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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

Thursday, August 31, 2006

A quite remarkable event

Lady Bracknell broke her fast late this morning, having attended the quarterly "fasting bloods" appointment which is the preserve of such persons whose doctors' surgeries are committed to monitoring their diabetes carefully.

Looking for something to keep her occupied while she finished her bowl of Shredded Wheat Fruitful, she turned on the television. Imagine her surprise when she chanced upon an episode of Friends which she had never previously seen. Initially, she suspected that her apparent unfamiliarity with what was happening on the screen must have resulted from the confusion engendered by her unusually low blood sugar levels. But, by the time she had finished her bowl of cereal, she was forced to conclude that she had genuinely never seen it before.

Given that it is generally possible to turn on Channel 4 at almost any time of the day or night and be faced with an episode the script of which one could probably recite from the opening to the closing credits with no appreciable mental effort, Lady Bracknell is astonished that this one episode could have slipped through the net.

(This is not to say that Lady Bracknell is particularly fond of Friends: but she finds it sufficiently anodyne to serve as inoffensive background noise when she is weary.)

Monday, August 28, 2006

Talk To The Flipper (Reprise)

It has been brought - via a somewhat circuitous route - to Lady Bracknell's attention that the cast and crew of "Thalidomide: A Musical" are poised to hit the road once more.

Regular readers will recall that the editor and her friends behaved rather badly at a performance of the show last November. So badly, in fact, that Lady Bracknell will be surprised if any one of the four is permitted to purchase a ticket from any of the venues on the current tour. In defence of herself and her partners in vandalism, the editor is keen to point out that the incident with the Ouch badge was the result of "youthful" high spirits engendered by enjoyment of the show: she also recommends that such persons who did not get the chance to attend a performance last autumn take the opportunity to see it in its new incarnation. (Although they may not wish to travel as far as Versailles to do so.)

It seems that Mr Fraser and his business cohorts have not been slow to recognise the fact that theatre audiences are often willing to pay for items which will remind them of the performance thay have just enjoyed. The range of merchandise available at venues will include the "Flid-ball Cap" pictured to the left.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

"Give me another of those lovely half smiles"

Lady Bracknell must apologise to her avid and expectant readers for the delay in updating her previous post. It has taken some time for her to entice the traumatised editor out from under the bedclothes to sit once more in front of the computing device. Lady Bracknell is not willing to put her own name to some of the language and subject matter the editor insists be included in this account, so the following will be composed entirely by the editor herself. Lady Bracknell will repair at once to the withdrawing room with an improving volume, lest, at an unguarded moment, her eye fall upon a disturbingly vulgar epithet writ large upon the screen.

When I arrived at Security to sign the photographer in, I was met with a small, dishevelled figure festooned with cameras and sporting a faintly ridiculous bluetooth headset in his left ear. To say that he was physically unprepossessing would be to give the impression that he cut rather more of a dash than was actually the case. His own description of himself as, "a cross between Peter Kay and Fred Dibnah" was, unfortunately, all too indicative of his general lack of self-awareness. Say what you like about Peter Kay, but he does at least have presence. And Fred Dibnah was an absolute darling.

The photographer was one of those annoying people who ask questions constantly, but who never actually wait for an answer. Mind you, this was probably just as well, because the answers my Inner Voice was composing grew increasingly offensive the longer I was in his exhausting company.

I'll attempt to provide a flavour of our "conversation". The photographer's contributions appear in green. You are safe to assume throughout that my own vocalised responses were generally limited to monosyllables. I mean, it's not as though he ever paused to draw breath long enough for me to speak an entire sentence. Thus, the responses in blue are entirely attributable to my Inner Voice. (Which is undoubtedly going to hell: my Inner Voice is not what you'd call saintly.)

Let us proceed.

"It's a long way to your desk, isn't it?"

"Yes, when I told you in the lift that it would be a long way to my desk, that was the general impression I was attempting to convey."

"Well, you've got it really lovely, haven't you? It's like a cross between a living room and a kitchen."

"Er, no, it's definitely a desk..."

"Mind you, we'll have to get rid of those bottles."

"Damn. There goes the product placement fee that Pepsi Max had promised me."

"Is there a small room we can use for the portrait shot? I'll be able to control the light better in a smaller room with plain walls. We'll need some union literature to spread around: have you got any?"

A frantic search of cupboards and pigeon holes produces one rather limp union magazine dated 2004.

"Oh, no. That's a bit old, isn't it? That won't do. Have you got anything more recent?"

"What do you mean, that won't do?? This photograph is going to be two inches tall at the most. Who is going to be able to read the date off the front cover, FFS?"

A colleague from a neighbouring team eventually produces several virgin union magazines, still protected by their plastic covers.

"Can I open these? Is it ok if I open them?"

"No, I gather C___ prefers imagining the contents over actually reading them. You'll ruin all her fun."

There follows a deeply demoralising twenty minutes of me being wrenched into uncomfortable poses in a small meeting room. The meeting room has no windows. It is hot and stuffy and I am sweating cobs within minutes. I suspect that the rivulets of sweat running down my face will fail to add that certain je ne sais quoi to the finished portraits. This session is accompanied by a running commentary.

"That's lovely. Just look up. And again. Can you move that hand slightly further forward? Oh, are you right-handed, then? Do you take painkillers all the time? Only you seemed to be walking really well to me. Give me another of those lovely half smiles. That's marvellous. I injured my leg a couple of years ago. It was awful. I had a job to go to that night, and I had to hold on to the backs of chairs. I hate pain, me."

"Of course I, on the other hand, love pain. Can't get enough of it. Oh, by the way, if you were still able to work, then you have no idea how bad it can get. None. You are really starting to annoy me now."

I am eventually released back into the open plan office. My colleagues - all but one of whom is dressed in black, white, or something which will strobe - are alternately wetting themselves laughing and hiding behind their computer monitors. It's hard to blame them: I would be doing the same if the boot were on the other foot. He wants to take pictures of me "working" at my computer. He asks me to pull up the union website.

"Is there another page where the union logo is bigger? Can I just minimise your toolbars so that more of the webpage is visible?"

"Oo, there might be. If I look for long enough, I'm sure I'll be able to find a page devoted entirely to the logo. They're bound to have provided one because that would be ever so informative. And not a waste of bandwidth at all. Touch my mouse, matey, and you are a dead man!!"

"That's lovely. You're doing great. Now, can you pretend to type?"

"No. But, given that you're now behind my monitor, I can send an email to a friend telling him how much I am hating this."

"Can you sit forward and lean on your stick with both hands? Oh, no. Can you move your hands so that we can see the stick?"

"Not and derive any support from it, no."

Once he has exhausted the possibilities of me looking diligent at my desk, he starts casting about for a victim. Sorry, for a colleague who is prepared to pretend to talk to me. And I must say at this point that greater love hath no line manager than this, that he should lay down his dignity for his member of staff, and deliberately wear a blue shirt so that he will be chosen. Much respect. The photographer insists that P___ grab a document and stand next to me discussing it in a manner which will show off the Anglican cathedral in the background rather nicely. We proceed to have the least realistic conversation ever about the contents of the document. Some of our colleagues are, by this stage, drumming their heels on the floor in uncontrollable paroxysms of mirth.

"Could you also be casually carrying a union magazine?"

"Oh, you have got to be kidding. In the first place, I don't stand up to talk to the man who sits at the desk next to mine. In the second place, I don't believe I have ever been absent-mindedly clutching a copy of the union magazine to my bosom whilst discussing the day job."

"Good, lovely. Keep smiling. There's just you and me. Just you and me. Could you stand a little bit closer to each other?"

"The only way we could physically get closer to each other would be if we were having sex."

"It would be nice if we could take some photos on the balcony. That's a balcony, isn't it?"

"No. I don't know what balconies look like where you come, but that is not a balcony. That is a rickety gantry. The only people who venture out onto it are the window cleaners. And even they don't go out there unless they're firmly attached to industrial-strength webbing with multiple carabiners."

He eventually - if reluctantly - gives up on his balcony scene idea and agrees to me escorting him off the premises. Unfortunately, on the way back to the lifts, he spots a (relatively) picturesque corner of the office with a river view and insists that I lean pensively against the window sill so that he can take even more pictures. This is even more embarrassing than what has gone before, because it's done in front of people I don't know. We don't stay very long, though, because of his crushing disappointment at the fact that the tanker which was passing when he arrived must have docked somewhere in the interim, and the river therefore has limited visual appeal. "It's a bit grey", he says. "It's the Mersey", I think. "What colour were you expecting it to be? Ultramarine?"

I herd him back towards the lifts and oversee him handing his pass back to the Security staff. I need to be sure that he can't get back in. Even the Security staff are smirking.

Just when I think it's safe to go back in the water, he decides to take some photographs outside. If he fits a longer lens to one of his multiple cameras, he reckons it'll look as though the cathedral is right behind me. Given that the cathedral is more than a mile away, this will be a pretty impressive feat. As I stand in the car park looking over my right shoulder and giving another of those lovely half smiles, dozens of staff from an entirely different floor of the building come back from their lunch break. They point and laugh. I want the ground to open up and swallow me.

Finally, he is done. He has been commissioned to produce three photographs. At a conservative estimate, he has actually taken about two hundred.

"Well, I'm going to go now. Thank you very much. You've been very co-operative. I know it's not easy being photographed."

He claps me firmly on my inflamed left shoulder in a gesture of farewell.

"Ow, my shoulder. Ow, my shoulder. Ow, my shoulder. Oh, you bastard!!"

I return, shaking with exhaustion, to my desk. I vow publicly that I will never have my photograph taken again as long as I live. After about fifteen minutes, it occurs to me that I will have to submit to being photographed when I go to Buck House. When this realisation hits me, I swear imaginatively and at great length. I don't have a mirror in front of me, but I'm prepared to bet two bottles of Pepsi Max (which I have just retrieved from their hiding place behind the hard drive) that I do not have one of those lovely half smiles on my face.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Colour Me Undesirable

The editor, having declined to be depicted as triumphing over adversity in her employer's in-house periodical, has accepted an invitation to be interviewed for the magazine of the union to which she belongs. (She is to be depicted as a "grassroots hero". No amount of arguing that she is neither heroic nor from the grassroots has swayed the colleague who arranged the interview. References to the Trades Descriptions Act have apparently been met with a mixture of amusement and exasperation.)

A professional photographer will therefore be visiting the editor's workplace tomorrow with a brief to capture her working at her desk and conversing with a colleague. Said photographer telephoned the editor earlier today to clarify his plans and to advise her against wearing white or black because, apparently, both are colours which do not translate well into a digital photographic medium. Faced with the threat of giving the appearance of existing solely from the neck upwards (something which even she would consider to be An Impairment Too Far), the editor has promised to wear blue.

The photographer also advised the editor that he will decide with whom she must pretend to be conversing according to which of her colleagues is the most visually complimentary. The editor felt it only fair to warn her team members of this threat, and is therefore expecting them all to be dressed tomorrow with such unwonted and monochromatic sobriety that passing co-workers will suspect them of being about to attend a funeral en masse.

In fact, having had an entire afternoon to consider their options, it is entirely possible that they will all be raiding their lofts and attics this evening for ensembles fashioned entirely in houndstooth check fabrics in the fond hopes that they will thus be automatically excluded from the selection process on the grounds that they would create an undesirable strobing effect. (As amply demonstrated by the visually disturbing illustration to the right. Lady Bracknell apologises in advance for any migraine headaches engendered by this blog entry.)

Only time will tell just how averse to publicity the editor's colleagues are. Should the results of their aversion prove to be humorous, the editor has promised to relay the details to Lady Bracknell so that the readers of this blog will not feel that they have been cheated of the denouement to this anecdote.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Whatte The Swyve?*

Fond though Lady Bracknell generally is of decorative objets fashioned from turned wood, and dedicated though she is to sourcing imaginative and unusual gifts for her nearest and dearest, she cannot help but agree with her younger brother's description of this as being, "a horrible, horrible idea".

An American gentleman, on seeing the ultrasound picture of his unborn child, felt driven to devise a non-photographic method of recording the little mite's facial delineaments. Did he turn to artist's oils? Create a likeness out of milk bottle tops? Break out the modelling clay? He did not. He decided that it would be a rather charming idea to reproduce the silhouette of the infant's profile in a turned wood thingummyjig which his wife - for reasons which are not explained on his website - christened, a pirolette. (A word which, although it may sound French, Lady Bracknell is willing to wager is not.)

And thus was created, "a solid artefact of space we forget to look at".

From which Lady Bracknell is forced to deduce that her own preference for actually looking at people's faces, rather than at the space which surrounds them, is now considered to be on a par with finding onself at the top of a staircase with a jug of milk in one's hand, and having no memory of how one got there.

Lady Bracknell, who is getting on in years, and who therefore is perhaps not the best person to be passing judgement on what is or is not le dernier cri in interior design, really has no desire whatsoever to possess an ornament which she can fit snugly against her face to the astonishment of her visitors should conversation be starting to flag during afternoon tea.

Still, one man's meat is another aristocrat's poison, and the desirability of any decorative object will always be a matter of personal taste. Just because Lady Bracknell would not give one of these things house room herself is no reason to heap coals on the head of their creator, or to sneer at what would appear to be a successful business venture. (Although Lady Bracknell suspects that any edition of Dragons' Den on which the pirolette was featured would make for more than ordinarily entertaining viewing.)

* With grateful thanks to Mr Chaucer for unwittingly providing an extraordinarily apposite title for this entry.

This week's prize for...

... inclusive marketing goes to Folkmanis and their catalogue image for their Golden Retriever hand puppet.

To see more of their range of impressive puppets (most of which have been photographed in an environment mercifully free of children), visit this site.

There is even a guinea pig for Becca.

Friday, August 18, 2006

There is beauty in the bellow of the blast

There are few things more calculated to raise Lady Bracknell's spirits than a good thunder storm.

That this is so will be partly to do, she admits, with the fact that she is constitutionally unsuited to conditions of high humidity, and therefore looks forward to storms as the harbingers of a fresher atmosphere. Younger, slenderer readers may as yet be unfamiliar with the experience of swollen ankles resulting from shifts in barometric pressure, but Lady Bracknell can assure them that, whilst they may be comic in appearance, they are No Joke.

But even as a child - in those halcyon days when her ankles did not inflate and deflate of their own accord - Lady Bracknell was so enamoured of the dramatic power of thunder storms that she would rush outside, arms spread wide and face tilted upwards, to experience them at closer quarters.

Not so the two young women who were passing Bracknell Towers when the storm broke yesterday, and who shrieked quite abominably in response to every clap of thunder.

Can any of Lady Bracknell's readers enlighten her as to the origin of this (singularly unpleasant) modern fad for shrieking at an ear-splitting pitch? Whilst it is understandable in tiny children for whom almost everything is new and exciting, it is quite unforgivable in any woman who is legally of adult status.

And yet shrieking seems - at least, it does if the female Big Brother contestants can be considered to be representative of their generation - to have been adopted for occasions as verbally undemanding as simply greeting one's friends. Has the constant exposure to noise pollution which is the very bane of our modern existence damaged young women's hearing to such an extent that a cheerfully spoken, "Hello", would be inaudible to them? Why does life need to be lived at a constant fever pitch of excitement? And is it not very tiring to one's nervous system to do so?

Lady Bracknell is aware that she herself has a very carrying voice. There is little she can do to alter that fact, but she is confident that even her worst detractors would not describe her as shrill. Her voice may not be "ever soft, gentle and low" but it is, at least, sufficiently deep that it does not cause her interlocutors to flinch. (They may flinch at what she says, but that is a different issue.)

But Lady Bracknell has digressed. (The young, slender readers who are currently admiring their neat ankles should be aware that digression is another thing which increases with age.) Back to storms.

One is unlikely to have a thunder storm without rain. Rain is, by its very nature, wetting. (Lady Bracknell's favoured rejoinder to the fretting, "But you're not carrying an umbrella: what on earth will you do if it rains?", is a clipped, "I shall get wet". To which, if she is feeling particularly truculent and/or modern, she is often tempted to append a rather discourteous, "And?".)

Getting wet in the rain is another of those mundane experiences which really does not justify a full-scale drama. Rain is such a frequent visitor to our shores that Lady Bracknell is at a loss to understand why people are so often astonished when they feel the first drops land on their heads. Unless one will have no option but to sit in wet clothes in an unheated room for several hours, there is really no peril to one's health. One is not living in Dickensian London. One will not dissolve: the human skin is remarkably impervious to water.

It is Lady Bracknell's belief that huddling in doorways will not improve one's experience of walking through the rain one whit. Unless the doorway is singularly capacious, one is almost always left dry on one side and drenched through on the other, a sensation which is considerably more unpleasant than being wet all over. No, the thing to do is to stride out briskly (or as briskly as one can manage) and get the thing over with.

Women who sport coiffures which can not withstand a shower of rain have the option of either investing in one of those transparent plastic rainhoods which independent pharmacists display next to the tins of glucose travel sweets, or changing to a less frivolous hairstyle. Better either of those alternatives, quite frankly, than shrieking like a thwarted toddler at the onset of rain.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

And the prize for....

... most entertaining book title of 2006 to date goes to:

Friday, August 11, 2006

Hacked Off

The editor having returned, bloody but unbowed, from an unpleasant contretemps with a journalist from her employer's in-house "newspaper", Lady Bracknell has decided that the time is ripe for her to perorate publicly on the portrayal of disabled persons in the media.

Lady Bracknell is painfully aware that she will be preaching to the converted, and that it is highly unlikely that her words will deflect even one of the perpetrators from his or her habitual path. Nevertheless, she is so affronted by the editor's account of recent events that she can not let the issue go unremarked. The story is as follows:

Yesterday, the editor received an email from said journalist in which he congratulated her on the "sterling work" which had led to her being awarded an MBE, and offered to interview her for the paper. (Quite how he could have known that the editor's work had been of a "sterling" character when he does not know her from Adam is a matter for greater intellects than that possessed by either Lady Bracknell or her editor to ponder.)

The editor - less than wholly enthralled, in any event, by the prospect of appearing in the paper in question - responded that she had grave concerns about the way in which disability stories are generally presented in its pages, and was not prepared to have the better part of nine years' disability equality work marred by any suggestion that she had "overcome" her own impairments in so courageous a way that her managers - inspired by her plucky attitude to her sufferings - felt that she should be publicly rewarded for her courage in the face of adversity. Or some such medical model nonsense. She cited a recent article about a colleague who has been very successful in the Blind Sailing Championships which began with the immortal phrase, "Despite being blind...". She said that she would only consent to be interviewed if she had editorial control over the disability-related terminology used in the article.

Several exchanges of emails later, the journalist has withdrawn his offer of an interview. He has also made a rather puzzling statement to the effect that a diverse publication cannot be achieved if the subjects of its articles are permitted to have control over the way in which their minority status is presented. The editor has concluded - not, Lady Bracknell thinks, without reason - that he is a hopeless case, and has spent the day basking in the praise of like-minded individuals who have applauded her for refusing to compromise her principles.

It is a truth universally acknowledged amongst disabled persons who campaign for equal rights that their cause is greatly hindered by journalists and broadcasters who seem unequal to the task of portraying them simply as people, and who can never resist the temptation to describe them as either tragic or amazing/brave. Neither do they seem capable of understanding the simple and demonstrable fact that the terminology they use has a direct impact on their readers' perceptions about all disabled persons.

If one's opening sentence begins with the words, "Despite being blind...", one is perpetuating the assumptions that

  • blindess is inherently tragic
  • blind persons can not be expected to accomplish even simple tasks without assistance; and
  • should a blind person accomplish anything that a sighted person would not expect them to be able to, that fact is newsworthy in and of itself.

None of these is true.

Should a disabled person do something which is newsworthy - and, although many live lives of equivalent tedium to those of their non-disabled neighbours, others do not - it is surely not beyond the wit of man to report on what has been accomplished without recourse to writing in a way which encourages the reader to feel either sympathy or admiration purely in response to the fact that the subject of the article has an impairment.

Articles composed about persons from other minority groups do not begin with the words, "Despite being black/Muslim/gay/only a feeble woman....". Lady Bracknell ventures to suggest that there would be an immediate uproar if they did. And yet, if the editor's recent correspondence is to be taken as indicative, the average journalist cannot understand how writing in that way about a disabled person could be deemed to be insulting and offensive by their subject.

Should there be any among her UK readers who share Lady Bracknell's views on this issue, they could do worse than to familiarise themselves with the existence of the Hacked Off leaflet, and wave it in a peremptory fashion under the noses of any editors who permit articles in this vein to be published.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Blankety Blank chequebook and pen

The arrival of divers cheque books, debit cards &c by this morning's post has reminded Lady Bracknell of the curious fact she had intended to relay to her readers last week, but which had slipped her mind in the interim.

(Readers who have concluded that Lady Bracknell's life is probably filled to the brim with many and various entertainments and divertissements, and that, this being so, her forgetfulness is understandable, would be sadly mistaken. Lady Bracknell lives very quietly. That her memory is not what it was in her youth she must attribute either to her advancing years, or to the pharmacopeia of medicaments she is instructed to take on a daily basis.)

To return to the matter at hand, the editor reported to Lady Bracknell last Thursday that, finding herself in the vicinity of a branch of her own bank during banking hours, she resolved to take the opportunity of requesting that her recent honour be reflected in her account details. The editor went on:

"The twelve year old boy behind the counter told me I needed to speak to a personal banker. I sat myself down in one of those waiting areas where the chairs look comfy, but you don't realise until you've sat down in them that it will probably take an industrial winch to lever you back into an upright position. Worries about how I was ever going to stand up again aside, it suddenly occurred to me that I had nothing with me to back up my claim to being an MBE, and that I was therefore a) wasting my time and b) about to be thrown out of the bank for making ridiculous claims to an honour I was clearly far too unprepossessing to ever have been awarded."

There was more in a similar vein but, as the editor does have a tendency to go on, Lady Bracknell will précis. In short, no proof of the editor's elevated status was requested at any point.

Never slow to find something at which to take umbrage, Lady Bracknell is frankly appalled that any Tom, Dick or Harry* can waltz into his bank and demand that his personal details be updated to manifest a rank of his choice without ever being asked to demonstrate that he has a genuine entitlement to the honorific in question.

Indeed, upon being appraised of the story this very afternoon, both Dude the chauffeur and the osteopathic gentleman stated their immediate intention to head to their own banks and insist on the production of new chequebooks reflecting their wholly fictitious knighthoods. And, quite frankly, in these days when peers of the realm dress as eccentrically as, for example, does Lord Bath, a bank employee could be forgiven for assuming that the Dude is an aristocrat experiencing a singularly bad hair day.

*Lady Bracknell is reminded of an anecdote she heard when a blue-stocking. Her ladyship's alma mater was a women's college in a mixed university. On their first day in attendance, the young freshers were herded into the Junior Common Room and addressed by the college principal who, not surprisingly, was a spinster of advanced years.

It is all a very long time ago, and the finer details are lost in the mists of time, but Lady Bracknell recalls being urged to eschew writing paper decorated with girlish images such as lambs or teddy bears, as a plain bond would be more fitting for the young ladies of the college. The gels were also advised, "If you don't want a sherry, say, "No, I'll have a fruit juice"." Similarly, if one did not want to keep company with "any Tom, Dick or Harry", one was encouraged to reject their oafish advances firmly.

Rumour hath it, then, that one such innocent young gel was approached at a freshers' ball, or some such, by a second year undergraduate lothario. Gambling (correctly, as it turned out) that the spinster principal's speech would not vary greatly from one year's intake to the next, his opening conversation salvo consisted of the immortal line:

"Hello. My name's not Tom, Dick or Harry. How about it?"

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Alone and palely loitering

If there is one thing which gets Lady Bracknell's dander up (and, to be honest, there are many) it is the contempt in which advertising executives hold the rules of the English language. Accuracy is of no significance compared to the overriding impetus for brevity. This, in turn, is presumably the result of a general belief that the average consumer's intelligence, concentration span and powers of retention are only marginally higher than that of a turnip.

Lady Bracknell's sensitivities were particularly wounded when a manufacturer of frozen potato products chose to describe its chips as "ovenable". (Had she purchased any of said products prior to seeing the advertisement in question, Lady Bracknell would undoubtedly have treated them as immediately "binable".)

She also winces every time she hears grey hairs described as, "greys". After all, it is not as though hairs is either a long word, or one which would be unfamiliar to anyone with even a basic grasp of English. Would it take up precious nano-seconds of advertising time which could be better spent assuring the viewers that they are "worth it"? Maybe so.

Cosmetics and beauty products do seem to be the worst offenders when it comes to astonishing departures from the rules of English. (And, moreover, from those of common sense.) Since when, for instance, has it been a universally accepted fact that there are seven signs of aging? Presumably since about the time that some wag in an advertising firm hit on the idea of marketing a certain face cream by claiming that it performed seven different functions simultaneously. And can it be coincidental that seven is a number which is widely associated with good fortune? Is there, perhaps, an eighth function which the advertisers have swept under the carpet because "eight signs of aging" would not have had the same alliterative charm?

The worst culprit of all, however, (and one which is becoming increasingly widespread) is the claim that a product "absorbs easily". If the general public had been paying attention when the difference between active and passive verbs was explained to them in the school room, they would run screaming from any product making such a terrifying claim. Call Lady Bracknell timid if you will, but faced with the choice between a product which can be easily absorbed by her skin, and one which threatens to actually absorb her skin - and to do so easily - and she will plump for the former every time. Lady Bracknell's skin may be annoyingly prone to eczema, but it remains vital to the continued integrity of her body.

There would appear to be any number of sun products which have this dangerous absorbing propensity. But, then, quite why anyone who lives in mortal fear of displaying even one of the seven (or possibly eight) signs of aging is prepared to expose their flesh for any length of time to strong sunlight is beyond Lady Bracknell's wit to explain. Indeed, Lady Bracknell - who takes considerable pains to avoid the sun, because lobster red is not a becoming colour on her - mourns the passing of the parasol as a fashion accessory.

One cannot have one's cake and eat it, and no amount of over-priced unguents containing plant extracts and vitamins will be anything like as effective as avoiding damaging one's skin in the first place. Such persons as have been taken in by the media's insistence that a youthful appearance is of paramount importance might, therefore, do well to return to the tenets of their Victorian great grandmothers and recognise the cosmetic benefits of remaining pale and interesting.