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Wednesday Words: 15 January 2014

For this week’s Wednesday Words, I’m going to look at just that: Words.

What a difference just one letter makes. Here’s an example:
Compliment: Expression of praise, congratulation, etc.
Complement: That which makes something complete.

Just after Christmas 2012, a supermarket near to where I live was selling off cranberry sauce, chestnut stuffing, and suchlike. A sign read:


I doubt that any turkeys would pay humans any compliments at that time of year, at any price.

And then, more recently, I went to a dismantling yard to obtain some parts for my (ahem) elderly conveyance. There, I saw another sign:


It was just an ordinary sort of place. I was neither considering its attributes, nor was I awestruck.

Oh dear, this language of ours!

Wednesday Words
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An Open Letter: Dear New Blogger

This post was prompted by a new addition to the blogging community in the shape and form of Messed Up Mum at the end of 2013. It is for her, and all her like. (Screwed up dads also welcome. After all, this is a bloke typing this.)

Dear Messed Up Mum,

Happy new year (belated.) Happy new blog. (Also belated.)

On behalf of the blogging community, welcome, and best wishes. Don’t worry about blogging ‘properly’. This isn’t a case of How To Hold Your Knife And Fork. As one blogger tweeted to me:

What is this knife and fork you speak of? *licks fingers*

Quite. Blog honestly, decently, and legally, sure. (I’m sure you don’t need me to say that.) But, other than that, it’s your blog, your rules. A couple of thousand words, or one photo. you choose. Above all, blog from the heart.

Why bother? well, I suppose there are as many reasons, in detail, as there are bloggers. Subjects include parenting, travel, photography, cooking… the list goes on. Including especially, the ups and downs of this thing called life. But essentially, here’s what comes to mind:
1. We all have in us, if you will, a little bit of the teacher, the author, and the journalist. Something to pass on to each other.
2. We have the joy of belonging. I’ve sat here in front of a monitor screen, reading blogs, and been sometimes helpless with laughter, sometimes welling up in tears, sometimes filled with awe. Others have told me, along the way, that I’ve had these effects on them. This is humbling (in a good way.)
3. We learn how much there is to learn from one another. Learn to be less judgemental, and to contribute to healthy debate.

So, go for it. I’m sure loads of warm-hearted people will welcome you, just as they did me. But, as I happened to say to a blogger who was a little disheartened recently, don’t try to be someone else; we need you to fill the place of…


With love,

Phil XX

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Thrifty Thursday: 9 January 2014 – When cool is not so cool…

For ‘Thrifty Thursday’ this week, run by Gina over at Cold Tea and Smelly Nappies I’m going to talk about something particularly related to saving energy in our homes.

Thankfully, it’s now widely known that an old central heating boiler can be very inefficient, wasting gas and therefore costing money unnecessarily. And slowly, the message about energy-saving lighting is getting across. (I might do a post about that another time.) But, drawing on my own experience, I’m going to highlight a potential waste of energy that rarely gets due consideration.

That old fridge or freezer.

Perhaps others have been on this journey (or one like it.)

A good few years ago, I replaced my freezer. The one I had was fairly old – no, very old – and I was scared of its possible sudden failure.

Well, actually, that’s not quite true. ‘Replaced’, I think, gives the idea of instead of. But in this case, it was a case of as well as. I had the space, so I thought, why not keep it going for now, for the fruit season, and… you know the rest. Story of my life. I can’t bear to get rid of something that still works, just for now.

After a few months, though, I noticed that, whereas when I went to the new one, it was rarely running (no motor noise) the old one was almost always running. (They were near to each other, so a difference in ambient temperature wasn’t a factor.) Now, it so happened (I’m an electrician) I had handy a watt-hour meter (just like the ones electricity companies fit in your house.) I rigged this up to one socket, to feed the old freezer. Then I took readings of this meter, and the one for the whole house, a week apart. The results were staggering; this thing I couldn’t part with was using 22% of my total electricity consumption! It had to go!

Now, I’m not saying that every less-than-up-to-the-minute fridge of freezer is a money sink. I’m just trying to highlight a situation that’s easy to overlook. The ‘sealed system’ can spring a leak and lose refrigerant gas, or the thermal insulation can deteriorate. And certainly, modern domestic fridges and freezers are cheaper to run, thanks to improved cabinet insulation and other factors.

So… Running that old one might not be so… cool!

I’m sorry that this highlights a potential problem, but doesn’t give you the money to buy a new appliance! But this truly is an example of a situation where it’s worth spending to save. Next time, I’ll show you how you can re-use something, in a worthwhile way. That’s a promise.

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Shape, Line, Colour…

Once again, it’s time for ‘Magic Moments’ at The Olivers’ Madhouse…

Well, the highlight of last year, for me, was getting involved the the luminarium project ‘Exxopolis’ run by Architects of Air. Keeping the story short (for now) a number of us helped to make a ‘mosaic’ panel out of small pieces of plastic sheet. Ah, the heady aroma of solvent on the late spring air…

But enough of the reminiscing; what we made formed one small part of the whole massive structure, essentially a vast plastic tent, kept up by a system of fans blowing air into it. Now, if you had suggested to me, say, a few weeks before, that people would be thrilled to go inside a plastic tent, I would have been tapping my skull! But this was no ordinary tent…

Our ‘thank you’ from Architects of Air was free admission on the opening evening. An evening I shall never forget. After the formal opening ceremony, we moved across to where the structure now stood, inflated…

Exxopolis 1

and took off our shoes…

Exxopolis 2and went inside, where an amazing display of shape…

Exxopolis 3line…

Exxopolis 4and colour, combined to give every visitor…

Exxopolis 5not just one, but a whole series…

Exxopolis 6of the most exquisite…

Exxopolis 7incredible…

Exxopolis 8magic moments!

*  *  *

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Prose For Thought: Firefly’s First Stand

This week, I am joining in for the first time at ‘Prose For Thought’ – a blog hop hosted by Victoria at ‘Verily Victoria Vocalises’ here. This piece was written some time ago, and needs a little explanation; you see, in real life I have always tended to be rather reserved. Then, one day, I thought, what if I wasn’t? Well, my thoughts sort of drifted over the keyboard, and, well, this is what I ended up with. So here is me in another life, trying desperately to be funny and serious, both at the same time. (Come to that, I actually do that in the life I have. With varying degrees of success…)

Firefly’s First Stand

In a theatre, the auditorium lights dim and a compère walks onto the stage and is picked out by the beam of a spotlight.

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the show ‘Semi-serious Fun’. Thank you for supporting what we hope will be the first of many of these shows. As I’m sure you know, we’ve put together a wide range of acts from a great variety a performers for this evening. And as the opener for tonight we have someone who has never performed on stage before, so let’s give him the jump start he needs. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome… Firefly Phil!

Phil walks on, to a round of applause. Compère leaves. Phil takes a piece of paper from his pocket, unfolds it, and begins to speak, looking occasionally at the paper.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, and thank you again very much for coming tonight. I know the weather isn’t very pleasant out there and many of you have braved heavy rain, lightning, act of God, riot or civil commotion, subsidence or landslip (first £1000 of any claim)… [Phil frowns] Hold on! Something wrong here. [Phil turns over the paper, frowns again, then looks up] Well, that’s a bummer.

Phil frantically rummages in his pockets. Paper hankies and supermarket receipts fly across the stage.

It’s no good. Must have filed those notes for tonight under ‘insurance’. It figures when you think about it, doesn’t it? Anyway… [reads] Without prejudice to the foregoing… [looks up] I must just say that if the two pretty, smartly dressed (well, almost dressed) young ladies on the front row were to prejudice the foregoing, it would be a shame.

At least this isn’t one of those terribly formal affairs where the men wear enough suiting to cover a decent football pitch. I was talking to a friend of mine about this and he said he thought the women were nearly as bad, although the sport was different. I asked him if he meant, let’s say, netball instead of football. He said, No, he meant Subbuteo.

And that reminds me what I really meant to talk about. You know, I was watching a video the other day about the indoctrination of women by the fashion and cosmetics industry. You can get videos on just about anything now, can’t you? Anything from ‘The structure of the earth’s crust’ to ‘How to lay laminate flooring’. Mind you, all I’d say about those two videos is that if you’ve watched either of them, you can say you’ve watched them both.

Anyhow, you’re probably wondering how I came to be watching this video about women and fashion and what not. Why should it bother me, you might well ask. Well, that’s a very interesting story. Would you like me to tell you? [enthusiastic nodding from audience] That’s a shame, really, because I can’t remember it properly. Only that it all started when I was browsing the web to find out about vacuum cleaners, and then I somehow found this video. And, you see, in this video, the presenter was talking about the cosmetics industry’s idea of the perfect woman. I’ll just quote: “She has no scars, she has no blemishes, she has no pores.” Now that set me thinking. You know, you get these magazine articles where some new young lady journalist interviews an even younger, even newer up-and-coming songbird who hasn’t had the time, or the money, to get a drink or drugs problem yet, never mind go through rehab, and so she’s really full of life and everything (I mean the songbird, not the journalist.) Anyway, the aforesaid songbird is always described as ‘oozing vitality and zest for life through every pore’. Right then, back to Miss Perfect Woman. She, poor dear, has no pores. So what’s she going to ooze vitality and zest for life through, eh? Answer me that. [raises eyebrows and forefinger] Gentleman at the back…sorry, sir…no, I really don’t think the show can accept answers on a postcard this time. Nor emails, I’m afraid.

But that brings me nicely onto my other subject for this evening – and I’ll try to keep this brief – by the way, have you ever noticed how people say “I’ll try to keep this brief” and then ramble on for half an hour? I won’t do that, I promise you – but I just wanted to talk for a few moments about how some people use computers. Now, obviously, a great many people use computers sometimes, either at work, or at home, or both. But what I just don’t understand is this: there are people, supposedly of sound mind, who, of their own free will, will sit down by the hour at a computer to play at shooting and killing other people before getting killed themselves. Now, I ask you: just have a quick think about the international news and current affairs. If you need to, there are lots of news websites to look at. Now, is there not enough war in the world, [pause] enough fighting, [pause] enough brutality, [pause] enough mindless killing [pause] so we have to pretend to do some more? HOW SAD IS THAT? Well, I’d better stop before I get high blood pressure, but I can see the lady at the end of the fourth row, who’s wearing the most delightful see-through… [turns and coughs] Excuse me. Now where was I? Oh, yes, the lady with the delightful see-through glasses, is agreeing with me. Well, not all specs are see-through, you know. Not from the outside, anyhow. Just think of all those gangsters.

Well, the little man in the box up there’s waving now so that means time’s nearly up, but the organisers asked me if I would introduce the next act. I said I would count it an honour. After all that semi-serious thinking, I’m sure you’re ready for some music. So, coming on any second now, we’ve got a terrific young man with an amazing voice, backed by three lovely young lady songbird-instrumentalists who are – yes, you’ve guessed it – oozing vitality and zest for life through every pore. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome HANK BOLIDAY AND THE DAYS OFF!

The four walk on and Phil stands aside. Applause follows. Phil mentally takes some of the credit.

Well, before I leave you to enjoy some really great songs, thank you all very much indeed for listening to me tonight. I can honestly say that it’s been a pleasure. And the pleasure’s been all yours.

Phil bows left and right to further applause, and walks off.

* * *

Prose for Thought
Edit – 26 April 2016: I linked this post to #chucklemums this week!

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Wednesday Words: 6 February 2013

This post is once again prompted by Emma at Crazy With Twins, here.

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

William Butler Yeats (1865 – 1939)

Written over a century ago, long before the advent of computers as we now have them, these lines strike me as good advice to us all as we read the contributions of others in the blogging scene; let us remember that each post, especially a creative or autobiographical one, is that author’s offering, and our appraisal and criticism should always be tender!

Click on the badge to find out more about the concept of ‘Wednesday Words.’

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Wednesday Words: 30 January 2013

This post was prompted by Emma at Crazy With Twins, here.

Since I can never see your face,
And never shake you by the hand,
I send my soul through time and space
To greet you. You will understand.

James Elroy Flecker (1884 – 1915)

I’ve loved these lines as long as I’ve known them. And now, although we wouldn’t exactly say ‘never’ I think the idea they convey finds a place in blogging. Many times we infer the concept ‘You’ll know what I mean, because you’re a blogger, too.’

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Monday Mobile: Week 13 – How it was done

For this week’s mobile picture, I’m going to show you how my ‘Silent Sunday’ picture for yesterday was done. There was no image editing trickery; essentially, it’s just a still life shot of a flame, using copper to turn the flame green. Here is my shot of the equipment I set up:

The blowtorch was lashed to a stand with a magnetic base.  The red metal box served two purposes: to provide something for the stand to cling to, and to protect the table from any sundry bits of incandescent material falling out of the flame. At the ready are a piece of copper wire, and a small pot of acid-based flux. The camera was set up on a tripod in front of this rig. The shot was taken, after practising, with the room lights turned off, to give the black background. The wire was dipped in flux and then placed in the base of the flame. The exposure was made as the flame turned green.

Look at this post and the list at the end  for other ‘Monday Mobile’ contributions.

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Saturday Caption: 2 June 2012

Well, now. Nottingham is quite famous… First of all, I was born there. Well, I had to be born somewhere. And it turned out to be Nottingham. Next, it was the site of the World première of Exxopolis, the twentieth luminarium created by ‘Architects of Air’ – an event which took place just yesterday.* I’ll be telling you more about this incredible piece of architecture as soon as I can, but, for now, here’s a shot of the time when, as they say, all good things came to an end, and the fans (that’s blowers, not supporters) were switched off, and the structure was deflated until today. Those of us honoured to be guests at the opening had had an absolute whale of a time, but now it was time to call it a night.

I’ll pause now for all the schoolboy/girl jokes about ‘a bit of a let-down’ etc. The event as a whole was, indeed, anything but that. A big ‘thank you’ to Architects of Air and Lakeside Arts, Nottingham. We wish Exxopolis every success on its world tour.

*Oh, and Robin Hood? Yeah, him…

But here you are…

Now give me a caption, please, in the reply box…

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