To Brexit, And All Who Sail In Her

•June 21, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Slip inside what’s left of your mind
Don’t you know you might find
A part that wants to stay
You say that you’ve never been
But all the blogs that you’ve seen
Will make you walk away

So you’ll start a revolution from your bed
‘Cause the EU migrants do your job instead
Step outside, summertime’s in bloom
Stand up beside the ballot place
Take that look from off your face
You ain’t ever gonna turn my heart Out

And so Boris can wait, he knows it’s too late as he’s talking on Sky
His hole lies away, “But don’t look back in anger,” I heard you say

Take me to the place where you go
Where nobody knows why they ought to stay
Please don’t put your life in the hands
Of Farage’s band
Who’ll throw you all away

Gonna start a revolution from my bed
‘Cause I think Remain’s the way to go instead
Step outside ’cause summertime’s in bloom
Stand up beside the ballot place, take that look from off your face
‘Cause you ain’t ever gonna turn my heart Out

And so Boris can wait
He’ll lose the debate as he’s hawking his lie
As Gove slides away
“We won’t look back in anger,” You’ll hear me say

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Now We Are One

•November 12, 2015 • Leave a Comment

If you’d told me, two years ago, that in two years’ time I’d be writing a blog post while looking after a poorly one-year-old, I’d have demanded to know whose child it was and why it had been foisted on me, the most unlikely of nannies, in this particularly unpleasant state. I would have looked confused. I might have accused you of being drunk.

Anyway. Here we are, two years down the line and, for the avoidance of doubt, the child is mine. And, as far as I can tell, that qualifies me to be one of those Mummy Bloggers, a Dispenser Of All Knowledge And Wisdom, Particularly In The Areas Of Baby-Led Weaning And Messy Play Ideas (DOAKAWPITAOBLWAMPI, for short, not to be confused with the New Zealand town of the same name). So I feel duty-bound to share the benefit of my first year’s experience with you, particularly if you’re considering embarking upon parenthood in the near future. I’ll try to cover some of the most common areas prospective parents ask about.

Pain.
First things first. One of the biggest things mums, in particular, worry about when considering having a child is this: “Will it hurt?”
There is no denying it. Yes, it will hurt – more than anyone will ever admit. You will be bitten, head-butted, scratched, kicked. Your eyes and ears will be poked, often with unsuitable objects. Your genitals will be trampled on. Your back will ache. And this time you can’t have an epidural.

Breast vs. Bottle.
Ah, the big debate. But to my mind there is only one answer. It has to be a bottle – you won’t get nearly enough gin out of the other one.

Eating solids.
A varied diet is reallly important. Acceptable foods for parents of an under-one include scrambled eggs, Mars Bar sandwiches, toast on toast, unidentified crumbs, Weetabix, pureed chicken dinner, and leftover anything. There will be a lot of leftover anything, and it will make up at least 80% of your diet.

Dressing appropriately.
Parents often find it difficult to know what clothes are appropriate. Basically, anything with fewer than seven vomit stains on it is perfectly ok to wear. Ten, if you’re not planning to leave the house.

Crawling.
As the months fly by, you will become adept at this, as you hunt for brightly-coloured plastic objects, dummies, food etc under the furniture at the end of every day. Try to turn it into a game. Try not to swear. Buy one of those grabber sticks they make for old people.

Sleep.
At your desk, when you go back to work. Chances like that are not to be missed.

Related to this issue is the much-discussed topic of sleep-training: occasionally one parent will have an uncontrollable urge to make a long and unnecessary train journey, just to get some kip. This is normal and should not ordinarily constitute grounds for divorce.

First words.
Your first words as a new parent are likely to include “what, AGAIN?”, “SSSSHHHHHHH!” and “Is it SUPPOSED to be that colour?” (Yes, it is.)

Television.
This can be a thorny issue. Yes, you will be allowed to watch television, but you should be aware that every ten minutes of that great movie or must-watch drama will take at least an hour to watch, and even then you will not have heard any of it. Ensure that your pause, rewind, and subtitle functions are in full working order. You should also be aware that the remote control is the most fascinating object in the whole house, and will never be wholly yours again.

Inconsolable crying.
You’ll do a lot of this.

Smiling.
See ‘inconsolable crying’.

Thumb-sucking.
Best avoided, unless you have run out of gin.

 

Dedicated to Octoberfest, and all who sail in her, with love.

Water, Water Everywhere

•April 11, 2013 • Leave a Comment

To mark Homeopathy Awareness Week, a short explanation.

xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx There are xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx more words xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx in this xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx sentence xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx than there are xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx molecules of xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx active xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx ingredient xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx in 2,500,000 litres xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx (or one Olympic-sized swimming pool full) xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx of some homeopathic xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxx ‘remedies’ xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx xxxxxxx xxxx xxxxxx xx xxxx xxxxxx xxxx xxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxx x xx xxxxx.

But if you think two drops will make you better, go ahead.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeopathic_dilutions

Tribe And Prejudice

•April 3, 2013 • 1 Comment

The Guardian published a brilliant April Fool story earlier this week in which it offered its readers the chance to try a new piece of technology, Guardian Goggles, which would enable them to have a world of carefully-curated liberal opinion at their fingertips at all times. It was brilliant, I thought, not because it was particularly believable, but because of the tone of knowing self-parody in which the piece was written. I read it, laughed out loud, quoted bits to Mr SB, and moved on.
But something about the article stayed with me. I am, as I have discussed previously here, a keen user of Twitter, which in recent days (and indeed, very often) has been Getting Right On My Wick. Most of the people I follow are, like me, and for want of a better stereotype, middle-class lefties. We like nothing better than a good old rant about the Tories and the Daily Mail and we are, for the most part, right. I would say that, wouldn’t I? I’ve made many friends on Twitter and I love many of them dearly. But I’ve noticed many of them investing heavily in pairs of Guardian Goggles recently, and I worry for them.
It started on Sunday. Much of Twitter’s lefty liberal population, which had previously spent many happy, tearful days rejoicing in Team GB’s many London 2012 successes (rowing, sailing, dressage et al), decided to watch the University Boat Race (or, to give it its official title, the BNY
Mellon Boat Race – no, me neither). Brilliant, I thought; we’d all be sitting down on a Sunday afternoon to relive that feeling, watching supremely fit athletes at the top of their game, competing in a time-honoured sporting contest in which the winner took it all. We’d be united in our love of Clare Balding once more, and we’d shed tears along with the winners and the losers in equal measure.
Except that isn’t at all what happened. Everyone on my timeline spent two hours (yes, the BBC’s coverage of a 20-minute race did seem a little excessive) bemoaning the elitism of the whole thing and filling my timeline with their opinions of the rowers. These opinions were almost universally critical. Because they attended the country’s top two universities, the student rowers were perceived as being upper-class twits of no value to society, with egos and senses of entitlement almost as large as their ample trust funds. I even saw a tweet describing them all, en masse, as ‘racist scum’.
Ordinarily, all of this would probably have passed me by. I might even have joined in. But this year I was watching the Boat Race because I had a tenuous connection to one of the rowers, having worked with his father for many years. And so the never-ending torrent of tweets began to really, really bug me – because I knew for a fact that at least one of the people out there was an ordinary middle-class boy who went to a comprehensive school and deserved none of the abuse being hurled in his direction. And if he didn’t deserve it, how many of the others didn’t either?
Now, the thing with us woolly liberals is that we don’t like prejudice. We can’t bear to see others judged by their gender, skin colour, class or physical attributes, and we’re very quick to leap to their defence when it happens. A quick glance at Twitter whenever Richard Littlejohn publishes a column should be proof enough of that. But seemingly none of that applies when we want to make assumptions about those we perceive to be more privileged than ourselves, and so it’s apparently fine to make up stories about them.
Except that it isn’t, is it? While it may be true that some – many, even – Oxbridge students have come from wealthy backgrounds full of cut-glass accents and ponies, it’s no more acceptable to judge them all by this stereotype than it is for the Daily Mail to imply that the receipt of state benefits makes one more likely to kill the children one bred for the money. Oxbridge students, just like Guardian readers, come from many backgrounds and are capable of being just as generous and compassionate. A student from Gaza will be attending Oxford University’s Jesus College as a result of this scholarship scheme; all the other students will contribute £4 per term to pay her fees. That seems like a gesture that any Guardian reader would be proud of.
So, fellow lefties: be careful with those Goggles. Use them wisely, and be careful that they don’t turn into blinkers.

Send Them Victorious

•August 13, 2012 • 1 Comment

It’s been quite a fortnight.

Although it seems barely credible, it’s only a little over two weeks since I was at Wimbledon for the opening day of the Olympic tennis. Clutching the Centre Court ticket Mr SB had secured in the original ballot, I stood patiently in a queue waiting for the gates to open. I’d had five hours’ sleep since we’d been in Hyde Park the previous evening watching a big screen which showed us a James Bond film in which the Queen jumped out of a helicopter, although I suspect the helicopter might have been fake. Around me in the queue were tennis fans from across the globe – from Spain, from the USA, from Australia – all of whom were blissfully unaware of the creeping sense of doom we, as British citizens, felt. Surely the spectacular opening ceremony was just a fluke? Surely this whole enterprise was going to go miserably, toe-curlingly, tooth-grindingly wrong any moment now? The stadium would probably collapse. Or the Tube would break. Or the whole thing would get ruined by the relentless British rain.

So we got to the front of the queue. Mr SB had his ticket scanned and skipped merrily through the gate. I had my ticket scanned and… the machine flashed up a Big Red Cross Of Doom. “Sorry,” said the smiling volunteer holding the scanner, “It says your ticket isn’t valid. You’ll have to go down to the ticket office and get them to check it.” My ticket arrived in the same envelope as Mr SB’s. It was for the seat next to his. But I had no choice, so I waved him a wistful goodbye and trudged off towards another queue.

After 30 minutes or so, it became quite obvious that the new queue wasn’t moving. A volunteer walked past and informed us, in classic “couldn’t make it up” style, that the ticket office wasn’t open yet because they’d lost the key. This was more like it. Some classic British incompetence to kick us off in the manner we’d been led to expect by weeks of negative press coverage. We’d all been right all along. The whole thing was doomed. What had Seb Coe been thinking? It would probably be best to admit our mistake now and put everyone on the Eurostar to the Stade de France before things got any worse, as they surely would.

Cut a long story short. I eventually got in, two hours and a severely sunburnt decolletage later, and got some of the best seats on Centre Court. The tennis was fabulous: we saw Serena, we saw Roger, we saw a seed crash out in the very first match. We even saw Michelle Obama. But there were huge swathes of empty seating, most of it with the telltale pink labels denoting that these were seats reserved for the ‘Olympic Family’, who must still have been arguing about whose turn it was to make the packed lunch, or going the wrong way on the District line.

The only person with better seats was the umpire.

So far, so predictable. There were ticket problems, there were empty seats, and the media had plenty to say “I told you so” about. There were no British gold medals for the first four days. This was all just a ridiculous, overblown dream, wasn’t it?

But then. A trickle of medals began, and Olympomania began to take hold. The negative press coverage stopped, and people started banging on about how brilliant Claire Balding and Matt Baker were.

By the time we returned home that first weekend, I was wishing we’d had tickets for an event – any event – in the Olympic Park. Although it had been fantastic to be at the most famous tennis court in the world, part of me felt that I hadn’t seen the ‘proper’ Olympics. I guess I’m just greedy. So Mr SB and I started to check the ticketing website obsessively. We tried for obscure handball matches between countries we couldn’t point to on a map. We tried for basketball. We tried for diving. We tried for hockey. But no amount of hitting F5 made any more tickets appear, until…

At 1.30am, Mr SB came up to bed and announced that he’d got two tickets for the last night of the athletics competition. Not only in the Olympic Park, but in the Actual Bloody Stadium with Actual Bloody Usain Bolt. Mrs SB didn’t get to sleep for a very long time.

So, two weeks after our first trip, we went back.

And we found a city that was confident, friendly, and stunningly well-organised. King’s Cross has never been noted for its air of cheery optimism, but on a sunny Saturday morning at the end of the Olympics, it felt like Utopia. There were smiling volunteers everywhere. There were smiling Brits in Team GB shirts everywhere. There were Americans, Mexicans, Russians, Africans. And they were all there for one thing, and it wasn’t a fight.

We headed through St Pancras for the train to Stratford. Nobody checked that we had a ticket. In a vast crowd of people on the same journey to one of the most memorable days of their lives, having the right ticket suddenly seemed a bit irrelevant. What happened to the miserable, officious, bureaucratic Britain I knew and tolerated?

We got to the Olympic Park. Smiling, brilliant volunteers who seemed to know the answer to every question in the world greeted us with megaphones, with sparks of humour, and with an unflagging enthusiasm which, presumably, hadn’t budged for two whole weeks. Not one of them looked as though they’d rather be anywhere else. What happened to the miserable, reserved, incompetent Britons I knew and tolerated?

There was a moment on Saturday night, in the hysterical 80,000-strong crowd chanting, “Mo! Mo! Mo!” as Mo Farah stalked his opposition round and round the track in the 5000m final, when I had a sudden sense of what the Nuremberg rallies must have been like. Nobody in that screaming mass was in control of what came out of their mouth. We had a common purpose, and that purpose was to glorify our nation by helping a British athlete to complete an amazing achievement. But really, nobody needed us. The Games, and London, had long since taken on a happy and glorious life of their own.

A Trolling Tome Gathers No Loss

•June 16, 2012 • Leave a Comment

In November every year, the Oxford University Press, publisher of the Oxford English Dictionary, picks its ‘Word of the Year’ – “a word, or expression, that we feel has attracted a great deal of interest during the year to date. It need not have been coined within the past twelve months and it does not have to be a word that will stick around for a good length of time.”

I’d like to make an early prediction. This year’s word will be ‘troll’.

For those of you who may not be au fait with the expression in its non-mythical sense, the Urban Dictionary defines ‘troll’ thus: “One who posts a deliberately provocative message … with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument.”
There’s been a marked increase in this kind of activity recently, and it’s not just confined to internet message boards and newsgroups any more…

For various reasons mostly connected with the extraordinary kindness of others, the number of people following me on Twitter has increased dramatically in the past couple of weeks. This means that more people see the things I write. On the whole, that’s a good thing, and feeds my burgeoning narcissism nicely. But it also means, apparently, that I am more available for the receipt of abusive messages than I ever was back in the bad old days when only fifty people and an online shoe shop followed me. Because this week, someone tweeted this at me: “Congratulations on making yourself sound like a dick! Im going to suggest you are a ugly lonely old bag (most probably over weight)”.

Readers familiar with the idiom (rather than the idiot; you don’t know him) will notice straight away that this message bears all of the hallmarks of the classic troll. Tweeted by someone with only nine followers, it contains an unnecessary exclamation mark; it displays only a tenuous grasp of the English language; its accusations are based on guesswork rather than evidence. (Granted, at least two of them are true, but my point is that there is no way the author could have known that. He guessed lucky, is all.)

I have to admit to being rather pleased; being targeted by a troll felt like an indication that I had Arrived in some way – see ‘burgeoning narcissism’, above – because I’ve seen famous tweeters being plagued by trolls who think that it’s a great way to get attention and gain more followers. Comedian Al Murray, who seems to be a particular target for reasons I can’t quite fathom, often shares his obvious delight at receiving such messages: a typical exchange will read “Your boring” “My boring what?” “What?” – much to the delight of pedants everywhere. But I’d rather not give a troll the satisfaction. If having their @name in lights is what they want, then that is the very last thing I will give them.

Which brings me, with weary inevitability, to the Daily Mail.

The Mail’s editorial policy, neatly encapsulated in one headline

We all know that newspaper circulations are falling as a result of online editions and social media. But, rather than bemoan its fate, the Mail has adopted a new strategy. Despite the regular sniffy articles decrying Twitter and Facebook as the worst thing to happen to the world since Hitler – or, given its editorial policy record, possibly even worse than that – it has harnessed the power of social media to feed its own need for attention. By posting deliberately inflammatory nonsense like the recent “I’m proud to be a trophy wife” article by Samantha ‘too pretty for my face’ Brick, Mail Online is now the most visited news website in the world. Just think about that. More people visit that site than any other news site on the planet; not the New York Times, not the Guardian, not the BBC. And they visit it, not because the ‘news’ it contains is more accurate or balanced than on any other site – only the hilariously deluded could possibly believe that – but because, in many cases, the Mail has prodded them into outrage with a sharp Liz Jones-shaped stick. As a result, its advertising revenue increased by almost 70% last year. Every time you click, the Mail makes money.

Trolling clearly works. But only if you let it.

Worse Things Happen At Sea

•April 14, 2012 • 2 Comments

About seven months ago, Mr SB and I booked a holiday. Picture the scene: we have just returned from an idyllic week in a lovely well-appointed rental cottage in the Scottish Highlands. It has been peaceful. The sun has (occasionally) shone. There has been walking. There has been wildlife. There has been a peat stove. There has been Crabbie’s Ginger Beer. We have, in short, loved every second. So much so, in fact, that we decide immediately on our return to book a return visit at the start of the following summer.

After an agonisingly long wait, that second visit is now only three weeks away. Yesterday, however, we had a call to say that it has been cancelled. The owners have sold it, quickly and unexpectedly, and so we are no longer welcome.

The more superstitious among you (what are you even doing here? Shouldn’t you be fengshuing your chakras or something?) will have noticed that yesterday was Friday the Thirteenth. And to you I say: Bollocks. The date has nothing to do with it. Had Mr SB been unavailable to take the call, we would have found out on a different day. Maybe if we’d found out on Saturday the Fourteenth instead, we would have been a day too late to book an alternative. As it is, we’ve found one. So that was lucky, wasn’t it?

(This morning, I took my car for a service and MOT and deliberately parked it in Bay 13. That’s how unsuperstitious I am: I walk under ladders on purpose; I stand on cracks in the pavement. Because superstition is nonsense. The only reason that people believe bad stuff happens on Friday the Thirteenth is that they’re primed to be aware of it and so notice it more.)

Having your holiday cancelled at three weeks’ notice is upsetting. Yes, there were even a few tears. But I’ve posted before about the ridiculous exaggerated phrases that people use at times of such minor crisis, and so I refuse to be ‘devastated’ or ‘heartbroken’. I am merely ‘a bit upset’. Let’s keep a sense of proportion. After all, had I been alive 100 years ago, I might have been taking a holiday to New York, and that would have been really unlucky.

It wasn't Friday the Thirteenth then, either.