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Showing posts from 2016

Extra Texture

It's difficult to know what to make of this claim from celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. He adds greater texture to his pasta so that it 'holds more sauce'.  This begs a number of questions: Does more sauce really cling to his enhanced pasta? Is sauce being clingy really such a good thingy? And if the sauce weren't 'held' by the pasta, what disaster would befall the diner?  Surely they could just spoon it up from the plate or lick their bowl clean?  

Which way to the Athlete's Foot powder? Only answer if you can pass a psychometric test.

If you were a retail store, how fussy would you be about who worked as an assistant on the shop floor? I reckon you're entitled to be choosy. After all, you probably have quite a few applicants. And these people are going to be ambassadors for your business and have direct contact with your customers. So would you be interested in a personable young woman, who's just started in the Sixth Form and is looking for a Saturday job? Someone who got eight A*s at GCSE, is currently studying for A-Levels and is bright and ambitious? A person who has already gained shop experience on a voluntary basis with a charity and has direct experience of retail customer service? Given that she'd be working for minimum wage, I'd say this was a pretty good deal, wouldn't you? But when one of my daughters recently applied for a part-time role advertised at Boots, she couldn't even get an interview. Why? She was rejected on the basis of bizarre online tests. The first set of

Tempted by tube chat? Here are my top tips to avoid getting sucked in.

The decision by Transport for London to encourage people to talk to each other on the tube has met with understandable derision from citizens of the Smoke. The first rule of the UK capital - and the very glue that holds together its social fabric - is that no one makes conversation. Or eye contact preferably. If you are feeling remotely tempted to wear one of the new badges that signals your willingness to engage in idle banter ('Baby, I'm Bored'), here are some suggestions to help suppress your urges. It's a process a Hampstead psychotherapist would call sublimation and it can come in very useful. 1. Isn't there another level of Candy Crush you could aim for? 2. If that's not your type of crush, go back and and re-read Rush Hour Crush in the Metro . 3. See if you can find a mouse on the platform or tracks. Hold a conversation with them instead. 4. Ostentatiously do your make-up - a process which can often last quite happily from Theydon Bois

Saint Jeremy? We may have to wait a while yet.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta is in the news at the moment, as she’s been elevated by the Vatican to sainthood. I admit that I’m not fully up to speed with the criteria for canonisation, so I’ve visited the Saints for Dummies web page to check whether Jeremy Corbyn also qualifies. (It’s written by a couple of priests, so it must be kosher.) My mission has been prompted by the way in which some of Jez’s loyal supporters talk about him online. Take this example, for instance, of someone writing to the bizarre Corbynista blog Vox Political and comparing the Islington North MP to the author J K Rowling. The Harry Potter author is noted as having the ‘Judas Trait’ about her, which stands in stark contrast to the Labour Leader.  The correspondent notes that Mr Corbyn is a man ‘who did not let fame go to his head and instead, rather than paying lip service to human suffering, was actually willing to do something to alleviate it’. It’s certainly a touching portrait of an in

The sit-down protest that doesn't stand up

Traingate is the kind of political flashpoint that has all the hallmarks of a peculiarly British farce.   The Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition camps out on the floor of a Virgin carriage making a propaganda film about nationalising the railways. He claims his predicament is due to overcrowding, but the billionaire entrepreneur who owns the train company (and presumably doesn’t much like the idea of nationalisation) releases CCTV footage to show that there were, in fact, empty seats. And from that starting point, what’s our ultimate destination? Who the hell knows? But we have all kinds of fantastic station stops to visit along the way. Perhaps the empty seats were reserved? Maybe they had bags on them? Or young kids? It may have been that Jez was keen to spend time with Mrs Corbyn III, but couldn’t find a double berth in which to chit-chat about his anti-austerity policies. The train, according to Mr Corbyn, was ‘ram packed’. But when aides tried to contact

En quête d'authenticité

I remember visiti ng Gruyères in Switzerland some years ago – home to that rather tasty cheese you can buy in upmarket stores. It was an extraordinarily well-preserved medieval town, crammed with history and atmosphere. But somehow or other, it had managed to transform itself into a theme park, complete with shops selling toy cows that yodelled when you pressed a button. It would be a little harsh to say that Èze – a heavily-marketed village in southern France – has enveloped itself in Swiss cheese too. But it’s surely just a yodel away. The tumbling, ramshackled and ancient streets spiral around a hill. It’s a little like a miniature version of the neighbouring Principality of Monaco, as no matter which way you turn, you end up in the same place over and over again. But instead of superyachts, casinos and Russian oligarchs, Èze boasts endless shops and eateries – each catering in one way or another for the tourists that it attracts. Every nook contains a nick-nack tha

Who is the real face of Brexit?

The picture painted of the typical Brexit voter is of an angry, disenchanted individual in Labour’s working-class heartlands or a brash right-winger at a market stall in a place like Romford.   I’m sure many do fall into these categories. My hunch, however, is that your average ‘Leave’ supporter is someone far more nondescript and anonymous. They live in a fairly decent house in a little modern development, somewhere a few miles outside a moderate-sized town. They drive to work along the same stretch of motorway each morning and complain endlessly about the traffic they encounter near Junction 8. They usually bring a packed lunch, but occasionally nip out to Morrisons at lunchtime. They try not to spend more than £3.99 and like meal deals. They don’t find their job hugely exciting, but they like the people they work with. There’s a Fantasy Football league and last year half a dozen fellow employees travelled down to London to see a show. There are one or tw

If you look down, you'll see Barking

Reality TV is a genre that truly has no boundaries. Like the universe, it can only expand endlessly until eventually, one day, it collapses in on itself. We've seen reality TV shows about animals. And we've seen plenty which challenge people to try things they've never done before. But a show which challenges canine contestants to fly a plane? It was thought to be outside the Hubble bubble. Until now. This week, I watched the culmination of the Sky TV show Dogs Might Fly , which ended with a pitbull cross managing to execute a figure of eight in UK airspace. The mutts involved in the selection process - who were all rescue animals - went through an arduous training course involving makeshift simulators on the ground. Lifted up in a harness to prevent them putting too much weight on their front paws, the dogs were taught through Pavlovian-style rewards to turn the steering wheel left and right. The would-be Luftwoofe pilots were then acclimatised to the turbulence of

They would have gotten away with it, if it weren't for those meddling kids...

Two stories from different sides of the Atlantic recently highlighted how crime fighting and investigation really can be child's play. In the UK, cops in Surrey were astonished when a group of kids formed a human arrow to point a police helicopter in the direction of two alleged criminals. As the suspects in a farm burglary case made their way across fields to escape the arm of the law, the enterprising youngsters laid themselves on the ground to act as a signal. All it took was a quick radio message from the chopper and the fleeing men were apprehended. As a number of commentators have pointed out, it seems like something straight out of Enid Blyton's Famous Five or Secret Seven stories, to which I was addicted as a kid.  It's true to say that choppers didn't feature much in Blyton. Her young sleuths were from a bygone era in which the village bobby would have been plodding by on his pushbike. And the arrow kids from Capel were on an Easter egg hunt in the