Archive for October, 2011

October 29, 2011

noises on, and this week’s extracurricular activities

Phew! It has been a frantic week. The nature of my ‘career’ [/sobbing] is that I exist in one of two states, and never in a sensible midpoint:

STATE 1. I am bone-idle for weeks on end, with nary a whiff of busywork or cash. I mark the passage of time with daytime television, hence have seen the full cycle of Gilmore Girls on E4 at least twice. I am beset by the sense that if I died, NOBODY would notice for weeks, until the neighbours complained about the smell of my rotting corpse.

STATE 2. I am so busy that I work all waking hours, because when you work at home, you’re always at work. My husband and friends are but memories. The absence of cash is still probable, however.

Freelancers: is this a familiar pattern to you?

Most of this year has been spent in the former state, but the past fortnight has been the latter, and the next couple of weeks are likely to be the same; here are the edited highlights of this unusually varied week:

– A job in an office where people said the following sort of thing in total seriousness: “Here are Jedward’s shoes. Is it going to be OK to cover them in jelly?”
– Craft teacher extraordinaire Catherine Hirst recruited me to assist her in teaching knitting to a roomful of employees at a huge multinational company. If you ever need a confidence boost, try standing in a room full of sharp careerists in their thirties and forties struggling to do something you mastered when you were six. That said, my grandmother was a far superior knitting teacher than I was; I struggled to explain something which comes automatically after 25 years of practice, particularly in a manner that wasn’t totally patronising and, well, more suited to a 6-year-old.
Episode 194 of Answer Me This!, as per usual.

Up next: trips to Salford and Gateshead. I can tell you’re jealous. If you know of good things to visit in either of those places, do tell.

October 27, 2011

today’s three things:

I haven’t written one of these posts for a while (although I am delighted to hear that some of you have now started doing your own), but there was SUCH a good one today that it really raised the whole day, nay, week. Want to know what it is?

1. I walked past a man wearing a proper Salvador Dali moustache.

Yes.

Not in Shoreditch, either, where you might expect that sort of thing; I’d put the moustachioed gent in his 60s, and he was walking up Piccadilly. It was wax, not irony, keeping that ‘tache aloft.

I didn’t get the chance to take a covert picture of him, so here’s Dali as a visual reference:

So imagine that, minus the shoulder-chicken and plus green tweed jacket and red face.

Obviously it doesn’t appear casual and breezy, but this is truly a look which takes considerable effort. I once had a friend called Peter who told me he’d spent SIX YEARS growing a moustache to the requisite Dali length. At last, on the day when he judged it sufficient, he waxed it and shaped it into the famous upright formation. A triumphant moment! Then slowly, inexorably, one side drooped back downwards, shortly followed by the other one. This can also be a cool style, but surely impractical – imagine the ends trailing into a bowl of soup or porridge.

Anyway, Peter in his disappointment shaved it off.

The rest of the three things pale in comparison, but here we go nevertheless.

2. Thanks to Dylon shoe dye*, I transformed a pair of rarely worn boring beige brogues into two-tone wingtip brogues. Now they look like magpies for the feet!

Heck, I should have gone the whole hog and affixed taps to the bottom.
*You’d better stay fast in the rain, Dylon, or I will GET you.

3. Perhaps encouraged by the shoe makeover, I found myself watching Snog Marry Avoid for the first time in at least two years…and frankly I can’t believe I’d neglected it so long! Don’t mock. There is much to admire in the programme: it’s an exemplar of narrative economy. Over one episode, one is privy to three people’s Journeys, without any of the sob-story stuff that usually dullifies a reality TV Journey. There are no subplots, no chaff; just a triptych of three-act dramas in 28 minutes. And there you were, thinking it was merely another freakshow.

The Journey always starts in the same manner – overdone subject reluctantly submits to a makeunder – but can conclude in one of three ways:

i) The new look is a new beginning for their outer AND inner life, and the subject is emboldened to present their bare face to the world, without a larding of fake tan and hair extensions. The show has broken them out of the chrysalis of their own making.
ii) Subject returns to their old look, but with the satisfaction of having viewed it externally and decided that, yes, it is in fact the best exterior representation of their interior self.
iii) Subject returns to their old look with a vengeance, and behind it is doubly embedded in their spiral of body dysmorphia and low self-confidence.

Over the years, several dozen people have written to Answer Me This! to ask whether I’m the voice of POD. Don’t I wish I were.

October 21, 2011

noises on, threefold

This has been a triple-podcast week. There’s AMT193, of course; Olly and I also pop up on the newish podcast Dave Weekly, having a chat with the charming Ben Shires, who was magnificently dressed head to toe in the ‘1940s spiv’ style.

Finally, I had the intimidating pleasure of being on one of my favourite podcasts, the Guardian’s Media Talk, with John Plunkett and Dan Sabbagh, talking about Ricky Gervais trolling and the possible decline of X Factor. Boo hoo, I say, boo hoo!

October 21, 2011

It’s Christmaaaaaaaaaas!

Except it isn’t. It’s Octobeeeeeeeeeeer! Yet the Christmas lights are already up in Oxford Street. Our local Tesco is backing two horses by stocking both Halloween tat and special Christmas boxes of Twiglets (buy now! Avoid disappointment!). And all around town yesterday I encountered prematurely festive displays, for example:

20111021-100133.jpg

Foolish Henry Hoover, he peaks too early. By the time his advent calendar is just half open, his supply of festive spirit will have been exhausted.

October 13, 2011

Doll-ald Rumsfeld

One of my main reasons for starting this site, aside from vainglory and having too much time at my disposal, was to have a repository for the various items I’ve made over the past few years. I tend to give away almost all of my pictures and handmade objects, so this is my opportunity to remind myself of things past.

Today’s Thing I made in early 2008. It was commissioned to appear in this, but I don’t think it made the final cut, so this is the official world debut of…

…the Donald Rumsfeld doll!

Remember him?

Here’s the doll sitting on a scale replica of what Donald Rumsfeld himself used to recline upon in the Pentagon.

October 13, 2011

noises on: AMT192 and the Big Show

The new series of Answer Me This! begins today, featuring royal towns, the Yellow Brick Road, and Jewish French Toast. It can be found here.

In other noisy news, Olly and I popped up on Steve Wright in the Afternoon yesterday, around the 1hr 38min mark. We speak of this week’s Blackberry outage, the Jeremy Clarkson satnav that has since been banned, and this boyband who seem to be less real than characters in computer games. Listen to them at your peril.

October 10, 2011

The three faces of Andy Zaltzman

Maybe he doesn’t like photoshoots; maybe he’s gathering material for a museum devoted to his own image; but for some reason, my brother has asked me to paint him for his past three Edinburgh posters. He always does this a couple of days before the deadline, so there’s only enough time to churn out the pictures, but not enough to improve them. Also, today’s lesson is that practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect, as I think these get worse as they progress. The first is my favourite:


read more »

October 9, 2011

Knobs!

Get your minds out of the gutter. Yeesh.

My brother is of the opinion that functional objects might as well be decorative too, and his children have a preponderance of built-in cupboards in their bedroom, so I was charged with titivating two dozen plain 4cm wooden knobs.

As happens in most of my projects, I put the knobs on a shelf and forgot about them for the best part of a year, until my brother gently intimated that his kids might actually like to be able to open their cupboards someday. So I busted out the acrylic paints and got to work.

Annoyingly, the only pictures I have are crappy camera phone ones, their lack of clarity compounded by the glare of the shiny varnish. Therefore please pretend that the photos are from the early 90s and you’ve never seen HD before.

Observe that there are several different sets, with quite a strong Greek myth bias because my brother and his wife both have Classics degrees and therefore the children were born fluent in the dead languages. The opportunity to tell the story of Theseus and the Minotaur through the medium of knobs was too rare to pass up.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

October 7, 2011

Clear the area!

Stand back. Crafts can be dangerous.

October 6, 2011

shut it you staaaaaag

This week’s lesson is that necessity is the mother of invention.

It is my brother Andy’s birthday today, and being thoroughly broke at the moment, I needed to come up with a present for him that cost £0. Luckily, he likes homemade presents* and weird shit for his house. So, using a few items I’d consigned to scrap plus some craft supplies from the stash, this is what I made him:

I’m pretty sure my brother hasn’t got one already.

A lady called Nichole tweeted me to ask if I had a tutorial for the DIY stag’s head. I don’t, because I was making it up as I went along; but here’s roughly how I did it:

read more »

October 6, 2011

What to do with a Mars bar if you don’t like Mars bars


.

..
.

I left that space above for you to supply your own Marianne Faithfull jokes.

Anyway, curiosity led me spend £1 on a pack of the new ‘limited edition’ triple-choc Mars bars, which turned out to be rather underwhelming. So I was stuck with several unwanted Mars bars cluttering up the place. What to do?

Make cookies, of course!

cookies! Of course!

I used a modified recipe from an old Good Housekeeping cookbook (not THIS one, thankfully), which can be used to make very fine chocolate chip cookies on a day when you don’t have Mars bars to contend with.

Ingredients:
75g/3oz butter
75g/3oz granulated or caster sugar
75g/3oz soft light brown sugar (I thought I didn’t have any, so used normal brown sugar. Nobody died. Of course I found the correct sugar about 5 minutes too late.)
a few drops of vanilla essence
1 egg, beaten
175g/6oz self-raising flour (I like to substitute a few grams of flour for cocoa powder, for extra chocolatiness)
pinch of salt
3 unwanted Mars bars, chopped into small pieces (or use 100g/4oz chopped dark chocolate or chocolate chips)
optional: 50g/2oz chopped nuts (hazelnuts, walnuts or pecans would be nice, but I only had Brazil nuts which worked fine)

Makes 25 smallish cookies.

yes, I know it looks like squirrel turds NOW, but wait!

Instructions:
Preheat the oven to 180C (slightly less if it’s a fan oven that isn’t shit, like mine).
In a big bowl, cream the butter and sugars together until well-mixed, then beat in the egg and vanilla.
If you want to be teacher’s pet, sift the flour, salt and cocoa powder before mixing into the creamed mixture. Or just go right ahead and mix them in, and hope that there aren’t any pebbles in your flour.
Add the chopped Mars bar/chocolate and optional nuts. Stir in well.
Drop spoonfuls of the mixture onto lined baking sheets, and keep them well spaced.
Bake for 10-12 minutes.
Leave them on the baking sheets for a minute after you take them out of the oven; then when they’re firm enough to move without falling apart, transfer to a wire cooling rack.

Ta-da!

...still looking quite a lot like squirrel turds, if I'm honest.

Despite appearances, they taste great. Unlike squirrel turds, I assume. I’ve never tried eating those, but I’m sure that if they were delicious, we’d have heard about it by now.