Monday, 20 February 2012

The Yellow Mug

I do not have OCD. I want to make that clear, right out of the ‘gate’.

In my opinion, there is nothing wrong or untoward about repeating a process or action because it just ‘works’. And, there is nothing wrong with rigorously defending that tried and trusted action in order to maintain the comfort and efficiency that it brings.

I mean, if something works well and avoids annoying mistakes with no additional effort or thought, what on earth is wrong with trying to defend and maintain it !?

You’re probably already close to clicking away to another web page, going to grab a coffee or maybe deciding if the call of nature is more urgent than getting to the end of this nugget of trivial self-indulgence, so I’ll explain myself..

Every day I enjoy having a cup of tea when I get up in the morning (...and no, that isn’t a euphemism for something else). I am fulfilling the stereotypical image you probably have about English people: I love to have a cup of tea first thing in the morning (there you are, you always suspected as much!)

When making a cup of tea, I enjoy the usual rituals of boiling the water, warming the tea pot and, of course, adding milk to the tea cups. (As a side-note, the milk is always added to the cups before pouring the tea - adding the milk after pouring the tea is, to be frank, just plain wrong).

However, when I’m making a cup of tea for myself and my wife, there is a slight difference in the way we like to take our tea. My wife enjoys tea without sugar, whereas I enjoy tea with a half teaspoon of sugar added. (Again, another side-note: when I’m trying to lose weight, I will often go for a few weeks without sugar in my tea in the misguided belief that it may in fact help me to lose weight. But, I don’t enjoy the tea as much - it’s a bit like having a plain digestive biscuit as opposed to a chocolate one) .

Whilst making the tea, I came up with a cunning system a few years ago to differentiate between which teacup has sugar added and which has none. As we have a tree mug with both yellow and green mugs in our kitchen, I decided I would use a colour coded approach to this ‘issue’. I chose a yellow mug for tea with sugar, and a green mug for the tea without sugar. Then, when I had taken the tea upstairs to have tea-in-bed, there would be no agonising over which tea has the sugar in, it would always be the yellow mug. (OK, I know you could do a quick tastes test, but who wants to take the risk of transmitted infections etc. at that time in the morning?).

So, that became my ‘system’: a yellow mug has sugar, a green mug has no sugar. Simple, effective and requiring no additional brain processing power at unearthly hours of the morning. Perfect.

At first, the system worked really well. It was my ‘secret system’ that no-one ever questioned, as they were totally oblivious to it. Everyone got the right cup of tea, everyone was happy.

However, some time later, my wife gave me a cup of tea in a green mug, which to be honest just felt ‘wrong’ after so many months of using a yellow mug for myself. I took the time to carefully explain my yellow/green mug, sugar/no-sugar system to my wife, confident that she would see its beauty and value, and become a disciple of this fail-safe system sugar indication system.

Unfortunately, my wife hotly dismissed my behaviour as the beginning of a compulsion. She commenced a campaign of psychological warfare against me by reversing the sugar content of yellow and green mugs at every opportunity. She set out to try to break this perceived ‘obsession’ by purposefully putting sugar in green mugs of tea and explicitly telling me what she’d done. I initially tried to resist rising to this rather mocking behaviour (trying not to let her know the psychological toll this was having on me), but found it more and more difficult to fight the rising tide of frustration at getting tea with sugar in green mugs.

After some lively ‘debates’ about my yellow/green mug system, things have died down somewhat. I try to ensure that whenever it’s an appropriate time to make a cup of tea, I am always first to the kettle to make sure I can enforce my yellow/green mug system. I think it works quite well - my wife doesn’t have to make tea very often (as I beat her to the kettle) and I get to maintain the status quo regarding mug colouration.

The good news is, I get to have the last laugh: I’ve extended my system to cups of coffee too, and my wife doesn’t even know! Who’s laughing now eh?!

(file this one under: OCD & boredom during a lunch hour...)

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Death By Cake

I’m just back from a stroll down my local, small-town high street. Well, I actually went for a haircut in town, but followed it closely with a walk down the high street. Our high street is a single pedestrianised street about a quarter of a mile long, with small shops on both side of the street.

I wasn’t looking for anything in particular - I was just a bit bored and interested to see if there is anything new that I haven’t seen before. Maybe there’d be a new shop opened or perhaps a new statue or monument erected. In fact, anything new would have been of interest in this town which, to be frank, doesn’t seem to be doing too well in the current economic down-turn.

My hopes were quickly dashed, as all I did find were a couple more shops that had rather sadly closed up, adding to the feeling of ‘the party being over’ in this particular high street.

One thing I did notice though was the proliferation of cake shops in our town. I counted 3 dedicated bakeries in the high street alone, selling bread and lots of lovely, sticky cakes. If you add in a couple of supermarkets in other parts of town, this adds up to a LOT of outlets providing these rather delightful baked goods.

However, one thing that worries me is: who the hell is eating all of these cakes? The town has a population of maybe a few thousand, with some smaller villages and hamlets dotted around its vicinity. These cake factories must be turning out a few thousand cakes a week between them, which (judging by the empty shelves I saw) are being voraciously consumed by the local population. The numbers just don’t add up to me...

As a family, we maybe have a cake or two from a local bakery per month, with perhaps a minor surge in activity when its time to buy hot cross buns, Easter cakes and mince pies at Christmas. But, for the rest of the year, it’s a pretty low consumption rate. So, statistically, someone else in our area is having our statistical ‘piece of the pie’. I’m guessing that maybe the odd massively obese person (usually with tight fitting sweat pants) I spot lurking around town may account for some of this numeric anomaly, but I’m not sure it totally explains the apparent skew in the rate of supply versus consumption.

Another thing I noticed is the outbreak of cup cakes which seems to have afflicted our cake shops. Over the past couple of years, they seem to have magically appeared everywhere! But, I’ve never had anyone say to me: “hey, you should try those <insert a flavour> cup cakes, they’re great”. So, who the heck is eating them? No-one has ever openly admitted to me that they eat cup cakes, so perhaps it’s some type of vice that people just don’t like to talk about.

I tried a cup cake once, but to be honest it was so sickly due to the fondant mushy-stuff on top - I almost puked. They are really pretty to look at, but if you can keep one down, you are a better man/woman/<insert your variation here> than me.

So, although I don’t have any particular answers to any of the questions I have posed in this posting, I am intrigued by the whole cake ‘scene’ which seems to be quite an ‘underground’ sub-culture in this town.

I predict a massive outbreak of diabetes in my locality over the next few years as over-stressed pancreas’ (...what is the plural of pancreas I wonder - couldn’t be bothered to look it up) keel over over under the stress of this fondant covered epidemic. Remember, you heard it here first.

(...file this one under: 'rambling shite which seemed like a good idea in my head')
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