Monthly Archives: September 2008

Answer to Riddle 2

LOVE

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Riddle 2

I am still and I am urgent

I float and I dive

I inspire and I consume

I am pure and I am knowing

I empower and I debilitate

I am a dictator out of control

Possessive when I’m scared

Free-spirited when I’m brave

I am always different

I am always the same

If I am real I will never die

All that matters is me

And I am all that matters

What am I?

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Cognitive Behaviour Therapy on my 3 year old

B: I don’t want to go to Flo’s party.

M: Why not, darling? It’s going to be brilliant.

B: Because she smells and she’s got horrid freckles and she’s stupid.

M: Gosh, that’s a funny old way to think isn’t it, Munchkin?

Absolutely choc-full of cognitive distortions.

B: What, Mummy?

M: Well, saying she smells is something of an overgeneralization, wouldn’t you say?

It’s true she had been poking her little mittens around in some tuna fish last time we saw her but that doesn’t mean to say she smells like that generally.

As for the freckles remark, I think you’ve got a rotten case of mental filtering, you Cheeky Monkey.

Picking out tiny negative things and focusing on them just a little too much is a bit rudey-bananas.

Freckles are kisses from the sun, even if she is completely covered in nasty, large ones.

And calling her stupid is just old-fashioned labeling, which doesn’t do anybody any good.

B: But it’s going to be an awful party.

M: Dear, oh dear. You might have to come and visit Mummy’s nice lady with her next time- hey, Poppet?

Predicting it’s going to be an awful party sounds suspiciously like jumping to conclusions to me or, more specifically, fortune telling.

B: But that doesn’t make sense.

M: I know. It sounds a bit ‘Harry Potter’, doesn’t it?

B: No, not that. You said the party was going to be brilliant. How do you know?

M: So you have been listening? That’s smashing.

I won’t reward your cleverness with food because that might establish some harmful associations, but jolly well done.

I was being ever so slightly naughty and doing some wishful thinking back there.

But Mummy’s paying the lady quite a lot of money to learn these things so surely there’s no harm in using them to her advantage now and then.

B: I don’t care. They’re always awful parties and I’m going to go and die of fish smells.

M: ‘Always’, ‘Never’- what a little all-or-nothing thinker you’ve become.

Mummy’s going to let you in on a special secret: few aspects of human behaviour are so absolute.

As for thinking you’re going to die, that’s a large dollup of catastrophization, with chocolate sauce on top!

Even if she’s been fiddling in a tin of John West’s again, it won’t be the end of the world.

All the same, I’m glad we’ve had this time together, B.

I’ll let you stay at home with Mummy and we can read a book together.

B: Goody, Mummy. Can it be ‘Biscuit Bear’?

M: Why not? After a couple of chapters of Dr. Burns’ ‘Feeling Good’ handbook, we can treat ourselves.

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London schools: a guide

Deciding where to send your child to school in London depends on whether you want him to be buggered by a boy with a holiday home or knifed by one with an ASBO.

Of course, this is grossly unfair.

In the main, it applies to secondary schools.

Primary schools are a different kettle of fish altogether.

They come in five flavours: Private, Church, State (Good), State (Bad) and Other.

Private

Private schools are members’ clubs with homework.

Their admissions claim to revolve around absurd lists composed of double-barrelled names, scratched by mothers staggering out of chauffeured Rolls, clutching their c-section scars.

In reality, it’s a ‘yes’ to 3 very simple questions:

1. Are you a banker? (Not the rhyming slang one, although come to think of it…)

2. Are you German, American or Aristocratic Indigenous?

3. Will you contribute something ostentatious for the school auction? If not, will you bid ostentatiously for something at the school auction?*

*There is a fourth option here, which is, Will you allow yourself to be the thing other people bid ostentatiously for at the school auction?, otherwise known as working at your child’s private school, in order to reduce the fees. You can offer to cook a meal or do the ironing for a week or agree to be gracious when the other parents patronise you at the school play.

Once in possession of the golden entry ticket, these little mites tumble out of their 1000 thread-count sheets and pour themselves into uniforms so stiff with quality, they can barely stand straight enough to hold their leather briefcase off the ground.

Then onwards to the porch of their period-building school, where they must thrust a serious paw into that of the waiting Headteacher, inquiring politely how the FTSE is faring, before giving an update on the progress of their parents’ property portfolio in Mauritius.

On Mondays they do rare Mongolian wood carving. On Tuesdays they study form at Ascot. On Wednesday they try to identify the most expensive wine, from a tasting menu. On Thursday they try to identify their parents, from photographs.

And on Fridays they have Third World Studies, where a child from a neighbouring estate is brought into the classroom and asked questions about how he copes with staying in London for the whole of August.

Church

Church schools are State schools with a God filter, to keep the riff-raff out.

They teach their charges to share and forgive and build an affection for the hymns they will have at their weddings 30 years later, leaving the messy gay bishop issues for a later date.

Muscling into the Believers nest are an ungainly breed of nervous middle-class cuckoos, squeezed between the private schools that were once their birthright and the abominable state schools they believe their cleaners’ children attend.

Generally, they discover God when their child is 3, having been ‘living abroad’ beforehand or trapped under a heavy object. They drift piously into pews, professing a religious fervour Jesus would have given his right arm for, offering little Tobias to Sunday school, like a dutiful Amish man relinquishing his daughter to be wife number 9.

It would be un-Christian to say that this phenomenon had not gone un-noticed by the vicar. That he wields his power like Boris Johnson with an out-sized Olympic Games flag. That he secures coffee dates with desperate, fragrant mothers, assessing the number and nature of favours they are willing to undertake to save the souls of their off-spring.

So if I did say this, would that make my son eligible for one of the two ‘World Faith’ places you offer in reception? In theory? Just asking.

State (Good)

Good state schools are private schools you pay your mortgage lender for, instead of the school.

Steering an institution which educates children, with good results, and at no cost, makes the Headteacher a man certain of his position in the karmic system, prone to smiling at NHS consultants with a look that says, ‘I too, will be coming back as a lottery winner.’

Any more driven and he’d have to skip assembly to go for a car-wash.

Grateful parents off-load trucks of the brand whose marketing departments they run to raise funds at the school fair, which will help maintain the school’s reputation and ensure their moral and financial smuggery over fee-paying friends.

Amongst their peers will be at least two celebrity parents, keeping it real.

One will be a high-profile politician insisting that they sincerely wanted to send their child to a rubbish school but they just happen to live in Kensington and Chelsea, and there was no alternative.

The other- an actor, who gets steady work from the BBC- will be pushed to the front to do the local rounds, begging small businesses for sponsorship, convincingly playing the role of any ordinary parent who feels serious about state education.

Clever, yet streetwise, children who leave these schools are thought to be the best equipped to deal with contemporary society, learning skills that one day will enable them to trample on the underclasses of society, without seeming like insufferable out-of-touch snobs:

‘Are you going to %$¬£ing shut up, innit?’

‘Safe, man, but check those split infinitives.’

State (Bad)

Bad state schools are youth detention centres, given Government funding.

Their job is to contain and re-habilitate, where possible, seeking to prevent the building from arson attempts, and classroom visitors from sustaining any permanent injuries.

Children use yard time to skull bottles of Pepsi and lob stones over the school gates at passers-by, while class-time sees the planning of petty crimes for the rest of the week, which they plan to take as holiday.

Unless, that is, they can find a kid to refuse to remove his turban in P.E., in which case a teachers’ union strike will save them the trouble.

By the end of term half the parents will be waving placards about unacceptable standards at the entrance, while the other half will be sneaking back in with fresh supplies of stones.

Whether they rise to the top and gain a scholarship to a poncy school (flicking two fingers at at their privileged peers on arrival) or remain illiterate (save for the spelling of certain pharmaceuticals) these children will emerge tougher than their school dinners’ meatloaf.

Other

Other schools are novelty joke shops which sort of try to follow a kind of national curriculum-like thingamejig.

Populated by the offspring of deeply individual, anti-establishment parents, who universally loathed their own school experiences, they revolve around a theme that has absolutely nothing to do with the traditional acquisition of knowledge, as defined in a dictionary.

Whether Steiner, Woodland, Buddhist or Home-Schooling, their supporters see children as individuals with rights and freedoms, likely to despise scratchy uniforms, turgid times tables and evil teachers, as much as they did.

Classes are taught English literature by roaming through forests, calling to birds in visceral trance-like states, before heading back to the school tee-pee and sharing the organic squash they communally planted last full moon.

If a prospective parent asks where the school feeds into for secondary education, the teachers-who-are-friends smile patiently and lead them into the garden to lay a hand on a stone and try to understand that nothing is permanent and we are all one with each other.

*

That said, in view of the fact that wherever he beetles around in his uniform, on his 11th birthday your child will announce his intention to win Pop idol, academic questions are academic.

So a parent really only has one responsibility to their progeny: to ensure that these are not the best days of their lives.

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Facebook News feed

Charlee has updated her profile picture. You are now more likely to want to shag her. Plus she’s obviously having an immense amount of fun at a rave.

Fred Ditherington-Bobworth is relieved. He couldn’t find a single person out of his 356 friends who he imagined would come to his funeral, before realising he was looking at the account of a Kansas college student, with the same name.

Simon won’t give any details in his profile and has blocked his friends list but spends on average two afternoons looking at other people’s photographs. He’s part of a network with intimacy issues.

Lizzy and Martha are now friends. Lizzy didn’t feel she could ignore Martha‘s friend request any longer. She sent her acceptance along with an Event invitation, taking place indefinitely: ‘Wave At Me In The Street And I Will Not Wave Back.’

Dave poked Davina. In his dreams there was no computer involved.

Dave threw a chicken back at Dylan. It was a displacement activity for going round to his house and burying a bullet between his juvenile eyes.

Fred Ditherington-Bobworth is depressed. He has 352 less friends than his American namesake and is pretty sure none of them would come to his funeral.

Tyler Slingsby is swimming in the Maldives and thinking how glorious the water is. Don’t ask him how he is back-crawling with a lap-top. You’re missing the point. The one about him being in the Maldives, while you’re at your miserable office desk.

Jess commented on Suzie‘s photo: ‘OMG. Your kid is doing such cute, funny things with those pants on her head!! She doesn’t look anything like you though.’

Freya commented on her own photo: ‘How good do I look in this shot?’

Adrian was so bored at work he was close to making prank phone-calls to a police station. Then he downloaded the People You May Know application and found he had a son. Now he feels sick.

Ray found out he was Charlotte in Sex and the City. Once he has spent the week-end reappraising his sexuality he’s going to take the test again and try to make himself Samantha.

Hugh found out he was the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz and doesn’t have a brain. He then spent 4 hours playing Scrabulous.

Zoe is worried that the therapist she is seeing to help her with her FB addiction will press *CNTRL* and know that it is his profile she looks at the most.

Suzie replied to Jess‘ comment on her photo: ”It’s odd you say that because some people think our matching birthmarks make us look like peas in a pod. But then you probably couldn’t even see my face that night we met in the cinema!! Hahahahaha LOLxxxxxxxxxx’

If someone called Brian Yearling asks to be your friend SERIOUSLY DO NO ACCEPT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. If you do he will hack into your account and see your wedding photos and then hack into all your friends’ accounts and find out their religious views. And by the end of the week he will be ALL OVER your favourite quote.

Stefan is so far in he’s out but still has such a long way to go. Christ, can’t any of you see this is a cry for help? What do I have to do? Call your houses and weep down the phone?

Jess replied to Suzie’s comment on her comment on her photo: ‘Yes, you’re right, Sarah. And it was over 10 years ago too!!!! Miss you, mwah, mwah, S.W.A.L.K xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx’

Olivia voted you The friend who most needs to grow up and take world issues seriously and invites you to plant a tree for World Peace in her garden.

Clive is careful to point out that he has never initiated a friend request. He is also willing to join the group ‘I try only to laugh at week-ends’, providing someone else invites him.

Raquel has figured out that if she accumulated the hours she has spent trawling the site of her ex-boyfriend, trying to work out which of his friends are really lovers, she could have gone on a Club 18-30 holiday, to look for a new one.

Tammy wrote on Gordon‘s wall: ‘Did you put rohypnol in my drink last night, you old bugger?!!’

Sofia is bored with journalists boring on about how Facebook is a public platform for people without real friends to talk about nonsense. What exactly is it they do again?

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Businessman #3

These fluctuating markets are really messing with my head.

I crashed on my pillow last night.

I need time out, I thought. I need to have some fun.

Next thing you know, I’m having this dream.

And it’s so cool because, for once, it’s not about the office.

The guys have come over with some beer and we’re just hanging out.

Shooting the breeze and laughing about guy things.

Then someone says they’re hungry and I say, ‘Let’s order pizza’.

Then Joel gets this dark look about him and says,

‘But you asked us all to bring a piece of pie.’

‘It wouldn’t matter how big. As long as we all work as a team,’ chimes in Franz.

‘There’s no ‘i’ in pie, you said,’ says Hamish. ‘Actually there is, but we knew what you were getting at.’

‘What?’, I say. ‘What was I getting at? What the hell are you talking about?’

Then they all reach under the table and bring out their pie pieces and I realise what this is.

It’s an intervention.

And they are here to tell me I am officially obsessed with work.

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Little Nipper

Have you read The Lovely Bones? It’s a story narrated by a murdered girl, from beyond the grave.

So this is basically what I’m doing, only I’m a mouse.

Incidentally, I haven’t read it. They only make mouse versions of Beatrix Potter and Judy Blume, as if that’s all we can handle.

I’d like to tell you I’m one of those adorable little critters in childrens’ stories- all moist of nose, with chestnut fur and papery ears. That I scamper busily, stopping suddenly to whiff the air, with my little pink paws tucked up under my whiskers.

In fact, I’m a mangey old duffer- the colour of hair forty-something women plead to have covered up with highlights.

I’m the one in the group of lab rats the Head Scientist feels no guilt in picking out: ‘Yeah, grab that one. Pump it full of Impulse body-spray and time it choking.’

All the same, I haven’t got an attitude. I’ve always kept my head down, got on with the job.

Sure, I chased the nibbles here and there but never the flashy stuff- restaurants, cruise ships, all that jazz.

I’m a survivor.

So picture my face when I’m checking out a stale old crumb, on a school night, and ‘Thwack’, a bloody great metal arm comes crashing down on my vertebrae.

Ignoble, undramatic, text-book stuff.

The last thought rushing through my brain? ‘You have GOT to be kidding me.’

I mean, a crumb, for a start. Couldn’t the good Lord take me reaching for a bacon bite? A rum truffle? Like some cheeky old bugger having a heart-attack shagging a playboy bunny?

There would at least have been a hearty sense of justice.

‘He died of greed. You could say he deserved it.’

The hideous irony is, I wouldn’t be seen dead gnawing away at rye- let alone stale rye (although it’s hard to tell the difference).

It was pure curiosity. Car-crash mouse bait.

You just never think it’s going to happen to you. It’s always some other poor sod, with shoddy footwork.

Then in a London kitchen. I mean what a place to go.

Burrowing up under Jamie Oliver’s larder, yes. Trying to beat a Paddington train, maybe.

‘He died really going for it. He had never felt such a rush.’

But creeping around for a snack in cliche Mouse Central? How woefully prosaic.

I know where I went wrong. The night before, I followed a mate up a pipe and the next thing I know I’m in this little store cupboard.

Hello! Dry goods pay-dirt, I think.

Only it’s all been wrapped up by someone neurotic and there’s no way in.

I can hear the t.v. next door so I bumble into the kitchen proper- taking it a little easy, you might say.

Just a quick scan tells me I won’t be banqueting. And yet a cleaner’s not feeling the benefit of the household income, if you know what I mean.

Then it happens.

A shadow at the door and some stupid bint gasping for breath, like she just saw the ghost of Anna Nicole Smith.

For Christ’s sake, woman, grow up! There are train tracks out the back of your window. Who do you think snuggles into their sleeping bags down there every night? Terry Wogan?

So I had to shift my bum, sharpish, under the washing machine and on my way back out the next day, I got made mouse toast.

I can just see her in the iron-mongers. Mouthing ‘mousetrap’ to the shopkeeper so her son isn’t overwhelmed by a tidal wave of hyprocrisy.

‘Let’s read about the little mouse now, darling. Mmm, yummy, he loves cheese. Isn’t he cute?’

Cuter still with blood spurting out of his arterial veins.

Because this is where it really hurts.

Not only meeting a comedy mouse fate but in a trap called- if you can believe it- ‘Little Nipper’.

Yes, you heard right. It had a witty name and here it is, pre-execution:

Some mouse-hating muppet actually saw fit to name the device of my destruction, with a grin and a wink- the creative part of his otherwise scientific role.

Like the manufacturer of the electric chair taking a permanent marker and writing ‘Sizzler’ on the arm-rest, before standing back to chuckle.

Can I be alone in thinking he’s one sick mo-fo?

But, hey, what’s done is done. We live, we learn.

A saucepan would have been farcical. A glue-box, drawn-out agony. A humane-tunnel scenario could have got too interactive: better to be feared than pitied.

Can I even make a defining statement of my exit? Is it possible for such an event to be noteworthy?

Hell, yes. Anything is possible.

‘He died in a mousetrap. It was the most embarrassing moment of his life.’

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