Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Us Brits are not supposed to be jolly about Nap Bonaparte - we are better trained, when hearing his name, to suck air through our lips as though sucking lemon and assume a disapproving face.  But he is credited with a lot of terribly clever quotations.  And one I came across recently suggested that if someone attacked you, the only fair thing to do is fight back.

Hmm.  I LIKE that, you know.

Anyone who knows the mad lines in which we have recently lived will also know I have not been adept at this fighting back thing; more at Turning T'other Cheek until my head spins on its axis. However.  However.  Someone told me recently (and I KNOW this is dodgy ground, this "she said that she said" thing that goes on, but even so, bear with me...) that it had been suggested that I "never got anything finished". Because I am "disorganised".

Pause for growling yowl of anger.

I am perhaps more paranoid than is normal, having been at the receiving end of accusatory rubbish for some time, BUT if ANYONE is to call me disorganised, in the same way that if anyone is to call my dog stupid,  then only I, and I alone, shall be the one to say it.

It's not that it isn't true.  I am terribly disorganised.  Perhaps because I like to cloak myself in so many tasks that eventual drowning in them is the only option.  So this led to me thinking of what I have achieved in the last 24 hours.  And at the risk of bragging (this is after all my blog, so why not) I think it's actually rather a lot. And so I'm blogging it.  Because since it's only me who reads this, I might like to look back at this in a month or so and think "oh golly, quite a lot did get done after all and what a pat on the back for me". Horrid conceit and all.

So.  In the last 24 hours I have:

1. Prepared very interesting (yes it IS) 2 hour session on prosody and meta-language in modern British English.

2. Contacted 3 old friends in Japan with long newsy and chatty emails after several years delay.
3. Organised team of 12 for dragonboat regatta.
4. Organised training session for the same, though that is meant to be a secret.
5. Created proof-type mock up of school cookbook.
6. Weeded school garden, planted mini orchard, 6 pumpkins and 12 tomatoes.
7. Taken dog on 2 x 5 mile runs
8. Made fish-and-preserved lemon tagine
9. Made Tom Yum from scratch
10. Learnt words to Brigitte Bardot's Moi Je Joue after request from 4 year old, omitting inappropriate "oooh plus fort!" bit at end.
11. Taken 2 children through Baa Baa Black Sheep Using Both Hands on piano, 4 times.
12. Cleansed dog of foxy faeces.
13. Cleansed hall carpet of same.
14. Learned 4 phrases in Thai as part of dastardly plan to surprise cousin at wedding next month.
15. Learned Deutchland Deutschland on accordion in response to request from friend who wants it next week.
16. Washed and dried 4 lifejackets
17. Scolded slugs lurking in greenhouse and removed to next door.
18. Amused builders with unexpected witticism.
19. Gone through final proof of website belonging to soon-to-be-launched business.
20. Applied for RHS funding for school garden.
21. Rescued abused frog from clutches of dog.
22. Looked up precise role of Chuchi Gangdruk in response to request from 5 year old who couldn't find Tibet on globe.
23. Sourced clay and clay oven building plans for Father's Day present this Sunday. (Dad, if you're reading, don't worry - it's not for you - it's from the kids to R.  You're getting a book)
24. Cut sleeves off winter shirts in attempt to create summer wardrobe without having to shop.
25. Marked 5 papers of varying ability on Latinate forms in formal English.
26.  And finally...created International Music Library on CDS for nursery

Forget washing, cooking and the rest.  Who says I never get anything done?
Raspberries INDEED!


And no, of COURSE I haven't washed my kitchen floor.  Because when I could have been doing THAT, I wrote this instead.  Everyone needs a bit of pointless timewasting after all...

Friday, 14 May 2010

Where have all the ridiculous things gone?

The problem with living fairly permanently in the firing line of someone else's hatred (actually, undeserved hatred - I can say that, can't I? It IS undeserved...) is that eventually it all begins to seep in.  And this can make you very tired indeed.

I miss irrepressible joy.

And since I am unlikely to be near my beautifully escapist boogie board for a while, I think perhaps to answer is to try and seek out the ridiculous, because it seems to me that when you feel like this, it stops finding YOU.

This is an old one, but it works every time.  Every time.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

I couldn't resist it...

Bringing back a positive note to the blog, after my slight diversion into diatribe...

It will also be a test as to whether R really does read my blog or not.

If he does, we will soon have A Conversation on Unnecessary Purchases Towards the End of the Month...

And if he doesn't, I shall just pop it up on the wall one day this week and say "What?  That old thing?"

I think I deserve it.

Keep Calm Gallery. Lots of fun to be had.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Stop. Please just stop.

The time has come, the walrus said...But not the walrus, actually.  Me.  The time has come, I think, to respond.

Years of constant abuse, harassment, lies, conjecture, tears, hysterics and yep, occasional violence (didn't you try to kick my back door down?) and what have I EVER done?  Nothing.  I have NEVER responded.  I have never answered back.  You have had nothing but my silence and my willingness to have you back in my life, time and time again, whenever YOU have decided that equilibrium can be restored.  I have never, not once, demanded apology, qualification or explanation. And do you know how hard that is?  After everything you have said and done? No.  Of course you don't.  Why would you ever know that?

But you must now allow me some brief response.

I have a file on my computer called HORRID.  That is where I store all your emails of poison and accusation. I know they are there and just seeing the file makes me bilious.  But I have never answered any of them.

But hey, lets look through them. Lets look at what you have accused me of.  Lies, conceit, viciousness and self-serving cruelty seems to be the common theme, and yet - oh -  there are no actual examples to back these up. Sluttishness, sloth, avarice and gluttony also crop up with amazing regularity. And attempted murder, once. You remind me with startling regularity how my friends hate me, how my family despair of me, how my husband fears and detests me and, oh delightfully, how my late mother would have been so very ashamed of me. Again and again and again.

However, what strikes me now, is that you have never, ever accused me of stupidity.

Why is that?  Why have you never thought to call me stupid? Are you put off by my languages, my instruments, my ability to cook and garden, the nature of my job?  The fact that I am not fazed by the states of America or the geographical location of Bhutan? Is it because you actually think that I am NOT stupid?

Because here I do not agree with you. Naturally I refute all the other accusations (with the perhaps exception of sluttishness around the house, but I am SORRY - I will not give my life over to housework). But - look! - there is a gaping hole.  You SHOULD add stupidity to the list.  Can you not see it?

I have been so glaringly stupid. Stupid in my failure to answer back, in my being so utterly mistaken in thinking respect for others is more important than defending myself. And most of all, MOST of all, prodigious, unmitigated stupidity in the hours of my life I have given over to worrying whether ANY of the vitriolic imputations you have launched my way could in any way be true.

To have allowed you into my mind? THERE is the real stupidity.

And so now you are calling my friends to inform them - (no WARN them, wasn't that what you said?) - of my perfidious, nasty, lowliving nature.  My lack of integrity.  My odious cruelty.  My ever-corroding mental state. And to regale them with a host of things you insist I have done but which we both KNOW have never been my actions, but yours. We could of course label this as blatant defamation, but lets leave that as a technicality for now.

What do you not understand?  They are my FRIENDS.  They are not going to be influenced with a rambling anihilation of my character .  They know me as I AM, and not as you so dearly wish I could be.

So here is an idea. Don't waste your time with all of that.  Instead, tell them this.  Tell them I am indeed stupid. Really, truly, indubitably STUPID. Tell them I have put up with you and your incessant bullying for years. Tell them I have kept much of it a secret because I believed you could not help it, and perhaps were not quite in control.  That I have clung to the failing shreds of sympathy that no one could be in their right mind to do what you do. Tell them how often I have turned my back on what I have KNOWN to be right, merely to keep YOU from flying into one of your campaigns of persecution, because they are so horrendous for everyone.

So indeed I have been stupid. Rip up the old list because it is so full of falsification, and begin anew.  I've even given you a start now.


How many languages do you want that in?  (I have five.)

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

"I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me.” (Churchill)

I was part of a rather coxcombical conversation recently where everyone urged everyone else to Take Pleasure in The Moment, to Digest the Here and Now and to See Joy in Small Things. Etc. You can find happiness, gratification and comfort when you least expect it, went the general theme. It was, to be very truthful, not massively my kind of conversation,  but - fain to deny it - there is within its cliche a point worth the making.

In view of this, then, I can hardly describe the excessive happiness-gratification-comfort I found in one small moment this morning, on the school run, in the sight of the local recycling collectors in a knee-bent struggle with my friends' recycling box.  "Heave HO" one puffed, delightfully for me, as they staggered, weaving under it's clinking and clanking weight in a desperate zig-zag towards the truck, where the crashing cascade of a week's worth of wine bottles resonated up the lane behind me and my mirth.

There was certainly happiness to be found in the spectacle, but even this was outdone by waves of gratification.  Gratification that other people as well spend a fortune they probably haven't got on wine.  And yep, comfort too.  Comfort in the idea that when my pickled-pink liver and I shuffle sheepishly towards a frowning St Peter at my end (my premature end, as this government would no doubt remind me, while wagging a nannyish finger towards its haloed guideline of 14 units a week), then at least I should have a boozy buddy or two to meet me there.

So. Thank you to my supportively intemperate friends for jolly good 30 minute chuckle, which took me all through the stacking of the dishwasher and into a good ten minutes of Women's Hour.  Lovely.

(Cartoon from the rather super Jackie Fleming.  Always worth a look)

Thursday, 29 April 2010

"The dog is a gentleman: I hope to go to his heaven, not man's" (Twain)

Some years back, an vehemently vigorous boxer came from the RSPCA to live with my parents, ostensibly as Housedog but more realistically as Houseguest, and a highly pampered one at that.

The reason for her arrival was justified, somewhat weakly, (my parents had always had dogs, after all, and were merely trying to be sensible by not getting another one) by the fact that some revolting little toe-scum had just burgled their house. With this in mind, the main job description of the dog was then, in actual fact, defence.  The dog herself  however was not troubled by such contractual detail and within hours of arrival had changed her duties to Lying Around and being Excessively Petted. 

She ingrained herself into the very heart of the family without real effort, sealing our affections with a tongue that wouldn't quite fit into her mouth.  We were all pretty much devoted.  Indeed one of my Japanese friends once noted, with unchecked horror, "You and R both walked in, fell on the floor with the dog and rolled around hugging her before you'd even greeted your parents!".  True, and I don't think any of us had found this unusual.

Anyway, after a while, my mother, who had pretty much turned a blind eye to this dog's mickey-taking on House Rules (which, frankly, would have had the souls of our other, more toeing-the-line pets spinning affrontedly in their graves) decided that the least this loafing canine could do to earn her keep would be to bark when the doorbell rang.  The dog disagreed with my mother on this, in the same way as she had successfully disagreed that Dogs Should Not be Allowed On the Sofa in the Dining Room. She would certainly shoulder-charge her 7 stone frame to the door and invariably get there first.  But then she would merely stand, wagging her entirety with irrepressible boxer-delight at thoughts of visitors, thick streams of excited saliva swinging from each grinning jowl.  But bark she would not.

However, my mother stayed very firm.  Thieving Scum Burglar types who rang the doorbell were to be left in no doubt - inside prowled a huge, gruff and not-to-be-irked dog.  So she decided to implement her own Door Training with the dog.  This meant, for some months, whenever you knocked, you had to wait. What you could hear, from the outside, was the skidding scuffle of joy as the dog headbutted the door to greet you, followed by the more sedate footsteps of my mother. There would be a brief silence, then an "oooh" of exertion, as my mother would bend to be at dog eye level. There then followed a whole array of my mother's woof-woofs- from insistent descant yelps, to low threatening growls, all interspersed with cajouling -  "come on",  and "like that", -  which became increasingly more irritated until finally  "oh I give up" would signal the end of the recital. Then sounds of my mother pulling herself up again, and at this point the door would  open, and  polite words of welcome would be completely drowned out by the throaty WAAAAHHHH of the dog's grateful greeting as she leapt delightedly with paws splayed towards your head, the slimy, splattering tentacles of spit gripping firmly to your face.  My friend L once said it could, quite possibly, put one off calling at all.  Fortunately, it was around that time that they invented Skype.

I'm not sure the point ever did get through, and whether this was down to pure obstinance on the part of the dog or simply the fact that she (the dog again) was not hindered by trainable wit, I don't know.  In the end, we all kind of just let her off because she was the daftest, most amusingly faithful company you could ask for.

As to why this particular memory has accompanied me on my journey around the dishwasher-washingmachine-and-tumble-drier track today, it's simply because I came across (or more truthfully, R showed me) this.  I think this Australian gentleman actually puts my mother's efforts to shame.  And I have even just showed my current dog, the very comfortable viszla, for her reaction.  But she has just looked at me and gone back to sleep (on the expensive beanbag we actually bought for the kids).

Monday, 19 April 2010

Since we're all talking about planes...

I am not a fan of aeroplanes, though I do like the bit where they get you to somewhere else.  It's the part in the sky I don't like. I have a couple of friends who are pilots, and one of them is especially enterprising in finding clever ways to chuckle at me and my irrational fear. As a military-turned-commercial pilot himself, he naturally doesn't share my freakish nambiness about planes,( although a rather fun scenario if he did, surely: "Cabin crew prepare for take off, wooooooooo-aaahhhhhhhhh ... ".  He should fake this, on his last day.) I once phoned him in a blue funk just before boarding for a longhaul, and got told, with audible relish, "Hmmm, it WILL probably be fine - the only really dangerous bit is take off. And landing." Anyway, last summer, we sat over several bottles as he regaled me with stories of  "really scary flightpaths".  With full knowledge that I have to fly there every February if I want to ski, he went sly and decided the Scariest of them all was Definitely Innsbruck.  "It's a bit tricky to find a clear path through the mountains," he said, eyes alight with faked awe "Even the pilots who are specially trained to do it just close their eyes and hope."

Now.  Of course I know this isn't true.  But this year, as we screeched up through some vicious winds and skidded over the Alps on our way back home, his words replayed again in my head. I haven't told him yet, as I'm sure he would merely be wickedly delighted. 

On this particularly horrible occasion, the captain came over the intercom and said "Ooh, it might be a bit bumpy!"  and that is not what I want when flying out of Innsbruck.  I don't want a surprised sounding, young pilot using words like "oooh" and "bumpy". I want a relaxed-yet-serious pilot of almost fifty, whose voice reassures you of blue eyes and grey hair and a weekend tennis habit. He needs to be called James.  And he needs to use clever sounding adjectives, suggesting top level education and a well-read personality. I think this pilot said his name was Steve, and I'm sorry to all the Steves I know, but for me, that is absolutely No Good At All. (I mustn't even think about women pilots.  I still try to cling to the shreds of my  former feminist fervency, and they would not survive any admission that I would probably get off the plane ...).  All in all, I need to know the guy at the front in the slidy seat firstly fits my stereotype ideal, secondly really knows what he is doing and finally isn't going to do loops for a bit of a laugh.

You see, I can't be sure that all pilots wouldn't.  I'm not convinced that pilots don't have a very distinct naughty streak.  The ones I know certainly do. And on long flights there must surely be a lot of time for sitting back and scheming up japish pranks.   I've heard tales of a captain called Alistair who decided to announce himself more gutturally as Ali after 9/11 for "extra frisson". I know a pilot who sauntered out into the main cabin to pull up a bit of carpet and see whether the wheels were down, and then, after one of those brace-brace-brace landings (the ones they warn you of on those cards with the odd drawings of smiling people about to crash) he said he thought the passengers who'd talked to the press about their near-death horror flight must have been a "bit drippy".  So either pilots are cut from  much sterner stuff than us, or they are genuinely just rattling with loosened screws.

In any case, I can imagine my devilish pilot-friend-in-the-north doing something like this.  You know who you are.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Clever mouse.

Dammit, I let Blog Critic get between me and my blog.  And the Easter Holidays too.  But it was mostly Blog Critic.  He caught me off-guard with a bit of slick sardonicism about the Manicured Promotion of Oneself via Blog, and I suddenly lost the urge.  I don't know why, because he's been saying it since it started, but anyway - somehow he caught me in an over-sensitive, overly introspective moment, brought on by who knows what.  Well, we all know what, but it can't be blogged and hohum to that. On top of that,  it IS difficult to think about anything at all when you are hiding eggs, gooing over lambs, building dens and refereeing squabbles; not to say that these aren't terribly valid acitivities, it's just that for a few weeks now, me and my blog have been ships that passed.  Which doesn't matter at all, at all, at all - it was only ever supposed to be  for, er, letting off steam that may have collected in Other Areas, and indeed as soon as I stopped, I found I have missed forcing myself to think.  It's certainly a way of, shall we say, controlling the demons. 

It's funny when the thoughts strike though.  Yesterday, R was all in indignation.  A particularly devious mouse, it appeared, has been sneaking into the greenhouse and nicking the seeds out of his newly planted pots without leaving any trace of the crime.  This last point, I think, is what gets R's gander most.  He can understand that our wildliving friends will garden alongside us, but he doesn't like to be tricked by what is vermin. Poor mouse is for it now.  The greenhouse is awash with lurking traps and hidden poison. I can't bring myself to go in, as to be confronted by the squirming remains of an ex-mouse doesn't strike me as very Eastery and, in consequence, the poor seedlings are now victims of both trickery and drought.

There is a thought-link from all this however. Slightly a tenuous one but still a link of sorts.  Because it brought me back to Mao's Sparrow Cull. I am always intrigued by the bizarrer parts of Mao's grip on poor China, and I do wonder whether his campaign against the four pests was perhaps the Crown Stealer of them all.  I once met an elderly gentleman on a train in Hunan who once told me he had taken part in the Great Sparrow Cull and had been smacked for not killing enough. He even demonstrated the smack for me - a great ringing clap across his cheek. I was fairly stunned and so we drank beer together. Anyway, in brief: Mao decided early on in the Great Leap Forward that there were four pests in China which were being especially naughty; rats, flies, sparrows and mozzies. Indeed, the sparrows in particular were showing real capitalist roader instincts by sitting around all day eating the workers' crops. So, the whole country was sent out to Kill the Sparrows, which they did with guns, catapults and generally the banging of saucepans under trees until the poor things crashed down in exhaustion.  People then paraded their little feathery corpses to the town hall and were publically praised for a good killing (Good Communist!) and denounced for a poor show (Possible Capitalist or Imperialist Bastard!) The upshot of which was, of course, that the locusts sat back and rubbed their little locust feet with glee before Feasting Unpecked with pesty relish on all the crops; at which point everyone said "Whoops" and began to starve. Except Mao, natch.

And, what do you know, of COURSE footage of this is on youtube!

Sure, it's not funny, not in any sense, but it is mesmerising and definitely worth seeing.  Maybe I'll show it in the garden too.  Bit of a warning.  That sort of thing...

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Mr Khil Kills Me.

Ok, I know I'm behind the times, and The Times, so slow have I been to catch on to this.  Annoyingly, R put it on Otterzen last week, which means I am also laying myself open to some very satisfied comments on, for example, my willingness to follow his lead.

But I can't help it. It's so, so funny.

I was chatting with a Slovakian gentlemen this week, who was of the firm and tearful opinion  that that damn perestroika was the beginning of the end for the Eastern Bloc.  The Soviets weren't perfect, he said, but they were better than this lot (reference to current Slovakian government, about which I know absolutely nothing) and we had a lot more fun.  Since one does not often hear Soviet-style communism credited with fun (at least, for those outside of the joint-jumping Kremlin), I was surprised.

But now I'm not.  If they had people like Eduard Khil lololling across their screens every night, I too would have spent the Cold War in absolute stitches.

According to The Times, Mr Khil has been pleasantly surprised by his new-found fame and is certain that the "rich orchestral arrangement" (which they'd used to distract from a complete lack of lyrics, this being the easiest way to get things past state censors) is the secret of its success.

Hmmm.  I'm not entirely sure I noticed the rich arrangement at all.  But in any case, it IS good to know it wasn't all doom and gloom behind the Iron Curtain, isn't it?

I defy you not to laugh.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010


A friend of mine, who doesn't own a huge ginger mastiff, recently brought one round for supper.  We were chatting hard enough not to notice that it had wandered upstairs and had eventually found its way into the bathroom, where R had absolutely not been expecting it.  The memory of his yell has kept me going in uncontrollable chuckling for weeks. 

However, when I was still giggling into the fifth week, someone gently reprimanded me for my "puerile English humour".

I'm not sure that English humour can be described as a single concept, nor whether it be truly fair to call it puerile.  But if it is, then we are in good company with the Japanese.

What price occasional puerility at the end of a day?! I miss Japan.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Mothering Sunday: what a super idea.

Who says it's wrong to be smug?

I was delightfully spoiled for Mothering Sunday yesterday: by ten o'clock I was perfectly Eggs-Benedicted up and sitting in the school church to see the oldest sing at the Mothering Sunday service.  It was a beautiful spring morning and the pews were full of the beatific smiles of mothers who hadn't had to cook breakfast.

The children had been busy; they had firstly learnt a song which went "Don't be grumpy, Don't you spoil the fun" to a jolly, rhythmic little tune, which does stay in your head (though I've heard it quite a bit this week- the youngest has been singing it with casual pointedness after any remonstration).  But anyway, looking at them lined up in their uniforms, faces creased with determination to remember the words and sing their best, it was a perfect song and you really couldn't imagine being grumpy with them ever again.

But sometimes, you can't help it; the tiniest dash of wry cynicism can come nipping into any occasion.

"Thank you God for Mummies..." it began and the congregation heaved a collective Ahhhh.  Really very sweet.  But the next verse made my eyebrows sit up a little.  "Thank you God for Nannies..."  it went on.


"They do mean grandmas" my pew neighbour reassured me in a whisper.

I'm sure they did. You never know though.  This is Surrey, after all...

Friday, 12 March 2010

"Ugly goes clean to the bone"

 No object is so beautiful that, under certain conditions, it will not look ugly. Oscar Wilde

I am spitting proverbial chips.

We have in our little friendly town a  healthclub.  The constant push for new members displayed on banners outside is testament to the fact that healthclubs and recessions are not the best bedfellows; indeed, it seems to have met the economic downturn in the fashion of Oops-We're-Getting-A-Bit-Grotty. Still, the posters insist all is, apparently, Better Now.  The swimming pool has had a lick of paint. They've removed the lacerating tiles from the showers.  That sort of thing. Lovely.


I was given, for my birthday, a voucher to use in the spa.  Now, it is not the useful kind of spa, where you can have fun in mud and plunge daringly into icy pools, but a beauty spa.  Where they paint your nails and rip your hair out and stuff. I am not really a beauty spa kind of person, surprising at that might seem to those of you who know me for my dedication to glamorous grooming (lets be clear - I write this in jeans and welly socks, with compost streaks across my hands and no doubt under my nails too and it genuinely doesn't bother me that much, really). And my beauty-spa-reluctance is not not just for financial reasons (how MUCH to rub salt into me?) but also because I find it somewhat eerie to spend an hour to the soundtrack of something panpipey. On top of that, you know, they actually do scare me a bit, these places. So I find I approach them with the same trepidation that I approach mechanics; knowing with dread that they are going to ask me something I absolutely don't understand  and roll their eyes, ever so faintly, at my ignorance.

But finally, (I shouldn't say it, I know, but I can't resist) in the case of this particular spa, I baulk somewhat at putting my appearance into the hands of "experts" who squint blankly at you from behind orangey skintones and clumpy eyelashes and tappy nails.  As a composite whole, it does not, I feel, bode well. A bit akin to a restaurant trying to attract custom by advertising rotten food. Or me trying to encourage my students by speaking to them in, say, Turkish. Miaow, I know, and, before anyone says it,  since my nails are now having a gleeful and unexpected outing,  it's almost a shame they are not manicured. But, anyway,  I digress.

I received a voucher for my birthday for said spa and I DID have every intention of using it.  After all, it would be something a bit different and for every panpipe moment you are in there, it is a moment you are not being shrieked upon and that, in itself, should make for a rather super hour.

I dug out said voucher today and noticed, horror of horrors, that it expired yesterday.  I thought it was 6 months from my birthday but no.  Yesterday.  "Don't worry," R said "You're a member who's spent a small fortune in there over the past 6 years.  They'll understand. It's only a day."

Of course they would, I thought, sensibly and gave them a call.

I got a receptionist.  She sighed.  "It's past its date, " she said.  "It's expired, like."

I was polite.  "It only expired yesterday and to be honest, we've had a few tricky months. And I am a member.  Is there anything you can do?"

I got sighed at again.  And then silence. I waited.

She eventually said, after another sigh, that she'd Ask the Spa Directly.  She Asked the Spa Directly and came back to tell me the Spa Said No, Directly.  I said, still politely, that I'd rather like to Ask the Spa Directly too, and received my 4th sigh. 

But she did at least put me through.  Where I got puffing sigh number 5.

"It's past its date," said Spa Manager, after I'd explained that it was, er, past its date.

"I understand that, but I thought it was six months from my birthday so..."

"It's past its date." (How does one write accent in Roman?  "Spast its dai'"  Like that, anyhow)

"Well only by a day. Is there nothing you can do?"

Sigh.  Tut.

"What's the reference number?"

I checked.  "There isn't one.  It's been left blank."

"SO 'ow do I know when it's been bought then?  If you 'aven't got a reference?"

"Sorry, do you mean it's ME that should have written a reference on this voucher when I, er, received it as a present?  A reference for your records?"

Tut.  And huff.  And another sigh

Patient Voice.  "Look. It's past its date.  If you take a voucher up Tescos and its past its date, you wouldn't get anyfink so why should we give you it?"

I pointed out that I do not actually pay Tesco 50 pounds a month; that I have not spent a small fortune over the past 6 years on creche and coffees, personal training and swimming lessons.  I have not recommended friends to spend THEIR money in Tesco and I am not someone Tesco should be keen to hang on to, while they sweat out a period of time when people really have no cash for their particular luxury.

"All right, Debenhams then."

I'm sorry?

I could go on here, but there's no point - the rest of the conversation continued in the same vein, with Spa lady being rigidly unhelpful and me scratching my head trying to understand WHY anyone would treat any customer with such blatant, basic derision.

Because it WASN'T the words she used or her bizarre comparisons to Tesco/Debenhams that made me so spikey under the collar.

It was the tone of sneering boredom. The agressive choice of "Look" as a sentence adverbial.  The tuts.  The sighs.  The slowing of speech in implication of my thickness. The fact that she made no apology for inflexibility and not one jot of effort to be friendly.  And, with my own tone of somewhat dumbstruck politeness maintained throughout, I hadn't even been rude.  Grrr to the woman.  Really.

I know we are not, as a nation, famed for our customer service, although granted, that depends on where you come from: I have American friends who despair of our unhelpfulness and Turkmen friends who profess themselves delighted by our eagerness to please. (Note to self - ask Turkmen friends where on earth they go shopping and go there myself)  But on a personal level at least, shouldn't one be ashamed to be so, well, bloody horrible?

"If we did it for you, we 'ave to do it for everyone" was her final unconsidered response.

Dear girl. I urge you.  DO, please do.  Do to everyone what you did to me.  Speak to all your customers like that. Treat them all as committed cretins on the scrounge for a free deal.  Huff and puff and tut and sigh at them, as you have just done to me.

Because there's a lovely little place in Virginia Water called TOTAL BLISS.  (2 The Parade
Trumpsgreen Rd, Virginia Water GU25 4EH 01344 842643) They are terribly nice in there, they don't sigh at you and I've never yet heard a panpipe.

You would, I'm sure, be doing them a great favour. And it's good to be kind to people.  ISN'T it?

GOOD Golly.  Fancy ME recommending a Beauty Salon.  Who'd have thought.