Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Back when I were nobbut knee high to a grasshopper, there was a great TV programme called 'The Daily Show', which broadcast only in America. So we used to go the Comedy Central website, and watch three-minute clips of such correspondents' pieces as 'This Week in God', 'Mess O'Potamia' and awesome interviews with John McCain where he takes the piss out of George Bush for being thick. Later, we discovered the illicit joys of Azureus and eDonkey, and could obtain whole episodes of joy.

Not long ago, though, the Daily Show began to air in Britain, on More4. But something was wrong: it was, to put it bluntly, just a little bit crapper. Perhaps the formula was beginning to look stale, perhaps Jon Stewart's duck-face thing was getting tired... or it had become a victim of its own success and all the good correspondents had left.

Steve Carrell went on to love lamp in Anchorman and get laid in The Forty Year Old Virgin, Rob Corddry has just left to something else and the best and most well-loved, Stephen Colbert, now has his own show.

The Colbert Report (wikipedia entry here) follows on from The Daily Show in the States, but sadly doesn't get aired over here. That's a crying shame - it's hilarious. There's the Word of the Day, the progress of Stephen Junior - the pet bald eagle - and a strange segment called Better Know A District. I haven't really worked out what that's about, but I like it.

Anyone who's seen the Daily Show will be familiar with Colbert's blustering wrong-headed Republican persona - and here the context is a parody of a rightwing talk show, as made infamous by Bill O'Reilly or Ann Coulter.

The best recurring segment so far has been the Hungarian Bridge Campaign - noticing that the Hungary government has foolishly put a poll on the Internet for the naming of a new bridge in the country, Colbert urged viewers to vote for him, hoping he could overtake the current poll leader Chuck Norris.

He duly did, clocking up millions of votes. Eventually, the contest closed and he won. At which point, the Hungarian ambassador came on the show - earning my eternal respect - to present Colbert with a Hungarian passport and to tell him that the only thing that was stopping them naming the bridge after him was the small matter of him being alive. He then said that Hungary would waive that restriction if Colbert came to the opening ceremony. (How cool is Hungary? It's definitelymy favourite East European country now - hear that, Estonia?)

So, insummation: watch, and laugh.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Something other than clothes, for once.

You may notice that action has been a bit slow on the old blog front. This is due to the double whammy of work getting really busy - someone, somewhere, having apparently noticed I exist - and my new leisure time activity of Having A Boyfriend.

My million emails a day have also been severely affected, and I was unable even to pass on my pithy and apposite remarks on Richard Hammond's car crash to all and sundry last week. (I shall leave that to Jeremy Clarkson here).

It's not that I don't get angry any more - quite the opposite. I was actually fuming as I read an article this week on people having to sell their parents' houses to pay for their care home places. It was full of the middle-aged middle-class saying things like, "Mummy worked hard all her life and she wanted me to have this house. It's not about the money, it's about treating people properly."

It's enough to make you vomit, isn't it? You can practically smell the disappointment, as years of hand-rubbing anticipation of a big fat windfall dissipate before their eyes. It clearly is about the money - it could barely be more about the money.

I've been reading enough NHS BlogDoc to know that most of us dramatically underestimate the true cost of healthcare. If we want top-class, cradle to grave healthcare - including a couple of years in a care home - then we have to pay for it either directly or through a hefty income tax.

I think it's fair that those who can pay, do pay - especially when the alternative is someone getting money for doing nothing, apart from being born. It's the rump of socialism left in me. (I'd also ramp up inheritance tax, but there you go.)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The Grooming Standard

I had lunch today with an 'acquaintend' - halfway between a friend and an acquaintance - and it made me feel horrible. The woman, who we'll call Honey, is one of those people who is so perfectly turned-out you she instantly makes you feel like all your clothes don't quite fit. You are also acutely aware that your hair, which moments ago felt glossy and lustruous, actually has a halo of frizz at the hairline. Oh, and your roots need doing. And your shoes are cheap and, moreover, past their best.

In fact, a whole outfit which moments ago seemed chic and bang on-trend, now seems curiously shapeless and tawdry.

Honey swanned in (she's very swanny) wearing a mustard-coloured sweater dress and trousers. This should not work. Even skinny people have to wear something under sweater dresses - or have ribs at least - and no-one in real life looks as smooth as an olive-skinned statue in one. Except Honey.

She practically smells of money, too. But the most galling part is that she's not really aware of how perfect she is. For her, flawless skin, non-frizzy hair and discreetly expensive clothes are just part of her day-to-day life.

I am blaming lunch with Honey entirely for the fact I left the restaurant and spent £200 on clothes in the half hour afterwards.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Shame on me.

For I have bought leggings.

Small noise

Has Gordon Ramsay spread himself too thinly?

That's what I started to wonder at lunch at La Noisette in Knightsbridge, the latest outpost of the Ramsay empire.

The location is either inauspicious or cursed, having seen off various restaurants (including another Ramsay launch, Pengelley's, headed by Ian Pengelley, who is now at Gilgamesh in Camden) in the last few years. We also managed to walk right past it due to Sloane Street's confusing numbering system and the fact it's on the third floor.

The next problem was that it is very, very brown. You may know I hate brown as the result of sporting an all-brown school uniform for most of my formative years. There was also what appeared to be a mural of a Tuscan hillside. What this had to do with the French-ish cooking is beyond me. The ceilings were brown too.

Mind you, the staff are excellently drilled - attentive without being overbearing. I imagine their professionalism must be stretched to the limit in trying to explain the menu. It's horrifically confusing, but I'll try.

Right, you can either have a starter from the starter selection, or from the 'summer favourites', followed by a main. Or you can create a crazy tapas effect by having all the summer favourites. Or you can have the set lunch. Or you can have a tasting menu, which chef Bjorn Van Horst makes up on the spot from what he finds in the cupboards and got that morning from market.

Confused? I was, and settled for the set lunch (a very reasonable £21 for 3 courses, although there's only one choice of pudding with that). My companion went for the a la carte (the one with a starter and a main), lured by the hangover curative properties of the watermelon carpaccio.

My starter of pate on broiche was very very good, if absolutely fucking minuscule - literally a two square inches of pate one centimetre thick. Had I not been placated by the gorgeousness of the artichoke soup pre-starter, there might have been a riot.

On to the main: rabbit tagliatelle with bacon and onion. Now, I love rabbit, and this was good rabbit - like chicken, only better and meatier and tastier. The pasta was beautifully cooked, and the onions sweated to beautiful sweetness.

But then I tried to fork one of the cubes of bacon. And failed. I tried again, harder. It pinged off across the bowl. I was determined though, and tried a two-handed fork manoeuvre. Victory!

My triumph was, however, short-lived. Because it was without exception the saltiest thing I have ever put in my mouth. I made a face. My companion looked up. By this point, I was panicking. I gulped down some wine, but was making little progress chewing it. If I spat it into my napkin, would Gordon himself ping into existence and shout at me?

Then I began to wonder - was I supposed to have eaten it? Was this the equivalent of sending back the gazpacho because it was cold, or eating the bouquet garni? Maybe the waiting staff were sniggering at me.

I was at a loss. How could such a small thing have clouded my experience like this? I was still dwelling on it when the baked figs arrived (excellent). Perhaps I'll never know...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Squalid options

At the moment, my house resembles a cross between a refugee camp and a self-storage warehouse.

Yes, it's housemate changeover time, with two in, two out. Or as it has become, one off on holiday, one moved stuff in but not living here, one clinging on to his room for another two weeks, and one deciding wisely to stay out of it. Oh, and several coming to visit.

Possibly my favourite part is that my hummus-eating housemate has got his Lebanese ex-girlfriend staying with him for two weeks (thought about cleaning the house; realised she'd be coming to it from a war zone) and a mysterious French girl called Aude. I only ever see Aude in the kitchen, slicing watermelon. if she does other things, then I've seen no evidence of this.

I have no idea how long these people will be staying here, and in a way I've come to enjoy the commune-like feel of the place. It's also preferable to my boyfriend's new house, which benefits (as estate agents would say) from an awesome living room - complete with Sky Plus, I nearly cried with joy - but has one major drawback. This would be the fact that Boyfriend has what a kindly person might describe as 'the small room'.

A fairer description would be 'the smallest room' as there's no more than a foot of clearance round the bed on two sides, and no clearance at all on the other two. It's actually almost impossible for us both to be standing up in it at the same time, and certainly ill-suited to my style of living, which is to leave a comet-trail of discarded clothes, magazines, cups and shoes in my wake wherever I go.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Barclays Bank is, of course, rhyming slang.

(I promise you, this is the last time I will mention this.)

Got a delightful letter from Barclays this morning.

"In our previous letter [no, I didn't get one] we promised to provide you with an answer to your complaint as quickly as possible. [Well, no you didn't, but carry on] I am now able to do so. [Sweet joy incorruptible!]

You advise that you called for a new card and found that a marker had been applied to your address which prevented a new card from being despatched [nice use of the word 'advise', as if I had been stroking my chin and puffing on a hookah while dispensing pearls of wisdom, rather than tearing my hair out at the end of a phone].

May I, at the outset, offer you my sincere apologies for the trouble and inconvenience you have experienced in respect of this matter. [What a shocking sentence, sounds like a cross between Tony Blair at his most sanctimonious and one of those nigerian scam e-mails. Still, if his apologies are 'sincere', what horrible person would spurn them?]

I have tried to contact you to discuss this matter, but I have been unsuccessful in reaching you. [Liar. I left my home phone number and e-mail address. I have an answering machine, you know.]

Your address has now been amended correctly to show as above on all our records. [Yes, and I'll bloody well tell you why - because I went into a branch on Friday and did it!!! How dare you take credit for this? Ahem.]

It carries on for a while in similarly touchy-feely bollocks vein. It is then signed 'Ian Tottey', which is surely a joke name.

You know, I am sorely tempted to take my constant infringement on my overdraft limit somewhere else. Bah.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Phone of contention

I have a phone again! Thank you God, thank you baby Jesus. It's only taken seven calls to 02, one visit to an 02 shop, £10 for a new Sim card and a two week wait - now that's what I call customer service. The man on the phone today sensed my rage was bubbling under the surface to the extent he gave me his email address if anything else should go wrong. It also turned out that when the man yesterday said the previous man had made a mistake, he was ironically unaware that he also had made a mistake. Ho ho! (I suppose he had, at least, made a new mistake instead.) How they must be chuckling about that at 02 Towers.

Anyway, my social leper-dom is over. I do feel slightly like I've been living in a reality TV programme this last fortnight. "We've taken away this girl's mobile phone. Look how hard everyday tasks have now become! Marvel as she actually has to make firm arrangements to meet people at particular places at specific times! Laugh heartily as she can't go to the pub with her friends because she doesn't know where they are!"

Friday, September 01, 2006

I have a tip for you: don't get your handbag stolen.

Since losing a variety of my personal possessions last Wednesday, I have been gradually putting my life back together. At first, I quite liked not having a mobile phone; enjoying the Luddite bliss of just letting go and acknowledging that people very rarely really need to get hold of me, as I'm just not that important. However, I am terrified that I might one day lose my email address (I haven't considered how, just the vague amorphous threat scares me enough) as I really don't think I could cope with that. Luckily, I have at last count seven (count 'em) working email addresses, so the chances of this happening are reasonably remote.

Sorting out another bank card has been more frustrating. I wondered why it just wasn't appearing, and called customer services. There some adenoidal twelve year old told me that there was no longer an address registered for my account, and therefore the replacement card had been sent to a branch of my bank. In Worcester. Also known as 'a town two hours away on the train, in which I no longer live'. I suspect this is the call centre worker's revenge for me trying to update my address from my parents' place to London, which he informed me I could not do without a password. How do I get a password? We'll send it to your address. Which address? Your old address. Aaaaaaaaaaaaargh. Thank God I hadn't moved.

All of this Kafka-esque circularity had left me wanting to stick forks in my eyes, and I suspect I was a little short with Adenoid Boy. Anyway, without telling me he must have removed my parents' address from the account and declined to tell me. So now I have to order another card. Oh, and did I mention I can't do this over the phone? No, I have to go into a branch. Because, apparently, they can't add an address over the phone. New Boy seemed slightly non-plussed when I pointed out they clearly had the capacity to remove addresses over the phone, so why not add them?

I hate call centres. The very thought of them makes me want to shout at someone, but you can't hold the nine-year-old minimum wage slave on the end of the phone responsible, so screaming at him/her just makes you feel a shit. There's just no accountability, no comeback. The only way to register a complaint effectively is to stop using the company, but I just can't face switching my salary, loan repayments and direct debits to another account. And they know that, of course they do. How dare they exploit my inherent laziness?

Anyway, for what it's worth, I did complain. Or rather filled out a 'complaint form' over the phone. "Someone will ring you within 48 hours," promised the boy, after which we had a short but pointed discussion about how my phone had been stolen, along with my card. And I still have to go into a bastard branch on Monday if I ever want a bank card again.

When my arteries go pop at the age of thirty from stress, I want someone to go and force-feed my ashes into the mouth of the Barclays chief executive.