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 green and pints of London Pride with MonkeyFather and pints of gin with MonkeyMother and walks in Richmond Park and lunches by the sea. In Montreal it is still snowing and it feels like spring will never come.

We travelled about a bit. It was nice.


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.

*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).


Monday, February 03, 2014

Brand Unicorn

Pyramids, onions, keys. All of them ways of expressing your 'brand architecture'. They are all different, but exactly the same: someone in the marketing dept. gets in a tizz about it, you spend months doing it, the CEO approves it then it's laminated and stuck on a wall in the 4th floor & no-one  ever looks at it again.

All that is set to change with my new branding tool, the Brand Unicorn(TM).  It is really great. Any idiot can use it and any idiot can see why it's great.  It will work for you whether you own an ice-cream shop on the South Downs called "Betty's Whips" or whether you are IBM/Unilever.

If you are not an idiot but wish to introduce the BrandUnicorn (TM) into your marketing department, I am very happy to come and explain it to any idiots you may have in your team. My day rate is $2,000 and I am worth every penny.

Here goes.


Sunday, February 02, 2014


"Be your dreams!".  "A friend just knows."  "Do what you love. Love what you do."

And so it goes on. Every day Pinterest, the dank walls of lightless cubicles and the Facebook pages of someone you met a 'bonding awayday' in 2009 become ever-more densely filled with pictures of bridges, kittens, wisftul looking ladies on beaches or verdant forest paths covered in 'inspiring words'.

They are not inspiring. They are rubbish. Half of them don't make sense, and most of them are signed "anon",  or "unknown" or with the names of people who made their fortune writing Hallmark greeting cards.  The ones that are attributed to someone you have heard of do not sound probable. For e.g.:

"Reach for the Stars!"
Winston Churchill

"Be the reason someone smiles today"
 Charles Dickens

"One day someone is going to hug you so tight all your broken pieces will stick together."
Jane Austen

This is all rubbish, so I have invented some motivational posters that will help negotiate the bore-infested workplace that you, dear reader and/or fan are forced to negotiate every day. OK here goes.

A perennial classic. Useful in the seconds before you are tempted to report/send email about/complain about/punch Work Arsehole. He is Work Arsehole. Everyone can see it. You do not have to point it out. You will rise above it and behave with dignity and restraint like the grownup you are.

Uncharacteristic sensitivity to swear-wary readers here with the asterisks replacing the UNT, but 2 "cunts" are probably too many in one day. Anyhow, this is very useful if you are in a long meeting with a man talking about laddering up, circling back, touching base, etc.  You probably shouldn't say it out loud with your mouth, but you could print this out and put it in the back of your notebook. Or remember it in your head.

Not sweary, but useful - especially if your walk along a suspiciously well-tended path in an verdant glade is marred by worry about Jackson in accounts is saying about you to Jacquii in IT.   Who cares.  Really.

A classic, originally (apparently) from Poland.
Useful if you are witness to Grade A fuckwittery that isn't really any of your business and/or if you are the type to be irritated by inefficiency, bad decisions etc that are bound to turn out badly.  I now say this out loud a lot, having spent quite a long time involving myself in things that I wasn't actually being given money to do. Life is very relaxing now. 


Thursday, January 02, 2014

What I won't be doing in 2014

Yes. It is 2014. Here are the things I will continue not to do this year:
  • "Work on" myself, unless in expected and/or polite ways, e.g. trimming ladygarden when wearing hotpants, bleaching moustache, cleaning intimate areas with damp flannel before going out on hot days, etc
  • Have an "attitude of gratitude" or claim to be "digging deeper"
  • Wear undercrackers of any brand other than the Sloggis that go up to your waist and are 3% elastic
  • Do the Namaste bow/greeting thing
  • Eat cucumber
  • Enjoy the oeuvre of Sting
  • Get rid of the itch in my ear which is EITHER eczema OR ear dandruff*
  • Use up all my laser hair removal vouchers (paid in full c. 2010) despite moustache and hotpants (see above)
  • Pick up stuff I leave on the floor (e.g. bits of paper, fluff, safety pins, etc) 
  • Eat enough fish.
What will you continue not to do this year?

* Mike on 'The Shahs of Sunset' was diagnosed with ear dandruff and it looked pretty much like what I have. Having enjoyed a quick search of said affliction on Google I discovered that a) dandruff is a fungus (or 'champignon' in French), and b) you treat it with clotrimazole, which informed readers know is what is in the Canesten you use when you are trying to treat your chuff itch.


Saturday, April 06, 2013

5 things. 6th April

  1. I only really like Pinterest now (and Facebook for looking at pictures of ex-colleagues whose names I don't remember at other peoples' weddings).   All you need to do is look at pictures.  My idea is that it functions on the basis that "a picture speaks a thousand words", i.e. one picture of a person dressed as a fluffy dog with a fluffy dog on a lead = 4 mediocre web-blog posts from me about nothing in particular.  If you would like to see my collections of images of people dressed as animals and animals dressed as people, you can look at them here.  I don't think you'll be disappointed.
  2. At work, the newspapers and articles and internet 'experts' & other things we have to read to do our jobs talk about 'digital natives' and Generation I (not sure how we got there from Y but no matter, I do not decide these things). These are the 2-year-olds who are on your iPad posting reviews of the latest Dora the Explorer & 'accidentally' buying ponies online.  I don't understand why people are still talking about this like it's something amazing - it's not.
  3. What is terrifying, however, is the fact that 70% of children under 10 contribute to decisions made around 'major household purchases'.  This is far more terrifying to me than 2 year olds on iPads.  In my mind, it is always the 70s, and small children are in Fair Isle jumpers on the compost heap at the bottom of the garden playing with sticks and worms, not contributing to a lively debate about whether or not the next family holiday will be in St Barts or 'Turks' (whatever the fuck that is) over a delicious kale salad.   I will not link to the blog in question, but apparently children like this truly do exist and here is the proof:

    The other night, he exclaimed “Goodness Gracious!  This salad is delicious!  I love it!!!”  And yesterday, as he chowed down another big bowl of kale salad, he said with bulging eyes “Mama! I can’t stop!  This is so delicious!”

    Christ on a bike.
  4. I do however  want a version of Gogglebox that is the viewer watching the viewers of the TV programmes. It could go on indefinitely, like those halls of mirrors. If you are in the yew-kay (or can do something tricky so 4oD thinks you are), you can watch it here.  I find it very funny.
  5. Alice and Chris off of the Archers are talking like Canada like it is the promised land. They need to be very careful about this, & they also need to be aware that if they are going to Vancouver they are not going to be able to 'live in a house', set up a horseshoeing shop, or go skiing every night (unless Alice is going to be paid $500,000 a year).   My only regret is that it's not theTomArcherbrand going to Canada. The bit of Canada that is Nunavut where there are airports that have no roads in and out of them. That part of Canada.
*NB We will be laughing our tits off at the quaint charm of "Pinterest", "Facebook", "Instagram" and "iPhone" in about 3 months' time, but bear with me for the (transient, everything shall come to dust) moment.


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