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

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Christine to go - please!

I was discussing Strictly Come Dancing with Anonymous. Well we discuss it every time we see each other, truth be told. We are united on the Rachel Factor (don't like her). Lisa is perceived as somewhat dull and flashy. Tom is a good egg, and strangely persecuted by the judges because he hasn't had a 10 yet (I was a little put off by Tom initially because his dad wears a bow tie). We don't like Austin. He's too arrogant, and he looks like a neanderthal stomping around. And then there's Christine.

I don't like her, I find her smiles and guile a bit fake. And why is Adrian Chiles always hanging around if they aren't an item? But Anonymous does like her, but, sorry A, she has to go tonight. She has long over stayed her welcome and should, in my view, have gone last week instead of the lovely Jodie. Such a shame to see the back of Ian Waite too.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Stay off the screen, 80s heart throbs

I know there's a big trend at the moment for bands from the 80s to go on tour and make big profits. But it's one trend I'm keen to avoid. I inadvertently recorded a programme about the 80s which I thought was going to be more of a tribute with some history and old footage. I should have thought twice when I saw that shrieky old Denise Van Outen was presenting it. Instead, it was lots of formerly great acts from the 80s belting out their hits, but now in their 40s and 50s.


The sad fact was, none of them had been botox'd, dermabrasioned, "filled" or anything else. So there they were, a horrible reminder of the ageing process and one's own mortality.

Glenn Gregory from Heaven 17, now presumably bald (wearing a cap) with a ferocious set of unnaturally white teeth. Nick Kershaw - bald - and unrecognisable except that the song sounded exactly the same. That Limahl from Kajagoogoo, tragically wearing the same dyed coxscomb and kids' clothes. Paul Young, not ageing too badly but a horrendous shade of orange. And Nick Heywood with a creepy beard and sad looking bleary eyes.

I said it before when Spandau Ballet reunited. Don't do it guys! Trouble is, there's plainly cash to be made from these reunion tours and plainly enough old fogies to turn out and relive their youth. Not for me. I don't mind listening to the gloriously naff old songs on my iPod, but I wouldn't be seen dead doing a staid little jig to the middle-aged groovers now. I prefer to remember them - and me - in my heyday, when Maddie Grigg and I used to polish off a bottle of Concord wine and then go on the bus down to the Cooperage and knock them all dead, dancing to Heaven 17 and ABC.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Sergeant was selfish

There was a moment in the John Sergeant Show on Strictly Come Dancing It Takes Two last night when he was revealed in all his brittle, selfish glory.

His partner Kristina Rihanoff started sobbing - she didn't want to go out of the show - and he just ignored her, intently pressing his points about not wanting to be humiliated in the final.

Maybe he didn't want to be upstaged by a Russian starlet. Maybe he thought she was putting it on. But it was very telling.

I am perplexed today by the amount of attention this silly little story is getting. Good God, it shows what perspective the people of Britain have. As businesses crumble every day, as the mighty M&S drops its prices today to try to shore up their retail sales, all we're worried about is a bad dancer leaving a Saturday night TV show.

I agree with James Jordan that Sergeant is selfish. Unlike Kate Garraway last year, he kept exhorting the public to vote for him. "Well the public will save us," he said smugly, after being panned for another appalling dance. And they did, because the voting mugs like to think they're getting one over on the judges. It would be nice if they were "getting one over" on things that matter, but there you go.

So having milked the public, he now decides the support is too great and he might have to drag his humiliated carcass around the floor in the final. I very much doubt he would have got to the final. Even the voting mugs start to appreciate the effort and talents of the good dancers.

He should have carried on until he was disposed of in the dance-off. But it's as if the mighty Sergeant was too good for that.

I'm sorry folks but to me he comes across as bumptious and arrogant. Don't be deceived, a twinkly granddad he is not.

And finally I have to wonder about his contract. Surely it must say a dancer can't leave the show unless they're injured? But no-one seems to have asked about it. Maybe he gave the money back. I very much doubt it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Days of "low cost" airlines numbered

I see that Easyjet's profits fell by 45%, similar to the fall of 47% suffered by Ryanair a couple of weeks ago. With rising fuel and other costs, they're going to have to consider their branding and stop calling themselves low-cost airlines. They will have to start competing equally against the big carriers and that means treating passengers like real people, having proper customer service and not charging people for taking luggage (Ryanair).

At the weekend I booked two flights to Dublin in February for a short break. I was interested to see that Ryanir was offering "free flights" for this period. But, by the time you'd clicked through to the check-out stage, the price for two tickets had shot up to the region of £353. In fact, exactly the same price, down to the looose change, that British Airways were quoting. And in BA's case, they stated the sum upfront with none of this deceitful "fly free or fly for £14" malarkey.

Faced with the choice of Ryanir and BA for the same price, it's a no-brainer. With BA you get an allocated seat (no undignified scramble at the gate); no charge for luggage, a snack and a decent cup of tea, and airmiles. Plus the airport is London City, which is very close to where we live and the friendliest, most efficient airport it's possible to find.

My advice to Stelios and Michael Ryan would be that if they no longer have a price advantage, their business model has gone up in smoke and they'd better consider introducing the frills that they so despise. Otherwise they may follow in the footsteps of Excel and the others.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Strictly Come Dancing inflection point?

I believe we have reached what the management moguls call "a strategic inflection point" in the SCD epoch.

If John Sergeant is kept in this weekend - and the campaign to vote for him seems to have been renewed in the papers - then the judges will have to choose to evict "good" dancers and will be spitting feathers. Which of course is good entertainment.

In fact, I enjoyed the plight of Rachel so much last week (terrible, isn't it!) that I'm half hoping she'll be at the bottom again tomorrow. An article in one of the papers said she is desperate to win because her career has never taken off since she left S Club 7, and she was distraught at being in the bottom two.

I'm also a bit fed up with Cherie and that impecunious tight smile she always gives.

I predict that if Sergeant is "saved," the bottom two will comprise Jodie and Christine, and probably Jodie will go. That's a shame because she's been building in stature and comes across very well. I find Christine a bit too relentlessly saccharine.

Tom and Austin are still going for it but I'm predicting the final will be between Tom and Lisa. I hope so anyway. Who are you tipping?

Friday, November 14, 2008

"Steel Magnolias" a triumph for the Ridgeway Theatre Company

If your perceptions of amateur dramatics are mistimed sound effects, petrified actors forgetting their words and poor comedic timing, then they will be shattered by the very slick and professional production of Robert Harling's Steel Magnolias from the Ridgeway Theatre Group.

Set in a Louisiana beauty salon, this is a challenging script, calling as it does for humour and sadness delivered by a small all-female cast. In the 1989 film, the cast included Dolly Parton, Julia Roberts, Daryl Hannah and Shirley MacLaine. But the Chiseldon cast was more than a match for the big budget movie with each character brought vividly to life in the capable hands of Wendy Pompe, Charlotte Mannion, Kim Waites, Angie MacNaught, Lynda Farrington and Vicki Brown.

The venue could also have been challenging - the pretty church of Holy Cross in Chiseldon, Wilts - but it delivered superb acoustics and the quality of the entertainment on stage was more than enough to offset any discomfort caused by sitting on pews for two hours.

There were sound effects a-plenty in the first act with the sounds of gun shots and telephones but no mistiming. All the period details in the play, which dates from the mid 80's, were carefully observed in trhe costumes and props.

Miraculously the cast managed to largely retain their southern US accents - quite a challenge - and Wendy Pompe as Truvy, the Dolly Parton character in the film, was particularly adept, imbuing her sympathetic character with warmth and radiance. Wendy's hairdressing talent has largely gone unnoticed before now but a career in perming and colouring awaits this talented thespian.

Steel Magnolias by the Ridgeway Theatre Company is showing at Holy Cross Church, Chiseldon, until Saturday 15 November

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Get Sergeant OUT

Strictly Come DancingI'm sorry pop pickers but he has to go! John Sergeant that is. I liked his twinkly gnome-like appeal to start with, but every week he does the same thing, a bit of marching and an arm extended out here, and then another arm out there. Meanwhile his Russian Marilyn lookalike is throwing herself round like a crazed dervish trying to compensate for his lack of dancing.

If Sergeant stays in tonight, then I predict Heather and sadly Jodie will be in the dance-off. Austin was next but I can't see him ending up in the bottom two. Heather's dance was preferred by the judges to Jodie's samba, so we might have to say goodbye to her. Would be a shame as she's really improving.

Unlike Mr Sergeant!

Friday, November 07, 2008

The world's biggest horse

A snippet of news on TV this morning about Duke, the world's largest horse, catapaulted me back to childhood and an unsolved mystery.

Before the developers took over, there was a tiny road opposite our house in Plymouth called Jones' Fairfields. Huge fairground lorries would go there for winter and it was very entertaining to watch the shenanigans as they tried to manoeuvre the trucks down the tiny lane.

One truck in particular caught my eye. "Horatio (or Hercules) - the world's largest horse."

I was fascinated and wanted to catch a glimpse of this mighty equine, but got chased away when I ventured down the path with my friend David.

Ever since I have wondered about that horse. I've looked on the web but no mentions. It doesn't help that I can't really remember its name, except that it began with H. I'm always reminding Giz that if she sees Maurice Jones, she should ask him about the horse. Gawd I hate unsolved mysteries, and that one heads the list along with the mystery of Rebel's Diner and the Marie Celeste.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Strictly Come Yawning

Strictly Come Dancing preview

I'm disappointed. I love SCD and am usually in a fever of excitement every Saturday after eagerly watching It Takes Two during the week. But this year, I'm missing some of those programmes and not bothering to watch the recording. It seems as if SCD has become a little boring.

I think it's this year's celebrities. Goodness they're all so earnest. So dedicated! So self-effacing. Andrew, when dinged over a bad performance, agreed with the judges! Where's the spark? All of them are on wretched "journeys" and there doesn't seem to be any of the usual tension or rivalry. At the start the show tried to manufacture rivalry between Austin Healey and Tom Chambers. But both are too affable. So we don't even have the usual "must-do-well-at-all-costs" aggressive competing from the athletes. Healey seems to do it effortlessly and Mark Foster was as gentle as a lamb.


Even the business of John Sergeant being kept in by the public has been remarkably benign. He hasn't yet put the judges in the position of having to get rid of a good dancer, which really made things hot up last year. And he isn't as screamingly bad as Kate Garraway or Fiona Phillips. Sometimes hie scores are faintly respectable.

This week they're all doing a different dance so I can't remember who's doing what except that Tom is doing a paso doble, Cherie is doing a samba and Christine an American Smooth.

I predict that John and Heather will be at the bottom of the table and the dance-off will be between Heather and Andrew.
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