Sunday, 31 October 2010

Geordie Joy, Mackem Terror plus Rocky Horror, Daleks & Sci Fi Nerds

HOWAY THE LADS! Not since we got promoted fizzy pop champs have I been this happy, no strike that....not since Shearer played his last game in the Wear Tyne derby have I been this happy. 5-1, Titus Bramble sent off, Nolan scores three, Shola gets 2. I had predicted 4-1 earlier in the week , but never in wildest imaginings did I think we'd be so emphatically superior.I will be floating on air for the next week.  Listen to the BBC Radio Newcastle podcast of match highlights

I'm not sure I can say we were totally without fault as we did allow Bent to score, but credit to the lads for a brilliant game where they played for pride not pounds. It could have gone the other way had the penalty been granted to Sunderland in the first half, but it wasn't. I'm a bit gutted Shola was taken off before he had the chance to score number three, but he proved his worth and maybe now we can see him more often in the starting line up. Nolan of course was brilliant and got perfect service from his room mate Andy Caroll. So why is the Southern press so keen to get Hughton sacked? Bored? Not content to see us happy? Who knows, but it's time he was left alone and he got a new contract and some high praise from the ownership.

Today will go down in the annals of Newcastle United as the day we outplayed Sunderland as totally  since  December1956. Pretty goals, gritty defending , great rushes, it's all you ever wanted from a football game. I feel badly for my Mackem mates, but honestly, would you have preferred the Brummie 0-0 draw earlier in the day??? Your players were great on a day when ours were that much better.

By the way, did anybody else see that wee lad at the beginning of the match? Cute as a button taking a penalty. Much better than the sight of the fat topless bloke and his multitudinous rolls of fat. My worse moment was when the camera panned on Mike Ashley sat there like a toad on a pile of his own shit grinning. Credit to the supporters for not taking the focus off our lads and singing from start to finish. 

I'm so proud right now of team, there are days you wonder why, you struggle to get through matches, find a stream or have the telly show us over Blackburn or Everton. And then you get a Derby. It makes all the suffering in the shadows of the top 4 clubs worth it. No one will ever accuse us of being glory seekers and we have the best supporters in the land, and by we I mean even the Mackems. Football is our religion and our teams are our faith. I wish the networks and the Southern press would cut the negativity and the greed that courses through the veins of even our national heroes like Wayne Rooney. I shall sleep well tonight in knowledge we had the best side of two teams that wanted to play football for the supporters. Give Bent, Nolan, and Caroll an England call up, it's time we saw dedicated honest footballers replace the coddled overpaid princes currently on the team sheet.

Top 7 reasons Black Cats lost

1- Jet lag, the trip from Sunderland took a lot out of them
2- Afraid to hurt themselves due to NHS budget cuts
3-Got confused an went shopping at Eldon Square instead
4-Bacon butties they had for lunch gave them indigestion
5-The sight of topless fat men put them off their game
6-Secretly composing angry letters to the BBC about Ann Widdicombe
and lastly
7- They couldn't understand a word being said as Mackem is sooo different from Geordie.

Heard this on the radio.... "For those of you who forgot to change the clocks at the week end... It's 5 past Sunderland".

Not making this up..... The genuine post code of  The Stadium of Light SR5 1SU. Honest, you can check for yourself.

While I'm waxing sentimental and feeling nostalgic. I was watching Rocky Horror Picture Show last night with my wife. We've both seen it often enough to know every word, move and gesture on and off screen. As a film, it's less Halloween and more musical decrying the generation gap that existed in the 70's. I will always see it as the last gasp of a generation of independent film makers who valued musicals and sharp wit. The other thing that came up was an interesting insight in child rearing.   If you have a child,and you are a devotee of this fine film, you've had this conversation with your young teen...... "Son... it's time I told you about  something important, specially now that you're old enough". Dad I'm not taking drugs and I'm not sleeping with any body. That's nice son, as I was saying, now that you're older, you're ready to do this for the first time. Dad  you're not getting me a hooker are you?  No boy nothing like that..... You reach for the locked DVD box and reach in. Dad I swear I never looked at your porn.... he gets nervous and red.  Your Mother and I talked last night  and decided it was time.... You're going to watch Rocky Horror. Some of you are laughing , some of you are cringing and some of you are doing both. I watched RHPS with my oldest when he was about 14, he's since seen it with mates and as far as I know he may even have got into the props and rituals as well. Even now in this age where children think they know everything, nothing prepares you for life like watching Rocky Horror with your parents for the first time. It's right up there with your first proper drunk with your parents. You are today a man ( or a woman ) and it isn't all bad.

Watching Rocky Horror with your children is even better than the first time you take out the Godzillas and Frankensteins, though that experience is as memorable. I recall fondly scaring the hell out of my boys for the first time with The Borg and the Daleks. Nothing like the thrill of seeing your bairns acquire the look of total fear when they hear "Exterminate" or "resistance is futile" as the Borg create another zombie hive mind. Followed closely on by the first time they realize the bastards can fly. Oh and the first time they watch a zombie flick.... Suffice to say, at least one the boys has become a sci fi nerd like Daddy and the other one is obsessed with animé, or at least he was when I last spoke to him. Do your children a favour and teach them to respect well crafted classic cult films.

If you're wondering what films you should subject your children to .....In No particular order as they say on Strictly, these are the films/programmes you need to turn your baby into a socially inept, Douglas Adams quoting, scarf wearing, companion loving nerd like yourself. Before you know it, they may even be making their own youtube clip of the cat being chased by a remote controlled Dalek, narrated in Klingon or High Elvish. 

1- Godzilla
2- Frankenstein/Dracula
3-Early Hammer films
4- Doctor Who
5- Star Wars but only the first three films ( no , not the prequels, the real first three)
6- Any and all Doctor who as early as possible
7- Star Trek Original Series, TNG and DS9
8- Early Buffy/Xena/Hercules
9- Sean of the Dead
10- Original run of Survivors
11- Rocky Horror Picture Show AND The Blues Brothers
12-Lord of the Rings Trilogy ( soon to be more)
13- Troma ... nuff said
14- Red Dwarf
15- Young Frankenstein/High Anxiety
15- Early Weird Al Yankovic tracks
16- Day of the Triffids

If you do this, you will have a healthy happy human who will be able to see the humour danger and possibilities of any situation, and they may even be able to sing and dance.

Before I forget, I take back what I said about Graham Norton, he's been very good, had great guests and been able to even fluster Lord Alan Sugar. Also check out the last Qi "Horrible" as it won't be in XL format for a while. dead funny with a class panel.

See you later for the Strictly results show!

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Strictly Come Dancing week 5: Frights and delights

Strictly Come Dancing  Halloween Special . Welllllllllllllllllllll  what an evening's fine entertainment people.  If you used Gavin and Ann as loo and nibbly breaks, good on you, if not, my condolences. Couple of things to note on the programme overall from tonight. Alesha, aka useless judge, came out punching and was scary nasty most of the night, this however did not stop her from overstepping her bounds in the later parts and being pointlessly cruel once or calling a rubbish dance great. That said, I suspect somebody at the BBC is reading these and she's responded in kind. BTW thank you pet, for not mangling the English language for just one evening, do please keep it up. School teachers across the land are heaving a huge sigh of relief.  Kudos to the Chipendale dancers, my wife enjoyed that, but what about me???? Where were the scantily clad women! Brucie was on fine form as usual and got a few brilliant gags not least of which was the John Sergeant joke that one hopes Ann Widdicombe  took to heart. It's time to be rude Ann, please for all of us who love dance. As for the music tonight, it was at times insightfully brilliant and inspired in choice and other times the dance struggled to get out of the shadow of the poorly chosen music. 

Week 6 review up and ready

And so without further ado....... the night's ratings

Pamela Stephenson: Did Jive and was a bit Yeeha and steppy. On the whole basic a bit dull but not without skill. Poor choice of music. Pamela will live to dance another day, but this was not her best night. Rating 6

Tina O'Brien: Argentine Tango to some frankly rubbish music, ruined her routine. Not for the last time a dancer had to dance past the music to keep step to the dance intended. Gothic Tina had on ghastly make up that did not compliment her, but her dancing was technically good. it had some heat and speed that was missing in weeks past, but her total lack of chemistry with her partner put a damper on the whole thing.  Rating 6 

Kara Tointon: Pasodoble to the Phantom of the Opera.  Another poor musical choice that did not match the steps being attempted.  I had to lower the volume to hear the dance, but what a dance it was. Pamela and partner were passionate fluid  and brilliant. Rating 9 Video

Patsy Kensit: Jive  to the Monster Mash She had a rough start but saved her routine, Not her best but OK. But her OK is a poorer dancer's bloody brilliant. Rating 7

Felicity Kendal: Viennese Waltz to actual waltz music! What a concept, they should try that more often you know. Gorgeous opening with Felicity at a classic European Masque, so much grace and musicality till the steps. It unravelled a bit but was redeemed on the floor with lovely bendy bits. Felicity was radiant in her dress and were it not for the steps, would have scored higher. Rating 6

Jimi Mistry: Pasodoble.... as Michael Jackson zombie?  It would explain the dance of the living dead with it's blocky laboured steps. To his credit, he did get into it and pulled off a decent performance. Rating 7

Michelle Williams: Jive to The Time Warp. Oh what a mess, not Jive and not Time Warp. As a founding member of the water spritzer and toast chucking brigade, I was deeply disturbed by a shambolic rendition of the Time warp. I loved Craig's "lobotomised" comment. A sad routine best forgotten. Rating 4 
For your entertainment and to cleanse the palette.... a clip of the real Time Warp  "It's astounding, Time is fleeting, madness.... takes it's toll ..."

Gavin Henson: Pasodoble. What a vain twonk. Thank G-d he's going back to rugby full time, Maybe he won't have to worry about dance after this horror show. Yet again he used his bare chest to cover his posturing and walking resorting at the end to the Welsh flag.... Shame on you Gavin. If you'd keep covered up and TRIED to dance you might of noticed you got at least one tiny bit right with your footwork.  Now please piss off if you're not going to take this seriously. Rating 4

Scot Maslen: Viennese Waltz. Poor man had the lurgy real bad like, but he soldiered on. I'll be honest, I could not find any fault with this dance at all . Brilliant footwork, spins  with a passionate story.  Great music that fit the dance SsssssssCottT was the best dance of the night. Rating 9 Video

AnnWiddicombe: Does it really matter what she was supposed to be doing????  Standing, walking being dragged, right back to the granny dancing of week 1. Without even a shred of entertainment value, this was the absolute bottom of the barrel.  It would have been better if she'd been shot from a cannon as suggested, all the way HOME. Ann please BE RUDE, and  leave NOW!!!! The joke has gone far enough. Rating -2  For the terminally masochistic.Video

Matt Baker: Argentine Tango to Meatloaf.  As Bruno put it.... Matt out of Hell. Passionate, near flawless  with only one hick . There was much skill on display and I agree with Len, some of the lifts were superfluous. I think the dancers are shooting for votes and adding elements that have little or nothing to do with the dance at times. Sadly the audience is often taken in and  the tactic works.  Even without the extra lifts, Rating 8 video

And so it ends, Gavin and Ann yet again rooted to the bottom of the table. Will voters choose wisely? Probably not. But I am an optimistic person by nature, fingers crossed the results reflect the table and Ann goes out on Sunday.

See you all back in this post when I either have a fit at whose being sent home or heaping  praise on the callers for their good taste.

EDIT: What the hell is going on? Tina O'Brien and Felicity Kendal with Michelle, Ann and Gavin safe?????  I agree with Craig Revel Horwood, the un-cultivated Ann is still in and he's shocked. His face told it all. I'm certain there is less than quiet revolution going on behind the scenes. Len Goodman on the other hand is either a good actor or has completely lost the plot. What exactly is on about that it's good that people eating bacon sarnies are voting for the fat old  dear out of pity? It's a dance competition not I'm a Celebrity get me out of here. What's next? forcing the dancers to eat bugs in between performances? Will Ant and Dec be hosting next year? May as well as the programme has tonight lost all credibility. If the BBC don't want to see a massive drop off in viewers, they had better sort this fast. My own personal feeling is that most people will Strictly two weeks more before they abandon the pretence of of it not yet having descended into open farce.

By the way, It was Tina O'Brien who got the boot. Poor Tina, nit the best dancer but not anywhere near as bad as the Ghastly Trio, is going home. That Felicity Kendal, fantastic Felicity who makes Michelle look like an ant with most of it's legs pulled off, was in danger, is inconceivable and wrong. Between the oiks who voted for Gavin and especially Ann, and the producers for pretending this is somehow good for the programme, shame on the lot of you. 

I suppose I should say something about Alice Cooper. Great song choice, even if he didn't sing his own song " "Welcome to my nightmare", which would have been just as appropriate. "You're Poison" about covers what real dance fans think of the real bottom three and the voters keeping them in. Watch for ratings drops among fans who thought they were watching a dance competition in the next two weeks.

Watch the results show, if you can keep your supper down, here. I for one will go back to feeling superior as my beloved Newcastle United stuffed Sunderland 5-1 in the derby today.

For more information visit the Strictly Come Dancing Home page.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Masterchef The Professionals: 8 become 3 and Alan Davies Whites hots up

Ohhhh it gets exciting now doesn't it cookery fans! Top quality chefs and top quality food, and the winner is .....US. I'll be doing a some research at the week end to add the best recipes over the current series to my Masterchef tab.

EDIT: Reviews for Finals week Part 1 and part 2 

And now without further delay, Masterchef professionals semi final week.

Monday, first we have to reduce 8 to 6, and that's done by doing a final invention test allowing 80 minutes for the remaining chefs to come up with something brilliant. Something that will raise the bar proove with certainty they are worthy of moving on . For this stage, Greg Wallace took a day off set, probably to have a conjugal visit with some long neglected dessert plate at home. In his place stepped in Monica Galetti with sufficient gravitas and striking terror into the faces of the contestants who had though they were through with her.

Geordie David presented next with his Roast chicken and Yorkshire pudding. The plate was arty in presentation and the chicken was butchered to allow three kinds of roasting. As the different styles were succesfull , the only thing that let down our boy was his Yorkshire pudding that was flat and listless. In the end, a lot of skill was on display and it tasted good.

Weepy Stacey did a duo of lamb with parsnip puree and beetroot. It was judged to be well seasoned and prety. However her beetroot was underdone and crunchy. As Polish man,I can tell it's not that hard to make properly sturdy but smooth beetroot.

French Ben prepared a char grilled rack of lamb, using a pressure cooker for some of the lamb. A risky move if it doesn't work, but as it happens ...some parts let him down with rare rack of lamb  but well done braised lamb.

Liverpool Claire cooked pan fried mackarel that was 99 out of a 100 for Michel Roux. A flawless dish of food that was both pretty and tasty.

John took the Provençal route of roast lamb with a ratatouille twist. Dull and without finesse, what it lacked in appearance, it made up for in taste with it's olive tapanada and finely cooked lamb. Monica  loved it.

 Matthew with his ballantine of chicken leg duck with hearts and other assorted goodies.He had so much going on that he ruined his food with too much sugar.

Lee's roast monk fish was perfect, tasty and good looking, I want some even now, but his ginger was a step too far.

Alice was last to go doing a lovely cod, frogs legs, and chirizo foam. A fun plate of food, I do hope she stops banging on about girl chefs, like she's still 12.

Even I knew who the two people with a one ticket home were.... Stacey with her crunchy beets and Matthew of the heavy sugar hand. At this level of the competition, there was no room for simple school boy errors like that. Stacey culd have saved herslf simply bu not plating the beets. But here are the ratings for the record.

1- Claire most complete
2- David showed most skill
3- Alice showed off her palette
4- John who made a flavour party

The rest were bottom feeding and they knew it. So much for Monday, let us move on to Tuesday and the first of two head to head battles between mostly top contenders.  Gregg btw is back from whatever food tryst he had on the day before.

Claire and Ben  had to go to Edinburgh and cook for Tom Kitchin, arguably one of the city's most demanding chefs, his restaurant The Kitchin exudes modern but serves the best traditional food. Ben had the seared scallops and asparagus three ways while Claire was charged with rump of lamb crisp potato and peas. The best way to sum up the experience is that Ben cried, Tom Kitchin stepped in and dressed his plate but not before he warned that any ruined scallops were coming out of Ben's pocket. On the whole Claire held her own and showed she belonged in that kitchen, while Ben was fraying at the edges and loosing his French cool.  After that, both had to reproduce Chef's bone marrow made three ways. A difficult job, especially if you've never worked with bone marrow. Ben produced  Michelin star seasoning on the first  then was ok followed by bland by the time he got to toast.   Claire followed the same route running out of bone marrow by the third dish.   

Step two was back at Master chef HQ, they had 90 minutes to showcase everything they had learned from the experience in Edinburgh. Ben John Dory with spinach with a dessert of fried banana and ice cream to Claire's goat cheese ravioli and Calf liver main  Each excelled at one thing but were let down by another, so the choice was hard in the end. Which to choose, gorgeous ice cream or  perfect goat cheese ravioli? Based on previous form, Claire going through was the right result.  But in the end , both were brilliant and are an asset to anybody who hires them.

Round two of the elimination rounds was Alice v John who travelled to the Whatley Manor's The Dinning room, with it's classic look and refined atmosphere. Here in contrast to the Victorian décor, the food is out there on the edges of strange. Little wonder the presiding lunatic in charge is Chef Martin Birch, a self confessed sufferer of OCD.  This madman is obseesed with perfection and pushing the envelope.

Young chef of the year Alice was charged with the roasted beef fillet and even got a food critic while poor John was saddled with pigeon loin that had to be laid on perfectly laid down lines of sauce. John who at the best of times has accuracy issues, was flustered beyond belief. TBH, I didn't see anything wrong with half the plates of lines Martin Birch rejected.  This escaped mental patient was a punishment no one deserved. But it gets better people, and by that I mean it gets worse, much worse. The recreation test shown  on Wednesday, called for a praline and chocolate soufflé. I very nearly wanted to murder this man  at this point....John's effort was qualified as Spot on, well cooked, tasty, excellent quinelling skills, presentation nice.....It was almost good enough to serve. I tell you there was no difference from what the chef expected and what he got, but somehow it wasn't good enough to serve! Just how much better did this maniac want things????? Poor Alice who had until then been enjoying her stay in the mad house, was told her soufflé was not high enough, undercooked and her quinnells were scruffy, truth be told , he was right.

Back at HQ, the battle continues with Alice conjuring fillet of beef and langoustine with a chocolate praline cake.While her main was well platerd  and tasted good the surf portion just didn't seem to impress Michel or Greg. Her pudding was considered too heavy and not poncy enough , Short of a disaster, John was going through on his Sea bass with fennel and warm ginger cake for pudding. The main had exquisite colours, great tasting with a wonderful dressing, well worth the wait of a few extra minutes. Again his dessert was colourful but heavy and the cake was dismissed as not being worthy of haute cuisine. Is it possible Chef Roux is not a cake fan? Most likely, my uncle lived in Paris for 25 years and was more into delicately stuffed tubes , and small multi-layered gateaux filled with creams and thin crispy dough. Milles feuilles, petits four, cornets, custard tartelettes  I need to stop now.... Where was I? Ah yes the winner... Alice was sent home leaving John to rejoin us in the finals coming up next week.

Heat three pitted Geordie David (wor lad he is) v Lee. I have to admit my bias here and now, sweaty nervous David is my favourite after Big lass Claire. Our chefs first needed to get to The Ledbury in Notting Hill, yes that Notting Hill... where seasonal cuisine chef Brett Graham rules the roost. I like the idea of Chef Graham but I'm not so sure about the actual plating of the food,which resembles something from an art museum and less food to be eaten and enjoyed with tongue. Don't get me wrong, presentation is terribly important, but I still want to feel that my main "was enough food". David was assigned the flamed grilled mackerel and Lee the new lamb and artichokes.  David shoke some but managed to get through the day without too much incident, as opposed to Lee who frankly cocked it up first serving raw meat then overdone meat. Clearly he let his nerves get him and he could not tell when when meat was medium. Now they had to recreate the house speciality green sad with parmesan custard, truffles and pheasant egg. This warm salad looked lush and if I could afford the ingredients I'd make it. David made what was called a natural looking salad which was perfectly cooked.... simple and too the point.  Lee presented nicely as well , and his salad was cooked perfectly. but failed to shell the egg. Not much separated these two on the test but the clear winner on the day was David with fewer mistakes during service, while cooking an admittedly incredibly complex dish that could have gone wrong at a number of points.

HQ time and David created scallops on potato pancakes, then pork loin wrapped in Parma ham, braised pig cheeks on mash with a tofee apple that Greg was afraid would not work, and Lee did pan fried mullet in saffron and garlic puree and lime posset for desert. Reaction to Lee, was that it was well cooked but overpowered by wild garlic ( I love garlic, so I would not have complained) His lime posset was fine dining exemplified with Greg in hog heaven grunting in a corner. David's starter of pork loin was fine dining and made Greg giddy happy, it was so good he compared it to a plate of presents.  On the back of the full evidence, our boy was chosen over Lee who had the good  sense to say he was chuffed to have got that far. Now if only we can do the same to the Mackems in the derby, I'll be over the moon!

So we have Claire, John and David in the finals next week. If I had to choose on the strength of only what we know now, I'd be giving the prize to Claire right now, but as we know, championships are won and lost on the oddest of things. Like football, cookery is a funny old game.

Is fine dining still relevant? Now I don't want to sound like I'm biting the hand that feeds me so to speak,  but  fine dining does seem to take the piss sometimes. Does food always have to be so plated that you cannot imagine that the chef  was ever thinking of your stomach or without thinking he had an eye on your wallet and just how much he was going to lighten it by. The loony in Edinburgh and even The Ledbury lead me to question if  they are worth the high price tags. Clearly they are places to be seen in and not so much about the food itself. I'm not impressed by foams  or perfect lines of miniature scallops shaped like eyes on a bed of cat sick. I love food, to eat it, to taste it , to have my fill. If eyes were the only sense needing satisfaction, a picture of a steaming cup of tea  would suffice. If I'm going to give up that much money for food, It had better be more than just bizzaro art on a plate.

And now for the digestif. Alan Davies and Whites, is now one ep away from closing it's current run on the BBC. If we are to judge based solely on the quality of the programme, it will be renewed, but if we just trust the ratings, it could be in trouble. I suppose playing it earlier than half eleven could help, so perhaps the ratings won't be such an drag on the recommissioning. Regardless, barring the sperm episode which was weak, Whites had gone from strength to strength. In this fifth ep, we are in part one of two in which the conflict between Bib (Darren Boyd) and Skoose (Steven Wight) is but a provocation that leads to all out war with Rolland. Without giving it all away, Rolland, who has never been the sensitive kind and rarely shown any generosity towards rivals real or imagined, truly gets up Bib's nose this time. Rolland is invited on Sunday Chef, the thinly disguised Saturday Kitchen, when somebody gets hurt in an toy helicopter incident. Should he take Bib or mental midget Scoose? Who will make him look better? Scoose of course, this leaves Bib free to run the kitchen as the head chef for the day... Should he be flattered by the offer to move to Oz that results??? Should he show loyalty to his alleged friend Rolland?  His determination and judgement are strongly tested and he decides to set up a finale worthy of Doctor who.  Speaking of Doctor Who, Kiki does a brilliant imitation of the Who theme, I will get the youtube clip if it exists. Now even if you knew how it turns out, the point of a good comedy is to also have a strong supporting cast with lovely little gems scattered throughout the script. Besides the Kiki Who hum, we get some great lines like "Why don't you just get naked and wrestle" or the vanity of the "it's not purple it's foxglove" when Rolland dresses like a clown to be on Sunday Chef. Here's a scary thought, if Kiki and Scoose had children, how stupid would they be?

Enjoy the week end and don't eat any undercooked liver !

Wood's story of England ends,Life without Work is Getting on and Mad Cat Ladies

What a week it's been so far. Loads of  telly to watch and most of it really good. But before I get onto that, a few  quick notes about the Tyne Wear Derby coming up and the e-mail I got from my editor. As some of you might know if you've been good readers and read ALL my stuff, you'll know I'm working on a few articles for a Sherlockian journal. Today I got a pdf of the mock up of the first draft of article one without images. My reviews of BBC's Sherlock have been reduced to a smooth veloute sauce of silky verbiage in praise of the New Sherlock risen from the minds of Moffat and Gatiss. I'm assured there will be one last version presented as and when the editor can sort the copyright issues for a few images from the BBC.  Just as big is of course the build up towards the long missed Tyne Wear Derby taking place at the weekend. BBC Radio Newcastle's Total Sport team had on tonight a special edition where the usual cast of talking heeds and  fan forum members took themselves to a 5 aside pitch in North Shields to decide once and for all just who's supporters could play Sunday side best. As it happens the Mackem lads edged our boys 4-3, but to hear our manager tell it, the ref ignored a clear penalty shout and the net wasn't big enough for some of our shooters. Not to be outdone by the main sport site, Total Sport then went to several cages at the zoo to ask The monkeys, the dolphins and octopi for a score line.  Monkeys 2-0 for the SMB's, Dolphins 2-2 draw and the octopus called for 0-0 draw. Seems even the animal world's opinion is divided on this. Hear the entire bit of madness on Listen again Radio Newcastle for 28th of October.  Good Luck Lads, we're playing at home, don't embarrass us.

On to business dear readers. As the title implies, this one is mostly history and a dash of NHS comedy.

This week Michael Wood's Story of England wrapped up the series with part 6 dealing with modern Kibworth/England. In Victoria to the present day, we trace the progress of Kibworth from 1830 when all right thinking people feared society changing revolution from below. Turns out they were right , but it wasn't the violent ideological revolution of Cromwell or Marx, but that of the reformers and the dissenters. Commercial interests, along with the growing British Empire served to drag England into the next century whatever the old world thought of it. Several things happen to insure that the lot of the poor and illiterate is improved.  In 1832 90% do not have the right to vote, a number that changes in fits and starts. By 1870 school for the 5 to 12 year olds is accessible , by 1880, it's mandatory. Children who enter service at 12, were expected to be smart and know how to read, a skill that served them well when it came time to challenge the Poor law courts. By1900 there is 90 % literacy rate. The railroad also came to town in  1857 . Kibworth's own Loveday, in a single stroke, creates more voters and homes for workers of modest means, by building houses. These people achieve the status of franchise holders, thus causing the Tories of the day to respond to workers or risk losing power.  ( insert own coalition joke or barb here). Despite things like the march for the unemployed in 1905, truly revolutionary tendencies are sublimated by the firm hand of the clergy on the moral pulse of the village through Penny Concerts filled with upright songs about tea and the tragedy of  a girl imploring people to ask her father to come home form the pub. This is not to say that the working men's clubs did not have the saucier sort of songs, dances and broad comedy we have come to call "Music Hall". WW1 and II do their worst and the full vote comes to all in 1928. Baby boomers come, Land Girls become mums and Kibworth becomes part of one the most multi ethnic parts of Britain.

So what in all of this was strictly Kibworthian? Well rather a lot as it turns out. This time Professor Wood utilises the resources of the best local volunteers to search through hitherto untouched parish records from the 19th century, later used to illustrate the Poor Law section. Whole groups of children walk through Kibworth on a Victoria walk, learning  that Thomas Cook was of Kibworth. The fact the dissenters movement was deeply imbeded in the village, with the result that much of what we take for granted of the writing and traditions of the movement was from Kibworth and can still be studied in libraries long since merged with more mainstream institutions, brings home the importance of the place, even if the descendants of those reformers are not spoken to directly. One of the truly nice bits was when the town was pressed ganged into recreating a Penny Concert as well as a less moralistic or upright Music hall show. A particularly poignant moment was when a class of children read of the experience and deaths of family members in the Great war then went on an annual trip to visit a battle field in France where a group of Leicester soldiers posed for a photo. Sat in the same spot, it wasn't hard to imagine most of those young people about to waste their lives on a trench charge. They then went over to the large cenotaph  to pick out the names of great grand parents. Another great use, In this last segment of the Kibworth series, Michael Wood, through photos, film and re enactment, connects the streets and homes to the events of the recent past and makes the current village seem more than a semi rural destination you might normally avoid unless you knew somebody there.Not a bad way to wrap up a series. Catch up the entire series on the iPlayer

Continuing with the theme of the working man's history of the recent past, BBC A life without work, does a brilliant job of bringing the poverty and working conditions of 1910 Yorkshire to life. Richard Bilton explores the report that is the very underpinning of the modern welfare state the Government is so busy taking apart bit by tiny bit.  While there are some abuses and ill effects of the policy on modern society, it is no reason to destroy it. In watching this programme, you realise just how close we are to the family in the 1910 diary but for the very safety net keeping large portions of the population out of abject poverty and subsistence labour.  Seebhom Rowntree, a dissenter, a Quaker ( see Kibworth) and deeply religious man, continues the grand tradition of the social reformers of the earlier Victorian era. In 1910, York is a city just recovering from a recession, a city that was among the wealthiest in the land, in which there were no poor people or social problems. All was good with the land and no person worthy of note was doing badly.  In fact the opposite was true. A full quarter of the population in poverty or constituted the working poor. Seebhom , who was later to run Rowntree's, set up a methodical survey of all persons on some form of relief or out of work. The results were assembled, collated and boiled it down into a shocking picture where even in one of the wealthiest cities of Britain, people were living on tea, bread and margarine with the occasional bit of fish on Sunday. Mrs Nevinson of the survey, has 22 children, of whom 5 survive to adulthood.  The Nevinsons are but one family among many who help with raw data, but the words of the father ring out from the pages 100 years on urging us to see his agony, the futility of his efforts at times, and the fact he is working very hard for little return.

So who were the Nevinsons? Bilton tries to answer the question with the help of genealogists and archaeologists, tracking down this working class family. After a few false starts, the blind daughter is identified as Ivy Addy, who's father is John Thomas Addy who with his family, lived for a time on Phoenix street, and whose descendants still live a mere 2 mile  away to this day. Through the search portion of the ep, we visit the Hungate dig already mentioned in my time team piece on the real Vikings, and see the tiny cramped two story hovels these people were forced to live in, sometimes 15 at a time. It's one thing to read about it, but to see the site and the conditions they were expected to maintain a brave face in , is so much harder to ignore. If you follow the dots from Ivy Addy through several generations . you end with the fat bloke from the film The Full Monty, Mark Addy. Ironic isn't it that he should find fame playing an out of work labourer during a depression. Mark and many of his relatives  were brought together on the site of the Phoenix street house for a reunion and to see where they came from. From the humble beginnings of a  labourer, the Addy's achieved greatness in the military, glazing, and now acting. 

Not to ignore Mr Rowntree, his conclusions laid the groundwork for much of the legislation that insured safe working conditions, paid holidays, decent housing, and recreation. As an employer and company president, Rowntree created a village that included pools parks and libraries. He was to create the model for the ideal employer.  During the worst of the depression , he kept the plants going, churning out chocolate and keeping people employed, this despite massive losses of 33% in 1931.  Surely an example of the old notion of noblesse oblige where the lord of the area has an obligation to the people on his land to keep them safe, whole and healthy. Next time, we see the modern face of post Thatcher and current York. It will be interesting to see just how little or how much has changed. Nicely done that, Mr Bilton, telling the story of reform through the very real experiences of one family from 1910 to 2010.

We wouldn't have Getting On  to write about without Mr. Rowntree and people of his ilk. So a big thank you to all those responsible for bringing us the kind of health care we take for granted, and other parts of the world only dream of.  Getting On for those of you who hadn't seen series one, is about a hospital women's unit that deals with all sorts of miseries and illness brought on by poverty, bad diets and the middle class obsessions of personal fitness. Jo Brand and the fat lass from the Thick of it, play out the day to day existence of hospital staff in a modern well equipped, but stressful and rushed environment of a ward trying to juggle beds, doctor time and teaching. One of the great throw away lines was when Jo brand's character was told she could not call Hillary a twat, so she said "Hillary is such a vagina", later she's taking the piss out of a patient... away for disposal. In this Thick of it filming style, the realistic situations of hospital life comes through sharply and still manage to be humorous. The visit of a patient's daughter all the way from Scotland exposes the sort of cold rule based life that has taken hold in all institutions and the admission of a  geet smelly homeless woman, presses the ward to find a place willing to un-ming her while yet others look for her identity so they can at least have a name to call her. In the US and many parts of the world, that poor woman wouldn't even get a second look. But the NHS, imperfect as it is sometimes, HAS to take her. Take the time to watch this comedy gem, you'll be adding it to your must see programmes list. If you like Richard Hawley, he sings the brilliant theme song.

I'd like to write something about the last Wonderland, Mad Cats and Englishwomen, precisely because it was  so troubling to see the way that fully half the cats in London are treated and the shocking conditions in which the people who care for them live in. The heroines of the cat world are overworked, lonely people who have turned to cats after a life of drugs and alcohol. Pat, who we meet starts the programme  thinking she is doing a sacred mission and that men don't understand, but by the end realizes that she has pushed  men and most people for that matter, from her life by taking in so many cats.  This poor soul has had a rough life in Dagenham and it hasn't got any better over time. The Ex vogue model who runs the cat and dog sanctuary is not much better. Poorly funded and overcrowded, the staff and animals live in quarters as sad and cramped as the well intentioned Pat.  I don't know what appals me more, the treatment of cats by careless and horrible people, or the conditions that those who would save them have condemned themselves to live in. This is no sentimental, humour tinged, crazy cat lady special, it is gritty and disturbing, AND well worth the watch if you've the stomach for it. Celia Hammond and her band of volunteers deserve all the help they can get, but the sad part is that they themselves are as lost and sick as some of the cats they save. I felt sick after watching this, I'm not sure why even now, except to say that no one should live like that, man or beast.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Spooks , the First Men in the Moon and Paul is dead

Irony of ironies, today I was going to listen to Simon Logan on BBC Radio Newcastle talk about life without electricity, but I nearly missed it as the power went. Secret Life of the National Grid starts tonight at 9 pm on BBC4. In the end not a bad thing as it gave me time to think of other things.

Last night's Spooks came to mind most. In it the forces of the Evil Empire want MI5 to switch over to the new US security computer grid. As the good guys agree to the request from Obamastan, Tariq has a fit and storms off to the loo. What can it be? Was he kept off the grid for being too Muslim? Did the Americans insist on having their own computer genius sort it out?  Nothing of the sort. Turns out some super hackers have broken into the mainframe of Thames House and the entire database of Her Majesty's Secret Service. Ruth of all people follows him into the ONLY rooms at MI5 not wired for cameras and sound. Point taken whoever  said even spies need to drain the lizard, have a slash , drop one etc... But isn't it also true that the vast majority of drops and exchanges in films are done in a selection of lavatories?  I'll not let myself be too bothered by this. It kept the story moving and that's vitally important if they were to get past the first five minutes.

MI5, now firmly on alert and aware of the fact that a group of miscreants are just lurking in the background waiting for the American courier with the start up codes. Seems they really are after the American database and are voyeuristicaly watching and listening through every computer terminal and camera. This is where I  got the heebee jeebees. Every time we are the net, especially those of us using those new fangled terminals that have everything built in. How do I know somebody isn't watching right now? Maybe I should put on a shirt? But which one? There's the Newcastle top that's still clean, or perhaps my Keep calm and Carry on t-shirt would be more appropriate... Damn I need to shave too. Any road, the fact that we are being monitored now even as we sit in our homes blogging, chatting to mates or looking up recipes, our machines are now and have been for a while, at risk of being hijacked by evil scum wanting to steal our money or turn our power off or stop our banking transactions and communications. Fewer than 10 people, it is alleged in the story are able to infiltrate, spy on and steal all the secrets of MI5 or destroy the capacity of every cash point to give out money or stop the debit card in your pocket from letting you spend your money. The E-economy is as revolutionary and radical as it is delicate. 30 years ago we paid with cash, now if I have a few coins in my pocket or paper money , it's to go to a public market or stall holder. Just yesterday i heard you can pay for a taxi now with debit cards thus removing the last obstacle to a totally cash free society.

So will Harry Pierce and company thwart the coalition of  Russians and Chinese super hackers? Well of course. But this is Spooks. We won't just track them down and take them out, we'll need to go on the brink of giving up our assets, possibly sacrificing battalions of spies to vengeful enemies, we may even have to be nasty to the Americans. The short answer is yes, they get there in the end, but not before I was pulled into a full on fit of nerves that the whole thing would go pear shaped and there would ne nothing left of MI5 but smouldering computers and dead spies everywhere.

Meanwhile back in the car carrying the codes and the computer genius girl who'll install them, Lucas is coming closer to the end of his story on Spooks. Dear readers, we're now one ep away from the finale and it's still not clear if Lucas will be sacrificed on the altar of great telly or be allowed to live, while Spooks kill off some random strangers to satisfy the grim reaper of spy drama. He spends most of the time on his mobile or ignoring texts, but that's as it should be. Only in our super connected world can a simple device like the mobile be such an instrument of evil. Will John Lucas sort himself out? will Ruth and Harry get to him in time? What is Albany??? and is it connected to the super spy ring from last series? Two eps left and I'm not counting on having every question answered, but I will enjoy the ride. My wife has indicated I should lay in a large supply of tissues for the night if they do kill off Lucas in a fortnight. Gripping telly regardless which story you were following.

I then delved into the iPlayer and watched Mark Gatiss's First Men in the Moon. A lovely little film with a small cast that tells the story of the first Moon landing long before 1969. It opens at a fair and a small boy waits for his father to return so they can all go home to watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. Except of course Neil Armstrong isn't the first man on the moon, that man is sat in a tent waiting for the boy to tell his story of greed, hope and human folly. H.G. Well's book comes to life in a League of Gentlemen sort of way with Rory Kinnear and Mark Gatiss playing the two earth men who lift themselves off the Earth using cavorite, a substance that cancels out gravity. The conflicts that arise are classic and well dealt with. While it may not have the massive cast or laser weapons of Star Wars, the far more realistic story tells of the meeting of two species and the natural paranoia and innocence that infuses such meetings. Clearly the Moon men would be easy targets for man if we ever invaded, but are they any more justified in their potential responses? How Cavor and Bedford deal with this in the end is melancholic and illuminating. The first Men in the Moon is an example of how the words are in fact more important than any special effects. 

My own personal memories of the actual moon landings is of being sat on the edge of the bed watching telly in my pyjamas with my Mam and apparently taking a sick day or maybe we just skived, I'm not sure. But I know most of my class opted to stay at home to watch. I can still see the 14 inch telly perched on the dresser being our window on history.  It was my first ever "Live television event" that impacted me in the same way some people remember the end of the second war or the 1953 coronation. Mark Gatiss has done a good job of linking H.G.Wells and our collective memory of that day in a film that holds your interest for the full 90 minutes. If Mark Gatiss is the flavour of the month at the BBC, it means we'll be seeing a lot more of him and his stories. So far so good.

Closing thought for the day, It's been 6 years since the great John Peel has left us and of course we lost the massive intellect that was Paul the psychic Octopus, who died today at the Frankfurt Zoo. No doubt bumped off by William Hill in advance of the heavy betting on the outcomes of  Strictly. Paul will be laid to rest in a bed of sushi and guests are encouraged to eat him, so he can literally be a part of us all. Paul left several thousand squid in his will and in lieu of flowers, the family is requesting wasabi. . His final prediction was that England would win the right to hold the 2018 World Cup, so fingers crossed!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Strictly Come Dancing week 4: Tango and Charleston fun

"Welllllllllll" as David Tenant would say in "Bright Young Things" as he smoked, danced and drank his way through the film, "That was never a Charleston". It was the 1930's exploitation  show off dance of the thirties marathons, where couples danced to the death for miserly prizes, it was the Bob Fosse 1970's imagining of 1931 early Nazi Berlin, it was Chicago the stage play (choreographed in the 40's), but most of the time that was never a Charleston.

Week 5 is up and posted !    Week 6 as well And now back to this post

The Charleston was the dance of the near do well, sometimes overly privileged, bored people who wanted to break free of the bog standard stiff dances of their parents, but still wanted to look casual. It was never ever an exercise in athletics, nor did it require years of training in Cirque du Soleil to be adept at it. Anybody with enough energy and loosened inhibition could do this dance in a about 20 minutes, hence it's being described as the dance of the people. What happened to it later through the years as people modified it beyond recognition cannot be called Charleston.  Here follows a step by step guide on how to Charleston and another video of contemporary people doing the Charleston

Now if we accept as read, that the producers and choreographers at Strictly made a conscious decision to present the later dances that cover everything from Jive, Lindy hop, Broadway and Burlesque style to depression era marathon tortures, as "Charleston",  then we can at least have a proper frame of reference to judge the dancers from. Pity though these dances individually  have not been given the respect they deserve or had their story told on Strictly. Tonight's costumes and music were on the whole, spectacular and well chosen, with a few exceptions that I shall note later on. The attention to detail in the wardrobe, shows the BBC has made the extra effort to make our stars and dancers look spectacular.

I'd like to know what the BBC have done with the real Craig Revel Horwood. While I'm enjoying this nice Craig, I'm not sure I can take much more of this. He looks like he's in need of a good bleeding off of the cold and nastiessssss dahling.  Bruce was in fine form for most of the night, except for that one unfortunate joke that stopped the room cold, I suppose even a veteran has an off moment from time to time. As for our Alesha, she provided us with yet another gem from her treasure chest of bad English when she commented to Tina, "You wasn't afraid"   . In fairness to her, she at least dropped some of the more over the top, non comments and recognized some truly awful dancing and praised the two genuine Charlestons. To be fair, it's week 4 and the good dancers have achieved some real proficiency by now.  No dancer can get get by now on merely appearing to try.

So here are tonight's ratings for week 4 of Strictly Come Dancing .

Jimi Mistry: His so called Charleston started off with some nice theatrical windows that led into a decent choreographed routine straight out of a Broadway production from Ziegfeld or Busby Berkley. He upped his game and made us forget last week's less than  exciting effort. Rating 6

Scott Maslen: Came out and brought Old Europe back from the mists of time. His  Tango was lush, smooth, firm and and in control. Looking at him, you saw the tux melt away and turn into the uniform of the cocky young aristocrat with his lady. Elegant, flawless, it was the best dance of the night and the series.  Rating 9 video

Tina O'Brien: Poor Tina, she was poorly, she was out of step, she was slow, she looked like Big Bird from Sesame Street. The dance was a  rip off of the Jazz Singer that turned into bad Burlesque with mostly gymnastics and a lot of clowning.  Not her best, and the choreographer has to bear some blame for this. Rating 6

Felicity Kendal: I loved the music chosen for her, it reminded me of all the Polish society balls our family used to attend. Her Tango was near flawless, it showed passion, intimacy and natural flow. This woman can dance. Rating 8 video

Patsy Kensit: Another so called Charleston. Taken nearly step for step from Chicago, Patsy was competent but had too much clowning around and her steps were too simple, getting more heavy and sluggish as she neared the end. Her dress BTW was designed for a flat chested woman, not someone so well endowed , and that made her look fat. Rating 6

Gavin Henson: What can I say that's polite? He almost danced. He lost his step from the first note and mostly never recovered, causing him to revert to a lot of standing again. His Tango was banal , slow  and looked laboured. Appropriate choice of song I think..... Britney Spears' Toxic. Is there some kind of subliminal message here? Rating 5

Peter Shilton: Another Charleston, another disaster. Poor choice of music that did not fit the dance, causing poor Peter to loose what little control he had. This most un-Charleston of all, was a poor imitation of the great Bob Fosse's Cabaret (a 1970's re-imagining of 1931 Berlin.) Peter Shilton dropped three points here where he should have at least drawn. As for his costume, it was blackface without the blackface. Don't be surprised if he's in the drop zone. Rating 3

Pamela Stephenson: A fluid, precise, circular and clean Tango with lovely footwork. Not as good as last week. But having said that, it was still a top four finish. Rating 8

Matt Baker: Dressed in a bizarre 1910 weight lifter kit and his partner some kind of circus ballerina, produced one of the most authentic Charlestons of the night. barring the silly acrobatics from the 30's, and a few wobbles, they nailed the dance to the tune of 42nd street.  Rating 9 video

Michelle Williams: Due to the death of her partner's father, she was paired up with a new teacher who clearly was able to squeeze more out  of the frail lass than her regular partner. Her Tango had balance issues, but was a vast improvement on her previous performances. Can it be that despite a terrible song, a new partner was able to achieve more in one week than the other in 8? Rating 6

Kara Tointon: How cute, she took him home to "properly meet the rents". I tell you they are not just dancing! In the 2nd truly authentic Charleston of the evening, Kara displayed the footwork her Gran would have used back in the day. Take out the gymnastics of the last half of the dance, and that was the carefree drink, smoke, dance, Charleston. Her costume was as pointed out, a tribute to Josephine Baker who was of course Burlesque, but given the quality of her performance, I won't begrudge her the opportunity to show off her skin like that. She Blew me away. Rating 8 Video

Ann Widdicombe: Ann Ann Ann, Rightly we were told that in the history of Strictly there had been two styles of Tango, but tonight, we were going to see a third.....the Ann Widdicombe Tango! She opened the dance by coming down on wires all graceful and flying Elephant like, then landed to become the constant cardie wearing dancing Hippo from Fantasia. Bruno compared her to E.T's Mam, Craig was nearly silenced, but not for long and me? I wasn't sure what to make of it. For entertainment 20 out of 10. For dance????? Who would of thought it? A funny Tory. Rating 3 video

On the back of tonight, I'm with Brucie, Strictly alone is worth half the license fee. So how do you choose a bottom two from this? Tina O'Brien, Patsy Kensit, Gavin Henson, Peter Shilton and Ann Widdicombe. I'll take Ann Widdicombe out right away, there is no way she'll be even remotely close to danger this week, you know it, I know it. So that leaves the other four. Much as I dislike Gavin, he was less rubbish than Peter Shilton, but he's still not anywhere near as good as Tina or Patsy or as popular as they are. I'm reliably informed by my Welsh mate Grav, that Gavin has some natural enemies out there. In no particular order.... His ex wife's fans, people who've met him, Rugby supporters who are cross he ganned off to play the fame game while his team is in full season, oh and people with eyes. If he stays out of trouble it will be the hopelessly in love with him women who will do it. So that's my prediction... Peter Shilton and Gavin Henson.

Sunday results show time...... The Bottom two was 50% fair. Michelle Williams and Peter Shilton. We all know why Ann wasn't in it even thought she is to dance as Daleks are to diplomacy, but she's funny and that seems to have become the reason she will stay in. So long as there are equally rubbish dancers getting hoyed, I don't mind. However, what Gavin is doing safe is beyond me. Does Michelle deserve being in bottom two for a second week running?  I suppose on past form, but she was not by any stretch bad last night. I do wish this slavish Judge bashing from both Bruce Forsythe  and Tess Daly would stop. Her remark tonight.."It's your opinion" speaks only of her ignorance and boosts the growing validity being given for the notion that if you have the ability to breathe your opinion is as good as the next moron or expert. The judges have opinions that matter far more than anything Tess has to say, as they are experts, let's show some respect.

So in the end it's ............................Peter Shilton. No surprise, he's sunk like a stone and deserves to be going home. Nice try and thanks for the effort Peter. We will always love you for the football.

For more information you can go to the official Strictly Come Dancing 2010 site Week 5 is up and ready

Friday, 22 October 2010

Masterchef Professionals Week 4 and Alan Davies Whites bounce back

Another week, another group of hopefuls wanting to be the best of the best SIR! But unlike last week , this lot seemed to know what they were doing. Just when I though they had run out of candidates worthy of the competition, BBC Masterchef Professionals recruiters redeemed themselves.  Week 5 review now up

Week 4 started like all others, and that means yet another useful summary for those of us who are beyond the naked chef. Monica Galetti prepared an Italian meringue with hot sugar syrup.  At it's core not the most complex thing, but you can go wrong if you don't watch your temps, 120 degrees btw, or add your syrup too quickly. So how did the the next intake do?  Ambitious Alice tried hard  but  her meringue collapsed despite producing some good flavours. Confident Andrew made a perfect tasty, technically good plate. Amar, for whom food is life, was confused and made a French meringue instead and forgot to put enough on the plate call it a meringue.  Lastly Chippy Spencer surprised with a good presentation  but did not measure the temps and ruined his end product. This error cost him and he exited without much debate.

Chef Roux then asked the remaining chefs to make Bar au fenouil en papillote, or Stuffed Sea Bass. As it happens, this technically demanding dish is just the sort of thing non pros like ourselves should try at home. There is a series of skills, that if mastered even a bit, will make us far better cooks than most things we see this week. Incidentally, my cash and carry is having a special on Sea Bass, so guess what's for supper at ours in the next few days. First up was Amar who plated a poor untidy mess that had bones still in. He tried to blame his tools, but was caught up by Chef Roux. Andrew next made a near perfect plate of food but sliced his stuffing instead of chopping it. Despite this error, it was still tasty and looked professional. Poor Alice  had to save her fish as she had opened the fish from the belly instead of the top nearest the spine. While her fish was cooked to perfection and well wrapped in paper, she did leave in some scales and bones. Choosing inventiveness in error fixing and recognizing that Amar was perhaps the less skilled cook, Alice and Andrew survived the Sea Bass test.

Another day another four and today we had Fillet of John Dory. I've had fun with this fish myself, and I can tell you it's not the easiest fish to fillet. you have to watch for the bump ,work slowly and unpin the fillet. Monica removed the skin and  seasoned her fillets with a bit of salt and pepper.  Yet again on the surface not difficult, but you'd be wrong in thinking that these chefs coming on Masterchef are all highly skilled like her.  Henry did a good job of filleting and mad a skin on fillet. Very tasty but could had got the skin crispy. Neil of the Scot fishing village acquitted himself well by do a pristine job of filleting and cooking a crispy skin John Dory. Kate, the latest in a string of women to have a hard time on the programme, butchered the fish, made it  too salty and too ,lemony, ruining a beautiful fish and upsetting Monica. Lastly Christopher the head chef and captain's private chef on the Arc Royal, left bones in undercooked it the fish and was rushed. On the strength of his later work, he should of been spared the embarrassment and sent home with catastrophic Kate.

On to Chef Roux who showed us Cabri roti a la Provençale. or Roast Goat and Garlic flan. The flan itself had to be the coolest thing here. This is a recipe that will find it's way into our Sunday dinners as often as I can justify it. Remember to remove the the green stem in the garlic bulb to have only the lovely sweet taste of garlic in your flan. As for the goat, the secret is to take the membrane or parchment off the goat before you roast it. I wasn't expecting miracles and the meat was as challenging as were told. Henri made a scruffy looking  well flavoured goat, Sadly it was to fatty, badly butchered and he left the parchment on. Royal Navy Christopher did an elegant but not ON THE BONE dish that was chewy, lacking sauce  but had subtle flavours that were indeed good. Lastly Neil was nice but  piled the plate with too much food, left the parchment on  and forgot the garlic flan. For crimes against butchery, Henri was sent packing.

For those of you too delicate to eat raw meat, turn away now. Monica prepares Steak Tartar with poached egg. What you need to understand about raw meat, is that it won't kill you! Not unless your purveyor of meat has been selling you bad meat all along. If you trust your butcher, as I do, then you can make this without any fear. If you are reading this in the United States, doubly insure you are getting good quality fresh meat that hasn't been reared on chemicals. Having said that, Steak Tartar is a dawdle as you'll see from Monica's demonstration. The poached egg is easy as well , but remember the white wine vinegar in your hot water and  to trim the edges of the finished egg if you are looking for elegant presentation.  Nearly forgot, much to my amusement, Monica's secret ingredient for her steak tartar is ketchup! Right so how did the plebs do?  Devon James looked good for a first ever attempt, tasty but lacking seasoning. Fraser was odd in as much as he assembled all the elements but didn't mix them??? Welsh John another Tartar virgin, did a good presentation with a nice egg but didn't finely chop his meat and missed the tobasco.  Lastly Matthew who has Michelin star experience, made a near perfect tartar but had a srcufy egg. You guessed right if you said Fraser was gone.

Not to be outdone in audacity, Chef Roux asked the chefs to make a Panier Nougatine with Chantilly Cream encased in spun sugar. This task was about showing off, pushing the envelope  of the visual while keeping to the required elements. A thin nougatine, tasty light cream and a flavourful fruit coolie. My wife again has made this in parts all except for the spun sugar.  Our survivors did not disappoint. Matthew created a playground of treasure, that was stunning, just short of brilliant. Greg was having a meltdown on screen and looked like he wanted to be left alone with the plate. Nervous John made an elegant spun sugar cage, was a bit too un generous with the coolie but if Greg was happy with the first  plate , this one was going home with him. Sadly James made his basket in a cone and it was too thick, too simple too ordinary. He had no chance compared to the previous efforts and was going home.

It's Wednesday night and time for the quarter final! I know last week I said it was the last one, but what do I know? In the invention test Lamb and Quail featured in most of the dishes. Alice showed no real skills but produced a tasty plate of food. John's lamb rump was overcooked, chewy and he put in useless foam when he promised the lamb would "speak for itself" . Matthew made confit quail that looked like cat sick on a plate but tasted much better . Christopher who had been scrapping through so far  put 5 peas on a plate of dull quail with celeriac mash....yawn  Andrew made more quail but this was special, if not well cooked it looked like it belonged in the Baltic. It was interesting to say the least, looked like a vagina topped with a flower to me, Greg said it it could compete for the Turner prize. Neil's Rabbit looked nice but was ruined by the grit from the langoustine that hadn't been de veined.

Having dropped John and Christopher, the remaining chefs now faced the critics. Neil's Sheppard pie and lamb were awful. The Lamb in particular achieved the rare distinction of having  a raw, overcooked and perfect piece of meat on the plate?! Alice made Salmon with clams, which frankly looked like too much food and far to much faffing about on the plate, there was so little  broth, a critic said "It's a sneeze". Her pudding was an audition displaying at least four different difficult skills, she was proving a point and succeeded. Matthew and his golden raisin fish in beurre blanc was a triumph in simplicity and flavour along with his lamb peas and new tatties.  Lastly Andrew rounded out the field with good looking lamb so raw inside it inspired the funniest comment of the night. "If you had a defibrillator you could get this animal going again". His chocolate fondant was overcooked stodge and his cherries in caramel  were rock hard. Andrew deserved to get cut and was joined by Neil out the door.
Catch up the entire series here.

Alan Davies Whites on the BBC, bounced back nicely from a limp outing last week. This week's ep features Rolland getting through a health inspection when he finds out his old mate the old inspector has been replaced by a prickly officious Ms of a lady who is determined to stay unblemished by any ounce of sympathy or even slight bending of the rules. This incorruptible walking rule book spots 16 violations, 5 of which are serious. That the resolution to the whole thing revolves around Rolland unscrupulously pretending to have a relative suffering from Parkinsons like Caroline's father, is doubly funny when you realize  it's also Katherine Parkinson's last name. When the health inspector delivers the line "You stay brave", it's done so well you hardly expect it. I spent most of that 5 minute stretch watching sideways it was so awkward. The solid performances given by Scoose and Bib all the while, plus the gormless Kiki as fire marshal were the icing sugar on the cake. When the pig carcass was delivered in front of the the health inspector was particularly funny, even owner Celia gets a shot in early.  A great outing by the cast and writers both. I know many of you have been wondering what the theme song to Whites is?

 Most asked question about Whites on the tinternet..."What is the music at the end of whites with alan davies?. Well I've been doing some digging and found the name of the song, the name of the singer AND a you tube clip! So enjoy the live version of "Song for the Dead" by Alexander Wolfe right here on youtube. Next week Bib is tempted by a job offer in Oz while Rolland and Scoose play telly chef. I'll  be watching that.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Ian Holloway v Wayne Rooney, BBC budget cuts and Breast cancer

It's been a while since a did a post that covered a multitude of vaguely related things. Just today my in box has  given me grist for the mill and yesterday I made a discovery that shocked even me. Then of course there's a multitude of tiny bits and bobs worth passing on that don't frankly fit in to any of the usual Strictly, Masterchef or History posts.

I may as well reveal the shocking news first. I who have sworn to never watch The One Show as I thought it to be just a step away from bizzaro telly for the truly odd, have become a convert. There's something appealing about the new hosts Jason Manford and Alex Jones that makes the segment where Salman Rushdie plays table tennis seem less surreal. The informative pieces that I'll admit were also on the old One Show, seem to fit better now that the hosts don't seem to be sharing a brain cell. There are in fact three people who are a near guarantee to make me switch channels if they are on a chat show.... James Corden, Adrian Chiles and Katie Price, together these three make almost a whole personality. Perhaps it is the insensitivity and near total lack of knowledge emanating from Mr Chiles that so repelled me from the One Show, but with him gone , the segments worthy of BBC4 are truly informative and entertaining. All my favourite BBC4 presenters seem to be doing a short film a week for them, and  it doesn't seem as pointless now that we don't have interviews in which Yo Yo Ma will be asked for his favourite Lady Gaga track or if he thinks she's a tranny. 

Another chat show that has taken us by storm is the Rob Brydon Show. Normally a comedian with two chairs and a musical guest falls flat on his face as he or she will just end up interviewing the same dreary list of celebs Wossy used to get. But not our Welsh dynamo. He's got a small room, fewer than 200 people in. This intimate setting insures that no person sitting in a chair is immune from interrogation by the host and must be on his or her toes. Guests are mostly drawn from a combination of iconic British personalities to rising stars of comedy and drama. What I consider the icing on the cake, is that Rob Brydon is in fact not a bad singer, and will sit in with musical guests for a bit of a jam session. Guests of late have included Seasick Steve and Paloma Faith. If you like indie pop and music outside of the x factor production line, you will enjoy the segments. Brydon  has filled the void that once was the near exclusive domain of Graham Norton .

So why don't I watch Graham Norton anymore? Besides being off the air at the minute, his guest list had got so polluted with visiting Americans who needed everything explained to them  and the strange allowance of Jedward, TWICE, as well as apparently regular visits by James Corden, that I could not bear to turn on the telly. This sort of booking has replaced his previously entertaining range of comedians, actors, authors, freaks and funny misfits who knitted, made strange toys or channelled dead pets. Since He moved to BBC1 and Jonathan Ross lost his show, the BBC have tried to get Norton to take up the Ross mantle along with his guest list, in the process stripping him of any remaining charm.

In the it sucks to be you department, universally loved NUFC hero Andy Carroll, who is now living with Kevin Nolan under terms of his bail from assault charges, has had his brand new chrome-plated Range Rover burned to a crisp while parked in the drive. Graffiti expressing above mentioned love was found nearby . Joining Caroll this week in the race to see who is more "loved", is Wayne Rooney. He made Alex Ferguson look deeply disappointed and hurt beyond words on Sky sports. While no one will want to burn Wayne's car, I think he wins the twat of the week and the month award. Football has gone wrong when a single player and his agent can hold the the club hostage like that. If he's going to sit and sulk till January and bugger off on a free, then shame on him and the people who think this is ok. Ian Holloway got it right today when he raged at the players and agents who are now bigger than even the biggest clubs. What arrogance, what hubris, what a shame. What is the point of a contract when it means nothing, what is the point of training up a player only to have him throw his toys out the pram and leave when HE's done with YOU!?This rant was so good it made the Russell Howard show

Speaking of tits, some dim bulb with a computer has sent me an e-mail letting me know I've won £500,000. To collect I only had to send an e-mail to "Dear Graham Poll at". If that didn't work I got a second one telling me to use graham.poll9. If you get one of these, don't respond, you're only telling them you have an active e-mail address. Best comedy line of last week goes to visiting American comedienne on Qi XL Animals , when she stopped Ross Noble to ask him "Are you speaking English?". I also learned that if ever meet a honey badger, I should be wearing a steel jock strap.  Want a super power? Get bit by a radioactive hag fish and acquire the skill to ooze mucus at will, very cool and useful as well in a tight spot. Get it, tight?

Now if you are good soul and want to give to breast cancer awareness, may I suggest you avoid buying pink branded foods, products and other such crass commercial grasping and give directly to the charity. If you like cheese and the pink wrapped cheese is the one you would have bought normally, go right ahead, but for pity's sake, don't encourage this fake marketing  by buying a product from a company that will give a fraction of what you spent to the cause in question. Take note that you care about the cause, keep going , then when you get home, give something through paypal or write a cheque. And on that subject, we are a month away from Children in Need.  Start checking your finances now to make sure you have something to give on the 19th of November.

Spooks has been chugging along nicely. In last week's ep we learn the new commodity will be fresh water  and that there is a new world that resembles the old one of the pre-ideological days, when nations did war unto each other by stealing industrial secrets and attempting to shore their own economies at the expense of others. We also wondered just how bent Lucas was going to be; very it turns out, having set up some drone passing him in hall way. Loved his line where says  " We can be together, I've fixed things". When the fall comes, it will be spectacular. This weeks ep had the President of the United States, oddly referred to as the leader of the free World, chairing yet another doomed to failure, peace conference about the Arab-Israeli conflict. In a fresh twist, it takes a turn at stating the obvious, mainly that ultra religious elements in Israel are far from interested in peace before they get their nationalist agenda firmly in place. One of the most annoying things about the story was that I had so wanted to dislike the Home Secretary, but he turns out have a soul after all.

Speaking of the current government, the spending cuts at the BBC are on the one hand, not as bad as they could have been, and on the other hand still terrible. Or as my mate Keith Topping said, "It's better to loose only one leg instead of the two". The fact is that 16% of operating budget is being taken out of original programming. BBC News and the Welsh service that used to be paid by government departments are now paid for out of the main BBC budget. That budget by the way  frozen now for several years. So it you're nostalgic for the cheap special effects of 70's Doctor who, then wait a few months and you'll be right at home. Merlin has already seriously downgraded it's FX budget from last year with obvious results. I may not say it all the time, but I LOVE THE BBC. If I take away the few programmes I watch on ITV  ( Corrie, the occasional special crime drama and football), I'm left with a huge amount of telly I still watch. In fact if you took away my BBC, I'd be left with nothing.  One hopes that a few Lib Dem  or Tory MPs are caught in a scandal or are too ill to work, It won't take but a handful of seats to bring the whole rotten house of cards coalition down.

I'll close this with a massive praise of Mark Gatiss and his History of Horror of a less detestable kind. It has been a joy to watch, taking us step by step by step through the fascinating , sometimes forgotten sometimes unknown parts of the the story of Horror cinema. I was a boy all over again, watching Frankenstein, Dracula, then moving on to my teens, the Hammer films which I was finally old enough to see. Because of this series I've had to make a list of must watch again  and must watch for the first time classic horror films. I need to see the wax museum films, never seen Freaks, and I've forgotten  more Hammer films than I've watched new films in the last 10 years. I love how Gatiss explores the Luton buses or shows us how Bray studios reinvented the genre with it's more urbane, sexy  and bloody monsters. BTW, I'm with Luton, I'd much rather make up my own monsters, seeing them sometimes  just makes you laugh, robbing the whole build up of any tension and fear. There is one more instalment left covering the Texas chain saw massacre era to now, an era frankly I found far too bloody and macabre without ever telling a story. Zombie films will also get a shout, so if you fear the walking dead, get your trusty shovel, make sure nobody around you is dead and lock the door.

Happy telly people, and don't forget, if there's nowt on telly, go for a walk, read a book or talk to your significant other. Me, I'm off to see if her indoors would like to do something other than stay in for the night.