Monday 21 March 2016

Open letter to women's (clothes shop) changing rooms

Dear Changing Rooms,

How do you do it? Why do you do it? I go into the changing room feeling light of heart, filled with optimism, my arms full of clothes and my heart full of hope. I peel off my own clothes, stand under the startlingly bright, unforgiving lights, and turn to face the mirror. And then you do it. You show me the Real Me.

There she stands, usually in just underwear and socks (not attractive, I confess);  this flabby, pale stranger, anxious of face and dimpled of (too much) flesh, everything - and I mean everything - apparently travelling South. I swear that soon, her boobs will be in her socks (while her heart's in her boots), and people will turn from her in pity and disgust.

This happened again yesterday, while looking for (another) Mother of the Bridegroom outfit. My daughter, who doubles as personal shopper, swears I was crying. But I wasn't. I was beyond tears. What she saw was total, utter  despair.

Now, let me give you some advice. It you really want me to buy the clothes, then:

1. Turn down the lights. Make them softly flattering, gentle, kindly.
2. Reduce the number of mirrors to just one. I have no need or desire to see my backside. I know it's too big, and don't need you to rub it in.
3. Make that single mirror very slightly distorted, to accentuate waists and slim the legs, thighs, tummies etc. I know this isn't entirely honest, but I don't NEED you to be honest. I need you to LIE. Okay?

Then, and only then, I just might buy something.

Yours in grief and disappointment etc etc

Wednesday 16 March 2016

Confession of a Facebook Troll

I don't do Facebook; I'm just a Facebook stalker. I spy on people, and admire their photos, and generally use FB to entertain myself when I'm at a loose end. I do correct my daughter's punctuation
(she's  given to this !!! sort of thing, and I have a thing about abuse of exclamation marks), but she's now told me that "it's not funny any more, Mum", so I resist, and she continues on her inaccurate grammatical way, unimpeded by her pedantic parent. I don't Like people's comments, either, because once you start, where does it end? In fact I'm just a troll.

But today, misled by the technology involved, I accidentally posted a recipe for haddock risotto on my (rather empty) Facebook page. This was a mistake (long story). I'm hoping someone will take pity on me and teach me how to remove it, because it looks rather silly (if delicious).

That's all.

Saturday 12 March 2016

Thoughts, please

If anyone reading this post has the time, please would you let me have your thoughts? This is the opening chapter of a novel I'm writing, and have almost finished. Would you want to read on, or would you  just leave it? Honest anwers. please! And if you do reply, thank  you.

                                          JULY 1965


A family was struck by tragedy when their young son drowned while on holiday. Two-year-old Caspar Lewis fell into a lake in full view of his ten-year-old sister, Isabel. He was rushed to hospital, but was pronounced dead on arrival. Local police said that the death appeared to be a tragic accident. Last night, his parents, Michael and Barbara, were being comforted by relatives.

               It had been so easy to drown Caspar.

She hadn't planned it, for she could never have known that her parents would leave her to “keep an eye on him” for a few minutes. And in any case, drowning wouldn’t have been her preferred method of disposing of her little brother. She had dreamed of strangling him, of placing a pillow over his sleeping face and sitting on it, of perhaps pushing him down the stairs. But drowning had never occurred to her. In any case, until now, she had never really intended to put any of her ideas into practice.

But then suddenly, there it was. The perfect opportunity. She and Caspar, alone on the jetty, watching the boats

'Look, Casp! Look! Fish!”

And he had leaned over, squatting in his pale blue dungarees, his bobbing blond curls (oh, how she had hated those curls!) reflected in the pale surface of the lake.

Such a little push; such a small splash. And he was gone. There was no fuss, no scream, no bobbing back to the surface, no sign of any struggle (afterwards, they had said that his body had become caught in reeds); just a single starfish hand, raised as though in valediction before disappearing altogether in the murky depths of the lake. Caspar's small, perfect life had ended in a small, perfect death. Neat. Unobtrusive. Almost apologetic.

She had waited a few minutes, just to be sure, and then she had run screaming back up the bank.

'Quick! Come quick! Caspar's fallen in the lake!'

It was as simple as that.

Her parents had blamed themselves . They shouldn't have left the two of them together; it hadn't been fair. She was too young to be responsible for so young a child. What could they have been thinking of! Poor Isabel. Poor little Bel. She would carry that terrible memory with her for the rest of her life. They must be strong. They must keep going. For Isabel.

After a while, it was easy to imagine that it really had been an accident; that it had had nothing to do with her at all. Caspar had stumbled and fallen; it had been nobody’s fault. And her guilt had sunk, like Caspar's tiny body, and been submerged in the soothing waters of the myth which had been woven around it.

Why had she hated him so much? She had begged and pleaded for a baby brother or sister, perhaps safe in the certainty that none would be forthcoming, but when he had finally arrived, she had been overwhelmed with jealousy. She grew to hate her perfect little brother with his perfect manners, his blue eyes, his seraphic smile, and those blond curls, Wherever they went, Caspar had turned heads and attracted compliments. He was a clever, child, too. He knew all his colours and could count up to fifty, while in those days, Isabel had struggled at school. He even had more names than she did. Caspar Llewellyn St.John Lewis. That was a name that was going places. Whereas she, plain Isabel Mary, wasn't going anywhere.

Once, she had asked why Caspar had been blessed with all those names, and been told that her mother had “had everything taken away” after his birth, and there would be no more babies. So it seemed that all the names that might have been given to future brothers had been lavished upon Caspar, so that none should be wasted. She had never asked about girls' names. She couldn’t imagine that her parents would ever have wanted another girl.

And so the memory of that afternoon had become clouded, and had finally disappeared. If she thought of it at all (and she tried not to), she had a vague recollection of Caspar running off, of herself shouting after him, getting to the jetty too late to save him. In her own mind, she became as much of a victim as Caspar himself; the older sister who had been the luckless witness, unable to reach her little brother in time. The coroner's verdict had been “accidental death”, so that was what it had been. A tragic accident. It had had nothing to do with Isabel at all.

She wasn't to know that one day - one far-off day - she would be tempted to kill again.

Sunday 6 March 2016

Magpie 308

She held the letter to her lips for a moment, as though reluctant to let it go, wondering whether he would ever receive it. She wasn't even sure where he was at the moment; only that he was fighting for his country, somewhere across the channel, probably cold and afraid and missing her.

But he would be back soon; leave had been mentioned in his last letter, and then they hoped to marry. Childhood sweethearts, they had always meant to marry one day. Why, oh why, had they left it so long? But they'd thought they had time. They hadn't expected this war.

As she dropped the letter into the postbox and turned for home, her head full of thoughts of him and of her love for him, she wasn't to know that at that moment there was a boy on a bicycle making for her house.  A boy holding a yellow telegram....

(With thanks to Tess at Magpie Tales for the photo)

Tuesday 1 March 2016

My Room 101

For the uninitiated, Room 101 is a place into which you hurl things you don't like/want. And into mine goes......self-assembly.

Now, once upon a time, you could go out and buy something. It would come looking exactly like the thing you wanted. It didn't need legs screwing on or wheels attaching. It was whole. Complete. Usable. It was what you wanted.

But no more. Nowadays,  most things seem to come in bits. With screws. Either too many screws, or just one too few. Too many make you wonder what you haven't screwed. One too few makes things drop off. And then there are the instructions. These come in about fifty languages, with diagrams. And no words (well, one or two, obviously, because of the fifty languages. But not enough to be of any help at all).

Our new vacuum cleaner came in bits. Yesterday. For a start, the picture didn't resemble what we received, and we don't seem to have the "AeroPro Ergo handle", and I'm not sure we have the "AeroPro Perketto nozzle" (these were supposed to be the English instructions). You couldn't make it up, could you? And no. I didn't. I don't have enough imagination for this kind of b****cks. The list of "consumables and accessories" is endless (when did you last comsume a bit of vacuum cleaner? Ha. I thought not). My patience is NOT endless. I hate, hate, hate this vacuum cleaner. Even in its not properly assembled state, I have taken against it. Plus, it wasted most of yesterday evening as I tried to put it together, and the time it's taken to write this rant.

So into my Room 101 goes self-assembly. ALL self-assembly.

What (or who) would you put in your Room 101? No prizes, but a special mention for the one I like best, and a little one-woman round of applause.