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REGAL: One thing you'll notice as the film progresses is that Emily Blunt looks increasingly like a stamp, as opposed to a barrel, which is what Queen Vic actually looked like.
REGAL: One thing you’ll notice as the film progresses is that Emily Blunt looks increasingly like a stamp, as opposed to a barrel, which is what Queen Vic actually looked like.

Printed in Student, 10 March 2009

Young Victoria

‘It is I who wears the crown in this marriage! You may NOT leave this room, I say, you will NOT leave this room.’ A film detailing the early life of one of Britain’s most robust monarchs was never going to leave your cheeks stinging with its gritty realism but it certainly offers an interesting perspective on who ‘wore the trousers’.

With the death of King William (Jim Broadbent) imminent, several parties are vying for the favour of Young Victoria. A dubiously wigged Broadbent plays the King as a drunken, blundering fool who can barely focus but rightly accuses the Duchess of Kent (Miranda Richardson) and Lord Conroy (Mark Strong) of manipulating the princess into a regency order.  The order, in effect, would hand rule over to Conroy whose evil only appears to be eclipsed by the lusciousness of his own mutton-chops. Richardson is prevented from exercising her full capabilities as the possessed matriarch, a role she played with obvious relish in Sleepy Hollow. Julian Fellowes’ script sympathetically portrays her as a woman torn between her own agenda, maternal love and her own vulnerability when faced with the tyrannical Conroy.

Emily Blunt’s Victoria is a steely but often misguided monarch, there’s more than a suggestion of a petulant child throughout. She is easy prey to the ‘great seducer’, Lord Melbourne (Paul Bettany) who smoothly slides himself into Conroy’s place when Victoria turns to him after Conroy, ‘the big bad wolf’ manhandles her. It is his reshuffling of her ladies- in-waiting with his own political allies that shapes the turbulence of her early reign when she rejects Robert Peel despite his public popularity.

Stalwart amongst all this is Prince Albert (Rupert Friend) but it seems he has to compete with her simpering dog, Dash, for affection. One cliché the film rigorously follows is the British sensibility that dog is (wo)man’s best friend. She shows little interest in Albert upon meeting, he has clearly been tutored by King Leopold of Belgian with diplomatic intentions. Whilst exchanging tedious information about their suspiciously similar interests (‘I like this…Walter Scout.’), Dash takes a shine to Bertie and Vicky considers that he might be worth another look. On his second visit, Albert has clearly learned his lesson as he arrives with a dog for each arm.

The key point is when Victoria tells him over a game of chess that she feels like a pawn and would like someone to play for her. He corrects her, saying she only needs someone to play with her. Later, they talk about big issues: HOUSING, INDUSTRY and the CONDITION OF THE COMMON MAN. Despite this obvious attempt to portray the couple as passionate, politically aware people, as well as the reforms during Victoria’s reign, the depiction of the working classes in the film is limited to a ‘Cockney nutjob’ who attempts her assassination, he could be the cousin of the Hitcher from Mighty Boosh, only slightly less green.

Conversely, the plot alters history in order to portray Albert as a thoroughly decent chap. As far as records are concerned, Al never took a bullet for Vic, however, this does allow for some ‘but darling, I never knew you cared, let me kiss it better’ sickbed romance. You don’t expect a great deal of eroticism from a PG-rated film (Apart from Leopold screaming his failsafe plan for Albert to improve Germany’s political standing: ‘We must get you into her bed!’) and this is because Young Victoria aims to illustrate the care, comprise and compassion at the heart of one of the most romanticised, and productive, unions in royal history.

RIDER: There's a good horsie
RIDER: There’s a good horsie

Printed in Student, 13 January 2009

Australia

If you go to the cinema to see a film named after an entire country, you should expect stereotypes and Australia does not fail to deliver, in droves.  Baz Luhrman’s homage opens with narration by Nullah, a half white, half Aborigine child, about the importance of everyone being able to tell their own story.  As charming as it is, to claim to represent the Aborigine culture through an overblown Hollywood epic and script a boy’s feelings towards his native land, is more than a little convoluted.

The first half hour, essentially, establishes stereotypes and is suitably painful.  As Lady Sarah, it is impossible to determine whether or not Nicole Kidman is pretending to act really badly. She arrives in Australia to lure her husband from the outback, is generally appalled by everything she finds and storms and huffs like an upper-class caricature.  She is meant to be picked up by Drover, a professional he-man played by Hugh Jackman. However he decides to start a brawl, taking on an entire bar single-fistedly and succeeding, naturally.   Her suitcase springs open in the fracas, immaculate silk undercrackers sail through the air to be manhandled by Jackman, handing them back soiled he declares with a hoicking spit: ‘Welcome to Australia’. It could only be more hackneyed if he’d slapped her on the arse and called her ‘Sheila’.

Fortunately, if you do sit out the pantomime, it does improve. There are moments that will have you edging off your seat, and not towards the exit.  When Kidman and Co. have to drive ‘those bloody cheeky cows to the big ship in Darwin’ facing sabotage from the competing Carney stock-owners, involving a bottle neck, stampeding cattle, a cliff face and lots of fire, you do start to feel some sympathy for these cardboard cut-outs. Eventually, with a lot of bravado and some seemingly insurmountable obstacles they make it to Darwin. Nullah, Drover and Sarah make a perfect jigsaw family, embracing in slow motion whilst the baddie screws up his face after receiving his comeuppance.  It should end there.

Romance, several deaths, unforgivable exploitation, lashings of violence and incredible panoramas are not sufficient for Luhrman’s epic. In the next hour, Nullah almost becomes part of the ‘stolen generation’, the mixed race children who were removed from their families and raised as soldiers, Drover gets cold feet and runs back to the wilderness and Sarah nearly has her estate extorted from her.  I hardly need point out that they are joyously reunited (again) despite being bombed by the Japanese and Sarah being declared dead for a second time.  There is also an attempt at cultural reconciliation, with his adoptive parents’ consent Nullah performs the rite of ‘walkabout’ with his witchdoctor grandfather despite the war raging on: Welcome to Hollywood.

australia aboringine
KIDMAN: Nicole is looking good these days

linha-de-passe round the table

Printed in Student, 16 September 2008

Linha de Passe

It is not often you see a film that makes you consider how cold, clinical and fairly dispassionate a society we have become.  When interviewed at Cannes, director Walter Salles pointed out that Brazil is ‘under construction’ and still a very young country.  Certainly,Linha de Passe burns with intensity of a nation that is fighting to find its feet and tell its own story after decades of dictatorship.  The film revolves around the troubled and unconventional family of the pregnant Cleuza and her four fatherless sons.  From the opening scene where we first hear Cleuza panting in the dark, alone and in labour, her anxiety for her children is palpable and as the film progresses, it is hard not to share her fears as her sons sink into varying shades of criminality.

Perhaps it is not surprising that football plays a large role in this film, for Cleuza the sensation of being part of a teeming mass, all rooting for same side is a release from her difficult reality.  For her 18 year-old son Dario it represents an opportunity, an escape from his otherwise dismal prospects as he desperately tries to impress at the football try-outs.  Unfortunately what becomes clear in a city as large, struggling and anonymous as São Paulo, is that so is everyone else.  The notion of football as salvation is built into the consciousness of every young boy, even Reginaldo’s school uniform looks like it was designed with Adidas in mind.  Meanwhile, Dario, a bike courier, seeks solace in sex, alcohol and drive-by muggings.  Whilst Dinho has turned to religion and little Reggie, he rides buses for a hobby.

Identification with the characters is unavoidable as the camera is trained on the faces of the actors for the majority of the film, the craters on Dario’s face and the wrinkles on Cleuza’s brow become oddly familiar.  Raw emotionality is the catalyst in this film and each character pursues his passion with a fervour that borders on the religious.  For Dinho this is literal but the unchecked tears of the congregation at his evangelical church, whilst seated on plastic patio furniture, are in stark contrast to the bland tea- and-biscuits piety associated with our more British brand of Christianity. What is even more fascinating is when his Christian charity turns to hatred.

Passion is as conducive to violence as it is to love.  When Reginaldo sleeps on a bus all night, Cleuza’s relieved response is to start beating him.  The brothers quickly turn on each other and there is even racial tension between them, which is perfectly captured in a four-way football game in their backyard.  As they boot the ball back and forth they exchange jagged comments about their chequered parentage.  Yet, despite these differences family bonds are the overwhelming force, Cleuza’s love is unconditional and there is a synchrony between the actions of the brothers as the film reaches its conclusion.

Printed in Student, 24 March 2009

faceforradio

Chris Moyles: Face for radio

Professional loud-mouth Chris Moyles is making his third stab at presenting a passable TV show. The man rejected by Five is fronting a topical quiz show on C4. Chris Moyles’ Quiz Show, which started on Sunday, follows, Live with Chris Moyles and The Chris Moyles Show, both shows were swiftly shelved when TV execs realised that audiences didn’t require being both visually and aurally assaulted on a weekly basis. The Student caught up with Moyles before the show premiered to offer him support in the form of tough trivia and gentle character assassination.*

Which band reached no.69 in the UK charts with ‘Face for the Radio’ in 2007?                                                                                    CM: The View

Will the show have title music as execrable as your Radio One jingles?                                                                                                      CM: You bet, I’ve teamed up with Comedy Dave and Keith Chegwin, we wrote a parody of Mock the Week‘s theme tune, it’s called Don’t Read All About It, Listen to My Breakfast Show.

Complete the following song lyric: ‘I wish I was special…’                                                                                                                              CM: ‘But I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo, what the hell am I doing here? I don’t belong here.’

Correct. What can you bring to C4 to make the show a success?                                                                                                                   CM: I’ll kick the station up the arse, that’s what they hired me to do. What do I bring to Channel 4? Me and my little world and everything that goes with it, including big breasted women and crap competitions. I’m the saviour of broadcasting.

Will viewers have to listen to twenty minutes of your piss-boring anecdotes before the quiz actually starts?                       CM: Yup, that’s the concept for the first round. The contestants have to listen to me and the first one to break, be it through lashing out or clawing at their own eyes, is the loser. I’m calling it ‘Everybody Loves Chris’.

How do you feel about criticism that you’re one of the main culprits in dumbing-down the BBC?                                               CM: One of the main culprits? I’m the mother-loving pioneer of dumbing-down. During the breakfast show I have three hours to fill with incessant crap. Talking about myself is the easiest way to kill time.

Really, you’re just a satirical genius, aping both your target audience and ridiculing a society that has taken political correctness to extremes?                                                                                                                                                                                                  CM: [No reply. Moyles has spotted a “top-heavy lovely” and, remarkably, appears to have lost control of his jaw.]

*Yes, this is all imagined.

Printed in Student, 10 March 2009

Heston’s Feasts

DRINK ME: Something terrible had happened to Alice after drinking the potion
DRINK ME: Something terrible had happened to Alice after drinking the potion

“Heston, darling, we don’t put the hamster in the soup, food is for eating, not for playing with.” Words that should have been uttered at the Bluthmenthal family dinner table many, many years ago. The result?  A cake that ejaculates. Call me a prude but I’d go one step further and say that all baked goods that mimic bodily functions are deeply flawed from inception. I can’t think of a better demonstration of Freud’s theory of oral fixation in early childhood than if Heston started licking cows whilst chain-smoking and sucking a lollipop. And so we arrive at Heston’s Feasts. This week the theme is the Mad Hatter’s tea party from Alice in Wonderland.

Heston starts by telling us that the Victorian era is inspirational because of its inherent opposites; a superficial sense of propriety with a writhing underbelly of 80 000 prostitutes and where opium was a kitchen cupboard staple in five out of six households. Before you start wondering how industrialisation ever happened, since nearly everyone was on crack, “celebrity” diner and moral compass, Dawn Porter blurts ‘I think I’ve got quite a lot in common with Victorians ‘cause if they behaved themselves in public and had a bit of a side-thing going on…’ pointing at herself with obvious glee.

The meal starts with an aperitif, a ‘Drink Me potion’ containing the extracted flavours of custard, buttered toast, toffee, turkey, cherry tart and pineapple, dyed pink, fittingly served in a glass that looks like a crack pipe. Heston refers to this as “going down the rabbit hole” whilst most viewers are just praying that Porter will shrink (or at least her gob).

Next, the intrepid chef catches a poor turtle, boils him in a bin and after declaring the meat too stringy decides to make the iconic Victorian middle class substitute: Mock Turtle Soup.  This instead involves boiling a cow’s heid (there’s a pleasant image, drinking the broth in which the cow’s teeth have been steamed clean) and I’m not sure who I feel more sorry for, Daisy or the diners. However, this is not quite trippy enough for the Mad Hatter, he freeze dries the stock and turns it into a tea bag which is served with an egg made out of turnip, bacon fat and some tiny, tiny mushrooms

Scared of appearing conventional, Heston’s main course is an Edible Insect Garden where even the soil is a concoction of olives, nuts and breadcrumbs. Heston justifies his decision to serve his guests crickets injected with tomato sauce so they ‘ooze convincingly’ by claiming: “Food in the Victorian era was scarce. One toff, Vincent Holt suggested his workers supplemented their diet with insects.” Jemma Redgrave is an immediate convert, squealing, ‘I’ve got to go on I’m a Celebrity! This is marvellous!’

Before this programme I was woefully unaware of two facts. The Victorians apparently found wobbly jelly highly titillating and they invented the vibrator as a treatment for ‘female hysteria’. So it should come as no surprise when Heston and his underlings hulk three cool boxes of jelly into a sex shop and test different toys to see which best exaggerate the wibble-wobble. To further debunk the myth that jelly and ice cream is reserved for children’s parties, he decided it should be flavoured with the “Victorian equivalent to heroin”. I’m unconvinced that the Victorians needed a replacement for heroin, since they had actual heroin, but what better way to complete a dinner party than a towering four foot absinthe-green phallic jelly? After all, an outbreak of vomiting is hardly likely to mar such an illustrious culinary career…

heston absinthe jelly
JUST DESSERTS: Absinthe-dildo jelly, most make do with a Cornetto

Printed in Student, 20 January 2009

End of an ERa

The gory days are over.  Susan  Robinson says RIP to ER.

TOO MANY DOCTORS: "Do you find me clinically attractive?" Asks Abby Lockhart.
TOO MANY DOCTORS: “Do you find me clinically attractive?” Asks Abby Lockhart.

‘Life After Death’ is the unconsciously apt title of the first episode of ER’s 15th and final series.  The show’s writers and producers have fought hard to resuscitate the show, testing new characters, devising increasingly more tragic and astonishing deaths for old ones and writing ever more fantastical ways for people to be maimed.  However, only so many injections of adrenalin can be effective.

ER was once groundbreaking TV: lightening paced live shows, gruesomely realistic medical procedures, high profile cameos, unnervingly beautiful doctors and nurses, not to mention frequent outright carnage. With a death count often reaching double figures before the opening credits, ER made Casualty and Holby City look as though they were set before the Hippocratic Oath was invented.

In the 8th series it became the Abby Lockhart Show as she slept her way around most of County General’s male population.  The beginning of this episode is no different, the waiting room is packed and everyone desperately seeking Dr Lockhart, only she’s been in an ambulance explosion. As has Dr Pratt who is so bad ass that he manages to walk out the wreckage despite a bone sticking out his leg and coughing up blood.

In its golden age, the tragedies of ER were undercut with the blackest of gallows humour: a sink falls through the ceiling onto a patient they’ve all but given up on, giving his heart the kick-start it needs. There are glimmers of this in the new series, unable to find an intubation tube, Dr Morris improvises, thrusting an IV cannula into the neck of a dying Pratt.  A beat later, a bewildered porter arrives with the correct equipment.

Unfortunately the heroics used to be performed by taller, better looking, kinder doctors.  Not the titian haired Morris. However, the arrival of appealing new interns in episode two, who fail to witness another doctor being body-slammed to the floor by a patient and become entangled in a ricin scare (prompting cute Daria to ask in her best bedside manner: ‘so how did you become a bio-terrorist?’) promises a return to form. Cameos are to follow from Noah Wylie (went to Africa), Anthony Edwards (brain tumour) and Paul McCrane (squashed by a helicopter) assuring that the series will not simply flat-line.

WYLE: For old times sake
WYLE: For old times sake

Yes, I was all set to hate the new series but like an expectant mother stranded in a snowstorm, ER never fails to deliver. Watching a mute Pratt, one minute delegating his own treatment, the next, a pulsing lump in his neck, tears streaming out his face and blood pouring out his mouth- I realise that it is still one of the most visceral programmes on TV.

Printed in Student, January 2009

The Ascent of Money

BOOK 'IM: This photo reminds me of when my dad used to take us to the library when I was a kid. He'd get the biggest, heaviest book he could find, hold it under my nose and slam it shut so I would scream. I would enjoy doing this to Niall Ferguson.
BOOK ‘IM: This photo reminds me of when my dad used to take us to the library when I was a kid. He’d get the biggest, heaviest book he could find, hold it under my nose and slam it shut so I would scream. I would enjoy doing this to Niall Ferguson.

Here’s an economic equation: the descent of money is inversely proportional to the ascent in Niall Ferguson’s air miles. In his highly anticipated new series (anticipated by housewives who have been looking forlornly at the peeling wallpaper since Empire) Channel 4 send Ferguson to increasingly exotic locations to explain to the viewer how the recession began, from the very beginning.

In this episode entitled ‘Dreams of Avarice’, Ferguson sets out to prove that ‘financial history is the essential back-story behind all history’ and that the ascent of money has never been smooth but fraught with crises. Cue Ferguson (hand on hips and swaying in a way disturbing to a young girl’s eyes) in front of a silver mine in Bolivia explaining the folly of the Conquistadors whose dreams of El Dorado caused a glut in the market in the 1530s.  He further explains the idea that money has no intrinsic value and is only worth what people are willing to give for it, by fluently reading clay tablets from ancient Mesopotamia which, like modern banknotes, are just embellished IOUs. He makes the neat connection that it is not ‘In God We Trust’ but in money and that the world has been built on the borrowing and lending of the stuff.

In Pisa, working out interest with Roman numerals had merchants reaching for the abacus and a packet of Pro Plus until Fibonacci came along with his strange Arabic numerals.  Enter Shylock and a long literary explanation as to why money-lenders have been pariahs throughout the ages. It is in The Merchant of Venice that the word ‘good’ comes to mean not virtuous, but creditworthy. Compensation in the form of interest is a relatively recent invention, hindered by Christian orthodoxy merchants were unable to fund ambitious business ventures until Jewish moneylenders found a loophole in the usury laws. At the price of social exclusion, Jewish usurers were permitted to lend to Christians and a stereotype was born.

To illustrate the function of primitive money-lending Ferguson comes over all patriotic. With a previously undetectable twang he proclaims that his granny used to live in Shettleston and ‘with its distinctive steel shuttering it is one of the grimmest places in the whole of Western Europe.’  Disbelief creeps in as he examines records that he has miraculously procured from a Glasgow loan shark. He draws another conclusion, defaulting on a loan equals GBH. Although I doubt he speaks from personal experience, his pristine cream suit appears wholly unacquainted with a knee-capping.

Credit didn’t come of age until the Medici family who legitimised dirty money by charging ‘commission’ as opposed to interest. TheSopranos of the Renaissance worked as ‘foreign exchange dealers’ going from damned to divine.  Meanwhile in Memphis, Ferguson dares to describe people as ‘sub-prime’, people who, once they have pawned all their possessions, can donate their blood for $25 at PLB Plasma. ‘Pound of flesh’ never really was a figurative expression. Although not one for sweeping statements, he describes the world’s ‘most successful capitalist economy’ as being based on economic failure. In a society where bankruptcy has never been shameful but rather a stepping stone to enterprise he suggests that America has finally maxed itself out.  His opening statement: ‘Not knowing this stuff can seriously damage your wealth’ may sound like a cheap slogan but then, it does get to the point.

Printed in Student, 4 November 2008

Prescott: The Class System and Me

PIE: Prescott attempts a Nigella Lawson inspired pose. Each to their own.
PIE: Prescott attempts a Nigella Lawson inspired pose. Each to their own.

After we’ve watched them relax with tea out of an elegant cup, as opposed to the ‘usual mug’, seen ‘the help’ vacuum Pauline’s ‘regency pelmets’, she comments,  ‘God I hope we don’t come across as the Hamiltons, I’d die!’  And no, they do not come across as the Siegfried and Roy of light entertainment.  However as the Prescotts are put into increasingly difficult situations on their journey through class I can’t help but note that they seem less canny in their self-exploitation than the I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! graduates.

First stop is luncheon with the seventh Earl of Onslow, on meeting the two men get down to class politics and comparing house size whilst Royalist Pauline wrings her hands and wonders if it is good etiquette to curtsey when telling an Earl his flies are undone.  Table talk revolves around counselling Prescott: ‘Sometimes I think you’ve got the whole fah-king Alps on your shoulders dear boy.’  To which John viciously counters, ‘Which school did you go to?  The world was there for you. ’

Next, he is taken to the Hay on Wye Book Festival.  Hardly comfortable territory for a man who proudly claims he has never read a book in his life. (Which would include his ghost written biography, Prezza?) Especially when another festival goer is asked: ‘Have you seen any working class people here?’  The reply is a whimsical, ‘do they wear badges?’ On defending his somewhat inarticulate speech to hated ‘syntax snob’ Simon Hoggett, Prescott receives another lecture on how he should be ‘proud of himself’ yet the word ‘patronising’ never passes his lips.

When ‘connecting with the electorate’ Prescott decides it is best just to call them ‘love’, buy Kentucky Fried Chicken and ask them if they feel they have been let down by the government. The voice-over expresses surprise that they connect so well, snidely pointing out: ‘even if the common ground had a little to do with the scrapper in each of them.’    The final douse of vinegar for the chips on Prescott’s shoulders is a visit to the Henley Royal Regatta. Here he makes fast friends by telling private school boys that they have bought their way into the world, only to get egg on his face when the jibe is returned with a loaded question on the quality of state schools.

Prescott’s motivation for The Class System and Me is to prove himself to his detractors and negate his own self doubt. However if his producers had the same agenda they would have called it ‘The Class System and I’, agreed that croquet really was just the same as crazy golf and the idea would never have reached our screens.  Who knows, next week they might get him to punch someone…

Printed in Student, November 2008

The Barristers

LAW AND ORDER: Get your wigs out
LAW AND ORDER: Get your wigs out

‘No mum, everyone hates coleslaw!’ She pauses to ask cameraman. ‘NO! Don’t get coleslaw!’ Don’t you just love how the most important moments of your life are almost inevitably tempered with the most trivial?  Anna, a trainee barrister, is about to enter an interview for a place at a prestigious criminal chamber but it is nice to know that her mum still does her shopping.  Anna is clearly not superstitious as she puts her ‘grown up shoes’ on the table while she is dressing to impress, hoping that she will shine through the other seventy candidates seeking five places.

The system for appointing barristers in the UK is changing, the 800 years of rigid tradition lead by the Inns of Court has been replaced with Bar vocational courses that cost £12 000 and run in universities all over the UK. The Barristers follows four hopefuls through their training alongside a real court case in Citadel Chambers after race riots in Birmingham.

In the plush surroundings of the Royal Lodge in Windsor we meet Kat Piercy. She is being ripped apart by Bencher Mr John Lesley. He lolls on a grand piano, mocks her ‘soporific’ delivery and reminds her that her voice is an instrument. What can we look forward to next, Barristers the musical? What becomes apparent is that in law, performance is crucial. Enter Jo Darby who traded her successful theatre career to enter the legal profession. Her drama skills certainly show as she confidently cross-examines one of her classmates, even if she does slightly mar the Amanda Burton act by asking the defendant, ‘you were quite pissed weren’t you?’

However Jo thrashes Iqbal in a mooting that takes place in the main hall of the illustrious Middle Temple where Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night was first performed.  Iqbal wanted to be a lawyer ever since he helped his mother with her divorce papers when he was seven. As admirable as his ambitions are, he lets slip the phrase: ‘I ask your lordships to turn over’ several times during his practice speech.  Although the Inn is no longer solely responsible for training, the society does provide support and opportunities for lawyers to learn from eminent benchers including multi-millionaire QCs, judges and former PMs.  Paul Darling QC, described by Chambers UK as a ‘cross between a Rottweiler and the Andrex puppy’ stresses the sense of equality within the establishment however the stories of the barristers indicate differently.

Kat has a 2:1 from Oxford and wants to specialise in European law.  This means she needs experience in elite commercial chambers which attract extremely high calibre applicants as commercial lawyers make five times more money than their criminal counterparts. Her competitors will usually have a first, a masters and experience at the UN or European Commission. Cash strapped Kat hasn’t the time for such luxuries and practicing barristers are inclined to agree.

Dickie Bond, barrister for 20 years and a very upbeat chap is prone to flattering his male clerk (‘you’re looking really gorgeous!’) before staying up until two in the morning preparing a case related to riots in Birmingham. His senior, Adrian Redgrave, who looks almost exactly the same but with whiter hair and bushier eyebrows agrees, in retrospect, he would have practiced criminal law at solicitors firm where it is possible to earn double.  When it costs £30 000 to reach the bar before earning a penny, equal opportunities are not a possibility. This is a shame as they make it seem like bloody good fun as Dickie joshes with Adrian: ‘Are you going to see the mistress tonight?’

Unfortunately only former actress Jo attains a pupillage, Kat wonders if her £12 000 was well spent because although she is awarded a Very Competent in her exams she also receives ten rejections. Iqbal is deemed Competent which is unlikely to get him a job and Anna, who in her interview gave an argument about why someone should sit in bath of baked beans for charity (‘me and my sense of humour’), fails her civil exam. It just goes to show, law is all an act.

Printed in Student, 28 October 2008

A double bill of frivolity:

Miss Naked Beauty

LIBERATED: Gok cops a feel
LIBERATED: Gok cops a feel

Gok ‘Go girlfriend!’ Wan is, I think, Channel 4’s low budget equivalent to James Bond.  He has a licence to touch women in a way that would usually merit a sexual harassment suit quicker than you can say ‘bangers’.  How to Look Good Naked boosted the pre-watershed nipple count immeasurably and for better, or worse, Miss Naked Beauty is no different.  He is also possibly the only man to ever stage what is apparently a principled wet t-shirt contest and have hordes of women dripping mascara and praise in the aftermath.

The honourable purpose of the show is to find a role model to represent ‘real women’ in the modelling industry.  However, to be considered worthy the contestants must exhibit themselves on Blackpool pier (i.e. avoid being charged with indecent exposure) and point out their flaws to a radiant Mylene Klass and a panel of judges.  These judges consist of Mica “well, I needed another career” Paris, James Brown from Loaded magazine who realised that what he was really looking for in a woman was a great attitude.  And an editor of Glamour magazine who is prime example of why you shouldn’t let your dog apply your lipstick for you.  Even if it does save her time when she’s looking for spotty puppies to make her new coat.

PIER PRESSURE: Daring to go bare despite the British weather
PIER PRESSURE: Daring to go bare despite the British weather

After a rigorous round where they ask the women to take off their make-up and an unbelievably good-natured Klass convinces a pretty woman that, in fact, she doesn’t look like the elephant-man without foundation, the contestants are whittled down from 7000 to just 25 (many melted when exposed to direct sunlight). I know I’ll certainly be tuning in next week to see whether the ‘big piratey Scottish girl’ or my personal favourite, a woman who is 4ft8 are deemed fit to represent ‘real women’ and for the revelation as to where all these “artificial” women are kept.

Sasha: Beauty Queen at 11

She has an obsession with sashes.  She has a Barbie doll that she loves to dress up and style her hair.  She thinks fame is a matter of doing something stupid in a public place and being spotted by Andrew Lloyd-Weber.  She’s just realised that Hollywood is in America.  No, these are not the musings of the eponymous Sasha but of her mother, Jane.  The concerned viewer might think either of two things, is there really a parent in this relationship?  And is her daughter’s name a result of the aforementioned sash fixation?

Jane’s ruthless pursuit of her High School Musical fantasy through her real life Cindy doll make for truly disconcerting viewing.  Ex-promo girl and self confessed ‘hot mummy’ with her own suggestive calendar (that is, suggestive of her deluded self image) wants the best for her daughter.  As far as she is considered, bleaching, creosoting and forcing her daughter into a Texan beauty pageant, is the finest opportunity the world has to offer.  When confronted by everyone’s favourite mumsy figure, Lorraine Kelly, Jane claims that everything she has enforced on her daughter is reversible.  Unfortunately, like peroxide, such brainwashing always leaves a mark and on the rare occasions when Sasha is not staring vacantly into space she claims that Katie Price is her idol and that her dad thinks she is stupid.  The most shocking thing is not that she agrees with him but that she doesn’t care.  She’s already surmised from the world around her that it doesn’t matter, to her ‘dumb, pretty and blonde’ is the highest compliment anyone can receive.

Printed in Student, 21 October 2008

prime housewife

Helena Ponsonby, Desperate Housewife

Monday: I’ve missed the gossip at the building society since I was let go, but last night I had a marvellous idea. Hugo and I were having a consolatory glass of Chateauneuf-du-pape during Property Ladder and I realised property development would be the perfect way to invest my redundancy pay! The estate agent had a few fixed price properties within my budget. I jumped into my Mini (a birthday present from Hugo) and went to see a semi on the other side of town. I don’t know the area but the vendor told me it was very up-and-coming, as is often the deal-breaker onRelocation, Relocation, Relocation. It seemed a little rough around the edges but he assured me that the stains would easily come off and the cracks running up the exterior wall were just settlement. I hope Hugo doesn’t mind that I put in an offer.

Tuesday: I don’t want the kids to feel neglected now their mum is a property developer, so I’ve decided we’re all going to follow Gillian McKeith’s You Are What You Eat plan. I made five-bean Appachalian soup which they lapped up while I rustled up an aduki bean stew. Unfortunately the soup was so filling they could hardly manage any of the stew so I had to give most of it to our dog.

Wednesday: Tobias was sick all over the sofa! The colour scheme in the lounge is ruined. Fortunately I saw Grand Designs last night and Kevin McCloud had a brilliant idea: knock down the wall between the lounge and the dining room and replace it with glass to create light and space. I was about to get cracking with the mallet when Hugo came home and told me I almost knocked down a load-bearing. I’m not sure why he looked so miffed though.

Thursday: Following my culinary success I’ve applied for Come Dine With Me! I’m going to befriend my local butcher, Hugh, as the contestants always seem to know them in the show. I went to the off-license and asked what wine I should buy. He wasn’t very polite and said he found Tizer often went well with sea bass.

Friday: Magnus was very uncooperative today. I asked him to vacuum the sofa and he said he would rather give himself a colonic. I told him to stand on the naughty step, a minute for every year of his age, like in Supernanny. Now there’s a dent in the wall. I’m not sure her techniques work on teenagers. Although seventeen minutes is an awfully long time.

Saturday: Hugo has decided to whisk me off on a mini-break! It’s so thoughtful of him to take me away from it all…

Printed in Student, 14 October 2008

Nigella Express

nigellamorenoodles

This week the Nigella Express chugged back onto our screens to nourish the mother complexes of men nation-wide and as ever, the food was a mere distraction.  Nigella loves to convince us she is a mere mortal but as she sashays into her stylishly cluttered kitchen, her hair immaculately waved and oozing more sex appeal than a Marks and Spencer’s chocolate pudding, I’m entitled to my suspicions.  She is a goddess.  And goddesses do not get the bus, especially when they are married to advertising magnates.  Disbelief sets in as she sits out the rolling undulations of the double decker, telling us about the mouth watering treats to come with perfect diction.  Next, we see Nigella the doting mother, lovingly attempting to tame her son’s decidedly wayward hair before waving him off on the school bus. Later, we see Nigella the working mother tucking into a Tupperware dish of what is basically noodles, peanut butter and red peppers, with chopsticks, on the train.  For this I have another carefully crafted description for Nigella, boke.

nigellanoodles

In the soft lighting of her home office she confesses that she has notes of every packed lunch she has ever made for her little darlings and informs us with mock despair that she has to cater for her son Bruno’s picnic. She does this with an admirable enthusiasm but Nigella, Nigella, Nigella, why the maniacal grin?  We know you are beautiful, you certainly know you are, so why strain your pretty face with overly-alluring expressions that verge on the demonic?  I’ve never seen anyone anticipate a head of cabbage with such glee.

As I had predicted, Dairylea Lunchables are not on the menu for these young critics and as she breezes into the park I start to think that Nigella may not be a goddess, but in fact Jesus.  The delicately-packed boxes of rocky road, chicken drumsticks and coleslaw do not look enough to satisfy a small family, yet, Nigella manages to feed the 5000 children who are clamouring to sample her gourmet picnic.  This is when the disbelief truly sets in, last time you were in McDonalds, did you hear children wailing, ‘Mummy, but I wantpecan salad, not a Happy Meal’?

After her triumph in the park she returns to prepare ‘a flask of something hot and filling to keep about my person all day’.  This in fact turns out to be pea and pesto soup and with it, she performs another miracle. She is seen supping this never-ending supply of ‘Kermit’ green soup on the bus, in the park, in the back of a taxi.  No doubt, at her next dinner party she’ll be turning table water into a fruity Cabernet Sauvignon with lots of body.

Speaking of body, you should see the size of Nigella’s…pantry as she forages for the ingredients of her ‘Hokey-Pokey’. Seriously though, as she melts a pan of butter and sugar, informing us, ‘It’s not cooking, it’s kitchen alchemy,’ you have to wonder what kind of engineering is winching her into those twin-sets.  The apparent contradiction of her elegant, high cheek-boned face and the fabric clinging to her ample assets is hard to ignore, not helped by her tongue and cheek commentary. Nigella Lawson is a national treasure and as she hammers her honeycomb into ‘large and biteable pieces’, we should salute her.

PUDDING: You do the hokey-pokey and you turn around
PUDDING: You do the hokey-pokey and you turn around
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