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

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Strictly Z List

I don't know how they decide which dancer gets which "celebrity" on Strictly Come Dancing but I always imagine it being like the draw for the FA cup. A couple of bufton tuftons shake up a bag, someone pulls out a ball and a sonorous voice says "Natalie Cassidy". Another shake, another ball, and it's "Vincent Simone".

Otherwise, I can't think how else poor little Vincent could have ended up with the heffalump who used to be in EastEnders.

After all the fuss about BBC bosses getting rid of Arlene, and then "ageing" Karen Hardy stepping down, I thought we were really in for a celebrity studded feast to give The X Factor a run for its money.

Wrong. Not only has the BBC bitten the hand that feeds it, by upsetting SCD's loyal fan base of people older than 25, but they can't be offering much money to attract such a lacklustre list of celebrities (note I used inverted commas for the word earlier.)

To give them their due, a couple of the sportspeople are genuinely successful and don't have the epithet "the former" in front of their names. There's Martina Hingis who would still be playing tennis if she hadn't been banned for taking cocaine. Joe Calzaghe is at least an undefeated world boxing champion. Jade Johnson is a long jumper who hasn't exactly set the world on light yet (two silvers in the 2002 European Championships and Commonwealth Games.) The rest are "formers" like Phil Tufnell who turns up for the opening of an envelope.

Then there are the other celebrities. Lynda Bellingham is the token old bird at 61 although she will hate that. At least she has a solid and constant body of work behind her including appearances on Loose Women and a stage role in Calendar Girls. I am quite interested in Jo Wood, the long-suffering and gorgeous wife of ridiculous old Rolling Stone Ronnie, but I bet Brendan Cole is spitting feathers at having to squire an old 'un (sorry but she is over 50 and that's prehistoric in BBC terms.)

But if you don't watch the soaps (and we don't), the likes of Ricky Groves and some unknowns from Footballers' Wives and Hollyoaks mean nothing. Mind, we then have an underclass below even them with a Breakfast Time sports presenter and a Crimewatch presenter. Zzzzz. So much for the likes of Linford Christie, Fern Britton and Richard Madeley whose names were leaked in the usual run-up to the announcement.

Another interesting thing I noticed is that with the demise of Karen Hardy, there are no professional British female dancers in the show. Why is this? It seems to have been invaded by Eastern Europe. Stalwart and favourite Camilla Dallerup is also missing, perhaps because she got married recently. She surely can't be too old, although you never can tell with the BBC's ridiculous obsession with yoof.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Back from Alicante

We're baaaack! The chill breeze hit us at Stansted; it took an hour to clear the airport and then the Strictly Come Dancing line-up announcement compounded my gloom. It was only lightened by a trip to Sainsburys and some good old British nosh (before going back on the diet and Nutracheck tomorrow, of course.)

So. The three day "last chance for the sun" break in Alicante, Spain. I'm a bit like Bridget Jones with the old mini breaks. I love to have a short break at the end of August just before the weather goes pear shaped (but that happened some time ago this year.)

I was pleasantly surprised by Alicante. I had visions of skyscraper hotels, British lager louts and big signs saying fish and chips. There were a few skyscraper hotels but not much evidence of the last two. Alicante turned out to be an elegant town with pleasing architecture, and much cheaper than the resort we stayed in back in June on Mallorca. There were a few ghastly eateries on the promenade but at night the narrow streets were festooned with tables and there was much eating of paella among Spanish families.

Our hotel, Hospes Amerigo, was superb. Picture at the top shows John outside. It was elegant and tucked away in front of ancient fortifications and an old church. This was the view (below.)

One of the highlights of the day was the foot wash on the beach. Heaven! And I managed to find some postcards with girls wearing real fabric dresses, so I imagine these will be cut up and used in my crafting somewhere along the line....

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Memories of the recorder, instrument of torture

Very interesting segment on Chris Evans' show on Radio 2 yesterday. He was discussing that musical instrument of torture, the recorder, with expert Sue Klein (pictured). Now when Sue played a baroque recorder, it sounded sweet. But when Chris had a go, all the memories of squeaky out-of-tune recorders from school came flooding back.

Recorders were big at my primary school and I had a fine burgundy wood descant courtesy I think of Freeman's catalogue. But I was a renograde player and not part of the cliquey little recorder group, because I was too terrified of its leader, Mrs Gullett.

She was never (fortunately) my teacher but I had a few brushes with her because she supervised sewing and handwriting classes, neither of which are a strong suit of mine. I remember her being very scathing of my letter "G" which, instead of being big enough for a fly to walk in, "was big enough for an elephant".

Anyway, back to the recorder, and on one occasion my whole class had to play something in front of Mrs G. She listened sternly, her mouth mashing in that ferocious way she had, and her beady eyes fixed on me. I had created a new note, of which I was quite proud, three fingers from the left hand and then index finger on the right - and she must have clocked this because she said someone had been out of tune. Yes reader, it was me.

My self imposed exclusion from the recorder club meant I never got my hands on a treble or bass recorder, which I longed to do. I notice you can buy a new one at Amazon for a tenner so who knows, I may well treat myself.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

In praise of The Hotel Inspector

J was fiddling around with the Sky box and announced he had deleted The Hotel Inspector because there was a conflict.
I nearly fell off my chair.
My most favourite programme of the week! It gets recorded twice just in case of mishaps.
When Alex Polizzi took over from the formidable Ruth Watkins, I had Sore Misgivings to quote Mrs Fussey in Carry On Camping. It took her a series to "bed in" but now she can destroy a hapless hotelier at 10 paces, simply with one of her scathing looks.
The premise of the show is very simple: hotel inspector visits shabby, run-down and/or cluttered with junk hotel, finds heinous crimes ("man wee" carpet stains), tells hapless hoteliers what they need to do, and comes back to see if they've taken any notice. Usually a secret hotel inspection is involved to gain them some tourist board stars, or they hold a party to celebrate their new look.
What makes it so entertaining is the high quality production. I love the music. There's 'sad' music which plays when the hotelier talks tearfully about having sunk all their cash into the hotel and now it's going to have to close. And there's powerful "danger ahead" music, played just before the break.
Recently, in a programme about Blackpool, the owner's wife was extolling the virtues of the place and said "what is it that Blackpool hasn't got?" While this was going on, we were seeing scenes from Blackpool and as she asked what it hasn't got, a shot of a gift shop called "A Touch of Class" came on screen. Genius.
Do catch it if you can - I believe there are only 2 episodes left. Mondays at 9pm on 5.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Harriet Harman talking sense (sort of)

Poor old Harriet Harman. "In charge" of the country, she's gone a bit power mad and is using the opportunity to acquaint us all with some of the feminist wisdom she has acquired over the years.

The mostly misogynist tabloids are in a feeding frenzy after she said women need to be in top positions to give a balanced view.

And I'm thinking: quite right too. Why the debate? Why is it such an issue? This is the depressing reality of "women's rights". Men at papers like the Daily Mail can still publish their propaganda every day saying that women are happier when they're at home bringing up a family. But it conveniently ignores the reality that most families can't afford this throwback to the 50's.

Harman also said that the financial meltdown would have been avoided if women had been involved. And she's right there too. This was a point made also by the doughty ladies who are now running Iceland.

Unless you have women on a board, you don't get a balanced view. Women bring different strengths and intuition and realism is often two of them. A male dominated board goes into a testosterone fuelled meltdown with everyone trying to be Alpha Male. Funny how all those banking chiefs were men.

Taking risks in business is fine and laudable but it has to be countered with pragmatism and realism. When you have a combination of men and women together, you get the best thinking and discussion.

So why did I say "sort of?" Well, Harman is not the type of woman we want to aspire to. She comes across as preachy and slightly hysterical. And the way she has thrust feminism into the spotlight is a typical example of her "cow handling a musket" approach.

We're all a bit fed up with these pushy women. You don't have to act like a man now to get on. Mrs Thatcher did, but times have changed. Women like Karren Brady and Jacqueline Gold are better examples of successful women than 80s throwback Harriet.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Bad service from Autoglass

I always thought that when your windscreen got shattered, Autoglass would be round in a flash to fix a new one. How silly of me.
Poor service from Autoglass
This is the view from my windscreen.
It's not great, or am I over reacting as a hysterical female? Because a bored young man at Autoglass, who hadn't seen it, was very dismissive yesterday as I tried to get them to set up a third appointment with some degree of urgency.

I explained the damage was quite bad - more than "just a crack" as he put it, and it wasn't great that I have had to drive 600 miles with it. "It's laminated" he kept saying. Yes I know that, but if it is on the driver's side and you have to peer over the top of a series of cracks, it could affect your vision.

Anyway, I digress. Back to the sorry tale.

A week ago, I was on the M25 in the evening when I saw a speeding van throw up a large stone from its back wheels. It hurtled straight towards me, and, on the driver's side and right in front of my face. Bit of a shock I can tell you.

I rang Autoglass the next day (I have to use them under the company scheme.) They had to order the windscreen and would fit it the following day.

Unfortunately, and this was my fault, I had wrongly said the windsceeen had a rain sensor so the Walthamstow branch turned up with the wrong windscreen. The guy said they were fully booked the next day (Sat) but he would try to fit me in if I dropped the car down. Alas this was not possible. J was not available to do the conveying - and their depot was miles away in an industrial estate- and I had to make a trip to Lewisham hospital.

On Monday I made an another appointment, this time in Swindon where I was working for a couple of days. Again, another delay to order the windscreen (which surprises me as it's a very common model of car and their web site claims 24 hour service). To cut a long story short, I was told they would come between 1 - 4pm the following day and it would take an hour, plus an hour afterwards where I needed to let it dry.

By 3, when they hadn't turned up and it was raining, I wearily rang to rearrange and was told quite shirtily the appointment had been from "1 to 6pm". It hadn't, because when it takes you three hours to drive home, there's no way I would have agreed to that.

They then had to contact the Walthamstow outfit to make another appointment. Quite possibly piqued because I didn't go there on Saturday, they said they couldn't do it for THREE DAYS. This is when the bored young man was quite rude and dismissive of damage he had not seen. He didn't seem to think it an issue that by the time they finally fit the new windscreen in Swindon on Friday, I will have driven 800 miles and suffered a cracked windscreen for 9 days.

No doubt because they're used by fleet maintenance companies, Autoglass think the complaints of one individual mean nothing. Well, here's my report, and to optimise it for SEO I have mentioned Autoglass and poor service several times so that the search engines pick it up.

That's the great thing about the Internet. Power to the people!
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