Tuesday, July 31, 2007


In shock news last week, it emerged that those bastions of truth, totally robust statistical analysis and not-at-all-made-up science, L'Oreal, have had their knuckles rapped by the Advertising Standards Authority, over their Telescopic Mascara adverts.

Turns out their claims that the mascara makes lashes 60% longer failed to make it clear that this referred to an increase in the 'appearance' of lash length, rather than an actual extension.

Better still the adverts featured Penelope Cruz sporting some spectactular lashes; turns out however, that the lashes were only 'her own' in the manner that Dolly Parton claims ownership of her hair i.e. she paid for it (though actually I'm guessing Ms Cruz's probably came courtesy of the make-up artist).

The ASA have quite rightly ruled that the advert misled when it failed to mention that Cruz was wearing some individual false lashes.

L'Oreal counter claim that it is "common industry practice" to use artificial lashes.

Which just goes to show that it's possible to wallow for so long in the murky, depths of mis-speak and deception that your moral compass becomes water logged and defunct and your sense of normal, seriously warped.

I've heard a whisper about a new product that allegedly the 'scientists' at L'Oreal will be launching soon. It's called Bolluxium - it's like botux, but claims to be so good that it can take skin which is wrinkled as any old nut sack and transform it into taut, silky smoothness. Errr sorry that's 'seem' taut, silky and smooth when viewed from a distance of 200 yards (oh and some false skin and polyfila was used on the model...).

Still they're not the only ones at it; perhaps the L'Oreal CEO plays golf with their counterpart from Lexus, whose adverts for its RX400h hybrid SUV have similarly incurred the wrath of the ASA.

I have to say that when I saw Lexus' tag-line on the offending advert of "high performance, low emissions, zero guilt", my environmental hackles raised in scepticsm.

Turns out some people took their doubts to the ASA, and sure enough they've ruled that readers would infer from the headline that: "the car caused little or no harm to the environment, which was not the case, and had low emissions in comparison with all cars, which was also not the case."

According to the BBC report, Lexus company spokesman Scott Brownlee said: "We weren't trying to be misleading and any changes that are needed, we will certainly make."

I did a market survey to see how many people believed the first part of his statement. Turns out a full 100% of people think he probably ought to invest in asbestos underpants and would stick fake eyelashes on a 4x4 in an instant if he thought it would up his sales figures...

* should I mention I only asked one person? Well I say asked, more of an internal dialogue really. Nah, I doubt it's important.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Catch Up

Sometimes life just gets too busy, or the urge to write stuff down dissipates for a while; next thing I know I haven’t blogged for ages.

Life is always busy at this time of year as Greenbelt approaches, but for the last week and a bit the festival workload has not exactly been helped by weather conditions. Some of that is unavoidable, checking what, if any, impact the floods will have on the operation of the festival in a month’s time and double checking that our wet weather contingency plans are up to scratch, but some is definitely not exactly what I need right now.

Concerned texts, calls and emails from friends hoping everything is going to be ok, are lovely and supportive. However, texts, calls and emails from everyone and their dog who happens to have my personal contact details asking specific questions about how they will personally be impacted if the weather does this that or the other, or whether I can personally sort out such-and-such for them is not exactly what I need right now.

I’m endeavouring to try and reply graciously, and remember that this stuff is important to them and they don’t have any comprehension that they might not be the only party contacting me in this manner…

The day job has also been pretty busy, with a number of tricky project issues landing on my doorstep. Ninety per cent of the time I like this aspect of the Technica1 Le@der role, you tend to see the more interesting, challenging aspects of our work as people come for advice, but every now and again I miss the opportunity to have a thick day, a day when you’re not on top of your game and you don’t have to force your brain cells to whirr into problem solving action.

Work also took me over to Bradford for a while, running more training and it was good to catch up with folk in the office, grab a Mumtaz curry (fine) and see how the city has changed since the last time I stayed over there (regeneration is still a work in progress I’d say).

At the end of the last day I managed to meet up with N (lives and works not far from Bradford) and B (in Bradford for a meeting) for a drink, before heading back across the Pennines.

Only a couple of days later I headed back east across the hills to catch up with IMc. A strange day (best not to talk about the abortive attempt to go to the cinema eh?), but overall good and it’s nice to be on friendly terms with an ex (even if the boundaries can get a bit blurry at time).

P&S came up on the Sunday and an excellent afternoon and evening was spent on ‘the secret project’. I could tell you more, but I’d have to kill you. Not that I’m per se adverse to that course of action you understand, but I am very busy…

Thursday was book group and Milan Kundera’s The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. An excellent read although I haven’t quite finished it yet.

In need of some time, at home, in my own space I revelled in a weekend with no commitments. Earning serious brownie points (not sure where you can cash them in though) for some serious housework and cupboard clearing upstairs, I decided my sanity needed a festival free weekend (well excluding the part of cupboard clearing that involved sorting festival gubbins) so I sat out in the garden sunshine with the final Harry Potter.

A fine old yarn and several plot holes later, I closed the back cover, just in time to hear from the Dog Collar and Rabbit Corpse household, back from Greece.

Over an evening of takeaway curry, slide shows of the holiday pics and show and tell of all the girl’s shopping, we catch up. Good to have them home.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


Whilst recovery continues, I'm still not 100%, so reluctantly I resign myself to a weekend in.

This is no small sacrifice given I'd been lucky enough to get tickets to Unknown Pleasures. Still with constant rain forecast and the remands of this cold/throat thing still hanging about, an outdoor gig is not really what I need. Even it is particularly tempting one with a line-up including The Gossip, The Horrors, New Young Pony Club and The Whip.

Being grown-up and sensible is no fun at all. I'd so much rather use the concept of What Would Beth Ditto Do as a mantra for life.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Resistence is futile

Enough of people going on and on about "why aren't you on facebook", I still don't entirely get it, but I give in, I've signed up.

How much social networking internet action does anyone need? Hmmmm...

cartoon from www.weblogcartoons.com

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Friday, July 13, 2007


Everything you need to know about some of my work colleagues can be explained by the following response delivered to me by a gentleman I've worked alongside on and off for 13 years:
"You sound like you still have a sore throat..."
"Yeah, it's not great"
Pause. Devilish glint enters his eye.
"I know something that would help that..."
Worse still, the moment he paused I knew what his follow up comment was going to be.

Monday, July 09, 2007

No London

It's like trying to do a complex mathematical equation; how can I find the energy to do what I need to at work today and find the energy to get down to London and back for the Management Group meeting.

Early night last night - check, but I still feel grim; maybe worse than ever. Maybe I can sleep on the train both ways? Get a later train down? An earlier train back?

And then the solution becomes obvious. Sometimes you have to stop pushing yourself.

Time to give up and accept this isn't a 24 hr cold thing. I'm ill, bloody ill, in the miserable woe is me way that only a lousy cold can make you feel.

Train tickets cancelled.

There's a relief in giving up.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Windermere and Home

After checking out (P&S negotiate a discount), we shake the damp from our boots and head to Ambleside.

S is unfortunately feeling a bit grim - we make a cheerful bunch.

With glimpses of sun to be had, P decides that rowing a boat on Windermere is just what we need. Whilst S demurs, I'm more easily persuaded - I love being on the water.

Heading to Bowness (that hell-hole of a tourist trap) and armed with pocketfuls of tissues we find ourselves a boat. What finer way to waste an hour could there be?

I'll confidently maintain that we made a fine sight, exhibiting smooth and refined rowing style (I'll maintain this confidently, principally because I know S failed to capture anything on her phone video camera). And look, rowing away from the crowds, with the sun out and the hills resplendent in the background - what a blissful place to be!

Of course as I endeavoured to capture evidence of the spectacle that was P rowing us back, I may have let my attention to navigating lapse just a little.

The expression you can just about see on P's face here is saying "don't the red buoys mark the rocks?".

Ah well, we got back in one piece...

Just time to have one last ice cream, before its time to say our goodbyes and for me to head home and P&S to head on into the Lakes for the second part of their holiday.

Home late afternoon, I head to bed. My nose is streaming, my head has started banging and I'm feeling crap. Despite the weather, despite this cold thing, it's been an absolute top break away. I love both the Yorkshire moors and the Lakes, but more than the locations, it's been so, so good to spend such excellent time with my best friends like this...I don't think it's just the physical ailments that are making me feel a little low tonight.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Grizedale and Damp

Feeling even grimmer this morning I spend the morning in bed feeling miserable, leaving P&S to walk to Grizedale.

Feeling a little better, I drive over to meet them for a cup of surprisingly good soup at the visitor's centre.

Revived slightly by its restorative powers, I manage to find the energy to attempt the main and fairly easy going part of the sculpture trail (a definite ten-fold improvement on the one at Bolton Abbey).

Heading back to Hawkshead, S is set on a return visit to the Sun Cottage Cafe. Something about the window display caught her eye:

The owner comes across to take S's order and in response to the enquiry about what the cakes are, commences with "well the large one is chocolate and maple syrup...".

P and I feel compelled to splutter "the large one? what as opposed to the other small ones?". But to be fair she has a point; on closer inspection the one at the front is slightly larger than the others. Still when you're contemplating eating something larger than your head, it seems rude to split hairs.

Though tempted by the raspberry and pistachio option, S sticks to her guns and selects the chocolate, cream and strawberry cake.

Or a slice thereof.

Mind you that's still larger than some Latin American countries.

As I go to take a photo, S wonders whether she should put something alongside it to demonstrate scale. I counter that the fact it's bigger than her arm is probably doing the trick well enough.

Though not a cake fan, I had to have one mouthful and most impressively it tasted as good as it looked. P seems to agree and once S admits defeat he doesn't take too much persuading to come to her gallant aid.

Returning to our dank and dingy basement (I'm not saying the ceiling was low, but P kept hitting his head on the beams, I scraped my knuckles whilst shampooing my hair in the shower and had a mild claustrophobic panic attack when I glance up), our suspicions about the level of dampness were confirmed when we realised that half the carpet in the lounge was wringing wet.

Further investigations revealed that the same was true in my bedroom and mould surrounded its external window/door area.

Seems my theories about the bed clothes feeling damp weren't wrong after all.

We raise the issue with the pub, but it feels unlikely anything will be done by the "sorry I'm only covering - this is my first week here" guy in charge.

We escape to Ambleside where a fine curry, vodka and a stroll by the lake is just what I needed.

Back in Hawkshead the only answer we get is "the plumber can't come out until Monday". Strangely we weren't so worried about their plumbing as the fact I've got flu and my bedroom is dripping with damp. Too tired to fight, I head to bed and try and pretend it's warm and dry really.

Friday, July 06, 2007


Arriving in Hawkshead we have a quick mooch around before getting some lunch in the Sun Cafe.

Leaving P&S to continue, I give in and head to bed in our strange underworld domain.

Bumped by the Sun Inn due to a double booking, we're in the Red Lion. Unlike the sublime inn of that name in Burnsall, the Hawkshead version is altogether scruffier at the seams and we're shown to the 'family annexe' basically a lounge space and two bedrooms in the basement of the pub.

As we arrived I thought it smelt a bit musty and felt a bit cold and damp, but by this time my temperature is rollercoaster, so I'm no judge and frankly I just want to curl up in a bed and sleep.

Awaking later in the evening, I potter out into the lounge space to find a picnic laid out for me by the two loveliest people in the world. All manner of delicious bits from the deli (smoked salmon, halloumi and peppers etc), fresh Ava strawberries and best of all, having heard my Burnsall inspired comments about how its one of the best comfort foods, a pot of Ambrosia Rice Pudding. There are even roses stuck in makeshift vases fashioned from water bottles.

Sometimes the utter wonderfulness and thoughtfulness of your friends makes you draw breath.

Oh bugger now my eyes are running to match my nose.

Hawes to Windermere

Not fancying a night under canvass (wimp), P joined us late last night for our last night in Burnsall. Too late for dinner he had to make do with the remains of S's chocolate pudding (no small quantity). Any hunger pangs he may have suffered were surely banished this morning when he managed both the full cooked breakfast (always a treat here at the Red Lion) and a bowl of their raspberry porridge. Hat's off to the man.

S in contrast was defeated by her basket of fresh baked breakfast pastries, which in what appears to have been a game of chicken with the kitchen, had increased in quantity each morning she ordered it. Day One saw one croissant and about 3 mini pastries/pain au chocolat, Day Two saw a 50% increase and the same increase compounded on Day 3, resulting in about 2 large croissant and 7 mini pastries etc. Presumably if one stays long term they extend their oven facilities rather than admit defeat.

Sadly even the fabulous breakfasts can't disguise the fact that the dry throat and runny nose that I started with last night is developing into a pretty nasty cold.

Still, with stomachs fully sated we check out and pick a scenic route to the Lakes.

First stop Hawes, where the weather like my nose has its needle stuck on wet. We get no further than the creamery, but hey with cheese that good why go elsewhere? We grab a drink in the cafe and admire the interior decorating initiative that decided to hang a large photo on our wall, that captured the view of...well the other part of the cafe frankly. Still I suppose it saves you turning your head...

Heading on the weather improves (even if my health doesn't) and the sun is almost making an effort as we queue for the car ferry at Nab Head.

As I stand on the edge of the jetty a gentleman from a vehicle a few back in the queue wanders up and asks "do you know where the ferry goes?".

Unsure how quite to answer (we're staring at the small strait across which the cable ferry is clearly making its way), I reply with as little sarcasm as possible "err to the other side of the lake". "Oh right" he replies apparently satisfied with this as a perfectly adequate response. I attempt to be helpful and explain what he'll find over the other side, offer a view of a road atlas and confirm that yes he can indeed drive round the lake to get back if he chooses.

After a few minutes of discussing the weather, how high the lake is, the surrounding area of the district etc he asks "so where is Lake Windermere from here then?".

Covering that as best I can by motioning at the 10 miles of lake that is spread out in front of us and successfully managing to avoid using the sound "dur!" at any point, he confesses he's ignorant of the area (no shit Sherlock!) and explains "I've just come up from Kent with the caravan" he says motioning back to the queue of vehicles.

As I glance back up the queue I can't help but note that his four by four is bereft of anything on its towbar.

Should I say something?

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Strid and Bolton Abbey

The weather today is supposed to be a little better, so we head down river a little and follow the signs to the Strid.

Well it seemed the better of the two options:

The woods keep the worst of the rain at bay we follow the sculpture trail up one side of the river gorge and then back down the other.

Fortunately the views of the gorge are fabulous, which makes up for the rather disappointing attempt at a sculpture trail. Half the exhibits were missing (notices seemed to suggest a mixture of 'sold' and 'removed due to vandalism').

A few of those that survive were worth finding, but this one supposedly of Eve and the serpent, looked rather more to us like a woman taking a large dump.

Philistines I know.

Heading down to Bolton Abbey, we grab some lunch and then wander around the ruins and up the river. The weather may be pretty lousy, but you have to admit it makes rivers, streams and waterfalls, excellent viewing. There are a few drawbacks however. For example one wrong step in places and you'll get swept away big style. Similarly if you were hoping to see the stepping stones near the Abbey you might be disappointed. Can you spot the difference?

Publicity shot:

What we found:

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Grassington, Haworth and Oakworth

Ah, just what I needed, a great night’s kip in a fab room.

The weather forecast for today is pretty poor, so plans for walks are shelved in exchange for a morning trip to Grassington.

After lunch, with the rain still falling regularly, we plump for a trip on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway. The route may not be the most picturesque, but frankly any steam train is a pleasure in my book.

On the return leg we break our journey at Haworth.

Exiting the station we head up the incredibly steep hill that any visitor to Haworth will be familiar with. Strangely though, it’s not looking very familiar, but maybe if we just get beyond this next street…

Until we reach the point, where S and I turn to each other and query whether we’re on the right side of the valley.

And now we come to think about it, isn’t that the famous Haworth church building facing us at eye level on the other side?

Ah well, the exercise is good for us no doubt and at least it’s stopped raining for a bit.

Having ascended the correct slope, we mooch about the tourist friendly gift and curiosity shops, pausing only briefly to take in the sight of Nick Frost being filmed for something or other…very random.

We spend a lovely evening at friends A&K in Oakworth and get back to Burnsall in time for another late evening walk along the river (downstream this time).

We're not sure what's been going on in the district, but in addition to one very poorly looking live bunny, we passed numerous rabbit corpses. Looks like they need Stuart to do a clear up.

Timing it to perfection, we get back just as the very last of the light is fading. At least the evenings have been fine I suppose.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007


Rarely have I felt more in need of a break, so the prospect of a few days away with S is just what’s needed.

Avoiding the worst of the traffic by cutting cross-country, we arrive at Burnsall in time for an early dinner. The timing is fortunate as it allowed for a decent post meal walk along the river, which given the quality of the food was well needed (man, I’d forgotten how good their rice pudding is).

I’ve never seen the Wharfe run so high or fast. Evidence of flooding is here and there, but fortunately the Red Lion, a former ferryman’s inn, has escaped any of the problems.

Pretty hot on the countryside code round here too (look carefully at the top bar of the gate)…

Back at the inn, we relax in the lounge, drink tea and coffee and engage in people watching our fellow guests (we figure “maybe I should have mentioned I’m allergic to white flour” woman is going to be good value for money).

Monday, July 02, 2007


Photo taken at the cricket at Old Trafford.

Note glorious day in midst of the wettest June on record.

Note how we're sat in the one bit of the entire ground not in the sunshine. Brrrr...

Photo taken at Cheltenham on the Sunday morning.

Photo taken at Cheltenham on the Sunday morning a few minutes later.

Bad blogger, bad blogger, go to your room!

The following correspondence landed in my inbox recently:

Dear Ms xxxxx,

I am forced to write this epistle as usually I am kept fully up to date of your comings and goings via your rather excellent blogging site. The wonders of modern science.

I have of late noticed a distinct lack of information being published on your blog and I was wondering if all was well.

I am not by nature a nosey person but on this occasion I am forced to act of character.

It is quite irresponsible of you to create an audience expectation by recounting hilarious adventures, with a myriad of weird and wonderful characters, whom I believe you refer to as your ‘friends’. All the vivid descriptions of yummy food that you devour and your rather odd little fetish for buying shoes and handbags willy nilly. Then because of a busy week, or a lack of self discipline, or even, and I tend to think this is most likely ... Rather too many shopping expeditions ... You just leave your faithful audience just waiting ... And waiting.

This is the kind of shoddy behaviour that lost us the empire and it is fairly obvious to me that you don’t know your born.

I trust this finds you in good health and I would appreciate a little less shilly shallying about and a little more nose to the grindstone.

Yours faithfully

Colonel Witterspoon (retired)

It would seem only polite to respond:

Dear Colonel Witterspoon (retired),

Thank you for your correspondence; it’s so delightful when one receives communication in electronic form from the old and infirm.

I can only apologise for the lack of blog entries of late, life has been rather busy. I feel duly chastised by your words however and will endeavour to improve my performance in this field (I had no idea my thoughtless behaviour, could result in the loss of an empire).

I must admit however, to being intrigued as to your identity. Have we met?

I confess at first I thought, given your “bit camp, quite funny” writing style, that you might be one of my friends...oops I mean “weird and wonderful characters”…called Steve, but I realise the folly in that assumption.

On re-reading the content of your letter, I realise it was perfectly silly of me to think for a moment that you might be the nom de plume for that infamously erratic blogger and ultimate consumerism junkie. You must think me a right chump!

Anyway, I suspect that it will be hard for me to fully atone for the sins that you so reasonably level at me, but I will give it my best shot. I include below a catch up blog as some small recompense for the missing period, but I fear that full service may not properly resume until next week.

At that point I will endeavour to place my nose to the grindstone and quit both the shillying and the shallying.

I only hope that with time, I might regain your high regard and valued esteem.

Yours penitently,

Dame Manolo Blahnik

Summary blog:

Work completed – immense

Lunches with CEO – one

Career limiting comments made comparing company to a Gucci watch – one (but he started it)

End of GCSEs nights out with adopted niece for tapas – one

Technology shopping trips with Stuart – one

Shoe shops including in ‘technology’ shopping trip – two

Physical effort required to force a mardy faced Stuart into said shops – medium to high

Pairs of shoes purchased – one (some excellent double tongued brown converse in the sale)

Chances of ever persuading Stuart to come ‘technology’ shopping again – slim to zero

Visits to newly decorated soon to be home for the DCaRC household – one

Respect for K’s interior decorating skills – high

Cricket overs watched – 20 and errr 20

Dancing giraffes – one

Books of poetry read – one (Rapture by Carol Ann Duffy)

Level of enjoyment of poetry anticipated – low

Level of enjoyment of poetry actual – high

Pubs visited – four

Currys eaten - one

Festival emails and phone calls – immeasurable

Level of frustration – rising

Number of contract killings contemplated – one

Number of contracts placed – zero (as yet)

Trips to Cheltenham - one

Ability to mask loss of faith and trust in a professional manner – all time low

Showdowns – one

Positive outcomes – time will tell

Sleepless nights – two

Good buddies getting me through it – countless

Level of love felt for said buddies – beyond expression