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.

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

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.

    Mean Murmurings

    wicked whispersHave you seen the “Wicked Whispers” section from the Daily Mirror’s 3am girls?

    They, apparently, give us the latest outrageous scandals from the kuh-ray-zee business that is show. Here’s today’s example:

    WHICH crooner was stunned when a blonde he picked up asked him for £1500 after she slept over?

    Answer: I don’t know. The mind boggles.

    Anyway, this is all a long pre-amble to my revelation that I have had not one but two encounters with actual real-life celebrities recently. And I don’t just mean in the pages of Take-a-Break in my Sainsbury’s Local. I mean actual interaction in the tangible world people.

    So, here are my very own Wicked Whispers – er, let’s call them Mean Murmurings

    MM #1: Which well-known musical star revealed, over drinks at a recent family event, that while performing on stage he glanced at the autocue only to find that the lyrics had been replaced by a very graphic image of an extreme sexual act?

    MM #2: Which pop singer blubbed all the way through the vows at a friend’s wedding last weekend? If you need a clue, here is a photo (not taken by me I might add) of aforementioned star attending said wedding.

    mystery celebrity bum
    Hazard a guess at the celebrity seat? Any correct entries win a dolly peg lady.