Monday 30 September 2013

Downton v Corrie

"But you watch Coronation Street!" was my  brother's indignant riposte, when I dared to criticise Downton Abbey (he's a DA fan, of course).

Well, for us, there's no comparison. The clunking prose, the anachronisms, the slow-moving plot (is there one?), the wooden acting...I think Downton is terrible. Lady Mary looks as though she's been impaled (vertically - I'm trying to be delicate here) by a broom handle, and apart from Maggie Smith, everyone sounds as though they're reading through their lines for the first time. And oh, those lines...

"She is bruised and broken. We must wrap her up and protect her" (his lordship, about the bereaved Lady Mary, who incidentally  looks as though she's never experienced an emotion in her life, let alone grief).

"I love you with every fibre of my being" (his lordship again - he seems to be cursed with the worse lines - quite out of the blue, to one of the maids. Last series).

Whereas Coronation Street is, I think, marvellous. Okay, so some of the plots are a bit off the wall - it's hard to keep going week after week with credible plots - but some of the acting is wonderful. The present story of Hayley's terminal cancer has brought out some of the best scenes (between her and husband Roy) I've ever seen on television.

And before anyone attacks me, yes, we do watch DA. We find it vastly entertaining, for all the wrong reasons. We don't care what happens to anyone, but are constantly astonished that so much money has been thrown at the production of something so soulless. For us, the Emperor that is Downton is stark naked.

But we're in a tiny minority, so feel free to ignore us.

Saturday 28 September 2013

A Death Row Journal

My Death Row correspondent has asked me to post this entry from the journal he tries to keep. I think he writes brilliantly. I'd love to know what you think. Every word and all the punctuation are as he wrote them.

The Row I've Hoed Bears Bitter Death

Sometimes the rain falls and I'm never aware of it. I'm sound-proofed from the world. Cursed to witness but not participate. Sometimes the sound of thunder is lost in the cacophony of shouting men screaming their grievances to apathetic guards; their prayers to an indifferent deity.

The only time I hear rain is when it leaks through the cracks in the ceiling. It's not the melodic symphony of water dancing off of the leaves or earth or man-made edifices. No, this sound has more of a dull metronomic quality as it slaps the stone floor. Each drop is a tiny defibrillator that shocks me back to reality; the needle that pierces all my dreams.

After the rain has fallen I plug up the concrete sky, shut off the light that became my fluorescent moon and stars and finally sleep.

This is where my life's journey has taken me and dropped me off, like a child on the first day of school...kicking and screaming. A ten by six cell where I play at being god. Creating, destroying, rearranging and likewise becoming indifferent to the world.

Irving Davis

Recently, he had to be transported elsewhere. He was returned late, and couldn't understand what all the little lights were in the sky. He finally realised that they were stars. He hadn't seen stars for eleven years. He never received the book I sent him; a harmless book he had asked for. It was refused him because of one sentence. I shall never know which.

Thursday 26 September 2013

The Virgin on the blanket box

This is the hardest of all, not least because it doesn't come out well in the photo. But for years, I've seen this figure in a dark skirt (slightly to the right), with a circle of stars not quite round her head (well, actually to her left) on the pine box we use as a coffee table.

And because of this, some time ago I wrote a mad novel called The Virgin of the Hen House, which was (rightly) rejected by my publisher. Without the Virgin the novel would have been quite sensible. I blame the blanket box.

And that's the last. I promise. Well, for the time being, anyway.

Wednesday 25 September 2013

The fox on the bathroom floor

This one needs a bit more imagination, but if you disregard the line running across its nose - voila!

Tuesday 24 September 2013

The dragonfly on the bathroom door

In a recent post I mentioned seeing faces in odd places. Well, this isn't exactly a face (I'm not sure whether these creatures have them), but this is an unadorned and un-tampered-with dragonfly in the grain of our bathroom door. And I seem to be the only person who's noticed.

Foxes on the floor next time.

Monday 23 September 2013

Magpie 187


I like to pretend I'm a moth,
But it's not very comfy, becoth
When I cling onto lampth
That are more than two ampth
They make me feel prickly and croth.

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

Friday 20 September 2013

Seeing faces (a displacement-activity-post)

I'm sure I'm not alone in seeing faces in things. I've been looking at this little face on our bedroom light switch for years, and finally decided that it just needed a mouth. Voila! John likes it, so I'm afraid it's staying for the time being.

There are two fox faces on the ancient wooden floor of our bathroom, and years ago, there were rows of little faces in the floral curtains. The trouble is, once you've seen a face, you can't un-see it. It's there to stay. So those curtains were never quite the same, peopled as they were with all those tiny pink faces instead of flowers.

That's all. And yes,  I have got better things to do. I'm just not doing them at the moment...

Thursday 19 September 2013

An ode for the digital-averse

When a technophobe woman called Bridget
Comes stumbling into the digit-
-al world, the computer
(She finds) doesn't  suit her.
Now she can't tell her app from her widget.

And that, I'm afraid, is me. I've no idea what any of these things are. I keep being told (by my computer) that I 'need cookies' (for example) but nobody tells me why, or even what they are.

Why can't things computer-related have sensible names/titles? ones that I can understand? If I phone for help, I get nice young men who rattle off instructions and lose me after about thirty seconds. I hesitate to ask children/grandchildren (yes. Even you, BJ) because they're all busy. I probably ought to go on a course, but I'm done with courses.

So I soldier on. Sort of. Hoping that one day the penny might just drop.

On day...

Monday 16 September 2013

In praise of Gina

Gina Ford's Contented Little Baby Book is a Marmite book. Parents either love it or hate it. I suspect, however, that the haters haven't given it a proper try.

When my daughter was pregnant with triplets, someone gave her a copy. How we laughed! Oh, we knew all about baby care; after all, I'd had four, and she'd had plenty of experience looking after other people's babies. Gina was put firmly away.

Fast forward to a few weeks after the babies' births. Exhausted mother, screaming babies; bedlam. She reached for Gina, and within a week, she had her evenings back. I won't say all went swimingly from then on - swimmingly isn't something that happens with triplets - but her life was much improved.

Since then, I've had five more grandchildren; all are 'Gina' babies. Daughters-in-law have joined my daughter and are great Gina fans. Okay, so some of her ideas seem a bit extreme (for example, 'no eye contact' when putting the baby down to sleep), but the strict routine really works. Our newest addition is already on the regime, and when I texted my son this morning to ask how their night had been, he replied: "Excellent...Slept from 9.30 to 2.30 then 3.30 to 7. Love Gina!" The baby is just six days old (and was delivered a week early).

I cast my mind back to my baby days;  long nights of screaming (me as well) and exhausted days. Living with a small person permanently stuffed up my jumper/shirt feeding yet again. I remember sitting with baby no.1 in the middle of the night, desperately consulting Dr. Spock, and trying to absorb such gems as "perhaps he has a safety pin sticking into him" (hardly); "maybe he's hungry" (you think I hadn't thought of that?), "perhaps he has colic" (in which case, what do you suggest?).

And the advice? "Use this wakeful time to take baby for a walk in his pram". What a brilliant idea!  We lived out in the country. It was midnight, and the middle of winter.

Where, oh where, was Gina when I needed her?

Thursday 12 September 2013

Here he is!

Rather tubed-up, but fine now. I saw him yesterday, and he's beautiful - really. Worth the wait, but I still feel drained (see last post for details, if you need to!). Off this week-end to help out.

Tuesday 10 September 2013

Waiting for news

I'm waiting. As any writer will know, waiting is sooooo hard. But this waiting is worse. I've been expecting to hear for over an hour now. I've got both phones at the ready. I've done the Times difficult su doku and the quick crossword (not enough concentration for the cryptic one). I've had a drink of water. Iwas going to scrub the kitchen table (yes. It's that bad), but then I'll be all mucky and will have to wash my hands to answer the phone. (Just noticed that my mobile is showing the times in  Copenhagen and Lusaka. It is now 5.53 in Lusaka, apparently.)

I can't read; can't phone anyone (obviously). I'd play patience, but don't know where the cards are. I need a shower after ride this morning, but of course I can't risk that. And still the phone hasn't rung. John is cooking tonight, so I haven't even got that to do. I've run out of things to occupy my mind, hence this rather pointless post.

(Some time later) At last the call came. Theodore John was born to my son and daughter-in-law at 2.15pm. Phew! It's been a very difficult few months for them, but all worthwhile. I'm now totally exhausted. I expect they are, too. But very very happy.

Expect a photo, my place, soon!

Monday 9 September 2013

Yummy mummies at the school gate

I have been quite astonished at the number of articles about yummy mummies at the school gates, and the trouble they go to to look good when delivering their dear little ones in the mornings. Apparently, some actually buy new outfits for the purpose. A new outfit to take the kids to school? Has the world gone quite mad?

When mine were small, they were dressed and fed, teeth cleaned, hair brushed (if they were lucky). I threw on some jeans (no time for make-up) and we tore up to the car (parked at the top of the lane).

This was the next bit of the "routine":
1.Throw kids in back of car, usually plus a baby.
2. Car refuses to start (almost always).
3.Put  gears in neutral, and push said car (from the outside, obviously) down lane.
4. Car plus kids gathers speed (there is a dangerous junction and a busy  road at the bottom, so time is of the essence).
5. (Here's the tricky bit) Jump into car before it reaches the junction, start engine, shut driver's door, apply brakes.
6. Reassure weeping kids.
7. Off to school.

No designer clothes, no new hair-do, no posh handbag (no handbag at all. I don't really do handbags), no extravagant outlay (although a new car would have been nice). Simple.

Saturday 7 September 2013

(Not) being organised

We recently had friends staying. The wife, A,  is a very  organised, person (she says she's "on the specturm", but then I guess we all are). In her life, everything is tidy; nothing's out of place.

Now, I like and admire A very much. I would love to be like her. Really. So I asked her advice. When I showed her the contents of a random drawer, she was appalled.

A:"Ginseng? What's that doing in this drawer?" she asked. "Do you use it?"
Me: "Well, not exactly..." (when/why have we ever used it? Why did we even buy it in the first place?)
A:"Well, then, Throw it away!"
Me:"Mmm..." (I suddenly feel very attached to that ginseng)
A: "And this selotape, and string, and aspirins. Why are they all together?" (There is also my granny's old sewing box, circa 1900 and falling to pieces, and drawing pins, and half a candle, and a small glass candle-holder get the picture).

For the week or so after they left, I  kept looking at my muddled possessions and thinking: "what would A do?". I went through my 'wardrobe' (ha) of ancient clothing, thinking of the Oxfam shop, and then put almost everything back again, because...well, I just couldn't somehow let go, although I almost certain won't wear many of the clothes again. Besides, you never know, do you? That nursing uniform, for instance. I might need it for a fancy dress party. (I never go to fancy dress parties.)

My conclusion is that sadly, I shall never be like A. .And the reason? To put it baldly, I simply don't care enough. It's as simple as that.

But I did wash and iron two lovely linen tops that I don't wear, and take them to the Oxfam shop. And the ginseng's in the bin. So I'm not all  bad.

Thursday 5 September 2013

On a lighter note

After my last, rather wallowing, post, I though I'd lighten things up a bit on this blog with a follow-on from my grandsons' recent visit.

We were discussing the evils of  lying, but the necessity of lying occasionally to save somebody's feelings

Me: for example,  when you receive a present, and you don't really like it, but you want to say something polite. What would you say?

Eleven-year old grandson (after much deliberate thought): Have you kept the receipt?

Well, at least it's along the right lines...

Tuesday 3 September 2013


Aa year ago today, my beautiful horse, Titch, collapsed and died. I wrote this a week later. I've been thinking of him so much today. He was very, very special.

And I was so lucky to have him.

Sunday 1 September 2013

I'm outraged...

...that Julian Fellowes, he of the clunky, anachronistic prose and see-through plots that comprise Downton Abbey*, has actually presumed to re-write Romeo and Juliet in his new film of the play. Some of it is apparently Shakespeare, but Fellowes has 'improved' on parts of it by altering them.

How dare he? How dare anyone try to better Shakespeare? It's like The Beatles (whom I do respect)trying to re-write Bach. Zefferelli's Romeo and Juliet stuck faithfully to the original words,  was perfectly comprehensible, and (I thought) very well done.

That's all.

*I know that DA has lots of fans; some of them are my best friends (yes; really). I also  know that I may well be offending some of those  fans by writing this. But I guess one of the advantages of a blog is that it's my blog, and a forum for my own opinions. No-one has to read or agree with it!