The following posts have no fixed theme or style, but I hope you enjoy reading them!

Saturday, 29 November 2008

On Woolworths

This old brand is in administration. It has hundreds of shops around Britain and thousands of employees. Like me, you probably haven't been there in a while. That's why it's in administration. I have good memories of Woolworths. I remember going in there on a cold Saturday following some family member around town, and having the excitement of choosing pick-and-mix sweets from their huge selection. On another occasion I remember wandering aimlessly around town with some friends and going into Woolworths to press all the buttons on the electric toys, so that gun noises, sheep noises and electric boings rang out round the store.

But nowadays it really is in a mess. I don't know whether it was better in the past or whether I am just nostalgic about the past. I went in there today, determined to help out that old friend by buying something and pumping some money into the organisation. But there was nothing I wanted to buy. There is a panel of music CDs with generic titles like "Spanish Music", "Zen" and "Calming Sea Sounds". There are about three different power packs for Wii controllers. There are action toys for Harry Potter (that's getting pretty old now surely). Whoever chooses the stock for the shop has a quirky sense of humour. Somehow, they had managed to buy about fifty cuddly Pingu toys, each the size of a five-year old child, and placed them all round the store. Without price labels. It's an idea that might have caught people's imaginations, but if you don't tell them how much it costs, they definitely won't buy it. It's not that difficult. In the end I walked out with six teaspoons and a pack of After Eights, pleased that I had done my duty and spent some money.

I don't know whether I'm happy that it is closing, and there are certain endearing features, like pick-and-mix. And it's one of the few shops where you never know what they will have in store that day. But it's clearly a bit shite. If it doesn't modernise and fill itself with things that someone actually wants, then it will close forever, causing the next wave of unemployment in this country.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Advice #29

Try not to use electricity between 4 and 6.30pm on weekdays. The peak in demand at this time means that we often over-produce electricity in the rest of the day and night (it's hard to turn off most power stations for only a few hours), wasting electricity. If we cut our demand at this time of day (even if we used it at other times instead), we could probably produce electricity more efficiently and have less wastage in the system, saving money and the environment

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Wind again

I was going to write a post explaining how terrible it was that I was cycling downhill the other day and had to pedal quite hard just to go downhill. That's not the way the world should work, because downhill means free-wheeling and accelerating! Then I remembered that in the last few weeks I have got angry by gusts of wind on the flat, and had wind so strong going up a hill that I had to walk. It's not particular types of wind, wind in general is just BAD. I want to know who the wind-god is who is out to get cyclists every time they get on a bike.

Buses and Coaches

I have often cursed buses. Sometimes I am stood at a bus stop and have to wait half an hour longer than I should have to, because buses seem to evaporate into thin air. You have to stand in the cold, with no idea when they will come, only to find the bus crowded and the driver grumpy on arrival.

But sometimes buses can be wonderful. If you're not in a rush, a bus will probably be on time. And there is nothing like a bus for watching the world go by. In a car, traffic is the main concern. In a train, grassy banks or trees often line the route. But in a bus you are constantly entertained. Many times I have sat in a bus watching the sun set with a splendid multicoloured sky. Then I continue to watch as the sky gradually darkens and the lights gradually appear in houses and offices.

Buses have a magical knack of making things happen around them. When you go down a street, there is inevitably some drama going on. Perhaps it is a dog attacking the other people on the street when it is on its walk. Perhaps it is a tearful goodbye between lovers. Maybe it is someone on the street finding five bucks and looking around to see who may have dropped it. The last time I went on a bus trip it was a rail replacement bus. As always, the bus's aura spread before it. On the way I spotted a lorry in some roadworks that had a fire blazing on the back of it, and the driver (working a couple of metres from it) didn't seem to have noticed. I wanted to bang on the window and yell to let him know, but we whizzed past at 40mph and the moment went before I could do anything. I hope the fire was meant to be there, but I can't think why it should have been. On the way back we ended up in a tiny country road at night, and there was a bend so sharp that it took three attempts for the bus to get past. I thought we were going to be walking or turning back and finding a different route. But our fantastic driver (and bus drivers are extraordinarily talented people - mainly) got us through so we got home safely

I used to get stressed at buses because they are so inefficient and slow, but if you pick your moments to travel by bus, they are The Place To Be

Sunday, 9 November 2008

"Diary entry" OR "Setting for the next scene"

So my grown-up life has started up north. This is definitely the biggest change for me since going to university. Life here was unlikely to be as fun as university. After all, I don't know as many people, I have to work full time and it's a pretty industrial area instead of being rural and picturesque. On top of that, everyone speaks with those "up-north" accents and it feels funny to be posh and southern!

It's fun though. It's exciting to go somewhere else, meet new people and do new things. I have new housemates in a new house at number 4, although getting a new house took a little longer than expected so I was forced to sleep on someone's sofa for a while. But now I have wonderful things like a bed and a room and storage space and things like that!

My housemates are great too. There's martin and there's paul. Martin likes motorbikes, his girlfriend kelly, KFC and his guitar. Paul likes cars, gadgets and films. Those are in no particular order (before you start drawing conclusions about martin and his motorbike). They also like tea and don't really drink coffee. Unfortunately I know very little about motorbikes, kelly, KFC, guitars, cars, gadgets or films. Especially films. But they are all laid back and it's now an opportunity to find out things about all of the above things. And we have football and being men in common. And for men, that is often enough.

So, while I miss living with girls very much, living with blokes will be good too

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Make a better cup of tea

If you are doing any of these things, you could improve. Remember, making a good cup of tea could be the key to making friends, finding a lifelong partner, or getting a promotion by impressing your boss. Well, it would at least impress me. A bad cup of tea is a terrible thing.

Firstly, don't use Lipton. Lipton is BAD. No, that's wrong, Lipton is REALLY BAD. In general, Unilever makes good things like Lynx (also called Axe) deodorant, Flora margarine and Domestos bleach, but Lipton is an exception. It is NASTY. If you are ever given Lipton tea, get some food to take away the taste. It doesn't taste of much, but what little there is, is the bitter horrible part of normal tea and should never ever be given under the pretence of serving tea.

Secondly, use the correct temperature water. Normally this means boiling. For God's sake, don't pour some 80 degree water into a cup, wait a bit, add the teabag, wait a bit more, and take out the bag. You have to give it some kind of chance to infuse a bit. Black tea infuses best at boiling temperature, and unless you want to spend the next few minutes stirring, you need to put the teabag in before the water.

Green tea is a different story. Add 75 degree water and infuse it for 3 minutes. Many people say they find green tea very bitter, but it is only bitter if it's stewed for much longer than it should be or if boiling water is found.

Keep an eye on your tea. Tea brewed for 2 minutes tastes very different to that brewed for 5. So don't just forget it. For the few minutes that you are making tea, the tea should be your main concern, because people really notice when you make a really good cup of tea. Even people who don't drink tea that often can tell if the tea you are making has been cared for.

To make it really good, use a pot and loose leaf tea. It tastes better to anyone and everyone who has ever had tea before. So do these things if you really want to impress someone. Oh, and one last thing... NEVER EVER SERVE A CUP OF LIPTON TEA TO ANYONE UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES UNLESS IT IS AN ABSOLUTE TEA-MERGENCY