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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 30, 2007

SO much more than just a clever girl

I have been just itching to introduce you - my faithful two and a half regular readers - to Clever Girl Bek for weeks now. But I didn't want to do so until the earrings I bought from her had arrived. And they got stuck for ages in the postal strike backlog. Which has been just the teensiest bit frustrating: after all, I am not noted for my patience. Not where jewellery is concerned.

As if it's not enough that Bek's store-front strap-line includes trigger words like, "bakelite", "lucite" and "vintage meets modern", she's also one of us. Both diabetic and has back problems which make my own look like the work of a rank amateur, quite frankly. (There probably aren't all that many people who, on realising that a particular artisan is disabled, rush to purchase his or her wares for reasons which have Nothing Whatsoever to do with pity, and Everything to do with solidarity, but I'm one of 'em.)

And what wares...

Ok, so what Bek produces isn't going to be to everyone's taste. It's about as far away from safe, mass-produced, anodyne, crowd-pleasing, tiny-bits-of-precious-stones-attached-to-wafer-thin-slices-of-gold tedium as it is possible to get. It's distinctive; it's dramatic; and it's very probably addictive.

Bek's sense of humour is very similar to my own: that fact comes across loud and clear not only in the pieces themselves, but also in what she writes about them. Honestly, whether you heart the jewellery or not, it's worth browsing her listings just for the giggles.

But, if you want a nostalgic reminder of what Christmas morning was like when you were still young enough to get really excited about presents, then I strongly recommend you place an order. Dear little matchbox-style boxes; filled with shredded paper; wrapped in brightly-coloured tissue paper; and finished off with "grass" and a hand-made flower. Just delightful.

Bek has her own blog, as well. Now, as anyone who knows me will confirm, it's rare for me to view small children as cute, but Bek's little boy in his gnome outfit makes even me come over a tad maternal. (Click on the picture and enlarge it for the full cuteness-blast.)

The Editor

PS I must, at this juncture, offer a formal apology to Kate. It is All My Fault that she is no longer an Etsy virgin. I have tempted her beyond her capacity to resist. (Although she does now - or will shortly - have one very spiffy pair of gloves.)

PPS I don't usually do this but, if you're not a regular Ouch reader, please take a look at my new, illustrated blog entry. And comment. Assuming you have any views on the subject in question. Ta.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

How not to sell jewellery to me

I spend a lot of time these days assiduously searching Etsy for beautiful pieces of jewellery to add to my favourites list and drool over.

For every item I squeak with excitement about, though, there are dozens of others I have deemed unworthy of my affection.

Given that there are no doubt a great many jewellery-makers who would far rather not sell their wares to a pernickety old bag such as myself, I thought it might be helpful if I were to provide a list of sure-fire methods for successfully evading my interest.

Fit lever-back findings to the earrings you are selling. Lever-backs are the work of the devil, particularly for somebody with one very stiff shoulder. Not only are the hook bits far too short and stubby to be inserted easily, but clipping the damn things shut always, always, traps a tiny bit of flesh at the back of my ear. Ow.

I know the hook end of the earring isn't always its most attractive aspect but, if you leave it out of the photographs, and you don't state categorically in the description that you've used a fish-hook or a shepherd's crook finding, I'm going to assume you've used a lever-back.

Camouflage your wares in your photographs. I'm ever so thrilled for you that you own a variety of attractive vases and fabrics which you feel the need to share with me. But I've got better things to do with my time and my eyesight than to play, "Where's Waldo?", with your listings. In any event, cynical old bat that I am, if you're not willing to photograph the item clearly, then I'm not willing to take it on trust that said item is well-made.

Assume I have the neck measurement of an anorexic heron. You will not endear yourself to me by insisting that I will be able to knot and loop the 18" lariat necklace you have listed in several different, attractive ways. Around one finger, possibly.

Include the word "fashion" in the item title. If I wanted this season's fashionable jewellery, I'd be shopping at Accessorize. I'm a grown-up. I'm looking for something which will suit me. I couldn't give a flying f-word what the fashion mavens have arbitrarily chosen as the current "in thing". Seriously.

Fail to recognise when it's time to stop. So, you've learned how to wire-wrap beads, eh? That's cool: I'm a big fan of the effects which can be created by a spot of judicious wire-wrapping. But I'm not actually looking to have my ear lobes dragged half way down my neck. Less is often more. There really isn't any need to attach every briolette, rondelle and lentil within arm's reach to one over-loaded length of chain just because you've gone all plier-happy.

Produce "eclectic" multi-media pieces. I appreciate that there's considerable creative satisfaction to be gained from cannibalising old bits and pieces and interpolating them into your designs. And I'm not saying it never works. Generally speaking, though, I'm not really looking for keys, electrical supplies and bits of old watch faces dangling from otherwise inoffensive necklaces. (Prisms from old chandeliers, on the other hand, are an entirely different kettle of fish...)

Ship within the USA only. A big and immediate turn-off. I buy from all sorts of delightful people in the US. Have done for years. I know it's possible to post from the US to the UK. I'm pretty sure, in fact, that it's possible to post from the US to Every Other Country In The World. I'm going to have to be completely bowled-over by what you produce to go to the bother of getting in touch with you and asking you whether you could possibly be persuaded to post to the UK. (Which is exactly what I did with Gerry P and the wonderful earrings she makes out of David Christensen furnace glass beads - but Gerry's stuff is really special.)

Blow your own trumpet. I know you're proud of what you've made. There is no reason why you shouldn't be. Hey, I'm all for supporting the work of artisans. But you won't do yourself any favours with me by telling me that you've knotted the silk cord "skilfully". I'm a Brit: we don't respond very positively to people who feel the need to show off.

Well, that should about do it, I think. Any one - or, better still, a combination - of the above, and you can be quietly confident that I won't be darkening your doors any time soon. For which relief much thanks, I'm sure.

The Editor

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

We're together in dreams

Last night, I dreamed that I passed a great bustard on my way home from work. It was standing in a field. "Oh, look: that's a great bustard", I said to the very nice lady who gives me a lift home.

Thing is, if you had asked me yesterday when I was awake whether I knew what a great bustard was, I'd've been hard-pushed to come up with the right answer...

The Editor

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Will Dame Honoria be able to resist...?

Fresh from discovering an Etsy jewellery shop offering quite staggering discounts, I have hot-footed it to the blog to spread the word while these bargains are still available.

Veronica (who designs and creates her jewellery out of her studio in Colorado) is offering an "Inventory Reduction Sale". This means that your discount increases the more you buy.

If you buy goods to the value of $40, you'll get 20% off your invoice.

If you buy goods to the value of $100, you'll get 40% off your invoice.

And, if you buy goods to the value of $200, you'll get 50% off.

Shipping is free to everywhere (for a limited time).

Now, what makes this offer even more appealing is the fact that Veronica is applying it to the items which have already been reduced. And some of them have already been reduced a lot.

Take this chap, for instance:-

This is a tourmaline smoky quartz necklace. Originally $625, it's been reduced by 65% to $218.75 in the sale. If you were to buy it, you would have ordered to the value of over $200, so you'd get a further 50% reduction on the sale price, bringing it to $109, which is just under £55. And that's $516 less than the original asking price.

Now, admittedly, this particular item is not to my taste. I don't wear gold, and yellow does terrible things to my skin tone. But it's clearly well-made and is, without a shadow of a doubt, a bargain. In any event, I have already availed myself of the items which were most to my taste, so those have gone. (I will have to move some money around to pay for my purchases but, at these prices, I don't care.)

I don't usually recommend an artisan before sampling his or her wares for myself, but Veronica's sales figures are encouraging, and feedback from previous buyers is fulsome. I would be very surprised if her jewellery is anything less than top-drawer.

Gentlemen who read this blog may wish to muse on the fact that Christmas (yuck!) is fast-approaching, and that the ladies in their lives will recognise high-quality jewellery when they see it, even if the gentlemen themselves cannot tell a hawk from a handsaw when it comes to what they probably consider to be ladies' fripperies.

Your impoverished, but happy, Editor

I've been to a marvellous party!

It has been some years since Lady Bracknell has been sufficiently robust of constitution to devote her Saturday evenings to the popular pursuit of "party-going", or, indeed, sufficiently tolerant of inane conversation to wish to do so.

Nevertheless, she has nothing - in principle, at least - against persons who choose to invite friends to visit them, and who then ply said friends with alcohol lest the lack of such artificial stimulants should result in uncomfortable longueurs in the social interaction between them.

However, Lady Bracknell's tolerance becomes more than somewhat strained when the hosts - apparently having imbibed rather freely themselves - feel the need to shout their appreciation up the street behind their departing guests at 4.15 in the morning.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

"You may experience a slight soreness in your arm"

"Sometimes it can cause mild fever and slight muscle aches."

For "slight soreness", read, "hot, hard, throbbing, painful lump, two inches in diameter, which takes days to go down"*.

For "mild fever and slight muscle aches", read, "shivering uncontrollably for 48 hours to the point where your teeth rattle together; curled up in bed round a hot water bottle; painfully aware of every joint in your body".

"It can't cause flu". I know this. You tell me this every year. I know that what the flu jab causes isn't actually flu. But - after seven years of the bloody things - I also know that what it causes isn't slight soreness and a mild fever, either.

I am not a hypochondriac and I am not - over this, at any rate - a drama queen. I know why I need to have a flu jab, and I accept that it makes sense to have one, despite what it always does to me. All I ask is that you don't insult my intelligence by pretending that the side-effects I experience are mild.

The Editor

*There doesn't seem to be any way of avoiding making that sound as though I am talking about something even less savoury than an inflamed injection site. Believe me, I tried.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Will they beat the drum slowly?

I have spent far more time of late than is good for my nerves quality assuring - from a diversity point of view - vast numbers of "management training products" which are shortly to be unleashed on every manager in the organisation for which I work.

Rarely have I had so much cause to be grateful for the fact that, despite being of a managerial grade myself, it is some years since I have been blessed with staff.

I gather that what I have always known as "classroom training" is now called "a face-to-face intervention".

I am considering holding a wake for my beloved and beautiful mother tongue.

The Editor

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Enough with the unnecessary wrapping, already!!

When you say that your product provides "a solution" to dress up my bottle of washing-up liquid, you are presupposing that I consider my unadorned bottle of washing-up liquid to be a problem which requires a solution.

Trust me: I don't.

The Editor

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Paging Lady Bracknell

One of the most inexplicable mysteries in Lady Bracknell's humdrum existence is the propensity of bookmarks to absent themselves suddenly, completely and with no notice.

When Lady Bracknell has finished reading a book, she sets the bookmark which she has been using to one side.

Regardless of how little time has elapsed between this action and Lady Bracknell taking up a further volume to peruse, the bookmark will not be where she left it. Not only will the bookmark not be where she left it, it will not be anywhere in view. Neither - unlike the majority of objects which go missing on purpose - will it re-emerge once it has been replaced.

Lady Bracknell can clearly recall the appearance of many bookmarks which she has brought into Bracknell Towers over the years, but not one of them has deigned to remain by her side.

Readers will gain some understanding of how desperate the current bookmark-drought is when they learn that Lady Bracknell is reduced to marking the page in the book she is presently reading with a small, dried leaf which Caspar had the great foresight to carry in on her tail.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Setting the record straight

You may remember that, just over a month ago, I wrote a blog entry with the express purpose of pacifying Pop who, at that time, had been complaining that mentions of him in this blog were becoming increasingly sparse.

It was not an unqualified success.

Indeed, phrases like, "vile calumny" have been used to describe its content. That and "gross misrepresentation of a genuine concern for your well-being at all times". Harrumph. (Pop has the ability to spout this sort of stuff with a degree of conviction which is particularly impressive, given that he knows fine well that I have none of the complaints for which a colonic irrigation might be recommended as a treatment.)

Let's be quite clear, here. The threats of colonic irrigation gift vouchers for Christmas are motivated solely by the enjoyment Pop derives from tormenting me. He is lying through his teeth every time he claims otherwise.

However, that is not to say that he isn't concerned about my well-being, nor that he doesn't put himself out to make sure that I do everything necessary to keep my creaky old body functioning as well as possible.

OK, so it continues to amuse him vastly to phone me a few minutes before six o'clock; watch the time like a hawk; and then ask me casually at one nano-second past six whether I have taken my six o'clock diabetes meds yet. But he does do a bang-up job of making sure I take them. And I am a bit rubbish at taking them on time if I'm left to my own devices. Both of which considerations serve to temper - to some extent - the degree of snarling to which he is exposed when he plays that same "joke" for the fifth time in five days.

But where he really comes into his own is with hotting and colding.

Hotting and colding is a method of treatment devised by osteopaths with which to torture their patients. I would not be at all surprised to learn that all osteopaths sit at home of an evening sniggering to themselves at the thought of the awful things they have persuaded their innocent victims (sorry, "clients") to subject themselves to.

Hotting and colding is alleged to be useful in reducing inflammation.

It certainly reduces my will to live.

The torture (sorry, "treatment") consists of applying cold and heat alternately to the affected area. That's ten minutes with an ice-pack; ten with a just-filled-from-a-boiling-kettle hot water bottle; and a final ten with the ice-pack.

If this sounds innocuous to you, it can only be because you have never had to do it. Take it from me, it is extremely unpleasant. Ice-packs on their own: no problem. Ice-packs alternated with hot water bottles: Hell On Earth. Which is why, despite my osteopath having been telling me for the best part of a year that it really would be a good idea for my right ankle if I were to hot and cold it every night, I have been something of a backslider. The spirit was willing(ish), but the flesh was weak.

Eventually, I struck on the Cunning Plan of calling Pop on my mobile at the end of an osteopathy session and passing the phone across to Chris Osteopath so that he could tell Pop what it was he recommended that I do. And how often.

Naturally, once in possession of medical authority to nag, Pop immediately became unbearable. Frankly, it is easier just to do the damn hotting and colding than it is to put up with the grief he gives me if I don't do it.

And, whilst he undoubtedly derives considerable pleasure from making me do something I would very much rather not do, I have to admit that he is an enormous help. His great talent lies in his ability to distract me from the unpleasant things which are going on in the region of my ankle. He talks creative, utterly captivating nonsense to me for the entire half hour of the treatment, and he does this every night. (Well, almost. Not being a crip himself, he has a social life which occasionally involves actually going out. I know: weird, isn't it?)

So, despite how much it pains me to do it, and despite the risk that it will come back and haunt me, I consider it to be past time for me to state publicly, in a blog entry which I promise I will not delete just because he is being particularly trying, that I am genuinely and sincerely grateful to my very good friend Pop for his dedication to distracting me from the hideousness which is hotting and colding. I know he has many other - and probably considerably less fraught - things he could be doing with his time, and I appreciate his commitment to making me do what is good for me. Even if it does mean that he gets to say things like, "I'm not surprised it's cold. It's an ice-pack. They're supposed to be cold", rather more often than I might wish.

The Editor

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Don't look, Ethel! #2

Regular readers will be aware that I am occasionally subject to irresistible urges to check - just for the purposes of research, you understand, and very definitely not with a view to increasing the size of my household even by one tiny, adorable, cuddly, curly kitten - who is currently looking for a home on the Selkirk Rex Cat Club website.

No doubt my iron self-discipline on this matter will come as something of a disappointment to Amazolou's Mister Fantastic, as it is clear from his expression that nothing would amuse him more than coming to play with Bertie.

Always assuming, of course, that Bertie hasn't gone into hibernation:-

The Editor

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Quick, quick!!!

The delightful Neile has listed one of her incomparable blue morpho wing pendants on Etsy and it's not reserved for anyone.

This could be your chance to own something truly striking and dramatic.

Worth every penny/cent. Trust me.

The Editor