Monday, 28 April 2008

My Mother's Brown Sugar Collection

In the safe and certain knowledge that my mother still isn't at all sure what a 'blog' is, and emboldened by Mrs G's recent maternal posting, I thought I would take the liberty of sharing with you a small selection from my mother's brown sugar heist, her hotel toiletry haul and her complimentary pen collection.

My mother you see, has always had this embarrassing propensity to strip any hotel room, airline or bank of its 'compliments'. And did I mention her 'Marmalade' collection? All through my life she has shamelessly stuffed individual marmalade and jam pots and butter pats (and serviettes and spoons) into her bag in restaurants - even helping herself to extra ones from the counter - in full view of diners and waiting staff whilst I sat opposite, fervantly wishing the floor would swallow me up.

Or her.

She claims this is all harmless and that she is being 'green' as 'they would only throw it all away otherwise.' Except that she sort of undercuts her argument by the fact that all these items are still to be found unused in kitchen and bathroom cupboards years later - somewhat to the detriment of the perishables - it has to be said.

I only wish I hadn't chucked her priceless Pan Am sugar and marmalade out on the grounds of Environmental Health during my last visit, not being a blogger and thus regarding the world with a mercenary blogger's eye view, at the time. :-)

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Notes From a Northern Ireland

A few random jottings and photographs from my recent parental visit to the home country.

Is it the London Eye?

No, it's the Belfast WHEEL!

Is it the Gherkin?

No, it's Belfast's very own Pickled Onion!

Is it just me or are tourist attractions in danger of becoming as homogenised as High Streets these days?

Though there's always Tesco's ceiling to admire in Belfast city centre.

And railway stations to marvel at in the former UK capital of terrorism flaunting LITTER BINS.

Dear readers, you'll be heartened to know I resisted temptation. Probably something to do with my ecstasy at the £6.40 return fare from Ballymena-Belfast, a journey of some 26 miles which would have cost at least three times that on the mainland. No wonder English railways don't trust we disenfranchised 'travelling public' with LITTER BINS! Oh and NI trains arrive on time and have empty seats as well.

Civilisation in railway stations goes on.
Hmm. I wonder if this would work on the Tube?

Did I mention the splendid shopping in Ballymena?

'Go Gay. Now. Before it's too late! And don't forget our big Gay giveaway on late opening Thursday.'

Where else can you buy a brand new 1980's radio alarm with no FM band on, as I did (inadvertantly) on my last visit, and see clock and watch boxes stacked up to the ceiling on all sides?
It will be a sad day when shops still selling 1970's/1980's stock are no more. Northern Ireland is pretty well the last bastion of these treasure houses to catch one before they die. But make no mistake, Donaghy's sells some pretty funky clocks and pocket radios (as long as you don't mind about the FM thing).

You will find household emporia by the dozen, so no excuses not to perfect the art of Housewifery. I guarantee you will care about the perfect tea towel weft within the space of a week and truly appreciate the difference between the good and the type water drips off. Northern Irish linen is second to none. NI bath towels even cover your whole body from neck to ankles. As a tall girl, sick of trying to dry myself on English face cloth size bath 'sheets', I salute them.

But never fear, the Northern Irish housewife likes a bit of glamour too.

Like a lot of UK towns, Ballymena has made some planning mistakes.

Demolishing this for example.

To make way for this

And plonking a brand spanking new museum to celebrate Ballymena's history (for which a row of Edwardian buildings were demolished)


Next to this! (Town Hall)

Meantime on a main street in Belfast city centre I was shocked to see
this. What a fortune a Period city centre pad would be worth in the middle of Oxford, whatever its parlous state!

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Sleeping With Buck Rogers

One advantage of having parents who only redecorate when the old wallpaper physically falls off the walls is that 27 years later you can still find Gil Gerard (the producers couldn't afford Harrison Ford) and Erin Gray on your bedroom wall as 'Buck Rogers in the 25th Century' and his sidekick Wilma Deering.

How I remember the excitement at the age of 11 when I was allowed to choose my very own wallpaper for ONE wall! And the little shop along a side street which sold this surprise in amongst all the swirls, Anaglypta and woodchip. It might even have been around the time when I called upon my not inconsiderable powers of imagination - fired up by Michael Jackson's Thriller video no doubt - to fantasise that my one-horse Northern Irish home town was actually in America - a suburb of LA - for one entire Saturday. After watching Multi-Coloured Swap Shop on TV of course. What a magical day that was, tho' I still can't imagine how I did it, even though my town has now increased to at least two horses with its own M&S, Starbucks AND Caffe Nero!

Former Olympic swimming champion Larry 'Buster' Crabbe played the original screen Buck Rogers in 1939 (and also the sexier Flash Gordon with his hair dyed blonde in 1936). Not to be confused though (as I used to) with missing Brit frogman war hero
Lionel 'Buster' Crabbe

Both of whom would have made equally splendid wallpaper with all their adventures (fictional and real) I'm sure! And who could forget the alarming array of sparks emanating from the back of Flash's rocketship in the 1930's series? (perhaps I should mention the televisual powers-that-be were kind enough to repeat all these magical mini-serials on BBC2 in the 1970s/80s as an alternative to Blue Peter for the benefit of those of us who didn't catch them first time round!)

Friday, 11 April 2008

Blogging Kills!

Blogging Kills!

according to the New York Times.

Mind you if I could find a way to get paid for blogging (without plastering my blog in ads, 'cos obviously we all love reading blogs to catch up on our purchasing opportunities!), I'd probably become a 24/7 blogoholic too!

But just before 'terminal' blogoholism sets in I'm off to Northern Ireland (verdant land of Philomena Begley, fishing & the odd spot of knee-capping) for a week to see my parents. Who, I might add, don't even own a steam-powered computer and are still awaiting official reassurance about the Year 2000 meltdown problem. So no posting from me for the next ten days, but hopefully I'll sneak a chance to catch up with my fellow blogging brethren at whatever airport internet cafe I can find.

Meantime I'll leave you with my favourite old Irish e-mail chestnut and some cool shots I stole off flick'r.

Dear Receiver

This is an Irish email virus.

Since we are not very technologically advanced in Ireland, this is a manual virus.

Please delete all the files on your hard disc yourself and send this
email to everyone in your address book. That'd be grand, tanx

Paddy O'Hacker

*The author wishes to make it clear that no moles were harmed for the creation of this posting.*

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Gok Shock (Is he a closet heterophobe?)

Although a self-confessed binge makeover show addict, Help, I'm a Binge Makeover Show Addict!, I must confess that Channel 4's 'How to Look Good Naked' has always left me somewhat cold.

Firstly I find it hard to buy into such a ridiculous premise - that women would need help with posing on catwalks, billboards and in shopping centres naked and secondly, there is not enough uplifting life change at the end, or indeed enough free goodies on offer to make it worth applying! Secondly I've always found the presenter, the bizarre-looking Gok Wan deeply disturbing and been unconvinced that he actually likes women that much, despite all the media raving about him and how he has made it his life's mission to boost flagging female self-esteem.

Now it seems one of the professional models used in the series to flank Gok Wan's makeover subjects has broken cover to reveal that he actually likes to scream every slang term for 'prostitute' that he can think of at them when the cameras stop rolling and pays a mere £100 a day. She was so traumatised after working on the show for three days that she is now profoundly unconfident about her own attractiveness and finds it hard to work. How To Feel Bad Naked

But of course it's the most natural thing in the world that someone who genuinely loves women would seek to help them humiliate themselves in the buff in public. Who could question it? But at least it keeps Gok off the streets and hey, I really wouldn't meet him on a dark night - he's scary looking enough in the day!

Considering how badly Mr Wan, Trinny & Susannah and many other makeover divas dress themselves, and their questionable forays into client psychology, perhaps it is time there was a makeover series to makeover the TV makeover stars from tip to toe, not to mention give them a check-up from the neck up while they're about it! If it's all about chasing ratings, I can see this being a winner.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Coming Out of the Closet

Inspired by Old Fogey's posting; I hereby admit to being a Victorian sanitaryware fan (though I have an excuse being in the historic buildings business)! Check out Victorian manufacturer Thomas Crapper's cloakroom basin-to-die-for (top left). The Rolls Royce of porcelain products - but well worth its weight in £850.00 for the owner of the Victorian property who seeks to add real and timeless value to it.
The 1962 documentary 'The London That Nobody Knows' features the extraordinary Victorian public lavatories in Holborn (sadly now gone) where the ornate gents loos all had fish-tanks above and every time the loo was flushed the fish got fresh water! Yes public loos, private bathrooms and drainage were a big deal to the Victorians, and for all their famed prudery, they celebrated their conveniences in admirably decorous style, replete with picture wall tiles.
Contrast this to the mean white sanitaryware of today (below) which deserves to skulk in the closet uncelebrated. Bizarrely, since toilet cisterns became smaller in the name of employing less water in the flushing, their whole scale has shrunk so that the more ample physique struggles to fit on them anymore, particularly with the loathesome back-to-wall variety. In addition they have mysteriously become lower and lower to the ground, despite the fact that our Victorian forebears of the grandiose 'throneware' were the ones of the slighter frames! Sanitaryware manufacturers may call their designs 'greener' but I call them bad design if they are no longer fit for purpose, and maintain the Victorians were nearer the mark with high cisterns which used gravity to deliver a thunderflush, thus requiring less water. Thomas Crapper's creations were anything but crap!

Tuesday, 1 April 2008


Higher Mortals

Why all the intrigue about Ted 'n' Sylvia?
Bet they were a dead boring couple really
Arguing over who used up the last of the milk
And who let the dog in all wet
Saving all their fancy words and intense emotions
For their odes,
And using small ones for each other.
Perhaps they even had it down to the odd grunt or two
Now and then
As they passed the salt and butter.

© LS King

'Ted 'n' Sylvia - The Truth'
Out now in all bad bookshops.

Some of you may recall my earlier poem The Ted Hughes I Never Knew

Blame it on too many poetry seminars where these two's rarity-beyond-compare was continually drummed into me! (though fair do's they were pretty good.)