Friday, October 28, 2011

The Afflictions of Facial Hair (Part Two)

Further to my previous post The Afflictions of Facial Hair I've been doing some scientific analysis on how this problem affects women as they grow older. I have now formalized this research into an easy-to- read chart so that the male of the species can fully appreciate the problems us women encounter.

This means that if you happen to be a brunette like my good self  by the age of 60 you will look like this:

Now it has always annoyed me that "blondes have more fun". However, it annoys me even more that when blondes forget to shave they don't have to suffer the embarrassment of people asking why there is a small gerbil attached to their armpit.

Which, of course, has never happened to me. In fact, Mr T will vouch for the fact that I never ever had a small gerbil under my armpit.

He may though say that he has seen a large domestic guinea pig.

Anyway, I am sure my brunette readers will pleased to know that on a recent stroll down the High Street I saw a blonde lady who looked like this:

Needless to say on seeing this woman my heart leapt with joy.

Anyway, since it is only 8 weeks to Christmas I hope I have provided sufficient evidence for all you gentlemen Readers who may have partners over 40yrs why you should purchase a (minimum) £500 voucher for laser hair removal for your beloved - unless, of course, you want to make love to werewolf. ( Please remember some women over 40 may be suffering  menopausal symptoms and can be prone to wild and dangerous behaviour.)

Oh, and if you want to chuck in a day at a luxury health farm that would also be pretty good.

Also Dear Mr T  Readers it might be a good idea to make it two tickets to the luxury health spa in case your wife wants to take a friend.

Monday, October 24, 2011


I have just had one of those days where you want to scream, scream, scream.

For a start, it's a Monday so ..


Yep, everywhere I went today, whatever the speed zone, there was always some Sunday driver doing about 20 mph less than the speed limit. It makes me want to tear my hair out. For God's sake, if they feel that nervous about driving why the hell can't they just GET OFF THE ROADS.

Not that I'm cross or anything you know. Just mildly put out.

Then of course there's those drivers who practically come to a standstill to turn a corner. In fact one person was so slow today I thought they were actually going to park in the middle of the road.

What is wrong with these people? Do they know that roads are for driving cars on? Or do they think that everyone else behind them is in a pony and trap and has 6 weeks to cross to the other side of town? I swear to God I aged about 20 years behind all those Sunday drivers today. The veins were throbbing in my temple, my head was about to burst, I was ready to KILL. Why, why, why are these people on the roads? Let's face it Readers - I'm going to be contentious here - but these people probably shouldn't be allowed to reproduce -cos otherwise in about 50 years there won't be anyone left who drives over 15 miles an hour on the motorways.

I want  a Star Trek transporter so I can just beam myself anywhere I want to go - although not before I've beamed myself into the front seat of the car in front and tasered the occupants.

Yep, so anyway after a stressful day watching Master Jacob play tennis I finally got home and needing to sit an IT exam I went to the IT test centre where no pre-booking is required. Now on the forms it quite distinctly says it is open to 8.00pm.

It is not. It is CLOSED. And that Readers is why I am writing this post.

Ever had a day when you feel a bit pissed off  irritated?

For a previous rant on Sunday Drivers read this

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Canter Around The Cheltenham Literary Festival

As I grow older time seems to pass more quickly. A whole year has now passed since I visited the Cheltenham Literary Festival and enjoyed a weekend listening to some our most famous contemporary authors talk about their lives and work. Unfortunately, I couldn't make it to the festival this year so here for your enjoyment (I hope) is a review I wrote for The View last year.... 

I've often wondered about authors’ personalities and how much of their characters are reflected in their work. There are so many colourful stories about past literary giants it’s become almost impossible not to speculate about some of our more influential contemporary writers.

So, a few weeks ago, I took the opportunity to travel down to Cheltenham, the home of Britain’s oldest literary festival, to have a nose at some of our most revered authors as background to a possible review. Would I hear stories of pimples and pox, quail’s eggs and quills or just boring biros and messy manuscripts?  Either way, Cheltenham with its wide avenues, imposing Regency architecture and pavement cafes is the perfect place for luvvies from the arts to meet up and discuss the latest gossip in the book world.

My first stop was The Everyman Theatre where I’d lined up a whole day of literary events. The first of which was an audience with the very popular Sebastian Faulks, author of the prizewinning Birdsong, who was there to discuss his latest novel A Week in December.

Faulks, in a voice which reminded me of a smooth creamy latte, related how he’d approached  A Week in December, a novel which traces the lives of a group of Londoners over a period of 7 days. Originally, his ambition was to portray London in an almost Dickensian manner, as a reflection of modern times. However, as the novel progressed it started to alter becoming more cynical and humorous as he began to suffer from the peculiarly British habit of self-mockery.

Whilst Faulks might have felt a little thwarted by his change of direction, I don’t think many will complain about the end result or the wonderful characters in A Week in December such as the obsessed banker and the mean spirited book critic to name but two. However, it is clear that he still aspires to produce an epic, meaningful novel, recounting modern life.  Faulks says he continues to remain an “idealist” and a “romanticist” and listening to him added weight to my thought that he is, in essence, an emotional man who is very much concerned about society and how relationships and individuals function within it. I’ll certainly read any epic he might yet produce although I’m hoping his “romanticism” won’t extend to another Literary Review Bad Sex Award as it did for Charlotte Gray. Fingers crossed anyway.

Right, up next was Salman Rushdie. Now, I’m going to plead the ignorance of motherhood here; I’ve been so busy (for 22 years) I haven’t manage to read The Satanic Verses. The truth is when my children were younger my brain was so befuddled I could barely read. So, regretfully, I went to see Mr Rushdie with an opinion coloured by the media and the furore over The Satanic Verses.

Rushdie entered the auditorium with the gait of a man heading towards old age and, in a rather priestly manner, stood at a lectern to read from his latest novel Luka and the Fire of Life. For a moment I thought I might nod off as his voice doesn’t have the appeal of Faulks’ mellow tones but is more of a Tesco’s own brand. Decaffeinated. However, suddenly he gathered momentum and was off narrating Luca’s adventures with the pace and intonation of a skilled actor. He totally blew away my preconceived ideas of him and his writing.

Like Luka and the Fire of Life, the story of a boy who goes on a quest to save his father’s life, on stage Rushdie is witty, imaginative and highly entertaining.  There’s definitely a bit of the showman and raconteur in him and one gets the impression too that he rather likes being centre stage. But then, when you’ve been stuck in the limelight for most of your adult life that’s probably just as well - although I’m sure with the controversy over The Satanic Verses there were many times he might like to have hidden in the wings. Unsurprisingly, its apparent Rushdie strongly advocates free speech and dislikes political correctness. He believes that if people wish to set their own personal boundaries, as he does, that is perfectly understandable. However, when societies dictate to the individual he believes it is unethical and an infringement of civil liberties. And as he good humouredly put it- if people are rude about you “if possible just say stuff they don’t like in return.” Rushdie is currently working on his memoirs and I can only imagine that with his wit and wisdom it will be a thoroughly compulsive read.

So during a coffee break I jotted down my thoughts about Mr Faulks and Mr Rushdie;

Faulks: Obviously sceptical about book critics. (Blast- scrub review.) Was that really a brown suit??(Get eyesight tested.) Aspires to literary genius. (Send frilly shirt.)
Rushdie: A bit kinder about critics. (Hurrah -order backlist.) Nice suit and tie.  (Check M&S website) Have suspicion he thinks Dan Brown is tripe. (Shred Da Vinci Code.)

Then, having made my notes, it was time to take my seat for Martin Amis. Oh dear, dear, dear. You see, I’ve been struggling with his latest offering A Pregnant Widow and my struggling with a book often results in my reviewing it. Because basically- it’s a lot more fun. Sorry, I’m just shallow like that. But the problem is that Mr Amis went to Oxford and he’s clever. Frightfully clever.  What would happen if I totally got the wrong end of the stick about A Pregnant Widow? Would I incur the wrath of the mighty Mr Amis? I was shaking in my stockings at the very thought and decided the best thing to do was to shelve my original review title of Amis went to Oxford, I went to Bangor and his Book went to Oxfam and perhaps go for The Pregnant Pause- well at least till I finished it.

Amis is an intriguing character though. He has an air of confidence in his speech and language that goes with a man whose life has been steeped in literature, history and politics and who knows that even on a bad day he could probably win most arguments. Listening to his deep, slightly clipped, rich espresso voice I couldn’t help but edge forward on my seat to hear everything he had to say. Yet, despite his apparent confidence he also has an air of fallibility which is portrayed in his nervous movements; fiddling with tissues, touching his hair, his socks, his trousers. By the time the interview was over I found myself wanting to finish The Pregnant Widow - even if that did mean resisting the temptation to get out my red pen and do some slashing. Still, there are a lot of breasts in The Pregnant Widow so that always makes good reading- even if only to compare to my own (smallish) pair.

Amis: Likes women. (Excellent.) Probably likes sex- a lot. (Check to see if nominated for Literary Review Bad Sex Award.) Diminutive. (Send congratulatory note to Tom Cruise.)

With my three literary authors done and dusted it was time for me to take a sojourn to see my uncle, retired writer and practising yoga luvvie, who brews coffee that makes your head spin. So by the time I returned to The Everyman and sat through 75 minutes of Jilly Cooper (Double decaff raspberry syrup macchiato) and Libby Purves ( Fair trade filter) larking around in a frivolous and fun back slapping session, my head was spinning so much I thought I was a horse. Or maybe Jilly Cooper thought she was a horse? I dunno - I can’t remember - although I do remember I lost count of how many times the words “horse” and “larky” were mentioned. Apparently, Jilly’s heroines are all “larky.” Excellent. I’ll say no more for fear of being cast as critic Anne Chisholm was (as a goat) in Jilly’s latest novel Jump! However, just to give you a clue about the book; it’s about horses. And larky women. Now there’s a surprise!

Cooper: Likes Horses. (Obviously only because she’s one of the few women skinny enough to wear jodhpurs.) Too many “larky” women. (File complaint about overuse of said word.) OMG Jump! is over 700 pages. (Use as doorstopper after shredding Da Vinci Code.)

My day finally over, I made way to my hotel, mulling over which book to review now that I’d seen my potential victims up close and personal. Amis had been the initial front runner with his tale of 1960s sexual revolution but Cooper had jumped into the lead at the last hurdle with a dashing tale of horses, jockeys and incredibly larky women. Faulks was still tailing at the rear with his spiteful book critic but Rushdie was making a late comeback with a challenge in the final furlong on a magic carpet.

Oh what was I to do?!

Eventually, confused, bewildered and completely knackered I decided to sleep on it. But, alas, during the night as I was plagued by hideous, cruel dreams of Faulks incarcerating me in a mental hospital, Rushdie placing a fatwa on me, Amis calling me a flat chested imbecile and, worst of all, my turning up in Cooper’s next novel as a horse called Mrs Turdey.

Hmm… I guess that means that if I dish out some criticism I have to be prepared to take some back?

But let’s get real, criticism and discussion can be valuable tools for the fledgling writer and whilst most established authors may be interested in their reviews they’re mainly wise enough to know that life, and books, are rich and diverse and you’ll never please everyone all the time. And, whilst there may indeed be good and bad writers, when you’ve been at the top of the game for as long as Faulks the romantic idealist, Rushdie the magic realist, Amis the postmodernist and Cooper the queen of chick lit there’s no disputing their status as icons of British literature.

So, the next day, I left Cheltenham thinking maybe I should cast my potential piece aside and review dead authors just as the critic in A Week in December ends up doing. It wouldn’t be half as much fun though and, more importantly, who would I review? I could only think of literary geniuses until suddenly a thought crossed my mind….

Barbara Cartland.

But you know it seemed unfair as the dead can’t defend themselves. So guess what? I wrote this.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Hold me back - I'm gonna blow soon

Almost everyday I see them. They are everywhere; on street corners, in town centres, in the parks, propped up against railings and walls.

They are driving me insane. When I see them I am physically repulsed. Sometimes the sight is so bad my eyeballs are practically popping out of my head.

Recently though, not only has my stomach been even more queasy than normal but I have found words bubbling in my throat, tripping around tongue, imploring me to allow them to burst forth.

Any day soon Readers I know that fateful moment is going to arrive when I wind down the window on my car and yell...


Yep, and when I get a mouthful of abuse in return I shall give my parting shot...

"Nice cheeks - shame about the boils."

Yep, I can't stand them any longer. I mean why bother? Why not just walk around in your underwear. In fact why not roll up your trousers and stick them on your head. You could go camping in them - put the flies over your head and you have an instant zip up tent or you could starch them and use them as teepee.Or why not just go the whole hog and leave the legs flopping either side of your head and swear allegiance to Bugs Bunny. Cos let's face it with your butt hanging out for everyone to see you might as well be a full time clown.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Thoughts on Womankind and My Mother

It was three years ago on Saturday that my mother died. It was the most traumatic 24 hours of my life. Without warning, my beautiful mother and closest friend was taken from me by a brain hemorrhage.

Sometimes, the nights seem quite long.

I'm going to post the song Moves Like Jagger which, rather than make me feel even more sad, will make me feel better. Mum and I had very similar, almost identical tastes. In fact, we could wander round a department store, meet up half an hour later and find we'd both selected the very same item - and if it wasn't exactly the same it was the same article just in a different colour-way. I guess we were both on the same wave length.

Mum always kept up with modern music and films so I'm pretty darn sure she would have loved this song. She probably would have had a few succinct words to say about Mick Jagger as well. Well I would have - and Mum would have diplomatically said "Well, you know I preferred Rock Hudson."

Hmm. I think Mum was slightly aghast Rock turned out to be gay.

Anyway, it's a great song and I'm pleased to see the lovely Christina Aguliera with her clothes on for once. They say sex sells but why very talented ladies like Christina, Rhianna and Madonna feel the need to dress like whores most of the times befuddles me. I've no issues with sexuality and I'm quite happy to admire the female and male form (obviously - cough - I'm slightly more interested in the male form ) but really I think some of these ladies don't do womankind (and young girls in particular) a favour dressing like they just left a strip joint.

Hmm. Looks like this is heading into a conservative rant. Excellent. I haven't a rant since - Friday. My standards must be slipping!

Interestingly, whilst I was researching an article on illiteracy earlier in the year, I read a book called Boys Adrift - The Five Factors Driving the Growing Epidemic of Unmotivated Boys and Underachieving Young Men By Leonard Sax. Those five factors were: video games, teaching methods, prescription drugs, environmental toxins and the devaluation of masculinity. It was an excellent book and put into words and provided evidence for some of the thoughts I've had about young men/boys for a long time. I recommend it to anyone with sons - particularly if you feel they are demotivated and are wondering where things are going wrong. Anyhow, there was a quote in the book from a lady who said young women dress with much of their bodies on show because that's the only way they can get a man's attention - otherwise young men are all too often absorbed in their PlayStations and X boxes. In other words- young women they feel they have to compete with Lara Croft.

I do feel there's some truth it that statement. Particularly as I know through my own sons' habits and having many friends and acquaintances who also have sons that video games are highly addictive. Personally, I like to keep my sons away from them as much as possible. However, on the other hand, I do think women should accept responsibility for their own actions and I'm inclined to think that some female celebrities should be more responsible especially when they are viewed as icons by younger women and children. Are women demeaning themselves and other women by being so sexually explicit in the public eye? What do you think? I think that whilst feminism means a woman has the right to do as she pleases, to wear what she pleases and say "No" whenever she wants I'm not sure that such lack of inhibition encourages respect of the female form or of womankind in general.

It's a big area for debate. Probably not one best tackled at 5 am in the morning. Anyway, here's Maroon 5 with Moves like Jagger. This one's for Mum.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Me, The Car Parking Officer and Clint Eastwood

Do you remember my vitriolic letter about my car parking ticket?  Well another car parking "incident" occurred yesterday when I may or may not have been illegally parked near to my son's school.

Now I hastened to add if I was such a person who may or may not been illegally parked it would be because of the very difficult situation of  a certain school being in the town centre with insufficient adjacent car parking  facilities. Now, if like the good Mrs T, you have to dash off to pick up another child and then dash off to tennis and can't afford the time to go to a car park further away you have no alternative but to either keep driving around and around in circles (which in my opinion creates even more congestion and risk when there are children running all over the place) or find a discreet and safe place to park.

So yesterday, when I may or may not been illegally parked, suddenly out of the sun strolled a Car Parking Officer. (Mrs T spits on floor and stabs small pin through voodoo doll.) Anyway, there's a black satchel  strapped to his side, his tie is at angle and there's a particularly mean squint in his eye...

 He looks at my number plate and taps firmly on my window.

I gulp and wind down the glass. He looks down at me.There's a glint of menace in his eye as out of the corner of his mouth he says;

"A good woman always knows her limitations"

I  baulk and quickly check in the mirror. He means business. Is my lippy still on? Am I having a good hair day? I take off my sunglasses and put on my sweet innocent look and run my tongue suggestively around my lips.

"Yes, Officer?

He bends down closer to the window and leans in...

"I know what you're thinking Lady. Has he done enough tickets for the day? Did he make five bookings or six? Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kinda lost track myself. But being as this is .44 ticket machine, the most powerful ticket machine in the world and could blow your tax disc right off, you've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well do ya, Lady?"

Hmm. This guy is wacko. He needs taking down a peg or two. And I'm the one to do it; I'll try the nice option first.

"Nothing wrong with ticketing long as the right people get ticketed."

He steps back and raises an a cynical eyebrow. I undo the top button of my blouse and fan my face as he steps closer again.

"In this world there's two kinds of people, Lady. Those with loaded ticket machines and those without. You're without."

"Really officer? I smile sweetly, steeling myself for a fight. The nice tactic isn't working. I'll have to take a different direction.

 " You know what Officer? Opinions are like assholes; everyone has one."

"Listen, Lady!" he yells. "To me you're nothin' but dog shit, you understand? And a lot of things can happen to dog shit. It can be scraped up with a shovel off the ground. It can dry up and blow away in the wind. Or it can be stepped on and squashed. So take my advice and be careful where the dog shits!

I lose my temper. The guy is a complete jerk and probably stalks Clint Eastwood. Unfortunately, for him I've also watched every Clint movie.

"Look Officer -This stuff isn't getting to me - the shootings, the knifings, the beatings. Old ladies being bashed in the head for their social security checks. Nah that doesn't bother me. But you know what does bother me? You know what makes me really sick to my stomach? It's watching you stuff your face with those tickets! Nobody - I mean nobody puts car parking tickets on a pregnant woman!"

He looks shocked; I know more quotes than he does. I run my hands over my belly and let a tear form in the corner of my eye. He hesitates, a slow look of remorse spreading over his face.

"I have strong feelings about illegal parked cars," he mumbles. " If they're around, I want to be controlling them. But...... this time Lady I'm gonna let you off.

I give him a radiant smile. "Thank you Officer. You know what? You've made my day."


Yep, so yesterday I got off a parking ticket. The conversation didn't exactly go quite like that. But well you know me...sometimes my imagination runs rife...

Besides, I like an man in a uniform. Obviously I prefer them with a gun rather than a ticket machine. But hey, where needs must.

Ps - I got off the other car parking ticket too. Ah sweet joy.

Pps - I'm not pregnant. I just have excess baggage.

Friday, October 14, 2011

How much did you say?

The cost to supply and fit a new kitchen mixer tap is £144.00.

How much did you say???


Are you an "executive" plumber or does the tap come with bells and an inbuilt stereo?

Are you taking the mickey, Love?

Absolutely not. Merely making a polite enquiry.....

Well, that was the conversation in my head anyway. There was also some imagery involving a deep fat fryer and some fried meat balls.  So, Readers, what do you reckon? Is £144.00 legit? Now, the request was for a basic tap so the bulk of the amount would be labour. I'm also assuming that like 95% of the workman who have ever come to my house the preference would be for a "cash" payment.

So, I just watched this video;

So how much time for an experienced plumber to replace the sink with no unexpected problems arising? Shall we be generous and say an hour and put a price tag of £44.00 on the tap? So that's £100 an hour for labour. Sure, he's got about 10 mins travel time and petrol costs but I still reckon that's a healthy profit.

Hmm. What do you Readers say? Am I being unrealistic? Do you think £144.00 a fair price?

Now bearing in mind not long ago I replaced the screen on Master Ben's ipod myself at the cost of about £10  (Apple have a standard repair price of £106.44 for a 16GB 2nd generation ipod touch) I can't help feeling a little sceptical about some of the charges these workman come up with. Yep, and I've had many of them at my house over the years. The bad news for them is that it doesn't take much brains to work out how much things cost and add reasonable labour costs. Finding a reliable, honest and fair minded workman is like finding gold dust. You know, I don't mind paying for a job done well and, more importantly, for a workman that keeps to his promises but I do feel sometimes they look at me and think I'm an easy target.

As they say, there's no honour amongst thieves.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Master Ben and his Plastic Machine Gun

Well since I've figured out how to use Windows Movie Maker I thought I'd post an amusing video I found on my camera about 18 months or so ago. It's Master Benedict's first attempt at a documentary which unfortunately involves attempted cat murder and some dubious shots of my carpet. However, it is rather funny. I think Master Ben might have a future in film. Or maybe in an institution.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Equality and Diversity. Yeah, right.

Okay, so this is a rant. I figure I need one. I've been working too hard and need to let off some steam.

So let's talk about equality and diversity. Now those of you who have read this blog for a long time know I'm a gentle, fair minded soul.  I believe in equality. I have absolutely nothing against small people called Tom who star in major movies and who may or may not wear platforms. In fact, I defend every man's right to wear platforms. It's a free world and let's face it - some people would have difficulty looking over the sweet counter without heels.

Anyway, I recently filled out a job application form which wanted to know my sexual orientation. ( The student advisor job - see a previous rant.)  Well, I have to admit I was a bit taken aback by such boldness and I felt rather like rolling up the application form and sticking it right up their backsides... then I thought that might suggest peculiar sexual fetishes so maybe that wasn't actually a good idea. Not that I have anything against rolled up application forms - just not up the backside. On the backside is a different matter of course - but let's not go there - this a clean site. Well so I keep telling Mr T. Mind you, he still thinks this is a blog about flower arranging.

So, here's a question. By asking my sexual orientation are employers/gov really monitoring statistics or are they indulging in positive discrimination? You tell me. Was I right to be a little upset? Now don't forget Readers I have been away from the job market for a long, long time so I'm used to that old fashioned concept that you select the best man or woman for the job - so why do employers need to know my sexual orientation? We have a population census every 10 years which monitor such statistics. I'm not convinced that all this statistics are used innocently - but please feel free to correct me if you think otherwise.

Despite my reservations, eventually I managed to fill in the application form by gritting my teeth and taping my mouth shut. However, I've since thought of some alternative answers to the question...

What is your sexual orientation?

Here we go...

My sexual orientation is...

1. Saturday nights after a curry and 3 glasses of wine.

2. Dangling from the ceiling.

3. I just chuck the car keys in the centre of the table and hope for the best.

4. I haven't had sex since 1991. My children are adopted and my husband got his balls torn off in a rugby match.

5. I get my kicks watching small people perform ridiculously stupid stunts whilst wearing platforms and a pretend bullet proof vest.

6. I fantasize about setting fire to Russell Brand.

7. I'm a farmer. It's a private matter.

8. I have this thing about Nutella and currant buns.

9. Somewhere in the Bahamas. Alternatively, in the kitchen so long as the lights are out and the knives are in the drawer.

10. What's sex?

Yeah, so you get the idea. I'm still a little peeved. Just how much do employers and government need to know? I guess I'm old fashioned in that I believe that some things should remain private.

You know, I think if George Orwell was alive today he'd probably be smirking.

Ps - If anyone wants to discuss their sexual orientation I am, as they say, "all ears".

Pps - Let's not be pedantic about the meaning of the word "orientation" - you all know what I mean!

PPs - any more suggestions for my next application gratefully received. And nobody mention custard.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Long Hours and Rainy Days

The weather has taken a turn for the worse here in the UK. Early October was hot and balmy but that soon deteriorated into our usual wind and rain. I've been absent from the blogging world as I've been working hard on three courses and putting together a sponsorship application for Jacob to continue his tennis development. Unfortunately, there's only the one sports award. I strongly suspect Jacob doesn't stand a chance in hell - especially if they are looking for a child already working at their full potential with a stack of national trophies. But Jacob is a grass roots player, there is so much more he has to learn. So much potential to improve. Whatever the outcome I'm hugely proud of him anyway.

My Nominees for the US and UK Elections and Other Waffle

It's the early hours of the morning, and I have had a large gin... Late-night alcohol is always a good recipe for writing gibberish. And...