Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Ideas above our station

So that was Christmas, and this is 2009. Welcome to the icebox.

Most home and work conversations over this first week of the Year of the Crunch have centred around the temperature, and who has managed to record the lowest.

It seems almost to be a badge of honour to be the official First Person Who Saw Minus Six Centigrade And Lived To Tell The Tale, rather like the days when boys filled their leisure hours collecting steam engine numbers.

In the Dixon kitchen we have one of those electronic weather station things, which is a smart piece of kit.

You may have seen them advertised in those gadget catalogues that fall out of all the weekend newspapers.

You plonk a sensor out in the garden, connect it to the base station by the power of radio, and hey presto! you have an instant read-out of temperature, pressure, phases of the moon, the time accurate to the last millisecond and your Chinese horoscope for the next three weeks.

Actually, we’ve never managed to get that bit to work, but never mind.

Anyway, in the last few days the weather station has more than earned its keep, providing more entertainment than the telly, the Nintendo and the cat put together.

Until this week, it was generally ignored as it told its perpetual tale of mildness, cloud and continual drizzle.

But now it has come into its own, and never let it be said that family life is under threat from modern technology.

Picture, if you will, the Dixons, gathered round this meteorological altar of fun, watching and waiting for the temperature to drop another tenth of a degree so that we can all look at each other wisely and say: “Well, at least we’ve got a proper winter this year: it’s minus six point seven degrees.”

Beat that, temperature-watchers. And even if you can’t it’s probably time to start thinking about some awaydays.

A couple of youngsters in Germany had the right idea. Fed up with the cold and desperate to get married (they’re five and six, so time is clearly against them) they enlisted the help of big sister (aged all of seven), packed up their swimming togs, sunglasses and Lilos and headed to Hanover station en route for Africa.

Fortunately for them, and quite contrary to the widely-held belief that Germans are ruthlessly efficient by birth, they left home without passports, tickets or money. (Sounds like the same sort of in-depth planning involved in a certain Bath family’s typical holiday experience – at least we remembered the sun cream).

Anyway, all our latter-day Hansel and Gretel got out of their failed transcontinental adventure was a guided tour of Hanover police station, which probably isn’t quite as ominous as it sounds, and they were soon returned to their parents.

If re-writing the Brothers Grimm for the 21st century doesn’t appeal, though, why not take your awayday at home?

Because if you’re going to throw a sickie, this is the week to throw it.

Apparently, people working in certain privileged industries and services have it written into their contracts that if they are ill while on leave (like at Christmas) then they can take a day off in lieu when they are fit, well and back at work (like this week).

Nice work if you can get it, and we tremble to list the industries concerned lest their personnel departments be stampeded by hordes of applicants.

But even if your employers aren’t that bountiful, a well-known purveyor of cough mixture has launched, where you can get all the help you need to produce convincing-
sounding excuses for your boss while you snuggle up with a hot water bottle and a bottle of said purveyors’ finest soothing syrup.

Start the year as you mean to go on: lie back and take your medicine.

This post will also be my Bath Chronicle column on Thursday January 8th.

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