Saturday, 29 December 2007


My philosophic venture forth today is to propose that there are few things that can render a relatively sane person (note my use of the adverb relatively) completely blind with rage and bleeding profanity and insanity than wrestling with power cords and other useless compilations of wiring encased in plastic or rubber and which lead to various electrical/telephonic dust-collectors.

My current panting (and repentant prayers for my utterances) is the result of a space-saving plan for a calm and entertaining productivity on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. For the past few months, the phone/internet ridiculosity of plastic has sat quite unattractively (and dining-inhibitingly) on my tiny table in the kitchen. Wires in five-mile proliferation were just hanging all over the place at the foot of the table, and I hated them daily (so I had to pile some Miracle Gro potting soil bags in front of them, which admittedly did not help the dining experience either).

Well, in a burst of inspiration, it seemed a good idea to scootch my dresser into the kitchen next to the back door, this allowing me to hide these unbecoming wires and add a nice lamp into kitchen ambience (as overhead lighting makes me feel ill). A secondary benefit of said lamp idea would be to partly hide the phone connection wire which hangs from approximately the height of my nose and down to the floor (what idiot engineer did that I would certainly like to smack heartily).

From the floor level, this absurd wire has been trailed and tacked along the dustboard towards the doorway to the rest of the house, makes a right turn at doorway, goes under doorway to end at next corner of the room. One additional absurdity of this assemblage is enough dust collected on a bi-weekly basis (hidden between cord and dustboard and in particular piles at the tack points) to create a new Adam -- and maybe even an Eve.

Dresser was scootched in small increments due to my rebellious and completely unfestive back. And it was good. And Amrie was pleased with her idea.

It was good until she attempted to corral these damnable cords. When one would get untangled and corralled in a little twist-tie, the plastic phone base would go shooting off in another direction, crash to the floor and lose its power lead. Power lead would then have to be disentangled (from the phone lines and other two power cords) and reattached to the base, at which point the phone line would get itself back stuck in the threading tacks. And then you try to unhitch it, only to find that you are instead tugging and detaching the cable lead which is also attached to dustboards with those annoying tacks and which leads from nowhere and to nowhere. Why it is here is a mystery, but the kitchen grease and dust sticking to it indicate antiquity. When you tug on this lead, it does not come unhitched easily, leaving the tacks on the wall, it detaches the tacks leaving 1/4-inch diameter holes in the wall. (These can be shoved back in with the hope they go unnoticed as 'damage'.) Then the internet box falls over on its face, jerking the phone line to the back of the trashcan quite inconveniently. Imagine various brooms and mops are also falling out of the doorway corner next to this melee and clanging into the metal trashcan (rubbish bin) in a most unsettling manner. This whole process was repeated several times.

At long last, five miles of cords, phone lines, etc. were simply shoved under the back of the dresser in a fitful swivet. However, in yet another demonstration of engineering genius, the stupid power plugs are of varying shapes and sizes, preventing any stowage of the power strip underneath anything. Why some clever electrical creator cannot invent a unified prototype for power plugs is beyond me. And I do NOT wish to hear any silly excuses like ampage or wattage or something silly. If 'they' can continue to create smaller and smaller memory storage and tinier and tinier MP3 players, surely some gorgeous geek can get to work on this and help the aesthetics of homes around the world.

And then my tea was cold.
Now I need a lie down and some Hetty Wainthropp Investigates.
And some fudge.

Thursday, 27 December 2007

The Magic Flute

Have just gone to see Kenneth Branagh's adaptation of The Magic Flute (de Zauberflote), and it is to be highly recommended. It is a lovely film and has an awful lot of very long pan shots -- this is an amazing display of technology and mostly is not obviously enhanced (although admittedly when the earth was healing itself from the ravages of war, i managed to not be fooled). The opening single-shot sequence during the overture is probably close to five minutes.

It is a strong statement against man's violence against man, is very dismissive of created cultural and racial boundaries, and supportive of Faith and Fate. Although I have seen The Magic Flute on stage before, I had not gotten the idea of the flute as an alternative phallic representation -- instead of the expected knife or gun, this is an image of man using power in a different way. It (the flute) even makes the men put down their guns as they are coming out of the top of the trench. V. interesting.

There is more than a bit of humourous spark (due no doubt to Stephen Fry co-authoring the screenplay and English libretto). One raised eyebrow, however, has to do with some of the stretches in reality suspension: the flying birds sequence is a little too much like the hallucination of Pink Elephants on Parade in Dumbo. But then, who am I to say?

It could do with an intermission, perhaps, although this might be avoided if there weren't so many flipping adverts at the beginning...

This was also the first time I have gone to a film at the newly restored Cinema City, which is a five minute walk from my house. It opened in October, right before I left for a month, and is an arthouse theatre, showing a wider selection of shorter runs, which is very nice! Seats are plush and comfortable, which was good since my back is being horribly self-centred this week.

It is an interesting building, which in part dates from the 14th century. There is evidence of earlier buildings there, and even a ditch below the current courtyard, which dates from before the 1066 Norman Conquest; this is thought to represent a boundary ditch at the western edge of the Anglo-Scandanavian town, which had as its centre the Tombland marketplace (now in front of the Cathedral). I could type everything in the brochure, or perhaps interested readers could click here and read about the building's history :)

Saturday, 15 December 2007


Now, this may end in wet pants (in the British and American senses), but for a little Christmas cheer, you should enjoy this (be sure and enable sound): ElfYourself.

As readers can see, Dawny has been rawther an industrious little elf today. Excellent job!

(It should be noted that Dawn is the sexy elf on the left; I am the elf that is completely out of rhythm; Matthew has an impressive bustline; and Steffi the Elf is totally into being a loon)

Friday, 14 December 2007


There is definitely a conspiracy afoot at the McVitie's factory.

The open pull tabs are located on the roll-shaped package so that at least 6 divinely plain-chocolate-covered biscuits (aka, thin little cookies) are exposed to the elements and must be eaten immediately for their own protection. Otherwise, the humidity will get to them.

And then, you must eat at least two more, so that the little edge will fold down neatly and the rest won't fall out and smash all over the floor.

Then, if there is more than two swallows of milk left, you really ought to have a couple more for good measure.

The second one, though, is actually two, due to the chocolate causing them to stick together. This causes one to have to pour more milk, which in turn requires more biscuits.

After all this, you really need a lie down, as you have morphed into a total piglet. And being a piglet is very tiring.

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

Pig's Ear

Not those amusing little innovations of the dog-chew world, which so distress organisations like PETA. It means 'beer' in Cockney Rhyming Slang. And the Pig's Ear Festival, funnily enough, had beer on the board (or in the kegs). So this is where we went (me and E)!

Firstly, though, my weekend started on Friday a.m. with 7.30 train from Norwich for a 10a.m. work meeting. After about 47 minutes, everyone was booted off the train in Ipswich, with the mollifying instruction to get on the 8.23 train to Liverpool Street because of a tree across our track and everything would be fine. At approx. 8.21, an announcement came over the station system, instructing that all trains to London Liverpool Street were indeterminably cancelled and that travellers should 'not plan to travel'.

Various announcements every 43 seconds gave 'yea' and then 'nay' proposals for the potential for future trains, fires on the lines, trees, and restoration of service. People were in a right tizzy, one man yelling at the train office saying, "So, one minute, the tree is there! The next minute it is not! And the next minute, it is back! Is this a magic tree?"

After eavesdropping into other people's conversations about what to do, I decided to jump on the train to Colchester at the very last second, since this was at least closer to my destination and the already-paid-for hotel. Spent trip standing in canteen, listening to another lady chatting in friendly way with the canteen girls (who were having to tell everyone who wanted tea or coffee that the train had no hot water). The niceties lasted until one chipper minx returned from First Class and proceeded to pour the remainder of that coffee down the drain. Then, the minx lied that it wasn't coffee that she was pouring out; then upon the observation that it was clearly coffee, said she meant it wasn't hot. After the observation that there was quite a lot of steam coming off it to be cold and an overt accusation of lying, an entertaining verbal sparring match ensued.

In Colchester, rumours of organised busses to Chelmsford, where there would easily be trains to Liverpool Street, appeared completely unfounded. This turned out to be just as well, since the only highway route out (the A12) was at a standstill due to a jackknifed lorry (truck). Taxi drivers said that driving to London would take 3 hours. Station announcements stated emphatically, 'NOTHING is MOVING!!!' (so please, for the LOVE, stop asking).

As usual, met random people who thought I needed talking to. This was amusing. It was also amusing to observe the herd and small group attempts to second-guess where they should be for any potential transport into the City. Frantic huffy people were pacing forth and back loud-talking importantly into mobiles. Good times :)

Rumours stabilised by 9.45 that a train would be able to depart for London at 10.28, and after this point, pockets of travellers trotted along curiously to every train that came in along the surface which encompassed Platforms 3-6, no doubt hoping to lotto lucky at the correct end so as to be first on the elusive train. One of my caretakers and myself held the fort in the middle (which handily happened to be close to the coffee shop).

After one herding movement, an exasperated train announcement was made for 'All passengers please get off the train on Platform 5. It is not going to London.' Titter.

At long last, at 11.02 or so, the long awaited announcement came that 'The train now on Platform 3 will be going to London!' at which point my companion and I looked at each other and laughed out loud. It was every soul for him or herself. Four or five cars comprised this train, and there were approx. 2,392 people on the Platform (really, there were only about 5 or 600). After being crammed into train similar to the Central line at rush hour, standing room only, made it to London about 11.30.

At least I made it in time for lunch at my meeting, and the exciting AGM, where I learnt of the UK Borders and Immigration decision to implement a system almost exactly like SEVIS. This instills me with a chill of foreboding (although better monitoring is necessary here).

Anyhoo, it was quite a cold and rainy weekend (except for the sun when breakfast takes an hour). Sadly, someone didn't bring a brolly (me), but they had a hat. Someone else didn't bring a brolly or a hat (E). Thusfar, he has fortunately not succombed to pneumonia, despite being extraordinarily patient with a dawdling photographer.

Pigs Ear Festival very good, and extremely mellow in that it was less showy and frantic than either Cardiff or Norwich. There were no singing groups, and although there was never a chance to grab a chair or seat at a table, it wasn't horrifically crammed and busy.

My favourite part was the Wobbly Bottom Cheese from Wobbly Bottom Farm on Wibbly Wobbly Lane, and I bought some Mature Cheddar and some Ale and Mustard Cheddar (mmmmmmm!) to bring home. The Splendid Meat Company was all out of hog roast, but the Aberdeen Angus burgers were outstanding.

Have made observation that has yet to be proven, but would make interesting point of social research: there is a direct correllation between male nerdiness and short hems of trousers (pants, in American). There are a couple of imaginable causes for this excessively trimmed look: pulling pants just way too high or not freaking knowing what inseam one should wear. There are are not necessarily more short-pantsed males at beer festivals than in the rest of the world, but perhaps they are just more noticeable since they are in a kind of flock formation.

Missed E's tour of the Tower due to E's lack of enthusiasm for standing in line in the persisting-down rain with 7,000 Italians/Japanese/Americans. Am amazed (sort of, until I really think about it) by how many Brits I know have never been to the Tower! Am doing my best to improve this statistic amongst those in my acquaintance.

Am close to recovering perambulatory strength after a lethargic month in the US. It was quite funny how sore my muscles were the first day after returning to work (after the simple little 7 minute walk to and from the bus).

These are photos of and from Blackfriars Bridge, as we crossed this every day. Can recommend The Mad Hatter Hotel as clean and quite reasonably-priced (for the centre of London -- prices better online). Also, have located place to examine on next trip: Fielding Hotel, Covent Garden.

Can recommend Lamb and Flag in Covent Garden. And here is a Tabasco cab in Covent Garden.

Not many meaningful pictures of new things are available, as my gimmick this time was to try to get a panorama through sequential shots of the Thames skyline.

Note 1: Any cold product that advertises with a sneezing tiny robin deserves our patronage. Good thing I think Lockets are the bomb!
Note 2: Butternut squash appears to need peeling before one roasts.

Saturday, 1 December 2007


Tootled up to take some pictures with nice nighttime lights. To (r) is centre with Continental Market part of Christmas Fayre -- the market has a French fromagerie, bakeries, Italian sausage and preserved meats, whiskey barrels of olives, freshly prepared food like 7 different paellas and millions of types of candies and baked goods!

Sadly, there is also a bit of crap -- the most wretched being the lifelike Precious Pets, which are covered with real fur (I assume), are in their own pet bed, and 'breathe and snore'. Church in background is St. Peter Mancroft; the icerink is in front of it; normal market is behind barrier at left of picture; and the lights on city hall to the right change colours about every 20 seconds.

To (l) is taken from bottom of Lower Goat Lane, on walk back home. Lights are strung over all the Norwich Lanes. Had figured out photo vantage and sorted flash out, and then had to wait 10 minutes for a small 'family' of The Feriles to move as they distressingly had parked themselves and the pram right in front of the small tree at bottom right. They finally moved on to more family fun after forcing some Coca-Cola down the 8 month old's throat. I think my nose was crinkled in disgust.

There are clowns on every street.

Toasty Bottoms

Last night there was much shame. The bottom fell off my cornbread (or rather remained with the pan). It is uncertain whether this was caused by a) putting too inspecific an amount of yogurt in the mixture in lieu of buttermilk; b) using Flora sunflower oil for baking purposes; or c) just my deteriorating cornbread-making abilities. Also, I didn't really pay attention to the clock, but it wasn't burned... It still tasted fine though, and went nicely with last night's freshly concocted chili. Mmmm, mmm, warm!

Today, have bought and installed draught excluder (this is known as 'doorway flashing' or just plain 'flashing' in home improvement circles in American. Although, now that I think about it, the term 'doorway flashing' does sound a little scandalous.). This is another example of vocubulary differences between the two cultures which can make you feel really thick in certain circumstances. Fortunately, Eamonn had informed me of the proper terminology so that people at Thorn's Hardware wouldn't look at me funny; although they always do. It is fascinating to not see light shafts around the door frames.

Also, today, have realised that myself (and my own bottom) is completely out of shape as almost had asthma attack after riding the piddly distance of: down Colegate St to Magdalen St, past cathedral, and then had to walk the rest of the way to Bank Plain. This was pathetic. In the most pathetic terms.

Fortunately was able to recover enough to do a little shopping for entirely non-frivolous and necessary items: such as a 3000 piece puzzle, some carrots and broccoli, some black-toile effect Wellies, and some butter.

The Christmas Fayre has arrived for a week in the centre (pic only of normal market and to show what a pretty day it was), as well as various winter excitement as a walking/talking snowman (but he doesn't have a hat and this alarms me), lots of people dressed as hobo clowns, and a triple hula-hooping woman in a cat suit. Last night, there were Hobbits playing flutes (actually, they were just dressed in medieval costume, but they were kind of tiny people. Clem and I didn't check their feet for fur.). Additionally, The Salvation Army is out, and I do like this.

In Britain, there are no Christmas Salvation Army bell-ringers standing outside every store entrance (and I fully intended to say much earlier how inappropriate it is in the US for them to be already out in force in the DC area on 14 November -- this is entirely too early). Instead, there are actual bands in uniform who perform in the street. I don't think they only do this at Christmas as could almost swear to have seen them during the summer, but perhaps British-type readers might enlighten us all on their schedule? (ahem, Matthew?)

Am going to either need to re-knit my hat or knit a new smaller one, as even though it is skullcappish, it is not tight enough to be immune to wind. This forced me to mostly wear hat pulled way down, causing me to look slightly like a Fat Albert character -- the one who peers out from eyeholes in his hat, Dumb Donald.

Here is a lovely picture of the sunset on Tuesday evening. Unfortunately, the clouds don't show up so fabulously rich as they really were.


Now, I shall watch Live and Let Die, as it has just come on ITV. I didn't know that Jane Seymour was a Bond Girl... but then, my childhood was sheltered :) And now I feel incredibily inadequate in the eyelash department.