Thursday, December 28, 2006

Top 5 Kids' Christmas Presents

Over Christmas I've seen loads of kids' presents being unwrapped and played with. I reckon these are the most popular presents this year.

1. Nintendo DS

Apparently these becoming as popular with the over 60s as they are with young kids, particularly the games that require mental challenges. The modern day version of the crossword. I know the Nintendo Wii is in short supply, but I reckon its adults and not kids who want them, whereas every kid wants a DS

2. iPod Nano

I still can't see an MP3 player to seriously challenge the iPod. I know that phones can play music, but nothing is quite as cool, dinky and easy as the iPod - especially if you've already got an iTunes library already set up.
3. High School Musical DVD

Have seen it at least 3 times so far. Young girls love it. Reminds me a lot of 'Fame'. Has been a big hit for Disney.

4. Doctor Who Stuff

Remote control daleks have been difficult to find in the shops over Christmas. Same voice, same catchphrase, same problem with climbing stairs.

5. Blue Peter Annual

Still as popular as ever and the formula remains pretty much the same. My daughter Mae got a Blue Peter badge for sending in a poem. She's very proud of it and secretly I'm a bit jealous.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

2006 Favourites

Album: Arctic Monkeys: Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
Single: Lily Allen, Smile
Film: Casino Royale
Paperback: A Short History of Tractors in the Ukraine

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Did You Know?

Our perception of what Santa Claus looks like can be traced to the Coca Cola adverts in 1930s America when he first appeared as a jolly old man with a white beard and a red coat.

Its a common misperception that Coke 'invented' Santa's red colour. This isn't true as he appeared in red before the Coke ads. However Coca Cola did ensure he became most strongly associated with the company's corporate colours.

Who says advertising doesn't work.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Association of China Dads Committee (ACDC) Inaugural Meeting

Venue: Oxo Tower Brasserie, 18th December 2006, 12.30pm
Present: Mr Tache, Mr Whippy, Mr All Black, Mr Hendrix, Mr Webb
Absent: (with apologies) Mr Mole

1. Decision taken to hold Dad and Older Daughter Bonding Event in Summer
2. Mr All Black to investigate venue options
3. Mr Tache to put forward programme initiatives
4. Follow up meeting to take place at St.John restaurant to discuss logistics of agreed Event
5. Mr Webb proposed that John Lennon was in fact uncool due to comb-over hair style. To be discussed at follow up meeting

Further issues were discussed at Tate Modern bar at 4pm. Meeting closed after committee members decided have a go on the slides

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The River Cafe

The River Cafe has had a massive influence on British food culture. it helped re-invent Italian food, the cook books were incredibly popular, there were the tv programmes and of course it 'discovered' Jamie Oliver. We had dinner there for the first time in over 10 years and it was a real treat.

We started with the house cocktail: prosecco, campari and pomegranite. The menu was very fishy and we had turbot, scallops and dover sole. The desserts were laid out on the long bar and looked just like the photographs you see in the cookbooks. Everything was perfect.

It was exactly the same as I remembered. The layout and decor, with the long bar and the big clock projected on the wall was unchanged. The staff were young and friendly. It had the same hand written menu and they still had the all-Italian wine list.
It was great to see that it was still so successful and that they hadn't in any way changed their winning formula and their standards. And of course it was packed. It wasn't cheap, but it was worth it.

Roast and the River Cafe in one week. Aren't I the lucky one. And I'm off to the Oxo Tower on Monday! Can't wait.

Friday, December 15, 2006

For Derby Fans Only

Francis Lee dives to win a penalty for Derby. Probably explains why the fight took place.

Francis Lee v Norman Hunter pt.1

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Helsinki Again

Am staying in the Radisson hotel by the seaside in Helsinki in Room 711, yet another brand name disguised as a room number. I didn't realise that Helsinki had a seaside, but I can definitely see a huge ferry boat from my hotel window. Heading for Talin apparently.

There's no snow, so I'm a bit worried about how Santa's going to get out of Lapland on his sleigh, but apparently its snowy up there.

It may not be snowing in Helsinki but its very dark. By the time I entered the meeting room in the morning the sun hadn't risen. Then at one point I said 'let's lift the blinds to let in some light' and there wasn't any.

The hotel, of course, has a sauna. I should take advantage of the facilities I suppose, but not sure I'm up to exposing myself to strange Finns. They may be shy, but they don't mind getting their kit off in public.


Had a fabulous lunch at Roast on Monday, the restaurant above Borough market. I really like this restaurant because:

- it champions British cuisine and British ingredients
- it's down to earth, yet still feels special: the menu provides lots of interesting and useful information about the ingredients without being pretentious
- the room is light and lovely - with views of St Pauls cathedral and Borough market: you feel that you're in the heart of London
- and of course the food's great

Highly recommended

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Franny Lee

Yesterday, Derby County beat Leeds United 1 nil at Elland Road, the first time they've won there since 1975 - over 30 years ago - when the goalscorer was Francis Lee. It was the year Derby became League Champions.

Francis Lee was a brilliant goalscorer and perfected the art of diving in the box before the likes of Christiano Ronaldo or Drogba were born. One of my earliest footballing memories was Derby vs Leeds at the Baseball ground when Norman Hunter and Francis Lee were sent off for fighting, when both clubs were bitter rivals at the top of the division. See video below with vintage 'Motty' commentary.

Unlike most footballers of that era, he became a successful businessman running a toilet paper empire, FH Lee, which he then sold. My first full time job was working for the head office of the company that bought FH Lee. I was rubbish at it and didn't last long. One of my jobs was to compile regular sales data from the various operating companies who had to ring me every Friday with their figures.

One day FH Lee called to give their information. When I asked for a contact name, the voice on the line said 'Francis Lee'. Instead of telling him that I thought he was one of best players I'd ever seen, I simply said 'thanks very much' and hung up.

Francis Lee v Norman Hunter

Friday, December 08, 2006

Levi's 501

At my last hotel I stayed in Room 501, which immediately brought to mind the Levi's 501 advertisement 'Launderette' from 1985. It was probably the most famous ad of the era and was the first of a highly successful campaign that rejunvenated the Levi's brand.

It featured the very pretty Nick Kamen who tried - unsuccessfully - to launch a pop career. I wonder where he is now? I bet he'll turn up on some reality show soon, if he hasn't already.

What I find interesting about the campaign was that it also helped grow the boxer short market in the UK. Before this, the British male stuck rigidly to his Y-fronts. In the early 80s I played football for my university and there was an American lad in our team. I remember how shocked we were when he got changed and we saw him wearing these weird boxer shorts. We gave him a lot of stick at the time!

Lots of other brands are named after numbers: Chanel No 5 of course, Nescafe Blend 37, Porsche 911, Boeing 747 and er...that's all I can think of. Maybe there aren't that many after all.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Taxi Driver

Although I'm now back in South London, I tried to retain some of the spirit of New York by watching the dvd of Taxi Driver. It's been ages since I last it and I have to say that I think it's a truly great film. De Niro is incredible as Travis Bickle with an amazing support cast of Harvey Keitel, Cybil Shepherd and Jodie Foster. Pimps, hookers, violence, sleaze, menace, pathos, great lines. It has everything. Worth re-visiting.

Watched it via Lovefilm, my favourite on line service. It's good to know there's a always a decent film on hand to watch. I was always late when I took my video back to Blockbuster. And I could never park the car on Balham HIgh Road.