Category Archives: Culture

Awaydays

A very good evening to you all from the Lifestyle Support Guru!
I am writing this whilst sitting in a drinking establishment in Coventry. Why Coventry, you may well ask. Why not, I may well answer. It seemed as good a place as any to visit for the night on the way back from Cambridge. Why Cambridge, you may well ask. Why not, I may well answer, but I shan’t, because that would be the wrong answer. One male sibling and I went there to visit oldest female sibling and her granddaughter, who are visiting their son and dad respectively while he lolls around Cambridge University inventing things to do with storage of heat and energy – I would explain this more fully, since I understand the process completely, but I don’t have enough time or space and I can assure you, Faithful Followers, that you would have no idea what I am on about, and I’m pretty sure that any explanation will not help you manoeuvre your way through the many miseries this life will throw at you.

The other female sibling in our Happy Family also joined us, making the Great Trek up through the Dreaded Dartford Tunnel (DDT), so we were a jolly band. If only Youngest Sibling had been able to hurry down from Hull (I am in an alliterative mood tonight), we should have been a complete family! The Hull family member said he was too busy sorting papers to make the journey, but I have a feeling this may have been a euphemism for ‘You must be joking! A family reunion! I’d rather stick pins in my eyes.’

We went to a lovely pub/restaurant on the river for lunch and ordered some food which, we were told, would take about 40 minutes because they were very busy. That seemed fine because conversation was taking a long time anyway – one or two of the group are a little hard of hearing, so everything had to be repeated at least twice, and throw in a Northern Ireland accent and you have the makings of an international conference without the benefit of an interpreter. (The food took an hour, by the way, so conversation was beginning to wane and we almost turned to the dreaded Brexit topic, but the triple-cooked chips arrived in the nick of time!)

John Collier (1850–1934)

Painted by John Collier (1850–1934)

I am now communicating with you ‘live’ from the ‘welcoming bar’ (booking.com description) of our Coventry hotel instead of from the Indian restaurant next door where we had hoped to end the evening. The restaurant, advertised as open until 23.59 (we arrived at 21.45), was, we were told, closing in 30 minutes – for good! However, the waiter recommended a five-minute walk to a ‘whole street’ of restaurants. Did I mention that it was pouring with rain?

We decided to cut our losses and finish the evening with a glass of wine and a packet of crisps in the hotel’s ‘welcoming’ bar. The barmaid took a little while to serve us because she needed to finish her cigarette outside first, and when a note was tendered to pay, the change was given in 10p pieces – three pounds’ worth of 10p pieces! Why would a bar have a till full of 10p pieces and not a single £1 coin?
Meanwhile, some of the clientele are seated in the ‘welcoming’ bar area ringing a takeaway restaurant to complain that they haven’t received enough chips with their kebabs. Apparently, ‘only’ 20 chips per kebab aren’t enough. First World problems, eh?

Anyway, that’s Coventry covered (unlike Lady Godiva), so there is no need to return to the place – unless I find that the 10p pieces can only be spent in Coventry!

Sleep well, Beloved Believers – I have a feeling I may not!

Lost in Translation

A very good evening, Beloved Believers! Tonight, I wish to talk about the difficulties of understanding others. Of course, I don’t mean ‘understanding’ in the sense of ‘empathising with’ – as I am the LSG, empathy is something I leave to ordinary mortals, who need to ‘feel your pain’ or ‘walk in your shoes’ (not for me, unless they’re Christian Louboutin’s, daaahlings … And NEVER Crocs!). No, this is about understanding people talking to you, even though you haven’t left these shores for foreign climes.
I have come to terms with understanding Scottish accents – as long as I can catch every third word, I’m fine – I make up the rest. Northern Irish is similar – ‘hyevva’, as pronounced by an NI BBC reporter is, in fact, ‘however’, so I can work from that. North Welsh still defeats me at times, especially since they have different words for the same things – for example, ‘girl’ in North Welsh is ‘hogan’ (both singular and plural), but ‘merch’ (merched, plural) in the South; ‘boy’ is ‘hogyn’ (both singular and plural) or ‘bachgen’ (bechgyn, plural). ‘Now’ is ‘nawr’ (South) and ‘rwan’ (North). How does that work, other than backwards??
Hyevva, the one that defeats me is the Black Country – Debbie, Rob, is there a phrase book that you haven’t told me about? The (male) siblings and I visited the Black Country Living Museum the other day and were flummoxed right from the start, although, agreeably, the initial lack of understanding led to us all being admitted at ‘Concessions’ price (even though only one of us qualified) simply because older sibling didn’t understand what he was being asked and just smiled and said ‘Yes’, while younger sibling and I stood behind him looking old.
We moved on to the main entrance where we were greeted by a gentleman – dressed as a 19th-century pit supervisor (I’m using my imagination here) – who asked us a question which none of us understood, so we said, ‘Pardon?’ and he repeated the question. The LSG, making the most of her linguistic abilities, understood the word ‘rent’, replied ‘Yes’, smiled, showed our tickets and we were allowed in. Thereafter, we made sure we engaged in no further conversation, even avoiding the 19th-century pub in case we were expected to converse and ended up with a pint of gin! (Actually, now I come to think of it …)
The visit was extremely enjoyable, and I would recommend it to all and sundry, but just don’t expect to hold lengthy conversations with anyone (unless they’re ‘proper’ foreign!).

Today’s experience was somewhat different. I decided to go along to the city library, which has moved from the beautiful, old Central Library building to the refurbished Council House – beautiful on the outside, rather clashingly modern on the inside – to borrow a book I didn’t want to buy on Kindle (i.e. too expensive!). The conversation went like this:
Helper: Hello, can I help you?
Me: Yes, it’s my first visit here. Where will I find books by Victoria Hislop?
H: ‘Hislop’. Does that begin with an ‘E’?
Stunned silence on my part.
Me: No, ‘aitch’.
H: Ah, ‘haitch’.
I maintained a dignified silence. The book (The Return) wasn’t in stock. I will have to go through this again next week…

I am dedicating this to CJ Jones, who died suddenly today – she was one of the LSG’s most dedicated supporters and she would have loved this, especially the Welsh bits! Sleep well, CJ.

Yet Another Career Calls

A very good evening from the Lifestyle Support Guru! This evening I wish to offer advice on new careers for the older woman, but advice which will also be relevant for the younger woman, since it can be stored away for future reference. My numerous forms of employment have included shop assistant, tour guide, travel agent, teacher, quiz setter, proofreader, as well as packer of plastic toy Jumbo Jets into cardboard boxes and packer of Rizla cigarette papers into smaller cardboard boxes. And now, a new career beckons … actor!

How has this happened, I hear you ask! Quite by accident, you will hear me reply!
Next-sibling-down and I replied to an advert by the University of Derby asking for volunteers to read parts in plays written by students on the MA in Writing for Performance course. (Actually, they used the word ‘actors’, but I loosely interpreted this as ‘volunteer’.) We were duly accepted and were sent our scripts – no need to learn any lines since the whole exercise would consist simply of reading the allocated parts for other students to evaluate and comment on the plays themselves. Easy peasy! After a little confusion, I eventually got the right script – a play for just two characters: a mother who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and her alcoholic daughter whose husband has recently been killed in a car crash shortly after their marriage. A cheerful little tale, you will agree. Next-sibling-down was given parts in two plays (he always has to go one better!), one of which included a woman who cuts someone’s tongue out – I’m not sure that the younger generation is growing up entirely happily and I blame it mainly on the Daily Mail.

Anyway, my reading took place this afternoon and seemed to go well – the woman who played my daughter (ha! I bet you thought I’d been cast as the alcoholic!) really threw herself into the part and almost burst into tears when I told her I was dying. I hope it was because of the emotion I put into it (‘I’m dying’) and not because of the emotion I didn’t (there’s not really much you can put into two words, even if they are ‘I’m dying’).

I think she’d done some ‘proper’ acting before, but so have I, although playing the part of the Fat Fairy in a village pantomime may not have offered quite the same depth and range of required emotion. My theme tune was ‘Nobody Loves a Fairy When She’s Forty’, which is quite a moving song when sung with the right level of poignancy and feeling.

After the reading, a thirty-something man came and sat next to me and introduced himself as what I first thought was Darty, but it turns out was Dhaithi, pronounced Dahee, an Irish name – I’m pleased to say he had similar problems with Rhian, so he referred to me instead as Muriel, my character’s name (Muriel!!). He asked me if I would be interested in auditioning for a film that some of his students would be making in the autumn, a story of an older woman (typecast already!) who meets an older man and they form a relationship – if I get the part, I shall make it clear that I will not countenance any nudity.
So, in future, when you hear older actresses complaining that there are no parts written for older women, just point them in the direction of the University of Derby.
Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, eat your hearts out!
Sleep well, dearest devotees!

Eating Out

A very good evening from the Lifestyle Support Guru! Whilst I realise that it is not too long since I offered good advice on watching football and gardening (and hiring a slave to tell you that you are only human and to pour your wine), I felt that I had also learned some other useful lessons this week which needed sharing. These ‘extra-curricular’ nuggets of knowledge have been earned the hard way – by eating out. This activity is something in which I indulge purely for purposes of research, as you know, because I care about you, beloved believers, and because YOU’RE WORTH IT!
DAY 1 – LUNCH
Meet with a friend (I’ll call her Debbie for the sake of anonymity) for lunch and find that there is a mutual friend lunching in the same pub. His reason (who needs a reason for eating out????)? ‘SHE’S gone out for lunch, so I’ve decided I’M coming out for lunch.’ All this is stated in a very defensive tone. Lesson? If SHE’S gone out for lunch, she’ll be more than happy that YOU have, too – it means she won’t have to worry about cooking for you when she gets home (and PLEASE, devoted devotees, don’t reach for the ‘casual sexism’ button – you all know what I mean, and the roles can be just as easily reversed!).
DAY TWO – BIRTHDAY MEAL

dancing octopus

dancing octopus

Meet with some friends to celebrate the (belated) birthday of one of them (of course, the birthday wasn’t belated, but the celebration was, but how could the LSG write ‘to belatedly celebrate…’ and thus split an infinitive, which would break the LSG’s pedantic heart, but I digress …), arriving at the restaurant before the friends do, thus giving you the chance to study the other diners, a favourite activity of the LSG because it affords SO many opportunities for humour (or ‘taking the ‘p—s’). Couple in their mid-thirties, probably trying to recreate their recent holiday to Greece, have ordered Greek beer and wine (nothing wrong with that) and, when the owner pours their drinks, the male (although he – or she, or they – could just as easily have been trans, cis, questioning, whatever you like, demonstrating that I am fully inclusive, diverse, and non-judgemental) half of the couple says ‘Yamas’ (Greek for ‘Cheers’) and raises his glass, to which the owner replies ‘Yamas’. ‘Oh,’ exclaims the LGBTQI (for I have decided that I must now include all possibilities), ‘do you speak Greek?’ This is asked in all innocence in a restaurant called ‘Steliano’s and Sappho’s Greek Restaurant’, with posters of Greek islands, a menu consisting of purely Greek items, a drinks list of Greek wines/beers, and an owner who could only be Greek, based on accent and looks alone, and a notice telling customers that this is the ‘oldest restaurant in Derby, going strong for 33 years’ (I feel, however, that the Dolphin Inn of Derby may dispute that claim, since it says it has been around since 1530 – or is that 15.30? Whichever, the food must be getting cold.).
DAY TWO, cont’d
The friends arrive and you decide that you may now take your jacket off (since you wished to look a bit ‘dressed up’ for the arrival), but it is WITH HORROR that you realise that, although you ironed the jacket (linen, so a necessary evil), you completely forgot to remove the labels – this was in case you decided to return it after ironing and trying it on. THANK GOODNESS, the friends were so absorbed in removing their own items of clothing (only the outer ones, of course) that they didn’t spot the labels on your own items. (I should just like to point out that the linen items were bought in a SALE!)
DAY THREE
Another lunch – the sacrifices I make simply to write articles to amuse and entertain my adoring acolytes – and all I have to say is that it was GREAT FUN! Everyone should LUNCH! (I know this makes me sound like a Tory MP who’s never travelled beyond the M25 – believe me, I’m NOT!) Lunch is WONDERFUL! Lunch is for EVERYONE, even if it’s just a sandwich on a park bench or a Pot Noodle on a rainy Wednesday afternoon – LUNCH makes the heart feel lighter!

PS I still haven’t removed the labels!

Be Prepared

A very, very good morning to all my Beloved Believers and Faithful Followers! It’s unusual for me to write a post in the morning, since much of my inspiration comes from tuning in to life in the pub, as you know – not because I enjoy the drink, you understand; I go to the pub simply to find out more about what ordinary people are thinking so that I may help you, Dearest Devotees, live your life as fully as possible in the style of the Lifestyle Support Guru, although you know that you will never quite achieve such greatness.
Today, I wish to advise you on how to deal with the aristocracy, should you happen to meet any. Of course, I have an instinctive inner knowledge of how to behave in the presence of those of both high and low birth. I shall explain.

I had been invited by Radio Derby to go on Ian Skye’s morning show as a ‘Loudmouth’ (following a recommendation by a former student, which may say a lot about my style of teaching…), so I duly turned up at an unearthly hour of the morning (8.40), ready to voice my opinions on young people and Meghan Markle’s father (not together, I hasten to add).
I was shown into an empty waiting room and, shortly afterwards, another person was shown into the room. He came over to me, hand held out, and introduced himself as ‘Richard FitzHerbert’, so I introduced myself as ‘Lifestyle Support Guru’. He seemed suitably impressed… 
Two minutes later, a young chap came into the room and greeted the latest arrival with a cheery ‘Good morning, Sir Richard.’ SIR Richard!
Of course, I maintained my composure, merely contenting myself with a quick curtsey. Sadly, I couldn’t doff my hat because I wasn’t wearing one, but I have learned a sharp lesson – always carry a hat with you in case of the need to doff it. Be Prepared!
I have since learned (via that trusted site, Wikipedia) that Sir Richard Ranulph FitzHerbert, 9th Baronet, of Tissington Hall (well dressings on this week – all welcome) was once a wine merchant – this must be why I felt an immediate affinity with him! 
The programme itself was interesting, especially when a listener – I’ll call him Alan for the sake of anonymity – phoned in to offer his twopenn’orth about young people being ignored by politicians and other such charlatans. He sounded rather old and the conversation went something like this:

Ian Skye: Good morning, Alan. Do you agree that young people’s voices are being ignored?
Alan: Of course, they’re being ignored. They gave their lives in the First and Second World Wars, the young generations.
IS: So, you think they have a fair point?
C: Yes, because of the young generations that gave their lives in the First and Second World wars. They aren’t listened to. They join the army and then they’re sent off to be killed in war, so they’re not listened to.
IS: Thank you very much, Alan.

There was a long, puzzled silence in the studio – even Baronets and radio presenters don’t understand everything – but, as the LSG, I understood fully where Alan was coming from and showed this insight with my comment: ‘I’d like some of what Alan’s been on.’ I had, of course, recognised that Alan had started his royal wedding party celebrations five days early and had clearly broken into a bottle of Lambrusco a little too early in the morning. It’s all about pacing yourself, Alan – believe me, having been on rugby tour weekends, I know what I’m talking about!

I have been invited to be a Loudmouth on a future occasion – put June 21st in your diary! – so I shall Be Prepared for ANY eventuality this time: I will have a hat with me, for doffing appropriately; I may also wear a dress, since it is easier to curtsey in a dress – holding out the sides of your trousers doesn’t have quite the same effect; and, finally, I may have a small hip flask of gin and Dubonnet with me, because I understand that this is the Queen’s preferred pre-lunch tipple and if it’s good enough for Her Maj, I shall certainly make an effort myself. Apparently, she also likes wine with her lunch and champagne in the evening – I may have to up my game…

Enjoy the sunshine for the rest of the day!