Shorts story

A week or so ago it was Dog Awareness week in the UK. Somewhat ironically you may not have been aware of that fact unless you live in the UK and received mail that week that actually had postage stamps that had needed franking. Were you to have received such mail you would have seen the declaration of ‘Dog Awareness week’ proudly stamped on your envelope.

So what is it all about? Obviously its more than just ‘be aware there are such things as dogs’ Most of us have got the hang of that. Dog Awareness week is promoted by the UK’s Royal Mail to remind householders particularly during school summer holidays and better weather (not that these always coincide!) to be cognisant of the danger of loose dogs in gardens or yards. Seemingly innocuous behaviour in the eyes of the householder with a secure and dog safe area. Well yes, until a visitor calls by. Every year countless postman and postwoman receive injuries from dogs defending their properties. As is so often the case…it’s not the dog at fault but just a thoughtless owner .

And an added risk…..UK postman have a shorts wearing season that can extend from January to December so usually the dogs success rate for being on target of teeth meeting leg is very high.

Longer trousers may have to make a comeback……

So actually it’s not the dogs at fault or the postman’s attire but the owners of the dogs. Regrettably ‘Thoughtless Pet Owners Week’ is too big a slogan to fit on most envelopes.

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Salsa with cows

Little did John Constable the artist realise that he put the beautiful river stour and the hamlet of Flatford Mill and the village of Dedham well and truly on the map.

This sleepy and pretty riverside area on the Suffolk and Essex border in Eastern England is visited by many …some to see the unchanged scenes painted all those years ago such as Willy Lott’s cottage,

Flatford Mill and the riverside meadows also featured in many paintings. Others visit just to enjoy the countryside almost unchanged from the days of Constable.

Last weekend visiting family who live in the nearby area we too decided to enjoy the area and walk and picnic by the river. The weather was perfect, the wasps were confining themselves to sharing drinks at the nearby pub, and we were a well prepared group with picnic rugs and copious supplies of food. What we hadn’t prepared for were the cows. Now I too live in the country and have a healthy respect for cows, particularly when with their calves and we stay well clear when dog walking to avoid frightening them, disturbing them or even being perceived to be invading their territory.

Now at Dedham the herd seem to have been there a while and know the score. Totally unperturbed by dog walkers, noisy children, people launching dinghies into the River but what they have mastered is picnic raiding! And this is not collective herd tactics.. it is one stubborn bullock. He was determined to have some salad, then bread, as we desperately tried to scoop up plates, wrappers and indeed anything that might cause real harm, he then emptied the Bombay mix container and finished it by licking out an entire jar of salsa.

Nothing would move him. It was only when everything was removed he gave a final lick of his lips, a cursory glance at the devastation he had left and moved on up the field to the next unsuspecting victim.

Now this individual gave the impression this is tried and tested cow behaviour for generations of animals in this area. It does make me wonder if amongst the well known paintings of Constable such as The Haywain, Flatford Mill or Dedham Lock there is an unknown hidden and lost masterpiece ….’The Cow eating Salsa ‘. For sale at an auction room near you shortly.

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And the winner is….

In the UK things have been somewhat hot over the past few days both politically and meteorologically. For those that live here or indeed follow international affairs it won’t have escaped your notice that we have just had a new Prime Minister elected . I use the word elected loosely as only a very small percentage of the population, about 0.1% get to vote on this . If this intrigues you , read more here.

Anyway with all this argy bargy going on and tv full of what may or may not happen next, Global Warming (or just cycles of nature..as both believers and non believers read my blog) has sent us the mother of all heatwaves this week.

Put these two together and you get a very hot and bothered nation.

So, imagine my delight to see that you.gov, one of our leading polling agencies, normally telling us what will happen in the next election or what people think about government policy or the state of the railways have put out a survey today…………… on ice lollies.

So how uncontroversial is that! Evidently not. A twitter furore has evolved and even challenges are now being made on what constitutes a lolly!

And for the record, why no mention of White Chocolate Magnum? Surely one of the world’s greatest inventions after the internal combustion engine, the internet and latte machiatto ?

Marzipan…it’s on my list

If I was doing a top 5 list of foods that made you think, why did somebody invent this? I have a few candidates for the list.

Smashing almonds into tiny pieces and then adding copius amounts of sugar may seen a little left field to most cooks but sure is worth the result. End result ….a construction material for building cakes and a sort of carpet underlay for icing. But also an artist’s pallet for creating things…well mostly miniature fruits…not sure why fruits. Why not a potato or a lettuce?

Also on the usefulness front is it’s ability to soak up alcohol and then just act like a normal chocolate in the chocolate box!

But the downside is that it’s a marmite situation. You can’t just think marzipan is ok, you either love it or hate it!

I am a marzipan lover but appreciate the world of the non-likers….. let me help you. Just send it to me

Say cheese…..

In a future age when we really get to know what makes us humans tick we will learn why we like to collect things and complete lists with an unexplainedly huge sense of achievement, totally disproportionate to the task.

It may be more of a British trait …indeed much as I often see suitably anoraked men and boys collecting train numbers on Peterborough station or at London Kings Cross (with it’s bizarrely numbered Platform 0)

I can’t say I have noticed the same outside Penn station in New York.

Maybe you can’t get the anoraks in the US…and we all know the rule …no anorak=no trainspotting.

In the UK we also have men religiously trying to visit every football (soccer) ground in the league. It’s no great hardship I am told doing the ones at the top, such as West Ham at the former Olympic stadium,

the Emirates home of Arsenal, or Manchester United”s Old Trafford but standing in the rain at Raith Rovers or Queen of the South on a wet Saturday in November requires a stamina last seen in Robert the Bruce. The frustration as well with the bottom league clubs is that you make a gargantuan effort to visit some of the more obscure lower league grounds to get the last ones on the list and you tick them off…. Only for them to be relegated out of the league and you then get another far flung obscure ground to visit as a new non league club is promoted and joins.

So I have a far better idea for how these collectors should spend their time……and this is one that never changes and is truly cast in stone.

The UK has a unique range of cheeses and these are very geographically defined. Cheddar coming from the town of cheddar, Stilton from the village of Stilton…and so on. No relegation risk here. There will always be Gloucester, Lancashire , Wensleydale and quite a few more ready for a visit, sampling and ticking off the list of ’20 famous British cheeses’.

And of course…No specialist clothing required!

Why this blog? Click to find out more…..

A tale on the trail

When I say I am a member of a running club, you may have visions of this superbly toned, lean and hyper fit athlete. I think it is fair to say I have a little way to go on that front. But what is amazing is my running club. It is totally inclusive, warmly welcoming and embraces the abilities of all. It had fairly humble beginnings and now meets on several days per week affording lots of running opportunities. Like any organisation it relies on all to play their part in different ways and tonight I volunteered to be tail runner on our trail run. One of the joys of where we are located in West Yorkshire is that within minutes of starting from our club room we can be on rural paths, beside reservoirs, running on canal towpaths and farm land tracks.

As tail runner i.e. making sure no one is left behind, one of the benefits of this task is that you get to talk with and meet with more of your fellow runners than you normally would. Tonight was no exception and in fact proved to be an education as our run leader shared a lot of local history with me that as a ‘comer in’ (as one is described in Yorkshire when not being a local) I was unaware of. My club is actually located in a largish town, but if you move into a smaller village from outside…you can be a ‘comer in’ even after 20 years residence!

Tonight was also a first for me as tail runner as safety related duties are normally associated with keeping runners and traffic apart. We came across a very young hedgehog meandering across a road with seemingly no knowledge of the green cross code or whatever should apply to hedgehogs.

A swift bit of encouragement into some undergrowth was required and hopefully an accident avoided!

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Park Life

This song from the 1990’s might be a bit of a blurr to many other than it’s more devoted fans. Put simply it was about life in the local park i.e. people sitting on benches, watching pigeons.

No specific park but probably Colchester’s castle park as Blurr hail from that town. Although not a resident of Colchester (whose claim to fame is being Britain’s oldest recorded Roman town)

I can vouch for this park being very impressive. Being a garrison town, back in the 1970’s when the armed forces had a bit more cash to splash, it used to put on a fairly impressive Military Tattoo second only to that of Edinburgh. Nowadays that is just history but I have made a more recent visit as a Parkrun tourist.

Parkrun for those not in the know is a timed Saturday morning 5k run at numerous park locations across the UK and beyond. And completely free. Read more here….about Parkrun

Anyway I digress slightly but my point being is that town parks are a marvellous legacy from our forebears and for sure the funding of them and the events in them has ebbed and flowed over the years .

Let’s all do what we can to use them, support them and even volunteer to help them.

Why this blog? Click to find out more….

Lightbulb moment

The expression ‘lightbulb moment’ and the usual accompanying picture of a friendly bulb and a sometimes a ‘question mark’ is generally used to describe a moment of revelation.Perhaps such as the moment when that nice Mr Dyson invented that airblade hot air dryer that really worked, didn’t give us 3rd degree burns requiring hospitalisation and didn’t consume the electricity normally required for a entire street of houses or destroy another hectare of forest for paper towels, just for drying one’s hands.

My lightbulb moments more recently have been, well quite simply put, when buying light bulbs. Buying light bulbs used to be a really simple process….you went to your local hardware store and said ‘please can I have a lightbulb.’ …..their response was yes …40w, 60w or 100w ? If you were some trendy arty type with a light fitting bought holidaying in Paris you might proudly request ‘my latest addition is a lamp I just found in an antique shop on the rive-gauche, so it has to be screw fitting , not bayonet. Its continental you know!’There it is, simple process. But not now…you now need to know a bulb shape number..so you confidently ask for an e27.

Like a verbal tennis match your volley will get sent back over the net to you with questions …LED? or Halogen?No matter how swift your answer…more questions fired back to you….what brightness…1800 lumens or 2000 lumens? …answer this question and immediately a demand of what tone…warm white? or cool? …and so on until you give up or just produce the old bulb from your pocket and say , another of these please .But it’s not just light bulb buying that requires a post graduate diploma or doctorate in the given subject. Until a few years ago when buying a coffee in a cafe ( we now of course give them a promoted title of coffee shop or bistro) the most complicated question you would get is ‘ do you want milk with that?’

Now it’s a different story. If you don’t know your latte, from americano, cappuccino, machiatto, espresso, flat white or macho it can be an anxious moment in the queue. Questions on size are also asked …now most of us understand big or small, but start using terms such as Grande, tall or medium and confusion reigns on the hierarchy of sizing. Milk…hot? or cold? sort of make sense, but there will be an expectation on you to state the fat content you want (skimmed, semi-skinned, full) and then of course do you want your milk from a cow, coconut, soy beans or almonds.And finally they want to know your name to write on the cup!

I just give mine as ‘confused’ ..seems to certainly clear me a space and get me a seat when my name is called out!

Guess what…I think next time I will just have a coke.

Yes, I know…diet or zero or regular? Cherry coke, twist of lemon coke or lime coke?And finally the statement ..sorry actually it’s not coke, it’s Pepsi…is that ok for you?

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Birthday greetings?

Today it’s my birthday. Ok, well to be factually correct it’s only my birthday if you are reading this on Tuesday 16th July. When you think about it, it’s actually no great surprise as there was a 1:365 chance it would be and I think that is greater odds than you get for winning anything over £10 had you bought a lottery ticket.

At one time, only close family and friends (and the HR department at work) actually knew this date and excluding the HR team (unless you worked for a very touchy, feely company,) family and friends would be the only ones communicating it to you.

Social media and electronic communications have changed all of that……but only possibly for the better.

So without question you should think of this first group as the top tier or premier league. Remember these ‘Friends and Family’ are the people who might actually go to a shop, buy a card, and somewhat importantly know where you live, make the effort to write and stamp the card in advance so that you have it for the day. Now that is commitment.

Anyway to the next Level..Level 2.

These too are real people but they will know the feeling of lateness. These are the ones people who when they turn on their phones will get nice Facebook reminders saying it that it is your friends bitthday today…….yes today!!!!

A quick five second whizz around the phone keyboard and birthday greetings are sent. Duty done 😁

There are sometimes awkward feelings of guilt when you see the last communication to that ‘friend’ … was, yes a whole 1 year ago when you said ‘happy birthday!’ Oops, looks like we haven’t been in contact for a year…..

For those who use Linked In…it’s a bit more awks . Lets call this Level 3. So on Linked In, again you get birthday reminders. But the resulting communications really can be very cringeworthy . You can just tell when you are getting the dutiful greetings of your suppliers or service providers sitting on a train or in starbucks.

Or worse still that boring accountant you met at a conference 6 months now sends you birthday hugs…… even deciding how to reply then is difficult 😱

And then at the bottom of the pile there is the world of customer loyalty and marketing. My bank want to wish me happy birthday and as a special gift a chance to review my finances or sell me some insurance.

My energy supplier wants to reward my loyalty and my age with a new fixed price tariff. And my local pizza company wants to give me a bottle of Prosecco if I would only come to see them and buy two pizzas.

And the list just goes on and on….. discounts on ink for my printer and buy one get one free on toiletries…..etc.

Anyway, happy birthday to all of you too…I might be anything up to 364 days early! Did someone say cake?

Why this blog? Click to find out more…..

Pineapple…well only if you speak English

As native English speakers we have it fairly easy travelling to most parts of the world. In just about any European country , English is taught from an early age in schools and is the language of music videos, much computer gaming , many movies and much, much more. Go to India and you will find it used as a link between speakers of different Indian languages .

So it’s rare that we don’t have any words of the native language ourselves and we struggle. It’s really only in some parts of South America and China where there are periods of radio silence and without Spanish or Portuguese for South America and Mandarin for China that we would really find it hard to find people to engage with.

Indeed most of these second language users never fail to surprise me with their linguistic depth and expertise that puts us to shame. Often we are asked questions to explain our own language….oh dear 😮

One of my former colleagues is no exception and challenged me on the english word pineapple.

It seems the word is ananas or something very similar is just about every European language including Spanish, French, Italian, Catalan, Portuguese and German you can think of …..but not us. I guess the word we used is very descriptive and had a stronger case for it rather than use a variant of others. I

But we are not the only etymological villains here. In French potatoes are pomme de terre (basically apples if the ground) But in Spanish the word us reassuring as it’s the much more familiar sounding ‘patatas, ‘ and likewise in Italian and very similarly ‘batata’ in Portuguese.

As is often said, there is far more in life that unites us rather than divides us!

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