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... 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)