I think Timothy Spall leaves an unneccessarily long pause between the words “It’s got our name on it” and “Wickes” in the current Wickes advert.
During a recent trip to Poundland, I bought a pack of six Mini Bags of Cadbury Mini Animals1:
I am aware of my limitations as a writer, and would struggle to do these biscuits justice by attempting to describe them. Instead, I will direct you to the Animals product page on the Cadbury website:
Such poetry! You can almost taste the Half Coated Mini Animal Biscuits reading that, can’t you? Delicious.
The back of the packet invites you to meet the “gang of crazy jungle animals, determined to do their best at every activity they try, always together and ready for some fun!”:
The gang consists of a lion, an elephant, a crocodile, a monkey and some sort of bird:
Firstly, Leroy the lion:
This cool cat is always the first to volunteer and tries his best at everything. He often gets things wrong but makes up for this with loads of confidence!
This is Leroy in biscuit form:
Next there is Ella Funky, the elephant:
The biggest of our gang with a heart and voice to match, she can be a bit loud, but she sings so beautifully that her friends don’t really mind.
And here is Ella Funky as a biscuit:
Then there is Rockodile, the crocodile:
This bright croc is a bit of a scaredy cat and needs loads of encouragement, but when things get a bit tricky he always comes up with good ideas.
Rockodile as a biscuit:
Next is Cheeko the monkey:
is a funny little prankster, always up to mischief and playing tricks on his friends. Sometimes his jokes go a bit too far but luckily his friends forgive him in the end.
This is Cheeko as a biscuit:
Finally, there is Swoop who is some sort of bird:
This zippy bird has the jungle record for aerial acrobatics, but zooming around so quickly means he doesn’t pay attention and ends up missing out on things.
And here is Swoop in his biscuit form:
Apart from Rockodile, they all sound unbearable. Leroy sounds like the sort of unsufferable prick who would go on The Apprentice, mess up the task but then bluster his way through by saying that at least he “stepped up to the plate” and put himself forward as project manager. Fuck off Leroy. Cheeko sounds like he’s only interested in keeping himself amused and doesn’t give a shit about anyone else, and Swoop and Ella Funky both sound equally self-obsessed as well. Ella Funky just about gets away with it because she sings so well that her friends “don’t really mind”, but all of them sound like awful creatures.
Poor old Rockodile. I bet he’s not a “scaredy cat” at all, he’s just a nice bloke who constantly gets talked over by everyone else, even though he’s clearly the only one with any intelligence, and he always has to get the others out of trouble (although that wanker Leroy would probably take all the credit). Leave the jungle, Rockodile. Come and live in London. I’ll be your friend, you don’t need those guys. It’ll be great. We can go to Madame Tussauds and the London Dungeons and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not2 and Namco Funscape3 and then we can go on the London Eye, and we could go to Pizza Hut and then we could go to the pub and drink beer and it would be great. Come to London, Rockodile. Be my friend. Please be my friend.
1. The Cadbury Mini Animals cost £1
2. From the looks of it, a few of the exhibits at Ripley’s Believe It Or Not in Piccadilly Circus seem to have been recycled from the old Guiness World Of Records attraction at the Trocadero, so, unless Rockodile really wanted to go, we could just skip that and go straight to Namco Funscape.
3. According to the Namco Funscape website, “Namco offer fun bowling at the great value price of £3 per person per game with extra discounts for parties of 3 or more. What’s more, you can play in your own shoes!” As a child, I always thought it would be cool to wear bowling shoes as regular shoes. I formulated a plan to steal some from Charrington Bowl in Tolworth by going to a charity shop and buying a cheap pair of shoes and handing one of these over to the man behind the counter when I went to collect my bowling shoes. That way, I could abandon my “deposit” (to prevent theft, you had to hand over one of your own shoes in exchange for a pair of theirs) and run away with my prize. This was before I realised you could buy bowling shoes. It never even occurred to me that you could buy them. I’m not sure where I thought Charrington Bowl got theirs from. Perhaps I thought they made them themselves. Still, the bowling shoes you can buy, from Merc or wherever, don’t seem authentic for some reason. It’s as if they’re just shoes in the style of bowling shoes rather than proper bowling shoes. I want the real thing, with a number written on the back in blue permanent marker and the legacy of a thousand amateur bowlers soaked into the soles.
All through December, I have been posting a different photo each day as a sort of Advent calendar. There was no specific theme, but each picture is an example of the many ways in which Christmas enters into your life throughout the month of December. Here are all twenty-four of the photos:
The other day, I was in a pub. I went to use the toilets and noticed a joke above one of the urinals:
One day a father gets out of work and on his way home he suddenly remembers that it’s his daughter’s birthday.
He pulls over to a toy shop and asks the sales person “How much for one of those Barbies in the display window?”
The salesperson answers “Which one do you mean, sir? We have Workout Barbie for $19.95, Shopping Barbie for $19.95, Beach Barbie for $19.95, Disco Barbie for$19.95, Ballerina Barbie for $19.995, Astronaut Barbie for $19.95, Skater Barbie for $19.95 and Divorced Barbie for $265.95.”
The amazed father asks “It’s what? Why is the Divorced Barbie $265.95 and the others only $19.95?”
The annoyed salesperson rolls her eyes, sighs and answers “Sir… Divorced Barbie comes with Ken’s Car, Ken’s House, Ken’s Boat, Ken’s Furniture, Ken’s Computer and one of Ken’s Friends.”
Now, if you wanted to make a joke about the apparently unjust distribution of property in divorce settlements, then fine, go ahead. But surely Ken and Barbie are one of the worst possible choices to illustrate this point. Barbie is clearly the one who earns the majority of the money in that relationship. It was Barbie who was launched first, in 1959, with Ken coming along two years later.
In fact, according to the Ken website, Man Behind The Doll:
Ken® is only considered an “accessory” to Barbie® by Mattel… making him the ultimate “boy toy”.
The legendary romance of Barbie® and Ken began when they met on the set of their first television commercial together in 1961. Since then, their relationship has played out much like a Hollywood fairytale. Barbie® and her beau have captured the essence of romance so perfectly with their replications of classic characters such as Scarlett and Rhett (“Gone with the Wind”) and Romeo and Juliet (“Romeo and Juliet”) to more quirky roles such as Bond and Bond Girl (“James Bond”) and Lily and Herman Munster (“The Munsters.”) More recently, the dynamic duo played Arwen and Aragorn from “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.” The picture-perfect pair’s talent and love for one another can also be seen in three consecutively successful No. 1 movies: “Barbie™ of Swan Lake,” “Barbie™ as Rapunzel” and “Barbie in the Nutcracker.™”
“Barbie® and Ken® have always been an extraordinary couple with so much on- and off-screen chemistry,” said the pair’s business manager, Russell Arons, Vice President Marketing, Mattel. “In fact, they just finished wrapping their fourth movie together, ‘Barbie™ as The Princess and the Pauper,’ which debuts this fall. And now they feel it’s time to spend some quality time — apart.”
There’s something slightly jarring about the way the press release celebrates the fictional relationship of Barbie and Ken but is littered with ™ and ® marks.
In 2011, Mattel expects to introduce new products, as well as continue to leverage content within its core brands. For Mattel Girls Brands, Barbie® will be promoting Ken®’s 50th anniversary with the “Ken Campaign – Will Barbie Take Him Back? Free auto loan calculator.”
Barbie was designed by Jack Ryan after Mattel co-founder Ruth Handler bought a Bild Lilli doll in Germany. The doll was named after Handler’s daughter, Barbera and Ken was named after her son, Kenneth. Given that Ken was introduced as Barbie’s boyfriend, the fact they are named after a brother and sister is slightly unsettling.
Kenneth Handler died in 1994, and according to Jerry Oppenheimer, author of Toy Monster: The Big, Bad World of Mattel:
grew up embarrassed and humiliated by having an anatomically incorrect boy doll named after him with no hint of genitalia.
I think I’m becoming obsessed with Bargain Hunt.
There was a brilliant episode on the other day. It wasn’t Bargain Hunt as such, it was the celebrity spin-off, Bargain Hunt: Famous Finds, and it featured television presenters Keith Chegwin and Sally James.
Bargain Hunt: Famous Finds ran for two series from 2008-2009. The guests they had on the show are brilliant:
- Dame Kelly Holmes v Sally Gunnel OBE
- Lembit Opik v Edwina Currie
- Helen Lederer v Bobby Davro
- Ruth Badger v Tamara Beckwith
- Jilly Goolden v Theo Paphitis
- Connie Fisher v Ian “H” Watkins
- Julian Clary v Matt Cottle
- Keith Chegwin v Sally James
- Rakie Ayola v Charles Dale
- Ricky Groves v Jilly Cooper
- Christopher Timothy v Lysette Anthony
- Gary Rhodes v Brian Turner
- Janice Long v Mike Read
- Johnny Ball v Eddie Large
- Tony Blackburn v Alvin Stardust
- Janet Ellis v Valerie Singleton
- Dennis Taylor v Willie Thorne
- Henry Cooper v Geoff Capes
- Toyah Wilcox v Kiki Dee
- Vanessa Feltz v Nicki Chapman
Imagine being the celebrity booker on that show. The power! What an amazing contacts book they must have. Series 2 definitely looks better though, doesn’t it?
If you are not familiar with Bargain Hunt, it is a BBC daytime show where two teams (the “reds” and the “blues”) visit an antiques fair to buy items which are later sold at auction. Whichever team makes the biggest profit wins. Although, of course, it’s not quite as simple as that.
The rules of the game have changed a great deal during the decade in which the programme has been on our screens. Originally, the budget was £200 for each team, and there was no restriction on how many items the teams could buy. Later, teams were only allowed to buy a maximum of three items. This was then changed again so that teams had to buy exactly three items. The budget has grown to £300 per team (although in some episodes, this is doubled to £600 for reasons which are never really explained).
Each team is assigned an expert who helps them choose their items, and at the end of the “hunt”, the expert is given unspent money (or “Leftover Lolly”) to buy one further item. Originally, this item could be swapped for one of the items chosen by the team, although now teams decide in the auction room whether or not they want to add this “Bonus Buy” to their list of items.
More often than not (or so it seems) both teams manage to make a loss; their three items reaching lower prices in the auction room than were paid at the antiques fair. This is where the Bonus Buy becomes crucial. Despite the fact the Bonus Buy item was bought by an antiques expert, there is no guarantee it will make a profit (auction rooms are unpredictable places) and so the general strategy seems to be to only go with the Bonus Buy if the first three items have made a substantial loss. Even if you make a loss over all of around ten pounds, you still have a good chance to win, and it’s probably not worth taking the additional risk of choosing the Bonus Buy. However, if you’ve already made a large loss, you might as well go for it as you have little to lose.
*SPOILER ALERT* It was the Bonus Buy which made all the difference in the Keith Chegwin v Sally James episode. The sale of Keith’s three items (a black cigarette dispenser with ivorine inlay, bought for £90; a pair of silver plated pepper pots, bought for £15; and an art deco cigarette dispenser, bought for £38) resulted in a loss of £41 (the black cigarette dispenser sold for £40, the pepper pots sold for £10 and the art deco cigarette dispenser sold for £52).
When it was Sally’s turn in the auction room, her three items (a set of silver and ivory sandwich markers, bought for£110; a Japanese dish, bought for £100; and a set of 19th century French weighing scales, bought for £50) produced a loss of £10 (the sandwich markers sold for £60, the Japanese dish sold for £150 and the scales sold for £40).
If neither team had gone with their Bonus Buy items, Sally would have won. However, both teams decided to take the risk. The gamble paid off for Keith, when his Bonus Buy item (a 1940s Loch Ness monster shaped toffee tin, bought for £35) sold for a staggering £140, giving an over all profit of £64. Sally’s Bonus Buy item on the other hand (a 1970s German silver gilt brooch bought for £35) sold for a disappointing £15, giving her an over all loss of £30.
Chegwin’s glee as the hammer came down at £140 for the toffee tin is quite distasteful. “Do you know, I watch Bargain Hunt so much and I don’t see many people making a profit but we’ve done it!” he gloats, ignoring the fact the success has nothing to do with the items he chose and everything to do with the item chosen by the expert.
There’s something wonderful about the fact that even with the incredible success of the toffee tin, the winning team was still only awarded a prize of £64 (Chegwin generously announced he would donate his winnings to charity). Normally the prize, if there is one at all, is nowhere near this much. One episode I saw had the winning team presented with £2. But you don’t go on Bargain Hunt for the money, you go on for the thrill of meeting Tim Wonnacott and the opportunity to kick your leg in the air at the end when he says “Join us next time for more bargain hunting, yes? YES!”
I like Wonnacott. He hasn’t become too wrapped up in his novelty status in the way David Dickinson did. I can’t imagine him appearing at fresher’s fairs or whatever. He seems a nice bloke. There was an episode a while ago where one of the contestants was called Lolly, and he seemed genuinely thrilled to be able to say “Hand over the Leftover Lolly, Lolly”.
If it wasn’t for the fact you have to wear a brightly coloured fleece, I’d be tempted to apply to go on Bargain Hunt. My strategy would be to buy three very, very cheap items, ideally for about five pounds each. There wouldn’t be much profit in them, but it means it would be difficult to make much of a loss. As it’s unusual for either team to break even let alone make a profit, this would give me a good chance of winning.
Basically, I’d just sit the whole thing out and hope the other team destroyed themselves by buying more expensive items which then under-performed in the auction room.
Of course, the danger with this strategy is that I’d have about £285 of Leftover Lolly for the expert to spend, and they might not go along with my plan and spend the rest of the money on the Bonus Buy, and buoyed by the success of my earlier strategy, I’d get cocky and go with this extravagant additional item which would then fail miserably and wipe out the modest profit/loss I had managed to secure.
Also, during the auction itself, I would try to remain calm. Often teams start getting excited when their items exceed the price they originally bought them for. I am no expert on the psychology of auction rooms, but I imagine that if the person selling the item is jumping up and down with joy at the back of the room as the price goes up with each additional bid, that might suggest to the bidders that they are paying over the odds for that item. Perhaps it doesn’t matter if you have a couple of people who are particularly keen on that item as they literally enter into a bidding war (only the “bidding” bit here is literal, it’s a figurative war), especially if they happen to be competitive by nature or are drunk. However, I would argue that such visual celebratory displays can only have a dampening effect on the enthusiasm of the casual bidder.
Again though, in all the excitement, I might not be able to control myself. Were this to happen, and I ended up losing, at least I would have learned a valuable lesson about hubris.