Sunday, 9 November 2008

Brand, Bond and Blankets

So Manuelgate rumbles on, with Andrew Sachs losing my sympathy after complaining that the apology broadcast on Radio 2 yesterday wasn't up to scratch and didn't mention the suffering of his wife, daughter, postman and everyone in Barcelona. How many apologies does the man needs, for goodness sake? He had (I thought) accepted the apologies of Brand and Ross with grace and dignity, but now he's being all precious about the wording of the apology broadcast yesterday at the time that would usually be Ross' radio show. And a bit later. And again, a bit later. At one point, at the start of this press tornado, I was glad there was something on the news instead of doom and gloom about house prices and the cost of bread, amazed though I was by the attention that was being lavished on Brand and Ross. Now, even the Bank of England has had to slash interest rates by a shocking 1.5% just to shove Russell Brand off the front pages and get a bit of attention for itself. I suppose one of the disadvantages of being a person who likes to hibernate as soon as October drizzles in is that one tends to spend more time reading the papers and the internet than is advisable if one wishes to avoid becoming intensely irritated by excessive press coverage of a particular story. But as disadvantages go, it's more than made up for by the positives.

I think I may be the kind of person who has been an OAP since birth. Thanks to the credit crunch, I can now blame the cost of...well, everything as an excuse to stay in. All the time. If I could, I literally wouldn't leave the house at all until at least May. I'd make an exception for November 5th, as I could go out and still sit by a fire, but other than that if I could get away with it I'd sit wrapped in a blanket by the fireside reading books and drinking tea all day. I'd even like to learn to knit, if I had the patience. I would bake mince pies to live on, and to be fair I would be prepared to pop out for a bracing stroll through the fields on bright, frosty mornings before returning to my cosy nest.

In seriousness, when the days shorten and the dark, windy, wet nights draw in, there is nothing more tempting than a cosy night in by the fire. Once I'm home at the start of the evening, nothing is more appealing than to draw the curtains and shut out the winter weather, light the fire, and curl up on the sofa. I love the trappings of autumn and winter; snuggly blankets, warm jumpers, roaring fires, hot chocolate, hearty stews and soups, period dramas on telly. I associate fantasy, magical films with winter too. The Chronicles of Narnia, for example. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is a perfect film to watch on a wintry Sunday afternoon. Perhaps it's because I am the sort of person who still hopes to find a magical land hidden in my wardrobe, or a secret platform at King's Cross station, and have really never quite grown up. The comforts of winter make childhood more accessible over the decades since it was a reality.

So why would anyone want to go out? Are they insane? What's the point? I must confess that one thing did move me out of my metaphorical rocking chair this weekend, and that was the delectable Daniel Craig. Not in person, sadly. I didn't meet him in my garden during the 4 seconds I periodically spend outside to go and put something in the bin. He was of course appearing at a cinema near me as 007 in Quantum of Solace. I could give a detailed review of the film and his performance, but suffice to say, I didn't miss my fireside the whole time I was away from it. Well, not until I had to drive home in the dark and cold, anyway.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

I shagged him once, but I think I got away with it

So, let's be honest. It surely can't just have been me whose first thought on hearing about the Ross and Brand 'scandal' was an image of Manuel, tea towel draped over his forearm, jiggling nervously from one foot to another with utter confusion on his rubbery face and pebble eyes darting worriedly from side to side as he listened to some unexpected and rather regrettable messages on his answer phone and responded with a perplexed..."Que?"

This must surely be the biggest mountain out of a molehill ever in the history of moles.

Let me be clear from the start. Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand's phone calls to Andrew Sachs were in bad taste, puerile and monumentally unfunny (the latter being what irritates me most). The content was offensive and the action utterly juvenile and unworthy of a couple of silly teenagers with nothing better to do, let alone two successful and highly paid professionals. Without doubt, the broadcast should not have been aired, and both performers should indeed have apologised to Andrew Sachs for their immaturity and idiocy.

Having said that...what is with the ridiculous overreaction and massive media coverage of an incident which boils down to some blokes leaving another bloke a stupid message on an answer phone? First there were two complaints, from actual listeners of the broadcast. Next minute, it was the top headline on ITN's News At Ten for at least two consecutive nights, every television channel and newspaper was headlining it, and everyone in the world was commenting on it. I sat and watched News At Ten in disbelief - admittedly, it was ITN, so not a natural lover of the BBC, but first headline?! On a global news programme? There was an American Presidential election about to happen, war, famine, global recession - but more importantly than any of that was a rude message left on a man's phone! Only the British could possibly consider that a lapse in manners constitutes the most significant global event on any given day, and only we British would complain in droves about a radio programme we didn't actually listen to, and a prank we didn't even know existed until we heard it in the media a week later.
"He said what?! But that's appalling! The swine! I must complain directly!"
" didn't actually hear it. weren't offended by it, were you? It had precisely no effect on your life at all."
"Well, I've heard it now! On News At Ten! You never had to put up with this from Morecambe and Wise. Where's the address for the BBC, and the phone number for the Daily Mail?"

Next thing we know, Brand has resigned, Ross is suspended and Chris Evans is crying because Lesley Douglas has given in her notice.

So anyway. Why is everyone behaving as if Andrew Sachs is some kind of dementia-ridden old codger who needs to be coddled and protected in his dotage? The man has worked in television and the entertainment industry for decades; he worked with comedians who were the 'edgy' performers of their time, such as John Cleese; he is not a naive old dodderer who requires the public to swoop in and protect him from the evil that is Radio 2.

And Georgina Baillie, Manuel's granddaughter. Why is everyone behaving as if she's Sandy from Grease before the bit where she sings "You're The One That I Want" in skin-tight Lycra, and that she had a virginal granddaughterly reputation that has been sullied and debased in the manner of a broken engagement from a Jane Austen novel? Good grief, the woman is in her twenties and belongs to a burlesque exotic dance troupe called Satanic Sluts and works under the name 'Voluptua'. Photographs of her in corsets and stockings (taken from her MySpace page, I understand) have appeared all over the press. Next to many column inches devoted to her bleating on about how Russell Brand has embarrassed her poor grandad by forcing him to think of her as 'sexual'. Now, call me old fashioned, but I've always found that an effective way to avoid your immediate family being forced to see you as 'sexual' has been to not be a stripper who posts half-naked photographs of yourself on the internet. Hugo Rifkind illustrates my point with far more wit than I could here.

Not sleeping with Russell Brand would also be a good way to avoid everyone finding out you slept with Russell Brand. Possibly Brand's reputation is unheard of in satanic or slut circles (the latter seeming rather unlikely, let's face it) but the rest of us have heard all about his sexual exploits rather more than we'd probably like. What a cad! Sleeping with all these women! What a Lothario! But then (and I'm making an assumption here) if he's not routinely using Rohypnol or some kind of hypnosis on all these poor Sandys, then if they weren't there lining up to sleep with him willingly, the embarrassment of poor old grandads could be avoided more effectively.

Jonathan Ross - well, he gets paid too much. Everyone knew that already, including him. It was only a matter of time before there was some kind of protest over it, and here it is. Who decides how much he gets paid, by the way? Have they been suspended too?

He's the father of daughters, and for that reason his involvement in this incident seems surprising and rather disappointing. But come on - Wossy's always made jokes that are close to the bone. Remember Heather Mills and the two legs? (Now that, I found funny). Ross and Brand are employed and popular exactly because they are a bit outrageous and dare to go further than most of us would. This broadcast obviously shouldn't have been aired, and yesterday there was a further resignation in the form of David Barber, who cleared the programme for broadcast. Sorry Mr Barber, but it should have been you in the first place, and Lesley Douglas should never have had to fall on her sword. Brand's resignation and Ross' suspension is a loss to the BBC.

I only have one final question. How is it that Max Clifford is always the winner in every situation, ever?

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Urban Assault

This morning I thought "I should really find something of local interest to write about, because there are only so many posts that refer to Billie Piper's eyebrows I can compose without completely alienating everyone." Alienating! Billie Piper! Geddit? No? I don't blame you. It was very poor.

Anyway, with that premise in mind I did a quick search in Google in an attempt to find some inspiration, and found this, which, if you're interested, is followed by this. This is a hotel that never looked salubrious, but these photographs chronicling its decay into ideal horror film location are fascinating. And a little scary, because it's not very far away, and I can't get the theme from Psycho out of my head now.

I wandered around the Urban Assault site viewing photographs of various derelict buildings filled with a mixture of wanting to look over my shoulder the whole time, feeling like a child who has disobeyed a clear parental "Don't go into the woods!" order, because it's clearly illegal for people to be doing that, not to mention dangerous in a "might get killed by falling masonry or shot by someone out of Pulp Fiction" way, and being completely fascinated by the evocative strength of some of the images and the fabulous photography. I found High Royds Hospital (originally West Riding Pauper Lunatic Asylum when it was opened in 1888, according to the poster) particularly spine chilling; looking at those photographs gave me an uncomfortable feeling similar to that evoked by visiting Alcatraz. (Yes, really. I went somewhere interesting once). Lo and behold, the tiniest bit more research reveals that High Royds has indeed been the location for a creepy film. At least it sounds pretty creepy - I haven't seen it. And since I'm still trying to exorcise Norman Bates from my head as a result of looking at a few completely Psycho-unrelated photographs, I don't think I'll be popping to Blockbuster for it any time soon.

Saturday, 30 August 2008


So here I am again, determined to breathe new life into my blog, and to not become distracted by such trivial details as not being able to think of anything remotely interesting or engaging to write about.

I'd love to say that my difficulty in thinking of something worthwhile to write about was writer's block or some other temptingly named paralysis in which artistic personages temporarily find themselves gripped whilst they agonise over the creative process, but the truth is that I'm just rather dull.

I read a post by Wife in the North yesterday - an old post, as I started reading her blog from the beginning - that resonated perfectly with me. How glamorous other people are! How on earth do they find time to write blogs? Perhaps when you have a thousand glamorous things to write about it's easy to knock out a blog post because you're bursting with interesting things to tell people. But then I suppose the trade off must be that it must take up precious time in your hectic schedule of glamour to decide which of the day's glamorous events to write about. I'm so non-glamorous that I don't even have any similes for glamorous, hence the wretched overuse of the word 'glamorous' in this paragraph.

If Petite Anglaise and Belle de Jour are the filmstars of blogging (and by the way, there's the Billie Piper connection again - only this time I shouldn't imagine anyone was looking at her eyebrows) then I am more like the Coronation Street equivalent. And I don't mean stylish Maria or sassy Carla Connor. Oh no. I don't mean that one who was in that made-up band thing. I don't even mean Deirdre or Janice Battersby. No, in the blogging glamour stakes, I am the equivalent of Blanche.

Friday, 29 August 2008


Today I realised how much I have neglected this poor blog. It has been left tied to a lamp post, forlorn and forgotten, in the manner of one of those sweet-faced, slightly scruffy dogs shown on Blue Cross adverts who have been carelessly and cruelly abandoned by their evil owners. Those are naturally the kind of dogs who have never chewed the sofa, never savagely bitten the postman's index finger off, and who most definitely have never placed their furry behinds on a bus seat thereby offending people who write to the local paper. This blog is not guilty of any of those crimes either, and deserves a more careful owner than the one who had to ask her friends if they remembered the web address for it because she decided she wanted to write something this evening. And then had to Google it because those friends, who are the only people who ever read this blog at the best of times, couldn't remember either owing to the lack of activity here for all these months.

It was Wife In The North who inspired me to blog again. Well actually, it was my friend Claire, who read Wife In The North's book. Anyway, it made me think "I haven't written my blog for a while" and then I looked (after googling) and realised I haven't written since May. Shame on me.

There has been a problem.

When I first started this blog, I was very enthusiastic. I was hugely excited by the linking of a TV blog from The Guardian to mine; they linked to my post about the performances of Billie Piper and her eyebrows in Mansfield Park. Shortly afterwards, I was again hugely excited by one of my blog posts being picked to appear in Shaggy Blog Stories. Then, between the printing of Shaggy Blog Stories and its arrival through the letter box - a matter of days - my father died. He didn't see my contribution to the book. I didn't even get chance to tell him about it. I lost my enthusiasm for blogging. It had lost its lustre.

The thing is, I know that my Dad would be upset to think that I'd stopped doing something I enjoyed doing because of him. I'm just not sure I can separate the link between my enjoyment of writing this blog and his loss in my mind. But I owe it to him to at least try.

By the way, my post about Billie was less than complimentary but in general I like her very much despite her non-Austenesque eyebrows. So I feel slightly guilty that it has been people googling her (and her facial hair) that has brought the greatest number of hits to this blog. In fact, if you Google "Billie Piper eyebrows" then this site is first on the list. There's a fascinating factoid for you! In an interesting contrast, people searching for articles about Heather Mills have been entirely absent.

So. By way of a brief update on us, we still live here by the canalside but my toddler cannot be described as a toddler any longer. He is a 3 year old little boy with many, many opinions and much to say for himself. People are still charmed by him on the whole. The dentist's receptionist certainly was the other day as he told her all about the way he looks after his teeth - and how Mummy doesn't, and therefore needs one of hers removed. She did become slightly less enamoured with him, however, when he suddenly reached out and pressed a random button on the calculator on which she was almost finished calculating the day's takings and lost all her figures. Being a dental professional probably came in handy at that moment, when she managed to keep the sparking smile on her face like the professional she is, and grit her teeth simultaneously.

Friday, 9 May 2008

A Dog's Bottom Should Not Be On a Bus Seat

The title of this post is my favourite line in this week's edition of my local paper. To be accurate, it's not actually my local paper, but the local paper of the next town; we get a different edition here. To most people reading this, that's neither here nor there. But locals here often have a very strict idea of 'local' and I wouldn't want to offend, so the clarification was necessary.

The statement that forms the title for this post is the last line of a letter from a reader, responding to an article published last week about a woman who was asked to pay 50p in order for her dog to travel with her on the bus. The bus company in question is Best Bus, which personally I think is an inspired name. It effortlessly tops whatever any of their competitors can throw at them. 'Quite Good Bus?' 'Largely Reasonable Bus'? 'Not Bad Bus Let Down By The Two Year Old Chewing Gum Under The Seats Bus?' None of them can hold a candle to it. Whatever you call your bus company around here, whatever clever name you dream up, it's trumped by Best Bus. Because how can you get better than best? You can't. Unless, of course, you don't charge 50p for dogs, in which case you would be better than Best Bus, at least in the opinion of some residents, such as the lady featured in the original article last week. Sadly for Best Bus, the writer whose words I've borrowed for my post title has a bone to pick with them about a dog's bottom.

The writer of the letter is primarily concerned about the Health and Safety aspect of allowing dogs to travel on buses, and specifically, as you may by now have guessed, about the issue of dogs' bottoms on bus seats. The writer worries that if a child travelled on the bus and sat on a seat previously containing a dog's bottom, there is a possibility that the child could touch the seat and then put his fingers in his mouth. The writer does not elaborate on the resulting perils of such an action, but the inference is that she feels that someone would suffer. Whether that is the dog or the child, she does not say.

The writer feels that since these days there is a lot of publicity about dog owners being fined for failing to clean up dog mess, the notion of a dog's bottom on a bus seat is surely a Health and Safety issue. Unless the implication is that the dog owners may fail to clean up dog mess that is actually deposited on the bus seat by the dog's bottom during the journey, I'm not quite clear about the connection between people getting fined for randomly leaving dog poo festering and the dog's bottom (minus mess) on the bus seat. If I'm missing the obvious link, do let me know.

The thing I'm concerned about, is that this cuts both ways, frankly. What if a seat previously occupied by a child's bottom was then licked by a dog? Dogs are people too, let's not forget. You could be forgiven for not realising that. I won't be judgemental, because I didn't realise myself until I found out that they are required to pay 50p to travel on the bus. And really, it would seem rather unfair to take that dog's hard-earned 50p and then forbid him to place his bottom on the seat. Possibly, the dog would be entitled to sue the bus company for failing to provide the service he'd paid for.

Not all residents agree with the writer of the first letter, about the inherent incompatibility of dogs' bottoms and bus seats. A second letter published in this week's issue is penned by a writer who, if he or she had a dog, would be happy to pay 50p in order for that dog to travel by Best Bus, particularly since Best Buses are so clean (notwithstanding the dogs' bottoms of course) and have such polite, smart drivers (an issue about which dogs are known to care deeply). Regrettably, the writer of this second letter inadvertently (I presume) rather undid his or her great praise of Best Buses by finishing his or her letter with "Sadly, my dog died last year. So keep up the good work Best Bus."

Anyone who has owned a pet will understand the great sense of loss at the end of the pet's life, and I have no wish to demean that sadness. And I'm sure Best Bus were in no way responsible for the death of the writer's dog. Still, I can't help but hope that the ill-fated canine hadn't been licking a Best Bus seat immediately after the school drop off.

Friday, 21 March 2008

Spring Clean

Spring is officially here. You can tell from the way the daffodils are bobbing wildly in the unforgiving gale-force winds and battering rain. I think we'll perhaps have this year's Easter Egg hunt indoors, to prevent the eggs, or indeed the toddler, from ending up on a yellow brick road somewhere over the rainbow, desperately wondering if they're in Cheshire any more. Not that I'd encourage my toddler or anyone else to eat eggs that are capable of wondering anything, to be fair.

Spring is, dreadful weather aside, a time for new starts, so I think it's time to dust off the cobwebs from this blog, and start writing it again.

A nice new look to set the tone, brighter and more spring-like, is in order I think.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

She's got a ticket to ride...the gravy train

If a personification of the notion of being one's own worst enemy exists, it must surely take the form of Heather Mills.

She's £25 million richer after yesterday's High Court ruling on her divorce from Sir Paul McCartney, but apparently she still hasn't grasped the concept of less being more when it comes to hysterical outbursts and relentless self-promotion. Can't buy me class, as her soon to be former husband may well have sung in his heyday. Her 11-minute rant outside the High Court yesterday made for the kind of car crash television you feel compelled to watch despite the teeth-clenching embarrassment it evokes, on a par with her disastrous GMTV interview last autumn. Her recently revamped website boasts video clips of "Heather's friends" Richard Branson and Hillary Clinton talking about how utterly lovely and wonderful she is in the most effusive terms. Maybe it's a peculiarly British trait, but (to this Brit, anyway) there is a feeling of acute distaste on viewing these clips at such shameless self-promotion.

Heather Mills seems to have a relationship with the truth that is matched in distance only by her detachment from reality. Mr Justice Bennett, the judge in the McCartney divorce, referred to her evidence as "inconsistent, inaccurate" and "less than candid" in the High Court ruling that Ms Mills sought to keep private. "Less than candid"? Almost sounds like a rather polite way of saying "she lied", doesn't it?

The full ruling makes hilarious reading. Ms Mills' greed is pretty astonishing, and the sums she claimed she 'needed' from the divorce settlement are mind-boggling to the ordinary person. Almost half a million pounds a year for holidays, for example. Half a million pounds?! To be fair though, that sum does include the essentials such as private and helicopter flights of £185,000. Evidently Ms Mills' concern for all things charitable doesn't extend to environmental causes and worrying about her carbon footprint.

Unsurprisingly, the judge found her demands excessive and awarded her much less than the 125 million pounds she was seeking. However, she still leaves the marriage, which lasted just under 4 years, with just under £25 million.

Can that amount be fair, considering that McCartney's wealth was almost all amassed far before the unfortunate day he met his second wife? As Heather Mills said herself outside court, "everyone knows he was worth £800 [million] 15 years ago". Rather an own goal, one would think, since that statement clearly rules out any contribution to that wealth on her part. Sadly, the main casualty of this ruling must surely be the institute of marriage itself; it is hardly a recommendation for men (or women) of any wealth to enter into marriage, knowing that after such a short time their spouse, now estranged, may walk away with millions. Sir Paul can afford it, certainly. But is that the point?