Wednesday, October 14, 2009


I hope no-one objects to me doing them this week, I had a rare afternoon off (not a whole day of course, that would be too much to ask!) so had a bit of time. Here goes:

1. I'm sure we have all been credit crunched this year and tightened our belts in different places (I know I certainly have), but what item or luxury do you steadfastly refuse to skimp on no matter how crunched you get?

2. I don't know about where you are but "smart cards" are really big over here. I put ¥10,000 on it every couple of weeks and it pays for my many many train journeys, drinks from vending machines and lunch from convenience stores (and some restaurants) all at a swipe of a sensor. Which brings us to that perennial bane of my life; coins - what do you do with them? Pocket? Wallet/purse? Separate coin purse? Collect in a jar?

3. Have you ever had a moment of epiphany? That one Eureka moment when everything suddenly made sense?

4. In Japan, all through their life (school, University, work) people have various people they refer to as their "Senpai" which can be translated simply as "senior person" or on a deeper level as "mentor". So, have you ever had any kind of mentor that you looked up to and what did they teach you?

5. To end on a positive note, what has been your best "blessing in disguise"?


nilpferd said...

1. We have indeed been crunched this year. I could get by with cheap wine, there are some good spanish ones at our local, while good cheese, bread, cold meats and beer can also be had for relatively little outlay.

Probably our last resort luxuries would be properly roasted and blended coffee beans, Mauro and ATT at the moment, and tea. I just couldn't live with cheap substitutes here.

2. We have a lot of small shops in the neighbourhood, few take cards, so coins are still pretty well used here to purchase things, and it's always nice getting Euros from other countries, especially in the holiday season.

3. I guess the moment I finally grasped German was a pretty big one; suddenly a whole, hitherto incomprehensible culture opened up, with all its literature, world view, quirks, history, etc. And it changed my view of language and communication quite dramatically.

4. My mother had three good friends, all strong willed, talented women, who each supported me in my chosen course of study and also taught me a lot about respect, assertiveness, determination, bearing, fashion and design, and human relationships.

5. Spending a miserable week flu-ridden and jobless in the midst of winter here a year after I arrived. That week, a flatmate took pity on me and gave me a tip that a professor at the arch. uni was looking for a bi-lingual architect. He employed me, I met Sandra in his office, and the rest of my life to date hinges on those events.

DarceysDad said...

1. Cars - thanks to my mental state after our accident, I will never EVER buy small cars for my family. I'm only here because we were in a large, newish, high-safety-scoring car. Ask Snadfrod about how stressed I was (about driving round in a garage Ford Ka when my Rover was in for repair) when I met him.

2. 'Silver' goes into the car for parking money; 'coppers' go to the girls for charity box donations. They absolutely love those tubs that keep your pennies rolling in ever decreasing circles for ages before they fall down the hole.

3. Yes, I have had two or three actually. But for various reasons, they are personal and will remain that way. The shareable one is that 2003 car crash again.

4. Ah, Maureen, where art thou? Thinking about it, I've been through this before on here. Are we covering similar ground to an old question?

5. (i) Liverpool University being oversubscribed for the course I got the right A-level points for, forcing me to go back to my original first choice at Bradford.
(ii) Getting blown out by my then fiancée 12 weeks before the (supposed) wedding day. Without that, there'd be no DarceysMam etc., etc.

Nice selection, JP. Deep, if I may say so.

cauliflower said...

Luxury. Yes, coffee. Daily ritual, percolate, frothy milk, chocolate dusting, the whole shebang. I'm hooked on Indonesian. And broadband.

Coins. they seem to end up in the car. A beggar at the lights yesterday seemed happy to take a single penny. That's crunch for you. Years ago when 20p pieces appeared, I collected them in a medium sized jar then bought art when the jar was full. Painless acquisition of delight. Now, though, I find myself digging behind the cushions for milk money.

Epiphany. So many... the biggest was the moment - perhaps a bit like Nilpferd's - that I realised I could read without trying (mentioned here before, I think). In the back of the car driving down Prince's Street in Edinburgh, I could hear all the word in my head: Smiths, Boots, Marks & Spencers; Left turn only, stop, sale, Dundee etc etc. Amazing. But when I wanted it to stop I found I couldn't turn it off, never could again. Which is why I love being in wild places without any text at all, or places where the text is absolutely unreadable, to give my mind a rest. The most enjoyable was reading Rilke's Duino Elegies... couldn't go to work for a week.

Mentor. Several...those who take the honour all have in common that they believed in me, so I found I could too. I try to do the same for others - we all need it, especially people who didn't get it at home.

Blessing. Got so ill working in quasi civil service I ended up in hospital, nearly dead, off work for 8 months. Six others went the same way, one died. A lesson learned - I changed my life completely and am now almost penniless, but much happier. Now, all I need is a boyfriend - if you know anyone...

Exodus said...

Been lucky enough not to have felt the crunch too much. I'm halfway through a three year contract with guaranteed funding, & so have more job security than I've ever had in my life. Mr Ex is a careers counsellor & so is currently snowed under with work thanks to other people feeling the crunch. As public service workers there's a bit of schadenfreude to be had at the moment. How long that'll last I don't know...I think the last thing to be cut would be the small weekly supply of dodgy herbal supplies we still indulge in.

At the end of the day all coins smaller than a pound go into a large tub, which gets cashed in when it's time for the annual hols.

Yes, about 14 years ago but like DsD it was personal and will remain so.

My current boss who I've known and worked with off and on for about 10 years. She set up the company that employs me (Community Arts North West) back in the 70's and her personal and political approach to the work has helped me become more confident in my own approach, in a field where lots of people who work in it are in it for totally the wrong reasons.

Not being able to get an arts related job in Aberystwyth. Forced me to start looking further afield & taking the first job I was offered which led to a move to lancashire & 12 years of interesting, fruitful and stimulating work in the North West. Still miss the seaside though.

tincanman said...

I don't really have epiphany or blessing in disguise stories to share, so will have to make do with:

Item or luxury
Food ingredients the one night a week when it's just Mrs Tin and I.

I keep them in a pocket and am continually earning the grrrs of Mrs Tin for trying to pay as close to the correct change as possible. If I have 7 coins in my pocket and even if I can only reduce it to 6, I'll risk the wrath of clerks and people behind me in line.

A boss in one of my first jobs said ''always take the high road''. It was in response to a customer complaint and we could have nailed him on it. It taught me the pleasure of getting back at someone is shortlived. I still forget sometimes, of course.

May1366 said...

1. I'm a bit under the radar of the credit crunch with my sub-prime freelancer's income, but crunched or otherwise, I get anxious if I've not a block of Parmesan in the fridge (I'd say a big lump of pancetta as well, but I've missed the last few Farmer's markets round my way, plus I'm going out with a veggie, so that's slightly more expnedable). Oh yes, and I've stopped robbing music off the internet so iTunes (and other music vendors) aren't feeling the pinch of losing my income.

2. It's a little zip-up purse bit of the wallet and it looks like it might break soon, but I need coins for parking when I go to Preston to teach. I also have slummy in the car, doing what copper does nowadays - rattle and get in the way.

3. Lots of them - sometimes from reading (Orwell, Marx, Malatesta, Darwin), often from music (The Clash, LKJ, Lee Perry, Monk, ATCQ, Trane) but there was one particular self-indulgent moment of hurt pride that had a lasting effect. I used to edit a mouthy school magazine in my 6ht form and had one article 'censored' for criticising the Board of Governors. As only an angsty teenager and Dan Brown can do, I proceeded to interpret this mundane act of discipline with authoritarian practice across the world and throughout history. Within an hour, I found I'd rejected liberal democracy and the authority of the Catholic Church. Never looked back.

5. Possibly another University sliding doors moment, though truth be told I don't now think my earmarked destination of Oxford was ever going to happen, but having been there for an interview and sharing a distinct sense of mutual disappointment with the place, the inevitable rejection (the same day the first Band Aid single got to Number One, pointless trivia buffs!) allowed me for the first time to make my own decision and (at the expense, it has to be said, of acquiring a University education worth the tax money the good people of Britain lavished on it) I immediately decided to take up Liverpool's sight-unseen offer. And here I still am, kidder, no longer a friggin' stewdent but making up for it by dressing like a twat and talkin' bollocks.

SatanKidneyPie said...

Bloody hell, Japanther, you don’t make it easy, do you?

1. Luxury item:
Although Mrs KidneyPie and I both remain in employment, so shouldn’t necessarily have been credit crunched, we’re still a bit strapped at the moment, so we are scrimping where we can. Problem is though, we’ve run out of places to save: we both take packed lunches to work; neither of us smoke or drink huge amounts; we hardly go out... I suppose the only areas where we could save are by cancelling the broadband connection, buying everything from Aldi, cancelling the DVD rental membership, and stop visiting friends and family at weekends. Oh, and I suppose I could stop seeing prostitutes, but come on....

2. Coins:
I like the idea of smart cards. I think the same idea is being trialled somewhere, but suspect it’ll be a while ‘til it reaches Brum. I keep a small float of coins at work for miscellaneous expenses. All coins at home smaller than a 50p go into a jar which is cashed in from time-to-time; everything bigger than that I carry with me if there’s only a few, otherwise Mrs KidneyPie puts them in her purse and I never see them again.

3. Eureka!
I was quite poor at German at secondary school right up until I was about to sit the oral exam. I can’t remember exactly what the catalyst was, but suddenly I just seemed to get it. I’d been predicted an E grade and got a C.

4. Senpai:
I’ve had several bosses who’ve taken me under their wing, but none of whom I would think of as a mentor.

5. Blessing in disguise:
After I decided to become a solicitor I applied in advance to loads of corporate firms for jobs as a trainee solicitor to start when I had finished my studies. I was rather idealistic about law at that time and set about telling all these corporate monsters that I was happy to work for them, but only if they played by my rules – lots of pro bono work; corporate responsibility, that sort of thing. I cringe about the stuff I put on some of those application forms when I think about it now. On reflection, this was a complete waste of my time. These firms get thousands of applicants each year, so I’m not sure why I thought they would want to hire me when I’d practically told them I wasn’t motivated by money and was repulsed by big business! Although I’m not exactly in love with my current job, I’m sure now that I’d have absolutely hated working for one of those firms, so perhaps that’s a blessing in disguise.

May1366 said...

Oops, forgot the Senpai question - No.4.
Difficult one, actually - mentoring and helping to 'bring through' new voices is a big part of the writing and arts scenes so I could cite a whole bunch of writers, in particular, from whom I've learned and whose influence has rubbed off on me. Many of the essentials of what I do, meanwhile, I've learned for myself just by doing it.
So I'll have to plump for Gerard Depardieu in Novecento or Henry Fonda in 12 Angry Men.

barbryn said...

1. The credit crunch shouldn't be a problem, except that it's coincided with two kids and a wife on extended maternity leave, so we live pretty frugally. Since buying good mature cheddar is, of course, a necessity, the last remaining luxury is probably wine.

2. I take great satisfaction in paying with the exact change, or giving the shopkeeper £5.03 when something costs £4.03 - common practice on the Continent, but still sometimes gets you funny looks here. Also regular coin clear-outs into the girls' piggybanks (to make up for the occasions I have to raid them to go and buy milk. Yes, I do feel guilty.)

3. Maybe not the most profound, but realising that "Birdhouse in Your Soul" is narrated by a night light made my world a little better.

4. There've been some great teachers, bosses, older friends, but I don't think any I'd consider a mentor. I think one or two of them might have seen me as a protege (mentee?) though. That's not meant to be as arrogant and ungrateful as it sounds.

5. The magazine I was working for (set up by one of the above-mentioned not-quite-mentors) went bust just after Innis was born. I didn't get any redundancy payment, but found a new job, which I love, working from home. It's meant I've been around all the time to see her and Delphi growing up. I do feel truly blessed.

Chris said...

Cheers, Japanther.
1. Luxury item: I'm not a prolific spender, as I already have limited funds, but I'm in the same camp as the exoduses (exodi?) when the squeeze takes full effect. I'd miss the green stuff.
2. Coins: They stay in my pocket with the notes. Like tin, I aim to get them all spent whenever possible, producing the occasional 'annoying little old lady getting the correct change out of her purse' experience for those behind me in the queue. I'm also developing a habit where I sort the coins into descending size in my pocket - by touch only (and with no-one else looking: they could mis-interpret). I'm practising my old man shuffle, too..
3. Eureka! Do things make sense? Really? Nah!
4. Senpai: I've had several, temporary, mentors (one or two teachers, an employer maybe) but no-one long-term.
5. Blessing in disguise: Probably falling out of work in 1976 when, casting around for something, I chanced upon an ad for a computer training course. (DsD: are you connecting this question with gf's 'fork in the road' idea?)

Shoey said...

1. Music - everything else is negotiable.
2. In a pot on the dresser - when this overflows, one of the girls will wrap them for the bank & deposit in their savings account.
3. Nope - nothing makes sense.
4. Former Boss was quite good at coming up with an apt phrase or quotation for a given situation: "Don't let the best be the enemy of the good" is one of many I can still recall.
5. Would have to be the wife & kids.

treefrogdemon said...

1 My bedtime dram. When I was very poor, years ago, I tried that very cheap pretend sherry. Luckily these days I can do better - but see (2) below.

2 I always try to give the right change as well - otherwise my purse would be always full of coppers. I put my 5p pieces in a Chianti bottle and when it's full I'll buy some Lagavulin for extra special bedtime drams.

3 I'll have to get back to you on this one.

4 I once had an official mentor, who was called that, while I was doing my main teaching practice. He was no good at it though - he should've told me I had no hope in hell of ever being any good at teaching. (I was telling Mr and Mrs TatankaYotanka about this earlier today - great to meet you guys!) What he did do, though, was give me some old easy chairs he had in his garage, after hearing we only had dining chairs to sit on at home. He even brought them round. So that was useful, at least.

5 Asking my husband (as he then was) to leave. Been making my own decisions ever since.

AliMunday said...

1. I’ve just about run out of things to skimp on – I suppose the one thing I don’t skimp on is my son, but that’s probably not a good thing. He’ll grow up expecting things he can’t have. And occasionally I just have to have a jar of really good olives.

2. I don’t have a smart card but I do have an annual Metrocard which pays for all my public transport within a certain area – very useful. As for coins, my nephew gave me a special jar for my 50th birthday – apparently it holds £100 in 1 pence pieces so all my pennies go in there (he started me off with 50p). I usually spend my change but my husband leaves it everywhere in little (annoying) heaps - some of this goes in my son’s piggy bank, the rest I bag up and keep for emergencies like school charity appeals and extra pints of milk.

3. No. But there was a moment on Paddington station when I suddenly grasped the difference between two different strands of legislation relating to public rights of way and access to the countryside. Just thought I’d share.

4. Probably my oldest brother, who had already left home by the time I came along but who got me into reading (he is a teacher) and used to write me long, funny letters with stories and drawings … of course, he encouraged me to write back. When he visited in the holidays he would take me for walks as well, which I loved … so yes, he probably contributed most to my love of language, arty stuff and the countryside.

5. I’ve tried to look at most of the naff events in my life as blessings in disguise, otherwise I would have given up long ago and stayed firmly under the duvet for the rest of my days.

sourpus said...

1. Most of the available luxuries in Hungary are still cheap for foreigners, the credit crunch notwithstanding. The only item I can think of right now that I wont compromise over is guitar strings, which I will continue to import. You cant beat a fresh set of strings.

2. A wallet that I am told resembles a purse, although does it f...

3. Quite recently yes, when I read a book by a man named Hicks

4. No single mentor. Just tons and tons of mentorettes. They taught me everything I ever learned basically

5. I was recently made redundant. I am certain that this is a blessing in disguise, since it was just about the daftest job on earth and was leading me precisely nowhere

CaroleBristol said...

1) Food. I still try and buy the best quality food I can afford, including meat from a butcher, not discount supermarket meat.

2) I tend to keep them in my purse and spend them in shops. The shrapnel goes into a jar though.

3) Not really one where everything suddenly made sense, but I have had a couple of times where things I used to find really difficult suddenly became easy. Nothing earth-shattering though, more like how to reliably get bread to rise type things.

4) When I was at Uni, I had a friend who was very cool and confident. She taught me how to stop being shy and she taught me a lot about believing in myself. Without her, I think my life would be very different today, because I was on the point of quitting Uni after the first term, because I was finding it hard to open up and make friends.

5) I think I've mentioned this before, but splitting up with my ex, painful though it was at the time, was a blessing in disguise. I am happier now than I have ever been before.

goneforeign said...

Not sure why I can't respond with one-liners like normal human beings. Anyway, here goes.

1. It's not really a question of steadfastly refusing to give up, but I am with Barbryn re. sharp cheddar. We buy many groceries at Costco, for years they had an excellent 3yr old cheddar which I bought all the time; then they discontinued it and replaced it with something less desirable. I couldn't find the preferred brand locally so I suffered and grumbled. That is until last week when I had the inspiration to google the brand name and sure enough there they were and they had an online shop though their price was almost twice what I'd paid at Costco. So I 'ordered' a 2lb block for $13 and proceeded to 'checkout', the shipping came as a shock, $13.75! No way! I wasn't that hard up for sharp cheddar. The next day I went to Costco for the regular groceries and lo and behold, after 2+ years they again had my aged cheddar and it was still $7.50 for 2lb blocks, so I bought two.

2. Coins, in a jar like everyone else, I'll sometimes grab a handful when going out but I still come home with a pocketful. Pennies which are worthless and not worth the effort of sorting and counting go into a big jar, when it's full I'll get another big jar.

3. not yet.

4. A 'mentor'. He wasn't really but he did hire me to teach with him in his programs at the university. He was Francis Ford Coppola's older brother, Francis adored him.
I was teaching photography, he was the Director of two departments, the General Honors Program, a program for academically gifted and self motivated students, and the Comparative Litrature dept.
He asked me to teach film production in his Honors program and I accepted, it was a great position, he took care of all the production expenses and I and the students turned out quite a few decent student films. He also asked me to co-teach a course with him in Comp Lit, the course was 'The Film & the Novel', he handled the literary aspects, I the filmic ones. Initially I was nervous but I got over that and learned to enjoy it.
We were the same age and became very good friends, we spent a lot of social time together, I became friends with Francis, his sons Nikki [Cage] and Christopher, his sister Talia Shire and his wife. I was initially in awe of him, I admired his intelligence, his creativity, his quick mind and his articulate ability to clearly present abstract ideas and concepts, and as we evolved together I began to feel more secure in my own abilities in these areas.
This was just one more of those 'forks in the road' that Chris remembers, supposing we hadn't met or if I'd declined his offers? My life was definitely richer for having known him.
He resigned from the university in a huff and went on to become the Dean of Fine Arts at San Francisco State University .

gordonimmel said...

1. As many others have said, one year into the credit crunch, I've cut out alot of my luxuries. No music that I have to pay for, no new car (125,000 miles on my 10 year-old banger - I hope it holds up for a few months more) and I've even given up paper version of The Grauniad on Monday to Friday). We're down to the cheapest wine but when I finally decide to give up the booze for economic reasons that's when I've finally skimped my last.

2. I don't seem to gather too many coins. They stay in that coin pocket in jeans when I do have them but tessimmel seems to get a few if, for example, I manage to cut 10 of her finger nails before she bites them, or she gets to keep the pound for the swimming locker if he's done well in her swimming lessons. And then there are the cashiers at innumerable establishments who look at you plaintively whenever you hand over a note and say 'have you not got the exact change' as if nobody has a float anymore.
Oh and @ Chris, I sort coins in order of size aswell - can't do it in my pocket tho'. Respect!

3. Yes, big epiphany when I was 21. I won't bore you with details or explanations but suffice to say that the phrase 'everything suddenly made sense' sums it up perfectly.

4. No real mentors that I can think of really. A Professor at Uni took me under his wing and also helped me get a job when I left with a company with whom I spent 12 of the next 15 years. My first two bosses there were low key mentors and (I only realised this in retrospect) when they retired I was cut adrift at that company. Which leads me on to question 5...

5. In 2002 I thought I was on a career ladder with above mentioned company when I suddenly found myself shunted very ostentatiously into the sidings. frauimmel happened to become pregnant at that time so I did the only logical thing for a man to do in that situation and.....resigned. I didn't have a clue what I was going to do but that company still wanted me to number-crunch for them even if they didn't want me in any position of responsibility so they eventually persuaded me to become a self employed engineer, which allowed me to drop in and out of work over the next few years as childcare commitments dictated so that for many of tessimmel's early years I was prime carer and I continue to be the 'flexible' one allowing frauimmel to get the 'steady' work - which has been very useful over the last year when I've just had scraps.
Which brings me back neatly to question 1.....

tincanman said...

@ Chris
I'm worse with the coins, I think.
If something is 5.76 I'll give 'em 6.16 so I only get one coin back.

tincanman said...

@ gI
I just changed my Guardian buying too. I haven't bothered with the Saturday for ages because all I read of it is the front section, so I stand outside the shop pulling sections out and putting them in the bin. I like the Observer Sunday, but it's had to go now. So I'm down to Guardian Monday, Thursday (tech), Fri.

GarethI said...

1. Quality alcohol and music. Occasionally these coincide… Oh, and football. I know it's a recession and all but £45 is a perfectly reasonable price to pay for top-flight football.
2. 1p, 2p and 5p pieces sit in an empty whisky bottle which I empty when it's full or particularly want to buy something. I expect the next one will be the combined DAB/CD/iPod music system so if anyone can recommend something decent for under £300 that is – and this is a dealbreaker – less than 21cm deep I'm open to suggestions.
3. Only once. I was about six and we were doing maths at school. The teacher wrote a number on the board. I realised that she could keep adding zeroes until the board was covered in chalk but she could go on, and cover the walls, and the desk and the floor with zeroes, and she could keep on doing this to the rest of the school, and the road, and… you get the picture. Infinity, eh?
4. Personally: mum, dad, sister. Professionally: my first boss.
5. Writing to Liverpool around 15 years ago to join the season ticket waiting list. A few weeks later, I had a call saying if I coughed up in the next fortnight I could have one.

gordonimmel said...

@tin, I used to get the Grauniad from the newsagent every day and The Observer on Sunday but, like you, I found that I only read a small portion of them. Since I was also reading half of it for free online anyway it didn't seem worthwhile so I cut down to Saturday & Sunday papers only. I do get to read some sections I never bothered with before but the thing I really miss is 'Doonesbury' which I can't find online.

@GarethI, I forgot about the football. I may have to revise my previous answer. I can do football without a pint (just) but the season ticket for City would have to be the last to go. But £45 a game? It's £480 for 19 games to watch the future Champions at The City of Manchester Stadium. Maybe you should join us...

barbryn said...

"I'm worse with the coins, I think.
If something is 5.76 I'll give 'em 6.16 so I only get one coin back."

tincanman - do they have 40p coins where you come from?

tincanman said...

i think i know now why queues form

DarceysDad said...

GarethI's answer to 5 makes me cry.

Tincanman's maths makes me laugh.

nilpferd's answer to 3 makes me envious (French? Fine. Holiday Spanish? OK. German? Just. Don't. Get. It.)

goneforeign's answer to 4 leaves me speechless.

Makinavaja said...

1. A few grams of good quality jamón ibérico (top-notch cured ham) to enjoy before lunch with a beer on Saturday or Sunday. As the rest of the week my timetable prevents me from having a proper sit-down lunch, I really need this little luxury.
2. It goes into my back pocket and nearly always ends up in parking metres, so it isn't that much of a problem.
3. I woke up one day and just knew how to use the subjunctive in Spanish. It changed my life. (I live in Spain - it wouldn't really be that important otherwise).
4. My uncle taught me the balance between work and fun. A pretty standard "work hard, play hard" philosophy - but he did it at a time I needed someone to do it. He's no longer with us but I still try to think what he would advise whenever I have to make an important decision.
5. Bit too personal perhaps, but you did ask. Being born illegitimate and unwanted in 1962. I got adopted by the best parents you could ever imagine. Blessing in disguise, no, much more than that!

zag said...

1) It would have to be the wine. And the travel. Oh, and the coffee. But everything else is negotiable.

2) Coins go into a cool slanted plastic coin sorter which stacks up the denominations so you can see how much you have of each. When I need to grab a euro I take the lid off and grab 5 20c coins or whatever one is loking the fullest. When a column fills up I take out a few 10s, a few 20s and an emergency €1 and then a load of 1c, 2c & 5c coins and head down to the self serve tills in Tesco for a few litres of milk. 10 minutes of feeding coins keeps me happy in a weird sort of way. I used to do something similar on the bus in the mornings until I got an annual ticket.

3) Not quite an epiphany, but stumbling across this site a few months ago was pretty cool. I just put on one of the playlists and let it go from there when working from home. I guesss the epiphany will come when I work out what this drop box thing is and which comes first, the Readers Recommend column (which I've never read) or The 'Spill. It'll all make sense then. Won't it ?

4) Senpai - I've had a few, but the fact that I can't remember their names says a lot I guess. the two I can remember were actually younger than me, so I'm not sure they fit the Japanese definition - and you know how the Japanese are for protocol and rules. They were both IT people who knew *everything* and could explain it clearly and logically without going into the bluster and hyperbole that a lot of IT people seem to use when they don't know the answer.

5) See 3. Or alternatively, throwing in a solid IT job, renting out (luckily not selling) the house and heading off to New Zealand with Mrs Zag and the mini-zags following the birth of #2 son. "Oh, I'll have no problem getting a job in IT" was the extended justification when people wanted to hear more than just "Road trip" as our reason. Except I wasn't expecting all the New Zealanders to be laid off from their IT jobs in Europe and the US with the whole dot bomb thing in 2002. There was no job. We couldn't stay. But we had a great 6 months touring the country, earning expensive € rent and paying teeny tiny NZ$ prices for everything we bought.

DarceysDad said...

Good evening, zag.

What's that you say? You've never read the Guardian's Readers Recommend column?!?!?


OK, a very brief potted history:
The Guardian has been running a weekly column for about 4 years now. Ten songs and a short journalist piece all tenuously linked together by a header topic. As it is Readers Recommend, the journo (known hereabouts as the 'guru') needs us to recommend 'em in the first place, so one week before the paper piece, a blog thread goes up on
(aka The Mothership) and we all throw suggestions in.
Somehow RR has become an oasis of bonhomie - connections were made, friendships forged, and so on. Well, friends like to chat about anything rather than be limited to one narrow set of parameters, so in January of last year, this very blog was set up for RR regulars to blow off on any old subject we wanted. And as you've no doubt seen, oh boy do we?!

The new RR topic is launched in just over 24hrs over yonder, so if you're up this time tomorrow night, come on over. And I don't know where you live, but on the off chance you're anywhere near Leeds, we're having a piss-up on Sat 24th: all welcome, no Grauniad subscription necessary.

Cheers, that man!


steenbeck said...

Hello Zag! welcome to the 'Spill. Can't help asking...which playlist was the one you first listened to?

Okay, the questions...

1. It's actually reassuring to read all these other answers, because many are very close to mine. We've never had high-paying jobs, and since we've had children we don't go to movies or out to eat, so we've been very frugal for a while. Basically, we haven't cut anything out, but we buy very cheap wine by the case (we found a nice red, from california...) we still buy good coffeebeans, but not the special ones from the coffeeshop down the street...

2. We have a little store attached to our house, so change goes in the till there, or it goes into my apron and I'll use it to make change at the restaurant. Actually, I'd accrued so much change that it was weighing my apron down, and I've started putting it in a little cup for any waiter to use. We used to save it up in a jar for a vacation every year, but now we need it for more practical applications.

I've been thinking a lot about 3-5, and I think life is a series of epiphanies, mentors and blessings in disguise, but that's a cop out, so...

3. There was this one time where I thought I knew, but one experience showed me that I had no idea, and the whole world looked different after.

4. My piano teacher, Olga Von Till. She was maybe 90 when I was 17. I wasn't the best piano student, but I kept visiting her after I stopped taking lessons, when I came home from college, etc. She was a good good friend, full of stories and advice, but mostly she taught me that friends can be any age, and come in the most unexpected places. And I loved her and felt that she loved me - and that gives you a lot of strength. She taught me to listen to the spaces between notes. DId I mention that she taught Bill Evans, too, many years before?

5. I've said it before, and I'll say it again...once you have children, any decision that you made previously in your life, that would have changed it, however slightly, seems serendipitous. There were decisions I made when I was feeling quite depressed, that seemed like failures at the time. But, however obliquely, they brought me where I am today, so HUZZA! (that's my inarticulate word of the week. I'm very fond of it.)

Great questions, Japanther. You've had my little brain whirring away for days.

Shoey said...

Welcome Zag. A lurker revealed. Cool.

Japanther said...

Wow! Incredible answers everyone (welcome Zag), I never intended for the Q's to be so deep, but they are all things I often think about. I'll try to comment on individual answers later if I can (I'm writing this on the morning train with a 14 hour day of running around Tokyo like a blue-arsed fly ahead of me) but thought I should give my own answers first:

1. We have cut back on most things and switched to the cheaper versions of others ("happoshu" is a beer substitute that really is just as good!) but I can't bring myself to buy cheap toothpaste, it just doesn't work!

2. My daily battle with coins is such an obsession of mine that I tried to write a short story about it once, I gave up as I couldn't put my thoughts into words adequately. Despite the rise of the smart card, their use is still limited and Japan is very much still a cash based society (cheque books and debit cards don't exist and even credit cards are still not accepted in many many places) so coins are necessary. I keep coins in my pocket (as above I also sort by size) and have a daily soap opera in my head to try finish my day with as few coins as possible. It even goes to the extent that i'll often buy something different (even the more expensive version) if it means that buying it will use more coins. If i'm buying a lot of things, for example at the supermarket, and I haven't calculated, the joy I feel if I accidentally get to use say, 9 coins, in one go is second to none. And the disappointment when I miss by 1yen and get another load of coins is crushing.

3. I've got a silly one and a serious one.
The silly one:
when I was a kid we always had foreign students in the house at Easter and in summer to give my Mum a bit of extra cash. One time we had a German student and it was just a 7 or 8 year old me and the student at breakfast together. I watched with incredulity as he put first Peanut Butter and then Strawberry Jam on top of this onto his toast. I understood immediately that he had mis-read "Peanut Butter" for "butter" but didn't want to say anything as I was only a wee child. I never told anyone about this strange incident I had witnessed but also never forgot it. Fast forward 20 years and i'm having lunch with some American work friends and one of them mentions "peanut butter and jelly" sandwiches, the penny suddenly drops and I realise that for all these years I had been mistaken, he hadn't mis-read it at all he had just been having that unfathomable or American favourites (which I hadn't heard of up until that point) of PB and jam together. Mystery solved!
The serious one:
The realisation that experts and people in authority were not always right.

4. Not sure if he was a "mentor" as such but the admiration I had for my A-Level history teacher, Mr Adams hasn't been matched since. He seemed to know EVERYTHING and was just as happy talking about US political history as he was about the latest films or music (he was the only person I could turn to to ask what a "Disraelian disposition" was after I heard it in a S*M*A*S*H lyric, he answered and showed a lot of interest in where I had heard the expression). He also gave a lot of encouragement to those of us who actually showed an interest in stuff (I still have his personal copy of Uncle Tom's Cabin) and got me interested in politics (he took us on a trip to the House Of Commons - although it didn't have much to do with the course - which I loved). He taught me that it's possible to be interested in all kinds of things and that pop culture had just as much intellectual value as the classics. Oh...and he looked like Roger Moore.

5. Being dumped by the ex-girlfriend I suppose, I was truly heartbroken at the time, but it gave me the freedom to be able to set off for Japan....without which no Mrs Japanther, a dearth of many incredible experiences and probably no 'Spill!!

AliMunday said...

Cauliflower, if you're still reading and if it's not too personal, what on earth did the quasi Civil Service do to you??

AliMunday said...

DsD - is it a piss-up? I told Mr Munday it was a restrained social event with in-depth musical discussion ... ;-)

treefrogdemon said...

@DsD: I would think that the fact zag is talking about euros in his answer to Q2 means that he's not terribly near to Leeds.

Welcome zag - this blog is lots of fun.

DarceysDad said...

Slip of the Tongue #1: Of course you're right, Ali, that's actually what I've told DsMam too.

Slip of the Tongue #2: Of course you're right, tfd. It was late and I was tired ...

tincanman said...

you type with your tongue?

zag said...

Thanks for the welcomes all.

I'm in Dublin, so it's nearish to London I guess.

I'll have to go digging to see what the first post I came across here was. I think I found the site following a Google Images search for something obscure but when I came to the site I couldn't find it so I had to read all the posts to find it.

tincanman said...

Alas, ''obscure'' doesn't narrow your search down much around these parts. I could name some names, but I'm just not the sort.

May1366 said...

Pleasure to make your acquaintance, zag.

Also, god knows this isn't a contest, but I'm so glad I didn't try to wag my low-key literary connections about by naming names in answer to the Senpai question, not after reading about goneforeign hanging with the Coppolas. gf, I'm now doomed forever to picture you as looking exactly like Robert Duvall and saying things like "Nic, as your consigliere, I must advise you not to re-make Bad Lieutenant."

goneforeign said...

May: Nikky will forever be in my memory an active 10 year old, I have lots of pictures of him playing with his mates.

TonNL said...

1. Probably one of the few lucky ones not feeling any effects of the credit crunch, but I think I would not skimp on good food and wine...

2. Coin purse, with an active coin-spending policy, so there's never too many of them in my purse

3.Seeing Ryan Adams for the first time, in the small upstairs hall, just after the release of 'Heartbreaker', two chairs on stage, one for Ryan, one for his ashtray, about 70 people in the audience who did not dare to move out of fear of making the wooden floor creak, that was perfection....

4. Mentors: my maths teacher, a long time ago, hated by most of the school because of his ideas of strict discipline in class, I learned to like (and be very good at) maths through him, and in private he turned out to be a very nice guy, and he plays a mean game of chess, a lifelong friend....

5. Giving up a wellpaid & secure IT-job some 20 year ago and starting up a small IT company with a couple of friends, putting a lot of money (well, that's what we felt at that time...) into the company, the rest is history (see my opening remark on question 1...)

FP said...

Great, thought-provoking questions and very honest answers too...
1. With Nilpferd on two of these questions. Buying decent tea. I couldn't drink cheap substitutes and even though Tetley or Yorkshire Tea cost more than the dreaded Lipton Yellow, I will always shell out the extra - "im Rahmen des Moeglichen..."
2. Coins end up automatically at the bottom of my collection of handbags. I have the GDP of small country in there. Probably why they're so heavy. Cold grey day with nothing spoiling. Perhaps I'll fish 'em out and go shopping. With the two trollys I'll need to transport them....
3. Liking the language thing so I'll join that one. Spending summer '86 in the Sauerland between year one and two of interpreting and translating studies and then starting second year actually able to speaka da lingo. Great feeling having sweated my first year German classes.
4. Junior school teacher when I was 10. He was actually responsible for the whole language thing as he got us to translate the dwarvish runes in The Hobbit ('Five feet high the door...'). I was hooked...
5. Deciding not to do Cambridge entrance all those years ago. The literature overload would have driven me bonkers and I wouldn't have been able to do the job I do now. Was a tough call at the time.

ejaydee said...

1. The only thing I tend to treat myself with is food, music and travel. Out of these, food had been the last to go, in these, "less busy" times, but I'll make an effort for something exceptional like a special concert.
2. Like others above, I have very little change laying around, I managed to spend it. Just yesterday, I paid for the Guardian with 2x5p, 2x20p, and 5x10p that I had been carrying around.

3. I've had little ones, especially about words, usually in French. Don't think there's been a really big Eureka moment.

4. Again, a few mentorinhos, covering different areas.

5. Not sure yet, I'll let you know in say, 2 years.

saneshane said...

1) music/ beer/ spill link to the world!!!
we live frugally.. growing stuff, re-using.. avid freecyclers.. making stuff.. so not really crunched - tho the new house money pit.. could be the nail(s) in that.

2) Huge optic bottle from working in a pub keeps small change.. sinister clown from my childhood keeps £2 pound coins (no one else will touch it - so it pays for Christmas every year)

3) Satori
art gallery in Covent garden with my work in it.. just couldn't stand the people any more.. so fuelled by the sponsors Stella, I promptly gave up my career(!) with trendy magazines.. I walked out with two cases of beer and chatted with passers by and a couple of homeless gents til 4am.. - never felt happier.

4) yes - different ones kept me alive at times.

5) a lot around my son being born.

tincanman said...

we're also avid freecylers, well freeglers now

tincanman said...

mind for us its necessity not choice lol

Abahachi said...

Very sorry to have missed these, and all the other great posts; I dunno, I disappear for a couple of days and suddenly it's party time...are you all trying to tell me something? Brief moment of respite between reading application forms for a post we're appointing to tomorrow and going to bed in order to get up at 5.45 to write tomorrow's lectures, so time for some very brief answers.

1.Capable of almost total self-denial if necessary, esp. as Mrs Abahachi doesn't cope well with credit crunches and so I'm having to compensate a lot at the moment. Decent cat-food, I suppose.

2.Coppers get saved throughout the year for the local carnival - which was last night, so we're back to an empty jar again.

3.Reading The Female Eunuch at university.

4.Relationships with PhD supervisors are, at the best, weird and intense, but definitely include a measure of mentoring, so that would be it. Think Yoda, but seven foot tall, incredibly thin and with an obsession about sticky cream cakes. What he taught me, perhaps unintentionally, was that sometimes you need a mentor and sometimes you have to do your own thing.

5.Getting so depressed that my then girlfriend dumped me.