Tuesday

Top 10 Worst Halloween Costumes 2011

This calendar year is drawing to an abrupt close and it won’t be long before the stinging Christmas hangover kicks in. Before we get set for the big fat orgy of materialism, let’s first discuss October's favourite orange jamboree ... Halloween.

If you're not familiar with Halloween, this is how it goes down. Hollywood serves up a short-lived horror flick centred on a mentally unstable dagger-wielding oddball with a penchant for headwear. Children sport leotards and horns knock on people's doors asking for sweets. Home owners become enraged. Fake tanners in Essex are mistaken for pumpkins. Royal family youth wear Nazi uniforms.

Fortunately there’s more than one way to keep your outfit fresh this October 31st. Follow our 10 offbeat Halloween costumes inspired by disaster events that hogged the news this year.

Worst Halloween Costume No. 10: We Buy Any Car Man

Never before has Britain enjoyed entering their reg number now than with We Buy Any Car. Strap on a white Vauxhall-shaped foam sandwich and paint a dotted border of aluminous car silhouettes to get the look.

Worst Halloween Costume No. 9: Foreign Baddie


This year’s nominees are flamboyant Colonel Gaddafi and veteran terrorist, Bin Laden. It’s literally a choice of life or death. The Colonel still very much the cock of the walk in North Africa, draped in opera curtain themed attire. The Laden look is simpler, wear bed sheets and paint on bullet wounds.

Worst Halloween Costume No. 8: Jedward

Spend small change on a Peter Stringfellow wig and 2 hours with a can of hairspray and you’ll rock the iconic hairdo of Britain’s best known albino double act. Dab a handful of talcum powder on the cheeks for the finishing touch.

Worst Halloween Costume No. 7: Somali Pirate


Pirates are no longer the dapper show ponies of the ocean but that makes recreating the look easier for everyone. Cliches to avoid: leaving old bits of food in your beard, choosing felt, speaking with a Cornish accent, attaching a defrosted chicken to the shoulder as your parrot.

Worst Halloween Costume No. 6: Giant Cash-For-Gold Envelope


Your slender, polished oblong-shaped bodywear will make you the talk of the party, and people will love you for having somewhere to store their bags. Avoid letterboxes when drunk.

Worst Halloween Costume No. 5: Japanese Disaster Victim


Head down to local rubbish tip for a length of driftwood. Then stand under a carwash until you’re soaking wet. You’re a disaster victim so remember to look miserable. Don’t bother to learn Japanese, it’s only Halloween.

Worst Halloween Costume No. 4: London Rioter


Essentially, this is a makeover sponsored by JD Sports. It can be bought for £25 or less. Much less in fact if you throw a brick through the shop window and mug a mannequin. Finish the look with a balaclava. Turn up with a flat screen television or a big bag of rice as a gift just in case the party host mistakes you for general riff-raff and turns you away.

Worst Halloween Costume No. 3: Charlie Sheen


A party just isn’t a party without broads, booze and bowling shirts, Charlie Sheen will agree. The main challenge that lies ahead is staying in character, which entails trying to sleep with every woman in the room and mumbling intelligible phrases about tiger blood.

Worst Halloween Costumer 2: Ghost of Steve Jobs


What? Too soon? Oh, get over it. This is your chance to pay homage to the late innovator of the pod and the pad in an unforgettable way. Grow white whiskers. Reuse that old grim reaper gown. Carry a scythe in the right hand and a pumpkin in the left. For a touch of genius, carve a face into the pumpkin with an apple for the nose.

Worst Halloween Costume No. 1: Pippa Middleton’s Bum



Superglue 2 pumpkins together, paint pink, nestle a tiara on top. Your new gigantic royal pumpkin bum mask may disguise your character too well so carry a red carpet under your arm, ready to roll out on the quick. Take your gran along too - or kidnap a little old lady from a nearby bus stop - to be Queen for the night.

Monday

Sport for thought (pt 1/4)

Idea for 4 posters/cards celebrating the upcoming 2012 London Olympics. Essentially a collection of thoughts inspired by sport on telly.

1.
"Everyone marvels at athlete's legs but no one cares for athlete's foot."

2.
"When you're asked to break in snooker you start, when you're asked to break in boxing you stop."

3.
"A footballer’s tackle can win games whereas a fisherman’s tackle can win fish."

4.
"A team coach can train the team and also drive them to away games."

Stay tuned for more observations inspired by the 2012 Olympic Games.

Saturday

Patterns in Morocco

Join me on a short tour of Morocco as I introduce you to some ornate and unusual Arabian patterns.

Even though the classy orientation of ceiling patterns such as these here can be seen all over Morocco, you never grow tired of unravelling the intricate works of art. Its a good idea to stop after several minutes as you feel as if your retinas are on fire.

Phew, this one's easier for the eyes to take in. The text here may look like a foreign Coca-Cola logo but it actually spells out God Country King in Arabic. Seen twice, on the side of the kasbah and a large dam.

Patterns on Moroccan pottery are devoted more to images than words. Expect the usual camels, palm trees and other cliches that tourists go mental for. The real beauty however, is that each hand-made pot is identical in size and shape.

There's more adventurous pattern to be seen in tailor made clothing and accessories. Leather satchels loom over the market walls as customers haggle for a good price.

Search deep within the nooks and crannies of the market and you may discover slow moving reptilian patterns in crates. A low maintenance pet or a frustrating ready meal, tortoises are readily available for purchase.

Or for a more traditional Moroccan feast, head to the port for fresh seafood. This pattern is from my swim shorts, good luck eating those juicy, armoured creatures.

Some of the patterns in Morocco appear by accident. These falcons kindly put their hunt on hold to choreograph an aerial dance act. Great for photographing and then playing dot-to-dot to create new patterns.

Speaking of making marks, why not treat your tanning skin to an authentic henna tattoo. Plenty of original pattern to choose from.

An advantage of going on a beach holiday is that the damp spongy sand is a perfect canvas on which to weave a unique tapestry. These footprints will soon we wiped out by a hungry foam wave. A new batch will form tomorrow.

Friday

Napoli ever after




The exchange rate is a funny one. In England its 0.8 Euros to the pound but in Napoli it drops considerably. Sometimes you get a big fat nothing. This is because thieving bastard taxi drivers like to play a little game called pretend that you have no change and take the tourist for all he's worth. You can only play this game a couple of times before you realise you're completely skint and have to walk back to the hotel in the pissing wind.

The fun doesn't stop there. Even kiosk owners and restaurateurs join in by making up prices on the spot and misplacing the decimal point on the bill. Crafty. If a tourist clocks on to this ploy and confronts the wrongdoer about being cheated out of his hard-earned holiday money the unwritten rule is to play dumb. Expect one of the following reactions: a claim of mild innumeracy in broken English; a tap of the glasses which translates to 'my damned eyesight again'; an apologetic smile and raised hands that look as if they are juggling three invisible apples. If you're lucky you may witness all three simultaneously.

Ok enough whinging, the bottom line is if you visit Napoli count your change and check that the amount due matches the price advertised. Or learn Italian.

If you're a sucker for art there's a round the clock painting exhibition in the city centre. Local vandals have taken time out of barging you in the street to decorate every inch of Napolitan architecture with florescent brushwork. If there's one thing a street-urchin hates its wall space.




The artistry spreads as far as the Island of Capri where cacti is used for practise, and on the outer shell of public transport vehicles, presumably as part of a pimp my carriage non-for-profit scheme.




Ironically Pompeii was the birthplace of graffiti although its great natural disaster has spared it from the vulgarity of this man-made liquid plague. I'll take the ruins over the tags any day.



Thursday

South Africa - the bush picnic

Blanket… check. Nibbles… check. Rifle… wo wo wo buster, a rifle? Damn straight. When you’re on a game drive deep in the heart of the South African bush its essential that the wily guide and his beady-eyed tracker are packing heat. You don’t need to be David Attenborough to know that firing a warning shot at a big cat with sharp teeth that fancies you for a spot of lunch is more effective than shouting ‘Shooo!' Fortunately, the many of the animals in the bush have become accustomed to daily intrusions and tend to mind their own business, meaning the gun is never needed and the shots are only taken with a Panasonic. The larger of the bush’s residents, such as the lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo, elephant (known as the big five) will tolerate a game drive truck encroaching on their personal space providing its passengers make no sudden movements or loud noises.




Coming face to face with any of the big five is an unsettling moment if, like me, you are an acclimatized suburbanite whose only frame of reference to the South African bush is Amanda Holden kissing giraffes back to health in her on-screen far-fetched hospital home. The weaker species (those without giant claws, horns or tusks) head for the hills as soon as they spot you, which is to be expected. A herd of elephants however, will rumble right past you without a second’s thought. Noisy buggers. These creatures are the celebrities of the bush and it’s crucial to bear in mind that humans must be on their best behaviour. It only takes a highly-strung elephant to have a Liam Gallagher moment and swat you in the chops for getting in too close.




If a tracker spots an animal’s spore (which he will, they know their stuff) he will then navigate the truck to the whereabouts of the animal as if he is winding in an invisible piece of string that's tied to the perpetrator's limb. This hunt may involve pursuing an uneven dirt track, or a less comfortable and unorthodox route directly through thorn tress and clusters of branches, depending on which is quicker. After all that tracking you feel like a drink and some biscuits, but why wait until you arrive back at the game lodge. The guide and tracker unveil a specially prepared picnic of savoury treats and flavoured tea for a moment of calm. You feel such at ease that it’s tough for even a distant baboon shriek to pierce the tranquility of this precious moment.


Monday

tom and jury

Jury service is a once in a lifetime experience. Unless, like me, you’re unlucky enough to get called up twice. This is an insight into what it’s like to be a member of a jury, and not a factual account of what went on the night Mr Harper strangled his wife with a rope in…ahh, I’ve said too much.

Where did my jury service take place?

For 2.3 weeks I was asked to attend Basildon Crown Court. To get to the court you have to pass its neighbouring building, Basildon Job Centre, which takes sympathy on those who don’t feel like working. The irony is that these unsavoury characters, grown men dressed in tracksuits and women who barely attempt to cover themselves at all, are committing crimes against fashion on a daily basis.

It wouldn’t surprise me to discover that a small majority end up in Basildon Crown Court at some point in their lives too, but cuffed and suited. If the reason to build the Job Centre in spitting distance of the court was to remind anyone thinking of claiming false benefits just where they’ll end up, it’s a stroke of genius on the part of the town planner.

How does jury service work?

Before each case begins 16 members of the public are ushered into the courtroom. 12 are picked at random to sit in on the case. The unused jurors return to the waiting room whinging that the ‘raffle’ process is a complete waste of their time, but their frustration actually stems from watching too much X Factor and being conditioned to think that being rejected means your life is over.

A case can stretch for up to two weeks. When you’re sworn into court the judge asks that you do not disclose the full case with anyone other than the jury. You convince yourself that you’ll keep that promise, which to a certain degree, you do. Revealing different parts of the case to friends and family members separately doesn’t count. The chances of them all meeting to piece together the puzzle is slim. You’ll be fine.

At lunch you’re free to return to the general waiting area where you can buy weak coffee for a small fortune. Or read yesterday’s newspaper. Or find a spot in view of the communal television, which is turned down so low that you can’t interpret the dialog of Loose Women but loud enough that five cackling, alcoholic panellists disrupt your reading.

How do you reach a verdict?

Each member of the jury is responsible for voting guilty or not guilty once the prosecution and the defence have put forward their case. The judge can accept a 12-0, 11-1 or 10-2 majority decision. If a majority decision is not reached, the judge will dismiss the jury and take it from there. But there are reasons why a jury may not be able to see eye to eye.

The white van driver will form a decision in the first 10 minutes on hearing the outline of the case. Guilty of course. Arms folded. Job done. A guilty verdict will also be given by the teenager scribbling West Ham United logos in the notepad that is provided specifically not for that purpose. He won’t remember any facts or persuasive arguments. But the defendant looks guilty, which is all that matters.

Two or three pragmatists will give the defendant the benefit of the doubt and look down on those who aren’t bright enough to entertain the thought that there’s good in everyone. The remaining jurors will pray that no one asks for their opinion as they are frightened that it will shape the course of the defendant’s life. Which is their duty. Instead of thinking rationally, they’ll mimic the verdict of the juror who spoke last.

Unfortunately, I can not comment on how my case ended, as I will no doubt find myself in a spot of ethical soup with a certain judge. A fine point on which to end.

No.Zine 4

My blog entries have been few and far between of late. You know how it is: work's a nightmare, time is precious, and A Question of Sport is on BBC2. But, as I have been asked to contribute to No.Zine, once again I'm happy to share with you my contribution for issue 4:

Long live the oblong


Let’s clear something up. An oblong, my friend, is not an oval. It is in fact a quadrilateral with four right angles (thank you omnipotent Wikipedia). Or, according to my old primary teacher, an oblong is what grown-ups call a rectangle. Hard facts from two trusted portals of wisdom. I’ve taken a moment to highlight some oblongs that have shaped my life in their own peculiar way starting with my school days right up to seven minutes ago when I looked up the definition online. Read on grasshopper.

WWF stickers: An expensive way to learn the names of every spunk-and-muscle athlete ever to step foot inside the squared circle. These collectable treats are highly addictive and good practice for kids who get hooked on harsher vices later in life. A typical conversation between two sticker swappers will include the words: ‘got’, ‘erm...need’, and ‘shiny!’

Lego: Before the war the world was cold, angular and looked a lot like Mechano. Then Lego Land brightened up the place with its pirate islands, medieval dungeons and men with chirpy blonde heads. Families now wade through far-off lands and discover enchanting civilisations in a Gulliveresque manner (except in winter, when it shuts for ongoing building work). Lego’s big ideas couldn’t be dreamt up, let alone connected together if the patent for this hollow, self-locking miniature brick hadn’t been granted in 1961.

Books: The perfect bedside conpanions. To look educated beyond their years many charlatans skip to the back cover and catch the highlights rather than really getting stuck in. When you reach adulthood you are expected to swap books with colourful pictures and titles like ‘The Twits’ for those that pile up on your table – handy if you’ve run out coasters. Really old people can buy books about ships or gardening or mushy tales where gentlemen fall in love with their housekeepers. They can be bought at boot sales for the price of a cup of tea, to be read, skimmed or coastered.

Letterboxes: Usually built at groin height, the postman’s peephole is at its busiest between 7am-9pm, when bank statements are usually delivered, reminding you of how poor you are. On special occasions a flurry of birthday cards with pound coins sellotaped to their insides will burst through. Other uses for letterboxes include: the delivery of The Mirror by the paperboy; the dropping off of catalogues from middle-age men without proper day jobs; the posting of flaming parcels of dog mess from young herberts. The latter is usually followed by a rigid shaking of the fist, Beano stylee.

Cadbury’s Caramel: A frontrunner for the greatest chocolate bar of all time. Previously championed by a raunchy bunny rabbit with legs that just wouldn’t quit, Cadbury’s Caramel now relaxes on corner shop shelves and sometimes shows up in selection boxes at Christmas. Although this sweet is oblong shaped its six segments are referred to as slabs or ironically, squares.

Train tickets: There are two types of train ticket in the world. The first is well-behaved; it remains intact in your wallet sleeve and glides through ticket barriers with aplomb. The other, it sulks in your trouser pocket, rolls up its edges and recoils at the sight of a ticket barrier like a cat being ushered into a hot bath. But come midnight both tickets are equal. Unless they are used as a foil to bypass unwitting guards on tomorrow’s free journey, the out of date travel token remains nothing more than a recycling opportunity.

This rose-tinted recollection is merely a footnote to the oblong chapter that refuses to end. There will always be a newer, brighter, more flamboyant addition to the list of objects that fit the four-sided default mould. I’m far too busy to be pondering over that now as my oblong iPod is calling for my attention. My playlists aren’t going to appreciate themselves now, are they.

Wednesday

sledgecam

Making the most of the January snow. I am in charge of the camera, and the vehicular menace on the mountain board is my equally clumsy friend. No prizes for guessing how it ends.

video

Other unsuccessful sledge substitutes I saw being used included: a child’s plastic rocking horse, a ‘for sale’ (housing) sign, a baking tray, a plastic bag and a dad. God loves a trier.

**Apologies for the blue language at the end of the video.**

sounds like #8

A new addition to my 'sounds like' list, volume 2. For those of you have been hibernating in straw like a Blue Peter tortoise, allow me to break it down. I choose 2 similar words, and then explore 2 opposing meanings - unofficial definitions if you will. Maybe I can craft a campaign from these one day, about how small changes make a world of difference.

niceland

Some words about my long weekend in Reykjavik. Read on if a) you are thinking of visiting and want a heads up or b) you want some useful information to pass off as your own.

1) People

The locals of Reykjavik speak wonderful English. So wonderful in fact, I felt embarrassed that my futile attempt at mastering a second language resulted in a French GCSE certificate, and nothing more. Not only do the Icelandics make you feel at ease, but from my experience, they are mild-mannered and helpful too. Even a bad drunk sitting opposite us in a restaurant, in a fuzzy bear costume, had a certain charm about him.

One other thing that differentiates the nicelanders from us Brits is how names are chosen. The surname of a child is often determined by their father’s Christian name. I’ll give you a ‘for instance’: A man named Jón Stefánsson has a son named Fjalar. Fjalar's last name will not be Stefánsson like his father's, instead it will become Jónsson. Why? Because Fjalar is the son of Jón. Mental.

2) Eating and drinking

Everything, even a pint of milk, costs an arm and a leg in Iceland. For the purposes of equating foreign tariffs I always use ‘London prices’ as my benchmark (as if it were an independent currency). So if a pint of beer is over £3.50, then I believe someone’s pulling a fast one. And trust me, you really do get your pants pulled down in exchange for meat and drink. London prices won’t even touch the sides. But…service is swift, staff are happy and food is yummy.

Drinking hours, like horses, is shorter in Iceland. Nightlife begins at midnight and carries on until 6ish. Prior to going out on the town, young people get boozy at home to save a few quid, which means bars and pubs are usually empty before 10pm. Even McDonalds has decided to call it a day. The last Golden Arches restaurant in Iceland closed earlier this year due to a loss of earnings. Although I think it was it because Red Ron, illustrated below, looks like he should be on the sex offenders register.


3) Landscape

The Icelandic equivalent of Location, Location, Location would be wrapped up after 3 episodes because the baron landscape makes for insufferable living conditions. 70% of the North Atlantic Ocean’s loneliest island resembles an amalgamation of Mars and the Great Plains of America. The geysers smell of sulphur.

Contrary to the belief, a geyser is not someone who wears sovereign rings and beats the wife after downing 10 pints of Stella. Oh no. These natural wonders sit in Iceland’s molten landscape like small lava rock pools with sore heads. Every 10 minutes or so, a live geyser will bubble to the intensity of gas mark 6 before finally losing its rag and erupting with a 30 foot hot jet of water.

The icy sea is so fierce that if you were to fall in, it would be game over in less than 5 minutes. A tour guide told me that, which put me off fishing for the rest of my trip. Weather permitting, every inch of land above sea level is a treat on the eye. Giant frozen waterfalls, angular mountains, serene fishing villages and further rocky terrain are spectacular feats of nature not to be ignored by any budding photographer’s lens.


4) Activities

Other than waiting for my coat outside the Millennium Dome on New Year’s Eve 1999/2000 I have not felt the wrath of the cold so badly when snowmobiling up a glacier in a blizzard. The experience largely consisted of me navigating through endless white, thousands of feet up, while spiteful shards of snow beat me around the chops for an hour. If you can suffer it, do it – it’s highly rewarding. My bones did ache a bit afterwards.

Imagine a hot lake, in the middle of nowhere, guarded by molten rock. Throw in an adjoining health spa, some tourists and a gift shop and you have the Blue Lagoon. It’s pretty much a great big outdoor bath. An endless supply of skin cream is dispensed in obscure taps around the edge of the lagoon. Dab it on your face then rinse off after 5 minutes. Marvellous for the complexion so I’m told.

Because daylight is rare in the winter – 3 hours on Christmas day, you need to pack in all activities double quick. If you’re not so keen on bus trips I recommend quad biking up the mountains (via the main road) as a great way of discovering the island. Expect to whiz past horses, which Icelandic tour guides will rave about. Freakishly small, they are considered a national treasure. Tour guides seem to have a soft spot for Queen. Be warned.

Sunday

burnt chicken

The gym is a funny old place. Used by middle-class housewives by day, taking two and a half parking spaces for their SUV’s, and by evening, filled with beefcakes high-fiving their reflection in the mirror. It's ok Tom, just avoid eye contact, commandeer a fitness machine and look as if you know what you’re doing. But why does each piece of electronic equipment seem to be infatuated with calories? I haven’t got the faintest idea what a single calorie is worth, it might as well be speaking in Swahili. Instead, just for simple folk like me, why not invent a range of treadmills, cross-trainers that tells you how many calories you have burnt in relation to what you eat. For example, if I burn the number of calories contained in a chicken dinner, let that show up on the machine’s screen in its clunky, Atari shoot-em-up typeface. This is what I want: “Congratulations, you have burnt the equivalent of a chicken dinner… 50 more calories to go for cheesecake. And nice trainers by the way.” It’s not too much to ask, surely?

Tuesday

mixed signals

So how does this work...I halt then drive? Isn't that what lollypop ladies are for. I don't understand.

Monday

batterski

A recent visit to the ski festival at Battersea Power Station. I spent the day pondering why the brains behind this event didn't think of calling it 'Batterski'. Would of made perfect sense to me. In short, there was lots of people with floppy hair, walking around saying things like 'rad' and 'dude'. I saw that tall chap from T4 and various camera crews. Then the snowboarding was announced and it all went downhill from then on. Boom boom.