Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Pet hates #3,729: Nando's

I have a funny (and true) Nando's story: I was with my friend Lauren many years ago, when Nando's was just starting out in the UK. We were drunk and hungry and it was late. We literally stumbled into the nearest restaurant, which was a Nando's. Lauren approached a waiter and asked him if they served nachos. 'No madam, sorry we don't', he curtly replied.
'We don't serve nachos, madam, sorry.'
(In a very loud, drunken voice:) 'Are you telling me you're called Nachos but you don't serve nachos?'
'Madam, we are called Nando's and we don't serve nachos. We serve chicken.'
If we were less drunk we would have been more embarrassed but I distinctly remember the stunned silence in the restaurant being overwhelming. We stumbled back out into the night. I think Lauren might have been vegetarian anyway.

That was my first time in a Nando's restaurant, over a decade ago; the first (and last) time I actually ate in one was about six months ago. When I ate there (my first and last time), I was given a tiny, dry piece of chicken coated in some disgusting sauce, presumably there to overwhelm the lack of taste in the chicken, and, including drinks and rice, not much change out of a twenty pound note. I had a Chinese all you can eat buffet straight afterwards.

Nando's feels like the Emperor's new clothes. From Beckham to BeyoncĂ© (who famously spent £1,500 at an Essex branch), celebrities adore it, and ergo, the public adores it too (I used to work with someone who used to go on about Nando's almost every day. And eat one almost every day. And get very excited about it). Well, it's celebrity-endorsed and affordable (little matter the chicken it uses are bred in hanger-like sheds and never see the light of day).

The Holy Grail for Nando's fans is the High Five black card. The card, little more than a myth, entitles the user to a lifetime of free Nando's. This very exclusive card cannot be applied for in-store; no, only hot celebs are granted one (like, er, Ed Sheeran). Well, why not, they are providing the chicken chain with priceless free advertising. The only way a non-celebrity can obtain a card is by eating at every Nando's restaurant in the world. One Christopher Poole, 26, is attempting the challenge to eat at all 1031 branches (a mere drop in the ocean compared to Subway, now the most ubiquitous fast food chain in the world with over 40,000 branches, overtaking McDonald's a few years ago with only 34,000).

Previously on Barnflakes:
Pet hates #1,287: the rucksack

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Deep excavations

The partially submerged ruins of not quite exactly former civilisations but certainly former glories. Along with the mysterious organisation next door, the blank, anonymous industrial-looking building cunningly hidden by tall trees, reminds me of a cross between the TV series Lost and Tarkovsky's Stalker (for me the beauty of the film is entirely in its puddles). There's not exactly a mystery to Crystal Palace park – the Great Exhibition moved there; burnt down – but its remains: the ruins, the Sphinxes, the general dilapidated splendour, make it feel more ancient and fallen than it actually is. Indeed, my daughter asks how is it that photos exist of the Great Exhibition's Crystal Palace, so ancient she believed it to be. But she has a point, I thought; it's almost a shame that there are photos, it ruins the mystique.

Previously on Barnflakes:
London through its charity shops #25: Crystal Palace, SE19
The dinosaurs of Crystal Palace

Monday, April 28, 2014

A Study in Scarlett

I'd been at best apathetic, at worst faintly derogatory towards actress/singer/model/ex-Global Ambassador Scarlett Johansson; I'd never found her performances that captivating and didn't think her particularly talented or attractive (that wispy blonde look not my thing: routinely voted sexiest woman in the world, I remember seeing a photo of her some years ago in a woman's magazine without make up on, lo and behold, she looked just like you or me; in fact, she looked worse than you or me).

So why is it I've never found her more watchable, more human, more alluring and more vulnerable than in two recent films in which she plays a computer operating system in one and an alien in the other? In Spike Jones' Her you only hear her voice: she plays Samantha, an advanced computer OS who Joaquin Phoenix falls in love with. In Under the Skin (above), directed by Jonathan Glazer, she's an alien driving round Glasgow in a white van picking up young men. In both films, I've never felt such empathy and affection for her.

Though she resigned from Oxfam as Global Ambassador after promoting SodaStream (whose headquarters are on the West Bank), Oxfam are "grateful for her many contributions ... [in] helping to highlight the impact of natural disasters and raise funds to save lives and fight poverty". Of course, without her, we'd have no idea of the impact of natural disasters.

It embarrassingly occurs to me I have an album of her cover versions of Tom Waits' songs, Anywhere I Lay My Head. I have it by accident, I swear, but it's not that bad, a tad over-produced perhaps, but dreamy and quite listenable.

Previously on Barnflakes:
I'm in Love
Alien Underwear