Monday, 13 February 2012


Since the 'news' (and I use the term loosely) last week that Denise Welch's marriage was over I have been trying to vocalise my thoughts on the whole situation. It has particular resonance for me as I happen to have the misfortune to be related to someone with a similarly cringeworthy inability to realise what is and what is not appropriate for a woman of a certain age.

Please look at this series of pictures for as long as your eyes will allow you to:

That's right. It's Denise Welch getting her puppies out. Again and again and again. Is nobody else cringing at the hideous embarressment caused by these images? Is nobody else feeling empathy for her poor sons who must be experiencing the worst kind of mortification possible?

What is it with women of a certain age (and a certain mental state probably) which makes them think that whatever issues they are having, whatever social scene they are currently in, whatever the problem - the answer is always getting their baps out? It makes me want to put my head in my hands and rock like an abandoned child, confused at the world and how it works.

Frequent banger-flashing is the most often captured symptom of this kind of mindset but it is not usually seen in isolation. This is just the most media friendly kind of episode and therefore the one most frequently snapped. In my experience it is only one small sample of a number of behavioural traits commonly displayed by this kind of humanoid. Not a MILF, more like a MILI (Mother I'd Like to Incarcerate).

I speak from mortified experience. I have the misfortune to be related to a prime example of a MILI. I have gone through many different emotions regarding her throughout my life and can honestly say I was close to her as a child (before I started to be aware of the behaviour which would, in later life, lead to frustration, bafflement, anger and resentment).

You would not believe me if I told you what she does for a living (oh the irony) but needless to say she is, technically, a pretty high flying professional. I first became aware of a 'difference' with this side of my family as a child. Parties were, at best, weird and at worst like some kind of acid induced nightmare. 'Parties' are absolutely key to this group however and must include the following things (along with at least a tenuous excuse for said 'celebration'):

1) An absolute truckload of alcohol.
2) A village hall type venue.
3) A dodgy DJ.
4) A godawful buffet of the type usually seen on Iceland adverts.

Once these things are in place invites can be sent. But only to the section of family you are currently speaking to. Those not invited must be notified that they are, of course, not invited and the reasons why reiterated as a matter of course.

At said party the following things should happen otherwise the gathering cannot be legitimately considered a party:

1) Female crying by 9pm.
2) Fight being sparked by 10pm.
3) Lairy middle aged woman who should know better crawling round the dance floor, flashing knickers, getting tits out and generally making an absolute arse of herself while anyone with half a brain convulses from cringing.
4) If you are lucky some of the blokes will get naked and run around - what utter hilarity.

Having stated the above I actually feel like I can empathise with those people at AA meetings when they stand up and say 'My name is X and I am an alcoholic' except that my declaration seems to be 'My name is Ali and I must admit that I am related to these people'.

Anyway. At my wedding nearly 9 years ago, this particular MILI managed to do all of the following (for what it's worth I had tried my best not to invite her but was overruled).

1) Steal our photographer for her own set of family shots just before we were scheduled in for our photos.
2) Upset my lovely step-mum during the wedding breakfast and be so out of order that my brother had to step in and ask her to behave.
3) Get so absolutely trolleyed by about 4pm that she went missing and another relative had to go and find her.
4) Crawl through a friend of mines legs on the dancefloor for no reason whatsoever before starting with the usual, tedious, banger flashing.

And the biggest irony of all?

A few years later she married her long term partner and father of two of her kids and I, personally, was warned to be 'on my best behaviour' at the wedding for fear of revenge behaviour. There are two things wrong with that - firstly I would never have such a loss of dignity as to behave like that in public and secondly - is it not just a tad hypocritical to expect people to behave at your wedding when you are entirely incapable of behaving at theirs?

Anyway, none of this explains the MILI as a personality type. My solution to being related to one is to go absolutely out of my way to ensure that I never, ever have to cross paths with her, especially at any kind of social event. My husband finds her utterly terrifying and I can't say I blame him, he comes from a highly reserved family where this kind of behaviour is entirely unknown, he has no frame of reference for dealing with it.

It is a sad state of affairs that Denise Welch's kids have to witness this MILI behaviour not just in person but across the media. I don't dislike her as a person, I truly hope she is ok in the wake of her marriage breakdown, its just that she currently epitomises a particular type of personality, seemingly found in women of a certain age, which touches nerves for me and evokes memories I have successfully buried over the years. It is hard work being related to a MILI.

I often wonder how our MILI will age - whether she will calm down at all - but personally I cannot see that happening. Time will tell. One thing I am overly relieved about is that my mother is not a MILI at all (in fact she has been called a MILF many times over the years, much to her amusement) it really makes me thankful.

Sorry for the pictures. At least they are not of my much more scary MILI. I would not subject you to that unless you had REALLY done something to deserve it.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Men With Rackets

This blog post is primarily about eBay and the way it forces you (as a seller) to deal with some complete and utter numpties. It is also about the fact that a recent bout of selling via eBay has taught me a vital life lesson. Men who play racket sports are, on the whole, utter tools.

Perhaps I should not be so surprised given that racket sports (and tennis in particular) have produced some of the best known temper tantrums ever observed during a live piece of TV reportage (and produced the vividly descriptive term of 'Macitude' as a result). Indeed even today I always find it intriguing how incapable of connecting with the viewers (or spectators) British male tennis players actually seem to be.

I single out male and British as the defining traits as (although McEnroe was American) we seem to find it difficult to actually like our tennis players that much. The classic current example is Andy Murray who is considered 'British' while winning but then immediately 'Scottish' once knocked out from a tournament in the semi-finals (as is seemingly his standard routine). Maybe this will change if he ever wins Wimbledon when he will, of course, become a national hero.

But anyway...I personally find that Federer, Nadal and even Djokovich look less tool-like than British men on the Tennis court and this further underlines my theory about our men and their rackets and their sheer nobheaded arrogance.

Do not for one second think I limit this to Tennis. I also know men who play squash as if their life depends on it. I know of one person (a friend of a friend) who was banned from a squash court for getting so angry he snapped his racket after injuring his opponent with a deliberate shot to the crown jewels (ow - even I can feel that pain).

My theory is that racket sports make men angry. And in particular they make your average uptight British bloke believe he has balls bigger than King Kong and a desire to show this to (imaginary) easily-impressed cave women types. The Guardian says Tennis Psychology determines that the game requires a high level of mental strength to be successful. Which is sort of the same thing but said with more academic clout.

I always like to get a grounded view of my theories and so I asked a good friend who is male whether he considered there might be legs to this. His response was that there is a pecking order for how idiotic the players were, as follows:

"Squash, Tennis, Badminton and then Table Tennis. I associate city boys playing squash letting out their frustration before going off to have an affair. Table Tennis is for nerds so they’re no trouble at all." (TWH Feb 2012)
I am inclined to agree with this and especially the comment re table tennis which I will come back to later....

Anyway. What happened to me was that in amongst a large eBay clear out were two things which my husband wanted me to sell. Namely one used Tennis racket with a cover and a pair of badminton rackets. These were clearly listed as used, in the case of the badminton rackets I even pointed out that one was more used than the other (my husbands) as I had used mine probably only a handful of times. There were also pictures to show the condition.

Both these items sold. In fact we were amazed at the level of bidding activity on both of them, much higher than we were expecting.

Both buyers paid within a few hours of the auctions ending (another pet hate of mine is when you - as the seller - spend fruitless hours chasing payment only to receive a completely idiotic response or even worse no response at all and an unpaid item dispute). But then out of 20 odd items sold we got two of the dreaded 'stupid whingey messages' that I so dread on ebay. And both were racket related.

Firstly the tennis racket buyer said that despite me listing the racket as a 26" racket it was in fact a 25" racket which deemed it 'no use whatsoever' to him. Really? A one inch difference is that significant?? In any event, the racket had not in fact been listed as a '26 inch' racket but as a Wilson Hammer 26 which was the name of the particular racket and emblazoned on the racket cover. At no point in the listing did I refer to size.

I thought this was a little odd and a bit picky. I also did not appreciate the passive aggressive tone of his message which also informed me that I would be paying the postage for him to return it for a full refund. Actually ebay sellers are afforded a minute amount of protection in cases like this and eBay seller rules clearly state that where a buyer wants a refund they must return it at their own cost. Of course a sympathetic seller may well offer to cover the postage back but this rude individual had already got my back up in the way that he had approached the issue.

Anyway, being a calm and level headed person (my husband was ready to drive to his house and ram said tennis racket somewhere unpleasant) I emailed him with the address to return the racket to, also pointing out that actually there was no 'error' in the listing but as I am a nice person I will refund him once I receive the item back.

In the meantime I visited his feedback page out of curiosity and all seemed to be in order but, curiously, he had just paid for another tennis odd...and for a lot less money than he had paid for ours....hmmmm. Reading the description of this other racket he had procured (for the princely sum of 99p) I was gobsmacked to find it referred to simply as 'adult size' and not the highly desirable and absolutely crucial 26 inches. How odd.

This other racket also had no cover. I will come back to that.

So, it was not a particularly difficult hop, skip and jump from where I am sitting to deduce that he does not want our racket because it was a darn sight more expensive than this second racket and so he simply decided to return it for a refund on a flimsy excuse. A timewaster. An arsehole. A tennis player.

On Saturday last week I had a racket shaped delivery by the postman, unfortunately this wonderful specimen of humankind had returned the racket.........but not the cover. I wonder why. Could it be his new cheaper racket does not have one!? What an absurd suggestion.

I swore for a number of minutes, restrained my husband who was on the verge of getting the car keys and heading off to confront him, and calmly emailed him again explaining very politely that the cover was missing and, assuming this is a genuine mistake, I need this back before I can process a refund - as per eBay selling regs which state an item must be in exactly the same condition when returned for a refund to take place.

He emailed back saying this was an error and he would return the cover. It has yet to appear. I have emailed eBay mediation and informed them of the situation. On my daily rate at work the amount of effort and time I have put into this sale would have cost 5 times the price of the racket. And it is not finished yet.

Racket incident number 2 is thankfully already resolved and luckily was a much less shady and more hilarious incident, albeit another example of racket arseholes.

The buyer of the badminton rackets was clearly a young lad with a penchant for sports (maybe he will yet turn away from racket sports and develop a healthy interest in a less tooly activity - there is hope). A few days after he received the rackets he sent me a VERY ANGRY message. His headmistress had been very cross with him apparently.

As an eBay seller you send to the address which they pass to you on payment. This is the only address we see and unless the buyer contacts you specifically to request a change of address we have no other choice but to send to the one we have. As I had. This buyer was based on a school campus (a boarder I assume - more evidence of class links to racket sports?) and clearly they have security regulations. Therefore, despite my addressing the item to him it had been stopped at the school reception much to the annoyance of the aforementioned head who told him "in no uncertain terms" that this was inappropriate.

He had had, he told me "a very bad day" and it was all my fault.

Aside from this, the rackets were worn! And one of them needed new grip tape!! This was hardly news as the listing had clearly stated this and the accompanying photos showed the wear but all the same he had "a good mind to send them back" based on his bad experience.

When I had finished chortling at this missive from a young Boris Johnson I emailed him back and pointed out that it was not in fact my fault that he was in trouble with his head, as sorry as I was to hear it and also reiterating the item details regarding wear on the rackets. To my surprise he left it at that (maybe he was late for a spot of wiff waff - the nerd) aside from leaving me unexpectedly clunky negative feedback. 

An annoyance as a seller on eBay is that you are simply not allowed to leave negative feedback for a buyer, you only have the options to leave 'positive' or you can choose to 'leave feedback later' which now leaves me in the irritating position of not quite knowing what to say in the 'positive' feedback I am forced to leave him after he has single-handedly screwed up my previously 100% positive rating as a seller. Maybe I should work on an overly sarcastic feedback comment.

At least he did not claw back his funds via paypal which anyone who pays via this method is actually allowed to do. This is another anti-seller bit of power to the buyer as the funds are put in limbo by Paypal before you even receive the item back and whether or not you agree to the same. You only have to google 'ebay refunds' to discover reams of annoyed sellers voicing anger on the various ways that eBay screws us, from the extortionate fees to the complete imbalance of power which always seems to favour the buyer. It truly makes you wonder why we bother.

Anyway, all of the above simply reinforces my belief that men who play racket sports are tools. Never again will I attempt to sell rackets via ebay because clearly the time wasted dealing with psuedo aggressive tosh from these twonks is not worth the piddling amount received at the end of it.

And as for Wimbledon this year - GO MURRAY - and please prove me wrong about men with rackets.