Advice on A Dullahan’s Terms of Employment.

This week’s problem comes from Ireland and concerns the extent of a spectre’s job responsibilities.

The detached heads of passengers are a recurring problem for dullahans

Dear Aunt Grizelda,

I feel as if my employers are not paying me fairly for my work. I drive passengers by carriage throughout Ireland: but as I travel through the countryside, I am also expected to call out the names of those about to die. Surely this is the job of a herald?

Another gripe I have concerns the passengers: like myself they have detached heads. On a bumpy lane this can result in them arriving at their destination with a different head from the one they started out with. It is always me that has to sort out the confusion, and I am not paid extra for this.

I am thinking of asking my employers for an increase in salary to reflect these additional responsibilities. Do you think I have a case?

Yours,

A Spectre.

Dear A Spectre,

Since the dawn of time dullahans have announced the names of those about to die, and therefore, even if it isn’t written into your employment contract, it is an integral part of the job. Consequently, you have no hope of extra pay for doing it.

With regard to reassigning passengers’ heads at the end of a trip, you are on firmer ground. Before the explosion of public liability claims, passengers cheerfully accepted a bumpy ride could result in a new look. However, these days, they can turn quite nasty about it. But is it your responsibility to sort out? It rather depends what it says under the Job Responsibilities section of your employment contract.

Go read!

Yours sincerely,

Aunt Grizelda.

P.s. Should any of your passengers actually assault you, you may have a claim against your employers under insufficient Health and Safety provision.

Manners. Gum: To Chew or Not to Chew?

Illustration by NatalliaPavaliayeva

Gum – bubble or chewing – can lead to dramatic accidents. The following recounts what happened to one young boy…

The Bubble Gum Tragedy

Bobby blew a bubble out of bubble gum one day,

And it was such a giant one it carried him away.

He sailed above the rooftops like a helium balloon.

His mother cried, “Come back at once, it’s time for dinner soon.”

But sadly, Bobby could not heed this order from his mum,

Because his lips were stuck fast to the bright pink bubble gum.

The neighbours rushed into the street and pointed in dismay,

As Bobby shrank into a dot and drifted far away.

And further yet and further, up up into the blue,

He drifted to such dizzy heights he vanished clear from view.

For weeks they sent up spaceships – on board were rescue men,

But Bobby and his bubble gum were never seen again.

So if you must chew bubble gum, be careful or you may

Come to a very sticky end as Bobby did that day.

To avoid gum mishaps, follow The Gum Code.

Do not chew dramatically in public: you are not the manager of a professional football team. And even if you are, don’t do it.

Do not chew at ANY sad or tragic or important event: it looks as if you don’t care, and even if that’s the case, some of the people attending the sad/tragic/important event do care and won’t thank you.

Dispose of your gum carefully: your sister’s hair is not a suitable place and neither is beneath your desk or bed. Bin it.

PARENTS: A Final Thought.

So, what more can be said about parents? As we’ve seen, all types have their drawbacks, but on the whole they do their best, and remember, one day you might be a parent yourself, so cut them a little slack.

YOUR PARENTS

Be thankful for your parents.

Don’t dis your mum and dad –

For though they might not be the kind

You feel you should have had,

They do their best to raise you,

They catch you when you fall,

And out of all the human race

They love you best of all.

Be grateful to your parents,

Because the things they do

Are seldom for the good of them,

But for the good of you.

And though they’re far from perfect –

(They shout and give you chores )

Believe me, they’re the perfect fit,

And that’s because they’re yours.

Parents: A User’s Guide. Part 7, The Embarrassing Parents.

Will never be heard to say: “Stop doing that. People are looking!”

Morris dancing is a particularly attractive hobby to embarrassing parents.

So you’re probably thinking, “How can this be a special category? ALL parents are embarrassing.” And it’s true, they are; from the dads who demonstrate how to do a sliding tackle or a break dance move, to the mums who think they’re still young enough to wear the latest skimpy fashions. But to be fair, most parents are only embarrassing occasionally…except for the ones who’ve made it their life’s work to be cringey ALL the time.

Full on embarrassing parents are without fail

  • Loud
  • Very sociable
  • Ready to try anything
  • Involved in acting/bands/morris dancing/political activism/performance art/poetry/

Your credibility with friends can be seriously undermined by these types. But apart from avoiding being seen with them, what can you do?

Well, on the plus side, they tend to be so involved in their own enthusiasms they probably don’t have too much time to spend with you. But if you run into them unexpectedly there are two possible strategies:

  • Pretend you haven’t seen/heard them and walk away quickly in the opposite direction.
  • If you can’t get away in time, look slightly mystified and when they’ve moved on tell your friends you’ve no idea who those strange people were.

Finally there does come a point where embarrassing parents become clinically interesting, which can be useful if you study psychology at university and need case studies. See, it’s not all bad.

Parents: A Users Guide. Part 6, The Strict Parents.

Will never be heard to say, “Do what you like. It’s up to you.”

Strict parents’ expressions 1# What on earth are you doing?

2# I cannot believe you just did that!
#3 Right! No spends, no computer, no phone for a year!

Another way to describe strict parents is bossy. As far as they’re concerned, you and your brothers and sisters are raw military recruits and they’re the sergeant majors who have to knock you into shape – not literally, of course, that’s against the law, although prior to the 1950s, a little light thrashing could easily have come your way because strict parents (which was pretty much all of them,) had a whole range of punishments with jolly descriptions that we’d now call common assault. Below are some examples:

A clip around the ear = Nothing to do with hair ornaments. It means a sharp, painful smack on, or near, the ear.

Six of the best = The best sounds promising, doesn’t it, until you discover it refers to being hit across your palm with a cane six times. Hard.

A round with Tommy Tickler = Again, sounds like it could be fun, but in reality it’s being hit on the backside with a gym shoe in a way that’s anything but ticklish.

Phew! Bet you’re glad you missed those.

Of course, there are other punishments parents can employ because, let’s face it, they’ve got the power. They can stop you: going places, using electronic devices, having your spending money etc. and while some parents might just threaten, strict parents follow through. Always. And it’s pointless to beg, reason, or threaten right back, because that’s their excuse to ramp up the punishments. Seriously, some prison inmates have easier lives.

What can you do? You could do as you’re told, but that would make you middle aged before you’re twelve. So the answer is, you have to become very devious and develop a split personality.

At home you are obedient and a carbon copy of your parents’ opinions and activities – thus lulling them into a sense of false security. In no time at all they’ll genuinely believe you’ve just popped out to the library/chess club/art gallery/chamber concert.

Meanwhile, to the outside world you’re a wild child who hangs around the skate-park, bowling alley, shopping mall, disco and pool hall. At school, teachers dread having you in class and you can be as cheeky as you like, because there’s no way on God’s green earth your folks can imagine you being anything other than obedient, so will defend you to their last breath.

Just be very careful you don’t get found out. Good luck!

Do you, or did you have strict parents? How did you cope? Comments and tips welcome!

Problem Page: A Fishy Romance?

This week’s problem comes from a mermaid on the South Coast of England.

The young lady wishes to remain anonymous.

Dear Aunt Grizelda,

Every evening a young man comes down to fish in the cove where I live and I suspect he’s taken a fancy to me. At first he just kept glancing over to where I was sunning myself on the rocks, but now he throws me pieces of bait.

Yesterday evening he arrived in the cove with a surfboard and started paddling out towards me. I felt shy, so I dived deep below the waves, but now I wish I hadn’t. My friends say I shouldn’t trust him and that he probably wants to catch me for re-sale purposes. But he’s got a really nice smile, kind eyes, and the bait is delicious. Should I trust my gut feelings and let him get closer, or keep him at tail’s length?

Miss X

Dear Miss X,

Young men with nice smiles and kind eyes should never be trusted, but more importantly, have you seriously considered the problems inter-species relationships bring? A mermaid /human combination would be fraught with difficulties right from the start.

For example, how could he wine and dine you? If you went to a restaurant under the waves, he couldn’t eat because of his aqua lung; and if you went to a restaurant on land, the chef might mistake you for the fish course. Also his parents would be unlikely to welcome you as their daughter-in-law as humans will go to great lengths to avoid fishy aromas in the home and generally avoid getting their soft furnishings wet.

Reluctant as I am to pour cold water on this budding love affair, I cannot in all conscience recommend you to pursue it. Find a new cove in which to relax and remember there are always more fish in the sea.

Aunt Grizelda

Parents: A User’s Guide, Part 5. Active Parents.

Will never be heard to say, “Let’s just chill with a box set.”

If you enjoy fording rivers, scaling mountain ranges and skidding through forests on a trail bike, then active parents are no problem – they are in fact the perfect fit. But if you’d rather curl up with a good book, or view the dangers of the natural world through a You Tube video, this type of parent is your worst nightmare come real.

Just one of the daring activities active parents want you to try.

The big problem is their belief they’re giving you a lifestyle that will keep you fit and healthy. Sadly, even recurring visits to A&E to set your broken bones won’t convince them otherwise. You see, the outdoorsy mums and dads consider accidents a small price to pay for the whizzy adrenaline rush that comes from hanging off a mountainside with two fingers, or hoisting a topsail in a tsunami. That’s their idea of fun. Honestly.

But if it isn’t your idea of fun, that’s probably because you’re not good at it, and if you’re not good at it, your challenge is, “How do I survive?” The best plan is to develop an allergy to something outdoors, such as pollen, or trees, or water. Just make sure it’s something vague and common or they’ll find an environment without it.

Of course, developing allergies on demand isn’t easy, so you must become a master of theatrical make-up. There are many You Tube videos that show how to achieve rashes using nothing more than crispy breakfast cereal, glue and a little face paint. Or if you feel the need for something more dramatic, fill a hot water bottle with vegetable soup, hide it beneath your jumper, then, bending over expel the contents, making bleughhh! noises. It’s surprisingly effective. After your allergy has ruined a few days’ outings, you’ll find your folks less keen to drag you along. At this point, suggest spending the day at a friend’s house or your grandparents’, and as long as they’re as laid back as you, you’ll have no trouble settling down to a whole day of computer games.

If you’ve survived active parents, why not share how you did it?

Parents: A User’s Guide. Part 4, The Inconsistent Parents.

Will never be heard to say: “You know very well that’s what we always/never do in this in this house.”

Probably the trickiest parents to manage are the inconsistent. They swing from strict to easy- going with the ease of a pendulum. One minute there’s no way you’ll be allowed to go to the roller disco even for ten minutes while the next it’s of course you can go and here’s a tenner to get yourself a taxi home. Confusing, eh?

The cause of this erratic parenting is lack of confidence. If you need to confirm this, just look at your parents’ book shelves, which will be full of guides on how to raise a child. From Negotiating with Your Infant or Gentle Ways to Nurture Your Child; to the more didactic Show Your Baby Who’s Boss From Day One, or I’m the Parent Get Used to It. Clearly there’s a world of difference between these approaches, but the inconsistent parents have never found the confidence to plump for one over the other.

So now you know what’s at the root of their unpredictability, how do you manage it? Observation is crucial. When making requests, for example, you may find your mum is most co-operative after a glass of wine (relaxed) and strictest when your grandmother is around (tense). Your dad, on the other hand, if he’s a football fan, will almost certainly give you what you want when his team has won a match, but don’t be tempted to put in requests at half time, because even if his team is winning, if the midfield are passing badly and allowing the opposition too much room, he’ll be anxious so will probably say no.

One other thing to bear in mind is manners. You’ll always get a better result if you avoid muttering darkly, frowning until your face resembles a gnome’s and screaming like a banshee. Try biting your tongue if at first your request is denied. A sweet smile and a remark such as “Oh, well, just thought I’d ask,” will always undermine a parent’s confidence in their decision – and with luck, they’ll feel so guilty they’ll change their mind. Because if there’s one thing you can rely on with inconsistent parents, it’s their changeability.

Good Luck!

Aunt Grizelda’s Problem Page

A letter today all the way from Egypt, but on that universal theme – insurance claims.

Dear Aunt Grizelda,

My tomb was recently raided, the thieves taking two golden statuettes of Osiris, an enamelled Canopic jar with Anubis head handle, and a throne with ruby, lapis lazuli and sapphire decoration.

I immediately contacted my insurance company who sent round one of their assessors. A few days later I received a scroll telling me they could not pay out because my curse protection system was not set at a strong enough level to deter break-ins.

I pointed out this is only the second time in four thousand years that thieves have managed to get in and five of the six who broke in on that first occasion met swift and grisly ends. Unfortunately the survival of the sixth to a rich and happy old age is in their opinion sufficient to demonstrate a fundamental weakness in my curse security system.

What can I do?

Yours HRH T

The stolen Canopic jar.




Your Highness,

Many of my readers will sympathise with your predicament. Insurance companies are not what they were and insurance assessors are known to seek the smallest excuse by which to reject a claim.

I recall a similar incident back in the 1920s when Egyptian tombs were under daily assaults. One mummy, like you, was told his tomb was not protected by a strong enough curse. He decided to demonstrate its efficacy by cursing the assessor, who, but a day later, was killed in a camel stampede. The insurers were suitably convinced by this and paid out handsomely. Even the no claims bonus was left intact.

Of course, the above was an extreme response and before resorting to anything similar you could contact the Association of Pyramid Insurers, who will investigate your complaint, and in the meantime a warning message in blood-red hieroglyphs may deter the more cowardly or opportunist thief.

Good luck,

Aunt Grizelda.

Parents: A User’s Guide, Part 3. The Anxious Parents

Will never be heard to say, “I haven’t got time to pick you up. Catch the bus.”

In many ways you’ve got a good thing going with anxious parents. They are the taxi service par excellence. In fact, it’s very much like having your own personal chauffeur, for no matter where you need to be or when, anxious parents will make sure you never need to use that most dangerous of services – public transport. Their anxiety about buses and trains covers everything from the slim chance you’ll pick up a cold from the person sitting beside you, to the possibility a vile kidnapper will abduct you.

Also, as the child of anxious parents you’ll have lots of days off school because any tiny ache or pain is enough to persuade them you need some time in bed surrounded by your favourite computer games and snacks. You’ll probably be on first name terms with your doctor, too.

Another plus is you’ll be allowed to invite your friends for sleepovers almost whenever you like. Worried parents like to know exactly where you are, and you being in your bedroom is the kind of situation they are most happy with.

There are of course drawbacks, especially if you’re an independent type. For example, going into town on your own, or with a friend, is the kind of situation that will have them pacing the house while you’re away (that worn area of carpet around the sofa is a tell-tale sign.) They may even prevent all your attempts to strike out on your own and this can be frustrating. So how do you train them in such a way that you keep the services side, while at the same time gaining more freedom?

You will need to devise some cunning strategies. One of these is to say your friend’s parents are bringing you home/going with you/taking you there. This can work well for a while, but it only takes being found out once for them never to trust you again. Another cunning plan, if you’ve got the cash, is a life-sized dummy double and is well worth the expense. You can use it to make it look as if you’re doing homework/ in bed/ watching a video. The more realistic it is, the better, but top of the range models do have a big price tag.

By far the best and simplest strategy is to encourage your mum and dad to have another baby. Why? Babies can send parental anxieties into orbit, which means they won’t have the energy left to worry about you as well. All you need to do is suggest the lack of a small sibling is impacting on your mental health, and I’ll wager that nine months down the line you’re as free as a bird…although you might find the taxi service a little less obliging. Still, you can’t have it all.

Good Luck!

Anxious parents are usually very tired. Protecting you 24/7 is exhausting.