Saturday, 20 June 2015



I know what RSVP means? You probably do too. But it's clear that we are in a minority.

RSVP - origin: French, acronym - repondez s'il vous plait

From an era of manners and etiquette (... also French). Whilst we native English speakers are not  renown for our enthusiasm or ability to grasp and learn another language (and indeed our tenure on our own tongue is often forged on dodgy ground), there are elements of the French language that creep into our everyday lives. RSVP is one such element. Neatly capitalised at the bottom of invitations, it politely asks for attention. Even if ignorant of the litoral meaning, its message is clear to anyone who has ever received an invitation - reply! Please reply.

I know that. You know that. We both know what is expected; how to respond. In other words, those little letters standing to attention, so neatly vowel-less, and requiring of lovely linguistic acrobatics, prick us into action and elicit the desired response - a reply. Or do they?

I have a theory that how, when and if you respond to an invitation gives an indication of how old you are.

Here goes - invitation scenario:

An invitation drops onto your doormat; arrives as a text on your phone; appears in your email inbox; flutters across your instagram account; is shared with you on Facebook; bobs up the beach sealed in its bottle or arrives in another form of inviter to invitee communication. What you do next betrays your age.

If you answer yes to one of these questions, you are under 30

Do you read the invitation and 'file it' with the other invitations you have already received for that date? You'll wait to see what else comes in, before committing to any.

Do you on the morning of the event shuffle through the options - discard those from boring people; people with too little money to hold a good party; those whose music or style you find a bit weird and all the nerds-who-are-trying-too-hard-to-fit-in?

Do you plan an itinerary ordering the desirable invitations into a temporal and geographic story-line for the evening?

Do you then spend the next few hours creating a heap of clothes as you on the one hand try to decide what to wear while simultaneously on the other sending texts and photos to your friends, checking out who's going where and rearranging your evening's itinerary?

Do you sometime the following afternoon call the friends whose parties you didn't attend and make out that some disaster occurred which interrupted your absolute 100% intention of attending their fabulous party and mute your yawns as you 'listen' while uploading pictures of your actual night? Do you care that they might see them? Not really.

Did you RSVP? Or did you forget? Or did you simply ignore the request to reply? Do you regard replying as 'a bit lame tbh?'

If alternatively you answer yes to one of these questions then you are either over 30 or under 30 and impeccably well brought up

Do you receive an invitation and reply immediately? Or at least within a couple of days? Even if it's from great aunt Eliza and her awful third husband who live in a damp bungalow with sticky carpets and a crumb-strewn sofa where you will be obliged to smile and tolerate their cat Binky. You're allergic to cats and will spend the next 3 days applying steroid cream to the flare-up of your hand eczema. The couple of days before replying are to give to time to rehearse your excuse. But you'll still reply.

Do you doggedly stick to the schedule dictated by your affirmative reply to an invitation even when another invitation to a much better, much more preferable, much more populated with people whom you actually know event on the same day and at the same time arrives? Because that's the polite thing to do? You even remember to RSVP your regrets to the second invitation.

Do you not only RSVP but also heed the dress code? Do you know how to write a proper reply to a formal embossed card invitation?

Do social media invitations worry you? Do you trust your friends not to share your party details with the rest of the world?

Is your idea of a nightmare planning the perfect party only to discover that you have no idea how many guests you are catering for - you invited 60, 30 have replied, you know you have 20 coming but what about the other 30? Do you contact them again? Do you cater for them anyway and risk having half the food wasted? And what about the 10 who phone on the day to explain that due to 'unforeseen circumstances' they won't be coming after all? Suddenly you have an intimate dinner feast and are sending your loyal handful of friends home with left-overs. And you spend all evening wondering who might arrive unannounced and when they do why you greeted them so enthusiastically instead of turning them away - no reply, no entry? Actually ... maybe that's an idea - in order to receive party details venue, time etc you must reply first. RSVPFD (RSVP For Details).

So what age are you? Do you agree?

Alternatives - RFFS (think you can guess that one - not really me, too rude); ROIKY (reply or I'll kill you - a bit too Don Corleone-like); or RYI (reply you idiot)!

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Losing touch with reality and planting marigolds

Dare I whisper that the sun is shining and summer is skipping into view. *

Or with those fourteen words have I condemned us to shivering defiantly in our seasonally-compatible if weather-inappropriate clothes braced on holiday against summer winds and showers of rain? Please note I didn't conjure up gales and torrents - I might be a bit of a pessimist but that would be glugging down the entire glass rather than leaving it half empty. To be a pessimist is, after all, to be pleasantly surprised when things turn out better. Perhaps the summer will too. Turn out better I mean.

I hope so.

So does Bertie Baggins.

Or is he laughing at me? - 'Thinks it's possible to jinx the weather now? Definitely lost the plot.'

Or am I anthropomorphising a wee bit too much? I mean: dogs don't really smile - do they?

Or look disdainful ...

Narrowed eyes, mouth shut in a bored harrumph. Why? ...

... 'Gardening! Again!! You said it would be how long before our walk?!'

Ho hum ... Yes, Bertie Baggins, gardening is indeed happening - again - today. And will probably happen tomorrow. And the next day.

Because in anticipation of a sun drenched summer, I have planted up some pots. Last year, I had red and white geraniums. This year, I opted for yellow and orange marigolds, the latter deeply-hatched with stripes of blood-red. Very 'hot sun.'

Also osteospermums

and carnations

As hinted above, while I enjoy planting-up pots to brighten the garden's darker corners and create the Mediterranean in a sun-trap spot that I dream of sitting in but never find sufficient minutes to do so, Bertie Baggins and Four-legged-friend do not. At all.

They do though get the sitting bit. And it doesn't take long before a sitting, bored dog is a lying, bored dog.

The sun is shining. The concrete pavers are warm. Watching gardening is just so very, very boring. The food bowls are empty. That stray won't be back in a hurry. The jumpy postman has been already.

And the rabbits are hiding.

Maybe, lolling on the grass, adopting an entirely non-threatening 'look we've been shot' pose, will encourage them to spring back out of their holes and bounce into the radii of our bunny-sensitive noses.

Best not to actually sleep. Best to keep one eye open. Scanning the hedge. Watching for the first flicker and twitch of silky bunny ears.

Alternatively, when rabbit surveillance - about as thrilling as watching gardening happen - loses its appeal ...

the 'hard Paddington stare' is next in the repertoire of attention seeking expressions. It's blunt. Unequivocally laden with serious intent. It means business.

'Look at me when I'm talking to you!'

... 'have you finished yet?  Perhaps you might recall that being the owner of four legs means that I need a little more exercise than is expended by trailing round after your two-legged gardening exploits. I expect a walk to follow. Shortly!'

* P.S. Looks like the blame is all mine - absolutely jinxed it. Sorry.