Tuesday 30 December 2014

Of estate agents

My eldest son and family are currently house-hunting. Which means that I keep searching on online on their behalf, for the sheer pleasure of looking into other people's houses and offering uncalled-for advice ("we've SEEN that one, Mum, but it's no good"). And why is it no good? Because of the dreaded and familiar estate-agent-speak, familiar to anyone who has ever tried to buy a house. Let me remind you of a few choice words/phrases:

Stunning = not stunning. A least, not in the sense they would have you believe.
Charming = dilapidated. Avoid.
Spacious = smallish.
Generous = small.
Cosy = it's a cupboard. That's why it's situated under the stairs.
Opportunity = forget it. You haven't got time for this kind of opportunity.
Scope = ditto.
View = you can see over the hedge/wall. Just.
Stunning view = you can see a tree.
Summer house = shed.

And so on. As a final insult to the prospective buyer's intelligence, they invariably add "viewing recommended". How many people actually buy a house without seeing it?

But I'll carry on searching because....well, it's kind of addictive. Plus, my new year resolutions kick in in two days' time, and I shall be Busy.

Friday 19 December 2014

Happy Christmas (2)

I know I've already said it, but  because everyone was so nice about Harriet's card I thought I'd show you where she gets the talent from: her mum (my daughter). This is Daisy's home-made card for her family for this year. She used to design ours for years from the age of about twelve, and so now I harrass my grandchildren to do the same.

I start nagging in about August. In fact, I could start commisioning the card for 2015 straight aaway. Now, there's a thought.

Tuesday 16 December 2014

Am I the only person...

...who isn't amused by this rather horrible trick (played by US parents on their children as a kind of challenge)? I think it's very cruel. Does anyone else agree? Or have I just  lost my sense of humour (Christmas sometimes has this effect)?

(Nothing to do with Christmas, I know, but I was speaking to someone who told me about it.)

Tuesday 9 December 2014

Happy Christmas

I seem to be doing my Christmas cards early (for me), and here's one for all who read this. We're using this design (courtesy of talented granddaughter),  which I think is very ingenious.  I would like to add that sadly, she doesn't inherit her talent from me, since I have absolutely none at all. 

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas, and a happy and peaceful new year.

Sunday 7 December 2014

How to solve the turkey problem

1. Don't. If turkey were that delicious, we'd eat it all the year round. (Ditto Christmas puddings and mince pies.) Get a nice piece of beef instead.

2. But if you really have to, then there is a proliferation of ridiculous ideas to try to make this most dull of meats just a bit more interesting (see picture for just one of them).Ideas such as dunking it in brine (Nigella, I think) to everything from yaks' milk to bats' urine (anon) are helpfully suggested to assist the desperate cook, but I think all turkey (and I've had a lot of Chrstmases. And yes. I've cooked a lot of turkeys) taste exactly the same. Dry and rubbery. Today's paper suggests "perry-brined turkey with pear, ginger and leek stuffing". Really? Is that honestly going to do the business? Can anyone be bothered?

And then there are all the "trimmings". The sausages and bacon and bread sauce and cranberry sauce and red cabbage (relatively new, I think) and sprouts (which have ruined many a child's Christmas meal) etc etc etc.

Cold turkey is good on Boxing Day, I'll grant you that, but after that, you still have that strangely sinewy carcass to deal with. For the other thing about turkey is that, large or small,  it always seems to outstay its welcome. Long after the celebrations are over, its remnants remain, guilty reminders of the sinfulness of Waste.

So - aploogies to all turkey lovers (there must be some somewhere) and special apologies to T, D, B, and J, my children, for making them eat all those sprouts. At least now that your're all grown up, you have a choice.

Wednesday 3 December 2014

Flash fiction


The contractions started in the late evening, and she laboured all night, the pains increasing in intensity. She made no fuss. There were helping hands; the hands of people she knew and trusted, and although she had never done this before, she felt safe.

In the early hours of the following morning, she gave birth to a perfect little son, and she felt overwhelmed with love and contentment as she felt his warm breath on her face, and his eager mouth as it sought out her milk. At last, she rested.

But the next day, they took him away. She heard his desperate cries, which were soon drowned out by her own, but she couldn't get to him for they had restrained her. She was not to know that she would never see her baby again.

The farmer was disappointed, but what could he do? He had no use for another bull calf.

Monday 1 December 2014

Two words that should never be spoken...

...to anyone who has suffered any kind of loss/ tragedy/bereavement are "at least..."

Why do people do it? You lose a leg, and someone will point out that "at least" you've got one left. You have an accident, and "at least" you're still alive. You lose a much loved husband - as I did - and "at least" you've got the children, have had twenty plus happy years, have your memories etc etc.

This was brought home to me again today when for the first time since the accident, I saw a friend whose son had nearly died in a car crash in which his best friend had been killed. I said that I was sure people had managed to come up with some "at leasts", and sure enough, she'd been inundated with them.

I ask why, but of course, I know the answer ( and these "at leasts " are all espressed with the best of intentions). It's because most of us find it so difficult to cope with another's pain that we hunt desperately for some good news. What we all need to accept is that, sometimes, there  just isn't any. A hug, and "I'm so sorry" are all we can give. So let's  just do it.

Saturday 29 November 2014

Thoughts on a Saturday morning


A jacket from a coat hook;
A  basket full of plants.
Photos of dead relations,
From grandparents to aunts.
All these are quite acceptable,
But what really gets to me
Is a dog turd in a plastic bag
Left hanging from a tree.

I have absolutely no idea why I wrote this. I was about to go and do some Tidying Up. I can only assume that the infection in my face has burrowed its way through to my brain (I must ask doctor son about that. It's a scary thought, isn't it).

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Things I've learnt in the past week

1. That an infected wound in the nose can beat childbirth hands down for sheer agony.
2. That ALL painkillers make me feel sick.
3. That missing a beloved granddaughter's starring role in Oliver is heartbreaking, especially as apparently she stole the show.
4. That the best thing in the world when you're ill is a daughter who drives 2 hours for a surprise visit, leaving the fridge with enough ready meals to keep us going until the weekend.
5. That ready meals are sheer heaven. No shopping, cooking or washing up. This must be what royalty feels like.
6. That self-pity is deeply unattractive, even when it's one's own. So I'll stop now.

Wednesday 19 November 2014

After the operation...

....which was horrible, a bit of me looks like this. And no. I'm not showing you my face or you mightn't sleep tonight. I bought this sweatshirt to cheer me up and avoid those awkward what-on-earth-has-happened-to-you-and-is-it-okay-to-ask moments. It works quite well, and cheers me up. A bit.

One day, I'll look human again, but at the moment I look like some leftover Halloween decoration. Self-pitying? Me? Too right  I am. But I'm sorry not to have visited other blogs this week. I'll be back soon.

Monday 17 November 2014

Magpie 246

An empty petrol tank is hell.
An empty battery as well.
But for this driver, perfect bliss
Is an empty motorway, like this.

When I vist my daughter, I use the M3,  and I rejoice as I spin past the junction that leads to the dreaded M25, revelling in the empty ribbon of road that lies ahead. (When I visit eldest son, it's payback time, as I have to use the M25.)

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

Saturday 15 November 2014

A hero

I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but it seems to me a strange anomaly that by far the majority of  the rich and famous are, by the nature of their "jobs", unnecessary. Actors, film stars, footballers...we don't actually need any of them. I enjoy the theatre, but I don't really need it. But we all need, for example doctors. Which brings me to the point of the post

I know (or have met. He is better known to members of my family) a doctor. He is in his early seventies, and worked all his life tirelessly for the health service, refusing to take private patients. Now, in his retirement, he is in Africa, caring for Ebola patients. I can't mention his name, but in any case, you almost certainly haven't heard of him. But isn't he the kind of person we all should  know about?

I've been thinking about him particularly recently. He's the kind of person our kids should emulate; he's one of the real heroes. But I'm sure he'd hate ay kind of celebrity status, even if he were given it. Such is the nature of the man.

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Cancer of the nose

Sounds romantic, doesn't it? No. Not at all. But that's what it amounts to. A basal cell carcinoma to be exact. Quite small. Not serious, they said. A bit of plastic surgery, they said, and you'll be fine.

 What kind of plastic surgery? Well, they cut out the lesion, cut a patch from the cheek, keeping the blood supply intact, and stick it to the nose. Voila!

Questions I forgot to ask:
1. But what about the hole in the cheek? I could carry on with patches all the way down to my knees and beyond, each patch repairing the hole left by its predecessor.
2. How exactly do you apply the patch without turning it inside out and therefore severing the connection?
3. How soon will I be fit to be seen?
4. In fact, will I ever be fit to be seen?
5. You have done this before, haven't you?

Question to which I already know the answer:
Will it hurt? Yes. Like blazes. Even the doctor admitted this. Not the procedure, but the injection in the nose. I had one last week. It was excruciating. But I suppose better than having this done without the injection (well, that's the point, right?).

I phoned ( physician) son for reassurance. Response: "I don't know. I'm not a surgeon." Then, "you'll be okay, Mum". But he didnt sound very convincing.

Think of me, next Tuesday. When I and my nose go under the knife. And then I'll be able to tell you all about it (I bet you can't wait).

Monday 10 November 2014

Poo post

There's a dog turd in Thames  Ditton,
And it's there because of me.
I thought two poo bags quite enough,
But found we needed three.
And if anybody's hoping
That the culprit apologises,
I'm afraid you've got a long wait
As I've gone home to Devizes.

I'm not a dog person, but spent the weekend looking after two dogs and two children. Yesterday, off we set for a walk, leaving the poo bags on the kitchen table (first mistake). Realised what we'd done, and borrowed carrier bag from the green grocer*, and poo bag from another dog owner. Two would be enough, right? Two dogs, one poo each. No. Wrong (second mistake). One poo for Humphrey, but two for Geoffrey. I pleaded with him to hang on, but apparently a dog's gotta poo when (and where) a dog's gotta poo (in the street, of course. Not some obscure alley or grassy verge).

I just hope no-one's trodden in it.

*he didn't want it back. What a nice man.

Wednesday 5 November 2014

Bits (continued)

Her tits are on the mantelpiece,
Her gallstones in a jar.
Her spleen's set in a paperweight,
And other bits of Ma
Are scattered round the drawing room
Set in Perspex, glass and stone.
Her frontal lobe's a doorstop,
And her hip, a telephone.
A frugal woman, Mother,
Not particularly clever.
But she made sure every single bit
Of her would last for ever.

(This is dedicated to all those who commented on my last post. Their comments inspired me to waste twenty minutes that should have been spent on the novel.Thanks, guys. Any excuse... )

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Whose bits are they, anyway?

My sister and I were both having minor surgical procedures today (mine, a biopsy of the nose. I now have a blue stitch in my nose. Why blue? Why not nose-coloured? Why?). And we were discussing on the phone what happened to bits of us that had been removed.

When I had my hip replaced fve years ago, I asked if I could keep my old one. After the expected shock/horror/"why-would-you-want-to-do-that" reaction, I was told that no. I couldn't have it back. They did show it to me afterwards, but I was too woozy to take a lot of notice. But now, far too late, I feel quite cross about it.

My body is mine. Its bits are mine. What I wish to do with those that are removed is my business. If I want to pickle them, or make them into paper weights, then that's up to me. So, as we chatted, we had lots of ideas about what could be done with people's bits, and a new way of making money for the NHS into the bargain.

For instance, a hip bone could be polished and laid on its side like a log, and with a pretty little ceramic squirrel on it would make a nice talking point. Gallstones could be polished and made into jewellery. Pretty well anything coudl be fixed in perspex and made into a paper weight, book ends, or some other useful/useless article. The NHS could arrange for this, and without charging the patient for the actual body part, could charge for the additional art work. A win-win all round.

What do you think?.

Saturday 1 November 2014

The evil that is Texas Death Row

We who write to prisoners on Texas Death Row (through Lifelines) have a wonderful co-ordinator, who works tirelssly to keep us all in touch with each other and what's going on. This morning, she sent us all this email:
Dear Everyone
Please keep Max Soffar #000685 in your thoughts/prayers. He has been on the row for 33 years and is now dying from an aggressive cancer. He has no LifeLines penfriend.

This is one of many who have been on the row for years, in solitary confinement, waiting and waiting....I do hope that this man is at least being cared for, with the appropriate medication. But somehow, I doubt it. (If you would like to know more about Max, details can be found here.https://www.aclu.org/secure/max-soffar/ )



Friday 31 October 2014

How do I get rid of....

...regular and multiple updates from a blog I don't follow? It calls itself My Private Blog, and seems devoted - in every sense, and more than one language - to the art of needlework. I LOATHE needlework of all kinds, and am not fond of this blogger. I haven't opened his/her link, as I suppose it could be a scam.

Has anyone else had similar visits? And how do I get shot of it? Four posts this morning already.

Wednesday 29 October 2014

Popular posts

I'm always fascinated by the subjects that attract interest on this blog. Some - usually my serious ones, like the ones about Death Row - aren't popular at all, but K is for Knickers (written ages ago for an A to Z challenge) attracted hundreds of hits. However, my last  post (Pudding Post) has broke all recent records by a long way. I've no idea why.

What have been your most popular posts?

Saturday 25 October 2014

Pudding post

So here it is in today's colour supplement: Guilt-free Desserts.

Who wants guilt-free desserts? I want guilty  desserts, full of thick whipped cream and chocolate (think glorious puffy eclairs. M&S do wonderful ones). If they're guilt free, forget it. And if they make you feel guilty, have an apple instead. I've always thought that if you're given to dietary guilt, you're in a lose-lose situation. For if you eat the thing you feel guilty about, the guilt cancels out any pleasure you might derive from it. No. If you're on a health kick/diet, and you decide to commit a dietary sin, ENJOY it. Otherwise you've wasted your time and put on another stone into the bargain. As I said: lose-lose.

Oh, and while I'm at it, can't we go back to that good, old fashioned word, pudding? It sounds what it is. Delicious, comforting and very, very fattening. Mmm.

Tuesday 21 October 2014


Above the fields of waving corn
He stands to face the guns at dawn
A much loved brother, dearest son,
This soldier boy - he looks too young
To fight. But he succumbed to fear.
Just seventeen. A volunteer.

He will not see another dawn,
Another field of waving corn,
Or see the skylarks swoop and swing
And hear the thrush or blackbird sing.
Nor meet again those he holds dear.
Just seventeen. A volunteer.

He lied about his age, so keen
Was he to live his boyhood dream
To wear the uniform, and fight
So countrymen could sleep at night.
But he knew nothing, then, of fear.
Just seventeen. A volunteer.

The mud, the cold, the rifles' blast,
The deaths of comrades, falling fast.
The waste. The utter waste. How could
A sheltered youth have understood
That war was this; this pain, this fear?
Just seventeen. A volunteer.

Blindfolded, bound, he stands alone,
And thinks for one last time, of home.
The warmth of a bed, a mother's kiss -
It wasn't meant to be like this.
His enemy not men, but fear.
Just seventeen. A volunteer

(I have long been haunted by the thought of the young soldiers who were put to death simply because they could no longer stand the hell that was war.)

Sunday 19 October 2014

Diary of Theo, aged 13 months

Saturday 18th. October
Granny came to look after us. I don't see her often, but  the poor old thing had just fallen off her horse (she does that sometimes),  so brother and I decided to do the decent thing and behave; ie  eat our supper (the way to tell her you don't want any more is to chuck it on the floor), charge round and round the kitchen (Granny wasn't that fast because of the horse thing), have a good splash in the bath (I pretended to drown. That got her going. We had a good laugh about that, although she didn't seem that amused), go to sleep on time (actually we were pretty tired by then. I think Granny was, too. They get tired, at her age).

Sunday 19th. October
Woke at 5.30 and decided to throw a party (and all my stuff out of my cot. That's zeugma, in case you wondered). Granny said she didn't want to come to the party, stuffed my dummy back in my mouth, and told me to go back to sleep. So I threw everything out again, and made a lot more noise this time, and my brother agreed that it was time to get up. In the end, Granny gave in (they usually do, if you can stick at it), and we all got up at 6.15. We had milk, and breakfast, and played lots of games. At one stage, Granny was lying on the floor (not sure why) so we jumped on her, and my brother looked down her shirt and said he could see her boobs. He laughed a lot about that (I'm not sure why). Mummy and Daddy came back, and we pretended we'd had a terrible time and I waved Granny goodbye although she wasn't going yet (well, we didn't need her any more, did we?).

Lunch with my cousins. Atogether, a good weekend.

Saturday 11 October 2014

My solutions to health service funding

I am thoroughly tired of politicians all vying with each other to chuck more money at the health service, when what they really need todo is to get inside it and look for solutions there. So here are my own ideas (and I've spent most of my life working in the health service):

1. Missed appointments. Everyone should be asked to pay a reasonable registration fee (say £10. Maybe less for a whole family) to register with a GP. If they missed two appointments, either with their own doctor or a hospital, they would have to re-register (and pay again).

2. Prescription charges. I know from visiting elderly patients in their own homes that many hoard their drugs when they are free. I have seen cupboards full of unused drugs and dressings, destined never to be used, because after all, they were free, so the patient had nothing to lose. The majority of patients are entitled to free prescriptions, so this is a huge problem. If  all those entitled to free prescriptions  had to pay just a token fee - say £1 - per prescription, then people might think twice before reordering their medicines, and the NHS drug bill would be vastly reduced.

3. If we have to have graduate nurses (it costs £20,000 to train a nurse, whereas time was when nurses earned their passage from the beginning of their training), then at least lets bring back the wonderful State Enrolled Nurses. These, as before, could be trained on the wards as they worked, and would go on to form a valuable part of the ward team. At a time  when as much as £1800 a day has been paid for an agency nurse, something needs to be done. Ed Milliband has promised an extra 20,000 nurses if his party get in next year. Yeah, right, Ed.  And how exactly to you propose to raise the money?

None of these ideas would be popular, but then cuts in other services and tax increases aren't exactly welcome, either. And we have to do something...don't we?

Thursday 9 October 2014

Meet my daughter...

...wh will be selling handbags on the QVC shopping channel tomorrow (Firday) at 5pm. And no. I had no idea what QVC was, either, until she started doing this. She's the kind of person who reallycould sell snow to Eskimos, sand to Arabs, and handbags...well, I won't tell you what she thinks of the handbags. Just watch her if you want an hour's entertainment (and a handbag...?).

Sunday 5 October 2014

Modern manners

I've booked a window table
As its private and discreet.
That potted cactus will ensure
We're hidden from the street.
I hope you like Italian?
Oh - excuse me please, my sweet,
While I take a couple of minutes,
As I need to send a Tweet.

Now, would you lie a starter?
Just asparagus? That's all?
You sure you don't want any bread?
The portions can be small.
I came last Wednesday with the lads,
Oh boy! We had a ball!
But that reminds me, darling,
That I need to make a call.

Now, what about the main course?
What do you fancy next?
The menu's in Italian,
That's what's making you perplexed.
Do try their special pasta
If you don't, they'll be quite vexed.
Or their - oh, hang on a minute
While I just return this text.

I don't want anything  to eat
I'll take a taxi home.
I've always hated pasta
Since it made me ill in Rome.
And you'll be fine without me
After all,  you're not alone.
You've all the company you need
With your f***ing mobile phone!

Wednesday 1 October 2014

The gas man cometh...

....and warneth.

Every year, someone from the gas board comes to service the boiler. And every year, the boiler is left with a little notice to the effect : "Danger. Do not use this appliance".  And every year, we get a lecture on how we shall both be struck dead by fumes, suddenly, without warning. And we hear the sad tale of the woman who was struck dead in the shower, by fumes, without....etc etc. until next year, when the whole thing is repeated (I have a feeling I've posted about this before, so this is probably something else that happens every year).

The gas man is invariably chatty and friendly and helpful (between gloomy prognostications), and drinks several cups of tea/coffee, and sends a colleague round to give a quote for a new boiler. And we don't get round to doing anything about it, because the boiler works, and we are mean. An hour ago, another man phoned from the gas board, to tell us that we had a dangerous boiler, and we might be struck dead etc etc and I told him WE KNOW. Your colleague told us last week. Someone's coming to give a quote. That took him by surprise. It seems one half of the gas board doesn't know what the other half is up to.

But I will never understand the mentality behind the powers that be, who are happy to service an appliance and then tell you not to use it. It's a Winnie the Pooh kind of thing (although WTP didn't have a boiler).

Tuesday 30 September 2014

How to be a celebrity...

...or Very Rich Person (VRP):

1. You must be in some kind of entertainment business. Singing, acting, sport etc. Your job is never essential to the wellbeing of mankind. For  example, doctors, teachers etc need not apply.

2. (Women) you must get pregnant, not necessarily within wedlock, and  your bump must be photographed, preferably uncovered, on a beach, with your nether regions just about covered by a tiny bikini bottom.

3. You must be photographed within days of the release of said bump, displaying a washboard flat stomach. Full makeup should be worn, and the new infant draped appealingly over a shoulder. It is essential to give this child a silly name. John, Susan, Jeremy etc need not apply. Friday or Arsenic would be good choices.

4. You must marry at some stage, so that the world can see how much you are able to spend on an obscenely extravagant wedding, preferably lasting about a week. All children of previous relationships welcome.

5. Divorce or separation are not obligatory, but they help. The more acrimonious the better.

6. You are encouraged to marry again (repeat stage 4).

7. Please feel free to share the interiors of your several amazing mansions. These need to be distributed about the globe (ideally, one should be situated in Hollywood). Gold bathtubs optional, but they do help.

8. Other desirable items include several Porsches, private jets, yachts etc, all with appropriate staff to operate them.

You get the idea. BUT to anyone televised sitting in a jungle eating kangaroo testicles and miscellaneous grubs: you've probably missed the boat. Time to get a day job.

Sunday 28 September 2014

Magpie 239

"Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom friend of the maturing sun." 
Yet Keats ne'er knew the joys of cars and bootfulness;
Just horse and cart, to take him for a run.
When winter came, no cosy down-filled quilts,
No television, Kindle, mobile phone.
No holidays in trembling huts on stilts,
No social networks, when he felt alone.
Only the mists and fruitfulness remain,
And very soon - who knows? - they may be gone.
For global warming means nothing's the same;
Yet still, we humans seem to struggle on.
And yet I know that at this moment, I
Could do with Keats, to help with this Magpie...

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

Friday 26 September 2014

Can there be a more useless existence...

...than that of the crane fly? Alias daddy long legs (or as a small boy I once looked after called it, a "long legs daddy". I much prefer the long legs daddy, somehow).

Anyway, whatever you call them, they seem singularly pointless (I'm sure Adrian will disagree with me, but then he's an expert). This is going to be a bumper year for them apparently, and I've already evicted my first (although they don't usually arrive/emerge until October). Their young ("leather jackets". No. I don't  know why, either) are unattractive in the extreme, and the adults just...well, they just dance about, distributing their limbs all over the place until they are pretty well legless. They don't appear to eat or sleep, but they do breed.

 And they're doing it right now. Somewhere near you.

That's all.

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Letter from Death Row (again)

We have been writing to each other for about two-and-a-half years now, and inevitably, have become close. He says I am is best friend (probablyy his only friend). We share views and books, and ideas about life and death, and I think we know each other (as much as you can know someone you've never met). I admire his intellect, his writing, his mind; a mind that is condemned, like the rest of him, to be of no further use to anyone, and to be denied the smallest chance of redemption. I have no idea whether or not he's guilty of the crime for which he was committed; he says he's never killed anyone. We can't disccuss his case as all our correspondence is read by the authorities.

As I've said before, he has no access to  a library any more (I send him books, which he reads and re-reads), and has nothing to do. Nothing. He exercises to keep fit (fit for what?), writes poems when he feels he can, and waits. And waits. He has been on hunger strike, but something went wrong. What? I've no idea. He plans to start another one. What do I say? Don't do it? Far better to wait to be put down like a sick dog, in two, five, ten, twenty years' time? Again, I don't know.

In his last letter, he describes what it was to be young (although his childhood was awful, and he tried to hang himself when he was just eleven):

"There were bonfires and skinny dipping in the ocean. It was sumer, and all the kisses tasted of lip gloss and suntan lotion, and all the girls were ours, and none of us were even old enough to buy cigarettes.....it was the best afternoon ever. Until the next best afternoon ever.

And how he feels now:

"31 and never  been in love. Never knew what that felt like. I'll never write my best poem or song. I've never painted my best picture....Alone enough to be alone but not enough to matter...No family. Just a pauper's grave in a potter's field. They don't even put our names on the grave markers. They put your prison number. My suffering is a number. My existence boils down to that.

When I read it (and it was a long letter), I cried.

Friday 19 September 2014

Proving that some apples fall a long, long way away from the tree

Top dog (ha) my best attempt. Bottom dog, work of 13-year old granddaughter (her mother, my daughter, is pretty good, too).

Sad, isn't it?

Monday 15 September 2014

Warning - extremely bad language

Please can someone tell me why anyone - anyone at all - would ever, ever, want to do this?

(With thanks to the grandson who gave me nighmares by showing me this in the first place.)

Saturday 13 September 2014

Of double standards and vacuum cleaners

"EU ban on powerful vacuum cleaners prompts anger and legal challenge"

While Justin* takes his private jet
To search for his absconding pet,
And city Range Rovers abound
To cart the feckless rich around,
I've no incentive to be greener.
Long live the powerful vacuum cleaner!

*Bieber. No, I don't know who he is, either. But he's rich, and has (or had) a pet monkey.

Wednesday 10 September 2014

How do you kill a human being?

Well, if it's America's death rows you're talking about, the answer is, with difficulty.

There have been endless articles/discussions about whether or not the inmates suffer when subjected to the lethal injection; one man recently took two hours to die. Two whole hours. It takes a rare kind of genius to extend final suffering for that length of time. Burning at the stake might have been quicker.

And yet anyone who has ever had an anaesthetic knows that long before the patient has counted up to ten, he's out for the count. After that, a prisoner could be executed by any means the executing state chose. Moreover, anaesthetic drugs are widely available, used in all hospitals. Vets use them, too.  I saw my horse being humanely put down within seconds, and a horse is a lot bigger than a human being.

Is the object to further punish someone who may already have been in solitary confinement half a lifetime (in Texas, anyway)? I'm beginning to think it might be. Whatever the reason, with this kind of barbaric treatment  (putting aside the years and years of solitary misery already endured by some prisoners), a country that allows it cannot ever credibly condemn human rights abuse in other countries.

I'm thinking today of "my" prisoner, whose birthday it is next week. I cannot wish him a happy birthday; just the ability to endure. Until, of course, it's his turn.

Monday 8 September 2014

Magpie 236 - a Nursery Magpie

Mary had three little moths,
They flew too near the light.
They fried their wings and feelers
(For those moths just weren't that bright).

Mary had a little goat,
She kept it by her bed.
It chewed up Mary's bedside lamp,
And now, the goat is dead.

Mary had a little lamb,
You think you know this rhyme?
You don't. For Mary's parents
Served it up, with mint and thyme.

Mary now has three more moths,
She keeps them in a jar.
She feeds them honey sandwiches.
They're still alive. So far.

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

Friday 5 September 2014

Silly questions

I've posted about this before, but here are a few more which I find bewildering:

Q: Are you going somewhere nice for your holidays?
A: No. We're going somewhere really horrible.

Q: Is there anything in the (news) paper today?
A: No. Just thirty-six blank pages, as usual.

Q : (from a shop assistant) Were you looking for anything in particular?
A: Well, I was, but not any more.

Q: (similar to the above) And what was your name?
A: Well, it was Winterbottom when I came in, but I've just changed it to Middleton (why not?).

Q: (following on from a rant from my daughter yesterday, who had just been asked this in Waitrose):
Do you want a carrier bag at all?
A: Well, a bit of carrier bag would be fine. Just one handle, I think.

Wednesday 3 September 2014

An anniversary

Today is an anniversary; the second aniverary of the death of my much-loved horse, Titch. There will never be another Titch. He was beautiful, gentle, and kind. When I fell off, he came  back and waited for me. When he was confined to his box with an injury, he was patient and uncomplaining.He was that rare thing: an animal whom it was a real privilege to know. His death was agonising. I've never seen anyone or anything in  such pain. He didn't deserve it. But today, he deserves to be remembered.

This is what I posted on the day he died. Sentimental, maybe. But I meant every word. And I shall always be grateful for the wonderful times we shared.

Monday 1 September 2014

My brush with death

Or why it's an exceptionally bad idea for a woman of a certain age to be driven in a bumper car by a six-year-old

It seemed  like a good idea at the time. Two grandsons, each wanting to drive his own dodgem. Smaller boy too short to be allowed on his own, so of course Granny steps in. Into the car, that is. So far, so good.

Well, not exactly.  For off we set, hurtling round the track, usually in the opposite direction to everyone else. I'd forgotten that the word "bumper" was the vital clue to what would happen next, but happen it did. We careened into other cars at phenomenal speed, richocheting off the sides, swerving, banging...Whiplash City. If I tried to take the wheel, the small driver said no. He was driving (well, that was the deal), so I tried shutting my eyes, which was even worse. I prayed for all this to stop, but our turn seemed to go on for ever. At times, I thought I was going to die. Really.

Afterwards, as he bounced off towards the next  attraction, I stumbled out into waiting arms of husband.

"But you looked as though you were enjoying it!" said he.

"That," I said, "was a rictus of fear." Deep breath. "Now. What shall we do next?"

Friday 29 August 2014

Life's great conundrums

I often find my life is like this:

You are on the west side of a river, with a fox, a duck, and a bag of corn. You must cross to the other side of the river, taking everything with you. However, you have only a very small boat, large enough to carry you, and one of your "traveling companions" at a time. There is no other way across. How do you get everything to the other side of the river, without anyone eating anyone else? (Assume none of them will eat the others if you are present. Also assume nothing runs away if you leave it alone.)

Now, I can work this out, although I can never remember how I did it last time. In my own life, I don't manage quite so well. Two small grandsons to be collected from a halfway point, to stay the night tonight. They need to be home (96 miles away) tomorrow evening. Daughter-in-law prepared to meet again, but she's a busy doctor, and I am .....not. So. I'll take them back. But do I want to do that journey twice in one day? Not really. Plus, the Devizes Carnival Procession tomorrow evening means all the roads will be closed, so I may not be able to get back in.

I won't bother you with the furth complications. Suffice to say that this time, problem solved. Although one grandson has a friend for a sleepover tomorrow night, he and friend actually want to sleep in the living room, so I can stay over in grandson's bed. Whew.

Until next time.

Monday 25 August 2014

PS (to Richard Dawkins)

I'm sorry to trouble you again, Richard, but I thought you might like this. I happened upon it again this morning, and I thought of you. It's a photo of a happy family wedding, just over two weeks ago; the bride and her sister, plus husbands. But who's that on the right, I hear you ask?

Well, that's the mother of the two girls. She's my sister, born very prematurely with severe disabilities. Perhaps she, too, should have been aborted, but fortunately she was not. She looks happy, doesn't she? I'm glad you agree, because she's an amazing woman. Despite all the odds, she trained as a teacher and an actress, married and had these two wonderful - and they really are wonderful - daughters. She writes poems, gives one-woman shows, and although now widowed and living alone, and in constant pain, she coaches schoolchildren, helps out at her local primary school and keeps us all amused with her great sense of humour. (She's also a pillar of her local churh, but I suppose I oughtn't to have mentioned that.)

So you see, the disabled have so much to offer, not least their example. She may not have made any great scientific discoveries (apart from how many times it's possible to fall out of a wheechair without killing yourself), but all of us who know her are grateful to have done so. She is, quite simply, one of the most inspirational people I've ever met.

Now, you must excuse me. I have a novel to write.

Saturday 23 August 2014

Dear Richard Dawkins

No, not God, this time. You've done God to death. I want to complain about your disgraceful Tweet (if that's what it's called. I don't do Twitter) about Downs Syndrome babies. Let me remind you of what you said, apropos an unborn Downs baby: "Abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have a choice."

Why, Richard (if I may call you Richard)? Why immoral? If that baby is wanted, despite its condition, and if the parents are prepared to take it on, who are you to tell them they are being immoral? Are you God (if you'll excuse the term)? Have you ever met a Downs child (or adult)? Do you have any idea of some of the joy and love they can bring?

Let me tell you about Derica. When I met her, she was in her late teens; a regular patient at the surgery where I was practice nurse. She was a much-loved member of her family. Cheerful, friendly, brave (she never made a fuss about her blood tests the way many 'normal' people do), and happy. Yes, Richard. She was happy. And when her grandmother was burgled, at knifepoint, in her own little flat (imagine how that must have felt, if you can), it was Derica who slept in her Grandmother's bed with her for night after night afterwards, to hold her and comfort her.

Sadly, Derica died not long afterwards (so she didn't take up planet-space for too long, you'll be relieved to hear), and her family were all devastated. Because Derica knew how to love, how to care, how to give; in fact,  how to be a thoroughly good  human being.

We had many patients at that surgery, but it was Derica who stood out for me. Not because she had Downs, but because she was a very special young woman.

I wish you could have met her.

Friday 22 August 2014

Grave spectacle...

...or rather, spectacle grave. There are more corpses, all over the house. I sit on them, drop them, drop things on them, lose them. They are nearly all amputees. They get smashed at the bottoms of handbags (one of the many reasons that I shall never be a handbag lady. I hate them), and smaller family members get at them.

But they are/were all dirt cheap, so that's something. More arrived today. This time I shall make a big effort to keep them in their cases.

Well, it's a start.

(What an incredibly dull post. Apologies.)

Tuesday 19 August 2014

How do you know you're old?

A granddaughter asked me this this morning. These (my oldest) grandchildren are very interested in (my) old age, possibly because I'm one of the oldest people they're close to. When they were small, they used to tell me I was "very old, and going to die soon" (thanks, guys). Now the questions are different.

But I think the answer to this one (and the one I gave)  is that I don't think I would know I was old if I didn't know my age. I certainly don't feel it. I ride, play with grandchildren (on the trampoline this morning), wear jeans, even flirt (yes. I do, just occasionally, get chatted up. Hard to believe, I know. But you neve forget how to flirt. Experto crede). We are obsessed by age. Big O birthdays, retirement age, pensions, nice little offers of funeral plan packages or retirement homes coming in the post. You can't get away from it.

I have an actress friend who has told no one her age; not even her son. And I think that must be so liberating. Too late for me now, but good luck  to her. She really can be as young as she feels (awful cliche, but it fits).

Friday 15 August 2014

Money's cascading...

...into my coffers (I'm not entirely sure that I have a coffer, but if I did, it would be pretty full by now).

Three offers received by email yesterday; several more today. One even from the representative of Christine Lagarde, no less (she of the IMF). Usually US dollars, but no matter. Money is money. Some of it purports to come from very poor, unfortunate  (even, literally, legless) people in poverty-stricken communities.

And they all want to give me millions of pounds/dollars, right now. So when I've moved into my palace and parked the private jet on the velvety lawn, and watched my early string of  racehorses on the gallops, and been served a sumptuous breakfast by my butler (I've always fancied the idea of a butler), I shall take my new, expensive camera (I'm sure my good friend Adrian will advise here) and show you all photos of my great new life.

Please, don't mention  it. No problem at all,  I assure you.

Wednesday 13 August 2014

The black dog

In common with many thousands of others, I feel so very sad for Robin Williams and his family. A great tragedy, and a terrible waste of a prodigious talent.

I've been there too. For much of my life, I suffered from depression. It's debilitating, mysterious, at times crippling. And however sympathetic others may be, they do not - cannot - really understand.

Everyone can identify with, say, a broken leg. It's easy to understand. It hurts, and you can't walk properly.You don't have to have one to have an idea what it's like. Not so depression. Depression feels like a lead weight, can come out of the blue, and can be totally paralysing. And only someone who has been there can understand. You may know you have a lot to be happy about; that there's no reason for it. But that makes it even worse. I recall my then GP, whom I must have called upon in desperation, looking at my two toddlers and telling me how lucky I was, because she couldn't have children. So that brought on even more of the guilt I already felt.

When I was a student, I was hospitalised for several weeks. The hospital was Victorian and very grim. We were watched every second of the day, and even had to ask for the taps if we wanted a bath (no privacy, of course). I was treated with a bizarre therapy called 'insulin therapy'. Lord knows how it was meant to help, and I don't think it did anything at all except  make me feel even worse.

But in a way, I was lucky. My black dog is now kept at bay most of the time, and during that time in hospital I met, among others,  the girl who is still my life-long closest friend. I also  learnt to listen, as there were so many who were worse off than I was. In the end, I think I was a better person because of it.

Robin Williams has left a tremendous legacy for those of us who can still enjoy his work. I hope that he is now at peace.

Friday 8 August 2014

For a granddaughter; to cheer her up after a disastrous haircut

A camel might well get upset,
Because this is the best she will get.
But I want you to know
That your hair will soon grow,
And the camel will never
Have blue eyes, be clever,
Or get to play parts
In school plays. So you see
You're enormously special
Especially to me!

(And I love you very much xx)

Monday 4 August 2014

Of wedding photos

My short story about a fanatical photographer received some interesting comments, and it got me thinking about wedding photos.

How many weddings have you been to where the guests' enjoyment has been marred by having to wait around for hours - probably in the rain/wind/snow - while the photos are taken? There are the happy couple ones, some in the most unlikely of positions (like the one above), posed by fountains, lakes, on blaconies; and looking dreamy and (I think) just plain silly. And then there are the group photos. How we all love the group photos.

A bouncy man (it's usually a man) with a camera, calling out instructions: "now the family of the bride...the bridegroom's family...all the people the bridegroom has ever got drunk with...all the men the bride has ever slept with...". And on, and on, and on. And just when you think it can't get any worse: "and now we'll have a photo of EVERYONE!" And 'everyone' picks themsleves off lawns and out of bushes and trudges back for that last, shivering photo. Which (in all likelihood) nobody will ever look at again.

Personally, I love the informal ones, taken when nobody is posing and people look natural. One of the prettiest photos of one of my daughters-in-law is of her carefully navigating some steps, holding her dress out of the way, unware of the photographer. Oh, and weeping, reluctant bridesmaids clinging to theri mother's skirts (same wedding). Because that's the way it was.

Next post: wedding speeches. I can feel myself warming up already.

Sunday 3 August 2014

Magpie 231

Lizzie stood in the sand in her bra,
And tried to lasso a parked car.
Some thought it was clever,
But I think   I've never
Seen anything quite so bizarre.

(With thanks to Tess at Magpie Tales, for this photo of Elizabeth Taylor)

Saturday 2 August 2014

You can't take home a sunset (flash fiction)

Together, they leant on the balcony of their honeymoon hotel, looking at the sunset. She soaked up the warm summer evening, the fragrant cooking smells from neighbouring houses, the distant lapping of the sea. He just took a photograph.

As time went on, holidays were always the same. She revelled in new sights, smells, people. He collected them and took them home in his camera

"Look at the composition in this one!" he would cry, when they got home. "The way I've got that tree, that bridge."

But he hadn't seen the lightening streak of a kingfisher,  heard the gentle plop of a trout, or even noticed the new dress she was wearing.

Ten year on, it was the same.

 "Leave your camera behind, just for once," she pleaded, as they prepared for an anniversary holiday.

"Not a chance!" he laughed.

"But you can't take home a sunset," she told him.

"Just try me," he said.

They travelled to the coast.

"I must catch this," he said, as they stood on a cliff top, watching the  waves foam  and crash on the rocks below. But he didn't hear the cry of the gulls that wheeled above, or feel the soft turf beneath his feet.

He probably didn't feel the push, either. It was such a gentle push. Almost loving.

But this time, it was the police who took the photograph.

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Memories of a good friend

That's right. A 2CV. Well, two 2CVs to be exact.

My first was bright red; my second, just like this one. They weren't new of course, but I did love them; perky, cheerful, cheap; plus, you couldn't speed in them as they didn't go fast enough. What was not to like? Fellow 2CV drivers all waved to each other; people either loved them (usually women) or hated them (nearly always men). No one seemed to be indifferent to them. Marmite cars.

My first was written off by number one son soon after passing his test ( they crumpled like paper bags on impact); my second fell apart. Nowadays. they are rarely seen, as Citroen stopped making them some years ago.

Soon, we are to have driverless cars.  Presumably, they don't really need passengers, either. We'll be able to sit at home while our modern, characterless machines go for little spins all by themselves...

Monday 28 July 2014

Magpie 230

Seeing Susan, Felicity said,
"What on earth have you got on your head?"
"Don't you like it?" said Sue,
"Well, I can't afford new,
So it came from the lamp by my bed."

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

Friday 25 July 2014

Is there fewer rain at the moment?

Sort of. But that's not what you'd say, is it? But in the last week, I've heard several people on the radio taking about "less people", and I'm afraid it drives me mad.

I know, I know. It's too hot for pedantry, but surely there are some things that sound so plain wrong that I can't understand why people persist in saying them.

That's all. For now. But I'm afraid this pedant will be back

(However, if you're in the mood, do let me know which grammatical errors bother you. Only pedants need apply.)

Tuesday 22 July 2014

Boden again

No comment.

(And if anyone wonders why I carry on buying their stuff, on this occasion the are the only people who have the right shoes for a wedding. I haven't bought posh shoes for 16 years, and I was desperate.)

Monday 21 July 2014

Open letter to Boden

Dear Boden,

I don't often buy your clothes, becaue they don't really suit me. I do, however, buy your children's clothes as presents, because they are gorgeous, and have just sent for a pair of shoes in your sale.So far so good.

But do you have to be so ridiculously over the top about it all? When I order something, you go into paroxyms of faux delight, and today I received an exceptionally silly email to tell me: hip hooray! Your order is on its way.... we're shifting heaven and earth to deliver your spotty parcel as soon as possible.

In answer to the last, no you're not. Your packing department are just packing my stuff up, as they always do, and putting it in the post. I don't need all this gratuitous jollity. I'm not a child. I'm a grown-up, with a credit card of my own (you should know that. You've just taken money from it). Moreover, if I don't use you for while, I get plaintive little emails saying how much you miss me. Again, not true. You have no idea who I am (apart from name and credit card). You would just like a bit more of my custom.

Boden, you provide merchandise; I'm a customer. Our relationship is purely professional. Now, get over it.

Yours etc.

Wednesday 16 July 2014

Not a good week

I've been wondering whether this is what a blog is for; but then, as it's my blog, I suppose it can be for anything I like. So here goes.

Driving back from Heathrow, nearly home after our cruise (of which more another time), I knocked over a cyclist. She appeared from nowhere, I wasn't driving fast, neither John nor I saw her (and I always give cyclists a very wide berth). The first we knew of it was a terrible crunch, and the sight of someone flying through the air. For the next ten sconds ( dashing out of the car, running back to where she was lying)I thought I had killed her. And in those few seconds, I knew - just knew - that if that were the case, I couldn't live with myself. Not ever again.

But she was alive. Lying in a crumpled heap in the wreck of her bicycle, she was conscious, not in pain, and so, so nice. I sat beside her, holding the bike frame away from her legs, and apologised and apologised, and she just kept on saying that these things happen, and tomorrow would be another day, and it was in the past now (whether she still feels like that now, I don't  know. I wouldn't blame her if she was now feeling pretty angry). Mercifully, she was later discharged with a few cuts and burises, but before we parted, we hugged each other ("an  interesing way to make new friends," observed the paramedic). The police were kindness itself, as were the paramedics. But it was one of the worst experiences of my life.

Then this morning, I received a letter from my death row inmate. Usually I can deal with these, but this was so heartbreaking as to be unbearable. He is lonely and hungry all the time; not allowed access to a library (he longs for books); and he wants to die. He ends his letter thus: "I think I'm going to die soon so I've been looking at the sky and the sun one last time. Life is beautful, my friend. I can't believe people take it for granted".

I read his letter, and wept.

Tuesday 1 July 2014

Why a cruise is like a Kindle

A quick one before I go, but I had to defend my choice of holiday after the comments on my last post!

Cruises are not unlike Kindles*, in that they arouse furious disgust at first, and then you try them, and then...well, then you may well change your mind. REAL books. REAL holidays. That's what we want, isn't it? But sometimes the alternative is quite acceptable.

My idea of a cruise used to be a crowded ship, all-day food (and much too much of it), dreadful evening entertainements, with rows of girls, arms linked, doing that up and down thing with their legs, women in white "slacks" with expensive tans and lashings of gold jewellery and too much make-up. Oh - and dinner with the captain, wearing full dinner jackets and posh frocks.

Ours aren't like that at all. Quite small ships (about 400 this time), wear what you like, food excellent but in civilised portions, and while you are invited to dinner with the captain (or the ship's doctor, or whoever), we usually say no thank you. I'd be the first to say that I'd love a Cornish cottage and long coastline walks, or long hikes in the Lake District, but with a husband who finds walking difficult, cruising is the next best thing.

I won't  have converted anyone, but I've said my piece. My own jury is still out on my feelings about cruises, but I'l let you know when I get back!

* The Kindle is coming too, of course.

Monday 30 June 2014

We're off!

On this. Heathrow tomorrow, and then the ship on Wednesday for ten days. I hate all the hanging around at the airport and the early start, but can't wait to be on the ship. Sadly, we aren't allowed to swim off the boat, although it's not that big (health and safety, don't you know), but I hope to find a rocky cove or something (I've never been a lying-by-the-pool person*).

So if there are no comments from me for a while, it's not because I'm not interested: I'm just determined to leave the internet behind and read lots and lots of books. Heaven!

*I'm still not entirely sure I'm a cruise person, either. I haven't got the right clothes, or the sparkling white teeth. But I'm prepared to risk another try (in the interests of reasearch, of course).

Thursday 26 June 2014

Shoes and speeding courses and a bad Internet day

First, the shoes.

I wanted some sandals - I love sandals - and have recently ordered several pairs and sent them all back. Wrong fit/appearance whatever. Then I sent for another pair. Wonderfully comfortable, but I didn't really love them (someone once said to my daughter: "never buy any clothing you don't love, because if you don't love it when you buy it, you certainly won't love it when you get it home". This is so true. My wardrobe is full of things I don't love. I hang on to them for a while, and then they go to Oxfam).

Anyway, the sandals. I didn't grow to love them, so arranged for John Lewis to collect them. J L were very helpful, and would collect them the next day.

But wait! Upon checking my Amazon orders, I found that the sandals had come from Amazon, not J Lewis. Oops. Arranged to return them to Amazon (are you still with me?), grovelled to J Lewis. All this took some time. But what took the most time was worrying about my crumbling brain. How did I manage to make this stupid, stupid mistake? And why were J L so happy to collect something they didn't sell me in the first place?

On to the Speed Awareness Course. Simple to book on line, they said. No. Not simple at all. After thinking I'd booked one in Bedfordshire,  I found they seemed to think I wanted to go to Hampshire. In the end, I phoned them. Long, long wait (probably part of my ongoing punishment for driving a little too fast), plus horrible tune (more punishment), then finally managed to arrange it. The whole thing took nearly an hour (and you may not believe this, but I've left out quite a lot of this boring tale).

Plus, we'd resolved to have an alcohol-free day today.  Sigh.

Wednesday 25 June 2014

The Abuser


She watched in horror as he sank his teeth deep into his own forearm. When he straightened up, beads of scarlet blood oozed through his skin and trickled down his wrist. He gazed  at her expressionlessly.

'Now what do you think?' he said.

What could she think? After all those years of abuse, that he should do that, to himself!

She thought of all those other scars and bite marks; recent as well as old. She had been so careful - so very careful - to bite him where it wouldn't show.

A wholesome antidote...

... to my last, which seems to have caused some consternation.  These are my two youngest grandsons,  whom I visited last week-end. Big brother is trying to interest little brother in his new Lego. I had just discovered that Lego designed for "4 to 7-year-olds" isn't as easy as it looks. I did not distinguish myself. Daddy, however, did very well (but then he's an engineer). Big brother did pretty well, too.

Ah well. One can't be good at everything...

Tuesday 24 June 2014


Can anyone explain why both my PC and my iPad have suddenly refused to show more than the one most recent post of those whose blogs I follow? I'm supposed to "click here" for more, but I click away and nothing happens. Any suggestions?

(This sadly means that I may ignore posts that I would otherwise read. Can't have that, can I?)

Monday 23 June 2014

Magpie 225

Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely, and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of may -
They've also blown away the garden gate.
Now all can see thou art not seemly dressed;
Uncovered are thy head, thy arms, thy feet.
And lo! the whole of one pert rosy breast
Is visible to all in yonder street.
What kind of lass lies down half-dressed, and poses
Beside the fountain, within sight of men?
Does thou, dear, think that thou art hid by roses?
In that case, p'raps thou shouldest think again.
I ask again, what kind of lass thou art?
But must conclude my lady is - a tart.

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

Friday 20 June 2014

Something sexy (?) for the week-end

Actually, it was the one middle I wanted, but I seem to have got three instead. He (in the middle) is Bobby somebody (a 'celebrity', but I've already forgotten his second name). This photo  poses (ha)  several questions:

1. Why?
2 (The burning question): How does it stay up?
3. Does it stay on while its wearer is swimming?
4. Does anybody - anybody at all - find this attractive?
5. Refer to question 1.

The equipment of the gentleman on the right is apparently so heavy that he has to hang it round his neck. He's  just showing off.

I'm off now to look after two sweet, innocent little grandsons. Have a good weeke-end.

(I stumbled across these photos in today's Times)

Monday 16 June 2014

Back to the bedside

For some time, I've been looking for some voluntary work (my Relate counselling was my voluntary contribution  for many years), and at last I've found what I would like to do. A local hospice is recruiting nurses whose registration has lapsed to do nursing-related tasks for one 4 hour shift a week, and after a long wait (references, interviews, the dreaded criminal check thingy) I started last week. And I just loved  it.

It's  wonderful being back, in a place where the nursing care takes precedence over anything else; where there are no cardiac arrests and rushing about, and where people are cared for properly in a peaceful, well-equipped place surrounded by beautiful gardens. I feel very fortunate to be a (very small) part of it, (even though it will take months for me to know my way around. The layout is the kind where you need a satnav to help you).

Wish me luck!

Sunday 15 June 2014

Magpie 224


"When I look in the mirror," said Fred,
"And I see my reflection, instead
Of the sight of my face
I see, in its place,
A view of the back of my head."

Said his wife, "I'm avoiding that glass,
And hope such anomalies pass.
When I  tried it, instead
Of a view of my head
I was 'faced' with a view of my a***."

(With thanks to Tess at Magpie Tales)

Saturday 14 June 2014

Birthday honours, and a motorbike accident

The honours list has been published today. I've never been sure about these rather arbitrary selections of those upon whom these honours are bestowed. We all know people who work tirelessly for others, with little or no recognition; charity workers, great teachers, doctors...people who have a profound effect on the lives of others; people we ourselves might select over those whose jobs are more publicly recognised.

However, this post is about a particular honour in today's list. Many years ago, my son, a student, was knocked off his motorbike by a woman who drove through red traffic lights. He flew over the bonnet of her car, and landed legs first, sustaining a severe compound fracture of one tibia (to the unitiated, that means the bone was sticking out through the skin). To this day, he has a metal pin in that leg.

I realise that the driver couldn't make any sort of contact while investigations were ongoing (although if it had been me, I think I would have to have at least phoned the hospital to ask how he was), but afterwards, when she had received her (small) fine and (I think) 5 points on her licence, I fully expected some kind of apology. None was forthcoming. I wrote a firm (though polite) letter to her, saying this, but never received a reply. Had my son landed head first, he wouldn't be with us now. And yes. I am still angry.

Today, I see that she has just been made a dame. I'm sure her work has been excellent (altough hers is  not a field in which I have any interest), but I can't help wondering whether this is the kind of person to whom we should be paying homage.

We all make mistakes. All we wanted was an apology. One short sentence would have sufficed. Was that so much to ask? Had she managed this, I wouldn't feel so resentful of the honour she has received. (I know I'm being illogical, but please forgive me.  That's motherhood!)

Wednesday 11 June 2014

The naming of parts

Not Henry Reed's beautiful poem of the same  name (do read it if you haven't already; it's one of my favourite war poems), but the naming of body parts.

We have all those coy little words we use, often during vistits to the doctor, and I've often wondered why. Why say "tummy ache" when it's abdominal pain? Why "bottom" for buttocks? Is it that people  feel presumptous if they use the right word when speaking to a medical professional? As though the word belongs to the doctor, rather than  the patient?

And as for genitalia...oh dear. "Willies" for boys (along with hundreds of other names); "front bottoms" perhaps for girls. Do children actually know the proper names for these body parts?

All this has been on my mind while reading Henry Marsh's fasincating book Do No Harm, about the life of a neurosurgeon, in which he has to keep stopping to explain all the medical terms.

I'll finish with a true anecdote of my own (I may have posted this before, in which case. apologies).

When I was a young staff nurse, I overheard the following conversation between a very new junior doctor, and his elderly (and very deaf) female patient:

Doctor: Have you had any trouble with your front passage?
Patient: What?
Doctor (a littel louder): Have you had any trouble with your front passage?
Patient: I can't hear you!
Long pause. Then:
Patient (puzzled, but trying to be helpful): Only when my neighbour parks his bicycle in it.

Tuesday 10 June 2014

And then there's...


What are you reading...

...at the moment? I'd be most interested to know. So - I'd be really grateful if anyone who happens to read this post could say (a) what you're currently reading, and (b) what's your top read for this year so far.

I'm currently reading Do No Harm by Henry Marsh, the fascinating account of the work of a brain surgeon (ie the author). It makes for riveting reading, but should be avoided by the faint-hearted or those who tend towards hypochondria. Not all his stories have happy endings!

My best read is Stoner, by John Wlliams. This is a brilliantly written novel which originally appeared in the 1960s. Beautiful, spare prose. One of those novels that manages to make a great novel out of a relatively slight plot (think Ian McEwan's Saturday).

Now, over to you, please. If you can spare a minute.

Friday 6 June 2014

For a really fun Daddy, try...

...Richard Dawkins. That's right. The anti-God one, who's spent his life trying to debunk any kind of religious belief.

Well, in case you hadn't heard, he's now started on Father Christmas. Not only poor FC, but also, fairy tales; in fact, any story that can't be scientific fact. Thus, rather pompously, he says "there's a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog" (actually, Steve, it's the other way round. You need to read the book). "It's statistically too improbable". (Since we're being pedantic here, I'd have used the word 'impossible'. But perhaps he knows something  I don't.)

Well, that's almost  every children's book from Peter Rabbit to Harry Potter dismissed. Masterpieces like The Wind in the Willows*, Winnie the Pooh, the Gruffalo...all misleading and therefore bad for children.

I can see Professor Dawkins, Dawkins junior on his knee, reading aloud a condensed version of War and Peace. Or perhaps David Copperfield. That must have been a laugh.

And what about those imaginary friends beloved of children? What did his children do with lost teeth? Bin them? Examine them under a microscope and make notes on their findings? Were  they allowed to go to fancy dress parties ("no, dear, you can't go as a fairy, because there's no such thing")?

I don't mind the good prof having a go at God. God's used to it. But I think he should leave the kids alone, and let them enjoy their imaginations while they still have the time.

*Oddly, it didn't occur to me until I was almost adult that a toad leading a cart horse or wearing a washerwoman's clothes was (to use Dawkins' word) improbable.

Thursday 5 June 2014

My recipe for perfect pastry

There is a certain mystique attached to making pastry, and for years, I struggled to get it right.  All that stuff about a 'light, cool touch', the crumbling it in your (cool) hands, the 'handling as little as possible', and the 'resting' in the fridge before use. Much of this I've  since learnt to ignore (largely out of laziness), but yesterday, I finally cracked it. Perfect pastry (and it really was perfect. I kid you not).

This was my recipe (it needs to be done in a hurry):

1. Measure flour into food processor.
2. Put marge down beside the Aga (or other warm place), expecting it to be there no more than a minute.
3. Suddenly remember the car must be taken to garage for  pre-operative assessment for badly damaged wing mirror (due to car being driven, backwards, into unforgiving metal post)
4. Abandon/forget pastry-making, and dash off with car (the news is bad, but that's irrelevant for pastry purposes)
5. Return to continue from stage 2. Discover marge only semi-solid.
6. Measure out marge anyway (not easy, as it slides about)
7. Mix. Add water.
8. Take pastry out. Pastry ball strange-looking, and wet. Realise measured out wrong amount of marge.
9. Throw ball of pastry back in mixer, add more flour and more (warmish) water, and whizz.
10. Immediately (no time for resting) make quiche.

Voila. We had it again for lunch today, and I've never made better pastry.

Monday 2 June 2014

Magpie 222

Our mother was open to censure,
For her tireless pursuit of adventure.
But sadly, her thrills
Involved cheap, dodgy pills,
And she died, when she choked on her denture.

(Thanks to Tess at Magpie Tales for the picture)

Saturday 31 May 2014

An opportunity for fame?

Today, John received a letter from the police to say that he'd been caught speeding.  But casting our minds back, we realised I was probably the driver (we'd just swapped over). Bad news all round, you might think.

But hush...what's that I hear? The tinkle of the bell of opportunity? For if indeed it was John, and we say it was me, and we get caught, and tell a lot of lies, and go to prison (like the notorious Chris Huhne and his ex), and I then write a book, it may well sell  far better than anything I've written so far. Ok, so we aren't MPs, but it's a start, isn't it? Vicky Price's experiences were published in a national newspaper after her release, so why not mine?

So in a way, I hope it was me, and we say it was John, and we get caught and etc. etc. etc......

Sunday 25 May 2014

Magpie 221

'If''. The alternative.

If you can fill your room with junk and clutter,
And still contrive to find your (unmade) bed.
If you withstand your parents' angry mutter
And play your music extra loud, instead.
If you can hoard your dirty mugs and dishes
And grow green mould therein, and cease to mind,
Stand fast against your teachers' well-meant wishes,
And, stalwart, keep your place in class (behind).
If you can eat three plates of food at mealtimes
And still have room for cereal in between,
And leave your dirty garments where you dropped them,
So everyone can tell where you have been.
If you can leave the jobs you're meant to do, lad,
And make quite sure that they remain undone,
Yours is this room, and everything that's in it.
You've now become a teenager, my son!

Dedicated to T, B and J.( But particularly T.)

(With thanks to Tess at Magpie Tales for the picture, and apologies to Kipling)

Saturday 24 May 2014

Poem from Death Row

Received in my latest letter this week:


Why would I ever get out of  bed
When facing the day means facing the dead.
Still I arise and herein lies death
That no dream can conquer though what else is left
Other than surrendering to this reality, or run
Screaming into the medicinal haze that blots out the sun.
By which I mean that human reason alone
Cannot be of help where the sun has not shone.

So catalogue your memories, or throw them away,
And let the magic moments fall where they may,
Each like a snowflake in its majestic flight
That fades into nothing in the darkness of night.
My mind's eye cares not in the least
Whether the sun rises in the west or sets in the east.
All these emptying cells* still fill me with dread
As I wake every morning to go face the dead.

*Texas has already executed seven people this year. They had been on death row from between ten and twenty years. Many of those still waiting have been there for much longer.

Thursday 22 May 2014

European elections. A very dull post

To earn the vote, brave women fought,
And so today, I know I ought
To go and put my little cross.
But I'm reluctant to, because -
And here's my point - do you, like me,
Know nothing about your MEP?

(Plus, it's pouring with rain.)