Monthly Archives: March 2013


Just a little whinge today. How come I struggle to get a knife to cut an onion in the kitchen but as soon as it is in the washing up bowl I plunge in my hand and the knife manages to cut that?

Older Women

Why do some older women make themselves look like men? As we ladies age and hormones dry up, there is a tendency to develop more masculine traits. In fact, unlike puberty where we are all told exactly what changes our bodies will go through, nobody tells you about the horrible changes that happen post-menopause. Once these changes happen, you can go one of three ways. You can either fight it and assert your femininity publicly, wearing attractive colours and styles which make the most of your changing shape. You can give into it, dress in beige or black, don fluffy jogging pants and baggy pullovers, get a short-back-and-sides and throw the make-up bag in the bin. Or you can drag yourself kicking and screaming back to your twenties, wearing too-short-skirts, droopy breasts hanging over the top, wear extreme make-up and totter around on dangerously high heels.

My preference is for the first solution. I love being a woman and still enjoy dressing up, applying make-up (just enough to enhance, not plaster!) and making the most of what I was given. I won’t leave the house unless my hair looks decent. The third solution is just laughable and often characterised on soap operas as the ‘tarty’ older lady making a play for the younger men.

But it is the second solution that makes me whinge most. Androgenous Woman is terrible. You will have seen her around and about. She’s the one you have to look twice at to make sure she is a woman or a man. Can you see any suspicion of breasts lurking under that sweater? Has she got stubble? Any other clues? Painted fingernails? A spritz of perfume? Sadly, nothing really tells you whether she is really a woman. I don’t understand why women do this to themselves. I wonder what their ‘significant other’ and family think about the way they look? Does nobody ever tactfully suggest they might make a bit more of an effort to celebrate their womanliness?

Clearly not.







Whatever your thoughts on child discipline, you only need to take a peep into any public place to see whether it is being applied or not. I am proud to say that I had two very good children. They always behaved well in public even if sometimes they didn’t behave impeccably at home. In fact, it sticks in my mind that someone once commented ‘Your children behave so well in public that you must surely beat them in private!’ 

In the 80s it was deemed acceptable to give a little smack for naughty or dangerous behaviour. In our case, one look from mum or dad was usually enough to stop any naughtiness on the spot. Like most families, we had two very different children. One was highly-strung and intense, treading the border between genius and insanity quite closely at times. The other was laid-back, relaxed, funny and with a couldn’t-care-less attitude. Both required a different sort of discipline and as new parents we had to learn with them how to best deal with naughtiness – even though it rarely happened. 

I sometimes despair when I see how children are treated now. It is not being kind to let them do as they please without discipline.  It is not right to let them ‘express themselves’ when this means causing distress to others. It is not acceptable to just smirk and look pathetic when your child behaves disgracefully in public (or private, for that matter).

I was recently in a busy supermarket, in the same aisle as a mother and toddler. The toddler was in a pushchair and just at the right height to see all the sweets and chocolate bars on the shelf. 

Toddler: ‘I want sweeties’

Mother: ‘You’re not ‘aving any’

Toddler (in bigger voice): ‘I waaaannt sweeties’

Mother (shouting): ‘Your not ‘aaaaving any!’

Toddler (screaming): ‘I WAAAANNNTTTT SWEEEEEETIES!!!’

Mother (handing sweeties to toddler): Oh, go on then!

This made my blood boil. Who was in control of that relationship? What had the toddler learned that day? I gained a clearer understanding of why my Year 9 pupils couldn’t accept the word ‘No’ last lesson on a Friday. 

I am now the grandmother of two little boys and have had to start learning again about how best to discipline. Clearly smacking is now terribly frowned upon and sometimes voice alone is just not adequate. But whatever methods have to be used, it is vital that those adorable little boys receive an understanding of what is wrong and what is right so that they grow up confident and caring, able to behave beautifully in public and realise that there are responsibilities as well as rewards in life.


Today, I’m sticking with my online whinges. In fact, I’m starting to wonder why I spend so much time online when so many things make me whinge. 

When I first started using computers (thousands of years ago), the biggest issue was junk email. I must have had hundreds of emails imploring me to increase my penis size. This was annoying but also a bit worrying as despite a thorough search, I was unable to locate my penis so that I could take them up on their kind offer. Over time, the trolls have become more sophisticated in their approach and we see a wide array of spam worming its way through to our email inboxes and social networking accounts. 

There are various manifestations of this – usually from people you know and trust and sent from their accounts, which have been hacked. These are usually recognised and we can take action to prevent further harm. We know the rules. Don’t click on the link. If it happens to you, change your password.

Increasingly I find myself being followed by people I have nothing in common with. Their sole purpose in following is to advertise their goods to all and sundry. In these cases, I block. Anyone with ‘sex’ in their name gets blocked immediately. (Beware if you come from Middlesex or Essex). I have to laugh when I read the bio of a new follower sometimes. Selling real estate in Baltimore? Block. Get fit in thirty days in Singapore? Block. Selling gears for BMX bikes in Seville? Block.

Let’s not start on autotweets telling me how far you have run, walked, biked or swum. Or how many people have followed you or unfollowed you in the last week. Block, block, block. 

Spam is the Plague of the 21st century. Definitely something whinge-worthy.


Facebook Updates

Apologies for any offence this may cause.

One of my biggest whinges is to do with Facebook. I believe that Facebook does serve a purpose. In my case, it enables me to keep up with friends I don’t see very often, people I taught in the past who are now grown up with families of their own,living abroad and my own family.  We can share activities and photographs. This is all very positive.

The feelings of annoyance come from people who post those damned awful poems and prose about their loved ones. You know the sort I mean. Not only do we have to read this nauseous twaddle but they then have the audacity to tell us that if we don’t repost it we are not their friends.  4-year-old-in-the-playground talk. 

There’s worse. Someone once posted a photograph of a little girl in hospital. She had tubes and sensors attached to her body, keeping her alive. The caption told us that if the photo got 1000 likes the little girl’s life would be saved. I was furious and told the ‘friend’ who posted it that it was disgusting. I asked him that if the photo only got 999 likes, would they let her die? He argued that he thought it wouldn’t do any harm to repost it after it had appeared on his timeline. It did actually do harm – to our friendship.

My own feelings are that some emotions should be private or shared face-to-face with those you love. They are not supposed to be shared publicly with photos of roses or candles or sickly verses. 

What do you think?

Silver Surfer? No!

I hate the term ‘silver surfer’. It implies that you are really too old to know what a computer does but amazingly you can do stuff after all. A work colleague once looked on in amazement and declared ‘She’s pretty good for a woman her age!’ as I repaired her failing computer. My nephew once joked that I couldn’t possibly know about social networking. My daughter told me that I really shouldn’t be on Facebook as it was ‘just for young people’.

Well, sorry guys but I would challenge any one of you in this department. I am pretty good at social networking (in fact, I juggle two twitter accounts and a Facebook account). I was an early adopter of Google + but chose to ditch it as it didn’t really suit my needs. I am confident using lots of different Web 2.0 technologies and demonstrated Prezi to an audience of MUCH younger people. I regularly use Google docs and have created QR codes. Just because I am 58, this does not make me unusual. It just means that I love technology and love learning something new.

I am proud to say that my in-laws started to learn how to use computers in their 80s. My grumpy brother-in-law told them that they couldn’t possibly do it. They saw it as a challenge, went to night classes and got certificates. My father-in-law used his skills to do family tree research and after he died, my mother-in-law used to fill her sleepless nights chatting online to other similarly bereaved and lonely insomniacs.  She used Facebook, uploaded family photos, answered emails and generally used technology to fill the void left by her husband’s passing.

Technology has nothing to do with age and everything to do with attitude and mindset. There is nothing we can’t do at any age if we turn our minds to it. 

Silver surfer? Me? #notonyournelly

School Bullies

Now from this title, you might be expecting an item about bullying of children? But no. This is about some of the stories I have picked up from a variety of schools recently. 

There exists out there, a new breed of educator – all-powerful, controlling, ambitious and prepared to do whatever it takes to get to the top. This ambition can be so all-consuming that many people get trampled underfoot in the process.  I see more and more examples of this each week as good teachers are crushed and beaten into submission and made to feel failures. I myself experienced this. I would open my emails in the morning and if there was one from one particular member of the senior leadership team, my guts would curl up in knots of worry, wondering what I had done now to displease her. Even when her gripe was misplaced, she managed to twist it so that it was still my fault.

Looking back now, I realise that I was bullied but was too scared at the time to do anything about it. In fact, what could I have done? The Governors were eating out of her hand, the Unions were virtually wiped out of school and the other staff also lived in fear of her attention. Thirty years of good teaching and feeling valued and appreciated were wiped out within two years of endless bullying.

While there are hoops to jump through, levels to achieve, snapshot judgements based on a 20 minute observation by a person who hasn’t been in a classroom for fifteen years, our teachers will fall by the wayside and the losers will be whole generations of children. They (and our teachers) deserve better.

‘Just’ Jobs

In another lifetime I was a bit of an artist. I rarely have time to paint or draw now but used to make personalised greetings cards for people and was a prolific badge-maker. The drawings were reasonable but obviously any arty type activity takes time.

I used to like to help people and designed many a worksheet for teachers. What annoyed me in the end was the assumption that I would make these creations at a few minutes’ notice, with use of the word ‘just’. 

‘Could you ‘just’ draw a map on here?’

‘Could you ‘just’ draw a World War II tank for me?’

‘Could you ‘just’ draw a card for my mum’s birthday?’

I have never been good at using the word ‘No!’ and so for years I would smile, nod and say ‘Oh, yes! No problem.’ 

I called them my ‘just’ jobs and that word has haunted me ever since.

Now that I am older, you might think I’d have gained some common sense and a bit of self-respect? I’m afraid not. I still find myself saying ‘Yes’ to all sorts of things when inside my head I am screaming ‘Nooooooo!’


What on earth is SPAG you may be asking? Well, if you are a teacher, you will know the term almost intimately. It stands for ‘spelling, punctuation and grammar’. My family members have, on occasions, disowned me for correcting people’s English. They shake their heads and look terribly embarrassed. Well tough! Because I happen to think that the quality of our language must be protected.

We all have our favourite dislikes but here are some of mine:

  • their, there and they’re
  • to, two and too
  • past and passed
  • ‘he must of done’ instead of ‘he must have done’
  • even worse ‘I must of drank’ instead of ‘I must have drunk’
  • the misplaced apostrophe
  • use of US terms like ‘gotten’

There are many more but probably my most hated abomination, which seems to just happen up north, is the past tense of treat. So many people in my part of the world say ‘tret’. It makes me want to take them by the throat and throttle them.

Maybe I have anger issues?

(I checked this blog through 5 times to make sure I didn’t make any SPAG errors.)

If you find one, feel free to send me a virtual throttle!

Customer Service

Never has so much money been spent on training people in customer service – and never has it been so poor. My own personal experience in recent months has shown me the very worst of systems designed to help customers with difficulties. First of all, I find it incredible that so many companies don’t communicate by email and that the only way you can contact them is via phone call or letter.

The phone call presents so many problems. First of all, you have to pay to use their premium number – especially if you have to fit your call into a busy working day and have to use your mobile. Then you have to negotiate the options at the beginning of the call. This sometimes leads to another set of options…and another. If you are very lucky you will get to speak to a real person. Or you may be plunged into a telephonic void and have to start again. There is nothing more depressing than finally getting the ring tone to be told you are in a queue and your call is the 9th to be answered.

The ‘new thing’ is the system that detects what you want when you speak to it. I tried this last week on a call to a train company. You tell the answering machine what you want. You tone down your regional accent and try to speak Queen’s English. My call went something like this:

‘I’d like a refund on my Oyster Card’

15 seconds of silence

‘For details on emissions, please refer to our website’

Back to the drawing board.

This could be a long blog – but maybe I’ll save location of call centres, lack of inter-departmental communication systems, rudeness of call centre staff, lack of product knowledge and systems for another day.  

One thing is for certain, when I have a good experience of customer service I tell everyone about it. But I also tell everyone when I have bad service.