Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Barry’s Heavenly Pickles

Celebrity endorsement shifts shitloads of product – fact. Paul Newman and George Foreman spring immediately to mind as figureheads for salad cream and grilling machines, but now there’s another odd member of this peculiar club. Rankling among the Lloyd Grossman cooking sauces and Jamie Oliver god-knows-whats in my local Tesco the other day, I encountered a jar of Barry Norman pickled onions.

Agent: Finally got you something Barry, food endorsement, how does your own range sound?
Barry: Sounds good. Maybe something film-related like popcorn or nachos?
Agent: It’s pickled onions.
Barry: Right.
Agent: You haven’t worked for quite a while now Barry.
Barry: I know, I know…

Despite the linkless celeb/product concept, http://www.pickleodeon.co.uk/ is almost a good enough pun to redress the strange connection. The site is quick to state that it’s Barry Norman’s Pickled Onions Official Website, which is useful to know as there are undoubtedly a plethora of unofficial sites out there jumping on the bag-eyed movie mogul’s pickling bandwagon.

Unlike Newman and Foreman though, it seems that pickles are no trivial thing for Baz; the site reveals him to be quite an enthusiast. “I never buy pickled onions,” he writes, “No need to - I make my own. Crisp, luscious, sweet and spicy, pickled onions fit for the gods.”

That’s an impressive claim. If deities themselves would be inclined to pop some of them on their little paper buffet plates then I feel I’m in good company indeed.

Incidentally, where have his bags gone? Barry Norman’s eye-bags, which resembled pockets of loose change, were almost trademarked, being as identifiable as Elton’s roadkill hairpiece or Beadle’s strange little hand. In recent pictures, however, they appear to have mysteriously vanished. Maybe it’s airbrushing, maybe it’s surgery, or maybe he’s struck a deal with him upstairs to remove them in exchange for a jar of “Hot & Spicy” shallots. He could be onto something big…

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Hanging's Too Good For Him

Men and ladies of this sceptred isle, please join me in lifting a mighty chorus to heaven proclaiming, with vim and vigour and intestinal fortitude, lest there be any doubt, that David Blaine is a cock.

As if swimming in a fish bowl, encasing himself in ice, living in a glass box and standing on top of a big pillar wasn’t enough, he’s now dangling upside-down above an ice rink. Please tell me I’m not the only one who finds watching a man suspended from a crane devoid of entertainment value. If he was simultaneously singing a repertoire of Abba songs, or making balloon animals, then I might just concede his antics could be appealing to slower-witted observers; but as it stands (or indeed hangs), it’s impossible to acknowledge his efforts as remotely entertaining.

The media keep referring to his escapades as “stunts”. I disagree. A stunt is Evil Knievel belting over a bunch of buses and landing like a lump of strawberry jam on the other side, shattering all 206 of his bones and rendering the resulting shards indistinguishable from the twisted metal that was once his bike in the process. What Blaine does isn’t “stunty” at all.

It’s notable that only one of his exploits was undertaken in the UK (the one where he starved himself in a glass box above the Thames). He hasn’t ventured across the pond since, possibly because us Brits aren’t terribly impressed with this sort of egotistical tomfoolery. As I recall, people threw kebabs and drove golf balls at him (there’s your entertainment value).

Wiping a red, white and blue tear from my eye like a advertiser’s drop of multi-hued Macleans, these actions make me proud to be Briitish. We don’t put up with such self-aggrandising shenanigans and see it for what it really is: an unsavoury hybrid of the “look what I can do!” school of exhibitionism usually displayed by small children and the cheesy air of mystique that was the trademark of Vegas-dwelling magicians sometime in the ‘80s.

In these lean financial times where travel plans are scuppered by the demise of holiday firms and rising oil prices puts air travel beyond the grasp of many, perhaps Dickie Branson can be encouraged to lay on a Boeing or two to New York full of jingoistic revellers singing God Save The Queen, kebabs in hand ready to pelt David Blaine en masse. It’s what this country needs to remind us who we are.

The image of him, suspended upside-down and covered from 'toe to head' in kebab meat and bits of salad, chilli sauce dripping from his upended cranium, makes me proud to be British. Alternatively, I’m all for a UK version whereby Paul Daniels could be forcibly suspended from a crane above Hyde Park, perhaps with an adjacent driving range in order to thwack dimpled missiles at him. People would be queueing up.

Teed Off

Drawing on recent holiday experiences, as well as assessing the facilities around my immediate locale, I must confess to being more than a little disappointed with the current state of Britain’s crazy golf courses. The condition of many is poor with most exhibiting an entirely inadequate level of craziness, and can perhaps be most accurately described as Mildly Unhinged Golf.

Therein lies the problem: “crazy” is ill-defined term, which opens the sport to the provision of facilities of a poor nature. Add to this the fact that there are no recognised guidelines and no governing body in order to determine those courses deserving of the moniker (something the Olympic Committee might want to address ahead of the games in 2012), and it’s anarchy.

Being an enthusiast, I therefore propose the following mandatory requirements for any course purporting to be “crazy”. Any course falling short of these would be forced to refer to itself as Miniature, Fun or Family Golf to alleviate confusion. Each course must have, within its 18 holes, the following:

- At least one windmill, with rotating blades and a small doorway
- Water features with the very real danger that to ball will be irretrievably lost
- A small bridge, the exit ramp of which is far too fast for the hole
- Tunnels
- A cooling-off area, for irate children (and competitive dads)
- A rotating clown’s head with opening/closing mouth
- At least two holes where which require the player to twat the ball with gusto in a “death or glory” attempt at a result

It’s my hope that one day a green-blazered Tiger Woods might parade his skills in the superior game.

Friday, September 05, 2008

"Wooooargh! Ooo-aar! Wye-aye!"

It was during Richard Dawkins’ excellent programme on Darwin on Channel 4 recently that he perfectly illustrated just how closely related all living beings are. He envisioned that, if your average person stood side by side with his mother, and she stood next to her mother, and so on etc. and chimps did the same, after only 300 miles the two would converge to arrive at a common ancestor that could develop into either species, though would essentially be a creature not quite ape, and not quite human.

He went on to surmise that man’s genetic proximity to chimpanzees is such that it’s not biologically inconceivable that the two would be able to mate, in the same way that horses and donkeys, while distinct species, are able to produce sterile offspring.

Taking London as the centre of UK civilization, a 300 mile radius might just clip the edge of Cornwall and extend almost as far north as Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.

It’s probably just coincidence, that’s all I’m saying.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Dr Doctor Needed?

In the mid-80s - around the time when men were wearing pink for the first time and “bum” was in the process of becoming both a verb and a noun - Mr Mister were dubiously encouraging one particular individual to “Take these broken wings and learn to fly again, learn to fly so free”.

Surely if the welfare of this person was of true concern, then pushing them to take to the air on wings which are broken is both foolhardy and hazardous. Perhaps a more accurate reflection of intent might have been “Take these repaired wings…” or “Take this wing repair kit and learn to fly again…”

The danger of flying on malfunctioning avian limbs is further exacerbated by the fact that they were subsequently urged to “learn” to fly again, thereby indicating that flight was an activity they were perhaps a little out of practice with – a dangerous enough predicament, without being persuaded to do so with faulty apparatus.

In these modern times where litigation is brought against individuals at the drop of the proverbial headgear, perhaps Mr Mister ought to think twice about their lyrics, and would be wise to adopt either of the suggestions above for their inevitable ‘80s revival tour. I charge no fee; just a small mention in the sleeve notes.

Home From Home

[Being back from holibobs today, I’ve finally got around to putting a post together about our excursion earlier in the year. I’ll probably get around to writing about the one we recently returned from sometime around Christmas…]

The OED defines the word haven as being “a place of shelter and safety; refuge”; Collins doubtless has a similar view, though having recently holidayed in a Haven Holiday Park I’d seriously question this.

It’s true that it rained every day, which didn’t help matters, though any spirits which weren’t dampened by drizzle were swiftly extinguished by the misery of the staff whose ability to raise a smile was on a par with my body’s ability to undergo childbirth.

The Britishness of the weather aside, the place resembled Auschwitz-on-Sea with not dissimilar facilities. The soft play area smelled of damp (maybe the ‘softness’ was attributable to the furry mould and exotic fungi), the outdoor activities were boarded shut, and what was optimistically referred to as a “beach” consisted of a series of irregular rocks waiting to lacerate the cold white feet of anyone with the foolish courage to venture seawards. No doubt some brave souls made a break for the surf in the past, though were probably thwarted when the bloody stumps of what remained of their legs could no longer support their weight and they fell earthwards in slo-mo in a manner akin to Willem Dafoe’s death scene in Platoon, only to be swept out by the merciless tide as if the tragedy had never occurred.

Looking at the clientele, I felt quite underdressed without a football shirt, a cranial tattoo, and accompanying baseball-capped kids and an enormous wife. We gathered in the entertainment complex nightly for an evening of what could loosely be termed “entertainment”, consisting primarily of bingo, bingo, and more bingo during which conversation of any sort was seriously frowned upon. Woe betide the person who dared to utter a word as he/she was likely to be pounced upon by a gaggle of Neanderthal ladies wielding those special blunt pens (I think they’re called dabbers – the pens, not the ladies), their bingo wings propelling them across the room like pikey pterodactyls. Maybe it’s best that they don’t let them use sharp implements. But I shouldn’t mock; it’s serious stuff as failing to stab a little number on your sheet may have led to missing out on such “prizes” as colouring-in pencils or a lucky gonk.

Attached to the entertainment hall was a cafĂ© which served up a selection of inedible (and instantly refundable) meals. Tuesday’s ‘Curry Night’ seemed to be no more than an excuse to throw the previous week’s collective leftovers into a pot, along with a few spices to mask the flavour of rancid offerings, and serve it up en masse to people whose taste buds had been mashed by lager the night before.

Luckily the caravan was comfy, which was useful as it’s where we spent much of our time; particularly the toilet which we became very familiar with after the aforementioned Tuesday.

All in all, the best thing about Donniford Bay Haven Holiday Park (for the purposes of search engines, that’s Donniford – yes, “Donniford” Bay Haven Holiday Park) was the road out of there. “Look daddy, the sea’s all brown.” observed our four-year-old as we were leaving via the cliff-top road. And brown it indeed was – coincidentally the colour of the curry, both on its way in, and its way out. Maybe there’s a more sinister reason for the correlation.