Saturday, 31 December 2011

The calendar and the whiskey diet

Hola and Happy New Year, folks! We thought we would be kind and treat you to one last Gem for 2011. Of course, by the time we post this, it will be 2012 for a fair part of the world, so...

Over a drink earlier today, Julie was telling me about an article she had read somewhere about the island of Samoa, and the fact that they are changing their status regarding their position to the international dateline.
Mind you, what with Julie's epic facility for recalling details and her masterly grasp of Geography, it actually came out more like "I read this article about something, somewhere, it was some island somewhere, I think it was..." Fortunately, Julie realised she was heading towards a rambling Moment and stopped to tack stock of what she was trying to say.
Apparently, the island of Samoa lost December 30th this year to the mists of time. Like I said, it was all to do with their position relative to the International Dateline. You can read more about it HERE.
What Julie told me triggered a vague memory of some thing that I, myself, had read on a very similar theme.

That must have been a hell of a party for an entire country to be so smashed out of their heads to have lost the best part of a fortnight....
Of course, the reality is very different. Basically, Britain was quite some way behind the times, when it came to reckoning time - especially on an annual scale. While much of Europe had switched to the new-fangled Gregorian Calendar, stubborn ol' Britain continued to use the Julian calendar. Of course, since the Julian calendar was based on the solar year, as opposed to the astronomical year, the days were tagged as being somewhat shorter than they actually were. All this meant that, by the time Britain finally gave in and adopted the Gregorian calendar, we were out by ten whole days.
Of course, there was the predictable set of complaints about people who were concerned that their businesses may suffer due to the change, which is fair enough, one supposes. But then too, there were also plenty of others who literally believed they were going to lose ten whole days of their allotted lifespan. I dread to think what it would have been like if that parochial and reactionary rag, The Daily Mail, had been around then...

Friday, 30 December 2011

Down at Le Café Crazy

It was some years ago that I first came across the concept of a cream tea. In my teens, I would be on family trips and see them on menus, but choose not to have them. As it happened, nobody else had them either, so any curiosity I may have had at the time remained unassuaged.
Some years later, I had dropped ignominiously out of college and everything was, for quite some time operating on a shoestring. Eventually though, things got better and I could then afford to go places. One of the first things I did do was take a trip to a large family event that was taking place quite some distance away. Since the invite was for guest 'plus one' and my sister was taking her current beau - one of my friends - I asked if it was OK to bring along another friend as my '+1'. This friend was the fourth and final member of our little coterie and would have been the only uninvited member. This was OK'd (even though it led to long-running speculation upon my sexual preferences), so we all booked rooms in the same B&B near the party.
The four of us arrived a day early for the party, so we decided to venture out into town (Southend), just to get our bearings. After a while, we decided to take a breather and stopped at a cafe. My friend looked at the menu and opted for the cream tea. I was curious by now about what a cream tea entailed, but I had never ordered one, just in case it meant a cup of tea with cream instead of milk. As it turned out, a cream tea is a pot of tea, one or two scones, some jam and a portion of cream (clotted cream for preference).

NB - many cafes mistakenly include butter with the cream tea. Wrong - this is why you should use clotted cream, because it is effectively replacing the butter. Cut open the scone, spread some cream and then spoon some jam on top. Oh yes - and the scones should be freshly baked to, so they crumble slightly when you bite into them.
Anyway... where was I? Oh yes.
Fast forward to the present. I have since met, fallen in love with, and married Julie.
This weekend just gone, the two of us were out and about and popped by a cafe called Neates Cakery. As you can guess, they have a certain specialisation. And believe me, they do very well in that area - here's the menu:

And here's their basic(!) selection of cakes - usually also available as cupcakes.

Pity the website isn't complete - they're on Facebook though.
Lovely cakes, eh?
In the end, though, I went for a tuna/cheese melt panini, and Julie opted for the cream tea. Well, there was a little moment of hesitation before the final decision was made.

If it wasn't bad enough, I've actually lost count of the amount of times, Julie has had, or at the very least shared, a cream tea. Oh, deary me.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

BONUS - Not always related

I've posted before some articles about people from service and retail industries and how the people they deal with aren't always the sharpest knife in the drawer. Today, after a long period away from the site, I went back to find out they now have a new companion site - Not Always Related. Naturally, my interest was piqued, after all, isn't this essentially what we do here on Julie's Gems? So I toddled over there so see what it was like - and I wasn't disappointed. Yep, it's chock-full of familial slips and misunderstandings.
Since I'm a generous sort, I thought I'd give you a few tasters before you went over for the main course, as it were.

Hopefully, you like these. Now, why not sidle over to the main site and see some more?

Wednesday, 28 December 2011


Not too sure what it is about mothers at the moment. So far, one friend has supplied me with a couple of Gems from her mum - and assures me there'll be plenty where they came from. Now, Sharron has come to the fore and come up with something from her own mother. I have to admit, though, it's more of a'Fail' than a Gem.
Apparently, the family were sat around, watching Agatha Christie's Poirot on TV. You know - that famous detective from Belgium. The one best played by David Suchet.

Some way into the programme, Sharron's mother evidently has a flash of insight.

Well, yes. Yes, i... Actually, no. No, it's not. It's not 'just like' a whodunnit, it IS a bloody whodunnit.
Fortunately, what with everyone else giving her carefully blank looks (laced with a modicum of humour), Sharron's mother quickly realised what she had just said and led the laughter. Which, I am told, lasted a fair few minutes.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

All for none and none.. for... wait, what?

With thanks to a friend on Facebook for bringing this one up. This is right up Julie's street. It makes sense. You know it makes sense, but ... should it?

You got that?

Monday, 26 December 2011

One of these things is/isn't/is like the other (huh?)

We went out for a little stroll along the seafront today. As I'm still a bit iffy on my feet, what with the slipped disc and all, we had just stopped for a little rest on a bench - on the seafront. It being the seafront, there were plenty of seagulls around, including the shrill squeals of hungry young gulls. It was enough to make you want to buy a shotgun, I tell you.
The gulls weren't the only ones though. Because I live in a town, there were of course the omnipresent pigeons, those horrible little feathered plague pits.
No sooner had we sat down than one particularly ugly pigeon fluttered down and began to strut back and forth in front of us - on the off-chance we had something it could eat. Push off, Percy. Not happening.
And then I noticed one of its legs looked particularly deformed. Yes, dear.
Now, the thing was, I hadn't actually taken my notepad with me. As we were leaving, I told Julie, "Now, don't say anything funny, please."
And then she comes up with the comment above. For a moment, I let it slide. Then I started rummaging in my pockets desperately. No way was I risking the chance of forgetting this. In the end, I found a shop receipt and scribbled it onto the back of that. That'll teach me.

Actually, this Gem reminds me of one of my all-time favourite jokes - well, it's not so much a joke as an exercise in dada-ist absurdism

I say, I say, I say - what's the difference between a duck?
One of its legs is both the same.

See? silly, isn't it?
Anyhow, I shall now leave you with further avian absurdism; the hit single, 'Mouldy Old Dough' by Lieutenant Pigeon. At that point in time and for quite some time after, this had the honour of having the oldest person in the charts - have a look at the other pianist...

Well. it was either this or - no, sod it. You know what, I'm going to post this one too. Have a listen to a little-known Genesis single (well, e.p., really); Pigeons.


Sunday, 25 December 2011

Merry Christmas to all our readers

So here it iis, Merry Christmas! Everybody's having fun.
Loook to the future now, it's only just begu-u-un!

No kidding. Thanks, Slade, for pointing out the bloomin' obvious.
A few days ago, I/we/whatever had the idea of making a Julie's Gems alternative to The Queen's Speech. For those unaware of this particular festive tradition, this involves a pre-recorded message to the multifarious subjects  of HRH Queen Elizabeth II. This message is broadcast on BBC1, just after lunchtime on Christmas Day. This is truly one of the most inspired pieces of TV scheduling ever, because after a massive meal and (usually) copious amounts of alcohol, even the most hard bitten cynic is likely to feel rather more amenable to Royal condescension. If nothing else, by that point, they can't physically move anyway and the remote has been accidentally thrown away with all the wrapping paper from the presents (along with - oh, how DID they slip in there? - those horrible socks from Auntie Violet).

Our short clip differs quite widely from the original in one or two ways. Well, most of them, if you want to be picky. However, what we DO hope is that it is eminently watchable and fairly charming. We also hope it's not too condescending.

(you'll need to turn the volume up a bit, I'm afraid.)
Julie's Gems; A Festive Message from Spike Matthews on Vimeo.

There. I hope that wasn't too painful.
Have a great time, folks and hopefully, we'll keep on seeing you popping by to stand in awe of our language skills.
Incidentally, if you would like to see more of these clips featuring Julie and/or myself, please let us know. Also, if there's anything in particular you would like us to cover (or, more likely, vaguely touch upon), then why not let us know - either in the comments or via our email address -
Don't forget, you can also use this email address to submit any Gem-like situations you have found or been involved in yourselves. We will credit you, unless you'd really rather we didn't.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Of notebooks and hairy brains...

Sometimes, keeping up with Julie requires a very flexible brain and a supreme memory. Failing that, you could do what I do and carry a pen and a notepad around at all times - just in case, you know.
The thing is, it's not an ideal solution. For one thing, you'd be stuffed if you were outside in the rain. Windy weather is almost as bad, trying to keep things from flying away. Then too, you have the situation where you don't have anything to lean on and you're trying to rapidly jot down a long, rambling and above all convoluted Gem into a tiny notebook. Not only will you have trouble following what had been said, but you're almost certainly going to run into difficulties just reading your own scrawl...

Julie has her own objections to this arrangement. I completely sympathise with her too; I mean, it's got to be supremely off-putting when the least little thing you say may cause your nearest and dearest to stop suddenly and scribble every word down. Especially when we're about to play a game, too. Julie will settle down with a large glass of wine to hand. Me, I'll probably have a cuppa, but more importantly, out comes the notebook.
Naturally, Julie has plans to do away with the evidence - but in her own inimitable style...

It's probably also disheartening to discover that even your objections to an activity simply provokes that activity into... well, activity.
Heh. Gemming must be catching.


Well, the next time you'll be reading a Gem will be Boxing Day. So, from both Julie and myself, to those who celebrate the day - Happy Christmas!

nb - On the off-chance you're around here on December 25th, we're hoping to have a little video put together for you. An alternative to the Queen's Speech, if you will.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Monday, 19 December 2011

Shaft - can you dig it? Well, yes, actually.

Iiiiiiit's Trivial Pursuit time again, folks! And this time, it's t'pits.

Poor old Moses - he'd turn in his coal bed.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Video via TARDIS

I've often mentioned -sometimes here's, usually just as the Gems happen - that what we really could do with is an mp3 dictaphone. Switch it on, make sure it's in 'ear'shot of Julie and wait for the long, rambling Gems to come in. Something else we have both talked of, and appears to be a popular idea, would be to get a camcorder with which to record actual sessions of me and Julie talking about various subjects. This, however, is how Julie put the situation...

This one nearly slipped past me undetected, I have to admit. Everything was fine right up until the last word, which lulled me into a false sense of security. Mr Tennant, you caught it too, I see. Another fine paraprosdokian in action there... (Don't know what that is? Click the tag below to see more of the same, including one with a definition.)

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Julie has an identity crisis. A sexual one.

Once upon a time, there was a married couple. They were fairly happy with each other and their lot in life, although things could obviously be better. Everyone and every relationship always finds themselves wishing for more. More fun, more health, more money - you get the idea. As it happens, this couple were fond of having a laugh at their own expense and delighted in humorous banter. This friendly chit-chat turned out to be quite popular among their friends and family, and this of course only added fuel to the fire. In their desire to entertain, the couple found themselves becoming so used to the idea of creating this banter, that it became so second nature to them that they barely realised they were doing it. Fairly soon, it took a special comment or theme for the couple to realise that they had once again slipped into this particular behaviour.

One day, they were swapping jokes and tales that they heard picked up from varying places and, as such things are wont to develop, they found they were trying to outdo each other in increasingly sillier and/or tasteless jokes. After one such tale (involving a woman who was fair of hair), there came this exchange between the couple.

Naturally, this was slightly worrying to the husband. After all, you would expect him to have noticed some clue or other as to his wife's anatomy during the years of their marriage. In the end, he put it down to the fact that a Gem had manifested. Such things, as everyone well knows, have a life of their own and bend idle chatter to their own ends.
And so life continued, suitably baffled and somewhat entertained.

The end.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Shorn of hair and short of sense.

We have something of a bonanza for you today; three Gems for the price of one. Not bad since they're free in the first place, eh?

I like to have my hair short. I just can't be bothered with all that high-maintenance that so many people seem to feel is necessary. One of the great things about really short hair is that washing it suddenly becomes a case of finding an available wash basin, getting a little bit of soap and away you go. That's nothing though. The best thing is that you can buy a set of clippers and do the whole cutting thing yourself. You save yourself so much money and hassle that way. Well, since I don't have it quite as short as suede, I'm not totally keen on clipping it myself, so Julie very kindly does this bit for me. I sit down, and away she goes.

Last Saturday, we were in town and I was looking at hair dyes. Julie asked if I wanted to 'go' red. I replied that I would, but they didn't have anything vivid enough for me. What I really want, I continued, is to colour it green. Julie's reply to this cannot be reproduced here on grounds of common decency, but be assured it wasn't a positive response.

Matt nil, Julie one.
On Sunday, we finally got around to cutting my hair. I know it had been a while, but I don't think it had really been  long enough for Julie to fall out of practise. She seemed to be a little rougher than usual.

Matt nil, Julie two. I'm not doing too well here, am I?
Like I said, Julie seemed to be struggling with my hair this time. There were plenty of tuts and sighs and stopping to clean hair out of the clippers. And then she complained,

Matt v Julie: Match cancelled due to extreme bafflement.
Apparently, Julie was passing comment on the length of my hair and how it was making the cutting process more difficult. You know, now I know that, I look back at the comment, and I still haven't got a bloody clue why she said that.

Friday, 9 December 2011

An 'owler of a mistake

One day, we were out for a walk, enjoying the hustle and bustle, the jostling and incivility of the town centre. Thus it was we decided to break away from the well-trodden path and wander along some quieter roads. As it happened, this took us through a rather nice residential area; the kind of urban place where the houses usually have two driveways, at least one of which with a large wrought iron gate preventing access to unwanted visitors, such as canvassing politicians. This is not to say we couldn't appreciate the detail of the architecture and the gardens. The places weren't that large, admittedly, but to someone living in a mid-terrace house, they were verging on the palatial.
As we were passing one house, Julie caught sight of a stylised garden ornament, one with vaguely bird-like features.

Imagine something like this, but with a little less shape
The colour's right though.

The ruddy colouring on the bird's breast gave away the type of bird the ornament's designer had in mind.
Well, in his or her mind, anyway. Not in Julie's.

Better scratch ornithologist off the list of possible careers for Julie...

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Guest starring Deric Longden

Who he? I hear you cry.
Well, he's an author and former local radio personality. To find out more about him, here's his website. He is Julie's favourite author, responsible for such telling titles as Diana's Story and Lost For Words. The first is about the illness and eventual loss of his wife, while the second is about the loss of his mother. I know, I know. You're looking at that and thinking that they don't sound a laugh-a-minute. Well, no. The laughs come at a rate of about two to three per minute. Part of it is due to his mother's dementia (it's either laugh or cry, and Deric chose to laugh), and part of it is due to his wife having a certain gallows humour about her.
However, the largest part of the humour comes from Deric himself. His writing is very warm and whimsical, helped in no uncertain terms by the odd situations in which he finds himself. For example, in The Cat Who Came in From the Cold, Deric and his second wife, Aileen, adopt a small white kitten. Except, one day, they can't find it. In the end, they realise that Aileen, who is virtually blind, hadn't seen the kitten jump into the fridge before she put the milk back and closed the door. The kitten is rescued and warmed up with the help of  a pair of Deric's thermal longjohns. All this to explain why they named the kitten Thermal (in a sideways nod to cartoon cat Garfield's nemesis).

If you are now wondering about the actual writing style, here's a little snippet from today's website forum noticeboard.

Now, do you see why Julie admires him so much?

Monday, 5 December 2011

New to IKEA: vari-dimensional table-tops

Picture the scene; we are in a cafe, enjoying a brief respite from the trudging around town. As you can guess, weariness is a given. Hence, since Julie isn't really concentrating, she puts her elbow down on what she thinks is the edge of the table, only to find that she's off by a good couple of inches.
DOWN goes the elbow and OUT comes this comment...

Time for the Default Husband Comment.
"Yes, dear!" (roll eyes, shrug shoulders and try not to laugh too much)

Friday, 2 December 2011

The council for the defence advises you to avoid confusion

On Wednesday, we were talking about a situation that arose when we were looking into things to ease my sciatica; specifically, something that my boss had recommended. Julie was looking at the list of other ailments this gadget purported to ease and stumbled - heavily - over the word 'Spondylolisthesis'. As I admitted in the post, it was a very understandable response, something I repeated yesterday. Unfortunately, Julie then had to begin the following little conversation.

Oh, dear, love - you were doing so well, too...