Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Bilingual bad language [WARNING: CONTAINS SWEARING – Avert your eyes/ears, Mother!]

There are many advantages to living the life bilingual, but possibly the most delicious one has to do with behaving badly.

Having been brought up in a nice, respectable family in the nice, respectable wilds of deepest Surrey, I’m not much of a potty mouth. 

I’m no angel, of course. The occasional “Shit!”, “Fuck!” or "Bugger!" blurts out, but I usually follow-up by looking round to make sure the Mother Ship isn't listening. As we were growing up, Mum had a zero tolerance policy on swearing, except for "Bugger" which for some reason no-one really understands, she uses frequently and with great gusto and simply doesn't consider it bad language at all, despite repeatedly having the dictionary definition  shoved under her nose. I’m still smarting from the memory of having my mouth washed out with a bar of Lifebuoy soap after sticking two fingers up at her in a fit of pre-teen pique. But to her credit, I grew up surrounded by books and so entered adulthood armed with a vocabulary that lets me express EXACTLY what I feel without resorting to ‘naughty’ words.

But the truth is, there are times when you want to – no, you NEED to – just let rip and turn the air blue.

Enter the joys of speaking Greek.

It’s a great language for letting rip (if you don’t believe me, just pay a visit to the nearest Greek tax office). 

It's a terrific language for obscenity. The Hellenic dictionary of foul language is filled with words that are meaty and fibrous, they fill your mouth (oo-er Missus!) and the satisfy that need within you to tell that *****   ******   ******   who just cut in front of you just what you of think of him – and if you’re in the UK, there’s a good chance he won’t have the foggiest what you just said.

It’s an earthy, colourful tongue filled with heartfelt oaths and insults to help you spill your guts and vent your spleen when you really need to. You can shout out an explosive expletive of Γαμώ τη πουτάνα μου!” (Translation, to be said in your most measured BBC received pronunciation: Fuck my prostitute), Τι στο σκατα?” (What the shit?), Αι σιχτίρ!” (Go to hell - I believe dating back the days when Greece was occupied by the Ottomans) and other delicious γαμοσταυρίδια (assorted obscenities) without making anyone bat an eyelid. 

Back in Blighty, though swearing is pretty mainstream these days, many everyday Greek oaths would be frowned on for their extreme lack of Politically Correctness. Here, they're par for the course - and it’s probably a lot healthier than the British habit of swallowing our bile and letting it fester inside.

It also comes virtually guilt-free for an English import like me. I know it's swearing, but having come to the language as an adult and not an impressionable child, it doesn't really feel like I'm being bad.  

Since slotting my oh-so-British self into Greek society more than two decades ago, I've gained the ability to swear graphically without inflicting an iota’s worth of damage to my ‘good girl’ halo from the land of my birth.

And by assimilating my bilingual vocabulary of bad language I have created something of hybrid, which keeps my Greek Other Half entertained. He still chuckles at the memory of me flying round the house in the early days of our marriage, desperately trying to create a pretense of tidiness for my mother-in-law’s surprise visit, and roaring a frustrated “Oh, bloody, fucking γαμώτο!” as a wardrobe door that refused to stay closed against the pile of scrunched-up clothes stuffed into it.

Greek is great for releasing such frustrations. I’m so glad to have its panoply of obscenities at my disposal. I believe I’m a healthier woman for it (or maybe I just need to be, to deal with some of the practicalities of daily life here?).

But there’s one word that my Greek will never replace. It’s one only a true Brit (or possibly an Aussie) can say convincingly. It’s simple, direct, and conveys utter contempt – especially when delivered in a total dead-pan response.

It is, of course, “Bollocks”.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

The Slattern’s Guide to… the kitchen

Let’s get one thing straight. Slattern is not a synonym for lazy cow. You can pack up all those preconceptions and mental images of kitchens piled to the ceiling in half empty take-away boxes and unfinished Pot Noodles. That is not the way of the slattern – well, not every day.

At heart, the true slattern is a hedonist – actually, she’s a HEDONIST is bold capitals. She loves the good things in life, so she savours the smells, tastes, textures and even the sounds of good food. She also loves to experiment. She just does it HER way.

Of course, there’s plenty of room in the gastronomic life of a slattern for those precious moments shoveling instant noodles into your mouth as you catch up on that vintage movie no-one else ever wanted to see, chewing cold leftover pizza in front of the open fridge for breakfast, scoffing peanut butter by the spoonful whilst you wait for your beloved to finish shaving, or eating baked beans straight from the tin when no-one is looking. It’s all part of life’s rich culinary tapestry.

But there are times when we have to put on a show and play the hostess. 

Instead of being a terrifying ordeal, this is a chance to get down, dirty and diggidly creative in front of the saucepan. It’s an adventure, often an experiment, and there may be collateral damage along the way. But above all, it will be fun and – with luck - tasty.

Just be sure to warn those you share your life with that the kitchen will probably look more like it’s been visited by the poltergeist spectre of Jackson Pollock than the smoothing spirit of a domestic goddess. 

When I cook up a storm, the scene owes more to Diaghilev than Nigella, so the faint-hearted are told to keep their distance. Stray pets enter the kitchen at their peril (and soon beat a hasty retreat at the first sound of banging saucepans). 

For the slattern, food is both about the journey and the destination – but her dining partners would do well to just wait patiently at the table.

Well-trained guests who resist the urge to visit the heaving collection of bubbling cauldrons and piles of vegetable waste in your kitchen may even be fooled into thinking you are a genuine Domestic Goddess (capital D, capital G).

It’s a handy trick when trying to impress, so here are a few tips:
  • Forget food styling – Life’s too short for a molecule’s worth of pilaf accompanied by a sole lentil and a quartered fig artfully arranged in the upper left-hand of a pure black plate to represent the ultimate futility and artifice of life.
    Tell your guests that you embrace the rustic school of cooking – that way you can get away with dumping messy dollops of your delicious offerings on mismatched plates and calling it art.
  • Embrace short cuts – Are you seriously going to tell me you can tell when your hostess has spent the past 24 hours creating her own puff pastry from scratch (make the dough, fold in butter, roll out and fold three times, chill for an hour, then repeat the whole process ad nauseum)?
    I certainly can’t, especially when it has a shedload of creamy fruity sweetness or a tower of tasty roast veg and cheese added. Ready-made puff pastry is quick and easy – bish, bash, bosh and there you go, ready to have fun with the topping.
    The same goes for tinned beans, chickpeas et al versus the more politically correct dried versions that have to be soaked overnight and boiled for at least an hour before you can even start. Save yourself the grief and boredom and reach for the tinned section every time – no-one will ever know, or care. Jars of ready minced garlic and ginger are also big on saving time, not to mention your nails and knuckles.
  • The freezer is your friend – From frozen veg or fresh herbs to chuck into your creations for a last minute splash of colour, through to sauces, soups, doughs and entire family meals (“Here’s one I made earlier”), the freezer is a life saver.
    Just ask my mum. Though she’s the absolute antithesis of a slattern who could teach both Mary Berry and Martha Stewart a thing or two, she has three – yes, count them, three – freezers packed with enough goodies to see us all through the zombie apocalypse. You’ll never go hungry at Pauline’s, that’s for sure.
  • Go by the book, then throw it away – Create your own unique signature dishes by adapting the original recipe according to your tastes or (more likely) what's hiding in the cupboard. That way, you can graciously give impressed guests the recipe from your piles of Jamie/Nigella/Mary/Heston/whoever cookbooks - but they will NEVER be able to replicate your masterpiece.
  • Save your presentation skills for yourself - Cooking the slattern’s way is a glorious but messy business, so you’re going to get a little disheveled. Or a lot. Cooking naked isn't an option (potentially embarrassing and downright dangerous). So you can either you can carefully cultivate a Boho persona which embraces stray locks of hair, random stains, sweaty cheeks and smudged eyeliner, or chuck an old oversized shirt over your hostess clothes and keep a box of wet wipes , whatever clips/hairbands/bandanas/fascinators you might need and a basic make-up kit hidden in the back of the fridge for a last-minute make-over.
  • Just enjoy the damn food! It doesn’t matter if you tuck into your risotto and Mediterranean veg with a big smear of balsamic cream across your forehead. It's just one more thing that will make it a meal to remember.
Bon appetite, slattern sisters!

Sunday, 5 October 2014

The Slattern’s Guide to… the snuffles

The first signs are unmistakably, no matter how hard you try to ignore them.

That over-exposed sensitivity scratching at your larynx, the itch in your nasal passages, a dryness of the throat and that oh-so-attractive albino rabbit pink rim around your eyes.
You fight it off for a couple of days, mainlining Vitamin C and echinacea, grabbing a few early nights
 and playing the carry-on game before giving in to it.

But, eventually, you surrender. And that’s when the fun starts.

For a cold - whether it’s an annoying sniffle or full-blown ‘flu with a fever tap-dancing on your brow - presents the perfect opportunity to drop the artifice of respectability and propriety and reveal your true slattern nature to the world, guilt-free.

Of course, you’re going to be feeling like a human version of last week’s left-over chicken soup (well past its best and probably a little funky), but that doesn’t mean you can’t allow yourself to enjoy of the unexpected benefits that come with being under the weather.

Let’s face it, when else can you get away with sprawling on the sofa in your PJs, sipping endless cuppas brewed by sympathetic family members, watching crap TV, moaning dramatically to draw attention to your plight as you sit there in a cloud of self-pity surrounded by rapidly stiffening balls of crumpled-up tissues used to stem the flow coming from the mucus-factory that's taken up residence in your upper respiratory tract? 

One look at your rheumy eyes, chapped nostrils and cracked lips will melt the heart of even the harshest mother-in-laws and move them to boil up nourishing soups to speed your recovery (just be prepared for the inevitable long, detailed narrative of great colds she or her precious offspring have endured over the years served up with the soup).  

A pitiful look from beneath the bundle of housecoats and duvets you’ve wrapped yourself in might solicit a nice Hot Toddy from your significant other if you manage to sneeze, sniff and sigh in their direction enough.

So, don’t try to conceal your sneezing fits, dramatic sniffs and the special relationship you’ve developed with a soggy hanky. Let rip. How else is the world going to know what you’re going through, and move them forgive you for your full frontal unashamed display of slatternry? 

Cultivate a husky voice, bravely croaking “Oh, I’ll live” in response to kindly enquiries about your health. Some fellas out there find it a turn-on, though the chances of you feeling up to responding with any kind of sensual enthusiasm are probably on a par with the likelihood of Queen Elizabeth popping out to the nearest open-all-hours branch of Tesco to pick up a bottle of cheap plonk, a few alcopops and a bumper bag of cheesy Wotsits for a good Saturday night in.

Just one word of warning: do not, whatever you do, allow your nearest and dearest to catch your cold. The minute they do – especially if the menfolk start displaying symptoms – your time of wallowing in your paddling pool of slatternly self-pity and sympathy are history.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

The Slattern’s Guide to… The Wardrobe

Angie baby: über-slattern?
Newsflash: Angela Merkel is our sister.

Yes, you heard me.
Angela Merkel - German Chancellor,
über hausfrau and scourge of struggling EU economies - is a slattern.

It’s not a conclusion I arrived at easily, believe me. I certainly don’t feel much natural affiliation with the lady, her politics, her material conservatism or her fiscal housekeeping fetish. But a quick flick through her cuttings file will soon reveal why she belongs to the international sisterhood of slatterns.

No matter what’s she’s up to – having a go at Greece, irritating Italians, or trying to put Putin in his place – one thing never changes. Her clothes: smart trousers, neither tight or baggy, topped with a boxy jacket in a variety of fabrics, colours and finishes.She found what works for her and she's sticking to it.

It’s her go-to signature style, giving her a serious, presentable image suitable for the world stage, but ultimately comfortable and requiring minimum thought when opening the wardrobe door at the beginning of each new day.

The way of the slattern is born in our intolerance for the trivial and fundamental refusal to waste time and effort on fripperies (unless they're purely hedonistic and possibly hilarious). That’s why Merkel’s the ultimate ‘slattern-posing-as-highflying-professional’ solution is just the thing for us, circumventing our natural instincts to slouch around in shapeless t-shirts and baggy thousand-times-washed jeans and offering a rising world leader a sartorial entry to the corridors of power.

So, in this special edition of The Slattern’s Guide, we asked our unexpected soul sistah Angie to give us some of her style counsel tips:
  • Take a tip from the boys to get ahead by getting a suit. Even that snapped bustenhalten strap held in place with an aged nappy pin beneath your shirt will look smart when hidden under a jacket.
  • A jacket also gives you the freedom to wear a variety of shirts, blouses and tops, without worrying about the coffee stains and smears of strudel on the sleeve, the rip in the back or even about ironing anything but the front panel visible between your lapels.
  • Avoid linen like the plague – unless you want to look the state of the Greek economy in jacket form. Favour instead crease-resistant sturdy fabrics with the staying power of the Berlin Wall (erm, no, scratch that), I mean a Panzer tank or a top-of-the-line Mercedes.
  • Steppen out, slattern style – Eliminate the risk of falling over and making a fool of yourself by steering clear of vertiginous heels and going for a safe, smart and (above all) comfortable sensible shoes, a la Queen Elizabeth II. Believe me, lieblings, the last thing you need when you mean business is worrying about the risk of twisted ankles and crushed pinky toes.
  • Keep hair and make-up basic, simple and constant. Never give anyone reason to comment on your style and you’ll be able to carry on your no-thought, no-frills wardrobe choices ad infinitum. Tucking your hair behind your ears and adding a slick of lipstick also has the advantage of taking 1 minute every morning, tops.
  • Accessorise! Detract attention from the fact that you’re wearing the same trouser suit for the evening gala that you had on when ripping the opposition off a strip in the Reistag two days before, by replacing your standard string of pearls with a fancy or whimsical necklace. 
  • Don’t sweat the kilos – isn’t there enough to worry about without pinching an inch and stressing out about your BMI? In best EU style, what you can't streamline, cover up!
  • At the end of the day, when you’ve closed the doors behind you and kicked off your sensible shoes into the corner, let yourself go. Pull on those smelly sweat pants crumpled beneath your dispatch box, shrug on your favourite dressing gown and slump down with a bier and a wurst sandwich in front of the telly. No-one will ever know, I promise.
So there you have it, ladies. You too can be yourself and yet fool the world that you are totally im Kontrolle with a minimum of fuss.

Next step: World domination!

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Embrace your inner slattern (you know you want to!)

Have you ever arrived at the office with a smear of toothpaste on your collar or a ladder offering a stairway to…   somewhere creeping up the back of your leg?
Is your guilty pleasure (when no-one’s looking) scoffing a cheese & onion crisp sandwich with slabs of butter, preferably eaten in front of the telly in sweat pants older than your best friend?
Do you regularly perform the rummage and sniff test (in the laundry basket) when planning your day’s outfit?
Have you ever eaten cold baked beans straight from the tin or leftover cold pizza for breakfast?
Do you throw away more mascara and eyeliner-stained pillowcases than you do cotton wool balls?
Have you ever ripped the wrapper off that forbidden ready-made pasty and stuffed it into your mouth in an ecstasy of gluttony and crumbs before you reach the car with the rest of your supermarket haul?
Do you believe a regular skin-care regime is something that only Disney Princesses have time for?
Have you been known to wipe that spilled olive oil left from your latest culinary experiment onto your head thinking it will be good for the hair?
Did you ever find yourself yanking your skirt back down to knee level after your frantic waddle to the bus stop bunches it up around your oh-so-visible panty line?

If you are, have been, or are ever likely to be guilty of any or all of the above, then - my dear - you are a slattern. 

Welcome to the Club.

It’s an all-embracing sisterhood, unlike those bands of perfect poppets flung in our faces via TV ads and mail order mediocrity. You won’t be thrown out for having chipped nail polish or poorly plucked eyebrows. A smudged line of what started life as a cute kitten flick across your lash line will be laughed off (and possibly wiped off with a lick of spit and the edge of a coat sleeve). And as for those elsewhere unacceptable visible roots, well we all need to know where we’ve come from, don’t we girls?

If there’s more books, lipsticks minus lids, mismatched socks and empty tampon boxes decorating your bedroom than carefully-coordinated duvet cover and curtain combos, join us. You won’t regret it.

The only unforgivable crime is losing the ability to laugh – particularly at yourself.

But first, let’s get down to basics. What exactly is a slattern?

The term probably dates back to beyond the 1600s, coming from good old down-to-earth northern roots: possibly from the Scandinavian slatter (to slop), the Old Norse sletta (to slap) or slattari (idler), the German schlottern (to hang loosely, slouch) or the Dutch slodderen (to hang loosely).

You get the picture, right?

It is usually used to describe a woman who is “negligent of her dress, or who suffers her clothes and household furniture to be in disorder; one who is not neat and nice; a slut, a sloven”
Or perhaps someone who simply has better things to do than obsess about the skin-deep.

I’m not saying that we’re not above making an effort to be respectable and presentable, we’re just not going to beat ourselves up when we fall short of the mark. We know that the ability to enjoy a good belly laugh is a greater life skill than never having your lippy bleed into those crinkly lines around your mouth. We also know that even Nigella, Angelina and Uma all have days when all they want to do is just flob out on the settee in their hubby’s oversized socks, overstretched leggings and a t-shirt that stands up on its own in the corner when you take it off.   

It’s time to come out of the closet, sisters (yes, even that one in the back room where you frantically stuff all the unironed laundry when mother-in-law pays an impromptu visit). Stand proud, brush those pet hairs off your chest, tug that stray lock of hair behind your ear and look the world square in the eye to declare “Yes, I’m a slattern. You got a problem with that?”

Not only are slatterns experts at forgiving themselves for not being perfect, they are smart cookies with a (messy) shedload of tricks to help fool the world that they’ve got everything under control.

But more of that later, as we introduce The Slattern’s Guide to…   well, to paraphrase someone somewhere, Life, the Universe and Everything.

For now, pull up a cushion, flop down on it with the elegance of a sack of spuds and join us. We may not look good, but sure as hell know how to be real.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Bad romance? No, MY romance

Red roses are my least favourite blooms. Declarations of undying love for "my pooky-wooky" make me gag. I don't ‘do’ or expect a fuss for St Valentine's Day or anniversaries. If I want flowers, I'll pick or buy them myself. I greet gushing public declarations a la “you’re my everything” with raised eyebrows and a healthy dose of cynicism. Most love songs leave me cold. And if you're wondering who shot Cupid - well, I WAS born under the sign of the archer.

But I AM a hopeless romantic. 

Almost from the cradle, we’re spoon-fed a narrow idea of romance: hearts, flowers, god-awful (and frankly creepy) stuffed animals, clichéd music and girly dreams of waltzing down the aisle as you surrender to the bliss of married life where your man will protect and cherish you, and you will look after his every domestic need in exchange.

Despite having tied the knot twice, that was never a dream I could swallow hook, line and sinker. (For the record, marriage No.2 - to a Greek from a traditional Mediterranean family - is still going strong nearly two decades on. And yes, I DO cook and clean – and so does he…  sometimes.)

Of course I love the Ovver Arf. But we’ve never been about the idea of me being a precious, delicate flower to be showered with love tokens and him being my rock, my provider and my protector. Whenever he tries to come on all manly and commanding with a stern "Listen to me, woman!", all it takes an exchanged look and we're both laughing like drains.

It’s not love, but friendship, that has seen us through the joys and sorrows of the past quarter of century - including the challenges of a Brit-Greek union and all the conflicts, practical and existential crises that have come with it.

As the song says “Love will tear us apart” – especially when it comes hand-in-sweaty-hand with unrealistic expectations of devotion, adulation and a romantic idyll really only found in Disney happy-ever-after endings.

We don’t do date nights. We don’t consider it essential to “still find each other sexy after all these years”. I don’t have a single matching set of underwear that I drag out of the drawer for ‘special occasions’.

But the day we can no longer laugh together will be the saddest day of my life.

I like to say that silliness saves lives. I’m pretty sure it can save marriages too.

Last night, we spent an hour or two over souvlaki and chips, watching boats bobbing in the harbour and discussing possible designs (and bodily locations) if I decide to get a tattoo before my 50th birthday. Suggestions included a quote including the word ‘enema’ – but that’s another story. We got a few sideways looks from our fellow diners, especially when I started snorting into the salad. But we laughed, we relaxed, and we revisited exactly what it was that we liked about each other when we first met back ’89. That’s all we need to renew our vows or remind us of why we’re together.

I have never told him “I can’t live without you”. I can. I just don’t want to. After all, there’s not many out there who ‘get me’ like he does.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Mandi, the (emotional) vampire slayer

If only spotting an emotional vampire was so simple
Vampires are real, and they live among us.

I’m not talking about the coffin-sleeping, garlic-hating, reflection-free types who float through the movies on bat wings and an oh-so-stylish tux and cape combo.

Oh no, they’re the easy ones - easy to dispatch with a sharpened stick, a cupful of water genuflected and mumbled over by the local priest and the cleansing fire of daybreak.

I’m talking about the ones who can suck all the energy, joy and equilibrium out of you. The ones who are impervious to the cleansing rays of the sun, unaffected by even the stinkiest of tzatzikis, just waiting to seek and destroy your positive vibe. 

They're the ones who view your cheery “Good morning!” delivered with a genuine smile as a challenge to their natural supernatural powers. The ones who can shatter the serenity of the Dalai Lama in the space of snapped response and a killjoy comment. 

They’re the ones who turn joyful occasions like weddings and birthdays into battlefields or chase away the respectful melancholy of a funeral or memorial of a dearly-beloved into an unsightly mess of sniping and competitive shuffling for who was closest to the departed (usually with an eye on what’s left under their bed, in the kitchen drawer or written in the will).

But fear not! We CAN fight back. We just need to know how. And to help you keep your inner idealist, annoyingly upbeat Pollyanna or happy place alive and intact, we present our easy-to-follow guide on how to spot the emotional vampires in your life and how to send ‘em back where they came from.

First, you need to know how to spot them, preferably before they bare their teeth and start gnawing away at your happy vibe. So, look out for:

No.1) Addiction to arguments:
Friction and hurt feelings are their lifeblood, so they do everything in their power to stir up trouble. They’re shit-stirrers, gossip-mongers, fast-to-judge puritans, pedantic layers-down of the law – anything that can worm its way through the chinks in your emotional armour to prick your psyche enough to spread an itch of irritability over your contentment. They have the talent to provoke a screaming row between a loved-up couple over something as simple as the right solution in a crossword or someone else’s favourite ice-cream. Learn to recognise their attempts and resist them in any way you know – even if it means falling into a paroxysm of silliness, your best Aretha Franklin impersonation or a full-faced smooch with your partner, right in their face.

No.2) A love of background noise:
I’m not talking about the sound of laughter, children playing or Motown's finest. I’m talking about the constant drone of the TV turned up to full volume but not listened to by anyone, the constant moan of muttered comments from the corner or the need to pass loud comment on everything. Companionable silence is an anathema to them – it saps their powers and they’ll do anything to break it.

No.3) An absence of humour:
This one is crucial. Humour is a foreign country to them, and the healing powers of laughter is like a bathful of holy water flung int heir face. All one-liners are greeted with a determination to take offence, argue or slap down. Silly voices and surrealism is dismissed as childish. They know that laughter is the antidote for the woes and worries of the world, so they’ll do everything they can to nip it in the bud and – if possible – kill it stone dead.  Do not, under any circumstances, let them. Respond to their attempts to kill your happy buzz with more barbs of funny – a particularly well-aim sharp dig at their pomposity can be enough to disable an emotional vampire at fifty paces.

No.4) Refusal to see no shades of grey:
Their world view is strictly black-and-white, them-and-us, if-you-ain’t-with-us-you’re-agin-us. Anything that does not reflect their own view of themselves is wrong. Tolerance is weakness for them, diversity a disease and anyone who tries to introduce the other side of the coin is like a virgin bride exposing her lily-white throat to Bela Lugosi and screaming “Come and get me, big boy!”

No.5) A self-proclaimed state of eternal victimhood:
News of anyone’s misfortune is greeting with glee, rapidly followed by a long list of their own woes, which of course trump those of the victim and tell them to snap out of their clinical depression, or the fact they don’t have functioning legs. Their idea of compassion and sensitivity is telling you how much worse they have it. Mention that migraine that has been hammering your left temple from the inside for the past 48 hours and you’ll be treating to a diatribe of headaches they have known and loved, which will reduce you to a whimpering, quivering, wordless heap of jelly unable to form the words “PLEASE make it stop”. Better to say nothing and retire quietly to a darkened room.

It’s not possible to avoid or eliminate emotional vampires completely, but we can refuse permission to let them suck us dry of our feel-good:

·         Get a pet. In the worse-case, a startled cat thrown in the face of an emotional vampire can be a wonderful way to neutralise a full-on assault (an angry duck is even better).

·         Refuse to engage. They'll do everything in their power to drag you into their disputes. Don’t. Just walk away.

·         Crack a joke. Laughter is an enema for the soul. It boosts your endorphins (or “them dolphins” as my batty flowerpot hat-wearing ex-neighbour in Brighton used to say), increases your oxygen intake and increases your resistance to their daggers of darkness.

·         Do something! Get up from your chair and go for a walk, take a swim, hop on your bike, grab your camera, start wielding a paintbrush, dance, turn a somersault, learn to ride a monocycle….   anything but stand there like a sitting duck. A moving target is harder for them to hit with their negative vibes.

·         Eat chocolate. It won’t banish the vampires, but it sure as hell will make you feel better.  

Happy hunting, and let me know how you fare.