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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

Saturday, February 25, 2006

"Oh, bless them. Aren't they brave?"

Readers who are familiar with those events from Lady Bracknell's earlier life which the talented Mr Wilde saw fit to recreate so prettily on the stage will no doubt recall that her ladyship was reported by the great playwright as uttering the following words:

"On an occasion of this kind it becomes more than a moral duty to speak one's mind. It becomes a pleasure".

It would appear that the screens of our televisual devices are soon to be assaulted with a further series of the wholly execrable Beyond Boundaries.

Once again, Joseph and Josephine Non-Disabled Public will have the opportunity to derive "inspiration" from the fact that a dozen or so persons who happen to have impairments have put themselves forward for an adventure holiday.

No doubt all the impairments will again be of a highly visible nature. After all, the dramatic impact would be much diluted if, heaven forfend, any of the participants could pass as "normal". Where would the interest be in watching a group of people with - let us say for the sake of hypothesis - dyslexia, diabetes, bipolar disorder and RSI wandering about the African bush?

From whence would the frisson of voyeuristic distaste derive if the camera could not swoop in at every opportunity and focus at interminable length on the "unsightly" stumps of persons who are missing an arm/leg/eye/head (delete where applicable)?

The reactions of J & J N-D P to the last series fulfilled all of Lady Bracknell's and others' worst fears. Immediate and unwarranted assumptions were made that there is nothing that the average crip would enjoy more than an arduous trek through inhospitable jungle surroundings. Worse, it was assumed that we could all do it if we really tried. And that those of us who had the temerity to criticise such a marvellous programme were traitors to our own community.

(Lady Bracknell is reminded at this juncture of the occasion on which she visited a newly-disabled friend in hospital. Mr O had just been given some "encouraging" magazines to read, and was less than entirely enthused by their content. "I hadn't the slightest desire to go abseiling before I was in a wheelchair," he said. "Why on earth would anyone assume that my preferences have changed just because my legs no longer work?")

It is no more the purpose on this earth of disabled persons to make their non-disabled counterparts feel relieved that they themselves "don't have anything wrong with them" than it is the purpose of gay and lesbian persons to make their straight counterparts feel relieved that they have the "good fortune" to be heterosexual. In a truly equal society, such comparisons would be entirely meaningless. Non-disabled people are quite capable of feeling guilty about the fact that they take less exercise than they feel they ought to without any comparison with a handful of disabled people who happen to enjoy physical challenges.

No doubt, as last year, the thunderous voice-over at the beginning of the programme will conclude (in a tone of astonishment) with the words,

"And they are all physically disabled!!!!!"

So angered is Lady Bracknell by this nonsense that she is forced to descend to an unwontedly vulgar use of the modern idiom, and reply, "So bloody what?"

Even those of us who are proud of our political identities as disabled people have a very great deal more to offer the world than the simple fact of our impairments. We are, first and foremost, people. Our interests and our characters are as diverse as any reasonable person would expect to find in any other comparably large sector of the population. It does us no favours at all to be publicly portrayed as "overcoming" our impairments. Such a portrayal merely emphasises the disempowering notion that an impairment actually needs to be overcome if we are to function as valuable members of society. And that, dear readers, is utter poppycock.

In Lady Bracknell's considered opinion, Beyond Boundaries is only one step up - and a shallow one, at that - from the old end of the pier freakshows at which one was invited to marvel at the fact that a man with no arms could shave himself.

DV8: The Cost of Living

The good news for all those who missed it when it was shown on Channel 4 last year (for example, Lady Bracknell's friend Melbamae), or who watched it at the time and subsequently kicked themselves for not having simultaneously recorded it for further viewing, is that The Cost of Living is released on DVD on February 27th. It can, of course, be pre-ordered now from sites such as Amazon and Play.com. (And no doubt many others. But Lady Bracknell's editor is, for some reason, firmly wedded to those particular two.)

Dance is probably Lady Bracknell's least favourite of all the performing arts. She remains entirely unmoved, for example, by lines of young women in tutus, all of whom appear to have been so far back in the queue when capacious bosoms were being handed out that they can eschew foundation garments with impunity.

(Ballet afficianados may, perhaps, be moved to envy to hear that Lady Bracknell had her hand shaken by Dame Margot Fonteyn during the course of her graduation ceremony.)

Lady Bracknell has an old school friend who, at one time, was wont to offer to buy tickets to the ballet as a birthday gift for her ladyship, having presumably become confused between her own preferences and that of her classmate. With the result that Lady Bracknell has endured more ballets at Liverpool's Empire Theatre than, left to her own devices, she would ever have chosen to attend.

That Lady Bracknell nevertheless highly recommends The Cost of Living to all her readers should serve as a firm indication that the work of the DV8 company is of an exceptionally high dramatic calibre. With the proviso, of course, that Lady Bracknell is, perhaps, predisposed to look kindly on any production which features disabled performers in major roles.

David Toole (pictured above after a particularly unpleasant encounter with a rude and officious passer by) will also be appearing in the Graeae Theatre Company's forthcoming tour of performances of Sarah Kane's play, "Blasted". The tour schedule can be found here.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The double whammy

Remaining on what some might consider to be her high horse for a further post, Lady Bracknell feels the moment is ripe for her to expound further on her own theories around the subject of disability.

That it is generally accepted that disabled persons face widespread discrimination in many aspects of their everyday lives is recognised in law by the Disability Discrimination Acts 1995 and 2005. A further (and growing) raft of anti-discrimination legislation demonstrates that they are but one of many groups in society whose interests need to be protected.

However, Lady Bracknell believes that disabled persons form the only such group who have to deal - often on a regular basis - with assertions that they are only pretending; that they are really part of the majority, but that they are cynically "working the system" for their own ends.

Leaving aside for one moment the truly dire Black and White Minstrels, how often are persons from minority ethnic groups accused of really being white but of having "blacked up"? And what possible benefit could be envisaged from behaving in such a manner? (Lady Bracknell is not unaware of the tensions which currently exist within some ethnic minority communities over the tendencies of some of their - usually younger - members to integrate so fully into mainstream UK society that their defining cultural differences risk being lost: but that is a different issue.)

Who would pretend to be gay? Or transsexual? Who would voluntarily bring down on his or her own head the daily difficulties inherent in belonging to a minority group?

And yet those disabled persons whose impairments are not immediately visible are regularly suspected of "putting it on". Lady Bracknell believes that one explanation for this lies in the discomfort that not-yet-disabled people experience when they are forced to contemplate what life must be like for those whose bodies or minds are affected by functional loss or difference. This is understandable and, to some extent, can be excused.

However, the problem can more commonly be laid at the feet of the general belief that disabled persons receive highly desirable benefits from the state. Benefits which some non-disabled people bitterly resent. We get to park close to the shops. We are eligible to apply for financial assistance if we have personal care or mobility needs. We are entitled to have reasonable adjustments made for us at our workplaces. Service providers must make potentially costly adaptations to their premises so that we can visit and spend our money there.

Plus, of course, there exists a class of people who exhibit a quite deplorable want of personal integrity and social conscience, and who actually do pretend to be disabled so that they can claim state benefits to which they are not entitled. Such people should, in Lady Bracknell's moderate and entirely impartial opinion, be strung up by whichever part of their anatomy is most sensitive. Dude, the chauffeur, has been heard on more than one occasion to mutter darkly to the effect that those who want to join our club are welcome to do so: but that his own stout walking stick could be used to good effect in ensuring that they don't miss out on the finer points of the experience.

Now, given that we are unlikely in the forseeable future to be able to overcome this particular aspect of disability discrimination, and that we are aware that our claims about the extent and the effects of our impairments are likely to be met with scepticism, distrust and, occasionally, outright disbelief, Lady Bracknell believes that it is incumbent upon us all to behave with unimpeachable integrity in relation to our status as disabled persons.

This may seem to be terribly unfair. But life is not fair. (Lady Bracknell apologises if that fact has come as an unwelcome surprise to any of her readers.) Whether we like it ot not, should a non-disabled person number only one disabled person amongst his or her acquaintances or work colleagues, he or she will very probably judge all disabled people by the behaviour of that one individual.

Just as we have a right to receive reasonable adjustment, we have a responsibility not to abuse those who make it for us. We have a legal entitlement to take time off work for medical assessment, treatment and rehabilitation. We have a further entitlement to take more time away from work than our non-disabled colleagues if - and only if - our impairments directly affect our capacity to attend the workplace. We therefore have an even greater responsibility than our non-disabled colleagues not to claim that we are medically incapable of work on a day when we are actually decorating the spare room, or going to the races.

Lady Bracknell is well aware that her views on this subject are not such as might be calculated to win her many friends. Nevertheless, she remains steadfast in her assertion that there is a world of difference between fighting for equal rights and publicly wallowing in a morass of whining self-pity and unjustifiable demands for "special" treatment. With the first, one has the chance to win the respect of one's non-disabled peers; to actually be considered equal. With the second, one becomes the architect of one's own doom.

Lady Bracknell promises that she will return to lighter subjects when she next makes an entry in her blog.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Laughter and pain

One of the daily problems experienced by persons who live with chronic pain is the fact that those who do not live with it are wholly unable to imagine what it is like to do so.

Lady Bracknell attaches no blame to this phenomenon. Over the years, she has come to suspect that not being able either to remember or imagine pain is part of the human race's innate system of self-preservation. None of our forebears would have set out from their cave dwellings, armed only with puny spears, to try to bring down a mammoth or two for supper if their brains had permitted them, even for a brief moment, to summon up a really detailed mental picture of just how much it was going to hurt should said mammoths violently object to their plans.

Of course, it is possible to remember and imagine pain to a certain degree. But, although one can remember that something was painful, or imagine that something would very likely be painful, the nature of the pain, and the experience of being in pain, are strangely elusive. One can not re-live physical pain as one can - all too easily, unfortunately - its emotional counterpart.

For example, Lady Bracknell once had an infected wisdom tooth. She knows that it throbbed unbearably; that the side of her face swelled up in a most unbecoming manner; and that she could barely speak or concentrate for the pain. But the pain itself is gone, and she cannot recreate it in her memory.

As was drummed into many of us at primary school, pain is the body's way of telling you that part of it is damaged. If we did not have pain receptors, we would not draw our hands back from the flame. We fear pain in the most primitive parts of our brains, presumably precisely because a damaged body was one which had a much lower chance of surviving long enough to reproduce in those far off times when the supper menu consisted of charred mammoth on a stick.

It is for this reason - or so Lady Bracknell's interpretation of her own experiences has led her to believe - that we view pain in other people, particularly those with whom we have a close bond, with horror. We are well aware that pain hurts. When we have experienced pain ourselves in the past, it has made us miserable. We therefore equate the prospect of living with constant, unremitting, relentless pain with untold misery.

However, as a number of Lady Bracknell's regular readers will know from personal experience, chronic pain does not necessarily go hand in hand with chronic misery. (Chronic exhaustion, yes: but that is a separate issue.)

Were Lady Bracknell to have the facility to "lend" her pain for a period of twenty four hours to someone who is not accustomed to it (a facility she has wished for on many occasions), that individual would be brought to his or her knees by its intensity within only a very few of those hours. (He or she might also learn just how insulting it is to make casual comments such as, "Oh, but it's not really a problem for you, is it? You're used to it".)

However, there are two very good reasons why so many people who live with chronic pain adopt a generally cheerful demeanour:

  1. One has quite enough to deal with already in simply managing the pain. Driving away one's friends, family and colleagues by means of being constantly ill-tempered is no way to improve what remains of one's quality of life.
  2. The pain will be much worse if one insists on being permanently miserable.

Many of Lady Bracknell's closest friends live with chronic pain themselves. All go through difficult times when the pain is temporarily all-encompassing but, in the main, they spend a great deal of time laughing. All have learned over the years (although probably not consciously), that laughter produces endorphins and that those endorphins reduce pain levels.

(Lady Bracknell's own laugh has attained a certain local notoriety of its own. It is said to be infectious. Plans have been made to capture it in some manner of recording device, and sell it as a Christmas stocking filler. On more than one occasion, stand up comedy performers have offered Lady Bracknell free tickets for all the remaining shows on their tour. Close friends know that, if Lady Bracknell can not be brought easily to laughter, then it is high time they were worrying about her health.)

Why has Lady Bracknell written on this subject at such tedious length? Because she wishes to dispel once and for all the not-unnatural assumption, prevalent amongst persons who have never themselves been in pain for lengthy periods of time, that "someone who's clearly enjoying themselves that much can't really be in very much pain at all".

If she can manage to change the perceptions of even one person by means of what she has written today, then the time spent composing this blog entry will not have been wasted.


Lady Bracknell forgot to mention that she can be seen (and heard) talking about her approach to living with chronic pain on the DIPEx website. There will be a small prize (the precise nature of which is yet to be decided) for the first reader not personally acquainted with her ladyship who can identify her from amongst the many individuals featured.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

In which Lady Bracknell makes a surprising discovery

It has come to Lady Bracknell's attention today that she is being publicly acclaimed as a femme fatale. Stella, Miss Prism and Turtle have received similar plaudits. (Although Prism has undergone a rather unfortunate transformation to "Miss Prim".)

As an elderly widow of quiet and respectable habits, Lady Bracknell has never previously envisaged herself in such a role. However, she hopes that she is not so entirely hidebound by the strictures of her class and upbringing as to reject new ideas out of hand without giving them her mature and objective consideration. (Except for roller blading, of course. Some things are just too preposterous for words.)

Lady Bracknell has pondered the matter in her spare moments during what has been a decidedly busy day. She has come to the conclusion that, in order for her to perform convincingly in the role of femme fatale, some adjustments to her wardrobe will be necessitated.

Dude, the chauffeur, is likely to interject at this point that Lady Bracknell is constantly supplementing her wardrobe, and that this would just be the latest in a long line of excuses. Really, the man is incorrigible! Were it not for his constant willingness to put his superior height to good use by changing the light bulbs in Bracknell Towers, Lady Bracknell would have reconsidered his employment long ago.

That aside, Lady Bracknell is persuaded that she will need some elbow-length black satin gloves, over which she will wear costume jewellery of a more than customarily dazzling appearance. A slender menthol cigarette carried in a long, elegant holder would seem to be de rigueur, as would a great deal of dark eyeshadow, accompanied by a very considerable application of mascara.

If Lady Bracknell is to play the part well, she will need to be able to drop smouldering glances over her right shoulder. Unfortunately, current stiffness in her cervical vertebrae precludes such a practice. Any gentleman desirous of being glanced at in a smouldering manner will need to position himself only very slightly to one side of her ladyship. This is what is known as a "reasonable adjustment".

There should be no need for further investment in perfumes, as Lady Bracknell is already more than fully equipped with an extensive range of Thierry Mugler's creations. (She has refrained to date from boring her readers with the details of her Mugler collection, but can assure them that it is unusually comprehensive.)

The problem of appropriate footwear for a femme fatale is, however, exercising her ladyship's mind considerably. How is she to disguise her extra-wide orthopaedic flat shoes as something which would be worn by a Woman of Mystery? Suggestions made via the comments facility will, as always, be welcomed.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Impairment vs disability

Lady Bracknell had the great good fortune to be introduced to the social model of disability by one of the finest and most incisive minds in the disability sphere. To save his blushes (for he is a most humble and diffident gentleman), she will refer to him here only as Mr C.

The social model of disability is a relatively simple concept. Lady Bracknell understands that, for persons who have been indoctrinated for many years into regarding themselves as in some way "less than normal", and as a drain on society, assimilating the social model into their mindsets may require considerable mental re-shuffling. Nevertheless, the principle itself is neither complex nor abstruse.

Lady Bracknell is therefore baffled as to why social model theory results in such demonstrably widespread confusion both within and outside the disabled community.

For those to whom the concept is entirely new, her ladyship has long recommended what her editor assures her is described as "an online training package" provided by Professor Zee as an introduction to the subject.

She is pleased to note, however, that Professor Gregor Wolbring (as reported in Spero News) is discussing the issues in a manner which may perhaps bring enlightenment to those who have so far failed to grasp the basics. Readers with even a passing interest in the subject are recommended to read the article.

For her own part, Lady Bracknell feels that she must point out at this juncture that persons who say that they would favour a mixture of the social and medical models have fully understood neither the purpose nor the remit of the social model.

Despite assertions to the contrary by a coterie of its most extreme apologists, there is nothing in the social model which denies its adherents the right to seek a cure for their impairments. Neither does the social model claim that, should a time come when all physical and attitudinal barriers to the full participation of persons with impairments in society have been removed, those same persons will cease to experience bodily or mental functional loss or difference.

Lady Bracknell has no doubt that many of her readers are only too grateful for the advances in medical science which go at least some way to alleviating symptoms which would otherwise either be very significantly harder to live with than they are now, or might even have proved fatal. But that in itself is no reason either to espouse the medical model of disability or to reject the social model as being inadequate for one's own needs.

(Lady Bracknell is of the opinion that it is the name of the medical model which is largely responsible for such confusion. Were it to be renamed as, let us say, the "you must be kept away from normal, decent people because there is something freakishly and disgustingly wrong with you" model, Lady Bracknell would venture to suggest that far fewer disabled people would be likely to misunderstand its true nature.)

You don't get down from an elephant...

Lady Bracknell, as her regular readers will be aware, is what might be termed "a bit of a stickler" for correct grammar. Education standards may have slipped in the interim but, during Lady Bracknell's school days, pupils were marked down for innaccurate use of language in any subject. For example, Lady Bracknell herself lost a mark in her mock Religious Education 'A' level exam for having had the audacity to split an infinitive.

There is one increasingly common and particularly slovenly use of our fine language which has been causing Lady Bracknell to flinch in horror every time she hears or reads it. So much so, in fact, that she can no longer remain silent on the subject. She will not name names, but the miscreants in question should have no trouble in identifying themselves from the following.

The word "down" may be an adverb, a preposition, or a noun. It may not be an adjective.

Therefore, one may feel downhearted; one may feel downcast; one may even feel down in the dumps.

However, should an individual say that he is "feeling down", he should be aware that what he is actually saying is that he is currently enjoying a somewhat intimate relationship with a duck.

Lady Bracknell would also encourage those who are not already aware of it to learn the difference between "imply" and "infer". This is not difficult: you may imply something by what you are saying; you may infer something from what someone else is saying. Anyone unable to grasp this simple, but crucial, distinction is advised to omit both words from his or her working vocabulary.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Hope springs eternal in the Bracknell breast

Earlier today, Lady Bracknell ventured out to the Post Office.

There are two Post Offices within what persons whose mobility is not impaired would probably describe as "easy walking distance" of Bracknell Towers. One, the journey to which is on relatively level ground, has two rather steep steps at the entrance, so that her ladyship must needs cling on to the doorframe with a vice-like grip if she is to effect ingress or egress. The other has a level entrance, but one must walk down an incline and up another one in order to reach it. It is, of course, axiomatic that whichever Post Office Lady Bracknell decides to visit on a particular day will always feel like the wrong choice before she is even half way to its doors.

(Lady Bracknell has suspected for some time that both the Post Offices in question are stealthily shuffling further and further away from Bracknell Towers. Possibly under cover of darkness, as she has never managed to catch either one in the act during daylight hours. Empirical observation would tend to suggest, however, that this is not the case. Lady Bracknell must face up to the fact that walking is becoming gradually more exhausting for her.)

All of the above, however, is beside the point. Except, that is, for the fact that Lady Bracknell's sortie took her past her local lending library. Regular readers will recall that the library is currently shut for renovations, and that Lady Bracknell is hoping against hope that the large number of books which she was generously permitted to borrow will last her until the first weekend in May. (Readers anticipating an admission of just how many books remain unread at this juncture will be disappointed. Lady Bracknell dare not count them.)

It was, however, cheering to observe that large numbers of workmen were this morning giving every appearance of applying themselves vigorously to the task in hand. Window frames were being painted. Doors were open. Book cases swathed in protective shrouds of polythene sheeting could be glimpsed by the casual onlooker. A strange yellow lifting device of mysterious provenance was parked in close proximity to the front entrance, and the sound of power tools could be heard from within. In short, the whole place was a hive of activity. Lady Bracknell would like to believe that all of this augurs well for the promised grand re-opening taking place on schedule.

The editor, having been unable to find a photograph of Sefton Park Library on the interwebnet, has attached instead a rather artistic photograph of Sefton Park Palmhouse, because that was where she celebrated her 40th birthday.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Lady Bracknell is shocked to the core

Cold, bright, fresh, crisp winter's days - such as were enjoyed in the Bracknell Towers area last week - have much to recommend them. They compete with frosty, golden autumn mornings when spiders webs hang, jewelled with dew, in the hedgerows and skeins of geese honk overhead in Lady Bracknell's personal league table of preferred weather conditions.

They do, however, have two drawbacks.

Firstly, their dry air makes her ladyship's eczema sing.

Secondly, they greatly increase the incidence of the static electric shocks she has ever been prone to experiencing from contact with metal surfaces.

There is a local building which Lady Bracknell has cause to visit regularly. (The purpose of these visits are not in themselves germane to this blog.) Entry via the rear side of this building is effected through something called a "tubestile". Somewhat akin to a turnstile in purpose, this device consists of a metal framework within which there are four floor-to-ceiling glass-walled compartments radiating from a central pivot. Entry to one of these compartments is achieved by swiping a card briskly through a slot containing a sensor. One then pushes the glass pane in front of one's face until one is disgorged on the far side of the barrier. (This process is, if anything, even less entertaining than it sounds.)

Persons who are either slender or flexible can probably achieve this transfer without making bodily contact with any section of the metal framework. Lady Bracknell possesses neither of these admirable qualities, however, and has learned, from painful experience, that the portion of her anatomy which reaches the far side of the device first is the one which will receive an electric shock when the appropriate climatic conditions are in force. It would be indelicate of her ladyship to refer to the body part in question by name. Suffice it to say that she has developed a technique for entering the building with her arms crossed firmly over her capacious bosom.

Having successfully thus defended herself against the sharp bite of the tubestile on Friday morning, Lady Bracknell was considerably piqued when the generally benign button she presses to summon the lift sent a shock of considerable strength from her index finger to her elbow.

Upon her return to Bracknell Towers later that day, she prevailed upon the editor to research possible solutions to the problem by means of the computing device. It transpires that one may be able to earth one's finger in these situations by protecting the digit with a metal thimble.

Sound though this advice may be, until such time as the wearing of thimbles outside the confines of the sewing room is considered appropriate for ladies of good breeding, Lady Bracknell prefers to run the risk of further shocks. (Although she ought, perhaps, to make greater efforts to limit her expostulations when thus shocked to those of a refined and cultured nature.)

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Puppy Love

After an arduous week at work, Lady Bracknell's editor often relaxes at the weekend by pottering around the Interwebnet. Although the attractions of this pastime are somewhat mystifying to her ladyship, she confesses that there are occasions when the editor happens upon products which are sufficiently strange or intriguing to warrant a mention in the pages of this blog.

The bizarre creation pictured to the right may be purchased from Wrapables.com. Lady Bracknell, who is struggling to find words of her own to convey the purpose of the object, is reduced to quoting the description from the site in its entirety:

"These Eye Pillows are pretty and practical. Use chilled to soothe tired eyes and reduce eye puffiness. Warm slightly to use as a dream pillow or relieve sinus pressure. Made with buttery soft chenille and filled with lavender, calming chamomile and gently weighted with flax seed. Each sleeps in its own white organza drawstring bag for giving as a gift or use for storage."

Lady Bracknell, who was prone to sick headaches in her younger days, is familiar with cooling eye masks. She is also prepared to be persuaded that the application of warmth would be beneficial to persons whose sinuses are inflamed. She is as susceptible as the next aristocrat to the tactile pleasures of chenille, and she freely admits that the panda bear of her earliest infancy is still her constant companion.

Nevertheless, she considers the prospect of relaxing with a small, plush puppy balanced precariously on the upper regions of her face to be utterly preposterous. Indeed, she would go so far as to describe the photograph above as being slightly disturbing. Blue gel eyemasks may not be things of beauty, but they are at least visibly appropriate to their purpose. Combining an eyemask with what the young Lady Bracknell and her brothers would have called a "cuddly" strikes her as a highly peculiar notion.

(There are many items on the Wrapables site which are appealing, however. Lady Bracknell recommends, for example, that Marmite Boy equip himself with a self-esteem cereal bowl.)

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

I myself am the pedestal for this ugly hump at which you stare*

The editor has complained to Lady Bracknell that she can tolerate the unpleasant visual assault from the photograph in the previous post no longer. Out of concern for both the editor and this blog's potential readers, therefore, Lady Bracknell has determined to write about the phenomenon of the Bracknell Hump.

(She feels it would be wise at this juncture to pre-empt the disingenuous questions which Marmite Boy and Boogaloo Dude would undoubtedly be tempted to submit via the comments facility. No, the Bracknell Hump is not a description of her ladyship in wrathful mode. Nor - let us be clear from the outset - would it be A Good Idea to subvert the term to serve to describe that state. Punishments for infractions of this rule will be swift and devastating. They might, in the case of the Dude, extend as far as withdrawal of soup privileges.)

The Bracknell Hump is an inherited minor deformity at the top of the spine. Lady Bracknell's esteemed father is similarly afflicted. (Close followers of social mores will have realised immediately that, as the deformity is inherited from the paternal line, and Lady Bracknell is a widow, the term "Bracknell Hump" must be a misnomer. That is certainly very clever of them, but they are mistaken if they expect to be able to use that perspicacity to trick Lady Bracknell into revealing the true identity of her esteemed parents. For the purposes of this blog entry, the Hump will take her ladyship's married name.)

The Bracknell Hump is not particularly disfiguring. It does not cause pain. It is probably not even immediately apparent to the casual observer. Lady Bracknell has no great objection to having inherited distinguishing physical characteristics from either side of the family: it would not do if we all looked alike.

However, the Hump creates one specific irritation which is that the necklines of garments absolutely will not adhere to its delineaments. Thus, not only do hemlines refuse to hang in the nice straight line which their designers intended, but all who bear the Hump run the constant risk of being strangled by their own clothes. Garments initially displaying an enticing hint of décolletage demonstrate a most deplorable tendency to convert themselves into polo-necked sweaters as the day progresses. Bearers of the Bracknell Hump spend their entire lives rearranging their clothing in a battle to alleviate the sensation of choking.

*Although nothing in this entry is untrue, Lady Bracknell would be hard pressed indeed to refute any suggestions that she composed it for the sole purpose of justifying using a quotation from the inimitable Leonard Cohen in the title.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Is it a bird? Is it a plane?

Lady Bracknell has never had any professional involvement in displaying items for retail sale. Nevertheless, she is aware of the basic principle that, to maximise customer interest, it is prudent to display objects to their best advantage. Lighting is, she understands, important. As is utilising a plain background which will not detract from the character and detail of the item one wishes to sell. This is hardly rocket science. Nor, given the fact that we are all consumers ourselves, is it some manner of arcane mystery known only to the enlightened cognoscenti.

The photograph above is taken direct from an ebay listing. Is it for a rather unattractive item of floral clothing which risks exposing the wearer to comment on her resemblance to a country cottage sofa? And from whence do the mysterious bumps and curves originate?

Readers with exceptional eyesight may eventually be able to make out the item being offered for sale (although Lady Bracknell doubts that they will get a clear idea of its detail, or of the calibre of the materials from which it was produced.)

Yes, this photograph is intended to display a vintage necklace! (A further clue for those who are still struggling to make it out is that the necklace is black with gold beads.)

Lady Bracknell confesses that she has difficulty in imagining what can have persuaded the seller that "displaying" this rather plain necklace against so vibrant and distracting a background would be the ideal method of producing the highest possible final bid on the auction.

Friday, February 03, 2006

In which Lady Bracknell almost has an accident

Stepping back from drawing the curtains against the black and shivery night in her bedchamber yesterday evening, Lady Bracknell turned her ankle on a shoe which she could have sworn was not lurking immediately behind her left foot a moment earlier.

Lady Bracknell may have many fine qualities, but a good sense of balance is not one of them. Her esteemed mother tells her that she was almost two years old before she could walk. There is an old photograph of a pre-school age Lady Bracknell tricycling vigorously along a pavement, but she never mastered the bicycle. Her inability to traverse an even slightly icy pavement renders her housebound and palpitating with fear in severe weather. In her blue-stocking days, she disgraced herself by being unable to keep her balance on an ice rink even when being held up by two strapping young gentlemen. Frankly, Lady Bracknell is astonished that she ever manages to remain upright.

A simple turning of the ankle therefore is all that is required to throw her ladyship off such tenuous balance as she ordinarily maintains. However, as Lady Bracknell felt her balance slip from her last night, an odd thing happened. Time appeared to slow down sufficiently for her to pursue the following logical reasoning process:

"I am going to fall, and it is going to hurt. In the direction in which I am currently toppling, there is insufficient space for me to fall flat on the floor. I will probably hit my head on that table on the way down. There is nothing for me to grab on to to break my fall. If I fling my arms out, I may well break the glass in the cabinet door. Even at my fittest, I cannot clean up glass. Once I have fallen, it is likely that I will be considerably below par in my fitness levels. I will not fall because it would be too dangerous for me to do so."

Her brain having reached that conclusion, Lady Bracknell's body suddenly wrenched itself back into balance, and she did not fall. However, she is convinced that, had she been falling towards a soft landing, she would have been wholly incapable of remaining upright.

The degree of strenuous physical effort exerted to prevent herself from falling is evident today in the increased pain levels in Lady Bracknell's left ankle, leg and hip. Given the option, she would rather not put any weight on that leg for the moment. She is not, however, complaining. Had she fallen, she has absolutely no doubt that she would have been in a very considerably worse physical condition.

Nevertheless, she remains intrigued by what happened. Were her body not already so damaged, would she have had the opportunity to reflect on the possible consequences of the fall? Or would she simply have fallen? Does she possess some sort of marvellous self-protection mechanism? And, if she does, why was it so sadly absent on the day of her original injury?

Readers who feel they can offer an insight into the conundrum outlined above are warmly invited to do so via the comments facility.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

... words are all I have ....

Since listing the decidely mellifluous names of a variety of semi-precious stones, Lady Bracknell has been reflecting, during her rare idle moments, on the great pleasure which she derives from words.

She deplores the modern fashion for denigrating scholasticism, and the reverse snobbery under the rules of which relishing the full and joyous potential of one’s mother tongue is deemed to constitute “showing off”. Lady Bracknell will be d*mned if she will succumb, in the pages of her private blog - which, after all, she writes chiefly for her own amusement - to the current fad for “dumbing down”. The impoverishment of language which must inevitably result from this deplorable trend grieves her ladyship greatly.

Many words are beautiful in and of themselves, regardless of their meaning. They roll upon the tongue. They demand a precision of diction which is all too rare in an age when one is bombarded by noise pollutants on all sides.

Lady Bracknell’s esteemed father is somewhat hard of hearing, as was her beloved paternal grandmother before him. Both demanded that the young Lady Bracknell enunciate clearly. This seemed arduous at the time, but the habit, once learned, is not easily cast off. And there is nothing inherently wrong in speaking clearly.

Be that as it may, there follows a random list of a very few of the words which give Lady Bracknell pleasure:

























Wednesday, February 01, 2006

"I've had more fun down drains"

Boogaloo Dude and Lady Bracknell yesterday made the tactical error of attending what was possibly the dullest meeting either has ever had the misfortune to experience. (This is saying something: both have ample experience of enduring meetings of quite remarkable tedium.)

Unfortunately, the reluctance of local motorists to abide by road markings bearing ambiguous and confusing legends such as, "keep clear for access" resulted in them arriving somewhat later than the majority of delegates, with the result that they could not sit together. Boogaloo Dude valiantly attempted to create an escape route by hurling a coat stand through a window, but his best efforts were in vain. The glass remained intact. The die was cast.

Our hero and heroine were thus condemned to sitting with people they did not know and with whom, quite frankly, they had not the slightest desire to pursue any further acquaintance, so that even their long-standing technique of alleviating the boredom by passing caustic notes to each other was denied to them.

Lady Bracknell was reminded, as she often is on such occasions, of the lyrics of one of Victoria Wood's songs, fragments of which lodged themselves in her memory many years ago. In the faint hope that muttering said lyrics under their breath might be of some avail to any of her readers who find themselves in similar straits, Lady Bracknell has instructed the editor to attempt to find the song in its entirety on the interwebnet. So here, for the gentle reader's delectation and delight, is the full text of "Bastards".