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

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Monday, April 30, 2007

The rehabilitation of Sven

Fascinating to read a sympathetic and factually correct account of former England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson in the Sunday Times.

Far from being the money grabbing, woman-chasing idiot he has been made out to be by the rotweilers of the sporting tabloid press, he came across as thoughtful, considerate and likeable. A man who talks to his elderly parents (who live nearby) everyday. Who, far from taking any fee paying public speaking opportunity available, actually did more non fee paying appearances. Who, instead of fleecing the FA for every penny even when he stopped working as England coach, agreed to take £2.25m instead of the £6m he was entitled to.

Most significantly, Sven was, without doubt, the most successful England coach of the modern era. Played 38, won 26, lost % was 7.9. Let's compare that with Alf Ramsey, shall we, because let's face it, we only ever talk about 1966. Played 33. won 20, lost % 21.2.

Sven was utterly vilified by the UK press, most of it zenophobic because a foreigner had the audacity to manage the England team. Well, not many candidates would accept the post. What I find galling is that the vitriol was largely based on lies.

The problem is that England should have a good national team. Look at the number of international players who choose to play here. But the reality is different. Expectations are far too high. The pysche of England is inextricably wrapped up with the success of the football team. Was it Sven's fault that some of the highest paid footballers in the world bottled out and missed penalties? It wasn't the first time this has happened.

Most significantly in the article, after the disasterous defeat at the hands of Portugal, Eriksson begged the UK press not to "finish off" Rooney (sent off)or the idiots who missed the penalities. He asked to be vilified because he wouldn't be needed again.

Proof again that here was an honorable man, mistreated by the press and public at large.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Celebrities who lie about their looks

Lying celebrities. The ones who say their good looks are down to genes and healthy eating. They make me so mad. They add to the worries that women have about their looks and ageing. Sophia Loren for example: fabulous in her 70s. She enigmatically says she has a special recipe for her good looks. Yes, probably everything going! Face lift, brow lift, Botox, Restylane. Or Goldie Hawn, who says she has had no surgery (but today's modern equivalent is all the collagen and injections, and she no doubt has those). Joan Collins is the worse. You can see from her frozen face, and the funny little wrinkles on the side of her mouth, that she isn't natural, but she insists nature was very kind to her. Tosh.

Then there are Victoria Beckham's ludicrous breasts. A picture in Hello this week shows the two footballs looking as if they've been stuck onto her flat bony chest. Apparently, claims Jordan (Katie Price), Posh told her they were fake and even gave her a flash in a loo. Yet she steadfastly maintains she's had nothing done. (Frankly dear, you should ask for your money back, they're appalling).

So respect to the celebs who come clean. Jordan for one. Goodness knows why she had Botox at her age. I saw Bonnie Tyler recently ("It's a heartache") and she happily confessed to Botox and Restylane. Toyah Wilcox. Anne Robinson. I don't think they lose face by admitting it. They show they're human and they have the same worries and frailties as the rest of us. Meanwhile the celebs who lie, who disguise themselves and turn up at hospitals in the dead of night, are trying to perpetuate some sad myth about themselves and they just seem ridiculous.

Monday, April 23, 2007

By way of a small commercial....

I've created a new blog, gail_scrapper to allow me to indulge in my scrapbook and card making passion. I noticed that quite a few of the ladies on uk scrappers have blogs and discovered there's a definitive guide to crafting websites - their button is now on my craft site. Now all I have to do is generate traffic. Are there enough hours in the day?

Size zero over exposed

Last night there was yet another TV programme showing you how to get from size 12 (that's US size 8) to double size zero within 5 weeks. That's the third programme in about 5 weeks.

I'm sure the programme makers would say "the intention was to show how it can lead to mental disturbance / food disorders", blah blah, and try to justify how they're creating a debate in the broadcast media.

Tosh. What the three programmes have all done is shown how frighteningly easy it is to drop dress sizes if you have a laser focus and friends in the medical and personal trainer professions. You can see why the likes if Nicole Ritchie and Posh Spice have become so hooked on being tiny. They get a buzz from being in control.

I wish we would ignore all this size zero nonsense. The more press attention it gets, the more mainstream it becomes, rather than a sickness and malaise spread by the media and adopted by airheads with nothing better to do than starve themselves.

I would love to see a leading UK designer like John Galliano put hour-glass shaped models on the catwalk and feature clothes for hour glass-shaped women. Not fat women. Hour glass shaped. The Sunday Times reported yesterday how the catwalks in Mumbai, India, were an inspiration because the beautiful women they featured had real busts and real waists and real hips. Not the emaciated, boyish, straight up-and-down figures you see on the UK's catwalks. Perhaps they're all boys? There's a thought.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The trouble with Derriford Hospital

My mum (Giz) was in Derriford Hospital, Plymouth, overnight after falling and dislocating her shoulder. It's the third time this has happened. She doesn't appear frail; she walks a lot, has a healthy diet and maintains a big and immaculate garden, as well as being social secretary of a widows' organisation. But it seems that elderly ladies are more inclined to stumble and fall, and when they do, they hurt themselves.

The second time it happened, Giz was staying with us in London. She tripped in the front garden in the evening gloom. We took her to Whipps Cross, a hospital in danger of losing its A&E, and we were well impressed by the speed, and quality, of the care she received. She was seen within 5 minutes, given immediate pain relief, and her shoulder was put back very gently. The next day she was taking the sling off because the pain had gone.

Not so with her first and third times, both involving Derriford Hospital. Admitted late yesterday, she was given no pain relief despite asking several times. Eventually someone grudgingly offered gas and air (do they still use that?!) or Co-Codemol, which she has at home. Before it was given, the doctor attemped to put her shoulder back by waving her arms around until she screamed in pain. The damage he has done means her shoulder will now take longer to recover.

Then, before she left today, the staff "mislaid" her phone and handbag. She saw them ransacking bins searching. All the time the staff were laughing and joking and the ward was a filthy tip.

Derriford has a "fair" rating but I have always had a low opinion of it after my dad died there. He was in hospital for several weeks and I always believed the standard of care he received was poor. The problem is that the majority of people don't complain. A lot of our hospitals are worse than those in Third World countries: the MRSA statistics confirm that. Yet we somehow tolerate it. Why?

Of course I now have a niggling concern that the great care she received in Whipps Cross was because we were there with her. Maybe an elderly lady on her own is vulnerable and likely to be treated with disdain by hospital staff. The care the elderly receive is a big worry to me: so much is said about stupid girls starving themselves to size zero, yet many elderly people are forcibly starved and cruelly treated in unscrupulous residential homes. But it's not a fashionable cause and so it doesn't receive the Jamie Oliver spotlight treatment.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Back from Boston - brrr what a freezer!

We've just returned from a few days in Boston, US, where John ran the Boston Marathon. It was his 15th marathon and #8 in the "tick box" list of top 10 marathons. Just Chicago and Amsterdam left!

The weather was dreadful the whole time. Dire warnings had been issued for marathon Monday (Patriot's Day). Record levels of rainfall were expected. Icy winds. Runners were warned to dress up and how to avoid hypothermia. John left for the buses to take the runners to the start, a long way out from Boston, at six in the morning. It was raining then, and the runners got cold and wet waiting. Once the race was underway, the rain more or less stopped and the wind was not too bad. With temperatures around 50 fahrenhait, it was better for running than hot weather.

John came in at less than a minute outside his personal best, which for the weather conditions was very good: even the elite runners all finished up to six minutes slower than normal. He was very pleased with his run: all the training with the Orion Harriers the past year had paid off and he didn't struggle at Heartbreak Hill or hit the wall.

The photo I took of him in the park, overlooking the swan boats, was after the marathon as we wearily walked back to the hotel. By then it was very cold, which you can see from his face and "apparel." It's quite wearisome for me even though I don't run. I usually try to whiz around the town on the underground, wherever we are, to try to take pictures, but this time because most of the marathon was outside of Boston, and because of the weather, I went to the finish with other spectators whose partners were in the sports party with us. I shot some camcorder footage of John finishing but I'm no Pedro Almodovar so heaven knows what it will be like.

As for Boston itself, we did a "duck tour" (John is pictured driving the duck along the river) and a two hour trolley bus ride, and inevitable shopping. Boston has history and they seem proud of it. I was very taken with the gas lights that stand in the Beacon Hill area. I tried to take some pictures at night but the slow exposure was a disaster. Fortunately I was able to buy some decent pictures so I can use them to make a scrapbook page.

Food-wise, it's never a gourmet's delight on a marathon weekend because of the relentless carb stacking. But we did find a gem of a restaurant, Antonio's, not far from our hotel in Cambridge Street near Government Centre. It was small but very lively and busy, filled with locals, and mega decibels of conversational shouting. The pasta dinner, organised free of charge for the runners with partners paying $20, was a bit of a washout. In freezing temperatures and rain we were herded into the adjacent big top to queue, and as you would expect for mass catering, the pasta was fairly solid and congealed. I'm putting my foot down on pasta dinners, feasts, whatever they want to call them. From now on we're going to a civilised restaurant like Antonio's! After the marathon, we went to an Irish pub, Kinsale, and a jolly time was had with plenty of steaks and Guinness. My steak was the equivalent of £10 but far better than the £28 steak I had in Smiths of Smithfield.

Next stop is Amsterdam - John has already signed up for that one in October. Right now, glad to be back in blighty to enjoy some of the nice weather. Ironic to think that the Rotterdam marathon was abandoned because of the heat while Boston's marathon was shivering in the rain and wind!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Spandau Ballet - there's no need to reunite

The BBC carried a news item today "for ageing New Romantics." (thanks!). Viz a viz, Spandau Ballet have now agreed to reunite, following their acrimonious court case. Mind, their ageing fans will have quite a wait because lead singer Tony Hadley claims his diary is too full for four years.

Four years?! I mean, nice work Tony, you've scored a few points with the fact that following one or two appearances on reality TV, you have a good gig going with Butlins and Pontins, but my advice would be to act quickly. The band members must all be pushing 50 so who knows if one of them might snuff it by four years.

Frankly, I wouldn't care if they didn't reunite. I wasn't a big fan of SB. We used to refer to Hadley as "the opera singer" because of his strangled vocals. I hated "Gold," although some of their earlier songs were OK. I remember dancing to them wearing the uniform of the time, stripy red and white knickerbockers, flowing belt, frilly white shirt and ballet pumps. Yes, quite.

It's ok when a pop star grows old with you, eg David Bowie; but when a group disappears and then decides to resurface to hopefully pay off their mortgages, it's very disconcerting to see them all looking fat, jowly, bald and/or grizzled. It reminds you of your own mortality (and appearance). I think we all believe we look the same, hardly any different, so seeing Tony Hadley et al with beer guts and enough chins to rival the Chinese phone book is a bit of a zeitgist moment.

Mind, I don't think we're talking the Take That reunion, are we? Those boys do look a bit old to be a boy band now but at least they've still got their own hair and teeth.

I remember watching a terribly sad programme a while ago featuring 70s band The Sweet, who were still gigging. Their lead singer Brian Connolly (now deceased) had been a heavy drinker and paid the price: he was shown shuffling into a club, a shadow of his former self after a stroke, but still trying to perform Blockbuster and the other hits. Tony and the gang, don't do it! Leave us with our memories, with you in your prime.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Apprentice loses its bite

The Apprentice, UK version, has moved to mainstream television on BBC1 and, regrettably, is running out of steam.

What was unmissable TV for the first two series is now formulaeic and tired. Clearly, most of the challengers were chosen simply to create good TV rather than be taken seriously as talented businesspeople. I'm horrified at the low standard. The guy who was evicted last week was a car salesman: nice enough but with no strategic vision or leadership qualities. The bankrupt entrepreneur Rory, who was evicted this week, was a prissy lecturing headmaster who was so obsessed with reining in the show's inevitable loudmouth Tre that he forgot about winning the task. Meanwhile another contender evicted this week had kept quiet about the fact he was a product designer because he was "having an off day" and missing his family. He should have resigned rather than been fired, having deprived someone else of the opportunity to take part.

The problem with Sugar and the UK format is that he's nothing more than a box shifter and what he's looking for is someone who's tactical, a salesperson and mild-mannered. Someone like Tim, who won series one after being invisible for most of the show. Any candidates with a marketing or legal background are there just for TV impact, because Sugar is not looking for impressive brains or marketing acumen.

The tasks are mostly sales focused and becoming dull: sell coffee in central London? I watched the US version when it was shown late at night on BBC2 recently and the tasks were more interesting because Donald Trump is looking for more of a visionary achiever. There were fewer of these "sell as much as you can in 10 minutes" type tasks and more around marketing and advertising.
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