Thursday, May 31, 2007

Treble Trouble

Big Brother Amanda and Sam pictureThis time every year Karen and I risk running into a truly rare thing in our house: a row over the television.

Karen wants to immediately plug herself straight into the Big Brother psycho-idiot Wii device while I come over all sneery eyed and superior and point out how shallow, superficial, trashy and chav-like the whole premise of the show is and demand to watch something more intellectual on the other side – in this case The Apprentice (the other side being another TV channel and not celestial telly from beyond the grave).

Ok so I was straining a bit on the “intellectual” front last night but you get the picture.

And this time every year the problem is resolved in exactly the same way as it always has been:

I give in. We watch Big Brother. And I end far more addicted and wound up about the show than Karen ever could be. To the point where my many opinions about the show start infiltrating my blog...

Oh poo.

Oh who am I kidding? I love it really.

And so on with my first impressions...

My God it’s going to be a cat house this year. At the moment my ears are appalled at the sheer amount of shrieking and screaming that all those teetering, screeching, lip-glossed dolly birds are producing. Especially the twins, Amanda and Sam. “Oh you’re gorgeous!” “NO! You’re gorgeous!” Ooh! Ooh! Eek! Eek! There’s too much treble! My ears can’t take it.

Christ. They sound like the mice from Bagpuss. Put a sock in it please. Or preferably a soggy old cloth cat. Just make it a big one.

My faves at the moment are Tracey “avin it large, yeah come an get sum, I’m well phat” Beaker (or whatever her real surname is) – mainly because she reminds me of a female cross between Prodigy front man, Keith Flint and the Tyres character from Spaced – and glum man-hating Nicky. I think The Nickster will be something of a dark horse.

Most frightening woman in the house is undoubtedly Carole who resembles the Viz character Millie Tant so closely I was also waiting for Mrs Brady Old Lady to appear... I can already foresee a host of BO based explosions rocking the foundations of not only the house itself but also all that caked on twenty-something make-up.

God I’m a bitch.

Channel Four need to get me in the house!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Gut Rot

I’m mystified by the Government’s / Industry’s sudden decision to put health warning labels onto bottles and cans of alcohol. I mean, it’s not as if people aren’t aware of how dangerous alcohol can be when it’s abused. For most people that’s part of the attraction.

Alcohol when abused is a poison. As is nicotine. As is heroin, cocaine, paracetymol, chip fat, petrol, Lego, dog turds, windmills, Victoria Beckham and a great many other things... I just can’t be bothered to compile the complete list.

If people already know all this and still go out binge drinking – still go out on the razz with the full intention of vomiting up both kidneys, their liver and their sphincter muscles in a hot sorbet of assorted lagers, beers and spirits – what good are warning labels going to do? Aside from being a point of comic interest somewhere along the lines of approaching inebriation?

Let’s face it if we’re going to start putting health warnings onto things to warn people of their potentially dangerous properties I can think of a hundred and one other items that warrant health warnings far more urgently that a bottle of Drambuie.

What about cars? What about carving knives. What about salt?

What about humanity per se?

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Exam Over!

And boy am I glad.

In the end it wasn’t too bad though having it at 2.00 yesterday afternoon effectively meant the entire day was wiped out: a whole morning of pre-exam stress and then the actual 3 hour exam in the afternoon. After which I was good for nothing at all but food and Doctor Who.

Thankfully I’d been lucky with what I’d selected to revise – there were questions available that covered all the topics I felt most comfortable with so I at least managed to write something fairly sensible for the three hours.

Well. At least I think it was fairly sensible.

I’m now undertaking the traditional post exam post mortem… analysing what I wrote and coming to the conclusion that, actually, the majority of it was an absolute pile of twaddle.

Still, there’s nowt I can do about it now. It’s just a matter of waiting for the results…

Watch this space.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Apologies Expected

Jade Goodey pictureI’m not sure how I feel about the recent announcement that Channel 4 is to be forced to apologize no less than three times for last year’s Celebrity Big Brother racism row. Or Shilpa-gate as it’s come to be known.

Sure Channel 4 is culpable in some measure for how the whole debacle spiralled out of hand in the first place. They should have stepped in immediately and given warnings to Jade Goodey, Jo O’Meara and Danielle Lloyd the minute they overstepped the mark. Let’s face it they’re always quick enough to step in when some of the petty BB house rules get broken. Nipping it in the bud early would have avoided the international row that then ensued, saved Shilpa Shetty from having to suffer such an abominable ordeal and (very low down on anyone’s list of priorities) possibly saved Jade, Jo and Danielle from career ruination.

But the people who really should be apologizing in my book are the three witches themselves. I think Channel 4 should get Jade, Jo and Danielle back into the studio to make some very public, very grovelling, very fulsome apologies. Nobody forced them to act the way they did and no matter how manipulative the BB bosses are there’s no evidence that they actively encouraged any of the racist behaviour.

As far as I’m concerned the buck stops with the bullies.

Make them pay!

And then burn them at the stake!

(Tune in next week to read my well articulated arguments to bring back the birch, the stocks, flogging, hanging and Madame Guillotine...)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Gone-House

Greenhouse pictureHello and welcome to Gardener’s Corner...

Yes, the wife and I spent the entire weekend playing Charlie Dimmock and Alan Titchmarsh in our many acred garden. I’ll leave it up to you to guess who played which role.

What brought on this sudden splurge on greenfingeredness?

Answer: getting rid of the humungous greenhouse that came with the house when we bought it back in March of this year.

I’d actually put the ruddy thing on eBay for the princely sum of £1 with the proviso that the buyer must collect and dismantle it and I quite expected to get no more than a tenner for it.

Imagine my surprise then when it sold for a whopping £142!

A nice gardening mad couple from Northants bought it and the poor things spent 7 hours on Sunday taking it down. I actually felt quite sorry for them as none of us had any idea it would require quite so much work. It seems the original construction crew had sealed every individual pane of glass so the poor gardeners from eBay had to painstakingly cut every single pane of glass out before they could unscrew the frame. Talk about determination. Amazingly they only broke 4 panes which is pretty good going.

Anyway, we felt so sorry for them we ended up refunding them £40. I know. We’re soft touches but as I said I would have been happy with a tenner provided someone else did all the hard work of taking the greenhouse away.

Not that I’m a complete lazy dog you, understand – I spent most of Saturday and Sunday with my loppers and my trimmers hacking back the Forest of Arden that had sprung up around the greenhouse and its environs and uncovering various lost cities and civilizations that had risen and fallen in the verdant depths of the undergrowth.

I worked up quite a sweat I can tell you.

Now, as you can see from the before-and after photo, our garden feels like it’s gained a couple of extra acres with all the space that has been opened up. The plan is to move the paving slabs nearer the house to make a patio and then to turf over the area where the greenhouse once stood thus extending the lawn even more.

After that who knows? Herbaceous borders. Vegetable gardens. Roman water features.

Whatever. Charlie and I will be sure to fork and trowel our eager little bulbs into the hot earthy beds with fertile abandon...

Oo-er? Or Oh-ar?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Degree

Oh God Oh God Oh God.

It’s exam time again.

I’ve been doing a part time English degree at nearby Warwick University for the last decade (I kid you not) and am facing yet another exam this weekend. Yes. All plans to disappear somewhere green and hilly over the Bank Holiday weekend break have gone boobs up as they’ve placed my exam smack back in the middle of Saturday afternoon. Gits.

3 hours of 18th Century Literature.

Oh goody. Swift, Pope and Johnson. And oodles of Samuel Richardson’s interminable "Pamela".

And do you think I can get my head around the revision?

Uh uh.

No matter how hard I try I just cannot summon up any enthusiasm for any of the works on this year’s module. I’ve found the year to be very heavy going, back breakingly dry and chokingly dusty.

Still. I shouldn’t complain really. Doing the course part time, I only have 1 module to revise for as opposed to 4 like the poor full timers. And in another 2 years I’ll be completely done and (hopefully) degree'd up like a good ‘un.

Next year I’ve got "Poetry: 1945 to the Present". Much more up my street.

Until then, in lieu of a weekend away, it’s back to Gulliver’s Travels...

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Oven Ready

Michelle Collins picClass episode of Doctor Who last night.

My favourite line was Miss Jones panicked comment to the Doctor – “You’re defrosting!”

It made the Doctor sound like a Bernard Matthews’ oven ready meal. Hell, given her constant moocow eyes over the sonic screwdrivered one, I’m sure she’d be quite happy to tuck in to his thick piecrust pastry with or without gravy, hot or cold, any day of the week.

So is Mr Tennant a slice of prime Aberdeen Angus beef steak or just a mouldy old bit of ham from the back of the freezer?

Hmm. I suspect the former. I thought the whole cast were superb last night and Michelle Collins handled the Ripley-esque role of McDonnell excellently.

Now there was a hot dish. I have to say she was looking damn good.

Just a couple of seconds in the microwave and she’d be done...

Ping!

Ready to serve…

Friday, May 18, 2007

Boot Hill

Cat boots pictureIt is today that, with a heavy heart, I say goodbye to a faithful pair of old boots who have stuck by me through thick and thin, carried me up and down ladders, skipped me passed aggressive street vendors and protected my delicate littlie tootsies from the offensive wattle and daub of dog turds for the last 18 months.

Their time has come. Much as I love them I am now too embarrassed to be seen (dead) in them. Click on the photo above and you will see why.

Scuffed. Ripped. Split. Collapsed. The polish corrupted into white streaks. They have had their day.

Instead they are to be replaced by a great stonking pair of toe-tector Cat boots of the highest calibre (above right). We’re talking industrial safety wear here. We’re talking boots that can crush hand grenades beneath their heels. Boots that can kick completely through Kevlar body armour. Boots that would make the American military weep in ecstatic envy.

World, I’m a-coming to get yer.

Booted and suited.

Leathered up like a good ‘un.

Down at heel but up with the best.

You can all kiss my eyeholes.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Electric Boogaloo

I have just survived the maddest two days at work that I’ve ever experienced in my life.

Day One. On Tuesday afternoon a burning smell was reported coming from the main electric metre of the building. Investigation revealed not only an overpowering smell of burning wires but also an inordinate amount of heat emanating from the metre box and the cable housing beneath.

I’m not a trained electrician but even I know that’s not a good sign.

Cue various visits from various electricians and experts who all, to a man, sucked their teeth, nodded, oohed and aahed and basically said there was an imminent risk of fire and/or explosion.

We promptly evacuated. The building that is. Though the public were amazingly nonchalant about getting out of the danger zone. The internet junkies from the Library’s cyber café had to be dragged away twitching and sobbing about their abridged chatroom romances. Old ladies had to go to the loo just to spend that last penny. And we even had a Christian group in the Assembly Room who refused to leave early because God’s work was far more important than saving their own hides – though they were lightening fast at demanding compensation for their lost room hire. God certainly moves in mysterious ways.

As do the electricity board. They turned up around 7.30pm, took a look at the metre and cable intake, isolated it, shrugged their shoulders and said they’d see us in the morning around 9.0am. Ta-ta.

Great.

Except that the building only has battery back-up power for a maximum of 8 hours. Which meant that all the fire alarms, security alarms, heating, IT facilities, and all other essential services all died around 1.0 am the next morning leaving the entire building – including the Art Gallery with an art and object collection worth millions of pounds – completely “unprotected”.

To add to our problems most of the external doors to the building are electronically operated. Without power they all defaulted to open so absolutely anybody could have walked in off the street and helped themselves to whatever was available. Hence my boss, Jeff, and I were stuck at work until 10.30pm getting all the doors secured with a local carpenter. This involved nailing planks of wood across them on the inside so that they couldn’t be opened and swapping the electronic lock on one door with a mechanical lock so that at least staff with a key could get back into the building again the next day.

Day Two. Back at work to find the place in total darkness and quietude. The electricity board arrived at 9.45am (as opposed to 9.0am) and straight away brewed up for a cup of tea. I guess it’s all a question of priorities.

While the building staff milled about in the penumbral atmosphere, reading newspapers by the light of their mobile phones and basically making use of the shadows for whatever nefarious purposes that took their fancy I ran about trying to coordinate the “clean up” operation so that when power was restored at 12.30pm I was able to lead in a team of engineers, alarm experts and IT boffins to restore the full range of exciting services that my place of work usually offers.

By 3.0pm we were back on-line. All systems go. Sorted. Open for business. Hallelujah.

Except at 4.30pm there was yet another reported smell of burning coming from the electricity metre...

Aaaargh! Here we go again. Sigh.

Anyway the current state of play is this: the smell (and this is from the mouths of top-notch high level experts) is merely the new unit “bedding in”. All is kosher. All is well. It’s fine, gov. Have a cup of tea. Praise the Lord. Nothing to worry about. Nothing to worry about at all.

Worry? I’m too effing knackered to worry.

Night-night all.

Monday, May 14, 2007

X Rated

Nigella Lawson picBeing a rainy Monday morning and having submitted to the burden of total and utter boredom, I have been lately musing on the way modern movies are certificated.

When I was a kid it was all very austere and straight forward. “12”, “15” and “18” told you all you needed to know and all the really good films were inevitably rated “X”. Hmm. You know, I never saw enough X rated movies as a kid. I feel heartily deprived.

Nowadays though it’s not enough to simply slap an age label onto a film. No. As a tiresome bonus we also get a load of PC-hogswhallop, soft-soap terminology thrown into the mix for free.

Stuff like:


  • “May contain mild violence.”

  • “Moderate language.”

  • “Occasional sexual references.”


Der? What is moderate language anyway? Ecclesiastical Latin?

Anyway, it made me think how infinitely fuller and more rich our lives would be if such gradings were also applied to television programmes.


Hmm...

I’m sure you could think up loads more. But only if you’re bored.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Fosters

Fosters lager pictureOne of the more "exciting" elements to my job is dealing with complaints from the general public – bless their little white cotton socks – and such complaints usually centre around the state of the toilets in the Art Gallery / Library complex where I work.

The fact that they are PUBLIC toilets and therefore their state is entirely down to the abuse and depravations of the PUBLIC themselves never seems to occur to the officious little tell-tale twits when they come and offload their tale of wee-wee woe upon me, of course.... no; suddenly the situation is entirely my fault and what am I going to do about it?

If the cleaner has knocked off for the day that question is usually answered by me donning a pair of industrial strength rubber gloves and grabbing a plunger the like of which was last scene surmounting a mediaeval lance tip... straight in and no messing, that’s my motto.

Yesterday saw me up to my elbows in Marigolds once more.

Apparently a report had come in of a great pile of beer cans clogging up the gent’s toilets and rendering them utterly unusable.

So off I trotted expecting the worst and what did I find?

A single can of Fosters – surprisingly empty – dropped nonchalantly into the toilet bowl. It wasn’t even wedged into the S bend but just floating like a tuberous blue lily upon the surface of the water.

Wow.

Now that is either one hell of an eloquent lager review or some joker just decided to cut out the middle man.

Or someone was disturbed trying to get a refill...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

How To Look Good Naked

Gok Wan pictureWhat the hell is going on with Channel 4?

Tuesday night’s have suddenly become bap-night. I actually lost count of the number of "hooters" (Gok’s terminology) that filled my TV screen with their curvy hypnotic looks on this week’s episode of How To Look Good Naked.

Gok Wan (his REAL name) is taking the pre 9 O’clock watershed by the scruff of its neck, ripping away its halter neck and exposing it’s sumptuously bouncing breasts to the whole wide world. What a guy!

In fact forget the 9 O’clock watershed: Tuesday nights barely tip over into 8 pm and Gok is bopping us with big boobs a-plenty... all in the name of fashion and reality TV you understand.

Despite the increased number of male viewers that the show is undoubtedly acquiring the whole premise is oddly un-titillating (no pun intended). There’s nothing salacious or unsavoury about Gok’s agenda. He seems a genuinely warm, caring, funny, intelligent guy and scores a major hit on the old gaydar. Maybe that’s part and parcel of how he gets away with it? From a female point of view he is completely unthreatening – his attentions are purely aesthetic as opposed to sexual – and ordinary women are falling all over themselves to celebrate their baptitiousness and get their jugs out on national TV. It’s bloody marvellous.

The best thing about Gok’s school of thought is that no surgery is needed or even endorsed. There are no fantastically expensive hairdos or make-up jobs. What Gok seems to genuinely want to celebrate is the natural beauty inherent in us all. Gok’s major gift is his innate ability to instil confidence in people – even those shy, wilting, wall-flowers among us who can barely look ourselves in the eye let alone anyone else. It’s a refreshingly compassionate feel-good approach and I have to confess to being a big Gok fan.

Gok’s a great guy and will undoubtedly move onto to bigger things.

Meanwhile I have sent my CV to Channel 4. I’m a hands-on kind of guy and I’m ready to take over the post of show compere as soon as he leaves...

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Appraisal

David Brent pictureLast week I had my annual appraisal with my boss, Jeff. Neither of us particularly like the appraisal process because we both know that at heart it’s just another feel-good paperwork exercise with which our employer – the Local Authority – likes to burden its staff. So everybody goes through the motions but no-one really takes it seriously and another three sheets of A4 paper get bunged to the back of the filing cabinet along with the Public Complaints file.

The only good thing about the whole exercise is that my boss usually holds the meeting in the rather informal setting of the café and buys me the hot beverage of my choice out of his own pocket. The fact that we get a 15 percent discount is neither here nor there.

Anyway, as appraisals go it wasn’t at all bad. I got my back slapped. I got praised. I got thanked for all my hard work and effort over the last 12 months. And I got an admission from Jeff that my job description needed to be updated to reflect how the post has grown and changed over the last few years to encompass all manner of new and weighty responsibilities.

It was at this point that I (reasonably) thought to ask if there would be a fiscal element to this updating process...

To which my boss smiled and assured me that he foresaw no need to reduce my salary in the near future.

Oh ho ho.

That’s all I need.

A boss with a sense of humour.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

David Blaine - What The F?!?!

Two of the funniest, laugh out loud movies I've seen in a long time... Genuinely hilarious scripts and ingenious camera work. Enjoy.



Friday, May 04, 2007

Doctor Who Exclusive!

Having lived for most of my life in the completely land-locked town of Leamington Spa I was mystified when a friend found a web site this morning that purported to tell the history of the Leamington Spa Life Boat Museum. It waxed lyrical about the brave life boat men of Leamington Spa as they risked their all on the high seas to save stricken sailors along the rough Leamington Spa coastline.

Leamington also appeared to have uprooted itself from deepest Warwickshire in the very heart of the country and re-sited itself near Carlisle on completely the wrong side of the UK!

What the hell was going on? Had I entered an alternative reality?

Almost.

Further investigation revealed that the source of this mystery lay with the BBC and Doctor Who. Follow the links below to find out more:

http://www.leamingtonspalifeboatmuseum.co.uk

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doctor_Who_tie-in_websites#Leamington_Spa_Lifeboat_Museum

Future visitors to Leamington Spa please note: life jackets will not be fitted as standard.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Pig’s Ear

Paul The Apprentice picAbsolutely classic moment on The Apprentice last night – it had me and Karen howling with laughter.

Having been sent over the Channel by Sir Al to try and sell the best of English food produce to the damned Frenchies, the two teams found themselves battling Gallic snobbery and themselves in their bid to bag the biggest profits...

The best moment for me was when Posh Paul – ex army officer toff in the mould of Captain Darling – tried to sell his cheapo English pork sausages to a bemused French Halal butcher. How Mr French Boucher remained so calm is beyond me. He very patiently pointed out that not only was he a Muslim but he was also fasting for Ramadan...

It took several painful seconds for these facts to sink into Posh Paul’s ham-like brain. You could practically smell the spare ribs cooking over an absurdly low flame.

Ah. Anglo-French relations strained once more...

Posh Paul? Tim Nice But Dim, more like. Dolt.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

The X Fix

Bouncer pictureVery disappointing news from my friend, “Wilson”, who went along to the NEC in Birmingham to audition for The X Factor on Monday.

From what he’s reports he and the vast number of applicants were barely given a decent bite at the showbiz cherry.

After waiting nearly three hours for his slot Wilson was shoved into a tiny room no bigger than a portaloo where a very bored researcher sat on a chair composing a text message on his mobile phone. The researcher didn’t even look up or acknowledge Wilson’s presence. Luckily Wilson was prepared for this rudeness after hearing the accounts of his fellow X Factor hopefuls who’d auditioned before him... and it seems this ignorance and disrespect was generously ladled out to all applicants no matter what their standard. I suppose we ought to be thankful for this half hearted attempt at equality.

Wilson refused to sing until the guy looked up and made eye contact. Apparently the guy looked shocked that Wilson could actually sing properly but as soon as the piece was over he promptly waved his hand in dismissal and said, “Sorry, not this time.”

End of audition.

From what Wilson has learned this was par for the course for all of the applicants. All rather callous and offensive I’m sure you’ll agree.

Now before people start casting aspersions of “hard cheese” Wilson has made it clear to me that there were some amazing singers among the applicants – really terrific – but they were all treated in the same bored, offhand manner. The general consensus among applicants on the day was that a very definite pre-selection process was taking place in line with some sort of hidden agenda. Selection was taking place according to a rigid quota system based on who knows what kind of demographic. Your singing voice was not the deciding factor.

Anyway, Wilson is heartily cheesed off with the whole affair and I can certainly understand his chagrin. All that effort for nothing.

But, I personally think that just having the guts to go for the audition in the first place is quite an achievement and something to be proud of. I certainly couldn’t have done it. And it’s certainly a valuable experience too – albeit a rather crappy one.

Last time I spoke to Wilson he’d received offers from local bands to join them for jamming sessions and various people wanted CDs of his stuff. All promising opportunities, I’m sure you’ll agree, which I hope he’ll seize with both hands.

Who needs Simon Cowell and the approval of his ilk anyway?

X Factor? X Factoff!