Author Archives: feellikeagrownup

Tiny Curses for People You’re Just a Little Bit Cross With

There are all sorts of excellent curses in literature. You know the kind of thing: pricking your finger on your 16th birthday and sleeping for 100 years… having to spend the rest of your life as a frog, or a beast, or a nutcracker… being obliged to dance forever or always do exactly as you’re told.

The trouble is, none of them seem to be terribly useful for everyday life. For starters, the difficulty of implementing them is considerable. You generally have to either be a witch or a wizard, or at least to be very good mates with one.

They’re also not particularly relevant to the modern world. I’m not sure I’ve ever laid eyes on a spindle; and very rarely do I find myself wandering alone in a dark forest, and I’m therefore really unlikely to come across an old crone, who then curses me when I refuse to help her when she asks me.

And then, they do seem awfully drastic. You’ve got to be really, really cross with your friends and acquaintances to want to turn them into hideous beasts, or stop them from speaking until someone declares their true love for them.

It’s much more likely that you’re just feeling a bit irritated with someone. So you need to have a few very mild curses up your sleeve: things that will slightly inconvenience people as opposed to turning their lives into one of chaos and disaster.

Here are some helpful suggestions:

Curse 1

Curse 5

Curse 9

Curse 3

Curse 2

Curse 7

Curse 10

Curse 8

Curse 6

Curse 12

Curse 11

I hope that you’ll find these useful. Either way, do please suggest some more of your own in the comments section.

Readers use them at their own risk. The writer accepts no responsibility for any unwanted effects.

I originally got this idea from an internet post that I saw a while ago that was based on the same sort of idea. I’ll happily link to it but I can’t remember any details that would let me find it. If anyone knows it, please tell me!

If you enjoyed this post and want more of the same kind of nonsense, you can:

Follow me on Twitter: @susanreuben

‘Like’ my Facebook page – When Am I Supposed to Start Feeling Like a Grown-Up?

The Perils of Online Shopping

It was my mum’s birthday this week, and she was given a card with a cartoon on it about online shopping going wrong. It showed a delivery van bringing a box of Corn Flakes about the size of a small car.

“I don’t get it,” my mum said.

She doesn’t shop online, so she hasn’t had the experience most of us have had, of ordering the wrong size or quantity of something without realising.

It is, for example, very difficult accidentally to put 30 bananas in your shopping trolley. But it’s very easy if you’re choosing them on a computer screen to select five bags of bananas instead of five individual ones, meaning you end up with 30… as I found to my cost a couple of years ago.

Faced with this unmanageable glut of bananas, I decided that the most expedient thing to do was to knock on a few neighbours’ doors and see if anyone would like some. I asked my then eight-year-old whether he’d like to be the one to do that.

He would, it turned out. And being a child who likes to exploit all opportunities to the maximum degree, he made a banana box to hang round his neck (cinema usherette-style) with a banner saying ‘Would you like some free bananas?’, and set off to sing the Banana Split song each time someone answered the door.

Our then next-door neighbours, who had their house on the market, mentioned to me later that they had people round at the time of his arrival, viewing the property. I’m sure that the small, banana-laden boy singing ‘One banana, two banana, three banana four…’ on the doorstep wouldn’t have done anything to impede the sale. So, um, there was no problem there.

On another occasion, my dad was house-sitting for us while we were on holiday. He accidentally bought a pizza with ham on it. We don’t eat ham, so he went outside to throw it away, choosing a handy bin bag that was sitting at the bottom of a neighbour’s drive.

Moments later, said neighbour emerged from his house, picked up the bag (which was clearly not a bin bag at all but an ordinary shopping bag) and walked off down the street with it. My dad just stood and watched, pondering what the man was going to think when he opened up the bag and discovered the ham pizza.

So as you can see, online shopping can be very dangerous – especially for the neighbours.

Or maybe that’s just if you’re a member of my family.

***

Have you ever had any bizarre online shopping problems? If so, please tell me about them in the comments section.

If you enjoyed this post and want more of the same kind of nonsense, you can:

Follow me on Twitter: @susanreuben

‘Like’ my Facebook page – When Am I Supposed to Start Feeling Like a Grown-Up?

 

Missing the Car Wash and the Colour of Nuns – the Traumas of Being the Youngest Child

It’s rubbish being the youngest in the family, and I should know. When I was born, my closest brother in age was already 7, and the oldest was 14. Even Prudence our cocker spaniel was older than me.

This huge age gap meant that my brothers were able not merely to tease me, but to weave elaborate scams that I had no hope at all of seeing through. It was a completely one-sided arrangement because I was far too inexperienced ever to get my own back.

For example…

We were privileged enough to be a two-TV family. We had a colour set in the living room, with a dial to change the channel between BBC1, BBC2 and ITV. It was very similar to this one:

IMG_3577
And we had a black and white TV in the dining room with four separate channel buttons… “In case they ever bring out a fourth channel,” my dad explained to me.

If my brothers and I wanted to see something different at the same time, then of course we argued about who got to use the colour set. On one particular occasion I wanted to watch The Sound of Music. My brother Nick, maybe 13 at the time to my 6,  explained to me that I would be better off watching this particular film on the black and white TV.

“Why?” I asked.
“Because of the nuns,” he replied, completely dead pan.

And I bought it. I trotted meekly off to watch in the dining room. Although I assume that there must have been a tiny suspicion in the back of my mind that I was being had, because why else would I remember the incident 35 years or so later?

A more regular, and possibly even more surreal piece of teasing, happened every Saturday when we would all drive from Sunderland to Newcastle to visit my grandma.  My parents would sit in the front, and the four of us would be crammed into the back (no seatbelts obviously) with the dog across our knees.

Part of the way through the journey, there was a car wash. A perfectly ordinary car wash in a petrol station next to a roundabout. Every week,  my brothers would wait till we’d driven past it (with me invariably looking the other way) and then they’d chant:

“Susan missed the car wash! Susan missed the car wash!”
“AND” they’d add, “it had a white Rolls Royce in it!”

Then they’d fall about laughing. And my parents would tell them off, but you could hear that they were trying not to laugh, too.

And I’d cry.
Every single week.

Now that I’m nearly 42 my brothers are really quite nice to me. And over the years I’ve become much better at making sure I don’t miss car washes.

But still, when our youngest child (who is only 4) gets furiously angry because his older siblings are laughing at something unintentionally funny that he’s said, I empathise. I really do. Though it can sometimes be a struggle not to laugh, too.

***

Do you have any equally traumatic stories of sibling teasing? If so, please tell me about them in the comments section.

If you enjoyed this post and want more of the same kind of nonsense, you can:

Follow me on Twitter: @susanreuben

‘Like’ my Facebook page – When Am I Supposed to Start Feeling Like a Grown-Up?

Is Facebook suitable for Octogenarians?

This is me and my dad.

IMG_2758

My dad has an extraordinary aptitude for making friends in the most unlikely of situations.

A few years ago, on the terrace of São Jorge Castle in Lisbon, he got chatting to another tourist. Within minutes he had discovered that this man knew Dad’s family from way back, and was able to tell him the name of someone who knew the village in Lithuania from which my father’s ancestors originated.

My dad had been trying to find this all his life, without success. One chance encounter and the mystery was solved.

On a more mundane level, my dad managed to get so friendly with someone recently, while waiting outside the Apple Store in Brent Cross for it to open, that they ended up exchanging phone numbers.

Who else makes friends while out shopping? It’s ridiculous.

The thing is, though, he likes connecting with real people in the real world – not with profile pictures on a social media screen.

So we were all quite surprised when, the other day, he announced his intention to open a Facebook account. He explained that friends kept emailing him my Facebook posts, so he figured he may as well read them for himself.

I showed him how to open an account (though in fact he is extremely computer-literate). My family then had a spread bet on how long it would take him to announce he was going to leave Facebook again. I gave it three days, My oldest child suggested a week, and my husband thought by Christmas.

I was spot on.

“I’ve been inundated with friend requests!” my dad said. “I don’t like it at all!”

He has sent me his reasons for quitting, and here they are:

Dear Susan,

As you will continue to be in contact with Mark Zuckerberg I would be grateful if you would put this message on Facebook. Please advise Mr Zuckerberg that after only three days I am regretfully resigning from his organisation. I hope that this will not impact too adversely on his business and I do wish him every future success, even without my participation.

I also have a message for my family and friends, many of whom have instantly requested to be associated with me on Facebook. My refusal does not reflect any lack of affection for them and I will love them all as in the past.

You may wonder what has motivated this decision. It is not a matter of technology as I have no difficulty in understanding electronics and computers. It is a question of age. I am now eighty-one and two-thirds and this is exactly the point at which one becomes incompatible with this lifestyle.

I do like to have lots of friends, but one at a time in a predictable sequence, and without random comments from their friends and their friends’ friends ad infinitum.

I am very fond of looking at photographs but these need to be arranged in an album after due thought and perused methodically. Similarly I like videos and films, especially when listed in the Radio Times and watched at the appointed hour. Programmes on the wireless are also very much enjoyed.

So please ask everyone I know to continue to keep in touch on a regular basis. Pigeon post or the electric telegraph is preferred, alternatively by Royal Mail, and as a last resort by email.

Love Dad

So if you want to contact my dad, just follow his instructions. And if you’re not real-life friends with him yet, don’t fret – you probably will be soon.

***

If you enjoyed this post and want more of the same kind of nonsense, you can:

Follow me on Twitter: @susanreuben

‘Like’ my Facebook page – When Am I Supposed to Start Feeling Like a Grown-Up?

Christmas Kitsch and Family Arguments

Every year on 1 December, with great ceremony, we bring this creature out of the cupboard.

image1

We are Jewish but this doesn’t prevent us from embracing the spirit of Christmas. And what better way to do so than with a reindeer dressed up as Santa Claus who, when you squeeze its hoof, bobs about playing Santa Claus is Coming to Town?

Every year, as soon as it emerges, the same argument starts: is it a moose or a reindeer? Debating this point is at least as important as actually playing with it in the first place.

We are divided into two factions, with the older children on my husband Anthony’s side (in the moose camp) and the four-year-old supporting me (advocate of the reindeer theory).

Anthony argues that it’s a moose because it looks like a moose. It has a squishy flat nose like a moose, not a pointy one like a reindeer.

But obviously, it is a reindeer. Look at it. It has antlers. It has a Santa costume. It plays Santa Claus is Coming to Town.

I come from a family of scientists and, even though I’m not one myself, I’m a fervent supporter of evidence-based research and rational thinking.

But this isn’t a scientific question, and therefore an objective empirical approach is inappropriate. It’s all about context.

My late father-in-law, the excellent Bryan Reuben, Emeritus Professor of Chemical Technology, was a keen and very good cook. He had a baking tray in his house that he once mentioned had been used by his children, when they were small, to hold frogspawn.

I expressed concern over the fact that he was still cooking with a tray that had been formerly used to hatch tadpoles. (I don’t think I actually said ‘Bleeeuurrgghh!’ because I wouldn’t have been so rude – but that was the general gist.)

He said that the tray had been thoroughly sterilised and any amphibian organisms definitively extinguished many years ago. I replied that I completely understood that – but that it was the idea that it had been used to hold frogspawn that I found revolting. The fact that if you examined the tray under a microscope you would find no trace of its former use was simply neither here nor there.

Similarly, I don’t care how much, objectively, our jazz-playing reindeer looks like a moose. It’s obviously supposed to be a reindeer, and therefore it is a reindeer.

I canvassed opinion on the matter on Facebook and people were strongly divided.

My friend Gemma did have this key insight, though: ‘It could be a moose. They are great saxophonists. Reindeer are usually percussionists.’

Be that as it may, I feel the matter is finally closed.  I have discovered a hitherto unseen label on the reindeer’s back:

image1 (1)

Anthony has implied that I may have planted this message. I can’t believe he imagines that I’m so lacking in integrity and moral rectitude that I would be prepared to fake something of this nature.

Happy Christmoose.

***

Does your family like arguing for the enjoyment of it? And if so, what about?

If you enjoyed this post and want more of the same kind of nonsense, you can:

Follow me on Twitter: @susanreuben

‘Like’ my Facebook page – When Am I Supposed to Start Feeling Like a Grown-Up?

High fashion and Publishing Chic

Until last week, I worked for Macmillan Children’s Books – an ancient and illustrious publisher home to Alice in Wonderland and The Jungle Book, Judy Blume and The Gruffalo. The offices are situated in the heart of Kings Cross’s trendy redevelopment.

Just round the corner is what I believe to be a training school for Mac Cosmetics. (More below about why this is uncertain.)  Every morning and evening, employees of the two businesses walk up and down Wharfdale Road from the tube to their place of work and back. At lunch-time they take a similar route, this time to the nearby Pret.

The workforce of both institutions is almost exclusively female, and to an observer in the street, there is no question at all who works for Mac and who works for Mac-millan.

The Macmillan staff are characterised by their woolly jumpers and dungarees, colourful tights and pinafores. They carry ‘Books are My Bag’ bags and wear glasses. There is an abundance of patterned skirts, flat shoes, fingerless gloves and cardigans.

Books are my Bag

The Mac staff are dressed entirely in black. But it’s not a uniform. The brief seems to be that they can wear anything at all provided that it’s black, tight, shiny, accompanied by high heels, and complemented with make-up that wouldn’t look out of place in a Vaudeville act or a Burlesque club.

You’ll notice that I haven’t actually named any specific items of clothing or styles. That’s because I don’t know anything about fashion – I’m one of the woolly jumper and patterned skirts people. These Mac girls (and they are all very young) wear garments that I don’t even know the name of. Their clothes defy ordinary descriptions such as ‘skirt’, or ‘jumper’ or ‘dress’.

I’m well aware that I sound like someone’s maiden aunt here. But I’m actually not judging – just describing. This is clearly the way you have to look if you’re working for a high-end cosmetics brand. It’s simply that that world is so far removed from anything that I know about, that it’s like looking at an alien species.

So why the uncertainty about the identity of the Mac Training School? Well, while everyone in my office always referred to it by that name, for the purposes of this blog post I wanted to check that that was its formal title. So I Googled it.  And it doesn’t appear to exist.

A couple of generic postcode-finder sites refer to ‘Mac Cosmetics’ with an address on Wharfdale Road, but with no further information. And aside from that, it doesn’t appear under any other type of search.

So I’m coming to the conclusion that the place is actually a top-secret front for some kind of spy operation. The black clothes are possibly Ninja costumes, and the whole cosmetics-training angle is just a cunning rumour, propagated to explain the staff’s outlandish appearance and allow them to buy their lunch from Pret undetected.

But no longer – I’ve blown their cover!

Meanwhile, tomorrow I start a new job at HarperCollins Children’s Books, home of The Tiger Who Came to Tea, David Walliams and Dr. Seuss. This is situated in The News Building – a huge glass box next to the Shard, that also houses The Times and Sun. I wonder whether the styles of the people working for those three organisations will be equally distinctive.

 

So what do they wear in your office – and what does that say about the people who work there? Do let me know in the Comments section!

If you enjoyed this post and want more of the same kind of nonsense, you can:

Follow me on Twitter: @susanreuben

‘Like’ my Facebook page – When Am I Supposed to Start Feeling Like a Grown-Up?

Invisible Fireworks and Burnt Toffee Apples

Every year on 5 November we have a fireworks party at our house, for our extended family. The first time we did so our son was a toddler and found the whole idea completely terrifying. So as it was my husband Anthony’s job to set off the fireworks, it was therefore my job to sit in the house with my son, the curtains closed, distracting him till it was all over.

By the time he grew old enough to enjoy the fireworks, our daughter was around. She was so petrified that she wouldn’t even be in a room with windows. She and I had to sit on the landing, as it was the only window-less room in the house. (Actually, the downstairs loo would have been another option – perhaps I got off lightly.)

This year she was brave enough to watch the display, but our younger son needed looking after…

So, every year we have a fireworks party at our house, but I never actually get to see the fireworks.

This problem pales into insignficance, however, next to the fiasco of the toffee apples. Last year I decided that as it was Bonfire Night, there had to be toffee apples. And buying them from a shop would obviously be far too simple and convenient. Homemade ones were the obvious answer.

Anyone who has made toffee will know that it requires your full concentration as you keep an eagle eye on the sugar thermometer while trying not to scald yourself.

So, with a house full of excitable kids getting ready for the party and asking questions, what better activity could I have chosen?

I got down the 10 litre cauldron we were given as a wedding present, and the satisfyingly enormous wooden spoon that we have to go with it. Into the cauldron went three blocks of butter and two pounds of brown sugar.

Thirty minutes later, I had a cauldron of burnt toffee.

So my immensely practical side kicked in. I realised straight away that it was essential not to let the mixture harden in the pan, making it impossible to clean. And you can’t pour molten toffee down the sink – that would be an immensely stupid thing to do. No, the answer I realised was to pour the whole lot straight into the bin. A cauldron full of caramel at 130ºC, into the bin…

Naturally, the bin bag melted, and as our kitchen bin has no bottom, vast amounts of molten toffee poured on to the floor.

Still I was calm and collected. Clearly, what was left of the bin bag had to be got outside. I doubled it up with another one, then carried it through the house to the dustbin.

What I didn’t realise is that the second bin bag had also melted (obviously), so that as I walked I left a trail of toffee all the way through the house, which stuck to the floor like superglue. The only way to get rid of it was to prise every single drip off with a knife.

Anthony took the bin outside to clean it, and I’m not sure how he did it, but it involved safety goggles. Amazingly, we are still married.

This year I tried again, and… success! The achievement felt even greater, because I managed it despite my daughter marching in halfway through the process and asking brightly, “Mummy, have you burnt the toffee yet?”

Toffee apples

So why exactly do we have a fireworks party every year? I’m really not sure, but it’s possibly something to do with the joyful faces of my older children and their cousins as they oooh and aaah at the magical display in the night sky.

I wouldn’t know – I never get to see their faces – or the fireworks they’re ooohing and aaahing at.

So what are your Bonfire Night experiences – good or bad? Do let me know in the Comments section!

If you enjoyed this post and want more of the same kind of nonsense, you can:

Follow me on Twitter: @susanreuben

‘Like’ my Facebook page – When Am I Supposed to Start Feeling Like a Grown-Up?