Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Wouldn't it be nice...

I've not been posting as often as i'd like - laptop packed up and its not the same blogging from my phone. It is almost impossible to upload images or have any control over the layout, but it'll have to do for now. Wouldn't it be nice if technology never let us down?

Imagine a world devoid of mechanical or electrical breakdowns!

With everything going to plan, would total predictability turn us into robot-like bores? And what would become of those people who fit that description already? Perish the thought! Wouldn't it be nice if the bulk of our daily post consisted of well wishes instead of money requests, some to repair breakdowns? Or adverts from companies selling insurance against such breakdowns. Imagine, the car never letting you down; or the laptop never preventing you from blogging; the train never leaving you stranded; the hot shower never cancelled due to a faulty boiler. Sounds wonderful but it would also remove most of the excuses i've ever used for having a day off work or not showing up to unwanted dates.

Maybe imperfection is better for us, imperfect souls that we are. :-S

Thursday, 17 March 2011

When I was 24...

...I was working in Hammersmith, London, enjoying the newly arrived burger from McDonalds on a daily basis and listening to Dire Straits, Talk Talk and many other post-punk acts. The music charts were full of silly techno sounds peppered with the odd gem, just like today. Some things never change! When I was 24 the word 'yuppie' hadn't been coined, 'bad' meant bad and 'sick' meant ill. Mobile phones were the size of suitcases and 'sms' would only be seen on a sign stuck to the wall of a brothel, (so i've heard). 'Login' was done by lumberjacks and 'tweet' was a bird call. 'E-mail' was the name of the tough guy in 'The Village People' and 'iPad' was a bandage. Oh yes, and Madeleine hadn't yet made an appearance in our world.
Happy 24th birthday, Madeleine x muah

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

I'll meet you on the other side

I stepped out of a darkened hospital corridor into bright sunlight and the smell of flowers. I squinted briefly, adjusting the amount of light piercing my eyes, and saw them  all standing there.

In an orderly row, shoulder to shoulder, they were all there. All the ones who have left me during a lifetime of happiness  interspersed with sadness. All the ones who, for some reason, are no longer on this side.

They all looked exactly as they did the last time I saw them. Unaltered by time and bereft of all traces of the illnesses or injuries that claimed their lives.

They had not aged, not since their departure date anyway. The old and frail shuffled forward to greet me with open arms, slowly and steady, but with no signs of discomfort. The young ones were just as I remembered, full of energy and eager to get the greeting over and done with. They would stay young forever. A kind of reward for their early departure.

Grandad Jaime was first to speak.

'Hello engineer, lovely to see you'  (my nickname due my childhood habit of dismantling all appliances in my quest to find out how everything worked)

Grandad looked sublime. Crisp stylish clothes, perfectly tailored. Shoes immaculately buffed to a high sheen and trilby slightly to one side.

I smiled back, unable to speak, overcome with emotion.

Paulo strolled over, in his vest and fatigues, wellies caked in mud, bringing me a cold beer and the latest CD he picked up from HMV.

" Hey Giuseppi, nice to see you bro"

Paulo's smile was warm and kind. His glossy brown eyes reflected sadness and pity. He seemed aware of the pain left in his wake.

Danny followed, smiling shyly, holding a paperback to his chest. He seemed apologetic, as if sorry for leaving so early and unexpected. Sorry for not keeping in regular contact with mum and the rest of us while on his travels across the globe.

And  Michael Finn was there, smiling broadly and about to say something funny. He always had something to say and always something funny.

Joe Santos, Helena Pereira, Uncle Pepe, Granny and many others. All the ones who have gone and taken a part of me with them, were there also.

I was delighted to see them. I could say all the things I didn't say while they were around. I could tell them how much I miss them and how painful it was to say goodbye. I could tell them how much I love them.

But then I thought of all the others still around. The ones here and now. The ones I don't want to loose. The ones on this side.

It is painful here, but it would be just as painful on the other side.


Sunday, 13 March 2011

From Japan to Illinois

As the pro-democracy protests rumble across the Arab nations,
 on the other side of the world Mother Nature too has shaken humanity's  foundations with one of the worst earthquakes in recent times; and a tsunami too.

The powerful quake shook loose Japan's underpinnings and the 10 metre sea swell that followed swept away all in its path, including thousands of people.


Japan sits on top of four tectonic plates (the hardened outer shell segments of our planet) all vying for space and moving towards each other at a rate of several centimetres per year. Tectonic plates are constantly moving due to our planet's spin and soft inner layers of molten rock (the mantle). The plates under Japan are steadily massing together. The stress builds up over time and then at some point it overcomes the lock between two plates. When that happens, you have an earthquake. If the epicentre of the quake is under the sea bed, the result of one plate's edge clambering onto another is a sudden rise in the level of the sea bead, creating uplift and a tsunami is born.

Japan is the worlds hot spot for earthquakes with
 approximately 1000 per year

My heart goes out to all the victims and their loved ones, who now have the unenviable task of picking up the pieces of their shattered lives.   :(



On a lighter note, the state of Illinois has become the 16th US state to abolish the death penalty. Congrats to Governor Pat Quinn. Yeahhhh :)

Thirty-four states still have the death penalty though, as per my previous post on the subject  :(

Friday, 11 March 2011

Dear reader...

I found this little gem of a post, courtesy of  a fellow blogger, and would like to share it with you.


Date a girl who reads

"Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.

Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag.She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the book she wants. You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.

She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.

Buy her another cup of coffee.

Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.

It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry, in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.

She has to give it a shot somehow.

Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.

Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who understand that all things will come to end. That you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.

Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series.

If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.

You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.

You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.

Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.
Or better yet, date a girl who writes."


Sweet or what? I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.


Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Fat Tuesday ?

The powers that be got it terribly wrong when choosing March 8th to be the International Women's Day.

I say it because this year it coincides with the beginning of Lent.

Shrove Tuesday, aka Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Pancake Day and Carnival.  The day when Christians around the world scoff themselves silly with pancakes, semla pastries, malasadas and many more fat-rich confectionery delights, before starting the long since forgotten tradition of the Easter Fast.

A day associated with feasting and making merry - not exactly what Women's Day is all about.

Why indeed pick a day that every so often coincides with 'Fat Tuesday'? 'Women' and 'Fat' are two words that should never be in the same sentence, let alone the same day!

Women's Day is all about giving women equal rights and showing solidarity with all the oppressed women around the world.

pancakes for the English speaking world

Malasadas from Madeira are now Hawaii's
 favourite Mardi Gras delicacy

the Semla Pastry from Scandinavia

Maybe we should start a campaign to change Women's day to a more appropriate date or better still campaign to ensure the trivial and archaic Shrove Tuesday (with all it's religious connotations), never falls on March 8th.

Anyway, I'm just about to ask Madeleine when will the pancakes be ready ;)

Monday, 7 March 2011

say what?

At McDonald's drive-in yesterday I realized just how good customer service is at the world's most famous burger chain. Fast and efficient service coupled with the 'personal' touch.

After ordering at the order counter I drove on to the serving  counter and was greeted by a young girl of South-East Asian origin, sporting a permanent smile and liquid brown eyes that reflected the whole of my car. This is how it went.

"you hav fillet o' fish?"


"you hav cota pounda wee cheese?"


"you hav small cok?"



It's not the first time I struggle to understand someone serving me food.  A while back in a Chinese fish and chips shop in Weybridge I was asked if I wanted "sore finger". What?

 After a few minutes and with the help of another customer, I realized he meant "salt and vinegar"

Oh, the joys of pidgin English

Thursday, 3 March 2011

talk talk

One of the human qualities I have the least time for is when someone talks excessively without actually saying anything. When someone decides to talk for the sake of making noise, attracting all the attention, hogging the limelight and having no respect for social interaction rules.

It happens to me more often than I would like and may have something to do with my line of work. If any one out there has any idea how to deal with verbal diarrhoea please let me know, it will come in handy I'm sure.

I was exposed to a massive dose of waffling recently at work and would like to share it with you.

They came into my showroom for a test-drive. Father and son, hailing from the Ukraine, the clues being the surname and the strong throaty 'Rs' in the dad's accent.

The driver/buyer was to be the son but dad did most of the talking. I asked 'son' if the test-drive proved the car to be the right one for him, would he be happy to pay a deposit and place the order. Dad interjected with "we won't make a decision today, but when we do can I pay the full amount with a crrrrredit carrrrrd?"

I asked why he would not decide today and explained how credit card transactions are accepted only up to the value of £500, company policy, and how it's to do with excessive charges by the credit card operators (the car in question costs £14,000).

I continued to explain how cash payments over £5000 are not ideal either as we have to ask the police for clearance, and how it's to do with anti money-laundering laws and so on.

Dad then proceeded to rant on about credit card charges, banking charges, interest rates, the IMF, how he knows all about banking, how we should accept credit cards, maximum £300 charges, his wish for air-miles, the state of world banking and fuck knows what else. 

Ten minutes later I had to stop the man and calmly reiterate our company policy. Again, dad started talking as if on a mission to prove his vocal chords were on steroids or nuclear-driven or both. Needless to say he made no sense whatsoever, only confusing both myself and his long-suffering son.

Dad's command of English was poor and extremely difficult to understand. His speech included unnecessary long words, adjectives bundled together in a way that made it sound like he was translating verbatim from his native tongue. To put it another way, he waffled on and on, making no sense at all to me or his perplexed son.

The son tried several times to stop dad from continuing but only succeeded in temporarily pausing the action.

Eventually we moved on to the test-drive, son driving, me on the passenger front seat and dad at the back.

Immediately, dad started his commentary on the engine sound, vibrrrrrations, rrrrroad noise, wind noise, diesel technology, comprrrrression...tyrrrre grrrrrip...low prrrrrofiles...sporrrrrts suspension... these are the only words I could understand, on and on without making any sense.

I was beginning to get annoyed as this man wouldn't shut up and let his son concentrate on the test-drive. Apart from being a dangerous distraction to the driver it was also doing my head in.

Son tried to stop dad from talking but to no avail. Dad was on an unstoppable roll that would inevitably lead to a 'no sale' and I could do nothing about it. Well, I could have but it would've been rude and I'm not a rude person.

Hours later, or so it seemed, they left with the promise to return with the rest of the family for the final decision.

I felt like I had just listened to the longest ever speech without understanding any of it.

Talking without saying anything.