26 November 2007

Impulse buy of the day

Well, it's nearly Christmas, and it's grey and soggy outside, so I decided I was in need of some office decorations.

IKEA, of course. Do you really have to ask?

25 November 2007

Places to go, rain to avoid

There's something about a wet, cold weekend that makes you seek out interesting stuff. If it was sunny we'd just head to the park to feed the starving (and increasingly machiavellian) geese and ducks, or go to the beach for a run around.

But, if it's piddling down, you could do worse than head to the Oriental Museum in Durham. Don't be put off by the website (more pictures desperately needed) - there's some beautiful things stuffed into the abyss (it's one of those museums built into the side of a hill, so you arrive at the top floor, and head downwards...). The best bit is the China section, with a massive Chinese dragon hanging from the ceiling, a giant camel, and a whole dressing up box of Chinese clothes. There's also the tiniest tea-set you'll ever see, some very strange animals cavorting on all sorts of ceramics, and some beautiful musical instruments.

The other recent find is the Woodhorn Colliery Museum, up at Ashington. Again, ignore the website (this time it's over-friendly and just a shade too patronising) - it's got some great pit buildings and a fantastic (and very moving) exhibition about mining (which kept a two-year-old and two 60-something ex-teachers happy). Best of all, it's free - just £2 to park the car.

In the era of the £20-odd family ticket (stand up, the Centre for Life), it's refreshing not to be fleeced for wanting to step outside your front door for the day.

20 November 2007

Work-related stuff: the end of puns

I know, I know, more work-related stuff rather than my adventures in suburbia...but there's a really interesting article in Monday's Guardian on the search for a perfect headline, and how the ancient art of subediting is being affected by keywording for search engines.

It's particularly important because lots of papers are integrating their newsrooms - so the same article might appear in print or online or as a broadcast. And if its headline is a clever pun or comment on popular culture that doesn't immediately give you the key words from the story, then it's less likely to be found online. So no more Gotcha! But Freddy Starr Ate My Hamster will still survive...

It's a shame, because although I don't read it on a regular basis, I always marvel at the headlines in The Sun et al. They're consistently funny, annoying, attention-grabbing delights, that make you want to read further. As someone who struggled to come up with 39-character headlines for Ceefax (trust me, there's a limit to how exciting you can make news from Cumbria), I really admire the subs' art.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to listen to JRT read the Book at Bedtime. Normal service will resume shortly.

18 November 2007

Work-related stuff: the Beeb innovates

I went to a BBC Innovation Labs launch day on Friday, which was very interesting. It's all aimed at R&D for interactive tv, mobile, online, radio/audio, but was surprisingly non-techie friendly. Nice people, lots of short whizzy video presentations, and a chance to do some workshops and networking.

It was good to meet some real people for a change - when you're a freelancer you do tend to just talk to and bounce ideas off the cat, so some professional input was a bonus. And I was pleasantly surprised not to be the only woman in the room (there were at least 15 in the audience - hurrah!).

(However, I wasn't surprised to discover that my pay-as-you-go Sagem phone came bottom of the heap of technology sat in the conference room (what is it about graphic designers and fancy phones?). At least the Green Wing theme tune ringtone is better than the endless 24/CTU-calling rip-offs.)

Anyway, interesting stuff. Go if you get the chance - it's fascinating to see what the Beeb's planning on doing with their website architecture (about time), categorisation and personalisation.

17 November 2007

It's almost a song...


One small child asleep in car.
Wi-fi network doesn’t run that far.
It’s piddling down with rain.

Ah, the joys of November.

Not sure this'll make it onto a Song for Europe...

15 November 2007


In one of the more random incidents of the week, I got a copy of the new Fortnum and Mason’s magazine through the post yesterday (I'm obviously going up in the world...)

It’s definitely worth a read, if only to marvel at the aspirational recipe section. I’m quite sure that I won’t be making mozzarella, sun-dried tomato and rosemary muffins or pomegranate mimosa for breakfast any time soon (the 10-minute “quick, chuck some cereal in a bowl and make some strong coffee” breakfast being my forte), but the photos sure look good.

I'll let you know how I get on with the marinated wild boar with prunes in Armagnac...

Update: More breakfast pictures here - these are a bit more my style. Link courtesy of Vic.

11 November 2007

Roll up, roll up, get your Google search words here...

And so to the obligatory blog post on how people arrive at my ramblings. Stop me if you've heard it before....I know, I know it's a fairly lazy way of generating a post, but I can't resist. Especially as the weirdest search terms have been arriving recently - was it something I said?

  • "Dervla Kirwan's wedding to Rupert Penry-Jones": She's annoying on those M&S ads, he looks rather nice. Can't say I know any more than that. But do tell - we might make a fortune from passing it onto the gossip rags.
  • "Toby Stephens rolling in newspapers": The mind boggles. But I'm sure he has a lot of fun doing it. Allegedly.

Maybe they're all trying to find out the solutions to one of those horrendous crossword puzzle things you see in the likes of Heat, full of references to Z-list slebs?

  • "cocktail or tea trolley": Easy. That'll be a cup of Earl Grey and a slice of cake please.

Forget the crossword idea, this is like one of those 20-questions emails designed to let your friends know just how kooky and lovable you are.

  • "the nite mear be for Christmas": May I suggest a course of remedial spelling?
  • "montain treees": Ditto, but as you're Belgian, I might let you off.

There's a distinct lack of appreciation of spelling, I'm beginning to realise. Must contact that mad lot who wanted a grammar tsar at the Beeb. Maybe they can help.

  • "nappy cake devon": This is definitely getting weirder.
  • "cooling forehead while mowing": Eh? And just how exactly did that lead directly to my blog?
  • "pictures of teenagers in nappies": Now I'm worried.

And now, of course, I've gone and encouraged them all over again by putting the search terms in a blog post. Oh bugger. I'm doomed to a neverending hell of bad spelling, B-list actors and weirdos chasing nappies.

09 November 2007

On beauty

I don't know if you've ever been, but aside from the natty statue of Cyrano de B (usually minus his nose), Bergerac's got a rather good beauty emporium tucked away up near the market. I was never bothered about that sort of thing until I hit 30, had a small child and managed to acquire grey hair and wrinkles - and to be honest, it's still not very important, but it at least means that I notice beauty emporia when I'm wandering past.

Anway, said shop (Sephora) is very friendly, has nice own-brand moisturiser and always gives you a free sample of some cosmetic or other when you buy anything. I tend to stick them in a drawer and forget about them for several months.

A couple of days ago, I found one, called Baume Jeune Longtemps Secret de Clarins (Clarins' Secret Younger Longer Balm). It smelled nice, and felt pretty good when plastered across baggy eyes at 6.30am. Ok, I thought. I'm not normally one for spending a fortune on this kind of thing - but I'll push the boat out. Maybe it'll cost me 15-20 quid, but if it makes me feel better at that sort of time in the morning, why not?

81 euros, that's why not.

81 euros?!

I think the French take their beauty regimes somewhat more seriously than I do...

08 November 2007

Kids Telly

Finally, someone who agrees with me on the horrors that await on CBeebies. I can't bear to watch any of it. It's loud, brash, full of irritating, badly-drawn cartoons, stereotyped to the nines, and seems to consist of endless episodes of The Shiny Show and Bob the Builder (the only consolation is at least James Blue Cat might be getting some repeat fees out of it).

I know I'm well outside the demographic, but a bit of consideration for the poor parents watching this nonsense would be good. Or do the channel's producers just assume that it's being used as a babysitting device?

We do watch a bit of stuff - all of it on video or DVD. In the grand tradition of Watch with Mother, the two of us settle down after lunch, or just before tea for a couple of episodes of Kipper (you can't beat a good jazz soundtrack), Bagpuss or current fave, Shaun the Sheep (it's got Vic Reeves singing the theme tune - what more could you want?!).

04 November 2007

The best fish and chips in the world...

and a rather nice beach to build a boat...

We went south of the river for a change on Saturday, to South Shields for fish and chips at Colman's. Don't let the fact that it's David Miliband's favourite restaurant put you off - it truly makes the best fish and chips I've ever tasted. You know how the batter always goes soggy, and you have to poke about inside for a bit of fish? Well, this was perfect - crispy light batter and beautifully thick, steaming cod fillet. I ate the lot - which isn't bad for a girl who's not that bothered about fish and chips, and has to be in the right mood for it.

Maybe it's the fact that we never had fish and chips as a kid (Mum never really liked the smell). I can remember eating them just twice - once somewhere in the middle of Lancashire on the way to visit my grandparents in Burnley (a four-hour trek at the best of times). We sat in a freezing cold, godforsaken valley at one of those terrible picnic spots with a dilapidated wooden picnic table and a rubbish bin. I can't remember whether the fish and chips were any good, but I do remember trying luminous green mushy peas for the first time, and marvelling at the taste.

The second time, Mum and Dad had gone away for a couple of days, and my Grandma and Great Aunty Win were babysitting me and my brother. It was a daredevil couple of days - we stayed up late! we went into town on the bus! (deepest East Anglia wasn't known for its buses at the best of times, so we'd spent most of our childhood being ferried about in a car, or riding on a bicycle) and most importantly we headed to the village chippy for tea. I have no idea whether our illicit fish and chips were any good or not, but we were entranced by the warm fug of the chip shop, the tiny wooden chip forks and the idea of your tea being wrapped in newspaper.

03 November 2007

Brake fluid will remove auto paint (and nail varnish) - so be careful!

Ah, so much patronising nonsense, so little time. I opened my copy of Eve this month (yes, I know, not exactly hip, but hey I'm a handbag-loving 30-something who loves looking at shiny things sometimes) and the snappily titled Hi fell out.

Cunningly designed to look like a magazine, it's actually commissioned by the Highways Agency, who are desperate to inspire you to "get to know your car even better" so you can be "fully prepared for life's more predictable journeys". Hmm.

Sprinkled among the glossy photos of ladies bending over car engines whilst wearing checked trousers (don't ask) were some stunning examples of how not to treat your audience. Bet you didn't know:
  • "Your car is probably the most complicated machine you own"
  • "Modern vehicles can have a huge number of warning lights"
  • "Speed kills - as well as smudging lippy"
There was some really useful information buried under all the glossy tat, which I totally ignored because I was laughing too much. Oh, for god's sake. Do you really think that women only read things if you dress it all up in fashion-speak and plaster the text with pictures of shoes or chocolate eclairs?