29 September, 2008

An Open Letter to Tea and Coffee Drinkers.

What is it about tea drinkers that they seem congenitally disinclined to clear up after themselves?

Now, I hate tea. I also hate coffee (although I love the smell of a newly opened packet of fresh coffee). I don’t do hot drinks at all really, but that’s nothing to do with my intense dislike of tea drinkers. It’s not the drinkers themselves that I hate; it’s the way they never seem to be able to tidy up.

Imagine a kitchen work surface, all beautifully tidy and clean. Now imagine it after someone has made a cup of tea or coffee. There is sugar all over the counter, or coffee granules, and a teaspoon left on the counter. There are always one or two tea or coffee stains, and the worst thing is when the person leaves a used teabag there because they either can’t be arsed to throw it away, or they want to use it later! I mean, come on, tea is not so expensive that you have to re-use tea bags is it?

The worst culprits are those who drink “posh” teas, like Lapsang Souchong, or Darjeeling, all loosed leaves – they think that puts them a cut above the rest because they make tea in teapots with loose leaves. In reality, they are just as dirty as the PG Tips drinkers.

Oooh no, the very worst ones are the ones who make big pots of tea and have maybe one or two cups of it. Then they’ll come back to it later on, pour some cold tea into a mug and microwave it. Yuck! Disgusting. And even though they do that, they still manage to spill some on the work surface, thereby staining it!

As for the herbal tea drinkers – I won’t even go there, suffice to say they’re normally vegetarians, non-smokers and teetotallers too! Even if they drank normal tea or coffee it would be decaffeinated and really…what’s the point in that?!
Also, tea in particular stains mugs beyond all recognition. What can that be doing to your insides?

Tea drinkers also appear to be tight fisted in restaurants – not something I’ve ever come across, but evidently this is the case in the USA!

I know the tea industry, and likewise the coffee industry, gives a lot of jobs to a lot of people – especially in third world countries like Malawi, where tea is one of the biggest industries and employers. That’s fine and lovely, but why can’t someone start an evening class on how to become a decent tea-drinking member of society, by teaching them how to clean up?

So tea (and coffee) drinkers, please take note. When you make a cup of tea (or coffee) please make sure you leave the work surface tidy. Someone has to come along behind you to work there, so please, wipe up your spilt sugar / coffee / tea / milk and leave it as you found it.
Thank you in advance of your co-operation!
NB. Photographs Not My Own Work

Creamy Chicken With Mushrooms

To enlarge, click on the photo.

The other night I had to cook for several people in my temporary job as a B&B manager! I did a new recipe - it was quick and easy, and not hugely expensive either. It does say use vermouth, but you can always substitute white wine or sherry if you don't have it. I also left out the carrots as I really hate carrots! I served it with crispy roast potatoes and broccoli, and it was delicious. Also, next time I would use crème fraiche instead of single cream - you could use double cream instead though.

Another French Marvel

The french are always stereotyped as being dreadful drivers. Well, most stereotypes must have some basis in truth, or they wouldn't have become stereotypes in the first place!

I saw a particularly fine example of french driving the other day. I was driving up a one way street and two cars in front of me there was a small white Clio. The woman in it was trying to park in the smallest space imaginable and she was determined she was going to squeeze her car in there come hell or high water.

Anyway, after much jiggling about, during which we saw her crash into the parked car behind her at least four times, she eventually managed to get into the space, sort of!

Got a lovely big dent in the back of her Clio for her efforts though! The funny thing was that just around the corner there's a big car park.


28 September, 2008


Anyone who knows me will know that I have a deep and abiding hatred for eggs, in any shape or form. Well, that's not strictly true. I don't mind them in cakes.

It's the taste and smell you see. When I was a boarder at prep school in SW Scotland at prep school they used to try to make me eat the eggs. They were cooked so badly that when we got boiled eggs for breakfast, the yolks were so hard they would last all day being used as bouncy balls - these were big when I was a pre-teen! And the fried eggs defied description! Anyway, when I said I didn't like eggs they said that wasn't good enough and I'd have to eat them. Only an allergy would let me off the hook, so I told them that eggs made me throw up. They said that constituted an aversion to eggs, not an allergy. I said I was allergic to the taste!! I never ate them. I've never been good at doing as I was told, even when I was young!

This hatred has lasted all my life. I'm pretty obsessive about it now. I can't bear the smell of eggs, although bizarrely I quite like the smell of a freshly baked quiche, or an omelette cooking, but no force on earth could get me to eat it!

Eggs stink, let's face it. And they are rubbery, and they come out of chickens' arses...it's no wonder they stink! If Isla has had eggs I make her brush her teeth and use mouthwash before I can give her a kiss. And if we are out and my mum gets an egg sarnie from the supermarket we have separate cans of coke. After that, we go back to sharing, cause I figure she's cleaned her mouth sufficiently with the first can, and will no longer contaminate my own! I cannot even eat something that has been near an egg or, god forbid, touched one.

Strangely, I have absolutely no problem with raw eggs. I can cook with them, like baking and stuff, and have no problem separating the yolk, or getting raw egg on my hands, but if it was cooked egg I'd have a fit of the screaming heebie jeebies!

See, not rational in the slightest - obsessive. A totally irrational fear - therefore it must be a phobia*! Shit, should have realised that at school!

*ovophobia - irrational fear of eggs!
NB. Photographs Not My Own Work

27 September, 2008

Grisly Galloway Legend

Isla had to read an interesting story to the rest of her class, and at the end of year show. We were talking about it, and I told her this tale, and she loved it! Kids love gore don't they! It is simplified for the sake of translating it into french! Tried it on Babelfish and it turned Sawney Bean into Sawney l'haricot!!

Sawney Bean
One of the most famous legends to come from South-West Scotland is that of the Scottish cannibal murderer, Sawney Bean.Alexander “Sawney” Bean lived in South West Scotland in the sixteenth century. He was a very evil man and he was married to a very evil woman called Black Agnes.They lived in a town, but decided to move to a remote cave on the coast. This cave became their home for twenty five years.

They used to attack travellers on the road, steal their possessions, murder them and then eat them.They did this for twenty five years without being caught. They had many children, and eventually there were 48 people in the Bean family. This meant they could attack larger groups of travellers.

There were many investigations about the disappearances of all the travellers, but nothing was ever found. Many times the travellers had been seen in taverns, and the owners of the taverns were often suspected of the murders and arrested.

One day, a young couple were travelling along the road when they were attacked by the Bean family. They quickly killed the wife, but the husband fought very hard, and the people from the town arrived, and the Bean family escaped.

They reported the crime to the authorities and a search party started to look for the Beans, with a team of Bloodhounds and King James. After a long period of searching, the bloodhounds smelt the cave and led the team to it.

As the search team went into the cave they saw arms and legs all over the cave, and all the possessions of the victims.

Sawney Bean and his family were captured and imprisoned in Edinburgh. The men had their arms and legs removed and bled to death, and the women were burnt at the stake.

No one knows if the story of Sawney Bean is true or if it is just a legend. It is possible, because cannibalism did exist in Scotland in the sixteenth century, but there is no evidence that Sawney Bean really did exist.

Always Copy From The Original

A young monk arrives at the monastery. He is assigned to helping the other monks in copying the old canons and laws of the church by hand.

He notices, however, that all of the monks are copying from copies, not from the original manuscript. So, the new monk goes to the head abbot to question this, pointing out that if someone made even a small error in the first copy, it would never be picked up! In fact, that error would be continued in all of the subsequent copies.

The head monk, says, 'We have been copying from the copies for centuries, but you make a good point, my son.' He goes down into the dark caves underneath the monastery where the original manuscripts are held as archives in a locked vault that hasn't been opened for hundreds of years.

Hours go by and nobody sees the old abbot . . . So, the young monk gets worried and goes down to look for him. He sees him banging his head against the wall and wailing. 'We missed the R ! We missed the R ! We missed the R !' His forehead is all bloody and bruised and he is crying uncontrollably. The young monk asks the old abbot, 'What's wrong, father?' With A choking voice, the old abbot replies, 'The word was...


26 September, 2008

Design Facts and Faults

The human body, in my opinion, is flawed. The processes it goes through are so disgusting that it must be attributed to design faults. On the other hand though, some things are so cool they must have been designed to balance the icky stuff out!

For example:

1. What idiot in the design team though that to get out toxins etc it would be just a fabby idea to poo, pee and vomit? Added to that, if you eat asparagus it turns bright yellow and smelly, and tell me why exactly if you eat sugar puffs your pee stinks of them?!

2. Whilst filtering dirt with tiny hairs and trapping it with mucus, our nose decides to turn this into snot. Yummy! (Not!) - but obviously handy for peckish children!

3. To expel gases from your body it comes out as burps (not so bad) or stinky farts! And the speed of a fart being expelled has been clocks at ten feet per second!

4. Beards - I just don't understand them! They grow approximately 140mm per year, just so a man will spend 3,350 hours removing 8.4 meters of stubble!

5. After eating too much, your hearing is less sharp. Why would this happen?

6. The strongest muscle in the human body is the tongue - perhaps not so much a design fault as a little bonus!

7. A sneeze zooms out of your mouth at over 100 m.p.h. Coughs clock in at about 60 mph.

8. You use an average of 43 muscles for a frown. You use an average of 17 muscles for a smile. Every two thousand frowns creates one wrinkle.

9. The brain operates on the same amount of power as 10-watt light bulb.

10. The human brain feels no pain. Phew that's good then. So, I can get shot in the head and not feel it! Oh, hang on, the pain receptors in my brain will tell me I have a sore head anyway. So, no win situation really. My brain can't feel pain, but it feels like it can. Bugger!

11. During your lifetime, you will produce enough saliva to fill two swimming pools. Mmm, that's nice!

12. The largest cell in the human body is the female egg and the smallest is the male sperm. No wonder procreation is difficult for some people! There's a disadvantage before they even start!

13. Most men have erections every hour to hour and a half during sleep...and they waste them!!!!

14. You use 200 muscles to take one step. And still I don't lose weight!!

15. It is not possible to tickle yourself. Oh, thank god for that! So who's been making me giggle in my sleep? Must be ghosties!

16. Right-handed people live, on average, nine years longer than left-handed people do. Cool!

17. Women burn fat more slowly than men, by a rate of about 50 calories a day. Ah bollocks!

18. The width of your armspan stretched out is the length of your whole body. If you try this, let me know if it's right!

19. Your ears secrete more earwax when you are afraid than when you aren’t. Eeugh!

20. Your body gives off enough heat in 30 minutes to bring half a gallon of water to a boil. So when I say I'm feelin' hot tonight, I mean it!

Hope you found these facts interesting.

This is weird but true - now make clockwise circles with your right foot. While doing this draw the number 6 in the air with your right hand.Your foot will change direction!

25 September, 2008

Recipe Folder

You may or may not know that I was a chef when I lived in UK (depending on whether you read the old blog or not), and have had numerous catering jobs since I have lived here. I had a last minute job for a week this year, working with a friend, and we were not as organised as we could be.

This year's menu:


Tomato & Bacon Soup



Arctic Roll


Egg Mayonnaise

Herby Roast Leg of Lamb


Tarte au Citron


Samosas (home made)

Chicken Curry,

Rice & Naan


Peach Sorbet with Floc (local fortified wine)


Parma Ham & Melon

Confit de Canard,

Dauphinoise Potatoes,

Roast Mediterranean Vegetables


Crème Caramel


Rocket, Pear, Walnut and Parmesan Salad

Summer Chicken (Roasted with garlic, ginger and lemon)

Creamy Sauce



Pears Poached in White Wine

Fruits of the Forest


Stuffed Mushrooms on Pasta in a White Wine,
Mushroom and Cream Sauce

Blanquette de Veau (French Veal Stew)
New Potatoes


Millefeuille (Vanilla Slice)


Assiette Exotique (samosas, spring rolls, butterfly prawns etc)

Linguine with Prawns, Scallops and Mussels with Garlic and Chilli


Raspberry Tart

So, in a bid to be more organised for next year, I am making a recipe folder. My mum and I sat by the pool (oh the hardship!) a few weeks ago and went through a lot of the recipe books and chose the best ones. The idea is to have the folder organised into section – salads, pasta, starters, mains, desserts. That way, instead of rushing a menu together as I had to this year (and it wasn’t hugely imaginative) I can be a lot more organised next year and have lunches and dinners pre-planned. I should be able to pre-plan the shopping and everything next year, hopefully making things easier and more economical.

I’m actually quite enjoying doing this – it’s making my mouth water! There are some of the recipes that I’m definitely going to have to try out!

The two recipes above are ones that I have recently tried. They are both delicious. If you would like larger copies, don't hesitate to ask via the comments section, as with all the recipes I will be posting. Also, if you need a translation it's not a problem.

24 September, 2008

The Beauty Of Sarcasm

After answering some questions in a previous post I was reminded of my love for sarcasm. One of the questions was “Do I use sarcasm?”. Well, the answer to that is most definitely yes, and I appreciate the sarcasm of others.

As I said in answering the question, I think that intelligent people like and use sarcasm, without offending each other. It is the unintelligent who do not understand it and find it offensive.
Find below some of my favourite sarcastic quotes.

Sometimes I need what only you can provide: your absence.

- Ashleigh Brilliant

"No, Groucho is not my real name. I am breaking it in for a friend."

"I never forget a face, but in your case I'll be glad to make an exception."
"I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book."
"I have had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn't it."
"I didn't like the play, but then I saw it under adverse conditions - the curtain was up."
- Groucho Marx

"He was happily married - but his wife wasn't."
- Victor Borge

"I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it." "Honesty is the best policy -- when there is money in it."
"Familiarity breeds contempt -- and children."
"Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself."
"I would like to live in Manchester, England. The transition between Manchester and death would be unnoticeable."
- Mark Twain

"I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure."
- Clarence Darrow

"If you ever become a mother, can I have one of the puppies?"
- Charles Pierce

"You have delighted us long enough."
- Jane Austen

"A modest little person, with much to be modest about."
- Winston Churchill

"He has Van Gogh's ear for music."
- Billy Wilder

"I wish we were better strangers."
"I'll always cherish the original misconception I had of you."
- Unknown
John Cleese
- I find it rather easy to protray a businessman. Being bland, rather cruel and incompetent comes naturally to me.

Adrienne E. Gusoff
- Just when you realize life's a bitch, it has puppies.

W. Somerset Maugham
-She plunged into a sea of platitudes, and with the powerful breast stroke of a channel swimmer, made her confident way towards the white cliffs of the obvious.

Johnathan Swift
- Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.

Childhood Days Part 3

We had a school farm. Some afternoons after lunch we had activities at school, and my favourite was the school farm. I was a member of the young farmers club! We learnt very basic animal facts, and got to care for an animal. I had a rabbit called Jigsaw!We also had ducks, pigs and goats. The pigs were bred for meat. I didn’t know this at the time, but apparently once they were old enough, they were taken away from their mothers and off to the abbatoir in the school bus! Apparently you could hear them squealing all over the school. Not a very nice thought – but I don’t remember it, so it hasn’t scarred me or made me a vegetarian or anything!
Even the school trip to the abattoir (in the very same bus) couldn’t manage that! We had some great school trips, and this one was a cracker! Some bright teacher obviously got it into their heads that a visit to the abbatoir would be useful and entertaining for us! Not only was it the abbatoir, but also cold storage. So, the animals arrived, were killed, then skinned and gutted and hung. Walking through the cold storage section we could see all these carcasses hanging from hooks with the flesh on them still twitching because they had only been dead a very short time. I’m sure some of the kids must have had nightmares! We had to write a review of all our school trips, complete with pictures, and my friend RP drew a picture of the hanging carcasses going “twitch twitch”!!
Another great school trip was when we went to the local Carlsberg brewery. Carlsberg made two beers (as far as I am aware) for Malawi, and it was brewed locally. These were Carlsberg Green and Brown. My dad loved the greens, and so did most of his friends.
The brewery also manufactured Coca Cola, Fanta and Sprite – and probably several other drinks too. I remember the cream soda we could get – my mum loved it! It was a vivid green colour, and tasted revolting! Also, you could get Grape Fanta there – the only other place I have seen that was in Japan! I tried it when I was there on holiday, and it tasted just the same! Brought so many memories back! Anyway, I don’t remember much about the visit except that we didn’t get to taste the beers – I bet the teachers and accompanying adults did though! I think we got to taste a soft drink!

What I miss is biltong – but only the beef stuff, not the game. I’d love a bit of biltong! When I was in Japan I found beef jerky, which was similar, and I lived on it for a fortnight!
I can’t remember much else tonight – but when I do, I’ll let you know!
NB. Photographs Not My Own Work

23 September, 2008

Getting to know me

1. What time did you get up this morning? 10.30
2. Diamonds or pearls? Diamonds
3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema? Brokeback Mountain
4. What was the last TV program you watched? The X Factor!
5. What did you have for breakfast this morning? Piccolini Pizzas! (well it was lunchtime by the time I ate!)
6. What's your favorite cuisine? Indian / Chinese / Thai/ Italian - NOT French!
7. What foods do you dislike? I will eat most things but can't abide eggs! I am allergic to the taste - that was always my excuse when they tried to make me eat them at school - an allergy was fine, an aversion was not!
8. What is your favorite chip flavor? Plain crinkle cut, with sweet chilli sauce or garlic mayo - or I really like cheesy quavers but can't get them here!
9. What's your favorite CD at the moment? Amy MacDonald - This is The Life
10. What kind of car do you drive? Peugeot 807 & Vauxhall Corsa
11. Favorite sandwich? Bacon
12. What characteristics do you despise? Deceitfulness, Two facedness
13. Favorite item of clothing? Jeans, boots
14. If you could go anywhere in the world on vacation, where would you go? Australia
15. What color is your bathroom? White
16. Favorite brand of clothing? Not really got a favourite brand - fave underwear is M&S though if that helps!
17. Where would you like to retire to? A croft in Scotland
18. Favorite time of the day? Late night
19. What was your most memorable birthday? 22nd - I gave birth to my daughter!
20. Where were you born? Portsmouth, England
21. Favorite sport to watch? Rugby, Winter Olympics
24. What fabric detergent do you use? Maison Verte - best french non-bio
25. Named after anyone? Yes, my great grandmother
26. Do you wish on stars? Yes
27. When did you last cry? Within the last week, watching some TV programor other - I'm a real softy!
28. Do you like your handwriting? Yes, but my hand doesn't - it gets tired - so much more used to typing now.
29. If you were another person, would YOU be friends with you? Definitely
30. Are you a daredevil? Hmmm, about some things, yes. But about others I can be a real wuss.
31. Do looks matter? Not to me (you should see some of my exes!), but to a lot of people they do.
32. How do you release anger? Lose my temper spectacularly, and simmer down fairly quickly
33. Where is your second home? Where is my first? It's not here, that's for sure.
34. What were your favorite toys as a child? Barbie and Lego and Playmobil
35. What class in High School was totally useless? Social Education and RE, PE too cause I was normally in the toilets having a smoke with Lara
36. Do you use sarcasm a lot? Yes, I love sarcasm. I believe that only intelligent people can get away with using sarcasm and the unintelligent don't understand it anyway
37. Favorite movies? Big Fish, Memoirs of a Geisha, Timeline, Anne Of Green Gables
38. What are your nicknames? Don't really have any
39. Do you untie your shoes when you take them off? No, they're not done up when I wear them - on trainers anyway. Boot laces I have to undo.
40. Do you think that you are strong? Physically yes, mentally I can be. It depends what about.
41. What's your favorite ice cream flavor? Macadamia Nut Brittle - Haagen Dazs, Hazelnut - Carte D'Or
42. What are your favorite colors? Purple, Blue
43. What is your least favorite thing you like about yourself? I'm actually very shy, although you'd never know it.
44. Who or what do you miss the most? I miss all my friends in Scotland, and I miss Scotland itself.
46. What color pants are you wearing? White
47. What are you listening to right now? Gabriella Cilmi
48. Last thing you ate? Piccolini Pizzas
49. If you were a CRAYON what color would you be? Purple
50. Last person you talked to on the phone? My mum
51. What is the first thing you notice about the opposite sex? Their eyes - as long as they have beautiful eyes the rest of their features aren't important. Also humour.
52. Favorite Drink? Diet Coke, Smirnoff Ice
53. Do you wear contacts? No, not even glasses
54. Favorite Day(s) of the Year? June 2nd. Mine and Isla's (my daughter) birthday.
55. Scary Movies or Happy Endings? Happy endings - but only because there wasn't a sad endings option.
56. Summer or winter? Summer for the weather and winter for sitting by the fire
57. Hugs OR Kisses? Both - not a fair choice
58. What Is Your Favorite Dessert? Ice cream
59. What Book(s) Are You Reading? Re-reading for about the 17th time Drums Of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon
60. What's On Your Mouse Pad? A labrador puppy - matches my own two!61. What Did You Watch Last night on TV? The X Factor
62. Favorite Smells? Cut grass, rain on dry soil
63. Rolling Stones or Beatles? If I have to choose one - The Beatles - I think both bands are vastly overrated
64. Countries visited ? Scotland (lived in), England, Ireland, Wales, Malawi (lived in), Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, South Africa, Brazil, USA, Saudi Arabia, France (live in), Spain, Monaco, Japan

Childhood Days Part 2

My school was pretty cool. The school day started at 7.20am and finished at midday. I don’t remember any of the lesson details really, but they weren’t that exciting! The coolest thing we had at school was a pond. The pond was fenced off, with good reason, because in it, lived a baby crocodile! I’m not quite sure why – the headmaster must have thought it a good idea at the time!! I remember one morning assembly when he had to stand up and say “Would the pupils please stop throwing stones at the crocodile. Crocodiles don’t like this!”
I never liked the headmaster, and the feeling was entirely mutual. He got some cool pets though! He was (I think) chairman of the local Flora and Fauna Society, which meant he was something to do with the local zoo. N fact, I think it must have been run by the society, because my dad and I often had to feed the animals there. I think members took it in turn.

Before my mum and dad got married, he went to feed the animals one New Years Day. He was probably very hungover, if not still a little pissed from the night before. He got to the lions’ cage, and rested one foot up on the side of the cage. He hadn’t yet got around to getting the meat out of the bucket when the lioness, thinking this was her lunch, grabbed at his foot with a claw. She didn’t do a lot of damage, he doesn’t even have any scars from it I don’t think, but he does have a medical certificate which says “mauled by lion”. That’s quite cool – must keep it as an heirloom!

Anyway, back to the original point. The zoo had acquired a new lion cub, Shumba (Chichewa – language of Malawi - for lion), but for some reason, before it went into the zoo, it had to live with the headmaster for a while. He hosted a “Meet the lion cub” party. My mum went along with a camel coloured skirt on, and the lion cub took one look at her, thought “Mummy” and flung his front legs around her legs!! He was a very sweet lion cub – when school was finished he used to go down to the infants playground and play on the swings! When he got big enough, he did go to the zoo, and we always made sure we said hello to him.
He also had a couple of duikers (pronounced dyker), Sonny and Gwapi (which is, I think, Chichewa for duiker). I think he just kept them as pets. Gwapi was very sweet natured and friendly, but Sonny wasn’t. In fact, one day he went for the headmaster with his sharp little horns, gouging all the way up one leg. Looking back, it was a terrible thing to happen to him, and must have hurt like hell, but as a bunch of small kids who hated him anyway, no one felt any sympathy for him. In fact, I don’t think many parents had much sympathy either, as he had been told that the animal should be in the zoo, and not be kept as a pet. He did go to the zoo after that, and any time I went with my dad I always went to say hello to him, and he would nuzzle my hand through the fence. I think he kept Gwapi at home though – I don’t remember her ever going to the zoo.
My mum went to see the headmaster one day – I have no idea what about. She knocked and walked into the office, to be met by an empty room. Only it wasn’t quite empty – in front of her was a scaly anteater! She hurriedly shut the door, and went to the secretary, to reassure herself that she hadn’t been seeing things! Sure enough, there was a scaly anteater in the office! Everyone just took it in their stride though!

NB. I cannot take the credit for any of these photographs as they are not mine! The only one that belongs to me is the one of me feeding a duiker when I was small.

22 September, 2008

I'd Vote For Him - What About You?!

Talent Show Sob Stories

Last night my friend Joocey and I were discussing the appalling lack of talent on so-called talent shows like the X Factor. We decided that the only thing to do was blog about it, so we put our heads together and wrote the following post. Surprisingly enough it was quite easy, despite my being in France and her being in Taiwan! The advantages of the Internet!

TV Sob Stories

Occasionally, I - like most other normal people - enjoy watching reality TV. Of course, there are a lot of people who say that they hate it, but they’re blatantly lying. Let’s face it, who doesn’t love a good old dose of car crash TV? And those that say they don’t are just moralistic uber-pc do-gooders who just won’t admit that they relish watching others squirming in embarrassment for their pleasure. Go on, admit it...you love it, too.

Alternately, there is the other brand of moralisers out there who refuse point blank to watch the horrors of reality TV because they prefer to take the cultural high ground. They clearly share the snob gene with Brian Sewell: “Oh, I couldn’t possibly watch such profanity. It does yah dah yah dah yah such a disservice.” Get real – this is modern life, you old codgers – the only reason you refuse to watch such claptrap is because it scares you to think you might actually like it. I mean, God forbid that the chaps down at your super-exclusive-members-only-50-year-waiting-list golf club should find out you actually quite like Davina’s interviews with those hideous media-whores on Big Brother. And happen to think she’s a bit of a hottie, too. God forbid, indeed.
So, over the last few weeks the new series of The X Factor has been invading the household via the living room TV. It starts with the audition stage – cue a plethora of freaks and sob stories to fill the TV screen. How many genuinely talented people are there out there? Because it appears that the producers haven’t noticed those ones – at least 50% of the screen time is filled with delusional warblers and people who’ve recently lost a loved one. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this meant to be a talent show? With the emphasis actually being on talent? Suspiciously, it would appear that by attending a funeral, one can suddenly develop the lung capacity of Maria Callas. Or not, as the case more often appears to be. And it’s clearly evident that merely being able to dress and act like Vicky Pollard would not indicate you will be following her famous footsteps and featuring in a major TV show. (Sorry, what? She’s just a character? NO WAY?! Oh, but they are real? The ones on the X Factor? Seriously?)

However, it has to be said that I generally can’t be bothered with the live shows, but I do love watching the auditions. I think it’s probably because it’s genuinely like watching a modern freak show! Let’s face it, before political correctness actually crept in and ruined all that was good and sordid about this country, the Victorians indulged their desire for freakiness in some seriously disturbing public entertainment. And to think that we have followed in their grand footsteps by creating... well, the terminally bland Big Brother, the utterly pointless Fame Academy (which has, up til now, produced, uhm... no-one famous), and the cheesy sparkle-athon known as Strictly Come Dancing. And of course, the crème de la crème of nastiness - that over-indulgent Simon Cowell masterpiece called X Factor. OR is it Pop Rivals – the Superstars...or, Pop Idol? I mean, what’s next, Popsickle? The ultimate reality show, where badly performing popsters are eliminated weekly, by being swiftly decapitated by a scythe-wielding agent of Death (or Ant and Dec under a big black cloak? Whichever is cheaper to hire. I’d cautiously bet that Death might be the inexpensive option. Those over-exposed Geordie pixies seem to have taken control of national television, and maybe even the world...).

OK – admittedly, I do wonder which (clearly tone-deaf and/or sociopathic) moron initially told these people that they can sing, for crying out loud? Truly, some can, but the vast majority can’t. And someone out there was responsible for setting the seeds of thought into their mind... although I suspect under rather dubious circumstances. I can only imagine the drunken night out that culminated in an impromptu singing session down the high street:

Fred: “Awwwwwwwww, wooooo, ahhhuhhhhhh, Arrroooooo....I looooooooove yooohoooooo.”
Jimmy: “Huuuh. Yerrr noo a bad shingaaa ur ye there Freddy-boy, eh eh? You should get yourshelf on that thur tel-vish-un show. The wan wish th’ fit preshenters... watsh ‘er namesh? Dannnneeeee... or Sherulyl? Ah, the wan wish big titsh.”
Fred: “Ah... gran’ plansh that... Aahhhh looove yooooohooo...Yesh, grand plansh.....Ah cud sharm them wish me magneshic pershonalitaaay.”
Jimmy: “Ahh’ll cam wish ye fur moral support, shall ah?”
Fred; “We cud doo a djoo-yet, eh, mate?”
Jimmy: “Fook-aye, ahm no a bad warblur mashelf. Lesh go fir it.”

BUT, what really really REALLY annoys me is the way that a lot of these people have sob stories. And they all seem to follow the same dramatic vein:
Fred/ a.k.a Sob Story Sucker: “Oh Simon, please say ‘Yes’. My wife’s brother’s dog died 23 ago and I’m doing it for him”.
Simon Cowell: “What? You’re doing this for a DOG?”
Fred/Sob Story Sucker: “No, no... for my wife’s brother. He was so heartbroken over the death of Mr. Froufrou, that he said he’d never get over the trauma unless I one day won a national talent contest. He knew I could do it, see. He always had faith in me. Sadly, he died not long after that. Threw himself under a steamroller mending the potholes outside our house. Flattened like a pancake. Nothing we could do about it, except scrape him up with a wooden spatula. Poor chap – he’d always been so concerned about his looks, but when we scraped him up we never did find his toupee. Had to be buried without the bleedin’ toupee. Can you imagine how odd he looked in that coffin? 5ft wide and 6ft tall? All two-dimensional and BALD? It traumatised the wife, I tell you. She hasn’t spoken in 23 years... she’s waiting for the sign that he’s resting in peace in heaven. I reckon that’ll happen when I win this here competition, mind. Though it’s taken me 23 years to pluck up the courage to come and try out for these auditions – I never felt I had it in me (and to be fair, I was enjoying the peace and quiet from the missus). But lately, I’ve been practicing, and I think I’ve got dead good. I practice with my mate Jimmy, an’ he says I’m dead good, too.”
Simon Cowell: “Well, I suggest you practice for another 23 years, and you may just about be good enough to enter a talent competition at Butlins. For the under-fives, perhaps. In the meantime, I think your wife’s brother had a lucky escape. He hasn’t had to hear you sing for the last two decades.”
Fred/Sob Story Sucker: “Is that a ‘Yes’, then?”
Simon Cowell: “No.”

Honestly, there was one bloke this year who said he was doing it so that his real family could see him on TV, be proud of him, and hopefully get in touch. According to the newspapers, it turns out he was brought up by his grandmother, not a foster family as he had claimed, and he had known his dad all along. It was a totally fictional sob story, and completely unnecessary, as he was quite good anyway.

Of course, for every series of super-naff sob stories that disguise the lack of even a modicum of talent, there’s always one or two that bring tears to my eyes. This year it was the bloke who came on and told the judges that his wife had given birth to a daughter the year before, and died days afterwards due to complications, leaving him the single dad of a baby girl. She had always told him he was a good singer, and that he should try for the X Factor, and so here he was – doing it for her. It had some of the judges in tears, and I had to wipe my eyes! See, I’m not the entirely heartless sort...

Fortunately, he was amazing too, and so hopefully he’ll go far. But it does frustrate me that most of the stories though are clearly to garner the sympathy vote from the judges, and most of them shouldn’t even be there in the first place. There are some truly talented musicians out there who, for the lack of insanity and/or trauma in their lives, have never got further than the sitting-in-a-big-hall-being-scouted-by-producers stage. Cos I bet you a squillion dollars (don’t even know how much that is – about half a pence, perhaps) that the judges don’t even get to see a fraction of the people who are actually waiting to audition... they’re pre-selected before the real judges even get to breathe in the same postcode, never-mind the same room. Which begs the question – how much of the judges’ time is spent watching terrible renditions of Whitney and Britney by people who have clearly fallen off the talent tree and hit every crappy branch down, only to land in a great big pile of manure? And how genuinely frustrating must it be to encounter a never-ending succession of mediocre, fame-hungry, delusional nut-jobs and vomit-inducing, saccharine-sweet sob stories? And still be polite? Simon Cowell seems positively gentlemanly in this light. Hmmm, I’m beginning to like him more now, to be fair...
OH, but before I finish - another program which has caught my attention recently is ‘This Morning’ – ITV’s flagship daytime show. I normally really enjoy this program – it’s generally not just fluff for bored housewives, but has some really interesting people on, and some thought provoking interviews with politicians and the like. However, they have recently done a ‘Womens’ Challenge’ (What? Like going into a department store sale and not buy anything?). Ah, no, nothing as blatantly sexist as that, no – It’s more like the idea that some women will be cycling across Cuba, and other will be running the London Marathon. Sporty, goody-goody stuff that makes me feel decidedly unfit. So, anyway, there was a process of elimination by fitness experts (I think) as to who would get through to the final few. And again, I think a lot of them got through on sob stories, along the vein of: “I’m doing this for so-and-so who died last year”. Which makes me wonder if the person who died particularly wanted them to do that, or whether they feel so utterly devoid of genuinely personal reasons that they feel they have to ‘owe someone’... I mean, do it for yourself, for God’s sake! They’re already dead – they won’t actually care two hoots – they’ll be living it up in heaven, having a grand old time dancing away to the house band, drinking margheritas, and flirting with all the saints and archangels (At least, that’s how I envision heaven, dunno about you...). Anyway, they sure as hell won’t be thinking about Cuba, London or charity fun runs. Sorry.
The only one that was admirable was the young woman who had had a baby last year, and said she was doing this for herself to prove that she could, and to get some “me time”. “Good for her” I thought.
But as for all these people who think that no matter how much or how little talent they have, that a sob story – the more long winded and heartbreaking the better – will help them get through to the next round, why? Why bother taking up all that precious time? When someone truly deserving could have had an opportunity? Particularly on the X Factor – don’t they know that the likes of Simon Cowell will simply refuse to put them through if they are crap? And of course, there are the delusional horrors, who simply can’t believe that the judges could dare to say ‘No’. They genuinely are shocked! I can only imagine that a combination of ego, tone-deafness, and an insatiable appetite for fame are the reasons.

Or perhaps it was it just a wind up, instigated by some duplicitous overly-encouraging friends, to see if they’d really apply for the X Factor and make complete arses of themselves on national TV? Well yes, probably. Because people are inherently evil, and we all secretly love to see others make tits of themselves publicly. Which is why we love reality TV in the first place, innit?

Written by KatduGers &nd Joocey.

To visit the X Factor and This Morning websites, click on the logos.

21 September, 2008

Childhood Days Part 1

The other night, when some friends were round for dinner, we got to talking about my childhood.

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that I spent a lot of my childhood in Malawi in Central Africa. It is called “The Warm Heart Of Africa” – and for good reason. When I was there, and it’s probably changed beyond all recognition now, it was one of the friendliest countries it was possible to visit. In the last 22 years, since I left, the country has undergone massive changes, and I don’t know if it is as safe as it once was.
I have read peoples’ blogs on their visits, and it does seem as though, on the surface, not much has changed. It’s still friendly, still beautiful, still unspoilt. But, they are seeing it through tourist eyes, and not through eyes that have seen it before, as it was.

I think Madonna has done the country a disservice. I can’t really explain that comment – it’s just a feeling I have! Anyway, my parents beat her to it by about twenty years – my adoption was carried out in the court in Limbe, Malawi. So, they adopted in Malawi a long time before Madonna!

Which leads me very nicely into the story of my adoption.

I was 3½ when my mum and dad got married. He had always wanted a daughter. We moved to Malawi straight after the wedding, because he was working there. I was about 6 I think when the adoption happened. They had to apply to adopt me, and a Malawian social worker came round to ensure that they were fit to care for me. Now, my mum IS my real mum, but because she was now married, and had a different surname to me, she had to adopt me too! Crazy. Anyway, luckily, they were approved by the Malawian social services – god knows what would have happened if they had been found to be unsuitable!

Anyway, the day of the court hearing arrived, and we all traipsed to the courthouse. All I can remember is that I got a day off school, and I sat and played Mexicans with my dad. The judge got very confused because the solicitor dealing with the case had the same name as my mum’s maiden name and my official surname (I had my dad’s surname since they’d married but it wasn’t official). Also, he obviously had the runs as he kept having to nip out of the court room, and came back several minutes later each time! My dad and I, to kill the boredom, sat on the benches playing Mexicans as I said. If you’ve never played it, don’t get excited! It’s not the most thrilling game! Basically, you draw a circle, with something sticking out of it, and say what it is that the Mexican is doing. Yes, dull – but it made a boring afternoon go a little more quickly!
A Mexican on a tightrope!

Now, when I have to fill in any paperwork, which has to include my birth certificate etc, I have to include the adoption certificate…and it always causes comment! I had to have in translated in France by an accredited translator. It is one of those things that will follow me around for the rest of my life and I will always have to explain it!

At least now I can say my parents were cool before Madonna!
NB. Photographs Not My Own Work - except for the Mexican picture! That's ALL my own work and I'm proud of it!!


This blog is different from the last one, in that there is absolutely no controversial content! Boring? Well...I hope not. I will endeavour to keep it cheerful, interesting and witty.

It may be a tall order, but we'll see how we go!

Two uplifting poems

These poems I am about to post are ones that have been sent to me as forwards, but really deserve a lot more respect than that. They are both about not wasting your life, but to live each day as if it is your last.

As We Grow Up - by Grace Ronsen
As we grow up, we learn that even the person that wasn't supposed to ever let you down probably will.
You will have your heart broken, probably more than once, and it's harder every time.
You'll break hearts too, so remember how it felt when yours was broken.
You'll fight with your best friend.
You'll blame a new love for things an old one did.
You'll cry because time is passing too fast, and you'll eventually lose someone you love.
So, take too many pictures, laugh too much and love like you've never been hurt, because every sixty seconds you spend upset is a minute you'll never get back.
Don't be afraid that your life will end, be afraid that it will never begin.

If I Had My Life To Live Over - by Erma Bombeck

The following was written by the late Erma Bombeck after she found out that she had cancer.

If I had my life to live over, I would have talked less and listened more.
I would have invited friends over to dinner even if the carpet was stained and the sofa faded.
I would have eaten the popcorn in the 'good' living room and worried much less about the dirt when someone wanted to light a fire in the fireplace.
I would have taken the time to listen to my grandfather ramble about his youth.
I would never have insisted the car windows be rolled up on a summer day because my hair had just been teased and sprayed.
I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.
I would have sat on the lawn with my children and not worried about grass stains.
I would have cried and laughed less while watching television - and more while watching life.
I would have shared more of the responsibility carried by my husband.
I would have gone to bed when I was sick instead of pretending the earth would go into a holding pattern if I weren't there for the day.
I would never have bought anything just because it was practical, wouldn't show soil or was guaranteed to last a lifetime.
Instead of wishing away nine months of pregnancy, I'd have cherished every moment and realized that the wonderment growing inside me was the only chance in life to assist God in a miracle.
When my kids kissed me impetuously, I would never have said, "Later. Now go get washed up for dinner."
There would have been more "I love you's".. More "I'm sorrys" ...
But mostly, given another shot at life, I would seize every minute...
look at it and really see it ...
live it...
and never give it back.

Odd French Things and Stereotypes

There are so many odd French things that I could not possibly hope to number them all here. I'll give you a few examples though.

The obvious...snails and frogs legs. Eugh! The frogs' legs in the saucepan actually look like real little bums and legs.

The complete inability to laugh at anything that does not resemble slapstick!

The surprising lack of good looking men, eligible or not! The French have this reputation of being gorgeously handsome and debonaire, but I have yet to meet one who is. No, to be fair, I have met one, but that was in a bus queue in Tokyo! What I have noted is that ALL French men THINK they are marvellously handsome and debonaire, but unfortunately have neither the looks nor the class to back up their delusions!

The little handbag dogs...what is that all about?
Their so-called pop music! With the exception of one good song (very poppy) by a singer called Alizée (Moi Lolita) there is not a french pop song anywhere which would stand up to being un the UK (or even the US) charts.

Related to the above...the obsession with Johnny Hallyday. Why? He is an old man, plastic surgeried to within an inch of his life, think he is wonderful, and makes shit music! Even the saintly Sir Cliff beats him! Eat Cliff's dust Johnny! (Mange la poussière de Cliff, Johnny! - hmmm, on second thoughts, to an english speaker that sounds rather rude! - I'll leave it in anyway!) The drinks some people order in bars! What is with their love for mint juice? Tried it once - tasted like mouthwash! Why people would want to drink this for fun is beyond me!
They criticise non-French people for having the nerve to speak French with an English (or american, australian etc) accent, but when have you ever heard a French person speak english without a French accent? Do we criticise them? No, for some reason we think it's sexy? Go figure!! Also, if you try to speak french they are more concerned with your accent than how correct your french is!
You can get a good three course meal for less than a tenner, and wine is free. However, if you want a soft drink it is extra.

Diet Coke is more expensive per litre than really good red wine!

©Catherine Beldon

France is not a third world country - yet the toilets are like Asian toilets. They are like shower trays in the floor with two raised foot rests and sometimes you get a handle on the wall. You pull your trousers down (or skirt up), crouch, do what you have to whilst praying it's only a pee trying not to splash your feet - this is worse in the summer if you are wearing sandals or flip flops! Then, and this is the important part, you simultaneaously flush and run. The running is ecause the flush tends to go all over the floor just to make sure it's clean! These toilets are often clean (but very far from always!), however they do always stink, and that is from the lack of a u-bend. If you need the loo, don't go in a crappy café - try a MacDonalds (always clean loos) or the better class of supermarket. However, often you'll find that even in the best places the toilets have no seats. The longest part of this section is about toilets - strange!

The doctors urge to prescribe suppositories - this is no myth! Try inserting a suppository which is meant to cure diahorrea -messy business that!

There is a myth that the French smell - now I don't know about city types, but I would say the myth came about from the fact that a lot of them smell! Some seem to subscribe to the belief that excessive perfume covers the smell. Believe me, it doesn't!

The law of the French builder - never do today what can be put off until, oooh, maybe next week, maybe the week after. Sometime anyway!

Normalement - this is a word with no equal in any other language. It means a variety of things, but most commonly is all things being normal, maybe, unless my dog gets run over by a rabid renault 4, and any excuse will do to get in the way of what I promised to do!

Most of the stereotypes about the French are actually true.

They do wear berets sometimes even coupled with stripy tops (although I have yet to see someone dressed like this on a bike with onions around their neck!)
They do smoke gitanes though probably less now with the smoking ban
They really do say "Oh La La" which makes you laugh the first few times until you get used to it

A lot of the men do carry manbags, although this seems to be reserved to the older men - the younger ones think they're too cool!

An exception to the rule - French Gastronomy! The french are meant to be this wonderful gastronomic nation - fine, if you like steak, duck, or foie gras. And Cassoulet...that's basically baked beans and sausages! Heinz do that! Also, the french don't only eat croissants and pain au chocolat (actually called chocolatines) for breakfast - they also like cornflakes and toast! However, they do dunk their croissants in hot chocolate!

©Catherine Beldon

The french are incredible male chauvinists! If I take my car to the garage and tell the mechanic the problem he won't listen to me. But if my dad takes my car to the garage and tells him the same thing, he'll listen. And what my dad knows about cars could be written on the back of a postage stamp!

They do love their cheese. As Charles De Gaulle said "How can anyone govern a nation that has 246 different kinds of cheese?"

©Catherine Beldon

Everything shuts at lunch time - for two hours at least, sometimes three. Even the police station!

Bureaucracy - anything you do requires several tons of paperwork. And if you have to do it again you can guarantee that the paperwork requirements will be totally different, even within the space of a week! And the person with the office stapler is office king! If you hand in papers stapled together, they will remove your staple, and re-staple it with their own regulation staple!
I think that's as far as I can go today! Come visit France! It's a wonderful place, in spite of all its oddities!

NB. Photographs Not My Own Work - except the one marked as such.