Friday, December 31, 2010

Farewell 2010

Only another few hours of 2010 left. We traveled a lot this year. In March we visited New York City for the first time and were impressed by Times Square, Ground Zero, the statue of Liberty and the views from the Rockefeller Center. In April we visited San Antonio TX and enjoyed the River Walk and the colors and music of Fiesta week . We were extremely lucky to experience a week of sunshine when we stayed at Adare Manor in Ireland in June, where we sampled quite a few pints of genuine Guinness. In August we went to the horse races in Saratoga Springs NY, and did a much more leisurely horse ride ourselves afterward. In addition to all this I made business trips to Orlando, Tucson, Washington DC, and Dallas. 

Sadly 2010 saw the death of my grandmother - she is missed by all her family.

In July I was offered a job in Tucson and we came very close to moving to sunny Arizona but decided in the end that it was not the right move for us. For Thanksgiving we saw the first snow of the winter in Loon New Hampshire and enjoyed some brisk, icy walks in the woods. We finished up the year visiting the UK for Christmas and were amazed to see more snow there than we had experienced in Boston this winter.

All in all, its been a busy year. Looking forward to 2011 - Happy New Year to all my friends and family!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

RIP Daddy Cool

I see in the news that Boney M singer Bobby Farrell died today at the age of 61. What a good band Boney M were, not earth-shattering music but their songs were always catchy with a good beat. They actually had a whole string of hits; Daddy Cool, Rivers of Babylon, Sunny, Mary's Boy Child, Ma Baker, One Way Ticket, Brown Girl in the Ring and Rasputin are the ones I particularly remember. Bobby Farrell wasn't really much of a singer in the band, more of a "dancer", and I use that term quite loosely. See some of his more bizarre moves in this video clip of their hit Ma Baker.....

It makes no sense

One of the top news items over the Christmas period in the UK was the disappearance of a 25 year old woman called Joanna Yeates. She disappeared on December 17th and her body was eventually found covered in snow on the side of a road on Christmas Day - she had been strangled. The Times newspaper had a report of the latest events,  and included a quote from the victim's father. It began  "Mr Yeates, speaking from his 600,000 pound home in Hampshire said....".

Why on earth is the value of the family's home a relevant detail in this news report? If it was a suspected kidnapping then maybe there would be some logic to the information, but it wasn't. She'd been found dead. Does it make it any less of, or more horrific a crime because her father lives in an expensive house?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Clearing up during (not after) the storm

A quick example of the way the Northeast of the US deals with snowstorms. There is a big snowstorm across the Boston area as I write. Its been ongoing for the past 3 hours and already there are 3000 ice and snow crews on the roads,  ploughs and grit/chemical spreaders. They will be working all night long, and by tomorrow the roads will almost certainly be slow but serviceable. The UK could learn something here - don't wait until the snow has fallen before trying to clear it, attack it early and often.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Cracking jokes - not

Have just finished eating a very nice Christmas dinner, as prepared by my mother. Extremely enjoyable, and accompanied by lots of "christmas cheer" (AKA wine & champagne).

All the usual British Christmas traditions were included; turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, brussel sprouts, christmas pudding with brandy butter and of course, Christmas Crackers. To those not familiar with the traditional Christmas Crackers, these are a paper covered tube that two people pull, one each end, and it breaks with a bang (crack). Inside the tube is a toy, a paper hat, and a joke. I've often wondered who wrote the awful jokes within the crackers. They certainly are no better nowadays than they were in the past. Here are a few exanples from this years crackers:

Q: Where should a dressmaker build her house?
A: On the outskirts

Q: Why does this bus stop at every lamp-post?
A: Because its a greyhound

Q: Why did the strawberry get a lawyer?
A: Because it was in a jam

Q: What award goes to designers of door knockers?
A: A No Bell peace prize

OK, no further comment necessary. I need more wine!

Merry Christmas all!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Is this the cutting edge?

I have a question. When I wrap presents, why is it that the scissors will cut through my skin like a butchers knife if I make one small error of judgement, yet trying to use those same scissors on tape and wrapping paper and they may as well be made of  Jello?

When you gotta go

Yesterday we had to drive from Bournemouth to Midsomer Norton, a drive that should take around 1.5hrs.  We took the advice of a trusted family member who shall not be named (lets just call him Gwyn for ease of reference...) who told us to avoid the smaller 'B' roads and go via Salisbury on the A roads to be safer in the snow. We hadn't even reached Salisbury when we hit stationary traffic on Downton Road. We sat in this queue of traffic for an hour. No sign of what was causing it or how far it stretched. The radio station just said that traffic was 'heavier than usual' ....whats it like normally?!

I was amused to see the passenger door of a car in front open up and a women appeared. She then proceeded to open the rear passenger door and you could see a lot of fumbling and wriggling going on behind the screen of the doors. Next thing you know there was a steady stream of liquid running out under the car. Well....I guess when you've got to go, you've got to go! Personally though, I think I would just cross my legs.

Its snow joke

Britain in the snow is not a pretty sight. A dusting of an inch or two (or "2.5cm" as it is commonly known) will close schools and create newspaper headlines of "Britain's Arctic chill". Schools are closed and people wrap up like they are auditioning for 'Scott of the Antarctic'.

But add a few more inches to that (or many more millimeters) and we are talking serious chaos. The entire country comes to a standstill. Major airports are closed, roads are gridlocked, trains are cancelled and the stores are running out of supplies. There is not a pint of milk or a loaf of bread to be found on the supermarket shelves.

The papers and TV analyze and re-analyze why the country can't cope. Every news and talkshow discuss in grinding detail the state of the country and everyone is glued to the TV for the latest opinions. They should save their energy and their furrowed brows. Its pretty simple really. Britain doesn't have enough plows (sic) or grit. In the Northeast of the USA where we live, we have snow in feet not inches. It is a rare snowstorm that will keep us housebound for any significant length of time. We live in a small street/cul-de-sac and even there we hear the snow-plows come down the street every few hours during the night when it snows. So the only thing we have to do in the morning is clear the driveway to get to the road. The main roads have been plowed and gritted continually so they are in an even better shape. Each town has access to many plows; either big ones that they own and use to clear the main roads, or small plows owned by local contractors that are used to do the minor streets. Landscape gardeners attach 'plates' to the front of their pick-up trucks in the winter and clear driveways and minor roads. Its all very organized and efficient.

This is 2 years in a row that the UK has had snowfall and been unable to cope. Obviously they do not get the amount of snow that we get, so they probably would not want to raise their game to the same levels, but they could take a few ideas on board. Its about time they started to act instead of just talking about it.

Blowing hot and cold

I have come to the conclusion that my family has an adverse effect on the weather. Visiting Las Vegas 2 years ago, at a time when the average temperatures are in the 90's, we experienced unusually cold temperatures in the 70's with strong winds. A bit chilly for sitting around the pool. This is just the first example. In San Antonio, Texas earlier this year we had unheard of torrential rain that caused major street flooding, the same in Saratoga Springs in August ("we've never seen weather like it!"). Now we are in the UK for Christmas, and the country is at a standstill due to heavy snow. We just can't win although.....when we visited Ireland in June this year we had glorious sunny, warm weather with not a drop of rain in sight. I suppose it does work out well for us occasionally but in future, if I want a nice sunny, warm vacation, I think I will book a trip to Siberia...

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Better to be safe......

My place of work is very conscientious about Health and Safety in the workplace. They take pride in being an injury-free workplace. What this means to the average employee is reminders about not standing on a chair, balanced on one leg reaching for a pile of heavy boxes off a tall cupboard. It also means that, if any liquid is spilled on the tiled floor, a yellow sign is erected over it saying "Caution! Wet floor", to warn us not to slip while someone goes to get something to clean it up. Anyway, I thought it was a bit excessive today when I spotted one of those yellow signs placed on a carpeted stair tread over a slightly damp spot. Not sure what safety risk this could present, damp shoe soles maybe? Or possibly falling down the stairs after tripping over the yellow sign on the stairs?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Come rain or shine.....or snow, or fog, or ice.....

Getting ready for a visit to the home country, and trying to decide what to pack. It used to be so easy. If you visited in the winter you'd pack an umbrella and boots. And if you visited in the summer you'd pack an umbrella and sandals...

 But what has been happening with the British weather? This year they have had sub-zero temperatures and feet of snow, before we've seen so much as one flake of the white stuff! Its given me a dilemma about what to pack. The umbrella is a given, that will be packed without question. But the coat remains a problem. If I pack a a raincoat its probably not going to be warm enough. If I pack a New England style warm coat it may revert to a standard British winter and I will be sweltering. What to do! Why can't it be more like the weather here? There is a saying in New England that goes something like "if you don't like the weather in New England then wait a minute because it will change", implying that the weather here is unpredictable. Frankly that's a lots of old codswallop (in my humble opinion). Its pretty predictable - in summer its too hot and in winter its too cold! Nothing ambiguous about that!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ahhh, those were the days!!

Just been having an hour or so of nostalgia on YouTube. I've been showing my age by listening to all the music of my era, the early 80s. I don't believe you can beat the music then, it was so fresh and raw. I have to admit I am partial to the odd Lady Gaga song (shhh, don't tell anyone) but in general the music I like today is few and far between.

Some of my favorites were The Stranglers (Get a Grip on yourself, Golden Brown, Always the sun), The Skids (Into the Valley), The Buzzcocks (Ever fallen in love with someone), Fine Young Cannibals (She drives me crazy), The Clash (London Calling, Rock the Casbah, Tommy Gun), The Specials (Too much too young), Squeeze (Up the junction), The Beat (Mirror in the Bathroom), Hazel O'Conner (Eighth day) and of course not forgetting Blondie (One way or another, Hanging on the telephone, Sunday Girl, Heart of Glass)... the list goes on

The lyrics were pretty funny "I never thought it would happen, with me and a girl from Clapham" (Squeeze), and "he always beat me at Subuteo, because he'd flick to kick and I didn't know!" (Undertones); remember Subuteo? What an awful game!

Talking of which, heres a clip from that great Irish group, The Undertones - My perfect Cousin!

Tis the Season!

Are Christmas lights deliberately made so that they only last 1 season? Every year I work my way through at least 10 string of lights trying in vain to find one where all the bulbs work. Just one bulb goes and they all go. I have patiently replaced every unlit bulb with a good one from another set, but to no avail. I can sympathize with Chevy Chase in National Lampoons Christmas Vacation ...

Anyway, the Christmas tree is up now and looking quite good - not exactly up to Macy's standard but quite acceptable. All we need now is some wintry weather to feel in the Christmas mood. Unfortunately it is "unseasonably warm" with torrential rain and the snow has all migrated across the Atlantic to the UK....
Ho! Ho! Ho!