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Showing posts from August, 2009

Excuse my healthy scepticism

I was approached recently by Professor Dame Sally C Davies and Professor Rory Collins, who wrote on behalf of the Department of Health to ask me to participate in a programme called UK Biobank. Their ambitious aim is to sign up half a million Brits aged between 40 and 69 and monitor their health over a number of years. Creeping in at the very bottom of the age range, I perhaps have the most to gain from this long-term project, as potentially they'll be able to identify trends that will help in the fight against disabling and life-threatening illnesses. Nevertheless, I've told them to get lost. They want three tablespoons of my blood, as well as saliva and urine, but that's not the only way in which they're taking the p**s. I'm expected to attend a two-hour appointment at a centre which is inaccessible by public transport from where I live. The idea is I then agree to wear a wrist monitor for a week and give permission for them to analyse my confidential medical reco

Some good news from Afghanistan

The Afghan elections have attracted a lot of international media scrutiny. One of the bonuses for female observers is the re-emergence of former Foreign Minister Dr Abdullah Abdullah. Now one of the presidential candidates, he has aged a little and sports a grey beard. But as Mrs W observes, he's still so good looking, they named him twice.

Pulling a fast one?

Apparently they're checking the gender of that South African athlete because of her astonishing recent performances. Shouldn't they also do some tests on Usain Bolt? My theory is that he's a closet East German shotputter.

Proposal from widower to widow

I couldn't resist another quick snippet from Ronald Pelham's book of stock letters written in the late 1940s. Here's another common-or-garden situation. You're a widower and you want to acquire a second wife by post. She's a widow and thus in the market. MY DEAR MRS. MARLOWE Since my friendship with you and the great pleasure I have had in it, the loneliness of my life and the anticipation of an even more lonely future have seemed to me unendurable. That your life is a lonely and anxious one, too, I have guessed from the confidences with which you have honoured me. Can we not help to brighten each other's lives and lighten each other's burdens? I'll spare you the rest, as I'm sure you get the picture. How many times, I wonder, was this letter sent in the post-war era with only a few modest adjustments? Like changing the lady's name at the top, perhaps? Pelham is conscious of the fact that his readers may, in fact, include the female recip

Two blasts from the past

It's always fun to flick through the ephemera of yesteryear. Two gems have come to my attention recently and I wanted to share them with WARTE readers. I'm already tweeting 'How to be a good hostess' at . It's a small, ring-bound book produced as a promotional vehicle for Spillers Flour in what I judge to be the tail-end of the 1950s. The foreword is by actress Anna Neagle , who praises the 'gay and lively' ideas contained in the publication and is full of advice for aspiring hostesses. 'Don't think that only a married woman, helped by her family, can earn a good-hostess reputation,' she writes. 'Bachelor girls can do wonderfully well at it too...' The advice on teenage 'get-togethers' makes particularly interesting reading. Mum is supposed to take her daughter aside and tell her that she and Daddy will be out for the evening, but back at 11. 'See all the washing up's done and the place ti

Who says copywriters are unnecessary?

I'm just contemplating one of the worst corporate straplines I've seen in a very long time. P&H Sweets sets our pulses racing with the slogan 'Always delivering retail snacking solutions'. Let's be charitable and concede that they're targeting retailers with their message rather than consumers. Even so, their line fails on so many levels. Are they distinguishing themselves from rivals who only sometimes offer retail snacking solutions? Or those who offer a completely different kind of snacking solution? The non-retail kind that we'd never buy in a shop. Let's be honest. Even the guys in my local Londis would be surprised to hear they were selling snacking solutions. They are likely to be under the common misapprehension that their shelves are full of sweets and chocolates. It's one for tomorrow's copywriting course, that's for sure. Where I always deliver first-class corporate training solutions.

Swimming against the tide

The folks at Waitrose know how to rustle up a fancy sandwich. Take their limited edition Poached Salmon offering, for instance, complete with pea purée, mint and tartare sauce. Never has so much pretention found itself stuffed between two slices of bread. But listen to the blurb on the packet. They get their salmon from 'the cold, clear waters around Scotland where fish can swim against the tide, becoming lean and full of flavour.' God forbid they'd select bland, flabby salmon that neglect nature's exercise regime in favour of an easy ride with the prevailing current. I dread to think what other horse manure this over-excited copywriter is planning to write about alternative sandwiches in the range. But I never eat chicken unless I know the bird has a personal trainer and flaps at least three miles a day.

Cleaning up their act

The Iraqi government has recently announced that it intends to introduce a ban on smoking in public places. At last I'm able to give Baghdad serious consideration as a holiday destination.

An entertaining day out

Oxford University offers an interesting range of one-day courses, which seem to be open to the general public. For just £46, for instance, you might choose to sign up for a day school on 10th October, entitled 'Space, Time and the Universe'. Quite how accessible the event is, however, remains open to question. The agenda provides a few clues. 10.00 am Special Relativity 11.15am General Relativity 1.00pm Space-time and black holes 2.15pm Space-time and the universe Imagine the coffee breaks.