27 March 2007


Apart from the occasional murder, the Cricket World Cup, does not set pulses racing in the outside world. For those who don't follow the sport that Robin Williams described as "baseball on Valium", the ICC tries to entertain the world every four years with a jamboree of One Day Cricket. If you don't know cricket, you may be surprised to find out people can make a game last a whole day. You may even be astonished to learn it should actually last for five days - it is known as a Test Match for very good reasons. If you do know cricket, you may mourn the transformation of what should be a game of physical chess into tic-tac-toe.

The world's 8 best teams meet to play 8 other teams who are anything but, at a warm and agreeable place. Having dispensed with the illusion that the game has relevance beyond a hard core of Commonwealth countries, the 8 best teams then indulge in another round robin of matches until everyone has given up caring and somehow there are four teams left. A straight knockout then brings a merciful release, and Australia are declared to be the winners.

To give some context, being the best team in the world at test match cricket is the equivalent of three michelin stars. Being the one day cricket World Champions is like being the best in the world at making cheese on toast. Whereas cricket should be about finesse of technique, tactics and patience, the World Cup One Day version has been reduced to hitting the ball as hard as you can.

But in recent years, even this questionable format has been reduced to fit the attention span of a teenage mayfly with ADHD, into something called 20-20 cricket. This now lasts a couple of hours, and every team has a very small number of opportunities to score as many runs as possible.

All this is sold as a pragmatic response to sport in the 21st century. Life and the demands of TV are so kinetic we need new formats for previously savoured pleasures to reduce the time between anticipation and satisfaction. Anyone who feels uncomfortable with such innovations is either old-fashioned or naive. Maybe we could apply this to all sports - instead of four rounds of golf to win The Open, perhaps Tiger Woods could go to the driving range to hit a bucket of balls over 400 yards? We could finally get all sports into a format that fits between the news and the late night movie with ad breaks in between, and delivers all the enjoyment and complexity of a bag of crisps.

16 March 2007

If the trouser fits

Posters around town promoting a new look for Spring from Gap: the Boy Fit Trouser. Somewhat counter-intuitively this is legwear for women, and not immediately obvious what exactly makes the fit boyish – no signs of catapults in the pockets, grass stains on the knees or a bunch of keys strung from the belt loop.

Given that most girls’ jeans seem to reveal an alarming amount of buttock, G-string and stomach at the slightest movement, you would have thought they would be better off spending money on developing girl fit trousers first.

13 March 2007

A nasty smell in the kitchen

TV kitchens used to be nice places. The sort of environment where the air was light as soufflĂ© and the language soft boiled. Where the only pressure was applied to a citron pressĂ©. Then Gordon Ramsey invented the idea of kitchen-as-hell, where everybody and everything was fucked, if they didn’t get the fucking fucked chicken out of the fucking oven and onto those fucking plates you fucking fuck fuck. Where passion for food was synonymous with a limited vocabulary. It made you wonder how on earth Delia Smith managed to pick up a whisk, as she couldn’t even say the word ‘bum’.

The results of this change can be seen across all channels, and nowhere more clearly than the newly reanimated “Masterchef”. This used to be a gentle Sunday afternoon show, where keen amateur chefs cooked interesting menus in a competition to decide who was the best. Now the show has been given “an edge”, as “Masterchef goes large”, a title as painfully obvious as its preposterous new premise. The oleaginous Loyd Grossman has been replaced by two mildly threatening experts of mysterious provenance – all black suits and trendy glasses who sneer over the soup as if to say: “call that bouillabaisse, you slag??!”

Each week, our trio of amateur cooks not only take part in the traditional Masterchef “cook offs”, but are given some ludicrous catering challenge to test them – this week it was organising lunch for a TV crew in less than three hours, using the by now familiar ingredients: a needlessly truncated timescale, wise “experts” to ladle on the pressure, a pinch of panic, heightened by “edgy” camera work, and a splash of fighting between the contestants. Grill for two hours.

Little wonder the British diet is lamentably high on processed foods and low on fresh produce – no one wants to spend any time in the kitchen because of the stress.

Honey, I shrunk the vocabulary

On the radio this AM, during an ad for holidays in Ireland, a visitor was describing a trip to a medieval banquet at “historic” County Clare castle, where he drank “honey-rich mead”. Presumably this was followed by some meat-rich chicken, washed down with a glass of grape-rich wine.

08 March 2007

The Pants-er Division

Nothing very newsworthy tends to happen in the Hampshire town where I grew up. So imagine the local excitement generated by the discovery of an unexploded WWII bomb near the centre of town:


I should point out that "town" here refers to an urban sprawl of around 5,000 people, so although "village" might be more accurate, I would be dipped in in tar and feathers if I were to even suggest Whitchurch were a village. At Hofflimits we pride ourselves on our accuracy.

Returning to our incendiary device, it was found near the town's main tourist attraction - a fully working silk mill. It seems to me that, if the luftwaffe was intent on knocking out all our silk mills, it should be little surprise they were ultimately unsuccessful in their attempts to defeat the allies. Unless this were an elite luxury underwear hit squad, designed to sap the morale of the upper classes by forcing them into flannel pantaloons.

Mind you, it would explain why stockings were in such short supply.

04 March 2007

A little restraint

It seems the Princess Diana bandwagon will roll on into its 10th anniversary, and at last Mohamed al-Fayed has got his hands on the reins. Whether it will take us any closer to the truth of what happened back in August 1997 is another matter.

For me one question remained unanswered - supposing for a moment that Princes Philip and Charles did somehow engineer the whole accident as an attempt to kill Diana, as part of an enormous (and very expensive) state-sponsored attempt to slight Mr al-Fayed, around whom the entire world revolves: How could they be sure she wouldn't be wearing a seatbelt? Her bodyguard, the sole survivor, foiled the plot by the cunning expedient of wearing a seatbelt, apparently the only passenger to have done so. You'd think that if Mr al-Fayed really is motivated by grief and the memory of his dead son, and not self-aggrandisement, he would throw his weight behind a campaign to encourage people to wear seatbelts. To act with restraint, in every sense of the word.

ESP or apostrophe?

Notice in my local dry cleaners:

"Your duvet's cleaned"

My question: how do they know?