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

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The trouble with Ross & Brand

I've always found Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand individually very talented and amusing. They're probably not very bothered about the current furore about their lewd phone calls on Radio 2 to the elderly and much loved actor Andrew Sachs. I imagine that Brand in particular is enjoying the notoriety. He thrives on it. Remember his recent comments in the US, where an unknown Brand said the President was a moron?

The problem with Ross & Brand is that the BBC is really too restrictive for them. It's hardly edgy, is it, and they both like to challenge to see how far they can go. Ross is pushing 50 and is well aware that his fate is be the next Terry Wogan. He's probably feeling a bit threatened by Brand. Brand on the other hand is a Walter Mitty, a fantasist, whose arrogant claims about women are partially justified I imagine - any old wannabe slapper from Big Brother will probably sleep with him - but he looked a bit foolish the other day when it turned out he hadn't had his wicked way with Rod Stewart's daughter, despite telling the singer he had. It's all bluster. He's one of those men who may end up being a serial womanizer because he loves the thrill and the capture but can't do the cosy intimacy. No woman could be suitably adoring 24/7.

The wishy wishy Tristans of the BBC will now be climbing the walls having been giving a kicking by the Prime Minister and 10,000 Disgusteds of Tunbridge Wells. And the outcome will probably be that a producer will get sacked. Oh I think it very unlikely they would actually punish the highly paid Ross or the very much up-and-coming Brand.

My advice to the two gents would be that they do a Jim Davidson (they share many traits with him) and go out live on the road. They can be as lewd as they like. They may fall flat on their faces of course, but at least it will stretch and challenge them.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Mark Foster and John Sergeant were appalling, as expected

Strictly Come Dancing

As I predicted on Friday, swimmer Mark Foster made what my mum described as a "pig's ear" of his paso doble last night and now resides at the bottom of the leader board. I suspect the public will leave him there, but will probably save John Sergeant. So Foster will either be joined by Christine Bleakley or Heather Small. They're both in the dangerous mid-table position where it all depends on the public vote.

Ah, dear John Sergeant. He had a beguiling charm at the start but I'm getting a bit bored of him now. His paso was notable for him dragging his poor partner across the floor as if he was a caveman taking her to his lair, and for his endless foot stomping. Time for him to go folks!

Heather did a good job, better than I was expecting. I had anticipated that both Cherie and Christine would suffer with the paso doble and I was right. Christine lacked the dramatic performance and Cherie was thrown off kilter by a stumble at the start.

Jodie is looking doggedly good and Lisa Snowdon did OK, although near enough to keep her tenuous place at the top.

A lot of emphasis was placed on how Tom sacrificed his honeymoon to practice, but for crying out loud, he only practiced for 9.5 hours last week so he was lucky that his Viennese waltz was as polished as it was!

Austin Healey did a proficient job but I find him a bit boring, as I tend to find most of the sportspeople. To them it's just a competitive thing of having to do well. I don't see any love of the actual dancing.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Heather and Mark on borrowed time: Strictly Come Dancing preview

I'm doing well with the old predictions, aren't I! Last week I said swimmer Mark Foster and singer Heather Small would be in the dance-off. I was expecting that John Sergeant, although bottom with the judges, would be rescued from the dance-off by the public, and this indeed came to pass.

I was gutted that Heather won the dance-off and dear Don Warrington went out. He put a lot of energy into it whereas she comes across as disinterested. I learnt on It Takes Two this week that her crippling stage fright means her face becomes frozen like a mask, but nonetheless she still looked fed up in training. The public won't tolerate petulance!

This week they're doing a paso doble or a Viennese waltz. I find the old waltz a bit of a yawn really. It's just people pirouetting round in circles. But I do think it will prolong the SCD career of Andrew Castle because in rehearsals he looked suited to the dance and his posture was much improved.

The paso doble will sound the death knell for Mark Foster in my view: I cannot imagine him stamping his feet and mastering the brooding arrogance needed. Cherie Lunghi too looked as if she was struggling in rehearsals. I think this may be her most challenging dance to date.

John Sergeant's paso doble also looks a treat, but for the wrong reasons. I'm hoping for a side splitting comedy turn like the paso provided by the kid from East Enders in the first series, where he raced around with a cape like a demented bat.

Lisa Snowdon seems to have got a bit above herself since coming top of the leaderboard last week. She asserted on It Takes Two that she hopes to rise to the challenge of staying top of the leader board. I thought "steady on dear!" I'm wondering if it was a fluke, but Lisa will show us one way or the other.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Random thoughts: Kelly Brook, Madonna, The Restaurant

Yesterday: Chingford to Swindon and return, total 5 hours. Dentressangle:0, Bailey's equine horse feeds 0, Wilkinson's, 0 (maybe I wasn't looking hard enough).

Random thoughts a-plenty.

Kelly Brook was on one of the news bulletins having opened in her first west end play, Fat Pig. Now Kelly is a ravishing girl, invariably referred to as "curvy Kelly" in the magazines. But she always strikes me as a girl in search of a talent. Goodness knows she tries hard enough. There's been TV presenting, but she only ever comes across as wooden. I caught a glimpse of her in "Dirty Dancing - Time of their Lives" the other day and was appalled when she referred to two candidates as "them two." Whaaaat!

I saw her in a film where she was some Italian countess or some old nonsense, and again, she gave Westonbirt Arboretum a run for its money.

I haven't seen any reviews of her new role yet but seeing as she wears a bikini on stage, I doubt if her acting ability will matter very much.

She has an old-style glamour about her, reminscent of Sophia Loren, but as soon as she opens her mouth it all goes wrong. She has one of those ordinary twittery little girl voices and keeps saying "and um," and giggling. If I was you Kelly, I would have some voice coaching. And keep up with the acting lessons.

Dear Madonna
I'm sure you're pretty fed up with Guy but it would be nice for Lourdes and the gang if you and he didn't have an acrimonious public divorce. I see that you have both hired top-flight "name" divorce lawyers. I see that you're both saying you want a civilised divorce and yet you're both deploying the unsavoury tactic of getting friends and insiders to do your carping in the press. I know you savour control, Madonna, but try to be big about this. If Guy's "insiders" spill the beans, you don't have to respond. Be dignified. For all our sakes.

I very much enjoyed BBC2's The Restaurant last year and was enthusiastic when the new series started recently. But it should really have been a one-off. Monsieur Blanc is too big for his boots this year. He's choosing candidates purely on whether or not they will dance to his tune and nothing to do with their business capabilities. What put the tin hat on it for me was last week's dismissal of Helen and Stephen. Their marketing concept was the best. I could see that "Conquering Cabbage" would be a PR winner in these times of obese children and too much fast food. Maybe the execution was flawed. But it was far superior to the bland, minimalist book put together by those useless boys James and Alasdair.

Because James was a chef and can clearly cook, and is also suitably subservient, Blanc has kept him in the contest, even though he and his business partner Alasdair have been completely clueless in all respects.

Helen on the other hand, while only an average cook, showed that her food for families concept works. Her restaurant was always packed. But because she's too "controlling," as Raymond sneered, she was booted out. Yet in the previous week, she rose to the challenge of cooking for a private dinner party and did very well, whereas James and Alasdair left everything to the last minute and only narrowly averted disaster. I've lost a lot of interest - and respect - for the show now.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Strictly Come Dancing preview: Foster and Small tipped for dance-off

I haven't seen many of the It Takes Two show this week to give you a detailed assessment of "the form" for tonight's much trumpeted boys v girls show. Presenters and judges are trying to whip up a frenzy of anticipation and excitement, but until recent years when they recruited too many celebrities, we saw boys v girls from the start.

It was interesting to see that on the overall leader board, Cherie is top followed by Austin, Tom and then Rachel.

My friend Anonymous is predicting that Tom will be the outright winner. I think he will soon overtake Austin, whose muscly arms will start to hold him back. Rachel will go far but she's not very likeable, at least not to me or A.

It's fascinating to see the personalities develop as the weeks unfold so that characters like Jodie start to become real and the public start to vote for her; whereas the star of others crashes and burns, like Jessie, who I thought would stay in for a while with public support.

I think the days of swimmer Mark Foster are numbered. He looks great but he's too tall and too self-conscious. He's had an acting lesson this week with the ever present John Barrowman but I'm predicting he will be in the dance-off, along with Heather Small. Heather didn't like being in the dance-off last week and could be seen visibly pouting and fuming. She went back to training with low confidence and I think she's got a bit fed up with it all.

I expect John Sergeant will also be at the bottom but Sarah Kennedy's radio campaign to keep the old stager in means he'll be around for a few weeks to come, like a twinkling little extra from Snow White & the Seven height challenged assistants.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Completed: the world's top 10 marathons

Not by me, I hasten to add, although I was present at each and every one.
No, the achievement was by my partner J, who on Sunday completed his 18th marathon in Chicago, and the last one on his list of the world's top 10.

Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Stockholm, London, Honolulu, Berlin, Paris, Boston, New York, Chicago.

On the way he scored a personal best in his 17th marathon, joined the local running club, the Orion Harriers, which improved his confidence and ability no end, and amassed a huge selection of marathon merchandise in the form of t-shirts and fleeces.
John's own visual account is here.

I secured a fancy digital camera in the process because he couldn't stand the useless photos I was taking, which I indignantly blamed on my apparatus. I took the three photos in this post, but sadly only one decent photo of John actually running in Chicago!

Chicago was very hot and not at all windy. On marathon day, the alert changed during the course of the race from amber to red, an indication of the gruelling weather conditions. J was on course for a PB but sensibly slowed down in the last hour and still finished only 15 minutes slower than his target time.

I think I was more worn out than he was, trudging across the city by public transport with my balloon and cow bell. I managed to see him three times during the race but only one photo was any good (despite the fancy camera!).It's hard work being a spectator as you have to be careful with the fluids (few and far between "facilities") and it's very tiring craning your neck to see your loved one among thousands of runners.

We were in Chicago for a few days and did some of the tourist activities: boat trip, open top bus tour, visit to Navy Pier. Navy Pier was notable mainly for a very fine stained glass museum.

The hotel we stayed in, the Palmer House Hilton, was in its own words somewhat over-the-top with painted ceilings similar to the Venetian in Las Vegas and elements of baroque and art deco confusingly combined. Like most US hotels it was too dark and gloomy for my taste.

I've never been too keen on the skyscraper kind of architecture, but the enthusiasm of the tour guides for what Chicago had to offer was infectious and I found myself admiring the Wrigley building, the interestingly shaped Prudential extension and the blunt and assertive Sears and Hancock towers.

Back in London today I mused on the fact that most of our great buildings are very old: the Tower of London, Houses of Parliament, St Paul's Cathedral. Our modern architecture is poor. We have dozens of ugly cement low-rise blocks but the Swiss RE Tower is the only masterpiece among lacklustre "skyscrapers." I'm with Prince Charles on the quality of London's modern architecture, in the main. Carbuncles. Yet Chicago shows what can be achieved.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Relief of the Fleece

The postman delivered two identical parcels this week, one for me and one for my partner. As I felt the large soft package, I beamed with relief. The loser's fleece! J applies for the London Marathon ballot every year and it's in early October that you either get the "congratulations you have secured a place" letter, or what we call the loser's fleece.

In a moment of madness back in April, I actually applied for the ballot as well, although my running is very sporadic. I am not a gifted runner and have been told I have a peculiar gait, which doesn't inspire me to be the next Paula Radcliffe although I quite like buying the latest running gear.

Anyway, I know the form by now, so I was pretty relieved when I received the loser's fleece. Phew. I rang J and said "we're both losers," to which he said "oh no, not the fleece." He then tried it on when he got home and declared it a great asset to his wardrobe.

He will still probably be able to run in the London marathon next year as a member of a running club. He's spent countless hours on marshalling duty at races and taking and uploading photos. Next weekend we will both be in Chicago where he will run his 18th marathon, and the last in the world's top 10 that he hasn't done. Honolulu, London, Berlin, Paris, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Boston, Chicago, New York. It's been quite an oddyssey.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Strictly Come Dancing preview

This week the guys have to do a jive or a tango. I haven't seen all of the Claudia programmes this week but from what I have seen, Gary Rhodes is endeavouring to come across more humble, to try to win more votes, and both he and Andrew Castle have been having trouble with the jive. I think Castle is quite a poor dancer really but somehow he blundered through episode 1 without appearing as if he had two left feet.

Don Warrington's acting skills look as if we're in for a treat of a tango, while Austin Healey seems to have perfected a superb jive.

So if I'm being bullish I would predict the judges' lowest scores will go to Rhodes, Castle and Sergeant, and the dance-off will be between Rhodes and Sergeant.

In the women's opener last Saturday, I was disappointed with Lisa Snowdon, as was the graceless Brendan who did one of his storming offs after she got a low score. But that's the trouble with being too confident. Brendan had hyped her as his best partner ever before we saw her dance, and then she came across quite wooden, probably because of nerves.

I think Heather Small has a lot of potential, as does Rachel Stevens. Cherie Lunghie is a trained dancer and judging by her frame probably dances and does Pilates still, but I don't think she's a serious contender because I doubt if the fickle public will vote for an older woman. Jessie Wallace was very nervous too and I think she's capable of much more.
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