Thursday, 29 October 2015

What's in a name?

'What's in a name?' asked Mr Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet.  You might well ask William - names are very significant, and become an intrinsic part of our identities. 

When I heard that the Met Office wanted to name storms for the UK and Ireland, I must admit I did wonder why.

I know the Americans name their hurricanes, and I did muse why we also wanted to import this idea from across the Atlantic, along with Thanksgiving, 'Black Friday' and 'Cyber Monday'.

However, I discovered that they're not trying to make them sound friendly and cute, the idea is by naming them it is hoped to raise awareness of predicted severe weather, and therefore encourage people to adequately protect themselves. 

Our storms will only be named when they could potentially cause 'substantial' impact, so we hopefully won't have a huge list of names forever being mentioned in the forecasts.

The Met Office opened up the choosing of names to the Great British public via social media.  The results are perhaps surprising - I was expecting to see at least some celebs or sports stars in there.

But no, we have a choice of names, alternating between male and female as is apparently the custom, which seem to embrace monikers from all areas of the British Isles.

If you haven't seen it already, here's the definitive list - Abigail; Barney; Clodagh; Desmond; Eva; Frank; Gertrude; Henry; Imogen; Jake; Katie; Lawrence; Mary; Nigel; Orla; Phil; Rhonda; Steve; Tegan; Vernon; Wendy.

To be honest, I would find it hard to be scared of Storm Steve, Nigel or Phil as they sound like mates you'd have a drink and share a packet of crisps with in the pub.

However, Storms Clodagh and Gertrude sound like they could be very fearsome - I'm certainly not going to mess with them.

And I can almost picture the weather presenter saying the words 'Britain, batten down the hatches and brace yourselves for Barney!'- although I might momentarily have a big purple dinosaur flashback...

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

The Vulcan Farewell

Sunday 11th October, and I was sitting in a car on a roadside overlooking Rutland Water.

It was just after noon, and - in typically British style - we had a picnic.  As I sat munching my sarnies, crowds started to gather.

People alighted from their vehicles with cameras the size of small children and a sense of excitement built.

Another car pulled up with a blue badge in the window.  The occupants of the car in front of ours were summoned, as the driver needed assistance with his wheelchair.

The group of people - who it turns out had never met this man before - not only assembled his wheelchair and helped him into it, they found a blanket for him as there was a cold wind blowing, and put him in a hi-viz jacket for safety purposes as we were near a main road.  The traffic was then stopped while they wheeled him across the road and helped him into the field where the crowd was assembling.  A heart-warming example of the kindness of strangers. 

You're perhaps wondering what was going on, was it twitchers trying to spot a rare bird?

No, it was plane enthusiasts (and their families) hoping to glimpse a rare bird of the aeronautical variety.

It was the Vulcan's farewell tour, although I'm aware - a bit like Status Quo - she's had more than one, I've been told that this time it really is it.

She flew low over our house once, and rattled our windows.  Husband missed it because he was in the shower, and I couldn't correctly identify in time the source of the noise.  He sometimes reminds me of this.

Hoping to erase memories of missed opportunities, there we stood in the field, eyes focussed on the skies.  She appeared at about 1.10pm, glided past our heads, gave us a 'wing waggle' and continued on her way. 

Yes, she's something special.  Is this really the end, or will she come back and see us again sometime?  Thanks for the memories XH558.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Great British Bake Off Final 2015

You know that feeling when you finish a good book and then feel bereft because it's finished, and you really enjoyed it?

That's how I feel now about the Great British Bake Off.  This series was so good, I really didn't want it to end.

And yes, I cried at the final episode too - and I'm fairly sure I wasn't alone.

I was so pleased for Nadiya.  She really deserved to win, but Tamal and Ian were brill too, however just not quite good enough on the day. 

The curse of the non-setting crème pat finished Tamal's good run, and Ian forgot to put the sugar in his iced buns - quite a major omission, and not something from which you could easily recover.

(And was it just me, or did Tamal's showstopper remind you of Miss Havisham's wedding cake from Great Expectations?)

I started welling up when Nadiya created her fabulous wedding cake, which honoured her Bangladeshi heritage as well as being a Great British lemon drizzle cake.

It was clear that this meant so much to her, and it was so beautifully decorated with jewels from her own wedding that I got quite emotional.

And then she made her speech:

"I'm never going to put boundaries on myself ever again.  I'm never going to say I can't do it.  I'm never going to say maybe. I'm never going to say I don't think I can.  I can and I will."

I think this probably struck a chord with a lot of people who let the fear of failure put them off even trying to succeed.

All of which then set off Mary, Queen of Baking, shedding some tears too, so I felt in good company weeping at a cooking programme.

Just one question though - with all those people present at the final tea party, how did they manage to keep who had won a secret?  How did the children refrain from saying 'My Mum's won Bake Off'?  Well done Nadiya on so many levels!

Monday, 5 October 2015

Am I Cultured?

As I was drinking my glass of Rotkäppchen and scoffing cashew nuts by the handful - well, it was a Saturday evening - I noticed a survey in the paper:  'Are you cultured?  The top 20 ways to prove you're sophisticated'.

I promptly put down my glass of Germany's finest 'champagne', won by me in a drinks hamper - I've drunk worse, I've been a student - and had a read.

Phew, sigh of relief, apparently I am cultured!  At least if you can believe the survey commissioned by Yakult - which I then mused, is this a joke, a play on the word 'culture' as it's a yoghurt drink?

Undeterred, I reassured myself of my level of sophistication.  So you can also be reassured, let me share with you some of the apparent signs of being cultured, along with my tongue-in-cheek analysis:

Going to the theatre - pantomime surely counts?

Recognising paintings/art - where's an Athena poster shop when you need one?

Visiting local heritage sites - the pub, they're getting rarer after all.

Listening to classical music - I performed in a Gilbert and Sullivan at school.

Knowing how to choose wine - what's on special offer?

Watching the news on television - what else is on at one, six and ten o'clock?

Learning to read music - I played the recorder at Primary School.

Taking an avid interest in politics - yes, I know who the party leaders are, I understand the differences, I dislike them all.

Taking walks in the countryside - I live in the countryside, I walk to the shop and the pub (see above).

Knowing about cheese - yes I know about cheese, I eat it regularly.  I like it in a sandwich with pickle.

The survey also said drinking herbal tea and doing Sudoku were signs of being cultured.  Does my supping builders' strength tea and watching Eight Out Of Ten Cats Does Countdown equate to the same thing I wonder?