It’s all a bit textual…

SOCIAL networking and texting have a lot to answer for. I am not knocking it, infact I positively embrace the whole concept. There are however a few issues that continually crop up and one of these is the addiction factor. The other is the potentially negative impact it could have on our writing skills.

Back in the day we would receive a letter, postcard or phone call and enjoy the moment, once the receiver was placed firmly back in the handset, and the letter read and re-read a few times (depending on the content obviously) these basic but effective forms of communication were  released from our grasp and we got on with our day. While we might have all been guilty of occasional ‘waiting by the phone’ antics, by and large we didn’t suffer the same level of manic addiction to communication that we do now.

Many other writers have explored the reasons why we walk through the streets with our mobiles slapped to the sides of our heads narrowly avoiding each other, lamp posts and any dog-related deposits that might take us by surprise. What I want to know is what would happen to us if all of a sudden the internet just broke down.

I worry that my children and their children are not going to be exposed to the art of letter writing. I am not too concerned about them missing out on the experience of talking on the phone, as my 14-year-old son and recent phone bill has proved that there is definitely NOT a learning gap there. However, conversations are rapidly being replaced by texts, and even I have been guilty of texting my son…while we are in the same house.

The national curriculum should include letter writing and the art of conversation, and  I would like to start a global campaign to get more people doing both. I don’t mind talking on the phone, I don’t mind receiving and sending texts, but if it’s important surely it’s better to actually see someone in the flesh?

Then there’s the addiction issue. Forget drugs and alcohol, far and away the biggest addiction I am currently exposed to is an ipod touch. Thank god I can’t afford an ipad or I would never actually converse with my children. It’s bad enough already with one of them permanently attached via headphones to the ipod touch while the other plays irritating games on a DS.

The only reason I write this blog is because quite frankly, I don’t have anyone to chat to, but I am also finding myself increasingly addicted to texting. And if the grammar, spelling and punctuation is less than perfect, I get quite annoyed. As for text speak, I have actually turned down dates with men based on the fact that they wrote u instead of you, and gr8 instead of great. And then there is the emphasis and tone issue. You can’t always detect emotion of any sort via the medium of text and this I find very stressful. There is also the kiss rule. One or two x or xx? Or none at all?

Then there is sex text. WTF is that all about??!!!! 😉 lol ………

To date…or not to date…that IS the question

I have a lot of experience of going on dates. Probably too much if I am honest. They range from internet dates to speed dates and blind dates and even a couple of dates with men I actually met at proper events like dinner parties.

From the man from the Isle of Man who bought with him sample wedding invitations, copies of his bank statements and the deeds to his house (mental) to the part time Porsche driving firefighter who had to position himself in front of a mirror so that he could watch himself during our only romp (vain twat), they have been a mixed and varied bunch who, without question, are all worthy of a mention.

So with all this experience under my belt you are probably wondering why, after at least 72 internet dates, I haven’t met my match. So far my perfect man has managed to elude me but it hasn’t been for the want of trying. I firmly believe that, despite some genuine success stories from couples who I have actually interviewed about their forthcoming weddings having met online, trying to date men who you encounter in cyber space is just not a good option.

For one thing, many men I know who use dating websites just join up out of curiosity and have little or no intention of actually meeting anyone in the flesh. They want to see who’s out there, what they look like and in many cases, if they are up for a bit of cyber sex. In fact I have it on good authority that men have competitions to see how many blow jobs they can get on a first date based on the hunting they are doing online. By weeding out any women who appear to be too intelligent, well educated or keen on an actual relationship, they can be pretty confident that they are on a promise-even on a first date.

Women, however, seem to take it all a bit more seriously and despite their protestations to the contrary many of them DO have expectations beyond  ‘just hoping for a lovely evening and some interesting conversation’. In fact it’s time we were all a bit more honest about what it is we really want. We should man up about the single life and our expectations, hopes and fears and then we might actually stop having to aim low in order to avoid disappointment.

If all you want is a quick shag, a fuck buddy or a sugar daddy then admit it and follow your ‘dream’. However, don’t kid yourself that any of these options are likely to make you feel fulfilled, happy and content for any length of time because they are simply a means to an end.

If, on the other hand, you want to have a meaningful and long term relationship my advice would be to avoid anyone who uses text speak, gives you their mobile number after 32 seconds and has an email address along the lines of

Motor Mouth was right..HOW annoying…

REGULAR readers of The Oxford Mail may well recall my colleague, The Motor Mouth (MM) having a rant about 4x4s a little while ago. At the time, although he is indeed a good friend and a respected fellow hack, I felt his comments were perhaps a little harsh.

Well although I hate to admit that MM is right (and he is a man after all which makes this a bitter pill to swallow) how wrong I was!

I witnessed first-hand the substandard driving skills of a 4×4 owner the other day, as he reversed his large shiny lumbering beast directly into the wing of my dainty, little unassuming car. It was luckily an accident that happened at a reasonably slow speed, but nevertheless has caused a few hundred pounds worth of damage, a reasonable amount of inconvenience, and a traffic jam…just before school run time.

It was one of those situations that you can’t quite believe is happening, and I felt myself shouting at him to stop in the same way that I would shout at the telly if someone got it wrong on a quiz show. He clearly didn’t hear me shouting or my horn blaring and continued to drive backwards out of his drive crumpling my body work in the process and leaving a dent, that now has to be fixed.

When he finally came out of his reversing-induced coma and realised what had happened ( this was at the point when I put my hazard lights on, got out of the car and started asking him about what his motivation was for doing such a silly thing…or words to that effect) he said ‘oh dear, never mind. It was his fault’ and pointed to the entirely innocent but now slightly irritated driver behind me, who did a sort of Italian throwing his hands in the air gesture, as if to say what the hell is going on?

He went on: “That driver behind you signalled to me to come out. I thought the road was clear, I didn’t see you.”


“Oh dearie me” I said in a triumphantly patronising fashion “you see the thing is (head on one side), it’s YOUR responsibility to check that the road behind you is clear…” He got a bit snippy at that point so I suggested I should move my car onto his drive and we should exchange details. As I got back in my car the driver behind me just raised his eyes to the heavens in a sort of despairing way.

Now, I would just like to point out that I was stationary when this incident occurred, waiting at traffic lights. The man in the 4×4 (and there lies the critical fact of this story) was moving. You see even at low speeds, 4×4 drivers still seem to think they own the road and can do what they like, including squashing little cars that dare to block their path.

MM I have to hand it to you, you may be wrong about many things but when it comes to 4×4 drivers I am afraid to say that the dent in my car is proof. They think they own the road and have every right to just drive roughshod over the little people with their big fat tyres and massive bumpers.

MEN! please stay away from the supermarket!

GENERALLY speaking, girls like to shop. For many of us the urge to visit retail emporia on a regular basis is hard wired into our DNA. While the weekly food shopping venture is technically shopping, it cannot exactly be classed as fun but it is essential and is usually a job for the girls.

Quite apart from the utter dullness of supermarket shopping, the ridiculous amount of choice and the fact that most of the contents of the shopping list isn’t even stuff you are going to consume, there is also the hideous shock at the till when you realise you have just spent £87…for the second time this week.

But before you have even walked through the sliding doors, narrowly avoiding having to taste some nasty chicken tikka reconstituted snack, you have had to fend off not only the bucket jangling guilt-making charity workers, but also negotiate your way around the car park.

Ah…the supermarket car park. Chaos, at the best of times.

I am convinced that some people go and drive around supermarket car parks just to get some practice in before trying their hand on the dodgems. Driving standards generally are pretty poor but there are two distinct groups of drivers who should be avoided at all costs in supermarket car parks.

Any mother in a large car with small children in tow should be given a very wide berth. I have been a mother with small children in a large car and to be honest I was a bit of a liability-in supermarket car parks AND elsewhere so I am very aware of what they are up against. However, I would urge them all to consider online shopping, if only to prevent more dents in their wings and fewer potential casualties.

The other type of driver to be avoided is the reluctant lone male shopper. With list in hand and fists clenched tightly around the trolley, the attached lone male shopper quite simply does not want to be in a supermarket at all and he uses his car parking prowess as a defence mechanism. Aggressive and with a grim reluctance to want to be there, the main focus is on his escape plans because he is under strict instructions from wifey to be back in time for kids tea.

He is weary because he has fought his way round the aisles, battled with his conscience over whether to splash out on a DVD and a bottle of Jack Daniels and almost forgot the most essential items on his wife’s shopping list.

The single lone male shopper is easily spotted as the one clutching an armful of junk food and Stella, soon to be deposited on his passenger seat. He needs to get out of that car park quick and he is taking no prisoners because of the inevitable world cup match. His driving style is far from safe as he is distracted by the ambling yummy mummies, has one hand on the steering wheel and is also trying to stop his precious supplies from being scattered across the floor of the car as he does an emergency stop.

The lone male shopper needs to remember that supermarkets are open 24 hours a day and therefore there is no need for him to be there when I am.

Cars Blahs

BY and large it’s true what they say about boys and their toys. They really do just get bigger and more expensive the older they get. Over the years I have accumulated a random and fascinating collection of men who consider fast cars, motorbikes and speed boats to be symbols of their apparent manhood.

As a professional singleton, I have also notched up a pretty impressive number of dates and many of these have started with me teetering out of my house in unsuitably high heels to be met by a shiny, throbbing, fast ‘babe magnet’ that will inevitably be driven too fast by a man who later will only serve to disappoint.

There is truth in that old adage about men, sports cars and the size of certain body parts.

Sadly the scenario is only too familiar, and while we may well be told that ‘new’ man doesn’t consider the size of his engine or speed of his shaguar to be important, this information has clearly not been passed on to the many single men of a certain age who still think that driving like an out of control over excited school boy will impress a girl.

Really boys…a word from the wise…we are not impressed by break neck driving speeds, achieving ‘air’ over speed humps and hand brake turns in pub car parks. We only squeal in a girlish fashion at wheel spins because we feel sorry for you and are trying to manage your expectations (and have probably just poked ourselves in the eye with our mascara wand).

We know that you have probably spent ages thinking about this moment and how your luck will definitely be in, based on the fact that you thrash your car to within an inch of its life, narrowly avoiding wiping out entire colonies of pheasants. We understand that men are often defined by their cars and probably kiss them before they cover them up for the night in a fleecy blanket (why after all are cars always referred to as ‘she’…?) However, we don’t care.

Cars blahs.

Whether you drive a brand new Ferrari or a 20-year-old Nissan Micra, real women couldn’t give a rat’s ass about your wheels. All we really want is to have a date with a lovely bloke who isn’t defined by whatever it is that throbs away under his bonnet.

I realise that back in days gone by when lots of women didn’t drive and Terry Thomas was a pin up, girls would have found a spin in a soft top before taking afternoon tea on the lawn to be quite a highlight of their WHOLE LIFE. But things have changed. We have all moved on and even women are allowed to drive fast cars and motorbikes now you know.

Clean cars that haven’t been stolen are fine. Clean, presentable cars painted in one colour without dents and empty sandwich cartons on the floor are perfectly acceptable modes of transport when it comes to dating.

And please don’t be fooled…we know when you have gone to the trouble and expense of hiring a flash car for a weekend away with the intention of passing it off as your own and trying to impress your new ‘lady’. And no…getting pulled over for speeding isn’t clever either.

To be honest, it’s just easier (and safer) if we meet you there.

Lady Driver

SOME things in life are certain. For example, the onset of warmer weather obviously indicates that summer is finally here, along with the fact that people are wearing woefully badly fitting clothes, ignoring warnings about sun burn and keeping their roofs up on their sexy little sports cars.

It may well be summertime and the weather may well be jolly fine (and the living easy), but I beg someone to explain to me, WHY when someone has shelled out their hard earned cash on a beautiful (or even not that beautiful) convertible car would they not get their top down once the sun shines? Surely that is the whole point of them?

Apart from the fact that it’s really nice to feel the wind in your hair and the sun on your face, a sunny blue sky day is the perfect excuse for posing in your shades with a cool CD playing. I should know-I did it for years in my own sports car (even when it wasn’t that warm if I am honest!)

It just grieves me when I see these shiny little numbers whizzing around our villages and towns on a glorious day that they still have their tops up. If the driver is a girl I have put this down to the fact that the windswept look might not be quite what is required in the boardroom, but just take your GHDs with you or wear a headscarf and big sunglasses so you look like a fifties film star!

I wouldn’t mind if it was a complicated and technical procedure to put the top down, but it’s all at the push of a button these days (probably to make it even easier for girls.)

Back in the day when I drove a 1968 MGB Roadster (not actually in 1968 I hasten to add!), putting the roof down was a major operation involving nasty pinchy clips that broke my nails on more than one occasion, and a series of very tricky press studs. Then the roof all had to be folded a bit like a sail, and tucked away crease free ready for the journey home. By the time all that been accomplished it was inevitably threatening to rain but that was the fun of it!

Then there was the funny cover thing that my bossy ex husband insisted I always used. In fact because it was such a palaver he often refused to let me have the roof down at all. Therefore when I was on my own I would stop at the merest hint of blue sky and get the roof off. Forget that old rule about enough blue sky to make a pair of sailor’s trousers-I was happy with enough to make a thong!

Any excuse to drive topless and I was happy!

I see dozens of beautiful, sleek and glamorous examples on my travels (and some truly hideous ones like  Astras…why would you bother?)  and each time I see one with the roof up on a beautiful day I just feel like shouting at the driver. So be warned if you see a mad woman approaching you in a rather grubby silver Ford Focus screaming at you to take your top off, it’s not a chat up line to check out your six pack,  but merely an instruction.

A rude awakening

I think it’s fair to say that what I have just experienced can only be described as a rather rude awakening. A hint, or if I am honest, a bloody huge announcement from the universe at large of what my life will be like when I am no longer needed for my parenting skills on such a regular basis.
Any parent, single or otherwise, will understand the thrill that the mere anticipation of a child-free weekend can evoke. Just the thought of hours no DAYS stretching out before you, almost like a luxurious mini break without airport stress, conjures up all manner of potentially exciting things to do.
Obviously, child-free time is the perfect solution to untidy homes and unruly gardens. It is a golden opportunity for tackling messy bedrooms, chucking out loads of old tat, mowing the meadow that has suddenly sprung up in your back garden and making endless trips to the recycling centre armed with bottles, old clothes and bags of hedge clippings (oh and the Christmas tree…)
Child-free time IS golden. Once all those tiresome chores are out of the way you can survey your lot with pride and a certain degree of smugness, secure in the knowledge that you have really, really made the MOST of your time off.
Obviously if time allows then a quick shopping trip to regenerate your wardrobe, lunch with a friend or even a manicure and a quick fanny wax are not beyond the realms of possibilities. If there is the possibility of a date thrown into the mix then so much the better as the shopping trip instantly transforms into a mini makeover ready for your big night out (or in, if you are feeling confident and the fanny waxing was a success).
So…what’s all this about a rude awakening?
The point is this. There are many things that we should ALL do when we have the time and domestic chores are up there with filling in your tax return and de fleaing the dog. However, one day these chores will be merely light maintenance because the messy, untidy and random parts of our lives (children) will have flown the nest. And then what are we left with? If like me you are clearly destined to be single forever then there are only so many dates you can put yourself through each month.
I had my epiphany a few weeks ago over a bank holiday weekend. All my friends were otherwise engaged and as I sipped my fragrant tea in my reasonably tidy garden, I realised that the only people I had spoken to in the last 24 hours were the Polish checkout assistant in Tesco Express (I use the word spoken quite loosely, obviously) and a strange man with a German Shepherd who I encountered on the canal towpath (wasn’t about to throw myself in-don’t worry it’s not deep enough for a suicide attempt).
With all of my friends either loved up, smugly married, engaged in casual sex antics or living abroad, I suddenly realised that when my children do finally vacate their family home, I might actually end up as one of those eccentric writers who wears fingerless gloves and ponchos, drinks sherry at 11am and doesn’t leave the house for weeks on end.
The whole emotional situation was compounded by the inevitable announcement from a recent date that went something like “you’re great company but can we just be friends…?”
My initial reaction was: “well no actually, we can’t be friends,” After all I have a growing collection of ‘boy’ friends, most of whom I have imagined having a relationship with (or at least a snog and some filthy sex) at one time or another. But then the panic started to set in, maybe I SHOULD collect a few more friends in preparation for empty nest time. What’s the alternative? A hideous HOBBY of some sort? Are things going to be so dire that I will have to FORCE myself to engage in some ridiculous past time, just as an excuse to leave my house?
Just the thought of joining a book group, knitting group, walking group or any kind of group to be honest fills me with extreme fear. I write, I drink, I eat, I walk my dog and look after my children-all without the help of a group. I can’t do groups, there is always too much over sharing with complete strangers, and conversations about things like thrush and recipes for the best EVER Yorkshire pudding. I would rather eat my own liver.
So, am I destined to a life of days of solitary cat owning sherry drinking? Maybe I should just relish the peace and quiet and stop worrying so much. After all, my children are both boys. They probably won’t leave home until they are at least 32….