Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Berserk cycling (continued)

The connection is the word "sark". The story of Cutty Sark as popularised by Robert Burns introduces us to the words "cutty sark" which is Scottish for "short shirt". The same sark word appears in the origin of berserk from "bera serkr" a "bear shirt" i.e. a shirt made of furry bear pelt.

However an alternative (and possibly spurious) etymology recounted to me by a mycologist was that berserk had its origins in bare [sic] shirt. His theory was that the Norse warriors were so hopped up on Fly Agaric (Amanita muscaria) that they went into battle bare-chested. And that is how I used to cycle.

In order to arrive at work cool and un-sweaty I would cycle bare-chested the 9.25 miles from South Wimbledon to Devonshire Square, using the wind chill factor to lose the excess heat being generated.

I used to listen to the weather on the radio and if is was above 11°C (52°F) I would cycle bare-chested. If it was below, I would don a T-shirt to keep me comfortable until I warmed up. That was usually the first mile; I would stop at Colliers Wood, strip off and continue my merry way - berserk.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Berserk cycling

Catching up here. It was a busy weekend (again!). We brought May and Jane up to London on Saturday for a flight on The London Eye followed by lunch at the Slug and Lettuce and a river cruise. Then we left them to their own devices and a fish supper from Bradys while Mary and I went to Paul's 50th birthday party on the Cutty Sark - a pretty cool venue for a birthday party.

Sunday morning back down to the New Forest, lunch and an afternoon trip to Lulworth Cove. Then back to Ringwood for supper at Al Trullo and an early night. Then up at 05:30am Monday to deliver Mary to Southampton airport for Dublin and into work in London for me.

Why the title - you'll have to wait till tomorrow for part 2.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Like a salmon I swim upstream

from Bank to Upper Thames Street. Plunging into the tide of humanity that pours out of Cannon Street. I weave flick and weave my way through the stream of commuters to land flopping on the far pavement.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Break out the Cristal

For the Hovel-In-The-Hills ™ is finally ours. The sale went though on Friday with Senor D'amico attending the Tribual in front of the judge, with notary, lawyer, and bank representatives in attendance. There could only be one drink for Friday night: the 1994 1993 [correction: I did a bottle bank run Saturday only to discover it was the slightly lesser 1993 vintage] Roederer Cristal.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Red light, green light

speedin' through the dark night *

It amazes me how many cyclists go thorough red lights; like being muscle powered somehow makes them exempt from the laws of the land. It is a PITA stopping at junctions and pedestrian crossings but IHMO it is both legal and sensible. If they get knocked over by a car because they went through a red light they would not get much sympathy from me.

* Gotta See Jane by Golden Earring (although I wanted it to be R Dean Taylor).

Thursday, September 23, 2004

And a trifle uncool

For the last two mornings the upstairs neighbours have woken me up around 4:15 am. They can't help it our lives share the void that is the space between floorboard and ceiling. So I had no excuse about having time to get ready and cycle in to work. Seeing as how it is Mary's little folding bike and I am not - yet - at my greyhound racing weight lots of people whizzed by on serious looking machines. I was a little sweaty by the time I got to work but fortunately there are showers there so no danger of me being whifftacular.

At lunchtime I popped down to E.W.Evans in the city to buy a fluorescent jacket, and some lights. The boys and their toys were there with some serious dude bikes on display. The assistant was kind enough not to sneer at mine; it was definately a little uncool.

I popped back after work to treat myself to a new helmet as the current one was v. ancient and the technology has moved on no end. I am very gung-ho about wearing a helmet. It protects my skull which protects my brain, of which I am fond. As Woody Allen said in Sleepers when they told him he was going to have his brain "electronically simplified" he replied "My brain - it's my second favorite organ"

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Echo Beach

The job is very boring, I'm an office clerk *

My regular readers (both of them) will have noticed that, unlike many other bloggers, I mention almost nothing about the actual work I do. There was a time when I worked for a client that manufactured things that went very fast and made a loud noise but if I told you about that I'd have to kill you <joke>.

Now I work on a large project populated by consultants in gray suits. Intelligent, hard working professionals all but the work is, dare I suggest, not intuitively, directly relevant to most people (if only they knew but that is a longer tale). If you really want to know here is a clue.

What I really am is a "Knowledge worker". Since reading Being Digital by Nicholas Negroponte I now realise that what I actually do is rearrange electrons for a living. Sometimes I rearrange them in the computer by slick use of Ctrl-C, Ctrl-V; sometimes I rearrange them in people heads by running training courses. The latter is of more value and longer lasting worth.

* Echo Beach by Martha & The Muffins

Monday, September 20, 2004

You say it's your birthday

It's my birthday too, yeah. *

Today is my 52nd birthday. I am spending today at home as this week was always planned as holiday. As it turns out we are not going to Italy because - once again - the Italians have failed to deliver. The completion on our purchase of the Hovel-in-the-Hills™ has not gone ahead today as previously confirmed in writing. So we have rescheduled our flights and we shall return to work tomorrow.

May (Mary's mum) and Jane (May's friend) are down for nearly two weeks a) for a holiday and b) to house- and cat-sit. I spent the weekend helping May prepare 16 pounds (7.5 kilo) of quince jelly from the quince tree in our garden that Mum and Dad bought Mary as a present. Also installing six posts with the aid of a post-hole auger and five bags of cement to refurbish our collapsing trelliswork. What an exciting life we lead.

Mum and Dad came down from Farnham to join us for lunch which was nice. That's all folks!

* Birthday by The Beatles

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Purple wizards

Denise's funeral was a Humanist funeral gracefully led by an officiant from the British Humanist Society. Instead of any religious symbols up at the front there was a three foot floral tribute made of purple flowers in the shape of a wizard with a pointy purple hat.

There were readings from friends celebrating Denise's life in which her loyalty and friendship, love of teaching, organisational abilities, unswerving beliefs and attachment to Lord of the Rings, all things wizardly and the colour purple were recurrent themes. It was a moving and dignified service.

Then back to Denise's flat with her parents, sister and friends for sandwiches and tea or wine. Most poignant was the presence on a side table of her birthday cake made to celebrate what would have been her birthday this week. It was, of course, covered in purple icing with a little wizard figurine on top. How very Denise.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Three toasts and a prayer

One advantage of being a frequent flier is that I had enough airmiles to fly myself back from Zurich for the funeral, for free, in business class. That meant complementary drinks and the usual toast of absent friends only on this occasion times three:

* Oliver. It was not exactly Kir royale in memory of dead cat. I am not sure it was even champagne, and it had certainly lost some of its sparkle having, I suspect, just done the inbound flight from LHR. But it served the purpose.

* Denise Dorothy Shave. Well she certainly kept the "Dorothy" quiet. This time with an Argentinean Malbec. Ironic to toast a woman who for most of the time I knew her was tee-total. What she must of made of us lot as we got more uproarious as the evenings progressed.

* Bill (William Galashan). Since they offered a digestive I thought it only right to toast the memory of Mary's dad with a single malt, although he preferred Famous Grouse. I cut it with just a splash of water as instructed by Craig on our visit to Elgin.

Like Lord Lundy in his early years I am far too freely moved to tears. What the cabin staff made of this business man with tears gently trickling down his cheeks I do not know but I cannot be doing with this macho, big boys don't cry rubbish. Anyway less like crying more like watering eyes.

When I got to Golders Green Crematorium I visited the spot where Marc Bolan's ashes are scattered and, as I promised I would, said a word for the soul of Gerry's dad (Gerry is a cyber-chum from the Till Dawn mailing list).

The funeral itself I think I shall speak of later but it was fine.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Funeral on Wednesday

Bill called at the weekend and informed me that X had indeed gone back to stay with her parents where her condition declined and she died last Tuesday. The humanist funeral is this Wednesday at Golders Green Crematorium. I will fly back from Zurich to attend.

It will be strange, she is the first contemporary of mine to die, she is only a year older than me. We met a quarter of a century (half a life-time) ago though mutual friends who were all at college together. I could not claim we were close friends but in those early, heady years in London we were all part of a crowd who would gather at the slightest pretext: birthdays, film and theatre outings, dinner parties, holidays. I would meet her regularly and she was a woman of character best known for her hippy-like devotion to purple and horizontal stripes. She was also a teacher in inner city London - a vocation which requires real dedication.

I went to her 50th birthday party and she declined to come to mine because it was black tie and she did not feel comfortable "dressing up" in a cocktail dress. I did not take offence it was her being true to herself in a way that I can only admire. It was the same when she went for promotional interviews. She would wear exactly the same style of clothes as she wore every other day: to dress up in a business suit would be false.

She will be missed.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Frivolity and lack of character

It has been a couple of evenings of "networking" aka drinking. Tuesday it was Tony and his virtual consultancy Euro Business Management. Including an old friend, Anthony who's wife Louise has started her own business teaching Courses in study skills for 14 - 18 year olds. Good luck, Louise.

Yesterday it was some old ex-colleagues from my BIS Applied Systems days, Glen and Nigel. Later joined by David (on this project) and John (soon to be on this project). I was bemoaning the stultifyingly boring dress code for professionals in the city. Grey suits and more grey suits and occasionally a dark blue suit - dull, dull, dull. I feel like a city droid.

Many, many years ago, when I was young and dinosaurs still roamed the earth, I worked for a company (well Coopers & Lybrand actually) whose consultant's guidelines included the classic quote "The consultant's attire should not be so conservative as to make the client think them staid or fuddy-duddy nor should it be so flamboyant as to make them appear frivolous or lacking in character".

Roll on frivolity, I say!

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Like a fish needs a bicycle

Yesterday I cycled to work - 6½ miles from Wandsworth to Cannon Street. More like a trial run to test out the route. It is over 20 years since I cycled to work on a regular basis; I used to cycle the 9¼ miles from South Wimbledon to Devonshire Square. I would buy a quarterly season to last me from New Year until April Fool's day (how appropriate). Then cycled 92½ miles per week all through the summer and autumn until the Christmas party season kicked in. Then it was back to the Northern Line until the next year. I did that for three years. And you should have felt my thighs!

Now I have a 12 month contract in London I plan to resurrect the cycling regimen. They have a shower at work so now all I need to do is establish a stash of toiletries and clothes in the office and I am all set for my return from my travels in a couple of weeks time.

I could never see the attraction of sport but this is exercise with a purpose, it gets me to work and home again. I get fit and save money - double result!

* Origin of the phrase "Like a fish needs a bicycle"

Every weekend a holiday

Well this weekend felt like one: a very excellent way to spend a Sunday, relaxing and free from "To Do" lists. We walked from Wandsworth to Wimbledon, along the River Wandle as far as possible, to deliver a six nations' rugby shirt to Alex, Mary's godson.

Then caught the bus to Kingston-on-Thames for a tiny bit of shopping followed by lunch at Carluccio's. Having red wine at lunchtime really makes me feel like I am on holiday. Normally I do not drink at lunchtime because all I am fit for is a siesta; evening is a different matter <g>.

Then a delightful stroll along the side of the Thames to Hampton Court Palace followed by a boat trip back to K-O-T to save our weary legs.

A taxi back to Wandsworth for supper at out local "canteen" Konnigans then put Mary into another taxi for LHR and the last flight to Dublin. Bit of a downside that last but better than the horribly early Monday morning flight.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Elliptical balls

I had a long time penny-drop about assumptions over this weekend. Watching rugby at Twickers this weekend at a double header (London Irish v Harlequins and Saracens v London Wasps) with us usual suspects M&M and R&L. Bob is very patient at explaining the rules to me as basically I haven't a clue. This despite playing Rugby at school for several years.

They never explained the rules, never had any "theory" classes. It now occurs to me that the P.E. teacher assumed we knew the rules. My dad knows nothing about sport and cared less. I grew up knowing nothing about any sport and, I have to confess, do not worry about that either. And of course why would they need to explain the rules as everybody knows them.

I didn't, I hadn't a clue. All I had worked out, empirically, was that it was a contact sport and if somebody passed you the ball others tried to knock you over and rub you in the mud. So I reckoned that the best plan was to get shot of the ball as fast as possible.

Now some people had rejection problems when they were not chosen for the team. We had 33 boys in my year which meant two times fifteen and three rejects. Me, I was praying don't pick me, don't pick me. I was happy to be left with the geeky nerd in bottle glasses and the fat wheezy kid. I spent years practicing looking round shouldered and consumptive. Tough when you have the physique of a Greek God <cough, splutter>.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Origins of Gullible

The etymological origin can be found at a past Random House Word of the Day.

It is not that I am gullible it is just that I suffer from a congenital defect - I was born without a in-built bulls**t detector. So if anyone tells me something my first instinct is to believe them; I assume people tell the truth.

It was brought home to me many years ago in the White Horse in Oxford. Vince came back from the bar with a wine glass full of brown liquid with a head on it. "What's that?" I enquired, "A quarter of Bitter." he responded. In amazement I exclaimed "I didn't know they sold beer in quarters!" and wondered why my friends were laughing.

*Barley wine, in case you were wondering.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Furry monsters

Cats love company, well ours do anyway. We have been concerned for their welfare as we have been working away from home a lot. OK, they get twice daily visits from the cat feeder and entertainer Mike (or sometimes his son, Matthew) and they see us at weekends but even so it really isn't fair on them. Even more so as they have to be kept indoors and apart. Oscar is a softy with humans but very territorial with cats, both the neighbours' cats and our other cat Cleo.
Oscar the blue and white Persian Cleopatra, domestic longhair

We were even looking at re-homing them which would have grieved me deeply as they are surrogate children, Oscar especially. Now with Mary in Dublin full-time and me in London full-time we have decided to relocate them to the flat in London for two weeks as an experiment. They will just have to fight it out and come to an uneasy truce.

Despite spending entire evenings with me for company they still want more and, finding the bedroom door shut, Cleo scrabbles at the laminate flooring at 3am and Oscar shouts at 5am. I can see why sleep deprivation is such an effective technique for breaking people resistance.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Sibling dining

As luck would have it I took a leaf out of my own book yesterday and went out with both siblings Jane and Ian for an meal at our local Italian, Al Ponte (a restaurant with zero web footprint). Accompanied by Ian's eldest, Lorenzo, and Jane's eldest two, Ben and Chris.

Al Ponte is a possible venue for Mary's 50th next year if we can cut a deal. The food is not a problem, their menu is excellent and nary a pizza in sight. More at issue is whether they will charge an acceptable corkage. We have some excellent Italian wine we would like to present. When I say "we" I, of course, mean MMG aka SWMBO. Mary is OIC fine wines.

So we had a fine evening. I enjoy socialising with my siblings as much as I do with our parents. The nephews are good value too. Is it just me or is this not a "Good Thing"?