How big does your suitcase need to be for a two night stay?

Our recent trip across the Pennines was an enjoyable affair; not least because we stayed for two nights in a decent hotel.

A quick slice of net surfing, a seemingly out of date special offer code, and a cheeky telephone conversation with a person on reception and we managed to get a top suite in a good hotel for a basic price. I even wangled a free meal in the restaurant on the evening of our first night.

The weekend, in essence, belonged to Mrs M due to the Strictly Come Dancing tickets given to her by our daughters for Christmas.

This meant I felt committed to doing this her way; shopping for clothes, early morning swimming, and the largest suitcase available.

The fact that we were away for only two nights had no bearing on the number of clothes my bride decided to take. I would repeat the phrase 'only two nights' several times during the next 72 hours.

I was allowed a small corner of the available space but figured that I only needed one pair of trousers and three shirts to make the stay work. It's great being a fella.

I loaded the car with suitcase and laptop foolishly thinking my job was complete. I couldn't have been more wrong.

When I returned from the car my wife had assembled the following items that could not be fitted into the suitcase; make-up bag, hairdryer and straighteners, a six-pack of yoghurts, various toiletries, a handbag, and two extra pillows. (Both of these are for Mrs M - she says she uses them to cover her ears so that she cannot hear me snoring)

In addition to this, and I kid you not, my wife had included seven pairs of shoes (not including those that she was wearing).

I shoehorned the rest of these items into our tightly packed vehicle and we set off towards black-pudding country.

When we arrived at the hotel we signed in without taking our cases to reception; I didn't want them to think that we intended moving in for good.

Having unpacked and freshened up we headed out towards one of the area's biggest shopping centres and prepared for Mrs M to spend some Christmas money.

I got over the disappointment of not eating out my favourite Portuguese restaurant knowing that we had our table booked in the hotel for later that evening.

I took every opportunity of taking a seat having jarred my back lifting the oversized suitcase and wondered at the irony of the fact that the shopping expedition meant that my bride bought enough clothes not to have to wearing any of the items we brought. A fact that seemed completely lost on Mrs M.

A Lack Lustre Audience for a High Quality Strictly Come Dancing

Having just returned from the live tour of Strictly Come Dancing, Mrs M and I are all danced out.

We were only audience members but it is the type of show that requires maximum foot tapping.

The tickets had been a gift from our girls and what an excellent show it was; including some of our favourite stars from the TV series.

Throughout the night we booed Craig, laughed at Bruno, respected head judge Len, and cheered at the return of Arlene. The crowd seemed in one voice in expressing their disapproval at the BBC's decision to axe her from the recent series in favour of someone who had ten minutes of dance experience.

Sequins, lights, live music, dance, and the occasional burst of flames: what a night!

There were a couple of things that caught my attention that I feel are worthy of note.

Firstly, there was no Bruce. I shouldn't be too disappointed because it's not as if he is very funny anymore. But having watched him since the late sixties saying it was 'nice to see you' I wanted to be able to say it back to him in a live setting. The Queen might not like him enough to knight him but I have a soft spot for the Mighty Atom. I can't even ask Jim to Fix it.

Secondly, it was obvious from the reaction of the 7000 strong crowd that people had forgotten how to be an audience.

My wife and I felt almost alone as we applauded and cheered in response to the energy and expertise on show. Yet there were whole groups of people who just sat and watched as if they were at home viewing it on the telly.

I almost expected one of them to press pause on a remote control before going off to put the kettle on.

It was strange given both the price of the tickets and the nature of the show that there wasn't more engagement from them. One had to presume that this was the hardcore Strictly fan; The type of fan that knows every detail of Claudua Winkleman's hair and make-up.

Can it be that, as a nation, we have lost the art of being an audience?

It has suddenly occurred to me that perhaps it is our family that is odd in this respect. We regularly engage with the TV programme; taking time to applaud the best dances and respond to the cruel comments offered by the judges. It therefore seemed easy for us to continue such behaviour for the live show.

As for much of the rest of the audience it wasn't nice to see them; to see them it wasn't nice!

Chocolate in Context

As we all know Christmas has interrupted our normally healthy life style. There is no surer sign that the sugar overdose line has been crossed than when you finally eat the strawberry flavoured item from the chocolate selection, even though you hate the taste.

It's like the ultimate expression of over indulgence. Or so I thought until a few days ago.

We had been to one of our usual supermarkets; we have a few to choose from and I have loyalty cards with all of them. I know that it calls in to question how much fidelity I have but it is just a fact of life.

We were looking at the fruit and vegetable selection trying get excited about things that were not covered in chocolate when Mrs M declared that she was too cold to remain and wandered off to wander down warmer isles.

It was a little cool but given the snow outside the in-store temperature seemed a small price to pay in order to find a good selection of our five a day.

By the time I caught up with my bride I found her peering into the refrigerated section retrieving a couple of our favourite chocolate mousse desserts.

'I thought you were bothered about the cold' I asked

'Yes' replied my bride, 'but the things on offer here are a lot more interesting.

She had a point; it's amazing how context can change your point of view.

We took the mousse desserts home and set down for a chocolaty after dinner treat. After as couple of spoonfuls I looked at my bride and asked if she was enjoying the experience. They just didn't taste as good as I had remembered.

We wondered whether the manufacturers had changed the ingredients during the last few weeks. Then it occurred to me: we usually ate these delicious desserts as a weekend reward after days of eating yoghurts.

Yet recently we had so overdosed on chocolate during the Christmas period that they had no sparkle; nothing that made it stand out.

This, then, became the ultimate sign that we had overdone things during the festivities; even our usual delicacies were appearing bland to our exhausted pallets.

Now we head towards the land of sugar free produce and exercise machines hoping that one day we will fit back into our usual clothes without that pinching feeling.

My personal goal is to get back to the stage where my favourite chocolate mousse once again tastes special and I manage to resist the strawberry flavoured sweet.

Women's Shoes: The Real Cause of the Country Coming to a stand still in the snow

The recent snow has lead me to one conclusion. We don't do bad weather very well. What is the cause of such havoc at the slightest sight of falling white stuff.

I have concluded, from direct experience, that the reason for the above calcification is the state of women's shoes.

I know I might be I danger of creating a caricature but I have good reason for my diagnosis.

A recent shopping trip found me walking in the middle of a couple of female family members whilst trying to hold them upright in the face of mounting pressure.

Why is it, I would wondered, that my shoes offer me assistance in walking on the snow but my wife and daughter's refuse to help.

When we arrived in town we stopped, as we often do, for refreshment; it seems that a 5 mile car journey makes Mrs M feel like she is 'spitting feathers'.

I took the opportunity to look at the soles on the boots worn by my two companions and found that they had no grip available; merely a smooth surface of either plastic or leather.

It was as if the manufacturers had specifically designed them to slip in snowy conditions. It is difficult to imagine that it is cost related; the girls have always paid more for their footwear than I. And yet all of my shoes have a reasonable amount of available grip.

We continued our shopping expedition (an apt word if ever there was one); I couldn't help feeling like I was escorting Todd Carty around the ice rink. Every few steps there would be a high pitch yelp and a strong tug on my arm by one female or the other.

So could it be, as I suspect, that the cause of our recent stand still was women's shoes. If so then we are likely to be doomed ever time there is even the hint of a snow drift. My recent research, done whilst waiting for Mrs M and offspring to return from the changing room, convinced me that functionality has little place in the design of female footwear.

The only hint I could find of anything approaching practicality were a pair of slip on flat slippers that could fold up and fit in a handbag. Apparently they were for the journey to and from an event because, of course, party shoes are far too uncomfortable to travel in.

Whilst I admire the ingenuity of the product on offer I have to conclude that women's shoes are not intended to be functional. If there is to be snow in 2010 then you know what to blame when the whole country grinds to a halt!