November 08, 2017

'Allo, 'Allo ... ?

So, I was watching a movie that had subtitles the other day and it got me thinking about accents.

For instance, in Spain, do they have a character is a TV show who is French but talks Spanish with a French accent ... so we know he's French?  It's like the old war movies where the Germans speak English but with a "German" accent.  "Ve have vays of making you tok ... " sort of thing.  Sorry, I hope this isn't considered racist in any way,  I'm just really curious as to how other country's accents sound in another country's language.  It happens in English-speaking movies and TV, so I can only assume it happens in other countries.  Presumably you can speak Chinese with a Japanese accent?  Or Japanese with a Korean accent?

It reminds me of something my Dutch sister-in-law mentioned when they were visiting South Africa. She said she sometimes heard people say something in Afrikaans and then repeat it in English for her and my (English) brother.  She found it a little confusing at first as she wondered why people kept saying everything twice.  I gather that Afrikaans is based on the Dutch language.

There used to be a TV comedy show in the UK called 'Allo 'Allo about the French resistance during World War II.  The owners of a cafe in France had the usual "French" accent, and the two British soldiers waiting to be rescued were over-the-top British (I say, chaps, what's for tea?  Tally ho! ) There was another British guy who was undercover as a French policeman, but his French was pretty appalling.  So how do you get that across to the audience when everyone is actually speaking English?  Are you still with me on this?  He sometimes used to say the wrong word ... "good moaning" for "good morning" or "wonk" for "work".  That's how you do it.

With English being the language of business around the world, as well as aviation, I think we forget that what happens in English probably also happens in most other languages.  Having moved from the UK to the US, I was surprised that the British seemed to have so many more slang words for every day things.  Maybe it's a question of the size of the country?

Just to show my age here, there was another great TV series in Britain called "Call My Bluff" and it had two teams of three people who each had to give the definition of an unheard of and usually unpronounceable word, and the other team had to decide which of the three words was genuine.  The words they described - both real and imagined - were just incredible, and the convoluted stories the contestants came up with were wonderful.

I love language.  Words.  Scrabble.  Dictionaries.  Crosswords.

And maps.  But that's probably something for another day.

Image: Copyright: andreykuzmin / 123RF Stock Photo

April 10, 2017

Glass Slippers

I know there are a lot of things going on in the world that we should be thinking about  - terrorism, natural disasters, hunger, war, politics, Brexit … the list is endless.


I was thinking.

Why didn’t Cinderella’s glass slipper disappear at the stroke of midnight?  Seriously.  The carriage turned back into a pumpkin.  Likewise the mice, rats and lizards returned to their natural form.  So did the dress.


Not the glass slippers.  Or should I say one slipper, as that’s the token that the Prince carries around to each house in the land to find the girl he’d danced with at the ball.

Is that one magical piece of footwear, or what?  That’s a very smart Fairy Godmother too, since she must have known the importance of the shoe ahead of time.  Very cunning, these fairytale magicians.

I haven’t done a web search on this particular subject (probably worried about what I might find out there in the big wide yonder …) so I have no idea if the conundrum has ever been solved, or what conspiracy theories are out there.  Or more to the point - is anyone else wasting even a tiny smattering of their day contemplating this matter?

Interestingly, I just looked up Cinderella on the internet and Wikipedia makes for a fascinating read.  Apparently the “Cinders” figure turns up in all sorts of folklore around the world, and the glass slipper is sometimes an anklet, and in Asian stories, there are fish bones and swings involved.  One story has “Cinders” singing and the Prince recognizes her voice above all others.  Another shows “Cinders” planting a hazel tree over her mother’s grave and a dove in the tree gives her what she wishes for, instead of a Fairy Godmother.   In some countries, her name is more like “Ash Pot”, which I suppose is a variation of Cinderella.

I had no idea that a story with this basic plot could be found in so many countries, and how old the story was, as well.  There are some versions from 1634 or older (that’s assuming that everything in Wikipedia is correct … hahahaha!).

Maybe now I’ve posted this to the Blog, I’ll venture out into the brain of Google and waste a few minutes solving the problem, then I can go back to thinking about Brexit, runaway trucks, etc. 

Or maybe not.

January 12, 2017

Cow Fart Bags?

Seriously, California ... ??

I just read that, in September 2016, the Governor of California signed a bill regulating greenhouse gas emissions related to dairy farming.  He's talking about methane ... cow farts.

The State is giving money to help some of the dairy farmers buy "digesters" which convert methane from manure into energy that can be sold back to the utility companies.  Dairy farmers aren't too happy about all this as there's not enough money to provide the technology to everyone, but they will still be required to reduce the amount of manure produced.  The best way to do that, apparently, is to give the cows more expensive food ... better quality in, better quality out, I suppose.

I agree that the idea of reducing greenhouse gases is a good one, but surely this Bill will have so many unintended consequences, the least of which is price rises and job losses.  It's predicted that farmers will just sell up in California, and start farming in other States, which really doesn't help the initial problem ... the cows will still fart and poop, whether they're in California or Wisconsin, thereby making absolutely no difference to the climate (unless you're downwind, of course!).

A year or so ago, scientists in Argentina figured out that this particular cow byproduct can be useful to be converted to energy, and have invented a backpack to collect the ... er ... gas.  A tube is stuck in the cow's rumen and the gas is then stored in the inflatable bag.  The methane gas goes through various processes to make it suitable to use as electricity, and thereby keeping it out of the atmosphere.  This is all in the R and D stage, and there are definitely some ethics questions arising too, but it's one solution to the problem of what to do with the south bound end of a north bound cow.

I'm not sure if this is just putting a band-aid on the problem, rather than solving it.  Is the solution to eat less meat?  I'm sure that comes with its own set of problems regarding land needed for cultivation of crops, and the vast amounts of water and chemicals used by the agricultural industry.  I think we should all go back to having a kitchen garden, or the apartment equivalent, and more community gardens .. although that brings it's own problems too.  There is a local garden near where I live and I noticed that people were mainly growing flowers.  I found out that they don't grow many veggies because people come in overnight and steal the vegetables.  Do you put a high fence and locked gate around the gardens?  Should we be pleased that thieves are getting their five-a-day?  There are so many solutions to the original problem, but each brings with it a new set of problems. A debate for another day!

Photo courtesy of Ecouterre at

January 05, 2017

The World's Oldest Bell Foundry

I hate reading this kind of news - I believe that any society needs a healthy combination of history and tradition, mixed with the new and contemporary, but sometimes instead of running side by side, one replaces the other.

The Whitechapel Bell Foundry that made both Big Ben and the Liberty Bell is closing.  The Guiness Book of World Records lists the company as the oldest manufacturing firm in Britain, formed in 1570, during the reign of Elizabeth I.  It moved to its current location in Whitechapel over 300 years ago.

Big Ben is the name of the bell in the Elizabeth Tower (formerly St Stephen's Tower) at the Houses of Parliament.  The foundry cast Big Ben - the hour bell of Augustus Pugin's Great Clock of Westminster - which weighs 13.5 tons and is 7 ft high and has a diameter of 10 ft.

According to records, transporting Big Ben the few miles from the foundry to the Houses of Parliament was a major event.  Traffic was stopped as the bell, mounted on a trolley drawn by sixteen brightly beribboned horses, made its way over London Bridge to Westminster.  The bells first rang out across London on May 31st 1859.

Unfortunately, new churches aren't being built, but Britons love the sound of church bells, so work continues on replacements and maintenance of the older bells.  The company has diversified in recent years, making traditional doorbells for those restoring older properties, as well as small table bells being ordered by American fans of Downton Abbey, so they can ring for tea.

Although Big Ben was cast in 1858, the foundry had previously cast the original Liberty Bell in 1742, as well as the bells for St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney and the National Cathedral in Washington DC, St Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey in London.

For more details - and some great photos - check out:

June 09, 2016

A Seagull With a Sense of Adventure.

Image : Lucy Kells, Vale Wildlife Rescue
Who can resist a curry?  Seems that a hungry seagull couldn't, and fell into a vat of chicken tikka masala, outside a factory in Wales in the U.K.  The uninjured bird was taken to Vale Wildlife Rescue where it was cleaned (a lot !) and fed, as it was a little skinny.   Apparently he's now nice and clean, thanks to some hard work from the staff at the Wildlife Hospital, but he still smells ... well ... delicious!  Ms Kells explained that the gull would normally have been able to take off if it had landed on water, but the curry was to thick for him to escape.  Luckily someone found him struggling to get out of the vat, otherwise he would have drowned.After his colourful photo was posted to Facebook, some interesting names were suggested for the poor guy.  Instant Korma?  Vindagull?  Seaspice?  One person on Facebook said "Good job he's not a Kormarant."  Groan!!  They settled on Gullfrazie.Staff have been feeding him pieces of meat to build up his strength, and he will be released as soon as its feathers have recovered their natural oils.I guess you have to know your curries to get the jokes, and most people in the U.K. will understand, as Chicken Tikka Masala is now the most popular dish in the country.  

The Journey Continues ...

So ... I haven't posted anything here for about two years.  I can't even remember why I stopped.  Probably I figured that no-one was reading this, and I know I'm supposed to promote the Blog on social media, but since I spend all day on the computer for work, the last thing I want to do in my spare time is ... work on the computer.

So ... I realized that I don't particularly care.  Even if just one or two people stumble onto the Blog, that's fine by me.  I love writing about the strange and wonderful things that happen out there, and today when I saw a story about a seagull that fell into a vat of curry and is now a beautiful shade of tumeric-yellow, how could I not put it out there for the unfortunate people who did miss the story.

Or how about something I saw while stuck in traffic a while ago - not sure what it is (a dragon?) but it was an amazing piece of sculpture that someone was taking on a road trip.

So ... I'm going to keep up with this Blog more regularly - starting with the seagull - and see what happens.  One of these days I may re-venture out into the world of Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, but don't hold your breath.

If you're the one person who's reading this, enjoy!

And thank you.

May 13, 2014

Something to Smile About

I love this story!  Over 100 volunteers in a small town decided to knit all the buildings and landmarks of the city of Bristol in England.  Among other things, the city is known for its suspension bridge, which opened in 1864 and was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.  The knitters and crocheters incorporated churches, ships, cranes, traffic jams and even a crocodile which was reported to be on the loose in the city earlier this year.  

It's such a colourful, clever and interesting piece of art - or is it a sculpture?  I would imagine that if your hobby is knitting, this would have been a really fun thing to do.  

You can find more of the story here.   I'm sure there are people out there asking why?  Surely the only answer is why not?.

May 07, 2014

How Low Can You Go?

People's depravity never ceases to amaze me.  You hear of some terrible act of violence or senseless destruction and just when you think mankind (admittedly it's only a few) can't sink any lower, we hear of things such as the kidnapping of hundreds of young girls in Nigeria by a group who disagree with girls being educated but obviously are okay with keeping them as sex slaves.   Or the White Supremacist couple in the US who "wished we could have killed more" people who's lifestyle they disagreed with.  Yes, one of the people murdered was a sex offender, but there's something drastically wrong in the couple's thinking.

One example of senseless destruction that always makes me furious is harming or defacing something that other people have worked hard on or come to see.  I know it's not in any way in the same category as the events listed above, but there is a mural on the side of a building near us that looks like it was painted by schoolchildren, and someone has tagged and obscured it with some illiterate gibberish or another.  Why?  Was that destruction such a turn on .... for about 30 seconds?  It's like the people who delight in putting a scratch on the toe of new shoes on the shelf in a store.  Yeah, that makes you real tough.

What got me thinking about all this was a story I read in the UKs Daily Mail newspaper online.  It's about the last old growth redwood trees on the west coast, and how they're being severely damaged by people - drug addicts - who are cutting the burls out of the trees to sell for their next fix.

Photo from the AP

We're told that a redwood tree can survive the practice, but the legacy of the organism that could be 1,000 years old is threatened, because the burl is where it sprouts a clone before dying. Sprouting from burls is the prevalent method of redwood propagation, and the source of the Latin name for coast redwood, Sequoia semper vierens, or forever living.

You can find more of the story here -

One thing I enjoy about online newspapers is that you get the chance to comment on the story - it certainly gives you a sense of how the general public are feeling about things.  I particularly liked the comment  "Hack parts off those who decimated the trees."  I agree.

May 04, 2014

Thor's Day Off.

So I was rummaging through my handbag, discovering lost change and an errant almond, and sorting through the various receipts that end up in the bottom of my bag, and I found a receipt for a purchase made last week at Goodwill.  Meh.  Nothing special. 

Until a closer inspection revealed ...

Man, I never even noticed!  I guess now we know what Norse Gods do when they're feeling extra generous ... put in a few hours at Goodwill.  Thanks, Thor.  Much appreciated.

PS.  If you'd been wearing the red cape and fancy helmet, we earthlings may have paid more attention.  Maybe on your next shift?

April 23, 2014

Where Have All The Colours Gone?

They say that Summer's coming ... though it's still raining here, and it's colder today, so I'm back in my polar fleece.  I thought I'd look on the internet for a new duvet cover to brighten our bedroom, so went to Bed, Bath & Beyond and Amazon, as well as, to see what was out there.

Well, if I wanted to buy new bed linens, the term "brighten" really doesn't come to mind when you see what's available.  As the post header says - where have all the colours gone?  Just a quick glance at a page full of choices, and you can see that white, silver and taupe seem to be what is mostly available.  Yes, there are some more interesting patterns and colors, but they're few and far between.  Just glance at a sample from Bed, Bath and Beyond:

... and Amazon:

Blah!  Now, I'm not criticizing those two stores, as this is basically what I found everywhere else on the Web, but I'm just not a beige or white kind of gal.  Okay, so the walls in my living room are ... well ... beige (Gobi Desert, to be precise!) but that's a long - and very boring - story.

I remember reading somewhere recently that most of the car colours these days are white, silver and black.  Look around, and you'll see the boring colors.  I have a friend who has a silver Honda Civic and it's a real pain to find it in the parking lot, or to keep an eye out for her if she's picking me up.  Thanks goodness my car is red.  And the next one will be too.  I'd love to have one of those apple green Fords, but I'm not sure I want a Fiesta.  My favourite car was a turquoise Renault 5 ... that was easy to spot in a parking lot, at the time.  Moving on.

Back to the bed linens - I'm not sure if sheet sets or comforters are sold in brighter shades and more interesting patterns, because we have a king size duvet, and there isn't quite so much choice out there for duvet covers.  What makes it a little more complicated is that we have a queen size bed and use a king size duvet, so it makes it harder to buy a set.  Not harder, but certainly more expensive, as you have to buy the sheets and duvet cover separately.

Maybe I'll stick with what we have.

There was one interesting spark in this search for linen.  When I went to the Amazon site,  I typed in "duvet cover" in the search box, and this came up:

I guess it was the "cover" part that got caught up in my search because I don't think those are duvets!

February 25, 2014


It's a verb, a noun, a ship, a space shuttle, a detective ... a beautiful word.  The synonyms are strive, seek, attempt, undertake, aspire, and aim.  To me, those words are just as important as words like succeed and win.  When you read biographies and stories of scientific or medical discoveries and such, it seems that it is often a case of getting it right that time, rather than getting it wrong ten times before that.  

Captain James Cook's ship was called The Endeavour.  Cook was an explorer, a navigator, cartographer and Captain in the Royal Navy.  In three voyages - the first on HMS Endeavour - he sailed across largely uncharted seas, and mapped lands from New Zealand and Australia to Hawaii, adding islands and coastlines to European maps for the first time.   Originally, in 1766 the Royal Society engaged Cook to travel to the Pacific Ocean to observe and record the transit of Venus across the Sun.  This reading enabled astronomers to find the distance of the Sun from the Earth, which then could be used as a unit of measurement in calculating the parameters of the universe.

The photo above shows the replica that the Australian Government and the Australian National Maritime Museum built of the bark Endeavour -    Add this to your bucket list!

The Space Shuttle Endeavour was named after Captain Cook's ship.  For the first time, an orbiter was named through a national competition involving students in elementary and secondary schools.  They were asked to select a name based upon an exploratory or research sea vessel.  NASA's website tells us that the Space Shuttle Endeavour's adventure began with a flawless liftoff in May 1992, beginning a journey filled with many firsts.  A primary assignment was to capture an orbiting, but not functioning, communications satellite and replace its rocket motor.  Unfortunately the Shuttle wasn't designed to retrieve the satellite, which created many challenges - an unprecedented three-person spacewalk took place.  In all, it was the first time four spacewalks were conducted on a mission and one of them was the longest in space history, lasting more than eight hours.


Endeavour is also the first name of Detective Morse - the TV series that actually makes you have to think about the clues as they're unravelled.  A good story, and set against a background of the beautiful city of Oxford - the City of Dreaming Spires.  Whether it's the new series, set in the 1960s, or the old series which was made in 1987-2000,  I really enjoy everything about it.  The locations, the story, the college background, the famous red jaguar, the interaction between the characters.  I'm also a big fan of the Inspector Lewis series, a spin off from the original Morse.   I get very homesick when I see the characters taking some time out for a pint in a local country pub, often sitting outside on a Summer evening, and just talking about the day  - or in this instance, the case.

I was going to add the story of Ernest Shackleton's voyage to the South Pole, but realized that his ship was called HMS Endurance.  Another great word, but one for another time.



Something we all should be doing.

A favourite word.