Friday, June 22, 2012

It's Sum Sum Summertime

Finally, it's here; summer time, in all its fluffy-cloud-dotted-sky, SPF-999, BBQ-friendly, short-shorts and halter-top wearing glory!  So why, on day-2 of the season, am I sitting inside wearing a flannel shirt?  And why, at eight o’clock in the morning, do I need to have the lights on?

Summer, in the UK, is not all it is cracked up to be.

Last night, to celebrate the equinox and the first day of summer, my wife and I decided not to take our usual postprandial stroll around town and instead huddled on the sofa, wrapped in a blanket, to listen to the rain lash against the windows like machinegun fire.  It might have been a bit depressing if I hadn’t looked up the weather forecast for my old home town.

Back in the States, they are enjoying brilliant summer weather—a little too much of it, perhaps.  It’s been over 100 degrees there for the past several days, and today (I just had a peek at is not going to be much better.

I have to admit that I haven’t experienced ambient temperatures of over 100 degrees since August 2001 and, while they do bring with them a sort of “I was there and I survived” satisfaction (not unlike the stretches of -22 F I used to suffer through) I can’t say I have missed them much.  When it’s cold and wet you put on an extra layer and wear your waterproof when you nip out to pick up a six-pack at the offie.  When it’s 100 degrees plus, you really can’t do much about it except loiter in the frozen food isle at the Shop ‘n Save.

So, despite the temporarily (one hopes) disappointing climate, I’m not ready to swap places.  But to raise the spirits of both the damp and shivering Brits and their sweltering Yankee counterparts, I leave you with one of my favorite summer time songs:

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go put on my cardigan.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Lunchboxes – Better Living Through Technology

It has been quite some time since I have needed to understand Lunch Box Technology.  The last time I carried an actual lunch box was in grade school, and it looked like this:

In fact, judging from the shape that lunch box is in, I think it IS my lunch box.  You see, I had a habit of throwing it out the bus window just before arriving home, so I could walk back and pick it up.  Why?  Because I was 7, and because the lunch box didn’t have a Thermos.

If you’re familiar with this sort of meal receptacle, you will know it came with a handy Thermos bottle designed to keep your milk cool until from 8 AM until 1 PM while the lunch box sat on the counter over the radiators by the window in the full sunshine.  The Thermos was held tentatively in place by a metal catch that didn’t really work and, as the Thermos bottles were lined with glass, it was a rare (and careful) child who still had the original Thermos bottle that came with the lunch box by the time the Christmas holiday rolled around.  Mostly, they’d have cast-offs from their sibling’s old lunch boxes, meaning they might have a Johnny Quest lunch pail but a My Little Pony Thermos which, if spotted by an older kid, was certain to be drop-kicked across the cafeteria.

If something like this occurred, the procedure was to shake the Thermos before opening it; if it sounded like a maraca then you knew the milk was laced with shattered glass and drinking it was not an option, except on a dare or as a practical joke on a smaller kid.

So, long story short: my Thermos bottle was broken, my parents did not have a replacement for it, ergo, I could toss my lunch box out the bus window.

When I got older, I brown-bagged it, a popular option for kids too old to be seen carrying a metal box with cartoon characters embossed on it.  You could always tell the kid with the frugal mom, because he would carefully fold the bag, put it in his back pocket and use it the next day.  I think I had the same bag from 9th grade until the day I graduated.

When I was employed by New York State (when you are a Civil Servant, you quickly learn not to say “State Worker” because there is always someone within earshot who will remind you that “State Worker” is an oxymoron) I didn’t need a lunch box.  My friends and I used to spend our lunch half-hour playing Nerf football in the lobby of our building (we worked nights, it was empty, mostly) or drinking at a nearby bar.  Sometimes we would even return to the office after lunch to finish out our shifts.  (I didn’t say the “State Worker as oxymoron” was necessarily wrong.)

These days I go to the deli around the corner from my office or dine at restaurants if I’m on the road.  On the off chance I need to carry food with me, I just pick up a prepared sandwich at a petrol station and chuck it in my briefcase.  My wife, however, is more health conscious and, more to the point, not on an expense account, so she recently decided to purchase a lunch box so she could take a healthy meal to work with her.

What she bought looks something like this:
I was amazed; they didn’t have anything like that in the States last time I looked (which, to be fair—and as noted above—was quite some time ago).  Surely, they must have them by now; America couldn’t fall so far behind in the race to develop a technologically superior nutrient conveyance device, could they?  Or has Europe become the dominant player in the portable repast arena?

Whatever the case, this is a splendid piece of engineering, containing a plethora of compartments cunningly snuggling into one another.  It has a place for everything—including food—and proprietary paraphernalia that, once lost, is impossible to replace without buying an entirely new lunchbox (face it, even the most technologically advanced piece of kit has its drawbacks).  This was, naturally, the first thing that happened, which was why I soon found myself looking at high-tech lunch boxes yet again this past week.

In the meantime, my wife is still using her old, no-longer-complete lunch box, but I’m wondering if she might let me use it.  I don’t really want to take my lunch to work, mind you, I’m just interested in seeing how far it will bounce when I toss it out the bus window.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Jubilee Joy

Just thought I'd post some random photos of the Jubilee preparations in our town.  Just like most Royal events, everyone professes to hate the idea until it actually arrives, then the bunting and the flags come out.  Of course, it could be partly due to the fact that we are getting a four-day weekend out of this.  You think?

The bandstand, all decked out, and advertizing the town-wide celebrations to take place on The Day.

More municipal decorations; flags and shields on all the lamp posts along the high street.

One of the displays in the charity shop.

The window of the fabric store.

In one of our many clothing outlets.  It's hard to see with the glare but the mannequin (and all the others in the store) is sporting the face of the Queen.  I have to admit, she looks a bit grim, but still...

The bookstore display, including the must-have Royals dress-up paper doll book and the children's book, The Queen's Knickers.

And last, but certainly not least, my desk at work.  I'm the only American on the staff, but it's up to me to hold up their end.
Now let's just hope it doesn't rain to badly.