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

Tiaras

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

Sleeves

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!

Friday, 12 November 2010

Celebrity Catch-up

It has been a bit of a quiet week on the Celebrity front, but in case you have missed anything, here is a five minute catch up:
  • Jimi was voted off Strictly;
  • Cheryl caused uproar by not voting off Katie and deciding to not vote for anyone;
  • Cheryl got a custard pie in the face (different programme, different day);
  • Saturdays Rochell Wiseman and JLS Marvin Humes have split up (and there's me thinking it would last forever!);
  • Barrels were scrapped on ITV1 as the final line up for I'm a Celebrity jetted off to Australia;
  • Alex got fired;
  • Flavia Cacace has split from Matt Di Angelo (is she mad?);
  • The last Harry Potter film premiered in London;
  • Alex Gerrard's hair got blown about a bit in the wind;
  • Christiano Ronaldo's girlfriend wore a dress;
  • Eva Mendes lost a bit of weight;
  • Samantha Cameron wore some jeans to go to a London housing estate to tell some poor people to grow their own food;
  • Dolph Lundgren is looking fantastic;
  • Report said Angelina Jolie is looking fantastic for a mum of six, didn't mention that she hadn't actually given birth to most of them and has 40 thousand million dollars to pay someone to look after them (on a separate point, note to Vanessa Paradis, keep your eye on Johnny Depp while he is making a film with that madam!);
  • Matt Cardle is dating a stylist off X Factor;
  • Adrian and Christine went further down the ratings (and Christine stop laughing every two minutes - it's just annoying):
  • and talking of annoying - Fiona Phillips is desperately trying to claw her way back onto daytime TV by filling in for Lorraine (you will remember Fiona decided she needed to spend more time with her family and wanted to take the time to choose to do more serious journalistic pieces, so she left GMTV to launch her more glamorous career, which sank without trace.  And then her husband (the equally as obnoxious Martin Frizell) got the sack so she then realised she wanted to spend less time with her family so she has been trying ever since to get back on TV. 
  • and on a final sad note - we lost Jack from Coronation Street this week.  Thanks Jack for years of laughs and entertainment. 
After such an exciting week in the world of Celebrity - I can't wait for next week!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Car

Busy day today and in-between workshops I picked up a message on my phone from my garage. They had issued an urgent recall on my car and to phone them back. That car has been nothing but bother since I bought it, and I wouldn’t mind but I never use it.

Bit of a worry so I rang them back. After getting through security (providing my name, address, post code, phone number, alternative phone number and email address, did my car have a full service history) I was transferred to their ‘booking department’.

I don’t know why they call it a ‘booking department’, I have been to the garage and they all sit on the same bank of desks next to each other and just pass calls back and forward!

Anyway by the time I finally got through to the person I needed to speak to the suspense was almost killing me.

At last I found out the reason for the recall – there is an intermittent fault on the horn!

The lady wanted to book me in to have it fixed; I explained I work in Leeds so this might be difficult. As it happens I am on leave on Friday so I said I could possibly do it then. I wasn’t really keen to do that as my garage is in the middle of nowhere and last time it went in for a service I was back and forwards all day. They didn’t have a free appointment that day anyway, ‘what about 19 November 2010. I explained I work in Leeds so it is difficult, could they not do it this Friday?

‘No’. Do you want to take it into our Leeds garage?’ she offered. If anyone has ever driven round Leeds you will appreciate the horror of this suggestion. The thought of trying to find your war around Leeds one-way system to a place you have never heard of would be a nightmare.

Anyway I take the train to Leeds I don’t drive - so the suggestion was no use.

I was getting a bit frustrated by this time. But when I thought about it, I realised that actually, I have been driving over 20 years and I have never once used the horn. And since I had no plans to do so, I asked if it could wait until my next service. ‘Yes that’s fine’ she said ‘we will leave it until then’.

All that fuss for nothing – sometimes I think people do these things just to wind me up!

Malaria

I am pleased that Didier Drogba will be fit for Chelsea's next match after recovering from malaria. This comes only months after the blessed Cheryl Cole suffered from the same disease.

What is going on? In the olden days only poor people got malaria, now it seems it is the latest celebrity 'must have'.

I wonder where I can get a touch of malaria from? I don't want to go mad about this, I don't want to die from it, or get it so bad I look hideously deformed. Just enough to maybe sneeze a couple of times or to faint as I shop in John Lewis so that nice gentleman in TV electricals can come to my rescue.

I'll have to look it up on the Internet!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Christmas Card Lists

There have been a few signs of the advance of Christmas - ads on TV, increased chatter in the office about 'Christmas nights out', realisation that there is only one more payday before Christmas!

So I thougth it might be useful to 're-post' some of my blogs from last Christmas.  I aim to give you some help and guidance to get you through this most difficult of seasons.  First up - the Christmas Card ...

Re-post

I was recently discussing Christmas cards and card lists with a foreign friend. My friend had never heard of such a thing and asked me how it worked. I explained ‘You make a list of all the people you know, family, friends etc and then you write them each a card to say Merry Christmas. You then either post or hand deliver the card.

Your friends and family do the same. When you receive a card from them you make a mental note to keep them on your list for next year.

If you don’t receive a card from someone you sent a card to, then you cross them off your list, and next year you don’t send them a card. If next year they do send you a card, then you put them back on your list for the following year and then you do send them a card’.

My friend was looking at me as if I had gone mad.

I continued ‘these are the general rules, but there are complications’.

If someone you hadn’t planned to send a card to sends you one, then you send them one back, but have to wait a decent interval before sending the card. This is so that you can both pretend that you were going to send them one all along but just hadn’t got round to it.

If the person sending you an unexpected card leaves it until the last minute (for example they give you a card on Christmas Eve), then this can be seen as being quite provocative as it doesn’t leave you any time to give one back and makes it difficult to decide if you should put them on your list for next year. 

Then there are the cards you receive from people you haven’t seen all year but their message ends ‘we must see more of each other next year’. This can be quite dis-heartening as you have spent all year trying to avoid them and had absolutely no intention of attempting to meet up.

My top tips for sending cards

· Buy cards that are all the same design – this stops people comparing cards you have sent to see who got the best one

· If you do send cards with different pictures on the front – don’t send the one with the candle\robin on – everyone hates that card as they know it means they occupy last position in your affections

· Don’t send cards with glitter on them – they are just not nice (and a personal note to Miss Pink, don't fill the envelope with feathers and glitter that fall over your carpet so it takes you weeks to pick up!)

· You can write the same message on multiple cards – just make sure that people who are likely to see each other’s cards have different messages

· Don’t lick the envelope to seal them, use a sponge and water – why? Don’t ask!

My friend was taking notes by now and had a few questions:

‘Why do you send cards to people you never see?’

‘I don’t know’

Why do you send cards to people you see every day?’

‘I don’t know’

‘Why do you send cards to people you don’t like?’

‘I don’t know’

‘Why do you do it?’

‘I don’t know’

Monday, 8 November 2010

The Laughing Donkey

I just thought I should solve a little mystery. In some of my blogs (the ones about having a night out) I occasionally make reference to ‘The Laughing Donkey’ as the venue when describing various events. This is my generic name for any bar I might be in on a night out - the bar does not exist.

I use this name as a general setting for bars so as not to give free publicity to the real bars and to save me from risk of legal action. (If bars want publicity from my material then they can pay for it like everyone else - times are hard and I‘m not made of money!)

I like the name and I think It would be a good name for a bar if owned one, but I don’t take credit for the name. I first heard it mentioned by Alec Gilroy in his days on Coronation Street (Alec Gilroy - erstwhile, theatrical agent to Miss Rita Littlewood, publican and husband of Bet Lynch). Alec spent many a happy evening in the Laughing Donkey with his various music hall acts - not least of whom was ‘the Exotic Elena’. But that is another story.

My apologies to anyone that spent the weekend traipsing round Newcastle looking for a new bar called ‘The Laughing Donkey‘!

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Strictly No Dancing

Well Jimi lost out tonight, much against the order of play.

It is Anton I feel sorry for, means he has to drag Anne Widdicombe acrosss the floor again next week!

Quiet Night Out

Bit of a quiet night out last night after all the excitement of fireworks the night before.

Bit cold out, think it is going to be a long cold winter …again!

Still a warm welcome awaited in the laughing donkey. I thought they had put up the Christmas decorations, but having a closer look I think a trannie had just left her feather boa on the bar.

Still it was all excitement in the bar with the imminent opening of the Boulevard, Newcastle’s newest night spot (opens 11 November 2010 and I am sure I will come back to that subject in a later blog!) What has that to do with last night in the Laughing Donkey - well the resident DJ is moving onto the Boulevard and tonight we have a new DJ. I didn’t catch her name, but technically I think she is a drag queen rather than a trannie (apparently there is a difference).

I think the idea is to turn this venue into a bit of a cabaret bar so our new DJ kept disappearing and coming back every now and again and doing a turn. It was like having a little bit of Las Vegas in Newcastle … a very little bit of Las Vegas.

But there is a bit of a problem, our new drag queen DJ doesn’t seem very tall (even with heels) as from where I was standing I couldn’t see her - well I could see her a bit, she was after all wearing 4 foot ostrich feathers on her head - but unless she is going to wear them every week she might need to find something to stand on. Still it is early days and I am sure she will think of something.

And then a funny thing happened, a young lady came up to me and gave me a condom. I made a mental trawl through all the books on etiquette I have read but couldn’t recall any advice on how to handle this situation. I had to fall back on my standby for awkward scenarios and thought ’what would the Queen do’ So I asked her ’have you come far?’ It is not often your blogger is lost for words, but on this occasion words failed me!

I wasn’t lost for words when that chap stopped me outside the Centre for Life and asked me if I wanted a flyer to give me 25% off a bag of chips. Do I look like I stand on street corners eating bags of chips? Flaming cheek!

Friday, 5 November 2010

Bonfire Night

Well here we are at another Bonfire night. I'm not a great fan, I always worry a rocket is going to come through my living room window and set fire to my house.

But it’s a funny celebration really. It's a bit like Halloween - all year round we tell children 'don't talk to strangers' and 'don't take sweets from strangers' and then on Halloween as children are leaving the house we say 'where are you going?'

'oh just off out to knock on strangers doors and ask them for sweets'

'That's fine, but don't be too late back'.

A few days later on Bonfire night, after spending all year telling children not to play with fire, on the night as children leave the house with a box of high explosives we say 'where are you going'

'oh just off out to set fire to a pile of wood and a sofa in the garden'

'That's fine, but don't forget to take a box of matches from the kitchen drawer with you'.

Still I suppose it is a bit more controlled these days - when I was a lad you bought your fireworks from the sweetie shop and took them home in your trouser pockets!

If you are off out tonight setting fire to things and making loud noises until 4 o'clock in the morning - enjoy.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Daybreak

After a shaky start Daybreak (the replacement for GMTV) goes from bad to worse. Viewing figures are going one way - south.

Daybreak promised an improved morning news programme with a more serious approach with serious journalists tackling serious stories.

We started with the hype around the 'chemistry' between Christine Bleakly and Adrian Chiles and the 'will they - won't they' suspense around their on-screen\off-screen relationship. This was always nonsense. Even in The One Show days it was nonsense. There was no way Christine Bleakley was ever going to have anything to do with Chiles, even less so now she has Mr Frank Lampard to play with.

And don't give me all that about 'it's not what you look like it's your personality that counts'. No one ever stood in a bar and said 'look at the personality on that!'

One critisism of the show has been the coldness of the set. The main colour branding is purple and does look a bit glum first thing in the morning.

I noticed a subtle change this morning (as I watched from the luxury of the bug hutch The Metropole in Leeds where i I have been staying) and we now have sunshine yellow as a backdrop.

This can only go so far to help. Has the quality of the news coverage improved? Let me see, in between a bit on the plane accident in Australia and on-going coverage of the mid-term elections in the US, there was a bit about some abandoned puppies (co-incidentally in Leeds, perhaps someone from the Metropole could take them in and give them a home, or perhaps not, the puppies have probably suffered enough) and a bit about an apple cake the 'political' coresspondent had made on her day off.

Are your improvements working? How can I put it … I think you have a bit further to go!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

The Metropole ... Again

After the disappointment of my room, I was not hopeful of any improvement in the breakfast experience.

A lot of hotels serve breakfast from 06:30 but the Metropole serves breakfast from 07:00. I went down a little after seven and even the lady voice in the lift sounded sick of her life. So I was not enthusisatic.

Breakfast was a farce.

I was marched to my alloted table (the next one free in the line - no allowing guests to sit where they like in this hotel!) First reaction was not pleasant as the chap at the next table was the last person in Europe to be still wearing Kouros and it stank!

As I took my seat I realised everyone was just sitting around and no one was eating. Reason being - breakfast was not ready, there were no bowls out, there was no cooked breakfast on offer, all I could see were half a dozen boxes of cereal. I could not believe that a hotel that serves breakfast everyday was not ready at the start of service.

So we sat. And we sat. Eventually some items started to appear. The first thing I would have put out would have been the milk chrun. Then at least residents could have had something from the cereal bar. But no - it was one of the last things to arrive.

Food gradually arrived. I never have the cooked breakfast so offer no comment on that part. The cereals on offer were limited but there were weetabix (single biscuit packets - you are only allowed one) and Alpen so I was quite happy. A clean bowl would have been nice, everyone was sorting through all the bowls on offer trying to find a clean one so goodness knows what state they were in by the end of service. To be fair, I don't think the bowls were unclean - only old and had grained in marks from being used and stacked for years.

I thought I would try the toast. The Metropole is one of the last still to make toast for you (I hate having to go to a machine and make it myself while three people stand and glare at you, so normally I never bother). I was offered white, brown or mixed - nice choice so I selected brown (I settled for brown I had no illusions it would be wholemeal).

The delivered item was in a toast rack but it was not toast, it might have been bread that had been held under a 40 watt light bulb for eight seconds - but it was not toast.

Breakfast over - I now have a further day at the Metropole - oh joy!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The Metropole

Bit of a mix up this week with my hotel booking. I was booked into the Queens, but despite booking well in advance, the hotel realised on the day of arrival that they were fully booked and so 'outbooked me' (this I think is an industry term for when hotels take a booking, realise they can't honour it and book you on, into another hotel).

I was a little cross as I had booked well in advance and The Queens is my preferred accommodation being the most convenient for my work location, but these things happen, and as you know, your blogger is not one for complaining.

I was a little less pleased when I found out where I had been 'outbooked' to - The Metropole, or 'the Met' as it is known to its friends. I have stayed there before so I shall continue to call it the Metropole.

I was a little downhearted as I made my way to the Metropole, made worse by having to go back The Queens first to pick up my bag, (which I had left with George (the Concierge) before I knew I was to be thrown out into the street on the coldest night of the year). I did glance hopefully towards reception in case it had been some terrible mistake and they had a room for me after all. But to no avail.

I had to go back outside and make my way to the Metropole.

I decided to be positive. It is quite sometime since I stayed at the Metropole, so maybe things had improved, after all their website made many encouraging promises.

So with a hopeful heart I turned into King Street and headed to the hotel.

The outside façade of the hotel is as impressive as I remembered it (if you like Victorian Baroque), but the reception still had that depressing 70s chic look about it. Check-in was quick, but then I was the only person checking-in, (I had been concerned in case they did the 'Oh I'm sorry sir we have no record of your reservation' thing, but they did not).

Instead I was handed a sealed envelope containing my key and registration form. This was new - you now have to complete the registration form in your room and hand it in in the morning. In theory this looks like it speeds up check-in. But just gives you a new problem. The registration form includes space to note your wake up call time and which newspaper you would like in the morning. So if you want to use the service if you wait until breakfast time to hand it in … it is too late! To take advantage of these services you have to go back down to reception to hand in the form. I would rather wait a couple of more minutes and sort it out when I check-in.

So far so bad. My room was on the fourth floor. The décor throughout the hotel is dated and grimy. The bedroom doors are all white, but it is so long since they were painted that they are all dull with ingrained dirt.

My room purported to be a double room - it was not a double room. It may have contained a double bed but it was not a double room. Two people could not have spent the night in that room without taking turns to sit down on the only ‘comfortable‘ chair.

The website promised a number of features for your stay and I quote direct from the site - my experience is in brackets:

Every bedroom has been designed to suit the needs of the business executive including high speed internet connection and work area. (The internet connection is obtained from reception for a fee, the work area doubles as a table to hold the TV and eating area to have your room service, it is narrow and just about wide enough to accommodates a laptop. The chair was rickety and uncomfortable and you quickly become aware of the wooden frame as it digs into you). We have installed power showers, (The so called ‘power shower’ would struggle to drench a budgie without additional help from a watering can) sourced the most comfortable beds, (the bed was fairly comfortable) found the best bed linen (it was not the best linen, it looked fairly new, but it was not the finest Egyptian cotton. There was a bed throw, which looked a bit like a door mat, and as a splash of ‘opulence’ amongst the brown and beige décor, there was a red faux suede flat cushion) and provided an array of amenities (I could find no amenities) and refreshments (the refreshments consisted of four tea bags and a few coffee sachets, three sachets of Demerara sugar and some things called ‘Dairystixs) to ensure you enjoy your stay. You'll find these as standard in all rooms and suites.

The hotel directory also promised a safe in every room. There is not a safe in every room.

My accommodation promised a double room with bath - there was no bath, there was a shower cubicle. The bathroom was the smallest bathroom I have ever seen. It contained a heated towel rail - for no purpose as it was not connected to any electric input to make it work.

The bathroom had a small plastic shelf located under the towel rail. This was the only place to put your products, I might - just possibly - use more than the average number of products, consequently there was no where near enough space. I never understand why hotels put these shelves away from the sink.

The water in the sink was very slow to flow away, which I think explained the constant smell of drains I could smell in the bedroom and throughout the hotel.

Room service was ok, unimaginative but on par with other hotels. What I didn’t expect was that payment was cash only on delivery. I have never seen such a thing in a hotel.

I now have to spend the night in this awful place and have breakfast to cope with. I shall report further tomorrow.

Monday, 1 November 2010

What Not To Wear

I occasionally stray into the world of fashion giving some help and guidance where I think it might be useful.  This time check out What Not To Wear this autumn