Thursday, 21 August 2008


These days there seem to be greetings cards for every occasion. So, if you want a break from texting and can remember how to set pen to paper and stick a stamp on an envelope, it could be a novel form of communication. Divorce cards are no longer a novelty but hats off to Brenda McCants for coming up with something a little more unique: cards for what she describes as “blending moments.” Drawing on her own humorous experiences of uniting two families as one, she has created some comic offerings for when the spoken word just isn’t enough. The pictures are all based on cooking ingredients or utensils, so that you can presumably “say it with vegetables.”

Tuesday, 19 August 2008


During our recent holiday, my feet were picked out by my family as objects of derision which apparently no sensible person would choose for the ends of their legs. Of course, I didn’t help myself when it came to light that the trekking shoes I have worn for years are a complete mismatch in that the left one is three sizes bigger than the right. Curiously I’ve never noticed before, but now that I have they’ve become most uncomfortable; incompatible you might say. I now have to stop every hundred yards to retie the laces on the left and the days of feet striding out in unison seem to be gone.

Looking back it’s strange nobody ever pointed out the defect to me at the outset or that I failed to inspect the labels carefully. We felt so comfortable together that it was all that mattered and there was no reason to look further. Moreover we’ve had great times together: climbing the steps of the Eiffel Tower; trekking in India, wandering along footpaths and bridleways where hiking boots would have seemed like overkill and pounding the streets of so many towns and cities both here and abroad.

In a mix of soft beige leather, manmade fibre and black rubber I thought they had an almost sophisticated look; that is until parts of them began to stray and stretch with age.

That moment long ago when I tried them on in the shop and my feet declared them a perfect match is now but a distant and tainted memory.

Despite the criticism thrown at them, however, my feet themselves remain a perfect couple. Further, and just for the record, they do intend to continue living side by side, happily ever after; once I find a new pair of matching shoes, that is!

Friday, 15 August 2008


Nobody ever knows how they will cope in a stressful situation; will they go to pieces or will they find themselves in the middle of an unwanted learning curve coming out stronger at the other end? Well today my resource levels were put to the test when I was awoken by the phone ringing at 6.30am with an urgent request to contact the police as a result of a large blaze at the hotel adjoining our office which, so the helpful police officer informed me, was still burning out of control. Half asleep and with the vague notion that my means of earning a living was going up in smoke, I grasped for my copy of the firm’s Disaster Recovery Plan and so began a morning of telephone calls. At least having a set of written instructions went some way to helping me cope; that and the limitless support of staff. It was 2pm before I was allowed inside to inspect the premises in the presence of a fireman. Amazingly and despite the heat and flames which had caused the local brigade to bring in reinforcements, there appears to have been no damage and once the street is allowed to re-open (hopefully over the weekend) it will be business as normal.
What did I learn?
1 Stay calm
2 Don’t get cross about all the people who want to gawp or gossip
3 Ask for help where it’s needed
4 Have a strategy and work to it
5 Don’t be afraid to ask questions and insist on talking to the people who really know what is happening

Thursday, 14 August 2008


Whilst I disagree totally with the whole concept of revenge, the extent to which many hurt spouses will go to seek such never ceases to amaze and in some instances amuse. Take for instance an advert which has appeared on Ebay where a woman called Anna in Queensland is seeking to auction souvenirs from a lovemaking session that she interrupted in her own bedroom between her adulterous husband and a lady she now knows only as Kylie.

She did try to advertise the lady’s panties but the advert was apparently removed by Ebay as it does not permit the sale of second-hand underwear on the site, so now and at a reduced price you can bid for a photograph of them instead!

Wednesday, 13 August 2008


So now we have it – the reason divorce rates have soared since the 1960’s: it’s the good old contraceptive pill. Well it’s been blamed for the breakdown of moral values before but now it seems that it actually causes women to pick the wrong partner!

A team at the University of Newcastle has discovered that the odour preferences of women on the pill are affected, causing them to pick Mr Wrong instead of Mr Right. Later in their marriage when they come off the pill, it’s only to discover that he doesn’t smell right after all and then the bickering really sets in. Imagine waking up one day and finding a skunk in your bed!

Saturday, 9 August 2008


Belfast is a city with a recent history of violence and therefore until recently shunned by tourists. Fortunately all that is changing and during our holiday we spent a pleasant afternoon a couple of weeks ago, strolling around its centre.

Greeted by the delights of the Crown Liquor Saloon (a Victorian Gin Palace now in the hands of the National Trust), we moved on past the Opera House, City Hall and Albert Clock Tower (Belfast’s answer to the Leaning Tower of Pisa) to the River Lagan and views of the twin cranes named Samson and Goliath that dominate the skyline. The sights mentioned all contrasted with the new developments that are taking place including the recently completed Victoria Square Shopping Complex and around the dock area.

Tours are also offered to the slipway from which the Titanic was launched and around Harland & Wolff’s historic offices. “Going down like the Titanic,” is not however a phrase that you want to hear when you are sailing, so we shunned that option along with a black cab tour of the Shankill and Falls Roads area of the City.

I’m not convinced that we should ever be keen to promote ourselves by showing a pride in violence or troubles at home, though finding the strength of character to overcome such and being proud of that achievement is another matter. So it is that, akin to the regeneration that has been taking place in other northern industrial cities like Newcastle and Liverpool, Belfast is now quickly becoming an attractive place to live and visit.

Friday, 8 August 2008


The Olympic Games' Opening Ceremony in Beijing this evening was a showpiece, celebrating the union of the young of the world as they gathered in the presence of 90,000 invited guests and onlookers. It was not a coincidence that today was also the luckiest day of the century in China and that the Olympic Ceremony starting at 8pm shared the day with countless Chinese couples all looking to tie the knot on 8.8.08.

Let us hope that something which began with a ceremony of such extravaganza and is to take place under a flame of passion draws on the good luck charm of the date and that the oath by the participants to show each other respect and not to cheat is a lasting one.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008


On our recent sailing trip we paid a visit to Dublin. In a city famed for Guinness and friendly craic, if a change of scene is sought then I can certainly recommend the National Museum of Ireland particularly its exhibition area entitled Kingship & Sacrifice. There amongst the other exhibits of an earlier age are the actual remains of Peat Bog Men uncovered in Ireland. They had all met gruesome deaths especially the young man destined never to be King, whose nipples had been cut so that devoted subjects would be unable to suckle from them. It would be nice to think that almost 5,000 years later the human race had moved on and abuse and violence no longer exists. Sadly, as we know, this is not the case, not even in the home where everyone should have the right to feel safe.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008


It is now accepted practice in most schools that, when a couple has separated, letters home about little Johnnie, Simon or Rebecca, are written to both parents individually. Where there is a failure to observe this practice it has become customary for family lawyers to contact the Head Teacher or even the Local Education Authority to point out the implications of Parental Responsibility.

I note that the latest plans, commencing next month, are for more letters to be written to parents. This time they will relate to their children’s size because parents themselves are no longer deemed capable of judging whether or not their son or daughter is a healthy weight. Although the word obese is not to be used, the term “very overweight” being considered politically more correct, I can’t help wondering if these missives will generally be referred to as Obesity Letters.

Also, on how many occasions will lawyers get involved in correspondence with the relevant Primary Care Trust to ensure that letters are sent to both parents separately, or will it do this automatically? Will there also be scope for legal argument in courts concerning the welfare and best interests of a child based on their contents?

Beware! Allegations that you feed fried Mars Bars and potato crisps to your children for breakfast may soon have the weight of Nanny Government behind them.

Sunday, 3 August 2008


I am just back from bobbing around on a little boat in the Irish Sea for 2 weeks, moving from marina to anchorage in a partnership of wind and sail. As in any relationship you have to be aware of external factors to keep the momentum and to move in harmony from place to place. Inevitably this means that you don’t always go when or to where or you planned and the itinerary changes according to sea and weather conditions. “Wind variable South to South West 5 or 6, 3 to 4 later; sea state moderate or rough; visibility poor,” becomes your staple diet and it is important to be ready to adapt and change course accordingly. If you don’t at best you’ll be miserable and at worst your boat will surely founder.