PC 86 Boxing Day

In the United Kingdom and in some countries of The Commonwealth the 26th of December is called ‘Boxing Day’. For most of the world it’s an unknown designation and somewhat meaningless. And if you Google it you’re immediately told the name has no reference to some pugilistic sport! Mind you, coming during the Christmas period when families and friends, some of whom you may have not seen for 364 days, descend expecting to be entertained and deigning to peel a potato or feigning allergy to a Brussel sprout, you could be forgiven for connecting Boxing Day to some physical activity of an aggressive type!

The name is thought to have originated way back, maybe even during the Roman occupation of Britain or more likely in the Middle Ages; a box for collecting money was kept in the church – the Alms Box. (Alms – money, food or other donations given to the poor or needy; anything given as charity and used in many religions.) On the day after the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the monks would go out and distribute the money, a little celebration for the needy. The practice continues today and in the UK there are many Alms Houses, where the focus is on giving charity and shelter. But I also sense a link between Boxing Day and the class divide somewhat; those who could afford to have servants would give them ‘a little something’ to allow them to give a present or buy some stuff for their family when they went ‘home’ during the Christmas period.

My step-father would produce lots of plain little brown envelopes, labelled in his well-formed but often difficult-to-read writing: Postman 1, Rubbish 1, Rubbish 2, Milkman, Grocer Deliveryman (for the groceries were often delivered – see PC 23) etc. He laid them out on the old oak hall table, in a neat and orderly fashion …… and over a week they all reached their intended recipient. In those days the Boxing Day tip was made up of coins, as in the UK you could buy quite a lot with an old Ten Shilling note …….. which now equates to a 50 pence piece.

Here in Hove we try and give something to the various people whose cheery disposition throughout the year deserves recognition. Rosie our Postie’s mail round changed mid-year so she doesn’t qualify this year; but we used to do our bit when it was raining and she would come in for a hot cuppa. Her replacement, Steve, had a bottle of wine and some chocolates; Peter the window cleaner likes red wine. And then it was the challenge to catch the rubbish collectors. Despite the Christmas season, there are still a few unscrupulous people about so we didn’t wish to simply leave some beer sitting on top of the bins (note the completely unscientifically-tested decision – wine for the postman, beer for the rubbish man!!) The lorry that collects plastic & paper for  recycling is a different sort to the one that picks up the glass; so two different crews for beer and biscuits, although looking at the size of some of these guys I suspect they get a great deal of biscuits – all year around!!

A letter in The Times described how a neighbour was observed opening the door to one of the local dustmen. “Good day sir!” the chap said, “I collect your rubbish all the year round and have come for my dues.” “Well! That’s very kind of you to collect my rubbish. It’s quite probable that I teach one of your children all the year around!” ……… and simply shook him by the hand!

Apart from the niceness of giving a little something, Boxing Day has traditionally been associated with taking long walks in the crisp air (This year the daily temperature here in the UK was about 14°C so hardly ‘crisp’!), going to the nearest racecourse to bet on horses running around, or going to the SALES! Bargain hunters queue from early morning at various large department stores all over the country anxious to bag that item reduced by 30-50% ……. although this year it seems the trend for online shopping is beginning to reduce the number of shoppers to the physical High Street.

So Boxing Day is over for another year, and I certainly hope that the true spirit of Christmas, kindness to your fellow human beings, demonstrated particularly on Boxing Day but more hopefully throughout the year, continues into the future.

Last scribbles for 2016, a year of real emotional highs and lows. Will 2017 be better? I guess it will be what it will be.


Richard 31st December 2016


PS We flew to Lisbon on Boxing Day to spend some time with Celina’s brother and family. They don’t do ‘Boxing Day’ in Portugal!

PPS The conductor Sir Neville Marriner died in October aged 92. He was world class and is particularly noted for forming The Academy of St Martin In The Fields, named after the Trafalgar Square church in London where they performed. Well known for his directness, there is a story he was getting tired of being interrupted during a rehearsal by the sound of a pneumatic drill a man was using to dig up the road outside. Storming outside, he went up to the chap and, in a loud voice, asked: “Are you interested in sex and travel, sir?” (ask me if you don’t understand this!)

PC 85 A Conundrum * ?

*“A confusing and difficult problem or question, often asked for amusement.” Or just some of the minutiae of life that runs around inside my head.

I lie on the floor wondering about this and that, sweat dripping onto my already soaked mat. Hang on! This PC is not, as you might be beginning to think, about yoga …… but about the application of scientific knowledge and guesswork …..  so read on.


My iced water

In common with most people who do any form of exercise, I find it useful to have a bottle of water standing by in case I get thirsty. I know that it’s a C21st sight these days, every tourists wandering around the attractions with a bottle of water as if their life depended on it – but I think we can all acknowledge that, as the body is about 60% water, it’s important to keep hydrated. Practising yoga in a hot environment, the requirement is no different, except that one is encouraged to drink as little as possible during the class, so you try to be well hydrated before it. Drinking during class asks too much of the stomach for one thing, those muscles that you want to help you attain a certain posture are also being asked to help the digestion process for the water you’ve poured in! But like most people I do drink, but not for the first hour.

I can’t abide drinking warm water and after 45 minutes in the hot room the water in an ordinary bottle is warm; so I have developed a taste for iced water. This is very personal and I’m told it’s bad for your tummy, gives you a headache and all sorts of other old wives’ tales (you know what I mean huh ) – so what!! So I go into the hot room with a water bottle I’ve taken from the freezer (see above). After an hour it’s melted somewhat, enough for me to be able to take a couple of gulps before starting the floor series. At about 75 minutes into my session, with 15 minutes to go, it’s melted further …… and this is when I have my conundrum????

By the by, if you have someone directly behind you, it’s good etiquette to have the bottle on its side, so that person can see the mirror when necessary but if you don’t …….

The ice has melted enough for it to be about half the size of the bottle, a 4cm thick cylindrical shape; the water comes up about a third of the way. By this time I am anxious that I have enough melted ice to use at the end of the class so want to encourage the melting process. Do I lie the bottle on its side, with the water about half way up the side of the iceblock, or have the bottle upright, with the bottom third of the iceblock in the water. Which position will increase the melting of the ice faster?



Or this


There are some constants here. As soon as I type the word ‘constant’ names come flooding from my memory: Planck ……. and Avogado ……. and Pi (You remember? The ratio of the length of a circle’s circumference to its diameter) (see below)

The amount of water inside the bottle is constant, whether the bottle is upright or prone. And you can dismiss the temperature as that has a constant effect on the bottle, whichever way it stands, right? But what about the fact that in the prone position its long side is in contact with the warm floor – and does this make a difference – you can see how this conundrum gets more and more complicated?

In the vertical position, the ice has more surface area in contact with the air inside the bottle whereas lying down is looks as though the block has only 50% in contact with the air. Does the plastic/air interface conduct heat better than the plastic/water interface?

So I guess now we get into which surface area is greater and is that in contact with a material (water or air) that has a greater conductivity that the other.

Just seems like a lot of hot air to me, sometimes, at others I am really curious to determine whether one position is better than the other. A packet of Maynard’s Winegums or Basset’s Liquorice Allsorts to someone who comes up with the most plausible answer.

Real (inane?) scribbles these ……

Richard 10th December 2016

PS Planck’s constant links the amount of energy a photon carries with the frequency of its electromagnetic wave. It is named after the physicist Max Planck. It is an important quantity in quantum physics.

In chemistry and physics, the Avogadro constant (named after the scientist Amedeo Avogadro) is the number of constituent particles, usually atoms or molecules, that are contained in the amount of substance given by one mole.

The number π is a mathematical constant, the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, commonly approximated as 3.14159. It has been represented by the Greek letter “π” since the mid-18th century, though it is also sometimes spelled out as “pi“.