Monday, November 24, 2014


When this word is used today, almost everyone thinks only of unwanted emails, etc. Old timers will remember its older meaning as a canned food, with its name abbreviated from "spiced ham". Probably for most of those living on this side of the Atlantic, spam was a convenient food to keep in reserve, for occasions such as days when floods made it impossible to buy fresh meat. During wartime, spam was highly regarded in the UK at a time when such staples as butter, meat, and candy were rationed. Our ration books also provided "points", which could be used at one's discretion to buy certain supplementary foodstuffs. The UK had long been an exporter of finished goods, and an importer of food. Merchant ships bringing food were often the victims of U-boats but some shipments did get through, and one could often by spam with one of one's precious points. Spam was not a particular favorite in Britain, but it was certainly welcomed as one of the ways to stretch our limited diets.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Ten Fruits

The letter "p" is often mute in English: e.g. psalm, psychic, etc. But this is the season of persimmons and pomegranates, and it reminds me that their are many other fruits with that same initial letter. Pineapple, peach, pear, plum, prune, papaya, passion fruit, and pluot.

Monday, November 10, 2014


Every year, we are sent more calendars than we can use. There is little demand from family and friends for any of the unneeded copies. I do keep a calendar in my office, because it is helpful to know on what day of the week some future event or appointment will take place. However, when we refer to "the calendar" we usually mean the engagement book supplied by our stockbroker. This is a vital part of our life, a "calendar" in which we enter dates and times of future engagements, from medical appointments to classical music concerts. It is rare indeed for us to forget to attend a play or a concert, thanks to the.calendar. I have one small gripe: the timing of the arrival of the next year's issue. Morgan Stanley, our stockbroker's firm, seems to regard distribution of those excellent engagement books as a sort of Christmas present. Of course, we would like to receive them several months in advance, so that we can enter our engagements for the first few months of the coming year. Instead, we make use of a page at the back of the earlier year. When the new book arrives, the first thing that I do is to transfer those items into the newly-arrived book. Somehow I manage not to complain about the delayed arrival, as those engagement books (our "calendars") are a very important part of our lives.

Monday, November 3, 2014

A Poor Example

The San Francisco Giants recently defeated the Kansas City Royals (in what we should call baseball's "National Championship", but in what other countries consider as "American arrogance" is better known as the "World Series".) A parade, fireworks, etc. in celebration were held, all of which was perfectly appropriate. However, we were informed by our local paper that this year twice as much confetti (2,400 lbs) would be used as had been scattered when the local team had last triumphed two years ago. A few handfuls of confetti thrown by friends and family after a church wedding is traditional, and can be promptly swept up afterwards. Dumping a huge amount of confetti during a victory parade, as large an amount as 2,400 lbs, is a poor example for young people whose parents are trying to teach them to keep our streets and sidewalks clean.