Tag Archives: food

Christmas Presence

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Happy Tuesday, you lovely thing!  Boy, am I glad to see you.  Have a seat, I’ve got a rant to get through.

Yesterday afternoon I was sitting outside a coffee shop in Camden, waiting for a friend and quietly minding my own business.  As anyone who lives in an urban area will know, sometimes when you’re out and about you have to talk to strangers.  Most people approach you to ask for the time, directions or to hand you a flyer, but the guy I encountered yesterday was a whole new breed of weird stranger (even by Camden’s gloriously bizarre standards).  He approached me to ask for my opinion on his hand-made Christmas cards, which were the most horrific, disturbing and unsettling images I have seen in a very long time.  Genuine excerpt from our conversation:

Stranger: “So, which one do you prefer?  There’s this one, which is the masses of sheep – the consumers, you get me? – bowing down to a tree made of bloodstained iPods, the one of Jesus shooting Ronald McDonald in the face, or the creepy Santa with a bag of kids’ faces.  What do you think?”
Me: “…I think you should talk to someone.”
Stranger: “So you don’t want to buy one?”
Me: “No, thank you.  I really like Christmas.”

And I do, I love Christmas.  I love the carols, parties, decorations, lovely food, sparkling drinks, shiny wrapping paper and rubbish cracker jokes.  (I would love the silly hats too, but they don’t fit over my ridiculous hair.  True story.)  I also love presents, as of course we all do.   I understand that the consumer-driven chaos of Christmas is what the guy in Camden was angry about, and I can respect that.  I also realise that most of the things I’ve just listed as ‘reasons to love Christmas’ are consumerist and non-essential.  I’m not going to apologise for liking things that don’t really matter, because I don’t think that crackers and all that stuff are more important than being with my family, or showing my friends how much I love and appreciate them.

Last year we Brits gobbled approximately 10 million turkeys, spent nearly £600 each on gifts, and probably splashed out thousands of pounds on stamps for our Christmas cards.  This is all in keeping with the Camden guy’s anti-establishment rage, but I don’t believe that the way to fix that is to send grotesque greeting cards.  Don’t get me wrong: I am not disputing this man’s right to express his opinion or use his creativity – fair play to him for coming up with such striking/memorable images – but I personally will not be swayed by his view.  (Although I will concede that this year’s Christmas advert war is starting to grate just a bit.)

Not to get all Tiny Tim about it, but the most important thing about Christmas is the people we spend it with: friends, family and loved ones.  (For instance, the photograph at the top of this post is courtesy of my dad, who captured this lovely moment of typical sibling silliness on Christmas day last year.)  We are allowed to enjoy the consumer stuff like food, drink and presents because they are much less important, but more controllable.  You can hope and pray that your parents won’t get into a row over dinner, or that your granddad won’t get drunk and be loudly racist, or that your sister will cheer up even though she got dumped a week ago, but you cannot make these things happen.  You can make nice food and an effort to find thoughtful gifts.

Even if you don’t have a completely harmonious, sober or exuberant Christmas, the consumer crap is a way of saying to people “I love you, and I want us to have a special day together.”  If we burn the turkey and get terrible presents, it doesn’t matter because it is just stuff and at least we tried.  I know that that’s not why the festive season is so financially spectacular, but if we’ve got this cultural phenomenon we might as well find the positive aspects of it.

Right, rant over.  I’m going to make some mince pies.  You go and have a marvellous day, whatever you’re up to.

14 Moments in Life When We Are All Joey Tribbiani

Hello, dear reader.  How’s life been treating you?

We all spend a lot of time quoting stuff at each other, whether it’s religiously meaningful, historically significant or something funny from a film we like.  My generation are particularly prone to this, because we grew up watching Friends.  Although we all love a Phoebe weird-ism or a choice Chandler put down, the truth is that we tend to cope better with life when we view the world through Joey’s eyes.  That’s right: Joey.  The oversexed, jobbing actor with an insatiable appetite and a tendency to come across as a bit dim.  I’m not suggesting that we possess those characteristics ourselves – not all of them, anyway – but for some reason, Joey’s sweet and simple nature makes him the most quotable character in the whole show.  Don’t believe me?  Here are some of the most prevalent life moments when a Joey quotation is the only way to go:

1) When you try but fail to understand current trends.
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2) When you don’t understand what’s going on in your social circle.
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3) When you don’t understand what’s going on AT ALL.
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4) When you need a way to explain how much something means to you – maybe even food.
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5) When you need an excuse to be childish.
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6) When you need to express your fear of ageing.
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7) When YOU’RE CURVY, AND YOU LIKE IT.
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8) When something has come back into circulation that really, really shouldn’t have – I used this one the other day in reference to scrunchies coming back into fashion.  The horror.
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9) When you’re not even sorry
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10) When you’re lost.  (This one happens to me a lot.)

11) When you’re so angry that you don’t make a lot of sense.
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12) When you’re really trying to encourage your friend.
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13) When YOU know what you mean (even if no one else does).
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14) And of course, last but by no means least: when you’re flirting…sort of.
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15 Words We Need To Use More Often

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Hello, dear reader.  I don’t know about you but I could really do with a coffee.  Do you want anything from the kettle?

After writing yesterday’s post about old fashioned things I think we ought to revive, I started thinking about words in the same way.  Every so often one of my friends will use a word like “balderdash” or “parenthetical” and everyone will go “ooh, that’s a great word!  Let’s bring that word back!”

Here are some brilliant and under-used words which I think we should all be attempting to bring back into everyday conversation:

  • Accubation – eating or drinking whilst lying down.  A fancy way of explaining that your hangover is preventing vertical movement.
  • Agerasia – the state of looking younger than you actually are.  Better than saying “I always get ID’d.”
  • Borborygmus – the sound of gas rumbling through your intestine.  Better than saying “I’ve got one brewing.”
  • Capernoited – slightly drunk/tipsy.  Trying to remember this word will be a good way to measure how capernoited/drunk you actually are.
  • Cruciverbalist – a person who loves doing crossword puzzles.  A better way of describing yourself than “word nerd”.
  • Farctate – being overly full of food. A marginally better way of saying “I’m stuffed”, but only marginally, because it sort-of sounds like “fart-ate”.  
  • Inaniloquent – being prone to say silly/inane things.  This one is going to come in very useful for all of us when we’re at parties with people we don’t like.
  • Jentacular – pertaining to breakfast.  I just love the idea of having a word that specifically means “breakfast stuff”.  I think that’s amazing.  Is there one for brunch as well?  
  • Lalochezia – the practise of using bad words to relieve stress/pain, e.g. swearing when you stub your toe.  I think this one is handy because if you get told off for swearing you can use a fancy word to justify your use of an obscenity.
  • Lethologica – the inability to remember the precise word for something.  Happens to lots of people all the time, although if you’ve forgotten a word like “jam” then I’d say your chances of remembering “lethologica” are pretty slim.
  • Prosopography – the description of a person’s appearance.  A good word to have on hand when trying to avoid looking shallow.
  • Qualtagh – the first person you see after leaving the house.  This is a bit silly of me, but I just love the idea of pointing at your unsuspecting postman/lollipop lady/bus driver and shouting “Hello, qualtagh!”
  • Sabrage – the act of opening a bottle with a sabre.  Not one I’ve ever tried myself, but now I sort-of have to, just so that I can use the word.
  • Sphallolalia – flirty talk that goes nowhere.  Write that one down, guys.  We’re definitely going to need it.
  • Tarantism – the urge to overcome sadness by dancing.  THIS IS A FANCY WORD FOR WANTING TO DANCE YOUR CARES AWAY.  The world is now a better place.

Have a truly outstanding Wednesday.  Extra cookies for anyone who manages to use all fifteen of those words in one day.

The Duke of Edinburgh Wants to Help

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Hello, reader!  How goes the world with you today?

A couple days I ago I got offered a front of house job with a kids’ theatre company.  It’s only for a couple of weeks in June while their touring show is in London, but I’m very pleased about it.  I am also pretty chuffed that they’re sending me on a paediatric first aid course this week, even though it’s pretty far away in London terms, and it’s happening during another tube strike.  Wish me luck.

Yesterday I was on the phone to a friend of mine who works in a pub.  (He’s also an extremely talented actor, but don’t tell him I said that.  It’ll only go to his head, and I have to work with him in Edinburgh this summer.)  When I told him about the first aid thing, he retorted “well, I’ve got a…um…food hygiene certificate!”  First of all, first aid beats food hygiene in my humble opinion – come on, my certificate means I can save lives – and secondly, why are we competing (even in jest) over qualifications that neither of us is particularly fussed about?  We would both rather have theatre credits to our names than certificates in health and safety.  So why do we care?

I think all of us care about our qualifications, even the ones that have absolutely nothing to do with the career we’ve ended up pursuing.  This is true of those of us who have GCSEs in obscure subjects that we promptly forgot about the day we turned up to sixth form, and the Duke of Edinburgh Award victims who reminisce about their experiences with haunted expressions.  And why shouldn’t we?  They’re all achievements, for heaven’s sake.

Qualifications that have nothing to do with your main passion are an excellent thing, because they demonstrate that you’ve had a variety of different interests throughout your life, and consequently your personality seems all the more fascinating and multi-faceted.  Also, the only good thing about vamping up your CV to apply for jobs is remembering all of the amazing stuff you can do and have already done.  It’s nice to have a confidence boost just before you throw yourself into the harrowing world of job hunting, isn’t it?

The other great thing about having qualifications that are outside your main field of interest is that you never know when they’re going to come in handy.  My paediatric first aid qualification will be very valuable if I’m ever confronted with a choking child, and although I cannot express just how much I never, ever want that situation to occur, at least if it does I’ll be able to do something about it, which is nice.

Have a lovely bank holiday Monday!  May your day be filled with small but pleasant suprises.

Seven Signs of True Friendship

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Good morning, you charming human being!  Got any nice plans for your weekend?

Elite Daily recently ran an article about socially acceptable behaviours between best friends.  It’s very good (and worryingly accurate): give it a read here.  The article focuses on the peculiarly feminine attributes of some women’s friendships, but I think that there a few more which apply to friendships between people of either gender.  Here they are:

  • Strange Superstitions

In every friendship there is a phrase that both parties know has mystical powers.  For some reason, whenever Ash or I say that we won’t stay out late we invariably pull an accidental all-nighter, so nowadays when the phrase is uttered we both gasp and fight the urge to spin around three times, throw salt over our shoulders, etc.  It’s WEIRD.

  • Irrational Hatred

Everyone has a small aspect of life that they absolutely hate or just cannot understand, and we all need a friend who can back us up on it.  For example, my friend Harry and I both hate Waterloo station.  We have many reasons, none of which are rational enough to go into here, but we are adamant: no good comes from going to Waterloo.  Isn’t it reassuring to know that someone you love shares your slightly insane prejudices?

  • I Hear Voices

Fairly straightforward: impressions, quotations, silly voices and random noises are always better when you are with someone who can truly appreciate them, i.e. someone who knows you well enough not to assume that you’ve gone insane.

  • Left Field Questions

Do you remember this blog post, in which I described getting a text before 8am asking what the plural of mongoose is?  That kind of thing is only ever ok between very close friends, because they are the people who appreciate that sometimes you really, really need to know something incredibly random.

  • Over Indulgence

This applies to all manner of things, including the dedication of an entire day to stuffing your face and talking about the same love interest repeatedly for months at a time.  Only true and loyal friends can engage in these activities together.  Case in point: I am about to go and meet my friend Laura for a coffee.  “A coffee” usually translates into “four or five pretty strong, industrial-sized soya lattes each”, and we don’t judge each other for it.

  • The Opinion One Eighty

When your friend is enamoured of someone, you nod and smile and agree (but not too heartily) that yes, s/he is indeed very good-looking, funny, clever, etc.  When the relationship sours, your job as a friend is to agree (but again, not too heartily, lest the relationship starts up again) with the opposite sentiments.  The Opinion One Eighty can be a difficult one to keep up with, but we do it for our closest friends because we understand that feelings are fluid and romantic relationships are absolute minefields.

  • The Inexplicable Field Trip

Only a true friend will walk to the shops with you in your pyjamas, accompany you to the play/gig/party where your ex is going to be or agree to walk over the top of the O2 arena with you.  (That last one was Harry’s idea, and I’m actually pretty excited about it.)  You just can’t make a fool of yourself/be emotionally vulnerable/scale a London landmark without a proper chum by your side.

Have this kind of Friday.

Welcome to the Hotel Elstree

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Hello, dear reader!  How’s your weekend treating you so far?

I’m sorry I didn’t get around to writing a blog yesterday.  Although there was a lot of waiting around at the television studio, I was kept busy chatting to the other contestants, trying desperately to revise my weaker subjects (especially geography) and consuming free coffee.

Unsurprisingly, Ash and I are not allowed to say very much about our experience of filming Pointless, but I can tell you that we had a lot of fun and the production team, presenters and fellow contestants were all very nice to us.  The aspect of the experience that I am allowed to tell you about (and will be focusing on in today’s blog) is our stay in a nearby hotel the night before filming.

As an actor who has been on a national tour, Ash has stayed in some very good, odd and awful hotels across the country.  When I was working at UK Theatre and doing talks around the country I had my own fair share of bizarre accommodation experiences, but we both very much enjoyed our sojourn in one of the well-known hotels run by a company whose name rhymes with Shmemier Bin.  Even though we’ve been house mates for just over seven months, it was a decidedly new experience for us as a pair.  Here are some of the aspects of our stay which made it a bit different from our usual evenings:

  • Sharing a double bed: we’ve shared a bed many times before, but on this occasion we were in an unfamiliar room.  This meant that when she rolled over and accidentally hit me in the middle of the night, Ash woke up a bit, freaked out that there was someone else there, and hit me again.  Not out of rage or fear, just confusion.  I think as soon as she heard me say “ouch” she worked out who I was and where we were, and happily fell back asleep.  I stayed awake being cross for a few minutes.
  • Having a picnic: Ash and I met at the hotel with a lot of snacks to share, including some cheese biscuits that my lovely mum had made (and which Ash ate a surprising number of, given that she’d just been out for a slap-up meal with her dad).  Again, as house mates we have spent many an evening sitting on our sofa working our way through an unseemly amount of food, but in a new place it felt like a special treat.  If either of us had been to boarding school, it probably would have reminded us of midnight feasts in the dorms.
  • Having yet more food: I cannot extol highly enough the virtues of a breakfast that you’ve not had to cook for yourself.  A glorious buffet of eggs, bacon, sausages, etc. made our 6am start much more manageable, and again, the free coffee went down a treat.
  • Behind closed doors: since there were other contestants in need of overnight accommodation and the rooms had all been booked at the same time by the BBC production team, it shouldn’t have surprised me to discover that the rooms along our corridor were all occupied by people in the same sort of excited/nervous mood as us.  Having said that, walking past a row of closed doors and hearing various voices chanting the periodic table, the kings and queens of England and the capital cities of the world did freak me out a little bit.  This was especially disconcerting given that our main form of revision was gazing vacantly at a map of the world and watching an episode of Dara O’Briain’s School of Hard Sums.
  • Unfamiliar faces: I have never had to try and sleep in a room with a large picture of Lenny Henry’s face on the table, and having done it once, I hope that it will never happen again.  Ironically, this image was being used to promote the hotel’s reputation for guests always having a good night’s sleep, but I can tell you now that nothing is less conducive to proper rest than the image at the top of this blog post.  No offence to Lenny, but at home Ash and I have pictures of our friends and loved ones around us, not famous people trying to kip.

Have a stupendously joyful Saturday.

Get Thee to a Wetherspoons

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Hello, lovely reader.  How are you?  Have you completed your challenge to take a chance yet?  I’m about to do mine and I’m terrified, so don’t worry about it too much.

My birthday is coming up soon, and the plan for the day is to get a load of friends round, eat a lot of cake and then go to the pub.  Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  It won’t be.  I haven’t chosen a pub yet.  I was seriously considering the Montague Pyke in Piccadilly, because it’s large, central and pretty cheap, but I’ve been shouted down by some friends of mine who have better taste (and more experience of the Montague Pyke) than I do.  The hunt continues for a large, central, cheap pub in London.  And for my missing pet unicorn, Ephraim.

I know that I’m a “grown up” now, and I should have acquired a taste for the finer (or at least less rubbish) things in life, but deep down I’m still a student and my heart belongs to Wetherspoons pubs.  Here are five reasons why:

1) Consistency
Any Wetherspoons in any part of the country serves the same drinks, food and surly sarcasm.  You know where you stand with a Wetherspoons menu.  Even in the farthest flung corner of the British Isles (Inverness), I can tell you for a fact that the only difference between that menu and the ones in my local is the addition of neeps and tatties as a side.

2) Price
So it’s not the most glamorous place in the world.   You won’t come across any sultry jazz music or atmospheric lighting in a Wetherspoons pub, but you will be able to buy a pint without remortgaging your internal organs.  I don’t really care if there’s a group of asshats making too much noise in the booth next door, or the toilets are a ten minute walk away; the beer is cheap.

3) The toilets are a ten minute walk away
Which is good for you.  Exercise and all that.

4) Something for everyone
I feel very, very sorry for my friends, because going out for dinner with me is a nightmare.  My dietary requirements include a lethal (and I mean lethal) allergy, an intolerance of casein (because lactose is too mainstream, apparently), and a lifestyle choice to give up carbs.  It’s a wonder that my friends can even look at me sometimes, let alone sit in a restaurant with me.  But in a Wetherspoons, all of that goes away: the extensive menu has something for everyone, no matter what kind of allergy/faddy diet/craving you’re restricted by.  Problem solved.

5) Remember the good times
Remember that story about a friend of mine who re-enacted the Stations of the Cross with a burger, chips and excessive ketchup?  (It’s here if you’re floundering – don’t feel bad, I tell a lot of stories and most of them involve a slightly strange friend.)  That is just one of literally hundreds of happy memories I have that took place in a Wetherspoons pub.  From the New Crown in my beloved Southgate to the Westgate Inn in Canterbury (hour for hour I think spent more time in there than I did on my university campus), and back to where it all began in the Wetherspoons pubs of Watford and Rickmansworth: I owe Wetherspoons some of the best nights (and mornings after) of my life.  Christmas Eve with my best mate doing uni essays, inventing very complicated drinking games that involved stealing books, meeting some of my now closest friends, falling in love, getting into arguments, re-enacting stuff with food (it became a recurring issue), laughing until we cried: all of the best and most ridiculous things in my life have happened to me in a Wetherspoons pub.  It’s not glamorous, but it’s fun.

So.  Where shall we go for lunch?