Monday, 14 November 2011

Blah Buildings

It's amazing how England has many beautiful old buildings, yet many of its modern buildings are fairly grim and/or hideous. It's like they got architecture so right in the past that there's no point trying in the present.

Case in point is Reading's own The Blade. It's interesting at first glance and hideous at every glance thereafter. I can't find my photo of it, but you can check it out on Bad British Architecture. Like much of the fugly newish buildings you see, this one looks like something from the '70s (and not in a good way) even though it's very recent.

The blogger's photos actually make The Blade look nicer and sleeker than it appears to the naked eye as it cuts its way into the local skyline, typically under overcast skies, which do little to enhance this bad boy. But at least it has a badass name and a big, pointy, dangerous-looking thingamajiggy on top, which must make someone somewhere feel all tough and virile.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Toy Soldiers - eye candy for the ages

Last night I re-watched Toy Soldiers, the 1991 unlikely action yarn about some Colombian terrorists who take over a boys' prep school in the States. It always gets just one or two stars in the TV Guide, but it's entertaining as hell. I remember watching it over and over on TV while I was in college (maybe we briefly had HBO?), and I was so incredibly hot for the head terrorist, played by Andrew Divoff. At the time, he was about 36 (which I normally thought of as kinda old at that point in my life), and his character was totally irredeemable -- which didn't stop me from drooling away and watching it over and over.

So last night I took a little nostalgia trip and watched it again for the first time since the early '90s. And the funny thing is, some of the male "high school" students (who in reality were around 20 when the movie came out), now were the ones that seemed kinda hot (George Perez and Sean Astin, I'm looking at you). When I was their age watching the film, I had little interest. Now, well, I'm still their current age, and I'm thinking a couple of 'em looked kinda right at the age they were in that film. Not sure what's going on with that, but I'm starting to get what Mrs. Robinson was on about.

The movie brought back days gone by. But then the suffocating nostalgia of lost youth and roads not taken left me feeling rather sad by the end of the movie. Time is a cruel mistress.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Magic Corn, a real WTF moment

At Broad Street Mall this week I noticed a new stand with the goofily intriguing name Magic Corn. I assumed it meant popcorn, so went in for a closer look at what kind of heavenly kernels might be in the popper.

Oh, it was kernels all right, but nothing as tasty and nostalgia-laced as actual popcorn, which brings to mind childhood memories of enjoying a carton at the movies. You know, back when you really would buy a big box of movie popcorn because people still thought of it as health food rather than a Big-Mac level of fat in a spiffily stripped box.

No siree, this was a big ol' cuppa corn, just piled high and looking icky. I tried to explain it to a disbelieving husband when I got home, upon which he Googled it and muttered in astonishment: "Sonofabitch, it's a cup of corn."

Yes, it really is. I'm assuming it's meant to be a "healthy" option, but A)It appears to be coated in butter and flavorings and B)It's kinda gross. I'd rather take my chances with a carb-filled granola bar. I can't find the calorie count or a description of what exactly is in the flavorings. And even if it were somehow fairly healthy, it's still a nasty snack. It's a cup of corn, dude. A cup of corn.

The flavors of this "healthy, juicy & nutritious" snack include Magic Lemon, Magic Curry, Magic Mexican Chili, Magic Sour Cream and Onion, and several other cringe-worthy varieties. Lemon corn? Sour cream and onion corn? I'm feeling a bit light-headed at the heinousness of it all.

Full disclosure: I'm not big on veggies. I do eat a few, but I have resorted to hiding them in food (a spinach omelet is great; plopping a scoop of spinach on my plate is going to put me off the rest of my meal).

Corn has always seemed the most useless of the lot, all the more so because it seems to pop up in the oddest places over here. Buy a nice sandwich at Boots? Yep, there's usually corn in there. Pop open a can of chicken noodle soup -- oh yeah, there's corn in there. It doesn't even say it on the front label and you can't make it out in the picture. It's just taken for granted you know corn will be in your chicken noodle soup. Because, come on, corn is just implied in a title like "chicken" and "noodle".

Now Magic Popcorn, that I might try. But only if you make it caramel instead of curry.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Stress Test (aka Life in the UK test)

Hubby and I passed the Life in the UK test! Yay! This is the first hurdle in getting settlement, also known as Indefinite Leave to Remain, also known as "Your work permit is expiring. No, you cannot renew it. You have to pay thousands for ILR or hit the road, Yanks."

Now that the test's over, I can reflect a bit. It sucked. The study materials sucked. Most of it was useless information. Which involved lots of numbers and statistics. Which turned out not to be on the test in favor of questions about when the frickin' pubs close. Aw, man!

I made notes, studied them over and over, and took the many official practice tests many times. I know the rules regarding children in jobs, what jobs they can have, what hours they can work on which days. I know the different minimum wages here (which vary by age). I learned the population of each country in the UK, what percentage that population was of the overall population of the UK, and what percentage of it was an ethnic minority. I learned how many of each ethnic minority there was, both in percentages and millions. I learned all that same info on the different religious groups in the UK. I learned about the different legislative bodies in each country, where they meet, what types of laws they can pass, what the members are called and how many seats there are. I learned loads of stuff I'll never need to know.

In light of all that type of information, I didn't pay too much attention to when the frickin' pub closes. And that question was on none of the practice tests. I put 11pm, as that's when it closed years ago when I was a younger lass visiting these parts and actually used to close down pubs. I know that here we have stayed out past midnight on the rare times I've gone out, but I assume rules have changed, and that they changed after this test booklet was made. I have no idea if I was wrong or right as, get this, we weren't told which questions we missed or even how many we missed. Just pass or fail baby, a smack on the ass and out the door you go. In a manner of speaking.

Other BS: There was a question about your landlord raising rent. Again, not something that was on a practice test nor anything I committed to memory as there was loads of other more likely data on which to make notes and study while cursing under my breath.

Then there were the questions I knew inside and out. And the test managed to phrase them in such a way that it was unclear what they wanted. Such as asking if EU nationals can vote in elections. Well, I knew they could vote in all but general elections. But the question didn't ask if they could vote in ALL elections, it just asked if they could vote in elections. I picked that they could -- hubby says that was probably wrong. Other things had similarly unclear wording.

This test cost £50 each to take and of course transportation costs to get there. We had to get to Maidenhead for a test, where it was given at the library. For some reason, despite all info clearly saying you needed to allow one-and-a-half to two hours to take the test and get your results, some people had parked in one-hour spots and had to move before it started. I thought evil thoughts about them if they were going to delay the test. Turns out they didn't as registration took so long.

It took forever to start as everyone had to be registered and do a practice test. Then no results were given out until everyone had finished (there were 24 questions; you could miss six and still pass). Most people were done in 10 minutes or so, but one person needed the full 45, and I imagine that's pretty common. Anyone who isn't up on their English would struggle. And, btw, this lovely mess of non-essential info started as an English proficiency test that many thought people from English speaking countries shouldn't have to take, anyway. Now it's a cash cow that should at least have the decency to have carefully prepared study materials and thoughtfully worded tests, but doesn't.

One interesting thing in it all was the Maidenhead Library. It was beautiful and exuded affluence. Upstairs where we were there was actually a little coffee bar, comfy chairs and bistro tables and a machine that popped out coffee and tea for a low price (50p? Can't recall, but inexpensive).

There was even this art(?) pictured below. I snapped it on a crappy cell cam, but it's some sort of sculpture stuck to a flag. I don't get the meaning of it, though I'm sure there is one. It was just an odd-looking thing.

Anyway, that's that. As long as we don't lose our official letters saying we passed, that is. Because if we do, despite the fact we are in the system and all is linked to our passports, if the letters go missing before we get ILR we have to take the freakin' test again. I'd rather get a root canal. And we'll have to save them even after ILR as the same test is needed for citizenship on down the road.

Next step: Loads of paperwork and big fees for ILR. And, surprise surprise, if the application is rejected for any reason, even some minor omission, you have to reapply and pay thousands all over. I will not rest easy until that's done. Man, I wish I liked alcohol, 'cause the thought of all this makes me want a drink. In theory.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

The Suck Factor -- office life & too much Crazy

Careerbuilder cranked out a list of 10 Annoying Workplace Habits. It hit the mark of things that make your daily slog irritating, but still came in fairly tame on the workplace suck-o-meter. That office couldn't have been a daily newspaper.

The list captured some of my own co-worker peeves of days gone by: playing music/talking on the phone, stanky food, excessive cigarette breaks (and I do mean excessive -- how about several hours a day?), and gossiping as though Springer's calling any minute for a hot tip.

But I could add a few additional quibbles with co-workers. Such as humming and bopping to your headphones. That bobbing head in my peripheral vision for hours on end made me mentally practice how I'd have to pretend to act sad if you ever got hit by a bus. Which I fervently hoped you would.

Then there's blasting Christian rock on a boom box while others are working, constantly drumming your fingers on your desk, and treating the newsroom to a song. Not just a line of it that got stuck in your head that one time, but singing the whole thing. Thoughtful, no?

Or how about colleagues throwing chairs at (surprisingly tough and bouncy) windows and flinging exacto knives at walls? Life on daily deadline is not conducive to sanity. (I should point out this was in the States, so it's probably a different kind of madness to UK newspapers.)

And I can't forget the co-worker who wore the same sandals every day all summer, sharing a stank-feet waft so foul it immediately gave me a headache. Do you know how gross a smelly foot headache is? Do you?! I'd rather have a poo-flinging monkey in the room. At least that I could dodge, maybe wear a blast helmet and poncho. When your desk is right next to someone with funky BO, there's not much you can do, no way to tell him without inspiring his hatred forever -- and it probably wouldn't fix the problem, anyway. He'd just sprinkle a little powder in the nasty sandals rather than burning the foul things, and my stank-headaches would continue.

Then there's the Snark Queen, full of nasty comments about everyone behind their backs (and right to your face if you were the unlucky wench seated next to her). She's only too happy to brag inappropriately about her husband's penis size and her stint working at Hooters (obviously intended as proof of an attractiveness she mistakenly thinks she still possesses).

But it's not just the co-workers who crap up your day -- it's the public. When first starting out, I worked at a small-town newspaper office designed by someone who either had zero idea of the challenges of a journalist's job or was extremely sadistic. It was designed open plan -- anyone could walk in off the street and not only see the newsroom, but round a corner and walk back to us unencumbered (and uninvited).

That's right, they could accost us any time, deadline or deep concentration be damned, with demands to know when a story would run, why a photo from their family reunion was omitted or what kind of moron could fail to follow up that hot tip on the dancing Chihuahua (which was the kind of story we'd never run even at a small paper -- unless everything else fell through, in which case we'd gladly place a funny hat on the mutt and make it a four-column front-page photo). Most newsrooms are designed with limited access for a reason -- newspapers attract the disgruntled, the unbalanced and the self-promoting like George Clooney attracts the ladies.

The layout screwed us over every day, not least when Crazy came a callin'. I didn't give her that moniker -- she was known as that long before I worked there and probably is to this day. We could hear her loud voice crackling with frantic energy carried back to us from the reception desk as soon as she entered. Our hands would freeze over our keyboards as it hit us: she's off her meds.

I'd call a newsroom meeting (really more a get-out-of-the-line-of-fire meeting) and we'd rush into the conference room, locking the door and closing the blinds on the floor-length glass windows facing the newsroom.

We'd discuss whether the windows were bulletproof. (We hoped they were given the tossed-chair incident wherein a rather severely under-qualified editor had a hissy when he couldn't handle the job yet again and hurled a chair at the surprisingly sturdy windows currently between us and Crazy. The chair bounced back and just missed him, making that story far less awesome than it might've been). However, we also wondered if we could break the outside windows with a chair to make an escape if need be, since they only opened a few inches. Given the aforementioned example, we thought the chances slim.

Crazy never made threats nor seemed violent, but her ability to detect sinister hidden meanings in innocuous articles, mixed with her wild-eyed intensity, put our nerves on edge and freed our imaginations to concoct worst-case scenarios. I once checked the employee restroom for homemade bombs after she'd used it (without asking) because she'd stomped back there purposefully and with an air of frenzied intensity whilst also carrying a giftbag.

Crazy was infamous in the small town. She'd been banned from City Hall and in fact from our own newsroom, but no one on our end had the balls to face her down and make her leave, unlike City Hall which had the Police Department on site.

She was actually a sad case, but there was nothing we could do about it other than try to get our work done without too much incident. Besides, insanity was a normal part of our day, something to take in stride, sidestep or submit to as the case required.

And all of that was just what happened in the office, nevermind what took place once I grabbed my notepad and hit my beats. But there are many stories in the Naked City (or Primly Dressed Small Town, as the case may be), and I'll save the rest for another day.

Monday, 3 October 2011

Pretzel hit and Borg miss

An Auntie Anne's pretzel stand opened in The Oracle over the weekend! Hubby and I long for the taste of a big, hot pretzel from time to time, and it just can't be had around here. Supermarkets don't sell the ones you can make at home, and nowhere else did either. Until now. The excitement's got me all in a twist! (hardy-har-har)

Seriously, there are only a few Auntie Anne's in the UK, and I've not seen anywhere else that sells big ol' soft pretzels. Even when I lived near Anne's in the States, it's the kind of thing where I just bought a pretzel once every two or three years. But the option for a sweet, warm, soft carbohydrate blast was always there if I wanted it, waiting in the background like an old friend you never contact but are glad to know they exist on the earth. And hubby seriously missed buying microwave pretzels, and his cravings were catching.

So we went down and dutifully bought an almond pretzel. Better than I remembered. Seriously, heaven in a sweet, fluffy twist of dough. The prices, however, could've been a bit more pretzel-fan friendly. The basic varieties were £2.30 to £2.50 (or $3.56 to $3.88). Still, I'm sure I'll end up buying them more here than in the States because of the novelty of actually being able to get my hands on one.

I don't really get the "Resistance is Futile!" tagline. Yes, I understand they are saying you can't resist their great pretzels, but that tagline is totally Star Trek Borg terror circa 1988. What the hell it has to do with pretzels, I don't know. The tagline has been used in various funny ways over the years, but this ain't one of them. It just seems like a lame hack. (A Google search tells me that this phrase was also used once in a '70s Dr. Who, and though this is the land of Dalek and Tardis, I don't think it caught on as a catchphrase until it became the mantra of the badass Borg.) Imagine some ad company actually getting paid to come up with that, actually turning it in at a meeting. And the pretzel people actually *liking* it! Where's Don Draper when you need him? He could make buying that pretzel seem like a bit of nostalgic bliss you couldn't live without, and he'd do it without ripping off an outmoded TV franchise. But I'll still buy the pretzels, they kinda sell themselves. Maybe that's why no real effort went into the ad campaign.

Now if companies could just manage a Lean Cuisine pizza in this country, I'd be thrilled. That's the No. 1 food item I miss -- they just don't do many diet pizzas here, and the ones they have are high on price and low on taste (we're talking about $4.50 for some little Weight Watchers oval that's more like a 5-year-old's home "pita pizza" project than the tasty treat that is the Lean Cuisine version, which I used to find on sale for $2 at Safeway). Ah well, can't have it all.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

A weed grows in Reading

Have you ever heard of aquatic weeds? I sure hadn't, but that's what came up when I Googled "underwater plants" in search of what that lush greenery undulating just below the surface in the canal might be.

I can't say for certain if these even *are* aquatic weeds, but they somehow sound so much more lovely and desirable than the garden variety (commonly found, appropriately enough, in your garden). I don't know if they'd tangle up a boat motor or a swimmer (more like a drowner, as I can't see anyone choosing to swim in the canal).

Whatever they are, they're gently beautiful, no?

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Trash cache

I spotted this monitor floating in the Kennet Canal awhile back. Later, very nearby, I saw a decent-looking upholstered chair in the water. The industrious hobo could furnish his campsite quite easily in Reading.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Chillin' with Febreze the Gnome

Meet Febreze the Gnome. He's kinda shifty looking and smells to high heaven, but he proudly serves as our flat's bedraggled mascot.

He doesn't really smell anymore -- that's how he got the name Febreze. A thorough dousing with the magical odor remover banished years of bar stench from our little friend. The hubby won him in a pub raffle, you see. I can't say for certain why The Retreat wanted to get rid of what looks like an item handmade by a patron long ago which probably sat in the bar for countless years, but when you look into Febreze's shifty eyes you do wonder what he gets up to when no one's around...

If only he could talk, I'm sure he'd be quite the raconteur. Years of scenes in the life of a small English pub would spill from his little knit lips. It'd be like Eastenders: Reading (especially suitable because the pub makes its home in east Reading). I'd have parties and we'd all sit, Guinness in hand (or perhaps some fruity vodka drink for me), and listen to his scandalous tales. And then we'd freak out because an inanimate freakin' gnome was talking. Wouldn't that be awesome?

Monday, 18 July 2011

Must be the Season of the Spider

They're baaaacccckk! I've been told there are no poisonous spiders in England. That's comforting. Isn't it? ISN'T IT?! I can feel it on me; get it off, get it off!!! Oh wait, that was just my hair. My bad.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Action Figure Therapy - so wrong, yet so right

This has nothin' to do with nothin', but it's hilarious. And so, so wrong. The language is more prickly than the skin on a cactus, so fish out the headphones if you're at work.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Monday, 11 July 2011

News of the World, it sucks to be you

I've been intently interested in the revelations about the inner workings of the News of the World (which thankfully put out it's last-ever copy yesterday). We always knew it was a smarmy operation that favored crappy standards, gossip as news, and carelessly destroying lives. We just didn't know how far it went until all this phone-hacking stuff came out in ever-growing detail.

Even though I used to work in newspaper (or maybe because of that), I have trouble mustering up too much pity for the now-jobless NOTW staff because they say they were not involved in the phone hacking, which supposedly all took place under the previous regime. Even if that's true, they did know they were working for the NOTW, which is smarm-central -- not exactly a bastion of high ethical standards. You lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas, y'all. I understand you gotta make a buck (or a quid as the case may be), but you can't expect everyone to be sympathetic of how you do so.

Let me pull back a bit on that -- I do understand what it's like to really need a job and to work for a newspaper that doesn't seem to care much about people, be they employees or readers. But most of the time that information comes as a surprise, something you don't fully know about until you work for the place in question. And even then, the standards aren't literally criminally low. But NOTW (and in fact many British tabloids) made no secret of having lower standards than a one-eyed drunk at closing time in a backwoods juke joint. So I'm not completely unfeeling toward the staff, but I'm not particularly upset on their behalf, either.

The staff were at least right in being angry Rebekah Brooks didn't go down with the ship -- but she will before long I imagine. I'm just waiting for that shoe to drop.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Memo to headbutting divas - take it down a notch, mkay?

Summer is here, and the darling young ladies of Reading are donning their scantiest duds (much to the delight of the young lads, and the old ones too, for that matter), topping off with a cool pair of shades and taking to the streets of Reading. Some of them bring along a nice cold lager. And intent to bash. At 3:20 in the afternoon. On a Tuesday. (Disclaimer: This in no way indicates that all women in Reading stalk the afternoon streets carrying a brew and violent tendencies -- those are just the ones who stick out, like the girl at your prom who mistakenly thought a yellow-feathered gown looked more glamorous than Big-Birdy.)

It seems a 19-year-old girl said hello with a hug to a man accompanied by three other women (at least two of whom were already getting a buzz or better with drinks in hand). And the women were all "Oi, piss off!" (or something to that effect, I'm sure). And the 19-year-old was all "F YOU!" (again, I don't have the official transcript) and gave 'em the finger.

So, taking the next logical action, one of the women punched Huggy-Huggerson in the face, while the other gave her an old school headbutt. Ah, summertime!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Here comes the rain again...

Yes, yes, I've heard if from a few people, "You knew you'd have to get wet at Water Fest, yuck yuck!" C'mon y'all, this is ain't Waterworld, it ain't the Log Ride at Six Flags. It's looking at things along the water, whilst staying out of it yourself. Cold (as I usually am in England) and wet just isn't the most fun I can have with my clothes on. And I was feeling a little puny. So I'm a wimp, deal with it, you big bad toughie-wuffies, you.

Anyhoo, here are some pics of a drenched Reading Water Fest (which apparently dried up and became party central as soon as I hit the road).

That last pic was just an attempt to capture the rain, though I inadvertently showed how much rubbish gets in the canal. I took a photo last week of a scenic little spot with a Dell monitor floating along with the ducks (I'll post that at some point). WTF? There's surely an interesting story behind that ...

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

A dismal Water Fest

Last Saturday was the annual Water Fest, something I look forward to every year. Unfortunately, it started pouring rain while we were out. We went home, and of course it soon looked to have cleared up, so I started to go back out after a couple of hours. Looked out the window just before I left, and BAM! it had started raining again. I gave up for good and all, only to see it stayed clear the rest of the day. Major disappointment, really.

I'll upload some wet, rainy pics of my Water Fest experience later. They pretty much depict what the "summer" has been like so far -- wet, chilly, and icky. Here's an official video from the event, it looks like lots of fun was to be had if you managed to be there when the heavens weren't crashing down bucket loads of rain.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Boobs aren't impolite?

I've noticed a couple of ladies' clothing stores casually use the word "boobs" here, which to my ears sounds like a slightly impolite slang term but must not be seen as such. U.S. stores would say "bust" or "chest" instead, I think. (It's like when people say they need "the toilet" here when they want a restroom. That's too graphic for me; I don't need to know what you're doing there -- maybe you're washing your hands or combing your hair -- let's keep a little mystery alive, shall we?)

Below is a pic of Pepperberry, and you'll note at the bottom of the window is the motto: "clothes designed with your boobs in mind." A similar theme can be found at its parent store, lingerie retailer Bravissimo, which liberally sprinkles the word "boobs" around its site and used to have a slogan about being for "big-boobed women."

It's just one of those little differences in perception, kind of like how some Americans use British terms such as "bloody" when they don't want to curse, not realizing that *is* a curseword. It just depends which side of the pond you're on when you say it, lol.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Party Like it's a Royal Wedding

Tomorrow is the big day! I'm actually looking forward to it. It's one of those special events, something you'll look back and say "I remember when...".

I paid little attention to the wedding of Charles and Diana. Don't know why; I was a kid and it either didn't grab my attention or my parents didn't care to watch it, and in the days of one TV and no VCR, you watched what the parents wanted and that's that.

As a final edition of my Tat Countdown to the Big Day, here's the entry from Poundland below. Note how much is left -- I don't think many street parties are planned for reading.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Royal Wedding Wannabes

Wedding fever is in the air, and on the shelves. Have nothing remotely related to the royal wedding to flog? Fake it, baby.

That's what Claire's did. Note the sign reading: "KEEP CALM AND PARTY ON" followed by "William & Catherine 29th April 2011." Below that is the weak-ass Claire's version of royal wedding party gear. (No offense to Claire's -- it's a fun, girly shop -- but wedding tat HQ it ain't).

The most nearly sorta kinda wedding-related merch they have is a tiara ( you can just barely see it in the second row on the right, below the red headbands). There's also a sash (probably intended for "Hen Dos") that reads: "Bride to be." That's pictured below.

Everything else just seems to be whatever Claire's had in Union Jack colors. Maybe some people will dress up in fake pearls and the poor-woman's fascinator (a headband with some red ribbon on it) to enjoy the wedding.

A wedding-watching party actually might be fun; I read on some interview that a woman was going to invite friends over for tea and scones and watch the wedding. Kind of like the "Friends" finale for the older generations.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Wrath of the Royal Wedding Tat!

The anti-memorabilia royal wedding memorabilia has landed! These Royal Wedding Sick Bags were £3 at But Is It Art? in Reading's city centre.

The punny "Throne Up" printed across the top is enough to make me need one of these bags, but at least it's not another cheap mug or disposable tablecloth.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Best royal wedding entrance ever!

If only real weddings could be this much fun. Check out a T-Mobile commercial envisioning a royal wedding that's too cool for class (the upper class, darling).

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Royal Wedding Trash & Treasure with RadioTimes

As you may have heard (whether you wanted to or not), the royal wedding is nigh. This rare chance to air loads of TV shows in any way related to royals and weddings won't be wasted by UK channels.

There are several shows about how the couple met, how they'll marry and even only slightly related shows like Big Fat Royal Gypsy Wedding and Come Dine with Me Royal Wedding Special, all exercises in questionable taste that will be a joy to watch.

Nor is the opportunity to focus on the Big Day when reality morphs into reality TV wasted on RadioTimes (basically a TV guide with articles and radio listings added in). The mag offered young readers a competition to design cover art for the Royal Wedding Souvenir Issue (April 23-29 issue). A 7-year old girl created the charming cover above, which I will definitely save.

The guide also gives extensive listings and articles on royal wedding viewing options. However, the best show of the week won't even air. Probably because it's not real, though it sounds entirely plausible. According to a tongue-in-cheek column poking fun at wedding programs in the RadioTimes (Pg. 9), an expert on the Antiques Roadshow lost his shit so spectacularly that the royal wedding special was cancelled.

The episode which supposedly was "devoted to collectibles issued in honour of the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton had to be abandoned when one of the experts went berserk, smashing ceramics and shouting, 'You idiots! None of this tat is worth anything!'" If only such sweet dreams could come true, I'd have that blooper-reel footage on a YouTube loop right now.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Return of the Royal Wedding Tat

I've revealed the cheapest, tackiest royal wedding memorabilia from Wilkinson and a fairly alright royal wedding calendar from the 99p Store, and now I'm on to making a fool of myself by taking pictures in Primark for your amusement.

If you don't know the store, Primark makes K-mart look like a high-dollar operation. Crowded aisles, crappy products, and an all-around broke-ass vibe. I don't much care for it, but the hubby wanted cheap socks, so in we went.

I discovered a whole display of royal-wedding related clothes. Yippee! None of them came home with me as that place is just too crowded and the spousal unit had wandered off, so I couldn't pass it on to him (in keeping with my low-spend idea, I would've only gotten a pair of socks). Here's what I found:

The shirts are £5, the socks £2. Didn't note the price of the belt, which oddly reads: "Belt up and get the beers in." Um, OK.

My personal favorite was the shirt below, which played on the Sex Pistols' iconic Never Mind the Bollocks album cover and subsequent T-shirts:

I'm not sure who would wear any of this. Maybe the day of the wedding, at street parties? I will fall off the couch in glee if I spot these on people along the procession route the day of the wedding! Those lining the streets are asked to dress nicely for the event, so it would be the height of tacktastic fashion sense and a bit rude to wear these while waving to the passing couple. Will they or won't they? I can hardly bear the suspense!

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Royal Wedding Tat Strikes Back!

Will and Kate make it official next Friday, April 29, and the tat is mounting. I already showed off my 99p royal wedding calendar, and this week I found stores loaded with more cheap crap than I could shake a ruby-encrusted sceptre at. Today I'm showcasing the loot at Wilkinson (which is kind of like K-mart in pricing, but without the clothing section, disarray and general air of hopelessness).

The toothy couple merited a whole endcap of goodies, most of which cost £1. The items at the very top above bearing a big photo over a Union Jack are commemorative bunting. The table clothes were sold out (more's the pity).

A few of the items made it home with me. The Union Jack cushion below is something I'd been after for awhile, and I snatched it up in an instant when I saw the price tag - £5. It looks an awful lot like this one on Amazon for £24.99 or this one at John Lewis for £28. Score!

And I couldn't resist the royal wedding "tea towel." It's classy, too, made of 100% polyester and shiny as a new commemorative coin with badly rendered reliefs. I'm sure it's just like the Queen uses.

Finally, I made off with a mug (on the left beside the bell), suitable for sipping your tea as you watch the ruckus surround the wedding on TV. Tacktastic!

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Beary nice graffiti

Graffiti is generally a bad thing. It's like permanent littering. It's also a great way to show you're not the brightest bulb in the box when you want to leave your mark yet have nothing to say.

Then there's the graffiti that's artistic, it's art adorning an urban landscape. (A bit of Banksy, anyone?)

And then there's what I found on the river walk beside Chocolate Island recently, left by someone without any artistic talent but who wanted to do more than scrawl his name or a few choice curse words. Someone who had a can of paint and some stencils. Someone who likes bears and loves you.

Granted, the scenic area looks better without this little addition, but it's a whole lot cuter than most graffiti bored teens think up.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Mflow music rocks

My obsession of the week is finding steals, deals and new songs to love on mflow. It's a fledgling music downloading site that weaves social networking into your buying and rewards you with smokin' deals for doing so. I'm guessing the deals are so hot because the users act as advertisers, trumpeting their purchases to friends online.

What got me so addicted is the "Easter Egg" promotion, which runs until Easter Sunday. If you link your mflow account to Facebook (you could also use Twitter or Buzz), and press "like" on any album with an Easter Egg logo by it, the price of that album changes to 99p. This includes lots of new albums (many just released this year) as well as loads of great older albums. The idea is that you search around the site to find the Easter Eggs, but of course deal-finders are on this like mad and sharing their finds on hotukdeals.

Hotter yet, if you refer a friend and they sign up through your invite link, you both get £1 of credit. I also found a code online you can input in the "redeem codes" section of your account to gain another £1 credit: REDDITCREDITFROMDAN. Another code makes all individual tracks on the site 20p each for about 12 hours: BIRD20P.

To sweeten the pot -- and get you to promote the site -- new users get five free "flows" of individual tacks during the first week. Each track has a "flow" button by it; click it and it will ask to link your flows to Facebook (or whatever you're using). Once that's done, if you "flow" the song it will appear on your Facebook page as a track your friends can listen to in it's entirety with a link back to mflow. Right after you press flow, you'll be offered the option to download the track for free (up to five songs). I love free things, and I love music, so I'm really digging this deal.

I signed the hubby up, and with the referral credit and credit from the code I input, we each had enough cash in our accounts for two free albums before I even reached for my credit card. We also got five tracks each through free "flows" (Ok, I got 10 tracks as I commandeered his flows). Even if you refer no one and just sign up, you can use the code I mentioned above and get one free album and five free tracks. Very worth the effort.

One small downside: you have to "top up" your payment pot rather than just paying for what you buy as you go. This can be done in £5 increments via credit card, or £10 via paypal. It's not really a big deal as you're sure to find a lot you want (you could get five sale albums for £5), but it could put you in the position of having to put £5 in when all you really want to spend is £1.60. Still, if you buy even a few individual tracks every so often, you'll eventually use it.

Mflow shows the latest buying activity on-site in Facebook-like updates (but using a username rather than your actual Facebook name if you don't want to share that). If anyone buys a song from the link where you recommended it, you get a small percentage of the price.

Just to give you an idea of what's on offer, some of my album buys include: Kings of Leon, Florence + The Machine, Bruce Springsteen, The Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash, Mad Men Soundtrack, Glee Christmas Soundtrack, Mumford & Sons, The Script, and some compilation albums. I used my free flows for tracks on albums that weren't part of the Easter Egg sale. At these prices, it's been a good way for me to try some new artists. You can listen to all songs in their entirety before buying if you're so inclined.

This deal should also work from the States. I routed my laptop through the VPN I use to watch Hulu, which shows my IP as being in the U.S., and mflow still let me login and download. The normal prices of albums are probably more than you'd pay in the States, but the Easter Egg deal makes them much cheaper than you'll find on Happy hunting!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Somewhere over the rainbow...

A rare double rainbow arched over Reading last September. I forgot to post the photo (Didn't I? If it's on here somewhere, you're just getting double the pleasure). I'm still looking for that pot of gold.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Where there's smoke, there's nonsense

Last weekend the control box to our smoke alarms started buzzing loudly. We checked the high-tech digitized panel, and it said there was a fault in the lounge and that the battery was disconnected. Sounds like time for a new 9-volt in the ol' detector, no? Um, no. That would be too simple.

Turns out only a technician can change the battery or even test if the smoke detectors are working, which can only be done by blowing smoke on them. Seriously. (Tech dude had an aerosal can of smoke, something I never knew existed nor did I envision it ever being blown around my flat like we were doing some low-rent Backdraft sequel). That's effed up.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Home sweet Hulu -- watching US TV in the UK

One of the most frustrating things about living in the UK was missing out on American TV shows. Some of our favorites didn't air here or were years behind in the episodes. I finally figured out a way around this, and I'm going to share the secret -- use a VPN (Virtual Private Network).

StrongVPN did the trick for me. It's not free, but the prices are reasonable and it works extremely well. I pay $7 a month for a lite package (you have to buy a minimum of three months at a time), but you can get it cheaper if you pay by the year. They have customer service reps in live chat that come on immediately and solve problems surprisingly quickly should you need help (which I have a couple of times over three months of use).

With StrongVPN, I can watch Hulu without a hitch. I listen to Pandora radio stations and watch PBS shows. All of those websites are free to anyone in the U.S. -- or to anyone that appears to be in the U.S. It's very easy to connect, just go online using your regular Internet account, then connect to StrongVPN and just like that, you're in the States (virtually speaking). You can select IPs in other countries, too, so if you're in the U.S. and longing to see UK shows on BBC iPlayer, you could sign up for an IP on my side of the pond.

The VPN service also lets me watch HBO's online content thanks to a relative in the States who subscribes to the network who lets us use her cable account login (she doesn't do computers, so wasn't making use of one of the perks that comes with her subscription -- we were happy to help her get her money's worth). This has been fabulous for us, because it allowed us to see the final season of Big Love -- something that is years behind in the UK and only came back to the airwaves here this year after several years of absence. If she subscribed to Showtime or other premium channels, we could access that online, too. I have no doubt we could sign up for Netflix as well using a relative's address as our "home" address in the States and our US credit card.

I'm no technical expert, but the basics of what StrongVPN does is it gives your computer an IP address in the U.S., which is what sites that restrict streaming video by country are looking for. We tried that earlier this year through a freebie IP hider called Hotspot Shield. It worked for a couple of months before Hulu and Netflix started denying us access to their sites. We had been paying for Hulu Prime and a Netflix account, so we were spending cash on things we couldn't even use at that point. The freebie software just can't offer as consistent cover as the paid service and the streaming websites are able to bust the false IPs.

What really got us started down the road of trying to find ways to watch US shows online was the purchase of my new Dell Studio laptop last year. We paid extra to get a laptop with an HDMI port, and that has revolutionized how we watch TV. We connect the computer to our 50-inch plasma via an HDMI cable, and just like that we're watching shows on the big screen in high quality (and often in HD quality from HBO). I bought a wireless mouse to use as a "remote control" to pause and select programs from my comfy couch (we put the laptop on a tray table next to the TV).

I know some people online say they keep up with shows by downloading them from bit torrent or other sites. I don't know what you open yourself up for by downloading that stuff, either legally or by way of whatever hidden malware could be in the files. I don't mess with that -- I'd rather pay a little bit and get something that works well and doesn't put me or the laptop at risk.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Off the hook

Something sinister is going on in public restrooms. I'm not talking about hook-up spots where people in the know go to "mingle;" I'm talking about actual hooks. Or rather, the lack thereof. Are hook gremlins stealing them away in the night? Are they worth a few coins on the scrap-metal market? Are they melded into some art installation at the Tate Modern?

Hooks are cheap and easy to install. Why oh why are they almost never in bathroom stalls? I'm out shopping, I've got a coat, a purse and a shopper bag (currently my lovely Orla Kiely shopper from Tesco, so cute and so hard to find I had to pay nearly triple to get one on eBay). I am NOT putting all that on the (curiously damp) floor of a public restroom. I might as well just set them in the toilet.

I had to cross my legs and head for home earlier this week when I discovered the ladies' loo at the Broad Street Mall was heinously hookless. I could've went out of my way to find a better restroom elsewhere, but I wanted to go home before long anyway. It just meant cutting a couple stops out so I could get there sooner. So a few stores lost business due to lack of a simple amenity in the bathroom.

Bathroom designers and maintainers everywhere, please hook us up. Customers may stay longer, spend more, and pick your business over others due to the facilities. Who knows, maybe you'll have enough extra cash to even keep soap in the dispensers. I can dream.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

There's a story behind this...

I spotted this lonely high-heeled shoe under a seat in a bus shelter on King's Road on Saturday afternoon. Something interesting went down Friday night, methinks.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Dancing King

Did you know there are male belly dancers? I didn't, until I saw the poster at left. I don't know much about the art form other than what I've seen in movies. It's not too surprising that male dancers get ignored in film -- Hollywood prefers putting hot chicks in skimpy outfits (remember the Charlie's Angels flick where the ladies went undercover as belly dancers? All I could think was "Seems you should have a little belly to do a belly dance. Harrumph!").

I'm going to pass on this one (a mixture of frugality and a desire to be home Friday night getting my Hulu on). But I'd bet he's pretty good or the restaurant wouldn't consider him enough of a draw to promote, so it's worth a go if you're in the mood for dinner and a show.

If you're in Reading and have £25 to spare (which covers admission and dinner), check him out at Mangal Restaurant tomorrow night (March 18). Otherwise, you can groove to his moves below (at least I think it's him; at any rate, it's a male belly dancer named Ozgen).

Monday, 14 March 2011

Costumes for a cause

The English love to dress up. Randomly, throughout the year, rather than primarly just at Halloween like us Yanks do. I heard it discussed on radio one Halloween, and the DJ couldn't understand why Halloween was such a big holiday in the States when it's just kinda "eh" here. A caller explained that people don't dress up as often in the U.S., so Halloween is the big blowout for donning costumes. Here, it seems like most times I hear mention of a kids' birthday party, the words "fancy dress" are included. Not sure how well that would go down in the States if parents needed a costume each time Timmy got invited to party.

Not only that, but I often see adults in costume on the high street. Usually it's to draw attention to some store promotion or a fund-raiser. The lovely "brides" above fall into the latter category. Last week they cheerily called for donations for Oxfam's International Women's Day. For £1 you could draw on their gowns, which would later be ripped up to make something or other (a quilt or some artwork perhaps? I'm getting too old to remember details without a notepad). They were so personable and excited about their cause that I gave them £3, then went into a store and returned a hat that didn't suit me which I'd bought on clearance for £3. So basically I donated a hat.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Poundland security and royal wedding tat

Yesterday I went shopping at Poundland and the 99p Store at the Broad Street Mall ('cause I run a high-dollar operation here at Casa Groovy). To my surprise, uniformed security guards stalked the aisles at both stores.

One guy sported a headset a la those worn by hipsters pushing chinos at the Gap, the other rocked a beard which he thoughtfully stroked as he scrutinized shoppers as though he'd just landed the inspector role in some new murder-mystery show.

WTF are people stealing at Poundland? What reasoning goes into that? Is someone saying, "Oi, I'm not paying a quid for this Osmonds DVD? No way would I pay more than 50p for that loaf of panettone that's bigger than my head!"

To justify hiring security, the stores must be losing more to theft than the cost of an additional salary. That's amazing.

It kinda harshes my groove if I'm being closely watched by an uber-serious guard while I'm languidly contemplating the pink dish-gloves with the feathered fringe. I'd be an idiot to risk a criminal record to steal them (and probably not much brighter to buy them, which I did. It turns out they look super-cute on but burn my hands as the hot water seems to gain a few degrees when translated to my skin through the thin latex). But apparently some shoppers think it worth the risk. I don't get it.

On a side note, I made a fun find at the 99p store: A William & Kate calendar! I snatched it up from the spot by the register, saying, "This is too funny, I've got to have it!" The stony-faced cashier didn't say anything, which led me to wonder if he was so stony-faced because I'd inadvertently insulted his passion for collecting royal wedding memorabilia, or if it was because working the till at the 99p Store serving crowds of customers all day was wearing thin.

I suppose some take the royal wedding memorabilia and the wedding itself quite seriously. Given that the mementos include everything from condoms to teabags, I gotta think others find it a tad much, too. Since I'm plop in the middle of the country where wedding fever should reach its highest pitch, I choose to enjoy the insanity by collecting whatever (majorly inexpensive) items I come across. I'll take them out one distant day to show American friends who, no doubt, will glance at them and shrug.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

A rose by any other name would go out of business...

Hubby: "Which power company do we use, is it No Power?"

Me: "No, it's NPower; No Power would be the worst name EVER for a power company."

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Home is where the Hob is

The sign above illustrates the general feeling of having a pint at the Hobgoblin pub -- enter and you're in a different world. Posted inside the front door, the notice inspires a sense of the pub as a unique place to be, a special club anyone can join merely by entering. The Hob is on Reading's Broad Street steps away from Starbucks and several other coffee shops (the spot is known as "Coffee Corner"), and once inside you really do feel about 100 miles (and years) away from the cookie-cutter world outside.

The pub is small, dark, often loud and crowded. The building is hundreds of years old, and exudes all the character age entails. A wander through reveals interesting old wood furnishings and little nooks beyond the main room perfect for an intimate chat. The bartender frequently disappears down a narrow stairway in the floor to bring up more brew.

The patrons seem laid back and friendly, coming from a variety of ages and backgrounds -- but more recall first-hand the days when music came on vinyl and TVs had a dial than those who don't. I get the feeling this is a sort of "Cheers" place -- everybody knows your name. Hipsters looking for club music and quick hook-ups should skip it.

It's specialty -- beyond an other-worldly atmosphere -- is a wide variety of ales. The walls and ceiling are covered with beer clips from the thousands of ales offered over the years.

The few times I've been, I can tell it's a home away from home for many. A rare find indeed.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Jim Jam state of mind

I love slubbing around in my PJs. LOVE it. Most days I force myself to ditch them by 9am, following my rule that when at home, despite my strongest instincts, I should wear something I'd be happy to answer the door in. I cheat as much as possible, finding comfy, loungy trousers to wear around home (I sooo want to call them pants but here people would think I meant my undies).

But today is Sunday, and I don't expect any surprise knocks on the door, no deliveries. The pajamas are still on at nearly 11, and I'm in no rush to take them off. On the odd chance a neighbor knocks, they'll just think I'm having a lazy Sunday and will have to deal. I suppose I will change after a bit, as the special magic of my jim jams must be preserved.

So now, a little haiku in honor of pajamas:

Sunday-morning mode
Jim Jams rule molasses day
Comfy cotton hug

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Girl and Swan party on...

The statue of Girl and The Swan on Kings Road parties hard. So far, after what must've been some wild nights, I've found her wearing a bra, and another time a pair of men's grungy tighty-whities (on her head), and today with a beer can clasped tightly in her icy little hand.

Little minx has more fun than I do.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Shady ladies

I love music, love clipping my Walkman to my shirt and letting the tunes take my mind off the gory business of housework (and yes, it's actually an MP3 player, but I'm old enough to have owned an actual cassette Walkman and I'll be damned if I can think of my music-delivery device as anything other than a Walkman). Granted, I spend as little time on cleaning as possible, but the few grudging moments I give it are soothed with a good soundtrack.

I run through tunes fast, get tired of them. Years of repeatedly listening to favorites mean I want to hear most of them only a couple of times in rotation before I send them packing like a fickle (music) lover. I always take them back, but only after I grow bored of new conquests.

So I was thrilled to see a steal on a 3-CD box set called "This is...Ladies Night." It was £1.75 at Zavvi, but I had a code for a pound off anything, so the grand total came to 75p with free delivery. It gave my bargain-loving heart a sweet jolt of joy, it did. The one tiny little catch was the site showed no cover art and no track listing. Never mind, I Googled the title to find a disk of the same name with lots of hits, some of which I didn't have and actually could imagine being the backdrop to the drudgery of scrubbing dishes. You know "Do I love you, my oh my," (scrub, rinse), "River deep, mountain high....". Works for me.

The set came today. Turns out, whatever popped up on Google wasn't this hot mess. At first glance I knew it wasn't the same songs, but still saw at least a few I could use. "Give it Up" by KC & The Sunshine Band; sure, why not? Fun for a listen or two. Then I looked again. It actually said: "Give it Up" MADE FAMOUS BY KC & The Sunshine Band. In fact, every track on every disc had that tricky little "MADE FAMOUS BY" on it.

Feeling dread at what kind of karaoke terrors lay in wait, I slid Disc One into my laptop. The strains of "We Are Family" came up, only the music was a bit tinny, tingy, pingy -- the sound of being made without real instruments, I think, all done digitally. The singers sounded almost the same as the real ones, but not quite. I actually had to listen to a few songs to make sure these just weren't poor recordings of the real deal, but no, copies one and all.

It should've been called "Shady Ladies' Night" as it's rather tricky to conveniently fail to mention songs aren't by the original artists. But since I'm only out 75p, I'm not exactly devastated. If you don't mind low-class copies of bouncy tunes, keep an eye out in charity shops -- that's where mine is headed (probably joining loads of other sets already dropped off like so much outgrown clothing or tacky ties).

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Jammin' on the High Street

The High Street was very busy Saturday, it being the first day all week with no rain AND the weekend before V Day. These guys were actually pretty good, and much nicer to hear than the God Squad up the street yelling at top volume over religious hip-hop on their boom box. I didn't stop to snap them -- no way was I giving them time to corner me!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Uh-uh, America doesn't taste like that

There's nothing American about hot dogs in a jar, floating in juice like something grody from your high school science class.

Low-rent grocery chain Lidl is running a special "Taste of America" promotion offering foods that say "American Way" on the label. Must be true if it says it on the tin, right? Wrongo.

It's mostly junk food, and even while it's seemingly American staples, UK versions of things sold as "American Style" rarely taste like anything you'd pick up at Safeway.

The preparation varies, too. Note the cucumbers on top of the icky jar-juice hot dogs. Eeeewwww gurgle sputter choke.....

Friday, 4 February 2011

The Real Housewives of Slapout

I don’t know if the world needs it, but I’m looking forward to the "Real Housewives of Miami." Will there be drama, fighting, and shallow rich chicks who think they can buy taste and youth? Um, yes, reason to watch and all that.

I’m no reality junkie, but a couple of the Housewives shows rate in my watch-worthy list – the New York and Atlanta groups to be exact. However, I’ll be skipping the next NY season since the best little housewife of them all Bethenny Frankel told the show to suck it and headed on to greener pastures with her own show (which also makes my must-see queue).

Then there’s "The Real Housewives of Atlanta" whose divas shine in all their feisty glory, plus I just like the ATL. The California and Jersey “ladies” bore me to tears, and the DC dames were only mildly interesting (and even then only because I looked for familiar sites in my old stomping grounds).

So I'm looking forward to the drama that ensues when you throw self-centered divas with more money than class into the ring in Miami. From the previews it looks like it will not be a gushy love fest (and where would be the fun in that?). I’ll be lucky to catch even a few slices of hot-headed Miami housewives unless the UK picks this up soon, as Hulu doesn't do a full run of Bravo programs. Just getting Hulu at all involves a little sleight of hand, as it frustratingly blocks non-Stateside viewers.

What I'd really like to see, though, is a realer, grittier version of Housewives. I'd like to see real women, the kind more likely to drive a Ford than a Ferrari who don’t know the difference between Gucci and George (the Wal-Mart brand). The kind of women who put out Doritos and Sam's Cola for guests. I'm talking 'bout my people, y'all. I want the Real Housewives of Slapout, Alabama.

I'm not from Slapout, but I always thought that was one awesome name (I’m not sure it’s even the real name, I think it’s actually Holtville but everyone calls it Slapout. It’s just fun to say). I lived in Alabama for many years and consider it home even if I never acquired the accent or understood the appeal of sweet tea, fried okra or ball caps. I’m still much more comfortable at a casual barbecue than a dressy sit-down dinner. I don't want to party with people who wear thousands of dollars in froufrou frocks, shoes and bags just to have a drink. I don't want to go much of anywhere these days if I can't wear jeans and sneakers.

That’s why I’m rooting for a show set in Slapout. It could be the antithesis of the other shows where the women spend buckets of cash to pretend they’re not tacky, classless oxygen thieves. No, the low-rent housewives might be tacky and classless (‘cause that’s just a better show), but they wouldn’t have to spend a fortune to get there.

And to be the opposite of the showy rich, I think you’d need to go showy country. Real country. Whether or not these women really represented others in their community wouldn’t matter (how much do the other housewives represent the majority of women in their towns?). No, you’d go for people with simple tastes and short tempers to star.

The Housewives of Slapout would have six dogs in the yard and remind their teens to take that hunting rifle out of the car before going to school. They'd always have an iced sweet tea in hand and flip-flops on foot. A special day trip wouldn't be to check out museums in Birmingham but rather to make a Hank Williams pilgrimage to Montgomery (the “museum,” the cemetery, lunch at Chris' Hot Dogs downtown). Fine dining would be Cracker Barrel, and they’d have to ride a couple towns over to get there.

They'd have a tramp stamp and wear belly shirts to show off a belly ring, even though that hasn't been a good look for them since, well, ever. They’d follow NASCAR and drink Miller Light. Wedding catering would come via Wal-Mart or Piggly Wiggly. They’d one-up each other over who has the nicest double-wide. And when they throw down with the other Housewives, they’d really throw down. As in on the ground to pound a heifer. They would bust wigs, talk trash and lose their shit. It would be spectacularly awesome.

The one drawback is people might think all Southerners are like that. Now, the part about sweet tea and flip-flops (it’s hot in Bama!) and double-wides and such is not uncommon, and no shame in that. The part about being hot-tempered and uncultured, well, that’s a certain segment of the population like anywhere else, but it’s not the whole. I doubt viewers think everyone is like the housewives in the other states, but when it comes to the South, folks love to think the worst. And the worst does exist; it’s just not all there is, not by a longshot. However, that Southern accent makes it so memorable and seems to make people think anyone who has one just rolled off the hay wagon. It doesn’t help that some of them did, and they’re the loud, memorable ones.

I think people only go for reality TV if it’s not much like their own reality. And if you soon see a new “Housewives” set on the wrong set in the sticks, a check better be heading my way, y’all.