Showing posts from May, 2017


In my ongoing quest to look and sound more witty and urbane, I felt that I should, at least, try a gin and tonic - again. I had once bought a can of pre-mixed gin and tonic, took one sip of it, and spat it straight out again, pouring the rest down the kitchen sink. Willing to admit that may have been my fault, never having been one for anything that tastes remotely bitter, I have tried again but, as I write this, I am taking the smallest sips possible – why did anyone, apart from me, think this was a good idea? Almost the most British of cocktails, gin and tonic was borne out of necessity. When India was under British rule, it was necessary to down large quantities of quinine, at least eight times more than you now find in regular tonic water, in order to fend off malaria, although you are now more likely to use it to restless leg syndrome. Therefore, to take away the taste of something that, to me, tries to remove all the moisture from the inside of your mouth, gin was added,


As bad as the state of the world can seem, I have never been given so much reason to think about bananas lately. I have taken to eating them at work instead of chocolate or crisps – they are healthier, less calorific and, most importantly, cheaper than what they replaced. I also feel they help to fill your stomach than the jelly that turned out to be in a diet shake a colleague was trying out. Knowing how many bananas I will eat in the course of a day – usually two or three – I will keep my work desk stocked with the best, biggest, most obscene-looking bananas I can find. I will not be in a situation where, after a few days, I may need to throw one away, because the skin looks a bit bruised – it only means the banana is riper than when I bought it. If it doesn’t look so great, I’ll still eat it, but probably take a bigger gulp of a drink after it. Having read the Government figures released by Sainsbury’s this week – a supermarket chain that is baking more banana bread in t


It is a tragedy that George Orwell, one of the greatest writers in the English language, and one of the most vociferous defenders of the correct use of the English language, did not live long enough to see the neologisms he created with satiric intent – Big Brother, Room 101, doublethink, and so on - pass into regular usage, to lance through perceived injustices. Orwell preferred that we should be as clear and accurate with the use of our language as possible, so we will never know if he was pleased that we had to borrow from his own work to help achieve that. However, I do imagine that your name becoming a term, like “Orwellian,” referring to the control of language through misinformation, propaganda and denial, is a secret hope of any writer. Newspeak, the fictional controlled version of English featured in “Nineteen Eighty-Four” was, of course, never meant to help people find exactly what they want to say, which its words have since done. While the uses and intentions of N


In the last couple of weeks, there have been commemorations and celebrations of the life and work of Ella Fitzgerald, one hundred years after her birth. Among her celebrated performances are a set of television advertisements that both highlight Fitzgerald’s clarity of tone as a singer, and trumpet technological advances in audio and video recording. The two of them cannot exist without the other, and the phrase that accompanied them – “Is It Live, or Is It Memorex?” - became bigger than the company whose products it sold. The original ad, from 1972, features Ella Fitzgerald, performing live, breaking a crystal wine glass with her voice. This is followed by a hi-fi speaker playing a recording of the same performance, which breaks another glass. Two years later, another ad features Fitzgerald’s orchestrator, Nelson Riddle, listening to a live performance, then a recording of the same performance, and not being able to hear the difference. Fitzgerald also appeared in ads singing


This is not the first time I bought something because the packaging made me laugh. The item was screaming for my attention, fighting into the corner of my eye, on a wall behind the cashier in a convenience store. It is nearly a year since the Co-Op changed their logo back to their old 1968-93 “cloverleaf” design, making everything old new again. [Link]  Since then, the logo has been rolled out across all its products, as much of a stamp of its values as the Fairtrade logo the Co-Op helped introduce twenty years ago. The packaging on each product range has also been refreshed, with a panoply of colours and designs but, because the Co-Op does not have its equivalent of a cheap-smart-value-choice-bargain-basement range, I haven’t seen any product that only uses the Co-Op logo and its official shade of blue… …until I saw a pack of Co-Op Playing Cards, which I bought for £1.49. What made me laugh was how little design was actually needed: you have the Co-Op logo, white on a blue