Archive for March, 2009


Skin cancer or rickets? Between a rock and a hard place again

I think it’s important to give children choices – it helps them prepare for the pressures of adulthood, teaches them responsibility and most importantly, it takes the pressure off me.

Only yesterday I empowered my offspring with yet another choice: would you like to contract skin cancer, or would you prefer rickets, bad teeth and breast/colon or prostrate cancer? As usual, they selfishly picked the option that would cost me the most money.

After spending years telling us that we should cover up in the sun to block out the harmful UVA and UVB radiation, scientists are now telling us that too little direct exposure to sunlight is harmful to our health.

According to the Cancer Council of Australia, most of us are lacking in vitamin D, which is manfactured in the skin when it is exposed to sunlight and which may have a protective effect against certain cancers by preventing the overproduction of cells.

This is bad news on several levels.

For years I have been dipping my children in industrial-sized vats of SPF 250, which means I could leave them in the oven for 45 minutes at Gas Mark 6 and they still wouldn’t get a tan. It has cost me a small fortune.

Holidays have been routinely ruined by my compulsion to coat the kids in sunblock. Despite always arriving at the beach at 8am, by the time I had correctly applied sunblock to each child it was inevitably 11pm and pitch black. The only way we made it back to our car was by virtue of the fact that I’d used that luminous “fun” suncream which meant the kids could light our path to safety.

On this note, the day-glo sunblock had another benefit; it made the children look like extras from a particularly poor episode of Doctor Who, circa 1973 – five minutes after sun cream application they were coated in grit like ambulatory rolls of glowing sandpaper.

This meant that no other child on the beach, unless they were wearing welding goggles and were fans of video nasties, would talk to them, which in turn meant I didn’t have to share pointless conversation with said children’s mind-numbingly tedious parents.

Ah, how fondly I remember the good old days when the ozone layer was a silent killer and the sun was our enemy.

Proof that the sun (see upper left hand corner) turns you into a Satanist with sunburn

Proof that the sun (see upper left hand corner) turns you into a Satanist. Oh, hang on, that's the novelty sunblock. As you were.

Now the Australians are claiming that we should send our tender-skinned babes into the glaring sun with no SPF protection whatsoever for at least 15 minutes a day so they can soak up the vitamin D.

Yes, your children may stagger back indoors cooked to a crisp and complaining of dehydration, but at least they’ll have lovely strong teeth, good bone structure and will look slightly less like you put them to bed under a dank stone every night.

Even if you do bake your kids in the sun for quarter of an hour every day, it still won’t prevent them becoming deficient in the winter, by virtue of the fact that our bodies can only store vitamin D for a maximum of 60 days. The only way we Brits could keep our vitamin D levels topped up naturally would be to have year-long summers and the only way to have year-long summers is for us all to start releasing some CFCs into the atmosphere – fast.

This creates a real dilemma for my daughter, who recently announced that she had become an “eco councillor” at school, which appears to involve knowing where the school compost bucket is and being sanctimonious about clingfilm.

So I decided to hand the balance of power over to her by offering her yet another choice: do you want to die a horribly slow, painful death, or do you want to help mummy spray paint the house and smash up a few fridges?

Eco councillor my arse.

* I used suncream on the children for the first time this year yesterday. Then I scraped it all off for 15 minutes before reapplying it – by the time we got outside, the sun had disappeared entirely. Are you satisfied, Cancer Council of Australia? Well?

*** All new singing and dancing newspaper column by the Woman in Black here . Get to find out what I’m doing IN REAL LIFE. God, I spoil you lot. ***


Newsflash: Hollywood directors are ageist and sexist. Next they’ll be telling us the world isn’t flat.

Actress Hope Davis has broken rank and criticised the Hollywood producers that asked her to play Johnny Depp’s mother despite the fact she’s a year younger than him.

She admitted to feeling “peeved” at the fact that producers want to cast young, attractive women to play older roles, rather than the older women themselves. Hang on a minute – Hollywood obsessed with youth and beauty? Swipe me, Guvnor, I had no idea.

Last year, Demi Moore complained about the ageism she was encountering in Tinseltown, and claimed she couldn’t land roles due to the inherent sexism in Hollywood. Having spent an estimated $450k on cosmetic surgery to defy Old Father Time, physics and reason, Demi now looks younger than I did when I was born.

Demi Moore today: She does it all with smoke and mirrors

Demi Moore today: And they said my long lens and periscope were extravagances

But despite the knee lifts, the nose jobs, the suction, the peels, the implants, the personal trainer, the yoga, the kick-boxing, the live-in nutritionist, the time machine, the virgin’s tears, the portrait ageing in the attic and the pact with Satan, she’s still struggling to find anyone interested in giving her a job.

“It has been a challenging few years, being the age I am, almost to the point where I felt like, well, they don’t know what to do with me,” said Demi.

“I’m not 20. Not 30. There aren’t that many good roles for women over 40. A lot of them don’t have much substance, other than being someone’s mother or wife.”

An artists impression of Demi striking the same pose if she hadnt succumbed to the knife

An artist's impression of Demi striking the same pose if she hadn't succumbed to the knife

A wife or mother not being a substantial role? That’s fighting talk, love, especially when your face is held on with a few staples and a couple of elastic bands.

But I take Demi and Hope’s point. There are plenty of meaty film roles for men in their 40s and 50s, and hardly any for terrifying cyborgs of indeterminate age or acting ability.

Of course what Demi really needs to do is latch herself on to the next Tarantino, a director who can cast ‘ironic’ leads and make them look cool even if their last role was as the father of a baby with Bruce Willis’ voice.

Back in the day, when Tarantino’s films weren’t all five day-long self-satisfied claptrap packed with mastubatory images of women stroking samurai swords, he was able to resurrect careers which had been on life-support machines for years.

In the 1990s, Tarantino could have cast Pat Sharp (disc jockey and nob jockey)  and Princess Anne (budget version of the Queen) in a film and everyone would have applauded like seals.

Sadly, these days Tarantino is rubbish, so he can’t offer any help – in fact he’s probably only another film away from being cast in someone else’s film as a stroke of post-modern irony.

But there is hope: it can’t be long before surgeons master talent implants and when they do, we can only hope that Demi’s at the head of the queue.

(I don’t know enough about Hope Davis to belittle her. Not that this would usually stop me, but it’s Earth Hour soon and I’m helping the planet by not researching her on Google. Don’t thank me, I’m just an everyday hero trying to do my bit.)


Things you should know before you spring clean (number one, don’t bother)

By nature, I am a tidy, clean person whose delicate sensibilities are assaulted by dirt, clutter or mess.

I, like William Morris, the famous designer of gaudy wallpaper much loved by the colour-blind and terminally smug, believe that nothing should be in one’s house which is neither useful nor beautiful. Sadly, by transposing this mantra to the contents of my house, not much would be left. The kids would scrape through on the latter clause, perhaps, but I’m not sure I’d meet either of the criteria.

No one else in my house is either clean or tidy. They are slatternly, filthy and strew their detritus over impossibly large surface areas. I know it’s fashionable to say that children should get dirty/lick germs off the floor/surf on landfill sites etc, but in fairness, the people who say this kind of trite nonsense aren’t standing by the washing machine offering to do my laundry. I’m all for a bit of dirt. Just not a huge amount of dirt. Especially if it’s trodden into my bed and discovered at 2am when I’m half-cut and unable to remember my own name, let alone how to operate a vacuum cleaner.

All my lofty ideas about dressing my children in natural fibres so their innocent skin could breathe without being hampered by a layer of chemicals went out of the window when I realised that they were both far too toxic to wear anything hewn from hessian or hemp.  Five minutes in linen and  my children will look as if they’ve just crawled out of a skip, even if you’ve kept them in a hermetically-sealed, empty Perspex box since the moment they got changed.

But still I persevere. And so, it comes to pass that it is time to ‘deep cleanse’ the house, a job that should by rights involve the chemical incident unit from the local fire station, a battalion of obsessive compulsive cleaners and an exorcist, but which in reality involves me with a rag and some Mr Muscle.

I think its healthy for the children to get really dirty. Oh yeah? This is their bathroom in 15 years time. After theyve cleaned it

"I think it's healthy for the children to get really dirty." Oh yeah? This is their bathroom in 15 years time. After they've cleaned it

In the true spirit of one who procrastinates about procrastinating, I have devised a handy 10 point list to help all of you out there who are contemplating a spring clean in the near future. By reading it, you are wasting precious scrubbing time. Read it twice. Read it until it’s summer and therefore illegal to spring clean in all civilised parts of the world.

1)    The custom of an annual spring clean began more than 3,500 years ago when an ancient Jewish tradition involved thoroughly cleansing the home in anticipation of the spring-time holiday of Passover. The idea was to remove any leavened foodstuffs (generally breadcrumbs) from the house – ‘bedikat chametz’ involved searching for crumbs by candlelight. In the olden days, this passed as entertainment.

2)    In Britain, the practice was adopted in springtime because, after dusting, the high winds of March would blow away any debris. Or blow it around the house, one or the other.

3)    You know that you are mentally prepared for the mammoth task of cleaning your house from top to bottom when you can answer ‘yes’ to the following question: “Can I cope with whatever horrors might be lurking behind the fridge?” Only the hardcore make it past this particular deal-breaker, fewer still cope with pulling the oven out to have a look at what’s underneath (I believe I may have struck oil behind mine. Other options are too distressing to contemplate). 

4)    Typing ‘spring cleaning’ into Google throws up around 277,000 entries – proof, if ever it were needed, that people will do absolutely anything to avoid getting out the dusters and the window cleaner, including building their own spring cleaning tips websites.

5)    Using ‘fun’ spring cleaning products, like leopardskin-patterned dustpan and brush sets or a hilarious pair of rubber gloves with fake ermine cuffs, will not make the actual task any less miserable, sadly. It will just make it a miserable task you are completing while looking like a total twat.

6)    You don’t have to use industrial amounts of chemicals to clean your house – you can use vinegar for most jobs, instead. Then, in addition to being clean, your house will smell like a pickling factory, a fish and chip shop or a particularly rancid tramp.

Ive cleaned the toilet. I want you to make a real effort not to ever use it again.

"I've cleaned the toilet. I want you to make a real effort to never use it again."

7)    Always clean from top to bottom. If you live in a bungalow or a flat, consider yourself completely exempt from spring cleaning due to circumstances completely out of your control.

8)    Snow White famously spring-cleaned the dwarves’ cottage with the help of her forest friends. Your family pets are highly unlikely to offer anything but a hindrance and are very possibly the reason you need to spring clean in the first place.

9)    If you simply can’t motivate yourself to spring clean, make a point of seeing the positive side of living in impenetrable filth. Those cobwebs are a ready-made Halloween decoration, and if you spray them with a little glitter they’ll look a treat at Christmas.

10) Ardent spring cleaners won’t just stop when the house is sparkling. With the merest encouragement they will also start zealously spring cleaning their finances, their relationship and their entire lives. These people must be avoided at all costs unless you are amongst their number or enjoy feeling deeply insecure, worthless and desperate.

 Thus far, I have cleaned out one drawer, and I am utterly exhausted. Next stop: dusting the Tequila bottle.


Name my hamster before my kids call it something really crap.

It’s that time again, another hamster has gone to the eternal wheel in the sky, and has been replaced by a new rodent – an as-yet-unnamed miniature rat with a preposterously huge arse.


Im not joking - I took our first hamsters back twice because I couldnt accept that their arses could be this freaking huge

I'm not joking - I took our first hamsters back twice because I couldn't accept that their arses could be this freaking huge

And so the naming hell begins. My children wanted to call the new arrival Buttboy, but I vetoed it on the grounds that they have Bebo and MySpace pages and I didn’t want them getting the kind of ‘granny vagina’ search engine perverts that I attract visiting their sites. They’re MY readers: I need the hits, they don’t.

The naming fiasco reminds me of the Blue Peter (for those who are nonplussed, it’s a kind of gentle , hypnotically boring children’s magazine programme on the BBC that has been running for several thousand years) ‘Cookie-gate’ scandal which saw the naming of a cat cause national outrage in what became the ultimate example of purrlitical correctness gone mad.

In January 2007, children were introduced to the new Blue Peter kitten and asked to suggest names that would suit him. They sent suggestions in their thousands, and then voted for their favourite name on the show’s website.

The first choice was Cookie, the second choice was Socks. My suggestions – Hitler, Princess Diana, The Boston Strangler and Crippen – were pipped at the post, although a subsequent email from the programme’s producers promised they would be kept on file just in case the 700-year-old tortoise pops his clogs and has to be replaced and renamed in a hurry.

Despite having offered children the carrot of democracy, it was swiftly grated into the salad of deception by a streetwise production crew who pointed out that ‘cookie’ is a slang term for a lady’s hoohah (hoohah being a technical term which refers to a woman’s thingy) and that to avoid mass revulsion, the BP cat would have to be called Socks, instead.


Who you calling a pussy?

Socks/Cookie: "Who you calling a pussy?"


Now I pride myself on being able to out-swear the most foul-mouthed of troopers, but I’ve never heard the word ‘cookie’ used as anything other than a term for a cake-like biscuit. When my son asked for cookies and milk, I had no idea that he was subversively denigrating the female reproductive system by using offensive slang – obviously now that I do, I’ve locked him in the cellar with a pile of bras to burn until he learns the error of his ways.

Anyway, the Blue Peter cat was given his new name and free speech was crushed under the jack boot of adult oppression which then marched onwards to dupe young viewers again in a fake phone-in scandal which cost the BBC (in other words the licence payers) a £50,000 fine.

The show lost its editor over Cookie-gate and the BBC announced that it would be introducing another weekly episode of Blue Peter (itself a porn star’s name if ever I heard one) in order to allow the presenters to apologise for all the show’s other past untruths, including the time Valerie Singleton once suggested a group of plump majorettes from Huddersfield would be entertaining.

My own children remained distinctly unmoved by the Cookie scandal, mainly because they ignore Blue Peter on the grounds that it’s boring. If they knew it was packed full of lies, they might be considerably more interested in tuning in.

Blue Peter has always been boring, the kind of parent-approved tripe that was always the consolation prize when Grange Hill wasn’t on, packed as it was with tedious historical re-enactments, devilishly difficult craft projects and a creepy obsession with abseiling.

If you managed to watch an entire episode of Blue Peter without at least one presenter pointlessly abseiling from a great height, you were doing well. If you managed to watch an episode where no-one abseiled, made an Iceni village out of lolly sticks, introduced an item about a boring group of Brownies from Bangor or mentioned the sodding Advent Crown, you were doing really well.

It’s not for nothing that the only nostalgic clip from Blue Peter that anyone remembers is that elephant emptying its bowels on the studio floor – when your cultural significance is measured by a steaming pile of crap you have to start asking yourself a few searching questions.


Youll never guess what the elephant did next! Oh. Youve seen this clip nine million times before. Ah.

"You'll never guess what the elephant did next! Oh. You've seen this clip nine million times before. Ah."


By the time I started watching Blue Peter, which I did because there was literally nothing else on television and because watching people abseil off multi-storey car parks was marginally more interesting than attempting my maths homework, there weren’t even any elephants with irritable bowel syndrome to lighten the proceedings.

The most exciting it got was when Simon Groom said: “what a lovely pair of knockers!” when admiring some door furniture on Durham Cathedral, and frankly, children cannot survive on boob jokes alone. As it was, I practically topped myself when Blue Peter added an extra weekly episode.

No-one at my school liked Blue Peter. When someone won a BP badge for sending in a suggestion about shredded newspaper being a suitable alternative for straw in Freda the tortoise’s hibernation box, they were shunned by their peers for weeks.

Admitting you watched Blue Peter was like confessing that you had a penchant for Songs of Praise and Antiques Roadshow and that in your spare time you liked composing poems for the baby Jesus and accompanying your Nan to her appointments at the podiatrist’s to have her corns lanced.

Frankly, I’m not sure how many more lies from Blue Peter I can take before I actually have to start watching it again in order to learn how to lie to my own children more effectively. After all, if the naming of a cat made the national news, heaven knows what’s going to happen when the kids find out about Father Christmas.

*** Special ‘Two for One’ offer today, and indeed every Monday unless I can’t be bothered – the WIB’s newspaper column, this week with added bitterness and bile! Wrote less than normal this week, so you get more eye/nostril action for your money – oh yeah, I treat you real nice. The Woman in Black at work

PS I do not write the straplines for my page. That fucking exclamation mark isn’t my doing – it’s the cat’s arse of punctuation and should be used sparingly, like chillies or bleach.

PPS Any hamster names gratefully received. They’ve already turned down ‘Fritzl’. No sense of humour, my kids.


Thanks to Class A drug dealers I’ve got blocked sinuses. It’s not what you think.

Come on, then, own up – which one of you has been buying up every packet of my favourite decongestant in order to keep your crack business afloat?

I’ve spent years experimenting with all manner of decongestants in a bid to clear my blocked sinuses, and after much research, have found the particular brand that does the job in a matter of minutes.

This brand, which I won’t name in case those of you with spare supplies in the medicine cabinet suddenly get the urge to set up your own crack-making factory, is the only sinus medication I’ve ever found which actually does what it says on the packet. Sadly, what it doesn’t say on the packet is that with very little chemical know-how, you can turn an innocent sinus remedy into crack: I always wondered why it was so moreish.

I’ve had problems with my sinuses for as long as I can remember. On a bad day, I sound like Donald Duck using a microphone underwater and feel as if I’ve had a man round to fit cavity wall insulation in my face.


Blocked sinuses even make my skeleton miserable

Blocked sinuses even make my skeleton miserable

My sinuses are like pinecones, or seaweed, or those strange little German model houses where a woman pops out if it’s going to rain (probably because she’s the only one likely to get the washing in). The boy in The Sixth Sense could see dead people, I can smell imminent changes in the weather: I think he got the better deal.

As fresh, shiny, different weather approaches, my sinuses begin to tingle. In the calm immediately before the storm/snow flurry/heatwave my sinuses slowly begin to fill with whatever it is that sinuses fill with (snot? Blood? Holy water? Gin?) until they reach capacity.

Once they’re full, nothing short of my magic medication, or possibly blowing off half my face with TNT, will shift the blockage.

It’s not even as if I can take comfort in the fact that I can always predict the weather – although I know that it’s about to change, I’ve no idea whatsoever as to what that change will involve. Before last year’s (fey and unremarkable) earthquake, my sinuses went mental. I could have made a fortune at the bookies: as soothsayers go, I’m marginally more effective than Michael Fish on the eve of a hurricane*.

Up until recently, Britain’s ever-changing weather was of no more concern to me than it is to anyone who habitually forgets to carry an umbrella, because I was able to hotfoot it to the bathroom, or to a chemist’s to pick up the particular brand of decongestant which I shall call, in fear of legal action, Sinu-blast.

Two tablets of Sinu-blast and I was back to normal, or what passes for normal with me.

But thanks to a bleak winter packed with more atmospheric changes than in Salem’s Lot, my  usually impressive stock of Sinu-blast is perilously depleted. I headed to the chemist to restock, only to be told that there was a national shortage of my favourite brand due to – said in whispered tones – ‘druggies’.

After further questioning, I discovered that Sinu-blast contains a particular ingredient, which again I won’t mention on the off-chance that you discover it in something else and then sue me when you fail to manufacture passable crack, that dealers are using to make a class A drug.

Well thanks a lot, class A drug dealers. Thanks a fucking bunch. Because of you and your money-making budget crack (a £20,000 return on a £1,000 Sinu-blast investment – you have to admit the figures add up) I’m now marooned in a world of pain, waiting desperately for some honest-to-goodness boringly predictable weather.

I’m struck by the irony of dealers cooking up a decongestant drug to sell to people whose sinuses probably melted years ago while those of us with sinuses like airbags after a head-on collision suffer in silence. I even considered asking the doctor to refer me for an operation, but then I saw this:


On balance, Id rather be in agony, thanks

On balance, I'd rather be in agony, thanks

And I changed my mind.

It’s bad enough to discover that it’s bits of brain that are blocking my sinuses: I’m struggling hard to keep hold of the grey matter I’ve got, the last thing I need is to have my brain removed through my nostrils, Egyptian mummy-style.

 * Legendary BBC weather forecaster who confidently told the nation in October 1987 that rumours of a hurricane were false. A few hours later, a hurricane had ripped through the UK killing 19 and causing record damage. Shit happens though, yeah?


Do anti-ageing creams work? Ask Josef Fritzl

It’s important not to let yourself go, even if you’re locked in a prison cell awaiting trial for abducting your daughter and forcing her to live in a sex dungeon with your secret family.

It came as news to me, but apparently prisons aren’t like long-stay spas, they’re rather grim, bleak places without any Chanel concessions, hot stone therapists, life coaches or nail bars. I know: just imagine.

Josef Fritzl, Austria’s other monster with a penchant for hidden underground bunkers asked for a ready supply of anti-ageing creams to be delivered to him in his cell. Because he’s worth it.


BEFORE: Ridges deeper than the undersea Cayman Trough

BEFORE: Ridges deeper than the undersea Cayman Trough

Being a maniac is terribly unflattering to the complexion – the worry lines alone can add at least another 10 years to your face, and the dust created by excavating under your house to construct your own underground incest cave is awfully drying.

Seventy-three-year-old Fritzl was keen to look as youthful as possible for his trial,  which began today, although frankly the only anti-ageing treatment likely to stop his wrinkles in their tracks is going to be death, or at the very least course sandpaper and an industrial plane.

AFTER: The fine lines, wrinkles and age spots have completely disappeared. Its a miracle!

AFTER: The fine lines, wrinkles and age spots have completely disappeared. It's a miracle!

Having studied the ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures of Fritzl, I have to say that I am deeply impressed by his miraculous transformation. He genuinely looks decades younger – indeed he could be a college student with alopecia. I am chalking this up as a victory for anti-ageing creams (not that I need them – I have the youthful appearance of a 20-year-old supermodel despite being in my late 80s. Thank you, Satan).

* Please continue to support the Woman in Black at work. Your hits last week were gratefully appreciated, but one swallow does not a summer make (although my first boyfriend might disagree). Come and visit my giant eye over at the Woman in Black’s daytime lair .






What are you allergic to? Bet it’s nowhere near as lame as what I’m allergic to

In addition to my ‘Victorian widow in mourning’ get-up, I can accessorise any Halloween ‘look’ by carving a pumpkin – I’m violently allergic to that stringy stuff inside the cursed things and emerge after a carving session with weeping, blistered arms which go down a storm at fancy dress parties. Not that I go to any of them. God forbid.

Bastard number one: the orange hell that is pumpkin guts

No wonder I'm allergic to it. Look at it! It's like the burning core of Satan's underworld.

In addition to pumpkin guts, I’m also allergic to cucumbers, lichen, cut grass and people who think it’s endearing to sneeze ridiculously loudly in public as if they expect a round of applause for spraying their germs over an unnecessarily large area (try that kind of ostentatious behaviour when you’re farting, I dare you).

Bastard number two: This is what hell looks like

The fifth rider of the apocalypse

My idea of hell is a round of cucumber sandwiches at a picnic on a log in the middle of a field of cut grass with an idiot whose hayfever offers them the perfect excuse to sneeze like a possessed accordion player auditioning for Britain’s Got Talent. It’s a very specific kind of hell, but it’s feasibly possible, which makes it far more terrifying than the fiery lakes of damnation you read about in the Bible.

My allergies may be strange, but they are nothing compared to my VW Golf’s.

At just over a year old, my silver Golf had developed a white rash in the delicate car door areas of its bodywork, transforming it from a GTi boy racer’s wet dream into the ‘Singing Detective’ of the VW community. Other Golfs started avoiding it in the car park and refusing to go near it unless their washers and windscreen wipers were on full pelt.

Initial suspicions – of foul play, a dodgy batch of paint, demonic possession or drive-by icing sugar dustings – were quickly ruled out, and a paintwork expert was called in to give his diagnosis. ‘I’ve seen about 20 cases of this,” he said, grimly. “It’s children.”

It turned out that the VW Golf was allergic to children who, apparently, cause certain silver VWs to develop irregularities on their paintwork due to ‘substances’ on their fingers. I kid you not: this is the official reason that my car looked like a heap of shit.

“It could be sun tan lotion,” added the expert, “or perhaps Play-dough.” Or pumpkin, cucumber, lichen, grass or attention-seeking, sneeze happy fuckwits, presumably.

The damage from my toxic children could, he explained, be polished off with the kind of effort Hercules would have found impossible to muster, but on no account was it the type of damage which would be covered by any insurance. As you can agree, it sounds like a perfectly reasonable explanation. The VW Golf, a vehicle heavily marketed as a family car, cannot be touched by youthful, virginal hands – if you look in the small print I’m sure it’s all there.

Ironically, just two days after the car was sent away to contemplate life with its unsightly rash, it was forced off the road by a van making a last minute decision to turn right, causing it to smash into a traffic light junction box.

In addition to the huge list of repairs the car needed, a respray was ordered. If I didn’t believe in karma before, I certainly believe in car-ma now.

On this note, I’d just like to thank the owner of the house whose wall my allergy-ridden car (slightly) damaged and whose overwhelming concern for my family touched me deeply, a little bit like a liver tumour or being impaled on a fence post.

Following the accident, he came racing out of his property, his face a picture of concerned anguish as he surveyed the scene (two small children, one bruised, both shivering, a shocked driver, a smoking car, a smashed-up van, a police car, a crumpled traffic light junction box). He then started taking photographs of his wall and asking about insurance details: after all, you can always have more children, but a wall is for life.

Thank you, sir, for restoring my lack of faith in human nature. It brought to mind images of strapping gentlemen stumbling along the listing deck of the Titanic using women and children as stepping stones in a bid to get to a lifeboat.

Another job for the Karma police, methinks.

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