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The collected opinions of an august and aristocratic personage who, despite her body having succumbed to the ravages of time, yet retains the keen intellect, mordant wit and utter want of tact for which she was so universally lauded in her younger days. Being of a generation unequal to the mysterious demands of the computing device, Lady Bracknell relies on the good offices of her Editor for assistance with the technological aspects of her journal.

My Photo
Location: Bracknell Towers

Friday, September 30, 2005

The editor gets a word in

Lady Bracknell's asleep - one too many sherries at lunch, if you ask me. So this gives me - her lowly editor - a rare opportunity to write a new entry myself. (She'll never know: this whole computing lark is a complete mystery to her. Don't believe anything the old bat says to the contrary.)

Anyway, when I'm not being enslaved to her ladyship, I chair the staff disability network of a large public sector employer. I've been doing it a long time, and I've picked up a bit of a reputation somewhere along the way for knowing quite a lot about disability-related stuff. Which is fair enough. If my members have questions, it's part of my job to help them to find the answers. Should theoretically only be about employment-related issues, but I shot myself in the foot years ago on that one by expanding my own role to include sending round interesting or amusing news stories of a much more general disability-related nature.

Quite often, I'll be sitting innocently at my desk, minding my own business (Messrs Marmite and Dude can stop laughing right now), when I get an email query from a network member. And, you know, it's nice when people have faith in you, but some of my members have drawn the completely erroneous conclusion that I know everything.

Let me show you what I mean. Here are a few recent queries:

  • "Can you provide me with detailed information about all aspects of access for visually impaired people to football, cricket and rugby?" (No, but I can introduce you to my good friend, Google.)
  • "I've just got my blue badge and Motability have told me that I don't have to pay toll fees when I drive through Dartford tunnel: how do I go about getting this discount?" (Well, Motability seem to know all about this. Have you thought of asking them? I don't drive and, even if I did, I live in Liverpool.)
  • "How high should a disabled toilet be? I went into a pub at the weekend and, when I saw the toilet, I reckoned it would be too high for a wheelchair user." (How do you expect me to know this? Am I a builder? Anyway, you're not a wheelchair user: so what makes you think you can tell just by looking that a toilet seat is too high? Aren't you the same person who asked me whether DDA II applied to voluntary work and then, 24 hours later, after I'd done the necessary research, remembered to tell me that what you were doing wasn't actually voluntary work at all, it was paid employment?)

And that's just ten days' worth. But here's my favourite of all time. (And, remember: I live in Liverpool. The person who sent this question to me lives in Halifax.)

  • "I can't drive to work any more, so I'll have to get the bus. Assuming I can get a discount because I'm disabled, how much will my bus fare to work be every day?"

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Lady Bracknell is concerned for a stranger

Lady Bracknell's editor, as has been previously alluded to in these pages, is something of an ebay addict. (The editor is currently protesting vociferously at being thus labeled by her employer, but Lady Bracknell is confident her readers will agree that checking ebay for new listings first thing every morning for four years does indeed merit being described as addictive behaviour.)

Very occasionally, when photographing the items they wish to sell, persons fail to notice that said items have reflective surfaces. Although she has not retained the requisite photographic evidence, Lady Bracknell's sleep is still sometimes disturbed by her memories of the naked man who was reflected in his stainless steel kettle. Was this simple carelessness on his part, or was it something more sinister? Could it have been a deliberate ploy to reach a wider audience than he could realistically have expected to attain by merely exposing himself in his local park? Did he, perhaps, not own a mac?

Whilst the person in the picture on the left is, to Lady Bracknell's considerable relief, fully clothed, readers cannot help but have noticed that the poor soul is sadly afflicted with disproportionately large hands.

Assuming from the nature of the product on offer that the photographer is female, must the unfortunate woman not experience very considerable difficulties in purchasing gloves with which to complement her amusing two-piece suits?

Monday, September 26, 2005

Lady Bracknell learns that she is a hypocrip

Regular readers will be aware that the glaziers visited Bracknell Towers on Friday last for the purposes of replacing the broken pane in the withdrawing room window. Despite the assiduous laying down, and taking up, of dust sheets, the carpet remained sprinkled with tiny shards of broken glass.

It being the servants’ weekend off, Lady Bracknell, in contravention of the direct orders given to her by the osteopathic gentleman, decided to wield the vacuum cleaning device in a staunch, if somewhat amateur, manner. She reasoned that the risk to her lower back thus engendered would be of a lesser magnitude than the potential damage to her own – or to her feline companion’s - feet, should either of them tread unwittingly on the splinters of glass.

It was not until some hours later that the protestations of Lady Bracknell’s back and hip against being so abominably ill-used were felt to their fullest extent. As a consequence, Lady Bracknell slept but little, and has therefore struggled to retain her wonted fortitude of spirit.

In correspondence with her great friend, Viscount Biscuit, Lady Bracknell admitted the error of her ways. The Viscount rightly chided her ladyship for treating her impairment in such a cavalier manner. Almost with the same breath, however, he admitted that he has taken similar risks himself, and branded himself a hypocrip.

Having given the matter some thought, Lady Bracknell is forced to the reluctant conclusion that she too is a hypocrip. On very many occasions, she has advised such of her intimate acquaintances who are somewhat frail themselves to take great care; to do everything in their power to avoid exacerbating the effects of their impairments unnecessarily; and to refrain absolutely from returning to their place of employment until such time as they are entirely fit to do so. This advice has always been sincerely meant, and Lady Bracknell believes it to be both sound and sensible. And yet frequently, when it comes to her own person, she flagrantly ignores its precepts.

Furthermore, when Lady Bracknell contrasts the advice given to her by her enfeebled friends with their frankly reckless approach towards their own impairments, she has no option but to recognise that each and every one of them is, to a greater or lesser extent, a dyed-in-the-wool hypocrip.

Readers who are themselves physically frail, and who feel qualified to offer a rational explanation for this universal tendency of their peers towards hypocriptical behaviour, are warmly invited to submit their theories via the “comments” facility.

(“Viscount Biscuit” is, of course, merely a nom de web. The particulars of the gentleman in question’s true identity are, however, entirely safe with Lady Bracknell.)

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Lady Bracknell makes a spectacle of herself. Several times.

Lady Bracknell recently took a long, hard look at the contents of her armoires. Interspersed at regular intervals among her outfits for everyday wear, she discovered garments fashioned from lustrous velvets and silks such as are only suitable for evening wear. It would appear that her ladyship has a weakness for such items, particularly when their price is reduced. However, given that Lady Bracknell has only been fit enough to attend an evening function three times in the last eighteen months, such purchases are clearly a waste of her carefully-husbanded resources.

Lady Bracknell has therefore vowed that she will buy no more of these sumptuous garments until such time as she has either worn all of them at least once, or has experienced such a miraculous improvement in her physical state that she can anticipate regular attendance at balls and parties. As neither of these alternatives is remotely likely, she has decided instead to redirect such spare funds as are in her possession towards increasing her collection of more than ordinarily well-designed spectacles.

To this end, she directed her editor to search diligently on ebay for frames designed and manufactured by the marvellous Monsieur Mikli. (This was not by any means an unkindness, as Lady Bracknell is well aware that her editor derives considerable pleasure from the brinksmanship inherent in bidding in the final seconds of auctions in an attempt to win the desired item for the lowest possible price.)

Three splendid pairs thus acquired at well below their recommended retail price, Lady Bracknell betook herself to Blankstone’s magnificent optical emporium with a request that they be glazed in accordance with her own prescription. (Lady Bracknell is fortunate in that her sight is only minimally impaired, so her lenses are not prohibitively expensive. She is aware that, were Master Marmite, for example, to hanker after multiple pairs of spectacles, the cost of the lenses would render him very severely out of pocket.)

The casual observer might be justified in concluding that three new pairs of spectacles would be more than sufficient. However, those who know her ladyship intimately will be able to confirm that, once she has the bit between her teeth, she cannot easily be reigned in. The charming Mr Blankstone has ordered a further pair of frames for her ladyship in a most attractive shade of pistachio green. All four pairs will be available within the fortnight.

Readers who consider themselves to be amusing would do well to refrain from posting comments mentioning any perceived similarities between Lady Bracknell and Sir Elton John. Such comparisons will be met with the cold disdain which they clearly deserve.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Living within one's means

"Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery."

If there is a more succinct description of the effects of living in debt than the one supplied above by the late Mr Dickens, Lady Bracknell has yet to hear it. From her earliest childhood, Lady Bracknell was trained up by her esteemed parents in the precepts of living within one's means, and she is proud to report that she has never fallen into debt, not even during the period she spent as a bluestocking at one of our fine universities. (This was some decades prior to the introduction of student loans but, even so, her ladyship's refusal to entertain the concept of an overdraft was most unusual among her peers.)

Lady Bracknell therefore deplores the insidious encouragement she receives from the media on a daily basis to live in constant debt. She can, apparently, purchase soft furnishings of a singularly dubious quality and pay nothing for them until 2006. She is particularly encouraged to do this every autumn so that she can be in possession of a new sofa over the Christmas period. Not only would Lady Bracknell defer her purchase of a new sofa until she had saved up enough money to buy one outright, she simply cannot understand why the fact that Christmas is imminent would act as a spur to her to replace the one she has. Sofas do not, in Lady Bracknell's experience, break down. The need to replace one which has perhaps grown somewhat shabby can thus surely never be so immediately pressing as to legitimise buying one 'on tick'. A refrigerator can change in seconds from working perfectly well to having not the slightest capacity to keep food cold. A replacement must be found, and found quickly. Should the purchaser not be in possession of any savings, he or she would be able to justify buying the new one on credit. But sofas do not suddenly lose the capacity to support the human frame.

This example leads neatly on to the point which Lady Bracknell wishes to make, which is that persons of finite means will be better able to live within those means if they can distinguish between the things that they genuinely need, and the things that they merely want to have.

Some years ago, Lady Bracknell attended a training event from which, at this remove, she can remember only two salient points. The first is that, if one does not speak within five minutes of a business meeting beginning, one is unlikely to make any contribution to it at all. One's initial comment to the room does not need to be an erudite one: one needs only to have one's voice heard on a minor point.

The second, and the one which is pertinent to Lady Bracknell's current purpose, was that those attending the training were encouraged to analyse the motivations behind the things which they felt they 'must' do. For example, a lady might say that she 'must' visit her parents at the weekend. But wherein does the compulsion lie? If she thinks about it carefully, the lady in question might rephrase her original statement thus: "I choose to visit my parents this weekend because I know that they are looking forward to seeing me; they will be disappointed if I don't go; and I have no wish to be thought of as someone who breaks social engagements on a whim".

Looked at in this way, very few of the things which we resent because we 'must' do them turn out to be entirely externally imposed on us. Lady Bracknell woud encourage her readers to apply a similar technique when deciding whether they really need something, or whether they simply want it.

Many expenses are unavoidable. We must pay to keep a roof over our heads, and to keep our homes warm and lit. We must keep ourselves fed and we must have running water if we are to live in reasonably sanitary conditions so that we may remain in passable health. In the 21st century, very few of us would consider it possible to survive without a telephone. Those of us who have chronic health conditions requiring treatment which is not available on the NHS need to pay for that treatment. Persons who are in employment need to travel to their place of work. Council tax bills must be paid.

Almost everything else on which we spend our money is something we want, rather than something we genuinely need. We may like to have cameras, mobile telephones, computing devices, DVD players, CD players, books, holidays, fine fragrances, weekends in the country, twenty pairs of shoes, regular visits to the hairdresser, membership of clubs, evenings out, fine wines, and wardrobes full of amusing two-piece suits (with matching gloves and bags). But we do not actually need them.

Readers should note that Lady Bracknell is advocating neither excessive frugality for its own sake, nor a hair-shirted rejection of all those things which add pleasure to one's existence. Her purpose is to assist her readers in avoiding unecessary - and expensive - debt. She recommends that persons whose income is finite sit down with a pencil and paper, and

  1. note down their monthly incomings;
  2. note down their unavoidable outgoings; and
  3. subtract the total at 2 from the total at 1.

The new total thus attained is their 'spending money' for the month. They may spend this on whatever takes their fancy, and they may spend it as quickly as they like, providing that they remember that they can spend it only once, and that, once they have spent it, it is gone. Unless their incomings are so straitened as to be insufficient to meet their unavoidable outgoings, as long as they can distinguish between the things they truly need to spend money on, and the things they merely want to spend money on, they will be able to remain debt-free.

Lady Bracknell doubts that her views on this issue will be greeted with universal approval, but offers no apologies for holding strong opinions on the subject.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Bracknell Towers is reglazed

Readers who have been losing sleep over the threat to the security of Lady Bracknell's treasured possessions occasioned by the hole in her withdrawing room window will be relieved to hear that the glaziers are in the process of replacing it. That they are simultaneously destroying the exterior paintwork which was completed less than a month ago at very considerable expense is unavoidable, but is grieving her ladyship to the core. Their helpful suggestion that she should have had the window replaced before she had the paintwork done was met with a somewhat stony reception. Lady Bracknell may have many sterling qualities, but she is not psychic. She could not have foreseen the stone or airgun pellet which she is informed must have caused the damage. (Clearly, glaziers are persons of a most pedestrian mindset: Lady Bracknell still prefers her theory about a small, but enraged, horse. Possibly one which was able to render itself momentarily invisible.)

Once the central pane has been replaced, the window should once again resemble the photograph on the right.

(Although Lady Bracknell is pleased to note that there is rather more foliage on the trees today than when this picture was taken, and the weather is less gloomy.)

She will need to replace the gelgem flowers when her strength is somewhat restored. Her ladyship is very fond of the gelgem range of products, which provide much joy for an outlay within the means of even the most limited purse, and advises her readers that they can be purchased by UK residents here. The depictions on this site do not do the beauty of the products a full service, so readers wishing to gain a more accurate impression of how gelgems would appear in their own home are advised to check out the US site. They should, however, be aware that there is no mail order facility through this site.

Her ladyship has many tasks which she would wish to be pursuing, but what was initially described to her as a simple case of cutting out the broken panes involves such a cacophony of hammering that she is temporarily quite unable to concentrate on anything more demanding than dictation to her equally-harassed editor.

Given that the security of her beloved china cabinet will be restored momentarily, Lady Bracknell has decided that it is safe to publish a photograph of it. She regrets that the dimensions of the picture are such that her readers may struggle to appreciate the quality of its contents, but assumes that the more eagle-eyed among them will have recognised the Clarice Cliff vegetable tureens and gravy jug on the bottom shelf.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Lady Bracknell is indebted to a gentleman

It will not have gone unnoticed by regular readers that Lady Bracknell's profile has been updated to include a rather handsome portrait of the author.

She is reproducing the portrait again here in a rather larger format so that her readers may reap the full benefit of the sterling work undertaken by a very kind - if somewhat unhinged - gentleman who describes himself as being happily enslaved to the whims of his Siamese cat.

The gentleman has, in correspondence with ler ladyship, intimated that further examples of his skill with graphics are pending. Her ladyship's readers are therefore advised to check back regularly for the publication of more instances of the gentleman in question's admirable and enviable skills.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Bracknell Towers Crumbles

Within the last three quarters of an hour, Lady Bracknell heard a sharp report. She imagines it was the kind of noise which is produced when a gun is fired but, having never actually heard a gun being fired, she cannot be entirely sure. She certainly would not wish to mislead her readers. In any event, it was a noise loud enough to rouse the household.

Scrupulous investigations into the source of the noise have revealed a large hole in the withdrawing room window. The hole is about two inches across, and in the shape of a very small horse's hoof. There is no sign of a missile, and no glass on the rug. What is particularly odd is the fact that the hole looks as if it has been made from the inside. Further investigations have produced no very small but enraged horses, so the cause of the hole is a mystery.

Lady Bracknell will have to contact the local glaziers by telephone tomorrow, and arrange for them to visit on Tuesday, when she will be at home. It is, of course, the largest window in Bracknell Towers, so her ladyship imagines that having it replaced will not be cheap.

Any felons happening upon her ladyship's blog should note that the door to the withdrawing room will be locked tomorrow. (As it always is when Bracknell Towers is empty.) Any such villain anticipating, therefore, that it will be an easy job to shin up a ladder and push the rest of the pane of glass out of place would do well to remember that anything he steals will have to be removed via that same ladder. Lady Bracknell's circular art deco china cabinet is certainly very fine, but she suspects that it would lose virtually all of its resale value should it need to be thrown out of a window.

Should the villain in question be one of the resourceful kind who is also skilled in picking locks, Lady Bracknell would like to stress that she keeps a domestic cat of more than usual ferocity.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Lady Bracknell ponders on the peculiarities of maquillage

During Lady Bracknell's youth, elderly ladies who had drawn eyebrows on their forehead with a pencil were often to be encountered. There was a theory, popular at the time, that excessive plucking of the eyebrows over a long period of time could lead to the refusal of this important facial feature ever to grow back. (Lady Bracknell is unsure of the validity of this theory as, in her own limited experience of depilation from less immediately obvious parts of the body, trying to persuade hair not to grow back is an exercise somewhat akin in futility to King Canute's attempts to convince the incoming waves that they would really much rather not dampen the hem of his royal robes.)

Be that as it may, what always struck her ladyship about such women was their marked inability to remember the proper situation of their long-lost eyebrows, and their consequent permanent expressions of surprise. (Not to mention the fact that an eyebrow drawn in crayon by a hand palsied with age bears so little resemblance to the genuine article as to render the entire exercise completely pointless.) She has been known to muse upon the question of whether this misplacing of the eyebrow was a deliberate - if wholly deluded - attempt to present a more youthful appearance. Although she has never understood in what way surprise might be assumed to correlate with youth.

It being the biological purpose of the eyebrow to protect the eye, given the propensity for excessive cranial perspiration that she has inherited from her esteemed father, Lady Bracknell would very much miss her own eyebrows were they suddenly to disappear and has, in fact, been known to wish for a fuller set than she actually possesses.

Lady Bracknell, if she had considered the matter at all, would have assumed that the practice of replacing the eyebrow with a facsimile in crayon had died out some years ago. Imagine, then, her surprise on seeing the very same phenomenon sported by a young woman on the omnibus yesterday morning. This young woman appeared to be in possession of her own hair, and clearly took some pains over her appearance generally. (As an aside, Lady Bracknell was rather concerned for the continuing integrity of the young woman's right earlobe, given the fact that the cord of her personal music device was very much entangled with one of her elaborate earrings.)

Assuming, then, that the crayoned replacements for eyebrows were a deliberate ploy, only one question remains:


Lady Bracknell is hopeful that her younger readers will be able to provide a satisfactory explanation. Although, as they are young ladies of more than average good sense, she suspects that they may have little interest in modish trends in powder and paint. Nevertheless, she awaits their comments with interest.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Lady Bracknell's editor over-reaches herself

Regular readers may feel that Lady Bracknell has been rather neglecting her blog of late. Although her ladyship's brain teems, as ever, with fascinating subjects with which to beguile and educate her readers, her editor has been much taken up with selfish concerns and has not been so freely available to type Lady Bracknell's pearls of wisdom onto the computing device as is ordinarily the case.

(Lady Bracknell regrets that the late Lord Bracknell's fiduciary imprudence has left her without the necessary resources to fund the employment of a full time editor. She has yet to discover to her satisfaction exactly why she was left in somewhat straitened circumstances, but will continue to examine his lordship's financial records minutely until such time as her natural curiosity on this point has been satisfied.)

And what, one might ask, has been absorbing the editor's every spare hour? The foolish woman is labouring under the delusion that she may be in possession of such skills and aptitudes as would recommend her for a secondment to a more senior position with another employer. To this end, she has spent the last three full days bent over the keyboard of the computing device, writing and re-writing her application. She has smoked far too many cigarettes and used language unbecoming to a lady. She has badgered trusted friends and colleagues into reading and commenting on her various drafts. She has tracked down and printed off her curriculum vitae; her training history; her annual appraisal documents; and every morsel of positive feedback on her professional performance received over the last two years. These have been compared and contrasted with the specifications for the job for which she is applying, and their contents bent to fit the requirements. Were she not so irritated at the loss of her amanuensis, Lady Bracknell could almost be moved to pity by the unwontedly pale complexion, and the ever-darkening shadows under the eyes.

Lady Bracknell knows that her views are old-fashioned. At the risk of appearing hopelessly behind the times, however, she really cannot prevent herself from passing comment on the conflict between the modern insistence on self-promotion in job applications and the natural reticence and self-deprecation of the British character. In Lady Bracknell's youth, applicants relied on testimonials from third parties which bore witness to their deportment, character and professional strengths. Whilst appreciating that this system was manifestly open to all manner of abuse, she cannot help but feel that it was generally less stressful to the individual seeking a new position than the modern alternative.

On another matter entirely, Lady Bracknell is much disappointed to discover that she and Mr Marmite will not be able to meet the Turtle when they visit Nottingham in a few weeks' time. This was a meeting to which she had been looking forward with no small enthusiasm. Nevertheless, she supports the Turtle's ambitions wholeheartedly, and wishes her every success on her chosen path. If she can provide any form of assistance, no matter how small, the Turtle has only to ask.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Bracknell Towers is temporarily re-illuminated

The chauffeur, Dude, having replaced the defunct lightbulbs yesterday with minimal fuss, Bracknell Towers was, for a brief while, so brightly illuminated as to be almost dazzling. Unfortunately, this splendour was short-lived.

Lady Bracknell has therefore devised a Second Rule of Lightbulb Behaviour:

In a light fitting requiring more than one bulb, a second bulb will blow within twenty four hours of its neighbour being replaced. The speed with which the second bulb will blow is in inverse proportion to the length of time the owner of the light fitting will have to wait between visits from her part-time (but tall) chauffeur.

Lady Bracknell's Third Rule of Lightbulb Behaviour may produce less irritation overall, but is, nevertheless, true. It runs as follows:

The inadequate 40 watt candle bulb purchased in desperation by the maid when no 60 watt candle bulbs were to be had - not even for ready money - will glow dimly on interminably, out-lasting its gaudy and illuminating 60 watt brethren by a ratio of at least 1 to 4.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Lady Bracknell's dream

Lady Bracknell is well aware that, to those who do not know her intimately, she gives the impression of being as tough as old boots. This morning, however, she is much distressed as the result of having had a most unpleasant dream.

In her dream, Lady Bracknell had been diagnosed as having a cancerous growth on one of her feet. Her ladyship's osteopath - a professional in whom she has placed much trust for the better part of a decade - had persuaded her to allow him to dispatch her humanely by way of lethal injection so that she might be spared the deterioration into madness which, he told her, would be the inevitable result of the spread of the cancer.

Having bid a formal adieu to her family members, Lady Bracknell set off, firm of purpose, to meet her end. As is ever the way with dreams, her osteopath's office had inexplicably moved from its current location to a room at the top of a flight of stairs in Lady Bracknell's old alma mater. Having spent some time threading through the corridors of her old educational establishment, Lady Bracknell finally arrived at the foot of said staircase only to encounter a senior member of staff from the days when she was in gainful employment. This individual, having recognised the strain which must have been evident in her ladyship's features, insisted on making her a cup of tea and "talking it through".

The upshot of this dialogue was that her ladyship decided that she now chose not to die before her time. The planned meeting with the osteopathic gentleman then ensued. Although he did agree to Lady Bracknell's decision, she could see that he was much angered at having been thwarted in his lethal purpose and she was unsure that he could be trusted to restrain his murderous tendencies during subsequent treatments. At this point, Lady Bracknell is relieved to report, she woke from her slumbers.

Regular readers who have been paying close attention will be aware that Lady Bracknell visits her osteopath this very afternoon. Although, in her heart of hearts, she knows that he will be both amused and sympathetic when she recounts her nightmare to him, and that he is unlikely to wish to kill her if only because she is, if nothing else, an extremely profitable client, she wonders if she should go armed?

So distressed is her ladyship by this dream that it is her current intention to remain awake indefinitely.

Any reader who feels capable of submitting a definitive analysis of Lady Bracknell's dream is invited to do so via the "comments" facility.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Lady Bracknell fulminates about errors in speech

Lady Bracknell has been dipping once again into Mr Pocock's excellent little book on manners, and her attention has been caught by his chapter entitled, "Manners in Speech", and, in particular, that section which deals with errors in speech.

Here is what the good gentleman has to say on the subject:

"One constantly hears little grammatical errors in speech, and mistakes in pronunciation. Here are a few of the words most commonly mispronounced:

- Don't say 'the fith of February' when you mean 'the fifth of February'.

- Perhaps should be pronounced per-haps, not p'raps.

- Mischievous should be pronounced mischevous, not mischeevious.

- Vase should be pronounce varz, not vawz."

This is a subject close to Lady Bracknell's heart. She accepts that local differences in accent do sometimes affect pronunciation. Where this is genuinely the case, persons who have not been brought up to use the rules of RP may risk sounding foolish should they deviate from their native speech patterns. Lady Bracknell is also aware that there are some unfortunate persons whose capacity to speak clearly is in some way impaired. These last are, of course, excused.

She would, however, urge those of her readers who fall into neither of the categories which she has outlined above to nurture an affection towards their mother tongue, and to show it the respect it deserves by devoting some care to reproducing it accurately in speech. To assist her readers in avoiding common pitfalls, Lady Bracknell has prepared an addendum to Mr Pocock's own list of mispronunciations:

- There is an 'x' in 'sixth', and it is not silent. Sixth should be pronounced 'sicksth', not 'sickth'.

- Likewise, the 'x' in 'expect' should not be replaced in pronunciation with an 's'. Thus, 'eckspect', not 'espect'.

- The first two letters in 'suppose' do not magically transpose themselves when spoken so as to be pronounced 'usppose'.

- There are four syllables in 'February', and they are all pronounced.

- The same is true of 'secretary', which should be pronounced 'seck-re-ta-ry', not 'seckertree'.

- The first 's' in 'anaesthetise' and 'anaesthetic' is not silent, regardless of how frequently it is ignored by actors in televisual medical dramas.

- Persons who cannot pronouce all the syllables in 'veterinarian' are advised to use the abbreviation, 'vet'.

- There are two syllables in 'police', both of which are pronounced.

(Lady Bracknell recalls with some trepidation an instance from her childhood when her own mother made this very clear to her. Mispronunciation was not tolerated in that household.)

In recent decades, the habit of taking holidays abroad has educated the British palate into a fondness for a wider variety of foodstuffs than was the case in Lady Bracknell's youth. As a result, purveyors of comestibles now stock a veritable cornucopia of exotic items. This can present problems of pronunciation to those who have no experience of foreign tongues. Here are some errors which Lady Bracknell has overheard whilst shopping for groceries on the maid's day off:

- Espresso is an Italian word which does not contain the letter 'x'. Please refrain from inserting one just because you are unused to words which begin 'es'.

- Ciabatta is also an Italian word, and should be prounced 'chabatta', not 'si-ya-batta'.

- Tortilla is a Spanish word, and should be pronounced 'tort-eey-a', not 'tort-ill-a'.

- Gruyere is a French word, and should be pronounced 'gree-yair', not 'groo-ee-yair'.

Those of her readers who share Lady Bracknell's intolerance for sloppy pronunciation are invited to supplement the list she has provided with their own personal examples via the "comments" facility.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Lady Bracknell ponders on the virtues of modern "entertainment"

Contrary to what her regular readers might expect, Lady Bracknell is not wholly opposed to watching television. And, although she does sometimes despair at the calibre of modern programming, she refuses to fall into the hypocrisy so often demonstrated by members of the demi-monde by asserting that she turns the set on only for "nature documentaries presented by that nice Mr Attenborough".

It might be supposed that Lady Bracknell would make a particular effort to watch programmes concerned with antiques. Although she will freely admit to having an interest in the subject, her ladyship grieves to witness the enthusiastic glee with which the modern family will cast away objets - which were originally chosen with great care and which have been handed down to them by their elderly relatives - in exchange for an ephemeral enjoyment such as a holiday. (Lady Bracknell, having been brought up from her earliest youth to respect the value of the antimacassar and the doily, does not hold with the current trend for minimalist interiors.) Also, she would go so far as to have the butler break open the dry sherry in celebration should the truly frightful Lorne Spicer be forcibly returned to "Collect It" magazine where her semi-literate editorials would trouble a very much smaller audience. This, Lady Bracknell feels, would be fitting punishment for Ms Spicer's insistence on pronouncing "jewellery" as "joolery".

However, Lady Bracknell has now wandered from the point that she was originally intending to make. Which was, that although her viewing tastes are of a nature so catholic as perhaps to surprise some of her regular readers, there is a category of programming so deplorable in its implications that she will watch it no more.

Lady Bracknell refers to those programmes which are designed to belittle those who are featured in them. She will not sully the pages of her blog with their real names, but readers will no doubt recognise them from the list of alternative titles below:

- Your Slovenly Approach to Housekeeping is Disgusting

- Your Personal Hygiene Leaves Much to be Desired

- Your Stoutness of Figure is Morally Reprehensible

- Your Personal Taste in Home Decor is Risible

- Your Choice of Clothing Demonstrates Beyond Doubt That You Are A Foolish Individual


- You are to be Pitied for Looking Older Than Your Chronological Age.

If we derive entertainment from witnessing personal attacks from sniping women - and it is always women - on members of the public who are innocent of any genuine wrongdoing, but who simply fail in some small way to meet the modern "values" imposed upon them by the media, are we any better than the peasants of yester year who were happy to throw rotten vegetables at those of their number who had been put in the stocks? Is this not the modern equivalent of the pleasure engendered in Roman citizens from observing Christians being thrown to the lions? Lady Bracknell's familiarity with the German tongue is not great, but she believes that the word schadenfreude would not be out of place in this context.

Lady Bracknell urges her readers to consciously refrain from watching such programmes. She firmly believes that one's moral integrity is one's greatest asset, and that the potential of such forms of "entertainment" to wreak insidious havoc upon it cannot be over-estimated. The law rightly no longer permits us to mock persons of a different skin colour or religious creed; those who are physically or mentally enfeebled; or those who exhibit a preference for same-gender relationships. That the implementation of such legislation should lead the producers of television programmes to find other innocent targets for subjection to public abuse is, in Lady Bracknell's considered opinion, a sad reflection on the inherent baseness of human nature.

This is not to say that there are no legitimate targets for one's scorn. Persons who exhibit idleness, dishonesty, selfish behaviours, moral misconduct, excessive vulgarity, want of consideration towards others, etc, are richly deserving of criticism. Lady Bracknell's own rule of thumb - and it is one which has served her well - is that behaviours which indicate a lack of moral fibre are deserving of her righteous and vocal indignation. But it is singularly ill-bred to pass comment on personal characteristics which cannot be helped and which are not indicative of any moral weakness.

Lady Bracknell has advised her editor to pay close attention to the "comments" facility, as she anticipates that what she has written here is likely to provoke responses from her readers.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Gloom descends on Bracknell Towers

Lady Bracknell is nothing if not observant, and has long commented on the irritating tendency displayed by the common electric light bulb to function perfectly throughout the long summer evenings, but to shuffle off this mortal coil as soon as the nights begin to draw in. This is called, "Lady Bracknell's First Rule of Lightbulb Behaviour".

This year is proving no exception to the rule. When Lady Bracknell's editor types her employer's words of wisdom on to the computing device in the evenings, she currently does so illuminated only by the pale rays of one 60 watt lightbulb. The room grows so very dim, in fact, that the moths which fly in through Lady Bracknell's ever-open windows abjure the light fitting in favour of the somewhat brighter computer screen.

Lady Bracknell prides herself on her modern approach to life, and is pleased to stand up (albeit that an upright posture can only be achieved with some difficulty and by virtue of her leaning hard for support on her handsome walking stick) and be counted as an Equal Opportunities employer. Her butler is generally faultless in his undertaking of his professional duties. However, his restricted stature, combined with his lumbago and with Lady Bracknell's objection to any member of her household climbing on her priceless antique furniture, foils all his best efforts to change a bulb in a ceiling light fitting.

All is not lost, however. Lady Bracknell's part-time chauffeur will be bringing the motor car round to the front entrance next Tuesday afternoon for the purpose of conveying her to her osteopath. Although far from sprightly himself, the chauffeur does possess the excellent virtue of being tall. Lady Bracknell is confident that, in return for only a minor increase in his financial emolument, he will be easily persuaded to apply himself to the task of restoring light to the currently decidedly dark Bracknell Towers.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Lady Bracknell offers advice on choice of apparel for the less mobile lady

Since her last blog entry, Lady Bracknell has been musing on the conflicts which inevitably arise when a lady with considerable physical frailties and limitations attempts to dress within the accepted mores of society whilst striving to retain a degree of comfort.

Lady Bracknell has herself been forced to forego the wearing of stockings. The rigidity in her hips prevents her from donning them without aid. Also, for reasons she has not yet been able to fathom, none of her servants will submit to assisting her in this task. Not even for ready money. Lady Bracknell is deeply grieved that her failure to wear stockings may lead persons of quality to suspect that her title was bestowed upon her by virtue of her late husband having been in trade. Indeed, her slumbers were disturbed for some time by this very suspicion. But Lady Bracknell's character is one which will not for long be bowed by concerns of what those who do not know her intimately might think of her. She will not confine herself to her withdrawing room in perpetuity in response to a fashion faux pas which is outwith her personal capacities to correct.

Leaving aside Lady Bracknell's servant problem re stockings for the moment, she has wasted many shillings in the past on clothing which, in the event, proved to have been chosen in error in relation to her physical complaints. To prevent similar frustrating purchases amongst her lady readers who are as yet unpractised in the art of dressing to minimise pain, Lady Bracknell offers the following advice.

  • When choosing frocks, ensure that they are fashioned from a modern fabric containing the miracle ingredient of lycra. Should a lady who experiences chronic lower back pain persist in donning a frock fashioned from a more rigid fabric, she should not be surprised if, when bending forwards from a seated posture - as, for example, when she is formally introduced to a clergyman and must, out of good manners, shake his hand - she experiences a sudden bolt of pain so dramatic as to have an almost emetic effect. Similar consideration should be given to blouses and other 'separates' the hemlines of which fall below the lady's hips. These can be worn in safety, but their wearer must remember at all times not to trap the hem beneath her posterior when she seats herself.
  • Lady Bracknell does not believe that it would be a kindness to her social equals to inflict her legs upon them. She therefore favours the ankle length skirt. This should result in no risk when perambulating on level ground. Ladies should take care though, when ascending a staircase, to gather the excess length up by hand temporarily. Failure to observe this principle may lead a lady to trip. An indignity which no lady in her middle years would wish to experience, particularly under the gaze of members of the lower orders. Managing servants is hard enough in these uncertain times without the suspicion that the simpletons are snickering behind their hands at their mistress's clumsiness.

Lady Bracknell appreciates that she is able to provide advice on this subject only in relation to ladies who have pain in their lower backs. Readers whose physical complaints are of a different nature are invited to submit their own advice on the issue of suitable dress via the "comments" facility.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Lady Bracknell speaks her mind about modern dress codes

Although Lady Bracknell's unsound health allows her no option but to take regular rest periods, she sees no reason why her physical infirmities should provide a justification for simultaneous intellectual torpor. She has thus devoted the better part of her afternoon to refamiliarising herself with the contents of one of her most treasured volumes. Entitled, "Brush Up Your Manners", it was penned by a gentleman called Guy Pocock in 1939.

Lady Bracknell feels that her readers would appreciate the opportunity of reading the rules relating to ladies' apparel which Mr Pocock listed, and has therefore enjoined her editor to copy the relevant paragraphs onto the computing device:

"In Town
  1. MORNING. A black coat and skirt, tailored, with a crisp blouse, black gloves, shoes and hand-bag, and small black hat, silk stockings, and everything looking perfectly pressed and brushed.
  2. AFTERNOON. Frock and fur coat and gayer hat, or a two-piece suit of the more amusing kind. But see that your hat, gloves, shoes and hand-bag match.

In the Country

A tweed coat and skirt (we do not call them costumes) with woollen jumper or aertex shirt, and a good plain felt hat - a really good felt which will stand rain; and wear a scarf rather than a fur. Rain-coat and low-heeled shoes - probably brown - and sports stockings to match your tweed if you can."

Although it has been remarked to Lady Bracknell on occasion that some of the views she expresses may appear to be a trifle anachronistic, she does not consider herself to be incapable of moving with the times. She would be the first to admit that the modern young woman's life would not allow for such regular changing of formal outfits. (She suspects also that modern readers would interpret the phrase, "gayer hat", rather differently from their 1930's counterparts, but prefers not to dwell on that at the current time for fear that her argument might be derailed.)

Lady Bracknell does not anticipate that the modern woman should necessarily dress so formally as to possess matching shoes, gloves and hand-bag for every amusing two-piece suit in her wardrobe. Indeed, Lady Bracknell would unbend so far from the rigid rules of her own youth as to accept the wearing of trousers by members of the fairer sex.

However, there is a limit to Lady Bracknell's tolerance. She had hoped that standards could fall no lower than the wearing of that repugnant undergarment which bisects a woman's posterior, the top of which is always visible above the waistband of its wearer's outer garment. (Quite apart from the truly revolting appearance engendered by such skimpy undergarments, Lady Bracknell is persuaded that they cannot be comfortable for the wearer. Pondering on this tends to result in Lady Bracknell calling for her smelling salts.)

Imagine, then, the extent of Lady Bracknell's horror when she discovered the even more deplorable trend for leaving the house in one's night attire! Young gels gather on street corners local to Lady Bracknell's abode clad only in their pyjamas, and shod with fluffy slippers. (These last, she has noticed, become quickly discoloured when exposed to the surfaces of pavements. A phenomenon which should elicit no surprise in their owners given that they have been expressly designed solely for indoor wear.)

Lady Bracknell is reluctantly forced to conclude that sartorial elegance may be a thing of the past. She is deeply saddened that such a thing should have come to pass in her own lifetime.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Lady Bracknell is alarmed

Lady Bracknell's regular readers are aware that she is very much impeded in her daily comings and goings by virtue of the constant pain which she experiences. She therefore spends considerable periods of time in rest and recuperation at her home, rising occasionally from her recumbent posture to dip her nib in the ink bottle and record her musings on the writing paper with which her stationers have long been supplying her. (Lady Bracknell regrets that the electronic nature of the present method of communication prevents her readers from fully appreciating the exceptional quality of this paper, but assures them that - could they but run their fingers over it - they would appreciate that, in this as in so many things, she has the most exquisite taste.)

Lady Bracknell instructs her servants to keep the windows of her house open as often, and for as long, as possible. From her earliest childhood onwards, Lady Bracknell has been accustomed to bracing temperatures, and she abhors a stuffy room. She has of late been regularly subjected to appalling cacophonies of noise from the street below. Having made enquiries of the boot boy, she now understands that these hideous noises emanate from certain types of electronic alarm. Evidently, these devices can be fitted both to houses and to motor cars. Lady Bracknell would venture to question the benefit of these alarms, as she has yet to discover a single instance of their effectively summoning aid to the injured party. She believes that these modern devices are not only ineffectual for the purpose for which they were designed, but that they are also a major contributor to the phenomenon of "noise pollution".

Lady Bracknell is also often woken from her slumbers by the untimely intrusion of a police helicopter into the skies directly above her house. Indeed, she has often gained the impression from the propinquity of the helicopter that the miscreant must be sheltering in her own back garden. Lady Bracknell is a fervent supporter of our officers of the law, and fully accepts that the measures taken to keep persons of quality safe are entirely necessary. Nevertheless, she begins to feel as though she is living in a war zone.

Lady Bracknell fulminates about public transport

Although Lady Bracknell's social circle includes friends of many years' standing who can be relied upon to proclaim their unstinting admiration for her at a moment's notice, there is not one among them who would so far perjure himself as to assert that Lady Bracknell is light on her feet.

Lady Bracknell is not a young woman, and the high drama in which she spent her early years has taken its toll.To be brutally frank, Lady Bracknell is crippled. She is stalwart of character, nevertheless, and continues to conduct her duties with fortitude, although she expects that lesser ladies faced with comparable physical agonies would very probably sink fragrantly on to their daybeds, dabbing feebly at their temples with fine linen handkerchieves drenched in laudanum.

In the course of her daily duties, Lady Bracknell frequently travels by the local omnibus service. (She despairs of the poor standard of cleanliness which is generally evident in the interior of these vehicles, and of the lack of respect shown to one of her age and social standing by the local young ruffians. But the late Lord Bracknell's wealth was not infinite, and Lady Bracknell must make these small economies wherever she may safely do so without their exciting undue comment from her contemporaries.)

Lady Bracknell has three observations to make about her ease of travel. She cannot impress upon her readership enough that any of the three problems to which she is about to turn her pen could be easily rectified if all members of society would only summon the common decency to consider the needs of others.

  • Lady Bracknell carries a handsome walking stick about her person when she leaves the house. She does not do this for idle show. Indeed, she could not walk safely without it. When she was first reduced to the exigencies of travelling by omnibus, she had supposed that younger and fitter passengers would recognise her physical infirmities, and offer her their seats. Lady Bracknell is grieved to report that her confidence in the capacity of her fellow travellers to demonstrate consideration in this matter was sadly misplaced.

  • Lady Bracknell also deplores the tendency displayed by the drivers of said vehicles to draw out with considerable speed into traffic without waiting for their frailer passengers to be seated or, at the very least, to attach themselves firmly to one of the many rails intended to secure them against the potential damage to their persons occasioned by violent movement.

  • Beyond all else, Lady Bracknell must protest in the strongest possible terms against the selfishness of motor car owners who park their vehicles at omnibus stops. The capacity of drivers to ignore the clear road markings which expressly forbid such a practice would cause Lady Bracknell's jaw to drop, were she not much too well bred to allow such a vulgar expression of emotion to sully the porcelain perfection of her features. Alighting from the step of the omnibus is a perilous undertaking for Lady Bracknell even when the vehicle has pulled in to be flush with the pavement. On those occasions when the presence of a motor car has resulted in her being forced to disembark onto the surface of the road itself, Lady Bracknell has experienced indescribable pain.

In closing, Lady Bracknell wishes to stress that consideration costs nothing, and to remind those who use public transport that a handsome walking stick is capable of inflicting considerable, albeit temporary, 'accidental' damage to the exposed ankles of passengers who are too engrossed in their daily periodicals to give up their seat to one whose need for it is greater than their own.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Lady Bracknell deigns to interact with her readers

Persons who had the great good fortune to purchase a copy of Lady Bracknell's Inimitable Guide to Effective Flirting whilst copies were still available will note that Lady Bracknell invited her readers to submit their compliments and questions care of her publishers.

She received a rather disturbing communication from a young person who signed himself simply, 'Paul'. (Lady Bracknell of course deplores the modern practice of over familiarity engendered by the casual introduction of the use of Christian names at an unsuitably early juncture in formal relationships. Nevertheless, she feels that it would be wrong to withdraw her kind offer of assistance purely because a correspondent has committed a social solecism, albeit one of considerable magnitude.)

The gentleman in question expressed his concern thus:

"Lady Bracknell's advice for young gentlemen with occular deficiencies, whilst edifying, does nothing to ease the problems of my ongoing liaison with a floor mop."

Lady Bracknell was shocked to the core by the implications of this statement. She sternly advised the gentleman in question that she could think of no acceptable explanation for his ever having had cause to find himself in the same room as a cleaning implement.

Lady Bracknell introduces herself to her readers

Lady Bracknell is a gentlewoman of independent means who, since the tragic passing of Lord Bracknell some decades ago, and the transfer of responsibilities for the wellbeing of her only daughter Gwendolen to the estimable Jack (now, ‘Ernest’) Worthing, has devoted what little time she can spare to attempting to educate those who have not had her advantages in the social niceties. Unusually for one of her impeccable breeding, Lady Bracknell conceals beneath her steely exterior a sympathy towards those poor unfortunates who have been sadly afflicted with incapacities of the mind and body, and many of her perorations deal particularly with the problems encountered by those whose lives have been so blighted.

Lady Bracknell is not unfamiliar with the marvels of modern technology. Indeed, she is capable of playing wax disks on the gramophone herself on those rare occasions when she has granted the butler a free evening. Nevertheless, she prefers the old-fashioned and time-honoured method of committing her perorations to foolscap, and is assisted in the transference of her words of wisdom to an electronic device by her editor. (Lady Bracknell devoted considerable energy to her search for a sober and industrious young person whom she believed could be trusted to undertake this transference without undue interference in the important messages she wishes to purvey. Now that such a person has been found, Lady Bracknell is confident that – should her own onerous social duties prevent her from devoting as much time to this blog as is needful – her editor can be safely left in charge of contributions at no risk to the integrity of the author’s message.)

Lady Bracknell graciously welcomes readers of all social backgrounds to her blog, and ventures to hope that they will find it educational.

A sample of Lady Bracknell's earlier work

A young gentleman acquaintance of Lady Bracknell recently begged her most prettily to produce for him a guide to flirting. The reader will no doubt be astonished to learn that, prior to this request, Lady Bracknell had never considered the pleasure and benefit future generations might gain from the permanent recording of her wisdom. The guide to flirting having been most enthusiastically received by the gentleman in question, and his prowess in flirting having improved so markedly as a direct result of her literary endeavours, Lady Bracknell now feels it incumbent upon her to continue with the work thus begun.

She believes that those who did not have the good fortune to acquire their own copy of her Inimitable Guide to Effective Flirting (the print run was short, and the shelves of reputable book vendors quickly emptied), might welcome this opportunity to peruse some choice extracts from the volume. Lady Bracknell is confident that the following passages will provide the reader with a clear impression of the overall tenor of her work, and of her scrupulous regard for the importance of stringent and comprehensive research.

“Imagine Lady Bracknell’s horror on discovering that all the existing treatises on the subject of flirting have entirely missed the point!! Should the reader of this slim but informative volume choose to replicate Lady Bracknell’s searches in order to corroborate her findings, he will discover that flirting – far from being recognised as a universal method of improving interaction between two persons on a social, commercial, or professional level – is now portrayed as being useful only as a method of getting one’s leg over. (Lady Bracknell is unsure of the exact meaning of this phrase, but is prepared to wager the contents of her reticule that it conveys something of an irredeemably vulgar nature.)”

“Gentlemen must use their own discretion when considering flirting with members of the lower orders. Lady Bracknell does not condone the taking of physical or moral advantage over servant girls, no matter how equine the visages of a young gentleman’s sisters’ friends. Lady Bracknell would point out that good parlour maids are not so easy to replace as they once were.”

“In her youth, Lady Bracknell would have asserted that eye contact is crucial to successful flirting. Lady Bracknell has the reluctance proper to one of her social standing to re-examine those opinions which she formed whilst young. Indeed, she has often remarked on the effort of thought which can be avoided by simply adhering to the opinions of one’s mother and grandmother in all things. Lady Bracknell does not, as a general rule, hold with ‘progress’.”