Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Forward the Foundation

There's a run of family birthdays in the middle of October, so it's a good time of year to head West and catch up with everybody at once. My sister-in-law's birthday is sandwiched between my father's 65th (large family gathering) and her eldest's 5th (22 excitable classmates to be catered for) so I wanted to make sure her gift was something really special.

I spent a pleasant afternoon browsing the Norwich Lanes and acquired a range of mustard themed products from the Mustard Museum gift shop for my father and a set of Fireman Sam playing cards for my niece. Finding the right gift for my sister-in-law was a little harder. I had one of those shopping trips where everything you eye up is too similar to something you have bought for that person before. In previous years, I have bought her a yo-yo, a book of modern poetry, a salt themed cookbook and a blue glass objet d'art. Every shop and flea market stall I browsed seemed to be chock full of glass objets d'art.  

Eventually I happened upon a stall selling vintage brass compact mirrors and chose a pretty one that didn't look like it needed too much cleaning up. Fortunately, bartenders can lay their hands on Brasso (other brands of brass cleaning product are available) pretty easily, so I was confident that I could buff the case up to make a shiny present.

Vintage Compact Mirror
I would have left it at that. Perhaps I should have left it at that. But that evening Charlie cast her practised eye over my proudly displayed purchases. She wrinkled her nose at the mustard and lemon soap from the Mustard Museum gift shop. She declined to play a quick game of 'Where's Norman?' with the Fireman Sam playing cards and when she popped open vintage brass compact mirror, she observed, "It's been used."

"I know," I said, "It's vintage. I bought it from a vintage stall selling vintage brass compact mirrors."

"You could put some foundation in it," suggested Charlie. So in a way it was her idea.

What I didn't know is that you can buy foundation refill packs. How was I supposed to know that? Like most boys, I wore a bit of eye-liner from time to time as a teenager, but foundation was a mystery to me. So I looked up the ingredients of an all-natural foundation powder and made my own.

It was really simple. I combined a base of some leftover zinc oxide I had from my crystal growing phase with some cornflour and coloured it with cocoa powder. I mixed these dry ingredients with a bit of rubbing alcohol until they formed a paste. (Actually, I didn't have any rubbing alcohol so I used a very pure vodka I brought back from my honeymoon in Russia.) As the mixture dries and the alcohol evaporates you are left with foundation.

All the ingredients you need to make your own foundation.
My sister-in-law seemed very pleased with her vintage compact mirror. However, I'm not sure I got her colour exactly right as she didn't apply any of the foundation.


Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Pool Talk

About a year ago, the pub pool team, the Temple Bar Hashtags (see blogs passim for the tale of the time they rescued me from a bottle-wielding maniac) grew large enough to spawn a 'B' team. In a process similar to binary fission in bacteria, one team became two. The Temple Bar Falcons was born. (My suggestion that the new team should be called the Temple Bar Stools was sensibly ignored).

The best name for a pub pool team I've ever come across is the Sinhalers - imaginary internet points for anybody who can tell me the name of the pub they played for...

I have an over-inflated sense of my own ability at the game, probably because I usually play after a shift, when everyone else has had a gallon and I am on my first pint. Bartenders who work pool nights are usually signed up for a team so that they can step in if the team are short-handed during a home match. On such evenings, I am essentially being paid to play pool. 

Over the course of the summer, I stood in for two games when the Falcons were short a player. Coincidentally, both of these were in the Nine-ball cup knockout competition and this qualified me to play in the Final at Rileys sports bar on Magdalene Street.

Falcon "the Dazman" eyes up a key shot. 

The best thing about Rileys sports bar on Magdalene Street is its proximity to the King's Head - one of the best pubs in the city. The perfect place for a chap to drink a refreshing pint or three of real ale and have a warm up game of barbilliards before heading over to the noisy badly lit giant-screened assault on the senses that is Rileys sports bar.

Whenever I am in a bar full of pool and snooker tables, I can never get the Johnny Cash song The Baron out of my head. I think this must have put me off my game. Or maybe it was the fact that I'd had about six pints (probably shouldn't have gone to the King's Head first) by the time my turn to play came round.

Every bartender dreads 'pool talk'. This is when a player shares his analysis of the game with you. Pool does not lend itself to audio description, but this won't stop the enthusiastic player attempting to tell the captive bartender all the ball layouts, shot angles, missed opportunities and counter-factual accounts of what would have happened with a bit more screw. With that in mind I will only say this: the other guy broke off, I missed the ball I was aiming for completely, potted the cue ball and the other guy potted the Nine on the next shot to win the game. 

The Falcons went on to win the tournament. I have a shiny trophy to show for my contribution.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

The Future of Cash

Until the bank over the footbridge closed its doors and its cashpoint, the pub I work in didn't have a PDQ machine. If folks wanted to pay by debit card, we would send them over the footbridge to get cash. This was only five years ago. You couldn't get away with that now. The young people that venture into the pub nearly all pay exclusively by card. It wouldn't occur to them to get fifty notes out of a hole-in-the-wall before a night out. They look at me quizzically when I offer them cashback: What would I want that for?

Now that nearly everywhere, even the Temple Bar, accepts credit and debit cards; now that you can use your mobile phone to securely transfer money in an instant, it seems natural that cash will begin the slow slide into near oblivion. Because money is only really an agreement between two parties, it doesn't really matter what form that agreement takes. Cheques have basically disappeared in the last few years. Would you even know what to do if you received a Postal Order?

As if to herald the beginning of the end of cash, the British government has issued a new £5 note printed on plastic polymer.

In my other job writing the internet, one of the clients I blog for is a plastics manufacturing company based in Norfolk. Every week, I have to produce 300-400 words on something plastic-related for them to post on their website, so plastic actually being in the news is always useful. My editor won't let me write anything negative for these company blogs, but luckily I have this blog to air my true feelings about the new fiver.

5 Things to Hate About the New Fiver

  1. It can't be ripped in half, except for when idiots try really hard and then they rip in half.
  2. If you receive one that has been rolled up for some nefarious purpose in the Gents, it keeps rolling itself back up in your till.
  3. They are frequently scorched from idiots who "just wanted to see if it would melt".
  4. They stick together and then I have to be honest and hand one back.
  5. I have to endure endless conversations about serial numbers from people convinced that they will earn a fortune if they can find one marked AK47 (Currently trading on ebay for £4.24 with 6 bids and a day and a half to go).
I meant to keep hold of one of the new fivers for this photo, but I forgot.
This is all the cash I had on me.

Regular readers of these updates will remember that I chronicled my experience of a bitcoin windfall a couple of summers ago. When my investment increased by nearly half over a period of days. Fortunately, my local pub  (i.e. the one that I drink in not the one that I work in) accepts bitcoins so I was able to buy a few pints of Pegasus, before they lost their value again.