The most British news story of the week surely must be the one that was headlined thusly on the BBC Web site: "Giant Knickers Put Out House Fire."
What first springs to mind is a massive, house-size pair of underwear draped over a burning building like a circus tent. But, no, Jenny Marsey of Hartlepool doesn't have an ass as big as a house, just big enough for her quick-thinking son, John, to snatch her knickers from a washing basket, soak them with water and then throw them over a burning pan. Naturally, the panties were from Marks & Spencers and John was making fry bread.
An aside on fry bread: It's a staple of what's known as the "cooked English breakfast," or "full English breakfast," or "heart attack on a plate." The name is perfectly descriptive. It's not bread that's been toasted but bread that's been fried in a pan. I'm not a fan, not because of the way it tastes--you could fry a pack of cigarettes and they'd taste good--but because of the challenge consuming it poses. Fry bread is too greasy and gross to pick up with your hands, but it shatters when you poke it with a fork. Of course, if you're eating a full English breakfast you probably don't care how you get it down your throat.
Perhaps Jenny Marsey will be approached by producers of a reality TV show. I hope she first reads this shocking story from the Daily Mail: Some people say reality TV ruined their lives. Hard to believe, isn't it? You would think that swapping your wife or letting a stranger raise your child or allowing camera crews to film your bowel movements would bring you nothing but respect. Sadly, that seems not to be the case. "It was to be my 15 minutes of fame," said Claire Molyneux of her appearance on a show called "Take My Mother-in-Law." "I signed up in a fit of madness, and I have regretted it ever since." I'm guessing she regretted it because they gave her mother-in-law back.
I learned from the story that many reality TV shows harvest their participants from a Web site called beonscreen. Among the British shows looking for suckers, er, stars, is one called "Spa of Embarrassing Illnesses." Then there's "Let's Talk About Breasts" : "We are looking for outgoing, outspoken women (and a few men!) of all shapes and sizes to talk about their relationship with their breasts for a new high profile TV documentary."
Relationship with their breasts. Hmmm.... "Well, Moira, it was fine when we were young but lately we've just sort of drifted apart...."
The always-impressive Guardian has a nice feature today on the best Web sites for downloading free music. The paper is very good at these sort of reader-service pieces. This one is broken down by different genre (soul, garage, B-sides). I haven't tried any of its suggestions yet, but I will.
And, of course, all the papers and media here are reporting on the Iowa caucuses. The U.S. presidential election is being watched very carefully from here. Bush is widely seen as a disaster and most observers can't believe Americans would actually elect Huckabee. But we've surprised them before!
Gargoyle of the Week
This guy is on Westminster Cathedral:
Say, I hope my readers from Washington have already contributed to The Post's annual Children's Hospital fundraising campaign. This is something the paper has been doing for 60 years. I usually write the columns about the work done at the hospital but this year my colleague (and Oxford alum!) Alice Reid is doing the honors. Please consider making a gift. All proceeds go to help pay the bills of kids who come from poor families.
Have a great weekend.