Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The biggest disappointments of 2012

All in all, 2012 has been pretty darn great. A significantly above average year. The type of year that the people who make those nostalgic year-you-were-born birthday cards must breathe a sigh of relief over (2003 was a head-scratcher, right guys?).  But rather than give you a column that just says YAY THE OLYMPICS next to a hand-drawn doodle of Clare Balding and Psy the Gangnam Style man sitting on a cloud, I’ve decided to go against the grain of the year and be all negative instead. So here you are – the most disappointing moments of 2012. Hurrah!   


As someone who aims to spend at least 18 hours a day consuming some form of visual media, the arrival of Netflix brought with it great promise. It was cheap, it was instant and it would herald an end to streaming things in stilted two-minute bursts, pretending that the juddering picture is artistic camerawork rather than my shonky broadband connection. The reality was the online equivalent of the dvd collection you get in rented holiday cottages. The Full Monty; Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion; a copy of Hornblower that was probably free with the Sunday Express. Enjoy.   

Draw Something 

It was the hilarious digital Pictionary app that gripped the nation! For three and a half weeks, before it was bought by mobile giant Zynga, everyone stopped playing it and the company promptly lost $5 million in a month.   


This was a disappointment not so much in the sense of expecting much and receiving little, but in the sense that your parents are “disappointed” in you when you make a clanging error in judgment and bring shame upon the family. They started off as a logical evolution of the slanket, an experiment to see just how much snuggly cosiness an adult human can withstand before it all becomes a bit cloying. Then they grew animal ears and were adopted as ironic partywear by the sort of people who jump up and down behind TV news reporters. Comfort has never been so irritating.   

The Olympics Closing Ceremony

Being British, we sat through the first half of the closing ceremony in tense, optimistic silence, willing it to suddenly get lots better, very quickly. Then George Michael decided to use a momentously historic occasion in front of 26 million people to plug his new, unknown single, and we all exploded, turned to each other and went “this is a complete pile of horse turd isn’t it?”  

From that moment on, it was all “Emeli Sande” this and “Jessie J’s crotch” that, and we were free to vent our frustration at the closing ceremony being every bit as rubbish as the rest of the Olympics was brilliant.

Viva Forever  

Being British, we sat through the first half of Viva Forever in tense, optimistic silence, willing it to suddenly get lots better, very quickly. When the curtain went down for the interval, a tumbleweed of dismal silence swept along our row.  “Um,” said someone, eventually. “I sort of thought the Spice Girls had more songs.”   

“And better songs.”  

It turns out we only thought they did, because we were nine at the time.   

The Mayan apocalypse  

It’s only Thursday, so I’m taking a punt on this one.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

In which the stockings come down

With brother no.1, Christmas 1993
I am writing this during Twitter’s annual Elf-athon, which is why I imagine you can smell candy corn wafting up from the page. Whatever it is that candy corn might be. Right now the internet is about 70% people chanting “Elf! Elf! Elf!”, giddily drunk on joy and brandy marzipan, 20% people making a lot of noise about how they are purposely NOT watching Elf, or watching Elf purely to tell everyone how little they are enjoying Elf, and 10% spam Schmolex adverts.

I’m in the giddy majority, obviously.  I’ve even cracked out Maximum Christmas Jumper, the sequined one that comes down to my knees, as opposed to Moderate Christmas Jumper and Vaguely Christmassy socks, in which to watch it. But in my heart I know all this cheer is a deflection tool. It’s because I’m hanging onto childhood traditions with all my might, before the cruel sands of passing time drag them away and I’m just left with the Queen’s speech and acid reflux.

Mother Bravo declared many years ago that we would stop doing Christmas stockings when brother no.2 was 18. At that point I was 18 and he was 11, still more or less a vessel of childlike Christmas magic, just about able to forget he knew Father Christmas doesn’t exist if he tried really, really hard.

At the time it seemed beyond reasonable. By then I would be 25, and naturally past such things. I’d probably be occupying my Christmasses with more adult pursuits, like going on ski weekends with investment bankers called Gideon. But time, as time is wont to do, has sprinted past at an Olympic pelt and now brother no.2 is 17 and I am 24 and the idea of a stocking-less Christmas just feels a bit bleak.  What next, no charades? No communal family reading of The Night Before Christmas? We all do that, right?

It was only three years ago that we stopped leaving a mince pie and glass of sherry out for Santa. It had become vaguely ridiculous, what with all members of the family more likely to stay up and drink the sherry than coo over the magical icing sugar trail by the fireplace in the morning, but still. It was sad.

The obvious answer is probably to start having babies, so that the magic of Christmas can be rekindled for a brand new generation. But I hear babies are quite a lot of effort, and I can’t keep my potted basil plant alive. Besides, we wouldn’t want anything to cause a distraction during the Big Bravo Quiz.

So I ask you, at what age is it all meant to stop? 30, you say? Ok good.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

In which the princess is not a panda

We should all have guessed, of course – it was a classic deflection technique. Get a new fringe; world coos over new fringe; everybody stops monitoring your womb for five minutes and you can get discreetly pregnant. After all, nobody gets a fringe for no reason. Break up, breakdown, enormous forehead spot, spawning the future sovereign - every fringe tells a story.  

Sidestepping the vague ickiness inherent in the whole nation merrily applauding royal copulation, as though the Duke and Duchess are the Edinburgh zoo pandas, it’s sad that Kate’s chief public value, up to now having been 1. looking flawless and 2. producing an heir, will now inevitably be: looking flawless, while producing an heir.  

On the plus side, maternity wear will give me the likeliest chance I’ve ever had of ‘getting the Middleton look’. Once Kate’s swapped the nude stilettos for a nice pair of plimsolls and a smock top (or “poured her curves” into a comfy sweater dress from Hobbs, as the Daily Mail will doubtless have it), it’ll be far easier for the rest of us to match her in the style stakes. Other than accessorising with an adorable baby monarch, that is.  

But the most uncomfortable thing about the hoo-hah (the media, I mean, not a euphemism for the royal cervix) is how quick everyone is to overlook the way in which we found out. Not a dignified statement from the glowing couple, but Kate rushed to hospital with hyperemesis before the usual 12-week safety curtain has fallen.  

As a recovering emetophobe and, well, a human, I can imagine nothing grimmer than vomiting so much you have to be hospitalised. Except maybe vomiting so much you have to be hospitalised, but not before doing a few weeks of public appearances in restrictive wool coat dresses, all the while looking cheerfully, perfectly poised and maintaining the Shiniest Hair In The World for the braying vulture wake of the world’s press.  

It’s sad, then, not only that Kate is suffering but also that she and Will have had to spill the beans so early and be deprived of their exciting, private, secret-keeping time. The bit before Twitter explodes and the Daily Mail moves into her uterus and Ladbrokes start listing the odds on them naming the kid ‘LK Bennett’. The bit where they get to just be happy, nervous parents-to-be.  

Alright, she’s a pampered Duchess, while there are millions of women for whom a hospital bed and treatment to ease the suffering of pregnancy would be luxury beyond comprehension – but feeling sympathy for one person doesn’t mean you forget about everyone at the other end of the spectrum. Compassion doesn’t run out. So let’s be kind and leave them to it for a while.

In the meantime, I hear one of the Edinburgh pandas has been spotted buying Barry White records and massage oil. Keep your eyes peeled for a new hairdo, everyone.