Eggs, Bananas and Pentecostals.

‘I’m going to have a hot banana, with a Pentecostal see you in half an hour’.


In our house this makes perfect sense, and it is nothing you are thinking of.

Have you ever sat down with a family and they all laugh at innocent words. Those small phrases that mean something to them and nobody else.


I am sure we all have them. When I was growing up we regularly had a stretch or starve. This was normally Sunday evening meal. It consisted of what would I suppose be called a buffet in proper circles. The phrase was once said by my father, at it stuck. We still use it in our own house with our kids now. Family friends call it ‘bits on a plate’. It is the same meal the same concept but the naming of the meal is different.


Some of our sayings we can trace back to their origin others we struggle to remember but stick with the phrase for no apparent reason.


My wife and I will at random times just say ‘Sausage’ which will raise a smile on both of our lips. The innocent beginnings of this hark back to one of our many very late journeys coming back from holiday. We had the use of a holiday flat in north Wales. And with at that time two young children (both under 6) with us we decided to not leave until after 9pm for the 4-6 hour drive home. This meant that the children would sleep almost instantly and constantly, which allowed my wife and I to spend many hours talking to each other, without having to worry about any house work etc. On one occasion we left later than normal, there were many hold ups with late night road works, so we were travelling in the early hours of the morning well we were very tired and to keep ourselves alert, awake, we would sing stupid songs or tell awful jokes, after a few miles of silence my wife just said ‘sausage’ at the time it was hilarious to us both, I had trouble keeping the car in my lane ( a very quite mountain road at the time). Tears rolling down my cheeks and was short of breath for laughing. The word was not funny in any way, it was just we were so tired, and had spent an hour or so laughing at ever, poorer jokes. We now use it as a measure of tiredness if we laugh then we know we need to sleep.


With four children who are not afraid to talk we have a store of cute sayings, from each of them. Our son who is now no-longer the small shy boy with angelic hair and a sweet smile he gave us one that we repeat many times when having a cooked breakfast. In that slightly high-pitched  innocent voice with blazing eyes and a smile sat down to breakfast with these words. ‘I like an egg I do’ to anyone else it is just a sentence, to us it brings a smile to our face.


Our youngest not long ago mentioned that her thumb hurt. So as per normal we just rubbed her thumbs and gave them a gentle kiss. Much to her disappointment at our laughing when she said ‘No my thumbs on my feet’ meaning her big toe’s.


Stretching words out such as ‘quickerlelier’ of a school morning when trying to giddy them up makes our youngest laugh at the stupidity of the word (especially when said in the same pigeon Spanish accent used by Jim Broadbent in black adder), has no real origin and just give it a second reason to use it, I know it really annoys my eldest daughter, because it is not a real word.


As for the starting sentence it is all innocent. When we were first married my wife had a terrible headache and could not remember the word ‘Paracetemol’ she said Pentecostal instead and it has sort of stuck, sometimes to our embarrassment when we use it to ask others if they have any pain killers.


And it was not that long ago I announced that I was going to have a hot bath but for no reason what so ever  the word Banana came out instead of bath.


So as is often said in our family at the end of a shopping trip.


Are we done?

We have been.




Black Friday….or next Friday hopefully

Another fine tradition!

Yesterday across America and increasingly more areas of the world many families gathered around their dining table and shared a meal in thanksgiving for what they had received for the previous year, health, food, love etc etc.

But no it is not that tradition that has worked its way across the pond to our small rock here in the North Sea. But today this normal Friday that has become known as ‘Black Friday’.

Yes that’s right this sad day does not celebrate, any mass loss of life in a war or natural disaster, it does not commemorate a fallen hero. No this day can trace its origins back to the 1960’s  where every body heads out on mass to do one thing and one thing only, SHOP.

That’s right the day after the whole of America celebrates the things they have. They then queue outside department stores eager to get the latest thing they haven’t got for a knock down price. Woe betide anyone else in their way, they will trample over the fallen, shove the weak out of their way and manhandle the smaller to one side so they can ensure they have what they want.

Over this side of the pond we don’t…. is the right word ‘celebrate’. please don’t say it is, Black Friday on the same day. Ours is the last Friday before Christmas, that is the only difference. I have mentioned before about our consumerist society. Such a nice word isn’t it, consumerist. Another phrase we could use instead is ‘greedy’ or ‘I want’. But oh no that might offend someone, or be against their rights. Well prepare to be offended. Not by words but as the saying goes ‘one picture speaks a thousand words’. So here is two!

One picture shows our ‘consumerist society trying not to offend anyone hands out grabbing something they desperately want.

We will call it BLACK FRIDAY

The second picture,

well lets just call it ‘Probably won’t be alive next Friday’

Awww look at that the same stretched out hands, the same needey look in their eyes, that look on their faces saying they would ‘literaly die if they don’t get it, the clamouring in the background, the sad dissapointment of those that couldn’t get what they wanted. And the same goes for the second photo!

Hope you all have a really nice Christmas and get what it is you ‘want’.


Not being picky or anything …But!


Is it a bird..? Is it a plane?…no it’s……….


I do enjoy a good film sadly I can only watch it once and enjoy it for what it is meant for.

The following times, I will than continually scan every scene for mistakes and pointlessness. Sometimes I can spot the mistakes straight away ‘Twilight’ for example I could see the mistake while it was still on the shelf unopened. Others take a little more time. Some are continuity

mistakes in one shot they might be wearing a blue jumper and two seconds later wearing a black one. But those are boring. The opening quote is from the original Superman, the obvious mistake here is why were the first two people so excited to see a bird and a plane?


I do get geeky sometimes when it comes to technical details in some films. The latest Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, for example. When Mendel uses the garage phone to help Peter, while he is in the circus. The fluorescent tubes in the background were of a kind not made until the end of the 90’s. While I am in no doubt this does not distract from the originality of the story, or the pain staking time taken to ensure that everything is from the early 1970’s. It just brings a smile to my face to be able to spot a mistake like that.


I also enjoy finding those little mistakes in books. (I know I must be fun to live with). While films, TV series, books are generally pure fiction and mistakes have no adverse effects, apart from on my sanity. J. K. Rowling mentioned she ended up keeping extensive archives on all her characters to ensure that over the seven books she didn’t make mistakes. Even though in the very beginning of the first one she did make a little mistake that rendered the whole of the third book a mistake. I will let you go and find it, if not ask me nicely and I might let you in on it.


The same is to be said for supermarket shelving labels. The internet is awash with pictures of Bananas labelled up as broccoli, and such things. But to me it is the innocent mistakes that make me tick. In my local boots all the baby creams and Calpol etc are right next to the birth control, I don’t know if this was on purpose or not but the humour of it tickles me.

Now my biggest problem is spotting mistakes in grammar and spelling, before you get to read this the above text is full of red and green underlining squiggly lines reminding me of my inability to remember anything my English teachers tried to teach me. The little paper clip on the screen has thrown in the towel and left. When at school I was able to hide my bad spelling with my even worse writing but in today’s age everything is typed and on view for all to see. Never mind I am sure that people have better things to do than spend ages looking for mistakes in my work.


Now it Friday night my eldest daughter has offered to put the little ones to bed, so its film night for me and my wife. Lets see how many mistakes we can spot in tonight’s film.. Star trek into darkness. Apart from Scottie’s hair line that seems to be even more receded in his youth than he was in his later years.. oh and apparently we have stopped using suspended animation since 1959 and using warp drive ever since.. (do the maths it all works out it is set in year 2259 and Doc says they haven’t deep freezed people for 300 years.)


Anyway night all enjoy your



Machiatto Anthropology (part three)

I have a confession to make, I am not loyal.


Before my wife comes over with hands on hips and lips so thin (where do they learn that look). Let me clarify my statement. We have a new coffee shop in our small town. While at the moment I still prefer Café Nero, Coffee #1 is calling me. It has a cosy interior, I like the eclectic collection of furniture sourced from chapels, while the fire place is false the ambience is not. The only down side is a lack of WiFi. Before anyone accuses me on my fickle nature, Café Nero supplanted Costa Coffee. I will openly plead guilty to the charge set before me. But I will still argue my case, I seek comfort. I prefer a big soft settee that moulds around me to the fashionable leather couch that adorns executive apartments. A meal of stew and dumplings will always be chosen over exquisite cuisine. Lastly you will more often find me in warm jumpers and loose jeans than tailored suits, and highly polished shoes. (Another blog on polishing shoes to follow soon).


It is this that brings me to today’s observation, While sitting waiting for my dear suffering wife to bring me my coffee, two ladies in their late twenties early thirties vacated their table. Both were dressed much like a winter Next or Boden advert. As one of these ladies walked of to powder her nose, her companion cast a critical eye over her as she walked away. The raised eyebrow and slightly thinning lips told me that she did not either approve of her friends choice of clothing (a hip length chunky knitted jumper, jeans and a whisper thin scarf). Or more likely in that glance she took in her friends physic, judged any weight loss, or gain. With that glance was probably able to tell her exact measurements. She then stood a little straighter in the back. Smoothed down her own jeans and buttoned her coat. I caught her looking at her reflection in the glass of the window, and then the adjusted her hair, and smiled as her friend returned. The smile spread across the face she became animated as they kissed on the cheek to say goodbye to each other and they both left the coffee house.


I had good look around the rest of the customers, to see if any of the others displayed similar habits. One group of suited business types were gathered around a table showing signs of tension, an elderly couple in the easy chairs wrapped up against the cold even in the building. A couple of mothers relaxing in the leather settee as their offspring slept in pushchairs laden with bags. I suppose they all spent time choosing their clothes that morning, all for different purposes and choosing what they wore for different reasons. The two ladies earlier mentioned conscious of their appearance and the unspoken opinion of their coffee date. The elderly couple for warmth, the business type were probably the easiest choosing the unofficial uniform of suit and tie. Then I thought about my own attire, why am I wearing what I am? Did I consciously choose my shirt, and jumper combo? Or as is the case most of the time I pull clothes out of my wardrobe I know I will be comfortable, clean, and will fit. Why am I wearing this coat, I have four or five coats to choose from why this one?


It was then my wife arrived at the table, with my coffee brining me out of my thoughts an into the real world, realising that it really did not matter what I wore because unless you in a lime green suit and a four foot purple hat you are probably invisible to everyone around you as they are more concerned about their own lives, than what a complete stranger is wearing.



See you all again




Ok so as Suzi has posted her first paragraph, This is the beginnig of my book. I have toyed with the start for almost a year now. Oh the characters are fictional, along with the views they hold this is fiction. The main character Is Ryan, you will get to hear more of him in the next part.  As for the title it will become clearer as the start of the book unfolds. 



Friday 17 July 20144:20pm  Pembroke Dock, West Wales


Ironically it was the chore he hated most that saved Ryan’s life. His late wife always turned the mattress and made their bed the day he left, refusing to sleep in it until he returned.

The centre of the explosion was three miles away but it was of such ferocity, that Ryan’s house was blown in from the front to the back. The plate glass window in the main bedroom that over looked the bay was blown apart, the mattress that Ryan at that moment was holding in front of him shielded him from the frame and masonry that had been turned into shrapnel, but the shockwave still lifted him from his feet and slammed him through the ply door of the built in wardrobe in the corner of his bedroom. He was knocked out cold and lay crumpled in the corner of the room with the mattress, wardrobe door and other items burying him.




Friday 17 July 2014 4:10pm, West Wales


Clive now in his late sixties, had been not feeling to well for a few days. He was currently behind the yoke of his pride and joy an Aero Boero AB-180vr light aircraft. Not normally found here in the UK. He brought it in Brazil, and spent four weeks flying it back in short hops through North America via Greenland, and the outer Hebrides. He had been using it as a way of topping up his civil servant pension by giving chartered flights over the Pembrokeshire coastline, mainly for dolphin spotters, and photographers wanting a different view of the beautiful coastline. The pains he was feeling had worried him so he decided that he was cutting this solo flight short and had turned around to head back to the small airfield ten minutes away. The heart attack was sudden and instantly fatal. The small plane lurched in the air as he fell back into his seat his hands still on the yoke pulling it up. The plane Climbed from the 3,000 feet he was cruising, The planes ceiling height was registered at just over 19,000 feet as Clive’s plane went past 21,000 feet in stalled the nose tipped over and it dove straight down, Clive’s body fell forwards onto the yoke and instrument panel his arm fell forwards and knocked the throttle into the fully open position, the engine with the rush of wind past the two bladed Hartzell prop, roared back into life and accelerated the small plane with the help of gravity past its 225kmh rated speed.


Joseph was used to seeing small planes pull some aerobatics in the sky above the bay. He spent hours of the day bored while sitting in his small concrete gate house. Today he was looking forward to his two week holiday starting after his shift finished at 8pm. His family was at home now doing the finishing touches to the packing, it would only take him fifteen minutes in the car to travel the five miles to his house and then a cold beer form the fridge, listen to his wife coo over their newborn daughter they spent years trying for. His attention left his planned holiday and was now concentrating on the small plane climbing well above what he though was normal. He could only just see it as it tipped over and started to dive. It was then as if for the first time he realised that the oil refinery was there, He had worked for the company for nineteen years, everyday in this small gatehouse, or guard house as it once was, Most of the refinery was hidden from view behind the man made hills designed to help the place blend in with the view. The one area he had a perfect view off, was the holding tanks. Each cylindrical tank held 255,000 gallons of oil. He twisted on the spot watching as the small plane plumetted getting bigger the engines screaming.



Clive’s AB-180vr had only used 30 litres of its 270litre capacity as it slammed into the top of one of the holding tanks, it tore a hole straight through the steel rupturing the fuel tanks, the scrape of steel against steel sent a shower of sparks in every direction igniting the planes fuel in an instant, which in-turn set the crude oil alight. With a now gaping tear in the storage tank allowing the oxygen in the air access to the fuel the tank exploded, the force of which tore apart the three surrounding storage tanks, immediately exploding and sending a fire ball thousands of feet in the air. The shockwave travelled out levelling all within its path for the first half mile, everything not re-enforced was turned to dust. The other twenty plus storage tanks ruptured spilling fuel into the whole complex before igniting.


Pembroke dock town was two miles away across the open bay. Everybody turned around as they saw the flash of light as the plane hit. The new super market whose front wall was two thousand square feet of glass looked straight down the bay, as the shockwave hit the car park it turned cars over and then it hit the front of the building instantly turning the glass into shards travelling at over 800mph it shredded everything in its direct path. The road deck of the suspension bridge high above the bay, full of traffic going home early on a Friday evening was torn from its stanchions sending everything into the water hundreds of feet below. Behind the shockwave, came the blast of heat wave. This superheated blast was over two thousand degrees Celsius, travelling a little slower than the shockwave. It set fire to the parched ground, the water in the bay for the first two feet deep instantly evaporated. The forecourt garage exploded as the blast and heat ripped pumps from the ground and petrol and diesel poured out along the ground igniting with the heat. The propane gas bottles now rolling around the floor expanding in the heat blew the regulators and launched hundreds of feet into the sky, flying through air they became missiles, smashing into cars and buildings as they came down still with jets of fire coming shooting out the top spinning wildly setting fire to tyres and melting the paint used to mark the roads.




North London May 2014


Mohamed Abdul Afuw, left his Mosque angry, he had argued with his elders again. He believed that they had become to westernised and not true followers anymore. He knew his destiny and would follow it through without help from those he thought understood him. They taught love and compassion, yet he still remembered seeing his mother and sister burning in their home, as the west rained down missiles from planes. He knew them to be cowards they dealt death from many miles away and could escape back to the carriers, to an awaiting dinner. He was going to show them the true meaning of terror.


Abdul was a plumber worked for himself he travelled through London weekly and knew his target. For the next two weeks he brought a plastic petrol canister and filled it with petrol everyday. He stored them in the small shed at the bottom of his garden. He then brought a small 7 kg bottle of propane gas, he repeated this five times each one from a different garage in different areas of London. With the scrap parts in his van he rigged them together and put a hand operated vale on the one end. After putting all the petrol canisters back into his van he rigged the bottles and cut through the bulkhead to allow access the valve. On Tuesday 14 July he was ready, when a TV documentary caught his attention, he was reminded about the pipe bombs from the eighties and the damage caused by the flying debris.  The local builders supply didn’t even question a regular customer stocking up on nails and screws, nor did the dozen or so others notice a builder buy 20kg of nails and screws. Many builders bulk buy their consumables to save a little here and there. Abdul arranged the gas bottles down the centre of his Sprinter van then he stacked the canisters of petrol around these, The nails and screws he emptied into plastic bags and stacked them on the shelving he fitted down each side. With the back doors locked he then pumped bathroom sealant around the edges of the back doors. Climbed out side door and sealed that from the outside. He sealed the hole he drilled through the bulk head and for good measure around the edges of that too.


On Friday the 17th July Abdul rose before sunrise. He prayed as normal then he just sat and waited. He had no one to phone and say goodbye to. His whole family were killed when he was just five years old within the first week of the war. At two O’clock he got into his van and drove through London By 4:30 pm he was sitting  In Nutmeg Lane, two minutes away from the Blackwall tunnel. He Drove out of the road turned left and then left again, straight onto the Northern approach, he was behind a minibus and in front of delivery van. Abdul purposely slowed allowing the minibus to pull away a little, he needed the space in front of him. He then opened the valve on the gas cylinders In the lane alongside him was a small lorry carrying bags of cement and other building supplies, at the 600 yard point he accelerated forwards in front of the lorry and leaving the delivery van behind, at the 700 yard sign where he knew it was roughly middle of the tunnel, he turned sharply to his right and pulled on his handbrake bring the van to a stop sideways across the two carriageways he then looked out of his side window at the approaching lorry, the drivers face showing shock and anger as he was stamping on his brakes, Abdul then pressed the small button he had installed setting of his blowtorch in the back of the van igniting the gas that had been filling the back of his van. 

The secret Addiction…..

We are a nation of addicts. We all have an addiction, and like most addicts we do not seem to care for the supplier.


It is the addiction of energy, or power. There are now more people living in urban areas than were alive in the whole world in the year of my birth 1975.  According to UK government research we use 27307kg equivalent of oil a day to keep our country running. The news at the moment is about our big 6 energy suppliers and costs going up. They are blaming it on the governments demand for more green energy, and for once I think the government is right to push this form of energy.


We do not have the right climate for solar energy to help us out all the time, but we do have wind, we are a small island at the meeting point of five major weather systems and this creates wind. From my own small town I can see two small wind farms. These many say are a blot on the landscape and ruin our countryside. And yes I will agree with them, however I wonder if any of these campaigners have talked to anyone in Hinkley Point recently? The site of Britain’s newest Nuclear power plant.


After talking with some about this, their answer was we need to insulate our homes. But this is not going to make any real dent in our power usage. I live in a 1820’s three story house. How can we insulate? We can’t put in cavity wall insulation, our loft already has 18 inches of insulation. But we are only just scratching the surface of our energy use with heating. As a child my parent’s house had an electric cooker, hoover and washing machine kettle toaster and a radio. Look around us now and see how much stuff we have now that is plugged in. In our house we have;




Washing machine



Two coffee machines




Coffee grinder


Digi box

2x Dvd player

Video player

Oil heater




3x Radio

4x  TV’S

3x Game consoles


Plus there are all the items you need to charge, Mobile phones, cordless phones, Lap-tops computers, Tablets.

And around 20 light bulbs.

I’m sure the list can keep on going and going.


We are a nation of technology users, and it is this technology that is using our power, lets also not forget the fact that there are now 70 million people in the UK now compared to 56 million in 1975. That’s an increase, of 2x the population of Inner London, all using more and more energy.


Its not only our domestic energy that we are using. It is estimated that we use 30 billion food kilometres in the UK alone, just to feed us or to put it another way. NASA’s probe Voyager launched 30 years ago has only travelled half that distance. Or we could go to Saturn and back 15 times.


The figures of energy in the UK alone are mind-bending, when we take the world as a whole they are just to big to contemplate it is 143,851trillion watts per hour.

Or for those that like numbers 144,851,000,000,000,000. (just to put into context the sun produces 12.2 trillion watts per square mile.)


But as mentioned like most addicts, we don’t care where we get our fix from. In 2011 87% of all energy came from fossil fuels. ( I have not got any more recent figures). We are tearing our planet apart for energy, We dig up coal, pipe our oil and gas and use it so quickly we can not carry on like this forever.


Instead of fighting the government, about putting up wind turbines, we should be getting in there before they do. In Germany whole communities are putting up wind farms and then using the profits to improve their local amenities. Not twenty minutes away from my house there are whole villages that have got together and plastered the whole area with anti Turbine posters and slogans. Because they claim it is bad for their health, or the noise is unbearable. Again these people should swap houses with residents of Hinkley Point.


We are a nation of energy users, but we don’t want to see that energy being created. We would much prefer if it was created in Another area and not in our back yard.

At the end of the day which of the following two pictures would you prefer to look out on.



Mobile Apocalypse

Gottfried Leibniz….if you know this name and what he did then give yourself 10 gold stars and a chocolate bar.


If not well he… go and look it up, But without him our world today would be very different. Sitting this morning in my favourite coffee shop, I was waiting for my wife to finish writing a few cards. I was getting a little frustrated because my phone would not connect to the free wifi. (is it ironic that my spell check does not recognise ‘wifi’). Anyway after a minute I decided to give up and enjoy people watching. Looking around the coffee shop (look I am fed up typing coffee shop all the time so its Café Nero OK). In Nero’s there were around thirty customers, I decided to count who was using technology while drinking. Well it was easier to see who wasn’t, three of us my wife, me and a gentleman to my right who was reading a paper. I was at first not surprised at this, the first thing I do when I get into Nero’s is check my phone, the same goes for my wife.


Then I decided to count those who walked past the windows and who was using a phone, in the ten minutes I kept this up for, I counted 367 people walk past, of these 278 were on the phone, 2 were using tablets, one person stopped balanced a laptop on a post. I live in a small town of around 40,000 including all the outlaying areas. In that ten minutes almost 1% of the population walked past and 80% of those were using technology. (By technology I mean modern communication).


Now I am old enough to remember telephones that you actually had to ‘dial’. They were cumbersome and six or seven numbers were all you needed. I am also older than the internet. But today it is all around us, mobile phone signals and wifi signals along with all the other radio signals. They are buzzing around us all the time. Looking out of the window at the sky, which was grey. I tried to imagine what the sky would look like if we could see all those signals in the air, different colours for different signals.

Imagine if we took my example of numbers and decided that 80% of the population were using mobile phones at any one time. If we round our population to 70million that means that 56 million people are on the phone at anyone time. Imagine 56 million little red lines shooting across the sky like pieces of wool.


Then there are those using wifi, and if you house is anything like ours the radio is constantly on (drowns out the children constant nagging).Then the signals for the Television, and then the radios that the emergency services use, or lorry drivers. It always amazes me how these invisible signals don’t get confused or run into each other. I understand the science behind it all, but still it is pretty amazing.


Back to Nero’s and me looking around at all the modern technology we use, the tills, the card payment machine’s (now also wifi). Even the coffee machine is computerised. I look at all this stuff and then remember how new it all is. It is since I was born that computers became small enough to leave buildings and then fitted into a room, and then left the room and fitted into a big box., and now they fit into your mobile phone which is small enough to fit into your jeans pocket. Computers have helped in every part of me getting that coffee. Growing, delivering it half way around the world. I am now trying to think of a business in this country that does not use modern technology in some part of their product chain. I can’t.


What if we turned the internet off, along with mobile phones and digital signals? Some would say we would be back in the 1950’s but I believe it would be further than that. My children’s generation does not know life without automation, television, computers and mobile phones are as natural to them as eating fresh fruit is to my generation. I had an idyllic upbringing in the country and enjoyed being outside. My parents subsidised shop brought produce with what we could grow on our small holding, I spent much of my spare time in my teens in the wilds, eating what I could forage, or catch. I was proud of being able to make fire without matches or a lighter. But even in my own generation these skills are not common. Because everything is now computer controlled, we would not have our fuel pumped or delivered to us, the food in the supermarkets would not get re-stocked. I am going slightly apocalyptical here aren’t I.


The pace of technological advancement in the last 50 years has been extreme. If someone from 1710 was transported to 1810 there would not be much difference, but if someone from 1910 was to be transported to now, can you imagine their mind overload.


‘Flying oh yes we do that everyday now’.

‘Telegram, no we don’t do those here use this phone made out of  plastic with no buttons and send a video of your self to America’


Oh sorry plastic?…video?….well here let us sit down in this American owned Italian coffee shop selling Moroccan coffee as it has free’ wifi’ and I can show you on my tablet, how you can use the internet to get all the information you need, hey we can blog about it, or even set up your own webpage. We had better be quick because I have just had a text to say I can have laser eye surgery tomorrow, and they need to prep me first. Here use this door as it opens by itself, no you go sit down over there by the double glazed window, I will pay, I have my touch and go on my phone. I can transfer my money from the other account while we chat. Do you want a macchiato or latte? Skimmed milk or semi skimmed milk.  Oh look I have had a tweet from Antarctica…Scott? Umm no sorry look I will show you what happened. Oh look I have had an email from the guys on the space station….




Till next time

Machiatto Anthropology (part two)

So yet again I am sitting in my favourite coffee shop. This time I was alone and had my pen poised ready to write something amazingly intellectual about spatial economics. But life was unfolding before me across three tables, the other side of the room.


Each table had four women around it. The first was surrounded by ladies all in their 30’s-40’s. From their clothing it looked like a business meeting and there was definitely a more dominate leader of this group who done most of the talking. Second table held four younger girls who seemed to be students, they were more vibrantly dressed and their talk was punctuated with laughter. The final table held four ladies in their late sixties early seventies. A tableau of life was there for all to see. Three stages of a woman’s life, sipping coffee.


The table with the younger girls, conversation was quick and followed no particular order, each participant vying for attention. While in one hand they had their coffee of choice, the other was clasped around their mobile phones. Half way through conversations the phones were brought into play. Photos were shared with the others, texts, tweets or messages in general were answered while still in mid flow. Hand bags were delved in for items unknown, and the only time others in the coffee shop were noticed was if they walked past them and knocked into their shopping bags.


The table holding the business meeting, was surrounded by concentration. Real or fained  I do not know. The imparter of information seemed to be animated while referring to a diagram and those whose interest she commanded sat upright and nodded sagely as if indicating complete understanding. There was a small break as the women who had lead the discussion left the table for five minuets. Shoulders dropped from the three remaining and heads bowed together checking watches, and their mobiles in the brief respite.


The final table was interesting to observe, as all its occupants had to talk a little louder to make themselves heard over the general hubbub of the coffee shop. I spied at least one tea pot on this table and the remains of more than one pastry. Of all the three tables the clothing worn around this table seemed the most colourful. There was a definite grey black theme in the suits of the business table, while the student table definitely, had a lot more fake tan than the branch of boots two hundred yards away.

But a little closer inspection of this older table and again you could see the uniform of their generation. Floral dresses, sensible flat shoes, warm winter coats (still being worn even inside). The handbags were much larger, and the contents that I saw emerge from these was bewildering at least. Small umbrellas, and plastic hair nets. Cotton hankies, bottles of pills and medicines. Mobile phones were also present on this table, although not the snazzy modern ones of the other two. A conversation was had on one of these, very clear basic commands were pronounced eloquently while the user seemed confused in which direction to face.


My second cup of coffee heralded the breaking of this scene before me as the business meeting came to its conclusion and the alpha female parted company. The student group had finally decided that their time had come to an end, and continued chatting and text while leaving the detritus of their visit behind. The older ladies ensured their table was neat and all cups and plates were stacked neatly on the tray. Bags and walking sticks were gathered and they shuffled out of view. A quick wipe down by the ever busy barista, and a new customer sat down by himself with his paper spread out before him.


For twenty minutes, a brief moment in time eternal, I was enthralled by the occupants of three small tables in a coffee shop. How many meetings had taken place around coffee shop tables, throughout the country in that time? What news passed between sippers of coffee. Was it business ideas that would revolutionise, or revitalise a company? Maybe friends, that have not seen each other for a long time, passing on news of old colleges. Was there news, that changed their outlook on life for ever. Maybe there was a wife telling her husband that she was finally pregnant after years of trying. Or was there meetings that imparted the sad news of the death of a loved one. Were there meetings that had been scheduled to say goodbye, parents saying goodbye to their children as they went of to college. Or maybe, a weekly meeting between two friends?


As I sit and watch life go on around me, I like to stop sometimes and just enjoy being able to breath slowly, eyes closed and for a few minutes just have the knowledge that at that time, for one peaceful moment. I can relax, control my immediate future if only for a few brief minutes, shut out the sights and sounds that vie for our attention amongst a haphazard world. I feel the warmth from the mug in my hands and the comforting smell of freshly poured coffee and for that infinitely short amount of time just slowdown, stop and relax.

wanna, wanna, wanna,………..want one!

40 Billion miles. That is the estimated distance travelled by those shipping containers all over the world. What do they carry? Well absolutely everything, bits of plastic to make bigger bits, clothes, cars, hospital equipment. Have a look around you now and almost everything you can see has been moved in one of those containers. Within arms reach everything has been transported in the back end of a lorry.  There is nearly a quarter of a million lorries in the UK. If parked end to end, they will stretch almost two and a half thousand miles, or From ‘Lands end to John O’Groats and back again twice.


That number is being added to daily. Why? Well we are all to blame. We are now and have been for some time a consumer society. We want ‘stuff’ our economy is no longer based on what we produce here in the UK. The whole of our economy is based on what we spend in shops.


Selling is big business. I don’t mean the actual transaction, the figures of money spent in tills in the UK is mind boggling. What I mean buy ‘selling’ we also know as ‘advertising’. According to the ‘advertising association’ £100 billion is spent on advertising in the UK every year. For every £1 spent £6 is gained. It is now the middle of October and all the high street shops have started their Christmas lines. By the middle of November every shop will be packed full of Christmas goodies.


How much of these things do we really need or want. My wife and I enjoy a good coffee in one of the local branches of a nation wide coffee shop chain. After we finish we sometimes take a walk through the town back to our home and we will wander in and out of shops. Now we love charity, and second-hand shops. We have not decided to but into the up-cycle, reuse life style to amend for our capitalist ways. It’s just that we don’t have the money to spend on stuff full price. How ever we do also wander through the more upmarket nationwide branches. (Here in West Wales that’s Debenhams and the like). Everything about these shops silently scream buy me. But they don’t. They don’t just say buy me; selling an item is one sale, what many shops try to do is to get you to buy into a life style.


This is why celebrity endorsement is such a big business. If David Beckham, for example were to advertise a pair of trainers, the manufacturer could guarantee that they will sell thousands of pairs within a few weeks, because every seven year old boy interested in football would now be nagging their parents incessantly for a pair. Why because having those trainers would make you a little bit more like David Beckham and then you would be nearer playing for what ever team he plays for.


But brands want loyalty, next time you are in a shop predominantly selling clothing have a look at the walls, there are posters of happy people enjoying their lives in this clothing. These models are always perfect in stature, the clothing fits its always clean and more importantly they have friends exactly the same. If you buy that ‘hand chosen ethnically knitted top’ and of course you can justify the £89.99 price tag because you just know, that by wearing it you will have the same life as those people in the poster.  Besides the shop you are buying it from only has eight jumpers on display in three sizes so there are not going to be that many people or more importantly your friends wearing the same top. So you have not only brought into the lie of life style change but also the lie of exclusivity.


And for a while you have that warm feeling mixed with excitement, it is a thrill to buy. But that thrill wears thin and next time it doesn’t last as long, so you buy more often. Of course we tell ourselves that we deserve this stuff , we work hard besides we didn’t have much as kids, well not as much as our friend did, they always had new stuff all the time.


And we are now back to the children, and Christmas is fast approaching (well according to the shops it is). I always enjoy listening to the conversations about how much people spend at Christmas. You have the one that says £500 per person is just going to have to be enough this year. Then there is always the one that says their year has been tough so they are going to push out the boat a little and pay it of next year. Of course there is the smug one that says they have finished their shopping already it’s all wrapped they only need to buy a few items for close friends. Then you have me. They all look at me expectantly awaiting my response, I normally shrug my shoulders say my children will get one or two things we never get too much anyway. But they start pushing for figures. They want actual numbers and why? Its so they can feel smug knowing that their kids are going to have a better Christmas than ours because they have spent ten tines the amount we have. Because Christmas is abut spending money, and the more you spend the better you have done it.


I once asked a cashier at my local Tesco store how much money they have taken, This was late morning two days before Christmas. I had a bottle of milk and chocolate bar. They said they tried to keep a mental note on the amount going through their till But gave up after £30,000. This is one till of twenty in one store out of hundreds. And that is just one shop chain.


So is this a post about Christmas, or Consumerism, or money, its not even about capitalism. But it is just a thought about the way advertising now dominates our lives. If every shop front was the same, and every item came in plain brown wrapping would we really prefer one shop over the other? Would we have the headache we always seem to acquire after a few hours of walking around the shops? But then I suppose we would not have an excuse to nip in and have a nice coffee before heading home, and well not having coffee shops would mean I wouldn’t have the chance to sit down and ponder over a nice cup of coffee!


Till next time.

Advisory warning.

How many times have we sat down with well meaning friends, neighbours and they have openly given their advice on any manner of situation you may be experiencing. To use the social media abbreviation, speak IMHO or ‘in my humble opinion’. Or when we face each other it’s ‘do you know what I think’. We mostly want to say no and I don’t want to either! But no, our listener is now turning counsellor and no matter how genuine they think they are they will generaly give misguided advice.


If we look around us at the professional world we see many ‘Advisers’. In the Worlds political stage we have peace advisors; in the business world we have financial advisors, safety advisors, security advisors. Most of these have trained for years in their chosen field. If we were to take the safety advisors as an example, we see they have studied in college and then spent years in industry before being able to advise on their specialist subject. They can also draw from test results to qualify their advice. Common sense dictates that if you work in a foundry you will need protective clothing and follow safety procedures carefully, our own inbuilt biological defences knows that if we get a little bit to close to molten metal we could suffer more than a slight discomfort.


Financial advice is a little more difficult as the markets and economics are ever changing and there are far too many parameters to ensure total success. Hence they spend day after day pouring over the data they need.


But when it comes to day to day advice everybody is willing to give it a go.


Two quotes come to mind, the first;


‘For advice is a dangerous gift, even from the wise to the wise’.

A quote from, Gildor to Frodo, in ‘The Lord of the Rings’.



The second is from the musical ‘ A fiddler on the roof’

and the song ‘If I were a rich man’.


‘they would come to me for advice, and it wouldn’t matter if I was right or wrong, because I was a wealthy man’.


Advice on life, from others seems to be given freely and abundantly. We all like to believe we know more than the next person and are willing to tell them so. But advice has two players in the game, the giver and the receiver.


The giver is seemingly the least complex of the two but we must study the person to understand the full extent of the advice. Their own view on life has a lot of bearing on the advice they give. The more analytical person could give advice based on a methodical approach to the problem as if it were a puzzle to solve, yet the person who lives a more emotional life, may just give advice on a gut feeling of the situation. Their own feelings and belief will always sway the advice they give you. A very basic example is if you were to ask me, ‘shall we have coffee or a cup of tea’? I will always say coffee as I detest the taste of tea.


I simple example I know, but what about another more reasonable scenario. You firm has offered you a much higher paid job but you have to move to a City or in the country, away from your friends and current life. One will advise you to go the other to stay and both their arguments will be valid and make sense.


The receiver of the advice, the second party in this example. They are full of complexity that will take far too long to explain fully. Some have already made their mind up and are really only searching for confirmation from as many people as they can. Others really don’t know and want to be told what to do. These can also portion the blame onto others if something were to go wrong.


But we must all understand that advice is just that. It is not instruction as many feel it is, giving orders that must be followed and then becoming upset when it is ignored. Also it is not to be given flippantly, advice carries weight and that must be considered.


Listening is an art, I believe there are two types of listeners. ‘Those who listen to understand, and those who listen to reply’.  We are all both, but the former is much less practised. Many people will form their opinion of a situation within minutes if not seconds from first hearing about it. Then they will jump in with what they believe is a similar scenario within their own life and explain how they got through it. Much of the time all people want is to be listened to without interruption. But his so rarely happens. And those who give advice want to give it and be thanked for it, believing they have solved another problem due to their superiority.


For those blessed to have children, do you remember the countless bits of advice you received from every single person you met on how is best to bring your child up. If you were to follow them all it would be impossible. I have four children aged between 6 and 14. Very rarely I get asked what is the best thing to do. My answer is always the same. ‘As long as you’re not being cruel physically or emotionally with it you have made the best start. Always show it you love it. I am afraid you are going to do what everybody else has done, muddle along as best as you can.’



Till next time.


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