Wednesday 27 April 2011

A typewriter is tougher to shift than a condiment

….. writes Diksha Sahni for the Wall Street Journal, which is a great start to a sentence, although I am not too sure I get the connection between them both!

However, I was saddened to read here ....

But relieved to then read here ....

I learned to touch type many years ago on an old battered black manual typewriter at my local technical college. I took evening classes after I left school – such classes were not known at grammar school, only academic lessons with a bit of PE thrown in for exercise. I cannot remember exactly how the nitty gritty stuff was taught at the tech, but I do remember bashing the keys with fingers that were hidden beneath a wooden affair that covered the keys from cheating eyes. And of course it was necessary to bash the keys with enthusiasm to ensure they descended with enough strength to get the letter to reach the ribbon, let alone print anything on to paper. And then there were those occasions when you caught two keys at once and ended up with a duel of inky metal at the ribbon, not to mention those times when you missed a key altogether and you finger plummeted painfully between two keys.

No doubt, that is why these days I tend to hit the keys from a height and with great gusto rather than glance my fingertips over them, which is – let’s be honest – all you really need to do these days on computer keyboards. It may also explain why I cannot take to laptop keyboards - they are too low down and squishy for comfort. They are only playing at being keyboards.

But the most memorable thing of all? The heavy, satisfying ‘ker-ching’ of the carriage return after the little bell had warned you of nearing the set margin. ‘Ker-ching’, ‘ker’ching’, ‘ker-ching’ - to sit there just pressing the carriage return to hear that satisfying sound was bliss in itself.

However, there is something to be said for the modern ‘delete’ button. My mum used to work in a solicitors’ office and would type out contracts etc on such a machine. There was no allowance for mistakes – make one and she had to start all over again. Eeeks! At least in my job we could use correction fluid or correction tabs. And now I have remembered good old stencils, and the wonderful red correction fluid you could paint on mistakes. I can still recall the smell and sound of the stencil machine, and I am aware now that I am once again flying down memory lane at a tangent … so I shall merely raise my cup of afternoon tea and accompanying biscuit to the good old manual typewriters of old.

Sunday 24 April 2011

Friday 15 April 2011

An arrogant bustard

Whilst sitting over a cup of coffee and a toasted cheese sandwich on the way back from Berkshire yesterday evening, Jon asked whether I would be able to do a ‘Jon is an idiot’ kind of blog recounting anything silly that he had done whilst we had been away. Placing the half of sandwich that I had been tucking into back onto the plate, I placed myself in typical thinker pose and, whilst scratching my head, replied that I was sure I could think of something.

Sadly, if I am to tell the truth, I did reply along the lines of ‘Well, der!’ and - with hindsight - probably rather too quickly. I had tried so hard to leave as long a pause in between his question and my answer so as not to appear too eager, but I failed miserably. In my defence, I was hungry and wished to resume the demolition of my toasted cheese sandwich. I must also add here, that this all took place only a few seconds before Jon took a drink from his glass of Diet Coke and managed to stab himself in the eye with the straw. And as all of you will know, Jon wears glasses so to do this was not as easy a task as it might at first seem.

To be honest, I don’t think he actually did do anything too Jonathanesque on this trip, apart from nearly exposing certain parts of his body - which would mostly likely not be a good idea to reveal in public - on a couple of occasions when his braces came undone at the back, with a resounding ping. The following scramble to avert the ‘trousers around the ankles’ scenario may well have provided a highly entertaining video to put on CFZtv, but unfortunately the situation called for immediate attention, not allowing me to obtain the camera from the camera bag that sat tantalisingly on the back seat of the car.

The sat nav, however, surpassed itself in its mis-directional stupidity. So much so that both Jon and I screamed at it to shut up, before it was unceremoniously unplugged and then dropped further along in our journey (albeit by mistake) when Jon opened the car door, not realising that when he pulled the plug from the cigarette lighter socket with sour-tempered gusto, the wire had flown back and become twisted around one of his legs. You never know, the event may have knocked some sense into it. The cause of our testiness with it? I can explain if you would care to know. Usually, when approaching roundabouts, the lady inside the tiny box tells me which exit to take (in fact she makes sure I don’t forget by repeating the information several times on the approach to them). But at least three times last night, she took us back to the same roundabout and told me – with no emotion in her voice whatsoever - to turn right, then right again.

She seemed determined that she wished me to park the car on top of the grassy, daffodil encrusted mound in the centre of the roundabout for some peculiar reason only known to herself. No matter how hard we tried to navigate ourselves out of town by – we thought- making acceptable sense out of her instructions, she managed to take us back to the damn roundabout. So, in the end, we decided to go with the flow and interpret her ramblings in a sat-nav kind of way, and did as we thought we were being told by pretending we were tiny boxes also rather than using our jaded sense of direction or the stars. We thought we were onto a winner – she did not re-compute the journey and seemed perfectly satisfied with our interpretations of her instructions at last. Lo and behold she took us where she clearly wished us to go. Her sinister aim was revealed. The Vodafone headquarters was her desired destination. It was then that we lost our tempers with the small speaking box and the tiny female entity inside. We searched frantically as we drooled psychotically inside the untidy mess that is the back of the car, and eventually found the old-fashioned way of finding our way back to the correct route. Road atlas in Jon’s hand, we eventually managed to vacate the vortex and made our way serenely into Hampshire in a manner more befitting our age, rather than like two enraged escapees from Bedlam.

This is Madeleine the secretary bird by the way. She resides at the Hawk Conservancy near Andover, Hampshire where we visited on the way to Berkshire on Wednesday. Isn’t she gorgeous?

And this great bustard definitely fancies himself something chronic.

Saturday 9 April 2011

Games doggies play

Pru has discovered two jolly clever new games whilst taking advantage of the spring weather outside. The rules for one seem to be: Wait until everyone is inside, creep up on bin bag, empty it as quickly as possible, disappear from view leaving a trail of rubbish, pretend you had nothing to do with it, see how many times you can do this before tempers rise among humans. And the rules for the second: shatter the peace by doing a pretty good impression of the Baskerville hound just because you can, to make all and sundry jump from their seats at the sudden loud, 'Hammer House of Horror' interruption.

It must be pretty good fun being a dog at the CFZ you know. Four people to exasperate with silly games on a sunny Saturday afternoon. And then just roll over, display your tummy and wait for the attention that you so desire. What joy, what rapture.

Sunday 3 April 2011

Would you mess with this mother?

OK let us be honest here - to us this female of the species may not exactly be one of the most attractive of the fairer sex, but - who knows - she may the underwater version of Angelina Jolie to others of her kind.

However, she is doing what mothers do best and guarding her young well. Mind you, the more you look at her, the more appealing to the eye she seems to become in an odd sort of way. Those dark eyes, those completely natural full lips that have not had a collagen needle anywhere near them. Awww she is rather sweet really.

The Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California announced in late March that aquarists there had been helping around 250 baby wolf eels to hatch from a mass of eggs, with another couple of hundred due to hatch over the following couple of weeks. Found in the northern Pacific Ocean, wolf eels (Anarrhichthys ocellatus) are not actually eels at all but fish (scientists refer to them as 'wolf-fish') and despite their rather aggressive look, they are quite friendly unless, of course, you happen to be a sea urchin at dinner time. They are rarely aggressive, but it may be wise to note that they are capable of giving a painful bite if they so desire.