Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2014

Excuse me while I go and stick my head in some sand...

What do you get when cross a new Vauxhall with an overdressed ostrich? The answer is an advertisement which cannot be successfully decoded by a whole room full of marketers, designers and copywriters. I was teaching part of an art direction class the other day at Chelsea College of Arts and have to admit that we collectively drew a blank. According to the copy, the Vauxhall ADAM is as individual as you are.  Let's say, for instance, you were an ostrich with a penchant for wearing heels and jewellery. Well, the car would be an ideal match. I am wondering whether the bird represents Eve, as we are told that 'whatever your personality, there's an ADAM for you'. Is the typical driver therefore a woman, who craves the ultimate security of an archetypal man? The kind of modern guy who dresses in red like you and impresses your mother with his carbon emissions of only 124g/km? This idea is unfortunately blown out of the water by the small print. 'Animal not included,'

A true labour of love

Adult Swim's 'Too Many Cooks' has just taken the internet by storm. And if ever there were a video that deserved to go viral, this is it. The painstaking attention to detail and effort here suggest a real labour of love.

West London... the final frontier

If you thought that you'd have to wait until 2161 to apply for Starfleet Academy, I have some good news. The Federation has kindly beamed it down to West London a century and a half before its scheduled opening. Space Studio is an 'Aspirations Academy', which prepares kids for careers in the aerospace and space industries. For the moment, the former probably offers a few more real-world opportunities than the latter, although that could all change after April 5th 2063, when we have first contact with the Vulcans. It's not Zefram Cochrane we have to thank for this initiative, but rather Dr Russell Quaglia, who - according to the website blurb - developed the Aspirations Framework to 'unlock students (sic) unending academic, personal and social potential'. Although there's sadly no mention of the prime directive, there are three guiding principles of 'self-worth, engagement and purpose', which are 'lived out through 8 conditions that make

Electrifying the property market

London estate agent Haart (tagline, 'Haart is where the home is') has taken to advertising its properties with a degree of panache. Eschewing the boring conventions of property postings, the company adds headlines to each listing. A maisonette in Crystal Palace is 'Perfect the Way It Is!', while you can just 'Plug in and Play' at the well-presented, £450k, two-bed flat in Merton Road SW18. 'Project in the Grid' sounds rather less inviting. Are the buyers supposed to have  electrical engineering skills? Is south London actually part of the Matrix and we are on a mission to escape? The headline will, however, make perfect sense to those with intimate knowledge of Southfields. 'The Grid' is a network of upmarket local roads, which - in estate agent parlance - are much sought-after. The 'project' is doing the gaff up, as it's 'in need of modernisation'.

Private & Confidential

That's how the letter is marked. Important stuff. 'Dear Homeowner,' it reads, 'Great News! The housing market is busier than many people think...' Remember, this information is absolutely confidential between the estate agent and me, so please don't pass it on.

Lobsters and religious volleyball

There were two attractions I had to bypass on my recent holiday in Cornwall. The first was The National Lobster Hatchery in Padstow, which advertises among those quaint racks of tourist leaflets you still see in hotels. The promotional material shows a little kid holding a baby lobster on his finger and suggests families might while away a happy hour staring through glass portholes at giant specimens. The immediate reaction of the female contingent of the Woodford clan was no, NO, NOOOOOO!! What? You don't want to meet the 'resident giant lobster' and lots of his other 'crab pot friends'? You're not interested in adopting a lobster? The fact that the Hatchery had featured on The One Show , Autumn Watch and Three Men in a Boat didn't cut any ice, I'm afraid. We headed off to sunny St Ives instead. As we arrived on the beach, we were greeted by uniformed staff who were handing out sweets and magazines to kids and teenagers. There was a whole

Finding myself in Cornwall

If I’m certain about one thing following my recent family holiday in Cornwall, it’s this: The Lost Gardens of Heligan are a lot easier to find than the Eden Project. I’ve read that Eden – an extraordinary ecological experiment, which houses rainforests and Mediterranean flora in big glass domes – has attracted several million visitors since it first opened. All I can say is that it’s a bloody miracle, because the signposting is truly atrocious. Once you’re there, however, there’s no doubt you’re bowled over by the scale of thing. It would probably take a few days to go around if you were David Bellamy and interested in the names of the plants and stuff like that. For me, one Astrocaryum murumuru looks much like another, so I was focusing more on getting jungle-style selfies from great heights. The Eden Project has been in the news over the past year, which I suppose makes it a topical rainforest.  Unfortunately, it’s been hitting the headlines for the wrong reasons, as it

Things I’ve noticed since I started wearing glasses for reading...

1)       Women don’t make passes at me. No change there. 2)       Every time I drink a cup of tea, the specs steam up. 3)       Once you’ve put them on, you wonder how the hell you were managing without them before. 4)       Everybody else on the landing has started to call me Professor and is asking me to write letters to the Parole Board for them.

How good are your WW1 connections?

On the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, there's inevitably a lot of reflection on the 'great' war of 1914 -1918. Virtually every British publication has been preparing its own tribute or analysis. The Richmond Magazine is no exception. The glossy freebie, already familiar to readers of Washed and Ready to Eat , normally survives on a staple diet of articles from local divorce lawyers and ads for preparatory schools. In the latest edition, however, they have gone to town in commemoration of centenary of the European conflict.  Who better to ponder the implications of WWI than the great-granddaughter of the Archduke whose death kicked the whole shooting match off?  It goes without saying that Her Serene Highness Princess Marie-Therese von Hohenberg is herself a recipient of The Richmond Magazine , living as she does in the upmarket south-west London district of St Margarets. We are introduced to her husband, the 'interfaith

Rumsfeld visits moon to reward brave space warrior

There are probably a large number of people who’d quite like to see former US Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld sent to the moon. What they may not realise is that the eccentric octogenarian has already been there. At least if we believe ‘Captain Kaye’, a former military operative who’s been busy fighting to protect the human colonists on the red planet. The Mirror reported recently that Kaye (a pseudonym) had served in a secret, multinational fleet, dedicated to battling Martian life forms. After 20 years, the brave space warrior was given a fitting retirement party on the moon, which was attended by a number of VIPs, including Rummy. The hawkish politician is perhaps best remembered for his musings about Iraq, in which he distinguished between known knowns (things we know we know) and known unknowns (things we know we don’t know).  Up until a couple of days ago, his lunar connections fell into his third category of unknown unknowns. We didn’t know we didn’t know. Now that we’

The It-Phrases for Die neue Generation

We’re used to foreigners borrowing English words and phrases. After all, we just have a way with words in Blighty and it’s hardly surprising that others want to snaffle them. I was slightly surprised, however, on a recent business trip to Germany, to see quite how far the phenomenon has gone. Picking up a copy of self-styled ‘fashion magazin’ Mädchen Style as a gift for my teenage girls, there’s evidence of a completely bizarre hybrid language which is neither fisch nor fowl. “Kann mann diese Hosen nur zum Sport tragen?” the mag asks its readers. The answer is a resounding “Nö!”  It becomes clear that ‘Stars und Fashionistas’ have judged this particular pair of jogging bottoms to be an absolute ‘It-Piece’ – not only ideal for running around the block, but also well suited to a catwalk promenade. On some pages, the headlines are written in English, while the body copy that follows is in German. And we’re then treated to a selection of colourful phrases that owe something to bo

A glassy-eyed audience eyes up Glass

Resistance is futile: Washed and Ready to Eat's Phil Woodford models Google Glass Google Glass might as well be rebranded Google Gold Dust. Attending a masterclass in London sponsored by The Guardian newspaper, I soon discovered that the sexiest wearable tech in the world isn’t available to everyone. The duo hosting the show on 3rd June – video production experts Michael Rosenblum and Lisa Lambden – had got hold of their own device from a nephew’s colleague’s roommate. A couple of the participants had somehow got hold of their own Glasses too. Glasses? I have a hunch that the plural of Glass may actually turn out to be Glass. Anyway, one of the owners, who seemed to be connected to the UN and was responsible for protecting rhinos or something, wore his set throughout the session. If he’d let go of his x-ray specs, he’d probably never have seen them again, so desperate was everyone to get a selfie of themselves wearing them. My suspicion was that most people there a

Megatrucks and dredging: the bizarre world of An Independence From Europe (sic)

There's something about the Euro elections that leads to some truly weird and wonderful stuff coming through the door of Woodford Towers. We all hear plenty about the anti-Europeanism of Nigel Farage and his mates in UKIP, but there's rather less coverage afforded to Mike Nattras MEP and his peculiarly-named 'An Independence From Europe' party. A postcard-sized A6 flier announces that this little-known outfit tops the ballot paper. We should apparently look for its logo, which - confusingly - is the EU symbol and the word OUT, with a big red cross through it. At a glance, therefore, it looks as if Mike is actually against his own plea to exit the 26-strong club of nations. A rambling, closely-typed statement touches on the following issues: extradition; road pricing; the EU Army (sic); the HS2 rail link; free movement of workers; the closure of the Welsh Assembly; incinerators; private prisons; flood defences and megatrucks (which are, I discover, 60-tonne, 25-me

Card clash

Transport for London have invented another atrocious piece of jargon to accompany 'touch in' and 'touch out'. The largely incomprehensible world of Oyster is now apparently rife with 'card clash'.  Passengers are warned via posters and Tannoy announcements to avoid this bizarre affliction, which occurs when your contactless credit card is inadvertently charged as you tap your Oyster. You end up paying double bubble, so 'hard cash' is probably a more appropriate description than card clash. The way it's presented is a little like an unfortunate venereal disease. Something that happens when you're careless. As opposed to a stupid design flaw in a system that's screwing you.

Paws for thought

I noticed recently that Purina's Gourmet Perle is truly the cat's whiskers. The sachets of tasty morsels, much beloved of hungry felines, are branded either Chef's Collection or Connoiseur's Collection (sic). In the first instance, I'm wondering who exactly this lucky chef is. Oh, to be a fly on the wall in the Purina kitchen. (Not that there would be any flies on the wall, of course, in such a reputable establishment.) But I have images of Gordon Ramsay marshalling a team of staff. "What the f*** exactly is this s***? You think this is good enough for Kitty? This is Gourmet Perle we're talking about. If you think that's going in my collection, you've got another f***ing think coming!" When it comes to the Connoisseur, I'm thinking it's unfortunate that their high standards in matters culinary don't extend to spelling. But cats aren't known for their grasp of the 3Rs, I guess. Mmm... perhaps just a pinch more salt:

Have you had breakfast with us before?

My work means that I stay in a fair number of hotels. All of them, pretty much without exception, will operate a breakfast buffet. Although there are very minor variations in the rules of the buffet between establishments, effectively the thing is a free-for-all. You're shown to your table and then immediately abandon it in search of food. (TV funnyman Michael McIntyre does an amusing routine about this phenomenon .) Before you're shown to your seat, however, it's quite common to be asked whether this particular hotel has previously had the pleasure of your company at le petit déjeuner. The desperate member of staff hopes that you will reply in the affirmative, as this relieves them of having to recite a speech in which they tell you that... err... basically the buffet is a free-for-all. As a guest, it's worth saying yes, even if you've never been to the place before. The recital often starts as follows: "We are operating a buffet breakfast today."

The lowdown on Jimmy Carter, John Major and John Humphries

Interesting event at the London School of Economics last night, when Justin Webb, presenter of the Radio 4 Today programme, came to give a talk to the Alumni Media Group. As you'd expect from a man who's interviewed some of the world's top politicians and spent time covering both Europe and the US, he was full of amusing anecdotes and insights. He clearly fears for the future of serious journalism in an era of instant soundbites and is occupied about potential changes to the funding of the BBC. I asked him specifically about the dynastic nature of American politics and the prospects of a Hillary Clinton presidency in 2016. Interestingly, he wasn't even certain the former Secretary of State would run. And if she chooses not to, that certainly leaves the field wide open on the Democrat side.

You're 60 and you have a bit of a cold. Who you gonna call?

Over 60 and feeling 'under the weather'? You should visit your pharmacist. As soon as possible. Eh? So that you can buy some paracetamol? Or actually regale the person behind the counter with the story of how you developed your cold? Is there any statistical evidence to suggest that someone aged 62 with a sniffle is any more at risk than someone who's 55? And why the hell would we want to clog up pharmacists' counters with walking wounded? The people who are really at risk are probably 15 or 20 years older and they might struggle to make it to the pharmacy if they were poorly. They'd be better advised to call a GP out or summon an ambulance if things got bad. In what way is a pharmacist really a substitute for a doctor? And why on earth would we assume that any mild illness in someone aged 60+ is a cause for immediate concern?

Railway history

An interesting selection of vintage posters is currently on display at Richmond station in south-west London. Perhaps advertising is hard to come by, but whatever the reason, we're grateful for the snapshot of life in days of yore. Talk me through it: buttons to open and shut doors need a lot of explanation If only they'd introduce buttons on the doors. It would make them easier to close. The new Winnersh Triangle emerges in 1986. Countless trains have disappeared there since.

Elevator pitch

Ground floor, perfumery, stationery and leather goods, wigs and haberdashery, kitchenware and food... going up You know you've made it when you have a lift built into your semi-detached house. Mrs W wonders what would happen if you got stuck between floors. Doesn't bear thinking about really. I'm not convinced it's an elevator at all. I think it's a shower. And if you can still shower together in your twilight years, it's really quite touching. Obviously, once you reach a certain age, you don't take your clothes off.

What does a grand buy you these days?

Someone on Facebook was telling me the other day that it costs £1,000 a week to keep someone in prison in the UK. It struck me that this is a very similar price to the bills often levied by some of the smarter residential nursing homes. Come to think of it, you'd probably pay the same amount for a hotel too. A grand is the going rate, wherever you want to stay. Travelling salesman? Confused nonagenerian? Mass murderer? One large please.

A touch of Clas

Wandering around Clas Ohlson before Christmas (via the pre-ordained route beloved of Scandinavian stores), I was struck by the truly bizarre smorgasbord of stuff they sell. One minute, it's stationery and household electricals. The next, it's... err... lifejackets. Lifejackets? Not just the odd one either. A whole wall of them. Tumbleweed billowing past the shelves, as nearby shoppers head off to find a Bosch ALB 18 LI Leaf Blower. It's difficult to imagine quite why Clas Ohlson anticipates this level of demand. And given that no one would ever suspect that they actually sold lifejackets anyway, who could possibly be buying? Is there casual passing trade? "Did you get the lever-arch files, darling?" "No, but I tell you what. I found something else to stop you drowning in paperwork." Sink or swim: Swedish retailer Clas Ohlson tries to corner the market in lifejackets in suburban London

How I found God on the tube

I glanced this morning at an ad on the London Underground promoting the 'award-winning' Christian Connection dating website. The headline makes an astonishing claim, which must surely be causing consternation at the Advertising Standards Authority: 'God knew you would read this'. Of course, we're aware that the Lord moves in mysterious ways. But the fact that this extends to precision targeting of commuters in ambient advertising campaigns still comes as something of a shock. Let's take the message at face value for a moment.  God clearly has you on his radar and knows that you're a good Christian, who is seeking a like-minded partner. He's decided, in His wisdom, to sponsor a particular dating site - perhaps because of its award-winning credentials. But there's a problem. You don't know the site exists. This leaves God with only one option: advertising. He can guide you to the posters by getting you to sit in particular carriages. But the poster