Monday, August 28, 2006

Yucky Huge

Forgive the lapse into the past, but a very dear friend of mine who nowadays lives in München, Germany, otherwise known as Munich to us lesser mortals, emailed me to thank me for reminding her about Play School. Mandy worked for a while at BASF in England, and was transferred to Mannheim, Germany where a BASF subsidiary operated. This is where I worked. Mandy worked a block away. A friend in England asked me to “keep an eye out for her”. As a lady less than half my age, who was very pretty (still is!), this was not a mean feat. Be that may, we would regularly meet, and dine in Pizzerias, and also eat at an English Pub called Number 9, and another place which I could never pronounce, but we called it Nick’s place. Nick was from Hastings, England, or somewhere equally revolting. The Pizzerias are where you get real Italian food, without garlic and such nonsense. We’d sometimes venture to France at weekends (a mere 70 miles), and buy groceries at the supermarket. The cheeses were to die for.
One day, Mandy was down, and I offered that perhaps we should have a vacation together – just a few days. I mentioned that I’d always wanted to go to Capri – an Italian island. However, I really didn’t care where we went. Mandy sent a fax to my company – of some 1,200 people, and addressed it to Mr. Yucky Huge. It duly arrived on my desk a few minutes later! A sure sign that the Germans have a sense of humor! She confirmed that we had a vacation booked.
We went to Frankfurt Airport early one morning, and flew into the resort. After checking into Fleapit Motel, we went to the beach. I did what any red-blooded male would do – I went to buy beer. When I came back, I commented that it was amazing how many people spoke Spanish at this resort. Mandy asked where did I think we were. Capri? Wrong, we were in the Canaries, which is about 1,000 miles away. In the Atlantic. Not even in the Med! Wrong country too. In retrospect, I'm embarrassed to admit that I was so far off! Had a good time though! I recall I rented an open topped vehicle, and drove around the island. Got horribly sunburnt too! Mandy eventually got married (a lot of guys cried), has two lovely kids, and still lives in München.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Play School

This was the name of a wonderful children's educational program (programme over there) , back before I became a 20 - something. It was hosted by a guy called Brian Cant and a lovely lady called Chloe Ashcroft. Was I in love with her? Was I ever! Once I started to begat, it was a ritual to watch this program with the offspring. They seemed to understand it. Not sure if I ever did. Even my dog liked the furry animals - Chloe was in charge of them. Sometimes they would cause trouble. I recall there was there was Jemima, Hamble, Humpty, Dapple, Big Ted, and Little Ted. Anyone remember the others?

"A house, With a door! Windows, 1, 2, 3, 4. [rat-a-tat-tat] Ready to play?What's the day?*.." was the start of the program. "Today we'll go through the round window" followed...

Later, the BBC decided it was time to introduce some ethnicicity, and a wonderful lady called Floella Benjamin joined the cast. She was brilliant. She once sang a song, "Five grey elephants balancing, Side by side on a piece of string". Wonder what became of her and the others.

Why am I re"cant"ing this today? Mainly because the weather is awful. It's rained most of the day. I drove through a heck of a storm this morning, and the driver's window miraculously opened of its own accord. I was in the wet spot between banking duties. When I got home, I fell into a deep sleep, and dreamt of this program. Having Susan (3) and fidgetting the whole time, and Rik (1) sitting on my lap, complete with dog. Not sure if I could fit Susan and Rik on my lap these days. Would I want to?

I recall one episode where Brian Cant visited The White Horse at Uffington. This is a site where the image is a representation of a horse (some would say dragon) some 374 feet in length, and is thought to date back as far as 1,000BC in the late Bronze Age. It is in the mid-southern part of England. It is said that if you stand in the "head" of the horse, and make a wish, it will come true. Brian Cant said a prayer there for one of his children. It was very moving. I took the begatted there once. They were not impressed. Seems that an illegal saunter into East Germany was much more exciting.

Such is life. Here endeth today's lesson.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Troubled times?

Having lost my job, I started to ponder the future. A scary thought! Stress set in, as did high blood pressure, but a typical Floridian storm, where I was able to sit on the deck, kept me sane. Watching the falling rain gave me a sense of comfort, despite the ill effects of the rain creeping ever upwards on my deck. Being at 2.7 feet above sea level is worrying sometime. We had some 4 inches today. Thankfully when the tide was out! In the meantime, I think I've come to terms with being stressed out. 'Worrying about it doesn't help.' So I'm kinda relaxed. I now get panic attacks about every 10 hours, not every nano-second as before.
Every lining has a silver cloud, so I appreciate my new job. I now work for a prestigious bank. Night cleaner. I clean 5 offices an evening here in Florida. The cameras roll to check that I do the mopping up each day. I scrub the toilets clean, and I have a flair for vacuuming. The glass partitions that keep the proletariat from tellers has to be cleaned each day, as some idiot will always try to leave his/her finger-print, or worse a slobbery kiss, on it.
I started life as a bank teller back in the early 60s. The most important rule was confidentiality. There seems to be none of it today. I managed to rummage through 28 mortgage applications today. Why did I do that? Because I could. And the bank should not allow their staff to keep their files in the 'open'. I actually didn't rummage, but the point is, I could have. I'll never approach this bank for a loan or whatever. I find it amazing that some guy is about to borrow $150K for a mortgage and he earns $18K a month... a month? He's a call center manager, who has just been tranferred here from India... Now, if I was the bank... I'd fire me in a heartbeat!
I could have had copies of all deposit transactions for the day, including account numbers and names. One of the teller's safes had been left open. Not just unlocked, but left open. Mucho dinero in there. No threat from me... if I'm going to steal, it's going to be millions! Then the final insult.
At one branch, as soon as I'd turned the alarm off before entering, there was a constant 'alarm-type sound'. This was because the computer said that there was someone still in the vault. As the bank had only been closed about one hour, I knocked hard on the vault to no avail. I called the 'Cleaning Supervisor'. His advice was to do what I thought was right. I called the security company. What a farce! I had to provide the customer account number before anything could be done. I called the bank's own security department - same result. So, being a simple Welshman, I called the local constabulary. Not by dialing 911, I might add.
Four of Pinellas County's finest Crown Vics turned up. These folks were great. There was much drawing of sharp breath through clenched teeth, but they were worried (as I was) by the fact that the computer showed that there was someone in the vault. The reaction of the first one was to cuff me. After much deliberation, he conceded that he might have been 'rash'. Eventually, they managed to drag a Vice President (no less) of the bank to check things out. He was hardly of an age to shave, and accused me of all kinds of things, most of which were physically impossible. A conservative estimate put him at about 27, going on 12. He confirmed that all was well, after opening the vault. No-one occupied it.
He then climbed into his car, and one of the 4 Crown Vics stopped him. He was a) stoned, and b) over the limit. Ce la vie.
Perhaps no longer a VP of the bank, I will be 'cleaner' for a while...
Here endeth today's lesson....

Sunday, August 13, 2006

History Lesson

Well,'s something I never knew before, and now that I know it, I feel compelled to share it with to more intelligent friends in the hope that they, too, will feel edified. That is if anyone reads this.... Isn't history more fun when you know something about it?Before the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, the French, anticipating victory over the English, proposed to cut off the middle finger of all captured English soldiers. Without the middle finger it would be impossible to draw the renowned English longbow and therefore they would be incapable of fighting in the future. This famous English longbow was made of the native English Yew tree, and the act of drawing the longbow was known as "plucking the yew" (or "pluck yew"). Much to the bewilderment of the French, the English won a major upset and began mocking the French by waving their middle fingers at the defeated French, saying, See, we can still pluck yew!
Since 'pluck yew' is rather difficult to say, the difficult consonant cluster at the beginning has gradually changed to a labiodentals fricative F', and thus the words often used in conjunction with the one-finger-salute!It is also because of the pheasant feathers on the arrows used with the longbow that the symbolic gesture is known as "giving the bird."IT IS STILL AN APPROPRIATE SALUTE TO THE FRENCH TODAY! And yew thought yew knew every plucking thing!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Bad Hair Day

Today is not a good day. The boss called me into his office early this morning and said he wanted to talk at me before I left for the day. He suggested 1 p.m. , and duly announced that I was fired. Sorry, he actually said "laid off". Poor sales in Europe (down 60%) has contributed to this. I'm calling all Kings, Queens, Presidents, Dictators and Prime Ministers in Europe to complain that as their economies are in trouble, I've lost my job. Still, it'll give me time to tidy up around here!
Always look on the bright side. Until you see the bills....... Something will come up, though. In the meantime, I shall imbibe some beer.... hic....

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The Hunt is Over

Having arranged to meet Tom Brophy to discuss the merits of his Mercury Capri - which is actually a Mazda Miata under the skin - I was dismayed to discover that Tom didn't want to sell after all. He wanted to sell me his aged Ford Explorer for $3,000. Tom has delusions of being important in his own lunch-time. I mounted my trusty steed, and started cycling back when I spotted a Mercury Grand Marquis for sale. Price tag $950, obo. With Se habla Espanol underneath the tag. Not having habla Espanol abilities, I called anyway, and arranged to meet the owner. It's a '92 (the car, the owner was a circa 84 vintage Louisiana gal and very cute), with "poor" paintwork (it's a Florida thing). The interior is like a tart's boudoir, all studded velour, and extremely comfortable and clean. Never been smoked in. I was told the air did not work, but I discovered it did, but the noise coming from the front suggested that it was wise not to leave it on. A quick spin round the parking-lot, and $800 of "In God We Trust" specimens were handed over. It's a barge.... I have a carport, and almost managed to remove both supporting sides in one go. This car will seat 6 in comfort. 8 if you want to get friendly or married (delete the latter). The trunk is bigger than my bathroom! Due to Florida's stupid laws, I'm not allowed to drive it until I "register" it. To register it, I have to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles, which is a gazillion miles away, and without the car... you get the drift.... And they're not open at weekends. It'll have to wait until Tuesday (Monday being a day of rest for DMV workers - rest? After what?). Then I can check it out on the highway. It seems to have plenty of power from its 4.6 liter V8, which actually doesn't frighten little children in the streets. Maybe after tinkering with the exhaust, it might. I can but hope. Notorious for never cleaning a car, I did run the vacuum (small, courtesy of Rik and Chris) over it. It looks just splendid. A quick Polish car wash (leave it in a Florida rainstorm) and it looks quite presentable. Radio works great, and it plays cassettes. Roll on Bruce Hornsby and Bruce Springsteen! None of the windows open. The motors just hum. Maybe they don't know the words.... The interior mirror has been rejoined with it's intended spot. Now I can see what happens behind me. Apparently, the car (according to the EPA) will do about 25 mpg on the highway. Much the same as my Honda Accord. So I don't feel too bad about the V8! Roll on Tuesday!

Friday, August 04, 2006

The Hunt Goes On

Due to a problem with the transmission of my car - it doesn't, I'm looking for a new set of wheels. Traveling to work by bus and bicycle is not good for my health, especially in the dark times of pre-dawn, and a few times some lunatics have tried to mow me down. Be that may, I have searched for a replacement. Yesterday, I went to a "dealership" - the words Arthur Dailey came to mind (a used car salesman comedy show in the UK in the 1970s) - and saw several cars that had been advetised in my daughter's newspaper for about $800. There was one, a Buick that was long past its sell-by date, with the right side completely mangled in a wreck. I couldn't even open the doors. "Minor adjustment," retorted Dailey (his name was actually Rik...), "it has cold air (AC for any readers in the Old World). I next looked at a presentable Mercury Grand Marquis. Dailey told me its color was 'crimson'. It looked quite nice, apart from needing four new tires. My comment to this effect elicited a "what do you expect for $877." This one had "very" cold air it seems, and I nodded knowingly, as I suspect that there is a difference between cold and very cold air. One does not wish to appear ignorant, does one. It was even painted on the windshield that it had very cold air. I asked to start it, and after some tugging, the monster 5 liter came to life. There was much rattling, "It's been standing and the oil has settled," quoth Dailey. I drove it for 10 minutes, and said rattles did not subside. And the heat coming from the air system convinced me it was time to return to base. Next was a Pontiac wagon (Estate Car). Now this was cool. Another 5 liter monster, which makes tree-huggers grimace as you drive by. The car is about 20 feet long. The back area even had a seat which pulled out of the floor, complete with seat belts. Reminded me of my Renault 16 where I added a back seat from a disused Mini for the children to go on our annual holidays in Devon all those moons back. I drove it, and this had "extremely" cold air. I can attest to that, because after stepping out of it, my glasses steamed up for about 5 minutes in Florida's humidity/heat. This car was also $877. I queried the $x77 factor, but Dailey didn't understand the question. We retired to the "office" to discuss terms. He could see that I was pleased with this car, despite the hood (bonnet) having what looked to me like the paint had been attacked with brake-fluid - a much favored trick in S. London in my days if you upset someone. My thoughts were, it's transport. And if it does have a big V8, that makes it worthwhile! Dailey tapped furiously at his computer. The total came to some $2,200 and change. I grimaced. "How can $877 become $2,200?", I ventured. Dailey said there were taxes, titles etc etc. Oh, and he also confided in me that the price was actually $1,877, not $877. At this point, I bade him fare thee well, and left. He pleaded that the price had been an error. He even followed me down the road, as I was walking away. I thought I might recruit him as a salesman for IBM, but decided against that. His hair was the wrong color. Actually, it was multi-colored. Kinda like Rod Stewart's hair with red, blonde, grey and black streaks. So, I will jump on my trusty steed in a while, and go to see a Mercury Capri. A neat little convertible. Needs work, but as my weekly commute is barely 75 miles, it might be worth it. Belongs to the owner of my local watering-hole - Brophy's. Unfortunately, Tom Brophy's just had a DUI and needs the cash to pay for an attorney. In a league of used-car salesmen in my book.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


I've always liked dogs and cats. They are often more human than humans. This story relates to a Jack Russell dog called Ratty. The UK does not have the restrictions placed upon dogs for leashes, so the dog is free to roam - the way it should be. He regularly leaves the farm where he lives, and goes to a Bus Stop, where he patiently waits for the bus. He seems to know the bus times. Dogs travel for free on buses. He takes the bus to a pub, called the Red Bull. He's been entertained there for a long time, but now the new owners have banned dogs from the pub. I'm sure he'll find a new place! If you want the full story, click on:
He certainly has more intelligence than a lot of our politicians!