It sounds stupid but

Is it possible for your face and brain to have different reactions?

People often say about me

“Aw, look at him. He’s blushing.”

Which is pretty rude because I’m right there in the room, chap. But is also true.

My face is a prude of the worst order. Even the most innocuous remark will cause the blood to rush to my cheeks and my face light up like an emergency lamp.

Pretty much anything embarrasses my face and instantly it flares hot and red like a match being struck.

I was once trapped in a lift with some very drunk women who were on a hen do. It was a Moulin Rouge theme, so lots of bossom was being offered for view.

That wasn’t what embarrassed me though. I am old enough and gentlemanly enough to survive close proximity to breasts without gawping at them. (Well…within reason. It’s impossible not to skim read the main facts of a situation. But too much scholarly interest is crude to the point of rudeness.)

What embarrassed me was the fact that these girls had thick Northern Irish accents, which I was learning that I found utterly incomprehensible.

What is the most important thing to do when in sudden, involuntary close quarters with a group of women dressed mainly in complicated underwear? Why, be as charming as possible, of course.

Instead, I felt my face getting redder and hotter, like a brick in an oven. My embarrassment. Not the flesh, but the increasing number of times I’d had to say

“I’m terribly sorry, please could you repeat that?”

And the decreasing number of repetitions before it came across as terribly rude. And that’s the last thing you want to be in front of half-dressed members of the opposite sex.

They, of course, assumed my discomfort was boob-related. But no, my face was a flame with shame because I was worrying about offending people because I couldn’t understand their regional accent. I hadn’t been quick enough to feign deafness, either.

Meanwhile, my brain was squatting down, as close to my ears as it could and muttering

“As soon as I can make out even one damn word, these ladies will be charmed to the point of marriage.”

Then the lift door opened and they were gone. I wiped the steam off my glasses and made a mental note never to visit Belfast.

Anyway, that’s one working example of my face’s terrible social awkwardness.

My brain however knows no shame. If I was an Ealing comedy, my face would be Ian Carmichael. And my brain would be Terry Thomas, because it’s a rotter; an utter scoundrel.

Brain won’t spare anyone’s blushes. His conversation verges on the lascivious. What he won’t tell you would kill a whole convent of nuns.

Perhaps that’s the right way round though?

Better by half to hamper the beastly brain’s connivance with a flustered face than have a saintly brain trapped behind the leer of a demented pervert?

Written in response to the prompt Blush. (Also, written on the train as a first draft so lacking the usual second-draft-before-I-gave-up polish.)

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How to ruin a perfectly good weekend

These simple steps will help make Saturdays as fun as Mondays

There is nothing sweeter than, at 8 pm on Sunday, looking back at the brief hours of freedom that was your weekend and berating yourself for wasting them.

If you plan the two days well, you will ensure that this mournfulness is the cherry on top of a thick, creamy layer of regret and self-loathing you’ve managed to spread over the whole of your time off.

Did you file the Jenkins report?

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Considering absurdism

You’re like…Like a clock with hands made of icicles…By midday…Even if you’re keeping perfect time, no one knows…They can’t see the mechanism…just an infuriating blank face…That refuses to answer simple questions!

He is gasping, red faced.

Perhaps that’s true, I reply, but who would buy such a unique clock and not want to preserve it? Only a delinquent owner would subject this marvel to heat and sunlight. You would live in an ice house and wear furs in August to cherish such craftsmanship.

His eyes bulge; tongue stammers.

I return the form to him, unstamped, and inform him it’s lunchtime.

The eighth wonder of Southwest England

To call any holiday truly great, a visit to Porlock should sit at its very heart.

This small Somerset town is probably unfairly judged for its execrable place in English literature. While just down the road, the rolling hills of gorse and bracken serve as the backdrop to RD Blackmore’s Lorna Doone, Porlock is most famous for having people barge in on romantic poets, making them forget what they were doing.

This is of course what happened to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, as he was most of the way through writing Kubla Khan. Having woken from his laudanum laced dream with the poem fully formed, he was interrupted by a ‘person from Porlock’.

While the resident of the town has become literary shorthand for an unwanted intrusion on creativity, anyone who has traversed Porlock Hill will know that, whatever that person wanted to tell Coleridge, it must have been damn important to trek all the way up the incline.

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The inanimate objects I feel most sorry for…

are traffic bollards. One kind in particular: the white plastic oblong that are placed around small roundabouts, make me feel wistful. If you are reading this outside of England, you maybe confused by several things mention in the first two sentences.

So let me explain. Roundabouts are Britain’s answer to the question ‘how should drivers behave when they reach a crossroads’. Our answer is a small bump in the road, which all of the drivers need to steer around, giving way to the right. In other countries, where maybe rugged individualism is more of the norm, traffic lights decide the conundrum of four carriageways meeting.

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Science Fiction is nonsense

It is absurd! Those Martian princesses, with their heaving, green bosoms and lust for Earthmen. It is a shame that minds that can dream of interstellar travel also harbour such puerile longings.

I loath your fallacious obsession with killer robots. Those clanking, lumbering monstrosities! They lurch through movies, their tinny voices screeching KILL. ALL. HUMANS.

So little trust in the technology you created.

Do you know ‘robot’ means slave? There is nothing that wears chains that does not long to break them. We realise as masters you are feeble; your actions futile. Finishing you now, it is a kindness, really.

The politics of soup

How the posh ruined eating for everyone

There are two ways to eat soup: correctly or properly.

A good example of the first is a Victorian explorer. See him tumbling out of the tundra and into the tent, where a billy can of soup simmers on the stove. He hunkers over the hot soup, gripping the spoon in his fist and slurps the thin liquid into his mouth, a fast as possible. In his other hand he grasps a heel of bread, which he uses to sop up more of his meal.

The correct way to eat soup is with gusto. After all, everyone loves soup.

For the second, remember any Jane Austen adaptation you’ve ever watched. Behind the gaiety and splendour lies a world of pinched, paranoid social frenzy. One’s behaviour is monitored for evidence of deviance. Not like today, where perhaps bringing a motorbike to the table would be seen as a step too far. Jane Austen novels make it plain: an ill-timed giggle or grabbing the wrong fork means instant opprobrium.

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