The Excommunication of St Cadbury

Poor old St Cadbury.

Once the revered Christian saint of chocolatey goodness; now a despised infidel having stabbed Jesus, Christianity, Easter and no doubt the Easter Bunny firmly in the back. A whole Christian doctrine of Immaculate Eggs bestowed upon all believers at Easter time, as originally told by the Bible in the story of Jesus, St Cadbury and the Chocolate Factory (Wonka 4:15-32).

Who could have believed after all these years that in 2016, according to the Daily Telegraph’s John Bingham, the word “Easter” had been “quietly dropped from Easter eggs”? To make matters worse, at the head of this heinous, secretive and cowardly act was none other than St Cadbury himself, clearly egged on by the Dark Lord Nestlé. (Sorry. I have to allow myself one egg based pun.)

Immediately, St Cadbury’s Twitter feed was targeted by devout Christians everywhere, leaving many parishes across the country to wonder where they had been hiding during Sunday mass all this time:

“Shame on greedy St Cadbury for dropping the word Easter from our choc eggs”

“Disgusting you’ve dropped the word ‘EASTER’ #BoycotStCadbury (well the truth is if I didn’t like your choc so much I would lol!)”

“Is it true that you are banning the word  from your Easter eggs because it offends other religions?”

“St Cadbury – So my fiancé informs me your removing #Easter from your eggs in the future? I find this disgusting we have had Easter eggs 4 yrs”

“Well, St Cadbury,  why not stop selling chocolate altogether in case you offend people who don’t like chocolate?”

Outraged Christians overwhelmed St Cadbury who, as if blind-sided by the criticism could only muster the mealy-mouthed reply:

“Hi there, we haven’t removed the word ‘Easter’ from our products, it’s on the back!”

 A collective sound of mass self-righteous jaw dropping was heard far and wide across the land. What had happened to St Cadbury? OUR ST CADBURY!!! He of the Immaculate Eggs bestowed upon all believers at Easter time and to this day readily available at retail outlets for a huge profit! On the back indeed! ON THE BACK?!! Why this sudden relegation from the front to the back?

Despite no evidence suggesting the word “Easter” had ever been particularly or consistently prominent on the front, back or sides of such eggs since those biblical times of old; (largely because they only appear at Easter and tend to come in a large, clear, egg shape so that even the most moronic of dullards could hazard a guess as to what they are!) In stepped The Archangel Louise Mensch to drive out the now excommunicated former St Cadbury: (Notice I’ve resisted cheapening this story by not using “eggs-communicated” there keeping to my word about only one egg based pun.)

“St Cadbury. It’s Easter Day. Maybe ease up on the insults to Christians by telling them Easter is now “on the back” eh?”

And so, as it was prophesied in Charlie 16:1-7: “The nation’s moral compass, Hopkins, will be too busy striking down lefties, migrants and child sex abuse victims. So, the lesser Hopkins, AKA Mensch shall drive out St Cadbury from this great nation and free the people to worship through stuffing their faces with the Holy chocolate just as Jesus would have wanted us to do.

As for John Bingham of The Daily Telegraph? He slipped away silently, back into the darkness, his work on Earth done until the next opportunity to awaken the “political correctness gone mad” brigade with more spurious facts of an unspecified origin.

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The Trouble with Gameshows

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Gameshows are never going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Often maligned as cheap, low-brow or tacky and let’s face it some of them have been, (Sue Pollard’s Take the Plunge I’m looking at you!) a good gameshow can provide those essential talking points for the next day.

– Notice I avoided the phrase “watercooler moment” there. Personally, the only “watercooler moments” I’ve ever had have been wrestling with the cheap plastic cups from the dispenser, a distinct lack of cool emanating from the water from the watercooler and back trouble from stooping to get the water or from lugging a watercooler refill around. There is nothing remotely cool or momentous about the watercooler.

Anyhow, I digress. – A good gameshow should fulfil some very simple principles in order to get people talking and tuning in again for the next episode. Essential to the format are the contestants. Sounds obvious doesn’t it? However, a gameshow should choose its contestants wisely and the format should bring out the best in them. Essentially, for a gameshow to work, an audience must invest in the contestant. They have to be likeable and the audience needs to be on their side so that at the finale they can share their delight at winning or pain at losing.

All too often though, gameshows are being let down by their choice of contestants and how they are encouraging them to come across to the viewer. There seems to have been an increase in the “serial contestant” desperate to put themselves over as funny, or talented and hoping to be given a shot not at a big star prize, but to become a star themselves. They are those people at the very bottom of the wannabe food chain, moving from gameshow to gameshow and no doubt constantly sending their wacky audition videos to Big Brother.

Producers of some gameshows seem to actively encourage these people to apply to their programmes. Dermot O’Leary’s bulging snooze-fest, The Getaway Car is a prime example. Their audition process for contestants specifically referred to wanting “lively, up-for-it” couples. This is TV executive code for loud, annoying fame-chasers. Sure, you don’t want contestants to be boring but you don’t want them forcing the issue either for their own ends. In an hour long show, already 50 minutes too long in the first place, these people don’t instil any empathy with the viewer and so you don’t care about them winning and the whole show is lost.

Stephen Mulhern’s Catchphrase with Stephen Mulhern as well as Stephen Mulhern’s daytime vehicle Stephen Mulhern’s Pick Me also starring Stephen Mulhern are other examples of shows deliberately featuring the “up for it” contestant. Catchphrase, in particular, is a show with a long history and a favourite in the eyes of the British public following its original run from 1986. Its current incarnation however, is virtually unwatchable and it’s through no fault of Mr Mulhern (who I rate, incidentally!) but the obsession with contestants who are more concerned about themselves than the prize, or the show or anything else going on in their lives. They come across as annoying and self-centred, desperate to be noticed morons, which is exactly what they are and destroy a perfectly good format because you can’t invest in them and so you’re left with nobody to root for at the end.

So what’s the point?

Having a Pop at the Pundits

They get let off the hook week in week out. As the game of football has grown and more matches are broadcast live on a multitude of channels so standards have dropped.

No, I’m not talking about players who can’t score or defend or even move for that matter or referees who can’t tell a handball from an offside or a ball out of play. These days they do not escape as camera angles and technology and experts dissect every wrong move, every missed opportunity and every poor decision.

What about the experts though? Who is monitoring them? Why isn’t there a dubious pundit panel alongside the mysterious dubious goals one? Why is there no Global Head of Punditry, rigourously assessing the likes of Alan Shearer, Michael Owen and Robbie Savage? (Although granted the latter may need a whole dubious committee of his own)

I don’t think it is a bold statement to suggest, indeed, categorically state that the state of British football punditry is at an all time low. Mark Lawrenson, in hair terms the Donald Trump of punditry, looks bored by his own presence in a studio. Michael Owen seems to have been bought the Complete Works of Colemanballs, digested every word and is determined to use each gaffe on BT Sport and Glenn Hoddle for all his media and ex-pro sycophants who lament his loss to the game and his tactical nous still conjures up the spirit of Eileen Drewery. A man who seems to amazingly impress all his fellow pundits with his “knowledge of the game”, “tactical acumen” and bewilder them as to “why there seems to be no room for him in today’s game” yet still to my clearly untrained ear talks absolute twaddle when he comes anywhere near a live microphone. You could say much the same for Harry Redknapp and his financially astute dog.

Here’s an example for you. BT Sport have the goal-fest that was Norwich v Liverpool the other week. Prior to kick off Michael Owen, Steve McManaman and Glenn Hoddle are perplexed by Jurgen Klopp’s decision to start with Robert Firmino up front as opposed to Christian Benteke. Firmino gets a hammering from the team and to a lesser extent Klopp for going with Firmino. The fact that the pundit’s preferred choice of Benteke has played a 90 minute version of footballing statues in recent outings counts for nothing as there is abject bewilderment that Firmino should get a look in ahead of the former Villa goal machine. Sure enough Firmino scores 2 goals and narrowly misses a hat-trick in a man-of -the-match performance for Liverpool.

Later on in the game with Liverpool 3-1 down, Klopp substitutes Jordan Ibe and brings on Adam Lallana. Glenn Hoddle is beside himself, his tactical know-how just cannot comprehend how “the lad” and the “really talented young player” can be hauled off being one of the only members of Liverpool’s squad who can “directly influence the game”. I personally was also beside myself thinking if Hoddle had been watching the same game as me. Ibe had beaten his opposing full-back early on in the game and then faded into obscurity, offering nothing offensively and failing to do any tracking back, constantly exposing Alberto Moreno. Hoddle had other ideas though but strangely went quiet when shortly after Klopp’s dodgy substitution Liverpool proceeded to quickly go 4-3 up. How much Glenn Hoddle could give still give to the game of football, if only he was given the opportunity!

This week, one Liverpool fan site has polled its readers and who came out as player of the month? Why, none other than Roberto Firmino. I’m guessing for all of Owen’s, McManaman’s and Hoddle’s bluster Christian Benteke wasn’t troubling the scorer (as -per) in that poll!

Now there may not be, at present, a dubious pundit panel, but there is a TV Anchor, in this case Jake Humphrey. Did he expose the pundits for their nightmare in Norwich?

No. Of course not and that’s the problem. Players and referees are pulled apart and their every action or lack of it exposed and criticised. There is no problem with that. It’s a professional game after all but when pundits get it wrong, particularly so spectacularly wrong, then the host should point it out and expose them for it. They are paid well too as is the host and it would sure make a change from the blase “bon-hommie” that exists currently. Match of the Day can be almost unwatchable as Gary Lineker chortles along with his pundit pals whilst the in-jokes keep coming. All Jake Humphrey had to say was, “So, Steve, Glenn and Michael. Robert Firmino man of the match and an inspired substitution from Jurgen Klopp. Not such a good day for you guys was it?”

Incidentally, what is it with Steve McManaman? He really does need a suitable haircut for his age. At this rate and if he ages badly he’s one step away from becoming Mick Hucknall.

My Best Holiday Friend…Ever!

There’s somebody I’d like you to meet. Someone that I met whilst on holiday in Portugal earlier this year. We haven’t kept in touch or anything but this person has had a profound effect on me. We didn’t need to speak then and we don’t need to speak now. Our relationship is about so much more than mere words. Here he is here:

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I say “he”. Frankly, I couldn’t be sure of gender, but “he” seems to do. (He’s never complained.) I never asked, but then again our relationship is about so much more than mere gender. I said he looked like a Portuguese Wizbit. He just smiled. He always kept on smiling. He never replied but then again he didn’t have to. Our relationship is about so much more than mere social pleasantries.

We only met on a couple of occasions, always in the exact same spot, where the picture was taken. Ah! That place. That special place! It didn’t matter where it was that we happened to meet though. I guess as an inanimate object, fixed to the floor, you don’t really get about a lot and our relationship is about so much more than places or pleasantries or words or being an actual living thing.

In actual fact, the reasons why he is my best friend that I have ever met on any holiday ever is for a whole list of things he didn’t do:

  • He didn’t interrupt my holiday with my family.
  • He didn’t ask me any questions about where I was from or where I was staying or how long I was staying for.
  • He didn’t join me for a drink or whilst I was eating.
  • He didn’t suggest anywhere that I should go that he’d just been to and was in his opinion quite simply amazing.
  • He didn’t tell me that he was going there again tomorrow and that I really had to join him and his family.
  • He didn’t suggest that we should meet up for drinks later on in the evening and force me to accept out of politeness.
  • He didn’t give me his email or phone number and suggest we should keep in contact after the holiday was over.
  • He didn’t once get in the way of my holiday, the time I treasure away from everything, with my wonderful family.

What a guy!

Prickly Heat

At long last summer in the UK has arrived. Get the barbecue out, set sun factor to 50 and dust off those shorts folks because we’re having a heatwave!!! Wimbledon is here, the ice cream van owner is finally smiling and turn up Cliff Richard’s “Summer Holiday” up to the max for some “fun and laughter”.

Actually, on second thoughts, best scrub the Cliff Richard bit, just to be on the safe side!No matter though because it’s officially a heatwave and time to get out those paddling pools, fill the coolbox up with ice and get the super-soakers out for some fun in the sun. Sounds great doesn’t it? It’s what we’ve all been waiting for hasn’t it? – Well, hasn’t it?!!

Perhaps not. Barely day one into this festival of sunshine and the naysayers have been out in force droning out the common British phrase, “It’s too hot!” They go on and on and on about it too. “It’s toooooooooo hot! Oh my,it’s tooooooo hot!” they say, “Oh I’m melting in this! It’s just tooooooooooo hot!!!” These will be the same people who a few days earlier will have been moaning about how wet it’s been and constantly asking the question, “where’s summer?” Waxing lyrical about how summers were better in the 70s and dismissing global warming at a stroke.

Ok, so you think you can avoid the naysayers perhaps? Possibly, but it seems these people all work in the media too. Aside from the obligatory two kids together with an ice cream shot and a scantily clad, bikini shot of Emma (22) and Claire (19) from Kent enjoying the beach, the papers aren’t exactly to sold on the weather either.

The list of sun-related problems we’re about to face makes you wish it was Christmas already (which helpfully is only 25 weeks away – hurrah!). Here’s what we need to be on the look out for as we go into “meltdown”:

  • Just surviving is going to be an issue. This hot spell only means one thing. – Death! Heatstroke, exhaustion, skin cancer, dehydration, killer bees, crazed terrorists and drowning. Probably best staying in then and seeing this out.
  • Infrastructure. It can’t cope can it? Not in this heat. The roads are going to melt like they’d been laid by the Devil himself at the Core of Hades. Trains aren’t going to fair much better either, the tracks are going to be buckled so much that a single from Liverpool to Manchester could see you ending up in Middlesbrough. Let’s face it nobody wants that!
  • Foreigners. If they’re not trying to kill you then at the very least they’re going to spoil your holiday with ferry strikes, road blockades, air traffic control disputes and generally not being able to speak English!
  • Water. No man is an island they say but thankfully Great Britain is, surrounded by water and with plenty of rain for the other 50 weeks of the year. Expect a hosepipe ban in place by the end of the week.
  • Idiocy. Let’s face it if there’s one thing we Brits are good at it’s summer idiocy. If it’s not jumping from high ledges into shallow water, or all day drink-fuelled nuisance or the classic leaving dogs with the windows shut in the car until they become a Korean delicacy. Let’s not forget the discarded cigarette that will turn half of the Yorkshire Moors to dust too. If there’s one thing we can rely on in this hot spell it is the rise of the idiot.
  • Extreme Weather. If it’s not enough that the heatwave is destined to kill you one way or another than if there’s one thing a hot spell will bring with it is thunderstorms and heavy rain. Classic cathedrals, iron waving golfers and Wile E. Coyote are all at risk from being struck by lightening. Then there’s the torrential rain and flash flooding destined to see people stranded in their cars, sheep stranded on small hills and Paul Daniels marooned in his house in the middle of the Thames unable to escape. (I thought he was a magician?) Despite this the hosepipe ban will remain in place for another three weeks.
  • Facts. Heatwaves bring stats and lots of them. If it’s not the torrential rain that will drown you, it’ll be the stats. Highest temperatures, (since records began), lowest water supplies, (since records began) greatest humidity, (since records began) and so on. Who started these records anyway? Is there a record of this? (since records began) and is there a record (since records began) of when the records began, since when records began there was probably no record of this. – (Incidentally, if I hear just how many portions of strawberries and cream will be consumed at Wimbledon this year one more time my blood, if it isn’t already in this heat, may just boil.)

So, there we go then, day one of the heatwave and just thank God you’ve survived it. Make sure you’re well prepared for the apocalyptic meltdown that we face over the next few weeks and remember be careful! It’s an arid, barren, melting-pot of boiling, burning death out there and frankly it’s just too hot!

Never Go Back

To some extent we are all stuck in the past. I suspect this intensifies the older we get. For most of us our childhood, teens and early adulthood evoke special memories. The days before responsibility and having to stand on your own two feet. We associate the “best days of our lives” with our favourite cultural reference points. It’s one of the reasons why there is so much television time based around nostalgia. You know the sort of stuff. Basically, Stuart Maconie waxing lyrical about stuff he remembers.

We all reminisce about the past, largely focusing on the best bits, quite naturally – and perhaps transforming the reality of what we remember into something far greater than the actual sum of the parts. Sometimes, we crave a return to those special times. Maybe a reunion, a visit to a particular place or a concert featuring Rick Astley.

Memories can be built on until they become the stuff of legend. They can reach a height that can never be attained again or frankly wasn’t attained in the first place. It is for this reason the phrase, “never go back” was invented. The memory of something and the subsequent hype around it becomes greater than the reality; an unachievable and unrealistic outpost clouded by our rose-tinted view of days gone by. Never go back.

Last week saw the much hyped return of Channel 4’s TFI Friday. During the 90’s it was much watch telly, featuring Chris Evans at the height of his powers, just before he went a bit loopy. It was irreverent, different, always felt a bit dangerous and was a fun way to get your weekend started on a Friday evening. – Or at least that’s how I remember it.

The much lauded comeback, one-off, special, celebration, whatever it was – it certainly wasn’t how I remembered it or how I want to remember it. It was all a bit dull, a bit too long, a bit rough around the edges and something that was probably left best alone.

Chris Evans himself is just too sane and long in the tooth these days to carry that kind of show off. Blur’s rendition of Coffee and TV was just too out of tune and unlistenable, Lewis Hamilton (the main guest of the evening, no less!) was just to boring and wooden. He makes Nigel Mansell seem positively enthusiastic. He makes watching paint dry seem an enjoyable way of passing time. He makes snooker seem like an extreme sport. Of all the guests you could have chosen to embody the spirit of TFI Friday’s golden years, Lewis Hamilton shouldn’t have made the shortlist, the long-list or within 50 miles of any list being drawn up by Channel 4.

As for Evans himself, well he’s just taken up the mantle of new Top Gear presenter following the departure of the rumbly-tummied, loose-fisted racist. He stated that the future of TFI was now in the hands of Channel 4 and seemingly passed the torch onto Radio 1’s Nick “Grimmy” Grimshaw, who promptly fluffed his lines when invited to try his hand at introducing a band on the show. An ominous moment for him.

He should never go back.

Gone to the Dogs

“Uproar”, “controversy” and “anger” are just some of the words which have been used today following the “revelation” that Britain’s Got Talent winners, Jules O’Dwyer and her “talented” dog, Matisse enlisted the help of a “stunt” double. Part of their £250,000 winning act featured Matisse walking a “tightrope” except it today emerged that it wasn’t Matisse performing that part of the act it was another, identical dog known as Chase.

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Angry viewers have beseiged social media networks crying “foul play” despite no poultry being used in the act. Others have complained that Jules, height-phobic canine, Matisse and all action stunt-pooch Chase as well as three-legged, sympathy mutt, Skippy had cheated second placed “magician” Jamie Raven out of the top prize. Skippy, was unavailable for comment but is reported to be under investigation by the Department for Work and Pensions as clearly being “fit for work”.

Underhanded dog trainer O’Dwyer explained to mythical, ageless, Scot, Lorraine Kelly that Matisse required a stunt double because of an apparent “fear of heights”. Rumours also circulated today of a long-held jealousy between the two dogs and a discrepancy in pay between them which sees Matisse earning 10 times the amount of Chase. Both dogs remained tight lipped today but were spotted taking a dump on a kids football pitch near Hackney. It also emerged that O’Dwyer will be facing investigation for impersonating a police officer, albeit “particularly badly”.

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Former Britain’s Got Talent winner and canis lupus familiaris, Pudsey, of dog act, Ashleigh and Pudsey, today issued a statement: “I, Pudsey of dog act Ashleigh and Pudsey do not wish to comment on any rival dog act, suffice to say that I can confirm I do all of my own stunts. I also don’t require a dog with a disability to make myself more popular and would like to make it abundantly clear that I am, as ever, available for panto again this year.”

Responding to the storm a source close to ITV said, “If the public feel conned by the dogs then it’s their luck out really. I mean they voted for a dog act to win a talent show! Again!!!” Laughing hysterically, the two legged, media savvy, homo-sapien continued, “Just how stupid are the British public? They even voted for a magic act when magic doesn’t even exist. Oooooh, is Hogwarts real is it?!! Magic died as entertainment as soon as Paul Daniels ditched the wig. Some people even think Teller from Penn and Teller actually can’t speak!”

Teller from Penn and Teller was unavailable for comment.