Tuesday 30 April 2013

Sophisticated cutie-pies?

 No, horrible! You may well have read about this in the papers this week. These are small children dressed up for  school "proms".  Children as young as four are going to these proms, where little girls wear ball gowns and the boys are told to give them red roses. Some arrive in limousines. One, however, was refused a request to land by private helicopter (well, I supose that's something).

At an age when kids should be out in the garden getting dirty (well, mine certainly were), they are being told that's it's looks that matter, and  behaving like an adult, and a sexually aware adult at that. It makes you (well, me) weep. (Note the wallflower at the back. I remember being  one of those, but I was old enough to deal with it).

Hoever,  perhaps not quite as bad as this, which I posted a few weeks ago...

Right. End of rant. Back to the Novel.

(The layout of this seems to have gone  a bit weird. Serves me right.)

Monday 29 April 2013

The conditions on Texas Death Row

The following account was published (at greater length) by Anthony Graves, who has since been found not guilty, and released from prison. It does give a picture of the horrendous conditions under which these people live. Once again (I know. I'm becoming boring about this!), new correspondents are desperately needed. For some, a correspondent will be their only "friend". I appeal to anyone who is interested to have a look at the Lifelines website, where details of how to become involved may be found:
www.LifeLines-uk.org.uk You are also very welcome to contact me (franstott@waitrose.com), and I will give you my phone number if you would like to know more.

On Nov. 1, 1994, I heard the gavel fall and the judge announce, "Anthony Graves, I hereby sentence you to death by lethal injection."
The jury had already convicted me of murdering six people and burning their house down to cover up the crime. I was completely innocent: they had the wrong guy. I was scared of dying for a crime I did not commit, but I knew I was innocent and hoped someone, somewhere would make it right.
What I didn't know then was that this wrongful death sentence was only part of the torture I would experience for the next 18 1/2 years. I didn't know that I would be forced to live in an 8-foot, by 12-foot cage. I didn't know I would have to use a steel toilet, connected to my steel sink, in plain view of the male and female corrections officers who would walk the runs in front of my cell. I didn't know that for years on end I would have no physical contact with a single human being.
I didn't know that guards would feed me like a dog, through a slot in my door. Instead of providing basic nutrients, the food sometimes contained rat feces, broken glass or the sweat of the inmate who cooked it. This diet caused me health problems that continue today.
The prison gave me no phone to call my loved ones, no television to keep up with the world and local events, and no real medical care. I lived behind a steel door, with filthy mesh-covered windows looking out to the run.
My only window to the outside world was a tiny one on the top of the back wall of my cell. With its peeling, old and dull paint, my cage was the image of an abandoned one-room project apartment. If I had known when I was sentenced all I would have to go through before I would win my freedom, I don't know if even my faith in my own innocence would have been enough to sustain me.
I was proven innocent in 2010, and became Death Row Exonoree No. 138. Some of us on Death Row were innocent. Some were unlawfully sentenced to death and had their sentences thrown out.


Sunday 28 April 2013

Magpie 166

"Who's ate all the pies, then?"
Said the badger to the rat.
"And as for cakes and jelly, well,
I'd rather eat my hat."

The candles posed a hazard,
Drink was spilt from every cup.
And at the end, nobody stayed
To help with washing-up.

The moral of this tale is clear
And this advice comes free:
If you're entertaining, don't invite
Wild  animals to tea.

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

Saturday 27 April 2013

"Laugh out loud funny..."

How I hate that expression! It has the same affect on me as canned laughter on a TV programme: it's like an instruction to be amused, especially when it's emblazoned on the cover of a novel, and (for me) immediately removes any tendency to be thus entertained.

I've just tried to read such a novel, twice, but couldn't stomach it at all. The author tried SO hard to be funny, and the more she tried, the more unamused I became. Different sections were almost labeled "laugh here", thus removing any amusement that might have been found in them. Few things are more subjective than humour; one person's funny book is another's dull/pretentious/ incomrehensible read. I really think it's better not to label books in this way at all; if it's funny, people will find out for themselves, and the surprise element - suddenly finding the book one is reading is very funny when the reader least expects it - simply adds to the  humour.

I remember, as a child, reading Three Men in a Boat. I didn't know it was meant to be funny, and when I got to the part where "Harris trod in the butter", I wept with laughter. Why? I've no idea. As I said, humour is so subjective. Having said all that, the funniest book I have ever read (fairly recently), known to be humorous,  proved to be just wonderful.  Once again, I was crying with laughter. Others to whom I have recommended it have been puzzled/bemused, although some have loved it.

So I won't spoil it for you by telling you what it was. But if you really want to know, you can email me...

Thursday 25 April 2013

Motorways and dead pheasants

Motoring along the A303 today on my way to babysit for Gorgeous Grandson (he of the photo a few posts back) for a couple of days, I noticed about twelve dead pheasants, all on the central reservation. Now, setting aside the pheasant-tragedy aspect of all these deaths, how come not one was actually on the road? Did they crawl to the edge to die? Did their killers risk life and limb to stop their cars and move them? Were they blown to the edge? Is this nature, physics, or what? Can anyone explain?

I'll have to ask GG's dad, who's a scientist even if he is my son.

You're right. I haven't enough to do. GG'S having a nap...

Sunday 21 April 2013

Magpie 165

Good book, deep snow, bare bum on chair-
Such joys, she knows, are fleeting.
But still, she offers up a prayer:
"Thank God for central heating".

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

Saturday 20 April 2013

Of horses and poetry

When Titch collapsed just before he died (I was on him at the time), I lost a lot of nerve, and it's taken me a while to get it back. But Fairfax (looking cheerful - left) and I had a nice if lively time hacking in the sun this morning. He seems to like being talked to, so having run out of things to say (he's not interested in weather), I decided to recite poetry to him.

When I was at school, we had to learn a lot of poems by heart. I think this is an excellent thing, and children don't seem to do it any more. Anyway, searching the deep recesses of what passes for my brain, I came up with snatches of Tennyson, Wordsworh, Rupert Brooke, Shakespeare, Keats, Houseman etc, but could only remember two whole poems: The Owl and the Pussycat (oh dear), and a very depressing poem about growing old, by Hardy (who else?).

I did sing a bit, but I don't think Fairfax liked that much. Poor animal...

Friday 19 April 2013

At last - the anwer to the recession

Last night, my ruthlessly logical twelve-year-old granddaughter, about whom I posted the other day, was giving me her thoughts on the recession.

"Why can't we just download Monopoly money, and print it off?" said she. "Then if we run out, we can go and earn some more."

DIY quantitative easing (oh, I love that expression!). Now, why has no-one thought of that before? That child will go far.

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Lady Thatcher's funeral

I'm so relieved this went off well and without violence. I only saw a snatch of it mymself because I was away all day. But my small granddaughter did see it, and having been warned that people might protest by turning their  backs to the cortege, was very shocked to see the police doing just that.

"Darling," said my daughter. "That's okay. It's called crowd control."


Tuesday 16 April 2013

Why do I dislike Facebook and Twitter?

...is a question I've been asking myself for some time. I belong to Facebook simply because of my kids/nephews/nieces - it helps keep up when they're away - but don't post myself. Also, people keep asking me to "be their friend", and it seems churlish to say no. But I feel there's something sinister about both Facebook and Twitter, and I can't quite put my finger on it.

It could well be the speed with which posts are put up, especially on Twitter. People don't seem to think through their remarks, and some thoroughly nasty "tweets" have been aired. Others, as far as I can see, are just plain boring, and the rush to "tweet" tragedies and accidents (rather than perhaps seeing if help is needed) seems to me to  be deeply unpleasant. I know some of these on-the-spot missives have proved very helpful, but others have been salacious, unkind or unncessary. At the other end of the spectrum, if I want to know badly enough what someone had for breakfast, I'll phone them (but don't hold your breath).

 Some might say that I blog, and what's the difference? I suppose it's that not many of my friends, let alone my acquaintances, know or care about my blog, and it seems somehow more private. And while not everything I write is particularly sensible, at least with blogging there's time to think through what's written before it is posted.

(Breaking news: for lunch I had a sandwich and an orange.)

Monday 15 April 2013

Magpie 164 (warning: elements of bad language)


When Jack and Jill went up the hill
Jack forgot about the water.
"We've got no bucket,
Jilly! F***it!"
Jill said, "you didn't oughta
Use such language!".  So she sulked
While Jack sat and adored her.
Only someone seeing her face
Could tell how much he bored her.

The moral of this  tale is clear
If love is to be sought, a
Lasting relationship requires
A bucket full of water.

(With thanks to Tess at Magpie Tales)

Friday 12 April 2013

On the death of Lady Thatcher

Whatever you think about Lady Thatcher, she was a statesman (woman/person) who aroused strong feelings. I certainly didn't like all she did, but she was there and she was passionate and people sat up and took notice of her. I abhor the behaviour of those who are dancing in the streets, because it is inapproriate, bad manners and just plain nasty, and I'm not at all sure that this big funeral is a good idea (for many reasons). But whom do we have in the government nowadays?

There's no-one now who's statesmanlike
Who makes you stop and think.
Their politics are palest blue
Or faintly tinged with pink.
I forget what they all look like
Or even what they've said.
But all I know is that their names
Are Dave, and Nick, and Ed.

There's no-one now to love or hate;
No-one who stands right out.
I've no idea what they believe
Or what they're all about.
The opposition disagree
With all the government's said
On principle. But which is which
Twixt Dave, and Nick, and Ed?

Election comes tomorrow?
I wouldn't know how to vote.
Three grey men in three grey suits
All sailing in one boat.
So whom can we depend on
To come along and save
Our country? Well, it matters not;
Pick Ed, or Nick, or Dave.

And so the three all muddle through
And do the best they can.
I'm sure they're all well-meaning
And committed, to a man.
But how I long for somebody
To love (or make me sick!);
But all we have are three 'nice' men
Called Dave, and Ed, and Nick.

Tuesday 9 April 2013

And talking of wasting time...

...which I was (talking about it, that is), I spent a large part of the weekend with my  youngest grandson (left) throwing sticks into a stream. Sort of Pooh Sticks without the bridge. Not a waste of time, though, because he thought it was the greatest fun. Plus, I managed to prevent him from throwing himself in with the sticks, so I did a Good Thing.

Monday 8 April 2013

(A very lazy) Magpie 163


Does my bum look big in this?

(With thanks To Tess and Magpie Tales, and Degas)

Help, please!

I'm totaly ineffectual at things technical. I seem to have pressed something, and now my entire blog's become very small! How do I restore it, please? I have been wasting the last half hour (see previous post) trying to rectify this...Suggestions welcomed very gratefully.

Wasting time

Are you wasting time, reading this? Or, more to the point, am I wasting time writing it? Or is it a matter of opinion?

I have a friend, in her eighties, who regularly puts me to shame. She never seems to waste a moment, always busy,and she thinks blogging is a waste of time. She doesn't have a computer, and seems not to see the point of computers, and she may well have a point. But our recent conversation - about what constitutes wasting time - set me thinking.

What exactly is a watse of time? Or is one person's restful inactivity another's waste of time? Is it subjective or objective? I blog  because...I enjoy it ( I also do it to defer the moment when I have to write something that might actually earn me some money, but that's by the by). I enjoy writing posts, and reading other people's. I like the peaceful companionship of the blogging community of which I have become a part. So - can something be a waste of time if you're enjoying it? Is stopping the car to admire a view a waste of time? Why would some consider reading a frothy romance a waste of time, but ploughing through War and Peace a good use of time? I happen to prefer War and Peace, but many don't, and wouldn't it be a waste of their time reading it it they didn't enjoy it?

Doing things for others is obviously not a waste of time, and neither is Work. But isn't doing something just to please oneself sometimes a good use of time? Many of us writers write because we enjoy it, with (in some cases) little hope of publication. Is that a waste of time? I think not. Provided the writer enjoys the process, then isn't that OK?

As for fishing, well, I just don't get it. But many would considere the "activity" of fishing less of a waste of time than reading that frothy novel. Or blogging...

One other question: if you weren't reading this, what would/should you be doing?

Thursday 4 April 2013

Fairfax stars on Womagwriter!

Kath at Womagwriter has very kindly allowed me to post about my story in this week's Woman's Weekly. To tempt any horsey readers (it's a horsey story), there's a really nice photo of Fairfax on it. Do pop over and have a look if you've got a moment.

Or you could even buy the magazine...?

Wednesday 3 April 2013

And now for something more wholesome...

Ah. That's a bit better. I had to find a "normal" baby girl to balance the last one. But boy, did I have problems! Finding a non-copyright picture of a female baby who wasn't adorned with earrings, bows, bikinis or whatever, or posed like a  mini-adult,  has taken me about half-an-hour (which I should have spent doing something else).  But no matter.

And then they're all colour-coded. Pink, pink, pink.What is it with little girls and pink? It's as though parents have to colour code their children to remind them which gender they are.

We don't do it with adults, so why babies? Personally, I loved my babies - both boys and girl - in navy. It brought out the blue of their eyes. But then perhaps I'm weird.

But never mind. Here's an unadorned baby looking happy. Best of all, she looks like a baby.