Family ties

‘The ties that bind us’ or so the old saying goes.  The ties in question are, of course, family ties and for the majority of us, I suspect, family plays an important role in our lives.  There are times, however, when we would rather not have to face up to families and by this I mean our larger, extended families.  I am talking about the dreaded family reunion, be it for a wedding, or an anniversary, or even a birthday.

There is advice on how to get through a family reunion that focuses on staying positive and trying not to be nervous, but to be honest, some of us are going to go into these events with just the negative on our minds and will be very nervous indeed.  Those nerves will only be increased when that tried and tested question common to all family events gets its first airing, usually from a well-meaning aunt:  “so, any sign of you getting married?”  As a single person, I have been asked this question, or something close to it, many times.

My top tip for family reunions of the awkward kind (my family reunions are always great by the way!) centres on food.  Family reunions typically involve food – think of a wedding or a celebration in particular.  What better way to fill those moments of awkward silence then with a mouth stuffed full of food?  You won’t have to talk because no one expects you to talk, least of all those elderly relatives who told you off as a child for eating when your mouth was full.  Just don’t overdo it.  Seconds might be okay, but going back to the buffet for thirds or fourths makes it look as if you are avoiding conversation completely, or that you have a problem.  If the food is good and, in my experience it usually is, then a few words of praise in that direction might help offset that otherwise negative vibe of “I don’t really want to be here.”  Food is nourishing, certainly, but it also has other uses.

It is also sensible not to leave too early, or arrive too late for that matter.  Okay, you might not be enjoying yourself, but it is one day out of your life.  I admit that for those people with large, extended families that one day will, over the course of their lives, add up to quite a lot of days, but there are times when you just have to take a deep breath and say to yourself: “okay, I’ll answer my aunt’s question on when I’m going to find a nice girl and settle down in the politest way possible.”

For how long do you want to get it on?

Ask a French couple about their love making and you’re likely to feel inadequate as they tell you about where and when they like their intimate action. You’ll be left with the feeling that they can’t possibly have any time for work as their life is just one long shag fest!
Italians and South Americans will probably take it a few stages further and reveal the steamy sides of their tempers boiling over into the bedroom, or just behind the office filing cabinets, in fact wherever they feel their blood rising.
Compared to these red hot lovers we good old Brits are just so much more modest.
There’s a fab online pharmacy that makes all sorts of prescription medicines available to you through the internet. It’s called and a lot of what they supply helps out in the bedroom department if you get my drift. Anyway, they wanted to know a bit more about what we get up to when the lights go down, and so they commissioned a survey to ask us what we like and where.
The sex survey talked to over two thousand people aged 18 or over about such intimate questions as “How long should sex last?” “How often do you want to be making love?” and “Where do you want to get down to it?”
The most surprising thing is that Brits only want to get it on once a week, on a Saturday night! Come on folks, that’s only fifty practise runs a year, not even allowing for the number of Saturdays when you’ve had a few too many to even recognise each other. You’re never going to perfect your skills. Imagine a footballer only training once a week, they’d never get beyond average.
We wanted our women on top, which is all very well and nice now and then, but you’re not going to pull that off for an urgent release in the lifts at work are you? But then, given that over three quarters of those asked wanted to shag in the bedroom I guess the at work day time adventure doesn’t cross our minds.
11% wanted to get it on in the bathroom. Perhaps that’s the clean ones who’d need a shower afterwards before flopping down in front of the Jonathan Ross show. Now in my book, banging away in the shower now and then is good fun, and if the mood takes you then go with it, but don’t make a habit of it, a bit of padding doesn’t go amiss for frequent love making.
And as for Mr Ross, well we didn’t ask him, but he is relevant as our favourite time was between 10 – 11 in the evening.
Now I know there are no absolutes and in fact a survey will round off the edges of the extremes in both directions. However I can’t help thinking that our cousins across the channel could teach us a thing or two, even if it’s just about getting out in the open air with the thrill of being caught and a stiff breeze whistling up our lovely white thrusting butts.
Oh! And how long do we want to be loving for our Saturday night treat? 23 minutes. I guess for some that’d be a marathon. Not that you should really be timing these things anyway.
Ah Britain. How I love thee, and your lack of loving. Grab a copy of Nuts and you’d think we’d be banging away for queen and country every spare minute of the day. But no, no thank you. We’d rather be drinking tea.

Christmas dinner and the TV remote

My sister phoned the other day, to check that I was still coming to her for Christmas, and that I hadn’t magicked up a bird for the occasion.

Stupidly (knowing me, it was stupid), she asked me if I was okay with having turkey for Christmas dinner.

Of course I was fine with it, but I wasn’t about to make it easy for her.

“You know what I wish we could have?” I asked.

She fell for it. “What?”

“I reckon we should have pastrami and dill pickle sandwiches, on rye, with coleslaw on the side and creamed sweetcorn as an extra.  And crackers.”

There was a dead silence.

“Crackers you eat, or crackers you pull?” she asked.

“Crackers you eat. Those dry, square ones.”

Another silence.  Then “don’t you think you’re missing the point of Christmas?” she ventured.

No. I’m not.  Christmas is a time for celebration, and personally, I can’t think of anything better to eat than an amazing pastrami sandwich, with the delicate flavour of rye surrounding it, cut through to the quick with the sharpness of a gherkin.  What’s wrong with that?

I told her not to worry about it.  After all, I’m going to someone else’s house for the day and it would be churlish at best to reject all that amazing food she’ll be cooking, but just occasionally I’d like to celebrate in a way that I thought up.

That time will probably come, I’m sure.

These thoughts remind me of arguments with previous girls about the TV remote.  Just occasionally wanting to watch something they wanted, instead of always watching what I liked.

Funny how you get unrelated crossovers in life.

How to handle annoying family or friends

I can’t believe it’s almost time for Christmas again – time for laughter, time for cheer, time for friends, time for family, and time for that annoying person who just can’t take a hint.

“Steve, when are you going to get married and start a family?”

“Steve, have you found a nice girl yet?”

“Steve, I met a gorgeous girl at Tesco last week.”

My typical answers:

“Someday, just not today.”

“Don’t worry; I’ll let you know when it’s time to introduce you to someone.”

“That’s nice.”

Each year it seems to get more intense.  I think she means well, but I don’t think she understands that she’s turning my relaxing, enjoyable holiday into a stressful game of hide-and-seek.

I finally decided to arm myself this year by reading up on some ‘how-to-deal-with-stressful-people-at-the-holidays’ tips.  Here are some of my favourites:

  • Remember that you have the right to feel unhappy about how you’re being treated, but try not to sink to their level.  That would make the situation worse and stress you out even more.  Instead, try to be respectful and polite.
  • Take a deep breath!  If you’re getting worked up, try to stay calm so you don’t say or do something in anger or frustration.
  • Exit tactfully.  Say something non-committal and pacifist, then leave.  For instance, the next time I’m asked about having a girlfriend, I could laugh or shrug it off, then excuse myself.

If they still won’t leave you alone, try these less passive techniques:

  • Answer their question with a question of your own to put the stress on them.  For example, I could say, “What do you think I’ll say?”
  • Be polite but sarcastic.  Don’t be snarky, but there’s no harm in dismissing the question or giving a half-hearted answer.
  • Take an offensive strategy.  Approach the person before they come to you so that you have a bit more control over the conversation.  Even better, ask them something that will trouble them before they have a chance to start annoying you.
  • Get them to keep talking so they can admire themselves talking.  Some folks may grill you for information, but they really want to hear themselves talk.  Say something small that will prompt a story, or ask an open-ended question.  For instance, in my situation, I could say, “Well, when is so-and-so getting married?”  This (hopefully) gets me off the hook without actually answering the question.
  • Get rid of someone – either them or you.  You could ask them to do something that takes them out of the room, or you could excuse yourself and do it.  Something like retrieving something from storage, or finding out whether anyone is thirsty would do the trick.

Well, here’s hoping these tips work.  The good news is that I have time to practise before the big day!

Investing in our children’s future

Kids at school these days are getting better grades than ever. There could be various reasons for this. Some people claim that the exams are getting easier as the years go by; however, I accredit the improvement in GCSE and A-level grades to the rise of the internet.

I have a niece and a nephew, and I want them both to get the best grades that they possibly can. They are both way more tech savvy than myself, which makes me wonder what grades I would have achieved if I had had the same resources available when I was studying.

I previously mentioned a website called Marked by Teachers. This site really has amazed me, as the services that are provided were simply unheard of when I was at school and college. People are able to sign up to the service and upload their coursework and mock essays onto the system. Other students and teachers will then give feedback and advice on how to make them better. One of the other services Marked by Teachers provides is the option to have work marked by official examiners and moderators. This is available in virtually any subject and will give students a rough idea of what grades to expect.

As I said, I’d like my niece and nephew to get the best possible grades and so I feel compelled to pay the small fee to allow them to be able to have their upcoming work marked. So far I’ve found the service to yield excellent results and it is certainly something I’ll be using in the future, especially if my family expands and I end up having to look out for more little ones.

After looking on forums and getting some information on the Marked by Teachers website, I was surprised to discover that many people didn’t agree with the service and believed that is was a form of cheating. I really don’t understand this concept myself, especially since schools provide mock exams for the exact same purpose. Personally I don’t see what is wrong with trying to better yourself or trying to push kids a little more so they can get better results in their exams. In fact, I think it’s great that people care, especially if the kid is the one that makes the initial step. I believe this shows a great deal of initiative and perseverance.

If any of any of my readers think that these services are a form of cheating or a waste of time, I think they should have a quick think about the education system. After some consideration and thought, my opinion is that anyone with doubts will reach the same conclusion as myself: that these are brilliant services that deserve more recognition.

They may cost a little bit of money to use; however, the people running the service are trying to make a living. I wouldn’t mark somebody’s work for free and I’m sure most other people wouldn’t either.

The Battle of the Bathroom Fittings

Having lived in the same house for a couple of years, one will inevitably reach a stage where the Lady of the House feels the bathroom is getting tired. This is especially likely to happen after a visit to her rich cousin or her high-school friend who happen to have married a millionaire. If you’re lucky, you might get away with a couple of elegant new bathroom fittings.  If you’re unlucky the process will involve renovating the whole bathroom. I recently found myself firmly in the second category. My input in the whole exercise, apart from having to pay for everything, was largely that of an intelligent advisor. Ever since I failed woodwork in grade eight I’ve never quite regained my trust in my abilities as a handyman. I selected the contractor and I uttered the required ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ when the lady showed me what the end product would look like. But to be honest to be a bathroom is a place where I take a shower and shave. I want the floor to be non-slippery and the whole environment should be brilliantly white and clean. That’s in fact all I want from my bathroom. Unfortunately the lady wants more. Which is quite understandable, since she spends a lot more time there than me. And with the beautiful (and quite expensive) new bathroom fittings which have now been installed she spends even more time there. In her mind she probably compares the new tabs and tubs with that of her rich cousin. So far she seems to be happy with them, because when she comes out of the bathroom she always has that strange look on her face which I have come to recognise as that of a woman who have won a battle. I must admit I love the new non-slippery, water resistant bath mats. And the new bath is a lot bigger than the old one, so instead of showering I do now and again indulge myself and spend some time lingering in the tub, thinking of my next blog. At least I’m getting some value for my money that way.