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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

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

A poetic(ish) tribute

Last night I went out with my good friend Pop Larkin (right), who was staying in Liverpool overnight to deliver some disability equality training this morning. This had been arranged some time ago at a point when, obviously, I couldn't have known that Fishbone would decide she'd had enough just the day before.

I warned Pop that I was unlikely to be sparkling company, and that there was every chance I would spend the evening sobbing inconsolably on his shoulder. Being a decent soul (and having first met me, in any case, under similarly damp circumstances), he professed to be not at all put off by the prospect of having to mop me up.

So, after a visit to the osteopath, I caught the train back into town and met Pop in the bar of his hotel, where he immediately furnished me with a (purely medicinal, you understand) gin and tonic.

Going out for the evening with a charming gentleman might seem to some like a rather heartless and disrespectful thing to do so soon after Fishbone's death, but it really was exactly what I needed.

At my suggestion, we decamped from the city centre to Keith's Wine Bar on Lark Lane for something to eat, and to watch the world go by. (It's a long time since I've been fit enough to patronise Keith's regularly, but it's still as bohemian and idiosyncratic - and the food is still just as good - as it was when I moved here twelve years ago.) It's always a joy to watch Londoners' faces when they realise they've just bought an enormous meal for less than £5.

Once we'd eaten, we walked over the road to the Albert for more medicinal alcohol. (I feel like death this morning: diabetes and alcohol really don't mix at all well. But desperate times call for desperate measures. Sometimes doubles.)

I did feel I'd be rather letting the side down if I failed to poke fun at Pop for

a) having a coat with him at all; and

b) putting it on to cross the road.

He's convinced that, Oop North, it could start to snow at any moment. Yes, even in September. Bless.

Anyway, just as we were about to leave, we were stopped in our tracks by a rather odd young man who was spending his evening offering to write people a poem about anything they wanted, and explaining that we would only have to give him something for his services if we liked the results. Well, he was wearing a lapel pin with "Poet" written on it, so he was clearly kosher. And, really, how can you turn down an offer like that?

In the cold light of day, the poem he composed lacks a certain something. I suspect that a lot of its impact was in his delivery. Or the fact that we were very drunk when he delivered it. Or possibly both. But I'm going to reproduce it here in any case because I was moved by it at the time, and because it was such an unusual - and unexpected - way to say goodbye to an old, old friend.


Now has flown
Having had 17 of cats' 9 lives
Your fine feline arrives
Upon all fours
Paws and claws
Still one adores
However timid
Once you knew
A bond of love grew
Like her whiskers and fur
For kindness and mercy ensured
This Fishbone
Didn't become unstuck

So, er, that's that.

A thousand thanks to Pop for his unerring ability to combine just the right amount of sympathy and hand-holding with a talent for making me laugh. And for plying me with alcohol until I could barely stand up. In retrospect, I reckon that constitutes a wake. And a remarkably fine one, at that. In which case, I refuse to feel guilty for having enjoyed myself.

The Editor

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

In Memoriam

Fishbone, 1989 - 2006.

A venerable old lady who yesterday reached a peaceful end to a long and very gentle life. Shown here as an elegant youngster, in stark contrast with the photographs posted last week.

Now basking in a bright, warm sunbeam of her very own.

Bracknell Towers has lost its soul.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Man and woman wearing sunglasses

At long last, the website for Blankstone's Magnificent Optical Emporium (Lady Bracknell's optician of choice) is online.

The charming Mr Blankstone is keen to receive feedback on the accessibility of the site so, as the Editor has no particular access requirements for computing devices - and as the interwebnet is a great mystery to Lady Bracknell herself, who was brought up with quill pens and foolscap and sees no reason to change her ways at this stage in her life - they are unable to help him.

The gauntlet must therefore now be thrown down to Lady Bracknell's loyal readers, some of whom she knows to have specific access requirements for websites. If they would be so kind, they are requested to visit the site and use the handy comments facility to describe any access problems the site causes for them.

The accessibility statement is here.

One problem which the Editor has identified on her own is that

a) not all of the photographs display descriptive captions when the cursor hovers over them; and

b) those that do are misdescribed.

For example, the photograph of the charming Mr Blankstone with a certain Mr Nastase of tennis fame on this page is rather misleadingly captioned, "man and woman wearing sunglasses". As Mr Nastase is the only one of the two wearing sunglasses, Mr Blankstone might be well-advised to resolve that particular problem with considerable speed....

Friday, September 22, 2006

Come on, baby, light my fire

Readers who share Lady Bracknell's fondness for furnishing and design from the 1930s will no doubt be as thrilled as she was herself to read that a company called C20 Fires both manufactures reproduction fireplaces and sells original ones which have been rescued from houses in Manchester and surrounding areas.

(The Dude may be particularly interested in
this fireplace, strongly reminiscent as it is of one for which a friend of his was endeavouring to find a home some years ago.)
The following rubric is taken from the C20 Fires website:

"Our Fireplaces and hearths are of traditional construction, keeping alive skills and methods that might otherwise be lost.

Most of our tiles come from England's last remaining Fireplace tile manufacturer (H.E. Smith of Stoke on Trent).

Some types of tile, such as our opening tiles and arch tiles, are no longer available from any other manufacturer. We make these tiles ourselves by hand in our Manchester factory and glaze them on the premises to match the Fireplace tiles."

Lady Bracknell's heart is always gladdened when she sees evidence that there are still sufficient persons of good taste and discernment to support businesses such as this one, and that not everybody is a slave to the likes of Ikea. Naturally, if one chooses to purchase for one's home items which are not mass-produced, and which are constructed individually by skilled craftspersons, one must expect to be involved in considerable expense. Lady Bracknell could not afford such a luxury herself in her current financial circumstances. Nevertheless, she derives great pleasure from simply looking at the photographs.

Readers of similar preferences may also be interested in the comprehensive list of links which the good people of C20 Fires have kindly provided for their browsing pleasure.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

It's good news week (again)

Regular readers may recall that the Merseyside Diversity Mentoring Outlook programme won an AGCAS Diversity Award in July.

Lady Bracknell is pleased to report that the programme staff are now also the proud possessors of a Positive Action North West award, which Trish Lunt and Paul Gaunt accepted on behalf of the team on September 12th.

Outlook is a worthy winner in the education category: the services it offers have a measurable impact on both the confidence of the participating students and their chances of appropriate employment post-graduation.

Should the backdrop to the stage, or the dramatis personae, seem vaguely familiar to any readers who have been with Lady Bracknell since the inception of her humble blog, it may be because they followed the links through from this post last October.

It takes very little, as Lady Bracknell's readers will no doubt have realised, to persuade the Editor that life is treating her unfairly. Her current complaint is that, because this year's awards ceremony was held in September rather than October, her title of "Disabled Person of the Year" was a misnomer. She feels cheated of her twelfth month in the role. Lady Bracknell has no patience with such complaints, particularly in light of the Editor's forthcoming trip to the Palace. (Which trip is not - although the concept is a highly entertaining one - for the purposes of her giving sartorial advice to HRH.)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A further indulgence

The comments on Lady Bracknell's previous post having been so kind, she hopes that her readers will indulge her in just one more image of the friend whose sedate company she has enjoyed for so many years.

The early morning, at least, being sunny yesterday, Lady Bracknell's elderly feline companion once again insisted that the back door be left ajar for her convenience.

The photograph to the left having been taken with a digital camera rather than the Editor's mobile phone, the quality of the image is considerably higher. Readers will thus be able to observe for themselves the level of decrepitude to which Lady Bracknell's feline companion has, sadly, sunk of recent months.

She remains, nevertheless, a cat of Strong Opinions: one does not need to be an expert in feline communication to judge that she was Not Best Pleased at being expected to pose for the camera.

Monday, September 18, 2006

An old lady taking the sun

To the right is a photograph of Lady Bracknell's feline companion (and her somewhat intimidating shadow).

The veterinary gentleman, having diagnosed an inoperable mammary tumour, pronounced in mid-May that she would not live beyond a maximum of a further three months.

Lady Bracknell's feline companion of very nearly seventeen years is admittedly now both very frail and exceedingly thin, but she will not be dictated to by the timetables of veterinary gentlemen, no matter how charming their Irish accents are.

The weather being fine this morning, she insisted that the back door of Bracknell Towers be left open so that she could take the sun in safety. (Not that the grounds of Bracknell Towers are actually swarming with ravening predators whose preference is for a light snack consisting almost entirely of bone and fur: but this is a cat who, even in her physical prime, would run in fear from a falling leaf. For much of such time as she did ever spend in the grounds, it was generally safe to assume that she would be cowering under the shed.)

As she will not have the pleasure of her feline companion's quiet and unassuming presence for very much longer, Lady Bracknell was more pleased than she can say to see her enjoying the sun.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

In which light dawns on Lady Bracknell

Lady Bracknell confesses that, almost eleven years ago, when she first removed to the current Bracknell Towers, she was sadly deficient in anything resembling expertise in the field of useful and charming lighting fixtures. Several errors of taste were made, for which Lady Bracknell cannot legitimately blame anyone other than herself.

If Lady Bracknell were to be pointing the finger of blame at anyone - which, of course, she is not - she might venture to recollect that it was, in point of fact, her esteemed mother who assured her that the British Home Stores were the last word in lighting elegance. If Lady Bracknell's readers will permit her to stoop to employ the current idiom, that is so not true. They also have a deplorable tendency to hold out for sale light fittings which require certain rare models of lightbulb, such as require a special trip to town to purchase. (Lady Bracknell is, in any event, no longer able to visit the lighting department of her local British Home Stores because it is on the upper floor, and the swooping new escalator which was installed during a refurbishment some years ago brings on in her aged frame insupportable attacks of vertigo.)

Over a period of time, all but three of the ceiling light fixtures in Bracknell Towers have been dressed with original art deco shades. (At one point, it was all but two of the ceiling light fixtures: Lady Bracknell still feels sick at heart when she recalls the unfortunate incident with the sauce bottle in the kitchen.)

Two further antique shades have been lurking quietly in the cardboard boxes in which they were delivered for something in the region of three years. Lady Bracknell, believing that her health is now sufficiently robust to deal with tradesmen, has determined to call in an electrician. Electricians not being cheap, however, and the disruption their visits cause not being minor, Lady Bracknell has determined to find a third light fitting for the remaining room, so that all can be completed in what her esteemed mother (when not engaged in recommending second rate lighting emporia) would refer to as, "one fell swoop".

To this end, the editor has been employed in diligently searching the Interwebnet for something appropriate. Her searches having led either nowhere, or to fittings which were beyond her employer's modest purse, the editor was reduced to searching for something which might prove tolerable amongst purveyors of modern lighting. No-one was more astonished than Lady Bracknell when the editor discovered that Asco Lights offer several fittings of a decidely art deco style.

The Aperture (pictured left), having been deemed entirely acceptable by her ladyship, and retailing for a very reasonable £40, a purchase will shortly be made.

Friday, September 08, 2006

In which the editor panics. Quite a lot.

Returning this evening from another warm day in the office, the editor was surprised to see that a letter of unmistakeable livery was lying on the doormat awaiting her arrival.

The editor has been summoned to Buckingham Palace on Friday, November 17th.

Given that she has waited so long to have the date confirmed, Lady Bracknell had anticipated that the editor would react calmly once the news arrived, as befits an employee of a member of the aristocracy.

But Lady Bracknell's confidence was sorely misplaced. The editor is all of a fluster, and can be heard to fret, "But I haven't been back to the milliner yet to discuss hat colours!" and, "But that's really soon, and I haven't even bought my shoes!".

Lady Bracknell suspects that this weekend may prove rather trying...

Thursday, September 07, 2006

What will they think of next?

Regular readers may recall Lady Bracknell's fond reminiscences about a diverting toy from her childhood. (The mention of toys may lead Wilf to suppose that this entry will be particularly suited to him. It will not, and Lady Bracknell strongly recommends that Wilf should read no further, lest his innocence be irreparably besmirched.)

It has come as something of a shock to her ladyship to discover that an "adult" version of said erstwhile innocent plaything has recently been introduced onto the open market. (Lady Bracknell is given to understand that "adult", when used as an adjective to describe a product, can generally be assumed to be a euphemism for "pornographic".)

In lieu of the bald pate of a middle-aged gentleman, the purchaser is now faced with the disgracefully shaven nether regions of a young woman. The game, as before, is to wield the accompanying magnet and thereby cover the nakedness with iron filings masquerading as hair.

Is there anything the world needs less than this variant on what was, for many years, a successful product in its own right? Who will purchase it? And for whom?

One aspect of the product confuses Lady Bracknell: what connection does the object pictured above have with a large, amphibious rodent of the genus Castor, having sharp incisors, webbed hind feet, and a flattened tail, noted for its ability to dam streams with trees, branches, etc.? And, given that the beaver has been functioning perfectly well for countless millenia, what possible motivation could there be to design a new version?

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The sincerest form of flattery?

The moment Lady Bracknell espied the new Zoom Cloud which that reputable and respected gentleman, the Gorse Fox, published on his blog last week, she knew she would not rest until her own blog was similarly graced.

As with previous occasions on which the editor has been required to add new programming to the blog template, Lady Bracknell has had to stop her ears against foul language and ill humour. Lady Bracknell knows little about Information Technology, but even she can recognise that the editor would be singularly unsuited to paid employment within that particular profession.

However, what the editor lacks in knowledge and skill, she makes up for in dogged perseverance, and Lady Bracknell's very own Zoom Cloud now forms an integral part of this blog. Readers wishing to gasp in awe at the cloud's beauty will need to scroll down to beyond the list of recommended websites.

(The editor has asked Lady Bracknell to assure bloggers desiring clouds of their own that designing the cloud is simplicity itself: it was persuading the programming to "take" in the template which reduced her to inchoate rage. She was, in the end, brought so low as to take a peek at the Gorse Fox's own template for assistance by right-clicking on his blog and selecting the "view source" option.)

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The first anniversary post

Lady Bracknell is astonished to report that she has now been contributing to the blogosphere for exactly twelve months.

It seems like only yesterday that Young Master Marmite finally prevailed upon her ladyship to take up her virtual quill pen and share her perorations with any cyberspace-enabled persons who might happen upon them. When one reaches Lady Bracknell's advanced age, one is regularly astonished at how quickly a year can pass: this may be why it always seems to be Christmas. And there is a depressing thought.

It may be the case that persons such as Lady Bracknell, who experience significant physical enfeeblement of a type which requires hours of bed rest almost every day, and in whose lives of necessity, therefore, little of any dramatic import happens, experience the passing of time rather differently than do their physically vigorous peers who dash frantically from one social gathering to another. Not having any ties to the educational calendar, for instance, Lady Bracknell is often hard pressed to remember what month it is.

Major annual events have a tendency to creep up on Lady Bracknell and catch her unawares, only impeding on her consciousness when some innocent soul asks a question such as, "And what are you doing for Easter?". Were Lady Bracknell sufficiently robust to "do something" for Easter, her life would be so different from what it is at present that she would struggle to recognise it as her own.

Individual days which - by the unavoidable necessity for enforced inactivity - are rendered lengthy and burdensome, blend into weeks and months which fly past at an almost dizzying speed. Nevertheless, although Lady Bracknell is sometimes wistful when her impairments prevent her from doing something which others do easily and without conscious thought, she would not wish to be one of those persons who appear to avoid every opportunity for quiet contemplation by rushing hither and yon from dawn to dusk. There is, after all, much to be said both for quiet contemplation and for the opportunity to read widely and voraciously. When one must lie down, one need experience no guilt when one consumes novels whole in a single reading.

Lady Bracknell suspects that persons who live their lives at a frenetic pace cannot have the opportunity to think deeply about what they are doing or to form reasoned opinions on matters of importance to them. We are often told that we are, daily and hourly, bombarded with more information than we have ever previously been subjected to: must these "soundbytes" not rattle in a distracting manner around the skulls of persons who have not the time to mentally digest them?

One remedy, she assumes, would be to create internal barriers so that none of the information seeps through. But Lady Bracknell's own upbringing and education would prevent her from considering this to be an acceptable solution leading, as it surely must, to extremes of solipsism. As John Donne said, "No man is an island". To ignore this truth is to live a life of entirely selfish pursuits, and Lady Bracknell is confident that she need not enumerate to her readers the multiple examples she witnesses daily of the behaviour of persons who never, for one moment, consider the feelings of others.

Lady Bracknell feels that the logical flow of this her first anniversary blog post has somehow got away from her. In short, the point she was attempting to make was that physical limitations can have unforeseen advantages. And that the trick to living cheerfully with one's impairments lies in developing the skill to recognise and appreciate those advantages.


Lady Bracknell has, in the main, enjoyed the experience of blogging over the last year. She hopes to continue to grace the information superhighway with her firmly-held opinions for quite some time to come.