Tag Archives: Lake District

The Perils of Sarcasm

As anyone familiar with Ray from the Mary Whitehouse Experience will know, the propensity to be sarcastic can get you into all sorts of trouble. Ray is the man cursed with a sarcastic tone of voice. You can watch him here.

"What a personal disaster."

“What a personal disaster.”

When I was at university – it was in the early days of email – an Australian friend sent me a message to say that he’d heard that a rare type of walrus had been sighted off the coast of the UK and had I seen any? He was, he explained, a walrus enthusiast.

I replied that while I hadn’t seen any walruses, if I happened to spot one while walking through Cambridge I’d be sure to let him know.

“Thanks – that would be great,” he replied.

He then signed me up to a walrus aficionados’ e-newsletter.

I quite enjoyed reading it, actually. It was a little window into a world I would ordinarily never have known existed.

Of course, it’s well known that it’s really difficult to convey tone of voice in an email, and you therefore have to be extra careful what you say. I’m not good at taking heed of this. The problem is, I also run into trouble when talking to people face to face – particularly strangers.

My husband Anthony suffers from the same problem. A few years ago we were in the Lake District with our four-month-old baby. (This was the same trip on which we acquired All Terrain Pushchair Walks, South Lakeland – click here to read more about that.) Out on a walk, our son began screaming hysterically in his pushchair.

A passing lady said in consternation,
“Gosh, he doesn’t look very happy, does he?”
“That’s because he’s starved of affection,” Anthony replied.
“Oh dear!” said the lady, clearly alarmed, and scuttled off looking as if she were about to call social services.

Having failed to learn from this encounter, I make sarcastic comments to strangers all the time. I imagine I’m being funny.

Given that sarcasm tends to consist of saying the exact opposite of what you really think, if the person you’re talking to doesn’t realise that you’re being sarcastic, it is excruciating. The chances are you’ll come out of the encounter looking stupid or crazy, or quite possibly both.

And yet… it’s difficult to give it up because sometimes – just sometimes – the stranger I’m talking to gets the joke and laughs. And so my comment allows us to make an immediate, genuine connection that no amount of small talk can create.

It is almost never worth trying to dig your way out of these situations by explaining yourself. That just leads to embarrassment all round. I tend to just swallow the misunderstanding, grit my teeth, and accept that this person now thinks I’m socially or intellectually deficient.

Perhaps the answer is to carry a sarcasm sign around with me, like Leonard does for Sheldon’s benefit in the Big Bang Theory.

Leonard

If I hold it up whenever I’m being sarcastic, I’m sure that will solve all my problems.

NOT!!!!!
😉 😉 😉

*******

Have you ever found yourself in trouble due to being sarcastic? Or do you hate it when other people are? Do let me know in the comments.

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Onion Goggles, Lemon Holders and the Joy of Specialisation

One of my oldest friends – we’ve known each other since we were nine – is hearing impaired. When we were children, she had a machine in her bedroom called an ‘S’ indicator.

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Its purpose was to help her to articulate the letter ‘S’. Basically, you hissed into it and a dial moved to show how ess-ish your S was.

I really like the fact that this machine existed – something designed to do one small task and to do it properly.

I have an automatic mistrust of objects intended to do lots of different things.

Shampoo and conditioner in one? No! I don’t want to wash and go! I want one thing that is really good at cleaning my hair and another thing that is good at making it silky soft. (Not that that I’ve ever discovered the latter – as anyone with very curly hair will appreciate.)

Sofa beds? No! They make really rubbish beds and really rubbish sofas.

And what about those restaurants that offer you a choice of pizza, burritos, chow mein, chicken korma and toad-in-the-hole? How much faith do you have that any of those items is going to be cooked to perfection?

In 2005, Anthony my husband and I visited the Lake District with our 4-month-old baby. We went into a local bookshop and said ‘Do you have any books that might help us work out where we can go walking with an all-terrain pushchair?’

‘This might do the job,’ replied the bookseller, and handed us a book called:

All Terrain Pushchair Walks, South Lakeland

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I found this immensely satisfying – even more so in the knowledge that if we were to visit the north of the Lake District in future, we’d be able to buy All Terrain Pushchair Walks, North Lakeland.

And speaking of ‘Lakeland’, the pleasure I take in objects designed for one purpose helps to explain the fact that my favourite shop bears this name. For the uninitiated, Lakeland is a kitchen and household shop that specialises in the most extraordinary range of kitchen gadgets. My own kitchen is crammed with its strawberry hullers, apple corers, banana bags, tuna can drainers and more. Much, much more.

Here, you can see me modelling my onion goggles – cleverly designed to stop you ‘crying’ when you chop onions.

Image copyright © Isaac Reuben 2015

Image copyright © Isaac Reuben 2015

They have the added benefit of making me look sexy, too. At least, when I forgot to take them off before answering the door to the Tesco delivery man, I think that was the effect they had.

Anthony has inherited from his German grandma a fork which is intended, exclusively, to hold hot new potatoes so that you can peel them.

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Many is the time it has saved me from that well-known menace of burned fingers caused by hot-new-potato peeling.

And yet, some of my most valued kitchen possessions are – unaccountably – mocked by visitors to our house. One example is this set of containers designed to store left-over halves of – respectively – tomatoes, lemons, onions and peppers.

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No longer do I find mouldering bits of fruit or vegetable wrapped in clingfilm and forgotten at the bottom of the fridge drawer. It surely goes without saying that no household should be without them.

Which is why, when I opened my container for storing half a lemon a while ago, and found that Anthony had put half a lime in it, it was a very difficult time for me.

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Our marriage has survived after some counselling, but it was touch and go for a while.

So, what objects do you appreciate for their highly-focused purpose… either at home, or in your professional life?

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The author apologises for the repeated references to lemons in her posts, and would like to assure you that she will attempt to give equal precedence to other fruits in future.