A Series of Unfortunate Series

The watching of series phenomenon has altered the way we live. I fear that family life will never be the same.

First came TV dinners; then came social media and lately series; all transforming us from social, companionable beings into individualistic  fowl who pop into our chicken coops after dinner with the zeal of a greedy child hiding the Christmas chocolate back in the advent calendar.

I suppose I am speaking on behalf of all those with addictive personalities – you know who you are: you have to finish all the chocolate once it is opened; you can’t stop scrolling through Facebook/Instagram notifications, even though you are bored already with other people’s family outings/ neatly arranged meal/cocktail/ or random sunset; you just have to try once more to reach reach the next level on Candy Crush, and of course you who cannot stop until you have finished every season of a series.

Binge watching is the problem, not the series itself. I mean ever since Charles Dickens first began publishing his works in serial form, both weekly and monthly, readers have become used to anticipating the next episode.  Daily and weekly television programmes did the same thing. Who does not remember the excitement of the opening bars of the Dallas theme or the desire to know who shot JR?! Now, however, an entire season of a show is dumped on Showmax or Netflix (I don’t want to know if you are pirating your addiction) and we no longer have to delay gratification by waiting to see the outcome of the cliffhanger ending, because Netflix tells us that the next episode of Luther is opening in …7…6…5…seconds. And then you carry on, even if you really should switch off and go to sleep; have sex with your spouse; or have a conversation with a flesh and blood person. And let’s face it Idris Elba. Well, Idris Elba:Image result for idris elba

Too much of anything is bad for you, my mother always said. And reluctantly even Idris needs to be switched off from time to time because as Aristotle pointed out 3000 years ago, true happiness should not be confused with pleasure; and just to be clear, series are ‘passing pleasures’ they do not give us deep, soul happiness. In fact the obsessive consumption of episode after episode can cause the same kind of sick feeling after you’ve polished off the whole Cadbury’s Milk Choccie.

It seems some shows also result in rather tumultuous emotions:Related image Game of Thrones fans are so devout that they gather in bars for ‘watch parties, causing some problems for HBO because they are publicly screening the shows, costing the channel revenue. But just look at the picture above – this is the episode when we discover how Hodor got his name – my girls wept for half an hour after that. I still think these cult parties are better than the habit most of us have of disappearing into our own territory to watch alone though.

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Such solo viewing of series has brought about a new form of cheating on your loved ones. My husband and I used to watch series together, but because one or the other would want to stop after a while (that would be him – he has more restraint), accusations of going on alone can rend a relationship asunder.   There’s actually a name for it, I kid you not: ‘Netflix cheating’ and any number of ‘scholarly articles on betrayal-by-watching-on. Such behind-his-back watching was found to be considered worse than sending flirty smses to someone else in one study. Seriously?! And yet this addiction for ‘just one more’ is so compelling …

Like all film media, we must always consider the hidden cultural messages we are being exposed to. There is your usual standard US propaganda in shows about law enforcement. And here I must pick on services like HBO yet again with the gratuitous sex and violence in shows such as Game of Thrones. Pause to consider that the target audience of channels such as HBO are 18-44 years and male and you get an idea whose interests are being catered for. This explains why there is so much hyper-masculinity and misogyny vis a vis nudity and the general way women are depicted. We become so inured to regular blood-spouting decapitations and debauchery that they begin to seem normal. And that is how stereotypes and implicit bias works, my friends.

Big Bang Theory has been accused of ‘the complicity of geek masculinity’ in reinforcing gender stereotypes, despite having as its protagonists ‘unconventional male characters’. So beware of those hidden biases when you watch your series and ensure you are not unconsciously assisting in the perpetuation of homophobia, hyper-masculinity and misogyny.

Of course one could avoid watching these shows, but – the FOMO darling! I just had to watch – and to be honest it was rather satisfying to see the chicks taking control. Now if I say ‘and there’s Jon Snow’ I shall reveal my own sad objectification of men. So I won’t say, ‘And then there’s Jon Snow.’

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At least with sub-titled shows, we also have exposure to other cultural experiences. We have been fascinated by Rita set in a school in Denmark and has shown some interesting contrasts to our educational offerings: small, glass-walled classrooms for one.

Then there is the Rocky-III phenomenon. Some shows go on longer than they should. They have a season or two, the producers are making money, so they carry on with further seasons which just just don’t have the same sizzle. Sometimes a story is exhausted after its initial telling. Then it should stop to avoid the soapie-type serial developing. Orphan Black,  for example, just got so convoluted and ridiculous that I stopped watching. Breaking Bad got it right. Mind you that was the most mind-blowingly brilliant show ever! As a work of art, it was sheer brilliance. And it ended. My daughter has been nagging me to watch The new episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale which is also a superb piece of theatre and despite being rather dark it is compelling. This one at least has a screenplay for the new season written by the original author so there may be some integrity there, but I do hope it does not become like the sequel to To Kill a Mocking Bird, which ruined the original.

Anyway I’m off to my own coop now to snuggle in and watch the next episode of my current show. “Winter is coming’ after all.

 

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Of Lice and Pen(s)

Image result for child scratching lice in red hair cartoonMy  children  are sufficiently removed in age now for me to smile (tentatively) about those horrific (and I do not use this term lightly), emotionally desperate cataclysms in my household when they had lice (whispering) … Just writing this elicits a visceral shudder, automatic head scratching and implicit feelings of remembered shame.

And yet almost all children at some time have fallen prey to these nasty little parasites. As we speak, some mother is expressing dismay with angry, Anglo-Saxon words and screaming for the other parent to sort ‘this disaster’ out, while blaming ‘that’ school or ‘those’ urchins with whom Little Princess has had the misfortune to be playing.

I know I did.

I shall always remember with dread that moment in the middle of the July holidays, in my small kitchen in Batten Bend when my 8-year-old daughter came in for a snuggle and I looked down at the teeming plain of wriggling larvae that was her once-beautiful head of red hair.

I confess I leaped away in horror.

Then I realised in one of those ooh-vrek-I’m-the-mother moments that it was my job to fix this invasion. So while privately (actually not so privately) cursing the mother who according to my infested child, sent her daughter who sat alongside mine, to school on break up day even though she had goggas in her hair because the family was moving house and she didn’t want her daughter to be underfoot, I assessed the unspeakable misery of my crisis:

  • One 7 year-old with an army on the move in her hair
  • Her 5 year-old brother with several nits in his
  • a 9 year-old son with curls so tight anything could have been living in there undercover of a silent incursion
  • a 2 year-old who couldn’t sit still long enough for me to examine her Annie ringlets and
  • a brand new baby.

And then I washed. Everything.

Over and over for at least three weeks, I de-loused everyone’s hair, twice a day, combing through all those thick tresses meticulously, trying hard not to show my disgust in case the victims of this family disaster were scarred for life by my assumed maternal rejection. My own hair proved to be a bit of a challenge because my squeamishness convinced me that I too was infected (I wasn’t) and the night I attempted to apply the shampoo, just in case, I ended up with an allergic reaction which caused burning in my eyes and on my face so bad that I had to ring my sister to come and stand in for me in the middle of the night so I could go to the emergency room.

And I washed and ironed ALL the bedding every day and forbade the children from reusing towels. Thank heavens this was pre-Cape Town’s water crisis, or perhaps this frantic laundering is what caused the depletion of Theewaterskloof Dam.

And then my long-awaited, lounge suite arrived (sixth months after returning to the country without furniture). And no one was allowed to sit on it, such was my aversion to the risk of loathsome re-infection. My girls’ buns were the tightest after that.

Of course by the time, the youngest was in Grade 1, and he and his fellow gangsters took turns in being off school with lice, I was fairly prosaic about such things, only shuddering occasionally. I sent him along fairly regularly to visit his father, who had hair clippers, for a #1, although I suspect that it was the girlfriend in situ who ended up doing the trimming. We still chuckle at certain photographs and can tell by Liam’s haircuts what had been going on at the time.

Primary School and Nursery School teachers do not bat an eye at what for high school staff is worse that diving with sharks – the lice test! they nonchalantly pick up two pens and confidently check their charges’ hair on a regular basis. The biggest problem schools have is parents’ assumption that one shampoo and combing will cure you of the nasty critters. You have to remember to do it again every week or so after an infestation or else the ‘cooties’ return. Our standard letter takes care to address the embarrassment that comes with the unwelcome missive and gently advises how to remedy the detestable situation, without making parents feel bad.

It’s the social stigma associated with having lice that is bothersome though. The fact that lice love clean hair should have removed such thoughts, but I suppose we feel unkempt and dirty and somehow ashamed that this could have happened to us – we’re decent folk after all. However, I bet that even those hoity toity playschools for the rich and famous have a lice policy. Even someone called Beckham or Windsor might have to be sent home from a posh school to do not nit harvesting from time to time. Forget that knighthood, darling, if your offspring infects a royal head, mind you.Image result for shame meme

Funny how language evolves: take the word ‘lousy’ – it comes of course from the meaning ‘lice-infested’ – perhaps we should remember that when we say our meal or the service at a restaurant was ‘lousy’ – perish that thought!

Next time you say that the weather has turned ‘lousy,’ thank your lucky stars it actually hasn’t. Eeeuh! The thought of that makes me need to go and scratch my head a little and thank the Lord for metaphors.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Right Royal Fuss

Royal baby pictures: Leaves St Mary's hospital

So there is a new royal baby in England and we can’t get enough of those millisecond long micro-video clips of a solemn British public school lad and his cheerfully waving two-year old sister arriving to visit a tiny baby who, at only a few hours old is the sixth most important celeb in the Uk.

And yet dammit I am a raving republican at heart (not the rabid gun-slinging American type, but ,the Liberté,Égalité et Fraternité type, or, more specifically, the African independence-from-colonial-slavery type).Royal baby boy news

Why am I so drawn to dear Cathy and Bill (can you see them as an alternative to the old Cathy and Mark readers – not as hip as ‘Biff and Chip’ though – but the royal nippers are kind of Cathy and Mark-ish – or ‘Janet and John’, in their dress. We could do a new version of readers called ‘Charlie and George and one could be ‘Charlie and George Visit the hospital’ or ‘George and Charlie have a new brother.’ ‘The Windsors and their Bro’? It could have cool sentences like: This is Charlie. See her wave. This is George. He is a boy. Now he is not the only boy. See George sulk. This is the baby. He is wrinkled.  (Perhaps ‘wrinkled is too difficult for new readers.)

But I digress.

What on earth attracts us to wealthy celebrities (because that’s all the royals are now)? Of course these are folk who are paid for by  the poms’ taxes and not by ‘royalties’ (ha ha interesting word that!) from their own success. There is something in us so perverse that in our ordinariness we so desire their status that we put them on a  pedestal. WE  create the celebrities; WE design the hype around these ‘stars. WE give them their power!

Grown men and women devote their whole adult lives to following other  people around in order to catch them with their telephoto lenses in unguarded moments.  Those brief shots of the princess’s wave will make some paparazzo very rich (Interesting how we never use this word which is the singular of ‘paparazzi’ which originated as a character in a Fellini film, and which the director felt reminded him of an annoying buzzing insect). But seriously?! She is a just a little girl! I have way cuter little poppets  bursting out of my classrooms at school and no one is aiming a  long lens at them (of course I wouldn’t let them, but still) The only reason this mite is famous is that the media (and the publicwho are all gagga over a random family descended from long-ago Germans) have made her so.Image result for paparazzi

Define ‘nobility’, ‘royalty:’ Let’s face it in the past monarchs and ‘the nobles’ were generally just more powerful, wealthier, with good spin doctors who convinced the proletariat Image result for kingsthat they were somehow of greater value. Some even considered themselves anointed by God! If you know your Old Testament you will know that even God did not want the Israelites to have a king (probably because He knew what would happen – and He was right – the very first one, straight out of the blocks, gave himself airs and graces).

For an egalitarian like me, this is anathema. My school’s motto is ‘egalite’ and we stress the fact that we all equal. So why oh why am I drawn to a Sloane family in a far-off rainy island?! He’s balding and toothy but I guess she’s a lovely clothes horse and I like the glamour. Is that it? We want to see that someone has what we want so we can believe it’s possible?

Psychologists have studied the celebrity phenomenon and even posited that  it’s a form of terror management in that we are so afraid of death that we will adore celebrities who seem bigger than life and sparkly and so we feel better about ourselves and the fact that we shall one day  meet that guy in the big hoodie with the kick-ass blade. And because, famous people seem to have transcended the mortal realm somehow, the idea that we shall shuffle off this mortal coil either recedes or seems less bothersome.

Psychologists! Gotta love ’em! Mind you, one study at the U of Arizona suggests that people become more positive about celebs after a brush with death so perhaps there is some truth in this.

What’s particularly amusing is the amount of money wasted at the bookies betting first on the gender of the royal baby and then its name/s. Not me!  Prince Biff or the Duke of Chip would be fine with me.  It’s just Cathy and Bill’s kid after all! I wonder if they also had elderly aunts pointing out that ‘Arthur is not a saint’s name, you know’ or ‘You can’t call him Louis: that’s too French?! ‘

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Ah well! when all is said and done, perhaps I am merely jealous. And I’m glad I don’t have to bow to anyone ever.

Now whose house are we watching the Royal Wedding at next month?

Pack up your troubles

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Nellie our almost-Labrador is a bit of a bangbroek when we walk her on the beach. Starting with the short trip in the car,  she is overly hesitant and needs a backseat minder to prevent her from leaping out. She immediately goes into submissive mode if a dog is even remotely scary, as if anticipating future trouble. Yet on the ride home, tongue lolling out of her mouth she happily drools all over the seat.

Sunday morning walks do that for us too: we set out tired and stressed from the work week and return home soul-fueled for the days ahead; troubles, if not forgotten, are seemingly more manageable.

My 81 year-old aunt who still manages the office of a busy law firm, always tells us not to ‘borrow tomorrow’s troubles’ and she makes a good point about anxiety which I have taken to heart over the years.  I often took beach walks with all 5 children in the early days of being a single parent. Mainly because it was free, but sea air seems to soothe hurts and even betrayal. (And a cheap ice cream satisfies even the most restless of lads).

My little kit bag of daily worries has felt quite heavy enough generally so as not to give me time to anguish over the future, however there have been those desperate moments when the present turmoil  stretches out seemingly interminably into the distance, and one wonders when it will never end ; like trying to soothe a colicky baby; like waiting for the final whistle of your son’s hockey match when you are so cold you can’t feel your toes anymore and the south-easter has penetrated every layer of bulky clothing you have on; like wondering how to make a few rands last until payday. Like waiting for child support payments that never come …

The thing about borrowing troubles is that they may never happen. I once applied for a head’s post which I wasn’t really sure I wanted, but which I felt I ought to apply for because my skill set was sorely needed and I agonised for a whole weekend about what I would do if I were offered it. Of course I didn’t get it, but what I did get was a clearer idea of what I did want and what I do love so it wasn’t an entirely wasted angst; yet the interest on my borrowed troubles wasn’t really necessary.

And there are all those times we google our symptoms (big mistake) and are convinced that we are in the grips of some rare, but always fatal condition. (I have imagined myself  about to die from brain tumours, various latent cancers, twisted intestines, imminent heart attacks, dangerous abdominal conditions and shattered bones, only to have a mundane ailment diagnosed upon visiting le docteur …

Take the current water crisis in the Cape, when Day Zero seemed imminent: normally sedate matrons were filmed trampling one another when water deliveries arrived. We all began stockpiling water and worried that we weren’t storing enough. Then, out of the blue, the crisis evaporated (pardon the pun) and we are left drowning (sorry can’t stop with the ironic puns) in plastic 5l bottles. Now we are fretting about plastic waste …

Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting we do not take steps to avoid conserving water and living as eco-warriors; we should just beware of being eco-worriers.

Then there is crime. I refuse to live my life in fear of attack at every moment. Sure, I take precautions; I drive defensively (‘It’s not you it’s the other idiots on the road,’ my dad used to say); I am alert, but I refuse to allow criminals to win by constantly living in fear. I am fortunate though to live in a fairly safe street, so I suppose I am speaking from a position of privilege.

What do folk tend to worry about? In general, financial fears, concerns about health and relationships are common, although a quick poll of my own offspring added things like death and the pointlessness of life (always one nihilist among us), failure, going blind, double hand amputation (dramatic artist in the house) and never finding real love.

There is an interesting monthly online poll, which tracks national fears around the globe. In three years South Africans’ have remained fairly constant in their brooding.  This year these were the recorded concerns of South Africans (with access to the internet)

Top five South African issues

  1. Financial/Political Corruption (68%)
  2. Crime & Violence (63%)
  3. Unemployment (55%)
  4. Poverty/Social Inequality (29%)
  5. Education (27%)

These are not that different from the worries of 2015:

  1.        Crime (79%)
  2.        Lack of employment (79%)
  3.        Government corruption (78%)
  4.        Energy Shortages (72%)
  5.        Poor quality schools (61%)

(Statisticians don’t panic, I know the percentages don’t add up – these are percentages of people who mentioned these things. )

So we are grappling as a nation with pretty fundamental concerns. And these are constantly with us, creating huge burdens on our sub-conscious and implicitly affecting the country’s zeitgeist. And let’s face it, these are not worries a brisk walk and ball-throwing with the pooch can cure. They are the cause of things like road rage, family murders, suicides, domestic violence and gangsterism.

And there are those days when that last straw just tips us over into profound desperation. I remember in my own life, having dealt with all 5 children, including myself, being beset by a particular virulent gastro bug which resulted in my standing stuffing sheets into the washing machine at midnight, only to have the washing machine go on the blink. I have a distinct memory of standing there in untold despair and angrily raising my arms in the air, shouting at the Creator in my moment of doubt, ‘Where are you?!’ Do you really exist?!’

At that moment, my phone rang and a close friend of mine, Bernadette, was on the line, saying she had been thinking of me and wondering how I was doing. That care banished my sense of hopelessness and feeling of being alone in the world … and I haven’t ever raise my voice in anger to the Lord again. I wouldn’t dare.

Three years ago I was suffering enormously in a position which became more toxic every day, yet like the proverbial frog in boiling water I didn’t realise it until I was ‘retrenched’ quite out of the blue. Despite the enormous shock of it all and the incredible hurt, and anger, and a deep sense of betrayal, I didn’t cry much, even though, since I was three days post my fiftieth birthday, there was immense dread of the future looming with no job ‘at my age’, I think I was carried on the wings of angels and eventually was offered a hugely challenging and immensely rewarding position as leader of a massive school with a definite mission.

So how do we combat this weight of societal ills that permeates our lives? I don’t want to seem frivolous, but despite all the worry, 3 years down the line, the same issues are still there. So either we accept them as constants, try to change them in every way we can: with our vote; with our outreach; with our sweat at the coal face of life, OR when all is said and done, take the mutt out for a walk, put your faith in the God of your understanding and remember if you go in your daughter’s car you don’t have to wipe up the drool when you get home!

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A Scary Story

My Family’s Fears and Phobias

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Fun Game to Play:

Write a scary story in just four words. Mine is: Children drive my car. But most people will confess to a fear of monsters, whether they are Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton with a finger on the nuclear button, Chocolate or Coffee thieves or your common or garden sort ghouls.

Shannon used to be terrified of the Garden Service, yelling, ‘Weediteaters; Weediteaters,’ whenever they arrived to trim our lawn in Batten Bend. Indoors, she would race to me and need to be picked up where she became a human koala bear,  until they left. Once she wrapped herself in a curtain to escape their savage threshing sounds.

Liam has developed a clown phobia (now this one makes sense) – coulrophobia – which the experts link to the distortion of familiar humanoid features. I’m convinced this can be related to his gaming habits which have him spending hours shooting zombies which frankly would frighten the life out of me. (Ha ha – funny – then I could frighten him!).

Lizzy used to hate having ‘Happy Birthday’ sung and thought Imagination was a monster because the Teenies used to say ‘ it’s your imagination’ when they were afraid of billowing curtains.

Andrew hated Father Christmas as a child, quite rightly. What right-minded parent encourages a beloved offspring to sit on the lap of a strange old man in red and says to him to tell him what he wants?! And then we wonder why they won’t smile for the photograph! What were we thinking?! Not to mention the fear inspired by this hulking geriatric invading our safe homes in his Wellington boots and fannying around in an ill-fitting red suit in the lounge – especially  one inebriated by the obligatory alcohol left out for him.

As a littlun, Sean hated the dark and slept with the bathroom light on for years.

On the other hand, Michael is afraid of washing up and has to leave home when it’s his turn and Mika can’t eat real food. True story; we have tested it. But that is another story.

How many of us remember racing back up the passage to the living room at night, fleeing from unimaginable darkness and ‘things.’ I have distinct memories of nightmares from watching a film called The Mummy, which we watched on a reel at the CBC Welkom Friday night ‘bioscope,’ about an Egyptian mummy which emerges from its sarcophagus and steals around the submarine transporting the stolen artefact to America. It has periodic psychotic moments when it stalks and kills the sailors. To this day, I am not a fan of Egyptology.

I am more scared the kids will never leave home now however.

The girls don’t like to fall asleep without their laptops playing series. Now personally I think that is worse and probably feeds ongoing other issues, but hey, I’m just the mother; what do I know. Tonight my adult munchkins were ensconced under blankets watching Game of Thrones’ White Walkers. I am wondering who will call out at 3 am, ‘Mommy, I had a bad dream!’ as they did when they were little. Mind you, Shannon confessed recently to fibbing about bad dreams when she was little just so I would let her sleep with me (an experience not unlike sharing a bed with a rotating bicycle).

I am convinced that many of these fears are caused and fuelled by film and television and raise the issue of the effects of the media on our mental health. And the studies bear this out, including the continuation of childhood ‘scary movie experiences’ into adulthood.

The bottom line is: heed the warning in the prologue to DVDs. Make sure your children are asleep before you watch horror films or gory movies. We worry so much about exposing our youngsters to sex, but violence is way worse. Better still get to grips with a witty romcom or intense drama) and re-consider allowing the teen sleepovers to revolve around the latest spooky spirit movie. None of my children report being willing watchers of this fair and yet they all ‘happily’ went along to the all-night-frighters.

But never mind, they’ll grow out of it. Having children of their own will soon make them realise that the other fears were NOTHING. There is nothing the screen can show you that equals parenting for the fear factor. I have birthed and raised five children and now ek skrik vir niks[1]!

And they’ll blame me for all their issues!

 

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[1] I am afraid of nothing.

Dear Fitting Room Designers:

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I made the mistake of trying on a pair of pants for size in Woolworths, yesterday in their brand new shiny change rooms. Too shiny. I didn’t buy the trousers. And it was the place’s fault.

If I were asked to survey fitting rooms in clothing stores, I could really give them some pointers.

Firstly: subdued lighting is a must. Harsh neon lighting just doesn’t do it for my skin. The last thing you want if you’re trying to flog clothes is for me to be so grossed out by my own face that I cannot look in the mirror. I do not know anyone who looks good under fluorescent lights. For me it is certainly not my best look – the freckles stand out, surrounded by pasty, creamish blahness, no matter how many layers of face paint and contouring have been applied. I have dark rings under my eyes too which make me resemble a nagapie at the best of times. I do not need stage lighting to assist. Also if I am tired, the little critters are Gucci-carry-on-luggage- sized bags, so they definitely detract from the garments I am fitting on.

And it’s not just our faces that we have to see in this light: it is our derrieres, which are normally…well…behind us, where we can pretend they are smooth discs of even, beach-ready roundness. Instead we are confronted by massively cratered moons which are nothing like Queen imagined in ‘Fat-bottomed Girls’ – multiplied by three – going all the way to infinity if the looking glasses are angled into Alice’s bizarre world. Personally I believe the dark-side of the moon is a better look.

Mirrors should also be artfully angled so as to make one be longer and slimmer. Even if we know this is a clever illusion, we still want to imagine ourselves looking a bit like the impossibly slim wax mannequin, adorned outside on the shop floor in the garment in question. (Have you noticed that they are always on tippy toe – probably so they can show off outrageously uncomfortable high-heeled shoes too – but that makes them seem even taller.) Every film study student will tell you that a low angle shot makes one look taller and more powerful. I’m happy to go with both those delusions.

Curtains versus doors? Definitely doors (which lock, please). So often, one ends up with a faulty door latch. One that bolts is preferable. While sumptuous curtains look good, draped dramatically across the opening in oh-so-elegant boutiques, I am always terrified that some over-eager stick insect assistant will just pop her head in and reveal me in my big panties so that the creepy chap lounging outside will have an eyeful of the rear end of the Bentley.

The door should fit all the way to the floor, I beg you.

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For those of us who have had divide clothes into ‘Not-in-this-lifetime,’ Maybe-if-I-lose-10kg’ or ‘Oh-Baby-You’re-So-Hot! hooks (there must be at least three hooks) while dodging a pair of boys playing with a car, and hopping on one foot as you attempt to free the inside-out trouser leg from the shoe you should have removed first, it is no fun then to have said vehicle be sent down the back strait and under the door, out of reach of the soon-to-be screeching boys (even men-children hate shopping).  Then you have to twist around quickly, with your boot still caught in the once neatly ironed pants, to prevent over-helpful big sister from lurching out to fetch it for them, at which point, once again the dodgy oom outside is treated to a gander of your moon broekies.  If it’s not your own children who reach under those awful saloon-style doors, it’s other matrons’ sticky fingered brats whose fingers appear like tentacles of slimy, Nik Naks goo tempting you to injure said digits with a healthy tap dance. So, dear retail outlets, given us full-figured doors I beg you.

While pondering whether objects in the rear view mirror are closer or really just as large as they appear, you realise it is the fault of those disturbingly deceptively sized numbers that are the right size, but too small:  You could swear they will fit you and then you get the bodice on and your arms half in and ‘gasp’, you can’t breathe, and – worse – it’s not on properly and no matter how much you attempt to make like Connie the Contortionist, you can’t get it off. Inevitably it is at that moment that Shannon will have put a Jelly Tot (the bribe to ‘behave’) in Liam’s ear or Caitlin will have swallowed yet another R2 coin. And you are, like ‘Chad’ in Charlie’s Angels – well and truly STUCK. ‘Ripping your clothes off’ takes on a whole new meaning, but the temptation is real.

And you can’t really leave the cubs outside the cubicle because then just as you are realising that  what appeared to be stylishly loose fitting on the rack merely hugs all the unmelted baby fat, you hear Michael’s infectious giggle becoming louder. And you just know something is up out there. Dreading that it is your children’s paws which have invaded another patron’s shopping nightmare and which are about to be pierced by a suburban stiletto heel, you burst out to check/glare/chide so you at least appear to be in control of the five worms lined up against the wall, catching the eye of the petite assistant who frowns at the sight of you balancing a dress on your hips and once again there are those knickers for the old man who is seeing more of your skin than a Russian dancer at Mavericks.

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She shakes her head knowingly as you hand her the unpurchased hangers of clothes as you leave shamefacedly, wondering why you can never find anything to buy. Or else you avoid the body-shaming experience entirely and just buy whatever looks attractive on the hanger, only to end up with a cupboard full of ill-fitting clothes.

Well that’s my excuse anyway.

Of Trolls and Rolls

Image result for old age cartoon

My husband is a clever man. I mean really clever. He has a Master’s degree in Musicology and half a PhD. But for fun he has been known to sit in his Man Cave, playing GTA and cackling to the Red Neck humour of The Cable Guy, having the cheek to tell me he looks like my game ranger cousin. Of course he also loves more edifying humour like QI and laughs at The Trump and Clinton Comedy Show, despite the chilling consequences of the election of either to the presidency of the USA. He relishes the debates of Mehdi Hasan and delights in provoking conservatives. Bigots who don’t enjoy his stirring the pot call him a troll.

Andrew’s Music pupils adore him because he is cool. In fact he has a ‘Cool/Uncool’ Wall in his office. He is on Snapchat and rocks it. He is in with the gamers in the house and up to date on urban slang.

But he has a thing about his age, which is really funny, because besides …um… having an ‘extended crown’… he doesn’t look old. But he keeps on pretending to be younger than he is. And people believe it. If you present the evidence of his passport or ID document, he will tell you there were administrative errors when they were issued. If you plead with his mother to indicate when he was born, she confirms his actual age, but he blandly says you can’t ask her because she has Alzheimer’s (which is true, God bless her). So that is his secret: denial; denial; denial.

In a world where women complain that men don’t have issues about ballooning beer boeps, grey hair or sagging ‘stuff,’ it’s quite refreshing to see that actually they do care/ have insecurities/ feelings/ issues.

As a woman, for example, I have never had to worry that I might go bald (well – until I realised I might – if I keep pulling out the silver strands from my fringe); we can skip over the articles on prostate cancer and console ourselves that in general we outlive our spouses. (Hence my devilishly clever move to cougardom (only just though, hey.) We don’t need knee surgery from our days on the rugby field or feel the need to pretend we’re not aging and make a down payment on a fancy car and keep pulling in our stomachs when the new secretary sashays in (hell, we have girdles and full body stockings to slow down our undulating Sunday lunch excesses. And even Kim wears one – I read it on the internet so it must be true.)

In fact, if anything, women are opting for less hair – some even go all the way to Brazil to ensure that they are smooth (not me of course, but I do know someone who does); our surgeries include popping out the uterus and goodbye monthly worries. And we: Just. Do. Not. Care. We can laugh until our mascara runs; we no longer worry about embarrassing ourselves and in fact have perfected the art of mortifying image-conscious teenagers. We laugh loudly and heartily in restaurants without worrying that our double chins are showing. We have learnt to stand up for ourselves and not buy into society’s nonsense.

Sure I wear make-up to fill in the odd crinkle or cover the sunspots. It is depressing that I’m not thin after starving myself of chocolate for three days, but I am really not too phased.

However we have survived tight skinny jeans before there was stretch denim (and still managed to go on and have babies!); we were raised on Queen and Journey (with Freddie and Steve Perry); we had to actually break up in person, not on Whatsapp or Skype. We grieved with Demi in Ghost and watched American shows dubbed into Afrikaans. We have earned the accolades of the youth.

Besides which, I have an ageless man and we all know what they say about how old you are…

He is not the only clever one.