29 April 2010

British Sex

I was out in Soho last night, at Yalla Yalla, enjoying tasty food in ridiculously cramped conditions. (Giles Coren and Jay Rayner needn't fear competition from me.) Just up the road from the restaurant was an establishment that proudly declared itself a British Sex Shop, with a union jack and everything.

In the hour or so we spent outside waiting for our table, we had time to consider what this meant. It's not an appealing proposition, really, British sex not being famous for its skill or sophistication. Do they sell rushed experiences in pub car parks, with a guarantee of a slight feeling of disgust that will develop into a full-blown misogyny? Or perhaps they go for the nostalgia market, and you can buy dvds of a slender hand toying with the sugar bowl in a Lancashire railway station buffet. If so, I've got a slogan for them:  viagra for your upper lip.


As far as I can see, the Burgoyne Hotel is in Richmond, North Yorkshire (a lovely town), but this list is, as usual from Waitrose Beckenham. The handwriting and the choice of items (as far as I can read them) suggest older people. Did they write the list in the hotel, or just nick some sheets of paper? And what's "beef mix"?

28 April 2010

Office life

Oh, how I miss it! Christina Martin (who, I recently found out, works in the same building as I used to work in) tweeted this:
The big hole punch came apart and all the bits of paper fell on the floor. People keep walking past my desk making the same comment on this. 
The one I used to dread (I can tell you now, former colleagues) was this. You leave work, maybe a little early, and halfway to the bus stop you realise you've left your desk unlocked. So you give up your hopes of watching The Weakest Link, and go back to lock up. Someone is bound to say one of the following:
Hmm, you're early!
That was a short night!
Couldn't bear to leave us?

Stop it, office drones, stop it! Honestly it would be better to say You idiot! You've forgotten something again.

Actually, since I'm essentially decrying sarcasm, I should retract that I miss it. And point out that I've never hoped to watch The Weakest Link.

Jonjo gone ... so?

Consternation and confusion among "the Charlton community" today following the sale of Jonjo Shelvey to Liverpool. Some think it's a sign of lack of ambition by the club, others that the fee, reported at £1.7 million is too good to pass by.

I'm in the second group. Two years ago Shelvey looked like he might develop into an exciting player. He was fast and skillful and quite surprisingly mature (he's still only 18). But this season he's been disappointing, and you have to think that a fast young player of real potential would be terrorising third division opposition. But he's always looked a little aimless. I don't know if that's his fault or if the coaches have misused him and needed to be firmer in giving him direction. But on the evidence of this season, £1.7m is unjustified. You can't see him getting into the Liverpool first team, so they can only be hoping they can develop him and sell him on at a profit. That's a plausible and achievable target, I think.

The deal includes extra payment depending on appearances, and even without that financial incentive, I would hope he does make a success of the move.

25 April 2010

Election campaign update

I'm surprised at myself, I really am, but I am finding this election campaign fascinating. The main reason, of course, is the rise of Nick Clegg, and the wish or hope that it will change the face of British politics.

What's struck me more, though, is how useless the Conservative campaign must have been. They should have been able to walk it, facing a horrendously unpopular government, led by an unappealing and unlucky prime minister, and with a bunch of candidates who are either tired and uninterested or new and unknown. Yet the most optimistic prognoses for the Conservatives give them a tiny majority. And if that happens, it will be great fun to watch the Party tearing itself apart again over Europe. Most polls seem to suggest a hung parliament, and it's hard to see how Cameron or Brown could maintain credibility as leader of their party after that. Again, a Lib-Con coalition would inevitably split as soon as any European question arises. It's been a bit overlooked, as it's not really an election topic, but there's a huge antipathy to Europe among Cons backbenchers, which is likely to increase with the new intake. Lib-Lab is more plausible, but the Libdems would have to do something to prove that any deal with Gordon Brown is only temporary. If they don't achieve some sort of constitutional change pretty quickly, they'll lose a lot of credibility.

So, unexpectedly, I'm all agog about the next two weeks.

24 April 2010

Sundridge Park

These were found on the same trolley, and sent to me by Clive, who comments:
Not very exciting apart from large plastic baps (comment on modern bread) and food to eat (not very selective, probably usually buys it from Greggs)

If I were a coarse kind of person, I would suggest that 'large plastic baps' would identify it as Jordan's shopping list.

I learned yesterday that I have people looking out for shopping lists in Andover. Which excites me strangely.

18 April 2010

Dramatic shopping list

I like this one. The items on the list aren't exciting, but it's the insistent crossing out of some of them that creates the story. Were the others not found? If so, that's a very bad reflection on Waitrose's stocking practice. 

And it gets even more interesting. Here's the reverse, which appears to be from a catalogue of archaeological items. 

(Waitrose, Beckenham, 18/4/10) 

Charlton 0 Norwich 1

Norwich won promotion but no friends at the Valley. Not that that will bother them, of course. Meanwhile, Charlton produced their best performance since the first two months of the season, but lost.

To deal with Norwich first, with as little bitterness as possible. The striking feature of their game was their propensity to foul: little pushes and shirt tugs, expertly done, no doubt, just when needed to break up an attack, and with a cynical acceptance that they'll give away free kicks, and get a few bookings. It was so prevalent through the team it has to be a deliberate tactic. It's ugly and they should be ashamed. Next was their absolute lack of ambition, particularly in the second half. I've rarely seen such a one-sided half of football, as they were content to soak up the pressure, and apparently clueless on how to attack at all. Credit to their goalkeeper, with three astonishingly good saves (and some blatant time-wasting from about 46 minutes on, which got him booked eventually), and to their luck, which held out. Nothing broke well for Charlton.

And Charlton, all of them, were playing with guts and skill in a way that would have sewn up this league if they'd been able to play like this through winter. Two familiar failings cost the game, though: slack defense at a corner let Norwich get the only goal they were ever likely to score; and the usual profligacy in front of goal. It was impossible to find a poor performance, but the return of Deon Burton for the second half seemed to raise the level of play significantly.

Results elsewhere meant that Charlton would have gone into a strong position if they had won, but the future's not so bleak. The game against Leeds in two weeks looks more important than ever now.
P GD     Pts
Norwich      43 39 89
Leeds United 43 30 80
Millwall     43 32 79
Swindon      43 16 78
Charlton     43 20 77
Huddersfield 43 20 74

17 April 2010

Gary from Guildford

I'm beginning to really like Gary from Guildford. Here's another comment he made:

Big feats are possible- if you have read Journey to the Centre of the Earth, you'll know what I mean. As far as I am aware, this was based on a true story. So, drilling bore holes is not that outlandish; you'll just have to drill a LOT of them, that's all (refering to the micron diameter holes in a hot air balloon analogy).

I don't know what's happening to Daily Mail readers, though. They've given this a negative score of 45. And my attempt to create the perfect Daily Mail comment:

We're ALL trapped in Europe, thanks to Nulabour!

has got -58. I'm so ashamed.

16 April 2010

There's always a simple answer

I'm feeling pessimstic about getting to Lisbon next week. But on the Daily Mail website, someone called Gary has the answer:
Why do'nt the Icelanders pump vast amounts of liquid nitrogen or liquid helium into the volcanic interior? At such extremes of temperature, the liquid nitrogen would rapidly convert to gas and absorb the thermal energy fom the molten rock or magma, undoubtly resulting in its solidification. The glacial meltwater could be harnessed and diverted into the volcanic vent, quenching the magma and producing copious amounts of water vapour. This water vapour would undoubtly condense on the surfaces of the airborne volcanic particles, flushing them out of the atmosphere. Nature can be tamed by mankind, but such a feat requires scientific ingenuity 

And I must be bored, because I've replied:
Sounds like a good idea, but I don't suppose the Icelanders have that much liquid nitrogen to hand. The world can help by organising a massive airlift of liquid nitrogen (and liquid helium too, why not) to Iceland. At once! 

So nice to debate with a fellow scientist!

14 April 2010

Northern Ireland poster hijack

They do some things better in Northern Ireland. Here's a story I found on a NI blog (thanks to AntonVowl for the link). First, one set of Unionists produced this poster.

But they used a stock photo from a picture library, rather than getting new photos taken. This meant that their rivals could use another photo from the same library, using the same model. And so they produced this.

Which, whatever you think of their politics, is brilliant. I hope the DUP reply. This could get very silly.

13 April 2010

Charlton 1 Colchester 0

The latest round in the battle for second place brought Colchester, but not many of their fans, to the Valley. Really, it was a poor display of support when Colchester isn't that far to travel, it's not a school night and it's a vital match.

The game also brought Kevin Lisbie back. It's funny that no-one really seems to hate him despite the years of disappointment he gave us. He scored 19 goals in 176 appearances, which is nowhere near a good return. His pace used to be blinding, and I guess that's why he prospered once he moved into lower divisions. Someone behind me was saying we should never have let him go. Well, yes, if we'd known we'd be in the third division in a couple of years, and if we could have renegotiated his wage down to third division level, maybe it would have been good to hold on to him. Anyway, he ended the game early. I wasn't sure if it was a second yellow or a straight red, but I don't remember him previously as being at all feisty. It was that kind of game. Loads of fouls and five (I think) yellow cards. Despite that, it was a thrilling match, particularly in the second half.

The first half had been comfortable for Charlton, and a super goal after 20 minutes was the least they deserved. But Colchester came out more strongly, Charlton became nervous, and there was some desperate defending right through to the five minutes added at the end. There was a brilliant atmosphere, with the Covered End Choir in fine form.

But what I'll remember is that my neighbour is even older than I thought (which was incredibly old). Tonight he recalled an incident from a game against Corinthian Casuals. I can't imagine when that was.

10 April 2010

Grand National

This is the only day of the year I feel sorry for Channel 4. The rest of the year they keep racing on tv alive, doing a sound job of covering all sorts of unfashionable meetings. But today they have to watch while BBC spends as much in one day as they probably do in a year, and comes up with much worse coverage. Still Channel 4 deserves it. I'll save my full anti-C4 rant for later, though.

Meanwhile, Waitrose, Beckenham 9/4/10. Fairly dull, but what's Bionsen?

06 April 2010

Turner prize?

Waitrose trolleys have a clever little clip where you can add a shopping list (maybe other shops do this too - I'm too posh to know or to care). Naturally, most people leave their list behind when they've finished their shopping, and in doing so I'm fairly sure they have released them into the public domain. What if someone were to collect these lists, annotated with the date and place of their discovery? Wouldn't this be a valuable examination of the zeitgeist? Wouldn't it, eventually, build up into a body of work fit to win the Turner prize? Probably not, but it might be fun. So here's the first: Waitrose Beckenham 6 April 2010.

I wonder what 'dinner for tonight' turned out to be and I hope splodge got some nice snacks.

Please scan and send me any discarded shopping lists you find. We can build a picture of Britain's shopping habits.

Live election blog

Oh, how we'll tire of the words latest election news over the next four and a bit weeks! Although, as the Electoral Reform Society has pointed out 382 of the 650 seats being contested are safe. The people who live there might as well not bother. I think that includes me. Last time Bridget Prentice had a majority of 21%. Even with boundary changes, that's surely likely to be enough to get Labour back in.

So, on the whole I'm glad I'll be spending just over a week of the campaign out of the country. But I have - for the first time - a personal interest in two outcomes.

First, there's my friend and former colleague, Keith Nevols, who's standing for the Libdems in the parliamentary election for Sittingbourne and Sheppey. As I understand it, it's a close contest between Labour and Conservatives and Keith's likely to get squeezed out. But, if any of the good people of S & S happen to read this, I know that Keith is clever, hard-working and honest. That may over-qualify him for Parliament, but I can't see any reason why you wouldn't want to vote for him.

Second, my niece, Liz Matthews, is doing a Jill Swinburne and standing for the Greens in Trinity ward of Merton Council. Again, it's a longshot in a very Conservative area, but the Greens didn't have a candidate last time, and she might be just what they've been waiting for. Again, in the unlikely event that any Trinitarians read this, I can't think of a better person to vote for.

05 April 2010

Charlton 1 Carlisle 0

This is looking like a thrilling end of season. Norwich, can you believe it?, are running away with first position, so the excitement is in the battle for second, and automatic promotion. Two points separate the four contenders - Millwall, Swindon, Leeds, and Charlton - with six games to go. With everyone winning today, the position's no different from how it was this morning.

Meanwhile, today's game wasn't exactly exciting. The first half was a poor spectacle, but Sam Sodje got the deciding goal shortly before halftime.

Both teams raised their game in the second half, and Charlton had many chances to kill off the game, but wayward finishing meant they never got the second goal that would have sealed the win. In truth, as the second half went on, Carlisle looked less and less likely to score, but it would have been so much more encouraging if Shelvey had converted one of his chances. He was taken off with about 10 minutes to go. A difficult but necessary decision, it must have dented his confidence badly, which didn't look high to begin with.