Sunday, September 29, 2019

Blow My Mind, Waiter.

The trend for even more exotic ingredients in the dishes served by the great restaurants of the world seems to have reached a new, and rather fascinating, point. Forget the old Spagh Bol and a drop of Chianti before your Tiramisu - imagine what the 8 course tasting menu is like at this place:

According to the BBC, he was only growing the stuff as part of his quest to enhance the Mediterranean flavours of his food. That's a useful line to remember the next time you're tapped on the shoulder at a festival.

"Excuse me sir, I have reason to believe you are inhaling a class B substance, which can attract an on-the-spot fine of up to £90. "
"No way man, don't be so heavy, here take a good look. I call this the Colchester Carrot. It's a real carrot infused with cannabis flavour, the genuine taste of Essex, and it's going to be priced at £45 a plate in my restaurant Le Manoir d' Quatre Fumeurs. Would you care for a slice?"
"Oh, yes, right, sir, probably shouldn't while I'm on duty but as it's a festival..., mmm, surprisingly crunchy, oh wow my truncheon has turned into a golden light-sabre ..." etc etc.

With grateful acknowledgements to all behind the film Withnail and I

Saturday, September 28, 2019

101 Things #6 - Everest

For many the ascent of high mountains is a great and memorable achievement. The higher, more remote and more dangerous, then the more satisfying. Naturally, climbing Mount Everest is number one on the bucket list of anyone who goes in for this sort of thing. It seems fair that I should, as part of my continuing series 101 Things I Refuse To Do Before I Die state my position on this matter. It is simple. I will not attempt to

Climb Mount Everest

I have been up the odd high place in my youth. But a poor sense of balance and a inability to deal with exposure - that is, not such a fear of heights but a fear of falling - have always conspired to keep me on the horizontal, albeit happy to let my eyes roam over the peaks and to admire those able to find a route up every towering face, overhang, chimney and crumbling ridge towards a summit.

In any case, Mount Everest has become a joke. The pictures taken earlier this year of hundreds of climbers queueing to scramble up and around the Hilary Step, and the deaths that occurred when bad weather closed in trapping many high up, mean that for the tourist climber this mountain has become a bit like the Night Watch at Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum or the Mona Lisa at the Louvre - you desperately want to see them to appreciate them as paintings, but not if there are crowds of selfie-snapping, "let's tick this one off the list", casual visitors clogging up the room ahead of you. Those who are very rich will always find some way to climb it, with teams of experienced Sherpas to drag them up the hard bits and keep them well supplied with oxygen and hot tea. Real climbers will find better challenges elsewhere.

One of the most inspiring climbing books in my collection is The Shining Mountain by Peter Boardman. With Joe Tasker, he climbed Changabang in 1976, forcing a route up the hitherto unclimbed and, for many unclimbable, west face of the mountain. Just the two of them, no support team, no porters, no cameramen and no tourists. I would rather read, and marvel, about such exploits than even consider approaching Base Camp at Everest let alone thinking of climbing it.

 Sadly Boardman and Tasker were lost on attempting the North-East ridge of Everest a few years later.

The Climb-Everest trope is really a symbol for many areas of human endeavour. First considered impossible, then something only for madmen, then attempted and eventually attained by a few at the very top of their game, at last they become something to be commercialised and owned and subject to permits. Is there much point for those of us who are not, and will never be, anywhere near to the abilities of the trailblazers to consider emulating them slavishly? I think I can answer that. No. Only if the doing of it is fun and gasping for breath at 8,000m with sheer drops on either side and rocks crumbling under your feet is not fun. On this one I wish to be excused.


I had intended to finish here but, the day after I drafted this piece, I glanced at the digital Guardian on my tablet and the following story was prominent.

I didn't bother reading the details just in case they conflicted with my instantly-formed assumptions. It seems to be saying that you too can effectively climb Everest if you climb the equivalent amount of height.

Well, this a game-changer. The Base Camp at Everest, that almost everyone uses, (the one in Nepal), is at 5,364 metres. The summit is 8,848. We merely need to ascend some 3,484 metres, 11,430 feet and we too will have climbed Everest. The Guardian piece is about finding various mountains in Britain to climb. Seems like a lot of hard work. I reckon that going up my stairs at home will do the job if I plan sufficiently.

Each of my stair risers is 8 inches and there are 14, with a little half landing after the third. So a full ascent raises me 9.33 feet. I need make just 1,225 ascents. Easy. Say I do just 50 a day, then the job is done in a month, with time off

It's early days but I think I shall make my Base Camp at the foot of the stairs, near the living room door. Of course I shall have to acclimatise by walking in from the kitchen a few times and bringing essential supplies for a stockpile. A couple of cereal bars should help. I won't need the Sherpas (a.k.a. Mrs Commuter) for this part which is just as well as she usually mutters something about having to go into the garden when this sort of project surfaces. The little landing can be Camp 1 and one of the stairs further up can be Camp 2. From there I am confident I can push on to the summit and return without hazard, provided the weather holds. I shall make these ascents alone and without oxygen. Out there it will be just me and the mountain stairs.

Cynics may point out that in no way am I simulating the sheer effort of climbing at real altitude, nor the difficulties of traversing huge crevasses and swarming up ice cliffs. In an way, I must concede that technically they are right; however exactly the same objection could be made to the exploits of the man in the Guardian story (one Graham Hoyland). Was he daunted by the criticism? No, he climbed on, through mist and light showers, sometimes more than three whole hours walk from a pub. And, glancing at the very end of the article, I see he got a book deal out of it. That's the spirit. I am expecting no less than a two hour TV documentary, preferably narrated by my fellow extreme climber Brian Blessed, and several chat show appearances on the back of it.

 Ah, I've just been handed a note by my Editor which informs me that Hoyland actually walked the full height of Everest measured from sea level. The bastard. That's a full 3,100 ascents! I'm having second thoughts about all this.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

101 Things #5 - Rugby Union

With the Rugby World Cup in full swing in Japan, what better time to add to my growing list of  101 Things I Refuse To Do Before I Die, my determination to dodge any attempt to

Understand the rules of Rugby Union

I played this sport at school. I vividly recall that first day when our PE teacher welcomed his new class of eleven-year-olds into the gym with a sneering sort of snarl, sat us down, pointed at an incomprehensible drawing of dots on the blackboard and in one sentence established for ever my relationship with the game.
"Right, you fairies, get out there into the mud and start tackling, anyone not covered in blood after ten minutes gets a slippering".1
Oh, I forgot to mention he was Welsh. And known as "Killer" Williams.

Somehow against the odds I survived, mainly by hanging around near to the other players, but not so near that I needed to tackle anyone, and the clever tactic of falling over before anyone else could tackle me, on those rare occasions that the ball came anywhere near me. I never had the slightest idea of what was going on during play, it was always cold, the ground either treacherously sticky or gripped by an iron frost, and if there was a player from the other side coming towards me he was always, always, bigger and faster than me. You couldn't kick the blasted ball straight because of its stupid shape and anyway, even as you aimed the kick, someone else would (quite legally) jump on you. Every so often a huddle of boys got together and stuck their heads between each others legs and pushed and shoved while someone else threw the ball into the huddle and the teacher screamed out instructions. If you, quite fairly, pointed out that a bigger boy had knocked you over and trampled you into the mud and that was the reason you were trying to avoid it happening again, you would be called a "fairy" and other contemptuous terms.

I am obliged to say that I have always felt nothing but ill-will toward the Welsh rugby team ever since.

Let us turn our attention, should there be any of it left after the heart-rending stuff above, to the rules of Rugby, specifically of Rugby Union (I mention Rugby League later on). Rugby Union, where the "forwards" are the men who make up the scrums, the general idea of which is to get the ball out to the "backs" who then run past the scrum and go forward and try to score, is the sport where virtually every time anyone does anything it is an infringement and someone gets a sort of free kick whilst the other side line up about twenty yards away and then rush out as it is taken even though it always goes high over their heads, and where, if someone kicks the ball out of touch, his team is not penalised as they would be in every other sport, oh no, there is a "line-out" in which the teams line up facing each other and the ball is chucked back in and the team that booted it out has a fair chance of getting it back again. So great chunks of the game is one team kicking the ball out of play, everything stopping while they form the line-outs, then whoever gets it kicks it out again.

And now we turn to the scrum. I genuinely have no idea why scrums are awarded and why they bother. All these huge men lock their heads down and arms round each other and heave and strain while waiting for the ball to be thrown into the middle. Half the time the ref will spot an infringement (God knows how amidst those thrashing limbs) and they'll do it again, taking ages to set it up each time while absolutely nothing else is going on the field, or else it will be another sodding free kick.

By the way, here is an example of one of the rules (thanks to Wikipedia)
When the kicker moves forward with the intention of kicking the ball they may run at the kicker in an attempt to charge the ball down or put the kicker off. They cannot shout while doing this....
Is there another game where shouting is prohibited during a particular play? Are they allowed to make quiet comments or to snigger suggestively? May they indulge in a brief snatch of some popular song? Alas the rules do not specify. Clearly they are allowed to "put the kicker off" though, so perhaps a suggestion about his parentage or sexual habits is permissible. If done nicely.

Rugby League does not have scrums. If something dodgy happens then one team gets the ball and can instantly pass it and resume play. It's fast and fluid and makes sense. For this reason it is exempt from inclusion in my anti-bucket list.

Now and then I catch a bit of rugby on television. If Wales happen to be losing then I may refrain from switching channels for a few gloating moments. But as soon as the whistle blows and the commentators start mumbling about "The ref's spotted something there" and play grinds to a halt while they start doing yet another scrum or whatever, I find myself wondering if there might not be a decent Western, or a Poirot rerun or, well, almost anything really.

1: [This seemed to be an exaggeration, coloured by the memories of many years ago, but after rigorous checking it is actually an understatement. The original has been toned down sharply to ensure this column is not banned on grounds of extreme horror: Ed]

Fire in the Deep

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning, Dame Jane Francis, Director of the British Antarctic Survey, discussed the launch of the scientific research vessel Sir David Attenborough. This ship is equipped with some submarines including one named Boaty McBoatface, the name originally voted by the public for the research ship itself. Asked about the cutting edge science that the submarines could do she explained that

... They'll be launched from the ship and will go off under their own steam...
And there was me thinking that these wonders of technical innovation would surely be powered by a couple of banks of sweating oarsmen working to the monotonous beating of a gong as they work out their criminal sentences. I really must get more up to date.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

101 Things #4 - Extreme Bungee

Some of the things on my anti-bucket list 101 Things I Refuse To Do Before I Die are those that many others find desirable. Some, which may not be specifically on someone else's bucket list, are intended to satirise fashionable trends [Surely all fashionable things are trends? Ed] and one such is the craze for bungee jumping. I have no particular wish to hurl myself into a deep hole at the end of a length of elastic but I do get that some find this fun. I therefore took this to the next level [Horrible cliche alert! Ed]  and thought that what I really would not want to do is

Bungee Jump from a helicopter

Imagine my surprise when on doing some further extensive and detailed research [Quick lookup on Google: Ed], I at once came across this riveting news item that had sadly slipped my attention the first time around.

Will Smith is not a name feted in Ramblings' circles but, be that as it may, it seems that bungee jumping from a helicopter is more than a stupid idea to be mocked, it is a real thing that you can do. And I mean you. Not me. Mr Smith may dangle beneath a flying machine high above the Grand Canyon, bouncing gaily up and down and drawing curious glances from the buzzards, and no doubt from freelance undertakers of Flagstaff calculating how long it will take three stout men and a couple of mules to descend into the Canyon to retrieve the horribly mangled body, should the worst occur, but I intend to keep my feet firmly planted on the ground and the contents of my breakfast firmly within my stomach.

For the sake of the record, I have been in a helicopter (with grateful thanks to the Air Ambulance service of the Scottish highlands) and I have swarmed up a rope and jumped off (with grateful thanks to my PE teacher back in primary school a long long time ago) so I know what I am talking about.I don't mind contemplating these two actions as long as they are separate and distinct. I do not wish them to mix.

Monday, September 23, 2019

101 Things #3 - Hayes

Not all of the items on my list of 101 Things I Refuse To Do Before I Die will be found on anyone else's bucket list of things they positively want to do. Some are deeply personal. Inevitably, there are places that we choose to avoid, to eschew, to blot out from memory. Today I consider why I will not, under any conceivable circumstances,

Buy A Property In Hayes.

First we must clear up a few things. I am referring to Hayes in Middlesex, unhappy neighbour, within the surrounding envelope of the London Borough of Hillingdon, to my very own beautiful Ruislip. This must not be confused with Hayes in Bromley, or the one in Staffordshire or the many Hayes' in the United States.

I have a history with this once-village, now suburb of West London. As a young accountant I spent some time working on the audit of a company located in the heart of the trading estate. The job was alright but the surroundings were so deeply depressing, the pubs so rough and the shops so dingy that even the prospect of a long journey homeward on the 140 bus was cheering.

Now, many years later, this is the view that greets motorists as they speed down the Hayes By-pass (and what a wonderful name that is, if you think about it) on their way to Heathrow (or perhaps on their way from Heathrow, or somewhere else), but anyway this is what you can see at the top of the flyover that leaps over the Great Western Railway and various bits of canals.

Pic: Google Maps/Streetview
There is a relatively attractive bit of this town, the remnant of when it really was a village but as it is entirely surrounded by industrial dross one way, grim housing estates another and the Ealing Road, I suggest we spare it no more thought.

You may think I am being biased. In my defence to this baseless charge let me point out that at the Comedy Bunker, a club until this summer based at the Ruislip Golf Course (sadly the demands of HS2 will require demolition of the clubhouse and surrounding facilities), any visiting stand-up comedian could get an easy laugh by mentioning how glad he was to be out of Hayes. Furthermore my brother-in-law, a native of Hayes, thinks exactly the same about it as I do. He now lives the other side of Chesham, by the way.

For a few years, not so long ago, I was a volunteer with Hillingdon Age UK. My job was to collect donations for the charity's shops from people all over the borough. Inevitably that brought me many times to Hayes. Some of my most difficult experiences, such as getting stuck in traffic and getting bogged down in the awful one-way system in the town centre were there. In the end it got so bad I persuaded them to send me no further south than the line demarcated by the A40 and to find some other mug volunteer to go south. Happily for me this is what ensued.

I know that the good people of Hayes couldn't give a toss whether I live there or not, but it would make no difference if they wanted to welcome me in with a marching band and a ticker-tape parade down Botwell Lane. Let me leave you with an image of the delightful and lovingly looked-after local architecture ...

Pic: Google Maps/Streetview

I think I have made my point.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Are You Lookng Closely?

Oh dear. Did nobody proofread this banner, spotted today in Bushey?

I'm rather tempted to phone them to try to make a bookng but I'm not too sure how to pronounce it.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

101 Things #2 - Love Locks

Today our focus in 101 Things I Refuse To Do Before I Die is the ludicrous suggestion found on the website Popsugar (and, no doubt, on many others) to

Leave A Love Lock Somewhere. 

This fashion was unknown to me until in 2013 on a river cruise through Paris we learned that tourists thought it clever to fasten a padlock to the wonderful old bridge Ponts des Arts as a symbol of their love for each other. How sweet, we thought (at first), two people make a physical sign of their love using a lock that will stand forever to show the world their feelings.  The trouble was that so many were following the trend that the bridge was being damaged by the weight of all that metal.

A few padlocks, I hear you scoff, how can those damage a massive iron bridge? Look at this picture and scoff no more.

Picture: CNN

 As we cruised beneath it our guide told us that the city authorities were going to take action and indeed, a couple of years later, they removed the locks. But the idea had long gone viral and bridges everywhere were and are being festooned with locks. Bloody good news for locksmiths, of course, but I want to declare my utter opposition to this practice.

There is the obvious problem that piling huge amounts of weight onto an old structure will cause damage. There is, in addition, the problem that the locks fill up all the spaces between railings and may blot out the view so that all you see is the locks themselves. There is the pollution of the rusting metal. There is the steady erosion of walkway space as the locks bulge out into the centre of the bridge. There is the sheer ugliness of all that stuff piled up. And if you are one who has left a lock that is then crowded out by hundreds of others - what was the point? Isn't your lover aware of your love? Why not give them something personal like a ring? Yes, you can walk away from the bridge with the beautiful (!) memory of that snap as the lock engaged and the clank as your lock hit the one next to it. So what? What about the beautiful sound of the opening of a bar of chocolate to be shared?

There is a wider point about the meaning of public spaces. Bridges, squares, long curving boulevards, intriguing side streets, riversides ... anywhere that is pleasurable to wander, especially in old cities, belongs to us all. As soon as someone appropriates a bit for themselves, as in sticking a lock to a railing, they are effectively claiming it for themselves and shutting everyone else out. Like graffiti artists, they give us something (almost invariably horrible and depressing to look at) and take away something far less so. And like graffiti artists they leave a mess for others to have to clear up. Incidentally, what happens to the keys? Are they thrown into the river? Does filling a river bed with rusting metal improve it?

I am suspicious about all fashions, especially those promulgated on social media. This one, superficially so charming and harmless, is one ruthlessly to avoid.

Friday, September 20, 2019

101 Things #1 - Extreme Origami

In this post in the series 101 Things I Refuse To Do Before I Die, we consider the following suggestion found on the website Personal Excellence:

Fold 1000 Origami cranes and give them to someone special
 Firstly, by "crane" the author intends to signify a bird of the type popular in Japan. He does not expect you to make a working model of a piece of heavy machinery used for lifting objects during construction projects, fun though that undoubtedly would be.

Not this sort of crane This is what we are after

Having cleared that up, let us pause awhile and ponder the significance of making one thousand bits of folded paper with a sort of vaguely bird-like shape. Making one might be amusing, especially if one has a restless two year-old on hand to pass it on to. A couple - well, one could put them side by side and consider which is better. But a thousand? Surely you are having a laugh, Mr. Personal Excellence. Would anybody give a toss after picking up more than three?

And now let us turn to the "someone special", the recipient of this huge mound of paper (which presumably one would have to stuff into a suitcase in order to carry it around). An ageing aunt, perhaps, knitting quietly in the sunlit corner of her living room as she waits for her tea to cool.
"Hello aunty" you blurt out, staggering in from the hallway with your suitcase banging into her carefully arranged Dresden china on the little coffee table "You'll never guess what I've got to give you and it's only taken me three weeks non stop effort to make it. ".
"Oh I do love surprises. I really don't mind what it is, although I am rather allergic to paper these days. I always meant to mention it but I kept forgetting"
"Um, absolutely fine, aunty, just let me pop out for a moment and then I shall present you with this beautiful, empty, suitcase because you are someone special"

I have never taken to Origami since school days when everyone used to make those silly snapper things you flicked back and forth over your fingers [Don't worry about it, not important. Ed]. I am certainly not going to take it up now in order to complete an utterly futile task that would only baffle and irritate the someone special who would have to decide what on earth to do with 1000 bits of paper. Furthermore they are likely to enquire why I could not have spent my time more productively and I would be utterly stumped for an answer. For this reason I refuse to do it.

There's a lot of space in here

I use an anti-virus programme called Avira to protect my computer against internet nasties. As far as I can tell it works as intended, though really you can never be sure about this type of software until you actually get an attack. Be that as it may, you do assume that this sort of product is made by people with a fairly good grasp of computer technology. In which case, imagine my bemusement at the following pop-up (Avira likes to show me this sort of message each morning in the hope that I will spend loads of cash with them).

If you enter more than one ordinary space (by touching the space bar on the keyboard more than once), these extra spaces are ignored when a web page is displayed. So a bit of code is needed. "&" followed by "nbsp;" is used to indicate each extra space on the same line. It appears that the person who coded this little message forgot to put the leading "&" in; web code, like all computer code, is unforgiving of errors. No "&" means that it simply displays the rest of the string and the result is what you see above.

The trouble is, if something as basic as that, and as easy to test, slips through the net, who knows what other little bugs may be lurking in the software?

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Election Time?

I've been phoned twice in the past few days by opinion pollsters. They want to confirm that I live in the constituency of Uxbridge & South Ruislip and then what my voting intentions might be should there be an election fairly soon. It is a coincidence that I happen to live in the constituency represented by the Prime Minister? Well, given that I have rarely had my views canvassed before with such frequency I rather think not. I wonder if our beloved leader is either testing the waters for a general election or becoming concerned about his own survival should he take the plunge?

Friday, September 13, 2019

Return to the Rhone

A week in Provence, land of almonds, figs, the magnificent limestone gorges and cliffs of the Luberon and the rolling vineyards of the Cote du Rhone. It was almost liberating to leave Brexit-torn Britain behind and head out for the sunshine. We stayed in Avignon, a city that one can reach on a single train journey from London (though the return must be made via Paris or Lille because Avignon is not yet equipped to handle outgoing international passengers). Imagine my pleasure to find that this delightful city is now installing a tram system; it is still under test and we saw nothing of it until one morning as our coach whisked us past the ancient ramparts ...

Avignon has a severe rush-hour problem (as we can testify having spent about twenty five minutes driving about half a kilometre one evening) but I am not sure what impact the trams will have. They do not go inside the old, walled, city at all and don't seem to follow the ring road around the walls for very far. But no matter. It is always nice to add a tram pic to the collection.

The last time we were in Avignon, French railways did us no favours by running our homeward-bound TGV so late that we missed the Eurostar connection; This time they did run to time (but a four hour journey with no buffet or even a refreshment trolley?) and it was Eurostar who gave us a thirty minute delay in Lille.

Monday, September 02, 2019

101 Things I Refuse To Do Before I Die

There are many books that tell you what to do. Often these take the form of must-do lists, or must-see lists or must-read lists, all of which one is required to experience before one’s death. Well, obviously, it’s going to be damn hard to do any of them after they start chucking the clods down onto the coffin (apart from Dig your way to freedom after your premature burial, which is number 101 in 101 Things To Do For Nutters)1. But I suppose what they mean is these are things you have to set out to do before age, infirmity, poverty and an ASBO or two render them permanently out of reach. And so we have (as any quick search on the internet will throw up2) 101 Things To Buy Before You Die, 101 Asian Dishes You Need To Cook Before You Die, 101 Places To Have Sex Before You Die, 101 Movies You Must See Before You Die, 101 Exercises To Try Before You Die, 101 Artists You Must Listen To Before You Die3, 101 Places To Visit Before You Die and, of course, 101 Things To Do Before You Die (loads of versions of this by various authors). And there are many more.

All these instructional books (instructional in the sense of giving you, the reader, instructions rather than teaching you something you worthwhile) are about positive actions enjoined upon you with that inevitable, but uncertain, countdown to obliteration ticking away4 in the background. You may seize upon them gladly, relieved to have the problem of what to do in your remaining years solved by an expert. You may well chomp your way through many exotic dishes, visit strange and wonderful places (perhaps photographing yourself tastefully standing in front of one or two), frequent the world’s great museums, theatres and burlesque shows, stagger happily from one obscure distillery to the next, peer through the foaming waves as your yacht escapes the unforgiving rocks of Cape Horn or don dark glasses, military uniform and a sub-machine gun whilst posing with the world’s nastiest dictators. And good luck to you. But you will still die, you know, and when you do all that effort, all that chasing around to tick off one more thing will count for nothing at all: because, as they say, you can’t take it with you.

This series is not about any of that. It is the reverse. It is a list of all those things that I have absolutely no intention of doing, things that I will cross the road to avoid, if necessary. Listing them is a great relief because this is one bucket list I can tick off at precisely the same time as I enumerate it. You are entirely free to adopt this list for yourself or, perhaps using it as a mental springboard, concoct one of your own. Whatever you do you will have the pleasure, the radiant joy, of being able to say “I have triumphed, my bucket list is complete, and everything on this list has not been done, is not being done and never will be done”. You might go on to add “and never should be done by any right-minded individual” but that is going too far. Things to avoid before dying is a highly personal subject, after all, and whilst we may recoil at visiting the world’s top abattoirs, there are bound to be some for whom the wearing of a yet another blood-stained overall is the height of the sublime. Do not, I beg you, take my list too personally. I am not seeking to belittle or degrade anyone.5 If I can inspire you to ignore one place, one action, one meal, one event or one experience and to do so with the confidence of one who does not give a stuff about what people who make bucket lists think then my efforts will not have been in vain.

It is conceivable that you may wish to view these pieces, my personal list of things to ignore, as a challenge. “He scorns to do them” you may think “But I shall do them, do them well and prove him wrong”. You are welcome to see it in this light and I look forward to reading your book of 101 Things I Did Just Because Someone Else Didn’t. Please do not solicit my advice in going about this task. I am not writing about things that I have done and wish I had left well alone. These are things I have not done, do not want to do and will not do.

The series begins shortly ….

  1. This might be my next award-winning blockbuster
  2. Hopefully you will not be doing the same as you contemplate this list.
  3. I think this should be interpreted as meaning musicians. I doubt if listening to a load of painters droning on about the best way to scrape oil paint off a jumper is that riveting.
  4. Countdowns don't tick. They count down. [Ed] 
  5. This may not be strictly true.