Friday, May 30, 2008

Bottle it!

Britney Spears is Curious, the Beckhams are Intimate, Jordan is Stunning, Kylie is Darling and Jade Goody once again left herself wide open to ridicule by calling hers ‘Ssh....’. Even Sir Cliff has jumped the celebrity perfume bandwagon; this season, you could, if you’re sad enough, reek of his ‘Summer Holiday’. Surely it’s only a matter of time before the celebrity chef brigade hit the bottle too?

Personally, I can’t wait to inhale ‘GRrrrr’ by Gordon Ramsay: a heady mix of stale testosterone, brute force and rampant male ego, delivered in one tiny squirt. For the eccentric uncle in the family, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s ‘Cottaging’ - with the strapline ‘Who ever thought that pig’s intestines could smell so good?’ - is guaranteed to bring out the Mellors in every man. Meanwhile, ‘Lair du Horridge’ - literally a bottle of hot air, distilled by the man himself from echinacea pollen gathered in Bathampton at dawn - is presented in a three dimensional bottle that represents three dimensional, erm, essences; now that’s what I call the future of British perfume.

Ladies might enjoy Nigella Lawson’s ‘Smug’: top notes of (cat that got the) cream blended with a secret ingredient from Carluccio’s deli and presented in a bodice-wrapped, shape-shifting hourglass. Or what about ‘Fraudulent’ by Delia Smith - not exactly a perfume as such, but a handy list of which ingredients to mix together (Jif lemon, Cif cream cleanser, etc) in order to recreate that authentic Mrs Beeton odour? Unfortunately, Ainsley Harriott’s ‘Fast Blast’ doesn’t linger for long. But Jamie Oliver’s ‘Jammy’ range - exclusive to Sainsburys - offers long-term broad appeal, promising to be an ‘accessible collection of impish grooming products for boys’, including ‘On Yer Bike!’ aftershave, ‘Cheeky Chappie Hair Gel’ and ‘Blather'n'Spit’ lip balm. But beware: over-exposure can cause massive irritation.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Fame at last ... ?

After all the non-excitement of yesterday (which was actually exactly as much as I needed), today got off to a flying start.

For a long time now, I’ve been desperately (and totally shamelessly) trying to grab myself a slot on a reality TV show. How hard can it be? I hear you ask. Actually – well for me, anyway – it’s pretty darn impossible. I was deemed ‘too happy, confident and unshakeable’ for ‘Faking It’ (which is, I guess, a kind of backhanded compliment) and I failed last year’s ‘Big Brother’ recall because I’m a journalist (why oh why did I choose that very moment to admit what I do for a living? Usually I tell people that my main job is ‘just getting by’). Even the ‘How Clean Is Your House?’ researchers declared my home to be ‘too clean’ to require help from Kim’n’Aggie (ditto previous backhander, I guess), Gok Kwan has yet to get back to me regarding ‘How To Look Good Naked’ and when I finally managed to get hold of tickets for a live recording of ‘Deal or No Deal’, nobody I knew was willing to accompany me, so I decided that going on my own was just … well, sad. But just as I started to accept the fact that being the star of my own reality show would have to suffice, I got The Call (or rather, the email) I’ve been waiting for. And guess what? It’s all thanks to this very blog!

A London-based production company are making a mainstream (get that? Mainstream: that means neither Channel 5 nor extra-terrestrial!) TV documentary about ‘the blogging phenomenon’. Now I don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I would have thought that (a) the genre speaks for itself, (b) blogging is hardly a recent phenomenon, and (c) bloggers won’t necessarily make good TV. But the powers that be at the production company in question (who I’m not allowed to name – read on) disagree - and so, apparently, do the major mainstream (mainstream!) channel that they’ve flogged their idea (and, by association, me) to.

I’ve spoken to the researcher who sent the email in person on the telephone this morning - thus proving that no, this isn’t a hoax – and this is how we are to proceed: having set up links to the online waffle of five other UK-based bloggers (yet to be confirmed), the Animal Disco will ‘diarise’ on a regular basis and eventually be filmed doing so ‘to record the writing process’. Then we’re all going to be set up in a studio where we’ll be interviewed about our blogging whys and wherefores: the pitfalls (if any), our ‘Greatest Hits’, our ambitions, our motivations, any funny/sad/strange stories that have come about as a result of publicising our lives to a worldwide audience, etc (yup, it’s a bit like that recent Venue feature, but on tele).

Now it has to be said that, excited though the phone call was making me, I pointed out to (woman who’s name I cannot mention here) that I don’t get a huge amount of traffic visiting my site and, of my regulars, less than 2% on average (thank you Ben’s Dad, my friendly statistician) leave public comments. “That’ll all change soon,” she said, enigmatically. “The Animal Disco will soon have the benefits of a full publicity campaign behind it, which we’ll discuss in full next week”. She then went on to smear the icing on a cake that I can’t quite yet decide is tasty or not: “One of the bloggers who signed the contract with us last week has already been offered a publishing deal”.

Following that bombshell, I breathlessly whimpered down the phone as WWNICMH told me that I’m going to be sent a contract which (a) prevents me from posting details of the production company making the documentary, (b) the TV channel who’ll be screening it and (c) who the other bloggers are. Show me that dotted line! I’ll very happily walk it. I think. First of all, I have to decide if this particular gift horse is offering me a beautifully-wrapped parcel labeled ‘be careful what you wish for’. Watch this space …

Monday, May 26, 2008

Who needs to go to the bank on a Monday anyway?

It's Bank Holiday Monday so - in Great British Tradition, erm, tradition - it's raining. But this is not just rain; it's the kind of slamming, chilly rain that utterly drenches everything and everybody, accompanied by energetic blasts of icy wind that threaten to lift the roof. As the weather rules out my attendance at a local BH event (can't think of a single one I'm missing) or romping in the park with a bottle of champagne and a punnet of strawberries (which would be downright impossible), then surely I should be baking bread or sorting out my underwear drawer or at least applying complicated fake tan. As it is, I'm planning to put a slow-cooking curry in the oven and down anchor on the sofa to watch Sylvia Plath's life story on DVD (cheery stuff, yes?) followed by The Sound of Music for the 1009th time. I've got four extra pounds of weight to set about losing (hey, I could go to the gym today!) (on second thoughts ...), the bedroom looks like a bomb has hit it (actually that bomb was me, returning home from last week's birthday celebrations in a 'tired and emotional' state) and no less than nine fabulous new books await my attention. If I was so inclined, I've even got some work to catch up on, as per usual. But hey, if the banks have shut up shop, then why shouldn't I?

Happy Monday!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Forever Young

Hello again. If it feels like ages since I last made an appearance on the dance floor here, that's because it is. Please accept my humble but huge apologies for the sudden interruption in AD service; life (work, emotions, nights out, days sleeping, fun, tears, melodrama, etc) kinda got in the way. Every day, I woke up fully intending to update you (and myself, really) on the lowdown. And every evening, I fell into bed thinking, god, what a neglectful host I am! I like to think that you missed me just enough to wonder where I'd disappeared to and what I was filling my time with, but not enough to get obsessional about my disappearance. Anyway, here I am ... and it's good to be back.

Leo Sayer did it yesterday, Morrissey celebrates today and Joan Collins (who doesn't need, want nor probably care about a Wikipedia link) will no doubt be drinking champagne like there's no tomorrow, erm, tomorrow.

We interrupt this broadcast to bring you a message from our sponsors, 'Camp Quotes Ltd'. Today's quote comes courtesy of the aforementioned Joanie who, when recently asked about the age difference between her and husband number 107, Percy Somebody, replied: "If he dies, he dies. Life goes on, doesn't it?". Thank you for listening. On with the show ...

So, anybody turning (insert sounds of rustling around and general background humdrum here) today, May 22nd, is in pretty good company. Happy Birthday me! And thank you, Michael, for the perfect presents (including Andy Merrifield's 'Wisdom of Donkeys', Alan Bennett's 'Uncommon Reader' and a 3-CD boxed set called 'The Edge of The Eighties' - yaaaay!) that I woke up to this morning, followed by glittery leopard print pumps (amongst other glamorous lovelies) from mum, a whole outfit from Vicki and the girls and ... oh, but hang on; there's far more to birthdays than gifts (such as, for instance, a good-old knees up in GP tonight). 

In amongst all the childish excitement, we seem to have left a Very Important Person off the early Gemini celebrity roll call. Ah, well done you at the back! It is indeed Steve Strange's birthday on Saturday. And yes, Sir Larry Olivier would have been 101 today. But as much as I love them both for their various (and not exactly dissimilar) charms, I'm actually talking about Bob Dylan, who turns 60 on Saturday. 

Now I don't claim to be a huge Dylan fan, but I'm happy to admit a more than passing partiality to his gentler Greatest Hits  ('Lay, Lady, Lay', for example, high on my list of 'Sexiest Songs Ever'). But, particularly on the auspicious occasion of my b'day, one Dylan ditty in particular has become somewhat of a personal anthem. 

My dad dedicated 'Forever Young' to me over the sound system of the Everyman Bistro in Liverpool on the day I turned six years old. For several birthdays thereafter, it became a bit of a tradition for one family member to play it at least once every May 22nd until the hippy-dippy unit got hit by what felt like a nuclear bomb. As the years rolled by, I kinda self-styled myself to include a blast of 'She Belongs To Me' as a personal birthday tribute, but really, 'Forever Young' still says it all - for me, for you, for everyone around us. So go on, do yourself (and me!) a favour on my birthday and hit the play button on the link below. The fact that this snippet is a clip from the 1978 Scorsese film 'The Last Waltz' has extra resonance for me because (a) I have bittersweet but wonderful memories about where, when, how and why I finally got around to watching the film itself, and (b) I don't believe in the concept of a 'last waltz'; no matter what happens after the music fades, the memory lasts for an eternity. 

Now pass me the Garnier Ultra-Lift Pro-X with ProXylane (a present to myself) ... I have a birthday to celebrate. Cheers!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Time for Tea

Dollface is cooking, H is busy getting better and I'm ... forever chasing deadlines, it seems. Might as well recycle a recent Venue ramble; at the Animal Disco, we always make time for tea. Cheerio for now!

“Teatime is back!”, squeals Nigellinga Herringbone-Ramsbottom in her regular column for the Obsessive Foodie Magazine. “And who can resist a return to the simple pleasures of scrambled quail’s eggs with black PĂ©rigord truffle, spelt rolls with saffron-infused butter and lemongrass trifle?”. Tea – in this instance, single estate Jasmine Tai Mu Long Zhu - is the recommended tipple, and there’s homemade, unsweetened, organic lemonade for the kids. OFM? Oh My God. For although you nod sagely as you voraciously gobble up those glossy photos and study the ingredients lists (“if you can’t find Horatio Chuffworthy’s quail eggs, Simperington Farm’s organic free range variety work almost as well”), such a spread is never actually going to make it to your table. But teatime? Mmm, now there’s an idea.

Hardboiled eggs mashed up with a bit of Hellmann’s, wedged between slices of bread from a pre-sliced loaf. Raspberry jam butties (proper Bonne Mamans know that Hartley’s will help). Trifle made with just four ingredients: crumbled (shop bought) sponge cake, Robinsons strawberry jelly, Bird’s tinned custard and squirty cream. Can’t be bothered? Open a can of Ambrosia rice pudding instead. There’s Tetley one-cup teabag tea in your mug, Robinson’s Barley Water in plastic beakers for the little ones, and supermarket own-brand Pink Wafer biscuits to dunk’n’dissolve in both afterwards, just in case any empty tummy corners still need to be filled.

Guilty pleasures? They shouldn’t be. We’re talking about real British teatime treats – the food that time (and good taste) forgot.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Lily the Pink?

Well, I have much to report (football, a celebrity birthday party, a day spent on Planet Weird yesterday) and much to catch up on in writing terms (work aside, there's the small matter of the KirkbyGirl gauntlet to deal with). So what's a girl to do? Procrastinate, that's what! But only sort of. I've been droning on about posting that rant about women drinking here for quite some time; that time is now. Enjoy? Cheers! And see you very soon.

Women drink nearly 4% more than they did ten years ago. The average 30-year-old woman regularly drinks more than two glasses of wine a week. 14% of mothers ‘admit’ to including wine on the weekly shopping list - three hardly shocking but genuine examples of leading news stories last week. But check out the statistics buried in the small print following those headline-grabbing, front page spreads: of the 3.8m people thought to be dependant on alcohol in England and Wales, 3m of them are men. 11 people in the UK die every day as a direct result of alcohol abuse – less than one every 10 days will be female. 46% of men (as opposed to 12% of women) exceed their recommended alcohol intake every week. Clearly, the inability to handle alcohol is largely a male problem. Why, then, is Nanny intent on putting women in punishment corner?

Regardless of gender, it’s never cool to be comatose; bedraggled bodies lying in a vomit-strewn gutter at kicking out time are never a pretty sight (although in Britain, it’s hardly a rare one). I know that alcohol can wreck lives, and I'm not attempting to refute the fact that anybody who regularly guzzles their way through a month’s worth of recommended units in one night is heading for trouble of some sort of another. But why is the sight of a group of dishevelled girls wobbling their way down the street after three too many spritzers deemed to be far, far more ‘shocking’ than a group of burly, fist-swinging yobs pissing up walls, belching threateningly at all who pass by and looking for the inevitable fight? Compared to such behaviour, behaving in an ‘unladylike’ manner is hardly the sin the media would have us believe it is. Every year, Father’s Day cards are decorated with images of frothing pints and bottles of whisky. Meanwhile: “Mummy, please stop drinking”, whispers the tousle-headed blonde girl at the start of yet another ‘Tonight’ show on the subject, before Trevor McDonald solemnly asks, “What is the future for the children of the Ladettes?”.

‘Lads’, of course, is an acceptable term – a jolly, ho-ho-ho depiction of boys being boys (beer bellies, casual sexism, fists and all). Lengthen the idiom with the feminine diminutive, and Satan(ess) has entered the building. But boy, does she get her comeuppance! “She was drunk - case closed!”, proclaim the bewigged men of court, as yet another weedy, opportunistic sex pest gets away with rape. “She was begging for it!”, hollers WOSPs mate, as he raises his fist in triumph on the court steps. Hey, idiot: the only begging that girls who cross your path will ever do is beg to get away. Last time I walked across Bristol’s Centre on a Saturday night, it was Ladcentric, Bacchanalian mayhem: brawlers in blood-soaked shirts, taxi drivers refusing to stop and police everywhere, ineffectually pretending to do their job. This scene is typical of the Britain that ex-attorney general Lord Goldsmith wants us to swear an oath of allegiance to, following a recent report commissioned by Gordon Brown. Gordy’s now planning to commission another report on British women and alcohol – lord alone knows what that one will recommend: a return to the ‘workhouses for fallen women’ (ie, those who drink 4% more than they did a decade ago), perhaps? That’ll teach those naughty floozies to go over the recommended ‘one Snowball every Christmas’ limit when they should be at home mopping hubby’s vomit off the bedroom floor and hoping to avoid a black eye. Because some far more sinister statistics hide behind the misogynistic headlines. Research from the organisation ‘Alcohol Aware’ indicates a strong connection between men, alcohol and domestic violence (including child abuse and incest), concluding that there’s a higher rate of assaults when the perpetrator is drunk. But hey, boys will be boys - and ‘wicked women’ will always be blamed for their misdemeanours. Crikey, no wonder we drink.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Rain Starts Play (1-0 to KirkbyGirl)

Of all the days of the week, surely Sunday should offer the gentlest of starts? Not so here, today: rumbling thunder, massive shards of lightening and the kind of rain that makes you wonder if someone is sitting on the roof emptying the contents of a swimming pool over the bedroom window woke me before the alarm clock even attempted to start shattering my dreams, resulting in much very dramatic wake up call courtesy of Ma Nature (who right now could easily be a third member of Sparks circa the 'Kimono My House' era). How fabulous is that? And how odd, too, to wake up alone in the middle of all this. Don't worry - advice from the magnificent Mariella Frostrup is not needed: Beloved went off for an evening in Bristol, that's all, and I had neither the will nor the wherewithall to join him as planned, what with having been at a hen lunch during the daytime followed by a bottle of wine on the terrace of the bar opposite the Theatre Royal afterwards, where a chef - apparently angered by a restaurant review I wrote almost a year ago (get over it!!!) attempted to throw the contents of a glass of wine over me, missed, and soaked the (unrelated) woman sitting next to me instead. Ooooh, funny! (but not, I admit, for the woman in question) (or her linen jacket). Would you have got on a train to Bristol after so much excitement? I'll be doing exactly that this afternoon, though; for the first time in my life, I'm going to see a real live football match (Bristol City vs ... another team) - one doesn't have the option of such an activity in Bath. 

Anyway, that's enough random rambling - I actually dropped by to redirect you to somebody else's witty words today. Following a nice bit of back and forth blogbaiting, the KirkbyGirl has excelled herself to the point where I'm fully aware that a rather enticing gauntlet has been thrown down. She's a sassy one, is Dollface. One day we're going to collaborate on the best sitcom known to woman ... and she's certainly got the ball rolling with her current post. If you find any of it confusing, come back to me for interpretation. All I'll say for now is that everything she remembers really happened: Jazz was my dog, we all lived on a staple diet of late night pakoras, Lenny McMillan really did take a penchant for pink to a whole extra-terrestrial level, I really did change a Miss Selfridge frock that I'd had for a decade (as Dolly says, they asked for it) and the particular time that she's captured so well were, I guess, our halcyon days. But my mates are as fabulous today as they were back when we thought we were grown ups. Want more proof? As I said, a gauntlet has been flung. I intend to contribute my own 'Tales from the City (of Culture?)' in post form right here sometime in the next few days. For now, though, I have to go and rifle through my wardrobe in search of suitable terrace-wear. If only I still had that Miss Selfridge frock ...

Friday, May 2, 2008

... but am I Jessica Tate or John Boy Walton?

Morning all! And no, we don't have to worry about volume levels being too high - I'm nowhere near as hungover and morose as predicted; in fact, I'm feeling as zingy as a ... zingy thing? But by rights, I shouldn't be. I did indeed have far too much fun last night (most of which I enjoyed at my very own kitchen table long after what's supposed to be my bedtime). But somehow, I managed to 'drink responsibly' - crikey; don't tell me I'm growing up?!

Talking of which: some of you may be old - sorry, mature - enough to remember the late 70s American sitcom 'Soap'. I may have only been around 12 or 13 when it first hit the wind-up TV screen at my then family home (wow - sometimes it amazes even me to think that I once had a family home!), but I 'got it' straight away: dysfunctional relationships! Gay people! Alien abduction! A man who could only communicate through a ventriloquist's dummy! Murder! Moonies! Divorce! ... at last, there was a family that I could relate to as 'normal' on TV. If anybody's wondering what to get me for my forthcoming 103rd birthday, the full series on DVD (if it exists?) will do nicely, thank you. But such blatant 'I Waaaaant Thaaat!" behaviour is not the purpose of this post.

As I tumbled my way around my messy bedroom in the wee small hours of this morning getting undressed, removing make up and trying to apply vaseline to my heels (new shoes: the ultimate codependent, love/hate relationship) at the same time, I ran over the events of a very eventful evening in my tumbly mind. And I got to thinking ... my life has turned into that sitcom. Please understand that I can't name names or give away too much detail here, but last night in GP there sat, around the table in the snug, a cast list of characters all woven together by a massively complicated but somehow entirely natural, easygoing set of circumstances, of which I was buzzing around near the epicentre. Old friends and new friends, exes and currents (and, for some, the prospect of possible futures), colleagues, cohorts and even a boss of sorts were all gathered together around the same bottle of wine (okay, several bottles, but you know what I mean). So yes, the gathering was, in one way, a sitcom waiting to happen. Or was it actually the contemporary version of 'The Waltons'? I could happily place myself, my family and my friends in either Dunns River, Connecticut or plop them on top of Waltons Mountain, and d'you know what? Normal service would be resumed. 

Anyway, all this rambling is a very long-winded way of saying that I had a lovely time last night. But I'm suddenly extremely conscious of the fact that I've been lucky enough to wake up on most mornings of my life and say exactly the same thing. 

I think perhaps a group hug is called for ...