Friday, September 28, 2007

Hamble Is Evil

Playschool toysI got onto this subject by a rather weird route. Catching an episode of 10 Years Younger last night Karen and I commented on the weirdness of the weird presenter’s name – Nicky Hambleton-Jones. Not Hamilton as you’d expect but Hambleton. Odd. Well. Maybe not that odd when there’s a kid at my boy’s school called Denim (I kid you not) but I was sufficiently bored with the show to drift off in my head and from Hambleton I inexplicably ended up at Hamble and, by association, Playschool.

One of my earliest TV memories is of watching Playschool and being rather puzzled as to why a grown up presenter was playing with the soft toys and dolls. Even at that early age it struck me as incongruous and “not really quite right”.

But that is beside the point. The important thing to acknowledge is this: the Playschool toys were scary. Damn scary.

I never felt any warmth or friendliness toward or more importantly from them. They exuded mute evil and maliciousness in tones that reflected their outward appearances. They’d just sit there in the background while Brian Cant mimed eating a bowl of porridge and hurl the evil-eye at the TV screen. They never moved but you just knew their thoughts were full of death and the desire for human destruction.

The Teds looked like a furry version of the Krays – or worse, the Krankies. They’d rob you at knife point and stab you just to see the pretty strawberry pattern it made on your bib. Humpty looked like a fat, sweating pimp with horrible bacon rind lips and a lascivious smile that never ever disappeared. He personified unwholesome appetites and unnatural desires taken to bad extremes. Jemima... now Jemima you just knew was a snooty cow. A real little madam. On her own she had no real malice or ability to instil fear in anyone – not with those bandy legs. I mean she couldn’t even stand up on her own let alone run after you with a flick-knife. Somehow I suspect she was only allowed to join the Playschool toy gang because she was loaded. She had a mega rich daddy, sugar or otherwise. The rich bitch of the Playschool toys. But I bet she was viciously cruel. She’d be the one egging the others on with snide whispers.... “Go on, Big Ted, cut ‘im, cut his ear off... do it nice and slowly so’s I can see the blood... hey, do you know what they call a Big Mac in France?” A real nasty piece of work. A real bullet-maker.

But worst of all though was Hamble. The doll that looked like Elizabeth Taylor on crack cocaine. Just look at her face in the photo above. Evil. Pure unadulterated evil. Forget the polka dot print dress. She’s wearing a studded leather body-boot underneath with 9 inch heels. She’s got a bag of oranges in her satchel. She’s the ring leader. She’s the boss. And she hates children. Especially little boys. God, you can see it in her eyes. She wants to kill. She wants to maim. She wants to have endless children’s tea parties with imaginary Darjeeling and invisible cake, the sick torturing dirty bitch!

And this show was on 5 days a week for God’s sake!

Is it any wonder I was such a disturbed child?

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Galloping Gormless

The Wild GourmetsThe Wild Gourmets is obviously an attempt by Channel 4 to carve a small right-on niche for itself in the wild food corner that has for the last decade – and for good reason – been ruled solely by the King of Nettle Leaf Tea himself, Ray Mears.

Unfortunately, The Wild Gourmets, Tommi Miers and Guy Grieve, fail to establish a half decent base camp let alone set themselves up in our hearts as great survivalist leaders of the future. Ray Mears they certainly ain’t.

For one thing they patently lack the respect and reverence with which Ray Mears treats every environment he happens to find himself in and despite Guy Grieve’s constant macho flexing of his hunter-gatherer muscles the couple lack the gentle gravitas with which Ray Mears is able to entertain, instruct, befriend and, most important of all, convince all who watch his programmes.

Guy Grieve and Tommi Miers are two guffawing posh school 6th formers, too fond of Eton Mess and too fond of gasping in awe at their own mediocre achievements to really bring viewers onside. When I caught their last show I found myself subconsciously willing them to fail, anything to wipe those smug, rich-city-type-in-the-country smiles off their faces.

Guy caught a pike; cue screams of adoration from Tommi: “Oh Guy, you’re a genius!”

“Think nothing of it bitch. Now cook my meal.” Cue Guy stripping off to his short and curlies and dousing himself in fresh, ice cold river water while his smarmy voice-over informs us that he swims every day in a river near his home – come snow, rain or shine – and so sub zero temperatures mean nothing at all to him. Ha! A mite bracing is all! Tis good for the circulation don’t you know. And it makes my nips stand on end like a couple of magnificently sexy wing-nuts! Ok. He didn’t actually say any of that but he did strip off naked and give himself a “camp shower” in full view of the camera crew. Camp shower? Yeah right. That’s what I thought too. It seems to be something of a motif for Guy and I suspect he’ll be flashing his bum crack in every single programme of the current series until a lady’s top shelf magazine asks him to do a photo centrespread for them armed only with his wing-nuts and his shining, freshly polished wood axe.

What really annoys me about Tommi and Guy though is their take-take-take approach to living off the land. Twice now they’ve availed themselves of the vegetable and fruit gardens of huge houses that have just happened to be nearby (how is that “wild” food?) – given permission to take one of two items of produce they have proceeded to descend like a couple of starving locusts and help themselves to whatever they could get their finely manicured hands on. In the first episode Tommi even made light of the fact that she was essentially stealing.

Where is the respect in that?

Their attitude disgusts me. They galumph about the countryside with nothing but self-puffing arrogance and greed pouring from their mouths. Ray Mears always stresses how important it is to put something back into the environment – whether it be breaking camp in such a way that you leave no trace of yourself behind, or utilizing natural resources in such a way that the environment actually benefits from your having been there – there is very much a give-and-take ethos to Ray. He’s aware of the fine balance of both human life and the environment and the need to maintain them.

Guy and Tommi are only aware of their bank balances and the desire to acquire a quick hit of kudos from white collar business directors who like to take their management teams paint balling at the weekends to create the illusion of camaraderie. They respect nothing but their own temporary self aggrandizement. They see the environment as just something to be manipulated and played with in order to garner a free meal. They’re about as far removed from true hunter-gatherers as it’s possible to be. There’s no spirituality in what they’re doing at all and it shows.

Kit them out in khakis and a couple of pith helmets and they’ll have found their true calling.

“I say, Tommi – fancy bagging a tiger?”

Geez. The things you see in the countryside when you haven’t got a gun...


P.S. Bloggertropolis is now one year old! Hurrah! Soon be on solid food...!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Rough

Apologies for the delay in posting - for some reason Blogger has been experiencing one or two technical problems and as a result I've been unable to publish sweet FA since the weekend.

Below is the post that I've been trying to publish since Monday morning...


It’s been something of a rough few days.

Karen and I had to head over to the hospital Sunday evening as baby Tom was unusually quiet – enough to get us both quite worried. As soon as we arrived Karen was wired up to a scanning machine for 20 minutes and I’m relieved to say that all proved to be well. Not only that but there are early indications that Tom might try and pre-empt the date set for his Caesarean (9th October)...

We no sooner arrived back home than I found a telephone message from my mother reporting that my granddad had suffered a fall – a result of a high fever and an ulcerated leg – and had been admitted into the very hospital that Karen and I had just come back from! He had a comfortable night but unfortunately took a turn slightly for the worst yesterday. He's reacted against the anti-biotics they've pumped him full of and is now suffering from diarrhoea and an infection.

There was utterly no communication from Mr CM over the entire weekend. To tell you the truth it was no more than I expected and I’d had an email to him drafted up since Saturday morning informing him of my intention to take him to the Small Claims Court if I didn’t receive full payment in 7 days. I was then going to add the court costs onto the amount owing...

As it was, I received a telephone call from him yesterday at the 11th hour - a much more polite and "hey buddy" type of call than Friday's frosty dialogue - and he appeared to completely capitulate. He's asked me to divide the invoice into two separate ones and send a copy of one to himself and the other to his business partner (they're splitting the cost 50/50) and they'll see that I'm paid within the next 7 days.

Hmm. I'm not getting my hopes up too much but my instincts are that my strong stance on Friday may have moved the mountain... I'll wait and see. I've kept a copy of the draft email just in case. It may yet get an airing!

Talking of ignorant and annoying people – I never did hear anything more from the hack from the London Standard so can only assume that the piece I wrote about Nigella was either never used or was used but they couldn’t be arsed to tell me or send me a copy. Either way I’m pretty cheesed off though more disappointed with the lack of manners than the lack of publishing credit.

But as I’ve been feeling as rough as a badger’s arse for the last two days anyway I’ve consoled myself with a couple of sick days off work and have been recuperating by reading, watching TV and generally bumbling around the house in a warm and comfortable fugue… It’s actually been quite blissful.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Look Back In Anger

Yet more shenanigans with Mr Chauffeur Man today. The deadline for payment has passed and he’s still not paid me for the web site I designed and built for him. Bear in mind the site has now been live for nearly 3 months and he’s been impressed with it enough to pay for a big, fat, juicy ad in the local paper this week advertising it to all and sundry.

So I girded my young and tender loins and rang him. I’ve had enough of ignored emails and the like.

The man is the most insulting, patronizing, arrogant git I’ve ever met.

He now doesn’t think the web site is worth the £510 bill. He wants to pay me somewhere between £400 and £450.

Oh really!

This despite the fact the hourly rate was agreed at the beginning and I have two emails from him agreeing to pay my £510 invoice. This despite the fact that as a goodwill gesture I did a little extra work on the site for him a couple of weeks ago and didn’t add it to the invoice. Am I a mug or what?

I stood my ground and though I was fuming I’m glad to say I resisted the temptation to get personal. I pointed out that he agreed to the hourly rate and that I’ve kept every email from him regarding payment. I also pointed out rather tartly that his £500 web site would have cost him well over £2000 on the High Street.

I must have sounded pretty riled as he did appear to back down. He said he’d speak to his business partner and then ring me this afternoon before 5pm to “tell me their decision”; and he would bring a cheque round this evening which I could pay straight into the bank – “happy days,” so he said.

However, whether it’ll be for the full amount remains to be seen.


I’ve already decided not to accept anything but full payment. Unless I receive the full amount today I’ll be taking him to the Small Claims Court and will be advising him of that fact.

Of course my other option is to just pull the site and though it is tempting it’s (a) bad for business and (b) runs the likelihood that he’ll merely go elsewhere and I’ll still be out of pocket for 34 miserable hours of sweat, toil and more trouble than it was ever worth.

It’s rare I use the C word about anybody. But Mr CM is undeniably the biggest C I’ve ever come across.

Regardless of the final outcome; we will NOT be doing business again.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Eh?

Garnier A ZoneFunniest advert on TV at the moment is the one for Garnier's UltraLift Deep Wrinkle A Zone. Apparently it does exactly what it says on the tin and "targets deep wrinkles in your A Zone".

I know I'm being juvenile but the thought of approaching a cosmetics counter and asking for a cream that targets the deep wrinkle in my A Zone has me hooting with laughter.

How could the director of this advert have been so blind to the obvious double entendre?

What next? Are Garnier and Preparation H going to merge?

Isn't that going to be a bit messy?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Think Of A Number

Johnny BallQuite why Johnny Ball is leaping about my subconscious this morning I don’t know – but he is and he’s waving his arms about manically and spouting lots of amazing stuff about numbers, equations and surface areas and doing his damnedest to make it all sound jolly and fun.

And it works.

I hated Maths at school. Absolutely loathed it. And I hated Physics even more. Our Physics teacher, Mr Prior, resembled a leather jumpsuit wearing troglodyte with a beard bushy enough to lose Ray Mears in and who demonstrably had a pathological hatred of all secondary school pupils. Especially wimpy secondary school pupils who had utterly no grasp of the manly science of Physics. What can I say? Mr Prior rode a huge eff-off motorbike to school everyday and regularly flirted with the svelte, cool-eyed French teacher (whose name escapes me but who looked like a female version of the keyboard player from Duran Duran) while I was a weedy bespectacled nerd who found numbers and pulleys and electrons all rather boring.

And yet I was totally addicted to Johnny Ball’s Maths/Physics based educational programmes.

The man was mesmeric. A little bit insane yes but he managed to make Maths exciting and even appealing. His enthusiasm was infectious. Even a numberphobe like me found himself swept along by Johnny’s unbounded zeal for number patterns and intricate gear systems. I think Johnny’s trick was not his intelligence in his chosen subject – formidable though it was – but his ability to communicate and transfer his own passion for the subject into the hearts and minds of his viewers.

If Johnny Ball had been my teacher at school I’d be an award winning physicist by now or even better I’d have had my cherry taken by the unnamed French teacher above. Instead I’m a disgruntled civil servant who writes novels and poetry in his spare time and whose cherry wasn’t offloaded until he was nearly 30.

I kid you not.

Hmm. But maybe that’s sharing a little bit too much information?

I’m sure Johnny Ball would be able to plot an entertaining graph mapping out my divergence from manly science stuff and my headlong dive into the world of literature and not pulling anything but a cracker for three whole decades... but as he isn’t here you’ll have to make do with this 'ere blog.

In the meantime my unanswered question is this: whatever happened to Johnny Ball?

Monday, September 17, 2007

Doctor Yes Mister No

I’ve had the day off work today to accompany Karen to the hospital for a final scan of baby Thomas. I’m pleased to report that both mother and baby are progressing well and all is on target for Tom’s emergence on October 9th via caesarean section. If it’s good enough for an emperor of Rome it’s good enough for us…

The two-week limit I set my non-paying web client is now up and Mr Chauffeur Man still hasn’t coughed up the dough he owes me. Cue a short but civil email to him this morning that can best be described as “tart”.

Unless his business account is lodged with Northern Rock I’ve requested that the invoice be settled by Friday…

After that the gloves are off.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Ranking Frank

Frankie BoyleThursday evening telly has received something of a boost lately with the return of Mock The Week. Produced by the same guys that gave the UK Whose Line Is It Anyway? it builds on a similar format to pit various comedians against each other in rounds designed to test their improv skills, stand-up abilities and ad-libbed responses to topical news stories.

It’s effing hilarious and I have yet to watch a single episode where I wasn’t howling out loud with unstoppable belly laughter. That’s no mean feat on a Thursday night; the fag end of the working week.

For me the stand alone star of the show is the formidable Frankie Boyle (though I love Hugh Dennis’s unassumingly dry wit too). With a Glaswegian accent as brutal as a head-butt in your kisser Frankie Boyle is beyond sharp. The man is viciously serrated at an atomic level (but in a good way).

Quite honestly, Frankie Boyle could split a surgical laser beam lengthways with a single quip. One wrong word and Frankie’s tongue could slice off the top of your head like Sylar from Heroes performing an ad hoc lobotomy.

The man is blisteringly funny. But even better he’s blisteringly intelligent. Week after week I watch in awe as he pulls topical news stories out of the air and reconnects them in ways that seem so damned obvious once he’s done it. After I’ve finished laughing my guts up the same thought constantly reoccurs in my head: why the hell didn’t I think of that?

The man is quick. 0 to 187mph in under 2 seconds. I actually feel sorry for the other guys he’s pitted against. They look clumsy and amateurish by comparison. It’s like racing a Bugatti against a Skoda. No contest.

Best of all the man is real. There’s utterly no bullshit with Frankie. He tells it like it is; he’d rather kick you in the teeth with the truth than sprinkle a load of Canderel lies over your tongue.

The man is absolute comedy royalty.

In fact forget Forest Whittaker as Idi Amin: Frankie Boyle is the last king of Scotland!


P.S. This is my 200th post. Huzzah!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Nigella Revisited

Nigella LawsonI received something of a shock phone call yesterday afternoon. It seems a hack from the London Standard had found my Nigella Espresso post and wanted me to comment on a recent article in the newspaper that voiced the opinion that Nigella has become so verbose in her descriptions of recipes that her cook books were actually alienating the small percentage of the UK population who have a below average reading ability.

I was glad to oblige and managed to rustle up something quick during the afternoon, Steve Express style. I don’t know yet if it’s going to be used (I’ll keep you posted on that, naturally) but thought I’d post it here for your perusal.

First: a few excerpts from the original article:

“Nigella's recipes are a bit of a mouthful, say literacy experts: ‘Too many adjectives make her instructions difficult to follow’”

“A survey has found that the chef’s verbose style makes it harder for adults with poor literacy skills to follow the instructions.”

“According to the study, [Nigella] uses long sentences, too many adjectives, extra commentary and personal observations.”

“The survey, carried out by the Government's Get On campaign, looked at a variety of recipes from Smith, Lawson, Nigel Slater, Jamie Oliver and Gordon Ramsay.“

“It found that Slater was the easiest chef to follow, with all his recipes reaching the entry level three standard, or that expected of an 11-year-old.”

“Ramsay said: 'I'd hate to think there might be people who aren't giving cooking and new recipes a go because they are worried about the reading, writing or maths side of things. Brushing up on their literacy could make them a better chef, as well as improving their life.'”

And my pro-Nigella response:

Re: "Nigella's recipes are a bit of a mouthful, say literacy experts"

It's rather amusing to read that a survey has flagged up Nigella Lawson as being too literate for a small percentage of the UK working population and that "too many adjectives" apparently make her recipes difficult to follow.

Too many adjectives? What kind of a criticism is that? Isn't that like saying that Mozart's “The Magic Flute” contains too many notes? Will the removal of all adjectives suddenly render Nigella's cookery books readable by absolutely everybody regardless of their literary skills?

I think not. Poor literacy is as much to do with not understanding syntax, grammar, nouns, participles and verbs as teasing out the meaning of a hundred assorted adjectives though, I'll admit, if you find reading difficult, a wall of purple prose is hardly going to fill you with much enthusiasm.

The real criticism that can be levelled against Nigella then is one of style and I guess you either appreciate her yummy-mummy gastro-gushing or you don't. If you don't then you can always give Nigel Slater a go as, according to the same survey, he is infinitely easier to understand. I'm inferring it's because he uses less adjectives and his cook books are therefore more plainly and simply written. Dull and boring by any other name. Nigella's fans like her because she is so fulsome in her descriptions, because she does go OTT about the colour of cantaloupes and the odour of aubergines. She's sensuous, lush and evocative (which is obviously Nigella's schtick) and her verbal descriptiveness, whilst a sort of taste sensation in itself, actually adds an extra layer to our appreciation of her recipes. Her words enrich our tastebuds as much as the ingredients she uses. But most of all she's entertaining. This is rather an important quality in a TV chef. And it's practically impossible to be entertaining without flinging the odd adjective about...

So why should a small percentage of the population be denied access to this entertainment just because their literary levels fall below that of the national average? Surely the main problem is that 16 per cent of the adult working population have been failed by the Education system? More effort needs to be put into improving these people's literacy levels beyond that of an 11 year old and not in asking our TV personalities and celebrities to dumb down. For Heaven's sake there's enough dumbing down on our TV's as it is. We need to start smarting people up! Isn't it preferable to have our famous TV chefs - normally shrivelling the airwaves with language that would embarrass an East End porn star - actually pushing us to stretch our vocabularies as well as our culinary experiences?

As F word aficionado Gordon Ramsay himself says of people with reading difficulties: "Brushing up on their literacy could make them a better chef, as well as improving their life."

In the ineffable greyness of much of modern life, a bit of purple prose is surely the recipe for success?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Eighties

Strawberry Switchblade
Sunday’s post – plus a belated fascination with YouTube – has made me review and analyse my music choices.

I’ll admit that at heart I’m an Eighties boy through and through and the result of a misspent youth during this period is a humungous record collection that covers everything from ABC to XTC. I suspect my love affair with Eighties music comes from the fact that this was the era of my “formative years” – I can recall my parents talking of the Sixties with much the same level of reverence and sentiment. And certainly although I loathed Wham and Bananarama at the time I now look back on them with a mawkish fondness and a realization that actually they were pretty damn good... though maybe that says more about my disenchantment with the current music scene.

Hmm. Maybe disenchantment is a bit strong, I mean I’m still buying new music – The Editors, Gnarls Barkely, The Doves, etc – but I’m very aware that the amount of money I invest in music these days is a pitiful fraction of the moolah that I used to throw into my vinyl collection. And that isn’t just down to fraught economics.

Christ. It’s a scary thought but somewhere along the lines my love affair with the music scene has diminished and stalled. Become trapped in a musical time-warp. The Enchanted Forest Of The Eighties.

But it’s an enchantment that makes me happy for the most part. On my work journey I’m more likely to select some vintage Kate Bush or some early Eighties Killing Joke (dependent on my mood) to pep me up for the day ahead rather than anything produced in the new millennium. It floats my boat so what’s the problem?

I do worry though that I’m giving my boy a slightly skewed musical world view by immersing him in bands like The Cocteau Twins and The Pretenders rather than their more modern counterparts but I guess as he gets older he’ll find his own musical path.

An ex girlfriend of mine absolutely hated Eighties music – now if that wasn’t a sign of impending doom I don’t know what was – her argument being that she hated the production values. That’s a pretty fundamental objection when you think about it. Part of what I like about Eighties music is “the sound”. I love the lushness and polish of some of it. Trevor Horn’s stuff certainly stands out a mile.

Ultimately though it’s interesting to note that the Eighties are enjoying something of a revival – so many bands now are emulating (consciously or otherwise) the Eighties look and sound. So much so I feel like the world is entering the Enchantment Forest with me. I’m sure it’ll be short-lived as all fads are. But when everyone else has moved on again I suspect I’ll still be here.

Skipping through Strawberry Switchblades, up to my neck in The Stranglers and wailing along to The Banshees...

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Echo Beach And The Passions

It's not very often that I sling videos around on this 'ere blog but I am feeling particularly lazy today. All claims of indolence aside though, isn't this just one of the best records of all time? It still sounds good even today. Enjoy.



A little belated addendum to the above post... a timely comment from TimeWarden has reminded me of another superb record from the early eighties - and one that still sends me into shivers of delight. The Passions' "I'm In Love With A German Film Star" is that rare thing in a pop record these days: evocative, aspiring and perfect. Listen, watch and swoon...

Friday, September 07, 2007

Oi’ve Got One Word To Say To Youse. Noice!

kath And KimI must confess to being a secret Kath & Kim fan.

Hey guys, I’m only yuman, roight?

So I’m enjoying the fact that BBC 2 is currently showing series 3 on Monday nights. I’m also sad enough to be getting email updates from the official Kath & Kim site in Australia where they are currently enjoying the new episodes of series 4. But it’s a (veggie)mite frustrating knowing we’ll have to wait a good 6 months before they hit our TV screens here in the UK...

For those of you who don’t know the show it’s a weird mix of sit-com, docu-drama and soap. Kind of like Neighbours meets French & Saunders. The humour (or yumour) isn’t to everybody’s taste I must admit but it’s a real shame that the show isn’t as big in the UK as its fans here would like it to be. Nevertheless the girls have built up a respectable and loyal following outside of Oz.

Although the show frequently utilizes slapstick and some fabulous comedy set-pieces what I like most about it is the way the show constantly plays with, twists and mangles the English language. You have to listen very closely to all the conversations or you’ll miss some real gems...

Pacifically, things like the dreadfully permed Kath Day-Knight telling her bitchy daughter, Kim, that Kel (Kath’s husband) thinks her hair is her “clowning glory”... it’s delivered deadpan and in all seriousness and actually makes us feel a great deal of affection for the hapless characters. The joke is always on them, never on us, and yet we persistently wish them all well – even as we’re hooting with laughter at their latest predicament.

In fact the show’s stars/writers – Jane Turner and Gina Riley – constantly walk a fine line between the grotesque and the loveable but always manage to keep the viewers in a warm and friendly place, even when the action is making you cringe with embarrassment.

There’s a realness to the character’s relationships too which makes them easy to indemnify with – the same quality that makes Only Fools & Horses so great but is sadly lacking in new shows like Hyperdrive. It’s a corny thing to say but Kath & Kim has got real emotional heart.

It’s also got an ex-navy butcher with a penchant for man-bags and disturbingly short shorts and the fabulously funny Magda Szubanski as Sharon Strezlecki whose unquenchable sporting fanaticism in light of her morbid obesity is always handled with a curious sense of respect rather than ridicule.

What can I say? The girl’s have got unimpoachable standards as well as being absolute horn-bags. Do yourselves a favour and tune in, toot sweet...

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Sleeplessness

The baby’s not even born yet and I’m suffering sleepless nights!

For well over a fortnight now I’ve been waking up around 5am and just lying there, absolutely exhausted but nevertheless wide-eyed and awake and as far from sleep as it’s possible to get. The cumulative effect is that I am now practically a zombie (though hopefully with less offensive BO) and have the ability to fudge up the most basic of physical actions. Weirdly my thought processes don’t seem to be diminished one iota but then, if you’re already at rock bottom, there is no where else left to fall.

Anyway there are number of external factors which are no doubt exacerbating this state of sleeplessness: my neighbour is a postman and leaves the house around 5.30am every morning and seems unable to do so without stomping down his stairs and slamming the door like Marsha’s enigmatic daughter from Spaced. I’m not yet in a position to confirm or deny that he wears the same stripy stockings as well. My boy is also waking up pre-5.30am and as quiet as he tries to be there’s a vast difference between a 6 year old’s idea of quiet and quiet per se. Anyone with kids will know what I mean.

But in all honesty I think I’m just waking up early due to internal factors. When Karen and I lost the baby last year the experience was pretty horrific and although it turned out that Karen was perfectly safe I nevertheless went through the classic “pacing of the hospital corridors at 4.0am” while Karen was carted off to the operating theatre and for 90 minutes I had no idea what the hell was going on. Since then my love of hospitals and all things medical – always pretty ropey at the best of times – has waned rather drastically to the point I get hives at the mere thought of us having to undergo yet another hospital experience.

And of course, now that the date for the caesarean has been set the clock is ticking and so are my facial muscles.

I know, I know, it’ll all be fine.

But I worry.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Nigella Espresso

Nigella LawsonBaptitious kitchen chatelaine, Nigella Lawson, kicked off her new “good food fast” cookery TV series last night – “Nigella Express” and not, as I’d hoped, “Nigella Espresso”. Hmm. It seems that my idea for a raunchy bedroom-based dessert focused TV pilot has been turned down flat by the bosses of Channel 4... I can’t understand why. I mean if they’re happy to invest money in Gillian McKeith intimately examining other people’s poo why not fling a few tenners my way to buy a spatula and an industrial barrel of whipped cream?

Anyway, gripes aside, it was good to see the dusky voiced one back on the telly and doing her damnedest to insist that her plainly glamorous life is anything but and is, in fact, as humdrum as that of the rest of us. Hmm. I don’t think so Nigella. My entire family could live in your walk-in pantry and never have to go to the supermarket again. Ever.

But I think that’s part of Nigella’s appeal. The slightly embarrassed and guilty glamour-puss seductress coupled with the “oh I’m so dowdy really” yummy-mummy modesty. That and the cow-eyed looks over the garlic grater and the coquettish lip moistening as she manhandles the biggest sweet potato I’ve ever seen in my life. No wonder Nigella has one of the biggest male fan bases of all the TV chefs.

Apparently she’s horrified by accusations that she deliberately sexes up her cooking performances but I’m sure she’s also clever enough to not mess with a schtick that plainly works. Besides which the sensual element definitely adds an essential layer to the recipes and is an integral part of the Nigella ethos – whether it’s there deliberately or not. Nigella is all about pleasure: the pleasure of food and the pleasure of life. And it would be a sad individual indeed who objected to that.

The main thing though (as has been pointed out by a reader of this blog, Lucy) Nigella is smokin’ hot. At 47 she’s looking damn good. If that’s what big puddings do for you then I’ll take double helpings please.

Talking of which, last night saw Nigella tenderizing a couple of pork chops with a rolling pin. The way she moved was, ahem, mesmerizing to say the least.

Anthony Worrall Thompson – though he could easily emulate the upper body motion – would not have had quite the same effect...

Monday, September 03, 2007

Set Dates And Done Deals

Karen saw the hospital consultant this morning and – fingers and toes crossed – we’ve been given a date for the caesarean that Karen has requested to bring young Thomas Arthur into the world.

October 9th has been booked into the diaries of all concerned – about 5 days before the official due so hopefully Karen won’t pop early (her words) and ruin the best laid plans of mice and men.

We have to go for a final scan on September 17th and then it’s just a case of waiting and trying to arrange the logistics so that practical matters run smoothly. It’ll be a first if they do!

Other news: Ben starts his new school tomorrow and in about 45 minutes time Karen and I are off to see our bank manager to reschedule a loan which should free up enough cash to render our current mortgage worries unnecessary...

Like I said: fingers and toes...

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Gnashers

I’m nursing a sore mouth this morning.

A trip to the dentist yesterday resulted in my pearly-yellows undergoing the orthodontic rigours of the “scrape and polish”. Geez. It sounds like some sort of underworld slang for the kind of service offered by a very down-at-heel (i.e. no heels at all) prostitute who operates from behind the back of a burger van on a Saturday night.

Urgh. Hold the mayo.

Sorry, that was spectacularly uncalled for but pain has a rather souring effect on my funny bone. And no, that was not a euphemism...

Dr Hassan, my dentist, is very thorough and God bless her, she scraped, hacked and polished at my choppers until my gums bled. Literally. And four hours later they were still bleeding.

In fact I spent much of yesterday with the taste of blood constantly in my mouth. It was like permanently having a McDonald’s hamburger rolling and slopping over my molars. Or something reconstituted and burger shaped bought from a burger van that operates on a Saturday night.

Not pleasant.

The worst thing about the “scrape and polish”, as any “scrape and polish” customer will tell you, is not so much the pain (the level of which was really quite surprising – either that or I’m just a complete wuss) but the noise. Everybody winces at the sound of chalk being scraped down a blackboard... but imagine that very same noise being situated right inside your mouth, inside your very head, with the added discomfort of pressure being applied with pin-prick precision along various points of your aching jaws.

My feet were literally curling inside my boots while Dr Hassan carried out her work.

Most discomforting of all was the welding mask that Dr Hassan wore while she set about sand-blasting my teeth to Hollywood-esque perfection. I half expected to find a cow-bar welded to my lower lip when I finally got out of the chair.

Expect to see me racing over rugged terrain and through mountainous foothills the next time a Freelander advert hits your TV screen. I’ll be the one in the background bouncing Aberdeen Angus off my chin and crashing unscathed through wooden farm fences...