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

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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Get thin: look old

A doughty old bird said a few years ago that when you get older you have to choose between your face and your ass. It may have been Elizabeth Taylor, it may have been Barbara Cartland.

Anyway, whoever said it was bang on the money. A report by the Million Women Study says the ideal body mass index (BMI) of a woman of the average height of 5ft 4 ins is about 24. This would mean weighing about 10 stone. (Apologies to my Euro chums for not using KGs but you know what laggards we Brits are when it comes to weights and measures.)

Meanwhile research published in the papers today says that losing 10 pounds can age a woman over the age of 40 by four years.

It's all to do with losing fat in the cheeks. According to Dr Bahaman Guyuron of Chase Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, the study involving pairs of twins found that a BMI higher by four points was found to result in a younger appearance of between two and four years.

Now if you're Madonna you can achieve a very low BMI and still retain some flesh in the cheeks courtesy of Restylane or whatever else is pumped in there. But over time it starts to look lumpy and your face changes shape. And doesn't it now seem really vain and shallow to try to prevent ageing when we're in recession?

I am working hard to shed the half a stone that creeps on in the winter - but I am giving up any ambitions of being a size eight or 10. If there's a choice to be made between looking younger (and fatter), or being skinny (and haggard), I know which one I would take.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Breathtaking stupidity of Jacqui Smith

As if Gordon Brown hasn't got enough to contend with this week with the G2O Summit and global warming, here is the ridiculous Jacqui Smith and her buffoon of a husband getting into hot water yet again and facing ridicule in the papers.

Apparently he downloaded two porn films and claimed for them as part of her Internet expenses.

It's not the first time this foolish pair have been in the news for the wrong reasons. She claimed her sister's nearby house was her main house of residence and was claiming for that, and a few years ago he was exposed for sending letters to the press in praise of his wife.

She now has no credibility at all and as such should be sacked from a government position.

You would think that after her first indiscretion with expenses, she would have scrutinised future claims with a fine tooth comb. Apparently her husband did the expenses and she signed them off. Does this slapdash attitude apply to her work as well?

And it's no good MPs squealing about privacy issues with their expense claims being exposed in the press. Thank goodness for a free press is all I can say. Who knows what else they would try to get away with!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Stroppy Fern shoots herself in foot

I am not a fan of TV presenter Fern Britton for reasons I will explain below. She was all over the papers yesterday having walked out of her "This Morning" job because she discovered she gets paid a lot less than Philip Schofield.

I imagine she thought that if she threw a strop the powers-that-be would offer her more money and beg her to come back. I fear she is sadly deluded and may have shot herself in the foot. She will indeed be "spending more time with the family" and hopefully not raiding the biscuit tin now that her gastric band has enabled her to lose all that blubber.

There are very few TV presenters over the age of 40 - Fern was an exception. Fiona Bruce, a very presentable 42, got shuffled off to Antiques Roadshow and how often do we see Carol Smillie, Carol Vorderman, Anthea Turner, Angela Rippon, Selina Scott etc etc these days? Sometimes they crop up in those ghastly daytime shows that no-one watches but prime time? Not when the TV moguls consider a woman's prime is her 20s or 30s. I would suggest they look at some current trends - the success of Mamma Mia for example - and at the powerful women in cinema and music who are reversing some of the stereotypes: Julia Roberts (42), Halle Berry, Madonna (50), Tina Turner (late 60s).....

Anyway, back to Fern and the reason why I find her fake and false with her faux sympathy and smiles.

A few years ago she was a presenter on BBC Spotlight in Plymouth and I was a gauche reporter on BBC Radio Devon.

The TV people were somewhat sniffy about sharing "Broadcasting House" in Plymouth with the radio goons but we called them the dead legs because they had the easiest job ever: tearing off the stories we had filed through ringing the police, going through council minutes and so on.

Anyway, on Children in Need Night a swimming pool had been provided in the garden and the idea was to film some silly stunts and show them live on TV.

I borrowed a Plymouth Argyle strip and gathered pledges to be thrown into the pool. I went into the studio to tell lovely Alan Dedicoat and Fern all about it - they were doing a Children in Need radio special.

The interview went OK and I left the studio. I then heard Fern tell the nation (well, one or two people in Barnstaple) that "she had never seen such big thighs."

My dip in the pool that very cold night was blighted by the thought of my gargantuum thighs and Fern's cruel comment.

Well over the years she got very fat and I was pretty smug on the thighs subject - but now of course she is off loading the weight. But she's out of work now and the spectre of Cash in the Attic or a return to Ready Steady Cook looms. Not so good, eh Fern?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Never tell Sir Alan you're a lawyer or strategist

Poor Anita Shah. Not only the token lawyer in The Apprentice line-up , but condemned also with the word "strategy" in her job title. She was a lamb to the slaughter.

Anita was the first candidate to be told "you're fired" in week one's show.

She had tried to take the Lee McQueen approach (last year's winner) of keeping her head down, aware that everyone else on the girls' team was bickering and bitching. Unfortunately her dissociation meant that she applauded the girls for being on budget when they spent £197 on cleaning materials for their car wash business, when actually the objective was to spend as little as possible.

Anita had initially tried to convince us that she had the full rainbow of skills.

With the lawyer/strategist gone, the next vulnerable candidates are the estate agent and the teacher. The teacher has already claimed that he looks posh and talks posh (although with a regional accent - does that count as posh?) and his pupils told a newspaper that he's the vainest man on earth. So I'm interested to see how he will keep order over the arsey group of men who won't want to be treated as if they're in a classroom.

While the women snip and bitch, the men always form traditional lines of rivalry based on "alpha male" and snobbery. Hence a stockbroker will always look down his nose at an estate agent or sales manager. We saw plenty of this jostling, with contemptuous sneering about certain people's accents.

As an aside, in the car this morning I mused over candidates I could remember from the previous four years of shows. The ones I remember are Saira Khan, Trey, Ruth Badger, Lucinda and Rafe. The winner of the first series, Tim Nice but Dim, crops up occasionally on chat shows but was so unassuming he is completely unmemorable. I don't remember the name of the young keen guy who beat Kristine a couple of years ago. Michelle Dewberry I hardly remember.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A veritable pot pourri of miscellany

A visit to the ancestral home
Spent a long weekend in Plymouth, the old ancestral home. Made sure J stayed behind as he is not too keen on monks, cream teas, craft shops and garden centres, all of which feature heavily in a stay at mum's. All very enjoyable. I bought a hanging basket, a bag full of "stash" (crafting delights), some fancy pickle for J and some stuff for washing the paving. Oh and I put on three pounds thanks to two Easter eggs and other sundry fare.

(You know, I never thought I would become the type of person to have a hanging basket. When I wore razor blade earrings in the punk era, I despised mortgages, hanging baskets and slippers, and now I've done all three).

One of the lowlights for me was the Dancing on Ice final. Mum loves this show but I gave up after about 10 minutes of the new series. The music! And somehow it seems a very tatty, tawdry and feeble version of Strictly Come Dancing. But I couldn't part her from the final so gritted my teeth for the duration (or so it seemed - two hours!).

Torvill & Dean reprised Bolero for the umpteenth time, and then we met the three finalists. I didn't have a clue who any of them were. "Oh he was in the X Factor. He didn't win," said Mum helpfully. This character, a Ray Quinn, went on to win. She wasn't sure about the woman, suggesting that perhaps she was in Girls Aloud, but I knew that wasn't the case. The other chappie was a complete mystery. "Oh Donal's lovely, but he won't win," was about as much as I got from Mrs Malaprop.

Google Street View - ace
I have surveyed our house from every angle on the marvellous new Google Street View. I can report that they came on a Thursday, around lunchtime, because the recycling box and wheelie bin are both out the front, empty; I wasn't at home and it may have been late autumn because the roses look very profuse but lacking in blooms.

Various n'er do wells have been bleating on about burglars being able to case the joint thanks to Google, but all it means is that burgling, like most occupations, is now enjoying the fruits of the computer age. All I can say is that Google Street View uses an awful lot of servers and for that we are very grateful.

Lions and Apprentices
I'm looking forward to a programme tonight on Five about a lion cub that two men bought from Harrods in the late 60s, when you could buy anything there. The lion became too big to be a pet so it was released in the wild, thanks to the Born Free Foundation. A year after it had been released, the owners were reunited. We saw the clip on TV last night. It was very touching, as they called the lion's name (Christian) and he came bounding over, very much like a loving domestic cat but a lot bigger.

And of course The Apprentice is back again this week. Check out this blog for a weekly update! I usually have Sore Misgivings about the format (hackneyed?) and the candidates (chosen for TV and unlikely business moguls?) but it soon hooks you back in. So I will be blogging about it, yah boo sucks Snurgie Boy.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The ski-ing Ghanaian

Still in the vein of looking for good news, it was heart warming to hear this morning about the Ghanaian ski team: a Milton Keynes trained 34 year old known as the Snow Leopard.

Kwame Nkrumah-Acheampong has just qualified for the winter Olympics in Vancouver in 2010 in the giant slalom. It will be the first time Ghana has ever been represented in the winter Olympics.

Remarkably, Kwame, was born in Glasgow, only took up skiing six years ago, and for the first two years, only skiied indoors at Milton Keynes. He has competed at the highest level.

Kwame recently completed his Masters in Travel & Tourism Management in the UK. You can read more about him here. I'm looking forward to seeing him in action in Vancouver.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Reasons to be Cheerful

I am but a simple soul. I can be made happy by the slightest of happenings. My three latest reasons to be cheerful are:
1) I discovered a very good website for contact lenses; you don't need to send your prescription and my daily disposables are now £15 - gasp - a month cheaper than when I was going to the place we should have gone to. This doesn't include aftercare and so on but unless you're a numpty you have a regular check-up anyway.
2) I got the new spring catalogue from Kettlewell Colours. I had "my colours done" many years ago, free of charge as it happens because I was a reviewing journalist then, and I am a clear Spring. I know a lot of people think it's bunkum but actually the spring colours do suit me best. Kettlewell produces great quality tops, t-shirts and sportswear in the colours of the four seasons, many of which you can't easily find. I have immediately ordered a fleece in Kelly green and tops in rose pink and leaf green. Their tops wash brilliantly and don't lose their shape.
3) When cleaning out my car, I was thrilled to find the car key I lost about 8 months ago. I've hunted high and low for it and colleagues gave me dire warnings that those keys cost around £200. Anyway, there it was, glinting away under my seat. So now I have a spare again!
That's me set up for the week. What good news have you had? I'm bored with all the bad news......

The scandal of the Big Eat

Now you would think that with all the fuss around obesity in Britain that fast food and snack manufacturers would be looking to their laurels and trying to do their bit (within reason - they obviously depend on lardasses for their profits).

Not Walker's Crisps, who are determined to make us buy their supersized bags, The Big Eat and Grab Bag. I like the occasional packet of Quavers at a modest calorie cost of 89. But in my local Sainsbury's, they only have the large bags. And as every dieter knows, there is a huge difference between 89 calories and whatever the bloater sized bag is (I am too appalled to look it up). I tried Sainsbury's petrol station next door but same story.

Meanwhile, I noticed in Reading Services last week that they only had Grab Bags.

I realise that Walkers have "low fat" varieties but they taste like cardboard, which is why I have downsized from normal crisps to Quavers.

I appreciate it's doing wonders for Walkers' margins, but they should be pulled up. Or at least if retailers insist on stocking supersized snacks, they should stock the normal variants too. I'm certainly boycotting the giant snacks, along with Chris Evans on Radio 2.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Eurovision Latest

I am less excited about Eurovision this year but nonetheless I know I owe you, my faithful reader, an update on what's hot.

After a butchers at the Irish Times last week, an illuminating article spoke about their entry, described as "High School Musical meets Pink." The act is Sinead Mulvey with Black Daisy and they have a pop song called Et Cetera. Sinead, pictured, was shown in the paper wearing bright pink shiny leggings - not a good look on anyone, so I hope she has a stylist for the Moscow final.

The writer was pessimistic saying that Ireland has never had great success with pop songs: its winning entries were ballads. It concedes the entry is slightly better than last year's entry from Dustin the turkey puppet, but asks if broadcaster RTE is deliberately fielding a duff entry to avoid winning the contest and having to spend millions on the final next year.

I always had similar Sore Misgivings (as quoth by Mrs Fussey in Carry On Camping) about the BBC, but this year they do appear to have pushed the boat out a little by hiring Andrew Lloyd-Webber to write the song, even if it is performed by a nobody.

The Irish Times refers to the Lord's noble entry as a "dirge," which is probably quite an accurate description actually.

Bless him, he writes a good show tune but he isn't that good on pop songs. My belief is that when he said he didn't want to do another casting show this year, he was tied into a three show contract so had no choice but to take the Eurovision poisoned chalice.

Other news: Georgia apparently risks upsetting Russia (again) with their song "We don't wanna put in" which pokes fun at President Putin.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Fabulous Irish wedding

Went to Ireland at the weekend and enjoyed a most fabulous wedding. The Irish are well known for their joie de vivre and love of "the craic," and this was evident in this joyous affair. The three-day wedding featured a reception at Slane Castle with Irish dancing, live music an d a sumptuous banquet, and we all stayed in the historic town of Trim, north of Dublin, overlooked by ruins of many a castle. It was a very international affair with people flying in from several countries.

I'm sure the happy couple won't mind me sharing one photo of the day. Here's Hilary in her fabulous crystal encrusted dress with Klaus and their flower girls.

Here's another of J and me in the Trim Castle ruins.

I was interested to learn about the history of Slane Castle - it is of course famous as an open air venue for big pop concerts, and the likes of U2 and Bruce Springsteen have played there.

In its present form the castle dates from 1785. It was badly damaged by fire a few years ago and has been undergoing renovations. The parklands were laid out by Capability Brown, and the gothic ballroom was designed by Thomas Hopper, architect to King George IV.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

The personalities of London's airports

This weekend was a special treat: not only did we go to a marvellous wedding in Ireland but we flew out from one airport and landed in another!

I love airports. It's no hardship to me when my fierce punctuality means I arrive far too early. It's not just the shops - mostly I don't bother - but it's the people and plane watching and the different personalities of the airports. Personalities?

London Heathrow is my favourite because it's the one I know best. Because it's a combination of business and leisure, you get a rich tapestry of drama and emotions in Arrivals with people greeting long-last relatives and tearfully waving off relatives to distant climes.

Heathrow bustles and throbs. It may be, as an American visitor once loudly announced, "like a third world airport" in that it is overcrowded and shabby, but the shops are still the best. And there are many quiet, secret little places to sit and muse. Terminal Five is a vast hush of luxury and comfort, very at-odds with the rest of Heathrow and its lurid carpets. It's as if a luxury penthouse was bolted onto a 60s block of flats.

London City is my second favourite and the one I use for short haul. It is literally just 30 minutes away and because it's very small and efficient, you can be off the plane and at home within 45 minutes.

London City is still like an old-fashioned airport in that passengers are treated as individuals and not amoebas carrying bags of dangerous toothpaste. You pay for the privilege: no cheap fares here. And it is mostly businesspeople bustling around in suits. There are signs of gentrification: the airport is expanding, the duty-free is now large and the sweet little Dormier and Fokker twin props are fewer now that the big guns like Lufthansa have moved in.

Gatwick or Gatters as I call it is an airport completely devoid of personality. Who knows what the difference is between North and South terminals! It has a similarly lurid carpet to Heathrow (presumably a bulk buy at Carpets R Us) and despite being very busy it looks empty most of the time. Gatwick has the most abysmal food court. Nasty little overcrowded outlets.

Stansted is the one I avoid. It has nothing going for it. That creepy transit, where the amoebas are silently whisked from one end of the airport to the other! The interminable queue for security. The British tourist in all his tattooed and shorted glory, getting tanked up before Stelios flies him off to some unsuspecting European resort.

So that's the London airports: I can't give an opinion on Luton. I mean, Luton? Why?

I could start on international airports and in particularly the ghastliness of some of the US airports and their woeful duty free and eating experiences, but maybe I will save that for another time.
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