Posts Tagged ‘Humour’

I am no good at crafts.  My knitting is terrible.  And there was a lot of knitting in my childhood, so there was a lot of scope for being terrible.  I went to one of those small parish schools with several classes in one room.  Because children of one class needed to be occupied while the others were taught, and because it was profoundly sexist environment presided over by nuns, we did a lot of knitting.  My speciality was a curious item that could best be described as a triangular scarf.  It never caught on.  Not only were they useless and ugly, my ill-fated garments were also ages in the making.  This was because I am not one of Mother Nature’s multi-taskers.  Knitting was a very social and chatty kind of activity for us.  But I was not able to simultaneously knit and talk.  I really liked just talking.

Quite how and why the crochet bug hit me is a mystery.  But it did.  And so I hauled myself off to a one-night class.  I regretted it straightaway.  There was no proper streaming.  There were women who were phenomenal at crafts, who could have knit their own straitjacket and stitched themselves into it.  Their transition from two needles to one was, in every sense of the word, seamless.  I did not belong among their kind.  I needed the remedial class.  I could not wrap the wool around my hand properly.  I could not remember how to form a stitch.  I kept losing track of how many stitches I had done.  And then it all came flooding back to me.  There had been two problems with knitting.  The first was accidentally knitting garments of a bizarre and unsettling nature.  The other was the terrible tension.  Not real life, dog-eat-dog stuff.  No, the tension of the wool.  And here it was again with crocheting.  Each stitch was wound so tightly that working back into it in the next line required a kind of stabbing action.  It was like committing a long, slow series of GBHs.  The very nice and patient teacher assured me that it would all come good with practice.  Yes, it would, but in a different way.  Experience has taught me that I would not improve my tension with practice.  I would simple learn to stab faster.

I like to take an interest in how people learn.  And so I glanced about the room to see how the others were getting on.  People learning any new skill tend to make the same kinds of mistake and so it was of crochet.  Not counting their stitches.  Not crocheting into the right stitch.  Not picking up the last stitch at the end of the line.   But, oh no, not me.  I made mistakes that were mine and mine alone.  In one instance, the very kind and patient instructor stared in utter bafflement at my piece, turning it over in her hands to try and figure out what I had done and in the end ripping back three lines to fix it.  I think if I had invested any significance in my skills with a needle I might have been upset at having a level of mediocrity all of my own.  But I chose to see myself as a maverick, an individualist.  Not for me the mistakes of the common rabble.  No, I was going to forge new mistakes that would be looked upon in stupefaction for generations to come.

After what seemed like hours of stabbing and wrestling, I made this

And after that I made these.

Not bad for two hours of effort from a clueless amateur.  If I had been going for a triangular effect, I’d have been delighted. If you know nothing about crochet, or do but are of a conciliatory nature, they are quite respectable.   But I am no loss to the textile industry.   I noticed in writing this that the word needles is only one letter away from the word needless, and that’s so true of my relationship with crafts.  We can safely say that nobody will ever sashay down the catwalk of Milan in any of my creations.  Sonia Rykiel’s place in the firmament of knitwear designers is secure.  And I can give up on crafts and go back to just talking.


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Film classifications should be expanded.  In addition to, say, “Suitable for audiences aged 15 and over” or “Contains strong language and nudity,” there should be other warnings.  Films could be preceded by notices such as “Less Enjoyable than a Root Canal” (my suggestion for The Ice Storm) or “Insidious mind-rotting consumerism dressed up as female liberation” (Pretty Woman) or “Watch with the sound turned down” (Titanic).  Other suggestions of mine would be “Have you seen Tootsie and Kramer v Kramer?  Then you’ve seen this already” (Mrs Doubtfire) or “If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all” (any James Bond film).

Of course you can see how the movie studios might not appreciate this level of helpfulness.

And many films should have a warning that says “You are ruining a cinema classic by watching this first.”  The absence of this warning is the reason I watched Apocalypse Now and Citizen Kane in the wrong order.   Ditto The Truman Show and Citizen KaneNow I find I’ve watched Rear Window and any number of films the wrong way around.  If only I had a time machine.  I would return to my younger self as I was about to enter a cinema to see Manhattan Murder Mystery and scream Don’t do it! Eighteen years from now you won’t appreciate fully the remarkable cinematic achievement of Rear Window.”   It wouldn’t be solely altruism, though.  I’d also use the opportunity to tell my younger self to buy shares in Apple.

So, as you’ve doubtless spotted, I’ve yet again addressed a gap in my cultural life, this time by watching Alfred Hitchcock.  Rear Window is another example of a very prescient film.  It foretold our modern atomised urban landscape where many people don’t know another soul.  It laid bare the modern dilemma of the dual career couple trying to reconcile their conflicting lives.  And yet, in other ways, Rear Window is so out of touch with modern life that it becomes a window, if you’ll forgive the pun, on a quaint and distant past.  A guy plays piano all night and nobody complains?  I don’t think so.  With the standard of sound-proofing in some modern apartments, he’d annoy his neighbours just by rustling his sheet music.  A crime is committed and the police are there in seconds?  Eh, no.  In Rear Window 2012, Lisa would have been murdered twelve times over in Thorwald’s apartment while the police were still stuck in traffic.  A photographer and a policeman are best buddies?   That would be part of the Levenson Enquiry today.   A dog is murdered and everyone goes quietly about their business?  No, today there would be a mawkish shrine with flowers and balloons.  Probably a book of condolences and a Facebook tribute page.   A married couple sleeping outdoors?  They’d have their own Youtube channel.  And then lying on a balcony would become an internet meme like planking or owling.  Ditto “Miss Torso” – she would be a viral sensation.  Don’t even get me started on what would happen if a single, childless guy sat at his window all day looking out at his neighbours through an array of cameras.  Sex. Offenders. Register.   And, my personal favourite, an insurance company paying for a nurse to come to your home every day?  Purr-lease!  The only insurance staff to visit your home these days are wearing suits and stern expressions and telling you that your water tank bursting was an act of God and isn’t covered by your policy.  In a modern re-telling, Stella, the home-care nurse, would have to be replaced by a pizza delivery guy with poor interpersonal boundaries.

Nonetheless, Rear Window is a very pleasant way to spend an evening.  My only addition would be a film classification  warning that said “May contain scenes inconceivable and preposterous to anyone under fifty.”

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I can’t confess to a proper understanding of how it came about.  But somehow I own a smartphone.   Some ineluctable force brought together the unrelated events of me losing my phone and my camera dying.  Although it’s important to clarify that no celestial energy on its own can make those events into a smartphone in the mind of an unreconstructed luddite.  I suppose the fatal detail that drew these disparate impulses into one, as is often the case in history,  was the special offer.  Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon river in 49AD only because he was offered unlimited any network texts.  The Muslim commander Tariq ibn Ziyad ordered his troops to burn their boats upon landing on the Iberian peninsula in 711AD only for a better data allowance.  But it turned out the network coverage was terrible.

And so I find myself with a smartphone. And this is what I now know.

1. The Dow Jones is up 2.11%.

2. It is 27 degrees and raining in Mumbai, where it’s  now two o’clock tomorrow morning.

3. Smartphones are catnip for children, and my experience in this area has not be an unqualified success. It has in fact been a highly qualified failure.

4. I should wipe sunblock off my hands before I touch the screen.

5. I am facing north-north east.

6. The alarm on my phone is not as smart as my old one and I have been late for work more times than a “smart” phone should allow a non-smart person to be.

7.  The camera is, I will concede, an all-too-brilliant 8 megapixel affair which will burn your retinas with its vibrant hues.

8. I had to download apps for stuff that previous phones did, just because some thought they should but has since changed their mind.  For example, a stopwatch.  And it’s not even as good as the one on my old phone.  When did a ‘feature’ become an ‘app’?

9.  The battery life is appalling.  There are consumptive heroines of Victorian melodramas with more energy.

And, finally…

10.  Universal USB charger my a*se!!!

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… was the last day I wasn’t a parent.  I remember very little of that day.  I presume I whooshed around the house frantically doing the kind of insane jobs that are called ‘nesting’ when you are pregnant but when you are not pregnant are just called insane jobs.  A lot passes for normal when there is an overdue guest refusing to leave your body and you have become a human Hotel California.

One thing I remember with crystal clarity is that night I watched again one of my favourite movies.  Spinal Tap.  Oh how I laughed.  Little did I realise how much of the wisdom of that film I would come to appreciate as the years rolled by.  And then, the following day, in the hospital an anaesthetist told me that if I had to have a c-section they would give me … yes, you’re way ahead of me … a spinal tap.  I laughed even more.  He didn’t see what was funny about this important and delicate medical intervention.  And doubtless had I watched, say, The Shawshank Redemption the night before I would have agreed.  I had to tell him about the film.  He’d never heard of it.  Imagine – an anaesthetist who had never seen Spinal Tap.  I laughed uproariously at that too.  He didn’t get the humour in that either.  Then I was filled with pity and dismay at the poverty of his existence.  I think he may have had similar feelings about me.  It’s true what David St Hubbins says  – there is a fine line between stupid and clever.

So here I find myself at my significant and yet ritual-less anniversary.  The last day I was not a parent.  There isn’t a card for this event or a stone or a flower or a gift.  Not even an acceptable price point.  And yet it’s a very significant milestone.  Certainly if I had grasped the significance of that day nine years ago I would have spent it very differently.  Mostly sleeping.  Definitely.  And rejoicing at the vision of myself not covered in vomit.  My own or anyone else’s, because if we’ve learned anything from Derek Smalls it’s that you can’t always tell.  And doing spontaneous things like going for a sudden coffee.  With nothing in my bag except cash.  To a militantly family unfriendly restaurant with nary a high chair or a kiddies meal in sight.   On my own.

I would have spent some of the day slapping people silly for saying things like “oh, get all the sleep you can now.”  Really?  Is sleeping like putting money in the bank?  When I am suffering sleep deprivation of South American prison proportions, can I go and withdraw that lovely night’s sleep I had back in 1997?  No.  It’s just one of those things people who’ve had kids use to torment pregnant women.

I would have taken my vast reserves of wealth and bought shares in Britax, Calpol, Sudocrem, Mattel, Huggies, Tommee Tippee, Smyths, Clarks – I do, after all, happen to know who is the patron saint of quality footwear – Boots, the Early Learning Centre and Disney and all those other people who I have kept going as part of my early prototype of Obama’s stimulus package.  I’ve no idea what it’s like to laugh all the way to the bank, but I’d say it’s a hoot and I’d love to give it a go.  As Bobbi Flekman told us, money talks and bullshit walks.  I have walked a lot in the last near decade.

But, no, this is not a day for regrets and recriminations.  This day, like all others, is a day for thankfulness and rejoicing.  I have learned so much from my little pension plans, oops, did I say that? Freudian slip, I of course meant children.  It’s the anniversary of the last day that I was mummy to no-one.   The last day my Present Husband and I were just two people living for ourselves.  A life-changing day.  An anniversary to celebrate.  And I will celebrate every year to come on this date.  Especially two years from now.  Because on that day it will go all the way to eleven!

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With Father’s Day fast upon us, I thought I’d suggest ways to brighten up this afterthought of a festival with some amusing japes at the expense of the father in your life.  Just because it doesn’t wrench at the heart strings like, say, Mother’s Day, or at the purse strings like Christmas, there’s no reason why you can’t brighten it up with gratuitous cruelty.

Tell him his little princess, the apple of his eye, is to be wed.  Or certainly shacked up, at a minimum.  The lucky gent is twenty years her senior, is twice-divorced, sells dodgy life assurance to the over 65s and votes Fianna Fail.  You think he’s quite the catch and a steadying influence.

Tell him your impressionable teenage son – what other kind is there? – has gone out on a bender with Wayne Rooney.

Get the kids a credit card.

Get an extra key cut for your car and give it to your eldest child.

Let him overhear a carefully orchestrated converation in which your children discuss how they are going to put you and not dad in the nice nursing home.

If you children are entering the heightened vanity of the teenage years, remind dad of all the showers they will be taking and how water charges are coming in.

Shout out “Great news, she’s ditched the life assurance guy.  He tried to stop her going on a tour with Guns ‘n’ Roses.”  Mention how you think it’s for the best.  She needs to get out more.

Disparage Munster to his sons. Or tell them stories of dad’s stag night.  Sometimes, if dad has had an especially colourful past, you can combine the two.

Leave a note next to the phone that Ryan Giggs called.  “Couldn’t quite make out what he said – something about how he was looking for your sister???”

However, in the great scheme of emotional cruetly, these are trifling acts.  If you really want to wound the father of your children in a most grievous manner – for, say, finishing off the Chocolate Rich Teas – then you have to wheel out the big guns.  It’s not pleasant but it gets results.

Tell him that college fees are coming back.  So the kids aren’t moving out after all.

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