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Archive for July, 2012

An Awkward Matter Dealt With

Thursday, July 19th, 2012

Dear Rachel,

When boiling a kettle, my old dear will first boil it in the accepted manner, and then boil it a second time by holding the switch down until it is literally shaking.  I am told that this is to ensure that the water has ‘properly warmed through’ prior to making tea with it.  I have often pointed out that liquid which is turning to steam is unlikely to be tepid and explained my fears that one day she will make her kettle so hot that a solar flare will escape from it and interfere with the electromagnetic fields in Slough, where she lives.  She still keeps doing it though, ‘to be on the safe side’, and I suspect she always will.

Over the last couple of years, we have taken to meeting at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and did so again last Friday.  Here, tea is made by directing livid fountains of steam into small metal teapots, a process which as you might expect greatly impresses my old dear.  My job during these visits is to stand behind her as she buys us lunch, smiling in a supportive manner to the person behind the till as she does so.  On this occasion, the politely attentive girl listened as my old dear explained, among other things, that I was her son and how handsome I was.  We then took a table by the pond and found ourselves troubled by a pigeon, which we shooed away.  It flew four foot and landed on a nearby table.  The lady and gentleman there counter-shooed it, and it came back.  This happened two further times, after which my old dear said ‘Let’s put up a net and call it bloody badminton’ which I thought was a good line from a 67 year old struggling with a determined pigeon for supremacy over a hummus baguette.  Incidentally, the next thing she said, about forty seconds later, was ‘Christ, that’s hot’ when she tried to pick up her teapot.

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Podcast 5: Dysentery

Monday, July 16th, 2012

Yes, it’s a podcast again, dealing with dysentery in confined spaces, bandits, buses, and sundry other delights.

If you fancy it, click here.

PS. Although it’s tempting, there is no point clicking ‘read more’ at the end of this post. You are already looking at the whole thing. Don’t be a fool to yourself.

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The Things You’d Like To Like

Friday, July 13th, 2012

Dear Rachel,

I am as English as rain in an alleyway.  Scramble back a few generations, though, and there is a rogue dash of Highlander lurking in the gene pool.  This came as no surprise, as I have long demonstrated a fondness for shortbread, porridge and bagpipes – in fact, the Massed Pipes and Drums of the Royal Tank Regiment appear between ‘River Deep, Mountain High’ and ‘Uptown Top Rankin” in a playlist I was listening to on the Northern Line this afternoon, and they seem strangely at home there.

Our main family name is Whitehead. The dynasty, which can best be described as something of a handful, has always been based in and around London and the Medway Towns. Ages ago, a stray female with the powerful Scottish clan name of Sinclair – no doubt a wizard with the porridge spoon but defenceless against the charm of the Whitehead menfolk – found herself married to one of them and transplanted to the sharp end of Victorian London. I should imagine that pleased her no end.  Why the Whiteheads were marauding to the distant north is a mystery, but a bloodline was nonetheless kindled, and here I am at the other end of it. A quick bit of research into Clan Sinclair reveals that they fought with great bravery at the Battle of Culloden in 1745. The Highlanders’ defeat here marked the end of their entire society. The reason I feel an affinity with the Sinclairs is that they fought with great bravery on both sides.

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The Last Bad Morning

Thursday, July 5th, 2012

Dear Rachel,

I sometimes wonder what people reading Take A Break are taking a break from.  I suspect that it’s from reading other magazines like Take A Break, but whatever it is, it isn’t being part of a House of Commons Select Committee on public transport.  I am able to state this with authority after eavesdropping on a discussion that took place on a train the other week.   It was a delayed train, and it was on the Essex side of London.

Actually, it was more than delayed.  It had been irretrievably halted on the London approaches after someone killed themselves in front of it at Shenfield.  I had retained a stoic attitude as the guard repeatedly apologised for the disruption this would cause our various mornings, reflecting that although my morning had been disrupted, it was not as bad as that which had befallen the deceased man.  Or, come to think of it, the several mornings, afternoons, evenings and nights he must’ve had prior to deciding that this was a reasonable course of action to take.  As a result of what was at least the very last bad morning he would ever have, my train was reversed back up a branch line to Romford.  Here, transferring to a replacement service, was where I found myself at a table with the Take A Break ladies.

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Podcast 3: Old Tom And The Girlfriend Experience

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

Hello sailor,

It’s another podcast.  Click here: podcast 3.

This week it covers everything from literary criticism to bleak but brilliant slang terms used in the oldest profession, and ends with a quick read through of last week’s post set to a swinging jazz soundtrack.

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