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  • You shouldn’t have. No, you really shouldn’t have

    December 24, 2010 @ 8:30 am | by Laura Slattery

    There is a lot to be said for a festive pair of socks. They’re warm, they’re practical and with any luck, they’ll have a cheery snowflake pattern – to remind you of what snow used to look like when it was all nice and white and theoretical and Bing Crosby-like. Christmas socks, like a good reindeer jumper, are in fact really excellent gifts masquerading as cliches. That’s not something that can be said for this lot, my personal list of items that I wouldn’t even bother faking gratitude for:

    1. Straight Up: My Autobiography by Danny Dyer. Who? Why? How? Danny Dyer is the British actor who earlier this year, in his guise as an agony uncle for lad’s mag Zoo, suggested that a heartbroken reader ”cut his ex’s face, and then no one will want her”. That’s not really what I call the spirit of Christmas. Now Dyer, who claims he was misquoted, was rather good in Andrea Arnold’s short film Wasp. But that’s no reason to encourage his literary career by purchasing a memoir that “tears it up proper”, apparently. In general, it’s best to leave the domestic violence to EastEnders.

    2. Going Rogue: An American Life by Sarah Palin. Read by the author. Oh no, NOT THE AUDIO VERSION. Listening to Palin, the inexplicably popular Tea Party lady, one feels new sympathy for Margaret Thatcher, who underwent vocal training to lower her voice by several semi-tones after advisers suggested she was too shrill. Palin’s dogs-only range proves Thatcher needn’t have bothered. While I’d usually object to the notion of a deeper voice = more gravitas on the grounds that it reaffirms the “naturalness” of male authority, in Palin’s case I’d make an exception.

    3. The “Snuggie” from JML. JML is the ubiquitous direct sales firm with the kind of over-excitable pitches that encourage crawling back under the duvet forever. If you want to “use your laptop without being cold”, stick on a cardigan: do not be tempted by the sleeved ”Snuggie” blanket, which looks like the kind of thing Brian Blessed would wear on stage. In the Snuggie’s festive TV ad, a family of four sit wearing their matching cult-like druid’s cloaks and paper hats, looking like they’re taking part in a cut-price and slightly sinister re-enactment of the Nativity. A good rule of thumb: if an ad has its own YouTube parodies, don’t buy what it’s selling.

    4. Cath Kidston business card holder. I’ll admit this is the kind of kitsch paraphernalia that I’m vulnerable to. But it’s all wrong. Firstly, no one wants to be reminded of work on Christmas Day. Secondly, a floral-patterned business card holder? Really? If you do have the kind of job that requires the cheesy exchange of business cards at the end of the meeting, you’re probably working in a profession that requires the maintenance of a degree of drab seriousness. In other words, it’s not the ideal opportunity for showcasing one’s affection for the retro, cutesy, reclaimed housewife-chic Cath Kidston aesthetic. That’s for cupcakes.

    5. Working the Red Carpet by Lorraine Keane. There is a bit of a book theme emerging here, which possibly reflects the old NME assertion that even crap CDs can make excellent ashtrays. I’ve nothing against the ex-TV3 stalwart Lorraine Keane, who seems like a nice person. If you want a coffee table book showcasing pictures of her with fellow broadcasters Gaybo and so on, then this is the stocking filler for you. But let’s not pretend there is such a thing as a Hollywood-lite red carpet glamourfest in Ireland: anyone who happens to be passing Dublin’s Savoy Cinema while they’re having a premiere knows the truth.

  • Single/Double Summer Time: what’s not to like?

    December 3, 2010 @ 7:31 pm | by Laura Slattery

    Being neither a farmer nor a veteran of this mission parents call “the school run” – indeed as someone who only gets up before dawn in an emergency – I’m very keen on the idea of moving the clocks forward by an hour all year round. This is, of course, entirely selfish, but then I’m not the only one who fancies a “fall forward, spring even further forward” system of time.

    Today, Britain’s Daylight Saving Bill cleared its first hurdle in the House of Commons. This doesn’t mean a time-shift is imminent – the issue is something of a parliament perennial – but it does, rather sensibly, call on ministers to conduct a full analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of moving in line with Central European Time.

    Current practice in Ireland and the UK is to spend the (miserable) winter months under Greenwich Mean Time (GMT), then move to what’s known as British Summer Time (BST) or GMT +1 in the summer months. The Daylight Saving Bill proposes that if the committee established by the Cameron government came to the conclusion that a shift to GMT +1 in winter and GMT +2 in summer was, on balance, to the benefit of the whole of the UK, then a three-year trial would follow. The system is also known rather fabulously as Single/Double Summer Time (SDST). Double summer, you say?

    SDST was previously trialled between 1968 and 1971 and was also in place during the Second World War, when it was used to help save electricity and provide more working hours in daylight. These rationales still exist in peace time and the clocks-forward campaign is backed by everyone from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (Rospa), which estimates that it would result in a net reduction in road deaths, to our very own Senator Feargal Quinn, who also cites the benefits it would bring to tourism, business, the environment and overall quality of life.

    Quinn believes that “the only thing that has stopped it happening” is “the Scottish farming lobby”. Indeed, Scotland is the big loser under SDST, as it would stay black well in the winter morning. Advocates of the change say school times could be adjusted to compensate. But the British government itself is firmly against the experiment as a result, with business minister Ed Davey telling the House of Commons that “we cannot make this change unless and until we have consensus on this matter throughout the UK”.

    Despite Quinn’s wishes, it seems unlikely that Ireland would ever go it alone, as this would create some interesting (although not unique) border time zone effects. In any case, while grander stretches in the evenings sound amazing, the dark mornings would certainly be grim – perhaps grim enough to crank up the number of these duvet days that we keep hearing are so detrimental to our economic advance. Ultimately, I guess what I really want to do is create more daylight, rather than toy with the clock.

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