Wednesday, 4 December 2013
This is doubly galling since I've just come back from a strenuous game of squash, and had spent a couple of hours down the allotment this week - in the open air (the best medicine we're now being told).
God knows how the average Daily Mail reader would score.
Currently I'm rather pre-occupied with completing the tax returns for my wife's business. It's either that or putting on another load of washing and iron a few sheets and shirts. Alternatively, I could load some pictures of the recent shadow puppet show onto our neighbourhood blog. I will have to put out the rubbish for the dustmen who come tomorrow (at any time of their choosing).
We had choir practise last night for the Street Carols later this month. One of the difficulties of organising anything I find is getting people to regularly turn up. Last night was a case in point with only half the choir there to run through a number of unfamiliar and (I thought) difficult numbers.
Being retired I forget that most people have jobs, young kids, other important calls on their time. No matter how keen they are to help out life gets in the way. Last night it was work and domestics that prevented those people attending.
This year we have a local school choir helping out at our street carols. Around 20 little nippers will be enchanting the neighbourhood with their angelic voices and faces. Fat chance!
We've managed to rustle up a Santa Claus, he's a professional actor and playwright (resting at the moment). A call to arms has got us a Santa suit, and we've bought the Christmas tree which will stand in the middle of the road bedecked, we hope, with lights, if we can find last year's which the missus thinks she put in the loft.
We have loft insulation - about 6 inches of foam and 4 feet of (useful) junk. I'm thinking of buying shares in Big Yellow storage. If most homes are like ours there's a mint to be made in persuading people to de-clutter , emptying their lofts and turning the space into a cinema.
Last year we bought a real tree. It was lovely, except it had no roots. We placed it in a large trug and packed about a bag of coal around the trunk to keep it upright. Worked a treat; except after the Carols the tree in the trug with the lumps of coal stayed on our patio for about 3 months. Initially we kept the Christmas lights on the tree and religiously switched them on at night - they twinkled on and off - lovely.
By about mid February, we got a bit bored with the lights. The tree remained in rude health with no sign of pine needle droop or drop. By mid March, we decided that the contents of a sack of coal (costing £14.50) was of more use on the fire than holding up a superannuated Christmas tree.
Whilst the Council might go that extra mile to take away cast out Xmas trees shortly after Christmas; a large conifer sticking out of the garden waste bin in late March was a bridge too far as far as they were concerned. I swear the rubbish men carry around with them the terms of their contract with the council and the list of banned, prohibited or plain not countenanced items they will not remove . Ex Christmas tree sticking out of the garden waste bin in late March is one such item.
This year, having learnt the lesson, we've purchased an artificial tree - from B & Q. I went on line typed in "artificial Christmas trees" and was offered a cornucopia of alternatives. B&Q had the one I wanted. I ordered it and was able to pick up the item at our local store. Which I did the next day after a very nice lady phoned me to let me know that it was ready to collect, but only for that day.
I don't know about you, but B&Q and exciting, stimulating shopping experiences does not compute. This huge hanger like building, with sullen staff in uniforms that hadn't seen soap and water for an age and equally sullen customers, mainly men with six o'clock shadows and blood shot eyes, was not my store of choice.
It took an age to attract the attention of the one member of staff manning the self service tills. After a military style interrogation - I gave him my order number but that was not sufficient - my tree was released from its cage. The self service experience was different, it taking numerous attempts to get the bloody minded pin machine to recognise and then accept my card - no I didn't have a B&Q Silver Shopper Saver card.
We have our artificial, reusable Christmas tree supplied with its own stand - no need to tie up a sack of coal ( now costing £15.75). We can use it next year....if we can retrieve it from the Tardis that is our loft.
Monday, 18 November 2013
Since I last spoke to you, I've been to a conference in Oxford ( an overnighter..since my time is precious), an exhibition, choir practice, the theatre, a Board meeting and a residents' association get together. Oh, almost forgot, on Saturday I met with residents of another road to discuss street naming and bedecking an alley.
The treat of the week was "Richard II" from the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford on Avon. I wasn't at the bard's home, but saw the whole thing live and close up at King's College, where we have a large screen and an old anatomy lecture theatre (I've mentioned this before haven't I?).
Apparently it is the only Shakespeare play done entirely in verse, yet so well matched was the meaning and verse that it came over as ordinary speech, except quite lovely.
I've been to a number of live transmissions at King's and to be honest they weren't always well attended. Not so last Wednesday. I've have never seen so many young, nubile undergraduates exuding anticipation and expectation. The source of the young gals' fancy was David Tennant. He was magnificent. He has that ability to convince you of the character he's portraying but be himself. Occasionally Doctor Who hoved into view but only when I was distracted. It's a long play, quite difficult to follow if you aren't acquainted with the history, but this production took you on an voyage of discovery - Richard's own. Brilliant.
I'm a pillock of the community. It's a rod I've created for my own back. Need to do something when you're retired - join this and that. There's the local Residents' Association and the various events we organise. Except, I tend to be the one to suggest and the one who does the organising.
At times, I do get rather hacked off. Organising the Halloween Street Party frankly killed me. It was a great success, I'm told. I was too out of it to appreciate the enjoyment of the kids and parents. Now it's the Carols. I have such ideas - except you need others to bring them alive. Anyway here's a link to the stuff we've done over the past year or so.
Last Tuesday we went to the Historic Homes and Houses Association exhibition at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre opposite Westminster Abbey. Only a Government building would have got away with being built there. It's ghastly in its concreteness and total blandness. Ironic therefore that the great stately homes of England should be show cased there.
In fact, for plebs like us it was an up market trade fair. Lots of finials, slate roofs and lead guttering and financial advisers with that reptilian smoothness that betokens danger. From there we sauntered over to the National Gallery, walking down what must be the most locked down street in the world - Whitehall.
Do you remember TV footage of normal people standing outside No 10? Now the great departments of state are ring-fenced with defenses that would quail Pacific Rim's Kaijus.
We did the Monet, Manet, the Gainsborough, Constable and Turner, the Magritte, the Van Gogh and the Van Damme and then we left exhausted. Even the proximity of Oxford Street and John Lewis couldn't entice us. (By the way I'm not the only person who thinks the JL Christmas ad is fabulous, am I?)
The Oxford conference was really a rally. Trusted Trustees of the Citizen's Advice Bureaux were brought together to recharge our batteries. They needed recharging.
Many of us are going through pretty tough times. Loss of income, making staff redundant, having to work like the commercial sector. We trustees are volunteers, we do it because we want to give something back to society (sic). Except good intentions are no longer enough. We need to be focused, professional and prepared to spend much more effort to keep the show on the road. It's comes as one hell of a shock to us and, I believe, the full time HQ.
Friday and Saturday was a way of getting that message drummed into us, a way of showing us that there was a different way and that we needed to be that much more driven. It might sound rather dry and heavy, but as usual, we surprised ourselves in our ability to have fun and laugh at catastrophe.
This Sunday, I dug a few feet on the allotment, moved the Bergamot to prevent it from colonising the whole of the allotment (it's a mint for Christ's sake), and sowed rows of winter peas. Two hours on the allotment and I'm human again.
I think everyone should be forced to work an allotment.
Tuesday, 12 November 2013
Today, this morning, on emptying the tumble dryer (I know it's profligate) I was able to match all my socks in the wash with their partners and re-unite a couple of them with their twins that had been marking time in the sock drawer unattached. I now have only three orphan socks.
The thing is these three are long term un-attached. Something quite deep is going on here. Frankly I suspect the missus of mis-filing them. You see my socks have their own drawer. It's clearly marked sock drawer (for the matching of), but I've caught my beloved poking the odd sock or two in other receptacles.
Once, when I was going through her knick knack drawer, hunting for a wayward pair of pants I came upon a cache of my socks. All higgledy piggledy, red ones next to blue, spotted ones coupled with extra warmth Shetland wool ones. It took a while but I managed to get them into some sort of shape and get them matched and in line.
That was a blissful moment. The last time, years ago, when I had a 100% turn out of matched pairs. Standards have slipped since then and I'm afraid to say it's my own fault.
I will buy black socks. After a few washes they can end up looking like the missus's tights and I suppose that can lead to confusion. Although I have to say it doesn't take me too long to realise I'm trying on a pair of sheer denier rather than a manly Shetland shag, with hand knitted heels and toes. No, I suspect that lurking in the dark recesses of my wife's knicker drawer are beached a few of my orphaned socks.
This got me thinking. If I could solve the problem of the lost sock, I'd make a mint. There must be millions of men like me who despair at ever have a full set.
First I thought of little clips, so you could clip pairs together before you put them into the wash, or little bags for each pair. Except, either the clips would unclip or bagging up would be such an arse that no one would bother. Then I wondered whether a unique dye would be the answer. Each pair would have their own colour code, but again it's the effort required that would be its down fall.
No, radio active tagging that was the answer. Each pair would have a unique radio active signature and with your portable Geiger counter you could track your socks thro' their whole (half) life cycle. I gave this idea up when someone pointed out that millions of men with luminescent feet might put off women during love making.
The radio active idea would deal with the orphan sock syndrome - a quick scan would locate the missing sock (wrapped up in a pair of the missus's M&S's) but it needed something less invasive.
Wi - fi'd socks. Each pair of socks is to be manufactured with two transmitters woven into their texture, with a unique frequency. Using a standard smart phone GPS app, each sock would then be traceable within a couple of hundred yards. Problem solved.
I tried to patent this earlier today, but apparently Apple got there first. It's their next paradigm shift in mobile technology.
Think of it. If you have two of anything - they'll never need be alone again, with a Sockittome app.