At the Beach.  Sunny. 

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Milk-bottle white, lobster red
Scantily clad, covered up
Legionnaire hats
Naked tots, entire family clad in bodysuits
And the one family, always one, in heavy shoes, trousers and jumpers
Just in case or taken by surprise?
Sun cream: in blobs, by stripes
There’s no love like a mother with a wet wipe
Two-year-old making a meandering beeline for nothing in particular
The moated castles, the holes, the buried
(Preference of teenagers)
Dogs straining on leads
‘No dogs on the beach’
Scooters everywhere
Child with stabilisers, more zag than zip
Ice cream: in cones, in tubs, on sticks
Why on earth would you give a child that colour ice cream?
Chips, salted and vinegared
The boisterous overcrowding outside the pub
Piled into picnic tables
Armed with plastic cups
Always a raucous one, loud in every way, too much everything
Public toilets, unique smell
Soap’s run out but at least there’s paper
Queues here, there, for everything
Flip flops, bare feet, trails of sand
The sand-encrusted children, writhing sculptures
The saltwater hair
The contortionists attempting a change of costume in public
Dabbling in the scant rock pools
Lifeboat, yacht, canoe, paddle board
No space to throw a ball
Chairs or rugs or sit on the wall
Gulls wheeling overhead
‘Don’t feed the birds’
Wind breaks, pop-up tents
Cricket below the tide line where the sand is firm
The family with everything
Bar the kitchen sink
A puff of wind, mouthful of sand
The mallets come back out
The readers, the snoozers
Teenage love declared by frames per minute
The moaning minnies
The always have something to say
Tempers fraying: heat, hunger, tired
“Don’t throw sand at your brother”
“Don’t even think about putting that on Instagram”
“Because I said so”
Barbecue fume, cigarette reek
Accents from every part
And a few other languages for good measure
Bags from every supermarket
Hardly any cameras
Phone, phone, phone
Phone, tablet, phone
Small child with sandcastle:
“Can I borrow your phone to take a photo Dad?”
The families going home; scruffy, jumbled heaps of belongings
Dragging a reluctant or a howler
Trailing what will later be claimed as all the sand on the beach
(Especially after the third hoovering)
“You’re going in the bath when we get home”
Sand, sea, sunshine, seagull poop

Difficult Decisions and Brain Fog

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It’s a decision that I face every day, maybe even twice a day. Or, at least, I should be facing it but because of the brain fog I often can’t remember if I have remembered to or not. (Life’s got very like that).

You rip open the packet, out it comes and off you go to use it.  Just like that.  In everyday, ‘normal’ life.  You don’t think anything more of it.

It was Husband who needed one first. He grabbed the first one out of the pack, he clearly wasn’t worried about what colour it was, and started using it.

Of course, when I needed one, I ended up with the other colour.

And this where my baffled brain (cell, singular, most likely) gets bamboozled every day, or whenever it is that I remember to brush my teeth (because, sadly, I don’t remember when I do), because my Husband has the pink toothbrush. I have the blue. He doesn’t have a problem with it. I don’t have a problem with it. I mean, after all, this is just a toothbrush that we’re talking about, something that we spend a mere six minutes average with daily, and I’m fully aware that the pink/blue thing is an entirely modern concept (perhaps ironically). However, however … Mongrel Beast is confused.

(Mongrel Beast likes helpful prompts and reminders about daily living, appreciates stereotypes to simplify proceedings).

It doesn’t help either that Husband is deeply mistrustful of my ability to use the appropriate toothbrush. If he catches my hand quavering over the tooth glass then I’m in for an interrogation. It doesn’t reassure him that I can never remember when I last brushed my teeth much less vouch for which apparatus I may have used at the time. And then, naturally, under the heightened pressure and emotion, Mongrel Beast will usually fail to supply the answer to which toothbrush is indeed the correct one. (Although, Mongrel Beast does at least grasp that guessing is not likely to end successfully so just haws like an asthmatic fish).

(Even our dearest are apt to forget, at times, that which is the monsters such as Mongrel Beast that eat away at our cognition and that which is our true Selves).

Nor does it help that the toothbrushes are only differentiated by a slight band of their respective colours. To the addled brain cell, they are both white toothbrushes. You have to look closely. And then, of course, remember. (I’m not doing well with the remembering thing at the moment, did you know?)

I have taken to placing my toothbrush upside down in order to make (or, at least, in hope of, making) it clearer to myself. I don’t think it dries as well though.

And, then, of course, sometimes I forget to…

(Life’s got very like that).

O Tempora! O Mores!

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[picture to follow when both computer and myself are feeling somewhat better; please check back!]

 

I never quite ‘got’ the grandfather clock song, it didn’t make sense to me that the clock just stopped when the old man died; clocks aren’t sentient, even if they can be sensitive, so how could the clock ‘know’, how could it grieve or pine?  Silly song.  (Unless maybe the grandfather was murdered, in which case, apparently, clocks always get broken so the time of death can be conveniently established.  Or mis-established if you really want to stretch and challenge your plot or your readers).

Old clocks don’t really seem to die either; their mechanics seem steadfast from one century to another, you just wind them and off they go again.  (Accuracy may be another matter, however).  And modern clocks?  Do they die?  We pop new batteries in them but probably get bored of the current design or model in our fickle modern way sooner than even the most skimpily-made clock dies.

Mind you, I have killed a clock before.  Or two.  But I would also like to indict my husband.  You see, we have a clock in our hallway, as most folk seem to do, but ours is right smack next to the loft hatch.  Three clocks later and we have a rule that the clock must be reverentially placed on a safe, flat surface in another room before any loft-bound mission commences.  We learn, albeit slowly.

It was the railways that brought standardised time, and the need for it, to the nation; although the time-counting passion had been fashionable for at least a couple of centuries before that.  I often wonder what the world was like before then, before all this time-keeping mania with its timetables and schedules.  A world before time?  In a certain sense, perhaps.

From King Alfred cutting notches in his candle (well, he did in my Ladybird book anyway) to the chap, or chap-ess, who first noticed the shadows revolving a stick or pole, we have long been fascinated, if not obsessed with time.  By marking out these divisions, we are seeking control.  And often than not, control over other people.  Maybe too, there is a feeling that orderliness can only be achieved with this mastery.  I don’t know, I still wonder at how it would have been with just the luminaries and the shadows to reveal the passage of time.  A more peaceful, a more natural existence?  Who of us can really tell?  We have a deep cultural impression of time seared within us now; we can choose to abandon the system and live wild in the wilderness but our ideas, our concepts, our mores of time come with us even if the clock doesn’t.

Dividing up our time, enumerating it, counting it, watching it, measuring it, what have we really achieved?  A sense, maybe, of just how little time we actually have and how little control we have over its relentless progress.  A two-edged sword, it seems, this time-keeping mania of ours.

A Canary Conversation

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We got talking about canaries the other night, Husband and me.

We have recently found out that Norwich was once the capital of canary breeding in England.  Maybe that explains the nickname for the local football team, more than just the colour of their strip.

Husband, however, was telling me that canaries aren’t really yellow after all.  I know, I was having visions of several pillars of my childhood and culture disappearing down the pans marked ‘myth’ and ‘lie’ faster than you can say goldfish.  Well, don’t worry, canaries are yellow but they’re just not meant to be.  Apparently, it’s a genetic mutation that one breeder made rather popular.

So what colour are real canaries then?  I want to know.

And where do canaries come from?  The Canary Islands?!  (I know the canary wine, an old-fashioned brew that I have never met in modern life came from there; they used to pay the poet laureate with it).

I know little about the birds that people keep as pets.

I thought I had canaries, at least, sussed.

Apparently not.

And if canaries come from the Canaries then all I could suppose was that budgies come from a car hire place.  Husband was not amused.

(I believe budgies are the blue ones with the stripes.  I await this theory being destroyed also …)

Apparently, it isn’t that wild canaries (wherever they do hail from) aren’t ever yellow but this colour makes them too vulnerable to predation so they don’t survive.

I discerned a flaw.

What about parrots?

Parrots?  Husband wasn’t quite sure what path my brand of logic was leading me down.  (I don’t blame him).

Parrots are bright colours.  How come they don’t get predated?  Or is it just because they live in Brazil where everything is bright coloured?

Sexual selection.  Came Husband’s sage reply.

I spent a moment trying to work out what sexual selection had to do with predation rates.  I failed.

They’re bright colours to help them attract a mate.

Oh.

So we’re saying that bright yellow canaries aren’t sexually attractive to other canaries?

I was indignant on behalf of the thousands, if not millions, of yellow canaries that live in this country, if not their natural habitat.

Husband decided that he was rapidly coming to the end of his scientific knowledge about canaries.

Anyway, why do parakeets live in Australia when parrots live in Brazil?

The wordsmith in me has always wanted to know; the words sound related but are they?

And what’s the difference between cockatoos and cockatiels?  I know one is white with a fancy hair do but I can never remember which.

Husband retreated inwards to his own musings.

I was left digesting my newly acquired knowledge.

And what about Canary Wharf?

He looked up.

Canary Wharf.  You know, Canary Wharf.

It was possible that he did.

Is that where canaries used to be disembarked or something?

Neither of us knew.

Then we hit upon a major discovery:

The Klingon security officer in Star Trek wears a yellow uniform.

Why is this?

Because he’s a Canary Worf.

Woolly Thoughts

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A Sheep from a Knitter's Viewpoint

It has come to my attention that I like wool.  No, not wool as in yarn, as any self-respecting knitter has to, but wool as in sheep fluff string.  I love the feel of it.  I love the smell of it.  Is that weird?  I want to be wrapped in woollens, preferably of my own fabrication.  I am not a fan of acrylic after all.

There’s a lot about bucket and what-have-you lists on the internet and I found an interesting entry the other day: pet a sheep.  I love sheep.  They are the most gorgeous things possible; cute faces, robust and enduring, and well, woolly.  Never mind bungee jumping, skydiving or any of those exciting, dangerous pastimes that make most people’s’ lists, on my Life Experiences list the first entry going down is I want to pet a sheep.  Preferably a lamb.  Although I see them frequently at a distance, gamboling across the spring fields, usually from a car,  haven’t pet a wee lamb since I was very, very little.  So I want to pet a sheep.

I had another nosebleed last week, which I really didn’t appreciate.  I also really didn’t appreciate the fact that I was working with white yarn at the time.  No, there was no damage, never fear, I am a well-trained and well-experienced blood-stopper but of all the colours that I don’t usually work with!

Whilst I do not hold Mr Freud and his theories  in too high esteem, he has had quite an influence on both our culture and our language.  Apparently, I have been making a Freudian slip (nothing to do with petticoats).  Apparently when I say ‘feral’ (when describing my organisation systems, for example), it comes out ‘fair isle’.  Hmm.

Why?

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'Easy Cook' Long Grain RiceWhy is ‘easy cook’ long grain rice the hardest to cook?

And takes the longest?

Now, is that Murphy’s Law or irony?

Counter Wisdom

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Heart-Shaped Biscuit on Blue Background

Some of the local supermarkets give you a special plastic counter when you spend so much that you can drop it into a bucket or bin-thing on your way out.  There are usually three of these, with varying amounts of counters languishing in the bottom; each one is for a different charity or community group.

Whenever I’m with my mother, she passes the counter straight to me so that I can have the exciting privilege of dropping a plastic counter in a clear plastic container.  It’s not even as much fun as those old whirly charity buckets with the psychedelic swirls on, these ones normally just drop.  And plastic counters don’t even make as much noise as a single penny.  Anyway, I’m supposed to relish the prospect.

So we toddle on out of the store, me clasping the token in an apparent state of expectation, then we get to the ‘buckets’.

I don’t know who chooses the charities or how, they are varied and seem to change every time I’m in there with my mother.  There is a small typed notice above each clear bucket stating clearly the name of the group and then, in smaller letters, a little resumé of what they do and for who.

How do you choose?  I guess that everyone chooses differently and for different reasons, which is perhaps the point.  There is often a fairly even distribution of counters across the three buckets.  For me, mental health groups get my vote, followed by those for people with ‘learning difficulties’ then the occasional random group for people with very niche problems that attract little interest or support.  I instantly categorise, we all do, establishing a hierarchy of need. Personally, I don’t think the preschools have much need of my plastic token; they’ve always been in a position to fundraise and attract a lot of local support within their own communities.  And I’m also one of the apparent majority who don’t think train station beautification groups deserve counters; we just want a train station.  Maybe you’d choose differently.

I don’t even know what the counters are achieving, except raising the profile of some of the lesser known groups and organisations, the awareness of lesser known problems and needs.  Maybe each counter has some sort of value, other than symbolic, more than just a token of recognition.  Maybe it’s the bucket with the most that ‘wins’.  I don’t know.  I’m not really bothered actually.

But each time we leave, my mother hands me this counter as if imparting some great privilege and responsibility and I do my civic duty and drop it in an appropriate plastic container.  I don’t um and ah, I read fast and make a quick decision, based on the above criteria.  My mother has other ideas.   She seems to think that I need supervising and guiding in my selection process, she carefully reviews my choices for me, fearing perhaps that I’m going to drop it in the ‘Drug Dealers Retirement Fund’ option or something.

I usually have dropped my token in before she finishes deciding where I should be putting it.  So far, I haven’t had the option to put it in the ‘Drug Dealers Retirement Fund’ or anything of the like, for some reason.  Most of them, barring train station beautification, seem pretty worthy causes one way or another.  Normally she’ll approve my choice, sometimes I have to explain my logic.  (I also have the tendency to support the underdog).

But it seems that I’m not even big enough to be trusted with a plastic counter.