| Bank holidays
Monday, May 31, 2004
Yes here in the UK we define our public holidays by the withdrawl of banking facilities. The inability to carry out monetary transactions tells us that we may set aside the cares of the world and instead go to B&Q to purchase laminate flooring. Other countries have Martin Luther King Day, St. Patrick's Day, Picnic Day, Womens' Day, Queens Day - amongst others. We have 'late August bank holiday'. [ yawn ] What about setting up some days with snappier titles? Here are my suggestions:
Frost Free Day - early May.
Tommy Cooper Day - whenever we need a laugh.
Chocolate Day - every Friday.
Peter Mandelson Night - when the hours of darkness are longest.
Squirrel Nutkin Day - we could all dress up with stick-on bushy tails.
Michael Parkinson Day - we all interview our friends and pretend we've only just met them.
Any other suggestions?
Useful list of public holidays worldwide.
Big Al - the local stud - is going at it hammer and tongs every day at the moment. He likes to lure his ladies up on the roof and then repeatedly do the business in full view of the local neighbourhood. Whatever he's on - it's making him insatiable. I fear he may not last much longer if he keeps going at this rate. Every time I look out the window - there he is hopping around giving his latest conquest the benefit of his experience. The joys of being a sex crazed sparrow.
Blackbirds have the sweetest song. I've only just noticed this fact. They look unpromising - sort of avian minmalist but when they open their little beaks ... it's all rather lovely.
freshly squeezed for you by drD at 11:04 PM
Sunday, May 30, 2004
freshly squeezed for you by drD at 11:32 PM
Saturday, May 29, 2004
This morning the coffee machine refused to froth. It sat there twinkling seductively in that mute, "I'm fit but my gosh don't I know it" - Italian way that it has. Like Sophia Loren at her most illogical moments - pouting, irresistible, perfectly formed but completely uncooperative and unfathomable. [ I've already moved the armchair back OK? Can this not end now? I need coffee and I need it frothed - with a life as flat as mine is right now it's the only buoyancy I'm likely to get for the foreseeable future - barring unexpected delivery of a helium filled micro-airship with onboard remote surveillance camera for spying on the gorgeous sunbather two houses away. ] But I digress.
Phoning the middleclass emporium that I bought Sophia from I am told she may be airlocked. Her restrained outer twinking is a thin disguise for inner torment. All of her energies are being consumed in not exploding. She's doing a damn good job too. It is my task, as her guardian to release the blockage - to free her so that she may once again issue forth with creamy goodness.
Manfully I caress her delicate protruberances. Subtle pressure and skilfull manipulation bring the desired result. Her frothing capabilities are reawakened and she produces the latte of a lifetime - all for me. It is a very special and private moment. I am humbled in the presence of a miracle and I vow to do a Novena the next time I am in the Eternal City.
freshly squeezed for you by drD at 1:59 PM
Friday, May 28, 2004
It's been a hell of a week. Some seriously bad karma in play. I figure it must be due to that armchair I moved last week. All my chi is being bounced off the sideboard when it should, in fact, be gliding gracefully into my inner being via the formica hostess trolley. Consequently everything was out of alignment or to put it frankly, everything was f****d up. Including this here computer I'm at right now. Managing to acquire some evil spybot / browser hijacker / bandwidth sucker - my personal information superhighway had become something of a sodden, marshy swamp track with large concrete statues of Big Daddy blocking the way. It took nearly half an hour to download my own blog and my online bank account reads like that of a stranger after so long. [ Did I realy spend fifty quid at the Rajdoot? ] So, using the extensive training I acquired at spyschool I managed to isolate the offending registry key and obliterate it. Suddenly I'm working at full tilt again and so happy I could degauss my monitor [ if only I knew how ]. In non-blog life things aint been much better, which is not how it's meant to be - right? Feelng slightly obsessive at the moment - weirdly so. Better move that chair back. Either that or the male menopause has kicked in. [ God ]
More later - so much to say - it's like I've taken blogolax...
freshly squeezed for you by drD at 10:28 PM
Wednesday, May 26, 2004
On the first floor of no 10 you can find the impressive state rooms, The White Drawing Room, Terracotta Room [ yes Terracotta - even here ] and the Pillared Room. The rooms were given an up-market changing rooms treatment during the reign of Thatch by up-market changing rooms merchant, Quinlan Terry. No MDF here [ at least I couldn't detect any ]. Thatch got into a lot of trouble for doing the work - snotty remarks about her vulgarian taste and questionable motives - self agrandisement etc - were regularly trotted out at the time. One of the porticoes in the Terracotta Room features a subtle plaster relief of a thatcher at work - nice. All three rooms have a strong British eclectic feel to them - bit of a hotchpotch - stunning contents, furniture, paintings, carpets - no expense spared - but eccentrically put together - sends a message about us to visiting dignataries no doubt. Most shocking: dirty crockery left lying around - every other room had it - scandalous. The ceiling of the White Drawing Room was damaged by the IRA mortar attack on Downing Street in February 1991. Some of the plaster work fell down. It's been repaired but imperfectly because, apparently, John Major wanted traces of the damage to remain. Scorch marks on the garden wall still mark the spot where one of the mortars exploded whilst a cabinet meeting was going on.
The State Dining Room, another Soane design, is an understated room and a fitting backdrop for the magnificent silverwork on display here. Memorable dinner guests in the recent past include Clinton, Mandela, Brenda and Thatch. Most impressive item in this room for me was the breadbasket in 18 carat laser cut gold - just left casually lying around on the mahogany dining table, [ as you do ].
The garden of No 10 is a delightful oasis smack bang in the centre of town. The state drawing rooms overlook it and beyond Horse Guards Parade and St James' Park. What a view. A delightful water garden - complete with Charlie Dimmock rock fountain - and connected, I believe, with a Blue Peter competition - contrasts nicely with the more formal aspects of the space.
This completes our tour and it has to be one of the more memorable experiences of my life so far. My thanks to all.
Most charming aspect of the house: evidence of the second youngest inhabitant in unexpected locations.
Wikipedia article on No 10 with some fascinating history - including the fact that most of the house is a reproduction!
Having a spot of bother with my equipment. Making my despatches patchy. Normal service will be resumed asap.
freshly squeezed for you by drD at 9:34 AM
Tuesday, May 25, 2004
What better way to spend a sunny summer afternoon than with a visit to one of the most famous addresses in the world? Security is tight as you enter the hallowed enclave, leaving noisy Whitehall behind. I've taken this walk before, aged 8, on a school trip to London. Another era; you wouldn't dream of sneezing outside the house let alone contemplating the murderous mayhem we now fear. On that first trip we stood, awed, across the road - checking out the stern looking policeman standing outside. Our teacher, full of best behaviour, gave us a hushed commentary: "That's where the Prime Minister lives and next door lives the Chancellor - he's the man who handles all the money". The street was hushed then and it was hushed now - only this time I'm walking up to the front door, I'm clocking the railings, the shiny shiniest front door I've ever seen, I'm reading the letterbox - "First Lord of the Treasury", I'm reaching for the doorbell. I see my finger about to press the white ceramic button - it's marked, 'press'. Before I can connect with it Presto! The door opens - just like it does on the telly - how do they do that? How do they know you are there? The smiling man behind the door knows my name he knows my name - he invites me inside smiling.
I'm looking around. The black and white checked floor, the square proportions of the entrance hall, the famous portrait of Robert Walpole. So many scenes, so much history, right here and I'm standing here where it happened.
We move into the Soane Dining Room in number 11, tantalising glimpses of the Brown power base - the place where all that money gets handled. The walk to the Dining Room is uphill - unbelievably the floor is not level, a legacy of the marshy site on which the houses were built. Soane is all symmetry and strict geometry. The austere white plaster ceiling a masterpiece of the art. Onwards to the Cabinet Room, passing a Henry Moore, clocking the in-house cafe in the courtyard below. The lobby outside the Cabinet Room, rich red stripy wallpaper, a clear view back through to the front door. A ghostly procession of former ministers fills my mind; Callaghan, Jenkins, Foot, Castle, Lawson, Williams, Whitelaw - I recall the post-assassination gathering here described by Kenneth Clarke when they'd met for the last time under her control - he talked about enjoying a cup of coffee with cabinet colleagues after they'd done the deed. This is where it happened. The room itself is surprisingly small. Light from the many tall windows. A ceremonial sword with ivory handle on a side table - useful when you're sticking the knife in? - a gift from an arabian royal. The PM's chair is the only one with arms - it's out from under the table, at a jaunty angle to the others - like he's just nipped out. There's calm, a repressed energy in the room - a sense of what has been said, what has been done - to us - to the World. Every departing PM leaves something for the Cabinet Room bookcase. They're all there - we look at Macmillan's and Atlee's - they're not in good condition - surprising. She has left two volumes of her autobiography - they seem to be the only ones in bright coloured dust jackets - typical. I'm later struck by how she's wearing bright red and green outfits in the cabinet photos on the wall downstairs when all the boys are in sober suits. This room, these walls - what tales they could tell.
Karsh of Ottawa photographed Churchill during a visit to Canada in 1941. It's a magnificent portrait and hangs now at the foot of the Grand Staircase. [ Pictured below ] Churchill is the only PM to have two portraits displayed here - fitting. The others have to make do with one, they get progressively more recent as you ascend. Past the little white door that leads you to his office - upwards to the second floor and a look at some of the superb silver collection within the house.
Part two tomorrow: Bombs, teacups and Blue Peter gardens.
"An empty taxi arrived at 10 Downing Street, and when the door was opened, Atlee got out." - Winston Churchill, on Clement Atlee
freshly squeezed for you by drD at 9:29 AM
Sunday, May 23, 2004
Guess where I've been today?
freshly squeezed for you by drD at 10:24 PM
Saturday, May 22, 2004
..like a blog machine.
Ahem, my apologies for that little hiatus which was due to circumstances within the control of others but beyond those of mere mortal such as myself. Before I was interrupted I was going to bring you a whole raft of delights allied to the current National Smile Week - but I bet you'd guessed that already [ I'm so transparent eh? ]. My approach now will be to distil into an intense jus the very essence of this weeks posts to leave you, the reader, gasping at the richness, diversity and sheer brilliance that you've been missing these last days.
Ready or not - here I come.
1. The Quiz
How you've missed it, how I've missed it - fear not, I bring you the multimodal National Smile Week quiz. Each of the five below have a connection with the theme. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to determine what that connection is. You can have as many goes as you like in any of the categories - go beserk! [ I already have ]. Answers and points on Monday [ as I am likely to be too hungover to care tomorrow ]
How sorry I was to read about the illness of that great Lancashire institution Fred Dibnah - once encountered by moi - In a world of bland permatanned plasticlones Fred is always a refreshing TV presence. Good to hear that he is keeping on with life and smiling - get well and stay well.
3. Insert coathanger in mouth
4. Let joy be unconfined
Which brings me to today, the day of days - need I say more?
I'm off for some luxury and emotion.
freshly squeezed for you by drD at 7:03 PM
Thursday, May 20, 2004
Having a spot of bother...Fake or friend?
freshly squeezed for you by drD at 5:21 PM
Tuesday, May 18, 2004
It's National Smile Week
When you smile did you know that your orbicularis oculi and your pars orbitalis contract - making your eyes crease up and eyebrows dip slightly? No? Neither did I. Smiles are an automatic reaction controlled by your unconscious brain. The bits of your face that alter when you smile genuinely are not the same as the bits that alter when you fake a smile. Smiles are like social glue; putting people at ease, making them feel welcome, included, accepted - a universal language. The pressure to be accepted and to accept others is very strong indeed. So much so that we spend large amounts of time producing 'fake' smiles of varying degress of conviction. Can you spot fake smile? I thought I could but, as a species, we're so good at deception that most people have a hit and miss success rate in distinguishing genuine smiles from their cheesy imposters. Try out your skill using the fascinating survey produced as part of the BBC The Mind programme.
Me? - I scored just over half correct. Looks like I'm not as astute as I think I am.
freshly squeezed for you by drD at 10:34 PM
Monday, May 17, 2004
It's National Smile Week!
And aren't we all happy bunnies now we know?
10 things to smile about:
1. It's luvverly and hot here in Bignjuicyville and it's going to be hot all week. O yay.
2. I've got a nice new stripy T shirt that makes me look like Dennis the Menace on acid.
3. Thatcher is no longer in power.
4. I am more attractive than Robin Cook.
5. There's a rather gorgeous person who has taken to sunbathing in view of my blog chamber.
6. They look like they would not be remotely attracted to someone that looked like Robin Cook.
7. My work diary for the week is virtually empty.
8. It's May - nice things happen.
9. The trees are in blossom and although my hay fever is in evidence - they look truly beautiful - especially the horse chestnuts which are glorious round here.
10. I've got a chocolate tart in the fridge.
any offers for no 11 + ?
freshly squeezed for you by drD at 10:14 PM
Sunday, May 16, 2004
Well - what a load of lounge lizards you are. Looks like there's hope yet for the smoky purple velour world of easy listening. I may well dust down my fondue set this weekend, slip on a black poloneck and invite some middle aged people round to smoke cigars and talk about golf. Nice.
Anyway, here are the answers you've been longing to see.
Points will be updated soon.
Thanks to all who participated - treat yourself to a Campari next time you're in town.
freshly squeezed for you by drD at 11:48 PM
Saturday, May 15, 2004
A strong representation of foul mouthed innebriates on the streets of the capital today. Sporting the charecteristic, 'quick - it's the annual day for the sun to be out - lets shave our heads, get skin cancer and drink lager' look, there was plenty of effing, blinding and general yobbery to be seen round and about as I threaded my way past hoardes of bemused American tourists gazing longingly at tartan accessories in Regent Street shop windows.
Little yobbery, though, to be seen at the Royal Academy - my destination for today with a little trip to see Tamara De Lempicka: Art Deco Icon [ as forecast earlier].
Occupying only 3 rooms in the Foster designed Sackler Galleries this is a surprisingly small exhibition for a surprisingly large price - (£7). Indeed the exhibition space is not much bigger than the enormous banner hanging outside advertising it to the passing masses. That said, the quality of the paintings on show is invariably stunning. Every canvas is masterfully executed. Any single one of them would not be out of place in my luxury penthouse [ if I had one ].
De Lempicka's art has an icy coolness allied to strong geometries. The work is the painterly complement to the Art Deco Fest seen at the V&A in June last year. Her highly stylised neo-cubist aesthetic, an almost formulaic approach to portraiture and a dark restricted pallette are a gift to the reproduction industry and sure enough you can buy them printed on everything from posters to knickers in the exhibition shop.
An abundance of voluminous bosoms, rosy nipples, rugged jawlines and pert buttocks were tastefully arranged across the 55 canvasses on show. Her most lucrative period was around the mid 1920s when she effectively became court artist to the upwardly mobile Parisian glitterati - self consciously wishing to present themselves as cooler than cool. [ nothing new there then ] Their secret was to commission a portrait from La Lempicka to hang in the elegant moderne interior and thereby impress fellow glitterers when they came round for a bit of disconnected icy staring. Fine if you were happy to present yourself as a souless steel eyed hardbody.
Technically brilliant, this work left me feeling not a little unmoved. In so doing it challenged my expectations of work from this period. Although contemporary, it felt about as far as you could get from the passion of work by Picasso of the same period. De Lempica was all about image - and her work has resonances now in the buffed and beautiful models that stare out at us from advertisements. Like them, there's a deadness inside.
freshly squeezed for you by drD at 11:00 PM
Thursday, May 13, 2004
Relax. Kick off your shoes, tread lightly across the shagpile, snap open a Babycham, ease back in your Parker Knoll recliner and smooch your way through this little lot like the silky smooth operator you know you can be.
Max two answers each please - until Sunday when you may return to hoover up the rest unfettered.
freshly squeezed for you by drD at 12:06 PM
Wednesday, May 12, 2004
The moment I wake up, before I put on my makeup, I say a little prayer that anyone who had a heart would realise that what the world needs now is love. Not more pictures of Donald Rumsfeld naked with wires on his gonads. No, the look of love is far more important. We can't afford to just walk on by. Make it easy on yourself - enjoy the magic moments in life - they are too few and far between.
As for me, looks like I may never fall in love again - but I can live in hope eh?
Even when raindrops keep falling on my head I can hoik up my anorak and get on with it can't I? Sometimes I just don't know what to do with myself but there's always something there to remind me - that's what friends are for after all.
Think I might be going to see this sometime soon.
Strong resonances of early Picasso work here. V. excited.
Tune in for tomorrows quiz - it's all about eeezy listening!
freshly squeezed for you by drD at 11:59 PM
Tuesday, May 11, 2004
Everyone wants to be on the web. If you don't have a web presence you cease to exist as far as some people are concerned. I have to confess I'm beginning to get a bit twitchy if I have to deal with organisations that don't allow you to at least get an idea of what they're about via a website. So the pressure from people like me is on organisations to web-enable. The obvious economic benefits seem a strong driver too. Several big players only exist on the web and there are many traditional traders running a nice little sideline in online transactions too. The days of having a cheaply produced website with clipart pictures and slabs of uninteresting text linked together haphazardly are over surely? [ *looks down page* - er cough ]
The web is full of wonders. It's also full of crap. And there's a lot of stuff that falls somewhere between - a sort of global grey goo of grim grotesquery. Millions of misguided merchants paying their hardearned out to deluded 'designers' so that they too can join the cyberspace community.
I'm reminded of those adverts for local businesses that sometimes appear in cinemas.
Immediately after the latest multi-million pound commercial for Gordon's gin appears - leggy blondes, phallic tonic bottles and pulsating soundtrack - on comes a five second slot for Bobs Bakers in the high street featuring faded footage of happy shoppers queuing for their crusty bloomers. Shot sometime in the 1970's and re-run on a cut price deal ever since - the voiceover by That Bloke [ He does them all ] sounds animated, upbeat and metropolitan. Everything that Bobs Bakers isn't. The message that the audience takes away - after they've stopped laughing - is that this is a naff attempt at advertising, badly misfiring.
Some gems I've come across recently:
Leaders in Awning technology. Yes and you thought they were just canopies.
It's a world renowned Beatles story experience.
Avanti Blue - what do they do? "ABL aims to develop a business supplying goods and services to the complete satisfaction of our customers and employees that whilst disparate in nature posses the same ideals; highest quality, highest specification, are innovative and contain added value". Glad we got that clear.
All the flanges you could ever need.
He chops up dead animalia and sells the pieces. He's got rosy cheeks.
The Creaky Shed - more than just a greengrocer.
The UK's top Chewing Gum Cleaning Company - they use lasers.
mmm newblogger, messyconfusing, patronising. Nolikey can't see it all at a glance no more - leavewellalone - mumble mumble - grrr.
freshly squeezed for you by drD at 1:29 PM
Monday, May 10, 2004
As I feared, Friday's riddle was just a bit too fiendish. Still with 10 points on offer you can't be too careful can you ;)
Anyway here is the decription:
I used to work at the town hall.
Manchester Town Hall
Now I like to give things a whirl and aim high.
Whirl as in helicopter [ he's a pilot ] or whirl as in whirling / spirals etc - as seen here and here and here
In the beginning there were four of us.
My office has a great view..
Sure has - it overlooks the River Thames
though we like to look through the triangular window.
Plenty of them here and here
A few years back we scooped the sun
in the place where it's plane to see.
which is not far from here
Now troubled waters flow no more.
Yes it's all stable now
They'll be riding high down south soon too.
Very high indeed.
The answer of course is Norman Foster - 'Lord' to his friends.
freshly squeezed for you by drD at 12:35 PM
Friday, May 07, 2004
I've been a busy boy what with one thing and anudder. So much so that the weekly quiz has suffered this week.Do unto others
By way of compensation I thought I would post a riddle and offer 10 points to whoever solves it by the time I return from my weekend oop north which is imminent. This is a bit fiendish but if you are the kind of person who likes to mull things and get your teeth into a prob then you may get it. You can have as many goes as you like. If more than one person gets it I'll have to award more points. [Could get expensive].
So, enjoy Le Weekend and good luck.
Who am I?
I used to work at the town hall. Now I like to give things a whirl and aim high. In the beginning there were four of us. My office has a great view though we like to look through the triangular window. A few years back we scooped the sun in the place where it's plane to see. Now troubled waters flow no more. They'll be riding high down south soon too.
freshly squeezed for you by drD at 9:29 PM
Wednesday, May 05, 2004
The present revelations of mistreatment of prisoners coming out of Iraq has fuelled a lot of discussion as to 'why?'.
The reactions are very interesting. Americans now going into damage limitation mode; 'this is not the way we do things - 'they' were rogue individuals - we're not the bad guys'. The Brits going into obfuscation mode; 'the pictures could be fake, we think they might have been faked by...rogue individuals - we're not the bad guys.'
Putting some distance between you and something being seen as nasty is a classic response. None of us wants to be associated with negative goings on so we look for ways to disassociate - often seeking to suggest that the 'others' may the bad ones. 'Do it to Julia' was Winston's cry in Room 101 when it looked like the rats were going to be gnawing through his face. Childlike behaviour. I can recall blaming a sibling for all sorts of naughtiness when I was younger.
What's at issue here, I think, is not that rogue individuals have deviated from the 'purer than pure' but that a culture has been created in which the nastiness can flourish. This got me thinking today. Time and again it's been seen that if you create the right environment: absence of sufficient controls, a distorted collective vision, too much power in the hands of individuals, secrecy - then 'evil' can flourish. I've worked in organisations where the collective culture is disfunctional such that it's detrimental to a significant group of staff but beneficial to those who wield power. I've lived through an era [ see yesterday's post ] when 'greed was good' and all it's attendant manifestations - heartlessness, people as disposable objects, remote control through vicious economic manipulation - were allowed full reign. I've learnt that history [ Germany 1930's, Eastern Europe 1990's ] repeats. All in all people don't do well unless the searching white light of collective civilisation is resolutely shone on them from on high.
I feel sorry for the Iraqi prisoners and their families - that they should have been victims of this classic failure to control base human tendencies. I also feel sorry for the 'evil doers' - yes they had a choice, yes they could have resisted - but they didn't and several of them didn't and how many more 'evil doers' will never be exposed and caught out by photos being published in the New Yorker or Daily Mirror? The fact that this is endemic is not surprising. It would be surprising if it weren't given all that we know from the past. So I wonder if it might occur to 'them that knows best' that they really do need to organise things better. Training soldiers to be killing machines and then expecting them not to brutalise their charges is really asking a bit much.
freshly squeezed for you by drD at 11:01 PM
Tuesday, May 04, 2004
They don't write em like that any more.
No need, no need.
So - how long has she got?
Q: Am I a bad person?
freshly squeezed for you by drD at 9:42 AM
Sunday, May 02, 2004
Regular readers will know that I'm not usually given to flights of fancy. Me? I'm a thoroughly serious chap - as a casual read through my archives will no doubt confirm. However, after a hard week in which many aspects of the contemporary cake scene have been touched upon, probed, sniffed and licked I felt it was time to end the week with a slightly more light hearted conclusion.
I've therefore decided to hold a tea party to which I've invited five of the people on the modern scene I'd be most interested to share a cup of well brewed red-label and a slice of battenburg with. You may or may not recognise my guests so I've included a short descriptive text.
You are of course welcome to join us for a jolly discussion this afternoon and I'd be very pleased if you'd like to bring your own guests - just jot their names in the box below.
More tea vicar?
You're not a vicar? Ah well bless you nontheless - have another muffin.
The Quiz answers.
Points have now finally been updated - last week's quiz added + various bonuses which were promised and earned.
ew is storming the chart - thanks again for the receep. Thanks to all who took part - a most enjoyable quiz - hope you felt the same.
I'm taking a break tomorrow - back on Tuesday.
Enjoy the fine weather.
freshly squeezed for you by drD at 2:18 PM
Saturday, May 01, 2004
Well, you cant spend the whole week going on about cakes and not make one can you?
So I thought I'd pick up on the theme from day one and make myself a luscious and sexy cheesecake.
Inspired by ew's impromptu recipe I decided to join the ranks of celebrity chefs and invent my own - albeit simple - recipe.
So click on through and enjoy - and if you enjoy this half as much as I have then I've enjoyed it twice as much as you.
Plus I've still got half the cheesecake in the fridge. Wahey!
Still to go: 2,9,10,14,15,16,17,18,20
We've got questions in need of answering...
freshly squeezed for you by drD at 11:47 AM