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

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Location: Bracknell Towers

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Extreme Hallowe'en

Closeted safely away in the high eyrie which is Bracknell Towers, Lady Bracknell is blessedly immune from nuisance calls from hordes of small children, stuffed to the gills with sugar and tartrazine, all clamouring for brightly-coloured sweetmeats of no discernible nutritional value.

It is Lady Bracknell's considered opinion that the British Hallowe'en has suffered immeasurably since the American custom of "trick or treating" was seized upon by our increasingly rapacious youth. In Lady Bracknell's day, a child considered itself to be fortunate indeed if it successfully bobbed for an apple. Offer a child of a similar age the Hallowe'en treat of a slightly wet apple today, and one may expect to have one's garden gate removed from its hinges in the dead of night. Or worse.

But this is not to say that our American cousins can offer us nothing of note to help us celebrate Hallowe'en. These carved pumpkins - which are a far cry from the humble turnip lantern of Lady Bracknell's childhood - are only a taster of those pictured on Mr Tom Nardone's strangely compelling Extreme Pumpkins website.

Lady Bracknell feels that a talent like that of Mr Nardone should not go unrecognised, and therefore warmly recommends his site to her readers.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Green Metropolis

It has come to Lady Bracknell's attention that there may be a method by which she can dispose of portions of the teetering piles of books which clutter Bracknell Towers which does not consist of burdening Dude the chauffeur with heavy boxes and insisting he take in a charity shop or two on his way home to the members of his long-suffering family.

Green Metropolis provides a market place for second hand books at which one may both buy and sell. As a buyer, one pays a flat fee of £3.75 per volume. Delivery is included in this price unless the book in question is a hardback.

As a seller, one lists the books of which one wishes to dispose on the website. When one's book is seized upon by an enthusiastic buyer, one dispatches it post haste and one's account is thereupon credited with the sum of £3 by the good people at Green Metropolis. One may either set this credit off against the cost of one's own purchases from the site, or request that the money be paid into one's own bank account. (The site is keen to point out that, for every 5 books one sells, one could buy 4 new ones.)

Green Metropolis donates 5p from every book sold to the "Tree For All" campaign run by the Woodland Trust. (A total of £1,974.50 was donated in 2005.)

This is certainly not the cheapest method of acquiring second hand books, and the stock is nowhere near as extensive as that held by, for example, Abe Books. It is with regret that Lady Bracknell is forced to conclude that it would not, after all, be practicable for her to sell her own books through the site because she is often insufficiently robust of health to venture to the Post Office for long periods.

Nevertheless, Green Metropolis strikes Lady Bracknell as being a most worthwhile venture, and one about which various of her regular readers will have been intrigued to hear.

Friday, October 27, 2006

A tantalising glimpse

As November 17th grows ever closer, Lady Bracknell's editor is becoming increasingly secretive about the details of The Outfit for the investiture ceremony.

It would appear that various elements of The Outfit have been ordered online, with the result that mysterious packages arrive at infrequent intervals at Bracknell Towers, courtesy of the doughty employees of the Royal Mail (or whatever it is calling itself this week).

It would, of course, be beneath Lady Bracknell's dignity to rummage through the household waste in search of physical clues, even if the Evil Virus Mark II did not hold her in its enervating grip.

However, she can reveal (because their parcels are so conspicuous) that the editor has made one major Outfit-related purchase from this web site.

It will be of no interest to Mr Dawson, of course, but Lady Bracknell gathers (from having overheard a telephone conversation earlier today) that there is an unexpected delay at the milliner's. The Hat was due to be collected tomorrow, but will now not be ready until the middle of next week. The editor has taken this news remarkably calmly, all things considered.

In other news, the unlamented former tenant returned today - as Lady Bracknell had predicted - to collect her post. So much for the keys having been handed over to the charming Mr J___! The sooner the lock on the exterior door is changed, the happier the remaining residents will be.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

In which the plot thickens

Were Lady Bracknell not still exceedingly unwell*, she would not have been at home this morning to answer the doorbell. On the other hand, had she been feeling a little brighter, she would very probably have recognised the caller without having to be prompted by the gentleman himself.

It was the very charming Mr J___, agent to the landlord who owns the lease on the block of flats of which Bracknell Towers forms a part.

Mr J___ had with him a variety of keys which had been returned to him by the unlamented former tenant. He soon established that he had keys which fit both the Yale and mortice locks of the exterior door. (It is indicative of Mr J___'s delicacy and good manners that he checked to see whether Lady Bracknell was at home rather than simply letting himself in to the communal staircase.)

Once in, he asked who had removed the stair carpet. Lady Bracknell offered him three guesses...

Mr J___ tried several keys in the Yale lock of the flat in question. (Regular readers will recall that the mortice lock was recently removed by the unlamented former tenant.) None of the keys which had been returned to him fit the lock. Lady Bracknell was forced to confess that nothing could have surprised her less.

And so, in order to conduct an inspection of the flat in question, Mr J___ must now hire someone to break in to it and subsequently fit replacement locks. Somewhat to Lady Bracknell's surprise, he agreed with the suggestion she had made in writing that the locks to the exterior door should also be changed. The unlamented former tenant's rent has been paid in full up to the end of her term, and she no longer has any legal right to enter the premises.

This is excellent news, given that she is the type of person who would undoubtedly consider herself to have a perfect right to come back to collect her post in perpetuity. She will probably be very put out to discover that she can no longer do so. Call Lady Bracknell petty and small-minded, but she would very much enjoy seeing the expression on her former neighbour's face when she realises that steps have been taken to prevent her from ever entering the building again.

* The doctor says that Lady Bracknell has a viral infection: it is always good to see that many years of medical training have not been wasted. (Readers are asked to forgive Lady Bracknell if she seems unduly bitter: she was very much looking forward to seeing an old and dear friend at a meeting tomorrow, but must instead spend the day mewed up with daytime television and paracetamol. The novelty of such a method of passing the time faded by mid afternoon of her first day of incarceration.)

Friday, October 20, 2006

"Well go on then, GO!"*

Regular readers will no doubt recall Lady Bracknell's joy at the recent exit of her unpleasant neighbour. Lady Bracknell is what is generally referred to as an "owner occupier", but the surly young woman in question was a tenant. One moreover who, presumably, still has some little time left to run on her lease.

Lady Bracknell is currently rather unwell and has therefore had to cancel her usual engagements. Having risen at 6 yesterday morning, she had retired back to bed to suffer in peace when her somewhat feverish repose was interrupted by a cacophonous din from the communal stairwell. Covert observation revealed the fact that her erstwhile neighbour had returned, and was gleefully engaged in tossing what remained of her furniture down the stairs as noisily as possible in the general direction of the attendant pantechnicon from Bulky Bob's.

Lady Bracknell is in behopes that this was the last visit but, given that the young woman has actually taken away the mortice lock from the front door to her flat, it surely cannot be beyond the bounds of possibility that she is planning to return on further occasions to help herself to the floorboards. (She seems strangely indifferent, however, to the ugly rotary clothesline in the back garden which Lady Bracknell has seen her utilise only once in eleven years. It would, of course, be beneath Lady Bracknell's dignity to suggest at this point that she may only have laundered her shell suits once in that same time period.)

Although Lady Bracknell is only a very little improved today, she is pleased to report that her morning doze lasted for several hours and was eventually terminated by the much more welcome intrusion of an enquiry from the editor's friend Pop as to whether she was feeling any better. She is willing to wager that Pop has never clad his compact frame in a shell suit. Nor, indeed, taken a screwdriver to the fixtures and fittings of any house he was vacating. It is unfortunate that, whilst one can take great care to choose as friends only those persons of whose integrity and character one firmly approves, one cannot choose one's immediate neighbours...

* A classic line spoken by Buxton in the seminal film, "Dougal and the Blue Cat".

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Lady Bracknell's Achilles' heel

Lady Bracknell feels it incumbent upon her to give her readers due warning that, should they ever be experiencing paratendonitis of their Achilles tendon, and should their osteopathic practitioner therefore be attempting to disperse the inflammation by pushing it upwards with his thumbs, the process will undoubtedly smart a bit.

It will smart so much, in fact, that they may find themselves uttering phrases such as, "You, sir, are no longer my friend!" and "Don't expect a Christmas box from Bracknell Towers this year!".

Fortunately, the osteopathic gentleman has grown accustomed over the years to the sort of threats which Lady Bracknell utters when the treatment is more than ordinarily painful. He knows that, although she speaks in earnest at the time, she has too much faith in him, and owes too much to his skills, ever to voluntarily remove her name from his list of patients.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Lady Bracknell recommends

Having promised to refrain for the present from writing further about her feline companions past and present, Lady Bracknell finds herself at something of a loss for subject matter. (There are one or two things of particular interest going on in the editor's life currently, but she refuses to have details of them broadcast on her employer's blog, at least for the present.)

Until such time, therefore, as Lady Bracknell's perfidious muse returns to her, she recommends that her readers peruse the articulate writings of Arthritic Young Thing.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

A further photograph

Lady Bracknell promises to desist after this one and to return to other matters before those of her readers who are wholly indifferent to cats desert her blog permanently. She is unsure how the editor's mobile phone got into shot...


Thursday, October 05, 2006

She's the cat's mother

Lady Bracknell generally considers herself to be a fairly indomitable old bat, but the loss of her feline companion last week has affected her more badly than she had expected.

Having known for some months that the loss was imminent, Lady Bracknell assured herself that she would want to have a decent period of mourning for the dear departed and that, whilst she would very definitely be welcoming a new cat into Bracknell Towers before too long, she would refrain from doing so until such time as the palaver over the editor's trip to the Palace was safely out of the way.

But it is twenty years since Lady Bracknell last came home to a house without a resident feline, and she very quickly discovered that she simply could not tolerate the emptiness. Indeed, she could not even sleep.

So, on Sunday last, Lady Bracknell and the intrepid Becca ventured out in the rain to the Freshfields Animal Rescue Centre, with Lady Bracknell insisting to the last that she was "just looking".

Having explained her circumstances to Caroline, the very charming lady in charge of the cattery, Lady Bracknell was ushered into one of the less public areas of the building, wherein is housed the orthopaedic ward. Caroline suggested that Lady Bracknell might find herself particularly drawn to Casper, who had sustained a broken pelvis in a road traffic accident, and whose original owners had refused to pay the consequent veterinary bills.

Caroline - who, Lady Bracknell suspects, is rarely wrong about such things - was entirely correct in her assumption. Lady Bracknell's heart was lost in an instant, and her details were taken so that the ominous home visit could be arranged.

Despite having chosen Bracknell Towers as her current residence precisely because of those of its features which render it particularly safe and welcoming for cats of a nervous disposition, Lady Bracknell was nevertheless concerned that, following the home visit, it would be declared to be a species of cat death trap, and that Casper and she would be forever parted.

Of course, Lady Bracknell's fears were groundless, and Casper arrived yesterday evening. She spent the first few hours sniffing and scent-marking everything in her new home, before retiring to the interior of the wardrobe for a well-earned rest.

By lunch-time today, she had taken up residence on Lady Bracknell's bed, from which she can watch the birds in the back garden and plan their demise. (Although, as she will not be permitted to venture into the back garden for some weeks yet - by which time she may well find, to her disgust, that she is wearing a collar with a bell on it - the local wildife is in no immediate danger.) She is already convinced, however, that she could beat the resident magpies in a fair fight.

History does not relate the reason why the fair Casper was gifted with a boy's name. Not wishing to confuse her further with drastic change in nomenclature, Lady Bracknell will restrain her creative impulses to merely altering the spelling to Caspar. So that, instead of being a friendly ghost, she may be wise*. All Lady Bracknell needs now is a Melchior and a Balthazar and she will be much in demand for Christmas parties.

The editor informs Lady Bracknell that the blogger software is currently stubbornly refusing to upload photographs. This is a shame, because Caspar is very beautiful. Readers may rest assured that photographs will be interpolated into this post as soon as can be arranged.

*It is not, perhaps, widely appreciated that the gospels make no mention of there having been a specific quantity of wise men from the East at the nativity. The gifts which they bore were of three different substances, but nowhere is it stated that the wise men themselves were three in number.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Ding dong, the witch is dead

Following what has been a deeply unhappy ten days for the inhabitants of Bracknell Towers, there are two items of news which would seem to herald brighter times on the horizon.

The first, and more important, is currently a secret known only to a chosen few. Lady Bracknell would not want to jinx anything by revealing the news publicly in an overly-precipitate manner. However, all things being equal, her regular readers will not need to remain on tenterhooks for more than a couple of days.

The seond relates to a most unpleasant neighbour.

Bracknell Towers is less palatial than its nomenclature might perhaps imply. Lady Bracknell, as has been mentioned earlier in these pages, has latterly fallen on hard times financially and can no longer afford to keep herself in the lavish style to which she was once accustomed.

Far from being the opulent, detached property set in rolling, verdant grounds designed by Capability Brown - complete with deer park - which regular readers may have envisaged, Bracknell Towers is one of a purpose-built block of four apartments constructed in the 1930s. Bracknell Towers itself is a charming property, with many delightful period features. But it could not, by any stretch of the imagination, be described as large.

Since moving herself and her household into the current Bracknell Towers in 1995, Lady Bracknell's life has been blighted by the presence of a decidedly illbred and surly young woman in the next apartment.

So unfamiliar is this young person with the forms of common courtesy that it seems not to have occurred to her to inform her immediate neighbours that she was moving out: the first indication given to the other residents was the noisy removal of various large items of furniture yesterday evening.

The other residents conferred in a hushed and somewhat furtive manner by telephone. Was this what it looked like? Their hopes had been raised in just such a manner on a number of previous occasions. It was, they concluded regretfully, not beyond the bounds of possibility that old furniture was being moved out so that new furniture could be moved in. They would maintain a watching brief and keep in touch with one another.

One incident this morning served both to confirm this young woman's long-overdue departure and to relieve Lady Bracknell from any necessity of describing her general character and deportment at length in this blog entry: Lady Bracknell returned from a professional engagement to discover that the young woman's father had disconnected and removed the doorbell to the apartment she was vacating.

Lady Bracknell will leave her readers to form their own conclusions about the desirability of living cheek by jowl with a person who would stoop to behave in such a manner.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Comfort eating

Lady Bracknell is well aware that the majority of people, when in an emotional state which positively requires them to comfort eat, will plump for items such as cake, biscuits or ice cream. When one has diabetes, however, these avenues are denied. Over time, therefore, one must settle on alternative comfort foods for one's darkest hours. In Lady Bracknell's case, this means garlic and chillies.

Over the last few days - and partly just in an attempt to keep her mind occupied - Lady Bracknell has made a number of recipes from the remarkably-named Crescent Dragonwagon's book, Passionate Vegetarian.

Two were so good that she has instructed the editor to reproduce them below so that her readers may, if they wish, try them for themselves. (It should, perhaps, be noted at the outset that this is an American cookery book: but Lady Bracknell trusts that none of her British readers is so parochial in outlook as not to be able to cope with this.)

Ned’s Fiery Oven French-Bakes

3 – 4 medium-large boiling potatoes, peel left on, sliced into ¼ inch wide French fries
4 to 5 garlic cloves, pressed
2 tsps olive oil
2 tbsps soy sauce, or to taste
1 to 3 tsps Tabasco sauce, or to taste
2 tbsps vinegar
6 – 8 grinds black pepper

1. Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place the rack on the highest position in the oven.
2. Grease a baking tray.
3. Place the potatoes in a bowl. Add the garlic and oil, tossing until the potatoes are well coated. Sprinkle with the soy, Tabasco and vinegar, and toss again to evenly distribute the seasonings.
4. Transfer the potatoes to the baking tray, spreading them out so that they are in a single layer. Grind on the pepper.
5. Bake, removing from the oven to shake and turn the potatoes about every 10 minutes, for 25 – 30 minutes. Test for doneness, and continue to bake them until they’re browned, cooked through, and starting to crisp up on the skinny ends. Serve hot.

Buckaroo Beans

1 pound of dried beans of your choice, soaked overnight
2 bay leaves
1 large onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
1 – 2 tsps of chipotle peppers in adobe sauce (available by mail-order from Cool Chile Co)
1 oz dark chocolate, chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 cup very strong black coffee
3 tbsps brown sugar
1 tbsp chilli powder
2 tsps dried oregano
2 tsps salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp mustard powder

Additional boiling water, coffee, or vegetable stock as needed

2 to 3 tbsps of vegetarian bacon bits (optional)
Accompaniments (optional): cornbread or tortillas, salsa, sour cream, diced raw onion, and grated Cheddar cheese.

1. Drain and rinse the beans and cook in water to cover (with the bay leaves) in a large pan until tender. Drain and reserve the cooking liquid.
2. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.
3. Grease a large casserole dish; scatter the onion and green pepper over the bottom; then add the drained beans.
4. Whisk everything on the ingredients list from the chipotles to the mustard into the bean cooking liquid, and pour over the beans. The liquid should just cover the beans. If it doesn’t, top it up with boiling water, coffee or vegetable stock. Cover and bake for 6 hours, checking occasionally to make sure the liquid level is maintained.
5. After the beans have baked for 6 hours, uncover. Stir to distribute the onion and green pepper. Bake for a further 50 minutes, uncovered.