Monday, 30 April 2007

Don't Call Us....

I would like to take the opportunity to pause for a suitable length of time to thank Cheshire Police for all their help when I needed their assistance a couple of days ago. Has a nanosecond passed by yet? Excellent; that is plenty long enough.

I don't wish to make light of the vast stupidity and incompetence on my own part in causing the situation I found myself in - it was a situation entirely of my own making. But my uselessness was matched very well by that of the police. So at least I'm not the only pointless person in the world - but then no-one pays me from public money to be pointless, so I have less of an obligation to be Of Some Use.

I managed, the other morning, to lock the following items in my car on a supermarket car park:

My handbag (containing keys, phone, phone numbers, money)
The car keys
My child.

The initial panic at the moment I realised what I'd done was really not very nice at all. After calling my sister from Customer Services and asking her to go to my mother's house to fetch the spare keys, I went back to the car and tried to persuade my toddler (using every method of bribery I could think of) to pull up the lock button on the nearest door, to no avail.

My sister and mother arrived, with a key - but not THE key. By this time I was starting to worry. My toddler had been in the car for quite some time and was getting distressed that I wouldn't get into the car with him. It was a warm day, and the car was getting hot. We thought about my mother staying with my car while my sister took me to get the key (as I knew what it looked like and my sister hadn't) but we were several miles from my mother's house and the traffic through town was busy - my toddler needed to be out of the car more quickly than that.

I have breakdown cover. But I couldn't remember who with. This is further evidence of uselessness on my part, obviously, but in my defence the cover came with the car under the Warranty so I didn't choose the provider myself, and the details were on hand in case of a break down; they were neatly tucked into the pocket of the passenger door.

So, we decided to call the local police station, hoping (not entirely unreasonably, I thought) that a police officer would be able to come out and open the car door.

After taking many, many details from me about myself and my car, the lady who had answered the call said they would come out as soon as they could, but that all they could do would be to smash a window.

I wasn't hugely impressed with that, since I could smash my own window, although I was of the opinion that I would prefer not to owing to the close proximity of the small child, and 'as soon as they could' sounded slightly vague. I tried to impress upon her that the car was hot and my toddler was distressed, and then we waited.

After ten minutes, my sister had a brainwave. The garage where I bought the car was only about a mile away; perhaps someone there would be able to open the car.

The police rang back. They had discovered that they didn't have a patrol car in the area, and didn't know how long it would be before they could attend.

My sister rang the garage, and the man who answered assured her he'd be here in five minutes - and he was. He and his colleague had opened the car within several minutes (WITHOUT smashing a window, I might add) and I was able to sweep my very hot and really rather cross toddler out of his car seat and into a relieved hug. Like Supermarket Superheroes, the men would accept no payment for their rescue effort, and jumped swiftly back into their car to return to work before I'd even had a proper chance to thank them.

Just before the moment that the garage men managed to open the door, my sister, my mother and I watched with incredulity as a marked police car drew up outside the supermarket, and in a leisurely fashion a policeman got out and wandered off into the store. Of course, it would be pure speculation on my part to suggest that the purpose of his visit was to perhaps procure some lunch.

And really, he should be congratulated. It is no mean feat to visit a place whilst being simultaneously nowhere near it.

Monday, 23 April 2007

Look At Me

A few days ago, it was reported that Macmillan Children's Books had signed one Geri Halliwell for a six book deal.

Ms Halliwell, formerly known as Ginger Spice and then "the one who left and released that bloody awful single and stopped eating", has a website about her forthcoming fiction debut, to render us all breathless with excitement at the prospect of the release of the Ugenia Lavender series and, if that were not enough for our delectation, a song to accompany the series.

On this website, there is an extract from Ugenia Lavender to whet our appetites.

Or, I fear, not.

I would dearly love to be able to say that the publisher has chosen this work because of its crackling writing and unparallelled quality and that the fact that it is written by a celebrity is irrelevant. Unhappily, being of an honest nature, I cannot.

This extract is the most appalling example of utterly dreadful writing I have had the misfortune to stumble across since I once accidentally read half a page of Heat magazine. The heroine's name puts one in mind of an unfortunate bladder infection, and the general standard of the prose is mind-bogglingly poor.

It is a travesty that Macmillan have published this, and all because it is accompanied by the name of a celebrity. At least, one can only presume that to be the reason, because according to the extract on the Ugenia Lavender website there are no other redeeming features to recommend it.

Is Geri really so self-delusional that, like the contestants of the X Factor who shriek like a thousand cats on fire and still expect to be the next...well, Geri Halliwell, she believes that she has a talent for writing fiction that will be enthuse the nation's children to become prolific readers? It is more likely they will decide never to pick up a book again on the basis of it; and who could blame them? Are Macmillan out of their minds? Or do they also prefer the name tag of a celebrity in favour of quality when they choose which books to publish? Can we assume that as Macmillan have chosen to publish this substandard work, they don't believe that children deserve or need reading material of quality and originality? How very insulting to the young.

The UK become so obsessed with the mindless celebrity culture that an Emperor's New Clothes phenomenon has been created. One can only hope that as these books are written for children that those children will, with the unpretentious and unbiased honesty of youth, point and laugh at these books and declare them to be naked of talent and merit.

Thursday, 19 April 2007

A Moral Foundation

Today, I bought some make-up.

I did not realise before I entered the shop how difficult the process would be, else I might never have taken the first steps on the long and arduous road to purchase some new foundation. I may well have considered that remaining flawed and blotchy forever would be an easier course of action than the one I was about to take. And believe me, I AM flawed and blotchy. Don't be fooled into thinking that would be a sight that would not scare small children and give old ladies fainting fits. It would. But perhaps I would not have cared about the pain of others, had I known that which I would have to endure myself.

I knew what I wanted, but they didn't sell it. They sold something really quite like it though - almost exactly the same, in fact - from a different manufacturer but 'they make ours anyway, so there's no difference'.

Only when I had naively sat in a chair at the make-up counter did the sales assistant add "Of course, our products are completely different to one you already have". I tried to move, but the bright light shining in my eyes prevented me from doing so, and I swear that invisible stealth-belts had silently and swiftly pinned me to the chair.

"Our products are more natural. Because we are more...fragrance-free and 'clinical'", the assistant assured me. "You know what I mean", she said, as a statement rather than a question.

I didn't know what she meant in the slightest but before I could inform her of this fact and ask her to clarify it in a way that made actual sense, she had loomed over me and scrubbed my cheek with a damp ball of cotton wool.

Instinctively I jerked my head away from her. "What are you doing?" I hissed, crossly.

"Oh, is it cold? Sorry." She smiled a slightly frightening smile. The fear I felt may have come from the fact that now she was standing at an angle which meant I was looking up at her, I could see the line on her jaw where her bare skin and her made-up skin joined.

"No, I mean what are you..."

"Just keep still for me there, that's it" she commanded, her hands steadying my head and preventing me from speaking, while she proceeded to slop foundation in a completely incongruous shade on to my newly cleansed face.

"I don't think that one..." I started, but trailed off as she quickly and thickly applied a stripe of a different colour below it, and a third below that.

"Right, I'll just serve this lady while you just sit there for a moment so we can see if your skin likes them" she breezed. "Don't worry, you won't look like a Red Indian for long!"

So I sat in a shop, the spotlight upon me, wondering whether there could be a more politically-incorrect remark for her to make, and sheepishly realised that I was trapped. Even without the invisible stealth-belts, I could hardly walk out of the shop and through the town with three big stripes across one side of my face. I mean, I like Adam Ant as much as the next person, but I have no desire to actually be mistaken for him.

Eventually, she returned. I had to admit, begrudgingly, that one of the stripes, when applied at a lesser ratio of half-pot of foundation : 2 square inches of skin actually looked quite good.

She scrubbed the rest off and applied the one I liked again on the whole of my cheek. I ripped through the stealth-belts and demanded that I take the mirror to the doorway to inspect the results in natural light, since she clearly hadn't performed that vital step herself. Perhaps she had done it purposely, as a warning to her customers. But I doubt it.

It looked fine.

I had a slight dilemma now. Buy this product from this scary lady who uses racist terminology and assaults women by cotton wool without prior consent.

Or face the prospect of having to do this again.

"How much is it?" I asked.

It was a few pounds less than the product I had originally intended to buy.

"I'll take it", I told her, as I shamefully sold my principles for the royal sum of £4.00.

To all persons native to America, I apologise. But in my defence, it really does look nice.

Sunday, 1 April 2007


Shortly after the last time I posted here, we had a family bereavement.

I will be back to continue blogging when I feel able.

(Whether that is a good thing or not is purely a matter of opinion).