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

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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Gym bunnies: Prepare to Splutter

When I was on a plane recently an advert in a US airline magazine caught my eye. It was for a piece of exercise equipment, priced at $14,000. The advert said that you only needed to use it for a few minutes a week. They offered a trial period and said they confident buyers would find it more effective than slogging away in the gym for hours.

I pondered on this and then parked it.

And then last night, Horizon "The Truth About Exercise"on BBC TV showed some new research and theory on exercise. It was mind boggling stuff.

For a start, 20% of the population will never benefit from exercise. It's their genetic bad luck. The journalist in the programme, Michael Mosley, (left) turned out to be just such a person. He is slim but has high levels of visceral fat, the "invisible" fat around our internal organs which can lead to conditions like diabetes. He was anxious to avoid the diabetes his father had, but like most of us, not too keen to exercise.

After eating a huge Scottish fried breakfast, the levels of fat in his blood shot up. But by walking for 90 minutes, briskly, the researchers showed that when he ate the same breakfast the next day, the walking activated an enzyme which reduced the amount of fat that he metabolized.

But 90 minutes of brisk walking is still tough if it's to be done daily. So the intepid Mosley had a go on a piece of equipment probably like the one I read about. He was told to cycle flat-out for three bursts of 20 seconds. And that was all that's needed, in a week. His glucose levels improved over time, although his cardio vascular levels didn't because his genetic make-up means he won't ever benefit from exercise.

Meanwhile the Mayo Clinic got him to wear some weird pants with electrodes that measured his normal activity during the day. As he was mostly sitting down at a desk, the result was not good. The next day he moved about more. Walked more often in the office. Used the stairs instead of the lift. And burnt an extra 500 calories without doing anything very strenuous.

Fascinating stuff. The main learning was that the blanket message of "start running or get in the gym" won't work for everyone. Exercise and diet needs to be very tailored. The gym industry obviously has a vested interest in making us want to exercise and buy shoes, equipment and gym memberships. We will hear a lot more about this new science. It's very exciting!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Gail's rest home for starving celebrities

Reading about the angst of poor Demi Moore, apparently wasting away from despair at the end of her marriage; dancing on tables in bars, much to the horror of daughter Rumer, and rumoured to be on the sauce, I wish I could invite her over for a few weeks of respite.

I had the same thought when Britney Spears was combusting a couple of years ago.

Get them out of La La Land and catapult them into reality.

My prescription would be: bracing walks in Epping Forest, with nothing more than a couple of ibruprofen and some embrocation afterwards; a good feast in the local Indian restaurant E4 (when did Demi last have real carbs?) and a good girly gossip session over a glass of sherry or cup of tea, where we can laugh over Ashton Kutcher's acting and find her some new beaus who would be more suitable. We could see a few of the sights in London, allowing Demi to see what normal women look like so she might feel better about herself. And more importantly, we could refocus Demi on her career and finding her a good meaty role. How about it Demi?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

All the Fun of the Fair

An excellent documentary on BBC 4, "All the fun of the fair," reminded me how much I used to love going to the fair when I was a teen.

I was thrilled to find websites for both the fairs I remembered  - Anderton & Rowland's, and Whitelegg's. These were the famous fairs in Plymouth where I grew up. Anderton and Rowland's has been in business since 1854, and Whitelegg's since the 1920s.

Once or twice a year part of these fairs would visit what we called the cattle market, a tarmac'd area next to a playing field in Plympton. Word would sweep round school like wildfire, and we would all head to the fair in the evening. It usually had 2 rides - the dodgems and the octopus, (pictured), and a few refreshment and "win a soft toy" type sideshows. In those days we didn't have the big theme parks so a ride like the octopus was considered quite daring. I loved the screeching sound that signalled the start of a ride.

Meanwhile on the dodgems, you could go round any way you pleased and crash into people head-on, which you can't do now. The "fairground barkers" as my mum called them would thrillingly leap from car to car, taking money during the ride.

The fair in its entirety would also visit Plymouth Hoe in the summer. I loved what we called "the switchbacks"  and the waltzers, particularly if you had some big strong boys giving them an extra spin.

The "switchbacks"
The only ride I couldn't bear was the big wheel. I went on it once and couldn't bear it. Even now, I found the London Eye too spooky and sat in the middle of the pod, afraid to get too near to the edge.

I've since been on rollercoasters and other rides at places like Disneyland and Chessington, but for all the terror and excitement, nothing comes close to the simple pleasure of the last ride of the evening on the octopus, or risking your teeth on a maggotty toffee apple.

Further reading

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Couch Critic

Welcome to the first of my monthly posts about films. We are keen film buffs and like to get our hands on the newest titles to watch at home. Finding films we can both watch is a challenge. I don't like shoot-em-ups, most costume dramas, anything with swords / round tables / Jedi / Bruce Willis and J doesn't like sub-titles, real-life dramas/ anything upsetting/ zombies or anything by Lars Von Trier.

Here's this month's top picks.

The Iron Lady
Meryl Streep is normally a bit hit and miss as far as I'm concerned but she hits the spot in this film about Margaret Thatcher, and her BAFTA was well deserved. The film however is a little less successful. I loathed Mrs T and everything she stood for, and in my opinion history will not be kind to her. There was a huge emphasis in the film on her frailty and wandering mind. Maybe it was supposed to counterbalance her ambition and aggression when she was PM, but even I felt it was a bit sad and unnecessary. With the exception of Sir Geoffrey Howe (Anthony Head) it was impossible to tell who any of the cabinet were. I kept wanting them to refer to each other by name. Jim Broadbent didn't make a very realistic Dennis either. He was.....Jim Broadbent. Score: Gail's Gherkins - 5 out of 10.

One Day
J and I watched this at the weekend and were left unimpressed. Based on the David Nicholls' book about a doomed "romance," the film-makers made the mistake of casting an American (to garner the big bucks in the US) as Em. Now when I read the book, Em struck me as being feisty, independent and eccentric in her dress. In the film, Ann Hathaway is first shown with big glasses - the usual device to make an actress look "plain" - and then occasionally in clumpy shoes. But she soon morphs as expected into Ann Hathaway, glossy and limpid eyed.  And her accent! Sometimes she had a go at a northern accent but mostly she sounded like a US actress putting on a posh British accent. At the point the film ended, I was astonished the two characters had even had the time of day for each other. I imagine the director thought the same, because we then had a succession of gooey scenes showing them laughing together and so on, as if to convince us they did have chemistry.
Gail's Gherkins: 4 out of 10.

The Big Year
I hadn't heard of this one or seen anything about it, but it's great fun. Three bird watchers (Owen Wilson, Steve Martin and Jack Black) compete with each other to get the highest number of bird sightings on their "big year." There's nothing new or striking about this film - it's just amiable and warm hearted. Gail's Gherkins: 8 out of 10

I Don't Know How She Does It
Sarah Jessica Parker is the successful career woman and hapless mum in this film based on the novel by Allison Pearson. It starts off with one of the best scenes from the book, Helen "distressing" a bought pie so she can pass it off as home-made at her daughter's school's cake sale. Unfortunately it was one of the highlights of the film. Pierce Brosnan seems uncomfortable in his role as would-be seducer, and I'm sure the film tones down the nature of the flirtation between him and Helen. It's all one-sided in the film, although in the novel I'm sure Helen was flirting back. Christina Hendricks is given a strange role in the film as an occasional narrator. Tepid. Gail's Gherkins: 5 out of 10

After the Waterfall
Air New Zealand offered an eclectric selection of films and I watched this film from New Zealand. It told of the break up of a family after a couple's daughter was abducted near a waterfall. Very bleak but beautifully observed. A pity we don't get to see more films from New Zealand. Gail's Gherkins: 8 out of 10

Friends with Benefits
We enjoyed this - a modern, realistic and contemporary portrayal of a young couple's attempt to be "friends with benefits." There was one snag for me, Justin Timberlake - I just don't find him believable as an actor, but the gorgeous Mila Kunis (left) outweighed that. There are a couple of laugh out loud moments. Gail's Gherkins: 7 out of 10

Monday, February 13, 2012

Treats in store for Queen's Diamond Jubilee

2012 is a great year to be a Londoner. So far all the hoopla has been around the Olympics, but I'm thinking the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations are going to steal a march on that event.

Yet most people don't have a clue what's lined up, or even realise we have two consecutive Bank Holidays (June 4 and 5). It'll be like the royal wedding weekend but this time with a massive flotilla of boats, lasers and the world's biggest cupcake.

On June 3 a flotilla of 1,000 boats carrying 30,000 flag waving members of the public will take to the Thames, with the Queen and Prince Philip in a stately barge. I'm proposing we go to Greenwich for a good view. Should be amazing!

The following day there's a concert outside Buckingham Palace which ends with the Queen raising a football sized "diamond" on a cushion which aims a laser beam down the Mall to light a national beacon of celebrations. There will be 60 at Hadrian's Wall alone. We have until March to enter the ballot to win a pair of tickets for the event (5,000 up for grabs.) The official website for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee is here.

I'm thinking languid summer days, picnic baskets and Champagne. Let's hope the weather plays ball. The way I look at it, two poor summers must mean we are entitled to a good one???

Sunday, February 12, 2012

I'm Baaaack!

My reader (Fran) noticed that I haven't been blogging for a while. I've been a bit busy with a new role, it's true, but the main reason was, I had lost my mojo.

Couldn't think of anything to blog about.

While I was away, I was on my US concert tour (see photo) as support act to the Irish superstar Colin MacHale. Or rather, here we are, howling away at karaoke last week in Disneyland, Anaheim, CA. We were there for our annual sales & marketing conference.

It wasn't all Mickey Mouse and eggs Benedict, I can tell you. Breakfast at 6.30am and then in the arena for 7.30, with the finish around 9pm  (or 5am, depending on your demographic and liking for partying).

But a fantastic time was had by all, and we're all very excited about our company's future.

I'm writing a few posts while I'm on a roll, so pop by tomorrow for the low down on the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.
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