Tag Archives: shops

The biggest jigsaw shop in the world – a review

We were in the Lake District recently and happened across this place:

Barney's News Box Jigsaws

They’re very modest on the sign. “Probably the largest selection of jigsaws in the world” they say. Probably! And it does look like an ordinary shop from the outside.

downstairs

This is the sight that confronts you on the ground floor. Impressive. Still, you’ve perhaps seen bigger jigsaw displays elsewhere. But then you go upstairs:

upstairs

This is the view from the top of the stairs, and the point at which things get a bit overwhelming. With jigsaws piled high from floor to ceiling you might struggle to make out that narrow opening on the right there. What’s through the rabbit hole?

rabbit hole

Here I am at the centre of the cardboard cave. A place where the walls themselves are towers of terrifying puzzles and distance is as meaningless as direction. A person could lose themselves forever here. And what did I find in the furthest corner of the labyrinth? This:

Downton Abbey jigsaw

A classy extension of Downton Abbey’s brand identity there. So which other cultural forces have taken jigsaw form in this brave new world?

Twilight jigsaws

It’s Twilight’s Edward and Jacob, in Puzzleball form! £6.99 each – a bargain. Finally Bella can have both! Who else is here?

hannah montana jigsaw

It’s Disney’s Hannah Montana of course! “Made in 2D, Displayed in 3D” – will Miley Cyrus EVER be able to move on?

jigsaw names

Here’s a selection of the generic jigsaws. The size and scope of the industry that keeps crazed fans in a constant supply of fresh puzzles had never occurred to me before. What evocative names.  Blooming Cart. Proud Peacock. Gotta Love Snow! Yes, you gotta. Is there anything a bit more racy though? Well…

naughty dots jigsaw

Oh this is the stuff. Really Really (Really) Naughty Dots – Explicit Jigsaw Fun For Adults Only. It’s the future our forebears fought for. It even comes with a special pen! Mind you, how many stages of frustration do you want to put yourself through? You’ll spend hours doing the jigsaw, and then you have to do the dot-to-dots, and finally you’re supposed to get some sort of erotic thrill out of a phallus you’ve drawn yourself with a wipe-clean pen.  I suppose for some people the anticipation’s everything. Here’s something a bit gentler for a happy finish:

young farmers

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5 things I learned from The Snowmen

1. …AND REMEMBER

john lewis doctor who snowman

First, Steven Moffat introduced the Weeping Angels – creatures that can only move when not observed – to Doctor Who. Then, John Lewis took this principle and applied it to snowmen in their terrifying Christmas advert. Now, Doctor Who counters with horrific snowmen who DO move about, and snarl with gnashing fangs, and eat people, with the explanation that they’re made of “memory snow”.

The logical conclusion of all of this – with Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary next year and John Lewis’s 150th the year after – will be a forthcoming crossover spectacular in which the Doctor saves a branch of John Lewis from sentient carnivorous versions of those “memory foam” mattresses that are so popular nowadays. It would not be a big leap for a programme that once made an evil plastic armchair the monster of the week.

2. CHEKHOV’S WORM

memory worm

Among all the funny lines that Strax hogged were mentions of automated laser monkeys, scalpel mines and projectile acid fish. And there’s a video game I’d happily play for hours. He also hopes for a “full frontal assault.” (Is this the first Doctor Who story to use the phrase “full frontal”? In the same episode that has someone say “enter by the back door”?!) But the must-have toy for 2013 will be the Torchwood-tinged “memory worm”. Especially if it actually lets you wipe an hour’s worth of memory. It would come in handy if you’ve just accidentally sat through the live episode of The Only Way Is Essex or something.

3. He can’t sulk in his box forever

Face!

There was a lot of gorgeous imagery in The Snowmen, with the TARDIS sitting on a cloud at the top of an impossible spiral staircase the obvious centrepiece. But to a childhood fan like me it was the revamped title sequence and TARDIS control room that had me all a-quiver. I think they’re the perfect mix of old and new.

4. GOR BLIMEY!

Practically Perfect

The governess and her two young charges caught up in impossible goings-on is a nicely familiar set-up. The children terrified of the late former governess comes to us via The Turn of the Screw, but thankfully Clara doesn’t. With her cleverness, wonder and Gladstone bag she’s clearly Mary Poppins. She even gets a scene in which she ascends cheekily into the air while holding an umbrella. And as for her wild stories…

5. THE CENTURIES THAT DIVIDE HER SHALL BE UNDONE

Coincidence?

In Doctor Who terms, the most easily reached answer to Clara’s existential mystery is that she’s splintered in time like City of Death‘s Scaroth. Her claim (one of her “definitely true stories”) that she was born behind the clock face of Big Ben sounds like a nice symbolic lead-in to that sort of thing. But somehow I can’t see her recreating the most iconic cliffhanger of my childhood by pulling off a rubber mask to reveal what my sister and I always called “The Twiglet Monster”. And this is Steven Moffat we’re talking about. Previous climactic revelations have centred around Rivers and Ponds, preferably by the side of a lake. So watch out for Clara’s claim that she “invented fish”.

Fifty Shades of Cup-a-Soup – the crazy world of knock-off erotic publishing

soup montageWe’ve all done it. Stumbling hungover through the supermarket looking for a packet of Cup-a Soup, you grab one from the shelf and it’s only when you get home you realise you’ve ended up with the supermarket’s own brand instead. Every successful brand attracts imitators, who’ll usually try to match the look and feel of the original packaging as closely as they can. And in books, EL James’s Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy is currently the biggest, most successful brand of them all. So I shouldn’t have been surprised to see THIS display in WH Smith the other day:

if you like that you'll love this!

You’ll notice that some of the original Fifty Shades books are scattered among the cuckoos, making the display as confusing as possible. So let’s find out which of the imitators have come closest to the benchmark. (Yes, I’m judging books purely by their covers. I haven’t read Fifty Shades or any of these others, and I’m not here to sneer at them either. I just marvel at the bravado of this sort of opportunistic marketing.)

books

THE Ninety Days of Genevieve

Background: The gradation from dark at the top to light at the bottom is perfect. Falls into the trap of using a pure grey rather than a bluish one though. 7/10

Font: A bit too austere 4/10

Imagery: None 0/10

Title: Ninety is an impressive step onwards from fifty, “Days” has assonance with “Shades”, and Genevieve is a name starting with G. Fair 7/10

Bonus: All the more impressive as a knock-off considering it was originally written in 1996 7/10

Total: 25/50

FIFTY SHADES OF MR DARCY

Background: Again with the over-literal grey 5/10

Font: Nasty mix of caps and italics 3/10

Imagery: The boots and riding crop are textbook 10/10

Title: Copying the whole “Fifty Shades Of” is breathtakingly audacious 8/10

Bonus: It’s all completely undercut by putting “A Parody” right on the front cover where even the slowest-brained shopper will see it 0/10

TOTAL: 26/50

EIGHTY DAYS YELLOW

Background: Much too black, but the imaginary light source is in about the right place 4/10

Font: Nicely rounded but a bit heavy 6/10

Imagery: The choice of abstract, vaguely erotic object – a violin – is nice, but it’s tacky to merge it with a human headshot 4/10

Title: “Eighty Days” is a weaker echo of “Ninety Days” (see above) but this has gone the whole hog by finishing with a colour! Yellow is a great choice but may imply piss-sex, which will put off the gentler reader. A point also docked for missing out the “Of” 8/10

Bonus: “Fun, frisky and grown-up” pull-quote 6/10

TOTAL: 28/50

12 SHADES OF SURRENDER: UNDONE

Background: The blue/grey mix is spot-on. There’s perhaps a little too much light if we’re nit-picking 9/10

Font: No-one asked for capitals. And where’s that yellow subtitle come from? 0/10

Imagery: Stiletto heels meet the “item of clothing with vaguely sexual connotations” criterion nicely 10/10

Title: “12” is a lot less than fifty, and it should be spelt out properly. “Shades” is a daring direct lift but it loses its way with “Surrender: Undone”. Show, don’t tell! 5/10

Bonus: The “Guaranteed to get you hot under the collar” pull-quote is serviceable but a bit obvious 5/10

TOTAL: 29/50 – with twenty-nine shades of grey we have our winner! Well done Mills & Boon.

Adverts explained: John Lewis – Never Knowingly Undersold

HI I’M A PLUCKY OUTGOING YOUNG WOMAN FROM 1925 LOOKING FOR A POTENTIAL RELATIONSHIP OR A BIT OF BARNEYMUGGING WITH A KEEN 2012 DADDY

Gosh I bet society’s changed a lot since your day, I’m not sure we could ever make it work!

NOT REALLY, MANY CORE VALUES AND EXPERIENCES ARE THE SAME, ESPECIALLY THOSE ESPOUSED BY THE JOHN LEWIS BRAND

Why are you shouting by the way?

I’M USING A TELEGRAPH MACHINE STOP

Stop what?

DON’T START THAT

Culture has changed so much since your day! We won’t have any common reference points!

I THINK YOU’LL FIND THAT IF YOU’RE MIDDLE CLASS AND CAN AFFORD NICE THINGS FROM JOHN LEWIS, NOTHING CHANGES ALL THAT MUCH

Fair.

WHAT’S THAT MUSIC YOU’VE GOT ON IN 2012?

It’s Paloma Faith covering INXS. It encapsulates the cuteness of how our time-crossed lovers’ feelings are different but the same.

WOULDN’T AN ILL-ADVISED DUBSTEP VERSION OF THE CHARLESTON BE A BETTER FIT FOR OUR TIMEZONES?

It wouldn’t wash with the Mumsnet crowd. But you’ve got Doop to look forward to in 70 years!

SO HOW SHALL WE WORK THIS?

Like Gary and Phoebe in Goodnight Sweetheart maybe? Unless Gary ever checked on Phoebe’s gravestone in the present day. I don’t think he did. Oh! Or like Gideon and Edith in The Invisibles!

I THINK GIDEON DID IT WITH HER WHEN SHE WAS AN OLD LADY IN THE 1990s TOO

I’m not sure about that babes. Hang on I’ll check if there was something in Torchwood.

TORCHWOOD?

Oh no you’re dumping me aren’t you.

DON’T BE SILLY DARLING. JOHN LEWIS! WE’VE GOT THE CHRISTMAS CAMPAIGN TO THINK OF…

Celebrity Families: The Collinses

There’s a party atmosphere at the Collins house as son Marcus opens the door with a grin, resplendent in a startling pair of pomegranate trousers. “Hiya!” says mum Michelle in an accent that roves briefly across ten distinct counties and two Mediterranean ex-pat communities. Meanwhile dad Phil hands me a glass of champagne. It’s the eve of the launch of Marcus’s debut single and the family are understandably excited.

“It’s a cover of the White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army,” beams Marcus with a dazzling flash of teeth. “But in an easy listening style!” That sounds like a great idea, I say.

“Has it got an ‘orn section?” asks Phil. Marcus nods happily. “Good! You can’t beat proper instruments. Makes it authentic.” Phil occasionally plays drums in a local weddings band, it turns out. “But don’t tell the taxman!” he cackles.

I ask Michelle what she does for a living. She confides that she’s an accent coach. “So if you wanted to sound like you were from South Glamorgan, for example,” – she begins – “I could teach you!” she concludes in a perfect Bangladeshi twang.

Just then, fashionable grandma Joan totters in and flings a dozen carrier bags to the floor. “Closing down sale at Peacocks!” she gasps ecstatically before thrusting a handful of receipts at Phil. “See what you can do about claiming back the tax, darling.”

I ask Joan what she thinks of her grandson’s burgeoning music career. “Well I always hoped Marcus would go to private school, have the opportunities his mother and father never did,” she says impeccably.

“But it turns out he didn’t want to go up the Eton road!” guffaws Phil. Michelle and Joan glance at one another.

Then, oddly, Joan produces a Snickers bar from her pocket and takes a huge bite with her otherwise perfect teeth. I look around to see Phil has pulled out a Dairy Milk and is heading for his home drum kit in the corner while pulling on a gorilla outfit.

I worry that some sort of chocolate sponsorship is going to spoil the integrity of my interview. I turn to Michelle. “Cup of tea, luv?” she asks Marcus brightly in a faultless Easter Island accent.

“Brew? No. Mars!” smiles Marcus. I can’t help feeling that I’ve missed something.

(continued on page 118)

YouTube Watch: The career of Kerry Katona

Up until now, my YouTube Watches haven’t featured anything professionally filmed (clips from tv shows and the like), because I like to celebrate the glory of the amateur video (see my feature on Interpretative Dance, or the classic Dogs Eating Eggs). But I’m making an exception in this case, because Kerry’s career is gloriously amateur. And because these videos have all been making me laugh very much indeed.

Atomic Kitten – I Want Your Love on TOTP WITH Kerry Katona In my last post I was talking about how dazzling and precise Beyoncé and her team were in their Billboard awards performance. This is the hilarious opposite. The Kittens, fresh from the basket in an early outing, have been saddled with choreography that’s just too hard for them. They give it their best. But failure is an option. I watch this over and over again.

Atomic Kitten – Behind the scenes I want your love Yes, the same song again. But it’s the interview with the girls (who were big in Japan at the time) that I’m interested in, from about 1:15 onwards. A cock crows noisily and tunelessly. “Shuddup!” shouts Kerry, more grating than the bird. Does an unspoken thought pass between the other girls? “Do you want a record deal, love?” yells Liz in the direction of the coop. Perhaps this was the moment that Kerry’s card was marked.

kerry katona iceland out takes Which brings us to Kerry’s biggest success after leaving the band. And this is a very funny, very nicely put together behind-the-scenes montage. She seems to be happier doing these ads than at any other point in her career. There’s a filthy ad-lib about the delivery driver before the first minute’s up which I won’t spoil because it’s all in the, er, delivery. But oh to imagine these versions of the adverts hitting the airwaves.

Kerry Katona On This Morning, Old Clip If the last few videos have shown that Kerry’s someone who’s famous not for any particular talent, but just for being herself, then this is the most vivid stop on the terrible comedown. Imagine if you or I turned up to a job interview completely wrecked, made a pig’s ear of it and had to shamefully write off the whole experience. This is similar, because Kerry’s an ordinary person who makes stupid mistakes too, except that because she’s chosen to live her life in the public eye, she gets to fall apart on national tv. On this unforgettable occasion, she finds herself — rather gently and kindly —being asked by two of the country’s best-loved tv presenters to consider that she might have an alcohol problem. Awkward doesn’t cover it.

Dancing On Ice 2011 wk 6 – The Skate Off Well I know it’s fun to see her fail but fuck it, here’s a happy ending. Kerry considers her next career move while being thrown windmilling around an ice rink to the sound of Ethel Merman belting out “There’s No! People Like! Show! People! They Smile! When! They Are Low!… Let’s Go! On With The Show!” For some, it’s the only life they know.

Adverts explained: Asda Price Watch

Heather’s an ‘Asda colleague’ – we’re told that right up front. But she cloaks her intentions in a veneer of friendship: “I persuaded some of the other mums from the village school to do their weekly shopping at Asda!” Do they know she’s a ‘colleague’, these lonely, impressionable women?

"Come on girls, let's give it a go!"

Us geeks have a bit of a natural advantage, because we’ve grown up watching all kinds of wild shit on the telly and we’re alert to sinister manipulation when we see it. Heather reminds me of no end of severe, snappish villainesses from Doctor Who, the sort who were convinced they knew what was right for everyone and were prepared to enforce it.

Heather takes them to the supermarket AFTER DARK – perhaps it’s a winter teatime, although the prominent 24 hour sign suggests to me that she’s ushered them there in the middle of the night. “Right everybody, keep your receipts, don’t forget!” she commands loudly, in the middle of a busy checkout area, as if to say ‘There’s nothing hidden or strange about this! It’s perfectly normal!”

Moments later it’s revealed that Asda are keeping a record of everything everyone has bought anyway. With the girls around the computer, Heather entices them into revealing even more personal information to her overlords, by stressing how easy it is. Some of the girls affect to look puzzled, presumably because of their slow and simple village brains. And she grooms them individually, according to their desires: one gets a discount, one gets a bonus voucher.

Girls! She’s infiltrated your resistance cell, she’s getting her hand all the way up, and she’s going to play you like Sooty. But it’s too late, isn’t it. She has you now, doesn’t she.

She has you forever.