Southern Comfort

Generally, I like to think that I’m regarded as a fairly polite person. Yes, I’m a Londoner, and we’re not known for being super friendly or outgoing, but I do on occasion break the ‘no talking on the tube’ rule and always respond positively to the (many, many) people who stop me for directions on a daily basis. [I’m beginning to wonder if I have a sign on my forehead that offers this service…]

However, I don’t think I was fully prepared for the assault on my London sensibilities that would be the southern form of politeness. Reaching the gate for my flight to Atlanta, my hard exterior proved no match for the hundred or so Americans making their way home to the South (very few Brits seem to fly Delta). I’d barely been there 5 minutes when a group of men with epic beards and wearing dungarees engaged me in conversation – it was my own fault, their dialogue about the ways in which they were transporting Devon roses back to their wives tickled my interest. Before I knew it I was being given recommendations for things to do across the great state of Texas.

On board, the air stewards compounded my feelings of inferiority in the politeness stakes. There’s just something about being called “Ma’am” and having drinks brought to your seat that takes service to another level. It connected with what I like to call my ‘Waitrose mentality’. Waitrose is an upmarket supermarket (a branch is my closest grocery store) with a tendency of employing older ladies on their checkouts. This women are so nice to you that it shames me into ramping up my usual politeness several levels – headphones come completely out of ears; full attention is given; conversation is entered into; and my accent becomes even more plummy than it is usually. On board my flight, and for pretty much the entire time I was away, this was the mentality I adopted. No cynicism, no sarcasm, no ignoring people, no elbowing people out of the way, no avoiding conversation at all costs – it was quite the behavioural mind bender.

For example, when was the last time an attendant at a cheap clothing store (I’m thinking Primark…) wished you a good day, asked about the things you were trying on, or even commented on just how cute the skirt was that you’d chosen? [Lady in Old Navy, I salute you for your confidence inspiring compliments!] Or how about actual sincerity from a waitress and genuine interest from them in ensuring you have the very best frozen cocktail experience? [Cynically, we pondered whether one waitress was genuinely flirting with our male companion, or simply knew how to get a good tip – we went for the latter…]

It’s instilled from childhood too. I was slightly nonplussed when a friend’s 3 year old child addressed me as “Ma’am”, but I suspect he’s being brought up very properly. [As opposed to the child of a total stranger who at that point was using my backside as an obstacle course in the river in which we were lying…]

It all had quite an effect on me. By the time we’d boarded the first leg of our flight home, leaving San Antonio for Detroit, I’d had my first truly positive experience of airport security; a long chat with the man in Duty Free regarding the relative merits of Bombay Sapphire & Tanquerry gin; and then proceeded to chat without inhibition with an elderly lady from Michigan. Texas has changed me, and probably for the better…

…well, at least until my next rush-hour Piccadilly Line experience.

Another reason to fly Delta: that drink on the right is wine. 
It’s served in larger quantities than non-alcoholic beverages, like the Diet Coke on the left.

Etiquette is fun and so are children

It’s rare that I’d include something for Friday Fun that’s basically an advert for an opera. Call me uncultured, but I’m really not a massive fan of it. That’s not to say I don’t go (I have a good friend who’s an opera singer and I go faithfully when I’m able), it’s just that given the choice between an evening at Glynebourne and a night at Wicked, well – you know where I’d be. But this little gem is less about the opera and more about how we live our online lives these days:

[If you’re thinking what I was thinking at the end of that video, his name’s Jolyon Rubinstein and he’s on Twitter.]

That gem arrived in my inbox on Monday morning, thanks to a friend who’s giving a talk on intimacy at New Wine next week. Last week he’d asked me if I knew any examples of ridiculous Facebook or Twitter updates where people over-shared. No idea why he thought to ask me…

I could think of a few examples – a friend who had recently shared a rather detailed story of her baby’s birth; a couple who gave each other sex toys via some random Facebook virtual gift service; someone who celebrated their boyfriend’s divorce – I could go on. However, what I sent him instead, was something I’ve been thinking of sharing on here for a while, but needed to be done in a sensitive way.

STFU Parents is a brilliant site. Less crass than Damn You, Auto Correct! and the like, its author actually thinks carefully about the submissions she posts and writes (often hilarious) commentary to go alongside them. The premise is simple: do you have friends who overshare about their children and make everything – even things you post that have nothing to do with children – about their children? If so, this is the place to share such things.

We all have such friends, to a greater or lesser extent (see the birth example I gave above) but honestly, some of the stuff on the site is beyond belief. I’ve been sitting on this for months [i.e. even before it appeared on The Hairpin, Annabelle…] because I didn’t want to offend friends who have children. I like seeing updates about funny things babies and toddlers do, I’m happy to read endless updates about sick children who need prayer, I love a cute photo as much as the next single, female 20 something…but sometimes it just goes a little far. However, I don’t think I’ve ever had a friend post a photo of their child next to a stuffed coyote

Then there’s ‘Mommyjacking’, where Mom’s hijack a non-child related status to make it all about their child (e.g. this innocent post about an incompetent HR department which suddenly becomes a breastfeeding tutorial). Actually, hijacking statuses (statii?) is generally inappropriate – you respond to the content of the post, it’s not a place for a general catch up – am I alone in this? What about photos involving faeces? Just wrong, plain wrong, but so many people share them.

If you have children, or like me, are very young at heart, then you should appreciate the final component of today’s fun: a quiz. Who doesn’t like quizzes? This week the Guardian challenges you on your knowledge of schools in children’s books. I’m loathe to admit that I only got 6/10, but my knowledge of later Jaqueline Wilson is patchy; I’ve not read/watched Charlie & Lola; and I made a tragic Famous Five error…

Blogging love

Blogs are funny things – essentially a narcissistic pursuit (unless they have a worthy cause to share) and self indulgent – it’s a wonder that anyone ever reads them. Except of course, for the fact that humans are naturally inquisitive and love a bit of gossip and/or entertainment, which is generally what blogs consist of.

Thanks to following a variety of blogs found through a diverse range of random connections or stumblings-upon, I’ve built up quite a network. Amongst my little group of friends who also read blogs, we have a few shared favourites. Mrs WF and I love crafty ones as well as some of the more ‘Mommy blog’ American variety. In fact, we have been known to text each other in excitement when a Mommy’s given birth or (in my case) when one of our favourite bloggers left me a comment on here – honestly, I’d have squealed out loud had I not been in a large meeting and surreptitiously browsing. It’s a weird world.

Along the way I’ve made a few ‘blogging friends’ – people I’ve never met but whose blogs I’ve come across and commented on, or vice-versa. Is it odd that I’m rooting for a relationship to work out on behalf of a 40 year old woman I don’t know? Or, that I was super-excited to discover a girl my age on the other side of the world who loved Chalet School as much as me? My theory is that such friendships aren’t strange – they’re affirming and generally warm and fuzzy, which is always a good thing.

Sometimes I’m a little unsure about comment etiquette. Obviously, the original point of blogs was that you could comment and generate discussion, but I wonder if these days some bloggers forget their ramblings are visible to the entire world. Occasionally, I fear revealing my ‘lurker’ status, feeling a little stalkerish in my anonymous enjoyment of their writing and life – but surely they want people to read it, else they wouldn’t have created it?

I most definitely enjoy and appreciate random visitors. I love checking my stats and discovering how they found me. I generate wild and ridiculous fantasies about some of my more exotic regular visitors, and only very occasionally do I reject comments that I’m not keen on.

All this is a rather protracted preamble to my telling of a rather geeky moment that took place last week and is most definitely in my top 10 highlights of the holiday. One afternoon while enjoying a pleasant bbq I met the author of a blog I’ve been reading on and off for the last couple of years. Being fellow residents of the impossibly small Christian world, it was perhaps inevitable that this would happen – before you factor in my knowing her sister (something I didn’t fully realise for quite a while) and having a couple of mutual friends. It was all the more amusing/cringeworthy that this encounter took place in front of a select band of friends and acquaintances, at least one of whom has since mocked me for my geekiness.

It essentially consisted of me introducing myself with “Hi, we’ve never met and this sounds really geeky, but I read your blog…” – I felt like such a nerd! However, it was followed by their realisation that they’d also read mine sporadically (thank the Lord yet again for my highly unusual surname). Some mutual blogging love was shared in slightly high pitched, giggly voices and the world became a happier place. Honestly, on days when life is feeling a bit rubbish, the compliment I was paid will be remembered and I will smile…

Moments like this people, are why blogging’s most definitely a good thing.