Sunday, 28 September 2008

Tears of a clown

I don't have much to say on the subject of Strictly this week. I am entirely deflated. Seeing Anton's look of utter dejection – the expression of a younger man realising he'll never get to dance with the popular girl at school – was almost too much to bear. You will never see a Rachel Stevens or an Alesha Dixon – or even a Christine Bleakley – dancing with an Anton Du Beke. That's just the way the world works. We've all seen Pretty In Pink. I, however, would always pick a Duckie Dale over a Blaine (a major appliance, not a name etc). And this week, even before tonight's elimination, I decided that when I am a contestant on Strictly – dream big, right? I would like Anton as my partner. 

Or Matthew, or course. Everyone loves Matthew. Yesterday I found an extra reason to adore Le Cutler when I saw him singing along to the music he was dancing to. I always find myself doing this, and had previously thought this may prove to be a barrier to my career in professional dance. Happily I was wrong. Hi, is that the Royal Ballet School? We need to talk.

Anyway, last night Miss W drew my attention to the way that the ever-amorous Vincent was planting kisses along the length of Rachel's arm. Smooth moves, Vincenzo. But – rumbled! – I think I know where you're stealing them from…

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Friday, 26 September 2008

High-kicking culture

I am enjoying reading Crusaders, Richard Kelly's gritty saga of politics and community in the North-East of the mid-90s – that is, the 14 pages I have read so far. However, I am simultaneously reading (I have an English degree, this is a skill they teach you) All Balls And Glitter, the autobiography of Craig Revel Horwood. Amazingly, the pages of this just seem to fly by in comparison.

This is my favourite sentence so far:

'The one highlight of my spell as a trainee cook was making a dessert for Suzi Quatro.'

Thursday, 25 September 2008

He hath not forsaken me

This sampler was hanging on the wall of a bed and breakfast we stayed at on Prince Edward Island. I am still not sure what it means. But as a single person, I am filled with optimism and religious fervour. Any time you like, Mr Almighty.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

In which I get excited about seeing someone famous, who turns out not to be famous, but looks instead more like a different famous person

I went to Beckenham late this afternoon to meet Miss R. On the train, I sat across the aisle from a man who, in profile, looked exactly like Bernard Cribbins. He had all the physical trappings of an eccentric, ageing actor – flamboyant red trousers, overcoat, Kangol hat and large reading glasses – and indeed some of the physical trappings of Bernard Cribbins, which is to say a bushy white beard. By chance, I had heard that Bernard Cribbins was appearing on The One Show this evening, so I realised he was unlikely to be on his way to Beckenham, but I reasoned that there may have been some argument over his outrageous dressing room demands which meant his appearance had been cancelled, so I remained optimistic. However, when we both disembarked at Beckenham Junction, and I saw him face-on, it turned out he actually looked far more like Mr Shorovsky, the taciturn music teacher from Fame. Equally exciting, plainly not the same.

This reminded me of a time a few weeks ago when I was on another train, and there was a man sitting facing me, but far away down the carriage, who looked exactly like my dad – same glasses, same pattern of baldness, same eyes alternately soulful and severe (I don't mean one eye soulful, one eye severe, I mean his whole expression alternating), the same ears even. Unless I had slept through a fairly significant breakthrough in medical science, there was, of course, no way it could have been my dad. Yet the likeness was extraordinary – the closest resemblance since I'd last seen my dad, over three years ago. As you can imagine, I couldn't stop looking at him. It wasn't sad or spooky, it was just incredibly strange. However, as we pulled into Charing Cross and everyone began shuffling in their seats and remembering to take all their personal belongings with them, part of his face was no longer obscured by the seat in front, and he suddenly looked exactly like Norris from Coronation Street, who looks nothing whatsoever like my dad.

On my way back home later this evening, I saw a man on the platform of Beckenham Junction station who, in profile, looked exactly like a fox.

And this time, I'm telling you, it was uncanny.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Anyone who had a hobbit

In more music news, sort of, I have found another addition to the canon of every cloud/silver lining episodes that end up on this blog. On this occasion, it is an example of the vice-versa model.

When I returned from holiday to confront the typically mundane contents of my inbox, I was stopped in my tracks by one of the regular emails I am subjected to from various ticket agencies.

Silver lining: Burt bloody Bacharach is playing this year's Electric Proms…

Cloud: …with guest vocalist Jamie Cullum.

Perhaps luckily, this concert has already sold out, saving me from any kind of soul/devil/crossroads dilemma that could be looming. Let's just content ourselves with this instead, shall we?

Monday, 22 September 2008

There are no words

I must share something with you, so you can feel as soiled as I do at this time. I am nothing if not giving. 

If you sell your soul to Facebook, you inevitably end up making friends with people from your past who you were never particularly close friends with when you were at school together. I have several 'friends' who fall into this category.

One of them has genuinely just posted this status update.

'[NAME OF FRIEND] has just heard of female circumsision.....any one had it? LOL never knew it excisted'

This is truly a new personal low.

Kick off your dad's old shoes

While I was on holiday, I didn't pine for Strictly too much as we found a new reality/celebrity collision quietly expiring on Canadian daytime TV – and why would you want to be strolling the beautiful, bracing beaches of Prince Edward Island when you could be holed up in a holiday chalet watching the son of Dee Snider from Twisted Sister performing a glam-thrash version of Ring Of Fire?

But I am getting ahead of myself. I refer to Rock The Cradle, a televisual concept born of MTV, in which the offspring of various rock and pop legends, it says here, compete in the singing arena, following intense coaching from their famous parents, Belinda Carlisle and some people you've never heard of.

We were initially quite excited by Crosby Loggins…

…until, that is, we saw him perform. Perhaps you can guess the identity of his famous father. Suffice to say that Crosby's anaemic version of the Foo Fighters' Long Road To Ruin had none of the spunk that made Kevin Bacon want to run amok and throw some freaky shapes in a deserted warehouse.

Alas, it seems the unthinkable happened, and Rock The Cradle was not an unqualified success on its maiden outing, meaning it is unlikely to regenerate into a British version. An opportunity lost, clearly. Who would not welcome the spectacle of Stella McCartney belting out We All Stand Together?

Hey Paul, does Noel Edmonds know you've borrowed that sweater?

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Back on the floor

Well. I am back from Nova Scotia, Canada, where they really know how to party…

…and they have an entirely better class of McDonald's. 

In case your screen resolution is letting you down, that fancy yellow sign says 'Get your lobster sandwich before they are all gone.' Put that in your Happy Meal lunchbox and eat it.

I am a little drained after a night flight (not to be confused with a Nite Flite, the smooth soul compilation albums of the late 80s, and the only CDs owned by a cafe I worked in when I was 15. Even now I cannot hear Wishing On A Star by Rose Royce without thinking of jacket potatoes with prawns and Marie Rose sauce). Still, despite my fatigue, I have been diligently trying to assimilate all the Strictly Come Dancingness that has happened while I've been away. This much I can report:
  • Is it OK that I never, ever want to see Gary Rhodes wiggling what I can only describe as his arse on my television again? Perhaps I'm trowelling this on a bit thick, but I must insist that if any part of him touched any part of me, even over clothing, I would simply have to vomit, instantly and explosively. He seems just the kind of person who might have watched I'm Alan Partridge and thought, 'Hey, who is this guy? We should get together and throw some ideas around.'
  • After seeing Flavia and Vincent's relationship impaled on the rocks of glorious primetime last year, and Camilla heartbroken as a result of the Cole-Kaplinsky coupling (shudder) previously, who will be the victim of this year's Strictly Love Curse? I'm wondering about Ola and James Jordan. Ola is paired with Andrew Castle, who may not be the bland morning-sofa monkey he appears. He has already said he is 'enjoying' Ola. Christ! Shutupshutupshutupshutup. And Claudia Winkelman believes they have chemistry, which is good enough for me. But the frisson has a further dimension. James Jordan is clearly drawn to Andrew's sporting prowess, as the pair were shown enjoying a quick knockabout (not a metaphor etc) on a handy nearby tennis court when they should have been practising a group-dance pile-up. (Ola was Not At All Happy about this.) Furthermore,  I foresee another tussle between the two rutting stags over who has the coarsest, densest hair. James has the edge at the moment, as Andrew has yet to fully channel Wolverine when it comes to his grooming, as his rival is wont to do. The point is, who's to say this simmering vat of homoerotic competitiveness won't bubble over with a tide of undammable passion.
  • Even if you are as tiny and hot as Ola, a PVC-effect animal-print catsuit is not a friend to any woman.
  • Whichever scriptwriter was responsible for the line 'Strictly Come Dancing takes to the dancefloor' should be dismissed.
  • Thank goodness the dementedly competitive Karen and Great Big Chump Gary were granted a reprieve from elimination. If Karen had finished in big fat last place two years running she might have ingested Bruno's toxic hair dye live on air or chained herself to the bumper of Len Goodman's Jag as some sort of protest.
A couple of dear readers have compiled a wishlist of potential Strictly contestants. It is perhaps a little ambitious – although hey, reach for the stars, BBC, and you sometimes land Stephanie Beacham – but it's certainly food for thought. The top of my list remains Richard Madeley, who was rumoured to be in this year's line-up many months ago. Just imagine a dancing triumvirate of Madeley, Rhodes and Partridge – a near-apocalyptic explosion of fist-pumping, over-exuberant dad-disco, kindled by smart-casual blazers and motivational slogans. Would television ever recover?

Thursday, 11 September 2008

The wallflowers of happiness

This dingy photo is of a strange little pre-fab home near where I live. It sits alongside one other, long-time boarded up, in the middle of a lengthy row of three-storey Victorian houses. These two particular cuckoos settled into their nest after a flying bomb flattened what had gone before in the summer of 1944. 

I love this building – not because it was born of the war, of course, but because, despite the ludicrous gentrification of my part of south-east London, it somehow seems to have resisted the big cartoon hunting net of local property developers, eager to destroy it and breed silver and exposed brick loft apartments in its place. 

And one more thing I love about it is the garden. It's maintained by one silver-haired Hercules, whose greatest labour is apparently to fill the space in front of his home with an enormous, revolving cast of flowers, whatever the season. Even at this time of year, when the afternoon light is in retreat by 5pm, it is under the occupation of a whole army of sunflowers. 

Sunflowers are OK, of course – in an obvious, yellow, attention-seeking kind of way – but I'm never happier than when the wallflowers make an appearance. Their smell reminds me of being very small – whether they grew in our own garden or I used to inhale them on my walk to primary school, I don't remember. Whatever, it's a much more welcome way to remember what it felt like to be that age than, say, being told off at work or having conjunctivitis.

One of these days, when I see Silver-haired Hercules at work outside, I will tell him how much I love his garden, and how it lifts my sagging spirits every morning on my way to the train station, instead of pretending to rummage for something in my bag, in an I-live-in-London-of-course-I-don't-talk-to-my-neighbours kind of way. I will also ask him if he takes requests. I would like to see some pansies, and perhaps some peonies too.

I'm hoping the sunflowers will still be there in a week-and-a-half's time when I will next be reunited with my laptop. I must endure a brief separation from the blog, but I hope we can all bear it cheerfully and I will see you all, in some medium or other, very soon.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

A damp, drizzly September in my soul

I am a person who likes the winter. I like the cobweb-blasting crispness of it, and the rosy cheeks it gives me. I have congenitally pale blue legs, so I enjoy being able to wear tights, and not feeling obliged to expose my freak-limbs to the world while justifying my decision not to fake-tan. I have a winter birthday. Like many others in the northern hemisphere, I also have a winter Christmas. Those are good things. But this particular in-between time of year doesn't half make me feel gloomy – for all sorts of reasons, not just the weather.

Perhaps this is why I am not feeling especially garrulous blog-wise (was ever a hyphen more hatefully employed? remind me never to join those words together again). I could of course regale you every day with what I'm having for tea (breaded haddock) or who I sat next to on the train (no one, day off), but I do have some cyber-standards. Admittedly, few. You are lucky you have escaped my mental list of other American stars of the 80s I would like to see in panto (Mr T as the Genie in Aladdin - 'I ain't gettin' in no lamp' etc. I was scared off by the bitter-tasting subtext of slavery inherent in this piece of potential casting). 

Anyway I have learnt from my peers that the YouTube inbed is the lazy blogger's friend. And I have also learnt that music is one of the great modern medicines. Of course, it is also one of the great communicators, and not just because the Red Hot Chili Peppers said so. It always make me feel connected to my dad, who I am thinking about a lot at the moment, so here is a favourite of his, and of mine. I suspect Bolan might possibly be miming here, but as the French say, ce n'est fait rien. Over to you, Pop Match.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

You shall go to the ball

I spent the rainy afternoon with the Young Miss Joneses. We decided to entertain ourselves with the DVD of Enchanted, since this is just the kind of film that Miss Joneses like to watch.

We had reached the point when everyone involved was preparing for the type of grand ball which occurs in all the best fairytales. Giselle, the cartoon princess adrift in present-day New York City, is enjoying a shopping trip montage sequence with the six-year-old daughter of one of her Love Interests. Giselle is a wide-eyed ingenue, unfamiliar with the subtleties of modern ball etiquette, and the savvy six-year-old warns her not to wear too much make-up as men think it means you're Only After One Thing.

Young Miss Jones The Younger (aged 5) gave some Hard Thought as to what that one ominous thing could possibly be.

'To get married?' she said.

'Yes,' I said. 'That's right.'

Friday, 5 September 2008

Hello Kampala!

While I am now a blogging grand dame of 100 posts and more, I still feel like a rookie most of the time. From observing the big kids in the playground, it seems to be a rite of passage to post at least once about the quirks of your blog statistics. And so while this is a predictable outing, please indulge me - it has been a long week.

One of the things I can tell, using deranged internet science, is that there are a surprising number of people in the world who are googling David Batty. Another thing I can tell is where in that crazy world people are coming from to visit my virtual corner of it. Was that sentence in the right order? Technically, perhaps not. As I said, a long week. Anyway, who would ever have believed that after the predictable ol' UK and USA, I would be getting the most blog tourists from Uganda. Uganda! Sending me more traffic than the far more proximate France, or the famously friendly Canada. It sends quite the international frisson through my provincial world of baking and bad shoes, let me tell you.

So in short, hello Uganda. Two words I wasn't expecting to be saying a few weeks ago.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

The panto's the thing

There is much to be glum about at this time of year, but one light I always look for in the autumn shadows is the revelation of which unlikely celebrities have been hired for panto season. Who has traded a pound of their flesh (which, if casting permits, they can disguise with a menacing hook) for the adulation of near-sighted pensioners and children totally jazzed on carbonated soft drinks and Jelly Babies?  Acts you may not have heard of in 15 or 20 years, who you assumed had perished in an inferno of political correctness and reality television, will rise phoenix-like to give their Baron Hard-Up in Woking or their Buttons in Wolverhampton.

In particular, I am fascinated by the US celebrities who have been lured over here to embrace our long-cherished festivities. In recent years, pantogoers have seen The Fonz as Captain Hook, Patrick Duffy as Baron Hardup, creepy little Mickey Rooney (Hardup again) and Paul Michael Glaser  (another Hook). Fonzie initially motorcycled in to replace Hasselhoff, who got a better offer. It would seem from this that Captain Hook is touted as the Hamlet of panto roles, with Baron Hardup the King Lear. This surely must be one of the ways in which the stars are sold the gig by 'their people'. Like, 'Hey! You're doing theatre! In England! They invented theatre! You'll be getting really raw with your craft.' And 'Panto's, like, a rilly, rilly old custom. Y'know, like Shakespeare!' Either that, or it's the mythologically enormous paypacket that panto purportedly dangles.

Little do our American cousins realise that come mid-January, they'll have contracted tonsilitis five times as it is passed back and forth, in and out of the dressing rooms. And as well as their costume, lovingly stitched from the finest manmade fibres, they'll be wearing a large coldsore every night, which has been fed and watered by the freezing English weather. After they've performed their cover of Rihanna's Umbrella, while dancing with Faye from Steps and a dozen children twirling umbrellas, and helped cook a slapstick wedding breakfast for the finale using a giant box of cereal with Credit Crunch written on it, they'll be spending every lonely night sleeping in a grubby Holiday Inn, making up complimentary sachets of Cadbury's Options with their own hot tears, dreaming of sunshine and good dentistry.

Anyway, my point is, this year the Churchill Theatre in Bromley have hired Hollywood In The 80s' own Steve Guttenburg. I saw a bit of Steve on Dancing With The Stars – the inferior US translation of Strictly Come Dancing. He is the most relentlessly positive person I have ever, ever seen in my life. He makes Tom Daly seem like Leonard Cohen. He really does feel grateful and blessed for every sorry opportunity that has ever come his way, and he has the permanently beaming expression of a child star, yet the slightly artificial hairline of a middle-aged Californian actor. I hope he brings the man from the Police Academy films who makes all the funny noises as the kids would love it, and he could probably use the regular work. Miss R has promised she will come and see this with me, as I long to see whether this Overgrown Pollyanna can keep smiling through his sub-standard accommodation and four weeks being upstaged by two paunchy stagehands wearing a giant cow's outfit,  but I suspect that the prohibitive price of theatre tickets In This Country will prevent us. (Dear Melvyn Bragg, I know not where else to turn, but I am concerned our children can longer afford to go to the theatre etc etc). Still, if the Churchill Theatre could also hire Ted Danson and Tom Selleck to appear with Steve as Three Men Playing Ugly Sisters, there is no ticket price too high.

Monday, 1 September 2008

From Miss Jones to K Knightley

Dear Keira

Hi, how have you been? etc

Let me be upfront from the start and say that I probably won't be going to see your new 'queen of hearts' costume drama. Hope that's OK.

Anyway, to business. I was on the train home tonight, reading the London Paper over someone's shoulder (representing no. 53 on the list of Things I Find Unbearably Annoying When Other People Do Them, But When It's Me  – Well, Then That's Perfectly OK). And there you were, quoted as saying that many women hate you, and what is more, you don't care. It is admirable, of course, to cast off the opinions of others – no one should spend their days being buffeted by other people's narrow-minded scowls and tutting. This is the stuff of Year 3 assembly.

But if I may elaborate, you were suggesting that you believed that women disliked you because of your appearance – in particular, your tendency towards skinny. 

Keira, Keira, Keira. Women don't hate you because you're pretty or thin. They hate you because you're an idiot. Not all the time, naturally, but perhaps a little bit when you say things like this. We may occasionally wince when we see the bones of your spine protruding through your dreamy ivory skin, but let me assure you that this does not mean we despise the very essence of your being. 

Women don't hate beautiful, thin women. They hate beautiful, thin women who are shallow, who are inane, who are bitter, who downplay their intelligence, who change their behaviour around men, who generalise about other women, who assume the only reason other women could dislike them is because of the way they look. We also, by the way, hate fat, ugly women who do these things. We are an equal-opportunities tough crowd.

And furthermore, I would say that most women positively love beautiful thin women – there are few women who would not admit to having a crush of some degree of intensity on Angelina Jolie, Julianne Moore, Natalie Portman, Cheryl Cole, or similar. All very thin, and very beautiful. 

Most women, I would venture, genuinely like Cameron Diaz. Not because of how she looks, although there is that, but more because she doesn't appear to take herself too seriously, she works hard and she clearly loves her friends. The fact that her stomach is flatter than Liu Xiang's mum's Olympics party is not sufficient in itself to initiate a witch hunt. Do you see what I mean?

I do understand that newpapers occasionally get these things wrong. So perhaps you were misquoted. If that is the case, you will understand how vexing it is when someone is ill-informedly passing judgments on your behalf. 

Chin up

Miss Jones (woman, non-hater) x