Thursday, 28 October 2010

At War With Time

A friend once gave me a rather random Birthday gift – a wall clock with a homemade inverted face whose hands went backwards. Although somewhat perplexed but appreciative of this pointless gift, I didn't use it much - after all, twice a year life gets confusing enough, causing my body to go into revolt. Generally the clocks going forward is less traumatic. I'm aware this statement may sound a little strange to any SAD sufferer but it's the truth. The clocks going forward always seems to coincide with my sister's Birthday which means we're often out somewhere arguing over when the taxi is actually coming. One year was particularly disastrous but in an attempt to avoid completely embarrassing myself I'll avoid going into that one.

As the time draws near for the clocks to go forward, I find myself for the first time ever contemplating where this ritual comes from and who observes it. Why I have never pondered this before I have no idea. My rich friend google is quick to tell me that we are one of about 70 countries who utilize daylight saving hours – the Chinese and Japanese do their own thing and equatorial/tropical countries have no need for DST due to daylight hours remaining fairly constant regardless of season (see for maps for country lists).

Although ancient civilisations flexibly adjusted daily schedules and Mr Benjamin Franklin anonymously suggested something similar back in 1784, modern DST wasn't actually proposed until 1895 by the Kiwi Etymologist, George Vernon Hudson. The combination of his shift job and insect collecting hobby made him aware of the value of after-hours daylight and lead to several proposals to the Wellington Philosophical Society suggesting a two hour daylight saving shift.

A decade after Hudson's idea a British builder by the name of William Willett came up with a similar suggestion in 1905 after his dismay at the amount of Londoners sleeping through a large part of the summer day. Rather selfishly he also wanted to extend the day in order to avoid having to cut short his golf round at dusk. He drafted and published a proposal two years later that went to a Liberal MP but was repeatedly rejected right up to his death. It wasn't until World War One when the Germans introduced DST to try to conserve coal that Britain and the allies followed suit and countries across the world gradually wanted a piece of the action. Sure there have been plenty of readjustments since then but essentially the Germans are responsible for our biannual clock alterations.

Despite a yearly muddle, I am not complaining. I am just immensely grateful Benjamin Franklin's suggestions weren't too influential – taxing shutters, rationing the light source of his time and ringing church bells/ firing cannons at sunrise to wake the public. I'm far too much of a night owl to appreciate that last kind gesture. Pretty sure my dad wouldn't mind though!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

All I Want For Christmas is...

For at least a month now various shops have been stocking both Halloween and Christmas themed wares but with the clocks going back soon, winter is truly kicking in. Recently Metro (and probably a variety of other publications) printed a list of top ten most wanted children's Christmas presents using survey results. As I'm soon due to be an entirely unexciting old age, it's past the time for Birthday lists but a recent conversation led to the formulation of this joint Christmas list to ensure The Boy and I are warm and entertained for winter, safely cocooned in the flat.

Item 1: Either a Chow Chow resembling a lion to curl up next to or

a cat named Tessa to provide company when dining alone.

Item 2: A sleeping bag suit for those particularly icy days...

Item 3: When your muscles have seized up this overly expensive boy's toy will both help clean your pad and if you have pets, provide hours of entertainment.

Unsurprisingly none of the above items featured in Metro's list but then I'm no longer aged five-sixteen years-old or quite as demanding as those interviewed who better have rich mummies and daddies...

Unsurprisingly none of the above items featured in Metro's list but then I'm no longer aged five-sixteen years-old or quite as demanding as those interviewed who better have rich mummies and daddies...

Friday, 15 October 2010

All The Time In The World

It's late Sunday night and I'm trying to book a series of coaches but after entering my card details my booking fails. Having attempted to book one journey approximately five times, I'm now swearing profusely and decide to give up. Enough of my time is already swallowed up by National Express journeys these days but now unsatisfied by this, they've decided to deprive me of the remainder of my weekend.

The next day, determined to book ahead to get cheaper ticket prices, I tempt fate and go through this rigmarole again. Naturally the same error page is displayed so I decide to book another journey using a different site only to face a similar helpful onscreen message. Complaining to little sis, she asks if I'm with “GayWest” to which I answer in the affirmative. She instantly recommends going to the branch and getting them to check my card, having had her card frozen due to “unusual activity” after buying a bottle of wine from the farm shop next to our childhood home she used to drop-in on daily.

Already attempting to fit the London Film Festival around supply teaching and failing pretty badly, I have an exceedingly busy week that isn't helped by the schedule for press screenings or the process of applying for and collecting film screeners. I am not particularly overjoyed by the prospect of a trip to “GayWest” but I'm unwilling to waste my own precious phone credit to call their Visa helpline when I'm sure I have done nothing untoward with my card. I end up queuing for some time at the information desk to be told there is an error message on my card and I may use a phone in one of the private side offices to contact the helpline. Simple? No.

Typically on a day when I am already feeling pretty ill, all of the phones seem to be out of order. I have to repeatedly wait for an office to become free, only to be met by a dead line. After nearly 40 minutes in the bank, a lady goes to get me the cordless but that's also not working for inexplicable reasons. Eventually she takes my cards and rings from the back office on my behalf but returns to inform me she can't access my account details because she's not me. Really?

Miraculously one of the phones that was earlier on strike, suddenly has a ring tone so I'm put through to the fraud line. As if the 50 minutes I have already been hanging out for in NatWest isn't enough, I'm put on hold while the same lady stands watching me huffing and puffing and soothing muzak worsens my mood. What was wrong? Apparently booking two RyanAir tickets for approximately £80 was deemed “unusual activity” and NatWest decided to act like a protective parent by blocking my card.

Nearly an hour after entering and I'm finally back on the street ready to locate the drop in clinic to see a doctor merely to have my own self-diagnosis confirmed so that I can access the prescription drugs the chemist refused to give me. Ironically, while the NHS waste my time, there are initiatives in place to try to reduce the amount of wasted appointment time. I'm certainly glad the NHS exists but at times like this wish some drugs were more readily available over the counter like in countries like Vietnam and China. But I guess if they were, certain people would selfishly abuse the system, resulting in a rise of “unusual activity”.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Morally Dubious Scenarios

I'm sandwiched between The Boy and my mum watching Slinky Sparkles and Candy Girl slowly strip one after the other in front of a bare stage with nothing but a chair and two over-sized fake plastic lollies as props - I have to wonder if there is something wrong with this picture. An evening of Burlesque for beginners ends a week of morally dubious scenarios.

Scenario One: I find myself inadvertently being paid to stand in a church aisle and monitor 15/16 year-olds during a fifty minute “re-dedication” service in one of Westminster Abbey's chapels. As a devout atheist I long ago stopped parroting lines vicars and priests spout at me and ceased participating during the prayers. These days I am generally only in church twice a year and occasionally manage to whittle these visits down to once a year. From a family with rigid Christmas and Easter traditions and ceremonies, it's pretty difficult to escape family visits to the church on these occasions – there was in fact one memorable incident when The Boy attempted to avoid a church outing but found himself locked outside and shoeless with little choice but to get in the ready waiting car.

I generally feel happier and less hypercritical not joining in with the “worship” but this week standing on display the discomfort returned. As the member of staff nearest the front in the central aisle of the church, I couldn't help wonder if I was being scrutinised by bored fidgety pupils. Then there was the other matter of the school's Head. Watching his flock and ensuring full participation, he paced at the front of the church where I was clearly in sight and even walked up and down this central aisle passing me by. Surely he'd have seen my still lips and heard my lack of participation? I couldn't help but wonder whether as an adult “role model” failing to repeat the appropriate lines or join in during the prayers would be a disciplinary matter if part of the regular staff? Standing in such a prominent position reminded me of being a school pupil when I'd mouth the words rather than join in with the singing of the hymns - I was almost tempted to mask my principles by returning to this favoured method of old.

Fast-forward to Scenario Two: I'm attending the BBC Four World Cinema Awards for one of the many websites I write for. Aside from the host, Jonathan Ross, I am not expecting to see many recognisable celebrities but then suddenly Tilda Swinton is waiting to be seated across the aisle from where little sis and I are expectantly waiting. Respectful of Tilda as an actress with a varied and often selective back catalogue, I watch her with interest but neither her greatest fan or critic, I am not particularly desperate to speak to her. My sister, however, contemplates a conversation with Tilda and as someone who is inexplicably annoyed by her very appearance, decides attempting to chat with her merely because she's famous would be a hypercritical act, unless of course she was to show her contempt.

I'm back in the Hastings auditorium, I began this entry from and Scenario Three is well under-way. Having watched two dull strip acts, I seemed to have upped my Minstrels intake and wonder whether chomping on chocolate and watching ladies strip are appropriate activities to combine. One of the male audience members directly in front of me doesn't seem to need any snacks – he'd do better with a safety harness, he's leaning so far forward in his seat, I wouldn't be surprised if he dived over the Upper Circle's railings. After an appalling magic act courtesy of “Biff the Magic Dragon”, it's a relief to have ex-Parisian Playboy model, Chrys Columbine, on stage to inventively combine Burlesque with Classical music.

Thankfully after a much needed interval, the reappearance of several embarrassingly named frankly mediocre acts is redeemed by an entertaining stint by the talented “Hula Girl” and a finale from the show's star, Amber Topaz. With it's wartime theme, feather fans and titty tassels, our evening of Burlesque may have incorporated the appropriate props and figures but the seedie-looking organiser, Mr Moonie, clearly lacks imagination and cast members, resulting in a noticeable absence of choreography, chorus lines, dazzling costumes and the splendour of The Moulin Rouge. The most entertaining memory of the evening? Big G reminiscing about her trip to Paris and disappointingly complaining the show was too tame.

Final Consideration: Should a strip show ever be “too tame” for your mother's eyes?