Gotta love a Yankee

I was standing outside the bus stop last weekend. It was unusually warm – proper summer. These northern hemisphere people do not adjust to this. Aside from wearing dodgy inappropriate clothing to try get as much vitamin D exposure as possible, tempers fray. Partly because of transport issues but I believe the heat plays a factor. They still walk as fast as they do when it’s cold to keep warm. Then they overheat and get grumpy. They don’t realise that in hot places people just move extra slow and think extra slow when it gets too hot to literally not get hot and bothered about stuff you can do nothing about – like weather.

Anyways. The bus was there but the driver wasn’t letting us on. If they do it’s an additional health and safety thing I believe because then he is effectively taking responsibility for you on his bus even if it’s not time for the bus to go anywhere yet. You could still fall off a stationary non-moving chair and nut yourself on the bar on the way down.

These Americans came up behind me. Americans are a funny sort. They can be giving, loving, generous, friendly, intelligent. They can also sometimes be incredibly obtuse and need a few months out of their native land if they are from some small hick town to understand how the rest of the world works.

This lot had one of them singing the first line of the cartoon Spiderman theme tune over and over and over again. Like that was not annoying. They then went into a full rant about why this bus driver had the nerve to not just open the bus up and get moving now that they had arrived and were ready to go (as if he was waiting for them). That, at the very least he should let them go inside the bus to wait. Which made no sense because they were, all three, able bodied and boarding early would save maybe 30 seconds if that for them to get in and it was like a hot tin can pressure cooker in the bus so why the bus driver was even in there I don’t know. (UK municipal buses are NOT airconditioned).

They were quite loud in their rude tirade about the bus driver being a horrible man. I am sure he could hear them and this purposefully made him delay letting us on even further, especially when the one girl commented that her app said the bus should be leaving now and it clearly was not.

They then leaned over and started to comment disparagingly on the fact that I was playing Candy Crush while waiting to board (yes, this is a guilty pleasure of mine when standing around). It then occurred to me they may not realise the bus driver could hear them. Maybe they also thought he couldn’t understand them. Whether because they thought American English was a whole different language to British English or because they thought he was a foreigner. Because the way they were talking about ME certainly alluded to the fact that they thought I was either deaf or unable to interpret what they were saying. Kind of like when South Africans are stupid enough to think that if you speak Afrikaans in London noone will understand you. Well, yes. Someone will. ALWAYS. And if not perfectly, enough to understand if you are insulting them.

I was so tempted to ask these three if this was the case. But then I thought, it’s too hot to waste energy on this. And honestly, I’d just annoy myself because anyone dense enough to think people in England can’t understand your English is certainly not going to understand when they are being told off.

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Media junkie

It has occurred to me I may have repeated my thoughts while blogging. I’ve decided this is probably due to two things. One I have a very bad memory and can’t remember what I may or may not have written before.  So for that I can only apologise.

And two, my life probably just isn’t that interesting. I am therefore not on twitter and was never really that into the idea of Facebook updates even before people got paranoid that they were being stalked by various governments, terrorists and marketing agencies on it.

I just don’t have such an interesting life. I don’t think anyone really wants to see a picture of my lunch. Or the fact that I don’t travel around daily which means if I was to instagram my life there are only so many times you want to see the road I walk down or the flowerbed outside my office unless you are really into seeing how the homeless guy is doing or that the flowerbed has been weeded since last week. It would literally be like watching paint dry. While leftovers chucked out a lunchbox, even if strategically organised around a plate are still going to look like leftovers jumbled up.

As much as I’d like to therefore give up my job and just aim at meaningless reviews on the internet in pseudo ironic ways and get paid to do so, that just isn’t going to happen as a result. Then again I suppose if I didn’t have a job and that was my job I might have more time to sit in random hipster coffee shops posting pictures of the fern leaf pattern in my low fat almond milk latte, followed by hashtag great yoga sesh and snippy limited character commentary on the cat next door. (Which also isn’t going to happen as there is no cat next door. Then again, I’m not sure half the people online don’t just make stuff up occasionally as they are so busy visualising their lives through the eyes of others they may not actually be living it.)

 

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Housing crises

Housing is a hot topic in the UK. To be honest it’s always a hot topic. In the UK, in SA, everywhere. There are always a bunch of people with waaay too much space and people with not enough and moreover no running water or heat etc etc. This issue certainly dates back to the middle ages and potentially even in cave man days there were probably people with nice snug watertight caves and people crouching under trees and damp ledges waiting to be taken out by sabre tooth tigers.

The thing that gets me with this big split in a place like London or New York is we all want to live and work as close to the centre as possible (third world countries do NOT work like that). So my dear British plus one bemoans the fact that if I had my way we’d have a bijou flatlet with a little garden in a nice central location instead of a drafty big house in the countryside that takes an hour and a half to commute to work but has a mancave shed and a garage that actually has a car and not junk in it. (Brits use garages as storage for stuff rather than cars most the time).

Either way as we are not high earners we are somewhere in the middle and have neither the bijou flat or the big house but we have a few options at least. We have managed to have a balcony and we can afford the heat, lights, water and we don’t have to share with other people. (How I don’t miss house sharing!)

I feel for the people who can’t necessarily afford all this but still have jobs in the centre of town. What the wanker bankers, politicians and other well paid professionals never seem to notice are the army of invisible minimum wage people who make the city run. Not necessarily the sanitation workers who have unions and can go on strike. But the cleaners, the sandwich makers, the coffee baristas, the bartenders and waitrons who all work for the private sector and smooth over your day. I have no idea what would happen if all these people just didn’t come into work one day. If, instead of dashing off for a quick sandwich on the fly you’d have to go buy the ingredients and make your own and you’d return to a kitchenette full of rubbish as the cleaner hadn’t been in and then you’d have to just drink your beer at home because there is noone to pour it out for you.

These are the people who live 15 to a house. Who catch a train and a bus and then walk, commuting for well over an hour on the cheapest means possible to make their pennies stretch to get to work. These are the people who don’t get big bonuses and expenses paid when they treat someone to lunch.

I’m not sure how we address this injustice. I know although I think it’s unfair I’d be even more angry if these people were suddenly just given better housing when I’m still struggling to get even close to what I’d really want in life.

But that’s the thing. Life isn’t fair and if you don’t fight the good fight, well, I guess the sabre tooth tiger gets another easy lunch. On the pleb.

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Obsolete

I was debating the merits of the fax machine the other day. I was watching a tv programme where the character hilariously acquired a fax machine despite it being completely obsolete technology. And then promptly had it stolen – which in itself was diabolical because it was basically dinosaur equipment.

I am actually old enough to remember when every business had one. At the time I started work although some of the staff had email addresses, most communication and instruction that had to be written and communicated was via fax. Even in the so called first world UK I’d fill in timesheets as contracted staff and have to post them in the mail or fax them to the agency that hired me.

I realised a lot of millennials won’t even have a clue what this entails. The thermal sensitive paper. The bleeping sound of the machine as it accepted a transmission. How quickly things have changed. It’s a bit like my being unable to understand how people slaughtered their own chickens if they wanted a Sunday roast or having to pack an entire trunk of clothing and get on a ship if they wanted to cross an ocean.

The new generation all instinctively use tablets and smartphones the way I used to be able to programme a vcr, confused how the older generation didn’t ‘get’ that ‘obviously’ you just click these buttons or swipe left then right and then the machine does what you want. A colleague complained he upgraded their television and the kids ran up to it and expected it to swipe left and right to change channels, leaving grubby handmarks all across the new screen.

One can only wonder what the future will bring next. I always thought I’d keep up with it but when I look back at how rapidly things have changed, I do wonder if I’m going to be like my parents with new technology and potentially trapped in my house when I’m unable to work out how the smartlocks on the doors interact with the biometric chip in my hand!

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The difference between

The headline on the Metro paper today is the fact that an OAP defended himself against an attack by a burglar who was a known career criminal and that he stabbed the burglar. The burglar died and now his family have blanketed the fence near the pensioner’s house with floral tributes and scared the crap out of this 70+ year old man and his wife that they will retaliate against the violent death of their lovely loving family member. (To the point where the old man has moved out and gone into hiding elsewhere.)

Shocking story yes. It is bad someone died but the fact that you are condoning the fact that he was a criminal is, I personally think, unacceptable. He got killed in the line of duty so to speak – and as it was a crime, it is hardly fair you criminalise the guy who is probably suffering post traumatic stress syndrome for his pains to the point you are threatening him and pushing it in everyone’s faces this career criminal was somehow an upstanding citizen who needs to be valued via a series of floral tributes. (This is also because I don’t really ‘get’ floral tributes at scenes of death. After a week or so on a fence or lamppost you have a tatty mess of cellophane and brown yellow rotting flowers. I don’t really want to be remembered for a cluster of mess and litter personally. The flowers were, like the person you are messaging across the grave, already dead before you plonked them down because you cut them down in their prime – oh – is that the symbolism people are aiming at?)

But I digress. I got distracted by the initials OAP. I had to think for a moment what they meant. ‘Old age pensioner’. That, I thought to myself, is completely redundant. Obviously if you are a pensioner you are old. Although sometimes you are old and not a pensioner because you have to still work. Then I realised that was my third world self speaking.

In countries with less social help you generally do not consider yourself a pensioner until you reach a certain age. And at that age you hope for a state pension but you can’t really guarantee it will sustain you – you need savings/family/friends to help you get by within comfortable means.

I realised in Britain they have to put that ‘old age’ bit on because actually, they do sometimes have people who are not old but pensioned. Whether because of a disability or because they served their country or some very clever loophole allowing them to capitalise early. There are actually people who might be on pensions who are not technically ‘old’.

Despite so many years here I am still occasionally surprised by the differences in the first world and the ummmh not first world.

 

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Trashy TV

I have a secret which I don’t really like to admit. I love a bit of car crash ‘documentary’ television now and then on the sly. I was fascinated with the pure white trash value of Honey Boo Boo and was actually sad when it was cancelled – as I loved being both horrified by the family (who seemed to have a dim grasp of hygiene and food nutrition, never mind language) and enamoured by them as they managed a certain level of communication that my family is often not capable of. Not to mention they seemed to be fully aware they were complete rednecks, even going to a ‘redneck festival’ at one point.

I followed the Duggars for awhile. Their lives were horribly dull but it fascinated me they were the polar opposites of Honey Boo Boo’s family as they followed a strict Puritan lifestyle and populated the earth like rabbits believing it was ‘God’s will’ . The joys of internet downloading meaning I could fast forward the dull bits and wonder at a family so religious they don’t allow dancing or trousers/pants on their daughters (who all have to also keep long hair and never expose their shoulders) and yet the girls spend literally hours doing hair and make up. The home schooled younger children seem to live a blissful barefoot life with minimal education beyond the Bible and hands on visits to places to learn practically while many of the boys wander around like Davey Crocket Macgyver type characters. In the early episodes kids as young as nine were assigned a drill and allowed to walk in sandals to help put their house together- isn’t that child labour?

The Duggars like Honey Boo Boo have come under huge scandal lately with abuse stories and tales of rebellion rife. They really were better off before anyone hit puberty and it was all really a lot more fun when there was no real drama.

I followed some overly dramatic tattoo show at one point which was confused whether the stars of the show were the tattoos or the tattoo artists who bickered and squabbled like high school premadonnas. The body ink was interesting to see but the show was also clearly built on these highly emotion ‘reality show’ moments created which must surely have been at least partially contrived.

The latest offering I caught on Netflix in this genre this weekend was a girl based in America creating couture Japanese ‘Lolita’ style dresses and her bevvy of models and assistants. She looks young and innocent and claimed to have a boyfriend based abroad who would pop up on skype now and again. This show once again made me wonder at the star(s) of the show. There is a sort of naivety and a I-am-oblivious-to-the-camera attitude. There are hints of the models having other jobs and scraping to get by. But everyone is always immaculately attired, even after ‘all nighters’ or very coolly scruffy. And I suspect incredibly savvy. This girl probably looks younger than she is but was clearly clever enough to put together a successful business even before the show started paying her to be on it.

I wondered if her boyfriend was actually an actor too given she has been in the states for four years, when did she meet him? And his name is not particularly typical from her nation (neither was his accent to be honest). Given at least part of the show is based on her actual life it’s always good to provide a barrier between you and possible stalker types.

I debated if anyone would ever be willing to film me – or is my life just that dull? And even if they were, could I deal with all the PT in looking like I ‘just got out of bed’ but am somehow still teasingly tousled and cutely attired, not just dishevelled in an old t-shirt? I’m not saying reality tv is an easy way of making a living but ALL these shows always seem to land up at some point at a luxury spa/hotel and touring some extravagant place I could never afford. Even Honey Boo Boo. One could do worse.

 

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Washing optional

This has been a horrendous week on public transport. One of those where the fat people always want to sit next to me and then bump me the whole time that I need to give them part of my seat. To be honest I don’t really mind that much.

Possibly because it has been freezing cold a number of people seem to have decided that cleaning is optional. I speak of themselves. Their bodies, their hair, their teeth. It’s a toss up what is worse. The cloying sour-floral smell of B.O. and layers of perfume, the stench of the unbrushed dog breath or the overpowering cutting aroma of a chain smoker’s tobacco mouth.

This is often combined with the concept that drycleaning or airing a coat is unnecessary and mothballs are the scent of success.

But that is probably a really cruel thing for me to say and it therefore serves me right when Plus One comments it’s astounding how easily my hair picks up the odour of food when I open the oven and bend over it. That it is roast chicken scented for hours after!

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FITBIT

So last year I came down with a cold/cough thing that seemed to last forever. (In point of fact, although I am now ‘healthy’ I still seem to be getting up every morning and hocking up a tiny phlegm ball – like a smoker or a distressed cat with hairballs – note: I am not a smoker or a cat).

At some stage while waiting to heal I developed this insane urge to firstly ‘treat’ myself so I felt less sorry for myself and secondly I started to wonder how much my fitness levels were dropping off because I was in some state of imposed bedrest involving work-food-sleep-work-food-sleep-work with no social life per say as I was too tired (and coughy) to be much fun.

Somewhere in the midst of this I decided what I REALLY wanted was a fitness tracker with a heartrate monitor that doesn’t look like one particularly. (which really narrowed the field) And I didn’t want to pay full price. So I got a really nice little fitbit off ebay from a very nice gentleman who let me pay immediately without bidding as I can’t deal with the bidding auction frenzy thing that was in perfect condition and I then scraped the face all by myself on the first hour of wearing. (sigh)

So this thing has been tracking my movements for about a month but I’m getting a bit bored of this. I miss the two watches I own as there is no point in wearing a normal watch if you have a tracker with time attached to it already. The watches are just more comfy as on my wrist as the tracker doesn’t wrap sufficiently and personally I feel it consequently keeps poking into my arm in a way that it would not if I had a fatter arm (not that I want a fatter arm). This is despite what is a serious charm for my shallow self of being able to easily switch out the straps to suit fashion/activity etc. Two completely different straps fit differently but still the straps can only bend so far and the little light sensor things dig into my arm.

I am more fascinated than I thought I would be at this wearable tech. I keep worrying – especially since my wrist feels dented by the tracker – that the little light sensor things are going to give me cancer. Has anyone tested this? Or am I doomed anyways due to too many hours on early design mobile phones (think Motorola brick)? Is this thing really accurately monitoring my heartrate anyway or is it just making up some kind of guestimate that is also based off my blood pressure etc? And how does that sleep function work anyway? It actually subtracts time off for being ‘awake’ even though you are in bed. Occasionally when I think back I can vaguely remember being awake in the night as I tried to turn over or had a duvet war with Plus One but there are other periods of ‘awake’ I do not recall and I seem to have big problems hitting REM (Although this may be due to the fact that I’m plain not sleeping enough as there isn’t enough time in the day).

Strange to think though how ‘normal’ the whole concept of these trackers has become. Since owning one I notice them in various shapes, guises and brands on other people. And it’s astounding how many people of various fitness levels, sizes, ages, wear one. Will the ability to track our motions become so bog standard in the future we won’t even think about it? Like we don’t think twice now about being late meeting people because we are all connected via phones.

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The Charcoal Bun

I was in a certain fairly high end supermarket chain yesterday. The type that sells decent (if fuddy duddy) clothing and fresh produce that focuses less on ‘seasonal’ and more on ‘lovely selection of everything you could ever want from around the world’…. (never mind air miles travelled and presumably without exploiting free trade farmers in Ghana or fishermen in Vietnam or conflict zones in Israeli kibbutz.

As usual I gravitated to their little piggy sweets. They do a veggie version and one with pork gelatin in. Personally I believe if you are going to eat something with an oinker of a face, just eat the pig version. I am befuddled by the veggie version. It should be shaped like a happy brussel sprout instead.

Then I got sidetracked by this prawn sandwich with a pipette cockily hanging out of it like a syringe out of a heroin addict’s arm. The main thing that distracted me to it was the bun enclosed around the prawns was pitch black. Black on top, underneath, inside.

It was the most vulgar thing ever. It looked like a volcanic rock had split in two and engulfed a bunch of pink shellfish in the process of trying to escape from a dark and gloomy nightclub who’s walls would also be painted black with splashes of gold and red for good measure.

I was intrigued how someone thought a pitch black bun was possibly appealing. I mean, I am not a particularly fussy eater and prone to some odd choices (the day before I’d been eaten a muffin topped with runny poached eggs, hollandaise sauce, avo, chives, bacon and lobster –  yummy btw) but this thing, although aesthetically interesting, was not something I would ingest.

Not least because I had vague memories of people saying how it wasn’t good to braai every day or to eat burnt toast because these were all possibly carcinogenic. And here this roll was labelled ‘charcoal bun’. Did it actually taste like ash? Would it be like a mouth of burnt toast? Did it actually have charcoal in it? Was it actually stuffed with chaka briquettes or was it just food colouring making it like that?

I googled this bun. Some new train of trendy foodie eating seems to think that charcoal ‘purifies the system’. (You may have seen the charcoal lumps in some of these water bottles) I sort of get if liquids filtered through it maybe it catches impurities. But are you actually supposed to EAT it?

Then again, a few years back they had this thing saying eating clay was healthy and all the celebs were doing it.

And you thought stopping your toddler from sticking all sorts of dirt, sticks, rocks and bugs into it’s mouth was a bad thing.

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And the point is what?

So this woman climbed on the bus the other day with one of those mega prams that appears deceptively small but has 4×4 wheels that run over your feet if you don’t watch out because the wheels are spread like a squatting spider below the seat.

She had child who was getting too big for a pram, a shopping bag and a snack in hand. Curiously I looked at the snack. (I am naturally greedy.) It was a clear box of Quorn veggie cocktail sausages that she was scarfing at speed. Quorn was something I was unfamiliar with before moving countries because South Africans tend to look rather mockingly at people who don’t believe in meat. Quorn being the big brand name for a company that turns soya into a dizzy variety of meat-like products from sausages to mince to breaded chicken cutlets.

Mo Farah endorses it so it must work, even for athletes. And we are not above using a bit of the mince (with its strange squidgy soft tofu texture) to bulk out our normal lean beef mince when in economy mode. But I am not really a Quorn fan.

Looking through the opaque shopping bag I noted it contained a pot of carrot and coriander soup and a pack of ‘Lincolnshire style veggie sausages’ by a supermarket brand.

This to me was even more absurd than Quorn as a brand. This was clearly someone who believed in being a vegetarian for some reason – health/religion/love of fluffy animals – I have no idea. She was probably teaching her kid to be a veggie too. But obviously in denial about the lack of animal in her diet. Why on EARTH would she fill 2/3 of her shopping of imitation meat products? Surely if you are going to be vegetarian, you should embrace the plant. Enthuse on how you can spice and season and appreciate the delectable freshness of vegetables. And what is she teaching her child? Don’t eat meat but let me make your palate accustomed to things vaguely umami meat-ish?

I can fully understand why these products exist on the market but frankly, basing your diet around them is absurd. If you can’t work out how to live on eggs, nuts, cheese, lentils and vegetables maybe you just weren’t cut out to be a herbivore.

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