Archive for November, 2012

So, it has been decided that I am, in fact, a mutant. This, dear reader, is the only possible and logical explanation for my inherent ability to trip over absolutely nothing, break everything within a six mile radius of my grubby paws, perform the most average daily tasks entirely  backwards (and with the most astonishing outcomes) and thereby put the lives of my nearest and dearest in frightful, perilous danger.

The word ‘clutz,’ as defined by the urban dictionary, describes an individual ‘who is extremely careless, stupid and a hazard to be around.’ Never a truer word. However, I have come to the conclusion that this term is a little too glamorous for the likes of me; ‘clumsy oaf,’ it seems, would be far more appropriate.

It would appear that I am entirely incapable of walking from A to B (never mind in a straight line) without falling over my own feet, a chip in the pavement which only a microscope would detect or staggering into the direct path of a lone lamppost. One would presume that clutching for dear life to the arm of another human would steady my gait; apparently not, it just seems to push these poor, kindly Samaritans into the path of oncoming danger. The scars on my poor kneecaps and numerous other body parts are proof of my sheer ineptitude. You would have thought these war wounds would at least teach me to be a tad more careful; not a bit of it.

This preposterous incompetence does not stop here dear reader, oh no. It is I who you may have seen wandering around the cheese aisle of a supermarket still wearing their carpet slippers and muttering incoherently to no one in particular. I have an uncanny knack for wandering out of my abode in some frightful get-up, having forgotten who I am, where it is I am going and what would be suitable attire for my destination. I also seem to lose everything; things that would be seemingly unfeasible to lose in impossible circumstances to a normal human being. On one occasion I bought a cucumber (as one does when the sudden and peculiar craving for ‘salad’ hits.) I paid for this vegetable, I placed this vegetable in a carrier bag, I even managed to transport this vegetable safely through the front door of my home whereupon I suddenly, and without warning, lost this vegetable in its entirety. I searched high and low, in a variety of spots and corners, where such vegetables may hide, and yet this cucumber, my dear sweet cucumber had disappeared from my life entirely. I never found it. In fact, its whereabouts are still a mystery. How, dear reader, is this even possible?

I’m sure I am not alone in putting my keys in the bathroom cupboard and discovering the remote control in the fridge, but it would appear my other comrades in this war against inanimate objects all have children and are therefore vindicated by the sheer desperation which some parents find themselves in. I, however, have no such excuse. It is probably a wise move that I have not procreated as I would no doubt misplace my poor off-spring and discover them at a later date in the laundry basket.

At least once an hour I will drop and therefore smash a fragile item, burn a part of my person on something which common sense tells one is blistering hot, slam a limb or piece of clothing betwixt door and doorframe, accidentally force the heel of my shoe into a teeny-tiny drain hole (which no man, woman or beast has ever previously encountered) until I can do nothing but cry for help from passing strangers. It is positively tedious.

Fine dining is a strictly prohibited as, despite my excellent table manners and best efforts, the majority of my feast will end up down my front, smeared across my face, thrown up the walls and over the brave person who is sitting opposite me. Other diners on separate tables and waiters within spitting distance also won’t remain unscathed. Should I manage to make it home with at least some dignity intact, I will of course then lose the remainder of it when trying to a) find my keys (a task which normally results in the total contents of my handbag being thrown across my front steps and my entire person thereafter falling directly into it) and b) on finding my colossal key-ring, slip the correct key into the lock (a mission which continues to bamboozle my brain regardless of whether I am tiddley on gin or just tea.)

All forms of technology are rigorously verboten for the simple reason that they will constantly break if placed in my vicinity. I can predict with inconceivable accuracy, the response from those poor whizz kids on the end of telephone helplines (some of whom I have now made great friends with) when attempting to repair my computer, coffee machine, phone etc for the hundredth time that hour which is, and always will be, ‘Well, we’ve never seen this before!’ I could scream, I really could. I should, I have therefore decided, be employed by Apple as their Technology Tester (such a position must exist.) The world, as a whole, would never have techno problems again.   

Sadly, I have yet to encounter another human being who is as cursed as I. No other person (as far as I am aware) has ever managed to padlock themselves, their clothing, their gym bag and indeed their bike to a pipe in one fell swoop or attempt to plug their phone charger into a brazil nut one afternoon. These ridiculous complications and continual dramas only seem to occur to me. I also seem to attract the nutters, the lunatics, the weird, the peculiar and the bizarre. Should you observe a dribbling, twitching madman stumbling along hurling abuse at himself, you can be sure he’s on his way to talk to me. If there are vacant seats aplenty on the bus, you could bet your life savings that the only village loony in a ten mile radius will hone in directly on the adjacent seat to me, plonk himself down and prepare to blast me with stories about his dog named ‘Sir Lancelot of Sheem’ and how he likes to draw nudes in his spare time. True story.

However hard I try, I can not prevent this maladroitness. Should I endeavour to perform my morning rituals with the utmost quiet in order not to wake my sleeping housemates, this will of course be the morning that I clatter the loudest, dropping tea-making instruments which have suddenly acquired the booming reverberation of a full orchestra and swooping the heavy metal grate atop the hob into the sleeve of my dressing gown. I often wonder whether I should offer myself to the local community as free entertainment. One wouldn’t need to wait until the circus came to town, one could receive the equivalent amusement on simply witnessing my daily struggle for survival.

According to the Harvard Gazette, scientists have discovered a gene associated with severe clumsiness. Mutations of this gene cause ‘Joubert Syndrome’ and therefore brain malfunction. I have consequently offered myself as a test subject to Harvard University in the hope that this blundering genetic factor is hiding some tremendous, and as yet unidentified,  mutation within my stringy DNA which perhaps allows me to be an expert Mongolian throat singer or specialist Batman-figurine carver. One can but hope.

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Winter is upon us, tis true. The sun has long since departed and is now a cold, distant memory but do not loose faith dear reader, do not resign yourself to a miserable spell of annual, wet doom,  there are oodles of joys to be had this season. Bar the inevitable Christmas rush and pandemonium which will no doubt infuriate, agitate and cause hair-pulling despair among many (seriously, WHAT is one supposed to buy a man) there are simpler pleasures which provide an equally, if not superior satisfaction and make one realise that life need not be filled with the constant hustle, bustle, parties, purchasing and general ‘doing’ as a means of enjoyment.

Sadly, as soon as the darkness begins to descend at the beastly hour of 3:30pm or one returns home soaked to the skin with soggy tootsies and bedraggled hair, we begin to wallow in self-pity and misery, counting the months until sunshine will return to our lives. Yet despite the inevitable layers of hats, scarves, coats, gloves, ear-muffs, woolly tights and fluffy socks which take fours hours to put on and six to take off, this is the most appropriate season for doing absolutely bloody-all and this, dear friends, is what winter is all about. Do not be afraid, I shall explain.

We are constantly taught that idleness is a sin, boredom is a curse and since life is so precious, we must fill our diaries with a constant flurry of activity until there isn’t even an available pause for breath. Why is this? Why are we persistently forced to stuff our lives full to the brim and perform everything at a hundred miles an hour? Yes, we are here only for an indefinite amount of time, yes we should live each day as if it is our last but why must this involve the pursuit of hair-raising, adrenaline pumping activity or endless, mind-numbing parties? Happiness, I am sure of it, may be found without hurling oneself from a cliff whilst attached to an elastic band or launching ourselves from an aeroplane mid-flight in the vain hope that a bit of silk will bring us safely back to earth or spending one’s pay cheque drinking copious amounts of booze in a club with dreadful music, trying to converse with people you never liked anyway? Call me a ‘coward,’ call me ‘old-fashioned’ and ‘boring’ but please continue to read!

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Whatever happened to the pure, unadulterated pleasure of just ‘being,’ of taking solace in a simple delight? This, after all, is the season when one may don a pair of wellington boots for any and every occasion (I must admit, they do look perfectly super peeping out from beneath a posh frock, really.) When did you last stomp and splash through a puddle or kick a pile of muddy leaves? As a child, I remember this providing hours of fun (especially when said leaves where aimed at my long-suffering sister) yet as soon as one reaches adulthood, it seems we are no longer allowed to wallow in such stupendous simplicity. When did you last allow yourself a moment to fall under the spell of dancing flames in a roaring fire? Or inhale its sweet scent and feel a wonderful contentment which only that odour can provide? There is no amount of riches which can deliver the feeling of sheer, exhausted pleasure that results from a fit of laughter or the all-consuming ache which accompanies the first flurry of love when one is wholly and completely lost in another, when time stands still and the outside world ceases to exist.  Where has the weight of these moments gone?

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The Buddhist way of life (stay with me, stay with me) a concept so far beyond the current religious fanaticism which currently graces our news bulletins, relies heavily on the idea of being ‘awake’ in the moment of ‘now’ – something which so many of us forget or do not wish to ponder. It may seem very airy-fairy or hippy-ish to some but it is such a simple notion which, if more of us embraced, would perhaps make for greater happiness and therefore contentment with life in general. Agreed, we may all dream of winning the lottery and therefore having the opportunity (and money) to disappear to sunnier climates where ‘happiness’ bursts from the pages of travel brochures and therefore seems to be a promise. But what if we could find happiness at home, with what we already have? Pleasure and joy may be found in the cheapest and simplest of things; a good, sultry jazz tune or the sumptuous feast of a block of stinky cheese, a bottle of plonk and an old movie. Perhaps all of the above simultaneously? These things may not be to your personal taste (but you get my drift) yet may offer one a few hours of effortless ‘extravagance,’ whilst provoking and exciting every basic human sense on the cheap. Once savoured, experienced and prolonged, these things can provide an exquisite setting for a moment of just ‘being.’

This is the season of guilt-free hibernation, of locking oneself away with friends, loved ones or none of the above and doing the things which sunshine does not accept; watching old movies and eating bowls of sticky popcorn, reading a book whilst huddled under a tatty blanket, whacking the heating up to full blast and just listening to the rain pattering on the windows or dunking copious amounts of biscuits into numerous mugs of tea until the bottom of the cup is just a mass of lumpy sludge. These simple things can hold such unfussy pleasure yet are seen as something which only the elderly and infirm do. Tis not true, dear reader, tis not true.

Whatever guilty pleasure or seemingly ‘boring’ activity that brings you a moment’s true contentment or a second of absolute peace, hold fast to it and never let another make it, or indeed you, feel inadequate or dull. Life is short, that is unavoidable, but there is nothing wrong with enjoying a simple pleasure or the idea of being happily lost in absolutely nothing. ‘Doing’ is not compulsory; we are creatures of comfort, ‘tis the season to jolly well embrace it.

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I bloody hate commuting. I loathe it with every fibre of my generally quite happy being (that said, I doubt there is a single soul in this world who looks forward to it with gleeful anticipation) and the enormous distaste I now have for fellow commuters seems to grow with every passing minute. I don’t doubt that these creatures are wonderful, loving, kind people in their day to day lives (not all, but most) yet once they step foot on some mode of public transport they morph into foul, detestable and thoroughly selfish beings who would stamp on their own grandmother to ensure a seat for their morning travel. Gone is a thought for one’s fellow man, gone is the notion of kindness and it appears that chivalry is well and truly dead, gone, dusted and buried under the floorboards. It pains me deeply and I have therefore come up with a selection of tips (a guide to commuting etiquette, if you will) which should henceforth be set in stone and drummed into our youth from birth to ensure a more enjoyable commute for our future generations. They are as follows;

1. Platform Protocol

Whether you trot to the end of the platform or have picked a sly spot along its length, remain in this position and do not move. However, past observations predict that when the train eventually pulls in (I say ‘eventually’ because it’s a phrase fellow Londoners will be well versed with) the general consensus appears to be that all human beings suddenly scuttle, in penguin fashion, towards the approaching door and huddle around it, pressing their noses against the glass as though they were gearing up to peck it open. What then seems to confuse these imbeciles is the idea that passengers already on the train may want to disembark (heaven forbid.) Thereafter begins the push and shove of those stepping from the carriage and those attempting to climb on simultaneously. For the love of God, it is not rocket science; allow a small gap for those stepping off, WAIT until they have done so and then embark in an orderly fashion. This notion of patience is really quite alien to some.

2. Sardine Stuffing

Believe it or not, some trains and tubes reach capacity. When such locomotives pull into a station, one can observe abundant commuters already squeezed in to the gills. The likelihood, therefore, of pressing another 100 people into each stuffed carriage is rather slim; it’s pure maths. However, theres always one isn’t there, who seems utterly intent on forcing himself in, ramming every other passenger with his body weight and thereby causing a domino ripple of shoving and squashing. He then bursts forth with an indignant whine; ‘Can you move down please?!’ No dear chap, we cant ‘move down,’ you can already see that my face is pressed into a stinking armpit whilst somebody’s umbrella is in the process of violating a rather sensitive area of my person, now bugger awf. If you are the culprit of this enormous display of stupidity; either stop it at once and remove yourself from the carriage or one of these days those doors are going to slam shut and your ludicrous little bonce will plop to the platform whilst the rest of  your annoying person continues its journey.

3. Newspaper Bastards.

Once stuffed into a moving train with all areas of personal space invaded, there’s always one idiot who decides to flap open his broadsheet above the heads of us smaller persons and read it at arms length. I can tell you now, this is simply not cricket. Not only does the folding and rustling of the sheets disturb my morning quiet, but the limp pages curl at their edges and poke themselves directly into my eyeballs. It may astonish you to know this but I have no interest in reading the FT at such a close range that the print begins to rub off on my nose. In fact, I have no interest in reading it at all. Put it away Sir.

4. Huffers

Now you may not realise it, dear commuter, but we are all in this together. Your journey is no more distressing than mine. Your mood however, is very uncalled for. Yes, I may have clobbered you with my over-sized handbag but you just stomped on my delicate tootises with your whopping great boot; I think that means we are now quits. Do not, therefore, glare daggers of death in my direction nor huff and puff in attempt to blow my house down. If nothing else, your morning breath is quite repulsive.

 5. Chivalry is dead.

It seems that humanity has now sunk to new lows. In times of old, gentlemen would give up their seats for a lady, now they don’t even offer them to pregnant mothers or the elderly. Oh no, they waddle their enormous backsides into a seat and loll there with their rotund guts bursting from their Dunhill suits whilst guffawing loudly into expensive phones paying no attention to a standing commuter who may require the resting of their weary limbs. There are the few however, who remain high in my estimation and who continue to uphold the nicety of offering their seat. One may or may not accept but at least offer them a grateful smile and a note of thanks. For those despicable heathens who do not make such an offer to those in need should be whipped, publicly, with a  chair leg.

There have been numerous occasions whereupon I have struggled up the stairs at Clapham Junction station with an colossal suitcase and absolutely no one has bothered to help. They simply scowl at my weary struggle as they stomp past as though I have placed myself in their vicinity simply to annoy them. Here’s a tip for you, you ghastly people, if you bothered to lift a finger and assist, we would all get to the top a bit quicker.

 6. The Stompers

When a person should have the misfortune of tumbling to the floor, tripping over, dropping an item or falling ill, do not ( I repeat, do not) step on them, climb over them, ignore them or beat them to the floor with the hard end of your briefcase. Instead (and here’s a novel idea) help them. It would take but a moment of your exceedingly busy time and not only would you feel rather super in the knowledge that you have ticked your ‘good deed’ from today’s calendar but your kindness will remain with that person forevermore. This nice sort of thing makes the world a slightly better place.

 7.  What’s the bloody rush?

It astounds me how the general public are in SUCH a rush. A rush to get to the train, a rush to get on the train, a rush to find a seat and thereafter a rush to get off the train. Some, it seems, would elbow a small child onto the tracks in order to speed the process up. It’s always ‘me first, me first,’ as though each person were more important than the other. Your place of employment is not about to disappear in a gust of wind should you arrive a few minutes late. If it is, perhaps you should think about changing jobs; that sort of pressure sounds awfully bad for one’s ticker.

8. Turning the corners upwards.

Now this final point will seem completely outlandish to some. I can guarantee that it does make a difference to people, it lightens the mood somewhat and may make another persons day. It also makes the dreaded commute a little less abysmal. It’s this; (I do hope you’re sitting down) raise the corners of your mouth upward towards your eyebrows (you may even want to bare some teeth; whatever comes naturally) and direct your face at another human being. It may feel uncomfortable at first but the more you perform this movement, the easier it becomes. In some circles it’s called a ‘smile.’ Try it, it’s magic.