Monday, 1 October 2007

An sorry state of affairs

I haven't blogged in over a month....I wouldn't not have thought such a sorry, lazy state of affairs possible.

(Ok, ok, of course I would. But previously I had hoped to be blogging come rain or shine - I appear to be nothing but a fair weather blogger....How awful.)

I've got a year older, been on holiday, started a new job and had my heart kicked around a bit...Those are my excuses for lazyness and I'm sticking to them. Hrumph.

I'm aiming to pull my socks up and bounce back into the blogosphere any day now - in the meantime, keep up the stirling work guys....

All the best - Em

Tuesday, 28 August 2007

What's your favourite biscuit?

Good weekend? I hope everybody made the most of the bank holiday sun here in Blighty...I went jumping, saw family, played pool, drank Pimms, took in some local art and had a thoroughly splendid few days. Even better, I didn't have to go into work today. Ahhhh.

You would think that having a week off work (well, between jobs) would set my blogging senses a-tingling. The sad fact is that, faced with all this free time, I'd rather catch up with friends, read a good book and sit on my rump watching movies...Am I a bad person?

Lazy I may be but there's no rest for the wicked, even my lethargy gets interrupted....Some may wonder why I called my blog "The Fishbowl". I live in a rather picturesque village in Cambridgeshire, opposite an old church and just down the road from charming village square (and requisite pub, of course). Anyway all this wholesome ruralness brings hundreds of tourists to the area and every summer the nearby campsite is heaving with people. And they all end up walking past my living room (not to mention nicking my parking....). It's like a bloody goldfish bowl in here at the minute. This, coupled with my next door neighbour's apparently insatiable fetish for DIY means I almost wish I was back at work, if only for the peace and quiet.

I had to go and sort out some bank stuff today. My first stop was to ask for an overdraft on my current account (I'm due to go on holiday soon and do not trust myself with a credit card but thought I should have some contingency in case of an emergency). I duly prepared a story about why I wanted an overdraft and made sure to take my recent offer letter in order to show Mr Bankman that I was an upstanding young lady, a sensible (and above all frugal) specimen soon to be in full-time employment. All for nothing. The cashier supplied me with with the smallest available overdraft in under a minute, whilst making sure to remind me that I could borrow another couple of grand in the blink of an eye, "No problem madam". No wonder we Brit's are all wallowing in debt, its so easy to take the plunge.

Hmm, all this wrangling over the EU treaty....Even a significant number of Brown's buddies don't like the fact that the Great British public are to be denied their democratic rights over Europe (as the issue currently stands). I do not know enough about the proposals to start foaming at the mouth but the thought that my fellow countrymen who do (know about the treaty I mean, as opposed to foam) will just be dismissed out of hand is somewhat disturbing.

According to Liverpudlian research many single portions of takeaway and restaurant cuisine, including fish and chips, pizza, Chinese and Indians, contain more calories than the recommended amount for an entire day. Trading standards are now thinking about making establishments list the calorific and nutritional value of their food. Good grief, we all know that this kind of food is high in everything that's bad for us, hence why it tastes so good and we're prepared to have somebody else prepare it for us and pay accordingly. What would become of romance on a date if, whilst you order that mouth-watering meat feast, all your partner has to do is glance at the menu to work out how many pounds you'll be piling on? Yuck...

During my final day at work last week some of my colleagues poked fun at the nice lady in accounts who, of all the munches in all the world, prefers a good ole custard cream..."They're alright when you're a kid but they're a bit naff now aren't they?". Well Mandy, you're not alone. The custard cream has been voted the nation's favourite biscuit in a survey taken by manufacturers Trufree. A whopping 93 per cent of those asked (some 7,000 biscuit lovers) voted for it, with the bourbon, cookie and gingernut picking up the rear...What's your favourite biscuit? (I'm a glutton for the underrated chocolate digestive myself).

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Camel love - again

What d'ya know.....The Simpsons are in the dictionary, Facebook's the new crack (ok, so you knew that...) and ditch that old Peruvian fertility statue - its all about the camels...

The current edition of the Oxford Dictionary of Modern Quotations, out today, features three top pulls from the show:

"Kids, you tried your best and you failed miserably. The lesson is never try." Homer Simpson.

"Kids are the best, Apu. You can teach them to hate the things you hate. And they practically raise themselves, what with the internet and all." Homer Simpson.

"Bonjour, you cheese-eating surrender monkeys". Groundskeeper Willie.

Words of wisdom/appropriate salutations for all...

According to IT security firm Sophos, nearly half of all office staff are prohibited from using the social networking site Facebook during working hours. Unsurprisingly, a number of banks have now reportedly banned their workers from using the site.

I am a prolific Facebook user and as a result I tend to agree with these professional misgivings. You can happily waste a few hours of your life browsing through other peoples photo albums and looking up old friends/colleagues...Not to mention the dizzying multitude of silly applications to play with. (I'm ecstatic after discovering online Scrabble). No wonder employers are banning it - if you're not careful (and you have enough friends, of course) you might not been seen for days after logging on.

The pro argument is that Facebook proves a valuable work tool - networking businesses as well as casual acquaintances. Uh huh. Apparently companies are split over allowing access to the site (viz. those already on Facebook vs the uninitiated and unwashed).

Graham Cluley from Sophos said: "Some believe it to be a procrastinator's paradise, while others either view it as a valuable networking tool or are too nervous of an employee backlash if they suddenly block it."

Now there's a thought....Should work be so cruel as to ban 'Crackbook' then you know what to do...Workers of the world unite!

Finally Indian farmer Nanu Ram Jogi is on his 21st child - at the sprightly age of 90. The go-getting nonagenarian has four wives and has lost count of the number of grandchildren he has, yet vows to continue fathering kids until he's 100. Jogi puts his virility down to exercise, red meat and a daily dose of camel's milk. There you have it - if you desire a similar brood and wish to over-populate our crowded planet just that little bit more then four wives and a lactating dromedary should do it.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Skinny celebs and climate change

Keira Knightley has been gabbing away to the Radio Times about fame, public image and her acting skills. Back on cinema screens soon in September, Knightley gave a frank review of her acting skills (dubious) and railed against popular opinion about her good looks. She said: "Somebody goes, 'Gosh, you're pretty.' Thanks. I've got good genes! OK, I'm on the cover of a magazine but somebody else does the hair, and the make-up, and airbrushes the f*** out of me".

All this self degradation does wonders for her image as a straight talking siren amidst a sea of pampered Hollywood divas, I'm sure. Nothing against the lovely lady (she's only famous, thin, beautiful, rich - all at the same age as me...) but I find it hard to take someone this emaciated seriously....

James is musing over the merits of last weeks Climate Change Camp and asks whether it was really worth the effort...I'm on the fence as far as global warming goes. Our fossil fuel emissions may or may not be doing irreversible harm to the planet...But either way I believe in respecting our rock and trying to do our bit - recycling, sharing lifts etc.. - to make it a nicer place. Look at Beijing, covered in smog thanks to human pollution...

(Yeah yeah, I know, if I REALLY cared about the Earth I'd stop jumping out of planes for

Anyway, these letters into the Telegraph made me smile:

Sir - I fail to see why I should be forced to pay an extra tax on my holiday flights simply because there has been a change in solar activity.

Dr P. J. Lane, London.

Sir - Isn't it ludicrous to see people wearing anoraks and woolly hats in the middle of summer while protesting about global warming?

Professor Stanley Feldman, London SW3.

When I grow up I want to be a culinary artist

Education, education, education. A topic rarely out of the press right now, not because of Labour's triumphant reforms but because primary school children are struggling to read, write and add up, yet their older brothers and sisters are leaving compulsory education with top marks. The Government expects these school leavers to go on to university to study for another three years - any university, any type of study, because, as we all know, higher education is a sign of success and the more graduates of higher education the more successful Labour's educational policy.

Hmm. Despite my criticisms, as a product of the comprehensive system and a university education all this talk about dumbed down schooling makes me feel a little uneasy - if A/A* grade students are not as smart as they seem, what does that say about average Joe's like me? I have always been a "B grade" student - enthusiastic and happy to learn and put in academic effort but too often seduced by other activities throughout my education (boys, sport or beer) to slog away for the top grade. But I don't consider myself or my contemporaries stupid or unworthy of their qualifications.

Enough self justification - I took a history degree, worked hard and enjoyed it. If I was leaving school now, however, maybe my choice would be different. I quite fancy the look of Science: Fiction and Culture or Martial Arts and Adventure Tourism. These are two of the "mickey mouse" degrees currently taught in our universities that have come under fire from the TaxPayers' Alliance. (Both of which would probably have about as much chance of landing me a job as my history degree). Token subjects they may be but they suit both the universities' and the Government's needs. The rub being that, according the Alliance, these courses are subsidised by £40 million pa of tax payers money.

I'm all for vocational training instead of further education. University is not for everyone (even if the Government says it it) and experience really is the best way to learn a trade. But it is ingrained in Britain's school culture that a degree is a must-have badge of superiority and this needs to be revised. In the meantime us lowly arts students look forward to battling it out with the Equestrian Psychology and Golf Management grads out there in the real world.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Never smile at a camel

And you thought next door's Jack Russell was bad...

I'm as much a glutton for scandal and tat as the next Torygraph reader and have to admit to raising a smirk (heartless wench, I know) at today's unfortunate report (and equally unfortunate headline), "Pet camel kills woman 'trying to have sex'".

An unnamed Australian woman was crushed to death by her 330lbs camel, given to her as a birthday present as the lady was apparently fond of foreign beasts. The animal knocked her to the ground, lay on top of her and, one can only assume, exerted itself. Camel experts have advised police that it was most likely trying to mate with the poor woman.

While I have every sympathy for the lady's family let that be a lesson to adventurous animal lovers - you might want to stick to hamsters in the future (oh, and never smile at a camel...).

Deprived dromedary seeks durable hump.

I want the name of Pete Doherty's publicity agent so I can make a complaint against them for wasting police time. Bobbies - for goodness sake, either incarcerate the chap and force him to clean himself up or leave him be, editors - stop wasting copy space on the same old transgressions.

I was genuinely shocked on Saturday morning to read of the passing of Bill Deedes at the ripe old age of 94. I remember being in awe after learning that the witty diarist I so enjoyed was in his nineties, thinking, 'he's made it this far, surely he'll go on forever'. I shan't go overboard on detail, anyone wishing to learn more about this true 'giant of journalism' should pop over to the DT and read through some of the articles and letters left in tribute to Dear Bill. Relic of a bygone era he was often antisocial and intimatly awkward - though despite his faults he will be remembered as for the astute, funny journalist and compassionate humanitarian that he was, with a seriously good innings to boot. He will be sadly missed and should remain an inspiration to us all.

Friday, 17 August 2007

What a wonderful world

A survey by Virgin Travel Insurance has revealed what the rest of us know to be true (deep down in our souls): British holidaymakers are a load of uncultured, ungrateful dolts when they want to be (that's right, I mean you Mr Socks-and-sandals).

Thousands of British tourists were asked about their visits to well-known attractions and rated domestic and worldwide let-downs as follows...

The most disappointing global sights:

1. The Eiffel Tower - "frustratingly overcrowded and overpriced"
2. The Louvre (Mona Lisa)
3. Times Square
4. Las Ramblas, Spain
5. Statue of Liberty
6. Spanish Steps, Rome
7. The White House
8. The Pyramids, Egypt
9. The Brandenburg Gate, Germany
10. The Leaning Tower of Pisa

I've only seen three of these - Times Square, the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower (oh and the Brandenburg Gate when I was too young to care) but I disagree with the scorn that's been heaped upon them. The Eiffel Tower remains an iconic French symbol because of its great shape and its impressive architecture and history. But be realistic - its a symmetrical iron monument, not a fairground ride.

Times Square? Again what do you expect? A busy thoroughfare, it's packed with bustling New Yorkers going to-and-fro, fifteen gazillion McDonald's and a forest skyscrapers and neon advertising - I was impressed, it's like Piccadilly but a damn sight cleaner.

The Statue of Liberty is my only concession - on the outside it's still impressive, like the Eiffel Tower, a testament to French design and craftsmanship. However like many a dumb tourist I decided to climb up it. Don't bother - two hours stuck on staircase inside a hot metal object with hundreds of sweaty tourists certainly is disappointing.

And the UKs most dismal attractions:

1. Stonehenge - "just a load of old rocks"
2. The Angel of the North
3. Blackpool Tower
4. Lands' End
5. The Princess Diana Memorial Fountain
6. The London Eye
7. Brighton Pier
8. Buckingham Palace
9. The White Cliffs of Dover
10. Big Ben.

Again, those 'sights' that I've seen around our great isle I have appreciated for their historical/cultural/structural value...A load of old rocks indeed! Sections of the standing stones of Stonhenge are estimated to be around 4,000 years old and though we're none the wiser as to the monument's purpose it still looks funky...

I was sceptical about the London Eye before gazing upon it (because it is, after all, just a giant fairground ride...) but have reformed my opinion in light of its smooth design (and sheer size) and the fact that it looks so distinctive/hip in the London sprawl...

Buckingham Palace and Big Ben...Er...These are two structures which embody our country's very special political character - monarchy and parliamentary rule. But at the end of the day what do you expect of buildings? The Palace has always served for the monarchy and the clock still tells the time - I don't think the designers had London's teeming tourism trade in mind when they concieved either edifice...

And Lands' End and the White Cliffs of Dover..? They're geographical landmarks for goodness sake - blame nature for your disappointment...

I think this 'disappointment' is really our own fault - high expectations without any education about the place in question. Maybe if people took the time to learn about where they are, they might appreciate the view a little more....But Brits will always find a load of old rocks in Borobudur far more interesting than a load of old rocks back home because they're "exotic, innit?" and they've had to spend thousands of pounds and fly thousands of miles to get there...(but I bet you just can't get a good egg and chips....).