25 July 2009

Witty and urban(e)

Clair's back. Urban Woo-Hoo!

And Clair's front, obviously. But we won't talk about that.

24 July 2009

Til red tape do us part

The new law designed to prevent forced marriages in the UK has unwittingly prompted the temporary end of one totally unforced marriage.

A Canadian woman, who has married an Englishman here, has to go back to Canada to renew her visa. Sadly, the new law means that she can't return to the UK and her new husband for 18 months, when she turns 21.

It's a horrible by-product of well-meaning legislation. But the lawmakers insist they can't make any special cases for fear of setting precedents. They have described this couple's situation as - wait for it - "an inconvenience".

That is the most woefully inadequate, soulless, uncaring reaction they could have come up with. They may as well have said "we couldn't give a shit, frankly".

The law was designed to end forced marriage, not to prevent or interrupt unforced ones. Given that this has been allowed to happen, why on earth wasn't the law drafted so that something like "in the presence of evidence or proof of a party being forced into marriage unwillingly" featured in its wording? That way someone like this poor Canadian lady would have been spared being parted from the man she loves without compromising the safety of those it was designed to protect.

What makes it worse is that it was delays by the authorities which stopped them marrying before her visa ran out. had they been more on the ball, there'd have been no problem.

And to call this issue "an inconvenience" is unforgivable. Whoever wrote and okayed that statement should be fired.

23 July 2009

August 15th, to be precise, and I'm buying the new shirt next week

There must be a new football season just around the corner, because yesterday this dropped through my letterbox.



It's my season ticket for 2009-10. And yes, it's green.

Green.

It also showcases Totesport, our new shirt sponsor. I wonder if the season tickets sent out to under 16s don't feature Totesport, then? Given that the sponsorship rules dictate that gambling companies cannot be branded on shirts for children (hence the presence, soon, of lots of plain amber offspring shirts in the club shop), maybe the same applies to season tickets.

Not that it matters, as it'll still be green.

Green.

22 July 2009

Mum's the word, Davina



Having missed the first showing last week, I watched the repeat of Davina McCall's appearance on Who Do You Think You Are? last night. I wonder whether it's the sort of programme which will get some of her harshest critics off her back.

Davina isn't perfect, but I've always really liked her. Criticism of her is easy because of the programme she is best known for, but given the vastness, still, of Big Brother, there's no denying it needs a bombastic presenter and Davina does that job tremendously. So she shouts a bit, so what?

Of course, she has had her career mishaps - she struggled at the BRITS, she did a terrible sitcom, she was stitched up over that talk show. Maybe the vehicle for Davina has only ever been reality television, and the original reality show at that. Yet I wonder if executives are looking at her a tad differently after her gentle, amusing and touching trawl through her family history.

I loved her reserved reaction to the idea that she may have Royal connections, treating the idea that a grandfather three times over may have been one of George IV's illegitimate sprogs. She rightly let the rumour die down, as there was no way it could be proved. And yes, the programme is there for people with interesting or controversial family backgrounds (hence the tremendous story of Michael Parkinson, the total arse, saying he was ditched by the show after six weeks because his ancestry was too staid and boring), but Davina's knowledge of this was tempered by a desire to keep her awkward and desperately poignant estrangement from her mother as far away from the show as she could until it was deemed beyond necessary, even eventually admitting that her mum should never have had children. What a terribly sad thing to say.

Her gran was a diamond, and that wonderful second cousin she met in France (showcasing her fluent French on the way) was fantastic. Perhaps in an odd way it shows Davina's genuine appreciation of what's real and what's not - often claimed to be lacking depth when refusing to shed tears with BB housemates who have been on the dreaded "journey"; she reacted to her maternal cousin's hugs and memories with tears that could melt the stoniest of hearts.

Looking at the contributors to this latest series of Who Do You Think You Are?, it would appear that at least one more - Chris Moyles - has an opportunity, planned or otherwise, to show his less boorish side to an audience who just assume he is that loudmouthed Northern ignoramus on a pop breakfast show. He is on this week. I'm interested in David Mitchell's episode too, less so in the others.

Only one thing confused me about Davina - if she didn't speak to her mother for years, and her mother was French, then who on earth is that Home Counties woman she is nattering to about her hair on those glistening Garnier ads?

21 July 2009

"Oh, how you brought me down ... (down, down)..."

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Frankie by Sister Sledge. Possibly the most twee Number One single of the 1980s, which never quite dived further into all-out novelty status, though it certainly threatened to.

It was Sister Sledge's first original release for more than a year and indeed, we'd never see them again in the UK Top 40 aside from yet more remixes of their Chic-backed disco anthems.

The premise of this song was of a woman accidentally bumping into her childhood flame who was, worryingly, 15 years old when she was just 12. Now, in illiberal USA, that would have been stamped upon very quickly by parents, law enforcement officers and anyone else with a duty to maintain the moral compass and American dream. However, the plot thickens as the song was, supposedly, written with a certain Francis Albert Sinatra in mind. Assuming Sinatra was informed of this, he may have had good reason to threaten the services of his legal people to rubbish and remove any claims that he chased 12 year olds when he was pubescent.

We'd last heard anything fresh from Sister Sledge (don't you think they got it spot on by not calling themselves the Sledge Sisters, or just the Sledges?) a year before, when that brilliant chicka-chicka guitar riff opened up Thinking Of You. But it was obvious from the two remixes that followed that the 70s floorfillers they sung on were still deemed to be their most reliable source of income. That is, until Frankie came along.

What we got, essentially, was four sisters all singing vocals as individuals about one man whom they see for the first time since he broke off their childhood liaison. Love songs are generally better off with one person singing about another or, in the case of a duet, one person singing to another. The song was obviously written with a solo artist in mind, totally in the first person, but nonetheless we ended up with four sisters singing together about their memories of one man. He must have been knackered when he was 15. And imagine the catfights.

Realising this was an unusual and awkward premise, the video was made as a big pisstake of the contradiction between song and artist. The eponymous chap wasn't a bow-tied crooner with mafia connections and long cigarette holder, but a rotund, avuncular-looking postie. Wherever he went - work, lunch, in the travel agents window, at the ball game, in a clothes shop - the sisters followed him, cooing the lyrics his way and offering flashbacks from the same places while he looked bamboozled and tried to escape, allowing us a chortle at the sight of four simpery girls gaily and amusingly chasing one fat bloke about. As was always the case with Sledge songs, one Sledge did the verses and the rest joined in on harmonies and chorus.

Now look. If, when you were 15, you were offering your manly services to four sisters at once (and, presumably, quad sisters at that, given that they claimed to be 12), is it the sort of thing you'd forget about? I know we all do daft things as teenagers as we become aware of the opposite gender, but you don't forget the ones which were most appalling or the most fantastic, just the average encounters in between. Even if you didn't recognise them by face by the time you saw them as proper adults with legal bumps and bits, surely there wouldn't be a great list of quad sisters you'd played tonsil hockey with? "Oooh, now which foursome would *that* be?" And yet daft old "Frankie" kept buggering off, frightened and confused, every time these four women chucked themselves at him. The strange line "I looked into your big eyes and said to myself 'we could-a have twins'" was, on reflection, correctly said to yourself, petal, because saying it aloud to a 15 year old lad when you're only 12 can only cause you further strife...

Eventually, of course, he finally recognises them during the last round of choruses as they sing the song in a bar he frequents, and holds out his arms, cheering, and going on to the stage for a quartet of hugs, beating off a doorman on the way as the Sledges again and again sing the line "do you remember me?". Well, thank Gerald for that... the plot of the video comes to a nice round end, not dissimilar to Frankie's own.

The song itself, written by Denise Rich, entered the UK charts in the first week of June 1985 and, after climbs to 29, 11 and 2, hit the top spot at the end of the same month. It stayed there for four weeks, meaning it was at the helm of our charts on the day of Live Aid. Sister Sledge did Top Of The Pops several times, though on one occasion only three of them turned up because, as Mike Smith explained in his link to camera: "Kathy is about to become a mother."

When all four were on, it allowed them to do a short rock 'n' roll dance routine in pairs during that extremely jaunty, boppy and near-annoying middle eight sequence and sudden key change. However, when Kathy went off sprogging (and how on earth did she manage such a physically demanding routine when she was eight and half months gone?), one of the sisters (I never know which is which, but there was always one much less womanly than the others) had to do an uncomfortable-looking solo quickstep while the other two carried on swaying together. I bet she got the box room and the fish fork when they were kids, too. Poor mare.

It was severely twee, but on the sweet side of twee. The last, post-gap flourish of "Fraaankie!" at the record's climax caught out every single disc jockey when it was initially released. Given that Frankie Goes To Hollywood were dominating the scene and the press at the time (though in actual fact their career as a group was essentially dead by the summer of 1985), Now 5 felt the need to point out in their sleevenotes that Frankie (Side 3, Track 1) was "not about Holly, Paul, Mark, Ped and Nash, but supposedly about Francis Albert Sinatra". Strangely, the Wikipedia page on the song alludes to this too. I doubt anyone for a moment really thought that an American song, by an American group, written by an American woman, would be about a bunch of scallies from Liverpool.

It hasn't dated well, of course, while punchier remixes of their disco standards have managed to maintain the Sledge name. One follow up emerged after Frankie, later in 1985, called Dancing On The Jagged Edge. It only got to Number 50 and I can't say I've ever heard it.

20 July 2009

Marooning


I've recently developed a fascination (which I can't explain) for the outposts of the UK, and I've decided I want to take holidays in them all, walking in the fresh air with the Bassets by day and enjoying the cosiness and ambience of such remoteness by night.

So I want to know what these places are like. I'm talking about Shetland, Orkney, the Western Isles, Scilly and even (and maybe especially) Lundy. You well-travelled people can tell me all about them, I'm sure.

19 July 2009

From the office of...

The death of Henry Allingham brought out the worst in the dreaded spokespersons who work for royalty and VIPs.

Spokespersons have a job to do but some events can be simply too significant or important for faceless, emotionless printed statements purporting to be from people who could never hope to achieve through their accident of birth or manipulation of systems what the great man achieved. The spokespersons should have been advising their boss to give a statement in their own voice rather than issuing something on an email.

I don't doubt that the Queen, Prince Charles and Gordon Brown echoed every word of sadness expressed on their behalves by their lackeys, but surely Mr Allingham was worth something a little more than two lines of rhetoric delivered by a bureaucrat which, frankly, could have been shuffled together in ten minutes without anyone important being consulted?

Let's see if any of them have the class to turn up at his funeral. If only there was a church big enough for every single one of us to go along.