British Expat Newsletter:
4 April 2007

Hello, and welcome to those who have joined up since our last newsletter.

In this issue

  • This week: Wallace and Gromit
  • Virtual Snacks
  • Bizarre Searches
  • Quotation and joke

This week

The big item of news this week was HMV’s announcement last Sunday that Nipper – the dog looking down the gramophone sound-horn in their famous logo – would be replaced by claymation star Gromit for three months.

Given the date the announcement was made, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this was perhaps an April Fool’s joke by Aardman Animations and HMV together. But no, it’s true – the change is part of a drive by HMV to promote children’s DVDs at its stores.

And who better than Gromit? The “Wallace and Gromit” plasticine animations have been phenomenally successful ever since the first of them, “A Grand Day Out”, was completed in 1989. It took its creator, Nick Park, almost six years to complete! It missed out on the 1991 Oscar for Best Animated Short, being pipped to the post by another Nick Park film, “Creature Comforts” (which also inspired a whole series of electricity adverts).

After that near miss, though, there was no stopping the ingenious but goofy inventor with the Yorkshire accent (voiced by Peter Sallis, also known for his role as Cleggy in “Last Of The Summer Wine”) and his faithful dog (no mouth, but surely the most expressive eyebrows ever – and what a brain!). The next two films in the series, “The Wrong Trousers” (1993) and “A Close Shave” (1995) both won thoroughly deserved Oscars (and “A Close Shave” attracted 10.6 million viewers when it was shown on BBC Two that Christmas). Aardman then teamed up with DreamWorks to produce the cheese-loving duo’s first feature-length adventure, The Curse Of The Were-Rabbit, roping in some big names for the other characters – Helena Bonham-Carter, Ralph Fiennes and Peter Kay among them. It was no great surprise that Wallace and Gromit notched up their Oscar hat-trick in 2006.

Why are they so successful? There are plenty of reasons. For starters, like all the best children’s shows they appeal to adults’ sense of humour too – with nods to cultural icons, the occasional double entendre and pastiches of other film genres. The inventions are suitably batty to intrigue anyone (the name that inevitably springs to mind is Heath Robinson). The characters themselves are believable (and that includes Gromit) and likeable (even the baddies). But the situations they’re in are totally daft (like the aerial combat – a real dogfight! – where the two dogs need change to keep their fairground aircraft flying). And, of course, there’s the obsession with cheese. This is particularly funny if you’re East Asian, apparently – many Asiatics think the idea of cheese is quite disgusting. Which, when you think about it, I suppose it is. (It won’t stop me eating it, though.)

The good news is that they seem set to go on and on. A whole series of 2-3 minute shorts, “Cracking Contraptions”, has just been made – and you can watch one of them online! (See our Virtual Snacks below.) And one of the stars of “A Close Shave”, Shaun the sheep, is to get his very own 40-part series, to be shown on CBBC (Children’s BBC) later this year and in 72 other countries around the world some time after that.

Cracking, eh?

Do you have anything to say about this topic? Or do you have some suggestions for other issues we might discuss in our weekly email? Why not comment and tell us?

Virtual Snacks

Just a few suggestions if you have a little time to spare:

“Soccamatic” is the first in the new series of Wallace and Gromit shorts, “Cracking Contraptions”. We thought it was great! Make sure you watch all the way to the end of the credits.

Here’s a link to Aardman Animation’s Wallace and Gromit site – plenty of interesting and fun stuff there, as you’d imagine, including clips, sounds, wallpaper and all that.

Bizarre Searches

Some strange search terms which have led people to visit British Expat recently:

  • bimbo lowering iq
  • tutus from spain
  • why is alfred hitchcock afraid of eggs
  • other [Eh??]
  • prague military surplus prague
  • boob enlargement newsletter
  • spanish ham bush joke
  • world seex korea
  • at the hairdresser s lesson
  • i search for birds but not for bees

Till next time…
Happy surfing!

British Expat Magazine


“Age is something that doesn’t matter, unless you are a cheese.”

– Luis Buñuel, Spanish film director (1900-83)


Sid the inventor is struggling through Birmingham New Street railway station with two huge and obviously heavy suitcases when a stranger walks up to him and asks, “Have you got the time?”

Sid sighs, puts down the suitcases and glances at his wrist. “It’s a quarter to four,” he says.

“Hey, that’s a pretty fancy watch!” exclaims the stranger. Sid brightens a little.

“Yeah, it’s not bad. I’ve been working on it for a while. Have a look at this…” – and he shows him a time zone display not just for every time zone in the world, but for the 200 largest cities.

He hits a few buttons and from somewhere on the watch a voice says, “The time is ten fourdy seven AM,” in a New York accent. A few more buttons and the same voice says something in Japanese. Sid continues, “I’ve put in regional accents for each city.” The display is unbelievably high quality and the voice is simply astounding.

The stranger is struck dumb with admiration. “That’s not all,” says Sid. He pushes a few more buttons and a tiny but very high-resolution map of central Birmingham appears on the display. “The flashing dot shows our location by GPS,” explains Sid. “View recede ten,” he adds, and the display changes to show the entire West Midlands.

“I want to buy this watch!” gasps the stranger.

“Oh, no, it’s not ready for sale yet; I’m still working out the bugs,” says Sid. “But look at this!” and he proceeds to demonstrate that the watch is also a very creditable little digital radio receiver, a sonar device that can measure distances up to 125 metres, a pager with thermal paper printout and, most impressive of all, an audio player capable of storing voice recordings of up to 300 standard-size books, “though I’ve only got 32 of my favourites in there so far,” says Sid.

“I’ve got to have this watch!” insists the stranger.

“No, you don’t understand; it’s not ready-”

“I’ll give you £1,000 for it!”

“Oh, no, I’ve already spent more than-”

“I’ll give you £3,000 for it!”

“But it’s just not-”

“I’ll give you £5,000 for it!” And the stranger pulls out a large wad of fifty-pound notes.

Sid stops to think. He’s only put about £3,500 into materials and development, and with £5,000 he can make another one and have it ready for marketing in only six months. The stranger frantically finishes counting out the money and waves it in front of him. “Here it is, ready to hand to you right here and now. £5,000. Take it or leave it.”

Sid abruptly makes his decision. “OK,” he says, and peels off the watch.

They make the exchange and the stranger starts happily away. “Hey, wait a minute!” calls Sid after the stranger, who turns around warily. Sid points to the two suitcases he’s been trying to drag through the station. “Don’t forget your batteries.”

This entry was posted in 2007 by Kay McMahon. Bookmark the permalink.

About Kay McMahon

Kay has been an expat for nearly 30 years. She set up the British Expat website back in early 2000, whilst living in London and missing the expat life. These days she spends much of her time lugging computers and cameras around the world. (Dave gets to deal with all the really heavy stuff.)

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