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

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

It's snowed a bit, we're not prepared as always, get over it!

I was getting increasingly irritable at the BBC footage from St Pancras station. The reporter was doing his utmost to provoke good natured passengers who had been waiting for hours in the cold.
"What do you think about the way the UK has handled this?" he probed relentlessly, but the charming Europeans refused to give way. "Has it ruined your Christmas?"

Every time a train breaks down, we're told by peevish passengers that the train company should have had space blankets and drinks on board. Well seeing as snow is entirely random, not guaranteed, and hits these islands for, oh, two weeks a year, tops, what about passengers being more prepared instead, on the off chance?

Then there are the airports.Yes they could all invest hugely in snow ploughs and de-icing rigs and goodness knows what else. But there isn't that much money sculling around, is there? Can you imagine if BAA did just that, and then their profits went down and there was no snow. The newspapers would of course have a field day, and start trotting off statistics about the likelihood of snow.

The last thing that really bugs me is when people start talking about Finland and other countries, and how well they prepare. Yes, they have winter tyres, snow chains, the full Monty. But they also know that they WILL get snow for several month. It's a dead cert. So they have to prepare for it. For us it's like a roulette wheel at Las Vegas.

Photos show those people made of sterner stuff, J's friends the Orion Harriers, on their Sunday run through Epping forest.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Strictly Come Dancing: The Glittering Finale

Tonight our three finalists will emerge from the spray tanning booth for the last time, dripping in bling and dancing their little hearts out for the chance of lifting the very kitsch glitter ball trophy.

Kara Tointon was said to be the favourite on BBC Breakfast Time this morning, but really it's anyone's game. I can't remember a final where we have had three finalists of almost equal quality.

J is convinced that Tara will swing it. She is the most consistent and is the highest scorer overall. But I can see Pamela lifting that trophy.

Strange things happen in the final. Underdogs who were "ok" during the series but never blew us away, such as Chris Hollins and Tom Chambers, end up winning. The judges tend to give out tens to everyone, and it's up to the public to decide.

The good old public likes to go for an underdog. They prefer to vote for men. So Matt has a very good chance, given that he presents Country File and occasionally the One Show, and used to be on Blue Peter. He probably has a lot of the old dear vote.

The public also likes A Journey. So in terms of journey, Pamela has the best one. She's lost two stone, regained her va va voom, and looks fabulous at 61 to boot. Plus she was always so cheerful; always looking as if she loved the dancing, even in training.

So all Kara has going for her is being technically the best dancer. Is that enough to make the public vote for her? I don't think so. She hasn't had much of a journey: as I said before, dancing is probably in her blood, having been part of her stage school training, and she was always super fit. There's the hint of a romance with him and Artem, which gives her a few extra points with the public.

But at the risk of being wrong two weeks running, I'm going for Pamela to win. Although Matt could seize it too. I am a little nervous about Pamela's show dance, having seen the sketch of her dress on It Takes Two. A very conservative number, unlike Kara's which has been engineered for lifts galore. Tonight all will be revealed! (Not literally of course - the costume designers are far too skilled for that!).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Tree Spotting

I'm intrigued by other people's Christmas trees. I love looking through open curtains to see a tree glinting away. If your tree has ancient heirloom ornaments, I am very jealous. Particularly if it has those half cut out retro baubles (you know the ones).

Our own tree went up at the weekend. Sadly there are no heirloom ornaments. I quite often decide on a new colour theme and buy accordingly. Last year I added red baubles to the gold. I have a second tree, a white one with either silver and blue, or neon bright, baubles, but this year it's staying in its box owing to the fact that my colour choices for the dining room will be red and gold, so it wouldn't match.  (It's all very complicated.)

The only ornament that is vaguely heritage is the little bird which I bought about 10 years ago at the Kathe Wohlfarht Christmas shop in Oberammergau. Imagine, a shop that sells Christmas decorations all year round! It reminds me of a tiny bird we had on our tree when I was a child. That tree was in two sections and about 6 feet tall. The lights were huge coloured bulbs, some with a sugary effect. Mum gave the bottom section to Grandma, although it was a funny shape on its own, and for years the two parts of the tree were ceremoniously decorated in two separate houses in Plymouth. Our tree always had a very shabby fairy on top with a white crepe paper dress that had become beige over the years.

What's your Christmas tree like and what's your favourite ornament?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Strictly Come Dancing: Who goes? You decide

An intriguing results show tonight as two couples are eliminated. I'm going to make the bold claim that Kara and Scott will be the celebrities finding the exit sign.

Based on the judges' scores, the two lowest scoring couples were Gavin and Katya and Matt and Aliona.

I suspect however that Gavin and Matt probably have more fans than anyone else in the contest (with the exception of Pamela, who has built a  unique fan base) so I wouldn't be surprised if at least one of them stays. I would expect Scott to be the victim, and perhaps - here's a shocker - Kara.

She was the highest scorer and it will take a massive under performance by the public, but I still think it's possible, particularly if people who don't normally vote, like me, pick up the phone for their favourites. I actually voted for Matt last night because his routines have been thrilling, he's such a talented and nice guy, and the judges have under-scored him.

Scott peaked too soon and has been struggling to regain his form of three weeks ago. His Charleston was well executed but nothing exceptional. It won't hold in the memory in the way of the Chris Hollins / Ola Charleston, or even that of Pamela and James.

Kara is an interesting one. Having thrown herself the lifeline of an alleged romance with her partner, which always does well with the public, I still remain unmoved by her. To me, she looks like the product of a stage school background where dancing is a large part of the curriculum. She is an actress and very fit  (she featured in a health magazine recently.) So her "journey", to use that dreaded word, was less challenging than that of farmer, presenter and former gymnast Matt, or former comedienne turned psychologist Pamela.

Pamela is a complete revelation. Every week she turns in sensational routines and every week she remains joyful. Even in training, we rarely see her slumped and depressed. In these ageist times where everyone over the age of 50 tends to be dismissed as past it, particularly by the BBC,  I defy anyone to fail to be impressed by Pamela's energy, vivacity and youthfulness.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Only one graduate in Apprentice final five

It's almost arrivederci for two of the most enjoyable TV programmes of the autumn, Strictly Come Dancing ands The Apprentice. I'm going to preview both of the semi finals, starting with the Apprentice.

What's striking about the five finalists in the Apprentice is that four of them didn't go to university. So, rioting students, perhaps there is no need to waste three years doing Media Studies and then saddling yourself with a debt. The internet offers far more potential to budding entrepreneurs than we had in my day.

They do seem more entrepreneurial than the usual finalists. I think people were shocked when Liz went out, but although she came across as hugely capable, confident and talented, I didn't see that spark of ingenuity. Having read Lord Sugar's autobiography, I see now what sort of people would attract him. It's not necessarily just someone good at selling, because Liz was that (although as an investment banker, I was surprised she was so good at selling.)

He wants a hunger for selling and the ability to negotiate. Also the ability to see a pile of rubbish and sell it very quickly.How else did Amstrad become so successful.

I am beginning to fear that Stuart Baggs The Brand, the 21 year old with a field full of ponies  (!I'm not a one trick pony, I'm not even a two trick pony. I have a field full of ponies") or Joanna, the woman with the most irritating voice in Britain, are the two most likely Apprentices this year.

We were all amazed when Joanna made it through the first episode, and I was appalled by the way she kept yelling at Jamie last week. She is a woman with the interpersonal skills of a sledgehammer.

Meanwhile Jamie seems quite charming and is clearly a good negotiator, but comes across as slippery as a basket of eels. He's been his own boss for four years and doesn't like being told what to do, so I don't think he would do very well at Amscreen.

I like steely Stella but even though she did a fine rendition of Knees Up Mother Brown, Lord Sugar will always find fault with her for being 'corporate".The programme last night that looked at the five finalists and their backgrounds was quite an eye-opener on the Stella front. She had a very tough upbringing and was almost put in a children's home until her great aunt decided to take her in.

Then there's Chris. He's the only one who went to university. He comes across as a well meaning posh nitwit, really. But I was surprised to hear both Nick and Karren Brady sounding very positive about him. I felt sure there was nothing "strategic" about his offer to the tourist company last week to give them 20% of his team's total winnings. He had that rabbit in a headlight look, and I don't think he knew what else to offer.

Next week's episode is one of my favourites when Sugar's business acolytes interview the finalists and tear them to shreds. I'm thinking Stella and Joanna will stand up to it best. What do you think?

Saturday, December 04, 2010

FIFA: Down with this sort of thing

If there's one thing that makes me mad, it's injustice of any kind. I am seething about the FIFA decision on the next World Cup locations, and the way England garnered just one vote.

On paper England was equal top of Fifa's own technical assessment of the four bids. We were top of an independent assessment of the best commercial bids and the presentation on Thursday was widely acclaimed as the best of the 2018 and 2022 bids.

None of that mattered however because FIFA, one of the most ridiculous, inept and discredited organisations in the world, was determined to give England a lesson. Why? Because our journalists had the temerity to expose the corruption at the heart of the whole process, and the fact that FIFA officials can be bribed for money.

I would have expected FIFA to have reacted to the news by sacking officials and issuing a statement saying they intended to get to the bottom of the allegations.

As you would expect from this bunch of idiots  (remember some of their foolishness during the World Cup), they didn't, but they took their revenge by punishing the whistleblowing nation.

And this nonsense about giving Qatar the World Cup to grow football globally! Yes with a population of just over one and a half million, I'm sure it will have a huge impact there.

Let's hope for the sake of soccer lovers thast Russia is able to deliver the stadia and hotels in time for 2018. They didn't score highly on this in the technical assessment.  But I suppose when, like Russia and Qatar, you have oligarchs and oil behind your bid, money is no object.
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