Norah Jones does battle in Vienne

Take one easy-listening songstress, mix with a chilled-out French jazz vibe and blend in a unique ancient venue and surely you’ve got the perfect recipe for summer concert success?

I had high hopes as I made my way through the winding streets of Vienne to see Norah Jones headline the town’s renowned annual jazz festival. Despite tickets priced at a punchy €45, the event was a sell-out, with touts lining the route to the venue: Europe’s largest Roman amphitheatre.

Those in the know had clearly arrived early to secure a seat, while the rest of the 3,000-strong crowd – my party included – clambered up the narrow steps to a high-altitude area or simply perched precariously on the crumbling walls. But as the sun set behind the stage and the more well-prepared members of the audience tucked into their cheese and wine picnics, it became clear that the real star of this show was the venue.

Norah’s innocuous strumming and dulcet tones were little more than background in the cavernous semi-circular amphitheatre. Even her most adoring fans must admit that she seemed somewhat dwarfed by the occasion – and her rudimentary French didn’t help engage the crowd.

Although her big hits – Come Away With Me and Don’t Know Why – were pleasingly familiar highlights, she was never going to emerge completely victorious. Norah lives to perform another day, but it was Vienne’s spectacular amphitheatre that held us enthralled.

The Jason Bourne School of Toastie-Making

The Toastabag 500 from Lakeland gets tried and toasted, Hollywood-style.

If you’ve seen the 2004 blockbuster The Bourne Supremacy, you’ll already know that the easiest way to create a timed explosion at short notice is to disconnect a mains gas pipe and shove a rolled-up magazine into a toaster.

This gives you just enough time to scarper before the smouldering copy of Country Life blows your enemy’s gaffe sky-high. Neat.

Now, although I haven’t had cause to set off incendiary devices in kitchens recently, I have had the urge to make a deliciously toasted cheese sandwich. So it was with some trepidation – and memories of Matt Damon’s kitchen-based bomb-making – that I read the instructions on my new Toastabag 500: “Just prepare a sandwich as normal, put it in the bag and then pop the bag into the toaster.”

How could this be? Could I really stuff a small plastic bag into a hot toaster? Surely it would be a matter of seconds before I was engulfed in acrid smoke and left to watch in vain as my iroko worktops were reduced to a pile of charcoal.

With a steely nerve that would have impressed Agent Bourne himself, I slid my limp cheese sandwich inside the Toastabag, dropped it into the slot and shoved down the button.

Lo and behold – minutes later a perfectly formed cheese toastie popped up. Such is the miracle of the toastabag – and all without the need for an unsightly Breville contraption or a special agent in a flame-retardant pinny.

She is…

She is a vintage ballgown bought in the sale in a charity shop
She is the cold National Express coach leaving Leeds at 8am
She is the long, lean standard lamp lighting the room
She is blue WKD and cider and shots until three
She is the dancefloor
She is exploding, fizzing lavender bath bombs
She is emerging from her room at four in the afternoon
She is the belting karaoke rendition of Dancing Queen

Office toiletiquette

toiletiquettePointers on male toilet etiquette abound. Only look straight ahead, don’t make conversation – or if you do it must only be about sports – yada yada.

What though, of the lesser explored area of female toilet etiquette? And specifically, ladies’ toilet etiquette in the workplace?

You might think none is required. I mean, it’s all very straightforward. There are cubicles. Each person goes into a cubicle and locks the door. They do their business, wash their hands and leave. Simple.

Unless of course, someone throws a spanner in the works. Riddle me this:

I was in the (fairly small, two-cubicle) toilets at work on Tuesday morning washing my hands. A colleague who I know only vaguely walks in and asks me how my meeting was. I tell her yes, it was fine and she asks another work-related question.

So far, so what you might ask. BUT – between question one and question two, she has walked into a cubicle and locked the door behind her. I am thrown. Am I meant to continue normal workday chit-chat while she’s in a cubicle? All rules have gone out the window.

I answer question two and hope that signals the end of the conversation. I am wrong. She continues to chatter at me from the other side of the cubicle door. I mumble a non-commital closing remark and hastily exit the bathroom.

Is this normal? Are people in offices so used to a don’t-waste-a-minute multi-tasking frenzied approach to the day that they now conduct conversation while performing their routine bodily functions? What’s the correct erm, toilettequette?

(As an aside, it turns out I’m not the only one who has hit on the HILARIOUS! word, “toiletiquette.” Check this out. Perhaps someone needs to suggest a “No talking please” sticker.)

Mean Murmurings II

wicked whispers
Another weekend, another celebrity wedding. Well, not actual celebrities getting hitched, but a celebrity wedding guest at a wedding also attended by me. And if you ask me, that makes it a celebrity wedding.

So, in true Mean Murmurings tradition, here is a dodgy photo with said famous person loitering in the background. Can you guess which former pop singer-turned TV actress this is? Oh, the excitement! I must go and have a calming cup of herbal tea.

wedding photo

Solution to casual attire catastrophes

Picture the scene. You’re on the way home heading towards a fairly casual evening event – maybe dinner with friends or the cinema. You step off the tube and you realise…oh no! My casual attire has a stain on it! Perhaps you’ve spilled your latte or dropped some soy sauce during your sushi lunch. What do you do? There’s no time to go shopping. It’s a casual attire nightmare.

Or so you thought.

Until the staff at South Kensington station installed just the thing to deal with the problem at the end of platform 1.

emergency gap jumper

Back to telling it like it is

You turn your back for one blog posting and before you know it six months have whirled by and lots has happened.

Still, that is all by the by, as my mission here – which I have woefully neglected recently – is to tell it like it is. And this I will endeavour to do from now on. It’s good for the soul (not yours, mine).

I will merely recap my past half a year in pictoral form. Here’s a selection of what went down:

orange

villa

parc des princes

prague

unicum

windmill

That’s that – normal service will be resumed shortly.

Oops, I did it again

britney oops I did it againAnother day, another Britney-ism. She really does just sum up “life” through the medium of song. We should never forget that.

Anyway, what I have gone and done is re-entered the world of the tax-paying, employed masses. Yes, sometime in the near future I will be oiling the wheels of the corporate machine once more. What all this means is that certain things will have to be put on hold, namely:

    • My career as the nation’s next Nigella. Just as my lemon drizzle muffins were set to take the world by storm.

      My “relaxed” daytime attire.
      Goodbye to going to the shops at lunchtime in an “I heart Guam” T-shirt and Robinson Crusoe-style cut-off trousers. (Sainsbury’s checkout man: “What is Goo-am?”)

      My rise to (near) the top of the Celebdaq charts. Does anyone still play this? I must have missed the boat first time round but have become a bit addicted recently. Also provides a very sound reason for buying trashy magazines and reading gossip sites.

  • The clock’s ticking…I’m off to get some Diamond White.