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
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.
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’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…?