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.

Parents: A User’s Guide: Part 2, The Ambitious Parents

Will never be heard to say, “We just want him/her to be happy.”

Oh dear. If you’ve got ambitious parents, I’m afraid you’ve drawn the short straw. These are people whose whole reason for living is to achieve success. Unfortunately, the success they crave isn’t for themselves, it’s for you, and they’ll stop at nothing to make you achieve it.

So how do you know if your parents come under this heading? Take this fun quiz to find out.

  1. How many after school activities do you take part in willingly?

      A)  5  B)  3-4  C)  1-2  D)  0

2) How often do your parents ask about the achievements of your friends and classmates?

      A)  Every day  B) 3-4 times a week  c) once a week   D) Never

3) Which of the following comments have you heard your parents make?

A) The early bird catches the worm.

B) You make your own luck.

C) It’s not taking part that counts, it’s winning.

D) Big results require big ambitions.

For question 1 score 5 marks for A; 3 for B; 2 for C and 0 for D

For question 2 score the same as for Q1

For Question 3 score 2 for each saying you’ve heard them say.


12-18: Your parents couldn’t be much more ambitious unless they were fascist dictators or emperors

8-11: They are very keen for you to do well, but call a halt at the more extreme forms of ambition, such as bribing talent show judges and junior league referees.

3-7: Fairly keen, but can occasionally give it a rest. In fact some of the really ambitious parents would call them slackers who could try harder.

0-2: Not bothered. Phew! Your folks are NOT ambitious for you AT ALL. Congratulations.

If you scored in the 12 -18 category (and to a lesser extent in the 8-11 category,) you’ve got problems. So, how do you loosen your wildly ambitious parents’ clutches? Well, if you’ve got a younger brother or sister, it’s worth working on ways to make it look like they’ve got far more success potential than you. This can include massaging their school test results; describing to your parents some amazing sporty feat your little sibling achieved; forging a letter from their class teacher suggesting they are amazingly talented and gifted at something (choose something in the realms of possibility – a precocious talent in nuclear physics is unlikely in a nursery age child.)

The only other approach is to appear utterly hopeless at everything. This is trickier than it sounds and requires huge amounts of self-control and intentional stupidity, but even the most ardently ambitious parent will reach a point where they abandon their plans for you if you keep failing long enough. In addition, you can get back at them with a certain dramatic irony by becoming simply fantastic at something the moment they stop forcing you to do things you don’t want to do, ( see for example Winston Churchill.)

Good luck!

This illustrates the ideal for the ambitious parents, but should be followed by a Nobel prize or high public service such as Prime Minister.

Aunt Grizelda’s Problem Page: Advice to a Scottish Queen.

Family mistrust is a pernicious thing and can often prevent family members accepting help from each other and this is exemplified in today’s missive from a queen north of the border.

Hail to you Mistress Grizelda,

I would pose thee a question regarding the trust betwixt cousins.

Mine own fair cousin is monarch of a land that doth border mine own, but she is beloved of her people and ministers, and doth hold full sway over them, whilst I am beset by rogues and traitors that would hurry me from hence to my grave. In consequence, thereof, I am minded to accept the sanctuary she hast most recently offered me.

Howsomever, it is said by some that her sweet missives offer false hope, and cometh from a grasping, wolfish heart – that in truth, she doth seek to steal Scotland from me.

What course should I take?

Adieu and God rest you merry,

M. Q of S. 

Dear M Q of S,

As G. H. Lewes wrote, “Murder, like talent, seems occasionally to run in families.” And never was this truer than when the family in question is royal. The briefest scan of a history book reveals a shocking litany of horrid murders of kings and queens that in the most part were plotted by their nearest and dearest. And for why? Power. And what avails more power? More land.

But of course, your cousin is currently in a very strong position while you are in a weak one, and while good sense might caution you from throwing yourself upon her mercy, surely she would not sleep easy were anything to befall a sister queen?

It seems to me you have little option but to accept your cousin’s offer and I am sure all will be well if you can demonstrate to her your thankfulness.

Good luck, (and hide a dagger beneath your farthingale just to be on the safe side.)

Aunt Grizelda.

PARENTS: a User’s Guide

The shelves of book stores groan with guides to bringing up children, but are there any that help children deal with their parents? NO. Why is this? Frankly it’s to do with cold hard cash. Who has the most money in your family? That’s right – your parents, and they will part with quite a lot of it for a book that shows them how to keep you in your place. Is that fair? Of course not.

But help is at hand. The following series of articles will help you identify the type of parent you’ve got, because while parents are all different, they can be divided into certain categories. And different types need different handling techniques.

Part 1: The Slapdash Parents: Will never be heard to say: Have you done your homework?

Slapdash parents were once referred to as laid back, and can be identified by a very relaxed attitude to bringing you up – that is they will put as little effort into it as humanly possible. They will never intrude into your territory unless invited, and will never demand you tidy your room. They will seldom, if ever, order you to go to bed at a sensible time, or have a bath or shower; even your dental hygiene may be left entirely up to you. Their communication with your school teachers will be so rare, information about your misdeeds will not reach them, unless you’re the school criminal, and even if it does, they’re unlikely to do much about it, agreeing with you that whatever you did wasn’t your fault and punishing you would be unfair (and too much effort on their part.)

This may sound like paradise, and it is, until the following things happen – rats occupy your bedroom to feast on the mouldering junk food on the dirty plates; you’re so tired you fall asleep in lessons and fail all your exams; you believe you will never ever be punished for anything at all, no matter what you did; your teeth drop out and everyone avoids you and calls you Stinky. Obviously, these are outcomes to avoid. So how do you get slapdash parents to take more responsibility without turning your life into a rigidly supervised jail sentence?

The obvious answer is to take some responsibility for yourself – but unfortunately that means acting more like a parent than your parents, and what kid wants that? So, there are two things you need to do. The first is to increase their energy levels. Vitamin tablets are relatively cheap and might just be the pick-me-up they need to make them put in a bit more effort. In tandem with this, work on their guilt levels. An official looking letter from school implying a visit from a social worker is imminent often has the desired effect. (If you can snaffle a piece of school headed paper to write it on, so much the better.) Results should be rapid. You can expect to find your school uniform washed and ironed and your room fumigated and its unwelcome residents expelled. Further, those parental slips giving permission for you to attend fun school events will be signed. And you may find after a few shower and toothbrush reminders you’ve gained some friends.

Good luck!

The grubby jumper, missing teeth and smiling face are a sure sign of the slapdash parent.

Parents: A User’s Guide.

Next article…Part 2: The Ambitious Parents

Career Advice for a Scottish Wraith

The following problem was sent to me by a Scottish gentleman and concerns his prospects for career advancement.

Dear Aunt Grizelda,

I’m working nichts at a Highland castle that gies holiday accommodation to Sassenachs. Mony o’ them are braw pleasant and gie muckle appreciation o’ my haunting skills wi’ grete screams and trimbling. And on one occasion a lassie would nae return to her room once she’d spied me there.

The problem is, it’s the same auld routine nicht after nicht. I’d love a change o’ scene. However, I ken I  need a level four GNVQ in order to progress to palace haunting and it’s a lang course. Can ye tell me if there’s any quick way aroond this?

Thank you.

R the B

Dear R the B,

Haunting, by its very nature, is confined to a particular place, and yes that can lead to feelings of being trapped. But changing location can be tricky (vacancies are rare) and as you rightly noted, a GNVQ 4 (Ghostly National Vocational Qualification) is a requirement for palaces, abbeys and cathedrals, and the course lasts a century.

There are of course things you can do to relieve the tedium. Ratcheting up the weird happenings with louder bumps, scarier costumes and blood curdling screams, is not only a lot of fun, but may cause the castle owner to bring in an exorcist. Depending on the exorcist’s skill, this could result in you being transported to a new location: but you will have no choice over which one, and could end up haunting somewhere unglamorous such as alley or factory.

My favoured solution would be to attach yourself to a guest you take a liking to. If they can afford to stay at a castle they are most likely wealthy enough to own a large and elegant home. And if the guest is American, you can be sure of an enthusiastic welcome in the United States. I hear Trump Tower is particularly good for ghosts.

Good Luck!

Aunt Grizelda.

The Black Castle: R the B’s current haunting location.

So, You want to be a Politician? Part 2

It’s fascinating to discover how young people view a career in politics, and this was never truer than when I gave some overseas students the essay title : Why do people become politicians? The essay below, by a Chinese student, was revealing in its rather quirky view of the pros and cons. (n.b. the essay is given in its uncorrected form.)

There are various reasons why people become politicians. The most obvious reason is in order to make money. Whether you are rich or poor. There is always a chance that you will. And many people make money from become politicians is the best legal way they could ever make a lot money.

Another reason is bring powerful into their lives. Buying a expensive car, for example, you can change some rules what you do not like.

For most people become politician just a way of having a good time. For example, making the country better can be enjoyable way of spending an evening.

But people become politicians a lot do it for the same reason that people become star. It gives them some kind of high. The problem is, of course, there is real danger of it ruining your life.

I imagine Theresa May wishes she’d read this advice prior to deciding on a political career. But what do you think? Why do people become politicians? I’d be intrigued to hear your views.

So, you want to be a Politician?

Considering a career in politics? And why not? After all, what could be more fun than wielding a lot of power and shaping your country to your own vision. So, let’s briefly consider some of the core requirements.

Intellectual qualities

It’s often assumed you need great intelligence to become an MP. This is not the case, as is amply proved by many of our current parliamentarians. However, what is important is to appear clever. In George Bernard Shaw’s play, Major Barbara, a character observes of another character: He knows nothing, and thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career.” Shaw rightly observed it’s the misguided self-confidence that counts. But what if you’re not a natural born bluffer? A few simple tricks will help you disguise the fact. For example, never use any modifiers in your speech such as maybe, perhaps, I think, as these convey an air of uncertainty. Also, thumping a desk or lectern to give emphasis to your words can make it look as if you know what you’re talking about, although factual blunders (particularly with regard to numbers) have been known to give the game away. You can, however recover your dignity by claiming you misspoke while recovering from flu/mumps/chickenpox/a divorce (delete as appropriate.)

Physical Qualities

All manner of body types are acceptable and good looks aren’t a necessity. Paul Begala opined, “Politics is show business for ugly people,” which doesn’t mean of course, that all politicians are ugly, just that they form a larger cohort in this profession than any other. And as for dress sense, the more eccentric the better. Indeed, as the great Napoleon Bonaparte said, “In politics, absurdity is not a handicap.” (Absurdity is not confined to image either, and can include behaviour such as sliding down a zip wire, or eating a hamburger untidily.)

Moral CharacterUnfortunately politics has a bad reputation for attracting men and women of questionable morals, but be assured, no one pays much notice to a politician’s personal peccadillos, unless these turn out to be really serious, such as littering or killing. (You might query the latter by pointing to the slaughter produced in a war, but generally the public will forgive murder on an epic scale if the dead are labelled “the enemy.”)

There is one particular character trait, normally considered a negative, that is an absolute necessity in politics, and that is the ability to lie and evade difficult questions. As former UK PM Mrs Thatcher said, “You don’t tell deliberate lies, but sometimes you have to be evasive,” which in a way is still telling lies, but dressing them in their Sunday best clothes. And of course, when you lie , you must do so with utter conviction – make it a whopper. Amazingly this often works, although when it fails can have grim consequences as Tricky Dicky Nixon of the USA discovered when he faced impeachment over the Watergate scandal.

So, if you still fancy a career in politics, then good luck to you, or, to quote Mrs T, “If you want to cut your own throat, don’t come to me for a bandage.”

Aunt Grizelda’s Problem Page

Due to the huge amounts of mail I receive asking for advice, I have decided, dear readers, to start a problem page. All correspondence, of course, will be dealt with in the strictest confidence and the names of correspondents limited to initials.

Dear Aunt Grizelda,

Since the arrival of the spring equinox my mood has been decidedly low. I find it hard to rise from my coffin in the evening, and even a glass of the finest O negative does nothing to revive my enthusiasm for luring beautiful girls to my castle. Could it be my age?

Yours listlessly,

Count D.

Dear Count D,

Your age is unlikely to be a factor. The symptoms you describe are classic for what the medical community term SSAD – spring and summer affective disorder. Although I know you don’t venture out during daylight hours, nevertheless, the increased sunlight seeping through blinds and beneath doors can disrupt hormone levels, resulting in reduced energy levels.

To counter this you might try a dark box. This is a device which radiates dark matter, thus returning hormone levels to where they should be. You simply need to sit before it for half an hour each night prior to returning to your coffin. Do this until the draining spring and summer months are over.

Personally, I would recommend the DM X20, manufactured by ParaSonic.

Yours helpfully,

Aunt Grizelda.

So remember readers, whether you’re from the fae or mortal world, you can contact me for advice at any time: Aunt Grizelda – telling you what to do so you don’t have to decide.

Cautionary Advice to Children on Giving Smart Replies in Class

When I was a young witchling, schoolrooms were strict places. Teachers demanded respect from their pupils, and if this was not clearly forthcoming, their punishments could be a little on the harsh side. Although teachers are less likely to feed offenders to dragons these days, it is still wise for children to think twice before giving unorthodox answers in class, as these may be taken the wrong way. The following poem should be memorised by all school children.

On Giving Smart Replies

Some teachers like to criticise

The child who offers smart replies,

And though your words weren’t meanly meant

Will calculate there’s bad intent.

And if your comment was a jest,

Will claim that no one was impressed.

Or worse, may take it as a cue

To show who’s boss and punish you.

So when in class you feel inclined

To answer with a cheeky line

Remember, and best make it quick,

That no one likes a clever dick.

Remembering some former teachers…