Wednesday 29 February 2012

The wonderful logic of little boys

Two recent examples. I phoned my daughter, and her small son answered the phone.

Me: Hello, Max. Is Mummy there?
Max: Yes.
Long pause while I wait for me daughter, then:
Me: Max?
Max (still there): Yes?
Me: Could I speak to her, please?
And off he went to fetch her. Because, of course, I hadn't asked to speak to her; I'd only asked if she was there. And he'd answered my question and was (presumably) politely waiting for the next one.

Second example. We had two grandsons, aged 8 and 9, staying over half-term. I asked them to go and run their bath, and I would be up in a minute. Off they went. But when I went to check, they had certainly run the bath - gallons of hot water were pouring in - but I hadn't asked them to put the plug in, so the bath was empty.

I shall know better next time.

Tuesday 28 February 2012

'Mrs. Stott has passed away...'

...has received the nicest response so far from a cold caller. He was very sorry, and rang off. 'Passed away' (not an expression I like or normally use) seems to work better than 'died'. Interesting.

(Frances Stott is my alter ego)

Monday 27 February 2012

Come and be tagged!

I'm not very good - no, not at all good - at doing the link thing. So passing on Patsy's 'tag' might prove a little difficult (not passing it on at all would be ungracious). So - some volunteers, please! I need people to answer these questions, and then, if you want to (and unlike me, if you can) pass on questions of your own to preferably eleven (why eleven? I have no idea) bloggers.

Now for the questions:

1. Why do you blog?

2. What do you think of the royal family (not the TV programme; the real deal)?

3. Who - if anyone - would you most like to resemble if you couldn't look like you?

4. What would you do if you had just one day to live (and unlimited funds)?

5. If you were to win the lottery, what would be the ideal amount for you to win?

6. And how would you spend it?

7. What's the best meal you've ever had?

8. And the worst?

9. What's your favourite charity?

10. If you had to live in a cardboard box, where would you put it?

11. If you could have your life over again, what single thing would you change?

Now, please don't be shy. Help yourself to a 'tag', and leave a link. And then pass it on (if you want to). Perhaps something to do in your coffee break?

Sunday 26 February 2012

Magpie 106

The kitchen towels are handy
If you're six foot tall, like Andy.
But he has to stoop
For soup.

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

Saturday 25 February 2012

Horse diaries

We returned from a lovely ramble - okay, dance - round the fields in the sunshine this morning. Titch had stopped shoving me round his box and was nuzzling my face.

Me: What do you want?
Titch: Well, since you're offering, a bit of grass? Just ten minutes? After all, it was my birthday yesterday (it was) and you forgot ( I did).

So I slip on his head collar, and hold the rope while he grazes on the patch of grass by his stable. With the sun on his back, he looks very cheerful

Titch: (between mouthfuls) So have you decided what to do with me yet?
Me: Not really. I suppose we could stop tearing about and concentrate on our flat work.
Titch: You mean, all that going round in cIrcles, and sideways and backwards, like some silly mare?
Me: That's about the sum oif it.
Titch: Boring.
Me: Too right it's boring. They do it in the Olympics, though.
Titch (brightening. He'll do anything for a bit of fame) : Are we good enough?
Me: We're both hopeless, and you know it.
Titch: Shall we just carry on as we are, then? I like it here.
Me: I like it here, too.

And this is so true. After the kind if week I've had (absolutely appalling. Don't ask), being around the horses and the horsey people makes everything so much better.

Titch (who can be quite wise sometimes, and who knows me well): I thought so. Got any carrots in the car?

Friday 24 February 2012

Caught by Patsy

I've been "tagged" by Patsy. I don't usually do this kind of thing, but since it's Patsy, I'll have a go. These are her questions:

Do you have a favourite word or phrase?
2. What do you like on your pizza?
Spinach and olives.
3. Where do you get you books from?
Amazon and the local bookshop.
4. Favourite drink?
Tea, best bitter and red wine.
5. Who would you most like to meet?
Judi Dench and Desmond Tutu (but not together)
6. And why?
Judi's a brilliant actress, seems a lovely perosn, and hasn't had her face rearranged. Tutu's what a Christian should be. And he has that amazing smile.
7. Favourite colour?
Denim blue.
8. Where have you never visited but would like to go?
South America.
9. Do you like hats?
10. What weather do you like best?
Warm and sunny, with a very slight breeze. Oh - and rain at night (because we need rain). But only at night.
11. Were these questions random enough?

I'll have to think about whom to send these on to. And the questions, of course...

Wednesday 22 February 2012

More cold calls

Two minutes ago:

Caller: Hello. My name is Randall. I want to ask you some questions about your household.
Me: I don't have a household. I've been thrown out of my house, and I'm living in a tent.
Caller: That doesn't matter. You can still answer some questions.
Me: It does matter! You try living in a tent! It's most uncomfortable, and ...
Caller: It doesn't matter. You can still answer a few questions...
Me: IT DOES MATTER! Have you any idea how uncomfortable this is, living in a tent like this? I haven't time to answer questions!
Caller: It doe -

Randall seemed to be very short on sympathy, so I put the phone down. I should have stuck to saying I was dead. That works much better.

Tuesday 21 February 2012

Happy birthday!


Eleven years ago.

Happy birthday to my beautiful grandchildren!

Sunday 19 February 2012

Magpie 105


He's ready for a change now
And goes by the name of Mike.
He travels in a phone box
And occasionally by bike.

So if you see him drifting by
Up in the sky near you,
Please raise your glass and drink a toast:
"Goodbye to Dr. Who!"

(With thanks to Tess at Magpie Tales)

Thursday 16 February 2012

Children, questions and the enduring fascination of poo

I have two small grandsons staying, and oh, the questions. They range from "is mustard a liquid?" (I don't know) to "if Neil Armstrong wanted to do a poo on the moon, did he have to pull down his space suit and do it in a crater?" (almost certainly not).

What is it with small children and poo? Four children and seven grandchildren on, and I think I've had enough poo jokes to last me well into eternity. I eventually said, "they ought to have a museum of poo, and leave you two in it for a few days. That should put an end to all this fascination". They laughed so much, I wished I'd never said it.

Ah well. They go home tomorrow. I shall miss them terribly.

Tuesday 14 February 2012

Fuzzy-Bear loves Cuddly Boo

Every year, I wonder why it is that some people find it necessary to pay good money to publish a little Valentine message in the newspaper. It doesn't look pretty, and presumably if your beloved is looking on the Valentines page, it isn't a surprise, either.

In today's Times we have Neil's message to Nicola: he is "very sorry" but loves her "SO MUCH". Buns wants to go on "papoosing" with Baby Ping. James is begging his "little German friend" not to go to Bristol (well, at least it's not back to Germany). Pretty Face loves Sweetcheeks; ditto Chimp and Dozzle. And so on and on and on...

Since these messages mean nothing (presumably) to anyone other than the happy couples in question, why spread them about? I don't care whether people's little German friends go to Bristol or whether Neil is sorry. Neither, I suspect, does anyone else.

Perhaps I'm just an old cynic. (But I did receive a Valentine.)

Monday 13 February 2012

Horse diaries (Yes. He's still here)

Titch: Oh. It's you.
Me: That's not much of a welcome after two weeks!
Titch: Any carrots?
Me: I wonder why I bother. I would have come last week, but the ground was frozen. On the one day when it wasn't, they phoned to say you were behaving so badly that it would be better not to. They said it took two of them to lead you up to the field.
Titch: (Brightening) Oh yeah. That was fun.
Me: That's not what I heard.
Titch: Well, they're wimps.
Me: You mean the same wimps who feed you, and look after you, and spoil you?
Titch: Yes. Well. I'm a thoroughbred, and my grandfather -
Me: I think we've all heard quite enough about your grandfather. He was a sucess; you are not. End of.

So off we set, down the road to the dairy. Horses love going to the dairy, not for any fondness for cows (Titch loathes cows) but because it's a short ride, usually for convalescent horses or bad weather conditions. At the moment, the ground is too risky to go anywhere else.

Titch (leaping about and snorting): OMG! What's that?
Me: That is some very small dogs in a locked car.
Titch: I don't like the sound of them.
Me: They're barking. That's what dogs do. They bark. You don't mind it when hounds bark!
Titch: That's different. Besides, hounds don't bark, they bay.

Titch can be such a snob sometimes. Anyway, we dance and snort our way to the dairy and back, and when we return to the yard, a nice family with three small children admire Titch and say how beautiful he is. Titch bridles (no pun intended) and sniffs them gently and is at his most endearing. Then he thumps me in the ribs with his very hard head.

Me: What was that for!?
Titch: Just to show you I'm not going soft. Because of those foals.
Me: Children. Human beings don't not have foals. They have children.
Titch: Children then. (Sighs). Got any more carrots?

Sunday 12 February 2012

Magpie 104

There was a young lady of Thrace
Who collected young men by the brace.
She ended up smothered
By five hundred lovers.
But she died with a smile on her face.

(With thanks to Magpie Tales for the picture)

Friday 10 February 2012

Waiting in

Well, we waited in all afternoon and evening for the gas man, and he never came (actually, we took it in turns, but it was still a bore). And John rang up the gas people, and it seems that the gas man is a gas woman, and John had to press lots of buttons, and was played horrible music, and was told over and over again about how wnoderful British Gas is, and if you need a bit of extra heating (read this carefully, because this tip is inspirational), turn on a fan heater! Now, who would have thought of that? British Gas, that's who.

I have long thought that it might be good (ie better paid than writing novels) to start a company: You have lots of nice, honest, well-vetted people - retired, perhaps? - who will go round to people's houses and 'wait in' for the gas man, the groceries, the new fridge or whatever, and maybe (for a small bonus) do a little light housework of gardening or bath the dog while they're there.

What do you think?

Wednesday 8 February 2012

Starting young

This evening, I received one of those very nasty chain letters (emails) from my ten-year-old granddaughter. Frightening, isn't it (but not in her sense)? Apparently the girl who sent it to her is terrified. My daughter now knows, and is speaking to the school about it, but I am just so grateful that my children were brought up pre-internet!

> TODAY, when you receive this mail...> You will be facing the decision of your LIFE...> You must take this seriously!> I never send mails like this!> But I really don't want to mess up your life!IF YOU SEND THIS TO LESS THAN 5 PEOPLE!!!> Tonight... You will see the most horrifying thing...EVER!!!> And you will have bad luck for the REST OF YOUR LIFE!!!> Send this to 10 people...> And your crush will SLAP YOU ON THE FACE...> Send this to 20 people and...> Your mum will give you the gift you wanted all the time...> IF you send this to everyone on your list...> Your wishes will come true and your crush will kiss you...> BUT! You only have 3 hours to do so!> So quick, pass this on...

(PS I haven't sent it on to anyone, so if this is my last post, you will know why. Aaaaaargh!)

Postcard from Evelyn Waugh

Some time ago, I referred to a rude postcard I received years ago from Evelyn Waugh. Someone wanted to know what it was about. Well, I've just unearthed it (I'm in the middle of clearing out a revoltingly dusty cupboard) and the card goes thus (I had written to asking him to speak to the Reading University Catholic Society):

Thank you for your kind invitiation to Reading. I must, alas, refuse as I have nothing whatever to say. E.W.

Well not rude perhaps so much as abrupt. Any offers? I don't know what to do with it.

I was telling my daughter about this when she phoned half-an-hour ago, and "who's Evelyn Waugh" says she. With her English A level, too.

I despair.

Tuesday 7 February 2012

Proving that this can be a literary blog. Sort of.

This time yesterday, I was reading Peter Rabbit to the group of prison inmates who are in my creative writing class. It felt rather odd - they are all big, mature guys, and they might have felt insulted - but they listened politely without interrupting. I was using Peter Rabbit as an example of short story form. It's brilliant. It has a beginning, middle and end, a hero (Peter) and villain (Mr. McGregor), danger (Mr. M again), conflict (Mr. M and Peter), and a resulution (Peter's escape). But not too cosy, because Peter gets punished and isn't allowed bread and milk and balckberries for supper* like his sisters, who were "good little bunnies" (and creeps, but enough of that).

The homework is to write the story from someone else's point of view; Old Mrs. Rabbit (Peters' mum) or Mr. McGregor. The last time I asked a class to do this, the results were absolutely brilliant, and hilarious. I'm looking forward to what comes up with my present class.

*Not a treat in my book, but each to his own.

Monday 6 February 2012

Proof that I can write serious poetry

I'm not a poet. I've never been a poet. But I did write this.

The hardest question
For the love that he left behind,
Saddle-sore but safe,
A tonic rather than a torment.
He tried to be worthy
But they'd got the cake.

Please read it carefully; try to find the meaning, if any.

Actually, I found it while looking out some notes for adult creative writing classes, and I'd forgotten all about it, but I rather like it (especially the poignant last line). I constructed it by taking random lines from newspapers.

But I don't suppose I fooled anyone.

Sunday 5 February 2012

Magpie 103

When Esme sank into the mud
She held a prism of frozen blood,
And horrified, the passers-by
Had but one question: "Esme, why?
If this is all some kind of trick
We think your sense of humour's sick."

But Esme's fingers, tapering, sharp,
Are now elsewhere. And play the harp.

(With thanks to Magpie Tales for the picture)

Saturday 4 February 2012

Lessons learnt yesterday

1. You cannot leave an elderly Ford Ka in the frost for a week and expect to get the ice off the windscreen in less than half an hour, however much spray you use.
2. The central locking on the other (posher, but still ten-year-old) car can get totally frozen up, so you can't get in, drive, or get to the station.
3. Trains are easily missed.
4. (Better news) Two ticket inspectors are capable of not noticing that the (booked) ticket for the missed train are being illicitly used on the next train (result!)
4. Taking a grown-up son to buy a suit for a Special Birthday present doesn't really work, as he is too old to be accompanied by mummy, and feels very awkward. So the suit doesn't get bought.
5. There's an Italian restaurant somewhere south of Oxford Street that serves horrible food. Son was very polite. I was disappointed (it was supposed to be part of the treat).
5. "Broken window in carriage A" is a new excuse for train being suddenly delayed. We were in Carriage A, and there was no sign of a broken window.
6. Yesterday was very, very, very cold (but then you already knew that).

Thursday 2 February 2012

War Horse

We went to see the film War Horse last night. A friend asked me whether, as a horse lover, I would be able to cope, and I said I thought I would. I love horses, but care more about people.

But oh dear! We - yes, both of us - thought it was absolutely awful. Sentimental, poor acting, athropomorphism gone mad...I could go on and on. I loved the stage play, largely because the "puppets" (such a demeaning word for such magnificent creations) were so amazing; in fact I thought that they were more convincing than the real horses in the film. Of course, the real horses were excellent, but they never for a minute looked as though they were in any kind of distress (I think anyone who has seen a panicking horse might agree). The idyllic countryside (with its neat rows of turnips, and this after the farmer had scattered the seed in great handfuls completely randomly) looked like the backdrop for Jack and the Beanstalk.

Of course, the sets for the trenches, the sound effects, the mud were all fine, but then no doubt a huge budget was allowed for them. But in the end, I was quite bored. I don't expect anyone to agree - so many people seem to have cried their way through what we thought was extravagant tosh - but it would be lovely to hear if anyone else felt the same way as we did!

Wednesday 1 February 2012

Death row - the last last meal

I promise I won't keep banging on about this, but I thought I'd post this as (a) it shows just how little feeling the state of Texas has for its death row inmates and (b) (perhaps hearteningly) that even at the end some people manage to have enough humour left to take the p*** out of the system! (This prisoner was executed last autumn.)

State prison officials decided on Thursday to end the practice of giving last meals to inmates about to be executed, their decision coming the day after they honored an elaborate meal request from Lawrence Russell Brewer, one of the men convicted in the 1998 racially motivated dragging death of James Byrd Jr. in Jasper.

Before Mr. Brewer was executed by lethal injection in the Huntsville Unit on Wednesday, he was given the last meal of his request: two chicken-fried steaks with gravy and sliced onions; a triple-patty bacon cheeseburger; a cheese omelet with ground beef, tomatoes, onions, bell peppers and jalapeƱos; a bowl of fried okra with ketchup; one pound of barbecued meat with half a loaf of white bread; three fajitas; a meat-lover’s pizza; one pint of Blue Bell Ice Cream; a slab of peanut-butter fudge with crushed peanuts; and three root beers.

The meal outraged State Senator John Whitmire, a Houston Democrat and chairman of the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. In a phone call and letter to the executive director of the state prison agency, Mr. Whitmire asked that the agency end the practice of last meals or he would get the State Legislature to pass a bill doing so.