Toilet Reading: National Enquirer

Tagline: ‘Ameri—(Bruce Jenner’s head)–ttest weekly’

Price: £1

Who is this magazine for? Being a celebrity is a popular career choice for some people. Apparently it’s supposed to be a glorious release from the drudgeries of life. No more sorting out the recycling or hanging around with mouth-breathers. No more Youngs Admiral’s Pie. No more exams or beige carpet. It’s all red, red, red from here baby.

National Enquirer

Certainly, your job can’t be as high powered as David Pecker’s. I bet he just takes out the bins.

But these dream jobs often turn out to be hard in ways you wouldn’t imagine. Guns ‘N’ Roses whiner Axl Rose once pointed out that the life of a rock and roll front man wasn’t so fun when you had to do the business every day. ‘Would you want to jump off a car  roof every  night?’ he bitches, a routine which puts a twice-daily Jubilee Line crush into perspective.

Another occupational hazard of celebrity life is the gossip rags. These are essentially toilet roll for wiping the minds of the terminally confused. From the price tag to the shoddy, absorbent paper, National Enquirer does all it can to create the impression that this is a publication run and read by bin-sifters.

National Enquirer is written for the American market. This fact is given away by three things – Old Glory on the masthead, repeated and unapologetic use of the word ‘duds’, and a laser-like focus on Hollywood’s finest. British gossip-mongers like Heat and Pick Me Up! tend to shy away from A-listers. That’s partly because they have neither the PR contacts nor the libel insurance to risk it, and partly because their readerships prefer to pass judgment on whoever happens to be on Hollyoaks or Corrie this week. I suppose if you’re going to shit on people, far better to be close enough to them to imagine the look on their faces.

What did you get for your £1? National Enquirer focuses on targets (and I use that word advisedly) who have achieved single name recognition. In most cases – ‘Britney’, ‘Kanye’, ‘Brad’ – this represents ultimate accolade of public life. Of course, single name recognition isn’t a guaranteed victory in every case. Lembit, for example.

But with a retail price of just a quid, it’s quite clear that National Enquirer is not going to be able to afford legitimate access to star quality of such lofty heights. Instead, you’re served the reheated remnants of the papparazzi’s more desperate efforts. This menu is set pitch perfectly by the inside front page: Britney Spears’ fat rolls captured by long lens, and Brooke Shields putting some dogshit in a bin.

Celebrity ‘news’ absorbs the vast majority of the mag’s 47 pages, but as an afterthought National Enquirer has generously thrown in a couple of pages of Real Life (usually some outlandish sex thing that would get seven or eight pages at the front if a bona fide celebrity did it) and True Crime (because National Enquirer is read by the kind of people that would slow down extravagantly at car accidents).

National Enquirer

There’s the Pulitzer in the bag.

Features: After the dogshit-fat roll opener, the magazine gathers pace with the scoop that Rihanna is no longer planning on allegedly touring with Kanye. Hot on the heels of this ‘something unannounced isn’t going to happen’ shocker, National Enquirer follows up with ‘something that happened on TV happened’, ‘something that’s going to happen on TV will happen’, and then, brilliantly, another story about dogshit.

Unfortunately, other than excreta-based exclusives, the mag’s cupboard of fresh stories is distinctly bare. A twenty-year old story about Demi Moore is followed up by the stunning revelation that time continues to pass, with reports suggesting this temporal phenomena is especially pronounced in the vicinity of Michael Douglas’ face.

National Enquirer

It’s a cheap gag, but seeing as she’s made a very lucrative career by making women feel inadequate, I don’t care.

Some originality is provided by the liposuction photo feature, which elegantly kills two shitehawks with one stone by allowing the mag to print bikini-clad celebs and judge them for being fat AND not being fat. It’s really not worth saying anything more about this, other than the fact the Donatella Versace bears a striking resemblance to an oven-baked version of the Javier Bardem bad guy in Skyfall.

Meanwhile, over in True Crime, we have the story of a woman who killed her husband for his money before keeping his remains in Tupperware boxes for seven years. She even moved house twice. Clearly this is both sinister and sad, but the horror of the crime is dampened somewhat by National Enquirer’s ecstatic praise for Tupperware’s ‘handy, leak-proof containers with snap-on lids’. This is either an exceptionally poor investment of the Tupperware PR budget, or a savvy grab for the sizeable ‘well, you’ll never know when you might need it’ murderer’s Tupperware party market.

Adverts: Surprisingly, the mag has only managed to snag two adverts. The first is for Peacocks, a clothing chain that competes with, nay, aspires to be Primark.

The second, on the back cover, is for a Nightmare Before Christmas themed clock. A tenner for ‘S&H’, and a further £179.95 for the ‘I&T’ that is the clock itself, this 21-inch monstrosity must be the ugliest object ever crafted by human hands. Looking at it directly produces a burning sensation akin to being stung repeatedly in the eye by a swarm of urine-soaked bees. Legislation prevents me from publishing a photo.

Magazine favourites The Bradford Exchange are behind it, of course, rubbing their hairy hands with glee. For some reason, I can’t shake the feeling that David Blaine must be a shareholder in them.

Letters pageNational Enquirer doesn’t have a letters page. However, that doesn’t mean it takes no interest in what the readers are thinking. There was a comprehensive survey at the back, so I helpfully decided to fill it in.

National Enquirer survey

“Army of readers”?

 

Hopefully I’ll get the 100 quid.

Rating: 2/10

Provided they stick to Tupperware and dogshit, National Enquirer is almost readable. Otherwise, no.

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Toilet Reading: Good Woodworking

Tagline: ‘The No.1 magazine for aspiring designer makers.’

Price: £4.25

Who is this magazine for? Building stuff is part of what it is to be human. Who hasn’t enjoyed tackling the engineering challenge of building an impregnable sofa fort? Picking your site, honing the design, and berating the quantity surveyor for her inability to source the blankets and mattress that your fine blueprints demanded.

Most of us took up residence in the fort for up to six minutes before realising that sitting still in a cushioned cave sans television was a massive tactical error. But some looked back at their efforts through flinty eyes, shamed by the poor stability and dreaming of the materials that could take it to the next level. They dreamed of working doors, tiled roofs and tool boxes. They dreamed of tree houses, and drinking cool lemon barley squash therein. They dreamed of wood.

They grew taller, went to secondary school and found that learning Woodwork was seen as a joke; one of the three Ws of schoolboy wasterhood (the third being White Lightning). So they took the Duke of Edinburgh award, joined the Scouts for longer than is strictly healthy, and waited.

They grew wider. Got jobs, lost hair, acquired wardrobes that were long on Blue Harbour and short on choices not made by their wives. And they bought tools. Lots of shiny, sharp tools.

And then one day, they realised it was now their time to work wood. Work wood good.

What did you get for your £4.25? Woodworking is one of those pursuits that requires a great deal of patience; mindfulness that can see a man through hitting his own thumb more than fifteen times in a single afternoon without having to repeat any expletives (‘Ghoulwanker.” “Hackscrotum.” “Goatboner.”).

As well as patience, your good woodworker needs the fortitude to contemplate a task that may take him many months, with scant reward until completion. He must be able to do this without slipping straight into thinking, ‘Yeah fuck that, I’ll just go and browse the fridge again to check whether those yogurts have turned into an old slice of takeaway pizza.’ Good Woodworking is a magazine that demands similar qualities.

This is clear from the magazine’s opening News section, which leads – leads, mind you – with a piece announcing the arrival of a new dust extractor. The CTL SYS deals with ‘class L dust’ apparently, a statement which makes clear to the reader that you are now entering a world where different types of dust not only exist but are exhaustively classified.

Good Woodworking

Because no Decorating Elf should be without it’s own ball cutter.

If you cling on past the news section – which further tests your commitment to reading on with pieces on the Wood Awards and the British Oak conference – you’re rewarded with sections on Projects (how to guides), Techniques (including a, sigh, masterclass on shelving), People & Places (in a mysterious nod to Trivial Pursuit) and Your Favourites (the usual magazine miscellany of odds and sods).

Features: But it’s unfair to judge a mag on the news section alone. After all, it might just have been a slow month in the world of woodworking. So let’s look at the features.

The shelving masterclass felt like a good place to start, because in a mag strewn with jargon (‘planer-thicknessers’, ‘stub riser’) I at least know what a shelf is. However, try as I might, the crushing tedium of wood-based chat makes it awesomely difficult to force eyes to absorb any of the words. Take this paragraph:

‘Take two matching planks and mark them up for shelves. It is common to have graduated gaps between shelves often corresponding to the different sizes of books. You will also need to remember that the shelf has thickness, probably about 20mm.’

I had to read this paragraph five or six times before it eventually sank in that its two messages were: 1) shelves have gaps between them, rather than being just a big old pile o’ wood, and 2) shelves are three-dimensional.

Things did not improve in the piece on the history of the nail. There may be no a sentence more effective at clearing a room than, ‘in the early 20th century it was reported that there were about 300 types of nail available.’

In the end, I found the only way to keep going through the many, many features was to read them out loud in a poor Spanish accent. I enjoyed Good Woodworking far more after this discovery, but the rest of the congregation wasn’t pleased.

Good Woodworking

Though I’m sure all Chippendales would appreciate a visit to this place.

Adverts: After the dry, honest worthiness of the magazine’s contributors, I was hoping that a bit of naked commercialism would perk things up. There is certainly plenty of space devoted to ads in Good Woodworking, and I felt a frisson of potential from the ‘Chippendale International School’ ad. Sadly their teachings were grimly focused on restoring furniture rather than pelvic thrusts.

Unfortunately the adverts further brought into focus the folly of a magazine devoted to the worthiness of wood. If there was ever a product crying out for some scantily clad models and primary-coloured starbursts to add a bit of marketing zing, it’s wood glue. Parades of technical specs and cautious promises were the order of the day everywhere, with the only marketing trick being deployed the old ‘…and so much more!’ features list.

Letters page: By not you wouldn’t expect much from the letters page. It doesn’t disappoint.

As I had come to start disliking some of the magazine’s contributors personally for the minutes they had stolen from me, I was quite pleased by the arsey tone taken by most of the correspondents. Three of the four letters printed were complaining in some way about articles in previous issues. Coincidentally, the one that wasn’t won letter of the month.

If nothing else, this explains why woodworking is a solitary hobby.

Rating: 3/10

Good Woodworking is the kind of magazine adults read in children’s TV programmes when the storytellers are making pantomime efforts to show how boring grown ups are. I woodn’t bother.

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Toilet Reading: Country Smallholding

Tagline: ‘Britain’s Biggest-Selling Smallholding Magazine’

Price: £3.95

Who is this magazine for? Here you are, a chap of late middle age. You unconsciously harumpf every time you bend down to sit on the sofa, the barber laughs at you when you walk into his shop. Occasional sex is still enjoyable, but primarily as a reason for a nice lie-down. Even worse, your well-remunerated working life consists of meetings with young bucks; obnoxious streaks of hair gel hellbent on swiping your comfortable corner office away.

You’re being put out to pasture. Why not buy the pasture?

To be a successful country smallholder, you must be three things: rich, able to overlook the fact that ‘smallholder’ sounds like a euphemism for the owner of a tiny penis, and not a farmer. The last of these is the most important.  A smallholder is to a farmer what a white van man is to a proper lorry driver. Each one achieves basically the same thing, but the latter considers the former to be a worthless hobbyist.

Kate Humble

Turn that ‘n’ upside-down, and that’s what 50% of the readership are thinking about Kate.

Actually, there’s a fourth thing. You need to be a big fan of Kate Humble. I’ve got nothing against Kate, you understand – she seems pleasant enough in an engaging, Sunday school sort of way – but she has become this era’s outdoorsman’s crumpet, a position occupied not too long ago by the equally unlikely Charlie Dimmock. Here she is on the cover, there she is writing a page-long column, here she is pictured opening a factory in Somerset. Kate’s even got adverts for her ‘Humble by Nature’ farm courses in the back of the mag, which is a cruel tease to play on men who think that Mrs Humble herself will be guiding them through a day-long ‘Pigs for Beginners’ seminar.

What did you get for your £3.95? Apart from lots of Kate Humble, the overwhelming thing you get is adverts, of which more later.

Squeezed around the plugs for chick incubators and mini tractors are a handful of articles, an ‘Ask the Experts’ page, a show guide listing all the unmissable events for the smallholder’s diary and a whole bonus magazine call Poultry (inserted for ‘free’, an offer that pisses on Your Chickens’ henhouse).

The tone of Country Smallholding is set at a level of whimsy carefully calculated to annoy real farmers. Take the front cover for example. The top story, boasting of ‘HOT livestock’, was clearly written by somebody who considers the congress of man and sheep a bit of a laugh, rather than an occasional product of the crippling loneliness experienced by a true professional.

Features: The sense of ‘have a go’ amateurism continues through the features. Most of these follow a how to guide format – making beer, growing strawberries, choosing a sheep breed appropriate to your modest patch of land. As a slothful assbag of semi-organic matter, my method for completing each of these tasks is simple; have somebody competent do it in a way 100 times cheaper than I could ever manage (after my breakage and legal costs are accounted for).

Neighbour's cat

‘This fucking guy.’

In the beer-making article, I can’t even imagine how I would carry out the basic instructions. I might manage to successfully ‘drain off my second batch of wort,’ but how am I going to ‘clean out the spent grain and put it aside for feeding to pigs’? I don’t have any pigs. I could feed it to the neighbour’s cat, but seeing as he’s on a one-cat mission to turn my front garden into 100% cat crap, whereby he digs a hole in his crap, craps in it, and covers it with his own crap, I’m not keen to provide him with any support.

Meanwhile, over in Poultry, we get a fascinating interview with Marcus Walker, a top chicken breeder. The article reveals that he is known as ‘‘the duck man’ in the exhibition world’, which reveals much about the level of banter to be expected at poultry exhibitions.

One pimp motherducker

Marcus gives exactly zero quacks.

Marcus also touches briefly on the debate surrounding the laying capacity of Orpingtons, which, judging by the interviewer’s reactions, excite high passions in the smallholding world. I’m never sure whether it’s comforting or distressing that human beings – many of whom able to eat unaided – can invest a good deal of their brief window of mortality in arguing whether a particular type of feathery bagpipe can produce 80 or 120 eggs a year. On balance, it’s probably a good thing. They could be working in advertising.

AdvertsCountry Smallholding doesn’t hold back on adverts, with a bewildering array of chicken houses, animal arks, lotions, potions and worming medicines on offer.

X-ray chicken

Ever wondered what a chicken what look like if you were wearing X-ray specs? Now you know.

There’s a real range of professionalism on display too, with efforts ranging from the slickly impressive to the Comic Sans brain dump of the terminally odd. The strange thing about most of the stuff on offer is that it’s mostly designed to make running one’s smallholding easier and efficient. Fair enough, but in most cases, surely the point of having a smallholding to play with is to absorb as much spare time as possible?

Some of the products unwittingly give away their target market’s flighty nature. The beeswax hand cream in particular shouts ‘Greenhorn! City pansy! Your pathetic hands haven’t seen anything rougher than the edge of an Oyster card for fifteen years.’

At the back of the mag is a breeders’ directory, which is just a multi-species lonely hearts column on fast-forward. Some of the adverts have a similar feel too. ‘Organic Tamworth. Splendid characters and good looking’. Has you looking for the PO Box number already doesn’t it?

In the market for something a little more direct? ‘Pedigree pigs. Black weaners and growers often available.’

Letters page: Country Smallholding shuns tales of reader experiences, preferring instead to go with direct questions that seek advice from the magazine’s expert panel. When to plant spuds, what to feed pigs, which hive to choose for your bees – good, straightforward enquiries. So good in fact, that one has to be slightly suspicious as to whether they were actually sent in by readers. Suspicion deepens as you notice the question writers aren’t named.

Regardless of whether the writers are genuine, I still learned some valuable information. It is illegal, for example, to feed pigs with anything that’s been in your kitchen. Illegal, mark you, not just a bad idea. Which makes that ‘how to brew beer’ article – appearing just four pages later – look pretty dodgy to me.

Who knew? I thought pigs just ate mud.

Rating: 8/10

Country Smallholding is a substantial magazine supporting a substantial hobby. I’ve never enjoyed a close-up picture of a diseased sheep foot more.

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Toilet Reading: Real People

Tagline: ‘Fab Stories!’

Price: 67p

Who is this magazine for? Sixty-seven pence is an odd price for a magazine. A strange price for anything, come to that. What costs 67p? Other than a well-judged bag of pick n’ mix and a small quantity of loose mushrooms hand-selected at the supermarket, it’s hard to think of many other things. So why is Real People being sold for such a precise fee?

price war, real people magazine

The poor bastards don’t realise that ‘Love It!’ is retailing at 65p.

The answer only becomes clear when the mag is sat next to shelf-mate Pick Me Up. Pick Me Up is an aggressively priced rag too, but pitched at a marginally less attractive 68p. It does not reflect well on the staff or readers of the mag that this suggests the following conversation happened at Real People HQ:

  • ‘The circulation war is getting serious. We’ve got a huge battle ahead at the 69p price point. What are we going to do?’
  • ‘Put more puzzles in?’
  • ‘No, the mag is almost entirely wordsearch-based as it is.’
  • ‘What about upping the nudity count?’
  • ‘Good idea Rodney, but boobs cost money, and I’ve heard the Pick Me Up editor is sexting that woman off Made In Chelsea. Let’s not start a war we can never hope to win.’
  • ‘What about writing some well-researched articles?’

*silence* *10 minutes pass*

  •  ‘Right, now that Hayley’s been fired, why don’t we cut the price by 2p with the money we’ve saved?’
  • ‘Brilliant. We can’t possibly lose. Those bastards at Prick Me Up will never squeeze more than a penny out of their margins.’

Real People is all about gossipy stories. These were once exchanged by middle-aged women over garden walls. Sadly, modern life has stripped those interactions away. But those same women still love a bargain and still yearn for that fix, even if they don’t go to their garden wall to get it because they’re too busy playing online bingo.

real people magazine, nagging

‘She’s a real nagger too Paula. I don’t know how her husband stands her. I told my Barry about it, but he wasn’t listening, as usual.’

What did you get for your 67p? Fab stories, that’s what. The ideal gossip mag story is one you can imagine gleefully telling about that gauche woman four doors down (‘Oh, Mrs Lar-dee-dar over there buys her milk from M&S Paula, it’s a bloody liberty.’). At a minimum, a good story should have your bingo-winged chums going ‘no!’ and ‘never!’ and ‘I always thought there was something odd about that couple, you know, but I don’t like to pry.’

The front cover provides an assortment of teasers that are a classic example of the gossip ragman’s art. Obviously, your common or garden gossip about divorces and HRT is a bit tame (unless it’s about celebrities of course, but that’s a different genre). So, Real People delivers juicier stuff – sex, violence and babies. In many ways, Real People is a reminder that different between the sexes is small; there’s plenty of common ground to be found on boobs, fights and psycho partners. Swap articles on cats for cars and you’ve got a ready-made male equivalent, which presumably is called Feel People.

Anyway, the front cover promises lurid tales of benefit-snatching toy boys, a women popping out kids faster than I can shell pistachios, a crazy husband fire-bombing a house, a man who was nagged out of a coma and a poor woman suffering from enormous breasts. I’m not a regular reader of Real People, but I’m willing to bet that in regard to the latter story, next month will feature a piece on a woman’s redemption from tiny breasts. It’s like the tides.

real people magazine

There are button mushrooms that could submit a successful entry to this competition.

Although the mag’s main stock is in stories, it’s offers a fine line in puzzles too. Real People is to be enjoyed as a break-time read, perhaps with a nice cuppa, and it generously offers no fewer than twelve brainteasers to help you pass the time. Cash prizes are offered for all of these, an offer that looks especially generous when you consider that a) the mag costs less than a quid and b) a typical question is: ‘Which Michael Jackson album is the biggest selling of all time? A) Thriller B) Chiller.’

This question is on a page where the word ‘Thriller’ is mentioned no fewer than seven times.

Features: The stories in Real People are a roller-coaster ride through the human condition. Unfortunately, it’s one of the those roller-coasters that you get at travelling fairs where the safety bars don’t really come down over your shoulders and the carts smell strongly of horse.

A key detail about Real People is that the protagonists are paid for their stories. Up to a grand, according to the front page. The fact that these women were desperate enough for a cheque to give up their tales to the slavering gossip hounds is pretty depressing. Personal traumas laid bare for a few hundred quid so people can tut and snigger over a Nescafe.

real people magazine

For someone with acute body image issues, these are suspiciously well shot photos.

But still, rule one of gossip mags applies to Real People: the actual story is far less exciting than the front cover would have you believe. In the case of the coma-curing nagger, the medical evidence for a link between mithering and treatment of acute disseminated encephalomyelitis remains inconclusive. That woman did have really big boobs though, so I can’t fault the journalism there. 36NNN apparently, which doesn’t sound so much like a cup size as the straining noise the support bra must have made, poor woman.

Adverts: Adverts are pretty thin on the ground in Real People. I’d have bet good money that those zany people at Gala Bingo would be in there – it’s hard to imagine an easier market segment for them to hit – but the four adverts in the mag’s paltry 50 pages were for shampoo, other magazines (about soaps, which I suppose is essentially the same premise as Real People but for Not Real People), rice that possesses a magic slimming effect (possibly because it resembles sick), and a creepy bracelet.

I enjoyed the creepy bracelet very much because it reminded me of the mocking adverts for useless toot that Viz does. The ‘For My Son’ bracelet looked about as appealing as the ‘Life of Christ in Cats’ plate set, right down to their Pay Nothing Now promise. This is naturally followed by mysterious multiple payment installments and ambitious P&P costs. All in all, your proud, God-fearing mother would be shelling out £66.96 for something you could probably pick up at Argos for a fiver.

The bracelet was so good, in fact, that I decided to hasten to the website of Bradford Exchange, the company unabashedly flogging this stuff. They have been selling arse for ‘over 40 years’ apparently, and good for them.

Letters page: There’s not that much call for a dedicated letters page in Real People, as the entire magazine is basically one big letters page.

Real People

Poor kid can’t even answer back, the monsters.

However, a vague effort is made at the start of the magazine, which offers comedy news in brief interspersed with a sprinkling of missives and photos for readers seeking out the 25 quid payday on offer.

Some people have taken their enthusisasm for £25 to the point of exploiting children that aren’t even their own.

Rating: 8/10

Hell is Real People. But at 67p, who’s complaining?

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Toilet Reading: Wedding Cakes

Tagline: The ultimate guide to choosing your wedding cake.

Price: £4.99

Who is this magazine for? You’re getting married – congratulations! Here, take this spade. What you need to do is dig a good-sized hole, say about two feet wide and four feet deep, and put all your money in it. If you can, try and put some other people’s money in it too; family, friends, it doesn’t really matter.

Now douse it all in flammable liquid – petrol is good, but brandy for fancy – and light it, with each of you holding a white candle to the notes until the flames reach a good height. Et voila! You’ve saved yourselves a year or more of organising strife.

Alternatively, you can buy the Wedding Cakes magazine. Because who hasn’t been to a wedding of a close family member or friend and thought, ‘You know, that wedding could have been a touching celebration of their love and a privilege to share with them, but unfortunately, I’ll never, ever forget that their cake was cagwazz*.’

What did you get for your £4.99? Wedding Cakes gets off to a confusing start, with the opening page proudly stating that the mag has been ‘published a month earlier so you can see all the trends for the season ahead.’ A month earlier than what?

massive wedding cake

This is actually a Russian roulette cake. One of the tiers is made of dog shit. But which?

Leaving time-travel to one side, the very first picture gives clear indication of what to expect. This cake has 7 tiers, three bunches of flowers and is tall enough to be a supporting pillar for an especially camp summerhouse. It also looks as appetising as a supporting pillar for an especially camp summerhouse. These are cakes that have gone way beyond trying to appeal to the traditional senses of taste and feel, instead focusing entirely on the look, and, who knows, maybe the sound of their glorious presence. Under no circumstances are these cakes designed to see the inside of your colon.

Despite the tagline, it is important to be aware that Wedding Cakes is not actually a guide to choosing your wedding cake.  It certainly doesn’t answer my pressing cake related enquiries. Is buttercream icing passé? Stacking how many tiers would constitute showing off like a prick? Must you use traditional cake mixture, or are other types of cake acceptable, such as urinal?

No, it is just hundreds of cake pictures. Possibly thousands.

Features: There is some occasional respite from the resplendant waves of cake. In the ‘Get The Look’ section, we find out achieving that ornate, gilded rococo look is simply a matter of slapping on quite a lot of delicious ‘warm brown paste food colour’, edible glue and dust food. Was that a chorus of ‘mmm’s’ I heard out there? I think so.

ornament cake, wedding cake magazine

This one is filled with delicious chunks of porcelain.

Turning this yummy combination into a wedding cake is explained overleaf. This process is expected to happen over a period of four days, which is more time than I’ve spent in some full-time jobs.

The ingredients are split into two sections; edibles (eight items, which include – and I’m quoting directly here – ‘cakes’) and equipment (over 20 items, taking up most of the page and including things like celbuds, foam mat and a ‘ball tool’). The timeline provides another clue as to what these cakes are really for. ‘First half of day 1 – bake cakes. Days 1, 2, 3 and 4 – spend 84 hours turning cakes into furniture.’ Total number of instruction steps – thirty-six. Total number of these steps related to baking edible cake – zero.

real wedding photos

This is what a real wedding looks like. If yours did not look like this, IT WAS NOT REAL.

Elsewhere, we have a ‘real wedding’ story where blushing bride Emily mentions the urns decorating the reception room the same number of times as her husband’s name (he’s called Ernie). There’s also a guide on how to create a ‘wonderful woodland theme’ on your big day. Paraphrasing only slightly, this guide consists of three tips; use berries in your cake, try and get some wood on the table, use a table.

What else? Ah yes, more pictures of cake.

Adverts: Flicking through the mag turns up suspiciously regular mentions of a company called ‘Squires Kitchen’. I’m willing to believe that the premium cake decorating market is fairly small, but Squires does seem to have a finger in every one of the elegant pies on offer.

wedding cake magazine, squires kitchen

I’m on to you, Squires.

There it is on the back cover. Here it is featured in all three of the recipes. And here’s the subject of the ‘meet the designer’ section, giving SK’s flower paste a totally unplanned shout out as the cake decorating item she’d would take to a desert island.

Her opinion is to be taken with a pinch of dust food however, partly because she attempts to explain what a mood board is by saying it’s ‘kind of a real-life Pinterest’. And partly because she would take SK’s flower paste to a desert island.

Letters page:  No letters page I’m afraid. How about some more pictures of cake?

Rating: 5/10

It’s pictures of cake.

If that’s what you’re looking for, there’s plenty to enjoy; I daresay no other magazine boasts more cakey pictures across a back catalogue of 54 issues. But unless you’re a floral paste rococo curl fetishist, this is unlikely to be the food porn for you.

Bowl lickers can bog off.

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* © Hannah Knight

Toilet Reading: Love Crafting

Tagline: There isn’t one. I read Issue 5, so perhaps the Love Crafting team hadn’t got round to writing one yet.

Price: £4.99

Who is this magazine for? The difference between ‘making’ and ‘crafting’ is subtle but important. To make something is to combine a series of materials or ingredients into a useful object. To craft something is exactly the same, except with the omission of the word ‘useful’. This magazine is for people who love the latter.

Love Crafting is pitched at women who feel the shenanigans going on in Spirit and Destiny are too rich for their blood. As the editor Katriel – a nice looking woman who looks like Tamsin Greig might do during an uncomfortable first date – says, ‘if there’s one thing we look forward to in wintertime, it’s choosing a new project to enjoy.’ Patchwork is given a specific shout-out in her opening note because ‘it keeps your knees warm,’ narrowing the mag’s target market down to women who would spend a fiver on a magazine but prefer not to heat their homes.

Pulling those threads together and sprinkling it with anecdotal evidence that craft is allegedly a bit trendy now, it is likely that Love Crafting is being pitched at grannies and student wannabe grannies – which for the rest of this article I’m going to be calling grannabies.

There are more clues in the staff list – another all woman cast list with a male managing director, boo – and the features themselves, which invariably involve the sort of things that crafty grannabies foist on others. Love Crafting is responsible for a lot of awkwardly false thank yous.

What did you get for your £4.99? One irritating thing you get a lot of, which I have to get off my chest right now, is articles describing their efforts as ‘makes’. In this context, a ‘make’ clearly means a pleasantly crafted bit of thing. But when you think about it, pretty much anything is a ‘make’. This computer. A sandwich. A word a 2-year old might use for poo.

Leaving that to one side, what you mostly get for your fiver is basically a recipe book. Instead of listing ingredients and the steps required to turn them into delicious food, the mag lists types of material you can transform in to artfully combined bits of material.

Babushka

Brazen cloth-based hussy.

What kind of combinations you ask? Well, you can make a babushka, which I thought was a Russian word for prostitute but it turns out I’m probably mistaken, a teddy bear, some cushions, some smaller cushions that look like cake but aren’t in fact cake, a quilt, and some ‘stashbusters’, which sounds thrillingly superhero-like but turns out to be floral pencil cases.

Pincushion cake

Chewier than you’d hope.

Helpfully, each of the recipes comes with a handy tip or two. Unfortunately, tip number one reveals that Love Crafting isn’t for a novice, suggesting as it does that I could use ‘felt leftovers’ to make my babushka. The only leftovers I have to hand today are bits of yesterday’s haggis, which is a bugger to French knot.

At the back there are some template cutouts to help the grannabies along with their makes, some puzzles for when the arthritic fingers call a halt to the stitching, and an excellent quiz that I will come to shortly.

Features: Although it is undeniably rather gentle, I wouldn’t want you to think Love Crafting lacks bite and depth. The second make (for tape measure covers) is a fine example of what could be described as metacraft; taking craftiness to another level of uselessness in a powerful evocation of Heidegger’s arguments against metaphilosophy.

That piece also comes with a provocative standfirst: ‘Who says sewing accessories can’t be gorgeous?’

Yeah, who goddamn it? Because if someone is saying that, I will fuck them right up.

Scary teddy

Is there anything scarier than a teddy bear with no eyes?

Those lovely tips fluctuate between the slightly patronizing (a reminder to make sure one’s needles are sharp can only be helpful for those bitterly weeping as they fail execute tight stitches using cooked spaghetti) and the perplexing (‘Fleece is relatively new to the fabric scene, debuting in 1979.’ I am reasonably confident that sheep were using it as far back as the Fifties).

Monster doorstop

This guy will be appearing in the next Saw movie.

The main problem with the recipes was that there was no sense of difficulty level. To me, a fat-fingered orangutan, I’m sure they would all be comfortably beyond my means, even if I was provided with a hundred-length of felt, the world’s sharpest needle and the only alternative distraction of Mrs Brown’s Boys. But there was no indicator to separate the grannies from the grannabies. Would that rose tinted cushion be marked at a ‘Betty’ level of challenge? Or a mere ‘Kirsty’? Either way, the 35-step instruction for rag dolls must surely get a top rating of ‘Ethel’.

My favourite bit was the quiz, which was in the classic ‘Mostly As / Bs / Cs’ mold. Love Crafting invites you consider what might happen if your sewing machine turned into a time machine. Given that scenario in my case, I imagine there would be quite a lot of crime and maybe some inappropriate touching. That wasn’t on offer, especially not with sample questions like: ‘There’s something missing from your outfit. For that finishing touch you add…’

A – A fur stole and a flouncy, stitched flower (Flouncy? How dare you?)

B – A bustle with a top hat with a veil (A thousand times yes!)

C – Purple wedges and a tartan scarf round your waist (Note to self: must remember to polish wedges.)

D – Your Google Cape and Apple solar powered glasses (Never let it be said that Love Crafting isn’t on top of the latest technology.)

It turns out I’m a space-age seamstress. The mag sagely recommends I turn to the teddy bear recipe on page 72 as it’s a timeless classic. The Google Cape recipe must be in the next edition.

Adverts: There are very few adverts in Love Crafting. The back cover has an oddly useless advert listing all the places in Britain where you can buy a Janome sewing machine, possibly belying a lack of confidence it has in readers deploying the power of Google, cape-wearing or otherwise. The inside back cover has an advert that appears to be touting an eBay for ‘makes’.

Craftsuprint

£9.09 is worth quite a lot in poutine.

The only ads inside that magazine itself are for other magazines – which seems a little defeatist – and craftsUprint. Run by ‘Crafty Bob’, CraftsUPrint claims to be the World’s Largest Crafting Megastore. But rather craftily, ‘Crafty Bob’ appears to be supplementing his income with racy games like tombola and bingo on the side. Still, if Linda Robitanille of Ontario, Canada can win £9.09 on there, I might just nip online to stock up on bobbins myself.

Letters page: Love Crafting has no letters page, presumably because the hands that could be writing them are far too busy on their applique.

Rating: 8/10

Love Crafting is a good magazine. It’s full of content that can presumably keep idle but talented hands busy for weeks. It’s a professional job, nicely written and laid out. And there’s a refreshing lack of guffy adverts or reader-generated content – which, let’s be honest, is always substandard, because it’s written by people like you.

If there is a criticism, it’s that Love Crafting doesn’t really cater all that well to the novice, or indeed the malcoordinated orangutan market I represent. But then again, why should it?

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