Thursday, 23 October 2008

Chiuauas and Jimmy Choo-ow-waaas

Small dogs, high heels: A combination fashion statement we can blame on a certain Dorothy Gale of Kansas? Maybe.

But things have changed since Judy was a girl/alive and these days any fashionista worth her size zero skinny jeans has downsized the dog - sorry Toto, you were looking chunky - and upped the ante with the heel.

And when I say "upped" we're talking heels higher than those freaky flying monkeys on Judy's diet pills.

These are statement shoes. Forget WOW factor, these shoes have WAG factor.

They say: "I have a heel like a rapier dagger, and I will use it if you so much as put one acrylic-nailed, french-manicured finger on my man."

They say: "Walk? I don't think so. Taxi!"

They say: "I over-compensate my low IQ with a sky-scraper high heel - is that a problem for you?"

But behind the botox their wearers say: "OMFG the pain! The pain! Amputate my feet!! F!F!F!"

These women aren't slaves to fashion - they're martyrs to it, the condition has a medical name: "Stilettotarsal" damage.

What unsympathetic columnists and men don't understand is that this condition isn't just fashion's frivolity, it's an addiction as dizzying and damaging as crack cocaine.

If these women could walk away from the habit that will leave them crippled and penniless, then of course they'd do it faster than Dorothy could click her Ruby heels and take Toto home.

But they can't, and now they're injecting. That's right, botox for the feet has become a mainstream phenomena.

For a mere £300 you too can inject who-knows-what-crap into the balls of your feet and teeter around without feeling a thing. This week I was offered the chance to test the procedure out, but strangely declined.

Who wouldn't? What would make any sane woman want to pay for the privilege of freezing her feet with botox?

Well, my friend, these shoes are siren shoes, they are crafted by dark lord designers who seek to tantalise, tempt, exploit and torture unsuspecting females with their ever more terrifying footwear ranges.

[I do hope Mr Shoe Fetish isn't reading this.]

They conspire to seduce and then render their wearer paralysed and resorting to poking dubious cosmetic fluids into her feet.

The clue to this, aside from their obvious annihilation-of-all-comfort-aesthetic, is in the name.

"Monolo Blahnik" to those of sound mind evokes the slurred speech of a stiletto devotee botoxed to her eye-balls and raving madly in pain - but to the victim it is the sound of the shoe devil himself speaking in tongues, telling her if she dons this season's spiky orthopaedic prostitute shoes she'll look HOT.

Meanwhile the name "Jimmy Choo" not so subtly foreshadows the involuntary cooing these shoes provoke among the female population.

And make no mistake, they are beautiful: Sublimely crafted, everything about a pair of Choos is perfect, right down to the exquisite pain of wearing them.

At which point the "Oooooos" become "Owwwwwwws".

Saturday, 18 October 2008

OMG more about Julia Allison!!!

I know, I know there's enough already on the internet about the pointless fame-hungry brunette Julia Allison and by writing this I'm playing to her hand, stoking her ego and perpetuating the myth, but I can't help it.

I'm hooked.

She's so irritating, I can't believe she thinks her vapid musings need to be shared, and if I read another bleating tweet about her lack of sleep I'll scream.

For the uninitiated Allison has a self-obsessed form of Twitter-tourettes, a Time Out column and an online TV show. This is what she sounds like:

omg omg omg neighbor's breakfast smells wafting into my studio. I WANT BACON SO BADLY. And I don't even eat meat!!!! I CAN'T TAKE THIS!

Agenda tonight: Soho House Party for "How to Lose Friends & Alienate People," with a very good-mood'd @MaryRambin 1:57 PM Oct 1st from txt

The truth is, part of me doesn't want to go back to New York. I miss this ... This quiet. This family. This LIFE.

Cabbing home in the rain from an EPIC six episode TMI Weekly taping with my co-bunnies @MaryRambin & @MeghanAsha. Xoxo ladies.

You can vomit now.

So why am I writing about her? Because loathe her or loathe her, Allison is no Big Brother 7 contestant.

At first glance she might seem like one;
- Occupation impossible to define,
- Will turn up to the opening of an envelope,
- Shares every aspect of her life with a voyeuristic audience.

But what I find fascinating about Allison is there's no reality TV producer pulling the strings, she's not selling copies of Heat magazine for Emap, she's not a kiss'n'tell slapper and she has no known connections with Max Clifford - in other words she's not part of the establishment.

And yet, she's establishing herself online as a force to be reckoned with.

With a 3,337-strong Twitter following, Allison out-ranks the Guardian's media pundit Jemima Kiss and has graced the cover of Wired but no-one can figure out what she wants beyond celebrity - and if that's all she wants why doesn't she just hire an agent?

Maybe she just likes being in control, maybe she's enjoying it, maybe there's a bit of entrepreneurial flair in there somewhere - and do you know what? If that's the case, I like her for it.

If Allison's only talent, and tireless ambition, is to become a one-woman media mogul - then good luck to her, it sure beats seeing Chantelle's breasts plastered across the cover of Zoo magazine.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Drop the dead hamster

I might retire from the news industry after today delivering the immortal line: "Drop the dead hamster!"

My Monday morning arranged itself into a pear-shaped configuration at 9.05am when I got a call from Harry the hamster's people.

Harry was no ordinary hamster; he was a devil-may-care, daring, dashing rodent who should rightly have borne the moniker "Houdini the hamster".

"Why", you ask?

Well my dears, because Harry escaped his happy cage, romped down two flights of stairs, dodged oncoming traffic to cross a main road, and shimmied into No.47 Sea View Drive, to terrify the life out its slumbering owner, Mrs Smith.

Much screaming ensued from Mrs Smith, but fortunately Mr Smith was made of sterner stuff and, with a cool head, was able to catch Harry and later reunite him with his family, the Peters.

Miraculous!! Hold the front page! Or page 12.

Dutifully I spoke to the family, and they agreed to an exclusive photoshoot at 9.15am on Monday morning.

"And how is Harry now?" I enquired on Friday.
"He's very tired, in fact I think he might not be well," said Mrs Peter.
"Dear me, will he make it to Monday - or should we get round sharpish?" I asked, ever sensitive to the family's feelings.
"Oh, I'm sure it's nothing, Monday will be fine," was Mrs Peter's reply.

Come Monday morning and with the photographer dispatched in pursuit of a Pulitzer Prize winning piece of photojournalism, my mobile rang.

"What's that Mrs Peter - Harry's dead?!"
[In the background I hear the doorbell ring, and realise that this signifies the arrival of my man in the field. I begin plotting ways to escape the office before his return.]

I dedicate this post to Harry, R.I.P.

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Football is my church

As another manager is sacrificed at the altar of the beautiful game there's no denying football is the new religion.

Premiership players are gods, chants replace hymns and the cathedral has been abandoned in favour of the home ground.

Worship is held on match days, Kevin Keegan is not the Messiah, he's a very naughty boy, and Alex Ferguson is probably the pope.

Phil "the sacrificial lamb" Scolari has found this out the hard way thanks to Roman Abramovich's very convincing turn as Pontius Pilate.

Interesting that at a time when everyone else is apologising - bankers, the BBC, hell even Barack Obama - Scolari was out on his ear before he could even begin to grovel.

That's because the football gods are merciless - think Old Testament meets Rangers fans and you get the idea.

Failure demands action, not words - after all the Champions League is far more important than the global banking crisis, and so it is fitting that the Chelsea manger has been dealt a larger serving of public humiliation in his ruthless execution than Mssrs Goodwin, Hornby, Stevenson and McKillop were served by the select-committee.

The good news for Big Phil is that there's likely to be a second coming with another high profile job in top flight football almost a guarantee before the month's out.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Education, education, stagflation

Tony Blair in his 1996 conference speech to the party faithful, declared:

"Ask me my three main priorities for government, and I tell you: education, education, education."

Twelve years on and we're staring a scary and potentially prolonged spell of stagflation in the face.

"Credit crunch" is the cosy term for it.

I'm not an economist, but in layman's terms even I can understand the basic arithmatic of an extended period of easy credit + rising prices of global commodities = stagflation.

Pushing 50 per cent of youngsters into university is partly to blame for my generation's credit habit.

Without planning or budgeting for it families and 18-year-olds found themselves being thrust into higher education.

Which wouldn't be a national disaster, except that these days an undergraduate degree from a decent university will set you back anywhere in the region of £8,000 to £20,000.

For many people of my generation, adulthood was marked by the taking on of debt, so it's small wonder we're a credit card comfortable lot - personal debt is all we've ever know.

We learnt to borrow before we learnt to earn.

But it wasn't always like that, within recent memory the grant system still operated.

My friend Sarah and her brother James perfectly illustrate how quickly things changed, and how mums and dads had no time to plan, budget, or save for their kids' future.

Sarah is 24, her brother James is 30: He was given a grant and so was effectively paid to go to university, as a result he now owns a flat in London.

On the other hand Sarah was hit for tuition fees, then top up fees and without a grant she had to take out a student loan. Having graduated two years ago she is still paying her debts off and has no hope of owning property in the foreseeable future.

With the benefit of hindsight it is obvious that this change happened too quickly.

We are now approaching a higher education system similar to that of America, which is not inherently a bad thing, unless you introduced it overnight and did nothing to counter the culture of easy lending it created.

What difference does a bit more debt make if you already owe the bank £15k? When you don't earn it and money comes for free and you're 18 it's all fine - right?

Who was regulating the massively lucrative student banking sector?

With education offered up as an answer to all society's ills, not enough of us questioned the validity of our higher education choices.

Which must be painfully obvious now to those who took puppetry, complimentary medicine and media studies degrees and are labouring away in unrelated careers to shift those debts.

Expensive, inapropriate higher education didn't open doors, it shut them.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

The GREAT North Run

So about three weeks before the event the training schedule was well and truly out of the window - I fell over and pranged my knee.

The Friday night before the race the healthy eating plan was a distant memory - I was four glasses of wine down in the pub.

The day of the race the music stopped - I realised my ipod was out of juice on the start line.

My preparations for 13.1m had basically turned into a comedy of errors, only with half a marathon of pain stretching out in front of me I was struggling to see the funny side.

Luckily, I discovered that to complete the Great North Run athletic prowess is unnecessary - think of it as a luxury - all you need is bloody-mindedness and a fantastic crowd of mental Geordies to line the route.

In the end I got round in a just about respectable 2 hours 28 minutes.

I say "I" but if I'm honest it was a team effort, and I share my medal with the Newcastle nutters who spend their Sunday cheering on Sweaty Bettys like me, particularly the good people of Jarrow whose welcome banner ("Jarrow welcomes the magnificent 50,000+") made me feel warm and fuzzy.

Thanks to those lovely people there wasn't a moment during the whole 13.1m when I wasn't munching biscuits, drinking juice, eating orange segments or being drenched with someone's garden hosepipe (in a good way).

My only complaints? A toenail that didn't make it to the finish line with the rest of me (too much information? Sorry), a wonky knee for the final mile and a message to the five people I saw running while chatting on their mobiles: If you've got enough puff to chinwag your way round you should be RUNNING FASTER.