Saturday, 26 May 2012

Whatever the weather


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.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

It's all corporate Greek to me

As I prepare to re-enter corporate land for the next few months I may need to get my brain back in the zone. I’ve managed to avoid brain melt (AKA daytime TV) as a freelancer/lady of leisure, but I am wondering if my grey matter is in for a shock when I have to do a ‘normal’ job again and (god help me) translate the business speak.
I anticipate next week will be awash with dove-tailing, leveraging and piggy-backing, and I wonder what new gems will have been created since I last rubbed shoulders with the suits. As I transition back into the office life I better take ownership of my core competencies and make sure my skillset is primed to on-board my key stakeholders and get their buy-in. Ouf! There I was thinking I was terrible at languages when apparently I speak fluent corporate twaddle.
Who needs plain English when you can touch base rather then meet, have dialogue rather than talk and operationalise rather than just feckin’ do it? Not to mention the Mystic Meg style future-proofing that goes on - impressive. Maybe talking gibberish and making up words means you’re less likely to get pushback from the gatekeepers (methinks a dungeons and dragons fan came up with that one…)
And then there are the TLAs. Which, my friends, are Three Letter Acronyms. Yes - an acronym for an acronym. I must prepare myself for cryptic sentences like; ‘I can give you an ETA if they fix my VPN within their SLA – should be by COP.’ Close of Play. One of my favourites …appears to suggest a day of fun? (maybe it's all the piggy-backing?)
There’s only one thing for it – make up some nonsense of my own. They do say If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, so I shall have to apply some blue-sky thinking and dream up a ridiculous addition to the office dictionary. Maybe I can multi-task and have a thought shower whilst I take a comfort break (or maybe not – taking a comfort break in the shower is most unsanitary). I will, of course, run it up the flagpole and socialise the idea first thought, god forbid I should re-invent the wheel!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Caution: May contain rants

‘Caution: Recipe contains nuts.’ No shit Sherlock – it’s a packet of nuts. I was enjoying my fancy-pants honey-roast cashews until I spied this gem. Have we seriously reached the stage where we need to be warned that a packet of nuts contains nuts? This type of thing has a real tendency to unleash effs and jeffs forth from my gob at a rate of knots.

Every time I see ‘Caution: Contents may be hot’ on the lid of a cup specifically designed to carry hot beverages I can’t help but shake my head and wonder where mankind is headed. Shouldn’t we be allowing a little natural selection here? These labels seem to be written expressly for utter eejits.

But of course it’s not really fools that the caution-happy companies are worried about, it’s the ambulance chasers and their greedy cohorts. It used to be that people fell over in the street and their main concern was emerging with their ego intact, now they expect a fat cheque in return for being a clumsy clod. For shame. 

The mind-numbing world of daytime TV is filthy with it – ads every five minutes encouraging people to sue the arse of each other. ‘Has someone looked at you funny? You may be entitled to compensation…’
I’m all for laws that protect the innocent or wronged, but the blame culture we find ourselves in is ludicrous. Judges are ordering rewards when they should be saying ‘Man up and get some common sense!’ Is there any hope we can apply a little perspective?
The trend for litigation undoubtedly started in the US, where they have made the transition from the ridiculous to the bizarre…apparently a Californian man is suing BMW because one of their motorbikes gave him an erection that lasted two years. There are no words.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Doggy style étiquette

I’ve just had the pleasure of spending the weekend with the lovely Iris, a canine companion with possibly the sweetest nature ever (unless you’re a police person. Read on…)
Socialising with a dog reminded me again what an excellent a-hole filter they are. With Iris by my side I’ve had an abundance of smiles and chats with strangers, but I’ve also noticed those people who have obviously spent too much time on the tube (or similar). God forbid they should make eye contact or react in the slightest way to big brown eyes and a waggy tail (that’s Iris, not me – I have blue eyes).
Who could resist?
People who don’t like dogs are weird. Not that I’m judging …except that I really am. I completely understand that some may be nervous/scared of dogs, but they generally explain. It’s the ones that carry on as if she’s not even there – I suspect they are droids of some kind.
Iris makes a friend on the bus.

Spending time with a ‘bitch’ has also made me wonder – is our etiquette further evolved or have we just over-complicated things? Dogs are the grand masters of keeping it simple and socialising is instinctual. Now I’m not suggesting that we should all be going around sniffing each other’s bits (perish the thought!) but, in my humble opinion, things run a lot smoother when we’re upfront and just get to the point, a la woofers.
It's a dog's

Bad manners come from the master, not the mutt, and Iris is a perfect example. She was found wandering and neglected by whoever her previous owners were <insert rude word(s) of choice re previous owners>. Luckily she landed on her paws when my friend adopted her. She is now healthy, happy and loved, but if she could talk she could still tell a story of two from her previous life.
Loving it up at the pub.

Iris’ manners are near impeccable thanks to her new mum’s training, but, as we found out at the weekend, her previous owners also taught her a thing or two. We took her to the pub (‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ applies more to me than Iris…) and she had a great time charming the patrons and staff alike, until a policeman walked in. At some point in her life Iris has clearly been taught to spot ‘the shades’ (as they’d say in Cork).

The point is proven yet again; there are no bad dogs – just bad owners.

Sandy tug o' war. The Mr has no chance.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Going Dutch

I first went to Amsterdam on a school trip when I was 14 (a busload of catholic schoolgirls in Amsterdam… <insert carry on joke here>) and having just experienced the pure patriotic craziness that is Queen’s Day I’ve fallen even deeper in love with the city. It’s not often I get to be part of an orange sea, what with gingers being in the minority and all, and any excuse for silly headgear is good in my book.

Patriotic pooch

Some of the things I love most about travelling are the little differences, like the way they serve beer in small (fluitje) or medium (vassje) glasses in Holland, which, in my humble opinion, is a better way to serve it. The beer stays cold and fizzy and for a ‘lady’ like myself it feels less like beer swilling and more like civilised refreshment (for the first few at least…)
When in Rome...
A baby beer or two also helps boost my confidence when trying out the local lingo. I am utterly dense when it comes to languages, but it’s only polite to know my alstublieft and dankuwels. I also like to think I provide a little entertainment for the locals as I try to wrap my gob around their words and avoid spitting on people/developing a sore throat.
Is there no end to its delights?
My very favourite thing about being away is people watching and Le Dam provides a melting pot of euro-fabulousness. This has its downsides however - some sights cannot be unseen. Coloured jeans have returned to the UK, but they never left the continent. As a result middle-aged men have amassed a fine collection of trews in all the shades of the rainbow, but unfortunately with a teeny tad of denial about the middle-aged spread that’s amassed at the same time. All this combines to bring us the delight that is men with coloured camel toe. Wrong. Very wrong.
Surprisingly something I find very right in Holland is cycling. Anyone that’s ever been in the car with me knows I am not a fan of the pedal pushers, but in the Netherlands it’s nice and flat, with separate bike paths and clever little touches like gutter-pipe type things on steps to push bikes up and down. They even have multi-story bike parks. The bike is king. 
Another unexpected treat is the Bitterballen. These little beer snacks are essentially round crispy pancakes (ick), so why do I like them so much? Maybe because they go so well with the little beers and the people watching of the café culture. Yes – café, not coffee shop…
On that note, the legal drugs and liberal attitudes of the Venice of the North definitely get visitors a teensy bit overexcited at times, which only adds to the people watching gold. It is slightly concerning though, in city criss-crossed with tram-tracks, canals and gravity-defying staircases, to see people who have lost any sense of which way is up. There are always a few bold children who ruin it for everyone and even the Dutch are at the end of their laissez-fair tether at this stage. There are plans afoot to stop the sale of drugs to tourists.
Who's going to tell the lion...?
But fear not stoner dudes – loopholes will be found. The smoking ban is noticeable by its absence in many of Amsterdam’s brown bars, which is the only thing I don’t like about them. Totally hypocritical as an ex-smoker, I know, but rolling over with a hangover to get a face full of your own smoky hair is far from pleasant. But I suppose if there wasn’t a downside I might never leave.
Have I mentioned I also love the buildings?