A new expression is sneaking into everyday conversation and I do NOT like it at all. In fact, it angers me. I don’t know who started it; or where it started. But of even greater interest is how it has managed to take hold in every day conversation.
Have you noticed that, when communicating with businesses (particularly larger companies who are more prone to faddy jargons), they don’t thank you for calling them these days; they thank you for ‘reaching out’ to them. If you have been referred to them through one of their workmates then they might thank you for ‘reaching out’ to their colleague first.
“Reaching out” has become interchangeable with any term which falls under the banner of ‘communicating’, be that ‘phoning’, ‘speaking’, ‘emailing’ or whatever.
When I enquired about a mortgage, the bank thanked me for ‘reaching out’; when I followed up on an advert for fancy new bed linen the person who answered the phone said ‘it was great’ that I had decided to ‘reach out’ to them today. Hell, someone even thanked me for ‘reaching out’ when THEY cold-called ME!
Now, to anyone with half a brain, it is obvious that this new expression has come into play with the best of intentions. It sounds more ‘human’ and ‘touchy-feely’. Phoning, speaking and emailing can be clinical forms of contact. But ‘reaching out’ is a different matter altogether. It implies that there is some genuine emotion underlying our communications with each other. That, and a desire to reach satisfactory fulfilment, because if someone ‘reached out’ to you as opposed to simply ‘contacting you’ then you could not possibly let them down.
But that is precisely why I find it so irritating; because the emotion at which it hints is one sided. ‘Reaching out’ suggests a clingy neediness on the part of the person who is allegedly ‘reaching out’.
It suggest that this person needs help or salvation. Don’t get me wrong – there is a time and a place for it. For example, if I was religious and in a state of despair then I may ‘reach out’ to Jesus. If I were drowning I might ‘reach out’ to my rescuer. If a waitress was about to take my plate away when it still had a few chips on it, I would ‘reach out’ and grab it (or her).
I would NOT, however, ‘reach out’ to my bank, or to any utility company, or to the dry cleaners. I would simply ‘contact’ them, as an equal party to whatever was the matter in hand. If I want to be pedantic (and I do) I might argue that, in openly offering their services, the companies who use this offensive expression, have actually ‘reached out’ to me first.
I am always in danger of losing it over small things like this. If you poke the beehive what do you expect? In fact, I am a ‘ball hair’ away from saying all of the things I have dreamt of in response to meaninliness, repetitive service expressions.
When the hundredth checkout person asks if I want a hand to pack my carton of soya milk (which I am not even packing as I won’t pay 5p for the bag) would anyone blame me if I simply said, in a sing song voice, ‘No, I f*cking don’t’.
When their colleague asks ‘was there anything else you needed today’ while forty people wait behind me at the checkout – I may one day say “Why yes, I need the patience to stay calm in the face of such a stupid f*cking question”.
But I digress. I often declare that my middle years should be peaceful and that tolerance levels and violent reactions should remain at an all time low. But it would be helpful if there were not so many triggers, and the inference that I am ‘reaching out’ – when I am not, is just another one to add to the list.
So the plan is this. I now realise that I can avoid irritation by simply beating people to it. To use my earlier examples, when I enquired about a mortgage I could have started the conversation by quickly thanking the bank for ‘reaching out’ to ME with their generous interest rate.
Would Mr Sykes have risked looking foolish just to stick to his script (Thanks for reaching out to me with that bank flyer Mr Sykes – No, No, thank YOU Ms Ritchie for reaching out to ME). You see what I mean?
The only problem is that, in order to get in first, I will need to say it at the very start of every conversation regardless of whether the person planned to say it to me. And in that way, ‘reaching out’ will become incorpated into ALL of my communications, as opposed to just a few.
Now why does that sound like such a crap solution……..?
“Now you’re absolutely sure that there is wine in the house?”
Hubby is ‘100% certain’ that there has only been one glassful taken from that bottle of Shiraz.
“…because I swear to God, if we get back, and there isn’t a glass for me I will unravel”
In terse tones, he repeats his conviction that there is at least 500ml of red wine available, and we do not need to divert from our journey home in order to satisfy my craving.
And there the conversation ends. I have to trust him that there is wine in the house because…. well….. that’s what we do when we are in a relationship; we trust each other. We must also avoid irritating our partners by harping on and on. And we must be sure not to alarm them by sounding like a desperate wino. We must be casual about these things.
Just not tonight.
“So where the FUCK is it?” I scream, on arriving home.
Hubby looks genuinely perplexed. “Sorry Honey – I was sure we had some left. We must have drunk it the other night”. He shrugs whilst reaching for the TV remote.
“Bloody bastard – you haven’t got a bloody bastard clue”. I point at him and speak in low monotone. “If you had had even the slightest doubt about whether there was wine in the house you should have said”
Hubby repeats his apology and asks why it is such a big deal given that I am not usually a desperate wino. If there is wine in the house I might have a glass; and if there isn’t – well I don’t have a glass.
But there are just some days when you want one – and I find that the older I get, the more likely I am to want a bloody glass of red wine after a hard days work. Just one glass – that’s all I ever have. Those who know me will vouch for my complete inability to drink more than one glass without my face going purple.
I huff and puff whilst putting my coat back on and when Hubby asks where I am off to, I give him the obvious answer.
“I’m off to get a bloody bottle of wine – from the Spar shop“. The door closes behind me.
But the Spar shop is closed because it’s after 9pm. And the convenience store down by the river is also closed, as is the petrol station.
I am a lone figure, standing in the middle of town and my world has frozen for a second. There is nowhere open to buy a bloody bottle of wine.
There is NOWHERE open to buy a BLOODY BOTTLE OF WINE!
Shall I get a taxi to the 24 hour ‘out of town’ supermarket? No I will NOT! That would truly be the first step onto a slippery slope of desperation.
Will I return to my home empty-handed? No I will NOT because I will find no peace with that decision.
Will I wander into that pub/restaurant over there and ask them to sell me a bottle of wine! Of COURSE I will do that! What an EXCELLENT idea! I am smiling to myself while skipping through the doorway.
There are only a few people gathered in the cosy bar area so I am sure they will appreciate this unexpected trade.
“Could you sell me a bottle of wine?” I say gleefully. And in a lower voice “to take away please“.
The barman has some bad news for me.
“I’m sorry but we’re not licensed to sell alcohol for consumption away from our premises” he says apologetically.
I try not to show my dismay. Think, think, think – I can still do this.
I sigh and tell him that its a shame. “It’s for a friend you see; I am going to visit her and I promised to bring a bottle of wine but I left it too late and now everywhere is closed“.
Barman seems to be thinking about it so I add a bit more persuasion. In a tinkly voice I add “She’ll kill me if I turn up without it – you know what women are like when they need a glass of wine – Ha Ha…..”
He sees me. He sees beyond my mask. It’s in the eyes and I can read his mind as he tells me firmly that I cannot take a bottle of wine away from this bar. “Don’t give me that ‘it’s for a friend shite'”; he says silently. “Do you think you’re the only one who’s tried this line in order to secure an illegal off licence sale of wine? Do you think that I don’t see a trail of middle aged women down here in their ‘post 9pm’ desperation.
But now I don’t care what he thinks, because I have another plan.
I look at him shamelessly. “Tel me – if I were a customer, would it be acceptable for me to take that cosy seat in the corner and order a bottle of wine?”
Another member of staff steps into the bar area. A stern looking woman who I suspect will give the order for me to be removed from the premises.
“Everything OK here?” she says.
The barman knows that he has done nothing wrong. “The lady here would like us to sell her a bottle of wine to take away but I have told her we can’t do that – and now she has asked if she can drink it over in the corner instead“.
“I never said that” I choke out the words. “I accept that I cannot remove an unopened bottle of wine from these premises but I merely questioned whether you would serve me a bottle of wine as a ‘sit in’ customer”.
Stern lady is reading between the lines. And in the meantime, the other customers are looking over. Please God do not let anyone recognise me. All I wanted was one … ONE … glass of wine. Instead I have brought untold shame on myself.
Stern lady needs more information. “So are you going to drink the bottle of wine in the corner or are you planning on leaving the premises with the bottle? I have to open it and serve it you know so it may not be that easy for you to take away – if that’s what you are planning on doing?”
The whole bar awaits my answer. And for me it’s ‘nothing ventured; nothing gained’. The secret is to act confidently.
“I will have a small, quick glass in here and then I will request permission to take the remainder of the bottle away – for my friend – who needs it” I say boldly before trying to distract them with a compliment.
“And my goodness me!” I point up behind the bar. “What a lucky break! You actually have her favourite wine up there on the shelf. Yes, that French one! You don’t see that one everywhere but here it is”.
Stern lady tells the barman that she will deal with this. The other customers in the bar return to their conversation and now it’s just me and her. She reaches for the bottle of French wine and then leans forward to speak to me. Up close, I can see that she is a similar age to me, which may just change my fortunes if…….
“I shouldn’t be doing this” her words are like music to my ears.
“But I know the feeling when you and your friend just want a bloody glass of wine. So I’ll wrap it in this bag here but please keep it concealed until you are well away from here. Strictly speaking I should be opening the bottle too but I won’t. You can take it as it is”
I am beyond grateful.
“Thank you” I whisper.
“Now that will be £48 please – do you want to pay with card or cash?”
Christ Alive! I have never spent that much on a bottle of wine – EVER! I gulp at the cost but I can’t not buy it now. It hadn’t even crossed my mind that it might be an expensive bottle and that I would be paying ‘restaurant’ prices for it anyway. I need to stay cool though. This is a good thing because desperate winos do not opt for expensive wines. In fact, this purchase makes me a rather classy lady.
I thank her again before strolling back out the door with the booty in my hands and my head held high.
When I get back home, Hubby is up at the door like a shot.
“Where have you been? You’ve been gone for ages. I was worried”
I tell him that my search for wine was longer than anticipated due to the lack of convenient convenience stores. He looks relieved. Not only am I back home safely but I also have the bottle of wine that I so desired.
He opens the drawer and takes the corkscrew out. Then he reaches out to take the wine from me but I turn away and clutch the bottle to my breast.
He looks puzzled. “Give it here, honey and I’ll open it. I thought you were desperate for a glass“.
“At £48 a bottle?” I snort. “You must be joking. Oh no – this one is far too expensive to drink on a Tuesday night. I’m saving it for a special occasion. Now stick the kettle on will you!”
When I say that the best road through anxiety and depression is to Carry on Laughing! I mean it quite literally! We all have a favourite crutch to support us through bleak times but this one comes with no side effects!
When black clouds start to gather, the more fragile mind may reach for any number of aids! Alcohol; anti-depressants, Kalms, relaxation tapes, self help books, Rescue Remedy, Yoga, the company of loved ones……. the list goes on.
I have – and still do – reach for all of these in my times of need. But I have another secret weapon in my emotional armoury – and it NEVER lets me down. My Carry On Box Set! If the worries of the world start to overwhelm me I simply open it out and make my selection.
Any one of them will do the trick but we all have our favourites and my top five have got to be Carry on at Your Convenience; Carry on Behind; Carry on Dick; Carry on Abroad; and Carry on Matron.
Its hard to put my finger on why Carry on Films are so good at bringing back some cheer but it’s probably a combination of things.
For one, the Carry On world is a simple, innocent and happy place to be. In general, nobody dies and nothing bad happens. You may get a shotgun fired at your backside but it’s only pellets and someone will tweezer them out; You may suffer a head injury but its only tomato sauce – you’ll be fine! And you may well take a syringe-ful of sedative that wasn’t meant for you – but you’ll wake up later!
It is a disturbing feature of modern life that the deepest parts of your body, mind and personal life can be made so public. And in the Carry On world, there is a good chance that your boobs or bum will pop out at some point or that your undies will be inadvertently displayed. But that’s it! The rest of your body and your business will stay private and you will not see yourself on youtube anytime soon! The Carry On world feels relatively safe!
Having said that, they do contain a lot of material that would be considered unacceptable today. And yet it still manages to feel OK! At the risk of offending some readers I have to say that there is something comforting about the lack of political correctness in Carry on Films because we can let our boundaries go for a moment. We are allowed to laugh even though the storylines are, by today’s standards, pretty SHOCKING!
Amongst the cast, there are those doctors who lech at their patients and others who sexually assault junior nurses. There are school bus drivers offering to go ‘all the way’ with teenage girls and there are old men trying to get it on with women who look young enough to be their granddaughters! And that’s just for starters.
It is a hot bed of stereotypes – from sexually repressed middle aged women to sexually frustrated middle aged men. There is the battle-axe mother figures, down-beaten housewives and hapless husbands. The portrayal of ‘non British’ people would barely be tolerated in today’s society. Putting boot polish on your face and grunting from a jungle backdrop would likely be met with a stony silence.
But these films are a product of their time and it feels OK to laugh at them because the characters are just like us – we don’t always say and do the right things but we mostly mean no harm.
The stars feel like real people; the sort of people you can imagine working with or living next door to. In fact, when I visit people in hospital I expect to see Hattie Jacques marching down the corridor in pursuit of Kenneth Williams. If I go camping I want to find Sid James and Bernard Bresslaw in the tent next door (they might even offer to ‘put it up’ for me!).
Yes – these are ordinary human beings in my eyes. It isn’t like the modern film world. There are few chiselled men or impossibly flawless women in Carry on Films and yet they have far more charm. Who can resist the puppy dog eyes of Jim Dale or a cheeky Jim Tanner. In my mind, the female characters do include some truly beautiful women. Too many to mention but there is a stunning Valerie Leon; An exotic Amanda Barrie; a cute Sherrie Hewson. And a giggly, jiggly Barbara Windsor is surely far more appealing than any supermodel.
Unlike other films, I never get fed up of the Carry On productions! Despite having the box set at my disposal, I still whoop with delight if I see a TV listing for Carry On Up The Khyber on a Sunday afternoon. I will watch it with the same glee that I watched it on all of the hundred previous occasions.
Carry On films are one of life’s constants. Part of their therapeutic benefit is that they have been popping up on TV for as long as I can remember. No matter how mad the world gets, they are a reassuring thread and you can always rely on them to give some relief. Even more reassuring is that I know they will last forever. My living will (which I must get round to writing sometime – but treat this as my last request in the meantime), will be that Carry on Films are left playing in front of me when I am on my death bed (and that the box set goes in the coffin with me).
So if anxiety and depression sometimes plague your day; treat yourself to the box set. If therapists tell you to picture ‘a safe place’ or ask you to create ‘a happy place’ in your mind then I can strongly recommend your choice of Carry On film. Take up your post in Carry on Doctor; Join a coach or camping trip; venture back in time. It’s hard to feel down when Kenneth Williams says he ‘wouldn’t fancy a poke with that’ or tells you that ‘it’s high time you got yours’.
You may recall that I made a vague, shame faced reference to ‘sprout curry’ in one of my previous diary entries. You may have read between the lines and picked up that it probably didn’t work out the way I hoped. Well today I’m going to give you the horrible detail. Why? Because I promised to always be honest – and it may save your own sprout curry recipe one day.
What on earth made me decide to make Sprout Curry in the first place. I didn’t even know that you could make such a thing – did you? Well you can! And it makes sense when you think about it! Lots of people like sprouts (including me) and lots of people like curry (including me) so why would there not be a recipe for the two combined? And there is! All I needed to do was type it into the search engine and the world of sprout curries opened before me.
First dilemma was which sprout curry to choose. There are more than you might imagine but I’m a BBC girl through and through – whether its their World Service or the Shipping Forecast or their Foodie site I always think that the BBC is reliable. It is supposed to be factual, neutral and, above all, an authority on its subject. If the BBC says it is so – then it is so (mostly). So when that bastion of the nation offered me a sprout curry, courtesy of Phil Vickery, I knew my search was over.
With an unfounded, airy confidence I started to build this tasty creation.
And, the first balls up was in not realising that Phil’s recipe was to “Serve 1”.
I did think that 100g of sprouts was going to need a fair bit of padding out in order to feed 4 people but then I realised that it was a single portion – and possibly with good reason, for who would wish to be in company after eating something as gassy and provocative as sprout curry.
Anyway – whilst cursing under my breath, I trudged back into town (thanks for that Phil) and picked up the remaining three quarters of the recipe. This is Kate Ritchie’s version of Phil’s recipe but if you ever decide to make it yourself, make sure you stick to his experience – and not mine.
Phil says “Put a dash of olive oil in a large saucepan and add the Brussels sprouts and blanched potatoes and cook for about four minutes until browned all over:
Kate Ritchie says : “Pour far too much olive oil (the lid is broken) into a frying pan and add the Brussels sprouts and blanched potatoes and cook for about four minutes after which there will not be a hint of brown on either the sprouts or the potatoes. Turn heat up to full and fry everything to death for about 25 minutes”.
Phil says “Add all the spices and cook for a further two minutes or so, until the spices give off a deep aroma”.
Kate Ritchie says “Add all the spices and cook for a further two minutes or so, until the spices give off a deep aroma (in an unpleasant ‘burny’ sort of way).
Phil says “Add the white wine, stock cube, orange juice, red wine vinegar and sesame seeds and cook for a couple more minutes. Stir to ensure the stock cube dissolves fully.
Kate Ritchie says “Add some prosecco (because we are not “white wine drinkers” in this house), stock cube, orange juice, red wine vinegar and forget the sesame seeds (because the ones you thought you had are actually 14 years old and who knows what now lies beneath their shell). Cook for a couple more minutes. Stir, in the hope that the stock cube will dissolve fully – except it won’t. They never do.
Phil says “In a separate bowl, combine the coriander and orange”.
Kate Ritchie says “Do NOT combine coriander and orange in a bowl because nothing will complement this foul concoction. Admit it – your ‘curry’ is nothing more than a weird tasting mushed potato slop – with a handful of black, rock hard sprouts. Fight the rage which always follows a failed recipe. Lean against the sink top and breathe deeply
Phil says “Pour the curry into a serving bowl and top with the mixed coriander and orange. Spoon over the yoghurt just before serving.
Kate Ritchie says “Stop fighting the rage. Throw a lone hissy fit about how nothing EVER goes f*cking right in this kitchen. Pour the curry into the bin and eat the yoghurt on its own. Text someone else from the household and suggest they pick up fish and chips on the way home”.
You may also wish to contact Phil Vickery and ask him how eight minutes could EVER be sufficient time to cook sprouts. Yes, go on – add up the stages given in this recipe and it is no more than 8 minutes most of which is frying time. This f*cking recipe was doomed from the start and I fell for it.
You may also wish to consider whether the absolute failure of the dish, including the unwillingness for the sprouts to cook is, in part because you did not cut the sprouts in half, as instructed by Phil. If that is the case, probably not worth contacting him to complain.
Well when I stumbled upon a recipe for sugar free chocolate I naturally thought “what’s the catch?” And the catch is that its all fat and NO (see notes) sugar – but so what? If you’re trying to seek emotional stability and avoid the rollercoaster sugar rush then what’s 150g of fat on your arse?
Oh yes – and it uses ‘stevia’ which is a sugar replacement so I need to tell you a bit more about this.
Firstly, I do NOT approve of so called ‘sugar free’ recipes which simply avoid refined sugars. In my mind, ‘sugar free’ means ‘sugar free’ – in ALL of its forms!! If you’ve stopped shovelling Silver Spoon into your coffee – but you are pouring honey onto your toast then ‘sugar free’ you ain’t!
This recipe uses stevia, which is indeed a form of sugar but apparently this stuff does not whoosh into your blood stream the way other sugars do. And it is the sugar rush we are trying to avoid! Anyway lets get onto the bloody recipe – so easy and quick you will be AMAZED!!
Place 75g of butter, 75g of coconut oil and a small teaspoon of stevia into a pot. Allow to melt into liquid.
Place two tablespoons of cacao powder (not cocoa powder as this is an entirely different product) into a glass bowl and stir some of the melted liquid in. This should form a paste. Then pour in the rest of the liquid and stir well until nice and smooth.
Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of desiccated coconut into the bottom of some ice cube trays or mini cake cups and then pour the liquid into each one. If you want a bit of zing you can add grated lime rind or other ingredient of choice
Place in fridge and allow to set.
You do not need to leave it that long to set!! None of this ‘allow to chill overnight’ malarkey – you don’t even need a few hours! I was wolfing them down after 45 mins! But I would say they are best to chill for a bit longer if you can manage!
If you like to nibble then be wary that the chilled nature (and the oil content) of these little beauties mean they do not fare well in warm fingers. You will quickly get into a terrible mess with them so either put the whole thing in your mouth or have kitchen roll handy!
Delighted to have you here – I hope you’ll get something from your visit! It’s all about laughing in the face of fear because what else can you do?
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