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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

Friday, November 30, 2007

Is it a scarf...?

There's a line from Coupling - not a programme I generally associate with a high laugh per minute count, it has to be said - which has always stuck in my mind.

The character whose name may or may not have been Jack, when dragged reluctantly round a home furnishings store by his inamorata, at one point expostulates, "Cushions are fat litter!"

I mention this only because my Blossom In Winter scarf, which arrived today, is a fat necklace.

Or, if you will, soft-sculpted jewellery.

I've seen knitted scarves which are intended to be worn as jewellery before and, quite honestly, I wouldn't give any of them house-room. They remind me of string vests which have been put through the mangle too many times. They're thin and feeble and far too reminiscent of the deplorable 1970s fascination with macrame.

And, as a general rule of thumb, I simply don't do girly, flowery stuff.

But I fell for this scarf the moment I saw it. Admittedly, I am hugely swayed by the fact that it is made from silk velvet: if there is a more tactile, plushy, luxurious fabric than silk velvet in existence, I have yet to discover it.

But it's also such a clever and original design: a long, rambling vine of roses, each of which is sitting on top of its own little crop of leaf-lets. I'm no seamstress, admittedly, but I can recognise intricate, fiddly work when I see it.

And all for a mere £26, including shipping from Thailand.

I haven't blogged about this as a form of gloating, though. "Ha! I have a fat necklace, and you haven't!") No, I've blogged about it because Vichuta has listed another one on Etsy. Which means that you, dear Reader, could buy it. For yourself. Or, if you were feeling very strong and you are good at the self-denial stuff, as a gift for someone else.

The Editor

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Memo to self

Sometimes, when you buy trousers cheaply on eBay, they have been classed as seconds by the manufacturer when the only thing which is wrong with them is that the care label has been sewn into the front rather than the back.

This makes them a Great Bargain.

However, it would be helpful if you could remember this particular trouser-foible when you are about to put them on in the morning, rather than having a nasty realisation when you reach your desk that the reason you can't get your mobile phone into your pocket is that your pockets are facing the wrong way.

The Editor

Monday, November 26, 2007


If your grabby stick (which you have just been using to pick up all the dried leaves which Someone carries in on her tail and then drops on to the carpet) falls on the floor, how do you pick it up...?

The Editor

Friday, November 23, 2007

A short test

The test will begin at your invigilator's signal. Do not turn over your test paper until the invigilator has told you that you may. Should you spoil your paper, and require a fresh sheet, raise your hand and the invigilator will supply you with one. You must show all your workings-out. The use of electronic calculating devices is not permitted.

Lady Bracknell, who was early for an appointment, went into a charity shop to look at its book section.

She espied a hand-written sign which said,

"Paperback novels, 75p each or 2 for £1. All other prices as marked."

Having chosen four paperback novels, Lady Bracknell approached the till.

"I'm sorry", she said, "I don't think I have £2 in change".

"Not to worry", replied the assistant. "We have plenty of change today".

Lady Bracknell counted the coins in her possession and discovered that she had £1.92. She advised the assistant of this fact, and paid for her books with a £10 note.

The assistant handed back £8.10 in change.

When Lady Bracknell queried the amount of change she had been given, the assistant explained that the shop's new till didn't recognise amounts ending in zero, so she couldn't key in £2.

What was the mistake the assistant made?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

From Pop

Friday, November 16, 2007

Read it and honk

If you come here often, you may remember that I was recently forced to wade through several hundred pages of management training products so that I could snarl knowledgeably about the paucity of their diversity content.

I have a very low tolerance threshold for the majority of corporate-speak nonsense, which is why the "Lessons From Geese" section had me sniggering uncontrollably over my keyboard. (Well, me initially: the rest of my team very shortly thereafter...)

Having finally tracked down an alternate source of this inspiring breakthrough in the understanding of the team-working dynamic, I reproduce it here in all its glory for your reading pleasure.

You may want to apply the lessons it contains to your own workplace. Alternatively, you may just feel hugely relieved that you work for yourself, or are not currently in employment.

As each goose flaps its wings it creates an "uplift” for the birds that follow. By flying in a V formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater flying range than if each bird flew alone.

People who share a common direction and sense of community and family can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are travelling on the thrust of one another.

When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.

If we have as much sense as a goose, we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others.

When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose flies to the point position.

It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership. As with geese, people are interdependent on each other’s skills and capabilities and unique arrangements of gifts, talents or resources.

The geese flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

We need to make sure our honking is encouraging. In teams where there is encouragement, the production is much greater. The power of encouragement (to stand by one’s heart or core values and encourage the heart and core of others) is actually the honking we seek.

When a goose gets sick, wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again.

Then, they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.

If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.

There: wasn't that lovely? Don't you feel better now for having aspired to behave in a more goose-ly manner?

I'm not going to tell you what my own work colleagues said. I wouldn't want to pre-empt your comments. Suffice it to say that there was a great deal of wing-flapping and encouraging honking the day I emailed it to them. And all of it was sarcastic.

The Editor

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Meet Snowball. He dances.

Snowball link courtesy of your friend and mine, Mr Crippen.

The Editor.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Crippled Presents

Or, to put it another way, Lame Gits. (Well, Gifts, actually. Not Gits. But I stand by my previously-expressed opinion that some typos are a gift from the gods, and ought not to be corrected. Not to mention the fact that I think I have just serendipitously happened upon the ideal gang name for self, Dude, Marmite, et al, should we ever fancy joining forces and getting together on street corners to terrorise normies. Er, always assuming there's sufficient wall available for all of us to prop ourselves up against, you understand. What with standing for any length of time being something of a challenge to us Lame Gits. Despite which, we are scary. Oh yes.)

But I digress.

Yes, those endearing people over at Rare Bird Finds have launched an exceedingly cunning competition, snappily-entitled, "The what's-the-lamest-gift-you-ever-got contest". The winner gets to choose his or her favourite item from the Holiday Gift Guide.

My hopes of winning with the three jars of supermarket own-brand decaffeinated coffee (wrapped up to look like a Christmas cracker) with which my mother presented me one year very shortly after I had explained that only Kenco will do, have been dashed by the fact that I no longer have said jars so cannot photograph them.

For the sake of continuing amicable relations between the UK and the US, it is possibly just as well that Lady has found a grateful recipient for the last of those dear little pots of Marmite which the Dude so generously bestowed upon her.

Despite the British enthusiasm for passing unwelcome gifts to the nearest charity shop with great rapidity, I am quietly confident that at least one of this blog's readers must have something hidden away which could be dusted off and photographed. And, even if that's not the case, I shall be looking forward to the competition results being published.

Who knows? Said results might even make me feel that I got off rather lightly with my three jars of coffee.

The Editor

Friday, November 09, 2007

The Marmite Chronicles

Having been told by Dr Hazel earlier this week that there is "pressure" around my kidneys; that said pressure needs to be relieved by the consumption of vast quantities of water; and that the relief of said pressure might lead to a corresponding reduction in back pain, I am currently incapable of sitting in one uninterrupted place for long enough to construct a coherent blog entry.

So it's fortunate, really, that I received the following email from the ever-witty Lady yesterday. Not only that but, having given up on her own blog, she's given me permission to reproduce her words here for public consumption. Which means I get to look as though I'm blogging when I'm actually just rushing to the loo every five minutes. Good, huh?

Dear Lady Bracknell,

I was poking around in my tornado of a room when I discovered a small packet of marmite. Instantly, I was sticken with the horrible knowledge that I had never responded to Boogaloo Dude's...um....well, 'kind gift' isn't the proper phrase. Why would you inflict this stuff on a foriegner? Really, what has America ever done to him?

So, in the interests of repairing international relations (though, at this point, I'm not sure if I actually *want* to repair them), here is an American's experience of marmite:

In the beginning....

As you will recall, all this began with your blog post of May 30, 2007, in which you used the phrase 'half inched'. Dude wagered a peck of marmite that no Colonial would know what this phrase meant. I immediatly responded that it was a fragment of Cockney rhyming slang; 'half inched' rhymes with 'pinched', which is another word for 'stole'.

I grew up on a healthy combination of British children's books and crime stories. Fear my esoteric and outdated knowlege!

Much to my shock, Dude requested my address via your email.

The Receiving

At the time, I lived in what could kindly be called a student ghetto. Realistically, it was a nasty little rat-warren of once-nice homes that had been infested with college students. Any package left on a porch was stolen, as was junk mail. So I gave my parents' address. A while later, I received a baffled call from my mother to tell me that England had sent me something.

I thought this was very nice of the entire country. Thankyou, England.

Further investigation revealed that it was a large padded envelope. Inside was a very nice note from Dude, complete with a picture of him. I put this in a safe place, and then I lost the safe place. I suspect it is cozied up to other important documents, like my social security card.

There was also a small bag of individual marmite packets. I and my mother admired them for a while. They were heart shaped, possibly in an attempt to suggest this was something I would love, and we are very vulnerable to twee things like that. The only way we would have liked the little packets more was if there were pictures of kittens in a boot on them.

Dude's note mentioned that his daughters liked marmite on toast and peanutbutter. Under the theory that small children wouldn't eat something disgusting, I decided to try it this way first. Foolish me. I forgot that small children were once babies, and babies eat things like strained squash and bugs.

Toast was toasted. Peanutbutter was spread. The marmite was opened.

"It looks like a badly refined petroleum byproduct." I observed kindly.

"You're actually going to eat that?" asked my mother.

In answer, I picked up a knife and spread a thin layer of marmite on the peanutbutter. I stared at it. It stared at me. I savoured the novel experience of holding a snack that my mother hadn't stolen a bite from, for the first time in 25 years. This was just another warning I ignored. My mother will eat food that no one else considers edible, up to and including hot dogs so badly burnt that they explode into black tinsel when bitten.

What was I talking about?

Right. Marmite. I took a bite. I chewed and I swallowed. Then I took another bite, because I literally could not believe what I was eating. Chewed, swallowed. I opened my mouth for another, and my jaws would not close on the toast. This proves that the body is smarter than the mind.

"How's it taste?" asked Mom. Clearly, she'd missed the quiver of horror that was running through me.

"Its.....have some, Mom." Once, she served me asparagus. She deserved this.

But she must have seen something in my face. Possibly the rictus of disgust.

"No, thanks."

"Really, Mom. Have some."

By now, the full impact of the flavor had made its way through my shuddering nerves to my brain. The conversation halted in favor of watching me run like heck to brush my teeth.

The marmited toast fell to the floor, where the cat promptly avoided it. This was a cat who delighted in licking the wings off of beetles. Draw your own conclusions.

Try, try again....

A nice British fellow (he never sent me foul things by mail) that I know from the internet told me that the best way to try marmite was to make some toast with real butter on it, then spread a gauzily thin layer of marmite on it.

I like butter. I mean...I really like butter. I get this from my Mom, who used to eat sticks of butter as a kid. This is what being the only girl, and a blonde to boot, will get you. I never got to eat just butter. I had a sister, and she was blonder. She's still blonder, the rat.

Toast was made. Butter was spread. Marmite was spread in a layer that existed only on the atomic scale.

A bite, and I fled to the bathroom to scour at my teeth again. The taste, it stuck to the enamel...

....and try again...

Perhaps pure marmite was too much for my inexperienced palate. I enjoy many strong flavors that are too strong on their own - onion, garlic, tabasco. Maybe it needed to be diluted into a larger dish. I poked at a nice lady from the north of England until she gave me a recipe for marmite sandwiches. Roughly:

Take a piece of toast. Slice a cucumber, put it on the toast. Put a dollop of cottage cheese on the toast. Take another piece of toast. Spread Philadelphia cream cheese on the toast. Meditate on the oddness of combining a low-fat, healthy food with cream cheese. Now ruin the sandwich by putting marmite on it.

Guess how much I liked it. Go on. Guess.

....and again...

Another poke at the web yielded a recipe that basically went like this: get a jalepeno pepper. Slice in half, remove seeds. Smear with marmite then sour cream. Eat.

Jalepeno pepper would surely overwhelm the taste of almost anything, right?

Wrong. So wrong. So very, tragically, horribly wrong...

....and again....

So, veggies didn't do it. Okay. The majority of a world power of a country couldn't be completely insane, right? (See how I'm avoiding a joke about American politics here? I feel proud.)

I had a flicker of hope when I found a dish called petite marmite, but it turned out that this didn't contain any actual marmite. After some thought, I realized that eating a marmite dish that didn't actually contain marmite was probably not going to fulfill my determination to like this most disgusting of foodstuffs.

Then I was given a recipe for marmite-glazed seared beef. Sounds tasty, right? It had all sorts of Asian spices and such in it. Years of eating food prepared in the back of trucks has left me with the impression that enough ginger and soy sauce can make anything palatable.

So I made the seared and marmited beef. I had to make it at my parents' house, because my roommates had a little talk with me. One was holding a heavy book, the other a loaded cat.

So. I bought a small amount of beef and made the stuff. My mother wandered into the kitchen to see what the smell was and peered at the plate I was holding morosely.

"Jess" she asked, "Are you sure the English like you?"


All the recipes above were made from..I dunno. Four packets of marmite? There were trace amounts in each of the dishes, and that was still too much.

We have a nice British guy in the department. I gave him the three remaining marmite packets. He was very happy to get them. I was impressed he could be that drunk and still walking upright. That's grad students for you.

The English? You're all crazy.

I'll have my revenge, though. I have a friend who tells me he knows where he can get some non-aerosolized cheese-like food suitable for international shipping....


The Editor (who suspects this might run and run...)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

For Sara

Thursday, November 01, 2007


I had a committee meeting today.

It was in London.

I was not in London. (I only go to London by royal invitation these days, don't you know?)



Instead of travelling all the way to London and back in one day, thereby guaranteeing myself many weeks of excruciating pain (and, quite possibly, Death By Hypo), I attended the meeting via a telephone uplink.

I promise you, that is a lot less exciting* than it sounds.

As Dr Hazel drove a particularly vicious needle into the front of my ankle this afternoon, and winced as I hissed in pain, I said, "No, no: don't apologise! Anything's better than listening to that meeting for another hour and a half!"

The Editor

*Oh, except for the bit when the mike picked up the very rude things the meeting chair was muttering to whoever was sitting beside him while someone dull was droning on interminably about nothing very much. That was my favourite bit. By far.