Pumpkins and Pee
by Paul Singer - London Fine Dining Group
So the London Olympics all seemed to go without a hitch - except for the weather, that is.
If there was ever an Olympic event for umbrella handling, the British would surely be up for Gold!
But among the more
unusual news stories to emerge from the Olympics was the admission that some of
the swimmers had been peeing in the Olympic pool.
Michael Phelps demonstrates the "far away stare" method of distraction for secret pool-peeing
Yes, both US swimmers, Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps, admitted that the mere sight of a pool full of chlorinated water was likely to induce the need to pee and that all professional swimmers peed in the pool - although hopefully not during a race!
Lochte puts on goggles and a pee-proof helmet with integral ear flaps
And whilst athletes were peeing in the pool, it was generally peeing down outside, too.
I was in Ireland, hoping to escape the Olympic madness, but the weather there was no better.
At least the Irish shops had some interesting, home-made signs.
Spelling optional - for everything else, there's Barclaycard
But the weather had been especially disastrous for one particular poor vegetable - a vegetable very close to my heart. The pumpkin. And why is that vegetable close to my heart, you might well ask? Well, it's associated with Hallowe'en and that just happens to be my birthday!
Yes, according to farmer David Bowman, whose Lincolnshire farm is Europe's largest pumpkin producer, his pumpkins had turned green because of the cold weather - which sounds very painful. His 500-acre farm, which normally produces two million pumpkins a year (three quarters of the British market), processes up to 100,000 pumpkins per day.The Telegraph even ran an article about the pumpkin problem entitled "Pumpkins hit by a bad spell", obviously playing on the witchy connection.
Pumpkins are likely to be scarce as well as scary this year
When I was a boy, many full-moons ago, Hallowe'en didn't really exist as an event, except for some fringe pagans who danced round a fire naked in the woods (but they probably did that on most weekends anyway). Back then, it was just another day in the calendar. Then, and I'm not sure when exactly this happened, it suddenly went all American and supermarkets began selling fake blood, sawn off fingers, chocolate bloodshot eyes, broomsticks and other spooky paraphernalia to the degree that it soon became commercialised, just like Christmas. Small children roamed the streets carrying bags of inedible sweets and playing tricks on people who refused to hand over cash, and poor old Guy Fawkes (real name Guido, by the way), was relegated to the second division.
I had always wondered about the story of the gunpowder plot, anyway. Who in their right mind would grant a lease of the basement of the House of Lords?! Anyway, someone did, and Fawkes was found in there guarding the gunpowder one 5th November. Sentenced to be hanged, he decided to throw himself off the scaffolding instead and broke his neck on landing and died - thus avoiding the mutilation which would have followed his hanging. Nobody is really sure why we all effectively celebrate the man who tried to kill the king - although it's true that part of the "celebration" involves him being burned on a fire. In my youth, children would make a "Guy" out of old clothes and then parade him through the streets chanting "Penny for the Guy".
These days, inflation has pushed up the price of Guy-support to £1, and you still don't own the Guy for that. It's just a contribution towards his creator's time in painstakingly stuffing newspapers into dad's jacket and trousers and plopping the floppy creature onto baby brother's buggy for a swift spin around the block, before going off to buy sparklers or, more likely, cigarettes.
In my family, Hallowe'en is somewhat of a double celebration because both my sister and I were born on that same day - but 3 years apart - an occurrence called "Irish twins", apparently. Quite how my parents managed to engineer 2 births on the same day, but 3 years apart, is still not fully known, although there have been persistent rumours about that cauldron and broomstick in my mother's kitchen!
When we were young, we had to endure joint birthday parties with economically adaptable cakes (like when I was 9 and my sister was 6 - when the cake could just be revolved around 180 degrees to create either number). It was only when I reached about 19, and my sister was 16, that the thought of her friends appearing at my party began to gather some appeal.
So, it'll soon be that time of year again. The nights are drawing in. The pumpkins are turning green (or orange if you are lucky). Central heating boilers everywhere are sputtering into action. Leaves (and other bits) are falling off trees (unfortunately for a poor woman who was minding her own business in Kew Gardens when part of a tree fell on her head and killed her).
And so here are some sensible warnings about Hallowe'en from the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children:
1. Make sure that your child knows NEVER to enter an unknown home or apartment without a parent on Hallowe'en -- or at any other time. Children should ring the bell, step back, yell "trick or treat" and then let the adult come forward and put the candy in the bag. After a big "thank you," move along.
2. Teach your child basic traffic safety rules before leaving home. They need to look both ways before crossing the street. Children should not be listening to music in headphones that can distract them or wearing masks that hamper their vision.
3. Carry a cell phone and a flashlight. Write your child's name, address and phone number on a name tag and put it on their costume in case they get lost. Carry an EpiPen if your child has allergies.
So there you have it. Hallowe'en Health & Safety, NY style.
Here's wishing you all a very spooky Hallowe'en and a crackling Bonfire Night.