Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Usual Nonsense

After a lovely, child-free weekend in Frome last week, the karmic balance is now being restored by the ordeal of a half term holiday. As much as I love my sons, I am getting rather tired of repeating this particular conversation twice a day:

"Dad, can I have something to eat?"

"Okay, what would you like?"

"I don't know."

"Well that doesn't really get me anywhere. What about some toast?"

"No thanks."

"A croissant?"

"No, I don't like them any more."

"Carrot sticks?"

"No." (said with a weary sigh).

"Well, let's go into the kitchen and see what there is, shall we?" (said through gritted teeth).

We go into the kitchen and despite being presented with a full cupboard of cakes, crisps, biscuits, fresh bread, stale bread, cereal, nuts and various bars, I feel as if I have somehow failed. Eventually, a packet of crisps is begrudgingly accepted and I feel as if I'm the one who is being done a favour.

I think my younger son's still cross with me for tumble drying one of our cats (I did stop the machine as soon as I heard a strange bumping noise, I hasten to add).

Written down here, it all sounds incredibly petty, but one should never underestimate the power of a dripping tap.

Perhaps this was why I found myself being infuriated by almost everything I saw this morning, during a brief shopping trip to Brighton.

The chief offenders were as follows:

1. Jeans with holes in the knees:

I am neither a genuphobe nor a knee fetishist. Indeed, I am completely indifferent on the subject of knees, but these jeans offend me. The ripped jeans of the 80s were pretty daft, but at least the tear appeared vaguely natural. These just look stupid and I feel irrationally annoyed by everyone I see who wears them.

2. Hipster beards:

Long beards are fine in the 1892 England cricket team, or at an Iranian theological conference, but on the streets of Brighton they are just irritating. Why are so many young men slavishly following this trend? It's no longer just poncy, middle class men, sitting outside a chi chi cafe, pretending that it's perfectly normal to have a typewriter; I've also seen builders who look like Brahms.

I suppose that the one plus side of this trend is that it makes it harder for Islamist gunmen to distinguish between believers and infidels.

3. Mad eyebrows:

Feeling compelled to pluck one's eyebrows to the point of oblivion is wrong, but the pedulum seems to have swung too far in the other direction, hasn't it? Whose bright idea was it to introduce eyebrows that look like Groucho Marx's moustache? In the history of fashion, I think this trend will be regarded as a brief moment of madness, like bubble skirts and spray-painted DMs.

4. Man-buns:
I suppose this hairsyle can be useful if you have a bald patch that you want to cover - it's certainly more windproof than the traditional comb-over, but I'm not a fan.

It reminds me of those gormless-looking backpackers who use to congregate in Traflagar Square and have a strand of their hair threaded with beads, to show how deep they were: "I'm part of a global consciousness. I'm really into World music. Let's sing some Manu Chao - has Jens got his didgeridoo on him?"

I know I'm being grumpy and petty. I think it's probably a dental abscess that's exacerbated my mildly misanthropic tendancies. I've been taking antibiotics for over a week and nothing has changed. Perhaps I've entered the post-antibiotic age, in which case I'm doomed.

On a more upbeat note, my weekend in Somerset was a pleasure from start to finish. Frome is one of the most interesting and visually appealing towns I've visited, full of eccentric delights. I was also introduced to a beautiful village I'd never heard of, which turned out to be the setting for one of the most notorious murders in Victorian England.

The house below features in Kate Summerscale's marvellous book, The Suspicion of Mr Whicher, which I read as soon as I got back from Somerset. It's extraordinary how little both the house and the village appear to have changed, physically, at least.

A weekend of good company and interesting discoveries lifted the spirits. There was a time when I wanted to walk the Machu Picchu trail, or go on the Trans-Siberian Railway, but these days a mere two days in Somerset is all I need to clear away the cobwebs.


Dale said...

I don't want to exacerbate your blood pressure, Steerforth, but an 80 year old friend of mine has just had her missing eyebrows tattooed in place again.

The ladies in our social group think the result so splendid that several have booked in for the treatment. Hopefully none of them will end up like the unfortunate girl you picture, but drawing in one's missing brows becomes such a chore, and increasingly fuzzy eyesight and unsteady hands only add to the potential for accidental hilarity.

One's eyebrows do seem to go partially AWOL later in life - except for those old chaps whose entire hirsuitical effort switches into producing what looks like a disorderly bird's nest over each eye. Grooming, darlings, grooming, and don't forget the nose and ears either. Or for Father Jack, the hairy hands.

sustainablemum said...

Frome used to be my local town for a while it is delightfully eccentric isn't it? There are a few other places in that area like that too!

Little Nell said...

I’m still laughing about builders who look like Brahms!

Anonymous said...

Basically, modern life is crap, isn't it? It's the beards that finish me off - we had a regular parcelforce man who deliverd to work with the thing waxed into position and we wanted to hold him down and shave him.....


Steerforth said...

Dale - Yes, grooming is everything. Some people say that my hair is thinning. It's not - it's just relocating to my ears and nose. How I laughed at those adverts for the ear and nose trimmer when I was a callous youth. I'm not laughing now.

Sustainablemum - It's a fantastic area, with lovely countryside and beautiful towns and villages, not to mention the cities of Bath and Bristol. I was very taken with everything I saw.

Little Nell - I couldn't believe it when I first saw it. The hipster beards seemed so thoroughly middle class, I didn't think they'd ever be adopted by the working man. How wrong I was. It's very disconcerting seeing a roofer who looks like Tsar Nicholas.

Kaggsy - I'm not beardist, but it is irritating when people express their individuality by copying the latest look. I think you should hold your Parcelforce man down and shave him - just say you're doing it for Children in Need and he probably won't prosecute.

Flavia said...

How exciting to see your own snap from Rode, as I read The Suspicions of Mr Whicher (very well done, though True Crime's definitely not my usual genre) only last week and felt a thrill of connection that Constance latterly established a nursing home in East Maitland -- the next town over from us in Maitland proper (formerly West Maitland). I don't think that's made anything of by the local historical society, will have to check.

Erika said...

The house immediately reminded me of The Franchise Affair - suspect it was the wall.

And I just don't get the distressed jeans - too many years spent patching mine. At least one pair was a work of art it had so many patches!

Rog said...

"pretending that it's perfectly normal to have a typewriter; "
Double amusement as I am a purveyor of such machines :-)

Pira Urosevic said...

While I conceed it could be age, I suspect it's just that you were a bit too highly tuned-in to the current absurdities of the day to let it go without mention. It's one thing to avoid stupidity by not listening to idiots, but there is little to be done about the visual barrage you are presented with in the course of your day.... that doesn't involve blundering about wearing a sack over your head. The constabulary in particular would not take kindly to the operation of motor vehicles while sporting such things.

The only point I don't agree with...is the man bun. I think it's only fair that males with long hair should be able to pull their locks neatly back from their faces, just as women are. It strikes me as practical, which can't be said for most other fashions that irk you.

George said...

With all due disrespect to current fashions, I still have to say that I don't much care. I am grateful that my wife hasn't seen many pictures of me as I was in my late teens and some of my twenties: facial hair ranging from long sideburns to a full beard (but not a hipster one), jeans so tight that it required effort to stuff my hands into them, hair cut every four or five months. No doubt my appearance offended all right-thinking persons, and that was in part what I had in mind. Else why would I have put up with the bother of such inconvenient jeans, and with having to push my hair out of my face so often? A surprising number of the persons wearing jeans with holed knees look to me to be well beyond their twenties, it is true.

Though I have had long hair, I've never had the urge to catch it back. I do occasionally admire the way a pony tail adds to the impression of a runner's speed. Mostly I see this with young women; I used to run now and then with a male friend who wore a pony tail, but since we were generally shoulder to shoulder I don't remember whether his produced same impression. A man bun (or a woman bun) won't make a nine-minute mile look like a six-minute mile.

helenalex said...

I am reliably informed (by men with beards) that the beard thing is about one third fashion and two thirds men seizing the opportunity to not shave.

Unknown said...

You have to pay extra to have the designer rips in your jeans too... ridiculous. I'm with you on 2 & 3 too, but have to say I don't mind a man-bun! But men who use too much 'product' in their hair and spend hours doing it ...

SmitoniusAndSonata said...

You're being rather harsh ... I like Manu Chao's music !

Unknown said...

At a recent meeting at a Shoreditch-based advertising agency, everyone around the table (there were six of them, all men) had a preposterous beard. At the next meeting, I was introduced to a new member of the team. Again a man, and again a preposterous beard. I said 'At least you have a beard too. I would have felt very uncomfortable if you hadn't' to which there was a ripple of nervous titters around the table

Steerforth said...

Flvia - My wife described the book as "posh True Crime" and I can see what she meant. The crime itself almost takes a back seat to the fascinating historical panorama and the writing is first class. I'd warmly record Kate Summerscale's first book, The Queen of Whale Cay, which is a hilarious biography of a lesbian speedboat champion of the 1930s and 40s.

Erika - I know what you mean, although I'd always imagined the house in The Franchise Affair to be a little more ordinary. I was surprised at how big this house was, given that it's owner had a middle management role in the Civil Service.

Rog - I never thought that typewriters would be fashionable again. We dumped ours, like many people probably did. If only I'd known that the good hipsters of Shoreditch would one day pay a small fortune for them.

Pira - Okay, I'll reluctantly allow the man bun then, but can I have a rule that prevents any man over 35 having one (along with a pony tail)?

George - Yes, I've seen the jeans with holes on women who should be old enough better. You can get away with a silly fashion when you're 18, but at 38 it looks rather tragic. I remember the tight jeans very well - I didn't wear them because I read a rather alarmist article that threatened infertility and other testicular woes, but most of my friends did and they spent ages getting changed.

Helenalex - Unshaven is one thing; Karl Marx is another. Some people can get away with it - a friend I met in Frome has the gravitas and talent to wear his beard well, so I wouldn't restrict rather than ban them.

Annabel - There's another men's hair trend which is a bit 'bouffant', assisted by plenty of product. It looks a bit poncy, but I'm probably just being jealous because my hair's so thin now, I never have to worry when there's a nit epidemic at the local school.

SmitoniusandSonata - Well, you're not alone. He's incredibly popular. I won't say anything rude about him, as musical taste is such a subjective matter, but I'm not keen on his blend of different styles.

Kathryn - Well done for gently taking the piss out of them.

Kathryn -

Canadian Chickadee said...

This is truly a wonderful post, Steerforth.

A few comments: Perhaps the knees on the girl's jeans were cut so that she could actually bend her knees? For some weird reason, for several years, girls' jeans have gotten tighter and tighter, while boys' pants have gotten sloppier and baggier. Go figure.

I agree with you completely about the beard situation. In North America, the main culprit is a cult-favourite TV show called "Duck Dynasty," populated by the most ghastly ungroomed family of Neanderthals this side of the ice age.

I always thought man buns were a result of the spate of martial arts movies, because the wearer always looks as if he's impersonating a samurai to me.

Cheers to you for a wonderful post. xoxoxx

Peter Sipe said...

This post makes me want to ask how you like photos of coffee, then run like I've lit a stick of dynamite!

Also, I've added "The Brahms Builders" to my fantasy list of band names.

If I were granted three wishes, one would be to not have to shave anymore. Boy, do I hate it. When I read "Just Lather, That's All" (a memorable short story about a barber with a shaving dilemma) with my students, I preface it with a rambling jeremiad that ends only when I record a quorum of yawns.

Brett said...

I've been threatening to wear a fake beard to work: the kind that hooks over your ears, like the "women" wear in "Life of Brian".

Yes, the man buns make me think of samurai too.

Anonymous said...

"Genuphobe!" You, sir, are my hero. That is my new word. I may even start an Instagram account dedicated to genuphobia. Knees can be terrifying.

Steerforth said...

Carol - I'm very worried about the danger of Housemaid's Knee to our young women, when they scrub the floors and steps of their homes. In 20 years' time, when their knees are rough and hardened, they'll regret slavishly following this foolish trend.

Peter - I hate shaving too - I usually end up looking like an extra from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I've nothing against facial hair and if it didn't feel so odd, I'd happily grow a beard. But now I feel that I have to remain clean shaven on principle.

As for the photos of cups of coffee - don't get me started! It's bad enough having to look at pictures of peoples cats, but the coffee is taking it to a whole new level of tedium.

Brett - Your library users will start identifying you as "the man without a beard". A false beard will keep them on their toes - will you go for a Grizzly Adams, a Charles Darwin or a Tsar Nicholas II?

James - I'm largely neutral on the subject of knees, but looking at them in isolation is rather unsettling, like a knee version of Samuel Beckett's 'Not I'. If you start an Instagram account for this, you may attract the wrong sort of person.

Geranium Incognito said...

When my daughter was young, she had a lot of rubber soled shoes that could be washed and dried. I had to endure regular thumping when they were in the dryer, but it was better than muddy floors. One day I tossed a load in the dryer and heard the usual thump-thump-thump as I walked away and the drum began to spin. A couple of minutes later the thought popped into my mind that I hadn't put any of my girl's shoes into the washer that day. So why the thumping? I thought I'd better check. When I opened the dryer, a gray rag staggered out. It was our kitten! I was new to cats at the time and it had not even entered my mind that he could have been the cause of the thumping. I still get chills at the thought of what would have happened if there had been any shoes in the washload that day.

As for that abscess, I was going to write that you might need a different antibiotic if the pain still hasn't gone away. But upon checking, I see that it's been a week since you wrote your post. Hope it's all better now.

Steerforth said...

Geranium - It's easily done. Unfortunately, some people seemed to think that I was vaguely responsible, as they knew I don't like having cats, but my conscience is clear. Thank God you got your kitten out in time - that would have been awful for your daughter (and not particularly good for the kitten either).

Re: the abscess - I'm now on two different antibiotics at the same time, which are making me tired and even grumpier. It's helped a little, but I suspect an extraction is on the cards. I can't afford an implant for £2000, so as the old joke goes, I shall go from being tough and ruthless to rough and toothless.

zmkc said...

You made me look up dental abscess &, in case anyone else thinks of doing so, I'd like to warn them that the Wikipedia entry thrusts a very vivid & alarming photograph at you before you have a chance to hide your eyes. Hope yours is better.

Lucy Melford said...

I think you could add two long-time pet hates of mine which surely you share also: young men who wear (a) baseball caps the wrong way round, so that the peak overhangs the back of their neck, and simultaneously wear (b) shapeless baggy jeans that seem to be on the point of falling down to the ground, so low down is the crotch.

Why this get-up is considered cool escapes me. And the wearers all seem to possess an inane giggling outlook on life, and a chimpanzee gait. I'd like to trip them up and wipe the silly expressions off their faces, I can tell you.

Mind you, I dare say they have their own views on my usual hairstyle, accent and general lack of street cred.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps you could post a picture of yourself as a benchmark as you are obviously perfect! If people what to buy exposed knee jeans why not? Same for beards and man buns...it's not what you wear but how you wear it!

Steerforth said...

If we take that attitude, then there's no fun to be had in ranting about relatively trivial issues. I can only assume that you fall into again least one of these categories, which is why you take exception. As for me, I am a fallen Adonis.

Steerforth said...

If we take that attitude, then there's no fun to be had in ranting about relatively trivial issues. I can only assume that you fall into again least one of these categories, which is why you take exception. As for me, I am a fallen Adonis.

Anonymous said...

Truth hurts :)