Secrets and Lies


If you ever want to send me into the stratosphere, then lie to me or keep a secret from me.   And when I say a lie, I don’t mean “no, no of course the dog didn’t lick that sandwich”  I mean an enormous whopper.  Or and entire tissue of whoppers, which inevitably follows a whopper.  When I say secret, I don’t mean a good secret.  But what we call in our house, a bad secret.  A good secret is a secret that you can tell absolutely everyone in the entire world, but the person for whom the secret is intended (eg a surprise birthday party).  A bad secret is a secret that you are told to keep between yourself and the person who told you to keep it.  That is a bad secret and is the sort of secret you should immediately tell to someone else you trust to help you decide what is the best thing to do about it.

This year I have been lied to a few times in the whopper sense.  The first example was blatant. They haven’t even tried to cover it up.  The person concerned lied to me about when something was going to happen, when at the time that they gave the details, they already knew that it was not.  They would probably consider this lie to be nothing serious – they still did what they said that they would, just later than they promised.  The fact that it had quite serious knock on effects, and they were well aware of this, would seem to be of no concern to them given that they did not extend me the courtesy of a response to my telephone calls or my emails.

The second one was my mother. She told me that she had sold a necklace that my father had given to her.  I can’t say that I was particularly thrilled at this news, but they divorced nearly twenty five years ago, and it was given to her so it was not really my call to make.  Besides, the deed had already been done.  However, sensing that I was not dreadfully impressed, when my mother attempted to canvas the opinion of my two sisters on the subject it then transpired that it was not my mother’s necklace, but one that had belonged to her mother, my grandmother.  And not just one necklace that belonged to my grandmother, but all of her jewellery.  My grandparents were not wealthy in monetary terms, so the financial value was negligible.  The sentimental value to me and my sisters was incalculable.  And no, I don’t think she needed the money to eat or keep warm.

Of course, there are always areas of grey.  I read a most interesting ‘open letter’ in The Guardian which is a very good example of a grey area. A woman was expressing deep sadness and it seemed, much confusion as to why her in-laws would visit her brother in law in the area but show no interest whatsoever in her family, which includes their only two grandchildren. She advised that they used to come and have a cup of tea when they were around and then leave after about half an hour.  They declined all offers to babysit or spend more time with their grandchildren, but would stay with the other family for the weekend, help them regularly with their canine babies and not tell them they were there. They arranged visits, weekends, outings with their preferred family and utterly excluded hers.  Of course she knew about all of these because her husband and his brother had contact.  Is that a secret or a lie?  Is something a secret or a lie if you don’t openly say it even though by your actions everyone knows it?  I’d call it both.

Every one is different, but personally, however bad it is, I would prefer the truth.  I don’t mean that nasty group of people who believe in “telling it like it is” when they are just being damned rude and hurtful on a daily basis.  We all need to keep our mouths shut sometimes.  I mean with important stuff.  If Man of the House were to decide that he didn’t love me anymore, I would rather he would come out and say “Natalie, it’s over.  I don’t like your cooking, your foul temper, and if I have to watch you stack the dishwasher one more time, I won’t be responsible for what I may do with the cutlery tray.” I would prefer that the man I mentioned at the start of this piece had said “yes, we said it would be that day but if you were to lock me in a brewery and ask me to organise a party I would not be able to do so, so it’s going to be at least a week later.” My mother: “I sold your Nana’s jewellery.”  And that woman in The Guardian’s in-laws: “We prefer them to you.  Sorry, not sorry.”

No matter how bad or upsetting the reality is, reality can be faced. At least with reality you can stand and look it square in the eye and deal with it.  Lies leave you feeling like you’re in The Matrix. And it makes no difference if that reality is trying to be concealed by the person peddling the lie, it’s still a lie, just an unspoken one.  Of course if said out loud then the person telling the lie or requiring that the bad secret is kept would have to confess to their fault, and perhaps that is what is the real problem.  My Christian friends would quite rightly point out that I need to work on that thing called “forgiveness.”   And I do.  But does forgiveness mean that you should be a push over?  When a project is risked because of a steadfast refusal to communicate anything at all.  When my children are continually overlooked.  And when my only earthly connection to someone I truly, deeply and innocently loved as a child has been sold to a bloke on the market.  Should I whistle and pretend it’s all fine when it’s really not?

I reflect on this every Christmas. Each and every year, I am upset and heartened in equal measure by the selection of people peripheral and closely weaved into my life who both disappoint and surprise me.  I suppose that some people are decent and some are not.  Those who are meant to love you don’t always and you can’t make them.  Love just doesn’t work like that.  Loves comes quietly.  One day, when you’re not looking, not expecting it and in the most unlikely of people and places you will find it, or it will find you.  And by then it’s too late because it’s already happened, probably because like John Lennon said, you were busy making other plans.  And most of us probably never say it to each other because we’re British and that would be far too embarrassing.  Cup of tea anyone?



While You Were Out


gift-1915820_1280Last Christmas, no I didn’t give you my heart (George, we miss you 😦 ) – I had a most entertaining time looking at the ridiculous claims that advertisers were making in order to encourage you to buy their product as a Christmas gift. This year, in spite of receiving an email from a company desperately trying to get me to treat myself with the heading: “Your Face Needs This” (how do they know? Have they actually seen my face? My friends aren’t usually so polite that they wouldn’t have mentioned it), my favourite is still “Make Them Owe You One”. Just a charming sentiment for any time of year, but at Christmas in particular.

This year, I have decided to consider the lot of the delivery driver. I realise that they are under an awful lot of pressure, particularly this time of year. There is a lot in the news about delivery times, zero hours contracts, self-employment as a way out of companies dodging any obligations – not nice. But I do wonder what is in their minds sometimes when they are on the job.

I shop on the internet a lot. Saves me some (but not all) of the hassle of beating my way through throngs of people all trying to find a gift so that their loved ones feel obligated to them for the rest of the year…oh no, wait, so that their loved ones have a lovely present that makes them happy. I very much enjoy browsing from the comfort of my own sofa and with a cup of tea, clicking something into my electronic basket and then someone delivering it to me. What I do not enjoy is then trying to locate the item if I am not in when it was delivered, or delivery was attempted.  Rather than go through a “What Would Jesus Do?”, “What Would Madonna Do?” or “Think Like a Lawyer” process when deciding what the best course of action is for a given situation, on this occasion I have to enter into the strange and troubled mind of “What Would a Delivery Driver Do?”

Last year a parcel wasn’t delivered because I was upstairs. You will be surprised to learn that I am not yet able to apparate and I could not get downstairs fast enough to open the door. The driver had gone. He took a photo of the glass in my front door, which was just a flash on glass, as evidence that he had tried to deliver the parcel. As far as I, or, I would suggest, any Court could tell, it was merely evidence of a window that needed cleaning and not necessarily a window at my house. Being a laid back sort of person, this raised my blood pressure from simmering to nuclear; picture the scene when it transpired that the company he worked for are so deliberately impenetrable to communicate with that I was not able to send them an email or make a telephone call telling them where to stick their evidence of me not being in. I decided to Think Like a Lawyer but with an alarming hint of Daily Mail Reader thrown in.  I emailed the company who instructed them in the first place. The company from whom I ordered the item. I told them what had happened and advised them that I would not be shopping with them again. I never heard from them, so presumably they don’t care about my custom either and I haven’t ever shopped with them again. Yes, I have got to that age. And no, I don’t care.

This year I ordered a large box of stocking fillers. For reasons probably not even known to themselves, the retailer felt that it was imperative that I receive a box of three nail varnishes twenty four hours before the rest of the goods. I suppose you never know when someone might need sparkly nails. I knew that they had been delivered as I had a note. The note, however, was coy about where the box was secreted. I began the search.

I live on the side of quite a large hill and my house has a flat bit of garden at the bottom, a section in the middle that needs mowing on a bungee rope, and a flat bit at the top. I foolishly assumed that the item was on the flat bit at the bottom of the garden and that was where I commenced my hunt. Mais non! I discovered it at the top of the garden under the barbecue. Silly me! It all seems so obvious now. Lots of places to hide it at the bottom of the garden and the barbecue that you can’t see from the road was the place that was chosen. I can only assume that the delivery driver wanted to admire the view. In collecting the box, I slipped and fell on the decking. For those of you who have read my Twinkle Toes blog, on this occasion and in the interests of variety, I fell flat on my back rather than flat on my face. It is one of the few times in my life I have been grateful for a generous posterior.

Having retrieved the nail varnishes from under the barbecue, the anticipation of where the next, larger delivery would be left the next day was just too much for me to stand, so I took the Hound out to work off some nervous energy. I returned again to a coy note. Nope, not under the barbecue this time. It was nowhere to be found. Believe me, I looked.  And this was a big parcel.

During what one of my friends refers to as ‘The Throttling Hour’ – the time between feeding the Childerbeasts and actually getting them into bed, I ate a banana. I went to put the banana skin in the green bin before putting it out for bin day the following morning. Guess what? The parcel had been rammed into the green bin. No one would think to look in there would they? I certainly didn’t. Except for the refuse collectors. They might when they emptied it into the truck.

And it’s not just delivery drivers in Warwickshire. Leicestershire also seems to have an issue. It may be the Midlands, or possibly the entire nation that is affected by this phenomenon. It could even be a First World, worldwide issue. My sister (we shall call her Sister A – she’s the nerd – see Codebreakers blog) lives in a cottage that has a be-shrubbed front garden and then steps directly down to the pavement. She is also a keen internet shopper, particularly at Christmas. My other sister was popping round to collect her hound for her (we shall call her Sister B – she’s the one in the Generation XX blog) as Sister A has a social life and wouldn’t be back until late. Yes, gutting isn’t it? At the bottom of the steps, and on the pavement next to her bin (also to be collected that day) Sister B discovered a parcel that Sister A had ordered. It had been delivered to the highway. Not up the steps, not by the front door, not behind a shrubbery, and not quite as good as in the bin…..but on public land and in full view of the entire world. How Sister B is going to explain away her lovely new Christmas jumper that exactly matches the one that was never delivered to Sister A’s house is anyone’s guess.

Tomorrow I am expecting the delivery of another parcel from the company that BBQ/Green Bin Man works for. It’s a big parcel. I don’t know whether to stay in so he can hand it to me. Or do I set aside the whole afternoon to spend it searching through bins? You are quite correct that this may cause concerned mutterings from my friends and neighbours, but on the other hand, they may also take pity on me and invite me in for a cup of tea and a mince pie.

Happy Shopping!