When a loved one pops their clogs and gets cremated it is generally assumed that someone will want to keep the ashes. They might take pride of place on the TV stand, or get lovingly stowed at the back of the airing cupboard, safe in a protected refuge. They might even be stuffed into a teddy bear and so remain close at hand through long and lonely nights.
But what do we do with the ashes we really don’t want to keep? Perhaps they are the remains of some detested Aunt or a wealthy relative who left their vast treasure to a cats’ home. Maybe the ashes were deliberately willed to someone much hated by the deceased. If any of this resonates, here are some ideas for what to do with those surplus assets.
Cat litter trays are always in need of a refresh and the dead one’s ashes could be just the ticket. If you’re going this route, it’s probably best to introduce the ashes a little at a time to avoid having too much soiled clinker tracked across the floor.
Cooking is always a good option for dispersal since so many dishes benefit from a little bit of bulking up. Ideas for where to use the ashes are many, but baking them into a cake is a reasonable start. You could also use them to thicken milkshakes, especially the slimming variety, or to add that tad of extra crunch to a chocolate mousse. When you’re short of flour, bread dough and pastry can benefit from the additional padding.
Other options might be to use unwanted ashes to make filler go further when repairing cracks and holes. Or you could just sprinkle them on the floor when you want to practise your soft-shoe shuffle steps. Be sure to wear shoes though, as those bone fragments can make for nasty splinters. If you do get a splinter, use the ashes as a poultice on the wound. And mixed with the right ingredients they make an excellent face-mask.
Unwanted ashes can do wonders outside the home too. The not-so-loved one can be recycled as soil nutrients, although you might prefer not to put them in the vegetable patch. The unloved ashes can help absorb oil leaks in the garage and be used as grit to help make safe those icy winter surfaces. Unwanted ashes are a great way to add heft to concrete and to put on the floor of a stable or henhouse as an absorbant.
These options are just the start, so don’t fret if you’re left holding an unwanted urn or a dusty cardboard box. There are plenty of practical possibilities that leave your conscience clear and your life ash-free.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has announced reversal of UK’s Brexit, following revelations of massive referendum vote hacking. British intelligence working with counterparts in Estonia, Ukraine and Poland have uncovered evidence that votes in the 2016 Brexit referendum converted Remain votes to Leave votes. The hack, code named Project Tonsils, was discovered on the day of the vote. But the discovery came too late to halt a mass of false votes being cast and counted.
Project Deep Tonsils was allegedly managed by a network of spies and criminals operating at the behest of the North Korean government. The mastermind behind the project is Ryu Jun-seo. Ryu’s name is believed to have provided an unintended clue to the mass fraud which occurred in June 2016. Search engine optimisation is thought to have been suborned across the entire internet to access online voter accounts.
British citizens casting their referendum votes online made up a relatively small proportion of the overall voting numbers. However they were sufficient for North Korea’s international hacker network to turn the vote from a clear Remain majority to a marginal Leave one.
Following a joint session with King Charles III, the Houses of Parliament, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Worshipful Company of Wax Chandlers, Sunak released a brief statement. “Brexit’s reality is no longer valid and the United Kingdom is returning to its previous state of prosperity and growth. Institutions such as the NHS, our transportation systems, education and the civil service will once again be able to hire the professionals they need to function properly. The City of London will be once again a fully functioning financial centre.” He added that “We look forward to a return to working with the European Union to protect vulnerable migrants, so that they are no longer driven to take the horrific journey across the sea. The illusion that they can disappear into the UK’s unmonitored black economy will be dispelled once and for all.”
Efforts to track down mastermind Ryu Jun-seo are now underway, following his sighting in Burnham-on-Sea on Friday. Clutching his fish and chips (open) close to his chest Mr Ryu was spotted sprinting along the seafront towards a busstop, before disappearing under the pier. Extensive searches failed to discover Ryu who is believed to be swimming to France. As an EU member, the UK is trusting the French authorites to nab the brain behind Project Tonsils.
Sunak concluded his announcement with the news that EU rules protecting coastlines, scientific endeavour and investment in declining regions throughout the UK could now be implemented, along with coordinated and realistic support for Ukrainian refugees and defence. He added that cancelling Brexit also means that there is no further need for the Northern Ireland Protocol nor the Windsor one. The Democratic Unionist Party welcomed the announcement and is returning to government in Northern Ireland following many years of skiving at taxpayers’ expense. And all will be well. As if.
As a very small person (VSP) I have lived my life looking up to my peers, willingly or not. Throughout childhood I expected that would end when I grew up, but I hit 4’11” and there I stayed. A life of shortness was all that I could look forward, or up, to and so far it hasn’t been all that great. Handrails are always too high, stair steps too tall. Mayonnaise jars are just that little too fat to hold safely and I have to jump to reach the car boot to shut it.
Understandably the giants in primary and high schools, and the grown-ups everywhere else tend not to notice short people. Why would they? We’re below normal human sightlines, our voices are just a bit too squeaky and far down to be heard. And we’re just so easy to trip over and step on. Elbow bumps have a whole other meaning for VSPs. Standing sociably in a group, stray elbows can send your cup of tea or glass of wine flying, or intrude unexpectedly into your plate of food. Breadroll mayhem. Let’s face it, small people are in constant battle with a world designed by and for nonVSPs.
We face prejudice in so many ways. Grown-up clothes and shoes are invariably too big, even in their smallest iterations. That shop assistant sneer when they tell you, “we’ve nothing that small”. We face perpetual, organised and deliberate discrimination, with constant daily reminders of our shortness. Mirrors in public loos and restaurants are invariably too high. VSPs must jump to see more than the tops of their heads. The same’s true for peep holes in apartment and hotel room doors. We need a chair to use them, or once again must jump. Discrimination in shops is common because we’re below most people’s sightline and justifiably ignored. The counters in chip shops and bakeries and the like are always too high to see, or be seen, over.
Antagonism takes many forms, intended or not. Like the time I gave a speech standing in high heels on a box behind a podium. A delegate congratulating me, afterwards suggested that next time I ask the organisers for a box to stand on. When I pointed to the box already in place the redness of face was priceless. And like when people you’re meeting for the first time tell you they hadn’t realised you were so short. Or when you’re assigned a gym locker the key to which you cannot reach. And airline seats that bury VSPs making them invisible to cabin crews. We have to stand up to reach the air, light and call buttons and cannot reach the overhead bins without standing on the seats. We have to stand on the lower shelves in supermarkets to reach stuff and shower heads are always too far up to adjust. Cameras and smartphones are mostly too big to hold in one hand. Glasses too. Order a gin and tonic and watch the normals grasp the bowl, all elegant and suave. The VSP has to hold the stem and be so very careful when tipping the glass to sip, or otherwise hold it with two hands. Elegant and suave no. Add cups and mugs to this list, along with powertools, round doorhandles, fuel pumps, wing mirrors that block our view of the road, pump action shampoos and soaps, kitchen counter tops and most gym equipment. Getting onto and off of chair lifts and ski tows is always a challenge, although it’s privilege to have the opportunity. Reaching the slots at toll booths and car parks invariably requires getting out of the car, inviting invective and antagonism from the queue behind. Be patient we’re doing our best with limited capacities!
Like everyone, VSPs possess different behavioural traits. This makes them uniquely special and endearing. Observe how they duck away suddenly from the spit storms typical at parties and receptions. Watch them wrestle with supermarket trolleys because they lack steering leverage. See them clamber awkwardly onto a bar stool struggling once up to turn to face forwards without falling off. A simple lift of a hip is not an option for VSPs. We invariably sit too far forwards on our chairs. It’s a behaviour not due to anxiety or eagerness to join in. Most chairs are too high for a VSP’s feet to reach the ground and the seat too deep for them to sit on without their legs sticking out. Their arms are too short to reach the table. We do look quite adorable though as we struggle.
Despite the odds, VSPs can lay claim to a few significant social, political and cultural achievements. Haile Selassie former emperor of Ethiopia was only 5’1″, Gandhi was 5’4″ and Judy Garland a mere 4’11”. Danny de Vito’s only 4’10” and Genghis Khan tipped in at 5’1″. Anne Boleyn was 5’3″, quite tall for the time but she died some eight inches shorter by when being a VSP didn’t much matter.
VSPs are daily subject to microagressions. We are told how dinky we are and told that our little wrists are just so teensy. We know. We’re the butt of jokes about being able to reach the bar, or hang up our coats. Look at those tiny shoes, and your hands are so small they say. “You look so tiny in that mask”. It’s all very jolly so we’d never say back “and you look so fat in yours”.
But sadly we are complicit in all this because we generally ignore insensitive, substandard treatment taking it as the norm. We don’t want to make a fuss and you probably wouldn’t take us seriously in any case. VSPs don’t expect much to change, despite our enhanced health risk in the days of Covid-19. You see, we’re closer to the ground, where all the virus loaded mist drifts as it falls. We’re unavoidably caught in the the snot and droplet line’s trajectory, masks or no.
Despite aspiration and idealised values for all of us, small people accept there can be no equality. We can’t magic height except by wearing high heeled shoes. This is always an option, but not universally feasible. Equality is always undermined by something. High heels must not be worn on airplane escape slides for instance, and they don’t work with skis. On city pavements they invariably get stuck in the cracks unexpectedly pitching their wearer headfirst towards the ground.
And yet much as we want to fit in and be like everyone else, we still want to be different, to be recognised as unique. At the very least it’s a conversation starter. Like everyone else we want an acknowledged identity that lets us participate in socio-economic, political and cultural hierarchies on our own terms. We want our difference celebrated, simultaneously both acknowledged and ignored. So let’s not forget to remember each other, to remember that we are all survivors, that we are all of us damaged, disadvantaged and incomplete. And all of us need each other’s kindness, patience. Spare the opprobrium. And spare a thought for the struggle to strap skis onto high heels, for the scrambling onto bar stools, the random elbows in the eye and getting trod on without thought. Spare a thought for all of us, everywhere. And let’s try hard to make it a kind one.
(In case there is any misunderstanding amongst readers, this is satire.)
Now that we are all getting comfortable with using online video software, there are certain do’s and don’t’s that we really should all be following.
Online you can find dozens of Zoom etiquette guidelines. They’re couched in earnest helpful tones; they tell you stuff that’s basically obvious, common sense so they’re sort of useful. But if the earnest common sense annoys you, here are some less obvious gender, race, age and ethnicity nonspecific tips for getting the most out of your time in Zoom meetings. Our fourteen pointers start with what not to do. Why fourteen and not five or ten? Well because fourteen is four more than ten and four more than five is nine and nine is my lucky number.
1. … pick your nose (You can do this if you do it behind your hand, but it’s unlikely to go unnoticed so only do it if you’re desperate.)
2. … wear see through clothes (They’re distracting and while this can be a useful way to put off colleagues you want to get into trouble, it’s unfair for everyone else. But if you want to send some people into a frenzy, choose the outfit wisely.)
3. … file your nails under the desk (This is especially to be avoided if you are prone to gazing rapturously off screen, however it could be diverting in very dreary meetings. Choose your moment wisely.)
4. … stroke your dog’s head under the desk (Stroking even the shortest dog risks you coming across as elsewhere; coughing and moans as you struggle to reach make it worse.)
5. … take your computer to the loo (If you have to wee or more hold it for as long as you can, but keep a straight face and keep still. Jiggling is a no-no.)
6. … shout at the screen without first checking that you are muted (This is a really big no-no, unless you are angling to be furloughed or fired)
7. … make rude gestures at the screen without first checked that video is off (see 6.)
8. … hum (you might find it soothing and a tricky habit to break, but humming means you’re not listening to whatever drivel is coming through. Remember that humming can happen subconsciously.)
9. … practise your impressions of colleagues during the meeting, especially not those in the meeting (take notes of particular traits and tics for future use)
10. …if you’ve mastered the art of sleeping with your eyes open, remember not to snore
11. … forget to pay attention (It’s impossible to fake a look of thoughtful pondering on screen when it happens suddenly.)
12. … play video games in a secondary window (Although it might look like you are paying attention to the meeting, you might inadvertently go mental. This disconcerts colleagues and undermines your appearance of engaged attentiveness)
13. … try to answer emails if you are prone to talking to yourself
14. … get drunk unless you do it discretely and can be sure not to go red in the face as the booze kicks in
Of course there are some useful things you should be doing during online meetings.
1. … use the Chat function to warn that your Internet connection is playing up so that you can duck out when you’re fed up with the ramblings
2. … wash your face and dress (if you only dress your top half, remember not to lean too far sideways if you have to reach for something. If you think there’s a risk of your bottom half coming into view, wearing big, fancy underwear.)
3. … nod slowly and thoughtfully no matter what’s being said, by whom (Make sure to practise your nodding beforehand, so that it isn’t too mechanical.)
4. … mute yourself when talking lovingly to an unseen pet, as this could easily be misunderstood
5. … keep your wine/beer/cocktail glass discretely hidden, ideally on a tray the floor to avoid it slipping over and spillage (you can slurp whilst retrieving a dropped pen see 6.)
6. … appear to be taking copious notes (Asking people to repeat themselves can reinforce your apparent commitment, but don’t overdo it see 5.)
7. … keep your expression engaged, with no eyerolling or heavy sighs (Remember to change your face from time to time.)
8. … clasp your hands under your chin if you need to stick out your tongue at half-wits
9. … hide the plate and napkin when you’re eating (Avoid spicy or messy food that might lead to choking mishaps and eye watering as this can be misinterpreted as sincere emotion.)
10. … remember to ensure your chat messages only go to the intended person and that most of your colleagues are likely to have had a sense of humour bypass
11. … prepare for the meeting in advance, or at least appear to have done (Shuffling notes and looking over your glasses helps here, as does looking at your watch.)
12. … get there early to check everything works and to be first for maximum creepy creep points (See 11.)
13. … be well rested or use makeup to hide the bags under your eyes; sunglasses are a no-no.
14. … snap back promptly when you hear your name, and remember to blame the connection when you ask for the question to be repeated
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