Saturday, October 28, 2006

Rain and Other Matters

Dear Diary

Euphemisms. In English, it is, ‘raining cats and dogs’. In Welsh it is, ‘raining old ladies and sticks’. Please don’t ask me why. I believe that the English expression comes from the 15th Century where cats and dogs used to live ‘upstairs’, and sometime the roof would fall in when it rained. Or something like that. I have no idea where the Welsh one comes from.

Harrumph. It is 1:30 a.m. It is raining old women and sticks. I am expected by a neighbor to be ready by 6 a.m. to stick things in the ground to hold tables which can take bric-a-brac (it’s called a garage sale over here). There is another expression for bric-a-brac - crap.... I told her earlier it will rain until mid-morning. She's now concerned that at her friend's house where this garage sale will take place, the friend's ex-husband will come along and remove some items of furniture. Another altercation looms.

Let me explain. Earlier, I had a ‘discussion’ with a Canadian Greek. He has taken to parking his extremely loud diesel truck next door, where the place is empty. Not only that, the idiot started it up remotely today to ‘warm it up’. Diesel fumes and my lungs don’t go together. If I was President for one day, I would ban diesel from this planet! He said he was about to leave, that’s why he started it (about 15 minutes before he was ready). Why can’t he wait until he’s sitting in it like any other normal human being? The smell in my place was awful. I certainly lived up to my reputation as a Grumpy Old Man in these here parts.

Back to the rain. It has kept me awake for ages - not the rain itself but the constant dripping of the rain on disused drain-pipes outside in my back yard. Whenever Bob the Yard Man comes, he moves said pipes, and the rain drips loudly onto them. Not regular either.... I've told him countless time to leave them alone, but he will move them. In fact they are not even on any grassy bits - there aren't any out the back! I've been out twice, with a rather wonky (technical term) umbrella, the first time (my knickers got wet), and second time with a 'Dave' Cameron special hoodie outfit (my knickers got even wetter). I think I've cured the problem now. Not the old ladies and sticks you understand.... I hope it rains for hours. I really detest the idea of running a garage sale... My neighbor thinks that I'm a great salesman (another word for liar).

I received an email from a friend about a web site which causes some concern.
Just key in a name, and if necessary a State, and all will be revealed. I entered my name. I really thought I was the only Aled in the US.

Earlier, a friend and I discussed the number of relatives that I have according to this web site - all apparently living with me. He is kinda jealous of the number of women, but we're not too sure about India. Here are their names:

No wonder I can’t sleep.

Here endeth today’s lesson.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

A Glimpse of Childhood Past

Once upon a time, I was a child. Yes, I know, dear reader, this might be hard to understand and perceive. Having been born in the wilds of Wales, I found learning the English language to be very difficult. My mother decided that maybe I should read some of Enid Blyton’s excellent Secret Seven or Famous Five books. Unfortunately, these books merely confused me more. She would write, “Where are you?” she cried. I could not understand why ‘she’ was crying! As I seemed to spend many childhood days in a sick-bed, my Mother decided to try me with Enid Blyton’s Noddy Books. These books gave me a new grasp at learning English. I seem to recall that Noddy performed a great service to the village by getting rid of the bad Golliwogs, and was rewarded with a red and yellow car. Ostensibly, he offered a taxi service.

He used to drive his car, constantly using the horn “Parp, parp”. His best friend was Big Ears – no, not Prince Charles. Big Ears was a wise, bearded brownie who lived in a toadstool house at the edge of the woods, and rode a red bicycle. Big Ears was very clever – I suspect he still is, thus making him completely unlike Prince Charles. Sometimes, Noddy and Big Ears would ride together in the car. They would drive to Big Ears’ house, and have a spot of supper. As it was often late, Noddy would sleep in Big Ears’ house, sharing the same bed. (More in a moment.)

Another of Noddy’s friends was Mr. Plod, the local policeman – officially Police Constable (P.C. Plod). To this day, the word “plod” is a (somewhat derogatory) term for a Policeman in the UK.

These delightful books (with drawings) appeared from 1949 onwards, and are prized possessions today. I have no idea what happened to my collection, but I know that I acquired many of them until Book 13. I believe that several attempts have been made at making a TV series, but the Golliwogs have gone – the concept was considered racist. Dolls with black faces that were always naughty is a definitely a no-no in today’s world.

An eminent Professor/Expert/Psychologist suggested that children should not read these books as the relationship between Big Ears and Noddy was obviously a gay one. My comment (apart from the fact that Professors/Experts et al are more often than not, just plain idiots) is that when the delightful Miss Blyton wrote these books, the word gay meant a happy, joyous situation. Indeed, the use of the word in its modern sense did not appear until well after her death.

Why do people try to take away/sour our childhood memories? Answers on a postcard. please.

Here endeth today's lesson.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Sunday, a Day of Rest

The Revised Good Book says in Chapter 2, Verse 2 of Genesis that "on the seventh day, God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made." Perhaps not the most eloquent of prose, but I'm sure the gist is there. I could quote the original in Welsh, Chapter and Verse, but as anyone reading this is unlikely to be able to follow it without suggesting that “Can I buy a vowel?” I will desist. Today being a Sunday has left me exhausted. It might be a Day of Rest for the Masses, but for the religion of 'Sport' it has been a busy day. First of all, as my daughter is an avid Arsenal fan - a soccer team in London, England where 90% of the players are not from said land - it was necessary to follow the fortunes of today's game against Reading. This is a town that I'm familiar with, having lived there for a while, and where Rik, my son, also enjoyed the twilight of his teenage years. He also had his first legal ‘pint’ with his Dad at a pub which I have unfortunately forgotten the name of. I do remember the Landlady though – her name was Joy. She certainly was. Her husband was a retired boxing referee, and decided in his mid 60s to abscond with Joy’s jewelry to live with a young man of 28. Anyway, I’ve digressed enough. The result of this game was that Arsenal beat Reading by 4 goals to nil. The game was televised live here in the US. Unfortunately (aka spelt thankfully), my cable provider wasn’t able to show me said game, and I had to resort to regular updates by the BBC on their web site. In the meantime, the final race of the Formula 1 Grand Prix season loomed from Brazil. Alonso, last year’s champion was leading the points table, but if Schumacher could finish first, and Alonso not score a point, Schumacher would become the World Champion. Schumacher has a history of being in similar situations in the past, and has been known to foil the race chances of others by dastardly deeds. The race was not televised in the US (well, nowhere that I could find on my remote thingy anyway). The race started at 1 p.m. (13:00 to our Over-The-Pond readers). Unfortunately, this coincided with the start of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ football match against the Philadelphia Eagles. This match was shown ‘live’ by Fox TV. The Formula 1 was given a running commentary by the BBC on their web site, until lap 58 of 71 when for some reason known only to them, they ignored the rest of the race. I must have walked many miles between my TV for the game, and the race on my PC. I finally learnt that the race was over, with Alonso becoming the World Champion. I was glad. I never liked Schumacher – he may be a great racing driver, but on a scale of 1 to 10, he scores an -11 as a cheat. He also scores a minus 11 in the sense of humor stakes. It has been frequently said that the Germans have no sense of humor. This is blatantly not true, but he epitomizes the myth. So, two good results so far. I was now able to relax to watch the remainder of the game. At one time, the Bucs were 17 – 0 up, but eventually ended up 20 – 14 up, with less than 2 minutes left to play. The Eagles scored. 21- 20 to the Eagles. With 4 seconds of the game remaining, the Bucs had a chance at a field goal (value 3 points). This was a 62 yard kick – the record is 63 yards. Even the Bucs’ Coach appeared to have given up. But the kicker made it, and the Bucs won 23 – 21. The atmosphere in the Tampa Bay area was electric! You could hear the roars outside. As an aside, the temperature at the Stadium was about 103. Many of the Eagles’ players were seen taking oxygen. We love our ‘cool fall days’ here in the Bay Area. I’m not sure how many more of these Days of Rest I can take! Three good results? Now if only I could win the Lottery too…. Here endeth today’s lesson.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Positive Things About The Old Country

In deference to my previous musings, I shall comment on one of the decent things about 'Blighty'. I've already mentioned pork pies and sausage rolls (not Tesco's abominations).

One of my most endearing memories is of my father's Morris Minor (license plate FJC 276). This car was originally owned by Miss Jennie Thomas, the author (with Mr. J.O. Williams) of the very popular children’s story of Wil Cwac Cwac ( Miss Thomas taught me a lot about human beings and child behavior, as she ran the local Sunday School in my father’s chapel. Mr. Williams and Miss Thomas are still revered in Welsh literary circles, and quite rightly so.

Not to digress too much, my father’s Morris was a 1957 two door, with a front seat that folded twice to allow access to the rear. This ensured that ladies with a desire for modesty were somewhat deluded, but a sneaked view of a stocking top was guaranteed – this was a major plus for a spotty 17 year-old youth. (Peterkins would have been proud of me.)

The Morris was a great car. It delivered me and my friend John Ffrancon to the wilds of Scotland on eight gallons of petrol (gas), half a gallon of oil, and about half a gallon of ale. We spent many happy days fishing in the Lochs, and looking at young women coming out of the kirk in such erstwhile places as Oban. The Morris failed in its attempt to lure the Loch Ness Monster out of its hiding place though.

Here in the US, these cars were not sold in vast numbers - not the USA's fault, but the result of some internal shenanigans within the UK.

There were many versions of the car – a 2 door, a 4 door, a Traveller which was essentially a small wagon (Estate Car), complete with wooden trimmings, and the convertible. (

Which brings to me back to the plot. I recently witnessed a lady, not in her youth, driving one of these cars here in Florida. She had a convertible, and the top was down. The steering wheel was on the left as well. I have made enquiries of Mr. Charles Ware of Bath – an expert on Moggies (as they are affectionally known in the UK), who assures me that he can provide me with a convertible, fully restored, left hand drive version for a modest sum. (I will win the lottery one of these days.)

On the other hand, I saw one of these cars with a Range Rover (Buick) V8 installed at a car rally outside Orlando, Florida. Not nice in my view. The Moggy, not Orlando. On second thoughts, Orlando too. Said car rally is best saved for 50s American cars. If only they still made them…… A ’59 Cadillac convertible and a ’56 Thunderbird still reign supreme.

Here endeth today’s lesson.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

What Have They Done To The Old Country?

Now, a visit to the Old Country always causes me some concern. Not least of which is what the heck have they done to coins? Not content with getting rid of sixpences, shillings, two bobs and half-crowns, a coin that was once 5 pence in ‘new’ money (the old shilling) has now been replaced with a thing that is half the size. The old 2 shilling coin (the ‘new’ ten pence piece) is now the same size as the old 5 pence piece. Confused? I was. It seems that all coins are made smaller these days. Perhaps this reflects the true value of the coins, and also makes it difficult for old people with arthritis to pick up the coins. They haven’t changed the size of the one pound coin, which if sufficient numbers are filled into an old sock, makes a very useful weapon when swung to repel yobs, of which there seems to be millions of them. Crime seems to be out of control. We hear almost daily of a kid stealing a car, and killing a pedestrian or another driver. And all they get is a couple of years in jail. After all, the poor things have rights, but the victims seem not to.

Another concern is manners. For example, in the US, when you go to the check-out at a supermarket, you are greeted with politeness and a ‘How are you’. What do you get in the UK? Not even a grunt. I tried hard to be nice, but was almost arrested for accosting a young check-out lady. All I did was greet her in a civil manner. Standing at one bar waiting to be served was an experience to be missed. The bartender came up, looked at me, and moved his head backwards in a rapid movement. I later found out that this was not an affliction, but a form of sign language which means, ‘What do you want to drink?’ At the pub, I merely echoed this head movement, until eventually the bartender spoke to me - he told me to leave.

Measurements et al. We are now informed that something is 20 meters tall and 40 centimeters wide. Temperature is given in Celsius, and weights are in grams. What all this means, I have no idea. I’m told that the UK is now part of Europe, so there is nothing to be done. So the country adopts the French way of doing things. I just hope we don’t learn the art of waving white flags. I’d still like to know who won the War.

Now for some interesting and positive stuff. I stayed in Birmingham (England, not Alabama), a city which is steeped in history, and a dialect which makes the S’thern US accent sound like the Queen’s English. A learned professor once said that regional accents would die out with the advent of TV. Never trust a learned professor or an expert. In Birmingham, one doesn’t ask for the restroom, one asks for the larpom. And you can go out of an evening and get ‘bosti fittle’ in a pub or a restaurant – good food. Safta means ‘this afternoon’. So a sentence uttered could be, ‘Safta, Ar bin gunnyarta get some bosti fittle after gunna to the larpom and put me stroids on.’

Every time I make a visit, I realize how much I miss two great things – pork pies and sausage rolls. I had two of each every day when I was there. Naturally, there is no cholesterol and no fat in them…. Yeah, right! With a dab of brown fruity sauce, there is nothing better. Unfortunately, several purveyors of these wonders have started adding the dreaded onion to them. Why in heck ruin the taste of good food? They’ll next add garlic!

One last comment on the state of the UK. The smell of diesel is everywhere. As is the clatter from the engines. I understand that diesels are supposed to be more economical, but the noise, black smoke and the smell are awful. I can’t imagine my old Morris 1000 making such pollution.

Here endeth today’s lesson.