Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Spring is in the air

It always seems a little dangerous to suggest it, but I dare say Spring is in the air. Of course it won't actually stop raining until the second week of July, but the dry spells are getting longer, the sun is occasionally wont to show his face and I have at odd moments been able to ride my bike without a coat. This is probably the best aspect of the change, as I positively hate my riding coat (I seem to have made it sound Edwardian by accident - it isn't), in fact a yellow and black possibly nylon waterproof anorak which is good for keeping me dry and being seen but otherwise ghastly in every possible respect. It actually reminds me of the blue seventies equivalent that my dad wore for about fifteen years despite its advanced state of dilapidation, at first unaware of the fashion atrocity that he was unwittingly unleashing on the planet, later positively reveling in the fact, or, more specifically in the enormous embarrassment it caused my sister when he happened upon her and her peers in public. Sitting outside the packed Irish bar after work in Hillsboro on St Paddy's day, in the freezing cold, I was actually too embarrassed to avail myself of its protective mantle, such was the shame it conferred.

The only twinge of sadness that the end of the winter now heralds is the knowledge that I won't be going skiing again until December. I succeeded in my goal of spending five days on the slopes this year and, much to my own amazement, have reached a stage where I can negotiate the green (beginner) runs without calamity, though panic does tend to set in where the route becomes both narrow and steep. Leon, Linda and Julie have all taken turns to educate and encourage me and I lay my rapid progress entirely at their feet. Having previously considered myself both too inept and too old to take up skiing, it has been enormously encouraging to find that I can pick up a new skill even at my advanced age and what's more find something enjoyable and relatively healthy to pursue in the otherwise dismal winter months. My aim for year two will be to become a solid beginner level skier (though I may try to sneak in one more trip to the mountain before the end of April when everything shuts down).

In other news, we've had the builders in this month. In Britain this sentence would usher in an endless litany of my trials and tribulations at the hands of the technically capable but fundamentally uncooperative "working" classes. Not so in the US of A however. Much to my amazement the job has been all but completed ahead of schedule and to a higher level of quality than I ever dared hope. They arrived en masse, worked whilst daylight prevailed with nary a break and returned the next morn etcetera until the job was done. The result is that we now have a garage that is "square" and sound, incorporating a door wide enough to actually get a car in, and a brand new deck built on an actual "foundation" and incorporating a ramp so that Rachel should be able to maneuver a pram in and out of the house without straining her back. The other result is that we have completely cleaned out our savings account. Still, I suppose that removes the temptation to spend it all on something pointless. Like that shiny silver 1960s Volkswagen Karmann Ghia that's parked down the street for example.

Rachel is coping very well with the pregnancy, but the need to withdraw from the vast majority of her prescriptions combined with the additional weight on her back and the fact that she is finding it increasingly difficult to sleep comfortably, are all beginning to take their toll. If you have a spare moment to send a cheery note to her at r underscore e underscore tammar at hotmail dot com, then I'm sure she'd appreciate it! "Baby Fluffy" as Rachel has taken to call him, is currently predicted to arrive on July 4th...

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Winter wonderland

When was the last time something blue came out of your mouth? No, I'm not being figurative and quaint, I'm being literal. Probably never, unless you once gagged on a raspberry slush-puppy in Great Yarmouth. Well, here's your big chance. All you need is a large glass of Port (vintage irrevlevant for this purpose) and a tube of Arm and Hammer "baking soda" toothpaste. Enjoy the fortified wine within a couple of hours of bedtime (or for breakfast), then proceed to clean your teeth with the aforementioned cleanser. What will emerge when you spit is not a pristine white, or a nicotine yellow, nor, as might be expected, a pinkish cabernet / sanguine amalgam. No indeed, for some infernal alchemical reaction is taking place on your now blackened tongue, and your saliva is now an inky indigo blue, intermingled, if your particularly fortunate, with some dark particulate matter, possible some kind of diabolical "salt" or somesuch. But don't take my word for it; frankly you owe it to yourself to try this out in the comfort of your own bathroom, much as I do on a daily basis.

To give you a solid impression of how bad US TV really is, I have found myself watching "Hustle" by default. UK residents may recall this as a highly stylised and unconvincing portrayal of professional con-artists at work. Anyway, there's a certain episode wherein the old master (Robert Vaughn) teaches his apprentice the art of "cold reading" i.e. making assumptions regarding a person's situation from his/her appearance; a pastime popularised by the French and familiar to a lot of people with too much time on their hands and a solid grasp of sociological stereotypes - undergraduates for example. Commuting to work via public transport gives plenty of opportunity for this sort of sport, although often passengers are sufficiently vocal to alleviate the necessity for any fantastical inference: on one day someone will be discussing Voltaire's influence on the founding fathers, on the next someone else is loudly defending the moral virtue of sleeping with her sister’s boyfriend on her cell-phone. Still, the mind wanders: I see a blind man with his golden Labrador guide dog; I think to myself: if I become blind, I should like to have a ginger guide dog. But could I be sure it was ginger? What if there were no ginger ones left and they just told me it was ginger and pinned a sign on it saying, “if he asks, I’m ginger”? And then what if a small child, who couldn’t read, one day revealed that he was in fact black? How would I feel about that?

I take it you’re familiar with Google Earth? If not, I suggest you download it and fly around a bit, especially round my way where the resolution is pretty spectacular... But lo, what is that at 45° 24’ 40.68” N / 122° 42’ 03.60” W? Could it be my ginger car, parked outside Leon and Linda’s lakeside mansion? Yes, it could. FYI: the nearby black car is Julie’s Toyota; meanwhile the bimmers are safely locked away in the garage. Speaking of which, L&L recently decided to trade-in their 3-series convertible for a more refined 5-series, with ample room in the back for two child seats. Generously they let me take the old motor for a spin before they handed it over. It was a lot of fun but I don’t think I’d ever consider buying one (presuming I could ever afford to); the car seemed positively disgruntled to travel at less than 20 miles an hour, the steering heavy and the engine grumbling away before me. Still, the 0-60 in under 7 seconds seemed like a spec worth validating at the lights, and indeed it did feel rather like a plane taking off... It was Presidents’ Day and I took it down to Silverton Falls where the following photos were taken… it was something of a winter wonderland that afternoon...