Monday 31 December 2018

Rosetta Stone

This weekend I had dinner with my Emmy-Award-Winning schoolfriend and his American wife. As usually happens we got caught up talking about accents and translations between British English and American English .

If you say "beer can" in your normal English accent you sound like a Jamaican saying "bacon". Similarly, if you can get an American to say "The Space Ghettos" in their natural accent it sounds like a scotsman saying "The Spice Girls". Try it – it's not perfect but it's surprisingly good.

I've got a brother in Texas, various American friends and I used to go out with (date) a girl in Seattle. I thought I had got (gotten) pretty good at translating between the two languages but it's not true. A couple of months ago I tried to help a couple of people in Gatwick who had flown in from America. They were lost and bewildered in the train (rail) station clutching the instructions for their central (downtown) London Air B&B. While I could explain the instructions and tell them that "The Tube" was the name of the London subway system I couldn't pronounce it in a way that they could associate with the letters T. U. B. E.

My Emmy-Award-Winning schoolfriend however is absolutely virtuoso at translating. One of the stories told over dinner involved custard cream biscuits. He conveyed the meaning to his wife perfectly in three words (and didn't get bogged down in the whole biscuit/salty-scone/cookie problem) He said "Square vanilla Oreo".

Richard "TOOOB" B

Wednesday 19 December 2018

Dressed to Impress

Have you every walked into a different room to do something and then either forgotten what you were supposed to do, or walked back without having done it? So have I.

On Saturday I had a grave but tolerable hangover. I knew it was coming so I organised my calendar so that I had literally no commitments. I got up late and had a light meal somewhere between breakfast and lunch - if only someone could invent a name for such a meal!

I spent the afternoon working very gently on my car and by about 5.00pm I was tired and hungry and the sun was down. For laziness and luxury I decided to treat myself to a one-man Chinese takeaway. Even by the low standard that I try to maintain the dirty clothes that I had on were too nasty to walk to the shops in. I stood in my lounge and decided to put on clean clothes and then buy my food. I walked upstairs to my bedroom and somewhere along the way put my brain into autopilot. I found myself back in the lounge wearing my pyjamas and slippers wondering what I had been just about to do. It took me two attempts to put on a set of clean clothes.

Richard "sweet and sour chicken" B

Tuesday 11 December 2018

The Last Bus Home of Doom

There's an iconic moment from cinema when Indiana Jones just slides underneath a descending door and then, while the door is still coming down, he reaches back and grabs the hat that he had dropped.

On Friday night I didn't cut such a dashing figure.

I was waiting in the wind and the rain for the last bus home. The driver didn't see me and didn't stop because he was following so closely behind one of the very many buses to the picturesque village of "Sorry Not In Service". I sprinted after the bus waving crazily and caught up with it when it got to a queue of traffic at the roundabout – I was now soaked, red in the face and completely out of breath. There was, of course, a waist high fence to stop pedestrians from straying onto the road so even though the bus opened its doors I couldn't step on board. As a younger man I think I could have vaulted the barrier like a pommel horse, if I was even drunker than I was I might have tried. Instead I made an ungainly clamber, one leg at a time, over the barrier and dropped my hat in the gutter. I picked the sodden hat up and got on the bus which was crowded with people who had watched my hopeless escapade.

Richard "inaction hero" B

Sunday 2 December 2018

Christmas Starts Here

If you've got anything irreplaceable that evokes fond childhood memories, you should throw it on a fire right now, otherwise you'll end up spending your time like I did this weekend.

My family does have some idiosyncrasies, and you're best introduced to them with these two phrases:
"If it ain't broke it needs improving." and,
"How many Bolingbrokes does it take to change a lightbulb? All of them, one to change it, the rest to try to fix the old one."

This weekend it was time for the traditional annual mending of the fairy lights. The fairy lights came from Woolworths, they cost 7 and 6 and were given to us by a dear family friend in 1967 or 1968. Each of the 20 lights had a vivid coloured plastic shade and a screw-in bulb. They don't have a 3 pin plug, instead they go into a bayonet light fitting (For my American readers, this is the UK equivalent of an Edison Screw).

By the 80s the lights were too dangerous and unreliable to carry on with. Each of the iconic plastic shades and the obscure mains connection was grafted on to a new string of fairy lights. The new set had state of the art capless bulbs which were (then) easy to replace.

This year too many of the (now) irreplaceable bulbs have failed, but neither my mum nor I can bear to throw the lights away. The problem with grafting the shades onto a new string of lights is that modern ones have much larger numbers of individual LEDs much more closely spaced. I found a set of 100 bright white LEDs with a construction that I could modify. I first shortened it to 58 lights and then removed every 2nd and 3rd light. I spliced and re-insulated these 80 connections, and fixed the 20 original shades to the remaining lights with tiny cable ties.

I was at the pillar drill for at least half an hour and I listened to 3 albums just while I was insulating solder joints. But I have made a working replica (mockery?) of my favourite Christmas lights.

Richard "R.E.M.E" B