Tuesday, 28 August 2012

What's your name and where d'you come from?


We’ve talked names before, but where you're from also says a lot about you to other people. Yes, the assumptions may be unfounded, but admit it - the stereotypes pop straight into your head when you hear where someone lives. Especially if they happen to hail from Hell (yes, there are several Hells on earth – three of them at last count).
Hell is a perfect example of my favourite kind of place (that sounds wrong somehow...) I am a big fan of those places with names that conjure up so many images and preconceived notions that your brain starts to melt a little. Anyone up for a trip to Cocks (Cornwall), Muff (Donegal) or Sandy Balls (Hampshire)? *snigger*
On a slightly more innocent note, there’s Pucklechurch. Sure god love us. All I can see is little old ladies having fetes and cake sales. Whereas Shirehampton is just full to the brim with hobbits - in my head at least... As for the people of Merrijig - they must be a happy lot (and quite fit too, I'd imagine, what with all that dancing).
And then there are the places that are just fun to say. I give you Auchtermuckty as a perfect example. Go on - say it out loud. Let it fire around your mouth. One of life's simple pleasures.
Speaking of simple pleasures (and minds). My brother and I were endlessly entertained when we were younger by Ballydehob. Could there be a more Irish-sounding (a.k.a. culchie) place? Perhaps. I think Drimoleague, Carrickfergus or Ballindereen could give it a run for its money as being the actual birthplace of leprechauns.
I can imagine living in a place with a novel title gets a little tiresome, and the residents could be in danger of the odd sense of humour failure when they've heard the same lines trotted out at them for the 4,739th time (so what do you do for fun here in Dull…?), but if you're lucky enough to live somewhere with a fantastic name - embrace it. And embrace your stereotype while you're at it - it's much more fun (it is for me at least. I'm Irish, so I get to drink a lot and eat a lot of potatoes).
Cape Foulwind - I know a few people from there...

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Festive frolics


As the Edinburgh festival was kicking off last weekend a small gaggle of us were out taking in the atmosphere (and the beer) and a friend, let's call her Sabriena (because that's her name), decided to 'help' a performer whose flyer-hander-outer had clearly shirked their responsibilities and left the whole pile on one table. Now Sabriena has an impish streak at the best of times, add wine and naughtiness is guaranteed - so out came the eyeliner and said performer, unbeknownst to himself, was soon offering free shows and discounted tickets, not to mention taking on new personalities. Imp-girl then began distributing the flyers to passing punters, forgetting that Edinburgh is a very small place…
It took no less than three flyers before Sabriena was handing one of her special flyers to the performer himself. Caught rotten. He did see the funny side, but there was a definite tone to his good-natured repartee when he realised just how many of his 'very expensive' flyers imp-girl had ‘amended’ (see also: defaced).
So, by way of penance for the sins of the imp, if you are in the vicinity of Edinburgh I encourage you to go and see Trevor Browne – he is, apparently,  'probably the greatest folk-rock musician of all time’, ‘brilliantly funny’, and he's low on flyers - so tell your friends.
As you can tell, you don't have to actually see any shows in the festival to enjoy it, but it’s worth it all the same. Last night we went to see Mark Watson: The Information - the geeky non-welsh, non-Jewish funny guy from Never mind the Buzzcocks, 8 out of 10 Cats and Mock the Week (in his words; a 'non speaking role'). His show features plenty of audience interaction (the mark of a fine comic in my book) and the better half even got kudos and a big laugh for the comic timing of his interaction. This was not heckling, I hasten to add, for heckling rarely comes off well for the heckler - the hecklee generally takes the chuckling glory, and rightly so, because the majority of hecklers are an embarrassment.
Just two statues, shootin' the breeze
We followed Mr Watson with a mime act. Yes – I said a 'mime act'. What’s more, it was bloody brilliant. Words I never thought I would hear, much less write, in connection with mime. Had you said to me a guy could keep an audience totally enthralled and entertained for an hour without uttering a word I would have been skeptical at best, but that is exactly what The boy with tape on his face bloomin' well did. He is a man, but the boy title suits him so much better - and I say that with the nicest possible intentions, because he clearly hasn't lost his childhood imagination. There are lots of positive words to describe the show, but lighthearted does it best. Go and see it - you will come out with a BIG smile on your face.
People watching gold
Its ability to surprise, with the likes of good mime acts, is one of the many reasons I love the festival. I’m also a huge fan of people watching and during the festival it is absolutely golden. Maniacs, midgets and massive cows – its got it all, and more. My 9-year-old nephew put it best when he said 'Edinburgh is weird sometimes'. Yes it is. Weird and wonderful.

This is NOT how gingers should be treated
moooo!


Sunday, 29 July 2012

Onwards & Upwards


I have the dubious pleasure of frequenting airports on a weekly basis at the moment (less carbon footprint, more carbon body-slam for me), and I do find it rather hard not to let the green-eyed monster possess my being when I see the happy holiday makers hopping on their planes and jetting off to sunnier climbs. I know that in a few short hours they’ll be sipping their first poolside cocktail while I’ll be slurping bad coffee in a stuffy office. Hmpfh, pfffpt and woe is me, etc. But then I give myself a gentle shake and remember I have it kinda damn good really.
Yes, the weather is crap, eejits roam freely to annoy us and my bum is too big, but it could be a hell of a lot worse - as I've said before; in this world, if you know where your next meal is coming from and you’re not having the arse shot off you, you’re doing pretty well.
My glass is half full, and when it’s in danger of nearing the empty stage I try to find something to look forward to (as well as ordering another drink, obviously…). They say the best cure for post holiday blues is to book another holiday. This isn’t always possible, but there’s always something to find for a similar result and just a little bit of excitement can go a long way. Just look at the effect the Olympic opening ceremony had amidst the recession gloom and the wettest summer since Noah built a boat.
I like to keep a little list of happy things in my head to keep me going (worry not! I am not about to break into ‘Raindrops on Roses’, but you get my meaning…) It’s not big stuff. Generally it’s the standard (Friday always features heavily) and sometimes the thing I look forward to most is doing nothing (yes – I am that lazy).
Monday morning will be with us soon, with its misery, moaning and melancholy, but onwards and upwards people – there is plenty to keep us cheery if we think about it, even if it’s just a nice vat of Wine.
Festival fun is nigh, something Pleasance to look forward to...

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Lessons never learned

There are some questions for which my brain has been pre-programmed with a ‘yes’ response. These questions include, but are not exclusive to: ‘Large?’, ‘Same again?’ and ‘Ah you’ll have one more!?’ The latter being more of a statement than a question of course.
The afternoon after (I didn’t see much of the morning), the clich├ęs are flowing forth at a rate of knots. ‘Never again…’ ‘It seemed like such a good idea at the time…’ and, my personal favourite, ‘that last drink was served in a wet glass…’ (© my father)
Given the conditions I’ve found myself in over the years, you’d think I’d have learned to exercise some restraint by now, but no, once the first drink goes down that special brand of alcohol amnesia kicks in, along with the ‘yes’ reflex.
So there’s nothing else for it but to place a cold facecloth on my forehead, cram my face with comfort food (potatoes, naturally) and settle in to ride out shuddering waves of ‘the fear’. While I’m at it, I may as well place a cherry at the bottom of my spiral with a great big dollop of blasphemy…

All fiends who art the hangover,
cursed be your name.
Thy sickness come,
thy suffering be done,
on the couch, if we can make it from the bedroom.
You give us this day a pain in our heads,
and highlight our drunken trespasses,
as we blame those who piled us with drink.
Next time, lead us not into temptation,
and deliver us from the evils of booze.
Amen

This is about as sensible as it gets


Saturday, 7 July 2012

TV to numb the mind and soul


Flicking around the TV in a '537 channels and there's nothing on' style, I began to notice that channel-hopping was entertainment in itself. Yes, as you may have guessed, I too am loving this delightful summer weather we’ve been having. Hard to believe my last weather chat involved the now oh-so-illusive concept of sunshine.

There really is no limit to what they'll make a programme about these days (Million Dollar Otters anyone?) I have previously cited the nation’s unsettling propensity to get their bits out on TV - but there's more!
I’ve always wondered about Four Weddings - why on earth would you want to invite three strangers along on your 'special day' with the sole intention of judging/bitching about it? I don’t get it, free honeymoon or no free honeymoon (and I LOVE holidays!) 
Now I see they've gone one further – go on Battle of the Brides and you get to share ‘the most important day of your life’ (according to the wedding circus mafia) with complete strangers, and their ‘crazy’ theme ideas, in a double wedding. Seriously? Yes they pay for your wedding and weddings are ludicrously expensive, but guess what? You don’t have to succumb to the multi-million pound industry. Move away from the bridal magazine and switch off the TV …preferably before Bridezillas or Bridalplasty. <shudder>
But be sure to switch the TV back on to peruse the truly delightful titles producers have come up with to draw attention in a crowded marketplace. I would love to have been a fly on the wall of the ‘brainstorming session’ (‘scuse the corporate twaddle there) that produced ‘Help! My house is falling down.’ Snappily done people, whoever you are. Perhaps the same creative geniuses (or genii, if you will) that came up with ‘Love Shaft’. Subtle.
My ultimate favourite though? Pawn Stars. Yes people – cash converters just got sexy. You heard it here first.
Come out from behind those clouds sunshine,
and save us from soul-destroying TV!

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Taxi!


Taxis are often an iconic part of the cityscape - London’s black cabs, New York’s yellow taxis, and Bangkok’s death-defying tuk-tuks - and, in addition to their power to transport you from A to B when you’re wearing heels / have forgotten your umbrella, I love taxis ability to surprise. Sometimes for the better – New York taxis have very bouncy back seats, and they’re really cheap (far cheaper that Edinburgh taxis – but that’s a rant about the city of Edinburgh council I won’t go into now) and sometimes for the worse – I’m always a little disappointed when I hail a ‘traditional Black cab’ only to be faced with a boxy glorified van. Yes – more of those first world problems, but I’m not a fan of the new style black cabs. Give me a ‘dangerous’ door that opens in reverse over a slow-motion automatic door any day (I could walk quicker than those bloody doors open). 
It’s the drivers that really make the journey though. Believe me I’ve met plenty of the traditional grumpy ignoramus types who are only out to wheedle as much money as possible out of you. The better half and I took a cab from the airport to our hotel in Vegas without a single word from the driver – not even a grunt. And if I had a pound for every time a classic cranky Edinburgh taxi driver (don’t mention the trams!) has tried to take me the longest route possible in a city I’ve lived in for 15 years, only to be totally affronted by the ‘accusation’… and god forbid you attempt to open the aforementioned ridiculous automatic doors yourself. Cue huffing, puffing and loosely disguised expletives. But, to be fair, they do have to deal with the general public all day (and – even worse - all night), and if that were me there would probably be blood.
I love an anti-stereotype, and I’m happy to say I have also met some truly lovely drivers. Going right back to when this country girl (bog-hopper, culchie, teuchter – call me what you like) started going out in the ‘big city’ and the drivers of sky cabs would put up with the caterwauling of a carload of drunken* teenage girls as we attempted, by way of our ‘harmonies’, to get a few pounds knocked off the fare. God bless them. Not only did they refrain from ejecting us from their car for crimes against eardrums, they actually gave us a discount – and greeted us with great aplomb the following week when we clambered into their car for another verse of California Dreamin’ (with seconds… oh dear).

More recently, arriving at Edinburgh airport at ungodly o’clock off a delayed flight, I was mightily cheered to discover myself on board the karma taxi. I gave the girl next to me in the queue a ‘lift’ because her house was on my way, which led to a chat with the driver about good deeds. He's a big believer in karma and every day he gives a free fare to someone he thinks either needs or deserves it. Like the old lady who’d decided to splash out on a taxi home from the bingo, rather than the bus, after a little win. He refused to take any money off her and told her to treat herself to tea and cake the next day instead. A most excellent anti-stereotype.
Taxi drivers, at least the ones who’ve managed to keep their sense of humour, also have great stories, particularly the guys at Bristol airport. Last week one driver was telling me about another passenger who was threatening to sue the holiday company after his annual family holiday in Spain (yep, you guessed it – same place every year). They’d broken out and tried First Choice after 10 years on the trot with Thomas Cook (wild!) They went to the same hotel, the rep was fine, the flight was better. ‘So what was the problem?’ asked the driver. It was too hot. ’32 degrees every day!’ apparently. And how was that the fault of said First Choice? Well the average monthly temperature in their brochure said 28 degrees. The mind boggles.

*All very legal, I hasten to add.        *ahem*

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Watch out - liquids about!


What I’d like to know is; what is so very dangerous about my shower gel? The airport liquid restrictions have been in place for some time now, so you’d think I’d be used to them, but this ginger needs a lot of help to look semi-normal, so they really are a right royal pain in the @rse. It’s grand when the better half is there to take my overflow in his little plastic baggy (the purveyors of those little baggies must LOVE the guys who hit upon the liquid bomb idea by the way – shares are up!) but when I'm on my own it leads to either checking a bag or some harsh decisions about which product de toilette is least essential (yes, yes, I know – first world problems…)
I’m all for taking measures to ensure the plane I’m on is not blown to smithereens, but I am deeply suspicious about this baggy activity. So we all put our tiny bottles of liquid in a little bag – to what end exactly? Just the other day I was witness to a fine example of the amazing work done by our fearless airport security guards. A young man had dutifully placed his bottle of aftershave in a tray next to his bag and his belt and off it went into the x-ray machine. At the other side the scanner of the scanner gave said youth a withering over-the-bifocals look (striking fear into his heart with it no doubt) and pointedly placed the offending bottle into a plastic baggy before handing it back. Thank god - who knows the damage that aftershave could have done if not safely ensconced in a see-through cocoon.
It’s pretty obvious some of the security measures are made up to entertain bored guards. Why else would they insist on them at some airports and ignore them at others? Some of them make you take your shoes off, some only make you take certain types of shoe off, and some couldn’t give a shiny shite about your shoes. Maybe they take an educated guess as to whether or not you’ll have smelly feet?
To be fair it must be mind-numbing to the point of exasperation to repeat the same phrases over and over, and receive the same incredulous looks when you tell people that they can't take their tweezers on a plane (for fear you would forcefully over-pluck the stewardesses eyebrows?) I wouldn’t be surprised if they start making us do the hokey-cokey in aid of national security.
I do have to give credit to the security staff who remain cheery while doling out ridiculous requests to the passengers who can only be described (politely) as ‘a few sandwiches short of a picnic’ (less polite version: ‘feckin’ eejits’). The staff at Schiphol, for instance, deserve medals for reacting with nothing more than a wry smile when the chavs claim their human rights are being violated when they take their joints away.
It is other passengers that tend to add insult to injury when you’re faced with the joys of airport security. Particularly the ones who wait until they’re at the belt of the x-ray machine to unpack and repack their suitcase to remove sun-cream, nail scissors and machetes, despite being pre-warned by the weird/scary/patronising hologram people (money well spent there airport authorities!) 
The self-same fools also have a habit of hogging the other side of the scanner until their bag to comes out, somehow managing to take up six feet of space with one jittery/hovery movement, until a grumpy businessman elbows them out of the way that is. The suits hold no truck with dilly-dallying and it makes for excellent people watching, which goes some way to making up for a lack of moisture in my travelling life.
Nice view - shame about the dehydration

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

My mate carbohydrate


My not insubstantial girth will attest to the fact that I am rather a fan of the carbohydrate. The vast majority of my meals contain carbs, some are entirely based around the potato/pasta/bread/rice element and I feel rather short-changed if there are no carbs involved …either that or I begin polishing my halo, believing I will instantly shed pounds right and left, and join the healthy, healthy, healthy brigade who can tell you difference between simple and complex carbohydrates and exactly how much of each element is contained in any food presented to them.
Such health kicks only tend to last about 10 minutes with me though – they’re rather dull and require far too much concentration. Not to mention the fact that they frown upon the potato, and I don’t take kindly to people dissing my friends. Yes – I just called potatoes friends. And I care not a jot that I am perpetuating a paddy stereotype because I LOVE potatoes, in all forms, and I don’t care who knows it. I have been known to order a dish in a restaurant based on the kind of potatoes it comes with. Yes, I might really fancy the lamb with rosemary and redcurrant jus (jus: fancy-pants for sauce), but with couscous? I think not.
Quite aside from my love of potato (in all forms; mashed, baked, roast, chipped – I love them all! *ahem*, and calm…) people who don’t eat carbs seem to be quite pissed off a lot of the time. You know the types – the ones with mouths like cat’s arses, miserable eyes and a general air of tension about them. I always think they could do with a nice thick sandwich, a buttery baked potato or a plate of saucy pasta to pick the mood and energy levels up a little. They’re definitely lacking something in their lives – and I reckon it’s either carbs they need or, as my friend Al would say; ‘a good hard sh@g!’

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Whatever the weather


Genius

We are obsessed. The temperature in Singapore only varies by about 5 degrees throughout the year (one for the fact-fans!) I wonder what they talk about? When I was there a few years ago I was amazed by the local’s indifference to the weather, particularly the treacly humidity. I know they’re used to it, but it was 28 degrees, with about 90% humidity, and they were wearing jeans and boots. I would have been nothing more than a ginger puddle.
Further north in the hemisphere, we can’t stop talking about it – come rain or shine. Maybe it’s because we get so much weather. Or maybe we just like a bit of drama when it’s ‘freezing!’ (anything less than 5 degrees) or ‘roasting!’ (anything more than 15).
It’s all relative. Our best summer days still pretty chilly to some of our tourists and I love seeing the bemused looks on their faces when we’re all flip-flopping around with our newly-exposed white bits glowing as they huddle deeper into their scarves. On the flip side, visitors from colder climbs must find our inability to deal with more than an inch of snow hilarious.
I’m sure there must be some geeky stats somewhere about the amount of time we spend on our favourite subject, and it’s time well spent in my view. This idle chit-chat brings strangers together, unites colleagues and neighbours, and, in the case of our lovely local seller Tony, helps shift Big Issues – he loves a bit of weather chat.
These last couple of weeks have provided us with a smorgasbord to celebrate and bemoan. Just last week we were revelling in a good whinge about the rain and cold, and this week we’ve enjoyed the rare and exquisite pleasure of a whole string of sunny days. Supermarket shelves have been stripped of their sun-cream, sausages and shiny new BBQs. Pasty torsos have been unleashed on a unsuspecting public (my eyes!) and shares in Pimms have sky-rocketed (I imagine – when anyone mentions stocks and shares I have to fight the urge to shout ‘buy, buy, buy’ into a fake phone, such is the extent of my knowledge on the subject).
Today I’ll be amongst the sun-worshippers; bare feet up, shades on and summery beverage in hand. But fear not, I will be enjoying it all responsibly – factor 500 shall be applied to avoid the sizzling of ginger skin and my pasty torso will remain under wraps. The big JC clearly fancies himself as a comedian ...and on the second day, he made pink and orange people.