Saturday, 30 June 2007

Tears before bedtime

I collect one of Vicky's children after school - Vicky has been delayed by a surprise giblet text and is in no fit state to drive.

We go to the playground.

"Where will you be?" texts Vicky. I tell her.

"Playground!! U poor fk. Hands still shaking but shld be able 2 drive soon."

The little girls are on bikes. On the way, Deborah sees the big brother of another schoolfriend. She waves at him with one hand and points him out with the other to the friend, unfortunately while still pedalling, and immediately keels over as if felled. The friend is so intent on watching the collision that she carries on pedalling, too - straight into Deborah. It's like a traffic pile up tribute.

The big brother, aged 15, is walking along with two of his friends on the other side of the road. To my amazement, they sprint straight over, pick up the girls, the bikes, dust all four down and await further instructions, issuing soothing words as they do so. When I explain that we will need to return home for plasters, they turn the bikes round, help the girls get back on and, with a final check to make sure we're all OK, depart.

I tell Vicky about it when she comes to collect her daughter, and tears come to my eyes. "You're not drinking enough," she says. "The only way I got through the school concert was by smuggling in alcohol in soft drinks bottles - strong Pimms masquerading as Diet Coke and white wine in a green bottle. Works every time. Then you only cry if it's something really bad."

Next day I go a performance of the St. Matthew Passion. Despite repeating "I'm an aetheist," I cry from beginning to end, so noisily that the people on either side of me find other seats after the interval. How bad is bad? Pass the meths.

Friday, 29 June 2007

Declining years

"I never believed my mother when she said she used to be lovely and tall," says the woman in the charity shop, to the shy volunteer beside her. The volunteer blushes and says nothing. She is studying her hands. They are large and red, with grime all round the edges of the nails.

"But I'm doing it too," the woman continues. "Shrinking. My niece measured me. I used to be 5' 8". Now I'm only 5' 6". Well, maybe 5' 6 1/2."

There's a pause. It's impossible not to listen.

"What I don't understand is why my trousers are still long enough. I must be concertina-ing down from the top."

Now it's impossible not to look and, despite myself, I'm gaping at her, holding a pair of easily soiled, baby blue sheepskin gloves that I'm half thinking of buying.

"Mind you," she adds, "Everybody looks tall when you're sitting down."

Now we look at ourselves.

The assistant, overcome either amusement or nerves, is stuffing alternate hands into her mouth.

"Oh, you're interested in the gloves? They fitted Susan perfectly. Go on Susan. Put them on and show the lady."

Susan reluctantly extracts a hand and reaches out for the gloves. She's succeeded in distributing the grime more evenly and her hands glisten very slightly with damp. I don't really want her to do a glass slipper thing with the gloves, but can't say no for fear of causing offence.She crams her hands into the gloves with every appearance of mortification. Her fingers bulge up under the seams. She looks briefly triumphant, then hands them back to me. They are not the gloves they once were.

"Taking those gloves?" says the woman."I would. They're a bargain. And if they look nice on Susan...."

Susan looks less than happy. Buying the gloves may be the coward's way out, but I can't bear the thought of giving offence by saying 'no' to the gloves.

"Soon," says the woman, "You'll be able to carry me round in a backpack."

Susan looks at her, and I can't wondering if she's hoping that the backpack will be attached to the back of a giant lemming on its way, full pelt, to a handy local cliff.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

No weddings, one funeral

Francis goes to a funeral. One of his college friends, unmarried, has keeled over on holiday. Well, being British, he doesn't even keel over. He just sits there being politely dead in his deck chair, paperback on his lap, cold beer on the sand beside him, until the in-coming tide laps at his feet and the can starts to bob in the water, then tilts and spills, and the deckchair man comes over to see what's wrong.

His body is repatriated. There's no wife or children, just a grieving mother, which either makes it better, or worse, depending on perspective.

It prompts, as these things do, a huge getting-together urge. Francis meets up with college friends he hasn't seen for decades. They are unlikely to meet again until the next one dies. But somehow, being with these people is terribly important. Heads have to be counted, people accounted for. It's a sort of reckoning up process, a balancing of the books that must be done before life can continue.

They all decide to go to the funeral. Francis drives four of them there. The weather is terrible and the traffic stationary. They travel thirty miles in two hours and realise they're never going to make the funeral. So they decide to hold their own ceremony at the time it's supposed to start. They park on the hard shoulder and stand in a circle, dressed in black. They try to say suitable things about him but it's not easy, with the wind, and the rain, and the traffic noise, so it tails off.

While they are doing this, a lorry driver hoots at them. "F****** Catholics," he shouts.

It's not your classic benediction, but it serves. They get back in the car, grind laboriously to the next exit, turn round, go home, stop in the nearest pub and get totally hammered. "He would have liked that," they say. Francis remembers, though, that the friend took himself terribly seriously. Already he's being remade to suit the anecdotes, re-packaged in convenient soundbite-sized packages. They say we live on after death in other people's memories. Just not with any accuracy.

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Publish and be damned. Or splifficated

An encounter between Bad Lindy and Cultured Mummy is a rare event, but one which is always keenly anticipated.

Cultured Mummy tends by inference alone - she rarely has to resort to anything as explicit as overt superiority - to occupy the moral high ground, to the point where most of us assume that if Cath Kidston ever launched a range of pastel-sprigged tents with a be-moraled motif, Cultural Mummy would have hers parked on the topmost peak, virtual steam issuing from the decorative kettle atop the solar-powered living flame effect camp fire.

If Bad Lindy were even aware that a moral highground existed, she'd be well on the way to using it as an off-road motor-yomping track for her 4x4, or having it bulldozed to improve the view.

Cultured M's name is Ra, short for Alexandra. It's not Bad Lindy's favourite type of name, combining poshness and silliness to an equal degree.Today, she arrives at Vicky's house bearing gifts for the kids and a broad smile.

"They're healthy - loads of fruit," she says to Vicky, handing a carrier bag to the eldest with a large wink.

The children disappear at top speed.

"Saw Ra today," says Bad Lindy. "Guess what she was doing?"

It's hard to know. Publically guillotining non-composting enemies of the people and having them recycled as flip-flops? Whipping up biscuits for the school fair that despite their no-fat, no-salt, no-sugar, no-gluten content are beloved by every child for miles around and sell out in minutes?

"No idea," says Vicky.

"I'll give you a clue," says Bad Lindy. "It makes her look like a complete tit."

"Almost anything, then...."

"Nordic walking."

I guess everyone's been there. The moment when the friend you admire, who knows little boutiquey places which treat you as if you're at least semi-human, reads the book as well as the reviews and can name the Iraqi Prime Minister - look, I never said my standards were that high - does something so manifestly aberrant that your friendship tilts alarmingly on its axis. Thus with Cultured Friend Ra.

"She said she was doing it in a group, it was wonderful and she'd never found exercising so painless yet effective. I said that at a distance all those waving sticks made them look like the invasion of the giant insect women from Planet Zog."

"I bet she took it as a compliment," says Vicky.

"She said she'd borrowed the poles to start with, but now she'd just had to dash out and get her own set."

"I said the only reason women bought poles was if they planned career in uphill waltzing in a club. She ignored me - but I don't think she could hear through the funny hat."

They both sigh.

"C***," they chorus together.

There's the sound of running steps and a child appears. "Mum," it says, "Lizzie's just thrown up."

Vicky looks suspiciously at Bad Lindy. "What did you give them?"

"A few Bacardi Breezers is all. Like I said when I arrived, there's virtually nothing in them except fruit. All that Vitamin C is good for them."

"You're going to come upstairs and help clean up. Then you're going to stay while I tell them what I think about drinking Bacardi Breezers."

"They're lucky," says Bad Lindy. "At their age all we had was cider. Kids. They just don't know they're born."

Judging by the sounds upstairs, not only do Vicky's kids know they're born, but they're rather wishing they weren't.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Beth blogs to the world

I get a text from Beth:

"Tilly's made my blog public for everyone and has told everyone what i said; they all hate me but i'm trying to keep on a smiley face but i'm sacred and i can't breathe."

Leaving aside the advantages of becoming sacred - at least we know God loves her - there are also a few logistical problems to sort out. Not least of which is the fact that her blog links to mine.....


While we sort this out in a way that doesn't involve me smashing her computer with a hammer just so I feel better, there might be a slight lull in blog delivery.

I think there's a lesson to be learned here - I just don't know what it is yet.

Monday, 25 June 2007

The nightmare of posh git fraud

Despite best quality government advice, distributed via subliminal messages during 'You and Yours' on Radio 4, the middle classes are persisting with their wanton alcohol consumption to the point of being flagrantly inebriated and even slightly giggly in the comfort of their own homes.

But there's worse to come. They're criminals, too. A report, delivered in hushed tones on the BBC this morning spoke of people with unmistakable long vowel sounds avoiding VAT by paying builders in cash (gasp!); being deliberately misleading with insurance claims (horrors!) and defrauding punters by being a teeny bit economical with the truth when they flog their hand me down tat at car boot sales.

It's come as a terrible shock. Society as we know it is truly on the way out. And I feel for those poor but honest builders desperate to ensure that the lovely people at Customs and Excise get their fair share of our loot - "Look, Gov, we both know that your VAT will go into giving those MPs the pension hikes they deserve. Now come on, pay up. Oh, thinking about our lovely country suffering because of that missing tax has made me all emotional. Pass me that rag, Jim, I'm welling up again."

It's all too much. I'm going to have a nice lie down with my copy of 'Scam weekly,' and a bottle of gin.

Next week: Unborn middle-class babies told to shop parents before birth or face lifetime's retraining as salt of the earth working folk whose only crime is wilful cheerfulness in the face of grinding poverty and deprivation. Special offer on clogs.

Sunday, 24 June 2007


A blue tit starts visiting the bird feeder. Maybe as the result of one encounter too many with over-enthusiastic nature programme presenters, it has lost all its head feathers but retains its distinctive, darkly piratical markings on the skin underneath. This, together with the contrasting pinky-white baldness elsewhere on its scalp, haunted dark eyes and suddenly prehistoric-looking beak, contrast with its fully-feathered body and give it an unnerving resemblance to an avian zombie escapee from Shaun of the Dead. For two days it eats with a slightly desperate relish, then disappears for good.

Butterflies that became extinct decades ago breeze back from the grave, and Eagle Owls, attracted by the hike in woodland prices, take up residence in prime greenbelt locations, sending bulk prices for small, bite-sized dogs soaring to record highs.

Bad Lindy, bored during a quiet afternoon at the vet's, slathers on the Motherpucker Lip Gloss and feels the familiar tingling as her lips inflate 'up to ten times their normal volume'. She stands by the window, making faces, and watching for potential customers. Another tit, flying past, catches sight of a particularly vicious grimace and flies into a window.

The local paper reports a surefire way to spot criminals. 'Bike thief had dodgy eyebrows that met in the middle,' it says.

Francis gets a helpful list of hints and tips from a recruitment company: "If you're not sure what to wear, pay a visit to the company's office one lunchtime and see what the people who work there are wearing. Dress a notch or two above them." He bemoans the fact that the advice arrived too late for his spa bath interview. "If only I'd had the nous to turn up in full bishop's regalia, I'm sure things would have been different," he says.

In the supermarket, Beth is spotted by a woman who claims to be from a top model agency. She takes Francis's mobile phone number and promises to call him 'so you can see I'm the real thing.' She never rings back.

Woman with troubled marriage gets closer to the edge. "Told husband how I felt, then wept like I was vomiting. Look like pig and feel like shit."

Spring. What are you watching?

Saturday, 23 June 2007

80,000 contented men. More pianos

There's been a change of direction at Megadik. After top-level talks at head office, which I assume to be a giant, piano-shaped building that dominates the skyline for miles around, the company has reluctantly concluded that its customers find laughing chicks, in or out of toilets, a worrying idea.

So instead, they've decided to play the numbers game.

'80 000 men in the entire world have already been contented by the quantity and efficacy of Megadik,' says Santos Kauffman, latest recruit to The Cause. What with counting all those contented men, it's amazing that he and his friends are able to spend so much time trying to set the world to rights for the rest of us. What a lovely man he must be.

His message also contains an oblique reference to that well-known bastion of respectability, the Green Party of Canada, though he doesn't specify whether or not they are customers. I hadn't marked them out as scoring above average on the contentment front, but I'll certainly be paying close attention to their manifestos from now on.

Above all, says Santos, we should relax. And for the housebound user, there's probably nothing to worry about, apart from the logistics of keeping a romantic evening going when, yet again, you've forgotten to go through the kitchen door sideways and got stuck. But I can see a logistical problem for anyone who likes to get out a bit.

"Nobody will know 'bout your problems," insists Santos. Turn up for the pub quiz sporting a piano-shaped protuberance, though, and they soon will.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Get ahead - get an enemy

Do you have friend overkill? Think about it. The reason we like friends is because they don't challenge our comfortable way of life. Instead, they cocoon our already woolly thinking, support our fragile egos, justify our false logic and sustain our prejudices.

Appalling over-simplification? I think not. How many of us have paid lip service to the remarkable qualities of the robust acquaintance who tells us exactly what she thinks of our morals, parenting skills or dress sense, knowing full well that two dinner parties later she’ll be quietly dropped in favour of somebody with the less challenging but more socially acceptable ability to white-lie for her country and who, if you announced that you’d deliberately just run down your husband would come up with 20 extenuating circumstances and a couple of alibis before you’d even finished wiping the blood off the bumper.

It's always nice to cuddle up with the Apologistas, their opinions as comfortable and familiar as the contours of an old sofa. “Too many people rush round like puppies wanting everyone to love them,” says one woman of my acquaintance. “You only really grow into yourself when you stop." Her solution? Attain that sought after maturity by acquiring a few enemies. "Where I come from, if you don’t like someone, you tell them,” she says.

In my view, enemies are essential. And I should know. I've got so many I could run a profitable business renting them out for weekends.

But while most men will accept with equanimity the idea that there are some people out there who can't stand them, many women shy away in horror from the notion.

Rationally, though, enemies offer a whole host of benefits. For a start, they keep you on your toes. There’s certainly no room for post-natal porridge thinking when you know somebody’s out to get you.

Find good quality enemies and you’ll spend hours analysing their characters and weaknesses in a way that is positively beneficial to the child-enfeebled brain. And, flatteringly in a perverse sort of way, you know they’ll be doing just the same for you.

The other good news is you don't need to be rich, famous or a character in an Agatha Christie murder mystery to have enemies. There are enough to go round for everyone.

And unless they hate you with sufficient venom to declare you bankrupt or root through your bins to steal your identity, enemies can provide a cost effective and engrossing hobby, offering an emotional workout equivalent to many hours of expensive therapy.

So if you’re now convinced you’d like some enemies, the next problem is where to find them, especially if you’re really, really nice and loved by old and young alike. No problem, particularly if you have children. In their innocent, charming way, kids can start an old-Testament length blood feud with just a few, well-chosen words.

I managed a six-month feud with one woman simply on the strength of my children telling hers, within earshot, that they hated them and planned to beat them to a pulp.

Another mother - Rebecca - invited an unremarkable school gate acquaintance on a long weekend, camping in the woods. The friend did not take well to the lack of routine and became increasingly tight-lipped, blaming Rebecca, initially under her breath, for introducing her children to the louche camping lifestyle of unchanged clothes, unchecked freedom and unenforced bedtimes.

On the final morning, she snapped, and a minor dispute over ownership of the maple syrup escalated into a full scale assault on Rebecca's parenting skills, or the lack of them.

A year on, and Rebecca, who still has to see her every day at the school, has come up with a cunning psychological ploy - creating conflict between the mother and her son by talking to him, instead. 'I reckon she'll be quite mad within the year,” says Rebecca, with the quiet pride of somebody who has achieved a significant life goal.

If making enemies one at a time seems too long-drawn out you can easily go for mass production, thanks to the power of modern communication.

With just one e-mail announcing my resignation from one book group and decision to form another I was able to alienate at least half a dozen people at a stroke, some requiring only a little more work to turn into long-term opponents.

So if you already have enemies, congratulations. Use them or lose them. And if you haven’t, get some. In your life right now there's somebody you don't really like. Today's the day to antagonise them with that throwaway insult that's been welling up inside you for so long.

After all, enemies may be upsetting but they're also challenging, exhilarating and do wonders for your mental powers. And with enemies like that, who, frankly, needs friends?

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Putting the psycho in Psychometric testing

Getting a job these days is a tough old business. Just being a nice sort of bloke used to be enough - girls always did badly at this bit - and not actually having a criminal record or obvious signs of hereditary madness could pretty much guarantee you a salary rise before you'd even set foot in the offices.

These days, though, you also have to prove you're a superhero.

After the initial interview comes the psychometric test which pits you against a questionnaire. It has been designed to see if you're a nutter. Your goal is to outwit it by demonstrating that you have a personality so in tune with the company ethos than you could set it to music and sing it at their annual conference. You are their mission statement made flesh, to the point where you could have been genetically engineered for the job.

You need to demonstrate all the qualities they're looking for - but in moderation.

You'll be highly ambitious, yet not so much that you plan to oust your boss in a boardroom coup. You'll have buckets of initiative when coming up with compelling new ways of selling the company products, but none at all when pay rises or bonuses pass you by. You'll be friendly and personable at all times - and especially when, three years down the line, the company goes tits up and you lose your job again. You will have a broad range of helpful hobbies. Golf and clay pigeon shooting are in. Train-spotting and sugar packet collecting - until they turn up on the corprorate events agenda - remain very much out. You should have, and ideally be able to remember, the names of your wife and children, and be devoted to them, but never in way that might undermine your commitment to The Company.

Having demonstrated that you can be all things to all men, it's time for the second interview, in which you are given twenty minutes to tell your prospective employers how you saved the world.

This is the reason Francis is huddled over his computer, putting together a Powerpoint presentation for the spa bath people. Sales haven't been going well. The car park is in a riot of green acrylic with spa baths crammed in like chickens on a battery farm, taps sawn off in case of stress-related fighting. The Spa Bath Rights movement - if there is one - must surely be planning a raid to liberate them from their cramped and inhumane conditions and rehome them with kindly owners who can offer them a bathroom of their own and a regular rub down with Cif.

Things are so bad that the company is down to its last water-linked metaphor - seeing its profits going down the drain - and is saving this for the shareholder meeting.

It's time to draw up a short-list.

In addition to Francis, selected because he knows nothing about their business but is very clean, signalling a lifetime's experience with warm water; there's another man, who wears the same posh shoes and shirts as the management team, and a third, who stops talking about the nuances of acrylics moulding only if rendered unconcious with a swift blow to the waste pipe.

To prove that Francis has got what it takes, Mr Tosser has asked him to talk about a 'product or service he has sold, with reference to 'A brief contextual overview of the market and/or business model. How you achieve competitive advantage and/or USPs. How you achieved buy-in from key stakeholders and if relevant built a team.'

I think there's more, but am overtaken by a brief, but satisfying Power Nap before I can find out what it is.

Later that day, Francis wows the management team with his account of 'How I saved the world with only a packet of microwave popcorn and my enormous sales acumen,' and is given a tour of the offices.

"So, tell me a bit about your sales team," he ventures.

"They are all Tossers," says the director.

"How lovely that you've been able to keep so many of the family involved," says Francis, and is greeted by a look of total incomprehension.

Later that day, he gets a phone call. Mr I-Love-Acrylics has been awarded the job. Francis, though not thrilled, takes it pretty well. After all, who wants to be a Tosser in the moulded acrylics business when you can be a super hero in microwave popcorn? And still be allowed to wear your pants under your tights.

"Francis," I say, as a thought strikes me, "You didn't mention the tights at the interview, did you......?"

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Pulling out the stops

Goodness but Megadik has loyal employees, prepared to sacrifice everything in their quest to prove total product efficacy. Today it's the turn of lovely Leila L. Bledsoe to tell us that she, too, is endowed with a piano-sized member.

She also adds that chicks no longer laugh at her in toilets. I fear this is because they are simply too amazed and possibly rather scared. Or she's been on too many farm open days.

Should I try to alert her? Or is she better off living in blissful ignorance?

Blissful ignorance would certainly be better than the bizarre attempts at communication I experience on a train today. Bored with the mindless predictability of commuter travel, the soft-voiced announcer is doing the journey in reverse order to the passengers.

As she ignores all the stations still to come in favour of those long since past, imploring us to mind the doors, keep our luggage close and never, but never, travel without a valid ticket, I feel increasingly that I'm with a descendant of Hal, the robot in '2001, A Space Odessey'. Summary of plot: 'Computer says no.'

When she runs out of lyrical descriptions of stations we will never see again, at least on this trip, the announcer fills her idle moments by warning us that pigeons sometimes board the train and should on no account be encouraged with gifts of money. Their guitars get stuck in the doors, too.

The sense that everyone else is living in a more exciting, parallel universe is heightened later that evening when I listen to a short story on the radio. It talks about a little courtyard, filled with dappled sunshine and shaded by..........daschunds.

Is it hearing problems, mental health problems - or just wishful thinking?

Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Emergency services

"I was just keeping the kids occupied by teaching them to belch the alphabet," says Bad Lindy. "So what's the problem?"

"The fact that you opened your car door without looking and someone drove straight into it," says Vicky, acidly.

"How was I to know there'd be some stupid car passing just as I opened the door?"

"Being parked on a road outside a school at three pm might have given you a clue," says Vicky. "What were you expecting - a convoy of marshmallows?"

As a result of the crash, Bad Lindy's car is in for extensive repairs and she has appeared on Vicky's doorstep, demanding a lift to the supermarket.

"And those texts have got to stop," says Vicky, as they drive off.

"I just can't see why you've got a problem. He's gorgeous."

"You've obviously seen more of him than I have," says Vicky. She sniffs. "Can you smell burning?" she asks.

"Not unless it's my loins. They're definitely on fire," says Bad Lindy.

They've just finished the shopping when there's an announcement. "Oh God," says Vicky. "I'm sure that's my car registration they've just read out."

She dashes outside, trailing carrier bags, to find smoke pluming from her car engine and a small crowd of sweet little old ladies who are enjoying every moment. "Take your shopping for you, love," says the sweetest and oldest-looking.

Lindy, who has been burping the harder polysyllablic letters - 'W' is always tricky -pauses mid-belch and ambles over. "Shall I call 999?" she asks and dials. There's a pause.

"Which service? Ooh - I'd like some firemen, a couple of policemen and maybe a paramedic or two - but only if they're nice-looking, of course."

"It's the emergency services, not a pizza order," says Vicky, irritably, as she attempts to smother the flames with her top-notch emergency fire-fighting kit which consists of the child's plastic raincoat, half-finished tube of Smarties and empty crisp packet she found under the passenger seat.

Twenty minutes later, everything is under control and the policeman who came to ask Vicky a few questions about her car maintenance policy has been side-tracked by Bad Lindy, who never misses the opportunity to come up against the full might of the law.

"Where's my shopping?" says Vicky, suddenly. In the distance, the kind little old lady who offered to take her bags is tottering up the steps into a bus, still smiling benignly and almost crushed by the weight of a week's worth of Vicky's Chablis.

"Arrest the old bag, officer," says Bad Lindy, pointing. "She's just nicked all the shopping. Then why not come back? I've got some great regulations we could infringe together."

"For God's sake, Lindy," says Vicky. "Haven't you had enough?"

Bad Lindy considers. "Nope," she says. "I'll order a minicab, shall I?"

Vicky gives up. "I'm going to have to wait here for the pick-up truck."

"Oil, grease and overalls," says Bad Lindy, thoughtfully. "D'you know, I think I'll wait here with you. We can pass the time by belching a few phone numbers. Let's start with '999'."

Monday, 18 June 2007

Megadik latest

Jaime says: "I took Megadik for 6 months and now my di*k is much bigger than national average piano size."

Coming soon:

I've heard of a musical ear before, but that's in a league of its own

Is that a glissando in your pocket, or are you just pleased to see me?

Do you know how to make love to a woman? No - but if you sing it, I'll pick up the tune

Is it a keyboard? Is it an Octet? No - it's Steinway Man, in seven glorious octaves.

Piano-shaped pants. The nation calls, we answer.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Asset management

Another concerned stranger, Deandra, e-mails to tell Francis and just a few million others, hand-selected by the very latest in spam technology, that she has the solution to his problems. Does he realise, she wants to know, that 'the only thing stopping you from a great job was a few letters behind your name'.

"And I bet I know what they are. 'C***' ," says Vicky, who has stopped by to trade four letter insults and share her latest underwear texts.

Her hand-me-down conquest has dropped the pants and, instead, is texting close ups of his assets on the assumption that his previous pictures will by now have reduced her to a quivering mass of nerve endings and animal instincts.

He's doomed to disappointment. Harsh lighting and limited angles has turned his bits into something that's less girl's dream than a cross between dog's giblet dinner and something off a spot the flasher set of police identification snaps.

"The left profile's not bad," says Vicky. "How do you think he photographed them, anyway?"

We can't help wondering whether Bad Lindy had a hand in it somewhere, though quite how literally is anyone's guess.

Vicky's other texts are from Dave, who, for a change, has decided to try being depressed in France. Apparently there's a sale of sharp, scary-looking knives and prices have - inevitably - been slashed. He is now wandering round the streets of Calais in the rain, sunk in misery, so well tooled up that he does an impromptu impersonation of Johnny Scissorhands everytime he reaches into his pocket for a tissue to wipe his streaming face.

"Bored shitless," is the latest message. "Am going to get drunk, catch an earlier ferry and come straight round to carry on with the decorating in your house."

"So what's he decorating?" I ask Vicky.

"That's the trouble," says Vicky. "I haven't booked him. So God knows what he's planning to do. Still, " she says, "I suppose I could always forward the giblets to him and ask how much he'd charge for some instant cosmetic reshaping - with a Stanley knife. That should give him something to think about."

PS to Bad Lindy's party favours

Though, by sad bastards, I am obviously not referring to anyone who looks at this blog. These are people quite clearly blessed with cosummate wit, wisdom, success and discernment in their reading material.

Bad Lindy's party favours

Frances, rendered miserable by another rejection, has opted for an evening pacing up and down in front of the tv and refusing to be braced by logic, optimism or alcohol. "All anyone will want to talk about is work, especially the men," he says. I know I should stay with him, radiating love and kind words, but stocks are running low, so - yes, selfishly - I decide to go to the party and beam positive thoughts telepathically to him at intervals from the cricket club where it's being held.

When I arrive, the room resembles a before scene from 'one man and his dog'. Half a dozen guests are corralled at one end and Bad Lindy is on her own at the other, throwing peanuts in the air and keeping count of how many end up down her cleavage.

"I didn't know you were that friendly with Andy and Karen," I say. She leers at me. "I'm not," she says. 'Fifty five, fifty six. Whoops. Sixty. The dry-roasted ones just fall out of your mouth, don't they?"

Bad Lindy party etiquette is always a tricky issue, akin to the Bad Fairy scene at the beginnning of Sleeping Beauty. Invite her, and she'll turn up, drink all the drink, insult the women and then end with a virtuoso display of man rustling. Don't invite her and she'll turn up, drink all the drink, insult the women, take a man into the Ladies as hostage then then disappear into the darkness with another one tucked under her arm for later, like a late night kebab.

Seeing Bad Lindy neutralised by another woman, some of the guests advance closer, like timid woodland animals. Half an hour later, Bad Lindy has them eating out of her hand. More accurately, she has a small crowd of men all trying to help her get those troublesome peanuts out of her cleavage again. Her top is still on, but the men and, judging by her desperate looks, the hostess, all know that it's only a matter of time before a particularly hard to reach peanut necessitates its removal.

"How's Francis?" says a voice beside me. It's Lionel, who is something boring in the City. I explain, briefly. "I'd love to be made redundant," he says. I look at him incredulously. "No, really," he says. "With all that time on my hands, I could do wonders for my golf handicap." He has the smug look of somebody who knows that, boring and highly paid as he is, Francis' situation is one he'll never experience.

I am consumed by rage. "Excuse me for a moment," I say. I go over to Bad Lindy. "Lionel was just talking to me about you," I say. "Reading between the lines, I think he's very attracted."

Bad Lindy's eyes light up, Terminator style. She stands up, men and peanuts dropping off her in all directions. The next thing I hear is a small, surprised squeak as Lionel, smug expression and all, is engulfed by Bad Lindy's embonpoint.

As he is dragged into a corner, wife too stunned to work out a rescue plan, I raise a glass to Francis and all the other sad bastards out there. Cheers, the lot of you.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Big in the City

Today's good news is that even if Francis doesn't get a job, there's no reason why his bits shouldn't start earning their keep.

Another lovely cyberspace well-wisher and Megadik enthusiast who has obviously heard of our plight sends me an e-mail. Confusingly, it's addressed to Fred - just to spare my blushes, I suppose.

"I've some good news for you!" it says. God knows, we could do with some.

"I suggest you buy this marvelous item. Take it and your penis will work the whole night! I've tried it and my Ann was on the cloud 9!"

Of course she was. If she owned the thing in the first place she was probably just glad to see the back of it, and must in any case be delighted by the extra money all that work is bringing in.

I have just two queries. The first: what sort of work does he have in mind? From my experience of the male member, it would have to be something that involved lots of lolling around followed by a short burst of intense activity. Perhaps some sort of night-time surveillance?

And what exactly is 'This marvellous item' ? Presumably it's a very small adapted car, like one of those Richard Scary banana cars - I suppose transport wouldn't be provided.

So if you see unattended male members wearing bowler hats and bustling self-importantly off to the nearest station as dusk falls, or getting into suggestively shaped cars, don't panic. They've taken their owner's future into their own hands and are off to be something big in the City, just doing their bit for the family budget.

I text Francis, who is off to see a headhunter about some shaving cream, to tell him the news. Strangely, he doesn't reply.

On another, altogether more tasteful note:

For an insight into life in the tartan lane, look no further than Mother at Large's blog. She's generously hosting some postings from New Town Mother, whose refreshing look on huntin', shootin', fishin', child raisin' and investment bankin', Scottish style, is well worth the trip over.

Melting warning for pregnant women

The government is at it again. Not only must pregnant women not drink, at all, but they're not allowed in the sun any more, either. Presumably in case they melt. What next, do you suppose?

Coming soon. Pregnant mothers must not laugh, in case uncontrolled guffaws send dangerously high frequency vibrations straight through Baby's vital organs.

Pregnant mothers must not dance, in case they're crap at it, thus sending the government's new Bop Manifesto spiralling into disuse before it's even been launched.

Pregnant mothers must not.... Oh, do anything, really. In fact, why don't we just cover them all with a cloth for nine months, like parrots, passing nutritionally balanced food through the bars at government-approved intervals. And for heaven's sake, don't try to cheer them up by singing, 'The sun has got his hat on,' or you'll be executed.

Meanwhile 70-year old artist and inveterate smoker David Hockney says that people 'should start standing up for themselves.' Ever tried being pregnant, Hockers? Give it go, then try that sentence again when you've finished.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Bad Lindy's pit stop

It's not that Bad Lindy isn't herself without her phone, but that she's several times more of it. God knows what the vet's practice is going through, but the waiting times are said to have declined rapidly.

While she waits for a replacement, she's trying to soothe herself in the magical world of stuff, though so far without noticeable success.

"Look at this!" she says, when I fail to avoid her in the trendy kitchen accessories shop in town. Together with the trendy nail bar, roughly hewn teak table shop and six estate agents, it's sprung up to meet the locals' emergency shopping needs which, amazingly, no longer seem to include food. On the plus side, though, nobody round here is now ever more than six feet from a French manicure.

Bad Lindy is holding up a small, baby blue enamel bucket with a wooden handle. It looks like a miniature milk-maid's accessory but is labelled 'pegs' and clearly comes from the same design stable that made the lucrative decision to appeal to all our inner domestic slaves by repackaging bleach, disinfectant and washing liquid in clear glass bottles with fancy writing on the outside

"What do they think I do - milk the bloody tree for pegs when I've done the washing?" she says, balancing the handle on the top of one, outraged finger, as bucolic a figure as Marie Antoinette on steroids.

"I take it you're not buying, then."

"Buying? I'm off to the chemists. This deodorant they sold me is hopeless. Look at my pits!" Indignantly, she lifts one arm. "I'm going to stand in the shop like this until they give me a refund."

Judging by the now deserted kitchen accessories shop, she shouldn't have to wait very long.

Later, I call Vicky, who is watching as one of her children gamely attempts to pogo through the walls of her newly constructed shed. "It's almost too much fun for one woman to bear," she says.

Bad Lindy's spare man is still sending Vicky pictures of his pants, in situ. In an interesting variation of pass the parcel, they're getting progressively briefer with each text. The most recent consists of a thong so eye-wateringly small and tight that it's just as well he's not in charge of the gift-wrapping at John Lewis, because there'd be a lot of complaints. Depending on exactly what it was you were after, of course. And we're not talking peg pails.

Monday, 11 June 2007

Bloody hell, you're drunk again

Good citizen that I am, it's always nice to know that when it comes to adopting a healthy lifestyle, I'm following official advice. So imagine my delight when I hear that our beloved government has unveiled an exciting new campaign. It's been given a typically inspirational title - something on the lines of, 'Bloody hell, you're drunk again,' and aims to prise middle-class drinkers out of their alcohol-soused homes and back into the wine bars where they belong, so they can get sozzled in company and then spend the night in the gutter with their friends.

I'm something of a sensible drinking expert, largely because I've done so much of it. Last night - a case in point - I hone my sensible drinking skills to such good purpose that I use them non-stop until closing time, by which point, unfortunately, I'm completely legless. This is a bit of a blow given that I've followed government advice to the letter.

As a result, I could really do with a secondary government campaign aimed at crap mothers and called, "You've done it this time, you dozy tart," which would consist of a list of handy tips on what happens when you wake up, drunk, at 3.00 am, and have no idea what you did with the children the night before.

Imagine my joy when I find the regulation issue of one child per bed. Then I find Francis - which is a relief, as I can't remember what I did with him, either.

The next morning at school, yet another excellent campaign idea comes to mind. As a class of twenty seven-year olds strikes up the first excruciating notes of, "Au claire de la lune," on the recorder, I could really do with a large label stapled to my head warning me that mixing wind instruments and alcohol can kill.

A few minutes later, I've proved conclusively that there is life after death. My only hope is that there's no such thing as eternity.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Well on the way to cat overload

When you’re young, eccentricity is endearing, doing your own thing a style statement. Later in life, though, things are different. Opt for individuality and it’s taken for oddness, while refusal to follow the herd is seen as the inevitable first step to lonerdom and all points south, taking in carrier bag hoarding, cat overload and shouting at complete strangers in bus queues en route.

Self-help books aren't much help. They're good at telling you how to be young and lovelorn, and positively inspired when it comes to actually being dead – covering everything from ensuring a dazzling eulogy at your funeral to obtaining probate.

But the fact that I won’t be around to read them at the crucial moment severely limits their usefulness.

No wonder the authors are at a loss. All our lives we’ve been fed images that are big on redemption and happy endings, and then we approach middle age and suddenly it’s like being cast as ‘Ugly Betty’ but without the transformation scene at the end of the series.

What worries me is how I’m going to fit in. Admittedly, fitting in has never been one of my career strengths, but then it’s never mattered before.

People like me are politely known as ‘characters’ This signals the countdown to the moment other mothers scare their badly behaved children witless by threatening to employ me as a babysitter. And there’s no convenient slot we can be squeezed into. Society, let's face it, abhors a misfit almost as much as a vacuum. For infants, the big worry is failure to thrive. For older women, it’s failure to conform.

The problem is that credible role models for older women are thin on the ground. In fact, there are just two.

Model A, the sweet little old lady version, shows no signs of being eased into decent obscurity, despite decades of honourable service as a national cliché. According to folklore she runs on knitting, cups of tea and homemade cake.

Or there's Model B, the Botox brigade, woman in denial about ageing and death and attempting to use super-strength depilatories - the modern alternative to cloves of garlic – to ward them off.

I will, no question, be to either category as Polonium 210 is to lemon drizzle cake.

Take small talk, for example. Most people don’t just accept it, but actively enjoy exploring the nuances of steam irons, say, or seasonal isobar variations.

To me, though, it’s the conversational equivalent of a near-death experience, but without the excitement of the bright lights and men in white coats. And while I haven’t given up on my one-woman crusade to introduce big, interesting life and death topics, the more controversial the better, it does mean I spend most parties deep in political analysis with the hat stand.

God knows, I've attempted to conform. For the first time in my life I recently offered to be on a committee. I wasn’t selected, though. My neighbourhood groans under the weight of so many would-be committee members that I’m convinced they’re being bred in captivity by top scientists and then released into the wild as a state-sponsored joke.

So I’ve run out of things to join, and, truth to tell, there’s little point making the effort. If sweet little old lady or Botox queen are all that’s on offer, I’d almost prefer an early death and reincarnation as a beetle, though I’d bet self-help books for invertebrates are even thinner on the ground than those for middle-aged women.

Where next? Where do eccentric women end up? Or by posting this in Blogland, have I already provided myself with the answer?

Saturday, 9 June 2007

My mouse loves me

I have a new mouse for my computer. It has a little lozenge of a light on the top, inset into a silver-framed casing. At the softest of touches, the light, which is the shape of a just-formed 'oh' of surprise, blushes with surprise. Clasp it tighter and it positively glows bright red with excitement.

What possible need can there be for an emoting mouse that acts pleased to see me? Are we so deficient in everyday emotion that we need machines to give us a top up?

There's really no rhyme or reason to it. But it's strangely addictive, and I find myself stroking the mouse from time to time, just to see it react with apparent pleasure. "You're sad," says Beth, when she catches me at it.

I'm not so sure. Perhaps it would do us good for all our fixtures and fittings to show how much they care? A chair, say, that groans with pleasure when I sit down. A bed that gives me a hug. And a table that snorts with delight when I rub it down with a wet cloth after a particularly vicious meal.

After all, if we really are all going to hell in a handcart, we might just as well make the trip there a little bit more fun.

But here's the rub. I know full well that even if L'Escoffier comes back from the dead and designs a fully emoting cooker for me, all it will ever do is shriek with laughter if I so much as wave an onion in its direction.

Back to the drawing board. Even that, I reckon, has just started to snigger.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

What I did on my training day

Take an empty gym hall, 20 smiley, enthusiastic primary school teachers and a workship on music and movement and what have you got? A recipe for hell, or, as the workshop co-ordinator would undoubtedly refer to it, "'H - E -L - L,' - and don't forget to enunciate clearly. What a great opportunity to reinforce those letter sounds, everyone!"

As we arrive at the school hosting the event, droves of little girls are emerging, the weedier ones struggling with blazers so lavishly embellished with secondary stitching that the sheer weight of the embroidery could easily pile-drive them into the ground.

Before the course begins, we get a compulsory tour of the school. The head introduces us to her all-female staff. All are blond and enormous, display a great deal of decolletage and seem to have taken the term 'foundation stage' very much to heart when it comes to make-up, never mind the curriculum.

The tour is meant to impress, with each increasingly ambitious activity - French and ballet for tinies, cookery andtailored gym sessions for everyone, prefaced by the remark, "....but I'm sure it's the same everywhere," although, judging by the increasingly stupefied looks on the faces of her audience, it quite obviously isn't. The walls are crammed with the children's work: "I like reading books with information. My favourite book is the Atlas," Aimee, 6, writes in perfect, joined up

The invitation mentions the need for comfortable clothing, which is interpreted by the guests to mean pink sparkly tops worn over leotards, tailored jackets, big, fussy belts and leather gilets with elaborate beading.

Then the course begins with the chilling words, "Make a lovely big circle and hold hands." I search for an escape route, but the door is firmly closed. We walk first to the left, then to the right, singing the words of the first song, "Mrs Bunny," during which we are encouraged to point to our noses, wiggle our toes, and show off our long, long ears. I think leaping up and down and winking with one eye comes into it somewhere as well, though by this time I am in a sort of trance of horror and unable to take in most of it in.

Next, we choose a partner and, arm in arm, perform various manoeuvres. "Very good for encouraging collaborative work!", shouts the instructor, as we hop, bump hips and then parade round for the creative part, which involves choosing what creature we want to be and then being it while going forwards,backwards and sideways, still in pairs.

Next we play air guitar ("Now's your chance, girls!") high, low, quickly and, unsurprisingly, slow. But that's not the end of it. In quick succession we also play air piano, air trumpet and air drums. "Great for sound discrimination," shouts the coordinator. But most of the teachers aren't even listening. I have a horrible feeling that this is the most fun they've had for ages, or possibly ever. While I shrink back against the wall, clinging to the climbing frame ("Great for empathising with borderline personality disorders, girls!" is the cry that should go up, but doesn't), the others are bright-eyed, red-cheeked and whooping with delight as they
career round the hall. Such is their excitement that when the moment comes to choose a leader to stand in the middle of the circle, the rush to get there first, accompanied by cries of, "ME, ME, ME!" almost results in a nasty accident.

The final part involves sitting down and playing some small drums. There aren't quite enough to go round. "If you don't have a drum, you've got a pretty good percussion instrument with your body," says the instructor, patting herself rhythmically all over. "I'll use my knees as my drums." Enthusiastically everyone else joins in.

Later on, I give one of the other teachers a lift to the station. "That was great," she says. "Sometimes you really need something like that to stop getting stale." It's a safe bet, however, that even if I grow so stale that I am covered in green mould, I will never, ever need something even remotely like that ever again.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

It's a mad, mad, macromolecular world

School reports written: 120
Number of reports praising exceptional quietness and behaviour of child who turns out to have left a term ago: One.

There are now many ways of upsetting Francis and, as Freud's my witness, I'm working my way through the the lot.

Without telling me, my brain has a clearance sale - 'Blue Cross day! Every coherent thought must go!' and ditches every tune except 'I don't like Mondays,' and 'Nine to five,' both of which course endlessly through my head. When I start humming them, Francis flinches. Increasingly he looks like a mature - and slightly balding - Saint Sebastian watching in sad acceptance of his impending martyrdom as his killers unpack their buy-one, get-one-free bumper packs of extra sharp arrows.

So what's the etiquette if we really run out of money? I've been giving money to the man selling The Big Issue outside the supermarket for years and wonder fleetingly how he'd react if we asked for a refund. Or perhaps Grace, the nine-year old we sponsor in Africa, might do a timeshare with Deborah on the skipping rope we sent her at Christmas.

Whistling, 'Tinker, tailor, soldier, job-seeker,' I let myself back into the house to discover Francis eyeing up his suits. Perhaps he wants to play offices. Well, it's got to be better than opening the wardrobe and sadly stroking the work shirts which are all ironed up with nowhere to go.

But, no. Francis has just had a phone call. Down at the company with the critical mass in its backyard, things have reached breaking point, owing to a surfeit of jargon that's formed an almost impenetrable jungle of verbiage between the management and the outside world.

Francis sits in a long meeting and listens while six men, all sporting matching sets of ear hair and a look of boffin-like anxiety, throw phrases like 'Parallel Structures', 'Computational chemistry and computer-based molecular modelling', and 'Combinatorial libraries of drug-like molecules, macromolecular and chemical databases,' at him.

When they've finished, they look at him expectantly. "So, you see the problems we're facing," says one.

"I'm terribly sorry," says Francis, "I haven't understood a single word you've been saying."

Meanwhile, Megadik is on the move again. Not only has it 'proved its superiority under other preparations for many times!' but it has, apparently, 'been announced by TV'. Now there's a thing. I wonder who they've recruited to announce it. Thinking about it, though, Andrew Marr's been looking awfully pleased with himself recently. And I'm sure I saw an unusual-looking coffee cup in the background of that series he's been presenting.

Men will drool

Bad Lindy's precious gift of a man has been averted, at least in my case, and with Dave the decorator building Vicky's garden shed very, very slowly - he's depressed this week - she does, at least, have some protection. No man, however keen, will want to risk Dave and his Stanley knife.

This worry out of the way, I am able to concentrate on the invitation we've just received. 'Dress: glam,' it says.

It's such a shame. Here I am, well versed in looking raddled, desperate, hungover or tired separately or together, all at the drop of a pelvic floor, yet people will insist on opting for the hope over experience route. I give it my best shot, though, and after some intensive work, assemble a dazzling range of looks to enchant my fellow party-goers.

Look 1:
With blusher and free range eyebrows that are bursting out in every direction to celebrate the arrival of Spring
Effect: woman embarrassed to discover that she's been attacked by a pair of long-haired woodlice.

Look 2:
With blusher and plucked eyebrows.
Effect: Woman who can now see how old she is and is very, very surprised

Look 3:
With eye liner.
Effect: Surprised woman with very small eyes

Look 4:
With mascara.
Effect: Woman who has replaced woodlice with a pack of spiders to block out view of the mirror

Look 5
With lipstick.
Woman who, thanks to the mascara, cannot see to apply lipstick, and simply looks drunk

Look 6:
With more lipstick.
Ageing woman who is trying to catch up with her lips as they slide down her face in a bid to escape from face forever and find a new home on a younger, fresher complexion

Look 7:
With all of the above and the addition of alcohol.
Ageing woman who no longer knows what she looks like. And doesn't give a damn.

I suppose I could always slather myself in Motherpucker lip gloss and go as a gigantic pout.

Men will terror.

Monday, 4 June 2007

Bad Lindy's excellent weekend

"Lindy's at it again," says Vicky, at the school gates. "Check your texts."

I do, and she's right. Bad Lindy's Motherpucker lip gloss is working overtime. The window cleaner keeps texting her pictures of his pants. Always one to share, she now has more men than she can deal with. Rather than letting them go to waste, she's parcelling up the spares and circulating them to the rest of us.

"Hi there," says my message. "You don't know me. I met your mate Lindy out the other night.....she is well sexy and a great kisser but she told me you are the sexiest person she knows and I really should get in touch with you. Is this true?"

"No," I text back. Experience has taught me that Lindy's men, once fired up, are best not ignored, and can create awkward domestic moments.

I compare texts with Vicky. Give or take the odd syntax error, hers says pretty much the same thing. We look round. Several of the other mothers are also staring at their phones with expressions ranging from horror to bemusement. Lindy has clearly had a very active weekend.

On the way home, I'm just passing Lindy's front door when it opens and there's the sound of a crash. Lindy appears in the doorway.

"My mobile phone's just exploded," she explains. "I've just been having words with India about it."

It seems likely that India is in for a national crisis. In the background, Bad Lindy's parents, both tiny, almost silent people, who are paying her a visit, sit quietly sipping their tea, smiling benignly and totally ignoring the epithets and small bits of plastic that are filling the air around them.

"Did you get my text?" asks Lindy, grinning. "I think you need a bit of pepping up."

At least, with her mobile temporarily out of action, there's limited damage she can do, I think. Wrongly. When I get home, there's another text, from Vicky this time. "Lindy has given mine my address," she says. "Watch out."

Trivialising grief

Francis suddenly starts sneezing and cannot stop. It's a late onset allergic reaction. "Hay fever," he says miserably.

I'm not so sure. I think over-exposure to head hunters may be the trigger, exacerbated by the high seasonal superlative count in the recruitment ads.

"Consummate professional," I say to him. "Results-oriented."

He sneezes more each time. There's no help for it. From now on, he's going to have to attend all interviews in an isolation suit, including ear protectors.

Just in the nick of time, I have identified another exciting career opportunity for him. I come across this ad somewhere in the further reaches of cyberspace:

'Pet bereavement counseling is individualized to meet each client's needs. Every counselor has a different approach. We use talk therapy to identify, and help you cope with, the emotional stages of grief. You may learn how to deal with insensitive individuals who trivialize your grief, a pet's terminal illness, and the difficult decision of euthanasia. We use healing tools, such a journal, planning your pet's final arrangements or funeral, and your spiritual beliefs.'

'Talk therapy' would presumably refer to the revolutionary art of speaking to somebody.

What with Bad Lindy's distinctly casual approach to dead animals (she was born to trivialise grief, and if there's ever a national 'Week of the Insensitive Individual' I suspect she'd be top choice for mascot) there's got to be a suppurating mass of undealt-with grief just waiting for Francis and his shiny case of healing tools.

"I'm not talking to people about their stupid hamsters," he says. Oh, dear. I greatly fear that Francis, too, may need to sharpen up that talk therapy before he can be let loose on a mourning public.

I go up very close to him. "Customer-facing. Strong people and networking skills," I hiss, meanly. His eyes start to stream. "You see," I say. "You should think about it."

I wonder if there's a way of combining pet loss counselling with Megadik?

Sunday, 3 June 2007

Fascinating tagging facts

I had a spider named after me at a zoo (just my first name, you understand - I hadn't discovered a new species in my back garden). She was a Mexican red-kneed bird-eating spider. She had a steady gaze and I suspect she could have drunk me under the table, but they refused to let her out for the evening so I could put it to the test

I do not have especially hairy knees, though I hope to grow a handlebar moustache for Christmas

I am the only one of my siblings not on anti-depressants. Sometimes, I wonder if it could be me who depresses them

I once piloted an airship. Briefly, somewhere over Bedford. It was fun, though.

I am around average height. But my brother is offically classified as a giant.

My father, who experienced it, wrote what is probably the only humorous account of the Holocaust. We are still trying to find a publisher

These are all the facts I can think of, but I will add some more later.

I would like to nominate Mother at Large, To Miss with Love, Debio, My Life Now, Orchidea and Wolfgrrl as tagees. And the best of luck to them. I think I also left comments for a couple of other people asking if they'd like to be tagged. If so, please, please add yourselves to the list.

Jobs latest

Nothing from the spa bath people.

Nothing from the company that's built a critical mass in its back garden and doesn't know what to do with it next.

Nothing from the hair people.

Nothing from the newly engaged biscuit 'n' chocolate companies.

Even Nigel, the desperately nice headhunter, who must now be hurting so much inside that he has to swallow a packet of Elastoplast every morning to stem the bleeding, has stopped sending his caring e-mails.

A franchise has been suggested (thanks, Debio), and I'm inclined to think Megadik might be a good bet. At least the product name is memorable and, above all, there'd be plenty of opportunities for business expansion......If you believe toilet stalker Leon, that is.

Exciting tagging facts coming soon, just as soon as I've thought of some.

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Hug your radio close and think of Dave

A few weeks after the big, macho appliances have their 'look at me' day and break down, the minor electrical life forms decide it's their turn for a hissy fit.

The ancient radio in the bathroom goes all touchy feely on us, for reasons that are unclear but may be linked to an overdose of 'Woman's Hour', 'Archers' and 'Thought for the Day' - after all,too much Radio 4 certainly alternates my currents.

It will now work only when being lovingly squeezed round the middle with both hands.
Bonding with Sony in this intimate way is emotional for both of us, but it does make washing tricky, as the second you reach for the shampoo, the radio, sensing abandonment, cuts out.

I try to draft Deborah in as an emergency radio operator - inviting her to recreate some of the sense of excitement and danger of a spy transmitting in enemy territory. 'Eeugh!' she says, in response to the idea of sharing a room with a clothes-deficit mother.

Next, the computer picks up on the war theme and decides that, as a conscientious objector, it will no longer cooperate.

The new programme that has installed itself, uninvited, insists that it’s there simply to filter out junk. Then it takes against my mother in law’s e-mails and consigns them all to an electronic dustbin somewhere in cyberspace, meanwhile giving the green light to any spam, no matter how revolting or fraudulent. While I wade through reams of information from crooks - including many of Leon's friends from Megadik - who want to empty my bank account and enlarge every organ I possess, and some I don’t, her messages go unread and unanswered.

Then the printer has an anal retentive moment, getting half way through each sheet of A4 before deciding not to share, sucking it back up into its innards, then emitting a series of small, electronic belches and the occasional shower of slightly dirty confetti.

I ring Vicky for sympathy, but she has problems of her own. Dave has called her, ostensibly to ask how the seedlings are doing, but in fact to share the plans for his impending suicide.

"You can't kill yourself," she says anxiously. "You promised you'd put up the garden shed."

"You're quite right," he says. "OK. I won't. Not yet, anyway." Perhaps if I lent him my touch-deficit radio, it would take his mind off suicide. Though a surfeit of the current Archers plot line might simply accelerate the process.

Friday, 1 June 2007

Asbestos B. Womb - my new on-line chum

Every time I start the letter to the psychologist about Leo I sound either mad or more depressed than he is, so I take a break to check my e-mails.

Today, there's one from Asbestos B. Womb - what can her parents have been thinking of at the christening? She's teamed up with a friend, the lovely Vicky C. Oscilloscope and wants me, together with just a few million other hand picked total strangers, to take advantage of a unique investment opportunity in a totally unregulated fund operated out of a sub post office in the Phillipines. She says it's tipped to 'explode'. It sounds almost too good to be true.

The only other e-mail is from another potentially good chum called Leon. He says men and women used to giggle at him in public toilets - why was he in the Ladies, anyway? - until he took Megadik. Now, he says, he laughs at them. Laughter is, as we all know, a great healer. But someone needs to have a chat with Leon about his technique. Leaping out in a women's toilet and chortling at the customers has never, as far as I know, proved a path to great sex, with or without Megadik, though it would definitely offer a quick route to a place on the Sex Offender's Register.

Meanwhile Francis has been approached by scary headhunter to go for an appropriately scary job. The salary is mega, the offices are mega, and the benefits are - needless to say - mega. In fact, the whole package exudes so much testosterone that the company probably wrings out the job descriptions after it's finished with them, turns the juice into Viagra and does a buy one, get one free deal with Megadik.

But Asbestos and Vicky must have got there first because there's a catch. The board has got together and decided that to keep it in company jets and second mansions, sales have got to double. The successful candidate will be enthusiastic, go-getting and just bubbling over with exciting ideas to add nearly one billion pounds to the bottom line.

Francis looks so deflated by the whole thing that you could probably count his testosterone levels on the fingers of one hand. He's had three days to think up exciting ideas, and all he's come up so far is either employing Bad Lindy to trap customers in a corner with her shopping trolley until they buy more, or giving away a gold bar with every purchase. "It would definitely increase sales volume," he says. "Now I've just got to work on stopping them going bankrupt in the process."