All posts by aliceband1

Ten Music Videos That Completely Ruined The Song

Don’t you just hate when the video for a brilliant song totally ruins it? Maybe the singer isn’t how you’d pictured them. Or maybe seeing the video forces a dodgy storyline into your head, so that forever when you see ‘Seven Days’ by Craig David, you think of him telling the whole thing to his barber. Weird. Craig, why did you do that? Here are ten of the worst instances where music videos utterly destroyed a perfectly good song.

1. Gotta Get Thru This – Daniel Bedingfield

Poor old Daniel Bedingfield. It was always going to be harder for him with such a terribly normal name. (See also: Peter Andre). These guys would be absolutely fine working at Costa, but in the music charts? No. Usually in these circumstances, people change their names completely. Like Harry Webb who became Cliff Richard or Reginald Dwight who became Elton John. But not Bedingfield. He soldiered on confident that the music would help us see past the name and actually, he was right. ‘Gotta Get Thru This’ was brilliant electro-garage and the vocal sounded sincere and tortured, like Michael Jackson at his very best. Bravo Daniel. Your name is clearly just a mistake. But then came the video. Encouraged by his success, the video featured DB sitting on a bench in Canary Wharf, looking a lot like a magician who takes magic very seriously, with a goatee beard, a black polo neck jumper and a leather jacket from the market. Mouthing along, he runs up and down sets of stairs, whirls around, acts confused and all in pursuit of a woman who keeps making sexy eyes at the camera and swaying at the railings of Millennium Bridge. It continues in this vein, with Daniel chasing the woman all over the London transport system as desperately she tries to shake him off (and who can blame her). Sometimes he’s wearing his leather jacket. Sometimes he’s not. But always, he looks like a magician. Suffice to say, by the end of the video, ‘Gotta Get Thru This’ has lost its sparkle.

2. Believe – Cher

Cher never grows old and over the years she’s given us some killer tracks. ‘The Shoop Shoop Song’, ‘Love Hurts’ and ‘Walking in Memphis’ to name but a few. Who cares that we haven’t opened our eyes since 1989 when they snapped forever shut during the horrific ‘mankini and bodystocking’ video for ‘If I Could Turn Back Time’? That was terrible, but we got used to living with our eyes closed and over the years, the searing image of Cher’s crotch on our retinas began to dissolve. So nine years later, when we heard the brilliant fading in and out intro of ‘Believe’ and that rich voice poured into our ears once more like warm rain, we thought, ‘OK, maybe it’s time to take a little peep.’ Boy oh boy, did we make a mistake. It was the end of the millennium and ‘Believe’ had a futuristic sound, a wistful refrain and was refreshingly ballsy about auto tune. It was a dance track with a big heart. Plus, if you stopped dancing and listened to the words, they were beautiful. But in the video, Cher stars as a form of feathered witch, presiding over the dance floor like an animated corpse doing embarrassing-mum dancing. It’s scary and it’s weird. Song? Wrecked. Eyes? Shut.

3. Fairground – Simply Red

This is an open letter to Mick Hucknell *Clears throat* Dear Mick, congratulations on your career. Woooeee, it’s a good one. You must be chuffed. And really nice job on ‘Fairground’ man, what an ace track. We love how it mixes cool Bossa nova with house and pop. Also your singing is really good. But Mick listen, we’re really sorry and hopefully you won’t be offended, but if there was ever a case for not appearing in your own videos, it’s you in this one. This was such a great song and you totally ruined it but making us watch you drive around Blackpool Pleasure beach. Why are you wearing a gold suit? And then a cream mac? Why are you wearing sunglasses at night? Why are you singing into the camera lens with that strange vacant look? Is that your sexy face? We’re glad you and your friends had fun on that rollercoaster but your dancing is terrible. And your hair needs a good brush, but we’re sure you know that. Anyway, next time can you stay out of it? Thank you.

4. You Are Not Alone – Michael Jackson

A surprising turn next towards the pioneer of the music video. King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson. ‘What?’ you say, shocked. ‘There are no bad Michael Jackson videos. This list is flawed’. But we’re afraid you’ve forgotten about ‘You Are Not Alone’. The one he made during his short- haired reflective period, whilst married to Lisa-Marie Presley. It was the whitest he ever looked, with his full torso out in an open velvet shirt as if to demonstrate the whiteness, and inexplicably sometimes wearing just some curtains, he lies awkwardly on the floor while a naked Lisa-Marie bends down to him, puzzled. From smooching and giggling with Lisa-Marie to arms out stretched in a desert, it’s incoherent and confusing leaving us feeling strange and worried. It wasn’t one of his best songs, but it was still Michael and therefore it was brilliant. But the video…What the…? Why was he…? Where in the…? Dreadful.

5. Toca’s Miracle – Fragma

You probably first heard this on the radio and thought, ‘ooh turn that up’. Melodic and catchy with a great hook, it was an instant hit. Despite the applied special effects, the singer had a great voice with a richness that could have made her into a big star. Great start. So who was this singer? What did she look like? The video gave us the answer: She was a bad, Britney rip off, filmed through a very soft lens so we wouldn’t notice and yes, she was pretty and had quite nice hair, but catastrophically for the song was the detectable lisp which you hadn’t picked up on the radio, but now could see in all its glory. From that moment on , whenever you heard ‘It’s more physical what I need…’ the lisp was there. That, combined with some disastrous indoor womens’ football, and the song was a dead duck.

6. Mistletoe and Wine – Cliff Richard

Ok, so obviously this was always going to be a bit sentimental. It’s a Christmas song by Cliff Richard so we know what we’re getting into but if you can swallow the schmaltz, it’s a nice song. Twinkly and Christmassy, it ticks all the boxes and the video does too, with snow, children and a choir. Tick, tick, tick. But, there’s one particular bit that we look forward to every year. We rewind it and re-watch it. We point it out to strangers on the bus and encourage them to watch it on our phones. About two and a half minutes in, Cliff is singing away quite sensibly, admittedly with hair like Princess Diana, but still being fairly reasonable, when suddenly all hell breaks loose. He begins flailing from side to side, arms outstretched like Kermit the Frog, while his choir nervously begin to sway behind him, trying their hardest to make it work and looking extremely embarrassed. ‘What the hell is Cliff doing?? We didn’t rehearse this??’, ‘Just sway along, we’ve got no choice’. Aside from the turkey, that special minute of Cliff madness is our favourite thing about Christmas.

7. Katy Perry – E.T

With its catchy Queen-tribute beat, its power chorus and ethereal, haunting vocals, this was destined to be huge hit for K Pizzle from her massive album, ‘Teenage Dream’. The song is called ‘Extra Terrestrial’, so we expected a certain amount of outer-space action. However, there’s something about this video that shows way too much money was involved. It kicks off with Kayne West in a zero gravity situation and then reveals Katy dolled up like an alien, but not a normal one. She’s a sexy one. Sort of. With bulging contact lenses and a special drawn-in chin dimple, she’s got corn-rows and what looks like half a Vienetta ice-cream and half a television aerial bent round her head. She sings the song without moving her neck at all and all the while she’s plunging through space towards the Earth. It’s all parallel edited with VT of animals chasing each other and occasionally Kayne pops back up, still suffering from weightlessness and doing his rap. At the end, Katy has horse’s legs. It makes for uncomfortable viewing. Honestly, we wish we’d never seen it *throws all our Teenage Dream albums in the bin*

8. Gangster’s Paradise – Coolio

‘Gangsters Paradise’, from the soundtrack to the movie ‘Dangerous Minds’ was, for 90s kids, probably their first taste of rap. The opening bars with that menacing violin and leading to Coolio’s gruff tirade on the struggles that befall a 23 year old from the hood, it was a very cool song. Just listening to it made you want to wind down a window in your mum’s car and give evils to passers-by. ‘Dangerous Minds’ was basically ‘Dead Poets Society’ meets ‘Sister Act 2’, but with more fighting. A perfect combination. The premise is Michelle Pfeiffer inspiring a load of bad kids to pay attention at school, so there was plenty of scope for a cool video of clips from the film. But no, instead they decided have Coolio do the song, directly at Michelle across a table, in a shadowy basement. The sort of place you would never ever find Michelle Pfeiffer. She asks Coolio, ‘do you want to tell me what this is all about’ and then, exhaling a cloud of smoke, Coolio begins his liturgy, while a regretful Pfeiffer looks immediately as though she wishes she hadn’t asked. Coolio seems very cross and shadowy throughout. If this is what happens, we’re certainly never going to ask him anything.

9. Unbreak My Heart – Toni Braxton

This maybe the saddest song in the world. It should definitely come with an advisory sticker, just in case people are thinking of listening to it when feeling a bit down. In the wrong frame of mind, it has real potential to encourage you over the railings. Don’t do it. Turn it off. Not content with singing the world’s saddest song , Toni Braxton matches it with an even sadder video. Opening with her super hot boyfriend, model Tyson Beckford, being killed on his motorbike, Braxton proceeds to cry and wail despairingly throughout. Wearing her underwear and holding her stomach in so much that its positively concave, she cries in the shower, she collapses sobbing in the hallway and she roams alone around her house, remembering the good times she had with Tyson, like that time they played Twister and then remembering that he’s DEAD. Ugh. By the end though, she’s perked up a bit and managed to get a dress on, all be it one with a massive cut out hole so we can continue to marvel at her concave stomach. It’s too tragic and too full of stomach voyeurism. We don’t like.

10. Hung Up – Madonna

Criticism of this video actually doesn’t include the common issues people tend to have with Madonna thrusting her crotch at them in a leotard, although that isn’t exactly a highlight for anyone. Madonna has worked very hard to maintain that body and she’s always been a provocative performer so, good on her we say. Go for it Madonna. The problem with ‘Hung Up’, is that she’s such a big show off. The song itself is great. Apparently Abba hardly ever give anyone permission to use their riffs, but for this one they made an exception. Madonna dances around in front of a huge studio mirror, doing the splits, wrapping her legs around her neck and jutting out her hips as if to say, ‘Look everyone. Look at my youthful hips.’ But it’s not done in a self-confident, ‘if you’ve still got it, flaunt it’ way, it’s done in a creepy and medical sort of, ‘here are my bones’ way. It’s like she’s dedicated her living body to medical science and watching this video is like being in a forensic lecture on the perkiness of Madonna’s flesh, given by Madonna. She’s a massive show off and the whole thing is a big song ruiner.

First Published by CollegeHumour.com

Advertisements

Behind The Scenes of May Week

PICTURE the scene. It’s a balmy June evening. Perhaps there’s the light patter of rain on your window. You kick off your shoes and sink into your favourite chair, reaching for your gin and tonic when suddenly, what the hell was that? Gunfire? Is Cambridge under attack?

Wait, don’t panic. Before you sling your G&T into a plant pot and barricade yourself in the basement with some tins of tomato soup, there’s a chance it’s just the sound of a million pounds worth of fireworks and a good old Cambridge University knees up. May Week is here.

From tomorrow to next Friday, the skies above Cambridge will be filled with the summery sound of clinking glasses, frivolous laughter, crackles and Champagne pops. Those students have studied hard. Good on them. Cheers.

But just what is going on in there?

May Ball tickets are like mythical pieces of unicorn’s tooth, even for the students themselves, so unless you’re serving drinks, working security, planning to jump over a fence or can pull off a confident ‘It’s ok, I’m with the band’ stunt, you’re probably not going to a ball and neither are we. Sigh. Well, here’s the next best thing.

Web developer James McCauley is the founder of whichmayball.co.uk, a website created to provide information on the themes and entertainment of the hottest dates in town.

James tells us: “Trinity and St John’s are the ‘top’ May Balls, without a doubt. These both happen every year, and are notoriously expensive. Last year, Trinity’s budget was close to £750,000 and St John’s was once – allegedly – named the 7th best party in the world by TIME magazine.”

So, who are the acts? Will we be seeing Katy Perry or Lady Gaga drinking in The Eagle this week?

“Funny you mention this, actually. A friend of mine got access to the WhichMayBall Facebook page and managed to convince half the student population that Justin Timberlake was performing at Trinity! Everyone totally bought it, it was quite the kerfuffle.

“We’ve had some huge names in the past. Last year it was Bastille, Gabrielle Aplin, Everything Everything, Beardyman, Clean Bandit, Rudimental, Example and Basshunter.

“We’ve also had big names like Bombay Bicycle Club, S Club 7 and Calvin Harris, as well as legends like David Bowie at Jesus in 1970, Pink Floyd at King’s in 1968, and The Who at Selwyn in 1967.

“Jesus College are renowned for their ability to attract fantastic acts, and this year they’ve nabbed DJ Wilkinson. There are 
also rumours of Clean Bandit returning to their old College [Jesus] to play a set.”

Louise Johnstone, events and promotions manager at Big Fish Ents, runs entertainment at some of the top May Balls. “In the past, we’ve done things like a silent disco at 
Clare College and at Trinity Hall. A silent disco is where the music plays through headphones. Everyone wears a set and 
bops along in silence. It looks very strange but it’s really fun!”

So what’s it like to actually be in there?

“There are loads of people in tuxes, 
all you can eat and drink, beautiful college grounds, fireworks. It’s a very posh all-night party and a really incredible experience to attend. There’s always a story to tell the next day.

“Depending on budget, most students 
will try and go to two balls, one big and 
one smaller event. Failing to get a ticket, I have heard numerous stories of attempted break-ins. Sometimes successful…”

Two May Balls?? Lucky so-and-sos. 
So that’s what they’re up to in there. 
Has this helped at all? I think we’re more jealous than ever now. If you’re going, we hope you have an amazing time. Gritted. Teeth.

Did you know May Balls always have themes? Here’s our top five for 2014:

Jesus College – lost in the woods (oh no, not again.)

Christ’s College – Emerald city (I don’t think we’re in cambridge any more…)

King’s College – Subterranea (Not literally surely?)

Pembroke College – Tales from the Toybox (To infinity, and beyond!)

Trinity Hall – Mardi Gras (The carnival? or the pancakes? oh, who cares? They both sound great).

First Published in Cambridge News

World Cup 2014 – Survival Guide

There are some dates you just know, aren’t there? The Battle of Hastings (1066), Neil Armstrong walking on the moon (apparently) (1969), The Great Fire of London (1666) and then there’s 1966. The first, last and only time that England have won the World Cup. It’s the date we’ve heard about since we were children. The date we see in the eyes of the elders when they get that thousand-yard stare.

Most of us have no idea how winning even feels. Oh sure we’ve had Andy Murray. We’ve had Johnny Wilkinson. We’ve won the Ashes. There’s a treasure chest of gold medals from London 2012. Sure, we’ve felt some sporting joy. But football? It’s been nothing but cup after World Cup of tears, disappointment and our England shirts in the bin.

Four years ago this summer, the sun shone, England flags were painted optimistically on our faces and our hopes were raised once more, but then… England lost 4-1 to Germany. Our faces smudged with tears. We went home. Nothing can ruin a barbecue quite like an England World Cup loss.

Well, steel yourself England because on June 12, World Cup 2014 kicks off in Brazil.

National tension and anticipation mounts. Will the lads have enough time to acclimatise or will they feel too hot? Will Rooney sparkle or flop? Will the venues just be muddy building sites? Will the host city Manaus be flooded by Amazonian rains? Will everyone contract Dengue fever? What is Dengue fever? These are the questions that pray on our minds.

Whether you’re a football fan, or you just plan to avoid the whole thing, it could be a tricky couple of weeks to navigate. We’ve put together a helpful list of dos and don’ts to guide you through it.

Dos

Not a big football fan? Do sporadically shout out any of the following if you’re a bit unsure of what’s going on: ‘Ref’, ‘Handball’, ‘That’s got to be a card’, ‘Offside’, ‘Nice’, ‘Get up there’, ‘Come on England’ and ‘Yes Rooney!/No Rooney…’.

Similarly, if you’re not that bothered about watching, do your shopping while the game is on. You’ll have the supermarket all to yourself.

If in the pub, do buy your drinks just slightly before half time to avoid being crushed by thirsty people in a massive rush.

Do, at all costs, avoid a jumping up and down headlock from a taller stranger in the event of an England goal. Beer in the face anyone?

Do appreciate it if your friend has dragged his TV into the garden, even if it’s raining. Electrical hazard, yes, but well worth it for the al fresco experience.

Do cover young children’s eyes and ears if things take a turn for the worse, but at least let them have a hot dog before they’re ushered into the car for the silent drive home.

Dont’s

Don’t beep your car horn in that annoying way. You know what we mean.

Hopefully this time it’ll be a more appealing sounding instrument, like maybe a harp, but just in case, don’t take a Vuvuzela to the pub with you. Very annoying.

No matter what, don’t attempt to cheer anyone up in the event of an England loss.

Look very solemn and respectful. Perhaps even go home.

Don’t say any of the following: ‘It’s only a game’, ‘Roll on 2018’, ‘Shall we see what else is on?’ l Don’t book something unimportant, like your wedding, on the day of any of the England games. Lots of your guests will hate you. Alternatively, if you’re trying to trim numbers, especially unwanted ‘partners’, this could be an excellent plan.

Don’t say anything regretful about the nationality of the opposing team.

For example, we totally depend on the Italians for coffee, pizza, ice cream and stylish clothes. In two weeks’ time, you might wish you could take back all the expletives you yelled in your local Italian delicatessen.

Don’t drink in the morning. It’s never OK. Not at the airport, not on red letter days, never. Unless you want to feel hungover and weepy by 5pm. Zzzzz.

Don’t bother buying a new England top. They cost £40+ and you can never wear it again without looking like ‘the person wearing the England top’. Just get your old one out of the bin.

Don’t fix a gigantic England flag to your house or car. It comes across as aggressive.

Don’t walk around town wearing an England flag as a cape. Again, aggressive.

Where to watch?

The Maypole, Portugal Street, Cambridge – watch here for a screen in every bar and a lively, friendly atmosphere. Open until late for that first England game.

The Avery, Regent Street, Cambridge – a projector upstairs, plus eight other screens, a Parker’s Piece view and two bottles of beer for £6.

The Regal, Regent Street, Cambridge – they’ve installed a new screen especially for the World Cup, have a busy atmosphere and are open until 3am on Fridays and Saturdays.

Just watch at home – front row seats, free drinks and close to the bathroom.

The Games

Round One: England Matches

June 14 – 11pm

England v Italy

June 19 – 8pm

England v Uruguay

June 24 – 5pm

England v Costa Rica

Blurred Lines

If you switched on your TV last week, this is what you’d have seen: Two hundred and seventy six school girls kidnapped in Nigeria, Oscar Pistorious on trial for murdering Reeva Steenkamp in his bathroom and media personalities accused and convicted of terrible sex crimes against young women and girls. Tough going. Then to relax in the evening, there was new BBC drama ‘Happy Valley’, which is not happy at all, just very violent and quite rapey.

Sexism and misogyny have always been there. The ‘stay in the kitchen’ jokes, the ‘changing a plug’ problems, the ‘being overlooked at work in favour of a younger and less qualified boy’, the leering weirdos, but just lately, it all feels louder. I’m a girl. I’m the mother of a baby girl. And I’m starting to feel, for the first time in my 31 years, a little bit threatened.

‘Blurred Lines’ (BBC1) on Wednesday night was a heinous patchwork of sexism in all its most gruesome glory and asked where the ‘lines’ are. Is it OK to have a chortle at a sexist joke? Is it OK that young people learn about sex from pornography? Is it OK to play a computer game where your digital self can have digital sex with a digital woman and afterwards, digitally kick her to death? Is that more OK if the ‘game’ is rated 18? I couldn’t imagine anyone would think, ‘yes’, but on Twitter as usual, there were lots of people (men and women) who couldn’t really see a problem with it.

Girls themselves aren’t helping matters. Female entertainers are increasingly naked, and aggressive and so are lots of our young ladies. The ‘empowered’ woman’s reaction to sexism seems to be provocative and goading. Miley and Rihanna are marketed to us as women who can do whatever the hell they like with their bodies (hang on that’s actually a Gaga lyric isn’t it?) as now they’re in control. Yeah! Hi five sister! But no matter what they say, whether it’s about control, empowerment, ownership of your own sexuality, it still feels a bit wrong doesn’t it? It feels dangerous. It feels like giving validation to a sinister sub section of people with bad intentions. And if something feels wrong, it probably is.

I have no problem planning the conversation with my daughter where I tell her she can be whatever she wants. I believe our society has a great and normal structure where women can get any job and be treated respectfully as the citizens which they are. However, I do struggle to imagine how I’ll explain sexism or misogyny to her. Do I explain it? Or do I let her find out about it for herself online, and then blink up at me with those baby blues, puzzled.

Games like ‘Grand Theft Auto’ are profoundly negative. It’s just not possible to see them in any other light. After ‘Blurred Lines’ I went onto Twitter to search desperately for people who felt the same as me and reassure myself that a hell-mouth hadn’t opened up and swallowed our planet. I tweeted that a game where you could be abusive to children or to animals wouldn’t be allowed, so why was this? Someone replied and said, ‘Perhaps if you played the game instead of jumping on the anti-GTA bandwagon, you’d know you can kill animals on it’. Oh. Wow. Well, I am firmly on that bandwagon my friend. I have a front row seat on that particular wagon and you should be sitting next to me, not sitting in your bedroom pretending to mug people and kill animals.

Violence and crime aren’t fun. They’re not games. They’re not fantasies or hobbies and shouldn’t be made available as those things. If you feel like you need to indulge dark sides of your character, I’d suggest having a cold glass of water, taking a very deep breath, doing up your anorak and walking quickly to a psychiatrist. ‘Hello, my name is X and I think I need some help’. Off you go. Chop chop.

Vertigo Roadtrip – Review

Presented by Mel Giedroyc, this programme followed a group of Vertigo sufferers on their journey to overcome fear. Now vertigo, like proper vertigo, not just a little bit of sensible leg wobbling when looking over a cliff, is a terrible and debilitating thing, so our sympathies were with this group from the beginning.

The ‘treatment’ was lead by American phobia expert, Dr Jen and the group’s first assignment was to walk up a flight of stairs. We sat back. This could be interesting.

None of the group were too happy about stairs. We saw a photo of someone’s childhood birthday party, their 4 year old self ominously standing next to ‘the stairs’ that triggered a life-long fear. Gulp.

Anyway, they gritted their teeth and got through it. The stairs were conquered and next it was massive licence payers’ budgets at the ready and off to The Alps. Going straight from the stairs to The Alps seemed like a bit of a jump, but with only an hour programme, they had to get on with it.

The challenge was to travel in a cable car, which even most height lovers would agree is a little bit scary. Hooo hoo, we rubbed our hands together. The phobics are going to flip! But from here on out, the programme was a decidedly phobic-flop.

Forgive my perversity, but I wanted to see screaming, crying, shaking and instead I got slightly anxious people, in a cable car, agreeing that yes, they hated it, but yes, they could handle it.

Dr Jen tried to spice things up. As the cable car climbed she said things like, ‘now let’s all talk about what could happen. Are you afraid the car might fall, plunging us all to our rocky deaths? Are you worried that you might fall through the glass?’ Pairs of eyes blinked at her anxiously, but despite her efforts to freak them out, they arrived peacefully at the top and even enjoyed the view.

Next, a bridge across a ravine. Here we did eventually get some crying from Louise whose brother had (as a child) let go of her hand halfway across a suspension bridge and run off, thusly catapulting her into a life of crippling bridge-related terror. ‘Her fight or flight reaction has been triggered’, said Mel. FINALLY, we thought.

Louise’s breathing quickened and the on-hand medic, who had so far been twiddling his thumbs, seemed concerned. ‘Are you worrying that the bridge might collapse?’ piped up Dr Jen. What a champ. Kick ‘em when they’re down.

Tentatively Louise gripped Dr Jen’s hand and shuffled onto the bridge. ‘Don’t let me go Jen’ she begged. Now come on, you secretly wished they’d get halfway and Jen would let go and run off didn’t you? Admit it. We all thought it.

Boringly though, she got to the other side, incident free. This is ‘unbelievable’ proclaimed Mel and it was hugs all round. One by one, the rest of the group walked across the bridge. Some strolled. Some might as well have clicked their heels. Essentially, it was a programme segment of people just walking across a bridge. I don’t usually have to turn on my TV to see that.

After the bridge, the challenges soared and so did the budget. The group travelled to the 18th floor of the Capital Gate Hotel, United Arab Emirates and Mel promised us, ‘this is going to feel like HELL’. But the group took it totally in their stride. I was beginning to think they were all just in this for the free holidays.

A challenge involving a diving board had group member Lee a bit worried. ‘Eclipse!’ he shouted angrily at Dr Jen, which was the Fifty Shades-style ‘safe word’ for when they wanted out. Mel reassured us that Lee would not be forced to do anything he didn’t want to. Disappointing. I couldn’t help but wish for Lee to be marched to the end of the diving board and pushed in. ECLIPSE! Splash. But no.

Finally, to the world’s tallest building. The Burg Khalifa. If anything was going to set them off, it was this. True to form though, the group just got in the lift and strolled onto the viewing deck. Either this group were outrageous fakes on a free holiday, or Dr Jen’s treatment really worked.

First published by Cambridge News

The Big Allotment Challenge – Review

So we’ve had sewing, we’ve had baking and now, we’ve got gardening. Jane Austen would have been so pleased. What could be next? The Great British ‘Stick and Hoop’ Challenge? Big ‘Basket Weaving’? The ‘Tapestry’ Take Over?

Fresh from her (secret) stomach-stapling scandal, was the newly glam, Fern Britton. Her endeavour to shake off the mumsy vibe has culminated in skinny jeans and a tousled blonde hair-do. I don’t like it. Bring back cuddly old Fern, not this tiny-stomached vamp.

The premise for this new show is exactly the same as ‘Bake Off’ but instead of a kitchen it’s, well, an allotment. Ok. I’m in.

Almost immediately it became clear this programme was made entirely so we could all play Innuendo Bingo at home. ‘Look at the size of that’, ‘get your radishes out’ etc. For the immature amongst us, it was very hard to watch.

Kicking off with patches of empty mud and then fast-forwarding 15 weeks to abundant plants and flowers spilling lusciously over every tiny bit. How satisfying. Let the challenges commence.

First it was radishes. “Easy to grow, but difficult to perfect”, were the wise words of judge, Jim (Ex -Royal Gardener). Fern’s role as presenter is to swish her new hair and body around, simper over vegetables and seemingly bore us to death with detailed narration about how to grow things, when we we’re all just trying to enjoy some harmless innuendo. Shhh Fern.

Next, it was a Sweet Pea bouquet and after a very hot summer, this was going to be tricky (apparently). They all fuddled around with twine trying to meet the criteria which was ‘a creative use of sweet peas and complementary flowers’. Shaun and Liz, who the programme editors clearly had it in for from the beginning, made a ghastly ‘mish mosh of flowers’ which narrowly escaped having carrots added to it. What? The tasteless, vulgar swines. Jonathan Mosely (flower design expert) was disgusted.

Finally, the jam and curd challenge. Having watched it and rewound it, and having had Fern drearily explain it, I still don’t think there’s a difference between jam and curd. Sorry. But anyway, the pairs boiled and bubbled their various fruit combinations into jars. Poor old Shaun and Liz made tomato jam, as well as a heinous curd, which expert Thane clearly thought was an absolute disgrace. They were for the chop and the accomplished winners were identi-bearded pals, Gary and Pete.

Overall, it was a bit flat, with judges looking for uniformity and perfection. I’d have preferred they look radishes with the Queen’s image growing right through the middle like a stick of rock. Or sweet peas shaped like Lady Gaga. Hopefully in upcoming episodes, there’ll be a bit more drama. Sabotage. Caterpillars. Maybe a flood.

Allotmenting is really a solitary, philosophical sort of thing, not lending that well to the ‘challenge’ genre. Plus, no contestants seem to warm much to this new version of our beloved Fern. Or maybe it was just me.

First published by Cambridge News

Top 7 things Oasis did for us

Image

Happy 20th Birthday to Oasis. You know what this means don’t you? That was all 20 years ago. Twenty years. If ever we needed a doctor, a helicopter, a gin, a tonic and an Alka-Seltzer, it was upon hearing that news. Those marvellous albums have never left my record player. Although, the record player has changed a bit, from the amazing ‘Ghetto Blaster’ I had in my bedroom (with excellent stickers). Aside from great, GREAT songs, here are the top 7 things Oasis gave us:

Britpop

Oasis were the ultimate kings of Britpop. Blur, Supergrass, Elastica, Pulp, Suede, Sleeper, Shed7, Bluetones, Lush. Ahh it was all so good. The charts were amazing. I’m so glad we picked up that torch when it all ended and just carried on getting better and better. Sorry who…? Jason Derulo? Robin Thicke? Pitbull? Oh bloody hell.

Taping songs off the TV

In the 90s, this is how we all got our music. We held our little tape decks up to the TV when ‘Top of the Pops’ was on, or we recorded songs off the ‘Top 40’ on Sunday afternoon so that all our music had Jane Middlemass on it. ‘Here it is, nomber won, Oaaasis with som might seey….’. Is that not how that song actually starts? Why didn’t our parents help us buy tapes? Seems awfully cruel.

Rivalry

Blur Vs Oasis. Summer 1995. I genuinely believed that I had an important choice to make. It never crossed my mind that, as I liked both songs, perhaps I could hold my little record player up to the TV and record both. No no. I had to choose and I’m sorry to say, I chose Blur. Bloody loved that ‘Country House’. Please don’t tell anyone.

Ego

Oasis spent a lot of time telling us they were ‘the best band in the f-ing world’ and after a while, we started to slowly nod and go, ‘oh yeah…. you actually are’. There’s a lot to be said for just telling people you’re brilliant. I’ve been trying it for twenty years now. ‘I’m the best one here you know?’ I tell them all the time at work. I reckon it’s about to kick in. Knebworth, here I come.

Singing along to guitar chords

Before Oasis, we would all sing along to great songs. Sure. We sing our little socks off. ‘I can’t liiiiiive, if livin’ is without yoooou’. But after Oasis, where huge swathes of the songs were massive, brilliant guitar solos, we had no choice but to develop our guitar-singing. Every Oasis fan can sing, note perfect, every bit of guitar in those songs. Including all the computery bits at the start of some of them. Weird. ‘Neow neow neow, nenalinalinalilllll’. D’ya know what I mean?

Album Titles and Covers

I bet you did the following: Bought, ‘What’s the Story (Morning Glory)’ off the back of liking ‘Roll With It’. Then realised this was the second album from this brilliant band. What?! You eagerly returned to HMV with your £8.99 to buy ‘Definitely Maybe’. Then possibly you went to Knebworth, or at least you felt very excited about the whole idea of it. Then a few years later, you queued up to buy ‘Be Here Now’ (OK not actually, but you went straight there after school) and then went round your friends to listen to it while you stared at the album cover for ages, thinking it was immensely cool that it showed ‘today’s’ date. Yes? Thought so.

The Tambourine

Liam turned this instrument from, frankly, an embarrassment, to the coolest instrument around. Before Liam picked it up and gave in a nonchalant shake in between swigs of larger, the tambourine was just what got tossed to you in Double Music, if you were incapable of playing anything else. The Tambourine has Oasis to thank.

Happy Birthday Oasis. I’m a bit sad you all hate each other now.

First published by Cambridge News

Soap Star Disasters Survey for First4Lawyers

Soap Star Disasters

EastEnders

London. E20. Where no special occasion ever goes smoothly and you can abandon your market stall on a moment’s notice. In Albert Square, getting invited to a wedding, or deciding to go for a drink, is a very tense thing.

How much compensation would be due in the following scenarios?

1. When Phil was shot down his front steps, could he have claimed compensation for dry cleaning the blood out of his only nice shirt?

2. Could workers at the Car Lot claim for being forced to spend every day hunched sideways in a porter cabin? Come on Max, it’s time for a bigger office.

3. How much could the residents do with a night out that didn’t start in The Vic and end in the R&R?

4. How much would people save by going home for a cup of tea rather than always going to the caff’?

5. Likewise, could the residents make a saving by buying a washing machine rather than taking their clothes to the launderette?

(Sorry, we’ve got sidetracked)

6. How much compensation could Peggy Mitchell claim for having never had a single mouthful of her Christmas turkey before a fight broke out.

7. How much compensation would be due when the fairground collapsed in 2010?

8. How much compensation would be due when The Vic caught fire in 2010?

An additional sum is awarded each time someone asks, ‘What’s goin’ on?’ or says threateningly, ‘I said, leave it’.

 

Coronation Street

The most famous and disastrous street in Britain, where members of your family are the people you should trust the least and the unhappy residents are probably due quite a bit of compensation after more than 50 years of turmoil.

1. How many people could have claimed how much compensation after a tram crashed onto the street in 2010 and trashed everything? (Hint: ‘everyone’ and ‘a lot’)

2. How much could the residents claim for the nuisance of Mary’s camper being parked permanently on the street?

3. Is compensation due anyone following the clearly limited career advice they’ve all had at school? The only jobs seem to be at ‘The Rovers’, ‘The Bistro’, the salon or Carla’s bra and knicker factory’.

4. Could Gail and family have claimed compensation after Richard Hillman drove them into a canal? Splash.

5. Could Deidre have a claim after she was wrongly jailed for fraud? Remember those glasses peering forlornly through the bars? It was a sad time.

6. How much compensation was due following the explosion of The Joinery on Peter Barlow’s stag do?

An additional sum can be awarded each time someone ‘pops’ to The Rovers, says ‘give over’, or asks for a ‘barm cake’.

 

Emmerdale

Now we’ve travelled to the most dangerous village in Yorkshire, where no mode of transport is safe. In Emmerdale, it’s best avoid all of the following: Planes, buses, vans, trains, cars and…walking. In fact, just stay home, and even then, switch everything off to be on the safe side.

1.How much compensation could be due from the local hospital? No matter what they go in for, no one ever seems to come out…

2. Could the Sugdens have claimed compensation after a faulty boiler set their house on fire and interrupted their argument.

3. Could Katie Macey have a claim after falling into a mineshaft?

4. Could Jackson have claimed compensation after his van stalled on a railway line and he was hit by a train?

5. Could Genesis Walker have claimed after her car was chased over a ravine? (This might be a trick question. Think about it).

6. How much estimated damage was caused by The Great Emmerdale storm of 2004? Blustery.

An additional sum can be awarded each time someone says they’re ‘going to the Woolly for a pint’.

 

Hollyoaks

Over to a tumultuous village in Chester now, where disaster lurks around every corner. How much compensation would be due the victim in the following scenarios:

1.When ‘The Dog’ (pub, not pet) was set on fire, how much of the compensation money would Darren just gamble?

2. How much compensation money could Darren gamble in one afternoon?

(OK sorry, we’ll lay off Darren)

3. When Max Cunningham was run over on his wedding day, how much compensation could Niall have claimed for damage to his car?

4. Poor Tom Cunningham. Over the years, he’s had practically everyone he loves die in a tragic circumstance. How much compensation could he claim for childhood trauma?

5. How much compensation was due when a car crashed into the double wedding of Tony, Cindy, Ste and Doug?

6. Disasters don’t just mean flood, fire and theft you know. What about fashion disasters? How much compensation should the viewers be due after years of having to look at the McQueen family? Our EYES!

An additional sum can be awarded each time ‘The Loft’ burns down, an episode doesn’t begin with someone making their breakfast or Warren Fox reappears even though he’s blatantly ‘died’ several times.

Soap Star Disasters Survey commissioned by Branded3

Jockey School

We’re familiar with this format. A group of sour faced, moody teenagers are sent somewhere uncomfortable and muddy to get shouted at by ruddy-faced adults. At first they resist and then they transform, usually for the better. This time, in a slight amendment to the format, there were also horses.

The programme focussed on three charming (I’m being sarcastic) teenagers. Sixteen year old Stacey, expelled from school and who had a penchant for fighting, her mother tells us (with a giggle, for some reason). ‘If some other lass fancies the same lad as Stacey, then that’s when she might fight’ she says, speaking as if Stacey were an animal, who would fight under particular circumstances. Or maybe at certain tides, or times of year? Sure enough, next time we see Stacey she’s at the Police Station after a fight. She’s says worriedly, ‘If I hit anyone else, I’ll go to jail for 90 days’. Oh Stacey, if only you had a clearer idea of what to do. Stacey’s not all bad though and seems to find comfort in her horses. Or her ‘orses’. One lucky horse in particular has had his likeness tattooed onto Stacey’s back.

Also expelled from school is the freckle-faced, Tyler, who comes from a ‘traveller background’ and likes to career through the town on his horse, bareback, like a bad, skinny Braveheart. Tyler wants to be a jockey and says if it wasn’t for this opportunity (Jockey School), he’d just be ‘riding around with horses and signing on the dole’. Wouldn’t we all.

Finally, there’s sixteen year old Shona. Poor Shona had been bullied out of school and into a pale shadow. Her only friend was her horse Gilly who, she said, doesn’t have a ‘bad bone in his body’, but then she tells a story about how two years ago Gilly bolted and threw her into a barbed wire fence. She hasn’t ridden since. Hmmm. Sounds a bit bad. Bad Gilly.

On arrival at Jockey School the teachers lay down some basic rules. Boys and girls are separated at night. No make-up to be worn. No fighting. Stacey says if they carry on telling her what to do, ‘someone will get punched in the face’. I’m betting she means it as well.

After a hard first day’s horsing around, Shona is crying with the pressure of it all. Isn’t horse riding supposed to be a hobby? Fun? You never see people sobbing over their stamp collections saying, ‘I’ve got to keep going! I can’t give up!’

On we go with the usual trials and tribulations. Stacey meets a boyfriend (the lovely Liam) and then threatens to ‘punch Bethan in the face’ for flirting with him. Alright Stacey, pack it in now, can you do anything else? Tyler gets called a ‘pikey’ but says he isn’t bothered and horse trainer Malc calls Shona ‘a wimp’. That’s a bit strong Malc. Poor Shona.

At the end, precious placements in the riding industry are handed out. Stacey is too naughty to get one, but feels she ‘has matured’. Shona is sadly too much of a wimp to get one, but is returning home ‘an adult’ and amazingly, Tyler actually gets a placement. His dad nearly cries. Nearly. He is a traveller after all.

So that’s horses taken care of then. I can’t help but think maybe they should all go back to actual school instead? All in all it was a bit of an obvious format, and lacking a bit in content, seeming to race from beginning to end without much of a conclusion. When it comes to moody teen programmes, I’ve seen better.

 

Monkey Planet

Dr George McGavin looks like a cross between Richard and David (Attenborough). We’re on first name terms. I can’t help missing the Attenboroughs when I watch a nature programme presented by someone else. But with a white beard and khaki shorts, George had clearly done his very best to dress up as them, so I was prepared to give it a go. Yes I know, Richard is a movie producer, but I still missed him.

This was the first in a three part series about monkeys. Now, before we go any further, I must tell you, monkeys really freak me out. They have human eyes, saucepan lid faces with fur, and they often look angry, or accusatory, or indifferent. Happily, George tells us (and this isn’t verbatim) that no matter how creepy we find them, they are part of our family. Not mine *nervous laugh*. But yours.

Whereas normally I would run a mile from monkeys, off we went around the world with George in search of them.

First it was Orangutans (that’s ‘tans’ not ‘tangs’ – who knew?) in Borneo where we watched the creatures behaving in a ‘human’ way at the edge of a stream. They were sailing in little boats, drinking from cups, washing with soap and writing with pens. Honestly, I was nearly in tears. George proudly enthused, ‘Look! We share a similar face!’ Speak for yourself.

Then, the Tarsier monkey. These have ultrasonic hearing and eyes so wide that you feel like shaking them and saying, ‘What is it?! What’s wrong??’ If you suffer from anxiety, do not look into the face of a Tarsier.

The fluffy, Japanese Macaque lives in a minus 20 degree habitat. To demonstrate how cold that really is, George takes all his clothes off, turns to the camera and says, ‘eventually I’ll go into a coma, from which I’ll never wake up’. George, really that is not necessary. We get it. Put your clothes back on man!

The Chacma Baboon has a face like one of those heavy duty office staplers and while he’s out hunting we sneak into his cave for a look. Bats, spiders, dung, animal skulls – it’s nice. To be fair, he’d probably have smartened up if he knew we were coming.

When visiting a group of monkeys in the jungle, George climbs a tree and hangs from it in canvas bag saying, ‘this is actually very alarming’. George, again, not necessary.

Lar Gibbons have faces a bit like a Scream mask, and also a bit like when you see a homeless man drinking on a bench. Grey, whiskery, rough and sad.

The Aye Aye monkey has ‘the ears of a bat and the tail of a squirrel’. They tap on trees searching for insect lava and then probe it out with a long, spindly finger. Oh my God. Horror.

Most miserable looking monkey of all is the Black Howler. No, that’s not a Hogwarts spell, it’s a monkey. Its face looks like the embalmed corpse of Tutankhamen, and when George makes a (pretty crap) monkey sound up at the tree, it sets the Howlers right off. Again, horror. I think they saved the post-watershed monkeys for the end.

It went on and on. I’m sorry to say there wasn’t one cute or nice looking monkey in the whole thing, although I’m sure all you monkey fans will disagree. Weirdos. Big or small, they all have human eyes. I feel like they’re looking at me. I’m not sure if I can bear episode two.

Monkey Planet airs Wednesdays on BBC1 from 9pm

First published by TVGuide.co.uk