Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Method in this madness


Humour from the real side of: Edinburgh

Life as Ronan the Librarian is as arduous as you can imagine and maybe a little bit more than a sane person can handle.

I have chosen one of my favourites for you and it concerns a young lady requesting a new library card from Ronan, our intrepid hero. As per instructions and following the laws of a stringent administration, he requested some form of ID from the young lady. She was taken aback at this request and seemed puzzled that she would need ID to get a library card but such are the ways of civil procedures now. Ronan confirmed his request, in an empathetic but assertive tone, trying in his own way to reach out to this potential new reader. Some here felt that the only escape from their woes was through the educational portal that opened up for them in the library.

The young lady, although somewhat suffering from the ravages of poverty and exclusion, realised that Ronan was trying to guide her past this admin obstacle as best as he could. Then she realised that she did have about her abused person an item with her name on it, and it had been provided by the very organised and connected state that required her ID. It was ideal. She produced a bottle of Methadone with her name clearly marked on it, signed and dated. Surely this was proof enough but no, Ronan had been provided with a long but limited list of items that could be used as ID and this was not on it.


Ronan tried to proffer a reasonable scenario that would win his argument and would also be acceptable for the disturbed lady. "How do I know that this Methadone is really yours and you are the person named on the bottle? You must be able to understand the issue from my side?" She did, and accepted his response as a challenge and one that could be easily overcome. She proceeded to drink the contents of the bottle with great relish and concluding with a satisfying gasp!, she said "Now then, would I have done that, if it wisnae mine?"

I leave you with this question would you be so desparate to get a library card that you would possibly consume the liquid in a bottle that was labeled Methadone, if it was not yours? Is literature pull so strong? albeit in graphic novel formats.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hear no, see no, speak no .....

The 3 Wise King types
I tell you a small tale of children at Xmas. Its not mine I just pass it on to you from another location but it is truly reported to be correct. On a scale of 1 to 6, it is definitely a good 4.

School Plays its part
It was upon a Xmas even that children gathered without much reason, to play a part in entertaining, parents, teachers and others straining, hard to please but ever nervous. Standing in wings in angelic fervour, stomachs churning, very queasy, remembered lines, are never easy. You know at first and then forget, the tensions rise, the stage is set. Drunk your fill of the muses cup, now steel yourself, the curtains up!

The children played their little hearts out with more enthusiasm than anyone could imagine. It was a spectacle to behold. The blessed couple arrive at the inn and in the night the babe is born in the stable. The children stick simply to the plot and text without room for embellishment the tale unfolded further. It was time for the 3 Magi's to appear and on cue and in full costume they moved slowly onto the stage. The proud parents craned their necks to see the young actors at their peak.

Gold

"I bring you Gold for the boy child born this night in Bethlehem" the first king called out loud and clear, whilst the others waited their turn to speak. The gift was placed before the child and the first king stepped back into the background, much relieved and very pleased at his success.

Myrrh

The second king stepped forward offering the boy child, the rare and exotic substance called Myrrh. The aroma and heady scent of the myrrh was not apparent to the parents but they grew proud and satisfied that their son and heir had shown his acting potential before his first audience. This was indeed a great evening for them and for him, as he stepped back and stood beside his regal companion. Both had delivered their package and spoken their lines as rehearsed. All was well with their world.


The third king was a young lad more spirited than the others and a little too easily distracted by all the wonders that life will surround us with each day. Xmas sparkle, fairy lights and tinsel. Up to this point he had been busy exchanging notes and observations with a shepherd at the back of the chorus when suddenly it was his turn to step forward and speak. Prompted by the teacher in the wings, he jumped forward suddenly to deliver his offering for the boy child and to utter his chosen lines. Lines that were only half remembered in the excitement and heat of the moment. He looked startled in the footlights, stared directly at the audience and uttered the immortal line "Frank sent us!"

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Xmas commerce

The voice of Xmas spent

So did you have a great Xmas? I do hope so. Its so important to get on the right footing at this time of year. To get things into perspective and after New Year, get things stabalised and back in focus.

Let me show you a different view of Xmas. Here's how Xmas was for commerce in a world near you. First level; Create a demand for a Xmas present to end all Xmas presents. To find a good example. check back on all previous Xmases for good ideas.

Have you found a winner? Great! Announce the release of your new toy, game, gadget, or whatever must-have thing we all cannot live without this year. It is especially relevant for parents with children and teenagers. I do believe this tactic or strategy was specifically developed for the toy and young adult market, specifically to boost sales around the festive season. Sometimes known as 'Cha-ching!' time in the retail market.

Level Two; Once the demand is created and the little dears (influencers) are demanding that their parents (the mark) get them this unholy grail for Xmas, your work is very near done. The game is afoot. The marketeers can now announce that demand will be enormous and the manufacturers of this objet-formidable will be working flat out to meet the demand. Pre-booking is recommended. Excellent news for the supplier and wholesaler because then you can make them to order, not have to carry extra stock, reduce scrap levels and reduce the risk of being stuck with surplus, if it bombs. But be sure to state to the public that despite all attempts to meet demand there may be a shortfall in supply. This is not true of course because you are simply planning to create a cycle of demand, with a backlog and surge effect in the market and shops. The crowds are going crazy. Now you are really hot stuff!

The great Cathedral to Commerce - The shopping mall.
Level Three; The great Xmas shopping bonanza begins. All the parents have been told that if they do not provide their frantic demanding kids with this year's gadget-extraordinaire then its over, curtains. Their lives will be forfeit. They will be forever sighted in therapy sessions of young adults all over the world as being the most unfeeling creature ever to appear above the high water mark. A spoiler of childrens' lives. A destroyer of dreams and a perpetrator of such intense psychological torture as to surpass that of all the others in this enormous but deviant criteria. Its full of really bad types and bete-noirs, too many to actually name at the moment.

Now your kids and young folk are going nuts for it, even if they are not sure what it is or what it does and they are certainly not interested in what it costs. Their overall standing in their peer-to-peer hierarchy and group structures is in severe jeopardy, if they don't have one and be willing to display it, on demand. A huge barrage of unbearable mocking, finger-pointing, 'she said' and 'he said' conversations will break out in the young sects that always lead to exile and banishment from being, even slightly close to, 'cool'. Its a well known fact, init?

Level Four; The parents and step-parents, with even more at stake, find themselves out maneuvered, defenseless and abandoned in a shopping mall. An enemy fortress full of every tempting bait the world could create or assemble, except the one thing you have been sent to get. You have hunted high and low. Three times! Panic soon ensues! You cannot go home without it but it is not available. You start running in circles and looking in other shoppers bags. You find yourself teetering and unbalanced on the edge of your dark side.

The virtual bait
The trap is sprung. There is no way back. You are exactly where you are supposed to be. Skewered on the horns of an impossible dilemma. Your mind is melting. You were once the Alpha leader but no longer. Your overall standing in the home, the family and in the community is at stake. You are too old, dedicated, scared or unfortunate to run away and start a new life. What do you do? What do you do?

You do what 90% of the world's consumers do. You try to buy your way out of this moral difficulty and into your family's affection. You will return with more trinkets and sparkling things than anyone could want, need, use or maintain. Remote controlled make-up kits, a scratch-and-sniff racing car sets, a surround-around sound talking karaoke doll, a chemistry set that produces real meth-amphetamines for demonstration purposes only and not to be slipped into silly old grannie's egg nog. You are exhausted and your credit is gone. The last guy cut your card up with the demonstration model of a scaled down imitation French guiotine that plays music while slicing real sausages. You may need to rent a truck to take all this stuff home. You join the other desponds in the offices of the aptly named Dutch hire company, Jan van Rental's.

Even after all this you know, in the back of your mind that it is still not enough. It was never going to be enough. You have failed the trial set by your children to prove your love and dedication to them. Shame on you. You are not worthy of their love. You can but hope they will forgive you and give you another chance. You will promise on your miserable soul, to get them the golden treasure they seek, once Xmas is over. The trap is full now. The victims have gorged on the bait and they will be coming back for more, after Xmas.

The Anti-Santa clause

As for the 3 marketeers and the dark tan yin that runs with them, their work is done. You have over spent like all maniacs, to compensate your children for not being able to buy the very thing they have been made to want. You will also have to buy the tasty demand-laiden bait after Xmas. You hate this thing with a vengeance. The very name of it makes your blood rage. But, you have to buy it, to complete the vicious circle created by the marketeers and the promise made to your tetchy children.


We are all victims of commerce, year after year. Can you break the circle? Yes, of course but you must want to. You will have to risk being different, to develop independent thinking, to be less gullible and not easily lead, plus more, much much more. You will also have to take your children and partner with you on this voyage of re-discovery. It is difficult, but appeal to their better nature, their ecological conscience and ask them to stop consuming the planet's treasures. Its in very bad taste and its not fashionable or cool any more.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Xmas - 12 Days of it

The Christmas song “Twelve Days of Christmas” has been a British tradition for centuries. The tune is almost certainly French in origin and the English words can be dated to 1780 and are probably much older. While some people attribute a Catholic mnemonic to the gifts, the song is more likely to come from a memory game played by children on Twelfth Night.

Since 1984 a US
financial firm has tried to price the gifts (364 gifts in total, in case you’re wondering)—this year they totalled US$21,080 (£14,071), up nearly 8% from 2007.

A Partridge in a Pear Tree

The Partridge in a pear tree is a rather peculiar image but some say reflects the French origins of the song since the French for partridge is perdix, which is pronounced per dree.

A partridge is the first of a series of meats being offered by the true love (read on!). In the Catholic interpretation, the partridge, the first gift from the true love (God) is Jesus.




Two Turtle Doves

Meat number two, or representative of the Old and New Testaments.





Three French Hens

French hens, because they were generally regarded as better eating. Or representative of faith, hope, and charity.





Four Calling Birds

While most modern versions of the song has calling birds, the original text has four colley birds—another name for the blackbird. Alternatively you’re thinking of the four Gospels.






Five Gold Rings

If we’re going to take the vegetarian option, the birds have been gifts purely for their singing or egg-laying capabilities. And here we get something worthwhile (and in these economically uncertain times, five gold rings is a gift not to be sniffed at). But given the theme so far, we're probably talking about ring-necked pheasants. We may of course be talking about the first five books of the Old Testament that describe man's fall from grace.



Six Geese a-Laying

Laying geese are regarded as more valuable because they lay, apparently not as common as you might think in your average goose. This is turning into quite a feast. Goose was once the Christmas meat of choice and is making a comeback for those who want an alternative to turkey. Turkeys don’t feature in this song since it was really the 20th century before it became the Christmas dish of choice.

Six days of creation, represented here.




Seven Swans a-Swimming

We're on the last meat course. Yes, swans used to be eaten too, especially in high society (the swans on the River Thames all belong to the Queen). Or we’re looking at the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit.






Eight Maids a-Milking

Fresh milk was also a great luxury in the times before refrigeration—as well as a source of pudding since custard and cream both come from milk. Or a reference to the eight Beatitudes.





Nine Ladies Dancing

Phew! The feeding has finished and we're on to the entertainment. Ballet such as The Nutcracker Suite remains a seasonal treat. As do the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit.




Ten Lords a-Leaping

Well, maybe Morris Dancing was not what you had in mind. But folk dancing remained an important aspect of Christmas traditions well into the 19th century. It may also remind you of the Ten Commandments.




Eleven Pipers Piping

So here comes the music. Or a reminder that there were eleven faithful disciples.






Twelve Drummers Drumming

More musicians to accompany the pipers, unless they are here to remind you of the 12 points of the Apostles' Creed.




God Bless us once and for all!

Big Cheese


My complements go out to Andy in Edinburgh for discovering the head of Zeus on a piece of cheese. Isn't it divine? But for those of you anxious to see and touch this edible delight, I am afraid it has been sold to an undisclosed bidder on e-bay for a princely sum. Keep your eyes peeled for divinity in the dairy section from now on. Other areas to check out may be the Royal Jelly, King prawns and St Michaels, of course. Make it part of your calorie controlled deity!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Indulgence - I have blatantly borrowed this uplifting newsletter from a charming young lady in the US who goes by the name of the Change Agent. No, she is not a cashier at the arcade. She tells me that she is very experienced in helping people of all nations deal with the changes they face in life and work. I have added some notes in brackets to supplement the understanding, from my perspective. I trust you find what she says as useful and thought-provoking.

Financial Strains

A recent survey by somebody (somewhere at some time), found that finances are the most common cause of holiday (and every other day) stress. Buying gifts and paying for travel expenses can create a significant financial burden (So stay home and be a mean git?). Here's a quick tip that my extended family (my parents and other assorted hangers-on) are doing this Christmas. We are bringing a $10 gift for each member of our family. None of us really "need" anything (cause we are American). This inexpensive alternative doesn't put strain on those families without a lot of money but it still offers the fun of opening gifts (that look like and are actually, crap). My Dutch (meaning really thrifty) family will certainly pride themselves on who got the most expensive gift for $10 (to the Dutch 10 bucks is an expensive gift).

Free Yourself from Taking Offense

(This is a tough one, girls) Consider cutting people slack by not taking offense at what they say (or don't say). It is so easy to be easily offended by family members because of our history with them (that and the fact they are all bampots). For example, when they make a sarcastic remark, choose to ignore it and not allow it to "tear flesh" (immediately, certainly not at the table. You, heid, outside, now!). Then, immediately forgive them (as they slip in an out of consciousness). Years ago, my husband and I would spend our 6 hour drive home from my parents (driving in circles cause she cannae read a map and he won't ask for directions) psychoanalyzing all the comments and what they "really" meant. It was (good fun?) a lot of wasted emotional energy (Doh!). Keep in mind that when we don't forgive others we become bitter (like dark chocolate?) ...and bitterness is a lot like a match (it keeps you warm at night?), in that it only burns the person holding on to it (NB: check peoples' fingers for scorch marks in future).

Forty Winks
Sometimes during the holidays we burn our candle at both ends (if you are lucky). We need seven nights of good restful sleep (at least once a month). Some people need more sleep than others (these are the unemployed), but most sleep experts believe that adults need eight hours of sleep per night (with a top up at the office when the boss isnae looking). Ongoing research (by the unknown unseen university people) is showing that when people don't get enough sleep, they build up "sleep debt."(not more debt) The debt accumulates night after night (disnae sound any different from normal debt). If you get one hour of sleep less per night, after eight nights you have built up a sleep debt equivalent to one night's sleep (add them all together and sleep through your retirement). Sleep debt takes a toll on our motor (try and be awake at the wheel, sometimes) and intellectual functions (Duh!). William Dement, author of The Promise of Sleep says, "In the simplest of terms, a large sleep debt makes you stupid." It takes a toll on us in terms of work errors and can make us emotionally distant from our co-workers, friends, and family. (can you accept the words of a man, by his own admission, who is obviously half asleep?)

Morning dear heart!

Another interesting point about sleep is that our body needs a regular sleep-wake routine (scratching doesn't count). For those of us with daytime working hours (this is not for the owl people of the Northern Isles), most of us go to bed at a certain time (when we pass out) and we get up at a certain time (when we are shaken furiously). During the holidays, however, we tend to go to bed later and sleep in (that's why its a holiday). Here's the problem -- if we sleep an extra hour beyond our normal waking time, we will be tired (no, you've lost me there). It then takes our body forty-eight hours to recover from sleeping late. (Explain some more) Let's say you normally wake up at 6:30 a.m. However, on Saturday, you get up after 7:45 a.m. Because you slept in that extra hour plus, it will take your body literally two days or 48 hours to recover. You will feel tired (always). We often refer to Mondays as "Blue Monday."(that's putting it mildly) Perhaps that is in part due to the fact that we are still recovering from "sleeping in."(No its cause we have to face soor-face and nippy knickers at the office)

Sleep Expert at work

Sleep experts (name and shame them!) suggest you should get up within an hour of your normal waking period even if you go to bed later than usual (spoilsport). To make up for those later nights, consider taking a twenty-minute nap in the afternoon (between meals). To make up your sleep debt, it is best to go to bed earlier than to sleep later (tell that to the widow next door). Aside from the physical benefits from your sleep routine, imagine how much you can enjoy the quiet time in your house with no one awake. (Yes you can practice your drums) Forty winks can make a big difference. (but not if your driving, drinking or having sex)

I hope that you will try one or two of these stress-busting tips. I wish you a most blessed Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa or whatever you are celebrating. May you experience health, happiness, and peace in 2009!(Hope this nausea wears off soon!)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Trees - Not just for Xmas


I love trees and always have. Leaves on, leaves off, don't care. They give you such a different perspective to life on the ground. You know what the physicists say; your stuck with the gravity you were born with. Clearly this does not apply to a limited number of people who have truly experienced zero gravity above and beyond this planet, plus the dubious 'TV personalities' that clearly come from another, slightly un-parallel, off-centre, universe but not as we know it.

As kids we love climbing trees and just the sight of one reaching up and piercing the sky is enough to make you want to be at one with the tree, amongst its welcoming branches swaying in the breeze. We are somehow empowered and willingly transformed. At once observer and observed, a visible spectator no longer a true participant with the ground dwellers, removed, raised to another more privileged level. Until you realise that you can't get down as easily as you had thought and what a bad idea this is because now you have raised yourself to another level where you don't really belong.

Like the astronauts, explorers and adventurers every one, above the earth and below the seas, you take yourself into an alien place for a short time. It changes your view on the physical environment around you and the nature of ground dwelling humanity.

As an aside, it is my understanding that one of the areas that will undergo rapid growth and change, should mankind ever inhabit zero gravity destinations and /or distant planets, is the interior design industry. You have been warned. Invest now for the future.

The furniture, cushions, vases and miscellaneous 'unnecessary-stuff people' will have to come up with a multi-dimensional model for Feng-shui for a start. They'll probably outsource that back to the Chinese. But not only that, suddenly they can use all that empty space on the ceiling and at the top of walls. This has long been the sole provence of spiders, flying bugs, escaped budgies and the occasional traumatised bat. Yikea!

Let's look back at conifer type trees as used at Xmas. The concept of bringing a dead tree into the house was another great idea and custom from our close friends in Germany. This tradition was passed on to the beleaguered Scots by the English monarchy, despite the fact that most Scots are living within a few feet of a large number of living growing conifer trees, at any given time. They are also known to be quite close to a flock of sheep of some kind and more recently, a McDonalds.

It seems to me to be a crazy idea to pay 50€ for a bit of dead tree, keep it in the house for a bit, let the cat climb all over it and then pay someone to take it away because its displaying more obvious signs of atropy i.e. its a dried out stick looking for a forest fire to complete its lifecycle.

Next year, in the spirit of conservation and mutual co-operation, just buy one big tree for the whole street and share it with your neighbours. Each one donating a shiney bawble or two for decoration. If you do this, don't forget, its very dangerous to use electricity outside the house and specific criteria need to be met to make it safe and weatherproof. So when it come to setting up the fairy lights on the tree, get an experienced electrician to wire them up to the street lights for you. Play safe! and remember trees are not just for Xmas. Gutentag!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Survival tactics - Fat and Jolly


Is there a Point to this?

We followed a make-shift sign to the town centre today because it proclaimed in one word (Kerst) that Xmas lay in that direction. I am not a big fan of the commercialisation of a pseudo-religious festival that may or may not have occurred some time ago but we do love a party! So off we went, drawn directly like moths with tunnel vision heading down a real tunnel with a light at the end of it, desperately seeking, whatever it is they seek from light bulbs. What did they do before Edison? Were they attracted by very brightly coloured objects and clothing? Check out the Discovering channel for that.

Xmas has changed. The new sounds of Xmas overtook us before the sight of it floored us completely. Avoiding the normal psycho cycle traffic with our extraordinarily well developed ninja style leaping, twisting and spinning technique learned at tango classes, we came across a wonderous site.

The ice rink was well populated by small children racing and piroetting as easily as the wind whistles around the trees. They were accompanied by the occassional teenager who had clearly reached competive level. We also saw the odd chain of adults who had finally consumed enough courage in the adjoining bar /cafe to enable them to hurtle around repeatedly finding the edges of the arena and the floor. Some were foolishly trying to sweep away small children that had strayed into their path but were failing miserably. This was mainly due to the difference between youthful energetic litheness and agility, compared to bloated figures, slow reactions and great unsteadiness.

All this was accompanied by the less traditional music of today in NL. That's what I Call a Headache 2008! It was accompanied by a bass line that sought to change the fairly regular beat of my soft heart. It felt like I was in a microwave beam that was cooking me from the inside out or at least jiggling things about a bit. Anatomically most uncomfortable.

There was also an inflatable slide show going on in one corner of the square. This was a number of inflatable slides for kiddies, surrounded by jolly Xmas characters dressed up in different guises and interacting with the children. All this was pleasant and cheery enough, as long as you dismiss the thought that it is an ideal job for kiddie ticklers in this apparently liberal country. Not helped by the sight of fake snow being ejected over the scene in short bursts from a machine placed next to the mobile toilets.

We went over to the photo opportunity tent which had captured some of these characters dressed in cartoon guise. Now, in my mind, cartoon characters were normally cute little furry animals that had taken on the human persona of a cheeky mischievious child. That seemed a long time ago now. These characters were straight out of a Japanese nightmare version of Clockwork Orange and they were over 2m tall. Most of the children would have been a small snack for them. They had strange Japanese names that meant nothing to me but it would continually trigger my internal 'anagram solving' reflex, creating less bizarre but equally scarey results.

We took refuge in our regular cafe for some good coffee and to re-establish some level of normality. It was better but the bass line that penetrated all things, made the cups rattle and vibrate so much that they were in danger of trundling off the table. Undaunted we sat firm and watched the people outside interact with the bizarre scene unfolding before them. The younger ones were completely at home with this event but the older ones moved quickly away with their brains overloaded, having tried and failed to rationalise the event and images flashing around them.

The in-betweenies (neither young nor old) were the most interesting they could almost bridge both views inside their little heads, with one side momentarily gaining the advantage and then suddenly losing it to the other side. This battle of the interior psyche was taking place all over the square and was concentrated on the parents that wanted to be seen as cool and trendy but really wanted to scream wildly and run away.

An epiphany! That's why Santa Claus is so apparently jolly. He is caught on the uncomfortable reindeer horns of a dilemma, much worse than sitting on a Barbie fence beyond his Ken. He is the keeper of Xmas, the fat figurehead and its getting away from him. The poor old guy. Its changing so far out of his control that he is unsure who he is and what he should do, so he just stands there in his crib and is seen to be gettin' jolly with it. He is hoping that something on the magical roundabout of innocent illusions will come round again. Something he can recognise and grab on to. Then and only then, he can jump aboard. Here he will find someone to guide his sleigh tonight. In contrast, all he can see here are people who may slay his guide today.

This brought me to the conclusion that 'fat and jolly' is a deliberate survival technique because you are too fat and unfit to run or to fight. This is despite the triggering of the 'fight or flight' instinct caused by imminent aggression or simple confrontation. So you have no choice but to be engraciating and 'jolly'. Keep this in mind when you confront an olde fat bloke. He has to be jolly to you, its a law of nature, but be careful. If you do confront a fat old person and they are not exhibiting signs of being 'jolly' you could be in trouble. He could be concealing something and I don't mean the undulating layers of fat up his jump suit or the spare pies and chocolate bars in his bulkging pooches. No, he may have another more sinister secret.

One thing to dismiss is that he is unlikely to be royalty. I mention this because it is a well known historically proven fact that kings and queens can be fat and grumpy but are stll able to defend themselves. That's because they pay other people to look out for them. Therefore, they can respond quickly (over-react) to confrontation by delegating an extreme response to a large team of younger fitter psychotic natured underlingers (army), who will pursue you to the end of all time and beat the crap out of you, just for fun. Historical lesson learned; Avoid confronting royals, where possible.

The true secret of fat old grumpy persons is that this is their true nature coming through and this could mean that you do not intimidate them enough or at all. Now don't be discouraged. This is no reflection on your abilities and all the efforts you and possibly your family have made in this direction. It could be that this person has seriously underestimated your powers or overestimated their own. Both could be true. Unfortunately, if they don't back down then this has the potential to lead to a fight. Avoid this at all costs. I will need to cover this for you in a master class topic entitled 'How to fight with older, crippled or weaker people and retain some level of credability as a sentient human being'.

The worst case scenario is that your chosen adversary has been dodging death for some time and no longer fears its sting. This type will see you as some form of mercy killing figure sent to end their torment. These people are easily discouraged but occasionally one will follow you home and plead with you through the letterbox. Call the authorities or the professionals. You are out of your depth here.

The most likely scenario you will face is that this fat and less than jolly adversary has a secret weapon concealed on his person or in the surrounding area in the form of a) a pointy stick b) a can of mace or mustard gas (depending on age of person) c) his old army revolver, which will probably blow up in your face and kill you both d) a large dog e) a large relative with a large dog and a stick. Best to disarm the situation quickly with a big smile and a bit of friendly banter.

Lessons learned; Remember now, if you are ever cornered by something or someone more scary than you and you see no way to escape, just be everso jolly. Good luck with that. Ho, ho, ho! y'all!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Death Trap III

I have had 2 cars in NL before this one and each one has attracted the name "Death Trap" this and that, either from the passengers' or mechanics' limited viewpoint. So I affectionately call this one "Death trap III". I find this goes some way to managing the expectations of potential passengers.

Reluctantly, I had to take 'Death Trap III' to the garage for a bit spit and polish on the engine. They call it a 'small service' and charge me 100 Euros for the pleasure but I'm not so easily fooled by their fancy talk. I am also concerned as to how he filled the washer bottle because he did not go anywhere near water all the time I was watching him. Hmm, but the bottle was full. You can hide a lot of things when you colour the water with yon blue stuff, apparently.

The worst thing about this whole tacky experience was not the water bottle or the money flung out the proverbial window but the endless drone of infuriating Xmas music crackling unjoyously overhead. The sound of a French toilet trying to disgorge its contents, in some direction or other would have been more interesting and entertaining. Although I have listened to French toilets and never thought, I wish I was sitting in Kwikkie Stingers listening to Croation mouth music. Assuming they were using their mouths to make those noises.

It was music to burn people by. They had obviously bought a bunch of surplus rip-off tapes from the market not realising that they were originally made to supply a very tight niche in the 'entertaining mourners and surviving friends and relatives at Xmas time' market. One can only imagine the other great marketing ideas coming from that think stank. Commemorative crematorium shortbeard baked right here on our own premises using our own supply of limitless green energy. Its to die for.

Demagraphics, they have you in mind, always. Ok, so maybe I have fallen off the dining table of good taste and manners but when you hear 'Be careful with that holly Santa, you may get a bad prick' sung in broken English to the tune of Trumpton, there is no where to go after that. You'll be singing it all day now.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Green is permissable

Travelling along the motorways of Europe you see many things. Mostly its the back of some other cars whilst in the sticky jams and long queues or the sudden flash of colour as they waltz across all the lanes like Goldilocks looking for one that's 'just right' for them. This is normal, but today I came across a left hand drive (LHD) motorcycle, which was very unusual. Partly because I could tell without doubt that it was a LHD motorcycle, even as it sped past at +100KPH.

Stop lights or traffic lights are fascinating things. We all know that Red is definitely stop, if you are not too busy or distracted that is. Then you have Amber, which will get you ready to go or stop, depending on whether you're coming or going and if in doubt, just go for it!

Green is the one everyone likes, if its on their side. Its very much empowered to allow you to proceed on your way but I am not sure. Is it really compulsory or mandatory to do so or is it possible to take some time out for yourself, to finish off what you are doing, before trundling off again.

I mean sometimes you are not in such a big rush and you have other priorities. You need to re-programme your GPS, re-load your CD player, dial a friend, finish adjusting your make-up, cleansing your nose with your finger, make sure your hair is sitting up in a fashionably startled way (I see more men than women doing this), chastise the children or share a jolly song with them before moving off. There is a lot to consider.

The authorities tell us not to do these things while driving because its a distraction and could be dangerous. I bet sometimes you find yourself hoping that the lights will turn to Red before you get there because you have something you really, really need to do now. Like stopping your coffee mug from sliding off the dashboard. I have to stress that drinking coffee whilst driving is a very dangerous thing to do. I once shorted out a perfectly good Blaupunkt radio/cassette doing that. Not to mention the cleaning bill. So be advised.

I can see that lingering on a Green light may be inconvenient to other drivers, especially if there were only one lane but on the dual carriageways and 2 lane roads, its not going to be such a big problem. After all, the authorities make sure all drivers are qualified to handle the vehicle in all conditions and all cars are made roadworthy and insured before they can use the roads. So, between the driver and the cars, they can brake, steer and take avoiding action, if required.

What's the problem.

Re-cycling and all it transforms

To me recycling can be many things but to the Dutch recycling is coming back from Amsterdam on the bicycle.

Xmas parties here again

I was talking with the people on the BBC Radio Scotland programme about school days and long since forgotten Xmas school dances. Where the only dance you got was from Ms Largebotham the music teacher who thought you had the most beautiful singing voice for a pre-pubescent boy and seemed determined to hold you to close and squeeze it out of you.

Unfortunately I was not the dapper self-confident gigolot I am today, although I was somewhat delusional even in those days. I spent so much time up against the wall at school dances that I earned the name 'Gecko' or 'Geecko', it alternated depending on the mentality of the heckler.

I also had the misfortune one year, to be adorned with an Arran knit heavy woolen jumper which had been knitted by granny 'with the failing eyesight' and 'shaking hands'. A dear woman of whom I was well fond. So I was not going to offend her or incur the wrath of parents by defending my last thin veneer of dignity, so off I went.

I do admit to feeling a certain air of invulnerability as the rain bounced off me and I reckoned that this woolen armour would be able to deflect any minor wounding attempts by the locals. They had long since become experts in organised sectarianism in any form and to show their solidarity to the 'cause' they moved around in small gangs. I use the word 'cause' here because when confronted and attacked by these sporting lads, it was always their chosen response to a request for rational justification e.g. Why? answer 'Cause'.

I enjoyed the wet cold rainy nights because it made the guerrillas run for cover quicker than the authorities and it washed the dog crap off the streets. As I swaggered stalwartly to the school I started to be aware of the woolen jumper losing its ability to deflect water and had instead started to capture as much of it as it could. The garment grew longer and heavier, until by the time I reached the school it was dragging on the ground and I was walking partly crouched under the weight of it.

This incumbent thing, working with some trivial and perverted laws of nature had also decided to gather up as much dirt and leaves along the way as was possible. The dirty water had been wicking up through the garment from the ground and the slightly acidic rain had been doing its best to wash it away. The result was a high tide mark somewhere near my knees that would have enthralled a botanist or microbiologist.

Undaunted, it was like this that I entered the Xmas school dance, like an extra from some apocalyptic Neptune movie. I was hoping it was perhaps a fancy dress occasion and this would give me a chance to noncchalantly carry it off by carrying a small shiny trident, in the form of a school dinner fork that had been playfully stabbed into the noticeboard. It was not fancy dress and I did not go unnoticed.

I stood in my usual corner teetering on the edge of both the dance floor and my self esteem, watching the very precarious grip that I had on my dignity slowly melting and dripping onto the floor. I must have looked like a 'gecko' caught in a net that had been dredged out of the local canal. Best days of your life school days. If only I had known that at the time.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Olympic Sports - How to be a winner!

It has always been the pinnacle of sportswomen and men to be chosen for the Olympics. The best of the best, the fastest, strongest most determined athletes in the world, allegedly. I have a great deal of admiration and a twinge of envy for all, up-to and over, achievers, in the competitive worlds in which we rush about in and embrace.

Having said that, I am not a big spectator of sports. It is a poor substitute for active participation. I was puzzled as to why other spectator activities were not held in such high regard e.g. dancing. This was a well attended spectator sport when I was a younger creature and many an evening was spent, like a ghekko on the wall watching the 'game' play out. Unfortunately, one always went home with the feeling that the home 'team' had been soundly beaten again. But now, thanks to the wonders of TV watching, (one of the greatest spectator 'activities' ever) we find that Coming to Dance is once more a spectator's sport. This time the situation is less personal and more abstract. So one can enjoy the drama, win draw or lose it.

Let me drag your thoughts back screaming and kicking against the memories of the tragic past, to the chosen topic of success at the Olympics. I would like to give you a gift. A valued treasure that will raise you up above the rest and bring you the accolades, envy and admiration of all kinds (women and men). I can tell you how to take the fast track to being an Olympic contender.

Clearly there are many ways known to me as to how you can achieve greater glory with lesser effort but this one I will share for free. Picture in your tormented mind the cold icy slopes of the Alps or any other similar region that evokes an arduous wintry scene for you. This excludes the well dressed windows of your neighbourhood high street shops at Xmas and any felled conifer tree that has been ceremoniously propped up and sprayed by white glittering paint.

One thing among many that you will not see on the wintry slopes is the bob-sleigh. They reek havoc amongst the skiiers and snowboarders by going straight downhill like an earth-bound rocket. There would be a high casualty list especially at the designated end of the run, where it impacts something(s) immovable and all energy is disipated in the form of heat, light and screaming. Very bad for tourism commerce.

For some of the reasons considered, the bob-sleigh is confined to a twisting winding icy track with high side walls to contain it. These walls also lessen the chance of it becoming airborne, which would immediately disqualify it from the race. Not to mention the damage to all on board as they take a tree-top canopy tour of the adjacent forest, albeit briefly. As with many airlines, its not the flight that is the issue, it is the landing. This is in no way a reflection on KLM pilots' abilities to drop an aircraft suddenly onto the tarmac of any international airport, alledgedly.

My interest is with the aptly named 4-man Bob. No, this is not a male singing group that specialise in close harmony. This is a team of 4 men who get to push the bob-sleigh onto the icy track and ride it all the way to the designated finish line. This team consists of 1 man steering Bob the sleigh, 1 man trying to brake Bob and what I can only describe as 2 passengers in the middle, who after pushing, running and jumping into Bob have no further function. Unless you consider carrying Bob to and from the track as an olympian feat.

So it is here that I offer you the opportunity to become an Olympian as a passenger on a 4-man bob-sleigh. The qualifications seem vague bit I believe pushing, running, jumping and being a good passenger or spectator is paramount. Perhaps another consideration is how well you could get away with wearing lycra in the sub-zero temperatures of the Alps. Unless you consider frostbite as the new black, its unlikely to be a true fashion statement.

So this is the sparkling pearl of wisdom that I share with you today and the rest is up to you. Work hard train well and one day you could be 1 man, woman or child in a 4-man Bob. A passenger above the rest, an Olympian champion passenger. Let it slide and don't brake too much!