Darling Buds of May

1 May

As we turn over our calendars to expose the new month, we are unsurprisingly greeted with May 1, known as May Day in many cultures. People celebrate it in a variety of ways, but most festivities involve weaving flowers into one’s hair, dancing in an inordinately silly manner and/or the bashing in the brains of factory bosses. May 1 holds meaning for me as well, though I cannot bring myself to think of it fondly. In my family, May 1 is remembered only as the Day of the Incident.

It began, as so many unhappy stories do, with my mother’s Bridge Club. I’m afraid the competition between the women players extended far beyond the card game. The ladies were always trying to outdo each other in their personal lives: a husband’s promotion, a son’s sporting triumph or an exotic accent belonging to a cleaner—all were fodder for the rivalry. While often the bragging was greeted simply with patronizing nods, sometimes the afternoons would end with bitter silences and, on one occasion, actual bloodshed.

One Tuesday, something said really set my mother off. It came from the mouth of Deborah Bullwinkle, a relative newcomer to the group, who was married to a dentist whose hygienist’s attitude my mother found objectionable. This particular afternoon, Mrs Bullwinkle came in with the story of her daughter’s first menstrual period, a tale so fascinating that no one could deny that she had “won” (not at cards, of course—my mother almost always won at bridge because she is famously a cheat).

When my mother returned home, she was fuming. She began to pick on me—why hadn’t I cleaned up my room, swept the back porch or started dinner? She demanded to see my homework, something she rarely did as by then she had realised that my intellectual abilities had surpassed her own. She criticised my handwriting and noted that my dress was wrinkled. This abuse continued until she confessed that what was really upsetting her was the fact that I had yet to shed my uterine lining.

Now when my mother came back from bridge, she was usually pretty loaded so there was no point in trying to introduce any logic into the conversation. At the time, I had yet to reach double digits so my lack of menstruation was hardly my fault. But my mother was determined that I should be able to outdo the Bullwinkles. She then announced that the next day—May 1—I would not be going into school but instead she and I would be heading to Gatsby’s Department Store. She would become the first of the Club to buy her daughter a proper, grown up lady’s brassiere.

I shan’t go into great detail about the excursion, partly because I do not want to frighten my younger readers but also because the clerk has served her time and paid her debt to society. Suffice it to say that my mother was not amused by her suggestion that we start off with a training bra. My mother had not allowed me training wheels for my bicycle when I was learning (as evidenced by the still-visible-today scars on my knees), and “my daughter got her first training bra” would not earn her the respect she was expecting at next month’s bridge game. So the clerk, my mother and I bundled into the changing room with a pencil, a pad of paper, and a measuring tape, leaving little space for my dignity.

Ultimately, my mother’s bragging about my early entry into the world of intimate apparel gave her the triumph she had hoped for. The fact that my bosom didn’t properly fill the cups until quite a few years later was irrelevant. My mother had turned my tender breast buds into a weapon, and it’s a testament to my moral fiber that I was able to overcome such trauma and go on to develop the magnificent bustline that I still maintain today.

So this May Day be assured that I’ll be remembering the Incident and the hurt that it caused. Whether you’re dancing around with ribbons or demonstrating around a bonfire, you know I’d appreciate your taking a moment to think of me. Then, if you aren’t already doing so, think of my breasts.

Nice, aren’t they?

Just Don’t Wear Them Backwards

15 Apr

While I was out in the garden yesterday tending to some suckling clover, I was startled by a bit of a ruckus next door. Without any effort of my own making, I was able to overhear a conversation between the lad next door and his mother.  From what I could decipher, some chores of his had not been done (she had asked him to take the bins out the other night at approximately 5.45 and again at 6.30 yet he had left without doing so to go watch Clash of the Titans with that Liam Williams kid whose mother leaves a lot to be desired in the responsibility department). The lad’s defense was simply that he had not heard her request on either occasion or he would have definitely done his job.  A few mild swears were tossed about (coming from both parties so this gives you a sense of the kind of people I have living next to me). I was just about to abandon my activity when I heard Lady Muck make a comment which upset me terribly.

She said, “And take off that ridiculous cap, you look a right twat.”

Having been keeping tabs on this boy for a number of weeks (he is my prime suspect in the case of bicycle tracks through my tulip bed), I know the cap of which she speaks. It is commonly referred to as a baseball cap, and I feel it is an unfairly maligned article of clothing.

I have already spoken extensively about my love of baseball. The intelligence, bravado, and strength that it takes to be a great player, I feel, means that anyone wearing a hat in any way associated with this great sport always commands a certain amount of respect.

The design of these hats, of course, is based on a specific purpose, which is shielding one’s eyes from the sun. This is why you often see cricket players wearing similar caps, though their brims are just slightly shorter (if you know what I mean). Baseball caps also keep one’s hair out of the way, which could be helpful when one needs to focus on driving or performing keyhole surgery. That’s another feature which shouldn’t be sneezed at.

Because of their width, baseball caps are also useful for publicly stating your support in a team, musical group or cause. They come in so many varieties that they are a comfortable and useful way to advertise your philosophy of life to every Tom, Dick and Harry you pass on your way to the off license.

My shrew of a neighbour therefore was completely disregarding the cap’s historical significance and practical application when she made the above comment. And I know the reason she did this. It’s because the baseball cap is symbolic of America. When Britons aren’t fawning over America, they’re dragging it down. (You’re such a fickle country, you are, but I love you.)

True, America’s got its problems. I’d be first in the queue to admit that (well, actually, I’d probably be second behind Jeremy Clarkson). But it’s outrageous to assume that everything American is bad. That’s just racism. Just because millions of drunk, ignorant, and loud Americans sport baseball caps twenty-four hours a day (many of them even wear them while bathing) it does not mean that the cap itself is the problem. I wish my neighbour would realise that her son has in fact always been a right twat and probably always will be, with or without the baseball cap on his head.

Listen to me, England, you are some of the most compassionate and accepting people I’ve ever known. Don’t blame baseball hats for the idiocy of some who wear them. That’d be like blaming hooded sweatshirts for youth crime, and I know this great nation would never entertain a foolish idea like that. Not only should the lad next door be able to wear his baseball cap, he should do so with pride. And he should do so while reimbursing me for the emotional pain his reckless cycling has caused me and my tulips.

Congratulations on Your Now Legal Marriage!

29 Mar

girlsAs of Saturday, 29 March, same-sex couples in England and Wales are able to legally marry.

Now I’m not much of a fan as marriage regardless of the genitalia of either party involved. But today is not really the day to dwell on the inevitable disappointment, betrayal and/or financial disaster that will likely strike anyone who takes the plunge. No, I won’t even mention that.

Instead let’s focus on the positives. First off, it’ll be the end of the phrase ‘gay marriage’. Yes, yesterday was the last day anyone could gay go to work, gay eat dinner or wish they could get gay married. From now on, it’ll just be married. Love is love; marriage is marriage; and divorce will just be divorce (but again, we needn’t talk about that this fine day).

boysOf course, most importantly, this is an extremely great step forward for equality. Our children’s children will look back and wonder what took us so long to realise how bigoted we’ve been. We’re a part of history now and, for once, it’s a good part.

And finally it means that at least for the next few days, we’ll get to see a lot of photos in the papers of men kissing men. How can that be a bad thing, I ask?

 

Right On Red (How to Drive and/or Make Love)

9 Mar

carUnfortunately the time when most of us first experiment with operating a car or doing sexy-sex is during our early teens when we have the least control over our brains and bodies. Most of us probably had our first driving lessons from a family member (I’ll leave any further comment to the Freudians amongst you), but even if we are given professional instruction, we just don’t have the mental and physical capabilities to effectively perform the functions needed for a satisfactory experience. Sadly, though, we stick with our awkward, teenaged techniques and continue to do it wrong for the rest of our lives.

This undoubtedly explains why 3500 people die on the road each day and why the toxic stink of sexual dissatisfaction fills the bedrooms (though generally not to a lethal level) of many homes around the world. I’d like to pass on some advice I’ve picked up through my travels, which may help improve your skills and keep your insurance company off your back as well.

Safety first

Buckles, helmets, condoms — don’t be daft, you know what this paragraph is going to say. Also, don’t text. It’s dangerous and rude and not the best use for your fingers during this time.

Honour local laws and customs

In many places, it is legal to turn right on a red light. However, this is not the case everywhere. When I’m in an area where it’s illegal and some jerk honks to pressure me into turning right on red, I want to slam it into reverse and ram him (and not in a good way). Different locales have established rules or guidelines which need to be respected, and it’s important to be aware of these so you don’t offend or end up in cuffs (again, not in a good way).

The opposite of defensive is not aggressive

My mother suggested early on that the goal is to be a ‘defensive driver’, meaning my job is to respond only to what others on the road are doing. This, like most of what my mother says, is tosh. If all I do as a driver is react to what others are doing, I’m never going to get to my destination. I’ll be stuck in neutral, letting everyone else have their fun whizzing by, swerving to avoid my timid self. Obviously, it’s important to watch what others are doing and respond appropriately, but driving defensively is not wise.

However, the opposite of defensive is not aggressive. I don’t want any one’s bumper up in my face and I doubt you do either. This strategy is only going to lead to broken bones or blue balls, and no one wants to end up on a list of those statistics.

Instead you should aim to be offensive. Think about sport (especially if you’re trying to last a little longer): if all you do is loiter around your basket/goalposts, you’re not going to win. But if you blindly crash through your opponents, you’re going to end up on the sidelines with a technical or red card. To score, you must focus on the offense — be strategic and focused, while being prepared to respond to whatever is thrown your way, and you’ll come out on top.

Know when to slow, speed up and stop

The gas pedal is what gives you control over your speed. If you’re coming up to a stoplight, simply lift your foot from the gas and your car will slow. Don’t ride or slam on your brakes. Follow traffic patterns — if people are going faster than you, you probably need to speed up. Otherwise, they’re going to get there before you and might be dressed and out the door before you arrive.

Knowing when to just simply stop, though, is also important, especially when it comes to milking a metaphor for all its worth. Watch as I prove this right now.

Special advice for motorcyclists

  1. Maintain smooth wrist action
  2. Any additional riders should hold your hips to keep balance
  3. Be careful when giving it choke

The Internet Is Tricking You

19 Feb
Come for the click-bait; stay for the advice.

Come for the click-bait; stay for the advice.

You may have arrived here because you like Benedict Cumberbatch. That’s fine, no reason not to, just because he once refused to share a cab with me, claiming he was allergic to my perfume. I don’t hold grudges; if anything, I pity him if it’s true that he can never enjoy the smell of lilacs (though I wonder if he’d have been so insistent had he known the bottle of scent was given to me by Terence Stamp).

Regardless. Here’s the thing. You won’t find anything here about Benedict Cumberbatch (excluding the anecdote above, obviously). You were led here under false pretenses. Because, my dears, the Internet is lying to you.

I am terribly sorry to be the one to tell you about this.

Now let me ask, what do you think of when you think of the Internet? What visual image appears in that little head of yours? Perhaps it’s a big ‘ol mess of wires connecting countries on a map. Wrong. That’s not the Internet.

Maybe you prefer to think smaller and simply picture your own little device whenever you think of the Internet. I like that you’re keen on synecdoche, but I’m afraid that is not appropriate either.

If you insist on my suggesting a concrete image for you, I’d have to say the Internet is most like a big ass, fire breathing dragon. Not unlike the dragon in those Hobbit films (hold on there, didn’t one Benedict Cumberbatch provide the voice and motion capture for that dragon? Oh my, it looks like I’ve accidentally mentioned that name again!). Anyhoo, get your mind off him for like two minutes of your life, please, and listen up. The Internet is a most specially greedy, strong and wicked worm who is fucking with your head, even as we speak.

Benedict Cumberbatch does not approve of being used like this. Unlike you, he doesn't have any choice.

Benedict Cumberbatch does not approve of being used.

Every time you “log on” to the Internet, you are giving away a little piece of your soul. This most frequently takes the form of your privacy or your self-control. And what’s worse is that the Internet is trying to trick you into believing you want to do this. In most other circumstances (excluding the minds of many high school male athletes), this kind of trickery would be considered criminal coercion. Not so here. The Internet can get you to do most anything it wants you to by almost any means whatsoever (say, by misleading you into believing you’ll learn something new about Benedict Cumberbatch).

It’s a dirty business really, and we should all be ashamed of participating it. I know I’d be ashamed if I weren’t so sure the stats for this blog post will be exponentially higher than any of my previous ones. That’s the thing: at the moment, most of us are pretty happy with the situation. We may lose some things because of it, but we gain others. Yes, our personal details got hacked but we were able to buy something from Target without having to actually go to Target, so it’s swings and roundabouts, isn’t it?

I’m not suggesting you stop using the Internet (in fact, why not subscribe to this blog? I won’t even ask for your mother’s maiden name). I’m not even suggesting you stop telling strangers your mother’s maiden name, if that’s the kind of thing you’re into.

All I’m saying is this: be aware of what’s going on and the role you’re playing. The Internet is using you. Google is aware of that purchase you just made. The NSA knows you. I know they know you because yesterday when we had lunch together, your name came up in the conversation. It’s likely your identity will get stolen, your sex tape made public, or a good year of your life lost to Candy Crush Saga. Tread carefully.

The fact that the dragon’s got a voice that gives you fizzy knickers shouldn’t permit you to forget that ultimately what he wants is your gold. Or your soul. Both of which you should remember are the precious (yes, I know that’s Gollum, but work with me here, people, I’m trying to make a point).

Valentines, Schmalentines

14 Feb

I for one do not partake in this ridiculous “holiday.”

The reason for this is primarily that I do not trust the concept of romance that it forces upon us. Think of the men you see professing their love in adverts that are shown this time of year: bringing a woman flowers, buying her jewellery, actually listening to her when she’s speaking—all because they’re just so much “in love.” It’s baloney.

Now I’ve known a few men in my time and I’ve certainly seen many who claim to be in love. Back in the States, a gentleman in my intimate circle would often go doolally when he first met a new woman, professing to everyone he could find that he was madly in love. We all knew that when he uttered those words what he really meant was “I have met a new woman whose soul I can destroy,” for shortly after the “honeymoon” period of his new romance, he began systematically draining the life out of her, all the while complaining that she was no longer the girl he fell in love with. After witnessing him play this scene out with at least thirty-three women over the period of two years, I finally suggested he look into becoming a cowboy because that’s a lifestyle where breaking the spirit of another creature is a talent that is truly appreciated, but he claimed the chaps chafed him. I’ve no doubt that whatever filly he is romancing this February 14th will find herself crumpled in the corner of her room crying “What did I do to deserve this?” within a few months.

Now before you worry that this is a tirade against men, get it very clear in your head that it is not: the problem is so-called romance, not men. Despite the fact that statistically men are more likely to be the ones who ruin relationships (which has certainly been the case in every single one of mine), I’ve not got a word to say against them as a gender. Some of my best friends have been men. I don’t doubt some women can be mean and cruel as well.

Before you get yourself dolled up to the nines for your Valentine’s dinner, I beg you to pause for just a moment and consider your true feelings about your alleged paramour. When you look into his or her face, what is it that you really feel?

Do you feel grateful for all they have given you?

If so, that’s called being a whore. It’s a viable career choice for many, but don’t confuse it with real love.

Do you feel a flutter in your chest?

These are palpitations and can be an early symptom of coronary artery disease. Instead of seeing a date movie, you should be at your GP surgery, getting a cardiac catheterisation.

Do you feel safe and/or comfortable?

If so, please be aware that, according to the American Psychological Association, 74% of all murder-suicides involve intimate partners. Make sure you have an escape route planned is all I’m saying.

If you have answered the question honestly and are still one hundred percent convinced that what you feel when you look at your partner’s face is honest-to-god true love, then go ahead and go out to your romantic dinner. You’re clearly living in a state of denial, but who am I to judge?

No Raccoon Has Ever Lied To Me

2 Feb

Raccoons-bite-baby-sleeping-in-cribI’ve never seen a raccoon in England. If you’re not familiar with them, they’re furry grey animals with fluffy tails. A bit like squirrels except less squirrel-ish and more raccoon-ish. Their most distinct feature is the black mask across their face, making them look like fluffy bandits. Cute! What I like most about raccoons, though, is that they are incredibly trustworthy.

This may come as a shock to you, but as a child, I lived for eight months in Canada. My mother led me to believe that this location change was due to my father’s draft dodging. Alas, I was too young to realise that not only was the draft not enacted at the time, the US was not even at war. Nonetheless, to this day, I still see my father as a conscientious objector, and I look back at those months with great fondness.

One afternoon I decided to head out for a long walk in the Canadian wilderness. I went out with one of my brothers (or sisters, I don’t remember exactly, and does it really matter?). We hiked through the woodland, making small talk and pausing frequently for me to capture nature with my Kodak Instamatic.

It was mid-July. While most of us tend to think of cold when we think of Canada, I can assure you it was well hot. After an hour or so, my brother (or sister) and I were regretting not bringing drinks with us and decided to head home. However, we had lost our way and raccoon-wallpaper-10-752390neither of us had a compass with us. As we were plotting out our plan back to safety, I noticed a little raccoon with her kits in a nearby tree. I stood up to take a snap (even in times of danger, I am committed to my work as a documentarian) when I swear the mother beckoned me towards her. I cried out, and she and her babes scuttled down the tree and took off. We ran over to where the raccoons had been, and spelled out in pebbles at the root of the tree was the word “wow.”

“What do you think it means?” my puzzled sibling asked me.

I walked slowly around the message. From a different angle, it spelled out “mom.” So I determined that the raccoon was either directing us towards something worth seeing or leading us to our mother. Either way, we decided to follow and took off in the direction in which the animals had fled.

We quickly caught up with the raccoon family, primarily because they had thoughtfully stopped to wait for us. Again the mother used her little paw to urge us forward. As we made our way through the trees, we began to hear the sounds of a waterfall and then of gleeful laughter. We were almost home safe!

As we rounded a corner, though, it quickly became clear that we were not at the Whitt-Wellington homestead but rather the raccoon had led us to a park for nudists. My brother (or sister, whatever) and I stood transfixed as we watched the nudie grown-ups frolicking in the water, lying in the sun and bending over to pick flowers. For a few moments, we were frozen in our tracks. Then, we turned our heads away from the spectacle and saw the raccoons running away, so we followed again for quite some time until we ended up behind a police station. We went in, our folks were called, and eventually we got home. Neither my sibling nor I mentioned the nudists to the cops, our parents or each other. That day I learned what a naked man looks like, and all I could say was “wow” (read whatever tone you want into that). The other thing I learned was that raccoons can be trusted.

I bring this up today because it is 2 February, also known as Groundhog Day in America. In Pennsylvania, a whole bunch of people get together to listen to a groundhog called Punxsutawney Phil predict Groundhogs are Liarsthe weather. (If you’re not familiar with groundhogs, they look nothing like raccoons.) If Phil sees his shadow, it means six more weeks of winter; if he doesn’t see his shadow, an early spring is coming. The problem is, of course, that groundhogs are notorious liars, and Phil’s predictions are usually wrong.

Don’t go to groundhogs for your information. If you want the truth—however harsh, wrinkly or dangly it might be—a raccoon will lead you to it. If you want to know the weather, however, simply look out your window.

Cruel To Be Kind

3 Jan

picklesMy dear friend Alice Wintergreen seems to have gotten herself in a pickle again. She really does have a knack at that, which is both charming and maddening as her pickles always seem to correspond with needing something from me at a time when I just don’t have much energy left to give (yes, dear readers, I am not perfect). However, once again I came to her rescue, despite the fact it meant that I was unable to listen to a radio programme to which I was looking forward all week. Why must I always be the good friend? I suppose it’s my curse.

Alice spends each Thursday afternoon at our local library. She calls it her “me time” and claims that she uses the hours to look at the newspapers, read aloud to the children’s group, and peruse the biography section. However, Christopher (who, on occasion, has witnessed Alice in action) tells me that what she is actually doing is what his mates call “cruising.”

Now, as you know, I’m not one to sit in judgment of anyone’s choices, and certainly not the choices of a dear friend whose poor taste in lovers has left her bereft of gentlemanly company. More power to her, I say. However, participating in this kind of activity can have its consequences and had led to the pickle in which Alice now finds herself within.

What it boils down to is this: she has caught the favour of a certain man about whom she says she would rather kill herself than sleep with. Apparently this man is a nice enough sort, and she doesn’t wish to hurt his feelings in any way. But she definitely does not want to sleep with him (nor does she want to kill herself), and it is over this that she has been crying at my kitchen table for the past few hours.

Per usual, my advice was thoughtful, correct and succinct: shut the fucker down.

So many of us are taught that other people’s feelings matter and far be it from me to suggest that they don’t (but they don’t). The truth is that when we try to “spare another’s feelings,” we rarely do so. Instead, we drag it out, making things better for neither party. When we delay being honest in an effort to be kind, we risk one of two things: being weaseled into doing something we don’t want to do – or – hurting the other party even more

Let’s examine those two options more closely. When I was younger, I briefly went through a stage, as most teenagers do, when I thought “Sod my parents’ millions, I want to make it on my own.” I therefore sought employ with a telemarketing agency (I had a seductive telephone voice even as a youth). The first rule we learned was keep them talking. The longer we could keep a person talking, no matter how politely they were rejecting our sales pitch, the easier it would be to finally reel them in. If Alice were to sit down with this man and try to soften her rejection with a drawn out explanation, I don’t doubt her evening would end with the dreaded walk of shame. Sadly, I say this out of personal experience. Even clever people like my good self can be talked into changing our minds after a while. If only I had heeded my own advice, I could have avoided that Maryland jail time for Unnatural or Perverted Sexual Practices. I guess sometimes we’ve got to learn the very hard way.

However, the other possible consequence of “trying to be nice” is making it a thousand times worse for the other person. How many times does anyone need to be told “I would rather eat glass than go to bed with you” before they finally just step in front of the #3808 at Trenton Transit Center? The answer is surprisingly few, I found out to my dismay (rest in peace, Homeless Tim).  Sugarcoating a rejection is like sugarcoating cyanide: they’re equally destructive but at least cyanide kills within seconds. Injuries from being hit by a train may lead a person to linger at death’s door for weeks.

If we’ve learned nothing from the Jerry Springer Show, we’ve learned that putting one’s hand up to someone’s face and simply saying no is the cleanest way to break off a relationship.  Yes, there may be some shouting and a few chairs broken over the audience’s heads, but it is still the quickest and most morally correct way to deal with the situation.

Merry Christmas, Peeps

25 Dec

Christmas

I hope your Christmas day is gorgeous, darlings.

 

Happy Christmas Eve

24 Dec

vintage_fruit_cake_ad

 

I hope you’ve got all your shopping and cooking all finished and can enjoy the evening drunk off your asses, as Jesus intended!

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