Thursday, 21 April 2016

Caravanner of the Year

Home alone on Wednesday night, I watched Caravanner of the Year.  I have to admit this wouldn't normally have been my first choice of viewing, but I'd seen a clip on The One Show and it looked quite amusing.

As it turned out, it could easily have been a tribute to the wonderful Victoria Wood, who'd sadly died earlier that day.  It reminded me of her Middle-Aged Olympics sketches, which featured events such as the car parking challenge.

To win this inaugural Caravan Club event, six couples had to undertake various challenges.

The first obstacle for them to overcome was the awning challenge.  The awning is also known as 'divorce in a bag', according to Arabella Weir's brilliant tongue-in-cheek narration.  There were a few frayed tempers as they struggled with poles and canvas.

We were introduced to the couples and their vehicles - Keith and Angela, John and Jenny, Martin and Alison, David and Ann, Ali and Chris.

The youngest competitor, David aged 42, had brought his 81 year old Mum Gwyneth with him.  David had an encyclopedic knowledge of caravans, and we were told had been obsessed by them since he was five years old.  Unsurprisingly, David won the awning challenge due to his perfect alignment.

Then they all moved on to the very difficult 'reverse the caravan around a tree and back it through a gate' challenge.  Sadly David struggled with this, and nearly ran his mum over on a couple of occasions.  This was stressful for all parties involved, including the viewers.

When the competition moved onto the 'reverse past a hay bale and through a doorway' challenge, there was a dramatic twist - the partners who weren't usually allowed to reverse the caravans were let loose behind the wheel.

I felt genuine joy for two of the ladies who managed to do it perfectly, within the given time, despite their other halves shouting unhelpful terms like 'left lock, no not left lock, right lock, you've got the wrong lock!' on numerous occasions.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Britain's Got Talent - the sword swallower

I remember watching TV programmes as a child and the presenter would sagely say 'Don't try this at home kids!'

There usually followed some tightrope walking or similar, and as I had a fear of heights I would think to myself, 'no, I won't be doing that, thank you, but I'm glad you said that just in case I got the urge to strut along the washing line without a safety net'.

So when the phrase 'please don't try this at home' was emblazoned across my screen on Britain's Got Talent I thought, um, this could be interesting.

But I have to say there is no way on this Earth that I would try to emulate what the young Moldovan man did on that show.

For those who haven't seen it, or heard about it subsequently, let me explain as best I can.

He was a sword swallower.  But more than that, he swallowed various length swords and then proceeded to do somersaults - or in one extreme example which had myself and daughter peering through our hands as we couldn't actually watch it unguarded - he descended face-down a scaffolding pole with the sword in his mouth and stopped just before the bottom and certain death by impaling.

Now, I'm no expert on what the Queen and Prince Philip like and dislike - for all I know they're perhaps fans of sword swallowing acrobats.  But although this young man was very good at what he does, I'm not entirely sure it's the right act for the Royal Variety Performance. 

Apparently he used to practice at night, at home, in secret and didn't tell his parents what he was doing.  I can't say I'm surprised - I'm pretty sure most parents wouldn't be delighted to find their best carving knife had been down their son's throat several times.

And if that was his 'warm-up' routine, I dread to think what might follow.  He may well end up as some sort of washboard-stomached human kebab, live on British television, and nobody wants to see that do they?

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

The Panama Papers

I'm just back from my annual pilgrimage to Norfolk.  Living in our stunningly beautiful yet land-locked county, I get the urge to every so often go and see the sea.  I feel it rebalances me, or something. 

I find watching the waves mildly hypnotic, and enjoy a stomp along the beach finding pretty stones, and then also the not-so-pretty items like crab's legs and fish heads, hopefully just jettisoned by a passing gull rather than the remnants of some seaside sacrifice.  There also sadly lurks the inevitable plastic detritus which is the scourge of our modern age.

Where we stay has no mobile signal so it gives me a chance to completely digitally detox too, so I had no idea what was going on with social media and barely watched any television.

Therefore The Panama Papers - which sounds to me like a book Graham Greene should have written - almost completely, gloriously, passed me by.

But for the fact that I visited a nearby hostelry and was enjoying a small alcoholic beverage, I might not have known about the latest political shenanigans until I returned home.

BBC News was on in the background with sound muted but complete with subtitles, so my attention turned as it so often does when there's a TV on - it's almost instinctual now isn't it?  Where there's a screen there's a human gaze, fixed, staring at its contents.

I discovered the Prime Minister of Iceland had resigned, except now they're saying that he hasn't actually resigned, merely stepped aside - what is this, a bizarre political country dance?

And there was David Cameron, looking earnest, saying something about he didn't have shares, then he did have shares, but then he sold the shares.  In truth it was as hard to keep up with the subtitles as it was with the speed with which his story kept changing.

As pointed out by some it's all a bit reminiscent of Father Ted and 'the money was just resting in my account'.  Except this isn't a comedy, this is all too real.  

Friday, 8 April 2016

President Trump and Prime Minister Boris?

At the moment there's a lot going on in the world of Politics which I find quite disturbing.  My anxiety over the state we're in wasn't eased by a headline I recently read which pronounced:

"A Trump Presidency rated among the top ten global risks".

Um, I thought to myself, that doesn't sound good.  I braced myself and read on.  According to the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), Trump becoming president could disrupt the global economy and heighten political and security risks in the US.

On a scale of things that could happen - which ranges from one (which I think means not great but manageable), through to 25 which probably means Armageddon although they didn't really specify - he gets a 12.

Now, just in case you're thinking 'that doesn't sound too bad', that equates to the same level of risk as the rising threat of jihadi terrorism destablising the global economy.

Mr Trump becoming president is also rated as riskier than Britain leaving the European Union or there being an armed clash in the South China Sea.

But just to make us feel better - a bit like the Crimewatch presenter saying 'don't have nightmares' at the end of the show when we've all been scared witless by what we've just seen right before bedtime - the EIU also reckon that Hillary Clinton will become president.

Of course, social media has had much to say about Donald and his presidential bid.  One post I've seen said that this presidential race is viewed overseas as America's IQ test, and the results aren't looking good.  Another states 'The road to hell is paved with Donald Trump's hair'.

But then again, with our EU referendum coming up soon, maybe we need to be taking a closer look at what's going on here. 

There are some thoughts that if there's a Brexit - is it just me, or does that name sound like a discount supermarket's version of the Breakaway chocolate bar? - Cameron will probably resign and Boris Johnson might then become Prime Minister. 

Trump as POTUS and Boris as Prime Minister - I wonder how that combo rates on the EIU scale?