Wednesday, 29 April 2009

no need to panic... yet

You really couldn't make it up. As part of their strategy to tackle the threat of a swine 'flu pandemic, the Government is printing leaflets advising us to cover our noses and mouths with tissues when we sneeze (as opposed to our hands or sleeves, presumably) and then 'throw the tissues away' (as opposed to sticking them under our bra straps or in our pockets?)
It's like something out of a Public Service Announcement spoof and it wouldn't be out of place on Harry and Paul. Don't panic, there's nothing to see.
But this Government has a habit of not coming clean about the really important stuff. I don't mean expense claims for patio heaters and porn, but the really, really important things. Like the state of the economy, for example. Given its track record on the recession, and the news that they have apparently ordered 32million face masks, how can we really believe anything they tell us?

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Chef's surprise

'Be brave, darling,' he whispered. 'I'll get out soon,' she sobbed into his shoulder.
No this wasn't a scene from a Second World War romance. It was Grant Bovey's 'dramatic' exit from Hell's Kitchen.
It was no big surprise that Grant was the second chef to be sacked from the kitchen. What he seems to be blissfully unaware of - unlike the rest of the country - is that he is one of the most unpopular people on TV, in a celeb mag, in a newspaper - well, just about anywhere, actually.
Asking Aslan/Marco to take care of his wife, Anthea Turner, in his absence probably wasn't the wisest move, either. 'You have my word as a man,' the great chef growled. No doubt Anthea will be next on the chopping board.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Straight eye for the queer guy

The Beeb's new Saturday night entertainment extravaganza Tonight's the Night is I'd Do Anything meets Britain's Got Talent with a bit of Surprise, Surprise thrown in. Heartwarming, cringe-inducing and cheesy in equal measure, it would be far from unmissable TV... were it not for the presenter.
John Barrowman can elevate even the most third rate material to something sexy and watchable. Like Captain Jack, his Dr Who/Torchwood swings-both-ways character, John flirts with everyone, male and female, and that makes him irresistible. Whether he's belting out a song-and-dance number, showing off his legs in a pair of satin shorts or simply looking into the camera and flashing another a-bit-like-Tom-Cruise-only-better grin, John is the kind of gay man who could break the hearts of straight women. Swoon.

Friday, 17 April 2009

A new Cinderella story

She was overweight and visibly middle-aged with appalling brown-stained teeth. But from the moment Susan Boyle opened her mouth and sang in that incredible voice, she brought tears to the eyes of everyone watching her.
Even those who never normally tune in to Britain's Got Talent have been spellbound by the Youtube video of Susan singing her showstopper from Les Miserables.
It's not difficult to work out why she has captured our hearts. Hers is a genuine fairy story - with Simon Cowell as her high-waisted godmother. In these difficult times, the idea that someone from the most ordinary background can captivate the world with her extraordinary talent is the uplift we've all been looking for - which is why she's getting so many hits on both sides of the globe. Her rags to (soon to be) riches tale is set to be one of the biggest happy endings of the year, and a reminder why we need reality TV.
Although the judges have pledged not to give her a makeover, no doubt this will come. But judging by the heartfelt, utterly genuine message from the woman herself on her facebook fan page this morning, success won't change her - not one bit.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Time to stop this IVF rationing

Eight years ago I wrote an investigative feature for a women's magazine on the NHS IVF postcode lottery.
I spoke to couples around the country who had been given only one cycle of free IVF because of where they lived - or in some instances, nothing at all. I discovered that once you embark on IVF, you inevitably need more than one cycle. Some of the couples I spoke to had sold their home to pay for private treatment, or their marriage had broken down under the strain.
The agony of infertility is that every year wasted can decrease the chances of successful conception. And by the time many of those couples had been forced to accept that IVF was not going to work for them, it was too late to adopt - because their local authorities considered them to be 'too old' (it should be noted that they were usually only in their mid-40s).
Sadly today, five years after ministers pledged to eradicate the IVF postcode lottery, it has been revealed that not only does it still exist, but that some couples can wait up to three years for their first turn - further decreasing their chances of success.
It's time for a cycle of change.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Sweet like...

The balance of power in our house is definitely skewed. I'm sure psychologists would have a field day blaming it on my teenager's parents - yes, his dad and I both spoil him rotten. But while any attempt to eat so much as a nugget of his ludicrously vast hoard of Easter eggs is met with a guilt-inducing 'Oh MUM!', the fact that he has helped himself to half of my treasured box of Ferrero Rocher is shrugged off with a 'yeah? So?'

Aslan's kitchen

Marco is wearing a scarf around his head. I think he's trying to look mean but the effect is more mad. Krystle Carrington is trying to avoid the heat - presumably in case it melts her face. Vic from The Young Ones has managed to burn himself already - he's sporting an enormous blister and whimpering like a girl. And annoyingly, because you really do want them to fail, the Bovey-Turners are proving to be the best cooks.
Welcome to Hell's Kitchen, where once again a group of 'celebrities' have been thrown in at the deep end with Marco Pierre White. He's doing his best to give them a hard time, but you get the feeling his heart isn't really in it. He also appears to have an enormous zit on his face which is slightly off putting when you watch him handling food.
He does give Ms Dynamite a hard time for turning in what appears to be a perfectly respectable sandwich, and for getting in the way, and for generally just being there. And he almost praises Gary Lineker's fiance for her efforts - cold cheese on toast. Claudia Winkleman - who really needs to stop wearing sunglasses in the sun, or pearlescent eye shadow, or whatever else she's doing that makes her lids appear alarmingly pale compared to the rest of her body - has replaced previous presenter Angus Deayton, and lacks his acerbic wit, although maybe that will come.
But the problem for me is Marco. I know he's an excellent chef, and sexy to boot, but as a hard man in the kitchen he simply doesn't convince. With that messy mane and low growl, he's less tiger, more Aslan-from-Narnia lion.
I'll keep watching, although not if anything better is on the other side, and only to see the Bovey-Grants come a cropper. But tomorrow night Hell's Kitchen goes head to head with The Apprentice. I don't reckon its chances.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Who are you?

Lately my facebook account has been inundated with friend requests from complete strangers. No, not people I've met and can't remember, or old colleagues or classmates I've chosen to forget. But proper, bona fide strangers. The one common denominator is that they are always male, which begs the question: do some men simply surf facebook looking for women? And if so, haven't they heard of With the wonders of this gadget, everyone's a supermodel.

Addicted to McNulty and co

Huge bags under my eyes, sallow skin and hair all over the place. You can tell just by looking at me that I was up late.
But I wasn't burning the candle at both ends. Instead I was feeding my latest TV addiction with another trip to Baltimore, Maryland - the setting for The Wire.
Yes, I know I'm a little late in the day, but along with many other first timers I'm currently watching the entire series back to back on BBC2. Given it ran for five seasons and it's only been on for a fortnight this could take some time, but it's a commitment I'm prepared to honour. The only problem is that (presumably because of the content and language) it's on so late. I've tried Sky plus-ing it and watching it the following day, but now I'm so desperate for my next fix I have to stay up to watch it.
Gritty, urban, sometimes shocking but also funny, this is Must See and Try to Hear TV. My favourite character is Jimmy McNulty (our own Dominic West), but even he is difficult to understand sometimes. Someone suggested the other day that you should watch it with subtitles, but I think that would take away from the authenticity. The point is - unless you actually grew up in the projects - you're entering a totally alien world, and besides, if you concentrate really hard you soon start to pick up 80% of the dialogue. Go on, try it. But a warning: one episode and you'll be hooked.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Goodbye Bermondsey's rose

So farewell then, Jade. As her family and friends come to terms with their loss, it will be of some comfort to know that this warm, bubbly and quite extraordinary girl, who came from the most ordinary background, touched so many. Hers was a life lived to the full, and in the end, you can't ask any more than that.

They shoot horses, don't they?

My son is going for a birthday outing with some mates to Thorpe Park this week. I'm happy for him to go, but with one proviso. 'Please don't go on Saw,' I begged.
Saw is a rollercoaster ride based on the slasher films of the same name, and it looks horrific, full of twists, turns and sheer drops. 'I don't think I want to,' my son replied after watching the advert promoting the ride.
That's his choice. I understand that some people enjoy the adrenaline rush of super scary rollercoasters, but I have never been one of them, so whether they're here or abroad, I avoid them like the plague. That's my choice.
The horses running at today's Grand National don't have a choice. Just the names of some of the fences are enough to strike terror into your heart - The Chair and Becher's Brook. Some of the jumps have a lower landing side than take off and that means the horse is totally unaware of what's to come until it's in the air.
Not surprisingly, the casualties and injuries are numerous. Since 1997 27 horses have died as a result of running in the National.
I understand racing. Though you wouldn't know it to look at me, as I am neither short or slight, I come from a racing family. My uncle was a jockey and my grandfather was also a jockey, who came third in the National. So, like so many others, I used to enjoy a flutter. But that was until I comprehended the full horror of the course.
Once you stop romanticising it, you realise that this race, probably more than any other, is all about money, and lots of it. The National isn't fun for the horses, and it's a fallacy to suggest otherwise. It is a torturous race to be endured. The horses don't have a choice. But we do.