What’s in Aunty Muriel’s stocking?

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESGrown-up tuck, posh booze and Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances on the radio – what could make for a better Christmas? A pile of brilliant presents, that’s what. And even though a nasty winter virus forced me into a sulk and made me give up on Christmas this year, I’ve still had a lovely day thanks to the ever-wonderful Dr B and I’m sitting in front of a treasure trove of top pressies. Here’s what I got.

First up, and in honour of my move to the Department of Typography, Dr B bought me this fabbo ruler-with-compass thing, which enables the lucky user to draw lines at specified angles:


I know what you’re thinking – but the answer is no, you can’t borrow it, because this is mine, all mine, and you can jolly well buy your own. I’m not sure yet how I’m going to use my SuperRuler, but I’ll find something that necessitates the accurate drawing of two lines at different angles. Oh yes I will. Now, still with the stationery theme, I also found this in my stocking:


YEAH! My initials spelt out in novelty erasers! And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, the next thing I pulled out was this…

Pencil with crown



A posh pencil with a crown on the end! I’m glad my new office has a lock on the door because otherwise this little cracker would go missing the second my back was turned, I’m telling you. And…well. What can I say about the pencil with the fake moustache on the end?

Moustache pencil

This just has so many applications. I mean, look, here are three things just off the top of my head. The pencil/moustache combo can be used for:

  1. Hercule Poirot impressions. Don’t forget to refer to ‘ze leetle grey cells’. (See video below for example.)
  2. Distraction aid when someone asks something like, ‘Gaenor, did you manage to *insert task here*?’ Simply raise the pencil/moustache combo into position as shown above, and bingo! Your interrogator will completely forget all about what it is that you haven’t done. Whatever it is.
  3. Writing stuff.

See? And this is just the beginning.

With the stationery bag exhausted, I still had three presents to go, and here’s the bunny tea towel…


Now, I think we’re probably not allowed tea towels at work because they do tend to harbour lots of germs, but I’m thinking that I could perhaps use the bunny tea towel to cover up things I don’t want to see – such as, for example, that plant in my office that I think I may have killed. The bunny tea towel can be made to do sterling service in covering up its pitiful plant corpse and no one need ever know what I did.

Next up: the slippers.


I am well chuffed with these. I destroyed my last pair of slippers yonks ago and just haven’t got round to replacing them, plus I think Dr B is sick of watching me pick rabbit poo off my socks, hence the slippers. They’re beautiful, but I know it’s only a matter of time before Basil Bun widdles on them, tries to mate with them, or both. Probably both. But right now, they are perfect. And they’re called Ballerina Camel, which I found very amusing until Dr B pointed out that ‘Ballerina’ is probably the model and ‘Camel’ is the colour. Spoilsport.

Serious bit. My final gift was two books:


Great Housewives of Art is very amusing – I particularly like Mrs Pollock Can’t Seem To Find Anything Anymore – but Australian author Shaun Tan’s The Arrival is seriously good. It’s a graphic novel and it’s a silent book. Well, all books are silent, but what I mean is that it doesn’t have any dialogue whatsoever: the whole story is told in pictures. This means that it actually takes a long time to read because each picture has to be read carefully both in itself and as part of a sequence. The reader often backtracks – much more so than when reading a written text, I think – in order to look at a particular picture once again, just to check that there wasn’t a detail that was missed the first time around, or that that picture wasn’t misinterpreted. It’s a slow reading experience, of necessity – this isn’t the sort of text that can be read quickly. I’ve only glanced at it so far, but I’ve picked up the following: the central character is a man who leaves his family to journey to a foreign land, and the implication is that his family is in some kind of danger – there are spiky tentacles encircling his hometown – and on his arrival he is completely mystified by everything he encounters. The land to which he has travelled has something of Uncanny Valley about it: many things are similar, but there are odd alien creatures everywhere and our hero cannot understand either the spoken language or the written symbols. When he finds a room in which to sleep, he is given a key and he finds his room by matching the symbol on the door to the symbol on the key’s label. It’s clearly a number, but he doesn’t know what number it is. And then again, I’m only assuming it’s a number – perhaps it’s not. Everything in the room is strange: the man goes to make himself a drink only to find that what he thought was a tea urn is in fact the shower. The only recognisable item in the room is the bed, and even this has one of those strange creatures sitting on top of it.

The fact that the story is told in silence accentuates the man’s isolation and his frustration: he can only express himself through drawings and dumbshow. Communication is fraught with difficulties and he just doesn’t know what anything is or how it works. He misses his family. This is a prize-winning book and the Wikipedia entry is worth reading. I’ve included a quotation below:

Shaun Tan has said he wanted his book to build a kind of empathy in readers: “In Australia, people don’t stop to imagine what it’s like for some of these refugees. They just see them as a problem once they’re here, without thinking about the bigger picture. I don’t expect the book to change anybody’s opinion about things, but if it at least makes them pause to think, I’ll feel as if I’ve succeeded in something.”

I might send a copy to Nigel Farage and his Kippers.


Anyway, on with Christmas, and here’s where I have to admit to something awful. I’d so far given up on the whole caboodle this year that I hadn’t even bought Dr B a present. No. Not one. He bought himself a present and wrapped it up as if it were from me, and then he made me give him this gift earlier today. ‘Ooo, what is it?’ he asked, disingenuously. ‘I don’t know,’ I squeaked. He opened it. ‘Well, it isn’t something I would have bought myself,’ he said. Because, gentle reader, to punish me for my not-buying-him-a-present, Dr B has bought this really, really horrible jumper and made me hand it over to him as a gift.



It is hideous and he is refusing to take it off.

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