Monthly Archives: January 2016

‘I’ll be in a red bra n panties…’ he said.

red bra & panties

Sooner or later most of us singletons will have a flutter.  Not on the horses, mind you, but on the internet dating scene.  Best to hedge your bets as well and register on multiple sites to cast the widest possible net and haul in those elusive unmarried men.   And just maybe one of them will light that spark…

OK, I do admit I dabbled earlier on, in that first summer when only the darkest desperation loomed.  But I did not see it through and I failed to complete my profile on the dating site recommended by my neighbour.   ‘You may well think me a slapper,’ she explained as she was emptying her house ready to move in with her new beau after 11 years of singledom, ‘ but I went out with at least 50 men before I found The One.’   There was hope after all… And for the best part of a year, my inbox was inundated with photographs of  ‘suitable’ and ‘compatible’ male specimens on the basis of the scant and patchy details I had provided.    No contact details though, as I was not a paid-up member of the club and had no intention of joining.

But being back in the country now for a little longer than intended and with too much spare time on my hands, boredom is never very far off.  ‘Have you tried Tinder?’ my son’s girlfriend enquired one evening, sensing my need for some distraction.  Tinder?  An App that I can download onto my phone,  for free, to test the waters  and try out potential male company available in the area.  I do not even have to leave my comfy seat!  All that is required is owning up to my age, admitting to being on Facebook, and deciding to open the field to include younger men.  Toyboys are such a fashion statement, and I can do fashionable!  Effortless, easy and pain free; so how could I resist?  The fact that I have a mere three to four weeks left before I set off again, is hardly a reason not to explore.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained and when have I ever turned down an opportunity to have fun?

The principle is simple: a quick glance at a photograph captioned with age and first name, and occasionally some sketchy personal information. Swipe to the left for a discard and swipe to the right for those with promise.  A match is made when  two people swipe to the right. A crude but effective selection method.  As I did not want to be entirely shallow and base my selection exclusively on physical attributes, I applied a method: one to the right, one to the left.  Within reason, of course,  I do have some standards and unmistakable preferences.  Although I should have taken a little more note of the guidance in the personal statements which often exposed the real motives for using Tinder… but I only discovered those after playing the game for the last few days.

Not sure about the quality of the competition either, but I seem to have no shortage of matches.  To my amazement, I must admit…  But then again, looking at my photograph, me perched on the steep incline of Dune 45 in the Namib Desert, hair wind-tussled and spritzed with sunrise rays… definitely not the conventional look!  No cats, no dogs or horses and certainly not stuck in the kitchen.  And if my neighbour discarded 49 men in her quest, I have already duly cast aside an impressive number myself…

However, I could not resist to acquaint myself with the 110-year-old looking in his prime, who assured me his cream did wonders for his complexion. He never admitted to his true age, but I suspect somewhere in his twenties. (22, he confirmed last night…  Younger than my own children!! When I tried to gently let him down, his reply sounded so disappointed, I have not yet discarded him.  I cannot be that cruel..)  I briefly courted 33 year old Swedish gigolo Sven (not his real name!!)  whose main  attributes  were making good coffee, filing and other domestic chores; the 800 mile distance between us was a mere trifle to be negotiated.  And P’s profile picture featuring a scene from Fifty Shades??  My question about whether he was serious or used it as a gimmick to attract attention remained unanswered – which I suppose was an answer in itself…  How to interpret ‘friends with benefits’?  Men certainly seem to prioritise the benefits, with ‘being friends’ a poor second thought…

But where is the harm in striking up a bit of conversation under the umbrella of ’Tinder Anonymity’?  When last Wednesday R. started his tête-à-tête with  ‘How tall are you?’, I was taken by surprise.  Does anyone care??  ‘He is probably short himself,’ my son’s girlfriend intimated.  We carried on and, after establishing his height (taller than me) and athletic build (definitely a plus), hobbies of walking and cooking, we found some common ground and continued.  His ‘Do you think you have nice legs?’ was closely followed by ‘Are you up for it this weekend?’  My legs fitted nicely in a size 8 pair of jeans and ‘it’ rather depended upon what ‘it’ referred to, I replied.

Having clarified he indeed meant going for a walk, we set up a date.  Meeting in a safe and definitely crowded place, not a dark and off the beaten track woodland.   This, however, brought on another dilemma: ‘How will I recognise you?’ I asked. 

‘I will be the one wearing the red bra and panties,’ he said, lol…



Unlocking the secrets of Mandarin


I thought I’d get a head start this time and master the rudiments of the Chinese language before my planned arrival in Hangzhou in mid-February.  ‘Planned arrival’, indeed!  Although my contract stipulates I should be there ready to teach on 22nd February, the wheels of Chinese bureaucracy grind very slowly and at the moment it looks likely I will miss the start of the new term…  Still, miracles are not unheard of and I remain optimistic.

It’s been a while since I have attempted to pick up a new language as I can hardly count my half-hearted attempt at learning a few essential words of Malayalam, the language of Kerala.  Once I knew how to avoid milky and sugary tea, and where to find the spices to cook a decent curry, the need to add to my limited vocabulary seemed ‘de trop’.  I survived on pidgin English (the Indians’, not mine), supplemented with body language and hand gestures, stabs in the dark and finding someone who actually spoke proper English.  It worked rather well as most people were more keen to improve their English than I was to acquire their language.    But having a few weeks to fill before moving to China has inspired me to do  things differently this time round and to at least learn a few useful expressions and words; if not to speak them, then at least to be able to read or understand them.

Where to start?  The internet is awash with websites plying free Chinese lessons, so which one to choose?  Having established that Mandarin was the one to plump for,  I went surfing.  I discovered a pretty sensible website that offered useful phrases, written in Pinyin, which is a widely-used system of writing Mandarin Chinese relying on the Latin alphabet and making pronunciation of Mandarin words almost achievable for non-Chinese mortals – that is if you ignore the importance of tones….  But I also took advice from people in the know, such as someone who studied Mandarin at university.  She recommended a different website as a starting point, a website that firmly adheres to teaching me proper Mandarin, with pictures and Chinese characters and refrains from explaining the importance of the four (or is it five) different tones of each symbol denoting an entirely different word.   Pinyin is so for wimps… It certainly seemed a good introduction to the real Chinese I will be faced with in China.

After 72 hours of hard slog I have achieved the following: 15 words have firmly penetrated my long term memory, some of them totally irrelevant to my needs!  Will I require the words ‘wrap’ and ‘horse’ on my arrival? I am more likely to be unwrapping rather than wrapping, and will definitely not make my entrance to the country on horseback, nor need to ride a horse to my place of residence!!   And if I am beginning to recognise a sprinkling of Chinese characters and pictures, the accompanying sounds elude me each time…  apart from maybe ‘nihao’ – the Chinese greeting, which roughly translate as ‘you well?’  And this is when the logic of learning pointless words suddenly becomes apparent as more ‘complex’ Chinese symbols are made up of other, simpler symbols which on their own have a totally different and unrelated meaning…

Or is there some logic indeed??  I am happy to buy into the notion that adding a child to a woman indeed blends into a ‘good’ thing and since the Americans blurred the difference between ‘good’ and ‘well’, a Chinese hello can easily be interpreted as ‘You good?’ (US) or  as ‘You well?’ (proper English…).   Applying a measure of Pinyin reveals that NiHao consists of Ni (you) + Hao (good/well) and indeed refers to the pleasantries exchanged when people bump into each other  and merely enquire about each other’s good health.

ni hoa 2

I am, however, more intrigued about what is implied by combining the symbols of woman and horse into ‘mother’.  Add to this that the only difference between a mother and a horse lies in the intonation applied to the word: ‘ma’, it is hard to escape the feeling there must be a link… somewhere…     And indeed, a little exploration of the Chinese Horoscope unearths the following about the horse: Serving man in war, agriculture, productivity, mobility, development of all kinds, horse is considered to be one of the largest contributors to the enhancement of civilization.  Just like women then!!  And mothers???  Well, they are women saddled with the burden of having to learn to multi-task, or is this just the modern word for ‘working like a horse’?

mother chinese

Although I do not wish to miss out on the fun of learning a language that relies on pictures rather than letter sequences, and has no affinity to the more familiar (to me)  Germanic and Romance based languages of Europe, and quite frankly is all Greek and Double Dutch to me…  I could just opt for the ‘point and shoot’ method.  All I really need is to install an app on my phone and iPad, take a picture of the secret code and press a button to unlock the mystery… A translation in English at my fingertips!!  And it already exists!

Now that I have resolved the issue with the written language, I will just have to get an ear for the Chinese sounds and tones, learn to imitate them and interpret them…  Piece of cake, I am sure…  But it will certainly give me a proper taste of what my little learners will be going through as well!

Hold on to your high heels and strapless bras!

DSCN0100 (2)

Last May, when I was in the midst of making sweeping decisions about my future needs, maintaining  my wardrobe was definitely not high on the list of priorities.   I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to preserve:   snorkelling goggles (tick); walking gear including Leki poles, boots, socks, drybags and backpack (tick); swim wear (I even bought a brand new, expensive swimsuit before setting off again to India…) (tick); running and gym paraphernalia (tick);  and just a handful of t-shirts, a couple of pairs of jeans (which still fitted) and a few skirts I was particularly fond of.  What else does a girl need?

Glam rags never cluttered my wardrobe, and of the few I possessed all bar two were donated to the local charity shops.  Strapless bras would be a thing of the past and totally pointless in my new world.  And high heeled shoes?  The dangers of the classroom and children swinging on chairs put paid to that a long time ago… Only flats for me these days!  I sold the Russell & Bromley smart heels that were gathering dust in the cupboard; and the precious, glitzy, diamante-studded sandals I took to India, just in case?  They lost in the competition for space in my suitcase on the way back to the UK, so are probably being put to good use somewhere on the dusty roads of Kerala.  When would the opportunity to wear them present itself anyway, I surmised..  Had I not argued that if I was ever going to be so lucky again to wear glamorous clothes, I would probably be in a position to buy new ones…?

With the family Christmas decided upon weeks ahead, New Year’s Eve was yet another hurdle to be overcome.  But I had been proactive and put out feelers with my ‘45nSingle’ friends in the Cheltenham area to see if anyone could be persuaded to host a pyjama party, or at least something with a sleepover at the end.  Surely, I was not going to be the only one out on a limb…  Although there is plenty of liberty with the 45-notion, the ‘single’ part of the deal is more strictly adhered to and surely there had to be other singletons in need of NYE entertainment!  And yes, a few days after arriving back in the UK, the news on the grapevine sounded promising with a party in the offing,  themed ‘Casino Royale’ with a dress code to match.

Wardrobe disaster, I thought!!  The two black dresses that survived last year’s cull were kept for memory’s sake and were not exactly a perfect fit for the slimmer me, but I figured that with a strapless bra I could just about get away with wearing one of them.  If only I had kept my strapless bra, because it is not exactly the thing you go and borrow as it needs to be the right size and shape…  And shoes?  Flats would have to do!  Maybe not the desired look, but at least my feet would spend New Year’s Eve in comfort.

I pondered about my options for several days.  Christmas intervened and took my mind of things, and in no time the year end was upon us.  On my way to the party I ventured into Cheltenham, as planned, to at least buy a pair of sheer nearly-black tights and maybe pick up some not-so-flat black shoes to complement my evening outfit, and indeed, as suggested by my son’s girlfriend, to inspect the bra offerings in Primark.  I will never again scoff at Primark, nor look down upon what can be found in the sales section of M&S…   A perfectly fitting pair of heels for just a tenner in M&S? I had to double check it indeed meant for the pair, and not just £10 for each shoe.  OK, so they were purple, not the more conventional black, but why care about tradition and aren’t rules meant to be broken?  Who would notice anyway after a few glasses of bubbly??  And a bra for just £4.00??  It felt like I was on a winning streak…  With the addition of  a bit of foundation, blusher, eye-shadow and a squirt of Hugo Boss Nuit Pour Femme, I was ready to party into the new year.

On a winning streak playing poker...

On a winning streak playing poker…

There mine, all mine... Why didn't we play for money???

They’re mine, all mine… Why didn’t we play for money???

And obviously, my lucky finds in the shops were just a sign of my fortunes to come.  I cannot profess to be particularly adept at the art of lying with a straight face, nor dismiss the element of chance,  but somehow  our game of Texan ‘Hold ‘Em’ poker  deservedly ended with all the chips in a big pile in front of me…

Maybe wearing a strapless bra and a pair of high heels more often, coupled with an Indian belief in the power of Karma could just be the ticket for me in 2016…   Let’s bring it on!!!

NYE group (2)