PARENTS: A User’s Guide, Part 1. The Slapdash Parents.

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.

Matrimonial Customs of Yorkshire. Part 2: Sailing the Clog

During the nineteenth century a large part of the Yorkshire population worked in the textile mills. Days were long and arduous, and sturdy clothing and footwear a necessity. In this situation the clog was the shoe of choice. Inelegant but hard wearing, over time it came to symbolise the grit and bloody minded staying power of a Yorkshire marriage, and thus grew up the custom of sailing the clog.

Every year, on All Hallows’ Eve, the young men and women with marriage in mind would meet down by their nearest beck. In turn, the young men would present their right clog to the maiden they wanted to wed, and she would launch it into the stream. If the clog sank, the omens for such a pairing were bad, but if the clog floated, they were good, and the couple would agree on a date for their wedding.

A great deal hinged on the clog’s performance, for if it sank, not only was the youth disappointed in his choice of sweetheart, he would also have to spend many weeks with a bare right foot – an uncomfortable situation in the chilly north.

The story goes that one village lass, a proud beauty named Edna Tiplady, was keen to avoid marrying any of the local lads, and devised a way of slipping an old horseshoe into the clog before throwing it in. She succeeded in this ruse for many years until at length she caught the eye of the mill owner’s son, Archie Longbottom. Smitten by her beauty, Archie started courting her.

One day, he asked how it was she had remained unmarried for so long. She explained about the horse shoe ploy. Astonished by her cunning, Archie broke off with her, reasoning that a girl who would put a horseshoe in a clog to rid herself of an unwanted suitor would not be beyond putting arsenic in glass of claret to rid herself of an unwanted husband. (To be fair, Edna could see his point.)

Fortunately, losing the chance of a rich husband proved but a small setback, for Edna went on to create the very first treacle toffees. These soon became that well-known brand, Tiplady’s Tasty Tyke Toffees.

Eventually, sailing the clog died out as a custom. As for Edna, she never married and remained for the rest of her life an astute, wealthy, and happy business woman.

Matrimonial Customs of Yorkshire: Part 1

The first thing that comes to mind for most brides-to-be planning their wedding is the dress. While the shape, length and material change with the fashions of the day, traditionally, white and cream are the favoured shades. Except, that is, if you hail from the quaint Yorkshire village of Ludderley Bridge. Here, an ancient rhyme predicts the type of married life the couple will experience, based on the colour of the bridal gown.

Conjugal Colour Considerations

Marry in green, no joy will be seen.

Marry in red, you’ll wish yourself dead.

Marry in pink, your fortunes will sink.

Marry in grey, you’ll both rue the day.

Marry in blue, your fears will come true.

Marry in gold, despair will unfold.

Marry in yellow, you’ll shout and he’ll bellow.

Marry in white, you’ll bicker and fight.

Marry in cream, you’ll live a bad dream.

Marry in black, bad luck will attack.

The rhyme is believed to be the last verse penned by ten times married poet, Zebediah Platt (1729- 1778). Zebediah met a rather unfortunate and curious end when he was sewn into a tapestry at Fiddleston Hall, by the bridal dressmaker to Lady Marylla Dunnit.

It is believed he was attempting to spy on the dress-fitting from behind the tapestry to check the chosen colour augured well for his 11th marriage, but the ladies noticed him, and Lady Marylla was so annoyed, she ordered the dressmaker to sneakily sew him into his hiding place.

Although the action was not meant to occasion any lasting harm, the thick tapestry fabric suffocated him, thus proving the old adage: Curiosity killed the Platt, (and inspiring the board game, Who Dunnit?)

Even today, local belief in the rhyme’s prophetic accuracy is so strong that Ludderly Bridge is the one place in the country where purple or orange gowns are more popular than white or cream.

Do you know of any unusual matrimonial customs from your part of the world? If so, I would love to hear about them.

Weird Words: Street Slang

The parlance of young people these days may just as well be a foreign language as far as adults are concerned. Or maybe not. Here’s a quick translation quiz for you.

So, I was Hundo P my bae was chirpsing with the bossman. So I threw a shade and told her he weren’t boujee. Turns out she was wavey so I curved her. There’s other choong gyaldem out there ready to link with a dench rudeboi.


Hundo P: certain – 100%

Bae: romantic partner

Chirpsing: flirting

Bossman: shop owner or assistant

Throw a shade: give a dirty look

Boujee: rich or acting wealthy

Wavey: high

Curve: to reject someone romantically

Choong: attractive

Gyaldem: girls

Link: meet up with

Dench: good/attractive

Rudeboi: originally Jamaican youth into ska music, now associated with gangsta rap

So, how did you do? Excellent! Time to start peppering your chat at the coffee machine with them – although by the time you do, they’ve probably changed all over again, innit?

What are some of your favourite urban words or phrases? Be good to hear from you in comments.

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.

Weirdly Useful Regency Words and Phrases for Describing How You Probably Feel About Brexit.

(For a lark, see how much of the following passage you can decipher before looking up the translations)

You could be forgiven this morning for feeling done to a cow’s thumb. The government is certainly in the suds over Brexit, and parliament keeps throwing a rub. It isn’t that we’ve been brought to Point Non Point: there are many options, but each one is derided as fustian nonsense by opposing gnashnabs. What with foozlers, cockalorums, hornswogglers and snollygosters, it’s hard not to be jargogled. Perhaps the only solution is to get bosky and forget, because if you haven’t got the morbs already, it’s only a matter of time.


Done to a cow’s thumb – fed up

In the suds – in trouble

Throwing a rub – spoiling plans

Point Non Point – a situation with no options

Fustian nonsense – rubbish

Gnashgabs – complainers

Foozler- a bungler

Cockalorum – a small man with big ego

Hornswoggler – a cheat

Snollygoster – someone with intelligence but no principles

Jargogled – confused

Bosky – drunk

Get the morbs – feel depressed

P.S. A fun game for all the family is to decide which MP best suits the adjectives given above, but if your family is as divided on Brexit as Parliament is, please make sure you have a first aid kit to hand…