Wednesday 27 February 2013

Ode to winter 2012/13

The poet wrote, "if winter comes
Can spring be far behind?"
He must have been deluded, for
I think that you will find
The answer's "yes!" For all agree
This winter's been a bummer.
And what is worse, while we still freeze,
And wade in mud up to our knees,
While leaden skies ignore our pleas...
There still aren't any guarantees
We'll ever get a summer.

I HATE winter.

Monday 25 February 2013

Magpie 157

Gaint  balls of fluff upon my t**s,
My knees, my chest, and other bits.
The passers-by all point and scoff
Because I cannot take them off.
So they remain, for all to see.
But hey! They're 'armless! Just like me.

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

Thursday 21 February 2013

Preventing colds... difficult. But I have for some time sworn by echinacea if I think I feel one coming on. It usually works.

But. I have one imminent at the moment, and I really, really don't want it at the moment (birthday party - yes, that again - on Sunday).

Obvious answer - the internet. This tell me that "colds are often caught form people you've never met". Really? Tips include dancing with yourself (?) , singing in the shower, and/or  gargling with salt water (that always makes me feel as though I'm drowning). Oh, and people who have sex at least twice a week are less likely to get colds than people who don't (these researchers don't seem to take into account that people who are too tired to have sex may also  be too tired to resist colds). And garlic.

I opted for garlic. This, I was informed, can be done by finely cutting up a clove of raw garlic, and mixing it with a spoonful of honey. I tried this last night, and rather foolishly got tangled up with the problem  of whether to put the honey in the spoon and then stick framents of garlic to it, or fill the spoon with the garlic first, and then risk polluting the honey with stray fragements. It didn't work terribly well until a friend, amid gales of laughter, pointed out that it would have been more sensible to mix the two together first.

I've just done this. Not sure whether it works or not, and I probably smell terrible. But I'll keep you posted.

PS Any other cold cure ideas welcome!

Tuesday 19 February 2013

I don't want to eat horse, but...

...for goodness' sake - enough already! Okay, so the subterfuge involved in this "scandal" is thoroughly reprehensible, but haven't the media better things to bang on about?* This story has run its course. Time to move on.

Ethics aside, I happen to think that we owe it to the animal that has pulled, carried and died in countless battles with us not to eat it, but there are people starving, and here we are, (most of us) with enough to eat, bellyaching because we might have pony in our pizza?

*Ooh yes. Hilary Mantel has been rude about Kate. Well, that should take our minds off silly little problems (like the appalling suffering in Syria) for a week or two. Phew!

Monday 18 February 2013

Birthday (continued)

Well, it's happened. This morning, I found I could still get out of bed, run donwstairs (carefully), make breakfast, walk into town...I had wondered whether all this would change, but I seem much the same as I was yesterday. Phew. Perhaps it's not quite as bad as I thought it would be. Wonderful daughter came with cake and snowdrops and presents, and John is cooking steak for dinner.

But. I need to make better use of time. I'm going to make a kind of bucket list/list of resolutions. Some of them are as follows:

Waste less time. Very difficult.
Do less blogging.  "         "
Finish the novel. After all, my agent likes it, and while she says there are no guarantees in the current climate (I know  that!) I shouldn't waste 36,000 words, should I?
Write more short stories. I've just sold three, so that should be an incentive, but it doesn't always work like that.
Do some volutary work. It used to be Relate couselling (whch was mainly unpaid), but now I need to find something else. Apart, that is, from writing to my death row prisoner.
Have singing lessons. I've sung in a choir for years, and want to learn to make the most of the minimal ability I've got.
Take at least one item a week to the Oxfam shop. That means pruning books : (
Do one grotty job a week (clear out the larder, ditto the courtyard, clean the disgusting utility-area-cum-shed at the back of the house, scrub the moss off the get the idea).
Clean the car more than once every three years. Moss on the windows is not a good look.
Get back the nerve I lost when I had three horse accidents last year. I've become something of a wimp since then, and need to pull myself together. (And teach Fairfax that he's not the boss.)

Looks impressive, doesn't  it?


Sunday 17 February 2013

My birthday... tomorrow. It's a big birthday. A very big birthday. And I can't quite believe it's happening. It's the kind of thing that happens to other people; like winning the lottery (nice), or being run over by a bus (not nice).

I've had this strange compulsion to tell everyone. In shops and at social occasions and the place where I keep the horse, I find myself telling everyone within earshot (and now in the blogosphere). Not because I'm proud, but because I'm appalled. Nonetheless,  I want everyone to know. I want to be reassured that I won't become human wallpaper; disappear; be ignored.

But we're having a big party next weekend, and that will be lovely. The upside, you might say.

Oh, and if anyone wants to give me a little present, and you're not a follower of this blog, please be my number 110. 109 looks....untidy, somehow.

Friday 15 February 2013

Guilty until proved innocent...

...and even afterwards, quite often.

People used to face a trial before they were pronounced guilty, but not any more. Trial by media has changed all that, especially in paedophile cases. As you've probably heard, a well-known soap actor has just been charged with sexual offences against children; charged and publicly named. So his reputation  will be in ruins, whether or not he's found guilty. Paedophiles, as we all know, are considered the lowest of the low, and once someone is given that label, it will stick, whether deserved or not.

I cannot understand why the identities of these people are diclosed. Surely, in the interests of justice, they should remain anonymous until convicted. It seems to me outrageous that someone should be "named and shamed" (how I hate the expression!) before they are even tried. This man may be guilty - who knows? But until the charges are proved his name should be kept out of the public domain.

Tuesday 12 February 2013

Reading the writing of friends

Colette has posted her blog about the problems connected with giving friends your writing to read, and this is a big dilemma for many of us, readers and writers.

Now, I would never, ever take a friend's opinion as valid; even if that friend happened to be a publisher or editor. Because (most) friends don't want to hurt you, however they feel about your work, and it takes a tough person to risk killing off a friendship because they told the truth about a bad piece of writing. It would be like telling them their precious baby was ugly*.

Some time ago, a very  good friend of mine, S, gave me his 100,000 word novel to read. Big mistake, on both our parts. The novel was terrible, in every possible way. He had broken every rule in the book, it was dull and it was badly written. I confess that I didn't get far with it, but then I had to give a verdict...

Readers, I lied. I didn't say this would be a runaway best-seller, but I (very gently) suggested improvements, and pointed out the more obvious errors and repetitions. However,  I did it so nicely (?) that S was greatly encouraged, and went back to beaver away at his novel. It was never published.

What, if any, experiences have you had, on either side of the reading/writing fence?

*I once almost did this. Confronted with one of the ugliest babies I have ever seen, I said the first (or rather, second) thing that came into my mind:  "what a lovely babygro!" 

Sunday 10 February 2013

Magpie 155

For February the Twelfth - A 21st. Anniversary

We were young, newly-married,and money was in very short supply. Just once a week we went out, to the local pub, where (occasionally, if we were feeling flush) we ran to chicken and chips.

I remember so clearly you saying one night, as we stood at the bar:"just think - one day one of us is going to die in the other's arms!"

But it didn't happen that way, did it? On the morning you died, when the hospital phoned to tell me to come at once, I had to arrange for someone to care for the children, and then the car wouldn't start and I was late. Too late. So instead of dying in my arms, you died in a hospital ward surrounded by strangers.

I have sat with many people as they died, but I wasn't with you.

I can't even tell you I'm sorry.

(This is a sad time of year for me, and this picture immediately brought this memory to mind. Thanks to Tess at Magpie Tales for the picture)

Thursday 7 February 2013

I am ashamed say I was nurse.

Once, I was proud and happy to be one. I loved my job, was well trained (without a degree - imagine!), knew how to keep my patients comfortable, could resuscitate without any problems long before I qualified, knew when a patient was about to "go off", and as a ward sister, was happy to wipe bottoms or do anything else that was needed. Nursing was about looking after sick people.

And now the huge problem with Stafford Hospital. A doctor interviewed on Radio 4 put it succinctly: "once, nurses did their job because they cared. Now they take it up to get a degree". The goverment wants, among other things,  to appoint a "Senor Inspector of Hospitals.  No, no, NO! Start by getting the right candidates - there are plenty of young people who would make execellent nurses, but don't have the academic qualifications to reach degree level. I know there are good nurses out there - I've met them - but there are some truly appalling ones, too. How can anyone with an ounce of humanity leave patients to die in their own filth, or pass by a patient who is thirsty or in pain?  As I've said on my other (much-neglected) blog The Real Nurse Campaign, a good start would be to bring back the SENs; practical nurses with sound knowledge who want to look after people. To continue to throw money at the problem is sheer madness.

What do you think?

Tuesday 5 February 2013

Car park king and (another) disgraced politician

The king news astonishes me less that the fact that there is a Richard theThird Society, which itself confesses that "The Richard III Society may, at first glance, appear to be an extraordinary phenomenon."

Yep. You said it. But hey! If it gives you pleasure, please do go on enjoying  yourselves, and the full calendar of "events" scheduled for this summer. And don't worry, dear readers. Anyone can join.

Now to the other big news (it's not been a good week for burying bad news). Chris Huhne, as in disgrace of. While not exactly feeling sorry for him, I do think a prison sentence would be a bit steep. After all, many of the expenses-fiddling MPs got off far more lightly, and I think their crimes - stealing from tax-payers like us - were a lot worse.

But never mind, Chris. When you get out, you'll be paid a hefty advance for your memoirs (yes. Of course I'm jealous. I was a writer before you), and then you'll appear on I'm a Celebrity, and from then on your rise will be meteoric, I promise.

You read it here first..

Sunday 3 February 2013


I really hate the system of tipping (as in paying someone twice for a service). This isn't because I'm mean, but because I find the whole thing cringily embarrassing. Whom to tip, and now much? On the rare occasions when I use a London taxi, I tend to over-tip wildly in my efforts to keep the driver happy (one of my sons was thrown out of a US taxi because he had apparently not given a big enough tip).

You ask for a service, you get it, you're charged, you pay. Fine. Then you pay a bit more. Why? I don't get tipped, and I doubt whether you do, either. I'm sure the whole thing was set up so that employers could pay their staff as little as possible, but wouldn't most of us prefer to pay a bit more for services, and not be expected to tip as well? At least we'd all know where we stood.

Yesterday, fourteen of us had lunch at a certain well known pizza place. I never add the tip to the credit card payment as I KNOW it doesn't go to the right person. I gave our lovely waiter a nice tip, and he kissed me on both cheeks.

Maybe there's something to be said for tipping after all....