.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

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

Monday, July 31, 2006

Incy wincy spider

Far from being manageably incy wincy, the fearsome arachnids which have processed through Bracknell Towers over the last few weeks have been notable for their hefty proportions. Not to mention for their tendency only to make their presence known in the middle of the night when Lady Bracknell is visiting the smallest room, and is thus not in possession of her full mental faculties.

(As a dyed-in-the-wool arachnophobe, Lady Bracknell is convinced that this is a deliberate ploy on their part guaranteeing, as it does, maximum terror and sleep-deprivation.)

A rational person, upon spotting an arachnid the size of a well-fed mouse wandering across the carpet at three in the morning, would no doubt leave it to wend its merry way from room to room until, realising that it had taken a wrong turn at the air brick, it voluntarily departed whence it came.

But Lady Bracknell is not rational in the presence of spiders. Not at all. Her customary sang froid deserts her entirely, and she cannot rest until she is certain that the monster has been evicted. After all, once the beast had exhausted the delights of her carpets, its next move would undoubtedly be to nestle on her pillow and wait for her to leap from her bed shrieking wholly unladylike epithets.

Lady Bracknell has therefore invested in a spider catcher. It is a device which she recommends to those of her readers who share her phobia, with the proviso that this year's crop of brutes are so large and strong that some are able to resist its pull.

Where the spider catching device will not do the trick, Lady Bracknell turns to her long-handled reacher. To her astonishment, the jaws of her own reacher are so finely aligned that they can grasp a large arachnid by one leg securely enough for her ladyship to stride towards the (already opened in readiness) back door; release the monster over the back steps; and - in completion of the spider-eviction ritual - utter the obligatory words, "And don't come back!".

But these tussles with her spidery visitors are taking their toll on Lady Bracknell's nerves. She is convinced that the copious amounts of adrenalin thereby generated cannot be beneficial for an elderly lady in indifferent health. She wonders, therefore, whether Wilf might be persuaded to visit Bracknell Towers for the duration of the threat? Wilf strikes Lady Bracknell as being a sturdy young chap, and one who is unlikely to turn a hair in the presence of even the largest arachnid. As an inducement, Lady Bracknell would be happy to fund her young hero's purchases of sandwiches from the new Subway outlet on a daily basis. She might even be willing to extend the emolument to include the occasional doughnut.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

A sandwich short of a picnic?

Setting forth from Bracknell Towers on Thursday to collect her monthly selection of pills and medicaments from her friendly pharmacist, Lady Bracknell was astonished to note that her local Chinese Takeaway shop had been transformed - apparently overnight - into one of those now ubiquitous Subway outlets.

The global behemoth which is Subway operates on a franchise basis which means that persons who are unlearned in the ways of commerce may be tempted into (ahem) "biting off rather more than they can chew". (Is it any wonder, really, that Lady Bracknell's wit is legendary?)

Quite apart from her pique at learning that she will no longer be able to pick up a Mushroom Foo Yung on her way home on a cold, wet winter's evening when she is too weary to produce something nourishing herself from the contents of her own store cupboard, Lady Bracknell is far from convinced that this particular Subway outlet has any prospect of longevity.

A successful sandwich shop is one which is situated handily for the customers for whom its goods have been designed. Ideal locations would therefore include a public transport terminus; the middle of a busy shopping centre; the fringes of a university campus; or in the vicinity of large offices. Anywhere, indeed, where the passing trade is constituted of busy people who have neither the time nor the opportunity to return to their own homes to partake of a lengthy and civilised luncheon.

Lady Bracknell's local Subway has flown in the face of the standard customer demographics by opening in a wholly residential area only yards from two supermarkets which themselves offer pre-packed sandwiches for sale. There is but one parking space outside the shop, and it is unlikely that passers by on the opposite side of the dual carriageway will suddenly be hit by a desire for a sandwich which is so overwhelming that they are prepared to go the considerable trouble of crossing both carriageways twice in order to purchase one.

Any persons walking past on the Subway side of the street will, in the main, be heading either for the supermarkets or towards an omnibus stop.

A sandwich (even a toasted one) does not a warming supper make, so it seems unlikely to Lady Bracknell that the Subway outlet will inherit the late Chinese Takeaway's loyal customer base.

Lady Bracknell makes no claim to expertise in economics. But if even she can immediately see the commercial pitfalls of opening a sandwich shop in such a location, she fears that the franchisees in question must be parlously inexperienced and at great risk of losing the money they have invested in this venture.

Of course, should the shop flourish and thrive, Lady Bracknell will gladly eat both humble pie and her magnificent hat. (Although perhaps not a sandwich.)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

In which Lady Bracknell toys with the idea of developing a "strident feminist" persona

Despite a combination of the advertised drop in temperature and copious open windows, Bracknell Towers is doing its level best to retain the heat and humidity of the last few days, with the result that Lady Bracknell finds herself unable to drop off.

Whilst waiting - in what some might term a triumph of hope over experience - to drift into the arms of Morpheus, Lady Bracknell's musings turned to something the editor had reported to her earlier this evening when she returned (still moderately snappish, Lady Bracknell regrets to report) from her place of work.

Apparently, the editor had encountered a young woman in the lift who, by all accounts, had forgotten an important article of foundation wear when she dressed this morning. (Lady Bracknell would like to believe that the young woman in question was eventually mortified when she realised her omission. However, standards of dress not being what they were in Lady Bracknell's far distant youth, she has a sneaking suspicion that said omission may actually have been deliberate.)

Now, Lady Bracknell is aware that her own behavioural principles are not generally shared by the Youth Of Today, and that times - and dress codes - change. But she remains of the opinion that, whilst young women should be free to dress in whatever manner pleases them during their leisure hours without ever being accused of inciting molestation from unruly members of the opposite sex, outfits which might be deemed suitable for a trip to a nightclub are unlikely to be appropriate as office wear.

(Lady Bracknell has just realised that "office wear" creates the unfortunate - not to mention inaccurate - impression that a range of clothing and/or natty accessories has been designed for office equipment. She now has visions of photocopiers sporting fashionable ponchos, and fax machines wearing fedora hats at a rakish angle. In her defence, it is very late.)

To return to the point she was making prior to her surreal imaginings, Lady Bracknell is aware that the majority of the editor's mature female colleagues regularly deplore the failure to enforce standards of decency and respectability in dress in their workplaces. None of them wish to impose ankle-length, shapeless, fustian gowns on their young female colleagues, but neither do they find bare midriffs, visible thong underwear, teetering stiletto heels, or deeply plunging cleavages acceptable in what is supposed to be a professional environment.

However, Lady Bracknell is disappointed to report that this is not an attitude which is generally shared by the editor's male colleagues. Regardless of their age and otherwise dignified mien, they will all, to a man, if questioned about such divergences from the accepted dress code, snicker like schoolboys, and mutter something to the effect that they have no complaints. Lady Bracknell suspects that they would very soon start to have complaints, though, if their middle-aged female colleagues - whose bodies are no longer firm and lithe, and whose bosoms have lost some of their initial capacity to entrance - were to attend the office clad in crop tops and mini skirts.

So here we are faced with that much-discussed dichotomy between a woman's right to wear whatever pleases her, and the recognition that even those men who are decent and respectable will respond to the baring of flesh in a lascivious manner. Or at least, they will do so as long as the flesh which is being bared is young and nubile. Which results in the acceptable dress codes for mature woman being markedly different from those for young women. But professional dress codes are not enforced, presumably because the only sector of employees who would really like to see them imposed are women in their forties and above, and middle-aged women are not perceived to be a powerful lobbying force. Their motives in such a debate are also often misconstrued as being derived from envy of their younger (and thus automatically more beautiful - at least in the eyes of the persons who are imputing the envy) colleagues.

Lady Bracknell's own equality hobby horse is, as her regular readers will be aware, disability. She is not practised in feminist debate or rhetoric. And she is too tired to develop the argument she has initiated to a logically compelling conclusion. Nevertheless, she remains convinced that there is something repugnant from a gender equality perspective in the situation which she has outlined above.

Perhaps, when the Goldfish is feeling a little stronger, she could be persuaded to comment from her own greater understanding of feminist tenets?

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

In which the Editor has a Very Bad Day

Lady Bracknell is finding the editor's current sullen mood rather wearing. She has therefore hit upon the expedient of permitting the editor to utilise an entry in this blog by way of a catharsis, in the hopes that this will speed the passing of her foul temper and baleful glances.

By way of an introduction to this tale of woe, I should probably explain that, as part of my reasonable adjustment, I work from home two days a week. To which end I have been issued with a remote access laptop. I am far too weedy and frail to drag said laptop in and out of the office with me, so I also have a standard PC at my desk. This set-up is absolutely guaranteed to confuse all IT bods, as their mental pathways will permit of only two alternatives: staff are either desktop users or laptop users. There is no middle ground. I am a freak.

Every few weeks, the system warns its users that they have x number of days before their password expires. This message fills my heart with dread, as it means I must cart the laptop into the office (courtesy of the lovely and generous Chris S, who kindly drives out of her way to pick me up from home and drop me off again at the end of the day) so that password synchronisation can take place.

Ok, so, scene set, here is what happened yesterday:

10.30: I phone IT bods

"Hello, it's me. The Editor. You told me last week that I could synchronise the passwords myself if I docked the laptop at someone else's docking station."


"Ok, well, all I want to know is which machine should have its password changed first. The laptop or the PC?"

"Change the password on the laptop, then come back to your desk, log out of your PC, and log back in again under the new password."

"And that'll work, will it?"

"Er, should do, yes."

So off I go to a desk round the corner and spend an enjoyable ten minutes trying to dock the laptop. Then somebody else tries. We give up. I carry the laptop down to the floor below, and beard the IT bods in their den:

"Call me a bit of a girly, but I can't get the thingy on the docking station to fit into this other thingy on the laptop..."

"Oh, you've got one of those laptops. No, they don't fit the new docking stations. What you need to do is to attach the network cable from the docking station to the laptop. That'll work."

So I do that, and I change the password (hurrah!), and I go back to my desk. I log out of the PC and try to log back in again. It doesn't like the new password. I try reverting to the old password. The PC treats the old password with equivalent contempt.

I phone the IT bods. (Are you beginning to see a pattern here?) I explain.

"Leave it turned off while you have lunch. It can take a while for the system to recognise the change."

Hmmm. I leave it turned off. I cast around for something to do. Am soon so bored that I break the habits of a lifetime and check my pigeon hole. In which I find a letter from the Chair of RADAR congratulating me on my MBE. And it's only two weeks' old.

I go to a meeting. I come back and try to log in again. The PC is having none of it. I phone the IT bods. No-one answers. I go back down to the floor below. (All this wandering around the office is an absolute tonic for my back, as you can imagine.)

"Ah, what you've got now is a password problem. We can't deal with those. You'll have to call the helpline number."

Demonstrating un-Editor-like restraint, I manage not to beat the IT bod severely about the head and shoulders with my stick. It's a challenge, admittedly, but I manage it. I go back to my desk and phone the helpline. They re-set my password to something silly but transient, which immediately requires me to change it to the same one I set up on the laptop four hours earlier.

"Will this work? Will I be able to access my laptop at home tomorrow?"

"Well, it should work..... But you might want to test it in about an hour's time"

Spend the next hour chipping away at the email deficit which accrued when I was off sick for three days last week with heat exhaustion. Turn the PC off. Unplug its network cable and whack it into the laptop. Success!!! Am temporarily giddy with relief. Or possibly the heat.

What I didn't tell you at the beginning is that, because the laptop is a rubbish solution for working at home on a regular basis, a proper PC was ordered for me in April. Last week, I nudged the team responsible for ordering it. Predictably, the chap I had been dealing with - and with whom I had laboured hard to create a positive working relationship - has left the team.

One of the many emails I was faced with on my return to work yesterday was from his replacement. Who can't find a record of the PC being ordered on his system, and who sent me a form to complete if I wanted them to provide me with one. At this point, I segued seamlessly into Major Strop Mode.

"Gosh," said my boss. "You're such a diva. I bet gay men love you."

My boss rocks.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

In which Big Brother is watching the editor

Lady Bracknell's editor describes herself as being "freaked out" (really, the woman has a deplorably narrow and emotive vocabulary!) by a letter she has received from the Vice-Chancellor of D____ University, which begins:

"Our staff in the Development and Alumni Relations Office make rigorous efforts to keep abreast of our alumni, and sometimes during the course of their work they come across a former D_____ student who deserves our recognition and commendation."

Although not wishing to pander to the editor's lamentable tendency towards melodramatics, even Lady Bracknell is forced to admit that she would be somewhat discomfited herself were she to receive such concrete proof that her alma mater was scouring the press for mentions of her name more than twenty years after she had graduated from its hallowed portals.

One wonders whether the Vice-Chancellor sends letters of disapprobation to alumni who have strayed from the moral precepts inculcated in them by their tutors during their undergraduate years. It is, perhaps, fortunate that the editor did not choose to apply the reasoning skills she developed during her three years at D_____ to the pursuit of a life of crime.

Far be it from Lady Bracknell to imply by word or deed that institutes of higher education bear even so much as a passing resemblance to ivory towers. Nevertheless, she considers the final paragraph of the Vice-Chancellor's letter to be indicative of a belief in the enduring significance and impact of a D____ degree which borders, let us be frank, on fantasy:

"May I take this opportunity to express my hope that you maintain your links with D____? The success and reputation of the University is dependent on the progress and achievements of our alumni, and in turn this helps our undergraduates to be confident that their degree holds real value in our society."

This particular problem of etiquette has never previously presented itself to Lady Bracknell. Ought the editor to reply to the Vice-Chancellor's letter? If so, and given that she expresses no desire to "maintain her links" with D____ for the purpose of inspiring undergraduates, what should she say?

Readers are invited to submit their opinions on this quandary via the handy comments facility.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

C is for...

.... congratulations to the extremely talented gentleman who has created the politically incorrect alphabet.

Persons of a sensitive disposition are advised not to click on the above link. Those of a rather more robust frame of mind - a category into which Lady Bracknell would like to think the majority of her regular readers fall - are recommended to visit the site forthwith, as long as they promise faithfully not to desert Lady Bracknell's humble scribblings as a result, and live out the rest of their days volunteering further taboo subjects for The Headmaster to illustrate in a comical fashion.

Post Script: is it just Lady Bracknell's fancy, or does the little chap in the illustration above bear an almost uncanny resemblance to young Master Marmite?

Saturday, July 15, 2006

And the way the sunlight plays upon her hair...

These days, when instantaneous gratification of material desires is widely considered to be a basic human right, and when insistence on not purchasing a specific item until one has saved up sufficient funds to buy it outright is regarded as a quaint and eccentric (but wholly unnecessary) practice, Lady Bracknell ought not to be surprised that young women who desire long hair exhibit insufficient patience to grow their own, and much prefer the costly expedient of something called, "extensions".

Quite why anyone would labour under the delusion that short hair plus extensions in any way resembles naturally long hair is beyond Lady Bracknell. On every occasion when she has been within viewing distance of a young woman with hair extensions herself, the difference in appearance between the young woman's own hair and whatever substance has been knotted into it has been very marked indeed.

"Celebrity" hairdressers will, of course, argue that their own work is of such a high standard of professionalism that the casual observer really cannot "see the join", and that we are surrounded by young women who have chosen their stylist with such care (and dedication to paying the highest possible prices) that their artificially lengthened locks are completely indistinguishable from the real thing.

Be that as it may*, Lady Bracknell remains vaguely nauseated by the prospect of having somebody else's hair welded onto her own. She is not in the habit of running her fingers through other ladies' hair, and would most assuredly have no inclination to do so in circumstances when it had been attached to her own head. Call Lady Bracknell old-fashioned, but she cannot see the difference between using other people’s fingernail clippings to create glamorous talons for oneself and using other people’s discarded hair to supplement one’s own crowning glory.

Issues of personal squeamishness and distaste aside, however, young women intent on purchasing extensions fashioned from human hair would do well to ask themselves whether the human hair in question has actually been voluntarily donated. If their consciences will allow them to contribute to a trade which results in women in third world countries having their hair forcibly hacked off, then Lady Bracknell would venture to suggest their internal moral compasses need to be significantly recalibrated.

*Afficionados of grammatical trivia may be interested to know that, “Be that as it may” and, “Long live the king/queen!” are believed to be the only two examples of the subjunctive mood in the English language.

Friday, July 14, 2006

It's good news week

Lady Bracknell offers her heartiest congratulations to the dedicated staff of the Merseyside Diversity Mentoring Outlook programme, which last week received the AGCAS Diversity Award for "demonstrating an outstanding commitment and contribution to diversity in services to students and graduates".

Lady Bracknell, who has worked closely with the Outlook programme team for some years in a variety of capacities (chiefly that of an adviser on disability issues, although she has also acted as a mentor to a number of delightful and talented undergraduates), hopes that her own involvement has been in some small way a contributing factor to the success of the programme as a whole. (She should add at this juncture that Dude, the chauffeur, has inter-officiated surprisingly effectively for her on those occasions when she has been too frail to meet her pre-existing commitments.)

As a complete non-sequitur (but to save writing two separate blog entries), Lady Bracknell is given to understand that the editor devoted much of this afternoon to comparing deft flirting techniques with her manager. Whilst Lady Bracknell's protestant work ethic inclines her to take a very dim view indeed of persons who engage in recreational chit chat during working hours, she believes so strongly that a life without flirtations would be intolerably dull that she finds herself displaying uncharacteristic leniency in this particular instance.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

I remember you well in the Chelsea hotel

Regular readers may recall that the editor was last granted an evening off as recently as November. They will no doubt be astonished, therefore, at her ladyship's exceptional beneficence in permitting her employee a further junket tonight.

By all accounts, the editor is intending to spend the evening engaged in something called "hagging" with a rather epicene young gentleman of whom she appears to be inordinately fond. Lady Bracknell confesses that her eyebrows rose considerably when the editor informed her that the young gentleman's nom de plume is, apparently, "Puss Puss": she suspects that such an alias can not bode well as an indicator of his seriousness of mind. This diversion will take place in the Adelphi hotel which, despite its venerable history, would seem these days to be a venue of considerable moral laxity. (The term "hagging" is unfamiliar to Lady Bracknell, but she hopes that it does not betoken any involvement with the Dark Arts. The editor is far from being a model employee, but Lady Bracknell is nevertheless aware that the process of finding a suitable replacement for her would not be straightforward in a day and age when even the lowliest domestics are labouring under the delusion that they have "rights".)

The editor's absence will leave Lady Bracknell at something of a loose end. Rather than waste the time, however, she has determined to spend it in being imperious towards inanimate objects. Some of her kitchen implements have recently been showing signs of getting rather above themselves once again.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Oh, rapture!

It is with unalloyed joy and considerable relief that Lady Bracknell can reveal to her readers that her local lending library has at last re-opened its doors to the public, albeit two months behind schedule.

She is also pleased to note that the designers of the new interior have taken accessibility issues into account. The faded paint lines on the edges of the steps up to the front door have been restored to a dazzling whiteness. The old counter has been replaced with that very rare phenomenon: a split level front desk. There are high ledges for persons such as her ladyship who experience great discomfort on bending, and a lower section for persons who use wheelchairs. Astonishingly (and this is something Lady Bracknell has never seen before), there is actually a gap under the low desk so that persons who use wheelchairs can pull right up under it and converse with the librarians from a friendly and comfortable distance.

There is also a new automated system for checking books out, which Lady Bracknell has not yet had cause to test. It would seem that borrowers must swipe the barcodes in the books they have chosen over a lens. (Or something. Regular readers will have gathered some time ago that technological advances are not her ladyship's strongest suit.)

In any event, it was very pleasant to see the library staff again and to catch up with all their doings. Courtesy such as theirs is, sadly, not so widespread in our modern world as it used to be and, once encountered, should be cultivated.

Were this the only joyous news Lady Bracknell had to convey, she would be a happy woman indeed. But there is more to come.

To her incredulous delight, Lady Bracknell read earlier this week that she may well be Saki reincarnated. Never has a compliment been so carefully chosen to appeal to its intended recipient! Whilst, in all honesty, Lady Bracknell does not believe that she really has one tenth of the wit or literary skill of that revered gentleman, to be compared to him at all is succour to her soul, and she is most grateful to the authors of Ceely's Modern Usage for their kind words.

(Should it be the case that any of Lady Bracknell's readers are not familiar with Saki's works - and even she is forced to admit that his star is not currently in the literary ascendant - they could do worse than to sample those of his short stories which are available here. Should this whet their appetite - and Lady Bracknell would be disappointed if it does not - the good people at Amazon are offering the Wordsworth's Classics edition of his Collected Short Stories for the exceptionally reasonable price of £1.99.)

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Tails of the Unexpected

Yesterday morning early, as Lady Bracknell was drifting at a leisurely pace towards her omnibus stop - the weather being much too warm for her to be striding purposefully, as is her wont - she espied a small tuft of fur on a minor road she happened to be crossing.

Closer inspection, with the assistance of her ladyship's handsome walking stick, revealed that this was not merely a chunk of fur randomly moulted by one of the many dogs which are walked by their owners in the area. It was the tip of a grey squirrel's tail.

The almost inescapable conclusion to which any rational person would be drawn upon observing this fragment of a squirrel is that the erstwhile possessor of this tail tip must have met an untimely end at the paws of either a local cat or a foxy gentleman with sandy whiskers.

But Lady Bracknell, who has a great fondness for squirrels (yes, even the grey ones), and who shrinks from enivisaging nature red in tooth and claw, has a theory.

The squirrel in question may well have been a member of that rare phenomenon, the squirrel/lizard cross. Whilst retaining all the outward appearances of its squirrel ancestors, the squizard's reptilian antecedents are present in its ability to shed its tail in moments of extreme peril.

Thus, the tail tip on the tarmacadam was evidence not of a bloody slaughter, but of the triumph of the squizardy prey in fooling whatever had attempted to catch and eat it. The victorious squizard will even now be perched in the lower branches of one of the many fine trees which surround Sefton Park, waiting only for its tail to grow back before it once again leaps from branch to branch with gay abandon.

(Lady Bracknell instructed her editor to include a photograph of a squizard in this blog entry, but is advised that such an item cannot be found on the interwebnet. Not even for ready money. Odd.)

In other lizard-related news, Lady Bracknell took lunch yesterday with a charming Welsh gentleman whom she had not seen for many years. She was greatly amused to hear that this gentleman's son has a pet lizard called Eddie.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Appearances can be deceptive

Lady Bracknell would be the first to admit that she is

  • big
  • full-bodied
  • aristocratic; and
  • a lady.

Despite this, she has little doubt that she is not what the individual who fed the above random collection of words into a search engine earlier today was really looking for.