August 2008 Archives

Ketchup issues. The Tamworth Ramada has run out of what we and everyone I know calls red sauce. So, none with the fish fingers at our evening meal, and none with the hash browns for breakfast after a night marveling at how much traffic uses Junction 11 of the M42 in the wee small hours.

Then, at the cafeteria at the Discovery end of Conkers, the giant red squeezy plastic bottle turns out to be full of French dressing.

As a cultural commentator I thought it was a given - big red squeezy bottle with nozzle equals red sauce, big yellow squeezy bottle with nozzle equals mustard. It's part of the ancient Hot Dog Code, before French dressing was invented. We have to pay 5p each for sachets of ketchup which, like the similarly-packaged vinegar and brown sauce, are impossible to open without going on a Learning and Skills Council course. Luckily our seven-year-old has mastered the knack.

The yarn continues

By Sid Langley on Aug 16, 08 10:00 PM in Culture


The Lovely Mrs L has been addicted to the needle ever since I've known her, and that's a very, very long time. Her habit involves strange rituals with linen and silks, substances bought from dealers like Anchor and Coats.

Couple that with being hooked for just as long on myth and magic, and the summer exhibition at Compton Verney was as hot a ticket for TeamLangley as a certain Mr Tennant is for Dr Who fans at nearby Stratford.

Much has been, and will continue to be, written about the Council's use of a Birmingham Alabama skyline photo in their recycling leaflets.

Let's be honest: mistakes happen. I once sent out over 1,000 company Christmas cards where Christmas was spelled incorrectly, so I don't feel in any position to criticise this sort of cock-up. But what I have learnt over the years is that if you 'fess up to a mistake immediately, you do tend to get the angry or aggrieved party on your side somewhat quicker. Enough said.

But there is an unlikely hero of this whole situation. A man who, after speaking on yesterday's BBC Radio 4 PM programme, had listeners emailing in to suggest he should stand for British Prime Minister, such was the impact he had.


By Sid Langley on Aug 14, 08 02:30 PM in



What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?--

No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

View Larger Map

I'm putting together a map of Birmingham's pubs and bars on Google Maps (for full version click here), and would love any readers out there to chip in with their own ideas.

Top of the glass

By Sid Langley on Aug 13, 08 11:03 AM in


As anyone (by definition, those of you without a life) who has skimmed more than one of my blogs will realise, I am a person of narrow interests. I am obsessed with all the visual arts and theatre (particularly puppets), ukuleles, wine, food and bicycles, but most of all by my grandchildren.

Next week I get the chance to combine several of these at what promises to be one of the great cultural events of the year in the West Midlands. The Stourbridge International Festival of Glass can justly claim, in only its third incarnation, to be putting the Black Country on the international map.

Oh... wait... what happened to the last three months again?

Yes I'll admit that I've been terrible updating this blog. But in anticipation of something pub-related I'm working on (of which more later) I thought I'd go out for a celebratory pint this afternoon.

Today is a landmark moment in our family - Arch, my two-year-old son, is having his first day at nursery.

I feel both a pang of sadness as I leave him and a whoop of delight as I realise I am free to have an uninterrupted cuppa with a fellow mum.

I relish the quietness of the house as I sit and type and I miss the sounds of chaos erupting in every room.

I look forward to him growing into a fine young man as I sigh wistfully that he is no longer a baby boy.

Who'd be a mother eh? There's no pleasing some people.

Ticket to Pride

By Sid Langley on Aug 10, 08 07:22 PM in Family


You think it's hard to get in to see Dr Who as Hamlet? Well let me tell you that the hottest ticket in the region last Saturday was for the show put on by kids who had just spent the previous five days at Harborough Performing Arts Summer School.

Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, friends and neighbours queued round the block in the teeming rain to grab prime seats to see the results of the kids' labours. Our two had a fabulously enjoyable week going through hours of dance, drama and vocal coaching. The results were really brilliant, bursting with energy and sheer enjoyment.

Well, it's finally here. And I don't know about the rest of the world, but over here this day has been about as hyped up as new millennium eve was. Jeez, was that really 8 years ago?

Security is ridiculously tight, we're being scanned and searched what seems like every 5 minutes, and most of Beijing is cordoned off, including Tiananmen Square and the Olympic arena (of course). Everyone is frantically trying to organize where they'll be at 8:08pm when the opening ceremony commences and the fireworks are set off, and people are speculating as to who will light the Olympic torch. There is endless gossiping about who managed to get tickets to the opening ceremony (practically nobody!), and slagging off those who managed to get a ticket at all (I did! Cycling in the Vendome, next weekend. Ahem.)

This really is China's big chance to show the world how great it is. And man, are they going for it. Yesterday I walked passed a street of Chinese people chanting "Come on China! Come on China!" for no particular reason. And I'm feeling quite left out that I haven't yet purchased my 'I heart China' t-shirt, since everybody else seems to have one and wear it religiously everyday. I do, however, have a Beijing 2008 sweatshirt, but if I wore that in this humidity, I'd probably die.

Expats in Beijing, I've found, are not getting as excited about the Olympics as the locals. In fact I was chatting to two Americans earlier that were saying how they hoped that things didn't go so perfect for China during the Games. One guy, having lived in China for more than three years, was quite bitter that Beijing had put on a big front, cleaning up the streets, planting flowers and reducing traffic. He said that the people that come during this time won't be met by the real China, just a pretty version of it. But hey, you can't blame a country for making an effort, can you? It's no different to you picking up your dirty undies off the floor and washing the dishes when you have a friend coming to visit.

I, on the other hand, have been dragged along with the hype, and will probably be the one that starts a "You can do it, China!" chant tonight after a few mojitos. However, my one little nitpick is that I seriously think that whoever coined the Beijing Olympics as the "Coming Out Party", should have reconsidered it before opening their mouth. To me, and maybe I stand alone on this one, it connotes that this is the day Beijing announces to the world that it thinks Judy Garland was "fabulous" and is in a serious relationship with a guy called Guo Dong.

Having just let an opening ceremony ticket slip through my fingers (my friend called me to offer me a ticket, but I was at work and missed the call. Doh!), today all comes down to organizing this evening. I'm sure a majority of Beijing will agree with me when I say that the best thing about this day is that we all got a day off work. London take note of that one. Going to stand outside the birds nest at any point today is no-no. I predict that there will be approximately 3.2 squillion people standing outside there tonight, all getting pushy and sweaty and screaming "One World, One Dream!" at the top of their lungs, whilst waving tiny China flags.

I've read that the opening ceremony is set to be the most lavish in history, the "greatest show on Earth." Damn, I still can't quite believe I missed out on that ticket..*curses*

Everybody is asking "what is with the weather?!" We somehow managed to survive July without committing suicide, after it practically rained every day. We were told that it was all so that the sky would be clear for the Olympics. Now, I don't know exactly how you make it rain, but some scientist people in the south of China have been, well, doing it. Is that even legal? Will I get extradited for telling you this?? I had better stop writing now.

Happy Olympics opening day, everybody!

Lifestyle authors

Jo Green and Paul Phedon

Jo Green and Paul Phedon, from S&X Media, are at the London 2012 Olympics working with a series of sporting clients.
My postings

Kevin Finnan

Kevin Finnan, artistic director at Motionhouse, is directing and choreographing the opening ceremony of the Paralympic Games.
My postings

Nikki Aaron

Nikki Aaron - English language teacher uncovering life in Beijing
My postings | Nikki Aaron's RSS feed My feed

Michael Clifford

Michael Clifford - Two times BAFTA award-winning film director, living and working in Birmingham.
My postings | Michael Clifford's RSS feed My feed

Peter Shirley

Peter Shirley - A nature conservationist with interests from neighbourhood to global ecological issues.
My postings | Peter Shirley's RSS feed My feed

Richard Saxton

Richard Saxton - Wine writer and blogger based in Birmingham. Founder of
My postings

Kimberley Owen

Kimberley Owen - is editor of and a Senior PR Account Manager at Vital Marketing
My postings

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