Archive for October, 2012

The Eclectic Word Club

Good morning. It’s Wednesday again and time for my guest blogger, Rambler5319 to take over….

 

Are you a member of a club? If you are, why are you? I suppose, logically, you like the activities they do. It might be: a football club because you like football, a tennis club because you like to play tennis, a chess club because you like to play chess, a film club because you like to watch films and so on. These are all clubs where you know what they will be doing by their title.

However I wonder if you’ve ever thought of yourself as being in a club that you didn’t know you were a member of. Bit strange, eh? How could you be in a club or clubs but not know it? I think we all are! Thousands of them. How so? I hear you say.

To find out let’s go back to the clubs I mentioned at the start. People in those clubs have certain words they use which are particular to their activity. They will have special words which those in the “club” know but perhaps those outside don’t: a one-two in Football, roughing and trumping in Bridge, castling in Chess and so on. Some of us, who are not members of that club, may know these terms because we know people who use them or they’ve become used in everyday life but the more technical ones we probably don’t. You only learn them if you need to use them. So far so good.

Each person has a vocabulary of words they use every day in order to communicate. This vocabulary will vary depending on how many words you’ve learnt and whether you know their meanings. It will also depend on your age: young people use words older people don’t and vice versa, scientists use words non-scientists don’t. Words do come into and go out of fashion. You may use particular words to sound trendy (“right on”, “boss”, “cool”, fab etc) or maybe even to sound deliberately not trendy (“spokeshave”).

It’s important to use the correct terms otherwise you will not be able to communicate. Would you expect a mechanic in a garage where you take your car to refer to “the thing under the bonnet”? No, I think you’d expect him to say “the engine”. If there’s a right word use it but to use it you have to know it! And that’s where the learning comes in: get that dictionary out! Now you’re in the club that knows the word “engine” and so on up to the more complicated ones. You can communicate with other people who know the same word but not with those who don’t. Do you see what’s going on here? We’re in lots of these “clubs” but we may not be in all the same ones as our friends.

At the end of the day words are about communication so why use words that most people don’t know unless it’s to sound or look clever? For instance in the 1840s people would not have had a problem with Emily Bronte’s use of words like “asseverate” & “orison”, in Wuthering Heights, but how many of us today know their meaning? In this case you have two options: go and look them up in a dictionary so you know what they mean next time or just try and guess from the context (in which case you’ll never know for certain). If you don’t look them up – why don’t you? In fact why don’t you write them down so you’ll remember them. Now you’re in the “club” that knows what they mean.

The title of this blog gives a further clue. Eclectic is a word which crept into everyday use through music journalism and writers referring to people having “an eclectic taste” in music or an album having an “eclectic mix” of styles. You either look the word up or you don’t understand what they’re talking about. You will tend to pick the words you use based on the situation you’re in: are you speaking with customers, friends or work colleagues? In the container business, for example, you will hear words like Reefer (meaning a refrigerated container or trailer), High-Cube (meaning a container which is 9’6” high instead of an ordinary height of 8’6”) and Flat Rack (meaning a container with no sides or roof, so it just has the base and two ends). Each branch of the armed forces has special words and phrases they use. Each trade or craft also has specialised uses of words. You just have to learn them if you’re going to be able to communicate with others in the same business. You become part of a word club where particular words and language are used. You will also begin to use words that those around you use especially when moving (or travelling) to a new area or country: our cars have bonnets – American cars have hoods, our cars have boots – American cars have trunks, we put petrol in our cars – Americans put “gas” in theirs and so on.

I’m reading a book at the moment (about The Elizabethan period in English history) which, just this week, has given me six words I’ve not come across before: Scabrous, Tanistry, Gallowglasses, Seneschal, Rymor, Self-Exculpation. (My notebook which I’ve mentioned before that I write words in that I don’t know the meaning of is close to the 800 mark now.) So that’s six new clubs I’ve joined because, along with the author, I now know what they mean. And no I’m not telling you what they mean! If you don’t know them……. You know what’s coming next……go and get that dictionary! Find out!

One of the best investments I made was to purchase a dictionary app for my phone. It’s the same dictionary as the hardback paper version I have on my bookshelf but it cost one-sixth of the price and it is with me all the time. It’s also quicker than me at looking up stuff. Those of you with Kindles probably don’t need an app as it includes a dictionary. It’s just a matter of being prepared.

Being in word clubs is a lifelong experience because there are so many of them and new ones come along all the time. Will you join them (by getting that dictionary out) or will you walk past maybe just guessing what’s behind the door? The choice is yours. Have you come across any words you don’t know recently that you could share with us?

(Guest post by Rambler 5319)

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A few follow ups and a ladle of soup

A little while ago, I wrote a post called Sometimes I Think Too Much about a girl who was new in the area and had asked me to go for a drink, in a best-friend-date type of way. Some of you asked about how it had gone.

So here’s the story. The next time she came in, she mentioned needing a job, I said we had one. Two and two were put together and they equalled my new potential best friend and I working together. It was all ok for a few weeks. Then she got another job and left. And that was that really. Done.

Clearly I gave it way more thought than it warranted when she asked me out for a drink.

The second thing is that the local drunk who featured in “Are these donuts?” recently took a picture to a gallery nearby to have it reframed. It has been reframed now and, as the owner of the gallery is a friend and has a bad shoulder at the moment, he has asked me to help him go to Mr Red Wine’s flat and help him reframe it.

That’s right. I get to go INSIDE Mr Red Wine’s flat! I am beyond excited. I imagine it’ll be like one of those programmes called Grime Fighters or something, where cleaning companies go into old flats which are full of crap and pizza boxes with mould growing on them and rats running around.

My gallery owner friend has pre warned me that we will have to stand on Mr Red Wine’s bed to hang the picture and that it is alive with bed bugs. He also said I shouldn’t worry about just standing on stuff as I walk in the flat as there is no free floor space anyway.

It is going to be mental, I can tell.

Also, a few days ago, whilst at work, I was leaning over a bowl of soup to get something and there was a ladle in it with a hook on the end, for hanging it up with. Somehow the ladle hook caught on my apron and as I stood back up, I pulled the ladle with me, which was full of soup, and scooped it onto myself. It went all down my front and onto my Crocs and in the little holes and into my feet. Niiiiice.

I just thought you might like that little story.

It’s about my aura

A little while ago, a friend at work asked me cover part of a shift for her. It was quite important so she was really grateful when I said I could cover it. She asked what she could do in return and I said I’d like her to write me a song and perform it. Which she did.

Here is that song. I thought you might like to hear it.

Oh Laura

Thank you so much for covering part of my shift,
It really means a lot, if you catch my drift.

Oh Laura, it’s something about your aura,
Yeah, your aura, mmm, mmm, yeah.

I hope it doesn’t ruin your evening,
Or give you a peculiar feeling,

Yeah, it’s your aura. Oh Laura.

Now I will owe you a favour,
As you have been my saviour.

Yeah Laura, it’s your aura…

Do you like it? I have also just remembered a song my brother made up when we were little. It wasn’t really to do with me but it was to do with something I loved dearly and his intention with the song was to poke fun and try to annoy me.

It went as follows.

“My little pony,
Skinny and bony,
Looked in the mirror,
And saw a gorilla.”

So, as you can tell, I am surrounded by musical genius. No wonder I almost became a world famous pop star.

Some things I should admit

I have never seen Kill Bill.

I didn’t see Dirty Dancing or Grease till I was about 16.

I bunked off the last half hour of school one day to get a book signed by the first winner of Big Brother.

Often I don’t brush my hair.

When I was about ten, I saved up and bought The Smurfs Go Pop album. My favourite song on it was Mr Blobby and The Smurfs, in which Mr Blobby occasionally goes “BLOBBY!” That is his only contribution to the song.

I always used to make up little plans about running away (I had probably seen a film which made it look really fun and easy.)

I have a strange fondness for wildebeest. I just think they’re quite grand.

I loved loved LOVED the boy from Free Willy. I had a poster of him on my wall, which I used to snog.

When I was little, I named all my teddy bears and cuddly toys and gave them personalities and had a little sitcom-esque imaginary existence with them at bedtime.

It was during these night time role plays with my toys that I perfected my faux American accent.

That’s right, I have a faux American accent that I sometimes put on for fun. I think it’s ace. I can’t speak for anyone else.

I also went through a phase when I was about 17 where I spoke in an Irish accent.

I have lumpy knees.

Sometimes I find the news boring, although I know I should be fascinated and be all aware and things, but sometimes they go on and on, and I realise I’m not actually that interested. Ssshhhh, don’t tell anyone.

I don’t like Glee. I once watched an episode. It was not the best use of my time.

I also don’t like mustard.

I don’t think dogs are cute. Even small fluffy ones. They’re just dogs.

I love lists.

Coffee (the sequel)

A little while ago, I wrote a post about coffee. About how I had tried, and failed, over the years, to like coffee. I’d worked with it for ages. I knew exactly how to steam the milk and run the coffee so that it might appear more tasty. But none of it had worked. I was quite definitely a tea drinker.

So then we went to Rome, where I made a concerted effort to fit in with the locals and stand at espresso bars sipping on a granita or getting straight in there with a ristretto (not sure about spelling, it means a really short, really strong espresso). And actually, I think it worked. The coffee tasted different there. I’m not sure if there’s something different about the way they roast their beans or whatever, but it’s different. It didn’t make me too hyper. It was bitter, but the coffee taste itself was the overriding memory I have.

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Back in England, I’ve found that the coffee is more bitter. That’s the overriding taste, so that only if I’m really concentrating, can I taste the actual coffee in the background somewhere.

So I thought I’d seize the moment, on arriving back from Rome and start drinking espresso. I’ve been having one a day, mid morning ish. I have it quite short, about half the size of a standard espresso, with nothing in. No milk or sugar.

What fun! I’m so Italian! Look at me everyone! Look! Look! Watch me drink coffee like a grown up! Look, I’m one of you guys, a grown up. Look!

I’ll admit now, it was mostly for show, my self-imposed coffee habit.

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So then, I started getting headaches. Dammit. I found out, through various experiments, that if I drink shedloads of water beforehand and make sure I have some food in my tummy, then I’m ok. If, however, I drink it before I drink water or eat anything, then I start to talk very fast for a while, before suddenly feeling tired and getting a bit headachey.

The headaches seem to have passed now, although I am tired a lot. This could be many things, not the coffee. Maybe I didn’t get enough sleep last night (although sometimes I do get enough sleep but I still feel tired), maybe I’m partaking in lots of exhausting activity (not really)…..

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I’m not sure. As a newcomer to the world of coffee, I’m unfamiliar with the initiation ceremony. Is this how it goes? Headaches first, then the tiredness, then what….?

Is this the normal route to developing a coffee habit? Can any coffee drinkers out there tell me what to expect next?

Or should I stop now? Stop now while I’m just at tiredness? I mean, it’s not like I even notice when I don’t drink them. As I say, it’s all for show. I’m a bit too lazy to have any kind of actual addiction to coffee.

I should probably just let it go now, hey?

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An Italian feast – the vegetarian version

I must apologise in advance as I forgot to take photos of the antipasti before we dug in and devoured it all… Oops!

After my last post about food, which was posted to Facebook, a friend I haven’t seen in a while read it and jokingly asked to come to dinner in a “You-can-invite-me-to-dinner-anytime,” kind of way. Spotting an opportunity to prepare another feast, I responded with a genuine invitation. Another friend was invited and the date was fixed. I had a day off so scheduled my day around preparing the food.

We decided to go vegetarian as one of the party doesn’t eat meat and I couldn’t be bothered to do two sets of food.

And so the fun began.

I started by making the tiramisu slightly wrong by whisking the sugar with the egg whites instead of the yolks. I just kind of put it all together and fridged it and hoped it would taste fine. Then I made little things called Esse biscuits, which are quite specific to Venice, although why a biscuit shaped like an S should be Venetian is beyond me.

Then I ploughed on through the grissini, the music paper, the pesto, the gnocchi, the soup, the lentil dish and some salads. It was 3.30pm, two and a half hours before my guests would arrive. So I did what any reasonable person would do at that point. I had a nap.

I woke up about 5pm and dived back into the kitchen, spearing mozzarella and basil, toasting (burning) bread and taking the truffle butter out of the fridge.

After a little help with directions, my friends arrived, one of them taking charge of toasting new bread as I couldn’t seem to stop burning things.

So the antipasti was grissini, music paper, truffle butter, pesto, bruscette with ricotta, broad bean and mint, more bruscette with roasted grape and thyme, roasted walnuts, and goat’s cheese. O, and a white bean houmous-type thing, which was unexpectedly delicious. I just used some tinned cannellini beans and heated them gently in a pan with a bit of water, an onion, some bay leaves and a bit of olive oil. Then I removed a few beans, whizzed what was left and left it on a low heat to thicken. I put it in a bowl once finished and put the beans I had removed back on top with a little lemon and white truffle oil.

As mentioned earlier, I only afterward remembered to get a photograph of the antipasti. Here it is.

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Yep. That’s all that was left to photograph by the time I remembered…..

Next up was the mains.

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A panzanella, which was well received. In case you are unfamiliar with a panzanella, it’s a bread and tomato salad, basically. It’s one of those things that I’ve had a few times and it’s been pretty average. A nice homemade panzanella, though, is well worth the effort.

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Here we have; bottom left, a chickpea, fennel and leek soup; above that, the white bean houmous; front right, gnocchi in a cavolo nero sauce; top middle, a zucchini, basil and rocket salad.

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There was also this vegetable lentil dish dressed with basil oil and mozzarella.

Once we’d eaten all that, we were stuffed and couldn’t even think about dessert. No, honestly! I can’t fit a single thing in! I’m so full. I need a while to let it all go down. What’s that? You’re getting the dessert out? Just to look at? Ok. O… Well, maybe I’ll just have a little try….

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Baked figs on the left and tiramisu in the glasses on the right. We obviously scoffed them. I admitted my sugar-in-the-egg-whites mistake but it was generally agreed that we couldn’t tell. 

Next we had coffee and the Esse biscuits.

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A discussion about the film version of Roald Dahl’s The Witches then took up the remainder of the evening and I went to bed dreaming of being turned into a mouse….

The walking test

Happy Thursday all. It’s time for my guest blogger to take over again, so here goes. Enjoy!

 

Is it just me or does this happen to you? You’re walking along behind someone when they suddenly, without warning, just stop. Then you notice they’re either on the phone or doing something with their phone or they’ve stopped to tell their child off for something. You do a kind of side-step to avoid walking into them while they seem completely oblivious to the problem they’ve created. Last week I mentioned the incident, in my local supermarket, of someone talking on a mobile phone and leaving their trolley blocking the aisle. (This week, by the way, went without a hitch – result!)

I’ve been thinking of how this problem could be solved. My solution is quite revolutionary (in Rambler-opolis, anyway) – pedestrian lights. That is pedestrian brake lights (& side lights for when walking at night). Now, before you laugh, just bear with me while I explain. They would be positioned on your shoulders with the red lens facing to the back. They could be powered by a small watch size battery. Every pedestrian would have to have them so that people walking behind would know when the person was going to stop (as the red brake light would go on) and can then take avoiding action. Now I’m not sure at this stage whether indicator lights could be added. Wouldn’t it be great if you could tell which way a person was going to turn especially if you were going to do an overtaking manoeuvre just by the lights on their shoulders?

Think about this – we don’t allow people to fly planes, drive trains, captain ships, ride motorbikes or scooters, drive trucks or any vehicle without passing a test. However when it comes to the pavement (sidewalk) we seem to just let anyone do whatever they want. Just as you have to pass a test to drive a vehicle on the road I think there should be a “Walking Test” before you’re allowed out on the pavements. (Kids would be exempt until they reach a certain age.) Until such time as you pass the test you wear an “L” badge (front and back). Once you’ve passed you get a pedestrian licence or walking permit. There’d be an equivalent to the Highway Code for pedestrians – a Pavement Code, maybe? There would also be a Pedestrian Police Force who could catch people breaking the rules; they should definitely catch people talking on their mobile phone whilst walking – this is a big “No-No”. (They could also breathalyse people if they suspect they are “walking under the influence of alcohol”.) In Rambleropolis if you want to answer the phone you must walk to the side of the pavement away from the road where there will be a white line marking an area for stationary pedestrians. It will be roughly the width of one person. (The area could be also used by those wanting to tie up a shoelace that has come undone or adjust their tie or dress in general.) If you are using your phone you should remain still, in this marked area, for the duration of the call. You must stop walking. Once the call, or whatever you’re doing, is over you should check behind to make sure no-one is coming and then cross the line and resume walking in the main area. How easy is that?

This would definitely introduce a bit more order to the chaos of people just walking wherever they want. Then we could look at some more measures like pedestrian speed cameras. This would bring even more order to our pavements. Running would not be allowed as it’s dangerous to those moving more slowly and older folks. Speed cameras would pick up those who disobey, say those exceeding 6mph. Further on as systems develop I think maybe we could develop the idea of a white line down the centre of the pavement. That certainly would be worth looking into. Failing a driving test is something you talk about with your friends & relatives but imagine the shame of failing your pedestrian test. Yes, I think this would really spur people on to be good citizens.

(As a quick aside here, I think there should also be a test for people using trolleys in supermarkets that would include how to position the trolley whilst thinking about what to buy or whilst talking on a mobile phone!)

I can see quite a few nodding heads. I know what you’re thinking – why has no-one ever thought of something like this before? Well to be honest I was wondering that too. I can’t see too many problems with my idea so far so I think it’s off down to the patent office tomorrow to protect my idea from anyone trying to steal it and make a fortune. Remember, in a few years time, when everyone is wearing my invention, you read it first here! I would of course expect to earn sizeable sums of money from the royalties of my idea and will probably buy a decent car with a chauffeur so don’t expect to meet me on the pavement! Oh and finally would like to just wish you all “Happy Walking”.