Monday, 19 March 2007

The Eyebrows Have It

Last night, I was looking forward to the start of ITV's Jane Austen season.

Just before 9pm, I settled down in front of the television with a cup of tea and some chocolate and after hearing that the current series of the abominable 'Wild At Heart' had just finished, I was feeling extremely pleased.

I like a good period drama, and generally find myself able to watch them without the irritation some people feel at minor plot changes and exclusions, on the basis that they are adaptations of the books they represent, reworked for a different medium.

Small details don't affect my enjoyment. I am able to override my usually pedantic nature and just enjoy. Or so I thought, until the first time Billie Piper appeared on screen in Mansfield Park last night.

Immediately, she jarred my eye. She looked all wrong. She looked too present day. I sat pondering for a minute or two as to why that was; she was of course in full costume along with everyone else, so why did she look so out of place? I quickly realised I was entirely distracted from the storyline, and indeed the entire programme, by her appearance.

It took me some moments to realise that it was her eyebrows that were causing my dismay; they were as incongruous as two monstrous futuristic cyber-caterpillars in the early 19th century setting. They were a completely different colour to her hair. That, of course, was because her hair was very obviously bleached, in a very 21st century manner. This train of thought then prodded me to notice that she actually had dark roots creeping ominously through.

From then on, I just could not watch this programme and enjoy it. Every time she appeared, it irritated me to the point of desperately wanting Edmund to lock in her an attic and pretend she didn't exist, and then marry Miss Crawford instead. Yes, I know I'm confusing the plot with that of Jayne Eyre, but I just think it would have helped to borrow from it in this case. I would have been equally happy if the Tardis had appeared and David Tennent had whisked her off to annoy some Daleks, as long as he had taken the eyebrows as well. Actually, the fact that she looked as if she had one foot in the past and the other in the future actually made me expect this to turn out to be a surprise episode of Doctor Who. If it had been a BBC production, I think I would have been disappointed when he failed to appear.

I cannot comment as to how good or poor this was as an adaptation of Jane Austen's novel; I cannot even discuss properly what it was like as a piece in its own right, because I was so utterly absorbed in my pedantic objection of poor Billie's unfortunate hair and eyebrow anomaly that I eventually had to turn off the TV and do something less annoying instead.

All I had for consolation was the knowledge that next Sunday I can leave the television on after Coronation Street without being subjected to the rollercoster of emotion caused by Amanda Holden saying "Oh no, it's all gone wrong! We'll have to go back to England!" and raising my hopes, only to dash them to pieces again when they decide to stay in Africa for yet another tedious episode after all. Still, at least Jamie Theakston's not in it. You have to count your blessings.

Saturday, 17 March 2007

I've Forgotten My Lines

I think I have stage fright.

Since the list of contributors to Shaggy Blog Stories was announced yesterday, the number of people who have looked at this blog has risen considerably. Almost as many people looked yesterday than have looked in total since I started. It's very exciting, and a nice little boost for my ego, but I think I have a case of Rabbit In The Headlights syndrome.

I haven't been able to think of a single interesting thing to write since I realised people may actually be reading. You could say that I wasn't interesting in the first place, or point out that just because people are clicking on to this page it doesn't mean they're reading past the first paragraph, which made them yawn.

Feel free to say that. It is what I am saying to myself, to make myself feel less nervous.

It's quite ridiculous really; I write this blog in the public domain, and obviously I was aware of that when I started. I wanted people to read it, or I wouldn't have started. I'm not a complete mentalist, after all. Now there may be people doing just that, it's occurred to me that anything I have written is open to criticism. But that's ok. All I have to do is never say anything controversial again.

And Girls Aloud obviously haven't read it. Or if they have, they don't know it's me, because no-one has assaulted me in a pub toilet. I guess they're busy picking out their next victim for their hideous cover version crime spree. They've already destroyed poor Steven Tyler. Which poor, unsuspecting musician will they move on to next?

Using the term 'musician' loosely, wouldn't it just be beautiful poetic justice if they did a Ronan Keating cover?

Tracy Chapman, The Goo Goo Dolls and Shane McGowan would probably be eternally grateful for the opportunity to listen to such an act of revenge.

Sadly, there is one flaw in this plan; I'm not sure which of Ronan's offerings they could actually make any worse.

Friday, 16 March 2007

Shaggy Blog Stories

Buy this book.

I am in it.

So are 99 other lovely people.

You can buy it here:

All profits will go to Comic Relief. The kind publishers have even donated their profit share.

We are Steven Tyler. Non-purchasers are Girls Aloud.

You know what you must do.

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

It's a Sign

"Nose Piercing While You Wait" and "Horse Carrots for Sale".

These are signs I saw today.

I used to have my nose pierced when I was younger. Luckily, I had it done by someone who did it while I waited, thus preventing the necessity of detaching my nose from the rest of my face and having to make an inconvenient return trip to collect it after I'd finished shopping.

Having said that, I suppose my nose not being part of my face at the time it was pierced would have meant that my eyes would have watered a whole lot less at the moment of hole punching. So that sign doesn't convey only advantages.

As for Horse Carrots...what are they then?

Carrots in the shape of horses?
Carrots made from horses?
Carrots for horses, specifically? In what way would they actually be different from ordinary carrots?

Answers on a postcard, please. I am intrigued.

Monday, 12 March 2007

An Antidote to Girls-Who-Shouldn't-Be-Allowed

Comic Relief used to be a thing of lighthearted entertainment. Lenny Henry wearing a red nose. French and Saunders collaborating with Bananarama. The time our headmaster was shamed and compared with Ebenezer Scrooge on the front of the Daily Mirror for not allowing red noses in school. (That was a particular highlight for me, being about 13 at the time and having a slightly nasty nature and contempt for authority).

This year, there is a Thing which I can hardly bear to think about, let alone talk about. And especially not listen to. Ever. It is a Thing of such Evil that one would be forgiven for wondering if one had been temporarily transported into the inner circles of Hell when one is subjected to the torturous power of it draining all the happiness in the world away.

It is the cover of 'Walk This Way' by Girls Aloud 'vs' The Sugababes.

I have, to misquote John Cleese, listened to it once but I think I got away with it. I have, as far as I can tell, made a complete recovery without any lasting ill-effects. Well, except for the nightmares and the urge to track down Steven Tyler and travel to wherever he is in the world at this moment, just to pat him on the head and say "Never mind. You could never have predicted the terrible effects your invention could wreak on the world if it fell into the wrong hands". Poor bloke. How devastating must it be to have been responsible for both the joy of the Run DMC version and the sorrow of this one. A Tale of Two Versions; it was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Still, despite the horror of both the continued third world poverty and this year's Comic Relief song (I'm not crass enough to make a direct comparison of those two, by the way; it's obvious that the Girls Aloud Thing is much worse), there is a Good Thing this year too.

A wonderfully ambitious and exciting Big Idea by Mike at Troubled Diva, to produce a compilation of funny posts from British bloggers and publish it, with all proceeds to Comic Relief. The emphasis is on funny, as it's Comic Relief; (not Colonic Relief as you might think from the Evil Thing) and all British and ex-pat bloggers are invited to send Mike a submission. The deadline for submissions is 6pm on Tuesday 13 March 2007 and the resulting book will be available from Friday.

Mike explains it more fully, and just better, with this post.

Don't listen to the song, ever, if you can help it. Not even out of morbid curiosity. You'll regret it; take it from someone who has been there and recovered, with the help of many hours of (Aerosmith) therapy.

Contribute to the book, and buy the book, and help keep Comic Relief funny.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Creative Genius

This is my son's first piece of virtual art.

I'm very proud.

Can you spot Dumbledore?

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

From the Mouths of Babes

My toddler and I have both been suffering from nasty colds these past few days. Luckily, there are a couple of things that make my toddler feel better, cheering him up and stopping him from clinging to my legs, crying plaintively, every time I move.

The first is Harry Potter. The films, not the books. My son is (of course) very advanced, bright and brilliant for his age (try to find a parent who claims otherwise about their offspring) but even he cannot read novels yet. The Harry Potter films, however, keep him amused and entertained for many an hour, while his neglectful mother concentrates on things like sneezing and generally feeling sorry for herself.

The second is hats. Specifically, putting them on my head. When I say 'hats', I mean random items that could perform as a hat, with varying degrees of success, in the imagination of a toddler. In other words, everything he can find that isn't too heavy to lift and put on my head. So I have spent considerable time with plastic rings, cups and assorted cars balanced on my head lately.

Yesterday, his cough was keeping him awake even though he was terribly tired, and although he asked several times to be put to bed for a nap in the afternoon, on each occasion after 10 minutes' sleep he woke up crying. Eventually, we both curled up together and watched Harry Potter for a while, and he perked up. I held my precious babe close and stroked his forehead as we snuggled up cosily together, and as I gave him a loving squeeze I asked "When you're poorly, who do you need to make you feel better?"

All my illusions that my place as the most important person in my toddler's life is unquestionable came cruelly tumbling down as he turned to me, beautiful golden curls in adorable disarray, an angelic smile on his lovely face, and replied:


Monday, 5 March 2007

Blog Nonsense

Blogging is still a novelty to me. I am still new to it, and have been amazed that it has taken me so long to discover this big fat portion of online life that I really had no idea about. There are so many fascinating blogs to read! It's a whole community of people all linking each other and reading each other's blogs. I can't believe it's all been here so long without me noticing, but then I did tell you that being observant wasn't a skill I relied upon heavily.

I like blogging. Because you're not directing your post to anyone in particular, or answering anybody conversationally, it gives you a sense of enormous freedom to write whatever you like. Unfortunately, this usually means that I can't decide on anything because the possibilities are too enormous. If I can write about anything I want to, then it's also up to me to think of something that is at least vaguely interesting, and it's completely my fault if my blog is dull and tedious to the extreme.

But then there is another positive point thrown up by this negative one; namely, there are very view people reading it to care. And the more tedious the blog, the fewer readers still. So I can pretend to be a fantastic journalist type person, writing a crackling witty column for a daily national, but I don't have to worry about being sacked for being absolutely useless, or all my readers getting so fed up with the tedium of my writing that in desperation they turn to the Daily Mail instead. (I mean, I do worry about people reading the Daily Mail of course, but at least I can sleep at night knowing that I am not personally responsible for it).

So the more mind-numbingly boring I am, the fewer people read my blog, and the fewer people reading my blog, the less likely it is that there will be complaints about the excitement vacuum that is my writing.

It's a win-win situation.

Of course, some people might think I am really too old to be pretending to be anything at all. But they probably don't read this either. And if they want to read something better, there's always the Daily Mail.

Friday, 2 March 2007

Make Someone Happy With a Telephone Call

You know that guy who was the funny one in My Family, before he left and became a guy-with-a-girlfriend-who-has-two-kids-who-aren't-his because BT are so in touch with the times and therefore the whole 'blended family' concept?

What's he talking about in the latest ad?

"People say that the best things in life are free", he tells us initially.

"But sometimes", he then adds, wisely, with the air of someone who is about to make a terribly witty remark and add a breathakingly clever twist to a tired old saying, "The free things in life are the best."

Call me pedantic, but unless I'm missing something, that's actually completely the same.

It's really not on the same level as "He's got an 'ology", is it?

Bring back Busby, I say. It's good to talk.

Thursday, 1 March 2007

Mental Dog

There is a farm some way further into the network of tiny lanes which sells home-grown potatoes. Sometimes they sell fat carrots by the bunch, bulbous beetroot, and tender spring cabbages, depending on the season. But the potatoes are what makes a visit worthwhile.

It is a measure of the how perfect the potatoes are that I buy mine there, despite the presence of Mental Dog.

Mental Dog is a new addition to the farm, and with the best will in the world, is not a successful marketing solution. He is bouncy, and happy, and full of enthusiasm. So much so that this morning, as I got out of the car in the farm yard, he'd crept up and skillfully removed the scarf from around my neck before I had chance to even try to stop him. He was away, bounding with glee and tossing the forlorn purple wool into the air as he ran. When he reached the field gate, he leapt sleekly through the bars, then dropped my scarf in the mud and rolled delightedly around, wrapping it around himself like a black, Satanic version of the Andrex puppy.

The farmer's wife chased Mental Dog to the field to recover my poor scarf as I resignedly pulled the zip of my jacket to the top, knowing that this would be my only chance of having a warm neck now. Mental Dog showed no remorse as his owner returned his loot, and grinned at me mischievously from the sacks of potatoes he'd scrambled upon while the farmer's wife apologised profusely.

The potatoes were free of charge, because of Mental Dog's lack of appropriate manners. Perhaps that's just old fashioned village trading.

Three pounds of potatoes. Cost: 1 scarf and 5 minutes' entertainment for Mental Dog.

Or maybe the entertainment was mine.

Archive Me

Here is a very small post, just so I can see posts spanning two months before I go to bed.

Yes, I am that sad.