Wednesday 27 March 2013

And talking of abuse...

No. This isn't a doll. This is a child,  just fifteen months old. She is taking part in a "beauty" pageant. In this country. Little girls as young as a few weeks take part, and some  are given wigs, full makeup and fake tans. They wear high heels, and "evening dress" in addition to their other outfits.

And we worry about the growing number of cases of  anxiety among teenagers concerning body image, and the increasing number of anorexics. Well, this will certainly help...

Monday 25 March 2013

Magpie 161


Most of us, I think you'll find,
Have face in front, and hair behind.
And when we're looking in the glass
Can tell our elbow from our a**e.
But spare a thought for poor old Jack,
Whose front's the image of his back.

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

Friday 22 March 2013

Letters from Death Row

My correspondent on Texas Death Row wants me to  name him; in prison, he is just a number. He writes:

Whenever you do talk about me, please use my name. I don't want to be hidden away. Not when a friend is your champion. I've been put on a shelf before and I was uncomfortable. Like my identity was stolen. That's all this prison does. They try to erase who we are and the best we can be and instead show what we are becoming and  the worst we have to offer.

 So. He is Irving Davis, and he's 30 year old. He's been on Death Row for 12 years, in solitary confinement ALL the time, in a metal cell with just a steel sink, loo and bunk. He is incredibly intelligent amd articulate; he paints and writes, when he can get the materials, and reads such books as he can get hold of. He may or may not be guilty of the crime for which he is convicted (many are probably innocent). It's not my job to judge or condemn him, but to be as much of a friend as I can be to him (I hate the expression "pen-friend" as it sounds so juvenile somehow).

In his last letter he writes of loneliness:

I did not know that aloneness could be so pervasive in one man's life. That my catchphrase would become, "I am alone". Not lonely. Just alone.

His family have all cut him off, although his father has said he can be buried in the family plot (no comment needed). Of his childhood he writes:

Basically my house was like a prison.You did your time and you left.

I cannot make excuses for what he might have done, but this is a man who was given little chance at the beginning, and is now given no opportunity for redemption. I think his execution date will be soon, as (he says) the warders all have it in for him. (Six people are alrady scheduled for April. Texas ha a very high turnover.)

A few weeks ago, he sent me a beautiful card. He has hardly any  money, and that card must have cost at least $2, without the postage. In it he wrote:

Thank you for this year that we've shared. Your grace and your patience has seen me through some dark days. I can't wait to see what this new year will bring us. Thank you. If all I can do is appreciate you, then I shall do my best. Stay golden, my friend.
With love and respect
Irving Davis

Are these the words of someone who is beyone redempton? I think not.

Irving has done for me at least as much as I have for him, but I don't think he can ever accept that this is so. When his time comes, I shall miss him more than I can say.

Tuesday 19 March 2013

The fox, the duck and the bag of corn

Do you find that your life sometimes become rather like this puzzle?

A man owned a Fox, a Duck, and a bag of corn. One day he was on the bank of a river where there was a boat only large enough for him to cross with one of his possessions.

If he left the fox and duck alone, the fox would eat the duck. If he left the duck and the corn alone. the duck would eat the corn. How did he get safely across the river with all three of his possessions?

You can do A, but not B. On the other hand, there's C to consider, and even D...My life is a bit like that this week.

(PS I am a lot better at solving the puzzle than sorting out  my life. Sigh.)

Monday 18 March 2013

Save the apostrophe!

There's a plot under way to do away with the poor beleaguered apostrophe. This little punctuation mark has been abused and attacked for years, but now it's apparently under real threat. 

I think this is all part of the lazy texting/abbreviating/generally-not-caring that's  currently prevalent  in written English, and I find it all very sad. The apostrophe's there for a reason; there's a big difference between it's and its, and to do away with it would lead to misunderstandings and ambiguities.

I also love the semi-colon (how many kids are taught how to use this?). And yet they go into overdrive over the exclamation mark (I know. I'm always banging on about exclamation marks). 

What is the world coming to?

(My iPad loves the apostrophe, so it's on my side. But if I don't catch it in time, it likes to change my name to France's...)

Friday 15 March 2013

Fairfax - settling in

Well, I've had my teeth done (long job; the dentist said they'd been badly neglected), am now up to date with my vaccinations, and have had my back sorted out (MUCH better), so I'm settling in nicely. Thank you for asking (well, some people did).

And the reason I'm looking a bit hangdog (why do dogs get into everything)? She's spent ages washing my legs, and I want my HAY. NOW!

Pretty please?

Wednesday 13 March 2013

Another winter grumble

It's not just the cold weather; I am also sick of my winter "uniform". I don't dress like Meike, who regularly posts enviable pictures of her stunning outfits. I'm far too lazy. I don't even have a "wardrobe" as such (unless you count the scruffy cupboard full of mistakes and worn out old jeans, among which lurk a couple of nice skirts in case I really do need to scrub up). I certainly don't have "pieces". I just have clothes. Scruffy ones, on the whole. My winter uniform, which I live in for up to six months of the year, is as follows:

Thermal vest (not because I'm old, but because I'm cold)
Shirt (usually white, £8 from Amazon. Amazing value, and they don't need ironing)
Jumper (variety)
Jeans (Gap, because I have long legs)
Socks (various)
Boots or trainers
(No. I don't go comando, but I don't wish to discuss my knickers. Though I will say that Devizes market sells some that are as good as M&S)

For riding:
Men's thermal long johns (Devizes market). They bulge in all the wrong places, but they're warm and cheap.
Men's thermal vest (market)
Women's thermal vest
Polo-neck top
Over-the-knee socks (Amazon. A present from my sister. Just wonderful!)
Riding boots (very, very old).

Does anyone else have a winter uniform? If so, what exactly is it? And  (most importantly) is it as boring as mine?

Saturday 9 March 2013

The upside of being seventy

...and let;'s face it, there aren't many But no matter. Yesterday evening, I did something I never thought I'd do.

But I'll start with G. G looks amazing for her age, and loves to tell people she's 97. She does it all the time. We all know she's 97, and all hope to look as good as she does if/when we make it. But I'm never going to do that, I thought. Getting old is bad enough, but telling everyone your age? Naaah.
Not for me.

Until last night.

Scene: church choir practice
Characters: New Alto and me

Conversation, as follows:

Me: (not fishing at all at this stage) I'm going to my daughter's fortieth, so I won't be here on Sunday.
New Alto: Gosh! Wow! My goodness! You can't be the mother of someone of forty! You don't look nearly old enough!
Me: (bridling) I'm seventy (thinks: bring it on! I'm loving this!)
New Alto: Gosh! Wow! I can't believe it etc etc
Me (getting into the swing): Yes. And I've got a son of forty-one.
New Alto: Wow! Gosh! etc etc
Me (now really over-egging the pudding): and I've got more sons, of thirty-two and thirty-five.

In the cold light of day, I feel just a tiny bit ashamed. But only a tiny bit. And I have to bear in  mind that (a) the lighting wasn't too good and (b) whatever I may or may not look like, at my age, I would  have to think twice before buying a kitten...

Friday 8 March 2013

Government-approved food to die for

The latest thing from the government (or some other po-faced fun-spoilers) is that we should only eat the equivalent of one rasher of bacon a day in processed meat (I had no idea bacon was processed meat, but there you go). What a dilemma! Do we eke out our supplies to one rasher a day, or have seven rashers on Sundays? Decisions, decisions...

But mulling over my Healthy Options, I thought of soupe corse (illustrated). This, oddly, is my favourite food in the world. It's a Corsican peasant soup (Corsican peasants don't count as processsed meat) which is different in every Corsican* restaurant - no two the same, but all just wonderful. It has humble ingredients - vegetables, perhaps a scrap of bacon, beans, sometimes pasta. I just love it. I looked up the recipe online (I have invented my own before, but I've forgotten how I did it), and they're all in French. My French is of the get-by variety. But I'm going to make it today.


* We love Corsica, and not just for the soup. I've lost count of the number of times we've stayed there.

Wednesday 6 March 2013

Parking the car at Chippenham station

So there I was at the station this morning, in good time to catch my train to London. And there were lots of spaces in the car park. And lots of machines where I could pay. Okay? Not okay. I had to go through the following hoops:

Phone special number telling them car reg and enabling me to pay over phone. Special number insists on registering car we sold a year ago. After several attempts, I give up.

Pay by cash? But who has exactly £7.10 on them? Not me. Dash off to taxi rank to get change from friendly driver. Machines take £2 coins, says he. Dash back to machine. Machine clamps jaws on £2 coin and refuses to swallow. Machine does not take £2 coins.

Search for machine that takes credit cards. Find one. Phew! But machine refuses to cooperate and spits out card.

Eventually find machine that graciously agrees to accept card. Pay. Run to catch train.

The good news is I had a great day with my wonderful daughter. The bad news is I HATE the station car park "system" (if GB happens to read this, I apologise. He disapproves of hatred. But he's probably a nicer person than I am).

Sunday 3 March 2013

Magpie 158


Esmerelda, fair and flighty
Went swimming in her new blue nightie.
But Esmerelda's rather dim
And quite forgot she couldn't swim.

A passing fireman heard her shout
For someone to come and pull her out.
But he, in spite of his vocation,
Had failed the right examination.

He cried, "I'll have to let you go.
They're  health and safety rules, you know".
So Esme slipped, without a sound,
Back in the swimming pool. And drowned.

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

Friday 1 March 2013

Room 101

I love the programme Room 101, sadly at the end of its current series (for anyone who doesn' t know, guests are invited to throw away things/customs/ people they want to ge rid of.

Stuck on my current writing, I was musing on the subject, and decided that apart from Winter (see last post) these are some of the things I would consign to room 101:

Traffic wardens (I know, I know. It's their job. But they have that predatory look, and I'm often their prey).
Seafood which comes with whiskers and those boiled black eyes.
Unkindness (and no. I'm not unkind to traffic wardens. That would be most unwise).
People who think there's only one way of doing things (their way). There are lots of ways of doing most things.
Butternut squash (it sounds wonderful, but tastes of nothing).
Speeches, unless they're short and absolutely brilliant.
Anything pink and frilly.
All the current political parties (where are the statesmen/women of yesteryear?.

Your turn now. What would you put in Room 101?