Sunday, 28 August 2011

Ice cream

The topic of ice cream is a rich seam to mine.

mini ice cream cone
My mother and her brother when children had the tantalising experience of watching their parents eat their way through their ice creams knowing that they were not allowed more than a teaspoon on the last inch of a cone -  they thought ice cream was bad for you. This of course was the generation that believed the idea that taking up smoking would ward off the influenza that hit the country at the end of the World War 1! My Grandmother even gave Mum her first cigarette as a teenager during a flood emergency - to calm her I suppose.

Ice creams in my childhood are associated with a broken arm when I was nine when I fell from a tree and was given two ice creams to eat on the way to casualty to stop me thinking about the pain!

Later I  had a lucky opportunity to join a school choir and go an their planned trip as compensation for a teacher accidentally squashing my finger flat in a partition during a school dinner time. The choir went to see Anne of Green Gables, the musical - my first ever experience of a live show. I came across the song about ice cream  with the clever rhyming - is anything more delectable than ice cream? Even the most respectable eat ice cream... I am still singing and still love musicals. Funny how things happen.

Anne of Green Gables poster c1965
Later at 11 at secondary school an ice cream van was allowed into our school playground at lunchtime and we could buy glorious cones with hundreds and thousands on them for two old pennies. The highlight of the whole day sometimes.

ice cream van
I had a dog who had a real penchant for ice cream. If she heard the van's chimes she would start to bark. Must have been something to do with the fact that she got that tiny cone of that sweet cold stuff whenever I succumbed. And I probably did quite a lot now I come to think of it...and now I have this van that has found a rich seam of its own right outside my house. Wait a minute while I relive all this and then grab my purse...

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Swim Gym fun

I am so lucky to be in the only town in the UK with a Swim Gym. Three times a week we take a 25 minute walk to the Swim Gym. We have five individual pools, nicely warm, with an adjustable current that you can swim in or use weights or paddles to push against the water. A good 30 minute workout is followed by a  shower in a private bathroom to finish the visit off. A redecorate has made it extra enjoyable to visit!

The benefits are many - I came with a long term low back problem and if I keep going it almost disappears. My partner had shoulder problems and he has had similar positive results. We both enjoy not having to use a public pool and compete with the lane swimmers. We like the warmth of the pools and the additional ways you can exercise in water that the Swim Gym provides. Now that I have mastered the unique way of swimming I find it is the time to do my thinking. Swimming underwater which I do a lot - using snorkel and mask - is the best time though it always has an overlay of counting. It is amazing how the brain can manage to think and count at the same time. Counting can become a bit compulsive sometimes so that even when swimming in the sea I find myself inwardly chanting 1-2-3 and on.

Every time I go for my swim I worry how I would manage if I had to go back to my old ways before we discovered the Swim Gym. More counting then..? My blessings I suppose!

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Naming things

hover fly
I am sitting at a table surrounded by leaves from all kinds of trees picked on a recent walk and slowly drying out. I have picked them to try and identify them at the ripe old age of 56. I feel cross with myself that I cannot identify a Hornbeam or be sure which is a Maple or a Plane Tree. Surely you would think this can't be possible. I have reached this point having conveyed the extent of my knowledge tree wise to my partner who knew less than me and could just about tell an oak from a chestnut. He now at least knows an elder from a hawthorn...but why do we have this need to name things? Take insects for example. A new camera means we can get in close and be fascinated by the tiniest of insect. So that means we need to know what it is called...the hover fly is easy but what about what I now know is a Demoiselle Damsel - a kind of dragon fly - we saw at the canal just up the road.

I have recently catalogued the plants in my garden - a way to learn some new names really. I started out on this quest as a small girl picking wild flowers down Cornish country lanes on holiday. I probably learnt about Pink Campions first, then Trefoil and then Cow Parsley. I could have been learning about Greek Gods  about which I know nothing unlike  my partner, but I have a litany that relates to nature. It is funny what sticks. A level biology and the most insistent name in my memory is Fucus vesiculosis - bladder wrack seaweed - and Laminaria Saccharina, another seaweed like strips of leather. I cannot pass either without a silent chant. Perhaps there is something quite soothing about names - when they come to mind that is - perhaps they are a link with the past and a symbol of living....

Sunday, 7 August 2011

commuter trains

I started writing this blog on the train surrounded by the disembodied voices of people reporting home on their mobiles or catching up on last minute work problems. Some of the voices are not quite so disembodied as they could be, and some are blithely "sodcasting" [listening their ipods so loudly we can all hear it] and there are constant mea culpa announcements and warnings on the tannoy to contend with too.

I am a twice weekly commuter from the midlands to London. It has given me the chance to see the latest technologies close at hand. If I sit next to someone with an ipad or a Kindle I always ask end up asking them about them. I know I am breaking an unspoken rule to be unspoken...but they always gush enthusiastically and seem to enjoy telling me about the features of their new machines.

Talking to people on trains can be quite an eye opener. Once I sat next to very hairy muscle man going down to London with a beautician. They were going to be on the daytime Ruby Wax Show. He was going to have his chest waxed on TV [wince..] Would love to have seen it - don't think he had any idea of the pain he was to endure!

I think on a long journey it is advisable to start any conversation towards its end to prevent being trapped for the whole journey with someone who could not stop talking, but sometimes it is a chance I end up taking. This week I chatted with a woman who proceeded to apply full face make up using her entire case of arcane brushes and powders - a process that took over half the journey. She explained to me how it made her feel to wear make up and where she got her special face cream from and I could only wonder - as a non make up wearer - in amazement.

Amusing announcements can break the atmosphere nicely. It still tickles me to hear we have slowed down for sheep on the track and it always makes me think of the first Reggie Perrin TV series in the 70's when he would arrive for work with a deliberately outrageous excuse for lateness  like "22 minutes late - badger on the line!"

Thanks to Stephen Pointer for this shot of my station of departure. St Pancras here I come..