I Hate Weddings. I Really Do.

“Everyone loves a wedding” – so went the first sentence of a post by one of my favourite bloggers, an intrepid self-sufficiency enthusiast braving the vagaries of the Lithuanian outback.  I guess I must be the only person in the world who can’t stand weddings.

Maybe weddings are a bit like cats – you either love them or you hate them. Or maybe weddings are like other people’s kids – if you want people to be nice to yours, you have to stop yourself from kicking theirs, however much you’re itching to test those steel-capped boots.

People certainly seem to be in love with their own weddings. Theirs are always superior to other people’s, because, so they will insist, “tacky component X” was omitted, and replaced by “über-unique” ingredient Y”.

This “tackiness factor” they so decidedly spurned could be just about anything: the much-maligned white meringue dress, garish flowers, crab cocktail appetisers, bubble-gum-pink bridesmaids’ outfits with puff sleeves, etc.

Same goes for ingredient Y. The only criteria is that the guests pretend to buy into Happy Couple’s assertions that nobody had ever thought of it before, and that they laud its originality forever after, whenever the topic of weddings comes up.

The whole thing reminds me of a German muesli company I came across some months ago, who lets its clients customise their own personal muesli from 80 different ingredients. According to the company, this results in 566 quadrillion possible product combination. Well, I don’t even know how many zeros are trailing behind that figure, but there’s one thing I do know: Muesli is muesli and a wedding is a wedding, whether you have orange lilies or pickled Scottish thistles as your table centrepiece.

Dianawedding

This was once considered the cutting edge of fashion. As was the dress. Both were sustained by hot air.

The instigating couple will usually insist that their Big Day is all about “spending time with their loved ones”, rather than the bride gliding up the aisle in her decidedly-not-tacky outfit with all eyes on her.

Let’s do a quick back-of-the-envelope calculation here. For the numerically challenged (and I wearily count myself among them), let’s assume there’s a total of 100 wedding guests. Half of these are the groom’s and half the bride’s, leaving each with 50.

But, let’s be honest – nobody really *loves*  all of the people they’ve invited to their wedding, do they? We are probably only fond of half of our family (and that’s being generous). As for friends, only about half attending a wedding will be actually be friends of the bride or groom, the remainder being made up of their friends’ other halves. In essence: 50% of the guests are just there to stop the other 50% from killing themselves.

Now we’re left with 25 “loved ones” on each side. But wait! Quite a few of these, maybe not half, but let’s say just over one third – are “political” guests, like bosses, work colleagues or other acquaintances, who’d be mortally offended if they hadn’t been invited and your life just wouldn’t  be worth living forever after.

The upshot is, any bride or groom will have warm fuzzy feelings for 15% of the people sipping their bubbly. But it’s not like they can spend any appreciable amounts of time with them. After all, they are duty-bound to “do the rounds” like a pair of frantic mayflies who’ve spent the last 23 hours idly sunning themselves on a lily pad.

I should, perhaps, mention at this point that I don’t just have an aversion to weddings – it’s big social gatherings in general. My wonkily engineered social skills circuits go into deep freeze mode when exposed to a stampeding multitude of more than four. You see, I don’t really have the standard-issue “group of friends” where everyone has known each other since they were knitting mittens in Mrs Meyer’s needlework class. And although some of my friendships go back decades, I don’t tend to know their other friends very well. Having moved towns and countries several times hasn’t helped.

This gets me into some abysmal situations. Some twelve years ago, I attended (under duress!!!) the wedding of a friend from Uni. It was a mercy mission – she was new to the UK, so her local social circle was very small, so I felt obliged to “make up the numbers”. I didn’t know anyone at the wedding but her. And – horror of horrors! – I ended up on the leper colony equivalent for social outcasts: The Singles Table. Oh Dear Lord. I found myself wedged between Dreary Banker and ER Doctor, who needed to broadcast his professional superhero status to all and sundry. If only the Happy Couple had known back then that their wedded bliss would last a mere smidgen longer than my Singles Table ordeal… but that’s another story.

I have to concede, from the average guest’s point of view, that, if the food is good (and that’s a big IF), if there’s a bunch of good old friends to chat to, and if they enjoy drinking as much as Rod Stewart is bound to enjoy an all-female nudist resort in Sweden, I can see how the event would go down as a fun day out.

But if ever you happen to spot me at a wedding – and the likelihood is about as high as Halley’s comet coinciding with a solar eclipse during the leap year when the Middle East Peace Treaty is signed – I just want you to know that I’m inwardly reciting to myself that “this, too, shall pass” 566 quadrillion times.

Grumpy Mornings

I’ve had no water (again!) since last night, so I was just a tad grouchy this morning. Over brekkie, I read this post about someone having a really shitty day, which helped to put things into perspective somewhat.

Shortly after, and still in a huff, I trudged out to buy some groceries, and it occurred to me that this situation can’t be much fun for the owner of the vintage clothes shop tucked away in that corner:

Clothes Shop

On the way back, loaded up with broccoli, carrots and oyster mushrooms, I treated myself to a coffee and a sliver of cake for €1.20.  And when I got home, the water was back on, HURRRAAAAH! Life’s OK again now ;-)

Free Beer!

Well, not quite… but it got your attention, didn’t it? ;-)

Toledo has a brewery that makes Domus, aka “La Cerveza De Toledo”, whose proud history goes all the way back to … erm… 2007. (Sorry, this is my Bavarian heritage scoffing here…). BUT, I have to admit, the stuff ain’t half bad.

On Friday, Carmen alerted me to the fact that they were running a two-week promotion: two bottles of the brew and one ‘special’ tapa, featuring Domus as an ingredient, for a fiver, with 27 local restaurants/bars participating.

So, today we went off to investigate.

Mussels

These mussels in creamy sauce were divine…

chicken wings

Chicken wings with caramelised onions. Lovely :)

We scoffed more than just those, but the pics didn’t turn out so well. One of us – either my camera or I – was struggling to focus…

We may have to do this again next week.

Princess Leia Surrounded By Ancient Penises

A few months ago, my friend Maria informed me that the National Archaeological Museum had opened its doors again after having been closed for aeons (6 years!) for renovations. And finally, this Friday, we scurried off to Madrid to edify ourselves on a dose of culture.

Sphinx

Everyone loves a perky reception ;-)

They let you take photos inside. Since flash is not allowed, the pics are a bit fuzzy, apologies for that. Let’s go straight to the museum’s most glamorous A-lister:

Dama de Elche

The Lady of Elche (Elche is a town in Valencia, where this beauty was unearthed), believed to date from the 4th century BC

Dama De Elche 2

It is rumoured that she was wearing a gold bikini on her (unfortunately still missing) bottom half.

Giant penis 1

This one’s drawing much admiration from his brethren…

Big Penis 2

..because he’s the only one who needs a wedge under his pedestal to keep him upright

Devil

The devil’s in the detail

Octopus

*WANTED* Suspect fleeing crime scene. Last seen ca. 2000 yrs ago

Priapus

A beautiful maiden bringing some freshly picked fruit along for a picnic…?

Priapus 2

Uhm…nope. It’s a frisky fertility god named Priapus with a different kind of proposition… The marble statue dates from the 1st century and turned up (or on?) near Málaga.

Food? Of course there was food!

Ethiopian Food

Our Ethiopian lunch :) So pretty. So spicy!

Organic Candy

I may be responsible for some of what’s missing there…

My Six (Admittedly Eccentric) Blogging Pet Peeves

I’ve been blogging away for a couple of years now, and, as regular readers will know, I tend to home in on food (CAKES!), languages and travel, liberally interspersed with assorted frustrations and bemusements thrown up by the daily grind.

Most of us, given the time constraints imposed by daily life, are selective readers, who are little inclined to read or comment negatively on posts that deal with topics we don’t much care for. What’s the point of pissing on somebody’s bonfire, unless you’re one of those deranged individuals who gets a kick out of trolling, right?

Now, I do receive “complaints”. My comment section is replete with reproaches like these: “too many flowers”, “not enough Don Quijote”, “I can’t stand sweet stuff”, “all cats are evil”, “not another bloody food picture!” etc. My blogging buddies just love giving me stick. It’s my absolute favourite part of blogging ;-) As for any serious discord of the abusive type, I’ve been mercifully spared so far.

Anyway, this is the train of thought that got me thinking about the kinds of posts/blogs that don’t particularly float my boat, and which I tend to skip. Here we go:

Poetry
I’ll probably be pelted with rotten eggs for this, but I’m one of these troglodytic heathens who finds the sticky heart sap of other people’s sentimental anguish packaged up into overwrought verse unpalatable. There, I’ve said it.

HOWEVER, if a poem bounds up to me dressed in the frilly knickers of humour, I’m more than willing to give it a shot. Anything for a good chuckle. But, on the whole, poetry – meh!

I should probably confess at this point that I have written poetry myself. When I’m grappling with troublesome life stuff, I find that it helps my processing. I’m aware, though, that the words I choose are powerful to me, and to me only, as the specific associations between words and feelings are unique to my tumultuous emotional landscape. The concept of putting my wretched outpourings up on a blog strikes me as being equal to masturbating in public. The activity may be highly gratifying for the perpetrator, but for the bystanders… not so much.

Fiction
Oh, I do so relish reading fiction – it’s my favourite pastime. But I like to get my daily fiction fix from books (or my e-reader), not from the blogosphere. It’s just a personal preference, I totally get why somebody may want to publish the fruits of their creative writing in blog format. However, I personally turn to blogs because they give me a whiff of real life, as it happens to real people in different parts of the world.

To me, the idea of reading fiction on a blog is like going to the theatre to enjoy a live performance, and then being shown a film instead. Even if Viggo Mortensen happened to be pirouetting naked in this flick, it’s just not what I came out to see in that type of venue.

“I’ve made a commitment to post every day until the sun burns out”
OK. Let me be brutal: Nobody bloody cares. Whether you post every single day. Or once a month. Or thrice a year. Really. Not one iota.

What I do care about is informative posts, funny posts, pictures of luscious cheese I can drool over… you get the idea.

Blogging is not an obligation. It’s a hobby (unless you’re paid to do it). And although it can be very social, it’s not a team sport. You’re NOT letting people down when you don’t show up for a few days.

There’s no sacred covenant a blogger signs with their readers. Despite what some bloggers might think, people don’t leap out of bed in the morning, desperate to read what KoreanHausfrauInRwanda rustled up for dinner last night, and then cry into their coffee when there’s – shock horror! – not a single word from the treacherous tease.

Cafe

“She went off to have some baby and then didn’t post for THREE full weeks…!” [Taken at the Crocodile Cafe, Muswell Hill, London, if anyone's interested]

War-And-Peace-length posts
If the WP Reader says 2,000+ words, count me out. To be honest, for anything over 1,300, I have to be seriously into the blogger and/or the topic.

Wikipedia entries
While I appreciate a few sentences of illuminating background explanation, where appropriate, is there really a need to copy & paste eight paras of historical eventage? Instead of data dumping, maybe we could… you know… insert a link to one of the hundreds of pages which already give that information? Just a thought. The internet is nifty like that.

What I relish reading  about is how much someone detested the yowly flamenco performance they saw last weekend in Granada, not a dry, dull (and ultimately, safe) rendition of the musical genre’s hundreds-of-years of stomping, twirling, castanet-clacking history.

Ghost posting
So, some lucky blogster decides to abscond for a couple of weeks to go wild water rafting down the wifi-bereft Yukon, and, in what can either be interpreted as a bizarre act of misguided altruism or an existential fear of losing their entire readership, they squeeze the last remaining dregs of energy into cranking out a batch of posts in advance, to be released by the iCloud elves at three-day intervals.

Now, what’s the point of that?! The lights are on, but nobody’s home…?

You see, I like the banter, the comment ping-pong, the irreverent feedback, the hilarity that ensues after posting. Reading and commenting on a ghost-posted piece is like being invited over for dinner by a dear friend, and, just as I arrive on their doorstep, being told: “Hey, I’ve cooked up some fabulous nosh, it’s on the table, enjoy, but I’m off now for an evening of line dancing with the Nashvillains. Cheerio!”

Erm… as much as I love great food, I was actually looking forward to the company even more.

OK, that’s it from me*.

So, what about you? Any blog-related turn-offs you’d like to vent? The more irrational and difficult-to-justify, the better. Now’s your chance, get it off your chest ;-)

I realise this post will cost me 90% of my readership…

[*I do harbour a number of more commonly-shared irritations, such as people never responding to comments, paragraphs that run on for 20+ lines, and, of course, my ex-ed/proofer's innards contort when exposed to posts littered with heinous spelling and grammar violations, but there's already a zillion posts about these types of foibles, so I thought I'd spare you. In fact, this sentence is so long, that it would probably annoy me on someone else's blog...]

The Cat Does Not Care For Portuguese

Both Teresa (my Portuguese teacher) and I had been away on alternating holiday schedules over the summer, and today was my first lesson in what felt like ages. I was all set for getting back into the swing of things – I’d even done my homework! – but little did I know that my enthusiasm would be met with considerable feline opposition.

Teresa had only just got back yesterday from a two-week stint in Portugal, and despite having arranged for a relative to tend to her cat, Otto, the poor darling had clearly suffered severe psychological damage from the prolonged lack of attention. And he was determined to make up for it.

Otto is usually quite reticent and prefers to watch proceedings from his chair in the window, which made today’s antics all the more amusing.

Otto on book

“That book’s out of action. And if you want the computer, I shall sit on that!”

Otto close up

“We are so NOT doing verbs now.”

Otto tail

“If you insist on talking to each other instead of to me, I’ll just have to feed you a tailful of cat hair.”

I expect that, by next Monday, he’ll be back to his aloof old self. Shame ;-)

 

Municipal Water Feature Crimes – Part Two

Some of you will remember my momentous rant about Toledo’s eyesore fountain, which obliterates the historic city centre, from a couple of weeks ago. Sadly, this isn’t the only… erm… visually and conceptually challenging water feature the city has foisted upon its residents and visitors.

There’s also this one, located to the west of the Jewish quarter:

Decking fountain

What did you say? You can’t see a fountain? Just a dead tree sticking out of some shoddy decking?

Well, let me put it to you: This whole sorry plank assemblage IS the fountain.

But a fountain needs to spout water!

 

I hear you. Let me help you: Can you make out that tiny hole/ring in the fourth row of planks in the centre of the photograph above?

No? Let’s get a bit closer to it:

StandpipeHere we have it. An upturned standpipe sunk into slats of wood, oozing water, like some up-the-creek plumbing. Sigh.

OK, this one’s not quite as aesthetically offensive as the other one, but as far as decorative water installations go, it’s another spectacular fail.

The only positive thing I can say about this piece of “public art” is that the sound of trickling water, as you’re walking over the area, is actually quite pleasing. Unless you happen to be desperate for a wee at the time.