Tuesday, March 31, 2009

UWOTD

As potatoes are synonymous with Ireland, we had a few words for this starchy, tuberous food item depending on what was put into the saucepan when they were being cooked.

My favourite way to eat potatoes was always to have them mashed, although chipped was a close second. Like most people back when I was growing up, we'd throw a block of lard into the deepest pan we had, heat it up till it would blister your face when peering in, and then drop in half a ton of peeled and sliced potatoes.  About 30 seconds later we'd be eating chips/fries. 

But back to mash and our cooking method involved the addition of scallions, butter and milk at the mashing stage. I may be giving you an UWOTD for free here as not everyone has heard of the word "scallions" but it's by no means an Ulster only word so I felt it didn't deserve a post of it's own.

Scallions are simply spring onions and are a colourful and delicious addition to mashed potatoes.

So anyway, when all these ingredients are combined, the Ulster word for the result is champ.

Champ : mashed potatoes usually with the addition of scallions, butter and a little milk.

I've only been back in the UK a few days but already I've had champ and I'm sorry if you come from Idaho but I still think our potatoes are the best in the world. So with 8 ounces of a still hot rotisserie chicken from Costco, a generous dollop of champ and a serving of processed peas on my supper plate last night, I was in epicurean heaven.

Well maybe not heaven but it sure wasn't Idaho, Toto.

While You Were Away...........

I live in a traditional English semi, a 3 bedroom, two floor house connected to another 3 bedroom, two floor house in a 'nice' estate/sub division in Leeds. 

So far so good.

I'm single and don't do a great deal of housekeeping but I think I keep a relatively clean house.  I mean I'm happy to eat anything that has fallen on the kitchen floor but you might find a bit of dust if you went behind the tv set. That sort of thing.

When I go away to Florida for the winter, I close the living room and bedroom curtains.  I'm not quite sure why, but I do.  And 6 months later when I open them up again, the living room window ledge is pretty much spotlessly clean (with maybe the odd dead fly or wasp requiring attention) but the upstairs bedroom window ledges are a different matter.

They are always covered in......stuff.  I can't be any more precise as that's the point.  I donno what this stuff is.  It's almost dust like but with much larger grains.  It could be dust that has fallen on dust over and over like a snowball rolling down a hill and thus grown into very large.....ahhh dust.  

But in my heart of hearts I just know it's poop.  Droppings if you like.  But from what creature ?

Having ruled out very small sheep due to the fact that they'd never make it up the steep stairs, I'm left with potential culprits like spiders and flies.  But I've never seen a fly in my bedroom and only rarely has a spider dropped in on me while I've been curled up in bed with James Patterson so why would they suddenly descend on my bedroom window ledge in such numbers to generate that amount of poop ?

Maybe as I move out for 6 months, they move in but if so, where the hell are they ?  There are no bodies, no signs of ANY creature at all - just black soot or dust or droppings all along the ledge.  

Before I send samples off to the UK version of CSI, I was wondering if anyone out there in blogland could suggest what my little black stuff might be ?  

Until I find out, I'll be sleeping with one eye open, just in case there is a bug party taking place on my window ledge every night and I'm not invited. 

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Foaming At The Mouth

I was about to do an UWOTD post and I slipped into a deep pit of nostalgia. 

Now I know that nostalgia ain't what it used to be but then as someone posted a while ago, neither are a lot of things, like ice cream. And that got me a thinkin' . Yes siree bob it did.

( I'm watching a Western so you'll have to forgive me )

Over the years I've often thought about a drink we had back when I was growing up.  Well it became a drink but it started off as soluble crystals in a small tin.  Once we'd removed the metal lid with the spoon handle and pierced the paper seal, we'd add a heaped spoonful of the crystals into a glass of cold water and stir it to give us a lovely refreshing flavoured drink. Usually raspberry but sometimes lemon.  Oh but it was good.  Like a jug of ice cold lemonade in a Southern US state, this drink refreshed the parts others couldn't reach.

It's name.....Creamola Foam.

This trip down nostalgia lane came about today because I was putting away the contents of my suitcase and came upon a similar product that I brought home from America.  I'm sure we have it's like here too as there have always been products on the market that, when added to water, produce a refreshing drink.  No not whisky !  Crystal products.

But Creamola Foam will always be the King in my mind, probably because that's all we had back then. It was discontinued in 1998 but I for one will never forget it.

Mind The Gap.

A few days ago, Brit Gal Sarah, in Oklahoma, posted about the difference between restrooms/toilets in the US and UK and like several others, I commented about the horrendous lack of total privacy due to US door gaps.

Why do these gaps exist anyway ?

When flying back to England last Thursday, I started my trip from Miami airport and had to pay a visit to the restrooms there.  Having my camera with me, I turned off the flash in case anyone wondered what the hell I was doing in my cubicle and took a couple of photos to show the gaps we're all talking about.



Not the best quality I know but there isn't much room to get far enough back in a public loo and I'd no wish to be seen taking a photo from the outside !  You can also see the hook on the back of the door that no one should use unless they have to as it has been known for passing sneak thieves to reach over and remove anything hanging there.

Speaking of privacy, I'd just finished taking the 2nd photo and had put the camera away when, through the gap I saw a man coming towards the door. I was standing up and fully dressed but initially he wasn't to know that. As his face filled my view, his hand appeared over the door, closely followed by his head ! We made brief eye contact and I'm sure mine reflected the shock and surprise I was feeling but he moved away before my anger set in. I picked up my carry on case and left the stall but he must've found an empty one and gone into it as he was nowhere to be seen.

Gap or no gap, that was just not acceptable.

Next morning, over on this side of the pond and thanks to my 11 hour wait at Heathrow, I had to use their restrooms a couple of times and am happy to report the following : they were clean and gap free.

And as no one tried to leap over the door or even limbo under it, I was able to read my paper and have my tea and scones in peace and quiet.

Ahhh it's good to be home.




Saturday, March 28, 2009

Sleep ? Who Needs It ?

Despite being up for the last 38 hours, I'm blogging before going to sleep.  I'm officially a sad, sad internet man !  I say it that way rather than 'before going to bed' as I'm actually IN bed.  I took up Daffy's kind offer of her spare room for my first night back as I didn't fancy going into my cold house at 10pm.  But I'm a toasty warm sad, sad internet man as she even put a hot water bottle in to warm the bed.  Bless.

I arrived back in Leeds 2 hrs ago and as part of the long trip home involved spending 11 hrs waiting at Heathrow, I'm more tired than usual as it was so boring there.  My plan to try and get an earlier flight was scuppered as my bags had been checked through to Leeds and so couldn't be picked out to be put on an earlier flight. I did watch 5 episodes of Corrie to get me up to date, an ER and 2 episodes of Gray's Anatomy so the time did pass. S-L-O-W-L-Y. 

I had a mild panic attack when I glanced at the departures screen after being there for 4 hrs and my flight to Leeds was suddenly showing as cancelled !!  I went to the desk and they were oblivious to this altered status and so of little help.  I finally found out that it was due to the plane being stuck somewhere with mechanical problems and so in the end they combined 2 flights by doing a London to Leeds to Manchester flight just 10 minutes later than my original flight.  I don't think the Manchester passengers were very pleased to have to suddenly land at Leeds for 25 mins and then fly on to Manchester but sod 'em I said.  I'd paid a heavy enough price with my 11 hrs at the airport.

I'd changed into jeans and a fleece before leaving Leeds airport and I was jolly glad I did so.....the temp display in Daffy's car was 3C. Brrrrrrrrrrrr.  And it was raining.  And there wasn't a palm tree to be seen.

Sunny Buttonwood Bay already seems a long way off but I have a feeling in my waters that we're going to have a tip top hot summer here in Blighty. Then again, I got the same feeling last Spring as well.  My waters aren't very reliable when it comes to long range weather predicting.

I'm off to sleep now.  I may wake up on Sunday.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Last Post

I can hear the lone trumpeter collecting up his spit already but it's not THAT kind of last post and before you start on the howls of protest and looking on Google Street View for the nearest tall building to jump off at losing your regular fix of this great blog, it's not THAT kind of last post either !!

It's just going to be my last post from sunny Buttonwood Bay for 6 months and with timing so perfect you could be at a Swiss railway station, the rising sun has indeed burst forth here at this ungodly hour of the morning. Ok so it's 8am already but hey, it's still ungodly enough that even HE might still be in bed.

And guess what ?  I've not started packing yet and we leave for the airport in 5 hours.  I'm definitely a leave-it-late Johnny when it comes to packing but of course it helps when 99% of your stuff is in the bedroom already.

I've just emptied my MP3 player and loaded it up with over 600 'new' tunes from my laptop music folder.  I've loaded several tv shows and movies from my external hard drives onto my laptop drive so I'll have those to watch either on the flight or while 'enjoying' the 11 hours I have to wait at Heathrow tomorrow morning before my connecting flight up to Leeds.  That takes care of the entertainment bit anyway.

I've checked on Virgin Atlantic's web site and there will be 60 movies for me to choose from on the flight but I rarely watch in flight movies as those screens are so damn small and hard to see at times and the audio quality makes Radioshack speakers seem like Bose, even using my own earphones.  I can't sleep on planes though so I'll either just chill to my MP3 music or watch some tv shows as they are acceptable on those little screens even if a full blown movie isn't.

I know the food will be awful so we've figured in a last US meal in Miami before I'm dropped off at the airport and hopefully that will see me through to Heathrow.  

I was going to try and catch some rays before leaving the park as I know already what lies in wait for me in Leeds this weekend - rain and temps in the 50's. But I'll be busy packing and anyway I already look like a Mumbai Call Centre trainee so another couple of hours in the sun won't make much difference.  I know my tan will all be gone by this time next week but for that week I'm planning on answering all questions about it by proudly telling people "yes I winter in Florida you know" as if everyone should do it.

What they'll never know, however, is that the tan is only on my arms, legs, head and that part of my neck that's been open to the elements for the last 6 months.  The rest of me is pure Brit white. I never did do the full sunbathing bit and got this tan from my daily walks in the park and some sitting outside when fully dressed.  If I strip off for a dip in the pool, I look even more peculiar than usual but many others are like that here so I don't feel too conspicuous.  Putting it another way, I just won't be exposing my full body to the UK public for many months by which time I'll be pasty all over again.

Oh stop it with the cheers and applause will you ?  That's just cruel.

I hope to be back on t'internet by Saturday and at the super fast speed of 50Mbs as well.  When I left last October I was on the fastest speed available to me at the time which was 20Mbs.  Since then time and fibre optics have moved on and now my area can get 50Mbs and being the download geek that I am, I'll be having a drop of that, thank you very much Mr. Branson.

So it's bye for now and 'see' you all shortly from the other side.

Ok now THAT was a weird thing to type just before a transatlantic flight !

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Something For The Weekend, Sir ?

Last weekend's jaunt across the state to Ft. Pierce wasn't all about sunshine and beaches.  Ok mostly it was but we also managed to do a few more mundane things like shopping at Sam's Club and visiting a Manatee Observation & Education Centre.  Usual run of the mill stuff.

Sadly we saw no manatees but maybe that was due to it being early on Sunday morning and they were probably hung over somewhere out of sight after some Saturday night revelling.

So this is the best I could do.  All these photos were taken using the little compact camera so the quality is only so-so.


This probably constituted "mammal abuse" but there were no other visitors so I'm pretty sure I got away with it.

The Manatee Centre was down by the marina so there were lots of boats moored along the jetty but the sun wasn't co-operating and stayed firmly in front of me. Anyway here is a view looking sunwards and it was only later I remembered the camera has a backlight setting that might have helped.   D'ohhhh !!


I'll just claim I wanted a moody silhouette type shot of the boats and leave it at that.

Then we drove on to Sam's Club which I always like visiting. So much so in fact that I went all touristy and took a self portrait. I know, pretty sad, huh ? Well I went to all the embarrassment of taking it (several times in fact) so it's damn well going to get posted here.


I'm still not 100% comfortable taking photos inside stores as I always think I'm going to be thrown out for breaking some rule or other and so this next photo was taken so fast that it's too blurred to read the description sticker very well. I just wanted a record of how little a 47" HD lcd tv costs over here and yet as prices tumble, it'll seem like a LOT of money in years to come.


The next photo is for all those men out there who like to don the old apron and feel the need to show off how they can burn large hunks of meat on the most impressive bbq on the market. This probably isn't in that category but it can't be far from it. Remember this is all one unit !


I'm not sure I could even get it on my back patio but if I could, I'd have to cook on it from over the neighbour's hedge and I'd be feeding the whole street with what it could produce.

Then we went a few miles up the coast to Vero Beach (see previous posts for beach photos). By now we were a bit peckish so we made good use of a little takeaway sub and pizza place just across the road and bought 2 huge slices of pizza for $5 which were perfect for keeping the hunger pangs at bay. We ate at a lovely little picnic area just at the edge of the beach. Deb wanted me to make sure her diet drink was visible for all to see and I also got my astronaut signed NASA mug in shot.

That's the drinks 'mug' and not my face.


After a few hours on the beach, we headed back to the motel and the place looked quite photogenic at sunset. Here is the view as you approach the motel......


And finally, here is a view of the outdoor pool with a few palm trees for THOSE of you who like that sort of thing. You know who you are !


It was a lovely final weekend for me here in Florida as right now I'm about to start packing for the trip back to England tomorrow. In many cases, photographs are my only memories and so I hope you've enjoyed the ones I've posted on this blog over the last 6 months.

Now I'll be going back to buildings that are more than 30 years old, restaurants that charge for all soft drinks after the first one, spending my monthly pension filling up at a petrol station, stepping around all the litter on the streets and treating an umbrella as a vital accessory every time I step outside the house.

I'm thinking of staying and claiming political asylum.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

UWOTD

The Ulster Word Of The Day is a VERY common word used around the English speaking world, and even more so in this modern communications-heavy society.

Messages.

The thing is that in Ulster at least, the word messages also means.....groceries/shopping.  

Yeah, we're a crazy, zany, devil-make-care kinda people !  And probably drink too much Guinness.  So lets see a couple of examples shall we ?

"I'm off down the street to get the messages"

or

"Where's mum" ?  "Oh she went into town to get the messages"

And so on.  

It must be much more confusing these days though as modern email and Facebook savvy kids would be wondering why one of their parental units would bother going all the way into town just to pick up her messages. 

Maybe she left her Eee in Tesco !

Monday, March 23, 2009

We Made It to The Beach !!!

Yes the weather improved and we made it to the beach. We made it to a few beaches over the weekend actually and even managed to get to Vero Beach after thinking we'd never be back there when we left it last time. Once again I donno why I say such things. Never say never.

The sun was out, the sky was mostly blue and it was picture perfect. And here is one.


It was a bit windy but this made for interesting photography as the birds would almost hover in the sky (roll up, roll up, folks; enlarge the photo and see the amazing hovering bird) while waiting for some food scraps or jellyfish to appear. The Atlantic breakers were huge and numerous jellyfish were being washed up on shore for the hungry birds to fight over.



None of them wanted that particular one as it was a bit too big. I should've placed something next to it for scale purposes but lets see, it was about the size of a Pamela Anderson breast implant. Actually I'm not too sure......no, I'm sure it was a jellyfish !!

We humans weren't the only ones who were dipping our feet in the warm water and plenty of the birds were taking the opportunity for a Spring Break weekend too.


But if you wanted to sit on the sand and watch a bit of wildlife action, you only had to keep an eye on this little fella, a sandpiper I think, who sped up and down the beach looking for smaller food items. He'd always get there first, given his speed, but within seconds, the larger birds would swoop down and relieve him of his treasure. Lets all give a big awwwwww.


Never mind. Think how well he must've slept that night after all that running around on the beach.

The light breeze gave me a good opportunity to try and get some good clear shots of birds in flight and as regular readers will know, that has become my aim in life ! No distracting backgrounds this time and ok, even I have to be pretty happy with these two examples. Have a zoom in and see why.



The waves really were huge and many surfers were taking advantage of them. I was too far away from them to get any decent action shots but here are a couple who weren't moving so fast in the water but at least their presence helps show off the waves to good effect.


We had no food with us but the hundreds of birds lying in wait on the sand near us were just primed for the action rather than the substance. I'd picked up a small shell and without thinking, I tossed it away to one side. Immediately the air was full of squawking birds all spoiling for a fight over the.....shell. The ones who tried to pick it up were seriously pissed off but still got into a fight over ownership and this guy was the most vocal......


He scared me, never mind the other birds. The sand looks awful in that photo, almost as if the bird was on a rubbish tip. It really wasn't and I think it's just one of those photos that basically lies. What can I say.

As we left the beach by way of a short wooden path, we went past some bizarre (to me anyway) pods. Some had burst open and inside were one or two relatively large seeds. Can anyone tell me what they might be ?


So we had a grand day out and ended up at a Cracker Barrel restaurant opposite the motel where we both ordered the roast beef dinner.  

But that's for another post.............

Sunday, March 22, 2009

UWOTD

The Ulster Word Of The Day will have a very short explanation as it's not the most pleasant of words and one I've not heard for probably 40 or more years.

I left school and my home in N. Ireland (Ulster to those who aren't in the know) at 18 to go to University in England but I don't even remember hearing this word used much towards the end of my time at home. And the word is..........

Boke : vomit.

Like vomit, boke was both the substance expelled and the verb that did the expelling.

"Hey did ye hear that wee Tommy just boked all over Sister Mary ?"  
"Nooooo and was there any tomato in his boke ?"
"Sure there's always tomato in boke so there is, ye daft eegit."
"Ohhh Sister Mary'd better get out of that habit, then. "
"That's an old joke and ye'r still an eegit."

Kids can be sooooo cruel.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Don't Rain On My Parade

Yesterday (Fri) we left to spend the weekend at the beach.  I'd promised Debby the trip as a birthday present last October so it was long overdue. It's my last weekend before I go home to England and weatherwise I knew before setting off that it hadn't been a good idea to put all my eggs in one basket, so to speak, by leaving it so late.  The omens and the forecast were bad.

We had a short 85 mile drive across to the East coast town of Ft. Pierce and got a lovely big room at a new LaQuinta Inn & Suites motel just off I-95. It has a love seat, another matching chair, a large fridge, microwave, office area with desk and chair, a monster flat screen tv, high speed wi-fi and so on.

I only mention these things because we were glad to have them today when we woke up to rain, heavy rain.  I've not experienced much rain in the last 6 months so I guess this was good preparation for going home. But it's Florida and rain never usually lasts long.

We had a leisurely breakfast in the motel dining room and then came back to the room and chilled.  We had a fridge full of food and drink, the tv, our laptops, loads of downloaded movies and even a few shows recorded onto dvd from earlier in the week.

Rain ?  We didn't care.  I ate about 50 M&M's and watched Coronation Street. Deb worked out in the motel gym. Yes I felt bad afterwards and not all caused by the M&M's. 

Then the rain stopped and things brightened up.  We went to Outback for an early supper and then on to Sams Club for a bit of shopping.  As Leeds United had won away earlier, all in all it's been a grand day despite the inclement weather and now, at 7:15pm, there is a lovely peach glow on the horizon.  Either there has been an explosion at the Kennedy Space Centre up the road or it's a gentle sunset.  I suspect the later.

The forecast is only 'ok' for tomorrow so we may not even get to the beach.  

Again, we won't care.  This is Florida and even with bad weather, life is pretty good.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Street Walking 2009 Style

I've just spent about 2 hrs going along the streets of my home town, Leeds in England.

I stopped outside Daphne's house and although there was a little gray/silver car outside on the road meaning one of the actors was inside doing some office work, there wasn't a car in the driveway and so I moved on.

Later I was in the city centre and noticed many new shops on Briggate (as I hadn't been into town for over 6 months remember) and saw a lot of construction going on along The Headrow. It was a lovely sunny day and everything was so clear and bright.  I then went along Great Wilson Street to have a nostalgic look at the ASDA headquarters where I spent so many years before I retired.

Now I've had enough and am worn out but it's not my legs that are tired......just my fingers.

You see I've been 'playing' with Google Street View as they've added 25 UK cities to their list and now I can sit in my chair and zoom along many of the city streets and even out into the suburbs as if I was sitting on top of a sightseeing tour bus.  Sadly, as I live north of the Leeds Outer Ring Road, my street isn't covered.  I'd have liked to have seen it - if only to be sure I closed the bathroom window last October.  Bit late now I guess.

I love this sort of thing; being able to go virtually where I want.  Virtually.  I've not even explored any other cities and there are hundreds out there. And they've even fuzzed out every vehicle licence plate and every human face to protect privacy.  So don't zoom over to Vegas hoping to spot your husband coming out of Caesars Palace when he said he was in Cleveland visiting his gran in hospital. Of course you still should be able to recognise what he was wearing when he left the house so you're not 100% safe there, Frankie boy.  It's Vegas.  Wear a dress.

This is totally forgetting that the photos they've used may be many months or years old. 

Anyway once I've had some supper, I think I'll take a 'walk' along the Champs-Elysees or maybe the Piazza Pio XII and see if I can spot the Pope out on his bike. You never know.

Yellow Pages were just a couple of decades ahead of themselves with their slogan "let your fingers do the walking."  I hope someone thought to copyright it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

UWOTD

I grew up in the small farming town of Ballymoney in N. Ireland from 1952-1970 and after that I left for England and only returned sporadically to see my parents.  My dad died in 1986 (aged 74) and mum in 2003 (aged 80).  I've not been back since her death.

And that's more than enough personal stuff for now !

Back in those sepia days, we young 'uns had no Playstations, Gameboys or even Sex In The City to keep us amused and so we played outdoors a lot and were all the healthier for it. Obesity hadn't been invented yet and I was your typical weedy geek (waiting for NASA to head hunt me) with teenage acne, brylcreem hair and glasses lenses so thick that I used them to start many a bonfire. My life of arson can be traced back to those days ! 

As I've said many times before, I can't remember much of my childhood/teen years but I do remember having a home made go-kart at one time.  My dad was a painter and decorator and was one of those men who could turn his hand to just about anything.  I inherited none of his skills which is why, even today, I believe I was adopted. 

I'm sure that building a go-kart wouldn't have been beyond his skills and just writing about it now, takes me right back to those days and I can SEE myself sitting on the kart with the steering string in my hands all ready to set off on some amazing ride - lasting all of 5 seconds and taking me a heady 30 yards from my starting point.  And this was all done without the aid of a GPS, I'll have you know.

I'd have had a standard kart of the day - a T shaped construction with old pram wheels and a short length of bailing twine threaded through both ends of the movable steering block which could also be turned with my feet.  In those days of unlimited energy, aerodynamics wasn't an issue and I braved the elements without a crash helmet, knee pads or personal protection of any sort.  We tended to take Vatican edicts a bit too literally at our house. 

And so I finally get to the point.....the Ulster Word Of The Day !!!

Guider :  a home made go-kart.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

You Don't Have To Be Irish..........

......to be Irish.

What about ye ?  What's the craic ?  Anyone fancy some fadge ?  It's class, y'know.

Ok if you've all been reading my Ulster Words Of The Day (UWOTD) posts recently, you'll be totally onboard with all those questions and be ready to give sparkling replies.  Or maybe not.

Anyway the fact that this is a 55+ Community Park in the middle of Florida hasn't stopped many of the residents from claiming Irish ancestry somewhere in their distant past or inventing it for the day if it didn't exist.

I've not seen so much green since I got drunk at Roundhay Rugby Club and woke up on top of the snooker table.  

So I'm just back from a photographic mission - taking photos of all the Irishy stuff that's out in the park on this St. Patrick's Day.









The big inflatable is by far the best and even lights up at night. It's been funny seeing him lying prostrate on the lawn these last few days just waiting for the special day to arrive so he could be pumped full of air. Given even the mild breeze today, he was swaying a bit and was slightly unsteady on his feet - just like the real thing really !!

And what about the one hanging from a tree in photo 3 ??!!  What's THAT all about ??  I had to wait ages for him to swing around in the breeze so he'd be facing me for the photo.  I wonder if that sort of thing happened in real life too ?!

Here are a few more of the banner variety...........





It was all grand, so it was. Loads of residents wearing 'the green' and even more cheery smiles on faces than usual, although that might have been down to the Tuesday Medicare delivery.

I'm not sure if there is an Irish pub in Sebring but I'm sure a few will BE Irish this evening.

Sláinte chugat.

Almost Tropical Buttonwood Bay.

Sunny Buttonwood Bay may be hot and sunny most days but it's not quite on the equator.  It's about 1766 miles north of it in fact but as Leeds is 1700 miles further north again, that explains why it's 50F in Leeds right now and 83F in Buttonwood Bay.

I'm not doing this temperature and climate comparison just to have a gloat.  Perish the thought.

Knowing that in 9 days time I'll be heading back to those lower temps is already having a sobering effect on such gloating.  Then I'll be the 'gloated' and not the 'gloatee' and I'm not looking forward to that at all.

Anyway THE reason for all this meteorological mumbo jumbo is because the other day, when out and about on my walk around the park, I took some photos of these beauties......





Wanting to do all the work myself, I later surfed t'internet and decided they were papayas. Mexican papayas in fact - before you jump on me and beat me about the head with the Hawaiian variety.  And they're not paw-paws either, even though I prefer that name as it conjours up that Jungle Book song that I'm not going to mention or you'll be singing it all day and it might well push Agadoo out - opps sorry !!

But I wasn't 100% sure of my facts and so I jumped on the golf cart and zoomed round to the house in question and asked Angie, the owner, and she confirmed it was a papaya tree. 

I didn't have the heart to tell her that from my extensive surfing, I'd learned it's not a tree at all but a plant.  Just a very BIG plant.

As everyone here is jolly friendly indeed and she was a wee dote as well, she gave me one to take home with me.....and here it is with a pop can to give scale.


When it's ripe (feel for it going a bit soft when gently squeezed), I'm sure Deb/Den will give it a try but being a Leeds Lad, it'll be just way too exotic for me.  It's quite light, has loads of seeds inside and tastes like a mix of smokey bacon chips and Branston pickle.

No I'm only joking. It seems the taste ranges from 'soft, juicy and silky smooth with a delicate sweet flavour with a somewhat musky or sour finish' to another report describing it as like the taste of 'moist feet'.

I'm not sure what those taste like and I've no wish to try to find out. If any of you have tried one, do let me know. In the meantime, I'll stick to Tesco's apples and bananas thank you very much and leave papayas to Johnny Foreigner and Waitrose shoppers ! 

Monday, March 16, 2009

UWOTD

Following on from watching the shuttle launch last evening, the UWOTD has really picked itself.

Class : first rate, brilliant. 

Now I know you'll all be saying that this isn't a special Ulster word at all as something being called 'first class' is a common enough description of a great event and it's still used on planes and trains to describe the best seats.

But as far as I'm aware, it's only in Ulster that the word, on it's own, is used when wanting to get over that what has happened was great, awesome, brilliant, fantastic.

So if a bunch of Ulster folk had been standing on the West Coast of Ireland at 11:43pm local time last night and had VERY good eyesight, they'd have gone to the pub later on and the following conversation might have taken place.........

Barman : "Ahh what about ye's; what's the craic ?"

Bunch : "Just watched the launch of that there shuttle thing."

Barman : "Och really ?  An what'd ye think o it ?"

Bunch :  "It was class, so it was; class.  Now gay us 6 lemonades and a diet Iron Bru."

And then people wonder why I left !

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Shuttle Launch - Honest !

A few minutes ago, the Space Shuttle Discovery lifted off on mission STS-119.

Here in slightly dark Buttonwood Bay we are about 100 miles from The Cape and so we don't get much of a view of launches but hey, it's better than nothing.

It was also a cloudy evening and so I've only got 2 photos to post - one shows a dot with a bright trail behind it and the other shows that trail a few seconds after the shuttle went into the clouds and was lost from view.





I don't expect a call from NASA anytime soon asking for copies !!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

UWOTD

The word today isn't really confined to N. Ireland but as it's not that common anywhere outside of Ireland as a whole and as St. Patrick's Day is fast approaching, to be sure, I'll pop it into today's post.

Craic : fun times, entertaining conversation. (Pronounced crack)

It was many years into adulthood before I saw the word written down and till then I'd just assumed it was Crack.  Not to be confused with the the fun time substance used by dope heads the world over !

As well as the above explanation, when you're out and about in Ulster you'll often be greeted with a combination of this word and the phrase I told you about in a previous UWOTD post.

"Aw what about ye ?  What's the craic ?"  Translated to "How are you, dear chap, and do tell me what's going on in your life right now."

If you've been to a party or down to the pub and had a jolly good time there, you'd say "oh that was great craic, wasn't it ?"

So this little word has a plethera of meanings but all brought together under the general umbrella of 'good times.'

After all, that's what the Irish (and N. Irish) are famous for.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Walking With Roger

After my daily walk yesterday I decided to delete all the songs on my MP3 and add new ones.  Even with a couple of thousand tunes on it, I'd been round them all a couple of times and so wanted a complete change.

So today I went to my laptop's music folder where I store about 9,000 songs initially in name order so that they can be resorted by artist or album or even genre as the mood takes me.  I put them into album order but sadly did this just about 15 minutes before starting my walk and so only had time to pick one album and transfer the songs across to the MP3.

I'd recently downloaded "The World Of Roger Whittaker" as it was in the charts and I quite like his voice.  I'd class his music as 'Easy Listening" so I guess picking it for walking music was asking for trouble but I pretty much keep an even pace going no matter what music I listen to these days.

Or so I thought.

Things started out ok. The first song, Durham Town, was a decent enough song to warm up to but the pace never really picked up after that.  It wasn't so much easy listening music as fall asleep while listening music.  By the time old Roger (he's about to have his 73rd birthday) started whistling The Skye Boat Song, he'd pretty much lost me. How do you walk to someone whistling a slow dirge of a song ?! 

I was desperate to skip to another album but I didn't have one.  Yes I know I could've, and should've, turned off the MP3 completely but I felt that ANY music was better than NO music.  But then he started warbling Quel Mode Merveilleux  - a white African singing a song made famous by a black African American and singing it......in French

The rest of the walk was done music free.

A Whole New World

Here in our part of sunny Buttonwood Bay (to be 83F today) we're all very close with our neighbours.  I mean our homes are, but we get on well with the people too. 

Coming from the UK where, if you live in a semi like I do, you can hear the neighbours fart while they watch tv, this isn't a major issue.  Back home my neighbours are Jewish, already, so I hear much more than their farts but that's probably TMI for a post this early in the morning.

So as we sit here in our recliner chairs, we usually have a grand view of the side of a huge motorhome just about 12 feet from our windows. Remember that parts of this park are for snowbirds who arrive for the season in motorhomes or pulling trailers or 5th wheels.  Being parked on a corner lot, this particular RV monster pretty much blocks our view of the junction and we just get fleeting glimpses of walkers and golf carts and vehicles as they come down our street and then go left or right.

A couple of days ago that all changed when our neighbours pulled out of the park for a while. The husband had to go back to their northern home for some surgery and so we've got a view again.

This is the view looking back at our house and although they've left items behind like their car and golf cart and so on, hopefully you can still see the space between the green matting (which they'd step down onto from their motorhome door) and our truck. You see just how close we are to our neighbours here !!


But now we can get prolonged views of the man (obviously from Finland) who walks briskly every morning with two ski type poles.  We can watch out for the old lady who shuffles along barely lifting her feet and worries us to death that she'll trip over a chewing gum wrapper.  We'll be able to watch all the residents whose dogs are talking them for a walk. We'll see more of the man who has a dodgy right leg so has adapted his bike so only the left pedal goes round. We'll see the little old lady who pushes a walker that has a cage on the front containing her cat. We'll enjoy for a bit longer all the souped up golf carts that pass by our house and spend more time watching the various birds and animals that explore the houses around us.

Apart from this improved view, we also get much more of a lovely cooling flow of air now that the mobile breeze block has gone. This was dramatically obvious from the moment it pulled out of it's bay and we all commented on it.

"Wow we've got a lovely cooling flow of air now" we said to each other.  And smiled knowingly like a bunch of annoying buddists at Orlando airport.



So to summarise, we now have a room with a view.  And here it is. 

When you've not had much of a view for the previous 5 months or so, I can tell you it's jolly nice.  I hope our neighbour's surgery goes well of course but as I've only got 2 weeks left here before flying home to England, I hope he takes his time recovering. 

Thursday, March 12, 2009

UWOTD

Todays word really brings back memories for me.

My dad was a painter & decorator and worked all his life for a company in Ballymoney called Taggarts. Even then it was called Hugh Taggart & Sons, so it's probably still there as those sorts of companies always do well and like to have 'Decorating Homes Since 1668' or something on the sides of their vans.

He wasn't paid much and as money was tight, he also did private work after he'd finished his normal job.  Dad was one of a rare breed who did great work and hardly charged more than the cost of the materials. This was due in part to most of his 'customers' being from farming stock and so would haggle over everything to get the best deal. But mostly it was down to dad's nature as he was a gentle soul who although he was well aware we needed every penny, would find it hard to make any sort of profit out of his fellow man, or woman.  

It wasn't the best character trait to have when dealing with Ulster farmers !! 

So he worked long hours and it always seemed to me that he was either leaving for his normal daily work or returning late at night from a private job all the time I was living at home.  This was partly why Sundays were such magical days, to be enjoyed with family trips to the seaside - after the huge Ulster breakfast of course.

And so we get to THE word for today.  

A piece : a sandwich or sometimes a full packed lunch.

My mum would be up early to fix dad's lunch for him to take to work and more often than not, this would include a sandwich, even if it was just a jam sandwich. This would be called a piece. The previous night she might have asked my dad what he wanted "in his piece" but I suspect this rarely happened and dad basically got what she gave him !

When visiting relatives and friends, tea would be brewing in the pot and the triple tiered cake stand would be brought out almost before we'd all sat down.  To be in a house for more than 5 minutes without the offer of tea and a "wee something" was unheard off.  But for us kids, before we could get our hands on the sweet goodies on the cake stand, we'd be asked if we wanted "a piece" in the hopes we'd fill up on bread and jam and so not eat all the goodies.  

But we weren't daft and usually tried to avoid the bread and even the cakes as we knew that if we held out, an even bigger and better goodie would be forthcoming - a home baked pavlova or lemon merangue pie !!!!    I've no idea why these were so common in N. Ireland; maybe they were simple to bake or something but man were they good.  The merangue would stick to your teeth so you could still enjoy bits of it hours later on the drive home. A dessert that kept on giving.

Anyway I'm digressing, again.  The odd thing about "a piece" was it was never used, in my experience, with any mention of a filling.  So you'd never be asked if you wanted "a ham and tomato piece" or even "a jam piece."  It was just "a piece" and it's contents, if there were any, would remain a mystery until it was in front of you. Most times it would just be jam.

Finally, it's not an item you'd ever see on a restaurant or cafe menu but if you're ever visiting N. Ireland and are offered "a piece" at a friend or relative's house, at least you'll now know not to follow up with "a piece of what ?"

But before saying yes to the offer, always remember there may be a freshly baked lemon merangue pie lurking in the oven.

A Pirate's Life For Me - Not !!

Last evening, a couple of our friends here in sunny Buttonwood Bay, Jan & Barrie, invited us out on their pontoon boat for a 3 hr trip around Lake Josephine to enjoy a cruise and see the sunset from a different vantage point. 

So at 5pm, armed with drinks and nibbles, every camera and lens I had at my disposal and coated from head to foot in factor 56 so that the sun couldn't get to me nor could mozzies even land on me, we stepped onboard the good ship NONAME.......as amazingly they'd never named their craft.

Normally I'd not bother with sun block at 5pm but here things are quite different from home. The sun is at it's hottest about this time and to prove this point, I set the outdoor part of my indoor/outdoor wireless thermometer on a patio chair in the sunshine today and it shot from 85F to over 100F in minutes.  It finally topped out at 122F and that was at 5:15pm.

I also needed some sort of head protection, being that I'm folically challenged as you know. I could've used a baseball cap but as we were going onto the water, I found something much more suitable........


Not quite the headgear for Lake Windermere or attending the Henley Regatta maybe, but on Lake Josephine, it worked a treat.

The lake we see from the pier is impressive enough but this aerial view shows that it is really a chain of three interconnecting 'lakes'.


It's not a great photo but over on the right is the long North/South strip of US-27 and I've crudely marked the park so you'll see which of the chain of 'lakes' is ours. You'll also see why it took us 3 hrs to cruise all around them and be back near the pier for sunset at 7:30pm.

I wanted video more than still photos so I was using the little Nikon compact camera for this purpose. It takes quite decent video and of course switches easily for still photos too. So these two photos showing Debby and myself on the boat and finally one of the sunset, were taken with it.



It was a lovely cruise and for that I thank Jan and Barrie, who came from Selby originally. Small world isn't it ?

It was also very strange to look at the oh so familiar pier from out on the lake and after waiting months to do so, I decided that I much prefer the view from dry land.

I guess I'm that rare breed of pirate; one that prefers the land !  Yarrrrrrr.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

UWOTD

Just to cheese off Ruth, I'm going to post 2 words today.  My blog, my rules, remember !

Some words that I grew up hearing don't seem to need an explanation but we know how that goes.

Weans : small children.

It's simply wee 'uns merged to make a new word.  

But then we have ......

Greet : cry.

And it's not so obvious.

I mention these two words in one post as when I was growing up in N. Ireland, they often went together, or at least they were formed to go together.

Crying children became greetin' weans.  

Of course I was never accused of greetin' or greeting.  Not much anyway.  I stoically suffered all that life threw at me which considering I was once run over by a set of farming discs being pulled by a tractor, shows that as well as being a 'wee dote' I was also a 'brave wee dote.' 

(I hope you've all been keeping up with my UWOTD posts or else you'll be lost by now).

But when I went to boarding school at 11, my greetin' made up for lost time. I think it started when my parents car disappeared from view at roughly the same time as 4 huge 6th formers took it's place in my eyeline.  

It ended when I drove out the school gates 7 years later.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Reasons For Tax Increases - No.1

A woman in Leeds, my home city, has just been served with an ASBO for making frivilous 999 calls (911 in the US).

Anti-Social Behaviour Orders are one way in which the police, in partnership with the local council, are able to challenge and confront unacceptable behaviour that impacts on the whole community. They give people subject of an order a final chance to change their ways. If they fail to take that opportunity and breach the order they will be arrested and dealt with by the courts.”   

Yes I know, it sounds like a bit of a slap on the wrist and that's understandable, because in effect, that's what it is.  Final chance ?  Don't make me laugh.

This woman agreed to an 'Acceptable Behaviour Contract' back in 2005 and was then issued with an 'Acceptable Behaviour Warning' in 2008 and the frivilous calls kept coming.  These ranged from claims she was being beaten by her boyfriend (it was just a verbal argument), to saying he was covered in blood (it was blackcurrent juice she'd thrown at him) to her wanting the police to find a home for her dog and wanting to report a neighbour for 'looking at her funny.'

Over 200 calls at an estimated cost in wasted police time etc of £500,000.  That's my taxpayer money, people !  Forgetting for the moment why a 999 call about wanting rid of a dog or claiming your neighbour has a lazy eye would cost 'me' £2,500, how can this have been allowed to go on for so long ?  And it's not just 999 calls either.  Workmen and contractors won't go to her house without police protection as both her and her boyfriend have made threats of violence again many of them.  Maybe I see now where the £500,000 has come from.

I know we don't want our prisons full of petty criminals who then invariably learn how to commit even worse crimes once released, but come on.....do something.  This woman, and many men and women like her, are laughing at the law and costing decent citizens a lot of hard earned money.  She may be mentally ill.  She may just be a pain in the ass.  But whatever she is, she's been it for some time and no amount of behaviour wrist slappings are going to work with her.  

Why should she and the boyfriend be COSTING us money like this ?  She should be PAYING for her anti social activities.

In the USA it's illegal to make even one false emergency call.  Each state has it's own penalties for doing so.  In California you get a $1000 fine, 6 months in jail, or both. Repeated calls incur a fine of $200 per call. In Virginia it's a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.  In fact in Virginia it's illegal to make a false report of an emergency or disaster by phone to ANYONE, not just by 911.  

But back to Julie Chadwick of Bawn Drive, Farnley, West Leeds (name and shame I say); lets see how long it takes until she makes another 999 call.

My guess it will be later this afternoon to complain about her ASBO ! 

Monday, March 09, 2009

UWOTD

Thanks to Jim McDonald, a character in the long running ITV soap, Coronation Street, the Ulster phrase of the day will be common to most Brits.  Well at least those who watched the show when he was in it !

What about ye ? :  How are you ?  How have you been ?  What are you doing these days ?

This is an Ulster greeting and for some reason has always driven me mad.  I hated when Jim said it on the show and as it was mostly used by people from Belfast, I hated it on the few occasions it was said to me when I was growing up.  Maybe it offended my gramatical sensibilities or something but there 'ye' go !  I didn't like it.  It wasn't said much by the locals in my part of Ulster which just shows how there can be different words and phrases even within a small area like N. Ireland.

Now that's it's back in my mind again, I may try it out here in the park to see what reaction I get.  Probably confusion.

"What about what ? ", I'll be asked.  Understandably.

You see it makes perfect sence to me as I've grown up with it but for anyone else, it's a phrase that baffles.

Ohhhh now I can't wait to try it out !! 

Have a nice day.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Off To A Good Start.

Today was the last day of Springfest in the park and we had a lovely chili fest in the picnic grove down by the lake. It was 83.5F even in the shade so maybe chili wasn't the best food to be eating.....but it was still good and several hundred turned up for the occasion.

This morning saw the start of Daylight Saving Time  - the UK version, British Summer Time starts in 3 weeks which considering it snowed in Leeds, is a bit of a laugh really.  But here in sunny Buttonwood Bay it was another glorious day and due to the clocks going forward, we had sunset around 7:30pm.

To walk off our supper, Deb and I went for a stroll down to the lake to watch the sunset and it was nice to see dozens of like minded residents doing the same thing.  Well ok most were in their golf carts but remember this is a retirement community where one of the men raised his hand the other night when the band leader was counting the years backwards to see when people graduated from high school......and Al raised his hand when the year got to 1931 !!

So as I'd the Nikon in my pocket, here is a snap I took a few minutes ago.  

I'm really going to miss this place.



Saturday, March 07, 2009

UWOTD

Considering the fine honed athlete that I am today, even I find it hard to believe that I hated anything to do with gym classes or PE as we called it back in my school days.  Actually I think in Ulster we called it PT (Physical Training or more likely Physical Torture) just to be different from the rest of the world.

When I passed my 11+ exams and thus made it to boarding school, my parents were given a long list of the items they had to buy to equip me for life as a boarder. Of course, once I got to school, most of these items became the property of the thieving, bullying 6th formers who looked forward to new boys starting at the school.  I think they took the idea of relieving us plebs of our belongings as some sort of rite of passage - the passage being from us to them of course.  

One item they didn't bother with were our gym shoes or trainers or sneekers or plimsolls or whatever you'd like to call the footwear we had for PE/PT.   In those simpler days, we had no designer footwear from the likes of Mr. Nike or Mr. Air Jordan.  I'm not even sure if leather had been invented !

So we wore strange little black shoes with absolutely no support at all and if you stood on a penny, you could tell if it was heads or tails.  We might as well have painted our feet black. 

And what did we call these shoes that were more like slippers for all the good they did us ?

Gutties :  PE/gym shoes.

Woe betide those who went to PE without their gutties as they had to spend the period/lesson running around in their bare feet as, for some reason, we didn't have white sports socks either. It was either bare feet or gutties.

Where was Mr. Jordan when I needed him ?

Friday, March 06, 2009

Start 'Em Young.

Being a firm believer in the idea that it's never too early to teach kids to be helpful around the house, here is an idea from those wonderful people East of Europe (bit general I know but it solves a lot of guessing problems).

I recently added a 'cool gadgets' site to my Google Reader list and although the particular 'gadget' highlighted today strains the limits of the word, it still manages to be new, useful and very funny.  Maybe not intentionally funny, but funny none the less.

So without further ado, here, for new mums and homeowners everywhere, let me present the most practical development since a husband, a baby mop.


Is it just me or does it look like, in the first image, the parent is actually pushing the baby face down onto the floor to start the polishing procedure ?  

"Ok Koyto Jr, time to earn your keep.  Down you go and no slacking till I can see my face in that floor."

Anyway, all you need now is a clasp to connect the baby to the end of the dog lead and with enough calling of the dog, you'll have your wooden floor polished like new in no time.

Looking at the images above, I think some mittens may be needed to prevent blistered hands. Try explaining that down at your local ER department. You'd not want to be accused of cruel exploitation after all.

Perish the thought.

UWOTD

The word today, or rather two words, were used a lot in my childhood but once again, may not be unique to Ulster.  And please read the description quickly in case you've gone off thinking Silverback has gone all crude on us.....again !   It's just YOUR minds and not mine.

Glory Hole : a cupboard or space in the house that could contain just about anything.

So many missing items in our house were to be found in the glory hole that I often wondered why we just didn't check there before declaring them missing in the first place.  The order should have been : check the glory hole, declare the item officially missing and only then say a prayer to St. Anthony, the patron saint of missing/lost items.  

Boy was that poor saint ever stuck with a lousy job.  I think the 'powers that be' realised his job was becoming untenable some years ago and he was relieved of his duties by some Pope or other.  Lost items just have to remain lost these days as St. Anthony has been retrained and was last heard of looking for work outside a McDonalds in Mexico City.

I honestly can't remember exactly where our glory hole was. No it wasn't lost, smarty pants.  I just can't remember if it was the full sized closet in the living room that housed the water heater, or if it was the cupboard near the staircase that housed the electric meter and where we hung our coats and jackets or if it was the airing cupboard upstairs, across from my bedroom. 

Having three glory holes wouldn't have helped the search process so I'm sure there was only one. But the point is, every home had one and it was always full of useful junk, stuff that couldn't possibly be thrown out and yet stuff that only saw the light of day when it was deemed to be missing.  

"Where's that old pair of scissors we use for cutting frayed carpets ?"    Glory hole.

"Has anyone seen my scarf from Aunt Doris that makes me sick when I wear it ?"  Glory hole.

"Where's Ian, the wee dote ?"  Glory hole.

Ok I just made that last one up.  I never ventured into the glory hole as a child.  It was a scary place remember, full of vomit inducing scarves and sharp objects.  

No, if I ever went missing, you could always find me at the local picture house, sitting through two showings of the latest Hollywood blockbuster.  

And enjoying a slider !!

Watch The Birdie.

This morning I was out and about at one of the Springfest activities here in the park.  It was due to run from 10am till noon and I got there at 11:20....and they were packing up !  Gotta love how they define time here in sunny Buttonwood Bay.  Maybe they put their watches foward an hour 3 days early !

Seeing as I was down by the lake and the pier with my camera anyway, I decided to try and take some photos of birds in flight - something I've never been much good at.  Today wasn't much better.

It didn't help that the bird in question was nothing special but, bless it, it tried it's best to be helpful.  I found it perched happily on the pier and I got quite close before it got spooked and flew away.  It would make a  pass over the edge of the lake and land back on the pier further away from me and as it did so, I took a series of photos.  Then I'd walk up to it again to get it to fly off. We did this a few times until we both got a bit fed up with this 'dance' and I left it alone. I'd taken about 20 shots.

Sadly most of them weren't worth keeping - mostly because the bird was flying in front of a distracting background of parked cars and boats tied up nearby.  These are the best of the rest and it shows me how far I have to go and how much patience one needs to get good photos of birds in flight.




Those 2 show what I mean about the distracting background but the bird was flying very slow as it knew it wasn't going far and was heading back to the pier. The last one is a bit better but I really wanted a shot taken with the bird against the clear blue sky. Maybe next time.



The photos actually look a bit better if you click to enlarge them - it kinda helps to make the bird stand out more from the background.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

UWOTD

As it's perpetual summer here in sunny Buttonwood Bay, I thought I'd pick an Ulster word (although maybe used in other parts of the UK and even elsewhere - it's often impossible to know) that always reminds me of summer growing up in N. Ireland.

The ice cream van would come down our street almost daily during the long hot summers of my childhood (yes I know they probably weren't long or hot but we always think they are when looking back on them) and we'd rush after it until it stopped like it was some sort of motorised Pier Piper.  We'd usually get soft scoop cones and if we had enough pocket money, we'd get a Cadbury's chocolate flake added to it and that would be called a 99. We'd sometimes get lollypops or now and again we'd get sliders.  We didn't often get sliders from the ice cream van as they were something we could fix outselves if mum had a tub of ice cream in the freezer.

A slider : a rectangular block of ice cream about an inch thick between two wafers.

We'd eat a slider with all the reverence and tradition that is now used here for eating oreos. Some would simply lick the sides and wear away the ice cream until you got to the point when you could squeeze the wafers together and the remaining ice cream would ouse out and be licked off,  leaving the complete wafers as a sort of bonus at the end.  Others would bite into the wafer/ice cream block and eat it all that way.

I was a side licker !!

Maybe anyone reading this from foreign parts could let me know what you call such an ice cream treat as I'm sure they exist in most countries.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Happy Anniversary

Like Gwyneth Paltrow blubbering at The Oscars, anniversaries seem to come round every year !
Funny that.  

Anyway about 6pm on March 4th 1993, a group of knife wielding masked men cut open my chest, sliced my left leg from ankle to crotch (VERY close to my crotch actually) and stopped my heart beating for a period of time I'd rather not know about.

And as well as thanking them afterwards, they were all well paid for doing so.

No I wasn't being mugged, except financially; I was having bypass surgery.  

It's been 16 years since that traumatic operation and I'm happy to report that the leg scar has almost totally gone, the chest scar has been covered with a dense foliage of hair (YES IT HAS, DAMMIT) and best of all, to the best of my knowledge anyway, the grafts have all held. All 5 of them.  

You know how I always claim that I photograph anything ?  Well you'll not be surprised to learn then that I took my camcorder into the hospital and in classic style, did a bit to camera just before they wheeled me off to surgery.  I'd have taken it in with me but given the choice, I thought it best to be 'under' while they ripped me apart.

A while ago I looked at that footage for the first time in about....oh 16 years.  There I was in my dressing gown, in my private room (thank you BUPA) talking away to an unknown audience as if the tape was to be played at my state funeral.  I know I wasn't scared though.  I would be now. Maybe it was because I was only 40 and had a 98% chance of survival. Maybe it was because MRSA hadn't been invented yet.  Maybe it was because I was in a lovely place that was more like a posh hotel.  But on reflection, I think it was because of the pre op drugs they'd just injected into me.

I stood just inside my closed door and recorded my farewell speech for posterity, just in case.  I've always had a thing for the dramatic.  I'm not very practical though and hadn't even made a will.  Probably a good thing then that I survived as my estate would've taken some processing !  Not !!

So it's Happy Anniversary to my bypass grafts today.  Long may they continue to let life giving blood flow to and from my heart.  And as for the scalpel they left inside me ?

After 16 years it's almost become a part of me and I barely hear the rattle.

UWOTD

Using a bizarre bit of word association, I've moved from yesterday's Ulster Word Of The Day 'dote' to arrive at dole, which is a word used in the UK for the Unemployment Office or even used for what you GET from the Unemployment Office.  

So you could "go down the dole" or you could be "picking up your dole"  as in dole money or you could even "be on the dole."  

But before you jump on me and claim this isn't an Ulster only word, I never said dole was the UWOTD.  Ha !!

In Ulster we have the word 'brue' so that we "go down the brue" (not sure why unemployment offices always seemed to be built in geographical dips) once a week to get unemployment money.  Or "he's on the brue."  Well not me of course.  Oh no.  Always been gainfully employed.  I've never heard it used as the money you get though, so you'd never hear "he's gone to get his brue" which would, of course, lead people to think he'd gone to get a cup of tea.  Tea being brew.

God I'm getting in a right pickle now.....this word business is a can of worms.

So I'm leaving it at this -  brue :  unemployment office/dole.

And now I'M off for a brew.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Bye Bye 2009 DD45

I'm a bit of a sci-fi geek and so have seen my fair share of disaster movies, or filims, to do with asteroids approaching Earth with potential end-of-mankind consequences.  I've never been sure why it's only us humans that get wiped out but it's reassuring to know that on this post asteroid planet, all the local mosquitoes will finally die out as I'll be dead !

In these movies, those in high places get to know about the approaching asteroid up to a year ahead so they can launch countermeasures - like sending Bruce Willis to stop it.  As only Hollywood can afford the necessary special effects budget to create a half decent asteroid and everything that goes with it, the 'people in the know' tend to be The President of the United States and the US military - which is fair enough as these asteroids always seem to target the US in any case.  Mind you, in the theatre where I watched "Armageddon", there was a bit of a cheer went up when Paris got flattened first.

In classic "US Saves The World" style theatrics, the rest of us sit back and wait for a load of A-List actors to fly the shuttle towards the nasty big rock and attempt to blow it back where it came from.

But yesterday a part of that screenplay became a reality when an asteroid the size of a 10 storey building passed by the Earth at a distance of only 45,000 miles.  In cosmic terms, a very near miss.  I know that doesn't seem like much of an asteroid but it's about the size of the beauty that hit Siberia in 1908 with the force of 1,000 atomic bombs.  It left a mark !

Now the key fact here is that it happened yesterday, people.  Happened already.  It's been and gone and I never got to even give it a wave.  Whooooosh and it was gone.  Didn't even stop for a postcard.

So where was the warning ?  Why have we all these expensive bits of hardware up there bumping into each other and yet this asteroid was only spotted on Saturday ?  It's probably like they tell us in the disaster movies - that 99% of these satellites and their cameras are pointing DOWN at the Earth - for obvious reasons. I think they should ask the people on the Space Station to make a point of opening the curtains every morning and having a quick look 'out there' for anything coming our way.  Might as well get some return on the investment.

So 2009 DD45 (for that is the catchy name it was given - it was no ELE after all) came and went yesterday and few of us even knew about it.  

It opens up the whole debate about such things of course.  Would we be better off knowing about a planet shattering asteroid heading our way ?  What would we do if we knew ?  

I'd probably cash in my Nectar Points for a start.  I've never used one and I've almost 2.5million of them now.........I was planning on getting a practical set of saucepans but if an asteroid was coming, sod that.  I'd get a frivilous Space Hopper and have a bit of fun on my last days.

So, knowing your days were numbered, what would YOU do ?  And you don't need to respond, Bruce.

I KNOW what you'd be doing !

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