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

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Friday, July 22, 2011

Celebrities + Apprentice: great combo

Lennox & friend
Comic Relief has featured a couple of episodes of Celebrity Apprentice. But these were only shorts. What's good about the series being shown late on BBC1, on Monday evenings, is that it's a full - length series, Celebrity Apprentice USA.

To start with, I didn't think I would be grabbed. I've heard of about 5 of the participants - Stephen Baldwin, Gene Simmons, Nadia Comeneci, Lennox Lewis and the ubiquitous Piers Morgan - but the rest were unknowns.

But get all those egos into one show, and make them deliver on real challenges, with the proceeds going to a charity each week, and it becomes a winning combination.

In the second show, the two teams had to produce a TV advert for Pedigree petfoods promoting a homeless dog scheme.

In the men's team, Gene Simmons (Kiss) and Stephen Baldwin decided to run the show single handed as project manager and director, and sent everyone else back to the hotel. Except for their acting talent, our own Lennox Lewis. The idea was that you have a big heavyweight boxing champion going all soft and mushy over a poor unloved pug dog.

So convinced were they of success they didn't even take the brief from the client, and managed to offend one of the judges, Trump's daughter Ivanka, in the process. (Both judges are Trump offspring. Isn't nepotism great?).

So you were imaging they were setting themselves up for disaster and the women's team, led by a TV executive with a most peculiar face (the effects of botox) would cruise to victory.

And quite the reverse happened. Lennox was so engaging in the ad, and it was so simple, everyone adored it and Pedigree will now use it on TV.

I had to smile because the lessons learnt from this episode are not conventional:
  • get on with it if you have a great idea and don't bother consulting with clients or colleagues
  • it's OK to ruffle the feathers of people you don't think are that important (Ivanka Trump) if you're convinced you're going to succeed.
Nadia Comeneci
Just a pity that Nadia Comeneci was fired. The women celebrities are all a bit nicey-nicey with each other and the one that should have got the boot didn't even get nominated.

Worth setting up your Sky+ folks. Catch the first two episodes on iPlayer.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The picnic concert season

I'm a sucker for picnic concerts, which is unfortunate given the vagaries of the English summer. The last time we went to one of the English Heritage picnic concerts, at Kenwood House, we needed umbrellas and the picnic rug doubled as, well, a rug round the legs, as it got a bit nippy.
The picnicking hoardes
Undeterred, I booked a while ago for a more local picnic concert, this time at historic Copped Hall and featuring the New Redbridge Wind Orchestra.

And, hallejuha, the weather held off. There were sunny intervals which more than compensated for the fact it was blowing a gale. And a beer tent selling Pimm's. What more could you want?

Admiring the walled garden (Pimm's in hand)
Copped Hall is a fascinating place, dating from the 12th century. Queen Mary, Henry VIII's daughter with Katherine of Aragon, lived there (or more accurately, was imprisoned there for a time). Unfortunately it was badly damaged by fire in 1917. Since then its future has been in doubt many times with developers trying to get their hands on the parkland. However in 1996 the Corporation of London bought the parkland and the Copped Hall Trust now own the mansion and gardens.

There are regular events to raise money as the renovation continues, including tours of the gardens. We were surprised at how fine the gardens are, particularly the walled garden. And the views are spectacular. You would never guess you're so close to the M25.

So thrilled was I with the picnic concert that I nearly booked one for Saturday, care of a last minute Groupon deal: Elton John at Hatfield House. J was reluctant however so I didn't, and seeing as it rained most of the day on Saturday, we had a lucky escape!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Two nations divided by a common language

While I could never be accused of having Received Pronunciation, I do speak the Queen's English quite proper like, so it's always baffling that as soon as I set foot on US soil, no-one can understand me. I find myself Americanising the tomato  (tom-ay-to) and water (wadder) as well as turning objects like pavements into sidewalks, taxis into cabs and lifts into elevators.

Our US friends have taken quite a few liberties with the language. Goodness knows what happened to aluminium in the translation (aloomin-um). Anonymous and I have a real "thing" about the phrase "I'll be with you monentarily." Aaargh! In a moment!

I read a lot of US fiction by writers like Sue Miller and Anita Shreve. There are many words and phrases which, to start with, I had no idea what they were. These include:
- Jello  (I think it's an equivalent to jam, as opposed to a wobbly jelly?)
- the bleachers
- Sophomores
- Phi Beta Kappa
- Goodwill  (charity shops?)
- the boardwalk
- Ivy League
And then there are phrases which are quite innocuous in the US, like fanny and shag, which have entirely different meanings here. I remember being appalled as a teenager reading Elizabeth Taylor's diet tips where she gave exercises to tighten the fanny. How rude, I thought! But she meant "butt," to use another cute Americanism, or as we would say, bottom, behind or posterior (if we were very posh.)

I'm sure my US readers can reciprocate with words we use which have no meaning to you - any takers?

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

PS on Grimaldi wedding

So here it is, for 400 Wakeups, a couple of pictures of the wedding of Prince Albert and the new Princess Charlene of Monaco.

It's been alleged that poor Charlene attempted to do a runner no less than three times: the first when she went to Paris for a dress fitting and another during the Monaco Grand Prix. No wonder she was seen crying a few times during the church ceremony.

I have to say that looking at the Hello! coverage, it struck me that the couple didn't look very happy. When she cried, Albert looked at her quizzically. There are no touching or tender looks. The kiss was really awkward - I'm sure a body language expert would have a field day. But she looked beautiful in an amazing regal dress by Armani. The bridesmaids wore a traditional Monagasque costume which looked like fancy dress.

As for the supporting cast, well it turns out Princess Caroline is estranged from Prince Ernst, so he wasn't there. She and Princess Stephanie were seen together on several occasions so they must be on speaking terms. Caroline's four children looked stunning, as did the girlfriends of sons Andrea (second in line to the throne) and Pierre.

Caroline's outfit has grown on me (right, in the turquoise maxi and rafia hat with yellow flowers). Her eldest daughter was also wearing a rafia hat. Stephanie, on the left, wore outfits in a similar colour for both ceremonies. I don't want to be mean because I like her very much, but she seems to be an example to us all of what the sun can do to your skin.

Here is the Earl of Wessex, also wearing fancy dress, and the Countess of Wessex, who represented the Queen. The wedding was stuffed to the gunnels with royalty of all descriptions, mostly minor.

Let's hope they all live happily ever after!

Monday, July 04, 2011

Andy Murray and David Haye: what a disaster

I don't watch tennis anymore. I was a huge fan of Wimbledon a few years ago, but I don't bother now. I find it too painful to witness the feverish hope and expectation for the British players, followed by the inevitable letdown and disappointment.

Both Tim Henman and Andy Murray were among the world's top players (Murray is #4 right now) but both are chokers. Murray has now bombed in, what, four semi-finals?

The problem to me, as an observer, is psychological. He was quoted as saying "I CAN beat the world's top player, if the centre court audience gets behind me."

I have a big problem with that. It seems he's already put Nadal on a pedestal and is admitting it's unlikely he'll beat him. Yet surely any player in the top 20 can topple another. I doubt if the eventual winner Novak Dojokovic was counting on centre court support to beat the world's top player. He just woke up thinking to himself "I'm going to crucify that &@!!!!!"

I wish the British tennis players would show a bit more aggression and ambition. They seem to lack the killer instinct.

I hesitate to use David Haye as an example, seeing as he was defeated over the weekend too, but he generated a lot of hype and excitement by continually criticising his rival, Vladimir Klitschko, in the run-up to the heavyweight boxing championship.

Vladimir Klitschko
Now Haye is blaming a broken toe for his defeat, and I think it's feeble and mealy-mouthed of him. He and his trainer took the decision that his toe wouldn't cause a problem and went ahead with the bout. So he can't now blame the injury. He went the distance. It's a sad end to his career, because he'll be remembered as a cry baby rather than a good (not great) boxer. I doubt if Klitschko will agree to a rematch. Why should he? He won fair and square. Hang up your gloves Haye and focus on your acting ambitions.
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