Monday, 20 December 2010

Slumbering scriptwriter

I think there must be a TV scriptwriter living in my head that only comes out to play when I am tucked up in the land of nod.

Not for the first time, this week my dreams have been extraordinarily vivid and structured, almost like whole episodes of TV drama series in my head.

Last Wednesday night, it was about a rock band living all together on a replica pirate ship and traveling across the seas to take part in some renowned music festival during the summer. I even had the soundtrack in mind as I was (literally) dreaming that one up.

And last night, it was an episode from one of those 'unlikely sleuth' detective series, with a genteel (but feisty, sharp witted and steely willed) lady of certain years (think Judi Dench or Maggie Smith) as the main protagonist. It's set against a cathedral, at which our lady sleuth is the curator or something, and she lives or works from quarters in a converted part of the church crypt. The title could even be something like "Other Tales from the Crypt".

The trouble is that when you wake up from such a dream, it is never as clear and vivid as it was when you were asleep. I could (and have in the past) kept a notebook and pen by the bed to jot down the basics when I wake. But, honestly, when you've got to drag yourself out of bed, rouse a sleepy teen, shower, change, prepare for the working day, misplace your keys, hunt the house from top to bottom, find keys in the freezer, spot toothpaste stain on top then change clothes and re-apply make-up – all in the space of 40 minutes – your first thought is not for writing down your dreams in detail.

Now what I could REALLY do with is one of those penseive thingies that JK Rowling came up with for Dumbledore to unload excess memories for future reference...

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Rules Britannia

OK, I’ll own up. I’m a criminal. In fact, I’m a multiple-offender. And yet, I’ve never spent a single night in a jail cell.

“But how could this travesty of justice have come about?" I hear you cry.

The answer is simple. If they locked me up, they have to imprison at least half the population of the UK, ‘cos I’m pretty sure that I’m not the only one guilty of having scoffed mince pies on Christmas Day.

“What?”

Yes, folks. According to long-standing and never-repealed legislation introduced by England's very own revolutionary and arch-Puritan Oliver Cromwell back in the 17th Century, it is against the law to stuff your face with those tasty little (and misleadingly named) fruit pies on December 25.

But even if you can sanctimoniously resist a Yuletide mince pie-fest, stop before you condemn me and consider if you should be joining me in the dungeons, if English Law was to be followed to the letter.

Other ancient laws that have never been repealed say:

- anyone who sticks a postage stamp on a letter upside-down is guilty of treason;

- it's illegal to die while in the Houses of Parliament (prompting the plagiarised question of “How would they tell?” if certain excessively low profile Members of Parliament broke this particular law);

- in the UK, a pregnant woman is entitled to relieve herself anywhere she wants;

- the use of any kind of slide upon ice or snow is against the law;

- you cannot drive cattle through the streets of London (but I’ve love to see you try!);

- it is illegal to enter the Houses of Parliament wearing a suit of armour (and if you then sit down and die, you’re REALLY in trouble!);

- the head of any dead whale found on the British coast is automatically the property of the King, and the tail of the Queen (leaving the blubber for us plebs, presumably?);

and, finally, my favourite:

- it is illegal not to tell the tax man anything you don’t want him to know, but it is perfectly legal to not give him information you don’t mind him knowing (erm, yeah. I think I’ve got that).

In my adopted country, Greece, we have no such ridiculous quirks of legislation. As every Greek knows, “rules were made to be broken”.

So bring on the mince pies, give me that whale’s head and hand me my armour!

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

All I want for Christmas is...

...the chance to let out this breath I've been holding since January.

It's been a bit of year for us here at SMW Towers - just like it has been for so many round the world - and I'm trying very hard to be positive about 2011 (though I'll confess I struggle at times).

2010 started off well enough, with a New Year trip to the Mandi Mum in the UK, unexpectedly extended by a few days when Mother Nature decided to dump an unusual amount of snow on the south-east of England, closing Gatwick Airport. That meant we got to shovel snow, build snowmen and miss a few days of school and work. All in all, something we could deal with.

Unfortunately, as it turned out, that was the high point of the year.

Less than a month later, we got the news that the Ovver Arf was out of a job (in possibly the worst time in the past half-century to be looking for work in Greece). Then, some kindly pickpocket decided to relieve me of my purse (containing passport, credit cards, etc.) on the crowded train home from work one rainy March evening (Lessons learned? Carry as little as possible. And trust no-one).

My beloved Nana died just before her 100th birthday in June, and my brilliant tough cookie of a mother was diagnosed with a form of lymphoma (which, thankfully, has stayed under control so far - largely due to her positive attitude, healthy lifestyle and sheer grit).

As the end of the year approaches, we have managed to stay afloat - just - thanks largely to the help and support of our families, both back in Blighty and here in Greece.

But the stress has never really gone away.
Even at our most light-hearted times, when we're laughing at some random silliness or bathing in the warmth of the love and affection from those we cherish, it's there in the background. It sits there like a heavy weight in the pit of our stomach, gnawing away at our sleep and fraying our nerves in our waking hours.

The possibility of losing everything we have worked so hard for all these years - despite me thankfully still having a pretty good job - just doesn't go away.

We have tried very hard to protect Kidling Grand from the immediate impact. Of course, he knows things are tough and that we have had to cut back severely, but we have tried to keep the worst of it from him.

Part of me has tried to work at everything extra hard, in the hope that I can save everything.
I log-in every evening, weekend and holiday to my email to make sure I'm not missing a trick for work or the possibility of earning a few extra Euros with some proof-reading or translation.
Not a single piece of veg languishing at the bottom of the fridge has gone in the bin where a soup pan could welcome it, and I've started baking our own bread each weekend.
There's a part of me that believes that if I try really, REALLY hard, I can save the world - or at least our little corner of it.

Meanwhile, life just keep getting more expensive here in Greece. A standard weekly shop for the basics from the supermarket, without meat, rarely comes in under 70 Euros. Petrol is now heading towards 1.60 a litre. And all the household bills are heading ever upwards. Things will get even worse in the months to come. Tickets for public transit are about to go up 30%, VAT on everything will rise 2% to 13% from 1 January, and 2011 will bring more measures which will force ordinary working bods to pay the price for the mess Greece got itself into after generations of mis-management and evasion by those who could get away with it.

I try hard not to be a Moaning Minnie - weeping and wailing about our fate achieves nothing. And I know that there are many others much worse-off than us. But there are times when I just have to let it all out.

This month, on top of all the usual expenses and winter extras, we have the cost of Christmas to meet (severely cut back this year), car tax for the entire year which have to be paid by the last day of the year (amounting to several hundreds) - and my vehicle insurance to cough up for.

And now we have to find the means to fix our tiled loungue floor, after it decided to rise up (literally) in revolt on Friday night, a few hours after we had finally given in and put the heating on for the first time.
The result was my poor Ovver Arf kneeling on the floor staring in tiles that had lifted up like a mini-tsunami, almost in tears of frustration, and me losing a few more nights' sleep and offering up a plea to the Universe to PLEASE just give us a break.

We'll muddle through - one way or another - and we'll make the sacrifices we have to. We know that compared to many, we still rank among the lucky ones. We appreciate the good things we have and - despite a few fraught moments - we have managed to keep our relationship on an even keel (if anything, it's stronger than ever). We know we're blessed with terrific family, friends and each other.

We have been good - really good - all year. I think we deserve a place on Santa's "Nice" list. But we don't want fancy wrapped gifts or glitter-filled festivities.

No, all I want for Christmas is a little peace of mind.

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(Apologies to you all for the whinging nature of this post. Normal service with all its random witterings will return shortly.)

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Laughter, megaphone to the soul

I'm guest blogging over at http://www.beckicklesie.com again today, with a little meditation on the subject of laughter - something I'm convinced saves lives.

Here's a little taster.
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You can tell a lot about someone from the way they laugh - probably a lot more than they'd like you to know.

A shy swallowed chuckle might betray the shrinking violet lurking beneath a brash and apparently fearless exterior; a Mutley-like snigger might surprise you coming from a seemingly respectable librarian; a roaring guffaw might shake you out of your boots if it comes from a mousey accountant; and as for that sweet little old lady - well you'd be surprised just what a filthy laugh she has!....


(to read on, head over to http://www.beckicklesie.com/2010/12/laughter-megaphone-to-soul.html )

Friday, 10 December 2010

Stuck in the middle of misconceptions

Being a True Brit but living in Greece for more than two decades, I usually find myself having to fend off a flurry of misconceptions about one nation or the other. And it's not just from one side - I'm usually stuck in the middle of the mistaken ideas of the Greeks about the English, and England's equally misplaced concepts of the Greeks. Oh the joys of living the Life Bilingual.

Whenever I reconnect with an old friend through Facebook and they discover I now live in Athens, their automatic reaction always seems to be "Ooh, lucky you!" (or at least it was until the Greek economy went officially down the toilet).

In their minds, I was the lucky escapee from Colditz Britain, having fled my homeland's soggy shores for sunnier climes, probably living next to a beachside taverna, sipping ouzo and playing backgammon, surrounded by colourful locals grinning through their moustaches as they randomly yell "Opa!" and smash the crockery.

And of course, don't forget that after a heaving plate of midday souvlaki we all hit our beds for an afternoon nap before heading out for more food, drink and complicated dancing some time after midnight. (Yeah, right. A swift sarny at my laptop followed by a train ride home to a pile of ironing is closer to my reality - if I'm lucky.)

These are my same countrymen who might look on in terror whenever they witness a couple of Greeks who spot each other on the London Underground, convinced that their loud rapid-fire speech and bristling facial hair are a sure sign of blood about to be spilled. It's not, it's just the thrill of spotting a fellow Ellinas in a foreign land - and the conversation nearly always starts with an enthusiastic "Yeia sou, Patrioti!" (Rough translation: Hello! A fellow Greek - thanks to God!).

And they may be the same Brits who are shocked to find that Athens' Syntagma Square is miles from the beach, and there are no sunbeds around the Acropolis.

But, to be fair, the Greeks more than make up for those misplaced misconceptions with a huge mountain of scurrulous stereotypes about the Brits.

For a start, one of the first things you'll hear when they learn you're from the UK is always: "Well, of course, it rains constantly there, doesn't it?". True, as any Brit will tell you, we do get more than our fair share of the wet stuff but now and again the clouds do clear and a strange yellow round thing can be spotted in the sky.

My own beloved Ovver Arf, being Samos-born and Athens-bred, was convinced that he would go rusty or grow mould when visiting my family for the first time. It was November, and he was heading for England, he was bound to spend the entire six weeks in a state of constant sogginess, wasn't he? (As it turned out, it rained on just one day - my birthday - during that first visit in 1989.)

Then there is the idea that everything stops for tea in England - at 4 o'clock in the afternoon (mind you, the cucumber sandwiches cliche seems have to passed by most Greeks' radar - I'm consider a madwoman for suggesting anything between two slices of bread beyond the ubiquitous ham and cheese). Some Greeks still expect us drink our brew out of dainty porcelain cups, poured from a silver teapot polished by 'Our Man Jeeves', as we elegantly stick our little fingers out. (It must come as a horrible disappointment to them to see me plonk a Tesco's teabag in a mug and throw the resulting brew down my throat with all the poise of a hippo in a hurry.)

Then there is the idea that the Brits are cold fish who throw their young out into the cruel world the minute they recover from the first squeaks and spots of puberty. This must be the one misconception that REALLY gets to me. I don't know how typical I am, but my family is a tight-knit one, oozing with emotion. Passions run high and hearts are warm in our little clan, despite the frosty weather, and I'm probably the nearest thing to a cold fish of the lot of us (please someone, tell me it ain't so).

Yes, we generally do encourage our children to move out and make a life for themselves before they hit 30 (though that looks set to change in light of the latest news from the homeland). However, on the other hand, we do usually manage to acknowledge that our offspring are no longer infants before we are actually dribbling away in our dotage.

Not so in Greece - and believe me, I know. My mother-in-law still sometimes refers to my 44-year-old Ovver Arf as "to paidi" (the child). And at least you get to choose your own furniture when you're not still firmly tied to your mother's apron (and purse) strings.

I have to admit, however, that it's sometimes fun to play up to those misconceptions.

So, bear with me as I nibble on a digestive, drink a dainty cuppa (with pinky duly raised) and utter "Oh, I say" and "Bloody hell, Nigel!" in my best cut-glass Rodean accent (not bad for a graduate of Balcombe Road Comprehensive, eh?).

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Waging war on wimpish words

That’s it, I've had enough.

I am now officially declaring war on the ubiquitous and gratuitous use of euphemisms. If I hear the death of one more well-known worthy announced on Greek TV as “today, so-and-so left their final breath…” I shall scream blue murder!

It’s not just the fact that the newsreaders don't simply say “so-and-so died today”, it’s the fact that they ALWAYS churn out to the same tired old cliché!

At least have the imagination to find a new cliché, please! (?)

If they need inspiration, they need look no further than the famous Monty Python Parrot sketch. Admittedly, “he’s f****** snuffed it” is a tad on the insensitive side, but there are plenty more there including “gone to meet his Maker” or the wonderfully Shakespearian “shuffled off this mortal coil”. And beyond Python and the famous Norwegian Blue, there are still plenty of options. I have even heard of someone dearly departed being referred to as having been “astrally gathered”.

But when it comes right down to it, what's wrong with simply saying they died? Dressing up the news doesn't make the loss any less painful nor the departure any more dignified.

There's simply too much potential for horrific embarrassment due to innocent misinterpretation of phrases like “he’s left us” or “he moved on” (the most painful response – for all concerned – must be “Oh really? So where’s the old bugger living these days then?”).

It seems that the human race is addicted to euphemisms – not just for death but also for other great fundamentals of life, like going to the toilet or having sex.

I mean, do we really have to talk about No.1s and No.2s (on which my Other Half and I are in complete disagreement about which is which), or doing the horizontal tango instead of just saying what we mean?

Let’s face it, euphemisms are just way out for wimps, aren’t they? Why not call a spade a spade? Unless you’re a character from an Oscar Wilde play, in which case you'll probably be glad to report - in your best Lady Bracknell voice - that you have “never seen a spade”.

I know euphemisms are meant to spare the embarrassment of others. Fair enough, I guess. That’s why we use words like "willy" and talk about dog "do" and "you-know-what" around the faint-hearted.

Really, if it embarrasses you so, why not simply shut up?

Now, I could go on (and on, and on), but I have to nip off to the "little girls’ room" to - ahem - "powder my nose"...

Monday, 6 December 2010

Sinful cinnamon rolls

Nothing can compare to the scent of homemade cinnamon rolls wafting out of the kitchen as you hang up you pinny, reapply your lipstick and slip on your high heels to serve the men in your life a plate of fresh pastries with their mid-morning coffee, right?

OK, I admit it. Those of you who know me will already know that I'm no Stepford Wife (nor do I have any desire to be one), but lately I have been gripped by the desire to make my own cinnamon rolls (and to scoff them with my own morning cuppa).

This weekend, as if the utter chaos of our flat in mid-festive decorating blitz wasn't enough, I decided to add to the mayhem by trying out my cinnamon roll recipe for the first time.

I was a little apprehensive, as I don't have much experience of cooking with yeast (nor the necessary patience). But they turned out to be much simpler, and tastier, than I expected.

If you want to try for yourself, here's the recipe.

First of all, for the dough you will need:
400 grammes of strong white flour
2.5 ml (half a teaspoon) salt
30 ml (2 tablespoons) sugar, plus 1 teaspoon of sugar to mix with yeast
5ml (1 teaspoon) fast-acting dried yeast
45 ml (3 tablespoons) olive oil
1 egg
100-120 ml warm water
100-120 ml warm milk

and for the filling:
50 grammes melted butter
50 grammes dark brown sugar
20 grammes ground cinnamon
1-2 tablespoons sultanas (optional - alternatively you could use choc chips. Personally I prefer them with sugar and cinnamon alone)

Dissolve the teaspoon of sugar in the warm milk and warm water, then add the dried yeast. Mix and leave for about 5 minutes to forth up slightly.

Sift the flour, salt and 2 tablespoons of sugar into a large bowl.

Add the oil and egg to the milk/yeast mixture and stir gently. Add to the flour mix.

Mix to a dough, then knead til smooth, adding more flour if necessary. Knead for a couple of minutes then leave in the bowl, covered with a clean tea towel, in a warm place to rise.

Roll out to a large rectangle, then cut in half lengthwise and brush with butter.
Mix the dark brown sugar and cinnamon together well, and sprinkle on the buttered dough. If using sultanas or choc chips, sprinkle these as well. Roll into a sausage shape to enclose the filling .

Cut the roll into slices about 1 inch (2.5 cm) thick and place the pinwheels on a greased baking tray. Brush with a little melted butter, and leave to prove for half an hour.

Bake in a pre-heated over (180-200 degrees C, depending on how 'hot' your oven burns) for 15-20 minutes, until golden.


When cooked, mix some icing sugar and cinnamon with some water to my a fairly liquid glaze and drizzle over the hot buns. Allow to cool, so the glaze will sink into the pastry a little and harden a little on the outside.

Then all you need is a willing volunteer to savour your wares.


(Word of warning: If you have a teenage boy in the house, hide half the cinnamon rolls from him - that is, if you want to enjoy one to yourself with a well-deserved cup of coffee once you've done the washing up.)

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My cinnamon roll adventure was inspired by Oui Chef at http://www.beckicklesie.com/, where the theme for December was "Cinnamon and wine".

These deliciously sinful buns take care of the cinnamon side of things, and I'll just have to rely on my friendly household wine waiter to provide the rest!


Perfect, for me

Today, the Ovver Arf and all the other Nikos, Nikolauses, Nikolettas et al in Greece (and that's a lot, believe me!) celebrate their Name Day.

So do sailors, as in Greek tradition Saint Nick is the patron saint of sailors. The chap that bring the prezzies to good children is Saint Basil (which always brings to my mind images of a manic red & white-clad John Cleese doing silly walks across festive hearths to fill the waiting stockings... but that's another story).

It is the 21st time we have celebrated his Name Day together. Mind-boggling, but kinda marvellous too.

At the risk of sounding cheesy and gloopy, I have to say that my particular Nikos is the one who completes me. Cue Renee whatersface looking all tearful and blurting out "You had me at Hello".

I know, it's horribly corny, but he really did have me at that first (very Greek) "Hhhhhello" back in April 1989, when he looked across the lobby of the hotel where he was working, gave me a cheeky grin, and suggested the perfect place to hang my Holiday Rep notice board. A quick peek at us, the way we were then, probably tells you all you need to know.

Since then, we've both changed quite a bit. Fluctuating fashions and haircuts, expanding waistlines, a few more wrinkles, some adjusted priorities and a good few revised preconceptions.

We've been through quite a bit too - the thrill of buying our own home (along with the scary mortgage payments), the deaths of dearly-loved and greatly-missed family members, a heart attack (fortunately minor) when he was away on a business trip on the other side of the world in Singapore, periods of bleak depression and anxiety, the constant flow of my 'does my bum look big in this' insecurities, and - of course - the birth of our very own Kidling Grand.

But one thing that has remained constant, throughout all those years, is our ability to make each other laugh.

Nikos is a natural born comic, with a phenomenal memory for jokes and the way to tell 'em, enormous personal magnetism, a brain as sharp as a razor and a heart as big and warm as the sun.

It is laughter that has gone us this far - and I'm sure that it will take us much, much further.

Nikos is not perfect, though there's plenty of things he is: smart; funny; frustrating; creative; demanding; laid-back; confusing; inventive; complicated; generous; cynical; excitable; cool; infuriating; ingenious; original; kind-hearted; quick-tempered; borderline manic depressive; idealistic; fun; warm; sexy; cuddly; charismatic; abrupt; neurotic; clever; charming; hard work; a challenge.

No, my Ovver Arf aint perfect - but he's perfect for me.

Happy Name Day, Niko!


Thursday, 2 December 2010

Glögg! (or "Mandi lets her Swedish Chef out to play")

Meet Lars. You may not know his name, but I'm sure you all know him.

He's the Swedish Chef, usually seen burbling incomprehensively (but enthusiastically) around The Muppet Show kitchen, often with a chicken looking on in horror.


I don't really know his name, but after 18 years of working for a company with Swedish management, he is definitely a Lars to me.
When Becca and CheffyDaddy announced Cinnamon & Wine as the theme(s) for December's "Oui Chef!" ( http://www.beckicklesie.com/2010/12/oui-chef-table-3-cinnamon-and-wine.html ) I just knew that it was time to let my Swedish Chef out to play and introduce you to a peculiarly Scandiniavian way of beating the winter chill and welcoming the Festive Season.


Glögg.

I first came across it as an innocent 28-year-old, as I approached my first Christmas in my new job. Though based in Greece, many of the managers were Swedes - and they were keen as mustard to bring a little taste of the Baltic to the Eastern Mediterranean. I had already reluctantly sampled reindeer (I know, I know - but actually Rudolph and his ilk are surprisingly tasty) and had managed to avoid Rotten Herring (don't ask - it IS what it sounds like), but the smells coming from the lunchroom that December morning were infinitely more enouraging.

Curiosity got the better of me and I was soon to found hanging my head over a gently seething cauldron of ruby red liquor bubbling with almonds, orange peel and sultanas, with my boss stirring away merrily. It smelt orgasmic. (The booze, not my boss!).

Before I knew it, I had a little glass of the stuff in my hand and was taking my first tentative sip. Then a bolder slurp. Then another glass or two - or four.

I don't remember much after that... except a mental note that this Yuletide concoction was lethal enough to fell a whole longship of Vikings. And that I got the bus home that evening. I think.

So, if you're feeling bold, here is a recipe, including the extras my boss liked to throw into the mix. It will certainly keep the cold at bay - but you may not feel your nose after a glass or two.

You will need:
3 sticks cinnamon
2-3 pieces dried Seville orange peel (use fresh if dried not available
2-3 pieces dried or fresh ginger (not ground)
some 10 cardamom seeds (whole)
some 10 cloves (whole)
1 cup (2.5dl) water

and:
sugar
1 bottle of red wine

(added extras: a few good slugs of vodka or brandy, or both!)
Blanched almonds and sultanas for serving

What to do:
- Put the spices and water in a small pan and bring to the boil. Then turn off heat and let it stand overnight
- Pass the mixture through a sieve to filter out the 'bits' from the spices

- Pour in the wine and gently heat (don't boil!)
- Add sugar to taste (about half a cup) and stir til it dissolves
- Heat but do not bring it to the boil. Alcohol evaporates when boiled and that sort of defeats the object!

- If you're feeling naughty, spike the whole thing with a splash or three of vodka or brandy
- Serve hot with raisins and blanched almonds (dropped into the cups after serving).



Skål!

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Surprise Celebration

I entered uncharted territory today. For the first time, I set foot into the 46-55 demographic, my late-forties, or the pre-SAGA generation as a helpful friend suggested (gee, thanks Fran!).

Considering that I have blown out candles on 45 birthday cakes to date, the fact that it was a normal working day, and our general financial situation, I wasn't expecting much of a fuss to be made of my birthday - or me.

I was pleasantly surprised.

Most of my 'working day' was spent thanking colleagues from (literally) all around the world for their birthday wishes. And then there were the dozens of brilliant friends clamouring to wish me Many Happy Returns and put a smile on my face (yes, even 'dear George' who reminded me that I am now "just under 50").

I was in a pretty good mood as I made my way home, but I thought the highlight of my evening would be a glass of plonk and maybe a favourite DVD, having issued instructions for "no gifts or birthday cake" to the hubby.

For some strange reason I thought he'd break the habit of a lifetime and do as he was told.

I was wrong.

As I opened the front door, I was greeted by darkness, and the faint glow of flickering candlelight on the dining room, surrounded by the Ovver Arf, Kidling Grand, my in-laws and neices singing a uniquely Greek version of "Happy Birthday"!

Despite my protests that I didn't want a fuss, they decided to pamper me - complete with a homemade cake and prezzies to open.


Though I could have perhaps done without the reminder of my antiquity in the glaring "46" candles (the Ovver Arf said if he had got one for each year, the candles would have cost more than the cake!), I was blushing furiously with pleasure as I huffed and I puffed and I blew out my birthday flame.

And there was more to come, with a special birthday supper lovingly prepared by hubby so we could have the sustenance essential for a typical (noisy) Greek family celebration - and I was the one being celebrated!

It was a reminder that it's not the fancy gifts that make a real celebration.

It's the little touches: a homemade cake; a favourite dish; or a cardboard & glitter birthday brooch crafted by an 11-year-old.

They're what makes you feel like you matter.

And that is certainly worth celebrating.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Smarts in an hourglass

Today, I'm guest posting over at http://www.beckicklesie.com/ with a little piece about the link between the fatty acids that give us our womany curves, and IQ levels.

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Next time you come face-to-face with the ironing board tyranny that batters the egos of those with figures that owe more to an hourglass than a plank of wood, take heart.

Studies have shown that curvy women are likely to be brighter than our waif-like sisters – and more likely to produce intelligent offspring.

Yes! (You have to imagine me punching the air at this point). At last, scientific proof that not only is it alright, but BETTER, to be All Woman.

Apparently, the bigger the difference between a woman’s waist and hips, the better. And, speaking as your classic English pear-shape, that’s great news....

(Read on at http://www.beckicklesie.com/2010/11/smarts-in-hourglass.html)

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There's a bit of a Guest Blog Festival going on right now, so head over to www.beckicklesie.com for many more words of wit and wisdom on a wide range of issues.

You won't regret it!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Let's talk about sex

The world is obsessed with it.

When it’s good, there’s nothing like it. When it’s bad, it’s just not worth the bother.

For centuries it was taboo – and now you can’t escape it.

Sex.

But I think we take it all too seriously, don’t you? I mean, I’m all for it. But is it only me that thinks it is SO much better when it’s served up with a side dish of laughter?

Judging by what some memorable folk have had to say about the subject, I'm happy to report that I’m not alone:


You know ‘that look’ women get when they want sex? Me neither.
- Steve Martin

Having sex is like playing bridge. If you don’t have a good partner, you better have a good hand.
- Woody Allen

Bisexuality immediately doubles your chances of a date on a Saturday night.
- Rodney Dangerfield

Sex at age 90 is like trying to shoot pool with a rope.
- George Burns

Women might be able to fake orgasms. But men can fake whole relationships.
- Sharon Stone

My girlfriend always laughs during sex – no matter what she’s reading.
- Steve Jobs

Clinton lied. A man might forget where he parks or where he lives, but he never forgets oral sex, no matter how bad it is.
- Barbara Bush (an unexpected spark of wicked humour from a former First Lady)

Women need a reason to have sex. Men need a place.
- Billy Crystal

According to a new survey, women say they feel more comfortable undressing in front of men than they do undressing in front of other women. They say that women are too judgmental, where of course men are just grateful.
- Robert De Niro

The problem is that God gives men a brain and a penis, and only enough blood to run one at a time.
- Robin Williams

So, don’t be afraid to giggle as you tussle under the eiderdown folks.

And, you men-folk out there, please don’t take it personally. Laughter is good (and surprisingly sexy).

You’d prefer that we cry when you whip off your Y-Fronts, maybe?

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Athens Portraits: School run scramble

8am outside the local primary school.
The troops are gathering - and with them an entire support battalion.

Fathers zoom up to the gates on motorbikes with tots perched precariously on the back without the benefit of a crash helmet (but you’d better not even think of breathing a word about them being anything less than a devoted dads).

Mums heave bags packed to bursting point with books – the weight of which their little darlings couldn’t possibly shoulder (I swear those bags weigh more than the kids that have to carry them).

Grannies faff about at the baker’s shop across the road to make sure their little darlings are stocked up with pies and pastries (and enough carbohydrates to sink a battleship) to see them through the rigours of the school day.

And the cars – the cars!

Seen from above, the school gates would look more like a smashed open ants’ nest with the insects dashing here and there in a blind panic.

Vehicles swerve crazily into that parking spot (supposedly reserved for the headmistress) that ensures the sprogs will have ten paces less to take, oblivious to the hooting honking bottleneck of cars, delivery vans and buses backing up behind them. Alarm lights flash in imagined justification for total disregard of the law of the road or common civility. And on most mornings, a shiny white and blue police car is abandoned in the middle of the road – not to get things under control, but so the local Constable can deliver his son and heir safely to the playground.

This morning, a spanking new, flashy red Ferrari drew gasps of admiration and awe from pre-pubescent boys as it drew up and stopped ON the pedestrian crossing. The long-suffering lollipop lady (or crossing guard if you prefer) tried - in vain - to shame the greasy middle-aged man who emerged from the swanky sports car, but he just ignored her and carried his child across the road to the school.

It’s dog eat dog on the morning school run scramble.

I guess it’s only to be expected that the start of the school day should be a raucous affair. But, in Greece that it’s not the kids - but their parents - that are the main source of the rumpus.

How’s that for teaching by example?

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The Gallery: Meditation in Monochrome

Things get a little pensive and moody with the theme for this week's Gallery:
Black & White.



Removing colour from the formula draws attention to texture and contrasts in the way that might not be obvious to the eye when distracted by splashes of red, blue or green.


But I'm a sucker for colour, so I couldn't resist letting a little smidge of the stuff creep back for just one shot.



And speaking of other things I can never resist...


For more black & white images check out this week's Gallery at http://stickyfingers1.blogspot.com/2010/11/gallery-black-white.html

Monday, 22 November 2010

What's in a name?

Browsing through a road map of my homeland at the weekend, I came to the conclusion that there are some place names you could ONLY find in England.

It all started when a TV programme we were watching (imported from the BBC) mentioned a picturesque village in East Sussex called Diddling. Yes, Diddling - as in diddling the books, or perhaps even your neighbour’s wife if you’re very naughty. (Actually, it sounds like the sort of place the late, lamented Bambi Fancipants might have settled down if it hadn’t been for that unfortunate flying ice-ball incident this summer… but that’s another story.)

As I tried to explain to dear hubby, it’s nothing unusual. But he was not convinced. As Greek place names are almost always descriptive in a definable and identifiable way, he refuses to believe that certain place names from my homeland are anything more than yet more evidence of the incurable eccentricity of the English. Thinking about it, I'll admit that he may have a point.

Within just a couple of hours’ drive of where I grew up, you can visit such wonderful places as: Dorking (the ideal place to be a dork, I guess); Small Dole (where they admit that unemployment benefit is peanuts); Climping (how you walk when your new shoes have given you blisters); Crawley (as in creepy-?); Havant (as in ‘…got a clue’); Hog’s Back; Goring (think bulls); Gravesend; Foulness Island (the place where it’s cool to be foul); Braintree (which summons up a particularly gory mental image); Wittering (as in ‘stop wittering, Mandi’); Sway; Wallop (imagine being able to tell people you meet at parties ‘I’m from Wallop’?) and more than my measly road atlas can reveal…

But the truth is that we cannot hold a candle to some of the more 'out there' place names to be found across the United States. While the names of towns and villages in the UK are usually dictated by their history, the pilgrims who fled Europe and settled in America a couple of centuries ago had the luxury of picking their own place names.

In the spirit of those pious times, it was not unusual for a socially-ambitious Puritan to change his name from (say) 'John' to something far more impressive like 'Righteousness In The Face Of Adversity' Smith. So, I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that the Founding Fathers came up with some (divinely?) inspired names for the towns and cities where they settled.

Perhaps the best-known - and certainly one of my favourites - is Truth or Consequences somewhere in Nevada, but there are many others great ones including Redemption, Submission or Limbo (imagine living in Limbo?).

One of these days, I really must get my act together and do that road trip across The States. Realistically, I’ll probably be in my dotage by the time I get round to it, but maybe being a loopy old dear will be well in keeping with my mission to collect the best and most eccentric place names I came across along the way.

And, after all, a country that boasts such deliciously existential road signs as “Gusty winds may exist” must have entire treasure-troves of surrealism to offer, eh?

Saturday, 20 November 2010

She came. She saw. But did she conker?

Ah, autumn.
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, bringing back memories of shushing though piles of fallen leaves, rosy cheeks and frozen noses, and playing conkers in the school yard.

But did you know that the good old horse chestnut (a.k.a. conker) tree is NOT a native to Britain, but a migrant from... Greece and Albania?

And yet, somehow I can't see the Greeks embarking on the annual orgy of smashing your opponents' nuts (in the nicest possible way, of course) that generations of British schoolkids have enjoyed.

Time and time again, I have tried to explain the rules and reasoning of conkers to the Ovver Arf. He sits there patiently, giving me the indulgent look of one humouring a slightly dim but lovable child, while I try to convey my enthusiasm for scrabbling about in the wet grass to find the perfect shiny brown conker with which to annihilate my rivals' feeble offerings.

His demeanour is one of "OK, that sounds like the sort of thing you Brits would do. But why?"
To be honest, I don't have an answer.

It's just one of those things that is (or at least was) an integral part of growing up in the UK. No rhyme or reason is required - it just IS.

Just like he can't explain why Greeks traditionally fly kites on the first day of Lent, why Greek grannies tie a red and white knotted string bracelet round their grandchildren's wrists every 1st March, or why taramosalata (made from fish eggs) is allowed during the Lenten fast when both fish and eggs are forbidden.

But I digress - back to conkers.
For the unitiated, to play the game first you must find to take a large, hard conker and carefully drill a hole through it. Then thread a piece of string through the hole and knot one end. Next, find your opponent - similarly conkered up of course. And then you proceed to take it in turns to hit one another's conkers with your own. This goes on until one is one is smashed, and the status of the winner is enhanced according to how many victories it has clocked up (one-er, two-er, six-er, etc.).

That's it. Nothing more, nothing less. But it used to keep us occupied for hours.

Now, in these days of extreme Health & Safety awareness, I fear that conker fights may be a dying tradition. I have certainly heard of schools banning them (not for fear of shards of smashed nut flying into kids' eyes or bruising juvenile knuckles, but in light of possible nut allergies).

But I hope that despite the new age of precautions, and the twin siren calls of TV and games console, the autumn air in my homeland still fills with the sound of horse chestnuts cracking against each other.

As for me, I'm off to the Greek countryside in search of a conker tree in it native habitat.

I may be some time.

The Gallery: Before & After

This week (or perhaps I should say last week as I'm running a little late) Tara over at http://stickyfingers1.blogspot.com/ has set us the theme of 'Before & After' for The Gallery.

I thought long and hard about this and although I was sorely tempted to post pics of Kidling Grand at about 18 months (doing a kinda Charlie Chaplin impersonation with a big cheeky grin, Grandpa's shoes and a shoe horn as a walking stick) juxtaposed with the nearly 14-year-old reality of today (trainee oik).

But in the end I decided to be a little more ego-centre. Or perhaps I should say hair-centric.

I don't know about you, but the state of my hair is perhaps the biggest factor in how I feel about myself. On those (sadly rare) good hair days when everything falls into shiny, happy place, I feel so much better about the bags under my eyes and the spare tyres gathering around my middle section.
On bad hair days, one look in the mirror can reduce me to a quivering heap of insecurity that no amount of sassy make-up or drop-dead outfits (not that I have any) can change.

So, I was in a very good mood when I walked out of the hairdressers yesterday, having transformed this:


(BEFORE: a rather apologetic looking random barnet)

to this:

(AFTER: much happy, and sassier, I hope you'll agree.)

So, at least until my hairdresser's magic wears off, you can call me Your Royal Hairness.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Transplanted!


My experiences as a transplanted Brit that has re-rooted in Greece make up some of the material that feeds the varied waffling that makes up this blog. I'm keen to read the experiences of other ex-pats who have settled far from home, so have connected with a few other transplantees through their blogs.

To make things easier for me (I'm know, I'm lazy), I have created a collection of some of these blogs, hosting their posts (and including links to their blogs) in a single collective site which I have called http://transplanted.collected.info

Why not pop over and take a look - and if you like what you see, go to the individual blogs featured to get in touch with the writers.

And if you have any ideas for other blogs we could or should add to the feed, let me know!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Excuse me?

These days, allergies are everywhere. Every Tom, Dick and Harriet seems to be either lactose intolerant, gluten-adverse or at constant risk of puffing up like a prawn cracker dropped into boiling oil. No wonder packs of peanuts now feel the need to carry the dire warning "May contain nuts".

But perhaps the most unavoidable allergy is the one I suffer from.
Prepare the melancholy violin solos, dear reader, for I - tragically - am allergic to jargon.

My nemesis (and it's even more outragous and incomprehensible cousin, gobbledygook) is EVERYWHERE. There's no getting away from it.

It's official definition is "the specialised language of a professional, occupational or other group, often meaningless to others". And that's the problem. Once limited to small cliques who all knew - or pretended they knew - what they were talking about, it has now spilled over into everyday life, where is it even more meaningless.

Local authorities, Government departments, utility companies (that's the gas, water and electricity boards to you and me) and private corporations are among the worst offenders, adding further confusion to a life that is bewildering enough as it is.

Speaking and writing is supposed to be about communicating information, ideas and emotions. Jargon does the opposite - it excludes. And worse, it's used as verbal padding to disguise the fact that the speaker really has nothing of substance to say.

The rot probably really set in a couple of decades ago when Personnel Departments at companies around the world winked out of existance to be replaced by mysteriously scientific -sounding "Human Resources" (am I the only one to feel that phrase has sinister Orwellian overtones?).

Now, as we come to the end of the first decade of the 21st Century, Receptionists will give way to "First Impressions Executives", "down-sizing" means you're out of a job mate, and height has been shoved aside by "verticality".

Business meetings are scattered with dreadful phrases like "think outside the box" (now so firmly IN the box it seems to have been super-glued in place), "the big picture", "win-win situation", "one-stop shop", "leveraging our capabilities", "paradigm shift", "benchmarking", "Maximising our synergies", "ring-fencing our weaknesses"... the list goes on.
And on, and on.

I can't be the only one to sit through meetings, fighting the urge to leap onto the conference table, tearing at my hair and screaming "What are you talking about? What are you saying? Cut the crap and tell us what you mean!"
You've all had that moment... haven't you?

Some choice examples of corporate double-speak include:

"the diaper universe"
(that's Ad Man talk for babies)

"Passenger shoe repatriation area"
(Notice spotted a couple of years ago at Gatwick Airport showing where to go to to collect your shoes after your security check. To their credit, BAA - who then owned and ran the place - removed it after The Plain English Campaign pointed out its absurdity)

"capitalise on discontinuous change with an intense sense of urgency"
(your guess is as good as mine)

"a degree of autonomy with processes in place to sandbox our activity within acceptable constraints"
(Sandbox? Are we talking playtime at the kindergarten or cat litter?
My money's on the latter)

"The results of the price barometer illustrate that the reprieve in the pace of price inflation evident in the first quarter has abated"
(Erm, I THINK that means prices are rising again after slowing January-March. I think. Oh, I give up)

But beware, none of us are immune. Despite my own aversion to jargon, I'm sure some Smart Alec will point out that everything I write is littered with goobledygook.

That's just the problem. Despite our best intentions, it creeps up on us, wheedling its way into our consciousness. Anyone with a computer or a mobile phone (which is just about everyone except my Aunt Daisy, who lives in a commune in Cornwall and knits her own organic underwear) is at immediate risk of infection.

Text talk (or should that be TXT TLK?) is useful as it helps us fit in as much as possible in our 140-character Tweets, but it is starting to replacing real language and robbing us of the ability to string a sentence together. That's why I avoid LOL, IMO, LMAO, OMG and ROFL (though I do use FYI and BTW).
Most of us know what they mean, don't we? But what about CYA, HTH and MOTD?

So, pity the poor allergy sufferer with no anti-histamine to offer relief. I too carry the virus (which means I'm allergic to myself). And though I try to use blue sky thinking and sing from the same old hymn sheet, I suspect it's a done deal and I am in a no-win universe...


Monday, 15 November 2010

Happily Ever After?

We all love Happy Endings, don't we? I can't be the only one that spins out Happily Ever After conclusions to what's happening in my life, sometimes forgetting to enjoy the moment I'm in.

The trouble with "Happily Ever After" is that they are precisely NOT what they claim to be. There must be something that comes after the Happy Ending - we just never hear about it.

So, in my quest for the truth (the Public has a right to know, you know), this occasional investigative journalist has dug deep to bring you the news of what happened after some of our better-known Happily Ever Afters:

Pinocchio
Years of therapy have had only limited benefits for this former child performer, now in his late 40s. He now - finally - considers himself "A Real Boy" but continues to have body image issues and pines for the carefree days of his firm-bodied youth. Convinced that his nose is too big (at least some of the time), he is in discussions with several plastic surgeons about the possibility of transplanting the nasal tissue to another part of his body.

Pollyanna
Most of her friends abandoned her when they were in their 20s, unable to tolerate her relentless optimism and insistence that they look on the bright side every time their hearts were broken. After hitting the menopause, she sunk into a depression and now needs a handful of Prozac to even think "I'm glad".

Snow White
Well, her Prince did come all those years ago, but there are times when she wishes he would go away again - or at least get out out of the armchair and do the dishes. Life is hard enough for her with a fat, balding, unemployable Heir to the Throne (will his mother NEVER die?) snoring in front of the TV, without her seven small but very demanding permanent houseguests. Sometimes she wishes she had eaten the whole apple. While it's good to keep in touch with her friends from before her marriage, she's had enough of the whole "surrogate mother" gig.

Rapunzel
Years of obsessive brushing, braiding and supporting suitors clambering up walls have taken their toll on Rapunzel's flowing locks. After one particularly tearful break-up, she shaved her head and spent a year in a bobble hat to cover the grey stubble that grew back. Now considering having extensions added.

Cinderella
Yes, she got her Prince - but her ugly step-sisters are still trying to get into his pants. They have had gastric bands fitted, Botox injected and spray tan applied. Traumatised after catching the three of them in a drunken orgy, Cinders turned to junk food for comfort. The only thing the glass slipper fits these days is her little finger.

Rumpelstiltskin
Changed his name by deedpoll to Kenneth.

Dick Whittingdon
Now lives alone with his cat, never leaving the house, plotting the fall of London Town and sticking pins into effigies of Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson.

The Famous Five
Once inseparable, Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy the Dog rarely see each other these days. George finally had the op. Dick and Anne have set up home together and moved to a remote village where no-one knows they're brother and sister. Julian hit the hippy trail and fried his brain in Kathmandu. Timmy the Dog is now a leading Reality TV star.

Pippi Long Stocking
Now making a good living as a pole dancer in a Moscow nightclub. Her signature striped stockings, plaits and freckles are a key part of her act (very popular with the Dirty Mac Brigade lurking in the darkest corners of the club).

Stig of the Dump
Has opened his own home improvement and decorating business.

The Borrowers
Facing an uncertain future after calling in the receiver and declaring bankruptcy.

So, maybe there really is no such thing a Happy Ending, after all?
Just "the continuing story"....

=================================================

(Confession: This post is a bit of a cheat, as it's a repeat of one I did about a year ago. However, I decided to repost it after a rather silly discussion with old school mates sparked a "Famous Five" discussion - complete with lashings of ginger beer!)

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

World in a raindrop - The Gallery: Seasons

Here in Greece, we don't get much rain during the long, hot summer so by the time early autumn swings by, Mother Nature is gasping for a drink. And when the rain does eventually come, it sits like diamonds in the nooks and crannies of leaves.







True, we don't have the spectacular sight of whole forests of flame coloured maples and oaks and I still miss shooshing through the fallen leaves while hunting for the best conkers - but the autumn showers does treat us to a few worlds in a raindrop.



















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This post is my latest offering to The Gallery in which the lovely Tara at http://stickyfingers1.blogspot.com sets us themes for a photo essay every week.
I'm slightly amiss in joining in every week, but surely you must know by now - I mean well, but....

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Tag this!

We all do it, don't we?
I know I do, despite my protestations and best intentions.

For some reason, humans seem to have a deep-seated need to label themselves. Whether it's because we want to 'belong', or stand out from the crowd, or simply to make ourselves feel somehow special, we all tag ourselves with labels that define who we are and how we want the world to see us.

Human nature I guess, and perfectly natural. After all, who doesn't want to belong, stand out or be special?

But what puzzles me is why we all seem to feel the need to drop those labels into conversations at every opportunity.

It's fair enough when someone says "As an educator, I question the value of competitive teaching", after all it is entirely relevant to the subject.

But if I was to say to you: "As an atheist, I like cake", you'd probably give me more than a sideways look. After all, since when did non-believers have a monopoly of scrummy baked goods?

How does being a parent/Christian/vegan/geek/artist/eco warrier/lesbian/PTA chairman/Chief Rabbi make your opinion about the best anti-freeze to put in our cars as the winter chill closes any more valid than the rest of humanity's?
It doesn't.

We know that, we're not stupid. But we all keep doing it. Preaching our own little sermon and announcing our speciality at the drop of a hat - even when it's entirely unrelated.

Anyone who has read more than a couple of lines of this blog will know that I'm 1) English 2) living abroad 3) a non-meat eater 4) married with a teenage son 5) juggling work with family 6) battling the bulge 7) stuggling to make ends meet 8) a bit of a foody.... and a whole lot more.


That's quite a list for a Baby Boomer (Tag No.9) who claims to hate being labelled, eh?

We just can't help it. Even if we manage to avoid starting every other sentence with "As a mother...", we can't seem to stop ourselves from dropping (not so) subtle hints when we Tweet our lunch menus - "Mmmm, veggy chilli. Nom nom" (guilty, as charged) - or so-called self-deprecating remarks - "I'm such a geek".

So, maybe it's time to stop slapping tags on ourselves (and everyone else)... ...or at least coming up with a few new ones?

From now on I'm gonna stop thinking of myself as a big-boned, middle class, working mum with a Radio 4 fixation.

No, I'm gonna be a web-footed, ambidextrous, bossed-eyed eco warrior with penchant for truffles.

Just gimme a moment to climb out of my box...
...and into my new one.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

The science of the bleedin' obvious

After considering the world-scattering revelation that chocoloate produces a stronger and longer buzz than a passionate kiss (depends on the chocolate, or the kiss, I s'pose), I've been thinking about those scientific findings that hit the tabloid headlines every now and again.

If you believe the likes of the Daily Mail et al, scientists seem to spend most of their time and mountains of research grant money on detailed studies that come to conclusions about things we already know.

Another one that sticks in my mind is the finding that "Modern life puts stress on the heart".

No shit, Sherlock.
I'll have to pass on this news to my Ovver Arf, though I think he may have a sneaking suspicion, having suffered a minor heart attack brought on by extreme stress - not caused my me, I hasten to add - at the tender age of 39.

I wonder what will be next?
That we feel more positive when the sun is shining and birds are singing?
That water is good for you?
Or that regular bowel movements help prevent bloating?

Now, I'm pretty sure that the boffins of the world actually spend most of their time on things way beyond stuff I have already worked out by using my own common sense or general knowledge.
I just wish they'd tell us.
Or more to the point, I wish the headline writers would tell us.

I want to know the secrets of the Universe, the winning number for the lottery (just once will do), how to make maximum profit with minimum effort, or how to REALLY banish baggy eyes and cellulite - for ever (yeah, right).

So, let's give the news of the bleeding obvious a wide berth for the meantime. Well, at least until they can tell us the Meaning of Life and we can finally relax with a nice cup of tea and the perfect dunking biscuit (identified by a special study using a complex chemical formula, of course).

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

An object of desire? I should cocoa!

Chocolate. Don't you just love it?

Actually, we crave it. Lust after it. And when we forsake the diet and let our basest instincts run rampage, we're quite happy to get publicly orgasmic about it.

Possibly the best thing ever to cross the Atlantic, it's a classic case of "If it feels THIS good, it must be bad for me".


But the good news is that it's not. In fact, in moderation, it's downright good for us!

In it's purest form, it's packed with cancer-beating anti-oxidants, and has some properties that can drive your cholesterol and blood pressure levels down.

Every woman knows about chocolate's 'feel good factor' as a result of the hefty dose of mood-enhancing endorphins (or 'them dolphins' as my brilliantly batty old neighbour used to call them) and boosts seratonin levels too. Another known seratonin-booster is chilli, so handle those high cocoa solid posh chocs flavoured with chilli with care - or you may just explode with happiness!

It should have come as no surprise when eminent scientists announced a couple of years back that chocolate produces a more intense and longer-lasting buzz than a passionate kiss (the result of yet another lengthy scientific study to add to "Things we already know" - Doh!).

I'm willing to bet that the scientist in charge of the study was a man, single, and had never spent much time in female company. If he had a wife, partner, daughter or female flatmate, he would have reached his conclusions MUCH faster.

The feel-good factor doesn't stop at the chemical level, oh no. It works on all the senses.

Think of that creamy, velvety sensation spreading across your palate, coupled with the unmistakable rich sweet smell as it melts in your mouth. And with the only gloop involved being those gorgeous cocoa solids dissolving on your tongue, a chocolate fix is a much tastier and less messy than getting physical. It involves less effort too.

What REALLY surprises me is that many men naven't twigged to the fact that given the choice between some of Belgium's best and a roll in the hay, most of us girls would have to give it some serious thought - and be tempted by the likes of Johnny Depp, George Clooney or whoever our choice of fantasy happens to be - before opting for a bit of slap and tickle over our favourite sweet treat.

Men, bless 'em, just don't get it. Chocolate doesn't seem to have the same chemical effect on them. I guess all that testosterone must give them some kind of choc immunity along with other caveman-like characteristics. They
're touchingly gullible on the subject, so they're lucky that most of us are not soul-sistahs of Cruella deVil, cos we can (when so inclined) literally wrap them around our little fingers for the sake of a square or two of Dairy Milk.

Case in point. As a teenager, I suffered from slight asthma. One winter evening, I had a mild attack when out with my boyfriend and I didn't have my inhaler with me. Playing the sympathy vote - and with my tongue planted firmly in my cheek - I looked up at him with big doe eyes and told him in my most pathetic helpless female voice "Chocolate sometimes helps".
To my amazement, he obediently trotted off in search of the nearest bar of Bourneville. I was so surprised, I nearly fell off my bar stool laughing (nearly, but not quite - that would have given the game away and cost me my choccy treat).

Of course, not all women are like me.

Some, like my lifelong friend Ffynella the Fragrant are restrained, disciplined and dignified.
Until a Chocolate Sundae appears on the horizon...

...Once she gets a whiff of the chocolate sauce, you'd better make way as Hurricane Ffynella roars across the table and dives in face-first, and only emerges after ten minutes of ecstatic noises that could make her a fortune on the phone-sex lines.

So, it's official. Chocolate beats sex.

But as they're both pretty good, I think we should let our menfolk keep thinking that they're all we really want, while we continue to smile sweetly at them as we fantasise about a Cadbury's Flake.

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This post is inspired by Table 2 of "Oui Chef!" at www.beckicklesie.com. November's theme is - surprise, surprise - chocolate, in celebration of Becca's birthday at the end of the month. So check out other entries if you feel the need of some vicarious choc-induced indulgence.