Monday, 30 April 2012

Z is for zzzzzzzzzz

I have no idea why "zzzzzzz" stands for sleep. People snore, talk, snuffle, even whistle in their sleep, but I have never heard anyone go "zzzzzzz".

But whatever noise I make, I don't make it as easily as many people. As a seasoned insomniac, I see the ability to sleep easily as a luxury which is out of reach for me. I envy those who can drop off anywhere; the power nappers, the dozers, people who can sleep in buses or trains (I have never understood how the latter don't regularly get carried past their desinations). They (you?) are the lucky ones.

And yes. I know all about the warm bath and the milky drink and the winding down blah blah blah. I can do all of those. It's just the sleep bit I haven't cracked. I've tried acupuncture, hypnosis, Reiki, reflexology (the therapist twiddled a toe and said there was something wrong with my liver. Clever, eh?).

The thing that really puzzles me is how no-one has yet cracked the switching off mechanism; that moment when the brain loses its grip and begins to wander off and do its own thing. I shall be very excited if anyone ever uncovers that particular secret.

In the meantime, thank heavens for books and reading. At least in the small hours, when everyone else is asleep, there's something rewarding to do.

I get through a lot of books.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Magpie 115

Some men do their reading in bed.
And some have a study, or shed.
But you've heard of a jam jar?
Well, this is a man jar.
"And it does the job nicely," says Fred.

(With thanks to Tess at Magpie Tales for the photo)

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Y is for Yellow

1. I really, really don't like men in yellow jumpers. Especially if they're golfers. There is something fey about a man in a yellow jumper; as though his mother hadn't yet got over wondering whether he was going to be a boy or a girl, and had given it him for Christmas (people who are uncertain about the genders of babies always choose yellow).

2. I look terrible in yellow. Lots of people do. It's just a bad colour for most people.

3. But - yellow is the colour of spring (together with green). I don't like out-of-season flowers in reds and oranges in the spring. Spring flowers should be yellow, like chicks.

4. People who go yellow are not well. Fact.

5. I lost at Snakes and Ladders today, against my four-year-old grandson, using a yellow counter. I cheated (that's one of the reasons I don't mind Snakes and Ladders. It's easy to cheat. Theoretically, it's a game that could go on for ever. Literally. So it needs to be stopped).

6. Someone wrote a song about yellow submarines. There are no such things.

Friday, 27 April 2012

X is for X

X is a lovely Scrabble letter
(It has a score of eight).
An ex is someone you once loved
But may have learned to hate.
X-rated films are violent
And full of naughty sex -
And that's a word that very neatly
Ends this with an x.


Thursday, 26 April 2012

W is for Woman

I am a woman. I like being a woman. Apart from a youthful tomboy phase, I have always been pleased to be a woman. I loved giving birth and breastfeeding; I like looking after people; and while I avoid housework at all costs, and have never spoken to snakes or fed illegal apples to a man, I think I'm a bit of an archetype.

Which bothers me. If I am programmed to be and act like a woman, do I really have free will? I have to be careful here, because a lot of women can do the more practical things associated with men. But I can't. Woman things I do include:

Spending hours on the phone.
Asking near-strangers whether I can cuddle their babies (I did this again only last Saturday).
Not understanding technical things.
Eschewing the politics in the paper, and going straight for the "human interest" stories.
Remembering birthdays.
Reading (too many) novels.
Getting lost (on journeys).
Cuddling horses ("Aw! Get away!" says Titch, who will only put up with it in very small doses).

This all came to me about two weeks ago, when I was on a journey in our new (well, new to us) car. I stopped for fuel, but couldn't open the petrol cap (I hadn't done it before in this car). Should I prise it open? Push it? Pull it? Then two soldiers - both probably younger than my youngest son - appeared. Could they help, please? Of course they could. One of them tapped the cap of the tank, and obediently, it flew open.

Afterwards, I felt very foolish. But could I help it?

After all, I'm a woman.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

V is for Value

I'm always astonished at the value that is placed on certain things/people. Take Queen Victoria's knickers (well, you can't, actually. They're probably in a safe somewhere. But you know what I mean). In November 2011, a pair sold for $14,000. They are obviously of no intrinsic use or value; they're just some old, enormous knickers (my granny had lots - at least as big, and perhaps even bigger - and they weren't worth anything at all). But - these belonged to Queen Victoria, so they are valuable. (I would very much like to know how anyone can prove they actually belonged to Queen V. DNA? Photographic evidence? If I could persuade someone that my granny's knickers were in fact royal knickers, would that increase their value?)

And then there are pictures. Famous pictures are obviously of more use than knickers. People can enjoy them (well not The Scream. I've never understood the attraction of that one). But Van Gogh's Sunflowers is atractive, if (dare I say) hardly worth the sums paid for it.

The Card Players by Cezanne (left) sold this year for $250m. It's a nice picture, but is it worth that much? And if it had been painted by, say, a talented sixth-former, what would it have been worth then?

And then, of course, there are footballers, who are paid obscene amounts of money, and (some) spend it very unwisely indded. No-one seems to mind about them. And "celebrities" (that word gives me the shivers), some of whom are just that, but haven't achieved anything at all.

Meanwhile, Titch was upset to learn that someone had offered a measly £1,000 for him (turned down, of course). That's a fourteenth of the value of the knickers. He's still trying to come to terms with that.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

U is for Useful v Useless


1. Potato peelers (the kind in the picture). I frequently throw these away with the peelings, but always replace them. They are the best. And the pointy bit at the end makes an excellent screwdriver for small domestic screwing jobs (now now).
2. Washing machines. For those who are too young ever to have had to hand-wash a pair of jeans, this may seem an odd choice. But trust me. The washing machine is the best thing since women got the vote.
3. Bees.
4. Selotape.
5. Kitchen towels (the paper ones).
6. My very elderly Ford Ka. It looks a sight, is covered with moss and full of straw and clutter - a cross between a teenager's bedroom and a stable - but it has never let me down. Titch hates it, and wants me to park it down the road away from the stable, because he says it shows him up in front of his friends.
7. Computers.
8. Jeans (but only if you have a washing machine. See above).


1. Personalised gear stick covers. In fact, anything personalised (this excludes name tapes for children).
2. Wasps.
3. The female condom. A paper bag would be of more use.
4. The contraption of pullies which promised me a flatter tummy and bottom if I could unravel it and get my feet and hands into the stirrups and do interesting exercises on the floor. I couldn't.
5. Small wooden trolleys to wheel your houseplants around the house (yes. There really are such things).
6. Me, trying to understand anything to do with computers (but I have to. See no.7 above).
7. Kiwi fruit.
8. Most of the items in those little bags of free cosmetics you sometimes get from Boots: bright orange lipstick, enough moisuriser to dampen one toe, a tiny pot of something shiny that could be for any part of your anatomy, and is usually blue. That kind of thing.

Monday, 23 April 2012

T is for Turning Right

As all motorists (and cyclists) know, on British roads turning right isn't as easy as turning left. Because, of course, unwary drivers risk hurling themselves into the paths of oncoming traffic. But if you're elderly, help is at hand in the form of a Satnav designed specially for you (us), that plans your route excluding all right turns.

This is exciting news indeed. It means that while your journey may be ten times longer, you no longer have to take this risky manoeuvre, and you can even detatch your right indicator (if you know how), because you won't need it any more.

But. What I want to know is, how do you get from A to B by just turning left? It seems to me that while this may be a comfortable and simple way to travel, its also an excellent way of going round in circles. At least you will always be able to find your way home. Again and again and again.

All of which puts me in mind of a friend's cat. Brain-damaged and epileptic, it had a predilection for going to sleep on high shelves. It would then have one of its fits, and crash to the floor (thus no doubt compounding its brain damage, never mind risking its life and limbs). This cat, too, could only turn left, so in order to go right, it had to turn in a circle.

The cat died. Perhaps here's a lesson to be learnt here.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Magpie 114

She waited for Prince charming
To wake her with a kiss.
But Damien Hirst -
He got there first.
And she ended up like this.

(With thanks to Tess at Magpie Tales for the picture)

Saturday, 21 April 2012

S is for Shin-Kicking

One of the great things about being English is pride in some of our quaint little customs. At the milder end is Morris Dancing, but then we go on to things like shin-kicking, an old custom, exceedingly painful, in which two men (though no doubt one day women will insist on joining in) kick each other's shins in the name of sport.

And then there's cheese-rolling (below), where crowds of people and a very large cheese hurtle down a hillside. I've never been entirely sure whether the people are chasing the cheese, or trying to escape from it (I could find out, but perfer to leave the question unanwered), but that too can apparently be dangerous, and one year the event was concelled because of "safety issues" (now there's a surprise).

There's another one, too, in which barrels of flaming tar are carried by people wearing cotton gloves. I bet Health and Safety have something to say about that. And then there's....

But you get my drift. I have no particular desire to partake in any of these activities, but I'm so very glad I'm English!

Friday, 20 April 2012

R is for Raise a Native (horse diaries)

Ever since this A to z challenge started, Titch has been agitating for his turn. B for Beautiful? A for Adorable (hm)? Even H for Horse? But I had to explain, yet again, that not everything is about him.

Titch: How about my grandfather. Raise a - Raise a - Raise a something-or-other?
Me: For someone who loves name-dropping, and has only one name to drop, you really are hopeless. You can't even remember the one name!
Titch (sulking): Well, I am only a horse.
Me: You said it.

So today, R is for Raise a Native, undefeated winning racehorse, who lived from 1961 - 1988, sired 74 winners, and was much celebrated. He was American, and Titch was born in America (you can still detect a faint American twang when he whinnies). Titch is immensely proud of him (let's face it; he doesn't have a lot else to be proud of). Above is a photo of R a N and the grave where he is buried. Titch is mightily impressed with the grave.

Titch: can I be buried in a flower bed when I die?
Me (how can I put this tactfully?): No.
Titch: But I won races!
Me: You won ONE race. And would you care to tell me what happened in your last two races?
Ticth: Can't remember.
Me: Well, let me remind you. You were pulled up in one, and in the other, you unseated your rider.
Titch: Oh.
Me: Yes. Oh.
Titch: So no flower bed?
Me: Afraid not.
Titch: Carrots, then?

I think I could run to a couple of carrots on Titch's grave. When the time comes.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Q is for Quotations

Sadly, it seems that children are no longer required to learn poems by heart, but in my schooldays, we had to do it frequently, and I have always been glad to have favourite poems ( or bits of them - some seem to have become framented ) stored in the recesses of my brain. Here are some favourite lines ( may not be entirely correct, but I decided not to cheat by looking them up!):

"Now sleeps,the crimson petal, now the white,
Now droops the cyprus on the palace walk." ( Tennyson)

"Wilows whiten, aspens quiver, Little breezes dusk and shiver..." ( ditto)

"Oh, what can ail thee, knight at arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge is withered from the lake
And no birds sing." (Keats)

"Lay your sleeping head, my love, Human on my faithless arm...) (Auden)

Actually, there are far too many, and I won't bore you with more.

Then there are humorous quotations picked up along the way. I especially like this, because it happens all the time:

"One of the things that I've tried very hard
But still haven't managed to cope with,
Is the piece of soap that's too thick to discard
But a little too thin to soap with." ( Dorothy Parker)

And this, which is a good one to try to live by: "A man's reach must be beyond his grasp, or what's a heaven for?" (Browning)

I'll leave the last word to Churchill:

Woman: " Sir! You're drunk!"
Churchill: "Madam, you're ugly. But I shall be sober in the morning."

What are your favourite quotations?

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

P is for Poverty

I'm not talking poverty of the grinding variety here; that must be terrible. But I've always envied nuns their kind poverty. I wouldn't go for the chastity or the obedience, but to have the kind of poverty that religious orders have (clothing, food and shelter provided, but no possessions) must be wonderfully freeing.

Imagine not having to worry about those boots you really, really want (I have a thing about boots), but you don't feel comfortable about the price? Or are you (we, at the moment) justified in considering buying a new sofa, when yours (ours) is - well - you can still sit on it. Just. All those decisions about THINGS. How much should you give to charity? Can you really go out for a meal when people (even in this country at the moment) haven't got enough to eat? I wander down the aisles at Sinsburys, deciding what to buy. Do I go for a BOGOF, which saves money but we may not eat/use it all? Decisions, decisions...

And no clutter! All that - stuff we accumulate, most of which we don't need. All those papers, old clothes, the things of (dubious) sentimental value. Nuns don't have stuff. They're not allowed to. (When one of my sons arrived to move in with his then girlfriend, his stuff filled a whole van. When she saw it, the poor girl wept.)

And no money. Wonderful! We went bankrupt, many years ago, and I've never quite got over it. Nuns can't go bankrupt. They don't (as I used to) have to stand trembling by the hole in the wall, waiting for it to tell them if they have any money in the account.

Possessions are a terrible encumbrance. I think it was Leonard Cheshire who, in later life, gave up nearly all of his, and devoted himself to others. I wish I had his courage...

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

O is for Open Wide the dentist.

I know, I know. No-one really enjoys going to the dentist. But I think I was permanently scarred by childhood experiences. I had lots of fillings, but never an injection, and those horrible, sudden stabs of nerve pain, like electric shocks, tortured me during and haunted me between dentist appointments. On one occasion, I actually made myself ill, had a temperature, and missed the appointment altogether.

And then there's the personal space thing. No-one (apart from nearest and dearest) is allowed to invade personal space so thoroughly and for such long periods at a time as the dentist (at least with the advent of masks, I no longer have to look up his nose). I keep thinking "but I don't know you well enough for this!".
Last week, I made a total fool of myself. Having had a not very good experience the time before, I suddenly flipped.
"I want to go home," I whimpered at one stage, from my vulnerable, near-horizontal position.
"Then you can go home," said the dentist reasonably, pointing out that he couldn't stop me.

But I stayed, like a brave soldier (not), and he did the filling. It took an hour. And afterwards, I tottered out, mumbling feeble apologies, vowing that I'd never go back.

But of course, I shall. I expect. One day. Just not yet.

Monday, 16 April 2012

N is for Noddy

I have to confess that I cannot stand Noddy. There are certain people who, through no fault of their own, arouse in me extreme irritation (that man singing about insurance in the TV commercial; Noel Edmonds; Harry Hill), and Noddy is one of them. His little yellow car, that stupid hat with the bell, his ridiculous friend Big Ears, his ...just everything about him really, really annoys me.

This could stem from my childhood. My mother, a widely-read intellectual, forbade me to read anything by Enid Blyton (the other thing she banned was bubble gum; otherwise she was pretty relaxed. She even ignored me when, at the age of ten, I lit up a cigarette in front of her), so of course I longed for the Famous Five (I managed to get hold of just one). However, I don't remember longing for Noddy (does anyone? Long for Noddy, I mean?)

My own children were given one Noddy book, but I refused to read it to them. They didn't seem to mind too much.

(Another possible reason is that he reminds me of a garden gnome. 'Nuff said.)

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Magpie 113

"What does it mean?" Augustus said.
"That lady, standing all in red?
And someone reading something blue,
And naked boobs, and flowers too.
Does it mean anything to you?"

His wife replied, "I've no idea.
Like so much modern art, it's...queer.
But no. It wouldn't go in here."

(With thank to Tess at Magpie Tales for the picture.)

Saturday, 14 April 2012

M is for Mohair

Mohair does not come from mos
(Because there's no such things as those.)
You get your fluffy scarf or coat
By shaving an Angora goat.

Friday, 13 April 2012

L is for Local Newspapers

Don't you just love them? The sheer trivia, the desperate scrambling for something - anything - to make a story; the ill-disguised glee over a local tragedy. There's nothing quite like them.

We don't have the local newpaper as a rule, but I was browsing through it at the dentist's this week, and came upon this typical gem:

Police and fire crews were called at 10.40pm on Thursday after smoke was seen coming from a bin in Monkton Park. The caller extinguised it with a bottle of water, but checks were made to ensure it was safe."

Phew. I bet that had you on the edge of your seat.(It poses questions, too. Why did anyone call the fire brigade at all? What "checks" were made? Did someone just take off the lid and have a look, or did they get out those smoke-detecting instruments to make sure there were no little sparks just waiting for them all to go away?)

You have to live in a place for the local paper to make any kind of sense. When you get to the stage where you read about people/places you know, it means you've arrived. And when you actually read an article that includes yourself, well, then you really are part of the scenery.

Dog poo is an old favourite in local rags. When all else fails - when no-one's been murdered, gone missing, met the queen, grown the biggest artichoke - dog poo is a reliable standby. Letters about dog poo, complaints, fines, new legislation, dog wardens - it's all there. Good old dog poo. Where would the local papers be without it?

We get lots of dog poo in our lane. (I fantasise about putting the guilty dog-owners in the stocks, and pelting them with the stuff.) I haven't written to the paper about it. Yet. But one day, when I really do have nothing better to do, I just might.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

K is for Kiss of Death

Not the film (I didn't know there was one; I just liked the picture), but the concept.

The best example I can think of is when a government minister misbehaves (eg is discovered naked in a brothel; writes a shopping list on the back of a confidential paper, and leave in in Tesco's; goes on a cruise and charges it to expenses. You get the idea). The first thing that happens is that he announces that he "has no intention of resigning". And then follows the real kiss of death; the Prime Minster says the minister "has his full support". What chilling words are those, for invariably, the minister resigns within (about) a week.

On the more domestic front, it is the kiss of death:

If I choose, for a (rare) dinner party, to make something that has to be "turned out" of a mould. "Leave until set, and then invert onto a plate", says the recipe, with Delia/Nigella insouciance. The reality: leave until it appears set, and then invert onto the floor (if I don't miss the plate, the thing invariably collapses).

If I splash out on something expensive. It always, always turns up in the sales a week later, at half the price.

If I really, really look forward to a special holiday. It will pour with rain. Always. Even (and especially) in the kind of place where one is told "but it NEVER rains here at this time of year!"

Of course, all these last could just be put down to sod's law (or what my father elegantly called "the law of undesirable conincidences"). But somehow "kiss of death" has more cache.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

J is for Jillaroo

I bet you never knew there was such a thing did you? Neither did I. But there you go. It/she is the female equiivalent of a jackaroo. They do things to sheep in Australia, on horseback. Here is part of the job description:

"Set off the beaten track (literally!) your stay out on the ranch will see you befriend your own horse, learning everything from riding to talking to cattle mustering with your new four legged companion. Add to this lassoing, cattle wrestling, cattle branding and building plus enjoying meals by campfire and star light and your experience as a Jillaroo or Jackaroo is complete!"

Don't you wish that could be you? Mmmm. Me too. The one in the picture appears to be swimming with a horse. Titch was appalled. "You won't catch me doing that!" he said. "Well, nobody's asking you," I told him. It's high time Titch learnt that not everything's about him.

He's still waiting for me to include him in the A to Z challenge, and was disappointed that H wasn't H for Horse. But he'll have to wait.

I can probably fit him in somewhere.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

I is for Imagination

I firmly believe we are all born with imagination, and that it is gradually stamped out of us ( often by school, which ought to know better). Are the imaginary friends beloved of small children any less real to them than 'real' people? Does a child with a doll see an artifice, or a baby? I know my dolls were pretty real to me, and I remember repeatedly explaining to them how it happened that only one of them was black, even though they were all my babies ( too complicated to go into here).

My youngest son, Joe, had a tribe of imaginary friends, and got furious if, for example, we shut the door and left one outside. Sometimes, he actually became one of them, the favourite being Bob. One afternoon we had this surreal conversation ( he can't have been more than three at the time, if that):

Me: Come on, Joe. Time for your rest.
Joe I'm not Joe. I'm Bob.
Me: Okay. Come on, Bob. Time for your rest.
Joe/Bob: I'm not sleeping in Joe's bed!

But life soon puts paid to this kind of thing. Just as well, really, since I would just have had Joe, Bob and his/ their girlfriend staying over Easter. Which might have been complicated.

Monday, 9 April 2012

H is for Hindsight

One of my son-in-law's favourite expressions is: "we could all be chairman of the hindsight committee". How true. Hindsight is a terrible, often painful, thing. With hindsight, I would never have:

Failed to make sure that the bannister in my son's house reached the top of the stairs when I was going down them in the dark (result: fractured spine, and several weeks in hospital).

Bought that appallingly expensive blue top, with sparkly bits, which I've only worn once (and then only because I felt I had to, having spent so much on it).

Bought a terrifying thoroughbred mare called Patsy, who threw me around the Wiltshire hills for about four weeks before I admitted defeat ("you should have bought me," said Titch. "You were only a baby then," I told him. "So I couldn't have even if I'd known about you.").

Gone to university, which I loathed (long story).

Allowed Wilbur (our exceptionally stupid ginger cat) to escape when we last moved house. We never saw him again.

I could go on and on, but I won't, for I have a feeling hindsight might kick in again afterwards, muttering about wasted time...

(What single thing would you change, with hindsight?)

Friday, 6 April 2012

G is for Gym (early, because I'm away tomorrow)

I used to go to the gym. Three times a week. I absolutely hated every minute, but it was wonderful when it was over. It almost made it worthwhile. Almost. But sometimes, this can happen:

"I'm going to get fit!" cried young Ned.
"So goodbye to fat, sugar and bread."
He thought going to the gym
Would be so good for him.
But his heart disagreed. Now, he's dead.

So I gave up, and bought a horse.

F is for the F word

It always interests me that every language and culture (or those I know about) seems to have a word everyone knows, but is considered unspeakable in polite company. Take the F word. You know what it is (if you don't, you've probably just arrived from a different planet, in which case you'll have no idea what I'm talking about), but you wouldn't expect me to write it in this post. You're right. I'm not going to.

We all know what it means. There are other, more acceptable words, which mean the same thing, so why pick on this one as the most (almost) abusive word anyone can choose? I think we all need a word to use in extremis. For nice, civilised people, it might just be "damn". But for many, it's the F word (there is a worse one, but it's a noun rather than an adjective, and not nearly such a good expletive).

But times are changing, and nowadays the use of the F word is so common that soon there will be no really, really naughty word to use when, say, you hit your thumb with a hammer. Children "pick it up from schoool" (or, more likely, from their parents, who tell everyone they've picked it up from school); it's there in abundance after the nine-o-clock watershed and in novels. It seems that there's no going back.

So I grieve for the loss of the F word as one to be used on special occasions (as by my son, some years ago, when he dropped an entire tray of cut glass on the stairs). It's just as unpleasant as a word, but we've been immunised by its constant use. What is there left?

Somehow, "bother" just isn't the same.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

E is for Experiment
 in the Edinburgh Mating Pandas Experiment. The fertility window for a panda is apparently two days per year, but is about to close, with the relationship unconsummated. We are told that the happy couple spent those vital days "wresting, playing roly-poly and doing handstands". Aaaaah. Reminds me of my own honeymoon...

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

D is for Direction in "sense of". Quite simply, I don't have one. I used to say that I'd "lost" my sense of direction, until I realised it would be no different from saying that I'd lost, say, my pet mongoose. I don't have one (a sense of direction or a mongoose).

Whle most people know just where they are going, I often have no idea, and have frequently had recourse to the sun in order to assess my direction (overcast skies are bad news for people like me). I can't read maps, either. Rather like this character in one of my novels*:

'Towards the end of our journey, there was much discussion and consulting of maps, in the course of which Mum and the nice man from the chemist (not quite so nice, it transpired, when it came to the crunch) nearly came to blows.
“You said you’d do the navigating. I’m just the driver,” he pointed out, as they pulled into a layby to take stock.
“It was fine while we were going North. North is easy,” Mum said.
“What do you mean, North is easy?”
“You don’t have to turn the map round, with North. South is much more difficult. Everything’s upside down.”
“Oh, don’t be ridiculous! Nothing’s upside down. It’s perfectly straightforward. You’re just being a typical woman."'

And maybe it is (largely) a woman thing. Whatever. I can't do it.

The satnav was made for people like me. Nowadays, I sally forth, safe in the belief that at least one of us (the satnav) knows where we are going. Without it, I am lost, in every possible sense. I'm sure it's partly a self-fulfilling thing - you become what you think you are - but it's very alarming.

This week, we had to go somwhere new, and have recently acquired a car with its own satnav. This is complicated, so we brought the old one as well. One satnav is a woman; the other, a man. At one stage in our journey, the man was shouting "TURN AROUND WHEN POSSIBLE!", while the woman was telling us to "FOLLOW THE ROAD FOR SIX MILES!".

But between them, they got us there in the end. Phew. Needless to say, the map lay on the back seat undisturbed.

*The Birds, the Bees and Other Secrets

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

C is for Cockchafer

Rather stuck as to what to choose for the letter C, I opened the dictionary at C and chose a word at random. And here it is. Cockchafer. It may sound like an uncomfortable men's undergarment, but it is in fact "a large, grey-brown beetle", with particularly unappealing offspring (see picture). But then lots of babies are only attractive to their parents, so I mustn't be too unkind.

They are also known as May bugs, and this brought back a chidhood memory. My mother was plagued by these things flying through her bedroom window one night, so she caught them up in paper tissues (just for the time being, you understand) and threw them out of the window. The next morning (having quite forgotten yessterday's invasion) she was puzzled to find little white parcels scattered all over the lawn, each containing a neatly-wrapped beetle.

Ah...happy days. I still miss her.

Monday, 2 April 2012

B is for Ball Games

I have never been any good at ball games. As a child, I simply didn't see the point of a ball. If you couldn't stroke it, eat it, read it, ride it or climb it, it was of no interest to me.

The other problem was that my brain interpreted a ball coming towards me as a missile. Not friend, but foe. Run or duck, it told me, but do NOT go near it. This fear was hard to overcome.

And then there was the sheer discomfort. Freezing days on the hockey pitch, my (then unprotected) shins an easy target for that wickedly hard ball, Miss Brown, in her cosy royal blue track suit, yelling at me from the sidelines, my thighs purple with the cold. And all this followed by the humiliation of being the only flat-chested girl in the communal showers afterwards. Tennis was almost as bad, if warmer and less dangerous, and as for rounders, I don't think I once managed to hit that tiny ball with that silly little stick.

So, in my teens, I was relegated, with two equally incompetent friends, to the far end of the playing fields, to throw the discus. Of what possible use that was ever to be in future life I have no idea. Health and safety would have had a ball (ha) as we could easily have killed each other (accidentally, of course; we were best friends). In the event, we lay in the grass and talked about boys and made daisy chains. We made a lot of daisy chains. No-one ever came to see how we were doing.

But at least I have never been asked to play the Mayan Ball Game. Apparently, the winners are heaped with accolades, but the miserable losers are put to death.

Perhaps I should have counted this small blessing, and tried harder at the discus.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Magpie 111

When trying to woo the birds, it's best
To leave your shoes outside the nest.

(With thanks to Tess at Magpie Tales for the photo)

A is for Age (the first of 26 posts for the 2012 A to Z Blogging Chalenge)

Her friends forget, have strokes or falls,
And some die unexpectedly.
The young pass by, and smile, and say
"What d'you expect, at eighty-three?"
And she replies, "I know. It's just
I never thought it would be me."