Tuesday, 30 April 2013

World Book Night - FAIL!

As we love you, we thought we would give you a treat. Specifically, an outtake from our feeble attempts to put together a clip to promote our free draw.

As you can see from the still above, I'm looking a tad pensive. Believe me, by the end of the clip I had good reason...

There you go then. Julie asserts her superiority once more.

Don't forget - you still have a week to go to enter the free draw. Email us at juliesgems@gmx.com or drop us a line at our Facebook page. You have until midnight GMT Tuesday May 7th 2013 to enter. No addresses needed until the winning names are drawn from the hat.


Monday, 29 April 2013

A vagrant bum (or, Arsing about)

Sometimes, there just isn't a lot I can say to introduce a Gem.
Sometimes, all I need to do is present it and then follow it with a  brief message of stunned admiration - or something similar.
Sometimes, I'll desperately pad it out with something utterly unrelated.

Today, all I shall do is point out the obvious, that there had been something that had been preying in Julie's mind for a while...

Well, yes. I think we'll 'end' it there.


Don't forget folks, you have one more week to enter our free draw to win one of these books (and a Julie's Gem bookmark) - and one person also gets a whole load of other goodies too.
Email us at juliesgems@gmx.com
Or drop us a line via our Facebook page.

Friday, 26 April 2013

A-groping and a-growling we will go!

It's been something of an open secret for the last few months that I have been suffering from acute depression and anxiety - enough to give me panic attacks out in public. I've been trying various forms of treatment and medication, but for one reason or another, they have not managed to do the trick thus far.

Readers of this blog will know that my mother has a dog, a Jack Russell terrier by the name of Toby. He's a family dog and something of an attention whore, but a highly intelligent one, nonetheless.
Intelligence was a hotly-debated topic with our previous dog, Skip. He was a pure-breed English Springer Spaniel, and bloody huge. I don't mean fat, but tall and stocky - I would often have people stop and ask me what breed he was, because you just don't get Springers that large. However, Skip was either clever and sneaky or just plain bloody daft. Honest - we couldn't work it out, even after a dozen years.

Back to Toby.

He loves to cuddle up next to you on the sofa, wedging himself tightly between you and the arm of the sofa (or chair, if you're skinny). In fact, it's slightly alarming, because he curls himself up so much you wonder how he manages to breathe.
However, once he's there, it then becomes a case of symbiosis. He's feeling so much better for cuddling up to you, sure. But, as you stroke him, you feel yourself feeling better too. It's an established fact that petting animals can help people's mood to change for the better - generally. There are limits, of course.

Me - I'm a dog person through and through. Some months ago, Julie thought it would be a good idea to visit a rescue centre, one which allowed you to meet and greet the animals.
We both came away wanting a dog - different dogs, though. Julie liked a Jack Russell, while I fell head over heels for a female boxer by the name of Princess. She'd been there a long time and had developed that institutionalised mentality; resigned to her fate. I'd walked up to her pen and managed to coax her to the door. We sat there for a little while, 'chatting', while I tried to stroke her through the gate.
Unfortunately, we can't have a dog. We don't have the money, we're both technically working full-time - and the terms of our house rent forbids it.
That meant that, after Julie came back to get me, I had to stand and leave Princess behind.
She started crying, and it broke my heart.


More recently, we were out on a drive and had stopped in Hythe in Kent. It was lunchtime and we walked along the semi-pedestrianised high street, peering into various cafes. Hythe was busy, and the cafes reflected this, so we kept walking, hoping to find somewhere a little quieter.

Enter Truly Scrumptious.

As you can see, it's set back from the street a little, sharing a courtyard with some other establishments.
It seemed to be a little quieter than the other places, so we decided to give it a shot.
As we walked in, we heard rock 'n' roll music playing; that was a plus for me, as you all-too-often find that the omnipresent Heart FM will be worming its way through the cafe speakers. As I headed up to the counter to ask whether they had soy milk (I also have a milk intolerance), I was gratified to see the largest collection of teas and infusions I have ever seen outside of a supermarket. Heck - I've seen supermarkets with less of a range. Apparently, tea is an obsession of a level normally associated with coffee drinkers for one of the owners. That said, I was told that her husband (sorry! I forgot to ask your names!) is precisely that sort of coffee enthusiast.

Fancy a brew? Of course you do.

In the end, after some agonising over the infusions, I went for a pot of our celebrated favourite, Lapsang Souchong - with soy - and a plate of chips with cheese and chilli. Julie just had a sausage inna bun and a bottle of Coke.

As we waited for our order, more people arrived. In fact, it rather looked as though we had got there and ordered just in time to beat the rush. Some stayed inside, some went and sat outside. Mind you, since they had dogs with them, the cafe policy meant they had to remain outside.
We were sat next to a large plate glass window, and a couple arrived with their dog to sit at the table just outside from us.

Oh, but what a dog.

This is Finn. What a handsome chap.

Obviously, there is a large amount of spaniel going on there and since my family had had an English Springer before, I was definitely melting inside. At our table, my tea arrived, much to Julie's disgust. I paid it hardly any heed. The same went for the i crossword we were poring over. I was trying to decipher the clues, but I kept being distracted by the dog outside.

In the end, Julie gave up, exasperated in a good-humoured way.

Er, what? I think you'll find that's stroked' or 'petted', love.

Of course, I did give in to my impulse and went outside to introduce myself to the dog and his humans.* As it turned out, the dog went by the name of Finn and had an interesting story.
Finn was found wandering the streets, somewhere in Ireland (I forgot to ask which Ireland. Mea Culpa). When he was picked up, he was taken to one of the Dogs' Trust centres in Scotland and from there, he was then adopted by a couple from Suffolk. And there I was, an ex-pat Brummie (Birmingham) from Eastbourne,  on a day out to a Kentish town bumping into an Irish dog and his new family. Cool.

Apparently, Finn is a cross-breed, a mix of Springer spaniel and setter, the latter explaining the grey spotting on his coat. Funnily enough, his humans (whose names I also neglected to note. Sorry!), had always said they didn't want a spaniel, because they had had experience with them before and found that, like me and Skip, spaniels can be just a tad brainless.
Happily, Finn cast a spell upon them, and they were immediately smitten.
As was I.
Oh well. At least I didn't have to worry about Finn's future, he now had a good home, it would appear.

OK folks, I want to make a little request here.
If, like me, you want to have a dog for a companion, then I would like to congratulate you on your choice. However, when you go looking for one, please be careful about the people and places you get them from. Puppy farms are not illegal, but if you do go this route, be very sure that they are registered with all the proper authorities, and that the animals have had all the shots and medication, with the documentation to prove it.
Please don't buy from a small ad in a local newspaper, or via some unknown on the internet.
In fact, considering the amount of dogs that escape, are discarded or rescued from owners who mistreated them, why not go to a rescue centre, be a hero and rescue a dog yourself. You'll feel even better when you 'fondle' them, then.

*Yes, I did make a fuss of Finn. He was a happy dog, as most Springer spaniels are, and his grin and his energy was infectious. Yes, I felt a lot happier for his presence.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Webcomic - Foot in Mouth Training.

I dislike having headaches. I get far too many of them, despite dietary changes, medication and various other things. The headaches I get generally mean I am unable to concentrate, or I am too light-sensitive to cope with much of anything.
Unfortunately, this includes looking at a bright screen, trying to think of something funny to say.

Having missed out on prep time last night, today's Gem will therefore be a simple sharing of a webcomic.
Safe Havens is a comic all about inclusivity and the inter-relationships of a set of friends and family. Some are dead, others don't rightly exist at this time. Oh and Dodos are back, just like they are in the Jasper Fforde Books. You know what I'm talking about; the book I'm handing out for World Book Night in our free prize draw.*


Where was I - oh, yes.
Safe Havens is one of Bill Holbrook's many  projects, three of which are webcomics. Safe Haven I have mentioned, but there are also On The Fastrack and Kevin And Kell. Oh. You know I said SH was all about inclusivity? Well, it's still not got anything on K&K. Trust me.

At the moment in Safe Havens, one of the central characters is preparing for her wedding. There's a problem, though. She's also due to go on tour, playing the drums as part of a backing band for a best-selling singer. The stress must be getting to her, because her brain seems to have switched off here...

Trust your best mates to treat a slip of the tongue with all the dignity it deserves, too.
Read more at safehavenscomic.com


*Heh. I know. Subtle, I'm not. There's still plenty of time to enter our free draw, with prizes sent anywhere in the world. Just email us with your name at juliesgems@gmx.com

Monday, 22 April 2013

World Book Night 2013 is here!

We've been building up to this for weeks now, both here and on our Facebook page, with hints and teasers galore. Finally, we can now reveal our contribution to World Book Night 2013 in all its glory.

Way back when, I received news that I had been selected once more to be an official World Book Night 'giver'. The first time I did it, the book I chose was Stuart - A life backwards - that one proved to be difficult to hand out, and almost as difficult to read. Last year, it was Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman's Good Omens: The nice and accurate predictions of Agnes Nutter, witch. That went rather better - on several fronts.

This year, out of the twenty titles to choose from, I chose Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair. A thoroughly enjoyable and silly romp set in an England from another dimension, TEA shows you just how literally books can come to life.

I will set this blog entry to release at just after midnight April 23rd.
Why? Well, that way, early birds will get a chance to read this and maybe meet me at Roots Urban Farmshop in Eastbourne from 11am onwards and blag a copy of this most excellent of books.

However, should you not be able to make it in time to get a book there, then there is a most wonderful alternative; enter the free draw right here on Julie's Gems.
Here's a shambling, silly video introducing the draw and the prizes on offer.

Just to clarify:
  • You have until Midnight GMT May 7th to enter the free draw.
  • ANYONE, anywhere in the world is eligible to enter - at no cost.
  • Hedgehogs are prickly.
  • Enter by commenting here, on our Facebook page, or by emailing us at juliesgems@gmx.com.
  • All we need from you at this point is your name and either an email address or phone number. If your name is drawn, then we will ask for your postal address.
...is it me, or was 20% of that last bit unnecessary?

As I said in the clip, one lucky person will not only get a copy of The Eyre Affair, but will bag a veritable treasure trove of goodies. In case you couldn't see them, here they are.

You may have noticed that a couple of books, Skallagrigg in particular, are looking a bit creased. That's because, I'm sorry to say, both that and Decipher are out of print. In the case of Skallagrigg, I think that is most definitely a crime against litereature. Oh, there are pristine copies here and there, but since they go for ridiculous prices in the main, I have to admit that I can't justify forking out my meagre funds.
Oh, alright. The fridge magnet is brand new.

One last detail to try and convince the waverers: The WBN 2103 version of The Eyre Affair comes bundled with a couple of special features. On the inside of the back cover, you will find a poem, and just a little further back from that, there is a snippet from a book, selected by Mr Fforde himself for this edition.

That's it!
Join in, have fun and enter the draw!


Email for Julie's Gems: juliesgems@gmx.com
Julie's Gems on Facebook.
Not Always Right (as mentioned in the video - seriously, it's worth it).
World Book Night.

Careful with that bic, Eugene

Just a quick post today, as there is a rather special post tomorrow.

Julie wanted to prove that the written word has a certain irresistible strength.
She wanted to quote a certain well-known maxim.

Julie also wants to win the lottery, but that's not happening either...

See you tomorrow, folks!

Sunday, 21 April 2013

World Book Night 2013 - what? MORE goodies?

Wotcha folks. World Book Night 2013 is nearly upon us, and preparations have notched up another gear. Bookmarks have been created, printed (after a frantic search for some decent card) and laminated and various prizes gathered.

Oh yes. And I collected the twenty copies of The Eyre Affair from our local library. Julie was a little concerned about me carrying the box home - via a meandering walk through town - but it was well within my capabilities. OK, so my arms were cramping something rotten about an hour after we got home.

You may be interested to know that we will be kicking things off in fine style here on Julie's Gems with a video presentation of the book and goodies we will be giving away. If past clips are anything to go by, then it should be suitably shambolic. Between my general lack of preparation and Julie's willingness to subvert the proceedings at any and all possibility, it'll be a miracle if the camera doesn't burst into flames in a desperate, suicidal moment of self-immolation.

Back to the prizes.

As you already know, Anyone that can't make it to Roots Urban Cafe on Tuesday 23rd April (11am GMT) has the chance of winning one of five copies of a Jasper Fforde book. And I mean anyone. Whoever you are, wherever in the world, you are eligible to enter. If your name is pulled out of our hat, then we will send you prize to you, be it Shanghai, Stockholm or Swindon.

On top of that, on lucky person will nab themselves a veritable grab-bag of bits and bobs. So far, we have told you about Skallagrigg, Donald McGill and Grieg. Now, I want to introduce you to Stel Pavlou and Nicholas Parsons.

Stel Pavlou came to prominence by having a hefty hand in scripting the film The 51st State, starring Samuel L. Jackson. Not long after that, Pavlou published his first novel, Decipher.

Published two years before Dan Brown's execrable The DaVinci Code, Decipher reads like a blockbuster movie, far more coherent and exciting than its soon-to-be rival.
Like Skallagrigg, it's out of print, so I'm afraid you will be in receipt of a loved, but decent copy of the book. I'm really hoping you like it as much as me.

Nicholas Parsons, the man whose name invites plenty of schoolboy titters (if you don't know, don't ask),* heads a comedy panel show on BBC Radio 4 called Just A Minute. Various quick-witted celebrities are invited to discuss various topics for a minute without repetition, deviation or hesitation. You'd think this should be easy enough, except that everyone else is simultaneously trying to put them off by hectoring and challenging them over the oddest points...
I think the best thing to do is to invite you to have a listen to Paul Merton and Julian Clary doing their best.

There you go. Makes perfect sense, doesn't it?

Anyhow, this brings me to our next prize, a compilation of the best bits of the show from 2009

Spread over 2 CDs, this will keep you entertained for a little while, one would hope.

Right - that's all for now. The rest of the details will wait until Tuesday, and the video.
Tata for now!


*No, I mean it. Don't.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Vital video procedures

OK, so World Book Night 2013 is nearly upon us. On Tuesday, I will be handing out three-quarters of my copies of Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair at a cafe in Eastbourne. Here's my poster advertising the event.

Hmm. I tried to make a logo for JG, but it's turned out a bit naff.

If you can't make it for some reason, then no matter, because there will still be a chance for you to win. On Tuesday, there will be a special blog here telling you just what you need to do. Not only that, but there will be a video of me and Julie presenting the goodies on offer.
Oh yes.
It's been a while, I know, but if a WBN giveaway isn't a good reason, then I don't know what is.

I was discussing this with Julie earlier, and cheekily suggested that she had a small glass of wine to loosen her up a bit. She replied that she'd rather have a big glass. Fair enough, I suppose.
When my wife came out with that, it reminded me of a Gem she came out with when we raised the possibility of a video a while back. The video never happened, but I kept hold of the Gem, because I knew there would be a time that I could share it.

Essentially, Julie was already 'loose' as she puts it. Enough that not only had her mouth escaped from her brain's strict control, but it was tripping over itself in trying to leave the rest of her behind too. Not only that, but she was in danger of using up all her good material before we had the camera ready...

On reflection, I can't work out if that makes sense or not...

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Tongue-twisting tea for two

A few days ago, me and Julie were out for a walk and went to The Plantation tea and coffee house in Eastbourne. One of the reasons I like going there is that it's usually a little less noisy than the normal places. Another is that it has that sort of semi-colonial vibe going, with wood and wicker furniture and decorations.
The main reason I like the place, though, is the range of tea varieties on offer.

As some our longer-term readers will recall, I am rather fond of a cup of brown joy. From the moment I get up, enjoying at least two cups of standard tea (often known as English Breakfast). Unlike the good Professor Elemental, however, I will also partake of a herbal infusion or two. Summer berries, chamomile, blueberry and apple (don't knock it; it's actually really rather nice) are all favourites. I'm even rather partial to white tea and green tea, although the latter, for me, needs to be tempered with another flavour - lemon's good.

Above all of those, my personal favourite is lapsang souchong.

It has a smoky aroma and flavour, but it's quite mild. If you have tried Earl Grey, then just imagine a halfway point between that and normal black tea. Mmmmmmm...

Julie, however, is not a fan. Give her 'normal' tea any day. In fact, it's not just the taste that turns her off. The smell is not particularly appealing to her either. Remember this Gem?

Ladies, gentlemen and hedgehogs, I'll let you into a little secret. Since I shared that little Gem with you all, we have discussed both it and the tea itself on numerous occasions. And you know what? I don't think Julie has once managed to pronounce the name correctly - nor has she managed to repeat any single version. Even when faced with 'Lobsang dipshit', poor Julie's brain reacts with 'bugger that' and throws out any old collection of syllables.

Like the other day. Since this little cafe has an especially nice blend of Lapsang Souchong, I generally go for that. I have tried others - the gunpowder green tea is flavoursome - but it's usually the Lobsa... er, Lapsang Souchong.*
When the waitress brought the teapots over, Julie was curious as to what I had ordered.

Heh. It reminds me of that famous tongue twister,
"The sixth sheik's sixth sheep's sick."

* Um. I have a confession to make. That point where I made a joke of typing the false name before switching to the real one? I wasn't faking it. At some point between my brain and my fingers, the message got garbled and I started typing 'Lobsang dipshit' as an automatic reflex... Oh well.



I received an email yesterday from the organisers of World Book Night 2013 - apparently, my copies of Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair have arrived and should be ready for me to collect. Expect a special post very soon!

Monday, 15 April 2013

Watery sponges and cheesy bricks

Every now and then, Julie and myself have a recurrent conversation. It usually takes place after a Gem, or when I have splashed out a little nugget of information. Essentially, Julie marvels that the garbage collector that resides in my skull manages to keep hold of so much detail - usually along the lines of "God, you know a lot of crap, don't you?"

This time around, I was expanding the definition of the word 'acoustic' for my wife. More precisely, that when applied to guitars, it means that they are of the non-electric variety (yes, I know that you can have an electric acoustic guitar, but it wasn't worth throwing that in, because I'd have been bogged down in explanation for another hour). This, of course, is why you had the MTV Unplugged shows and albums - back when MTV was about music, that is.

Luckily for me, I wasn't given a complement of the backhanded variety.
It was more a statement of wonderment.
Wonderment cut with a hefty dose of WTF.

....yes, dear.

Friday, 12 April 2013

A flowery fate.

Recently, Julie and me finally had a week off together, so we decided to go and visit my mum up in Birmingham.
As it happened, this coincided with the end of Julie's job at the CAB, a place she had worked at for quite some time. Obviously, not every place of employment works like this, but when the news broke that Julie was leaving the Bureau, there was a genuine disappointment (and relief for Julie, who had been trying to leave the bloody place for years). There was also a not insubstantial whip-round. In addition to this, a number of other staff members felt compelled to shower my wife with gifts directly and in addition to what may have been planned.

So it was that I received a phone call, asking me to collect her from the Bureau. When I drove up to the office, what appeared to be a triffid walked out. It was only when Julie's faced peeked out from behind the foliage that I undid the car's automatic locks...
Yes, she was a popular person. Even the boss chipped in, by buying some fake medals and awarding them to her, claiming that they were for long service, toleration of a certain colleague, and success in the face of labyrinthine and constantly changing procedures and protocols.

One such gift was a bowl of flowering plants - absolutely lovely, but there was an immediate problem. Since we were going to be visiting my mother in two days' time, leaving them in our front room without care may have been problematic.

In case you're wondering, the flowers are still alive and flourishing nicely.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

The platypus and the identity crisis.

I don't tend to watch TV that much. This means I need to find an alternative method of finding out the news. Sure, in these times the internet is pretty much the source for all the news you could ever want - and don't want. Or isn't true. Whatever. I'm not that old, in my mid-forties, but I'm certainly of an age and disposition that I prefer to read a newspaper, printed on paper.

Obviously, the question then becomes 'which newspaper'? No way am I going to read the parochial Daily Mail and the Princess Diana-fixated Daily Express. Likewise, I want to actually read news about real things, so that eliminates The Sun and the Daily Star. After that, you then turn you what are known as the broadsheets; The Times and The Guardian. However, they are known as broadsheets for a very good reason - their size. I'm sorry, but I don't want to have to wrestle with my newspaper. Also, I have to admit that while I like to think of myself as being better than reading the redtops with their pictures of topless women, The Guardian and especially The Times are far too highbrow for me.

This leads me to The independent..
However, buying a newspaper every day is a tad pricey, especially when you don't have much money coming in. And this is where the people at The Independent had a cracking idea - why not publish a digest version of the main newspaper - give the main points for each story and then move on.
Since The Independent by definition and reputation is fairly unbiased in its political leanings, this is another point in its favour for me. Also, since the i, as the digest paper is known (including the colour), necessarily cuts out a lot of stuff for the sake of space, this means there is a lot, lot less celebrity crap.
Oh, and the paper is stapled, so no trouble with keeping it all together.
All for 20p (30p on Saturdays, as it covers the weekend).

The i is a great read, for me at least, but there is one feature that Julie, my mother and me all enjoy; the crossword at the back. It's general knowledge, and of moderate difficulty. One feature of this crossword is especially fun for us - the first two (sometimes three) clues across make up a pun. For example, the answer to the across clues could be 'Hart' (a stag) and felt (a soft material, often used for hats). If you put them together, you then get 'heartfelt'. Not a funny pun, but it's a little something just to help you along.

Recently, both Julie and myself found ourselves momentarily stumped by a particular clue.
14A Diving duck (6)
Since other answers had given us _C___R, we should have had enough to work with. Unfortunately neither of us are bird-watchers, and I had a headache in any case. Since our habit is to pass the crossword back and forth, each filling in until we get stuck, did that. and then we fell back on our normal practice; trying to talk it out. We worried at a couple of other problematic clues for a while, and then returned to our diving duck. Initially, we both sat in silence, trying to think is through, but then we tried our emergency option - wild guesses.
On this occasion, the wild guesses were to get a little wilder than before...

Obviously, Julie was in quite a whimsical frame of mind.

By the way, the answer to the clue was 'scoter' (to be honest, I'd never have got that). Have a look at the RSPB page for it.

Monday, 8 April 2013

A cheesy mouthful

Sometimes, things happen and you find yourself thinking, I don't want to know.

Imagine this little scenario, if you will.
You will walk into a room and find your housemate, naked, straddling his golden retriever. For a moment, you face betraying no emotion, you stand there. You housemate and his dog return your look. For them, surprise and embarrassment hasn't had time to register, and before it does, you calmly - but definitely - leave the room.
There's a decent explanation. Even as you leave the room, you know this. However, the situation has managed to affect your mind enough that, for some reason, you just can't think of one right now.
Some time later, while you and your housemate are watching TV, you broach the subject carefully, picking at the subject like you would try and scratch an itch around a scab or cut.

As it happens, all that occurred was that your housemate was just about to get dressed when his dog suddenly decided to see what the contents of an ashtray tasted like. His owner was understandably concerned for the dog's well-being and yelled for the dog to drop the dead ciggies. The dog, thinking that this was some kind of game, happily dashed out of the room and downstairs. And your housemate dashed after him, forgetting that he wasn't wearing even a single sock. In the front room, he finally managed to catch hold of the dog; gripping the retriever's torso between his knees, he bent forward to try and prise open the dog's jaws.

Which is when you walked in...
...and out again.

Have an embarrassed retriever in a baby swing.

For my part, I was already in the kitchen when Julie had her moment. The previous evening, Julie decided to drop by McDonalds on the way home from working at the hospital. I sat in the car while Julie went in a bought her food and a coke for me. The next morning, I went to the fridge for milk to put in my tea. In there, I saw that Julie had not been able to eat her burger - not even a bite.

Later that day, after that evening's hospital shift, Julie took the cheeseburger out of the box, put it on a plate and into the microwave.
After a couple of minutes - *ping!* - one superheated and unappetising bit of meat in a bun. Julie put the plate onto the worktop and turned the bun over. With some difficulty, I might add; all the cheese had melted and slid out of the bun and welded the whole thing to the plate. I grimaced slightly and turned away to the sink to rinse out a mug. When I turned back, Julie was picking at her food. She looked up, saw my expression and tried for an explanation.

Hmm, yes. Sometimes, it's best not to attempt an explanation. Especially if you have a tendency to pick the wrong words...

Friday, 5 April 2013

Say you, say me... say what?

Julie and me were talking the other day about her Gems. Now, the thing about situations like this is that even discussing the Gems tends to result in more Gems being produced. Obviously, this is not a problem - unless I find myself not being able to keep up, or I have left my notepad at home.
Sometimes, when Julie is in full flow, or has just come up with something especially mind-bending, I find myself clouding over, my brain having had some kind of 'blue screen of death'. It's at that point that my brain and Julie's seem to suddenly synch together.

This actually happened on this occasion; it seems that merely discussing Gems is enough to trigger a Gem-fugue in another person. Julie was concerned with making sure that she was given due credit for the things she had spoken, and I wanted to assure her that this was the case.

Did I say I wanted to emphasise it?

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Letters discuss the RSPB.

There is a charity based in the UK known as the RSPB - the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. In 1891, a few societies with similar aims merged to become the RSPB, and the aim was to prevent birds from being killed simply so ladies could have feathers for their hats. Later, the society's remit was extended to protecting birds and their environments, as it was clear that so much of birds' existence is dependent on the places where they live, feed and migrate.

In case you're wondering, the bird in the logo is an avocet.

More recently, it became painfully obvious that the RSPB needed to widen their focus even further; a neither birds or the flocks exist in a vacuum. Any locale is so much more than the sum of its parts; everything depends on almost everything else. So it is that the society now campaigns for the protection of animals, plants and environments in general, alongside the original focus of our feathered friends. In fact, they recently looked into whether they should change their name to reflect the widened aspect of their interests. However, it was decided that they would keep their name - partly out of nostalgia, partly because they felt it would show potential donors that they are not simply another environment charity, and partly to reflect their moderate emphasis on - guess what? - birds.

That said, and bearing in mind that the RSPB, along the RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), is one of the biggest animal-related organisations in this country, pretty much everyone knows what the initials stand for.
So, when the question arose in a game of Trivial Pursuit, I was expecting Julie to rattle off the correct answer pretty smartly.

Silly me.

So Julie. What do the initials stand for?

To learn more about the RSPB and its work, visit their site.
Oh, and my humblest apologies for the terrible pun in the title.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Ten, not ten.

Last year, Britain stopped airing TV programmes via analogue signals. In the final few months leading up to the switchover to digital TV, there was a sort of genteel scramble to either replace or adapt televisions. It didn't help that many people (us included) thought for a while that we would have to buy completely new TV sets. This was something that incensed us. We don't have much in the way of money, but compared to a pensioner who has to decide whether to spend a day's money on heating or food, it's a small fortune.

In the end, all we had to do was adapt our analogue TV, push the signal through the DVD recorder and away we went. Of course, we had to pay to get someone in to show us that. Nothing we could do got us a reliable signal.

Once it was all sorted, we sat and scrolled through the channels to see what delights lay in wait.
What a load of crap.
I knew there was a reason I preferred reading and listening to music.
OK, so we only have Freeview, but we're not going to fork out for stuff we're not going to watch, are we? Especially as a lot of what appears to be on offer are repeats.
To me, one of the oddest channels is Challenge TV; showing repeats of game shows from days gone by. If you are of a certain age and lived in Britain at the time, then you will no doubt recall some of the weirdest notions for game show formats. Bullseye was a cross between darts and a pub quiz, and 3-2-1 asked people to make the most tangential leaps of logic to solve clues and win prizes.

There are other game shows on the channel, too. One of them pits adults against children, the premise being that adults are often less intelligent (or have less knowledge, at least) than their offspring.

When Julie saw the programme title in the listings, she seemed to take it as a very specialised challenge.

Oh deary me...