Miscellany and detritus, from the writer of Is This Mutton?com

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Frock Horrors

Come on own up - one of the reasons we like seeing the red carpet parade at the Oscars is to see who blew it, in terms of their dress and hair! I always look forward to the Hello magazine Oscar coverage for this reason.

This year Sky were trumping their high definition coverage, but it turned out to be just a preview show with Fearne Cotton. Very disappointing. She's got the right combination of cheek and bubble but she would have benefitted from having a co-presenter so that when she finished an interview she could turn to someone and chat, instead of inanely looking at the camera and saying "she looked lovely." Patrick Kielty or Graham Norton would be great for this. Maybe we'd get some honest assessments of the frock horrors!

We didn't see all the stars in that prog, but here's my take on the ones we saw. Firstly, what's with that awful beige / nude / skintone colour? It doesn't suit anyone. Even Penelope Cruz looked washed out with a dress the same colour as her skin. She looks so much more vibrant in a colour like red.

Helen Mirren looked wonderful. Usually her dresses are a bit so-so. But this year she looked spectacular. Her figure was amazing for her age. And, good for her, she turned down the pre-Oscars Botox and fillers. Hurrah for a woman who looks great for her age (60) without that spooky, smooth, bland look (Nicole Kidman, Cate Blanchett).

Talking of Cate Blanchett, she looked very skinny in a gunmetal grey tight fitting number. JLO looked huge. I lose track of whether or not she's pregnant; it seems there's a new story every week, so perhaps she is and I've forgotten. If she isn't, she may have been eating too many pies. Jennifer Hudson looked pretty ghastly.

I remember seeing Rachel Weisz but I don't remember what she wore, so it must have been one of those beige numbers. You start to cry out for something emerald or fushsia.

Apart from those ladies, and a couple of others whose names escape me, we didn't see any of the other big stars. So I'll have to wait for Hello to see what Angelina Jolie, Halle Berry, Cameron Diaz, Charlize Theron, Kate Winslett and the other big hitters wore. Renee Zellweger always wears the same style of Caroline Herrera dress, so I don't consider her a contender. Last year's winner for me was Theron in that striking Dior black dress. And Salma Hayek, who was wearing a vivid colour and showcasing a spectacular bosom.

Not to mention our own VB. I'm sure she must have been lurking somewhere. In fact I saw a picture of her at the pre Oscars party, and she did look pretty good in white.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Why it's bad form to ask about the weekend

In the days, a couple of years ago, when I was a singleton there was one question which struck terror into my heart. On a Friday, "what are you doing at the weekend?" and on a Monday, "what did you do at the weekend?"

Quite often I would have a great reply having been to a spa, or down to Plymouth, or a dinner party / cinema / shopping.

But occasionally, if it had been a busy week and I hadn't made any arrangements, I would have to mutter "oh this and that, quite a quiet weekend really," while secretly seething.

The truth is, that when you're out of the first bloom of youth and back on the market after a divorce, it's hard work to organise a social life. Most of your friends are married or coupled up, or, in my case, very far flung because I've lived in so many different places.

Even now that I'm approaching the status of smug married, I still get vexed if I'm asked on Mondays what I did at the weekend. Quite often, it's just "stuff." You know, doing the shopping; housework; going to B&Q to look at light fittings; doing a Sunday roast; going to the gym. But you're made to feel inadequate for not having rushed off paint balling or abseiling whatever it is you're supposed to do at the weekend.

When I was a singleton I was convinced that people were asking me about my weekend for a specific reason. If they were coupled-up, and enjoying the sort of weekend I describe above, they wanted reassurance that even single people have a dull life and are not tripping the light fantastic in London or Las Vegas at the weekend.

I have to confess that on a couple of occasions I did make up some activities I'd done at the weekend, just to confound the questioner. "Oh yes, well on Friday I gave a dinner party for the Saatchis (Nigella and Charles)and Jonathan Ross and his wife Jane, such nice people; on Saturday I went to a burlesque night in London and on Sunday it was great weather for ballooning." The mouths dropped open....

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The book within

When I was training to be a journalist a few years ago, one of the reporters who taught us, Reg Scott, who went on to become Lord Mayor of Plymouth, memorably said: "Every journalist should write a bloody book."

The thought's always stayed with me, and even though I turned my back on journalism in 1988 for the odious world of PR and advertising, I've no doubt that oneday I'll churn something out.

It won't be Dostoyevsky though or even a Mills & Boon. I'm afraid that my populist tastes mean that my two book ideas at the moment are:
1) The Potato Diet
2) What happened after Extreme Makeover? (This is probably more like a magazine article than a book).

On (1), back in 2004 I lost around 2.5 stones (that's 35 pounds for my US chums), largely thanks to the potato. At that time Atkins had become all the rage, and I did try it for six weeks but never felt comfortable about the lack of fruit and veg and the disgusting amounts of cream and fat. I started having, every day at the work cafeteria, a jacket potato with smoked mackeral and salad. I had a decent breakfast, and didn't need much for dinner. And gradually the weight fell off, plus I felt good. Potatoes are good for you. They still get a bad press. The GI diet for example only allows new potatoes served with protein to minimise their high GI (or is it a low GI?).

But the whole crux of dieting is that you should find one that works for you, and for me, potatoes are filling and comforting so I'm not bothered about all this pseudo nutritional guff about sugar surges and energy drops. All I know is that when I eat a high protein diet, I'm too fatigued to go to the gym.

The other book idea stems from my fascination with the US (and now UK) programme "Extreme Makeover." I would love to find out what happened a year or so after the makeover. I don't see how you can turn Randy from the Blue Ridge Mountains into a handsome stud who goes home to the wife whose looks approximated his when they married, and not expect trouble. Their confidence must soar; they must suddenly want to become sociable after hiding themselves away. Yet we never hear what happened. What do you think folks? Food for thought, or back to the drawing board?!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Hey laggards - get into the blogosphere

Yo, calling all you 30 and 40 somethings. Where are your blogs, your profiles on Myspace?

Reason I ask is that I've carried out an exhaustive search on Myspace and can't find hardly anyone I know, which, considering that I work in the technology industry, is a bit damning! We should all be role modelling here....

I was hoping to find my lost penpals (see an earlier posting in archive) but I doubt if they're posting in their maiden names. Should anyone know of Cheryl Morris from Mass, US (I can't even remember whereabouts), Karen Walker from Swindon and Julie Cox from Pevensey, Gail Tyler is still looking for them!

I realise that Myspace has a young age base....it seems very big among teenagers and 20 somethings. Bit galling in fact to find your only friend is "Tom" when lots of people have dozens of friends and they're all having a blast.

Still, I seem to be making some friends at my other new site, mybloglog, which I belatedly discovered some months into trying to promote this wretched blog. Hi to any of you guys who are visiting!!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Poor old Britney

I'm normally the first to sigh and say that celebs going into rehab should pull themselves together. But, unusually, I feel some pity - and understanding - for Britney Spears. Firstly, the poor girl is the subject of every tawdry daytime TV show in the UK today, and no doubt many others across the world. They're all analysing why she shaved off her hair and is she close to a breakdown. The reality is, Britney just wants to be left alone, but every thing she does is reported and commented on.

Even if she announced she was retiring, she'd still be photographed going to the supermarket or falling out of a cab. The headlines would just get more derogatory.

I'm sure many women can empathise with the hair thing. It's quite common to cut your hair off after a relationship ends. Britney's is a more desperate act. She was defined by her long blonde hair. She rejected that, dyed it brown. But it still didn't work. Now she shaves it off, to stop stylists fiddling with it and giving her hair extensions (a very tedious business, believe me - I had extensions back in the year 1999 before they were trendy!).

It seems to me Britney must have really loved her husband and she's devastated by the split. It's even worse for her because she has everyone muttering "told you so." She did what quite a few people do after a break-up: she reclaimed her single status and went clubbing. But again, everyone started tutting and asking about the children. The truth is, the children were probably at home being cared for. Not like many of the kids in Britain today who are home alone while their parents go out getting drunk!

Britney checked in for rehab and lasted 1 day. That's because her heart isn't in it, yet. She needs the anaethetising qualities of drink or whatever it is that's propping her up.

We should cut Britney some slack and let her drop gracefully out of public life until she's ready to face celebrity again, if ever.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Friday fun: the dining challenge

I am an inveterate list maker, and not just prior to going to Sainsburys. Life is so much easier when everything is on a list.

In my head I'm always making up lists. My top 10 favourite songs, books, dinner party guests, films, gripes, you name it.

I've been mulling over who I would invite to a dinner party. I'm thinking of people alive and present, not the deceased, although I would probably have a list for that too (Anne of Cleeves, Rasputin, Leonardo, Liberace, Van Gogh etc).

I'd be looking for a combination of wit, intelligence and gossip, maybe with a little controversy. I would invite:

1) Jonathan Ross - I imagine he would be excellent if conversation flagged. He's always got something to say.
2) David Bowie. As Ross is in awe of DB, his presence would stop JR dominating proceedings. Plus he's an interesting cove in his own right (ie my idol since 1972 but that's by-the-by)
3) Princess Stephanie of Monaco. She's just fabulous. I'd love to hear about life at the circus and who she's dating now (I think she's between husbands).
4) Carol McGiffin. She was married to Chris Evans at one time, and is now on "Loose Women" on ITV. Very forthright. We often have the same standpoint. For example: Robbie Williams going into rehab? He's got everything - he should just pull himself together and stop being so self pitying.
5) Rupert Everett. I loved his autobiography. HIs anecdotes would be very droll.
6) Stephen Fry: I imagine he and Rupert could be a scream together.
7) Carol Vorderman: well we all love her.
8) Marguerite Patten: she's such an interesting lady and would have such great stories about austerity in the war, powdered egg and so on.
9) Michael Jackson. Would be interesting to see the real man. And I would ask him about his nose and whether or not he saw Jermaine on CBB.
10) Naomi Campbell. If all else fails she could always start a fight....

Thursday, February 15, 2007

The biggest problem in Britain today

The biggest problem in Britain today is one that everyone seems to be avoiding.


Gillian McKeith's programme You Are What You Eat neatly illustrated the scale of the problem this week. Two sisters, both with teenage children, and all of them overweight. The sisters seemed to have normal intelligence. Yet they had no idea about nutrition or what they should be eating. Their habits were appalling, and obviously their children were just going along with it. The kids were being bullied and were miserable about being fat. Yet to start with, they rejected all the healthy foods, and it was ONLY through their fat parents role modelling what to eat, and getting them involved in food preparation, that they started to change their habits.

It's a huge uphill battle because the majority of overweight adults don't want to change their habits. They don't see the connection between the poor health they suffer (arthritic knees, diabetes, heart conditions, high blood pressure, constipation) and the food they consume. Let's face it, it's much harder, and more expensive, to eat healthily. Busy parents who work will find it tough to cook meals from scratch when they get home and have hungry kids to feed. You have to get organised, prepare menus, cook at the weekend and make sufficient quantities to freeze.

The resistance to healthy eating was illustrated by the Rotherham mothers, who, rather than have their children eat the healthy lunches their school was providing, decided to push burgers and chips through the railings. Jamie Oliver's campaign to force the government and schools to provide healthy, freshly cooked meals in place of pre-cooked rubbish like turkey twizzlers and chips, was laudable in that for some children it's the only healthy meal of the day. But it avoids the biggest issue: somehow Britain's parents need to understand the problem, get the message and change their habits.

The repercussions if they don't are already known. Children will die before their parents. The NHS will drown under the weight of obesity-induced illnesses.

Yet I don't see much action. The government introduced some namby pamby traffic lights system to indicate what's in our food, but not all the retailers adopted it, leading to confusion. There's been more investment in school meals: good, but not good enough (we're still below all the other EU countries in terms of amount spent per child). Vending machines in schools are banned from selling chocolate, crisps and sweets. What else?

My immediate suggestions would be to make PE mandatory on the curriculum at all schools (and not just for 30 mins a week) and to reinstate domestic science at all state schools, to try to re-educate on nutrition.

Then we have to tackle the parents. I'm giving this serious thought and would welcome your ideas and support.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Those M&S changing room mirrors

I'm glad to see that former (and still aspiring) politician Robert Kilroy-Silk is keeping his finger on the pulse of the big issues of the day. He's apparently written to Stuart Rose at Marks & Spencer claiming that the women's changing room mirrors give an unfairly flattering aspect (yes flattering).

I was pretty gobsmacked at this because I distinctly recall an incident involving myself, an M&S changing room, two pairs of trousers and a mirror, just before Christmas. Suffice to say, they must be skimping on fabric these days and the trousers went unbought.

I was going to write to Mr Rose myself (I think we could enjoy a flourishing correspondence) to urge him to improve the changing rooms: to provide more flattering mirrors and less harsh lighting.

Mr Kilroy-Silk's data seems to be anecdotal, and therefore not robust: his wife and "some of our friends" claims the mirrors are flattering. So what? They buy the clothes and find they hate them when they get home? Big deal - take them back.

I'd suggest to Mr Kilroy-Silk that he takes up some more important issues. How about today's report that the UK is at the bottom of a Unicef league table showing that our kids have the worst life in Europe (and even the US), and that our poverty levels are worse than countries we often look down on - Greece, Czech Republic, Poland. That's a far more substantial issue.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Giving me the needle

One of life's most terrifying questions to me is: Can you sew?
The answer is No, and I won't even try now. Trousers needing hemming are outsourced to the dry cleaner's, or sometimes, shamefully, velcro is deployed.
My mum Giz is equally as bad. To both of us, the words "fancy dress party" were enough to bring on an aneurysm. She laboured all night once to produce a yellow rosette for Chops. He was too embarrassed to wear it. Another time, she chose to send me to a fancy dress party as a "flowergirl," which meant wearing a normal party frock and a headdress she had laboriously stitched with flowers. "What's a flowergirl?" I asked, mystified. Giz's piece de resistance was me as a Pilgrim mother. We were performing the Pilgrim Fathers something-or-other at the Polytechnic on closed circuit TV, and Giz was instructed to make me a suitable outfit. My apron was superb: a pillow case hanging from string round my waist.
Mind you, my sewing was no better. It was responsible for nearly all the humiliations I suffered at school, starting at age 9 with the ridiculous and cruel Mrs Thompson (catchphase: "hands on heads, arms folded, fingers on lips").
We all had to embroider a piece of binker, it was called (a holey piece of cloth), followed by a piece of, well, sacking. Even the boys. And one memorable day, she held up one piece and derided it saying even the boys could have done better. It was mine, of course. Moving to PGS, domestic science lessons were even worse for me than maths lessons. Two back-to-back classes on a Thursday afternoon with the acerbic Miss Coleman. Unfortunately, progressing to a sewing machine, the formidable Viking Husqvarna, didn't do me any favours. I found it very difficult to thread the damn thing and could never get any momentum once it was threaded. Miss Coleman decided once to tell the class that instead of a brain in my head, I had a turnip on my shoulders (I must have been the precursor of Graham Taylor).
I never finished anything I started. In the first year, we had to make aprons lined with bias binding in the colour of our house. Fortunately my friend Shonagh finished mine in the summer holidays. Then I had to make a kind of smock top out of flowery fabric. Never finished. Finally, in the third form, I chose to make a knee length navy skirt, thinking it would be farly easy. Miss Coleman summoned me during a break to put it on, and then made me model it in front of the fifth form girls, the ones who'd chosen to do O level domestic science and were therefore good at it, so they all sniggered. That skirt was never finished either.
It's a shame really because I would love to be able to make myself clothes that no-one else has got, that fit perfectly, using Vogue patterns. It's a mystery to Giz and me where her mother's sewing ability went. Grandma was superb - she made Giz's wedding dress, Elizabethan with a stand-up collar. She could dance too, and neither Giz nor I can. Still, looking on the bright side, I don't suppose Grandma could name 10 species of British bat, and Giz and I can both do that.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Greetings from California

Temperatures reached a fairly unseasonal 79 fahrenhait in southern California today. Not that I was able to sunbathe and enjoy it. I'm incarcerated in air conditioned (ie cold) buildings, attending the annual sales & marketing conference. It's my 10th consecutive conference.

The flight out, on Friday, was fairly uneventful. I didn't get upgraded, nor did I get a room on the executive floor of the hotel- unlike some smug colleagues who somehow managed to wangle it!

I saw "The Queen" on the flight and Helen Mirren was certainly remarkable in the role. She just IS the Queen after a short while, unlike the characters of Pricne Charles and Tony Blair who seem like caricatures.

Anyway, after arriving at our hotel, I managed to stay awake until 8pm, then allowed myself to go to sleep. Miraculously, I slept until the alarm went off at 7am! Now that did make my colleagues jealous.

There won't be any postings from me until I get back to blighty on Thursday.....

Already looking forward to having a ruby and watching decent TV!
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