Tuesday, August 22, 2006

When all else fails

...there is always toilet humour. After another long day (oh god, it's only Tuesday), I think that if I tried to write anything, my brain would probably implode through sheer exhaustion. So instead, I leave you with a photo, Poo Door i from my late night rambles through Brighton. Whilst some may not find such low humour funny, it amused me for most of the pissed walk home.


Monday, August 21, 2006

(un)reality tv

So, Big Brother is over, to the usual cries of "Fix!" from the audience. And most probably it was but then, what do you expect? It's reality TV Jim, but not as we know it. If you're so naive as to believe that what you see is un-edited, raw footage, then you are mistaken my friend. As LA Boy's blog shows, the footage that we see is moulded, shaped and edited to within an inch of it's life to create something vaguely interesting for the viewing public to obsess about or condemn.

Many moons ago, during my A-levels, I was wiling away time better spent revising watching what was probably Big Brother 2's live feed at some God awful hour of the morning where for the most part, you end up watching other people doing what you should be, sleeping.

I watched as two housemates, Spencer and Kate -remember them? He disappeared to an oblivion of 'aren't you that bloke?' and she went on to make a fitness video, shag some footballers and appear in Heat's worst dressed section- had a race in which they had to complete a series of obstacles whilst hideously pissed on cheap plonk. One of the tasks involved crawling into a tube and exchanging clothes while still in the tube. On the live feed, it all appeared a harmless drunken game, a little flirting inside the tube. The next night, watching the same footage again, it was spun far more provocatively, innuendo heaped on. That was the moment that I realised that reality tv is not television portraying reality. No better than some soap with a cast of amateur actors, the more beautiful and weird, the better.

And every soap has it's star - this year, that star is Pete and fair play, I say. I didn't want any of the others to win it any more than him, nor any less. He had as much to gain as any of them and on top of his £100,000 prize, he has two labels vying for his band's attention and will no doubt be on the cover next week. And yes, perhaps he is deserving because he has overcome so many obstacles but during the final week, I couldn't help feeling that he had an awareness of his popularity beyond the house and played to it.

Meh, what do I care? I may have watched the show from start to finish but I never wasted any money voting contestants in or out of the house. I have not contributed to the coffers of the mad house, bar my dedication to it. For although they may not have been the most normal of housemates, I cannot help but have grown fond of the BB7 bunch - after 13 weeks, it's hard not to.

I'm sure I'll be sick of them all within a fortnight, when my local newsagent's resembles a motley (yet glossy) lineup of housemates as their respective magazine covers jostle for prime position. As for the gaping TV hole in my life, I'm sure I'll fill it with enough X factor to numb the pain of loss.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Find Elvis, Get Rich

I wish I had something interesting to post about but bar a rather harrowing car journey through Slough as I tried to find the B&Q with only the directions "straight, right at the roundabout, straight, right at the next roundabout but watch out, it's got a road going through it." What. The. Fuck? How is a roundabout still a roundabout when it has another road running through the middle of it?!

Anyway, I discovered the biggest industrial estate I've ever seen, found the B&Q and after much traipsing around, managed to get everything on my list. Very exciting. Then I ate a happy meal in my car. Wild day.

More exciting news: find Elvis, get $3 million. My bet's on an island in Fiji, in a bungalow between Tupac and L. Ron Hubbard.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Other drivers

So, today, despite the obstacles, I had a reasonably good day at work. Even when the skies opened and tried to flood our office just as I was about to leave and I had to try and stem the tides, I was still in a relatively good mood. But then, on the way home, I hit traffic.

Crawling at speeds that a tortoise could beat isn't even that bad- it gives me time to wind down, look at the scenery and figure out what I'm going to do that evening - but once in a while, someone screws with my little bubble of motoring happiness. There are a variety of ways to make me fill my bubble with rage-laden expletives and most come in the shape of other drivers.

#1 The Overly Cautious Driver

Yes, it would be nice if we could all keep our distance from other cars but this is rush hour, people want to get home and you're leaving a six car gap when you're doing under 10 miles per hour. Unless you're drunk or visually impaired, I'd hope that you'd notice if the person ahead of you broke and you'd be able to do the same with a reasonable response time.

#2 The Under Cautious Driver

We all see them, zipping along at double the speed limit, switching lanes with a blindness to other drivers that means we all end up having to slam on the brakes to accomodate their whims and fancies. Add the fact that most are oblivious to the presence of indicators in their cars and just watch the cars pile up.

#3 Granny in the Fast Lane

You know the score, you're thundering along in the fast lane, sun in the sky and the wind in your hair and suddenly you roll up on a Granny in the fast lane. Now, I don't mind Granny in the fast lane as long as she's going fast. When Granny is going 50mph and I've got some git in a Beemer flashing his lights up my arse, I'd appreciate if the Granny mobile would move over and let him through before he gives her a heart attack with his horn.

#4 Git in a Beemer

Once upon a time, I thought BMWs were lovely cars but then, like in many cases, my tastes changed. Now, BMWs have come to represent everything that I loathe. Put some money in man's pocket and put man in a BMW. Like some strange chemical reaction, Man in car rapidly transforms into Git in a Beemer. On my frequent journeys along the motorways of this country, I have come to encounter Git in a Beemer with an alarming frequency as he speeds up behind me at about 110mph and sits on my bumped, blinding me with the flashing of his blue-tinted-million-watt headlamps until I move out of the way. Should he overtake, like under cautious driver, he will not bother with his indicators and is happy to weave across four lanes to his exit. Wanker.

Of course, he could just be severely distracted by the sat nav, computerised push-this-button dashboard which is probably shouting at him in German whilst massaging his bottom. Or his mobile phone, which no amount of £60 fines is going to stop him doing.

#5 The Ubiquitous White Van Man

No journey along a British road would be complete without the experience of the white knuckle kind that comes courtesy of White Van Man. He will drive like a nutter, stop in completely inappropriate places and scrape along the side of your car if you're not careful.

#6 Anything on two wheels

Rogue cyclists and motorcyclists with attitude are two things that the world could do without. Rogue cyclist can be seen flying through red lights, apparently unaware that traffic will probably be coming from other sides. Bikers with attitude weave in and out of traffic, springing up on you from nowhere and overtaking at stupid points. Buddy, its you - not me - who's going to go flying off their bike to belly flop onto the concrete and shatter their spine.

#7 Bendy buses

Possibly one of the stupidests ideas that Mayor Ken ever had for London. Actually, make that the stupidest idea that anyone ever had.

I could carry on but we'd be here all night and I'd quite like to watch Big Brother.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Fear of flying

There's nothing quite like three weekends of flying to knacker you out completely which is why its taken me two days to haul myself before a computer again. Well, that and the small matter of work, which combined with flying, has left me feeling so tired that I might just keel over. I must admit that sitting on a darkened set today, I could feel my eyes start to drift closed.

But anyway, thanks to those lovely terrorists that are so allegedly determined to blow us infidels out of the sky, my otherwise uneventful trip to Warsaw for my cousin's wedding got thrown into complete chaos. Despite what they told us on the news, there was really no need to turn up early to check-in. In return for our punctuality and vigilant news tracking, my mother and I were forced to sit in a very windy marquee for three hours until our flight was called an hour before departure for us to check in. Outside Heathrow looked like a very strange refugee camp, with everyone sitting on suitcases, sipping lukewarm coffee and eating flapjacks, staring off into space as airline staff milled around looking almost as helpless as we felt. Although, I must say, not as helpless as the poor shmucks who sat outside the terminal for hours on end, only to then have their flights cancelled and letters thrust in their faces. I must say, the relief was palpable when our flight was finally called and we were moved into the heaving terminal where noone seemed to know where they were going.

Armed with our plastic wallets that contained no more than passports and wallets, we got to be felt up by security staff, had everything man-handled twice and I was even asked to spit out my gum for fear that it should contain poison or explosives of some sort. Surely the fact that I was chewing it and clearly still alive would've ruled it out as a potential weapon but the frowning face of the security guard and the sheer number of police milling around carrying very large guns told me that perhaps it wasn't the time to be flippant. However, the gel inserts that I wear in my shoes to realign my back got a particularly overzealous reaction, with the security man plucking them out of my shoes, carefully examining them and then re-examining them. I was anxious that they not be taken away from me, as I need them to stop various leg joints mis-aligning and dislocating and I kept a vigilant watch over them until they came out of the other end of the x-ray machine, the security guards placated that they didn't contain any suspicious circumstances and that they were in fact just Dr Scholl slip-ins.

It was very odd once you got through security to hit the duty free shops and find no queues at the tills and most of the bars half empty, especially during what is typically high-season-hell. We were however, finally allowed the pleasure of magazines and books and I promptly bought out half of WHSmith in order to have something to keep me entertained during the flight.

Oddly enough, when we were returning to London, we weren't allowed anything of the sort. Any newspapers or magazines that people bought inside the duty free area were taken off you at the gate, along with anything vaguely duty-free shaped, which led to quite a few irate passengers having their newly purchased vodka taken off them. I don't know if they got them back at the British end but judging by most of the thundery expressions, I'm guessing, probably not.

Of course, as is typical of my luck, they've reintroduced hand baggage today. However, the people I feel most sorry for are those with long haul flights and/or children. How do you keep a six year old entertained without crayons, computer games or even their favourite stuffed animal? I pity the poor people who have to do a 22 hour flight to Australia or somewhere equally far flung without so much as a book. There are only so many times that the onboard magazine can be flicked through, the duty free on the back pages stared at wistfully.

But then, all of this pales when you start to think about the implications of it all, if they had really succeeded in blowing 10 planes out of the sky, armed with fairly innocuous looking Coke bottles. One thing that I must admit that has puzzled me has been the allowance of watches. Sure, all of the obvious battery powered devices that we usually keep in our hand luggage- such as ipods, laptops and phones- are all stored safely in the hold but what about the fact that some fanatic could be carrying the trigger right there on his wrist, ready to pop out the back of his watch and blow us to kingdom come?

Apparently, this is one battery powered device that the authorities feel is ok, despite the fact that trying to pry open an ipod is a hell of a lot more tricky than opening up a watch. Surely, if the dude next to you suddenly tried to disassemble his ipod on a flight, you'd be far more concerned than if he pried open his watch for a little tinkering. Whilst I'm sure that there'll be some lobbyists who'll shout human rights infringement! and those who'll say we'll all be late for our flights but having not worn a watch for some years now and with airport displays showing the time everywhere, if you're going to take away our battery operated toys, make sure its all of them.

Anyway, I took some pictures of the chaos at Heathrow and as soon as I get round to uploading them, I'll post them up online. Then maybe someone can tell me who the actor sitting opposite me outside one of the marquees was. Its been puzzling me for the last few days and maybe someone out there will be able to identify him from the rather appalling quality sneaky photo that I took.

In the meantime, its back to the grindstone with me.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The influence of clowns

There is nothing better to brighten an otherwise dull and dismal work day than sitting in the studio cafeteria and have It the clown walk in in full makeup, followed by a close to eight foot tall man and other stragglers in weird dress.

It turned out that the extras in random clothing, the giant and the clown were all part of Russell Brand's new commercial, who I also saw strolling around in exceedingly tight black jeans. I seriously do not under how the man breathes in those things and I sincerely hope that he's not planning any children in the near future because god knows there's little hope if he carries on in trousers tighter than my leggings.

However, the best part of the entire day was when It the clown would walk past the work room and those who hadn't yet seen him would have a moment of sheer terror as he strode past on his way to the set or the toilets. I have never seen It but I imagine it would scare the bejesus out of me. I have a very vivid memory of being quite young and watching Sky One when a commercial came on for the televised screening that featured the clown, a shower drain and lots of blood. Since that day, I have looked at plugholes in a completely different way.

Hopefully tomorrow will bring a similarly bizarre distraction.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

When no means NO.

Why is it that when you're on your lunch break, running to get a sandwich and maybe have a quick peak in Topshop, there is always, always a sales girl/credit card pusher/random weirdo who pops up and makes your already painfully fast dash just that little bit more painful. Today, trawling round ye local shopping centre, it was like there was a giant sign around my neck that said please, kick me when i'm down. I was already dashing in order to get everything off my list, grab some lunch and dash to see if a bag I wanted had come in.

In Boots, as I determinedly strode towards a counter, I was stopped by the Benefits girl, who tried desperately to lure me into a makeover. Clearly the purposeful stride looked more like a ramble and the startled, slightly frazzled look to me suggested that I was in need of being sold some blusher and eyeliner. However, I was not in need of these, merely a till and an exit, in order to continue my quest.

Back out in the shopping centre, the same keen representative who tries to thrust a Barclaycard on me every week once again zoned in on me. Let me quickly add, I once had a Barclaycard. Well, had is dubious. I never actually took possession of the card but still managed to rack up £40 in some kind of insurance because I'd ticked the wrong box. Let's just say, no more Barclay Cards, as I explained to the man. Note to Barclay Card Man: When I say no, I mean NO. Not yes. Not maybe. NO. NO. NO. NO.

Later, the woman at the Post Office became quite insistent that I should have a Post Office credit card. Really insistent. She wouldn't let me leave until I had promised to take the leaflets for it, as well as a savings account. On further reflection, the savings account looks quite good. Hmm.

Anyway, another early start tomorrow, so enough about those poor shmucks who have to flog the things, that's punishment enough for taking up my precious lunch hour.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Adventures up a Volcano

As it is only right to do, we thought that during the week long laze-a-thon in Tenerife, we should go and do something 'cultural'. There was much argument about whether or not the Drago tree warranted a vist. Reports varied, placing it anywhere between 800 and 3000 years old and near a village that had perished in a previous volcanic eruption. In the end, the mixed histories convinced us that it was a tourist trap and that we should instead go and see the volcano, El Tiede.

So, we got on a coach at some ungodly hour on Thursday morning and spent an hour listening to the booming voice of the tour guide explaining the local history of the island and the volcano, first in Spanish and then in English. I don't know why he bothered with the Spanish version - the five girls for whom it was intended spent virtually the entire tour sleeping with their curtains closed, obscuring the views from everyone else on the bus.

So, now I'll bore you all with photos rather than write anything, as it's hard to sound interesting when you're talking about rocks.

We got ripped off by a cable car like this one, which only takes you near the peak. We were expecting to hover precariously in a tin can over firey lava.

This is as close as we got. Unless you had a special permit and hiking boots, you had to stay down with the plebs.

Over 3000 feet above sea level, low lying clouds hang off the side of the volcano.

The valleys of the National Park.

I'll stop there but if you'd like to see more, check out my stuff on flickr.com


Sunday, August 06, 2006

Monarch: a royal cock-up. Part One

Contrary to typical stories from a whining Brit, I actually really enjoyed my holiday. Many people build wild expectations on their holidays, seeing the opportunity to spend time in a foreign land as a time when they are invincible to the traumas of every day life. They believe that their time away will be an endless whirl of fun, frolics and kodak moments. In reality, the mosquitos attack you on your first day, you're sunburnt by the second and someone in your party catches dissentry from the local water by day three. All that heat and sun sends people potty and arguments and resentment amongst people begins to spiral out of control. I would like to take a moment to be smug and relay the fact that mine went relatively without a hitch. My boyfriend and I had planned to do nothing but lie in the sun, drink cold beer and read our books. And that's exactly what we did. Whilst the friends we were with went off on their own adventures every day, we were content to lie by the pool and listen to the screams of northern children hurling themselves into the pool. By the end of the week, we'd become so atuned to the noise that it became nothing more than a gentle hum. So yes, I was relatively smug.

However, there is one bit of the holiday that I don't think anyone can ever be smug about - the flights. Unless you're rich enough to buy a bed in Business Class, you're left feeling like a sardine in deeply air conditioned climes. On our way out, the flight resembled a storage fridge with people walking up and down the aisles to keep themselves warm in their optimistically skimpy attire. Requests for blankets by people with small children were met with a bemused look from the stewardess chaperoning our section of the cabin. Thankfully, eventually some dodgy looking cottage pie turned up and I was able to shove it in a plastic bag and put it under my feet to stem the hypothermia.

We also had a minor celebrity sighting - Kinga from Big Brother was also on our flight and clearly loved the attention that she got walking through Baggage Reclaim. She looks a lot smaller in real life than she does in the media. So, all round, the flight out to Tenerife was fine, bearable. I wish I could say the same for our return journey.

As our friends were flying out an hour before us, we figured we could spend the extra hour in duty free and share a cab with them. So, despite the fact that our Monarch Airlines flight wasn't until 3pm, we arrived at Tenerife Sur at around noon. Having confirmed our flights before we left, we were more than mildly shocked to see that our flight was already listed as delayed. To 6pm. But that was just the start. Trying to hunt down an employee of the airline was about as easy as finding a Unicorn. At the Monarch desk, we were told curtly by an employee of Phoenix airlines that it was a case of like it or lump it, we could go down to another airline desk and book new flights. Ben, who was due to get on a ferry at 5 the next morning, was not impressed, although he contains his anger much better than I have ever managed to.

Unfortunately, lacking funds and high on fury, we were not about to cave to the little demon's suggestion so we stuck it out. We waited. We waited a little more. Against our better judgement, we ate Burger King and mooched around duty free. For seven hours. Despite the assurance of weazil boy (who clearly dyed his bright blonde hair), our flight didn't leave at 6pm. Oh no, they got us to the gate, got the stupider people to queue and then nothing. An hour passed, the small children began to squirm and everyone sweated in the un-air-conditioned airport with tantalising views of the sea just beyond our glassed-in hell.

Having read every newspaper, sloped our way around the various shops selling Canarian tack and drunk all of the giant cokes we could afford, our anger turned to despair, turned to humour. For that final hour, we took out a pen and paper and began to come up with alternative slogans for the formidably awful Monarch. Their own slogan is Monarch: Pay less, expect more and armed with spite, we drew up a list of over 50 alternatives. Ben is currently in possession of the list, although he's promised to copy it over to me and once I have it, I will post the full list.

We finally got on our plane, sent over by a different airline, Mytravel.com which proved to be much nicer than the anticipated antiquity we had expected from Monarch. I arrived home somewhere around 1:30am, fell into bed with the knowledge I had to be up in 6 hours in order to pack up my student flat. But that's another story for another time, most likely tomorrow. Also coming soon, adventures on a volcano.