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50 something Londoner (UK) who is curious about everything. Expect a wide range of topics and a few wood pigeons.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Is it just me...or Has Strictly Come Dancing gone a little lame?

"Lame? There's nothing wrong with my foot"
I was eagerly awaiting the first glimpse of the dancing celebs on Friday and tweeting my excitement about the return of the sparkles. Yes, I was still keen, even though I'd seen the list of mostly z listers who would be competing.

But as it all got going, and there seemed so many unnecessary extras before we saw the first couple, I started to think Has Strictly Gone The Way of Downton and Become A Bit Lame? (It was such a sobering thought it was all in capitals).

There was the matter of Claudia. What I've always liked about her is her studied noncomformity. The fringe and short sighted eyes peering out; the black eyeliner which runs when she's on the red carpet;  the policy of any colour as long as it's black; the strange gait and the awkward shuffling from one foot to the other.

But the BBC stylists had clearly had other ideas and on Friday, clad in a lurid pink which drained her of colour and minus her pale lippy and eyeliner, poor Claudia looked 10 years older, and, worse still, ordinary.

Fortunately a Twitter furore saw her usual look reinstated on Saturday.  She was back to black.

Tess meanwhile was rising to the challenge quite well, if she stops doing that awful tongue in cheek thing, but I had the distinct impression the judges were not supporting her very well. A couple of times she asked a question and I don't think she meant them to be rhetorical.

As for the celebrities, I realise it's a challenge to find people who are well-known but "resting,"  because SCD is probably a full-time job from now until the final. Secondly, the pay is not much of an incentive, except for the pop stars and stage school luvvies who expect to make it to the quarter finals.  It's only £25k for everyone to start with, rising at the end of October for those left.

And I realise that by competing head-to-head with that awful rubbish on ITV, the BBC needed to attract names who would appeal to a younger audience.  Hence the inclusion of people like Mark Wright from the ridiculous Towie.

The long suffering Aliona and GreggWallace
But this year's line-up is dull by anyone's standards. The only glimmer of hope comes in the relationship between Masterchef's grocer Gregg Wallace and Aliona Villani.  It's plain she couldn't stand him and what he alleges are his jokes.  Will she have enough time to do something with this dad dancer? Or will he be released back into the hinterlands of Twitter and doomed romances with girls half his age?

Then there was the sulky countenance of former rugby player Thom Evans. I suspect he was stitched up into making himself seem like Fred Astaire in his intro (he's a bighead, my Mum ventured), and then realised after the judges laid into him that he wasn't going to be anywhere near the top of the leaderboard. His face was a picture for the rest of the show and Saturday's.

Alison Hammond shone:
not only has she a light step but she is full of personality. I just wish the judges would be a bit less patronising. Their surprise that yet another big bird could dance was all too obvious.

There were quite a few who I lost interest in before they even finished their routine:  Caroline Fluck (who?), a Radio 1 DJ, Pixie Lott, the latest boy from Blue, the Towie boy, the Casualty lady.

Frankie Bridge
Frankie Bridge from The Saturdays was gorgeous and sailed through a delightful routine. The bruiser bloke from EastEnders was surprisingly good, although unsuprisingly mean and moody in a tango. Judy Murray was nervous and stiff but showed she's a likeable lady.

Some of the routines were very repetitive. How many times have we seen Ola's routine to loud rock music where she and the male stamp around glowering? Zzzz.


I'm hoping things improve once the eliminations start  but at the moment, it's all a bit too lame rather than lamé for me.


Thursday, September 04, 2014

The classy way to marry

I had to smile when I saw that Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt had finally got married, very quietly. I was thinking of the howls of despair at Grazia magazine and others, who have been speculating for months about the nuptials.

And what a quietly classy affair. Just a few close friends and relatives (sadly, hardly any on Angelina's side) and the children very much involved. Even the wedding dress was "designed" by the children, although Atelier Versace managed to rescue it.

It was nice to see the pictures in Hello and to know that the proceeds had gone to the couple's charitable foundation.

How ostentatious and crass some of the z list weddings now seem: Kim Kardashian's for example, with its white flower wall and staged kiss; goody bags, multiple ceremonies, multiple dresses. And it wasn't as if it was her first wedding. Not to mention the Beckhams, Elizabeth Hurley and Katie Price (lost count of the number of weddings there). Let's hope the Brangelina Nuptials signal the end to weddings which simply try to outdo everyone else's.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Internet Detritis

I chanced upon the long list of blogs "I follow." In reality, I haven't looked at most of them for years. And when I did, just now, most of them are sadly no more.

What happened after 2011 / 2012 when that last post appeared?

Did the owner get bored with blogging and move on to other things? One of the erstwhile bloggers abandoned his blog and started another, on a different theme, which is very successful.  Another had written the blog about her and her partner's quest for a baby to adopt. The blog was no longer needed when the baby came along. A crafting blog that I much admired now seems to have been taken over by someone selling cut price printers and ink, yet using the same crafting title.

I had another blog which has been abandoned. It was my "scrapping blog." I used to be an ardent paper crafter, making cards, constantly experimenting with different inks and paints and scrap booking. Work trips to America invariably included a detour to a shop or outlet where I could buy US supplies at half the price.

But then, one day, I suddenly asked myself what would happen to all the thick albums I had created, the chronicle of my life. I have what I refer to as "my archive" which starts from when I'm about seven years old and writing stories. I've no-one to leave it all to. When someone impatiently clears out my attic in a few years time, when I have shuffled off this mortal coil, the archive will unceremoniously end up on the tip.

And from that moment, I lost all interest in scrap booking, and with it, card making. I took up gardening instead.



Friday, August 15, 2014

Old duffers banned from Strictly Come Dancing?

The Strictly Come Dancing group on Facebook spluttered back into life this week with the news, from a couple of unreliable sources, that the BBC has apparently told agents it doesn't want any more old duffers in the line-up this year. They don't win, and it will lead to a more entertaining show, apparently.

Well it depends on who the "old duffer" is.

Niles Rodgers
I can think of quite a few people over the age of 60 who could tan the hide of the likes of Frankie from The Saturdays, the first contestant officially announced this year. They may or may not be natural dancers but they're certainly fit, in the healthy sense, cool and trendy.

I'm thinking of David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Niles Rodgers, Alan Hansen, Anna Wintour, Vivienne Westwood (in her 70s), Daphne Selfe (model, 86), Sigourney Weaver, Bill Nighy, Pierce Brosnan, Rod Stewart, Sting, Liam Neeson, Olivia Newton-John, Susan Sarandon, Joan Collins (over 80). I could go on.

Of course none of them would ever deign to appear in SCD. They're far too cool and famous.

But, dear BBC, if you insist on your token oldies being "old duffers" like John Sargent, Quentin Wilson, Jimmy Tarbuck and Paul Daniels, then yes they are never going to win. Incidentally, some of the older female contestants have been very good and entertaining: Cherie Lunghi, Pamela Stephenson, Felicity Kendall. We need inspiring older role models. I wouldn't watch SCD if it was only full of young and shallow desperados from EastEnders.

By the way, I think the whole thing is what I call a stir-up. The BBC always plays a blinder in terms of seeding daft PR stories around the likely line-up, which is always entirely different than the one people speculate about, and I think this ageism story is part of their PR build up. It's a little ill conceived if that's the case, with the Miriam O'Reilly case still leaving a nasty taste in the mouth. Not to mention the sour note struck by Arlene Philips being booted out for being too old.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Savvy marketers get nostalgic (you read it here first)

Twenty years ago today the first online shopping transaction was made. It doesn't seem a long time really, 20 years, and somehow online shopping seems to have become so mainstream I would have expected it to have been even longer ago.

But there's still a huge number of disenfranchised people who don't have access to the internet - particularly among the over 65s. My mother, 82, was one of them until a couple of weeks ago when she decided to take the bull by the horns, book computer lessons with Age UK and get the required broadband. She then bought a tablet and has been making good progress, although she's impatient with how much there is to learn. She thought it would be easier and more intuitive.

As a marketer, I'm always looking ahead to new trends and where we will be going. I predict there'll soon be a general return to nostalgia and may be even "old fashioned" ways of doing business. We're reaching saturation point with email. I've spent the last two weeks in an exercise I call "reclaiming my inbox" where I've been clicking on unsubscribe in all the emails and newsletters I receive. This could be a whole blog post in itself because most of them still email me weeks later, and a lot of them are emailing me in my former name, when I have been using my married name for four years, which begs the question how old is their database?

The Super Boomers already dominate in terms of their spending power and if most of them are anything like me, we're fed up with: a) being patronised by big brands and referred to as "silver surfers" just because we're over 50, when most of it were blogging years ago and using Facebook when it launched;  b) we yearn for simple and uncomplicated. Not in gadgets (we buy all the latest "stuff") but in life itself. There's too much choice. Booking a holiday takes hours now because you have to research every hotel on TripAdvisor. Even knowing what to eat for a healthy diet is hugely complicated. A magazine article recently pitted three experts against each other, and they all disagreed. So what hope is there for the average person? 

I was recently buying a few cards in Clinton's - in itself an outdated pastime when a lot of youngsters prefer to send e greetings - and I proffered the little card they stamp when you make a purchase. "Oh we've got something better now," said the assistant, and slapped down a flyer for me to read. Of course they want my email address and in return they will email me with offers. Apparently I will get a fourth card free when I buy three cards. I'm not sure how that will work because I didn't want to register. I quite enjoyed the harmless pursuit of having them stamp my little card and then give me a free card, no questions asked. So I'll carry on doing this, but in Marks and Spencer where they still run the same promotion with no email addresses needed.

Recently a couple of online retailers have started sending newsletters, nicely produced and luxurious, and it was a pleasure to sit and read them for a few minutes.

I seriously think there could be something in nostalgic marketing. Not only would the Supers love it, but also Gen X and Y because fashion is about nothing more than recycling the past. And the past is new to them.
I'd love to hear your views.


Monday, July 14, 2014

Hampton Court Flower Show

The One Show garden
I decided to go to the Hampton Court flower show at the last minute, managing to get both a ticket and a day off work. It was partly to make up for the disappointment of missing the Chelsea flower show. Not only were we going on members' day, but we even had a delightful sit-down lunch to look forward to.  Unfortunately I indulged in oysters at a restaurant the day before and was stricken by food poisoning. So we didn't go.

I left for Hampton Court - 28 miles away - in good time and expected to get there just after the opening time of 10am.

I finally got in at 12.45! Unbelievable.

For the last seven miles it was nose-to-tail, traffic just creeping along a centimetre every 10 mins or so. I was relieved I wasn't with J. because like most men, he has zero tolerance of traffic jams.

By the time I got to the show I was feeling slightly frazzled.

It's vast, and very crowded. I didn't stay long in the flower tent because there were too many people. I took a few pictures of plants that impressed me. - see below, Meanwhile the rose and floral arrangement marquee was very disappponting. I'd anticipated being hit by the scent of hundreds of roses, but it was an olfactory let down.

The rose displays were underwhelming. I realise in July roses are past their past but I still expected more abundance of blooms from professional growers.

I perused some of the show guides and saw that Mary Berry was due to speak at 2.30 in the food theatre. I went over there at 2pm but the queue was already massively long so there was no chance of joining it and being able to get in.
The World War 1 display

On the plus side, the show gardens seemed easier to access than at Chelsea and looked better in real life than they did on TV.  There was a fascinating World War One section with a schools' scarecrow competition and trenches showing how the soldiers grew plants. There were some fabulous stalls for laydeez in the Country Living Magazine marquee. All manner of "tut," from jewellery to clothes and oil paintings.

 

By 3.30 I decided to confront the traffic again but first called by at some of the vendors selling plants (very good idea to site these near the car park!). I bought a few plants including three salvias, a penstemon, a couple of grasses and a couple more erigeron.

I may well go again next year but definitely by public transport, and with a partner in crime (not a husband....) to make it more fun. And I realised that I really enjoyed last year's Hyde Hall flower show, the nearest RHS garden to us. It may have been modest, with no show gardens, but it was a delight to get around and some of the plants I bought are flourishing. So that's a date for the diary towards the end of July.


Tuesday, July 01, 2014

An unlikely star of the garden show

It's Ground Hog Day again. Yes, here's the garden in July.....an annual post!

My little garden will not win favour with those who think we should be painting with flowers and making garden creation an art form.  No, it's crammed full of plants that I love and it's not making any particular statements. I just do the best I can with a clay soil and a north facing plot  (which fortunately gets a few hours of sunshine a day).  The colour palette is primarily pink and white with a few red highlights.

This year's hits are the hollyhocks, seen on the left, by the fence, which started life being so badly mauled by snails I didn't think they would have a chance. They don't look like the usual hollyhocks but have fluffy pink balls of flower, like rosettes.

The unlikely star of the garden is erigeron karvinskianus, a tumbling daisy, part of the aster family, which is pink and white and also grows well in crevices.  I love the way it spills over my sleepers, softening the edges.

I am thrilled that a couple of tender trailing fuchsias from last year lived through the winter and are blooming again.

I have a few delights to follow in late summer:  gladioli, nerines and monarda, all for the first time.

And next week I have a day off work to visit the Hampton Court flower show. This will partly make up for the disappointment of missing Chelsea, when I had to spend the day in bed with food poisoning from oysters.


Erigeron

Salvia Hot Lips

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