Sunday, August 31, 2008

Back To Basics, NHS-Style


Your unflappable heroine, PATROCLUS, is being subjected to various medical tests by a team of midwives. MIDWIFE 1 prepares to take a blood sample.

MIDWIFE 1: Is this your arm?

ME: Yes.

Disclaimer: I should point out that the standard of ante-natal care in Cornwall is very high indeed, and I have nothing but admiration and respect and gratitude for all the midwives who've been looking after me. Although they do sometimes say some quite funny things.

NOTE TO READERS: Rest assured I am not actually in hospital - I am at home and about to have my tea. Friends and family will be advised by text when anything birth-related occurs! Blog-readers will probably learn of any news in due course either here or chez Mr BC.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Nuclear Chic: New For A/W 08-09

Poor old Gordon Brown, no sooner does he go off on his joyless holidays than the upstart D. Miliband tries to a) usurp him and b) re-start the Cold War.

Now, different people have different ideas about whether confronting Russia is a good idea right at the moment, particularly given that we're already engaged in two wars, and given that we made our own declaration of independence from the moral high ground in 2003 when we (I say 'we', although really it was actually T. Blair and his conveniently nebulous chums, God and History) chose to invade Iraq illegally.

But so far, no one has drawn the obvious conclusion from Miliband's posturing, which is that he is in the pay of a shadowy secret society whose deadly aim is to provoke another Cold War purely for its own ends.

And by 'shadowy secret society' I do of course mean the Victoria and Albert Museum, and by 'its own ends' I do of course mean the viral promotion of its new September exhibition, 'Cold War Modern'.

Yes, what better way to pique the nation's interest in its latest artfest than to persuade the Foreign Secretary to go and declare war on Russia, thereby ensuring column acres of Cold War 'nostalgia' in the media? Before you know it the Daily Mail will be giving away a free cover-mounted DVD of Threads to every reader, while the Saturday Guardian will be inserting glossy wallcharts showing what to do in the event of imminent nuclear attack.

(Bored of knitting your own jumpers from leftover edamame to beat the credit crunch? Have fun with the kids this weekend by building a fallout shelter under your raised vegetable beds! Our supplement shows you how!)

The marketing geniuses at the V&A, meanwhile, are doing a sterling job of making the threat of nuclear annihilation fashionable again, primarily via the time-honoured medium of the enamel badge. For just £3 you can purchase a set of five badges that apparently 'capture the imagination of the Cold War era':

(Click for bigness.)

'The badge designs draw on images from ‘Civil Defence Handbook No.10: Advising the Householder on Protection against Nuclear Attack’,' chirps the marketing blurb, before regaining a modicum of composure and warning 'Not suitable for children under 3.'

I should say not.

Does anyone from the V&A Marketing Department - or, for that matter, David Miliband - actually remember the Cold War? I don't recall it being in any way imaginative, stylish or exciting: the adjectives that spring to mind are more along the lines of 'chilling', 'unspeakably terrifying' and 'the FOUR-MINUTE WARNING, for fuck's sake'.

Still if it comes down to it, at least the V&A shop will make a few pennies, which does make a nice neat metaphor for the ideological triumph of capitalism over communism - although perhaps not quite as much as this item does.

NEXT WEEK: Miliband declares war on France in a teaser campaign for the National Gallery's Jacques-Louis David retrospective.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Not (Yet) A Recognised Medical Condition

Overheard in the Day Assessment Unit, Princess Alexandra Maternity Wing, Royal Cornwall Hospital, Truro:

MIDWIFE 1: Gosh, it's busy today, isn't it?

MIDWIFE 2: It really is. We've got urine coming out of our ears!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Mannequin Pis

Given that Elle Decoration comes out with a 'small spaces' supplement on average about three times a year, I often wonder how they keep coming up with ideas to fill it.

I mean, there are only so many ways you can fit a desk under the stairs, or drawers *into* the stairs, or a mezzanine bedroom into the achingly fashionable live-work space that you created from a disused shipping container.

But this time, the Elle Deco team have surpassed themselves. They've located a tiny Belgian house in which the toilet is next to the bed, and the bed is next to an uncurtained plate-glass, shop-style window:

I know our Continental friends are more relaxed than us uptight Brits, but even so. Would you *really* want this kind of arrangement in your home? (Think carefully, now.)

And more to the point, would you really want to be one of these people's neighbours?


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Lucky For Some

Readers may recall that last week an unpleasant spat broke out on the poop deck of the mighty Quinquireme, involving myself, Annie Slaminsky and one Ria Campbell, marketing supremo of a New Online Thing.

Ms Campbell had been politely trying to persuade Annie and me (and, as it turns out, also Hannah and Nuttycow) to test-drive the New Online Thing and write about it in our blogs, but we got the wrong end of the stick and thought that Evil Marketers were trying to take away our souls by pointing at the sky and shouting 'look!' and then secretly hacking into our Blogger accounts and replacing all instances of the word 'yummers' with an inline text ad for Head & Shoulders.

(I think that's how it works.)

Anyway, it turned out that this wasn't necessarily the case, so I thought the least I could do would be to try out the New Online Thing and see if it was any good.

It turns out that the New Online Thing is all to do with karaoke, and is an online version of those private karaoke booths that you see in swanky places in London now (at least I assume you do, I've never seen one, but I'm imagining it's just like in Lost in Translation and you get to go in them with Bill Murray in the middle of the night and nothing much happens until the Jesus and Mary Chain come on and you realise it's the end. Only Ria informs me that if you're in a karaoke booth in London rather than Tokyo, you're more likely to encounter Jude Law - although encountering Jude Law anywhere in London is a pretty safe bet, as he seems to hang over the entire city like an early Victorian miasmatic fog, waiting for some earnest physician - or Heat reporter - to estimate his quotient of phlogiston and thereby assess his value or otherwise to society as a whole.)

But I digress.

Yes. This is an online version of those private karaoke booths, which are run by a company called Lucky Voice, which is owned by erstwhile UK dotcom entrepreneur Martha Lane Fox.

Now I've only done karaoke once, and my rendition of 'Never Ever' by All Saints didn't exactly wow the crowd at my friend Becky's birthday party, so I'm not in a great position to judge the merits of Lucky Voice Online. But I can tell you this:

1. It's free, unlike those karaoke games for the Xbox, etc. that you have to pay for.

2. It has 'Love Machine' by Girls Aloud (which is one of Mr BC's favourites, although I couldn't persuade him to sing along with it), and lots of other songs too.

3. It lets you make your own playlists and organise your own karaoke parties.

4. You probably need a microphone, a big monitor and some decent speakers to actually get the full benefit of the experience.

5. It's free.

6. It's in closed beta testing at the moment, but I have FIVE FOUR THREE TWO ONE REMAINING spare invite if anyone wants one. Just leave a comment or send me an email at quadrireme at gmail dot com and I'll have the butler wire one over to you forthwith.

Now if you'll excuse me I'm off to bake some HEAD & SHOULDERS FOR ALL YOUR ANTIDANDRUFFULAR NEEDS mini-apple and blackberry tarts.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Bonekickers: Patroclus Weighs In

As Mr BC and I took a shortcut through Truro Woolworths on our way to Caffe Nero for ye traditional Saturday morning coffee and bun*, I noticed that the Series 1 box set DVD of Bonekickers is now available and yours for just £24.97.

Now to some people, Bonekickers was just another TV series. To others, however, it has become a symbol and an icon, not to mention a cipher and a byword, for EVERYTHING THAT IS WRONG WITH THE BBC TODAY.

Never in the history of the Guardian's media blog, for example, has a single programme provoked so much ideological warfare among so many. In the blue corner, the cultural relativists, led by Guardian media editor Janine Gibson, with the argument that as long as a programme is enjoyable and people watch it, it has earned its rightful place in the schedules.

In the red corner, the cultural elitists, led by Guardian TV reviewer Gareth McLean, contending that the BBC ought to have some standards when it comes to drama commissioning, and that poorly-scripted, execrably-acted, laughably-plotted, historically-inaccurate drivel has no place in the repertoire of the finest broadcaster the world has ever known.

And for as long as the BBC fails to announce whether a second series has been commissioned, these two factions will remain locked in a largely pseudonymous, vitriol-flecked online battle, neither quite able to claim a definitive victory over the other.

For my part, while I can understand where the relativists are coming from - a lot of people *did* seem to enjoy it, and its ratings weren't terrible, and it's only television, after all - I have to say I'm with the elitists on this one, if only for the reason that the programme could so easily have been a thousand times better. And when I say easily, I mean as easily as doing one or more of the following:

1. Decide whether it was supposed to be self-aware comedy-drama or actual serious drama. Instead, it oscillated between one state and the other so frequently and so ineptly that it became impossible for the viewer to establish just how he/she was supposed to relate to it. Were we supposed to laugh at its evident parodying of Time Team, snicker knowingly at its ludicrous, sub-Da Vinci Code levels of historical accuracy and plausibility, or empathise seriously with the characters as they struggled with emotional baggage, professional challenges, family problems and borderline mental illness? It is possible to become genuinely emotionally involved with a self-aware, self-parodying TV programme - think The Simpsons, or Arrested Development - but only if the characters are lovingly crafted, well developed and behaviourally consistent. Rather than flimsy puppets who are only there to propel a number of ludicrously unbelievable plots towards an all-too-obvious conclusion.

2. Just have the one plot. Maybe, instead of having the team of archaeologists miraculously find (and subsequently destroy) a different priceless historical artefact each week, the programme could just have had them chasing one priceless historical artefact (Excalibur would have been fine) over the course of the six episodes. One artefact, one secret society bent on preventing its discovery, a tantalising build-up of clues, revelations and dramatic tension, lots of flashbacks to relevant historical events - none of this would have met with much complaint from me. But to have them unearth the True Cross one week, Boudicca's mummified body the next, and the corpse of Joan of Arc the next - before finally wresting Excalibur from its secret hidey-hole out the front of Wells Cathedral (and then promptly breaking it) - was taking things far too far, even for those who don't mind the old willing suspension of disbelief.

3. Have believable characters. I'm given to believe that Julie Graham, Hugh Bonneville and Adrian Lester can all actually act, so the fact that the whole programme was simultaneously wooden, melodramatic and implausible (not to mention 'stupid') must have been down to the script and characterisation. No archaeologist, I'm fairly sure, has ever said 'don't mess with me, I'm an archaeologist', or 'ground, give up your secrets!', or 'ride a little imagination once in a while'. In fact I checked with my brother, who has an archaeology degree, and he said that they're more likely to say things like 'who's nicked me trowel?', 'is it teatime?', and 'real archaeology is never as exciting as it is in Time Team'.

Also, archaeologists aren't known for being filthy rich (although they *are* known for being filthy), so you probably won't find too many of them owning penthouse flats on Bath's Royal Crescent. Plus, if you ask me, it's rare to find a woman with monomania; we're essentially multi-taskers, not given to single, overpowering obsessions. Well, about men, maybe. Or our weight. Or, if the chick-lit novels are to be believed**, chocolate, shoes or handbags. But not usually about swords. I find it very hard to believe that a woman could be obsessed with a sword. I could be wrong about this.

Anyway, all these things put together - and this is without even touching on the supposed postgraduate student Viv's total ignorance of anything to do with archaeology or history, or the fact that some bloke apparently buried a WW1 tank single-handedly, or that escaped slaves from America might have planted a Virginia creeper in the shape of a handy arrow pointing conveniently to the door to their secret underground cave, or that an archaeologist, when buried alive in a stone sarcophagus, might seek to keep his spirits up by reciting the dates of Agincourt and the Norman invasion - all these things put together add up to a programme that wasn't in any way clever, or dramatic, or emotionally engrossing, or consistent, or believable (even in a willing-suspension-of-disbelief way). For something that was supposed to be a drama, those are some quite serious failings.

We still don't know whether a second series is going to be commissioned, but if it is, it'll be a sign that the BBC isn't embarrassed to commission absolute rubbish. Which is fine if you think that 'if people enjoy it, that's the main thing', but not if you're relying on the BBC to display any kind of measure of actual critical judgment.

Maybe they're just waiting to see how many people fork out £24.97 for the DVD. I don't think I'll be among them.

* I am delighted to report that Truro Caffe Nero now serves the mighty almond pain au chocolat, Lord of All The Buns. Turns out that all we had to do was ask them to stock it. Woo!

** Do not believe the chick-lit novels.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Hidden Art

Some photos from the Hidden Art Cornwall Design Fair, what the lovely Mr BC and I visited this morning.

It's an exhibition of contemporary Cornish designers and furniture-makers, held in the fantastically falling-apart 15th-century Godolphin House near Helston.

The house has been taken over recently by the National Trust, but is still so decrepit that they can only let 80 people in at once in case the floors collapse.

Neither my camera nor my photography 'skillz' could really do justice to the fantastic juxtaposition of modern design and crumbling late-medieval plaster.

Outside there were tents where you could buy the designers' wares. We bought some coasters from our near-neighbour, Lucy Turner of Higher Market Studios here in Penryn, who rescues unloved 50s and 60s furniture from the local charity furniture shop and turns it into very nice, one-off pieces like this:

It's on again tomorrow (Bank Holiday Monday) from 11am to 6pm, so if anyone reading is in the vicinity of Helston, I'd highly recommend a visit. It's £6 to get in but well worth it.

You can see more photos on my Facebook page here.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Dining Chair Nirvana

Attention, shoppers! Why buy one 'Verdi' dining chair from Habitat for £99.00 minus delivery...

...when you can get FOUR white maple dining chairs from M&S for £74.70 including delivery?

(What's more, with the M&S deal, you and up to three of your chums can play a splendid game of Musical Christine Keeler! Hours of saucy fun!)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Children Of Women

We may have scoffed at Theo Paphitis's apparent lack of understanding of human biology when he complained that women 'get themselves bloody pregnant', but this story in today's Guardian suggests that he may actually have been on to something.

According to the article, new US census data reveals that fewer children are being born in the States, a problem that's also contributing to ageing populations across Western Europe. The reason for the decline? It seems that fewer women are choosing to get themselves bloody pregnant. As a result, family sizes are declining:

'The findings also highlight the shrinking of the average American family. In 1976, women on average had 3.1 children, but that figure had fallen by 2006 to 1.9 children. That is below the level of fertility needed to ensure a stable population - 2.1 children per woman is known in demographic jargon as "replacement-level fertility".'

Is it just me, or does anyone else spot anything strange about this? Either we've moved into some kind of futuristic women-only society without my noticing, or the Guardian is suggesting that the decision to have children and raise a family is the responsibility of women and women alone. There's not a single mention of fathers anywhere in the whole article. It's almost as if men were entirely irrelevant to the whole process of creating and nurturing new life.

Which raises the question: what are men actually for? A question perhaps best answered by this comment from the BBC's Have Your Say site, preserved for posterity by the chaps at Speak You're Branes:

Mothers are far better at dealing with housework & crying babies & screaming kids…& all at the same time as well.

Fathers, & males in general, are IMO more likely to crack under the pressure and/or more likely abuse babies & children left in their care in one way or another…and that includes verbal abuse & also sex abuse.

Generally speaking, nowadays I wouldn’t trust men to discipline small young child unchecked, while considering that many men are now on or dealing in drugs.

magicalways54, Romford

So there you go - women are for having babies, while men are for bringing home the crack at the end of a hard day's drug dealing.


Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Lame Fox

It looks like Annie Slaminsky and I have received exactly the same email from a marketing person keen to have us review a new online product.

I have to say that when I received an email from a 'Ria Campbell' that began 'Dear Patroclus, I think your blog is great; I am a regular visitor and your writing is never less than fun, insightful and entertaining by turns' I was initially flattered, then a mite suspicious, given that I don't know this person and that - to my knowledge - she has never commented on the blog before.

I was made even more suspicious by the fact that some of the punctuation marks in the email had rendered badly, making it look like text that had been copied and pasted from somewhere else. Then I saw Annie's post and realised that Ms Campbell is sending the same flattering email to everyone. I'm not special at all!

Having worked in PR and 'social media marketing', I'm quite painfully aware that a lot of companies are trying to court bloggers these days. Sadly, they're mostly going about it all the wrong way - either by sending bloggers press releases and hoping the blogger will write about them, or by pretending to be a fan of the blogger when in reality they don't read the blog in question at all.

But I did a bit of digging, and was surprised to discover that Ria Campbell works for a company that ought to know better. A company run by one of this country's most successful dotcom entrepreneurs, famed for her successful online and offline marketing techniques. (Can you guess who it is yet?) And a company, therefore, that really ought to know how and how not to approach bloggers. Tsk.

So sorry, Ria, I won't be writing about your 'cool' online service, and if anyone else is reading this who received the same email, I hope you won't be either.

Monday, August 18, 2008


Does anyone happen to have a recipe for low-fat banana muffins (ones with oil instead of butter)? I'm sure I had a recipe somewhere, and now I can't find it, and the internet is taunting me by not seeming to have one either.

Many thanks in advance!

PS As you can maybe tell, I'm on maternity leave now. It's brilliant - I just sit around on my arse and people send fantastic presents, like sponge bags and books about the Etruscan language. I've already decided I'm never going back to work, ever, and instead I'm going to run an organic B&B supplied with organic bread and organic eggs from the new organic deli up the road, and put twee hand-written labels on things, like some kind of actual physical embodiment of Country Living magazine. (Although as Mr BC looked seriously alarmed when I informed him of this plan, the likelihood of my going back to work before so very long is fairly high.)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Great Depression Probably Wasn't All That Great, Actually

Merryn Somerset Webb, editor of MoneyWeek, has this to say in today's Observer Magazine about everyone in Britain - yes, that's everyone, in the entire country - who was born after 1968:

'People under 40 are not used to losing jobs or being made redundant. We are not used to property prices falling or not having what we want. As adults we haven't suffered hardship.'

Anyone care to disagree?

And let's not even get started on how asinine the rest of the feature is. Fretting about your haircut is not the same thing as having panic disorder, or OCD, or PTSD, or clinical depression. And if worrying about her split ends is the worst kind of anxiety that Harriet Green can imagine, I'm not entirely sure what qualifies her to write a cover feature about a) anxiety disorders and b) economic hardship.

On which note, forgive me if I'm wrong about this, but when 'the mother of all recessions' does eventually strike, I don't think it's middle-class Londoners and people who are used to checking into the Priory when they get a bit overwhelmed that are going to be the hardest hit by it, do you?

So just maybe the Guardian and the Observer could ease up a bit on this whole 'ooh blimey recession is coming, we're all going to have to shop at Asda instead of Waitrose, it'll be just like the Great Depression, what larks' tossery, and give a tiny bit of consideration to who might actually be suffering from real economic hardship, and what that suffering might be like, and what we might be able to do about it.

I thought that was what being a liberal was all about. No?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The People Called Roman They Go In The 'Ouse?

Imagine, if you will, that you are a branding executive at Gilchrist & Soames, a purveyor of luxury toiletries whose name, if its website is to be believed, is echoed throughout the world's most luxurious hotels.

Time was when the world's most luxurious hotels used to provide delicate little bottles of your wares in artfully arranged baskets in their marble-clad bathrooms, but then came 9/11, and people weren't travelling so much, so the world's most luxurious hotels had to scrimp and save a bit to make ends meet.

And inevitably, rather than continue to provide guests with expensive, nickable bottles of your luxury hair products, they took to bolting one great big refillable bottle of the stuff on to the marble-clad bathroom wall, whence only the most determined, screwdriver-wielding traveller could detach it.

But at the same time, the world's most luxurious hotels needed to maintain at least a veneer of luxuriousness, otherwise there would be little to distinguish them from the average Travelodge. So they asked your employer, Gilchrist & Soames, to make sure its bottles of shower gel still looked classy, even if in reality they were just plastic bottles of gunk bolted to a wall.

Of course, everyone knows that the way to make stuff look classy is to label it in French, the language of Parisian chic and sophistication. And so it falls to you, lowly branding executive, to create a label for the bolt-on bottle of shower goo that not only evokes the kind of traditional English country-house grandeur suggested by the name 'Gilchrist & Soames', but which also lends the product an air of continental elegance and cosmopolitan élan. In other words, the label has to be in English and French.

All very well, of course, but you don't speak any French, do you, otherwise you'd have a job at Clarins or Chanel, or some other classy Parisian cosmetics company. So when it comes to translating the admittedly rather brutal, anglo-saxon 'Hair and Body Wash' into French, you're at a bit of a loss.

Now, as I see it, at this point you could take one of three courses of action:

1. Ask someone you know who speaks French, or, better still, who *is* French, to translate it for you.

2. In your lunchbreak, nip down to a genuine French cosmetics retailer, say for example L'Occitane, to see what they're calling it. Better still, look it up on their website.

3. Run it through Babelfish. (Not something I'd usually advise, but in this particular case, its suggestion, while still bad, is infinitely better than what you eventually come up with.)

But no. You did something else. And to be honest, I can't really fathom what it was you did, or how you managed to get it so spectacularly wrong.

Fig 1. Spot the wrongness.

I would surmise that you started out by making the classic schoolboy error of translating word for word. Hair. And. Body. Wash. Maybe you looked up each word in turn in an English-to-French dictionary. Maybe. In any case, using this method, you managed to translate the first two words OK, even though in the overall context of the thing, they ended up being meaningless.

But then you got to 'Body'. I can only assume that upon discovering that the French for 'body' is 'corps', your delicate sensibilities rebelled and refused to let you allow a word that looks like 'corpse' to appear on a label that is supposed to radiate elegance, refinement and good grooming. Whatever happened, the result is that you elected to remove the final 's', leaving 'corp', a word that doesn't exist in French.

Finally, no doubt gathering your confidence and enthusiasm as you entered the home straight, you embarked on the word 'Wash'. Problematic, this, as 'wash' is more traditionally used as a verb than a noun, particularly in French. But you don't want a verb here, you want a noun that describes the product inside the bottle. In your place, I might have steered clear of the tricksy 'wash' altogether, and maybe gone with 'gel', like they have at L'Occitane.

But no, you're determined to translate word for word, so 'wash' it is. And somehow you end up not with the infinitive 'laver' ('to wash'), but with 'lave', which is either the first person present indicative ('I wash'), or the third person present indicative ('he/she/it washes'), or - and I think this is most likely, given the absence of a pronoun - the second person singular imperative ('wash!').

In essence, then, what you've done is create a label that, while exhibiting flawless English, once translated into French reads 'Hair and Corp, Wash!'

Which is one way of creating a truly memorable hair, bath and body product, but possibly not one that reinforces Gilchrist & Soames's claim to have a passionate and dedicated team of employees whose core focus is to constantly reach for further perfection in everything we do for our customers.


Thursday, August 07, 2008

Mad Men vs Patroclus: The Copywriting Smackdown

As time's wingèd chariot bundles inexorably towards the onset of my maternity leave, I find myself wondering what I'm going to do with the acres of free time I'm going to have for the next three months or so.

(What? Surely changing nappies and breastfeeding can't take up 24 hours of the day, every day! That would be madness!)

I'm gingerly testing the waters of the imminent lifestyle change by stepping up my television viewing. Not real, as-broadcast television, we don't have that at the moment, but DVDs and stuff.

And what better place to start than with Mad Men, a programme that not only is 'the nearest to genius television can get' (Metro), but in which several of the protagonists also have the same job as me - to wit, advertising copywriters.

This is where the similarities between me and the dramatis personae of Mad Men end, though, because after having viewed six episodes of Season One, I can confirm that there are some significant and probably insuperable differences in our working lives. Allow me to enumerate.

1. Office. The Mad Men office is chock-full of rich young men-about-town, the occasional silver fox and a horde of impeccably-coiffed fashionable secretarial ladies, all of whom spend their working day smoking, drinking cocktails, ravishing each other in well-appointed hotel rooms and making barbed comments about each other's dress sense, literary achievements, etc. In my office there's just me and the cat, and the cat is definitely the better groomed.

2. Client Meetings. In Mad Men, all client meetings go on for five minutes and unfold in exactly the same manner: the advertising team (who are all hungover) tell the client they don't have any ideas, the client gets a bit miffed, one of the advertising team berates the client for being female/stupid/Jewish/out of touch, and the client storms out in a huff. Later, someone has to save the account either by taking the client out to a strip club, or by sleeping with them, or both. By contrast, my client meetings are all at least an hour long, involve very long, very tedious powerpoint presentations littered with technical jargon and three letter acronyms, and end with the client requesting that I find some kind of common lexical ground between a photo of some peas and the notion of activity-based costing, which moreover must be expressed in a 'punchy' and 'compelling' fashion.

Fig. 1: Copywriting in the 1960s. Note reclining position, lack of clothes, absence of laptop, etc.

3. Desk. The desks in Mad Men are furnished with a) a phone, b) an ashtray, c) a bottle of spirits and a number of elegant spirit glasses. My desk is furnished with a) a phone, b) a printer, c) a laptop, d) several vast, unwieldy piles of printed-out powerpoint slides littered with technical jargon, three-letter acronyms and scrawled notes about 'key messages' and 'calls to action', e) any number of unfinished cups of peppermint tea, f) the cat, g) clumps of discarded cat fur, h) a leaflet about breastfeeding, i) dust, j) crumbs and k) a load of pens that I stole off the lovely Mr BC and promptly lost the tops of.

4. Office Hierarchy. In Mad Men, the copywriters (who are all men) have fashionably-attired lady secretaries to type up their copy (although I've yet to see anyone really produce any copy) while they set about playing practical jokes on each other, drinking whisky and ravishing successions of women in well-appointed hotel rooms. I, on the other hand, spend my day not only thinking of copy, but also typing it up on the typey-typey keyboard and emailing it to the client. Yes! I am living proof that women can think as well as type, something that in 1960s New York was apparently unheard of. On the downside, very little ravishing goes on in my office, possibly because I am eight months up the duff. (Yes! I am living proof that a woman can think, be pregnant and type all at the same time, despite what Theo Paphitis would have you believe.)

5. Remuneration. Despite the dubious business model outlined in point 2 above, the directors and account directors in Mad Men are all filthy rich and able to afford summer houses in the Hamptons, expensive clothes, successions of mistresses for ravishing in well-appointed hotel rooms, etc. Curiously, despite spending most of my working day actually working, as opposed to bitching and drinking cocktails, I have a lower salary than some of my teacher chums and a wardrobe composed almost entirely of cast-offs from eBay. (Despite this, my Granny has taken to informing her friends that since going freelance I've become 'a millionaire again', but that's a story for another time.)

So there you have it: Mad Men 1, Patroclus 0. Anyone fancy a martini?

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

My Vagina Foo-Foo Is None Of Your Business

I see today's Guardian has cottoned on to the new (American) fad for 'vaginal rejuvenation'.

This, for the uninitiated, is what you ask for when you've already had cosmetic surgery on all public-facing parts of your body, but still feel the profound psychological emptiness that comes from believing Cosmo, Glamour, the Daily Mail etc. when they tell you (explicitly or implicitly) that men - and indeed the world at large - are only interested in how you look.

According to these women's-media tossers and their assorted plastic-surgery charlatan chums, how you look 'down there' is now just as important as what your face looks like, how skinny you are, and so on.

But what gets me about the Guardian article is the way it starts off being all horrified that women are being pressured by the media into getting their labia sculpted into alleged man-pleasing contours, but then ends up going on about how maybe we *should* be worried about the general fitness of our vaginas after all.

After all, why worry about ending up a spinster (which is probably your own fault for having unattractive labia, you negligent slattern) when you could be worrying about ending up an incontinent spinster?

This nonsense has gone too far, and gone on for too long. I'm thinking of organising a ritual burning of every women's magazine and women's supplement in the land. If only it would stop raining.

IN RELATED NEWS: Thanks to my dad for sending me this empty-headed niaiserie from the Weekly Telegraph, in which some British woman offers to reveal to other British women - for the bargain price of £2,500 - how French women stay thin. I say: spend the £2,500 on Gitanes and smoke yourself skinny. You'll feel so much better.

UPDATE: Leonie said: 'what else is wrong with me that i should really do something about already? do tell.' Well Leonie, had you considered that you might need shoulder liposuction? Come to that, maybe we ALL need shoulder liposuction, to fill (or rather, empty) the gaping black void that we all feel when we realise we don't look exactly like Keira Knightley.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Distance = Rate x Proximity To Carluccio's

According to today's Observer Business & Media section, Richard Carrick, boss of holiday firm Hoseasons, believes that 'fuel costs have made some far-flung reaches of the UK, such as Scotland and Cornwall, less popular [with holidaymakers]'.

Might I urge Mr Carrick to consider the idiocy of this statement? There are no 'far-flung reaches' of the UK. There are certainly a number of exotic, dragon-infested places that are quite far from London, but that's not the same thing, is it?

(And no, Simon Calder, I haven't forgotten about your similar transgression, either.)