, so restricted to mineral water. No posing please ladies. When the flash goes, Helena (left) and la Caz will race each other to the wine glass. Remember the Alaimo: Gee doesn't let sinister pipework get in the way of a good night out.

A taste of autumn in London

I blow the cobwebs away at the end of a hectic week. Self portrait with my A95 Powershot. Vivid colours across the water. Ham - near Richmond-upon-Thames. Click to enlarge. Messing about on the river: The Thames at Teddington Lock, November 2006. Click to enlarge.


I was lecturing at a university in London today and one of the students called me "sir". I don't actively encourage this, but it's always nice when it happens. (Normally it's only Mrs W and the mini-Ws that use this particular form of address.) That last bit was a joke, btw. Old-fashioned US TV programmes are full of kids calling their parents "sir" and "ma'am". On Little House on the Prairie , Laura and Mary would call their dad "Pa", but if he got cross, they'd have to speak to him more formally. Seems kind of appropriate. Let me just check whether the mini-Ws have done their chores today. There's firewood needs a choppin' and water a fetchin' from the well.

If you look confused...

At the same convenience store that sold the delicious minestrone (see below), there was a sign by the main till that read: "If you look under 21, we'll ask you to prove you're over 18." I don't know quite where to begin with this one. It's too late at night.

Hot soup? Whistle for it.

I was in a large convenience store today and was tempted by a Minestrone soup at the takeaway food and beverages counter. I then looked at the sign a little more carefully. It read "Fresh from the kettle!" I decided I'd stick with my egg mayonnaise baguette.

Spam on, spam on, with hope in your heart...

I don't think Mrs W approves of this kind of email, but I wanted to share it with you anyway. For your own safety and sanity, I have removed Marie's link from the correspondence. No good would come of it. How do you do! I am writing to you with a hope in my heart to find in you my love that I have been looking for! I have just parted my ex-boyfriend because I realized that we were a nice couple but nothing more. He was not my true love so I decided to keep on looking! So, maybe I will take a chance on you? What do you think? Maybe we should be together? If you are interested find me here and we could start our virtual relations! Waiting for your answer:) Marie

Remember this mug?

Clearing out a cupboard in preparation for a kitchen refit, we stumbled upon this curio from the 1997 General Election campaign. There are few occasions when I can honestly say that I've spotted a collector's item, but I remember distinctly hearing on TV about this particular piece of memorabilia and visiting Conservative Central Office to purchase it. My reckoning was that it would definitely be worth something in years to come. I can't remember what I paid for it. £4 or £5, perhaps, at 1997 prices. I reckon it could easily go on ebay for £6.50 today. What's Michael Aspel's number?

Gary Gizmo and Crash Test Danny

Further to my last blog, I've started watching Discovery Kids with the mini-Ws, so that I can learn a bit more about science. The best programmes are Invention SOS and Crash Test Danny . SOS is fronted by a hyperactive Scotsman called Gary Gizmo, who teleports himself to the homes of children who are desperate for an invention that will solve a particular problem. One kid, for instance, wants a contraption for capturing spiders, while another is looking for something to help him clean up his bedroom. Gary pitches a tent in the back garden and sends the children back into the house for advice from a boffin. The crackpot scientists in question are always hidden in a wardrobe. And while they may dress differently from Gary and speak in exotic accents, they always seem to bear an uncanny resemblance to show's eccentric host. Crash Test Danny is a dummy who works at a top-secret research establishment. He acts as a fall guy for a bloke in a white coat who's simply known

Pianos with letters and pooper snoopers

The thing about having kids is that they ask you bloody difficult questions. I hate stuff about electricity and magnets and suchlike. I mean, how the *&%! should I know how they work? Can't they ask the teacher? To me, it's magic when a light goes on. The changing of a bulb stretches me to the limits of my scientific knowledge. The eldest mini-W (nearly seven) has made a couple of quite interesting observations recently though. The first suggestion really shook me up. I was showing her treble clefs and musical notation, explaining about how they were read by people playing instruments. (Although the minis have done French and ballet, we haven't yet stretched to the pianoforte.) Anyway, she looked at me as if I were daft and suggested that it would be easier if the letters of the notes were marked on the piano. You could then record a musical score in alphabetical form, rather than have to learn all these strange hieroglyphics. Thank God for Mrs W. She poi

Their cup runneth over

Puccino's - a coffee bar with a licence to operate on railway stations in the London area - likes to have quite a bit of fun with its promotional copy. I particularly enjoy the signs on the doors of their outlets, which bear the legend "Shut happens". They've really lost the plot though with the blurb on the coffee cups. I sometimes wonder whether people are having a laugh with old Phil and deliberately writing stuff so that they can be featured on Washed and Ready to Eat . Coffee and a croissant please We get this request a lot, what with us selling coffees and croissants and all that. Our staff are trained to go over to where we keep them and pick them up and give them to the person that said the request out of his mouth. I said 'his' there. This doesn't mean that we don't serve women. Oh no. We serve them alright. Big time. Well not big time. Just all normal. But friendly. Always with the friendly. Someone needs to tell Puccino's th

Excuses wearing thin

As regular readers know, I'm a dedicated follower of fashion and even managed to wangle an invite to this year's London Fashion Week at the Natural History Museum. I was, however, horrified to see a girl in Twickenham today wearing jeans branded Anorexy . I've done a bit of digging on the web and it seems as if it's a Columbian brand that has already attracted some controversy. One blog reports that adverse publicity has forced the manufacturers to dump their rather offensive name. I sincerely hope so. You don't have to be camped out at Greenham Common to recognise that there's something a little bit tasteless about all this. Rant over. Now, where's my copy of the Daily Mail ?

Free with the Evening Standard

Forget the blue umbrellas. This evening, the giveway with London's quality regional title was a Chicken Tonight stir-fry sauce for two. Sticky soy, balsamic vinegar and peppers. Just add chicken. Fantastic flavour combinations...quality pan, 10 minutes and it's all yours, tonight!

Area 51

A spam bounceback email has drawn me - rather spookily - to the website of a company called Area 51 Electronic Service Group, Inc , who are AS9120 Certified Stockist Distributors based in Irvine, California. Let me explain. Every so often, unscrupulous spammers spoof my email address and send out messages in my name. Unsurprisingly, most get rejected by filters and bounced back to yours truly as system admin notices. Norton dumps most of these replies in a folder, but it's still a pain in the proverbial. Anyway, today I received a message telling me that a lady called Sandra at Area 51 is on maternity leave. Her colleague, Dave, can help me right away and she's kindly left me his email address. It's such a shame that I have no use whatsoever for oscillators and capacitors. Even from a federally recognised Section 8a franchised distributor. You do have to admire the alien theme of the website though. Sandra's back at work sometime in December.

Pull the udder one

I saw on the news last night that boffins are planning to mix the DNA of humans and cows. This "chimera" does raise a few ethical questions, but also has distinct advantages. No need to worry any more, for instance, about where to find extra milk for your tea.

Technical blow dry

The salon chain Headmasters emails me with a special offer. But it's only valid with a "cut and style or technical blow dry". Exactly how technical can a blow dry get? If you know, please leave a comment. And tell me if you have any holidays planned.

Unusual foreign spam

I have to say, it's a relief to get a break from all those cruddy pieces of spam that I receive about the US stock market. Hardly an hour goes by at Woodford Towers without a piece of mail alerting me to a company I need to watch "like a hawk" or some ludicrous penny share that I should put on my "radar". Do I look like some kind of complete saddo day trader? Don't answer that question. The point of this blog is that I've actually received a couple of mildly interesting pieces of spam from exotic foreign sources recently. The first came from a bubbly lady called Nataly, who sends me "kisses from Russia". She's quite direct is our Nat, as you can see from the message below: I have some questions for you if you want to get to know me closer: 1/ Are you interested in serious relations with Russian woman? 2/ Are you planning to visit Russia? 3/ Would you like to correspond or to talk by phone? 4/ Why are you interested in Russian lady? 5/

Britain's surveillance culture

Apparently a fifth of the CCTV cameras in the world are right here in the UK. This astonishing statistic made the headlines on the very day Mrs W received a Penalty Charge Notice from the London Borough of Richmond Upon Thames for driving in a bus lane. She's pointed out to the eagle-eyed officials that she ha s to go into said bus lane in order to turn left off a main road. And I guess this is something she'll continue to do until some teleportation device is invented or the local authority installs a crane. We await the Council's response with interest and I'll keep WARTE readers posted. Incidentally, there's a lovely piece of Big Brother-ese in the letter. "The alleged contravention was noted by camera operator CCTV-AA2 who was observing real time pictures..." It just makes you feel so much safer to know that AA2 is on the case.

Hoffmeister launches into blogosphere

Having mentioned Buddy Holly in my previous post, it's now time to namecheck my buddy Hoffy. He's embarked on his own blogging expedition, so I thought it only right and proper that I give him a plug. His site is called and I get the impression that the content is going to be rather more elevated than the stuff you're used to seeing on Washed and Ready . So far, he's tackled climate change, the BBC's policy towards the Taliban and the vexed issue of Madonna and that kid from Malawi. If I were to sum up the difference between hoff limits and my own site, it would come to down to emphasis. While the Hoffmeister might perhaps provide commentary on, say, the government's treatment of controversial cleric Abu Hamza, I'd let you know that the Fonz was playing Captain Hook in the forthcoming Wimbledon panto season. Both approaches have their place. Blogworld is big enough for the both of us.

The day the music died

I was out the other night with some of my old advertising chums. What I didn't realise was quite how old they had actually become. When the noise levels in the West End boozer got in the way of our conversation, one of our number actually insisted that the barman turn the music down. The song playing at the time was "American Pie" by Don McLean. Although I was just as grateful as my friends for a reduction in decibel levels, it struck me as a little worrying that we were unable to cope with an early 70s pop song about Buddy Holly. Phil Woodford is 38.

You heard it through the grapevine

I took a trip round the UK's biggest vineyard on Saturday. Denbies is near Dorking and produces an astonishing 400,000 bottles of wine a year. The vast majority of the grapes have now been harvested, although only within the past few weeks. The owners tend to wait a month or so longer than the continent, to take advantage of whatever extra sun they can get during an Indian summer.

Rory Bremner impersonating Ben Elton

I went on Friday night to Teddington Studios and sat in the audience for the final Bremner, Bird and Fortune show of the current season. On arrival, I gave my name as "Woodford" to a charming gentleman with a clipboard. "Would you be the gorgeous Phil Woodford?" he enquired. I replied in the affirmative. "I love you," he said. "In fact, I love you so much that I'm going to give you one of these." I steadied myself, not knowing quite what to expect, but was reassured when he produced a wristband that identified me as a genuine ticket-holder. It would be churlish to say that this was one of the funnier moments of the evening. Rory Bremner is a clever man and obviously an incredibly talented impersonator. If I'm honest, however, the best bits were actually all the ad-libs and asides, rather than the pre-prepared monologues and video sketches. There's quite a lot of faffing around in these recording sessions and there's plenty of opp

Sunday, Monday, Panto Days

As the panto season fast approaches, I'm on the look-out for celebs who appear to have fallen on hard times. News, for instance, that Henry Winkler - aka The Fonz from Happy Days - is appearing as Captain Hook in Wimbledon, South London is enough to bring a tear to the eye. His co-star is comic legend Bobby Davro. My idea for a twist: Bobby Davro impersonates the Fonz as part of the act.

Seasonal soup

I'm indebted to Aliche - long-time supporter of Washed and Ready - who sends me news of a sparkling piece of copy on the packaging of New Covent Garden's 'sweet, smoky and autumnal' Soup of the Month. Who could resist 'cheerful' orange pumpkins and softened haricot beans? Blended, of course, with carrots, oak-smoked garlic, smoked paprika and a warming hint of chilli. On the side of the packet, readers are treated to the following seasonal blurb: The gap-toothed pumpkins glow a ghoulish orange and the bonfire crackles with mischief when our marketing supremo, Andrew Ovens, holds his annual Halloween party. The centrepiece of Andrew’s Witches’ Oven (so-named by a waggish friend) is a cauldron of Pumpkin & Haricot Bean soup. No eye of newt or toe of frog in this bubbling orange broth (so Andrew assures us), just masses of glorious smoky flavour. The trouble starts when party-goers gather round the cauldron to predict foul deeds in the coming weeks. Nothing fi

Mrs W is one-nil up

I was talking to Mrs W about the Yeo Valley dairy products brand. She said she thought that Yeo Valley must be a rather idyllic part of Somerset. I laughed and replied that she'd been taken in by some cynical marketing ploy. I am now eating humble yoghurt. Yeo Valley really is an idyllic part of Somerset. Presumably near the famous Yeo mountains. I stand corrected and embarrassed. I'm now off to investigate Chad Valley - the place where Woolworths make all their toys.

One fright in Paris

According to the Reuters newswire (see below), a number of Japanese tourists need psychological treatment following trips to the French capital. They expect to find a picturebook city of romance and passion and go into a state of shock when they get an 'Eiffel' of the reality. Shrinks have dubbed the condition "Paris Syndrome". Things got so bad for one bloke that he thought he was Louis XIV. Which begs the question: could the real Louis XIV actually have been a Japanese tourist who somehow just found himself in the right palace at the right time?

I've started talking Latin, so I'm Finnish

I'm indebted to my friend Ropey for this amusing piece from the BBC about the passion for Latin in Finland. Apparently, an astonishing 75,000 Finns tune in to hear the news read in the long-defunct language. Unfortunately I'm not enough of a classical scholar to translate my own blog postings for the would-be Centurions of Helsinki. I reckon Washed and Ready to Eat would be something like Lavare et apto pappo , but if you happen to know better, please feel free to post a comment. Who knows? I might turn it into a Woodford motto.

They ain't makin' gubernatorial candidates like Kinky any more

One of the more interesting races in the forthcoming US elections is the battle to become Governor of Texas. The Republicans and Democrats have been thrown off guard by an eccentric candidate who rejoices in the name of Kinky Friedman. Those of us with a taste for country music already know the Kinkster. Not only is he an authentic son of the Lonestar State, but he's also a talented musician and published author. He's been in trouble recently for some rather dubious comments he's supposed to have made during the campaign and I certainly wouldn't seek to defend his political views, which seem to be all over the shop. Nevertheless, you can't help having a sneaking admiration for a Jewish cowboy whose discography includes songs such as They ain't makin' Jews like Jesus any more, Asshole from El Paso and Get your biscuits in the oven and your buns into bed . Get Kinky online by clicking here to see one of his latest commercials .

Caught on camera

Here I am speaking at an event in Douglas, Isle of Man on 16th October (see previous blog entry for more details). Picture courtesy of Andrew Wake from the Chartered Institute of Marketing's event organisers, Don't Panic Projects. After the presentation, I spent a pleasant evening in a local bar with the Don't Panic team and discovered that Andrew and his partner Nicky Pennington are also keen bloggers. You can read about their work at

The comeover returns

I believe the Manx word for people like me is a 'comeover'. I paid my first ever visit to the Isle of Man this week and spoke at a meeting in the Hilton Hotel and Casino on the branding and promotion of the island, sponsored by the Chartered Institute of Marketing. Despite the fact that I'm a Londoner born and bred, everyone was very welcoming and I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Douglas. A couple of snaps from my Canon A95 are shown below. On the way back to the airport, I met a lovely lady taxi driver who seemed to have done all kinds of things in her time - including running a bookshop in Switzerland. She liked the glaciers and the mountains, but just knew that she had to return eventually to her Manx roots.
Looking north: the promenade at Douglas in the Isle of Man as it sweeps round towards Onchan. Click to enlarge.
The sea terminal in Douglas. From the air, the structure appears to form the shape of the island's distinctive, three-legged 'Triskelion' symbol. Click to enlarge.

What am I missing, missy?

A charming young spammer called missy chapman sends me an email with the subject header "gimme your thoughts on this". As you've asked for a direct response, missy c, here are my thoughts: Xanax seems overpriced at $2.00 a miligram, when I get 100mg of Viagra at the same cost.

The two extremes of subbing

Loved the headline in the Currant Bun today about a new alternative to cremation which involves bodies being freeze-dried and shattered into powder. REST IN PIECES . It's great to know that the sub-editing community is still able to turn on the magic. Bad subbing, on the other hand, can be an absolute disaster. I was persuaded in the late 90s to write a couple of articles for a short-lived and ill-fated newspaper called Planet on Sunday . You won't remember it because it was short-lived and ill-fated. It had a kind of alternative, eco-warrior theme and the first couple of editions led with messages that Princess Diana had supposedly sent from beyond the grave. Anyway, I wrote a feature in which I interviewed a number of politicians, including a Member of the European Parliament called Caroline Lucas. By the time the article had been subbed and appeared in the press, she was called Mr Mucus. As you can imagine, it wasn't one for the journalistic portfolio.

Understanding market trends

It's always good to know you're dealing with a specialist. At first glance, this law firm in the North East of England appears to have chosen an unusual niche. Its ad in The Sunderland Echo proclaims expertise in Legionnaires Disease. R esearch by Washed and Ready to Eat suggests, however, that the market for their specialism is actually growing. According to this medical report , cases of the deadly bug have substantially increased in the latter part of 2006.

What is it about kids and birthday surprises?

I took the mini-Ws out about a week ago and bought them some perfume that they can give to Mrs W on her birthday. I told them not to say anything, so that it would be a surprise. So far, their mum has been told where it was hidden (necessitating a change in location), the fact that it begins with the letter 'p' and that it comes in a bottle. I'm thinking of getting some paraffin or peanut oil and wrapping it up as a joke.


I haven't written my memoirs yet, mainly because I'm struggling to think of a title. It's important to get it right. I saw Ronnie Corbett's autobiog on the shelves today, which is called - rather predictably, I felt - And it's goodnight from him . Gary Barlow's book, which he was promoting on the Jonathan Ross show the other night, is entitled My Take , which I thought was perhaps a tad cleverer. One of my all-time favourites is Murray Walker's Unless I'm very much mistaken. We won't get on to Jodie Marsh's Keep it Real , which - according to the Amazon blurb - takes us "from her unhappy school days and her teenaged nose job to her current success..."

M&S put some sizzle into their banger blurb

"The natural sharpness of juicy British bramleys (sic) cuts perfectly through the richness of the roast pork, providing the perfect pairing." These succulent, traditional British bangers have certainly been soaked in alliteration by copywriting connoisseurs.

Some retail questions that are troubling me

Tesco. The self scan facility. How come there's no chip and pin number required? If some tea leaf swipes your card, all he needs to do is swipe it through the reader at the supermarket and he's walked away with a bag of groceries. Bang out of order. Another local retailer - I'll keep this one anonymous, as I don't want to victimise the poor souls that are working there - has signs up at the tills warning the checkout people not to steal. I had to do a double take, as I'd originally assumed the messages were directed at the customers. But no. They're warning the employees that the tills are monitored remotely. When I see stuff like this, it makes me really glad I'm self-employed. (I'm the best boss I've ever had. Firm, but fair.) One final thing - and I know I've blogged about this before - is the extraordinary radio station that's piped to convenience stores around the country. I was in there today and a commercial was telling me that I was p

Bad back to the future

News reaches me that a chiropractor has given up his licence to practice in the US, following concerns over his unorthodox treatments. The Ohio-based practitioner claimed to cure people by travelling in time, back to the moment at which the injury took place. Conveniently for customers, he was able to provide this service remotely over the web. Read a full report:

Tesco Organic Fresh British Lamb Half Shoulder

A picture of farmer Colin Wilcox is accompanied by the following blurb: "Colin farms cattle and sheep in Gloucestershire. The cattle are Hereford cross and finished on home-grown forage, clover and meadow grass. Colin works hard to ensure his cattle and sheep meet the high welfare standards that Tesco require." While the cows are finished on clover, I have a feeling the copy must be finished late at night over a stiff drink.

How much can you pack into a life?

I ask the question because Mrs W's grandfather sadly died recently, aged 99. He was desperately close to making his century, which seems rather cruel. But no one could say that Syd didn't have a full life. As well as having a number of tough and dangerous jobs - working in the North-Eastern shipyards, repairing bomb-damaged properties during the war and so on - Syd also found a fair bit of unusual employment. Stage wrestling, for instance, in the days when it was done for real. A spell playing for Charlton Athletic on a weekly wage of £3. (Not sure how Darren Bent would respond to that kind of contract.) But the highlight is surely his time treading the boards with "Gaston and Andree". Andree was a young lady who apparently posed naked in a cabinet at the start of a theatre show. She was then thrown about the stage by Syd, who was a little stronger than your average fella. So strong, in fact, that he'd broken the British weightlifting record in 1933, with an overh

Crusts Away!

As someone with two kids who habitually leave the crusts when given a slice of bread or toast to eat, I should no doubt be rejoicing at the Crusts Away! product from Kingsmills. Somehow or other though, I feel my heart sinking at capitulation to infant blackmail. If there are any bread manufacturers reading, my kids would also like: Malted bread without the malt Bread with added oatflakes, except with the added oatflakes taken away Brown bread without the brown colouring

Sir Bobby Robson's garden centre

I dreamed last night that I'd visited some kind of garden centre run by none other than former England football manager, Sir Bobby Robson. I explained to him about one of my current gardening problems - a thicket at the front of Woodford Towers that was rather overgrown. (I hacked at it for an hour or two recently, but it's a b****y nightmare and probably needs an attack with a chainsaw or poisoning from the roots.) Anyway, Sir Bobby agreed to come and sort it for me for just £3. Even in my dream, I realised this was silly money that wouldn't begin to cover his costs. Nevertheless, I was very grateful.

Who's the daddy?

I took the mini-Ws to a local playground this morning and a little toddler started waving to me and calling "Daddy!" I explained to his mother that I wasn't aware of any paternity issues connected with the child. She replied that she couldn't recall any connection either. The kid was blonde, so the chances seemed fairly remote. Come to think of it though, my youngest daughter's blonde as well.

Homicide? Or just insecticide?

My dad was on a bus recently and some young guy started getting jumpy when a daddy longlegs made an appearance. The nervous youth said that the creature was freaking him out, as it skedaddled its way down the vehicle. The insect passed my old man and he swatted at it. He didn't actually hit it, but it still seemed to come to some kind of halt. The youngster was elated. "You've done it," he said. "Murder one."

There won't even be time to say goodbye

My old friend Ropey has brought a rather alarming story to my attention. Crazy boffins are set to recreate the Big Bang in a particle accelerator called The Large Hadron Collider, which is situated in Switzerland. Protons will be smashed into one another at something approaching warp speed and some people think we may get a glimpse into other dimensions. I should cocoa. Apparently, the probability of destroying the planet through the creation of a mini black hole is 10 to the minus 40. The good news is that we'd presumably know nothing about it. One nanosecond, we'd be posting a blog. The next, we'd be zapped to oblivion by some nutter outside Geneva. You'd think there might be some kind of discussion at the UN about all this. But the Swiss do tend to go their own sweet way (see blogs passim ).

Washed and ready to eat: have your say. Well, sort of...

Two Washed fans have contacted me this week to say that they've tried to post comments, but were put off by the bizarre registration process. Quite understand. I couldn't be a**ed with that kind of thing either. In a bold step, I've enabled the comments function to allow you to post feedback on your favourite blog. There is, however, a catch. I'm moderating the comments. Otherwise it would be a free-for-all, with people like George Galloway and Nikki off Big Brother 7 chipping in. Please treat this facility with respect or it will be withdrawn. If you're struggling to think of anything to say, a few sample comments are posted below, which you're welcome to cut and paste. "Phil, thank you for the blogs (the others are minging). Thanks for all the joy they're bringing. Who could live with out them? I ask in all honesty..." "I never knew there was so much in it." "Washed and ready to eat is an intellectual tour de force from

Anything else I can do for you, sir?

I don't want readers to think that I spend my life swanning around London in some kind of decadent social whirl. After my post about London Fashion Week, I'm reluctant to admit this, but I went for lunch today in the Terrace Restaurant at Harrods. Nice food. Weather so good that they had all the blinds drawn. Anyway, I went to answer a call of nature and found uniformed men welcoming me into the luxury washrooms. As I completed my ablutions, one of them actually dispensed the soap for me onto my hands. Now that's what I call service. I gave him 40p.

I might just get a taste for this...

I was fortunate enough to be taken by a client yesterday to London Fashion Week at the Natural History Museum. Can't reveal too much about the assignment, as it's under wraps for now. What I can say is that I immediately felt right at home. As I meandered from the Lavazza coffee bar towards Juicy Couture Accessories and Linda Farrow Vintage, I could see a lot of people staring at me. Clearly they had mistaken me for a catwalk model and I thought it was only a matter of time before I was ushered back stage to a changing room. Then Mrs W phoned to tell me she'd left her keys at home and she needed me to hotfoot it back to Woodford Towers. I'll pop into Gap next week and pick up a couple of t-shirts.

Loyd's words of wisdom

Loyd Grossman® on his Tomato & Wild Mushroom pasta sauce (a distinctive sauce of tomatoes, with wild mushrooms and garlic): "The mushrooms in this sauce grow wild in forests. I chose them for their robustness and earthy flavours - they work perfectly with the tomatoes."

Missing pet

A kid has posted a notice on a lamp post near my home pleading for the return of a lost rat. "Ratie" has apparently gone missing and we're encouraged to phone mum if we see him. As opposed to Rentokil.

Warsaw? Let me tell you what I saw...

Interesting sign of the times. I spotted this Adshel poster for "The world's local bank" on a bus stop in South-West London. When I were a lad, all t'ads were in English. Poles apart: HSBC targets ex-pat customers with a striking message. I'll have to check out their Wejdz site and see what it's all about.

Dogs and their teeth

It's Pet Smile month, courtesy of Pedigree. Take your pooch to a local participating animal dentist and have his canines polished. You can read more at A vet's practice near to me is involved in this, so I'm going to sneak a peek through the window and see if there are any German Shepherds being taught how to floss.

Unusual spam

Virendra, the Sales Manager of Ashoka Handicrafts in India, writes to me as follows: Dear Sir/Madam, We wish to introduce ourselves as one of the leading manufacturer and exporter of all kind of GLASS BEADS, WOODEN BEADS,STERLING SILVER BEADS,STONE BEADS,CLAY BEADS,CHARMS & PENDANTS,BUTTONS,BANGLES,METAL FINDINGS, METAL BEADS,CORDS,RESIN,CHIP BEADS,SEED BEADS, JEWELLERY MAKING TOOLS,SEQUINS,WOODEN SMOKING PIPES, JEWELLERY BOXES etc. More Ashoka Handicrafts products information, please refer to our website We are able to supply different type of quality beads made of different materials and can customise according to your needs and even produce your own designs also.There is no MOQ restriction for initial orders. Looking forward to your early favourable reply. No MOQ restriction, eh? Aren't I the lucky one? But sorry. I always source my chip beads and seed beads elsewhere.

A visit to Kew

Took the kids to visit the UNESCO World Heritage site at Kew Gardens yesterday - not a million miles from Woodford Towers. The place was looking pretty good on a remarkably warm September day. We also had a little wander around the locale. Nice manor, if you don't mind aeroplanes. Sitting pretty: Kew Gardens is an urban sanctuary for lovers of wildlife. A new bridge in the Gardens was finished this year. They tried their best to make it straight. A couple of million to spare? Why not consider a property near Kew Green? I'm still a fiver short. Pets do alright round here. The affluent neighbourhood in South-West London is able to sustain some rather unlikely businesses, including this mobile grooming service for pooches.

How to silence a hoodie

There's a bizarre recruitment ad on the telly for Police Community Support Officers. It's an animation in which various street scenes are played out - a kind of 'day in the life' of a plastic policeman. The bit that makes me laugh is when the PCSOs approach a group of ASBOs, who are loitering on a street corner somewhere. Plod says - more in sorrow than anger - "Come on now. Other people live around here..." What exactly do you think the reaction of the hoodies would be to this particular approach? Would it be: (a) "Oh, I'm terribly sorry, officer. How inconsiderate of me. I'll move on now." or (b) A momentary look of incomprehension followed by the flash of a blade. Answers on a postcard.

Strange classified ads in my local paper

Two caught my eye this week. The first is entitled "Girl hopes to track down boy" and tells an emotional rollercoaster of a story about furtive glances across a Boots branch in south-west London. The lady who placed the ad has strangely written it in the third person and ranges across different tenses. But we can't all be perfect. Or should that be pluperfect? "They had passed each other in the shop...the young woman works Saturdays every fortnight...the young man is tall with a light brown complexion..." The second ad is very different, but equally arresting. It's entitled "Rent a gent", but it's in the business services section, rather than personal services. The copy reads: "Bored, retired quantity Surveyor offering a range of practical help and services. Including building maintenance, pension advice, help with letters, power of attorney and more." Jack-of-all-trades Mike leaves his mobile number. So if ever I'm a

I have a skeleton in my cupboard

No, I really do have a skeleton in my cupboard. I bought it for Mrs W ten years ago when she was training to be an aromatherapist and studying anatomy on a university course. In those days, she used to palpate me and identify various bones and suchlike and draw on me in pen. She said it was for educational purposes. Anyway, for her birthday in 1996, I bought her a pre-packed skeleton made of card that you could assemble into a model. She never got round to it and it's been in the cupboard ever since. I am going to package it up for her birthday again this year and have another go.

Things you find in the sticks

I won't name the hotel, just in case they're breaking about 25 different regulations, but these pictures were taken at the weekend in Oxfordshire. Outside my bedroom was a fire extinguisher that might easily have been mistaken for a museum exhibit. The good news was that it had been tested and refilled by an engineer. In March 1972. Last officially checked when I was four years old. A comforting find for any visitor to the Cotswolds. Click on the picture to enlarge the image.

That crocodile bloke

You know that Aussie guy who got zapped by a stingray? I can't help thinking that we share some kind of risk-taking gene. He wrestled with reptiles. I bought a different flavour of Actimel for the kids today in the supermarket, knowing full well that it was going to cause ructions. My mate Ropey says that stingrays can grow to be 13ft long. Now, I know it's easy to be wise after the event, but my suggestion is you just don't mess with a fish the size of a car. Incidentally, did you see the footage of the antipodean adventurer dangling his baby in front of of a croc? It made Michael Jackson look normal. And that's saying something.

Travel insurance

Mrs W had a bout of tonsillitis and pharyngitis on our recent holiday (she's a martyr to her throat), so we had to visit a local doctor. When you arrive at the surgery, you're supposed to put on slippers, but I have to admit that I missed this particular piece of Swissiquette. Perhaps it has something to do with germs? I've never been asked to wear slippers at a doctor's in London. Anyway, the bill and the subsequent medications probably came to about £100. We thought we'd claim it back on our travel insurance on return. You wouldn't believe the guff they expect you to send. Nightmare form to fill in. Loads of original documents, showing our shoe sizes etc. I felt compelled to send these special delivery, in case they got lost, which cost about £4. The excess is £50, I think, so we've already written off more than half the cost. Mrs W and I spent a couple of hours getting everything together. All in all, you have to ask whether it's worth it. But we'

I've found the olive bar

My local Tesco Metro has recently had a makeover, but Mrs W and I were struggling to find the promised olive bar. They've only gone and tucked it away in a normal aisle, haven't they? Up near the bread and milk. I didn't like the look of it, if I'm frank. Not much protection against coughs and sneezes. Not that I'm a hypo or anything.

Time flies when you're having fun...

... but not when you're reading The story of a watch company - the book that celebrates the history of Swiss brand, Tissot (see blogs passim ). We learn, for instance, about the extensive "peregrinations" of Charles-Emile Tissot - a reference, I believe, to his frequent trips to the Americas and Russia. The author is excited, on examining an old register, to discover that Tissot produced hydraulic watch hammers between 1860 and 1875. There's a picture of Marie Tissot celebrating 50 years of activity in the company back in 1966. She is cutting a three-tiered cake with Mr Weibel and Mr Schatz. Without question, it's touching and enthralling in equal measure. But I'm sure there's more to come. Watch this space. So to speak.

Picture perfect

All the photos you see on Washed and Ready to Eat are taken courtesy of the Canon A95 PowerShot - The camera that thinks for itself. If I had to do the thinking, the pictures would probably be a lot worse.

Phil Woodford: the story of a mountain man

I've just returned from a week in the Swiss resort of Saas-Fee. As you can see from the photos, I am very much at home in this spectacular region near the Italian border and think I may possibly have been some kind of Alpine goatherd in a previous life. Throughout my short trip, I kept a watchful eye on the comings and goings of the hardy mountain folk who inhabit the local area. I broke bread with them, learned about their ecologically-friendly, subsistence lifestyle and tried not to spend too much on their overpriced coffee and cakes. Below, you'll find evidence of the Saaser lifestyle as it is lived today. Hardly anything has changed, I suspect, since people first settled in the area thousands of years ago. Or certainly not since the 1980s.

Some characters I met on my travels

Alpine pingpong

Extreme table tennis at 2000m. Not for the faint-hearted, believe me.

Always use a condiment

No ketchup? OK, pass me that tasty Swiss-style alternative...

Wooden it be lovely?

This giant bird makes me feel a little peckish. I head straight for the nearest restaurant and order a schnitzel.

Herd today, gone tomorrow

Anyone who knows me will testify to my love of nature. There's nothing I like better than wading knee deep through cowpat to chew the cud with some bovine pals. On this particular occasion, it was a little bit wet, so I couldn't stop for long. We discussed the impact of the Common Agricultural Policy on Switzerland, bearing in mind the country's non-EU status. I also asked about BSE, which seemed to ring a bell with some of the more active animals.

Boost for Swiss referees

On the 'ead son: balls are now easier than ever to spot on Swiss football pitches, as this picture demonstrates.

The mountain man relaxes

Splashing out: after a day chiselling carvings into Alpine horns, there's a need for some serious relaxation. In most cantons, this would traditionally take the form of a jacuzzi in a luxury spa resort.

A taste of Switzerland

I'm heading for the Alps soon and this is the kind of stuff I'll be eating. I think that tomato counts towards my five a day.

What Sub Post Offices sell

There's a funny Sub Post Office near where I live that sells a lot of strange stuff. You know those places that are more than just newsagents because they've got the post office bit too? It seems to give them a licence to fill their shelves with all kinds of weird goods. Example 1: A cork screw Example 2: A pack with paperwork that allows you to sign over power of attorney to someone. Example 3: A cowboy six-shooter gun of the kind that I would have had when I was a boy. Scenario: You persuade someone to sign over power of attorney to you and celebrate by firing your gun in the air as you swig a bottle of vino. More news from the Post Office soon here at Washed and Ready to Eat .

Birthday faux pas

I've been so busy that I forgot my old friend Evie's birthday present. I emailed her and asked what she'd like. She said a Pret brownie, because she lives up in Liverpool and dreams of posh London food. I bought the brownie and it sat in my office for about 10 days before I got around to sending it, along with some other bits and pieces. She's just texted to tell me it was nine days past its sell-by date. Well, it's the thought that counts, isn't it?

A new best-seller?

Watch out for excess packaging: Tissot's luxury tray system contains a full-length paperback on the history of the Swiss company.

The story of a watch company - Swiss style

I'll be heading to Switzerland soon for a well-earned break in the mountains. It's a beautiful and fascinating place, if just a little on the kitsch side. You can rest assured that I'll be on the look-out for things worth photographing and, if I find them, they'll be uploaded to the pages of Washed and Ready to Eat quicker than you can say gepÀckaufbewahrungsschein. (I once went to a bier keller, incidentally, in Lucerne where performers threw flags in the air and a pantomime cow wandered around among the tables.) Anyway, I recently bought Mrs W a watch for her anniversary, which is made by the Swatch-owned Swiss company, Tissot. In the beautiful packaging (see above), there's a book that charts the history of the Tissot brand from ye olde days - or should that be yodeley days? - through to the 21st century. It's a lovely idea. We learn, for instance, that Elvis Presley and Nelson Mandela had Tissot watches. The only problem is that the narrative and translation

Piz Buin

On my bottle of Piz Buin sun cream, it says the product has been "Sahara Tested". This sounds very reassuring, because temperatures in South-West London are rarely as high as those in North Africa. But would you honestly wear Factor 9 in the Sahara? Perhaps it would cover you just long enough to make it out of your tent and down for a sip at the oasis.

Women get more beautiful all the time

I've always suspected it, but now we have the scientific proof. This article in The Sunday Times says that beautiful people are more likely to have daughters (something I instinctively knew since becoming the father of two girls). The implications in evolutionary terms are enormous, because it means that girls will, over time, become more and more beautiful, whereas men will become more and more ugly. But this isn't necessarily a problem. Think, for instance, of Lyle Lovett and Julia Roberts.

St Tropez, eat your heart out

Eastbourne at the end of July 2006. I spent a few days on the coast with the family and we were lucky enough to have some glorious weather. I also managed to take a few photos, which will be included in a forthcoming travel piece I'm writing about the town. Watch this space for details.

Spark plugs, Spitfires and Great Windmill Street

As I was walking through the West End this morning, I became conscious of a man talking very loudly on the opposite pavement. At first, I think he was addressing another passer-by, but when I temporarily caught his eye, he started walking in parallel with me and holding a one-way conversation across the street. "When you haven't been out for four or five days," he yelled, "you just want to talk to people!" I smiled, kept my head down, and headed for Lexington Street. At the junction, he went in another direction, but not without this parting shot: "I'll be alright. I have to be. My grandfather put spark plugs into Spitfires!"

One day, someone will take a decent picture of me

"And in conclusion, ladies and gentlemen..." I lead a workshop at the recent Association of Graduate Recruiters conference in Wales. Sponsored by advertising agency ThirtyThree, the seminar discussed whether it's possible to judge advertising creativity objectively.

Warzone texting

I was fascinated to read in today's Times that the Israeli Defence Force is sending SMS messages to people in Southern Lebanon, warning them to evacuate their homes. While this is a commendable use of modern technology and beats the old-fashioned, airdropped leaflets hands down, it's difficult to imagine the content. u is gonna b blasted innit. move out da way coz da idf is comin to sort hezbo grillas lol.

The things people do with direct mail

Don't mutilate: dire warning issued by credit card company Capital One As someone who writes direct mail from time to time, I'm used to all the techniques that people use to get you to open the envelope. This official-looking letter from Capital One goes perhaps one stage too far, however, in advising me that I shouldn't mutilate the contents. I know that people can sometimes get a little annoyed at the volume of mail they receive and might - in a fit of frustration - get involved in bending, folding or tearing. But the idea that anyone would mutilate an offer for Capital One Platinum MasterCard® is just too awful to contemplate. Particularly with 0% interest on balance transfers until 1st November 2007.