Sunday, 18 November 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like . . . oh what's the point!

According to the late, and most definitely great, Andy Williams, 'it's the most wonderful time of the year'. I tend to agree. I'm already scrabbling through boxes for left over wrapping paper from days of yore. The stuff that used to cost 2p a sheet on Chesterfield market and was a homage to Victorian carriages with headless drivers. That sort of thing. There's the first version of the Christmas cake (a surprising success), a Christmas card list (how many names can I take the red marker pen to this year) and the prospect of turfing the lawnmower and garden implements out of the shed in the search for the decorations.

The build up to Christmas is all part of the fun but I'm finding it a little heavy going this year thanks to ITV1. Misery, let thy name be Yuletide. Exhibit A is the Asda festive advert. It shows a housewife preparing for the big event. The woman is a loon, writing cards, stuffing turkeys and hoovering spare rooms at a frenetic pace. She's jammimg a tree into a car, un-tangling lights, sweating profusely.This piece of work is frothing at the gills by the time, zombie-like, she staggers into the dining room on the big day with the roasted bird, collapsing on a tiny stool at the far reaches of the table. Apparently, behind every great Christmas, there's Mum. She's the one hyper-ventilating with a bucket of merlot in the corner.

Exhibit two comes courtesy of Morrisons. To the jangling sound of Slade, the dead-eyed Morrisons mum awakens to her Christmas Day. Climbing into loft spaces, being annoyed by relentlessly festive editions of Blue Peter. In her beige cardie, she surveys a balding Christmas tree and then writes a Christmas card to a half-remembered couple she met on holiday in 1996. Tedious nativity segues into hollow-eyed staring at the turkey, the arrival of the relatives in knitwear, mountains of sprouts. Cue soaring orchestral music, mum looking like a heroin addict and the doleful words 'but it's Christmas . . ." Hope she's left the oven on - we can all form an orderly queue and stick our heads in it.

Just when you find yourself reaching for the Tia Maria and 400 asprins, John Lewis assaults your senses. A snowman sets out on a treacherous journey to buy a present for his snow wife. He encounters sheep, potentially dying ash trees, blizzards, rivers, mountains, motorways and the high street before returning to his lady with a hat and scarf set. All of this is set against the woefully melancholic musical backdrop of the Frankie Goes to Hollywood hit, The power of love. By this point, the nation is ripping the Christmas lights out of the plug and jamming their fingers in the socket.

Now I'm sorry to be old-fashioned but I want my Christmas adverts to be tat. I want glitter, the Young Generation in Santa hats, Lionel Blair grimacing next to a Ker-Plunk game and Leslie Crowther offering us something from K-Tel. Yes - I want a 1975 Woolworths Christmas. What I don't need is an army of menopausal drones, selflessly cutting crosses into sprouts and then going psycho on Boxing Day. It's not funny. It's not entertaining. And it's not Christmas.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Gym WILL NOT fix it . . .

It's a hard life - so why make it harder? Why, I keep asking myself, do Id rag myself out of the house at 6 a.m. several days a week, in order to torture my ageing frame. Why? The gymnasium is calling ...

A couple of years ago I made a concerted effort to shed a few pounds. This involved de-larding the fridge, waving goodbye to eating white bread forty times a day and tearing myself away from the bakery dangerously situated at the end of the road. Of course, overhauling your diet is only half of the story. The other half was played out in the gym. Two years on, I'm a few pounds short of having lost three stone but things have now ground to a halt. Maybe my middle years body has had enough. Maybe I should be hurling buckets full of fried chicken down my gullet. Somehow though, the lure of the gym remains.

Situated in London's Square Mile, it's hardly the most congenial of places. The very nature of the gym is that everyone goes about their business in po-faced silence, me included. My fellow gym buddies are a mixed bunch. There is the parade of tiny-waisted, hard-faced east European women, pounding the treadmill in a worrying fashion. There is always some ridiculous bint with her hair piles on top of her head, like a peroxide nest, stood beneath the "No mobile phones" sign, bellowing into her mobile phone - "Yes it's me! That's right, me. Look at me. LOOK AT ME NOW!"

The blokes are usually something else too. Many feel the need to parade around in their corporate t-shirts. "I work in derivatives and I'm a bit tedious" is what the narrative should read, preferably decked out in neon. Then there are the muscle marys, that pumped up breed who groan and shout their way through a set of bench presses. Fear them for they are in love with themselves.

Then there is the lumpy old slap-head, wearily collapsing on to various bits of equipment, unsure of what they do but hey, it's a chance for a sit down. That person is, of course, me.

Of course, I could always ask the staff for help. Some of them can string together sentences but most of them spend the morning craftily lifting their tops in order to admire their six packs. Or shouting. "Come on! Come on! Lift those legs up!" they scream at some hapless futures manager who's bobbing around in a river of his own sweat. The receptionists remain glass-eyed in a Stepford kind of way. There is always the temptation to throw a bucket of water over them just to see them fuse.

Instead, I stagger off to the malodorous showers and then off to work. Mission completed. I will moan about it forever but you can bet Britain to a dumb-bell that I'll be back for more next week.