Posts Tagged ‘humor’

I’ve recently been lamenting the lack of any decent blogging fodder so I cheered up no end when presented with a little gift this morning courtesy of breakfast news: the urge to share proved irresistible.

Steve Bloom, an independent second-hand bookseller from Hawes, a tiny village in the Yorkshire Dales, hit national headlines this week because he dares to charge people 50p to browse in his shop, Bloomindales. (Get it? Bloom–in–Dales? The story gets better).

Steve generously offers to refund the browsing fee should a purchase ensue but the local parish council are up in arms because, according to various media reports, they have had twenty complaints in four years (good grief, how do they cope?) about Mr Bloom’s rudeness when customers refuse to cough up. He even called one man ‘a pain in the arse.’ Amazingly, opinion on this earth shattering news is divided. Some folk seem outraged that a nominal fee is required – haven’t they ever been to a craft fair? Here in Surrey it’s quite usual for a £10 entry fee to be charged – and there’s no refund under any circumstances, not even if you clear the knitted animal stall right out.

Now dubbed the Basil Fawlty of booksellers and the rudest shopkeeper in Britain, Mr Bloom can probably look forward to celebrity status and a long line of customers just waiting to be insulted. After all, there are now Fawlty Towers themed events which command top dollar. Why not Bloomin’ Bad-tempered Books?

Should we be expected to pay-to-browse? Mr Bloom has conceded to a sign on his door detailing his 50p eccentricity. Is it eccentric? Perhaps he’s just brilliant at marketing and all this adverse publicity will get the punters pouring in.  I do hope so.

So – what do you think? While you’re making up your mind, here’s a bit of vintage Basil to remind us all of what it is to be British. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

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Funny Shorts

No, the title doesn’t refer to the wearing of hideously patterned Bermudas: just a couple of moments that amused me recently and which I thought were worth sharing.

I was on my way to lunch with WF1 when I spotted this. Other road users must’ve thought I was some sort of mad woman as I laughed away to myself, veering off the road when I could safely park up, walk back and take a snap.

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It’s great, isn’t it? There are definitely some cases where the absence of proof reading or checking is vital to our well-being. It certainly made me feel better. Thank goodness for illiteracy.

I was obviously in frivolous frame of mind that day because not much further on I saw a homemade poster taped to a road sign advertising a
‘Massive Rug Sale‘.
And I wondered how large a rug has to be before it’s a carpet.

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I had a bizarre experience a couple of weeks ago. While visiting Mum, we decided to take a trip to the local supermarket so she could stock up on provisions. However, once we got there, Mum decided that, on account of a dodgy knee, she’d rather sit in the car while I whizzed round with her list. Which I did. In double quick time.

I decanted the shopping from trolley to conveyor belt in frenzied fashion, mindful of Mum waiting in the car on an unusually hot day, thinking of those stickers you see in windows about dogs being left in sizzling cars reasoning, well, it’s only her leg she’s having trouble with, surely she could open the door in case of emergency. But you must have experienced this type of scenario: the angst just increases with every minute…

“Do you need a bag?” asked the sales assistant.

“No thanks, I have one here,” I said breezily in my I’m saving-the-planet-single-handedly voice, smugly rummaging around for my trusty fold-up carrier. (Eco-friendly or what?)

And then, without changing tone and whilst swiping the barcode on a loaf of bread, she said, “Are you Jennifer?”

I looked at her incomprehensibly for what felt like hours but was probably a nano-second or so. She looked at me and waited. I squinted at her name badge. Tina. Ah, a clue. Tina…Tina Perkins. Tina Perkins. Yes, right, got it. I’m there, back in time aged about nine at our local primary school. Tina Perkins was in the year below me. It was all coming back to me now…

Tina and her friend Gillian spent much of their time giggling at the back of the classroom not doing as they were told. To be fair, Tina was probably led by Gillian – the only girl in a large family of feisty brothers well able to look after themselves. You definitely wouldn’t cross Gillian – it was probably a sensible move to make her your friend. Gillian had decimated Dad’s coconut shie at our school’s annual June Fair one year, being an ace shot with a wooden ball, knocking the fruits off the wobbly wooden poles. She and Tina left the stall with armfuls of the things.

Anyway, I learned that Tina had moved away for a while and lived ‘Up North’ but she returned recently to the village where some of her family are still living to discover that the place had changed substantially in the half century since we were children and it just wasn’t the same. (I didn’t say anything here, I promise). The sweet shop that we all used to make a bee-line for after school – Miss Knight’s, we called it, had closed years ago.

Miss Knight’s sweet shop could easily have been the inspiration for Roald Dahl’s ‘Grubber.’ Essentially it was the front room of her house, a stone’s throw (well, for Gillian, at least), from the school gates. Shelves were lined with huge dusty glass jars of sweets – lemon drops, fizzers, liquorice twists, fruit salads, cough candies, black jacks – you remember them, they’d be there. You’d be able to fill a little white paper bag for four-a-penny and then ruin your teeth on the walk home. There was a malevolent ginger cat who sat on Miss Knight’s makeshift counter next to her scales, scowling in a feline way at all the children waiting in line to be served. In the summer you’d be able to purchase a home-made penny lolly – iced water that Miss Knight had attached sticks to and added various shades of dubious food colouring. We’d end up with lips stained bright blue or poisonous green. Health and Safety being a thing of the future, we all managed to survive somehow.

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As I finished loading the shopping I asked Tina how on earth she had recognised me in the first place, whereupon she replied that I didn’t look any different. Which I suppose I could have taken as a huge compliment had I been comfortable with my nine year old appearance (I was often mistaken for a boy), but since she reckoned the last time she saw me I was dressed as Tufty the road-safety squirrel, I don’t think it was. Tufty – remember him? ROSPA, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents introduced Tufty and his chums as far back as 1953 to encourage children to learn how to cross a road safely and I was in costume, taking part in the village carnival.

Every year, there was a fancy dress parade for us children and this particular year, a Tufty costume (in my size, unfortunately), had become available. We borrowed it from another student who attended my swimming lessons at a nearby pool – his mother and mine had become pals in the viewing gallery while we all floundered away below with our polystyrene floats, choking on the chlorine as we attempted a width without drowning. Tina and I reminisced away, but that latest swimming pool memory had nagged something in the back of my mind.

Lordy! I’d forgotten about Mum, cooking away in my car. Much to the relief of the queues that had built up behind me, I bade Tina a hasty goodbye and hot-footed it out of there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I come from a family of collectors. When we were children my mother went through phases of collecting different things – piggy banks, china cottages, pill boxes. At the moment I have my suspicions that her assortment of teddy bears is getting larger – she can’t pass a forlorn little furry face without rescuing it from a shop shelf and bringing it home to join the others for a bit of tender loving care. Dad amassed tools. He had a workshop built onto the back of the kitchen which he filled with screwdrivers, chisels, tins of nails and tacks, hammers, saws for any eventuality, bits of wood (my sister and I were always accompanying him to the wood yard), planes, drills, attachments, cans of oil, string and goodness knows what else. Glue. He had a lot of glue.

Dad's workshop looked a little like this

Dad’s workshop looked a little like this model from Brooklands Museum in Surrey

So, as a child, I began collecting things. Shells from days at the beach; bus tickets, theatre tickets and programmes; pencils (I was always buying pencils with pocket money); Enid Blyton books; note pads and drawing paper. I hoarded them all. Imagine my excitement, at around the age of nine or ten, when someone sent me a chain letter with promises of postcards from every corner of the world. All I had to do was send a postcard from my village to the unknown person at the top of the attached list and forward the letter to six friends. Which I dutifully did and then waited with delicious anticipation for my exponential pile of postcards to arrive, once my name had moved to the top of the list. I waited and watched the doormat under the front door every day for the post to arrive. For weeks. After an eternity, three cards dropped through the letter box. Two were from England, one from Wales. And that was it. Forever. No four corners of the earth for me. It was probably this one event that triggered my long-term cynical outlook on life.

My sister and I moved onto other things. We began collecting badges: the cloth ones that could be sewn onto an anorak – rather like those earned in the Brownies or Guides but since neither of us lasted very long in that particular institution we decided to create our own sleeves of honour. These were very popular decades ago, there being no such thing as designer logo back then. We’d buy them on our holidays – woven badges depicting a county, or a particular town or historical place. This was a craze that only lasted as long as the anorak fitted. My sister went on to accumulating  wrapped sugar lumps which she stored in an old cigar box. I think that’s when I gave up and became a minimalist. My brother, in the meantime, was collecting football cards.

I did, however, accumulate a variety of pigs at one point. I made the mistake of admitting I liked them, found them misunderstood and quite cute which was like opening the floodgates for every Christmas and birthday thereafter. They ended up stuffed in a box and then farmed out to charity shops.

So I don’t think I’m really a collector of things. A collector has to be dogged; determined and should enjoy displaying (and dusting) whatever it is that’s being sought. When Son was learning the clarinet at around the age of eleven, we had to visit the home of the piano accompanist who would take him through his music exam rehearsal. Her home was full of frogs. Everywhere. Wooden, knitted, metal, fabric, macramé. On cushions, tea towels, on teacups and saucers. There were pictures on the walls of frogs and she had stone ornaments of them in various poses in her garden. This was extreme collecting. To be honest, it was creepy. She even looked a little amphibian herself. I was glad when the half hour session was over.

Is storing one’s own stories collecting, do you think? If it is, then I am still a collector of sorts. Trawling through my computer files this week, I came across this 300 flash, written some time ago in response to “Theft” – a creative writing prompt.

Mavis opened the battered leather case and stroked the faded purple velvet into which the six silver apostle spoons were nestled. They were perfect; just in need of a shine. Holding her polishing cloth in one hand, she took one of the spoons in the other and twirled it around on the cloth until the little figure shone with a soft glow as she rubbed the tarnish away. She would check the hallmark later in the little reference book Mr Hennessy had given her, after she had expressed an interest one morning, whilst wiping his mantelpiece.

Of course when Mr Hennessy died suddenly, a couple of years ago, it had come as a shock. Mavis had worked for the Hennessy’s for years but she was even more shocked when, continuing her employment, she discovered that Mrs Hennessy had no taste, preferring to display garish china dogs rather than the beautiful pieces of silver Mr Hennessy had collected over the years. She found his collection one morning, stuffed into the back of the sideboard, unloved and forgotten. She took the pieces out, polished them and arranged them on a table but the following week they were back in their cupboard and she was left to dust the loathsome Staffordshire spaniels.

The eighteenth century cow creamer came home first – it looked lovely under Mavis’ lamp in her front room. Next came the owls cruet set and the Mappin and Webb porringer; a tiny snuff box with an enamel lid (in which Mavis kept her sweeteners); an ivory handled paper knife, a pair of Victorian berry spoons and the Paul Storr coffee pot, in use every day since.  What Mavis was doing with Mr Hennessy’s collection couldn’t be classed as stealing, she told herself: it was appreciating.

What do you collect?

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I bet you’ve never really considered this, have you? I hadn’t either until the other day when I noticed that Son and I were stirring simultaneously in opposite directions. Most of you will perform this daily ritual stirring clockwise but for just around ten per cent of the population, the opposite will be true.

It will come as no surprise to friends and family that I fall into said ten per cent. I was born with a minority affliction. I am not disabled – I am left-handed and being so renders simple everyday tasks tricky.

Using a tin opener is a challenge; I have trouble with serrated bread knives (a beautiful loaf will end up with a 45 degree overhang); I can’t use a corkscrew and even getting into the house via the front door using a simple Yale key can be problematic. Everything has been manufactured by the majority for the majority but for us Lefties, the world is just the wrong way round.

Buying something as boringly necessary as an iron means I have to choose carefully and from a meagre selection – of those where the electrical cord emerges from the top of the appliance rather than the (wrong) side.

When I was a child my grandmother despaired because she couldn’t teach me to knit properly – I would train the wool ‘the other way’ around the needle.

Of course, there are left-handed alternatives for a lot of things. I wouldn’t be without my left-handed scissors for instance or my left-handed cheque book (not used quite so much these days but so simple – the perforations are on the ‘other side’ of the book) but most left-handed items tend to be flash-in-the-pan five minute gimmicks and of no use at all. The craziest thing I saw advertised last Christmas was SLOPED LINED writing paper. The lines were printed on a downhill slant to prevent ‘left-handers from smudging [their] writing.’ Give me strength! Firstly, whoever writes with a smudgeable pen these days – quill pens went out even before I was at school – and why oh why are we not teaching our left-handed pupils to do the simple thing and SLANT THE PAPER?!!

I’m astonished and irritated that so many left-handed students struggle with their handwriting. Most of them hold their pens awkwardly and/or “hook” their hands over the top of their writing in order to see what they’ve just written. Left-handed children should be guided, early on, to turn their paper so that in effect, they are virtually writing top to bottom, almost vertically. (I’ve always done this – I think I figured it out for myself because I don’t remember anyone suggesting it and my writing is at best stylish and at worst legible). Turning the paper negates bad pen holding habits and helps improve writing. No need for that uncomfortable hooking. I find it incredible that teachers don’t seem to be aware of the subtle and simple changes that could be suggested to make a left-hander’s life easier. I’m astounded that, once a seating plan has been devised, some pairs of students are knocking elbows. Never sit a left-hander on the right side of a desk facing forward: swap them round and instantly both pupils gain much more space. Obvious, you may think but there’s been many a time that I’ve had to quietly suggest a reshuffle.

Left-handers are adaptable by nature – we have to be. We are creative because we have had to be. We come at the world from a different angle. From learning to tie shoe laces to driving a car, our lives have been fraught with difficulties that right-handed people can’t even imagine. We have to put up with the negative connotations that the word ‘left’ dredges up – ‘left out’ and ‘left over;’ the French ‘gauche’ and the Latin ‘sinistra’ whereas the opposite of wrong is good old goody two-shoes Right.

I have to admit to a couple of advantages. I can surprise an opponent playing tennis if I hit the ball well because a left-hand spin sends the ball off in an unexpected direction. I feel at home driving in mainland Europe because for me, anti-clockwise around a round-a-bout holds no fear – in fact, it feels more comfortable.

Left handers are probably more ambidextrous as we have to adapt to using right-handed things. For instance, I was once offered a set of left-handed golf clubs (not that I play the real game – the most I’ve ever done is the crazy variety on holiday) but I did try them out and they felt just wrong. Interestingly, we know a right-handed person who plays with left-handed clubs. What’s going on there, I wonder?

I checked out a list of famous left-handers. Einstein, Michelangelo, Winston Churchill, Bart Simpson, Paul McCartney, David Bowie…the list was quite surprising. I seem to be in esteemed company so why should I worry. Truth is, I don’t. Just don’t ask me to slice your bread, knit you a jumper or open the wine and I’ll be fine.

 

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How’s your Christmas shopping going?

I know people (I work with them) who have bought, wrapped and labelled everything already but quite frankly that’s just not fun. What can more invoke the spirit of Christmas than panic buying, overspending, lugging heavy parcels home on a rush hour train without losing or breaking anything; feeling exhausted, flaking out at home with a cup of tea, sore feet and a crashing headache? These efficient types have no idea what they’re missing.

So I started mine this week. Having Mondays off is very useful at this time of year when weekend high streets and shopping malls resemble the frantic activity of a termite mound. We decided to make for the quieter – dare I say more select – side of town and headed off to the Kings Road in Chelsea.

However, on alighting at Sloane Square underground station I was transported back three decades to when I worked in the West End, during the conflict in Northern Ireland and a time of sustained danger from bombing or security threats which perpetually hung over our capital. As we queued to take the escalator, a piercing blast from a public address system assaulted our ears followed by an innocuous sounding message – ‘This is a staff announcement. Would Inspector Sands please go to the ticket office immediately.’ This was followed by another ear-shattering siren and the message again, repeated several times. I was up that escalator like a rat up a drainpipe.

Call me paranoid – it’s not as if Sloane Square is a big or complicated station – only two platforms with one train line passing through – where the hell could Inspector Sands have got to, to warrant such an insistent command for his presence?   This may well have been a genuine call for him to attend his ticket office – but as I shot past it on my way through the exit, said ticket office was well and truly shut. Perhaps Inspector Sands has the only key, who knows, but for me, this sounded like a coded warning to station staff that all was not well in Sloane Square and they should start checking their given areas for anything suspicious.

Back in the day, with hoax bomb calls designed to cause maximum disruption up and down Oxford and Regent Street and elsewhere, coded warnings to retail personnel were commonplace. Not wanting to cause mass panic or an exodus of shoppers unless absolutely necessary, it was the sensible way of communicating to responsible staff to check their areas, report back to a central number within a store and then for a follow up message to be broadcast alerting the workforce of the all clear. Without wanting to divulge any particular message, it doesn’t take long to work out that while one store seemed to be forever looking for a lost child answering to the same description another would be having frequent meetings with a General Manager on a nonexistent eighth floor. My lunch hours trailing round various competitors were often swiftly truncated if a tannoyed announcement interrupted my browsing.

So I hope that Sloane Square really does have an Inspector Sands. I hope my suspicions were unfounded but old habits clearly die hard. With heightened security quite rightly sweeping our cities after the appalling events in Paris it’s best to be vigilant and stay safe: but carry on.

Here’s wishing you all a peaceful run up to your festive seasons.

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When Mum isn’t playing word games with me over the internet or looking things up on Google she spends much of her time doing jigsaw puzzles – complicated ones with thousands of pieces. She has a special board onto which she builds her puzzle having painstakingly sorted out all the corners and straight bits first. She then groups similar colours into piles. Her dining-room table takes on the appearance of a military plotting map. This hobby would drive me absolutely insane but keeps her occupied for hours and provides the rest of the family with easy options when it comes to present buying.

Which I did recently…

Now, Mum likes a challenge but draws the line at those double-sided-plate-of-baked-beans affairs or pictures of wrapped sweets – the kind of puzzles pushed at Christmas in the novelty gift section. And she prefers a Gibsons puzzle – apparently superior in quality they also concentrate on landscapes or scenes with ‘plenty going on.’ So with those criteria in mind I looked for the busiest picture I could find. Perfect – a thousand piece, 19th century stately home in cross section, showing all the rooms – just like a doll’s house.

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Mum was thrilled but unfortunately her delight turned to frustration when it became clear that on near completion several pieces needed to finish off the roof just did not fit. She took it apart and tried again several times. She’s nothing if not patient, my Mum. However, it became evident after several fruitless attempts that the pieces left, although similar, were not part of this particular puzzle. She hesitated to tell me as it had been a gift but had to come clean when I asked her if she’d done it yet.

I’ll send them an email, I said, bristling.  So I did (polite, naturally), pointing out our problem. I wasn’t expecting anything really but it was worth a shot. The following day I received a reply from Gibson’s customer services, profuse with apologies and instructions for me to send various details back plus the offending pieces whereupon they would not hesitate to replace the whole puzzle. Which I did, by post. After two days, I received a letter back (yes! A letter – not an email!) assuring me that all the details I had sent were exactly what they needed, our puzzle had been ordered and would be with us within a couple of weeks.

Marvellous!

So often we receive shoddy service which, because I worked for years in a company which takes the maxim ‘the customer’s always right’ to a whole new level and who’s trading dictum is ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’ it always comes as a bit of a surprise when other companies come up trumps. Hurrah for Gibsons, I say.

I did think I’d balance up this post with tales of irritating and/or appalling service but I’ll leave that for another time. Let’s just celebrate the good for a change. Have we received the replacement puzzle, I hear you wondering. Not yet, but I’m keeping the faith.

This post forms the final fifth part of a challenge thrown down by Sherri, over at her Summerhouse.  As Sherri herself  already changed the rules of the challenge which originally was to post five pictures and five stories on consecutive days (ha! not a chance!), I have taken a much more relaxed attitude. Having to nominate someone to carry on the challenge isn’t fair but I’m pleased to say that Tracy took it upon herself to have a bash. Frankly, even though my approach has probably been far too laid-back, I’m glad it’s all over. Challenges? Pressure? In the summer holidays? Ah well, the end of those is in sight now too. Back to the coal face very soon… 

 

 

 

 

 

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