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Stick It Out

As I am sure many of you are aware there is a certain level of sweariness that is acceptable in an office.  Due to this, many years ago, a colleague and I came up with a few choice phrases that we could deploy in the office that would be deemed acceptable.  So, for example, instead of dropping the c-bomb and being frogmarched into the Senior Partner’s office for a stern word about conduct, we used the word “catflap”. True, the Senior Partner may have wanted a chat about mental stability. Maybe he just thought we were crazy cat ladies and best left well alone.  Whatever his reasons, I have been collecting euphemisms ever since.

Before this all kicked off (you’ll remember when you could go out for something as mundane as shopping without fear of transmitting a disease that could be deadly to a vulnerable person) Diminutive Friend was in her car and exiting a shopping park with her teenage daughter. Someone cut her up in terrifying style, causing an outburst of foul language not seen since King Alfred realised he’d left the oven on.  Her daughter, like every other child on Earth, has the ears of the cloth when her mother is asking her to do something useful.  However, like every other child on Earth, when she is saying something that she would rather she did not hear, said child has the ears of a bat.  Immediately she pounced: “What did you say Mummy?” Slightly flustered and thinking how she was going to get out of this one Diminutive Friend quietly cringed “…er…..chicken sucker…???” as a hopeful note crept into her voice that she had got away with it. Dear Reader, she did not get away with it.  She is now reminded of it at every possible opportunity.  But I have collected another euphemism. 

My final offering has arisen from the word “doppleganger”.  This word has caused some confusion in my family of late.  The person concerned, who had absolutely no reason to know any different from learning a new word, thought that the word for a doppleganger was “double dicker”.  A gift for someone who can’t stop swearing and needs to find ways not to.

Over the past few years I have come to the conclusion that the world is populated by two types of people: those of the human race who are catflaps, chicken-suckers and double-dickers and those who are not.

Let us consider some of the evidence. On the side of the chicken-suckers, a few selected highlights and in no particular order:

  1. Fishermen being abandoned to their fate when a big show has been made by those who were very keen to put the country in the position it is now in, of the importance of our fishing industry.
  2. People who go to the trouble of bagging their dog’s poo up and then throw it in the hedge.
  3. £22 billion taxpayer pounds spent on a Test and Trace System that has never worked.  For comparison purposes, the Mars Rover cost US$2.5 billion. 
  4. I won’t start on the other contracts to mates or I might start ranting.  Follow The Good Law Project and you can rant too.
  5. People who wear their mask under their nose or refuse to wear one at all blathering on about their human rights.  They really need to go and study human rights.
  6. MPs who vote against a pay rise for NHS staff. See point 3 above.
  7. People who have mixed during a pandemic when they have been specifically told not to.  I have heard of people still having their hair done weekly, friends and family visiting their houses in number, sending their children to school when they are awaiting a Covid test result because it’s hard looking after a child when you feel poorly – no shit – (they tested positive)…..
  8. Those who have had their first jab now announcing that they can visit you, whilst neatly ignoring the fact as of time of writing, that seventy three point seven per cent of us have not.  Oh, and it remains illegal to do so.  Well, as long as you’re mostly all right.  Azincourt salute to the rest of us is it?  See point 7 above.
  9. People who are not disabled, parking in spaces for disabled people.
  10. People who park in parent and child spaces when they have no child with them.
  11. Teacher-bashers.
  12. Loo-roll brawlers.

That’s just a few.  I’m sure you have many of your own.

And for balance, on the side of the non double-dickers:

  1. Those not approving of anyone being abandoned to their fate by their elected representatives regardless of their views differing from their own. 
  2. People who donate to their local food banks.
  3. In spite of it never having worked, people who used the Track and Trace system to try to do the right thing.
  4. People who would rather that contracts being paid for with taxpayers’ money were awarded through a transparent system to companies with a proven record and that there are mechanisms in place to ensure compliance with that transparent system. So we know what our money is being spent on.
  5. People who do not need to study human rights to understand that wearing a mask may (even though they will never know it or be able to see it) help save the life of one person, and that’s good enough for them.
  6. MPs who think NHS staff should have a pay rise.
  7. People who have stayed at home, often at great personal cost in terms of their mental and/or physical health because they know in their heart of hearts that it is the right thing to do.
  8. Scientists who developed the vaccine. Badasses.
  9. The NHS who are administering the vaccine.
  10. People who have been collecting prescriptions, shopping etc for people in their locality throughout the pandemic. 
  11. Teachers who have gone into work teaching children both in classes at school and online when on many, many occasions, it has appeared as if the government have been actively working against them. And if not working against them, then giving all the signs of being bloody ungrateful. 
  12. People who have decided that they will not be fighting for toilet roll.  They will not be sweeping tins off supermarket shelves and into their trolley.  They will not take so much fresh food that it is not humanly possible to eat it all before it rots.  They will not. Because that’s not what decent people do to each other.

Again, I am sure that you have many of your own examples that could be added to this list.

Is your politics basically that if there is one parking space left at the supermarket, you would like to have it but you draw the line at the disabled spaces? Would you quite like to know where all of our money, that we have earned and handed to the government to spend, has gone? Have you spent the last nearly twelve months trying to do your best to follow the rules in spite of it making you want to weep because you just want to hug the people you love? On the few occasions you have been out have you resisted all urges to go up to someone and shout “over your nose, you chicken sucker, that big lump in the middle of your face? That’s your nose!”  Yes?  That’s you? Excellent.  I think we can work together.  And we’ re going to need to because we’re not out of the woods yet, and in spite of them being blissfully unaware, neither are the catflaps. As we move towards Spring, and hopefully the light at the end of the tunnel, thank you for all you have endured.  For me.  For my family.  And the double dickers who would not afford you the same, let alone thank you for it. We are nearly there.  We must be nearly there.  And whilst I’m sure it is going to be bumpy for a while yet, there are many lives lost that shouldn’t have been and injustices that will need to be fought that shouldn’t be. But we can only do that if we have a care for eachother. As I said to a friend who has been told to shield again and was most displeased about it – I’ll stick the homestretch out for you, if you stick the homestretch out for me.

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The Way We Are

2021 has started off as 2020 meant to go on hasn’t it? I thought that I should keep my expectations low and then it might end up surprising me. And it already has. But not in a good way. Death rates in this country due to Covid 19 are currently higher than in April and not looking to abate. If only the government had had some sort of warning from the scientists. Oh wait, they did.

I then watched in wide-eyed horror at the events in Washington DC yesterday; gun-toting, mainly white nationalists breaking into the Capitol. Apparently the last time the Capitol was stormed was when the British were miffed about the Americans throwing some tea into the water in Boston nearly three hundred years ago.  As I write I believe that four people and a police officer are dead.  It is a dreadful state of affairs when one is saying that they are glad that it wasn’t considerably worse.  I also had to shake myself when watching to remember that we are also in a pandemic. So whilst the building was stormed and people were taking selfies, no one was wearing masks, no one was social-distancing – it was all one big jolly.  The illness and deaths that will follow from that one act are incalculable.  But follow they will.

As I saw the footage that we’ve all seen of that man who had his face painted, wearing horned hearwear, some sort of bearskin and not a lot else, shout furiously, I decided that perhaps I should turn the television off. I picked up my book, Ian Dunt’s ‘How To Be A Liberal’ ( sounds bland, but is anything but and I recommend for anyone interested in political history).  Hoping that it might provide me with some respite from the reality of living through a pandemic where large sections of the world seemed to have lost their mind, unfortunately I happened to be on the section about Hitler’s rise to power and Stalinist Russia.  Reading that one could be forgiven for concluding that homo sapiens is quite a bit of a shit.

I have wondered for some time what some people throughout history are so angry about.  The Persecution of the Jews, Stalin against his own people.  Further down the sliding scale I admit, but still on the scale Hardcore Brexiters ranting about immigrants and fish, anti-vaxxers screeching about their human rights being violated, Trump-supporting Republicans slavishly believing every deceitful word. 

I am in the section in Ian Dunt’s book where he is talking about belonging and what a powerful pull it is.  A lot of people, furious and red-faced when we see them on the news, don’t feel like they are listened to or that they belong. So when President Fart tells them that he loves them, they genuinely believe him because they feel heard and they want to be loved.  When Boris Johnson talks about putting an arm around people, rather than their skin making a dash for the door, some people actually find that comforting. Yes, I know.  But they do. In spite of their actions demonstrating only their self-interest is at heart, the words themselves matter to people, even if they are demonstrable lies.  It’s what they want to hear.  Through a desperate desire to be heard and to belong, people believe the words.  They just want to be loved. Which means that they don’t feel loved.  That is rather sad.

Now you will tell from my tone that I am not a fan of President Fart and his British Clone. So why do I loathe them when others love them? When the PM talked about the virus being over by Christmas, as (and I am being charitable here) he continually over-promises and consistently underdelivers, I decided to entirely ignore him and listen to the scientists. When President Fart looked at the fact of thousands of his people dying, presumably landing in reports on his desk each and every day and still refused to wear a mask, I wondered if he had seen someone be ill or die from Covid.  I concluded, probably not anyone he cares about. 

All evidence over the last few years would point to a large section of people not caring about something ,or enough about something, unless it directly affects them. Not because they don’t want to, but people have busy and stressful lives and unless they see it, or feel it, they don’t believe it and have little time to accommodate it.  Rather like in Jaws when Richard Dreyfus’s character tells the Mayor that he thought he was prepared to ignore the problem of the shark snacking on holidaymakers until it swam up and bit him on the ass. So people hear a death toll of over a thousand people a day, and they know it to be true, but they don’t honestly believe it until it affects them or someone they love. Because that’s what makes it real.  It is not intended as a criticism, it is just the way we are. And that is the power of a deranged but powerful man telling rioters that he loves them.  Or the rank hypocrisy of a man who claps the NHS once a week which makes the front pages but won’t put our money where his mouth is and give them a payrise.  Their supporters feel like they belong to something or someone more important than themselves. To someone who cares for them and has their best interests at heart because they say that they do, even if all of the available evidence shows entirely the opposite.  Thousands of people are dying on their watch.  Thousands.  The numbers are real.  The people are real. Each and every one of them. And they are the numbers that they can get away with.  Remember that to be counted you have to die within twenty-eight days of a positive test.  If you linger, by day twenty nine you quite literally do not count. Except to the people you belong to, they don’t care about the twenty eight days.

A week last Wednesday was the forty fourth birthday of my childhood friend.  I messaged her to wish her a Happy Birthday, pretty much as we had done for eachother every year for the last thirty five years.  In spite of us drifting through life’s twists and turns, we still belonged to eachother.  She had been taken into hospital on her birthday because she had Covid and needed some oxygen.  I told her that that was a rubbish birthday present, but I was sure that now she was in hospital she would be feeling better soon.  She said her fingers were crossed. I left her alone because who wants to be replying to messages when they’re ill in hospital. Three days later she died. She is one of the 454 people who count as having died from Covid that day because she had the good grace to go within twenty eight days from her positive test. Except to her children, her parents, and to me, one of her many friends. We will mourn her loss each and every day for the rest of our lives. We knew and loved her; she belonged to each and every one of us. And she’s gone.

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The Sock Fairy

Thank goodness that in addition to Father Christmas and his elves taking the cumbersome task of present acquisition, wrapping and delivery off my hands, that I also have my House Fairy Team. This morning they were able to flutter about looking for school cardigans at the last minute because although they had been washed, The Sock Fairy had not put them into Childerbeast Number Two and Three’s drawers.  Tut, tut.

If you don’t have a resident House Fairy Team, I strongly recommend that you get one immediately for 2019. They cost nothing and really make life so much easier for everyone – usually the female in the house in particular (Human in Charge).  As we all know, more often than not, it is still deemed the female’s job to shoulder the majority of these tasks, paid or unpaid employment, full or part time – the statistics are widely and publicly available if you’d like to argue the toss with me.  I think you can mix and match your requirements, but if I run through the main team for you.

  1. The Monitor Fairy.  No, not like the lizard.  S/he (for no one has ever seen a House Fairy) is essentially in charge.  Not a very glamorous title, and not a very glamorous job either.   S/he has a number of tasks, but in summary:
  • Clothing and bedding.  S/he is expected to know not only precisely what items of clothing are in everyone’s wardrobe, but also their whereabouts at any given moment in time, their status in the wash cycle, and crucially, when the owner of that item of clothing is likely to want it to grace their person, but before they have actually communicated that wish which usually only happens at the point of dressing.   This excludes all items belonging to the Human in Charge – they’re fairies, not wizards.
  • Food.  S/he is to take a note of all of the foods that the Humans (and any animals) residing in the House like and dislike.  They are to ensure that there is an endless supply of those foodstuffs into the House in order that no Human in the house (excepting the Human in Charge) is left to the mercy of The Fridge Troll (see below).  It is also vital that there is a number of nutritious and balanced snacks available at any one time.  It is essential that these are available so that the Human In Charge can list them to the other Humans in the house who announce their hunger for the sole purpose of them being listed and subsequently roundly and repeatedly spurned, even if they were a favoured item previously. 
  • Cleanliness.  It is The Monitor Fairy who instructs The Cleaning Fairy to chisel the toothpaste off the bathroom sink and sandblast the kitchen floor.
  • Diaries – social and unsocial.  Every single Human’s movements, social and work-related are to be noted so that there is not a diary clash.  It is also vital to ensure that the points above re clothing and food can be seemlessly dovetailed to encompass the movements of everyone in the house (Human in Charge exclusion applies).  If there is a diary clash then it is to be noted that as a first solution, if the Human in Charge is one of those involved in the diary clash, then whatever they had planned (work, career, wee on own) has to be ditched first so as to cause the least disruption.  If the Human in Charge is not the cause of the diary clash, then simply cloning of self is all that is required to resolve the issue – see Hogwarts.

Also in the House Fairy Team are the following:

  • The Sock Fairy.  As I am sure you all know, The Sock Fairy is the one who creates all odd socks and let widely known, also puts all of the clean underwear away.  So when someone shouts “I’ve got no pants” in an accusatory tone five minutes before you’ve got to leave the house in the morning, you can take comfort in knowing that it isn’t you that they’re blaming for the shoddy service, but the most wayward and undisciplined member of the House Fairy Team. 
  • The Toy Fairy. S/he knows the location of all toys.  And when I say all toys, I mean toys and playthings that have been completely ignored for months, even years, but suddenly and inexplicably become the best thing sliced bread and need to be located.  This is usually when The Tidy Up Fairy is trying to sneak them out of the house to a charity shop.
  • The Tidy Up Fairy.  Not to be confused with the Cleaning Fairy, who actually cleans once s/he can get to the floor after the Tidy Up Fairy has worked their magic.  If you get nothing else get a Tidy Up Fairy.  They spend all day every day picking up toys, pieces of paper, drawings and other bits of general debris and putting them into small piles around the house.  They are so focused on their task that they go into one room with the express intention of helping The Toy Fairy but then get distracted by something that needs tidying up and then wonder why they came into that room in the first place.  They are constantly concerned that this means something more serious is happening to them rather than they have too many things going on.

Being a House Fairy is not an easy task.  There are always baddies working against the House Fairy Team, and the most notable of these are The Fridge Troll and The Toothpaste Terror. 

  • The Fridge Troll.  S/he (for no one has ever seen a Fridge Troll) sneaks into your fridge and eats all of the food.  One minute it is full, then next it is not.  This can cause such distress to one of the Humans that they feel the need to shout, immediately, whilst their head is still in the fridge and they themselves are hanging off the fridge door and leaning into it that “there’s nothing in the fridge.”  Again, this has a tone which suggests that this parlous state of affairs is All. Your. Fault.  Of course it is not, it is The Fridge Troll and their evil works.
  • The Toothpaste Terror.  Rather like Pan’s Shadow, this Creature of Darkness flits into the bathroom and layers toothpaste onto the basin in such a manner that it hardens in seconds and then, just so you know they’ve been, they spit the remainder all over the mirror. This needs particular monitoring just after the basin and mirror has been cleaned as that is the time when the bathroom is at its most vulnerable.

Before taking a team on, please also consider that most days it will look as if the House Fairy Team have been doing absolutely nothing all day.  On occasion you may well wonder why you are convinced that you can hear the tiny, high-pitched sound of fairy snoring at nine o’clock in the evening if so little has been achieved.  Please do remember that they are to all intents and purposes, invisible and their task is quite literally, thankless.  Except one day, just one day, maybe they will hear someone mutter something that will keep their heart warm when their magic starts to fade: “Mummy, sometimes when I can’t get to sleep, I put my nose into the pillow because it smells of you. It makes me feel better and then I can go to sleep.”

Happy New Year. 

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The Philosopher’s Stone

heart shaped red accessory
Photo by Rick Gailer on Pexels.com

 

My what a week so far! Put away the fake tan for the weekend – King Don is allowing us to bask in his orange glow from today; yesterday my British friend who works in Croatia was put in the most compromising diplomatic position since the PM had an involuntary Spring Clean of her Cabinet on Monday; and that particular Spring Clean,  I suspect caused more excitement in the Strictly recruitment team than when someone said “why don’t we put Ann in a harness, attach her to a wire and propel her onto the stage?”

Whilst the people who are supposed to be governing us are more interested in power than governing, some proper people who live in the real world have been doing some actual work. The young boys and their coach trapped in a cave have been saved by a team of people the majority of whose names will probably never be known to us, except that of the man who sacrificed his life; Saman Gunan. The English men’s football team and their manager have excelled themselves in both skill and spirit, to the nation’s pride and delight. And my eldest Childerbeast, in preparing for their last week of Primary School and born to a mother who would rather hide under a duvet than even draw a raffle in public, was in the school play; they were pirates.

If you’re a parent you’ll know the drill : the audience filed into the hall and sat, sweating in a confined space on a hot day, just as they have done every year for the past seven years. They admired the programmes made by the children, spotted their own child’s name, spotted the names of their child’s friends and then proceeded to fan themselves with the programme. The Head was legally obliged to tell us that should there be a fire (she’s a one for Cuban cigars in the school veg patch when she thinks no one’s looking) that we were all to run like hell towards the door…..Forty plus children then came onto the stage and burst into song. I love primary school children singing. It’s about the only time in life that people are not self-conscious about themselves or their voices, and they just sing. And it always sounds lovely.

The children had learnt all of the songs and their lines by heart. They all had different costumes, which I can attest, had driven each and every one of their parents’ completely mad in their creation. They enjoyed the fight scenes far too much, particularly the child who had got someone in a fake head lock and was pretending to punch their wriggling captive in the stomach. I think that it tells you everything you need to know about the school that out of everyone encumbered by wooden legs, parrots, beards, scarves, hats, mouse ears (yes, there were mice), whiskers and pieces of eight, that it was their teacher who had the most flamboyant costume of all; thigh high boots, puffball skirt and the most elaborate red hat I may have ever seen – Man of the House said it was worth the donation to school funds alone.

Now you might not consider a school play to be important work compared to the rescue of the young boys in Thailand. I agree. There are degrees of importance and thankfully no one’s life was at risk on Treasure Island last night. But children who may find reading difficult had read the script and learnt all of their lines and all of their songs – all of them. It taught all of the children about words, and music, and tone and timing and about a million other things that they didn’t know they were learning about. And when someone forgot their line, a friend quietly prompted them. Children who find it hard to stand up in front of people, stood up in front of people. Children who don’t find it so hard stood next to those who did and supported them. And finally, red-faced and sweaty, they all gathered for a group photograph to go in their year book.

Not that the last seven years have been plain sailing. There has been a lot of angst. Friendships move and change. Refusal to do homework. General cursing of the homework.  Stropping. Growing. Dear lord above there has been so much growing.  Eating. Never ending amounts of eating. And I am well aware that the door slamming is only going to get worse. But I know that fundamentally, my Childerbeast is at school with good people and there is a security in that which is about to be taken away.

Because this is the end. Probably of childhood, and inevitably of innocence. And I, and the other mothers are closing our eyes and counting to ten. Or twenty. Because it only seems like five minutes since they were babes in arms and the time has gone too quickly. We don’t want to send them into the world just yet…….Ever. We know that the world is governed by people more interested in promoting themselves and their own interests and run on a day to day basis by those doing proper, necessary and often unglamorous (pirate costumes aside) work and it seems that never the twain shall meet. So do we teach our children to beat the first lot or join them? Beat them, I say. Kill them with kindness. A cannon from Treasure Island could be swiftly relocated to the Strictly studios. So when they and their disgraceful self-interested behaviour are finally vanquished, instead of waterboarding which some of them seem inexplicably fond of, we and our kind shall dress them in sequins, stick them into a cannon and in a poof of glitter, fire them onto a dancefloor.