Sunday 25 July 2010

Birds and Bees goes cute

This has suddenly appeared on Amazon. I'm not at all sure why, since I've already received copies of the French version, which was quite different. But I suppose it's rather sweet, in a Dr. Spock-ish sort of way. But it costs over £16 so I certainly won't be buying it.

However, I do wonder where it came from...?

Friday 23 July 2010

On re-reading old friends

I wonder whether I'm alone in finding that some books which I used to love no longer hold the same attraction? This can be very disappointing; a bit like going off a lover you thought you'd be with for life. My worst disappointment was The Forsyte Saga. In my early twenties, I absolutely adored this book, which runs into several volumes, and which I took everywhere with me until I'd finished it (them). But on trying it again a few years ago on holiday, I couldn't even get through the first chapter. What on earth had I seen in it which was no longer there? I will never know.

But some novels - reassuringly - elicit the same response from me as they ever did. I re-read Emma recently (for the umpteenth time, it has to be said), and still love it, and Sense and Sensibility was just as silly as I'd thought it was when I read it in my teens. And favourite children's books still hold their magic: The Secret Garden, Winnie the Pooh, The Wind in the Willows, Little Women. It seems that it's the books I read in my teens and early adulthood that seem different. Or maybe it's just that I am...

Wednesday 21 July 2010


This link was sent to us by a friend, and it really is worth the 20-odd minutes it takes to watch/listen to it, especially for those of us who write or do anything else that's creative, and for those who are parents. Do take the time to look at it if you can (it's also very entertaining).

Sunday 18 July 2010

How to write a best-seller

He is no. 1 in Amazon sales, he's being serialised in The Times and interviewed and reviewed just about everywhere, and his book signings are attended not just by punters but by photographers (serious ones, with those expensive cameras with long snouts) and reporters with fuzzy micrphones.

Are we all jealous? Of course we're not (well, we're not, are we?). But how has he done it? Well, without reading the book, but having heard about it and seen extracts, it seems that the recipe for success goes thus: firstly, you get a job in high political office, then you get sacked, then you return, get sacked again, return and are made a lord. Then (and here's the really clever bit) you publish your memoirs just when your old colleagues have lost power, slagging them off and reporting their private conversations, and hey presto! You have a best seller.

Now, why didn't I think of that?

Tuesday 13 July 2010

New word

I've recently discovered a lovely new word: gluckschmerz. It's the opposite of schadenfraude and means, literally, pain at (another's) luck. It's what we might feel when the man next door wins the lottery.

One of the nice things about the MNW blog is that it lacks either schadenfreude or gluckschmerz. What a lovely bunch we are!

Saturday 10 July 2010

The art of survival

In today's Times, there's a delightful article entitled 'a beginner's guide to survival'. It tells you how to build a loo (dig a hole etc etc, and then 'if you happen to have a small loo seat' you can use that. Well, who goes anywhere without money, keys and a small loo seat?) To make clean drinking water you strain dirty water through a sock and then boil it (the water, not the sock). To create a shower but ensure it's not too cold, you carry a bin liner quarter-filled with water around on your back all day, then string it up from a tree, attach a tube, stand underneath, and bingo. Don't you just love it?

All this put me in mind of Barney, one of my sons, when young. His favoured reading at the time was 'The SAS Survival Handbook'. It had all kinds of useful tips on things like what to do when your car starts careering towards a cliiff edge (roll into a ball and hurl yourself out), and things you can find to eat when out in the wild. We came home one evening to find him, handbook in hand, feeding toadstools to our eighty-something baby-sitter to see if they really were edible. The baby-sitter is now fit and in her ninetieis, but I reckon we had a lucky escape.

Then there was Toby, eldest son, who when aged about 7, carried around with him a 'survival kit' in a tiny tin. It contained a bent pin and cotton (for fishing) a match and various other indispensable items. He would never have known how to use them. This is the (now) man who tried to fit a cat flap. The cat gained entry right enough, but came into the house wearing the cat flap.

What was it with my children and this preoccupation with survival? Was it something we did?

Tuesday 6 July 2010


Some people walk, some think in the bath or shower, I'm sure others climb mountains or sail boats. This is where I go for inspiration. The wide skies and downs of Wiltshire are so beautiful that it's impossible not to feel calm and creative up there on a lovely day. Wiltshire is an unsung county; few people realise how beautiful it is.

I took this yesterday from the back of the horse (who was having a quick snack - we have a grass shortage thanks to the drought).

Monday 5 July 2010


Years ago, we were in a very expensive (for us) restaurant, and heard from a neighbouring table the fluting (and very posh) tones of a woman telling her companion: "that's where we sent Bunter for the quails' eggs for our party". We have always treasured this, and wondered whether Bunter managed to complete his mission, and whether he was invited to participate when the time came.

I was reminded of this this afternon in Sainsburys, overhearing two men in conversation. One said to the other: "she was probably pretty when he first started seeing her, but now she's on the turn". A particularly revolting expression, I thought, and not one that anyone would think of applying to a man...

Saturday 3 July 2010


Anniversaries are funny things. Most people celebrate wedding anniversaries as a matter of course, but there are other, more difficult ones, and I never realised thier significance until my first husband died.

That first anniversary was sheer hell; it was like being dragged through the whole experience all over again, but this time, knowing what was going to happen. But why? It was just another day. The children had to be got ready for school (it was in fact the birthday of one of them); things had to go on as normal. And yet there was a this-time-last-year thing running like a thick black thread through the whle day. It got easier as the years went by, and in fact the birthday helped, becuase my son needed his birthday to be celebrated, and we needed to celebrate it. But it was - and is - always there.

Tomorrow would have been our fortieth wedding anniversary, so I'm doing the this-time-forty-year-ago thing. I ought to be used to it; forty years is a long time ago. And yet it's going to be difficult. I suggested a party anyway, but the reactions were mixed, and my daughter promptly burst into tears. Not such a good idea, then. But I shall think of that day, and the flower arrangement that fell down at the last moment, and wearing the wrong shoes to the registry office (our real wedding - the nice one - took place later on, with the right shoes, in a Cambridge college chapel, which wasn't registered for weddings), and the fish and chips we had on the boat on our way over to France.