Can’t, can’t, can’t!

Oh, the shame!

Do I strike you as stupid? Because I’ve never thought of myself as stupid. Maybe a bit slow on the uptake sometimes, but never that. Some might say (I don’t know who, but some) that I’m a fairly streetwise forty-something-year-old. I’m no rocket scientist, to be fair, but I hold my own in this thing we call, ‘being an adult’. It’s just over the years, I am noticing a number of failings in my repertoire that I don’t seem able to put right no matter how hard I try. Who are we kidding? I don’t try – that’s the point. I’ve accepted these little blank-spots in my know-how. They are now my idiosyncrasies. Or, in real terms, things I’m too lazy to learn how to do now I’m no spring chicken. So I’m going to let you in on a few of them. You might want to sit down.

Make a Cup of Tea

Oh, the horror!

This is pretty shameful for an English person to admit. I was in two minds about telling you this. I mean, making a cup of tea is a British person’s birthright, isn’t it? I prefer coffee myself (for obvious reasons), but I do enjoy a cup of tea. Only in the afternoon, mind – preferably with a bit of cake. But alas, I can’t make a decent cuppa. I’m not talking about tea leaves in a pot (nobody can do that anymore, not unless they’re over eighty-five). I’m talking about plain old teabags. You may think that a common-or-garden teabag is idiot-proof. Well, you’d be wrong. That or I am of sub-normal intelligence. I just can’t seem to get it right – my husband has assured me so on many occasions. And he’s not wrong. My cups of tea always end up with a greasy-looking film on top. I think the trick is in the timing; how long you leave the teabag in the boiling water. But I don’t know how long that should be. And should you squeeze the teabag against the side of the cup to get out the last dregs of brown liquid or not? It’s got to the point that whenever a friend comes over and I offer them a cup of coffee (you see, come in with a leading question – that’s how I roll), and they answer that they’d rather have a cup of tea, I just freeze – staring at them mid-grimace. ‘Really…? You want tea…? Surely you meant coffee? I can make a nice coffee – out of the Nespresso machine and everything. Go on, have a coffee…’. But some people still insist on a cup of tea. Selfish b***ards.


I’ll just sit on the side, shall I…?

Well, alright, I can swim. Just about. I was taught to swim at school just like everybody else. But I certainly didn’t have private lessons like (seemingly) every child in the western world does these days. I think I may have made it as far as passing my 100 yards in my school lessons (I don’t know, I didn’t care enough to keep the certificates). But seriously, they didn’t teach me properly. We had a large class of kids trekking to and from the pool each week, and I really feel our swimming instructor didn’t give a monkey’s toss how you made it across his damn pool, as long as you made it across his damn pool. So I suppose I invented my own reworking of the front crawl, which probably resembled somebody drowning, yet I still managed to reach the other side more or less alive. And that was evidently enough. ‘Great, you’re still alive. That’s a first for today. Here’s your certificate. Well done, Adele!‘. But my technique, as you can imagine by my aforementioned description, is poor. My breaststroke is also sh*t – this is largely due to the fact that I was never taught this stroke at all; I made it up my own. I expel far too much energy, my legs and my arms are most certainly not in sync, and I haven’t learned to breathe correctly (it doesn’t help that I can’t tolerate my face being in water or getting my hair wet). I always say that if I fell off a boat in the sea or a river or a lake, I would be highly unlikely to make it back to shore. I don’t ever envisage myself as one of those boring lane-swimmers who go up and down the pool for four hours straight, giving kids ‘the evils’ for having the audacity to get in their way. But one of these days, I’m going to have to invest in adult swimming lessons. I’m sick to death of my kids beating me in races across the length of our local pool; beating me by miles, I might add. Something must be done, if only for safety’s sake. Actually, it’s more my pride I’m worried about.

Read Roman Numerals

I can no longer find this ruler. Bugger…

I’m not sure if I have a great deal of company when it comes to my complete failure in being able to do this – but I can’t do this. I mean, it’s not über important as life skills go. On a daily basis, let’s face it, the ability to read roman numerals doesn’t really come up. So nine times out of ten, people are deceived into believing that I’m pretty normal. There’s a vague possibility you may be asked to decipher a date all in roman numerals in a pub quiz. And if that ever happened, I would just pretend to rifle through my bag for something essential to my well-being, or pretend to answer a very important phone call. Failing that, I’d fake my own death. No, the only occasions that my R.N. inability really becomes an issue is when I’m watching a film or TV series and I want to know what date it was made. Because I don’t know where to start. There’s MM and XV and VIII and…erm… I have a strong suspicion that we were taught this in school, but evidently I was off sick that day (that day and the day we were taught about cloud formations, because I don’t know anything about those either). I once went to The Roman Baths in Bath and bought my children a roman numerals ruler from the gift shop (secretly, I bought it for myself, with the intention of going home and revising in a locked room one evening – but I never got around to it, and probably never will).

I suppose there will always be things in this world that each and every one of us won’t be able to perform with any real success. Many of us (probably) have regrets about what they didn’t learn in childhood – I know I do. But all I really want is to successfully make a decent cup of tea, efficiently read a set of roman numerals in the end credits, and swim like a graceful eel across the length of a swimming pool. Is that too much to ask? Is it too late for me now? Well, possibly – being the apathetic creature that I am. But it’s important for you know that these things still irk me. Let’s just hope one day that that irksomeness leads to decisive action, or these blank-spots will forever remain blank-spots. Oh, the shame…

NB: Please don’t leave me hanging here. Tell me there are some fairly easy things that you guys don’t know how to do. Or is it just me…?

26 thoughts on “Can’t, can’t, can’t!

  1. 1. Parking. I wish I was one of those people who could parallel park in one swift motion. They’re my definition of cool.
    2. Idioms. I didn’t grow up in an English speaking household, which means I didn’t learn very many English idioms. Consequently, most idioms go over my head, and when I try to use them, I always get them wrong. Prime example: Just now, in trying to recall any idiom, I thought “Don’t call the kettle black” instead of “the pot calling the kettle black.” I wouldn’t find this nearly so upsetting if it weren’t for the fact that I majored in literature and linguistics, worked as a writing tutor, and pretty much did most of my education in the US. Even so, I can still claim that English technically is not my first language… Which is a very handy argument.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha ha! Oh my goodness, I nearly put reverse parking in (except that I’ve written about it before in a post about hating driving). Don’t worry about the idioms, half of them don’t make any sense anyway! 😉


  2. Oh gosh… I make tea with tea leaves…I fear I am older than I thought. I may have to bring my special tea pot in one day and make you a brew!! 😊

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  3. Lol.​ The only person that likes my tea is me. I leave the teabag in for about 5 seconds and apparently it needs to be stronger than that but I don’t like strong tea. I never get asked to make tea because it’s awful lol. Yay! I can’t swim or ride a bike. I don’t care to either. I can drive but only an automatic and that’s not common in my country. Almost everyone here can drive stick. There’s nothing wrong with me physically. All my parts are intact. I just can’t do those things mentally. I never thought of myself as stupid. I know I have some other special talents so there’s where I put my focus. There’s a quote from Einstein “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that its stupid”. I’ve met doctors that struggle to work with a computer. So we all were given our natural talents. Some natural, others not so much. If we want to be good at something then I guess only practice plus a lot of failures and repeats will help plus a passion for the thing we want to do is also important.

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  4. What a hilarious piece, Adele! I would not feel too bad about any of those so called shortcomings. First of all, Roman numerals. The only reason they are on tv shows & movies is probably to look pretentious. As for swimming & tea brewing, you can always learn those two items. I have many things I don’t do well. I cannot wear high heels. I had a pair of platform slides that I loved & one day I twisted my ankle, fell & dislocated my shoulder. Good times. Let’s just say I won’t be doing a catwalk anytime soon! Thoroughly enjoyable read! 👍

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  5. I want to say ‘I can’t be arsed’ 😂
    There’s so much I can’t do Adele but ya know there’s a whole lot more I can (I mean, not many people can repair and fix a radiator with just the help of google?) BTW, I can’t make a decent cup of tea either, don’t drink the stuff so why bother? Eh? 😅

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  6. Hi, the part about making the tea made me smile. I mix and match tealeaves and teabags. Apparently you shouldn’t squeeze the bag against the cup or mug as it realises tannins. At the end of the day everyone likes their tea differently even it was perfect it may not please everyone. Keep practicing it’s a perfect excuse to have a cup of tea, Chloe

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I really had a very good time, when I read your posts, Adele and the comments 🙂 (Besides, I am not british, but a great tea drinker (only with leaves 😉 but I like me tea so hot that others think I’m crazy …

    Regarding the difficulties with practical things others can handle without efforts: I quit car driving. I got my license very late (I was already forty), but I never got a really good driver. In fact, anxious people felt very safe with me, but all good and used drivers were afraid in my car … so, as the car broke down, I did not replace it, I prefer public transport … sometimes I feel a bit ashamed of this, but most of the time I am very comfortable with my decision.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Good lord Adele, you are an embarrassment to Her Majesty’s United Kingdom! You should have your passport revoked for that treason you mentioned about tea. Report to your nearest OAP’s tea ‘n’ cake jamboree for reorientation training, asap! 😉

    And god help me if I ever asked you to make me a cuppa tea with II sugars in it!

    I’m trying to think of any little oddities that I can’t do but everyone else can…?

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  9. I enjoyed the conversation this morning. It took me a couple of days to get to read it. I finally managed to muster up the few seconds it takes to read a great blog. Okay, so I am not telling the whole truth. I have the time I am flat out lazy sometimes. Speaking of coffee, I am a coffee drinker; I certainly would die without it.
    On work days I am up usually at 3 a.m. Out the door for work at 4:30. The forty-five-minute drive to work would not happen if not for talk radio and a cup of coffee. The coffee gives me my early morning sustainability. So most days I live in a world of make believe and occasionally slip into reality. So be it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know exactly what you mean. I tried to give coffee up once. I felt awful for days – pains in all my joints, headaches, lethargic. We had friends coming over so I couldn’t stand to feel like that with visitors over. One cup of coffee and I was right as rain. We all have our vices, and coffee will have to be mine! ☕️


  10. I thought I couldn’t make a cup of tea until I took up tea drinking in Spain. I was repeatedly presented with half a cup (or more) of hot milk, a pot of hot water, and a tea bag, as the notion of how it all comes together completely escaped my Spanish friends. In my first of those moments I came to understand why none of them owned a kettle! Alas, I was crap at making their much loved Paella but I sure as hell outdid them with my tea making skills – horses for courses 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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