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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

Sunday, April 29, 2007

La Peste

Sad news has reached Lady Bracknell's ears.

Apparently, Mr Larkin is desperately ill. The poor gentleman's life hangs by a thread. Retaining his spirit of scientific curiosity even in circumstances of extreme misfortune, he dragged his ailing frame to his computer yesterday evening to check his symptoms on the interwebnet.

The results of his search were even worse than he suspected. Mr Larkin has the plague. And not just any old common or garden plague, mark you, but the exceedingly virulent "Terrible, Terrible Plague".

Mr Larkin's sufferings must be great indeed: Lady Bracknell is given to understand that he has a sore - nay, gravelly - throat and a sniffly nose.

As the Editor would be inconsolable at the untimely loss of such a good friend, Lady Bracknell can only hope that Mr Larkin will pull through.

Friday, April 27, 2007

A minor achievement

In an uncharacteristic burst of energy (in between Tramadol doses), Lady Bracknell's Editor has at last managed to fill the turned wood earring stand which she purchased at least six weeks ago from Ebay.

Flushed with the success of this undertaking, she subsequently proceeded to dust not only her dressing table, but also all the various jars and bottles of Thierry Mugler fragrance products which make their home thereon.

The remainder of her day has been spent mostly in recuperation from the physical effort required, but also in occasional admiration of surfaces which are generally half an inch thick in dust.

Having been given a preview of the photographs published above, Mr Larkin has asked whether they are of a shop. It would appear to Lady Bracknell that the unfortunate Mr Larkin may yet have a great deal to learn about the Editor's capacity for collecting and hoarding shiny objects.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

An unwelcome development

An aristocrat of Lady Bracknell's gentle breeding and sensitive disposition really ought not to be subjected to sights such as this one when innocently calling her errant kitten in from his playful romp in the back garden:

Admittedly, the Editor's camera has an impressively powerful zoom facility which, combined with the cropping function from the associated software, manages to give the impression that this window is rather closer to Bracknell Towers than is actually the case. Nevertheless, the offending creatures are clearly visible from Lady Bracknell's back door.

Given that none of them has moved in the last twenty four hours, it is probably reasonably safe to assume that they are merely models of something long-leggedy and repellent. However, it would not do to be complacent: Lady Bracknell will be keeping a keen eye out for any suspicious behaviour.

You MIGHT know how to ease my pain. Possibly.

So I went back to the doctor.

The problem with going for a late morning appointment (which I had to do because I needed a shower; after which I needed an hour to recuperate from the effort of having a shower) is that delays have really set in by that time.

My latest theory is that the combination of maintaining the waiting room at the approximate temperature and humidity of yer average tropical rain forest, and forcing you to wait for 40 minutes on an uncomfortable chair next to someone who apparently considers the Sherbert Dip Dab Lolly (do they still make those?) to be the last word in sophisticated parfumerie is actually all part of a Cunning Plan to reduce patient numbers. After all, it's not an experience you'd voluntarily put yourself through unless there was something fairly seriously amiss.

Oh, and have I ever mentioned the fire doors? Two of the buggers. On those very strong return springs which mean that, unless someone goes to the effort of closing them Very Carefully, they slam really hard. Which makes me flinch. Every time. Although there is some entertainment to be gleaned, I admit, from covertly observing one's fellow patients and judging from their general demeanour whether they will have the courtesy not to slam the door. Given time, I may even come up with a useful and informative chart showing the correlation between various items of clothing and consideration of other people. And, believe me, semi-transparent white capri pants worn over ghastly thong knickers and accessorised with gold creole hoop earrings from H Samuel are not doing well in those particular stakes. Oh no.

But I digress. Several centuries after first arriving at the surgery, I am eventually called in by the nice young doctor. Personfully fighting against my middle-class conditioning (the conditioning which makes you say, "Oh, that's lovely!" to the rogue hairdresser before running round the corner from the salon and bursting into appalled tears), I told him the truth.

He wrote me a list of the different stages of analgesia on one of the many spare pieces of green paper which are regularly spat out by the printer when it's been ordered to print a prescription, but it doesn't feel like playing ball. He likes lists, does this doctor. I've noticed this about him before. I bet he's got one of those Post-It "To Do" sticky pads on the fridge at home. Maybe he's on Tramadol, and has never got past the blurriness?

Anyway, the upshot of this list is that Tramadol is the least harmful of the opioids and therefore the one whose possibilities have to be exhuasted before anything else can be prescribed. So he's doubled the dose to the maximum 400 mg a day. Which means, unless my calculations are out, that I'm now taking 31 tablets a day. He's given me a sick note for four weeks and told me that I've got to allow the higher dose the full four weeks to take effect before concluding that Tramadol truly is pants. In light of which, I've decided that all the misery and weepiness has got to stop. Right now. Because it's really not good for me.

One of the problems with being effectively incarcerated in one's own home for weeks on end is the number of regular appointments one is forced to break. It's over a month, for example, since I should have been for my annual eye test. Doubly annoying because I have an absolutely fab new pair of frames for the lovely Mr Blankstone to glaze for me.

Worse than that, though, is the fact that it's now twelve weeks since I last went to the hairdresser, with the result that I can barely see out. That fringe is so tickly it's driving me mad. Of course, I could take a pair of scissors to it (after all, it's not as though I'm out and about and seeing people - the fact that I can't cut hair straight wouldn't result me in being pointed at in the street. Well, no more than usual). But I'm now rather intrigued to see what will happen next. And, frankly, given how ill I look, the sooner it grows long enough to hide the dark circles under my eyes, the better. (I don't actually have a shower attachment growing out of my head, by the way. Just in case you were wondering.)

That's a very odd photograph all round, really. Not only do I seem to have rather carelessly mislaid my ears, but I'm also doing an uncannily-accurate impersonation of whichever one it was out of Thingummy and Bob who didn't have a little pointy hat.

The Editor

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Kittens who consider clawing the crinkly cellophane from a DVD out of the waste paper basket and playing noisily with it at a quarter to six in the morning to be absolutely tremendous fun should not be surprised to find themselves on the wrong side of the back door as swiftly as their human owner's decrepit frame will permit.

Monday, April 23, 2007

You don't know how to ease my pain

(Being a replacement for an outrageously self-pitying post of the same name, the presence of which was extremely short-lived.)

It's come to something when the only thing I can think to write about is pain. I mean, it's not as though I'm in any way a novice at this chronic pain mallarkey: my last pain-free day was November 30th 1991, FFS.

But, when my osteopath told me that coming off the NSAIDs would result in my pain levels being dramatically increased, he wasn't kidding. There isn't even anything particularly wrong at the moment. Nothing's locked. Nothing's trapped. Nothing's out-of-the-way stiff. I don't need anything to be manipulated to free it. I've been on bed rest for weeks, so my back is actually in relatively good nick. And God forbid anything does get trapped or locked because I'm barely coping with the pain resulting from it being comparatively ok - add anything else into the mix, and I'm going to experience a serious sense of humour failure.

This is ridiculous. I don't have any sharp, agonising pain of the type which makes me wince, and hiss, and scream. It's all just dull, constant, absolutely bloody relentless pain of the type which I really feel I ought to be able to deal with better than I am currently doing.

It's just about tolerable as long as I don't do anything at all, but I've only got to empty the washing machine or pick the post up from the mat for it to be Really Not Funny. And I've no meds to take which will have an immediate analgesic effect. In the old days, if it was really painful, I'd take one of my dwindling stash of Celebrex to knock it on the head. Now I'm on one Tramadol and two Paracetamol every four hours, and necking those three doesn't make any appreciable immediate difference. Indeed, it was so bad on Friday evening that I took two extra Tramadol, thus taking me up to the safe maximum of six, and that didn't make any appreciable difference either.

The worst thing is that the combination of the pain and the Tramadol-induced mental blurriness is having a pretty negative effect on my psychological robustness. Which means that poor Pop is astonished when I take huge offence at the sort of gentle, affectionate teasing which can generally be guaranteed to reduce me to helpless giggles. And, trust me, I can see that I'm being totally unreasonable and a complete drama queen. Which makes me despise myself but which, unfortunately, doesn't alter the nature of my response one iota.

Anyone who knows me well is quite used to me being snarly, but weepiness is not a state with which I am generally associated. If it's any consolation to those who have been wept at, I don't like it any more than you do.

Ho hum. Anyway, back to the GP tomorrow. Let's see what the next suggestion is.....

The Editor

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A short commercial break

The advertisement begins with a shot of a small boy of oriental extraction sitting on a lavatory. The camera angle is carefully chosen to leave us in no doubt that what he is sitting on is a lavatory (and not, for example, a sofa) whilst at the same time studiously excluding anything which might detract from the wholesome image he presents, such as the fact that his trousers and underpants must be round his ankles.

Having completed his daily business, the little boy is immediately revolted by the stench of his own bodily waste. (Thereby demonstrating that he is a very great deal more fastidious than are the majority of little boys, and leading one viewer at least to suspect that he may well prefer Barbie to Action Man.)

Obvious remedies to his olfactory predicament - such as opening the bathroom window or simply flushing the offending solids away - seeming not to have occurred to him, he reaches instead for a device which will endeavour to mask the unpleasant aroma by squirting an equally-unpleasant and probably considerably more noxious mixture of synthetic fragrances into the air.

But, oh, calamity!! The device is empty!! He emits a wail of misery which brings his mother (who, curiously, is of an entirely different ethnicity from that of her son) to the bathroom door. "What's the matter, darling?", she cries. (From the desperate nature of his wail, she has no doubt assumed that something really dreadful must have happened, such as her precious son having accidentally blinded himself with an inaccurately-wielded toothbrush, or inadvertently maimed himself with the nail scissors.) At this point, the boy's voice is over-dubbed with that of a singularly repellent stage school brat petulantly intoning the words, "It's all gone, it's all gone".

Now, we have already established that the bathroom door is not sound-proofed. The boy can hear his mother, and his mother can hear him. Would it not therefore be reasonable to assume that, when she asks him exactly what it is which has all gone, he would simply tell her? He would not need to know the name of the product in question: mothers are accustomed to the fact that small children often describe things in an endearingly naive way, and are generally able to decode their charming responses without excessive difficulty. Surely, "the squirty thing that makes the nasty poo smell go away", would be sufficient to identify whatever it was which had all gone?

But no. Eschewing the simple expedient of telling his mother what the problem is, he instead draws a picture of the product on a piece of paper, and slides the drawing under the door.

An action which raises three further questions in Lady Bracknell's mind:
  1. Is her ladyship unique in not keeping paper and pencil to hand in the bathroom against just such an emergency?
  2. Is it not stretching viewers' credulity to the breaking point to expect them to believe that a child who has not yet learned to write has sufficient manual dexterity and artistic skill to dash off a deceptively simple sketch which, in less than half a dozen pencil strokes, portrays the advertised product with such devastating accuracy that it could not possibly be mistaken for anything else?
  3. Why doesn't the child just open the door? Surely he has pulled his trousers up by this time?

All of which world-weary cynicism and capacity for independent thought goes to show why persons such as Lady Bracknell are so roundly loathed by advertisers, and why Lady Bracknell avoids commercial television stations whenever possible.

A growth spurt

Just in case any of Lady Bracknell's readers were labouring under the misapprehension that Young Master Bertram is still an adorable little kitten, his recent growth spurt is amply demonstrated in the photograph above.

At just a whisker (ha, ha) under eleven months old, he already towers over the dainty - but by no means diminutive - Caspar.

What is, sadly, not clear either from this or any of the other photographs the Editor took this evening is that his legs are currently disproportionately long in comparison with the rest of him, so that he looks rather as though he is on stilts. Lady Bracknell assumes this to be a temporary state of affairs given that nothing she has read about Selkirk Rex cats has ever mentioned their being famed for their stilt-walking appearance...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Kitten therapy (a reprise)

In response to Lady Bracknell's mention of the latest litter of kittens in the original Kitten therapy entry, Amanda from Magnetique has very kindly sent her ladyship this hugely-endearing photograph of the black smoke curly boy.

Lady Bracknell's admittedly rather unimaginative suggestion of "Sooty" as a name for the little chap not having taken, he is currently known (thanks to Amanda's young daughter) as "IgglePiggle".

Lady Bracknell is having to exert a quite extraordinary level of self-control to prevent herself from posting a cheque to Leeds at once and thereby "bagsying" the delightful little fellow.

She must, however, content herself instead with hoping that he and his brothers and sisters will soon be ensconced in comfortable homes where their curliness and equability of temperament will be fully appreciated.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Do you think you are sufficiently decayed?

When Lady Bracknell was a gel, the physical ideal for an attractive man was that he should be tall and dark, with craggy features. If he could manage a sneering lip as well, so much the better. Bigger and stronger than the hordes of hapless, corseted young women who fell under his brooding spell, he would behave towards them in a remote and imperious manner, until one lucky individual was singled out to be crushed roughly to his manly chest, thereafter to fill the role of a demure and presentable (if largely ignored) little wife while he continued to roam the countryside in search of buxom wenches who would not be in a position to object to being tumbled in the hay by their lord and master.

If the "Britain's 100 Sexiest Men" articles which liberally bestrew the glossy magazines through which Lady Bracknell leafs in an incredulous manner when visiting her coiffeuse are anything to go by, the hearts of modern young women are stirred by a very different animal altogether. Gone are the beetling brow, the piercing eye, the chiselled jaw-line and the commanding posture. The replacement for the Heathcliffs and D'Arcys of yesteryear is an altogether slighter and less prepossessing figure. Heads are shaven, skin moisturised, and body hair removed so that, whilst not in any way, shape or form even coming close to appealing to Lady Bracknell, the young men in question can at least be assumed to excel in the area of aerodynamism. (There is no faster way to feel every one of one's advancing years than to realise that one's interest remains resolutely unstirred by one hundred out of Britain's one hundred supposedly sexiest men.)

Of course, once a lady has reached the age of reason - an age which has rather more to do with psychological maturity than with simple chronology - she eschews the physical standards which the media would have her believe are those of the perfect man and, over time, develops her own list of preferences. Whilst Lady Bracknell has no truck with those who believe that all should strive to conform with the current idea of physical attractiveness (and that those who cannot do so are doomed to a life of abject misery and social failure), it is also true to say that one is not attracted in a romantic capacity to every gentleman one meets, regardless of how charming he may be. There must, therefore, be certain physical attributes (albeit not necessarily the conventional ones) which either attract or repel each individual. These, fortunately, will be as varied as is the eye of the beholder in which their beauty is, or is not, found. Were it not so, some otherwise excellent persons would indeed be unfairly exiled to the fringes of society.

Having pondered the matter at some length, Lady Bracknell herewith presents (in no particular order) her own list of attributes which are likely - either for good or ill - to catch her eye.

Laughter lines - Lady Bracknell is well aware that she has said this before, and on more than one occasion. But she remains unmovable on the point of laughter lines being the single most attractive facial feature a human being can - or could wish to - possess. A gentleman who cannot laugh at himself long and hard is a gentleman who cannot pique Lady Bracknell's interest, no matter how handsome or well-mannered he may otherwise be. (Lady Bracknell is very pleased to report that laughter lines are at long last beginning to appear on her own face. It is something of a challenge to develop facial lines when one is stout of figure and possessed of a clear complexion, but Lady Bracknell's hard work in this area has begun to pay dividends.)

Avoirdupois - it is Lady Bracknell's considered opinion that a gentleman who has reached his middle years should be able to demonstrate in his person the effects of his capacity to enjoy the innocent pleasures which life has to offer, be those pleasures of the cake variety, or the ale. Lady Bracknell views the whippet-thin middle-aged gentleman with suspicion, assuming that he is either coldly austere in his personal habits, or possessed of such a degree of nervous, fidgety energy that no calorie he consumes is ever given the chance to transmute into a gram of fat and come to rest on his slender frame. Ladies with seriously-injured backs cannot comfortably think of reclining in trysts with gentlemen who cannot keep still.

Apparel - one can deduce a considerable amount about a gentleman from the fabrics in which he chooses to clothe himself. A gentleman who prizes tactile pleasure will plump for natural fabrics such as cotton or linen, and for textures such as moleskin, corduroy and leather. No gentleman who clothes himself in polyester will ever have a place in Lady Bracknell's heart, no matter how "easy care" his laundry requirements may be. Whilst he need by no means be a stickler for formal dress codes, the gentleman who wishes to win Lady Bracknell's heart will know that there are some garments which are simply incapable of oozing sex appeal: e.g. the anorak.

Hair (or the lack of same) - no lady worth her salt would reject a gentleman on the grounds of his simply being bald. There is, however, a vast gulf between those gentleman who - on realising that their hair is receding - merely shrug; have it cut short; and continue with the important matters of life uninterrupted, and those who make futile endeavours to disguise their ever-widening centre parting. Comb-overs are grim beyond Lady Bracknell's talent to describe. If Sir Elton John, with all the money he has at his disposal, cannot purchase a solution which convincingly replicates the appearance of a full head of hair in all weather conditions, then Lady Bracknell believes it is safe to assume that no such solution exists. Baldness per se is not unattractive: desperate attempts to conceal it, on the other hand, are.

Height (or the lack of same) - Lady Bracknell has never understood why so many of her gender will automatically reject men who are not significantly taller than they themselves are in their highest and most teetering heels. A gentleman's height is wholly irrelevant to Lady Bracknell who, as her regular readers must by now be aware, pays very little regard to the "norms" which society in general attempts to impose on her. The view that a gentleman must be taller than the lady whom he is escorting is an entirely arbitrary one, particularly given that we live in a time in which it is unlikely that a ravening bear will leap, with murderous intent, into the path of a courting couple and submit to being beaten off only by a man of superior height and consequent reach of arm.

So there we have it. From reading the above, it has become clear to Lady Bracknell that her only absolute physical requirements in a gentleman at whom she might be drawn to setting her cap is that he have laughter lines, be comfortably upholstered, and avoid synthetic fabrics like the plague. She trusts, therefore, that no-one could accuse her of being either overly-particular or "hung up" on physical appearances.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

A miscellany

All is quiet at Bracknell Towers this weekend. Neither Lady Bracknell nor her Editor is at all fond of hot weather, so they are both endeavouring to avoid the sun.

The Editor is passing the time by weeding her emails and, as a result, has just rediscovered this.

Also - although of interest only to readers who are either ladies or transvestites - this.

This may offer entertainment to persons who are fond of the works of Dr Seuss (and who do not object to the great man's style being parodied).

Any readers who have ever shuddered with despair when faced with forms produced by civil service departments should enjoy this claim form for Transitional Irritation Allowance.

(Any suggestions that the Editor is using Lady Bracknell's blog as a repository for hyperlinks which she may need again at some point in the future will be firmly refuted.)

Friday, April 13, 2007

In which Lady Bracknell can resist everything except temptation

Flagrantly disregarding issues of healthy nutrition, Lady Bracknell is powerless to resist Tiger Tiger* Cup Noodles. So strong is their lure that Lady Bracknell has been endeavouring to convince herself for at least the last month that she is strong enough physically to travel to the only shop she knows which sells them. But in vain. A brief trip round the corner to the local branch of Tesco has been sufficient on every occasion to dissuade her from attempting a more rigorous journey.

Imagine, then, her pleasure on learning that the Editor had discovered that Tiger Tiger products may be purchased online. (Truly, the interwebnet is a boon to the house-bound aristocrat.) An order having been placed with all possible speed, a large box containing a plentiful variety of Cup Noodles and two tubes of wasabi-coated dry-roasted peanuts was this morning delivered to Bracknell Towers. (The second tube of peanuts was a generous free gift from the good people of the Tiger Tiger shop, in recognition of the fact that the expiry date on the tubes is but two weeks hence.) Having sampled a peanut - purely for the purposes of reporting back to her readers, of course - Lady Bracknell suspects there is little risk that that expiry date will be exceeded. Afficianados of wasabi are in for a treat.

This activity has reminded Lady Bracknell that she was at one time in the habit of purchasing mixed cartons from Jonathan Crisp for herself and Dude the chauffeur. As Mr Crisp himself says:

"We want our crisps to be fearfully hard to resist. Our crisps take a bit more time and cost more money to make than most of the other crisp chappies. We think it's worth it and we hope you do too. Damned cheek if you don't!"

These are indeed a crisp amongst crisps, and can be ordered online for a not unreasonable (given their superior quality) £8.99 for one's own choice of 24 packets. Boxes delivered to Bracknell Towers used to contain large numbers of the Horseradish and Sour Cream flavour (for her ladyship) and the Jalapeno Pepper flavour (for the Dude).

Lady Bracknell cannot at this remove recollect why the practice of ordering these delightful snacks was discontinued, and finds herself sorely tempted to revive it.

*Note to Dude: any "amusing" comments cleverly combining a reference to a particular phrase from Blake's poem about a Tyger with the spicy content of the noodle snacks are unlikely to survive the moderation process.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Riches beyond the dreams of avarice...

Lady Bracknell would be lying if she claimed that, should she suddenly find herself in possession of considerable wealth, she would change nothing about her current domestic circumstances.

She has reached the decision just this afternoon that the ultimate in sybaritism and luxury would be to be able to afford to put on a brand new pair of pyjamas every day, fresh from the packet, and complete with those creases down the sleeves which can never be replicated when dashing away with a smoothing iron at a later date. Nothing can compare with the tactile pleasure of fresh, new cotton jersey against the skin.

Of course, it would be ethically unacceptable to throw away a pair of pyjamas which had been worn for only one night (or, in the case of Lady Bracknell, for only one twenty-four-hour period). But she plans to have the pyjamas laundered and donated to the deserving poor of the parish.

Mr Larkin is of the opinion that the poor may have little interest in nearly-new pyjamas, worn only once by an elderly and philanthropic aristocrat.

How times change. And not always for the better. In Lady Bracknell's salad days, the poor were grateful for what they were given. They could not afford to concern themselves with matters pertaining to fashion preferences.

What is the world coming to when one's fondest imaginings of a luxurious lifestyle are thwarted by the increased uppitiness of the lower orders?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Her cherry cheek and ruby lips, they lost their former dye

I try to steer clear, as a rule, of including gory details about my health crises in Lady Bracknell's blog: they aren't generally very entertaining, and I very much doubt whether anybody's interested in them.

So, I give you fair warning: this blog entry is largely health-related. Look away now if the prospect offends/distresses/bores you.

Last week, I traded in the last of my NSAIDs for Tramadol. After fifteen years of NSAIDs, it's no longer safe for me to take them. They are doing unspeakable things to my insides. I was most recently on Meloxicam, as it happens. I had been on Celebrex - which was fab - until it was taken off the market. In comparison with Celebrex, Meloxicam was pants.

However, in comparison with Tramadol, Meloxicam was the bee's bum of painkillers. I have spent the last week in a narcotic haze, barely able to keep my eyes open. Worse, serious doses of this heavy-duty analgesic barely touch the pain.

Almost all my pain is the result of inflammation in my joints and soft tissues. With nothing to reduce that inflammation, my joints and soft tissues have been having a party. To the point where it's difficult to tell whether I'm cross-eyed from the meds, or cross-eyed from the pain they are failing to counteract.

Anyhoo, the long Bank Holiday weekend being over*, I decided to take myself back to the doctor**. This, of course, involved getting dressed. In something other than pyjamas. As somebody who generally can't look ill if she tries (I'm what used to be called, "rubicund"), I got a nasty shock when I accidentally caught sight of myself in the bathroom mirror. I knew the Tramadol was making me feel like a reanimated corpse, but I hadn't realised it was making me look like one too.

Which is why I found it so surprising that almost everyone I encountered today wanted to stop and chat to me. Of course, I'm far too middle-class to respond to conversational overtures from complete strangers by saying, "Please leave me alone. I feel absolutely ghastly, and am no use to you whatsoever". Unfortunately.

It started with a nurse I passed on my way out of the surgery, who was suddenly entranced by my walking stick and wanted to know where he could get one, and how much it would cost, and whether Steve the Stick Man would cut it to length.

Having escaped to the bus stop, I was immediately accosted by two foreign gentlemen who wanted to know what number bus would take them to Speke Retail Park.

Me: "It's not the number that's important. You need to look at the destination on the front of the bus."

Them: "But it says here that an 82 will take us to Speke".

Me: "An 82 which is going as far as Speke will take you to Speke. This 82 arriving now will only take you to Garston. Garston is closer than Speke".

Them: baffled silence.

I get on the bus. They get on the bus. They ask the bus driver which number bus they need for Speke Retail Park. An 82, he says. But you are an 82, they wail. Yes, but I'm only going as far as Garston, he says. They get off. They appear to be reconsidering the attractions of Speke Retail Park. And possibly its very existence.

Two stops later, and I'm off the bus and lurching in a manner befitting a reanimated corpse towards Joe's Pharmacy in search of another wheelbarrow-load of drugs. Or trying to. But clearly I have put my flashing neon "stop me if you need information about any bus route in Liverpool" t-shirt on by mistake. An elderly African gentleman suddenly appears at my left elbow and asks me whether he's missed Park Road. He has. By quite a bit. I point him in the direction of the appropriate bus stop (several times). Park Road is a long road, I say. Where does he want to go? There's a bank on a side street, he says. Near a post office. I suggest he asks the bus driver to let him know when they reach a post office. He thanks me profusely.

Shaking with exhaustion, I bend my steps again towards Joe's Pharmacy. At which point, I am accosted by three young girls who ask me whether I am Geoff Riley's mum. A question which strikes me as being somewhat surreal. Particularly given my current resemblance to a reanimated corpse. Mind you, maybe Geoff Riley - whoever he is - also looks like a reanimated corpse. I mean, kids today don't get out into the fresh air much, by all accounts. They sit huddled over X-boxes, or somesuch. Don't they?

I am almost 100% sure that I did not hallucinate the three young girls.

* Note to self: do try to remember that Tuesday morning is mother and baby clinic. You don't like babies at the best of times. You particularly don't like babies who have just had needles stuck in their arms. Parents of babies don't react well to reanimated corpses glaring murderously at their precious offspring.

** "Most people get used to the effects of Tramadol in time. We'll reduce the dose to 4 a day, and put you on 8 paracetamol a day as well". I am now on a total of 27 tablets a day. 27!!! I've barely got time to go to the loo! I've had to stop to take three while I've been writing this blog entry. Heaven forfend I should doze off for an hour or two...

The Editor

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Kolodny's Game

As a diversion over the Easter weekend, Lady Bracknell offers her most challenging game to date, and this despite worries that her own poor health may result in the occasional error on her part.

Kolodny's game is played as follows:

The Gamemaster or Gamemistress (in this case, Lady Bracknell) invents a rule which can be applied to closed questions requiring a "yes" or "no" response.

The other players attempt to guess what the rule is by asking questions requiring a "yes" or "no" response. Their ultimate object is to guess the rule exactly, and then to take over the leading role from Lady Bracknell.

Lady Bracknell will reply to the questions asked of her, but her response will be to their form rather than their content. That is to say, questions framed in a manner which follows the rule she has invented will receive a "yes" response, regardless of how ludicrous their content is.

For example, supposing Lady Bracknell's rule was that questions should contain exactly five words or fewer, the game might run as follows:

"Does Lady Bracknell wear a hat?"


"Is Lady Bracknell a peasant?"


Questions can be entirely random: there is no need for them to relate in any way to Lady Bracknell herself. Lady Bracknell has used examples relating to herself merely to demonstrate that unscrupulous players may choose to have some enjoyment at her expense.

Lady Bracknell has decided on a rule. Play may now begin.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Memo to self

Having been reminded by my mother on Tuesday of the existence of a five-year diary I started to keep when I was a teenager, I remembered that I had continued the practice for a further two years after the initial five years were up.

Reasoning that I probably hadn't left those two diaries at the parental home on the grounds that I really wouldn't want them falling into the wrong hands, I searched my bookcases for them.

Which explains why, in a Tramadol-induced stupor (do the soporific side-effects wear off in time, by the way?), I spent most of yesterday immersed in 1984 and 1985.

Of recent years, I've been complimented more than once on the calibre of my written communication. Now, I don't know exactly when I developed any skill in writing, but I can confirm that there were no signs of it in my early twenties. None. At all. Neither do I appear to have had anything remotely resembling a sense of humour. (The closest I came to being funny in two whole years was to refer to Magnus Magnusson as "Magnet Magnetism". Frankly, that's really not very close to being funny.)

In fact, it's hard to imagine a more sanctimonious, morose and self-pitying young woman. Heaven knows how anyone put up with me. No wonder I was miserable - I couldn't get away from me.

With the benefit of being older and wiser by more than twenty years, I've compiled a list of advice which - had my younger self had access to it - might have resulted in a more interesting and pleasurable read.

  • In twenty years' time, no-one will have the slightest interest in the fact that you washed your hair. Or had a bath. You are living in a foreign country, for heaven's sake: there simply must be something more interesting you could write about than your ablutions.
  • Petulance is not an attractive character trait: you may want to work on that.
  • The world does not revolve around you. Really.
  • You might want to start taking other people's feelings into account occasionally.
  • The fact that someone hasn't behaved in the way you would have liked them to do is not necessarily evidence of the fact that they hate you.
  • It may seem unlikely now, but in twenty years' time you won't remember all the people you are writing about. Descriptions might help. Who is Surasudeen? Or LA John? Or the James with whom you regularly exchange letters?
  • Problems can sometimes be resolved by negotiation. You really need to learn how to express your grievances calmly, and be willing to work out a solution. Tantrums are not the behaviour of an adult.
  • No-one likes a smart-arse.
  • If, once you discover to your horror that your older brother has been reading your diaries, you decide to write about your amorous encounters in Greek, write the whole damn entry in Greek. Your entry from Saturday, October 19th, 1985 is a prime example of how switching between the two languages is actually more titillating to someone who doesn't read Greek than an account which was wholly in English would have been:

"Had a good night's sleep finally, so felt a lot better. Got nearly 8 litres of milk from Nancy. G___ arrived at 8.30 while we were having breakfast and sat with us. Greekgreekgreekgreekgreekgreekgreekgreekgreekgreek and he spent the rest of the day apologising and trying to do it again."

The Editor

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The weather continues charming.

News has reached Bracknell Towers that the Editor's mother - who has been spring-cleaning what she insists on referring to as the Editor's bedroom, despite the fact that it has been many years since the Editor was capable of ascending the staircase which leads up to it - has unearthed a five-year diary which the Editor maintained religiously in her late teens.

Said volume having been promised to the Editor when next she and her mother meet, Lady Bracknell suspects it may provide some hilarious angst-ridden content for later blog entries.

Apparently, Mr Larkin has a couple of days free after Easter, during the course of which he could very well find himself coincidentally driving past the Editor's parents' house, whereupon - he says - it would be but the work of a moment to drop in and pick up the diary on the Editor's behalf.

Quite why the Editor should have responded to this kind - and clearly genuine - offer of assistance with shrieks of outrage, Lady Bracknell is at a loss to explain.

Kitten therapy

When a general feeling of malaise pervades Bracknell Towers, Lady Bracknell and her Editor find some degree of solace in trawling the interwebnet for news of Selkirk Rex kittens.

(It should be noted that Bertie and Caspar are in no immediate danger of being joined by a third party: Lady Bracknell is merely involved in the pleasant business of window shopping.)

Who could not be cheered by this picture of a long-haired curly kitten from the CurlyBurly cattery in Hong Kong? (Mr Larkin has described her as looking "like a badly-washed teddy bear": but surely therein lies her charm?)

The CurlyBurly site is both professional and comprehensive: should one follow the link to either "Boys" or "Girls", one may then click on the photograph of any cat to be taken to a photographic history of its development. This is something Lady Bracknell has not previously encountered, and something which is of great interest to the owner of a ten-month-old kitten. After all, it is one thing to be told that the degree of curl in the coat varies with age, and quite another to see that variation recorded.

Considerably closer to home is Magnetique in Leeds. For those unequal to the task of taking on a lively kitten, there is a decidedly handsome young gentleman available on this page. For photographs of very small kittens residing in palatial comfort in a sock drawer, one should visit the nursery, where one is encouraged to suggest names for the litter. (Had Lady Bracknell either the room or the energy for a new arrival, she would be endeavouring to reserve the black smoke boy and booking a rail ticket to Leeds forthwith. She might even suggest that he should be called, "Sooty".)

This has been a self-indulgent blog entry on Lady Bracknell's part but, the research for it having proved therapeutic, she makes no apologies to such of her readers who tire of references to the Selkirk Rex breed.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

A handbag?

Judging from the unprecedented number of "hits" Lady Bracknell's blog has received thus far today - most of them generated by persons searching Google for the term "two word question Lady Bracknell"(or similar) - it seemed likely to the Editor that some mention of her ladyship must have been made in one of our Sunday periodicals.

However, the Editor's own search of Google News has provided no answer to this conundrum.

Nevertheless, her time was not entirely wasted.

It would appear that a new production of Mr Wilde's greatest work is poised to open at the Jermyn Street Theatre in London.

This Is Local London is running a competition in which the prize is four pairs of tickets to see the production on the 16th, 17th or 18th of this month. Readers desirous of having the chance to win said tickets need not feel downhearted should their knowledge of the work in question be less than encyclopaedic: the answer is provided for them in the accompanying article.

Whilst this is not the first time that her part has been filled by a gentleman, Lady Bracknell tends to the opinion that such casting - regardless of the talents of the gentleman in question - bodes ill for the tenor of the evening as a whole. After all, this is not pantomime.

Any reader who can shed some welcome light on the mystery of the recurrent "two word question" Google search is warmly encouraged to do so by means of the useful comments facility.