Thursday, August 31, 2006

Liar liar

We were comparing liars last night, there seems to be three kinds. Firstly, those who lie deceitfully, these are mean and nasty people and, obviously, nobody you know (who are all kind and truthful).

Then there those who lie, or at least stretch the truth, in such a way that ensures they participate in major events (therefore becoming more interesting). For example, I know someone who once went to India and became email friends with someone who worked with someone whose husband was killed in the recent bombings in Mumbai. This meant they apparently had to spend hours on the phone in some kind of undefined relief effort (the trauma she claimed to have suffered was terrible). These people have come out of the woodwork a little more recently with the revelation that one of the July 7th bombers lived in Aylesbury and that the alleged airline plotters were from High Wycombe. Now everyone knows someone who has walked past a shop owned by someone who lives just round the corner from where the investigations are happening.

The best, of course, are those people who start on a story, then, when they don't get the reaction they want embellish and embellish, until, oops, they've gone into the world of obvious fantasy. Our favourites was the woman who claimed a nearby gas explosion blew her tights off, this was the same women who claimed she was feeding some exotic birds for a friend that were so big, when you went in they would put their enormous wings around you in some kind of thankful hug. There was also my dad's friend from school who used to excuse himself from going out because he was competing in the national moped championships at Wembley, or because Bob Dylan was coming round for tea.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

F off

I hated The F Word, which finished slightly too long ago for me to write about it with any credibility.

[pauses, thinks, shrugs, carries on]

The basic problem with any cookery programme is that you can't taste the food. No matter how closely a show's guest exudes simple orgasmic pleasure from tasting the partridge and banana fricassee you will never know what it will taste like.

So, the next best thing is to be equipped with the information to make the dish in order to taste it. A recipe supported with some instructions on what goes where, Deliah Smith style. Ramsay dispenses with such triviality; he cooks, sure, but he doesn't tell you what he's cooking or how. So, stripped of any value, the programme is little more than self-conciously over-styled claptrap fronted by a man who says fuck. A lot. This is the essence of the programme. Oh, and killing the pigs he's raised as pets in front of his kids, which may actually be child abuse.

Pig killing and swearing aside, he also instigated his own campaign; clearly smarting from Jamie Oliver's ascendance to deity status with his school dinners thing. The best that Ramsay came up with was an amnesty on cookery books. So not only does the programme fail to enrich us with any cooking knowledge; it tries to take away some that we have.

Personally, I would like to see Ramsay campaigning on something useful; like Casseroles or human cheese. The casserole, we're told, is a good wholesome dinner; warming and tasty. This defies all modern logic; a food can't be good when you put all the ingredients in the same pot and cook it for days. And then there's human cheese. A baby can't drink cow's milk but a baby can only drink milk whereas humans drink almost exclusively cow's milk. This doesn't make any sense. Why do we drink cow's milk? Would you find it odd to watch a cow suckling a human? Of course, shouldn't we, as humans, be drinking human milk? And therefore human cheese? I did start to Google this, but what you find quickly becomes unpleasant.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The olds town

We had an evening meeting in Newcastle to put out a small work related forest fire. After an unexpectedly swift and positive conclusion we retired for a celebratory drink.

Our fifty-something, perhaps sixty-something, Geordie host and guide walked us down to a pub by the river, but not before admiring the 'winking eye' bridge and more specifically, it's hydraulic action.

Eventually we entered a pub with thundering pop-dance being played over the PA. The four of us had a combined age of around 190, the average reduced significantly by the presence of me and a colleague, not that this seemed to matter to the man who could have been the father to those around him. We were surrounded by immaculately dressed twenty-somethings, like an explosion at the cleavage factory. And this was a Thursday. The art of dressing up to go out was briefly lamented before leaving.

Having had only a sandwich, and it approaching 9pm, most of us were in that funny place between needing food and being OK for the time being. We decided to get a quick snack. We were lead over the winking eye bridge to Gateshead an old flour mill which was now a swish restaurant. It was closed.

The need for food was then apparently forgotten because we decided we needed to see the Sage Gateshead. Our host, an engineer obsessed with engineering (and not apparently food), took us through the minutiae of its construction before persuading a sleepy night porter to show us around one of the empty auditoriums.

We crossed back over to Newcastle and headed, finally, for something to eat. It was getting on for 10pm and we only wanted a snack, so we were met with a plethora of brilliant excuses for not serving us; my personal favourite being 'sorry we can't serve an espresso with a starter after 9.30, I have to go on a course for that'.

After several false starts and another stopover for a drink, we were accepted at Big Mussel for a half kilo bowl. We then strolled back towards our hotel, but not before quickly going to see the the nearby station, which just happened to have a bar in it.

Eventually we got back to the hotel for a final drink. That was a night out in Newcastle as defined by a semi-retired engineer. In structure, it was rather alien to me; we'd had about 4 drinks in about 8 pubs and one meal from 6 attempts. All of which was less unusual than returning home with an unhealthy understanding of the engineering merits of the city's finest landmarks.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Facing reality

'Would you want to be on Big Brother?' said Jo as Big Brother ground to its inevitable conclusion. 'Nah' said Lucy resignedly 'the public would hate me, I'm an acquired taste.'

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Nik off

A Big Brother contestant is like a pot of Yoghurt. Whilst kept inside its sealed container it's at its best. Once released, and exposed to the open air, it needs to be consumed quickly before it goes off and tastes like crap.

Which is why Nikki's reintroduction to the Big Brother house is such a disaster. Contaminated by the outside world she's spoiling all those still inside.

What is the point of re-introducing housemates? The final week should be like the last stage of the Tour de France, which is always a celebratory cruise through the streets of Paris. The competition should effectively be over, no more shocks or twists. And there is nothing better than having three emotionally drained people self conciously trying to have the time of their lives in an empty TV studio on the penultimate night.

Meanwhile, Glyn has turned into a proper turd in recent weeks. He hasn't been exposed to the outside world, although in a sense he has. He now realises that people are divided into more categories than just 'Welsh' and 'Others'.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Evenin' all

Odd being an evening-only invite to a wedding. The official history will not record your appearance unless the bride and groom have paid a little extra for a bit of reportage evening photography. Your existence is largely inconsequential; the important people are the ones who have been there all day. This is not a bad thing; not everyone can be special, and anyone who expects an all-day pass really has too high an opinion of themselves, unless you're the parents who've paid for the thing, of course. 

An evening-only guest has their own issues to deal with. What to wear? A suit may suggest that you expected an invite to the real deal, jeans are too casual. Maybe the more experienced fifty-something men at the bar (wives on the dancefloor, barefooted, swaying out of time in a sequin dress) have got it right by playing it down the middle in a pair of comfy slacks and a nice polo shirt (St Christopher chain optional).

Ingratiating yourself into the party is hard. Drink-wise, you're miles behind everyone else; meaning ascendance to the dance floor for a bit of Dexy's is somewhat slower than the more oiled all-dayers. What's more, a well-oiled all-dayer is more likely to sling a friendly, but wholly offensive; "you fucking boring bastard" at you for not sidling dancefloor-wise with appropriate gusto. When the wedding DJ says "let's take a walk down to Itchycoo Park with the Small Faces and a song they call [pause] Itchycoo Park" you want to heckle, or at least laugh until snot comes out of your nose, but you instead find yourself agreeing with some random uncle that the DJ is really good. You then pray he doesn't put his arm around you to encourage you to join in with a bit of "It's all too beautiful" whilst Uncles pint sloshes over your head. The DJ on Saturday announced that the buffet was open and then cut into the next record to tell us that he was enjoying his bacon sandwich from it. He also air guitar-ed to McFly.

Being more sober than pretty much everyone; your graces remain largely intact, social mores suggest you should pick out the happy couple to congratulate them, but by this point they're not together (in parallel with the aforementioned slacks-and-polo-shirt couple; bride, on dancefloor beaming, groom, resting pint on his belly near the bar or avoiding eye-contact with Mum's Best Friend who wants to slow dance with him to Careless Whisper). Anyway, you know they have more important things to do, so keeping your distance is probably more appropriate. Even if you do talk to them the conversation is flighty, superficial and half finished; of course it is, they've got hundreds of people to get through. If the bride beams at you and wraps her arms around you in a wave of unbridled euphoria; you can't then start saying that you've got a bit of a cold and are feeling under the weather. Tell her she looks beautiful and ask her whether she's had a great day, and then leave it at that.

Still, you don't have any lines to remember and you're don't contribute to the plot (unless your way of congratulating the bride is by squeezing her bum and trying to stick your tongue down her throat). And at least you're not the Philippino second wife/twenty something toy-boy of octogenarian great aunt/drunk in a trilby at the reception who nobody knows.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Little Britain

It was the Ruffles' first family holiday this week. We stayed at the stunningly beautiful Pennard Hill Farm in Somerset. Resisting the temptation to call it a baby farm, which is something entirely different, it is designed to be baby friendly. This doesn't mean that it's all primary colours, face painting and teenage X-Factor rejects enthusiastically singing the theme tune to the Tweenies; it's just designed for people like us. Well, sort of, the other people staying there, who you would assume to be like us, had children called Florence and Sicily (aka 'Sistles').

The farm's whole approach is to avoid damaging children; its remoteness makes it completely safe, they have a 'eat at home' service; which is basically restaurant food delivered to your door. Even the pool is chlorine-free, it's cleaned by ultra violet lay lines or something. This meant that Millie had her first swim, which after a wobbly start she seemed to enjoy; until her daddy got a little over enthusiastic and bobbed her a too close to the surface of the water causing her to swallow half the pool and do the saddest little face ever.

Pennard Hill Farm is just round the corner (and up the hill) from Worthy Farm. Owned by Michael Eavis. Who organises the festival. The Glastonbury Festival. The farm overlooks the site though you wouldn't know it. Its not far from Burnham-on-Sea which is a classic crumbling English seaside town, which I truly wanted to enjoy. If you're a black and white photographer working for the Guardian it's probably a dream, if you're a visitor, it's pretty shit. Pound shops nestle amongst places selling fried things, fat people waddle around in England shirts and nasty gold jewellery. Part of me wants to love its English charm, but I just don't.

Having been to the festival but not the town, inevitably we also went into Glastonbury, which was much more my thing. It was full of women dressed in the fashion that fashion forgot; floaty skirts, black vest tops, leather flip flops. The men wore long wispy beards and t-shirts with purple unicorns on them. The shops are, as you'd expect, are all new agey, selling witchcraft and miscellaneous healing.

The common thing about both towns was their predicability and that they appear economically unsustainable (how can a whole town function on selling chipped porcelain dogs or healing algae?) You do start to wonder whether you're in the Truman Show that they're sophisticatedly branded theme parks, like Disney World with grit. In fact, when the fortieth numpty family blocks the pushchair whilst admiring tan leather sandals for 7.99 (for two pairs) you start to wonder whether you're being delayed whilst they set up the latest scene.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Brand new and retro

It's been Russel Brand's summer, some of his best bits:

On Jonathan Ross:

JR "You've been in trouble with the police haven't you. Tell me about that."
RB: "Well Jonathan, the thing about this story is that although you may admire my rehabilitation from my addiction to drugs I fear that by quoting the first line of this story your opinions of me will change for the negative."
JR: "Go on"
RB: "Well, I was stealing pornographic magazines from a garage..."

On Big Brother's Big Mouth:

RB: "What do you think?"
Audience member: "About [Big Brother contestant] Richard?"
RB "Yes about Richard, not about people having sex with animals we'll talk about that when we're older" [turns to stare wide eyed at the camera]

In his Guardian World Cup column:

Rooney is at least keen, even were he not so sublimely blessed. His touchingly apparent frustration mirrors the fans' and he has a crackling authenticity no amount of media training can emolliate. If he carried Max Clifford around in a knapsack relentlessly muttering into his constantly incarnadine lughole he'd still eff and blind and lash out at dug-outs.

How many pairs of boots did he remove on Tuesday? Every time the camera cut back to him he was petulantly tossing aside another boot. Was Sammy Lee acting as an obsessive-compulsive blacksmith re-shoeing him to prolong the outburst. It went on interminably. "There's Rooney throwing down his boots in disgust." It was like a tantrum from a centipede.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

A bit rich

Emma’s family are obsessed with Premium Bonds. When they all meet up they chat about who’s won what (inevitably nobody has won anything). Even dewy eyed musings about future prosperity is described in the context of Premium Bonds; ‘I’ll go and live on a paradise island when I’ve won the Premium Bonds’.

Inevitably, Millie was bought some as a present when she was born. Being just 12 weeks old, her first draw was last week… she won £50.

Newer Posts Older Posts Home