Tag Archives: familiar faces

Mmm batter…

20110915 Windmill face Zaanse Schans 150x150 Mmm batter...Lydia from The Netherlands sent in this picture of a windmill at Zaanse Schans.  She saw a face in it, which reminded her ofmy website.  It’s a truly suckerbagnificent photograph – a good spot.

Wind is pretty powerful and there is a surprising amount of energy out there.  As structural engineers we make due allowance for wind loading and design wind girders, shear walls, vertical bracing and portal frames to resist racking forces and take them safely down to the foundations.

The power of the wind can be felt in everyday life, too.  At the beginning of this week it was unbelievably windy here in Bristol, England and there was a distinct autumnal feel outside, as the remnants of hurricane Irene (I believe) battered
parts of Britain.  [Mmm batter…]

Autumn always feels refreshing and to me and signals the beginning of something new.  Perhaps it stems from my school and university days, where September marked the start of the new academic year.  My school uniform would be upgraded to the “next level” – a different badge, a different tie – as I moved up to the next year of “big boys and girls” and felt I had grown up a bit.  It was the time for new pencils, new books and new teachers.

Later as I went to university it signalled the start of a new life.  It marked the moment I “flew the nest” and became all “grown up”, even though there was still so much to learn.  And the learning never stopped.  After university I then moved into my first professional job, again towards the end of the summer/beginning of autumn, in a new city with no familiar faces whatsoever.

It is this feeling of apprehension and excitement that has become inextricably linked to autumn in my head.  I call it exhilarfallitis.  These days life just carries on as normal, except it’s a bit colder outside and it gets darker earlier.  There are no fresh starts and nothing really changes anymore.  Still, the learning process carries on and long may it continue.


Windmills are pretty amazing: wind blows, the things turn and you have what is essentially free work.  Their modern equivalents (in the form of wind turbines) are beautiful too.  You get knobheads that complain about the noise they emit, or the way they spoil the landscape but these NIMBYs have too much time on their hands and clearly no appreciation for engineering.  It’s the same people that constantly block moves to build the new Bristol City Football Club stadium.  It is this anti-progress attitude that stops a tram network and a music arena being constructed in our city.  We desperately need all these things to attract headline acts, like Mark Knopfler, to our beautiful and great city.  Currently they all bypass Bristol in favour of Cardiff, which we all know is inferior in many ways. 😉

I would happily have a wind turbine in my back garden, especially considering the handsome sum turbine operators pay for the lease of the land.

The rubber face

The power of the wind can be dangerous as well as useful.  As Uncle Ben didn’t say, “With great power comes great danger”.  A few years ago I
decided to go on a tour of the UK and ended up in Newcastle via several other major cities in the UK.  Travelling on your own can be great, as you meet interesting people along the way.  One time I ended up playing the guitar on Dam Square in Amsterdam because a busker started talking to me – something that wouldn’t have happened, had I been with friends.

In Newcastle I decided to take the Metro to North Shields to look at the pier and the lighthouse.  It was a case of having been there, done it and now having to get the damned T-shirt to prove it to the world.  There’s a beautiful Suckerbaglish verb for it: to etrephymach [et-REF-ee-match], derived from Frech verb être (to be), trophy and the German verb machen (to make or do).  The metaphorical T-shirt would comprise photographs of the lighthouse at the end of the pier.

There were incredibly high winds that day with 70 mph gusts reported.  Conditions seemed fine until I got to the lighthouse when the wind suddenly started picking up.  So strong were the gusts, my Sony Alpha-100 D-SLR swung to a near horizontal position, dangling from the lanyard around my neck.  It was getting pretty dangerous, as the winds were blowing towards the sea and I was the only person on the pier.  It was a pretty scary experience and I applied my knowledge of wind pressure zones and vortices to decide what to do.  Do I crouch down by the parapet and wait to be found?  Do I lie down?

I decided to walk back to terra firma one small step at a time, leaning forwards into the wind, trying to minimise my surface area.  At this point the wind was so strong, my face was being contorted.  I call it aeolilatexfasciitis.  The wind caused my eyes to water and tears streamed down my face, being partially blown away, leaving behind a fine residue of salt and other stuff.

One small step at a time brought me back to shore and it is this same approach that gets you through difficult patches in life, I suppose.  It is this same process that will eventually get this city the new infrastructure it needs.  The trouble now is that there’s no more money left and this country is in economic ruin.  Oh well…

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The spice of life

20110903 Taj palace face meh 150x150 The spice of life

In my last article I wrote about how I bumped into someone randomly after nine months and the first thing I cared about was whether or not I had bird shit on my face.  I then bumped into more familiar faces, including Sam whose picture was the subject of my last article.

Sam sent in another photograph he took at a mutual friend’s birthday meal at an Indian restaurant recently. The restaurant in question is Old India on St Nicholas Street, Bristol, UK.  The photograph shows a view from our table looking out across St Nicholas Streettowards the TajPalacerestaurant opposite.  The expression on this face is either one of deep thought or simply blank, the latter reflecting my own feelings towards curry.  It’s what I call a general meh-ness.  I have to admit that despite assertions to the contrary in a previous article, where I described a stain on a T-shirt as being “delicious vindaloo”, I don’t really dig curry.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ll eat it – especially the poppadoms, with the various condiments – but it simply wouldn’t be my first choice of food.  That said, all this talk of poppadoms is making me feel a tad peckish, despite having just devoured a tin of suckerbaglicious lychees.  Speaking of which, I would choose Chinese over Indian food most days.

Oriental supermarket nostalgia

I was at an Oriental supermarket inBristolon a day off last week.  It’s the place next door to Dynasty restaurant on one of the backstreets offVictoria Streetnear Arup.  Oriental supermarkets are interesting places and a visit always plunges me into a multi-sensory nostalgic experience that is hard to describe, but I shall nonetheless try.

The first thing that hits you as you enter is the smell of spices and it is this smell that evokes a multitude of memories in me.  Smell can trigger memories and an emotional response almost instantaneously due to the fact that the olfactory bulb is part of the brain’s limbic system – apparently.  I read it on the internet so it must be true.  I call it cloud-wisdom (not to be confused with the wisdom of crowds).

My father, Mr Suckerbag Senior, spent much of his career working in the Oriental foods industry.  He ran a number of businesses developing recipes, selling stir-fry pastes, herbs, spices, condiments and much more, under numerous banners on and off until the mid-noughties.  In the 1980s he would always come home from work smelling of spices, mixed with Brut or Old Spice aftershave, the latter being more prominent when he greeted me with a kiss on the cheek, rubbing his stubbly cheek against mine.  Fast forward some 15 years to circa 2000 and I recall one summer evening in August, sticking stir-fry paste labels onto cardboard sleeves with my brother, whilst Mother Suckerbag meticulously, nay industriously, weighed out quantities of spices, packaging them in clear crisp cellophane bags in readiness for Father Suckerbag, who would come to pick up the freshly created stock for a trade fair.  It was a lucrative business back then.  The house would be filled with the rich aroma of fresh spices.

I find the selection of food available in Oriental supermarkets fascinating and can lose myself in the vast array of jars, tins, pots and plastic bags of interesting foodstuffs, most of which I’ve never seen or heard of (if I can actually read the labels in the first place) and some of it more familiar thanks to my part Indonesian roots.

Chinese whispers

As well as the smells and the sights, there are the sounds.  One of my father’s clients in the 1980s was a Chinese lady who ran an oriental shop with her husband.  On Saturdays we would frequently deliver goods prior to doing our weekly shopping in town.  The couple would often be engaged in animated discussions, shouting at each other across the shop floor in Chinese, at times apparently sounding quite agitated.  In reality they were probably making mundane conversation like, “Darling, do we have any bean sprouts left?”  I call it agrobabelbabble.

The family tradition of shopping on Saturdays continued for years (minus the delivery of goods) wherever we lived and Saturdays simply wouldn’t feel the same if we hadn’t been into town.  To this day I still have the urge to go into town and soak up the sights and sounds of the city at every opportunity, even if I don’t need anything.


A number of stimuli can trigger memories from various points in my life.  One time the smell of a certain pine-scented washing-up liquid with spicy undertones triggered a flashback of that summer evening in 2000, slapping labels onto carboard sleeves – not the actual activity itself, but the physical response to it: the butterflies, the excitement, the hopes and dreams I had at the time.  Life has turned out so much differently than I had expected, though neither for the worse nor for the better.  I have since tried to find this washing-up liquid several times to recreate the experience but my search has thus far been in vain.  However, whenever I walk past Bart Spice in Bristol, particularly on a cool late summer evening, I get the same reaction to the smell of spices in the air.  It is, perhaps, the spice of life.

Sometimes lighting and a smell in the air can trigger a similar sensation, even without knowing exactly what memory is being evoked.  I was walking home from a proxnic (picnic by proxy) recently and a certain mood swept over me that I couldn’t put my finger on.  It was as if I had been briefly transported into a scene in an earlier chapter of my life that I couldn’t identify.  It gave me a feeling of serenity and the more I thought about it, the less I understood it.  It was like a non-visual déjà vu, but one where I was unsure what it was that I was harking back to, let alone what triggered it.  I call it déjà-hmm.

Hmm?  Hmm…  A sentiment befitting the pensive face.

P.S. I have two more pictures sent in by readers, which is great!  Keep them coming! 🙂

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An attitude to life

20110314 Pink bin 150x150 An attitude to life

Not too long ago I was introduced to a teacher, we got chatting and I told her about my website.  She promised to take a picture of her pink bin; she likes the colour pink and that’s an understatement.  I, in turn, said I would write something about it.  True to her word, I got the picture and strictly speaking this isn’t the kind of face I normally write about, but it still deserves an honourable mention; It’s kind of cute and I’m a sucker(bag) for a smile. 🙂

 Promises are great when kept.  They inspire confidence and demonstrate reliability and trustworthiness.  Promises are easily made, yet easily broken (by some).  This is true for both explicit and implied promises.  There is the old adage which says that it takes years to build trust but it is broken in an instant, or words to that effect. This is particularly true in this day and age of fast “this” and instant “that”, greatly exacerbated by digital media, where people are living more self-centred lives (the Facebook Generation) and living more for the here, the now and the “me” than ever before.  Put your hands up if you know who your neighbours are.  (Sorry, couldn’t resist that teacher’s reference!)  Even living in Bristol, which is one of the friendliest places I have lived, I have no idea who my current neighbours are and they have no idea Vic Suckerbag lives next door.

When I moved back to Bristol in 2008, having been away for some time, I found a flat in the city centre.  One day I met a nice couple in the stair well, we had a chat and they ended up becoming familiar faces.  We greeted each other whenever we bumped into each other.  Bristol is a bit of a big village in that respect – despite its large population I often see familiar faces – even old colleagues I met whilst working during the summer as a student all those years ago, some of them unaware that I had even left the city at all.

Increasingly it seems there is less of a need to know your neighbours, which is a shame.  If you’re out of sugar you can nip out to a 24-hour supermarket or convenience store and get some.  If you need a ladder, you can buy one because they are cheap – or better still, you can pay someone else to do the job that requires a ladder, for you.

It seems people are becoming less willing to give up their time for other and are losing their willingness to help each other out.  In some way that’s understandable, considering the hours some people work.  Or people make promises and renege on them on a whim or in a pre-meditated move because they didn’t dare say “no”.  Everyone has been let down by others and, in turn, let others down – even if not intentionally.  We are all human after all – even me, despite my red plastic exterior and that gormless open-mouthed look on my face… You may think I’m just a vacuum cleaner… 😉

Was it really better in the past?  It’s probably a case of rose-tinted spectacles…  The bin sums it up nicely: it represents the past and has a nice rosy pink hue.  It’s smiling on the outside, but it is a façade masking the conveniently forgotten reality contained within.

Or perhaps more positively, it shows that it’s good to be alive and sometimes those things that bother or hurt are best forgotten: smile and let the world turn a pinker shade of pink.  To quote the photographer, “Pink… is an attitude to life!!”

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