Friday, 28 January 2011

Knowing Your Shit From Your Shinola

I was curious to read that Portsmouth Council are stopping a long running car boot sale in order to gentrify the Southsea area as they consider consider car boot sales to be "down-market".

Tired of the empty cardboard boxes, assorted detritus and the low standard of goods on sale the council views the markets as a scourge that repels tourists.

Seafront manager David Evans said:

"There were never supposed to be car boot sales. We will do all we can to support events on the sea-front, and we want better quality events than this."

Cllr Lee Hunt, the council’s leader for culture and leisure, agreed that boot sales lower the tone.

"We can have a better standard of event here. At the moment you get people driving from Essex, selling old things from the back of a white Transit, and driving home."

As a long term lover of car boot sales I find this move to eliminate them a travesty. Whilst there is undeniably plenty of tat being sold they are not an eyesore, far from a chav-fest and there are plenty of bargains to be had if you are prepared to look.

My love for boot sales comes from my Dad (a much travelled tight arse) who use to drag us around the "rastros" (spanish flea markets) during our time living on the Costa Blanca. It was nice to be out in the country on a bright sunny day with all the stalls and intersting people milling about.

After moving back to England I indulged my pursuit of bargains through Britain's passion for boot sales. Britons spend over £2.5m at car boot sales and this figure is likely to rise as money gets tighter and the public overcome their snobishness.

"But there's nothing but fake phone covers, dodgy DVD's and your gran's old pants" you shout.

Well, that's where you're wrong. Despite the influx of professional traders who sell dodgy, poorly made goods you still find plenty of real people doing their spring cleaning and getting rid of unwanted goods in perfect condition.

I used to by a lot of C.D and vinyl which were as good as new and I amassed quite a collection. Now with mp3 I need a boot sale of my own. I have bought used Levi's at a fraction of the cost of the high street. African masks, rare pictures, musical instruments, professional saucepans, computer games, golf clubs. You name I've bought it.

With the current vogue for recycling having a car boot sale is a no brainer. Stuff that would either be chucked down the tip or taken to the local charity shop can be exchanged for money. Punters can get a bargain and you can make few quid and clear up some house space. Plus you are saving the planet for the price of an early morning alarm call.

On top of this benevolence you also get a pleasant way of whiling away a couple of hours on a Sunday. I find "boots" to be very relaxing and far from the pikey, garbage-fests our esteemed public servants perceive them to be. That said the tastes of Brightonians are a little more refined then those of our Pompey neighbours. Perhaps they have more Chavs with unwanted George of Asda hoodies to dispose of?

Naysayers say car boot sales are inhabited by human cockroaches feeding off other peoples garbage but I like to think that one person's junk is another person's treasure.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Great Touch For A Big Man

Being feted as Britain's brainiest footballer is akin to being lauded as the least corrupt member of FIFA or Bulgaria's most beautiful shot-putter. In short: it's not really something worth bragging about.

That said, Clarke Carlisle performance on this weeks Question Time was nothing short of revelatory. In a week where Jermaine Pennant was dumb enough to forget he even owned an £98000 Porsche left rusting away for 5 months at a Zaragoza train station, to see Clarke holding his own amongst senior political heavyweights was a refreshing surprise.

In the company of such seasoned orators as George Galloway, Alistair Campbell and David Dimbleby, Carlisle displayed an intelligence and loquaciousness that make him look like the John F. Kennedy of the footballing world.

Carlisle has previous though. He won a one off game show called "Britain's Brainiest Footballer" in 2002 which had such intellectual colossi as Alan Brazil and Malcolm MacDonald amongst its contestants. He also appeared on Countdown in 2010 and won his episode.

"I can't say it's better than winning a big football game - but it's up there."

Apart from his day job as Burnley's centre-back he is also Chairman of the PFA. Not bad for a guy who was struggling with alcohol abuse as recently as 2003.

Whilst tempers were fraying with Galloway accusing Campbell of having Iraqi blood on his hands in his sexing up the "dodgy dossier" and Campbell accusing Galloway of sucking up to former dictator Saddam Hussein, Clarke maintained an air of cool dignity.

When the time came to make his point he made an impassioned speech indicating that he would like to see anyone responsible for sending our brave soldiers to war being held accountable should that war be found to be illegal. As his own cousin is currently serving in Afghanistan it was obvious that this wasn't idle politicking.

He even managed to get some football related metaphors on the topic of NHS reforms.

"One area that did catch my eye was the cutting out of the middlemen for GPs. Now this is something akin to my own industry, it's like putting a director of football in a football club to control player acquisitions. He might see a player he thinks is valuable, buy him for the team but the actual manager doesn't believe this guy fits into what he needs for his team. Now this can cause friction between manager and board level."

On the subject of the uneasy Con-Dem coalition there were more sporting comparisons

"the best teams and most successful teams are the ones that have every worker pulling in the same direction. You have to compromise when you have conflicting views and as we're finding with this new coalition, when you compromise you come to some very unhappy results."

Afterwards Clarke openly admitted that appearing on the programme was

"way out of his comfort zone"

and probably the scariest thing he has ever done.

Surely not as scary as playing away at The Den on a cold Tuesday night though, eh Clarke?

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Fish...which is my favourite dish.

As a man who does a lot of cooking I have mixed emotions about celebrity chefs. On one hand you can pick up some useful ideas from their shows and on the other hand some of their creations are an exercise in "look what a talented chef I am. Really, I'm fucking awesome. I'm showing you how to make this fantastic creation but you plebs will have no chance at making it. Yours will probably come out looking like a science experiment but I'll patronise you anyway so you buy my book".

That said a few are doing a bit more then flog their wares and making housewives feel inferior. They are doing something, dare i say it, useful.

Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsay, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and Heston Blumenthal have got together with Channel 4 to back a campaign highlighting some of the mad, bad and sad practices of the fishing industry.

Did you know that half of the fish caught in the North Sea get thrown back dead as EU quotas only allow a certain amount of commonly eaten fish to be caught? If fisherman accidentally catch over-quota fish they are forced to throw them back.

Also intensive modern fishing methods cannot selectively distinguish the types of fish caught. So anything that isn't going to sell gets chucked back in dead. This is perfectly good tasty fish and I'm sure you'd agree, a disgusting waste of resources. Oh, and if the odd dolphin gets sucked up in the nets, well, that's just too bad.

Cod, salmon and tuna account for ovr 50% of fish we eat in the UK and the celebtrity chefs are trying to diversify our eating habits as this will influence the stocks on supermarket shelves. At the end of the day the customer is king and the supermarkets want your money. Start askng for pouting, dab or sardines and supermarkets will start stocking the kind of fish that normally gets wasted.

Jamie Oliver says:

"Our appetite for the same fish, day in, day out, is sucking the seas dry. We don't need to stop eating them but if we try a few different fish as well, it will help take some of the pressure off."

Hugh's online campaign calling on the EU to act to cut the vast number of dead fish being thrown overboard reached half a million signatures this week.

In fact Fearnley-Whittingstall has already struck a blow for dwindling fish stocks by persuading Tesco to exclusively source tuna caught by pole and line (the most sustainable form of fishing) for their own brand canned tuna. As they are the major player in the UK and Brits are the 2nd largest consumer of tuna in the world this is great news.

I am partial to a bit of fish as it about the healthiest meal you can eat without sticking exclusively to lettuce leaves. On my recent jaunts I have sampled the delights of locally caught cajun catfish, crawfish and caribbean red snapper. We have similarly light, tasty and healthy options in British seas that you can try for your evening din-dins.

I fully support this initiative and you should too. Sign the petition here

Friday, 14 January 2011

NEON MESSIAH: Film Review - 127 Hours

NEON MESSIAH: Film Review - 127 Hours: "Would you cut your arm off to stay alive? It is a concept that's beyond the realms of comprehension for most of us whose day-to-day worrie..."

Film Review - 127 Hours

Would you cut your arm off to stay alive? It is a concept that's beyond the realms of comprehension for most of us whose day-to-day worries never extend to more then whether we are going to have a chinese or an indian for dinner.

This simple premise is one that self-centred climber Aron Ralston (James Franco) had to contemplate in 2003 after becoming trapped inside a deserted canyon in Utah when a falling boulder crushes his right arm against a rock face. As the hours tick by, and his rations run out it looks increasingly likely that unless he takes drastic measures Ralston is to become a permanent fixture of Blue John Canyon.

Described by Boyle as an "action movie with a guy who can't move", 127 Hours is a cinematic lesson in how to make the impossible film. Boyle has challenged himself to create a film where everyone without exception knows what is going to happen (come on, have you been living under a rock?), there is practically only one character and the set-up lacks the normal story-telling tools like character interaction, plot-twists and dialogue trade-offs.

The fact that the film is a triumph is mainly down to the fact that Boyle cannot physically make a bad film. Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, The Beach, 28 Days Later, Sunshine, Slumdog Millionaire; they have all shown he can tackle any practically any subject with style and panache.

Boyle really manages to convey the claustrophobia of Ralston's rock encased tomb. As the canyon is his whole world for 127 hours tiny movements in such a cramped space are given much significance. We get close-ups of giant ants running over his body or Ralston sucking the last drops of water from his canteen shot from the bottom of the bottle, Ralston tongue squirming about in a desperate attempt to get to the water. Boyle manages to make a scene where Ralston has to retrieve his knife from the canyon floor with his toes and a twig feel like he has just completed a marathon.

127 Hours is stylishly executed from the split screen start, through a delerium-induced fantasy sequences right through to the final euphoric AR Rahman backed musical denouement.

Directorial pyrotecnics not withstanding this movie would not be half as captivating without James Franco's mesmerising potrayal that many didn't see coming. He is usually employed as on screen eye candy or is found hamming it up in films like Spiderman 3. Whether it be playing up the of Ralston's over-confident nature or the extreme desperation of a man sceaming for help who realises that he won't be missed and no help will reach him.

Despite the character flaws Franco makes Ralston look sympathetic enough to root for whilst he tries every trick in the book to make it out alive.

Of course the money scene is the arm amputation. Everybody knows it is coming but that does not deaden its impact. I don't rememeber the last time I was so unsettled when going to the cinema (it was probably the Blair Witch Project with the advance hype proclaiming to be the scariest film ever made - it wasn't). I guarantee you will either have to turn away or as I did watch the scene through your fingers.

It actually took Ralston a hour to cut off his arm with his blunt penknife and you get it all in bone-breaking, tendon-snapping, blood 'n guts gory detail. It is gruesome, visceral and shocking.

The film reminded me a lot of Into The Wild with both central characters at odds with the modern world. Both turn their backs on civilisation and long for the simple peace that nature brings. However, when the chips are down only one of them is fortunate enough to realise that you cannot live your life without the support of other human beings. Ultimately this is Ralston's salvation.

A fine film that is generating a well deserved Oscar buzz for Franco. If anything it will give you new insight into what a desperate man is capable of.

8 out of 10

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Seperated at Birth

Can you guess the names of these famous footballers and their stupid silly hair (Answers at the bottom of the blog)


1: Abel Xavier

2: Djibril Cisse

3: Rigobert Song

4: Alex Song

5: Brian Kilcline

6: Carlos Valderamma

7: King Neptune

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents: BBC3, 9pm

The lads/lasses holiday is a British institution. It is a chance for horny kids to leave their parents for a week and go bananas. It is also an opportunity to stay in a sh*tty hotel/mobile home/tent, get hammered every night, wake up at 14:00 and start the whole process again . For 17 year olds this is enormous fun. If you are really lucky you might cop of with a drunken, sunburnt hairdresser from Preston.

The pocket money paying for this teenage rite of passage has succeeded in remodelling the whole Mediterranean, transforming it into an adolescent paradise. It really doesn’t matter what resort you decide to visit these days; Kavos, Faliraki or Playa De Las Americas; they are all pretty much identical now. From Spain right through to Turkey, the coast has changed from sleepy fishing villages to tacky Brit pubs, McDonalds and vomit strewn streets of debauchery.

I had my own slice of teenage rebellion between the ages of 17 and 19 as I organised a 6 man trip to Canet Plage (defining memory: trying to pull to the sounds of Baby D’s Let Me Be Your Fantasy ), a 12 man trip to Sanguli (jumping into a fountain, puking up bile, ants in the tent, strutting my stuff at a male model contest) and an 18 man trip to Lloret Del Mar (talking camp security out of arresting some of the group). All of them involved booze, birds, scrapes and assorted high jinks. As a teen it has to be done. However, looking at the scenes in Malia it seems that things have ratcheted up a notch since my comparatively innocent generation.

Following the grand tradition of programmes where those less inclined to wave their penis about on the street can gawp with bemused fascination at the comings and goings of today’s holiday making youth (Ibiza Uncovered and UK Club Reps) Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents: BBC3, 9pm takes us on a weeklong bender with two groups of teens as they “let their hair down”. The twist is that their parents are also invited along to spy on the kids from discreet vantage points as the spew, pull and carouse their way around the town.

Why anyone would want to watch there kids get up to the sort of things defeats me but I guess they all got a free holiday out of it.

In the first of the series we follow the exploits of parents of 18-year-old Joe and Millie in Malia; a god forsaken hell hole in Crete.

Joe seems like a intelligent lad but things take a turn as on a drunken night out he gets separated from his group. Bare chested, dressed in a tutu and wearing pink nail varnish he is accosted by a couple of lads who seem to sexually assault him as they force him to snog one of them and simulate buggery. When confronted by this event in the cold light of the day Joe has no recollection of the encounter. When Joe’s Dad watches his highlights you can see the colour drain from his face.

In fact there is lot of “male bonding” in Joe’s supposedly straight group and there seems to be a lot of hand-holding, hugging and mock-kissing. What’s wrong with a good old fashioned hand shake? With that rugby club logic it seems the height of masculinity must be noshing off your mates in order to prove how heterosexual you really are.

After some drinking games lead to prolonged puking in a toilet Joe explains that he feels rejuvenated when he is sick and “can go again”.

On the second to last night one of Joe’s friends get smacked in the face by a random passerby for no apparent reason and has to have an operation that hospitalises him and stops him flying back with the others. It’s all in a weeks fun when you are with the lads.

Millie’s group were much more innocent and despite a bit of innocent flirting with the water-ski instructor (nicknamed “Adonis”) which peters out when they don’t instantly fellate him and some drunken late nights no one was filmed legs akimbo in the middle of Malia high-street. Millie’s over-protective Mum is forced to admit that perhaps her daughter is becoming a woman and can be trusted to leave the nest without getting murdered.

Perhaps the producers wanted to show that not all teens are mindless hedonists. I venture that show would have been more eye-opening with a lot more sex and filth if the producers had selected a couple of chavs rather then some well-bred middle class darlings and it wasn’t shown on BBC3. Perhaps they are saving that delight for a cable channel.

A couple of moments really made me LOL. First was Joe stocking up on Pot Noodle from the local English shop in order to save money for booze. As he isn’t a complete pikey he decides to spice up this culinary delight with some frozen mussels but he doesn’t know how to cook them. The kindly hotel owner gives him a recipe but he decides it is too much hassle.

“The good thing about Pot Noodle is that it has spices, chicken and sweet corn all mixed in it already”

To take things further he pours the gruesome contents from the pot onto a plate as to his eyes

“It looks more gourmet”

The second hilarious moment is when the nervous parents walk down Malia high street on their way to one of the clubs and whilst witnessing the carnage around them a random guy pulls down his pants in front of the camera, tucks his knob between his legs and shouts


Surely a place on the Malia Tourist Board beckons.