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Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Carte Dor

Am I the only one slightly disturbed by the Carte Dor advert? A tub of ice cream being dipped in to whilst someone sings in the background about how “you have to follow through”. Now personally prefer not to think about ice cream in the context of following through and I would have thought advertisers would have steered clear of any links between their products and crapping yourself. Then again I’ve just seen one for Canisten and their tag line is “feel yourself again”. It beggars relief really.

My real venom is saved for the utterly revolting one about the poor, badly dubbed child who “wants to do a poo at Paul’s house”. Lucky old Paul. I can’t even remember what the advert is for so it’s not even a very effective, vile advert. Just stomach churning. Thinking about it, maybe it’s for an air freshener. If so they should take the buttock clenching boy round to the family who find it necessary to have an air freshener that goes off every 30 minutes in a variety of scents. Where on earth are these people living? Next to a sewage treatment plant? What kind of smells are they producing (in their living room) which can’t be covered by opening the window or just waiting for it to go away? Perhaps the advert doesn’t show the whole picture, perhaps if the camera pulled back a bit you’d see Granny sitting on an over flowing commode or the entire cast from “All Creatures Great and Small” filming in the corner.

I used to live near a sewage treatment plant and occasionally in the garden you’d get a slight whiff from the poo-ery but never enough to have motion sensitive air fresheners set to detonate at our every step. Weirdly you used to have to pay to take a short cut through it. Slowing down to put your money in the toll was always risky. Once when driving through it, it was particularly pungent and my mum felt moved to shout “Grief Barney, is that you?” he pointed out it was more likely to be the 50,000 tonnes of excretement outside the window.

I honestly didn’t mean to theme this entire article around poo. Apologies for anyone enjoying a snack or a meal. It was meant to be about advertising. Unfortunately all the adverts that annoy me seem to be lavatorial in tone. I don’t really see the point of adverts for toilet paper- it’s not a luxury item. I’ve never seen an advert for andrex or whatever and then rushed out and bought a load.

The weirdest advert at the moment is for a special cream that stops you chafing when you walk. What?!?!?! Surely clothes solve this problem, or I don’t know, not being so fat your skin ruptures when you walk. Or perhaps go out for lunch with women who like to discuss their bowel movements over lunch and keep a handy packet of laxatives in their handbags to recommend to their friends. Lunch with the bulimic brigade. It’s not just astonishing that they are talking about this over lunch it’s that one of the non-speaking one doesn’t look up and go “do you mind? I’m eating here”.

Oh dear, I’m back to poo again.

Office Pet

I have for a long time been waging a campaign to get an office pet. My suggestion of an office dog was immediately vetoed even though I promised to leave a tap running and the teabags in easy reach to keep him going at weekends. An office cat was disallowed too. As was a rabbit, a hamster and a gerbil. I then proposed an office panda which we could call Mahatma. Mahatma Panda could live in the archive room, I thought. It would be very roomy and he could serve the dual purpose of stopping people from taking old episodes and not bringing them back. But again I was over-ruled. Where would we get the bamboo?

Even so, however much I wanted a pet I am absolutely certain I do not want an office mouse. Which strangely could be the one I am most likely to get.

I had a packet of extra strong mints the other day. I had one and then offered them around. Ayesha wanted one so I threw them across, she helped herself and threw them back and I forgot how to catch. I got the putting your hand up part but completely forgot about closing your fingers down around the object thus securing it to your palm. So when I was gently lobbed the mints I decided to use my hand as a bat and slam dunk the mints down on to my desk with such force that they all shattered on impact. However as they were all in the tube I simply put them in my drawer and forgot about it until the next time I wanted a mint when I tore some of the paper off and covered myself, my desk and the carpet in fragmented mint.

So far so irritating and a couple of days of trampling over it and running my chair over it didn’t improve matters. It started to look slightly suspect having a white powder scattered everywhere so I got a bunch of paper towels, ran them under the tap and tried to clear up. Which didn’t make it look any better. If anything adding water to the mix merely formed a paste which I then smeared about. It looked horrible. In fact it looked revolting. In fact it looked like someone had come over to my desk and been so delighted by what they had seen there that they lavishly ejaculated all over the surrounding area. Thankfully that night the cleaners came and restored the carpet to it’s former glory.

So I have no pet at all. Which is a slight relief in a way as I am awful when pets die. I simply don’t get over it. I didn’t have many pets when I was growing up as my brother had a fur allergy so we had fish – which tended to be won at fairs – most didn’t last for long except for one, the splendidly named Dazzle, which lived for years. He staged his death many times over his ridiculously long life span but just as he was about to take the swim that needs to no towel down the toilet bowl he would suddenly spring back to life and live for another decade. I also had stick insects that the school gave us. One Saturday I decided to clear their tank out. I chose to do this in the garden shortly before we were due to go out. As I was carefully fishing them out of the plastic sweet jar they called home, my mum came round the corner. Said “for heavens sake Laura get a move on”, then snatched the jar out of my hands ran it under the tap and shook it and then held it out as evidence as to how quickly you could get the job done. She was very upset and very repentant when I told her that I hadn’t actually got the insects out when she did this. She thought they were safe and sound. I wasn’t actually that bothered. Stick insects are insanely boring, you can’t even see them, and I could pretend to be absolutely devastated about their passing in order to milk my mum’s guilt trip. Nothing like calling your mum a murderer in order to stay up late (“but I can’t sleep, it’s at night that I hear the screams”).

A much loved and ancient rabbit was killed by a fox and the thought of any other pets seemed to be to the ultimate betrayal. So my pet owning ended there. I just couldn’t take the slaughter. Reminded me too much of when I was in ‘Nam.



I popped round to my brothers on Tuesday night for dinner. Once the kids were in bed, Justin, Emily (my sister in law) and I sat around eating dinner and amusing ourselves by going through the betterware catalogue. For those not lucky enough to get this pushed through their doors it is the catalogue equivalent of QVC- things you never want nor need in one handy package.

Inevitably as you flip through the pages you occasionally go “now that is a good idea. A Tupperware drawer to keep cream crackers in. Now I haven’t eaten a cream cracker since 1993 but perhaps if I had a non air-tight drawer to keep them in rather than, ooh I don’t know, a packet then my diet could revolve around some strange bread/biscuit hybrid”. Emily became particularly impressed with a telescopic duster but then realised she could reach the top of every piece of furniture in their house.

The items on offer ranged from the things you hope you never need: a long piece of sandpaper with handles on each end to rub the dry skin off your feet when you are no longer able to bend down; the things you never knew you wanted but can see the use: egg poachers, vegetable steamers etc; things nobody could possibly want: a special stick to put wet welly boots on so they are stored nicely; and things you wouldn’t want but make you laugh so much you are tempted to buy them. And in to this category I think we can add “faces that you stick on to trees to liven them up”.

Yep, you read that right. Apparently if you want to make your garden a little bit more interesting you can actually pay money and buy faces to stick on the bark. You can also by a cat with glowing eyes to scare off other cats and half a dog if you want to replicate the look of a dog mid-burial in your garden.

I used to amuse myself when I was younger by flipping through the Argos catalogue and telling myself that I had to choose something from every page. Some were easy, simply choose the nicest sofa. But when you hit the jewellery pages things got tough. What’s worse? A clown with fake diamonds for eyes or a forever friends locket that you can break in half and share with your loved one? This used to occupy me for hours until something better came my way… my dad accidently got on the mailing list for a catalogue called “Chums”.

“Chums” made me very, very happy indeed. It featured stuff like special wellies you could put on your chair legs to raise the chair, walk in baths (which remain a dream, although I imagine you have to sit in them till all the water is gone or recreate the Posidean adventure every night) and special grabbers for reaching things off high shelves. My Grandad had one of these (at his peak he was 5 foot 3) and I loved it, I used it for everyday tasks such as making tea and I still would quite like one. Sadly my dad eventually got his name off the mailing list and I was denied the joy of chums.

Thankfully I share an office with Ayesha who is occasionally lured by the joys of Lakeland and JML. The ultimate purchase being a pair of “shredding scissors” which are meant to be a green version of a shredder. What they actually are, are 5 pairs of scissors glued together which hacks one sheet of paper at a time in to 3 inch wide strips. You’d do a better job with your teeth. She would like to say she’s never used them.

Emily and I are also fascinated by Tchibo. If you haven’t encountered a Tchibo it is basically the shop equivalent of the top of the Magic Faraway Tree. There is always a coffee shop but the rest of the stock changes weekly. One week it sells ski wear, the next baby gros, another week coffee pots. I’d imagine you get good bargains but it does rely very heavily on impulse buying. And no one can pronounce the shop name.

Michael Jackson

I was as shocked as anyone to hear of the death of Michael Jackson, I wasn’t a huge fan but I think he represented a certain era and produced some of the best pop records in the world. Obviously you feel sorriest his family and his kids (I have a particular soft spot for Jermaine after his appearance on Celebrity Big Brother). I do remember being in the playground at school and hearing some bizarre rumours about him. That he slept in an oxygen tank, that he had a zoo, that he had actually had a really deep speaking voice.

I don’t think there is anything to beat a good playground rumour. I was listening to awful local radio the other day ( I seemed to be in some bizarre black hole where I could only listen to Mercury FM) and “Walk the Dinosaur” by Was Not Was. I sang along but in the back of my mind something was saying “the lyrics to this song are really offensive and rude”. Now I think that as I remember singing it when I was about 7 or 8 and a friend of the same age told me that the lyrics were offensive and I’d be wise not to sing it in front of adults. Now as far as I can tell that’s absolute crap but I did do a quick google to see if it was generally recognised as being rude. It’s not. It’s an amusing song about cavemen.

I think there are rumours that are unique from school to school and some that are universal. I think there was always a kid who claimed to be related to royalty. Someone who had snogged a 15 year old. Someone whose mum turned out to be their grandma and their sister was their mum (that was true in our school!) and someone who had seen a ghost. Uniquely there was someone at our school who claimed that they could sing “Happy Birthday” in Chinese. Seriously he claimed this about once a day. Eventually his bluff was called in front of the entire school at an assembly. He took to the stage, bowed (!?) and then sang “Hanky Panky Shanghai, Hanky Panky Shanghai, Hanky Panky David, Hanky Panky Shanghai”. Now I am not fluent in Chinese but I am willing to bet good money that that is not the words to happy birthday. He wasn’t put off by everybody laughing at him, a couple of years later he took to the stage in a pirates costume to play “Should I Stay or should I go” by the Clash. Unfortunately not in Chinese.

Or course the best rumours were about teachers. In our minds they were all having affairs with each other (normally verified by someone having “seen them snogging at the bus stop”- well where else would you conduct a clandestine affair except at a bus stop 3 metres from the school where you teach?), there were also rumours about some of our teachers having murdered someone (would love to see them getting past a CRB check), someone who was going out with one of the sixth formers, she had written Mr C all over her folder, turned out she meant Mr C from the Shamen, not a rather unattractive Physics teacher.

Spoiler alert

I wrote to my MP this week. Which involved finding out who my MP was, but once I had uncovered this information I wrote him a very stern letter. This is not something I do very often. The last time I wrote to my MP was when I was 24 and for some reason I was sent a House Of Commons birthday card wishing me a “Happy 18th Birthday”. I wrote back thanking him for the waste of paper and reassuring him that I hadn’t been voting for him for the last six years and had no intention of starting now. But my complaint this time was issue based and I hope that it will be taken to the highest court in the lands. Perhaps it could be called “Laura’s Law”. The complaint is this: it costs £72 to renew an adult passport. Which is obscene, but it’s made worse by the fact that it is the same price to get a brand new passport.

I am outraged. I’m sure the last time I renewed my passport it was a lot cheaper. For some reason I have £26 in my head but I’m pretty sure that’s not right, perhaps that’s how much a passport on the black market costs, something I may have to resort to. The thing is (and this is what makes it so annoying) is that I have no choice! There is no comparethepassport.com, I either pay it or I don’t leave the country. And it gives me the opportunity to get rid of a passport photo where I look like a drug smuggling pre op. And I have to leave the country. Not because I am on the run but for a wonderful, magical reason which shall be told below….

Now spoiler alert: this story ends in YOU going “Wowwwww”.

My friend Tara and I have planned to go to New York for the last ooooh 3 years or so and we have never actually managed to do it. Mainly for budgetary reasons and me being completely unable to organise anything. However we decided that this November we are going to do it. Obviously we have to do it on a budget so we were looking at places to stay in drug dens and brothels and looking in to flight with DeathAir. So far so normal. Then I come back from lunch yesterday to many missed calls on my mobile from Tara and several instant messages saying “why don’t you answer your phone?” (it’s true, I don’t. I never answer it. Ever). Rang Tara back and it turns out she’s won a trip to New York for two and she’s taking me with her.

I know, I know. If it was a storyline in Neighbours you wouldn’t believe it. But it’s TRUE. It’s in conjunction with Disney so I am quite hoping to get a free pair of Mickey Mouse ears thrown in. Apparently Tara went to the cinema just to look up times and saw a huge poster saying “Win a trip to New York with The Proposal”, so she entered and she won. I kind of feel obliged to go and see the film now. There is an underlying fear for both of us that this trip is designed for a couple and we are desperately hoping we won’t have to recreate proposal scenes around New York landmarks. But to be honest for a free trip to New York I would dance around New York with David Mellor on my arm.

So yeah, still waiting to hear about the details but NEW YORK BABY. And with the money I have saved on flights etc I can get my stupid passport renewed and pump enough money in to the stupid photo booth to get a decent photo to go in the passport.