ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
You'd think I'd have learnt by now.

Since I'm an infrequent visitor to London, and not someone who needs to traverse it daily, I always opt to walk across it rather than descend into the abyssmal depths of the underground. I check on walkit.com to glance at a recommended route, and then... entirely fail to follow it. The trouble is, I get bored with main roads, and especially bored with returning from anywhere by the same route by which I came. Plus, main roads are big, roary things, quite overwhelming to poor provincials like me. Towering buses conceal any interesting buildings that might be lurking on the far side of the road, and there are far too many side streets, where the pedestrian crossings sternly display a red man, even as all the traffic appears to be halted and all the locals are flooding across the road. I end up hovering nervously, torn between the belief that if I step out, the roaring traffic of That London is suddenly going to descend on me from a hitherto unseen direction, and the fear that if I stand there despite the total emptiness of the road, all the locals are laughing at me for being a law-abiding provincial who Doesn't Understand How We Do Things Here.

Adventures in that London )
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
I've just caught up with a programme on last year's retail trends, a subject which I find very interesting, even though almost all of the trends have entirely passed me by. I found the programme simultaneously very interesting and very annoying, largely for its habit of making sweeping statements about how "we were ALL" doing something or other, when the figures quoted revealed that although there was indeed a note-worthy increase on last year, it was still very much a minority thing, no matter how much trendy media types might have written about it. They were very fond of saying that "a staggering £x million" was spent on such and such, when a quick bit of mental arithmetic on the likely price of the product and the adult population of the country revealed that this was actually a fairly unimpressive number. Sometimes they even made this easy for us. After one little piece about how "we were ALL" buying something or other, some trendy media type said that "it became more a case of who DIDN'T have one than who did." Yes, revealed the presenter, by the end of the year a staggering one household in 60 had one of these things. I expect there are things sneered at by the media as sad minority interests that are actually indulged in by individuals in more households than that.

We also had a use of one of the Standard Units of Measurement - in this case, the Olympic Swimming Pool. Last year, due to a massive explosion of beards that I had remained completely unaware of, enough beard trimmers were sold to fill three Olympic swimming pools. I never find the Olympic swimming pool / football pitch / London bus school of measurement remotely impressive. To me, it turns "Big Number!" into "something you can fit into a fairly small patch of ground that can be seen by one person without them even moving." "Big Number!" sounds impressive - at least if you don't think about it, and realise that it works out as only one per sixty households. Something that can fit under one roof sounds far less impressive to me, even if the roof is a big one, and each thing is very small.

As for me, the programme revealed that I have indulged in precisely two of this year's retail trends. Despite not being a huge fan of fizzy drinks - although I tolerate them more than I used to - I've bought Prosecco, since they kept plying us with free Prosecco when we were in Sorrento, and ever since then, the drink has reminded me of that holiday. I also have an adult colouring book. It's a Game of Thrones one, which I got for Christmas. I had no idea that such things promoted mindfulness! I've heard of mindfulness, but never really known what it was, or bothered to find out. I had no idea that when I spent quite a ridiculous amount of time colouring in a joust scene the other day that I was indulging in mindfulness. I thought I was just colouring in a picture.

I still have no Christmas jumper.

Maroons

Nov. 11th, 2015 12:12 pm
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Every Armistice Day, the two minute silence is announced by the firing of maroons. Every Armistice Day, I therefore spend most of the 2 minute silence with thought processes that go something like this: "Maroon. I've looked it up before. I looked it up last year, and the year before. Now, what did I discover? It's not related to "maroon" as in "abandon on a desert island"; I remember that much. It was somehow related to the colour, I think, which comes from the French for chestnuts. But why? What have fireworks got to do with chestnuts? I must... Oh, two minute silence. Supposed to be thinking solemn thoughts. Let's contemplate... Explosions! Chestnuts popping on an open fire! Maybe that's the link! Must... Oh. Can't. Can't google it at the moment. Still supposed to be thinking... Oh. There goes that maroon again. The silence is over."

I feel rather guilty about this. I feel that - having researched "maroon" yet again, and still found no very convincing answer (but having discovered en route that "maroon" (as in abandon) and "Seminole" are linked) - I ought to go and hide in the stationery cupboard (having first researched the etymology of all stationery items I'm likely to encounter there) and think solemn, solitary Armisticey thoughts for 2 minutes, just to make up for my failure at 11 o'clock.

Pre-loved

Oct. 23rd, 2015 07:29 pm
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
I was somewhat disturbed today to see a shop called "Pre-Loved Baby Shop."

Actually, this whole rebranding of "second-hand" as "pre-loved" bothers me. I can see why people do it, since they think it makes an item sound more desirable. But it always makes me want to come up with stories about every item, to explain why the previous owner gave it away, even though they had once loved it dearly. Most stories end up fairly heartrending and full of drama. Some are quite legthy. At least when something's labelled "second-hand", my over-active imagination is content that no difficult parting was involved. I can accept that the owner found it in the back of a wardrobe and thought, "Yuck! I can't believe I used to like pink!" or that it was an unwanted present.

It's like uncollected dry cleaning shops. While I can understand that someone might part with a much-loved item of clothing because they've lost weight or grown out of it, why would you go to the effort of taking a suit to the dry-cleaner, then not bother picking it up again just a few days later? Yes, people forget, but these places do phone to remind you. No diet is that drastic. You're unlikely to suddenly wake up the day after taking it in, and shout, "Pink? What was I thinking? I will never wear pink again!" All the stories I come up with are tragic. Most involve death. At the very least, they involve heartbreak.

W

Jun. 24th, 2015 06:02 pm
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
My desktop computer is hooked up to two monitors, so I have a choice of whether to use it in solitary splendour, or to use it while sitting next to Pellinor on his computer. The latter set-up is used for co-operative games of such things as Left4Dead and Borderlands. The former set-up is used mostly for writing and idle internet surfing.

For reasons that should be obvious to anyone who's played a first person shooter, the W key on the keyboard in Pellinor's room is all smooth and shiny. It is very noticeably more used than any other key. I am now imagining Future Archaeologists from an age when ephemeral things such as the instruction manuals for ancient computer games have long since been lost. Occasionally they find keyboards such as mine in middens and notice that the W key always shows more signs of use than all the other keys. Why could this be? They scratch their heads. Essays are written. Feuds happen. Schools of thought and factions arise. Was there some early 21st century ritual involving the daily ceremonial Polishing Of The W. (I mean, W is obviously sacred to those people, because when they invented the internet, they bestowed their sacred letter upon it in triplicate. Why else would they do that?) Or has language itself changed? In the early 21st century, was W the most used letter in the language? Those few works of pre 23rd century literature that have survived the Triffid Apocalypse appear to suggest otherwise, but maybe they are just translations from the W-rich originals.

The keyboard that I mostly use for writing has no such wear on its W key. However, the letters M and N have been entirely worn away, and have been so for years.* I have no explanation for this. Not even my future archaeologists have an opinion.

* This occasionally causes me problems. My fingers know where all the letters are, and if I creep up on a word, my fingers know exactly how to type it. However, if I stop and actually think about it, I have no idea where any of the letters are. When faced with a situation when I have to enter letters slowly, I am often stumped by the lack of any labelling on my M and N keys. I have to wiggle my fingers in the air above the keyboard, pretending to type a word such as November, and try to see if I can spot where they went for the first letter. The important thing is to switch my brain off as I do so, and watch my fingers out of the corner of my eye, like a furtive secret agent who's pretending to be busy feeding ducks. If my fingers know I'm watching them, then get all shy and stupid and forget where the letters are.

EDIT: Ooh! Ooh! I have an explanation for the M and N thing. My space bar is worn smooth on its right, and when I do that "type something "spontaneously" and keep an eye on my fingers without letting them know I'm doing so" thing, it seems that I always press the space bar with my right thumb, so maybe when I hit the space bar with the side of my right thumb, the tip of it brushes the adjacent keys. The B is beginning to look rather worn away, too.
ladyofastolat: (Evil otter)
Whenever we go to a tapas restaurant and order things like croquetas, they come in threes. There are two of us, and we always order all our dishes with a view to sharing them equally, but they always come in threes. Always. Invariably.

Today we had supermarket tapas. One dish came in a set of five. The cold meat platter came in sevens: seven each of three different meats.

Why do they do this? Why? The answer is obvious. Everyone involved in the production of tapas is a mischievous troublemaker, who cackles evilly as they put their prime numbers of food stuffs on the plate, then settle back chuckling, eagerly imagining the discord that they have sown. Couples will split up in acrimonous fighting over the Third Croquette! Families of fewer than seven members will descend into squabbling as they find that there is no fair way to distribute the Seven Slices of Chorizo!

It is but a small step towards achieving the discord and despair that will pave the way for the Dark Lord's sujugation of all mankind, but every little helps, as the Dark Lord himself is wont to say, (along with a cheery theme tune and a jingle.)

Traffic

May. 19th, 2015 12:29 pm
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
I do not understand traffic. My drive to work (same time every day) usually takes 30 minutes, sometimes takes 45, and occasionally, like today, takes under 15. The extra-long days usually have some obvious reason: roadworks on a back route, or a breakdown on the roundabout, or something. School holidays bring it down to about 12, but that doesn't count. In the past, World Cup football matches airing over breakfast have made a noticeable difference. Apart from that, the super-quick days remain inexplicable.

Weather makes no difference. I did start to wonder if Fridays were usually lighter, because just enough people were off on long weekends for the pressure to ease and traffic to flow, but that doesn't explain Tuesdays like today. I thought it might be quicker in the summer, as a small percentage of people might be on holiday each week, and maybe more would walk or cycle, but thus far, May has seemed as busy as February was.

Someone did once try to explain traffic jams to me With Science (fluid dynamics, I believe) so maybe Science is all I need.

Or maybe I need to look for explanations. Alien abduction? A brief, failed pilot scheme by which a quarter of the regular commuters are given rocket packs and try to fly to work? (I've never thought to look up when driving to work.) Something incredibly fascinating on breakfast TV? A massive practical joke played on half a town, by which their digital clocks jump back by an hour, causing them to leave en masse an hour late?

The field that is normally packed with All The Cows had no cows in it today. It had no cows in it the last time my journey only took 15 minutes, too. Make of that what you will.
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Here is the idea that will make me rich and famous! It came to me when the teapot we were given in the Ashmolean resulted in the usual spilling of tea all over the table. In my many years of having tea in tea rooms, museums, hotel breakfasts and the like, a non-drippy teapot has been a rarity. Non-drippy teapots need to be recorded and kudos given!

The world needs DripAdvisor! All places serving tea will be rated by the drippiness of their teapots, so tea drinkers can choose their hotels and drinking establishments, secure in the knowledge that their tables won't be flooded with tea, thus causing them to get all flustered and apologetic and forced to use their napkins to mop up the drips lest the staff look at them.

Pellinor feels that the site also needs to include the capacity of the pot. In some places, a "pot of tea for two" gives you one small cup each, with barely half a cup left over. As well as being stingy, this causes recriminations. Who gets the spare cup? Others give you a ginormous teapot and a ginormous pot of hot water on the side, and provides 4 or 5 cups each. Whenever this happens, I feel duty bound to drink All The Cups, because such behaviour should be encouraged, and if the pots are returned without being empty, the establishment might decide to move to smaller ones. I agree, therefore, that capacity ought to be recorded somewhere, but I'm not sure if it should dilute the clear message of DripAdvisor.

In the interests of rewarding good behaviour, I should note that the Piano Cafe in Freshwater Bay has the most wonderful teapots: transparent, spherical, aesthetically pleasing and not at all drippy. The National Trust cafe at Snowshill Manor provided so much tea with the "pot of tea for two" that I had to leave some in the pot, but this was only because my Mum refused to play her part, and abandoned me after two cups, leaving me to face the rest alone, along with the knowledge that there were no toilets where we were going.

Should DripAdvisor fall foul of the TripAdvisor lawyers, the site will be renamed The Dripping Forecast. I have not checked to see if either site exists, because I've got places to go and people to see, and therefore don't have the time to track the owners down and kill them.

And speaking of which... I guess I'd getter put on my hobbit clothes and go partying... :-D
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Yesterday I had to go early into town to do a few things, one of which was emergency shoe-shopping. I find shoes boring, and shoe-shopping even worse, so I tend to have a single pair of everyday, everything shoes. A few days ago, my current everything shoes fell apart in several dramatic and simultaneous ways. Even a prop-wrangler seeking a costume for a tramp would have rejected them as being too tatty. So yesterday, off to the shoe shop I went. I decided to buy two pairs of everything shoes, to reduce the risk of similar future emergencies. Only then did I realise that although the entire point of the shopping trip was buying shoes, and although I'd chosen this particular shop because I could get a 10% discount in it, I'd forgotten to bring the discount voucher with me. "Oh well," thought I. "It's not much of a diversion to pop in on the way home from our walk this afternoon. I've done the hard work of choosing them. I'll just pop in then and buy them." I then went home, where the plan was to have a quick cup of tea, then head out by 10.30 on a long walk. However, Pellinor had to finish off a few things on the computer first, so we ended up leaving 20 minutes later than planned.

During that 20 minutes, in came in email from the shoe shop: a shop that, to my knowledge, has never emailed before, and had no way of knowing that I had visited that morning. It included a voucher code for 30% off all purchases this weekend. Had I remembered the voucher, I would have bought the shoes in the morning with only 10% off. Had we left at the intended time, I would have bought the shoes in the afternoon with only 10% off.

From this I have concluded that forgetfulness, tardiness, laziness and general incompetence are rewarded. That's nice to know. :-D
ladyofastolat: (Curly Honey)
My cat was terrified of the strong winds the night before last. Although they did sound as if they were hitting the house like a herd of charging aurochs (aurochses?), I doubt they were as strong as the many storms we had last winter, that scattered our fence panels like dominos. But for some reason, she was terrified. She spent part of the night trying to snuggle under my chin, and then rest cowering in a wardrobe. When she finally emerged in the morning, it was step by cautious step, peering around desperately to make sure that the monster was gone. Even yesterday evening, she was freaking out at every tiny noise. At one point, I stood up, revealing a remote control that had been half-buried between couch cushions, and she recoiled, and stared at it in horror as if it were a deadly serpent.

"Terrified of the strong winds," I say. But even as I say it, I am reading a novel about sinister supernatural things happening to disbelieving people in the English countryside. If a character in such a novel had a cat who suddenly behaved as if the world outside their window was a world of dread and fear, and said, "oh, how funny. Honey's terrified of the wind," the reader would be shouting at them for their stupidity, and urging them to listen to the wisdom of the kitty cat and not venture outside!.

If I were a character in one of those novels, I doubt I'd make it to page 43.
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
I registered my Nectar card online yesterday, to open up the possibility of earning points on online shopping. It asked me to answer a few optional lifestyle questions, one of which was, "how many cars are there in your household?" The default answer was 7, and the drop-down list went from 1 to 9, followed by 10+.

Is this some aspirational thing? "Use Nectar vouchers to get 20p off a pint of milk, and you, too, will soon be able to run an entire fleet of shiny Jaguars!"

I wonder if anyone - anyone who shops at Sainsburys, anyway - has 10+ cars.
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
This morning I found a lost Co-op Home Delivery card in a park, with no name on. I have no idea what powers possession of this card bestows upon its rightful bearer. Quite probably it is a worthless thing, either something the owner will never miss, or something that can be replaced without any angst. But perhaps it is a mighty talisman. Perhaps the owner has a houseful of visitors and has ordered a lavish banquet to be delivered, but the delivery driver will refuse to hand it over unless the card is shown at the door and the correct pass phrase given, and then everyone will starve.

I also have no idea is possession of the card will bestow any powers upon an unrightful owner. Very likely none, but who knows? For all I know, these things might have a street value nigh unto gold dust, and be traded by gangsters in smoky dens, as they trade Evil Ellipses over dishonest poker games.

Nobody possible owner was in sight, so I decided it was probably better to ensure that the card went somewhere safe, just in case. A branch of the Co-op was a few hundred yards away, so I went there and handed it in. This seemed to me to be a reasonable course of action. When people lose their library cards, they often come to the library in case someone's found it and handed it in to the institution named upon it, so it seemed to me a reasonable assumption that the bereft owner might assume something similar. I also thought it possible that somebody in a back office of the shop might be able to look at their records and locate said rightful owner and contact them.

However, the staff in the shop reacted as if I was completely and utterly crazy, and my attempt to hand the card in was treated as if it was the most bizarre thing that had ever happened in their working lives, ever.

As I resumed my journey across the park, I saw a well-dressed, sophisticated-looking young lady poking around in the grass near where I'd found the card. "You're not looking for a Co-op card?" I asked. "No," she said, also looking at me as if I was crazy. "I'm collecting autumn leaves."

So I proceeded to the library, and went on to lead a small group of intrepid pensioners out to feed the ducks in torrential rain. At least nobody we met seemed to think there was anything crazy about that.
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
It was Bunn who first introduced me to the concept of The Polite Biscuit. This is the lone biscuit - last of its once numerous kind - that remains untaken, because nobody wants to be the impolite person who takes The Last One. At work today, we have a Polite Mini Pink Doughnut, a Polite Mini Chocolate Doughnut, a Polite Slice of Cake, and a Polite Chocolate Chip cookie, all of which have sat there untouched for over 24 hours, despite the fact that their fellows were devoured with great rapidity. Doubtless they will soon start to look stale and unenticing, and will end up going to waste, all to preserve the taboo of the Last Biscuit.

Some months ago, our Morris side was presented with three plates of sandwiches by a kind pub landlord. The dancers descended on them like vultures, and within minutes all had gone... except one lone Polite Sandwich per plate. Eager to experiment, I discreetly united these 3 sandwiches onto one plate, turned my back for a second... and when I turned round again, 2 had gone, leaving just one.

In fact, so ingrained is this urge to leave The Polite Biscuit, I think it should actually be impossible to eat the second-to-last biscuit, since that is in effect the last biscuit that anyone can eat. So with this logic, we can just keep on working back through the biscuits, and conclude that nobody in a group situation can ever eat any biscuits at all.

And, sure enough, there is frequently a problem with the First Biscuit, too. When they were brought in, the cake sat there uncut for hours, and the boxes of doughnuts remained unopened. It was clear that several people wanted them, but nobody wanted to be the greedy person who dug into them first. You can see this very clearly at buffets, when a roomful of people sit there salivating as they longingly survey the buffet table from a distance, none of them wanting to be the first person to approach it. When some brave soul finally gets up and heads to it, there is a veritable stampede of relieved people, all rushing to feed.

The Polite Biscuit is a very useful term, but I feel the lack of a term to describe this reluctance to be the first person to approach a buffet table or cut into a cake. I also feel that there should be a title for the noble person who takes it upon themselves to be first into the fray, this saving their fellow diners from accusations of greed. suggestions?
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Everyone else has probably been using pay-at-the-pump for petrol for years, but it's only just reached the island. I had my first experience of it last night, and it felt WRONG. I really couldn't bring myself to believe that that was it: I could just drive away without interacting with anyone at all. I wanted to drive slowly past the counter while waving my receipt, or learn the semaphore for "It's okay, I have paid!" and "Is it really okay for me to leave now?" I then spent the rest of the evening half expecting to be chased by the police. But nobody seems to have come to arrest me overnight, so I think I got away with it. Phew!
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
While driving through our estate en route to the Vee Eee Tee today, my way was blocked by a parked car on my side of the road, and an active bin lorry on the other side. The bin lorry soon moved off and turned into a side road and therefore out of the equation, but by then there were 6 cars queued up on the side of the road with the parked car, and one car on the other side, that had been waiting behind the bin lorry. Right of way was clear. The person on the side without the parked car had priority over the other 6 people. However, that person decided to be generous, and let all six of us through first.

The trouble is, we were all nice, polite people, too, and we couldn't just barge on past the parked car, and risk being thought pushy and impolite. No, every single one of us, upon reaching the front of the queue, paused for a while, until the car that rightfully had right of way flashed or waved us through. Yes, we knew that the person in front of us had been waved through, but we couldn't be so presumptuous as to assume that the same offer applied to us. The entire procedure of getting the 7 of us through the gap took probably four times longer than it would have taken had the Generous Person just gone on through, and acted the way everyone else expected them to act.

A handbag?

Sep. 15th, 2014 02:04 pm
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
I was idly flicking through a women's weekly magazine in a library staffroom the other day, because I had nothing else to read. (You see, my current reading book (The Far Pavilions, by M M Kaye) is Too Heavy for me to want to carry it to and from work, and, yes, I was in a library and therefore surrounded by books, but had forgotten to grab something before going on my break, and couldn't be bothered to venture out into the public-infested areas to choose one.) (Said women's weekly magazine seemed to be spectacularly lacking in content - and I don't by this mean "content I'm interested in," but "any sort of content at all. (It did, however, give me one vital piece of advice: if you want to write something neatly, do it in pencil first, and then go over it in ink! Wow! Thank you so much, magazine! I would never have thought of this without you!))

Anyway... the magazine included a page of "fascinating" facts, one of which was that the average British woman owns 111 handbags in their life.

Now, I am fairly sure that I have reached the age of 43 having owned 3 handbags, sequentially. While they are not handbags in the sense of being bags that one carries around in one's hand - I prefer long straps that I can wear diagonally across my body - they definitely count as handbags, in that they're small bags that contain little but keys, a purse, a phone and a surprisingly large number of pens that no longer work. (Women's clothes are annoyingly lacking in Pockets of Useful Size, so things that men can carry in pockets, women usually need to put in bags, especially in the summer.)

I would also be very surprised if any woman reading this is on course to reach their quota of 111 by the end of their life, not without some frenzied buying in their twilight years.

No source was given for this figure. It could be that it's an entirely random figure, designed to make the handbag-poor go, "ooh! I need more!" and rush out and buy... or, alternatively, to make them feel smug at their enlightened freedom from the tyranny of handbag-buying... and, either way, to make them go, "ooh, interesting!" and write LJ posts about it, and decide that perhaps the magazine has content, after all.

But if there is any truth in it, and if it is indeed true that most women of my acquaintance have far fewer than 111 handbags, some women clearly live in houses so packed to the rafters with handbags that they can barely squeeze past them to get to their handbag-strewn beds.

Shopping

Aug. 16th, 2014 06:08 pm
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Today I made the mistake of visiting our local hardware and homeware shop. I found myself getting ridiculously - and uncharacteristically - excited by all its wonderful wares, especially kitchenware, storage solutions and anything involved with food service. Some of the things were so teeny! And so cute! 10 cm frying pans and saucepans! The teeniest, teeniest, cutest little mustard pot - and I don't even like mustard! "Step away from the spice jars!" I kept having to tell myself, and "NO, YOU DO NOT NEED ANY MORE TONGS; you bought two just yesterday, AND THEY WERE UNNECESSARY, TOO," but that voice was warring with the one that went, "A terracotta garlic roaster! Garlic! Roasted! Garlic! A timer in the shape of a pig! Ooohhhh! Look at the magic knife block! Ooooohhh!!!! AND A 10cm FRYING PAN! LITTLE POTS! Storage solutions. Storage solutions! STORAGE SOLUTIONS!!!! TINY TUPPERWARE!. HOW HAVE I LIVED SO LONG WITHOUT A CHEESE GUILLOTINE??!!!"

This is all quite worrying. All of this is behaviour is something I have frequently observed and laughed-at in Pellinor. What next? Will I soon start emulating his addiction to stopping off at market stalls to buy shiny costume jewellery?

Ubiquity

Aug. 4th, 2014 05:57 pm
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
Is this a familiar scenario to anyone? You read an article talking about the latest hot trend, that - according to the article - has been growing hugely in popularity over the last few months/years, and is now utterly ubiquitous, so that you can't move without tripping over it. "I have never heard of this thing before!" you think, or, if it's a item of fashionable clothing, "I've never seen anyone wearing this." But then, over the next few days, you come across it, or references to it, at least 4 times a day.

This happens to me all the time. Today it was bubble tea, which I'd never heard of until I read about it on the BBC website today. A few hours later, walking through Cowes, I saw 3 different places advertising it very prominently.*

I have never worked out if said Thing has indeed been ubiquitous all around me for months, and I've failed to notice it until the article draws my attention to it, or if the articles exaggerate the ubiquity of the Thing, and are written just at the point at which it goes from "big in trendy journalist circles in London" to "beginning to appear in the rest of the country." Or maybe everyone else also reads the article, and goes, "Ooh! I've never heard of this, but it's the hot new thing! I must rush out and buy it / wear it / ask in the library for books about it / start selling it in my tea shop!"

* Although, admittedly, this is hardly surprising, since it's Cowes Week at the moment, and Cowes is packed full of stalls and trendy pop-up bars, all trying to appeal to affluent yachty types, so it could well be that Cowes was a bubble-tea-free zone until this week, and will return to a bubble-tea-free state next weekend.

Perfumes

Feb. 28th, 2013 01:14 pm
ladyofastolat: (sneezing lion)
When we were in the National Trust shop in Winchester, I saw a squirty soap with a scent that sounded interesting. "Try me!" said the bottle, but I wasn't keen to squirt soap into dry hands in a shop, so I moved to the adjacent perfume bottle, and did the quickest of quick squirts on my wrist.

On the way home, I had to fight the urge to hold my hand at arms' length to protect myself from the intensity of the smell, which was not at all unpleasant, but there was just so much of it! I scrubbed my wrist with soap and water as soon as I got home, but the smell persisted. A ghost of the smell remained even after a shower the next morning. The smell has also seeped into my coat, and gives me great wafts whenever I raise my hand towards my face, and a faint but noticeable aroma clings to the entire cupboard under the stairs, where my coats live.

From this I conclude that Perfumes Are Too Strong.

Fire

Nov. 20th, 2012 01:13 pm
ladyofastolat: (Default)
As we were leaving our hotel room on Sunday morning, the fire alarm started to sound, and a recorded voice kept repeating that fire had been reported in the building, and we should leave by the nearest exit. We were leaving anyway, but instead of going to Reception to check out, went down the stairs (avoiding the lift, as the fire instructions advised) and out into the street. A couple of dozen other people did the same, and we milled for a minute or two until a staff member came out and told us it was a false alarm and we could go back in again. While Pellinor went to put our luggage in the car, I went back upstairs to the reception desk right next to the restaurant on the second floor, and found that there were hundreds of hotel guests still eating breakfast, lounging round on couches and in general making it clear that they had never had any intention of obeying the order to evacuate.

It's just as well it really was a false alarm, really. I wonder how many people have died because everyone generally assumes that any alarm is a false alarm.

Feet

Sep. 7th, 2012 05:15 pm
ladyofastolat: (Default)
Doing stock work in a library yesterday, I was once again reminded that I am a complete failure as a woman. Apparently all women have a love/hate relationship with their feet. I don't think I have sort of relationship with my feet, or if I do have one, it's a happily distant one. I trust them to do what I want them to do, and generally they do it, refusing only when I place ridiculous demands on them, like Summerfest or Walk the Wight. They probably don't look particularly beautiful, but what feet do? Beyond that, I can't summon up any feeling about them.

I'm reminded of my Mum's horror when she sees tall people. She's five foot one and a half herself, and when she sees a really tall person she whispers in horror, "How do they control their feet? They're so far away!" So she presumably has some sort of relationship with her feet, one in which distance is an important factor. But I don't think I feel even that. Maybe that's why I don't really understand putting nail varnish on toenails, since to me, toes are something boring and utilitarian that I'm pretty much detached from, so why bother decorating them?

But, then, I don't get nail varnish, full stop. I wore clean nail varnish a few times when I was a teenager, and it made my hands feel horrid and hot and clumsy, as if they couldn't breathe, so I always took it off within hours. But I'm entirely happy to see other people using it themselves. Very long nail, on the other hand, really disturb me. "How can she type?" I think. "How can she paint, or make biscuits, or play the piano, or make things out of modelling clay, or dig the garden, or do anything at all?" I need to cut my nails as soon as they're displaying a milimetre or so of white. Pellinor and I once spent a Scottish holiday without a nail clipper, both of us getting driven increasingly mad by the feel of too-long nails, finally venturing into the Biggest Tescos IN THE WORLD and spending about half an hour tracking down the solitary set of nail clippers that was our only purchase.
ladyofastolat: (Default)
I like Olympic medal ceremonies. (I like medal ceremonies, full stop. I think every computer game should end with a medal ceremony. I have never forgiven X-Wing for letting me spend 24 hours flying that infernal Death Star trench, only to reward me with an instant cut to the credits, without giving me a medal, like they get in the film.) I like seeing emotional, happy, proud, beaming people. I would much prefer Olympic coverage if they only showed said happy people, and turn over when they thrust the microphone into the face of a devastated loser.

But, anyway... One of the things I like about medal ceremonies is the national anthems. I do think ours is singularly bad, but there are many others that I like very much. I've loved the French national anthem ever since I saw Casablanca, in which the "duelling national anthem" scene invariably makes me cry - and brings tears to my eyes even when I just think of it. I think the US anthem is a great one, too, when played nice and fast and stirringly. (I hate it when sung slow and dirge-like.)

This year I've been very struck by the Russian anthem, which is earworming enormously at the moment. I find it stirring and moving, and it's currently one of my favourites. I loved the Brazilian anthem when I stumbled across it in a gynmastics ceremony. The Kenyan one is stark and haunting and different, and I like it a lot. And... um, I've gone and forgotten the other ones that I noted as being particularly good. Oops.

Please recommend your favourite national anthems. I like national anthems! I like songs that have emotional meaning to people, even if those people aren't me.
ladyofastolat: (Default)
Does anyone else find it incredibly hard to work out if the NO ENTRY written across the road is the right way up, and therefore to be acted upon, or upside-down, and therefore to be ignored? I can understand why I might on first glance find it hard to tell which way it was facing, but I normally have to peer it at desperately, as I think, "I think it's upside down. Yes, I'm pretty sure it's upside down. But...! But...! But...!"

A lot of people seem to think that if you put something upside down, it becomes completely illegible. Is this actually the case? The Radio Times has started publishing an Only Connect puzzle, in which they put clues to the answers written upside down directly underneath the puzzle. I find it completely impossible to study the puzzle without reading the clues by accident. Surely there must be loads of other people who do the same?

Invasion

Mar. 23rd, 2012 05:20 pm
ladyofastolat: (Default)
Did I miss the passing of a law making it illegal for children between the ages of 5 and 12 to go outside without scooters? I did spent an hour walking on the seafront, and every single child I came across was on one of the things. Some progressed in huge serried ranks, while others preferred to weave erratically or shoot across the pavement. It all made being a pedestrien rather difficult.
ladyofastolat: (Default)
Today I filled in the last significant stretch of Coastal Path to remain untrodden. The map put the walk at somewhere between 18 and 19 miles, but it took almost seven hours, which is a particularly pathetic time, given that at least 6 miles of the walk were along flat, concrete seawalls, revetements and esplanades, where I made a cracking pace. Unfortunately, most of the rest of it was along narrow, uneven tracks of thick, sticky, slippy-slidey clayey mud. I must have several geological eras represented on my boots, but whether the mud was red, black, grey, golden or blue, it was horrid to walk on, and reduced me to teeny-tiny anguished poodle steps.

(I'm probably maligning poodles horribly, but I've always called teenytiny fastfast trittrittrittrit steps "poodle steps". I followed a lady home from work the other day who was a prime example. Clickclickclickclick! went her heels, as she took teeny little steps, almost twice as fast as mine. I was keeping pace with her, so each step must have been half the length of mine. I suspect I was engaging in the sort of manly stride that would scandalise Regency matrons. And probably bouncing, too. My Mum always used to say that she could recognise me and my Dad over a crowd, since ours were the heads that went boingy boincy bounce above the placid sea of everyone else's heads. A few years ago, my aunt - my Dad's sister - entirely independently said that her friends said that they could always recognise her form a distance due to her bouncing gait. I'd never thought of gaits as being something that was hereditary, but it seems as they might be.)

Anyway... my walk took me past the site of Shanklin Pier, destroyed in the Great Storm of 1987, which set me thinking about the storm. I don't really remember much about it at the time. It didn't really affect Cheltenham, IIRC, and I dimly remember hearing things about Sevenoaks losing its oaks, and lots of broken things, but it didn't really hit home until I came to the island, and people kept on saying things like, "that used to be a pier... until the Storm," or "that bare hillside used to be wooded all over... until the Storm." Even so, I don't think I'd really realised just how devastating it had been until I saw an interesting documentary about the storm a few years ago. The documentary also made much about the fact that the Black Monday stock market crash happened the following morning, possibly triggered by the fact that nobody in the City had made it into work on the previous Friday, due to the storm - a connection I hadn't been aware of before.

And while we're on the subjec of weather, we had No Snow. It felt noticable warmer today than for the last few days, although a few of the deeper puddles on the path were still frozen.
ladyofastolat: (Default)
In my ongoing attempt to understand Earth culture, today I visited what Earthlings call a "Card Shop." It was a truly educational experience, teaching me many things about the Earthling way of life.

Earthlings, it seems, are either male or female. I was aware of this before, but until today had not realised how all-encompassing this division was. I observed many cards that, with my uneducated alien eyes, I thought were completely neutral: country landscapes, wildlife, pictures of guitars, "Old Masters," and the like. However, the "card shop" had helpfully provided a "for him" or a "for her" label on every single one of these seemingly-neutral cards, teaching me that, for example, a rather dark mountainous landscape is "For Him," and only for Him, whereas a pastel landscape is irredeemably "For Her."

If an Earth Female is a relative of any other human, the only acceptable colour to present to them is pink. This is an absolute rule with no possible deviations; the punishment for infringement is not yet known by me, but doubtless involves points and thorns.

Earth Men have hobbies and interests. These are the hobbies and interests that Earth Men have: golf, fishing, football, cars, drinking beer, farting, darts, guitars, rugby, rock music, cricket, computers, and watching certain Earth-based forms of popular entertainment, called "Doctor Who," and "Star Wars."

Earth Women do not have hobbies and interests.

Earth people occasionally indulge in something they call "Humour." This involves references to mating canines, farting bovines and the posteriors of felines.

When Earth people grow old, it is customary to insult them, unless they are female relatives, in which case the obligatory pink prevails.

I left the "card shop" considerably educated in the ways of Earthlings, but somewhat saddened, and longing for home.
ladyofastolat: (Default)
Our local Sainsburys is embiggening at the moment, and is full of posters telling us how wonderfully incredibly EXCITING the new shop is going to be once they've finished drilling and banging and wandering about the car park with troglodytes.* I'm trying desperately to work out what on earth they can be planning to do to turn a supermarket into a thing of such wonder and glory. I'm hoping for fairies at the till, and a whole aisle devoted to hover boards. Or maybe you can level up once you've found three rare items, and get given GOLD STARS at the checkout.

* Or theodolites, if you want to be boring. And correct.

I do, however, find one part of shopping rather exciting, and that's checking my receipt afterwards to see how much money I saved through careful use of multibuys. Under 10% is a cause for dismay; over 20% is cause for smugness and jubilitation. I got 40% in the M&S Food Hall today, thanks to their "Eat in for £10" offer. I also got two more ceramic pots for holding board game counters. Even better, they came with free creme brulee.

In other news, the end of my right index finger is all split and bleedy, thanks to a periodic skin complaint that I have, involving teeny blisters on my fingers, which clashed with some nettle stings and didn't react at all well to the competition. It's amazing how many things involve use of the right index fingertip. Like typing. Ow.

Habit

Jun. 15th, 2011 12:23 pm
ladyofastolat: (Default)
I've spent the morning ordering books online, browsing through a list of recent titles. I have just realised that I spent the entire time with my left hand poised tensely over WASD and the space bar, even though no typing was involved, and my right middle finger poised on the mouse wheel, even though no scrolling was needed - and, besides, I don't scroll with the mouse wheel, anyway.

There is only one conclusion I can draw from this.
ladyofastolat: (Vectis)
In the last few months, I must have put in well over a hundred miles of walking on the Isle of Wight Coastal Path. In this time, I have seen an average of probably one dog a mile. A good three quarters of these have been black labrador/retriever types. (Sorry for the vagueness, but I didn't put any skill points in Dog during character generation.)

I have four possible theories for this:

1. An ancient law rules that all other dogs are illegal on the coastal path. This is supported by the fact that I see many other types of dogs in nearby villages, or romping on the beaches below the cliffs. However, on Monday a very blatant Border Collie was flaunting itself on the coastal path, rounding up invisible sheep and herding them off landslides, and no-one in uniform appeared with a clipboard and a stern warning. This does not entirely rule out the theory, though; after all, I often see people talking on a mobile phone when driving, and no-one official appears to drag them off in chains.

2. People on the Isle of Wight are subconsciously drawn to black labrador/retriever types, perhaps as a sort of reverse nominative determinism sort of thing, which encourages people who live on an island that sounds like "white" to seek out black pets. However, for several weeks I have been carefully observing the dogs that I meet on my daily walk to work, and not one single one of them has ever been a black labrador/retriever type, which tends to go against this theory, but instead rather supports...

3. Some ancient law rules that black labrador/retriever types must not step foot on any part of the Isle of Wight that is not the coastal path. It fits the data so far, but I need to do further research.

4. Alternatively, black labrador/retriever types are just very popular on the country as a whole at the moment, especially with the sort of people who take their dogs out on long country walks along crumbling clifftops. However, I have no further data on this, due to the aforementioned lack of dog-related skill points.

Tipping

Mar. 24th, 2011 08:29 pm
ladyofastolat: (Default)
I know that the accepted norm for tipping in restaurants in Britain is a lot lower than it is in America. As part of my Buffy rewatch, I've just come to Beer Bad (a good contender for Worst. Episode. Ever) and at one point, Xander, who's working in a bar, is trying to get payment from some students who've been turned into cave men by magical beer, and says that "most people" tip at around 30 percent. Is this normal in America, or is he trying to take advantage of them?

Also, the bar in question seems to involve people coming to the bar to buy their drinks, as in British pubs, and taking their own drinks back to the table. Is it still normal in America to tip in these circumstances? Do any British readers habitually tip the barman when buying a drink in a pub?

What about when you buy a meal in a (British) pub, and order at the bar, pay at the bar before you get your food, and then later have your meal brought to your table. Do people tip in these cirumstances?

What sort of tip do people (of any nationality) consider normal in a restaurant?
ladyofastolat: (Default)
Two entirely unrelated things (though feel free to come up with creative ways in which they are, in fact, two sides of exactly the same coin.)

1. "A male streaker is going to play Margaret Thatcher," said a colleague.

My eyebrows raised. I thought. I envisaged. I wished I hadn't envisaged. Was this Art? Was this making a Statement? Was this something very, very daring?

"Oh," said I. "You said Meryl Streep, didn't you?"

In this case, unusually, I think I probably prefer the real version to my interesting mis-hearing.

2. Walking home from work today, I counted 30 houses in a row that had lace curtains in every single window. I was never brought up with lace curtains so therefore have never used them. So: Lace Curtains? Opinions?

Vindication

Feb. 3rd, 2011 06:06 pm
ladyofastolat: (Default)
Ha! I knew it! I have no confirmed that my local supermarket does indeed put 250g of mince in exactly the same-sized pack as 500g, with an almost-identical label. Last Sunday's Great Lasagne Catastrophe was therefore Not My Fault.
ladyofastolat: (fathom the bowl)
When I was younger than I am now, Twelfth Night meant getting out the pinking shears and chopping up Christmas cards to make gift tags. (Oh how I snarled when a really promising card turned out to have charity logos on the back, or a scrawled platitude from Auntie Gladys.) But before I did that, Twelfth Night meant classifying the designs on the cards. (I organised the cards when we received them, too, to ensure that they were hung on their string in a nicely symmetrical order: big showy-off card over the middle of the mantlepiece, with, say, red square ones on either side, large gold ones beyond those, and so on. What can I say?) As a result of the post-Christmas classifying exercise, I was able to make pronouncements along the lines of, "1984 is the year of the cute animal, with Victorian scenes a close second, but Christmas trees have suffered a catastrophic collapse over the last two years."

While I no longer classify all cards, I do like to survey the array of cards on the wall and reach conclusions about current trends. This year, our cards are overwhelmingly pale - white cards with a small image in the middle, snowy scenes, pastel pictures etc. Some look more patterned when you're close to them, but take a few steps away, and the prevailing impression is pale.

It seems to me that there are two possible explanations for this: either the range of cards available to buy in the shops reflects this colour palette, or the shops stock all sorts of colours, but the people who send me cards chose to buy the pale ones. I didn't buy cards this year, since I had loads left over, so I haven't been able to conduct any actual empirical research, but that doesn't stop me speculating. If it's the first case, then who decides? Is there a secret ruling cabal of card manufacturers, who get together in February and decide what colours and designs are going to predominate that year? If it's the second, then what secret subliminal message is going out to card buyers, telling them to walk past all the glittery holly and the garish Santas, and to buy only the pale snow scenes?

Fools

Sep. 9th, 2010 05:38 pm
ladyofastolat: (Default)
I got a nice piece of Nigerian scam mail today. Apparently they've worked out that all my previous attempts to release the vast riches that are owed to me have failed because the employees I was dealing with had all been sacked. Continuing to deal with them is illegal and will have bad consequences for me. However, I can still get the money if I send them my name, date of birth, address, occupation, work address and copies of all my identification documents.

It just amazes me that there are people out there who fall for such things as this. Obviously there are, since they wouldn't send the emails out. But, first, it refers to past interactions that the vast majority of recipients wouldn't have done, so suspicions are raised there. The only people who have previously had interactions with "Nigerian officials" are those burnt by previous scams, so suspicions are raised there, too. They could at least promise money from some obscure country whose name isn't linked proverbially to such scams.

I suppose I'll just have to assume that some people are incredibly credulous, and will do anything in the hope of vast amounts of money.

And talking of fools, while driving home today, I saw a boy sitting in a field with a proper fishing rod - not a toy - apparently engaged in fishing at least a mile away from any water. This reminds me of a folk tale, but I can't remember what.
ladyofastolat: (Vectis)
About a year ago, I do a ten mile walk by myself across the Downs and the coastal path of West Wight, and observed that I got some strange looks from dog walkers. [livejournal.com profile] bunn confirmed that as a dog-walker, she does indeed observe solitary, dogless walkers with suspicion, even going so far as to suggest that they were all returning from murdering the people whose bodies are generally found by innocent dog-walkers.

Today, I did much the same walk, though with an extra six mile loop thrown in for good measure, and got not one single suspicious look. The only difference I can think of is that last year, I was carrying nothing but a camera - presumably used to record the last moments of my victim - whereas today I was carrying a small rucksack. No matter that my rucksack might have been full of murder weapons and limbs, it was apparently enough to slot me neatly into the category of "harmless rambler", and all suspicion was averted.

So should anyone feel like murdering someone in a beauty spot, there's no need to carry your weapons in your pants. Just carry them in a rucksack, and everyone will smile sunnily at you as you go on your way.

Moving on from tips for murder, I'm surprised at how non-tired I feel after 16 miles, when ten miles a year ago shattered me. Well, yes, I do feel tired, but not utterly exhausted, even though this is probably further than I've ever walked in a day - even further than the 14 mile second half of Walk the Wight, which traditionally kills me. I'm not sure why this is. I know from experience that a short bout of brisk walking every day can make a big difference to fitness, but I've not been able to walk to work for the last month, since I've needed the car every day for storytimes. I have walked about 20 miles on tarmac over the last 3 days, but surely that's too recent to make a difference to fitness. The only real difference I can think of is that I'm 20 pound lighter now than I was a year ago. Can that really make so much difference?
ladyofastolat: (Default)
I have no interest in football or the World Cup, and will not be watching it. However, I'm getting increasingly annoyed by articles that sneer at the whole thing, dismissing it as stupid, and implying that the writer is superior in some way by not being interested. Everyone is interested in different things, after all. While I don't feel passionate fannish devotion for any sports team, I certainly understand passionate fannish devotion for books or films. I don't like it when football fans sneer at science fiction fans and call their obsessiveness "sad", so how could I be so hypocritical as to do the same to them? I'm not interested, but millions are, and good luck to them. I don't think lack of interest in anything is something to be proud of - just as it's nothing to be ashamed of, either.

And on a totally different subject: I was looking at a new children's book (aimed at 9 to 10 year olds) on healthy eating today, and I came across the recommendation that people should eat only 2 portions of dairy products a day. Examples given of a "portion" were a glass of milk, or a hand-sized piece of cheese. I am baffled by the hand as a unit of measurement of cheese. Does it relate to the volume, or merely to the area of its cross-section? If the latter, does it matter how thick the chunk is? Could you have a chunk six inches thick as long as it could rest on your hand without overlapping in any way? Do you include the fingers? If so, are you allowed to spread your fingers as wide as you can get them, to maximise area?
ladyofastolat: (Default)
When I was young, I was taught by my mum that eating in the street is something that you absolutely do not do. I'm not sure quite what the definition of "street" was, since you were allowed to eat on picnic tables in beauty spots, or have a picnic beside a country path, or eat at a table outside a tea shop, but the general principle was there. She did make a reluctant exception for ice creams bought in tourist resorts, but even then she felt such guilt and shame at breaking the rule that she ate the ice-cream very furtively - usually making herself far more conspicuous and ice-cream-stained than she would have if she had eaten it openly.

When I was a student, I remember talking about the issue to an old school friend, who revealed that she had also been brought up with this rule. However, both of us had sometimes found ourselves in town at lunch time and in need of a snack, so we had both devised our own exception to the rule. I allowed myself to eat something in the street if I found myself an out of the way doorway or tucked myself against the wall in a side street. "I'm sorry," I was silently shouting to everyone who saw me, "I know I shouldn't be doing this, but, look, I'm trying really hard to keep out of your way." In contrast, she allowed herself to eat in the street only if she walked as fast as possible. "I wouldn't normally do this," she was silently shouting to everyone who saw her, "but can't you see that I'm in an enormous rush, desperate to get to those starving orphan kittens before time runs out."

Both of us, however, were in agreement that we would never dream of wandering into a library while eating an ice-cream, or wander round a shop touching products while eating from a packet of crisps with the other hand. A new librarian, young and naive, I was utterly amazed at how many people thought nothing of walking into the library while eating lunch. And it still surprises me. But with most of them, it's clearly beyond their comprehension that anyone might think this isn't perfectly acceptable behaviour. It can be very hard when you've got people who have very different opinions on what is acceptable.

But it can hard to shift those lessons you've taught early in life. I'm still really quite bothered by people chewing gum, since I was so strongly taught not to eat in public, even though I tell myself rationally that most people think there's nothing wrong with it.

Recognition

Jun. 7th, 2010 06:41 pm
ladyofastolat: (Default)
I was buying something in Smith's today, when the lady at the checkout - a total stranger - said, "Was it hot?" I looked blank. "On Saturday," she prompted. I still looked blank. "At the Old Gaffers," she explained, as if I was stupid. "When you were dancing."

I've discussed before the issue of face recognition, and how amazing I find it that someone can see me for a few minutes in a very crowded place, and remember me afterwards. But even accepting that other people are more skilled at this than I am, why on earth did she expect me to have remembered her - just one of a large audience in a packed event - enough for her to start a conversation in the middle like this, without giving me any clues?

Sunbathing

Jun. 3rd, 2010 05:19 pm
ladyofastolat: (Default)
I don't understand the urge to sunbathe. I have nothing whatsover against people who do like it - tastes are different, after all - but when I see people lying there with their eyes closed, almost naked and fully exposed to the sun, I am filled with incomprehension. I had a nice long lunch break by the sea today, in between storytimes, and the beach was full of people doing this. I'm not quite sure why I dislike the idea so much. Part of it is definitely that I burn easily, and feel uncomfortable in the heat. I'm also far too modest to want to appear in public nearly naked. But I don't even like the idea of lying fully clothed in the shade with my eyes shut for hours on end. I can happily sit for half an hour on a cliff top and gaze idly at the view, even though it doesn't really do anything or go anywhere. I can sit in a crowded train and people-watch. I can sit and watch birds or animals or flowers waving in the wind, but I really don't get the urge to pay money to go on holiday and spend whole days lying with your eyes shut, not looking at the place you're visiting. But maybe I should. The BBC website was going on the other day about the importance of doing nothing, just letting your mind wander.

Um... no, I don't really have a point, that's right. ;-)

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