Sunday, May 31, 2009

Never Say Never Again

A friend recently got engaged, so we celebrated last night with cigars. As might have been anticipated, this morning I felt like a badger had crawled down my throat, then sat around drinking and smoking with all it's mates, all ten of them, for hours.

Therefore I'm giving up smoking cigars, unless it's at a wedding, or Christmas, or I'm to drunk to know the difference, or someone gets born, or I'm offered a cigar by someone it would be rude or highly inconvenient to turn down, or I have to play a cigar-smoking character, or some other good reason, or I really, really feel like it.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Formal Invitations

As recounted earlier, I've recently received a wedding invitation. The invitation, in the form of a card, closely following the standard phrasing[1]:

Mr and Mrs Thomas Twiggs
request the pleasure of the company of
Mr and Mrs Samuel Long
on the occasion of the marriage of
their daughter Ethel to Mr Walter Wray
at St Swithin's Church, Dirbiton
on December 4th 193-, at 2 pm
and afterwards at
The Masonic Hall, Dirbiton

(As an aside, Emma Twiggs and Cynthia Long are always inviting each other to events in writing, but even their informal invites to informal events read very stilted. Do they not like but have to keep seeing each other, or are they just unable to break through each other's reserve? There's probably an old fashioned play or black and white 50s-style film with all the drama being in the minutest tremble of the lip, or tiniest gesture of the (gloved) hand that could be made out of this. Or maybe an old-school farce or a musical, I don't know)

So I sat down to reply, but immediately ran into a problem. The invitation was from both parents, but as they are divorced and we're in the actual 21st Century rather than an idealised middle-class suburban 1930s there were some small but significant changes, like this:

Thomas Twiggs and Emma Wilkinson
request the pleasure of the company of
Neil W
on the occasion of the marriage of
their daughter Ethel to Walter Wray
at St Swithin's Church, Dirbiton
on September 4th 2009, at 2 pm
and afterwards at
The Masonic Hall, Dirbiton
RSVP to Emma Wilkinson,
12 Harcourt Lane

(I don't have it in front of me)

So should the salutation be Dear Mr Twiggs and Mrs Wilkinson, or just Dear Mrs Wilkinson or should it be Ms Wilkinson? Not having met her I'm uncomfortable with Dear Emma and Dear Emma Wilkinson just looks wrong. So I checked A Social Letter Writer from the News Chronicle Everything Within - A Library of Information for the Home. Flicking through the letters and replies, I note that in general, one should reply in the mode in which one is addressed, so Dear Neil would go back with Dear Emma, while the reply to a yours sincerely shouldn't be yours devotedly. So the correct reply to the original (accepting) is:
Mr and Mrs Samuel Long have great pleasure in accepting the kind invitation of Mr and Mrs Thomas Twiggs to attend the Marriage of their daughter Ethel to Mr Walter Wray at St Swithin's on December 4th, and afterwards at the Masonic Hall, Dirbiton.

So, having been invited in the third person I replied in the third person (without the Mr and Mrs as they were absent from the invitation). Job done!

However it seems my style of reply was in the minority, and informal replies more usual amongst the guests. Don't fret though if you've failed to satisfy the requirements of etiquette. I too have broken with tradition, as following the model acceptances and refusals is this instruction:

Either the Acceptance or the Refusal should be written on a square-shaped correspondence card and enclosed in a suitable envelope.

I replied on ordinary writing paper[2]! What a non-conformist I am.

Of course, this part of the Social Letter Writer, while useful, isn't the most entertaining part. It may just be me[4] but the line between romance and farce sometimes seems very fine indeed. Which is why I find the Love, Courtship and Marriage letter section both wise, sad, joyful and completely hilarious. And that's why I'll be returning to it soon.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, examples taken from A Social Letter Writer, pp
272-285 from the News Chronicle Everything Within - A Library of Information for the Home. No Copyright date. The link above suggest 1939, but that may be a later addition; information in the Countries of the World section is listed as being correct as for 1928.
[2] Tesco writing paper[3] at that.
[3] Tesco Finest writing paper.
[4] It isn't, but what I have to say has nothing to do with your relationships. No, definitely not.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Conversations That No One Will Believe

These actually happened in the last couple of weeks, but sound exactly like I made them up, so won't try and convince you otherwise.

Me: That's really good [Pupil A]
Pupil A: [emits a tiny squeaky scream, as she has done every time I've looked at her during the lesson]
Me: [Pupil A], why do you make a tiny squeaky scream every time I look at you?
Pupil A (in a tiny voice): Because I saw the devil.
Me: Ooookay... are there any other shapes you think you could make?

Pupil P[1]: Hello Sir! How's my favourite teacher?
Mrs W (who is actually taking the lesson that I've wandered into): You'll make me jealous
Pupil P: Oh, no, well, second favourite?
Me: I'm fine, although slightly less flattered than 10 seconds ago.

Pupil T: Sir, did you tell my form tutor you saw me smoking?
Me: Yes I did.
Pupil T: Why?
Me: Was it a secret? Maybe you shouldn't have been smoking in front of everyone at the bus stop then. Everyone else manages to hide in the woods when they want a fag.
Pupil T: But then I'd have missed my bus.
Me: Well, when you break the rules in front of everyone you've got to expect some sort of come back.
Pupil T: But you're supposed to be the good guy!
Me: I'm supposed to be the good guy?

What made this last exchange especially amusing is that it was watched by two girls who are already convinced I'm the worst thing to crawl into the school since, like, ever.

I am slightly aggravated that I've become the one who reports smokers and tells pupils who are kicking footballs across the road to be careful. On the other hand I haven't intervened to the inevitable chain of events that occurs when you combine a platform full of kids with an announcement that unattended articles may be taken away without warning.

[1] Who I thought had previously made an appearance in Conversation of the Day, but apparently only on Facebook

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


To a very close approximation, I ate my own body weight in cake over the weekend. Yet when I weigh myself today, I seem to be exactly the same weight as last Friday. Clearly there is but one explanation: I am actually a replica Neil constructed entirely of cake.

Acting on this, I will begin searching for a giant-size Tupperware container to prevent myself going stale.

The worst case scenario is that my original body comes demanding it's old life back, around 4 in the afternoon when it's feeling a bit peckish.

(Incidentally Cakkelganger currently gets no hits on google. I claim it as a new word!)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Other Blogs Are Also Available

Some years ago Shiv went to south east asia and as a result became involved with a medical charity that operates in the region called MSAVLC (an event for which was previously plugged here). About a month ago she went back out there and has been blogging her trip including what the charity has been up to. As her visit is nearly over, I've finally got round to linking to her blog which is Shivvies travels in Asia. It will appear in the right hand links too. If you're interested, click away!

Monday, May 18, 2009

I've been neglecting this blog for the usual reasons - preparing the kids for their exams[1], falling asleep, moving other people's furniture for them etc. And this last weekend I attended two 30th birthday parties. One turned into an engagement party[2], the other was very reminiscent on a teenage party, as one guest was in tears and (in an unrelated incident) the police got called.

But at the end of the week is half term, and I've got one or two posts that don't involve me talking to teenagers planned. Maybe I'll actually finish them! Until then, here's a joke overheard[5] on the Piccadilly line yesterday evening:

Q. Who is the leader of the tissues?
A. The hankie-chief

[1] First one today! I was surprisingly nervous for them. Not as nervous as they were though.
[2] For a variety of reasons I was not the right person to pass on the news to other people; no one would believe me unless they saw the ring itself[3] or got a sworn oath on the subject.
[3] It had an emerald the size of a hen's egg! I kid you not![4]
[4] Just kidding.
[5] I say overheard, but the Chelsea supporter in question fairly shouted it in an attempt to liven up the carriage.