Thursday, 24 June 2010

"Find a Penny..."

Does everyone pick up a penny lying on the pavement or is it just me? I must have made more than a few pounds over the years with this habit, but it also means that I spend most of my time looking at the ground as I walk. A character flaw? It was Ani Difranco who said:

“When I look down, I miss all the good stuff, when I look up, I just trip over things”

And why is it usually a single penny? Why never 2p? Every now and then I get lucky and find a 5p coin and on one occasion a 20p coin, but it’s usually just the lone penny. I have a special pot in which I store these lone coppers – it is amazing how they mount up over time.

However this compulsion is not without its dangers. I have, on many occasions nearly tripped the person walking behind me by suddenly stooping, backside in the air, to collect said coins. Once I was nearly run over by an unseen car as I spotted a copper on the road. Every hobby should have its risks!

I was in York in February and everywhere we went people had found excuses to throw pennies into various holes or pits. Superstition? Or a generous heart’s tiny contribution to our heritage? It has been suggested that tourists throw around £3,000,000 a year into ‘wishing wells’.

Another quote suggests itself:

“pennies in a well, a million dollars in the fountain of a hotel” – Pink

The superstition behind pennies apparently comes from the time when metal (specifically iron) was believed to protect against evil. This is why people used to hang horse-shoes over their doors, so carrying pennies should have the same effect (lucky me)!

I also discovered the idea of the ‘wishing well’ stems from the Germanic people who used to throw the armour of defeated enemies into pools as their offering to the gods. Oh yes, I have done research – as I said before, I am a glutton for the details!

Friday, 18 June 2010

Destroying Heaven

I used to love visiting the library. Being around that many musty books all in one place made me feel all warm inside. It was a place of escape. The smells, the quiet hush of millions of words all waiting to be read... heaven.

On my home from work a while ago I decided to take a trip to Southampton Central library. I was truly horrified at what I found. All the warmth had dissapeared. The quiet hush was filled with empty echoes. It no longer felt like a library, it looked more like a generic chain bookshop. Shiny wooden floors, bright white shelves placed in straight lines. More computers than books. And so much stark, empty space.

I felt dirty. It may sound extreme but to violate a place of quiet knowledge and learning, and to turn it into a scene from an Ikea catalogue fills me with such anger. Some might argue that they are trying to make it appealing to the younger generation, but I think the only thing the 'younger generation' will be looking for is free internet access.

Books are one thing I hold sacred, and it upsets me that those who have the power and the facility to maintain their existence are those who are slowly destroying it.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Crazy Man?

An old man got on the bus this morning. He was wearing a baseball cap and a huge grin. As he found his seat he was talking to the people around him. Some of them responded with a brief acknowledgement but most just looked at the floor or out of the window.

Why do we avoid people with which we share such close contact? Why is it only people who are considered ‘crazy’ feel completely comfortable talking to anybody and everybody? We could sit next to a person with an amazing life-story but we will never know because we are afraid that we will be considered crazy ourselves.

I was passing a man in the street as he sneezed. Without thinking I said “bless you” and he looked at me as though I had a duck on my head. I smiled at an old lady and she looked at me like I had just tried to steal her handbag.

By building these walls around us we aren’t protecting ourselves, we are hiding. Don’t get me wrong, I am as guilty of this as everyone else, but I am at a loss for an excuse. Time to start striking up conversations. It could be fun…

“Who Says it Needs Sieving?”

While baking a cake for my grandmother’s birthday my Mum and I came up with an idea for a brilliant cookbook – a book of shortcuts in the kitchen!

Does flour really need to be sieved?

Why use a whisk when a fork will do nicely?

Weighing scales or tea cups?

Why caster sugar when granulated works just as well?

Plain flour? We can use self-raising if that's what we have in the cupboard (although this doesn’t work the other way around…)

Just because we love baking should not mean that we have to buy specialised equipment or follow strict rules.

If we want to get philosophical we can compare this to life... We can use what we have, what more do we need? We can buy ‘special equipment’ such as fast cars, flashy handbags but we don’t really need them have our cake and eat it (see what I did there)!

Cooking (and life) is fun, and if we do it right, messy too! So let us go forth and make a mess. Worry about the clean-up later.

Sod you Gordon Ramsay! Get out of my kitchen!

Tuesday, 15 June 2010


On the bus this morning I had to listen to a group of college students discuss “Mucbeff” – this assault on the English Language, and on English Literature makes me see red – I myself saw a dagger before me!

What makes people lose their respect for their native language and twist it into this socially acceptable dribble? There are those who argue that our language is always changing and evolving, but if it carries on like this we will return to the days of grunting like monkeys. Darwin would turn in his grave!

Yes I realise I am being horribly prejudiced towards these members of society… I blame Eastenders and Hollyoaks for encouraging the children of today. And since the BBC rescinded the use of ‘Queens English’ this has given way to laziness and apathy.

What was I talking about? Ah, Macbeth. At least we few people who value culture can lose ourselves in the timeless language of Shakespeare, Wordsworth and Milton. Well, perhaps Milton is taking things a little far…

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Principio erat Verbum

My uncle made me a window-blind for my bathroom. It is cream fabric covered with writing. The phrase repeated throughout is "principio erat verbum". I would stare at it while showering, trying to work out what it could mean. Things like this drive me mad - I have to know! I now know it means "in the beginning was the word" which my Uncle must have thought was very appropriate :)

Another example of an everyday expression that plagued me is "Q.E.D" or "Quod erat demonstrandum" meaning "that which was to be demonstrated". I am considered mad because every time I find a word I do not know I have to write it down to find out.

I often carry a mini-dictionary, which really encourages strange looks from passers-by. I really wish I had taken Latin at school. It would have made living in my head so much easier!

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

The Wheels on the Bus

I miss being able to read on the way to work - one drawback of taking the bus instead of the train. Although there are some rather interesting people on public transport.

Just the other day my bus was pulled over by the police to question a group of middle-eastern boys, none of whom spoke English. Fun to watch - for the first 10 minutes. The reason for this interruption remains a mystery.

And a couple of days ago I was waiting to get off the bus and as the traffic lights turned green the bus remained stationary... because the driver was asleep! After a gentle poke he realised where he was and I, shocked, got off the bus and called the bus company.

What excitement will my next journey hold? While reading may expand your mind, riding public transport really opens your eyes!