Partwork Pitfalls



Much as I would love to crochet my own lifesize model of the The Santa Maria ("In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue…"), I won't be buying a partwork magazine which teaches me how to assemble it and supplies the wool.

For my readers overseas who might not be familiar with the partwork magazine concept, they are publications on sale each month that usually have a "free gift" towards building a model, learning how to do something or starting a collection.

I'm using the word "free" loosely, as although the gift may be free, the magazines certainly are not. The publishers often sucker you in with a low priced first issue, a reasonably priced second issue and thereafter magazines costing so much you need to take out a mortgage to create a six-inch high model of Kim Kardashian.

Hence there was the magazine which provided parts to build the Mallard locomotive. The first part was a mere 50p but subsequent issues cost £7.99 ($10). There were 130 parts so the cost of completing this model locomotive was a staggering £1,031.21 ($1,300) - and it would take you two and a half years to do it.

Then there was a recent partwork series that taught you how to draw. Free gifts over the series included a pencil, ruler, rubber, paintbrush and paints. Sounds great, doesn't it? Until you realise the magazines were £5 each and the series was 100 issues. How many respected instruction books or actual lessons could you buy for £500 ($640)?

Undeterred you embark on a mission to build the Eiffel Tower and ending up paying out more than the cost of the original structure!

There is always the possibility that things could go horribly wrong. The publishers could go out of business mid series or your local newsagent could stop stocking the magazine. One man spent three years and £350 ($450) on a series of magazines teaching him how to build a model of The Bounty, only for six of the pieces he sent away for to go missing in the post - and no more pieces were available at that time. To say he was not best pleased is an understatement - in fact he mutinied (see what I did there?).

So if the urge ever comes over me to buy a series of magazines teaching me how to build Ironside's van, I will instead get a kit. Think there's no such kit available? Think again!



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Christmas Tips

Think I might open up a few cans of this.
Do you think my family will notice?

Some of you may get a slight feeling of déjà vu reading the below as I posted it last year and possibly something similar the year before! But I thought it was timely and I have had some new readers lately who might not have seen it. (My excuse, sticking to it!)


IT'S that time of year again - the family fights, the tantrums, the crocodile tears and the melodrama. Yes, that’s the EastEnders Christmas special all wrapped up and ready to be broadcast.

If you're anything like me you are staring at a pile of unwritten cards and frozen into immobility by the remembrance that you are hosting the family Christmas day dinner this year.

Still, over the years I have amassed a few tips to help me over the festive period.
  • Be sparing with the red food colouring, otherwise your Christmas nibbles will look like you’ve accidentally sliced open an artery while cooking.
  • Do not blindly follow last year’s Christmas card list. A certain percentage will have died, divorced, had a sex change or moved to Timbuktu, probably to get away from Christmas.
  • Never do those Christmas quizzes which ask for things like your month of birth and the first letter of your name so they can ascertain your ‘Christmas fairy’ name - not unless you want to be called Sparkly Knickers for the rest of your life by your young niece.
  • Always leave your Christmas lights carefully wrapped around cardboard to avoid hours of frustration and rage as you try to untangle them, only to find three hours and a bucket of tears later they don’t work because one of the hundred bulbs has blown.
  • Wrap up a box of chocolates so that if someone you weren’t expecting turns up with a present you can quickly write on the tag and give it to them, as if they were on your mind all the time. Make sure it’s chocolates you particularly like yourself so that if they’re not needed you can eat them after Christmas. Actually, better be on the safe side and wrap up two boxes of chocolates, plus a couple of bottles of red wine and maybe some nice perfume and that scarf you’ve had your eye on for a while.
  • Do not offer to make Christmas decorations with children under the age of 10. By the time you’ve finished with all that glue, glitter and tinsel you will look like Liberace’s twin.
  • Don’t believe parents when they tell you their children are ‘just as happy playing with a cardboard box as the present inside’. I can assure you, you will get some very sideways looks if all you give their child is the old box your Amazon books came in. Don't ask me how I know...
  • Gentlemen, do not buy your wife any kitchen appliance, ‘sexy’ red underwear that’s too risque for a burlesque dancer or a woolly bed jacket that’s too boring for your granny, or a box set of Top Gear DVDs, a car-cleaning kit, any book by a super-model that tells you how they lost two stone in a week, or a Black and Decker drill - not unless she has expressly requested such a gift.
  • Remember, just because that liqueur tastes like melted toffee swooshed around in cream, it still contains alcohol. A few glasses before cooking dinner is not recommended - as I found out to my cost one year.
  • Don’t forget to say well done to ALL the children in the nativity play, even though your nephew, Third Shepherd From The Right (the one with the crooked tea towel on his head kicking the child next to him) was the best by a country mile.
  • Disconnect the front door bell so that if unwanted visitors turn up, you can pretend you haven’t heard them.
  • And finally, sweep the chimney, hang up your stocking and wait for Santa to bring you everything you have ever wished for.

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Annoying Colleagues


LET me say from the start that all the offices I ever worked in were full of paragons of virtue who did not have one vice between them - ahem. I have to say that because some of my former colleagues read these posts.

Not one of them annoyed me. Not ever. And I’m sure they’d say the same about me. Yes they would.
However... according to a recent survey there are several things that colleagues do that drive the rest of us mad.

Those of you who have ever worked in an office will be able to guess most of the items on the list, from the person who blames everyone else for their mistakes to the one who is always off sick for minor ailments.

But, let me tell you, it’s the little things that stretch nerves to breaking point. There’s the tuneless whistling or singing. You get to a point where you want to shout: “If I hear one more verse of Bohemian Rhapsody, I’m going to find that Galileo and get him to do the fandango all over your head.”

Then there’s the person who you know is not listening to a word you are saying. I found the way to deal with them is to drop something totally out of place into the conversation, like in the script of a bad sitcom.

Me: “I’m free on Friday afternoon if you want to have that meeting then.”
Colleague “Hu, huh,” inspects fingernails and stares out of the window.
Me: “Then we can discuss the soup kitchen for the elf coalition.”
Colleague: “What! ”
Me: “We could talk about the supplement for the next edition?”

Works every time.

Then there’s the person from a company office hundreds of miles away who insists on copying everyone in on their mindless emails. So you get an email from the far reaches of the UK: “Has anyone found my notebook with the daisies on the front? ”

No, it’s not dropped on to my office desk via a Kentucky tornado and if you don’t stop emailing me, you’ll be pushing up those daisies.

My other pet workplace hate was the use of jargon. So when people talked to me about blue sky thinking and pushing the envelope my brain switched off.

Food and drink can be a real bone of contention, like those colleagues who never take their turn in making the tea or coffee and the ones  who take other people’s food from the fridge. Although in all my years of working in offices no one ever stole my pepperoni and grape sandwiches – can’t think why.



Here are  a few other bugbears identified on the survey. People who:

  • Suck up to the boss.
  • Take credit for others’ work.
  • Make personal calls. 
  • Criticise everyone behind their back.
  • They hand over complicated work.
  • Have poor personal hygiene.
  • Have earphones plugged in all day.
  • Never chip in for birthday presents.
  • Always call you when you are on holiday.


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Teenage Tokens




Today I was battling through the crowds trying to do some Christmas shopping. It was a bit of a cop-out as I bought gift tokens for the teenage members of my family. But what can you buy a teenager that won’t necessitate a sharp dig in their ribs and a hissed and brittle "say thank you to Auntie” from their mum?

Not that any of the teenagers in my family resemble those monstrous monosyllabic creations you hear people talk about - not with me, at least. They are all perfectly pleasant kids who treat this aunt with bemused tolerance...but their tastes change faster than my dearly beloved can down a pint! .

It seems like only yesterday I was buying building blocks and outfits for Barbie. Now I don't know from one day to the next what's "coo-el" and what isn't. I try to engage them in conversation about a band that yesterday was totally bangin'. Today, any mention of the band's name and eyes roll back into heads as if you had suggested they might quite like to listen to your Andy Williams Greatest Hits CD.

Last month Niece One was into ponies and netball. Last week she was into a spotty teenage boy whose main attraction is that he has his own car. I use the word “car” loosely. It’s a 10-year-old red Ford Fiesta with one grey door, the obligatory rear spoiler and a sticky patch where the L-plate has recently been peeled off. Her parents worry every time she goes out in this contraption but as far as I can see it would struggle to reach 40mph down a steep hill with a following wind. In any case, her unsmiling dad has threatened the boy with dire consequences should he harm one hair of his little girl's head.

So gift tokens it is. I don’t want to be like one aunt in the family who bought Dinky toys for her 15-year-old nephew. I remember wondering how she could do such a thing – now I know. He may be six-foot tall with a six o' clock shadow but in my head he's still that little boy banging nails into a felt-covered pad with a wooden hammer.

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Tea And Sympathy Please




I am feeling rather sorry for myself having contracted the dreaded lurgy which has robbed me of my voice - not necessarily a bad thing, or so say various friends and relatives.

So I have been staying indoors and pampering myself.  I have to pamper myself as I work from home and there is no one else to dispense tea and sympathy along with the paracetamol. Not that I've taken any paracetamol. I never take cold or flu medicine as I believe that if you let the lurgy run its course without impediment, the sooner it disappears. I swear this is true. My colds usually last way under a week while the better half's seem to go on for ever. Well it feels like forever as he's such a bad patient. One sniffle and his usual jolly countenance disappears in a cloud of moaning, sniffing and sighing - and nose-blowing loud enough to wake the dead.

One downside is that everyone has been keeping their distance not wanting to catch my germs. I've only had the cat to talk to and, quite frankly she’s not a great conversationalist although her pained look when she’s hungry and her bowl is empty speaks volumes.

When he is ill the dearly beloved flops about like a marooned sturgeon but I have tried to keep busy to keep my mind off my not-wellness.

I have even been cooking a proper tea every evening. By "proper", I mean something vaguely hot. I'm not Nigella Lawson. Or even Fanny Cradock. Some of my American and younger friends had never heard of Fanny Cradock, one of the first television cooks, so I directed them to a YouTube video where she is wittering on about lubricating a dry bird (oo-er) - you can watch it below.  They’re now fans. Look at the state of that Christmas tree at the beginning and the way she refers to the turkey, native to America, as "the British national bird"! 

Anyway, my voice is getting back to normal now, thank you for asking. It’s still a bit husky which I thought sounded sexy. The dearly beloved, however, says I sound like a raddled 70-year-old emphysemic chain smoker.







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It's A Major Issue




One of my friends told me she had driven too close to a parked car and hit her wing mirror. No great damage done. The other car was fine and hers just needed the cover replacing on the mirror. She said her husband tut-tutted in that superior way men have on the rare occasions they are better at something than we are and rambled on about women having no spatial awareness.

I told her it was nothing to do with spatial awareness. Some women have difficulty judging lengths and distances purely because men have been telling us since they could form whole sentences that the distance between their thumb and forefinger is 12 inches. No wonder we're confused.

In the interests of honesty, I have to say my spatial awareness is very poor, hence the long and deep scrape along the side of my car, acquired when I got too close to a gatepost when exiting my brother's yard. Sadly this was not the first time I had done that. Did I get sympathy from the man who is supposed to support and love me? No I did not. He sighed deeply while shaking his head and then said, "Your next car had better be brick coloured." The man's a fool.

Size and distances are all a matter of scale, of course.

Elder sister can remember when she was five or six our eldest brother, a whole two years older than her and therefore a man of the world, trying to explain the vast scale of London. We lived on a farm and he said it was at least as wide as the distance from our house to the gate down the road - about a quarter of a mile - and she was really impressed that there was a city in the world as big as that.

Then this morning I was listening to a local radio bulletin which described three things as "major". It's a word that leaps out of the mouths of radio and television reporters. It's a word so misused and abused that it's become meaningless. Every fire is a "major" fire - the fact that it destroyed a factory, caused half a million pounds worth of damage and put 200 people out of work had already alerted me to the fact that it was quite big; but it's also a major fire if a rubbish bin has been set alight.

All exhibitions are "major" exhibitions. I shout at the radio, "Compared to WHAT? Compared to the current exhibition on in the Queen's Gallery at Buckingham Palace? Are you sure an exhibition in the village hall consisting of three watercolours of cows and an oil painting of Elsie Smith's grandson constitute a MAJOR exhibition? It's a major incident if there's a siege involving a gunman holding an entire family hostage but it's also a "major" incident if three kids daub some graffiti on a wall.

Listen to the news and spot the "majors". The only time I want to hear that term used is if it's describing Major Smith in the Army.

In fact, I am majorly pissed off about it. So pissed off that I'm going to throw a major tantrum. I hope I don't make the news.




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Lest We Forget


Private Frank Leach 1896-1916


For once I am writing a serious post because today is the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War. Here in the UK we have marked the occasion very movingly. In my own village every lamp post bears a big poppy and there are displays in the churchyard and around the war memorial.

Village tribute.

My partner's great uncle Frank Leach was killed in the First World War during the Battle of the Somme. He was 20.  In 2016 on the 100th anniversary of Private Leach's death I wrote a piece for my local magazine. I include an excerpt from it below:

Private Frank Leach

Private Frank Leach, of the 8th Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment, was just 20 when he was killed in the Battle of The Somme in 1916.

My partner is his great-nephew, also called Frank Leach. We have Private Leach’s medals, a framed citation from King George V and a plaque inscribed with his name and the words, “He died for freedom and honour."

We also have his embossed brass tin, from the Princess Mary Gift Fund, which originally contained one ounce of pipe tobacco, twenty cigarettes, a pipe, a tinder lighter, Christmas card and a photograph of Princess Mary, the daughter of the king.  The boxes were paid for by a public fund backed by Princess Mary.

We have a copy of Frank’s birth certificate, his Bible and a photograph of him. It is the official photograph taken in Aldershot, where he did his training not long after he enlisted. He sits in his army uniform, a handsome, serious young man in the prime of life, staring into the camera lens. I often wonder what he was thinking as he posed for the photographer. Was he excited, scared, already missing his family? Was he thinking of a sweetheart at home, or of his mother, father, brothers and sisters? Who knows?

Frank Leach’s story is the same as that of thousands of young men, from all strata of society, mown down in the prime of life for the war that was supposed to end all wars.

He was born on February 13, 1896, at Morchard Bishop, the son of Walter, described as an agricultural labourer, and his wife Bertha.  Frank enlisted in Chulmleigh in 1914 at the age of 17 and at the time was working as a farm labourer at Saxons in Lapford, which is why his name is on two war memorials - at Lapford and Morchard Bishop.

I doubt very much whether he had in his short life travelled much further than Exeter. He was, we assume, a decent young man. He had a job and attended church, as we know from the Bible which was presented to him at Morchard Bishop Blue School at Easter, 1905, when he was nine. 

We are not sure when he was deployed to France but after enlisting in 1914 he would have received a few months of training at Aldershot.  What we do know is that by 1916 this young man was in France taking part in one of the bloodiest battles ever, the Battle of the Somme. It started on July 1 and on the first day alone the British Army suffered nearly 60,000 casualties.

Nineteen days later Private Leach was dead, killed in the biggest battle of the war during which more than a million men were wounded or killed. 

We know what happened on July 20, the day Private Leach died, from a report in the Devonshire Regiment Book. The 8th Battalion was in a place called High Wood. The Battalion had already been involved in a major attack and had retreated. After four days in reserve, they moved up to the front again on the evening of July 19.

In the early hours of the following morning, two Devonshire Regiment companies had started to crawl forwards towards the enemy. Between the two factions stood a field of standing corn. The Devons came under heavy fire from riflemen and machine guns hidden in the corn. The report says: "Anyone who stood up was hit at once, and it was difficult to get targets to fire back at, owing to the splendid concealment given by the standing corn."

Ironically, it seems that this young farm labourer lost his life thanks in part to a field of corn.

Private Leach was one of the 8th Battalion's 550 brave young Devonshire men killed in the Battle of the Somme. His meagre belongings came home to his mother but his body never did. He is buried in the Caterpillar Valley Cemetery in Longueval, just a few miles from where the Battle of the Somme raged.

RIP
Private Frank Leach
February 13, 1896 to July 20, 1916



Each year there is a Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall in London. This year was particularly poignant as it was the anniversary of the end of hostilities. Each year the festival is covered by the BBC and I'm not ashamed to admit that I spent much of the programme with tears in my eyes. You can watch it HERE, if anyone is interested.

The street outside my house.

A picture of the ranks of gravestones in a French cemetery.


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Toffee Talks About Logic



I am offended. There I was asleep in the cardboard box my new cat toy came in and the Mr said to the Mrs: "That cat is just not logical!" and laughed. She laughed too and said: "You can say that again!" He ignored her and didn't say anything again. And they call me illogical.

That's the trouble with you humans, you just don't understand feline logic so I have found a few pictures for you that demonstrate our point of view.













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No Change There




I know I am probably expecting too much from the computer generation and I know there are myriad technological things they can do that I can't. But why do they seem to have gone straight to interacting with MySQL databases (impressed, huh? No, I haven't a clue what it means) and the like without learning any of the basics?

I have been thinking about this after once again being served in a local shop by a spotty oik who doesn't know how to give change. My bill came to £5.20. I didn't have a £5 note so I gave him a £10 note and a 20p coin so he could give me £5 in change.

There followed this conversation:

SO (Spotty Oik): You've given me too much.
Me: Yes, that's so you can give me a £5 note in change.
SO: That's not right.
Me: Yes it is.
SO (looking puzzled): It can't be. (He proceeded to hand me £4.80, which is the amount that had popped up in his till window, in seven coins.)
Me: I need my 20p back as well.
SO: What?
Me: I gave you £10.20 and you've only given me change for £10.
SO: No, it says £4.80. (He nods towards the till window.)
Me: Yes, that's because you rang up £10 but I gave you £10.20.
SO: I'll have to get the manager.
        By now there is a queue forming behind me.
Me: Look, you keep it and when at the end of the day your till is 20p over, put it in a charity box.
SO: (Triumphantly) I knew I was right!

I sighed and as I walked out a woman in the queue whispered: "You can't teach a chimp to do calculus." I smiled but didn't admit you probably couldn't teach me to do calculus either.


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Watch Out For Big Mother







I'M not a Luddite. Technology holds no fears for me. I am an expert. In fact, I have one of those reading thingies - you know, find book on interweb, press "buy me" button, book magically appears on oblong thingy where you can read it. 

But what's all this CCTV business? I had a quick dash around the shops the other day and felt like a contestant on a city-wide Big Brother programme.

I want to be able to wander around without the terrible feeling that there's a man in a peaked cap somewhere with his feet up on a console pointing at a screen and saying, "Euuuhhh, look at 'er, she's scratching her ass!" to some friend he's charged a pound to come and watch.

Or worse there's a panel of judgmental women sitting in front of a screen saying things like: "What is wrong with that woman? Flowery shopping bag with stripy trousers and a baggy jacket? Is she stuck in the 1980s? And her make-up! She's desperately in need of a Youtube tutorial."

All that is bad enough but now they have talking CCTV cameras. Can you imagine it?

"Would that woman please stop picking her nose?" The whole street stops and we all look at each other. "The one in the stripy trousers." That narrows it down a bit.

"The old bag with frizzy hair and a gormless look on her face." Why are they all looking at ME!

Or they might employ mothers to man the cameras.

"Put that sweater down! I could feed a family of nine for a year on how much that costs. There's a button missing on your coat. Those ear-rings do not go with that necklace. Stilettos? To go shopping? Are you MAD! I don't believe it, you're chewing gum in public! I told you to throw away that scruffy cardigan. Are you growing your hair or have you just not bothered to have it cut? Have you washed behind your ears?"

I'll take Big Brother over Big Mother any day.



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Who's 'woke'?

"Woke" is a word much bandied about at the moment. I'm sure you're all much more "woke" than I am and didn't have to look it up in the urban dictionary to see what it meant! Basically, it's being hyper-aware of social issues.

It's a word much used - and demonstrated - by university students and commenters on Twitter.

I came across this BBC clip from Tracey Ullman Breaks The News and it really made me laugh. Hope you can have a giggle too.

Click HERE to play the clip.

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Rebecca Adlington and Frankie Boyle

I wrote the below in 2013 when Rebecca Adlington was appearing on I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. Today she was writing in the Sunday Times about how she has come to terms with her looks and the Twitter abuse she received at the time:



WHAT kind of a shallow world are we living in when a super-talented, double Olympics gold medal winner is full of self-doubt because she doesn’t look like a super model?

Rebecca Adlington has been subjected to the kind of abuse on social media that’s normally reserved for corrupt politicians, hypocritical celebrities and Piers Morgan (who positively relishes it!).

And the comments are all about the way she looks. There’s hardly one about her incredible achievements.

Let’s get this straight. She might not, like 99.9 per cent of us, stop traffic when she walks down the street, but she’s a lovely girl with a perfectly normal face and an incredible athlete’s body.

She’s not stick thin, she hasn’t had her boobs inflated to impossible proportions, she hasn’t had a nose job, facelift or liposuction.

It’s easy to say she should toughen up and rise above the comments but if, day after day, you are subjected to personal abuse and told how ugly you are, there can hardly be a woman in the world who wouldn’t be affected.

It all began when comedian Frankie Boyle made a “joke ” (I use the word loosely) about Adlington’s looks on TV programme Mock The Week. He followed this up with another scathing comment about her on Twitter.

I refuse to repeat these comments but they were hurtful and abusive. Not only that, they were inaccurate.

But they opened the floodgates to every mean-minded Twitter idiot who thought they would follow suit. It’s that mob mentality where because someone else has done it, it somehow gives you “permission” to do it too.

Adlington is at the moment appearing in reality TV show, I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here. She broke down in tears, admitting she felt “very, very insecure” about her looks because of all the abuse she gets.

And can you imagine what these people who criticise her look like? I very much doubt if a George Clooney lookalike is sitting in front of his laptop tapping out this particular brand of moronic abuse.
I imagine some crotch-scratching idiot with a beer gut, hiding behind his anonymity because he is an inadequate bully.

Or a spotty emotionally-stunted adolescent who would be petrified to be in the company of a high-achieving woman.

Not that all of them are men. Women, too, have joined in the abuse. Again, bully is the word that springs to mind.

I find it depressing that after nearly 50 years of fighting for equality, women like Rebecca Adlington are still judged on their looks and not on their personality or achievements. It’s a sad society that values a  surgically enhanced reality TV star or supermodel more than a medal-winning athlete.

Not that there’s anything wrong with being beautiful. Good for you if you have the “pretty gene” but there are other qualities that are equally important.

As for Frankie Boyle, if he were judged on his looks and not his talent, he would never be allowed out in public. And as the father of a young daughter, he should be ashamed of himself.




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The Man Manager App



I've had a cull of all the apps on my tablet. It was becoming clogged up with things that seemed like a good idea at the time but which I used only once or twice and never again.

Like the housework prompt. I know I need to get the feather duster out for the cobwebs, I don't really need reminding. Then there were all those games which as soon as you downloaded them tried to make you pay extra if you got stuck. Stuff that. I'm not paying £1.99 to make three cherries line up so I can get on to the next level.

But it got me thinking, if I could develop my own app, what would it do?

I decided The Man Manager would be a surefire best-seller.  I know some of you women are lucky enough to be with paragons of virtue. Unfortunately, I am not, although I wouldn't swap him for anyone, not even George Clooney.

So, this app of my mine, he can download it onto his tablet and, as if by magic, he:
  • learns that beer is not one of the major food groups;
  • picks up damp towels in the bathroom instead of leaving them in a wet mess on the floor where they become smellier by the minute;
  • learns how to stack the dishwasher properly and turn it on;
  • knows the correct response to, "Do I look fat in this?" is, "No, I thought you'd lost weight. Anyway, you could wear a sack and still look beautiful.";
  • has the ability to drink fizzy drinks without belching;
  • develops an aversion to busty young blondes and the ability to pass one without muttering under his breath, "You don't get many of those to a pound.";
  • develops a passion for dumpy women who are getting on a bit;
  • recognises that the remote control for the TV is a separate entity and does not become welded to his hand the minute he sits down on the sofa to watch a sports match;
  • has the ability to forget every football statistic that currently crams what passes for a brain and instead remembers just ONE - his partner's birthday.
Oh, the list is endless. I'm sure my female readers have plenty of others they could add. I suppose my male readers could have a stab at developing a Woman Manager, but I fear it wouldn't have enough to do.

Disclaimer: No men were harmed in the writing of this post


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Smart Alec Appliances


IN a story I cannot pretend to understand, I read this week that a fridge has been sending out spam messages. If it had been sending messages about Spam, that pink luncheon meat much beloved in the war, it would have made more sense to me.

But, no, it seems all kinds of equipment can be programmed to send out email messages, as long as they are “smart” gadgets i.e. can connect to the internet.

This malware that sends out malicious emails can be installed by a hacker on kitchen appliances, routers, media systems and televisions. Don’t worry, it’s all done remotely – no spotty geek with minimal social skills and a personal hygiene problem will be dropping by your house with a screwdriver and laptop.

But it’s a growing problem, made easy for the spammers because there are so few safeguards on many “smart” gadgets.

It could come in handy, though. Perhaps your fridge could email you at work to say you are running short of yak ’s milk and ask you to pick up some more on the way home. Or it could warn you your cheese is developing a nice blue, furry sheen and it is time you dumped it. Or it could harangue you when you put in some sugar-laden confectionery with dire warnings about looking like the side of a house.

I mentioned all this to the better half. He looked at me as if I had crawled out from under a stone in the Jurrasic Era and told me this was already happening.

What? A quick trawl of the internet showed me he was right. Some smart refrigerators are able to detect the type of items stored in it and keep track of important details such as expiry and usage.

I was quite taken with this and was hoping other household appliances worked in a similar way.

Wouldn’t it be great if your iron could start up a friendly conversation with your husband? That would have come in very handy in my house. The better half once phoned me at work to ask where we kept the iron. I took great delight in telling him it was in exactly the same place it had been for the last 25 years. If he could have shouted, "Where are you, iron?"  and the iron replied, “I’m in the hall cupboard!” it would have been a great help.

Not that I want my kitchen appliances developing too much of a mind of their own. I don’t want my Dyson dissing my vacuuming skills and reminding me to move the sofa to clean underneath or my cooker laughing at my lack of baking expertise, or my microwave admonishing me, "What? Another ready meal?"

I think I'll stick with my "unsmart" appliances after all.



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