A Question of Language

AQuestionOfLanguage

My dear OH has some endearing habits, and one of them is to regularly impart little bits of random knowledge – he calls them ‘Interesting Facts of the Day’. The latest one of these turned into a rather amusing conversation.

It went like this:

OH: “Did you know that language is handled in a particular part of the brain?”

Me: “Yeah, colloquially known as the ‘language centre'”

OH: “Broca’s .. ”

Me: “Yes, Broca’s Area”

OH: “Well, did you know that if you learn a second language it’s handled in the same area?”

Me: “Yes, go on … ”

OH: “But if you learn a second language as an adult, you grow a new bit of brain in that area, just for the new language?

Me: “Wow .. you do?”

OH: “Yes!

Me: “Wow. I’ve grown a new bit of brain, and you haven’t!!”

OH: “Yeeees. Demoralising, isn’t it?”

Me: “No! No – you should learn! You can do it! You have the brain.”

OH (Musing): “I wonder what happens to those people who learn more than one new language? What if they learn six new languages – do they grow six new bits of brain? Why don’t their heads explode?”

Me: “Hahaha! You probably handle all the new languages in the one new bit”

OH (Getting a bit sidetracked): “Hey, why is the butter still out?”

Me: “Perchè ho ancora fame”

OH (Trying again): “Why is the butter out?”

Me: “Perchè non ho finito la mia colazione!”

OH: “But why is the butter out? It’ll get all hot and miserable!1

Me: “I told you. I’m still hungry and I haven’t finished my breakfast”

*Pause*

OH: “Yes, but you told me with your new bit of brain, and I heard it with my old one!”

Me: “There is a solution to that … ”

1 OH uses some very picturesque language, sometimes. But in fact I forgot to put the butter away and it did indeed get hot and miserable. Positively depressed and tired of life, in fact, judging by the way it had sagged and was sitting huddled at the bottom of the dish.

Aliens! Doing Alien Things!

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Well .. it is at least one explanation, is it not?

Looking out of my bathroom window (the only one on that side of the house high enough to see over the hedge), I spotted these very odd .. well .. crop circles, I suppose. Leaving aside the possibility of aliens dropping in to say hello in a very idiosyncratic manner, I’m thinking that someone1 probably started to spray the wrong field with weedkiller – or maybe the right field with weedkiller instead of insecticide.

Either way, I doubt the farmer is terribly happy about the result. I mean, what happens now? If he harvests the rest of the field, surely he can’t allow any of the affected wheat into the food chain, and how on earth is he to make sure of that?

We rely too much on pesticides of one sort or another, I know that much.

1 Someone who now wishes he were somewhere far, far away, probably. Or that he had decided to become a filing clerk instead of an agricultural worker.

A new definition of ‘dry’

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See, I always thought that ‘dry’ was the opposite of ‘wet’. That is; without moisture, or at least with a very low moisture content.

But I bought a pack of Morrison’s ‘Dry Cure’ ham a few days ago which was anything but dry. It was covered with a sheen of moisture, and there were actually droplets of water1 on the surface of the meat.

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So what on earth is up with that? It says ‘Dry Cure’ quite plainly on the label and yet when I opened it up, there it was practically sitting in a puddle of water!

Dry cure? Pull the other one.

Morrisons, please explain. I’m listening. Meanwhile, the only one who’s going to be eating this crap is Sid2.

1 Well. I say ‘water’, but in fact it is probably a kind of chemical soup composed of preservatives and salts.

2 Which is why there are a couple of slices missing. I didn’t eat them, Sid did – and with every appearance of enjoyment. But then, he can’t read.

A Family Thing

I wrote this post last week, but then my poor old Jeffie deteriorated further and on Friday was diagnosed with liver cancer, so I’ve been concentrating on spending time with him, enjoying his company and making sure he is as comfortable as possible in his remaining days or weeks. I wanted to add another photo, but for now I’ll publish and if I find the picture I wanted, I’ll add it later.

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Last week, I cashed in a Christmas gift.

When a couple has been married for thirty-eight years1, it becomes a tad harder for them to find suitable gifts for each other, so in recent years, OH and I have tended to try to find something a little different. There have been concert tickets, for instance, and one time I sent him on a cheese-making course which he thoroughly enjoyed. Often we can make these things a surprise, but sometimes we resort to asking for a list, and this last Christmas I asked to be taken to the ‘Who Do You Think You Are’ family history fair at the Birmingham NEC.

However, neither of us could have foreseen that this would be the week that poor Jeffie deteriorated to the point where we both felt it would be unfair to send him to Sharon’s for three days while we swanned off enjoying ourselves2 – even though she’s really great with the dogs and Sid used to live with her anyway – because it’s a small house and it has anywhere between eight and twelve greyhounds living in it at any one time. The poor old guy would have got knocked about and he wouldn’t have eaten, and that would have meant he’d have come home thinner and even less well. So we decided that I would go, and OH would stay home and care for the dogs.

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As it turned out it was a good decision, because he had a crisis and we called the vet out today (Sunday) really thinking that it would be a case of euthanasia, which caused not a few tears. But I’m happy to say that he’s still here, and doing a bit better. He is being given medication and we’ll see how he goes over the next few days. (Please forgive the placement of the copyright notice on that one, by the way. It’s to discourage the more extreme anti-racing activists from stealing it for their propaganda. Trust me, I’ve had this happen in the past and it’s really upsetting).

So anyway, on Wednesday evening, I arrived at the hotel3 armed with the tickets, my laptop, a couple of notebooks, many pencils, and some old family photos to take to the experts for dating to give me a clue as to who the hell was in them. And Thursday morning, bright and early, I was in the door and doing the rounds.

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One of my photos caused some excitement since it appeared to have been taken by a somewhat famous photographer, and while I still haven’t identified everyone who is in it, I know which regiment the man in the centre belonged to, and the approximate year range, and I know that one of the young ladies is my grandmother, and the others are great aunts (her sisters) so I can probably narrow it down. And I have some great information which should help me with some of the others, too. I did get my wrist slapped a bit for taking in a reprint of one instead of the original, because he needed to see the back to be able to tell me where and when it was taken, and of course the back of mine was a nice, clean … blank.

Then it was on to the ‘Ask The Experts’ desk to book a couple of sessions, and I’d hardly got to the front of the queue and made my bookings than it was time to find my seat in the first lecture of the day, after which I managed to look around a few stands and have some lunch before the next one began. I attended a lecture called ‘Are You Sitting Comfortably?’ on how to organise my research, and called simply ‘Parish Records’, the first of which was sobering but incredibly useful, and the second both fascinating and a little disappointing because I wanted to make notes of what was written on the slides but they were whipped away so quickly that I missed a lot.

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As you can tell, it was a very, very busy day. I came away with pages of notes, some great ideas on how to proceed on several different fronts, and a huge amount of enthusiasm. The next day was the same except that I never did get to the ‘Ask The Experts’ desk to book more sessions because I had two lectures booked for the morning and early afternoon and I needed to leave by half past two to get home. I’d only booked two nights at the hotel – and, of course, I wanted to get back to my sick dog. Friday’s lectures were ‘Scottish Parish Records’, which was a much better presentation than the English one, and ‘Copyright & Family History’ which was excellent if a little daunting and I’m not sure I understood it all completely.

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All in all, it was a great event and I was really very surprised not to find it more crowded and busy, though I chose to attend on the Thursday and Friday, and I’m going to assume that probably by the weekend you could barely move in there. I’ve never been to one of these things before, but I’ll go next year if I can, and next time I’ll be a whole lot better prepared. For one thing, I’ll beg or borrow an iPad instead of dragging a laptop around, I’ll sort out more (original) photos to take along, and I’ll plan my time better. Oh, and I’ll book the lectures earlier, too, because the popular ones really do fill up quickly. I never got so much as a glimpse of Tony Robinson, and I know he was giving one. That would have been fun!4

I particularly liked these 1930s tea rooms. Incidentally, you could get a lovely cup of tea and a really good Eccles cake in there!

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1 Yes, I am that old. Old as dirt, as my American friends say. I’m practically an antique.

2 Well, one of us would have been enjoying ourselves. The other one would have been utterly miserable and wishing he was anywhere but the NEC. In fact at one point, I sent him a text which read ‘This is FUN! You’d have hated it’.

3 But not, as it happened, the hotel we’d booked. We arrived at the really nice, luxury hotel OH had booked only to be told that they ‘had a problem with the booking’, which roughly translated almost certainly means ‘Ooops, we double-booked and you’re the unlucky ones’. They booked us a room at another hotel which they assured us would be of comparable quality, but was it heck as like. It was the Novotel at Birmingham Airport. Clean, reasonably comfortable but with toilet paper which appeared to have been made from recycled MacDonald’s drinks trays and about ten inches between the bed and the wall to slide along in order to get into the damn thing. Oh, and peculiar things like windows that opened, but with a notice on them which said in capital letters ‘DO NOT OPEN THIS WINDOW’ and three light switches between the toilet and the bathroom which you would think operated the lights for those rooms plus the little entrance area but which in fact did not. One of them worked the bedroom lights, while the bathroom switch was in the bedroom area. It was nearer to the NEC though, so it wasn’t all bad.

4 Although I’d have sat there grinning and thinking ‘I’m watching Baldrick giving a lecture on family history!’

A Very Blustery Day

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Bet you don’t know what that is.

Well, I’ll tell you. It’s a long streak of paint about fifteen inches long and nearly two inches wide on the outside wall of our house, and it comes from my car. No, I didn’t misjudge the width of the driveway1, nor did I back into it, or anything like that.

See, what happened was this; we took the dogs out this morning for their walk, and since Jeffie is so frail these days and Sid doesn’t want to go too far either, we drove them round to where we can do a nice walk in the countryside without having to walk to get there first. They had a lovely stroll in the sunshine – yes, and the wind – alongside a dyke, then diagonally across an open field and back along the road to the car. Took about 25 minutes, nice and slow. They really loved it, and so did I2.

Back home, OH backed the car neatly into place so that the dogs could jump out right by the front door and turned off the engine. I opened the door … and it was ripped out of my hand and slammed into the wall so hard that it has actually flattened a strip of the edge of the door about .. well, about fifteen inches long and about an inch wide.

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It’s also taken the paint clean off where it creases – if you look again at the photo at the top, you can see that at the point where it first hits the wall it’s a nice deep blue, which gets progressively lighter until it’s white, which I presume is the undercoat. And, incidentally, bruised my fingers, that’s how hard it was torn away from me. I’m glad I wasn’t wearing my rings at the time or there might have been blood.

So now I’m extremely pissed. This is my beloved Yaris Verso, which I have had from new and which is a perfect dogmobile. They don’t make them anymore, and I’ve been nursing it because it’s nearly thirteen years old. It was in extremely good nick.

Not anymore.

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I’m hoping that it can be beaten out and resprayed nicely, otherwise it’ll be a new door – and heaven knows how much that will cost.

Oh look! You get a bonus picture of me (disgruntled) taking that picture of the damage. Aren’t you lucky?

1 The driveway is very open to being misjudged. It looks straight, but it isn’t. There is a subtle angle on it, and also, it narrows. It’s not easy to back into, but we’ve both more or less got the hang of it now, after twenty-odd years.

2 Can’t say the same about OH, who moaned continually about the wind, and how cold it was, and how he wished he’d never agreed to come. To be fair, he suffers badly from the cold and has always hated wind.

March Winds And April Showers

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Last night, we watched the weather forecast and OH said ‘Good heavens! Look at that wind!!1‘ Tightly packed little arrows were sleeting viciously right across the UK chart and swirling across to Europe where presumably they intended to upset a whole lot more people.

And then, not being someone to whom the weather matters hugely, I forgot about it until this morning, when I woke to the merry sound of those little arrows, sleeting away like mad and producing all kinds of vicious windy noises, and incidentally bringing buckets of rain along with them which they were dropping carelessly all over the place.

The dogs didn’t get walked very early. That was just as well, because Sid got up around eight-thirty and pootled into the lounge to sink gratefully into his favourite bed, and Jeffie didn’t put in an appearance until nearly ten – only to do the same thing. I didn’t even have time to take his pyjamas off before he was asleep again by the radiator as if he’d been there all night.

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Around 11.30am the rain stopped and the sun came out2. We quickly hustled the dogs to the door, where I put their collars and leads on, and a raincoat on over Jeffie’s pyjamas, and we took them for a very quick walk.

On the way back, OH said:

‘Is that a helicopter? I would have thought it was too dangerous to fly in this wind!’

I listened carefully, and couldn’t hear one. Then a car came out of the village towards us going ‘thrumthrumthrumthrumthrum’ and I turned to him and said:

‘No, not a helicopter. It’s the wind. It’s gusting so hard it’s snatching the sound away.

Not sure I’ve heard that happen before.

For the rest of the day, the dogs stayed close to the radiators, curled up in their beds. It’s true that Jeffie came and poked his nose outside once or twice, but when he felt those little arrows tearing around, he poked it right back inside again and went back to bed, sure that his bladder would hold out just a little bit longer 3.

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At one point, the parasol over the fish pond broke clean in half, despite the fact that I’d ripped gashes in each section to let the wind through, and we had to go out and fight the wind to get it down safely and into the garage where it couldn’t break any windows or cause a traffic accident. OH then drove to the nearest garden centre for pond netting – without which we’d probably have woken up to a complete absence of fish4 – and we struggled and fought to put that over the water.

We walked the dogs during another lull in the rain. I got grit in my eye twice as we passed the place where they’re demolishing a bungalow (who does this kind of thing in a howling gale?) but we stayed dry. On the way back home, OH turned to me.

OH: ‘This is not very lamb-like! You said it would go out like a lamb!’

Me: ‘Well, these Old Wives Tales aren’t exactly 100% accurate, you know.’

OH: ‘But you promised!’

Me: ‘I’m sorry .. but you know, we have a few days yet. Let me see .. yesterday was the 28th, so … Tuesday. We have until Tuesday.’

OH: ‘But this is ferocious! You think this will calm down by Tuesday? We’re supposed to be getting a bad few days, you know!’

Me: ‘Well, you never know, it might! These are definitely March winds. Maybe we’ll get April showers next.’

Fast forward to the evening, when we were watching an hour of television and eating bacon sandwiches. The rain was lashing down so hard it was managing to go horizontal and bouncing off the windows.

OH: ‘That is NOT an April shower’.

Me: ‘No, that is a ‘Flood The Patio’ shower’.

OH: ‘April showers are supposed to come out of a clear blue sky. They are gentle things!’

*Pause*

OH: ‘Delicate.’

We both stared glumly out of the window to where the wind and rain were joining forces in a kind of vendetta against mankind.

OH: ‘In like a lion, out like a lamb. That’s what you said.’

Well, all I can say is that March did indeed come in like a lion, but against all the old-wifely rules, it appears to be going out like one, too.

If it goes on like this, the April showers won’t be bringing us flowers to bloom in May, they’ll be beating those shrinking violets to death and shredding the primroses like confetti. But we do have until Tuesday…

1 This is not exactly what he said. He said a Rude Word. I didn’t want to sully your ears.

2 Those bloody little arrows were still at it, though. And there were millions of them.

3 And amazingly, it did. For an old guy with some issues, he did well. That Vivitonin4 is doing a great job!

4 A drug used for Canine Cognitive Disorder, or as we like to call it, ‘Dogszheimer’s’.

5 We live in the fens where the land is flat and criss-crossed by dykes. The dykes have small fish and frogs and toads and small grass snakes and so on that live in them and therefore it is a great place for herons. Unfortunately for those of us with pond fish, in the winter and early spring, the small fish in the dykes are all hard to find and there is a definite dearth of reptiles and amphibians of all kinds, so the herons like to visit us to take advantage of what they probably think of as an all-you-can-eat buffet.

We’d sunk an old, but extremely sturdy garden parasol deep in the earth by the pond to deter the herons, with air vents so it didn’t take off and it’s done well all bloody winter, right up to now.

Winter – Photo Challenge

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Seems to me that I might as well join a photo challenge, while I’m trying to learn my way around my new camera, so here goes with ‘Winter’ from A Lil Hoohaa

It’s a little bit late, since this was the theme for February, but hey – the photos were taken in February, so doesn’t that count?

Now, we haven’t really had much in the way of frost or snow, and very little mist or fog, and since one can’t actually capture the feeling of very cold air in a picture, you’ll have to use your imagination a little bit1. Up there at the top, though, is rather wintry simply because of the mist combined with the blue sky and the ponies being fed hay because the grass is so thin on the ground. These ponies are being grazed on a rather limited area anyway; just a thin strip on the top of one of the many drainage dykes.

Next, I suppose, the low lighting generally should get a look-in, since that’s also a feature of this season, with or without visible manifestations of the chill factor2. Here’s a view I often get of OH and Jeffie as Sid and I pause to allow them to catch up. You see Sid, being a tripod, finds it easier to bound along at a fast-ish pace. Certainly it’s more than a fast walking pace for me, and I don’t do more than a very slow jog at the best of times. It’s not particularly comfortable for me, but it’s impossible for OH and Jeffie to keep up, so … there you go. Outlined by the low light of winter:

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This winter having been so mild, we’ve seen quite a few flowers blooming relatively early, but of course, the snowdrop is famous for putting in a ‘dawn-of-the-year’ appearance, and ours were true to form and have been out for a couple of weeks now. I have doubles and singles, but I much prefer the single flowered ones.

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Another dog walk, this time at the boating lake, which is a very popular dog-walking, child-walking, and general recreation area. The lake itself is frozen over, but with lots of cracks and un-frozen parts around the edges. The wildfowl seem to be managing OK, but it’s definitely not suitable for boating – or skating, come to that!

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Lastly, the sunset. This is fairly wintry, since it’s either in the late autumn or winter that we get such spectacular colours here in England. The sun was sinking so fast, as I stood taking photos, that I only had time for four before it was gone. I think it was worth getting out of the car for, though, don’t you?

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1 Yes, yes, I know. England doesn’t exactly reach hideously low temperatures compared to .. oh, I don’t know, Saskatchewan … but it feels bloody cold to us, OK?

2 Like snow, ice, hail, sleet, that kind of thing.

Babysitting

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There’s no doubt about it, if you go babysitting, and all goes well, you have time on your hands.

OH and I don’t watch much television. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I did actually watch television … oh, we do have a TV, and we do watch things on it, just not live broadcasts. We mainly use ours for playing DVDs1. So, I suppose, when I’m in someone else’s house, their television kind of bewilders me; first I have to get to grips with the remote, and then the programme guide, and then … well, maybe I’m just out of the habit, but often I simply don’t find anything I want to watch. OK, National Geographic is always good, and you can often find re-runs of various shows you’ve enjoyed, but on the whole, TV is pretty crap these days, as far as I can see.

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So yesterday, when I found myself babysitting the twins 2, I caught up on email, Facebook, forums, etc on my computer, decided against reading my book, and got out my new camera and set about continuing to learn my way around it.

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And when you’re in someone else’s house, and you don’t want to turn it upside-down setting up shots, you just wander around photographing whatever is handy.

These pictures here are probably fairly representative of most households with very young children in them.

The bath ducks were photographed on the corner of the bath (naturally) and once I had discovered that it was the best lit room in the house and that the white of the bath and the tiles made a great background, I took a couple of other things in there because I only had the little pop-up flash which is built into the camera, so I was a bit stuck for lighting.

The Olympus OMD E10 seems to be a great little camera. It has more options in the multitude of menus than I’ve had hot dinners 3, so it’s going to take me a while to learn it all, and customise it to the way I like it, but I think I’m going to enjoy it.

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And if it can take pictures like these right out of the box, without any extra lighting, I’m really quite impressed! I needed something more serious than a point-and-shoot, and much as I’ve loved my little Panasonic Lumix TZ30, it has dust inside the lens once again and .. well, it does have its limitations. The Lumix bridge camera is great, but it’s bulky and again, does have its limitations. The Olympus is a compact system camera, which means I can change lenses, and use filters, and just stretch my photography muscles a little bit.

I took it out with me to lunch at our favourite Italian restaurant, today. No flash, because of not wanting to disturb the other diners, so I’m quite impressed with the results.

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1 At the moment, an old series of House. Then we’ll be catching up with Downton Abbey, and after that we’re planning to settle in for another series of Montalbano.

2 On my own, because we’d both been out for four hours in the morning and Jeffie wasn’t happy and had been sick once already.

3 Yes, that was a pun.

Just for fun: Cee’s Fun Photo Challenge

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Just because I happened to be looking at pictures of scooters when I read about it, I’m joining in with Cee’s Fun Photo Challenge this week. Bet you can’t guess what the prompt is?

You can?

Oh. You’re right of course. It’s Bikes and Motorcycles.

The photo at the top was taken in Washington DC. A row of public rental bikes waits for customers. It’s a subscription scheme, I believe, so you have to sign up and use your card each time you want to take a bike. Short journeys only, please!

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These aren’t for hire. This is a normal street scene you can find in pretty much any Italian town anywhere. The roads are narrow and parking is at a premium, so scooters, motorbikes and bicycles are extremely popular. This was taken in Modena.

Next up is a rather lovely machine spotted in a car park somewhere – I can’t even remember where, now, but it struck me as worthy of a photo. I mean, well, it’s purple!!

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And lastly, two scooters parked up neatly in a corner of a town in Italy. This time it’s Urbino, Le Marche. It’s a gorgeous place, but some of the streets are nearly vertical, so I admire the bravery of the riders!

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And there you go. Cee’s Fun Photo Challenge can be found by following the highlighted link, if you’d like to take part, or even if you just want to go and take a look at some of the other entries.

Remind me never to …

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If ever I get tempted, please remind me never to hold a children’s party ever again, would you?

It seems that two rather managing young mothers got together and decided to send an email to all the parents of their daughters’ classmates, stating that for their forthcoming birthdays, they wanted a ‘class gift’ for them rather than individual offerings. They informed the recipients exactly what the young ladies wanted – a kindle for one, and a desk for the other – and even suggested an amount that parents should contribute (£10) and a couple of alternative methods of paying.

Stunned, another mother, Myleene Klass1, relieved her feelings on Twitter, adding a picture of the email she had received and her reply to it. Her reply was classic, and very funny. She told the two grasping forward-thinking and hopeful mothers that her own daughter would like a real, live unicorn for her birthday and that she herself wouldn’t be averse to a Ferrari, and/or Leonardo DiCaprio. She suggested that money could be donated via a fictitious website’. Having read this email, I think it was a pretty good one. A nice blend of humour, and ‘take you down a peg or two in the nicest possible way’.

Here’s where it gets really silly. The headteacher of the school chose to reprimand Ms Klass for making it public rather than the two instigators for their outrageous and extremely rude begging email, and she was also harangued at the school gates by the other mothers.

There’s no doubt that to publish the email on Twitter was unacceptable, but at least it has brought to light what is going on in our schools today. It may be that it was a private school for the well-heeled and well-connected, but if so, does that make it any better? And this comes not very long after a young boy’s father was sent an invoice for nearly £16 for failing to send his son to a friend’s party, which happened to be held at a dry ski slope.

I’m afraid that to this grouchy old woman who remembers – and holds to – the values of her childhood, this all seems .. well, a mixture of sad, pathetic and absolutely fucking outrageous. And no, I am not going to beg you to excuse the swearword2.

I would like now to give you the reply that would have been forthcoming from me, if anyone had ‘suggested’ that I pay £10 towards a child’s ‘class gift’ when my boys were young.

Dear Managing and Socially Inept Fellow Parent,

Thank you for your email regarding my contribution to your son/daughter’s ‘class gift’ on the occasion of their forthcoming birthday. What a very clever, and rather inspired, thought! But – forgive me – I fear you cannot have thought this through.

You see, there are thirty children in the class, and if I were to do this for each of them, the amount I would need to find on a yearly basis comes to £300. I also have another son, in whose class there are twenty-eight children, which adds another £280 to the bill. Since I cannot afford an extra £580 per annum from my classroom assistant’s wages until such time as my sons leave this school, I must decline to take part, on the basis of fairness to all the other children. After all, since you have shown such an example of inclusiveness, I can hardly contribute to one and fail to spend on them all, can I?

Yours, Affronted of Orton Malborne

This doesn’t even take into account the fact that some parents have three, four, or even five children, and are thus on even tighter budgets than we were. Can you imagine trying to find an extra £1500 each year as a single mother on child benefit? Or are we now judging people on their ability to pay, and discriminating against those who choose larger families? Personally, I can’t imagine the effect all this will have on the kids themselves. I have visions of the ‘haves’ feeling superior to the ‘have nots’3 and the ‘have nots’ being looked down upon and feeling not only inferior in some way, but shamed.

More to the point, really, is that if we go with this horrible new venture, will it not make the children themselves look down their cute little noses at those with different values4 or lifestyles which make it impossible or undesirable for their families to join in? What about the kids whose ‘class present’ email doesn’t bring enough revenue for their desired unicorn gift?

I sometimes get sick to the back teeth with the current politically correct attempt to include everyone, everywhere, all the time, because let’s face it, life isn’t like that and if we are taught to believe that it is, we are doomed to bitter disappointment, but this is … well, let’s just say it’s a step in the wrong direction.

Or maybe I’m way out of date and this now is the done thing. I sincerely hope not. It’s bad enough that there now appear to be rules for holding children’s parties about who gets to win what and which treats have to be provided for each child and when it’s OK to withhold them.

1 So, OK, Myleene Klass happens to be both famous and well-heeled. It is hardly the point.

2 This does not betray my childhood values at all. My father, God rest his soul, swore like the trooper he once was.

3 As has always happened and will continue to happen despite our best endeavours, especially among children.

4 Jehovah’s Witnesses, for instance, who don’t celebrate personal birthdays.