Sunday, March 24, 2013

The glasses that ping

We're always on the hunt for a good red wine under six dollars but whatever the price we always drink it from glasses that ping. A few years back you could find them in Mcfrugals, of blessed memory. Just lined up on the shelf, dozens of crystal wine glasses, each a dollar forty-nine. Obviously no one in charge had done the ping test. For that all you need is a ring, (wedding rings work best, plain metal.) Make a fist: bend your knuckles as though you'll punch the glass and lightly tap the wedding ring upon the side. No ping? Pass on and repeat.

Sadly someone at McFrugals caught on and a few weeks later the only glasses available at one forty-nine gave off the dead clunk of broken dreams and lowered expectations. Speaking of the dead clunk, does no-one remember one of the historic episodes in Frasier? Miles, ultra posh, fastidious brother, finally declares his passion for Daphne, and they sit in the kitchen and raise their glasses in a toast and what do we hear? A dead, low class, no-class clunk. Un-believable. The producers were lucky they got away with it when they did. If it happened now the whole scene would be making the rounds eternally with Angry Cat and Face Lifts Gone Wrong.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Not so special after all

Because I'm British, well English- that even more Anglo-Saxon super-section of former white imperial overlords - (and with bad teeth, according to the more recent American overlords who sneer at us because they're still jealous,) OK - well, because I am English with all those centuries-old certainties, it's always a shock when I find myself sinking to the level of  the smaller peoples of the world.

For example: French troops in Mali - and suddenly on the TV there are Africans speaking perfect French - ordinary ones! (Ordinary Africans.) Where did that come from? (Of course, when you don't speak any French, any French sounds perfect.)  It's quite a smack to be reminded, of course, the French were in Africa too. And how odd that some Africans speak Portuguese- It  doesn't seem quite right. I never heard about any of that growing up. For a moment I feel as aggrieved as a Serb squaring up to the Greeks who lord it over the Balkans with all their statues and temples and stuff. Or an Albanian student unable to sit still in class because he had just seen the portrait of an Albanian poet  hung lower than the picture of a Serbian one.

It t was in a Serbian grocery in fact, long ago, the moment when it  hit me how much like everybody else we are. It was back before plastic bags when everything was still wrapped in newspaper or whatever came to hand. This time it was a page from an elementary school exercise book: careful sentences in Serbian, the top one, "President Tito VISITS Africa." (It was obviously verbs that day) Back then Tito gazed at us from every post office wall, shop, restaurant, bus station, and flyblown cafe but I was suddenly reminded of my young school days, and "Princess Elizabeth visits Canada!" And what did we young school children have to do? Make a scrap book from the pictures in the newspaper! Princess at the rodeo, doing a square dance! Cheered by jubilant Canadians! That was our geography lesson.

And another thing: just the other day I heard some correspondent talking about the Americans repairing a bridge the Russians had built in Afghanistan. And he casually mentioned all the roads, the hospitals and clinics for women  they had built too. Ah, but of course, they would have had a picture of Lenin or Stalin staring down on those poor Afghanis - not a smiling Queen Elizabeth or a pensive Obama.