Thursday, 22 August 2013

Oh sod it - it's hiatus time.

Hi folks, I'm sorry to say this, but Julie's Gems is going to have to go on hold for a while until I can get my computer fixed. If.
I MAY be able to do minimal posting, but I don't have any means right now to make and get images together, so it would look very boring.


Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Julie and the Impossible Table

There is actually a very famous optical illusion that uses tables - or, more precisely, table-tops to trick us into thinking two different looking shapes are in fact one and the same.

It's weird - both of the tables, even though the one on the left appears to be longer and thinner, are precisely the same shape and size. There is a great little animation proving it on Mighty Optical Illusions.

In the meantime, Julie seems to have created her own paradoxical table.

One evening, we were playing Scrabble. Julie was in 'thinking mode', and was resting her chin on her hand, while the elbow was on the table. However, she shifted slightly, and her elbow slipped off the table.

So... the middle of the table would also be the edge of the table.
Riiight... MC Escher would be proud.

It's close, but this is a real table that doesn't quite look right...

I found this on Gizmag

Monday, 19 August 2013

Bloomin' unholy

We don't have much of a garden. Similarly, I don't have much of a green thumb, and nor does Julie. Since we have limited resources and abilities, we try and make sure everything we plant is as easy as possible to grow and maintain.

Unfortunately, there is something of a running battle with the local cat population and since Julie is actually rather fond of cats, my subconscious desire for an automatic machine-gun nest has to remain that way for now.

..uhhh... whoops...
Oh well.

Because of the cats, much of what goes into the garden needs to be pretty hardy. Stuff like shrubs and trees. Well, I say that, but they've done a bang-up job of killing my lovely yellow fir tree by spraying against it. Little bastards. By contrast, the fuschia appears to be immortal and the bay tree unstoppable. Both, however, pale in comparison to the buddleia in the front garden (read as 'strip of earth between house and pavement'), which has to be butchered to the ground annually and trimmed and bound at least twice throughout the growing season. I love it, and so does the insect community.

Meanwhile, there are a couple of pots in the back garden with some lilies, chosen by Julie, which also contain some of her mother's ashes. This year, however, there are a couple of intruders...

I checked (good ol' Google image search) afterwards and found the flowers were indeed snapdragons, which much have self-seeded from somewhere else.

Pretty, aren't they? We tend to call them 'rhubarb-and-custards'.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Say you, say me, say what? [Part II]

Part II? Oh yes. The first time around was when I got a little lost in my own sentence. Those with memories as poor as mine can see it HERE. This time around, though, it's Julie who is doing the sentence-stumbling.

My wife often denies having said something - usually right after we've finished laughing about it, oddly enough. However, when she finally remembers it, Julie will try and hurry us on to the next subject, saying something like, "I can't be expected to remember everything I've said, can I?" It's something I can't normally argue with - unless, I have pointed out,the original conversation is not yet five minutes old...

Of course, when Julie tries to deny or correct something she has said, she'll find she hasn't yet left the Gemzone and falls right into another verbal trap...

My own personal trap is that I will all too often find myself trying to point out the lack of logic in something Julie has said. We then get into... not an argument, but a back-and-forth discussion about what was said, who said what, and how it was said.... and I get completely lost myself. These days, I know better. When we have a situation like this, I stay quiet, apply The Look, and remain quiet when Julie asks me, "...what? Wha'd I say?"

The Look. As supplied by Sceptical Dog.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Fleeced of thought

Fancy a quickie? Here you are, then.

Every now and then, Julie will wonder out loud something that she knows to be silly, but the necessary filters will not be in place. On  this occasion, we were in the car and passing a field of sheep. At that point in time, a fine drizzle was just beginning, although the clouds were promising rather a lot more.

My reply, as such it was, was a stunned silence.

In the meantime, I shall leave you with a picture of that lovable ovine, Shaun the Sheep.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Think pink!

We bade a fond farewell to our friend on Saturday. After a fun week packed with meeting people, going places - and far too much food - she sadly had to return to Greece.

After breakfast, we piled into the car and set off up to Heathrow airport. Remembering the pig's ear that was the previous week's journey, we made damn sure we left plenty of time to get there. Just as well, because the M25 once again slowed to a crawl; rather than being way too early, we were pretty much bang on time. But that's by the by.

On the way up, I was concentrating on driving - although we did have some music going, a rather eclectic mix disc of mp3s I had thrown together. Between the two, I missed the occasional detail - especially if they were in a blind spot on the other side of the car. So when Julie came out with this particular Gem, to say I was speechless is something of an understatement.

Wait, what?
Our friend was too busy laughing to be of much help, and Julie was pointing in the direction of one of those blind spots. Eventually, I managed to reason she had been referring to an ornament on the top of another car's radio antenna.

Cute, eh?
Except it's not pink. It took me a little searching, but I eventually worked out that the ornament in question was in the style of Piglet from the Disney version of Winnie the Pooh.

You have no idea how relieved I am to know what it was...

Friday, 9 August 2013

Parking in a flash.

A couple of days ago, our guest had a little surprise; I had arranged a meeting with some mutual friends. Under the pretense of visiting a garden centre, me and our guest drove across Kent, avoiding various nutters on the way. We arrived a little earlier than our friends, so I gently steered my companion around the garden centre, coincidentally managing to keep a discreet eye on the entrance.

When our friends arrived, I casually pointed to various plants that just happened to be located in a different direction than the entrance - so a little light sneaking could be achieved.

The eventual encounter was all I could hope for and more, although my companion was quiet for a moment before turning to me and simply saying, "you're a bad man." She was grinning as she said it, though.

We had a drink and a small bite to eat at the garden centre's cafe. Although they would rather it was called a 'bistro', which should tell you about the food - and the prices.

After a rest and a natter, we decided it was time to move on. When the question of a location was raised, there was a sudden flurry of smartphones as people tapped and swiped away furiously. After some discussion, it was agreed that we would go to Shorne Wood Country Park - our friends would lead and me and our guest would follow.

A great visitor centre!

Upon our arrival, we had a small search for a parking spot. My companion, who is not a native to this country, saw a number of signs referring to the parking facilities, all with a stern, clear instruction to 'Pay and display'.

Something about me must be catching, because my friend started laughing like a drain. When I managed to ask what she had found funny, she pointed to one of the signs and said;

I looked at the hordes of children running around and politely declined the offer.

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

The great Greek flip-flop flop

Heh - say that fast three times in a row...

Anyway - as I mentioned in Monday's post, We have a friend from Greece visiting for a few days. Since she and Julie are familiar with each other, it was no effort to either of them to fall into an easy banter - especially when it came to taking digs at me. Julie may come out with some odd things now and then (yes, really!!), but she is very quick-witted, and usually manages to put me in my place with no problem.

However, the Sunday was the first day after our friend arrived and she was still somewhat jetlagged. Since I am really not at all good in the morning, Julie was pretty much the only bright spark in a sea of bleary dullness. It didn't help that I had the grand idea of taking our friend to her first car boot fair, an event which can be best described as a yard sale held in a field, where everyone turns up to sell their crap - I mean surplus goods.

As you can tell, you do get some turn up in vans; traders of one sort or another - but they have to pay a larger pitch fee as they will take up more space. Fair play. It is truly astonishing, though, just what people try to sell. Mind you, it's not nearly as astonishing as the fact that people will actually buy it. From rusty car parts, old Paul Young records (usually No Parlez) to a truly staggering amount of baby clothes and dog-eared paperback books, you will find pretty much everything.

On the other hand, you will also find the odd hidden gem, something that is just what you need. That rusty car part might be from an Aston Martin, a part that was last in production fifty years ago. If you are living on the breadline and are expecting a baby, this will be an ideal way to clothe your newborn tot. And yes, there are still some Paul Young fans out there.

As for me and Julie, we view these events as a good opportunity to add to our already substantial collection of hedgehog ornaments, toys and nick-nacks. It may have been at a car boot fair or in a charity shop that we managed to snag a lovely hedgehog doorstop.

Handsome chappie, no? Oddly enough, we haven't named this one, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time.

But I digress. This hedgehog is not simply for looks, we do utilise it as a doorstop. In fact, the door it is responsible for is that which belongs to the guest room, the room in which our friend is currently sleeping as I type this.

Back to the car boot fair. It had been a hot day and we had just dragged our still-weary friend around a dusty field. Having said that, we did treat her to her very first cream tea - with clotted cream, naturally. Unfortunately, despite the delicious refreshments and the elation of having bought her very first item from a car boot fair (a Stephen Fry book), our friend was unaccountably tired, so we bundled her off to her room for a bit of a rest.

On the way into her room, though, she stumbled. Now, I thought she had tripped over the 'hoggy doorstop, and, jokingly, accused her of mistreating that poor, poor animal, "I mean, what has it ever done to you?" I demanded.

How wrong I was. Our friend had not been guilty of mistreating a weighty stuffed animal, but of making a small misstep as a result of her footwear.

You mean, instead of being 'flop-flip'?
Heh. What a day; first boot fair, first cream tea - and her first Gem.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Fairways and motorways

Also known as autobahns in Germany and freeways in the USA, motorways are technically supposed to be a means of bypassing all those nasty things that slow traffic down, like towns and winding country lanes. In a sense, they have worked brilliantly, because those towns and country lanes are a lot easier to drive around now. However, that's only because all the traffic is now to be found - gridlocked - on these multi-lane car parks.

Do I sound bitter? Oh, I'm sorry.

Yes I have a reason. You see, we have a guest this week, a very good friend who has managed to escape from her homeland of Greece for a few days. The only things is, we live on the south coast of England, and our friend was due to arrive in Heathrow airport. This meant driving, on a Saturday early in the school holiday season, on the infamous M25 - AKA the London Orbital. It's infamous for having many delays and has in fact been portrayed as having demonic origins by messrs. Pratchett and Gaiman in the excellently witty novel, 'Good Omens'.

The original cover of the novel
featured an eerie, glowing version
of the M25.

Whatever the origins, the London Orbital was definitely living up to its reputation on Saturday. For about thirty miles, we alternated between crawling and complete halt. When we reached a service station, we gave in and decided to have lunch - only to find that the service's car park was about as gridlocked as the motorway we had just left. Going in AND leaving.

After we finally managed to leave the services and crawl our way to the airport, we had another problem - how on earth could we pick someone up without using a car park?
Answer: we couldn't.

Despite us timing our arrival perfectly with our friend's ejection from security and customs, we wound up going through two car parks and getting lost on the way. In the end, what should have been a joyful meeting was instead a hurried "Oh hello, come on, let's get going." I'd had enough of the bloody roads.
With that in mind, I went along with julie's suggestion that we avoid the M25 and head off a different route. Since she had the map, I agreed and let her chart the course.


Julie readily agrees that map-reading is not her forte, so she can hardly be blamed for us going around roads, hitting the same roundabout twice from different directions - and leaving it from two other different exits - and crossing the M25 two or three times.

I have no idea what our guest in the back of the car thought as we bickered our random way across the western outskirts of London, but it's possible she had some misgivings...
Eventually, more by luck than judgement, we found our way onto the M3. Feeling a very certain need, I suggested - in no uncertain terms - that we stop at the next motorway services for a trip to the loo and a nice, hot cup of tea.

Fleet Services (circled), as portrayed in our road atlas.

'...and relax...'

You may be asking, at this point, why on earth we don't have a satnav. Well, I'll give you two good reasons. Firstly, the sound and the look annoy the hell out of me. And secondly, when the bloody things get stuck into a closed loop by turning right all the time, I remember that I actually like maps and enjoy browsing them. Julie, unfortunately, doesn't have the same facility with maps as I do, so it can be a little hit and miss when it comes to going to new places.

That aside, I decided that we would consult our road atlas together, before we set off once more.

As the three of us crowded around the pages, Julie betrayed her lack of experience (because that's all it is really) once more and wondered how I knew where we were.

Our friend was ever so pleased. She'd only been in this country for a couple of hours and she'd already been at Gem ground zero.

Friday, 2 August 2013

Right is wrong, Left is right

On our recent visit to my mother, we found ourselves feeling a tad peckish between meals. Fortunately, Julie had planned for such an eventuality, and delved into a bagful of bits to snack on. Pulling out a pack of Smartie cake bars, she passed one over to me.

As I was unwrapping mine, however, I heard Julie make a small noise of annoyance. As I asked what was wrong, Julie stood and began to look around the floor. I realised immediately what had happened; one of the smarties (candy-coated bits of chocolate, similar to the plain m&m) had fallen off her cake and onto the floor.

IMPORTANT BIT - If you own a dog or like to feed dogs, please note that chocolate is highly poisonous for dogs.

With that in mind, we both started searching for the errant sweetie before Toby, my mum's Jack Russell terrier could beat us to it. Fortunately, it was bright yellow and I spotted it almost immediately. Since Julie was closer to it, though, it was easier for me to guide her to it than to get in her way.

Bearing in mind that we were both facing the same way, I had to think for a moment whether that did make any sense or not.