Merry Christmas from a Snowy England

December 25th, 2010

Choir boys in King's College

Happy Christmas everyone! Hope your day is full of peace, joy, and laughter.

A Month Away

October 4th, 2010

Dear English Gentleman,

I’ve been dating my boyfriend for almost 1 and half years now. We were getting along fine, but once he went on a one month vacation, he isn’t paying as much attention to be as he did before. I confronted my feelings last night and asked why he’s acting this way. He said that he grew more mature through that one month and felt that he isn’t ready for a relationship. I am obviously still in love with him, but I’m not sure if it is mutual anymore. What should I do or say to him? He even says that he might regret breaking up with me. Is he playing with my emotions?

Thanks.

Dear Reader,

There’s good news and bad news I am afraid. The good news is that you confronted your boyfriend with your feelings and you know where you stand. The bad news is that your boyfriend seems not to want a relationship, although the reason he gives – he claims to have grown more mature through that month you were apart – sounds dubious to me. I suspect he simply lacks the maturity for a relationship at the current time. Rather than growing in maturity in that month apart I suspect he has simply come to terms with the fact that he’s not ready, or at least doesn’t feel ready for a relationship. After all, a more mature person would not have had to have been prompted by you to find out what was happening; a more mature boyfriend might have volunteered to tell his girlfriend what was going on. Is he playing with your emotions? I think that the answer is no, except when he says that he might regret breaking up with you. Saying that is definitely playing with your emotions, and I think points to a lack of maturity in you boyfriend. Either he should break up with you or not. He cannot expect to have his cake and eat it.

My advice is this: it looks like your boyfriend isn’t ready for a relationship although he appears to lack the maturity to say so. Don’t let him play with your emotions through his implication that he might (on his terms, one assumes) regret breaking up with you and thus, by implication, want a relationship with you. I think he’s made himself clear enough and I think that now is the time for you to move on.

Good luck.

Love Transactions

September 20th, 2010

Dear English Gentleman,

Why is it that men think that just because they bought you dinner, they then get to spend the night in your bed? Where did this idea come from, and how can I explain to them that it doesn’t work that way without them getting all angry and refusing to ask me for a second date?

Sincerely,

First Date Wonder

Dear First Date Wonder,

My thesis is this: not all men live their lives by the sort of exchange based relationship which you describe. So there is hope. But some men certainly appear to do so. By exchange relationship I mean the type of relationship in which favours (for want of a better word) become a type of currency. So, the fact the man bought you dinner gets exchanged for a night spent in your bed. This currency of favours extends across a wide sphere of endeavours, not just those connected with dating and romance. So for example whereas in a non-exchange relationship your friend might give you a lift to the airport, and think nothing further of it, in an exchange-based relationship something will be expected in return. If that something is not forthcoming then this type of relationship normally stops at that point. And if something is forthcoming then the relationship moves along, at least as far as the next exchange interaction.

Now in your case the currency expected in return for him buying you dinner is a night in your bed, and it appears from my experience of such things that nothing else will do. This type of relationship appears to follow an unwritten tariff, and not only is the tariff of what ‘buys’ what and for whom not written down anywhere, it appears to be known to a certain set of people only. For example, I for one have no idea what a dinner should ‘buy’ one since, needless to say, I do not subscribe to this sort of behaviour in any case. The problem is that it’s not clear at the outset at an initial date that you are dealing with someone who subscribes to exchange relationships. It appears that the only clue is when you subsequently hear nothing further from your date when you fail to deliver your part of the unwritten deal. Another problem is that the tariff appears to depend on what stage of a relationship you are in. So for example, I have heard that a girl is expected to kiss the man after the first date. Thence after the second date something more is expected and so on – a sort of sliding scale.

I have no idea as to where this behaviour came from, although it does appear more common place in certain parts of the world than others. I suspect it may have evolved because men have become risk adverse and would rather have some sort of set-piece dating scheme with simplistic rules, involving the exchange of favours, as opposed to simply launching themselves out on a romantic crusade to find the woman of their dreams. Unfortunately it seems to me that – as in any endeavour where spontaneity has been suppressed – such men are likely to end up in a continual never-ending search for happiness. My feeling is that because they have surrendered their romantic self to a third party, viz. the set of exchange rules and tariffs, true romantic bliss cannot be achieved. If I were in your position, I would perhaps consider dating only gentlemen who are free from such such quaint ideas of what capitalism truly represents.

Relationship Material

September 7th, 2010

Dear English Gentleman,

What is it about a woman that makes a man decide to pursue a relationship with her and not someone else? Do you have any tips about what it is that men are looking for in general?

Wondering

Dear Wondering,

I think that the principal idea here is that men want to be desired just as much as women. Men want to be wanted just as much as women want to be wanted, and this is the basis of what makes another person attractive. So a man finds the woman who desires him, indeed the woman who wants him, naturally more attractive than others. Let’s explore this idea in a little more depth. What makes a woman desire a man; and what makes a man desire a woman? Let’s consider some aspects which make one (here I assume a person of either sex), desirable and want-able.

I’ll split my answer into two parts. The first considers non-physical attractiveness; the second part of my answer looks at those physical aspects which men may find attractive about a woman. Both parts are served up with the caveat that they are simply some personal thoughts on the matter.

1. At the top (or at least very near the top) of my personal list of aspects of non-physical attractiveness is enthusiasm.  Now importantly I am talking about a general enthusiasm for life; the woman who is thrilled with life and who radiates energy and excitement will be as attractive to the man as a man who is thrilled with life and who too radiates energy and excitement. Enthusiasm is infectious! Fair enough, but what is it which makes someone thrilled with his or her life in the first place? I really do think that a necessary prerequisite is a capacity to be happy within (and to borrow that lovely Scottish preposition), outwith one’s self. This is a very attractive trait in either sex. People who love themselves are in a much better position to love others; such people give off a very desirable ‘vibe’. Fall in love with your own life first and the rest will follow.

2. Romance. I think a large number of men find romantic women attractive. And I suspect that an equally large – if not larger – number of women find romantic men attractive. In fact, studies show that men fall in love faster than women! Surprised? But what of this romance? By romance I mean a delight in the meaning of things, an appreciation of beauty in the simplest of details and occurrences, and the wanting and seeking to make the other person’s life special. But in either case the romance has to spring naturally: if one is having to try and deliberately be romantic then whatever results is unlikely to be very romantic at all.

3. Details. See Romance above. A big part of being romantic and enthusiastic about life is noticing the small details and most importantly the good in such small details: a landscape, a flower, the scent of your girlfriend’s hair, for instance. Women certainly like men who notice details, and I think the converse is true too. After all, details are important. If a man has made an effort it’s (probably) not accidental, and equally if a woman is wearing a sexy outfit, she didn’t put it on by accident, but spent many minutes or maybe even hours making sure every part of her attire was just perfect. So take care of the small details if you want to capture your man!

4. In the bedroom: Enthusiasm, romance, and details in the bedroom. Men like to be called sexy rather than cute; and the woman who shows a man that she wants him sexually is on course to drive that man wild.

Now, let’s turn to the second part of my answer and consider those physical attributes that men find most attractive, or rather those attributes which surveys tend to suggest men find most attractive in a woman.

One might naively think that either sex would be interested in the physical differences between the sexes. Yet this appears not to be borne out by surveys of such things. In one such study, for example, number one was the face with about one third of men saying it was a woman’s most important physical attribute. Which is perhaps not surprising given the obvious importance of communication in a relationship: we spend much time looking at each other’s face. Legs come in at number two, with a quarter of men saying that legs were the most important physical attribute. And we have to wait until third place for that obvious physical difference, namely breasts, at 18%. Fourth place goes to hair, at just 5%. And just 4% of men thought that a woman’s derrière was her most important physical attribute, despite the very same apparently being rather high on a woman’s list of physical attributes that are perceived to be attractive in men.

So there you have it: for what it’s worth my thoughts in response to your question. But let’s end with this thought: in another study men reported that first and foremost the most attractive characteristic of a woman is that she loves him. And I think that’s a very good answer, certainly for a relationship which lasts a lifetime.

Breakfast for a Quiet Morning

September 4th, 2010

I like to make these for my girlfriend on quiet weekend mornings:

Cheese Scones

Cheese Scones with Strawberry, Papaya, or Mango Chutney

Cheese Scone Ingredients:

225g  (about 2 cups) plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

50 g butter

125 g (about 1 cup) grated sharp cheddar, gruyère, or similar sharp cheese

100ml milk

Preparation:

Mix  flour, cayenne pepper, and grated cheese in a bowl, rub in the butter. Add enough milk to make soft dough and knead gently on floured surface. Roll about 8 round, 2cm thick flat scones, place in baking sheet. Brush scones with remaining milk and sprinkle with a little cheese and heat in pre-heated oven at 200°C for about 20 minutes. Serve warm straight out of the oven with a little butter, sliced cheese, and chutney.

Strawberry, Papaya, or Mango Chutney:

Take about 1 cup of diced fruit of your choice and combine in saucepan with about 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar (red balsamic if using strawberry, white balsamic if making papaya or mango chutney), bring slowly to a boil. Add a little bit of salt and the following spices to taste using a spice grinder: paprika, cayenne pepper, dried red pepper, coriander, cumin, and a little bit of dried or softly cooked, finely-chopped onion or garlic (but not too much!). Adjust for acidity and sweetness if necessary by adding a little bit of lemon juice and / or brown sugar (a little bit of experimentation, tasting, and correcting won’t go amiss here!). Simmer for about 20 minutes until the liquid is reduced, and store in sterilized glass jars for future use.

I like to take my cheese scones with coffee whilst reading the morning paper, and it is a fantastic start to a relaxing weekend with your favourite person! Enjoy!

Taken for a Ride…

September 2nd, 2010
Dear English Gentleman,

I have the suspicion that women take me for granted. My current girlfriend always makes me pay for everything we do together (or in other words, doesn’t offer to pay for anything ever and never invites me to anything) and sulks if I don’t buy her something very expensive for her birthday. Am I being taken for a ride here? The thing is, I love her very much and would gladly do all these things for her (buy her presents, take her to expensive parties and events, and more), but I’m starting to worry that she only sees me as a kind of cash cow. What do you think?

Thanks,

Worried.

Dear Worried,

In most relationships, it is to a lesser or greater extent expected by both parties that the other party will, in some way or another, show their love and appreciation for them via various means. Some of these means involve gifts, especially during occasions such as anniversaries, birthdays, holidays, and so forth. Unfortunately, this social convention often creates thorny navigational problems when one party expects more than the other or when one party is able to provide more than the other. 

Of course some entirely successful relationships are between two people of substantially different means, and there’s nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is that your girlfriend expects something very expensive for her birthday! And perhaps there’s not much too wrong with that in itself, rather the really wrong thing being that she sulks if you don’t supply. Sulking is never a positive thing – even if money is no object to you, you should never be in a position in which you are effectively paying your girlfriend not to sulk.

Here’s a question: what if the tables were turned? How would your girlfriend react if you expected something very expensive for your birthday? What if you were the sulky one? And another angle to consider is this: what would happen if you couldn’t afford to buy your girlfriend something? Will she stop loving you? People lose their incomes – these things do happen in real life -, but such occurrences are accommodated in a strong relationship. At the end of the day love shouldn’t come attached to lots of strings such as the receiving of gifts. It sounds as if you love your girlfriend in the absence of her buying you anything at all, and for a balanced relationship she should feel in the same manner towards you too. If this is not the case then, yes, I think you are being taken for a ride. It would not be amiss to wonder what you value so much in your girlfriend that would make one tolerate such a transaction-based relationship.

A final thought: gifts need not be expensive – it’s the time and effort which makes a perfect gift. So consider instead the possibility of giving her a very romantic, special, well-planned experience for her birthday. Material gifts have a price-tag, but only memories last a lifetime.

Asparagus Tips

August 31st, 2010

Rich in vitamins B, C, and A, asparagus is the quintessential springtime treat. Whether grilled, roasted, sautéed, or steamed as a companion to a main dish or as the featured essence of a light soup, this cancer-fighting vegetable is versatile and rich in flavour.

asparagus

One simple way to cook asparagus is by steaming. This is best done with an asparagus steamer or, in its absence, by arranging the asparagus vertically along the sides of a deep saucepan with about 200 mL of water at the bottom, leaving the tips outside.  A small cut along the stem can be made at the bottom of the asparagus stem (after removing the discoulored or hard ends of the plant) to increase the surface area and encourage better cooking of the tougher ends if not steaming, and in all cases remember never to overcook the tips. Steam for 3-7 minutes (depending on thickness of the stem) in order to achieve a fresh, crunchy texture, and don’t  pass up the opportunity to sample the different varieties of asparagus that may be available to you locally.

Bon appetit!

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