Posts Tagged ‘grumpy old git’

Junk mail doesn’t usually tick me off, though the immense quantity I’ve started getting since making the mistake of using hotel internet in Las Vegas is somewhat wearisome. Just recently, however, I’ve found myself becoming grumblesome, mainly because of the Valentine’s themed nonsense plopping into my inbox on a regular basis.

I know the majority of people are either engaged in some kind of romantic entanglement or looking to get themselves into that sort of situation, and it’s ridiculous to expect them to send out a feeler-email just to check people aren’t currently separated, considering the possibility of fractious international divorce proceedings, and have basically given up on the whole area as essentially not for them… but talk about tenuous connections…

I mean, okay, cheap couple’s flights to Venice or wherever is fair enough, but take this email I got from Waterstones the bookstore: ‘Start a love story this Valentine’s Day.’ Well, that wouldn’t have been too bad, either, but the main book they suggest I pick up is Baking Made Easy. Am I supposed to start a love story with Lorraine Pascale, the former-supermodel-turned-Jane-Asher-de-nos-jours? Or possibly someone from the local bakery? Either way I’m not sure I’d be in my home league. (Oxfordshire bakers, interpret this as you will.)

To paraphrase Pip and Jane Baker, 'Forget the woman - it's the cake I want.'

Possibly the suggestion is simply that I just allow myself to fall in love with cake. In which case, guys, get with the programme: I beat you to that one years ago…

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1. I keep being told how exciting it is that Cheryl Cole is apparently going to Los Angeles. I’m not excited. I would be relieved if she was going, having promised to make no further contributions to British public life, with the possible exception of an apology, but not especially excited.

2. At least two dozen people died at the weekend when a mudslide buried a village in Colombia. Precisely nobody real died or was even injured in a faked tram accident on all-good-things-must-come-to-an-end-but-soap-operas-go-on-forever Coronation Street. Which do you suppose has got the most attention from the British media?

3. I keep having to mute the TV whenever the adverts come on in case I should happen to see one for Iceland. Have the Estate of Marc Bolan taken leave of their senses? Do they honestly think Bolan himself, were he still with us, would be cool with one of the greatest guitar riffs to come out of glam rock being used to sell Yorkshire puddings and cocktail sausages?

4. TV Christmas advertising in general. (Except for the trailers for A Christmas Carol, obviously – BBC1, 6pm Christmas Day, in case you hadn’t heard.)

5. Machete is still not showing in Oxford. And hardly anywhere else now, either, dammit. This is a movie featuring Michelle Rodriguez, in which Danny Trejo and Steven Seagal have a sword fight. (It’s a Steven Seagal movie that’s actually got a theatrical release, come to that.) Don’t tell me there’s no demand for it. How can there only be about eight prints in the whole of the UK? Surely the googolplexes can cut down Harry Potter to only fifteen showings a day and allow a few other films a chance?

6. Ann Widdecombe voted off Strictly. Yes, I know this is probably the only time in my entire life I’ll ever want a Tory to win the popular vote, but even so. I even found myself agreeing with the Daily Mail the other day when it said ‘when five boring old decent dancers appear next weekend I’ll feel a bit of a pang’. Damn straight.

7. This rant doesn’t seem to be doing much to shift my writer’s block, which just makes me even more annoyed.

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Prince William is to divorce, Buckingham Palace announced today, in a move unlikely to shock many people. The final details are still being worked out between the Prince and his fiancee, Kate Middleton, but the final dissolution has apparently been pencilled in for around 2022.

‘I know many people will consider this announcement to be premature,’ a spokesman for the Queen said, ‘especially as they haven’t actually got married yet. But given the general atmosphere of uncertainty prevailing in so much of modern life, we thought it was best to let people know as soon as possible.’

When asked why they were still bothering to have the wedding, the Palace’s answer was robust. ‘Tradition is very important to the Royal Family. The traditions of press speculation, of a lengthy engagement, of an overscrutinised wedding, and then of protracted and rancorous divorce proceedings – all these things have a long and glorious history, and surely no-one would wish them to slip into disuse.’

‘Putting on a brave face,’ apparently.


The Queen was reported to be putting on a brave face, and had just bought a new hat. A motley assemblage of bigots, environmentalists, playboys, sports impressarios and failed TV producers Other members of the Royal Family echoed her sentiments. ‘One has to accept this as a fact of modern living,’ said an unnamed Prince. ‘I think William still has it in him to be a great King. I would just ask people to respect his privacy and think of the children. Should they end up having any.’

When asked if he had any advice for Miss Middleton, our source would only say ‘Just steer clear of Dad, and be very, very careful if you ever go to Paris.’

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‘Welcome to the revolution. Welcome to – Power Snooker,’ said Ronnie O’Sullivan, at the top of ITV4’s debut broadcast of, you guessed it, Power Snooker. ‘But what is – Power Snooker?’ I was already confident that my knee-jerk answer – brief and somewhat crude – was pretty much on the money.

Ronnie has always been a slightly divisive and exasperating figure in our house. We particularly enjoy those moments, usually in the early stages of a tournament, where he annihilates a Top 16 player by a virtual whitewash, scoring half a dozen century breaks along the way, and then slumps down on the interview sofa and sincerely complains about how badly he’s playing at the moment. Such are the workings of true genius. And as such, he’s become a massively popular figure – I saw him play a few years ago and the place was packed out. So it’s fairly obvious why he’s been co-opted as posterboy for Power Snooker – ‘snooker not entirely as you have known it before,’ according to a slogan which probably needs a bit more work.

The exact rules of Power Snooker need not concern us overmuch, but basically they appear designed to filter all the tactics and safety play out of the game (along with the skill and finesse they require), and just slap the focus entirely on quick play and big scores (due to rules changes, O’Sullivan scored 164 points in his second frame alone). The exciting new Power Snooker jargon has a bit of a theme to it – the Power Ball! The Power Play! The Power Zone! It sounds like Gladiators.

And – the TV viewer was reassured – for the first time snooker would not be played in an atmosphere of ‘hushed reverence’. Barry Hearne, whose hand I detect in this business, basically encouraged the live crowd to go and get trolleyed and start shouting out. ‘You won’t be bored by this,’ promised the match commentator, who appeared to be accompanied by a grumpy Clive Everton, no doubt dragged there at gunpoint if it really was him.

(Edit: It really was Clive Everton and he actually turned out to be quite mellow about the whole business. Hey ho.)

Well, you know, I’ve never really been bored by traditional snooker (although I came close during the O’Brien-Hunter Masters final in 2001). I like the rather leisurely pace of the game, and its thoughtfulness. It means you can do a kakuro or whatever and not worry too much about missing something important while your eye’s off the screen. It also gives John Virgo more time to mangle his adverbs, which is a major part of the fun of watching for my family. And what’s the big issue with hush and reverence? I suspect it’s a bit easier to play top class snooker without a gang of drunks howling at you. And if you don’t think this magnificent game is deserving of a bit of reverence, then what the hell are you doing playing, staging, or watching it?

Anyway, Ronnie may well reap the rewards of his enthusiastic championing of the new format. The fact that the greatest genius in the history of the game and three-time World Champion ended up playing his opening match against the Belgian Under-15s champion is a little startling, but that must be why they talk about ‘the luck of the draw’.

I was a little amused, earlier this year, by the rather contemptuous tone the Sri Lankan press took when talking about Twenty20 cricket, regarding it as a lowbrow bastardisation of a noble sport. But then cricket’s something I have never had much affection for. Now I sort of know how they felt. I’m all for snooker building up its profile and audience, but surely not through gimmicks like this. (Walks off muttering and grumbling.)

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It would, of course, be missing the point on a fundamental level to criticise a kids’ TV show for being like a kids’ TV show. It doesn’t really make sense. And yet it’s a sign of just how solid and impressive SJA so frequently is, that when it does go a little off-form it’s inevitably a particular disappointment.
 Off-form is in the eye of the beholder, obviously, and no doubt there are plenty of younglings out there who lapped up this week’s slightly silly and disjointed story of reptilian body-hoppers, slightly camp androids and comedy UFO-spotters. There was something there for junior continuity-spotters too, as the tale stitched together the bad guy from last years’ SJA season opener and the alien-covering-up androids from the Dreamland cartoon (what with one thing and another, these guys must be the most ineffectual bunch of mechanicals in Who-world – and that’s up against some pretty stiff opposition). There was even a throwaway moment of pure magic for the elderly viewer, with a tantalising glimpse of the Osiran ruins on Mars.

Doing such a classy reference to what’s possibly my favourite story of them all put me in a very good and forgiving temper where The Vault of Secrets was concerned, which was probably just as well. For the most part it hung together fairly well, but parts of the story were just too absurd to be credible – the comedy characters were no more nor less than simple cut-outs (who would actually name their organisation BURPSS, for heaven’s sake?). The reset-button ending revolving around one of the main characters having her memory erased left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth, as well. Even Torchwood in an off week got this kind of thing right – how could you do something like that to someone you really cared about?

It wasn’t all bad, and I may just be letting my dislike of Phil Ford’s style of storytelling cloud my judgement (Mona Lisa’s Revenge remains possibly the worst thing to have emerged from Upper Boat, though). Nice prosthetics and effects work, and it rattled along well enough – and, with no disrespect intended to Tommy Knight, losing a regular character seems to have loosened the show up a bit now that it’s no longer struggling to accommodate the full quartet every story. Shame they had to get rid of the dog as well, though, but I suspect that decision was down to the lawyers.

Anyway, not what I would call a classic outing, but then I prefer this show when it isn’t being played for laughs. Fingers crossed the programme makers and I will see eye-to-eye again soon.

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