Football Sur L-Herbe

 

When they were young, my sons, in common with many other little boys, enjoyed nothing better than a kick about in the back garden. Actually, that’s not strictly true, because they were also into Power Rangers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Zippy from Rainbow (though they would deny the last on the point of a sword!  As for George, the gender confused pink hippo –  nuff said!) Anyway, for the purposes of this blog, let’s just stick with the footie. Now, Old Jack (people often qualified this by adding ‘boots’ on the end) really put the cur in curmudgeon. His DNA was a mixture of Alf Garnett, Victor Meldrew and Attila the Hun – and that was with calm weather and a fair day.  Still, the little bit of good that is in everyone, manifested itself in Jack’s green fingers, and the very fine garden that came about as a result of his working them to the bone.

Unfortunately for Jack, my kids’ football often manifested in his garden too, generally right in the middle of his prized begonias – which is when Jack would go into complete meltdown. Presaged by a roar that caused the dead to wonder if the Day of Judgment was already to hand, Jack would appear, nose over the garden fence, carving knife in one hand, football in the other, demanding answers – always to the same question. ‘How do you want it back, you little b*##!!!s sliced or diced?’

Time has rolled by and Jack has long since gone to fertilise another plot, still putting his body, if not his soul into it. My sons have grown up, grown out of football and grown into girls – though not literally.  I have grown too, things horticultural, herbs, vegetables, flowers. More than that, my sympathy has grown – for Jack – may the angels help him prune his heavenly garden and sharpen his carving knife! More than that, I am proud to pick up his Alf/Victor/Attila mantle and wear it with pride. Why? Because, right next door, two ‘orrible little b*##!!!s are forever kicking their football into the middle of my prized herb garden and flattening the oregano and Greek basil (I got the last heavily discounted, much like their national debt!).

To date, I have been patient, smiled my understanding I-know-what-it’s-like-to-be-the-mother-of –ruffians smile at their apologetic, (but not apologetic enough),mother. My patience has worn thin to the point of emaciation. My carving knife is as honed as Mark Cavendish’s thighs on the final lap of the Tour de France. But, I won’t be grabbing the football. I’ll be grabbing the brats and demanding answers from their mother.  ‘How do you want your little b*##!!!s back, sliced or diced?’

Footnote:  Outside, there is the steady thwack thwack of a football against my garden fence. One of the timbers has already come loose and is swinging forlornly like an arm that has been wrenched out of its socket.  ‘Boot it harder, you wuss,’ comes the piped instruction, from an owner whose testicles still have a long way to descend. The fear from the herb bed is palpable.  On the kitchen counter the carving knife gleams dully . . .

FACE, by Madam Tussaud. Botox – why it needles me!

 

Idly flicking through a magazine this morning, I was once more confronted by a beauteous image of perfection sporting the ‘au-naturel’ look.  Of course, far from looking ‘naturel’, the poor girl looked completely ‘unnaturel’.  Not one line, laughter or otherwise, marred her airbrushed and Botox’d creamy complexion. Not a mole, not a freckle, not an acne scar, not an expression of any sort, just the blankness of a death mask. Now, I don’t care what anyone says, that’s just plain spooky. As human beings, we are designed to communicate with so much more than mere words and gestures. Our faces and ability to contort them is all essential to conveying our emotions. Here are some I prepared earlier.

1.            A massive scowl when the alarm clock went off two hours earlier than intended because I still can’t get to grips with its convoluted buttony things. After two years!

2.            A hefty eye-roll, combined with a repeat of massive scowl, when husband had the cheek to complain about No. 1.

3.            A ‘blaagh’ overall contorting of the face when confronted with my morning bowl of prunes.  The ‘blaagh’ is regular too.

4.            A trembling bottom lip over a sad story about a dead dog in the newspaper.

5.            A series of nose wrinkling manoeuvres prior to hay-fever induced series of ground shaking sneezes.

The above list forms but a small part of the rigorous facial workout already indulged in this morning and, believe me, no witness would have been left in any doubt as to what message each frown, scowl, contortion, curled lip conveyed.  And that’s the way I like it, because then everyone is clear on what needs to be done to make me a happy, smiley, shiny person.

Quid pro quo, I too like to be able to decipher the facial expressions of those around me  and not just immediate friends and families, but people in general, and especially those invited into my living room via the wonderful medium of television to entertain me. Repeat, entertain me!  And not through my puzzling over how many cosmetic procedures they’ve had and awarding myself ten points for every box checked. Botox? Tick. Fillers? Tick. Collagen? Tick. Etc. Etc. Tick.

When an actor stands over the body they’ve just murdered, I want to see what they’re feeling, whether that be triumph, horror, malice, glee or whatever.  These days the only emotion conveyed seems to be one of permanent frozen shock.

Imagine a Romeo and Juliette where the principal actors have succumbed to the lure of the needle.

A.            Romeo: (sans Botox or fillers).  What light through yonder window breaks?

Here, Romeo is romantic, yearning, poetic. His face moves, whether in mysterious or non-mysterious ways is unimportant. The key thing here is that his face actually moves.  We totally get him and, more importantly, so does Juliette.

B.            Romeo: ( Botox’d to the hilt). What light through yonder window breaks?

Here,  Romeo is shocked rigid. This light through yonder window – what could it be? A bolt of lightning? A terrorist attack?  Wisely, Juliette has left the balcony.

Here’s another.

Marlon Brando (sans Botox) – I coudda beena contenda.

Imagine the phrase spoken through a faceful of frozen stuff. The stuff of Movie Lore? Not a chance.

One last, because I can’t resist.

Rhett Butler (sans Botox) – Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.

Said forcefully with passion and lashings of throw-me-over-the-shoulder testosterone.

Now, try the new unimproved death-masked version.  See? It just doesn’t work. Scarlett would have punched his lights out and run up them up as curtains.

(Tip:  Why not pick out your own favourite movie lines and try it for yourself.  Hours of cheap and innocent fun for all the family!)

Anyway, to wrap it up, if you’ve managed to read this far and are still unclear as to what my take on this whole cosmetic procedures (for vanity) lark is, it may be because the Botox has now reached your brain. You might like to think about your epitaph.

If you are eye-rolling and screwing up your face, in agreement or otherwise, congratulations, I salute your freedom of expression.

That’s it; I’m off to try out some more movie lines.

Clint (sans Botox) – You feelin lucky punk?

Clint (Botx’d) – You feelin lucky punk?

Oops,  no change there.

ALL PAIN, NO GAIN. LET THE BUYER BE UNAWARE!

Today, the sun has climbed aboard his golden chariot, the sky is the celestial blue of a Renaissance painting, birds are flibberty-gibbeting in trees so lush they deserve a more original adjective. A day, one might think, to be happy and carefree, to dispense with the woes of whatever there is to be woeful about. A day to rejoice that one’s heart still beats, pulse still pulses and blood still Grand Prix’s it through ones veins. Unless you happen to be Son No. 2, whose face is currently so long, he bears more than a passing resemblance to Desert Orchid. Pour quois? Simples! He didn’t listen to his Mum, didn’t heed the warning that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. In this case, we are referring to an X-Box bought on Amazon, an amazing ‘knock-down’ bargain. What the vendor failed to specify is that the knock-down referred not to the price, but to the recipient, when they found no leads, battery pack or any of the associated paraphernalia one might expect to make it work was actually included. A salutary lesson learned the hard way. But, Son No. 2 is not the only one to have woken up and smelled the con-artist. I’ve learned a lesson too and that is not to bother dispensing any more pearls of wisdom. The fact is the only voice most people listen to is the voice of bitter experience. Their own experience! As a parent, of course, I felt it my bounden duty to try and instil the wisdom of Caveat Emptor in the fruit of my womb, if only to spare him the disappointment of X-Boxes sans accoutrements. But like said X-Box, it didn’t work. However, he will not make that mistake again. But, looking at the balance sheet, I suppose he’s gained more than he’s lost; in the debit column, £70.00  and scales lost from his eyes and, in the credit column, invaluable experience.

The Importance of Naming Ernest!

A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME COULD BE A CROWN OF THORNS!

 

After several rounds of intrusive fertility treatment, a friend was recently rewarded by the birth of a beautiful baby girl, Fendi Millen, named after two of her favourite shopping brands. It could have been worse, of course, the poor kid might have ended up as Burberry Choo or Louboutin Rubenstein, or even IKEA Waitrose. But, it’s bad enough and poor Fendi M may be forever scarred by the fact that her mother put choosing the name of her long-awaited precious bundle on a par with designer goods.

Listen up, parents, whilst it might seem cute to land your sprogeny with a ‘designer name’, the reality can be misery for that child and deep psychological scarring. It can, and often does, colour their perception of themselves and of those around them.  I know this, because in a past life I used to draw up Change of Name Deeds, which was interesting work because I never knew who was going to walk in the door, much less who was going to walk back out. And some were amusing, if not downright funny.  One of my all time favourites was a flamboyant Italian, Annunziata, who turned up bemoaning her ‘bad luck’ caused, according to a fortune teller, by the fact that she was named after her dead grandmother. The advice was to change her name to something ‘straaang and victoohrious’. Thus, in the stroke of a few paragraphs, Annunziata became Victoria. She left, clutching her Change of Name Deed in a manner most regal, and with a lot less waving of her hands.

Enter Clive Mine. Exit Gold Mine – I kid you not. Since he could barely find the money to pay for his Change of Name Deed, I suspect his mine was probably of the disused variety. He did have a gold tooth, though, and a very nice smile.

Amusing as these examples are –  the people above were adults and in a position to choose for themselves. Babies rely on their parents to make smart decisions on their behalf, and if they fall down on that responsibility the results can have long-term disturbing consequences. Several of my former clients spent years being bullied and taunted, the direct result (they believed) of having a ‘stupid’ or ‘ridiculous’ name that singled them out from their peers and made them the target of other people’s cruelty. And the new names they chose? Regular, everyday names; John. Emily. James. Elizabeth. Not one Orlando. Not one Honey-Blossom-Hawthorn-Clematis. And never, ever, a Fendi Millen!

Apart from being saddled with a stupid moniker, what all of these people had in common was a strongly held belief that their name was more than just a convenient means of identification. It held real power over them, a whole set of preconceived characteristics that put them at a disadvantage and prevented them from becoming the people they felt they were meant to be.

Think that’s rubbish? Well, try this little exercise. Think of a girl named Harriet. Think of a girl named Chantelle. Think of a boy named James. Think of a boy named Wayne. What image does each name conjure up? Are there any particular characteristics you associate with each name? A particular socio-economic group? Educational abilities?

Shakespeare’s Hamlet tell us, ‘nothing is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so’. Logically, therefore, no name is either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. Logical or not, as a society we are predisposed to pigeon-hole people, often solely on the strength of their name. I wonder if Tracey re-branded herself as Harriet, would she see herself differently. Would we see her differently?

Having witnessed the damage wrought, I believe parents should give far more consideration to naming their children. Think twice before labelling them in a whimsical fashion or aping some half-wit ‘celeb’.  Rosebud Dipsy Doo doo might be cute at two. At twenty-two, it’s downright cruel! Agt forty, it doesn’t bear thinking about.

Remember Zowie Bowie? He changed his name, firstly, to Joe and then to Duncan. Point made.

Blue Per-Suede Shoes – Clothes Shaketh the Man

 

I have survived, but only just, the annual husband clothes-buying spree, having spent many months pointing out that his clothes (hollow laugh, here) are no longer fit for purpose.  Some of them are no longer at all, in fact, but several inches shorter than when first acquired. His trousers, alone, have the distinction of falling into two camps:

a) paint spattered Jackson Pollocks

b) Jolly Jack Tars, flapping six pallid-flesh exposing inches above his ankle.

I do not lie when I say that his wardrobe has begun began to resemble the Bermuda Triangle – things disappear in it, principally buttons, zips and belts, and once the cat, never to be seen again.

Underwear? Don’t go there – I won’t! Suffice to call it a holy show.

In any case the divorce letter finally got through to him and, today, me looking grim but purposeful, him just looking grim, we braved the shops and he actually went in. As with locust-like expertise I stripped the rails, throwing jackets and trousers at him, the look on his face turned from grim to downright mutinous.

‘Fine,’ he muttered, modelling a jacket that made him look like Lurch from the Adams Family, as half the shop sniggered behind their hand. The only excuse I can think of is that he was standing at least fifteen feet away from the mirror and needs new glasses as well as new clothes.  Not being Morticia, I was less than impressed and forced him to try on several more, till eventually we struck pay dirt with a tailored linen-mix in a classy shade of oatmeal. The same pantomime followed with a succession of trousers and jeans, him saying ‘fine’, me yelling ‘it’s not bloody fine – you look like Charlie Chaplin/Max Wall/Gordon Brown’ as other shoppers gave us a very wide berth and peered anxiously about for the exit points.

Eventually, though, we acquired enough booty to satisfy even me, plus I managed to persuade him of the youth-enhancing qualities of a tastefully patterned shirt – a first!  Pushing my luck, I picked up a pair of dark blue ,suede loafers on our way to the checkout.

‘Never in a million years!’ he roared, the veins in his neck bulging the same colour. Reader, we bought them.  Tonight, I will sleep soundly in the knowledge that peace has broken out for a further year, and that my husband will not be arrested either for vagrancy or indecent exposure.

Eats Leaves and Shoots Carnation Petals – the language of flowers!

 

A recent survey found that an impromptu gift of flowers from the man in your life could lead to accusations of cheating.  This, you understand, is not something of which I have personal experience as, in common with many other men, my husband doesn’t ‘do’ flowers. ‘Why,’ he exclaims, wearing the kind of persecuted face Ann Boleyn wore on her way to the block, ‘do you need flowers to know I love you? Besides, the last time I gave you flowers you mocked and scorned me. And five years on, you’re still nagging.’ Huh! I deny none of it. Let the crime fit the traducing, is what I say and pink, plastic and nasty ratchets up the punishment factor.  Even worse, if the pink, plastic and nasty offering comes in a nasty, brown plastic hanging-basket guaranteed to be still going strong when only cockroaches hold sway.  Listen up, men; this is for your own good. There is a strict hierarchy in the world of flower-giving, one you would do well to learn quickly if you are not to revert to walking on all fours.

Real  = good (kisses follow and happy-clappy sounds)

Fake  = skirting close to the wind. (danger of low flying kitchen knives, divorce, maybe violent death)

Red roses from Interflora  = (kisses and hugs, candlelight dinner, nudge nudge, wink, wink and uninterrupted viewing of Sports Channel.)

Bunch of diesel-smelling, dusty blooms from service station – Only ever to be attempted by those wearing full Kevlar body armour, or by Arnie Schwarzenegger’s body double. (Most common complication –  Eats leaves and shoots Carnation petals, thorns and stems from orifices not usually on public display.)

So there you have it, guys, the Dummy’s Guide to saying it with flowers. Just remember to choose your words (and flowers) with care.

Me? I’m just off to buy some shoes, a handbag, a new dress, perfume and, of course, some flowers – all on David’s credit card. Ah, well, he should have gone to Interflora.

Un-winning Ways – he who is first shall be last!

 

The gospel according to our primary schools!

Picture this, two kids, seven years old.  The first, ‘our Wayne’ plumps his plump bottom down in front of the TV or X Box every day, moving only to get himself to the table for his pepperoni-pizza with extra calories. The second, ‘our Alfie’ is outside every moment he can get, training like Shergar, (before Shergar went AWOL), in an effort to get fit for ye olde school sports day.  Said sports day arrives. Three, two, one and they’re off, little legs going like pistons, mums and dads cheering them on  from the sidelines (sticking out a leg accidentally on purpose to trip up the other competitors). As you would expect, our Alfie breasts the tape first with our Wayne bringing up the (or, his substantial) rear, Paddy Last (sorry if the names are getting confusing). And who would dispute that, thus far, all is right with this picture?  To the victor the spoils –  it was ever thus. Not anymore. Because, in these days of namby-pambyness, one apparently cannot have losers, only winners.  Bang, goes our Alfie’s moment of sweet victory, his triumphant trouncing of his tiny adversaries, as his teacher announces ‘we are all winners here’.  Newsflash, Miss Lottie-ol-nonsense,  no we’re not and no amount of misguided political-correctness will make it so. In all walks of life, there are winners and losers and telling our kids otherwise is actually doing them a disservice. What’s to say that our Wayne won’t grow up to be a champion , I don’t know, pie-eater or something. How would he like it, if our Alfie came along and snatched victory from his jaws (having swallowed  but a mere morsel himself). We can’t all excel at everything and that’s okay, a good thing even. Maybe coming in Paddy Last will inspire our Wayne to up his game next time round. Maybe he doesn’t give a monkeys one way or the other. But, let’s not fool the child, last is last, and let’s not taint our Alfie’s achievement by putting it on a par with everyone else.  He has a right to be proud.  So, to all the misguided bleeding-heart types who insist on feeding such drivel to our children, let me pose this question. Do you think at the end of World War II Churchill put his arm around Hitler’s neck and said ‘don’t worry, Heil, we’re all winners here’.   For heaven’s sake, in only a matter of months we will be hosting the Olympic games, where traditionally there are winners and losers. Get over it! The competitors will!  And, next time, the roles might well be reversed.

Keep Young and Beautiful – it’s your duty to be gullible!

Ever whitened your teeth with urine? The Romans did. Ever use lead-based face powder? The Tudors did. Arsenic to make your skin luminous or Belladonna to brighten your eyes – no? Clearly, Edwardian beauties were made of sterner stuff. How about hot wax dropped onto your eyelashes to lengthen them or lemon juice in your pupils to brighten them? Fancy a smaller waist? Simples! Have a couple of ribs removed. When not otherwise engaged in covering up piano legs and shooing underfed kids up chimneys, the Victorians did the lot. Sharper cheekbones anyone? No pain no gain. 1940s film star, Joan Crawford had a couple of back teeth removed.  She never ate steak again, but she looked mighty good in them thar flicks.

Dear, oh, dear! Makes you glad we live in more enlightened times, doesn’t it? No chance of us blinding ourselves with Lash Lure eyelash – in the 1930s they didn’t see it coming. Rat poison hair removal cream, anyone? Guaranteed not only to smooth your legs, but, er, your scalp as well, with maybe a bit of euritis, myalgia, and arthralgi thrown in for good measure. Possibly death! Those1930s gals, again! Terrific sports, what?

And if the foregoing makes you wince, have a look at this little lot. (Caution: read on an empty stomach). Injections of a deadly toxin, Botulism, to dispense with a few wrinkles. Faces and bodies carved up by scalpel-happy surgeons. Fat sucked out.  Silicone pumped in. Noses broken, trout-pout lips and gigantic plastic boobs. Chemical peels and dermabrasion (the skin burned away in one, literally sanded away in the other). Gastric bands (I’ve lost my appetite). Flesh flambéed in ultra violet radiation. Body hair ripped out by the roots or by one of those depilatory instruments of torture (dreamed up by Vlad the Impaler in a particularly imaginative moment).Starvation, for that perfect size 0 figure.

Thank God we live in 2011, eh?

Scrabblerouser – Obnoxious in Defeat!

 

Recently, I have been prompted to take a long deep look into my psyche and the picture that has emerged is not pretty. Far from being the chilled out, mellow, bonhommying creature of my imaginings, it seems that I am, in fact, a fully paid up member of the school of bad losers. Rotten losers! Foul tempered, sulky, ungracious in the extreme, losers! And nowhere does this become more apparent than whilst engaging in that seemingly innocuous game, Scrabble. Unreasonable though it is, the minute those little letter-covered blocks emerge from their wee green sack, my territorial instincts come hurtling to the fore. ‘I am the writer,’ I shriek as if this, in some way, negates everybody else’s ability to spell or even to understand English.  ‘I should have the last word!’ And this, regardless of whether the other participants (armed with Eng. Lit degrees) or even all the King’s horses and all the King’s men beg to differ. ‘Hah! Call that a word,’ I yell, my dudgeon rising to heights unscaled by any other dudgeon in the history of dudgeons. ‘Well, I never heard of it, and it’s no good stabbing your finger, that dictionary is clearly wrong.’  But, of course, the same rules are somewhat more elastic when it comes to my own contributions. The trick is to look both incredulous and aggrieved (should not be attempted if you’ve had Botox). ‘What? You’ve managed to live on this planet for the last hundred years and never heard of zuvixyfug?.   Yes, yes, it’s supercalifragilisticexpialaudacious – (imagine how much that scores on a triple) –  but to hell with the moral high ground, I want to win! I want to conquer (‘q’ and ‘u’ are always a handy combination).  And you know, when you think of it, Scrabble is a good metaphor for society. There are the high scorers and the inventive (me!), the play-it-by the rules mob, (safe, but dull), and the out and out losers.  A quick look at our politicians will demonstrate exactly what I mean.  Spice up a dull moment by putting them into each category. If necessary, you can invent  a new one, e.g., ‘extremely stupid’ or ‘born without a brain’. You can do the same with members of the judiciary, footballers (must look up how much super-injunction scores), actors and celebs, your boss, friends and family. The list is endless.

Scrabble– it sorts the wit from the chavs.  I’m in it to win it!

Shabby Cheek!

I am enjoying a break at the moment, hiding out in a lovely Grade 11 listed cottage in one of the many charming villages scattered round beautiful Somerset.  The weather, if not brilliant, is at least pleasant, with only the odd scattering of rain chucked down by the powers that be as a sop to the farmers and gardeners who are revolting. (If childish humour is your thing, make your own joke here).  In any case, here I am in the lovely rolling countryside of this cider-making county, loafing around and listening to the burr of the local birds, whilst dutifully mapping out the where-to-visit-today itinerary.  On Sunday, it was off to Bristol to see Brunel’s HMS Great Britain and, let me tell you, judging by the size of the tiny bunks, anorexia is clearly not a modern-day phenomenon. In fact, so narrow were they, it would be difficult to lie two dry straws of spaghetti side by side.  So much for the myth of the jolly fat sailor! For any naval history buffs, though, it’s  worth the entrance fee.

The following day saw us spending a pleasant few hours in Bradford on Avon, a pretty Saxon town in Wiltshire. In true tourist fashion we ambled beside the Kennet and Avon canal admiring the picture-perfect narrow boats moored on each side, then popped along to have a look at the enormous 14th century Tithe Barn at Barton Grange Farm.  As tourism is the mainstay of the area, there were a number of craft and souvenir shops close by and, like Pavlov’s dogs, I was soon salivating and champing at the bit, (which was a bit scary for onlookers!), desperate to go charging off into those Aladdin’s caves of  . . .tat!  Well, what else would you call six tin cans (I swear one still had a baked bean at the bottom) fashioned into a clunk-ugly cat? In disbelief, I turned my attention to a small mirror, the frame of which had been ‘distressed’ so badly, the poor thing was clearly distraught.  ‘Shabby chic,’ the shop assistant told me with a ‘what would you know, ignorant peasant’ glare, as I took it over to point out the damage.  Okay, so I may not be a member of MENSA  (I can’t even spell it), but I figure there is something wrong when something that has been wilfully trashed (sorry, distressed) costs three times the price of said object in its ‘un-distressed’ state.  I can’t help but feel the same about clothes that are worn out before ever you’ve worn them, threadbare hemlines (organic  apparently), frayed, ripped and faded jeans that look as though some builder has left not only his bum in them, but half the building site too. And, okay, so I may be a woman d’un age certain, but I’m no fuddy duddy and certainly not averse to being conned.  I have, indeed, been royally conned on several occasions (er . . . a dancing Mickey Mouse with no visible means of support).  Not on this occasion, though. Replacing both tin-can cat and grief-stricken mirror and carefully eschewing the stuffed, ripped, patched-with-old-socks gingham rabbit (with cross-stitched eyes, only thirty quid!) I backed out like a vegetarian at a cannibal convention.

Today, we are off to Avebury to see the megalithic stones (more Hubby’s thing than mine – one megalithic stone is much the same as another). If there’s a souvenir shop lurking (with intent to con) in the vicinity, I promise I will just walk on by.  Shabby chic? My foot! Shabby cheek!

First, though, I need to pack away the pink raffia heart-shaped cushion with the cutesy sayings stamped all over it I bought the day before. It will look just stunning in the living room, next to the tartan coal scuttle and the bulrush poker.