Sunday, October 31, 2010

Time out

The clocks went back last night in the UK, so perhaps I did get to sleep in just a little bit before the three year old stomped into our bedroom and threw himself into our bed, and said "Wakey, wakey". He twitched the curtains above our head to let in a smidgeon of damp, gray light.

Daylight savings have been controversial for a number of years and the rhetoric is ramping up. A growing lobby is urging that the UK should go to double summer time in the summer and GMT +1 in the winter. A permanent shift of an hour. Folks are even saying a change would combat global warming. (I'm unconvinced).

right twice a day
Euro-sceptics will have noticed this would put us on exactly the same time as Brussels. A conspiracy of closer alignment by fiat rather than treaty.

The Scottish contingency and farmers have been vociferously protesting against the double summer time idea. Let's dismiss the farmers first and out of hand, because farmers raise more complaints than heads of cattle or bushels of wheat.

But the Scots may have a point. It's darker up there in the winter and in the summer is stays light quite late enough already. A +1 shift would mean it would be dark til mid-morning in the winter. Which you don't need a policy review to know would suck.

Personally, I'm against the change. I hate, hate, hate getting up in the dark and this would mean more days of getting up in the dark. And since, I - you know - work. I still wouldn't get to take advantage of more daylight in the winter as I'd be - you know - working. But most people I know here in London are in favor of the change.

A modest proposal

If folks in London want to change so much, let 'em. Let northerly parts of the UK like Scotland or Northern Ireland or westerly bits like Wales stay on GMT or BST in the summer. You see, that would work. Devolution of the clock. An overthrow of the tyranny of time.

I grew up in a state with roughly 10-15% of the population of the UK. And we had two time zones - Eastern in East Tennessee and Central and Middle and West Tennessee. It didn't result in perpetual confusion. It was fine.

You know it makes sense.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A heart of enormous proportions

Since I've decided to publish a book (self-publish, don't get excited) about the floral tributes of Lambeth Cemetery in June 2011 (in time for the annual cemetery open day). I've been a bit more rigorous about getting to the graveyard once a week to photograph any interesting floral tributes.

Today, there wasn't much of interest. But there was a heart of enormous proportions. I'd never seen one quite so big. My three year old could have easily placed himself in the center and made chrysanthemum angels. (Not that I'd have ever allowed such a thing).

It was truly giant. But from a photographers perspective, not so visually interesting - especially since I failed to actually place my three year old next to it for scale. But the roses on it are normal sized. So the arrangement would have actually made a good sized table center piece.

A heart of enormous proportions

But what did catch my eye was the lettered inscription.

In Are Hearts forever

I'm not a grammar nazi by any means. My own work is littered with such homophonic mistakes. But these things are expensive. Each of those mums has to be hand inserted into the oasis foam. (At least I think it does - correct me if I'm wrong). And presumably that thing was on show to quite a few people. And the mistake would have been easily fixed. Those letters are relatively cheap. But no one caught it. Not the commissioner, not the mourners and not the funeral director. Or maybe they did and the person who bought it insisted on keeping it like that. Maybe it was an inside joke. I don't know. But I can't help thinking it was just a terrible and visible spelling mistake.

Bless there hearts.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

double rainbow

This video made the viral rounds of the Internet not so long ago. If you haven't seen it, well - it's interesting to see someone get so excited about natural phenomena. Probably not without the aid of some herbal enhancements I'm guessing.

I reserved judgement, though - as I've never seen a double rainbow before.

But today I did. We left the playground slightly early as someone ran off and out of my eyesight (any excuse really, I was ready to go and given that he didn't put up much of a fuss, probably so was he). I was thanking my good fortune as it started to sprinkle after we were in the car for just a couple of minutes - and then the skies opened and the winds blew in a sudden squall. But the sky was still clear elsewhere and the sun shining - so I looked around for a rainbow - and then I saw it. A double rainbow. Pretty darn cool. One rainbow is much more distinct and perfect and then there was a slightly more elusive twin. Yes, very cool.

But not as amazing as the guy in the video makes out.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

A history according to cabbies of the north west

I've been away for work. Up to a gritty northern town, it didn't really seem that gritty though I suppose they wouldn't thank me for saying so. A work colleague and I arrived at the train station after dark, greeted by the shining steel industrial tanks of some kind of factory. It was a small station, one of those that's basically a few platform linked by grim cinder block subterranean passageways and a minimal station entrance. No cash machine. But there was a giant queue of taxis and we duly made our way to the first cabbie in the rank.

We gave them the name of our hotel and he told us that it was too close for a taxi ride, that we should just walk. The hotel was just around the corner and gave us a garbled set of directions in which there was a right and a left and probably another one of those.

We were game enough and set off. The first right we saw was a road with an unappealing name - something like Scumshaw, but it might as well have been called Serial Killer Lane as dark and uninviting as it was. We consulted our map and saw that there was a probably another way - one that led through inhabited areas. But what the map didn't show was that the obvious route had been blocked by steel fences and the only path ahead of was an mossy, overgrown route through Ax Murderer Underpass.

But we made it alright to the hotel, which was on a retail park, the kind where no one ever arrives on foot.

The reason we'd stayed overnight was so I could arrive nice and early to the venue where I was one of the morning speakers. We duly ordered our taxi to a Fire Control Centre for a nice and early time. But the taxi was late, very late. And then we our cabbie negotiated heavy traffic through the town to our destination. We noticed an historical plaque on some beamed cottages from the car and managed to read only the words Oliver Cromwell. The cabbie noticed us craning and informed us that his great-great grandmother had owned that cottage or had a shop there or something. Oooh, we said. Awaiting a tidbit of interesting local history - though he said nothing more. Prompting him - my colleague asked if Oliver Cromwell had lived there. "Nearby," said the cabbie - in a building that had since been torn down. "So was there a big battle here?" I asked.

Cromwell plaque on the Cottage, Church Street

Oh, there was a war, said the cabbie. A civil war. And proceeded to give us a potted history of the English Civil War when Oliver Cromwell and the Parliamentarians wanted rule by the people and King Charles I had disagreed and it had led to his execution. But nary a word of what had happened locally. Oh really? You don't say. Thing is, most of that happened where I live. In London. Today, depending on my route, I may well walk in front of Parliament and the statue of Oliver Cromwell.

And then he dropped us off at our destination. In we came, to a receptionist who had never heard of our event. And we surmised, just as the cabbie was beyond site, that we were in completely the wrong place - although it was a place that did have the name Fire in it. But it was a commercial fire research centre. And yet the cabbie had seemed so certain.

Another taxi ordered, another cabbie - this one covered in tattoos from professionals and amateurs alike. Armed with an address, the cabbie seemed a bit uncertain - as we were being taken to an industrial/office park that was apparently huge. I told him I'd seen a picture of the building and his tone was as scathing as I'd ever heard "A picture? That won't help. Every building there looks exactly the same."

We arrived late. Quite late. Introductions to the day were being made. I slotted in to a seat in the back. But it was all ok. I came up and did my bit. And in a break I ordered a taxi to take us back to the station.

We waited. And waited. Taxi was late and we had a specific ticket for a specific train. But then another taxi turned up. He had a different name, but didn't seem fussed. No one else was there. He seemed to say "You're here. I'm here. Let's make beautiful taxi music together," and we hopped in. We worried about our travel karma for stealing someone's taxi, but we figured we'd had enough bad luck so far it would probably come out in the wash.

On the way to the station, he asked us what we thought of the town and we admitted we hadn't seemed much of it. "It's very small," he said. "Oliver Cromwell seems big here," my colleague prompted. "Yeah," he said. Apparently that kind of thing didn't interest him at all.

I was blessedly reassured by the site of the factory by the station. I asked him what it was.

Lever Brothers and Crossfield Chemicals - Warrington

"They make washing powder there. It's very historical." Historical, we reflected, as we gazed the corrugated cladding and the chemical tanks and pipes from the station platform. I guess the 70s is another century.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Warm life

A couple of weeks ago our refrigerator seemed not to be cooling so well. And by the following morning, it was clear it wasn't working. The light was on, but no one was home. Disappointing, given that it wasn't that old - but old enough to be out of warranty. It certainly lived up to its brand name. Hotpoint.

Since we'd ordered that fridge, the cooling market has moved on. You can either buy really short 'under the counter' fridges or tall 'American' style fridges. But nothing that fit into the space we had. Or not much. Only a premium brand German fridge - Liebherr - a company which seems to have entered the domestic market only recently from the industrial market and a scarily cheap one.

We decided to go for the German one, but were told that we'd have to wait for while as it had to be special ordered from the manufacturer. Disappointing. I could have probably lived without a refrigeration as I can happily live without milk, but the husband and the boy need their milk. So we bought a tiny little student fridge and waited patiently.

We bought our fridge from the Co-op and they said they had it in much quicker than we expected and we'd be informed of our delivery slot on Friday evening for a Saturday delivery. Normally, I'd expect to pay extra for a weekend delivery, but it was free. On Friday evening, the Vol-in-Law received a text that the fridge would arrive between 9:45 and 11:45, but that was 'just a guess'. I thought this was an interesting way of managing customer expectations. But there was a knock on the door a few minutes before 10. The old fridge was gone and the new one in place by 10 past.

The boy was excited by the new fridge, especially after a trip to the grocery store.

New fridge

New fridge