Monday, July 27, 2015

Brush Up Your French with The Daily Mail (Revised 2015)

Regular readers may be aware of my first brush with this book, published in 1931 (4th Edition 1937).  It has been very useful to me in the seven years  since I found it in a 'bazar' run by nuns, and many has been the time that have I been heard telling the greengrocer in almost perfect French that "I have a big order", or telling myself that I am "becoming stoutish". Why, only yesterday I asked my husband if he was "ending his toilet with a good brushing".  

But times change, and with that change comes the need to update the conversations that would be of  use to today's Daily Mail reader.    Therefore, armed with no more than a good look through the comments section of Mail Online* (and a perfectly bilingual husband), I give you: 

Essential Conversation Starters : taken from Brush Up Your French with The Daily Mail (2015 Version)

Anyone who thinks skateboarding in a city centre is acceptable needs psychological assessment.
Quelqu'un qui croit qu'il est acceptable de faire du skateboard dans un centre-ville aurait besoin d'un examen psychiatrique.

I would like a huge refund for all the years my BBC licence fee has been used to fill the bank accounts of numerous sex predators.
Je voudrais avoir un remboursement pour toutes les années ou ma contribution à la BBC a servi à remplir les comptes en banque de prédateurs sexuels.

This is what happened when labour opened floodgates to the world and European masses, 4 million and climbing.
Voilà ce qui c'est passé quand le parti travailliste a ouvert les vannes au monde et aux masses européennes, 4 millions et ça monte toujours.

That is why you should never listen to a liberal: no morals, no ethics and all politics.
Voilà pourquoi il ne faut jamais écouter un libéral: aucune morale, aucune éthique, c'est tout de la politique.

Is it me or does Kate always seem to wear that outfit (striped top, jeans and those shoes) when dressed casually?
Est-ce que je me trompe ou est-ce que Kate semble toujours porter cet ensemble (un dessus rayé, des jeans, et ces souliers) lorsqu'elle s'habille en décontracté ?

Soya products and things like Quorn and tofu aren't actually good for people and THAT needs exposing too.
Les produits du soja et des choses comme le Quorn et le tofu ne sont en fait pas bons pour la santé, et ceci aussi doit être rendu public.

Why don't she get a proper job like the rest of us have to.
Pourquoi ne se trouve-t-elle pas un vrai emploi, comme le reste du monde doit faire ?

We can only be grateful no same sex weddings to be endured - Downton is nice I think !
Nous ne pouvons qu'être reconnaissants qu'il n'y avait aucun marriage gai à subir - Downton est bien je crois !

Useful, non?

Pipe Pipe!


* I didn't put SIC throughout but you will see where I would have done.


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

I accidentally insult a Canadian

It is 5pm on the 8th May, and I am on the ferry that takes you to Toronto Island Airport.

Next to me is a man who looks like Bryan Adams. Scars, reddish hair, quite short. It can't be him because his suitcase is properly crap. Not "Tumi, darling, I've had it for YEARS"; more "I bought this at Birmingham airport because the other one broke on the bus". 

The ferry makes it across 10 feet of duck-infested water.  

Man (pleasantly Canadian):  Well, that was exciting. 
Me: I know. Do you need a little sit down? 
Man: I think I need to after that.  What did you think of the election result? 
Me (startled. Am I that obviously English?): Horrifying. 
Man: Wasn't it. 

We walk off the ferry and into the terminal. The man chats very knowledgeably about for e.g. UK foreign policy, death of NHS, fucking Tories, etc.  

Me: You know more about it than me. I've been here 8 years. 
Man: Well, I've lived in London for 25 years.
Me: Ooh! Where? 
Man: Chelsea. You know World's End? There. Anyway... bedroom tax ... hitting the people that need it the most ...  I don't know what to do about it... George Osborne ... awful ... 

This goes on for 4 minutes.  It is not Bryan Adams because there is NO WAY Bryan Adams would a) have a suitcase bought in an emergency situation in Birmingham Airport; b) be talking about bedroom tax to a stranger on a ferry.

I start impersonating George Osborne in order to join in. It is the best I can do. I am planning to make a topical joke, which I have been rehearsing in my head.

Me (in George Osborne voice): Well, speaking as a multi-billionaire ... 
Man (face falls, looks hurt): Well, I'm not sure what THAT has to do with it. 

We get to customs, and say goodbye. He waves. 

I Google Bryan Adams.   He has homes in Chelsea, London and Paris, France. 

Sorry, Bryan Adams.


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Crash Bang Wallop

A very strange weekend last weekend. We walked past the old hospital on the way back from dinner, muttering about it being turned into "Flats for Twats (TM)", and the time we got lost in the corridors underneath it trying to find a cashpoint to pay the nuns.  Neither of us could remember the last time we'd been in hospital (me: wisdom teeth, 1991; him: thumb operation, 2003 or 4).

Two minutes later, JM twists his ankle in a pothole, falls over and swears a lot while clutching his leg and not crying. It isn't broken, but it is fucked. He drags it up the stairs home, is iced and raised and strapped and drugged, and goes to bed miserable. 

The next morning, I go to the shop to buy him a comic, a bun and a bandage.  Two minutes later, I am on my face, having twisted my ankle in a pothole.  Someone asks me if I am OK. I am, except there is blood coming out of my trousers and I feel a bit hot. 

I get back.  JM is now in the armchair looking at his laptop.  He has had an allergic reaction to his drugs, and his eye is swollen up. He cannot take any more painkillers. His leg is wrapped in ice in a leaky sandwich bag. The cat sits on his laptop. It is pitiful. 

Then I start puking.  I go very cold, then very hot, and it all shoots out.   It is quite exciting because I am genuinely incapacitated and can't stand up.   I drift in and out of sleep all day having a weird dream about Channing Tatum. 

Channing Tatum (wrapping his arms around me from behind): I'm putting my arms around you because I love you so much. 

Me: But Channing Tatum, you can't, I'm so old and so fat and I've got a thing that needs cutting off. I am not showing you that.  Or that come to think of it.  And definitely not that. 

Channing Tatum: I do not care. I know you don't believe me. But I am going to show you with my slow steady love that I love you. And your thing that needs cutting off. I would like to squidge it. 

Me (really wishing Channing Tatum would give over): Channing Tatum stop it.  

When I am not dreaming about Channing Tatum, I watch 2 episodes of Pappano's Classical Voices* and weep at story of Fritz Wunderlich falling off the stairs at a hunting lodge and dying.  I drink water and throw it up, drink water and sleep. JM limps about. We are still in our pyjamas, and stay in them until we go to work on Monday morning. 

We are OK now, apart from my scabs, my lack of 7lbs, and JM's bruises. In fact, we are so incredibly well that we spent the weekend shoving things in cupboards and making the house look like normal people live in it, because THE PHOTOGRAPHER IS COMING and it is going on the market.   (If anyone wants it, let me know. It will be perfect for you if you are looking for a house 45 minutes outside Montreal with a replica 16th French bread oven and a cellar big enough for 2 kayaks.)   

Yes. We really are moving - and to a place without potholes, too! I am so excited I am going to throw up.

(If anyone has any 'how to move from Canada to the UK or France' tips, do send them in. I did UK to Canada, and JM did US to Canada (twice), but we haven't been the other way yet.  If the tips are things like "drink some gin" and "relax it'll be fine", I'm in.)

Pip pip!


* I really love this programme. I don't know anything about opera or singing and now I know enough to go and find out more.  I'm going to write to Sir Antonio Pappano tomorrow to thank him and I'm pretty sure - judging by my relationship with C Tatum - that he'll write back.



Saturday, July 04, 2015

Important Information For My Adoring Readers And/Or Fans

"Where is your blog?", people sometimes say.  "I used to find out what you were doing by reading your stupid website", say others, tears filling their adoring eyes, "but now I know nothing of your life."  "Why, NWM? Why?", bellow the others.  "WHERE ARE YOU?".

"Listen up, kittycats", I reply, doing some fancy footwork with my tiny monkey feet as Music Sounds Better With You plays inside my monkey brain.   "I've been in Canada for nearly eight years.   I've tried to find things to write about, but it's all so very nice and so very reasonable that nothing ever happens (apart from accidentally insulting Bryan Adams*). But all that is going to change."

Yes. Change is afoot. I am going to tell you all you need to know. And all you need to know is that I (accompanied by a veterinary research histopathologist - who thankfully no longer cuts his own hair), am moving back to EUROPE, possibly Blighty, possibly La France, and that means that there is a HIGH CHANCE that things of interest will start happening again, and therefore a HIGH CHANCE that there may be things to write about again.

Yes. It is true. Come "the fall" (or "autumn", as it will once again be correctly known),  we will be gone from the Canada.  I will not spend much time explaining why we are leaving, other than to say that in my view Canada is a very honourable, large and beautiful place, with values that (on the whole) I deeply admire and respect.   But it does not contain much of what I - sofa-bound lily-livered Londoner that I am - like the best, and what I like the best (apart from my husband) are my friends and family, drizzle, temperate weather, old buildings,  patchy public transport susceptible to minor variations in weather, a 2 hour drive being "a really long way", and Waitrose.

I am very excited.

Pip pip!


* True story. Will elaborate if anyone is interested.


Monday, February 02, 2015


What's up, homies. In the second of an occasional series, I try and tell you what's happening in Britain by sitting in Montreal and looking at 1) the British media; 2) Twitter, Facebook, etc.

1. The Weather

Thanks to Russia, temperatures are going to plummet to -11 in scenes not witnessed since last winter. I do not know what everyone is complaining about, as everyone knows there is no place on earth as cold as a British bathroom in early Spring*, so they should be used to it by now.

The following photographs are likely to appear in the next few days:

  • Child tobogganing in inadequate outerwear down Richmond Hill
  • Dog with snow on nose
  • Man with beard looking at frozen water feature/waterfall in a mournful style
  • People skating on a puddle
  • Malnourished snowman (due to deficit of actual snow with which to build anything of any substance)
  • Picture of the only snowplough in England broken down somewhere off the M4. 
There will be 'travel chaos' as 4cm of snow 'hits London and the South East'.

Meanwhile, in Canada, it is -26, 'feels like -38', and the snow is horizontal. 

2. Kale

I know it has been around for years and it is nothing new, but I see from the newspapers that Kale is now ALL THE RAGE in England. (Do not tell me this has been true for the last 3 years, for you will be lying. It was in January 2015 that the Grauniad published "Our 10 Best Kale Recipes" ; the New York Times were down with that shit in 2009.)

Yes. Kale was being chatted about by halfwit hipsters and part-time 'yogis' long before Martha Stewart got her hands on it.  St Yotam of the Ottolenghi had only just worked out how to seed a pomegranate when I first tried it in New York in about 2009.   I had 'organic kale salad with salt cod and buttermilk dressing'. Kale: fibrous, sulphurous, despairing.  Salt cod: raw, like a depressed scallop.  Buttermilk dressing: a squirt of old milk. It was no good to anyone, least of all me. 

A year later, someone I trust said it was very nice when sliced up finely (for the cooks among you, I believe the correct expression is 'chiffonade') with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Apparently the best thing about it was that you could have it hanging around for a long time and it would marinade and become more delicious.  

This was true. I now eat that shit about 3 times a week. It is a salad you can make for lunch on Monday and still eat on Friday, because it doesn't go soggy like stupid lettuce.  We will leave it there, for there is nothing worse than a kale bore (see this post, point 4). It remains for me to wish you  a hearty 'good luck', and to suggest that you avoid the ready-chopped bags of nonsense from Waitrose. If you can't work out what to do with kale on its stalk,  here's a video from  Martha to tell you.  

(I believe the Cauliflower Craze has come your way, thanks to St Yotam of the Ottolenghi amongst others,  but if not - brace yourselves, people: roast cauliflower, cauliflower pancakes, cauliflower mash.)

3. TV Reviews

Dr Who is gasping a lot and they are all in court, where Jean-Michel Jarre's ex-wife is pretending to be a lawyer. It is not nearly as exciting as the first one.  I think people are trying hard to like it but they don't really.  It has a lady singing at the beginning and end like in the Danish and Swedish crime thrillers.

Wolf Hall (Review 1)
Sex dreams about Mark Rylance.

Wolf Hall (Review 2)
Why can't people just say, "it's fucking incredible" and leave it at that?  If it was America they would be like: "this is awesome" and everyone would be OK with it and enjoy it.  If it was Canada they would say, "this is good" and everyone would just get on with it in a polite way.  But we can't say that, can we. A little dig here and there. It is necessary. 

Wolf Hall (Review 3)
Mark Rylance. Black eyes. Eyebrows. What is in your jerkin? Sex dreams. 

Celebrity Big Brother
Keith Chegwin!

Polar Bears.  Mammoth, adequate snow wear, shagging in a garage. Everyone's a bit confused but think they have to enjoy it because it's set up north.  I think you 'need fortitude' to be able to sit through it !!!!!!

4. The Archers

Everyone is shrieking about how it has been dumbed down and is like a soap  opera with its improbable storylines and drama. I do not know what they are complaining about. It is better than ever, and my dream storyline -  in which Helen, Kate and Tom all fuck off out of it to New Zealand to open an organic yoga farm with Kenton's daughter -  is actually looking viable. Fingers crossed! 

That is all for now, adoring readers and/or fans!


* This was said by some fella in a newspaper last week but I can't remember who - Times I think, writing about Fortitude


Sunday, March 30, 2014

In England

We got back last night. In England it seemed to be all  daffodils and spring rain and walks in Richmond Park and lunches by the sea. In Montreal it is still snowing and it is quite clear that spring will never come.

We travelled about a bit in England. Here is where we went.


We go into the Royal Pavilion and I see enough from the entrance hall, before we've even bought our tickets, to go: JESUS.

A cheerful stranger on his way out hears me and says,  I know darling, isn't it fab, it's like a massive gay cathedral, just WAIT until you see the dining room. You will DIE. (I did not die, but we did shriek.)

Brighton, Pt 2

We saw Steve Coogan in a window.

Tesco, Ware

I am buying a sandwich (no good can come of a shop-bought felafel wrap) and two men behind me haul their baskets up. One basket is full of Mr Kipling's Lemon Slices; the second is full of Tesco Chocolate Chip Cookies; the third, three bottles of wine and family-sized packets of Ready Salted crisps. I say, I must congratulate you, those are the finest baskets I have ever seen. One of the men says, you know, I got sick of those fad diets, they weren't working for me, so I invented my own.


I met Dave Shelton - known to me as internet friend and illustrator of the fine pictures you see in this masthead, known to everyone else as (award-winning, although he would never tell you that himself) author of the very brilliant A Boy And A Bear In A Boat - in person for the first time. It was everything we could have wished for and more. We talked of cashmere private jets and drank pints of beer.

Cambridge Pt 2

We stayed in a B&B run by two people who could not be less cut out to be B&B owners: very posh and very shy, although I liked them because they left you alone and once (according to Trip Advisor) 'accommodated a parrot in a room'.

They had a thing I have never seen before: a Pifco Boiled Egg maker that I think I broke by piercing the egg too enthusiastically.  It sort of frothed up and frondy bits stuck out of my egg. Has anyone else ever seen one of these? I am intrigued. I think it was made around 1973.


We stayed in a B&B with a parrot on a pouffe, hand-written signs on everything and little pots of jam on the table in the morning labelled (as if written with the left hand) :






We had to choose our breakfast the night before. I would like a kipper but I won't, I said to the owner, they are delicious but there are other people here and they may not like the smell of fish in the morning.

The poached eggs I had instead were a chimera of poached and fried eggs, and the bacon was salty. Nice bacon, I said, expecting them to say, yes, it's from the local butcher, it is organic, locally sourced, home-cured and made from a pig called Rosie.  We changed to Tesco smoked, they said. And then the man in charge appeared: just a tiddler, he said, laying down before me the biggest kipper I have ever seen, splashing about in butter.  If you can't eat it all I'll give it to my two seagulls, said the lady.


We went with our two dear friends to eat delicious pulled pork from the back of a caravan. It rained and 10 Dutch teenagers rushed in; the caravan rocked; we admired each others' shoes. It stopped raining and we went for a mini walk on the beach. This was what it looked like. I promise I haven't done anything to these photographs: if anything, the sea glowed more than it does here:

Behind us apocalyptic clouds gathered, but strangely did not gather over the bit of Sussex that Paul McCartney lives in.  I don't know if the McCartney Microclimate officially exists, but if it doesn't, it should. Here is a photograph of it : this is what it truly looked like - no trickery or fancery.


Despite apparently having the most terrifying bonfire night celebrations of anywhere on earth, Lewes - where more dear friends live - seems like an excellent place to live. It has proportionately more shops selling Recycled Overpriced French Tat than any other town in the UK. It also has very high quality cakes, which is reason enough to visit.

We ate a lot of cake that holiday, and saw a lot of friends. It was very nice. Nicer than the snowplough that just drove past and the thought of work in the morning, but I have the memory of cake, and that should see me through.

Pip pip!


*I told this story to Monkeymother who said, they must have been buying things for church. I am not sure what religion it is  but it is definitely one I would like to join.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Today (extract from email)

"...had to wait for cab in dread coffee shop
no cash so had to pay for coffee with card
minimum 5 bucks
so bought a 'biscotti'
fucking biscotti looked like a lobster would look like if it was a biscuit
wasn't going to eat it was going to give it to someone tomorrow
but couldn't even wrap it up so massive and frondy with stuff on it
so said give it to someone else
taxi finally turns up
i get in taxi spill coffee all over it
get to airport
flight delayed."


Saturday, February 15, 2014

I watch news of the floods in Britain with a Canadian friend

"With that flooding the French can just row in ... there are no trees in England, just hedgehogs, and that's why there's the flooding. And you haven't got guns. Which makes it even easier for them. Now's their chance."

"Are all the hedgehogs in little rowing boats?"



Thursday, February 13, 2014

Useful Work Props


Thursday, February 06, 2014

7 Essential Marketing Insights for Marketing To Baby Boomers

I work in an advertising agency. Sometimes I have to get up at 6am and go to hotels in airports to make sweeping statements about large groups of people I have not met to salesmen from places I will never visit. Today it was BABY BOOMERS.  I am generous, so if you too have to make such a presentation, here is the essential info. (NB: on my slides I carefully noted the following: SourceThe Internet, 2014 - and you should do the same.)

1. What is a Baby Boomer?
It depends what year it is when you read this, but according to the internet, they were probably born between 1946 and 1965.  So they could be my Dad, or they could nearly be my husband.

2. What should I do if I want to design packaging for them?
Consider the hands.  Their hands are going to fall off soon because of arthritis OR holding on too hard to their Harley-Davidson handlebars, so don't use that plastic they put new pairs of scissors in (that you then can't open - because you haven't got any scissors),  or small buttons.   Pre-1974 Sellotape is good, as is Velcro. (Those tapes they put on peas don't make sense to people of any age, so don't use those.)

Consider the eyes. As everyone knows, when you get past 40 your eyes fail and you go from being able to see the "9" on front of the Number 9 bus from a mile away to not being able to read the back of a packet of biscuits (let alone the back of prescription painkillers, which is why you can't remember what happened last Tuesday).   Because of this, you will be able to get all sorts of crap past anyone over the age of 40 -  for e.g. "contains equivalent of 23 spoons of sugar", or "1 portion = 156g saturated fat", or even "Contains formaldehyde".    No-one knows this, but this is why the lard piles on when you get past 39. It is not the fault of your metabolism. It is the fault of your failing eyesight.

3. What is the ideal retail environment for Baby Boomers? 
Somewhere full of expensive, branded stuff they can buy and then take home and enjoy because the kids have finally left home.

4. What should I do if I sell cars? 
Stop being a mental and designing cars for 25 year olds. They haven't got any money. Design cars for older people. They are loaded and have enough time to use the self-parking function while listening to "Sting Live In Montreux" on the 'car stereo'.

5. Are they comfortable with technology?
Steve Jobs was a Baby Boomer FYI. Also Gates. Etc. Baby Boomers are watching cat videos like the rest of us. If they are not doing that, they are reading The Sunday Times on their iPad minis.

6. Do they like music?
Their musical references and taste are approximately 100,000 times better than "Millennial Teens" (whatever the fuck they are).

You will say "One Direction", and they will just look at you and say,  "The Rolling Stones". You will say, "Katy Perry", and they will say, "Joni Mitchell".  "Justin Bieber", says the youth. "Talking Heads", says the Baby Boomer.  This one could go on forever. What is interesting is that Baby Boomers are able to like OLD music and NEW music and hold both in their heads at the same time - while also using the self-parking function and listening to "Sting Live in Montreux".

In conclusion, using either Bob Dylan and/or Petula Clark to sing a tune for your commercial is probably a good idea.

7. What do they worry about? 
a. Their children living at home forever.
b. Retirement funds.
c. Getting tickets for "Sting Live At The Albert Hall"

If you can invent a product that solves any of these problems, you will become rich.

8. What do they look like?
They come in many shapes and sizes. You can choose depending on what you like the look of. Here are some good examples:

No-one needs to see this sort of thing, Baby Boomer or not.

If this is what being a Baby Boomer
is like, I am IN.
If this is what Baby Boomers look
like, I am ALSO in (their pants).

Coming soon: A Marketer's Guide to Millennial Teens (whatever the fuck they are).


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