Friday, 31 December 2010


Before we all get caught up in the excitement of the New Year, I would just like to clear up an item on tonight’s BBC news. The reporter covering an item on New Year’s Eve celebrations said ‘… as we head into a new decade. Let me correct that part, we are not heading into a new decade. We headed into a new decade last year - only no one noticed.

If you recall we made a big fuss about the new millennium (ooh about ten years ago I think) when the year turned to 2000. I said at the time, that this was incorrect, because as there was no year zero, the new millennium was not due to start until 2001. But no one would have it and so we celebrated (well everyone else did, I refused to celebrate it until the following year) the new millennium (and new decade) from 2000.

The BBC cannot have it both ways - if the decade began in 2000, then it ended in 2009 - as that would be ten years. It cannot end tonight - otherwise that would be 11 years - and you can’t have 11 years in a decade.

So if you hear someone over enthuse and get carried away tonight and start talking about a new decade - please point out the error!

New Year's Eve Birthdays

Bumped into her next door this morning. She was putting up one of those ‘Happy Birthday’ banners for her youngest daughter on her front door. I’ve always thought New Year’s Eve was a silly day to have a birthday. I tried to get past her house without her seeing me (she is very nice, but she can have you there all day chatting), but anyway she spotted me.

‘Oh another birthday already’ I said. ‘She must be three now?’

She was indeed three. ‘Do you remember the night she was born?’ her next door asked.

I did indeed remember the night in question, I was trying to have a sophisticated New Year’s Eve gathering with a few selected people, some lovely drinks and things on trays to eat, with a string quartet playing selected pieces delicately in the background but all I could hear was ambulances wailing up and down our front street, people in green outfits shouting into walkie-talkies and general mayhem all night outside. My guests thought they had been transported to Beirut!

It was really most inconvenient, and I was quite exhausted.  Could she not have waited until the next day and my guests had gone!


I was in town shopping during the week and found myself with a little time on my hands (I had found and bought what I wanted easier than I expected, but I had paid for three hours parking and I wasn’t leaving until I had had them!), and I found myself outside one of those nail places (not Do-It-All - not those sort of nails). I thought, why not, my nails need doing and I have plenty of time so off I went.

Don’t know what the place was called ’Justines’ or ‘Nails-R-Us’ or something like that but it wasn’t very busy - even though they had a young lady on the door trying to drag people in and giving out flyers.

I asked the young lady if they did men’s nails. I might have well as asked her if she could give me the gist of Darwin’s Origin of Species. I really think she had no idea what I was asking. So I pointed to the sign above the shop and at my fingers, I think she sort of understood, but she had to go and ask someone.

Anyway this obstacle overcome I was shown to a seat. By now I was already wishing I hadn’t bothered, but I am nothing if not intrepid and up for new experiences (just for clarity, this wasn’t to be my first manicure, only the first time I had ‘dropped in’ to an unknown place without an appointment - I’d hate you to think your blogger was some sort of chav). Anyway, where was I, oh yes she showed me to a seat, which wasn’t the best seat in the shop, but I’ll let that one pass.

There was one other customer (I was going to say lady, but I ’m not too sure about that - she looked very orange) in the store so it was quite quiet.

The lady serving me showed me this menu thing with allsorts of things on it about extensions and goodness knows what else. But I just gave her one of my looks, think she got the message I just wanted a basic manicure.

She said it was £10.50. I said fine, she then said I had to pay in advance.

I have never heard of such a thing. I said, ’I’m not going to run off with only one hand manicured’. But she insisted. I handed over a card. She said it has to be cash.

I was getting a little fed up by then, but I rummaged around and handed over a £10 note and a £5 note. She said she didn’t have change and wanted the 50p.

I said I didn’t have a 50p (whatever one of those is) and she just stood. I think she thought if she stood long enough a 50p would appear from nowhere.

After a while I said ’look this is obviously far too complicated for you, I’ll go somewhere else’, and got up and left.

The idea that men might have nails that grow and need to be looked after clearly caused this shop a great deal of difficulty. What a way to run a business!

Wednesday, 29 December 2010


I don’t often make comment on happenings in the world of politics, but on occasion the provocation is too much to ignore.

Today we were treated to an interview with Simon Hughes (LibDem, Bermondsey and Old Southwark), I have a feeling it will be repeated on the Six o'clock news). He was going on about something or other when he said that he needed to ensure people were not misled by untrue facts.

Well that is very nice of him to take the trouble, but hold on one moment.

There is no possibility that anyone will be mislead by ‘untrue facts’. Untrue facts do not exist, there are no such things as ‘untrue facts’. A fact is a fact. If it is a ‘fact’ it cannot be untrue.

So Mr Hughes, I suggest next time you want to break into my Christmas holiday with some nonsense or other - get your facts straight!

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Christmas Question

As we move from the post Christmas period into the pre-New Year period, you must ready yourself for the ‘Christmas question’, I.e. ‘Did you have a nice Christmas?’

This question became compulsory to ask others when Christmas was re-introduced after it was banned by Oliver Cromwell in the 17th Century.

There is only one response to this question …‘oh yes thanks, very nice, but quiet’.

I have never quite understood the ‘but quiet’ bit. As a collective nation, Christmas has taken more organising than the Normandy landings, people have travelled vast distances to be with friends and family to consume the most lavish meal of the year and individuals have drank enough alcohol to give a male elephant a headache, but still we say ‘but quiet’.

What would a ‘lively’ Christmas involve.

But be wary, dear reader. There are dangers to this question. If you are not careful you could be in for a full re-telling of the day, from the moment your friend’s nan tried to put two arms in the same sleeve of her Christmas jumper on Christmas morning, to the moment they tried to stuff her in a taxi on Christmas night after she had made her way through six bottles of Brown Ale and a half bottle of Whiskey.

The simplest way round this question is to get it in first. So when you meet your friend say’ ‘oh hello, did you have a nice Christmas’. this means they have to say …‘oh yes thanks, very nice, but quiet’. Then you can say ‘me too’ and then change the subject. Or if you feel inclined, you can be the one to launch into the fascinating tale of your Christmas while your friend tries to get away for the next ten minutes.

If you can’t get the question in first, either because your friend is trying to pull the same trick or you lose concentration for a moment, all is not lost.

‘ Hello, did you have a nice Christmas’

‘Yes thanks, very nice but quiet. But we made up for it at New Year’.

This will completely wrong foot your opponent, sorry friend. This means they will be unable to tell their Christmas story and give you the full opportunity to tell of your night of excitement on New Year’s Eve, (either planned or actual, depending on when asked), as the only response to your statement will be ‘oh yes, what did you do’.

Unless of course you enjoy swapping Christmas stories, then chat away - but be aware that the tale you tell this year, will be the same tale you told last year!

New Year's Eve Fashion

As we approach the biggest night of the year, if you haven't already decided what to wear, now is a good time to give it some serious thought.

There are many ways to celebrate the ending of one year and the beginning of another, from a quiet meal for two, to a massive party ball. What you do will direct what you wear. There are too many permutations for this blog to cover, so perhaps a little New Year’s Eve guidance for a night out in the bars and clubs of your town.

First thing to think about is the weather. This is becoming much more important ever since we started having these snowy and cold winters. I have checked and the forecast for Friday evening (New Year’s Eve) and it is much warmer that of late. In my homeland possibly as high as 2C as an overnight low. Positively tropical!

This is a great help as helps solve the first problem - coat or no coat.

The general rule to follow for coats, is that over 0C it is fine to go without coat, whereas any temperature with a minus in it - you really should think of some sort of upper body covering.

This rule of course does not apply to my friends living in more southerly locations, where the general advice is, unless it is the hottest day of the year, you must wear a duffel coat at all times just in case a tiny square inch of your flesh is exposed to chilling night air.

For your New Year's Eve outfit, you should consider the following key points:
  • Your chosen fashion items for the night should be selected from the most expensive items you own;
  • Consider buying something new for the event, but make sure you give it a trail run before the night (see blog on The Christmas Party);
  • There is a great temptation to wear black.  This is often considered to be 'sophisticated' and gives the impression you have been somewhere more glamorous first.  This is incorrect, it just looks like you have given your outfit no thought and since 90% of other people at your venue will also be wearing black, you are unlikely to stand out.  Also, unless you are very skilled in this area, you will look like staff - so don't be surprised if someone asks you if there are any vol-au-vents left;
  • As it is New Year’s Eve, some sort of embellishment is quite in order, whether it is tiny fleck of sparkle or full on rhinestones;
  • Wear layers so they can be removed as bars and clubs become more crowded, but consider taking a cabin trunk (see suggested trunk if you don’t already own one) to your preferred venue so you can hang up your discarded layers and keep them safe until you leave;
  • Avoid white, you are likely to have gained a few pounds over the holiday period, and nothing shows this more than a white figure hugging outfit;
  • Although it will be cold, try and avoid wearing a hat scarf and gloves combination - it really does make it look like you would rather be home in front of the fire and the TV. You may of course wish you were at home, but as you are out, it is best to just get on with it and enjoy yourself;
Although not strictly fashion advice, I do have a tip for a safe return home after a New Year night out. Consider placing a small sheet of paper with your address on it and a £10 note into a sealed envelope. This can be handed over to the taxi driver when you go home. Thereby avoiding an awkward scene where you try to describe where you live but can’t quite get the words out due to the amount of alcohol consumed.

Have a good night and Happy New Year.

New Year's Eve

As we approach New Year's Eve - and the night of the year (not for your blogger, I'd rather have a cup of tea and an eccles cake), I  am ever mindful of the needs of others, so a repost from last month on that must have item ...

Having occasions to wear a tiara in the 21st Century are sadly few and far between. In the olden days you could wear a tiara to the theatre (with suitable evening wear of course) or the ballet, but in today’s society you will find wearing a tiara is probably only suitable for a State occasion. One possible exception is New Year's Eve.

Should you find yourself in such an enviable position, follow my simple tips for a glamorous evening out.

Choose a tiara that suits your face and the outfit you will be wearing with it;
  • Tiaras should draw attention to your face by framing it;
  • Choose a tiara with some height or one that has a peak if you have a round face. Your face will appear thinner if you choose a tiara with a V at the top;
  • Pick a tiara with little or no height for a longer face. It should extend from one side to the other at an even distance;
  • Avoid a tiara with a peak if you have an oval face;
  • Try wearing a headband or back piece to make your face rounder.
Remember when getting ready for the big occasion, your tiara will take two hours to fit.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Getting Heavier

There is an item in the paper say that scientists have produced a report following extensive studies that says men in 2000 were about 17 pounds heavier than they were in 1986.

The report goes on to say they attribute it to men eating more calories and doing less exercise. 

Your kidding - right?

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Wayne Rooney

I see Wayne Rooney has paid for Colleen and family to go on holiday without him. This is showing us all that Colleen trusts him to stay at home alone and not get into any trouble. Also Wayne thought that since he is being paid £250,000 a week to play football he might pop along on Boxing Day and have a bit of a kick about.

The holiday Wayne is paying for is an exotic cruise taking in such places as Aruba, Martinique, Barbados, Grand Cayman and Costa Maya in Mexico. Seems an awful lot of expense and bother to go to when you can get burger and chips anywhere.

Saturday, 25 December 2010


As we leave behind another Christmas Day - we head into a timeless no man’s land until the end of the year.

Mondays always feel like Mondays, and who has never had the Friday feeling, but Christmas Day - no matter what day it falls on, always feels like Christmas Day.

And therein lies the issue. Tomorrow is boxing Day, but will it feel like Sunday, probably not. Then just to add to the confusion, we will have another Boxing Day on Monday when all the sales start.

As Christmas was on Saturday we (mostly) have Monday and Tuesday off. So someone will probably suggest going out for a drink on Monday - which will feel like Saturday. Giving you a Sunday hangover on Tuesday.

By the time we get to Wednesday, you will either be back at work thinking it is Monday, or still off work and no idea what day it is.

At some point on Wednesday you will realise it is New Year‘s Eve the day after tomorrow, which will cause a panic.

You will then do your weekend shop on Thursday, (even though you have three quarters of a ton of food left over from Christmas Day).

To add to this confusion for your blogger - he has spent most of the day a bit poorly in bed, (only raising himself a little to have chocolate cake and biscuits - well it is Christmas), so I have no idea what day it is. As I settled in front of the TV at 19:00 just long enough to find out if Chas got married to Carl in Emmerdale - only to find out it had been on an hour earlier and I have missed it!

Please return time to its normal functioning ways as soon as possible!

Christmas Day

Christmas Eve

Had a Christmas Eve visit from her next door with her two little ones. She came round for a cup of tea and to see how many of my Marks and Spencer mince pies she could wolf down.

Well I was ready for her this year and they got a packet of Gypsy Creams. Her two little girls are usually good girls, well the older one is, not so sure about the new one. Anyway I have a colouring book and crayons I keep for them when they visit so they were quite happy - if a little excited for Christmas.

When they went, her next door enthused over the girls colouring efforts, saying ‘you could put them on the fridge door’ (as if!). I said well not really as they have gone over the lines in several places and I’m not sure Father Christmas (note Father Christmas not the awful Santa Claus) is supposed to have a blue face - still I suppose it is cold out!

Friday, 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all my readers.

Thank you to you all for touching my life and adding to my joy.  And for all those things you did which gave me something to blog about and share ...

...even when you didn't intend to give me something to blog about!

Christmas Card SOS

Having a bit of a dilemma this morning.  I need to find a third card to go with the above two cards to complete a set of three (see earlier blog about arranging Christmas Cards), but having examined all of my other Christmas cards, I find that none of them are suitable.

So, here comes the favour, would someone mind sending me a card that will match the above two cards.  The card should be predominantly the same shade of blue, but it can be of any design. I don't want to appear too fussy, but of a rectangular shape would be appreciated.

But could you get a move on, bit busy today and it is Christmas day tomorrow.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

GMTV\Daybreak at Christmas

Caught a bit of GMTV\Daybreak this morning, and this being only days before Christmas we were treated to a fashion and shopping expert.

He was asked for his advice for last minute gifts for those struggling to think of what to buy. So exciting.

For teenagers he suggested vouchers, for women, jewellery and for men cuff links.

Was that it? I could have come up with that, there was no need to get an expert in to give us this useful advice.

Still it is Christmas so we were treated to small children performing a Nativity play. I have to say that the 'costumes' were very elaborate, (no tea towels on shepherds heads in that school!). Although I was a little concerned at the use of red robes with ermine trim by the Three Kings. Ermine was not typically worn by the aristocracy until the 12th or 13th Century at the very earliest, so would have been unknown in the Middle East in the First Century.

The interviewer (it was either Andrea Catherwood or Kate Garraway, I am not sure which, I am not even convinced they are two people) went straight to interview Mary.  But it turned out not to be Mary, but in fact the donkey seller.  Undaunted by this error, she decided to interview the donkey seller instead.

'What does the donkey seller do?' asked Kate (or Andrea)

'I don't know' was the short response - not even a guess.

It turned out to be a short interview!

We then moved onto an item about the weather. They had some poor chap at 07:00 in the morning reporting from a service station in Surrey to tell us it was cold and icy.  And to prove his point, he turned the camera onto the ground and showed us some ice.

Thanks for that!

Folding Paper

Check-out from hotel this morning was relatively painless, although the receptionist lady folder my bill into quarters.

We have been here before, and the correct way to fold paper has been covered in a previous blog (Folding Paper), so I don't know why my bill should have been folded into four sections rather than into the correct three sections.

I have now refolded the bill correctly, but this has left me with a piece of paper with ten folds in it (folds that intersect doubles the number of folds).

This really is quite intolerable.

Snapped Cable

Bit of a furore in the press about somethings Vince Cable might or might not have said (although to be fair, he hasn't denied any of the things he was supposed to have said) to some undercover reporters.

I make no comment on the content, but it seems a lot of fuss about not much to me - who in a team hasn't at some point said something or thought something that goes against 'the party line'?

What does concern me though is the agenda being followed - there don't seem to be any undercover reporters trying to catch out Tory MPs, and I refuse to believe everyone of them believes and thinks the same as every announcement made by Tory High Command.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Men's Fashion Over 40

I occasionally stray into the world of fashion, giving some gentle advice and guidance on appropriate fashion for particular occasions.

Fashion for men over 40 can be particularly challenging. There is ample evidence of men of a certain age wearing the same style (and in some instances the actual garments) of clothes they wore in their 20s and 30s. 

This is clearly wrong and to work out if you fall into this category, take a critical look at your wardrobe and consider when you bought each item. To get an overall feel for how contemporary your wardrobe is, you need not be too accurate in dating your clothing items, but if the year date has a ‘9’ in it or might have a ‘9’ in it, you have had it too long and it needs to go in the bin. Please note, the advice is to but the item in the bin, not to the local second hand shop. The last thing the homeless need is to go around wearing your decade old Status Quo faded jeans!

The following is some simple advice from an article in The Guardian for all men over 40 to consider:
  • Simple palette of black, grey, navy blue. Dark tone on dark tone;
  • White T-shirts are acceptable for contrast and accenting, but no happy reds or sunny yellows;
  • No logos;
  • Lots of layers;
  • Knitwear in thin, figure-hugging merino wool;
  • Woolly hats pulled low over ears;
  • Sturdy, lace-up workwear-inspired boots;
  • Sensible, slightly boyish side-parted haircuts;
  • Facial hair (but no Craig David/Ali G topiary);
  • Labels: All Saints, Top Man, Martin Margiela, Burberry (but be careful with this one, only consider this if you know what you are doing), Gucci, Lanvin, Spencer Hart, John Varvatos;
  • Blazers should be short, such as those by American tailor Thom Browne (long jackets are ageing);
  • Trousers can be cropped (again careful with this one – it doesn’t mean cut-off ‘trakkie’ bottoms!) but not too tight (drainpipes look desperate on older men);
  • No leather – it looks tragic on over-40s.

Having Breakfast

Well it was a lovely start to the week in Leeds for me on Tuesday. The 06:44 train out of Newcastle was delayed leaving the station for one hour. Still I was actually on the train and with a brief request to the tea trolley lady to turn the heating up a bit, it wasn’t as bad a start as it could have been (I could have been standing on the platform waiting for the train to arrive!)

Overall an hour and a half delay to my journey and then I was happily back in Leeds.

Hotel is deserted this week. I was a little confused when I went down to breakfast, I headed off to my table (you might recall from previous blogs that I have identified my preferred breakfasting location, to the left as you enter the dining room and round the corner – it is a little too close to the silver terrine used to serve porridge (and I know a terrine is typically of earthenware construction, but I have decided for clarity that the said container should be called a terrine) but it is well away from the other riff raff (or hotel guests as they insist on being called) to afford me a little quiet and solitude at 06:30 in the morning – after all I don’t breakfast with 20 strangers at home!) but noticed it was set for dinner not breakfast.

Debbie came rushing over to apologise for not having my table ready – but as I was the only one in the restaurant for breakfast I thought I would embarque on an advanture and take a table in the main part of the restaurant. You know me, I am not very demanding and hate to be a bother to anyone.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Upstairs Downstairs

Excitement mounts as we get near to the launch of the new series of Upstairs Downstairs. For fans of Downton Abbey this is the absolute must watch of the Christmas season.

Couple of things to keep in mind - for those of us who loved it first time around, (and watched many re-runs since), it wont be the same as the original, only Jean Marsh (Rose and the original creator) makes it to this next chapter. So all the characters loved from the original have gone.

And this isn’t Downton Abbey so is best not to compare this with what has gone before. Just watch and enjoy.

Try this little taster of the original from YouTube.

For a bit of nostalgia from the original.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Strictly on Ice 2011

The line up for next years Strictly on Ice has been announced and listed below. It is the usual mix of Z listers (look out for the double ZZ ones that have an explanation of who they are after their name).  Not sure if I have the energy to watch but couple of thoughts to get me thinking.

Steven Arnold hasn't wasted anytime after leaving Coronation Street (well I suppose he hasd to do something, it wasn't his idea to leave after all). 

I always had a bit of a soft spot for Henry on Neighbours so be nice to see him on TV again.  But this is I think outweighed by the number of annoying people I can't bear, all on the same programme at the same time, Kerry Katona, (stop the yo-yo diets, pull yourself together and get a proper job), Nadia Sawalha, (please stop telling me your opinion on everything in that screechy voice), Angela Rippon (stop getting so excited when someone on cash in the Attic gets £30 for a bit of tat you found in their hall cupboard), Denise Welsh (you are not North East royalty, you are just annoying).

Oh and we have someone who isn't a celebrity or married\going out with a celebrity, we have someone that is the ex of a celebrity.

And I am sure some of these have been on reality tv before - are you allowed to be on more than one show, or are we running out of celebrities?

And that noise you can hear is barrels being scrapped.

Bit of a twist this year - four will be voted off before the competion starts - so with a bit of luck ...

Dancing on Ice 2011 - the full line up:

Former Atomic Kitten singer – Kerry Katona;
Coronation Street star: Steven Arnold;
TV presenter: Jeff Brazier;
Former Neighbours actor – Craig McLachlan;
Former newsreader – Angela Rippon;
Cricketer – Dominic Cork;
Radio star: David Vitty (Comedy Dave from Chris Moyles’s Radio 1 show);
American rapper – Vanilla Ice;
Actress – Nadia Sawalha;
Richard and Judy’s daughter – Chloe Madeley;
Loose Women presenter – Denise Welch;
Hollyoaks actress – Jennifer Metcalfe;
Former EastEnders (and E20) actor – Sam Attwater;
Nickelodeon presenter – Laura Hamilton;
Frank Lampard’s ex - Elen Rives;
Iraq war hero – Lance Corporal Johnson Beharry

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Christmas Cards

You will by now have lots of Christmas cards from friends and family.  Arranging your Christmas cards is a tradition I like to follow as we head into the winter solstice.

But don't just stick them on the mantle piece in a random fashion, make the most of this free Christmas decoration by following these simple but stunningly effective steps.

Arrange all your cards by colour.  Cards will mostly be multi-coloured, but sort your cards by the predominant colour. 

Then within each colour, group your cards into 'threes'.  Choose cards of varying sizes for each group.  In the example above I have created a group of white cards with red accent. Then used a regular size card as the main focus but selected a tall card to give height and a smaller card to place at the front and bring the group together.

This gives a charming display and a ready talking point for your visitors.

Christmas Tree

Sometimes it is almost as if I don't write a blog - as this Christmas tree offering from the Leeds office gives witness.  I make no comment - mainly because I am speachless!


Saturday, 18 December 2010


I made a big mistake in Sainsbury’s this morning and went to the wrong checkout desk. There is a checkout lady I usually try to avoid - I am sure she is a very nice person, she is just annoying. So I usually try to avoid her, but this morning I wasn’t paying attention and I had unloaded most of my stuff before I realised.

There was nothing for it I had to go through with the checkout. She insists on examining everything you have bought and passes comment. ‘Oh I like these’ and ‘these are nice aren’t they‘. (As if you would buy things that you didn’t think were nice). I am sure she is just being friendly but I don’t particularly want to discuss my French Roulé with Cranberry in open forum.

But this morning I was pushed beyond endurance. As she swiped one of my items she looked at me and asked ‘Do you eat these’?

‘No’ I said ‘I buy them and throw them straight in the bin’. She stopped speaking to me after that.

Well really, what was I supposed to say to a question like that!

Friday, 17 December 2010

Christmas Accessory

Check out these options for that last minute Christmas must have accessory.


Bit of a bargain from Npower. They will give you gas boiler cover for £15 a month. If during this time your boiler breaks down, they will come out and fix if for you at no cost! And more than that, if you do not call them out for a year, they will give you 50% refund. Fantastic, that means a return of £90 on the £180 you have paid to them. What could be a better bargain.

Although hang on a minute, let's think about that. What they are saying is, if they provide you with no service at all for a year, they will only charge you £90. Now I am not sure what to do. I am with British Gas so Npower didn't do anything for me last year - does that mean I have to send them £90?

Thursday, 16 December 2010

The Office Party

As the Newcastle office is having its Christmas Party today, a timely re-post of a little help and advice for the party night ...

Here is my advice for this festive event. Whether you work in a shop, a factory or as in my case, an office, the Christmas party is pretty much the same. The aim is generally to drink as much as possible so with this in mind, consider the following:
  • trial run for new clothes - the Christmas party is a great excuse to buy a new outfit, in fact it is pretty much taken for granted that most people will have a 'new outfit', bought especially for the event. The outfit (top, dress, shoes whatever) will makes its debut at the party. This is a mistake. Something that looks great in the store changing room will not necessarily look great when you are wearing it to an occasion. We have all bought things we have never worn or only worn once. Finding out that your new outfit drains all your colour and makes you look like Baby Jane Hudson is not something you want the whole office to see. This does not mean you can turn up in any old tat you feel comfortable in, just that you should consider having a 'trial run' in your new item. Good excuse for an extra night out and peace of mind that your new outfit looks great. This is particularly important if you have new shoes. The last thing you want is to spend the night in agony. But be careful about stains, tears and scuffs or you will be back to the shops for something new again!
  • the meal - if your work event includes a meal, think very carefully about how you are going to handle this aspect. Having a three course dinner before you tackle 10 pints of Fosters is not necessarily a good idea. Consider, is the meal that important to your enjoyment of the night out? If it is the main reason you are going and you are not so bothered about having a drink, then tuck away. If the dinner is just the prelude to the part of the event you are most interested in, then consider skipping the meal and joining your colleagues later. As an alternative, attend the meal but only eat part of each course. This will prevent the 'bloated feeling' after a big meal and stop you wanting to have a lie down for half an hour.
  • drink - whatever your Christmas event consists of, you can be pretty sure it will involve alcohol, and lots of it. There are always 'tales to tell' the next day and if you don't want any of the tales to be about you, then consider how much you are going to drink and think about setting a limit. This sounds like spoiling the fun, but you could end up wishing you had taken this particular bit of advice the next day. One tip you might like to try is to start one drink after everyone else. This way you will be a little more sober than everyone else but still have plenty to drink.
  • the camera - the curse of the office party has for many years been the camera. All little indiscretions captured and recorded for posterity, my tip for this used to be, to ensure you were to be one with the camera - annoying to have to carry with you, but it gave you full control over what pictures made it to publication, and more importantly, which ones never saw the light of day. The widespread availability of camera phones makes this meaningless now, but just keep an eye out for colleagues holding phones!
If you have any worries or concerns about your Christmas party, then drop me a line and I will try to help.


Well it has been quite an emotional week in the Leeds office - with a whole boatload of our colleagues ending their contracts and leaving on the same day.

They are shaking off the dust accumulated over many months of working in Leeds and heading back to the glamorous warmth of the big city (London … not Sheffield).

Their departure coincided with the onset of the second wave of snow to hit the country in the last month. So hopefully their journeys home will be trouble free.

Oh and while I am on the subject, will someone tell that weather person lady on GMTV Daybreak, to stop saying this 'is the coldest point in the winter so far…' and 'we are not even into mid-winter yet'.

It isn't the coldest winter so far, it isn't any sort of winter so far - winter has not yet begun and will not do so until 21 December!

Where was I? Oh yes, our leaving people. Some of our leavers I have been working with for over a year so it is quite sad to see them go - knowing I will never see them again.

Still, life is full of people entering and leaving your life - it is what happens …..


I see we have to endure another CD release from the so called recording artist Duffy.

We are being treated to rave reviews about how fantastic she is and the best thing to come out of a recording studio since … well since the last person to come out of a recording studio.

I shall stand up to be counted on this one and be the person to state that this particular Empress is wearing no clothes.

Duffy cannot sing. Duffy has a whiney, screechy voice that no sane person would want to listen to for any amount of time. She is not the most talented singer of the last decade. The only singing comparison I can make is that she sounds like the long lost sister to Pinky and Perky.

Please don't buy this tune - then maybe she will pack up and leave the recording scene.

If you want to hear a proper contemporary female Adele knocks spots of that Duffy.

If you don't beleive me about the Pinky and Perky, try this seasonal tune ....

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Christmas Preparations

With 15 December behind us there are a lot of things you should have already done for a perfect Christmas, but there are still lots of things to do. Complete my Christmas Checklist to make sure you are on track:
  • Cards should all be written ready to be given out – ones to post should have been posted by now;
  • Your tree should have been bought and having spent a day or two acclimatising to the ambient temperature and humidity of your home should be ready to be decorated by 15 December at the latest;
  • Your turkey should have been selected and ready for collection\delivery on the day before Christmas Eve;
  • Your presents should have been bought and will now be assembled in your gift wrapping room ready to be wrapped; (although presents to post should have already been posted);
  • Your menu (if you are cooking Christmas Day meal) should be finalised and all ingredients bought or ordered and awaiting delivery;
  • Your Christmas cake\pudding will have been cooked for some time now and be ready for final decoration;
  • You should have your Christmas Radio Times and have your Christmas viewing planned (although see previous post – you are unlikely to see any of the programmes you have highlighted);
Over the next couple of days you need to:
  • Lay the ground work for any excuses you are going to use for not going to see your old aunt that lives in the middle of nowhere (a rushed phone call on Christmas morning saying you have a cold and don’t want to pass it on is not good enough – try getting in touch now and start coughing a bit, to plant the idea that you are not very well;
  • Plan your escape time if you are visiting relatives you don’t like. Lay the ground work for leaving at your preferred time by inventing a list of people you always see on Christmas Day\Boxing Day this gives you lots of room to manoeuvre to leave early to get back in time to catch Countdown;
  • Try to get a feel for how many presents you are likely to have to carry home and go prepared with a suitable carrier bag for the journey home. There is a general thought that the single bag rule is relaxed on Christmas Day – well it isn’t. Struggling home with bulging carrier bags is not a good look, (not to mention potentially dangerous in the ice and after a few drinks) be prepared to leave things behind and pick up later in the week. Be careful not to return on Boxing Day as this comes within the scope of Christmas Day and you will be required ‘to come in for a drink and a mince pie’. This can be unwelcome as all you really want is your presents from Christmas Day. It is better to leave it until later in the week when it is fine to just pop in, get the presents and leave.
Christmas Tip: If I am coming for a visit – then you need to make sure you have a nice Yule Log available – I know they are a bit gauche, but I like them!

Monday, 13 December 2010

Christmas Day Meal

A timely re-post from last year ...

Christmas Day starts quite well as you are encouraged to eat a large breakfast – this is fine for me as I consider breakfast to be the best meal of the day. You can have anything you like, even things you would normally consider to be an evening meal are permissible. The general rule of thumb is that Christmas day breakfast should be about the same calorific level as that for a normal full day.

There are only certain things you are allowed to eat for Christmas Day lunch. Suggest a Lancashire hot pot or fish and chips and people will think you have gone mad.

There is a range of things you are allowed to eat, turkey, goose, beef etc. (turkey being the most popular). But whatever you choose, it has to be the biggest of its kind in the shop. It is not unheard of for people to buy a 20 kilo turkey for two.

There are a number of difficulties with the Christmas Day meal and it starts at the point you go to the table. You are required to:
  • navigate (if you are from a large family) your way to a chair that is the proper height for the table so you don’t have to eat the meal with your knees in your face;
  • sit at the table wearing a paper hat;
  • pull Christmas crackers in the hope of winning something you are going to throw in the bin;
  • eat vegetables that you don’t like and would never go near for the rest of the year;
  • consume vast amounts of potatoes cooked in several different ways, e.g. boiled, roasted, duchess etc;
  • eat sausage, bacon, stuffing (don’t ask) which alone contain enough fat to give a small elephant a heart attack;
  • work out how to keep gravy off the cranberry sauce;
  • talk to the other people at the table;
  • say ‘I shouldn’t really’ when asked if you want more alcohol, then say ‘oh go on then it is Christmas’;
  • eat a Christmas pudding that takes four hours to steam cook, but still has the consistency of liquid concrete.
Then two hours after eating the biggest meal you have had all year, you have to consume another meal.

This meal is the beginning of the different ways that you are going to eat turkey for the next day or two, (e.g. turkey sandwiches). You are also required to consume Christmas cake, chocolate cake, biscuits and more alcohol.

By the time you have reached this meal the alcohol is not compulsory but it is advisable to take it to get you through the rest of the day\evening.

Tips for getting through the day:

  • Each time you go past the central heating thermometer, turn it up a degree. No one will notice the gradual rise in room temperature but this will help everyone fall asleep after dinner so you don’t have talk to them;
  • If you are exchanging presents on the day and you have to buy a present for someone you don’t like – buy them a big, heavy or awkward to carry present, (or if you are advanced in this regard, something that is all three). This means they have to work out how to get your present home. This is especially effective if they have travelled to you on foot so they can have a drink and then have to carry a six foot set of step ladders home in the snow and ice.
Note: Christmas cake is a bit like Christmas pudding only it is cold and solidified. A single slice has the same calorific value as a pie and pea supper, ten Mars bars and a packet of Wotsits.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Christmas Decorations

Brief update on the placing of my Christmas decorations - the bear has been placed too near the fire!

Does anyone want a cute little Christmas bear slightly singed on one side?

A Night Out

As the party season gets under way I thought I would have a bit of a night out. And as the thaw sets in I thought the city would be a safe place for those of us going out in more precarious footwear. Indeed it was - so off to the Laughing Donkey.

This being mid-December the bar was full of part time drinkers (all out on ‘office dos’ and never to be seen again until next Christmas), and having a high old time. Especially that big bird that was jumping up and down in front of me, six foot four in stilettos, pint in one hand and a short in the other, (you can picture the scene) if she had landed on my Italian hand mades, I would have needed hospital treatment. As it was I spent all day Sunday trying to get cherry B and cider and crème de’ menthe out of my shirt!

You may remember our resident DJ left last month to host the new and more glamorous venue around the corner. This proved an opportunity too good to miss for our new DJ all the way from … actually I’m not sure where she is from - somewhere down south I think.

I have to say she has tried but she is struggling. Her cabaret interludes (from playing records) fell a bit flat as she isn’t very tall, and unless you watched on a TV monitor you couldn’t see her perform. So I think she has given up on that part of the show. Which just left audience participation, that isn’t really working either, (I don‘t really want to know who is out celebrating a birthday (and if that bloke thinks we all believed he was 35 today - well we didn’t). All in all, last night she looked sick of her life.

As mentioned, at this time of year you get a lot of strangers in the bars - and we did seem to have a group of, I ‘m not sure what the term is these days, perhaps it is ‘Romanian Travellers‘? Anyway they seemed to be having a nice time and I had a bit of a chat with one of the ladies. After a while I got round to the subject of clothes and what she was wearing. I tried to tell her, in a tactful way of course, that really if you are going to wear a white lace and tulle cocktail dress, you shouldn’t cover it up with a Hells Angels donkey jacket. I know it was cold out last night and she needed something warm, but in the bar, maybe she should unfasten it? I don’t think she understood (don’t suppose they meet many Geordies in Romania) as she just smiled and took another drink of her pint.

Still it made for a fun night.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Cancun Agreement

I see there has been a global agreement at climate change talks in Cancun.  One of the items on the agreement is to cut the number of greenhouses.

This is all very well, but the agreement is a little short on detail.  For example, how many greenhouses will the UK be allowed to have?  If you already have a greenhouse will you have to give it up if we have too many?  Does it matter how big your greenhouse is?

These are basic questions and I think we should be told - it is all very worrying.

Christmas Clarifications

With all the Christmas tunes and TV programmes going around at the moment, I just thought I would issue a few clarifications:

  • I do know it is Christmastime, but please stop saying Christmastime, no one says Christmastime;
  • No, I don't wish it could be Christmas everyday, if it was to be one day everyday then I would choose a day in summer - perhaps 12 August would be a nice day to have every day;
  • I won't be rocking around under the pale moonlight, nor round a Christmas tree for that matter;
  • You might be, but I'm not dreaming of a White Christmas - I've had enough of that, thank you very much;
  • No it isn't a Rock And Roll Christmas, Rock and Roll was typically 1950s and 1960s, it was unheard  of at the time of the birth of Christ;
  • Santa Claus, you needn't bother coming to town - I'm not that fussed;
  • Oh and lonely goatherd, there is a reason you are lonely - you stink of goats!

Friday, 10 December 2010

Celebrity Catch-up

Bit of another quiet week for celebrities this week while the get ready for the highlight of the party season, in case you missed anything:
  • someone finally won I'm a Celebrity - it was the one that didn't win X Factor last year;
  • the public finally took pity on Anton and voted Widdecombe off Strictly;
  • Mary went back to the tills in Tesco after leaving X Factor;
  • the pretty one (woman pretty one not the man pretty one) was fired, meaning the Stuart person is going to win it just to annoy everyone and to make him even more smug than he already is
  • Charles and Camilla went to the theatre, Camilla was furious coz she forget to set the recorder for Coronation Street and after a bit of trouble getting there they both wished they had stayed in;
  • Katie is spending less time with Alex Reid; (she wants a a new series so she needs to be either getting married or getting divorced or ITV2 won't let her be on TV;
  • some of our Corrie favourites left as part of a fantastic 50th Anniversary week of programmes for the show.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Christmas Radio Times

One of the first traditions to let you know Christmas can only be a short time away is the publication of the Christmas Radio Times (other listings magazines are available).

In case you missed it - the said publication is now in the shops (£2.40). For many this will be an opportunity to sit down with the magazine, a cup of tea and a pen (or a highlighter pen for those of us with access to some of the more exotic stationery items) so you can mark off all the programmes you wish to see over the two week Christmas TV period. At the end of the exercise you will have a lovely long list of lots of programmes you will be watching over Christmas.

This is false hope. You may feel you will be watching lots of TV, but there are lots of things that will get in your way:
  • That film you liked the look of when you saw it in the Radio Times, on the day you realise that it doesn't start till ten to midnight and you can't be bothered to sit up half the night watching it, (same applies to films on ITV that show the News in the middle);
  • The soaps you usually watch are all on different days and times so you forget they are on and you miss them;
  • You will in any case have been unable to resist reading the brief synopsis in the Radio Times so don't watch them as you feel as though you have already seen them;
  • Similar to the first point, you have highlighted a 'lovely Christmas film' being shown one afternoon, perfect for a cup of tea and a mince pie, until you realise you have to go to work that day;
  • Her next door will call round just as your sitting down to watch an old Marple on ITV3 (Hickson not McKenzie) (and if she thinks she is going to wolf her way through all my Marks and Spencer's mince pies like she did last year - she can think again) and makes you switch off.
And don't give me all that about 'I will just Sky Plus them so I can watch them when I want nonsense. That contraption should be renamed 'record programmes and keep them for three months and then delete them without watching them Plus'. We all know watching Christmas programmes in January doesn't happen, and as for watching soaps out of sequence, well that doesn't work either.

So take a last look at all those programmes you have circled - that is the last you will see of them.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Carrying Bags Again

Picking up on my previous blog about carrying bags when shopping, one of my readers has suggested that a way around this dilemma is to go back to your car, leave your purchase(s) and then return to the shops.

This is indeed a good suggestion and one I have used on a few occasions, but there are things to consider. The days of being able to park right outside any of the major stores or boutiques (do they still call them boutiques?) are long gone, so you may have quite a distance to walk to your car. In more extreme cases you might find that most of your parking fee payment period is spent walking back and forwards to your car and not actually shopping.

More of a concern is having to deal with car park stalkers or sharks as I call them.

These are the people that have arrived at your chosen car park when the car park is full. They hang about waiting for a space to become available. I am sure you have encountered such drivers. You can feel their presence as soon as you arrive in the car park. As soon as they spot you, they move slowly behind you, following you to your parked car. You can feel them willing you to walk faster, (at which point I slow down). Tension mounts as they try to calculate which car you are heading for. Once they have seen your lights blink in response to your remote control, they move in for the kill.

This is when they claim your space as their own. Usually by blocking the exit from your space, so that you either have to attempt a particularly tricky reverse manoeuvre to avoid the obstacle of their car, or they try to force you to reverse out of the car park backwards, just so they can slide conveniently into your space. My advice in this situation is to just sit tight. At some point they will realise you are not going to move until they move out of your way. They will eventually move, after all they want the space and you don't.

What has this got to do with returning to your car to place an item in your boot? Imagine the annoyance of a stalker when they realise you are not going to get in your car and leave the car park! Maybe it is a good idea after all!

Monday, 6 December 2010

Carrying Bags

Regular readers might be familiar with general advice for shopping - with regard to the carrying of bags.  It is suggested that when shopping you should only carry one bag.  This may seem strange advice for an activity where you are buying things, but carrying a single bag gives a pleasing line for the observer and the right bag can compliment your outfit.

Carrying more than one bag can give you a harassed air and several bags, as well as being heavy and  uncomfortable to carry, will make you an obstacle for other shoppers to navigate.  Too many bags will make the casual observer think you are homeless.  This may lead to an embarrassing situation where a stranger offers you 50p for a cup of tea.

This general advice can lead to some difficulties where you need to buy more than one thing, but it is easily resolved by placing the smaller bag into the larger bag.  You must make sure that the overall effect is still a slim bag, but with some careful re-positioning a pleasing result can be achieved.

This approach has been queried by one of my readers stating, 'doesn't it just mean you do a lot of shopping if you carry a lot of bags?'  Actually it means the opposite, it means that you never go shopping and have to 'bulk buy' on the rare occasions you shop.

This general advice for life is however relaxed as we approach Christmas.  Ever mindful of the realities of life, it is quite acceptable to carry more than one bag for the next couple of weeks.  Everyone will expect you to be out buying presents and the various necessities for the Christmas season.  You must still present a simple silhouette and you will probably be best advised to carry your multiple bags in one hand.  Spreading the load over two arms might be better for your posture, but the overall effect might make you look dowdy.  Check your appearance in a nearby mirror before deciding. 

But be aware that you should revert to the one bag per trip by 20 December.  Carrying more than one bag after that date might make people think you are unorganised and ill prepared.  And in a worst case scenario, observers might think you are panicing!

Christmas Decorations

After the difficulties over the last couple of days - the monkey decoration has been found.  The China tree decoration, is alas still in several pieces.  I now have two decorations (as you can see) and am now trying to decide where to put them.  I think putting them both in the same room might be a bit full on, so i think I shall leave the monkey in the room where I keep my computer things and perhaps the bear will be more cosy in the living room near the fire.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Christmas Peace and Quiet

An experience with an early Christmas Caroller by one of my correspondents on Facebook has prompted me to share this advice.

Over the Christmas period whenever someone rings your front door bell, put on an overcoat before you answer it.

If it is someone you want to see, you can say you have just come in, invite them in and take off your coat. If it is someone you don’t want to see you can say, so sorry but you were just on your way out!

Try it - it works I have been doing this for years.


There has been an accident.  I now only have one Christmas decoration. Well that isn't strictly true, I have one Christmas decoration and three pieces of a Christmas decoration.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Government Enquiry

I see the government has announced it will be holding an enquiry into why the country ground to a halt this week because it snowed.

As you know government enquiries are not for finding out information, they to stop people asking difficult questions and fobbing them off until they have forgotten about the original issue.

This enquiry will be the same as the one announced last year - do you remember hearing about its report? Of course you didn’t - it never reported.

I should point out that Government enquiries are used by both parties so Labour will not be raising the matter next June when we would expect the report to be published.

On the other hand the government might go ahead with its enquiry on this occasion as it will be a good opportunity to blame it all on Labour - Can’t be a Tory\Lib\Dem issue as they haven’t been in power for years.

Government enquiries are however expensive and we haven’t got any money, so I have detailed the findings and conclusion of the report below. Mr Cameron, if you are reading this I hope you find this useful and can you use the money you save to give my council an extra few pounds so it can put some grit at the end of my street! If the report goes ahead, you may find it goes to over 100 pages and there will be lots of complicated words - but it will mean the following:

Report Analysis:
  • It was cold
  • It snowed
  • It snowed again
  • It stayed cold
  • The snow froze
  • It snowed again
  • The snow stayed frozen
  • Cars can’t drive on frozen snow very well
  • It snowed
  • Trains don’t move on frozen rail tracks very well
  • It snowed
  • It got a bit warmer
  • The snow melted a bit
  • Cars could move around a bit
Report Conclusion

When it snows a lot transport can’t move around very much. It is better to wait until the snow goes before trying to get anywhere.

Christmas Catch-up

Time for a little Christmas catch up I think. I have all my Christmas cards written out and ready to post. My preferred date for posting is usually 10 December. This gives the recipient plenty of time to think ‘oh hell, I suppose we better send him one’ and go to the shops and buy a card to send to me.  With weather conditions as they are this year, I think I will send them out a little earlier so I need to get out and buy some stamps - second class, I’m not made of money. So if you are on my ‘posting Christmas card list you should receive your card a little earlier this year.

I have been thinking about Christmas decorations for my house. Previous reading of my blog will have let you know that I have one decoration that I put up every year without fail. Having thought about it further I seem to recall receiving another ‘stocking filler’ gift for a tree from my sister. This tree decoration is a smiling monkey in a festive outfit. I wouldn’t call it a grotesque exactly, as it does have a certain amount of humorous whimsy, but I don’t like monkeys, they give me the creeps.

Also I have read the bible many times and the Christmas story was always a favourite as a child, but I don’t recall there being a monkey at the birth of Jesus. There was an ox, an ass and a whole flock of sheep, but there were no monkeys. And even if there had been a monkey I feel quite sure it would not have been wearing a red hat with a white fur trim (well it might have if it was a gay monkey - it was Christmas after all).

This has set me searching, but I can’t find it. I wonder if her next door pocketed it when they came round last Christmas eve trying to get a drink out of me?

Anyway I did find a ‘Christmas bear’. As you can see from the picture above it does have a degree of melancholy charm. I was going to chuck it in the bin, but I have decided it can stay.

Now where to put my decorations - I now officially have two!

Friday, 3 December 2010

Celebrity Catch-up

Short Celebrity catch-up this week, I think they are all staying indoors like the rest of us:
  • Gillian stopped fainting and left Celebrity;
  • a few others left Celebrity but I've not been watching so I'm not sure;
  • someone was fired from the Apprentice (is anyone watching it this year);
  • Wagner finally left X Factor on the poorest show of the series, someone else left as well, I think it was Katie
  • Patsy left Strictly, close call for the lovely Gavin;
  • William David and David tried to get England the World Cup (on the basis that it is the only way the World Cup is ever going to be in England again, so we can hand it over to the winner.  But we didn't win the competition, the press went mad. We put a bid in, we didn't get it, get over it;
  • Linda Evangelista didn't wear a bra;
  • Matt Cardle had a cigarette;
  • Paris Hilton had lunch;
  • Pete Dohery has put weight on;
  • Cheryl wore a woolen hat;
Poor show from our Celebrities this week, but I hear Katie has had an argument with Alex, tune in next week to see what happens.

Thursday, 2 December 2010


I don't often stray into the world of politics - there are plenty of people around only too happy to spend all day talking on the subject, so I leave it to them. But sometimes I am goaded beyond endurance and have to say something.

This Wikileaks business is showing America to be the rather arrogant and patronising world player I have long suspected it was.

I can see the need for being able to conduct business in a frank and open manner and be confident that these discussions will remain confidential, but what I don't see the need for is the all the name calling and routine dismissal of elected world leaders as 'ineffectual, lazy and stupid', and probably even worse.

If America wants to see a world leader that is\was ineffectual lazy or stupid then perhaps a look outside their own window would be as far as they need go. After all they did vote for Bush. And if you want to talk about stupid - having not only voted for him once, they voted for him twice!

So America, stick that in your pipe and smoke it!

World Cup Bid

As we near decision time for England's bid to host the 2018 World Cup Daybreak is reporting violence at a Carling Cup game last night.

The report goes on to condemn the violence as harming our chances of winning the vote later today in Switzerland.  They have been running the report and video footage all morning as well as hoping the people voting are not put off by the coverage.

Would someone tell the Daybreak production team there might be less chance of voters in Switzerland hearing about the troubled match if they would stop telling everyone about it!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010


Bit of a fashion moment in the Leeds office this morning. (Just for clarity, the bad weather we have had in my homeland since last week has now more fully arrived in Leeds). One of my friends from Leeds office had made the sensible decision to wear football socks as part of his 'getting to work' outfit. They did the job in getting here but unfortunately as they were white, they gave an unfortunate look when worn with his Italian loafers. The overall effect for the casual observer was quite alarming. I did mention it, subtley, and a little later he had changed and was wearing a pair of more suitable black socks.

My only concern was - where did he get the black socks from!

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Travel and Shovels and Spades

I know you worry about me so a bit of an update on my travel to work in the snow. I was a little concerned that my journey home would be as difficult or more so, than my journey to work. I need not have worried. I had a little longer to wait for my underground train, (which curiously enough was at ground level when I got onto it) but it did mean I could take the opportunity to go into town to do a little shopping.

And quite successfully as it turned out. I completed my Christmas shopping and also got to John Lewis to purchase my new ‘must have’ YSL item (thanks again to Miss Pink for the recommendation).

There is however a further twist to the story, my next days work was to be in Leeds (again for my more ‘far flung’ readers that is about 100 miles away) so I had new concerns. However, after a little earlier start than usual I made it to my Leeds office before 08:30 and right on time.

While I am on the subject of snow and being prepared when travelling by car…

I have heard many news items telling us to be prepared and to have a range of items in our cars in case of emergencies. One of those items we are told to have – is a spade.

This is incorrect, what you should have in your motor car is a shovel. A spade is meant for loosening soil and prising it up; shovels are meant for shifting earth from one location to another. Also shovels have goosenecks behind the blade that help to lift the shovel out from the ground after it is embedded.

Although in the case of a snow emergency you will not be handling soil – the principle can be applied to snow.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Travelling to Work

Your blogger had quite an adventure getting to work today. For my readers outside of my homeland, we have had several tons of snow over the last few days (most of it outside my front door), making travel, and just about everything else, a nightmare.

You know when people say 'the snow was a foot deep' this is usually an exaggeration, but, dear reader, today it was not. I had a quick look outside and there had been no improvement in the weather (I also noticed that the toffee I had put out for the birds had gone untouched. So much for helping our feathered friends in the winter weather!)

I made an early decision to not even try to drive to work and leave my car at home. This was based on the observation that my street is on a bend and up a hill and so was totally blocked in and is never cleared (note to council would you mind dropping off the occasional bucket of grit at the end of my street so your constituents can get out of the house now and again), meaning this lot of snow is likely to still be there next April!

Undaunted I decided to walk to the Underground station (known locally as the Metro). Readers of earlier blogs will know I have a pair of stout shoes (not 'hiking boots' whatever they are) that I bought for my walk to the gym as the road leading to said gym is lined with trees and on blustery days is often covered in twigs and fallen leaves, making a pair of heavy shoes most suitable. I decided this would be an ideal opportunity to get a little extra wear out of them.

But even with my heavy weather shoes the walk in the deep snow was a bit of a challenge, but more reliable than the few cars attempting the same roads.

Anyway got to the Metro and headed for the ticket machines. I had thought ahead and brought plenty of change with me. The machine looked simple to use, so with my one pound note coin (I checked the machine would give change) in my hand I selected my fare. There must be some sort of error - the price was £3.50 (again for my more widely spread readers this is about, well in the olden days it would be about $14 US dollars, but I think now would be about $5 US dollars). This can't be right, but there didn’t seem to be anyone around to ask so I shall keep my ticket and take it up later.

I got to the platform and a train was due in one minute - perfect timing. I wasn't quite sure where to get on so I tapped this young chap on the shoulder and asked him at which end of the train the 'Quiet Carriage' would be. I couldn't quite make out his reply (perhaps he was one of our Polish visitors) but I think he said he didn't know.

Anyway got on and although busy I got a seat. No sign of the refreshment trolley though, perhaps the trolley person hadn't been able to make it into work!

Got to the office in under an hour, which wasn't too bad. Changed into my work shoes and all was well!

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Christmas Miscellany

As we near the end of November I have a number of miscellaneous Christmas questions in my head to think about:
  • When will the Christmas Radio Times be published - I need this magazine so I know the order in which the same programmes that were shown last year will be on TV. For example, important questions like ‘when will Cor Blimey Mary Poppins’ be on, will it be on New Years day or has it been relegated to the endless middle world of the week between Christmas and New Year?;
  • When should I put up my Christmas decoration? If you think I have missed a final ‘s’ off the word ‘decorations - I haven’t. I have one decoration (a small china figurine (I think it is supposed to go on a tree (see previous blog on Christmas Tree)) my sister bought me as a stocking filler one year. I think it was supposed to fill me with Christmas joy and go out and fill my house with decorations, well it didn’t. But don’t call me a Christmas spoil sport - I hang that decoration up every year no matter what;
  • When should I post my Christmas cards, as we speak, they are all written out and stamped just ready to post.
If you are having similar thoughts, check back in a few days and I will provide the answers - or let me know your thoughts.

X Factor

Has the bubble finally burst for the X Factor. Lasts night show was poor. The acts were poor, the song choice was poor and the performances were poor. I couldn’t even be bothered with Rebecca. This week was meant to build excitement as it leads to the semi-finals, but I couldn’t be bothered with it. Has the shine finally gone off this show.

Could it be that a lot of people watch the X Factor as they get ready for a Saturday night out and are not really watching it, just bits and pieces? So with a snowed in weekend we were actually watching it and just realised that it isn’t very good?

Who gets through to the semi-finals? You decide - or who cares!

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Clothes for the Snow

One of my readers has contacted me for some urgent guidance on how to dress in the snow. His question was ‘should I dress for warmth or for fashion?’

This is a tricky one, because for example, if you are out in the snow and freezing temperatures, having dressed for fashion, then it can seem like the wrong decision.

But my friend was looking at it the wrong way. It doesn’t need to be a choice between the two, follow my hints t achieve a stylish but warm journey in the snow.

The first error to avoid is putting on as many clothes as you can and go out. Wearing lots of clothes may seem the obvious solution but is likely to give you at best, an uncoordinated look and at worst could make you look like the local tramp who has to wear all his clothes all year round as he has nowhere to put them.

Think carefully about what you might wear, avoid too many clothing items with stripes, hoops or large patterns. Putting them altogether will make you stand out (for all the wrong reasons) and possibly make the passing observer feel quite nauseous. And if you trip over and fall, you are likely to be left in the snow to freeze, as any would be rescuers will think you are just a pile of old rags and walk on by.

If you are a skiing fan and have, I think the expression is ‘all the right gear’, and think this is a marvellous opportunity to get a bit more wear out of your ski suit, then avoid this temptation at all costs. Walking round town, or even the local open ground with other ‘sledgers’ in your ‘ski outfit’ will only open you to ridicule.

My suggested approach is to choose items that will cover as much of your body as possible and think layers, so go for:
  • Clothing that is breathable and water proof. Avoid denim and cotton; (if they get wet they take an age to dry out and will make you shiver);
  • Don't wear bulky items of clothing as only layers will really make a difference in the cold;
  • Clothing needs to be flexible enough to allow for a full range of movement;
  • Wear a pair of thick hiking socks. They will keep your feet warm and prevent too much moisture from getting through to your feet;
  • Hands get very cold as well so invest in a good quality pair of gloves to prevent your fingers from feeling the cold;
  • A hat or hood of some description is essential (and before you even think it - not a baseball cap!);
  • A scarf will add a dash of interest to your outfit, and using several different scarves over the course of the winter will give your ’winter outfit’ a new look every time you go out. (See earlier blog about how to tie a scarf).
Remember at some point you will be in a café or restaurant for coffee and will need to remove your coat\outer layer. Make sure your next layer is presentable and not some old tat you got you last Christmas but you thought you would put on because it looked warm!

Friday, 26 November 2010

Celebrity Round-up

It has been a quiet week in the world of Celebrity (they must be saviing themselves for the upcoming party season).  But in case you missed any of the excitement, here is a round up of the week:
  • Paije was voted off X Factor and Felicity left Strictly;
  • Gordon Ramsey’s father in law held a woman’s hand;
  • Gillian fainted - a few times and Nigel didn’t want to be electrocuted so he left;
  • Robbie wore the same jumper three times (and it wasn’t even a nice jumper);
  • David Arquette was out partying again - and apparently it is outrageous that he was ‘cavorting with a bikini clad blonde cabana host’ (whatever a cabana host is) - what with it being a pool party in Miami;
  • Cheryl wore the same jumper Robbie has had on all week;
  • Gillian fainted;
  • We got a date and venue for the Royal Wedding (they aren’t going to make us have a street party are they?);
  • Fergie fell over (Duchess not Alex);
  • Kate Winslet is single again (is Kate Winslet the same as Helena Bonham Carter?);
  • Gillian smuggled some contraband into the jungle in her pants (there wasn’t a jungle in her pants, she was in the jungle and wearing the pants) and offered to share it with the others, but the others all said ‘no you are alright pet you keep it, we will stick to the bugs’;
  • Sarah Palin said we must stand by our North Korean allies - someone might like to point out to Sarah that our allies are the South Koreans before she becomes President and bombs them out of existence!;
  • Lembit was bitten by a snake - but after emergency surgery the snake was alright;
  • Sheryl was first to leave Im a Celebrity;
  • Katie ‘forgot’ to wear her wedding ring; but then it must be ages since she had a wedding ceremony so she could vow undying love for her wedding dress;
  • Christina Aguilera is dating again - well it has been a month since she split up;

Wednesday, 24 November 2010


Sometimes I wonder what I will be asked for help and guidance about next! A recent correspondent raised the subject of tiaras.

Having occasions to wear a tiara in the 21st Century are sadly few and far between. In the olden days you could wear a tiara to the theatre (with suitable evening wear of course) or the ballet, but in today’s society you will find wearing a tiara is probably only suitable for a State occasion.

Should you find yourself in such an enviable position, follow my simple tips for a glamorous evening out.
  • Choose a tiara that suits your face and the outfit you will be wearing with it;
  • Tiaras should draw attention to your face by framing it;
  • Choose a tiara with some height or one that has a peak if you have a round face. Your face will appear thinner if you choose a tiara with a V at the top;
  • Pick a tiara with little or no height for a longer face. It should extend from one side to the other at an even distance;
  • Avoid a tiara with a peak if you have an oval face;
  • Try wearing a headband or back piece to make your face rounder

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The Christmas tree

Decorating a tree for Christmas would appear to be the simplest and most straight forward of tasks, it is therefore surprising how many people get this favourite of the Christmas season wrong.

Your tree should compliment your interior décor, it should be discrete (well as discreet as a six foot pine tree in a bucket can be) and should look as though it is an integral part of your room, rather than something you bought at the last minute from a garage and stuck in a corner.

Follow my simple tips to achieve a stunning effect.
  • Assemble all your decorations and examine them for chips, scratches and blemishes, these should be discarded. Also, if any of your decorations have seen more Christmases than you have, chuck them in the bin. Unless of course they pre-date World War II. In which case you might get something for them on Cash in the Attic, (but remember on Cash in the Attic there are only two price estimates £30 to £40 for tat, and £20 to £30 for real tat - also see my previous blog on daytime TV antiques programmes);
  • Decide on your colour theme. It doesn’t matter which colour you choose (there are no right colours and no wrong colours). The important thing is that you choose a single colour and stick to it. Choosing one colour for your tree decorations immediately adds sophistication and quality to your tree. This applies even with cheaper decorations. Using lots of different colours looks cheap and nasty (even if your decorations are expensive, they will look gaudy and unappealing if you use too many colours);
  • Put lights on the tree first - putting them on last is a common error. You need the lights to shine out from within the tree, not be stuck on as an after thought, make sure they are working before you put them on the tree;
  • Place your decorations on the tree in size order, larger ones at the bottom of the tree, smaller ones at the top. This may seem obvious advice but I have lost count of the numbers of times I have almost fainted at the sight of a large bauble at the top of a tree!;
  • No tinsel, I shall repeat, No tinsel under any circumstances;
  • Beads make a nice addition, try and get clear glass ones for an exciting touch of extravagance;
  • Plan your date for unveiling your tree, (‘unveiling your tree’ is the correct expression, ‘putting up your tree’ is not the correct expression) this seems obvious but I have witnessed many stressed discussions on when to hold this event. My recommendation is to use 15 December. This will become a fixed date in your diary and should be observed whatever day of the week it falls on.
Have fun decorating your tree, but be warned, apparently there will be a shortage of trees this year, so be prepared!

Monday, 22 November 2010

Christmas Presents

Update on previous blog about Christmas Presents ...

My friend said it wasn’t that he didn’t like the cuff links I gave him last year, just that since he is a farmer, there weren’t really that many occasions where he got to wear cuff links.

I told him that that wasn’t the point of Christmas presents and maybe it was time he should try to be a little more adventurous in what he wears when he is digging up fields, (or whatever he does on the farm).

Having said that, as I have completed my Christmas shopping I am a little nervous about the present I have for my friend this year. I don’t want to give anything away, but I have a feeling he is in for another disappointment this Christmas!

Currants, Raisins and Sultanas

Interesting question arose in the office the other day, what is the difference between Currants, Raisins and Sultanas.  Particularly important at this time of year when we are all making Christmas cakes, puddings and pies (well you might be but your blogger isn't).

As you know I like things to be ordered and correct definitions used so in an attempt to remove the view that 'they are all the same' ...
  • Sultanas are produced from various green seedless grapes such as the Thompson Seedless or Menindee Seedless varieties of grapes;
  • Currants are similarly made from seedless grapes, however they are usually of the red variety such as Zante (Black Corinth) or Carina grapes;
  • Raisins are produced from a blend of several varieties, mostly the Muscat Gordo Blanco or Waltham Cross grapes. These varieties of grapes contain seeds which are removed during processing. Currants may also be a type of red, white or black berry from the gooseberry family.
So there you have it.  But I suppose there isn't much difference (although sultanas are quite different), if you are off buying raisins and they only have currants, get the currants, no one will know the difference!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Christmas Presents

This is a re-post from last Christmas - well why not, we do exactly the same things in the same order every Christmas, why not re-post the same material.  In any event the help and advice is still as valid as it was last year.

But look out soon for a now blog on Christmas Trees.  Now read on for Christmas Presents ...

This is a bit like the ‘Christmas card list’ problem only more expensive.

I don’t mind buying presents for people if fact I quite like it – but having to do it because it is a particular time of year and understanding the rules around giving Christmas presents can make present giving quite stressful.

Understanding the rules can help:
  • You can give a present to anyone you like, but you need to be fairly sure they plan to give you one in return, getting it wrong can be uncomfortable for the person receiving the gift and force them to have to go out at the last minute to get you something in return and cost a lot of money with nothing to show for it!
  • You need to follow price equivalence – the value of the present you give should be more or less the same value of the present you receive.
But this can lead to an unintended result. Let me give you an example. I spend £50 on some cuff links for a friend; my friend buys me a bottle of aftershave for £50 in return.

On the face of it this seems like a fair exchange, but if I don’t like the aftershave and my friend doesn’t like the cuff links, then in effect I have spent £50 on a bottle of aftershave I will never use and my friend has spent £50 on a pair of cuff links he will never wear.

This problem is then perpetuated as next year my friend can’t think of anything to buy me so he buys me another bottle of the aftershave he bought me this year because I said I loved it and I can’t think of anything to buy him so I get him another pair of cuff links. This can go on for years until one of us finally cracks and either admits we don’t like the present or we suggest we stop buying for each other.

Multiply this by all the people you buy presents for then you could end up spending a lot of money on things you don’t want.

Point to ponder - What is the worst Christmas present you can receive?

Friday, 19 November 2010

Celebrity Catch Up

Some big news in the world of Celebrity this week, but first a run down of exciting events you might have missed:
  • Michelle was voted off Strictly 
  • Cheryl came back from LA after she had abandoned her mentor group to sign a £6 million pound record contact with a US record company
  • Simon got cross with Louis for dissing the acts on X Factor - that is Simon's job  
  • Cheryl said she wasn’t familiar with the Elton John song 'Crocodile Rock' (she has obviously never been in Heaton Social Club on a Saturday night); 
  • Susan got her second number one album in the UK and US in the same week - for the second time in a year.  
  • Aiden was voted off X Factor, bit of a shame, but honestly all that grimacing was getting on my nerves (not sure if I have said it before - stop voting for Wagner!)
  • Gillian has shown herself to be a right idiot on I'm a Celebrity - the woman is a flake and afraid of her own shadow, what's she doing going in the jungle!
  • Stacey wore a bikini
  • On the Apprentice, Sandeesh made a big mistake by taking two of the strongest contestants into the boardroom with her, and paid the price
  • Jason hurriedly left The One Show - let's skip over the reason why
  • Matt might take over The One Show, but he is a bit busy dancing and looking after sheep
  • Kelly Brook has a tiny waist and wore a sexy dress
  • Anne is learning the Samba and Felicity got a black eye
  • Kerry Katona ended up on her back again (she is training for Dancing on Ice)
  • Minnie Driver wore a dress
  • David Arquette is partying again and wore a ridiculous outfit
  • And you can't have missed the big event of the week - the welcome return of Diana's engagement ring to the front pages. Oh and the official engagement of William and Kate
  • Prince Charles said 'about time, they have been practising long enough' when asked about the Royal engagement - he is only cross because he couldn't get away with doing the same when he was sleeping with Camilla before they married!

More Sleeves

My previous blog about sleeves has produced much comment and response and has prompted me to think further about sleeves.

One of my friends from work raised the issue of creases in shirt sleeves. I have a laissez faire attitude to this subject. I don't mind having creases in my shirt sleeves as long as they are not of the 'ironed in double tramline sort'. I realise an Edwardian gentleman would faint at such an idea (for clarification, there is an often mistaken belief that the Edwardian period ran from 1901 to 1910 (the reign of Edward VII) this is not so. The Edwardian period ran from the later years of Victoria's reign where she was closeted in mourning over Albert and with her new dalliance John Brown, and ran through to the early years of the reign of George V, as he was a bit of a misery. The Edwardian era only really ended with the start of the First World War as there were no longer footmen\chauffeurs\butlers around, as they were all off fighting for king and country).

The Edwardian gentleman had people to do everything for him. For his ironing, his people would use one of those mini ironing boards designed especially for shirt sleeves. This was time consuming but allowed the material to be turned as it was ironed so produced a fully ironed sleeve with no creases. For the poorer classes these modern conveniences were not available, so if your shirt sleeves had creases in them, it meant you did not have someone to do your work for you - hence the preponderance to faint should you meet someone with creases in their sleeves.

Thankfully we are made of sterner stuff these days, and it is ages since I have fainted at just the sight of someone’s sleeves, but if I ever do; now you know why!

Thursday, 18 November 2010


A quite alarming incident happened this morning.

It is alright I wasn't there so I am not suffering any trauma, but the same cannot be said for my friend from work.

The incident involved my friend's husband, an iron and a jumper.

Apparently in an attempt to help out with household duties my friend's husband ironed his jumper. Jumpers being tricky things, (and my guess is my friend's husband is not terribly familiar with irons, how they work and what they are for) my friend's husband didn't bother to iron the shoulders. I saw the photograph and the result was not pretty.

Now you know me, I am not one for making comment on how others are turned out, and I am a great fan of the 80s (and what with all the Kate stuff at the moment and it being a great opportunity to re-run old videos of Diana we are getting lots of 80s flashbacks), but I have to say that crumpled shoulders (even if they do look like you are wearing shoulder pads) are not good. And don't give me all that about shoulder pads coming back - that is so last season!

This does however give me the opportunity to issue guidance on sleeves, shoulders and seams. For your shirt, jumper or blouse etc the seam attaching the sleeve to the body of your garment should align with the furthermost point of your shoulder (opposite your head not next to your neck). This gives a clear line for the sleeve and is pleasing to the eye as well as being comfortable to wear.

If the seam is half way down your arm, the casual observer might think you are wearing a poncho.

Having the seam further across your shoulder will be uncomfortable, give the observer the impression that your top does not fit (which of course it doesn't) and will potentially make you flap your arms like a cartoon duck as you strain against the tightness of your sleeve.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

William and Kate

I would hate to be the only publication in the UK that made no mention of the engagement of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

This will probably be my only blog on the subject (unless I am goaded beyond endurance by banal and repetitious reporting in the media) so here goes.

I wish them well he seems fairly decent and dependable and she seems alright.

After all the hype and hysteria of the wedding dies down, if they have any sense they will disappear into semi-obscurity and live a ‘normal’ and happy life together. After all, if the Queen lives as long as her mother, then she will be hanging around for another 20 years or so, and Prince Charles will want to have a go, so all being well William could be near retirement age by the time he gets the call to do the King stuff.

Oh and while I am on the subject (no pun intended), can the media please stop saying ‘Kate ...who will one day be Queen’. They said that for years about Diana and we all know how that worked out.

You see they are goading me already!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

A Bit of Politics

I don't often get into the world of politics (apparently I 'go on a bit' when I do) but there have been a couple of interesting developments in the last couple of weeks.

We have as you know a predominantly Conservative government and after much hype about a 'Big Society' and giving power back to the people, (Labour being centrist and Tories for removing power from the centre) we have had two recent initiatives which seem to go against this general principle. Firstly the new 'Universal Credit' which I think is to contain an element to replace Housing Benefit, (currently administered by local authorities) and now we have a proposal to fund schools direct from Central Government rather than by your local council. Perhaps we have a labour government after all!

On the subject of politics what has happened to Ed Miliband? After all the fuss about becoming labour leader, you would think he would pop up on TV now and again. I know he (they) have just had a baby, but that was ages ago. When David (Cameron) had his latest addition he was only off a few days and then back on the TV, sorry I mean back at work in the Houses of Parliament.

In case you missed Ed's new arrival, they had a baby boy, a brother (or 'killer career rival who will stab you in the back as soon as look at you' as he is fondly known in the family), for their previously only child.

What is going on with all these political leaders having babies all the time. I blame Tony Blair, he started it. It never would have happened in the olden days, you never saw Harold Wilson or Ted Heath having babies when they were political leaders! And even Thatcher had the decency to stop having babies after she had Carole and Mark.

Monday, 15 November 2010

I'm A Celebrity

This will probably be an 'I'm a Celebrity' free zone, I'm not really into it. If I want to watch annoying people eat disgusting food, I'll stand outside Greggs and look thorough the window.

Still I had a little look last night, just in the name of research you understand.  My prediction is Britt for Queen of the Jungle (incidentally I met Britt Ekland in a London night club in the late 70s, but that is another story). Shaun (is he some sort of singer?) you are annoying, but no where as annoying as Gillian. (Who would have thought McKeith would be annoying!)

I quite liked the way they did the camera shots for the bits where they jumped out the plane - almost felt like you were there.  It did however confirm that I will never attempt to jump out of an aeroplane!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

A Night Out

After all of the fun of last week, decided on a few more drinks in town this week.

I have noticed something about the taxi drivers round our way, some of them are dead cheeky. Just got into the taxi and gave general directions for Newcastle and the driver said ‘you will be wanting to be dropped off at the Laughing Donkey’ How did he know!

Anyway got to said destination and the bar was its usual lively Saturday night self. Noticed a few out of towners. You can always spot people on a visit - they are the ones wearing coats and scarves. You know me, I’m not one to comment on what other people wear, but really, who wears a duffel coat on a Saturday night out! If they think it is cold now - wait until February!

Had a but of a 'to do' at the bar, ordered a few drinks and she came back with what I considered to be short measures.  I said 'is there room for a couple of double whiskeys in there?' as I pointed to a glass. 'Oh yes' she said.  'Well fill them up with lager, I asked for pints not halves'.  She gave me a funny look and disappeared and came back with proper drinks.  You have to watch them like a hawk!

Our new resident drag queen DJ was well into her session (I think technically it is called ‘a set’). Looking a bit like Kat Slater I thought.

Last week it seemed the plan was to play some music then have a bit of a cabaret spot, but I realised she had a problem. If she went off to get changed, who was going to play the records (do they still call them records?). So I thought maybe last week was just a special as it was the previous DJs last night and they did it as a duo.

But no, a little later on some chap took over playing records while our DJ got changed. We were then treated to a few tunes from Cher, The Sound of Music (Miss Julie Andrews will be turning in her grave, well she would if she was dead, but she isn’t), her Lady Gaga got another airing (sorry pet but you need to give that one up, you looked more like Mrs Overall in a leotard), then she ended with Ethel Merman There’s No Business Like Show Business (I prefer Anything Goes).

As mentioned last week our DJ (I really must find out her name) isn’t the tallest so all I could see of her Ethel Merman was a pink turban with white and pink ostrich feathers floating across the room. (This was a different set of ostrich feathers from the ones she wore last week, she must have more ostrich feathers than Elton John).

We really have to sort out, either she is going to have to stand on a chair or I will have to move nearer the front of the bar!