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Showing posts from June, 2010

Now, where did I leave my teeth?

When the Woodfords are on the move in the motor, Radio Jackie is our station of choice. The Sound of South-West London not only plays a fine selection of tunes - ranging from the contemporary to the classic - but it also has some of the most entertaining commercials around. Mini-W1 had me in stitches the other day when she picked up on the rather unfortunate script for a local dental surgery. There's a monologue in which a character tells us what a terrible state his teeth were in until he decided to 'put them in the hands of Sutton Orthodontic Practice'. One can only hope that the patient cleaned them and wrapped them up before delivery. (The double meaning reminds me of the old ad for the £9.99 shoes that used to appear in catalogues and magazines. 'We dare you to wear them out!') An ad the kids can almost recite verbatim is for a place called Lynwood Aquatics . If we're to believe the spiel, this self-styled Aladdin's cave is the biggest centre of its kin

Fancy a massage? Have an ice cream instead.

Ever since parlours disappeared from homes, they've only really been associated with massages, tattoos and poodles. As a respectable kind of guy without a dog, I don't have much reason to frequent these establishments. So imagine my delight at the opening of a new outlet close to Woodford Towers selling posh Italian ice cream. If I'm not mistaken, this will qualify officially as a parlour too. And Mrs W won't mind if I pay the occasional visit.

Mais oui, je travaille a Tescoses.

I don't know whether you've noticed, but staff on the Tesco check-out are required to wear large badges which tell you when they joined the company and some interesting fact about themselves. This might be that they like football, for instance, or enjoy gardening. Yesterday, as I packed up my family shop, I read that the lady on the till spoke French. This didn't strike me as hugely surprising, as she had a French name. My first instinct was that English would be more useful in the outer reaches of south-west London, but I've been reflecting. Most of the customers at my local store probably buy the Finest range, where the items are prepared au jus or à gratin . "Sebastian! Run down to the lady at the check-out, there's a good boy. Ask her if the bouillon in the bisque is vegetarian, would you?"

Why have they given us a door-knocker, Mum?

Thumbing through the Christmas edition of Good Housekeeping for 1954 - or the Christmas 'number' as the publishers quaintly describe it - I chanced upon an article by Julia Coppard, who has some fine suggestions for yuletide gifts. The author identifies a number of categories of potential recipient, starting with the elderly. Grandmother might want a lorgnette or a 'lacy woolen stole in a gay colour', but you'd be on very safe ground if you gave her a canary in a 'fancy cage of gilt or wicker'. Granddad meanwhile would be delighted to receive some red or yellow 'cad's braces' or a sun-ray lamp. Having dealt with the older generation, Miss Coppard really starts to get into her stride. Abyssinian kittens for people who live alone. Russian tea glasses for a hostess. Or how about giving a teen-age (sic) boy a subscription to jazz club or a course of lessons in ballroom dancing, if he's 'approaching the social stage'. Housewives might we

Open up Oxbridge? Why not close it down?

There seems to a growing tide of opinion in favour of granting more egalitarian entry to those bastions of educational privilege, Oxford and Cambridge Universities. The latest person to throw his weight behind the idea is the historian, David Kynaston, who's written some interesting books on Britain in the period after Workd War II. These well-meaning individuals recognise that large swathes of the political, financial and media elite are Oxbridge educated and know that it's virtually impossible for ordinary folk to get there. Their misguided solution is to 'open up' the elitist university colleges to the masses through quotas. I say misguided because this obsession with Oxford and Cambridge perpetuates the idea that they are the only places where it's possible to get a decent education and entrenches the very privilege that we're seeking to eliminate. Much better, imho, to reconstruct these antiquated institutions entirely or set a quota for the number of Oxbri

Get your head around this

A story that deserved a little more coverage last week was the discovery of 60 human heads at an airport in Arkansas. The grisly cargo was contained in plastic containers sealed with duct tape and was on its way to neurosurgeons. Apparently all this is perfectly normal. Heads - and odd bits and bobs like ears - are regularly whizzing their way across the skies, with eager medics anxiously awaiting their arrival. I don't know about you, but I think it would be nice to let passengers know when their luggage is sharing space in the hold with poorly-packed body parts. Not that I'm squeamish or anything. It's just I might like to do a double check on the carousel when I reach my destination.

Déjà vu all over again

England hardly ever perform well in the opening games of major football tournaments, yet time and time again we delude ourselves that they will. Drawing against the likes of USA and Algeria is just the kind of psychological toughening up we need to prepare for the challenges that lie ahead. Next week, Washed and Ready will sample the atmosphere of a London boozer as our lads take on the soccer stars of Slovenia. My prediction: 2-0 to Gerrard's brave warriors and a ticket to the next round.

Thrills and spills on the tube

The other day, in a spectacularly idle moment as I waited for a tube train, I was looking at a 'licence' posted on the door of a London Underground storage cupboard. It basicallly listed all the stuff the station cleaner was allowed to keep there. Alongside toilet rolls, mops and so on, there was a reference to Titan Sanitiser Body Spill Disinfectant. I must investigate this further. Instinctively, I recoil at the idea that special 'body spill' products are needed. But I guess there are times when Dettol just won't cut it.

Cholera, sir? Why, I must inject you subcutaneously with turpentine.

I’ve just finished a book about the cholera outbreaks in nineteenth century London. Always good to have a light beach read on the go in the summer months. The overwhelming conclusion I’d draw is that I’d never have wanted to visit any medical practitioner prior to about 1970. Ok, maybe that’s pushing it a bit. Once Louis Pasteur discovered milk back in the 1860s, things improved a little. So maybe we should say 1870. Prior to this era though, everything was complete quackery and likely to do far more harm than good. One astonishing fact to come out of this particular book was that you were much better off in London’s Homeopathic Hospital in the 1850s than you were in the nearby Middlesex. During the cholera outbreak in Soho, the mortality rate with the homeopaths was 16%, while it climbed to a frightening 53% with the regular medics. The author – a journalist called Sandra Hempel – is no cheerleader for alternative medicine and makes clear that the discrepancy had nothing to do with
Interesting installation outside the LCC, Elephant & Castle.

How to lose the plot with lost luggage

Time to return to one of WARTE's featured books - Ronald Pelham's 1948 classic, How shall I word it? Regular readers will recall that Mr Pelham provides standard correspondence for all situations, however unlikely or specific. What, for instance, would you do if you discovered you'd left your large portmanteau on a train? Well, naturally you'd write to the Superintendent of the Lost-Luggage Department. SIR, I travelled yesterday from ____________ to London by the 12.30 train, and on arrival at the terminus found that a large portmanteau of mine was missing. I saw all my luggage labelled at _______________, and gave it in charge of a porter who undertook to see it placed in the luggage van. I must, therefore, complain of negligence on his part. The portmanteau, which bears my full name and address, contains property of great value, and I must ask you to make immediate inquiries into the matter. It's interesting that although the station of departure is left blank

Where's Esther Rantzen when you need her?

Stayed with Mrs W and the minis in the Hallmark Hotel, Bournemouth for a few days earlier this week. The website says four-star but, believe me, the actual establishment is struggling to manage a three. The changing facilities by the swimming pool were on a par with the local council baths, service in the restaurant and bar was agonisingly slow and the shower unit in my room needed chucking on the skip that sat outside in the car park. My complaint is not necessarily that I have some God-given right to live in the lap of luxury. More that they were charging four-star prices on the basis of a cosmetic makeover in the reception and bar. When I challenged staff about the status, I was told they were 'self-certifying'. I was like 'do wot?' Self-certifying? What are they talking about? Does this mean that anyone has the right to describe themselves as a four-star or five-star hotel, regardless of the standard of facilities or service they provide? Last year, I took Premie

No such thing as a free lunch?

News reaches me from the antipodes of a man who has developed an ingenious method of feeding himself for free . He's simply been turning up at funerals - several a week according to Radio New Zealand - and filling up doggy bags with the grub generously provided at the wake. Although his behaviour is recognised to be anti-social and a little extreme, the 'grim eater' is apparently not unique. According to the RNZ reporter, 'funeral directors say serial funeral-goers and fake mourners are not uncommon'. I have images of Steve Coogan's beautifully observed character Alan Partridge in a Castrol GTX jacket. The story has got me wondering how easy it would be to blag breakfast at a top hotel. Just stroll in, smile at the staff and help yourself to the buffet. (One thing I've observed over the years is that the trashier the hotel, the more officious they are in checking you off their list and making sure you're bona fide. The posher the gaff, the less they wor