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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, January 30, 2006

Lady Bracknell is surprised by a gentleman

While making polite conversation with a bearded gentleman of whom she had no prior knowledge at an omnibus stop last Friday afternoon, Lady Bracknell was most surprised to hear him ask,

"Aren't you a friend of Mr D, who used to work in Liverpool, but who is now working in Portsmouth?"

Lady Bracknell confirmed that she is indeed well-acquainted with the charming Mr D, but that she was at a loss to imagine how the bearded gentleman could possibly have divined that fact.

"Oh, he described you to me", came the response.

Unless Lady Bracknell misses her guess, she believes there can be only two logical explanations for her having been so easily recognised.

Either Mr D's powers of description are more than ordinarily impressive, or Lady Bracknell is so distinctive in appearance that even a cursory description of her will serve to brand an image so firmly in the cerebral cortex of its recipient that she could never be mistaken for anybody else.

Lady Bracknell is not convinced that this is a good thing....

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

"But there is good news yet to hear"

Lady Bracknell ventured this afternoon into the back garden of Bracknell Towers. This is not a task she undertakes very often, the staircase being steep and somewhat treacherous.

But she is happy to report that the object which, from the vantage point of her first floor window, she had taken to be the sad remains of one of the local flock of collared doves, is, in point of fact, merely a somewhat soiled plastic milk bottle.

Lady Bracknell's annual eye test will take place next month.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Rock of ages....

Lady Bracknell was yesterday apprised of the astonishing (to her, at least) fact that Young Master Marmite was entirely ignorant of the properties (and, more specifically, the colour) of malachite*. Further probing revealed that this woeful dearth of knowledge is not restricted to malachite, but extends to the full range of semi-precious stones.

(Admittedly, Master Marmite is able to recognise amber when he sees it. Although her ladyship is unsure whether he has always been able to identify amber, or whether his familiarity with it stems from her own fondness for wearing jewellery fashioned from that stone-which-is-not-really-a-stone-at-all-but-which-is-in-fact-fossilised-tree-resin.)

Had she thought about the matter at all, Lady Bracknell would have assumed that an interest in stones was moderately universal. But it seems that she would have been mistaken. When tasked with classifying the stones his garden, Master Marmite replied that they were,

"Just stony stones. Made of stone."

This would seem to confirm Lady Bracknell's long-held suspicion that her younger self was not like other children. When other young gels were interested in plastic dolls clothed primarily in a particularly migraine-inducing shade of violent pink, the young Lady Bracknell yearned for a rock tumbler. These devices are costly, however, so her ladyship's esteemed parents did not purchase one for her.

In retrospect, this was probably a good thing. Although the chips of rock produced by a tumbling machine are undeniably beautiful in themselves, the fashion at the time was to glue them onto quite unspeakably ugly mounts fashioned from that most unattractive of metals, stainless steel. Lady Bracknell notes that, although many sartorial horrors from the decade which style forgot have recently been reintroduced (a case in point being the never-less-than-hideous poncho), we have at least been spared the revival of stainless steel pendants. Stainless steel now seems to be largely confined to the production of cutlery, for which relief much thanks.

But Lady Bracknell, even in her salad days, was tenacious in her interests. Her fascination with semi-precious stones was not dimmed merely because she did not have the means to polish fragments of them herself. Why, even their very names have a beauty all their own, viz: rhodocrisite; aventurine; sodalite; lace agate; howlite; snowflake obsidian; chalcedony; haematite; azurite; chrysoprase; and the exotic lapiz lazuli.

Not only are all these stones, and many others, extremely beautiful, they also have the benefit of being very much cheaper than their precious cousins (emeralds, rubies, sapphires &c) . Even when they are made up into bold and dramatic items of adornment, they therefore remain within the reach of even a fairly modest purse. Why wear a miniscule chip of diamond when you can wear a glossy and sumptuous necklace of less costly stones?

* Just in case other readers are as non-plussed as was Master Marmite by Lady Bracknell's references to malachite, here is a photograph of a rather fine cabochon.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The ones that got away....

Sharp-eyed readers of both this and the Ouch team's blog will be aware that the editor (who has been granted permission to assume her employer's name as a nom de plume for the purpose in order to protect her identity) contributes items to the Ouch blog from time to time. Something which may, Lady Bracknell suspects, have some bearing on the fact that the editor's enthusiasm for transferring her ladyship's own pearls of wisdom into an electronic medium is not always what it might be.

On occasion, the editor suggests items for coverage within the Ouch blog which are turned down as falling outwith the BBC's policy guidelines. She has requested that Lady Bracknell permit her own blog to be used, just this once, to publicise two of these items which, the editor believes, merit a wider audience than they might otherwise receive. Lady Bracknell, whilst priding herself on being a firm employer, is also of the opinion that staff should occasionally be permitted to cast off their yoke of subservience in this modern day and age. She will therefore turn her attentions to other things and permit the editor temporary free rein. She trusts, however, that the editor will desist from abusing this rare privilege...

Karma (or, The Hind's Revenge)

Thomas Harn is sixteen years old. He lives in a trailer park. His favourite thing in all the world is slaughtering innocent deer (sorry, "hunting"). Thomas fell out of a hunting stand and broke his spine. Thomas is now a wheelchair user. Has he fully appreciated the irony of his situation? It would appear not:

"I can still go hunting," he said. "They make deer stands for people in wheelchairs." Read more about Thomas' "inspiring" story here.

Industrial Injury

(This one was deemed to be too rude to be published on the BBC. So you may want to bear that fact in mind before you read any further, or follow this link.)

Anyone who works on a telephone helpline will be aware of the potential for them storing up musculo-skeletal problems for the future. That, after all, is why we have headsets. But it's not just the dialling and the poor posture which can cause permanent damage. Well, not if you work on a sex-line, anyway....

Now, maybe I've been labouring under a misapprehension for years, but I was always given to understand that the women who work on these phone lines were just pretending to be aroused whilst actually doing the crossword, or working on a nice piece of needlepoint, or something. After all, the sad blokes who phone up can't actually see what you're doing.

I'm reminded of what Laurence Olivier famously said on the set of Marathon Man to Dustin Hoffman who had stayed awake for three days and generally put himself through hell to ensure a realistic performance: "My dear boy, why don't you try acting?"

Sunday, January 15, 2006

"There's the wind on the heath, brother"

On those occasions when the conversations between Lady Bracknell and her equally-enfeebled friends turn to the process of coming to terms with the restrictions imposed by an acquired, or a degenerating, impairment, her ladyship often recalls a passage from George Borrow's work of fiction, "Lavengro", which she was set as an English comprehension passage when she was a school girl.

Lavengro is set in the early years of the nineteenth century. The book's narrator – whose name we never learn – describes his life as the son of a soldier. His family moves all over the country and, being a natural linguist, the boy is soon fluent in the Scots, Irish, Welsh and Romany languages. From time to time, he meets up with Jasper Petulengro, a Romany king whom he first met when he was very young.

In the scene which Lady Bracknell has reproduced below, the narrator has just turned eighteen and his spirits are very low as he has realised that he has no trade and possibly, therefore, no future. He meets his friend Jasper:

Jasper: Life is sweet, brother

Narrator: Do you think so?

Jasper: Think so! – There’s night and day, brother, both sweet things; sun, moon and stars brother, all sweet things. There’s likewise a wind on the heath. Life is very sweet brother; who would wish to die?

Narrator: I would wish to die.

Jasper: You talk like a giorgio – which is the same as talking like a fool – were you a Romany chal you would talk wiser. Wish to die indeed! – A Romany chal would wish to live for ever!

Narrator: In sickness, Jasper?

Jasper: There’s the sun and the stars, brother.

Narrator: In blindness, Jasper?

Jasper: There’s the wind on the heath, brother; if I could only feel that, I would gladly live for ever.

As a result of her long-standing familiarity with this passage from what she does not consider to be otherwise, in all honesty, an especially riveting volume, Lady Bracknell, almost from the earliest stages of her impairment, was willing to try to identify her own personal "wind on the heath", so that she could hold on to the conviction that experiencing a staggeringly large diminution in one's physical capabilities is not without its compensations.
To this day, she finds the phrase to be a useful shorthand response to those well-meaning persons in rude physical health who ask her, with pity oozing from their every pore, how she copes?

Should any of Lady Bracknell's readers have a favoured quotation of their own to which they turn when things appear bleak, they are warmly encouraged to recount it via the comments facility.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Anyone fancy an awesome grip?

Some time ago, Lady Bracknell prevailed upon her editor to use the computing device to purchase on her behalf a humorous garment from The Gimp Store. In recognition of Lady Bracknell's prior purchase - or, rather more probably, in the enthusiastic anticipation of encouraging further sales - the Gimp Store occasionally sends her email updates on their latest products.

One such email communication arrived yesterday. "New!", it cried. "The Gimp Store now has wheelchair rims and cool spoke doo dads!!". It transpires that the wheelchair rim covers (which have, apparently, "an Awesome Grip") are available made from "selected exquisite leathers", in faux leather, and in "a variety of luxurious fabrics". Sensibly, the Gimp Store protect their photographs so that they can not be copied and pasted. Readers wishing to see just how cool (to utilise the modern argot) these rims are, will need to follow this link.

Numbering, as she does, several wheelie crips amongst her closest friends, Lady Bracknell forwarded the information about the rim covers to them. She is not herself a wheelchair user, and hopes that she can therefore be forgiven for not fully understanding the practical issues involved. She very much appreciates her good friend Mr D's expert advice reproduced below, but confesses to a degree of disappointment that the rim covers would have such a limited application.

"The ever practical Mr D says that leather rims on wheels are only effective indoors. Outdoors in a British climate, they will come too close to the wet, the mud, and the grit. Wet, dirty and/or scratched leather is just no fun on the hands of the poor pusher. Indoors the pusher continues to require considerable vigilance in order to avoid coming close to any rough wall surfaces for fear of scratching the leather. Ultimately, this delightful fashion item is just that – a fashion item, to be worn only for display purposes in the safe confines of the catwalk (or equivalent – maybe a nightclub dance floor)."

Mr D and Lady Bracknell have not exchanged detailed communications for some time. Indeed, Mr D remained in blissful ignorance of the existence of this blog and thus did not know about her ladyship's recently augmented collection of handsome walking sticks. In directing Mr D (via the invaluable secretarial services of the editor) to the photographs of the sticks in question on the Clear Canes website, Lady Bracknell made the financially unfortunate discovery that Steve the Stick Man has recently extended his range to include coloured spiral twisted canes. When Lady Bracknell is next in funds (which will be at the end of the month) she suspects that she will not be able to resist ordering one of these in pink. Whether she will be able to resist the blue one as well remains to be seen....

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

"Every sperm is sacred..."

Now that Lady Bracknell has got your attention via the simple medium of quoting from one of the Monty Python team's more satirical musical numbers, she feels she ought in fairness to come clean (so to speak) and admit that she should really have misquoted the line to read, "Every spine is sacred". Except that she is not convinced that doing so in the title of this post would have drawn the eye of quite so many readers.....

To business. The good people at the Back Care charity have been "trawling through international research to gather and assess all the important facts and figures about the growing problem of back pain in children and how to tackle it". They are persuaded that part of the problem lies with the standard of furniture used in the nation's schools.

Lady Bracknell's personal opinion is that, while school furniture is undoubtedly a factor in the incidence of back pain in the young, the major causes are rather more likely to lie with the fact that children spend many hours hunched in one position over computer games at a time when their bones are still growing, and no longer "play out" with their little chums. She rather doubts that the orthopaedic standard of school furnishings has dropped so significantly over the last few decades as to be deemed solely responsible for all musculo-skeletal problems in pupils.

That said, however, Lady Bracknell is happy to support any initiative which might serve to prevent any of the children of today spending decades in chronic pain. She is only too well aware from her own experiences over the last sixteen years that chronic pain is no joke.

The Back Care people are asking readers of their website to send a virtual postcard to the Rt Hon Jacqui Smith MP, Minister of State for schools, to encourage her to meet them and discuss their proposals. Should any of the readers of this humble blog feel moved to do so, they can find the postcard here.

Monday, January 09, 2006


Readers whose childhoods pre-date the creation of the Tamagotchi, and other such electronic playthings, may recall toys similar to the one pictured to the left. (Available for purchase, as are many other items which Lady Bracknell was under the mistaken impression had disappeared for ever, from Hawkin's Bazaar.)

This gentleman, whose likeness is preserved under perspex, is as bald as an egg. Entertaining hairstyles and mutton chop whiskers can be created for him by means of applying the magnet provided to the iron filings which accompany the cartoon of his face. This is a deal more diverting than it may sound to younger persons whose sole idea of fun is to destroy aliens noisily by means of some device fitted with a micro-chip.

Lady Bracknell yesterday betook herself to her regular hairdressing salon for what she believes is known in the trade as a "cut and finish". Lady readers will be aware that clients attending such venues are generally draped in some manner of voluminous garment created from synthetic fabric in order to protect their own attire from those tiny pieces of newly-cut hair which have the irritating capability of weaving themselves intractably into one's favourite amusing two-piece suit. Or, indeed, into any other garment.

Lady Bracknell's hairdresser, who can be quite stern, insisted that her ladyship keep her hands under the cape on this occasion. This resulted in her ladyship grasping the crook of her handsome walking stick through the fabric of said synthetic cape, which gave her something of the appearance of John Hurt in certain scenes from Alien. Particularly when she pivoted the handle of the stick so that it gave the impression of scoping the room in a sinister fashion...

The comedic potential of the whole scenario was immeasurably enhanced at the moment Lady Bracknell realised that the friction of the cape against the handle of her stick (which, as regular readers will recall, is fashioned from lucite) had served to charge it with static electricity to the point where it was capable of attracting cut hair to itself.

The process of creating a natty goatee beard for Lady Bracknell's stick from discarded hair was one from which all present derived literally seconds of hilarious entertainment.

Lady Bracknell is, of course, now considering devising an amusing party trick involving static electricity; at least one of her lucite sticks; and several balloons.........

Post Script 13th January

Lady Bracknell has today been discussing this post with a gentleman of her acquaintance. He suggested that it might well be possible - assuming that one was in the fortunate position of possessing a number of lucite sticks - to create a "pass the balloon from stick to stick" party game.

This, he intimated, would consist of a line of four persons tasked with transferring the balloon from their own stick to that of their immediate neighbour without touching the balloon with their hands. (Of course, in order to make this really exciting, one would need eight sticks so as to introduce an element of competition between two evenly-matched teams of four.)

Should this game ever be attempted, Lady Bracknell will ensure that photographic evidence is published on the pages of this blog.