Saturday, May 26, 2012

My apartment ghost


Our televisions have become awash with programs about the paranormal these days. The program Ghost Hunters is an example - have they shown one ghost yet? No. Surprise, surprise, but they remain very popular because they offer a thrill, a mere suggestion of life after death.

I have always been skeptical at heart, I’m cold and believe in logic and the laws of the universe, everything has a scientific explanation or at least a possible scientific explanation that is much more likely than some far out paranormal explanation about aligned crystals and chakras.

Having said that something happened this week. Something that I cannot explain and I have tried to figure it out for the past two days. I’ll start on Thursday at the beginning.

So, Liane and I were putting groceries away when all of a sudden Oliver starts crawling into the kitchen. This was the first time he’d ever crawled anywhere so I raced into the living room to find the camera. The SD card that goes inside wasn’t in the camera but I knew where it was, as I had seen it earlier in the day. It was on the coffee table. When I looked for it, it was not there. I asked Liane, she confirmed it was on the coffee table. It was not there. We took everything off the table. It certainly was not there. 100% not there.

Whatever, thinking nothing more of it I found another card and shot some video footage.

On Friday we got up both still wondering where it was, as it had 100’s of photos on it. We had another look on the table and surrounding areas. Nowhere to be found. Around 10am after Liane had put Oliver down for a nap, she sat down on the couch and said

 “Oh, you found the card, where was it?”

From the kitchen I replied;

            “I didn’t find it.”

But sure enough, it was there. As clear as day on the table top. It was gone for only 15 hours or so, but it was definitely gone. I have no explanation and it’s really bothering me. There is literally no way it was on the table. Our table is black as is the SD card, but the card has white writing on it making it plainly obvious. We took everything off that table top. It was not there.

I could buy the cat knocking it off the table, or even the dog but neither of them are going to place it exactly back on the table where it was before. I’m at an utter loss.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Smell is the most evocative sense. I nose it.

A quick Internet search leads me to believe that smell is the most evocative sense in our limited repertoire. Our brain for some reason files smells away and very rarely sends them to the recycle bin, when most of us would prefer it to remember names to faces or other more useful information*. Smell allows us to relive moments both positive and negative. How many times have you smelt something for the briefest of moments and been transported instantly to a memory long ago settled into the recesses of your mind? It is for this particular reason that to this day I cannot stand the smell of sambuca, or rather my stomach can't stand it.

The kitchen is home to a plethora of inviting smells and the all too familiar smell of burning. My strongest fragrance driven culinary recollection is that of my paternal grandparents kitchen. (Giving them joint rights to the kitchen might be stretching it, my Granddad barely set foot in there.) We would often go there, perhaps once every fortnight, for a good Sunday roast. As soon as you would walk in this amazing aroma wafted around you enveloping you in a shroud of invisible delight. My grandmother was the best cook I have ever known, she wasn't flashy about it but the skill of getting everything done at exactly the same time and it being perfectly cooked was not lost on me. Her roast potatoes in particular were simple, but I have yet to recreate them to a level I am happy with. It was the smell of the fat heating up in a pan waiting for the honest spuds that would welcome you. When I do them now, that initial smoky smell takes me right back to the doorway of that kitchen.

Whilst eating dinner another aroma would sweep around the table for the kitchen. More often than not three or more desserts would be on offer. Unbelievable really. More often than not it would be the apple crumble that would sit right at your nostrils, the smell of the brown sugar just starting to caramelize on the top and the sweet fragrance of the tart apple. This week I finally, after many attempts recreated her legendary apple crumble and I was taken back to that very dining table in Worcester as the smell drifted from the oven and the recollection was instant.

She sadly passed away a few years ago, but being able to remember all the wonderful things she could create in the kitchen without following recipes and even being able to make something close to one of her own dishes is very special to me.

I hope to replicate all the smells from that kitchen, but if I don't succeed I know I can be whisked back there instantly with just a whiff of apple crumble.

*I'm using useful perhaps misleadingly, I'm sure evolutionary speaking smell is a much more useful than putting names to faces.


Friday, April 27, 2012

Absence note and ankle biters

I don't know quite what happened there, I guess these kind of lapses are what happens when you bring a child into the world. Oliver is doing very well, he's six months old now and he's certainly gaining bulk. I'm really enjoying watching him grow up and whilst doing that it has become alarmingly clear that time can somehow disappear without the aid of a super massive black hole. If I go this long without posting again; can one of you poke me with a stick? Cheers.

Nothing on God's green earth annoys me more than people who own Chihuahuas. There are a lot of these little vermin around, with their precious owners who look down on anyone who has a normal size dog as some kind of barbarian. The dogs I can stand, I mean they're fairly yappy and I have to watch where I put my feet but you can't dislike an animal really - spiders aren't an animal in my mind. It's all about the utter stupidity and pigheadedness of their owners that gets my goat. You have to be a special breed of person to have a Chihuahua. Firstly you have to want the dog as a fashion accessory rather than a dog. It's a show of status. Look, here's my Prada shoe collection, Coach purse and my little baby chihuahua. Usually they're named something either unbelievably 'cute' like "Tinkerbell" or something which I can only assume the owners believe to be a culturally appropriate like "Rico".

Then there's the misguided belief that they're somehow delicate. It's an utter, utter lie. Don't you pick up your dog when mine comes sniffing over, they're perfectly fine with each other and if my dog does for some reason decide he doesn't like your little rat on a leash then I'm certain your little ankle-biter can handle himself, and I'm more than capable of controlling my own dog thank you very much.

Another facet of the chihuahua club's signature attitude is highly visible, too visible. I don't know why they're allowed, but there are some places that I have seen a chihuahua that other dogs can only dream of unless they're a service dog. Supermarkets, hospitals and museums are not places for dogs, just because they're in a carry-case does not alter that fact and neither does it mean that rules are in place for everyone except Chihuahua owners.

Just one more caveat; they have legs. They don't need to be carried. When I see a woman at the dog park with a stroller pushing along her dog....well I have no words left. You might as well just go on your own, leave the dog at home because I can almost assure you, the dog is getting zero enjoyment out of it.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Cunning linguists

I'm sure there comes a time in every Brit in America's life where some Americanism really annoys them and they turn it into an faux-angry tirade, claiming their mother tongue has been diluted, twisted, contorted and bent beyond all recognition wishing to reclaim their language once again for the English.

Language is constantly evolving, the English we know and use nowadays doesn't sound an awful lot like the language of Shakespeare. I certainly can't remember the last time I used the word 'forsooth'. It's at this juncture that I'm unsure of what some Brits get their nose out of shape for, we have changed our own language constantly and the idea that Americans couldn't and shouldn't moderniz(s)e the language to their own means is absurd. However there does come a point where, as a Brit, you have to nail your flag to the mast. There are some Americanisms which a Brit just cannot say. It's nothing to do with the snobbery which comes so easily to us, there's just too much of a block in our brains. It reminds me of taking a German class directly after a French one, you know what you would usually say in British English but the American English doesn't come quickly enough and before you know it you're standing there with your mouth open looking like a recent stroke victim.

Some of these words are just not natural sounds. I struggle with the name 'Kara'. The short 'a' sound doesn't come naturally, I have to instead think of it written down as 'Karer' and by the time I've thought of that it that pause has been filled with someone else talking. Bananas have become a fully British pronounced fruit in our house, my wife having been influenced by my insistence. Vitamin is one which I don't think I'll ever change, the change of stress is actually quite difficult to pinpoint, but it'll never be vita-min to me.

Changes in our language are what keeps it current, useful and essentially beautifully descriptive. I believe English to be the most descriptive language on the planet and the constant evolution is what is owes that to. American English may well become the dominant breed of this particular species, and it may well export more and more phrases and words  through the medium of film and (mediocre) television but that's not to say it's the correct or incorrect. Linguistic differences should be celebrated.

Who needs all those extra "u's" anyway?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Easy as AA, AAA, C, D

It doesn't seem all that long ago when everything I owned was powered by batteries that were forever dying and in need of replacement. Now, all my nifty gadgets can be charged easily by USB or AC adapter and without the need to spend a bottomless pit of money on AA's.  However, it seems children's toys are not so easily  powered and I have come to a conclusion that Fisher-Price and battery companies are in cahoots. How can it be possible to have a swing that is just powered by batteries? It sits next to a wall outlet anyway, I mean, do they not realize that the only moment of solitude I get is when Oliver is in his swing ad when that music stops and the mobile ceases to rotate, all realms of Hades are released?

It seems impractical to me, but looking around baby toys and all things that require some kind of electrical input  it seems they're all battery powered when most of them could really do with an AC adapter. I assume that this is no error on their part and it seems more people than just I have been thinking the same thing. A quick browse around Amazon reviews tells me a lot of people believe that Fisher-Price in particular have a vested interest in getting you to buy batteries. Not the cheap ones either, Oliver's swing takes four (!) D batteries. Those are the big ones. They last about three weeks.

It's clearly not a safety issue. You could easily have an AC adapted out of the back and be done with it, offering the baby endless hours of entertainment. I'm aware there is a possibility of him grabbing cords and things, but let the parents worry about that, instead of worrying how to buy batteries in such bulk amounts that it makes Iran's attempt at cracking nuclear fusion look under funded. The funny thing is, that if you call Fisher-Price about batteries and ask whether rechargeable batteries work as well, you're told in no uncertain terms that they're not reliable enough.

Now I know why my parents tried to limit the time I spent playing with toys inside, I remember several of my favourites being taken away for a while through no other reason than I'd wear out the batteries too soon. I now share their pain.

I've worked out your little game Duracell. If I disappear from the internet, you'll know the Energizer bunny has paid me a visit in the middle of the night and had me iced.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Things I'd like to happen in 2012 (that will never happen)

2011 wasn't so much a year of changes as a year of lots of things turning upside down. We had successful revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. The world's most wanted terrorist is no longer making funny home videos from his very own man-cave and just to top it off, the world's county that most resembles a Ripley's Believe it or Not museum; North Korea sadly had to say goodbye to the world's most gifted golf player, Kim-Jong Il. (Or Kim-Jong the second as Rick Perry refers to him as.)

So, what for 2012? Here are some things I'd like to see in 2012 that will likely not happen.

1) A Republican candidate that isn't crazy or Mitt "Robot" Romney. (I.E. - John Huntsman)


Now, I'm not a republican by any stretch of the imagination, but I am a fan of entertainment. I quite like the sheer ridiculousness of the American Presidential election, it's overblown, unnecessarily drawn-out and despite every candidate saying they're going to run a positive campaign, eventually it all comes down to mudslinging. The problem I have with Mitt Romney isn't his policies per se , but it's his whole aura. It's too polished, he's robotic. If there was a store that sold politicians in a flat-pack box, they'd all resemble Mitt Romney. The look in his eyes when he has to meet normal people in a diner is sheer fear, like he doesn't actually know that people live like this.

The danger is, that if I don't want Mitt Romney I have to throw my hat in with someone else. The Republican candidates for 2012 have been a laughing stock. Each seemingly more ridiculous than the last. We had a pizza chain CEO who had a fondness for extramarital affairs, a Texas governor who seemingly doesn't possess English as a first language (where have we seen that before?!), an ancient congressman whose policies would have seemed dated 100 years ago, Sarah Palin-lite, a man who wants children to work as janitors and Rick Santorum, a man who's own wife probably wont even vote for him. There is however one who stands out as intelligent, thoughtful and who's policies seem fairly sensible. John Huntsman. The fact that he has to hide that he speaks fluent Chinese and is polling last despite good showings in all debates is a testament to the state the Republican party is in.

2) Time to man-up

I'm not a handy man. This is a stone-cold fact. I barely know which way to turn a screwdriver, I have to repeat the righty-tighty, left-loosey mantra in my head whilst desperately trying to fit a Phillips head screwdriver into a flat-head screw. This is not such a problem living in an apartment, but when we move into a house it's going to be an issue. In fact, I'm looking around here thinking "we need shelves" but I also know that I'm going to have to put them up so as of yet, I have no shelves. I would like some kind of crash-course in DIY. Crash may be the operative word mind. My granddad was a railway engineer and then somewhere along the line the engineering genes have disappeared. My Dad is essentially useless when it comes to domestic maintenance and sadly have followed in his footsteps.

3) Sandwiches without Mayo

Ok, I get it. It's cheap, fatty and fills you up but does it have to be in every pre-made sandwich? I don't even know what it is. It tastes of nothing and yet it's everywhere. If I go to a Subway or some other establishment, they look at me as though I'm mental when I say 'no mayo'.  I figure the sign of the beast that was talked about in the bible might be the Hellman's logo, because soon enough I wont be able to buy any food that doesn't have this awful foodstuff on. Wendy's recently came out with burgers with toasted, buttered buns. Great. Butter. At last. What? It also comes with mayo?! I give up.

Happy new year to one and all. Better make the most of it, the second half of the year is going to be dominated by doomsday nutjobs or Tea Party nutjobs. It's going to be that kind of year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Floridian Christmas

There are things about Christmas in Florida that don't really seem to fit. The myriad of confectionery and decorations depicting snowmen along with children joyously flinging snowballs through the cold air seems misplaced. The idea that Santa Claus makes an appearance in his traditional red furs rather that something a little lighter might suggest he has terrible circulation problems.

A Floridian Christmas is not my favorite type. A white Christmas would be preferable. It looks like it's going to be an air-conditioned Christmas this year with temperatures still near 80°.

Wherever you are, have a very merry Christmas and get ready for the 2012 psychos to come out of the wall!