Forget Dracula & Frankenstein, here are 7 things you should really be scared of…

Seeing as Halloween is imminent, the season of all that is bloody and scary. I thought it apt to think about what we should be scared of if magic were to descend upon the earth on October 31st, and make our lives what it must be like to live in Stephen King’s head.

1) Inanimate objects coming to life. In theory a fab thing with your kettle and toaster having a good old natter while they prepare your breakfast in their innards, or the electric blanket having a great debate with the duvet about the merits of feather versus artificial filling. But who says they have to behave. Mayhem would surely ensue as they realised they were only there for our pleasure and to serve us. In my world they would rip themselves from walls and plugs and use their collaborative intelligence about well… everything and take over the world. Terminator would be nothing. Terminator would the preferred bedtime story for their offspring.

Zombie hand

2) Forget zombies, bring on the nombies. So called because they make the inside of your brain start feasting on itself with boredom and making ‘nom nom’ noises. You are tied to a chair for the night of Halloween and forced to listen to them. They talk incessantly about themselves without taking breath and show you pictures of their children. “This is her at 1 month old” or “Ah, this one is of her at 33 days old.” Or if there are no children, then the pets come out “Look at his little face” or “Look at this new outfit I bought him, isn’t it darling?” Or they just take you though every entry on their Facebook page from inception. Yeah, that should do it. Give me a zombie any day; at least it’s over quickly.

3) Talking animals. Granted if animals could talk the world would be a more interesting place, but what would they say? What for example would a meerkat say about the exploitative nature of the ‘Compare the Meerkat.com’ adverts? Or the polar bear when she learns that her birth was aired on TV to all and sundry without thought for her dignity? Or what about the cow/sheep/horse on his/her way to the slaughterhouse when really prepared for a nice holiday by the pool. There would be lawsuits my friend, lawsuits, and many angry letters to the paper.

4) Alucard, the little known brother of Dracula that instead of sucking blood spits it. He waits in alleyways and on window ledges to spray it while you pass by. You may not die from his actions, but you will be cold and it will be over your neck (because c’mon they both have a fetish for the neck area) meaning you will have to always carry a change of clothes, or just stay in clothes all day that look like your jugular has burst open. Ironically this may be a deterrent to the infamous Dracula, as he thinks you have already been bled.

Snow White

5) Irritating Disney characters such as Snow White and Cinderella being real. Yeah they might be good for a yarn when you put them alongside dwarves and some ugly sisters, but imagine sitting down having to talk to them. No I don’t have a prince yet. No I don’t like cleaning the kitchen and singing with birds. No I’m not happy being told what to do all the time and obeying it no questions asked. C’mon you simpering drawings, get some balls.

6) The dead, who refuse to hide and haunt, but instead call round for a chat. They may be dead but they have lots to say. These ones don’t need to find a gifted psychic to get their point across (if such a thing exists), but instead take a pew on the sofa and tell it themselves. They are still a bit see through and most definitely grubby with a unique pong, but have lots of time to make up for and plenty of questions to ask.

7) Puberty. Everyone on earth goes back or forward to the point in puberty where you are the most annoying, most obnoxious and always think you are right. There would be wars, but with slamming doors and blaring music. All Apple stores and any remaining HMV’s would be looted, while bars and clubs would be full of roaring, groping and vomiting.

The hand-dryer ‘revolution’ – a roaring success or wheezy disaster?

Wash hands

How many ways are there to dry your hands? The more conventional of us would just use a hand towel or perhaps some form of tissue, but in recent years a new phenomenon has taken over… the hand-dryer. Now I am no stranger to technology. I like my iPhone and iPod (although feel the former has the battery life of one of the bike lights you buy in the euro/pound shops) and also enjoy my whizzy new ASUS notebook. But when it comes to technology that just seems to be there for the sake of it, or for companies to make more money isn’t it just pointless?

I know the argument for hand dryers is a valid one. It’s saves on paper waste and therefore saves our planet. I do however wonder why environmental campaigners latched onto this ‘waste’ as substantial, when there seems to be much more important things to concentrate on that ruin our planet like – the burning of fossil fuels at an alarming rate, effluent from radioactive power stations and ruining natural environments to drill for oil. Perhaps they thought it was an easy win. Perhaps they are just very concerned about paper towels and hand hygiene.

Dyson Airblade

Anyway we now live in a world that has them and they are everywhere. After Dyson launched it’s super-duper blow your hands off Airblade dryer, the world of hand hygiene just hasn’t been the same. Nor for that matter has the world of vacuuming. I freely admit to wanting a Dyson vacuum, but unfortunately don’t wish to mortgage the very house I need to clean to get it. But I digress. Now in the realm of hand dryers there is not only the Airblade but also the XLERATOR, the Speedflow, BLAST, Airforce, Extreme Air and my personal favourite the Dan Dryer. Where the hell have these all come from?

As Dyson is so expensive, they are obviously cheaper versions that are installed by spendthrifty pub and restaurant owners that have fallen into the environmental and hygiene trap that bounds around the media. The debate about which is better for the environment, which is more effective at getting rid of bacteria and which is cheaper seems to crop up when there is no news out there. Nada, zip not even a civil war somewhere in the world to report on. Harvard University has even decided to spend its time looking at energy efficiency and environmental impact in the comparison of hand dryer vs paper towels debacle. Seriously, the article is here.

All that is great but when it comes down to it, have a dryer or don’t have a dryer. As Cilla Black used to say “The choice is yours!”. The thing that drives me mad is how crap some of them are. Take the ‘dryers’ in McDonalds. They are not dynamic blowing machines, but jails for fairies that are forced to blow on your hands when you put them underneath. They are so rubbish they wouldn’t blow over a matchstick. They are not dryers.

Dan Dryer

Take also the Dan Dryer, which I used last week and prompted this article. It actually put more water on my hands than it took off. To the point where by the end of the timed 1 minute session drops actually fell from my fingers. They are also not dryers. The XLERATOR seems to believe it is a wind tunnel and blows at the centre of your hands with such speed it makes your skin blubber. This is a hand dryer that thinks it’s role is to lift skydivers.

I am fan of not using paper towels, but I am also a fan of dry hands. To all producers of hand dryers please either make them actually dry or stop bloody making them. To all establishments that install them, please try them out beforehand. There must be a showroom of hand dryers somewhere or a circus that goes to a town near you.

10 things to consider doing if you win the lottery

Lottery balls

I often dream about winning the lottery, in a kind of stuck on the bus dreamy way that makes commuting seem easier. Recently there have been a spate of insane winnings in Ireland of €94 million and €12 million, which makes anything less than €5 million seem paltry, and perhaps something to be sad about rather than joyous.

However the only issue with me winning the lottery is that I don’t actually play it. I’m not lucky, never have been, and somehow I don’t think that kind of thing changes with age. Either you are born with some strange lucky aura or you’re not. Although saying that actually playing it would go some way to being in it to actually win it! I just don’t fancy spending 4 quid twice a week to be told I’m not a winner. I already know this, I often think this.

Anyway, if I did win (let’s say €500 million) what would I do with it? Being a saver the sensible part of me would actually save most of it and blow a million, but let’s say the seas were rising (which they are) and saving was futile due to impending death. Then what would I actually do with it? Here are my top 10 preferences:

1) Buy a ridiculous boat.The type that have three floors with a huge deck and forest on board which is their topiary. There would chefs, a masseuse, men with large pecs that wave fans and a pet dolphin. Plus this would help in the world flooding scenario.

2) Hire an assassin. Now I’m not one for violence (apart from in Tarantino movies where there’s so much blood it drips through the TV), but there are a few people in the world that need to be taken out. Corrupt tyrants that do nothing for their people (Mugabe is just one example), serial killers that feel it’s okay to torture and kill people with no remorse or potential for it, certain celebrities that are just really irritating (although in their instance perhaps just threatening them with death is enough) and anyone who plays a harmonica. I hate harmonicas.

3) Make a movie based on your life story. Mine would star Natalie Portman, be written by Christopher Nolan and set against the backdrop of Angkor Wat. Really it would be my version of Lara Croft and feed my new found ‘I am rich’ narcissism.

Space

4) Buy a trip to space. No explanation is needed for that one. It’s just you looking down at the earth amongst galaxies with the moon in sight. Just take the money.

5) Give bad buskers money to stop singing/playing. Just because you have a guitar does not mean you are The Edge. Just because you were in the school choir does not mean your screechy tones are good on their own. It was the masses that carried you. Please be quiet.

6) Buy all the lions bred for shooting. This would deny rich people with nothing better to spend their money on the ‘pleasure’ of killing these animals and allow you to release them elsewhere. Perhaps not in the wild as they would be mauled by their own kind, but a Jurassic Park type island somewhere. That goes for all other animals in the same situation, including places like Sea World.

7) Pedestrianize all cities. This would mean the city centre would only be for buses, people and wheelchair users. There is no debate, cars are just a pain in the arse. That is until you need to use one of course and then that car would be allowed in and perhaps Obama if he decided to visit. Under no circumstances would any SUV’s be allowed.

Star Trek teleportation

8) Pay someone to build a teleportation machine.  You know like the ones in Star Trek which are voice activated by saying “Beam me up Scotty”.

9) Build a luxury tree house. For me that would be overlooking Death Valley in Bolivia with a panoramic view from my bed, and electronic devices that do everything including brushing my teeth and writing my award winning novel. A gadget tree house of my dreams please. Yes that will do nicely.

10) Get Concorde to bring back their planes. Then they could transport you and your loved ones across the world. Destinations would be chosen by playing Boggle and everyone would disembark by sky diving into the sea.

Others did spring to mind that involved champagne and a bucking horse, but I thought it best to leave them out as they were unwieldy and unformed. All suggestions/additions are welcome!

Why do we feel ‘celebrities’ owe us something?

Greta Garbo

I don’t like the concept of celebrity. Once upon a time that term meant something. It was reserved for people such as Elvis, Greta Garbo or Marilyn Monroe; megastars with the talent to match. Now it’s pinned on anyone who happens to have been on television for five minutes. Reality TV is to blame for that, with its Big Brother and Celebrity Jungle crap. A few weeks ago I came upon Celebrity Masterchef and didn’t have a clue who any of them were, and neither it seemed did anybody else I talked to. These shows are now riddled with unknown people that make those watching it go: “Didn’t she used to be married to that guy off that band?” or “Isn’t he yer man’s son?”

On Wikipedia celebrity is defined as - a person, who has a prominent profile and commands some degree of public fascination and influence in day-to-day media. The term is often synonymous with wealth, implied with great popular appeal, prominence in a particular field, and is easily recognized by the general public.

The first past is the most worrying. We have a fascination with them, a hunger even and in turn they have huge influence over our society. We give them our money, time and adulation, expecting something in return. We want our piece of flesh whatever that may be. So while I don’t like ‘celebrities’/pop ‘stars’ or the power they have, there is another side to this ‘celebrity life'; a fact confirmed to me by watching a documentary on One Direction fans.

One Direction band

There is no nice way to put it. These girls were mental. If they weren’t crying about them, they were sending death threats to whatever girl they happened to be going out with. They stalked them at concerts (which is fair enough as they have paid to be there) but also outside press conferences, their homes, their parents homes and the offices of their record company. In short they felt these five boys owed them something and they wanted it all the time.

I do remember fan mania around boy bands such as NKOTB and Backstreet Boys (yes I am showing my age). Everyone had their posters, their tapes, went to their gigs and watched them on Top of the Pops. But now it’s just maniacal. With such easy access through social media ‘celebrities’ are bombarded with messages that can border on psychopathic. Getting a death threat just because you didn’t stop to get a photo is laughable, but it’s also worrying. Why are so many young girls and teenagers putting all their life’s energy into a group of guys they will never get anywhere near?

Z

I’ve never understood the hysteria around people who are famous. There are many actors, writers and musicians I admire, but I never cried about them. The worst of them all is the Z listers, the Kardashians being the main ones in mind. What the hell are they famous for? What do they actually do apart from talk about their private lives endlessly and wear lots of makeup? Plus they are one of the main culprits in bringing out that awful side to celebrity life. They court the tabloids, use their agents to stir up publicity, share every intimate detail of their lives to anyone who will listen, and as an unfortunate consequence that level of knowledge about a ‘celebrities’ life is now expected. Fans want to know who is getting drunk and where, who such and such is sleeping with, what their favourite brand of perfume is and when they are having children.

Many argue that people in the limelight have asked for this. That they put themselves out there so the intrusion is justified. It’s not. At least not in the case of someone just doing a job and as a consequence being famous for it. (If they do however sell pictures of their children to magazines or leak their sex tapes onto the internet then all bets are off, and may the chips fall where they may). I will go and see a film with Ryan Gosling because he’s a great actor. I will buy a ticket to Bat for Lashes because they make great music. I will go to a book signing of Stephen King because he’s a brilliant writer. I don’t give a crap what they eat for breakfast or do in their spare time, but how come there’s so many people out there that do?

High heels are here to stay & now they’re after your children

High heel for child

Apparently sales of high-heeled shoes are on the up. Seeing as women pay mad amounts of money just for the glimpse of a red sole, this may come as no surprise. But the problem in this instance is that these heels aren’t for women, they are in fact for children.

Suri Cruise is to blame for this according to the New York Times. The seven year old offspring of the strangest man in the world (albeit a very wealthy and powerful man) chooses to spend her days tottering around in a pair of glittery peep-toes – large heel included. ‘Chooses’ is the key word there. Of course a small girl who likes pink and dreams about being a princess (completely unaware that she is treated as one in reality and does live in a whopping great castle unlike the rest of us minions) is going to want to wear sparkly shoes. It’s Wizard of Oz without the green faced witch. It’s prancing down a yellow brick road without the flying monkeys. It’s fun.

The problem here isn’t Suri or the other children that have these strappy numbers attached to their feet. The problem is the parents. I mean I’d love to leave the house swathed in an oversized blanket clutching a hot water bottle. Or wrap myself in a bin bag when it’s lashing outside and all I really want to do is lie down next to the radiator. But I don’t. Because well apart from the looks of ‘are you mad’ from the general population, it’s just not the done thing. I don’t think my boss would like it, especially if there were meetings involved or any way at all that I was in contact with the general public. Plus I think after a while I may not be able to distinguish the parts of my life anymore as they would all bleed into one big blanket fest. The children may like and want these shoes, but it’s the one with the wallet that buys them. Prancing around in your mother’s (or father’s) heels is no longer a fun thing to do at home, now you can make it a baby’s reality.

Heels

I have to wonder what the thought process is behind this (hopefully) new fad. I mean are these heel purchasing parents just indulging their children’s every whim? Are they worried that their small feet will not get enough bunions and blisters in their life so they need to start early? Is it some kind of endurance test for the products of their loins? A kind of – if you survive a week in those things without socks and on daily walks up a steep hill then you are the master of your destiny, a child truly worthy of my love and attention.

I guess it was only a matter of time before the shoes came next. Everything else in the shops, particularly for girls, is a mini version of what their mother would wear. Or a woman with a penchant for crop tops, tutus and strapless numbers. Why do we all seem in such a rush for kids to grow up? The lines now seem blurred between child and adult, the age of consent merely a watermark that the tide has long swept away.

While writing this I can’t help think of the great sketch in ‘Modern Family’ when the child Lily keeps running away at Disneyland and they don’t know how to stop her. Her grandfather, married to a 8 inch-heeled woman himself knows exactly what to do and takes Lily shopping. When they return she is in heels and shuffling around the place like an arthritic elderly person on a Zimmer frame. Problem solved, parents happy.

So maybe that’s it. Maybe all these parents just want their kids to calm down and take it easy so they can too. I mean after all it’s a better option than Ritalin.

It’s no longer scrimping when it’s scraping…

Superscrimpers

I’m all on for saving money and getting good value. My friends know me for being frugal which can sometimes border on tight, but even I wouldn’t sink to the depths of some of the ‘scrimpers’ on Superscrimpers.

A few series ago I used to enjoy it. There were beauty treatments that only required the raiding of a cupboard and cleaning tips that meant you didn’t have to spend a fortune on branded limescale remover or pass out under the toxic fumes of Mr Muscle oven cleaner. But now they have just lost it.

Last week it was make your own chutney. Fair enough it looked nice and it was using fruit that would otherwise have been thrown out, but the ingredients needed to make it taste good cost more than buying a buying a jar of it from Tesco. Star anise and cinnamon sticks are not spices that are just languishing around your spice rack (at least they are not in my house). After chucking all these ingredients in to spice up the humble apple, she then proceeded to explain how it needed to be left to cook for an hour. An hour to make some spicy apple paste? I mean, who has the time?

Sewing machine

Now I don’t have a sewing bone in my body. My attempts to knit scarves have ended up with long pieces of wool that would be more at home on the back of a pantomime donkey. Plus there are always so many holes in these attempts that even a homeless person in the height of winter would throw it back in my face. So I admire these ‘scrimpers’ with their sewing machines that can transform something pretty crap into something wearable.

That is until a picture frame was brought out. She held it up to the camera and proclaimed how it shouldn’t be wasted and a few simple steps would transform this useless item into something amazing. So I watched as she took a piece of material and wrapped it around the frame. Was this some sort of new felt art or a modern art movement I had missed that didn’t require vinegar? She wrapped and then stapled. Rubbing it proudly she attached something to it and held it up to the screen.

“Now there you have it, your own customised earring holder.”

I’m sorry…what? I mean who the hell needs an earring holder? Is there some unknown crisis in the jewellery world where earrings are regularly bent or broken due to the lack of an earring holder? Are ears crying out for this measure and we just don’t know about it? I don’t even know what the next segment was, as my mind was still trying to figure out how and why this poor picture frame had been subjected to this sorry role. I know it doesn’t have actual feelings, but how would you feel if someone stapled a blanket to you and hung feathers and metal off you for eternity? It’s just wrong.

Last night there was how to dress your table for a party. Now I don’t know about you, but if they manage to get cutlery I’m doing well. But this ‘scrimper’ seemed to think this was something a huge proportion of the population are or at least should be doing. All that was needed to achieve this cost-free creation were cotton reels and some wire. Now correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think I have ever managed to get to the end of a reel in my life so have no idea what kind of things she’s sewing to achieve this. Perhaps questions should be asked in case she is in the midst of a Silence of the Lambs-like project.

Anyway after folding and winding the wire it was threaded through the middle of the reel and then a piece of paper with a name was stuck into it. This creation just seems to be etiquette gone mad and despite it looking pretty I don’t think I’d like to go over to a friend’s house for some dinner and be told where to sit. I’m not at a wedding after all. If that’s not a control-freak in action I don’t know what is.

Lemons

But the thing that amuses and annoys me is not being able to get through an episode without a lemon appearing. It doesn’t matter if it’s a wheel being fixed, somewhere in the background a lemon will appear. It’s the God for all scrimpers, the Achilles heel if you like. If they are not within inches of a lemon at all times then its game over and they turn into insane overspenders that blow all their savings on a timeshare on Mars. Not only are the obsessed with the lemon, but also the gauze that it comes in which has been lauded as a replacement scourer. Seriously guys it’s a scourer. I’ll lend you the 8o cent for a whole pack of them  in Lidl.