Thursday 2 March 2023

Funeral Dress Code

My lovely Mum passed away on 6 February. The funeral is not for a few weeks yet. It amazes me that hospitals and funeral directors are taken by surprise every year at the number of people who die in winter. We have been doing that for centuries, folks. 

You end up distracting yourself with things and "what to wear for the funeral?" is one of them. It seems trivial but it would have amused Mum. She was the most elegant, well-dressed woman I knew. That apple fell a long way from the tree. Since I stopped wearing the snazzy business suits my wardrobe has become 1) Slob, and 2) Cruise. I did keep a smart black suit for funerals but I've inexplicably grown out of it.

I worked mostly from home in pre-Zoom days where it didn't matter what I wore but on the days when I turned up as the consultant at other accountancy firms I wore sharp suits and heels - medium 'cos not an idiot - even when the office was down a dirt track. Well, especially when the office was down a dirt track... I had to look the part of One Who Knows Stuff and you can fool some of the people some of the time.

What do women wear at work now? I mourn deeply the loss of Windsmoor, Eastex, Dash, Jacques Vert etc. Old lady clothes, certainly, but then I'm an old lady and a grumpy one at that. Search "work wear" in any of the Wouldn't Be Seen Dead In That dot com online stores and it will come up with the type of leggings that make you wonder if someone forgot to put their skirt on. Really? You're going to work in that? Always dress for the job you want even if it means dressing as Wonder Woman.

I tried on some vaguely suitable clothes. Due to a combination of grief at the loss of a friend, gall bladder problems, walking A LOT over Southampton Common and Asda failing to deliver the right cakes I lost a lot of weight last year. It turns out exercise and eating less makes you lose weight. Who knew? They should promote that. I'm still a bit of a l*rd*rse - and no doubt on some insulting part of the chart in NHS terms -  but a smaller one.

So this is great. Stuff fits except it's too long. What? How does that work? Ah, excess fabric not being taken up by huge hips. I'll sew a lot of things but NOT trouser hems. Heels it is then. Cries from the bedroom to uninterested hubby along the lines of "My gold shoes are the only ones that work with these trousers!"

Smart jacket, gold shoes, bit of bling... that will do nicely. Here's some I wore earlier, along with my Mum.

RIP Paul Easton

I was so very sad to hear of Paul Easton's death recently. I've been struggling with the death of my mother and losing a friend strangely sent me down a horrible spiral. Paul and I used to talk about our mothers, who were born on exactly the same day.

Paul taught me a lot about radio in the days when I'd turn up as the alleged tax expert (or dressed as a rabbit, depending on the occasion...) who was sometimes allowed to press the buttons. He was that very rare expert on everything who never came over as the "know-it-all". He was kind and modest and took the trouble to make sure you understood what he was teaching you. An all round good bloke.

We'd planned to visit Paul in the next few months. He seemed so happy in his new house with his new friend Charlie the cat. Best laid plans and all that...

Sunday 18 September 2022

The Queue

 .. for it shall be forever known as just that.

There is something soothing and yet very sad in watching the live feed of Her Majesty the Queen lying in state. ("Lying-in-state" ? I'm not entirely convinced about that one.) Several journalists facing the "we've run out of things to write" problem have touched upon it. Here are a few thoughts from me. I've had the feed running since it started and I've been watching it on and off while crocheting, knitting etc. I need the big screen to see the pattern now and the office is the warmest place in the house when no-one dares put the heating on.

The most striking thing is the looks on the mourners' faces as they reach the top of the steps and look down into the hall. The coffin seems small, as do all coffins, and for those who have lost a parent it brings back memories of that coffin in a horribly sudden way. Just looking at a crowd of faces I could tell you exactly who has attended a parent's funeral. You're chatting to friends and family you haven't seen for a while, you're trying to be cheerful as your Dad - in my case - would have wanted and then you see the coffin and the sense of loss is unbearable.

Once down the stairs "all life is here". No-one is told what to do. You can just walk by, bow your head, curtsey, blow kisses, clasp hands in prayer, make the sign of the cross, do whatever you feel moved to do and those behind you will wait respectfully while you do it. Try as they might to move the queue along in a gentle manner  the stewards will let you pay your respects as you choose.

As I watched there were children who had practised bowing for hours and were either determined to get it right or were too shy to try, families who all lined up together for a group bow, (mostly) young men who actually got down on one knee, groups of lads there for a laugh who weren't going to bow until one broke away and decided to do it.

Many arrived in national dress and other uniforms and costumes. There were off-duty police, firefighters, paramedics, Brownies, Guides, Scouts, druids and several "I wonder what those people do every Wednesday" outfits I hadn't seen before. There were priests and leaders of all faiths. Then there was the moving sight of members of the royal family performing their vigil. How hard it must be to grieve while the world is watching.

All this punctuated every twenty minutes with the tap, tap tap of the officer's sword to usher in the new guard.

A few people will stick in my mind for a long time

- the old soldiers in berets and regimental blazers sporting many, many medals who gave their best ever salute, bowed their head and walked away in tears, cruel camera operator staying with them as they left the hall.

- the Native American chief in full headdress, an elderly and very dignified gentleman.

- the lady who, from her deportment, was obviously a dancer and gave the most graceful, elegant curtsey ever then walked away as if her feet weren't touching the floor.

Speaking of curtseys - and believe me I will every time I get the chance - ladies, please learn to do it and teach your daughters. You never know when you might need the skill, as teachers at my school told me. They were right. The bodyguard said he was impressed with mine when I met Prince Charles, as he then was. It's not difficult but if you get it wrong it looks downright weird and you might fall over. You don't want that! Learn about centre of gravity first then practise a bit. I learned at such an early age from my grandmother, reinforced by learning it at school and in drama classes, that even being an old lady I can do it without thinking about it. It's the thinking about it that messes it up.

I feel sad that I couldn't join in The Queue but dodgy knees would not allow me to stand for hours and walk six miles - and if I'd made it I would be faced with steps I couldn't get down because there are no railings. You would have thought some kind of railing could be set up. There are plenty of people not needing the accessible route who would still have trouble negotiating a long run of stairs. I saw a couple stumble and fall while I was watching. Stewards and others rushed to their aid, of course, but those were unnecessary falls.

Queuing is a great British skill and we did it well (there's an interesting article here about the science of queuing).

We have lost a wonderful Queen. God bless you, Your Majesty. 

"Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life." [Revelation 2:10]

God save the King.

Saturday 22 January 2022

This Retirement Gig. Making All The Things.

I retired from my accountancy practice in late 2019. HMRC apparently didn't get the memo and still send me letters threatening to strike me off their anti-money laundering register. I respond in suitably snitty vein when I can be bothered. I'm not sure many people noticed this retirement as I'd been reducing the workload after too many stupidly stressful Januaries. I discovered that reducing the workload meant all the stress and half the money each time so the exciting "Be An Accountant" project was consigned to the "Sod This For A Lark" drawer.

"I know. Let's do fun things and cruise lecturing and go out a lot and travel and do some entertaining and...Covid."

Luckily we have a nice home and a ready made office for John to work from. One with no "Wow, they really should tidy up" background, just a cupboard door showing. We occasionally put a witty poster up there.

I bought an embroidery machine with cancelled cruise money and turned the dining room into my craft room. Well, no-one was coming round to dinner... I also learned to cut hair. Luckily again I have the same hairstyle I had when I was six and Monsieur John colours it so that was easy.

Two years later we're still watching in amazement as silly people abandon social distancing and going to the pub is more important than staying alive. "You've got to live your life," they say. "I'd prefer not to live my life as a widow," says I. Anyway, that's a whole other rant...

I'm reluctant to give up my blogs and websites, being fanatically proprietorial about my name, and the Coastal Scrapbooks and family sites might be useful when, respectively, we attract P & O's attention again and my family deign to look at their own history. So, I'm going to bore everyone with photos and intricate details of Stuff I Have Made. 

I've always made stuff since Mum taught me to sew and knit when I was about four. I probably give people a very blank look when they say, "I can't sew". What do you mean, you can't sew? Mum and I made clothes for the whole family. Then we made dolls' clothes and a truly horrible quilt with the leftovers. It had crimplene fabric in it. Ew.

Watch this space if you suffer from insomnia. I'll cure that for you. You're welcome.

Here's a suitable, albeit a bit late, embroidery project. Sweet Pea, an Australian company, make little flag designs that you can - maybe - make in a day so we have several of those about the place. I literally finished this at 30 minutes to midnight (what with having no party to go to...)

Friday 28 November 2014

Marketers 1: Gullible People 0

Black Friday. It's American. And it isn't even named for retailers being in the black. Read this article and you'll see history has been rewritten.

Here it is in 2014 foisted upon us in the UK. You might get some bargains. I've got good deals on software on Amazon. On the other hand I could have bought paint Shop Pro X7 - which arrived today - cheaper from the manufacturers. Silly me. What you might get instead of bargains is an old version of that TV/Camera/tablet and then kick yourself when a new one comes out in a few weeks' time. A fool and his money are soon parted.

Is it a good idea for the shops? Not necessarily. What happens next year when people wait for Black Friday and sales fall in the early part of November? Cash flow is king when you're a retailer, not profit.

We're stuck with it now. It's part of our culture like all the Halloween junk and, as with the alleged Halloween "traditions" (sorry, kids, if I don't remember it as a child then it's not tradition ...), the great British public is conned into thinking we've had it for years. We haven't. Even Amazon only started it a couple of years ago and they were the forerunners in the UK. No doubt those people believe Father Christmas has always been called Santa too.

There will always be daft gullible people and the marketers laugh at them. I mean that literally. I've been in marketing meetings where ad executives have laughed at the prospect of "They'll go for that, no problem" "They can't touch us, we'll convince them it's about the charity" They're laughing at those people who think Sainsbury's aren't selling anything in their tacky disrespectful Christmas ad. All the Christmas ads are about brand recognition and all want you in the stores. Obviously. Why do you think someone at John Lewis is in trouble for not ordering another half a million toy penguins? I'll hold my hand up and say I love that ad, by the way.

Any TV ad, any marketing email, anything convincing you subliminally that Black Friday is a traditional fun shopping day - it's SELLING to you. It's not a difficult concept to grasp. Caveat emptor.

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Justice v. Revenge

Or, as Judge Masipa put it in her sentencing of Oscar Pistorius,

“Society cannot always get what they want. Courts do not exist for a popularity contest but only to dispense justice … The general public may not even know the difference between punishment and vengeance.”

They most certainly don't. They want revenge and revenge is not justice. It worries me that "public opinion" would like to turn the legal clock back 500 years to get what they want.

The rent-a-mob will never be satisfied. Those who believe the only good man is a dead one will never be satisfied. There is "outrage on social media". Ah, yes, that bastion of legal knowledge and common sense. Personally I really couldn't care less what those on "social media" have to say. They are mostly ignorant people who haven't even followed the case and just want a few quick likes and retweets. I always knew the internet was the realm of the ignorant and stupid but the last few months of following this trial have brought that home to me. I followed it on Twitter at first but had to close my account due to abuse and threats. The voice of reason is not allowed, apparently you can only be part of the mob.

Much has been said about Oscar being made a special case because of his wealth and fame. I believe that has gone against him. Would the case have been televised if he hadn't been famous? Would the media have thrown (unfounded) accusations around for months? Would the prosecution have brought in their heavy hitters forcing the defence to do the same and ensuring an inordinate amount of time was spent on the case? Would every blonde bimbo and her dog be writing a book? Would Oscar be in danger while in prison?

No, of course not.

Now every bit player will be cashing in. I hope the family have enough money and the gumption to sue for libel.

Tuesday 1 July 2014

Hours of Amusement ...

I've been having a play with my personal website You can now see fancy moving pictures along the top.

Of course if you're on a phone or tablet you'll see nowt so you can click HERE to see a gallery of what's in there. There wouldn't be much point in adding a slideshow here as you won't see that either. Sometimes, folks, you need to get on a real computer and see what you're missing on the big screen!

Instead, here's a day from our exciting life. John had a week off recently and we sneaked a few days out as well as getting some work done on the house so more scrapbooks coming soon.

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