The Review of Life - Day 10 - The Carvery Roast Wed 25th Jul, 2007


All Sunday Roasts are different.


My mum's (Review of Life Day 3) is perfect, and others vary from quite good to brilliant. They always, in my eyes, hit the level, quite good, with the very fact of them being a Sunday Roast, and they all have at least one element that makes them satisfactory, whether it is a particular interesting vegetable choice, or quality of meat, or in the case on The New Battleaxes, Wraxall, just sheer quantity.


We, Martha and I, went late, having missed the traditionally timed roast due to work, and so searched for dinner at about eight.


My knowledge of the roast possibilities in the Bristol area has been honed with time, and i was aware that many of the city centre options would have been finished by now, and so we set of into the country.


The Battleaxes is a nice pub, and the carvery is a very good carvery. One of the highlights is the fact that the bloke who carves the meat is a dead ringer for the B.F.G. The carvery is always good quality, with the large option giving you the option of choosing two meats from the choices of turkey, pork and beef.


On Sunday, because of the time, the B.F.G was not there, replaced by a young boy in checked short, and the quality of the food was down on it's usual standard. It cannot be easy keeping the food at a carvery fresh this late, and so we excepted this, and made up for the lack of quality by overdoing the quantity.


Piles of meat were provided to us by the checked boy, Martha went Turkey, i went Turkey and Pork, and then we were left to our own devices with the rest of it. And being late, with the knowledge that very few people would come after us, there was no little guilt voice operating that would have made us scrimp for the other diners, and so we piled up high.


Two different types of potato, peas, carrots, swede, a sausage and stuffing, and cauliflower cheese.


I am not a fan of cauliflower cheese as the main attraction in a meal, but love it as an extra veg. Ok, so the CF was the greatest victim of the time of day, but this did not stop me creating a mountain of the stuff.


The carvery is a perfect excuse to get more than you will eat. There is no problem with my eyes being bigger than my stomach in this scenario, and the added bonus of having the challenge of fitting it all on the plate, made the meal.


A lot of people feel the beauty of the carvery is the chance to go back again and repeat the procedure, but to me the beauty is seeing how much food you can get in one go, like a Sunday Roast camel.


There is nothing delicate, nothing subtle, and in this particular case, very little appealing in the flavour of the meal, but in terms of gazing at your plate, and not being able to see your plate, this was right up there with the best of them.



The Review of Life - Day 9 - Transformers Tue 24th Jul, 2007


My unofficial website editor has told me that my reviews are too long for people to read everyday. So today, as an experiment, i will provide a précis of the review at the start, and then if you want to read the rest of it you can. This way, i get to vent whatever needs venting (i am not sure what the spleen actually does, but it seems to be the part of the body that needs a good vent) and you get the luxury of being able to take the easily digestible version without having to wait around for me to waffle on for 1000 words.


Transformers – The Read and Go Version


I was never really into Transformers as a kid. I like bad films though. I got a bit confused. Bye then.



Transformers – The Uncut Review


I was never really into Transformers as a kid. My next door neighbour, Andrew Thomas, had lots of toys, not only official Transformers, but also He-Man toys and a really good scallectrix. I was content sat in my room on my own most of the time, or watching musicals on TV, or reading. The only time i ever expressed an interest in getting a Transformer by mum got me a fairly cheap imitation from Asda, and that was my interest quelled.


I understand the interest though, and watched the cartoon sporadically. I never quite understood toys though, the line from imagining something is happening to it actually happening does not seem shortened by imagining something is happening to a piece of plastic to it actually happening.


When the film version of Transformers was announced, and right up to now when it has actually been released, the outrage on the internet has been amazing.


There has been a bit of a scandal about the design of Optimus Prime (leader of the goodies) when he is in truck mood, criticising the decision to give the truck a long front as opposed to a flat front.


Now, i have none of this baggage to take into the cinema with me and so just went in expecting to see a fairly loud, shallow action film.


I have nothing against loud, shallow action films. Action films should be deafeningly loud and not taxing on the thinking front. There should be too much moving about and blowing up to think about the satirical elements to the script or the political bias of the main protagonists.


I like watching people chat in a film, and i like watching people being blown up. I like being told something i have never know before, or made to think about things i have never thought about before, but i also like watching a really big thing stand on a really small thing.


Transformers met all those criteria. The plot, a device lot of films now employ, would make a really good computer game. Oh no, we have to find something to make something happen. Oh dear there are obstacles in our way. Yeah, we found it. Oh dear, now we have to get something else, can you believe it, not another obstacle, what are the chances, yeah, we did it, we are great, and repeat.


The journey is as predictable as crossing a zebra crossing, as predictable and as mapped out. When the journey is this obvious, and the structure so basic, the things you see on the way have to be really nice to look at.


Transformers looks great. I can't remember the names of any of the characters, apart from Optimus Prime, but i do remember leaning back in my seat to look at all the incredible images on the screen.

I did not care at all who won, or lost, and for most of the film got a bit confused about who was fighting whom, but thoroughly enjoyed the sensation of hearing one really big robot kicking the living shit out of another big robot.


There did not seem to be on iota of pretension in the film, and, strangely for a film so cynical in its attempt to sell as many toys to impressionable kids, there seemed to be no cynicism in the film at all.


I have a thing, when people ask me if a film i have been to see is good or not. I am aware that my ability to enjoy dross is higher than most allegedly intelligent people, and so i will either say it was really good, really bad, or i really enjoyed it.


Really good and really bad are self explanatory. Really enjoyed it tends to mean that i had a really good time, but then i have a really good time waiting for toast (there is something strangely satisfying about guessing how brown it is going to be), and that most right minded adults would probably find it more satisfying to watch, well, toast.


Transformers falls deeply and loudly and colourfully into the “I really enjoyed it” section.


Bye then.

The Review of Life - Day 8 - The M4 Mon 23rd Jul, 2007


Friday was a tricky day. The weather caused flooding all over the country, but mainly in that trapezoid shaped configuration of motorways just below Birmingham. The M42, M40, M5, M4 and parts of the M25 were also completely jam packed. I spent nearly eight hours driving from London to Bristol, listening to the traffic reports on Radio 2, and wishing that this country didn't come to a stand still whenever there is some sort of extreme weather activity.


I didn't really mind the wait though. There was something almost spiritual knowing that i was in the same situation as literally thousands of people around the country. Driving for a third of the day at less than 20 miles an hour was as close to meditation as i will probably ever get, and my main concern was that i left my sweets and diet coke in the boot.


We rarely get to share events, and therefore mindsets, with complete strangers, and although i spoke to no-one else in my jam, i knew that they felt the same mix of frustration, confusion and ultimately resignation as i did.


British people are very good at just waiting. We wait for doctors, and at check-outs, and more and more, in airports. Lining up obediently, rarely question why, and Friday was an amazing example of this on a giant scale.


It was also nice to spend so much time listening to the radio, and so much time on the M4.


I like a lot of motorways in the UK. Not all of the motorway, maybe just bits of a lot of them.


I'm a big fan of the M5 down near Taunton, where there is a wicker man, a plastic dinosaur and two giraffes just on the hard shoulder as you go south.


I also like the M5 when it goes through Gloucestershire and there are several junctions (12 to 7) really close together. Makes your journey speed up for a few miles.


I really like the M8 as you go into Scotland, where it opens up just after the border and it feels like you are driving into a beautiful, mythical land.


The M32 heading into Bristol is also a good one, mainly because i know i am nearly home, but i also love the fact that it ends almost right in the centre of town.


The M4 however is my favourite.


A lot of people don't like it. It doesn't have the spectacle of parts of the M6, or the thrill of the M1, and when you are on the M25 there is a real sense of being in an event, an event meant to kill, but an event none the less.


The people who don't like it call it boring. They say it is merely a functional corridor going from South Wales to London.


It is this i like about it. There is no pretence at being more than a motorway, it does not link dozens of tourist sites, although Bath and Windsor Castle are both easily accessible from it. It does not undulate and curve, and there are very few beautiful vistas available from it's concrete pathway, it just gets on with it's job.


The towns it passes, Newport, Chippenham, Swindon, Reading, Slough, Maidenhead, do not spark the imagination and creativity, and so it does what all right minded people should do, just passes them by.

Most of the other motorways in Britain have massive chunks of boring, functional stretches, but nearly all of them have a moment or two of beauty, or have periods where the driving is interesting and stimulating.


Not the M4. The most interesting part of the M4 is a field near Reading with loads of little white horses in.


There is also a really good shopping centre, also near Reading, just off Junction 12, with a very handy Sainsburys petrol station, with cheap petrol and ridiculously quiet pumps, and also a Next and a McDonalds.


That is it.


Ok, it does have the New Severn Bridge, at one point the largest construction project in Europe, a glorious piece of engineering, but that is when the M4 is entering into its flamboyant Celtic stretch, not is mundane, pragmatic English stretch.


It is not perfect. It slows down far to much as it comes near London, but i blame the city and not the road, and the gap between Junction 16 and 17 is one of the most annoying gaps between junctions in the universe, just endlessly teasing you that Swindon has been left behind for miles and miles until you finally hit Junction 17 and feel well and truly in the west country.


It is not fancy, not special, and in no way beautiful or fashionable, but it does what it does, with little fuss or fan fair, and because it does what it is meant to, and does it well, surely that is where its glory lies.




The Review of Life - Day 7 - Nothing Sun 22nd Jul, 2007

I know it seems like a cop-out, that if i can review a packet of sweets, then surely something of note must have happened on Thursday 19th July 2007 for me to write about, but honestly, nothing did.

I woke up late, got to studio, did the warm-up for the RSC, went to Wimbledon to do an Edinburgh preview, went to bed.

I could write about those other things but this is a review, of actual material things, it is not a blog. And i had nothing to review.

So there Jon Richardson. So there. And i apologise if this entry was not phenomenal.

The Review of Life - Day 6 - Holiday Inn Express, Wandsworth Sun 22nd Jul, 2007


I still get excited about staying in hotel rooms. I still can't help myself when i see a new bath to lay in, and fresh towels, more than i would ever need, resting over a towel heater. I really enjoy pressing the numerous light switches and deciding where to plug in my phone and lap top, and which side of the bed to place my book.


I still get excited about these things, even though my job means that i stay in hotels several times a month.


This week i have been doing the warm-up for Ready Steady Cook, which has meant my entries in the Review of Life have been sporadic at best, and non-existent at worse, and, added to the pleasure of meeting Ainsely Harriot, Cheryl Baker and Gok Wan, among others, the production team put me up in The Holiday Inn Express, Wandsworth.


I am not sure why there needs to be a distinction between the bog standard Holiday Inn, and the Express. With other “express” marketing techniques, the need for urgency and speed and dynamism is implicit in the title, but hotels? You still need to check in, and check out, and the bath still fills at the same time, if you have a bath.


The location of the hotel was great, very close to the main road, near a McDonalds and a petrol station, and a B and Q and a Wickes. I am not sure why there are nearly always two DIY stores really close to each other, but i guess there are financial reasons, maybe so budget sensitive consumers can flit from one to the other checking on the prices of stone cladding and chipboard.


The parking in the hotel was great. Very cheap, and enough spaces for me and the various work vans that were parked there for the duration of my stay. I did have a problem with the tight turn into the car-park however.


Entry needed quite a sharp spin on the steering wheel to navigate the corner, but in doing so the front of the car ends up quite far away from the automatic ticket machine, and it was quite a squeeze to get my ticket out.


Check-in was very simple, and i had a tiny skip of glee when told i was on the sixth floor, although in modern building higher number floors are usually disappointingly low. The lift was very speedy, and the only delay getting into my room was my inability to use the card properly to unlock the door. It took several attempts solo, before i had to swallow my pride and ask the girl cleaning the door opposite to help me. She spoke very little English but i was able to express what was wrong with my much practised stupid look and arm shrug.


The room itself was fine, plain but fine. I often forget that a lot of modern hotel require the key to be put in a slot near the wall to operate the electrical devices, and so after grumbling to myself for several minutes about nothing turning on, i inserted the key and started again.


The room was modern in design. Nice big windows, double bed, sofa, chair, TV, lights set into walls and ceiling, plus lamps in corner and by bed, and above desk. There was possibly overkill on the lighting.


The bathroom was interesting. The door to the bathroom also operated as the door to the toilet.  The door swung open, to the right, and at the end if its swing, it collided with a column near the shower, looking in needed, and therefore creating a cubicle where the toilet itself was located. This took me quite a while to figure out, i stood standing there for a minute or two before i understood what was going on.

I did think that this was an interesting design element, allowing someone to use the sink while someone is using the loo, but felt that problems could arise if someone wanted to use the shower while someone wanted to use the loo, and someone else was in the room. Also, if someone was using the shower while someone was on the loo, this could be uncomfortable as the shower door was glass so the person on the loo, as well, of course, the person in the shower, would be visible to each other. 

I am not sure many people would be comfortable with this situation, therefore probably negating the need for the door in the first place.  

The shower was good, if maybe not hot enough, and the sink included two plastic cups still wrapped in plastic, which is always a nice touch.


The room was pretty good all around really. The air conditioning was easy to use, although i did have some problems with the windows. They opened quite easily, but shutting them later on proved to be more difficult.


I had a shower when returning to the room after work, and felt a chill. I thought i should shut the window but when i tried i noticed it had become to stiff. The handles of the window were a bit sharp and i could not get a good grip with bare hands and so, after a little bit of thought, i got my socks, put them on my hands, and used them to help me close the window.


The area around the hotel was fairly built up with expensive apartments, and i hope no one was looking out of their window at that time as they would have seen a naked man (the towel had slipped with my endeavours) with woolly socks on his hands wrestling with a window.


Nothing was mentioned when i checked out, which was reassuringly expressive. Or expressly. Or just express maybe.

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