Saturday, August 29, 2015

Autumn Is Coming

Admittedly it has been a while since we've had our regular soirees here in Netherfield. With the ongoing renovations over at the new demesne Hartfield to watch over and the building materials needed such as furniture and electrical items spilling over, Netherfield hasn't exactly been the proper place to host guests of any sort. Moving boxes fill up part of the house with the new - wallpaper, lamps and chandeliers - and the old - clothes and knick knacks - all mixing together in a disordered jumble.

Moreover it seems to be impossible to have an entire weekend where all three of us tenants are around. With the price of oil on a perpetual freefall, Fabulous Felix seems to be jetting around trying to solve all the ensuing problems - while at the same time balancing the demands of a new relationship.

What about the third, you say? Well, Pretty Paisley has been around even less than he has. Even when she is physically present on the estate, she seems to pull the oddest working hours in town, creeping home way past midnight with her sassy slingbacks in hand.

Yes, I do have my suspicions despite all her fervent denials.

Paisley : Did someone say a party? What shall I wear?
Felix : Ooh drinks.
Paul : Isn't anyone considering the caterers and the cleaners? 

So pulling together a party hasn't been topmost on my mind, till just the other day when Charming Calvin made a mention of it. Ever since he's back, there has been little chance for him to meet all my friends in one gathering which had him wondering. Obviously the bucolic country air - and the sheer monotony of it all - has suddenly turned him into a social butterfly.

Calvin : It has been a while since you've had a social. 
Paul : Haven't had the time. Nor the inclination. 
Calvin : Well I'm around this time at least. 
Paul : You sure you'll even lend a hand? 
Calvin : I'll try. 
Paul : I doubt that. 
Calvin : At least it won't be worse than the miserable potluck the other day.
Paul : Ouch. 
Calvin : At the very least, please cater. We aren't that common. 

That's the Borgias for you by the way.

Since my far-too-obliging caterers were all too deliriously happy to help - and surprisingly eager to give a sizeable discount, how could I possibly say no? Took only moments for us to work out a proper menu for the chosen clique that's coming by. Providentially the time coincides quite well with the coming autumn so all we had to do was come up with a fall foliage theme to match, all bright vibrant yellows, oranges and reds.

With the season upon us, quite a number of our acquaintances are back in the city leaving the countryside quite bare. By some fortuitous chance, both Fabulous Felix and Pretty Paisley find themselves in the vicinity for this short span of time - so what few friends left behind, we have brought together for our coming soiree to wine and dine together.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Art of the Decline

Since my painfully forthright opinions are always clearly spelled out for everyone within hearing range - and apparently I have little to no reservations according to my friends, it isn't that hard to know what I'm thinking. Growing old has some of its perks - and flatly saying no has to be one of them.

In fact Charming Calvin seems to excel in the categorical no - just like the famed Grumpy Cat himself - though he obviously only uses that particular technique on me. Saying no to everyone else - which includes his formidable mother - is something he has yet to master however.

But the art of the polite decline is an acquired skill I assume we shall soon have to impart on the clearly unschooled debutantes in town. Especially since it's clear they show very little tact in declining an invitation.

Suitor : Are you around this weekend? 
Debutante : Yes. Don't have anything planned. 
Suitor : Could I take you out on a date? 
Debutante : Oh ...

( three minutes later )

Debutante : Oh...

( three days later )

Debutante : .Oh ..

And so the awkward silence continues till the dreaded date aforementioned has already long passed.

Suitor : Oh dear, I can clearly see that you're quite indisposed at the moment. 

Really like the song says, all I heard was crickets. Picture the crestfallen suitor standing by the public telephone anxiously watching the clock ticking. Maybe even with the rain pouring. Leaving him wondering if something untoward has happened.

Or whether he has just being friendzoned.

Which brings back awful, awful memories of watching my straight brethren schoolmates bravely attempting - and miserably failing - to court the curiously uncommunicative girls back in high school. The lady doth protest not at all, methinks! Think I speak for most men when I say fumbling an invitation and getting immediately shot down would be preferable to ... getting absolutely no reply at all.

Left hanging miserably in the wind.

Is it so difficult to say no? After the gentleman has foolhardily left his heart on the line, I find it quite inexcusable to leave such an overture unanswered. Perhaps an immediate refusal would leave a little chill in the relationship for a little while but at least there's that glimmer of hope for a subsequent resumption in relations.

However if you leave that question forever unanswered...

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Venus Syndrome

As someone hailing from an all-boys school, it wouldn't surprise anyone to know that we all used to think of the girls behind convent walls as exotic aliens hailing from another planet. While my straight brethren were all too keen to delve into their feminine mysteries, I preferred to do my clinical observations from afar. Far safer sometimes I should think.

Accordingly the passage of time with numerous platonic intimacies and workplace relationships has certainly served to open my eyes when it comes to the undeniable vagaries of womanhood ... but I'll admit they can still frequently confound me. 

Even more so when one of the duennas told me of her experiences entering the marriage mart.

Mabel : I've been trying to date this guy actually but he doesn't seem to get my hints.
Paul : You do know men can be utterly obtuse most of the time, right? 
Mabel : But I spelled it out clearly. In fact I told him to come here since there were plenty of work opportunities here. 
Paul : That sounds as if you just offered him a job.
Mabel : But it's implied that I am here!
Paul : No, it's implied that you just offered him a job. 
Mabel : But I was flirting!
Paul : You basically handed him a job application. 

Obviously Marvellous Mabel speaks perfect Venusian.

Though it has become quite apparent that none of the boys she likes can understand a single word of her unfamiliar language full of inferences and insinuations. From time to time, women tend to forget that the men really are from Mars - and they don't take subtle hints all that well. Stereotypically straight men would simply take the spoken words literally at face value without reading further into the hidden implications thereafter. 

Spell it out seriously. In bright neon signs if possible. 

Mabel : Oh, he's holding my hand! Does he like me? Is he dancing with me because he likes me or because his parents have approved of me? What will this mean? Will he ask me out tomorrow? What will I wear? Hope I don't stain my dress. Is he a good man? Maybe I should ask around.
Beau : I'm hungry. When's dinner?  

Accustomed to the cruel, intricate female politics at play in the Domicile for Dogmatic Duennas, Mabel clearly assumes that all men play the same highly complex games. Apparently forgetting that the common man is assuredly simple with clearly defined wants and needs, and blindingly obvious likes and dislikes, which he probably has no qualms about articulating. 

So in a bid to translate to Martian what she was thinking we all decided to write out an invitation for her much abused new beau. 

Mabel : Don't make it too obvious!
Paul : Short of showing up at his doorstep brazenly dressed in a thong and raincoat, everything else might sail past his head. 
Mabel : Really?
Paul : Yes, really. How about asking him out for the party this weekend? 
Mabel : Isn't that far too obvious? 
Paul : It's a party. 
Mabel : But what if he thinks that it -
Paul : He thinks it's a party. 
Mabel : But what if he thinks that it -
Paul : He will think it's a party. And that's it. 

Really. It's simple. Don't read so much into it. The boys don't. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

The Unworthy Opponent

Let's admit that there's just not that much to do during lazy summer weekends on this side of the Big Puddle. Though the proud little town lays claims to the exalted title of a city, there's really not much on offer when it comes to family fun and social recreation - which is how we all fell into the board gaming hobby by default. Ever since that fateful moment when our gaming fellowship came together, it has been a wild non-stop board game adventure one after the next.

Which is how I like it. For me, playing games is more about the friendly camaraderie than it is about cut-throat victories - hence my long avowed love for convivial cooperative games rather than the cruel, conniving double-crossing bloodbaths much beloved by the likes of Diffident Dan and Mad Madison.

Since he has returned, Charming Calvin has yet to make up his mind on this curious new hobby of ours. Apparently our seemingly antisocial fellow isn't much into cards and board games but we all managed to talk him into trying out a game or two.

Paul : So what did you think?
Calvin : It's an okay game. 
Paul : You like it then?
Calvin : I'm not a natural player. 
Paul : Natural player? 
Calvin : Yeah, I need time to absorb the intricacies of the game, to appreciate the strategies needed to win, to analyze the entire concept. 
Paul : It's a simple card game. It's not all about the winning.
Calvin : But I have to know all that. If not, I would be an unworthy opponent.
Paul : Unworthy?
Calvin : Yes, I might not be worthy of your time and skill as a player. 
Paul : WTF.

Talk about a mind-blowing epiphany since that particularly sage comment certainly explains much about Charming Calvin! And Diffident Dan! Could this be another peculiarly inexplicable foible to differentiate us from our more serious-minded Chinese-educated comrades?

Master : All these unworthy opponents dare to even show their face on the same street?!

Truly. Despite his whimpering claims otherwise, Diffident Dan also takes games quite intensely - almost as if his life might depend on the precarious outcome. At least now we know the real reason behind his befuddling stratagems. Not from a crazed single-minded desire to win but a desperate need to thoroughly redeem themselves in the eyes of their disgruntled companions!

Paul : You mean if you lose, we will all yell  Dishonour on You! Dishonour on Your Family! Dishonour on Your Cow!
Calvin : Yes. Much dishonour. 
Paul : No one does that. Well maybe Sober Sam. But it's just a game. 
Calvin : It's not just a game.  

They simply cannot be seen as an unworthy opponent! The shame! The humiliation! The dishonour!

Master : You were utterly useless during that game. Unworthy of my time and skill, almost an insult to me. Go home before I cut you. 

Like really. Does anyone talk like that in real life? 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Date Shame

There is a distinct magical possibility concealed in every sparkling new date; always the tiniest glimmer of hope that this could be something special and yes, he could be the one.

At least that was how it went for romantic little me. So when I was desperately single, I shamelessly said yes to every possible blind date ever with very little discrimination! All gay bachelors, from seemingly unattainable princes to even the most remotely eligible paupers could fit into my admittedly low criteria. Even treacherous bridge trolls were welcome to apply so long as they bought me some dinner.

After all you just never know which slippery, slimy frog could turn into a handsome prince!

These days however the princesses I know are infinitely more fastidious, hell even the paupers are cautious. So fearful of the dating experience that they keep coming up with supremely lame excuses not to.

Rapunzel : No, no I am not looking for anything at the moment.

Really? Why not? Perhaps there is a hidden tower you need to clean out? Surely heading out on a romantic escapade with a sexy stranger would be far more interesting than staring out the tower windows.

Mulan : I don't need a man. I'm independent.

Really? Being all Miss Independent doesn't preclude wanting a man - or even a woman - by your side. Trust the itinerant matchmaker, there's some comfort in knowing there's someone patiently waiting by the hearth while you're out conquering the barbaric Huns. A man worth fighting for, perhaps?

Beauty : You want me to download Tindr? Oh no, there's no need. Someone will find me. 

Really? Not that many princes seeking brides in magical forests these days, honey. While you're fraternizing with forest animals in some faraway cottage surrounded by forbidden forests, how would you ever expect to find a human date? Short of having the fairy godfather knock the handsome hunk over the head unconscious and drag him back, you'll have to rely on other less aggressive devices. Sure, social apps like Tindr come with dozens of dastardly sexually rapacious wolves in tow but there's bound to be one or two semi-decent woodcutters, no?

Wait, did you swipe left or right for me? 

Take a cue from intrepid girls like Ariel who risked getting out of the familiar waters to find her man! Dating is just a simple part of the human experience so there's no shame in wanting to be a part of it. Creeps, cretins and cads aplenty out in the dating world but there'll be a learning process after all which would help in discerning the real prince amongst the wolves.

And come on, it's just a date!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Oui ou Non?

Oui ou non to Paris, belle mere!

Though we sent out the cautious invitation to his mother several weeks ago, the tight-lipped Madame Borgia has yet to return a favourable reply despite several urgent prompts. Doubtlessly she has been preoccupied with far more pressing matters such as Calvin's uncertain health whereby her noxious herbal potions come into play.

But with the passing days, even Charming Calvin - who has been improving - has found it a little peculiar that his mother speaks but little about the trip. Unusual for someone of her intrusive temperament to not even display the slightest curiousity about the travel preparations and the lodgings! Not even a single croissant au beurre has made an appearance on the spartan breakfast table to signal her growing enthusiasm!

When wearing a black béret charmingly askew to dinner failed to elicit any response from her, Calvin knew he had to speak. After all his last resort was the Gauloises and he didn't fancy smoking at all.

Calvin : So are you coming with us to Paris? 
Madame : Tell me about Paris. 
Calvin : Well, Paul and I intend to -
Madame : Paul?! You're travelling there with him? 
Calvin : Yes, Paul. 
Madame : And you intend to have me follow the likes of him? 
Calvin : Well, yes?
Madame : Never! Mon dieu! I would rather die than travel anywhere with that debauched sodomite! He has bewitched you!
Calvin : Now you tell us. 
Madame : Surely that deviant is the root cause of every accursed calamity that has befallen our once peaceful household!
Calvin : Oh. 
Madame : Pray with me Benedicta!
Benedicta : Yes, maman.
Calvin : You do know I'm still going with Paul? 
Madame : Oh mon dieu! Fetch me my smelling salts, Benedicta!
Benedicta : Yes, maman.

Benedicta : You can rest easy, mon frere. Maman isn't coming with you to Paris.
Calvin : Oh.
Paul : Umm... is it too early to break out the champagne?
Calvin : You're already holding the bottle.

To a certain extent that's what I clearly imagined happening in the Forteresse de Borgia - all theatrical hysterics and wailing reprisals. Maybe complete with fitting costumes -  perhaps a lacy French floral French mantilla for Madame? - and props all around.

Regrettably Charming Calvin says it is not so. Apparently her reaction to the proffered invitation was far more benign - at least according to her similarly taciturn son. Hmm. Though pressed, his sister Benedicta hasn't exactly been all that forthcoming either.

Madame : You guys go ahead. I don't think I shall go to Paris. 
Calvin : Alright. 
Madame : Nothing much for me to see after all. Museums and galleries aren't really my thing.
Calvin : Alright.

Is that at all believable? Far too prosaic I would think. Think I much prefer my dramatic version. Surely she drew the sign of the cross to ward off evil at the very least!

Saturday, August 08, 2015

The Engineers

Although quite a lot of my friends - and yes my boyfriend - commute to work in the engineering world, to me it might as well be an utterly foreign planet several light years away. Thoroughly cocooned in the incestuous medical world with coldly clinical wards, dank morgues and frenetic emergency centres almost 24/7, it is almost impossible for us to envision life in an entirely different sphere of work.

Till today when I had an eye-opening view into their lives.

Supposedly the engineering drones are left solely to themselves for the entirety of the day in the seeming solitude of their bland, uniform cubicles to handle their technical work, only partly alleviated by the occasional march to the conference rooms for a meeting of hive minds. Since achieving their key performance index doesn't include strict dress codes, apparently most of the drones come in whatever casual wear they deem fitting to their workstyle.

Engineer : Everyone dresses like this, really!
Paul : Of their own volition?
Engineer : Yes.
Paul : Were they recently robbed? 

Really. Espadrilles and capris aren't that uncommon. Even the occasional cropped top and khaki shorts can be found on site.

As I took an agonizingly slow, increasingly horrified look around the engineering world, suddenly an epiphany came to me and I realized why Mad Madison stubbornly persists on thinking that graphic baby tees and frayed shorts are the to-go wear for every social occasion. After that glimpse into her native world of the Engineergirls, could you blame her?

Madison : But I am dressed up!
Paul : Believe me, now I totally understand why you would think so!
Madison : What do you mean? 
Paul : Well you're the best dressed one here! You will hereafter get much less disapprobation for underdressing. 

With everyone else rocking collared tees and denim at work as the utmost in professional dressing, I can easily believe so! If that's their prescribed formal work wear, think of what these sartorial slobs would aspire to wear informally!

Seems like it's Casual Fridays all the week long at the engineering firms.

Apparently the medical world ( the legal beagles too? ) is probably the last bastion of proper dressing in the working world, apart from a couple of negligible nonconformists like Nervous Nancy and her hideous crocs. Trying to imagine the medical officers coming in off-the-shoulder tees, pink capris and slippers.... *shudder*

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Social Mistress

It has been a while since my friends the Lushes have all been together in one place.

As usual, work, family and life has served to distance us all from each other - at least geographically wise. Fortunately these days we also have an increasingly wired world to bring us closer on our frenetic chat groups. Guess you win some, you lose some. I do miss them dearly but regular follow-ups on their lives and happenings keep me smiling, especially with the sight of newborn babies gladdening their already lush lives.

Not content with risking her life serving with Medecins Sans Frontieres in the wartorn fields of Iraq, Statuesque Sarah has decided to take up jumping from planes instead. Ostensibly learning all about air ambulance medicine but most probably the mid-air daredevilry would be the draw. Can't imagine what her long-suffering mother would think of her next adventure!

That didn't stop Sarah from having a little party of her own before leaving.

Sarah : Yes, I'm not always sociable all the time but that evening I was the perfect social mistress. 
Paul : Did you just say social mistress? 
Sarah : Yes. Me, social mistress. 
Paul : You know when you say that, everyone conjures up images of leather and whips? 
Sarah : Eeew no!
Paul : Just ask your housemen. 

Somehow I can't picture Statuesque Sarah as the perfect hostess in a frilly pink dress queening it over a garden tea party.

Sarah : Social mistress I tell ya.
Paul : Oh in that getup, I definitely believe it. Hell I wouldn't argue, you might break out the whips. 

Prissy genteel? Maybe not.

Something a lil more risque with a hint of the dominatrix while the petty house officers cower beneath their her spiked stiletto, far more likely. Although Sarah repeatedly announces on Facebook that she's a far more benign presence these days, we all know better. No doubt quite a few incompetent interns have been lacerated by her painfully scorching glares - though maybe they aren't immediately incinerated but left to gradually charbroil instead.

Humane, no? We are mellowing after all.