Monday 31 December 2012

2012 Review of the Year

I love a review of the year, and 2012 is no different.  Blogging has been sparse, but this has mainly been Boyfriend Smile's fault, and I have a Plan to rectify this in 2013, so don't worry.

It was a year which started with the introduction of Boyfriend Smile, of course, and therefore with anxiety, panic and all manner of emotions which one* goes through upon a sudden unexpected change.  But we soon settled in, lost the haunting fear that it was all going to go pear-shaped, and began to eat again.
[* i.e., me]

Initially we went on a lot of dates, before realising that we both hated going on dates, and after that we started staying in, which was much better.

This brought us through the winter and into the spring, when we started chasing the Olympic torch around Belfast and were somewhat Jubilant.

The summer, of course, brought much excitement, what with the Olympics, and the beginnings of a Wenlock obsession which appears to have spiraled entirely out of control.  Still, as Mama Smile keeps saying, at least we're not killing old people or doing drugs.

Also in the summer, we had a number of Outings, such as to the museum, where we played in the drawing area and took photos of ourselves with stuffed animals.  We also went to the Titanic Museum with Mama and Papa Smile, which was very nice, and to be recommended.

Then came the autumn, and Not Much Happened and then it was Christmas, and Not Much Had Happened.

I am pleased to note, however, that I completed my Reading Challenge, which is really the Main Thing.  Here are the books I read:

2012 Reading Challenge

2012 Reading Challenge
Sharon has completed her goal of reading 30 books in 2012!

As you can see, I had challenged myself to read 30 books, and managed to read 32, thus achieving a lifetime best of 106% (I would have liked exams in school a lot more if I could've got more than 100%).  Next year I'm hoping to manage 35, although I admit to cheating slightly by being almost finished several books today, thus giving me a head start.

Jayber Crow was asking us all which books we enjoyed (as well as suggesting a number of titles which may well make their way onto 2013's Challenge).  Of those I read, I liked Room (Emma Donoghue), The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini) and Five Children and It (Edith Nesbit).  I also enjoyed My Family and Other Disasters by Lucy Mangan, who I consider a kindred spirit.

I did not especially enjoy Peter Pan (JM Barrie), but that might have been because I am too old.

The only film I saw in the cinema was War Horse, which I liked (I saw this with Boyfriend Smile when we were still going on dates).

So that is almost everything from 2012, apart from One Other Thing, which I shall tell you about tomorrow.

In the meantime, have a nice start of 2013.

Sunday 21 October 2012

Young Apprentice Is Back!

So.  Young Apprentice is back next week.  Thursday night.  1st November.

I'm not sure whether I'll blog it or not, because:

1. I'm quite busy at the moment, and
2. I always feel a bit bad being snarky about kids.  Even if they are annoying and pretentious.

So we'll see.

But I shall definitely watch, I can promise you THAT.

Friday 28 September 2012

Some Things I Found And Liked

I'd love to apologise for the delay in transmission, but you know what?  I'm not even sorry.  I've just been busy.  And also, today I think my brain stopped working.  Like, it's doing all the basics like reminding me to breathe, but it's not doing actual thoughts.

So I thought I'd share with you some Things I Found Online And Liked.  We might come back to some of them later.

Firstly, this weekend is the 100th anniversary of the Ulster Covenant, which is, if you are a certain type of Ulster Protestant, a Big Deal.  There's to be a load of parades, all through the city centre, and there's to be a protest, but everybody has said how much they don't want to riot unless they absolutely have to, so I think it'll probably be fine.  In any case, Virtual Methodist wrote a thing about it, which I think you should all read.

Then there was a thing The Soapbox wrote about forgiveness, which was also a little bit about football, but not so much that you have to understand the offside rule or anything.  Mostly it is about forgiveness, and Very Good it is too.  This is one of the things we might come back to later.

Another thing we might come back to later, and which might even be connected, was a thing that someone said to The Chip Monk some time ago (I'm not providing a link, because you'll all go there and argue again):
People generally have little or no faith in God: their faith is in the church. Then, when the church fails (inevitable), they lose their faith. One of my many questions is why so few people in the church have any faith in God.
I believe this to be Fairly Profound, and possibly connected to us being Not Very Good at forgiving in churches.  When my brain starts working again (and I'm only assuming it will: I haven't sought medical advice or anything), I believe I shall have More To Say on this.

Monday 3 September 2012

How To See Me On TV (Maybe)

Remember this?  When I met Nick off The Apprentice because he was opening a farm and Mama Smile and I went?  Well, IT'S ON TV TONIGHT!

BBC One, at approximately 10.35pm, I believe.  Or have an early night and watch it on iPlayer.  Whichever.

I'm not sure whether the farm we went to is being shown tonight only, including the Opening Event, or whether it is spread out over the entire series, in which case we would expect the Opening Event to be in Week Final.  Best to watch just to be sure.

Sunday 26 August 2012

An Advert I Don't Understand

There's an advert I don't understand at the moment.  Maybe y'all can help.  It's on the radio, and it's for a car.  It goes a bit like this:

Customer: I want to buy a car 
Salesman: This car has lots of extras, like SatNav and special brakes and stuff 
Customer: I don't need those, I have maps and I can stop by myself 
Salesman: Well, tough, it comes with them anyway 
Customer: How much for the car without the pointless extras? 
Salesman: It costs the same. You have to have the pointless extras.

I don't understand why I would buy this car, which I'm sure is otherwise very nice.

Sunday 12 August 2012

London 2012 Closing Ceremony: Live Blog

The next day, 00:01am: If golf were an Olympic sport, Rory McIlroy would just have won TeamGB's 66th Gold medal.

11:54pm: I love Take That.

11:50pm: Tearing up a bit at the flame being extinguished.  But then Take That come on, and it's glorious, glorious, GLORIOUS!

11:46pm: Enough speeches.  People have beds to go to.

11:29pm: Did the Queen sod off to Ibiza after the Opening Ceremony or something?

11:26pm: In every language, Boris Johnston is Boris Johnston.

11:24pm: Was just listening to the Olympic anthem, thinking "There's a reason they only sing this once every four years", when my mum shot me in the foot with a McDonald's Archery Wenlock.

11:22pm: If you haven't seen the GIF of Boris Johnston dancing to the Spice Girls, please treat yourself now: (warning: also contains David Cameron).

11:21pm: Is part of the closing ceremony about making us wish it would all end?

11:20pm: Oh good.  Brian May and Jessie J.  Said no one, ever.

11:16pm: Oh good.  Brian May.  Said no one, ever.

11:09pm: My dad normally does a good sarcastic commentary on these things.  It's just occurred to me that he hasn't spoken for a good hour now.

11:02pm: My mum just asked "Where did the giant octopus go?"  And for a time, we all seriously thought about it.

10:55pm: You know what?  Sod it.  THE SPICE GIRLS! YAY!!!!!!!

10:54pm: Taxi ballet!  This is an official sport, right?  Go TeamGB!!

10:45pm: Me: "Jessie J's up next".  Mum: "OH, she'll sing that Fireworks song"

10:43pm: Mum: "Is that a big octopus?".  Me: "Yes.  Yes it is."

10:39pm: Ugh. Russell Brand.

10:30pm: Annie Lennox on a pirate ship.  The night is redeemed.

10:27pm: Now a homage to British fashion, which we need never speak of again.

10:26pm: You should feel free to leave comments below, by the way.

10:22pm: Mum: "The Kaiser what?"

10:20pm: George Michael once was enough.

10:08pm: This next bit is entitled "A Symphony of British Music".  I may not say much, and I'm leaving the country if Paul Frickin' McCartney turns up.

10:06pm: Now the volunteers get some flowers for being so nice.  They better not be presented individually.

10:03pm: I just got hold of a programme:

10:02pm: Uganda's third ever Olympic medal, and their second ever gold.  Tearing up a little here.  Also hoping they've found the tape of the Ugandan national anthem.

10:00pm: Now, for obscure reasons, we have the medal ceremony for the men's marathon.  Not to spoil the surprise, but the Ugandan guy won.  He was epic.

9:57pm: Say what you like about the BBC, but those fellas can knock together a montage.

9:56pm: Jenga!

9:53pm: Ooooh, Krypton Factor blocks!

9:50pm: Someone just said "The Prime Minister's given everyone the day off".  I kid you not.

9:49pm: Feck.  They put all the flags in the wrong place.  Moving them now.

9:48pm: Apparently the International Space Station is about to pass over the UK.  This is not related to the Olympics.  I just thought you might be interested.

9:47pm: PARKLIFE!!

9:45pm: More Madness, with the same song.  Is this playlist on repeat?

9:44pm: Ah, the Australians.  I keep forgetting, they're not actually boycotting; they just really, really suck at sports.

9:40pm: This is fabulous.

9:38pm: Two weeks on, and the French still look like they're at an ex's wedding.  They hate us.  This could have been in Paris, they're thinking.  Nice sarcastic flag-waving, though, madames et monsieurs.

9:34pm: "Ben Ainslie taking it all in, can't quite believe what he's seeing".  That because he's seeing paper mache traffic.

9:30pm: Flags!  For those watching on NBC: there are other places out there that aren't America, and they've all got their own flags, and right now they're bringing them into the stadium.  I realise you're probably watching an interview with Ryan Lochte right now.

9:28pm: Uh-oh. Emeli Sande singing "We're all wonderful people" with a montage of people doing awesome sporty things.  There may be tears.

9:27pm: We're fair getting our money's worth from Emeli Sande.

9:24pm: Holidays are comin', holidays are comin'...

9:22pm: They need some serious auto-tune here.

9:21pm: Just to clarify: we're back to being cynical, right?  Because it's been a good fortnight, and also, THIS is happening.

9:20pm: The Wheels on the Bus!  We don't do it like THIS in Tots!  We should totally start, though!

9:17pm: This is a little bit like "GB Display on Tour", but Quite Good all the same.

9:15pm: My mum just said "Who's that?" "One Direction". "Aye, they're ok".

9:15pm: My mum just said "I mean, the Pet Shop Boys were never brilliant".  This sums up many things.

9:13pm: And now... the Ku Klux Klan?  On bikes?  Really?  If you're missing this in America, it's as mental as the Opening Ceremony.

9:12pm: PARKLIFE!

9:09pm: Oh, here we go.  Music.  Madness again.  That's twice this year.

9:06pm: Paper mache lollipop ladies.  Nice touch.  And back to announcements in French, and Prince Harry has arrived.  Where's the Queen?  WHERE'S THE QUEEN?!  Oh, Prince Harry's growing a moustache.  Is the Queen arriving with James Bond again, or could she not be bothered to turn up?

9:04pm: Someone my mother just refered to as "yer man" is doing the Kenneth Branagh / Shakespeare thing from the Opening Ceremony.  Oh, Timothy Spalding as Winston Churchill reciting from the Tempest.  Now some paper mache traffic.

9:03: Oooooh, Stomp!  I love Stomp.

9:01:  We're sitting through the slowest countdown in the world EVER.  Oh, but Emili Sande's back.  Or, if you're in American, Emili Sande's here.  Performing on what seems to be a huge paper mache crocodile.

9pm: So, apparently we have options for this ceremony... we can press the red button to nuke Trevor Nelson, or something else to watch in 3D.  I'm not doing either of those things.  There is also a warning about strobe lighting and flashing lights, but not about the Spice Girls or Paul McCartney, so hopefully THOSE aren't happening.

Ok, here we go.  The idea is the same as last time: I shall dispense thoughts here, and you shall keep refreshing the page to read them.  But I might give up and go to bed half way through.

The Olympics, Reviewed

So the Olympics are almost over, and I think we're all agreed they were frickin' fantastic.  What with TeamGB getting 65 medals, of which 29 were gold (I didn't realise how awesome this was until I checked out their track record, and they have basically only hit double figures twice before since 1920), and all.  Of course, they had 56 gold medals in 1908, and 146 in total, but that seems to have been an aberration, possibly caused by most countries not having been invented then or something.

And the Opening Ceremony wasn't terrible, and the traffic wasn't so bad, and everyone learned to love the mascots, and people in Britain actually turned up at stuff and waved flags, and not even in an ironic or sarcastic sort of way.

After about 2 days, I think we were all a bit concerned, lying behind Kazakhstan in the medals table, and with Mark Cavendish getting all ganged up on by the rest of the world, and everyone suddenly realising that China had secretly been practicing things like swimming and diving and had got Quite Good.  But then suddenly it all took off, and next thing we're at number 4 in the medals table and we're all like IN YOUR FACE, Kazakhstan! (unless anyone from Kazakhstan is reading this, in which case we love you a lot (is it Kazakhstan that has nuclear weapons?)).

And then Jessica Ennis goes racing off, flinging javelins and discuses and hurdles, and Mo Farah bombs round the track 90 times in about 47 seconds, and Greg Rutherford is leaping the length of the stadium, and we're in third place in the medals table, and we're all cheering at ridiculous things like horse dancing and synchronised swimming and other things that we don't even know what they're called, but who cares because GO TEAM GB! and we're realising that actually all these sports are marvellous and we should have tried harder at PE in school because then we could have been there, winning.  At one point I found myself looking up the rules of Double Trap Shooting.

Part of the awesomeness of the Olympics is that it's not even all about the people who actually won stuff.  We loved Zoe Smith, who looked like you could push her over with a gust of wind, and then lifted approximately 17 times her own body weight above her head with one hand, while tweeting with the other.  We loved the Nigerian(?) guy who was always going to come last in the rowing, but went out there and rowed like feck just because he had his chance to compete; we loved the women from countries where they're basically not allowed to leave the house, but who came and had a jog around the track because the opportunity was there and maybe next time round they'll get a couple of places higher; I particularly loved the Algerian dude who entered (and lost) the canoe sprint, and could barely even get his canoe lined up at the starting block, never mind actually getting it along the course in a reasonable speed.

And it wasn't all about TeamGB: we loved Irish boxer Katie Taylor so much that certain British newspapers tried to adopt her.

We loved the people who put out the hurdles and cleaned the toilets, and the BBC commentary team, and the cameramen, and I liked Clare Balding, even if Boyfriend Smile didn't.  In the middle of it all, a thing landed on Mars, so we loved that too.  We loved the giant golden Wenlocks that the gold medalists won, and we came to like the weird all-blue TeamGB outfits. I was not so keen on the volunteers who made people sing, but by and large they seemed to have done well, so we liked that. I didn't like Usain Bolt, and then I saw him run, and I loved him.  We loved the little Minis that drove the javelins and discuses about, and we loved that the horse-jumping course had fences like Stonehenge and post boxes and the Tower of London.

We loved the particularly unusual sports; my personal favourite being the insanity that is the Modern Pentathlon, an event comprising swimming, horse riding, fencing, and a weird combination of running and shooting (it's not even like the heptathlon, where the events have a general theme and seem largely designed for people who like lots of sports but just aren't awesome at any of them in particular (apart from Jess Ennis, who is); the Modern Pentathlon appears to be for people who embraced wholeheartedly the contents of their Santa Stocking when they were 7, and never looked back).

We were comforted that some things don't change: we still don't have the capacity to pass a relay baton between 2 people travelling at any kind of speed; we still come across countries we've never heard of;  we still believe in every single British athlete long past the point where a gold medal is not even a mathematical possibility.

And now we have the Closing Ceremony to look forward to, and, given how things have gone so far, I'm assuming that it will turn out that the whole "Spice Girls' Reunion" was just a bluff and that the evening will comprise Mr Bean performing all 4 verses of the National Anthem while riding piggy-back on Mo Farah and being chased by a crowd of small children in pyjamas, before the Queen, Philip and Corgies are winched back up into the helicopter and blast back to the palace to the sound of Victoria Pendleton inviting everyone back for cookies after the parade of athletes.

And after that, we have the Paralympics; presumably we'll also have the finals of the Beach Volleyball, which seems to have been in the preliminary stages since day 1, without making any progress whatever towards deciding who should get a medal.

Anyway, I've had a special request to live blog the Closing Ceremony, so I'm going to try.  I'm pretty knackered, because today we had the "Boyfriend Smile's family coming to meet my family", and while it was very nice and everyone seemed to get on very well and hardly anyone said anything inappropriate, it involved being sociable, and we all know how much I love THAT (i.e. not at all, even with people I know and like), so I may quit half way through and go to bed.  Since it starts in 20 minutes, I need to go and get ready.

See you presently.

Friday 27 July 2012

London 2012 Opening Ceremony: The Live Blog

00:41 Right.  I think that's pretty much it.  Totally worth it for that torch bit at the end, and the fireworks.  Thank you all for the pleasure of your company.  No sheep were harmed in the making of this blog, and the Olympics people still aren't giving me any money to produce it.  I would not mind at all being in the Olympic Stadium right now, but since that's not an option, I would quite like to be in bed.

00:40 Did someone pass a law that says Paul McCartney has to go to everything?


00:39 Ugh.  Paul McCartney.

00:36 Right.  THAT was awesome.  To explain it, I have to tell you that when the various countries came in, they were each carrying a copper thingy.  The copper thingies came together to make the torch.  And now there are fireworks and it is FABULOUS and I LOVE IT!


00:34 So these kids are lighting the torch?

00:32 Synchronised hugging.

00:32 Hmm, some kids have nicked the torch and are running round the stadium.  Is this an official thing?

00:30 Here's the torch!  No sign of Wenlock leading the way though.

00:29 At this point, we take a small break to wish Alex a happy birthday.

00:29 Also, apparently "Olympism" is a word.  Not according to Google spellchecker, it's not.

00:28 Apparently they're just starting to broadcast this in America.  They have QUITE the evening ahead.

00:27 Now they're swearing oaths.  This IS like a GB display.

00:25 Steve Redgrave!  Yay!!!  Also, not David Beckham!  Double yay!

00:24 David Beckham still speeding up the Thames in a boat.  We're about to find out who gets to light the torch.

00:20 Here's the flag.  I think they just said that one of the people carrying it is the Champion of the Earth.  Seems like a job that should have more responsibility than this.

00:13 Ok, the pace has slowed a bit.  Didn't think it was possible.

00:10 Ah, good.  A history lesson.  Just what I was wanting. Boyfriend Smile has gone home, by the way.

00:07 How are we going in America, by the way?  Have they started broadcasting it yet?  You've 3 hours to go.

00:06 Flying bird on a bike!

00:03 Birds on bikes, with light up wings.  The boyfriend is talking about going home.

00:03 Nice.

00:01 Oh, nice fireworks.  Mind they don't set the torch off.

00:00 Music.  Please no.  Someone light the sodding torch so we can all go home.

The next day Twitter was made for nights like this.

23:59 Hope Tom Daley's tan doesn't wash off...

23:58 If Greece had a euro for every minute they've been standing on that hill... well, things would be a LOT better for them.

23:55 For anyone just tuning in in America, I can officially promise you, it does end.  And then the Queen picks her nails.

23:54 If I have waited this long and David Freaking Beckham lights the torch, people will suffer.  Anyway, YAY!! Great Britain!  With ABBA jackets.

23:48 I need you to manage my expectations.  How many countries start with X?  Including any they've made up just for tonight.

23:48 Did we not just have Vanatu?  And not Ukraine?  Are we out of order, or have I forgotten how the alphabet goes?  It's possible; I'm very tired.

23:47 Keep drumming, boys. Are UK so late because they're the hosts and let everyone else go first, or is it alphabetical?

23:45 Spain have only just reached the hill.  Team GB are scheduled to enter the stadium in 2043.

23:44 I thought I knew all the countries.  Apparently, I do not.

23:43 I need to pee.

23:39 I thought Sudan was 2 countries now?  Still, no point stretching this out any more.

23:38 I'm just cheering everything now.

23:36 Somalia!

23:35 Slovakia!  I've been there!

23:25 Moving to Papua New Guinea, for the flag.

23:24 Pakistan's is a flag I can never identify.

23:20 Nepal.  The one with the flag you get asked about at quizzes.

23:17 Team GB are due in the stadium at about midnight.  I cry.

23:14 Did anyone light the torch yet?

23:10 The 'Stans have very fancy flags.

23:08 Kiribati?  You are making this up now, right?

23:06 First sighting of Wenlock this evening.

23:05 Isle of Man residents would compete for Team GB, I'm told.

23:04 IRELAND!!!

23:03 "The Queen looking on with great interest" says the commentator, as the camera cuts to a shot of the Queen not looking at all interested.

22:54 Ah! AH! AH! AH! AH! Stayin' Alive!!

22:47 The Czech Republic are wearing wellies.  That was not expected.

22:45 Question for you, internet: if you live on the Isle of Man or the Channel Islands, which team would you be on?

22:42 I like the flags on the hill.  Nice touch.

22:41 Boyfriend now playing "Man or Woman?" with some of the athletes.

22:40 Someone asked in the comments what happened to the sheep.  I do not know, but there's no sign of them now.

22:38 This is getting more like a GB display.  Soon they'll all sit on the floor and the minister's wife will give them trophies for skipping and craft.

22:36 Brunei Darussallam? WHERE?

22:23 14 minutes in and we're only on the Bs?

22:30 I'm keeping quiet here, because I know no facts at all about any of these places.

22:23 There's a country called American Samoa?

22:22 Not sure about those we country signs they're all carrying.  A bit Pound Shop.

22:20 The athletes at last!

22:20 Just told the boyfriend I want Abide With Me at my funeral.  He's a bit worried he'll be losing his mind by then and I'll get Firestarter instead.

22:18 Abide With Me always makes me cry.  Except, apparently, when my boyfriend is next to me with 2 stuffed Wenlocks in his arms.

22:13 David Beckham.  Go away.  He's just driving the boat, right?  He's not lighting the thing?

22:09 The torch relay!  Will actually die of happy if you get a glimpse of me here.

22:09 Tim Berners-Lee looks a bit lost there, to be honest.

22:06 BONKERS!

22:05 This is epic.


22:03 I had leggings like that!

22:01  And now into the eighties.  The rest of the world is sitting with its mouth open, and a puzzled expression.  I can tell.

22:00 Ah the seventies: bad catsuits, Bohemian Rhapsody and 3D glasses.

21:59 This is the future, right?  This never really happened?  Or was this when they were all on drugs?

21:58 Ah yes, the falcon. *nods sagely*

21:57 The rest of the world is thinking "huh?"

21:55 Ah, fluorescent tubes and bright socks.  A tribute to GB Displays across the land and throughout history.

21:54 No real clue what's going on now.

21:49 Had to hang up because I couldn't hear Papa Smile over the sound of Boyfriend Smile laughing at Mr Bean.  Boyfriend Smile just told me Rowan Atkinson is 50th in line to the throne.

21:47 Papa Smile is on the phone. Apparently Mama Smile just said this bit's going to be good.

21:45 GAH!  Creepy giant baby!!!

21:42 Yay!  Mary Poppins to the rescue!  So to summarise the last 5 minutes: small children in hospital were terrorised by the Child Catcher and Voldemort, and then lots of Mary Poppinses flew down from the sky and rescued them.  Now the children are dancing on the beds.  And Richard Dawkins plays on.

21:41 David Cameron is in that Voldemort outfit.  And Richard Dawkins on guitar.

21:41 Free national healthcare.  IN YOUR FACE, AMERICA!

21:39 Children's books.  How long till the Famous Five set up camp on the hill?

21:36 Ah, now the jammies make sense.  Good good. AW! Little kids bouncing on the beds!

21:34 Are we allowed to ask why the kids are in jammies?

21:32 Excellent.  Got the flag right.  Now the anthem.

21:32 Ok, next time they announce stuff in French, someone slip a microphone into Prince Philip's general area.

21:30 Good thing they switched off the air-to-ground missiles.  For those who missed it, the Queen just parachuted in.

21:29 And apparently, blogging makes it so.

21:29 Winch her down!  Parachute!

21:28 Actual WOW.

21:27 I hope this is live and she's about to land the chopper in the stadium.

21:26 THAT WAS ACTUALLY THE QUEEN.  Now, where's Philip?  This is gold.  This is actual gold.  If Philip mutters something about foreigners stealing all the medals, this is the best thing that happened, EVER.

21:24 Ah, now onto embroidery.  Excellent.

21:24 Ok, that end bit was good.

21:22 Oh, LOVING the rings!

21:22 The Steampunk era lasted longer than the history books would have you believe.

21:20 Boyfriend Smile: "Do you think this thing climaxes with Jordan's 9th wedding?"  THIS is why I'm dating him, folks, this right here.

21:19 We're about to run out of history.  THEN WHAT?

21:18 I'm enjoying the drums.  This is improving.

21:15 Is it round about now that they should be going to Ireland to steal all the potatoes?

21:14 I've never watched the Olympics opening ceremony before.  Is it normally like this?

21:11 I'm being heckled on Twitter to be more xenophobic.  Things are bad.

21:10 By the way, you should feel free to add comments below, so I know I'm not alone here.

21:09 Isambard Kingdom Brunell (not sure how to spell him) is about to dig up the fields, kill the peasants, and pollute the air.  Things are looking up.

21:06 Here's a horse-drawn carriage, adding a bit of momentum.  Boyfriend Smile has just said "If this doesn't pick up, Britain need to win ALL the gold medals to make up for it".

21:05 GIANT'S CAUSEWAY!  And an Ireland try!  Woot woot!

21:03 Ok, here we go proper.  It's Bradley Wiggins, yay!  Not lighting the cauldron, just standing on a stage.  Oh, no, ringing a bell.  Just the once, like.  That's it started.  Ugh.  Jerusalem.  NO.  NO, those feet did NOT walk... oh, sod it.  There are people playing cricket.  It's like some kid disturbed a quiet Saturday on the village green.

21:02 Are all the other countries seeing this too?  Flying pigs and ghosts in a subway?

21:01 What in the name of feck am I watching?

21:00 AND WE'RE OFF!

20:57 Almost ready, and some kids are playing Nimrod while the audience get covered in blue fabric, to make the place look like it's surrounded by sea.  Boyfriend Smile has been told to stop talking, and we're ready to go.

20:44 In the stadium, a guy with a guitar is singing a song on a fake hillside.  Boyfriend Smile is already being sarcastic.  People are loading sheaves of wheat into a wagon.  I'm not making this up.  I wish I was, but I would be making up better stuff.  I'm beginning to long for the days of austerity, when they just walked the athletes round the track and then got fecking on with it.

20:39 Back.  Didn't miss much.

20:34 Bathroom break.  Back soon.

20:32 Apparently the ceremony is being shown in 3D.  Alternatively, just act it out.  There are actual live sheep in the stadium, and a couple of people dressed as yokels are putting up a scarecrow.  Every bale of hay is one more strike of fear into my heart.

20:28 Awkward moment there when they showed Amir Khan's watch.  I declared it "tacky".  Boyfriend Smile misheard and thought I'd hurled a racial insult.  I liked his shocked face, but stand by my remarks about the watch.  Anyway, time to start getting settled down for the start.  If you have a cup of tea now, you'll hit Need To Pee time before the ceremony starts, so it's not a bad idea.  Also, this is your last chance to start thinking about any kind of hot food you might wish to prepare.

It's raining in London, and we're watching shots of people with umbrellas.

20:02  Sorry.  Got distracted by Boyfriend Smile.  Anyway, we're still watching random shots of people running and talking.  Nothing to report.

19:25 Boyfriend Smile is here with the Wallchart.

19:11 Sue Barker and Gary Lineker are interviewing Steve Redgrave and Michael Johnston.  We have established that Steve has not yet been asked to light the flame, but he has his phone with him if anyone wants to give him a ring.  Gary's worried that they've forgotten to bring the cauldron.

19:04 I'm suddenly getting hideously nervous about the opening ceremony.  We're seeing shots of the stadium. It involves sheep and fields and little cottages.  Huw Edwards is calling it 'daring and original'.   It sounds and looks dangerously crap.

19:00 The phone was just one of those Indian call centres.  And WE'RE OFF!  With a quick history of London, apparently.  It looks bouncy.  Oh, the black death.  Now Tom Daley in Speedos.  The connection being London, of course.  I can't stand 2 hours of this.

18:59 BBC One are showing that advert for BBC, with the song from the Muppets.  I love that.  Oh, feck, phone....

18:52 I've discovered that these posts are coming out with a weird white background behind the writing.  I don't know why this is happening, and I probably won't get round to fixing it.

18:43 I should also point out that, alongside watching the ceremony and liveblogging, I'll probably be doing some knitting and talking to Boyfriend Smile.  Also, whenever my lodger walks round her bedroom, sometimes I lose TV reception for a couple of minutes, so if it seems like I missed something, blame her.

18:34 Things might start off a little slowly, because we'll be watching the BBC build-up thing, and it might be wick.  Also, Boyfriend Smile is running late, as his dad has him doing errands, so the official wallchart hasn't arrived yet.

18:28 Right.  We're going to try this live blog thing, and here's how it will work.  I will post random snark, and you will keep refreshing the page to see it.  I'll add new things at the top of the page, unless I forget or get confused, in which case they may be at the bottom.

Before we begin, I should point out that I am not in any way affiliated to the Olympic Games, and have not sponsored anything, although I have eaten a lot of Cadbury's chocolate and own 2 official Wenlocks.  But you shouldn't think this is some kind of official Special Insight That I'm Being Paid For or anything.  On the other hand, if the Olympics people are reading, feel free to send me money.

To start us off, I present Opening Ceremony Bingo, as supplied by Innocent Drinks (Official Olympic Types) and shared with me by my friend Sally.

Please print it off and use it for reference:
I like to think we can all play along.

I am also interested in more snarky versions along the same lines, of course.

Your Homework For Tonight

In preparation for this evening's live blog, it would be wise to make sure we're on the same page with regards to comparisons.  For reference, please ensure you take time in advance to familiarise yourself with the terms "GB Display", "Inadvisable Spandex" and "Piss-up In A Bewery".


Liveblogging and The Olympics: WhyNotSmile Investigates

Now, it has been brought to my attention that in some Foreign Places, time is different, and therefore they will not be able to watch the Olympics Opening Ceremony as it happens, because they will all be in work, so the TV is not showing it until later.  This is not The Sort Of Thing I Like, so I propose to remedy it by liveblogging the Opening Ceremony as it happens this evening.

I'm not entirely sure how liveblogging works; for instance, do I just add more updates to the original post?  I assume that if I make lots of posts, then you'll all get annoyed because your RSS Feed will go nuts while you are trying to watch the Olympics, so I think we'll try just editing the existing post, and you can just keep reloading the page.  But if anyone has any better ideas, please let me know.

Until 7pm*, I bid you adieu.

*I know it doesn't start till 9, but Boyfriend Smile is coming at 7 for the build up, and bringing a Wall Chart.

Incidentally, I have ordered a magazine about the Olympics, but it hasn't arrived yet (probably because I only ordered it last night), so if I sound a little uneducated, it's because I haven't done my homework yet.

Wednesday 4 July 2012

The WhyNotSmile Guide To The Higgs Boson

Long-term readers will recall that 4 years ago (yes, really) we discussed the Large Hadron Collider.  More recent interlopers may wish to recap:

So, today they say that the Large Hadron Collider has found the Higgs Boson, and at least one person so far  has asked me to explain this.  So here goes.

First of all, let's get over this ridiculous idea of calling "the God Particle", because it's not God and has nothing to do with God really, except insofar as everything has something to do with God, who either created it all or doesn't exist, depending on your take on things, but let's not get into that here.

The Higgs Boson is very small, which is why it's so hard to find, but it can also explain why other stuff is heavy, which is why they thought of it in the first place.  Think of it as having mice in your house: you may not be able to see them, but then you find poo in a cupboard, and your cereal boxes have been gnawed, and you think "maybe I have mice".  As with mice, so with the Higgs Boson, because it is too small to see, but the Scientists have seen things which suggest it might exist, such as teeth marks on other particles and things.

With mice, you can just get a cat or put traps out or things, but with the Higgs Boson, you have to build a Big Machine and do Experiments, and even then you can't really be sure that you've found a Higgs Boson, but you can be reasonably certain, and this is what has happened.  To be precise,
they ha[ve] attained a confidence level just at the "five-sigma" point
which means it is quite likely to be the Higgs Boson, but also maybe someone sneezed or wrote down the wrong number or something.

Also, although it is referred to as "The" Higgs Boson, this is a little bit misleading, as there are actually lots of them, and not just one, but so far they have only found one of them.  To find more they will have to build a new Big Machine in another place, where a different Higgs Boson lives.

Saturday 30 June 2012

In Which It Is Determined That My Confidence Is Misplaced

I don't think anyone who knows me would argue when I say that, in most areas of life, I ought to have more confidence.  Unfortunately, one of the few areas exempt from this is the area of DIY, at which my confidence positively brims, well outstripping my abilities.

So the shower started leaking last week, and I thought I'd better fix it before it brought a ceiling down or something.  I have a couple of tubes of sealy stuff, and they had instructions, so, you know, it seemed do-able.  PLUS I had to buy a barrel gun thing to put the sealy stuff into, and that's always exciting, because it means I get to go to Homebase and throw something technical-looking onto the counter in a nonchalant way.  If I'm feeling rakish, sometimes I'll even research it online beforehand, so that I can ask intelligent-sounding questions (to which I already know the answers) and the Man In The Shop will be impressed.

So I got the barrel gun thing, and I came home, and I thought "I'll take my contacts out before I start this, because I don't want to have to take them out later when there may be a residue of sealy stuff on my hands", so I did that, but then my glasses were downstairs and I couldn't be bothered getting them, and I just thought "I'll get nice and close so I can see it ok".  But then the stuff squirted out everywhere, and they were not lying when they said on the tube that it sticks to EVERYTHING.

On the plus side, I think I fixed the leak, though*.

*On the minus side, it is possible that no moisture will escape from my bathroom EVER AGAIN.

Saturday 5 May 2012

2 Days To Go

The guy in the running shop asked me whether I was running in the marathon on Monday.  I like to think that this was because of my athletic physique, and not because I was buying enough energy bars and glucose drinks to power a small city.

Also, I know I've slipped back on The Apprentice; I've been so busy running that I just haven't had time.  I'll try to do a big catch up soon, though.

Monday 30 April 2012

An Idea I Had For The Marathon

Since I'm pretty much guaranteed to be coming last at more or less every stage, I'm considering running the marathon dressed as a monster, so that the scene looks like this:

Is awesome, no?

Sponsor me, sponsor me, sponsor me

Saturday 28 April 2012

On Marathon Running

More on The Apprentice presently, but in the meantime, I wish you to consider the wider joys of being a viewer here at WhyNotSmile.  I think, in fact, it is fair to say that WhyNotSmile is something of a public service.  A FREE public service, which enhances your life. There are those who would demand money from you for such a gift, but not WhyNotSmile.

Also, remember that thing about running a leg of the marathon, despite how much I HATE running?  So that's coming up on 7th May, and the training has been going about as well as you might expect, which is to say, I have spent Quite Some Time eating pasta.

So, the point is, we were going to set up an online donation thingy, but that's all got Quite Complex, so instead I decided to stick a donation button here, so that you can all give me money easily and simply and securely.  This is all in a very honourable cause, of course, like buying crayons for parent and toddlers and stuff like that.  And, as we have seen, it's not like I CHARGE you to come here and have fun.  So this can be, like, your way of saying "Thank You, WhyNotSmile".

Click the button below and follow the instructions.

Monday 16 April 2012

The Apprentice 2012: Week 3

So this week we managed to find yet one more thing that the apprentices are useless at, as they were tasked to create new 'condiments'.  That's, like, chutneys and pickles and sauces and stuff, for those who don't like to ask.  There are a LOT of puns you can make here, about them being 'in a pickle' and so on, but I'm going to ignore them because I hate them.  Now, since two of the girls have been chucked, it's time for a Team Shuffle. After a quick history lesson at the docks, Shugagh moves Katie to Team Phoenix, and Nick and Duane get stuffed into Team Sterling.

Adam is a smug git, and greets Katie with "Welcome to Team Phoenix.  We do fings different here, like winning".  On Sterling, Duane wants to be project manager, and so does Gabrielle.  They vote for Duane, and Gabrielle goes off in a mutinous sulk.  Mature.  Katie volunteers to lead Pheonix, and Adam asks if she'd be ok, because "it's quite tricky".  If looks could kill, this would've been the Best Episode Ever.

The boys & Katie decide to make 'sumink mediterranean'; while over with Sterling it's all 'put your hand up and we'll have a polite discussion'.  Apart from Joysuck Jane, who starts reeling off statistics about how much fat is in various random grocery items.  They decide to make some kind of chilli chutney stuff; I miss the exact details.  They have to come up with names for these products.  Phoenix go with "Belissimo", because it might be Italian for something positive; Sterling call their chutney 'Infusion', because that's the sort of thing they do on The Apprentice.

Ricky Martin (can we all please stop laughing at his name, please? It wasn't funny the first time, and it's not getting any funnier the more you say it) is in charge of production of Belissimo; Joysuck Jane is crunching numbers badly over in the chutney factory.  She has a small fit every time anyone asks her to be more specific than "add some chillis at some point".

Katie, Stephen and Micheal are annoying a designer, and trying to create a label for Belisimo.  They come up with something that looks from a travel brochure from the 70s, and then scrap that and just stick a giant red pepper on the front.  Not that the sauce has much in the way of peppers in it, but at least it's not a sunset.

In the factory, the girls have come up with a concoction that could choke a horse.  Or, at least, Duane, who looks a bit like Donkey from Shrek.  While he gasps in the corner, the rest of them realise there's no way they can send it off to the taste test.  So that's unfortunate.  Ricky Martin & co, meanwhile, not only have bottles of stuff, they also have labels, and are All Prepared.  Apart from forgetting the recipe half way thorough one of the batches, and making something that has the consistency of a muddy puddle.  They can't work out what they forgot to put in, so they have to chuck it down the sink.

Each team has to go to a taste test meeting thing, where they take a sample of their product to some shop people and try to convince them to stock it.  So for Team Sterling, who have yet to produce anything you could let lose in a public space, it's a bit embarrassing.  Even more embarrassing than Team Phoenix's meeting, where the retailer points out that they've spelt "Bellissimo" wrong.  Heh.  Heh heh heh heh heh.  How I laughed.

Back at the factory, Sterling have produced something that looks like orange juice, and are busy pouring it into jars.  Phoenix have a sauce which is the consistency of cement, and are trying to pour it into jars, while really throwing it all over the place. It looks like a massacre has taken place.  Eventually they realise they need to make it more runny, so they put some water in.  Genius.

Since they've only made about 3 bottles, they need to up the price to cover costs.  They're going to have to charge about £8.50 for a bottle of sloppy ketchup in a jar.  Each team splits into 2 - half to flog to the public, and half to flog to shops and stuff.  Phoenix appoint Michael in charge of the shops sub-team, and give them about 2 bottles to sell, because they realise that shops know what they're talking about and they'll never buy the guff they're selling them.  The public, on the other hand, see a crowd of tv cameras, a shower of idiots, and Karrrrrren and Nick, and apparently they'll buy anything.

Back in the boardroom, and Adam goes on about how good he was at making sauce.  Smug wee git.  My good friend Nick describes Infusion Mark 1 as "a dangerous and poisonous concoction" and says that "to be in the same room was to be in danger".  I love Nick.  They go through the taste test debacle, and Team Phoenix look smug.

Anyway, long story short, Sterling have won, and go to a race course.  This is a glorious thing, simply for the chance to see Joysuck Jane driving a GTS, lips pursed and brow furrowed, as if she's in charge of a milk float.

In Cafe Doom, there is a question mark over production, and how they didn't manage to produce half of what the other team made.  Adam points out that it doesn't matter, because they didn't even sell what they made, so if they'd made more then they wouldn't have sold that anyway, and na-na-na-na-na it's not his fault.  Idiot.  Ricky opines that "All the good stuff that happened was down to me, and all the bad stuff was down to the other guys".  Well, that helps.

Back to the boardroom, and it is generally agreed that the main problem was that they didn't make enough stuff, so they had to up the price to cover costs.  Which is actually quite a good analysis, for once.  There's a brief attempt to pin it all on Stephen because of the spelling mistake, but they soon get bored of him and turn on Michael instead, because he didn't really do anything much apart from sitting there with his big ears, grinning.  Anyway, Katie brings Michael and Ricky back in.  Ricky tries to do a Jedi Jim and talk himself out of it, but he's rubbish at it.  I don't like Ricky much.

So, another long story short, and Michael gets fired for not doing anything.

Sunday 8 April 2012

The Apprentice 2012: Week 2

They say that when being chased by a lion, the important thing is not to be the fastest runner, but to make sure you're not the slowest. As in life, so in The Apprentice, where this week we had the inventy task. We have enough experience by now to know that the winner is not the team who produce the best invention, but the team who produce the less feck-awful invention. It's a fine, but important, distinction.

So with Bilyana, the giant pink bagpipe, out of the equation, the girls are one person down. Surely this can only be an advantage, right? Wrong.

Off to the V&A, and Shugagh and the Babes are there to introduce the task: to design an 'ousehold gadget wot 'as not bin designed before. He warns them that it's all a waste of time if the product sucks. Or, to paraphrase, it's all a waste of time.

Chez Sterling, Irish misery Jane and "blonde assassin" Katie are both dying to lead. Then Jane says 'strategic', so they vote for her, because that's a big technical word. And off she sets, to suck every ounce of happy out of every single frickin thing they do, see, or think.

On Pheonix, Azhar is put in charge, and claims he's "the killer whale of the sea world". As opposed to the well-known killer whale of all the other kinds of worlds, we presume. The boys want to make a kitchen gadget; the girls are going to solve "bathroom problems". Snigger.

None of the girls have any ideas whatever, whereas the boys decide to come up with a thing that you put rubbish in and squish it down, because "that's what's fashionable at the moment". While one half of them go off to interrogate a woman in a shop about her bin range, the other half are driving about coming up with a different idea. Specifically, Adam (a chap marvellously described by one commentator as looking like a Creature Comforts tortoise) has this notion of cutting up a scouring pad and sticking the bits to rubber gloves to make it easier to do the washing up. Actually, not horrendous. I'm not saying I'd buy it, I'm just saying I can see some logic behind it, which is unusual at this stage in the process. Anyway, Azhar hates it and never lets anyone speak of it again.

The girls still have no ideas, until one of them (the Scottish one) says she hates when her kid is in the bath and splashes the floor, because heaven forbid that anyone actually have any fun in her bathroom, and maybe they should invent some kind of screen thing to stop the water going everywhere. Katie suggests a 'tap cozy', which you put over your taps so you can put your feet up in the bath. Personally, I reckon that if I tried to put my feet up in the bath, my bum would lose traction on the surface and I'd slide right under, but maybe my bath is unusually slippery or something. In any case, the girls immediately get bogged down in HOW ON EARTH you would attach this to taps, because they are all different sizes and different distances away and stuff. Not features unique to taps, I wouldn't have thought, and in any case I feel they're underestimating what can be achieved with a few inches of Velcro, but this seems to be the seal of doom for the Tap Cozy, at least in Joysuck Jane's mind.

Some of them go off to a parent and toddler group to see what they think of the ideas. To summarise: they hate the splash screen and love the tap cozy. Now, I'm sure you're a step ahead of me here, but of course they decide to make the shower screen, because of the impossibility of making a cozy to fit different sizes of taps.

Meanwhile, half of the boys are talking to some chefs, and they have actually managed to make prototype "Magic Hands", by, well, putting rubber gloves on Adam and handing him a scourer. The chefs' opinions are varied, but Adam seems to think they unanimously love the gloves. Ah well. Azhar is Not Making Gloves Today.

In the girls' car, Maria has nodded off. Which is not apparently something you want to do when sat next to Joysuck Jane. She tries to defend herself by saying "I'm finkin". In fairness, keeping her eyes open under the weight of all that eyeshadow must take quite some effort, and you can see why she couldn't do that and fink at the same time.

So, to summarise what we have so far:
The girls are making a screen which prevents your child from splashing the floor when they have a bath. What's that you say? A shower what? A shower CURTAIN you say? Why yes, yes, that would be a good name for it. Do you think that's patented?
The boys are making a box in which you put rubbish. What? A BIN? What is this crazy name you speak of? Get out of here.

Now, since both those things already exist, the only thing to be done is make them less useful than they already are. The girls have made a solid screen which not only stops your child from splashing, but also clutters up your bath, makes it impossible to actually get to your child if they slide under the water, and comes with a handy set of waterproof crayons so that the kids can redecorate the bathroom while you watch, forlornly, through a plastic square. The boys have made a bin which you are encouraged to keep on your desk and squish your rubbish into, thus stinking out the office for at least 6 weeks until it's full and you tip it all into the bin in the office kitchen, thus stinking out the kitchen until the next time the cleaners are in.

Weirdly, half the girls are choosing fabric for a tap cozy, while Joysuck Jane is building a splash screen, so she has to shout them down. The boys are squabbling about whether the sub-team got listened to enough. It's like a counselling session, but weirder.

The prototypes arrive. The compost thingy is basically a giant coffee percolator thing. The shower screen is basically a shower screen, but one that's too small to actually stop the water from going over the edge of the bath.

They're all off to Amazon. The girls are planning to try to sell them 1 million splash screens. 1 million. That's enough for about every child in England, surely? Even assuming every child actually wanted one, which is not entirely convincing. In any case, Amazon Man points out that they've mangled their margins; Joysuck refers them to "the financial team", which consists of Gabrielle, Jenna, and a lot of shrieking. No reliable maths, unfortunately.

The boys go in to flog the bin, and ban Duane from speaking at all, even though he invented the thing, and is probably more articulate than the rest of them combined. Stephen does the pitch, with big wide eyes and no chin. We also learn that the bin has a hole at the bottom, so that the smell can leak out all over your desk

Now it's off to Lakeland, a company who, let us remember, sell little banana-shaped boxes to store bananas in. This should be a better audience for our teams, no? Weeeellll, no. The girls have spent most of the journey fighting about maths, and come to the conclusion that nobody cares, and the main thing is to let the buyers see the thing and then make their decision. Probably mainly because any price at all is too much. The boys go in and sit there like a jury in a particularly dull case involving TV Licence avoiders. Apart from Duane, who smiles a lot, because he's happy they made his machine.

Back to the boardroom with them and their suitcases, and Maria is fully bedecked in a flouncy purple blouse and matching eyeshadow. The girls all pretend they thought Jane was a good team leader. Katie dobs them in about the focus group Tap Cozy debacle, and Joysuck mentions how all taps are different sizes again. The boys mostly hated Azhar as Project Manager. They move swiftly on to the 'multifunctional' composter, which does not, as far as I can tell, have any function beyond making a mess.

Unfortunately, the boys have somehow won, with orders for 13,000 bins, compared to a 7,500 for the girls. So they get sent off to The Ivy, where they will be confined to a private room, which is probably for the best.

Over in Cafe Of Shattered Dreams, Maria is furiously spooning sugar into her tea and claiming to be gutted. Jane looks miserable, much as she has done throughout.

Back in the boardroom, there's a lengthy discussion about how they managed to come up with such a crap product. Basically, because they didn't have any decent ideas, according to Karen. There are some hysterics about numbers, and then Jane is bringing Jenna and Maria back in.

The fabulous thing about Maria (apart from her eyeshadow) is that she has the very opposite of a poker face. Every emotion, thought and sensation is etched right on there, for all the world to see. It's a glorious thing. But she gets fired anyway, so let's not get too attached.

Sunday 25 March 2012

The Apprentice 2012: Week 1

Ah, week 1.  So full of promise.  A blank slate.  A chance to start again.

"I truly am the reflection of perfection" says chap called Ricky Martin, and WE'RE OFF, donning our cheap suits, plastering ourselves with eye shadow, and packing our teeny tiny little wheely cases with enough clothes for 12 weeks.

Dum de dum de DUM de dum de DUM de dum de DUM!

"I'm a shark, I'm at the top of the food chain" boasts our friend Ricky, who may well be taken by suprise in a Chinese restaurant near you some time soon.  "I will literally roar my way to the top" says Gabrielle, demonstrating something of a misunderstanding of how business works, but promising good entertainment.

Blah blah, more cliches, idiots in polyester, blah, everyone walking across a bridge, blah blah, and it's 8am and we're IN THE WAITING ROOM, looking nervous.  And now we're in the boardroom, and a chap in a red tie is looking nervous.  There's a girl with scary eyeshadow, and a bloke in a shiny suit who has an unfeasibly large eye-to-face ratio and no chin.

"I'm not looking for a friend.  If I want a friend, I'll get a dog" says Lord Shug.  Which would make a good series, actually.  "It's not Where's Wally" he says later, which would also be worth considering, producers, if you're watching.

And so to the task: they have to buy blank stuff, print stuff on it, and flog it.  All very simple.  Red Tie Chap is looking wet. "You look like you're sweating. You're not nervous are you?" says Shug; "No, not at all" says Red Tie Chap, thereby leaving open only the possibilities that 1) he's standing under a hole in the roof, or 2) he's leaking.  Neither of which is a great start, to be honest.

So they go to the house, which looks like an explosion happened in a chemistry textbook, and they start into the important task of team names and project managers.  The team names bit is usually painful, but not this year. "I was finkin, Pheonix" says the boy with no chin, and they go with that, on the basis that it's all about rising from the ashes.  So at least they're starting off with realistically low expectations.  The girls go with "Sterling", because one of them dreamt it.  No, really.  None of the boys want to be in charge, but eventually Nick (not my friend Nick, a contestant called Nick) caves in and it's high-fives all round.  Chez the girls, Gabrielle leaps in because she has a print business, and no one else can hold a candle to that, so we're done with the formalities.

They flick through books of blank stuff, and the girls choose t-shirts.  The boys can't decide between big bears and small bears.  The Irish one on the girls' team goes on about margins a lot.  Off to the warehouse with half of each team, and the warehouse looks GREAT.  Tons of blank stuff that you can buy to print things on.  The other half of each team goes to the print place.  The girls draw a tiger, a lion and a penguin, and that's that sorted. The boys faff about doing not much for ages, and then eventually they open a book of images, go 'feck it', and opt to bung union jacks on the bears (the big bears).  For their bags, they draw a bus, and then write "This is a" above it, which they all think is brilliant.  It's not.  Karrrrren is worried that it doesn't stand out from the other tourist tat out there.  The other boys come back and hate it.

When it comes to making the stuff, the girls have an advantage, because Gabrielle actually knows what she's doing, so they do a reasonable job of printing their animals.  Their stuff actually looks quite good.  The boys, on the other hand, are incapable of making anything other than a mess, but it has to be said that they do it with great enthusiasm.

Next day, they head off to sell their wares.  The boys go to the South Bank, where they bicker about whether they should sell the bears at £12 or £15.  Clearly, they should sell them for something closer to a reasonable price, but they decide to give £15 a go and see what happens.  The girls are at Greenwich Market, where half of them are preparing to set off for London Zoo. Gabrielle starts being very odd and telling passers-by that she loves them, but despite this they seem to be selling fairly well.  Meanwhile, the zoo expedition has got as far as a traffic jam, which turns out to be the most successful part of their day.

They go round in a gang of 4, arguing over whose turn it is to try to sell stuff.  Why they don't split up is a mystery which remains unsolved, and instead Bilyana (from Bulgaria, and dressed as a giant effeminate bagpipe) bulldozes through and doesn't let anyone else speak.

At the end of the day, there's the usual "flog the leftovers to an unsuspecting shopkeeper".  The boys accost a girl in a shop, and make her buy all their bags.  The girls at the zoo decide to find the nearest shop; Bilyana claims to know where it is, and walks them round London for what appears to be several hours.  As with the traffic jam, though, they might have done better if the walk had been truly endless, as they do eventually come upon a shop, in which they all yell, simultaneously, at a woman who clearly doesn't have the authority to empty the bin.  When she says she can't make the decision because they're putting her under too much pressure, they flounce out.  A man, who is presumably the owner, gives them a complete dressing down in the middle of the street.  A nation cringes.

The boys, meanwhile, have been dragged back to the shop they sold the bags to, because they're so badly made that the woman is demanding a refund.  Karrrrren shakes her head, sadly, as they leave.

Back in the boardroom, we're all a bit disappointed in the bus bag, because it's badly designed AND badly made.  We like the girls' penguins though.  Anyway, it turns out that tourists will buy anything you throw in front of them, because the boys have (againsts all odds) won.  They go back to the house and eat food off tiles, for some reason.

The girls go off to the Cafe De Los Failure, which has a new table.  Probably paid for out of Lovely Tom's spend in there last year.  Looks like the same old tea, though.

Back in the boardroom again, and the Irish girl talks more about margins.  Jade-who-drew-the-picture is a bit psycho.  My good friend Nick dobs them in about the trudge around London and the shopkeeper shouting at them.  Bilyana gets in a weird argument with Lord Shug about whether Camden Town is closer to London Zoo than the shop she went to.  Eventually she shuts up, and everyone looks at Katie and asks what she did, which turned out to be not a lot.  Gabrielle senses a weak one, and picks Katie and Bilyana to come back into the boardroom.

In the boardroom for the final time, it's all turning against Katie, for not doing anything, and she looks like she's about to be sick.  Meanwhile, Bilyana starts talking again, and points out that she came from a communist block of flats and made it to the top of Canary Wharf, or something.  Which I suppose explains how she likes long walks. She was also head girl, which is of no relevance whatsoever, but gives her more words to say.

So it looks like Katie's going, but just as she's about to be fired, Bilyana starts talking again, and in a miraculous twist, talks herself out of the process.  Which is a shame, because she had entertainment value.

On The Changing of Clocks

So we have, once more, survived the annual rollercoaster that is the Going Forward Of The Clocks.  It is a time of year fraught with tension for WhyNotSmile, because, to be entirely honest, I get very confused by it.  I understand the concept, and I understand why we do it, I just get very confused the next day about where I should turn up and when.

Now, obviously, it is basically simple maths, which I should be good at, what with having a PhD in it and all, but it's one of those things that will not lodge in my brain, along with symmetry and following directions.

To complicate matters further, I often work with people in America, who put their clocks forward 2 weeks before us.  This spells only disaster for any scheduled meetings in the intervening time, so I admit it's something of a relief when we finally catch up.

Anyway, did anyone else think the time change wasn't publicised as much this year?  Normally you can't move for Huw Edwards reminding the nation to put their clocks forward on Saturday night, but this year... nada.  Maybe because we were all distracted by watching The Voice, a show so mundane that we can safely add the time spent watching it to the grand total of hours snatched from our very hands this weekend.

So, anyway, we've made it this far, and we're safe till October.

Back soon, with a summary of the excellent first week of The Apprentice.

Monday 19 March 2012

Actual, Proper Excitement

Now, Mama Smile and I are generally calm, quiet, almost shy people.  Until, apparently, we get a whiff of celeb, at which point we abandon all shame.  So you can imagine our excitement when we heard that Nick Off The Apprentice was opening a garden centre/restaurant place near Mama Smile's house.  For several weeks we did nothing but charge camera batteries (well, I paused from time to time to Tweet Nick with how excited I was.  He did not reply).

So today was the day, and, needless to say, we arose bright and early and with great anticipation.  And then we had to sit there for a while, because the place is only about a 5-minute drive away, and we didn't want to turn up 3 hours early and look like idiots.  Still, it was a useful time to practice behaving like normal people.

So we get there, and there's no sign of Nick, so we wander around looking at plants and the bouncy castle and stuff.  And then we spot Nick talking to local politician-and-pointy-man Jim Shannon:

 Then we spend Quite Some Time wandering about trying not to get caught on tv looking gormless (because they're filming this and it's going to be on tv sometime - I will, of course, let you know when I find out when).  We managed to sneak into the speeches, and then everyone trooped outside for the grand opening:

Getting ready for the ribbon-cutting

Nick Off The Apprentice doing his pre-ribbon-cutting speech
 So then I'm all like, I want a photo with Nick, and Mama Smile is all like, let's go, and suddenly we get all nervous because we realise we can't trust ourselves to not gibber like idiots in the presence of actual People We've Seen On Tv.  But some other girl wanted a photo as well, so we followed her (if Nick wasn't doing photos, we figured he could say no to her and then we'd just skulk off and be all like "yeah, commoners trying to get photos with celebs, how naff").  But Nick was quite happy to do photos and was very charming and lovely, and even offered to relocate to somewhere with a better background, and he set up a little photo-shoot place with a blue plastic cow (whose face you can see in the photo above).  So Girl got her photo taken, and then some boys wanted autographs, and they're all like "Oh, we love The Apprentice, we can't wait for it to start again", and I'm thinking "Right, don't say idiot things like that", and suddenly Mama Smile has accosted Nick and is telling him that I'm The Apprentice Number 1 Fan In The Country, and then I'm all like "Oh, and I love Countdown too", but Nick was very nice and charming even in the face of such blatant idiocy, and allowed Mama Smile to take 2 photos:

Me with Nick; going well, not gibbering

Getting a little over-excited, and earning a disapproving grimace... TOTAL WIN!!!

Nick was wearing a green suit with a bright green tie and bright green socks, which I rather liked.

After all that excitement, we went off to buy petunias and bean salad, all of which was very nice.  We did not go to the restaurant, because the entire Ards Penninsula were in there and we're not Big Ones For Crowds, but we agreed that we will go back over Easter when it's quieter, and we're looking forward to it because this is the view:

If you would also like to go, you can get directions and see how nice it is here, but don't go on the day that Mama Smile and I go because we're not Big Ones For Crowds.  Also, I don't think the horse is always there, so don't go just for that.

PS Also, I ought to point out here and now that The Apprentice is back this Wednesday, and there seem to be idiots aplenty - find out more here. WhyNotSmile is, once again, hoping to provide weekly coverage, so I must take myself off and start swotting up on the candidates...  See you all on Wednesday!

Sunday 18 March 2012

Why you should always check my handbag before I leave

Text message to me: Hey, did anyone lift my keys last night?
Me: Nope, definitely not me

* several hours pass *

Facebook message: Did you check whether you have my keys?
Me: I definitely don't have them,  I only have 1 set

* 5 seconds pass *

Me: Hang on, that does sound like something I might do...

* checks bag *

Me: Yup, I have your keys.

Sunday 19 February 2012

An Unexpected Happening

Now, if there are 2 things we all know about WhyNotSmile, they are surely these:

1. WhyNotSmile is strongly against running, particularly in public, and under any circumstances other than when being chased by a dragon or trying to catch a bus.  Let me be clear: it is not merely that I don't like running (in the same way in which I have no especial affinity for bus tours of Canberra or tickling otters, but might well be Happy Enough with them if circumstances allowed); it is more of an actual, active dislike (similar to my feelings on having my eyes gouged out with red hot pokers).

2. WhyNotSmile does not ever get asked out on dates by anyone, ever.

So it was something of a surprise to find myself, not one month ago, in a sports shop, looking for running shoes with my boyfriend.  And not just running shoes for him (although also that), but running shoes for me, because I have taken up running.

Naturally, there is a reason for this, and it should not be considered a permanent thing.

It has been agreed that we'll enter some teams in the marathon relay this year, from church, as a fundraising effort.  So Boyfriend Smile and I are on one of the teams, and I've been practicing.

I have adopted a "slow but steady" approach.  The first month consisted almost entirely of eating chocolate while researching trainers online, because it is Important to have Energy Reserves before you run (no sense trying to catch up afterwards).  Now we're into the second month, and I've actually started going out onto the streets and running a bit (I disapprove of going to gyms, because then you're paying money to do something you could do for free anywhere at all; I also disapprove of running in the rain/cold/drizzle/any form of discomfort).

Happily, I managed to get bargain trainers, reduced from £60 to £20, and wearing them is a little bit like running on clouds.  I cut quite the figure jogging around East Belfast, I must say.

Anyhow, the point is that I expect you all to sponsor me, and I shall set up a Page of some kind so that you are able to do this online at your own convenience.  Because I'm all about the being nice to you.

Sunday 5 February 2012

The WhyNotSmile Guide To The Superbowl

So apparently this weekend is Superbowl weekend, and this is Quite A Thing, although mostly for Americans.  But, as ever, WhyNotSmile is all about the culture, so I hereby present the official WhyNotSmile Guide to the Superbowl.

Now, the first thing to understand is that, despite its Twitter tag, the Superbowl has nothing whatever to do with superb owls, or any other kind of owls.  Nor does it have anything to do with any type of bowl.  The superbowl is all about football, I think, or maybe baseball.  One of those.  I believe it's the final of some manner of contest which has been happening for the past while, and this year the teams are New York and someone that people from Boston would support (I'm cheering for the latter, because I've been told to).

Anyway, as we all know, everything in America is to do with the presidential election, which this year will happen in November, and one of the aspects of that has been that various candidates have been round all the states trying to convince people to vote for them.  I think these are called either Caucuses or Primaries, but that might not be correct.  So in all the states, they chose who they wanted to win, and now it's between New York's choice, and Boston's choice (or maybe the state that Boston is in, which is hard to spell), and whichever state wins gets to choose the next President.

So, as you can imagine, the Superbowl is Quite Important, and should not be taken lightly.

PS. By the way, thanks for the help with the roofs/rooves thing.  I think we have established that it should always have been rooves, and that when I was in primary school, people lied to me.

Friday 3 February 2012

On plurals

Here's a question which I have been considering for at least 3 minutes: is the plural of 'roof' still 'rooves'?

I ask because it strikes me that I haven't heard it used in a while, and maybe it's one of those things that everyone else has moved on from. On the other hand, I'm sure I've seen 'roofs' several times. I don't want to go throwing 'rooves' into conversation and end up being derided as a terrible fool.

In fact, I note autocorrect is fine with 'roofs', but has underlined 'rooves'. Is it possible that the plural was always 'roofs', and I've picked it up wrong and been living in error for 30 years?

Your help us appreciated.

Sunday 1 January 2012

On Feeling Sad For No Reason

As Allie at Hyperbole and a Half says, it is disappointing to feel sad for no reason.  But this is the state in which I find myself again, so I might as well write about it.

Possibly the most disappointing aspect of feeling sad for no reason is that one always has memories of the days when one did not feel sad, when one got out of bed wanting to do things, and it is disappointing to feel rising terror every time anyone suggests doing Big things, such as leaving the house.

I have long suspected that I was designed to hibernate for most of January and February.  Some year I may try this.  I can re-appear in March, with the daffodils and snowdrops and so on.

2012: A Preview

Now here at WhyNotSmile, we're not into New Year's Resolutions, because we have neither willpower not sticking power, and see no need to introduce one more inevitable disappointment into life.

But there is no harm in breaking with one's own traditions once in a while, so here goes.

This year I will:

Be prepared. It seems to me that there are few crises which cannot be improved (however slightly) by enduring them at home with a cup of tea.  Therefore, wherever I am this year, I shall always have enough money on me to get a bus home, and there will always be tea bags and milk in my house.

Be organised. I need to stop using Facebook as a reminder system, however successful it may be.  There is a point in everyone's life at which one must take responsibility for one's own daily schedule, and it is possible that this point has been passed.  I will figure out how to use the calendar thing on my phone, and stick to it.

Blog more. I have quite a number of half-finished posts.  I will try to finish at least some of them by the end of the year.

Apart from this, I will do everything exactly the same as I have always done it.