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

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Friday, December 25, 2009

My Christmas Message

Seeing the various religious leaders deliver their Christmas messages today I couldn't help feeling they were missing the point. They were highlighting troubles in society which we're all too well aware of. But they didn't say how religion was going to help. They didn't suggest any remedies at all.

I heard a sobering statistic the other day. Only a million people in the UK still go to church. That must make us a minority religion here, and certainly explains how Christmas became a gaudy commercial festival with no other meaning.

I pondered on the reasons why.

If there was a Henry VIII style proclamation that all churches must close, there would probably be a revolt among the chattering classes who, although they don't go to church, still count themselves as Christians.

I find it criminal the way the church has quietly festered for the last 100 years, losing worshippers and not figuring out why. It doesn't appeal to anyone now except the elderly. The only attempts to change this have been the evangelicals, but most stiff upper lipped people in Britain don't want to chant and clap and have trendy new hymns played on guitars.

We want something a bit more modern than Wesley hymns, lectures and incense, but we don't want to completely lose the traditions and heritage.

Maybe if church leaders debated this, instead of in-fighting and bickering at the Synod, they might become a bit more relevant and therefore entitled to give a view on society's problems.

Monday, December 21, 2009


When I become a dictator and ban certain things (among them: celery, goat's cheese, stiletto shoes (have you seen Victoria Beckham's feet?), Troll beads (in fact trolls per se), Uggs, Crocs and other ugly footwear, I will add a few festive specials, namely:
1) Stop the Cavalry, Jona Lewie. I can't tell you how much I detest this tired old song. It's one of three songs that I hate so much, if they come on the radio I have to find another channel. The other two if you're interested are Brown Eyed Girl, Van Morrison, and Angel, Robbie Williams.
2) Articles "reviewing the year" or even the decade, worse. Who needs it? We were here. It's a cheap trick for easy journalism, along with "top predictions for 2010".
3) Articles on how to make the turkey less dry and tasteless. We only have it once a year so surely we can tolerate it in all its blandness for one day? Even worse, the articles about making creative leftovers with the turkey. Don't buy such a big one!

What are your biggest gripes about Christmas? Oh dear now I've done it - used another cheap journalistic trick myself!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Triumph for Team Cola

This is the last post on Strictly Come Dancing, I promise (Maddie.) Well, at least for this year.

I was wrong, damn it, and Team Cola - Chris Hollins and Ola Jordan - triumphed in the final last night. I should have had more faith in the voting public, particularly as my mum put aside last week's Sore Misgivings about Hollins not deserving a place in the final and actually voted for him.

You do have to wonder about the judging though. Their Charlestown was marvellous the first time around but they didn't get 10s that time. I believe the judges feel that because it's the final, all the dances have to score 10s. But it begs the question, haven't they then been under marking throughout the series?

Anyway, Team Cola acquitted themselves very well. They must have worked so hard to produce such excellent dances. I was fearful for their show dance, but Hollins was soon flinging Ola around with ease, even with one arm only. (Whittle had to go one better of course and spin Natalie around his neck with no arms.)

Ola burst into tears as soon as the result was announced and I doubt if there was a dry eye in the land. "Ola Who?" asked Natalie imperiously at the start of the show, puffed up with the achievement of having won the show's equivalent in Australia. Well now you know, Natalie.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Ricky Whittle by a whisker

Normally by now I would have predicted the outcome for the Strictly Come Dancing final tonight. But, dear reader, I am torn. On the one hand, the fact that Chris Hollins has such huge public support makes it seem certain he will win. But on the other, as Len said last week, the British public has a strong sense of justice so maybe Ricky will triumph.

It's amazing that Chris has never been in the dance-off. He epitomises the show's demographic to me. He's a personable BBC sports presenter and I can imagine all the middle-aged and elderly old dears voting for him. Ricky, from Hollyoaks, probably doesn't have many fans watching the show. They were watching the freak show on the other side. I don't expect many of them to be glued to the dancing tonight, even though the freak show has finished.

If I'm going to put my neck out, I'll say that Ricky will win, by a whisker. I will no doubt be voting for Chris, however, as will Anonymous (although we haven't conferred on the subject.) This will drive J mad. Last week he told me to vote for Ricky on his behalf while he was out of the room, but I didn't.

As for this series, well, I've written enough about what a disappointment it's been. My suggestion to the producers for the next series: dump Anton du Beke! Are we the only ones who find his inane comments irritating? He's often tipped to the Bruce's successor as host of the show, but I think the producers should look at someone else, namely James Jordan. In Claudia's show he's demonstrated a natural talent for presenting. In fact he and Ola (pictured) have been the stars of this series. Go the Jordans!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Told you so

If anyone is still watching Strictly Come Dancing, last night's semi-final was no surprise - I'd predicted that Chris Hollins and Ola Jordan (picture) would go through even though he was nowhere near as good as the other two semi-finalists.

If my mum's reaction was anything to go by, "travesty", "bloody public" etc, many people will think that Ali was robbed. How can someone who scored a perfect 50 be eliminated, they ask. Well, speaking as "The Public", and as someone who voted for Hollins (as did Anonymous), my reply is....

It's an entertainment show! And Hollins and Ola have been very entertaining. I didn't like him for weeks, but then in the torpor of the last few weeks I started to find him more endearing. No matter what they say, it's harder for a sports presenter to do well in a show like this than actors. Ali Bastian has had ballet training: it certainly shows. Not sure about Ricky Whittle, but I wouldn't be surprised if he didn't have dance training at stage school.

So I am unapologetic about putting Hollins through and look forward to his entertaining lindy hop and show dance in the final.

Let's hope that next year's series brings a more illustrious list of celebrities and some higher scores (hardly any perfect scores this year.) The Alesha v Arlene debate has been done to death but I have to say that Alesha has brought very little to the judging with her appalling English - "you was wicked" and has entirely eclipsed by the wonderful Darcey Bussell in the past couple of weeks.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Prepare for a shock in Strictly Come Dancing

I know it's become a bit tedious and boring lately, but I predict a shock in next week's semi-final.

All the signs are there that the public have taken "Team Cola" (Chris and Ola) to their hearts and will vote them through to the final, which means of course that either drippy Ali or Ricky Whittle will have to go.

This would spice things up a treat, even though the final is likely to be pretty lame if it's Team Cola v Ricky or Ali.

I suspect Chris and Ola will really need the votes this Saturday as I can't imagine them delivering a barnstorming Argentine Tango (my fave!)

Laila Rouass finally got the boot last night. Long overdue too. I'm amazed she lasted this long when you consider she really wasn't any better than her Footballers' Wives co-star Zoe Lucker, who went weeks ago. I couldn't believe it when Anton said she'd been wonderful to work with because she never complained. Never complained my arse. She must have saved it all for the cameras!

Saturday, December 05, 2009

"The Restaurant" leaves nasty taste

I very much enjoyed the first two series of The Restaurant on BBC2, where Raymond Blanc coaches aspiring restrauteurs who are put through tasks each week and eliminated.

But this year's show is a travesty.

Not only is it many miles away from Raymond's wonderful Le Manoir, and set in Bristol on a shoestring, the couples are so hopeless that I am questioning Monsieur Blanc's avarice in agreeing to do the programme. These numpties would surely damage his brand, which has been built so carefully over the years, if they were given a restaurant to run under his name.

How can it be that James and JJ, two cocktail waiters, are still in the competition when we're now at semi-final stage?

JJ, the "chef", had, until last night, only cooked once and that was throwing some cake ingredients into a tin and hoping for the best. He had no idea how to make pastry and fine dining to him is a scotch egg and a cocktail.

I think the BBC is even embarrassed about its own show because their dedicated Restaurant website hasn't been updated this year. All you get is a site where you can watch previous episodes with the iPLayer. Thy don't even have any information on the candidates or their pictures: I had to go to one of the forums.

The other two remaining couples are both useless. Michelle and Steve would be OK running a fairly unchallenging cafe somewhere. He seems to be able to cook, more or less, although his cake in the shape of an Airbus was something a child could have done better. Michelle, as front of house, is hopeless. Every week she cries. Last night she cried because Steve was in agony with his back. But instead of letting him have a lie-down and getting on with the deli task herself, she just blubbed.

Chris is the best cook in the programme, as Raymond said last night, but he is let down by his lazy, incompetent FOH Nathan. He has no clue about promoting or marketing their restaurant and is quite happy to sit on his backside while Chris does all the work.

I can't imagine this series will be repeated, which is a shame because the first two were excellent.

In my searches on the web I found out that the winners of series 1, Jeremy and Jane, gave up running their gastro pub after just six months. The winners of last year's series, Russell and Michelle, still seem to be running The Cheerful Soul.
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