Cup of Joe

Americano

Machiato

Espresso

Cortado

Ristretto

Coffee. A way of life to some, and to others a means to fuel each hazy morning. From the millennial sipping on their instagrammable paper cup to the middle aged mechanic with his morning brew – we all have a little time for a cup of  Arabica.  Myself for example, I’ve had a tumultuous relationship with it. Starting out like most-  with an utter disgust for the smell let alone taste – reminding me of my french teacher : a certain je ne sais pas.

Then I reached 16 and it was  cool to have an iced drink doused in sugar, cream and syrup. I realised quickly that this was not sustainable for both my health and wallet at almost 3.50 a pop. Exams came and the next rung up Jacob’s ladder was the warm embrace of a hot, smooth milky latte – essentially an adult milkshake, not proper coffee but not all milk – so 100% judgement free!

And then one summer I became a fully fledged adult – I moved on to the big boy – a nice, fresh Cup of Joe.

But how does a cup of coffee become anthropomorphised into Joe? And why Joe and not Tom, Dick or Harry?

The origins of this phrase are thought to originate on the sails of the American Navy in the early 20th century . Josephus Daniels held the elusive role of Secretary of the Navy and his lasting legacy was that of banning alcohol on navy ships.   Like flotsam, the sailors found themselves lost at sea and so replaced a cold beer with plenty of hot coffee – naming it aptly after the man causing their caffeine fuelled vendetta.

Another belief is that Joe is used to represent that it is a drink of any man and everyman – Joe around the corner enjoys a coffee so why shouldn’t you?

All I know is that life is too short for bad coffee – in an instant it will all be over . All the memories of the past will filter through your mind and you’ll ask yourself if given another shot would you have done anything differently?

Open your eyes – it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee.

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Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Gosh – it’s been a while hasn’t it?

That’s exactly what I have kept telling myself each day and yet I have let each of those days escape me, like the sighs that dissolve from my soul into the world around me, a quiet manifestation of the anger I harbour for my own forgetfulness.

Well I wouldn’t call it forgetfulness and I’m not sure I could call it laziness either. I don’t know what it is. The thought and desire to write is always there – but 5 months later here we finally are. I tell myself – where is the time? Where does this mistress hide herself and who is it that she elopes with to leave me here – without a single minute left to spare? She tortures; standing still in moments of fear and threat but running away in times of happiness and haunting me in times of regret.

But – it’s an age old excuse isn’t it – I didn’t have the time to. How could I not have had a single second, in the past 166 days, to do something which I started for myself? Something which is an outlet for me, which I enjoy and which is my own.  I know I want to, but I tell myself I have more important things to do. All this, at the expense of letting go of a part of me which I enjoy and which makes me more than just what the world around me knows.

I’m somewhere between the devil and the deep blue sea. 

Life’s responsibilities , the adult lucifer, is a constant pressure. It whispers in your ear when you are about to fall asleep  reminding you of the bills you have to pay and the work you have yet to do. Losing yourself  to your adult life  – is like drowning in the deepest of seas. For who are we if we lose ourselves? What makes me different from you and what makes me more than  just a piece of machinery ?

What then is the lesser of these two evils?

Some say this idiom: between the devil and the deep blue sea, heralds , like all good things, from Greek mythology.

Thought to originate from Homer’s Odyssey, this saying has travelled its own journey to becoming a modern day saying.

In fact, ” somewhere between the devil and the deep blue sea” in its Greek origin is known as ” being between Scylla and Charybdis “. But who was Scylla and who was Charybdis?

Our story is set between the waters of Sicily and Italy – known as the strait of Messina. It was through here which Odysseus had to pass on his long journey back home to Ithaca from the battle of Troy. However like most myths, there was a catch. In this strait there lay two monsters. The first was called Scylla who was once a beautiful nymph – but now  a six headed monster of the sea ( the tale of many women’s lives!) who had a hunger for the blood of men ( again, akin to many women’s lives perhaps?!)  The second was Charybdis – another monster but less of the physical kind and more the geographical. Charybdis was a large whirlpool , lying very close to Scylla and capable of swallowing Odysseus, his ship and all his men, in one. These two monsters were so close to one another, that Odysseus had to make the decision of which threat was greater and which had less of a chance of taking them all alive.

Odysseus really was stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea. 

The decision? Well as Homer writes:

“Sail on past her—top speed! Better by far to lose six men and keep your ship than lose your entire crew,”

Odysseus sacrifices a few of his men to the appetite of Scylla at the expense of being consumed entirely by the abyss of Charybdis.

And so like Odysseus I too must make a decision – whether to let  the stress  of life consume all of me or make the small moments to stop and enjoy life – pressing pause for a moment –  and dealing with potential consequences later on.

Well at least I’m not stuck between a rock and a hard place – for the sea is a much gentler mistress.

That and I know how to swim.

Break the Ice

There is possibly nothing worse than an awkward silence – where thirty seconds feels as if the universe could have been destroyed, dissolved and reborn all in that moment.

They say that silence is golden – but there comes a time when somethings are not worth their weight in gold, and  awkward first encounters , and the potential chorus of silence that can ensue from them – is one.

Don’t get me wrong – you can have silence  that doesn’t invoke terror . In fact those moments are one of the most humbling of all – to be so comfortable with someone that there are no need for words and just being is enough. Alas analysing even those relationships  you realise that everything always has to start somewhere. Everything has a beginning – a first encounter.

Sometimes meeting new people is an informal thing and sometimes not. Sometimes it’s a group activity day organised by the powers  high up at work to boost sales by  strengthening team morale. Sometimes it’s a friend introducing  you to a mutual friend and as a result you all having to try and find common ground.

But what is the default setting amongst these type of encounters? It’s the need to

Break the Ice.

Breaking the ice is often used to describe trying to make small dents in the citadel of a introductory social meeting. It is the act of trying to make thing less awkward , to get things going .

But are things always so frosty? Where did breaking the ice come from ?

It is thought that the saying originated back when shipping was the main mode of both transportation and trade. Naturally shipping in the winter was hindered by the cold weather and port harbours would lose out on trade due to ships being frozen  in ice at sea. The trading town would send out small ships known as “ice breakers” to sail towards the frozen cargo , thus creating a break in the ice behind it and forming a path for the frozen ship to follow back to the port.  And so breaking the ice came about.  Ice breakers- the small ships sent out to rescue the frozen trade ships  –  allowed the port harbours to continue to trade and thrive throughout winter months.

Simon and Garfunkel once said that : ” No one dared disturb the sound of silence,” but alas all they needed was a good ice breaker !

 

 

 

 

Start From Scratch

I have been travelling down a road. It is not a main road nor is it a cobbled path. This road has been long and enduring. The terrain at times rocky. There have been pit stops along the road – taverns and inns  – where I have met new people and learned new things about the world and myself – learned who I want to be and how I want to continue along the road. The road had turns – some sharp enough to teach me lessons about the cruelty that life can bring. But the road, at times, was accompanied by beautiful sights – some  enough to teach me that sometimes it is the journey rather than the destination which holds more reward for your soul.

And now this road,  has come to a junction. Abrupt yet subconsciously always expected – this new turn, this new path – is daunting. I have been slowing down in anticipation of it for a while now, yet I had never believed it would arrive. Am I equipped for where this new road goes? Will I be able to join it safely or will fear overcome me and will I need to stop completely? I had become so used to the old road, I could handle its bumps – for I had had years of learning its tricks.

This road  is a metaphor for where I feel I am in life right now . I have arrived at a point in my life which holds new opportunities, new prospects and new goals. But therein lies the rub- everything is new. It feels like everything I had done prior, all the relationships I had built, all the ways I had begun to love and feel at home in a city, all had to be said goodbye to  – not forever  – but for some time.

Everything feels like it has to be started from scratch.

Which got me thinking – why do we start from scratch? What is a scratch ? (Apart from something you itch )

The word scratch in today’s world is used to describe the beginning of something, or the start of something with no advantage in it. Its origin heralds from the world of sport.  Like most sports, cricket involves lines which demarcate  boundaries which cannot be crossed. The most important line for the batsmen  is the crease. Back in the 18th century , these lines – were etched – or scratched, into the ground. This was also the case in the world of boxing, where boxers were not permitted to cross the line on the ground afore them .

And so players were told to start from scratch.

Writing this has taken my mind off of the scratch that lies ahead of me .I am leaving the pavilion, helmet in hand, armoured with pads to protect me from the game of life, bat swinging by my side. I am approaching slowly to the crease. I have looked at the umpire. I have looked at the bowler – the deliverer of all my challenges. I have seen the boundaries that encircle me – the ring for my own battle.  I am taking a deep breath – for only I know, that unlike the ordinary batsmen,  I have to cross the crease, for it is one thing to start from scratch in life, but it is another to be up to scratch.

 

The Big Apple

New York – the city that never sleeps. This insomniac metropolis, fuelled by coffee, is known for its fast paced heartbeat, which keeps the city alive day to night. NYC, like the cool kid on the block, has a host of aliases that its meagre neighbours can use in their gossiping.

Gotham City.The Melting Pot. The Empire State.

The Big Apple

I asked myself – why the big apple?  Why of all the glorious and abundant fruits, choose the apple? Perhaps it had a religious undertone, and the forbidden fruit was chosen to represent the sins the city has bathing in its blocks and alleys.  Perhaps an apple to represent the humble American apple pie – an analogy that a slice of the city is possible for any man or woman who is brave enough to try and survive in the concrete jungle. It turned out that neither of these were true.

The city was first described as the Big Apple  in the 1920’s by a sports journalist called John Fitz Gerald who called his regular section in the Morning Telegraph, “Around the Big Apple.’

Ok…but that still doesn’t explain why he chose that does it? Well like most good ideas – this one was stolen. Well, perhaps not stolen, but in the end credited to the wrong man.

In his own column, Fitzgerald wrote of how the Big Apple came to be – and it began at the New Orleans Fair Grounds Racecourse. He wrote:

“Two stable hands were leading a pair of thoroughbreds around the the Fair Grounds in New Orleans and engaging in desultory conversation. ‘Where y’all goin’ from here?’ queried one. ‘From here we’re headin’ for The Big Apple,’ proudly replied the other.”

The Big Apple was jockey jargon. It was a niche word. A private word used most likely only among the chatter of the men involved in the training and riding of horses who had not yet won big.

The Big Apple was not a place to them – it was a prize, a big win, a platform to the next echelons of the sporting world. A chance to earn the big bucks.

Nobody went to the Big Apple. You wanted it.

And so the name became engrained in daily life and ultimately popular culture. New York, the Big Apple. The city that never sleeps, in the land of opportunities. To many it embodies the American Dream – the aspiration for bigger, for better. A dream that those stable boys back in 1920’s New Orleans had.

And so even with the ticking of time, the aspiration for the Big Apple – continues.

Make a Toast

Sometimes when I say a word over and over again, or ponder too much about the meaning of it, the word suddenly becomes nonsensical. I cease to believe that the original word, however simple and mundane it may be, is actually a legitimate word in the English dictionary. For example one fine evening, when I was clearly swamped with things to do and people to see, I found myself conversing with myself . ( Internally ladies and gentlemen, don’t send the psychiatrists just yet.) I was lost in the maze of my own mind when I came to a mental block, shaped in the form of the word “cross.” Imagine a 21 year old sitting in a room and muttering the phrase “I’m cross at you” over and over – because that it was occurred. I could not believe that the word was used as a synonym for annoyance, in fact I became so annoyed at that fact, that after repeating the word over and over again I reached the conclusion that the word itself was entirely imaginary and a figment of my imagination. Conclusion of the day : I created a fictional word, it doesn’t exist, time to move on and do something productive.

On reflection however it got me thinking that most words, phrases or sayings have an origin, but sometimes those origins have no relevance to the modern day use of the word itself. So I thought to myself ( all this thinking, I must be Aristotle ) you know what surely doesn’t make any sense?

Why do we make toasts when we drink? I mean surely no fool can believe that the origin of this act has something to do with crispy bread – plus or minus peanut butter and jam. Nay, some sayings are just sayings that have been plucked off the tree of “that will do.”

It turns out that the act of clinking your champagne flutes together and “Making a Toast” is however the plucked fruit of a very relevant, very Elizabethan tree.

Back in the 16th century , winemakers hadn’t mastered that art of making a palatable drink (surely the basic requirement for this occupation?) and many of the Château Suffolk 1678 were tart and industrial strength. But never one to pass up a drink, the frugal Englishman came up with an idea. A piece of stale burnt bread (what my toast always ends up as when I underestimate the settings on my toaster) was placed in the acidic alcohol to soak up some of the tartness and make the wine more easy on the refined palates of Elizabethan England. What’s more, the Nigella’s of the past even used spiced bread to add more dimension and flavours to their ales and wines. And that’s the bread and butter of where the saying “to make a toast” comes from.

So here’s a toast – may your wine always be drinkable and your bread never burnt. If either fails – now you know what to do – cheers to that.

May The Force Be With You

There is nothing as unfair in the world as injustice. Now in the grand scheme of things the following count of injustice is by no means comparable to some of the world’s most horrific inequalities, but nonetheless somebody has been cheated.Let me set the scene:

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…. one man is severely robbed of a fantastic quote.

This inequality is so brutish, for it does not involve the outright, beat-him-down, dismissal that you would expect to get if you suggested bringing a salad to a BBQ. No this injustice is by all means far, far worse. Imagine if you were invited to said BBQ and you spent all day marinating, roasting, braising and grilling a colossal beauty of a ten bird roast. You smile with pride, eyes glazed over like the golden brown skin of your trophy turkey, as you arrive at the party. You lay your contribution to the lunchtime soiree down next to some measly spare ribs some novice has brought. You turn your head to wipe your brow , you’ve sweated out all day in the heat of your kitchen whilst you were being simultaneously a domestic god and savage brute. ( Stuffing ten different forms of poultry in one another is not for the faint hearted.) When you turn back to the table you see a crowd around your turkey. You smile inwardly, you didn’t do it for the praise but hey – perks of the job right? And then you see it. People patting some random , not you, guy’s back, aplauding his efforts and praising him for his “way too much”, “so kind” and “skilful” contribution. And what’s worse, the chump is standing there not saying anything – he’s taking all the credit! You don’t want to be that guy who ruins the mood and draws attention to himself by correcting everyone – its too late now anyway, ownership has well and truly been lost. You’re like the songwriter of a hit pop song, lurking behind the stage, happy that your song is number one, but at the same time dejected at the fact that nobody will ever recognise the poetic lyrics as yours.

This my friends is exactly the case in ” May the force be with you.”

Yes our silent hero here is in fact General Dodonna of the Galactic Republic Army. He wishes that the force be with the rebel pilots during the attack on the Death Star. ( Now the details of understanding the circumstances surrounding the quote are not paramount, but essentially he’s wishing the pilots good luck.) Alas General Dodonna is no competition for the American Film Institute’s number 14 ranked best film hero – Hans Solo. But in fact Hans did not solo come up with “may the force be with you.” But it is nonetheless misquoted to being said initially by him. Now General Dodonna is a good guy, he’s not a main character, he’s not got Hans Solo’s looks or hairy handymen. What difference would it make to him if he were to kick up a fuss and shout about how “he said it first” anyway? The fact is, that the quote was so damn inspirational, epic and profound that in every following Episode of Star wars it was said.

Doing things in life for the fame and fortune is rarely a fruitful endeavour- that would be a Wookiee error. (I am so proud of that one) Although it is nice to have your efforts acknowledged,sometimes its more rewarding when its the things we least expected to, that make the biggest impact.

So here’s to the silent heroes. The General Dodonna’s amongst us – our time shall come.

“Patience you must have – young padawan ” Yoda

Let The Cat Out The Bag

“Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.”  Benjamin Franklin

Dealing in secrets is a risky business. The founding father of the great US of A Franklin describes this onerous occupation aptly. It is murderous past time to associate yourself with and two let alone three is company, for secrets do not belong to anyone but themselves. Like heavy rainfall, the pressure of keeping a secret, more so when it is not your own, can mount until finally the dam breaks- the secret  washes off your hands and flows into the laps of others.

You’ve let the cat out of the bag.

But why did you put the poor cat in the bag in the first place? And  why of all the animals did the cat get the short straw with the bag? [ perhaps in this case curiosity did kill the cat 😉 ]

Now it’s probably not hard to believe that shady shenanigans such as putting a cat in a bag dates back to the medieval times. If there is any truth to the saying learning from your mistakes, the medieval times is most definitely testament to this, and we can only thank our ancestors for being so crude and aggressive in their actions because it means that we gentle souls don’t have to dabble in such cat bagging activities.

The belief is that the saying originates from the times when livestock was sold at markets . Off you’d go looking for the perfect pig and after perusing the pork on offer and finding the right one –  sturdy hips are a must – the merchant would  “bag” your goods for ease of transport. ( Walking a pig home has never been an acceptable move, neither now nor in the medieval ages. ) Content  with your savvy shopping you return home ready to show your significant other how you have an eye for quality when it comes to pig picking. That is until you open the bag and lo and behold a cat pops out.  This is no witchcraft or black magic, alas this is an example of good old market fraud. You’ve well and truly been cheated out of your chops. Replacing your pig with a cat means that the market salesman not only makes a profit but also gets to keep his high quality ham to continue the real hustle with more oblivious shoppers.

So letting the cat out of the bag can be seen to have a literal meaning and origin. The poor cat got bagged because  cats come a dime a dozen and so were perfect ploys in the great game of farm animal fraud. Nowadays the saying is used to describe letting a secret slip rather than for describing a swindling salesman .

Secrets are guilty pleasures. We all have them and expect to keep them our own  and yet  all too often we are quick to divulge other people’s secrets. It’s a double standard which is a sad reality of life. Perhaps a bag isn’t enough for this feline freight but then again tiger’s aren’t meant to be caged.

Tis the nature of the beast.

“If I maintain my silence about my secret, it is my prisoner…if I let it slip from my tongue, I am its prisoner.” – Arthur Schopenhauer