Monday, 30 April 2012

W is for...


When I was on my gap year, I taught at a preschool group in a township. There was a lot of showing pictures and the children all chanting together "This is a...." One of the things for the letter W was a picture of a "watermyelon."

There was also the letter I, for which the picture was of an "Eendian". Actually, it was a picture of a girl in a beige dress with tassles and a headdress, who was quite clearly an American Indian, but who was I to nitpick.

It was months before I realised what the teacher meant when she taught the children about "chicken tights." (Thighs.)

They had some interesting songs too, which I'm sure were made up on the spot. Each one has the same tune.

Building up a temple,
Building up a temple,
Building up a temple for the Lord,
Boys, come and help us!
Girls, come and help us!
Building up a temple for the Lord.

Another one:

Walking to Jesus,
Walking to Jesus,
Walking to Jesus every day,
With my bible in my hand,
Bare feet in the sand,
Walking to Jesus every day.

This next one ended up with me in a bit of a surreal situation:

Telephone to Jesus
Telephone to Jesus
Telephone to Jesus every day.....
(hands in pretend telephone shape next to ear)
Telephone to Jesus,
Telephone to Jesus,
Telephone to Jesus every day.

One day, I'd only been there a week or so, the teacher said to me, "Teacher Laura, I think Jesus is calling you on the phone!" It took me by surprise and I didn't have time to think about whether I was especially comfortable with the idea so I whipped out my mobile phone in front of about ninety amazed children and said something along the lines of "O hello Jesus! Hi! How are you? That's nice. So you've got a message for the children? O that's good. What would you like me to tell them? To be nicely behaved and to eat up all their dinner? And to listen at school and do lots of learning? Ok Jesus, I'll tell them you called and I'll tell them you love them lots. Ok. Bye bye!"

And that's still probably the wierdest pretend phone call I've ever had.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

V is for...



This was apparently the thing to say while my friend was growing up, to protect you from getting 'got'. For example, when you're playing It or Tag and someone runs close by to 'get' you, you just say 'Vaynites!' and they can't get you. Genius.

You can also say 'Injections!' and it has the same effect, so I'm told. It often gets shortened so saying 'Jections!' also guarantees you immunity.

I remember saying 'Bagzee' when I was younger, to get extra immunity from stuff. Like if you're picking who's going to be It, you could say 'Bagzee not It!' and that would be fine. You were immune then, cause you'd said the sacred word, Bagzee.

My brother and I made up our own word, which was a slight variation on Bagzee. We said Begznee. For some reason, I remember really clearly being on holiday somewhere, and we were sharing a bunk bed and there was a little sink in the room and my brother was saying everything with Begznee before it and I was a mess, I couldn't stop laughing! He said "You take take your Begznee toothbrush and you put the Begznee tap on...." It was the funniest thing I had ever heard anyone say in my entire life!

Wouldn't it be good if you could still get immunity from things as an adult by saying the immunity word?

"Laura, I did the dinner, do you mind washing up?"
"VAYNITES! Vaynites not doing the dishes! Yesssss! I said vaynites! In YOUR face! Don't have to do them! Woooooo! I'm off to watch TV, enjoy doing the dishes!"

Saturday, 28 April 2012

U is for....


I slept too long last night so am a bit lethargic. It's raining outside. I forgot to bring the lovely swimsuit I bought especially for my holiday. And I haven't baked in days. My brain is feeling a bit lazy on the creativity front. Let me try a few different U things and see if anything flows.

Under = my brother told me a joke when I was younger that went 'What do you get if you go under a cow? A pat on the back.' I knew it must be funny because my big brother had said it and he was way cool. So I told it too. And laughed loads. But I didn't get it at all.

Umbrella - I've never owned one for more than a few days. Every public transport lost property department in England must have one of my umbrellas.

Ukraine - when I was about 19, I watched a Chinese film called House of Flying Daggers. I loved it. The scenery looked beautiful. There was one bit where they're running through a bamboo forest which looked amazing. I booked myself onto a group trip to China to trek the Great Wall and couldn't wait to run through a bamboo forest myself. A week or so before leaving for China I was reading a film review of House of Flying Daggers and it said that it was actually filmed in the Ukraine.....

Upside-down cake - I saw someone making one last night on Come Dine With Me. I've never made one. Maybe I will.

University - despite wanting to get exams done and out of the way, I do really enjoy the process of learning and being in education. I'm thinking of taking up a short course as soon as my law degree is finished, my second degree by the way. You can never have too many degrees, that's what I think! What I'm going to actually do with them is a different question! For the moment I'm just going to gather them, like books on a shelf, and have a little look at them every so often.

Friday, 27 April 2012

T is for...


The Big Shop that you do when you first arrive on holiday. You know the one, and you arrive home with an unnamed slab of white fish which might be cod, or it could be a fish you don't really get at home. And you get teabags that end up being a kind of mystery coffee-bag thing that you don't really like but drink anyway.

You pick up all the different milk, wondering if skimmed, semi skimmed and whole are the same colours here or whether its just the different brands. You read the ingredients, you look at the nutritional value, trying to get a clue. And end up buying soya by accident anyway.

Is that green leafy stuff spinach? It doesn't look exactly like spinach but it looks more like it than anything else you can see.

Why do their packs of bacon only have three pieces in them? That's bizarre. And is this chicken? Does frango mean chicken?

Yesterday I went to a chicken fast food place as we were running out of options. The other choices were Burger King, a place called Le Croissant and McDonald's. My eyes are bad so I had to wait to get right up to the till before I could see the menu. So I ordered two seconds after seeing it, in a panic. In bad Portuguese (I thought) I asked for some chicken strips and a few legs. Didn't need any extras, there were plenty of other bits the others had got to share. Before I knew it I had two massive trays full of chips and fried chicken in breadcrumbs and a bottle of water. And two sets of plastic cutlery. I'd ordered two MASSIVE chicken and chips meals!

How that happened I still don't know! I'm off to the shop in a minute actually, for some teabags that are tea and not some mystery substance. Wish me luck!

Thursday, 26 April 2012

S is for...


I had a real thing against those summer dresses you had to wear for school. You know, the blue and white checked ones. You could get yellow and white, pink and white, green and white.... Loads. And I didn't like any of them.

I think one had been bought for me, a blue and white one, and I hadn't worn it yet. Obviously, my parents were annoyed that wouldn't wear it and one evening my mum was saying that I had to wear it the next day to school.

I objected but she wasn't budging. So the next morning I devised a plan. I agreed to wear the dress and put it on. I hated it.  I was only about 9 years old, I don't know what the problem was. Anyway, I put the dress on.

In a little bag, I put my favourite white polo shirt and navy blue skirt, the winter uniform that I preferred. When everyone was busy doing other things I went into the back room, opened the window and dropped the bag into the back garden.

When it was time to leave, I pretended to be fine about having to wear the summer dress and left the house, closing the front door behind me. Then I quickly went around to the back garden, got my tshirt and skirt from my bag and changed out of my hated summer dress.

As I left the garden to walk around the house again and off to school, my Mum walked toward me! She'd looked out of the front window and couldn't see me so figured something was going on. Shocked at being caught, I ran around her and sped off down the road to school and spent the day in fear of the repurcussions. I had planned to change back into the summer dress at the end of school and arrive home in it, keeping up the pretence. I don't think I bothered after being caught.

To conclude, I don't remember being asked to wear the summer dress ever again.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

R is for....


Another guest post again today.

What connects ramblers and elves? Daft question? Good question? Quidnunc? (see K is for Knowledge if you don’t know what it means). Some investigation clearly necessary because there is more to this than meets the eye. You may have to bear with me for a while in order to understand, a possibly mystifying, connection. Ok, so let’s start with two well-known definitions from my trusty Chambers Dictionary:

1. A rambler is “a person who goes walking in the country for pleasure” or it could be “someone who wanders or is disconnected in their speech”.

2. An elf is, “in folklore, a supernatural being, generally of a diminutive human form, a tiny fairy with a tendency to play tricks.” Do you believe elves actually exist? Hmmm….

You’ve probably seen someone, in the first category, at some time or another: cagoule, rucksack on back, map in hand, maybe compass too. One thing is certain, they’re not just wandering about with no idea of what they want to do. They have a certain amount of time, a projected distance to travel, food & drink, emergency stuff (whistle & rain gear), and a very clear aim: to reach a certain point (or summit) and return safely. It is that final condition (‘safely’) which is where we will find our sought after connection.

How many of you have heard of the person with the double-barrelled surname, Anne Saif-Tee? Not sure I see any hands going up! Ok, what if I tell you she is an elf and a very important elf, would that help? No? Surely you’ve heard of some of the procedures she’s introduced in many workplaces around the world – they’re called the “Elf Anne Saif-Tee Standards”. Got it? They help people to be protected against potential dangers by specifying how a particular task should be done - safely.
However, she wasn’t happy with just that. She’s written stuff for many other areas. She warns people about the dangers of tobacco & drinking too much alcohol – surely you’ve seen the “elf warnings” that she’s introduced? A few more nodding heads perhaps now? And don’t forget that system she is responsible for to help pay for the provision of medical care & facilities – the Elf Insurance Policy. She’s been working overtime in the UK, during the past 10 years or so, and has introduced many measures in just about every area you can think of – except, to the best of my knowledge, in the field of rambling.

Now this is where I come in as I’m trying to imagine what could happen in the future as I’m sure, before long, she will have a go at reforming this leisurely activity. It’s not hard really. First job is to do what is called the “RA” (or “Risk Assessment”). (Even little kids know about this. You’ve heard them say “RA Mum” or “RA Dad.”) You must have an RA for every function people perform in their places of work or even outside of work whilst engaged in hobbies or pastimes so they can be protected from potential dangers. Look at cyclists, skateboarders, skiers, footballers et al. who, it is suggested, need to wear protective gear like toughened hats, elbow, knee & shin protectors etc.

But how might this impact in the field of rambling? Well, you’d need a hard hat to prevent injury if you fell or had to negotiate overhanging rocks; you’d need a Hi-Viz vest so you could be seen by your fellow walkers in case you become separated from the group; protective glasses required in case of stone chips hitting you in the face, say when you’re climbing a hill behind another person; knee pads would not go amiss either; you’d also need a Sherpa to carry your rucksack if it weighed more than say a couple of pounds because prolonged carrying could result in you sustaining a back injury.

I’ve decided to pre-empt anything Anne (the elf) might do - on a recent walk I took all the gear and hired a Sherpa. He just seemed to be able to keep going despite the severity of the terrain & all he was carrying. Unable to keep up the pace he was setting, I asked, in desperation, “Aren’t you going to ever rest?” He said, tensing up a little, “Probably next week! I’ll be somewhere in Nepal then and should be in peak condition, certainly intent on feeling on top of the world too!!”

Also, ever thought about those “Ess” elves? Who? Never heard people talking about “your ess-elves” or “them ess-elves” or “my ess-elf”? Also don’t forget those very quiet elves that lurk in your house – they’re called the “shh…” elves. And, not surprisingly, you know what they do – hold things up!

Now perhaps you’ll believe that “elves” really do exist! Well here in the UK at least!

So, have I been rambling or is it just possible I could be an elf, my ess-elf? Check those definitions again but I’ll leave it to you to decide.

P.S.: If you doubt how ridiculous Elf Anne Saif-Tee’s Procedures (“Health & Safety” in case you hadn’t got it by now) can be just check out the headline below. (I had to cut some of the page out, in order to fit on A4 scanner, but it really is from the front page of a UK national newspaper - Daily Mail, Fri 13th April, 2012).

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Q is for...



...And other things we shorten, occasionally to the point of hilarity.

PSB (already mentioned in a previous blog) - purple sprouting broccoli

BNS - butternut squash

BFPFV (a law one) - bona fide purchaser for value

Obbo - short for 'obviously'

Totes - totally

Hilare - hilarious (like it's a great time saver to say most of the word but not all of it)

Jel - I know this has gained some popularity lately, which I believe is down to The Only Way Is Essex, but saying the 'us' on the end of 'jel' takes a millisecond. Just finish the word.

FML - a newcomer in the world of acronyms. It means 'fuck my life' and is generally used by people to indicate something of great seriousness, breaking a nail, say, or having to run for the bus.

Natch - meaning naturally. Makes me think 'oes' is going to follow it.

Reg - I have spoken at length about the occasion I heard this said. It means 'regular' and is referring to the desired size of takeaway coffee.

Lar - meaning 'large' for a takeaway coffee... O no wait... That's just me, making fun of the man who asked for 'reg'....

Cap - meaning cappuccino

OJ - orange juice. Why it has never ventured into other flavours is a mystery to me. My favourite juice is apple so I feel I'd save a lot of time if AJ became the common way of referring to it.

LOL - just a quick heads up to those who add it on the end of every text message because they think it means 'loads of love.' It doesn't.

Monday, 23 April 2012

P is for...


What runs through my mind when I'm packing for a holiday....

I don't need that much. I'm only going for five days. Let me just rummage around and see what I've got that's holiday ish.

Oo, I'll take this, a summery dress. I've got a nice eveningy dress too, in case of going out for dinner. Let me grab that. That other evening dress is nice too. I'll take both. You can't wear the same dress to dinner, can you? I'll take both.

And this nice long flowy skirt would be nice for on the beach. And this sarong, for pottering over to the pool in. And that sarong. It's best to have two. Need a swimsuit. I'll have to buy one.

T-shirts. Take seven, just in case. And another skirt. And those long shorts. And those other shorts. And those pyjamas. And another pair. You need two pairs. And a few pairs of shoes. And flipflops. And socks just in case. And a jacket, in case it gets a bit cold. And a lighter jumper for if there's just a breeze. And a light waterproof, in case there's a little downpour. And toiletries. I'll take face cream, and face suncream. And moisturiser. And suncream. And aftersun. Just in case.

And I wonder if I'll understand the language enough to get nice herbal tea? I'll just take some from here. Peppermint. And vanilla rooibos. And lemon and ginger. Maybe my yoghurt maker? I love my new yoghurt maker. It's nice to have yoghurt when it's hot. And my lemon squeezer! Freshly made lemonade. Mmmm.

What else? Books to read. I should study really. Ok, take my tutorial notes with me. And a book for fun. Which book. Hmmmm. I'll take a few. Three. That's a good number. Suitcase is bursting. Erm...

Ok, what to do? What to sacrifice?... But I NEED it all!... Ok, grab backpack. Start again. One pair of light shoes. Three tshirts. One evening dress. One day dress. One pair of shorts. One skirt. Change of underwear. One book. Study notes. Toiletries.

That's better. Phew. I'm ready.

Why on earth had I packed my yoghurt maker? What was I thinking?! And herbal tea? On a holiday to a hot country?

Sunday, 22 April 2012

O is for...


Now I’m not going to patronise anyone born before me by suggesting that I’m ‘old.’ I’m not. It’s my 27th birthday today and should I avoid any more life threatening situations (my recent one is still fresh in my memory), I’ve probably got a good long while to go yet.

But 27 is older than I’ve ever been before, and as a girl who thinks of herself herself as ‘still a bit of a trampy student’, it’s quite a shock to realise I’m only three years away from 30. I guess I’d better get on and actually do some ‘life things’ then!

I wonder if people think I look almost 30? I don’t. I think I still look a bit silly and young. Should I take to wearing ‘power suits’, maybe? Stop finding swearing and the word ‘boobs’ so hilarious? Pre-empt middle-age-ness and start using anti wrinkle cream? Join a gym? Start wearing make up? Own a pair of high heels? Own a little black dress? Do something with my degrees? Any suggestions?

Saturday, 21 April 2012

N is for...



A few years ago, I worked for a coffee company who have little kiosks in train stations. This meant the nature of the interaction with the customers was defined by speed. They were always in a rush. There was always a train about to leave that they needed to get so they need their drink now! RIGHT NOW! MY TRAIN'S LEAVING! HURRY UP!

It also meant people asked for things without thinking what they were saying. The most common of these was asking for something 'normal.' I used to get it as a reply for everything.

"What size would you like? Regular or large?"
"O, erm, just normal. A normal one."

Right, that's ridiculous isn't it? Because none of the sizes I've offered you are abnormal. What I want to say to them is, "yes, ok. So would you like normal regular or normal large?"

"Can I get a coffee?" they would ask, eyes on the train timetable, barely paying attention to you.
"Yes, what type of coffee would you like?"
"A normal one, you know."
No I don't! What do you mean? Just order a drink!
"What type of coffee?" I repeat. "Americano? Latte? Cappuccino?..."
"Um, yeh, a latte."

A latte? How is a latte more normal than a cappuccino or a mocha or an iced coffee? Or even an americano? That's a bit normal I guess, if anything. But often its a latte. That's normal, apparently.


Friday, 20 April 2012

M is for...


This was a very nerve-wracking experience for me so I thought I'd do another 'What runs through my head when I'm...' about it.

Ok, marshmallows! I'm going to make marshmallows! This will be amazing! Marshmallows. I can't wait. Ok, the recipe. Nervous! Nervous! Ok, concentrate.

Sugar and water in a saucepan. Heat it to 216 degrees! What?! That's so hot. Ok, jam thermometer, in it goes. In the meantime, whisk egg whites. I'd better do that now! Quickly before the sugar heats up! O goodness, it's a race against time. Crack the eggs in, whip them up, ok, phew, done.

The. Sugar. Is. Taking. Ages. It's been forever. The egg whites are settling a bit. Should've done them later. Why is it taking so long to heat up? O, wait a minute, the end of the thermometer has been touching the bottom of the pan, not the liquid! O no, I think I may have overheated it?! Quick quick! Get whisking the egg whites, pour in the sugar syrup. I think I burned it. Great. I think it's burned. What do I do? I've just wasted all that sugar and those eggs now. Right, just keep going and see what happens.

It's definitely burned.

Whisk, whisk, whisk. Dammit. Omygoodness, everything in the bowl just suddenly mixed together and swelled up and became one huge marshmallow! One huge bowl-shaped marshmallow. Amazing. I still think it's burnt, I'll just keep going and see if you can taste it after they've set.

Put half in a baking tray. Roll raspberries in icing sugar and cornflour and dot them over the marshmallow mixture. Other half of the marshmallow mix on top. O no, it's sticking and the raspberries are going all over the place. Never mind. Just splodge it all on and hope it settles. Leave it for an hour and a half to set now.

Ok, hour and a half up. I'm definitely nervous again. Let me just turn it out of the tray. It's stuck!! It's stuck. I have the tray upside down and I am shaking it around like crazy. It's stuck. Hmm. Calm down, calm down. Think. Spatula, slide round the edges, help it a little bit. Phew, it's coming out, in one piece. A miracle! Loads and loads of icing sugar and cornflour and it's sticking to me and to everything in sight.

Ok, breathe, calm. Cut into squares. Icing sugar. Cornflour. It doesn't look burnt. I still think it might be. Taste one. O thank goodness! Not burnt. I knew it'd be fine. I knew all along. Phew. Need to get a second opinion. I wonder if any of my neighbours in. Fill tupperware with marshmallows and find friends to get an opinion from.

That was fun. I think I'll do some more soon.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

L is for...


Another guest blog today from David McGowan, the author of The Hunter Inside, a psychological thriller due for release in Spring 2012. His blog can be found at and is well worth a read.

When it was predicted, a couple of years ago, that the day would come that eBooks sold more copies than physical books, the laughter emanating from the major booksellers boardrooms could be heard the length and breadth of this, and many other, countries.
Like many others, I found it difficult to believe that anyone would ever rather read a book on a computer screen than have an actual copy of a book in their hands. But I hadn’t envisioned the rise and success of the Kindle, iPad et al, and the huge impact they would have on the market.
So now, I’m reading articles about how eBooks are actually outselling print books – and this isn’t just because of Indie authors publishing their own work at little cost to themselves or their readers. I’m talking about actual bestsellers that are selling more copies of the eBook version than the print version. Titles like The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins) and The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Stieg Larsson) - Yahoo Article
Scary, isn’t it? Well, for booksellers it certainly should be. We see a lawsuit pertaining to Apple and publishers allegedly fixing eBook prices through collusion. Alison Flood (The Guardian) worries that Amazon will monopolise the industry if the Department of Justice’s lawsuit is successful - Apple article in The Guardian.
So, rock bottom prices on best-selling titles maybe? Without competition? Offset by the lower production and distribution costs, and selling more devices like the Kindle as a result – thus continuing a vicious circle that cuts out, at the very bottom of the bookselling ladder, the traditional bookshop.
Much like the digital music revolution that saw many high street music retailers closing down, there is now a definite threat to booksellers.
As for libraries, well, funding cuts lead to staffing cuts. Staffing cuts lead to skeleton services and in turn the service that is offered goes backwards instead of progressing – something which accreditation schemes certainly do not favour. Public Libraries News outlines some of the cuts in the south of the United Kingdom at Public Libraries News Article.
Libraries are seen as an easy target when funding cuts are announced or when council taxes are frozen. Which way do libraries go? In tough economic times, many libraries must find ways of raising revenue to find a foothold in an ever increasingly challenged marketplace. At the University library where I work part-time, you are welcomed into the foyer by an extortionately priced Starbucks. Now, I don’t know where undergraduate students get their money from, but apparently this has been a massive success. So, let’s turn the whole library into a Starbucks hey? Well, why not?
Libraries, and certainly higher education libraries, are constantly searching for ways to incorporate more space for computers into their services. Students sitting on stairways studying in groups is not good for a University’s image, and is certainly not good in terms of health and safety regulations. So, do libraries become more like cyber cafes? Rows and rows of computers, with expensive coffee and cake, and librarians sat on a high chair at one end like a lifeguard waiting for someone to have a problem with formatting.
A lot of bookshops have gone down the coffee shop road – selling overpriced goods in an attempt to keep the wolf from the door.
But is it really that desperate? Can we ever see a time when printed books are no longer published, and bookshops and libraries are a thing of the past? I think not, but I do think that print on demand titles and collector’s editions will become much more popular in the future, and libraries will continue to see less physical stock in favour of more computers and provision of eBooks. It won’t be long before eBook readers totally dominate the market and are developed into supersmart beings – capable of much more than just letting you read a book on them. I, for one, have never left a bank card marking my page in an eBook and then panicked when I couldn’t find it. And the idea of having 500, a thousand books with you at any time – well, that’s like having 1500 songs on my iPod – I love it. I put it on shuffle and skip, skip, skip through songs I don’t want to listen to!!
Maybe it comes down to more is less nowadays. We want more more more of everything and we want it to be easily accessible. If I’m a medical student, I don’t want to carry ten anatomy and physiology books around with me. Those are hernia inducing sized books. But if I can have them all on a tablet device, then whoopee, I’ve got it made. As have the publishers, who save a fortune in printing and distribution costs.
Everything points to the demise of libraries and bookshops. But libraries and bookshops have a certain sense of romance to them, don’t they? I think, even if I was to solely buy eBooks, I’d still love to browse bookshops in my lunch hour. I might even buy a coffee. I’m old fashioned though, and I would currently rather have a print book than an eBook. I might be able to take my thousands of eBooks on my Kindle on holiday to the beach, but I think my print book will handle getting sand in it much better.
My overall opinion? Bring on the eBooks, but long live print!!

photo credit: canonsnapper via photopin cc

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

K is for...


(I'm handing you over to our guest blogger again today, enjoy!)

This week’s ramble is about KNOWLEDGE. What is it? Where does it come from? How do we acquire it? And, more worryingly, can it be dangerous?

You’ve heard people say someone is “the fount of all knowledge” but I prefer the opposite view. Check out the last two lines of the Francis Duggan poem You Are Not A Fountain Of Knowledge (2008):

“We could live for a million years or longer instead of eight decades or so
And about the great World all around us we would still have much to learn and know.”

Is knowledge simply facts that are “out there” waiting to be discovered by you and me? For example if I wrote the word “quidnunc” would you say, “What’s he on about? What now?” (You certainly could because the word is made up from two Latin words quid & nunc, meaning - what & now!) In English, the word means a gossipmonger or busybody. It was “also used to describe a person who pretended to know everything” (A Dictionary of Trades, Titles & Occupations, Colin Waters, 2002). Is it in everyday use now? Definitely not. Are you going to remember it? Probably not. Has your knowledge, at least temporarily, been increased/improved by knowing this fact? Possibly.

Or is knowledge only what you, as an individual, retain in your memory? In other words it exists only while you remember it. Is there a “general knowledge” out there somewhere waiting for you to discover & learn it? Or is there really only “personal knowledge”? Do you see the problem? Knowledge, the dictionaries say, is “that which is known”. Note, NOT “that which can be known.” A fact can be “out there” waiting to be known, as many pioneering scientists & explorers will tell us. Once discovered, the fact can then become part of your/my “knowledge” but only if we take it in and remember it.

So, can knowledge really be dangerous? It certainly can if it’s about sensitive issues: political, personal, medical, relational etc.

However I’d like to suggest another area where it can be dangerous……. memory. How so? Well if you think about it, from a certain age all of our brains and memory banks stop growing and then begin to decay, to lose cells. We reach a finite maximum number of cells which then begins to decline. As time goes on this loss becomes more and more evident in a person’s ability to remember stuff and to function as they used to. It’s a process called “growing old” and something most of us, should we survive, will have to go through at some point.

What happens can be demonstrated by using the analogy of an empty glass being filled with water. Imagine your memory cells being represented by the water and it being poured into the glass until it reaches the rim of the glass (i.e. like the brain, up to the age at which it reaches its maximum number of cells). If you then need to remember something more what happens? You pour in some more water and, in a perfect experiment, there will be an overflow of exactly the amount you poured in. Which water overflows? The stuff right at the top! The water at the bottom (the older memories) stays where it is. (Incidentally that’s why, I believe, 80-90 year old people can remember their first day at school but not necessarily what they did last week or even yesterday. The new memories for today have displaced other recent memories which were at the top of the glass.)

Now can you see the danger? In order to increase your knowledge, in a particular area, you will have to lose some other knowledge. I don’t want to put you off “learning” but the difficulty, of course, is that you don’t have a choice which knowledge the brain ditches in order to make room for the new stuff. That’s why you need to think very carefully about what you remember! There is no deleted file or Recycle Bin, with your memories in, which you can choose to “Restore”. When they’re gone, they’re gone! Scary, eh!

So then, has your knowledge, actually about knowledge itself, been increased by reading this? And I wonder what knowledge you’ve lost in order to remember this. NOW, if you can, without looking back, tell me what “quidnunc” means!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

J is for...


Omygoodness. I love making jam. It's so easy. But it appears to be such a skill. You essentially just get a load of fruit, add sugar and leave it for ages. I don't even eat that much jam. Actually, I can't remember the last time I had some, months ago. But I've made tons recently. Because it takes so long, it means I can loiter in the kitchen for ages, feeling nice and looking around at my favourite part of the house. With the time you spend loitering around, you can rustle up a batch of bread to have with your jam, should you wish. Jams and marmalades are fabulous homemade gifts. Don't be intimidated. Just put a load of fruit and sugar in a pan and heat it. Plus, it makes you feel pretty Mastercheffy when you've got a batch done.

And to clarify, I've done some research, apparently the difference between jam and marmalade is that marmalade is bitter, presumably because it tends to be with citrus fruits and you use peel. But then there's the added category of preserves. I think its something to do with whether the whole fruit is used and whether there is any pectin in it. Or just sugar. Hmm. It's already got a bit too complicated for me.

Anyway, more importantly, what jam should I make today? There is normally some kind of discount or deal on at least one type of fruit in the supermarket so I'll just let them decide for me. As an aside, if you were thinking of taking jam-making up, my most successful flavours have been fig and apricot. In terms of marmalade, I got my best feedback from a blood orange and cranberry mixture. Most unsuccessful flavour was grape, which would NOT set, no matter what I did to it. Good combinations of bread and jam are fig bread with apricot jam, apple bread with apricot jam and walnut bread with fig jam. Strawberry jam (soft set) goes amazingly well with homemade scones. I dare you to try jamming. Summer's on its way so scones and jam are in order. Give it a go.

Monday, 16 April 2012

I is for....


That's right. iChoc. There is a product, a chocolate product obviously, called iChoc.

It started with iPod (did it?) which was fine. It's a marketing thing, that's the name they've come up with, that's ok. Then there was iPhone. iPad. iTunes. iPlayer. iPhone touch. iMovie. iLife (apparently). iThis. iThat. iNonsense. And we somehow, by some jump in logic, got to iChoc.

Ok, what do all the iThings have in common? They are made by the same company and are electronic-type things. Great. I'm on board. It's still a bit of an iOverload but iCan take it.

And then iSaw the iChocs. Are they electronic?.... Made by a computer company?... A bit new fangled and moderny?... The answer to all these is a big fat iNo. It's just chocolate. It's wrapped in colourful foil, pink, blue, yellow etc. On the packaging is a picture of a microphone. That's iCheating isn't it? Really? You can't just take normal chocolates, see a successful marketing strategy and tag your product onto it, simply by drawing a picture of a microphone on the package. What's 'i' about that?! Seriously? What's 'i' about chocolate in colourful foil wrappers with a small picture of a microphone? That annoyed me, seeing that product. iRidiculous.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

H is for...


This is a typical game of Hide and Seek with Yaya:

Yaya: "Auwa, can we play hide and seek?"
Me: "Oo yes, I love hide and seek. Ok, I'll count, you hide."
Yaya: "Ok. Ermm.... count to... erm... count to four!"
Me: "Ok! I've got my eyes closed! One!..."
(The sound of running feet going off into the distance)
Me: "Two! Three!..."
(The sound of running feet getting closer)
Yaya: "I'm in the playroom, Auwa."
Me: "Ok. Erm. Alright then."
(Running feet off into the distance again)
Me: "Four! Coming! Ready or not!"
Yaya, shouting: "Count to seven now, Auwa!"
Me: "Ok. Five! Six! Seven! Coming! Ready or not!"

I walk slowly around the front room, exclaiming loudly, pretending to wonder where he is.

Yaya, from the playroom: "I'm in here!"

Me, walking slowly into the playroom: "Oo, where's Yaya? Hmm. I wonder where he can be? Is he in the playroom? Let me see... Is he under the table? No! Behind the door? No!"
Yaya, poking his head out from behind the curtain: "I'm here, Auwa. Find me."
Me: "O right, ok. Oo, I wonder if Yaya is behind the curtains. Yeh! Look! There you are! I found you!"
Yaya, shouting with excitement: "You found me Auwa! You found me! Let's play again."

I'm not sure he's quite got the gist of this game figured out yet.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

G is for...


What's Giffgaff, you might be thinking? Well, what might it be?

My first thoughts were that it's a word for what well-to-do people say when they mess up a sentence, as in "I've made a real giffgaff there." Or it could be an insult, along the lines of a nincompoop, eg, "O, you giffgaff!" Maybe it could be some kind of cleaning product, given that it sounds like Jif, which later became the way more rubbish 'Cif.' The advert might say something like "Look at how Giffgaff cleans away all the dirt! Proven to be 98% more effective than other leading brands."

Add to these suggestions anything you also might have come up with, maybe it's a kid's clothing brand or another euphemism for nakedness. All fairly decent guesses I think.

But no, it's a mobile phone network! It just seems silly to me, a mobile phone network called Giffgaff. And who thought it up? Were they sitting around in the board room, bouncing ideas around and THAT came out as the best one? Really? What were the others? Fliff-flaff? Binkbonk? Doodah? Fluffoff?

I know Orange and O2 and 3G aren't particularly inspiring names, or anything to do with phones, but they're at least credible. Just straightforward. And the advertising which includes the name is memorable. The future's bright, the future's Orange. Simple. I doubt many people would sign up if the advert went 'The future's bright, the future's Giffgaff.'

Quite a few things have names that I think must have been a result of no-one else turning up for the Ideas Meeting in the board room, or everyone being tired/on drugs/too scared to say it sounded rubbish.

Wii. It's just basic silliness. Playing on the Wii is NOT an appealing prospect and, in fact, I believe most people grew out of that after doing it once as a toddler and being told that it's not for playing with, dear, it belongs in the toilet.

A brand of biscuits that was quite popular when I lived in Southern Africa was called Eet-Sum-Mor. What is that about?! It's like they asked a 14 year old what might sound 'cool.'

"O just do it a bit like text-speak and it'll raise your coolness ratings by a billion!" says the 14 year old. "Ok," say all the grown ups. "If that's what the kids are doing nowadays, let's go with it. We were going to call it Eat Some More but Eet-Sum-Mor is better. Should we add 'LOL' on the end too? Oo! Tempting!"

Friday, 13 April 2012

F is for...


If any of you work in an office, you probably don't like filing. Most people I know don't like it. It's tedious, takes forever and it's so easy to get to the end and realise you've done something wrong and everything's in the wrong place.

And that's why I can't explain the fact that I love filing. I love it. I love it when there is a pile of paperwork chaos and you come along and impose order on it, give everything a home, in a nice neat way. I once did some work with a project which had only just been set up. There was a small office space, some empty filing cabinets, a computer and the biggest disorganised mess I've ever seen in an office. Did I think 'O no! What a nightmare!' No! I rubbed my hands with glee and thought 'I can't WAIT to file all this stuff!'

I made dividers for in the filing cabinet. I looked through every individual piece of paper and worked out which category it belonged in. I bought marker pens and highlighters and gave each piece of paper a brief description so I wouldn't have to read everything again to work out what it was about. I worked late. I came early. I found muscles I never had, lifting stacks of paperwork. I shunned company or food or even drinks. I HAD A PROJECT! AND I WANTED TO COMPLETE IT!

It probably took about three weeks of half days here and there as I had a full time job somewhere else. After everything had gone into a place in the physical filing cabinets, I then got started on the electronic filing. I think I might love electronic filing even more. I have a certain way that I name files, which I wrote up on an instruction sheet, should someone else dare to step inside MY office to use the computer and try to save something which didn't have the proper name format. God forbid!

My memory is quite good when I'm in project mode because I'm really into what I'm doing. So even after there was order imposed and it looked like a normal office, with paperwork all in a proper place, I would get calls on my mobile, while I was at my other job, asking me where the piece of paper for the business bank account, with details of the loan agreement was. And I knew. I just knew. "Second drawer down in the large blue cabinet next to the computer. It's near the middle, and the tab says Business Banking Natwest." It was just there, in my memory.

Omygoodness, I think I need to file something! Writing this post has really excited me!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

E is for...


These are the things I do every day.

Drink tea x 10000
Food shop
Watch TV
Check phone x 10000
Think about how soon my exams are
Look at my pile of textbooks (I don't mean, looking at the words on the page, I mean looking at the pile, then looking away again)

'Baking every day?' you might say. 'EVERY day?' Well, yes. I find a way, don't you worry. Things always need making. Last week I made (are you ready?) banana bread x 2, raspberry marshmallows, plum jam, baklava, an Easter egg, fruity nutty snack bars, vanilla and goji berry muffins x 4, two loaves of bread (one I turned into breadcrumbs) and then all the stuff I ate for my normal meals. I don't usually eat any of the cakey stuff I make so that's not my actual calorie intake, in case you're thinking I must be really hungry all the time!

I like to feed people. I'm definitely a feeder. I like to give people things I've made but then there's the nervousness in case they don't like it but they're too polite to say. So there's the worry and the 'Is it ok? Are you sure? Is it tasty? It's ok if it's not. Did I overcook it? Undercook it? Are there too many nuts in it? Not enough nuts? Are you sure it's tasty?'

Linked in with that is food shopping. Yes I do that thing everyone does, a big massive shop every few days or every week or something, so why do I need to go every day? Because I like it! I like going through the slidey doors and the cool air welcomes you in and you just walk around, amongst all the food, and feel nice. I wander up and down the jam section, getting ideas for new flavours to experiment with. I potter around the fruit section, seeing if there are any offers on, planning my next baking adventure. I go to the bread and cake section, stealing ideas again. Then to the baking aisle and debate whether the 500 eggs in my fridge are enough or whether I need 6 more. Survey the tea selection. Then I end up at the cookbook section, sneakily reading them cover to cover. Then I emerge back into the sunlight, an hour later, empty handed but feeling wonderful. Sometimes that's all I need. I've had my kick.

Watching TV every day. You know, I couldn't even tell you what I've watched recently. It's such a mindless activity. And so much time gets absorbed into it. It's probably the most useless 'every day' thing I do. When I'm a bit knackered from work I settle down on the sofa with a cup of tea and stare at it but it's not really like I'm watching it, I'm in some sort of trance and the TV happens to be there, keeping me company.

I'm not even going to start on 'think about how soon my exams are' and 'look at my pile of textbooks.' I worked hard all year actually, so it's not like I'm really intimidated by it. I think it will be fine. It's just doing it, getting started on the revision. I will. Soon.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

D is for...


Today, a guest blogger is going have a little look at some words he feels need closer examination...


“Nothing to breathe but air,
Quick as a flash ‘tis gone;
Nowhere to fall but off,
Nowhere to stand but on.” (Benjamin Franklin King, 1857-94)

Can I have a word? – Again? Yes it’s part 3. We’ve done authors using words we don’t know; we’ve done us trying to beef up our vocabularies; now we’re going to look at a difficult, some may say impossible, couple of words to define properly: nowhere & everywhere.

Have you heard people (often children or teenagers) answer the question, “Where do you think you’re going?” with that innocent sounding, “Nowhere”; someone asks you where you are and you say, for example, “in the middle of nowhere”. That’s a rather longer answer than a simple “I don’t know” which, it seems to me, does the same job. You could shorten it to ‘ITMON’ if you wanted to invent a new word (for something that doesn’t exist anyway?). Not sure that’ll catch on.

First, let’s investigate “Nowhere” and the whole concept of it. Let’s start by checking the dictionary: it means either ‘in or to no place, not anywhere’ or ‘out of the running’. It’s an adverb so you can’t actually go to nowhere or come from nowhere. It’s not a noun like a place name would be. What I want to know is how can you be ‘not anywhere’? In other words how can we define a place that doesn’t exist by using a concept that also doesn’t exist with words that actually don’t make sense? Now there’s the problem. Perhaps we are moving into the realms of philosophy here. However, Ambrose Bierce (1842-1913) pulls the rug from under our feet by giving us this quote: “Philosophy: a route of many roads leading from nowhere to nothing”. Not a great deal of help there then. Hmm…. Ok, so maybe philosophy isn’t the way to go.

Remember, though, it’s physically impossible to be nowhere because, when you think about it, there is always a latitude & longitude for wherever on the Earth’s surface you stand; if you’re underground (or under the sea) there is still a location simply with an added dimension of “X” no. of metres under the surface. The same is true if you’re above the ground even right to the top of Mount Everest except you don’t need the extra dimension because the latitude & longitude cross at the particular height where you are.

Therefore you must be somewhere! You might not be in an actual place that’s named on a map or even known locally by a particular name but you just can’t be nowhere. Also it’s important to remember nowhere is an adverb. That means Talking Heads got it wrong when they sang about being on the Road to nowhere (1985); Dusty Springfield got it wrong when she sang about being In the middle of nowhere (1965); and the Beatles got it wrong when they sang about a Nowhere man sitting in his nowhere land, making all his nowhere plans, for nobody (1966); and perhaps the most confusing lines on the subject come from Jeff Beck in the opening lines of his song Hi-ho silver lining: “You’re everywhere and nowhere baby…” (1972). Now, just in case you were totally confused as to where that might be, Mr Beck helps us out by explaining that you’re (probably), “…..going down a bumpy hillside in a hippy hat.” Ah well, that’s a lot clearer then, eh?

So why do we use it? Is it to sound cool? Or to convey the idea that we are some kind of free spirit? Is it to emphasise the fact that you’re in a desolate place? – The middle of nowhere. Or is it because, really, we don’t understand what we’re saying? So why not stop using it or say it a different way. Go on you know you could. In the song Cotton Avenue, Joni Mitchell said it this way: “If you got no place special, well then you just go no place special”. Not nowhere just a “not special” other place.

I’ve tried looking for Erewhon but there’s nowhere so mixed up as that place!
However, I know what you’re thinking: will he be joining in after he’s heard those distinctive, foot-tapping, opening bars of the Jeff Beck song on the radio by singing along with “You’re everywhere and nowhere, baby, that’s where you’re at……….”? Course I will!
But hang on a minute…… I’ve just had a thought - where’s everywhere? How can anything, let alone a person, be everywhere? Is it all places……. except nowhere (or including nowhere)? And what about ITMON? Einstein gave us E=mc2; the Rambler has come up with E=E-N, (where E=everywhere, N=nowhere). Will it catch on? I doubt it but have a serious think about it!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

C is for...


In January last year, I got a tummy ache. Quite innocent-sounding, you think? I did too. I had just had a meal with chicken in it, so immediately assumed it was a bit of food poisoning. I had food poisoning about five years ago and so I remembered what it felt like. I thought I just needed to ride it out. I spent the whole night squirming around in bed, feeling awful.

The next day I thought it wasn't too bad. I still had a tummy ache but, using my usual theory of illnesses, (if you ignore it, it'll probably go away) I went to work and just ignored my stomach ache all day. When I got home, though, it was no longer something that could be ignored. Thankfully I had the next day off and planned to just sit around, waiting for it to go away. But it got worse and worse.

After another sleepless night, I couldn't deny the need to see a doctor anymore. I went to an NHS walk-in centre and was prodded and examined and the doctor said it could be something quite mild, stomach cramps maybe. If it's not that though, it's something REALLY BAD and I needed to get to A&E. She gave me something to deal with stomach cramps and said if they didn't go after two doses, I needed to get to hospital. I smiled confidently, it would be fine. It was just some chicken I had eaten. Of course it couldn't be anything major. Chicken can't kill you.

The two doses were taken and, as much as I tried denying it, the stomach pains didn't go away. O no. By about 3am on Saturday, I actually couldn't get around the fact that I probably needed to go to A&E.

I arrived and was examined again by a doctor with a worried face then given some liquid paracetamol. I felt a bit silly actually, knowing that it was just some chicken. I just needed to wait until I vomited or something, then it would be out. What's all the fuss? I thought, with embarrassment.

Then a lot of things happened at once, I was taken for an x-ray (surely chicken doesn't show up on x-rays... does it?), lots of needles with things in were attached to my wrists and then, the worst thing ever. A doctor, thankfully really friendly and understanding, but ultimately, the destroyer of my life, arrived with a tube thingy and said these words...

"I just need to put this tube in your nose and into your stomach to make sure it's empty before we operate."


He saw my terrified face and asked if I'd had it done before. I hadn't but I didn't need to have. I knew it was going to be the worst thing I'd ever experienced. It felt like he wanted something from me, a piece of important information about a terrorist attack or he'd torture me. I would have given up ANYTHING then, anything he'd wanted! I would have admitted things I'd never done, a murder, a theft, anything! Just don't put that tube up my nose!

"When you feel the tube scratching the back of your throat, just have a drink of water and it will make the tube go to your stomach easier. It's not that bad, honest," he reassured me. Then he approached, with the torture implement in his hands and put it in my nose... and just kept pushing it. AWFUL! THE MOST AWFUL THING I'VE EVER HAD DONE IN MY LIFE! As instructed, I grabbed some water when I felt it in my throat but I was sobbing and feeling traumatised so instead of swallowing the water, I was just tipping the glass up against my face, crying like a baby and soaking the front of the lovely pink hospital night gown I was wearing. Awful.

Then they wheeled me to a new room, said I was next in the operating theatre, it was an emergency and I might wake up with a colostomy bag! I was a bit out of it, so I know they talked me through it properly but I was so distracted by the nose tube I couldn't concentrate. I remember as they were putting me under the anaesthetic, I was still thinking, with embarrassment, about how they'd find a little peice of chicken and realise it was a lot of fuss for nothing.

In the end, I woke up WITHOUT a colostomy bag but WITH a ten inch scar down my front full of massive staples, was told it was something really rare called a transverse colon volvulus (where your colon twists around on itself - mental!) and written up in a medical journal.

And no, it was nothing to do with the chicken I ate.

Monday, 9 April 2012

B is for....

Actually, it's less about babies and more about how irritating it is when people tell me I'll want them.

"Just you wait. You say that now, but just you wait. You'll turn 30 and you'll feel different. You'll see. You will."
I'm sorry? Do you know me? Do I know you? No. I just met you at friend's house, or on a bus, or I'm in your taxi, or I'm serving you a coffee. And I don't want, and will never want, my own babies. Ever. Playing with other people's is great but that's all I need. I don't need one in my own home, screaming and running and breaking stuff. I just don't. And they tell you, as though they are all knowledgeable and you are a naive child with little life experience. Well I'm almost 27, which isn't old, as such, but its not 17, is it? I know my own mind well enough by now.

The same happens on exercise DVDs. The man lifting the weights or doing the stretches tells you, 'Stretch! That feels good!' Erm, it doesn't actually. I'm red and sweating and puffy and on the verge on a heart attack and I really want to sit down and get my breathe back. Don't you tell me it feels good! It bloody doesn't!

Sunday, 8 April 2012

A is for....

I've decided to take on a bit of a theme for the next few (26 to be exact) posts. I was reading about something yesterday called 'Blogging from A to Z' ( which runs for the month of April. You post every day from the 1st, missing out Sundays and ending up with the last post on April 30th. You start at A and do a letter for each post. As I hate to miss a day and it's clearly not April 1st anymore, I'm starting today and going to do it every day. So maybe I've missed the boat and everyone else is up to H or something. O well. Here goes!

A is for... AVIATION

Does anyone else fly in their dreams? I do. All the time. In fact, when I enter dream world, it's just an ordinary state for me. I don't even marvel at my ability anymore. I just take off and go.

Actually,. it hasn't always been like that. When I was much younger, probably only 8 years old, I had these dreams where I could fly around the house, at ceiling level downstairs. But when I stood at the bottom of the stairs and tried fly uphill, I couldn't. I had something called 'Peter Pan dust' in my dream and I would take a sprinkle and throw it over myself, loads and loads of it, but I just couldn't fly up the stairs. Frustrating.

As I grew up, the dreams changed. I could fly if I took a run-up. One time I was in a building with pews, but it was more like a school than a church. And I was running down the middle and trying to get away by flying, but a big crowd was running after me and kept grabbing my feet and pulling me back to the ground before I could get away.

Then there were lots of dreams in which I was just flying places as a mode of transportation, instead of walking. Then in a more recent one, I was teaching people to fly. I was standing still in a room, surrounded by teenagers, talking them through it, then just taking off from standing still, no run up needed anymore. So I must be getting pretty good at it. If my dreams are anything to go by, flying is amazing. Do you think technology will move fast enough for me to be able fly anytime soon?

I saw a programme the other day which had a bird's eye view of New York because they'd strapped a little camera onto a bird. I was so jealous.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

What runs through my head when I'm working in the kitchen

Ok, 8am, we're open. I'm in the kitchen. Great. I love working in the kitchen. All the food! Right, get set up, chopping board, knives, tongs, ready to go. Come on, where are the orders, the customers? Come on, come on! I'm ready! Let's do this!

Ermmm... what should I do now? I guess I'll wash a few dishes. La lala. Wash, wash, wash. A plate, some mugs, a spoon. Done. What now? O! Ok! There's an order! I can hear someone making an order. Great. I'm ready. Let's go.

It's a full breakfast. Woop! Hob on, bacon in pan, crack two eggs in another. Sausages, tomato and mushrooms in oven. Heat the plate a little. Toast in. Which toast? White! Ok, it's in. We're on. Check the eggs. Turn the bacon.

O wait a minute, another order just came in. Scrambled eggs and bacon. Two more peices of bacon in the bacon pan. Another peice of bread in the toaster. Crack some eggs into another. Bit of cream. Salt. Pepper. Whisk whisk whisk. And on the heat. Keep whisking, don't let it stick to the bottom. O wait, the sausages and tomatoes and mushrooms are ready for the first breakfast. But the toast hasn't popped up yet! It ages from being done. And the fried eggs still aren't ready to go. Ok, swish the oil around a bit to cook the top of them. The bacon is done. O man, half the first breakfast is done. Ok, no probs. Keep everything hot. O wait, stop swishing the fried egg oil! The scrambled eggs need whisking so they don't stick. One hand doing that, the other hand doing everything else which needs doing.

Can I hear someone else making an order at the till? What?! No! O no, it's a bacon sandwich to go! I haven't any hobs left and no space in the bacon pan! Why? Why couldn't they just get a croissant or something?! O my goodness! Why are they all here? I don't understand why they can't just time themselves so there's a little space in between?

Ok, eggs done, toast done. Get plate with free hand. Everything on the plate for the full breakfast. Need to take it out. But can't leave the scrambled egg pan! O wait, everything's ready for that one. On plate, quickly, butter toast, cut in half. On plate. Both breakfasts done. Go go go!

Back to kitchen. Bacon in pan. Sizzle sizzle sizzle. Bread out. Butter, HP. Bacon on bread. Cut in half. Wrap up. Give to customer. Phew! Breathe out. Done. Clean up a little bit. And now I'm ready to go again. So where are the customers now? Stare around a little bit and look for things to do. Done everything. Where are they? I wish the customers would come back. It's good when there's lots of them. It makes time go faster and keeps me busy.

Is that one?! Is it?! No, they just want coffee. O.... I miss the customers.

Friday, 6 April 2012

The difficult choices you have to make

The subject matter for today is something I spent a lot of time and thought on when I was younger. It's the really big things in life that I used to debate in my mind. I was quite philosophical as a child, as you will see. These are some of the things I weighed up...

Which would be worse?
Never seeing my family again vs Never seeing Neighbours again

Which would be better?
A mobile phone vs A mobile TV (to watch Neighbours on)

When we're playing Neighbours at school, which character do I want to be?
Beth vs Lauren

Which superhero quality is better?
Invisibility vs Flying

Which is my favourite colour?
Purple vs Orange?

Which is my second favourite colour?
Purple vs Orange?

Which would I choose to be?
A centaur vs A flying lion thing (Narnia characters)

Which should I visit first?
Narnia vs The island in the Famous Five

Which Famous Five member do I like the best?
George vs Julian

Which Backstreet Boy do I like the best?
Nick vs AJ

A few of these I've now settled in my mind for, being more grown up, I can obviously see that flying is a way better superhero quality. Just like purple is definitely the best, centaurs are amazing and George is the coolest member of the Famous Five. Phew, I'm glad I've got those things decided, because I now find more pressing things take up my time, like whether I prefer brownies or blondies and whether peppermint tea is better than spearmint. We all have our difficulties and I guess that's the thing I'll have to live with. Hard times.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Why I get up at 5am

Don't worry, I'm not especially different from anyone else. It's not that I'm one of 'those' people, you know, who run fifty miles before going to work, just for fun. I think of people who do that type of thing as being slightly superhuman and different from me. I don't need to worry about aspiring to be like them because I'm just human whereas they're superhuman, so no need to feel inadequate.

No, when I get up at 5am it's more having willpower and liking to be in control. Let me explain.

Let's say I'm due at work at 7am. Option 1 is that I get up around half six, get a quick shower, get dressed, have a cup of tea and some breakfast, brush my teeth, grab my bag and leave the house. If I then finish work at 3pm and go home, I'll be a bit knackered from work so I'll spend a bit of time sitting around staring into space. By the time I've shaken myself into doing something, there's a textbook waiting to be read, so I potter over to it and spend the time until dinner doing that. Make dinner. Sit around being a bit more knackered. Go to bed. That's Option 1.

Option 2. Wake up a few hours before I need to be awake and while I'm fresh and lively and listening to the birds sing outside, do something physical (nothing that requires too much exertion though, remember I'm not superhuman, just human). Something gentle like go for a walk or do some yoga. Then once I've done that I sit down at the computer and write my blog. By the time I've done those two things there's usually about 45 mins left before work. So I do a bit of studying/working on essays etc while having breakfast and a cup of tea. Then about fifteen minutes before I need to leave for work I get a quick shower, dress, teeth, bag, out of the door. When I get home from work later, I've already done my studying so there's no guilt factor in sitting around, if I want to. I often spend this time baking, making jam, reading or something similar.

For me, Option 1 is fine but my whole day just runs on automatic. I've not made that day my own. I've just kind of been a bystander whilst running to and fro. Option 2 starts my day off by doing things that I want to do. If I wanted to spend that whole two hours reading a good book, I could. It's about having control of how I spend my time and the choice to start my day as I please, not just how I have to. Also, by doing all the things I like to, first thing in the morning, the rest of my day is free to do other things I like (more often than not, food-related).

When I say to people I'm getting up at 5am the next day, they marvel, they gasp, their eyes grow wide with admiration. It's not actually a big effort at all. When the alarm beeps, I snooze it once or twice, because I've never in my life got up on the first beep I don't think, and then I just think, 'The next two hours, until the rest of the world wakes up, is mine, what shall I do with it today?' Plus, my brain starts ticking immediately while I work out what to write on my blog and pretty soon I'm itching to get at the computer!

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

The life I almost had - Part 3

Another career I pursued quite seriously when I was younger was as a presenter. I had my own TV programme. This one's quite embarrassing so be supportive, please....

The show was called 'Parents, Get Out' and I presented it from my bed, the ceiling being the camera. I would start by saying, 'ok kids, it's time for the parents to get out!' and the TV would have a sensor so it could detect any adults in the room. I wouldn't start the show until I could see that all the parents had gone.

I'd then spend the next hour (actually I don't know how long it really was but it felt like ages) talking about kid's stuff. I don't know what exactly I chatted about. The best part is that I did it all in a faux American accent, which I thought I was pretty good at.

I had 'co-presenters' too. Two guys called John and Nathan, I think. In the middle of an item I was presenting I'd stop and hold my hand to my ear and go "Ok John, that's fascinating, great, yeh, I'll hand over to you now. Kids, here's John, he's got a great story for us." And then I'd lie there looking at the camera (ceiling) for a few minutes, in silence, while I imagined the other news story going on.

I think I was pretty loud in my presenting as I distinctly remember being told to quieten down and go to sleep. They probably just thought I was being cute, chatting to myself. They probably didn't realise I was live on air.

I don't know how long the programme ran for but I remember doing it for a long time, enough to perfect my pretend accent. Maybe the TV company took us off air because we were too successful, we were stealing all the viewers. It was probably jealousy and a feeling of inferiority from others which got us shut down.

Well, maybe if I hit 40 and I've not achieved worldwide domination of the music charts or become a bestselling author, I know I've got that to fall back on. It's always good to have a back up plan.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Can I have a word - Part 2

Another contribution from the reader who gave us last week's 'Can I have a word?'

Here’s a quote from Alice Through The Looking Glass (1872):

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, ‘it means just what I want it to mean – neither more nor less’. I wasn’t going to use it but on reflection (see what I did there?) I think it’s quite appropriate. You’ll see why

I was writing last time (Weds 28.3.12) about words, communication and authors using uncommon words. I’ve been thinking about how this could apply, imaginatively, to the overpopulated towns and cities in the world of words. In this world of words (from now on abbreviated to WOW) you still need to travel about so you can work to earn money & learn more. A good way to travel around WOW is by public transport – on what are called word-buses. The government in WOW want to improve people’s knowledge and introduced this innovative scheme: the bus driver will only let you on if you can give him the definition of the word on the front of the bus.

When I travelled into work the other day the first bus along was the “honey-bus” – a man at the front of the queue was saying good-bye to his girlfriend, Maggie, but as she went to get on the bus he pulled her back and said to me, “I can’t let Maggie go!” I looked at the advert for Nimble bread on the side of the bus and wondered if I’d seen her before - eating a sandwich strapped in a harness hanging under a hot air balloon flying across the countryside…

Next along was the “magic-bus” and Who was on that one? Not sure, but I could see Roger & Pete looking through the window; the next one was the “novel-bus” going to ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’ but who the dickens would want to go there - David Copperfield maybe? But shouldn’t he have got on the bus before this one?; next up was the “sesquipedalian-bus” which was nearly empty so I got on that one. (See “Can I have a Word?” (part 1) if you don’t know what it means).

However I know what will happen – everyone will see that empty bus and learn what that word means so they can get on it next time; and then that bus will get full; and then people will start learning a new word so they can get on a less crowded bus. Perhaps it will work; perhaps the government’s plan will increase individuals’ vocabularies after all.

Standing at the bus stop one day, I met a man called Dick and he was able to get on any bus that came along. I was impressed. If I saw a word on a bus I didn’t know I just asked him. He explained it and I could then get on. For example along came the “Porphry-bus” and he got me on; the next day the “Psephology-bus” and he got me on that one.

After a while, he’d got me onto loads of buses with odd words on the front. I was amazed. I could control my curiosity no longer – “What’s your full name?” I asked. “Just Dick,” he replied quietly. “You have to tell me your surname”, I persisted. “Ok…. it’s Shunnery” he said walking away, dressed in his red and blue jacket with white lettering on. “You can look me up some time, if you want to find out more,” he said. Odd name I thought to myself – Dick Shunnery! I found out later that he works in a legal practice called The Chambers. That’s why people sometimes refer to him as “The Chambers” Dick Shunnery! Sounds quite authoritative, doesn’t it? (By the way the boss of that legal office is a man called Barry Sturr and he has an assistant who he always sticks up for - Laura Norder!).

So, if you want to make sure you can get on any word-bus that comes along, try and meet this guy, Dick, and make friends with him. He also told me the word ‘bus’ is actually short for omnibus which is Latin, meaning ‘for all’; now I know why it’s always crowded!

It’s great living in… WOW! And don’t forget, whether you like it or not, you live there too and you’ll have to use those word-buses. Will you learn some more words so you can get on more buses? You might not see me, though, because I’ll be on one of those with plenty of empty seats. I’ve been learning some more of those unusual words, from my friend Dick, you see.

Can I have a word? Yes, speak to Dick – he’s got loads. Oh, and thanks Humpty for the ‘word-bus’.

Monday, 2 April 2012

What runs through my head when I go for a walk

Ok, I'm going to go for a walk now. O but maybe it's too cold. Shall I read my book for a bit longer? No, go for a walk. But, erm, my comfy trousers for walking in aren't washed. Ok, Laura, just wear different trousers.

Right, I'm out! I'm out of the house. I'm off. Uphill. I've forgotten my earphones, which is a disaster, I can't listen to any music. Just keep going, it's not that big a problem. Why are these children getting in my way? Can't they see I'm walking?

I'm a bit bored now. It's only been three and a half minutes, just get to the river then walk home. I don't want to. Just do it. Ok then. I'm warming up actually, this is quite nice. My legs are a bit bored of going uphill though. Where's the river? It's so far! I can't be bothered! I think I've done long enough now. Ten minutes is more than enough! Yeh, it'll be fine, I need to go home and study anyway.

O look! There's the river! It's so pretty. Aaaaahh, I'm going to at least get to the river. O look how the sun reflects off the river. I'm going to walk along it for a while. I love walking next to the river. I love walking. Look at the lovely children, I'll just stop to let them pass. I wonder if I could walk alllll day? I could go on a walking holiday somewhere! Trek a mountain range or something. I'd be so happy. Could I give up my job and just walk all day, every day? Just keep going next to the river for the whole day and see where I end up, and get the train home or something? Let me take a few pictures, what a lovely view. Quickly post them onto Facebook so people think I'm like one of those naturey people who's at one with the earth and loves exercising.

I'll walk to the next bridge I reckon, cross it, then walk back. That'll be nice. Ah, it's so lovely outside. Get rid of the jumper because I'm quite warm now. Um, where's the next bridge actually? I've been going for ages and I can't even see it. Hm. I can't turn back, that's like admitting defeat. Must. Keep. Going. It's actually the afternoon now, omygoodness I might die on this walk. It's been hours now! I'll probably be found by another walker in a few months time, in a heap at the side of the path, exhausted and surviving off scraps that birds and badgers have brought me to keep me alive.

That's it. I'm calling someone who knows the river better than me. Sure enough, they confirm that the next bridge is probably another half hour walk away. But I can't turn back, that's out of the question. I've reached the bridge. Ugh. Cross it. Now have to walk the whole distance back again! This is the worst walk I've ever been on! I hate walking.

Ok, I'm walking back, speed up a bit, it's homeward bound. It will be ok. My legs are extremely bored by now. It doesn't seem too far on the way back actually. There's the bridge near home! Woop! I'm close. Ahhhh, over the bridge and bye bye river, I'm off home for a much needed cup of tea. I can slow to a stroll now. Omygoodness, I've been out for almost FIVE hours! Oops. Well, it'll be fine, the study isn't going anywhere. I feel quite good actually, I'm not in that much of a rush to get home. What a lovely day and what a lovely walk. That was sooo nice. I really enjoyed that. Mmmmm, time for a cup of tea.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Bungee jumping in Africa

When I was younger I was, as most people are, a lot more hyperactive. I was constantly excited by something, looking for an adventure. My first big adventure was my gap year. I had been saying for ages before that, in a nonchalent 'yeh-I'm-crazy-and-wacky-what-of-it' type of way that I wanted to do all these extreme sports. White water rafting, sky diving, bungee jumping, anything, you name it, I'd rave with enthusiasm about how 'cool' that sounded and I'd definitely do it given half a chance.

So I'm on my gap year. It's the last month or so and we decide to do a bit of travelling before heading home. We were in Namibia and had already been to South Africa for our previous break so decided to head north this time, up to Zambia. I couldn't wait, Victoria Falls, it was going to be amazing. Amazing! I was so excited! Always excited! Yeh! Woo! (I must have actually been quite insufferable.)

We got there and we had about six days, I think, to spend in Livingstone. We started looking around for exciting things to do. We went to music performances, ate Zambian food and marvelled at their money, which consisted entirely of notes, and tons of them! Getting a fiver out of the cash machine gave you a handful! There was even a note which was equivalent to 0.2 of a penny! I think I still have one somewhere.

Then we noticed a few leaflets for extreme sports type of things on the Zambezi River and around the Victoria Falls bridge. And then it was time for me to do some of the things I'd been going on about, when they didn't seem like a possibility. We white water rafted the Zambezi one day, which wasn't too scary as it's not really turbulent the whole way, a lot of the time you spend just paddling along the still waters singing aloud and looking at the crocodiles lounging around on the rocks, eyeing you up.

Then came the big one. We went to the Victoria Falls bridge to sight-see... and there were people jumping off it! That's right, there was a bungee jump off the bridge. It claimed to be the highest from a bridge in the world! And Lucy reminded me that I'd always said I wanted to do one... hadn't I? Yes indeed, I had, yes, that's right. Well let's go and do it then, I can't wait.

Before I knew it I'd paid my £40ish and been stood in a queue on the bridge. And then there I was, toddling onto this little platform and getting my ankles tied together. And I thought, damn me and my big mouth. So now they're tied together and I'm shuffling to the edge of the platform and I'm looking down and I can see the Zambezi underneath me with teeny tiny little people white water rafting, in boats that I knew were quite big, so their smallness from up here just confirmed how high up I was.

I got ready for the pep talk, you know, you think they're gonna give you the low down, let you psyche yourself up then say, jump when you're ready. But no! As I got to the edge and looked out, I heard a voice behind me say "Hold your arms out straight when you jump. Ok! THREE! TWO! ONE!" And I just had to go....

I remember thinking, "I've just paid £40 to die." If I could have stopped time and gently stepped back onto the platform, I would have.

But I couldn't! And I was just hurtling down and down, turning upside down, arms out, screaming in terror. About half way down, the scream caught in my throat and my mouth stayed open, silently, in horror. I got to the bottom and bounced up and down wildly, my heart beating frantically when suddenly someone appeared on a rope thingy, grabbed me and we were both hauled back up.

I remember later in the day, reliving the experience and having the fear all over again! Every so often, though, I think, well that was over eight years ago, I'd probably be fine to do one again. The fear has been forgotten now, surely? I've not tested my theory but I certainly think carefully before saying I really want to do something! Although I have also skydived a few times so I didn't learn my lesson that well!