Sunday, April 29, 2007

Interesting leaflet drop

You do get some weird stuff through the door. My local bowls club is looking for new members and wants me to give it a go. I get loaned a set of bowls. All I need to do is turn up in flat shoes. But if I'm not a potential player - more a behind the scenes 'doer' - then I can help Kath, their tea lady on a Monday afternoon. No salary, but lots of chat apparently.

It's 1991. No doubt about it.

Mrs W has just spent a couple of nights in hospital with a mystery virus. I'm grateful to the NHS folk for looking after her - particularly our GP who knew something was wrong and got the Mrs admitted in an ambulance. If that hadn't happened, I don't think we'd ever have made it beyond triage. Or we'd still be sitting in the reception of A&E.

Anyway, although it's been a worrying time, you do have to laugh. As Mrs W became more human again, she began to earwig some of the conversations in neighbouring beds. The doctors had a set of questions to measure exactly how many sandwiches short the patients were. One of the things they ask (and you should take notes here, just in case you find yourself being asked in the future) is what the year is. One bloke was absolutely adamant it was 1991 and couldn't be shaken in his conviction. I think his name must have been Sam Tyler. The doctors weren't sure whether he was mad, in a coma or just travelling in time.

Another patient - a lady on this occasion - was asked her name. I won't reveal it for reasons of confidentiality, but let's just say it had a strong Teutonic flavour. The next question was whether she could name the dates of the Second World War. You really couldn't make this stuff up. Basil Fawlty is alive and well and striding the corridors of our local infirmary with a white coat and a stethoscope. (Incidentally, the gentleman who thought it was 1991 was also asked about World War II. He suggested 1914-1918 and was politely corrected. Perhaps he was getting his wars confused?)

I have never, in all my born days, heard such a quintessentially British load of old cobblers. If these questions were asked of teenagers in the local comprehensive, I expect half of them would be diagnosed with dementia.

And anyone would be demented if they stopped to think about the logic of the hospital's hygiene regime. There are posters everywhere warning about MRSA and C Difficile etc and telling you to wash your hands with Spirigel®, winner - according to the manufacturer's website - of The National Alcohol Hand Rub Contract. Now, I'm as big a hypochondriac as you're likely to find, but even I realise there's no point in washing your hands when you're about to enter a ward that has blood and old towels on the floor. Or about to leave the ward and press the button on a dilapidated elevator. I saw one doctor scrubbing his hands with gel while holding his car keys between his teeth. He then put the car keys down on a counter. No doubt they'd be back in his mouth when he left the premises and needed to scrub his hands again.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Sub Post Offices, rats, DVDs and imitation firearms

A long time ago, I promised that I'd occasionally update you on things that are sold in my local sub Post Office. As with a lot of things I promise on Washed and Ready to Eat, it never quite happened. Time for me to make amends.

I was in the queue yesterday and noted a DVD lens cleaner, 85p water pistols and glue traps for cockroaches, mice and rats.

You'd have to be really sick to use glue to trap rats. And then to drown the poor, immobilised creature with a burst from your water gun. It doesn't bear thinking about.

But the post office shoppers aren't content with that. They want to film the whole episode, making sure that they get optimal playback on their DVD! Come on. That's bang out of order. This country is going down hill fast.

Monday, April 23, 2007

For what we are about to deceive...

Mrs W pointed out to me recently that one of the words most beloved of estate agents is "deceptively". Houses, for instance, are often deceptively spacious.

It must be one of the few times in life when we're actually glad that we've been deceived.

My personal view is that some properties are deceptively deceptive. At first glance, you think you're not being deceived, but when you step through the door, you realise you've been a complete mug.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

I'm still losing in my battle with itunes

Regular readers will know that I'm trying to confuse the "Just for you" function on itunes by purchasing unlikely tracks that defy my usual tastes. I'd been hopeful that The Fratellis would help shift the balance away from pop, soundtrack and easy listening recommendations, but to no avail.

"You bought Chelsea Dagger. We recommend Walk this Way by Sugababes vs Girls Aloud and Back to Basics by Christine Aguilera."

Elsewhere, they offer me Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty.

Which I already have.

S*&t. They really have got under my skin.

I'm building up to some old skool punk like Siouxsie and the Banshees, but I'm worried it won't be enough.

You bought Playground Twist. We recommend Save your love by Renee and Renato.

Tabloid treatment

Unfortunately the online News of the World doesn't repeat the subhead in full, so I can't quote it verbatim, but today's paper tickled me with its story about Gary Lineker and his 23-year-old girlfriend.

The headline read:

The subhead said something like:
What Gary said to saucy blonde (and he WASN'T talking about a Chinese).

Another nice touch came in their follow-up to the story about the ladies from Plymouth who had forced two toddlers to fight on film. They are apparently known as "Nappy Slappers".

Friday, April 20, 2007

What does every foxy chick read?

Mrs W is in receipt of a sexy new magazine from upmarket estate agents, Foxtons. Trendily titled in lower-case, area features interviews with local sales managers, as well as the usual enticements for early viewings at new instructions.

Victoria Machin, from the branch near Richmond underground station, tells us that 57 buyers who registered in February had over a million quid to spend on their new pad. Lack of supply means that she's currently unable to match them to a property.

Your heart just bleeds, doesn't it?

"One of the most common requests from families looking to buy in the area," writes Victoria, "is for a five or six bedroomed house at the top of Richmond Hill..."

That's one of my requests too, Vicky. Except that I'm a fiver or two short.

Know a publication by its advertisers. The inside front cover of this glossy title features a full-page promotion for Emporio Armani. The back cover is given over to Lavazza.

It will look very smart in my recycling bin.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Sign of the times

The oldest mini-W (aged seven) tonight: "Can we get a webcam, dad?"

Straight up.

She wants to communicate with a pal who's heading off to Australia in the not-too-distant.

When I was her age, I didn't even know what a webcam was. In fact, nobody did.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

When people go postal

My old friend Jon Richards has long observed that people who go on killing 'sprees' (it's always a spree, isn't it?) have a number of defining characteristics. Chief among these is a propensity to keep themselves to themselves. Jon's theory is that we could arrest these people in advance and save everyone a whole heap of trouble.

He's come up with a useful set of questions that could be used by medical staff and law enforcement officials worldwide in the quest to identify future mass murderers. It's not quite Minority Report in terms of its sophistication, but I think it has potential. I'm reproducing the checklist here on Washed and Ready with Jon's kind permission:

1. Do you consider yourself highly intelligent but teachers or fellow colleagues don’t take you seriously?

2. Do you subscribe to Military magazines?

3. Do you constantly have to re-pave your patio due mysterious subsidence/lumps?

4. Do you collect military figures or toy soldiers?

5. Are relationships with girls difficult because they: don’t understand you/don’t return your
calls/think that hanging outside their bedroom window at 3am is strange?

6. How’s the shrine to Debbie from accounts? [NB: this question might catch them off guard]

7. If someone bumps into you in the street do you think: 1) never mind, 2) silly person, or 3) you’ll pay, one day you’ll all pay.

8. What’s better: an Uzi 99mm or M16 semi-automatic?

9. Do you keep yourself to yourself?

Jon writes: "Whatever they answer from 1-8 doesn’t really matter. If the answer to 9 is “yes” then bang ‘em up and throw away the key."

Monday, April 16, 2007

Where did that toilet paper come from? It could only be The King.

I was dipping in and out of Blue Suede Jew tonight - a documentary on BBC2 about an Israeli Elvis impersonator who believed The King was sending instructions and advice from beyond the grave. Louis Theroux would have had a field day, but the questions were actually asked by Morgan Matthews, a modest chap who prefers to stay off camera.

The star of the show - Gilles Elmalih - did have a bit of the 1970s Vegas crooner about him, but sounded pretty bloody awful. His 17-year-old son (a medium who was in regular contact with Elvis) actually sang a lot better. Unfortunately performances were restricted to the front room, only attracting interest from BBC TV crews and an eccentric element of LA's Jewish community.

We learned that the real Elvis often communicated with his adopted family by writing on pieces of paper, screwing them up and chucking them around the room. Occasionally he'd also supply toilet paper when it was in short supply in the lav. When the documentary crew wanted direct contact with Elvis, however, there were two problems. One was his rock 'n' roll schedule. He gave shows in the afterlife and was quite busy. The other was a language barrier. As you'd expect, the official language of heaven is Hebrew.

Could things get even more bizarre? You betcha. Uri Geller was on hand to explain how he'd been cheated out of a $900,000 purchase on ebay. The world's best-known spoon bender had tried to buy one of The King's former properties and had been gazumped at the last minute. He sought reassurance via the teenage medium that things would work out ok in the end.

With a fair bit of Jewish blood in my own veins, I think I'm entitled to say enough already and Elvis Schmelvis. Phil Woodford has left the building.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Fast food

The indicator board at Totnes station promised a “travelling chef” on the train back to London. I wasn’t clear whether this galloping gourmet was ‘travelling’ merely by virtue of being on the train – in the same way that we are all ‘travelling passengers’ – or whether he moved within the train, perhaps stir-frying exotic dishes in the aisles on a while-u-wait basis. A third scenario was that he might have travelled down from, say, Inverness, just to be on the 12.27 with us.

In the event, I was disappointed to find no evidence of any chef, peripatetic or otherwise. Just regular sandwiches at £3.55 and crisps at 85p a packet.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Lie me kangaroo down, sport: animals laze around at Paignton Zoo, Devon. Click to enlarge.

Paignton Zoo is a very large and impressive complex. They take trouble over animal welfare and have created some sizeable enclosures. The only problem is that they're so vast, you have trouble actually spotting the animals.

Mrs W was reading the Zoo's guidebook after the event and told me that giraffes have particularly high blood pressure. I wondered whether this made them more prone to stroke and heart disease. They also sleep for only 20 minutes a day. A bit like Maggie Thatcher used to.

In the gift shop, we found a number of products made out of elephant dung. Find out more by visiting or making a trunk call.

Deal or no deal? Top celebrity action at the west country's largest zoo.
I defy any reader to name a tourist attraction in the UK that smells worse than the Marie Le Fevre Ape Centre. The stench was so severe that you felt your legs moving involuntarily past the exhibits and towards the exit at maximum speed.
Washed and Ready's Phil Woodford relaxes in a picturesque village on Dartmoor. Click to enlarge.
Totnes was the base for Washed and Ready to Eat in the week immediately after Easter.
I stayed in a hotel called the Royal Seven Stars, which confusingly is three star. This seems to be a major loophole in the star system, doesn't it? I mean, you could have a one-star establishment but call it the Five Star Hotel. You'd get all kinds of American tourists.

Life on Mars: everything now crystal clear

Although I was down in Devon, I couldn't miss out on the final ep of Life on Mars. After all, how many TV shows combine time travel, policing, the 1970s and David Bowie in one, complete crackpot package?

The main problem was getting the mini-Ws to sleep in the hotel room. We'd been out for a meal with relatives and they were excitable. I mean the kids were excitable, not the relatives. Anyway, I didn't manage to tune in until DCI Frank Morgan was escorting Dr Sam Beckett... err... sorry, DI Sam Tyler... around a graveyard. What followed over the next 35 minutes was the biggest load of confused hocus-pocus you could ever imagine, which was obviously designed to be interpreted by conspiracy theorists in 15 different ways for the next 50 years.

At a creative level, the logical end point was Sam jumping off the top of a building in 2007. Thanks to the advice of the empath behind the bar in 1973, he realised that he was actually more alive in the past than he was in the present and we could draw our own conclusion that his apparent suicide was a bid to return to the world of Wagon Wheels and mixed veg. But in an unusual twist, the scriptwriters followed him back to the seventies. This allowed for resolution of the love interest and created the opportunity for a couple of pretty good comical asides, but also created some anomalies. I couldn't understand, for instance, why Sam's treachery (in supposedly being a spy for Frank Morgan) could suddenly be forgiven and forgotten by his long-haired colleagues. OK, he saved Gene Hunt's life. But did that make everything right in their book? There was also a sense in the final bar scene of the staff of the nick welcoming him back to 1973. But surely he'd never been away? He landed right back at the point he'd disappeared - in the railway tunnel with shooters going off left and right.

Time travel is a tiring and bewildering old business, isn't it? Can the sequel really be set in 1980 and called Ashes to Ashes or is this just people on the web having a laugh?

Washed heads west

Washed and Ready to Eat headed down to the west country this week, which explains the lack of blog posting. I'd intended to continue service by wifi and had a strong signal in my hotel in Totnes, but for some unknown reason, Blogger wasn't accepting uploads. I tried to get techie about it all and downloaded Java Runtime updates and suchlike for my laptop, but no dice. Anyway, the good news is that your favourite blog is now back in London and ready to report in full on scenic Devon.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Is it good to know who's watching?

I track the fanbase of WARTE through and particularly like the program's map feature. You can see at a glance where exactly people are logging on throughout the world. Recently, a defence establishment in Canada took an interest. In the past few days, there's been a visit from the Department of Veterans Affairs in Burton, Michigan.

I'm not paranoid or anything, but the truth is out there.

Come on, Mr Ahmadinejad, you can do better than this...

The Iranian President has not been updating his blog regularly. I know he's been busy what with one thing and another, but this is a very poor show.

What happens when you let your six-year-old loose with a Canon A95 Powershot?

My younger daughter captures her dad on a trip to the park over the Easter weekend in London. We were making the most of global warming.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

An appropriate benchmark

I'm not much of a gardener and Mrs W often comments on my lack of connection with nature. She's just suggested that when I finally head for the great blogosphere in the sky, she'll erect a bench on the Tottenham Court Road in my memory.

It got me thinking about a whole new collection of memorial benches.

"In loving tribute to John, who spent many a happy hour on the Hanger Lane Gyratory System. 1954 - A406."

Friday, April 06, 2007


A female police officer has persuaded her besotted husband to spend a number of years and thousands of pounds creating a replica of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The result? Well, put it this way. It's more than spectacular. To use the vernacular, it's wizard. It's smashing. It's keen.

Strangely, the way in which this crackpot inventor tackled the project is not that far removed from the approach of Caractacus Potts in the original book/movie. It was all a labour of love in the back yard.

But, as the mini-Ws have pointed out, the motor don't fly.

Can I fool itunes?

The itunes "just for you" facility is always recommending embarrassing stuff based on my previous purchases. At the moment, I'm supposed to be buying "Time after time" by Cyndi Lauper and "Close every door to me" from the London stage show of Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.

I've been wondering what would happen if I were to download some unlikely and out-of-character tracks. Will the computer program become confused and self-destruct as it grapples with my eclectic tastes?

I've started today by splashing 79p on "Chelsea Dagger" by the The Fratellis. I'll keep you posted.

The sun in four quarters

My younger daughter (aged six) was this morning asking about the direction in which a shadow was falling. I explained to her about the position of the sun and how that determined where the shadow was.

"What if the sun split into two?" she asked.

I said that this would probably be a fairly newsworthy event.

"What if it split into four quarters?" she continued. "It would be shining from four different places."

Mrs W then suggested that this would be very good news from the point of view of estate agents, as all gardens would have favourable aspects. (We didn't discuss whether some of the fractional suns would be brighter than the others and therefore still allow people to claim a premium price for their property.)

When mini-W started on about the sun splitting into eight quarters, I decided it was time to bring the conversation to an end. And start teaching some maths.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

She's a genuine cubicle cutie

This lady has a future. Not quite sure what that future is. But you hear what I'm saying, y'all? She HAS a future.

Sailing in a new direction

I'm sure we're all glad to see the sailors and marines escape from the clutches of the Iranian government and its ludicrous propaganda machine. I have to say the whole episode gave me quite an insight into the modern Royal Navy.

The first conclusion I'd draw is that these men - particularly the officers, who were shown on Iranian TV hosting what looked like weather forecasts - were formidable communicators. If any of us found ourselves in similar circumstances, we'd all spout whatever b*****ks our captors wanted us to, but these guys actually managed to do it quite professionally and slipped in the odd aside to suggest they were distancing themselves from the content. Political careers in the UK are now surely on the cards.

This leads me to my second observation. None of the blokes looked particularly scary. One of them was called Arthur and seemed to be about fifteen. What happened to the days when a punch-up with a couple of sailors in Portsmouth on a Saturday night would end up with twenty lads in the local A&E? Where were the "Hong Kong" tattoos and the missing teeth?

Imagine if those live interviews with President Ahmadinejad had taken an ugly turn. After all, a small bloke with a beard has come up to you and has started giving it some.

First reaction: "You got some kind of problem, mate?"

He doesn't listen and just carries on.

Time for a slap.

Given that we all want to avoid a nuclear confrontation, it's just as well that our military crews are now better versed in PR than pugilism.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Is there no end to the depravity?

The latest pictures of the naval hostages released today on the BBC show them dressed in garish and ill-fitting tracksuits. Clearly this is a psychological tactic to humiliate our military personnel. On the other hand, their uniforms could probably do with a wash by now.

I was also disturbed the other day to see the captives pictured in front of what appeared to be a rather nasty floral shower curtain.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards need to tread carefully. You can push the British so far, but no further.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Did you see excessive body kilograms kill very much people for every new year?

It's a tricky question and one that was posed to me very recently by a kind-hearted spammer.

If you answer in the affirmative, the chances are that you're in the market for Anatrim.

"We believe that you hate the unsightly appearance of people like those and the low status they have in modern society," writes Brendan Dominguez. "Or, maybe," he continues, "you can not resist a siege of your terrible eating habits. The astonishing thing about Anatrim is it improves the quality of your life by making you eat less and giving you better cheer."

Blimey. No wonder it's the "newest and most enchanting product for corpulent people available."

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Heaven must be a lonely place

Greatly enjoyed Louis Theroux's trip to the Westboro Baptist Church on BBC2 tonight. The congregation (mostly descendants of a patriarch named Gramps) hate gay people with a bizarre intensity and believe that the Iraq war is God's punishment for the decadent tolerance of homosexuality in America. They therefore picket funerals of American military personnel and celebrate the troops' assassination at the hands of Iraqi insurgents. It's apparently the will of God rather than Osama bin Laden.

Check out for one of the weirdest set of FAQs you're ever likely to find on the web.

Two things struck me as particularly odd about the Westboro Church. The first was that although they crusade against gay sex, they're also keen to avoid the heterosexual version. The young women in the group claimed not to be interested in men and didn't even consider the possibility of getting married. (If Gramps had taken the same view, these young women wouldn't be here today, but that point seemed to pass them by.) To them, marriage was a distraction that would just take up too much time. How could you possibly get hitched when you had a funeral of a dead soldier to picket?

The second weird aspect of the dogma was the belief that no one else on earth met the criteria for admission to heaven or seemed likely to qualify in the near future. We can only assume that life beyond the Pearly Gates is therefore some kind of extension of the Church's own back yard, perhaps complete with pickets and placards. The only difference would be the absence of the six billion fallen sinners that surround them here on earth. When Louis questioned whether the Church members really were the only people going upstairs on the Day of Judgement, he was told that if anyone else were preaching the true word of the Lord, news would surely have reached them by now.

Weird and wonderful telly.