I’m Married To A Smellfungus!

Today, I discovered that I am married to a smellfungus.

Granted, it is not the most flattering word with which to describe my husband of 23 years – in fact, it’s a downright cranky one – but please believe me when I tell you that it is the only word I have come across which adequately sums him up. So what does it mean? Contrary to what you might think at first glance, the word has nothing to do with a lack of personal hygiene. Perhaps when I tell you that prior to discovering this word, I often called him Victor Meldrew, you may start to get the idea.

In 1764, the author, Laurence Sterne, met another author by the name of Tobias Smollett. Sterne was struck by the hypercritical way in which Smollett spoke about the places he had visited. When Sterne published his book entitled “Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy”, he included a character which satirized Smollett. The character’s name was “Smellfungus”. Thus, although the word has now fallen into decline, the word smellfungus is used to describe someone who finds fault with, and moans about, everything. This, dear reader, is my husband.

I wasn’t always married to a smellfungus. At least, I don’t think I was. True, if something wasn’t right with a service or a product, he would never let it go by unchallenged, but he was always fun and up for an adventure. Nowadays though, the only thing he is up for is moaning and criticizing everything. There are times when I feel truly depleted by it all. Honestly, it really is like living with Victor Meldrew.

A quick meal at Burger King turns into a diatribe on how the burger doesn’t look like the picture on the menu, how “the company has got it made. They make shit food, charge a fortune for it, and then expect us to clean up after ourselves”, and the Fanta orange that he’s asked for is “too fizzy.” A mundane trip to the bank does not escape either, for “why they have to have their cash machine around the corner, rather than on the front wall, is beyond me.” Back at home, he’ll sit through an entire episode of some TV program he hates, commenting and complaining about it all the way through. It’s like watching TV with a cantankerous narrator for the visually impaired. There are other examples, but I shan’t list them just now on account of the fact that it is currently 12:41 pm and I have been invited out for Sunday lunch at 3 pm.

With all this is mind, imagine my laughter when, after he was politely asked by a casual acquaintance how he was doing, he replied – without so much as a hint of irony – “Oh, I can’t complain.” Really? You could’ve fooled me! Why else would I have bought you this mug?

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There Are No Happy Endings

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a piece about my Auntie Joan, who was being moved into a nursing home as she was suffering from Alzheimer’s. I had hoped to visit her again soon, but, as often happens, fate had other plans. 

Sadly, Joan had a fall before she could be moved into the home. She broke her hip, and despite the heroic efforts of the medical staff, she never recovered. Auntie Joan passed away on Saturday evening, gone to join her husband, Norman, the love of her life and who she missed so terribly. 

I  find I can best express my emotion through writing. If I do not give voice to the thoughts in my head, if I try to stifle them in any way, I find they only get louder. Today is no exception. So this poem, “There Are No Happy Endings”, is written for Auntie Joan, a woman who was beautiful, funny, witty and wise and who will be sadly missed. 

 

Every thought was a battle,

Every breath was a war.

Your eyes reflected a soul

That just couldn’t fight any more.

I stroked your face

And held your hand,

While I did my best

To understand,

How someone once

So witty and wise

Could so slowly fade

Before my eyes.

You saw me crying

But didn’t see

That my tears were filled

With what you meant to me.

In the timelessness of your sleeping

Death took you gently by the hand

And walked with you into a world

By kindly angels manned.

Life has no happy endings.

Endings are the saddest part,

But at least I can smile while knowing,

That you’re tucked safely in my heart.

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Auntie Joan

This morning I received a call telling me that it had been decided that my Auntie Joan – who is 79 and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease a year or so ago – will be moved into a nursing home.

It was a sad call to take, not least because I vividly remember just how bright and vibrant Joan was. She was witty, funny and sharp as a tack. Her mental agility was second to none, and her warmth and vitality made everyone feel at home in her presence. Alas, all that is no more.

Today she recognises no one, not even photos of her late husband, Norman, to whom she was devoted and loved so much, and for whom she grieved so deeply after he lost his long battle with cancer. Her daughter, who tried her hardest to care for Joan at home, is lost to her. She no longer sees the face of her daughter, but rather just a face in the crowd.

The last time I saw Auntie Joan was a couple of months ago. She had had to go into hospital for a routine procedure and so taking advantage of the fact that I was in the UK visiting family, I went to see her. She sat up in bed, oblivious to my presence, as I looked at her and smiled at the hundreds of memories that flashed through my mind. Like the time I met up with her in Amsterdam. She was there on a day trip and seeing as the city is just an hour and a half drive from my home, I thought it would be lovely to catch up. When I met her, she seemed more giggly than usual and was finding hilarity in what, to me at least, was rather mundane. After a little bit of coaxing, my 75-year-old Auntie Joan told me that she had felt a bit peckish and had bought two large Brownies from a coffee shop. Suddenly, everything clicked into place, especially when she pointed out the coffee shop. I couldn’t help but laugh, for it was not an ordinary coffee shop that she had visited, and the Brownies she had consumed were not ordinary Brownies at all – they were in fact large pieces of Space Cake!

She wasn’t the least bit bothered when I told her. On the contrary in fact. To her it was wonderful. An experience she had never had before. So, for a couple of hours, Auntie Joan and I wandered around Amsterdam, me holding onto her arm for fear she might take a tumble, and her doing her best to keep a lid on her giggles. This she managed to do…at least until a young guy stopped us and asked us if we knew what time it was. Auntie Joan blurted out “Time you got yourself a watch, laddie!” and then proceeded to laugh so much I thought she might wet herself.

So vivid was this memory that I took her hand in mine and started to giggle. Joan turned to me, a vacant look of nonrecognition in her eyes. Nevertheless, she squeezed my hand and smiled, and said “You seem happy. It’s nice to be happy.” before looking away and disappearing back into her own world.

I’m due to go back to the UK in a couple of months, and I’ll be sure to stop by the new nursing home and visit Auntie Joan. I’ll sit and hold her hand and reminisce about all the times we’ve talked and laughed and cried together. I don’t mind that she doesn’t know who I am…because I know full well who she is. And that’s all that matters.

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The Police Station Dance

It’s been something of a surreal sort of day, not least because I found myself having to go to the police station to give a statement as a witness to a road rage incident.

The incident in question involved a man and a woman, each in separate cars. The woman (who I actually thought was a man until she had occasion to step out of the car) was tailgating the man for quite a way, as well as hanging back before speeding up behind him so quickly that she almost touched his rear bumper. Generally, she was driving quite erratically. I was in the next lane to these two cars, and once or twice, I glanced over to see the man looking in his rear view mirror and gesticulating in a kind of “What the hell are you playing at?” kind of way.

At a particular point in the road, these two lanes become one, and I found myself falling in behind the woman’s car. From this position I could see that she was all over the place, her driving so bizarre and erratic that I thought she was either high on drugs or drink. Ahead of us, a bus had stopped on the opposite side of the road and cars travelling in the opposite direction were drifting over onto our side of the road as they navigated their way around the bus. Naturally, seeing the oncoming traffic, the man slowed down almost to a halt. The woman, however, was travelling so fast that she had to slam on the brakes so hard that her tyres screeched. She avoided slamming into the back of the man’s car…but only just. At this point, the man leaned out of his window, looked back and shouted something at the woman behind him. I, meanwhile, was shaking my head, wondering what on earth could be wrong with her.

The road ahead was now clear again, and so we continued along until we came to a zebra crossing. Here, two teenagers, as well as a lady with a baby in a pushchair, were waiting to cross. The male driver stopped at the crossing and the two teenagers began to cross. The female driver, however, did not stop. She came up at speed behind the male driver, swerved around him without slowing down and sped across the zebra crossing, causing one of the two teenagers to jump backwards slightly to avoid being hit. More than anything, this shook me up, primarily because of what could have happened. If the lady with the baby in the pushchair had been crossing first, the woman’s car would have slammed straight into the baby. The female driver neither stopped nor gave any indication that she had done anything wrong. She merely sped off into the distance. I was now able to pull up behind the male driver, who was now leaning through his window, talking to the two teenagers and checking if they were both OK. After assuring that they were, he pulled away and we continued down the road.

A little while later, I was still travelling behind the male driver, and we came to a particularly busy section of road. Here the road splits into three lanes, with traffic lights placed every three hundred meters or so for a couple of miles. Consequently, the traffic is often horrendously backed up. Today was no exception, and as we moved onto this section of road, I moved into the left hand lane. As I did so, I saw – just slightly ahead of the male driver in the middle lane- the car driven by the bizarre, erratic female. Due to the position of the traffic, the male driver was now in the right hand lane, right next to the female driver. I saw him wind down his window and gesture for her to put her window down. Being the nosy parker that I am, I put my window down a little to try and hear what was said. I heard him say “You nearly went into the back of me a couple of times and then you nearly hit two people on the crossing! What the f**k were you doing?” The woman then got out of her car (I now saw, to my amazement, that it was a woman) and stormed around the back of her car. Seeing this, the male driver got out of his car. The woman was going nuts, screaming various obscenities at him, most of which involved telling him to go and fornicate with himself, or to go and see who was fornicating with his wife.

At this juncture, the man shouted “I’m calling the police because you’re either drunk or high, you f***ing nutter!” In response, the woman launched two kung-fu-style kicks to the side of the man’s car, leaving a couple of sizable dents in the bodywork. Then, seeing that the lights were on green and the traffic was now moving, she ran back around her own car, got in and drove off. Fortunately, I had had the presence of mind to jot down her number plate before disappeared into the distance.

The police were called and I told the male driver – who I later found out was an Australian called Daniel who had lived here in Belgium since he was four years old – that I would happily stand as a witness. When the police arrived, the gave me a choice of either going to the police station in a couple of days to give a statement, or going practically straight away. I decided, since I was not in a rush to be anywhere and while the events were still fresh in my mind, to go there and then.

Fast forward an hour and a half. I am at the local police station and I have just given my statement as to what I saw. The officer I had been speaking to – who was actually the station’s Deputy Chief Inspector – thanked me for my time, told me that due to the various loopholes and vagaries of Belgian law it would be a some months until I heard anything  and pointed the way for me to go out, before saying, “Oh, and you’ll have to dance in front of the door if you want it to open.”

“What?” I asked, thinking I must have misheard.

“You’ll have to dance in front of the door. It’s an automatic door and the sensor doesn’t work properly so you have to kind of dance in front of it, otherwise it won’t open.”

“Oh, OK.” I giggled, more out of self-consciousness than anything else. Did she really, genuinely expect me to dance in front of the door of a police station?

Well, yes. She did. At the doors, I moved from side to side and waved my arms in the air. Nothing happened. I did it again, this time a little more exaggerated. Still nothing. Then the same Deputy Chief Inspector appeared and said, “Here. Let me.” She then walked around me, ran up to the door from the side and did a star jump. I’m serious. The Deputy Chief Inspector of Police did a star jump in front of the door. The clunked and swung open.

By now I was struggling to stop myself becoming a giggling mess, and I was still giggling as I exited onto the street. When I awoke this morning, of all the things I could have possibly considered myself doing, dancing in front of a police station door certainly wasn’t high on the list!

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Rear View Mirror (Short Story)

I don’t like to drive alone at night. There’s something about being in a car alone, with nothing but darkness all around that gives me a sense of uneasiness. I get the same uneasiness when I switch off the light on my landing at night and then have to walk the few paces to my bedroom. I’m always convinced that I can sense someone behind me; that I will, at any second, feel a disembodied hand on my shoulder, or turn to see a face looming impossibly out at me from the gloom. Only when I have reached the sanctuary of my room and flicked on the small table lamp, do I feel safe. It’s OK by me if you laugh. I laugh at it too sometimes, chalking it up to either an overactive imagination or the fact that I read too many horror stories.

Still, in spite of the fact that I don’t like driving at night, it’s one of the things that, on occasion, I find myself having to do.

One such occasion was just before Christmas, 1991. It was a little before midnight and I was driving home from a friend’s party. The road was completely empty and the only sounds were the dulcet tones of Cyndi Lauper’s I Drove All Night filtering out from the radio, and the rhythmic, hollow drone of the tyres on the road. Once or twice I glanced up into the rear view mirror. There was nothing behind me, save for the disappearing expanse of tarmac and darkness.

I should probably state at this point that in spite of the fact that I was travelling back from a Christmas party, I had not been drinking. A recent throat infection, followed by a course of strong antibiotics, had seen to that. I mention it purely to reinforce in your minds the fact that I was stone cold sober, and that what happened next could not have been the product of an alcohol-addled imagination.

About five miles or so from home, the road begins to wend and weave its way through a densely forested area known as Mantus Woods. Naturally, here at night there is no light whatsoever. Even on a clear night with a full moon, the woodland canopy is so dense that barely a trace of moonlight penetrates through. With the car headlights illuminating the road ahead, I turned up the volume on the radio just as Nancy Sinatra’s Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down) filtered through the airwaves. Now apologies to fans of hers, but I absolutely loathe that song with a passion (nothing to do with good ole Nancy, but rather the memory of where I was when I first heard it) and so I turned the dial on the radio to find another station. Strangely, I couldn’t get one. No matter the frequency I chose, all I could hear was staticMust be because of the coverage of trees I thought to myself.

Rounding a bend in the road, suddenly, there was a loud thud! and the car jumped and skidded a little. Not badly, but enough to make my heart feel like it was going to pound right out of my chest, and for my hands to tremble on the wheel.

“What the hell was that?” I said out loud and to myself.

Thinking that I must surely have hit something – some poor deer or another animal of some kind – I looked up into the rear view mirror.

I could see nothing. And by nothing, I mean, nothing. Not even the road. There was nothing behind me except an all-pervading blackness. The sooner I was out of these woods, the better, for I was beginning to get more than a little creeped out.

Attempting to soothe my jangled nerves, I once again reached for the radio dial. Surely I must be able to get a station by now. Just as I looked to see which frequency I was on, a car overtook me. By the wide corridor of light that stretched out in front of it, I could tell that it had its headlights on high beam. Not only that, but the interior light was on too, and the driver was fumbling around, trying to hold a map on the steering wheel.

What on earth is going on? Not ten seconds ago, that car was not there. Of that I am as certain as I am of the fact that I am sitting here, writing this tale, so that all may know of it. It was not there when I heard the thud. Nor was it there when I looked in the mirror to see what I thought I may have hit. How the hell can a car appear out of nowhere?

The car stayed ahead of me until the road exited Mantus Woods and we came to a crossroads. Here it turned left, taking the road that leads into town. Hardly a ghost car then. Still puzzled, and, I don’t mind admitting, a little shaken up by the night’s events, I headed straight on and made it home without further incident. I parked my car in my garage, headed to my front door and then up to bed. I’m sure you will understand when I tell you that that night, I slept with the landing light on.

The next morning I headed down to get some things from my car. As I opened the garage door, I was immediately struck by what I saw. On both the left and right hand sides of the car at the rear were three short scratches that tapered off into three, quite deep, indents. The marks were curious – not only because I know for a fact that they were not there when I got into my car to go home after the party – but also because of how they looked. They did not look like the kind of marks which come from normal bumps and scrapes. In fact, they didn’t look like anything I had ever seen before. Then, the more I looked, the more I came to a terrifying conclusion. These weren’t just scratches. They were claw marks!

Just like pressing rewind on a movie, my mind began scrolling back through the previous night’s events. The static on the radio. The thud. The blackness behind me. The car appearing seemingly from nowhere. And then…there it was. The awful, sickening, horrifying realisation of what had happened.

I had rounded the bend first and so was oblivious to the fact that another car had pulled onto the the straight stretch road where I had just been. The car had then been behind me from the moment I heard the thud. So why hadn’t I seen it? Because something – something that could interfere with my radio signal, was as wide as my car and as black as the night – had been clinging to the back of my car, blocking the window. When I had looked up through the rear view mirror, what I thought was the darkness was actually….

…..I don’t know. I couldn’t be sure.

All I could be sure of was that I had inadvertently brought it home with me.

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Agendas and Cougars

The Harvey Weinstein case has once again thrust the thorny issue of female sexual harassment firmly into the spotlight. The hashtag #MeToo is currently trending worldwide, as women everywhere share their stories of harassment and unwanted sexual advances.

I used the hashtag last night on Twitter, as I recalled the moment a few years ago when, while walking through the city centre with some friends, a group of guys came walking in the opposite direction. As they passed us, one of the guys – a total stranger to me – slapped my arse. He did it so hard that it left a red mark on my skin through my clothes. What I didn’t say on Twitter last night was what my reaction was. I don’t know whether it was through shock or pure anger, but I spun around and stormed after him. I had no idea what I was going to do when I got to him – and neither did my friends, which is probably why they all grabbed my arm and pulled me back. To this day though, I can distinctly recall the look on his face as I turned and went after him. It was a look of shock, mixed with a tinge of fear. Looking back, I don’t suppose he knew what I planned to do either; but I also had the impression that he had never had such a reaction before. Maybe he’d never done it before. Maybe it was a dare, or he wanted to look cool to his friends. Whatever the reason why he did what he did, I hope I sowed some seed of reflection in his mind, that that is not the way respectful people behave and that women too have rushes of adrenaline when attacked.

Not long after I tweeted, I had a conversation with a guy who I know only through Twitter. We chatted about how everyone likes to think they look nice, that they are desirable even, and whether if, as a woman, you put on your make up and got dressed in a way that was flattering to your figure so that when you looked in the mirror you liked what you saw and felt quite sexy … what if when you went out, no man – or woman for that matter – payed a blind bit of notice to you? Not even an admiring look. As I said to my Twitter friend, I’m not saying I am some kind of hottie, but I think I would feel a little deflated. Purely because it’s a boost to the esteem, a kind of third-party validation that we are attractive. As I said, doesn’t everyone want to feel attractive?

Our conversation drew a hypothetical, but firm, line in the sand that it is not OK to put your hands on someone uninvited. He said that he had had his arse slapped and pinched on occasion, to which I responded with that I don’t think that is acceptable. I don’t think anyone has a right to touch someone else without permission, whether that person is a man or a woman. I’m not talking about brushing past someone or touching someone on the arm to get their attention that you want to get past them, but even the fact that I feel compelled to clarify such a statement, shows how muddied the waters have become.

We then talked about muddled and double standards. I know, you’ve heard of double standards, but what on earth are muddled standards, I hear you ask. Let me give you an example. I am not big breasted. However, if I were, and I enjoyed wearing low cut tops which showed off my ample bosom – my décolletage as the French say (why is it that everything sounds so much nicer in French?)  – would I have a right to be annoyed if people, specifically men, looked at what I was choosing to show off? Again, I’m not talking about touching … but looking? We all know when someone is attractive. A woman knows if another woman is attractive in just the same way that a man knows if another man is attractive (I could go on to why society deems it acceptable for a woman to say “She’s pretty” but if a guy says “He’s a good looking guy” suddenly he’s labelled as gay, but that’s for another post). And surely, when we think someone, or a feature of someone, is attractive, we look, don’t we?

Moving on to double standards, I do feel that it is here that we women especially, aren’t being entirely honest, nor fair for that matter. For the purposes of demonstration, I will point this example squarely at the ladies reading this.

Let’s just suppose that your boyfriend or husband went on a stag night, and during the stag night, he and his friends ended up at a strip club. Your boyfriend/husband and his boozy mates chose to spend a good hour or two watching young, sexy women take all their clothes off for them. Would you be annoyed or offended? Now ladies, let’s suppose that you and your friends are on a hen night. Part of the night involves going to watch male strippers. You and your prosecco-soaked friends spend a good hour watching young, sexy men take all their clothes off for you. They even thrust you up on the stage to pour baby oil on one of them. Would you say your husband or boyfriend should be annoyed or offended? Or would you say it’s just a bit of harmless fun? Depending on your answers, therein lies the double standards.

The same double standards apply when we women get offended if a guy catcalls or wolf-whistles at us, but yet we think nothing of rating Tom Hardy’s arse out of 10. My point is that at some point, both sexes indulge in objectifying behaviour, but society has got to a point where somehow a woman objectifying a man is harmless fun, but turn the tables and suddenly it’s sexual harassment.

It’s a complex situation, and yes, I’ve seen women who are physically uncomfortable with a guy’s attention and they are either too scared or too polite to say anything, or the guy is either oblivious or simply chooses not to see it. I’ve seen men too, trying to extricate themselves from the attentions of a woman, without hurting her feelings and running the risk of having her take her revenge by saying he attacked her. There will always be grey areas and everyone will undoubtedly have their own perceptions of where the line in the sand of acceptability is.

In case this post is in some way misconstrued, let me be perfectly clear. When it comes to sexual harassment or any kind of sexual assault, I say this:

Whether you are male or female, straight, gay, bi, transgender or just damn well undecided, if someone sexually assaults you it is NEVER your fault. Report it. Every time. Push for heavier sentences. Make the predators the pariahs of of society.

And to the predators who think such casual degradation is all part of “having a laugh”, I say: Stop being a dick, and think about how you would feel if someone did that to your wife/mother/sister/daughter/son/brother.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to live in a society where a man is scared to even speak to me for fear that something he says, or some innocent gesture he may make, may leave him vulnerable to a charge of sexual harassment. Then again, I don’t want to live in a society where a woman is scared to be approached by a man for fear that he may be one of the sleazy f***ers who won’t take no for an answer.

For sure, there are men who have an agenda and think “I like that, and I’m gonna take it”, but by the same token, there are cougars out there who just want what they want! Maybe if the agendas and the cougars could just get together, we’d all be happier.

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We’ve Got To Stop Raising Misogynists

A wonderful, strong piece of writing. The language may be a little choice for some, but the sentiment rings through loud and clear.

Opinions Are Like Orgasms

As my bleary eyes adjusted to the light emanating from my phone screen this morning, I peered through the steam rising from my coffee to read one of the most sickening, misogynistic stories that it has been my misfortune to read since that tiny-handed Neanderthal currently occupying the White House, announced to the world that he could “grab ’em by the pussy.”

Sophie Stephenson, a 24-year-old bar supervisor from Stoke, UK, had a holiday romance with 21-year-old Jesse Mateman from Amsterdam. The two of them slept together while on holiday in Barcelona and kept in daily contact when they arrived home. However, when Sophie spent £350 flying to Amsterdam to see Jesse again and rekindle the romance they had shared in Spain, not only did he leave her stranded at the airport, he sent her a text saying “You were pigged *two pig emojis* It was all a joke…

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The Coincidence of Men

I don’t mind telling you that today hasn’t been a great day.

In spite of the fact that the morning weather was a damp and misty 12°C, I woke up in full hot flash mode (for those of you who may have missed it, here’s A Busy Old Time, which details Mother Nature’s attempt to drive me completely round the bend with the perimenopause). Throwing off the covers, I ran to the bathroom to swill my face with cold water. Catching sight of myself in the mirror, I gasped. It was not me who gazed back at me, but some sleep deprived 40-year-old whose face was a shade of red that a freshly boiled lobster would envy. I swilled my face, more in the hope that I might wash away Little Miss Lobster Face than to actually cool down, and then jumped in the shower. Just as I was basking in the feel of the cool water running down my body, my husband popped his head around the shower curtain and asked if he should make the coffee. This was really nice and thoughtful of him, and I was about to award him a whole host of Brownie points, when he followed up with, “What are you blushing for? It’s only me!” The look on my face must have made him realise what he’d said and he made a hasty exit to go and make the coffee.

Suitably refreshed, I managed to have breakfast without incident and then set off to run some errands and do a spot of shopping. And then the mood swings decided to make an appearance. They first made themselves known in the supermarket, and initially took the form of road rage. Road rage in a supermarket! I know, right! Yet how else would you describe it when, upon seeing a guy straddling the middle of the aisle with his shopping cart while with furrowed brow he eyes the row of tinned peas and beans as if they were some complex mathematical puzzle, you hear your voice say “Pick a lane, dickhead!” as you push his shopping cart out of the way with your own.

Road rage was quickly followed by an anxiety attack which saw me shaking and sweating as I put my items on checkout conveyor belt. As I headed for the door, I was convinced that security were going to come after me, if not for the incident with the bewildered man in the peas and beans aisle, then because I must surely have looked as if I was trying to hide something. Making it to the car, I threw my items into the boot and then sat in the car for what seemed like an age, just sobbing and feeling that if it was possible to merge a hot mess and a complete failure, you would come up with me at that exact moment.

A little while later, I had a stern word with myself and told myself to calm down and pull myself together. I fished around in the glove box and found a tissue, blew my nose and looked in the mirror. It was then that I realised that my husband had previously used the tissue to wipe his oily hands, and I now had a black oily smear across my nose. A wave of anger washed over me, followed almost immediately by an uncontrollable fit of giggles at the thought that it was fortunate I hadn’t wiped my eyes with the tissue, as I would have ended up looking like Chi Chi the Giant Panda!

Back at home, I found a note left by my husband, asking me to call a zinc plating firm and to find out some info on the procedure and how much it would cost for him to have some of his motorbike parts plated (he restores classic motorbikes and he had a load of nuts and bolts ready to be plated). I duly called the company and found myself speaking to the most unhelpful man I have ever had the misfortune to speak to. Not only did he give me three different prices in the space of two sentences, but he also told me that he – and I quote – “couldn’t guarantee that the parts would come out right” and that he “couldn’t guarantee that they wouldn’t lose anything”. When I responded with “So you can’t guarantee that anyone at your company is professional and knows what they’re doing?” he hung up on me.

I am now venting my spleen to you, my dear readers, whilst simultaneously drinking a calming cup of chamomile tea. As I do so, a thought has just occurred to me. Today has been full of run-ins with men – my husband this morning, the poor guy in the supermarket and the idiot on the phone. Combine this with menopause, mental stress and indeed, menstruation, and I can’t help but wonder whether it’s just a coincidence that a great many of women’s problems start with “men”?

I think I need more chamomile tea!

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I Am A Camera

“I am a camera with its shutter open, quite passive, recording, not thinking.”

This opening line of Christopher Isherwood’s novel, “Goodbye To Berlin”, always makes me think of how we should view life from the analogy of a camera. We should focus on the things we love and allow other trivialities to fade into the background. Capture the good times, the fun times, and the great times, but don’t neglect the sad times; it all goes into the final montage. Let yourself develop from the negatives and use them to hone your life skills. And, just like a camera, if you get things wrong…just take another shot!

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The Greatest Dad On The Planet

I think I have a very good reason for saying that my Dad is the greatest dad on the planet. Actually, I have several very good reasons.

For one thing, he’s never failed to support me. No matter what I’ve ever said I wanted to do, he always told me I could do it. When, at age 7, I said that I wanted to be a mechanic or an engineer, he gave me an old radio to take apart and reassemble as practice. The fact that it didn’t go very well and after putting it back together I had four parts left over, is neither here nor there! And when I said that I wanted to be a nurse, he told me I could easily do that, but that I would have to make sure that I studied hard. Even when I said that I wanted to be an actor, he didn’t laugh or scoff. He just told me that if that’s what I wanted then I should go for it, but to make sure that I studied hard so that I had something to fall back on.

Another reason why he’s the greatest dad, is that he adores my Mum. He always gives her a hug and a kiss goodnight, even after almost 60 years of marriage, and has openly said that he would be totally lost without her. *cue a mass exclamation of “Aaawwww!”*

He’s also hilariously funny and never fails to make me laugh, often at the most unexpected times. One such occasion was a few months ago when he and I went into town together. We had done a lot of shopping and although the weather was fine, it was beginning to get cold, so we decided to head for home. Rather than getting the bus, we thought that we would walk the short distance to the local taxi office. Once there, we ordered a taxi and the lady on the switchboard told us it would just be a few minutes. We therefore took a seat and waited.

Not long after, a man who was quite obviously drunk, came in and sat down next to us. Despite my best efforts to ignore him, he promptly tried to engage me in conversation. I was as polite and civil as I could be, and successfully parried his pointless inquiries with monosyllabic replies. When he asked if he could tell me something and went on to say, “You are so beautiful. I really mean that. God, you’re beautiful.” I smiled politely and thanked him. He then followed up with, “What’s your name?”

“Eleanor” I replied.

“Well, Eleanor, you are so beautiful.” he said…again.

“Thank you,” I said…again, and then gesturing to my Dad, said “And this is my Dad, William.” I was rather hoping that introducing my dad would prompt him to shut up, but I was wrong.

He leaned across me and shook my Dad’s hand, before saying, “Are you a pit man?”

My Dad shook his head. “No,” he said, “I was a production engineer.”

“And this is your daughter?” asked the guy.

“Yes. My youngest daughter.” answered my Dad.

“How many daughters have you got?”

“Five”

At this point, I knew my Dad was building up to something, primarily because I know full well that I don’t have four sisters! I knew that I would have to try hard not to laugh.

“Five daughters?” said the guy.

“Yep,” my Dad nodded, “And four sons.”

I bit my lip. I have two sisters and one brother, so the fact that my Dad was spinning a drunken stranger a yarn that he had five daughters and four sons, was amusing to say the least. As for the guy, he was now wide-eyed. I, meanwhile, was eagerly awaiting the punchline.

“Five daughters and four sons?” said the guy.

“Yep,” my Dad nodded again, “I was a very productive production engineer.”

Bingo! How I managed not to laugh out loud, I have no idea, especially when I saw that they guy was none the wiser to my Dad’s tall tale and had bought the whole thing hook, line and sinker!

A moment later and the conversation threatened to take a surreal turn as the guy asked us both what we liked and didn’t like. Fortunately, the moment the question left his lips, the lady on the switchboard told him that his taxi was outside and he promptly got up and left. I say fortunately, because he didn’t hear my Dad’s reply to his question.

“Likes and dislikes. Well, I’m not keen on drunken men trying to chat up my daughter.”

My Dad really is the greatest dad on the planet…and I love him more than words could ever say!

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