Sunday 30 December 2012

Magpie 149


A smouldering pile of fag ends
Are all that's left of Jane.
She gave up smoking twice a year
Then took it up again.
And emptying that last ashtray,
We struggle to ease our pain.
But we try to think of it like this;
Our loss is Heaven's gain.

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

Saturday 29 December 2012

New Year Honours

These seem increasingly arbitrary. I haven't heard of half the people mentioned, so probably shouldn't judge, but Cherie Blair? I know many many people who work tirelessly for charity too, with nothing like her power, connections or resources. And nobody has noticed them.

But my biggest grumble is no knighthood for William Roache. The longest serving actor in the longest running soap, and he just has an MBE, like many of the rest of the cast. Okay, so I'm a Corrie fan (if not really a Ken Barlow fan, but that's beside the point). But still...

So. Who would you nominate for a gong, and why?

Friday 28 December 2012

The virtues of BOGROT

Some time ago I posted on this subject, and now it applies more than ever.

Buy One Get Rid Of Two applies in our case to books, and it's something I meant to stick to, but failed lamentably. The buying (or receiving) of the one is easy; it's the getting rid of two that's so difficult, as many of us know only too well. Collecting books is, I've decided, a kind of disease. In my case, there are many I shall never read again, many I don't even like, but I WANT them. I've no idea why, but there it is (or there they are, all over the house, easing out other things and climbing all over the furniture),

I had some lovely books for Christmas, but have now totally run out of space. Even the floors are gathering piles of books.

So. New year's resolution no.1 has to be BOGROT.

Wish me luck.

( This also applies to clothes. I accumulate old clothes, including those expensive mistakes that I can't get rid of because they were expensive, but ought to, because they were mistakes. These sadly include a mother-of-the-groom outfit, which made me look like a large, angry bat.)

Saturday 22 December 2012

Happy Christmas! And the last word goes to... eleven-year-old granddaughter Phoebe, who came up with the following gem yesterday:

"Mummy, if the world really is going to end today, please please PLEASE tell me what you're giving me for Christmas!"

A really happy Christmas to anyone who reads this, and for those who write, may you get the agent/publisher/book or story sales of your dreams in 2013!

Thursday 20 December 2012


I wasn't going to blog any more before Christmas, because everyone's too busy to read or write posts, right?And I should be, too.  But this is a good place to vent my wrath, so here goes.

Eight days ago, I ordered an item  from John Lewis. In time for Christmas. Ok? Yesterday, I checked the status of my order; not dispatched yet. Today, it was "processing". Hmmm. Thought I'd phone for clarification

After the usual prolonged press-this-press-that routine, (while waiting, I was regaled by a jolly voice telling me "it's nearly Christmas". Just in case I hadn't noticed), I got through to a nice man who told me that my item was out of stock. But it's being processed! I wailed. Ah. Not exactly, he said. They're in the process of waiting for a new delivery. Which might - might, mark you - arrive "in a day or two". Or not. In which case one of the 35-plus people we buy presents for would have to go without. (By this stage, I was in the process of getting very cross indeed.)

I didn't shoot the messenger, but he was left in no doubt as to how I was feeling. I cancelled my order.

As I said. Aaaaaargh!

(Next year I might even go back to old fashioned shopping; the kind where you go into shops and buy things and take them away in carrier bags, and then go and have a rewarding cup of coffee. Oh - and you don't even need a password to get in...)

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Mayoral (and other) patronage of the elderly

My disabled sister, R, whom I have mentioned before (she who on occasion tips herself out of her wheelchair), lives in sheltered acomodation. Most of the residents are elderly. Every Christmas, the Mayoress comes on a visitation, dispensing gifts of sweet and tea bags. Hmmm.

R, having been subjected to this ordeal for several years, now refuses to go. And I sympathise. Just because you are old, disabled or otherwise unable to live an indepedent life, why should you be subjected to this kind of thing? The mayoress is no doubt acting in good faith, and probably feels all warm and fuzzy after her afternoon's good deed. But what about the residents? How must it be for them, being handed sweets (which they probably don't want) and tea (which they can buy for themselves) as though they are children?

Something like this happened to me, several years ago, when I was in hospital with a fractured spine. My fellow patients were also mainly elderly. In the run-up to Christmas, we were visited by women (themselves of a certain age, I might add) from a well-known age-related charity, dispensing bags of sweets. We were also visited by Father Christmas and his merry elf, also giving away sweets. It was one of the more cringy of my experiences

Why, when people are old, do we start treating them like children? Do we think they have, as it were, come full circle? It'll be dolls and teddies next, then rattles, then dummies....

Bring on the skatebaords!.

Sunday 16 December 2012

Magpie 148


"Turn around when possible,"
Our trusty satnav said.
We'd wanted Skye, but couldn't turn,
So ended up in Bed-
fordshire. Oh dear! Next time I think we'll
Use a map instead.

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

Saturday 15 December 2012

Things I have learnt this week.

1. That a very cheap small black umbrella, when taken out in a storm, ends up battered and broken and resembling a drowned crow.

2. That there are mosquitoes in Devizes. Now. I saw someone buying mosquito repellent.

3. That a joint of beef rescued from the freezer after two years is very tough (although my son-in-law had two helpings)...

4. ...but bought ready-made custard is much nicer than the kind I used to make (but not with beef).

5. That I don't like whiskey any more.

6. That the Scandanavians don't like my new story (they often do like my stories).

7. That a lot of people don't really like turkey, but have it at Christmas anyway. I'm one of them. But I suppose if it were that nice, we'd eat much more of it. I feel the same about mince pies. If they're so delicious, how come we don't eat them all the year round? I make good mince pies, but don't eat them.

Thursday 13 December 2012

The Queen can't paint Buckingham Palace pink...

...because it belongs to the Nation. Even though it is, as it were, her house.

Well, we aren't allowed to put up a little handrail outside ours (see picture) to help John down the steep steps after his broken hip. No. It doesn't belong to the nation. It belongs to us. But it's  Listed. Not posh like the queen's, but not ours to change, either. I do see the point. On the other hand, will John ever we able to go out alone again? The Queen (presumably) has people to help her. John

Wednesday 12 December 2012

Yes, yes, YES!

No, not a re-enactment of When Harry Met Sally, nor a book deal with a six figure advance, but the next best thing. I've done (most of) my Christmas cards.

Now for the wait. You know the one. I've left out they Xs as we haven't seen each other for years/no longer like each other/they didn't send us one last year. But. If they do send us one, perhaps we ought to reciprocate....? Do we prolong this tit for tat thing? The jury is still out.

And then there are the Ys, to whom I lent a very expensive hat years ago. If I don't send them one, what about the hat? On the other hand, would I ever wear it again (it was my Mother of the Bride hat)?

And then there are those people we see every day who will probably give us one anyway. I've never seen the point of this. I can tell  them I want them to have a great Christmas. Do I really need to give them a card as well? Ive always seen Christmas cards as a way of keeping in touch. But I've got some extras, just in case.

I shall reward myself with a hot bath, as I've been walking outdoors in my socks, and my feet are frozen (long story).

Tuesday 11 December 2012

A phone call and a tragedy

That phone call about the Duchess of Cambridge  and it's tragic consequences must have come as a terrible shock to everyone involved, especially the bereaved family of the poor nurse who took the call and then apparently committed suicide. And yet...

Pranks - and  so many things in life - are judged by their consequences. A few years ago, a man managed to roll his car down an embankment (an accident). But people in a train were killed, so he was jailed for manslaughter.

But then there was the "prank" phone call made by Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand. I've just read a transcript of that, and it was outrageous; malicious, nasty, crude and very unkind. But nobody died,  and after a brief suspension, Ross was back again.

The perpetrators of the Australian phone call were undoubtedly wrong. A tragedy ensued. They will have to live with that for the rest of their lives. But  I think that Jonathan Ross, older and probably a lot more experienced, was very lucky to get off so lightly, for his conduct was, if anything, worse. By now, for him at least, what happened is more than likely a distant memory.

Monday 10 December 2012

Magpie 147

My brother is very well-travelled.
My sister-in-law's even more so.
Their son has the world at his feet.
But I have the world on my torso!

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

Saturday 8 December 2012

"Gifts". A brief guide.

I've come to the conculsion that anything labeled "gift" is a definite no-no, especially if it comes from a Gift Department. "Gifts" are things that are bought by the desperate for the ungrateful. They are things that you don't need. If you needed them, you would (probably) already have them. If they smell, then it won't be the smell you like. If they're confectionary, you don't want them because they'll make you fat or they're the wrong sort. And if they're culinary-related (lie those extraordinary bottles of oil with what look like trees growing in them) they won't fit in with what you cook.

Here are a few of the things not to give:

Silly ties. They won't wear them. In fact, avoid silly anything.
Anything smelly. Ditto.
Socks (nuff said).
Hankies. Most of them use tissues.

Anything smelly (they know what they like, and you probably don't).
ANYTHING  for the kitchen (how could you even think of it?).
Aprons (ditto).
Tea towels (DITTO!).
Diaries (they've already bought one).
Calendars (yes. You can have too many calendars).
Poinsettias (they're horrible. Plus, they always die).

I hope this helps?

(PS If any of my family read this, I'd LOVE a leather head collar for my lovely new horse. Just thought I'd mention it.)

Thursday 6 December 2012

The downside of online shopping

I do nearly all  my Christmas shopping online (a) because I'm lazy and (b) because I'm indecisive, and it's easier to be indecisive at home than wandering dreamily round a shop for hours. But sometimes there are problems.

Weeks ago, I sent for an item for a grandson via, but not directly from, Amazon. Somethiing he really wants. Time passed, and the "tracking" tells me that it is "despatching soon". It may be delivered any time up until 3rd. January. I emailed and said this wasn't soon enough, and received a very cryptic unsigned reply which merely said "surely receive before Christmas". Upon looking up the supplier in question, I came across the following useful information. Useful, that is, if you understand it. It goes as follows: 

The expedition takes place in 1-3 weeks, from Monday to Freitagper courier. Delivery of the products by the purchaser at the time and manner provided by the courier service is available (no liability for delays caused by courier) delivered

The tracking code will be sent to a few hours after posting. If the package is a testament to your blocked or in stock we will notify you all in our undtun. have to overcome the impasse.
If you receive the product have verified that everything is okay and if so, please post positive reviews, we will do the same.

For all questions in the sale, we are on email:

Translate, anyone?

Tuesday 4 December 2012

Introducing Fairy!

I know, I  know. It's a ridiculous name for a huge horse, but it's short for Mr. Fairfax, which is also a ridic...well, never mind.

He arrived yesterday, and although he has to  be in quarantine for a week  because there are a lot of bugs arorund, he's settled in well. He would like me to point out that although this is his best side, I've missed out the tips of his ears, and he would have preferred not to have his photo taken while he was eating.

He is shy about his parentage, since no-one has any idea who his parents were. So he'd prefer me not to refer to the matter again.

I shall respect his wishes.

Monday 3 December 2012

Magpie 146


It's Christmas time! What can we get
For Uncle Bert and Auntie Bet?
We'd like to give them a surprise -
I know! A  metronome with eyes!

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

Saturday 1 December 2012

I'm ninety-six, you know!

No. Not me. A neighbour, who loves to surprise people by disclosing her age (she looks much younger, and is alert and active). And this set me thinking...

What age does one have to reach before not wanting to disclose it? I know some people don't mind, but I'm afraid I do. There's a kind of shame that comes with becoming old(er), and I'm not sure why. It's as though we've failed in some way; as though it's somehow our fault

But then we - or some of us, like our neighbour - reach a time when age is something to be proud of. When is that? Ninety, perhaps? And why?

But it can be useful. I recently tried out a horse belonging to a hunting farmer, and while extolling its virtues, he repeatedly told me that it wouldn't jump the very high hedges and walls. I kept telling him that I didn't want to jump high walls; that my hedge-jumping days were over. Finally, in desperation, I told him my age. He was gratifyingly surprised, but didn't mention hedges and walls again.

 (I bought the horse, and he arrives on Monday. He will have a post all of his own. But he and I have agreed to leave walls and hedges to others.)

Thursday 29 November 2012

Dear Delia...

...I believe I've written to you before on this blog.

I like you. I really do. You are bright and attractive and seem a nice person. But I cannot make your recipes work.

Take poached eggs. I like poached eggs, but mine always emerge from cloudy water resembling tattered ghosts, trailing clouds of, well, egg. So I looked up your method. One minute simmering, you said, and then ten minutes off the heat. Set the timer, you said. I did. And what did I get at the end of all this? More tattered ghosts.

I'm disappointed, Delia. Really I am.

I'm now going to see what Jamie and Nigella have to say. I'm determined to crack this (ha) , one way or another.

BTW if anyone reading this has a foolproof recipe for  poached eggs, I'd love  to know about it

Wednesday 28 November 2012

A new way of giving to charity

Follow these simple steps;
1. Decide winter boots are uncomfortable.
2. Take them to Oxfam shop.
3. Interlude to enjoy warm fuzzy feeling that follows having done a (slightly) good deed.
4. Remember that the boots were quite useful for brief social occasions.
5. Return to Oxfam shop. Buy back the boots.

Simple, eh? ( as that meerkat  would say, only I can't write the squeaky sound)

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Pre-1970s - the best inventions?

My eldest son has a theory that everything we really need was invented by the 1970s*,  and thinking about it, I believe he has a point. Computers and mobiles (for example) are great, but do we actually need  them? We never used to be in touch with everyone all the time. And time was when we were happy to write letters, use typewriters, look things up in reference books etc. We only think we need all these things because we've got them; we were fine before they came along.

For myself, I think all the best inventions happened before 1970; the car, the washing machine, the vacuum cleaner among them (the washing machine would get my vote as the best. After all, horses are more fun than cars, and the old carpet sweepers did the job adequately. Hand washing, on the other hand, is the pits). What do you think?

*The son himself was invented in 1972. I know. I was there.

Sunday 25 November 2012

Magpie 145


"Sofa, so good," the landlord said.
"And it could double as a bed."
The tenants looked at one another.
"We think we'll move back in with mother."

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

Friday 23 November 2012

Really irritating expressions

There are lots of these, of course, but these are some of my favourites (quite the wrong word, but no matter):

There's nothing worse . Example: "there's nothing worse than running out of milk on Christmas day". Of COURSE there are worse things. Being boiled in oil is worse. Losing a partner is worse. Being hung, drawn and...well, you get the picture.

If you like. Someone will choose an expression, and then attribute his/her choice to the listener. Example: "it's, if you like, similar to a new way of boiling carrots". But what if I don't like? What if I can see no connection at all with the boiling of carrots? It's your expression. You use it if you want to. Leave me out of it.

At all (when used in an odd position in a sentence). The best example of this comes in one of the Pooh Books (where it's not irritating at all, of course):
Pooh (to Kanga): Are you interested in poetry at all?
Kanga: Hardly at all.
I tried this out in a building society once when asked if I wanted to open an account. It was met with stony silence.

No problem (in pubs, restaurants, shops - you name it). This needs no comment from me!

Can anyone think of any more?

Thursday 22 November 2012

Letters from Death Row

In the governorship of Rick Perry, Texas has executed more than 250 prisoners, many of them  with very low IQs (this contravenes US law). As I think I've said before, Perry is on record (and I've  heard him) as saying that he wouldn't lose sleep if any of these prisoners were later found to have been inoocent. Just as well, as many of the verdicts were dubious.
I have no idea when it will be J's turn (my pen friend). But I dread it. I recently sent him a subscription to a magazine he likes. Should I give him a year's subscriptoin or six months? Difficult, when you don't know how long the recipient has to live.

J writes amazing letters. We have been discussing religion, and he says: I have no idea what love or faith are supposed to feel like. Does that lessen me? Since I've never been loved, how would I know what it is?...I have never been loved. I don't feel loss becuse of it. I used to try to, but if you've never had chocolate ice cream, how would you feel loss if you never had it?

I could go on, but enough for now.

Now for the commercial (again)! There are over 200 prisoners on America's many death rows who are on the waiting list for pen friends. If you are interested, do please contact Lifelines to find out more. You won't regret it.

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Writing and the recession

Several years ago, a producer approached my publisher because she wanted to make my novel, Dead Ernest, into a screenplay. Having bought the rights, she worked her socks off to get the play made. She had a writer who was keen to do the script, and a Name (and I wish I could say who she is!) who really wanted to play the part of Annie (the central character). I gave up hope ages ago - one thing writing teaches us all is to be prepared for disappointment. Always! - and of course the play never came off, simply through lack of funds.

I had an email from her today (we have become good friends) saying that she, the writer and the actress are still keen, but the recession has prevented them from going ahead. There simply aren't the funds.

This is soooooo frustrating! I never got my hopes up, but if only I'd been writing just a few years earlier! But I know many of us have been hard hit by the recession (not to mention the celebrity "culture"), so self-pity really isn't on.

Oh well. Back to the keyboard. I  just might come up with an irresistible masterpiece this time (or fifty shades of failure...)

Monday 19 November 2012

Magpie 144


When Cedric went fishing in Gallway
He left both his coats in the hallway.
His binoculars, too,
(Since there was wasn't a view).
Now he's drowned. And he's missed. (In a small way.)

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

Saturday 17 November 2012

A non-PC picture for the week-end

I have a disabled sister with a great sense of humour who regularly falls out of her wheechair. Because she  sent this to  me (and she found it hilarious), I'm allowed to laugh at it too (and I'm afraid I did. A lot. Because it is totally her). She says that from now on, this will "be her logo".

Having said that, I do wish she'd be a bit more careful and look where she's going. She worries us all to death.

(I did think twice about posting this in case it caused offence, but I hope it will be viewed in the spirit of the person who sent it to me.)

Thursday 15 November 2012

Why I haven't voted today

I know I ought to vote; at the very least it buys me the right to grumble. But I have NO idea what today's election is about, who's standing and, above all, why it's been politicised. We've had one very political leaflet, and that's all. So instead, I've been out and (I think) found myself a lovely new horse!

Monday 12 November 2012

Where do you stand on smacking?

My last post got me thinking about the whole punishment thing, especially now I see my own children trying to bring up theirs.

First, I'll come clean. I did smack mine, when I felt they deserved it. I don't necessarily think this is ideal, but it worked. When mother and child have reached a certain stage, sometimes a smack breaks the tension, tells the child exactly where they stand, and the whole thing is over. I'm not talking beating about the head, or adminstering the belt. Just a smack on the bottom. I would never, ever smack anyone else'se child, because I think that a smack is the other side of the warm, affectionate physical relationship a parent has with his/her children. After all, some animals (the cat family, for example) smack their offsping!

Those who are  anti-smacking say that violence breeds violence, but I simply don't agree. My children are four of the nicest, kindest, least violent people I know. They are my best friends, and I hope I am theirs. But they were smacked. Not often, but occasionally. I did try the "no sweets" thing (sweets day was Friday), but by the time Friday came, everyone had forgotten what the punishment was for. As for the naughty step, that hadn't been invented, and my youngest would never have stayed there. I didn't have the time that Supernanny (well-rested after a good night's sleep) has for putting a child in his "time out" place 22 times until he stays there, or  making colourful graphs and charts. I had a job, and besides the children,  a busy husband and an elderly father to look after.

I admire people who manage to discpline thier kids without smacking. That's great. But I think smacking, carried out in extremis, is OK, and I don't regret doing it. What do you think?

Thursday 8 November 2012

On feeling foolish outside Tesco

So there I was, outside Tesco, and there was a large toddler lying on the pavement, refusing to get up. The parents had done the "no sweets" thing, and had progressed to "no Christmas presents". The big guns were out.

So I - Mrs.. Busybody, experienced (ha!) motherer of four, grandmother of seven bla blah - step forward with a helpful smile.

Me (to child): Can't you stand up? Oh dear! How sad! I can't believe you don't know how to stand up. A big boy like you!

The toddler lay comfortably on the pavement, a knowing look in his eyes. The parents looked on unsmilingly.

Me (getting desperate): I  bet you can't stand on one leg. Look! Like this! Can you do this? I bet you can't!

The toddler regarded me pityingly, and remained firmly where he was. The parents looked on. Passers-by saw a child lying on the pavement, parents standing by, and a woman of a certain age trying valiantly to  balance on one leg.

 How to get out of this with even a shred of dignity?

I didn't. As for the child, for all I know, he's still lying outside Tesco.

Wednesday 7 November 2012

I'm a celebrity. Not.

So Nadine Dorries MP is leaving her parliamentary duties to eat kangaroo testicles and other delicacies in the jungle with Ant and Dec and a few other people nobody's heard of. Is there any other job where one can just take off for a month, and still expect to be paid?

This dire programme (I did see one snippet. Once. And that was enough) should be renamed "I'm not a celebrity, but I want to be. Please let me in!" Anyone who's prepared to eat grubs among strangers and be thoroughly humiliated on TV for that length of time, never mind risk sacrificing a well- paid career in the process, needs their head examined.

Tst ts. What is the world coming to?

PS does this kind of thing help sell novels? I just thought I'd ask....

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Downton Abbey (again)

I know I've said this before, but are we the only people who think this series is utter b*****ks? Yes, we do watch it. But with a mixture of mirth and wonderment.

The plot. This is weird and yet predictable. Example: when the vengeful lady's maid places soap on the bathroom floor, you KNOW that her ladyship will slip, that she will lose her baby, and that said baby will be the longed for heir. In the last episode, my lord is far more concerned with the them-against-us cricket match than the recent loss of his daughter. One of the servants turns out to be an amazing pianist. Matthew leaps unscathed from his wheelchair. I could go on and on...

Acting. Wooden. (Odd, that, as I've seen some of them being good in other productions.) But not Maggie Smith, of course, because she is always wonderful.

Script. Clunky.

Characters. Unsympathetic. We've decided we don't really care about any of them. And we've tried, really we have. Upstairs find themselves falling out over every trivial thing, while those downstairs seem to spend all their time standing around chatting.

Anachronisms. Where to start? "Don't be such a girls' blouse". This originated in the 1960s. Cook calls some one "Mr. Stick-it-up- your-jumper". This expression is thought to originate in the 1930s, but was made popular by Tony Hancock in the 50s. "Learning curve" - not certain about this one, but I'm pretty sure it came much later. There are lots of these, and they really jar. How DO they get past all the editing?

That's all. Rant over. But please tell me what the appeal is (beautiful set, vintage cars and costumes apart). Or if (faint hope) by any chance you agree...?

And yet we go on watching, just to see whether the emperor is wearing (very subtle) clothes, after all.

Sunday 4 November 2012

Magpie 142


They've taken my "Hungry and Homeless" sign.
I've nothing much left that I can call mine.
I've lost all my friends, and I've left all my roots -
But I have got a pair of designer boots!

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

Saturday 3 November 2012

One last silly present

                    Inflatable zimmer frame (quote from catalogue)
"Picture the scene – a dignified 50th birthday party. The wine is poured, the nibbles are out, there’s an oldies CD playing in the background and several people have rattled off boring toasts. The atmosphere is getting a little dull when, with a mischievous grin, you hand over your gift, an unassuming, beautifully wrapped, box. Just imagine the roar of laughter that will follow it when they open up the gift. Fun will be had, the Zimmer will be passed around and you’ll be spotting photos of party guests with it all over Facebook in no time!"
How can you resist?  But don't forget the mischievous grin, the beautifully wrapped box, and the crowd of party-goers just dying for a good laugh. (I'm not sure whether the man in the picture s helpless with laughter, or has just suffered a blow to the knee. But no matter. It's all good clean fun, isn't it?)

I promise I'll try to stop now. Well, I'll try...

Friday 2 November 2012

Happy memories

When my  two elder children were small, we lived on the edge of Knole Park in Kent, and our regular walk was through the park. There was a fallen tree stump, and we would have a picnic sitting on that stump, pretending it was a car, with the children taking it in turns to "drive", using a forked twig as a "key". Then we used to walk down the hill, and the children took it in turns to jump off these steps; the higher, the better.

Yesterday, my daughter took her own three there on a trip down memory lane, and they too took turns jumping off these steps (Geoffrey the dog could only reach step 2. He has very short legs!). My - and my daughter's - memories are of a time many years ago, but it's nice to know the steps are still there (although the tree stump is long gone. Sigh).

Tuesday 30 October 2012

Magpie 141


He asked if he could kiss her
(Though he didn't really know her).
She said she'd not been kissed before;
He said that he would show her.
She thought she'd found true love at last.
He'd be her life; her rock. It
Was not to be. For when he'd gone
She found he'd picked her pocket.

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

Monday 29 October 2012

An invaluable tip

It happened like this. Having a vague idea that you can't recycle old telephone directories, I thought I'd google it, and guess what? Not only can they sometimes be recycled (check with your local authority. They'll probably play you a nice tune while you're waiting to be transferred from extension A to B to know how it is).
Or - and here's the really useful bit - you can, and I quote:
"Get creative with Reuse. Use the whole book as a booster seat: Simply cover it with the fabric of your choice and seal the seams with fabric glue or a needle and thread. Use the bulky directories to dry leaves and flowers. Shredded phone book pages can also be used as a substitute for packing peanuts, which are not biodegradable."

How about that? Just imagine. Long winter evenings making pretty covers for old telephone books, pressing your Christmas roses, or packing up all those peanuts you've got lying around. It beats a bottle of wine and a good DVD any day of the week, doesn't it?

Saturday 27 October 2012

Silly gifts

Well, it's that time of year again. Silly gifts in catalogues.

I believe there are two kinds of inventions; the kind where someone sees a need and seeks to invent something to satisfy it (eg the wheel), and the kind where some wily entrepreneur wants to make money out of desperate shoppers at Christmas.

Above, are two of my favourites for this year from the latter cateogry. The top one is a set of features you can stick to a tree, to make it look....well, ridiculous, actually. I happen to think trees are beautiful, and they don't need faces at all, but who am I to dictate to people who take pleasure in these things? The second is an "anti-snoring device". Man snores and wakes woman up. Woman playfully reaches for little red fist on a stick and bops him on the nose with it. Then, presumably, they both share a jolly good laugh. Hilarious, or what?

If you fancy either of these, I can tell you where to buy them.

There. That's a couple of difficult uncles/aunts/cousins solved this Christmas, then. Phew!

Friday 26 October 2012

Siily questions

"Goodness! Is that the time?"
Yes. You've just looked at your clock/watch. You know that's the time.

"Is anyone sitting in this chair?"
Look carefully. Can you see anyone? No? Then it may be taken, but there's no one sitting in it, is there?

"Who can that be?" (ie at the door/on the phone. The Archers specialise in this kind of question)
Well, go and see, and you'll find out, won't you?

"Are you all right?" (to someone in flames/lying crushed under a lorry/falling off a cliff)
Well, what do you think? Does s/he look all right? No? Then GET HELP!

There are a lot of these around. Do feel free to contribute any more you may have up your sleeve.

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Open letter to Jamie Oliver

Dear Jamie

You've set up your restaurant training young unemployed people. You've done schools. Could I suggest that you might now turn your attention to hospitals?

Hospital food is awful. It's like school food only far, far worse. I know there's a tight budget, but I have eaten well on a tight budget. It's possible.

Take soup. Each hospital I've been in or visited serves soup before lunch and dinner. How many people do you know that have soup before every meal? Soup as a starter is for Special Occasions. Soup in hospital - thin and unappetising - is not necessary. Have you tried languishing in bed (or flat on your back, as I was for six weeks) and dealing with soup? Many patients are old or frail. Soup is a challenge too far. And usually horrible. And an unnecessary extravagance.

Then  there's the appearance of the meals. On one occasion, I recall removing the lid of something I'd apparently ordered, and weeping. I didn't know what it was meant to be, it looked like something you might see on a pavement outside a pub on a Friday night, and there was too much of it.

Just two examples, but you get my drift (I'll save the leather omelettes for another occasion).

So. Please could you do something? You have the clout that I lack. And in the past, I have had to feed a family on very little money, so would be happy to offer some ideas. Just in case you run out.

Yours etc.

PS I write having just fetched my thin, undernourished husband after two weeks in hospital, so my facts are fully up to date.

Monday 22 October 2012

An embarrassing condition

No. Not that kind. A different kind altogether.

I've had it for years, but until recently, didn't know it had a name. But now I know. I have Face Blindness. I know i have this because i recently did a little test in the Times, and failed (or passed. Depends how you look on it). I don't always recognise people, or I bound up to people I don't know and greet them like long lost friends. I often have no idea who's who in films and on TV, and drive any companion mad by constantly asking "is that the baddie or the goodie?", "is that the guy who married that girl or is it the other guy?". That kind of thing.

One of my sons, B* (hallo, B!) has the same thing, which is comforting in a way, but I also feel responsible, as he probably gets it from me (he got very little else from me, as he is a clone of his father. So maybe it's quite nice really? No. Not nice. A bloody nuisance, if I'm honest).

I would love it if all the characters in films wore name badges, or different coloured hats/hair, or at least wore identifying clothing, but that's never going to happen. So I shall continue embracing total strangers, amd ignoring friends. And if you're either, please don't take offence.

I can't help it, you see. It's a Condition.

*B has just become a follower. He took pity on me being stuck at 99. We Face Blind are basically very caring people.

Friday 19 October 2012

Old stones

We live near Avebury. There are ancient stones in Avebury. Some of them are in a circle, and some are not. People come from far and wide to look at/pray by them. At any time of day or year, there they are (the people); looking at the stones. I saw them yesterday on my way back from visiting John in hospital, in the p***ing rain, in their woolly hats and scarves. Looking at the stones.

Now, I have nothing against the stones In fact. I'm sure I'm missing something. But they are stones, and they are old, and many people think they're wonderful. But aren't all stones old, by definition? Each with its own little past?

But  the bank  -  (see picture) -  is wonderful for rolling down (if you are young. I tried rolling down a bank fairly recently, and found that at my age, it doesn't really work). And the hills are beautiful, and great for picnics, and there are some wonderful old oak trees. In fact, I really like Avebury.

Just not the stones.

(And just in case someone rises up in furious defence of the stones, please remember that (a) I have nothing against them and (b) like you, I am entitled to express my opinion. But if you like them, please do tell me why.)

Wednesday 17 October 2012

A tense situation

I have wondered for many years why it is that we use the past (or maybe it's the subjunctive?) tense in some situations.

Example: you go into a shop, and the assistant asks "what were you looking for?" It's as though you stopped looking for whatever it was as soon as you crossed the threshold (which, in itself, begs the question: why are you here, if you no longer want what you came in for?).

I just wondered.

Monday 15 October 2012

Magpie 139


"Waste of electricity's obscene.
Turn off the light! We must think Green!"
"I've got no time for politics.
 But still, you're right. Now, where's that switch?"

They turned the light off. In the gloom
They stumbled blindly round the room.
Bumped into things, and tripped, and swore,
And ended up upon the floor.

"This is no good, The answer's plain.
We'll have to turn it on again."
"No no! We can't.Had you  not thought?
We're burglars! We could get caught!"

(A very poor effort at the end of a bad week. But thanks, all the same to, Tess at Magpie Tales)

Sunday 14 October 2012

...and now it's butterflies

Earlier this week I posted about the poor woman who was prosecuted for giving paracetamol to her cat. Well, now the RSPCA has turned its attention to butterflies.

Apparently Damien Hirst's latest opus involves a room filled with 9000 butterflies. Setting aside the "art" aspect, apparently the insects are provided with food, so that's ok. But wait a minute. Some of them have been brushed off clothing, or trodden on, and have succumbed, and the RSPCA (bless them) are very upset.

This begs two questions. Firstly, have the RSPCA really got nothing better to do? And secondly, would they be so bothered if this involved, say, slugs or wasps? My grandchildren were particularly thrilled at the sight of wasps crawling into a wasp trap at a National Trust site this summer. Where were the RSPCA then, as the wasps slowly drowned in syrup? Or what about flea powder? That probably hurts (if you're a flea), slug pellets (ditto), and those revolting fly papers?

Ah. But butterflies are pretty, aren't they? So that's it!

Silly me.

Friday 12 October 2012

My own annus horribilis

This year just goes from bad to worse for us. It started with a family tragedy, then the death - timely, but sad - of my uncle, moved seamlessly through several horse accidents and then Titch's death, and now John has fallen and broken his hip.

Why am I sitting here blogging? Because John is in theatre, and I can't settle to anything else. Waiting is horrible, isn't it. My kids have been marvellous, insisting on coming down in relays, and I'm just sitting in a useless heap. Moaning into the blogosphere...

But the sun is shining. That's got to be good, hasn't it?

Wednesday 10 October 2012

The world's gone mad. Again.

In today's paper is an account of a woman who was "successfully prosecuted" by the RSPCA.

What had she done? Boiled puppies? Put the hamster in the microwave? Ridden a goat to work? No. All she had done was misguidedly given her cat, who was in pain, a quarter of a paracetamol tablet. The cat, apparently unable to metabolise the drag, died.

This poor woman, who was only trying to relieve her pet, had to undergo the trauma of a trial, pay £280 costs, and be given a "two year conditional discharge". And this in a country where we still keep battery chickens, and send animals abroad for slaughter in appalling conditions. Legally.

A few years ago, one of my sons was knocked off his motorbike by a driver going through red traffic lights. He suffed a compound fracture of the leg, had to have two operations, and still has a metal pin in his leg. And the driver? Her fine wasn't much more than the cat-owner had to pay, and she had just five points on her licence.

Isn't it good to know that we have sound priorities in this country of ours?

Tuesday 9 October 2012

New fridge

We have a new fridge. Exciting, or what? Yes. Exciting. Because it's shiny and clean, with no horrible wilting vegetables or bits of things I've forgotten about. So. New fridge; new resolutions:

Keep enough milk
Ditto beer (for visiting sons)
Spare butter (but only one)
Ditto marge
Maintain stock of small Coca Cola bottles (I can't stand it. My grandchildren can)
Keep a few eggs.

Hoard tiny amounts of leftovers, and only throw them away when they have grown green fur. I know they will grow green fur, and soon. I know all about green fur; I have in my time grown acres of the stuff. So why wait?
Keep spare egg yolks, in case I feel like making mayonnaise. I won't make mayonnaise. I haven't made it for years. Meanwhile, the yolks gradually harden, then crack, and are impossible to prise out of their container.
Keep a fragment of cauliflower/cabbage or similar. It's not enough to use, and it will grow green fur (see above)
Keep carrots if I can bend them. Carrots that bend are a Bad Thing, and I won't be using them.
Keep a quarter of a bottle of tonic water. It will go flat. In fact, it's probably already flat. Flat tonic water is horrible.
Hoard cheese, unless there's enough of it underneath the green fur to make it worth scraping clean. I have an enormous hunk of Parmesan that has to be scraped regularly.

There. I can't wait to get started

Friday 5 October 2012

High spirits

They say drinking gin
Is a sin.
And whiskey can make you
Quite frisky..
But nothing rhymes
With vodka.

(Just practising)

Thursday 4 October 2012

National Poetry Day

Today is apparently
National Poetry Day.
I am not a poet.
I cannot write of views and sunsets
Or pen a little ode to love.
But I can write the kind of thing
That looks like a poem, but isn't.
Like this.

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Proud mum

My lovely daughter (who was originally a nurse and is the busy mum of triplets) is presenting (again) on the QVC shopping channel at 8pm tonight. And while she says "oh, Mum! It's not  a big deal!", I think it is, because never in a million years could I imagine being able to sell shoes on TV. So do have a look at her if you can, because not only is she a wonderful daughter, but she is kind and funny and....well, she's mine!

PS you might even want to buy the shoes...?

Tuesday 2 October 2012

My lovely male genes

Well, here's some good news. Apparently if you are a woman who has borne sons (I have three), some of the male genes cross over and lodge themselves in the brain. We're not talking hormones here. I shan't be trimming my beard and saying farewell to my boobs (which suckled said sons). But I should be able to dismantle the car, not listen, lose my socks. That kind of thing.

Well, I think this is all bo****ks. Not only do I know exactly where my socks are, but I've just totally failed to instal a new and apparently simple phone. (Husband has also failed, but he's not well, so he doesn't count at the moment). Our clever (male) neighbour is out, and lovely helpful James down the lane is busy (though he did say that his mum, who has four sons, doesn't appear to have any male genes either).

Oh, and the fridge has died.

It's been that kind of day.

Monday 1 October 2012

Magpie 137


They found her body, fork in hand,
Beneath the window sill.
She'd said they didn't understand
That she'd been feeling ill.

And afterwards, there was much talk;
Who'd get the spoon? and who, a fork?
Alas, her friends are grieving still.
For Sally never left a Will.
(With thanks to Tess at Magipe Tales for the picture)

Thursday 27 September 2012

The dangers of medication

You know those terrifying lists of side effects you get with any packet of pills? The ones that begin with skin rashes, and proceed via headaches, nausea, convulsions etc. towards the eventual demise of the patient?

Well, yesterday I purchased some lozenges for a sore throat.Enclosed, was a piece of paper, closely written on both sides, with all the necessary (?) instructions. Admittedly, the list of side-effects wasn't as comprehensive as some, but still, it was there. Plus an injunction to contact your doctor or pharmacist "if anything unusual happens".

I like this. I like the idea of phoning the doctor or pharmacist, and informing him/her that there is a strange man rifling through my dustbin, or what could be a UFO floating above the house. It sounds like fun. There is also the instruction not to take two of these lozenges at once, if I should forget to take one(??), and a handy descripton of the lozenges : "a red circular lozenge". Yes. I can see that. Red, certainly. Circular, indeed. Not sure why I need this, unless I  keep the instructions but lose the lozenges, in which case I can scour the house for red, circular objects. Could be handy, I suppose.

I know pharmaceutical companies have to cover their backs, but do they have to use quite so much paperwork with which to do it?

Tuesday 25 September 2012

My new bestseller

Actually, my first bestseller, but no matter. This one can't fail.

First of all, my name. I have settled on Randy Trollope (I know there are already two, but you can't have too many Trollopes).

Book title: Fifty Glades for Fay.

This is the (very) erotic tale of a very randy (ha) wood-nymph, who has an affair with an equally randy centaur. They start of with a little foreplay; beatings and ticklings with twigs; that kind of thing. But they rapidly move towards the heavy stuff, so as not to bore the reader.

One of the "glades" is full of instruments of delighful S&M torture, and they make full use of these. They then move on through a succession of ever more exciting/sexy Glades, until they reach The Last Glade; a huge bed of moss and lichen (romantic, eh?). Here, they really get going, He adorns her**** with leaves and flowers, and she does the same to his *******. Then they rub ******s and insert twigs (these two are into twigs) into each other's *******s, and daub their *****s with mud and fircones. She screams. He groans. Ecstasy for both protagonists.

 But hold on. Do we hear the sound of hoofbeats?

Enter the anti-hero; a naked wizard (you have to have a wizard in the best of bestsellers), on horseback (the horse is my one indulgence),  with the biggest ***** Fay has ever seen, and his wand pointed directly towards her *****.  She gasps, and  suddenly, disaster! Because the wizard ....

But you'll have to read the book to find out what happens next..

What do you think?

Monday 24 September 2012

Death row....again

Tomorrow, Cleve Foster, convicted of a murder of which he still maintains his innocence, is set to  face Texas's " death chamber" for the fourth time. On the three previous occasions, he's been given a last-minute stay of execution. Three times before , he has been taken on the hour long journey from
death row, and twice he even had time to be served his "last meal", before the  news came through that the execution was to be halted.

The US likes to believe that it does not carry out "cruel and unusual punishments". I rest my case.

PS Correpondents are still desperately needed for death row inmates (in Texas, the inmates are kept in solitary confinement ALL THE TIME). Please think about it.

Sunday 23 September 2012

Magpie 136

A tabloid newspaper holds an editorial meeting to select an image for its front page

That could be Prince Harry in a wig
On the right. But the bottom's too big.
We can't use the duck,
And the plane is too - plain.
The whirlpool is rubbish.
It's, frankly, insane.
I've run out of ideas now. To be honest, it's
A terrible shame we've no shots of Kate's t**s.

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

Saturday 22 September 2012

"Only 94 days to go....

....until Christmas!" cried my ecstatic granddaughter on the phone last night. "I'm sooooo excited!" And she went on to tell me all her plans, and how she was going to raise money to buy presents, and how there was only Halloween to go and then ...and then...and then...

And I started wondering when it was exactly that I stopped being soooooo excited about Christmas, and began to dread all that hype, and the ghastly catalogues, and the appalling tunes with which we are bombarded in shops,  and the desperate, miserable faces of shopppers as they scurry around buying those "gifts" which are of no use at all, but are the last resort of the desperate (odd-flavoured vinegars, with plants floating in them; useless little boxes of tiny soaps, which are of no use unless you are a very clean dwarf;  scented candles designed to make the house smell like a brothel; tiny diaries, when you've had your new one for weeks etc etc;).

For years, I "did" Christmas for the whole family, plus extras, and had nightmares about it for weeks beforehand. I remember one night, weeping because I hadn't made the mince pies, with my poor husband saying "but nobody likes mince pies!" It was fun, usually, when the kids were small (opening stockings at 4am springs to mind),  but now, things seem different, and the Christmases seem to hurtle round with increasing speed, and this year, we haven't even had a summer in between.

So, darling Phoebe, I'm sooooo glad you're excited about Christmas, and of course, I lied, and said I was, too. But actually, I'm not. Not at all. Although with you there, I know it will be fun.

Thursday 20 September 2012

Grey Men at the Top

At the head of British politics
Are David, Nick and Ed.
Oh, for some personalities,
With integrity, and qualities
Of statesmanship and leadership

(This just to test new blogger's paragraph spacing...)

Wednesday 19 September 2012

New blogger (again)

Well, it seems to have arrived again. My PC and I, for once in complete agreement, hate it. IPad, who is newer and more open-minded, seems to be awaiting the return of its jury. But we all have a problem. Spacing. This should be a new paragraph, but probably isn't, because New Blogger (at least, my version) appears to be trying to save space. So: 1. Does anyone else have this problem? 2. How do you deal with it? Apologies if this all comes out in one crowded para, but thats what keeps happening. I hate change. Sigh.

Monday 17 September 2012

Amazon reviews - how much can you trust them?

A few weeks ago, I posted a review of a book for the Amazon Vine programme. It was critical, because I didn't like the book, and thought the writing was poor. But I was polite, and did say I hoped that others might enjoy it. 36 out of 45 people voted my review as "helpful".

Yesterday, someone posted a rather unpleasant riposte, saying that they had enjoyed the book, my review was unfair, and that "reviews were there to help authors". The comment was blunt to the point of rudeness, and inaccurate (reviews are written to help readers, not writers). But I posted a polite reply, pointing out that as a Vine reviewer, I was bound to say what I thought, but that I was glad that particular reader had enjoyed the book, and mine was only one person's opinion.

Today, my review has suddenly disappeared, having been on Amazon for some weeks. This poses two questions:

1. How much say do authors (or their supporters) have in the removal of adverse reviews of their books? And (provided the reviews are not offensive), should they have any say at all?

2. Are Amazon reviews worth as much as they are thought to be worth, given that they are open to abuse? At least one large, well-known publishing house has, to my certain knowledge, employed one of its editors to write good reviews of its books, under a pseudnoym.

I take time and trouble to write what I hope are fair reviews, based on my opinion of the books I read. I try to respect their authors, knowing only too well how hard it is to write a novel at all, but it would be almost impossible to feel positive about all the books I am sent.

Am I wasting my time?

My recipe for special pastry

I make pastry. I never buy the shortcrust kind, because it's so easy to make, right? So when making a special, large quiche for visitors at the week-end, I got out all my ingredients, and proceeded. Here is my recipe:

1. Put ingredients into food processor. Whizz.
2. Notice mixture's a bit crumbly, but that's good isn't it? Nice, short pastry. Congratulate self.
3. Rest pastry in fridge (I have never seen the point of this. Sometimes I do it, sometimes I don't, but I was Cooking to Impress).
4. Take pastry from fridge, and roll out. Still a bit crumbly, but never mind.
5. Fit pastry into flan dish.
6. Pastry disintegrates. Say some bad words and put it back in food processor with more water. Whizz.
7. Pastry disintegrates even more.
8. More bad words. Tip pastry into bin.
9. Survey scene of devastation.
10. Trip to Sainsburys, where I buy more ingredients, and, to be on the safe side, some ready-made shortcrust pastry (try not to let anyone see this, as I am ashamed).
11. Back home. Decision time. Make more pastry, or use the ready-made?
12. Decision made. Roll out the ready-made pastry, and use.
13. Wonderful results (to look at). Feel relieved, if rather ashamed.
14. Upshot: Flan looks great, but pastry awful (sorry, Sainsburys).
15. Resolve to do better next time.

PS there is no copyright for this recipe. Feel free to try it.

Sunday 16 September 2012

Magpie 135


They danced on the ceiling,
They danced on the floor.
When he asked for a breather,
She begged him for more.
She, as high as a kite,
Cried, "no time to relax!"
By the end of the night,
They were flat on their backs.
"Oh get up, you sluggard!"
In fury, she said.
But her words fell on deaf ears.
Her partner was dead.

(With thanks to Tess at Magpie Tales - and Salvador Dali - for the picture.)

Friday 14 September 2012

Important scientific research (my own)

Much time and money seems to be spent by worthy scientists, isolated from reality in their laboratories, discovering things most of us already know. Well, here's one of my own, and it took no time at all, and I won't be charging for it. Are you ready? Ok. Here goes.

The reason most men wear their hair parted on the left is because most women are right-handed. And when these men were small, their right-handed mothers stood in front of them with the hairbrush in their right hands. Equipped thus, it was easier to brush the hair from left to right, leaving the parting on the left. Have you got that?

Simple, eh?

Thursday 13 September 2012

Elderly? Moi?

Apparently 97% of over-65s object to being called elderly, and I can't blame them. It's a horrible expression (as is senior citizen and silver surfer...ugh!). But what's the alternative? It would seem that there's no pleasant word to describe those of us in this position. "Middle-aged" is pretty grim, too, but it does imply there's still fuel in the tank, but we "elderly" have long since reached the summit, and are now free-wheeling down the other side. At speed.

But my Grannie - pictured above with my cousin, and younger than I am now when the photo was taken - now, she was elderly. She was big and bosomy, wore elasticated knee length knickers, her hair always in a bun. She always wore a hat, and never, ever, trousers of any kind. Her hair was grey, and her teeth were not her own (although I never saw her without them). She did little in the way of chores, although I do recall her dead-heading the roses.

None of this was her fault. She was of her generation. But things have changed (thank heavens), and my generation are on the whole different. I wear jeans all the time, have no idea what colour my hair is supposed to be, and possess all my own teeth. I do things she would never have dreamed of doing, and only very occasionally wear a hat. I still can't believe I'm the age I am, and keep checking my birth date, hoping that I've got it wrong.(I haven't).

So. Can anyone think of a better word to describe people who are now classed as elderly? Or do we have to be categorised at all? Any ideas?

Tuesday 11 September 2012

The enduring joy of Poohsticks

On Saturday, I cheered myself up by joining my son and his family for a picnic. We spent a happy hour or so playing Poohsticks on this bridge. Passers-by, who had to climb over (some of) us were not amused, but we had a great time.

I lost.

Monday 10 September 2012

In Memoriam

The day I first met you, you had travelled from Wales, and were standing shyly at the back of your box; big, leggy, dark, with huge brown eyes These were new surroundings, we were new people; you weren't sure what to make of any of us. But later on, we went for a gentle hack, and we started to get to know one another.

There are so many memories. The times you took off with me, and I wasn't sure whether we would stop; you never seemed to tire. The spooking at imaginary hazards, and some not so imaginary. That place where a gate leads up to the top of the hill, and you knew that if we went through it, it would take longer to get home. You would tiptoe past that gate, hoping I hadn't noticed, and if you got your way, you would then put on a triumphant burst of speed and tear home.

We spent many hours on the downs together, you looking for things to spook at, and me writing stories in my head and absorbing the stunning views. People would stop us to admire you, and of course they were right. You were so beautiful, and you always attracted attention. I believe that you enjoyed it.

We were out together, that last time, a week ago today. A beautiful sunny day, and we had cantered round the wheat fields, and were on our way home, when disaster struck. It was out of the blue, for both of us; competely unexpected, for you had been so well and so happy.

Titch, you were in such pain, and we couldn't do anything to help you. The vet came as soon as he could, but it seemed as though we had to wait for ever. You kept leaping to your feet, kicking and struggling, fighting the pain, before collapsing again until you were exhausted. There was nothing we could do to reassure you; no comfort we could offer. You were, literally, beyond help. That picture has haunted me all week; your beautiful dark body, under a tree, against the green of the grass.

And that's where you died. The vet came just in time to do that for you, and as I saw the light fade from your eyes for the last time, I sat beside you and wept. It all seemed such a terrible waste.

I miss you terribly. I miss the sound of your whicker when you heard me coming, and your soft nose and that enquiring look you gave when you wanted a titbit. I miss our hacks together and I miss just looking at you and being with you. I miss everything about you.

One day, I shall get another horse, but I know that there will never be another one like you. You are, quite simply, irreplaceable.

(Please forgive me if you find this sentimental, but I needed to write it)

Sunday 9 September 2012

Magpie 134

Compared with Tracey's unmade bed,
And Damien's diamond-studded head,
I clearly see this must be art.
But that's (of course) the easy part...

My eye, in desperation, scans
The bulging muscles, clutching hands.
The dangling scarves, the table leg,
The solitary sky-blue egg.

And now, at last, I must admit:
I can't make head nor tail of it.

(With thanks to Tess at Magpie Tales. Picture: Breakfast, by Fernard Leger)

Thursday 6 September 2012

Help! New Blogger is on the way...

Periodically over the past months, New Blogger had pounced and tried to make itself at home here. I'm ashamed to say I've had to get professional help each time to get it to go away.

But now, the threats are mounting. Apparently it's imminent, and there will be nothing we can do to avert it. How is anyone else dealing with this crisis, and has anyone managed to master it yet? I cannot for the life of me see what it has to offer in the way of improvement. Please prove me wrong!

Wednesday 5 September 2012

Lovely book review

My new novel, Basic Theology for Fallen Women, has received this lovely review from one of the top Amazon reviewers. I need good news at the moment, so this is really nice.

Thank you, Lincs Reader.

Monday 3 September 2012

RIP Titch

Why am I blogging sbout this? I honestly don't know. I guess my blog is a kind of outlet. Whatever.

My beloved, beautiful Titch collapsed suddenly this morning while we were out together. After a dreadfully distressing couple of hours, it was was decided that he should be put down, as his chances of survival were virtually nil. I don't know what I shall do without him. He was, quite literally the most beautify horse I have ever seen, and I was so lucky to have him. Life will never be quite the same again.

Sunday 2 September 2012

Magpie 133

"I like the colours," Enid said,
"The greys, the blues, those bits of red.
"But what's disturbing me the most's
Those figures. They resemble ghosts."

Mike disagreed, put in a bid,
And took it home for fifty quid.
He wanted his own way, and said,
"It should look great above our bed!"

This story's moral's plain to see:
It's wise that couples should agree.
For that decision changed Mike's life.
He gained a picture, but lost a wife.

(With thanks, as always, to Tess at Magpie Tales)

Saturday 1 September 2012

A new Olympic sport

And that is (cue drumroll) opening modern packaging.

Not such a silly idea as it sounds. It often requires teeth, long nails (mine are short), several sizes of scissors, and a very great deal of patience. On the sporty side, it requires skill, dexterity, and lots and lots of practice.

The worst of all, in my experience, are electric toothbrushes. These come tightly encased in plastic which has the toughness of an elephant's hide combined with the recalcitrance of a driver wearing a hat (see previous post). It has been known for two of us, armed with an assortment of implements, to take the best part of twenty minutes even to touch the actual toothbrush, never mind extract it.

So. For the Olympic Package Opening, I suggest five electric toothbrushes, to be opened against the clock, without any tools, by competitors wearing fingerless leather mittens.

You read it first here.

Thursday 30 August 2012

Drivers with hats

There is a kind of driver that I call a Sunday Driver. They take a little spin in the country - not necessarily on a Sunday (and not necessarily in the country, come to that) - and hold all the rest of us up. They usually wear hats.

Let me explain. I have a theory that drivers have a speed centre around the crown of their heads, and that a hat (the best is a trilby) depresses the speed centre and causes the driver to drive - Very. Slowly. Indeed. Like. This. Holding up all the traffic beind them. These drivers don't use their wing mirrors, so have no idea that they are interfering in everyone else's plans.

I also hate tail-gaters, but enough of this for today. It's been a tiresome day, what with Sunday drivers and tail-gaters (and a lot of driving), and I'm now going to go away and read a relaxing book.

And eat chocolate.

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Technobabble, my granny, and button B

It's my generation, of course, though that shouldn't be an excuse.

Take yesterday. HTML, right? You know what it means, I don't. But I need to. So I Google it. And surprise surprise - the explanation for things technical is so shrouded in more things technical, that I am no wiser. It is like those old safety curtains at the theatre. A screen comes down and on it is written these chilling words. YOU WILL NOT UNDERSTAND THIS.I am frustrated, and very cross with myself. And the screen.

Why can't someone somewhere explain these things. Very. Simply. In. Words. Of. One. Syllable? For people like me?

And then I thought of my granny. Years ago, I tried to get her to use a phone box. Easy. Just put your money in, then press button A if there's a reply, or button B to get your money back. What could be easier?

"Oh no!" said Granny, backing away as from the phone box as though it were some man-eating wild beast "I could never do that!"

At the time, I didn't understand. I do, now. After a lifetime of change, Buttons A and B were a challenge too much. She had had enough.

So have I.

Sorry, Granny. I wish I'd been more understanding at the time.

(PS if anyone understands HTML and can use simple, plain English, please tell me where I can find them.)

Sunday 26 August 2012

Magpie 132

She said, "this will do,
And it's got a nice view.
But it's big, and, well, bijou it ain't."
He corrected her grammar
And said (with his stammer),
"It just needs some p-p-p-paint."

(The best I could do after a week of visitors. Thanks once again to Tess at Magpie Tales for the picture.)

Saturday 25 August 2012

I don't want to see Prince Harry's bottom

Am I the only person to be terribly bored by this whole subject? Is there really nothing better to preoccupy the purveyors of news and newspapers? The Times has devoted double spreads three days running (and several articles) to the subject, but today, it pompously tells us that while it doesn't choose to print Those Photos, it thinks other papers are entitled to, since they are freely available on the internet. What it doesn't seem to see is that people who see them on the internet choose to see them; presumably, they search them out. If readers see them in the paper, they have no choice (unless they buy The Sun deliberately).

As for bottoms - and other bits - as a nurse, a mother of sons, a wife, I know what they look like. Yes, they differ. A bit. But THEY ARE NOT INTERESTING, even if they are Prince Harry's (I haven't seen the photos, but I don't suppose he is very different from anyone else).

That's it. I'll shut up now.

Thursday 23 August 2012

Why the menopause?

Yet another "scientific study" has come up with the this ridiculous exlanation for the menopause: (in summary) it's there so that there are plenty of grannies to look after the new generation, rather than carry on breeding themselves.

No no NO! It's perfectly obvious to me why women reach a manopuase; if fertility continued into old age, who would look after all those babies? Given that it takes about 18 years to see them to maturity, we need those extra post-menopause years to see them out of the nest. Also, as any grandmother will tell you, we are TOO TIRED to go on producing babies for ever. Some of us want to travel, write books, paint picture, climb Everest. This is OUR TURN. The kids will have theirs. OK?

This argument presupposes that men, whose fertility persists interminably, are incapable of seeing those same babies out of the nest. Well, let's face it; in some cases (not all, but some) it could just be right.

I do wish these scientists would stop wasting years of "research" on these silly projects, and just ask us. It would save so much time.

Monday 20 August 2012

All the world loves a lover?

No, it doesn't. All the world may be pleased that the lovers have found each other, and that they're happy, but I doubt very much whether we love them.

Think about it. That couple eating each other's faces off on the street corner. Do we love them? Of course we don't. The other day, we were out having a pizza, and the couple at the next table were obviously deeply in lurve. So much so, that when he went to the loo, their farewells verged on the ridiculous, and upon his return he was greeted like an oil rig worker who'd been toiling away in the stormy North Sea for six months. So bad was the situation that I was tempted to go over to them and say: "OK, guys. So you love each other. That's great. Now please take yourselves off home to bed, and get it out of your system, because you're putting me off my Fiorentina (with extra spinach).

(I'm afraid I'm still being a grumpy cow.)