Friday, August 07, 2009

It's quite simple really!

I have been taught many things in my life. And I am deeply grateful for the knowledge that I have gained.

I have been taught to tell the time; it took a combination of school, my parents and the Cubs to drum the principles into my brain but it did eventually happen. I was taught the highway code; this knowledge did not prevent my being knocked down by a car the first time I went to Sunday school by myself, but then cars were supposed to be “all clear” at some point and the stream of vehicles seemed unending so I made a dash for it. At least I knew that I had not obeyed the code which I should have been following and the spectacular bruise that I developed helped instil the knowledge of the code into something which had to be obeyed – even if the cars did not seem to be playing their fair part.

I learned to read; taught by my father who held my writhing body in something approaching a full nelson to keep me on his lap and prompt my tearful responses to the pointing finger on the hateful pieces of card detailing the mundane adventures of Janet and John.

I was even taught how to solve quadratic equations by the graph method, completing the square and by the formula method. This knowledge is admittedly mostly lost by fragments of knowledge tremble at the tip of my pencil when I invigilate a maths exam and I am tempted to actually try one of the problems for myself. I do at least know the formula for the ‘formula method’ and thanks to Catkin Llama I now parrot the “ALL over 2a” when I come to the end.

I( have been taught and I have learned enough Spanish to tell a teenage ruffian friend of a very social underage neighbour that he and the rest of his and her crew are making too much noise again this late at night.

But in spite of my range of dilettante facts about a bewildering array of subjects I still feel that my education has been cruelly neglected.

This lack has been highlighted by a simple problem: how do you make crushed ice?

My solution of course, is to buy a gadget of some sort to do the job ‘properly.’ This seems a particularly attractive proposition when other methods have been tried and have failed.

The first attempt usually takes its inspiration from the name of the commodity that you are trying to create. One feels that there must be some sort of clue in the adjective ‘crushed.’

Inspiration leads inevitably to a hammer. One has a simple sequence in mind: hammer plus ice plus force equals crushed ice.


Using a hammer on a plastic bag full of large ice ‘cubes’ does not produce crushed ice but produces ice shards which fly through the plastic bag which has been punctured by the application of a hammer. The ice shards immediately start to melt so you have a room full of damp spots.

Varying the method by taking the ice out of the plastic bag and putting it in a tea towel and smashing it with a hammer while it is lying on the floor is neither effective nor hygienic.

Other methods become progressively more desperate and disproportionately humiliating as each successive attempt to break frozen water into smaller particles seems more and more unlikely.

Eventually, of course you resort of having chunks of ice in the drink (ah! I’ve now admitted the sybaritic reason for the demolition) and saying that it is fine.

Which it is certainly not.

So, anyway I bought a machine which had a little power pad of buttons each one of which was identified by a clear graphic. One graphic was of ice cubes and was clearly identified as the ice crusher.

And it didn’t work.

What possible use is an education system which does not give you the necessary knowledge to use a bloody machine to make crushed ice?

Risking a dislocated wrist I prodded the recalcitrant chunks of ice towards the whirling, pulsating blades to little or no avail. Toni was crushing the limes and adding the sugar and had the bottle unscrewed and all he needed was the crushed ice. Which in my case I did not have.

Much frantic improvisation and increasingly dangerous use of a wooden spoon later I was able to excavate a humiliatingly small amount of the hard won ice and deposit the same in the waiting glass.

But, as Toni took the opportunity to point out to me in case I had not noticed, “It doesn’t work.”

I didn’t of course read the instructions. What, I argued, was the need when the button had a little drawing on it!

What didn’t work would work because whatever else I had not been taught, I had been taught to think. And so I worked out a possible solution (there is a pun there!) put it to the test and got what I wanted.

I have now read the instructions and they read as follows: “To crush ice-cubes, place them inside the jug and fit the lid on. . . . Switch on by pressing the [ice graphic] button.”

This does not work.

The more astute of you will have seen that I have inserted the old three dots device to indicate something missed out. And what was missed out would have given me the clue a little earlier of to how to get crushed ice - if I had bothered to read it.

The missing sentence reads: “There is no need to add any liquid.” This is a lie. All you need to do (as indeed I did) is to do the opposite and you get crushed ice.

A cup of water added to the cubes and a press of the “programmed impulse speed” button of the ice graphic and there it was. Admittedly it had to be scooped out of the surrounding water fairly quickly but I did get a more than satisfactory drink at the end.

There is a good reason why it is never advisable to read instructions as the warm glow which paradoxically comes from my two crushed ice drinks clearly indicates.

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