Monthly Archives: March 2014

The Million Pound Necklace – Inside Boodles – Review

Luxury jeweller ‘Boodles’ is a family run affair with a pleasing company name. You can just imagine rich and fabulous ladies of leisure returning home to their husbands with a sweeping, ‘oh darling, I have just spent simply oodles at Boodles!’ and their husbands oddly replying, ‘darling, that’s totally fine’.

At ‘Boodles’, the customer service is impeccable. Read ‘nauseatingly sycophantic’. Rich housewives can spend the afternoon being fawned over, sipping champagne and trying on diamond bracelets, uttering clatteringly obvious things like, ‘oh this is just gorrrrrgeous’ while turning over their bony, tanned wrists over in the air.

The ‘Boodles’ customer, we’re told, is ‘someone who enjoys wearing jewellery’. They also seem to have expensive looking highlights, yachts docked in Monaco and I detected a Scandinavian look to a lot of them, but I don’t know if that’s important. Especially loyal customers are even allowed to borrow pieces from time to time, to wear on outings. Excuse me ‘Boodles’, but I enjoy wearing jewellery. Can I borrow something for tomorrow? I’m going to Sainsburys.

The programme focussed on Jody Wainright, son of ‘Boodles’ Chairman, and with the ridiculous job title, ‘Head of Stone Sourcing’, he looked like a cross between Bud Fox (Wall Street) and Ken (Mr Barbie). He announced proudly that he ‘love[d] emeralds’ (well who doesn’t?) and more than once during the hour long programme he likened the appearance of a huge diamond to a Fox’s Glacier Mint.

Jody started out by purloining a whacking load of huge emeralds and then the ‘Boodles’ team had a meeting to decide what to make them into. I would have suggested a City, for the Wizard of Oz to reside (naturally), but instead they went for a ‘suite’ of jewellery, with a ‘foliage motif’.

That done and dusted, another meeting was then called to discuss what could be next and Jody said he’d like to acquire a massive diamond. A really big one. Like a 14 carat. This went down very well with the ‘Boodles’ management team. ‘Good idea!’ *back slaps* I’m sorry, but I think I could easily get a job at ‘Boodles’ based on my observations of these meetings. ‘Let’s get a gigantic diamond! One HUNDRED carats!’. ‘Yes! I like the cut of your jib!’ Piece of cake.

Jody’s Diamond Dealer was Saul Goldberg, who had diamonds to sell. Why? I’m not too sure. On career day at school I must have missed the talk about becoming a Diamond Dealer, instead hearing only the option to do an apprenticeship in hairdressing. Goldberg’s back office looked like a scene from ‘The Merchant of Venice’. With the diamond cutter humming away in the background, Jody haggled for a handful of diamonds. ‘But what will ‘Boodles’ do with them?’ you ask. Hmm, I feel another management meeting coming on.

At the end of the programme, the emerald necklace was finished and hawk-eyed Jody inspected it closely, no doubt to see how much it looked like a Fox’s Glacier Mint. It passed the test, and for £2.8 million it can be yours. Available to buy from Harrods. I would, but I’ve already got a bag of Glacier Mints in my car.

Catch up on The Million Pound Necklace: Inside Boodles on 4seven tonight at 7pm

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Louis Theroux’s LA Stories ‘City of Dogs’

Hooray for a new series from the documentary maker who first pointed out to us that Savile was a bit creepy. ‘I called my mother ‘The Duchess’. Here’s her wardrobe of clothes, just as she left them’. Shudder. Sorry, let’s not think about it. This three part series is about life in Los Angeles and this week it was ‘a journey through canine companionship’.

Now first, a warning. The programme contained upsetting scenes of dogs: bad, delinquent, street dogs, ‘weaponised’ dogs and dogs with ‘broken hearts’.

We met Cornelius Austen or ‘Dog Man’ who was a self confessed ‘pit-bull enthusiast’. Not the Hispanic rapper/singer-kind (wooo-eeee!), but the snarling, drooling, barking kind. Like a dog-themed Pied Piper, he cared for the abandoned dogs of LA, cruising round in his car and telling us, ‘there is no dog, I can’t get’. I bet he couldn’t get one of the Queen’s corgies. Or Lassie. When happening upon a particularly troubled dog, choking back tears, he translates for us the violent barking as, ‘I’m in pain. I have fleas. My heart is broken’. Dog Man himself was a friendly ex-gang member, who seemed the forlorn keeper of a broken heart. He’d lost his mother and father early on, and his relationship had recently broken down, seemingly in a dog-related dispute. She said, ‘all you do is help people with their dogs, and I’m tired of it’. We could sort of see her point. But Dog Man was undeterred – ‘I’m a dog man, and I’m going to be a dog man ‘til I die’. Girl, there’s just no reasoning with a man like that *Finger snaps in a ‘Z’*.

Then there was Malcolm, who kept a ‘weaponised dog’ for protection, under a sign that said ‘Beware of the Dog’. Somehow, the sign didn’t really emphasise the situation strongly enough. ‘Run for your life’ might have been more appropriate.

Retired fire-fighter Greg had a scary looking Doberman called Lexi whom he lovingly told, ‘I will never leave you’. He went on to tell us that he’d been abandoned as a child by his father. ‘Ohhhhh, ok’, we nodded solemnly, as a nation.

Max and Nancy were flaky, arty types who were the wholly unlikely owners of a little black and white nightmare called Casper. In the seemingly heart-warming story of how they came to own this dog they told us, ‘he was staring at us through the bars and (we) just fell in love with him’. On their very first family walk, they realised Casper had ‘some problems’. Seems like what they thought was the look of love was actually the look of, ‘I want to bite you to death’. As they cowered in the corner of their sitting room, it was clear that little Casper had completely ruined their lives. Louis pointed out that if a human behaved this way, they’d ‘be acting like a dick’ and to be fair, Casper was acting like a bit of a dick. Sadly, after attacking Nancy’s ankle, we learned that Casper had been put down and that they now had a much more suitable pet called Belvedere whowas much calmer and more like a cushion than a dog.

The South LA dog pound was a wretched place where dogs rarely came back out. Reminiscent of Death Row in Louis’s previous docu-series, ‘Miami Mega Jail’, dogs snarled and growled and one by one were selected for the long walk. It was sad to see these hopeless creatures, so mistreated that they were now too aggressive to coexist with humans. Kennel Manager Leslie said that all her staff take Xanax to cope with the sadness. Seemingly, whether you’re a dog or human being, a broken heart is a broken heart. Tune in next week for another likely sob-fest when Louis looks at how Americans handle death.

Louis Theroux’s LA Stories airs Sundays on BBC2 from 9pm

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David Attenborough’s First Life – Review

While everyone else was having fun watching ‘The Voice’ Saturday night, I was learning about fossils. Well someone had to. They don’t make these programmes for fun you know.

Fortunately for me, this was the start of a two-part series which, if you didn’t catch it the first time round, is being shown again on BBC4. Ah, David Attenborough. Is there anything in this universe more wonderful than a series courtesy of this lovely old thing? He should have his own channel where his work is endlessly repeated like ‘Friends’. We love his reassuring voice, his witty narration and the way he shows us things we didn’t know existed. I think I’d like David Attenborough’s voice to be the last thing I ever hear, ‘Come towards the light, everything will be OK’. I certainly hope that while the BBC are sending him on these expeditions, they are simultaneously working out how to ensure he never dies. I noticed last night that he was walking with a bit of a limp. Gulp.

In ‘First Life’ David told us that he had travelled ‘around the world and back in time’ to make the programme. Nice work if you can get it. The standard camera shot when he says something is either of him crouching (which he’s a bit old for now) but increasingly it’s of him standing on a cliff, filmed from a helicopter. ‘Dave, we’re flying round again OK? Just keep standing there’.

‘First Life’ is a bit less exciting than the usual Attenborough documentary, mainly as all the creatures he describes have been dead for 3 billion years. And actually, they weren’t that great even when they were alive,. A slug, with one tubular leg. A piece of leaf. But nevertheless, it was an evolutionary start. Sort of like ‘Pop Idol’ ten years ago, as compared to ‘The Voice’. We’ve definitely improved.

With help of loads of paleontologists (I absolutely challenge you not to think about ‘Friends’), we saw how single cell organisms, without much going for them, became multi-cellular ‘Charnia’. A plant-like proto-animal, immobile, surviving mostly in the dark and on just bits of dissolved carbon. This made me feel nostalgic for my student days.

In Australia’s barrier reef, we learnt that sponges are alive. Did you know that? Wow, I think I’ve got some major apologising to do in the bathroom. To reduce a sponge to its individual cells, the paleontologists forced it through a sieve using a syringe, which apparently ‘seems brutal but is of no consequence the sponge’. OK, I’ve never done anything that bad.

Nothing gives you perspective like a documentary about fossils. Feeling a bit anxious? Think you might have screwed up at work? Concerned that you’ve piled on a few pounds over Christmas? Well this rock is 3 billion years old and this slug mashed into it, survived in the dark, at the bottom of the sea, by hoovering up bits of dust, so get a bloody grip. Life is sweet.

Creatures that look like bits of old chewing gum were never going to send your Saturday night into orbit, but it was still Attenborough. The teaser for episode two was, ‘there were about to be some animals’… OK Dave, I’ll give you one more chance.

Catch the second part of David Attenborough’s First Life on Saturday at 7pm on BBC4 – or if your Saturday is otherwise occupied, repeats are shown Wednesdays at 10pm on BBC4

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Davina – Beyond Breaking Point – Review

Well, I’m utterly traumatised. This programme was a gruelling 60 minutes of Davina McCall trying to raise money for a worthy cause in Kenya. The cause in brief was explained to us through two people, the first a young woman, a drowsy baby slung on her back, who breaks stone all day in a scorching quarry for just a few pounds. The second a little girl, who spends long, hot days smashing rocks with a hammer to earn money, but who has a collection of tattered textbooks, from which she’s trying to learn on her own, hoping to become a doctor. Eeesh. OK Davina, say no more, go for it.

The darling of TV’s plan was to batter herself, both physically and emotionally, from Edinburgh to London, through rain, snow, up mountains, across lakes, cycling up 45 degree hills, and then we could donate to the Kenyan project. Oh it was awful. Why must charity be so cruel? Davina’s like our mum. Our big sister. Our best mate. So this was essentially the equivalent of watching David Attenborough (our much-loved national Grandad) being shoved into a bin by some bullies.

Davina’s husband Matthew, is even lovelier than Davina. All starry, blue eyes and a warm, soft beard, saying how proud he is of his wife. Oh, SOB. And she hadn’t even left yet. We prepared for tears and boy oh boy did Davina deliver them.

It was pretty much constant crying from the very beginning. Extra hormonal, it would seem, as the night before the challenge kicked off she told us that she’d just got her period. Slightly awkward for all the dads who were only watching for a bit of cycling. Shuffle. Go and make a cup of tea.

Day 1 was Edinburgh to Keswick and off she pedalled. I felt tired straight away. Hours of brutal pedalling into the wind, with ‘celebrity trainer’, Greg, pedalling furiously next to her on his skinny racing bike. We were told that his presence beside her was to ‘protect Davina from the wind’ but with that, Greg promptly fell off his bike and onto the wet road. Davina’s face crumpled for the 47th time that day. Poor Greg.

On Day 3 came the dreaded crossing of Lake Windermere. It seemed a misty and freezing prospect as surveyed from the jetty. ‘Fear has taken over,’ Greg warned us, as he climbed into his wetsuit. ‘I’m going to be ok,’ sobbed Davina. Greg gave her a firm clutch on the shoulders. ‘You’re going to be fine.’ 60 in metres into the swim, Greg swimming by her side like a faithful hound, Davina was in a right state. A few hours later, her near- lifeless body bobbed limply to the jetty and she was dragged out and treated for apparently terrifying-looking death symptoms. Shivering on her bed she croaked, ‘Is Greg alright? He said he was cold.’ Well I’m glad someone finally thought to remember poor Greg. Yes, thank you for asking, Greg’s fine.

By day 6, Davina was a bit less whiny. The sun was out and the massive-fringed Claudia Winkleman was there to cheer her on. Just the sight of that ridiculous fringe is enough to make anyone smile.

Finally, a shattered looking Davina ran across the Millennium Bridge and into the reassuring beard of her lovely husband. ‘I’ve got to stop crying!’ she shouted into the microphone. Yes. Yes you do. And can somebody please get Greg a glass of water?

Text the words FIVE or TEN to 70510 and donate that number of pounds to the women of Kenya. Go on Davina my girl. Well done.

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This week I’m worrying about…

Euromillons winner, Neil Trotter

Seething with jealousy yesterday, I watched the Euromillions winner’s press conference. Neil Trotter and his partner Nicky Ottaway have scooped £108 million and there they were, bold as brass and  grinning behind their huge fat cheque. They’ve quit their jobs. They’ve been to look at cars. Yeah yeah we get it, just go! I was worried by two things: First, Neil said he was driving to work when ‘something told (him) to buy a Euromillons ticket’. What told you, Neil? A voice? A little beetle on the passenger seat? Was it the same thing that ‘tells’ me to recklessly throw my house keys in the river every time I walk across Magdalene Bridge? Because I’ve been ignoring that very hard, and maybe I shouldn’t. Secondly, with a quick raise of the eyebrows, Nicky said they’d been ‘emergency shopping’ the day before. For what? What did they need that they couldn’t have needed, before the win? Clothes? Food? What was the emergency? I’m worried. And annoyed. Seethe.

The new £1 coin

It’s been announced that we’re getting a new, dodecagon shaped (yes I looked it up) £1 coin which we’re told looks like an old threepenny bit. I don’t remember the old threepenny, nor the old six-pence shilling-a-bob and half a crown, but I’m told that for just a handful of them, you could buy a house? Apparently the new coin is to combat counterfeiting, presumably as thieves can’t be bothered to make 12 sided coins. George Osborne took the prototype coin round to show the Queen last night which hopefully went well. Should we be minting a shed load of new coins with the Queen on…at this stage?

Ely Cathedral

They’re filming again and this time it’s ‘Macbeth’ starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard.  If you take a stroll past today you’ll see movie trailers, lots of equipment, several huge, flaming torches and some actors striding round in Shakespearean robes. As a resident of Ely myself, I’m very excited to have such glamorousness beamed into my dreary life for a few days.  I’m sure Ely Cathedral is paid handsomely for lending itself to a film crew and fair enough, as it costs £2000 per day to maintain! Seems an awful lot. I digress. My main worry is the cast of ‘Macbeth’. What are they up to in the evenings? I’d like to hereby publically invite Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard round to my house tonight as I have some sausages that need cooking. See you at 7?

Sport Relief

Raising money for the poor and disadvantaged is an excellent way to spend time. However, I’m a bit worried about the lengths people are going to to raise money  for the cause. There was poor Davina a few weeks ago and her sponsored drowning in Lake Windermere. I still have nightmares about watching her sobbing and bedraggled on BBC breakfast that week. Next it’s John Clyde, who is covering 290 ‘brutal’ miles on foot, rowing and cycling. Frank Skinner who’s gravely afraid of water is going swimming, and David Walliams is swimming down the Thames. Unhygienic. What’s next? Ferne Cotton is dangled into a crocodile infested river? Fiona Bruce spends the night in a skip? Enough. Can’t we just donate the money without all this pain?

First published by Cambridge News

Live from Space: Lap of the Planet – Review

Now, I’m a pragmatist. I know that in the scheme of things 90 minutes isn’t that long a time when you’re doing a lap of the ENTIRE PLANET. But settling down to ‘Live From Space’ felt like a lengthy commitment. Especially when ‘The Voice’ was on BBC1.
It got off to a great start with International Space Station (ISS) astronaut, Koichi Wakata, being interviewed in front of a massive sign that said ‘Hatch, EXIT’. All slightly unnerving and very cool. Impressive cloudscapes and recognisable landmass views made it feel exciting, like being on an aeroplane, but much better, as we were safely on our sofas.
However, within 4 minutes it was, unfortunately, just like being on aeroplane. My head pressing against the cold plastic window as I stared out at the clouds, I started fancying a gin and tonic. I was thinking about spending £35 on an aeroplane chicken sandwich. I was bored.
There was a massive delay with the live link. Again, I’m pragmatic, but it was a bit of a bore. Presenter, Dermot O’Leary did his best. ‘Koichi, what can you see right now?’ MASSIVE PAUSE. ‘Hi Dermot, yes I can still see the Andes’. Cut to blue sky, clouds, some dots far below. ‘Wow’, said Dermot. I was unconvinced, and I also had a strange inflight-urge to buy a teddy bear wearing flight goggles.
Strangely, the Twitter population seemed to be finding ‘Live From Space’ fascinating. Were we watching different shows? ‘This is amazing’, ‘Incredible’, ‘I’m transfixed’ they chorused.
Aside from tweets such as, ‘Show more northern lights you dicks’, Twitter did come up with some intelligent questions for @SpaceLive: ‘Do you have the concept of a day?’, ‘Can you see natural disasters happening?’, ‘How does your vantage point make you feel about International conflict?’ Sadly, Derm didn’t ask any of these. He did, however, ask the astronauts to do a few spins.
Best bits of the programme included an item on space junk and how it can smash up a space station (Hope Koichi wasn’t watching that bit), seeing the sun rise over the horizon and a moving account of 9/11 as seen from the ISS. There was touching footage of the commander playing the bugle for his dead friend that day. Always pack your bugle when going into space. You just never know.
Stephen Hawking was involved (of course) and had a terrifying prophetic warning, saying the human race are going to need a ‘Plan B’. By the end of the century he hopes we’re all living on Mars. What?! Errr, you guys go on ahead, I’ll catch you up.
With Stephen’s words of doom ringing ominously in our ears, Derm just breezed past it and cracked on. Keep it light guys. What a pro.
This programme really just confirmed what I have long suspected. Space is both infinitely magnificent and magnificently dull, all at the same time.

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