Wednesday, June 25, 2008


An unrelated photo of Castle Howard in North Yorkshire

Thought I'd better put up a short update post - I've not vanished from the face of the Earth, nor have the makers of Lynx deodorant nobbled me. I'm taking a break from blogging, I kind of ran out of things to write - it's almost 4yrs since I started DUaB after all. Also the BeerCast is taking up more of my time now we're getting somewhere with it. But I will return here soon, certainly before the fourth birthday in September. Anyhow, hope everyone's enjoying the summer, and I'll be back up spouting nonsense in a bit...


Alright, I didn't actually make that fourth birthday deadline, as you may have noticed. In fact, I decided to stop DUaB and concentrate on other things. Thanks for reading, I'll keep the site up so the posts remain, as for now you can find me over at The BeerCast writing about beer and drinking. Thanks to everyone who commented here at DUaB, all all the best.

R 14/12/2009

Monday, April 07, 2008

Two into one doesn't go

There's a faintly disturbing advert on at the moment for Lynx deodorant, which features a streetwise chap like myself walking through a bland-looking city on a sunny day (clearly not Edinburgh - we had sun, rain and snow today). Trouble is, all around him women are charging full tilt into each other and erupting in powdery explosions like when the aliens zapped people in the Tom Cruise War of the Worlds remake. I'm not even sure if he notices, as he's intent on getting where he's needed - but each time two women explode into each other, a single more beautiful one emerges (i.e. one with more makeup and shorter dress). It's all because he sprayed the magic Lynx beforehand - or rather two of them.

This genius piece of marketing has it that we now have to buy two different flavours of their product in order to mix them to make a third 'fragrance'. Lynx 3 - One Guy, Two Cans, Loads of Women (apparently) is the new campaign from the Unilever concern, and of course has it's own predictably Flash-heavy website. The 'Bom chika wah wah' series have had their day, I guess because you only needed one can to achieve that effect, not two. The website has a series of Cocktail-esque barman tricks using cans of deodorant (second unintentional Tom Cruise reference), and Peter Crouch's squeeze, Abigail Clancy.*

But would you need to buy two of them to make a third fragrance? And would you want to? And have you any idea what I'm talking about? (Lynx is only so-called in the UK, Australia and New Zealand - everywere else it's Axe). I bet you didn't know it was launched as a male version of Impulse in 1983, and couldn't be called Axe in the UK because of copyright infringement. I'm not sure how it's supposed to work - do you squirt one under each armpit? Or just blast a double cloud and run through it? The website video has Abigail almost falling over with ecstasy as the Lynx man squirts each wrist and rubs them together, like he's testing stuff out in Boots. If you rubbed your underarms together you'd turn yourself inside out.

Why stop at Lynx? You might as well mix things up to achieve your own unique fragrance. Unilever also manufacture Domestos and Cif (which I think used to be Jif) - you could make a roll-on out of that. Or Chicken Tonight and Marmite? That would have the women running in the streets, I can tell you. Cup a Soup and I can't believe it's not butter? That would have a great name, if nothing else. Lynx can come up with some wacky flavours themselves, they released a chocolate flavoured deodorant last year - the advert for which features the tremendous 'Sweet Touch of Love' by Alain Toussaint.

I wonder what Crouchy uses?

* Britain's Sexiest Scouser, according to FHM (Abigail Clancy, that is. And yes that's her at the top there)

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Hitting the Road with Style

Regular DUaB readers will know about my fondness for travel - after all it's pretty much why the blog existed in the first place. Things have been slow recently, it's difficult to keep up the naked enthusiasm of four years ago, reading back on those posts. Not that I was naked when I wrote them, of course. Well, apart from one or two. Anyhow, the gaps between posts have been lengthening steadily as the 'other projects' stack up, most pressingly the beer blog over at The BeerCast, which increasingly eats up the hours. Oh, and I go to work as well, of course.

But all that seems to be about to change. One of the reasons for a lack of posts recently is the discussions I've been having with the Caledonian brewery here in Edinburgh about a possible opening. After we tried their Golden Promise ale in our very first podcast for the beer blog, I've been emailing them with how we're getting on - after all they are the only brewery left within the city limits here. They recently got back to me with a seriously exciting proposal.

Caledonian are a brewery with their rich heritage central to their daily working. As a result they take an interest in other brewers and the whole lifestyle of producing foamy ale from grains and water. Clearly the different regions of the world have over the years diverged and produced essentially the same drink under very different conditions, recipes, and ethos's (whatever the plural of ethos is). The really nice people at Caley have seemingly been keeping up with my writing here on DUaB, and on the BeerCast, as they've offered me a job.

Starting in the summer - if I want it - I'll be travelling around, taking in local breweries and exploring the essence of what it means to produce beer in this oh so hectic 24hr everything is now society. From East Anglia to the East Indes, I'll be off tracking down the rarest of beers - and this being me, the rarest of pies and other local delicacies. Moules frites, pie floaters, giant maggot kebabs, I'll be there front and centre. Head Global Beer Reporter.

So check back in a couple of days as I get details in about the specifics of the first destination. I've been told to expect arduous travel, dangerous animals, and tall tales. And so should you, dear readers. Patagonian pilseners, Swedish stouts, and Liberian lagers ahoy, plus the odd spider or too, no doubt. We're on the road again. Ahoy! Who's with me?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Installations in London

London is always full of interesting things to look at, and these days people flock from miles around to stare at a hole in the ground. The Tate Modern prides itself on the large installations that guest in the main turbine hall, and the current artwork there is Doris Salcedo's Shibboleth. It 'opened' in October, but I hadn't been able to get down to take it in until now.

It starts off as nothing more than a hairline graze in the floor, then follows the sloping entranceway down, widening and deepening as it does so. Salcedo says the work symbolises racial divisions, and the gap between white Europeans and the rest of the world's population. I can see how it can reflect division - but at the same time was having to constantly fight the urge to think "But it's just a crack in the floor."

It's very well made though, I guess they must have fitted a false floor or something. I considered Googling it to find out, but that would maybe take some of the mystery away. Having said that, I've managed to see almost all of the turbine hall installations, and Shibboleth is nowhere near as good as the slides last time, or my personal favourite, Olafur Eliasson's Weather Project.

After that, a quick jaunt west along the Thames to Trafalgar Square for the next rotating public artwork series - the fourth plinth statue. Built in 1841, the plinth was supposed to house a noble hero in the usual manner (the other three hold up George IV and two colonial era Generals - Henry Havelock and Sir Charles Napier). But the fourth statue was never built, so the plinth sat empty for 158yrs. Eventually a contemporary artwork was erected there for 12 months - the latest being Thomas Schütte’s sculpture Model for a Hotel 2007.

An architectural model of a 21 storey building, it was also titled 'Hotel for Birds', aping the famous Trafalgar Square pigeons. But as you can see, they don't seem to like the beautifully coloured perspex - preferring to roost in nearby trees. Proposals for the next artwork to go up are here, and I particularly like Anthony Gormley's idea of plonking real people on top, to just stand or sit there, being stared at.

But it wasn't all art and trying to find hidden meanings in artist's perceptions. I also went to the London beer festival (research for the other blog, of course).

And ended up in a deserted tube station, which usually happens to me at some point. Bounds Green, in this case, on the Picadilly Line. Thankfully that next train did indeed arrive 2mins later...

Monday, March 10, 2008

Cheating with Delia

The nation's favourite and most-revered TV Chef is back - Delia Smith has a new series in the ex-MasterChef slot at 8:30 on BBC2. 'The Blessed Delia' as I believe people call her, has been cooking on British telly for almost forty years, so quite frankly it's amazing she's got any ideas left. But it seems she does, as her new series is called How to Cheat, and first up it's how to make easy recipes from everyday foodstuffs. Presumably next week she'll move onto other things like poker. Anyhow, I've never seen a Delia programme before. So how was it?

1 min - It begins with her East Anglian mansion and an easy-listening soundtrack from a Yate's Winelodge. A cat wanders around. Delia speaks - "In my 39 years of writing recipes, I have tried to gauge where people are and help them with their everyday cooking. But there are many people who are too afraid to cook, so we need to evolve a new way of cooking, because meals still need to go on the table..."

3 min - "We're going to do a smoked salmon and quail egg pie." Um, fair enough. Quail eggs? But she's off, opening packets and cooking from tins. Hey, I cook from tins! She's like me! But what brands is she using? Some very frustratingly quick edits used as she teases the packets in front of the camera for a microsecond.

4 min - A look inside Delia's concrete-lined ramekin storage facility.

5 min - Back to the pie, and apparently quail eggs come in packs with celery salt for dips. Something else the nation will sell out of tomorrow. The next addition to the pie is frozen mashed potato. Now I've been a student, but I've never heard of frozen mash - the powdered stuff with the robots was as far as I got. But the frozen mash goes on the pie, looking worryingly like urinal cakes.

6 min - I love the way she's talking about these newfangled foodstuffs, it's like she's only been told they exist half an hour before they started shooting. You can imagine her in a corner talking to a clipboard-toting researcher - "Wait a minute. Run that past me again. Beans. And Sausages. In a Tin. Together? Why the fu..."

7 min - Mashed potato in a chocolate cake. What? Maybe she has run out of ideas after all. Nigel Slater appears, eating said cake, and he looks amazed when she tells him it's got mash in it. "There's something spicy in here too?", he says, frantically changing the subject. "It's five spice" Delia replies. "Ahhh, five spice!" says Nigel, probably thinking it was Harpic, or something.

9 min - The first mention of Norwich City. I was wondering when that was going to happen. Delia is one of the club directors at the perennial Championship makeweights. She wanders around the dressing room, checking on the players as if they are free range chickens. "They do look happy."

14 min - Delia's How To Wedge. Blimey. Apparently you heat them under the grill and throw plastic eggs on. It looks like the salads they serve at Pizza Hutt.

15 min - We're blending sauces now, to go over the wedges. I guess she must have drawn the line at Doritos Dippers. I wonder if Delia's mini blender will be on the shelves soon, like Jamie Oliver's 'Flavour Shaker', which has amateur chefs up and down the country standing in their kitchens making extravagant wanking motions.

17 min - A mysterious man appears. It's Mr Michael Delia. There's a touching interlude about how they met (apparently Delia was a bit of a looker). Nigel Slater seems to have disappeared.

22 min - She's got plenty of recipe books, that's for sure. "I like simple food - I've always hated theatre on a plate". She heads downstairs to make some rustic bread, which looks raw when she cuts it open. A quick flash of Nigel Slater jumping the fence in the background.

26 min - More Norwich City. They talk about the best Delia clip ever - where she charged onto the pitch at half time to shout LET'S BE 'AVIN YOU!!! encouragement at the home support, having had a few too many brandies beforehand. Michael Delia says "You can't visit an away football ground without someone coming up to you and shouting 'let's be havin' you!'" "Yeah," says Delia snippily, "So why do it again?". I swear - the very next shot is her having a drink.

27 min - Norwich beat Southampton 2-1. I wonder how many retakes that took? Meanwhile, back at her house, the cat's still looking for a way out.

28 min - 'Lazy soup'. "What you have to do, is simply open up the tin, thus, using a tin opener - if you have one, and gently stir. Now what you mustn't do, is allow it to boil, as this will impair the flavour. It says on the label, here."

29 min - More urinal cake potatoes.

29 min - Nigel Slater reappears, whispering to the crew about Delia, with a worried expression on his face. "She's taking shortcuts, but it's fine. We're still cooking. There's nothing wrong with that, these days. Can you take me with you?"

30 min - The cat seems to be dead.

30 min - Hands up, the lazy soup looks rather nice. I might even try and put one together. The episode ends with the crew tasting the soup. The soundman gets to try it. "Ooh, I wanna hear you slurp", says Delia. Or you'll end up like Nigel.

Next week, not How To Cheat at Taxes, or How to Cheat a Polygraph Test - but recipes involving tins and jars. Delia certainly moves with the times, that's for sure. Will spaghetti hoops make an appearance? What will be the mystery ingredient in the cake she makes for Nigel? Corned beef? I'm not sure I'll tune in to find out. For me, as soon as Emily from MasterChef gets her own series, the better. And as if my evening's disbelief hadn't been suspended enough, BBC2 then show a trailer for an Easter Passion Play which seems to have James Nesbitt as Pontius Pilot. Eh?

Delia Smith Online
Let's be 'aving you - Delia's drunken outburst at Norwich City (57,000 views on YouTube)
SoccerAM's fantastic Delia sketch

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Welcome...come on in

In the news this week, the UK Government are reported to be considering a tougher series of tests for would-be immigrants entering the country. Currently the longer you live here the better your chances, but it seems some folks might be told to pay into a 'transitional impact fund' which would be used to boost local services. I only hope that once they get in they get to complain about said local services, if they turn out to be crappy. If they can prove they are 'active' citizens (for example, if they do charity work), then they even get fast-tracked to Blighty. None of this applies to EU immigrants, strangely, who can just wave fistfuls of Euros at Heathrow and wander on in.

Anyway, a few months ago something similar was presented in Australia, and I had a go at taking the test to see if I'd qualify. I passed by a single point, which shows how the memories of down under have faded over the years. But what about a British test? What skills should potential immigrants bring into the mix? Rather than a question and answer session about who won what battle or how long Corrie has been on telly, maybe it should be a series of ways to act truly British. That way, newcomers could fit in right away, and not feel left out. Sure, drinking tea and being terrible at sport are easy ones, so you might only get a point or two for those - but for immigrants to really prosper here, they could do no worse than demonstrate some (or all) of the following...

Being overly protective of personal space
Personal space is the most precious of British commodities - or at least you'd think it was, given how we react when someone stands a bit too close in a lift. The test for this would be at a dentist's waiting room - watching the would-be immigrants as they carefully pick the seat the farthest away from everyone else, confiding in that peculiarly British invisible buffer.

Worrying about whether they can shout at someone else's kids
But they just dropped a crisp packet on the street! The bin's only over there, it's not like they couldn't have walked five yards. Is their Mum inside the Newsagents? Will they come out just in time to see me haranguing their children? Now they dropped some gum as well, it gets everywhere, especially if you tread it in. I should probably say, I might get happy-slapped.

Parking as exactly as possible
Not only do we have imaginary set-squares built in, so every kerb is always parallel, we love a chance to criticise others. The prospective immigrants would be judged on how they comment on a random street of parked cars. Too close to the kerb? Back wheels over a yellow line - ooohh, that'll be sixty quid, them parking fellas are right strict about it. Trust me, that car'll be gone in a few hours, off to the pound. And did I tell you about the time I was in France? (bonus points)

Eating food at inappropriate times
In Italy, gelato is eaten on whistful summer evenings. In the USA, big fat ice creams are eaten at the State Fair. In the UK, we eat Cornettos in November on gale-blasted beaches. And then straight afterwards, a bag of chips and vinegar. Mmmm.

Judging people by what papers they read
I told you he was a Telegraph reader, didn't I? Well, let me tell you this - next door - yep, them with the ostentatious conifer tubs - they take the Mail...and the Mail on Sunday. They don't get it just for the free DVD each week, I can tell you. And them at number 30? Guardian. I know. I know. Saw them leaving this morning, off to a farmers market no doubt. And at number 34 - well, the Colonel takes the Times - he's not a real Colonel, by the way - and his wife gets the Express. Yes, I know. And they have 'visitors' every Saturday night, curtains get drawn straight away. Our Dennis is in the Neighbourhood Watch, and he reckons...

Being suspicious of people who try to sell you things
This is the ultimate - every Brit is always on their guard for unwanted financial attention. Be it a crafty timeshare salesman in Magaluf, or the car credit ads on the telly - only a bona fide British person wouldn't fail to be deeply mistrustful of anyone who's job it is to sell you something complicated. The worst thing any of these employees can do is utter something along the lines of "Well, in the long run, it can save you money". This is the key part of the immigration test - any applicant who immediately turns down whatever they are offering on the basis that it's probably to good to be true, is welcome in our country.

British citizenship tests planned [BBC]

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Popular Pics 2

I wasn't kidding when I thought it might take a while to narrow down all the photos - seems like I've taken hundreds over the years. Last time I had a list of the most popular photos of mine on Flickr that other people have been looking at or searching for, but this time they are my favourites. I couldn't decide on a final eight, so you've got nine instead. First up, a chance photo of the sunset taken on board a flight from London to Edinburgh - I love the colours either side of the wing.

Next, the aptly-named Shell Beach in Tarbert, Argyll. Loch Fyne is world-famous for seafood, and the mountains of washed-up scallop shells make it look almost Mediterranean, especially in the distinctly un-Scottish sunshine. This is one of those times where you fluke something with a picture - I put the camera on my foot to get some of the shells in the foreground, and amazingly got a yacht right dead centre of the photo - I didn't even notice it was there until I checked the camera.

A long distance from Argyll - this is also called Shell Beach, and is near Monkey Mia in Western Australia. Also made from countless scallops, it stretched off in a long curve for many miles. The bus group I was with stopped for a swim because of the 35°C heat, but this proved difficult as the bay was so shallow you could walk out for twenty minutes and not get the bottom of your shorts wet. I went to take a picture of a few of the guys doing just that, when a girl who's name I can't remember ran out to snap the rest of us sitting in a line on the beach. I like this picture so much, it's the background wallpaper on my laptop - as you can see on the right of the blog there.

I don't think I'm a good photographer by any means, most of them seem to come out through sheer luck - but this was one I worked on. The only room in the Louvre with British paintings (these are by Edinburgh's own Sir Henry Raeburn), people tend to push through quickly on the way to somewhere else. I sat down on one of the benches and tried to get people in between the paintings - I think I took three or four before this woman walked past at a fair old lick, gallery map in hand, and I got her lined up just right.

The wobbly Millenium Bridge in London is one of the most photographed sites in the city - it connects the Tate Modern to St Paul's Cathedral at Blackfriars. When it was opened, 80,000 people went over it on the first day - but quickly problems with the mountings caused it to wobble, and it was closed. After an expensive refit, it re-opened and all was well. I like the line of clouds building over the dome of the Cathedral.

Scotland has some incredible scenery, and none more than the islands off the west coast. Lismore looks as flat as a piece of paper, but has a few hundred inhabitants and an important amount of wildlife. The ubiquitous blue and white CalMac ferries chug around the islands connecting everything, and I took this picture from the top of Duart Castle on the Isle of Mull, as the ferry to one of the outlying islands steams past on the way back to Oban.

I think if I had to pick a favourite of these eight, it would be this one. The monuments of Washington DC are better seen at night, as the crowds are less, and they look amazing illuminated by giant spotlights - especially the Lincoln Memorial. Made out of striking white marble, I wandered up and took a photo of Abe just as a girl decided to take a picture of herself with her mobile phone. I could get all pretentious about the light from the statue and the light from the phone - and the fact that Abe seems to be looking right at her, but I'll try not to... ;)

I'm seriously colourblind, but even I can see the greens and reds going on here. The Ganmangafuchi Abyss in Nikko features dozens of Jizou statues, to the spirits of departed children. Clothed in disctinctive red bibs and covered in moss, it's said to be impossible to count them as they mischievously move around when your back's turned, to make sure you get it wrong. They are also only found on one side of the river, as the Japanese believe they are the guardians between one life and the next.

Come on, you didn't think I could do this and not put at least one photo of Sydney in? The best view from a train station in the world - Circular Quay is on the city circle route of several CityRail lines, and is a stone's throw from the harbour. Everyone takes the bridge photo from the outside platform (or from the Cahill Expressway above, which used to be part of my walk home from work) - but if you go down one escalator and up another you can get all arty-farty and frame it like this.

Anyhow, so these are my favourite photos from my years of crazing about, excuse the pretentious post - next time I'll be back talking about pies or somethi...oohh...the top eight pies from my travels...