Monday, 19 November 2012

Can I wear slippers in church?

It’s that time of year again, when the elderly man in the bungalow, with the long white beard, dons his red suit and we in the village suspend disbelief for a couple of hours. The brass band decides whether to risk rusting their instruments in the mizzle, and we the villagers traipse to the square and pay vast amounts of cash for a plastic cup of watery mulled wine. Yes it’s lighting up night. – hurrah!

Obviously, the charity shop will be selling charity seasonal cards and the hairdressers will be steamed up with some sort of hands on treatment. The post office will attempt to be jolly, with its decorations from the 1970s, but will be firmly shut for the occasion.

The church choir (all five of them) will attempt at warbling against the throng and I will no doubt take pity and raise the sound level with my hearty soprano.

I’m not sure who will provide the mince pies and sausage rolls this year, now that the hardware store (and his wife) are no longer trading, hopefully our new upmarket bread shop and cafĂ© will fill the gap – maybe the Wives  and Conservative Clubs or Women’s Institute will rise to the pastry challenge. Clearly, we are not the kind of Cornish village that attracts ice-daring coachloads such as Mousehole. We just mooch about, say a few hellos, and head for the pub or telly back home.

From this day forward we are expected to display our Christmas cheer in light form, until the New Year. As half of the adult population, in my home, doesn’t recognise it (being ‘ba humbug’ until the actual morning/afternoon of the 25th) we tend to have minor conflict over the cost of electricity versus community spirit – all very loving and peaceful.

The art of persuading the beloved to hedge trim, around the string of outside lights, requires the manipulating attributes of Eve. How to persuade him that climbing up a ladder and trimming bits of foliage is a remarkably good idea requires a great deal of subtle crafting. My tips are as follows: never on an empty stomach, never on a cold, foggy night, always provide the tools of torch and secateurs and be prepared to hold the ladder clearly wearing more than an Eve-like fig leaf (it's more sensible to alert traffic rather than scare it). These tips are not foolproof and unlikely to work now I have blogged about them. So if all else fails do it yourself.

As to Christmas this year, now the children are grown up we have respite for a while. We can roast a bird, light a fire, drink a glass or two and indulge in some quality choral renditions. I can Midnight Mass it to my heart’s content and still get a book token (hopefully) - all with my slippers on (yes even the Midnight service because the church is my home too).

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The 'G word'

It was while I was securing my bunting to the hedge and planting my red, white and blue flowers that I started to list all the things I appreciate about being British. Of course a cup of tea is number one, although it has to be made as Brown Owl taught me and no doubt approved of by my village WI. Then there is the way we can have a conversation with anyone as long as we begin with the weather. Not only are we preoccupied with it, but we brave the elements in a way that is verging towards perverse. I fine example of this being that group of vocalists, at the Jubilee Pageant, heartily 'lunging it' for Her Majesty whilst risking death by rain.

Then of course it is not long before I consider the rich diversity of the English language which then leads me rather swiftly to my pet 'dislike' at the moment. It is beginning to become one of those irritations that might lead to a full-on heckle one day. Every so often I begin to twitch when a certain ugly Americanism is used, referring to me as part of a collective, and if it is used more than once then I positively steam under my cardigan. It happens in church, it happens in school and now I hear it has happened on the BBC, from the spokesperson for 'Queen's English' no less when she was talking about the media; she called them 'guys' - aagghh! Since when have I become a 'guy'? Not only am I female, but surely this term is the male equivalent to 'gal' or 'doll'. Whatever happened to 'folks' or even plain 'everyone'? Such bliss to be included in a group of everyone....

Last year my pet hate was the amount of 'likes' said instead of 'um'. In presentation assessments from a group of AS students, out of around 32 students not one managed a two-minute speech without a 'like', and the record of 'likes' in one speech was in the mid-thirties (no joke). It has become a generational speech impediment!

Thankfully, I think we have moved away from 'wicked', which was all very silly really, along with displaying underpants - although a few Cornish boys haven't quite caught up with the rest of UK culture yet (bless).

And we now have 'yeh, yeh, yeh' which needs to be said with rapid fire all on the same note. Why can't we just let our yes be yes and our no be no? What does this need to emphasise an affirmative mean?

But going back to the word 'Guys',  don't we put him on the bonfire? So not only does this word have gendered connotations it has religious and political ones too. But to top the list of reasons not to use the word is that it is simply far too cheesy. Fair enough if you are an American cartoon character who needs to gather a group together it might  be acceptable, passably, but only just. I have to say that I am a bit of an expert when it comes to gathering groups of people together: Year 8s, 9s, 11s, 12s and 13s to be precise. Needless to say I NEVER use the word 'guys' and have managed quite successfully to gather hundreds of individuals without uttering the 'G word' once.

So hopefully, the need to address us as male Americans will soon pass and like crimplene flares and Spandau Ballet blouses will become a thing of our cultural past and a mere mention in a Bill Bryson book.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Time for a car boot sale

Once the lighter evenings set in I start getting all productive. This can mean that the 'to do' list can move into the ridiculous and the reality doesn't always match up to my creative ideas. Inevitably tasks always take longer than I think they will, use up more energy than I have and require more money than is sensible to spend.

There are other obstacles to achieving my aims in this order: Cornish wet and windy days, brambles, weeds and more weeds, lack of skill and a general curling up like the cat mode that seems to be preferable than tackling an overgrown hedge.

This said, I have had a massive anti-social bonfire that was very effective and thankfully part of rural living (all our near neighbours welcome the smell!) I have scrubbed the mould off the side of the cottage with a broom and scared a few elderly passersby (on their way to a village charity bacon-bap event) with my squirting hose-pipe. I've thought about pruning the raspberry canes and tidying the strawberry bed and intend to weed a flower border very soon (yawn).

I went into a mad frenzy yesterday clearing unwanted 'stuff', sticking price tags onto everything ready for a car boot sale. It is amazing how once you have space you can fill it with all manner of paraphernalia. I am not sure how we acquired a rusty set of 1970s golf clubs or how I can persuade my dearest to go through the four boxes of LPs under the stairs. He went through a phase of wood turning candlesticks, which means we have the finest collection - enough to fill an entire Dickens novel. So I have been ruthless and decided to purge the cottage of anything wax and scented that isn't 'BBC period drama like'.

My desk drawers have never been tidier and I've discovered a whole load of pens to put by the telephone - yay!. A few of the cobwebs have been attacked by the vacuum nozzle and I have decided to part with the foot spa.

I wish I could afford a whole team of labourers to cobble the driveway so it looks like the quay on St Michael's Mount, keep doves and have a yurt in the garden. However, I will be satisfied when the broken window pane gets replaced, the drive gets swept and we finally fill the chicken house with hens. It is a case of cutting our cloth and making do and mending. "With food and clothes be satisfied". Anything else will only eventually end up at a car boot sale or become a home for spiders. After all, we can't take it with us.