Saturday, 29 December 2012

Five reasons why I hate Bicester Village

You know, this place really infuriates me. I don't really have any huge reason to hate it, and I haven't always, I just do now. I am well aware of the traffic problems and have read all the comments with regard to Boxing Day on the facebook page. This isn't personally a problem for me these days as I rarely set foot outside my house on Boxing Day but I do have some past experience of it and I can see why it continues to provide anger for other Bicester residents. Over the last few years a simmering resentment against the place has built up in me, and going by what I read I am certainly not alone.

Blimey, if you thought I disliked Tesco, well they aren't even in the same league as this lot. They stand like a bright shining beacon of retail delight next to BV - now that is saying something!

So why don't I like it? Well I have thought about it, and come up with a list of reasons, in no particular order, but here we go. I'll start with the traffic.

1) The traffic issues around BV are causing huge issues for local residents. The problem is three-fold as I see it. Firstly the road system is totally inadequate to cope, particularly at weekends and on bank holidays. Secondly, it seems that there is a certain type of arrogance in the many of those that come that seem to think that it's alright to block the yellow criss cross no entry areas on the roundabout, to park wherever they like when the car park is full in residential areas, even in disabled spaces, and to blatantly show a complete disregard for the town and its residents, presumably they consider us all to be "plebs" to use a topical word. Thirdly it seems nothing is done to enforce traffic/ parking regulations. Well they freely let anyone they like park down the street I live in on the double yellow lines 24/7 so I am unsurprised.


Baa! Baa! Baa! Are we nearly there yet?

2) I hate the fact that it has put "Bicester" on the map, or rather it's put "Bicester Village" on the map. Hotel literature in London recommends it as a place to go (whilst conveniently airbrushing the presence of the attached town out of existence). I also hate the fact that whenever I go on holiday and people ask me where I live and I say Bicester, they say "Oh, right, yes Bicester Village, I know it, we went there once, wow, you are so lucky to live there". Errrm...no I'm not.

Oh David, can we take the chopper? I'm too posh to queue you know.

3) Most of what they sell is crap. "Oooohh...but you can get a bargain". Yes I suppose you can if buying something for £60 that costs £120 in London is a bargain (even if it only cost a tenner to make). That's for people who like "designer labels". Personally I have always hated that side of our culture and quite honestly have no time for people who are so shallow and clearly have such low self-esteem issues that they feel they have to have the latest £200 handbag or brand of boots/ clothing etc in order to feel good about themselves. I don't have friends with those values - I have acquaintances - but not friends. It's not my way of living and never will be.

Ooh darling, it was an absolute bargain, only £220, would have cost me £300 at least
 down Carnaby Street. Had to use Crispin's AMEX but he won't mind.

4) I hate the fact that what started out as a reasonable place to shop i.e. a range of designer outlets, but also some good discount chains selling affordable brands appears to have gone down the road of getting rid of the more affordable "high street" names in favour of more "chic". The final straw for me was the day that VANS went - for me it was the one place worth going there for. Great products, great prices, and I also had mates that worked there, it was friendly. Only Clarks remains of any shop I would be interested in going to and I resent going there since they decided to close down the Sheep Street store, particularly as I received such dire customer service the day I did attempt to go in there with the kids. Anyway the place appears to continue to grow as it desires whereas every other attempted project around Bicester takes years or decades to get off the ground. Depends who's pulling the strings I suppose.

5) The fact that all these millions of people seem to have nothing better to do with their Boxing Day than to descend on the place. OK, perhaps that is more indicative of a dislike of how people want to spend their time, but seriously, haven't people got anything better to do? Is it really that important that so many people want to give up a cosy family day? I just can't see the mentality. I do wonder how those people feel. Are they first timers? Do they come away with a sense of satisfaction and day well spent? I just don't get it. Probably never will - guess I am just fundamentally at odds with these types of people.

So Bicester Blogger has spoken again...and probably gained a few more supporters and also lost a couple of people as well, oh well, I don't care, at least we all know where we stand.

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please take a look at my books on Amazon (Paperback & Kindle), where you can read lots more of the same! Click here.

Jason xx

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Good snowman, bad snowman

Here we are on Boxing Day - have to say Christmas has been a great success this year.

I go all old-fashioned at Christmas and switch off the computer, switch off the mobile phone and all social media and for about 48 hours just concentrate 100% on home, wife and kids.

Because as you can see all around, with everyone permanently welded to their phones these days, simple pleasures are often forgotten. So from 6am yesterday morning when we got up to going to bed 19 hours later, it was full on Dad - from present opening and assembly to cooking dinner. Claire worked from 7:30 to 3pm.

I did eventually end up getting the Turkey Crown from M&S and it was pretty decent to be honest, much better than last years. And I cooked it according to how I thought it would be good. I have decided that all this putting bacon on the top and all the other stuff Ramsey and the others pipe out is a lot of rubbish designed to prey on your insecurities and make you feel inferior.

Burnt bacon on top of the turkey - pointless.

I just cooked it like I would a chicken and basted it frequently with butter. Result - perfectly cooked, tender, bird. Believe you me, had there been the slightest thing wrong with it Ollie would have refused to eat it, and he wolfed it down. Along with my home made pigs in blankets and the rest - much nicer and bigger than buying them ready made.

Christmas TV - only 3 programs caught my eye in the guide and none disappointed. Absolutely loved the new Snowman & Snowdog - in fact we watched it 3 times. Yes, it's easy to pick fault and call it sentimental and predicatable, but I think it's magical - and as a parent of a 5 year old who is becoming aware of the concept of death, a sensitive way to introduce the topic and encourage discussion - because five year olds  ask questions and they do have fear - as a supportive parent I don't shirk these issues, but handle them in a practical but supportive way.

Fancy your mother letting you go out like that without a coat.
Parents these days...

Later on we had more snowmen, but not nice smiley cartoon ones, evil ones in another triumphant Doctor Who Christmas Special.

Now the thing I love about the new Doctor Who is that it has re-invented itself for the new generation, and your average 12 year old (who would have been 5 when Eccleston started) can enjoy the show without needing to be aware of its history - as can any casual viewer. Now these 12 year olds probably lap up every detail they can about the show and can tell you instantly any fact about any monster, episode, etc since it came back in 2005.

However, there are also rewards for the older fan such as myself who is familiar with the whole history of the show and I loved the way last night's episode tied in with the past, revealing itself to be what I believe is called a prequel.

Say cheese!!!!

At the end of the episode (set in 1892) the snowmen were revealed to be part of a "Great Intelligence", trying to take over the world using snowmen. It was also written into the plot that the London Underground was a network that could be used as a possible future attack.

Tying in beautifully then to two classic Doctor Who tales, "The Abominable Snowmen" from 1967, when in snowy Tibet, what was revealed to be the very same Great Intelligence attempted to take over the world using robot Yeti, and then in 1968 using the very same Yeti again to attack via the London Underground.

The Yeti attack in a sequel to last night's tale.
Broadcast in 1968.

I'm pretty certain this will have gone right over the heads of the casual viewer last night and your 11 and 12 year olds. So mums and dads this is a great chance to impress your little Who fans with your knowledge of the past (you don't have to let on I told you). Cameron and Rhys will be impressed!

And so on to the Royle Family which never disappoints. Poor old Dave and his pecker. Jim absolutely milked that for all it was worth. Ricky Tomlinson/ Sue Johnston, surely one of the best double acts on telly, stretching right back to 1982 when they were Bobby and Sheila Grant in Brookie. The whole show last night had me laughing out loud (yes the much overused LOL'ing). Long may it continue.

After that we caught some of the 1977 festive edition of TOTP - and marvelled at how the world has changed. It was presented by Kid Jensen and Noel Edmonds. Presumably there are some editions of the show that we'll never see again. I would imagine that a lasting legacy of the Savile revelations will be that any editions of TOTP featuring him will be airbrushed from history, never to be shown again. Just like you never hear that Gary Glitter Christmas song any more.

The Christmas Number 1 story on BBC2 at 11pm was good, but annoying that they conveniently skipped by some years as it they didn't exist. For example, Queen topped the festive chart with Bohemian Rhapsody in both 1975 and 1991 - yet the Beeb in its infinite wisdom in an hour long show didn't deem this even worthy of a mention. Obviously the producer was not a Queen fan then.

I'm just a poor boy, nobody at the BBC loves me.

Though I will never get tired of any reminder of that glorious day 3 years ago when my faith that not the entire population of this country had been reduced to mindless sheep was restored. I am referring of course to one of the greatest days in pop history when Rage Against The Machine gave the X Factor a right royal kicking up the arse.

As for the rest of the festive tripe you can keep it, I'm also disgruntled that my favourite kids Christmas movie "The Polar Express" was not even on this year (except on SKY). Oh well.

And now all roads lead to Kempton Park, let battle commence!

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please take a look at my books on Amazon (Paperback & Kindle), where you can read lots more of the same! Click here.

Jason xx

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Which beast for the feast?

Just before I get started on the main topic of the blog, a quick message for my funky friend. I know how disappointed you are that you can't use the phrase "Well that was our summer, then!" to me at present - however the current cliche doing the rounds is this one:

"All ready for Christmas then?"

What a boring and utterly pointless phrase! Why do people do it? Have you nothing more interesting to say? And why do you ask anyway? Do you really want to hear a potted run down of my Christmas preparations? You are not going to be there (thankfully, lol!) What you really want to do is use it as prelude to giving me a run down of your own irrelevant plans! Wind it in people!

Anyway, Mr Fulford, I reckon I have been asked that by 99 people so far this week, so I may as well give you the chance to make the century, go on son, fill your boots, I know you want to. I expect to see it on my wall by morning!

Right then, on to business. Rather than blah on about a selection of random Christmas trivia, I shall focus my attention on the choice of bird to adorn the table here at Baconham Villa this Christmas. Not a particularly difficult choice to make really. These toffee nosed chefs can waffle on about geese and such like to their hearts content, but let's face it, we pay mere lip service to that pretentious crap, we're all having a turkey, we don't know any better, and nor do we want to. The main question is what sort of turkey and where are we getting it from?

Now those with large families will get a full bird, I'm sure - if that was me I'd be instinctively drawn towards one of the local butchers, however, there's not a huge appetite for meat in our house. Though it's probably fair to say I do compensate for the others shortcomings.

Claire will eat an average amount, Ollie will eat a bit, and Jamie won't touch it at all. The nearest he will get to any flesh is a fish finger, anything that's lived on land is a big no-no. At the moment anyway, however he is only two.

Plus (and I'm not going to go down any obvious Sid James style humour), breast is best in this house. Which is why I rarely buy whole chickens because no-one wants anything other than the breast. Don't even bother with "oh but you can make stock with it etc", there is no point. I live with a family of fussy eaters and that's that. Yes, I know some of you probably have an image of me gorging on the carcass and stuffing all the bones into my mouth in some sort of depraved carnivorous orgy, but that's quite the wrong image you have got of me there. You have made the mistake of allowing past media coverage of my culinary habits cloud your judgement. Shame on you. Anyway there's no video footage anywhere of me ever doing anything like that, so you can't prove anything. Agent Jack Bauer owed me a favour.

I just thought I would randomly insert this picture in here,
as it's one of the all time classic comedy Christmas moments

Anyway...what I am saying in a roundabout sort of way is that a Turkey Crown is the way to go here. As I think it is with many families these days. So we've narrowed it down to that. But where to get it from?

Well last year, I spent about 30 quid on one of these crowns from M&S and I think I made a pretty decent job of cooking it. Well nobody complained anyway. Or threw up. My main gripe really was that there wasn't an awful lot of meat on it. There was about as much left over as there would have been from an average Sunday Roast joint that normally costs me about £7 and gets placed in a tupperware container and placed into the fridge, never to be seen again. It always mysteriously disappears from the fridge about 1:10am on a Monday morning. Strange, as I normally roll in from work about 1:05am and I've never spotted the culprit.

So, disappointed somewhat with the M&S offering, I was delighted to discover last Saturday morning in the Times "Weekend" section, a large section dedicated to Christmas Food. Particularly catching my eye was a double paged spread about Turkeys and various other festive fayre (pigs in blankets, that sort of thing).

This was written by some celebrity chef or other, can't remember which one. However it quickly became clear that he considered himself to be on a somewhat higher plane than the rest of us mere mortals. Now I know the Times likes to aim for a higher demographic (myself being a prime example) than some of our less savoury newspapers, however this guy really was taking the piss. Amusingly so, though!

In terms of the turkeys, those reviewed came from Tesco, Sainsbury, M&S, Waitrose and Fortnum and Mason(!) So starting in the mid market and heading upwards. I was most pleased to see the Tesco turkey get an absolute slating. I do like to see a bit of journalism free from any censorship from the bosses in fear of upsetting the advertisers, and wow, did this guy go for it. This didn't just apply to the turkey, he had a good go at some of their other offerings too. He really really doesn't like Tesco. Their turkey got 1 out of 5. Sainsbury and M&S didn't fare much better. He was begrudgingly nice to Waitrose, yet it seems if we really want anything decent we've got to get it from Fortnum & Mason. Well that's handy then. I heard they were opening up a branch in the old Winners building. Or perhaps not.

So this article did not help me much. So I went out into the field and did some research. Whole turkeys only at the butchers it seems, so what have the supermakets got? Well M&S have the usual pricy stuff same as last year, which Times critic doesn't rate. Tesco's offering looks uninspired and bearing in mind what he wrote and my general displeasure with them, they certainly won't be getting my custom this year. Iceland? Three Bird Roast? Don't even go there...

Then I took a trip up to Aldi.

And lo and behold, there are some lovely looking turkey crowns for less than half of what M&S are offering, and they didn't look half bad at all. I mean, how bad can they be? Probably not bad at all - my experience of meats from Aldi has only ever been good. I have to say I am tempted. Going on what the guy in the Times said about Tesco, Sainsbury and M&S it hardly sounds as if they are setting the world alight. I did not purchase one today, but I think I may go back and get one tomorrow. Because I reckon I can buy there for £10 something that will be just as good as what's £25 in M&S.

Aldi wasn't mentioned in the Times article, perhaps they consider that their readers are above shopping at such a place, well, I say wake up, we aren't all stockbrokers popping into Fortnum & Mason at our leisure, you can be reasonably affluent and intelligent and shop at places like Aldi. In fact I would say shopping there is a very intelligent thing to do, never mind about being on a budget - why pay more just to keep up with the Joneses..."Oh you bought your turkey from Aldi, how frightful?" No need for that in this day and age.

Well hopefully...I'll let you know after December 25th.

Disclaimer: Bicester Blogger can accept no responsibility if you decide to go and buy your turkey from Aldi based on what was written in this article and it turns out to be absolutely horrible.

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please take a look at my books on Amazon (Paperback & Kindle), where you can read lots more of the same! Click here.

Jason xx

Monday, 10 December 2012

The Jason Ayres Television Show

For some time now I have been working on plans for my own sketch show starring me, as a variety of comic characters.

Now the sketch show genre has always been a bit hit and miss for me. Now if you are talking about the Fast Show or Harry Enfield's Television Programme (later Harry Enfield and Chums) these are among my favourite shows of all time! Suits You Sir! You Don't Want To Do It Like That! A Bit Of Bachman Turner Overdrive! These catchphrases have passed into legend.

So I think it is high time we had a new sketch show, and have been developing a number of characters. Now many of these I have had in development for a number of years. You may even have encountered versions of them in the pub, or on facebook from time to time. Here are a few of them:

Bloaticus

Bloaticus is like a modern day throwback to ancient Roman times. His entire life consists of gorging himself on gargantuan feasts and bragging about his depraved sexual acts in the pub. Bizarrely due to being hideously overweight, self-obsessed and not particularly good looking, he is inexplicably attractive to women. They are flocking around him constantly much to the consternation of his much better looking and fitter mates who accordingly never have any luck with women.

A typical day in the life of Bloaticus

Gerald Mincen

Gerald is like a camp altar ego of mine with an obsession with eating crisps. He is "in touch with his feminine side" and consequently the whole world thinks he is gay, despite him in fact being heterosexual. This is a cause of great frustration to him as he listens to a succession of women telling him "all the best ones are married or gay, if only you weren't etc etc etc. Unlike Bloaticus, Gerald's sex life is practically non existent. A number of sketches are based on Gerald's attempts to appear more manly, which subsequently backfire with humorous consequences. Gerald is a huge fan of Torchwood, particularly Captain Jack who is his hero.

Captain Jack

Captain Chubchaser and the Moobed Marvel.

A pair of would be crime fighting superheroes who on seeing a crime being committed race to the nearest phone box and drink a bottle of magic Strongbow, transforming into their costumes before emerging to apprehend the miscreants. Unfortunately one of the side effects of the magic Strongbow is that it makes them become helplessly obsessed with larger women, the larger the better, to the extent that they spend their entire time attempting to get off with them instead while the villains get away.

When I pitched this idea to a major TV network initially, it was felt that it (and to a lesser extent the Gerald Mincen character) might be seen as un-PC in this day and age. However, they accepted my argument that it portrayed the "fuller figured" woman in a positive light in a world obsessed with supermodels and agreed that there was some mileage in the characters.

I play the Moobed Marvel in this sketch, and have someone in mind to play the Captain.

Don't have any pictures yet so here is one of Batman
 and Robin  upon  whom we are loosely based.

Lord Bicester

Lord Bicester is a normal bloke with delusions of grandeur who lives in a 3 bedroom house in Chapel Street that he refers to as his "mansion". He speaks with a plum in his mouth and begins every conversation with the phrase "Good Evening" spoke in the style of Alfred Hitchcock no matter what time of day it is. He is horrified by the pop culture lifestyle of the modern world and frequently denounces anything which he perceives as "chavvy" whilst writing letters to the Times and the local paper about local issues. Catchphrases include "This Country", "Some people" and "Unbelievable"


TV Trev

TV Trev is obsessed with television. When he isn't watching it he is talking about it. He fancies himself as a bit of a continuity announcer and this frequently finds his way into every day conversation, for example, when meeting his friends at the pub, he will begin the conversation with expressions such as "Previously - at the White Hart". He also likes to write down the cast and characters of everyone that appeared in the pub that evening in his own personal episode guide. He refuses to acknowledge any other genre of entertainment, and particularly hates cinema. Were he to be engaged in a conversation about Star Trek and someone were to mention Star Wars his response would be "Never heard of it".

The perfect gift for TV Trev

Tommy Trivia

Tommy is a man with a talent, sadly he does not put it to good use. He is a walking wikipedia, seemingly knowing everything about everything, yet is unable to hold down a job, or make any money it seems. He tends to take over any conversation at the drop of the hat. For example were someone to casually mention "Oh I like S Club 7" in a pub, this would be the prelude to a 10 minute monologue listing all of their singles, the dates they entered the charts, position reached and so on and so forth. Could easily empty the quiz machine in the pub or win the top prize on "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" but none of this ever occurs to him, as he prefers annoying other people. Would probably get on quite well with TV Trev if they ever met.

Number 1 for one week, December 2000,
knocked off by Eminem with Stan the following week.

Bet Bob Billy

Billy is obsessed with gambling and calculating odds for anything and everything, even on which woman he is going to sleep with tonight (in reality probably none). Never seen without the Racing Post tucked under his arm. he is completely unable to hold any conversation without using horse racing terminology, e.g. a bad trip to the toilet described as "heavy going" and even when having sex he's been known to shout out expressions such as "he's entering the final furlong, and he's beginning to get up..." etc etc.

2/1 the filly on the right!!!

Carnivorous Carl

Carnivorous Carl is obsessed with meat. In fact it forms 100% of his diet. Never mind ordering the "burger without the bun" in McDonalds he orders 10 of them without buns, salad, fries, or drink. Meanwhile, a donor kebab is minus the salad and sauce and pitta bread. His main obsession is ham and he cooks a kilogram one each day which he lovingly glazes and then slices up in his Andrew James meat slicer. His main ambition is to go around the world and eat every animal, needless to say he's not very popular with the WWF. Even when driving along the road he has been observed salivating at the roadkill.

Lunch down under

So there you go, those are my initial characters, I will probably add a few more before we make it to screen. I'm hoping to get signed to a minority channel at first e.g. BBC3, E4, Food Network etc but we should make it across to the main channels quite soon once it takes off. I think I should find playing most of these characters a doddle, after all, they say the first novel of many great writers was "semi-autobiographical" and there's definitely a little something of me in all these characters.

If you have any suggestions for how to improve the characters, or perhaps even if you fancy being in the show, drop me a line, as we will need a lot of supporting characters e.g. women for Bloaticus to slobber over if that appeals to you. Auditions to be held at the pub next Sunday.

If you have enjoyed reading this blog, please take a look at my books on Amazon (Paperback & Kindle), where you can read lots more of the same! Click here.

Jason xx