The true story of Larry the Louse.

If I’d had a BBC nature programme microphone on me, I’m sure I would have heard it scream louder than I did. The six-legged beast froze, then scuttled across the comb and ended the show with a failed attempt to hide in the closely-packed metal teeth. I squished Larry the Louse with my nail and burst into an improvised parody of Thin Lizzy, but my rendition of “The lice are back in town” didn’t do much to boost Little My’s morale.

An adult monkey, the Olive Baboon (Papio anubi...

M.M heartlessly evicting tenants from Little My’s hair (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We carefully picked our weapon from the arsenal in the bathroom cupboard. As I gingerly squirted the chemical concoction over my daughter’s long blonde mane, I realised with relief that she had never seen a close up of her tenant. Just as well, or she would have been running down the road screaming.

Larry, alias Pediculus humanus capitis, is a sheer masterpiece with his three pairs of legs, each equipped with claws and thumbs. Forget your measly six-pack; Larry has seven, neatly lined up along his streamlined abdomen. Add to this enviable physique a face like a Klingon, a pair of antennae and a retractable mouthpiece that folds neatly away inside his head after feeding off your kid’s head, and you have something that makes Ridley Scott’s Alien look as scary as Yogi Bear.

Larry’s offspring only emerge from their cocoons when they consider that the temperature around them is right, probably licking the end of a claw and poking it out of the breathing hole that their mamma kindly left them to see if it’s warm enough to go out to play. Within ten hours they are in the starting blocks for procreation, no doubt already aware of the chemical sword of Damocles hanging over their heads. Reproduction in lice appears to be the six-legged equivalent of square-dancing, and Larry and his chums partner-swap their way around the clock, only taking breaks to carefully glue three to five of their future offspring per day to your child’s hair with something so efficient that the empty cocoon can remain there for years afterwards. Researchers are looking into the use of spider silk for medical applications – so why hasn’t anyone seen the potential of nit glue for false teeth?

Dolly the Sheep

Dolly. Proof that we can clone a sheep but are powerless against lice (Photo credit: micha.hb)

Back in the bathroom, I got angry at the injustice of it all. We can get from one side of the world to the other in the space of a day. We have harnessed the power of wind, water and sun. Climbed Everest. Invented antibiotics and vaccinations, eradicated smallpox. Sent a dog then reams of astronauts and satellites into space. Cloned a sheep. So why can’t we get shot of the lousy louse? Lice are tiny, and have hung out on the human head since the dawn of time. They can’t fly, can’t jump, and can’t make evil plans to take over the universe. This should make them sitting ducks. So how come we can’t nuke the nits?

Then it dawned on me that maybe someone, somewhere, doesn’t want them to disappear. I squinted at the price label on the box, and realised that getting rid of head lice for good would severely cut the profits of companies who know damn well which side their bread is buttered. As long as head lice exist, there’ll be hysterical mothers queuing to buy their overpriced nit napalm.

Al Capone Vector Image

After the hitman, meet the nitman. Seen anyone like this hanging around outside school lately? (Photo credit: Vectorportal)

A conspiracy theory started to take shape in my mind as I slid the comb through the post-conflict zone, collecting the cadavers of Larry and his louts. The picture slowly assembled in my mind: Al Capone-style “nit men” wearing dark glasses and trench coats, sent incognito by the pharmaceutical companies to school gates around the world. The brims of their Fedora hats pulled down over their eyes, they pull their hands out of their deep pockets and cheerfully tousle the hair of a passing child with a gloved hand before disappearing as silently as they had arrived, leaving no other trace than the wafts of lavender essence billowing behind them…..

Time to go; I think I’m losing the plot. I’m off to run the nit comb through Little My’s hair before we get abducted by six-legged aliens with retractable mouthparts. They’re coming to take me away, ha-ha, they’re coming to take me away…..

Two other articles I enjoyed on the same same subject:

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The best thing since sliced bread: “Candy”, the queen of my humble abode.

Daily post really must stop tempting me. Today, they gave us our daily bread with the following question:

Most of us have heard the saying, “That’s the best thing since sliced bread!” What do you think is actually the best thing since sliced bread?

This got me thinking, and here’s the result….

“Candy”, the queen of my humble abode.  

All the Fashion

(Photo credit: Amarand Agasi)

I can hear you all sighing and saying “Here we go…. TV, computer and mobile phones”. Well, no. Although I am sure they have revolutionised our lives, they has also landed us with kids who are connected to their mobile phones by invisible umbilical cords, use books as door-stops and think that the most famous navigator in history is Internet Explorer. So no, communication technology is not the best thing since sliced bread.

“That’s all very well and good”, you say, “… so stop hedging, and answer the question”. My reply is probably going to have some laughing, whilst others will be beating their feminist breasts and seeking out my IP address in the firm intention to send me my Women’s Lib subscription pack. Nevertheless, I’m going to slap on my under-50’s housewife hat and give you my answer:  The fully-automatic washing machine. Oh, yeah. Mine is called Candy, and she positively rocks this joint.

So why is Candy my heroine? How can a simple washing machine make humanity’s day?

Simple. Whilst some American families were already enjoying the luxury of the very first electric washing machines in 1928, here in Europe we had hand-powered dinosaurs or simply washed by hand, with the added thrill of putting our fingers through the wrangler along with little Johnny’s long johns. Washing the laundry was the household equivalent of a triathlon until the first excruciatingly expensive but fully-automated washing machines were ripped off the shelves by hysterical homemakers in 1947.

The lack of reliable contraception most probably leading to a large family, I’m therefore guessing that the average mother spent three-quarters of her day washing the laundry, giving her biceps that would make Rambo go pale with envy. Her fingertips looked like a bag of prunes, she sweated like a horse and had back pains that must have made childbirth feel like a holiday in the tropics in comparison. I suspect that many a child thought twice about dropping his dinner down his front faced with the strength and nervous exhaustion of a mother who had spent most of her day hoisting sodden sheets in and out of cold water.

Now let’s have a look at this situation today, boys and girls. (Yep, in this modern day and age, the boys are concerned too.) Hands up those of you who just have to press the button on a miracle machine and still manage to have Mount Etna in dirty laundry towering in the corner of the bathroom? Does clean laundry spill out of a basket that is progressively pillaged by kids wearing nothing but their underwear and a pair of headphones? And last but definitely not least, who hasn’t experienced that bottomless vortex when the washing machine splutters and dies and the repair man can’t get the spare part for the next three weeks?

A modern-day Playmobil laundry drama.

A modern-day laundry drama, played out in true MM style. Little My does not like playing Playmobil with me. (My own photo:  Not to be pinched, ta muchly.)

I have a vivid memory of such an incident as the mother of three small children. I defiantly blocked the exit to our home with my 6-week old baby in my arms as her two-year old brother hung on to my legs, beamed and said “Pipi, Mamma!” before peeing copiously into his last change of clothing and leaving me stranded in a pool of urine.

The repair man clocked the regulation “recent mother” shoulder badge of newborn’s milk spew on my shoulder and looked anxiously at my haggard face as I hung baby Little My over my arm, face pitched dangerously towards his sports shoes.

“I do realise how difficult it must be for you with three young children,” he mumbled. I eyeballed him, and fiddled quietly with the door keys in my hand. He quickly realised that I was inches from swallowing the key and forcing him to strip off and trample my laundry in the family tub until a solution was found.  If he wanted to leave the flat in one piece, he’d have to think fast.

“I’ll just call my boss and see if we can lend you a machine, Madame”. Whilst he called, I watched my six-year-old happily playing in the colourful multitude of damp washing draped artistically over the furniture. He chased his imaginary enemy from one makeshift sheet-tent to the other, using the elasticated corners of the sheets as a hiding place for his get-away jeep and chocolate spread sandwich.

“It’s all organised, Madame, we’ll bring you a replacement machine tomorrow at ten”, our Messiah announced with a relieved grin.  Mini-Bigfoot pointed his imaginary gun at him, and said “Bang. You’re dead”.

“Thank you so much”, I replied sweetly. I opened the door then watched him gingerly avoid the puddle of pee and flee down the stairs as my soaking wet two-year-old waved a cheerful goodbye from the landing. I was saved from disaster. Yep, the fully-automated washing machine is most definitely the best thing since sliced bread.

Daily Prompts: Writing my own eulogy.

Daily post at WordPress set the tone today: “Write your own eulogy!” I’m game for a try….. Here’s mine! For more ideas from other bloggers, have a look at

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/01/25/daily-prompt-eulogy/

We are gathered here today to pay our last respects to MM.  I am glad to see that you have all come in fancy dress and brightly coloured socks, as requested by the deceased. Her children will nominate the three prize-winners at the end of the ceremony. Please deposit all packets of salted peanuts in the collection box on your way out for her chosen charity, Peanut Addicts Anonymous. Following the wishes of the deceased, her ashes will  be placed inside a Picon bottle and laid to rest in Mutzig, Alsace.

The silence in the village since MM left this world has been astounding. Not only does the neighbourhood now hear birdsong and the wind in the leaves, they also clearly hear the neighbours arguing now that she is no longer there as to assume her necessary role as UN (United Neighbours) negotiator. Her gift of the gab was extraordinary, and will be missed by those who used her as an excuse for not getting things done during the day.  At this very moment, God is no doubt sorely regretting his decision to call MM to His side as he observes St Peter attempting to get a word in edgeways at the pearly gates.

We will all remember MM as a talkative, disorganised and headstrong woman whose instinctive tendency to say “yes” often got her into difficult predicaments, whilst her sense of humour helped her to escape from them.

MM made a modest living out of her passion for the English language. A grammar fiend and spelling stickler, she would no doubt have liked to utter the famous last words of French grammarian Dominique Bouhours, who said “ I am about to – or going to – die: either expression is correct”. Such was God’s will.

Despite her great talent for procrastinating, MM did not manage to avoid the inevitable issue of meeting her maker. She left this world doing what we all know she did best – laughing. The dry-roasted Planters peanut that remained tragically blocked in her trachea unfortunately signed her sad demise before her cholesterol level did, proving her doctor right in his prediction that her penchant for peanuts would kill her in the end.

It has taken some time to get permission from Church authorities to play the music MM chose to accompany her on her last journey. She was partial to a little provocation, which explains the 6 long weeks it has taken to get this funeral organised. She would no doubt have immensely enjoyed this idea, and would have quipped that she liked the idea of being kept on ice like James Bond’s dry Martini. Thanks to the unfortunate slip of a coffin bearer, she also had the opportunity to be shaken, although she will stir no more.

The words to the song are being passed around the pews for you to sing along. It is entitled “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life”, and sung by a certain M. Python. This was MM’s favourite saying, along with her grandmother’s sound adage: “Look after number one, because no other bugger will do it for you”. MM was conscious that her choice of music could offend some of the people present today, but had decided to take the risk: just for once, she wouldn’t have to justify her choice afterwards and would finally be able to have the last word.

MM has requested the following epitaph: “Here lies MM: spouse, mother, bon vivant and copy editor. Rest in piece peace”.

Nesting and migration in the lesser-spotted boob.

Driving down the motorway yesterday on my way to the nearest metropolis, I flicked on the radio. As usual, it was tuned into my children’s favourite station, NRJ.  As I tailed along behind a lorry, the garrulous and entertaining Manu informed his listeners that he had discovered a blog.

“Whoopee”!! I thought. A fun blog address where we can check out something cool, like the breathtakingly exciting adventures of an Inuit Eskimo hunting in sub-zero temperatures, dressed in caribou skin undies and armed with no more than a hand-sharpened teaspoon and a rubber band. But the blog in question was that of a Spanish young lady who takes a photo of her cleavage and publishes it every day.

Booby Trap in a hotel room?

Somebody has already written the book. Dammit, Janet. (Photo credit: firepile)

I am not going to start beating my breast about booby blogs – each to his or her own. I did however wonder what written content can go with these photos. Maybe the author had written about the history of the bosom, investigated the social importance of the maternal breast, examined the impact of Jane Birkin’s ironing board and Lolo Ferrari’s airbags on their respective careers, or written a titillating (ar-hum) off-beat story about her mammaries entitled “A Tale of Two Titties”, “Bosom Buddies”, or “Booby Trap”. Had she posted something interesting or fun alongside the photo of her cleavage?

Google translate was formal: the written content was a recipe combining breasts (presumably not chicken), slices of chorizo sausage and potatoes. Fun for some, but maybe not sufficiently thrilling content to captivate hoards of followers for long.

I have therefore written an alternative post for her next cleavage photo, to be read out loud à la Richard Attenborough. So here goes. Drum roll, please….. My apologies to my parents, who are muttering “she’ll never change” and reaching for their dark glasses and balaclava helmets.

Nesting and migration in boobus mammarius.

The lesser-spotted boobus mammarius, commonly known as the boob, is a parasite that develops during early human adolescence. Couples remain faithful throughout life, and fix themselves to the upper part of the female human anatomy (henceforth referred to as the host) where they slowly develop until reaching maturity.

Boobs come in all sizes, and for reasons unknown to womankind they do not seem to follow the rule of symmetry. Thus, one is generally observed to be plumper than the other. Further research is necessary to establish whether this size difference entails the dominance of one boob over the other in decision-making situations such as migration.

Nesting

Boobs nest in a lace-lined contraption provided by the host, commonly called a bra. The nest can also be referred to in host language as an over-shoulder boulder holder, an upper-decker, a double-barrelled slingshot or a flopper stopper.

Candy

Nesting boobs in their natural habitat. In this case, the host has attempted to retain them using candy as a bait. Note dominant boob on right. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is thought that this high altitude nesting site was chosen by the first generations of boobs in a bid to stay out of the reach of their most ferocious predator, handus mannus (commonly called “The Hand” in host language). This species generally prowls at night, preying on innocent boobs as they sleep. Fortunately, the host provides round-the-clock protection and has been observed to be unusually aggressive in a bid to provide safe haven for her protégées.

Unexpected movements of the female host, such as running to save screaming offspring, can occasionally result in boobs falling out of their nests. The host’s aid is necessary for them to regain safe haven, as the boob is only capable of downward movement (see migration, below).

Like many other parasites, they return the favour to their host in the form of basic functions. These include attracting a mate, feeding any offspring, and serving as a decoy to attract attention whilst the host’s eyes convey a message to a third party.

Migration

Like the bald eagle, boobs are monogamous. They therefore begin their slow migration south together after approximately forty years of faithfulness to their nesting site. There is still a hot debate over why boobs migrate south, and three main schools of thought have appeared. One theory suggests that migration is the boob equivalent of retiring to the Costa Brava after their numerous years of loyal service. Other researchers propose a socio-economic argument, namely that boobs migrate in a bid to join their distant relative, biggus bottomus, whose more generous proportions and wider horizons may tempt less realistic boobs southwards for a better lifestyle. Another theory describes the irresistible pull of gravity; this appears to be the most plausible explanation to date.

cleavage

Migrating boobs. (Photo credit: DMWCarol)

Boob migration unfortunately occurs at a time where the host has become dependent on her companions. She therefore attempts to delay migration by nourishing them with expensive creams and tempting them with a luxury nest known as the Wonderbra. However, the drawback of this method is that it also attracts any handus mannus roaming in the area. Despite these baiting efforts, boobs generally escape at nightfall and continue their slow, imperceptible migration south.

Sadly, after decades of excruciatingly slow progress, few boobs successfully cross the dreaded Checkpoint Bellybutton on the waistline frontier, and many give up the fight. Unlike salmon, they are unable to return to their birthplace, and are forced to set up a new nest in the arid wastelands of the belly region. Further studies could investigate the new techniques they develop to survive in this new, more oxygenated climate.

Disclaimer: To clear up any confusion, none of the boobs pictured here are mine.

Super Saver Tomato and the Punctuation Police.

My heart goes out to foreign learners of my native language. English grammar stinks. So does punctuation. I am a punisher for punctuation, a grammar geek, and a stickler for spelling. Yet when I point out glaringly obvious mistakes on billboards and hoardings to my offspring, they roll their eyes at me and tell me to wake up and smell the coffee. Who cares as long as the message can be understood? The inaccurate use of quotation marks, capital letters, apostrophes, commas and exclamation marks is not deemed to be a punishable offence by Bigfoot and his generation, whatever the language concerned. His mother, on the other hand, would happily bludgeon the culprits into oblivion with a hardback copy of English Grammar in Use.

Imagine a world without correct spelling, grammar and punctuation. Admittedly, we would live in a better place where nobody would be frustrated or unfaithful, as the absence of the dashing dash would mean that extra-marital sex would disappear and only extra marital sex would remain. A win-win situation. On the other hand, be careful how you suggest that dinner is ready – without a comma, the suggestion « Why don’t we eat, John?»  becomes a matter of life or death for the person concerned.

My sad condition started out as an amused smile at the greengrocer’s apostrophe, until the latter turned into a major source of irritation for me. I took to hesitating in front of stores, unsure whether to quietly pull out a marker pen or call the Punctuation Police. Nobody else seemed to be unduly affected by this affront to the Grammar Gods. People continued walking by whilst I stood there, fighting with my punctuation principles.

You know what I’m talking about: those lurid fluorescent signs outside high street shops selling “BEST BANANA’S”, and “super saver tomato’s”. Who on earth is super saver tomato? Is he Batman’s new organic sidekick, devoid of capitals? What a pity that the sentence is not completed with his activity (“Super saver tomato’s on his way for lunch with Wonder Woman!”) or the unwanted belongings that are presumably for sale (“Super saver tomato’s underpants at cut price until 5pm tomorrow!”).

Super Saver Tomato, drawn by Rugby-boy.

Super Saver Tomato, drawn by Rugby-boy.

After years of teaching English as a foreign language, I finally gave in to the temptation and set up as a copy editor. I have been happily sticking my snout into scientific documents ever since, sniffing out rogue prepositions and tracking down perfunctory punctuation with more enthusiasm than a pig hunting for truffles. I see my job as the linguistic equivalent of cosmetic surgery, and I love it: give me the written equivalent of Elephant Man, and I’ll do my best to turn it into Brad Pitt.

However, I sometimes have problems switching off at the end of the day. This occasionally leads to frustration when it comes to reading in bed, my number two hobby. (Number one is writing – variety is the spice of life.) I recently snuggled up under my quilt with a promisingly well-thumbed Chick Lit novel I’d found in a charity shop. Within two chapters I was swearing blue murder at the rash of bad punctuation running riot throughout the pages. I grumbled audibly, wondering who the hell had edited the English in this book, or whether it had been edited at all. I fiddled with the corner of the page and my vivid imagination took off. I imagined the editor, drinking direct from the Chardonnay bottle as he picked out the odd spelling mistake or typographic error in the script. Then, no doubt tired of fiddling around, he must have grabbed a box of punctuation marks and magnanimously tipped it over the document like a trainee pizzaiolo attacking an unsuspecting Napoletana with an entire tin of capers. The commas scattered away into the different pages like cockroaches trying to find a quiet, damp corner to hide in, and the damage was done.

I told you I had a vivid imagination. In any case, the readability of what promised to be an excellent storyline, suddenly became somewhat, compromised; because the text was mined, with badly placed, punctuation. Ok, so I’ve exaggerated a tad, but you get, what, I mean….

The last straw was the herd of brackets rampaging across each page, giving me the uneasy feeling that the narrator was schizophrenic. The numerous asides thrown into the text made her look like her own sidekick. I threw the book on the floor, where it has remained to this day.

So spare a thought for poor old punctuation he’s having a tough time of it whether on the street or in published form. (Garnish this sentence with both punctuation and parsimony, if you please.) The day punctuation dies, we will have a heavy sentence to face.