Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Home Is Where the Hearth Was

Currently, a hugely irritating advertisement for British Telecom is being run on the commercial television channels. The advert suggests that mobile phones are completely bobbins for talking to close members of ones family. In using a mobile phone - apparently - one sends a message that family isn't very important.


Mobile phones are ideal for familial communication. For the next few weeks I intend only to use a mobile phone when conversing with my immediate family, not least because when the topic under discussion (i.e. my father and his propensity to demolish/build things whenever my mother goes on holiday) gets eggy, I can do my top notch crackle, crackle the signal's not very good sound effect and ring off. You can't do that with a land line.

This morning I took a phone call from my brother. (On my mobile phone, of course.) When a conversation begins "Has Dad told you what he's done?' and ones response during the ensuing ten minutes is to say Oh shit, Oh shit, Oh shit then the sole possible action is to unplug the land line for a month or so.

My mother arrived back in England yesterday, though not - as yet - in Yorkshire, after an extended holiday with my aunt. She telephoned my brother.

Ma: I believe Brian's been staying for a few weeks?
Bro: And Trevor, Terry, John and Joe.
Ma: Who are they?
Bro: A joiner, a plumber, a plasterer and I don't know what Joe does -
Bro: Er, Crackle, Crackle.
Bro: Crackle, Crackle - Can you hear me, Mother? I can't hear you? (HANGS UP.)

In previous years, my father has stolen a third of my mother's kitchen (in order to build a WC - so he could spend pennies quickly between losing pounds - equally quickly - on horse races, I suspect), built a snooker room with a full size snooker table (upon which he currently stores his collection of antique golf clubs), annexed half of the garage to build a gym (still unused after five years), put in four bathrooms (which points towards some sort of obsession) and demolished all the walled flower beds so he could park his car more easily.

He thinks - according to my brother - that if he moves the television slightly to the left, Ma won't notice what he's demolished this time ...

I'll be incommunicado until the dust settles. (Quite literally.)

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

No Oil Painting

BP's woes increased this week as its long-term sponsorship of The Arts came under attack. The press opening of the BP Portrait Awards was gatecrashed by the Don't Panic collective who offered guests wine glasses filled with thick black liquid.

"It's actually artistically tactless," said Ann Herbert, an electronic artist. "All visitors should make a point of only looking at watercolours, collages and gouaches. Boycott any portrait painted in oils. It's the only language BP understands," she added.

Other major galleries and museums are also feeling the pressure of being linked to BP. Last month a group called Liberate Tate entered the gallery's main turbine hall and released dozens of black balloons attached to dead fish in protest against the Gulf oil spill. Gallery staff had to shoot the balloons down with air rifles, but not before hundreds of tourists had applauded what was widely assumed to be a new work by Damien Hirst.

It was later confirmed that Charles Saatchi had offered to buy both the balloons and fish in a private sale.

A spokesman from The Museum Association said, "It's not the protests we object to per se, but the low artistic standards of the demonstrators. There's been no nudity, no setting fire to a million quid in a briefcase, and no-one's pulled a dead dolphin out of their foo. It's very disappointing."

Tracie Eminem, for the Arts Council, pointed out. "We give grants for this sort of thing. There really is no excuse for just sloshing a bit of black stuff about and calling it a protest. Gilbert and George would be turning in their graves."

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

... Improve Each Shining Hour

Today after work, I sat outside a café sipping coffee and reading another rubbish book (more anon) whilst simultaneously eavesdropping on a former head of the Arts Council who was opining at the next-but-one table: 'Young people don't join choirs.'

What? Hasn't he heard of Glee? As in a more scrubbed and wholesome version of Fame, light on legwarmers and bubble perms and heavy on the Be! True! To! Yourself! message. It's a comedy for the aspiring underdog in all of us - a thought that makes me nauseous.

Singin' 'n' dancin' is the new politics/religion/chocolate/sexual position/handbag-sized dog. (Delete as appropriate.) Surely everyone knows that?

This finger-on-the-pulse chap was at the next-but-one table, but at the very next table was this woman. I had no idea who she was until a man with a tight t-shirt and a tattoo approached and said, "May I have my photograph taken with you? I'm your biggest fan."

"Too kind," I murmured, "But I prefer to keep a low profile, if it's all the same with you." (I was wearing dark glasses and my funeral frock* and was ostensibly engrossed in a book.)

"Not you, you silly old bint. Sonja, here. I'm a great fan of The Wire."

Not a day goes by without someone exhorting me to watch The Wire. Apparently, I shan't understand a word of it until half way through Series 3. Hours and hours spent watching lips move and drawing a complete blank - plus ça change ... I am resolved to watch it with my mother; her attempts to decipher the scripts of Miami Vice in the 1980s provided endless hours of fun and her hearing's even worse these days.

This is a very television-heavy post, which is somewhat bizarre as I haven't had time to watch TV for ages. Recently, I've been hugely busy making people cry and buzz for the nurse to take me away. (True.) Or arguing with my new Sat Nav and getting lost in Albania. (Almost true.) And shouting poetry through letter-boxes at old ladies. (I could explain this, but I doubt you'd believe me.) And planting lettuces and courgettes and weeding the border (between Canada and America - anything to put off writing the 80,000 words I must submit by September). Even if I had the time to watch TV, it seems that all I'll hear is the endless droning of vuvuzelas. I can sit on the step by my lavender bush which thrums with bees and have almost exactly the same experience.

* The Funeral Frock, which I'll be wearing again tomorrow, is made of silk and coloured with tangerine, pink, purple, aubergine and raspberry splatters. Like a violent incident in a greengrocer's. A few years ago, I was summoned to a funeral and told to dress as if for a garden party, in bright colours, not a hint of black. I did as I was told (in those days) and arrived at the crematorium looking like, well, a victim of a violent incident in a greengrocer's. I was slightly late, so flung the car into a space, ran down the hill, rushed into the chapel and plonked myself down on a pew ...

... in a sea of black-garbed mourners.

Wrong time, wrong funeral. And it wasn't as if I could leave without creating a fuss. As this occurred in Yorkshire, I expect people are still wondering who the inappropriate woman was.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Custard's Last Stand?

British scientists have claimed that the method used to calculate absolutely everything may be wrong.

It is a given that the universe is chock-a-block with planets, stars, asteroids and gas - but despite obvious overcrowding (caused by satellites, sputniks, space shuttles, Russian monkeys and Richard Branson) this astral jetson accounts for just four per cent of the cosmos.

The rest is thought to be made up of mysterious matter and energy - of a texture akin to custard. This custard gets everywhere - as custard often does - and is believed to power the expansion of the universe.

Physicists at Durham University now claim the calculations on which the size of the universe is based could be half-baked.

This raises the frankly unbelievable possibility that the 'custard side' of the cosmos does not exist.

Dr Robert Pye of the Royal Astronomical Society, said: “This would challenge assumptions about the long term future of the custard-based universe model, because the assumption at the moment is that univeral custard is expanding like nothing on earth and if it isn’t that would be a huge shock."

Thursday, 10 June 2010

One Headline Fits All

The Association of Newspaper Editors today gave their seal of approval to the Con-Dem Coalition Government.

"Under New Labour, we were constantly wrong-footed in terms of headline material," said a spokesman. "One day it was bigots, the next Balls. It was hard to keep up."

The institution of a 'one headline fits all' policy has found favour with typesetters, sub-editors, journalists and readers alike.

"It's been a God-send," the spokesman continued. "Cabinet Ministers have the phrase 'burden on society' as a permanent fixture. All we have to do is change the category of burden. It's basically delete as appropriate - the stories are a piece of piss to write."

Recent Burdens on Society include:

The Uneducated
The Elderly
The Poor
The Unemployed
Public Servants
The Sick
The Disabled
Asylum Seekers
The Welsh

A spokesman for NewsCorp denied that the organisation planned to add to the ranks of the unemployed by running a "journalists are a burden on newspapers" story.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Qu'ils mangent de la brioche

The annual assembly of the top secret organisation, The Battenberg Group, has been held in Spain.

Delegates from Betty Crocker, Sara Lee and Twinkie were all thought to be present at the conference although under Gingerbread House Rules no register of attendees was kept and minutes of meetings remain unpublished.

At the Hotel Dolce, security was ramped up. Pastry chefs patrolled the perimeter grounds, whilst pâtissiers in crisp, cotton aprons guarded the hotel steps.

Not suprisingly, confectionery theories abound. David Ickels-Cake, the former sports presenter and Son of God, believes Battenberg members are descended from a race of ancient stollen recipes. "The numbers of death by chocolate is on the increase. It is clear who is responsible. We must strike at the very fondants of society! Cast the marzipanned minions into the dessert!"

Mr Kipling, a member of the Battenberg Steering Committee for thirty years, gave a statement to Sasha Torte, the cookery correspondent of The Guardian, who had been posting a daily blog from Spain.

"To say we are striving for one-cake governance is exaggerated, but not wholly unfair. Those of us in Battenberg feel we can't go on forever icing one another for nothing and buttercream-filling people and rendering millions bunless. But conspiracy theorists like David are just a croquembouche. I suspect he's been on the blue Smarties."

The other delegates have remained sweet-toothed and tight-lipped. Clearly, what happens in Battenberg stays in Battenberg.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

That Mariella Frostrup Apology in Full

Dear Sirs (and one Madam)

I am most dreadfully sorry for calling you

- misogynists
- ecologists
- gynaecologists *

As a woman who deals primarily in words for a living, my choice of one in particular was

- careless
- car less
- couldn't care less *

It was an inflammatory choice, based on no

- factual evidence
- huge coincidence
- women in senior positions on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme*

Ceri Thomas, the editor of Today, and his manly team are obviously not

- demons
- lemons
- unreconstructed chauvinist pigs *

I love the Today programme and think that the presenters all do an excellent job; male and one token female.

Yours (in hope of a renewed contract)

Mariella X

* Delete as appropriate: