Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Pen or The Finger?

I am in my kitchen making a cup of tea when I see an attractive man in his thirties approach my doorstep carrying a parcel. This doesn't happen very often. (That's the attractive man knocking on the door - the parcels come a lot. In fact, Amazon would probably go into receivership without my custom.)

I open my front door and take a closer look at my visitor. I decide he has modelled his appearance on George Clooney's semi-bearded look. This is pleasing to the eye but doesn't quite have the same impact as Gorgeous George is a six-footer and the delivery man is like Tom Cruise in stature. Somewhere six inches has gone missing.

Still, I'm not one to complain about six inches.

So I smile as he breaks into conversation.

"Would you mind taking in this parcel for your neighbour?"

"Sure." I reply.

The man hands over one of those electronic signature devices where I am supposed to sign for receipt of delivery. For a moment I am perplexed as there is no stylus or pen and I wonder how this device works and then (being super intelligent) I realize I am supposed to sign using...my finger.

I raise my finger and strategically place it on the screen and attempt to sign my name.

Nothing happens.

I try again. Nothing happens. The screen is blank.

I am perplexed.

I raise my finger and study it. (Yes - I can't believe I did that either.)

What has happened to my finger? It's not working! Why is my magic finger not working? Have I lost my touch? Oh. My. God. My finger is broken!

 The deliver man sighs. "You're supposed to use your finger not your fingernail."

"Ah."

I  quickly sign my name with as much flourish as possible.

J a n e

The delivery man hands over the parcel.

"Bring back pens," I say and close the door.


Fingers. I like them and find them pretty handy. However, the next time someone
 asks me to sign something without a pen I know which finger I'll be using. And it won't be the one they're expecting.




Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Haiku Stink

Master Benedict: I need to find a three word poem, print it off and take it into school.

Mrs T: You mean, a three line poem. A haiku?

Master Benedict: Yes, that's right. A haiku.

Mrs T: Let's look on the net.

Mrs T pulls up some haiku websites

Mrs T: How about this one?

Master Benedict: It's crap.

Mrs T: Yes. How about this one then?

Master Benedict: That's crap too.

Mrs T: Hmm..yes it is. This one?

Master Benedict: No.

Mrs T: This one?

Master Benedict: No.

Mrs T: This one?

Master Benedict:They're all crap!

Mrs T: Umm..yes. Most haiku is crap.What about this one ?

Master Benedict: I suppose it will have to do.

Beans are kind to hearts. 
I like to eat them daily. 
And then do big farts!


Master Benedict: It's still crap.

Mrs T: Yes.




Culpability and White Lies at Tesco

A few days ago, I read with interest the breaking news in the UK that the FTSE 100 UK-based firm, Tesco, is under investigation for financial malpractice. Like many others, including shareholders who investments have plummeted, I will be interested to discover the possible extent of the wrongdoings and the degree of culpability amongst the top executives.

Since the global recession and the collapse of some banks, we are all more acutely aware of the malpractices and corruption that can go on in big companies that are driven to produce ever-increasing profits. I wrote about big business, corruption and culpability in White Lies, one of my stories in my collection, A Modern Life. The main protagonist, William Baxter, is a tyrannical profiteer who relishes his ruthless reputation until, one day, he meets a blind woman who unwittingly changes his perspective on life. The twist in the tale though is, by the end of the story, where Baxter is redeemed from his abhorrent ways, the blind woman has been corrupted by her new found material wealth.

I think it is sometimes too easy to criticise and mock people in big business and politics. Of course I do it here on my blog in a jovial way but, at a deeper level, discussion, scepticism and criticism are part of the democratic processes that helps to keep businesses and governments in check. However, we should remember that not all businesses or executives are corrupt and without banks and businesses we would have nowhere near the scale of wealth and prosperity that we do in the Western world. Banks and businesses provide the investment that provide jobs and mortgages that ultimately have taken us from the poverty-ridden subsistence level existence of the pre-industrial era into a world where the quality food, warmth and housing that were once the prerequisite of the elite are now commonplace. We should also remember that corruption is not limited to the rich or powerful. Stealing the office paper, using the office franking machine to send Christmas cards (I've seen it happen), hiding aspects of your income, exaggerating expense claims - are all examples of degrees of corruption.

I am aware that there is a huge difference between the culpability of people who are trying to exist at the most basic human level to those at the highest level. But the point of my story White Lies is that we are all capable of corruption and we all just as capable of redemption - should we so wish. Sometimes things happen in our lives that makes us change the way we think and act, for better or for worse, so perhaps nothing, except death, can be predetermined. What is important, I believe, is that people who have the power to influence and change lives have a strong ethical code. I do think Western society is pursuing a relentless quest for increasing profit and obscene indulgence which will result in an unequal distribution of wealth so great it will beyond any justification. Maybe we have already reached that point. It does concern me that some people have more money than they could ever need and yet, even in Western world, there are those still living on the breadline. If we extend those comparisons to the Third world, where societies still suffer extremes of poverty and disease, then the comparisons are far greater. These inequalities are not just sad. They're tragic. It's impossible to pretend that such deprivation does not exist; the faces of dying children are no longer pages in a book or a remote column in a newspaper but faces on our TV screens, tablets and mobile phones. They cannot, or should not, be ignored.

I do believe that individuals and companies should be amply rewarded for their efforts. It is pure idealism to believe society will ever be truly equal in all respects. However, that doesn't mean we can't strive for an equality in basic human comforts and health care or ensure companies conduct their business in an ethical fashion. So many companies relentlessly pursue increasingly profits for their major shareholders on a yearly basis and many top executives have massive bonuses based on those profits. The temptation to resort to unethical behaviour, for some, must be strong. And I don't just mean unethical behaviour that is strictly illegal but behaviour that involves unfavourable treatment of suppliers or subtly misleading promises to consumers.

There is only so much money one needs to live, even gloriously. Wouldn't it be nice if we shared it around more?


White Lies and twelve other tales of contemporary life can be found in my story collection, A Modern Life


Friday, September 19, 2014

We're still better together

So we've got to keep flogging haggis in our English supermarkets.

I knew those cunning Scots were just trying to get my hopes up about us banning haggis imports.

Now, if we can have a referendum on Europe, we'll look even more like a democracy. Cameron's promised one in 2017, if he gets re-elected.

So that'll give Cameron and his cronies two years to convince us the rest of Europe really cares about us.

Good luck with that one, David.

Yes, I know I shouldn't be cynical. The truth is, I am all for European unity. I'm a liberal, forward-thinking kind of person. In fact I'm more than happy to see an exchange of imports and exports.

We'll take some Belgium chocolate and the rest of Europe can take the haggis.

Seems only fair.

The French can keep Gerard Depardieu as well. Apparently he drinks 14 bottle of wine a day and recently was caught urinating in an air-plane aisle.

That's the sort of problem we can do without. It would give a whole new meaning to word "Easyjet."






Thursday, September 18, 2014

Just because it makes me laugh





Blimey, I wish Scotland would go to the polls more often. I've spent all day laughing.

"Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious" - Oscar Wilde

Last night I watched (for about the third time) the action movie, The Rock.

I laughed my socks off when Sean Connery (weather beaten ex-SAS released from prison to help fight renegade marines) quoted Oscar Wilde (witty Irish dramatist) to Ed Harris (balding bad guy) in that all-knowing way of his - creased forehead, one eyebrow slightly raised and talking out the side of his mouth.

It's the Scottish referendum today and with Connery noted for his Scottish patriotism, his character's usage of the quote "Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious" rather appealed to my sense of humour.

And then after I'd had a good old chuckle we got back to the deadly nerve gas and blowing up the bad guys.

Yay.

And just because it is referendum day, I am going to throw in another quote:

"I realise that patriotism is not enough. I must have no hatred, no bitterness towards anyone."

Edith Cavell.




Thursday, September 11, 2014

Bad Timing - Again

Why is it that on one of the very few mornings I have overslept in my entire life it is the one morning I had booked an 8 am dentist appointment?

I am still getting over the shock that the boys have gone to school and Mr T has gone to work with without waking me.

The dentists have now given me a cancellation for 8 am tomorrow. Please God let me remember.

Anyway, I have done a quick survey of the house: I am not convinced the boys have had any breakfast, brushed their teeth or, in Master Ben's and Mr T's case, taken a packed lunch - although there is a rogue plastic container on the kitchen cabinet. I think that's as far as they got before the effort of making a sandwich proved too much.

Nobody had remembered to let out Miss Agatha, our last remaining chicken, into the garden. She was lodging a formal protest which roughly translated went like this:

w******! No eggs for you anymore w******!

Other random news:

I came back from a coffee with two friends on Tuesday and, as I pulled up the drive, I saw a plastic bag on the doorstep. I wondered whether one of my neighbours had left me either sawdust for Miss Agatha's hutch or some apples for a pie. I was hoping for the apples but would have been very happy with the sawdust.

The bag contained six cans of Lynx spray-on deodorant.

Is someone trying to tell me something?


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Breaking Voice

I am quite sad that in the last week or so young Master Benedict's voice has begun to break. In a way it signifies the end of an era.

Some of you may remember this funny video of him playing with his plastic machine gun.



More recently, he was filmed at Wimbledon.





The next time I post a video of him he'll probably sound like Placido Domingo.

On another note - I am going out later and I plan to put a bra on.

 (See previous post if you're confused.)


Monday, September 8, 2014

Give Me The Booby Prize

I have just returned from the local post office where I was sending off a package. Just as I was handing it over, the post office clerk looked at me with amusement and said:

"Your top has fallen down."

I looked down at my cleavage with horror.

Unfortunately, I was still wearing the camisole top I was wearing in bed last night.

 And I had no bra on.

Watch out for clips of CCTV footage on YouTube entitled "Braless Woman Shocks Post Office Clerk."

God, I hate the menopause.



Friday, September 5, 2014

Bye Bye Joan

How sad to hear that Joan Rivers has died. I enjoyed her superb wit and self-deprecating humour immensely. She was the only true international comedienne and a wonderful entertainer. I think she's gonna have them rolling in the aisles beyond those pearly gates.

One must always look on the bright side of things though as did Joan when times are tough. Therefore, I hope it isn't too bold of me to say:

I am optimistic that Joan's jewellery collection will be buried with her.






Friday, August 29, 2014

More Menopausal Stories

Good news, readers!

Yesterday I went swimming and I remembered to see to my bikini line! The bad news is - it was only when I was having my pre-swim shower that I realised I still had my reading glasses on my head.

Still, that was not quite potentially as bad as Wednesday when, after I had started up the engine on my car and was just to pull-out from the garage, I remembered I hadn't actually paid for my petrol.

It is possibly that sometime in the next couple of years I may be arrested for something that I have no idea of what I have done.

Please God, I hope it is not shoplifting. Please.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Horror upon Horrors

Ladies, I know you will share this moment of ultimate horror with me...

Yesterday, I went swimming for the first time for several weeks. I walked leisurely along the side of the pool which was full of children, parents and a few foolhardy swimmers, like myself, who were prepared to brave the onslaught to our ears. I lowered myself into the pool and began to swim at a gentle pace, blotting out the noise and relaxing after a few fraught weeks.

And then, dear readers, I had my moment of ultimate horror.

I realised I had forgotten to shave my bikini line.



Monday, August 18, 2014

Game, Set and Match

So, as usual, I am spending the summer holidays on the tennis circuit. This year has been slightly different as last week Master Benedict got the chance to play at Wimbledon in a national U14 tournament. He reached the last sixteen of the singles and won the doubles title 6 - 4,  6 - 1. Being only 13, if he gets through the qualifying rounds next year, he will get a chance to compete again. I'm looking forward to him taking on the might of the LTA sponsored kids and seeing just what he can do at the next level.





My boys, Jacob and Ben, now hold nine county titles and one national title between them but, despite Jacob being no 1 in our county almost consistently since the age of nine and Ben since the age of seven, in all that time they have only received £300 of funding between them - which will just about pay for two reels of their tennis strings. Unfortunately, in order to get them to the next level, it looks like I'm gonna have to write some sleazy sex and gun-toting blockbuster to finance their training because having a nine to five job when you're committed to sport is nigh impossible and tennis is seriously expensive. So my ManBooker dream is well and truly over. Ah well. You can't win 'em all.  Anyhow, if you can't wait for my take on Fifty Shades meets Pulp Fiction you can help spread the word about my novel, The Changing Room, which isn't Fifty Shades meets Pulp Fiction - although it is kinda sleazy in places. (Hey ho.) The eBook is less than a cup of coffee on Amazon at the moment. So yep, I do have other motivations for wanting to be a successful writer other than just the sound of my own voice (although admittedly that is a quite a big attraction) so now with Master Ben's big win I suppose one might say - it's game on.

The good looks and athleticism are inherited from his mother. And I'm not talking about Tim Henman. I don't know where the ears come from but they're not mine.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Should Scotland vote "Yes"?

So it's the early hours of Sunday morning and, as I have insomnia, I have been occupying my time by reading the news over at The Guardian.

Yes, I've been trying to take-in some big words and long sentences over at the Guardian. Toughen myself up enough so I can open-up Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall without gulping.

So anyway over at The Big G they've got some high profile writers giving their views on whether the Scots should vote aye or nay to stay in the union. (You folks abroad may not know but, in the autumn, the Scots are voting on whether they want to still hold hands with the rest of the UK - or whether they just want to do it discreetly behind the bike sheds.)

Anyway I thought it was appropriate that some lesser known folks i.e -  me and a few of my buddies should have our say too.

Now firstly, I should say that my experience of Scotland is two weeks in a small cottage with my in-laws in a remote field in 1988.

So we're not exactly starting on the best footing. On the plus side, I do have a small amount of Scots blood in me (to add to my English, Irish and Welsh blood) so I think I'm able to give a pretty balanced overview of things.

So after some deep thought on the matter, my answer is that the Scots should definitely go their own way because I am not convinced that any plan to make haggis as a currency is going to work. And I want to see the aftermath. I also want to know where the Scots are going to keep their haggis currency - cos there's no pockets in those kilts you know - so the only place to keep their new bigger currency would be in their sporrans. Which would look kinda...awkward. Okay, okay, maybe a few Scots would get some extra dates wearing their heavily-weighted sporrans but I reckon when the kilts come off or up (depending on the wind speed) it would be a bit of anti-climax for us girls.

So anyway, I asked some of my buddies to sum-up their thoughts on the Scottish vote as I reckon what is needed is more sincere debate on the subject by people on the street - not just these big cheesy writers weighing in with their self-important views.

Okay, so let's get down to business and see what my buddies said:

Hugh Pounceby-Smythe:  "The Scots are voting on whether to stay in the union? I say that's jolly inconvenient ...Are they using chalk or ink on the ballot papers?"

Dougie MacDougMcDouglas: "Aye, aye, aye, aye. Of course we should vote "Aye". I'm all for haggis currency. I could wear a sporran as big Ben Nevis and it'll not affect me walk. That puny wee Cameron can keep his pound and his pea-sized wallet. I'll be wearing me sporran with pride."

Connor Macleod: "I've lived for a thousand years and I've a chill between me legs that even a haggis won't stop."

Her Majesty: "Put the servants at Balmoral on siege rations and hoist the flag, Mr Butler. We are at war! I may have the weak and feeble body of an eighty-eighty year old woman but I the heart and soul of a noble Englishman. When you've done that bring me my tea. With crumpets and some of Charles' jam."

Russell Brandit: "Let's have a *ucking revolution! No haggis, no pound. Just a big *ucking revolution!"

Her Majesty: "Take Mr Brandit to The Tower."

Darth McVader: "I am your father, Alex. Use The Force. Destroy your enemies."

Alex Skywalkersalmond: "As you wish, Father. But first - lend me your cape. It'll look good with my skirt."

Obi Wan-Kenobe Esq: "You are not well, Alex. Do not use The Force - it will destroy you and all that you hold dear. Also, try my tailors in Savile Row."

Billy Connolly: "Och......ah.....no really......och...... did you hear the one about .....ah...oy.....och....ah....oy."

Her Majesty: "Take Mr Connolly to The Tower."

Some geezer at Luton Airport dressed in a tartan turban, a kilt and wearing a suspicious-looking sporran: "I have nothing to declare. I'm just flying to Iraq for a holiday."

So there you are. Just a few comments from some of Mrs T's buddies. All thought-provoking stuff. As for Mrs T what does she think about a UK without the Scots? Well she thinks it would be like Oreos without the cream in the middle.

Kinda sad really.

"On the count of three, gentlemen. Let's give the English the scare they deserve."


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Word Crimes and Fashion Crimes

The musical parody of Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines by Al Yankovic is a fun reminder to us all about the value of literacy. I've no objection to people cutting corners with their grammar on social media - but I do think it's important they know how to use it correctly in the first place. I'm starting to get the hang of text-speak myself - if I'm pressed for time I occasionally substitute "u" for "you" and sometimes I substitute "No way!" for anything which would normally be a 5 page rant.  I'm also  trying to brush-up my vocab by working my way through Mr Blobby's Guide to the ABC. I am up to the letter F. Which is handy as I find f-words invaluable.

You see I like to keep up with the times. I know you lot think I'm an old stick-in-the-mud but I'm actually a forward-thinking and liberal person. Some might say I'm even fashion-concious and trendy. In fact I recently bought some trendy black leggings. Although I had to take them back for a refund - when I realised they weren't a triple pack of car-polishing cloths.

Anyway, that's my post on writers' news finished. Hoorah. It's dull stuff I know but I feel I must fit-in with the crowd and do what all the other writers are doing. Of course, the good news is now that I have one post I can work it into a self-help manual in about twenty years time when I've thought up some other ground-breaking advice.

 So, to sum up, so far two I've got two valuable pointers for inclusion in my self-help guide:

1.Writers - know your grammar.

2. Writers - don't wear black leggings it makes you look even more mentally unstable. Especially if you wear them with a fuzzy hat and a paisley scarf.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

It's that time of year

Yep, it's that time of year when I double my intake of painkillers - the school holidays. So that means I am not around so much merely because every time I settle down to do some writing I get a request for food.

You see the problem with teenage sons is they never stop eating. It's okay for you parents of girls because they are almost always watching their weight but try adopting three sons and then you'll know real misery. As soon as I've washed up from one meal and sat down with a coffee a Young Master appears from nowhere with one of the three following questions:

"Have we got anything to eat?"

 "What's for tea/lunch/breakfast?"

 "Have you been shopping yet?"

Now since I like to look on the bright side of things, I am consoling myself that Young Sam is still away at college completing his MA so my food-making capacity only needs to be a two-thirds output. However, the bad news is the two younger masters are both very sporty and can eat their weight in food in a day. Basically, they have massive appetites and can eat any old rubbish and get away with it - which is why it was huge mistake on my part to allow Young Master Benedict to come shopping with me yesterday.

To cut a long story short - I had a panic attack at the checkout. Because after Master Benedict had filled the trolley with all sorts of goodies including profiteroles, three DVDs, crisps, cookies, cherry coke and an assortment of other luxuries the bills was so big I thought I might have to take out a second mortgage. Instead I just passed out and woke up in the car seat with him sitting next to me eating profiteroles and scanning the backs of his newly acquired DVDS.

So anyway, I probably won't around much the next few weeks. Just popping in with a few pithy remarks from time to time - usually in the early hours of the morning when the boys are asleep and they and their stomachs haven't woken up.



Friday, July 18, 2014

Day Five of The Five Day Positive Thinking Challenge

And so it's time for my last five positive thoughts:

1. I am really hoping that some of you folks out there will rise to the challenge of setting me some new topics to write about on my blog. It can be ANY topic you like - except religion. Even I don't go there - it's too easy to upset folks. Which I probably do anyway but it's only the zealots who want to burn you at the stake that you have to worry about. And I'm still too young to be roasted. (Just.)

2. I am hoping if I get some good topics and I write some entertaining posts, I'll include them in my next book. So please leave a comment or email me via my contact page if you have a topic you'd like me to get my tongue around.

3. This is the cover to my next book - coming later in the year. I like it. It makes me feel slim. It's not an entirely accurate picture of me obviously but reasonably representative.





4. I got my paperback delivery yesterday and my bookmarks. This means I can now flog my books out of the back of my car or swap them for fuel at the petrol station or maybe, just maybe, exchange them for repair work at the garage. (See yesterday's post.)

5. I haven't told Mr T yet about yesterday's encounter with the concrete block. I'm going to keep it that way. I am almost sure he's not going to spot the damage. And, believe me, that really IS positive thinking.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Day Four of The Five Day Positive Thinking Challenge

It's a quickie again. Five positive thoughts:

No 1. Tomorrow I am pretty sure I am going to be less tired.
No 2. Tomorrow the sun will be shining.
No 3 . Tomorrow I will going swimming.
No 4. Tomorrow I will make a salad. (Hopefully)
No 5  Tomorrow I will not drive into a concrete block.

And yes I didn't see it.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Day Three of the Positive Thinking Challenge - On Football

Wow, I'm on my third post in three days.

Okay before I go any further, I just need to inform you that I had a really, really bad bout of insomnia last night. I've only have had 90 mins of sleep so I'm like the walking dead and I may crash out at any moment. If you hear about a woman found sleeping in Tesco's meat aisle on the six o'clock news - that'll be me.

Yep, so if this post is full of typos and gibberish and is even more incoherent than the norm you'll just have to forgive me and put it down to sleep deprivation. I'm going to deliberately follow that laborious method that drunks use when there try to convince everyone they're not drunk (talking and walking really slowly to try and prove they're still capable) by methodically studying each word before I press "publish". However, since this doesn't usually work as a normal method for me - please accept that this post might be a complete balls-up anyway.

So five positive thoughts for today that keep me with a smile on my face:

1. Do you remember Rod Hull and Emu? Emu famously attacked Michael Parkinson in an interview back in the 1970s




Well my positive thought is:

I'd love to see Emu take on Suarez. Now that would be quality entertainment.


2. My second positive thought:

You know Gary Linekar, ex-England striker and now sports presenter?

Well I'd love to see him streak across Wembley stadium. But more importantly - I'd like to hear Alan Hanson commentate on it.


3. My third positive thought is mainly for the ladies (cos be fair - even you boys would like to hear Alan Hanson commentate on Gary streaking.)

Ladies -  I think it would be brilliant if there was a power-cut in the last ten minutes of play in the cup final. How fantastic would that be? That sort of thought really makes my day.


4. Fourth positive thought:

Wouldn't it be fun if football managers were wired into their players' boots so that every time the ball got kicked they had to dance like Michael Jackson or Wayne Sleep? It would be even better if viewers got to chose the moves - maybe moonwalking for a goal, crutch-grabbing for a penalty and a pirouette for a rebound off the posts. You know - I don't think these sports bodies have thought hard enough about the entertainment factor for us consumers. They could do so much better.

5.  My fifth and final positive thought for the day:

It really cheers me up to think that one day "football" might be renamed "toeball".

Hey - they changed Marathon bars to Snickers so nothing's impossible.



Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Day Two of The Five Day Positive Thinking Challenge

Oh blimey - it's nearly 4 pm and I've only just remembered today's positive thinking challenge. Okay I'm going to have to think quickly as I'm off out to an evening of cricket at 5.15 and I haven't even started tea yet.

So here goes:

1. If it rains - the cricket match will be cancelled.

2. It's not a test match.

3. I might get a free tea if I sweep the floor after drinks.

4. It also might be men's training night.  Which is slightly more interesting than U13 cricket. Just sayin'.

5. With any luck some of the men might ask me to shine their balls.





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