Saturday 13 August 2011

Inland Seasides, Seagulls, and the Japanese Invasion

TUESDAY: Once again it's Friday of my current 2-day work schedule, and I'm eating a sandwich with extra mature cheddar and gorgeously creamy avocado, seasoned with the obligatory cumin and New Mexico chilli powder. After a short period of warm humid weather we're suddenly having a preview of autumn, and I'm back to wearing long sleeves and socks.

This is why I'm particularly amused by the month-long "Sheffield by the Seaside" festival that just started in the Peace Gardens. As a former seaside dweller -- and I'm referring to my entire life before I moved to Sheffield -- I find this concept extremely amusing, as the nearest seaside is over 70 miles away. Certainly the city can dump a truckload of sand to create a beach and provide some water in the form of an inflatable pool, and they can erect kiosks selling candy floss, ice lollies, Sheffield rock, sausage rolls, and sushi. And the rides that have popped up are de rigueur.

But will they import a flock of seagulls to provide the necessary seaside soundtrack? If I'm supposed to believe I'm back by the sea, not only do I want to hear that wonderful haunting sound of seagulls flying over the Belmont Pier or circling around the Space Needle or surfing the air currents above the Folkestone Leas, but I want to share my chips with them. I'm reminded of Ivar's chain of fish and chips cafes in Seattle, particularly the one overlooking Elliott Bay, where signs actually urge patrons to share their food with the ever-present gulls.

This is an integral part of seaside life. I'd love to see the Yorkshire inlanders quit complaining about pigeon poop when they see what seagulls can muster. In my book, you haven't lived unless you've been shat upon by a seagull at least once.

A ride constructed temporarily near the Sheffield-By-The-Seaside site sends me back to my childhood every time I walk past it. On summer holidays my family would often visit my mother's home town of Seaside, Oregon, with its main drag full of rides, razor clam stands, and salt-water taffy shops. And my favourite ride was what we Americans call bumper cars. On my way to work I stop momentarily and watch the bumper cars, remembering how I'd squeal with delight when I'd ram into the back of my brother's car. Oddly the Brits call these cars dodgems, which implies a more defensive manner of driving. To be fair, I don't think we American kids were actually supposed to drive as aggressively and offensively as we could; but what good is a "bumper car" if you don't bump? And the bumpier the better.

Back to the sushi stand. I have to admit I've never seen a sushi stand at any of the English seasides I've visited, although I haven't been to Folkestone, Brighton, Hastings, Bridlington, Whitby, or Scarborough for some time. Like the seemingly sudden explosion of excellent cask ale pubs, Sheffield seems to be experiencing an equally sudden and welcome Japanese invasion, with sushi bars popping up all over, including those that deliver. So when is the Greek invasion coming, bringing more than just one Greek deli and at least a couple of good Greek restaurants, and possibly a Greek festival, with Greek folk dancing and spanakopeta and gyros and Roditis and Retsina and Greek coffees? Having grown up in California with its Greek communities and restaurants, I would be very happy to see some of this come to Sheffield. And I know a few locals who would welcome it as well.

Wednesday 3 August 2011

Reading, Writing, and Visas for Clones

WEDNESDAY: What a week. I've spent the morning talking to pub owners and writing an article while making a lasagne, and here I am in the Winter Garden before work trying to prep for yet another job interview. Once again it's my current job, only just a little bit better. I realise it's pointless making notes about what I obviously do in my job every day, especially while eating such a tasty sandwich. So I'd rather write about my sandwich. It's Cornish brie with basil pesto and sun-blackened tomatoes, and it's really very yummy. Meanwhile a workmate is texting and calling me on my mobile, and I've just noticed I'm surrounded by an art display. Zit-zit-zit, too much stimulation! I just saw a man walk by holding a butterfly net, a woman in heels is pulling a massively huge suitcase on wheels, and there are an inordinate number of people racing about in electric wheelchairs. It must be the annual Sheffield Art Wheelchair Giant Suitcase Butterfly Festival with Regular Mobile Updates, catered by Lasagne Writers of South Yorkshire.

THE FOLLOWING TUESDAY: I'm calling today's sandwich the Mediterratica, because it's another mixture of leftover cheeses, this time a half sandwich worth of Feta and a half of Camembert. I've got them in a checkerboard pattern with basil pesto, fresh basil, and chopped red pepper. So it's a Mediterranean erratic mixture which tastes as if it was intentional. A pigeon is watching me intently, knowing I'm a sucker for "accidentally" dropping crumbs of food. I'm sorry, I like animals, and the occasional dribble of a piece of bread is what they depend on. So there.

TUESDAY 2 OR MAYBE 3 WEEKS LATER: As I'm working only 2 days a week this month, today is the Friday of my working week, although I will be working on my own business on Wednesdays and Thursdays. For the duration of the summer Friday is reserved for table tennis, so considering I'm not playing it today it's not really anything like my current Fridays. But never mind…

I haven't written much lately because I've been trying to spend more time reading. After all, if one doesn't read, one cannot really justify one's ability to write. Currently I'm reading 3 books, all on loan from the library where I work -- and all renewed several times because life is busy and I don't have much free time in which to read. The optimum times for reading books are when I'm eating my lunch and not writing this blog, not writing a review or an article, not working on a job application, and not attempting to catch up with the pile of miscellaneous newspaper and magazine articles I've set aside to read; and also in the evenings before going to bed.

Last night I fully intended to retreat upstairs to read about postmodernism, but I was distracted by turkeys. Intrigued by "My Life As Turkey", the BBC broadcast of Joe Hutto's account of becoming mother to 16 wild turkeys for 18 months, I ended up watching the whole program, the entire lifespan of Hutto's baby turkeys from hatching to becoming independent adults setting out on their own. Although this sounds like an excuse for not reading, it was actually a fascinating and very unique documentary.

And here I am eating my lunch and not reading again. But it's because I'm writing this blog right now. After all, I can't read and write at the same time, much as I wish I could. If I had my druthers I'd clone myself so I could read, write, design art, play table tennis, explore pubs and coffeehouses, redesign my website, learn C++ and C#, play keyboards in a band, play my mandolin, clean house, travel the world, work my hours at the library, and take care of my mother in California all at the same time.

But then there's the problem of my permanent residency visa. If I leave the country for more than 2 years I need to fill in some paperwork so that I don't lose my visa. If there were 20 of me, and one of those went to live in California, would I be required to fill out the paperwork for one-twentieth of Me? Or would 1/20 of Me be required to fill out a form if 1/20 of Me were going to be out of the country for 2 X 1/20 years?

This is getting a bit confusing. I think I'd better get to work now…

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