“Boy, I hate how it looks”

I’m going to be writing MostlyFilm’s Oscars Predictions again* this year and although I will do it under my own name and so can be as partisan and opinionated as I like, I just need to get the following rant out of my system beforehand. Feel free to look away now. There be spoilers ahead for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, so you may prefer to look away for that reason. Whatever, just don’t read what follows, under any circumstances!

*If you look carefully, you’ll notice that I got all the important ones right last time.

On Sunday night, Three Billboards won Best Picture, Best British Picture (it isn’t, but the rules are weird), Best Original Screenplay, Best Actress for Frances McDormand and Best Supporting Actor for Sam Rockwell. It was a veritable sweep, only spoiled by losses to Guillermo del Toro for The Shape Of Water in Director, which everyone knew would happen, Roger Deakins for Blade Runner 2049 in Cinematography, which everyone hoped would happen, and Jonathan Amos for Baby Driver in Editing, which just goes to show that Edgar Wright could plop out a big poo on the red carpet and people would still defend him. (I haven’t seen Baby Driver.)

Anyway, I saw Three Billboards at its LFF premiere, in October. I’d been excited about it for months and as I settled into my seat I was prepared to laugh, to cry, to be thrilled and to be shocked.

No, wait. Actually, I was hoping for all those things, but I was prepared to be disappointed:

Screen Shot 2018-02-21 at 11.20.44

What I mostly remember was that Frances McDormand was amazing, that the plot made no sense and that there was a scene where McDormand’s and Rockwell’s characters throw the n-word around which made me feel uncomfortable. I did laugh and I did cry and I seem to have come out happy enough:

Screen Shot 2018-02-21 at 11.20.58

By the next day, I wasn’t so sure:

Screen Shot 2018-02-21 at 11.21.19

I know it’s weird and self-indulgent of me to retrospectively analyse my tweets, but the thing is, Three Billboards doesn’t deserve three of its five BAFTA wins because it is a bad, badly-intentioned film that treats race horribly, and there is an argument circulating that people only started to view it that way once “activists” began complaining about it, and that the rest of us are lily-livered liberals who can’t bear to be thought of as on the wrong side, and so we’re all jumping on the bandwagon. Maybe we are, but I didn’t need to read Ira Madison to have a problem with it from the get-go, and if it’s true that the longer I think about it the worse I think it is, that’s just because I’ve had more time to think about it. In a world where black people are regularly murdered by the police, where Donald Trump is president, and where white kids can shoot a dozen people dead and be excused as “bullied” and “misunderstood”, you don’t get to make a film that uses racism as a subject for glib, wisecracking, slapstick. You earn the right to write about a difficult subject by making an effort to understand it, and McDonagh big fat didn’t bother. It’s the only bad thing about the film (if you ignore the plot), but it’s BAD ENOUGH BY ITSELF that the rest of it doesn’t matter. And no, adding a couple of peripheral black characters who do and say nothing that isn’t the barest “will this do?” version of screenwriting doesn’t solve the problem.

Also not an excuse: that he didn’t mean it, it’s not central to the movie, he’s British and they don’t really have racism there (I have genuinely heard this). You don’t have to be racist on purpose to be racist! It’s like nobody’s even SEEN Get Out.

Talking of which, I will be sooooooo angry if this film beats Get Out to Best Picture. But don’t worry, it won’t. I won’t spoil you for the official predictions post (which I think is happening on Oscars weekend itself), but even if I thought Three Billboards would win I wouldn’t predict it, because I still believe in a world where good things happen to good people, and last year it totally worked, apart from the whole envelope thing.


The ApprenticeDo you remember that old joke about the child (in some versions he is German, but I don’t think that’s essential) who doesn’t speak until the age of nine, when one evening at dinner he says “not enough salt” and his amazed parents say “you can speak! Why have you never spoken before?” and he says “Until now everything was satisfactory”?

Well, that’s where I’m at, more or less. Glad All Over has always been a blog about nothing, largely powered by my occasional need to rant about Things That Pissed Me Off. And nothing much has pissed me off recently, or at least nothing that merited more words than could easily fit into 140 characters. But a recent lifestyle adjustment has turned me into someone who watches TV, and it turns out there’s loads on TV that pisses me off. Yay!

Proudly topping the list is The Apprentice, which I have managed to avoid for the last decade, whilst still knowing quite a lot about it. I don’t know why I find its innate cynicism more offensive than that displayed by, say, The X Factor, except that X Factor has as a redeeming quality its contestants, who are by and large sweet and charming and easy to root for. (My favourites so far, in case you need to know, are Fleur and Andrea.) The Apprentice features famously awful people so there is nothing to distract me from the fact that it’s a horrible, lying, ugly programme. It teaches us that the way to get ahead in business is to be a bully; to relentlessly push one’s own agenda and to ignore or trample on anyone who gets in the way. That may well work for some people in some contexts, but it makes the world a nastier place, and having had more jobs than most I can assure you that being polite, respectful and knowledgeable works too, and doesn’t result in half the workforce being signed off with stress.

So it’s an unpleasant show, but it also treats us, the audience, like idiots. I am actively embarrassed every time Lord Sugar is presented like God, as though he isn’t as beholden to the production schedule and technical requirements of making the show as anyone else involved. I don’t mind being lied to in the name of entertainment so long as an attempt is made to make it entertaining, but this isn’t. It’s just silly. And practically speaking, the tasks are ridiculous. In last night’s show candidates were asked to come up with an item of wearable technology and pitch it to buyers from John Lewis, J.D. Sports and Firebox. I mean, honestly, can you think of a single item, wearable or otherwise, that those three retailers would all stock? So the premise was ridiculous and the criteria for success a nonsense. The week before, the winning team (and why split them, in this day and age, into a men’s team and a women’s team, FFS?) made something like £50 more than the losers, who were subjected to a torrent of contempt bordering on abuse as a result. £50. It’s a joke of a show. And if you were to ask the founders of the most successful companies launched in the last couple of decades whether their primary motivation was to make money, I doubt a single one of them would say yes. Here’s Mark Zuckerberg in a letter to shareholders two years ago:

“Simply put: we don’t build services to make money; we make money to build better services. And we think this is a good way to build something.”

Anyone who thinks Alan Sugar is a better role model for success in the world of business today than Zuck probably deserves to – well, to be on The Apprentice.

I mean, I don’t mind silly TV shows. At the moment I am particularly enjoying The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Come Dine With Me and Gogglebox, all of which, in different ways, shine a light into something real and human and vulnerable. Shows about people need real people in them, and nobody and nothing in The Apprentice is real.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to install the X Factor voting app.

Bath rant

John Cleese in Clockwise
There is almost no situation in which this picture isn’t appropriate

I had a bath this morning, which is very unusual on a weekday but I was cold and aching from running in the rain a couple of evenings before, and – well, frankly, I wasn’t ready to be vertical.

Having a bath meant I listened to the Today programme, which most mornings I don’t any more, and listening to the Today programme reminded me why I don’t any more. I can’t have listened for more than 15 minutes but in that time it made me feel quite separately cross about three things, and I came out of the bath less relaxed than I’d gone in, which is all wrong. So to make me feel better, I’m going to make you cross about them too.

NUMBER ONE. John Humphrys exclaiming that nobody in authority had shouldered the blame for the child sex abuse gang uncovered in Rotherham last year. Nobody, that is, apart from the PERPETRATORS WHO WENT TO JAIL. I can’t bear the journalistic tendency to assume that when vulnerable people are harmed, it’s social services’ fault, as though the social care system isn’t full of desperately overworked and underfunded people trying as hard as they possibly can to stop people from coming to harm. Do the job yourself, Humphrys, and live on a social worker’s salary for a year, then start blaming them for organised criminal activity.

NUMBER TWO. David Cameron, on Letterman last night, was asked what “Magna Carta” meant, and apparently didn’t know the answer. Now, I didn’t know the answer either, but I know what Magna Carta is, and I speak English which means I can understand some Latin, so I was able to work it out. If I can do it, bloody David Cameron should be able to. I knew he was stupid, but I didn’t think he was stupid.

NUMBER THREE. A piece on Jamie Oliver’s new 15-minute dinners book, in which the nonsense argument was made for the sake of controversy where none existed (this technique will be  familiar to regular listeners) that the target audience for the book was owners of Jamie’s earlier 30-minute dinners book, and good grief, were we really so desperate for time that we needed to claw back another fifteen minutes in the evening, and what was wrong with spending an extra quarter of an hour doing something useful and enjoyable like cooking? Somebody (I have no idea who was being interviewed about it, except that none of them was Jamie Oliver) tried to make the OBVIOUS POINT that the book is aimed at people who don’t cook at all, and not at people who already enjoy cooking, but this was shouted down in the general frenzy.

I think tomorrow I shall return to comforting silence.


Football. Bloody hell!

UEFA European Championship trophy
The UEFA European Championship trophy. Nope, me neither.

I have never felt about international football the way I feel about club football. I have never been an England “fan”, or worn an England shirt, or been devastated when they lost a game (all right, maybe for five minutes after the Germany game in 1996, but I was young and impressionable and quite probably drunk).

It’s partly to do with the disagreeable connotations of the English flag, and partly about the wearying media hysteria which surrounds England’s presence at any international tournament. But mostly, it’s just that I’m not all that interested. It’s not them, it’s me: Crystal Palace have a prior claim to my heart and I can’t love two teams the way I love one.

(There’s also something in there about feeling part of my local community, which is an inclusive group,  in a way that I don’t feel “English”, which is an exclusive group, and something else about Crystal Palace footballers not being the kind who get paid hundreds of thousands of pounds a week, and an unrelated distaste for drunken topless men shouting in the street when England win.)

But I’m not anti the England team. I like to watch them play, and I am happy to see them win. Or I used to be. But this time around (there is, in case you hadn’t noticed, currently a football tournament taking place), I am disconcerted to discover that I actively want England to lose. Watching them play France last night I found myself silently egging France on, and occasionally shouting inadvertently (and, once, clapping like a hyperactive child) when they came close to scoring. I wasn’t supporting France the way I support Palace, but I was certainly supporting them the way I support, I don’t know, West Brom against Chelsea.

And there’s the reason: the Chelsea connection. Or more specifically, the John Terry connection. Here’s the thing: England won’t win this competition. They’re not good enough. They will probably go out in the quarter finals, to the usual lamentations from the press and vaguely exasperated eye-rolling from everyone else. And after a bit, we’ll all forget about who played well or badly in which game, or whether the right substitutions were made. But we will all remember that Roy Hodgson chose to take John Terry and not Rio Ferdinand to Ukraine, a month before Terry is due to stand trial for the racist abuse of Ferdinand’s younger brother Anton.

I don’t know how the trial will go. But I do know that John Terry is an awful man (Rio isn’t a saint, but compared to John Terry he is a shining beacon of humanity and intellect), and that stacked against all the excellent reasons not to take Terry to the competition is the single argument in his favour: that he is a good footballer. But we already know that England won’t win, so what have they gained by taking him and leaving Rio, who is also a good footballer, at home? Approximately nothing. When by doing the opposite – by using John Terry as a scapegoat and a symbol for all the loutish, entitled, ugly behaviour that footballers can exhibit – they could have sent out a message that says: we will punish footballers when they behave badly, and we don’t need to stick our thumbs up our bottoms and wait for bad behaviour to be legally determined in a court before we see it happening and call it out.

Football isn’t a matter of life and death, but its morals and values seep through into society. The England management had the chance to do a good thing, the repercussions of which would have played out in small but important ways across the country, and they didn’t take it, and that’s why I hope they lose.

(I am still waiting to pick my team for the office sweepstake, because the person inside whose desk drawer the all-important envelope is locked ran over his foot with a lawnmower at the weekend (I’ll get England now, I expect). I am of course supporting Ireland, but they didn’t have the best of starts, so I am going to be boring and tip Germany for the win.)

Easter eating

When I was little, Easter and Christmas meant one thing: chocolate. The ritual and ceremony around both festivals – the build-up, the songs, the decorations – were exciting, but only because they were pointers along the path that led to a WHOLE DAY where I could eat as much chocolate as I liked.

These days I’m ambivalent about chocolate, but the excitement has remained intact. Now what excites me about Easter and Christmas is the sense of a special occasion and the likelihood of long days spent with family and friends – catching up, laughing and, yes, eating. But whereas aged eleven I would have taken all that chocolate and eaten it silently and solitarily in my bedroom, now the food is bound up with the celebrations, which feels like a happier and healthier approach.

None of which means I don’t eat too much on these occasions, and this year was no exception. I had a Cadbury’s Flake for breakfast, and then a buttered bagel, after which we had a family lunch of roast chicken with ratatouille, green vegetables and roast potatoes with gravy, followed by apple crumble and ice cream.

Then we sat in the garden and ate cake and chocolate eggs and cheese, and while I can’t remember how much I had of the first two, I’m pretty sure I ate about half a round of camembert as well as substantial slices of stilton, brie and red leicester. My aunt, sitting next to me, didn’t have much cheese but said she’d overdone it on the chocolate eggs, and it occurred to me that we probably always attach more importance to the foods we have a troubled relationship with than to those we can take or leave. Maybe I had two chocolate eggs or maybe I had ten: I’m not obsessive about chocolate, so I didn’t notice and it doesn’t matter. My aunt didn’t have any cheese – or didn’t have much, I can’t remember – and so in my mind she didn’t gorge herself like I did. And she probably didn’t, but had she been gorging on chocolate I wouldn’t have noticed, because I don’t think chocolate is important.

All of which serves as a reminder that our perception of our eating habits is rarely the same as the reality, and that our notions about food often veer wildly from what is true. This was reinforced starkly to me recently when I heard an interview, I think on Women’s Hour, with someone who’d carried out a survey relating to teenage girls and body image. The vast majority of girls were unhappy with their bodies, and when asked whose body they’d like to have, most chose Cheryl Cole’s. What was interesting about that was that when they took the girls’ measurements, most of them were already about the same size and shape as Cheryl Cole. In other words, they were unhappy about their bodies, but when asked how they’d like to look, they described the bodies they already had.

It’s not hard to imagine that what these girls really wanted was to be successful, or beautiful, or rich, or popular, or any of the other things Cheryl Cole is. Hey, I’d like to be all of those things. But the idea of young women suffering crises of confidence and perceiving that crisis as a desire to possess something that in actual fact they already have is horribly sad. And it exposes as fantasy right from the start the idea that if women eat less and exercise more they’ll end up happy with their bodies. With rare exceptions, the unhappiness that we weave around our physical selves has very little to do with our actual physical selves.

All of which I will ponder as I make my way over the coming days through the remainder of the Easter chocolate. Anyone got any Rennies?


a croissant

For a while last year, I used to walk about a mile across the park every morning and evening to get to and from the tube station. I mentioned this to a colleague – I can’t remember the context – and she said “ooh, you’re good.”

“Well, I enjoy it”, I said, although what I actually wanted to say was “Why are you assigning a moral value to my unremarkable journey to work? In what sense is it good?”

Of course, what she meant was that by choosing to walk rather than take the bus I was behaving in a way that is somehow designated as morally superior. It’s a mark of my own peculiar oversensitivity to the notion that exercise is innately noble that I minded, but mind I did (slightly).

I remembered this earlier today, when I was eating a breakfast croissant at my desk. Croissants are one of the foods that make me realise what it might be like to have a religious experience: they’re so perfect – their shape and texture and colour and weight as much as their flavour – that I almost think they must have been created on a higher plane. There is nothing to touch a good croissant.

Anyway, I was enjoying this one when someone walked past my desk, peered at me solemnly and barked: “naughty!”. I bit back my immediate response, which would probably have had swearing in it, and managed instead to say “it’s only a croissant”.

Both incidents are entirely trivial and neither ruined my day, but they do point to one of the most troubling aspects of our relationship with food, which is the idea that not only are we behaving “badly” or “well” if we eat certain foods, but that this is so widely accepted that other people feel entitled to comment on it. It wouldn’t matter if I were Kate Moss eating a lettuce leaf or Dawn French eating a cow pie: it wouldn’t be up to anybody else to point out to me their interpretation of the moral value of my food choices.

For one thing, unless you’re my doctor and I’m under close dietary supervision, you have no idea what my croissant (or my cake, or my glass of wine, or my lettuce leaf) means in the context of the rest of my diet. Maybe I usually eat three croissants for breakfast and today I’m only having one. Is that “naughty”? Maybe I have an eating disorder and croissants are one of the things I can bring myself to eat. Is that “naughty”?

And, well, for another thing, it’s just plain rude.

Wedding weight

I accidentally listened to Radio 5 for a bit this morning, having switched over for the football last night. They were reviewing today’s papers, with an eye for the human interest angle that the Today programme generally lacks (I don’t know why I persist with the Today programme: it’s so clenched, compared with anything else you can listen to at that time of day).

Anyway, as a result I can tell you that the tabloid press are “concerned” for Kate Middleton, who has apparently lost weight in the run-up to her wedding, and is having her engagement ring narrowed so that it won’t fall off her finger. The two facts were presented as though they were linked, making the assumption that Kate’s fingers have shrunk since she got engaged, without taking into account the possibility that the ring was always too large and she’s only just getting it adjusted. It’s a second-hand ring, after all, and I can confirm from personal experience that it’s very easy not to get around to having a ring adjusted to make it fit properly.

Anyway. Kate probably has lost weight, regardless of whether she meant to. I’ve lost weight, without intending to, because planning a wedding – or, anyway, planning a big wedding, which I have somehow accidentally ended up doing, though it’s not quite on the scale of Kate and Wills’ – makes you twice as busy as usual, so you have less time to eat, and what you do eat you burn up faster. That’s one side of it. The other side is that lots of women do deliberately lose weight for their weddings, because they’re going to be looked at all day by lots of people, and because for this one day they’re trying to match up to the fantasy adult version of themselves that they imagined when they were five years old, and that fantasy adult was almost always slim.

I’ve no objection to women losing weight for their weddings, any more than I’ve any objection to women losing weight for any other reason, if they can do it without being miserable (big if). But I do object to the expectation that it’s something all women will choose to do, and I especially object to the media criticising Kate Middleton for losing weight during her engagement when it’s almost entirely their fault that women in general, and those in the public eye especially, feel anxious about their size. If you want her to stop losing weight, I want to say to them, maybe you should try not talking about her weight.

Rough customer

I promised months ago that I’d write about the Rough Guide to Cyprus and why it’s no good at all, and then I forgot, and then I remembered but didn’t have the book to hand in order to quote it. But now I do, and flicking through it I discover I’m every bit as bemused by it as I was at the time.

It may be that Rough Guides are not designed for people like me, who just want to go on holiday. Here is a short quiz which will help you to determine whether you are the kind of person the Rough Guide to Cyprus might be aimed at:

Question 1

Do you look down on everyone else who has travelled to your holiday destination at the same time as you?

Question 2

Do you describe yourself as a traveller, rather than a tourist?

If you answered mostly YES, you may get on with The Rough Guide to Cyprus better than I did. I found it pompous, snobbish, humourless and ill-conceived. I first noticed this when I was reading the section about Cypriot cuisine. It says:

Food throughout Cyprus is generally hearty rather than refined, and on the mainstream tourist circuit at least will get monotonous after a few days. In many respects resort food – especially in the South – is the unfortunate offspring of generic Middle Eastern, and 1960s British, cooking at its least imaginative.

Well, that’s simple enough – just don’t eat at any “resorts”, “especially in the South”. Got that? Never mind that people have varied tastes and palates (personally, I like “generic Middle Eastern” food more than almost any other kind). Never mind that even smallish Cypriot towns on the “mainstream tourist circuit” offer a range of international cuisine as wide as anything you’d find in an English town of twice the size. No, Cypriot food in any of the places you’re actually likely to be staying (there’s a reason it’s called the tourist circuit)  is monotonous and unimaginative.

(There’s a lot of this guff about the “mainstream tourist circuit”, incidentally. The writers don’t seem keen on your visiting any of the places on which Cyprus’s economy depends for a substantial part of its income, preferring to recommend remote spots which you have  to drive to, environmental considerations clearly playing second fiddle to the traveller’s desire for an authentic experience, whatever that is.)

It was in Cyprus that I first tasted halloumi, which is one of my favourite foods in the world. Surely, I thought, they can’t be rude about halloumi. Everyone like halloumi.

Unfortunately, inferior rubber halloumi – full of added yeast and powdered (cow) milk, squeaking on the teeth when chewed – abounds; when you finally get the real thing (from sheep or goat milk, with the butterfat oozing out at the touch of a fork), you’ll never willingly go back to the other.

Well, I have eaten more halloumi, in Cyprus and elsewhere, than anyone I know, and I think that’s bollocks. Sure, the cheap stuff is squeakier, but it’s still terrific.

(And yes, the writing is all like that.)

We were staying between Paphos and Coral Bay, so I had a look at the restaurant listings for both places to see whether I could find any recommendations I liked the sound of. It only listed a few places, but one caught my eye:

La Piazza: Very upmarket Italian with a Venetian flair, its menus and recipes vetted once yearly by a North Italian professor.

A what now?  This bizarre detail struck me much as those adverts do that begin with a confident, and meaningless, “Scientists say…”. No extra information was given, and I should have asked when we ate at what turned out to be a fairly average but perfectly pleasant Italian, but I forgot. If you go and find out, do please let me know.

The best thing about La Piazza is not the food but the view, which looks like this:

beach view

The writers of The Rough Guide to Cyprus clearly don’t have much time for this view, though, because if you look up what to do in Paphos, it says:

The main resort strip in Kato Pafos, east of Apostolou Pavlou and the harbour, consists of opticians, estate agents, ice-cream parlours, fast-food franchises, more estate agents, indistinguishable restaurants, nightclubs, still more estate agents, clothes shops, souvenir kiosks, banks and excursion agencies, the characterless pattern repeating itself every couple of hundred yards along Leoforos Posidhonos, the shoreline boulevard. The only “sight” on this lacklustre sequence is the Paphos Aquarium…

Well, that’s more or less true, but as an introductory paragraph to a section on what to see in Paphos, it leaves something to be desired. I’d have started it like this:

The main resort strip in Kato Pafos, east of Apostolou Pavlou and the harbour, has all the shops you need to stock up on provisions for your holiday, as well as an abundance of places to stop to eat, drink and enjoy the view of the harbour. There are also plentiful tourist agencies where you’ll be able to book trips to the more inacessible parts of the island, but don’t forget to spend some time sitting still and absorbing the busy, bustling atmosphere and headily international population of this cheerful tourist town.

And if you can describe an aquarium as “the only sight” in a place this lively and friendly, you have a very narrow view of what counts as a sight, and you probably won’t enjoy your holiday at all. Incidentally, that line of stones stretching out into the sea in the photo above is an ancient breakwater.

Coral Bay, a few miles up the coast and much smaller than Paphos but with the advantage of a glorious sandy beach, is a genuine single-duty tourist town and much less varied, but it does have a lot of restaurants. What did the Guide have to say about them?

Restaurants on the main strip are generally pretty forgettable; much the best local eating is at the South-Indian-run Keralam, northwest of the main beach in the Aristo Coral Bay complex.

Right. Because us Brits don’t get the chance to eat good Indian food at home.

(Here, as an aside, are my two recommendations for places to eat. In Coral Bay, Phideas Tavern (which I can’t find on the web but which you’ll find easily enough once you get there) looks like a canteen but does fantastic traditional Cypriot food for almost no money at all, and you get to spend the evening with Phideas himself, who is great fun. I ate here in 2001 and again in 2010 and was charmed and delighted to find that it hadn’t changed at all.

And in Paphos, you absolutely must go to Seven St George, which does some of the best food I’ve ever eaten, and is one of the few places in the world where I’m happy to eat pork and lamb. Like Phideas, it’s run by a family, all of whom you’ll meet during the course of your visit, and what George lacks in cheeky banter he makes up for with a beguilingly serious dedication to good food. There’s no menu at Seven St George: they just bring you meze dishes until you’re full. Everything is tiny, beautiful and delicious, and you’ll have eaten your own body weight before you notice it. Seating is outside on a flower-covered terrace, and dinner there is like sneaking three hours in heaven.)

Writing about Phideas and George has lifted my mood and almost made me forgive the writers of the Rough Guide to Cyprus their snobbery, except that as a final insult, the glossary of useful Greek and Turkish words doesn’t include the word for “cheers”, which I’ve found is the most important word to know if you, like me, like to meet people and talk to them when you visit other countries, rather than sniffily disapproving of the tourism industry that keeps most of them in work.

So as my final gift to you today, cheers is “yiamas” in south Cyprus and “şerefe” in the north, and if you go, you’ll have plenty of chances to use them both.

Sunday lunch at the Rosendale: a warning from history

I don’t write about restaurants very often, because most of the places I go out to eat are perfectly nice without being amazing, and thus not really worth mentioning, since I am not a food blogger. But I am making an exception for The Rosendale, because if I can save one person from enduring a Sunday lunch like the one I had yesterday, it will have been worthwhile.

Years ago, The Rosendale was a pub which did pizza. Good pizza – the type you’d travel for, although I only lived around the corner then, so I didn’t have to. Then I moved away, and by the time I came back it was a gastropub and getting good reviews all over the place. So we ate there, once, and it was good. But somehow it took us two years to go back, even though it’s a fifteen-minute walk from home, and this time, it was bad.

The service, to be fair, was only mediocre. After a long period during which nobody came to take our order (even though there were only two or three other groups there), we were presented with a basket of stale bread. Well, maybe it wasn’t all stale, but the piece I got was definitely past its best. As I spread it with butter so soft and tasteless it might have been margarine, I thought “they wouldn’t serve stale bread; this must be the texture it’s supposed to have”. But then I ate it, and no, it was just stale.

Next came beef carpaccio sliced so thickly as to look more like a couple of steaks, and a gazpacho soup so tart it set my teeth on edge, and such a disconcerting shade of ketchup-red that I could only assume it had come out of a tin. It was accompanied by greasy garlic croutons, which, in a charming touch of consistency, were also stale. What it didn’t come with was a spoon: I had to grab a waitress and ask for one.

The beloved’s main course of rabbit was, to give it its due, very good. My roast beef with all the trimmings, in contrast, was possibly the most inedible plate of food I have ever been presented with, not including the time a Spanish woman cooked me a pig’s trotter to welcome me to her home. The beef was tough and tasteless, the roast potatoes (which were the reason I’d ordered it) were dry and almost certainly reheated (or if not, then just very badly cooked) and, inexplicably, the Yorkshire pudding had the actual consistency of a mushroom. I’d noticed a plate going back into the kitchen with a barely-touched Yorkshire pud languishing on it, and at the time I’d thought “what kind of a maniac would leave a Yorkshire pudding uneaten?”, but in the end I had to do the same. The mixed veg had all been steamed together, which meant that the carrots were underdone but the broccoli and beans were fine, which was fortunate because they were the only part of it I enjoyed.

The puddings looked good, but we were too disspirited by the whole experience to stay and find out. At £40 a head for two courses with wine, they need to get better at cooking quite quickly. As for our Sunday lunch, the next time I want to leave the washing up to someone else I think I’ll head into Herne Hill for a perfectly adequate roast for half the price at The Commercial, or even a proper old-fashioned pub pizza at The Half Moon.

Stylist Magazine

Sorry, I know it’s only been a few days since Davina, but I’m going to rant again. If you’re not in London, Brighton, Glasgow, Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, French Connection stores or selected airport lounges, you won’t have come across Stylist, the free women’s magazine which is available in all of those places. It’s been going for a couple of months, and aside from the usual dross about losing weight and looking younger with £60 moisturisers, it seemed relatively inoffensive. Well, depending on how offensive you find the dross about losing weight and looking younger with £60 moisturisers. I suppose I find it more depressing than offensive, but I can’t say I blame the staff of the magazine, who after all can only do what their advertisers tell them.

But I do blame the staff of the magazine for the fact that, every week, there is at least one awful blunder which makes them look like they haven’t a clue what they’re doing. Because I am anal about grammar and style, and because it was the week before Christmas and I hadn’t much else to do, I actually emailed the editor last month and pointed out the three worst offenders in that week’s issue (“lightning” mis-spelled as “lightening”, a caption reading “who want’s to be an eco-warrior?” and an article on Sarah Jessica Parker that began, almost incomprehensibly, “As part of a generation that lived and breathed Sex And The City, few TV shows have had as much impact on us as those four Manhattanites.”)

It was a very polite email, though now I look at it again I notice I did say “you could begin by ditching Dawn Porter and replacing her with someone who can write”. Even so, I didn’t really expect a reply, and I didn’t get one. But I suppose I thought that somebody somewhere might have at least read it and thought “OK, let’s keep an eye out for obvious howlers”.

But clearly, no. Here is an extract from the editorial column in today’s issue.

To add to our misery (thanks a lot), scientists have used a formula to calculate the most depressing day of the year, taking into account weather, finances and motivation levels. They found it always falls on the third Monday in January – which is next week.

As this day of joy approaches, we’ve decided to rebrand Blue Monday. January 25 is now the day to book your dream holiday and swap your January blues for the azure shades of idyllic beaches.

Ahem. Did you spot the problem? Not the one about “Blue Monday” being a load of balls which lazy journalists like to rehash every year because it saves them from having to have an idea, but the one about how many Mondays there have been in January so far? Or indeed, the one about how many days have to have passed before it can be the 25th of a month?

Stylist magazine, you’re embarrassing me now. Please try harder.