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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.

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Location: Bracknell Towers

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Lady Bracknell feels a little chilly

Even Lady Bracknell, who is generally fairly impervious to low temperatures, and who was, during her days as a blue-stocking, often affectionately referred to as "the polar bear", is currently feeling a tad chilly.

Reasoning that, this being the case, then many of her regular readers who do not share her ladyship's constitutional resemblance to a storage heater must be cold indeed, and not wishing any of them to succumb unnecessarily to hypothermia, Lady Bracknell instructed her editor to scour the furthest reaches of the Interwebnet for tips on how to keep warm.

Unfortunately, the editor (who, Lady Bracknell reports with no little disapprobation, has become increasingly skittish of late) has failed to take the task as seriously as her employer would have wished. There follows a list of eminently sensible suggestions which, Lady Bracknell is sure, were thought up by thoroughly decent and well-intentioned persons. Regrettably, the editor has appended comments of her own devising.

(Readers wishing to discuss the servant problem with her ladyship are cordially invited to take tea and cucumber sandwiches at Bracknell Towers at their earliest convenience.)

"Keep moving: Any activity, even vacuuming, gets circulation going and makes you feel warmer."
Am loving the way vacuuming is portrayed here as being hardly active at all: wonder what the equivalent is for those of us who have been forbidden to vacuum on medical grounds?

"Keep your home at the right temperature: Hang thermometers in the living room and bedroom and keep temperatures between 21 and 24 degrees Centigrade (70 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit)."
Bit tricky if you're living on benefits, though, surely?

"Keep warm at night: Wearing the right clothing to bed is as important as wrapping up outdoors."
What's the "right clothing", then? Full dinner dress? Knitted balaclava helmet with matching mittens on a string? Pink tutu? Enquiring minds need to know...

"If you stick to flat shoes or boots with textured soles, you won’t slip when it’s icy."
Oh, you reckon? Sorry, not prepared to risk it. You're talking to someone with zero sense of balance, here...

"Try to keep a supply of food in the house, in case you can't get to the shops in very bad weather."
Have these people never heard of online grocery shopping??

"It's tempting to 'huddle' when you feel cold, but sitting still just makes you feel even colder."
So, the answer here for wheelchair users is what, exactly...?

"Get a flu jab"
Yup, done that. Not convinced it's made me feel any warmer, though.

"Keep a flask of hot drink by your bed should you wake up feeling cold."
Accident waiting to happen in my case, that. Am forever knocking stuff off the bedside table in the middle of the night. Over-active dreaming, I put it down to....

"Don't Just Sit There! Standing will increase your heat production by 20% over sitting."
That may well be true, but it will increase my pain levels as well. And by a bloody sight more than 20%.

"Get Into The Swing! For icy hands, swing arms windmill-style."
Or, do what my mother taught me to do, and wrap your hands round your neck. Or someone else's neck. Considerably reduced likelihood of sending ornaments crashing to the floor with the neck method, I reckon.

"Socks should be made of wool or wick-dry synthetics."
There really isn't much point telling me this. I can't put socks on.

"Finally, huddle up close to a loved one so you can keep each other warm."
Oo, now that sounds more like it. I'm off to find someone who's prepared to huddle up with me. Lady Bracknell will have to cope on her own for a bit.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The editor has an evening out

On Thursday, I was graciously permitted to have a night out with friends. I have very little idea what her ladyship got up to in my absence, but I'm sure that, whatever it was, it was entirely proper.

It's hard for me to credit now, but there was a time, only about three years ago, when I used to go the theatre virtually every week. Almost every Saturday, I would get onto a train and head off for destinations as far afield as Manchester, Leeds, or even Stoke-on-Trent. (Oh, the glamour...!)

For two years, I was a panellist for the Barclays' Theatre Management Awards and then, for the next two years, my friend Ann was. Which meant that I got four years' worth of free theatre tickets, and saw dozens and dozens of performances. Ee, them were t'days.....

These days, it's a major undertaking for me to get to a performance in Liverpool, let alone anywhere which would involve any travelling. But I was determined to see Thalidomide: A Musical, even though doing so would necessitate me taking the following day off work. Dude the chauffeur can generally be persuaded to come with me to see anything disability-related, as long as I give him sufficient notice and the date doesn't clash with anything Mrs Dude has planned for him. (He jokingly tends to talk about "the present Mrs Dude" but, of course, he's really absolutely devoted to her and to the Dude offspring. And he will no doubt inflict serious damage on me with his stick next week for publicly outing him as the epitome of a happily-married man.)

We were chuffed to bits that Becca and Turtle agreed to come with us. Turtle came all the way from Reading by train, and Becca drove over from Manchester. To the best of our knowledge, this constituted the largest gathering to date of Ouch! regulars, and Vaughan insisted that we record this "Ouch Meet" on camera so that he could enjoy the "nice ,warm feeling" which would come from seeing proof that Ouch is so much more than just a website. So, here we are mucking about in front of the set. Self and Dude at the back, obviously, and Turtle and Becca in the foreground. Becca had had badges produced in honour of Ouchvember and, if you look very carefully, you can see that we have even pinned one to the set. (Oh, I'm supposed to be pointing out at this juncture that that was categorically not suggested to us by the nice usher who agreed to take the picture. No. The fault for making pinholes in Mat's set lies entirely with us. Really.)

By the way, I am only too aware that red and purple shouldn't be worn together. In my defence, it was a bitterly cold night, and velvet seemed like a good idea, what with it being such a snuggly, warm fabric.

The Unity theatre really is the most crip-tastically accessible venue you could possibly imagine. No matter how complex your access requirements, no-one turns a hair. I can think of no other venue in the North West which would take at least a dozen wheelies, any number of wobblies and stickies, and three assistance dogs. That they do this at all is laudable. That they do it in such a tiny venue, and in an entirely pragmatic and wholly non-patronising manner, is fantastic. Not for nothing are they the Liverpool performance space of choice of the Graeae theatre company. (Incidentally, one of my moles tells me that the Graeae will be touring again next year. Should they perform anywhere near where you live, I can wholeheartedly recommend that you go to see them. They've never let me down yet.)

So, how was the show? Well, I thought it was hilarious. Might not have held quite the same appeal for non-disabled audience members but, frankly, as with Channel 4's "I'm Spasticus", I find myself struggling to care what non-disabled people might have thought of it. (Although I doubt Mat Fraser completely shares my insouciance about this.)

Mat is a versatile and talented performer - who has written a quite exceptional show - and Anna Winslet was a joy. Particularly, I can't help but suspect, to many of the male audience members...

(As an aside, I'm reminded at this point of the problems faced by friends and family of the cast who come along to offer support, only to find that a show is really awful. It's not always easy to gush with compliments, but you'd feel duty bound to find something good to say in that situation, what with turns having such fragile egos in the first place, and everything. The best example of this I've heard is one which was reported back to me by a friend who works as a wardrobe mistress. After being bored to tears through a particularly dire production, the best one poor desperate soul could manage to say with any degree of sincerity was, "Lovely floor cloth!")

My sincere thanks and big hugs go to my partners in set-vandalism crime on the night. Yes, even the Dude...

(Oh, and if Mat's reading this, we're really sorry about pinning the badge on your curtain. The nice usher made us do it.)

Monday, November 21, 2005

Lady Bracknell tries her hand at advertising

In her weekly phone conversation with her esteemed mother, Lady Bracknell was reminded yesterday of the fact that her mother's cousin Jimmy, and his wife Christine, emigrated to Canada about six years ago. They sold their farm in Westmoreland (Lady Bracknell refuses to succumb to the relatively modern fad for referring to Cumberland and Westmoreland in combination as "Cumbria") and bought a new one in Saskatchewan. And here they are, standing in front of Jumping Deer farm house.

Should any of Lady Bracknell's readers be holidaying thereabouts, they may be interested to know that Jimmy and Christine offer bed and breakfast.

Lady Bracknell apologises to Jimmy who, it would appear, is now generally known as "Jim". She also has an uncle John who is known by everyone except family members as "Jack". But when one has associated a particular name with a particular individual for one's entire life, and when one is, in any case, somewhat averse to changes of nomenclature (see earlier comment re: Cumbria), it is not easy to change one's habits overnight.

Christine has had an article published in this month's Saga Holidays magazine. Lady Bracknell regrets to report that the article can currently only be accessed in full by persons choosing to subscribe to the magazine online, but the first two paragraphs may be read here. Readers who are possessed of a degree of patience may be pleased to know that the site indicates that articles from previous editions of the magazine are always available in full once that edition has been superceded.

It is a great many years since Lady Bracknell visited Jimmy and Christine, but she has always retained extremely fond memories of them. Her ladyship is, unfortunately, enfeebled to the extent that travel to Canada would be quite out of the question for her. But, should any of her more robust readers make it to Jumping Deer Farm at any point, she would very much welcome a report from them.

Friday, November 18, 2005

It's the 17th of November. Again.

Lady Bracknell had cause to consult the Discworld calendar on her kitchen wall this morning in order to compare today's date with the use-by date on the bottle of milk she was considering pouring onto her bowl of cereal. She confesses that she was somewhat surprised to discover that today is the 17th. As was yesterday. Tomorrow is the 19th, but there is, apparently, no 18th of November this year.

If Lady Bracknell could persuade her editor to remove the calendar from the wall; scan the page in question; re-size the scanned image; and post it into this blog entry, her readers would be in possession of incontrovertible evidence of this duplication of dates.

But, given that the editor is insistent that, having not left the office intil 6 pm, this task might very well constitute the straw which breaks the metaphorical camel's back, Lady Bracknell's readers will just have to take her word for it.

And if the genius who is Terry Pratchett is determined that today is the 17th of November, who is Lady Bracknell to argue?

(Persons whose birthdays fall on the 18th of November may be a trifle disconcerted by this news but, as long as they are over 25, Lady Bracknell thinks it is unlikely that they will lose too much sleep over having to remain the age they were yesterday for another year. It is not, after all, as though their birthdays fall on the 29th of February. So they should, perhaps, be grateful for small mercies.)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

"I wanna dwink!!!!"

Dude, the chauffeur, still being unwell, Lady Bracknell travelled to visit the osteopathic gentleman by train this week. There is nothing like public transport to maintain an elderly aristocrat's awareness of the fashions of the day (will the tracksuit never fall out of favour...?) and the behavioural patterns of the hoi polloi.

(As a semantic aside, Lady Bracknell should add that she is aware - given her classical education - that the "hoi" in "hoi polloi" means "the", and that the phrase "the hoi polloi" is therefore inexcusably tautologous. But she is at a loss as to how to avoid this syntactical faux pas without her words becoming so obscure as to be impenetrable to the average reader.)

In Lady Bracknell's own youth, screaming toddlers were regarded with an exceedingly jaundiced eye by the majority of adults. Indeed, Lady Bracknell recalls a conversation which she had about ten years ago with her esteemed mother when both were seated on a bench at London's zoological gardens. As a bawling child was propelled past them, Lady Bracknell enquired of her aged parent whether she and her brothers had screamed so loudly in public when they were children. She received the answer, "Certainly not! We would have been ashamed".

Lady Bracknell's memory does not extend back to the age when she herself travelled by pushchair (a mode of transport which most definitely would not have been referred to as a "buggy"), so must take her esteemed mother's word for the fact that the publicly whinging brat is a relatively modern phenomenon. It is certainly not an attractive one.

The majority of Lady Bracknell's outward rail journey on Tuesday afternoon was punctuated approximately every ten seconds by the importunate demands of a small boy to his father that he be given a drink. The child was nothing if not persistent, although he failed to achieve any great variety in his complaint, alternating as he did between, "I wanna dwink!!", and "I really need a dwink!!".

Leaving aside the question of the father's apparent inability to distract his child from its raging thirst, such areas of Lady Bracknell's brain as had not closed down in an attempt to block out the appalling noise pondered upon the question of why it should be that children can no longer undertake a twenty minute journey without expecting to be furnished with liquid refreshment. When Lady Bracknell and her brothers were children, they were occasionally taken on that same journey for educational visits to museums or, if they were very lucky, into a toy shop. They drank their glasses of milk with their breakfasts, and then did not expect to drink again until they were back home. So why are children and teenagers now so rarely seen without a drinks bottle clamped to their mouths?

Regular readers will perhaps not be surprised to learn that Lady Bracknell has a theory.

Many years ago, her ladyship was employed (fairly briefly) as a teacher in a secondary school near the town which she likes to think of (not terribly fondly) as "The Concrete Cowpat". During one of the "form periods", Lady Bracknell's charges were provided with a document to complete listing every morsel of sustenance which passed their lips in a twenty four hour period.

One week later, a dental specialist came in to talk to the class, bringing with him or her (this really is so long ago that Lady Bracknell genuinely cannot recall whether the visitor was male or female) the children's forms. These had been reviewed, and each child provided with an indication of the total number of teaspoonsful of sugar which it had consumed on the day in question.

The one thing which has always stuck in her ladyship's mind about that session was the astonishing fact that every can of non-diet soft fizzy drink contains six teaspoons of sugar. Even Lady Bracknell's rather dubious facility with mathematics is sufficient to calculate that a two-litre bottle must therefore contain thirty six teaspoons of sugar.

As the consumption of sugar promotes thirst, it is hardly surprising that children who swig sugar-solutions from morning to night become more, rather than less, thirsty

On an entirely separate matter, Lady Bracknell's "B never too busy to be beautiful" parcel has just been delivered, and she is pleased to report that Smaragadine has exactly the same divine fragrance as it had fifteen years ago.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Lady Bracknell seeks the advice of her readers

Many years ago, Lady Bracknell was advised by the gentleman who taught her art in her first year at grammar school (and who, coincidentally, had the same name as a British artist famous for his seascapes) that she ought to sharpen her pencils with a knife rather than with a pencil sharpener. This, he explained, was because the people who manufacture pencil sharpeners are the same people who manufacture pencils. It is therefore in their best interests to produce sharpeners which reduce one's pencil to an unwieldy stub as quickly as possible.

(Not that Lady Bracknell has ever taken a sharp knife to a pencil as the result of that advice: she has chosen to sacrifice pencil-length in favour of the continued physical integrity of her fingers.)

However, she was reminded of that advice today when re-filling her pepper mill. Unlikely though it is that pepper mills are manufactured by distant arms of the companies who oversee the growth, harvesting and sale of peppercorns, that scenario would at least serve to answer the first of the questions she is about to put to her readers:

  • Why are pepper mills designed in such a way that it is impossible to re-fill one without a large proportion of the peppercorns rolling off the work surface onto the kitchen floor, thereby creating a hazard to persons whose sense of balance leaves a lot to be desired at the best of times?


  • Are there any mills on the market which can be filled without incurring this irritating spillage?

(Lady Bracknell toyed with the idea of asking her readers why peppercorns cannot be grown in the shape of a cube so that they would be less prone to rolling, but discarded the notion on the grounds of its being exceptionally flippant.)

Friday, November 11, 2005

The return of an old friend

Given the tribulations of Lady Bracknell's daily life (she will refrain from giving the full details of her medical appointment this morning, but readers may safely assume that its effects were neither pleasant nor short-lived), it was especially gratifying for her to discover that Smaragadine is once again available.

Should this gleeful statement produce nothing but a puzzled frown amongst her readers, Lady Bracknell will explain further.

In the region of fifteen years ago, at about the time that The Body Shop was achieving world domination via a targeted programme of dewberry-scented carpet bombing, there existed a mail order firm called, "Cosmetics To Go". Their catalogues were delightfully witty; their products were cruelty free and exceedingly yummy; and their parcels were a joy to receive. The young(er) Lady Bracknell - who was, at that time, considerably less comfortably off than she is now - saved her pennies diligently so that she could afford such luxuries as Ginger perfume, Neroli bath oil, and shower gel which smelled of Terry's chocolate oranges, the name of which she can no longer recall. But chief amongst all these was the wonderful Smaragadine Phytofoam: a rich, green bubble bath with an indescribably delicious fragrance.

And then, disaster struck! As happens with many small businesses, Cosmetics To Go expanded too quickly, and the receivers were called in. There was no further opportunity to purchase Smaragadine, and Lady Bracknell hoarded her last bottle in as miserly a fashion as she could.

The founders of Cosmetics To Go returned under the banner of Lush. Indeed, Lady Bracknell recalls being invited to offer a suitable name for the new company, and was disappointed that her inspired suggestion of "Cosmetics To Die For" was turned down in favour of a synonym for a drunkard. Lush products, whilst not without their supporters, have never appealed to Lady Bracknell quite so much as their Cosmetics To Go predecessors, although this may have less to do with their quality than with her ladyship's increasing age and sophistication of taste. (Their "Big" shampoo, however, does wonders for Lady Bracknell's scalp.)

She cannot have been the only customer to love Smaragadine, though, as it is one of only a handful of the old C-t-G products to have been revived by the nice "B never too busy to be beautiful" people. Lady Bracknell is about to place an order, and will report back at a later date on the issue of whether Smaragadine has retained its allure after so many years' absence from her bathroom cabinet.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Lady Bracknell needs a tall man

Two hours ago, Lady Bracknell embarked on the gargantuan task of changing the sheets on her bed. There have been several breaks for recuperation purposes, and extra pain relief medication has been taken. The job is now complete, but for the stuffing of the used bedlinens into the washing machine (for which, Lady Bracknell is relieved to report, the new tumble dryer control knob arrived earlier this week), but that particular task can wait until the knots in her ladyship's spine have had a chance to unravel .

It would be somewhat impolitic of Lady Bracknell to reveal just how infrequently this task is performed: she does not, after all, wish to put her readers off their dinner. Suffice it to say that any gentleman who had a burning desire to share Lady Bracknell's bed chamber might be well advised to have a fondness for changing sheets. (The toast crumbs on the duvet being, perhaps, the biggest problem.)

In a moment of inexplicable madness, Lady Bracknell decided that the moment was opportune to turn the mattress. A decision the foolhardiness of which she imagines she will be regularly reminded of over the next several days, at least until she has visited the osteopathic gentleman next Tuesday afternoon.

It was not merely her own physical frailty which her ladyship had underestimated. She had also signally failed to take into consideration the fact that a mattress rampant (to borrow a much under-used term from heraldry) achieves a very considerably greater height than does a mattress dormant.

The original 1920s light fitting to the left hangs over Lady Bracknell's bed. (The photograph is a poor one: the item is much more attractive when lit.) As can be observed, the mirrored glass part hangs from three chains. There are three liitle hooks on the top of this part which are pushed through individual links in the chains.

Clearly, for the whole apparatus to hang straight, all three hooks must be attached to chains of the same length. Which they were, until the mattress turning fiasco. Very fortunately, only two of the hooks were knocked free, thus saving the light fitting in total from a fatal plummet onto the bed. Less fortunately, Lady Bracknell does not have sufficient reach to re-attach the two hooks to the correct links on the chains. So she has re-attached them considerably lower. Which means that the entire apparatus is now hanging at a very drunken angle. Its continued physical integrity is not in peril, but it looks, frankly, ridiculous.

With luck, Dude the chauffeur will be sufficiently recovered from his current malaise to agree to drive Lady Bracknell to the osteopathic gentleman's surgery Tuesday next. Although not the most agile of manservants, he can generally be persuaded to apply his superior height and length of arm to those projects which are beyond her ladyship's reach.

Should Dude have risen from his sick bed to read this entry, Lady Bracknell wishes him a full and speedy recovery. For entirely unselfish reasons.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

If Lady Bracknell ruled the world....

Let it be understood at the outset both that Lady Bracknell has no desire to run the world and that, were a ruler of the world vacancy suddenly to open up, any application which Lady Bracknell might submit would undoubtedly be filed under B for "bin". Nevertheless, Lady Bracknell finds it amusing to ponder on some of the rules which she might bring in, should her word suddenly become law.

Some random examples follow:

  • Any persons found to be using the word "infer" when they mean "imply" would be immediately subjected to a half day's training on the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs. Similar training courses would be mandatory for persons who confuse "rob" with "steal", and "borrow" with "lend".
  • The timing of torrential downpours will be arranged so as to inconvenience the smallest possible number of people. A light drizzle only will be permitted during rush hour.
  • Chewing gum will only be sold to persons who can provide documentary evidence that they will never chew it with their mouths open, and that they will not dispose of it by the simple expedient of dropping it on the pavement.
  • Persons who park their motor cars in bus stops will have their driving licenses permanently revoked.
  • Fallen leaves will be removed by the local council before they render pavements slippery and hazardous to traverse.
  • Wide-fitting orthopaedic shoes will be available in a variety of attractive styles and funky colours.
  • Young women who insist on wearing skimpy clothing which bares their midriff through the winter months will be ignored when they complain that their workplace is too cold.
  • A stringent rule on the decibel-level of "muzak" permitted in retail establishments will be enforced.
  • Children will be taught that ear-splitting screams are only appropriate when they are in genuine peril. Daily readings of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf" will take place in all primary schools until such time as the message sinks in.
  • Retail establishments will not be permitted to devote their window displays to Christmas until the 1st of December.
  • In a similar vein, advertising agencies will cease forthwith from attempting to persuade the general public that a new sofa is a must-have Christmas accessory.
  • Internet links saved as "favourites" will continue to function for the life of any computer on which they are saved.
  • Young Master Marmite will have women beating a path to his door.

Lady Bracknell has chosen here not to deal with major issues such as full equality regardless of status; an end to world poverty; the cessation of all wars, etc. But this does not mean that her readers should assume that she would fail to address such things. Listed above are those matters which are of personal significance to Lady Bracknell and which, she suspects, would therefore mark out her own rule from that of any other incumbent in the post. They would also, of course, automatically disqualify Lady Bracknell from being considered suitable to take on the role of Ruler of the World.

Readers are encouraged to submit examples of the rules they themselves would bring in, via the handy comments facility.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Gunpowder, treason and plot

Lady Bracknell and her feline companion have been doing their combined best to ignore the almost constant noise of fireworks for the last few evenings. Lady Bracknell was particularly displeased when vulgar persons in the street of shabby terraced houses whose back yards, but for the existence of a narrow, cobbled ginnel, back directly on to the back gardens of Bracknell Towers, set fireworks off outside her ladyship's bedchamber in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Indeed, this has become a fairly regular weekend event. No celebration, it seems, is too minor to merit a fusillade of gunpowder. Lady Bracknell suspects that these persons believe fireworks to be appropriate to such memorable and life-affirming events as "having successfully staggered home from the pub without vomiting in the gutter", or "having successfully managed to video-record Match of the Day rather than the arts documentary on the other channel". In fact, it can only be a matter of time before companies such as Hallmark begin to produce greetings cards for such events.

(One can, of course, ring a special police telephone number if fireworks are let off after midnight. However, this is not a great deal of use when one is unable to identify exactly which pokey back yard the nuisance is emanating from. Lady Bracknell recalls that it took her some considerable time to identify the number of the house at which she saw an entirely nude woman at the back bedroom window, a task she undertook on behalf of Messrs Marmite and Dude, both of whom had evinced a keen interest in forging an acquaintance with the female in question. For some time after the original sighting, the Dude had a tendency to stand like a man transfixed at the window of Lady Bracknell's kitchen and to gaze wistfully over the garden wall. But she was never seen again. Or, at least, not naked.)

Lady Bracknell is firmly of the belief that the blame for the tendency to add fireworks into the equation of even the most minor celebration can be placed firmly at the feet of the Millenium. Prior to the 31st of December 1999, the nuisance value of fireworks was (more or less) restricted to Bonfire Night itself. But since that fateful date, one can expect be startled out of one's peaceful slumbers at any point from October to February. And sometimes even during daylight hours. (This is where Lady Bracknell's parsimonious streak would take effect: should she ever be of a mind to set off fireworks herself, she would most certainly only do so against a dark night sky. She is given to understand that fireworks are far from cheap.)

All of the above is merely a preamble to Lady Bracknell voicing her opinion that fireworks ought not to be held out for sale to the general public at all. Quite apart from their nuisance value, they are inherently dangerous. No matter how many times the cheerful and anodyne presenters of such children's televisions programmes as Blue Peter issue Dark Warnings about the perils of treating fireworks with less than one hundred per cent respect, lives continue to be blighted every year by horrific burn injuries. Lady Bracknell is not so keen to welcome new disabled people into the fold as to wish facial disfigurement on to young children.

But it was this news story which really shocked Lady Bracknell to the core. (Readers of a sensitive disposition are warned that the story contains a graphic description of the brutal treatment of a small dog.) Lady Bracknell hopes that some of the people who have so far supported the continuing sale of fireworks to members of the general public might reconsider their views on the subject in the light of this deeply unpleasant and unpardonable incident.

Friday, November 04, 2005

The wheels on the bus go round and round...

When one has been taking the same omnibus for years, as Lady Bracknell has, there is a strong likelihood that there will be a degree of continuity amongst one’s fellow passengers. Many are so unremarkable as to make little impact, but there are some who, over the years, have either piqued Lady Bracknell’s curiosity or irritated her fine sensibilities.

Having encountered two of these persons today, Lady Bracknell has been inspired to list some of the more memorable. Readers may be somewhat shocked at the assumptions her ladyship has made about these innocent fellow travellers. However, Lady Bracknell has long been of the opinion that, while peculiarities of appearance or manner are quickly and wholly forgotten once an acquaintance has been forged, it is very considerably harder to set such considerations aside when one is merely an observer. Lady Bracknell is more than willing to believe that all the persons whom she is about to describe have many sterling qualities, and are much loved by their families and friends. After all, as Lady Bracknell’s esteemed mother is wont to observe, “The world would be a very boring place if we were all the same”.

That being said, Lady Bracknell will now introduce the dramatis personae:

The rumpled elderly gentleman
This gentleman would be wholly unremarkable were it not for his anachronistic fondness for mothballs. Lady Bracknell has encountered mothballs only once before, and that was when she was on holiday with her esteemed parents in a cottage in Wales more than thirty years ago. Even then, their use was so old-fashioned as to be deemed eccentric. Lady Bracknell cannot imagine where the rumpled elderly gentleman purchases his mothballs in this day and age, but she can confirm that he evidently uses a great many of them: to sit behind him on the bus is to ensure that one’s sinuses will be as clean as whistles. (The editor has just discovered, much to Lady Bracknell’s surprise, that mothballs may be purchased on eBay.)

The woman who looks like a man
In days gone by, when Lady Bracknell was somewhat less enfeebled, and travelled rather earlier in the mornings, she saw this woman every day. The woman was always smartly turned out in expensive clothes and a variety of jewellery. And yet, there was something about her facial features which made her resemble a man in drag. Lady Bracknell will confess that she cast many a surreptitious glance at the woman’s hands and feet in an attempt to gather further clues as to her gender. But all her ladyship’s suspicions on this subject were overturned on the day the woman appeared, accompanied by her husband and son. The son bore so striking a resemblance to his mother, that Lady Bracknell could entertain no further uncertainties on the matter. And yet, she often spent her journey attempting to decide exactly what combination of features it was which rendered the woman’s facial appearance so unremittingly masculine. (Lady Bracknell had entirely forgotten about the woman who looks like a man until she encountered her on the omnibus this very afternoon.)

The white-haired gentleman with the harp
Lady Bracknell is much intrigued by this gentleman, although she has only encountered him twice to date. She is tremendously impressed by his skill at manoeuvring the harp case on to, and off, the omnibus without concussing himself, the driver, or another passenger. Had she not seen it with her own eyes, Lady Bracknell would not have believed it possible that a case containing a full-sized harp could be stowed away on a rush hour omnibus in such a manner as not to cause very considerable annoyance all round. What is more intriguing still is the question of where he is going, and where he has been. Is he on his way home from a harp lesson? Or on his way to give a recital? And, if so, to whom? If Lady Bracknell ever has the good fortune to be seated next to the gentleman, she will endeavour to strike up a conversation with him on the subject of his harp.

The strident woman with the stick and her colourless male companion
These two are always seen as a pair, although they are clearly in no way related, and do not arrive at the omnibus stop together. The man is in late middle age, and demonstrates a phenomenon which is peculiar to the male of the species, in that his slight frame has succumbed to middle aged spread only so far as to give him the appearance of secreting a balloon under his jumper. He never initiates conversation appearing, instead, to content himself with monosyllabic responses to his companion’s loudly-vocalised, utterly humourless, and quite exceptionally tiresome reiterations of the tedious minutiae of her domestic circumstances. (Lady Bracknell, who has been subjected to a fifteen minute diatribe on what happened when the flooring was laid in the dining room, finds herself quite unequal to the task of thinking kindly of this excessively vulgar woman.)

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The arrival of Tigrito

Regular readers will recall Lady Bracknell's enthusiasm at the prospect of the arrival of the Alessi Tigrito food bowl for her feline companion, which she expounded upon here.

She has ventured out to her local Alessi emporium this very morning to pay the balance owing, and to pick the bowl up.

She may report later on Fishbone's reaction to the gift but, for the moment, Lady Bracknell finds herself so vastly entertained by the cartoons which were packaged with the bowl by way of an instruction leaflet that nothing will do but that she shares them with her readers at once.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

About a mile down the road there's a hidden cave...

Readers who are not of sufficient antiquity to recognise the title of this entry immediately are warned that they are decidely unlikely to find themselves engaged by what follows.

Many years ago, when Lady Bracknell and her contemporaries were of an age when the schoolroom was not yet an issue, and when their days were spent "helping" their mothers to make pastry, or to pass freshly-laundered sheets through the mangle, there were no television programmes during the day; no videos; no audio cassettes; no DVDs; and no computer games.

There were, however, a number of radio broadcasts dedicated both to amusing the little ones, and to providing their harried mothers with a chance to sit down for a well-deserved cup of tea.

The fact that today's under-fives are often to be heard innocently repeating wholly unsuitable lyrics from songs recorded by popular beat combos grieves Lady Bracknell deeply. Where are the child-oriented lyrics of yesteryear? Where is Puff, the Magic Dragon? Why do the Three Little Fishies no longer swim and swim? Do teddybears have no time for picnics in the twenty-first century? Has Nellie the Elephant retired? Does the King have no further need of new clothes?

Readers over the age of forty are encouraged to wallow in nostalgia here: although they should be warned that doing so is highly likely to result in any offpsring they may have, or any young persons they may know, sidling away from them with embarrassment.

Who will join Lady Bracknell in a rousing rendition of the Happy Wanderer?

All together, now:

"Val de ree, val de rah
Val de ree, val de ra ha ha ha ha ha
Val de ree, val de rah
My knapsack on my back"

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Miss Prism's creative urges bear fruit

Readers who are familiar with Mr Wilde's masterly opus, "The Importance of Being Earnest", may recall Prism as being a feeble-minded creature whose deluded belief that she could write a successful novel resulted in what might very easily have been the permanent loss of a Most Important Baby.

Imagine Lady Bracknell's surprise, therefore, to discover that Prism - now living in the United States of America - has honed and refined her creative urges so successfully as to have written and animated a number of inspired pastiches of well-known ditties.

Lady Bracknell was particularly taken with, "Hey, Mr Tangerine Man", although she is aware that this may be because she had a rather disturbing encounter with Mr Kilroy-Slick's tan whilst still at school, and has consequently loathed the man from that day forwards.

Lady Bracknell urges her readers to click on the link: they will not be disappointed.