Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Spaghetti poodles and cats

Anything to get away from this terrible cold weather and all the jobs I am supposed to be doing.... a nice distracting post about my spaghetti poodle (and cat) collection.
     I know I have mentioned these before, but here they are again. Made in Italy in the 1950's, they are surprisingly hard to come by - I think they were manufactured for the tourist trade, are roughly made, and break easily.
     I got my first one from Snoopers' Paradise in the North Laine, in Brighton around 2005. We used to love that place when we first went to Brighton, but when we have revisited recently, it is but a shadow of its former self - full of tat. I can't now remember which poodle was the first, or what appealed to me about it, but next time when we went back, they had another, and the grumpy bloke on the till, surprisingly, produced a third one from out the back. That was it. I now have 40.
     I started getting them off Ebay - most quite cheap, under £20.00, from the UK, but others, at vast cost, from America. The most expensive were the three joined together, pictured here. I am not saying how much, in case Philosopher sees it. Many poodle collectors seem to be American, living in small town places you have never heard of...
     Very few come from shops or antique fairs - one enormous (26 inch high) floral one with a detachable hat ashtray from Malvern, one from Rye, and two from the scabby junk yard in Courthouse Street in Hastings. That is surprising, considering the vast acreage of junk and antiques we have picked through over the years.
     I don't really know why I like them. Often their thickly applied spaghetti curls are broken, or chipped. Some have repaired breaks. They are hand painted, so each has a different facial expression - usually degrees of cheerful gormlessness, and their spaghetti whiskers bristle with hopeful doggy enthusiasm.
     I like the long-necked seated ones best - they are so classically 1950s, but they also come sitting, standing, begging, in a 'play-bow', holding baskets of flowers and pulling little posy vase carts. 
     Our friend Alan from Birmingham, who attends even more antique fairs than us, also looks out for poodles for me, and he found my first spaghetti cat - even rarer than poodles.
     The cats were clearly made by the same people - the style of spaghetti is the same, they have the same black ink writing on the bases, and they have the same collars, but their face are very bizarre, with huge, heavily made-up eyes and bouffant curls they look more like effeminate nineteenth century dandies than cats.

Cat family
     This horrendously kitsch cat family came from the Rye Auction Rooms - only cost me £40.00. You see sets like it on Ebay (in America) and they are hundreds of dollars.
      Anyway, here is one of my latest acquisitions.
This is actually a different sort of poodle - heavier, with different style floral painting, and a very different face. If possible, he looks even more gormless than the normal ones.
      Not surprisingly, I have never met anyone else who collects these things!
     I would also like to know more about them - where in Italy they come from, who manufactured them, but searching on the internet gets me nowhere.
Any information would be greatly appreciated.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Struggling to lose weight? It's not surprising...

Time to take a look at diet and weight.... neigh, not horse stuff again, I've nagged on enough about that on Hastings Battleaxe.
     Lets appeal for some truth, clarity and honesty.
     Since New Year, I have been trying to lose weight - with some success. I've reduced my food intake, cut out most rubbish and taken more exercise. I've lost around eight pounds, which can't be bad. I have excellent will-power when I set my mind to it, but can flag if I don't get the necessary results - like most people, I guess. I'm a bit overweight, but not massively so - I like to catch myself in good time.
     I have been faithfully entering the food I consume and the exercise I take on the Myfitness Pal app - which I must say, is absolutely fantastic - it lists just about every sort of food and every form of exercise known to humanity.  According to my totals, I should be losing over a pound a week, but I am not - so what is going wrong?
     The other week I was reading an article in the Guardian about the deceptive nature of the calorie values of the recommended portion sizes printed on food packets. They give you a misleading idea of what you are eating, because the suggested portions are so tiny. I thought pooh pooh, am too sensible to be caught out like that, but then decided to weigh my portion of breakfast muesli. I am a creature of habit, and eat the same breakfast for around a whole year, before suddenly tiring of the brand in question, and changing.  This year, it is Dorset Really Nutty. The recommended portion size is 45 grams. Unhelpfully, the packet only gives the calorie value of this size serving lumped together with semi-skimmed milk, as 229 calories.
     Today, I weighed out a 45 gram portion in my usual cereal bowl. Here it is in the photograph - a measly disc of muesli barely covering the bottom of the bowl. Of course my usual portion is not this small. I weighed my usual amount - a whopping 75 grams, with a calorie value of  342 calories with milk.
      Many food packets are incredibly unhelpful.
      Lets take Pringles as an example - one of my favourite naughty treats. A tube weighs 175 grams. We are told the calorific value of 100 grams, and of 30 grams, which apparently is a 'portion'.
     However they don't say how many chips are in an average tube, or in 30g. I limit myself to only five chips. To work out the calorie value of this amount, I either have to weigh my portion, or count the number of Pringles in the tube, followed by some long division sums, for which I need a calculator. Is the average person in the street going to bother with any of this? I don't think so.
     Here's a packet of pasta shapes.  On the packet (500g) it states that an uncooked 90 gram serving has 321 calories, while 100 grams has 357 calories.  I need a small serving of 50 grams, which corresponds to two tablespoons of cooked pasta..... and off we go again. Bring on the scales and the calculator, yawn, bore.
     Let's have a glass of wine. Now, am I thinking ml or fluid ounces? How much does this glass hold? How full is it? Is this variety of wine more or less fattening?
     Then we have the well-known low-fat but high sugar business....the so-called 'diet' foods that have more calories than normal stuff....
     Look at low rent women's magazines - the Bella, Closer, variety.  Z list celebrity women apparently come in 3 sizes: 'worryingly thin', 'celebrating her ample curves' with an occasional 'healthy size 10' thrown in for good measure. The pictured 'healthy size 10' woman varies in size depending on the nature of the article. If it is about 'worryingly thin' getting bigger, the woman will be a scraggy size 8. If the direction of travel is 'ample curves' to slimmer, the apparently size 10 woman will clearly be size 12 to 14.
    Given all this, is it any wonder that most woman are thoroughly confused about the relationship between what they eat and their size? That we aren't clear about what we are actually eating? That we don't know what a 'healthy weight' actually looks like? That many people just give up?