Monday, 28 January 2013

When Is The right Time?

This New Year's Eve perfectly illustrated the meaning behind Robert Burns' line of poetry ( John Steinbeck used as the title for one of his best-known works. For the first time in twelve years The Boy and I spent the evening apart; He suffered from something resembling the Norovirus and remained within safe proximity of a bathroom while I ate an enormous feast from around the globe at a friend's house. Although I had an enjoyable night, The Boy's absence meant the whole evening just didn't feel right and what seemed like a “best-laid” plan was easily scuppered.

There have been many times over the years that a friend has broken big life-changing news to me months after the actual event and I have wondered why I wasn't told sooner. Put in a similar position, I have since also suffered the “when is the right time” dilemma. When asked the question “How you are?”, 90% of the time for most of us the answer is easy; It generally involves a simple response like “Not too bad”, “Could be better” or “A bit tired” but every now and again it's hard to put into words how you are feeling or perhaps things aren't going too well and you'd rather not burden the questioner with your own problems or dampen the mood. In these situations it is easy to see why news travels slowly.

The timing of my breaking New Year's Eve news had been carefully planned and was an exceedingly long time coming. To some, the news was expected and long-overdue but because of The Boy's illness it never came and was delayed until New Year's Day. After one failed attempt, I finally got through to my parents and The Boy dialled his family digits. My mother's initial response included words to the effect: “It seems weird after all these years...” My dad's reaction was more as you might expect with him seeming audibly pleased and asking the usual follow-up questions you might ask in response to such information.

After over 11 years together, The Boy and I have surpassed the average length of many a celebrity marriage. According to research by The National Wedding Show, the average couple gets engaged two years, 11 months and eight days after first setting eyes on each other (—average-woman-wants-pop-question-months-earlier.html). Had we done so closer to the average time span, finding the right moment to break the news wouldn't have been an issue. We most certainly wouldn't have kept quiet for four months in order for my recently engaged cousin to solely have the limelight over the festive period. And who knows we may well have been just as surprised as our friends and family.

Of course a much earlier engagement was delayed by my own refusal to accept adulthood and conform to the norm. Over the last six years, The Boy has indeed attempted to pop the question on numerous occasions but has either misjudged his timing or been met by my own inability to believe he was actually serious. As a result, he unsurprisingly announced some time ago, he was no longer willing to take on the responsibility and the words “How about it then?” took on a whole new comedic meaning.

Now, I'm struggling to casually break the somewhat predictable news in conversation and find the “right time”. It's weeks since we “came out” but beyond family, very few other people know our well-kept “secret” and it took me a good hour to find the words to tell two of them! In the news, I've read many a tragic tale of people discovering a loved-one has died through social media. As a Facebook and Twitter user, I'm interested in seeing whether tidings of joy can be spread just as easily without me directly posting anything so dear readers (whoever you may be) be comforted in the knowledge you are among the first to know. Let's see if social media does its magic without my help...

Monday, 21 January 2013

A Non-Literal Crutch

I like to think I keep fairly up-to-date with new word creations but have to admit I only came across "YOLO" by accident when half-watching The Big Fat Quiz of the Year 2012 on Channel Four at the end of last year.

A week into the New Year and I'm reading about a recent study in the US by Marist, revealing “YOLO” is one of America's least favourite words ( Since reading the Metro feature, I'm unable to stop saying “whatever” (unsurprisingly another word voted “most annoying”) for several days afterwards and actually experience someone saying “YOLO” to me in all seriousness – a student asks to borrow a pen and I warn him it'll lead to an “equipment comment” to which he replies: “Oh well, YOLO!”

I'm well aware words like “basically” wind a lot of people up but realise I have no idea what these types of words are called. Virtually every phenomenon in the world has a name, especially in linguistics, so I'm surprised it takes me so long to uncover the information I seek. A friend suggests “earworm” ( but this term seems to exclusively be applied to music that sticks in the head without any obvious prompting, not isolated words.

The answer finally surfaces and sounds somewhat misleading... Words like “literally” are called “crutch words”, a term referring to expressions peppered throughout our language that act as verbal or written pauses, allowing us time to think or accentuate our meaning. Sometimes these words have somehow lodged in our brains, resulting in repeat usage, adding little meaning. Sometimes we use them incorrectly but even if we don’t need them at all, we're likely to unintentionally and quite irritatingly persist in churning them out.

To check how many crutch words you use, for an extensive list visit:

Monday, 14 January 2013

Potty Mouth

For the last month every now and again, The Boy has asked me if I can smell “cat piss”. As we have a furry friend who has his own portaloo in the flat, it is quite likely he is indeed smelling feline wee wee. Investigations, have however, proved fruitless and various perfumes have unfairly born the brunt of the blame.

Last weekend, I'm waiting in Leeds train station for the rest of the gang to purchase tickets and my brace-wearing friend is the first to rejoin me. She desperately needs a drink and as she's unable to chew gum and there's no time to make a purchase, I offer her one of the throat sweets I have just finished.

Ten minutes later, we're sitting on the train and I notice a rather unpleasant smell. “Can you smell cat piss?” I ask my bemused companion. It seems Jakemans' menthol lozenges have something in common with garlic; It is only some time after I've finished eating mine, I'm able to smell the rather unpleasant odour they give off.

As someone who easily succumbs to sore throats, I'm regularly in need of a soothing helper and discovered Jakemans quite some time ago. Since finding the brand in various pound shops, I've become quite a fan, particularly pleased by their impressive sucking time (I've made it through a film with a significantly diminished sweet still going as the end credits roll).

I'm so keen I've even encouraged others to purchase them; Now I'm wondering whether anyone else made the unfortunate mistake of trying the blackcurrant ones. I normally favour the cherry or blueberry flavours and these seem to be safe but blackcurrant emanates the offending odour.

Since the weekend's shocking discovery, The Boy is pressurising me into getting rid of the remaining lozenges unable to stand the urine breath emitted while sweet-sucking. Not liking waste, I'm struggling to throw away perfectly tasty throat sweets that admirably do their job but I'm also wary I'll forget their unpleasant side-effect and publicly shame myself by convincing someone I'm incontinent or frequently neglect basic personal hygiene.

Although Jakemans bring a much more literal meaning to the idiom “potty mouth”, I shall remain a fan, attempting to spread the word – they have been going since 1907 after all so must be getting something right but be warned, avoid their blackcurrant variety:

Sunday, 6 January 2013

A Return To Student Living

The start of a new year and a new “Do Not” sign in the building. This one tells us not to force the automatic door that leads to the outside world. I've been wondering for some time who I share a building with and often feel like I'm back in student halls, albeit less sociable ones. Last year a series of unbelievable incidents have led me to question the maturity of my co-inhabitants:

Exhibit One:

Someone has grafittied on the wall beside the lift and it looks like something that would be more commonplace among the rougher inner city schools and certainly nothing Banksy would be proud of.

Exhibit Two:

The metal panels in the lift have been kicked in by someone who clearly has anger management issues.

Exhibit Three:

I get into the lift to find the plastic flooring has been magicked away by some hilarious prankster.

Exhibit Four:

The bin beside the lift designed for the deposit of resident's junk mail has repeatedly gone missing. As a result, it now seems to no longer be a permanent feature of the building.

Exhibit Five:

The number for our post box has been stolen, alongside several others.

Exhibit Six:

For weeks on end, a highly considerate occupant of a flat below managed to block out our TV and own stereo with grating dance tunes until someone else must have complained.

Exhibit Seven:

Unlike the flooring, the mirror in the lift is still there but now completely smashed up.

Exhibit Eight:

After my dad's arrival for the weekend and a few drinks in our local, we returned to the flat. On entering the lift, we were met by an unbearably unpleasant smell and a foul sight. The smell was indeed so vile, one of our number decided to walk the twelve plus flights to the top while those remaining edged around the walls of the lift and held our breath. Later the next day the offending item was gone and the girl sharing the lift with me asked if I knew what had been in the lift the day before, claiming someone had managed to rather messily relieve themselves - a security camera, our break-in couldn't prompt, swiftly followed. I'm still puzzled as to which orifice the offending puddle came from.

Exhibit Nine:

Our parking space has been utilised by some ill-mannered chancer on numerous occasions.

Exhibit Ten:

There are now cigarette burns on the stairwell carpet on the seventh floor.

And that isn't everything - I could moan about the sacks of rubbish lazy and highly inconsiderate residents occasionally litter the hallways with but I won't go on. Who are these people and what's their problem with the lift? And well done for prompting a rise in our maintenance fee – thanks.