Sunday 26 February 2017

Posh gits

I may have a posh accent, but I'm not remotely posh in any other respect. I may seem "posh" to those who have very little, but my lifestyle is quite unremarkable beside the real thing.

I may own my house and my car, have some savings, and live in a sedate residential area, but that doesn't make me in any way posh. There are thousands of people just like that.

I think the essence of poshness is rarity value (or luxury). The truly posh have things the vast majority of us don't have. A country mansion, a yacht, a chauffeur-driven limo, a private jet. Things the average person can only dream of (that is, if we really want a draughty old mansion or a condescending chauffeur).

The other ingredient of poshness is a "fancy" way of doing things. Soup spoons, fish forks, napkins. Bow ties, cuff links, top hats. Ornate invitations and letters. Always something more than the bog-standard routine. Something that sets you apart from the common crowd.

Not necessarily sophisticated though. You can be as posh as you like in terms of lifestyle, but dumb as they come when any hard thinking is required. The term "upper-class twit" comes to mind.

Poshness often goes hand in hand with pretentiousness. People think that because they're posh they're somehow a cut above the non-posh, somehow in some rarified category of their own.

That absolutely doesn't wash in Northern Ireland. It's very refreshing that people here despise any kind of pretentiousness. Anyone who acts superior is very quickly cut down to size. As we say here, they're "losing the run of themselves".

You can talk to a chief executive as casually as the refuse collector. You could be with someone who's filthy rich but they'd show no sign of it. People aren't as obsessed with social status as they are elsewhere.

"Pomposhity" will get you nowhere.

Tuesday 21 February 2017

Judge ye not

I'm shocked at how hard it still is for someone to divorce a partner they can't bear living with any longer. A judge can still refuse a divorce, saying that the grievances aren't convincing enough, or that the other person's behaviour doesn't seem unreasonable.

If a divorce on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour (which applies in the vast majority of cases) is refused, the only alternative is living separately from the other person for five years before getting a consent-less divorce.

Some of the comments made by judges are outrageous. One woman who said her husband's unreasonable behaviour made her feel unloved, isolated and alone, was told he was simply "old school".

Another woman was told that the examples of her husband's unreasonable behaviour - like his workaholic tendencies and regular grumpiness - just weren't good enough.

Several of my blogmates and Facebook friends have had incredibly acrimonious and long-drawn-out divorces, and surely it should be easier to get a no-fault divorce without having to "prove" the marriage has broken down?

When someone is already seriously distressed by a failing marriage, to have to convince a sceptical judge you're at your wits' end just adds insult to injury.

As divorce lawyer Ayesha Vardag puts it, "The very idea that someone who desperately wants or needs to exit a marriage can be prevented at the discretion of a judge is absolutely terrifying. Forcing couples to stay married has no part in a civilised society."

The irony is that getting married is extremely easy. You sign a few bits of paper and that's it. Nobody asks you to "prove" that you're serious about marriage and want to make it work. Yet if everything goes pear-shaped, endless obstacles are put in your path.

Judge not, that ye be not judged....


PS: Today is my 10th blogiversary. How about that?

Saturday 18 February 2017

A horrified shudder

People have very opposite reactions when they're told they're "just like their father" or "just like their mother". If they adore their father or mother, they're flattered and pleased to be told they take after them. If they don't get on with their parents, they're horrified at the very thought there might be a resemblance.

Personally I'm in the horrified category. I'm all too aware of my parents' vices and struggle to think of their virtues. The idea that I'm like them in any way makes me shudder. I prefer to think they're totally different from me and I don't resemble them in the slightest. What a suggestion!

I'd love to be able to say I take after my father and that gives me huge satisfaction, but I absolutely can't say that. I can think of many other fathers I would be happy to resemble, but my own father isn't in the running. In fact I try my hardest to be as unlike him as I possibly can. If I catch myself displaying any of his familiar habits, I cut them short.

Of course he always wanted me to take after him, and he was very put out that I aspired to be someone quite dissimilar. He took it as a big insult that I didn't look up to him and hang on his every word. He could never understand that I was an independent person who saw the world in my own unique way.

My role models were always people outside my family - friends, teachers, rock stars, impressive public figures. Those were the people I admired and copied, the people whose qualities I hoped I could absorb. I never saw my parents as role models, only as rather harassed guardians.

Boy, did I have a crush on Marc Bolan....

Sunday 12 February 2017

The final straw

I'm always interested in what destroys a relation-ship, what drives people apart. Especially if couples have been together for decades and then suddenly, apparently right out of the blue, they're getting divorced and it's all over.

Usually they don't reveal the exact cause of the meltdown. Or only to their closest friends. They tell people vaguely that "it simply wasn't working any more" or "he just wasn't the same person". Strange habits and personal failings are hinted at but not spelt out. You can only guess at the straw that broke the camel's back.

I'm forever astonished at how long Jenny and I have been together. In some ways we're very different, and I'm amazed there's never been some fundamental clash that proved impossible to resolve. The usual clichés about "loads of give and take" and "giving your partner plenty of space" don't go very far. The winning formula, whatever it is, is too complex to be summed up so neatly.

I think one reason we've stuck together is that somehow we've dodged all the big issues that tend to ambush other couples.

Like money. We're both sensible about spending and neither of us have expensive habits that soak up cash. We don't gamble, binge drink, buy flashy cars or go for £1,000 suits. Like affairs. We've never been tempted. Like children. We both agreed very early on that we didn't want them. Like sex. There's no nagging incompatibility. Like insecurity and jealousy. We're not threatened by the other's friendships or activities. Like bad communication. We're good at opening up and talking things through. And like mutual respect. Many couples break up because the man turns out to be an engrained misogynist, or the woman is nagging and controlling.

But that isn't the whole story either. Plenty of other things could have capsized us, could have driven a wedge between us. Somehow we've sidestepped them all. How lucky is that?

Tuesday 7 February 2017

One thousand!

Yes, it really is post one thousand! And as the ground-breaking occasion is reached, Nick gives a rare interview to Denise Drizzle of the Guardian.

Denise: So, Nick, post number one thousand. How do you feel about this fantastic milestone?

Nick: It's okay. All in the day's work, really.

Denise: Oh come on, enough of the stuffed-shirt masculinity. Admit it, you're incredibly excited.

Nick: Not at all. It's just one foot in front of the other really. It's just an arbitrary number. I mean, who gives a fuck if it's 1000 or 973 or ten zillion?

Denise: Still the same old Nick, eh? Pretending to be laid-back, deadpan, blasé, nonchalant, while underneath you're a boiling cauldron of red-hot emotions. I bet in private you're leaping up and down, whooping for joy, punching the air.

Nick: Your imagination's overheating, Denise. Really, it's just another post. Just another bit of scribble on the back of an envelope.

Denise: Okay, I get the idea. You're not giving anything away. Just one thing though. Isn't it time you told us your last name? Is it something embarrassing?

Nick: It's Zeigler.

Denise: Really? What, like Toby Zeigler in The West Wing? That's a great name.

Nick: No, I'm fibbing. It's not Zeigler.

Denise: So what is it then? Widebottom? Smellie? Bracegirdle? Hooker?

Nick: It's Rogers. A name so nondescript it's not worth mentioning.

Denise: I won't lie. It's an incredibly boring name. My commiserations. One other thing. You're not really a fucked-up neurotic mess, are you? It's just a big pretence to lure people in, right? In reality you're 100% sane and healthy and totally relaxed about life. Correct?

Nick: I wish. I'm hang-up central, like half the population. Which isn't surprising as we live in an unhealthy, uptight, authoritarian society. And now, if you'll excuse me, I feel a panic attack coming on.

Denise: Is there anything I can do?

Nick: Yes, leave me alone in my introvert hell (sobs quietly)

Denise: What an icon! What a national treasure! What would we do without him?

Pic: Denise Drizzle

Saturday 4 February 2017

A touch of glamour

Call me old-fashioned, but I do like a bit of glamour. That magical quality that attaches itself to certain people and places and things. I know some people scoff at the whole notion of glamour as something entirely artificial and bogus, but I enjoy it anyway. It adds a little sparkle to a sometimes depressing existence.

It's hard to define but I think we all recognise it when we see it. That exciting frisson that hangs over Sydney or Vancouver or Venice. That special something that embraces Lucky Blue Smith or Scarlett Johansson (or whoever does it for you). The dizzy thrill of a favourite scarf or painting or necklace. A quality that transcends ordinary predictable charm or prettiness.

Feminists would argue that glamour, as applied to people, is essentially a sexist concept. Women are expected to be glamorous and dazzling while men can get away with being vaguely presentable. Well, my answer to that is, rather than doing away with female glamour, why don't the men make more of an effort and glam themselves up a bit?

Of course at my grand old age, a lot of things that seemed glamorous when I was young now seem utterly ordinary - like Awards ceremonies and celebrity weddings and fashion parades. Once you're aware of the drudgery and panic and ill-temper that goes on behind the scenes, the illusion of glamour quickly vanishes.

But you can't keep a good idea down, and there's still plenty of glamour to be found. When you least expect it, you stumble on a beautiful old church or someone with effortless style or an exquisite piece of pottery. Suddenly life has been enriched and deepened and the humdrum daily routine forgotten for a while.

A life without glamour would be like a face without a smile.

Pic: Lucky Blue Smith - an American model known for his platinum blond hair