Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The lost art of letter writing

I have to confess that modern methods of communication have me foxed. There was a time when I could make a phone call to a family member. It was quite a simple system. I would dial the telephone number, the phone would be answered by a human being (often the person I had dialled) and we would have a telephone conversation. It worked the other way as well. People would ring me and I would pick up the phone and answer. Such an easy system. Everyone understood what to do.

When I make a phone call now a machine usually answers. Alternatively I hear a multiple choice option list which requires pressing another number followed by a long pause for repetitive music, and eventually a human voice if I'm lucky. Half the incoming calls are for people who used to live where I now live, or from a machine (which needs an eternity to think what to say) and perfectly timed to coincide with a meal time.

Skype needs all parties to be assembled together and gathered around a well-lit computer screen with a good internet connection. The excitement of a skype call when it works usually results in a close up of the most excitable/assertive small member of the family. Alas, this potentially brilliant system doesn't work for me either.

So - I decided to resort to another tried and tested method of communication dating from the 19th century in England. I wrote a letter to my 6 year old grand-daughter. This was carefully handwritten in large print on one side of A4 paper on the assumption that it could be read by a literate child with a spare 3 minutes. 

I was surprised to get a reply within 2 days. This itself beats replies to e-mails or messages left on ansaphones by a week. And, I can read and re-read the letter lots of times.

It's so good I've decided to share it on the basis that it speaks volumes of what impression I have made on her. I'm assuming that deep down I appear to her to be a very busy person. I could be wrong. Perhaps I'm the closest thing to a slimy sea-creature that she has met on land...

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Waste not, want not

In my disorganised garage occasionally I come across tools which I guess date from my grand-dad's time. Trowels, chisels, lump hammers and an implement for pulling thread through leather all feature. It seems to be part of the family tradition not to throw anything away until all possible uses have been explored. So there are obvious ones like the recycling of supermarket plastic bags for holding  the various kitchen waste piles; curtains becoming dust covers when decorating and padded envelopes which criss-cross the country several times.

My father used my school leather satchel for about 40 years as a source of leather for a variety of patches in his recycling projects. Old wellington boots were another source of "raw material" usually being stitched with waxed leather thread to create a replacement slipper sole for example (so inventing his version of outdoor slippers). It didn't surprise me too much when my engineering orientated brother designed and made a wellington stand for his daughter's family:

 Spot the old stair banister rail, poles from a windbreak, bits of pallet ?
 ( Wellies are new)

The downside of this mentality is what my wife describes as junk or clutter arranged in what appear to be random piles in the garage. Where I see raw materials - she sees junk, except for the old bedroom carpet on the garage floor which serves to keep down the dust. Also acceptable are the large flattened cardboard boxes that held the self-assembly furniture which now form good insulating layers underneath garage shelves and readily absorb liquid spills.

Using up portions of unwanted vegetables in my own home-made soup concoctions seems to go down well; and the new upper fence woven out of branches thinned from the willow tree seems to have approval as a view.

If only the vegetable peelings would rot down more quickly without producing the foul smelling black liquid that oozes from the plastic container. What I need is some sort of leak proof container that is easy to pick up and easy to pour from..and that needs little adaptation.

I'm staring at the photograph. No prizes for guessing the solution that is coming to mind...

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Whollop whot a picture

A picture is worth a thousand words, apparently. I think I would need more than a thousand words to describe some of the photos seen lately on facebook or photobox. My daughter-in-law was presented with a new camera last Christmas and having fine photographers in her family is clearly an advantage. Some of her recent scenes and family photos are stunning.

I use my digital camera in a different way I think. In an attempt to get a natural pose I tend to fire off shots without warning the subjects, hoping that 1 in 20 photos will be worth keeping. I do get a lot of slightly blurred shots with shadows in the wrong place, red eye, closed eyes, winks, incomplete bodies and an excess of sky or water. But every so often there will be a gem that I will enjoy for several years.

Tiny "exploration" cameras are a whole new world, discovered last week during a visit to the dentist. His examination of the many constructions and restoration works I carry around produced the usual factual word list summarising the present state of decline. Usually I try to pre-empt dental comments with a sorry tale of how sweets and sugar in the 1950's were viewed as treats at the time, rather than the delayed action teeth rot agents they proved to be. Most dentists I see nowadays cannot relate to this and respond with one of those smiles you reserve for stories beyond your experience - I have such a smile for mobile "apps" and "i-phone" users.

So, with dental word list examination complete, x-rays followed then a long and detailed explanation of  the black, grey and white bits - having pointed out which areas of the x-ray were the actual teeth. Then, just for re-inforcement came a series of photos of teeth and gums taken with said exploration camera. Something primeval is going on in my mouth. All the photos appeared on a large computer screen in front of my face - scenes reminiscent of dormant volcanoes sitting in a sea of lava. (Not quite the mid-ocean ridge, but certainly an active seismic region). There were fault lines running across teeth and fillings; bubbling spots of irritation on the gums waiting to erupt; extinct metallic lava flows within teeth; a dark expanse surrounding a fractured root - and more, much more than I can describe no matter how many words I use.

There was quiet satisfaction in the dentist's tone as he finally decided on a treatment plan, and on reading the list I decided a visit to the optician would come next. 

The estimated bill was making my eyes water..