Everyone is looking!


Yesterday I was sitting on the train on my way into London, reading the paper and  looking forward to eating at my favourite Indian restaurant, when all thoughts of food were wiped from my mind.  Two rows down was a man with his index finger so far up his nose it must have been tickling the back of his skull.  He began to rummage around and then triumphantly produced something on the end of his finger and proceeded to examine it in minute detail.  At this point I looked away, too afraid to watch how the scene was going to end.  It got me thinking about what is acceptable to do in public and what is most definitely not.

Obviously picking your nose in public is an absolute no no, although it is surprising how many people forget, particularly on public transport.  It is also horrifying how many men will blew their noses into a tissue or handkerchief and then have a good long look at the contents.  Why has no one told them that it is completely unacceptable and likely to set off the gag reflex in sensitive onlookers?  Another revolting habit is spitting,  the terrible hawking noise that precedes the actual thing is enough to send me rushing off down the road, terrified it might land on or near me.

Then again, some things are open to debate.  What do you do if you have a monumental wedgie while walking down a busy street?  Do you sort yourself out quickly then and there, or do you sidle into an alley or back up to a wall and do any adjustments out of sight?  Husband tells the story of an ex  whose knickers fell down while out shopping with her mother (I know, sounds suspicious doesn’t it?) and her mother said “Step out of them dear and keep walking” and apparently she did.  I can’t help wondering what would have happened if an observant shopper had rushed over, picked up the offending garment and said “Oy!  You dropped these”.

Another scenario which is interesting to watch and I am not sure of correct etiquette is the use of hot towels in a restaurant.  When we are given the lovely warm, scented towels after eating, I use them to refresh my hands.   Husband on the other hand, uses his to completely wipe his hands and face and has even been known to rub the back of his neck with it while I am hissing at him to stop.  I must point out that he is not alone in this, as I have seen other husbands doing the same while their wives look either horrified or resigned.

At school we were told never to eat in the street or brush our hair in public, but both of those rules seem a little outdated now.  Many people grab a sandwich for lunch and munch it on the way back to their desk, not the mention all the women who put the finishing touches to their makeup while on the train to work.

I suppose it is just a question of not doing anything which is going to make anyone in the vicinity feel queasy or set off the gag reflex.  Making them roar with laughter should be avoided as well, although wardrobe malfunctions can happen to anyone.   I am not sure that I would have had the nerve to step out of my knickers and keep walking.  It is however a convincing argument for always wearing trousers.




Keeping my Cool

berry cartoon road rage 092711

What is it about getting behind the wheel that brings out the worst in some people?  I have to admit that I am known among my friends and children for having an extremely short fuse while driving.  This is not helped by the fact that I am often driving around the suburbs of Madrid where the antics of some motorists have to be seen to be believed.   I am notorious for using exaggerated and often obscene hand gestures to inform other drivers that they have just undertaken a highly dangerous or ill mannered manoeuvre.  This can cause all sorts of problems when you live in a fairly small town and you are likely to bump into the offending driver at the supermarket or outside the school gates.

After just such an episode where an extremely rude gentleman stole the parking space that I had been patiently waiting for and I wound down the window and told him exactly what I thought of his driving manners as well as insulting the size of his brain and manhood, only to sit down opposite him a couple of days later in our dentist´s waiting room, I have realised that I need to tone down my reaction to bad driving etiquette.  Therefore I have decided to do the opposite of  what other drivers might expect and remain calm and smiling at all times.  This is no mean feat when you are hooted at for NOT pulling out into oncoming traffic at a roundabout or have to slam on your brakes when another road user has cut across three lanes of traffic to make the motorway exit while still travelling at 120 kph.  But now I am a picture of serenity (at least on the outside), I wave at the offending drivers with a big smile and the most I will do is blow them kisses when I have been hooted at for obeying the speed limit.  Actually, blowing kisses seems to be more inflammatory than the worst hand gesture as I have noticed the recipients becoming apoplectic with rage on a couple of occasions.

My verbal insults have been toned down as well, and Teenage Son and Daughter seem faintly disappointed that I am not swearing viciously after each traffic incident. They still remind me of the time when they were small that I called a reckless female driver a stupid cow after she jumped the lights at our local intersection.  For months afterwards the children would look for the dairy cow that they were sure lived at those traffic lights.   Husband, on the other hand, still hoots and shouts at his fellow commuters on his way home, as everyone weaves in and out of lanes or tailgates.  I can now smugly touch his arm and say ¨Let it go, it isn´t worth getting worked up about¨and wave in a stately manner at whoever has put all our lives in danger.

By smiling and reminding myself to breathe deeply while driving around, I am hopeful that my blood pressure will stop skyrocketing.  It will also fit in nicely with my resolution to try and reduce stress in my life although frankly the best way to achieve that on the roads of Madrid is to buy a tank.


Sorting Family Photos





Life and photography having gone digital, I now have approximately 2000 photographs on my computer which I need to sort out.  It is one of those jobs which should be enjoyable but there are so many to wade through.  The whole process is fraught with difficulty.

The first hurdle to overcome is that the moment I start to look at old photos, the memories come flooding back and inevitably I start going through them slowly, smiling at how small and blonde the children were, or how young everyone looks.  This then leads on to how young I looked (sob!) and the energy that seems to jump out of the picture as I am cheerfully dragging the children out for another extremely long hike when the poor things had only just learned to walk.  Husband (again looking absurdly young) can be seen assuring them that the walk will only last half an hour.  Unfortunately they learned very quickly that he has a very skewed idea of how long half an hour is supposed to last and we have struggled to get them to walk for more than 10 minutes ever since.  So after hours of scrolling and clicking on photos, I have only managed to add the odd caption or merge the occasional file but have completely failed to put them into any sort of order  or even better, put them into albums which is my ultimate aim.

The next problem with digital photos is duplicates.  I have hundreds of examples where I have taken three or four photos of the same thing.  Each photo is slightly different and I spend ages switching back and forwards between them, trying to decide which is the best one and which I should delete.  Once I have decided on my favourite I then lack the ruthlessness to delete the rest, fearing that I might want to use those pictures in the future (I have no idea for what).

The one instance where I am merciless with the delete button is with photos of me.  I actually appear in very few as I am generally the person taking the picture,  but every so often someone offers to take a picture of the family and I make an appearance.  Unfortunately most of these occasions are after I have been taking part in some strenuous or terrifying activity such as downhill mountain biking in the Alps or steep offpiste skiing.  I am wearing no makeup, my hair has been encased in some form of helmet, I am wearing deeply unflattering clothing such as lycra bicycling tights or vastly padded skiwear and my expression is one of wild terror or soggy relief at having survived whatever we have just undertaken.  It always seems that everyone else in the picture looks perfectly put together and completely unaffected by the near vertical descent we have just made on our bikes or the zip lining over a bottomless gorge.  Needless to say, these pictures are swiftly consigned to the trash while I hunt for more suitable examples where I am at least dressed vaguely normally and perhaps even made up and wearing a heel.  Sadly, these are few and far between, so some of the less flattering ones have been kept for the sake of having some family pictures where we all appear.

I think the solution is probably to use Photoshop to transplant my coiffed and made up head onto my body in some of the more exciting family pictures but I suspect that my relaxed and benign expression may look a bit odd in comparison with some of the earlier pictures.  Hopefully only I will notice!





How to make a New Years Resolutions List

1.  Find a serviceable pen and a sheet of paper. Easier said than done in our household , where any form of writing tool has either dried up or been stashed in a school pencil case.

2.  Pour yourself a good measure of your favourite wine, brandy etc. (this step should be left out if giving up alcohol is one of your Resolutions)

3.  Grab a piece of Christmas cake or some chocolate (again, this should be treated with caution if weightloss is about to go on your list)

4.   Find a comfortable chair or sofa and clear any debris left over from last nights revelries or even Christmas  partying  (in this instance, it might be worth considering  keeping up with the household tidying as a possible Resolution).

5.   Tell everyone that you must not be disturbed under pain of death.  Demands for food, queries about lost garments and requests to be chauffeured to friend’s houses should be met with a forceful negative reaction (if done convincingly this could gain you at least a few minutes peace).

6.   Sit back, relax and possibly close your eyes  (you should be careful about this step if you have had a heavy night, but it can be justified if Taking up Meditation is on your list).

7.   If partners sidle into the room with suggestions of chores that need doing, take the opportunity to start a very useful Resolution and begin delegating  immediately.

8.   Consider carefully how much effort a Resolution may require.  Vague  statements such as “I will eat more healthily” are preferable to concrete commitments such as ” I will give up chocolate”.

9.    Make sure your list of Resolutions is for your eyes only, so partners or children cannot question your commitment to anything on the list at a later date.

10.   And finally, if all this sounds too much like hard work, make a Resolution to do the list tomorrow, after all no one need know and you can use the few minutes you have gained to catch up on any lost sleep!

Happy New Year!!