Thursday, 28 January 2010

Red-Top vs Tip-Top

Today's post will be an exercise in how different types of publication have different styles of writing, and even researching their stories. The story I am using is real and Richard is a friend of mine (and all credit to him, this was his idea). See if you can spot the difference.

Masterchef's Gregg Meets Love on Twitter - but is Former Schoolteacher "Heidipopps" being Led Astray?

Gregg Wallace and Heidi Brown began their whirlwind love affair last year, after a message on Twitter from biology teacher Heidi asking if Gregg had ever been told he was a "weird crush". He offered to take her out to dinner, and the rest is history. Who says romance is dead?

The former greengrocer who is now better known for presenting prime time cooking show Masterchef lives with Heidi (27) and his two children from previous marriages in Kent, while splitting his time in London to look after his cafe business in Putney.

Since moving from Ullswater, Heidi says she is delighted with her new life, posting regularly on Twitter to her friends and family and describing herself as "Living in Kent with my wonderful new family". Divorced once herself, is this a couple who have finally found love? Or is this yet another recipe for disaster?

Richard Braddock (22), an IT Consultant from Leeds remembers meeting Heidi back in his university days.

"A few friends and I were given the opportunity to go on Soccer AM (Sky Sports) a few years ago," he recalls. "Heidi was also a guest on that show - as the 'soccerette'. There's this bit where she chooses someone out of the guest fans, and that person does a 'catwalk' with her. Despite me needing a haircut she picked me."

Attractive Heidi was well on her way to graduating from university, and was using modelling as a way to earn some extra cash. "I remember the lads and I were somewhat in awe because I certainly don't remember any of our teachers looking like her", he adds.

Masterchef Gregg seems to have a way with the ladies, but by the looks of it he has trouble keeping hold of them. His first wife left him after only 6 weeks of marriage, while his second shot at love left him divorced after his wife Denise sent him packing six years ago after finding out he'd been cheating and alledgedly sleeping with prostitutes.

So, has unwitting Heidi walked into a love-rat trap?

"I certainly wouldn't have expected her to quit her job that she has obviously worked so hard to get", says Richard. "She seemed intelligent and well adjusted but I think as we all know, intelligence and common sense are completely different skills."

Heidi's ex-husband, hotel owner Dave Pinkney seemed shocked by the news of their relationship beginning. "I'm a bit cynical" he said to the Daily Mail last year. "I'm sure he's a cracking bloke with a great personality, but if he was a grocer in Carlisle, I don't think there'd be much of an attraction."

Leaving a career to follow an online romance seems like a rash decision to make, but after nearly a year the couple are still sending loved-up tweets (twitter messages) to each other. Gregg's previous admitions to having "loads and loads" of affairs while married have been rebutted by him, as he claimed last year; "I'm a different person now - a phoenix from the ashes".

All Heidi can do now is keep her head screwed on and hope that his sleazy ways are far behind him. "She's a cracking woman and he's a very lucky man...I hope he looks after her" added a solemn Dave. Let's hope that since Gregg is a greengrocer by trade, there's no chef-like fiery temper and quick changes of heart to contend with.

[Gregg Wallace and Heidi Brown at last year's Bafta Awards - pic courtesy of Getty Images and the Daily Mail]

Masterchef's Gregg Wallace finds Love on Everybody's Favourite Social Networking Site

It's no secret amongst the gossips that Gregg Wallace, the former greengrocer turned BBC's Masterchef presenter and cafe business owner, has had more than his fair share of tempestuous love turmoils. With two ex wives claiming adultery and a penchant for smutty magazines as his major vices, and he himself claiming to have had "loads and loads" of affairs while married, will he ever want to settle down?

One woman definitely hopes so, as biology teacher Heidi Brown (27) moved to Kent from her home in Ullswater near Penrith to be with him and his two children from previous marriages. But how did the unlikely pair meet? Where else in these technological times but on Twitter, following a flirty message from Heidi to Gregg early last year. It's a story made in medialand paradise.

But who is this Cumbrian schoolteacher, and how will she tame old "puddingface" as he calls himself on Twitter? Richard Braddock, an IT consultant from Leeds has his own hilariously tenuous link with her following their short appearances on Soccer AM (Sky ports) while she worked as a model.

Richard explains; "A few friends and I were given the opportunity to go on Soccer AM. Heidi was also a guest on that show - as the 'soccerette'. There's this bit, where she chooses someone out of the guest fans, and that person does a 'catwalk' with her. Despite me needing a haircut she picked me and I duly fulfilled my obligation, corny as it was."

Perhaps she liked her men with a little more hair back in those days?

In all seriousness though, Richard was surprised to see her give up her teaching career. "I don't recall her being particularly driven, regarding her modelling. I think she was quite grounded - specifically professionally. I certainly wouldn't have expected her to quit her [teaching] job that she has obviously worked so hard to get."

But as a career-driven woman, she seems ultimately happy in her new position as a loving housewife, if her constant chirping twitter updates are to be believed. And to think this all began thanks to a short message where Heidi asked Gregg if he had ever been considered a "weird crush" before.

"I think we're all aware that Twitter now seems to be a gateway between members of the public and celebrities. Whether that is a bad think or not really depends on each person. I mean, I've sent at least two tweets to Ben Goldacre, but that doesn't necessarily mean I intend to shack up with him." says a cynical Richard. So are the newspapers getting their knickers in a twist over this story simply because of the New Media connotations?

"The [story] certainly did come out of leftfield though, and I do wonder if it would be in the national news if it a) hadn't involved twitter, b) She has only been 7 years his senior, and c) She wasn't quite so attractive. Whichever one best fits the agenda of the tabloids is up to you I guess. Perhaps it's the unspoken holy trinity."

So there you go, as spoken by somebody who knows computers and the internet probably a little better than you do (whoops, speculation).

The question is, does anybody really and truly care?

[A lot of this article's information was sourced from the Daily Mail 22/06/09. Take it with a pinch of salt please, I'm only trying to prove a point. Transcription of Richard's interview is available on request for any comparing you may want to do]

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Drinking the Kool-Aid

When it comes to topics that make you do a sad-face, the usual response is to ignore them. Ignore them until they leave you alone. Sometimes though, a topic is too important to put your fingers in your ear and hum away, and one such a topic is your family's health. Or your own health, for that matter. Everybody wants to be healthy and the opposite of dead, and when there's news reports about this pill and that pill having horrendous side-effects it's only natural to be a bit nervous about what you're swallowing. Especially if it's a load of old tripe. Pardon my elderly relative's french.

Homeopathic medicine used to be known as supplementary to regular Doctor-Dosed meds, and for many it was on a par with witchcraft (ie. totally unbelievable, unsavoury nonesense). In recent decades however, the people's interest in "Healthy Living" has seen a huge insurgence of homeopathic medicines on the market, making millionaires of those creating them in the process. Hate the pharmaceutical companies? You should probably hate the people who founded huge herbal medication factories too. They are making billions out of an industry based on placebo and chin-strokingly vague results and research methodologies. But don't take my word for it, read up to your heart's discontent at where Ben Goldacre chats sense and scary statistics until you'll never look at St John's Wort the same way again.

Some people are sick and tired of plant extracts and sugar pills being continuously heralded as the next greatest cancer-prevention aid. They're tired of people being told to avoid taking prescription medication by ill-informed news stories and homeopaths themselves. What do you do when you're fed up of something? No, silly, you don't ignore it and hope it goes away, you set up a big protest and stamp your feet! And the great stamping shall begin tomorrow, at 10:23 in the morning on high streets across the country, with cynics and sceptical-types alike downing bottles of homeopathic tonic courtesy of Boots to prove that rather than dropping down dead or becoming super gingkoba heros, absolutely nothing will happen, thus proving that the "tonics" are a load of old cobblers. The brilliant Jack of Kent explains it perfectly in this little gem of a blog (click me).

Let's hope nobody get's poorly sick. Not only will it be an unhappy tummy time for those who took part, but it'll prove tha baddies right. And nobody wants the manies to win while the righteous are resigned to bed with Pepto-Bismol and the bile burps, do they?

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Fashion/Style/Clothes/Beauty/General Arsing Around

Do you like articles of clothing or shoes? Are you interested in make-up or ongoing/upcoming trends in the fashion world? No, you're not a vain capitalist pig? What kind of an answer is that? Get off my blog you liberalist commie bastard. Come back when you've ditched the hemp trousers.

If you actually do like fashion, and would prefer a blog with less swearing and insults aimed at the reader, head over to, it's a new blog I'm writing alongside style writer and beauty columnist extraordinaire Lauren Holden (of fame).

Cheers guys, the more subscribers we get, the more cool people agree to interviews and the better the content becomes :) EVERYONE'S A BLOODY WINNER! THERE'S YOUR COMMUNISM FOR YOU!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Raise it, Herd it, Nom it

I was a vegetarian once. I lasted a whole 6 moths without craving a single burger or lamb chop. I didn't last much longer though, because as it turns out, my vegetarian cooking skills are limited at best, and my cheese covered carbohydrate monstrosities were doing nothing for my health or my large Pilsbury form. I may giggle if you poke my tummy, but inside I'm crying. No, seriously. I needed protein, and although I could have found it in shakes and pulses, etcetera etcetera, I called it "experiment over". Because that's all it was - an experiment. I've always been a fan of the phrase "don't knock it till you've tried it" ever since I was forced down a cliff side and realised that I loved absailing. I became a veggie not because of my deep need to save the world from tons of bovine greenhouse poop gas, or indeed my love for the wuvly lovely furry creatures. Nor was it my hatred for the huge-scale food manufacturing companies, or pre-packaged food. I decided that I would dare myself not to eat meat, and anybody who enquired as to my reasonings for such odd behaviour received the same well-rehearsed answer.

"I don't feel that it's right for me to eat something I couldn't kill myself."

The answer to that was nearly always "But I saw you eating a tuna sandwich yesterday." The thing was, I had already been fishing before, bashed my little freshwater trout over the head with a rock (not figuratively, I really did) and then gutted it, barbecued it and ate it, under the supervision of my step dad and uncle. I am not a particularly squeamish person, and I quite frankly couldn't give two flying halloumi fucks about fish. They are ugly and they smell weird. I like to eat them. In fact, I would go as far as to say that some fish are my favourite food. Take Potted Shrimp, for example. Best food you'll get in this country. I caught a fish and purposefully didn't throw it back to prove to myself I could do it myself, that I could kill and eat my own food. That I couldn't kill and eat a cow seemed to prove to me that eating a steak and kidney pudding would be highly hypocritical of me. It also shut up nearly every sneering inquisitor who prodded about my life decisions looking for flaws in my logic. It's good when you win arguments because you're right.

The thing is, I eat meat heartily now, almost every day. I don't eat lamb, but that's because I'm a soft arse, and seeing lickle lambies tawdle off to the slaughter house makes me sniff back "allergy" tears. I try not to eat meat just for the sake of it too, for example I have no problem with eating a steak or sausage and mash, but if the option is there for me to have meat on my pizza, I won't do it. Similarly, I am of the opinion that ham sandwiches are possibly the best food invention in the universe, but if I haven't got ham, I'll rarely have chicken or bacon. Save it for a decent meal. Have cheese instead. It's a strange and possibly perverse way to see the world, but in my mind I'm showing the meat some kind of dim respect instead of just shovelling it down without a thought. In a boots meal deal sandwich I once saw pastrami, salami AND ham. Would you even notice if the pastrami wasn't there? That's two different animals in that sandwich, when you could have had ugly, useless but similarly tasty prawn mayonnaise. I don't expect you to agree with me, but surely you can see my point?

Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall can see my point. The thing is, he's taken the point, and ran so enthusiastically with it that if I was to shout "OK, THAT'S ENOUGH NOW HUGH" he'd mishear me, and bound off into the meadowy distance to take it further still, with a big grin on his face, and the wind rushing through his curly locks. I've always loved his style of cooking, and despite being ripped consistently by Harry Hill (total comedic genius and my hero) I still find his recipes interesting and easy to follow. I love cooking, and he seems to really love it too, showing his ingredients a sort of respect that unfortunately can quite frankly linger along the realms of "friend's creepy dad trying to show you how to make something". His recent love however, lies in teaching the less culinarily-fortunate where ingredients come from, and why they should cook instead of eat Rustlers burgers and Bean Feast. An admirable crusade, not least because he isn't Jamie Oliver. There's no snobbery in Hugh's bones, just an earnest need to get people to appreciate the good things in life, which to him means cabbage, pastry, liver and pork medallions. He also really wants people to understand where their food comes from, which is where my admiration for him becomes slightly hazy. Educating people about the manufacture and slaughter of cattle is one thing, a possibly interesting and necessary thing, but to take people down to an abattoir to watch piggies and moo cows get their little heads bopped and their throaties all seems a bit barbaric.

[pic courtesy of the Independent online]

Throughout civilised time, there has always been a person in the tribe, village or general area who was better at gutting animals, so people would take their animals to him. People can be good at these things, in which case they become butchers, fishmongers or surgeons, or they can be a bit squeamish, in which case they've perhaps dabbled in a bit of light carp fishing, or they are a vegetarian. By simply taking people to a shed full of circular saws and blood and death you will not change a generation's views on the food that they eat. The other day when I saw an industrial machine chew the fluff off a lamb and simultaneously cut it's feet off, I felt like Hugh had rubbed his hands in some guts he'd found in a puddle on the floor and was waggling his fingers at the camera, all wide-eyed and "wwwuuuuurrrggghhh!!", tongue sticking out and trying to get some on the cameraman. Being grotesque to prove the point that the meat industry is grotesque isn't proving anything at all. In an ideal world we'd have our little small holds, we'd eat meat as a luxury and we'd respect our planet, our food and our bodies properly. Unfortunately, this isn't an ideal world, it's a world full of festival burger vans, donner kebabs and jars of hot dog sausages. Meat is seen as an essential everyday food, and unless this view is changed, the meat industry will continue to churn out mushy remnants of the pretty farm animals that make the countryside look so happy and nice.

I'm not a veggie. I'm a hypocritical carnivore, and every time I eat some meat I feel simultaneously guilty and happy. It tastes good. I just wish it was easier to find more affordable carcasses without having celebrity chefs drag me down to a halal chicken mortuary.
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