Tag Archives: little sister

I watch what I want.

I just accidentally turned on ‘parent lock’ on my BBC iPlayer.

I’m not sure entirely how I did it, so I certainly won’t be able to undo it, but luckily, it requires a PIN, and I use the same PIN for everything ever, so I’m completely secure. This is not the first time that I’ve been restricted in what I can view- my little sister is terribly worried that watching anything sadder than ‘Modern Family’ (and even that, with it’s clear themes of divorce and blended family, could be next on her watchlist) will send me spiralling into a bleak depression, and return us to the times where I sit on the sofa, refusing to admit that I’m crying at T4’s new presenter’s bad haircut, and surreptitiously wiping my nose on the corner of the cushions. 

I quite like the BBC iPlayer parental lock. It forces me to recognise when I’m watching something of an ‘adult nature’, and reminds me of the time when a 15 film rating was a challenge to be met with excessive eye-liner and a haughty insistence that I was ‘doing my GCSEs’. I know that I’m an adult, because now I don’t ever look at film ratings, something which was inconceivable a mere 15 years ago. 

There are other ways I can tell I’m an adult – no-one replaces the toothpaste or the cling-film, and as much as I shake my birthday cards, no money ever falls out of them, but this film rating thing, which has now spread to the BBC, and so basically encompasses all the TV I watch, because E4 and ITV and its myriad offspring (iTV2, iTV 3, iTVI was watching before you knew about it, that’s how hip I am etc) are under the control of my little sister, who has an encyclopaedic knowledge of very poorly-written and extremely successful US sitcoms, is rather helpful. For instance, there are some days when I’d really rather not have to deal with ‘scenes of violence or bad language’, and others when, arguably, that’s all I really want. 

So, that’s another great part of being an adult: after years of sitting in my Mother’s car, listening to The Very Best of The Corrs, and being told firmly that ‘when you have your own car, you can choose the music’, even though other people’s parents let us listen to Capital FM and were much much better parents, BBC iPlayer parental lock has reminded me that now that it’s my TV, I can watch what I want. Well, as long as my little sister thinks it’s appropriate. 

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Mushrooms will kill you

I don’t like mushrooms.

I don’t like mushrooms, and this is because as a child, we were each allowed one thing we didn’t like, one thing only, and anything else that was served to us, wherever we were, by whomever (health and safety only really came into being once I was already safely a teenager), was to be eaten. I ate olives and dark chocolate and rum-soaked cakes and gorgonzola and mackerel and liver. I swallowed black pudding and osso bucco and crepes suzette and snails.

But I never ever had to eat a mushroom.

For the last five years, I’ve tried a mushroom. I try it once a year, on January 15th, placing it carefully on a plate, cutting it in half and putting one half into my mouth. It is still disgusting. As an adult, it’s not very difficult to avoid eating things you don’t like. You can buy what you want at the supermarket, for instance. (Well, most people can. My little sister keeps a pretty close eye on what I buy, and makes disparaging comments about it. A good proportion of my weekly shop is bought to impress my little sister).

You can order dishes you like in restaurants (but not the fruit salad, or a margarita pizza, because my sister will start a 10-minute monologue on how ‘sad and boring’ you have become), and there is no longer an imperative to finish every single thing on your plate at dinner parties. (Unless my little sister is cooking, in which case, it is wise to eat everything as fast as you can, and ask for seconds, to avoid her insisting that ‘it would be improved with more chilli.’)

I rarely tell people that I don’t like mushrooms. This is both because I am a very private person, and also because it hardly ever comes up. Also, mushrooms are easy enough to pick out of dishes discreetly, although I do think that their bitter and unwanted taste tends to permeate things unpleasantly.

My family know, of course. It’s one of the three things they know about me, along with the fact that I’m good at reading and laugh at my own jokes.

(It’s best not to press my Mother too hard on other, pertinent facts about myself, because she tends to get us all mixed up. Just for the record, it was my little sister who dropped our even littler brother on the marble hallway, but me who pushed him off a slide).

I was having lunch with my family on Monday, up at my grandparents. My grandmother brought out a lasagna suitable for 18 people (we were 8), and then another, smaller lasagna, suitable for 4. (We were still 8). ‘This is for you,’ she announced, pushing the family-sized lasagna pot in front of me.

‘I made it especially.’ I was rather pleased, really. I looked around the table at my cousins smugly. Even my little sister’s jokes about portion control couldn’t ruin the moment for me. My grandmother had just told the whole table that she loved me most.

‘It’s got no mushrooms,’ she said, encouraging me to transfer the entire pot to my plate. ‘Thanks,’ I said, taking a portion more amenable to not returning to London by air-freight. ‘I hate mushrooms,’ I pointed out, hoping to draw further attention to my special treatment. And then I took my first bite, and realized that my grandmother had left a sheet of plastic in. ‘And it seems like Granny hates you,’ my little sister pointed out cheerfully, as I began to choke. ‘Anyone want some lasagna with mushrooms?’

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Watching TV with my sister

We have an oversized, over-capable, overly expensive TV. It sits flush in the middle of our living room wall, and all of our sofas are pointed towards it. In fact, apart from the lack of a mini-fridge in the same room (it’s a perpetual battle, but I think I’m slowly winning), everything is set up for the perfect TV watching experience. Yet watching TV with my little sister is one of my least favourite things to do. Here are the reasons why:

1. She spends a great deal of time asking invasive and inappropriate questions.
‘Are you crying?’ ‘Why are you crying?’ ‘You know this is an advert, right?’

2. She keeps up a running commentary on whatever food I decide to eat. ‘That’s a family-sized pack.’ ‘Are you planning on running a marathon after this?’ ‘That’s about as much sugar as a person should eat. In a week.’

3. She makes hurtful and insinuating remarks about my TV choices.
‘This is a kid’s show. Why are you confused? It’s aimed at under-10s.’

(For those of you who also watch this show, my puzzlement centres more on the obvious parental neglect: where are Charlie and Lola’s mum and dad?)
4. She’s terrible at giving plot summaries. Any dash to the loo is certain death for my continued understanding of the TV show.
‘What did I miss?’ ‘Something happened to that girl. No, the other girl.’ The new girl. Oh, I think you’d left before she came on.’
5. She doesn’t really care about any of the characters.
‘Why are you crying? These aren’t real people.’

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Looking old

Whenever someone makes a choice I think is boring, or excessively conservative (going home before the pub closes, not doing shots on a school night), I ask them, mockingly, if they are a 50 year old woman.

The trouble is, I do actually know some 50 year old women- my mother, for instance, and her friends and colleagues, none of whom are particularly impressed with being my derisive synecdoche. I tried to remember this when I was talking to my mother yesterday afternoon, telling her that I’d spent 6 days not eating sugar after reading an article that promised me ‘sugar caramelizes the skin cells, and makes one look old.’ While she was too busy snorting with laughter to respond, my little sister pointed out that ‘it was too late for me’, and ate the last crisp.

(I remember the crisp bit clearly, because crisps have no sugar, so I was eating as many as I could at that time).

Looking old is something that concerns me in the same way that bad posture concerns me- when I remember to think about it, it is all-consuming; but most of the time I forget. Except for when people ask me how old I am, which happens more and more (and not just from my snotty little sister, when I ask if we can go get Happy Meals), and always makes me feel slightly panicked, mostly because I’m not 100% sure I’m not a year out. (There’s no real excuse for this, and nothing makes one look older than forgetting how old you are, so I simply plump for a reasonable-sounding number and offer it up with conviction).

Until yesterday I suddenly realized that I’ve been doing it all wrong, and told a man I’d just met that I was 35, with 2 kids. ‘I’m in very good shape,’ I pointed out, helpfully. He nodded approvingly. (Or possibly in alarm, because I really had no good response when he asked me where my children were). It went down so well, in fact, that I’m planning on telling everyone I’m a good 10 years older than I actually am. Soon, I imagine, I’ll be convincing them I’m a 50 year old woman.

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No more limes

Apparently, there’s a shortage of limes.

I know this because Buzzfeed has given me a list of 40 ‘lime replacement recipes’, to help me through this trying time. I didn’t read the article, because I was too busy taking a quiz to determine what role I would play if a zombie apocalypse occurred that transformed all living humans into TV characters. (Answer: Joan from Mad Men’s pointed stares, Olivia Pope’s wardrobe and the sex appeal of Shane from The L word. Combined with the magical abilities of the aunts in Sabrina, the teenage witch, one of whom I saw introduce herself on a late-night US comedy show as ‘stupidly famous, if you’re 10 years old’.

I have longed to introduce myself like this ever since.)* I know that Buzzfeed is wildly successful, but I still can’t quite get my head around a website that believes its readers can only understand things if they are presented through the filter of popular TV shows.

I did, however, realize that the probable cause of this lime shortage is my little sister, who has bought so many limes that the top shelf of our fridge is now covered in salad bags. (She placed the hundreds of limes in the drawer at the bottom of the fridge, more commonly known as the salad drawer, so I have put all my salad bags at the top of the fridge, in protest).

My little sister has yet to comment on this dastardly retaliation, but this reticence could be attributable to a number of causes, the most obvious being that my little sister views our shared fridge as a halfway home for food, offering them temporary shelter between Waitrose and the bin.

In a bid to counteract this process, which I object to on financial, moral and irritation grounds (I realize that ‘irritation’ perhaps doesn’t carry the same principled weight as the first two, but it is, in fact, just as pernicious), I accompanied my little sister on a recent trip to Waitrose. I watched in amazement as she shopped without a list, a budget or a correct and proper order of going up and down the aisles.

‘What’s your game plan?’ I asked, bewildered. ‘I just see what looks good,’ she replied. ‘And then I buy it.’ She would have said more, but was distracted at this moment by a papaya.

I continue to regularly throw away my little sister’s forgotten and mouldy food, although she has pointed out that some of the things she buys ‘just look like that’. (This was after the great passion fruit debate of last week).

I haven’t found a solution to this ongoing fiasco, but I am in the process of drafting a new Buzzfeed article, blaming the lime shortage on my little sister. I can only imagine the quiz options that are sure to follow. I can’t wait to discover what ‘suitable form of punishment’ I should administer. Whilst dressed as a character from The Game of Thrones, naturally.

*I made this quiz up, but I think it’s pretty accurate.

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Lie to me

I was once, oddly and extremely excitingly, asked to give a talk. The talk was to a PR company (any other PR companies should stop reading now please) and it was about ‘Wooing Journalists’. Despite being so nervous I had to change my shirt in the taxi on the way to their offices (after which, naturally, I felt no need to give a tip to the taxi driver, or to look him in the eye as I gathered up my sweaty clothes and paid him), the talk went surprisingly well.

 

It occurs to me, writing about this now, that my personal bar for ‘things going well’ may be slightly lower than other peoples. This morning I congratulated myself on remembering my oyster card as I left for work.

The PR company paid for my talk, so I’m certainly not going to regurgitate it here for you for free (anyone who wishes to pay to hear it, do, by all means, contact me. Even you, test audience of little sister, who begged me to stop ‘following her around practising your serious journalist face’), but I will give you a taste:

“When inviting people to things, whatever they may be, let them know who else will be attending.”

This pearl of wisdom has endless applications, and its value often depends upon wildly different reasons, but it is always right.

I have just been informed that this evening’s events include someone I dislike intensely. Luckily, my host has double-booked herself, so it will be just the 2 of us, me and my object of dislike, for dinner.

If I didn’t know first-hand how badly my host manages her diary, I would assume something improper was under-way.

Equally, a few weeks ago I was lured, tired and unwilling to go out, to the pub with the duplicitous promise that someone I very much wanted to see (imagine Ryan Gosling, but less worryingly good at portraying psychopaths) was certain to attend.

In fact, I may have to ring up the PR company and insist I re-give my talk:

“Don’t mislead people. And tell them who’s on the guestlist.”

(If you need me, I’ll be busy the rest of today booking talks with schools and church groups).

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Lie to Me

‘I’m popping out to get a packet of tissues,’ My colleague announced to the room. ‘Can I get anyone anything?’ I have been fooled by these innocuous-seeming questions before, so I said politely, ‘No thanks’. (Apparently, people are unwilling, despite their liberal use of the word ‘anything’, to pick up your dry-cleaning, or just ‘pop’ to Selfridges to see if that handbag you saw last week is still there, and possibly now on sale).

‘Oh, yes please,’ One of my other colleagues piped up. ‘Some nurofen.’ Caringly (it’s pretty boring in the office- I am trying out some new personas), I asked her if she had a headache. My colleague gave me the type of stricken look one would expect in response to an request for a large loan, or a small organ donation.

‘No,’ She replied finally. Completely baffled, I spent the next 30 minutes thinking about what other, secret uses she could have for nurofen.

Unable to come up with a satisfactory answer, I began to wish she had simply lied, and said she had a headache. There are many other situations where I wish people had lied:

1. ‘Is this a suitable dress?’ I asked, as I entered a friend’s party. ‘Not really,’ She replied.

2. ‘Did you see my solo?’ I asked my Mother, after my prep school play. ‘No,’ She replied cheerfully. ‘I was having a drink with your Father. Never mind, there will be others. (There were not. Although, having drunkenly performed this solo at a Hen Party this weekend, it is probably for the best).

3. ‘Have you eaten my chocolate puddings?’ I asked my little sister recently. ‘Yes,’ She replied, looking me up and down. ‘I really didn’t think you needed them.’

4. ‘Would it be OK if I joined you for dinner?’ I asked my little sister, before the chocolate pudding incident. ‘I’d really prefer if you didn’t,’ She replied.

5. ‘I have such a funny story,’ I told my Mother recently. ‘Oh darling,’ She replied. ‘I very much doubt that.’

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