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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

Monday, October 31, 2005

Lady Bracknell's familiar behaves oddly

That it is Hallowe'en once more was made obvious to Lady Bracknell today as she hobbled towards her bus stop. The first clue was a very small witch, complete with pointy hat, who was being taken by the hand to nursery by her mother. Lady Bracknell can find nothing to complain about there.

However, she also walked past the shattered remains of what must have been dozens of egg shells. And this she finds wholly reprehensible. Lady Bracknell doubts that the poor hens who have been packed into batteries, and who have never been permitted so much as a glimpse of the sky or the feel of a blade of grass under their feet, would be overjoyed to discover that their eggs have been thrown at cars, or walls, or front doors. Show Lady Bracknell a ruffian who says that he bought free range eggs for his midnight revels, and she will show you a liar. Of course, such loutish and ill-bred behaviour also demonstrates a deplorable want of respect for other people's property, and is thus in every conceivable way unnacceptable.

Owing to its unusual situation, Bracknell Towers remains blessedly free from gangs of marauding urchins seeking their next tartrazine fix. Nevertheless, it is Hallowe'en, and Lady Bracknell feels duty bound to pay some lip service to the fact.

Where there are witches, there are also witches' familiars. Many of which take the form of black cats. Lady Bracknell claims neither to be a witch nor to have a familiar, but her feline companion (who, happily for this most tenuous of links, happens to be black) is behaving rather oddly.

Regular readers will recall that Bracknell Towers, and its contents, have a tendency to crumble. The current list of items which need some attention include

  • the knob which fell off the washing machine last week;
  • the hob on which only two of the rings are willing to heat up; and
  • the dishwasher, which will only deign to work if the 'on' switch is held down with blu-tack.

Rather more serious than any of the above is the fact that rain is coming through the withdrawing room ceiling. As a temporary measure, Lady Bracknell has seen to it that a basin be stationed under the drip.

She thought little of this until she witnessed her feline companion exiting the withdrawing room in a manner which could only be described as furtive. At which point, it occurred to Lady Bracknell - whose mind is, let us not forget, like a steel trap - to wonder whether Fishbone was drinking from the basin.

A theory which subsequent observation has proved to be correct. Lady Bracknell is well aware that cats prefer rainwater to tap water. But, to paraphrase the current Marks and Spencer food adverts, this is not just rainwater. This is rainwater which has been subjected to filtration through roof tiles, ceiling joists, plaster and possibly several other less-than-delicious substances. When more than a little has been collected, a gritty black tide mark soon appears. But that Fishbone loves it cannot be denied. This very morning, she insisted on being allowed into the withdrawing room, and complained in a most peremptory manner when she discovered that the basin had not been magically re-filled overnight. She is entirely unmoved by Lady Bracknell's explanations as to why more cannot be provided merely to suit her feline whim.

Rain is forecast overnight. Lady Bracknell cannot be entirely sure, but she suspects that Fishbone has been doing a little rain dance when no-one was looking....

Saturday, October 29, 2005

And speaking of umbrellas.......

Lady Bracknell would not wish her readers to gain the impression that she forces her editor to spend every available moment surfing the interwebnet in an industrious manner for devices which might serve to protect physically enfeebled ladies and gentlemen from the rain.

It was purely by chance (no, really: it was) that the editor happened upon the Safebrella - "the first umbrella in the world with a removable walking stick", according to the Pro.idee site.

For the entirely exorbitant sum of £54.50, one may equip oneself with this marvel of modern engineering. Although Lady Bracknell is wholly unconvinced that one might want to. Lady Bracknell owns a superfluity of umbrellas, and has a fine collection of sticks. There was a time when she was sufficiently mobile to manage short journeys without a stick. (Indeed, there may yet come a time when she is able to do this again. Although she is not holding her breath...) On such occasions, and if the weather looked threatening, she would leave the house with a stout umbrella. Her umbrellas were carefully chosen to have sufficient length and strength to perform the function of a walking stick reasonably well until the moment when the heavens opened. At which point Lady Bracknell would raise the umbrella. She would walk unaided, but she would be protected from the rain.

It is all very well for some German designer to come up with the notion of an umbrella from the handle of which one may detach a walking stick but, unless Germans generally have three arms (a proposition which Lady Bracknell considers to be improbable, if somewhat entertaining), the designer has signally failed to take into account the practicalities of getting about without either hand being free. How is the German lady expected to carry her handbag? How is the German gentleman to hold doors open in a courteous fashion for the German lady? Or tip his hat to the German lady? How is either to unlock the front door upon arriving home? Lady Bracknell notes that neither the stick nor the umbrella has a crook handle, which means that neither could be hung temporarily over the wrist should it suddenly become necessary to use a hand for some other purpose.

One could just as easily carry a walking stick and an umbrella with one as carry an umbrella with a detachable stick. But both alternatives are entirely impractical. Instead, one is forced to prioritise between the need for support when walking, and the need to keep dry. Lady Bracknell tends to work on the theory that she is unlikely to dissolve if she gets wet.

Not that Lady Bracknell would wish to pour comparable scorn on everything which is for sale on the Pro-idee site. She is much taken with the cashmere fingerless gloves to the right, and is considering ordering a pair in pink for those rare occasions when the temperature outdoors is sufficiently low for her hands to feel cold. Although she imagines that a pair might also come in useful for the editor when she is working at the keyboard of the computing device on a particularly chilly day.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

"Thanks for the eloquent and humorous blog posts"

Lady Bracknell (who seems to be making quite a habit of receiving favours from charming gentlemen at the moment) wishes to announce her indebtedness and gratitude to Steve the Stick Man.

In a quite extraordinarily generous act, Steve has repaid Lady Bracknell for the enjoyment and amusement he receives from her humble blog entries by making her a magnificent gift of both a handsome red walking stick and a handsome purple walking stick.

Lady Bracknell has attempted to demonstrate the translucency of these handsome sticks via the photographic medium, but is aware that the results of her endeavours with the camera are but a poor substitute for the effect which she had hoped to achieve. Photography is not something that Lady Bracknell could realistically claim as an accomplishment. Readers who wish to get a better idea of the true appearance of these jewel-like sticks would be well advised to visit the Clear Canes site. (A photograph of the handsome blue walking stick has also been included here, as Lady Bracknell has a vague memory of having promised to publish one some little while ago.)

Not for one moment did Lady Bracknell ever expect that her venture into the blogsphere might result in such marvellous gifts. She is truly touched by the generosity and the kind words of Steve the Stick Man. It gives her ladyship immense pleasure to discover that her writing entertains her readers.

Notwithstanding the fact that Lady Bracknell categorically did not set out to importune gifts from her readers, she anticipates that her current entry may well result in a rash of what she has decided to call "blog blagging".

The charming and erudite Mr Simons, for example, has revealed to her ladyship that he is in the throes of composing eloquent and moving paragraphs on the desirability of vacationing in Barbados. And this despite the fact that he is far from convinced that he numbers any Barbadian travel agents amongst the regular readers of his fine blog.

It would appear entirely feasible that young Master Marmite might arrive home one day to find a crate of savoury spread on his doorstep. Although, given that there is only so much Marmite that even a dedicated afficionado can consume, an entire crate of the stuff might serve only to create storage problems for the gentleman in question.

Lady Bracknell, who would have felt highly embarrassed about the gift of walking sticks had she been making a deliberate attempt to "blag" them, must leave it up to the conscience of individual authors to decide whether they could live with themselves should they attempt any blog blagging of their own.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Lady Bracknell assists Becca in her search

Lady Bracknell's editor, having returned to her other place of paid employment today, has shown considerable reluctance to do her ladyship's bidding this evening. The feeble woman is, in fact, still muttering imprecations about something called "RSI" under her breath. Lady Bracknell will pretend she did not hear the editor suggest that her ladyship might quite easily learn to type on the computing device herself. It would not be proper for a member of the aristocracy to undertake such a menial task. How are the lower orders to be employed if not in ministering to their betters?

Some time ago, the delightful Becca asked Lady Bracknell whether she was aware of any umbrellas which could be used in conjunction with a wheelchair. The weather having been quite exceptionally wet to the West of the Pennines today, Lady Bracknell has decided that it is past time she revealed the device which she discovered last week.

Behold the result of her ladyship's assiduous search! It is to be hoped that Becca is fond of the colour blue, as this device is available in as many different colourways as was the original Model T Ford motor car. Becca may buy one in any colour she likes, as long as that colour is blue.

The cost of the wheelchair umbrella varies significantly between vendors. It may be purchased from Youreable for the rather hefty sum of £23.49. Alternatively, Argos sell what has every appearance of being exactly the same item for the more reasonable sum of £11.99.

Lady Bracknell would be the first to admit that this is not an outstandingly attractive item. Nevertheless, having seen today's photograph of the Goldfish, she would venture to suggest that it can perhaps, be considered to be slightly more flattering than a rain poncho.

Post Script

Whilst travelling to visit the osteopathic gentleman earlier today (25th October), Lady Bracknell was surprised to witness one of these wheelchair umbrellas in use. This has, naturally, provided her ladyship with a better idea of how practical one would be. She suspects that, were Becca to be wheeling into the rain, there is some risk that she would need to so far lower the umbrella to shield her face from getting wet, that she might struggle to see where she was going. Although this issue is, of course, also one which affects ambulant users of umbrellas, Lady Bracknell cannot help but suspect that it might be more problematical for a wheely crip than for someone whose eye level is several feet higher. Of course, never having wheeled herself, her ladyship's assumption may well be wholly erroneous.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Lady Bracknell perorates on the proliferation of seasonal ceramics

In the halcyon days of Lady Bracknell's youth, when there were but three television channels, and when only one of those was commercial, there was very considerably less pressure put on those of an easily-persuadable nature to plunge themselves into debt in the pursuit of objects which could not, by any leap of imagination, be deemed vital to the continuance of day to day life.

It is true that all but the poorest households would have two sets of china, one of which was kept for 'best'. But what they did not have were entire sets of china themed for use solely on a specific high day or holiday.

This is a trend which began some years ago with Christmas. Thick, glossy catalogues - which were squeezed through letterboxes by perspiring postmen - arrived, containing page after page of photographs of aspirational dining tables groaning under the combined weight of Christmas table cloths; Christmas glassware; Christmas candlesticks; Christmas napkins; Christmas centre-pieces; and jolly Christmas dinner services. Christmas tea-towels were also available, lest the post-Christmas dinner washing-up session seem too distressingly mundane.

Easter followed much more recently. Messrs Marks and Spencer (or, more probably, their descendents) filled their display windows with pastel-coloured ceramics featuring fluffy bunnies, yellow Easter chicks, and gambolling lambs.

And now, apparently, it is the turn of Hallowe'en to be blessed in this way. Something which Lady Bracknell discovered on one of her very rare ventures into real, physical shops yesterday afternoon. Now, Lady Bracknell is not unaware that the odious tradition known as "trick or treating" has, of late, gained a stronghold in this country. (Although quite why any responsible non-Mafia parent would wish to encourage his or her offspring to demand sweeties with menaces is a phenomenon her ladyship cannot understand.) She is aware, also, that innocent householders feel duty bound to have ready copious quantities of garishly coloured confections to bestow upon parties of amusingly costumed small children for fear that, if no such treats are forthcoming, their front doors or windows will be pelted vengefully with flour or eggs.

But is there really any need for the sweeties to be proffered to the importunate youngsters from a ceramic platter of a particularly spooky design, such as the one pictured on the right? It is not that Lady Bracknell is unmoved by colourful ceramics. But, given the modest proportions of the majority of modern homes, she cannot for the life of her imagine where bulky objects such as this are stored on the 364 days of the year on which their use would be inappropriate. Readers who themselves experience chronic pain, fatigue, or both would, Lady Bracknell imagines, share her concern that, should they purchase such items for their own use, they would be highly unlikely to have the energy to retrieve them from whichever inaccessible corner of the house they had consigned them to for storage on the dates on which they wished to use them.

Lady Bracknell is by no means averse to all of the paraphernalia associated with Halloween but would, for Bracknell Towers, choose something decorative which was both smaller and easier to store. She is very much taken, for example, with the stained glass bat which this ebay seller is offering. Not only do the design and the craftsmanship appeal to her ladyship, but she is quietly confident that Mr Bat, when his services are no longer required, could very easily be wrapped in tissue paper and slipped into a drawer.

Post Script

Lady Bracknell's friend Alva has just drawn her attention to The Holiday Sweater entry in Shoeblogs. Readers are strongly urged to click on the link. They will not be disappointed.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Lady Bracknell has a wobbly moment.

Lady Bracknell, as will no doubt become increasingly apparent to her readers as the season approaches, is not enamoured of Christmas. Neither does she have the slightest desire to eat jelly given that she believes its main constituents to be the boiled-up bones and hooves of cattle; sugar; and food colourings of an alarmingly synthetic nature.

Nevertheless, she concedes that the jelly Christmas tree and snowman to the left do have a certain charm.

The mould can also be used to produce a jelly sledge and a jelly Father Christmas. It can be purchased from Lakeland Limited for the princely sum of £2.95.

Something which might prove to be a rather more practical gift for one's physically enfeebled friends and family members is the Gowrings Mobility UK Road Atlas, which is decribed as the "new definitive UK atlas customised for Blue Badge holders incorporating a customised street atlas of 65 major UK cities showing locations of all Blue Badge parking, car parks, petrol station and concessions for Blue Badge holders across the UK."

The volume will not be published until January 2006, a fact which implies to Lady Bracknell that its publishers have signally failed to recognise its potential as a Christmas stocking filler for crips. The cover price will be £12.99, but it can be pre-ordered at the reduced price of £9.75 here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Lady Bracknell has a brush with the criminal underworld

Lady Bracknell travelled to Manchester by train today and spent several hours in the company of the delightful Becca. Her ladyship will be fit for nothing tomorrow, but considers that to be a small price to pay.

Her ladyship's rail journey back from Manchester to Liverpool was, in the main, uneventful. She was, however, intrigued by the fact that the lady who brought round the refreshments trolley was American. This lady explained to a neighbouring passenger that she had started work at 8 of the clock this morning and was therefore now very tired and prone to making errors. Lady Bracknell was much charmed by her admission that, when she is really tired, she starts charging passengers in dollars and cents rather than in pounds and pence. Her ladyship would have welcomed the opportunity to speak to this charming lady at length, as it is not every day that one encounters an American member of staff on our British railways. Unfortunately, the train was a lengthy one, the American lady had many other passengers to see to, and the opportunity did not present itself.

When the train arrived at Lime Street Station, there was what appeared to Lady Bracknell to be a quite unconscionable delay before the doors could be opened. But when egress was finally permitted, the cause of the delay was immediately apparent. Several police officers, accompanied by what Lady Bracknell believes is known as "back up" from liveried members of the transport police, were in the process of detaining and cautioning three young persons who had travelled on the train. The young persons were of a most sullen cast of feature and of a slovenly appearance: indeed, they amply demonstrated Lady Bracknell's theory that the shell suit flatters nobody, regardless of gender, age or figure.

Lady Bracknell was naturally curious as to what crime had been committed, but is too well-bred to importune one of the station staff and demand details. She therefore continued to walk up the platform, and was quickly overtaken by her fellow passengers.

Before long, however, she realised that the refreshments trolley was being pushed along behind her. The charming American lady whom she had encountered at the commencement of her journey then called out a compliment in relation to her ladyship's handsome blue walking stick. She opined that, were she ever to need a mobility aid herself, she would choose just such a stick. Lady Bracknell thanked the American lady, and explained that she purchases her sticks on the Internet, and that they are sent to her from Florida by Steve The Stick Man. At which point the American lady was pleased to have the opportunity to disclose the fact that she herself grew up in Florida.

A friendship thus having been established, Lady Bracknell felt it would now be appropriate to ask about the three sullen young persons and their brush with the law. She regrets to report, however, that the charming American lady knew nothing beyond the fact that they had been irritating the passengers in the carriage in which they travelled by playing loud mobile phone ring tones. As this, despite its being quite exceptionally discourteous and annoying, is not yet classified as a crime, the mystery remains.

The next time Lady Bracknell travels by train, she will endeavour to choose the carriage which contains criminals so that her own curiosity, and that of her readers, can be satisfied.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Lady Bracknell has fallen in love

Lady Bracknell has long prided herself on the ability, proper to one of her elevated position in society, to so far subjugate her emotional responses as to appear positively frosty in polite company.


The editor (who is currently enjoying a fortnight's well-deserved break from her other paid employment) has been searching the farthest reaches of the interwebnet again, and has discovered Panda Cam. San Diego Zoo has a population of Giant Pandas. A population which includes a quite exceptionally endearing cub, born on August 2nd of this year. Panda Cam delivers a live video feed from the panda enclosure.

Evidently, there are other 'animal cams' set up in the enclosures which house polar bears, elephants and apes. Lady Bracknell cares not for these other cams. Her whole being is intent on watching every movement of the panda cub. At this rate, she may never leave Bracknell Towers again....

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Mrs M's theory of human behaviour

Lady Bracknell apologises to her readers for the fact that she has been absent from her own blog for the better part of a week.

It has, of course, been an eventful week for her ladyship's editor who has been much taken up not only with the awards ceremony but also with the work she is doing for the Ouch! weblog. (Lady Bracknell has granted permission for the editor to use her employer's name as a nom de web for this purpose, as she is in agreement that it would be unwise for the editor to reveal her true identity in so public a forum.)

Added to that, Lady Bracknell reluctantly attended her doctor's surgery for her annual "flu jab" on Friday morning, and has spent most of the intervening period shivering under extra bed clothes in her boudoir as a direct result. Of all the annual indignities to which Lady Bracknell is exposed in connection with her diabetes, this one is the worst, if only because its effects are the most long-lasting. The diabetic retinopathy screening runs it a very close second, however. And if the chiropodist whom her ladyship sees once a year feels constrained to point out to her yet again this year that her feet have to carry a lot of weight, Lady Bracknell fears that she may temporarily lose control of whichever of her handsome walking sticks she happens to have with her at the time.

However, none of this is to the point. (Lady Bracknell much admires concision in others, but has never managed to achieve it herself.)

More years ago than she cares to remember, Lady Bracknell had the great good fortune to work with a most charming and insightful lady, one Mrs M. Apart from the sporadic exchange of Christmas cards, the two ladies are now barely in touch, distance having proved a considerable obstacle to the continuation of the friendship prior to the advent of instantaneous electronic methods of communication.

Be that as it may, Lady Bracknell often has cause to recall certain words of wisdom which fell from Mrs M's lips as the two ladies were taking the air in Northampton. Mrs M had developed her own theory of human behaviour, which was:

"Everyone is either a child, or an adult."

Readers may have jumped to the immediate (if erroneous) conclusion that this theory can hardly be said to contain any original thought, given that it is the natural way of things for human beings to begin life as infants, and subsequently to pass through childhood on to adult estate. But what marks Mrs M's theory out from being a simple statement of irrefutable fact is that it is intended to be applied regardless of chronological age.

In other words, a child of ten years can comport itself with such maturity as to be dubbed an 'adult', and a septuagenarian can behave with such an utter want of consideration for the the effect that his or her behaviour might have on others as to be, without doubt, a 'child'.

Tremendous amusement can be had from the simple mental exercise of dividing all one's acquaintances into 'children' and 'adults'. In case any of her readers are still metaphorically at sea, Lady Bracknell will elucidate further by listing a few of the typical behaviours for each category.

The child
  • is the centre of his or her own universe
  • responds to criticism by being defensive
  • never admits to being at fault
  • behaves petulantly when not the centre of attention
  • throws tantrums to get what he or she wants (the modern vernacular expression is, Lady Bracknell believes, "spits the dummy")
  • will not willingly share his or her "toys"
  • manipulates other people shamelessly to achieve his or her own ends
  • adopts a wheedling tone to get his or her own way
  • believes the world owes him or her a living, and that he or she has an absolute right to take up paid employment only if it will be fulfilling and enjoyable
  • refuses to take responsibility for his or her own actions.

The adult

  • considers the ramifications of his or her own actions, and takes responsibility for them
  • is capable of engaging in rational debate without becoming emotionally involved
  • considers other people's feelings
  • refuses to stoop to whining to get his or her own way
  • can see both sides of an argument
  • accepts that life is not fair, but makes the best of his or her own circumstances
  • extends equal courtesy to all, regardless of their relative positions
  • does not take credit for others' work or ideas
  • protects those who cannot, for whatever reason, protect themselves
  • accepts the need to put bread on the table, and does not expect that his or her working life will necessarily be one long round of enjoyment.

Lady Bracknell trusts that the distinction is now clear, and that her readers will enjoy applying Mrs M's theory to whomever they should encounter in future.

Although persons of mature years ought, wherever possible, to avoid behaving childishly (if for no other reason than because such behaviour will ultimately render them friendless), that is not to say that we should set aside all the pleasures of our childhoods. Lady Bracknell's younger brother has posted her a DVD of Noggin the Nog, which is not only giving her ladyship great pleasure, but is confirming her belief that children's television programmes are not what they used to be.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Page 3 Photo

So-called because it's apparently going to appear on page 3 of the next edition of PCS View magazine. (PCS is the Public and Commercial Services union, should anyone have been foxed by the acronym.)

Don't worry: I haven't the slightest intention of getting my kit off. But I find the idea of describing myself as a Page 3 girl so ludicrous as to be hilariously funny.

This is cropped from the official photograph which will no doubt be appearing on the Positive Action Awards website ere long. I have fewer chins in this than in the one Marmite took, plus you get to see more of the all-important green stick. The hugely talented Mental-as-a-fork has excised the two dignitaries with whom I shared the stage, and left me standing in splendid isolation. The man's a genius.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

The editor's secret is revealed.

I suppose it's not entirely beyond the bounds of possibility that there may be a reader out there somewhere who has been wondering what my secret was, on account of Lady Bracknell having made a veiled allusion to it in a recent blog entry.

So, despite my (very) mixed feelings about the event in question, I feel duty bound to spill the beans.

It all started terribly well two weeks ago when I found out that I'd won Disabled Person of the Year in the Positive Action North West Awards 2005. It's fair to say that I was quite excited. In fact, I was temporarily rendered speechless, and that's something which doesn't happen very often. I even ordered a new stick to match my green silk suit. (Bespoke suit fashioned from the finest silk taffeta puchased at ridiculously low price from ebay a couple of years ago. Bespoke for someone considerably broader across the beam than me, as it turned out. A good friend of mine approached it with a needle and thread and removed quite a lot of the excess fabric in the hips. But I digress.)

Anyway, it turned out I'd been nominated for this award by Messrs Marmite and Dude, and my very dear friend and ex-line manager, Aunty J. (She's not really my aunty, you understand. And I can't remember when or why we gave her that nickname.) All three of them, bless them, believed that I deserved recognition for the work that I've done over the last seven years with the staff disability network. As far as I'm concerned, I've just been doing my job. I mean, ok, I've been very dedicated to it, and I've spent a lot of my own time on it and everything, but this is disability equality we're talking about. It matters. You can't approach it in a, "Well, I'd like to help you, obviously. But I'm afraid I've just clocked off for the day", kind of way. Maybe someone else could. I can't. But I'm not knocking the recognition, particularly given that it's come from an external organisation. And the three conspirators have my undying gratitude for nominating me.

Boogaloo Dude had said all along that he didn't want to come to the ceremony. Which was just as well, given that I was only permitted to take two guests. Marmite and Aunty J were both happy to travel vast distances from the mysterious South. Marmite bagsied my futon first, so Aunty J was forced to slum it in a posh hotel at our employer's expense.

All was going tolerably well until Tuesday morning, when I suddenly realised that I didn't want to go. At all. This was a badly-timed realisation, as Marmite and Aunty J had already set off. Sent panicky email to the Goldfish and B W-F, and phoned the Dude for reassurances. An hour and a half later, panic had receded to manageable levels. Much helped by receipt of heartening replies to my email. Thanks, guys.

Marmite arrived later than planned as there had been an accident on the M1. We got suited up, and headed into town to pick up Aunty J from the hotel steps. This was an excellent opportunity for Aunty J to exercise her passion for the sort of supremely elegant shoes which make my own toes flinch at the mere thought of being trapped in them. Attempted to hide own extra-extra-wide-fitting clodhoppers under hem of skirt.

The first thing that happened when we arrived at the Halliwell Jones Stadium in Warrington was that I walked straight into a television crew who had sneakily set themselves up between the front door and the lift. I muttered something wholly inarticulate and we made good our esape. When we reached the second floor, our names were taken, and we were ushered through an horrendously over-full and enormous room to Table 4. Which was circular. Just like all the others. (I had, in good time, sent a detailed email explaining that it is impossible for me to eat if I have to sit at a circular table. An email to which I had not had a response.) In total, about five of the organisers explained to me that they knew I couldn't cope at a circular table, but that there were no straight-edged tables in the venue. Would I be alright? Well, it seemed exceptionally churlish to kick off at that point, given that these people were presenting me with an award and everything, so I agreed to try. Aunty J was beginning to get that steely look in her eyes which bodes no good to anyone who dares to fail to make reasonable adjustment for one of her staff. Even an ex member of her staff.

Once my soup had arrived, and had been exchanged for a vegetarian one, I gave it my best shot. I took one spoonful of soup and spilled half of it down my snowy linen napkin. Two minutes later, I was standing in the rain, smoking a cigarette in an enraged fashion. Aunty J soon turned up in support. We went back up to the second floor and were met by the organiser who asked whether everything was alright. We explained. He responded that he has organised countless disability conferences across the country, and that he has never come across my particular problem before. Aunty J stood firm. Strong men quailed before her. We were given a straight-edged table. This left poor old Marmite making small talk with some posh people from Knutsford who, it would appear, were very keen to tell him about their big houses. Poor lamb.

Aunty J and I went back to Table 4 once we had eaten. Rarely has Marmite looked so pleased to see either of us. The awards ceremony started. I won't go into detail. It'll no doubt be written up here before long. It was all a bit of a blur to me anyway as I spent the time either being nervous about going on stage to collect my own award, or being relieved that I'd done it. There were nineteen awards in total, and I remember very few of them. I know that the Oldham Colisseum theatre, Norton Priory and Merseytravel were among the winners, so many congratulations to them. (And to the others, whose details I can't recall. I should have taken a pen and written them all down.)

After the ceremony, those who had won awards had to go down to the first floor and be interviewed to camera. This is my worst nightmare, and I'm quietly confident that I said nothing worth hearing. I have no idea when or on what station the results were to be broadcast, and am sedulously avoiding local TV news until such time as the immediate danger of seeing myself is over. I did overhear something to the effect that an article about the awards will appear in the Guardian some time next week.

And that's about it, really. I'm completely exhausted from the whole thing, and haven't even taken my award out of its box yet, let alone cleared a space for it on the mantlepiece. I've hung the framed certificate in the loo which, if the Sunday supplements are anything to go by, is the traditional resting place for such things.

It only remains for me to thank once again Marmite, Aunty J, Dude, the Goldfish, B W-F, Mr C, Melbamae and everyone else who had a hand in keeping me relatively sane throughout the rather gruelling process. I am clearly not cut out to be a celebrity, even of the most minor status. Without such good friends, I wouldn't have survived even this tiny brush with fame unscathed. (Note green stick, by the way. Funky, or what?)

Monday, October 10, 2005

Lady Bracknell succumbs to temptation

Lady Bracknell should learn not to peer over her editor's shoulder when she is surfing the information superhighway, as doing so invariably leads to her spending money on fripperies.

Pictured below is the new Alessi "Tigrito" cat bowl. The two stainless steel bowls lift out for easy cleaning plus - and this is what really swayed her ladyship - the whole thing can be picked up by the tail, thus obviating the need to bend down. It is, of course, also quite exceptionally attractive.

These have not yet been delivered to the UK, but Lady Bracknell has just been in telephone communication with her local Alessi emporium, paid a fifty per cent deposit by means of her credit card, and "bagsied" a yellow one. She will be informed as soon as the bowls arrive. (The manager of the store is confident that these will sell well, as four of his staff have also pre-ordered for themselves.)

Lady Bracknell is far from convinced that her feline companion will genuinely appreciate the exceptional standard of design, and is willing to accept all criticisms to the effect that her motivation behind the purchase is one of complete self-interest and that the object may offer no real benefits to its alleged recipient.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Remember, remember...

Having not set foot outside Bracknell Towers since Wednesday last, and having been rather let down by the Asda online shopping service - which managed to stock and deliver only part of her order - Lady Bracknell is running rather low on essentials. She therefore decided to venture out to her local Tesco store.

There is a particular breed of Sunday shoppers which can, in many ways, be likened to the Sunday drivers towards whom Lady Bracknell's esteemed father used to direct such enraged invective in her youth. Sunday drivers may have been consigned to the annals of history, but Sunday shoppers are with us still. Lady Bracknell twice narrowly escaped being trampled on by persons who felt a sudden urge to step back from the dazzling displays of frozen convenience foods and alcohol in order, perhaps, to better appreciate the range of products in its entirety. (It is Lady Bracknell's considered opinion that, no matter how far away one stands from the frozen convenience foods, one will struggle to spot anything particularly exciting.) Lady Bracknell was also faced, at every turn, by a mother and child whose sole purpose in visiting the shop appeared to have been to block other shoppers from reaching anything on the shelves.

The only day which is worse than Sunday from this perspective is Thursday morning, immediately after the old age pensions have been collected. Quite how married couples who have lived together for forty years or more can remain unsure about their own and each other's food preferences is a profound mystery. Perhaps they have so far run out of things to say to each other that discussing the merits of one brand of baked beans over another is what now passes for sparkling conversation in their household. But, in any event, do they really need to block the aisle entirely with their shopping trolley while having that discussion?

But Lady Bracknell digresses.

On exiting the shop, she was accosted by a rather grubby small boy who suggested that she might like to donate a penny for the guy. Given that there yet remain some four weeks before Bonfire Night, Lady Bracknell politely declined to contribute.

It is a sad reflection on modern society's rejection of the pleasures which can be derived from everyday life that we must all be forced to live in constant anticipation of the next "big day". In Lady Bracknell's youth, one did not start to think about Bonfire Night until after Hallowe'en. Indeed, one took one's - by that time - somewhat shrivelled swede lantern (there was a dearth of pumpkins in the UK in those days) to the firework display, and held a sparkler in one's other mittened hand. Add a baked potato to the picture, and this was almost more excitement than a young child could contain without bursting.

Likewise, one did not think about Christmas until mid-December. But now houses across the land are bedecked with lurid and ghastly lights for a period of almost two months in total. (Lady Bracknell will desist from railing further against the modern Christmas pro tem: but her readers may be sure that she will return to the subject again at a later date. Possibly more than once.)

The purpose of the guy is to sit atop the bonfire and be consumed by flames during the course of the evening. He is called a "guy" because he is an effigy of Guy Fawkes who, as every school boy knows (or ought to know), attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament, and who was consequently put to death for treason.

However, the "guy" for whose benefit Lady Bracknell was encouraged to hand over a penny this morning was by no stretch of the imagination an effigy of Guy Fawkes. It was, ironically, a Father Christmas pyjama case. And one clearly fashioned from a synthetic fabric of a type which would melt - and, quite possibly, emit toxic gases while doing so - rather than burn. Lady Bracknell cannot decide whether to be amused or appalled by this confusion of two characters with such diametrically opposed modus operandi.

Two questions remain:

  • ought one of our national periodicals to run a "first sighting of a guy" poll, somewhat akin to that for the first cuckoo song heard each Spring? and

  • what would the average modern street urchin's response be to the donation of the single penny which he has requested?

Friday, October 07, 2005

Lady Bracknell muses on the dichotomy between utility and appearance

Lady Bracknell, as her regular readers are aware, perambulates with the support of a stout walking stick. She has recently been adding to her collection of sticks, as a result of the many hours which her editor has enthusiastically devoted to scouring the farthest reaches of cyberspace for sticks which are more than ordinarily handsome.

Lady Bracknell reasons that, since she must use a stick, it makes sense for her to glory in that necessity by using one which combines good looks with the unfailing ability to support her. Her ladyship's blue lucite stick attracts many compliments as, she has no doubt, will its green twin when it is first unveiled on an unsuspecting public.

A friend of Lady Bracknell's (who is, as it happens, also a friend of Dorothy) has paid to have all the metal parts of his wheelchair spray-painted sparkly purple, a financial outlay of which Lady Bracknell thoroughly approves. Why settle for ugly, utilitarian mobility aids when, if one's means are not too limited, one can have something which will be envied by one's similarly-enfeebled acquaintances?

The photograph to the right is of an elderly gentleman using something called the "Pathfinder Cane" . Lady Bracknell recognises that this is a practical item, and can appreciate that it could come in extremely useful for persons who are both physically frail and who have limited vision. And yet, personally, she would rather risk injury on a dimly lit stairwell than be witnessed actually using one of them. She is aware that her reaction to the cane is irrational. She had a similar aversion to the transparent plastic rain hoods which were favoured by elderly ladies in her youth, and which folded up into tiny, flat packages so as to fit easily into even the least capacious handbag. Nevertheless, she stands firm by her resolve never to be seen in possession of either.

The illuminated "Bright Night Umbrella", on the other hand, she finds rather appealing. Indeed, were it not for the fact that it is not possible to wield both stick and umbrella simultaneously, she would be much tempted to invest in one.

Lady Bracknell does not understand why she should find one of these products "groovy" and the other unspeakably hideous, but there it is. There is, it would seem, simply no accounting for taste.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

And so it begins....

Lady Bracknell's friend, the Goldfish, has a most rational turn of mind. In her comments on Lady Bracknell's earlier musings on the perfidious behaviour of the common light bulb, the Goldfish attempted to persuade her ladyship that inanimate objects are incapable of plotting against their owners.

Lady Bracknell, however, has evidence to the contrary. It would appear that her erstwhile wholly innocent potato-mashing implement has, under cover of darkness, acquired headgear which can only be described as military. Can there be an innocent explanation for this behaviour? Lady Bracknell thinks not, and must, for her own safety and that of her household, assume that she is now under siege. But how is she to provision herself when her own kitchen has become a war zone?

(Lady Bracknell is at pains to assure her readers that this photograph was not staged. The scene is exactly as she found it when she entered her kitchen this morning with the innocent intention of making herself a cup of tea.)

The humour of the knife block to the left is by no means lost on Lady Bracknell. However, under the present circumstances, she is relieved to report that she did not succumb to the temptation of purchasing one. Readers who do not share her ladyship's qualms about the intentions of their belongings may, however, should they consider that the little chap would constitute an amusing addition to their home decor, purchase one here.