Sunday, October 29, 2006

Any port in a storm

More specifically, Paul Masson California Port. To be frank, it’s not Taylor’s LBV, but in its defence, it is a mere $5 a bottle, which makes it even better value on the price per unit alcohol scale than the European wine lake La Mancha (£2.35 from Unwins if memory serves me correctly) that sustained me 1993 – 1997. And that’s without taking inflation into account.

Californian wine falls into two distinct camps, so far as I can tell. It's either downscale "two buck chuck" or else it's criminally over-rated vintage nonsense with pretensions on Bordeaux, pointless Parker points and price-tags starting at $30 for their undeclared plebeian estate plonk, which they produce for people who wear designer labels where you can read them in public. Paul Masson sits firmly in the former camp, proudly servicing the Dionysian demands of undiscerning alcoholics on a budget from sea to shining sea. Paul – my thanks.

In any case, my headlong descent towards the lower shelves of Safeway’s liquor aisle is merely one symptom of the serious belt-tightening exercise brought about by our recent metamorphosis from a double-income-no-kids to a single-income-one-kid family.

Of course there is nothing – nothing – so wonderful as being a parent and the countless joys etc

With that said, let’s take a hard look at the bottom line.

In broad terms, one can divide one’s outgoings into two categories, which we can label discretionary and non-discretionary spending. Non-discretionary spending includes all those things which you have to spend money on to get by e.g. mortgage payments, taxes, utilities, certain insurance policies, transport, healthcare. Discretionary spending is everything else. You could class food as non-discretionary, but in fact the amount you need to spend on food in order to merely survive is not very high. So stop cheating.

Clearly when you have a child, discretionary spending goes up. Though, proportionally speaking, not by that much (of course, we have been fortunate in that we have been the beneficiaries of an enormous quantity of baby inspired charity, which has lessened the impact rather). What's also clear is that with one less breadwinner, income drops substantially (no maternity benefits here, needless to say). What is less obvious is that all that lost income was previously discretionary spending. Allow me to illustrate this graphically – I have altered the data labels for clarity.

Here you can see quite clearly that fun (by which I mean frivolous expenditure) has suffered a real terms cut of 70%.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Summer Holiday Part II

It occurs to me that in my report on the State Fair, I completely neglected to mention Elephant’s Ears. These fairground culinary delights are in essence giant flat doughnuts, dusted with sugar and cinnamon, resembling in form overgrown slabs of nan-bread, or, if you like, dusty elephant’s ears. Can’t believe I forgot that.

In any case, Wednesday took us to Powell’s (the world’s largest independent bookstore no less), the Rose Gardens and on the obligatory pilgrimage to Jake’s Crawfish. On Thursday, my dad I and I fixed a sink and two toilets. It was perhaps not the most glamorous use of vacation imaginable, but it needed to be done and gave me an enormous sense of personal satisfaction which made me happy for the rest of the day.

Above: A rose. At the rose gardens. One of about a million. And uniquely beautiful. There's a lesson in there somewhere.

Right: Wake up and smell the roses, for fluff's sake. Rachel humours me - and apparently herself too - with this contrived shot. I best stick to the day job.

Dinner at Jakes. Enough said.

On Friday, Linda babysat Baby Fluffy and the rest of us headed off to Cannon Beach, which was as clear and as warm as I can remember it. The journey home took us via Tillamook; and, as long time fans of this blog are already aware, no visit to Tillamook is complete without the obligatory tour of the cheese factory (/ Marxist-alienation observation point) and a giant ice-cream cone. Much to everyone’s surprise, Dad opted for the bubblegum flavour. As he said himself, you can’t get that at Waitrose.

Tere Vanessa Tammar, British Explorer, c.2006.

Japan's that way.

Sand - superior to pebbles as a beach surfacing material; Paddling in the Pacific. Effing cold.

Mum and Rachel. I could probably do with a better caption here.

Lost - Season 48. A sneak preview for you.

Surf's up at Cannon Beach.

It's life, Jim, but not as we know it. Well, not as I know it, since I'm not a marine biologist.

A more traditional submariner.

I don't care what you say, seagulls are cool. Except in Newhaven. They're like everything else in that respect.

Rachel accused me of being "arty" at his point. There was something condescending about her tone.

They don't make them like this anymore. Just one of the many reasons they're going bust.

It's giant ice-cream cones all round at the Tillamook cheese factory! Bubblegum flavour on the left.