STALLING OUT

Picture the scene:  It’s eight am on a cold, windy, wet and very grey Sunday morning.  While you are opening one eye, muttering, “Nah!” and turning over for another hour or so’s kip, we have already been up since sparrow fart and are now huddled in our car, joining the end of a long queue of slow-moving cars and vans; all, like us, with vehicles packed to the rafters with assorted antiques, waiting to be allowed into the nearby venue to set up our stands in the hope that we can pass at least some of it on to the unsuspecting public in return for a handy bit of cash.

Yes, we antiques dealers are a stoic lot. On this particular occasion, there were no outside stands but, believe me, we have visited fairs where a bit of rain and wind hasn’t put anybody off.  And it’s been dark!

This wasn’t our first fair together.  Several years ago, we stalled out on three separate occasions, where we did fairly well, but decided to give it a rest for a while after that. In the time since, we have managed to accumulate even more junk and came to realise that, although we look at our things every day, we no longer “see” them, so we agreed it was time for another good clear-out.

We also shared a stand with a friend at a very smart annual fair in south-west London.  We did quite well on that day, too, but I’m afraid I got a bit carried away and ended up spending all our profits, and more, on other people’s stands. Oops.

We did overhear some priceless comments on that occasion, though: A lady discussing her daughter’s imminent move to north London and her friend exclaiming, in aghast tones: “My dear, I couldn’t support it!”

And another: “We had to have the walls of the orangery reinforced for the Turner.”  (That’s Gary, the lesser-known younger brother and the black sheep of the family. You should see what his stuff fetches on Gumtree now.)

Anyway.  It’s tiring but fun and here are my top tips (based on our own experiences only) if you fancy having a go yourself:

Bring chocolates. It never fails to break the ice and endear you to people. They might remember you for next time, at the very least and, at most, it will lure them onto the rocks of temptation of your attractively-presented stand. You hope. And, of course, the bonus is you get to take them home with you if there’s any left. I noted with some irritation that all the skinny-minnies refused but there was one (normal-sized) woman who, when I proffered my (seasonal) bowl of mini crème eggs in her direction, said: “Did you see the way my nostrils flared just then?” I said: “A girl after my own heart.” We both cackled and I gave her two.

Make your stall stand out from the rest.  Cover it with a nice big cloth (useful for hiding all the packaging debris underneath as well) and, if there’s time, try to arrange things in attractive groups for more impact.  Bit difficult, when the main doors have just opened and the buyers are pouring through and have formed a disorderly scrum around your stall while you are still trying to unpack, keep a watchful eye on your stock and answer questions at the same time and your partner has disappeared in search of a loo and a coffee. (You vengefully consider pricing him up and putting him out for sale, too, but then remember he will come in handy for later on, when it’s time to re-pack everything and cart it all back to the car. It’s a close call, though.)

Clearly mark all your treasures and try to clean them up a bit before putting them out. People really don’t need to have insider knowledge of your rather slapdash methods of housekeeping and the last time you wielded a duster in the objects’ vague direction.

It also helps to know exactly what it is you’re selling. Find the time to do your research beforehand and try not to be spotted quickly scanning items on your phone before surreptitiously altering the price tags!

Tips for buyers:  Good manners go a long way and cost nothing. Smile, show some friendly interest, ask polite questions and don’t get the sellers’ backs up by behaving as though you’re on the telly and insisting they give you vast and unrealistic discounts on everything. Dealers have a living to make, same as everyone else. You learn a lot by asking (I have), but obviously you need to pick a quiet lull in trading to do so.  It’s advisable to take your own bags with you and plenty of hard cash.  Traders will often give a small discount for cash, or if you are buying more than one item from them, so it’s always worth asking the question.

Remember the old saying: “The time to buy an antique is when you see it.” If you walk away to “think about it” you can guarantee it will have gone by the time you go back (I speak from bitter experience here). This happened to a young woman who just missed out buying a vintage British flag on our stand.  She came back with a friend to show her, only to see it fluttering goodbye over the shoulder of the person who had bought it not ten seconds before…

I will end with a story which perhaps neatly (and fondly) encapsulates the seasoned trader’s mindset. On the second morning of a large, two-day fair, one of the dealers hadn’t appeared by the time the other stallholders were up and about.  Concerned, they entered her van, only to find she had died in the night.  “It’s awful,” they all agreed, “but at least she had a good day yesterday.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The nicest person I never met

 

 

I lost a friend this week. She died in the early hours of Thursday morning and I was notified, along with many others, by her daughter through the Facebook group she helped to set up a few years ago.  Yes, that’s right.  Facebook.  Susie may not have been a close friend, someone I had known for many years and met up with regularly (she lived a long way away from me) but does that make my grief any the less real? For I am definitely grieving.

We all “met up” through another Facebook group, originally, then some of us left and became friends outside of that group, before, with two of her closest friends, she formed the separate group we now all belong to.  She messaged me privately and said: “I want to be your friend because I rather like you.” Flattered, I replied with: “I rather like you, too,” and so our Facebook friendship was sealed.

She wasn’t that much older than me – in her mid-sixties – and a fierce, fighting spirit to the very last. She never showed any self-pity, even when enduring gruelling hospital treatments and thought only of others, though she had no time or patience for people complaining of what she saw as minor health issues.  Whingers and whiners got short shrift from her.  She made a formidable enemy (she sometimes fell out with people through her blunt outspokenness and forthright opinions) and you most definitely would have wanted her on your team. She had the biggest heart, the daftest and naughtiest sense of humour, was generous to those she cared about, was always up for having fun, was hugely protective of her adored (and adoring) family and friends and supported and looked after anyone who came into her orbit.

The phrase “They broke the mould when they made her” definitely applied to Susie. A tough, working-class South Londoner through and through, she was proud of her origins and environment and though, in later life, her circumstances changed and she and her husband moved right out of the city to be closer to their children and grandchildren, it was clear that it was never far from her thoughts and she often referred to her happy memories of growing up and living there.

She regularly posted hilarious stories of her life (she really should have been a professional writer) and upbeat and uplifting messages, almost to the last, exhorting us to be happy, enjoy life, get out there and face it head on, get our smiles on, have fun, have a laugh, a drink and a boogie and just live life to the full. She called herself “a greedy food whore” (amongst other things), swore like a trouper and, before she became seriously ill, was always talking about who she would be visiting and “bothering” that day. She had had plenty of sad times in her own life but never allowed it to turn into bitterness and self-pity. You only have to read the hundreds of outpourings of love and sorrow online to know what a great, gaping, cavernous hole she has left behind her.

So, goodbye, dear Susie.  We never met in real life but I really, really hope we will meet “up there” one day.  Meanwhile, thank you for your Facebook friendship, for including me in your orbit and sharing tales and photos of your happy life with all of your friends. We know you would hate us to be sad but please allow us this time of mourning until we can get our smiles back and, as you used to say, pull up our big knickers, put our dancing shoes on, get out there and get on with living.  Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

IT’S A RESTAURANT, NOT A PLAYGROUND!

 

 

Spoiler alert: I try to stick mainly to writing faintly amusing posts on here (at least, I hope they are) but sometimes I need to let off steam about something and this is one of those times. You have been warned!

 

Recently, our enjoyment of a quiet, relaxing meal out was spoiled by two rather precocious young girls, their brother and their parents, who were all sitting nearby. The girls were allowed to run up and down the busy restaurant, inbetween the tables, getting in everyone’s way and posing a serious health and safety hazard the whole time they weren’t in their seats (which was most of the time we were there). Perhaps the staff trying to dodge round them should have said something very firmly to them, since the parents made no apparent effort to stop them. Perhaps we should have said something, ourselves.  (Afterwards, we learned that the manager on duty that evening HAD remonstrated with the parents earlier on but was clearly ignored. That’s a great life lesson they’re teaching their children, isn’t it?) We found it all very irritating and not in the slightest bit charming or beguiling, as their doting parents seemed to. At one point, both girls were told to dance (right next to our table), and to stand on the benches they had been sitting on, to pose for their parents’ phone camera!

Maybe I’m showing my age, here, but I don’t care. When I was that young, we were told to behave ourselves in public, to stop showing off (if indeed we were) and that “nobody is interested in/looking at you.” Going out for a meal with our parents was a rare treat and we would not have wanted to jeopardise any similar future treats. Certainly, we would never have been encouraged to stand on seats that somebody else would be sitting on afterwards!

Now, it seems, the opposite extreme is considered the acceptable norm. Children are encouraged to “express themselves” more. In a way, of course, this is a good thing – but only up to a point. It’s hard to believe, I know, but not all of us are endlessly fascinated by others’ offspring – even if we like children (and, generally, myself and my OH do). But seriously, please, no “expressing yourself” in public, in a very busy restaurant, with plates of hot food and drinks being ferried about everywhere. And most certainly not at the expense of others who are just out for a pleasant meal! If an accident had occurred, I wonder who the parents would have blamed first?

It’s a very sore point with us atm, in any case, as we are forced, on a daily (and nightly) basis, to listen to next-door’s children (and their parents) “expressing themselves” through very thin walls, grrr.  Again, at their age, we lived in dread and fear of “what the neighbours would say” and were brought up to consider others’ needs before our own.  I would love to know at what point in society we did a complete U-turn on manners, respect and consideration for others. This a huge bugbear for me, and for others I know.  (Watch this space for a future (deadly serious) blog on the subject.)  Can anyone enlighten us, please?

Back to the restaurant: we know, from talking to the waiting staff there, and also at other places, that this is a common problem.  Parents, wanting a relaxing meal out themselves, seem to willingly hand over responsibility for their offspring the minute they sit at their table, letting them run riot about the place. I repeat: this is what we have been told happens – and more often than not, unfortunately – plus, we have witnessed it ourselves, on many occasions. Of course, there are going to be polite, responsible parents out there, but perhaps they eat elsewhere, at other times, or maybe they just wait patiently for their children to grow up a bit more before inflicting the little darlings on the rest of society?

Perhaps large signs are needed, somewhere everyone can see them, to remind parents that their child is their responsibility wherever they are and, as such, to keep an eye on them/keep them under control at all times. It’s incredible that such a thing is even needed, but clearly it is, unfortunately.

On another occasion, the back door of a restaurant we were dining in was opened a fraction to let some cooler air in on a particularly sultry summer’s evening.  The next minute, my OH had leapt up from our table and gone rushing outside – to rescue a small child from a nearby table, who was now standing in the middle of the busy main road.  Neither of its parents had noticed; the father was on his phone and the mother looking elsewhere. “We don’t know this area” was her extremely feeble excuse when her child was returned by my furious partner – thankfully unharmed.

I can see that, if this lack of responsible behaviour carries on, sooner or later there’s going to be a terrible accident – and I for one don’t want to have to witness it!

It’s Christmas, but not as you know it: It’s a wonderful (magazine) life!

 

It’s the middle of July and outside, the mercury is hitting the low thirties. Inside the office, we all flop and swelter over our desks, begging and bribing the utilities dept to turn the air con up to max.  Suddenly, unexpected yet familiar tones echo around the arid room as “he” bursts out of the lift: “Ho ho ho!!!” Looking somewhat puce around the gills, admittedly. Yes, it’s Father Christmas!  In July?  You read that right. Welcome to the wonderful, topsy-turvy world of magazines. Hold on to your hats and watch time as it races past: Christmas, Valentine Day and Easter often seem to merge as one. You don’t need to be bonkers to work here, but it certainly helps…

Fund-raising for the Christmas party and/or lunch began way back in the year. Every sale or raffle or auction of goodies from each dept was held with one thing in mind: fun, frolics, general debauchery and the annual opportunity to get off with Gary from accounts or Brian from the postroom.  Depending on whether you wanted everything in triplicate from the former, or required first-class service from the latter.

When it came to decorating the office, it was always the knitting dept who shamed – I mean, kick-started – the rest of us sluggards into action.  With much muttering, moaning, grumbling, glowering and utterances of: “Bah, humbug,” and other unprintable oaths, we reluctantly followed suit.  Some took it very seriously: “It has to be perfect; I’m a Virgo,” trilled a member of the team one year. Someone’s retort of: “That’s not what we’ve heard,” did not add much to the festive spirit, overall.

One year, when money was tighter than usual, a very creative and enterprising member of the knitting dept went mad in her local supermarket and bought their entire stock of metallic scourers. En-masse, once strung up around the desks, through squinted eye and from a (far) distance (preferably the next floor), they did look quite festive and eye-catching and more than slightly glittery.  Nice to have them to hand for any random sticky wineglasses still hanging around from the party, anyway.

Way, way back in the day, the company would generously issue the entire workforce a ticket for a free Christmas lunch in the canteen. Ooh, the trading that went on! Unsurprisingly, “I’ll swap you mine for three hardbacks from your books cupboard” was always a popular one.

At said Christmas lunch, singers were laid on (sat on, bound and gagged; whatever it took to stop them), to coax us all into good cheer as we stuffed our faces and went back for seconds and thirds…  The aforementioned round, jolly, bearded man dressed all in red (of course it was the same one, don’t be silly!  There is only one Father Christmas!) would also be there, posing for photo opportunities before any of us had ever heard of the tiresome “selfie”.  I still have the photo someone (one of his little helpers?) took of myself and my boss with him with an arm around each of us. We are beaming with delight. It’s rather sweet, actually. I’m told that one year we had pan pipers, too, though I must have inexplicably been off that day – shades of “The Fast Show” sketch come to mind.

Some of us who probably needed to get out more looked forward all year to the cookery dept’s seasonal sampling sessions. Platters of cheeses, smoked salmon, party nibbles, chocolates, puddings, shortbread, mince pies and booze were tasted and awarded marks out of ten for a forthcoming feature in the magazine. You didn’t really need any lunch after those – or evening meal, come to that.  You just had to concentrate very hard on catching the right train home.

Still in the cookery dept (and who can blame me?), once upon a time in la-la land, we had two – yes, TWO – free Christmas lunches (the canteen extravaganza being one of them; although, given the printing lead times, the magazine’s had to be organised a lot earlier than that). After the cooks, stylists and photographers had done their bit, the signal came from the kitchen and the gannets (ie, the rest of us) descended with unseemly haste to demolish the lot.  God help them if they’d requested a re-shoot.

Secret Santas were always good for a laugh, and – er – sometimes more than a bit tongue-in-cheek, so to speak. Someone received a sex toy one year – though the more innocent among us couldn’t be entirely sure that was what it was, since there was no diagram attached. In another company I worked for, one editor had a bit of a body-odour problem and received a deodorant as his surprise gift. (Unfortunately for the rest of us, he still didn’t take the hint.)

We all know it’s bad luck to take the decs down until twelfth night, but it’s more than a bit dispiriting when, returning after the festive break with increased waistlines and decreased bank balances and the next pay day still far too small a distant speck on the five-week horizon, to find the tinsel and baubles lying on top of the filing cabinet exactly where you left them (where are Santa’s little helpers now, eh?), somebody’s clothes heaped rather tellingly under somebody else’s desk and the aforementioned “puzzling” sex toy hanging upside-down (we think) from the photocopier. That must have been some party, if we could only remember any of it…

So – the start of a sparkling-fresh New Year!  What next to look forward to?  Ah, yes – the polar (excuse the pun) opposite of when Father Christmas visited us in July. Emerging from the lift, trying very hard not to shiver quite so much, come a cluster of scantily-clad “Valentine cupids” bestowing on all of us a chocolate heart and a kiss. Can’t now recall what they were promoting, but who cares? Ta very much, chaps.  Don’t mind if I do.  Season’s greetings to all and God bless us, every one!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TURN IT DOWN!

 

I’ve just come back from a pleasant lunch in town with a friend I haven’t seen in ages.  We were looking forward to a gossipy catch-up. Very nice, I hear you say. Lucky old you. What’s your point? I’ll tell you.

The first restaurant we tried, the music was so loud we politely asked for it to be turned down, only to be told they couldn’t do that from there as it was “controlled by head office”. We looked at each other in disbelief. This was a new one on us. I even felt sorry for the unhelpful staff. I’m sure they didn’t necessarily want to be constantly bombarded from all directions with piped “muzak” chosen at random by some spotty little oik based umpteen miles away and well out of range. We left.

In the next likely-looking place, we were also told they couldn’t turn the music down (bizarre!) but they did, at least, show a bit more willing and directed us to a relatively quieter corner. We stayed.

Back home, after a little online visit to TripAdvisor, I vented my spleen on FaceBook, secure in the knowledge I would have plenty of support amongst my sensible, like-minded friends. I did.

I think we’ve all got used to background music so much, it would seem strange to walk into a shop where there isn’t some form of musical accompaniment. I’m not against it all.  Besides, you’re not very likely to be lingering, chatting to friends, in a clothes shop or the like.  But it does seem to be more than a little odd that the very places where you would like to hear yourselves think are the very places where they insist on playing music.

Now, please don’t write me off as a moaning old minnie. I love live music and loud music in the right setting and if I’ve paid specifically for that purpose.  I’m going along to a gig, secure in the knowledge that I’m in for a belting good time, listening to the music of my choice and returning home with my ears ringing and a huge smile on my face.  Job done.  But, when eating out, why in God’s name would anyone want to hear background music they haven’t chosen blaring out and battling against the general cheerful hum of contented diners?

Recently, another friend and I were enjoying a catch-up lunch where the music, merry though it undoubtedly was, was kept to the business, ie counter end of the cafe and not the seating end – thereby keeping both staff and customers happy. Excellent idea!

Do restaurants play the music to encourage diners to eat quickly and leave? Then surely they are wrong, since, if you are lingering somewhere, you are likely to spend more money and order another course/bottle of wine/basket of bread/your favourite waiter lightly dressed and served on a platter.

Or do these places just like to play the music loud for the staff’s benefit? I pondered this when on holiday in Cornwall last year. We visited a recommended burger place in a popular seaside resort, only to be met with disco-level music blaring out everywhere we tried to sit. It was just us and a family with young children in there at the time. I was very surprised the parents hadn’t requested a bit of peace and quiet, though maybe they preferred the din to the sound of their squabbling offspring, so it was down to us to ask the question. The response received from the young woman behind the counter was churlish and surly, to put it mildly but even she could see, through the thick haze of her resentment, that she would be two valued customers down if she didn’t do something about the almighty racket, so very reluctantly and gracelessly did so.

At a time when restaurants and pubs are closing down everywhere, why do these places seem to be hellbent on making their customer experience as uncomfortable as it is possible to be? Surely the staff would like to hang on to their jobs? Many of these High Street places are much of a muchness, particularly the two Italian chain restaurants my friend and I originally tried. So why aren’t they all a lot more concerned?

Perhaps one answer would be to designate some quiet areas but my guess is that everyone would gravitate towards these and the more noisy areas would become barren wastes. Who knows how it will pan out (excuse the pun)? But, really, isn’t it about time someone at least tried?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

PAWS FOR THOUGHT

 

 

A silly question which often crops up on social media is: ”Are you a dog or a cat person?” Why can’t you be both?  It’s the same as that equally silly music-related saying back in the day: you couldn’t like the Stones AND the Beatles; it had to be one or the other.  Why?  I’m proud of my broad, eclectic musical tastes and happily admit to liking both. Anyway.  Back to dogs.  (Sorry, cats.)

Everyone I know who has ever owned a dog always wants to get another almost as soon as it dies. They leave a massive void to be filled and are a huge joy but also a huge responsibility, of course. Hence the preference for cats. (Sorry, dogs.) Not a decision to be made lightly, though many do seem to do just that, sadly – just ask the RSPCA or Battersea dogs and cats home, or any one of the many worthwhile and wonderful animal charities we have in this country, especially around Christmas and New Year.

We had two dogs in our family, a Westie and a Cairn, though not at the same time, and both were my mother’s pets. I wasn’t living at home when they were around but I always looked forward to taking them for long walks whenever I went back for the weekend and was glad to hand them over at the end of it.  A bit like other people’s children, really. (Sorry, children. And parents).

My life circumstances changed quite dramatically almost two years ago now (as mentioned in a previous blog) and, since then, every now and again, knowing how much I like dogs, someone will say: “Why don’t you get a dog?” In some ways, it would help enormously. Company and a reason to leave the house every day – twice a day, even. Some much-needed exercise for both of us. It’s also very sociable. But my reply is always along the lines of: “It wouldn’t be fair to the dog. I’m out and about quite a bit and what if I end up going back to work full-time?”

Then there’s the expense. I know someone who had to cancel the family skiing holiday one winter, when their dog developed back problems and the vet’s bill came to the cost of said holiday. Ouch. And someone else who couldn’t afford to finish doing up their house because of their new puppy’s vet bills.

Despite all this, though, I will admit to occasionally (all right, frequently) looking online at rescue centre websites and have been known to sob at pictures of sad, abandoned animals.  They know, you know!  Their eyes are full of the pain of knowing they’ve been rejected. It’s heartbreaking. I daren’t go and visit any of these places. I know I would: number one, be in floods of tears, which would be very unhelpful to all and cause the animals even more distress and number two, want to run off with the whole damn lot and our house, not to mention bank balance, just isn’t big enough.

So, what breed would I go for (theoretically)?  While I don’t mind if it’s not the most intelligent, I don’t want one that’s too thick, either. I met a beautiful dog the other week.  A lurcher crossed with something I can’t now remember. He was friendly and adorable but his owner cheerfully informed me he was “very dim” with it.  Oh dear.  I do hope he was too dim to understand what she was saying. (I covered his ears, though, just in case.)

However, craftiness is something altogether different and all dogs seem to be experts at this, especially around food. My OH’s niece’s dog, Dougal, has somehow learned to open the fridge door, select what he wants from it (usually the family’s packed lunches for the following day at work and school) and remember to close it after him, as well. Worry now.

I wonder at the advisability of all the cross-breeding that goes on these days.  Almost every dog I admire in the street is something-crossed-with-something-else. Where will it all end?  Perhaps a cat crossed with a dog?  That way, the old-hat aforementioned question of which you prefer will become redundant.

Moving on swiftly… There are agencies, such as Borrow My Doggy, which do what they say on the tin.  And there’s fostering.  And dog-walking for the more energetic. And the wonderful world of therapy dogs. We recently met Max, a hospital therapy dog for Great Ormond Street.  What a fabulous idea! Apparently, he goes down a wow.  I’m not surprised.  He’s gorgeous. Therapy dogs visit homes and hospices as well and it’s been proven that people’s stress levels go right down when stroking an animal – whatever it may be. OK, maybe not a wildebeest.

We have looked after our neighbour’s dog, Charlie, a wire-haired fox terrier, since he was a puppy.  He is now nine years old and treats our house and garden as his own. Naturally.  While we love having him, though, it does open our eyes to the ups and downs of dog-owning. Lots of places won’t accept dogs – cafes, pubs, garden centres, holiday lets – and this often curtails our plans, which can be frustrating.

On the other hand, having him around the house definitely lifts the energies and he makes us laugh with his antics and funny ways. We are always sad to see him go and it’s a poignant moment when I lift his water bowl from the floor and put it away until the next time… He collects legions of adoring fans wherever he goes and my OH, being the one usually attached to the other end of the lead (he’s always SO keen to volunteer), relishes being on the receiving end of the most female attention he has ever had in his entire life (so he tells me).

Seriously, a dog on the end of a lead opens up all sorts of social possibilities. Try to imagine starting to chat to a total stranger without it. See what I mean?!

In summary, then:  A source of joy and fun, great company, free exercise, unconditional love and almighty babe magnet (both sexes), versus one or two “minor” restrictions and “a bit” of extra expense… You can see which way this is going, can’t you?  I’ll keep you posted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TIDY OR UNTIDY?

I don’t really care, to be honest – whether you are a tidy or untidy person, I mean – but, over the years, I’ve noticed that my natural tidiness seems to trigger some sort of defensive mechanism in others.  Truly, I don’t care how others choose to live, even if I don’t really understand it, but, once they have been to my house, the second thing they say, after: “Haven’t you got a lot of STUFF?!” is: “Wow, aren’t you TIDY?!”

That’s all down to me, since I’m living with an untidy person who can make a room look messy within seconds of entering the house. “The floor is for shoes and furniture and nothing else!” I chant gaily as he passes, but it falls on (selectively) deaf ears – he’s already switched the kettle on and is now moving purposefully towards the television remote control (volume UP) and the sofa, shedding bag, jacket and shoes as he goes. After 10 years of living together, I still live in (vain) hope that he will see the light and follow my example.

I, on the other hand, know how to make a room look tidy within seconds of entering it. A lot of that involves straightening things. It’s so satisfying. You will be amazed how much neater everywhere will look if it’s all in straight piles. Try it!  Though others won’t thank you for straightening their own piles, big or small, especially at work. My boss forbade me to do this to her desk. I was itching to get in there and neaten it all up but she claimed she knew where everything was, despite the way it looked. Untidy people always say this. I don’t believe them.

I have found, rather annoyingly, that others are always happy to have a cheap laugh at my expense for being tidy.  As though it’s some sort of character default.  Blimey, if I did it back to them, there’d be World War Three. As I said before, my theory is that they are on the defensive but, as I haven’t commented on their untidiness in the first place, I do wish they would just shut up about it. I’m not judging them. I have been told I have expressive eyes, though, so maybe they’re secretly giving the game away, drat them (the mind boggles. Perhaps the eyes do too).

Before you all hate me and start calling me names (oh, you’ve started already?), I have a confession to make and it involves paperwork. We are drowning in the stuff and we don’t have the storage space in our house to file it all away properly. How do other people manage theirs? There are so many things I want to keep.  Unfortunately, they have all ended up in black plastic sacks in the floor.  Yes: in, not on.  Our canny predecessors here built two huge storage holes in the hall and living room floors and I will own up to it – this is where all my papers are “stored”.  I don’t just mean letters, cards, important bank and pensions information and the like.  It’s files on stuff to do with our house, it’s recipes and jottings torn from other places, it’s manuals and instructions for appliances, it’s scrapbooks and other memorabilia from when I was a child and teenager, it’s brochures, pamphlets and catalogues. The odd loose photograph and all my old diaries. I do want to keep them all, before you ask.  Seriously, what do other people do with theirs? I’d love to know.  One thing’s for certain: I don’t think they will ever get sorted in my lifetime (believe me, I’ve tried) and will most probably end up on a sacrificial bonfire when I’m gone.  Feeling better now?

So, it’s all a bit out of sight, out of mind with me.  Even at work.  My desk surface was probably the neatest (and straightest) in the entire office. Until we started hot-desking, anyway. (Then everyone’s desks looked exactly the same.  Empty.)  My desk drawers, however, were a very different story. I go into this in much more detail in a previous blog, so won’t embarrass myself – I mean, bore you all – with it again.  Ahem (whistles).

Paperwork aside, I do try to keep things where (I think) they should be because I believe it makes life a lot easier. And calmer. When I was at college and living in a student hostel, I would call for my friend in the mornings. Every single day, she would be in an almighty flap over her missing door keys. I couldn’t understand it.  Why didn’t she just allocate a handy pot or saucer or the like and remember to put them in there every night when she came in? Or just keep them in her bag? It seemed such a simple solution and so obvious to me, yet she never did this. Instead, she would get in a fluster about it every single day and I would have to bite back my irritation every time (and keep my boggling eyes under control too).

When it came to leaving college and finding ourselves jobs and digs out in the real world, she said to me very seriously: ”If we ever live together, it will be the end of a beautiful friendship.” Sadly, I knew she was right, so we never did and thankfully we are still good friends today.

Another friend, who regularly bemoans the fact that it’s always him in his family who does all the clearing up and nagging the kids to get their things off the floor (he loves coming round to our house, which he describes as a tranquil haven), says his wife drives him mad, because every day she comes downstairs, ready to go out the door to work, then has to go back upstairs to find her watch, yelling for help as she goes. Every. Single. Day.

Feng Shui and decluttering has pretty much been big business for many years and we’re all now invited to undertake a “life laundry” – the trendy new term for a good old-fashioned clear-out. The current star of the show is the lady who suggests we hold objects in our hand and, if they don’t “spark joy”, to let them go.  Try telling that to our partners. The divorce rates are going to rocket.  Cheers for that, lady. I’m afraid I’m not likely to be following her example. I have so much stuff and so little patience and besides, I love everything in my home, whether or not it “sparks joy” (get real!) and I have no desire to rid myself of any of it. For now, anyway. Whoever held a pair of trusty M&S knickers in their hands to see if they “sparked joy” or not?  We’re not going down the Fifty Shades route here – all I’m asking of my knickers is that they are reasonably pretty and match my bra (yes, I am very OCD about that. I must be coordinated at all times. It gives me confidence.  I’m always very happy, when I have found a bra I like, to notice the little sticker attached that reads: Matching knickers available. Yippee! Job done).

This same lady has decreed that none of us needs more than 30 books in our homes.  She would most probably hyperventilate if she came to our house, where we have 13 bookcases, all crammed full.  Yes, I do have regular culls. No, I’m not getting rid of any more – for the moment – thank you. None of that “One in, one out” nonsense here.  In fact, my current reading pile stands at 18, so there with knobs on, missus. Can you imagine her house?  Lots of white, shiny surfaces everywhere and – no, that’s all I can imagine, actually. Pass me my sunglasses, someone.

Right, I’m off now. Got me some serious tidying to do. The boyfriend has fallen down the back of the sofa again and I need to go and straighten the cushions.