Wednesday, 30 March 2016

I Drink Champagne

Before boarding my flight to LA from Heathrow, the stray thought came into my mind that it'd be lovely to drink a glass of champagne over the Atlantic.  This thought was extravagant and something to do with my excited anticipation of a long journey, and it came true. The way it came true was like this:

My seat on the flight was a window seat (excellent news given that we'd be flying over Greenland) by the emergency exit (excellent news for the taller traveller as there are no seats immediately in front). I was greeted by two other taller travellers who assumed I'd chosen the seat especially, or paid extra for it.  I hadn't, which started the conversation going about height, and then about other easy topics like travel, Donald Trump and Arsenal football club.

The other thing about sitting en route to the emergency exit is that there are jump seats opposite for the crew.  There is something reassuring about this, especially on an Airbus A380 which is a double decker, and (smart though it is) has the distinct look of a vehicle which might find it hard to get off the ground.

During takeoff, the two cabin crew members sitting opposite us joined in our conversation which took, via various means, a turn into Spanish. By the time we'd reached a few thousand feet and the crew could leave their seats, we were being offered champagne.  Thirty minutes later, we were being asked if we'd like refills.  I accepted, of course, and stretched out my legs a little further.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

I Fix A Faulty Flush

My son and I were discussing alliteration in relation to his upcoming GCSE poetry exam and the requirement for analysis along the lines of: Here, the poet uses alliteration to emphasise a point about Peter Piper's activity, perhaps to imitate the soft 'p' sound of peppers being picked.  Though how those peppers came to be pre-pickled is less clear.  He asked me whether, when I write a poem, I put things in for people to discover.  "Um, no," I said. "Exactly my point," he retorted.

I'm not a big fan of alliteration either - it tends to draw attention to itself, and there's a danger that it will appear contrived.  Note, for example, how the alliterative title of this blog has the effect of trivilising the plumbing feat I accomplished today after the toilet flush broke at 8.30am, 

Whilst I welcome opportunities to extend my plumbing range (which has not, I confess, graduated beyond buying and replacing washers in the past couple of years), I saw my Saturday stretching ahead into a frustration of shopping for parts and finding screwdrivers of the right size.  Sighing, I lifted the lid off the cistern, took out the snapped plastic arm that links flush to flush valve, pocketed it and then went to one of the best shops in the world, Abbey Hardware.

"I don't suppose you have one of these?" I asked the shopkeeper, taking the broken lever from my pocket, already bracing myself for the longer walk to the plumbing merchants.  He challenged my unbelief with a firm smile.  

Thirty-five seconds and £1.20 later, I was leaving with an adjustable lever arm and a sense of wonder.  Not long after that, I'd fixed the flush.  The faulty flush.  I'd fixed the faulty flush fairly ... effortlessly. 

Wednesday, 9 March 2016

I Photograph My Milometer

I've been anticipating reaching 200,000 miles for a while now.  Only another 38,900 miles to go and I could make it to the moon (had I had my car from new), but not back again.  200,000 miles is a long way and I reached it at Rhostyllen northbound on the A483 this morning.

Hoping that the line of zeros would appear at a more significant moment - when en route with my sons, perhaps, or on arrival at a friend's house - I've been doing some calculations in the past week to anticipate the moment and to try and manufacture some significance.

In the end, it happened about 10 miles earlier than I predicted - something to do with me forgetting to factor in the journey to badminton yesterday evening and the one-way system which sends cars the long way around town.

And so the 9s turned to 0s on a familiar and unsurprising stretch of dual carriageway just outside Wrexham.  Pleased that I hadn't missed the moment altogether, I pulled off the road, photographed my milometer.  A mile later I photographed it again.  I sent a Stanley Kubrick fan this photograph with the message, "Two-hundred-thousand-and-one: some sort of Odyssey?"

Thursday, 3 March 2016

I Find My Bear

I’ve been clearing out my stuff, moving things around and generally reconnecting with possessions stored, some of which I haven’t set eyes on for twenty years.  In doing this, I’ve found my bear, Bill: Billy for short.

Knowing what to hang on to and what to throw away or recycle can be confusing.  I’ve been discussing, for example, the problem of letters intended for one specific reader with a friend.  In this case they are the letters his parents wrote to each other whilst courting – he’s wondering whether to read them to understand the two people central to his existence better: perhaps to discover a great love which he remembers worn thin by familiarity; or whether to burn them, whether to put them away for another day, or another generation.

I am ambivalent about whether to keep some of the things I’ve found.  On the one hand, they remind me of aspects of my former self, some of which I’d forgotten.  I was surprised that my primary school project on the Babylonians is neat, but it’s factually inadequate; I like my toy china tea set and it holds memories of the miniature tea parties that I used to create for my sons, but it could be now enjoyed by someone smaller; my wetsuit reminds me that one of my favourite things to do is to swim outside, but I like to swim where it’s warm enough not to need it.

It was easy to decide to keep Bill.  He’s one year younger than me – a present from my beloved, smokin’ granny.  Since his arrival, he’s followed my every move. He’s not cute, but he is robust having survived many hugs, long periods of time being completely ignored, as well as the minor surgery I carried out on him back in the 60s (with added glue) and several ill-considered haircuts.  And all of this without anaesthetic.