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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, November 30, 2006

Hagging for beginners #1

When I have time to write what would undoubtedly be a best-selling beginners' guide for women who would like to be fag hags but who don't really know where to start, I shall use this photograph of Puss Puss to illustrate one of the prime criteria for a succesful relationship with one's fag.

Never choose a fag for whom your clothes would be too small.

Being more than amply proportioned myself, I have the freedom to ally myself even with fags of a rugby-player's build, but I would recommend my slighter sisters against setting their sights on someone as tall and chunky as Puss Puss.

Had my velvet coat not been big enough for him, it might have suffered irreparable damage: once he had clapped eyes on its lustre, nothing on earth would have prevented him from trying it on. Indeed, I don't think I have ever seen him leap from a chair so quickly as when I asked him whether he had spotted it gracing the newel post on his way into the lounge.

Readers with a keen eye for background detail will no doubt recognise that we are still in the lounge at Hotel Algernon at this point. I am forbidden to reveal which of those present tried The Hat on after they had drunk their pink champagne. But - on an entirely unconnected note, you understand - I'd like to wish Pop good luck this evening in his first performance as Bob Cratchitt in A Christmas Carol.

The Editor

Monday, November 27, 2006

She may very well pass for forty-three in the dusk with a light behind her

I've been meaning to write up a credits entry for The Outfit for a while now and, even though I can't find a photograph which shows all the elements of it off to perfection, once I have an idea firmly fixed in my mind, it takes a lot of shifting

So here I am in Hotel Algernon, waiting for the off. (The dates and times on the pictures taken on Algernon's camera are slightly out: it was the 17th of November and it was 8.59 am.)

So, from top down, we start with the magnificent hat made for me by Sara from Hatrageous. (Yes, Sara, I know I'm wearing it too far back on my head in this picture. I put that right for the ceremony, honest...)

The Hatrageous website is no longer with us, unfortunately (problems with the ISP). Anyone wanting contact details for Sara is welcome to email me on Lady Bracknell's hotmail address which you can find by clicking on the appropriate "contact me" link.

I highly recommend Sara's services. She really knows what she's talking about when it comes to the right style of hat for each customer. If you don't think you suit hats, she'll prove you wrong. (I almost said, "She'll make you eat your hat", but I restrained my wilder impulses.) As you can see, if you give Sara a swatch of outfit fabric, she will colour match it perfectly. And all for considerably less than you would be charged for an off-the-peg hat in your local department store. Worth every penny.

The specs are from ProDesign and were glazed for me by Mark Blankstone.

Earrings by Swarovski.

Violet Swarovski heart pendant from Whitewolf Jewellery.

Silk scarf (available in several different colours) from this eBay seller.

Purple stick from - who else? - Clear Canes.

The wonderful faux suede jacket is the Modigliani from Razzberry Bazaar. I can't praise the ladies at this shop enough. They were extremely tolerant of my feverish panicking, and always an absolute delight to talk to. They assured me that the fabric the jacket was made from would be ideal for a long day's celebrating, and they weren't wrong: I wore it for more than twelve hours and it emerged from the ordeal completely unscathed.

The handbag - which you can see in this photo - is from Gregory's Leather Ltd.

Finally, the frock (now discontinued) is from Sixteen47.

If all those links work, no-one will be more surprised than me...

The Editor

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Up That London (Part III)

Having smiled for the official photographs until we were convinced we would never be able to manage to produce a really sincere smile ever again for the rest of our lives, we were free to leave. Which was just as well, because we were only too well aware that at least some of the other lunch guests were probably already in situ.

To my great astonishment (speaking as someone who couldn't fold herself into the back seat of a two door car if her life depended on it), Algernon's car swallowed up five adults and a golden retriever quite easily. Pausing only to wave in a regal fashion to the crowds of tourists foregathered outside the Palace who were labouring under the fond delusion that we might have been Someone Important, we sped off (except for when impeded by traffic jams) for the Babylon Roof Gardens restaurant.

We split up briefly - Algernon to park the car; Aunty J and the Old Blind Git in search of a patch of grass on which Sutton could have a wee - but were soon reunited in the restaurant bar, where we met up with Uncle, Ant, Marmite, Pop and Puss Puss. Not to mention a very welcome (and purely medicinal) gin and tonic, which Pop had kindly promised to have ready for me the moment I arrived.

I had carefully pre-booked a table of sufficient size to accommodate us all. What the restaurant staff hadn't mentioned was the fact that there was a small perspex screen halfway down on the window side, which rather had the effect of separating the party into two, with the naughty boys down at the far end at a safe distance from my stick. Ant and Puss Puss thus felt emboldened to queen it up like nobody's business and spent the whole of the meal striking fear into the hearts of any passing waiter. I don't think they deliberately dropped pieces of cutlery on the floor so that the waiters would have to bend down in tight black trousers to pick them up, but I was constantly engaged in conversation myself, so I can't be sure.

I discovered that there is one drawback to choosing your outfit to match your stick. I was refused entry to the accessible loo, presumably on the assumption that my stick was merely a fashion accessory. (I'd have kicked up a fuss had the standard ladies' facilities not been adequate to my needs, but they were, so there was no need for me to - as my father would say - "lean heavily on the counter".) Having said that, the stick does become a tad superfluous when I have Pop "the human mobility aid" Larkin around to lean on. In all my fifteen years (give or take a fortnight) of cripdom, I have never met anyone else I trust to help me out of a seat without hurting me. Pop rocks.

Before I knew where we were, those who had travelled furthest had to leave. Aunty J was the first to go, quickly followed by the Old Blind Git, and Uncle, who was parked somewhere expensive. Marmite hung on until the restaurant staff threw us out, which meant he was able to witness the amusing spectacle of two qualified accountants signally failing to come to grips with the bill. But he then disappeared into the pouring rain, which left the remaining six of us unwilling to part but with nowhere in mind to go.

In a stroke of genius, Algernon suggested that we all repair to his place. There being too many of us to fit in the car, Ant and Puss Puss were despatched to the nearest tube station and were later - although not entirely without confusion - fetched by Algernon from the station nearest his house. They didn't appear to be too much the worse for their experiences, and we thought it best not to speculate on how they might have behaved when temporarily separated from our civilising influence.

Not only had Algernon stopped on the way home to stock up on drinks, but it transpires that the Hotel Algernon wine cellars are kept permanently stocked with pink champagne. What luxury! What class! What an improvement on the sickly pyramids of over-packaged, slightly crunchy chocolates the advertising men would have us believe equate to being spoiled by ambassadors!

Blogger software is currently behaving in a predictably intransigent manner (what with it being the weekend and everything). I had intended for this entry to be copiously illustrated but, after about six hours of repeated attempts to upload multiple photographs, I have only managed to secure this one of Pop post-consumption of pink champagne. And I think I sneaked that one through while Blogger's back was turned.

In any event you can see that the Hotel Algernon lounge is well supplied with comfortable seating, and that the hotel guests thoroughly enjoy themselves.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and the remaining guests had many miles to go before they slept. My attempts to bar the door to prevent Pop and Puss Puss leaving, and my pitiful "But my special day will be over if you leave!" comments were treated with the contempt they merited, and the two melted away into the night. (Although not literally, of course. As that would be rather unpleasant.) Algernon and I kept a somewhat raucous gin-fuelled vigil for the text messages we needed to be sure that they had arrived home safely, after which I safely navigated myself up the stairs with the rather tricky bend half way up and was very shortly thereafter out like the proverbial light.

It was a wonderful day, and one which I will never forget. Algernon, my brother, Aunty J, the Old Blind Git, Uncle, Marmite, Ant, Puss Puss and Pop have my sincere thanks for helping me celebrate in such a magnificent fashion.

The Editor

Up That London, (Part II) The Investiture Ceremony

Friday morning dawned wet and dreary, but were we downhearted? Well, yes, perhaps we were, just a little bit.

Although I have to say that there can't be many hotels at which the proprietor himself holds an umbrella over the guest's head until she is in the car so that her outfit won't get wet.

I know everyone wants chapter and verse on what happened in the Palace but, given how very difficult it is to find any information about investiture ceremonies on the Interwebnet, I have a sneaking suspicion that the finer details are not intended to be discussed in the public domain.

Not wishing to incur the wrath of the monarch, therefore, I shall confine myself to a list of observations so that those of Lady Bracknell's readers who will one day attend such a ceremony on their own account will be well prepared.

  • As the individual being honoured, you get to choose up to three guests. Once you have informed the Palace of your guests' identities, you will be sent formal invitations for them. Without these invitations, your guests will not be able to gain entrance. Unless all four of you are arriving together, therefore, it is a Very Bad Idea Indeed for you to still have all the invitations in your handbag as you approach the Palace. (I was nervous about entrusting the invitations to the Royal Mail, but I should have bitten the bullet and sent them recorded delivery.) We sorted it out in the end, but only after several frantic calls on mobiles and much handing of invitations out of the car window.

  • When the two very burly policeman ask you to open the boot and the bonnet of your car, expect their eyes to light up when your driver responds, "Well, you're welcome to look in the boot...". Of course, Algernon did go on to say, "... and if you can work out how to open the bonnet, be my guest", or words to that effect, but there was a split second when we could see in their eyes that they thought that was where we'd stashed the Uzi.

  • Visit the royal conveniences whether you need to or not: it's an education.

  • If a friend who is not one of your official guests drives you into the inner courtyard, he or she will have to remain there until the ceremony is over. (From the conversation I had with someone from the Chancery earlier in the week, I gather this enforced inactivity is expected to be regarded as something of a privilege rather than as two hours of excruciating tedium.) Algernon kept himself amused by taking photographs of his car in the exclusive surroundings, which he will use at a later date when he comes to sell it. Cunning, no?

  • If, when deciding on Your Outfit, you decide to go down the route of using a personal shopper from a major chain store, don't be surprised if all that store's personal shoppers across the country have made the same recommendation. The two ladies in identical hats and jackets wore themselves to a frazz keeping as large a distance as possible between one another in the holding area (sorry, "Picture Gallery"). To my immense disappointment (hey, I never said I was a nice person), their names weren't alphabetically adjacent, so there was no real danger of Prince Charles saying, "Hold on a tick: haven't I just done you?" to the second one.

  • It really shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone to learn that they will be expected to bow or curtsey to whichever member of the royal family is investing them with their honour. But it clearly did. I was disappointed in one of my fellow crips who segued seamlessly into Massive Panic Mode immediately after hearing this news. "But I don't think I can curtsey properly!!". "No, neither can I. But I have no intention of injuring myself by attempting to. I'll do what I can, and that'll have to be sufficient.".

  • Once the ceremony has begun, live footage from it is relayed into the holding area (sorry, "Picture Gallery"). If, on account of being a crip, you are resting with the other crips on an upholstered bench, don't expect to be able to actually see any of this footage. Apparently, even people who have done sufficient good works to merit being honoured by the Queen aren't considerate enough to make sure that their crippy cohorts are included in the full experience. Perhaps they assumed we could stand up if we were really that bothered. Selfish gits.

  • At some point during your forced march through various corridors lined with priceless old masters, a footman will relieve you of your handbag. Don't say, "I don't think that colour suits you", or you will spend the next ten minutes consumed by the horrible realisation that every woman from whom he has ever taken a handbag will have made exactly the same lame joke.

  • The whole process is an incredibly well-oiled machine. The only time you are on your own is when you walk to the dais to receive your medal. Unless you consider members of the royal family to be semi-divine, this part is really nothing to worry about. The royals are used to putting people at their ease and - assuming the Queen would be equally as charming as Prince Charles was to me - it will be a pleasant, if brief, experience. The members of the royal household are, without exception, friendly and pleased for you. They are committed to ensuring that the whole process is as painless as possible.

  • Once out of the ballroom, you are ushered into a further corridor and a delightful gentleman relieves you of your medal temporarily to pack it into its box. You then retrieve your handbag and are ushered by a succession of splendidly-uniformed flunkeys back into the ballroom where you sit on a hideously uncomfortable chair and watch the rest of the ceremony, safe in the knowledge that your part is over.

And now we come to the best bit. Just prior to my entering the ballroom itself, a very nice lady official said, "I don't think you'll want us to do this, but we can take your stick away from you if you'd rather not be carrying it while you're being invested. A lot of people prefer that.".

My response was something along the lines of, "Take my stick away from me? Absolutely not! My entire outfit was designed around my stick!".

To which she replied, "I can see that. It's beautiful. That's the trendiest stick I've seen in seven years of investiture ceremonies.".

So I hope Steve the Stick Man is reading this. Because there can't be many manufacturers of glorious walking sticks who have received that level of praise from a member of the Buckingham Palace staff. I'm only sorry Prince Charles didn't comment on it, but I suppose you can't have everything...

The Editor

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Up That London (Part I)

I think I am ready now to set the sadness to one side for long enough to write about last weekend. This account may be rather less light-hearted than it would otherwise have been, but I don't really want to delay any further in case I forget something important. I'll take it day by day, and we'll see how far I get before I run out of steam.


Arrived at Lime Street station by taxi in good time for the London train. I had treated myself to first class tickets because of my concerns that I would otherwise not even survive the journey, let alone the events to follow.

Was enormously relieved to discover that there was a useful space behind my seat in which I could store both my suitcase and the ginormous hat box. (Had been worried that I would need to stow the hat box some distance from my seat, and that some arrogant business man would have whacked his own luggage down on top of it, thereby squishing The Hat beyond repair.)

At this stage I was still very much not a happy bunny. The only reason I had set off at all was because so many other people were involved in the events of the next few days and my conscience wouldn't allow me to let them down. Bear in mind that it is almost four years since I last travelled any further afield than Madchester and I was deathly afraid that my back would not be able to cope. Had that been the case, there is little doubt that I would never have dared spend a night away from home again.

Pop, bless him, being always very sensitive to how I am feeling, kept me entertained throughout the journey with a seemingly endless stream of very silly text messages. For this relief much thanks.

The train departed and arrived on time, and no sooner had I disembarked at Euston than Algernon appeared and divested me of my luggage. Pausing briefly to direct me the wrong way on the station concourse, he soon had me safely ensconced in the car, with the hat box treated to its own personal seat belt in the back.

I had arrived at rush hour, so the drive back to Hotel Algernon took quite some time, but all was well and the hotel lounge was welcoming and comfortable. We spent a very pleasant evening catching up, and I was not permitted then - or at any other point during my stay - to lift a finger in preparation of comestibles.

It took me some time to adjust to the relatively tropical temperatures in London, so I spent much of that night loitering on the balcony outside my bedroom watching the aeroplanes heading for Heathrow.


By the time I surfaced on Thursday morning, the hotel staff had left for a business meeting. Breakfast things had been laid out for me in the kitchen, and it was the work of a moment to boil the kettle for morning coffee.

I took the opportunity (the first I had had) to try on The Outfit in its entirety and concluded that it would do. (Which is just as well, as it was by that time far too late to make any adjustments to it.)

Thursday was a very quiet day, spent recovering from the journey and resting up for what I knew was going to be a decidely punishing day on Friday.

I was thrilled to bits to get a phone call from the much loved Unreliable Witness, announcing that he had finally beaten the hospital staff into submission and would be returning to his own home the following day. In fact, the moment the call ended, I burst into tears of joy. At which point the hotel staff, much disconcerted, patted my arm and offered me tissues.

I had further calls for the purpose of synchronising watches and suchlike from both Aunty J and the Old Blind Git.

With nothing further to be done, I retired to bed betimes, plugged my mobile phone firmly into its charger, and set my alarm clock for a time early enough to guarantee that there would be no call to panic before we set off for the Palace at nine the next morning.

The Editor

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A further delay

Lady Bracknell regrets to report that, shortly after her return to Bracknell Towers, the editor was apprised of a sudden and wholly unexpected family bereavement.

That being the case, she is in behopes that such of her readers as have been avidly anticipating a detailed report of e.g. the editor's conversation with Prince Charles on Friday last will feel able to contain their impatience until such time as the initial shock of the loss has worn off.

Lady Bracknell's readers are thanked for their understanding in this matter.

Normal service will resume as soon as possible.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

MBE? Don't make me laugh...

Attending the Palace to be formally invested with one's MBE is supposed to be a serious occasion. One in which unseemly levity would be entirely out of place.

Quite how Algernon - who was lurking behind the professional photographer - managed to get this photo of all four of us laughing (a pose which most definitely does not appear on the official photographs) is therefore something of a mystery.

We ought probably all to have been taken round the back and shot.

L to R: Aunty J; self; self's brother; the Old Blind Git; and Sutton. (Sutton being the only one who was sufficiently unmoved by the pomp of the occasion to have slept through the entire ceremony. Well, I think he was the only one. If any of the others did, they're not confessing to it.)

The Editor

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Home again, home again, jiggety jig

I have had a truly wonderful time "up that London" at Hotel Algernon, and wouldn't have missed a moment of it for the world, but, oh, it is so nice to be home...

When I have the strength - which may be tomorrow or may not be until the weekend - I will write at (probably tedious) length about what I've been up to, and with whom.

Just for the moment, though, I hope this photograph of me striding purposefully across the Inner Courtyard at Buck House (for reasons which I can no longer recall) will do to temporarily assuage the curiosity of everyone who has expressed such kind interest in The Hat and The Outfit.

And now I am going to take to my bed. Possibly for something in the region of thirty six hours.

The Editor

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

We apologise for the break in transmission

Readers who have been paying attention will be aware that Lady Bracknell's editor has been granted exceptional leave of absence by her employer in response to a summons from the Palace to attend this Friday and receive her MBE medal (replacement value for insurance purposes: £45).

As the editor will be departing later today and is not scheduled to return to Bracknell Towers until next Tuesday, Lady Bracknell will be effectively silenced during that period by dint of the fact that the computing device is as much of a mystery to her as are the workings of the internal combustion engine to her editor.

Demonstrating the want of character and fortitude which all too often typifies members of the lower orders, the editor spent much of yesterday evening threatening to spend the next week "hiding under the duvet" and expressing - to all who would listen - her fears at the potential havoc the trip might wreak on her enfeebled frame. Only after several hours of combined threats and blandishments from Young Master Marmite, the delightful Becca, and the inimitable Pop was she persuaded to retract her threats and agree to at least attempt the journey. Her facial expression this morning remains, however, somewhat reminiscent of that of a more than ordinarily nervous rabbit caught in the beam from the headlights of an approaching motor car.

She is disproportionately distressed by the fact that, having purchased - at considerable expense - powerful spare batteries for her digital camera, she now cannot remember where she put them for safe keeping. Despite her unfamiliarity with all things technological, Lady Bracknell is quietly confident that such batteries must be available for ready money from numerous retail outlets in London. That being the case, once the editor is safely returned to the bosom of Bracknell Towers, there is nothing more certain than that photographs of the celebrations will be appearing on these pages.

For the present, however, Lady Bracknell (and her editor) must bid au revoir to this blog's loyal readers. Normal service will resume towards the end of next week.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

All's well that ends well

If you've been following the drama surrounding The Hat with bated breath, you'll be relieved to hear that all is now well.

In the end, the stretcher wasn't used. The milliner actually took The Hat apart and rebuilt it last night. (Which, given that she didn't leave here until gone nine, will give you some indication of how committed she was to having it ready on time.)

One photograph has been taken on my mobile phone so that I will be able to work out where the front of The Hat is (you may laugh, but I have little experience of formal chapeaux) next Friday.

I reveal this fact to you only to taunt you, you understand, as I won't actually be publishing any photos on Lady Bracknell's blog until after the investiture ceremony. Er, and The Hat has been professionally packed away in its box, and I dursn't take it out again to photograph it myself in case I haven't the skill to re-pack it securely.

By the way, I ought to mention that something very odd is happening with Blogger comments just at the moment. Apologies if you've made comments and they've taken an age to be published. Blogger either doesn't email me at all, or emails me about the same comment several times. I'm hoping it's a temporary aberration.

The Editor

"Let's have a heated debate!"

Given the volume and incandescense of the responses this blog entry - from a publication which describes itself as "Seattle's Only Newspaper" - has already attracted from those wheelchair-using persons whom the writer suggested should be forbidden to use the express bus routes so that she could get to work on time, there seems to Lady Bracknell to be little left to add.

She will therefore content herself with having posted the link so that her readers may follow the debate for themselves. With the proviso that it is likely to anger many of them greatly.

Friday, November 10, 2006

So near, and yet so far...

The milliner - whose health is very much improved, thanks for asking - has just left.

Unfortunately, she has left with The Hat.

The Hat is currently too small. It is to be taken away and placed on something called "the stretcher" overnight, before being returned tomorrow evening by which time, it is to be hoped, it will mysteriously have gained a slightly more ample crown measurement.

Still, at least we have the partial comfort of knowing that the colour is an excellent match for The Outfit.

Despite the milliner's solemn promises that The Hat will fit tomorrow, my hat hysteria is mounting to epic proportions.

The Editor
PS The Hat is extremely beautiful.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Handicrafts Lady Bracknell will not be taking up

Lady Bracknell's editor generally prides herself on her ability to defeat the mighty Google search engine by two falls and a submission, but it is Dude the chauffeur who must take the dubious credit for unearthing the deeply bizarre Tamponcrafts website. Readers of a sensitive disposition are advised to particularly avoid the disturbing bloody tampon heart earrings which allow the wearer to "display both your romantic sentiments and your menstrual pride". (Lady Bracknell would like to make it abundantly clear at this juncture that she herself is entirely devoid of "menstrual pride". Further, even were she replete with "menstrual pride", she would not choose to display it in combination with any romantic sentiments she might be harbouring. She would, she feels sure, wish to keep the two things entirely separate.)

However, even the tastelessness of tampon crafts pales into comparitive insignificance once one is reeling from one's first encounter with the quite staggeringly unpleasant Crochet My Crotch website.

Had Lady Bracknell been toying with the idea of becoming what she believes is termed "computer literate" - for example for the purposes of continuing to add to her blog while the editor is away sampling the bright lights of London - the knowledge that it might be possible to stumble across such sites by accident would be more than sufficient to change her mind.

Monday, November 06, 2006

In which the editor is ashamed

My mother made a comment to me yesterday about The Hat. Having stewed about it for twenty four hours, I am still so appalled by what she said that I need the catharsis of writing about it. This blog post may not be published at all, or, if it is, may be removed again once I have calmed down. But for now, I must write.

Hat background:-

The Hat was originally going to be ready for me to pick up on Saturday the 28th of October. On the 27th, the milliner phoned me to say that the fabric she had ordered from which to lovingly fashion it had not yet arrived and that she was so tired of waiting for it that she was going to drive to Wales the next day and collect it in person. Although she was planning to have finished The Hat by mid-week, we agreed that I would pick it up on the Saturday just gone instead.

On Friday afternoon, reasoning that I don't handle town very well on a Saturday when the world and his wife are thronging the pavements, I visited the shop. If I had had the sense I was born with, I would have phoned first to check whether The Hat was ready. I didn't, and it wasn't, and I have no-one but myself to blame for the wasted journey. The milliner was hugely apologetic, but the fault really was all mine. We agreed that I should call in again the next day.

So, on Saturday morning, I caught the bus back into town. I sat on a serendipitously-placed bench opposite the milliner's shop and waited for it to open. And then waited a bit longer. Eventually, a friend of the milliner arrived and explained that the poor girl wouldn't be opening the shop that day because she had a nasty kidney infection and had had to go to the doctor. So I caught the bus home, and was rather torn between being worried about the milliner's health and concerned that I might have to stand in front of her maj bare-headed. (Although Pop did offer to lend me something he described as " a very fetching flat black cap", which was ... comforting.)

So, anyway, I relayed this story to my mother yesterday, and she said:

"Well, if you didn't get The Hat in time for your trip to London, you wouldn't have to pay for it, would you?"

Er, yes, Mother. Actually I would.

(i) This is a bespoke hat in an unusual head size. It's highly unlikely that, if it sat in the shop, anyone else would want to buy it. And, on the off chance that someone did want to buy it, it would probably come down to her nose.

(ii) The milliner has provided me with an outstanding level of customer service. It is not her fault that she is ill, and I see no reason why she should be financially penalised for circumstances outside her control.

(iii) The milliner has been courageous enough to set up as a sole proprietor selling her skill in a craft which has all but died out in this country. If I want businesses like hers to continue to exist, then I must honour the agreement we made. My refusal to pay could mean the difference between her business surviving and her going bankrupt. I am not prepared to have that on my conscience when she has not deliberately let me down.

I am really shocked by my mother's suggestion. I am shocked that she herself would consider refusing to pay to be a reasonable course of action. This is all far too reminiscent of the (ahem) "good old days" when the gentry continued to order champagne and plovers' eggs from the local grocer long after they knew they had no funds to pay for them, and never for one moment gave a thought to how the grocer was supposed to survive financially.

Now, as it happens, I have spoken to the milliner today and - bless her - she has said that she will deliver The Hat to me personally if necessary, and that she is determined, come what may, that I shall have it before I leave for London next Wednesday. We will keep in touch and sort it out nearer the time. So there is no question of me being put in the position that - if I were my mother - I might refuse to pay.

But the question remains: am I too soft for my own good? Is my mother's view completely unreasonable? Or is there an obvious third path which I am currently too blinded with rage and shame to see?

The Editor

Friday, November 03, 2006

An editorial note

Lady Bracknell wanted me to add a couple of new links to the list of blogs she recommends. It was all getting a bit unnwieldy, so I've taken the opportunity to put the list into alphabetical order (or as near as damn it).

At some point, I really must get round to splitting the list into categories, but I've done quite enough cutting, pasting and previewing for one night.

The Editor.

The sympathy vote

When the majority of one's closest friends happen to be disabled, one can sometimes lose touch with the dubious opinions about disability held by the majority of temporarily non-disabled people.

This thread on the BBC's Points of View messageboard has served as something of a wake up call to Lady Bracknell. (Readers who keep up with the Ouch messageboards may recall a similar opening post from the same gentleman who, unfortunately, can neither spell the word "strictly", nor articulate his point with any degree of clarity.)

The burden of the original poster's song appears to be a wish that a programme should be made in which the professional dancers from Strictly (or, as he would have it, "Stricky") Come Dancing teach disabled people how to dance. On the Ouch board, his suggestion was met mainly with confusion, as respondents were unable to unravel his actual intent. By the time his message was somewhat clarified, the thread had died of inanition.

Over on the Points of View board, however, its sister thread is still going strong. Amongst a welter of messages which, in a circumlocutary manner, effectively say, "Oh, God, no! You have got to be kidding! That would really put me off my tea!", message 24 stands head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to being particularly ignorant and offensive.

"People less-able have my sympathy ALWAYS but to suggest that those in wheelchairs could provide even minority "entertainment" is absolutely ludicrous."

Firstly, Lady Bracknell does not appreciate Croydon George's implication that the fact that she is disabled makes her universally "less-able" than her non-disabled counterparts. Admittedly, if the concept of being "able" were to be predicated solely on a capacity to dance, she would be somewhere near the back of the queue. But she is willing to wager that she is far more able in certain other areas than the man from Croydon.

Secondly, Lady Bracknell neither merits nor welcomes sympathy* from non-disabled people. In fact, far from welcoming it, she has a tendency to respond in an uncharacteristically (cough) tetchy manner when it is proffered. Any person attempting - even metaphorically - to pat Lady Bracknell on the head does so at his or her own risk. Why should impairment automatically provoke sympathy? Lady Bracknell's own life is immeasurably richer since she acquired her impairment, and she can cite without difficulty innumerable disabled friends and acquaintances who would say the same thing.

Thirdly, perhaps before making sweeping statements like, "It is complete nonsense to suggest that dancing in wheelchairs is viable in any way", Croydon George might wish to familiarise himself with the work of the
Candoco dance company, or the blogosphere's very own aptly-named Wheelchair Dancer.

* Lady Bracknell is reminded of an anecdote relayed to the editor by her friend Pop. After spending an entire morning training trade union officers on the differences between the medical and social models of disability, Pop was approached by one of the officers who confided the following to him:

"The social model is good, isn't it? It's more ... sympathetic.".

Presumably the abrasions on Pop's forehead were the result of him banging his head against the wall in frustration...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A faux pas averted

This afternoon, Lady Bracknell's editor visited her hairdresser for her pre-MBE-investiture-ceremony haircut. (Apparently her hair needs a fortnight to lose that "just cut" look. Although quite why this matters when it is to be hidden at all times by a hat, Lady Bracknell is at a loss to understand.)

Regrettably, when visiting the hairdresser, the editor is exposed to glossy women's magazines of the type about which her employer holds Strong Views and will not permit to be brought over the threshold of Bracknell Towers.

While idling away the twenty minutes or so which are needed for her hair colourant to take full effect, the editor espied a photograph of these gloves, and was so much taken with them that - only slightly daunted by their price tag of £125 - she made a special effort to search for them on the interwebnet as soon as she arrived home.

Sometimes Lady Bracknell despairs of her editor. Bright colours are all very well, but there is really no call to combine quite so many of them in such a confined space. And they most definitely would not be suitable attire for the Palace!

Lady Bracknell is pleased to report that the gloves are currently out of stock in the editor's size. Given that the editor has the attention span of a more than ordinarily amnesiac gnat when it comes to the objects of her desire, it is to be hoped that, if so be as the gloves ever come back in to stock, she will by that time have forgotten that she ever lusted after them.

Mind the gap!!

This horrifying news item from Miami reminds Lady Bracknell of a similar story she was once told about a mishap at Clapham Junction railway station.

Lady Bracknell is given to understand that some of the platforms at Clapham Junction are both very long and curved. This curvature results in the gap between the train door and the platform being more than ordinarily wide. (As Lady Bracknell herself has quite enough to do in descending from a carriage the door of which is almost flush to the platform, she can envisage herself being irretrievably marooned on board a train at Clapham Junction. Which is as good a reason as any for her to avoid visiting South London. At least by rail.)

The story goes that a visually impaired lady and her guide dog had travelled to Clapham for a union meeting. On attempting to guide its mistress off the train, the dog fell into the gap between the carriage and the platform. Fortunately, the lady did not follow suit. Equally fortunately, the dog was not injured.

This story might appear to the casual reader to be something in the nature of an urban myth. However, given the integrity of the individual who related it to her, and the circumstances under which it was introduced to the conversation, Lady Bracknell does not doubt its veracity for a moment. Neither does she consider herself to be particularly credulous. As to whether this problem has been taken under consideration in light of the station's obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act, Lady Bracknell cannot say...