Deborah Ross: Our woman in Crouch End

Don't bother counting the Hundreds and Thousands: My guide to real life as it is lived
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The Independent Online

Now the election is over, praise the Lord, hallelujah, it is time to get back to real life as it is lived, and I am good at real life as it is lived, as anyone who has read my book, Real Life As It Is Lived, will know. I never planned to write the book, but so many people were begging me for tips on living real life as it is lived - "Oh, please, please, give me some tips on real life as it is lived" - I barely had time to get on with real life as it is lived, which is kind of ironic!

Now the election is over, praise the Lord, hallelujah, it is time to get back to real life as it is lived, and I am good at real life as it is lived, as anyone who has read my book, Real Life As It Is Lived, will know. I never planned to write the book, but so many people were begging me for tips on living real life as it is lived - "Oh, please, please, give me some tips on real life as it is lived" - I barely had time to get on with real life as it is lived, which is kind of ironic!

The book is available from no good bookshops but an embarrassment of rubbish ones. It may have a day-glow sticker on the front announcing the price has been reduced to 10p but, if I were you, and if you don't want to kick yourself later, I'd pay the full price of £549 as it is very much worth it. Should you need further encouragement, which I accept is unlikely, here are a few highlights, all of which relate to life as it is really lived, which happens to be my expert area.

Just (not) the ticket

When travelling by train, you may be tempted by one of those Quick Ticket self-service machines in the belief that, it being called a "Quick Ticket" machine, it must be the quickest way to buy a ticket. First, though, you have to navigate the array of ticket types on offer: Single, Day Return; Day Return (With Railcard); Day Return (No Railcard); Open Return (Railcard Pending); Returning Next Week (Peak); Returning Last Week (Off Peak); Returning When I Can Be Bothered (Slightly Peaky); Returning With a Skip In My Step (Not Peaky At All); Travelling While Wearing Bonnet (Special Bonnet-Wearing Concessionary Rate); Travelling While Wearing Aforementioned Bonnet At Saucy Angle ... and on and on and on and on. Then you slide in your bank note. You try it with Queen's head up, Queen's head down, Queen's head first, Queen's head last, Queen's head cocked, Queen's head skew-wiff, but the machine wants nothing to do with the Queen, and keeps spitting her out which, on top of everything else, constitutes not only a snub to that fine lady in particular but our royal family in general. None of them would ever cheat in an exam unless they were so thick they absolutely had to. Meanwhile the person behind you is cussing like mad and the queue at the human ticket counter has quadrupled and you've missed six trains. In short, all I am saying is: Do not be fooled by a "Quick Ticket" ticket machine. It's a sod.

Hard cheese:

If you find you have run out of hard cheese, and only have grated cheese, grip it really tightly in your fist and it will soon be solid enough to slice. Should you ever purchase a tub of Hundreds And Thousands, take their word for it, as they take a very long time to count. Remember, the crumblier the bread, the harder the butter. For hygiene reasons, if food drops on the floor, it is extremely important to blow on it before replacing it on the plate. It is important to blow, otherwise you might give everyone tummy ache. Never start something only to leave it unfinished, like a bottle of wine. I never do. This might even go for the second bottle, too. If you are tempted by a third bottle, you may wish to remind yourself that the line between you and the bag lady who sits in the park with the Superbrew dribbling down her warty chin is very, very fine. Sometimes, even, it is quite hard to tell it is there.

Sting in the tail

A child can be made to do anything if threatened with flashcards, itchy coats with velvet collars or beetroot. Failing which, there is always the comb to fall back on. Shampoo that stings should only be produced in emergencies as many children will hyperventilate at the sight of the bottle, especially if you have labelled it, in big letters: "This Shampoo Really, Really Stings. Sting Rating: 10/10."

Always give your child a nutritious packed lunch - carrot sticks; mini-bags of driedfruit; sunflower seeds; wholemeal humus sandwiches cut into little star shapes - so that the whole bloody lot can come back untouched, the ungrateful little bastard.

Plus, never pass on your much-loved Ladybird books from the 1960s as they will only complain that no one does anything in them apart from go to a pet shop or get on a bus or have their feet measured in a shoe shop. Why no one has thought of updating these for today's children with, perhaps, the man in the shoe shop putting his hand up Janet's skirt or a fatal stabbing on the top deck of the W7 is anyone's guess.

Miscellaneous:

Never be too hard on Esther Rantzen, even though she appears to be getting more bonkers by the minute. If you do find yourself thinking along the lines of "silly old boot", remember: this is the fearless consumer champion whose campaign for flame-retardant nighties means it is now safer to smoke in bed than ever. And, lastly, when you finally get to the human ticket counter at the station, don't ask about the logic of a return always costing half the price of a single. Nobody ever has the faintest idea.

d.ross@independent.co.uk

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