Archive | June, 2014

Oh, My…

27 Jun

MondrianAlthough my children will probably argue the point, I do try not to be judgmental. It’s not easy, given my background, but I do try.


Last night, I was in a hobby store, picking up yet one more piece for this cottage I am building, and was stopped dead in my tracks by the most appalling sight. I don’t know what size clothing this woman wore, but it should be illegal to manufacture stretch pants in anything larger than a size 6, especially when the pants in question have a Mondrian print.

Imagine, if you dare, this design on a size triple X, stretched so tight that every nook, cranny, and curve was clearly visible.

Quick! Somebody call Omar.

Sitting in the Dark

26 Jun

A few days ago I posted about the general frustration of not being able to turn on any of the fluorescent lights in the house.  The Squire finally admitted it was a problem, and wandered off in the general direction of Home Depot, and instead of fluorescent bulbs, came home with two ceiling lights, which can only be described as a glass boob with a bronze nipple.

Do not ask me to explain this.

Our house is best described as “accumulated, not built”.  The main section was built around 1935, and each successive owner has added other bits as needed. The ceilings on the second floor are so low that I can touch them by raising my fist over my head.  When we bought the house all of the ceiling lights upstairs were the type that hung down about six inches (enough space for the light bulbs)and had a flat square glass shade. Several years ago a friend of ours was changing his clothes, pulling his T-shirt over his head, and hit the light fixture in the TV room, breaking the shade and needing thirteen stitches in his hand. We immediately replaced that fixture with a “boob”. The light in the guestroom is directly over the bed, so we didn’t bother to change it at the time.

However, instead of getting new fluorescent bulbs (which he claims he forgot) The Squire purchased two new matching fixtures for the TV and guest rooms (They are actually one large room, separated by bookcases.) and planned on moving the original fixture into the living room, which still had one of those square glass jobs.  Actually, it all made sense, except for the part about the fluorescent bulbs. However, this is the same man who, when it was 105-F, forgot he’d been sent to pick up a window a/c unit, so I can only say it did not surprise me.

Changing out the lights upstairs was no problem, but the living room was another can of worms entirely.

This part of the house – living room and our bedroom above – was probably built during WWII, and while building codes have changed, I highly doubt this wiring was ever up to snuff. First of all, there is still a fuse box in that section of the house, and it was installed upside down.  (Clue number one.) The fuse for the overhead light also controls the outlet beside the fireplace, which is fine, but we discovered that now the lights in our bedroom, which is directly overhead,  don’t work either. (Clue number two.)

When The Squire removed the old fixture he discovered that the electric tape is so old it is made of fabric, impregnated with rubber. OK, this is wartime America, so we’ll give that a pass, but the wires are so short there is nothing to which he can attach the new fixture. It looks almost as if once the original light was installed, the wires were snipped off short, rather than wrapped or otherwise insulated. (Clue number three.)  Although he is perfectly capable of handling most wiring problems, this is such a mess he doesn’t want to tangle with it, and having loose, un-insulated wires sticking out means he is even reluctant to replace the fuse, for fear the wires might touch, and start a fire.

We really need to find somebody who can get this fixed and won’t report us to the county.  We have a friend who is a licensed electrician, and he has promised to come see what can be done, but unfortunately he’s not particularly reliable. Our grandson might be able to handle this, but his schedule is just horrible, so not much hope there.

In the meantime, we are sitting in the dark.


My Next House…

18 Jun

… is not going to have a single fluorescent light.

First of all, the bloody things buzz and drive me crazy, but what really sets my teeth on edge is that fact that they are so undependable.

The one in the bathroom generally – generally – comes on within two or three minutes. The kitchen light is more sadistic. I have prepared entire meals by flashlight, only to have the light come on just as I put the food on the plates.

Ah, but the den light. Thereby hangs a tale. I think it only comes on once or twice a year. The Summer Solstice is coming, so maybe it  will deign to grace us with its presence.  It is so temperamental that we normally leave it on 24/7, but two weeks ago a visitor turned it off  before we could stop her as she left the room. We have flipped the switch on and off, turned it on and then off and counted to 10, then flipped it on again, cursed and swore, opened the fixture and tapped on the tubes.


I have suggested to The Squire that he get new ballasts, but he tells me “it’s not as simple as that”, whatever that means, so for now I actually use the computer by candle light.

There is a certain irony to that.

Psalm 8

15 Jun

Back when I was in high school, one of the TV stations had a special program on the Hapsburgs.

One segment of the program focused on the crypt where many of the ancients – kings, empresses, princes and princesses – are entombed. A number of these people were not put into coffins, but placed sitting around the edges of the crypt, their bony shoulders still wrapped in royal cloaks and skeletal heads crowned with royal diadems.

My mother, never a respecter of persons, watched all this and muttered, “What is man that thou are mindful of him?”

And without  thinking, I replied, “A little lower than the angels.”

It may have been the right answer, but it wasn’t the correct response. Medusa herself never gave me such a glare.

Flying Squirrel

12 Jun

Squirrel at feeder

A squirrel just flew past my window.  Broad daylight, and definitely not your standard flying squirrel.

We have had a bird feeder outside our den window for years, which attracts all sorts of birds, and a fair number of squirrels, who are not the least bit deterred by the fact that they have to shimmy up a metal pole to reach the feeder.  We also get indigo buntings, cardinals, red breasted grosbeaks, titmice, chickadees, gold finches, and numerous other birds.

And there’s enough seed to go around.

Several weeks ago, The Squire purchased a cone-shaped squirrel guard (yeah, riiiight) and attached it to the pole.  The squirrels have learned exactly how far away from the pole they must be to jump right past the guard and reach the feeder.                                             pyramid 2

However, this morning was another kettle of fish entirely, as a small furry body whizzed past my line of vision and hit the feeder.   The little stinkers have started climbing a “pyramid” we use for vines, such as peas and string beans, and launching themselves through the air – about five feet – to land on the feeder.  When I went out to take this shot, there were three of them sitting on the cross pieces, like airplanes on the tarmac, waiting for take off.

For what it’s worth, that length of PVC pipe is where we put peanuts every morning. The squirrels are willing to go into the tube, but the blue jays are not. And all that tall stuff in the background is iris; the ground is far, far too wet to mow there. We have to wait until we have near drought conditions or the ground freezes to cut them down. The Squire says it would be easier to mow chocolate pudding.

The property is listed on the tax assessment as “marsh land”. The Rice Paddy; that’s us.


Pentecost – And a Rough Night

8 Jun

Our annual Pentecost service is probably unique in all the world. We have a rather small congregation, but we have folks from all over the globe. The Prayer Book Service is printed out in one column, and the spoken words – Swahili, Polish, Japanese, etc. – and printed beside them.

Today’s opening collect was done in French, and then the woman who was to read the Epistle in Japanese flipped over two pages in the booklet and took the lectern.  I could see Fr. Matthew’s head bob around, and I knew he was looking for me, so I walked up the side aisle, and pointed out we’d missed the first two lessons, and did he really want me to sing now? (Organized religion is not our strong suit.)

Ah! So we had part of the First Lesson in Swahili, and then second half in Hindi, and then I climbed aboard and sang the Gradual Hymn in Cherokee. I’ve done Amazing Grace several times, and the last two years it was Just as I Am, so today I chose Guide Me, O Thou Great Jehovah. None of these are particularly “Pentecost-ish” but my hymnal is very thin, and it’s a case of take what’s there or do without, and I am NOT good enough to do my own translations. The Gospel was read in Chinese, and on a whim, Fr. M decided to do the Prayer of Consecration in Latin.

The Lord’s Prayer was done in a sort of unison, with those who could speak a second language doing their own thing, while the rest of us said it in English. Snatches of Danish, Syrian-Arabic, German floated around us. I wonder how God keeps it all straight. The closing prayer was read in Spanish.

And then we came home and took a nap.

Last night, our next door neighbors had the first of what is probably going to be several summer karaoke parties. We do not have central air, so we had the room closed and the window unit buzzing. The Squire is deaf as a post, and I generally sleep like the dead.

The noise woke us up. It was 1 AM.

I went down stairs and tried to call their house, but everybody was in the yard, so I ended up calling the police. I had stepped out onto the patio so the operator could get the full benefit of this serenade, and she said they would send somebody out. The county noise curfew is 11 PM, and a member of this clan is a retired police officer, so there’s no excuse for this sort of nonsense.

Do not mess with me when I am tired.


Equitable Night

5 Jun

Last night The Squire and I went to the annual reunion of the folks who worked for Equitable Trust. This bank was bought out (some say assassinated)  in 1989, but there are still about a hundred or so of us who still get together once a year to talk about the good old days, when we were employees, not “human resources”.

Last night, for some reason, the after dinner stories turned to bank robberies and hold-ups. In addition to the German woman who refused the robber’s note because “That’s not my window”, there was the elderly teller who shook her finger in the robber’s face and demanded “Does your mother know what you’re doing? You’re a disgrace to your family!” and a bit more of the same, until the poor fellow finally turned around and tip-toed out. One branch had been held up four or five times by the same man, who was known as “the Gold Tooth Robber”. One of the tellers looked up and saw him waiting patiently in her line, and when he reached her window, she let loose with a mighty swing, and knocked him out! Or the assistant manager at Main Office who ran after a robber,  made a flying tackle and  got back the money.

Tales of thieves who drove their getaway cars the wrong way down one way streets, or ran out of gas within two blocks, and the guy who put the dye pack in his pants pocket.

Another branch had not yet opened when a man walked in and demanded “all your money”. The branch manager explained that they didn’t have any money, because they weren’t due to open for another week. The fellow walked out onto the street, fired his gun into the air in utter frustration and yelled, “I am such a looser!” The cops who immediately surrounded him agreed with his assessment. Speaking of branches that were not open, one man told of his very first PR assignment, which was to design a brochure announcing The Grand Opening of a branch in Columbia. The design was passed around to various committees and approved, printed up, and distributed to the community.

Nobody showed up.

It turned out that after all the checking and cross checking, no one noticed that the bank’s address had been omitted from the brochure. The fellow who had done up the original design figured his career with Equitable was over after a month, but the branch manager told him to relax. “There’s time. They’ll find us.”

The MC for the evening has terrible luck with computers, to the point that he said he has often considered petitioning the courts to change his middle name from Alexander to “I’ve never seen this happen before”. Back when computers still used reels of tape, Pete walked past a machine, and the front fell off, spilling several reels across the floor. Another time, he was outside the computer room (no longer being allowed inside) and one of the windows fell out, nearly breaking his leg. This, of course, led to the Christmas light story.

Equitable was the first bank in the U.S. to start using computers, thanks to the insistence of one man, a fellow named Al Gardiner. The Board of Directors didn’t much see the point to it all, but allowed Al to run a start-up program. Of course, when they came down to see how things were going, instead of men with green eyeshades and yellow lined paper, they saw and heard nothing.  Not impressed. In a flash of inspiration – or desperation –  Al sent one of the men in the office out to buy a string of flashing Christmas lights. Heaven knows where he found them, but the lights were strung behind and between the banks of computers, and whenever the Big Wigs came down, Al would turn on the flashing lights, and the members of the Board were suitably impressed.

We also had the first ATMs, which were called “Harvey Wallbankers”, in a play on an alcoholic beverage that was popular at the time.  You could go into any branch, request an ATM card, and this automatically entered you in a contest which would allow you to withdraw as much money as you could within a five minute period. When the winning card was pulled, the managed looked at it, and muttered that the name seemed awfully familiar. He went into his office and came back with a piece of paper showing that the winner’s name was familiar because he was overdrawn almost $700. Not small change now, and in the mid-70s, it was a whole bunch of money.  The winner and the manager met at one of the ATMs, and the winner managed to withdraw enough money to pay off his overdraft. The bank then closed his account.

The prize of the night went to a story which was told by two men – both involved the same manager, but different branches and slightly different circumstances. One involved a wig, and the other real hair. At any rate, the branch manager was in the tellers cage when he realized his fly was down. He turned his back to the customers and faced the storage unit along the back wall.  Just as he began to zip his fly, one of the tellers bent over to put something in a drawer, and he caught either her wig, or her hair (this was in the days of hair-do’s big enough to have their own zip code) in his fly.

Banking was never so much fun!