Coals to Newcastle (as it were)

Posted by Susan Tomes on 5 April 2010 under Daily Life  •  1 Comment

An intriguing exchange in Sainsbury’s this morning. Two women were standing at the flour section frowning at a tiny bag of flour which one of them held in her hand.

‘Do you bake?’ she said to me. I nodded. ‘Could you tell me whether I’d get 24 fairy cakes out of this amount of flour?’ ‘I’m not sure,’ I said. ‘Why don’t you buy the larger bag of flour to be safe?’ ‘Because it’s heavy, and I have to carry it to Brussels.’

There was a thoughtful silence.

‘Why don’t you just buy the flour in Brussels?’ I asked timidly.
‘Because everything in the British shop in Brussels is three times as expensive!’

Another pause.

‘But you wouldn’t have to go to the British shop in Brussels for flour, surely!’ I said. ‘Couldn’t you just buy the flour in any grocery store there?’

‘You can’t just get flour in Brussels, believe me!’

We are not quite reconciled to being Europeans.

Calm before the storm

Posted by Susan Tomes on 3 April 2010 under Inspirations  •  Leave a comment

pink camelliaThe weather has turned cold again, and on the day I took this photo in Richmond Park, we had hail, thunder and lightning in the afternoon. By now, the high winds and heavy rain have probably ripped most of the early blossoms off the bushes. So I think I was lucky to spend an hour among these fragile signs of spring while the rain held off.
Happy Easter holidays!

Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs

Posted by Susan Tomes on 31 March 2010 under Daily Life, Musings  •  2 Comments

Frasier's themeBob and I were arguing over breakfast about the theme tune at the end of ‘Frasier’. We’re working our way through a box set and enjoying the Frasier ambience all over again. But we had rather different memories of what notes he sings to the words ‘tossed salad and scrambled eggs’. The lyrics are enigmatic ( ‘Hey, baby, I hear the blues a-calling, tossed salad and scrambled eggs’). Our concern, however, was the tune.

I sang my version, Bob sang his, and we each told the other they were wrong. Then we got the phone message notebook, drew some lines of music score and wrote down our competing versions. We still couldn’t agree, so we put in a DVD and found a point where the tune appears.

Immediately the plot thickened. Kelsey Grammer‘s intonation is flexible, and sometimes it’s a cross between singing and speech. The between-the-cracks pitches seem completely natural in the context, but still allow two old pedants to stand there arguing about whether a certain note is a sharp E or a flat F, whether the next note is a flat E flat or a sharp D,  and so on. Our notebook was strewn with crossed-out sharps and flats, not to mention rhythms. You can buy music books that claim ‘it’s easy to play TV Theme Tunes’, but goodness knows what they make of this one.

Is your journey really necessary?

Posted by Susan Tomes on 29 March 2010 under Daily Life  •  Leave a comment

Weekends in London are becoming a nightmare of public transport challenges. Every week we’re notified of which tube lines will be closed or partially closed at the weekend. The list often seems cheekily long. The whole Victoria Line is often closed, the whole Circle Line, portions of the Jubilee Line, parts of the Northern Line, bits of the District Line, individual stations here and there, and a crucial stretch of the Piccadilly Line which means that you can’t reach Heathrow Airport by tube. They close bits of the Docklands Light Railway which mean that travellers can’t get to City Airport. And now the Northern Line is entering a phase where half of it will be entirely closed at weekends until the end of 2011.

In addition to the stoppages which are advertised, there are plenty which aren’t. Yesterday I had visitors who left my house to return to Cambridge. Knowing that the local tube line was out of action, they went to get an overground train to Waterloo. But there were no overground trains either, though there was no warning about this in the station foyer, and they didn’t discover it until after they’d validated their tickets. The only option was to go a long way round, with several tube changes, to King’s Cross.

Arriving there, they found that the middle part of the London-Cambridge journey was to be ‘replaced by a bus’. Slowly they made their way by train and bus, with a half-hour wait on a rural platform in the rain before the final bit of train journey. At Cambridge Station, there were no buses ‘because of a fire’, and they had to walk into town. And all this was on an ordinary weekend.

Signs of spring

Posted by Susan Tomes on 28 March 2010 under Daily Life, Musings  •  Leave a comment

camellias in richmond parkSuddenly there are signs of spring everywhere in the neighbourhood (and presumably further afield as well). I wish I knew whether these lovely blooms in our local park are camellias or rhododendrons, though at least I’ve got that far. ‘La Dame aux Rhododendrons’ doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it?