Sometimes you’re drawn into a world you know little about and come back both amazed and enlightened.
It’s happened to me twice today already. The first came about by following the @talkirish Twitter feed.
To explain: I have an Irish girlfriend I’d like to impress with my knowledge of her native tongue. But thus far my Irish vocab only includes such useful words as ‘poc’ (goat) and ‘ceapaire’ (sandwich). So if I’m ever starving in Sligo I can at least ask for a goat sandwich.
Today’s Irish word came through on the Twitter wire.
“Hey Mike,” I say to Winging It’s Hibernian Editor, “today’s Irish word is ‘Bó’.”
“That’ll be ‘Cow’,” he says.
Next thing I know I’m knee deep in Irish myths on th’internets reading about the Cattle Raid Of Cooley, which as far I can tell is all about mass slaughter through bull envy.
The second voyage of discovery happened just now as I was researching chickens (bear with me) …
As the credit crunch bites even harder more people are starting to grow their own veg, make their own stuff (Kirstie Allsop throws a pot and uptake in pottery classes quadruples*) and even keep their own chickens.
To this end, via notcot.org I came across the rather lovely and enthusiastic www.backyardchickens.com, which proudly presents itself as the: “#1 destination for the information you need to raise, keep, and appreciate chickens”.
It’s fairly USA-centric, but does indeed contain pretty much everything you (n)ever wanted to know about chicken keeping.
There’s a guide to breeds, which takes chicken appreciation to a new, intimate level. The ‘Blue Laced Red Wyandotte’ is apparently “a bird of curves”. Hmmm. Not sure I needed to know that.
A bunch of Chicken sayings: “Regard it as just as desirable to build a chicken house as to build a cathedral.” (Frank Lloyd Wright.)
And (relating to the previous quotation) there’s a great gallery of chicken coops, some of which would indeed shame Notre Dame. Ok, maybe that’s a slight eggsageration (ahem) but some of these chickens have seriously nice cribs…
And finally … the one I saw on notcot.org that dragged me into this odd – but strangely comforting – world of chicken keeping, the wonderfully absurd:
The last one is from England, naturally. No-one does eggcentricity (ouch) like the English.
For a more modern take on the chicken coop, see ‘Chicken Coop For The Soul‘.
*Note: I just made up this statistic, but it’s probably true.
Glitzy City, Curious Town
The Easter weekend is always a bit of a treat and this year certainly didn’t disappoint.
Far from being frowned upon, the pursuits of stuffing one’s face with gigantic roast dinners, ovular chocolate and day-beer are positively encouraged, which never fails to fill my clogged heart with gladness.
On Tuesday I experienced a brief bout of commuter chaos when, on arriving Finsbury Park, I learnt that there’d been a jumper on the line and so trains on the Hertford Loop were indefinitely suspended.
Naïvely, I asked why it wasn’t possible to simply pounce down onto the track and snatch it off when there was a reasonable gap between trains, or even try hooking it up with a broom. Did it have a hood, I wondered, because that would surely be a doddle to snag.
After a wearisome roll of the eyes from the First Capital Connect platform manager, the term “jumper” was explained to me and I realised my suggestions had perhaps been a little less helpful than I’d hoped.
Rather than wait around twiddling my thumbs and spending eye-watering sums of money at the organic snack shack betwixt platforms 5 and 6, I quickly scanned the departure board and got set for a four minute wait for the Welwyn Garden City service.
I was in Hatfield about twenty minutes later, and quarter of an hour after that the taxi was pulling up chez moi.
It’s the first time there’s been any real travel chaos in nine months (even during the snow earlier in the year) and, whilst I wouldn’t fancy the prospect of doing it every day, it’s good to know that by crossing a mini-cab driver’s palm with gold (well, fifteen quid), I’m not stranded just because I’m not on the Tube.
I’d have comfortably spent more than that on a couple of cups of boredom tea and floor-biscuits had I waited for the ‘Loop to re-open.
Maundy Thursday arrived and, as I enjoyed quaffing a handful of post-work Soho holiday-beers outside one of the area’s fine hostelries, I was delighted to be approached by a heart-stoppingly pretty young lady dressed as a rabbit and dishing out flyers for some modern discotheque or other.
After a brief, flirtatious chat that was in no danger of going anywhere given the clear disconnect in our relative prettiness, I was able to enjoy a good old fashioned rock back on my heels with my eyes on stalks as she sashayed off into the night never to be seen again.
Feeble, I know, to count this voyeuristic non-event amongst the highlights of my city week, but she had whiskers and everything, that wascally wabbit, so I really was powerless to resist.
Europe’s biggest all-singing, all-dancing consumer poll, the Readers’ Digest Trusted Brands survey, has released its results for 2009.
Research is conducted in 16 countries to find the top 20 “Brand Specifics” that are common to all countries. There’s also a “Local Categories” list where each country includes 20 top brands of their own choice.
And so to the results….drum roll, please…
Here in the UK, Nationwide has overtaken Halifax as the most trusted mortgage lender while British Gas topped the list as best utility provider.
Our favourite household cleaning product is Flash, which we probably buy from our top retailer, Tesco, along with our Colgate, Flora and Sure deodorant.
And, since it’s almost Easter, we can’t forget chocolate: Cadbury’s came out as the UK’s favourite choice of confectionary.
Across all 16 countries, Nivea and Nokia hit the number one spots for skin care and mobile phone handset; both brands have been voted in first place by all countries since the survey began in 2001.
Visa is the credit card of choice in 14 countries; Canon the top brand of camera in 13; and Kellogg’s serve up the best cereals in 10.
The survey also threw up some weird little peculiarities according to country.
Russia’s local categories, for example, included seed oil, shoe care – and diarrhoea remedy.
Portugal, on the other hand, voted for favourite laxative and throat analgesic.
In Finland, they had a category for best ‘functional food’. Eh, hello? Isn’t that the ultimate point of food?
Meanwhile, over in the Netherlands, they were busy rating bicycles, dating sites…and beds. You gotta love the Dutch.
Tired of London, not tired of life
I first hauled myself out of Macclesfield around a decade ago and, after a fleeting stop-off in Nottingham, where I abjectly failed in my attempt to seize fame as a latter day, chubby Robin Hood, I found myself living in Clapham.
Did I enjoy my stint in Sairf West Larndan? I certainly did, but given my propensity to binge beyond my means and the proliferation of bars, clubs and e-coli ridden takeaways, I soon found myself knocking on the door of gout.
When gout wasn’t in, I’d be sniffing round to see if Type 2 diabetes was home. Whilst this was truly a glorious time in an already gluttonous existence, there came a point when I had to put my club-foot down.
Where next, then, on my odyssey of discovery? Well, I thought long and hard before deciding it was about time to make a break for the country. Time to bite the bullet, screw my courage to the sticking place and immerse myself in any number of other clichés.
Could I handle the commute? Was I really man enough to get on the overland train at 07:39 every morning and change at Finsbury Park?
Would I miss the edgy 24-hour glamour of ‘town’? Would a quaint market town really be a suitable location for a loquacious bar-propper-upper such as myself?
To answer those questions, I’ll simply ask them again. Could I handle the commute? Was sauntering onto a practically empty train, sitting down, spreading out and reading a newspaper at 07:39 more or less pleasant than shoe-horning myself between half a dozen sweaty city workers on the Northern line at 08:15?
Would I miss the late-night hollering of disaffected youths and my bi-monthly trip to the garage to have my kicked-off wing mirrors replaced?
Is the last train out of ‘town’ at 01:11, and does this leave plenty of room for Soho booze-hounding, whilst also allowing the option of a genteel, countrified night on the tiles if the mood so grasps me?
And there it was.
I realised that what I really wanted was to live in a sedate, picturesque, Waitrosey town but without removing the possibility of spontaneous, Central London debauchery.
I found it in Hertford, and, nine months on, can say with hand firmly on heart, that it’s the best move I’ve made since I slapped Gary Kasparov with a checkmate at the 1998 World Chess Championship held at Macclesfield Leisure Centre, before absconding to Gretna Green to marry Keira Knightley .