Friday, May 18, 2007


A few of my least favourite things

I stopped mid sentence the other day saying “if there’s one thing that drives me mad, it’s…” because I realised there isn’t one – others include:

1. Packaging – it has the tenacity of a bit bull terrier, repulsing all attempts to break in with nails, teeth and brute force and yields only when you’ve fetched a knife and inflicted grievous bodily harm; it’s four times the size of the contents: beribboned boxes with fancy writing don’t reduce the disappointment of finding 6 measly chocolates sitting brazenly inside, or the irritation of vitamin pills barely covering the bottom of the container; the sheer quantity of it is absurd – a printer already swaddled in polystyrene by Amazon is then bubble wrapped and re-boxed by the courier, all of which ends up in the garage, making the possibility of ever using it (the garage that is) to house the car even more remote; and I hate those infuriatingly shaped grip-resistant shampoo and household cleaner containers – you just want a quick splodge of Cif to deal with the stain on the floor but as you bend down it slips from your grasp and the splodge is neatly diverted to your clothes.

2. Skinny girls who delight in ostentatiously stuffing their faces when they’re out, while declaring they can eat absolutely anything and not put on an ounce, when in truth they don’t eat breakfast, rarely lunch and starve themselves for three days if they do put on an ounce. Why would they rather be thought lucky than take the credit for working their socks off for such a result?

3. Interviewers who allow their interviewees, especially politicians, to sidestep their questions with mealy-mouthed replies like “before I answer that I’d just like to say” and then go on to make the speech they’d planned on making from the beginning. It seems so feeble not to be able to shut them up and insist they answer the question – isn’t that their job?

4. People who say “to cut a long story short” and then don’t. Or those whose generosity knows no bounds in providing you with every detail of the background to their story, including their own checking references to prove that something couldn’t have happened on the Tuesday as they first told you, or the Monday in fact, because they’ve just remembered that Mrs Marsh was visiting her daughter when it happened, so it must have been Wednesday, because that’s the day she always visits. Honestly, you don’t have to go to so much trouble for me, really.

4. Elusive pens. How is it possible to buy pens in fours or fives, every couple of months and still have days when the house can’t throw up a single one. Sure there are any number of crappy ones - the free or abandoned ones – they sit obediently in the holders dotted about the house and never go missing, or even attempt to hide as a sort of test to see if I might just miss them - yesterday I had to use just such a one to write a birthday card - but all the good ones, the carefully chosen for their fine writing ones, are nowhere to be seen. I’m not accusing anyone of course, but I do wonder if my loved one has the same problem.

5. Calling from another room. When the kids were young and forever asking or telling me something from somewhere else, I automatically responded with “don’t call from another room”, but having told my loved one this rule, he now uses it against me – now hang on, it’s my rule for others, it doesn’t mean I can’t do it.

6. Instructions which, to save manufacturers from printing in 27 different languages, consist of a fuzzy little drawing with arrows pointing in vague directions. One word is worth a thousand pictures to me. I like sensible instructions like: ‘take the first left after the big white house, turn right at the wiggly shaped roundabout, and keep going till you come to the traffic warden dishing out parking tickets…’.

I’m tagging Riviera Writer and Gillie B to tell us what drives them mad.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


Happy birthday!

It would have been Rob's birthday today and I was feeling fine - a few reflections on how such a sunny natured little boy, who would enter into the spirit of the game so wholeheartedly when I coaxed him into doing something through his teddy bear that I sometimes used to wonder who was kidding who, managed to turn into such a stresshead, but nice thoughts, when wham, I got a text from his father reminding me that last year Rob spent his birthday at the Royal Marsden hospital in London. Oh yeah, the prognosis from his local hospital was hopeless so we asked for a second opinion and the appointment was for the 10th May. We had a marvellous reception from smiley doctors, who talked about the wonderful possibilities - radioactive wires in his neck, operations and the like and did lots of tests. Rob came out on such a high, talking about a cure and the following week we got the results - the tumours were embedded in the voicebox and blood vessels - yeah, thanks for the reminder - pass the bottle someone.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


It's really not my fault

My post was pipped yesterday by Cliff writing about whether we should feel guilty for the slave trade. I’d been mulling over a blog about generational responsibility after chatting to American friends who, describing their trip to Ireland, told us how much the Irish hate us because of all the terrible things we did to them, especially allowing them to starve during the potato famine (actually, if that’s true they disguise it very well, but maybe they think the Americans expect a bit of Brit bashing and don’t want to disappoint).

For years I’ve tended to metaphorically hang my head in shame or silently squirm with embarrassment as various nationalities have accused me personally of the most heinous crimes against their people, but some of the rubbish being broadcast during the anniversary of the abolition of slavery celebrations has brought me, far too late I know, to the realisation that I don’t have to accept responsibility for what others have done.

It’s interesting that the most vociferous campaigners for justice often have their own agenda which has nothing to do with human rights, as I saw in an interview recently when a descendant of a slave was demanding compensation from the government, but when asked about the slave trade currently flourishing in Africa and carried on by fellow blacks, she retorted angrily that as far as she was concerned, the African slave trade was not an issue that needed addressing - the obvious conclusion being that it wasn’t so much the principle of the slave trade she was raging against but her own personal loss of culture and the fact that she carried an English name, so tough luck for the thousands of people still caught up in slavery.

And yes, the British Government’s treatment of the Irish was appalling but it can’t be judged by today’s standards. It’s likely that most people had only the vaguest notion of what was happening and there was no Bob Geldoff demanding ‘give me your fucking money’ to help.
But exploitation isn’t confined to race. It happens whenever there are people in positions of power with no laws to control them. As well as the slave trade, plenty of men got rich on child labour, child prostitution was rife in Victorian England, men could beat their wives with impunity, take their goods and deprive of them of their children just because there was no law to stop them.

And if in 50 years’ time the Iraqis feel justified in accusing an American or English person they meet of destroying their country, they’ll never know that a million people protested on the streets of London against the invasion and that Joe Public didn’t have much of a say in what his government did.

Incidentally, the couple mentioned above also suffer their fair share of American bashing. They are the gentlest people you could hope to meet, have lived a simple life on the Riviera for more than thirty years, constantly turn down offers from developers for any or all of their land in order to preserve the environment, but they’re often harangued by people who seem to think they are personally responsible for America’s carbon emissions.

Monday, May 07, 2007


The Taming of the Wild Ones

It’s bad enough that students are so well fed and kitted out these days that they no longer have any appetite for protest - political or otherwise, that Germaine Greer has matured into a rational debater, saying a lot of what she wrote in her youth was tosh and that David Frost, one of those responsible for that great sixties satire programme That was the week that was is now a Sir and has become the epitome of Establishment, doing grovelling interviews with the likes of the Prime Minister, but now our sports firebrands of yesteryear have tamed their tempers and are willing to sip champagne with anyone who cares to pay the asking price of a lunch with them. So if you’ve got a bit of hero worship going for John McEnroe, Pat Cash and Boris Becker, the newspapers are currently offering you the chance to get up close and personal with them. I feel a bit queasy about both the 'stars' who’d sell such a package and those who’d buy it. Sure it’s fun to meet someone famous by chance and maybe get to know something about them not generally known or bask in their reflected glory for a few minutes but what are the chances of that when you’re sharing the experience with a hundred others and they’re totally on their guard against awkward questions. It may not have been a pretty sight seeing John snarling and spitting at umpires and fans, Pat clambering over the heads of the sedate Centre Court crowd to get to his camp after winning the Wimbledon final or Boris bonking in the broom cupboard, but that’s who they were. Of course maturity brings a dampening down of the fire of battle, but can’t they do it quietly at home in their armchairs? It’s like learning that Arthur Scargill has become an admirer of Margaret Thatcher – I don’t want to know!

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