Thursday, 18 December 2008
I indicate I didn't get it.
So he repeats
I still haven't got it.
He tries again
Oh, I think he's asking if I'm all ready for Christmas?
So I lie and say "Yes"
"You have problem hearing?" he continues.
I ponder telling "No" but it seems more diplomatic to answer "Sometimes"
Thursday, 11 December 2008
Years ago, they sold "everything". You needed a replacement bulb for a table lamp, an egg poacher, a ball of string - just about anything and you went to Woolies and they'd usually got one. The modern Woolworths is full of rubbish you don't want - except perhaps chocolate.
Fortunately, there's competition - "Wilkinsons". This is a chain of shops that's a bit like Woolies used to be. They have a reasonably complete range of kitchen stuff, garden stuff (seasonal), stationery, DIY car accessories and chocolate.
They even have a replacement cast iron coal fire grate! Ok, I admit - I don't want a fire grate but hey, next time I do need something mundane an ordinary, they're the first place I'll try.
Wilkinson web site - rather ordinary - don't be put off
Saturday, 29 November 2008
"Nice!" I said.
Social convention dictates that I should have asked if she's got a sister but I'm not very good at that sort of thing. He helped me out
"She's got a sister!"
I came straight to the point.
"Does she dance?"
"Yes and she's very keen to get married"
"Only problem is she's still stuck in the Philippines"
"Shame!" I said with rare diplomacy.
Thursday, 20 November 2008
Wednesday, 19 November 2008
Saturday, 15 November 2008
Then I found out the reason. It seems that a large portion of the world's spam was controlled from a server in California. So did the government close it down with a Police raid, lots of flashing lights and SWAT teams?
The two companies who provided Internet access saw what was happening and cut the blighters off.
Nice to see some community action.
Major Source of Online Scams and Spams Knocked Offline
Friday, 31 October 2008
It's disconcerting to fly over a beach and half an hour later to walk on it but its got to be done. Jersey beaches are surprisingly big for a small island - that is, until the tide comes in and then they don't exist at all. I started wondering where thousands of summer visitors moved to twice a day when the sea reclaimed the sand.
I found a possible answer later - there are a lot of pubs. Do good food too. Fortunately, my visit coincided with "Tennerfest" when loads of places offer three courses for ten pounds.
I wondered if I might see some giant Jersey Cabbage but my friend thought the practice of growing them might have died out although she'd cultivated them herself in the past. They did have some giant Echiums although not as big as mine!
It's a modern financial centre yet pound notes are still used. The roads all have French names but they speak English. They are not part of the UK yet they drive their many cars on the correct side of the road. House prices are astronomical and still rising, It does both urban and rural. The national animal is a toad.
Jersey is a "island nation" to a degree that was a shock to me. Nowhere is more than about 9 miles from anywhere else. The sea is always closer. People want to escape but they are drawn back as well.
Finally, a thank you to the lady who saw me standing by the side of the road and mistakenly thought I needed a lift into town. It's good that there are still places where that can happen.
Gloucestershire M5 Airport
Jersey Cabbage and Echiums
Tuesday, 21 October 2008
As the freestyle dancing session started, I looked out for her to ask for a dance but some guy handed her a coat and they both left. Damn!
Sunday, 19 October 2008
This morning, I logged onto Facebook and saw that a friend had joined the cause "Autism Advocacy" I clicked through and spotted their ribbon
Friday, 10 October 2008
I don't think so.
What finally got me moving was seeing a small queue outside a local bank. Maybe it was because the door had got stuck but it was enough.
So I dusted off some dormant accounts and checked their parentage with Wikipedia. Fortunately, some of them come from completely different banking groups. So I've transferred a lump of cash into them.
Then I looked up my main credit card. Fortunately, it comes from yet another group.
Paranoid? Just think about how far an Icelandic credit card goes today.
Tuesday, 23 September 2008
People have been discovering apple varieties for a long time. In some ways it's quite easy because they are fairly promiscuous and different varieties cross with each other. Some of the pips get to be seedlings but few go on to produce wonderful fruit. Worse still, an apple tree grown from seed takes ages to produce - and the plant can get annoyingly large. Most of them don't make it but about 300 years ago, a Dr Ashmead in Gloucester found this variety of apple. Its career was a bit slow to take off but nowadays it's even grown in America.
I tried one from a Farmer's Market stall in Cheltenham and was so impressed, I decided to grow my own.
Wednesday, 17 September 2008
Thursday, 11 September 2008
Thursday, 4 September 2008
Saturday, 30 August 2008
- In February, sow seeds on the surface of moist multipurpose compost in a 5" pot and cover with 1/4 inch more. Or sprinkle vermiculite.
- Put somewhere warm (80F)
- Check for germination daily. Easy and probably less than 2 weeks
- Grow on in a frost free light place (EG, unheated greenhouse)
- Plant out after your last frost date (or earlier under a cloche)
- Choose a sunny position
- Severe frost *next* winter may kill it. A position in front of a huge west-facing wall works well for me
- Dry sandy infertile soil is Ok.
- Protect from slugs and snails for a few weeks
- Can feed it with poultry manure pellets
- May attract munching caterpillars - I kill them
- By Autumn, it should have grown to about 4' tall and 2' across.
- If frost/snow threatens, cover with a fleece jacket
- Sometime before April in the second year, tie it to a 2"x2" stake about 5' high about a foot from the stem.
- Expect to see growth in April
- Grows several inches a day during May and starts flowering. May reach 15'
- Flowers, grows a little more and attracts bees through to end of October.
- I cut mine down in late October because it had fallen over.
Friday, 29 August 2008
Stephen Taberner was there. This eccentric and gentle man leads the awesome Spooky Men’s Chorale. He remembered me from Sidmouth 2007 where he and I climbed a hill to see the sun rise with a couple of girls.
Sometimes, technology is magic. Really magic. There, in an Oxfordshire field, I got the first text from Ruth in Kazakhstan. I know, it's nothing really but 20 years ago, Kazakhstan was a remote and almost unknown part of the Soviet Union. A carrier pigeon from the Moon would have seemed more plausible.
Spooky Men's Chorale
Wednesday, 20 August 2008
Sunday, 17 August 2008
Later, we went to a bar called Revolution Vodka with unbelievably loud music. It was here that Stuart showed me yet another use for the ubiquitous mobile phone. He typed the drinks order into his and showed it to the barman. Neat idea but unfortunately they'd run out of passion fruit purée and so had to resort to the back up system of desperate shouting at each other.
A lot of people were dancing although I could see that quite a few women were good dancers I wasn't sure how receptive they'd be to a bloke with grey hair trying to jive with them. That's when I suggested to Stuart that we two should jive and see if women would insist on splitting us up. He liked the idea in principle but since he's dating Ruth, he declined.
Friday, 15 August 2008
Suddenly, Piglet let all of his twigs fall into the stream. Pooh turned to his friend, astonished and with bewildered questioning eyes.
"I'm fed up with Pooh Sticks", Piglet explained, "Let's go down to the arcade in town and get ourselves tattooed"
Wednesday, 13 August 2008
One day, "R" announced that she proposed to eat soup and then go and look after a car park on the top of a nearby hill. (See link below for why) She even had a tin opener dangerously near a can of soup! Quickly, I pointed out that I had a Sorrel plant by my tent, some potatoes and other ingredients for Sorrel Soup. Of course, it took a little longer to prepare and I had to walk up the hill with a saucepan and cups but friends don't let friends drop their standards.
Another day, another tea shop. This time, the café at the Connaught Gardens in Sidmouth. Their approach to cakes is simply megalithic. This is the lemon ginger cheesecake. Pot of tea shown to give scale.
The camp site liked to keep up with the times. They had an "ASBO" tent which was used for anti-social behaviour like playing music at 3am. I do think the guy with the tenor Sax was taking it a bit far though. Some fiddle players gave up and deployed their soprano saxes in retaliation. I would have called in the UN but no one knew the number.
Oh, I did a lot of dancing too. Perhaps the highlight was in one of the dance venues, the "Anchor Gardens" (actually a pub car park) where I was determined the rain wouldn't stop me. I grabbed a partner, shoved an umbrella in the pointy end of a ballroom hold and we polka'd around the "floor" to great applause.
You too can look after a needy car park!
Worlds best tea shop
The Anchor, Sidmouth
Wednesday, 16 July 2008
All they'd ever used was good wholesome farm manure. That turned out to be the clue. It contained aminopyralid, a powerful selective weedkiller introduced a couple of years ago by Dow AgroSciences.
It's interesting stuff. It doesn't kill grass but it kills a lot of other plants that might be growing alongside. Farmers sprayed it onto pasture, cows and horses ate the grass and produced manure in the usual way. Aminopyralid may not kill grass but it sticks to it, even on the ride through the animal's digestive system.
The legal situation is tricky. The gardener can sue the manure supplier - usually a farmer. However the farmer may never have used aminopyralid. Maybe he bought in hay from some other farmer who did. Dow AgroSciences knew about the potential for this disaster - and warn about it on the aminopyralid label.
It's a classic cock-up. Nobody was evil or perfect.
I think it's more an example of the dangers of a complex structure that only works if everybody gets it dead right. There are lots of structures like this around. Engineers like me can't stand them.
Sunday, 6 July 2008
Later, the band packs their stuff away and the DJ takes over. I watch with interest as one of the musicians makes a bid for the most provocatively dressed dance girls. Uh oh! After waiting for him to do something, she's started to lead the dance. He's still smiling but I think he's lost. Then, when I'm not looking, he's gone. Maybe he read some signs and gave up? Or perhaps his band colleagues dragged him away to drive the van after a hurried exchange of phone numbers.
For those who don't want to go home, there's camping space in next-doors garden and breakfast next morning. A few dogs are wandering around and it feels very relaxed and informal.
Friday, 4 July 2008
There was no messing around with a restaurant, children's play area or anything. The business model was simple - sell as much booze as possible. So seriously was this taken that when Andy one of the regulars died, the landlord told me it was "Cirrhosis of the Liver, Sir" Not in hushed tones but loudly - with a hint of professional pride.
It was successful though - the place was often packed but nothing lasts forever. There was the inevitable falling-out with the brewery. I say "inevitable" because far too many people like the idea of running a pub, which gives the brewery the whip hand.
So the place got "lagerised" - you know the score, the walls are knocked out, fancy cushions on the chairs and a "kitchen" put in with a freezer and a microwave. Oh yes, and there's books - bought by the meter for the new-but-old-looking bookshelves. In the old days, the only book was a sports encyclopaedia kept behind the bar for settling arguments.
Numbers dropped and finally last week the place was dark. A sign announced, "Closed for decoration". Perhaps they're restoring the place to its 1960s glory? They will one day - it's just a matter of time before it becomes fashionable. The chain-smokers won't be back to impart authentic colour to the walls though - I expect someone makes paint for that job.
Tuesday, 1 July 2008
I like the idea of Argentinean Hares Legs though. Exotic but with a just a hint of Python
Sunday, 29 June 2008
"Yes" said Wendy "Staff are still forgetting to switch the illuminated 'Open' sign on and off at the right time."
Bruce rolled his eyes and murmured "Oh no, not again!"
"It's dreadful!" announced Wendy, "think what it's doing to our carbon footprint!"
"And clients hammering on the door when we're closed but the sign suggests we're open" said Bruce, wearily.
"Staff really ought to just do the right thing!" said Wendy.
"What are we going to do about it?" asked Jeff.
"I could fit a time switch and make it automatic." suggested Bruce in a hopeless tone.
"Oh Bruce!" said Wendy, "trust you to propose some complicated technical solution! I'll draw some penguins sitting on an ice floe for the Newsletter to illustrate the Climate Change aspect."
Jeff said he though more was needed, "I'll put up a notice reminding staff to switch on and off at the correct times."
"Jeff", said Bruce gently, "there already is a notice. It's been there for about 15 years"
"Thank you Bruce" said the Jeff tersely, "I'll send out a reminder memo to everyone"
"If you look in the files for January 2002" said Bruce in a helpful tone, "you'll find a copy of the memo we used last time this was a problem"
"That's more like it Bruce" said Wendy, "see, you can be positive when you put your mind to it!"
Bruce forced his face into a smile and waited to see if it had placated Wendy. Although she wasn't very bright in some ways, she could detect opposition at 50 paces.
Just to make sure, he winked at her.
On the minus side, who was I going to dance with? I couldn't see any of the "usual suspects". Loads of unfamiliar faces.
Then I remembered - I knew how to crack this!
I lowered my eyes and started watching the feet.
There was a lot of fast walking going on. Not good. Other feet were dancing but to a different beat. Then I saw her feet. Dancing right on every beat.
Without hesitation, I moved forward….
Friday, 27 June 2008
I'm not so sure and more inclined to ask quite why it's so important to convince us. There are precedents of course - the lead up to the Iraq invasion was similar. Mind you, Mugabe doesn't have any oil. So why bother? Could it be that our lords and masters are just telling it like it is with no hidden agenda?
Trouble is, I'm a bit of a cynic….
Sunday, 22 June 2008
The complete beginners are a bit of a lottery. Some learn incredibly quickly. Others don't get beyond a very basic level even after years. Perhaps the most interesting are those who get the idea of "following" really early. If a woman will follow, there's loads of moves possible even though she doesn't know them.
The women from other dance genres are often great because they know about following although their response to a lead may be coloured by their background. So something totally unexpected may result. I don't worry too much - just watch what she does with interest and pick up at some suitable point. Often her interpretation of the move will "work" well enough. I know some men like to stop and show how to do it "right" but she will pick that up soon enough in the class and if the dance is flowing, why stop?
As for the experienced women, some of them know all the moves but this is less useful than you might think. To over-simplify the problem there are more moves than there are different leads. So the initial lead doesn't reliably telegraph the whole move. What works better is if they expect the man to lead all the way through a move. They make no assumptions about what the complete move is going to turn out to be.
Then there are some moves that simply cannot be led in an unambiguous way. They may be taught in the classes but hardly anyone uses them out on the dance floor without prior agreement.
However, the best dances are when you don't have to think about any of this. When I dance with "Annie" she instinctively knows about a dozen different moves that will fit any particular lead. And will very subtly steal the lead so you hardly notice. Doubtless, she's dangerously effective in Real Life!
Or "Karen" who some men might describe as being built for comfort rather than speed. They're so wrong about the speed! There's nothing like a really fast number such as "Rock Around the Clock" to show how she can move!
And sometimes you share something nearer the edge. I'm thinking now of "Cathy", a beautiful woman who definitely wants firm handling. I've never tried to find her limits but the more roughly you dance with her, the happier she is. As she seeks me out and asks for dances I think I'm reading it right.
Thursday, 19 June 2008
South Africa has given us some amazing flowers for the garden. Like this chap, the Livingston Daisy. It's a very risky plant though, like a lot of the "daisies" from the same country. Are they Poisonous? Or Invasive? Neither of those. Give it a dull day and it closes up and looks rubbish. That's a risk? Well, it's not like the death and destruction risks we get threatened with by the media or Health and Safety. So my usage of "risk" is unusual, perhaps a little dated - but not wrong.
Links to similar plants
Dianthus Deltoides (from Europe)
Friday, 13 June 2008
I'm being a little coy about its name because it's shared with a lowly imposter from the beetroot family - Beta Vulgaris if you please otherwise known as "Sea Kale Beet". No, I'm talking about Crambe Maritima or "Sea Kale" to its friends.
A fairly tough character, it still survives wild on some British beaches but the Victorians did rather molly-coddle it so it got a reputation for being "difficult". Let's look at a calendar and consider the reality:
December: Up end a black plastic bucket where the plant was last summer. Put a brick on top to hold it down.
April-May: Lift up the bucket, snap off the white Sea Kale shoots, Replace bucket. Repeat twice
June: Find a summer use for the bucket and brick.
You'll notice that there's no annual ritual of sowing seed. It's a perennial that you start off by planting bits of root known in the trade as "thongs" (I kid you not). Give it a couple of Springs without the bucket and you'll get lovely honey scented flowers. Then put it to work.
It tastes of… well, Sea Kale! It's slightly cabbage-like but much nicer. Use it raw in salads or steam it. Cheese-based sauces are good but don't cook the Sea Kale for more than 10 minutes - it goes tough and bitter.
If you get bored with the bucket routine, just let the plant grow. It's fairly good looking. Or dig up the roots. You can eat them too.
Wednesday, 11 June 2008
Ironically, the reason we were having the conversation in the first place was because a web-based system we were working with had slowed to a crawl. Web applications can be really good but most of them crash or go slow from time to time.
Then I remembered another time when I used a computer system that was slower than a slug on valium. That was in 1976 and it was slow for exactly the same reason - too many users on a remote machine.
It's those experiences that made the "Personal Computer" such an easy sell in the 1980s. The machine on your desk was all yours and because you were not sharing it with anyone else, it really motored.
Even when the Internet started to get seriously useful in the mid-90s most of the processing got done on your desktop machine. Things like WWW and Email were add-ons and if they were slow, they were still a heck a lot faster than snail mail and sending off for catalogues.
As the new millennium approached, there was a gradual shift off of desktops to web-based systems with central computers. Initially, it went well because most of the systems were not overloaded and there were really useful tools that hadn't been possible before.
In the 2000s, broadband and other high speed communications technologies encouraged the idea that just about everything should be web-based. Which led to Bill and I having time to for our talk.
So what's the answer? One part is to focus hard on what you are trying to achieve and give less attention to the currently fashionable technology. Another part is to recognise that technology doesn't change as much as you and the salesmen think. And we have that hardy perennial idea that "if you don’t understand history, you’re going to be compelled to repeat it"
Don't take these ideas too seriously and change anything though. It's nice to have time to chat with Bill.
Sunday, 8 June 2008
Anyway, one of the occasions Pete used "his" phrase was during the little difficulty encountered the year he decided there ought to be a departmental float for the Rag Week procession. These days, the float design might be described approvingly as an "installation" - but it wasn't at the time. Such is the lot of an artist.
The core of the installation was a tower about 6' high made out of large tins. At the base were two footballs in hessian sacks. The top was a slotted hemispherical drain cover he nicked from somewhere. He sprayed the whole thing pink, let the paint dry and put it on a bed of dark horsehair scavenged from an old mattress. Finally, he bought an aerosol of shaving foam, ready for the "big" day.
As this took shape under the bridge that led to the library block, our interest in accompanying him on the float waned totally. Everyone claimed prior engagements, which in my case was true so I missed out on seeing the installation meet its grateful public.
Pete survived though and was there at the entrance to our final exam. He'd bought a gross of chocolate mice and was handing them out.
Saturday, 7 June 2008
Right, this thing glories under the name Kohl Rabi. It's a member of the cabbage family. The spherical bit is known as a "globe" in the trade and is actually a modified stem. The seed packet for this particular variety "Superschmelz" claims it can get to 10Kg without being woody. Of course I had to grow it. I harvested the one in the picture when it reached about twice the size, took it to a festival and cooked it for a group of friends using a large pressure cooker. Just before it went in the pot, a woman came by and said she'd never seen one that size before. I thanked her.
Another cabbage giant is "Jersey Kale". The record height is 18 feet and on Jersey they make them into walking sticks, Mine only got to 7 feet. Still a lot of cabbage though. The young leaves and flower buds were nice steamed. When it finally "bolted" and put on masses of bright yellow flowers, a brown haze of tiny insects surrounded it for weeks.
I haven't grown an Incense Cedar (Calocedrus decurrens) but I'd like to. It's a very tall, very slim "pine". You can see them in any good tree museum. Instead, I've grown something similar in spirit if not in biology - a giant Echium. In a little over a year, it goes from seed to over 13 feet tall. It's frighteningly easy to grow although it doesn't like hard frosts. I first saw Echium Pininana in the Connaught Garden in Sidmouth and just had to have a go. So for a couple of years, I've gown Echium Pininana x Wildpretii hybrid each season. They delight the local bees and people alike.
Kohl Rabi "Superschmelz" seeds
Jersey Kale seeds
Echium Pininana x Wildpretii hybrid seeds
Thursday, 5 June 2008
I'm not sure of their complete list of hobbies but encouraging men to wear skimpy clothing ("skimps") is certainly near the top of the list. No festival would be complete without their cheery cry of "Where are your skimps, Steve?"
Despite the interest in men, they nearly always dance together. The only way I've got a turn on the floor with them is where the dance actually requires a man and two "ladies". Occasionally, I subvert a more conventional dance to accommodate a threesome.
One day they were queued up behind me at a venue with a numbers limit. The staff were enforcing one out - one in. Someone came out and the staff beckoned me to come in.
Immediately, H & C kicked up a dreadful fuss.
"That's our Dad, you can't split us up!"
I slipped into the heavy parent role.
"Now girls, stop that shouting and wait quietly until the nice man says you can come in!"
"Ok Dad! Sorry Dad!"
The guy on the door bought it, "Oh, go on then!" he said and waved all three of us through.
Tuesday, 3 June 2008
The light from the match fell on a photocell and the resultant current triggered a thyristor that latched in the on state completing the circuit from battery to bulb. So I made one housed in a toilet roll centre with woodworking glue dripped down the side to look like wax.
Quite cool but I wasn't satisfied. A real candle would have the "blowing out" function so I added a slip of aluminium foil that shorted out the thyristor with the wind in the right direction. This was really good because when you blew the candle out, it momentarily shone brighter - just like old-fashioned wax and wick technology. I did wonder about adding a smoke generator. Not difficult - I already knew that if you broke the glass on a bulb and gave it power there was a lot of smoke but it only lasted about 5 seconds.
When I showed the "candle" to my friends and family, I made an interesting discovery. If you apply a lighted match to something that isn't a real candle or a cigarette, a lot of people get rattled and dive for cover. Very odd!
Apprentice Geek Ruth talks about BCD clocks
An electronic candle that is said to flicker realistically
Sunday, 1 June 2008
So, you'd expect her to be a elder stateswoman of the women's movement and feature in the "History" section of appropriate websites. You'd be wrong. Bizarrely, counter-intuitively even, she's a heroine of the men's movement.
So what went "wrong"?
In her time working in refuges, Erin came across many violent men (which you'd expect) but also many violent women (which surprised her). Women who attacked other women in the refuge. So she started to challenge the "nasty men hitting nice women" image. Worse still she wrote another book about it "Prone to Violence" which suggested that some women are not only violent, they seek out violent men.
So that's why you don't hear much about Erin these days - especially from the women's movement.
Text of Prone to Violence
Wikipedia article about Erin
How feminists tried to destroy the family Erin in the Daily Mail
Wednesday, 28 May 2008
His speciality is providing PA at outdoor events and he does it supremely well.
Disconcertingly the uses equipment from the 1960s. Adrian's idea of a foldback speaker is a battered leatherette boxed affair propped up at the required angle with a cable drum. If you're an ancient geek like me, the picture of his rig at Chippenham Folk Festival 2008 will bring back fond memories.
I have a degree in Electronics Engineering and no, I don't know how he makes it sound so good.
Of course, most bands expect modern equipment that looks like it cost thousands of pounds and event promoters rise to the challenge of persuading the musicians that this isn't going to be the gig from Hell.
Even people who know him well such as Andrew Sharpe of "Steamchicken" say "The trick is forcing yourself to trust him whilst he assembles what seems like the contents of the metal waste skip at the local council dump"
Andrew is a Solicitor in real life. Sometimes, you can't tell that from the way he talks.
Thursday, 22 May 2008
"What are you so bloody cheerful about?"
"You remember I had that problem with a gorgeous woman who approached me in a club?"
"The one who ended up bending your ear rather than any other bit of your anatomy?"
"Yes, but you will be glad to know I have taken your valuable feedback on board, cleaned up my act and even 'thought outside the box'!"
"Good. Go on!"
"Last night I had a date with Jane - one of Wendy's friends"
"Yeah, think I met her once. Pretty girl"
"When I picked her up, she seemed a bit tearful and asked if she remembered right that I worked at the Counseling Centre?"
"Nah, it was Ok! I told her a joke, tickled her and, well, lets say that by the end of the evening she was very happy indeed"
Then a worrying thought crossed Jeff's mind.
"You weren't thinking of using your new, err, technique here at work with clients, were you?"
"Oh yes" said Damien airily, "write it up, run a training course..."
"Good, that's the spirit!" said Jeff and they both laughed.
Wednesday, 21 May 2008
As I stood at the checkout I could hear someone less wise doing battle with the robot:
Machine: "Insert Cash or touch payment card!!!!!"
Customer: [Fumbles in pocket]
Machine: "Insert Cash or touch payment card!!!!!"
Customer: Give me time!
Machine: "Insert Cash or touch payment card!!!!!"
Customer: [to Steve] She's a very impatient woman!
Machine: "Insert Cash or touch payment card!!!!!"
Another time, I saw a member of staff going down a long queue for an ordinary checkout pointing out the new self-service machines. Everyone just pretended not to hear. Sometimes I'm proud to be British.
Tuesday, 20 May 2008
And then, a few days ago, I "confessed" my disability to a friend who loves opera and is about to embark on a degree in music. She told me that she can't understand a lot of the words either! So it's the opera singers putting high notes above intelligibility! Just when I thought I was getting over my "Emperor's New Clothes Syndrome"
Still, I'm clearer now.
And I think I owe my friend a drink.
Sunday, 18 May 2008
A German boy was staying with us that August. Initially, his main interests seemed to be: getting his hair right, girls and how everything in Germany was much better.
Suddenly he developed a fascination with the TV News. Anxiously he watched footage of Warsaw Pact troops marching into Czechoslovakia to put an end to the "Prague Spring".
Well, our country wasn't next to Czechoslovakia and no one had seriously invaded England for over 900 years so I found understanding his fear of invasion quite difficult.
Perhaps that's why we're so keen on "liberating" other people's countries - and perpetually surprised at their ingratitude.
Saturday, 17 May 2008
Steve Day showed us a schottische the other night. Said he'd got it from someone called Anne in Nottingham. Here's how it goes:
Usual ballroom hold
Described from the man's point of view
2 sliding steps left
1 sliding step right
3 sliding steps left
1 sliding step right
1 sliding step left
8 steps couple rotating (like the normal schottische 4)
Does it work?
In some ways it does. Any normal schottische (tune) will do. However, my feeling is that it could do with its own tune. Most schottische tunes are 16 bars long and the B part sounds different from the A part. So an ideal tune for this schottische would be 32 bars with a distinctive second half. The first half, to my mind, should be written to "tell" the dancers about the unusual and uneven steps.
In a perfect world, dancers would recognise the special tune, the men would lead it and their partners would follow - aided by the tune.
Steve Day was less sure about a special tune. He spoke of the tension of doing a different dance to familiar tunes.
Me? I rely on the music talking directly to my feet.
Could it be that my charisma is just in better shape than it used to be? Nice idea but perhaps not.
Maybe there's a deep psycho-sexual thing. Older people have enough sexual experience one way or another to be totally blasé about possible connotations of a kiss. This is quite a good explanation (especially since it grosses out younger readers who would prefer to believe that old people know nothing about sex - still less have it.)
No, it's easier than that.
As you grow older, you and your friends are more likely to have acquired bad backs.
A kiss is just safer than a hug.
Thursday, 15 May 2008
He was the warden of a Youth Hostel in the Forest of Dean, one of the isolated and beautiful corners of Gloucestershire. I'd joined a club that went off on cycling weekends, stayed at hostels and drank a fair bit.
So one December, I met Rick. Except I didn't at first because on the desk in the hostel was a note: "Warden in pub across the road". Didn't leave us much alternative! This was near 40 years ago, the pub had a piano, a pianist and people were singing. I'm not sure that lager had even been invented but brown ale I do remember. No one would have understood the expression "binge drinking"
We went over to see Rick quite often after that. Learned to cook sausages in the oven, sat on seats that had started life in busses long before recycling became fashionable. Sometimes we slept in the dormitory that had once been the village theatre. We helped Rick paint the place.
I remember the time Rick invited us into his private room and there on the wall were joined up maps covering all of Wales. That perhaps is his most tangible legacy to me because when I got my own place, I spent all one Easter weekend with wallpaper paste and Ordnance Survey maps. The results are by my side as I type this, a map with corners in Northampton, Reading, the Elan Valley and the fringes of Swansea.
Rick was a quiet man who was on his own a lot but sometimes there for a lot of people.
Tuesday, 13 May 2008
He never realised that he was discriminating against left-handed staff by putting the mouse on the right hand side of the keyboard. Or by using words like "right" when he meant "correct" but Bruce had unmasked his criminal lack of diversity. At least he'd never used "cack-handed" or described anyone as "sinister". His lawyer had done his best, even pointing out to the court that Bruce was ambidextrous.
Tat-tat-tat-tat! It was getting too close. He'd better make a run for it. He only got a few yards before something hit him and he felt himself falling. He reached out to save himself and found he was holding a phone. He rubbed his eyes and saw vaguely familiar notices. The phone was ringing. Shaking, he answered it, "Counselling Centre, can you help me?"
Monday, 12 May 2008
So, if I went to church more often, the pests would change colour? Or maybe even eat some plant I didn't have?
Then the Lily Beetles arrived on my lilies! These things are bright red and sit on lily leaves, which are green. Is that "Intelligent Design" of a pest? I don't think so! I sent a "did u do it?" text to Charlie Darwin and got back a flat denial. Perhaps they drifted in from some planet outside Charlie's remit? There's an alien enthusiast in the next street. I'll ask him - might know something.
Anyway, zapped the buggers.
Friday, 9 May 2008
Female: Paul is worried he can't see your Router?
Steve: That's probably because it's still in its box.
Female: Yes that would explain it.
Steve: Yeah, the cardboard is pretty thick.
She fell silent for just the right amount of time before starting to laugh.
Thursday, 8 May 2008
A lady dressed in a white coat came into the cubicle and introduced hersef, "Hello, I'm Dr Findlay!" She gave me a few moments silence to make smart-Alec comments about her casebook but due to a rare attack of discretion, I failed to exploit the opportunity. Instead, I saw that her badge identified her as "Dr Sarah Findlay" and resolved to call her Sarah thereafter.
Like every other medical professional I've met before or since, she wanted to know how much I drank each week. "I'm awfully sorry" I answered, "I know I'm supposed to do 28 units but I struggle to get over 14". I was rewarded with a glimmer of a smile. Then I let slip my real addiction. "Look," I said, "there's this great dance on Saturday. Will I be able to go?" She shook her head. "Ok" I said getting desperate, Saturday week?" That got me a proper smile. "You'll know" she assured me.
They told me not to eat before the operation so when I awoke from the anaesthetic it was probably because of the sound and smell of the lunch trolley arriving. That or my stomach rumbling. So I grabbed my menu card and waved it enthusiastically. At that, a small nurse ran across the ward "No! No! No! You might get sick! No food for him!" I told her I was starving but it did no good. I dozed for a bit before being woken up by the trolley coming back. Cautiously, I peered around. No sign of the dratted nurse! Maybe I could score pudding, a bread roll, leftovers, anything??? Then I realised it wasn't the same trolley. This one had a banner across the top "Churches Together" and they were selling newspapers and bibles. Just to show how ecumenical they could be if they really tried, they catered for followers of the god Mars! Furtively, I waved a fiver and pointed at the chocolate…
Oh, I did get to the dance Saturday week. Sent Sarah a thank you card in triumph!
Wednesday, 7 May 2008
But then I realised it was nothing new. Dan, the dog I grew up with was into hydrotherapy in a big way. He especially liked puddles with a crust of ice on top. He jumped in and wallowed. Didn't need a van or a fancy logo. Black, very hairy and always panting, he was worried about Global Warming way before anybody else.
Smart hound, he lasted 17 good years. In later life, went a bit grey, lost his sight and needed a guide person. A good mate.
Tuesday, 6 May 2008
Anyway, I was walking home when an iron voice barked "Oi! You on the bike, you're going the wrong way!" I looked, and sure enough, there was a cyclist riding against the traffic in one way street. He lifted a lazy arm, waved two fingers in a nonchalant manner at the camera and rode on.
Now, had the camera operator been backed up by Orwell's Thought Police, all would have been well. A helicopter would have been despatched to take the miscreant to Room 101. In the real world, the operator may have been offered feedback from his line manager. Perhaps asked to consider the use of more respectful language to encourage compliance with the law?
Or maybe, just maybe, he and his boss had a subversive chat about the limitations of technology? I don't think so though. That would be
Monday, 5 May 2008
This livened up our retail experience! You'd be pondering the chilled fish and suddenly become aware of a 'presence' just on the edge of your vision. If you turned quickly enough, you'd spot Derek's beady eye peering round the edge of some shelves hoping to catch some misdemeanour.
Or you'd find him pressed against the display of tinned goods trying to look inconspicuous but hampered by the poor camouflage of his uniform.
Best of all were the occasions when he burst out of Tesco and sprinted down the High Street after an alleged offender scattering shoppers like skittles. I never saw him actually catch anyone but he did give it his best shot.
The poor deluded boy didn't seem to worry about the extra paperwork that would ensue if he did lay hands on anyone. Nor, did it occur to him that the local Police might less than overjoyed at the prospect of getting the van out to collect one miserable shoplifter. After all, this was before the days when fixed penalty tickets were the norm for such sins.
Then one day he was gone. Perhaps he'd been made redundant by a new CCTV system? Maybe the Police who he fawned on had pitied him and taken him on?
Anyway, it was about that time Tesco got a "Wine Advisor". An ordinary looking member of staff with a badge so you know what his job is. And he stands all day at the end of the wines and spirits aisle watching out for customers to assist. Now and again, he really can be seen helping people choose their booze.
I wonder if he's Derek's replacement?
Saturday, 3 May 2008
Anyway, Sally mentioned that she'd given up on last night's dance because she got no partners. This surprised me - she's not in the first flush of youth but she looks good enough to get dancing offers and more! So I said I'd look out for her that night and give her a dance.
That evening, it was firmly in my mind that I needed to find Sally and dance with her - but it wasn't happening. So I did a proper search. The venue was a large sports hall and as well as dancing space, there was a huge grandstand affair. That's where I found Sally. She was half way up and sat right in the middle - as far away from the gangways as it was possible to get. So I went up the steps, climbed over 15 people and asked Sally for a dance. She agreed and stood up. "Wait a minute", I said, "let's get your coat and bag, you are not coming back here!"
So we deposited her stuff on one of the benches near the front and had a dance. Afterwards, she had quite a few dances with other men. A nice, neat bit of problem solving in my book.
I never saw her again.
Thursday, 1 May 2008
In reality she uses a lot of smoke and mirrors to create an illusion of the night sky - even though it's before the kiddies bed time. Neat and very responsible.
I've got an idea. Turn the whole thing upside down. Well not the planetarium itself you understand, that would be, err, challenging.
No, instead of projecting the night sky during the daytime, wait for a dull winter day and put up a beautiful sunny summer sky! Add some sand and seagull noises and you'd get queues round the block! You'd have to heat it of course but I bet the carbon footprint will be less than the customers flying off to The Gambia.
Might even qualify for a grant ;-)
Wednesday, 30 April 2008
Frank, the chief mechanic used to greet me with "Wotcha Mate" and if a sphere (of which my Citroen had five) was f*cked, he'd say "It's f*cked!"
Then it started to change. Frank left and the junior mechanic started greeting me with "Can I help you Sir?". The bugger had obviously been on a course!
And the hourly rate was higher.
But still their main source of replacement parts was various heaps around the workshop.
It got tidy
And the hourly rate was higher.
They expanded and moved
Now they have a reception area with a tropical fish tank. Real fish too although they don't look it.
And the hourly rate is higher.
"Hi Damien!" said Jeff brightly, "you look hungover - Wendy's bash was a 'success' then?"
"Sort of" said Damien a little quietly, "Wendy, Bruce and I ended up at that new club by the station""
"I've heard it's wild?"
"It is - but something rather confusing happened."
"This gorgeous woman was there."
"They do tend to gather in clubs, I believe," said Jeff brightly.
"Absolutely stunning - way out of my league."
"Then Bruce pointed out that the woman kept looking at me and told me I'd 'pulled'."
"Well, I didn't believe him at first but after a bit I decided to go and try my luck."
"I introduced myself and suggested we go outside where it would be quieter."
"Go on" said Jeff starting to wonder where all this was going.
"She grabbed my hand and almost dragged me out the door!"
"When we got outside, she looked deep into my eyes …. and told me her tragic life story."
Jeff closed his eyes briefly. "Oh! And of course, you stood there and listened?"
"And you didn't get to take her home and shag her brains out?"
"I think you've got the makings of a great counselor, Damien" said Jeff kindly, "but sometimes you need to switch it off"
Tuesday, 29 April 2008
My friends are in competition to be more nutty than me. Sometimes they succeed.
Just tonight, I mentioned to a friend that I don't have a TV.
She immediately suggested I get a microwave as a substitute - cheaper too.
So I said I'd heard that some microwaves had turntables - so I could get moving pictures just like on a real TV.
She pointed out that eventually, a microwave goes DING and stops.
So that got me wondering if there were TV programmes on some obscure network that made the TV look like it was a microwave cooking food? And did the programmes finish with a DING and the light going out?
That's when she had the temerity to suggest I was mad
Me: 1 Friends: 0