Archive for January, 2013

Things I learned from watching Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was very tall.

He was also a Republican. I realised I don’t know what party most of America’s presidents were from (apart from the most recent ones). I know names and policies, eg Roosevelt and The New Deal. But I don’t really know whether they were Democrat or Republican.

It was really hard to get the 13th Amendment through. I didn’t realise how many educated men had opposed it.

The 13th Amendment was such a massive thing. I think we don’t realise it because we live in an age where slavery seems so incomprehensible.

Abraham Lincoln and his wife didn’t really get on a lot of the time.

All but one of his sons died before adulthood.

Everything was so dark at night time, pre-electricity.

Sometimes, as humans, we do the wrong thing. And sometimes we do the right thing. There is hope for us yet.

Abraham Lincoln was a self-taught lawyer. He read some Blackstone’s guides then passed the Bar and started practising. I reckon I could probably skip bar school and do the same. What do you think? (I didn’t actually learn from the film, I Googled it afterward.)

Lincoln was assassinated right in the thick of the war ending and the Amendment being passed. I hadn’t realised it was so soon.

Orange Wednesday is mental time to go to the cinema. I’ve never seen so many people waiting in a line to buy popcorn. (I learned that from the cinema experience itself, not the film.)

A bottle of water in the shop is £1. A bottle of water in the cinema is £2.75.

Three-word days

Good morning everyone. Today my guest blogger has an interesting new spin on diary-keeping. Enjoy!

I wonder if you’ve ever tried to keep a diary. Perhaps you have or maybe you still do. If you can make it a habit it’s a great source of reflections on your life and what happened in it at a particular time. Many years ago I did keep a diary for a couple of years and then more recently did it for just one year. It’s hard to keep it going though. Perhaps you’ve done a holiday diary for say a week or 2 weeks. Again I’ve done that where you not only write but stick in the pages all sorts of bits like tickets or leaflets about the things you did or visited. However I wonder if you’ve ever thought of maybe recording just one event for the day, one thing which stood out. There is a radio prog here in the UK on national radio in which people are invited to write/text/email in with their day summaries but it can only be 3 words. Yes that’s right only 3 words. Now of course it’s well nigh impossible to write a summary of your day in three words so people pick one thing which for them made the day special or different or just one thing they want to remember for that particular day. It might even be an opinion on something in the news.

Here are just 3 examples of the many which are read out. You can see the kinds of things people send in, for each day. These were sent in to the programmes from last week. Each one is from a different person and they read them out at various times during the 2 hour prog:

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Mon – 1. No snow here 2. Single yet again 3. Panic bought chocolate

Tue – 1. Freezing fingers off 2. Ready for bed 3. Scandinavia is laughing

Wed – 1. Four large cookies 2. Still in pyjamas 3. Cruciate ligament snapped

Thu – 1. Hernia op success 2. Good riddance snow 3. Regretting yesterday’s curry

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I think you get the idea.

Here are my recent 3-word days:

Mon 21.1.13 – Off work today

Tue 22.1.13 – Thirteen hour shift

Wed 23.1.13 – Slept in late

Thu 24.1.13 – Saw Les Miserables

Fri 25.1.13 – Changed bed linen

Sat 26.1.13 – Helen Shapiro concert

Sun 27.1.13 – Snow almost gone

Mon 28.1.13 – Projector fault investigated

Also I have some from a couple of years ago:

Wed 10.11.10 Contact Buchter News

Thu 11.11.10 Windy night Blackpool

Thu 18.11.10 Hospital, needle, arm

Mon 22.11.10 Donation, anonymity, accepted

Tue 23.11.10 Happy faces Luderitz

Wed 24.11.10    Cheques in post

 

Why don’t you give it a try? You might be surprised as you look back on those brief words for each day. It’s much easier & quicker than the full diary thing and keeps just a thought for the day for you to remember. It can be a challenge but I think you might enjoy doing it so have a go and see how you get on. Then why don’t you do a reply sending your 3-word summary for the day you are reading this or maybe do it for a week and send the whole seven days in a reply next week – (that would still only be 21 words).

A few reviews

Ok, so my very favourite thing to do lately is to plug in my earphones, set an audio book going and walk up to the park. I’ve been tearing through them at a surprising rate recently so I thought I’d let you know what’s worked for me and what hasn’t.

I had a lucky first experience of Audible.com when I downloaded my first book, The Snow Child. It was read well, the story was brilliant and I was totally hooked.

The next book I listened to was called The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery. It was a lot longer than The Snow Child so took me a while to listen to. You basically follow the protagonist’s entire life story, from New York to Japan and back. Without realising that you’re wrapped up in the story, you hold your breath when it seems she will be discovered and you recoil, waiting to hear what will happen when she makes a cultural faux pas. At the time, it feels quite slow moving and I’m still not definitely sure why it is called The Teahouse Fire as plenty of other, more significant things happen to her. But upon finishing it, I suddenly thought that I would like to listen to it again as I think it would gain a lot on a second listening.

Then I listened to A Wild Sheep Chase, by Haruki Murakami, which was obviously a bit mental. I’ll always have a soft spot for Murakami’s writing as it makes me think of long days spent in a little guest house on Bohol island in the Philippines, reading Kafka on the Shore. He deals in the type of surrealist writing that is kind of like the literary version of a Picasso painting. A bit out there, you’re not sure what direction it will take next, nothing seems to make sense. It takes on an odd fixation, this book, a particular sheep with a star on it’s back. The story is creative and engaging. I didn’t love the way it was read, to be honest. But overall, it was a typical Murakami and I enjoyed it.

Next I listened to Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley. I don’t need to tell you all the story of this as anyone who is anyone knows about it or has read it. I’ve carried a copy round with me for years and never read it so Audible.com seemed like the best way to finally read it. It offers an eerily possible world-scenario that I don’t feel it either advocated nor denigrated. Initially I rebelled from the idea of not having familial links, of being free and forward with sexual attitudes, of growing babies and engineering them through phrases repeated to them in their sleep. But them we had a glimpse of how someone from this futuristic world might view us as we are now. And it was equally repulsive. I came away feeling neither neither relieved nor horrified that our world is the one looked upon unfavourably by the beings of the future. It simply made me think about how we are and how we operate as a society. For that, I recommend it to everyone. It’s brilliance lies in its springboard effect, it is there to promote further thought.

Miranda Hart’s Is It Just Me is a work of comical genius. Now I’m not a big Miranda follower (being only 5″4) and haven’t caught that many of the programmes. I’ve seen her present a few quiz shows and thought she was quite funny. But I wasn’t necessarily on the Miranda band wagon (the Miranda-wagon, as she might call it). I downloaded this book just because it was on the best sellers list. And boy, am I glad I did! This is not a book to be listened to outside whilst walking down a busy high street, as I quickly learned after laughing out loud when she used the word ‘flabiola’ to describe herself. She also often needs you to say ‘yes!’ loudly at certain points so, to save drawing attention to yourself, make sure you are at home or in an empty park. I honestly couldn’t get enough of Miranda. After turning her off to make dinner or go to work, I kept thinking about how I wanted to turn her on again. She became like a life guru to me for a week. I have no doubt I’ll listen to her again when I’ve finished any other books waiting to be listened to. Give it the first chapter to get into the swing of things, to get onto the same page. And then, you’re away. This is a must-listen.

Danda and the croissant

On a recent train journey, Danda and I were up early so neither of us had eaten before leaving the house. We got one train, then a tube then another train, which had all taken about an hour and a half. By the time we sat down, we were feeling light-headed from tea-deprivation and hunger.

Danda, in a fit of generosity and helpfulness, offered to go and get some victuals from the cafe cart, further down the train.

“What would you like?” he asked.

“Oo, just something small,” said I, not wanting to sound like a fat pie by asking for two muffins and a chocolate bar.

“A croissant, perhaps?” he suggested.

“Yes please. A little croissant would be nice.”

“And a drink? Some tea?”

“Yes, I think so. And a bottle of water.”

“Ok,” Danda said and started to leave.

“Actually, no. Not a tea, thanks. Just a water.”

“Just a water?”

“Yeh, thanks.”

And off he went, to the cafe cart. He was gone quite a while. I was getting hungry and couldn’t stop thinking about the croissant Danda was bringing back to me. My throat hurt and I was looking forward to having a nice cool drink of water.

I waited and waited and wondered what had happened.

After about fifteen minutes Danda arrived back at the table and gave me a bottle of water. I looked in his hands and couldn’t see anything else. Not a coffee for himself or a croissant for me or anything. Hmm.

He sat down, super casual, and started making idle chatter about the recent snow.

“Danda,” I said, timidly. Clearly something had happened here and I did not know what it was. “Danda, where are all the other things? I thought you would have got a cup of coffee?”

“O yes, I had one. There are little tables there where you can have your coffee so I had it there.”

“And the croissant?”

“Yes, I had one with my coffee. It was quite nice. They give you two little ones with your coffee.”

“And the other one? Where is that one?”

“I started it but got quite full. I threw most of the second one in the bin.”

“Um, in the bin? Why did you put it in the bin? Didn’t you bring one for me?”

“O. I thought you just wanted the water. I threw the other croissant away.”

Yes that’s right. Not only had he thought I only wanted water but he had eaten a croissant whilst there, then had a bite of a second and thrown it in the bin. The bin, readers. The bin in carriage number 13. While I starved in carriage number 18.

Any advice on what I should do about this situation?

Things it’s ok to do as a child

Stop a party of six whilst out walking so that you can wish on a star.

Fart and blame it on the TV.

Have long conversations with your reflection in the mirror.

Have plain spaghetti and green ‘olibs’ (olives) for dinner.

Say things like, “I’m going to marry Adam. When I’m 13.”

Have people accompany you to the toilet, just to chat to them about Barbie.

Declare loudly, “I don’t like hippos!” at the dinner table with absolutely no prerequisite.

Reply to the sentence, “I’m scared of monsters,” with the advice, “You should eat your carrots then.”

Jump in all puddles, even ones which are tiny, five hundred times before moving on, even when everyone’s in a rush.

Dig around in your nostril for a massive snot then wipe it on the nearest person forehead (Danda’s).

Tell everyone in the room whether it is a wee or a poo that you are going to the bathroom for.

Drink your entire body weight in apple juice.

Laugh hysterically for ten whole minutes at someone pulling tongues at you.

Rub novelty Gruffalo shampoo all over everyone’s faces and necks and tell them it is make up.

Paint a grown man’s fingernails (Danda’s) with silver glittery nail varnish then insist he go out to McDonald’s with it still on.

Talk for twenty minutes about the best way to defeat dragons.

Eat a whole apple before holding up the core and saying, “I don’t like apples.”

Put animal stickers all over your face in public and sit on a windowsill looking around and waving at strangers.

Pathways

I’m on the move this morning, off to visit my favourite 5-year-old and her little sister so I don’t have time to write anything properly. Instead I’m going to do something I’ve been thinking about for a while. I really love taking photographs of paths leading off into the distance. I’m not sure why. I think it’s because of the potential for adventure, the invitation to explore an unknown world. I’ve taken tons of them so I thought I’d share a few.

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At the start of a hiking trail in St Leonard du Bois in France.

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At a lake in Northern France.

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At Boxhill, Surrey.

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On the Thames Path, near Ham

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Next to the river, Ham.

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On a little path I found when exploring the riverside around Richmond.
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The path down to the river, from near Richmond Park.

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Walking to Twickenham.

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In a friend’s back garden in Norfolk.

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Finding more hidden pathways next to the river, Teddington.

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A path cut into the edge of a rock in Portugal.

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On a walk near Gomshall, Surrey.

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Amongst the ferns in Richmond Park.

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In Highgate Woods, north London.

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Corridors under the floor of the Colluseum, Rome.

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On Tooting Common, south London.

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In between houses in Kew, West London.

The time we found the toastie machine

While at uni, I lived in a rubbishy little flat with some friends. We had a ‘guest of honour’ friend who basically lived on the sofa. It was great fun. We spent our days lazing around, pretending to study, blabbing and ordering takeaway food from the Vietnamese restaurant down the road.

One day, the sofa-dwelling friend and I were in the front room and we happened to remember that there was a toastie machine somewhere in the kitchen. We weren’t even particularly hungry but the toastie machine promised to be a fun way to spend an hour or two.

We located the toastie machine and plugged it in. Now we just needed some bread. We raided all the cupboards and found an entire loaf in someone’s cupboard. We’ll just have two slices each, we thought, innocently, getting the loaf out. She’ll never notice.

We then raided the fridge for cheese, ham, peanut butter, bacon, bananas, anything that might respond well to being heated and squished between two pieces of bread. We made the sandwiches up, put them in the toastie machine and waited. While we waited, we came up with brilliant new concoctions that we could try in the toastie machine next. When our first lot of sandwiches were ready, we put more in and ate while we waited.

Each time one lot was ready, we thought of a great sandwich we should try next. We just went on and on. Soon, there was no bread left and we started to panic. There was a little newsagents a minute away so we went and got ourselves a new loaf. We just had a few pieces out of before putting it in the cupboard that we had earlier stolen the bread from.

Shortly after replacing the loaf, the friend who’s bread we had stolen came home and fancied a bit of toast. She went to her cupboard and was puzzled when her lovely Warburton’s thick-cut softest-ever bread had turned into a no-frills not-very-tasty bread that looked like it had been bought at the cornershop.

She turned to ask what had happened and saw….

Two girls, old enough to know better, in a mess of melted cheese and bread crusts and crumbs and banana skins and open jars of jam and peanut butter. The two girls looked guilty but unable to move due the bread-induced semi-coma they were in.

We were never allowed to play with the toastie machine again….