Category Archives: Uncategorized

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?

 

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?

Blanking People on the Platform

Since I started commuting to work again after 10 years of freelancing from my upstairs study, I’ve become aware of a phenomenon that can most succinctly be described as, ‘a whole lot of people who are acquainted, desperately trying not to meet each other’s eye on the tube platform in the morning’.
You’re on your way to work. You’ve barely woken up. You’re looking forward to getting on the train and having half an hour to yourself where you can read, catch up on your emails, do your make-up – whatever you like. And there, on the platform, is someone you know. If your eyes meet, you’ll have to chat. And the worst of it is, not only do you not want that – but you know perfectly well they don’t want it either. And there’s absolutely nothing either of you can do about it.
I’ve observed various techniques to get over this problem. Personally, I unfocus my eyes – as if trying to see the 3D image in one of those Magic Eye books – and walk down the platform unable to see anything clearly at all. This does mean I run the risk of bumping into the tube signage or wandering on to the track, but needs must. Other people have developed a sentence that they say as soon as you make eye contact. This ranges from the uncomfortably abrupt, ‘Oh hello I have lots of work to do on the tube today see you later bye’ to the infinitely more gracious ‘Isn’t the tube journey marvellous for being able to catch up on your emails?’.

At the other end of the scale – and utterly unforgivable – are the people who  hail you over as you’re walking down the platform, as if you’re at a bloody cocktail party. Please, those people! Stop being pleasant, gregarious human beings and join the morose and anti-social hordes around you who understand how to behave properly.