Monday, February 25, 2008

Bipedal or Bi?

This week’s prize for the most bafflingly inane example of graffiti goes to the chap who scrawled “are gay” underneath the sign directing “Wheelchair Users” to the lift in a multi-storey car park in Trowbridge. I don’t currently know any wheelchair users, though I think I’m pretty confident in assuming that their sexuality is in no way connected to their inability to walk.

If it was, then nursing homes would be like Blue Oyster bars.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Agony Of Choice

There’s far too much choice in supermarkets these days. A short while ago, Dan identified 17 varieties of Colgate toothpaste alone in his local Sainsbury’s (though perhaps even more unsettling is the fact he stood there tippy-tapping them all into his phone for later transfer to his blog).

Beans are another example. In any decent supermarket you’ll find pinto, cannelini, black-eyed, haricot, lima, green, runner, flageolet, magic… (well, maybe not the last one though aficionados of the world of canned pulses may rank the superior quality of Heinz among this category).

Talking of Heinz, you don’t just get Baked Beans any more. Now there are Mexican, Sweet Chilli, Tikka, BBQ, Curried and Jalfrezi varieties, not to mention Organic, Weight Watchers No added Sugar, and Reduced Sugar & Salt, and even “Hidden Veg” (to help you on your way to five-a-day by concealing the less palatable ingredients behind a smokescreen of tomato sauce). It’s a minefield (or beanfield).

On the off-chance you manage to locate a normal can of beans to use as a little lunchtime toast topping, you’ll then have to further navigate a bewildering aisle stretching as far as the eye can see which contains a huge number of variants on the humble loaf (including reduced fat, wheat-free and crustless varieties. Crustless bread! The world’s gone mad…)

Consumer choice is all well and good, but it’s much to the chagrin of indecisive individuals like me for who a shopping trip can turn into a weekend break.

[Also, please tell me I’m not the only person who mentally starts singing “Invisible Crust” to the tune of Genesis’ Invisible Touch when spotting a loaf of it on the shelves.]

Monday, February 18, 2008

“The time? It’s exactly Tuesday…”

Welcome, one and all, to the wonderful world of DayClocks. They’re a bit like normal clocks, but instead of hours they have days, and instead of two hands they have just one which takes a week to complete a full revolution. For those individuals who don’t know what day it is, it’s an invaluable item. For the other 99% of humanity, it’s useless sub-Betterware junk.

It’s the sort of product that, if it were presented in Dragons’ Den, would see its creators set upon and beaten to a bloody pulp and flung back down the stairs like pin-striped strawberry jam. Not having run this gauntlet however, Mark Pierce and John Kallestad (whose brainchild this futile piece of tat is) are upbeat: “Everyone owns a watch,” they claim “but the day of the week timepiece is definitely a fun item! It’s a whole new way of looking at time.” Hmm, not my idea of fun I’m afraid lads.

The website helpfully supplies a list of scenarios in which people may benefit from their invention: “Retirement, Motor Home Accessory, Birthday Gift, Anniversary Gift, Premium Incentive, Child’s Room, College Dorm, "Your" Living Room, Any Occasion for a Gift”. It also explains the origins of this useless chronological trinket: “The idea for the DayClock was born in the heart of the Black Rock Desert of Nevada in the middle of July. Mark and John had been dirt sailing for several days knowing their wives would be showing up on Friday. The problem was they didn't know what day it was and their wristwatches only gave them the date, which didn't help."

It's probably best not to speculate what “dirt sailing” is, but what grown men get up to in the middle of the desert is their business and their business alone.

Luckily, Mark and John had the foresight to patent the DayClock design, and now “have plans to expand on many different variations of the original theme”. What next I wonder? The MonthClock? The YearClock? A Beatles version with eight days in a week? Ironically, unlike time itself, the possibilities would seem limited.

Ultimately though, I can’t help but feel the DayClock has a self-defeating purpose: ie. if you don’t know what day it is, then you probably couldn’t give a shit what day it is. Ergo, you have no need for a DayClock.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Common Touch

Has anyone else noticed the disproportionately large head atop the diminutive shoulders of the little chap (‘Thomas from Leeds’) in the new Halifax ads? My lovely wife pointed this out the other day, and since then, his unsteady cranium seems to get bigger with each screening.

Halifax’s policy of using employees to advertise their wares in order to show they’re in touch with the needs of the clich├ęd ‘man-on-the-street’ is an oft-used marketing ploy. Steve Punt once said that in order for companies to show normal people in their adverts, they have to make them a little bit ugly. In other words, in order to make them more believable, they can’t look like actors. For instance, you wouldn’t find Tom Cruise in an ad for B&Q (though they probably wouldn’t be able to find a uniform small enough anyway).

I’m not sure I’d go as far as to call them ugly, from the geeky bespectacled Howard, to the bargain-bin Aretha to the new smiling wobbly-headed individual, but they’ve all got something not-quite-right about them which presumably just proves how ordinary they are and how well-placed they are to flog you a mortgage or a fixed-rate savings bond, or something…

It’s a paradox for any budding actors hoping for advert work in order to further their career: the only way their physiognomy can be presented to the nation is if they are essentially nondescript, and are therefore destined to a life of “It’s him, you know, whatsisname off thingy…”

Friday, February 08, 2008

Rich Within Our Mildest Dreams

As mentioned in a previous post, we don’t really do the Lottery in Castle Collier. Last Saturday however we dutifully spent £3 and sat with bated breath, holding our little pink ticket twixt tremulous thumb and forefinger as the chirpy chap with the ‘80s DJ tones reeled off four of our numbers, much to our astonishment. What do we get for four numbers? we excitedly speculated – is it going to change our life, could this be a nice little windfall?

A swift shufty on tellytext a few minutes later however revealed our winnings to be the princely sum of just £36 (thirty-six pounds. I’ll say it again – thirty-six pounds!) Frankly I was disgusted. I had visions of driving smugly into work on Monday, having a shit on my desk and marching triumphantly out the door pausing only to push over the water cooler and upturn some bins. In the light of our “winnings”, this seems like madness, though it’s still tempting.

We spent a third of our winnings at McDonalds within half an hour of collecting it, and the rest of it at B & Q on a number plaque for our house which, for the moment remains a ‘30s semi- and not an opulent and palatial Cribs-style pad. Might need to tick a few more numbers off for that.

Thursday, February 07, 2008


I spotted Christopher Reeve’s autobiography while browsing in a charity shop recently. It’s called Still Me. Is this a pun?

Not Alarmed

We have the worst alarm clock in the world, as it gains approximately 30 seconds each day. This may not sound like much, but over the course of four weeks, it increases by 15 minutes so we end up waking up quarter of an hour earlier each month.

If left unchecked, this means that by August 2010 the alarm would go off at 11pm the previous night – roughly the time we trudge up the wooden hill to Bedfordshire, thereby allowing us no sleep at all (any date beyond this and we would have to get up before we went to bed). However, this is sweetened somewhat by the fact that we would be allowed 180 successive ten-minute snoozes before clambering out of bed again and heading bleary-eyed downstairs for cornflakes.

We would change it but we're just too tired.

Friday, February 01, 2008

PC Softly Softly

Odd story on the Beeb recently (actually, not that recently at all, but I’ve only just got around to posting this) about Thai police chiefs who are forcing officers who commit minor infringements, such as being late for work or parking in the wrong place, to wear bright pink Hello Kitty armbands as a mark of shame.

The intention is to embarrass the officers into not repeating their misdemeanours by publicly humiliating them as they pound the streets of Bangkok. "This is to help build discipline,” Police Colonel Pongpat Chayapan told Reuters, “We should not let small offences go unnoticed."

Nice one Pongpat. It’s a decidedly odd, but inventive (and probably effective) form of punishment which should be adopted in the UK. British bobbies guilty of similar “crimes” should be forced to walk the beat with those rucksacks shaped like sheep (complete with dangly legs) strapped to their backs, or wear anti-stab jackets with ‘I [heart] NY’ or the logos of West End musicals emblazoned across the front.

Mind you, many more cases of police brutality might go unreported as your average Mr Victim isn’t going to be too proud of being beaten up by someone who looks like a camp tourist.

Mysterious Musical Raymond

It’s A Shame About Ray – The Lemonheads
I’m Worried About Ray – The Hoosiers
The Cult Of Ray – Frank Black

Who is this Ray? And why does he generate so much concern (and revere) among guitar bands?