Thursday 31 December 2015

A year of failure

Wendy* has had an astonishing record in keeping her last lot of new year resolutions, and I really admire her. I, however, have not. Here are/were some of mine:

1. Finish the novel. No. Well, not quite.
2. Take at least two books to Oxfam every week.  No.
3. Ditto unwanted clothes. No.
4. Drink less. Actually, yes. We've been better this year, but I suspect only because we haven't felt so tempted. Not sure why.
5. Be tidier. No, though I did turn out one drawer. This wasn't nearly as rewarding as I'd hoped, and I can still no longer remember what's  in it (sticking plaster? Batteries? String?).
6. Write a to-do list in my diary each week, and stick to it. No and no ( which probably accounts for the failures above).
7. Not fall of the horse. No.
8. Blog less. Yes, I think...Well, a bit less.

Oh dear. This isn't looking good. But tonight, we are having our own little party, and we are going to make Resolutions. Both of us. And stick to them.

Watch this space (unless I resolve to do give up blogging altogether, which is a possibility).

Happy new year!

Monday 28 December 2015

On the pleasure of buying daffodils in December

I wandered lonely as a cloud
(In Sainsburys, quite hard to do),
When all at once, not quite a crowd,
But little sprays came into view.
Between the cheeses and the tills,
Bunches of early daffodils.

When often on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
I dream of spring. The time when I
Can shop for flowers as well as food.
But now, my heart with pleasure thrills -
A pound a bunch, for daffodils!

Sunday 20 December 2015

A Christmas story

Recently, as I struggled through the crowded town, I saw a small boy running along behind his mother.

"Why's it called Christmas?" He shouted after her.

I didn't hear her answer, but it put me in mind of this story.

In the jeweller's window, half hidden among the Christmas tinsel, glitter and flashing fairy lights; the expensive rings and bracelets and necklaces; someone had placed a little wooden manger, with a tightly-swaddled figure of the Christchild. Anyone watching closely might have noticed that the tiny figure appeared to awaken, look around as though dazzled by his surroundings, start at the jangling sounds of the Christmas music  and the cries  of excited customers, and begin to sob. A manicured  hand reached into the window from behind, and swiftly removed the little manger, replacing it with an expensive bejewelled watch.

"Why are taking that out?" someone asked.

"Oh, this old thing? It looks out of place here. We don't need it any more, so I decided to bin it.  Besides, what's it got to do with Christmas?"

Sunday 13 December 2015

Happy Christmas

This crib, entirely knitted by my very clever daughter-in-law, seems the ideal illustration for a cyber card to wish all followers and passers-by a really happy and peaceful Christmas.

(I may be back before Christmas if a thought strikes me, but I really ought to be shredding red cabbage, wrapping presents, making mince pies and panicking).

Thursday 10 December 2015

Jehova's witnesses and coincidence

After yesterday's post, in which I mentioned that I'd dreamt about Jehova's Witnesses the night before they actually pitched up on our doorstep, here are two more unrelated coincidences (nothing to do with dreams).

I'm sure you heard about the captain of the tragically shipwrecked Costa Concordia, who just happened to "fall" into a lifeboat (and then refused to get back on his ship). Well, in today's Times, there's the sad story of the man accused of rape. No, no, quoth he, in reply to the charges against him. It wasn't rape at all. He just happened to "fall" onto the victim and penetrate her. It was all an accident, you see. (He seemed to forget that a degree of physiological readiness would have been necessary for this to happen, never mind the removal/undoing of at least some clothing.)

Wednesday 9 December 2015

Entrepreneurial ideas

Just the two, but they could just bring in a bit more than writing.

1. Fluorescent dog food. This will emerge from the other end of the dog as luminous turds, which glow in the dark (we live in a lane beloved of the irresponsible owners of incontinent dogs. The lighting is poor, and the turds lurk unseen. This make me furious.)

2. A new company: A very reliable person, with blameless references, will sit in your house and wait in for the gas man/new boiler/Jehovah's Witnesses* or whatever while you go out to work/play tennis/ride a horse. For a bit extra, the blameless person might even do the ironing.

What do you think?

*We had two of those yesterday, which was spooky, as I'd dreamt they were coming. I told them exactly what I'd told them in my dream (which had served as a kind of rehearsal).

Tuesday 1 December 2015

To my teachers

Miss W: if you hadn't sent me out of the room (for standing on the table) I would never have run home. Actually I think I was quite enterprising for one so small (5 years old). But you should have noticed I'd gone. You had a duty of care, didn't you?

Miss R : I know we shouldn't have been climbing trees during school time, but we were pretending to be monkeys. And we were only  nine years old.

Miss B: I'm sorry about the mice. Why didn't you send me to the head? I certainly deserved it. Just saying "Frances, I think you should put those away now" wasn't going to do the trick, was it?

Miss D (the head): I promise we weren't doing anything sinister. We just discovered that if we rolled a roll of toilet paper under the partitions, it would unravel itself all the way along the row of lavatories. It was just a bit of fun. We were all sent to you, and I still don't understand why.

Miss Y: that essay on "silence" you made me write, because I was pretending to be an opera singer. You weren't supposed to hear me.You weren't even in the room when I started.

Miss D (head) again: making me write out the school rules with reasons was a waste of time. I still won't underage what they were for.

To the person who gave me (another) disobedience mark: that was totally unfair. There was no school rule about collecting the cream off everyone's school milk and making it into butter. It harmed nobody. Plus, it made excellent butter.

I hated school.

Monday 30 November 2015

Spare a thought for...

... my son, B, who dislocated his finger falling off his bike yesterday. Loking at this, someone said, "hasn't he got lovely fingers?" Not any more, he hasn't.

In case you were wondering, he went into A&E and had it "popped" back. The last time I heard from him he was feeling "sore and grumpy".

Wednesday 25 November 2015

Thoughts on geography, maps and Tuesday

I have never been any good at geography. I hated it at school - all those maps, with pink and green patches. I could feel a pale grey mist descending before my eyes as soon as I saw one. I got 29% in my last geography exam, and was invited to give the subject up.

But, I am therefore ignorant. Very. And yesterday, I had a conversation wit my daughter, and was wondering why America is always on the left, and the Eastern countries on the far right, and what would it look like if it were seen from a different angle, with America....well, not on the left. Say, in the middle.

And then, because it was Tuesday, I went on to wonder where Tuesday starts. I know we get it before America does, and other places get it before we do, but who has it first? Whose Tuesday begins before anyone else's?

At this stage, Dsughter said, "well, I've got better things to do than have this ridiculous conversation with you," and went off to do the better things. So I'm no wiser than I was before. (Having said that, I don't recall Daughter having spectacular success in geography, either, so who is she to be so dismissive?)

That's all, really. But someone, somewhere, is already enjoying Thursday, although it's still Wednesday  here.

Friday 20 November 2015

Why I hate window cleaners

It's nothing personal, and I do admire anyone who can combine two of the things I most hate: cleaning, and heights. (Our house is on four floors, and the window cleaners teeter on the summit of a long ladder, with spiky railings down below, just waiting like the jaws of hungry crocodiles). So as a rule, I don't hate them. But this morning, I hate ours.

Picture the scene.Actually, better not. Because I was stark naked in the shower, and this bit of ladder and a head appeared at the window. I kept very, very still, and waited for the head to go, hoping it hadn't notived  me (we have a flmsy blind which is rather see-through). When I went next door to the bedroom to dress, the head was there again. It was all too much. I'm still trying to recover (so, I suspect, is the window cleaner. But then I suppose for him, it'sall  part of the job).

Afterwards, I asked very nicely if next time, please could he and his band of colleagues  knock on the door when they arrive, to let us know they're there.

"No time," quoth he. No time, that is, to knock on all the doors. But he said he'd make an exception for us.

So watch this space (so long as that's all you watch).

Tuesday 17 November 2015

Thoughts after the terrorist attack

Several bloggers have posted thoughtful sensitive posts, but otherwise I think most of us have kept quiet over the past few days, because there is nothing we can say that hasn't been said before, and (I felt) maintain a respectful silence.

But I have heard what I think are some somewhat trite responses from political figures. Jeremy Corbyn has said we should prevent terrorism rather than shoot to kill, but how exactly does he propose to do that? Of course it is always better to prevent carnage than to have to respond to it with weapons, but in this case, prevention seems almost impossible, and we cannot stand back and see ordinary people mown down. And then President Putin has promised that the terrorists who brought down the Russian plane will be found and punished. Good idea, but again, how is he going to do it? The problem is so huge, and so widespread, it must be hard for those dealing with terrorism to know where and how to begin.

These terrorists seem to me to have two major advantages. Firstly, they are scattered round the world in small pockets, so are almost impossible to target. Secondly, they are prepared to die for their cause by blowing themselves up. What can we do against that?

I'm not a political animal, and would be the first to say there's a lot I don't know that I really ought to know. But like most of us, I fear for our civilisation, and for the futures of my (and your) children and grandchildren.

But all I can do - all most of us are able to do - is think of those who lost their lives, and of their grieving families. And wait.

Tuesday 10 November 2015

I've just come across this...

Look at it, then look away. Then please, please tell me why/how.

That's all.

Monday 9 November 2015

Horses v stairs

For some years now, there's been an ongoing argument between one of my sons and me over which is more dangerous; motorbikes or horse-riding. Today, he has won, for I read in The Times that horse riding is twenty times more likely to cause serious injury than riding a motorbike. I have to say, I was surprised (fortunately, he's at a conference in the U.S. this week, so may not get to read it).

But. More dangerous than either, in my opinion, is something nearly all of us do several times a day; going up and down stairs. At the yard where my horse lives, one rider and one instructor have both lost their mothers, killed by falling down stairs. Another instructor was paralysed falling down stairs, and I broke my back twelve years ago falling down stairs. Stairs are dangerous.

And yet do we ever see health warnings about the dangers lurking on the staircase? Red meat, processed meat, alcohol, cigarettes, even conkers...all have press attention regularly devoted to their attendant dangers. We are told to test our smoke alarms, and be careful when handling fireworks. The dangers of driving are regularly aired.  But of stairs, not a word.

Perhaps we should have a Minister for Stairs. Seriously.

Saturday 7 November 2015

More fish, please (a post for Phoebe)

This post greatly entertained my granddaughter, who's currently bogged down with homework and other teen issues (not problems. Issues. Have you notice that no one has problems any more; only issues?). So I promised her another post, just for her. Another sort of non-competitive reader-participation offering.

Fish again (of course). Place (plaice?) names adapted to make a fishy connection. I'll begin with Prawnwall and Codmin. Now over to you (and please don't disappoint her. It's a wet weekend. What else have you to do?). 

Wednesday 4 November 2015

The man up the lane

Apropos my last post, maybe I should introduce more fully the man up the lane. I shall not name him for fear of repercussions (and he does a good line in repercussions). So for the purposes of this post, I shall call him M (but not in a James Bomd way).

M is.....different. Most of us feel that he's not quite ....well, not quite. But his long-suffering neighbour - a gentle, charitable man - says "he's just a very nasty man". I tend to agree.

M shouts. He shouts a lot. He becomes much exercised over what he sees as minor breaches of the law (untaxed cars, bad driving etc). His inner policeman is forever on the lookout for such eventualities. And then he shouts. He can be heard several doors away (us). He wears an official looking fluorescent jacket to add gravitas to his diatribes.

M has a bad knee. Because of this, he has contrived to get himself a blue disabled parking badge, and his own disabled parking space outside his house. This has cause much ill feeling among the rest of us because (a) he can walk as well as I can, and (b) most of us have to park in the same street, and  parking round here is very difficult. This parking space is, however, a courtesy one, and not legally binding. If other drivers encroach on it, which they are entitled to do, he shouts.

(Later) M has just missed a treat. I've just returned from the shops to find a policeman arresting a man  and his bicycle. With real handcuffs.  This kind of thing is meat and drink to M. I feel almost sorry for him. Almost.

But M does have his uses. If there is dog mess in the lane, he will warn (shout) about it. He will even arrange a barricade of wheelie bins around it as a warning. He gets a small Brownie point for this. But that is the only thing he does for anyone (as far as I know).

 I've tried to be nice about/to M, but my patience is wearing thin. Watch this space.

Monday 2 November 2015

Another week of things learnt

1. The best way of finding those tiny splinters of glass I  thought I'd  swept up is to walk about in bare feet.

2. That having spend some years doing the daily "difficult" sudoku in The Times, it is galling to discover that eleven year old grandson, unpractised and untutored, can do it in half the time.

3. And that he can beat me at Scrabble, even when I'm trying. And I thought I was quite good at Scrabble.

4. The M25 really is the motorway from hell (I used to think it was second to the M6, but not any more).

5. An interesting fact about number palindromes, courtesy of Adrian. Thank you, Adrian.

6. That the man up the lane may have ....a problem, but he has shouted at me once too often. I have feelings, too.

7. That I've really got nothing to say, but writing this gives me an excuse to sit down and do something mindless, which I need after the rigours of half term (see 2&3 above).

Tuesday 27 October 2015

Things I've learnt in the past week

1. Nail varnish is one of the most expensive liquids of all per fluid ounce.

2. "Galore" is the only gothic word still in use in the English language.

3. That green vegetable that looks like a pretty cauliflower (romanesco; see above) is not nearly as exciting to eat as it looks. It would be put to better use tied with a ribbon and given as a present.

4. My new horse (Blue) is very fast. Yesterday, we won an informal race. "Do I need to hear this?" asked child no.4 when I told him, (my children think horses are terribly dangerous). I explained to him that nowadays, this is the ONLY thing I can (sometimes) do faster than people half my age. Plus, I love it. A friend calls it "the need for speed". Exactly.

5. Trollope (Anthony) really is my absolute favourite author. I've read many of his books, but I've just discovered his lesser-known novel, The Claverings. It's brilliant.

6. When sending toys to grandchilden for birthdays etc., I must, must, MUST remember to include batteries (I'm so sorry, George. It won't happen again).

7. Wine-tastings can be fun, but aren't really my thing. I prefer to taste one bottle of wine I know I'll like, at home, in front of Coronation Street (okay We're addicted. People - especially my brother -scoff at this, but we love it).

Monday 26 October 2015

Let me introduce you to....

.... my mad sister. She's had a difficult life, being handicapped from birth, but has overcome all kinds of problems to become an actress, a writer, a wife and a mother of two amazing girls. Although by then confined to a wheelchair, she managed to nurse her husband at home until his death eight years ago.  She now lives in sheltered accomodation, and while she has lots of friends, life can be lonely. I've been trying to persuade her to join the blogosphere for some time, as it means she might come across new people.  So....please visit her blog if you have a moment. I know she'd appreciate it.

Saturday 24 October 2015

The Christmas Elephant

Around the end of August. I'm aware - just slightly aware - of a hint of its trunk, with the arrival of the first catalogue. I ignore it.

By the middle of September, one grey foot can be glimpsed through in the doorway. We (my family) all ignore that, too. We laugh nervously, and speak of other things.

October, and a huge grey head peers round the door. Elephant? What elephant? I didn't see an elephant, we say, as we edge round it on leaving the room. We don't believe in elephants around here. Now, what was it we were saying? All kinds of things; that's what we were taking about. But not that elephant. Perish the thought.

Mid-October, and things are hotting up. The elephant sidles into the room looking shy but determined. Nobody mentions it. End of October, and the elephant gets desperate, and starts trumpeting. We know that if we continue to ignore it, it will come crashing in and trash the house.

Eventually, someone takes pity on it. "Um.... what's everyone doing for Christmas?" s/he says.
"Christmas? Oh, Christmas! Haven't really thought about it," we trill merrily, lying in our teeth,  as the elephant begins to settle down, simpering, in a corner. Because the elephant knows just what 's going to happen. There will be talk of Whose Turn it is, and who has, or hasn't, got room for everyone; there's talk of in-law and out-laws, and Chrstmas Lunch (or maybe just Christmas Tea?), and who will or won't be pleased/offended/upset/disappointed.

And me? I just stay very, very quiet; not least because last year, I well and truly messed things up with misunderstandings and prevarications, and was (quite rightly) reprimanded. So I'll just settle down quietly in the elephant's corner,  and eat one of the elephant's bananas.

And wait...

(With acknowledgments to B, who pointed out the elephant thing.)

Tuesday 20 October 2015

A silly competition... make up for the huge disappointment caused by my last post, whose link refused to work (I've now deleted it).

No prizes, but this is a fishy literary competition (game, really).  Names of well-known books altered to look fishy. For example:

Peyton Plaice
The Cod Delusion
The Pilchard's Progress

Over to you now (only those with nothing better to do need apply. I'm off to do the ironing).

Saturday 17 October 2015

I'm a pessimist

I think I always have been. Pessimists call themselves realists; optimists call them (us) .... pessimists.

We pessimists know the score. We know we're all heading in the same direction, and we could get there any minute. We know that every time we get in a car, that journey could be our (or worse. Someone else's) last; that that lump/cough/weight loss/chest pain is almost certainly going to prove fatal (actually, I'm not a hypochondriac, but many of us pessimists are). We know that when we invite people to dinner, that dish that's supposed to set in a pretty shape is going to tumble out of its tin in a messy heap, someone at the table will be allergic to something, and the guests will take an instant dislike to each other. (This last happened some years ago, when I stupidly invited very left-wing friends together with very public school right-wingers. They hated each other on sight. Why didn't I see that coming?). We know that that garment we hanker after will be out of stock/only available in tiny or outsize/or just won't fit. If we do buy it, it will certainly be half price in the sale next day. C'est las vie (or the pessimist's vie, anyway). Oh, and if we see a police car, of course it's after us, although we can't remember doing anything wrong.

The other day, I came across this spectacularly silly rhyme, written when I was probably about nineteen:

Oh cabbage in your cabbage patch,
Where bugs and caterpillars hatch.
Tell me, I pray, is it too late
For me to come and vegetate?

It's seems I haven't changed much.

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Amazon reviews

For some time, I have been reviewing books (and other things) as part of the Amazon Vine programme, and I've given the whole subject a lot of thought. I thought it might be helpful to other writers to share some of the things I have discovered.

1. Beware the one-off five-star review. If a review is (usually) an ecstatic, five star review, and the writer of that review has only written one or two (or no) reviews before, the odds are that this is a friend/famly member of the author. This may be fine, but it probably means that the writer is trying - with the  best intentions - to be kind, but the review will inevitably be biased.

2. It is better to have more reviews, with a wider range of ratings. After all, not everyone will enjoy our work, and it's fine for  readers to say so. It at least means someone has read the book, and taken the trouble to review it.

3. Especially beware the reviewer who tries to promote his/her own book through the review: ie "Review by  ANNE CLEVER-DICK,  author of  MY WONDERFUL NOVEL". I came across one of these yesterday. The review is not about you, Ms. Cleverdick. It's about someone else's book.

4. Never write a highly critical review using the name under which you write. Pay-back is only a matter of time, and you may well find your own book slammed by the author (and his friends).

5. If you can get a top reviewer to read and review your book, so much the better. All reviewers are rated by Amazon.

I have experienced all these things - including the ecstatic relatives - and you may already know all this. But I thought it was worth saying (forgive me if I'm stating the obvious in this post).

Cautionary tale: ages ago, I approached a publisher with a view to asking them to look at a book of mine. I received an amazingly forgiving email saying that "as I had just reviewed one of their novelists under the heading 'Where, oh where, was the editor?', she declined the opportunity to read my novel". Oops. I apologised profusely, and she was so gracious that I really wished I could have had her as my publisher. It was quite clever of her to trace me as I review under a different name.

Saturday 10 October 2015

The tyranny of homework

I was chatting on the phone to my fourteen-year-old granddaughter today, and she told me she has nine pieces of homework to do over the weekend. That's right. Nine. "The weekends are just school, but at home," she said. How sad. I certainly don't remember my own children ever having this amount of homework.

Some of this homework is Spanish. She has to learn over 100 new words. They include the Spanish for "widower" and "step-brother".  "I don't even use these words in English," she told me.

Now, have you ever, when abroad, needed either of these words? I would have thought phrases such as "please return this to the chef. It's inedible," or "please don't do that. I have a boyfriend/fiancé/husband at home," or even "do you have aspirin/sticking plasters/pair of crutches" might possibly come in handy for a young woman abroad, rather than the words she has to learn.

My poor daughter grieves for the (triplet)  children she used to play/walk/ picnic with at weekends, but they don't have time to play with her any more. I've  invited her to come down to Devizes to play with me. I hate Ludo and Monopoly, but I'm a dab hand at Scrabble.

Tempted, Daisy?

(This post pinged off too early yesterday. Apologies.)

Friday 9 October 2015

On being un-followed

Dear Un-follower (if you read this)

I had a feeling this might happen, and I'm sorry to see you go, but we obviously disagreed about something about which I feel very strongly. Maybe I was too fierce - maybe you were, too  - but nonetheless, I'm sorry to see you go. Thank you for following me, and for all your comments. This is the risk we all take when writing about things near to our hearts; people won't always agree. But, dear late follower, I wish you had done your research, as I have. Then we need never have fallen out at all.

Best wishes, and no hard feelings, eh? 

Thursday 8 October 2015

A guinea pig post

This is one of  my grandsons, with his beloved guinea pig.

Our family has long had a love affair with guinea pigs, who are enchanting (especially the babies, who arrive as ready-made miniatures of their parents. None of that blind, bald nonsense). They are peaceful pets, little trouble and  have an  endearing range of squeaks and whistles. But - they are also subject to panic attacks, they are shy, and they are not very bright. They also don't live very long. Ours in particular didn't live very long, for fate did not smile kindly upon them, although they were much loved. Thus (a random selection):

Two were despatched by next door's dogs, who got into our garden.

One, who had escaped, was borne away, screaming, by the farm cat. The memory hants me still.

Next door's dogs again. The owners were genuinely horrible, and not just becasue they kept guinea- pig-eating dogs.

Perhaps most traumatic of all, on the morning of my father's funeral, we discovered that rats had chewed their way into the cage, eaten the babies, killed one parent and badly maimed the other. A weeping daughter and a trip to the vet on the morning of a funeral is not what we wanted.

Although we had many guinea pigs over the years, I don't recollect a single one dying peacefully in his bed of old age. Oh dear. But those whose bodies we had were given respecful burials in the left-hand flower bed. Theirs weren't the only flower-bed graves, either....

But the good news it that grandson (above) seems to have better luck with his. They live to ripe(ish) old ages, and are beatifully cared for. One of them, the much-loved Josh, used to come into the kitchen to have toast and marmalade and tea (two sugars) for breakfast.

Wednesday 7 October 2015

A man was executed last night

This is an eye-witness account of the suffering of the family of a man executed last night in Texas. Punish a prisoner, and you punish his whole family.

ALL executions are sad. ALL executions are barbaric. ALL executions are unnecessary. ALL executions hurt.
What made the execution of JUAN GARCIA different from the rest? It was the wailing. It was the gut-
wrenching, fist in the stomach, hand down the throat, hurtful. mournful wailing. The sounds of utter despair,
disbelief, sadness, torment, wailing that came from the three children of JUAN GARCIA tonight when they,
standing outside the Walls, came to the realization that the State of Texas had taken their father and shot
drugs up his vein to kill him. This is the same father, where mere hours ago, had seen his children when he was
alive and wishing them the best in life. This was the same father, who just an hour and a half before, had told
them on the phone to stick together in this harsh world. The three teenagers, ages 15, 16 & 17, could do nothing
except wail when I had to give them the news that their father had spoken his last words and would speak no
more. They lit white candles, released three balloons with their names on them, to meet their father up in the
heavens. And they wailed. This is the sound I will never forget. A sound etched in my mind forever. Reverend
Cheryl rang the bell 15 times, once for each year Juan was on Death Row. I read the poem, "Good Bye", written
by Uncle Ippy, Eugene Broxton #999044, and told the three children that it was from their father to them. I
told them some of his last words to me was for them to love each other and stick together. And, they wailed. At
the church, where they could touch and kiss their father while his body was still warm, they cried out to him to
please wake up. And, they wailed. It is a sound I will never forget. Good night from Texas.


Saying goodbye is never easy

but moving on

We all must do

Going on with our lives

Not just talking about it

But seeing it through

Move on,

My loves,

Move on,

And live,

You have,

Much more to give

Now it's time I must go.

It's not easy to say good bye

But it's time

So I say good bye

Know my love for you is true

And as long as you live,

My love will be with you.

Monday 5 October 2015

And while on the subject of fashion...

...what about waists? And more to the point, "low rise" jeans? What is the point of a waist that isn't a waist? A waist that balances precariously on the hips, neither up nor down; neither one thing nor the other?

 I am a woman, and notwithstanding my advanced age and four babies, I have a waist. I go in at the middle, and out above and below (too much below, but no matter. I have learned to live with it). Most modern women's jeans are designed to settle at half mast, and this is not comfortable. They dig into the hip bones, and need a belt to prevent them from sliding South. I'm wearing some now. Jeans that have proper waists in the right place are hard to find. Trust me. I've been searching, yet again, for a pair. I live in jeans (when not in jodhpurs, which, btw, have proper waists), so this is a matter of great importance to me.

That's all. (No pictures. The Bat was the last photo of me you'll see on this blog. Unless at some stage I feel impelled to redress the balance and show you I can occasionally scrub up well.)

Saturday 3 October 2015

The bat outfit (as requested by Joanna)

I referred in my last post (on sartorial mistakes) to the Bat Outfit I wore to a son's  wedding. Well, I've swallowed the last remaining drops of pride, and here it is. I'm second from the left. Well, you can tell, can't you?

Kind comments only, please. It's a sensitive subject.

Wednesday 30 September 2015

Fashion mistakes that I vow...

....never to make again (I know that fashion and I don't normally go together, but I have to wear clothes, and I often make mistakes). Here goes:

I will never again buy a jump suit (yes. It was a long time ago, but we were very hard up at the time, and the shame has stayed with me. The jump suit has not).

I will never buy another pair of dungarees. I love dungarees. They are comfortable and cheery, and I think they look okay. But my daughter says she will never be seen again with me if I wear them, and I love my daughter more than I love dungarees.

I will never again buy a second garment in a different colour because I liked the first, and they were in the sale. I have learnt that if I go off the first, then that means that I have gone off both. Lose-lose.

If I don't like something I've bought after all, I won't hang on to it, unworn, for two years because I ought to keep it for a while in case (like those bits I keep in the fridge, which I'm not going to use, but can't throw away until they grow green fur). I shall take it to Oxfam NOW.

I shall never again go to a son's wedding dressed as a bat (long story. The memory - and, worse, the photos - are with me still). Another son gets married next year. I shall be guided entirely by daughter (see above). So definitely no dungarees.

I shall never again hang on to something I've bought online, but am too lazy to send back, convincing myself that I shall grow to like it. I shall not only not grow to like it; I shall grow to hate it.

I shall never again wear new shoes to a son's wedding. Those I bought to go with the bat outfit became excruciating within minutes. They didn't even look nice. To this day, I don't know why I bought them.

Friday 25 September 2015

Of satnavs, Betjeman and Slough

"Come friendly bombs and drop on Slough,"
John Betjeman once wrote.
And oh, I so agree with him,
If he'll excuse the quote.
Last Sunday, when we lost our way
(I'm still not quite sure how)
The satnav played a nasty trick,
And took us home through Slough.

Oh Betjeman, I could add much more
To all those things you said.
Grey faces, traffic, buildings, cars,
But traffic lights - all red.
The roundabouts, the one-way streets -
Which way do we go now?
Oh, friendly bombs, dear friendly bombs,
 Please come and drop on Slough.

Where was the longed-for motorway
We'd sought, but failed to find?
Where was the slip road? Where the signs?
Alas, all far behind.
But citizens of Slough, you know
Your town will win no prizes.
So phone up Pickfords, pack your stuff -
And join us, in Devizes!

(I love Betjeman's poem, but after last Sunday, I really, really hate Slough.)

Wednesday 23 September 2015

What is it about horses?

Their size, their innate gentleness (usually), their smell, the sounds they make (munching, whinnying, whickering, even snorting), the kissablity of that velvety bit above the nostril, and almost best of all, their eyes.

Did you know that horses have the biggest eyes of any mammal? That doesn't mean biggest in comparison with the rest of the horse, but biggest. Full stop. Not many people know that; even horsey people.

Above are Blue's eyes (and some of the rest of Blue). I was admiring them today. Lovely, aren't they (or the one you can see)?

Wednesday 16 September 2015

My Ode to (this) Autumn

Season of clouds and welly-bootfulness,
Close bosom friend of the torrential rain.
Hardly a hint of summer sunfulness,
And bloody winter's on its way again.
I wouldn't mind if I were sporting  tanfulness,
And felt the need for hurricanes and such,
But as it is, my skin is pale with sunlessness,
And in the mirror, I don't like it much.
Soon there'll be mud and snow and freezefulness,
The prospect fills my pallid soul with dread.
But there are always books and  wine and cheesefulness -
I'll spend the next six months, with them. In bed.

 (Sorry. Keats. But your autumns were obviously nicer than ours.)

Tuesday 15 September 2015

Lounge (part 3)

I had to end with this (see my last two posts for context). This is a picture in the dining area, which even to the most innocent is suggestive. It's huge, and this photo (taken from my sister's wheelchair) doesn't do it justice. A woman's face with the lips sucking at one of So suitable for the elderly and disabled, don't  you think?

Bring back Constable's  Hay Wain! It's not my favourite picture, but at least it's gentle and rural and inoffensive.

I'll now leave this subject for the time being. I'm beginning to  upset myself.

Monday 14 September 2015

"The lounge" illustrated

Here it is, as promised (see previous post). Cosy? No. Comfortable? No. Those chairs are like buckets, and the backs come barely half-way up the sitter's back (I tried one out). They are neatly placed around little tables. The thing in the corner is a horrible spray of metal flower-like things which light up. As for the red/black colour scheme - well, words fail me. But homely and tasteful it is not. Oh, and please note the sparkly ceiling lights. The photo doesn't do them justice.

More to come...

Illiterate rudeness from high places

My disabled sister lives in sheltered accomodation. Thre is a communal "lounge" where the residents can get together for coffee, meetings etc. This used to be comfortable and reasonably homely. But no more. This room has now been done up, and is utterly hideous (I hope to obtain a photo for the next instalment of this rant). But even worse, the furniture has been arranged in a way that is neither social nor practical for the residents. They asked the manager to complain to the council about this, and she received the following bewildering and rather rude reply:
The furniture was made bespokely for the lounge. It will not fit any other way than the existing layout. The lounge is where it is now for practical reasons (accommodating more tenants). The old style whilst maybe suiting a few tenants was not condusive in a health and safety aspect.
Aside from the extraordinary use of English, this missive shows a flagrant disregard for the comfort of people for whom this is their only home. The writer of the letter even told one man (who said that it wasn't possible to have a nap in the chairs, which are small and hard and low-backed) that "if he wanted to go to sleep, he should go back to his own room" .
My sister is furious and frustrated by all this. So am I. And my blog is the best and least harmful place to express my feelings. Sorry about that.

Wednesday 9 September 2015

Why I've cleaned out the larder

The novel is almost finished. I have a misty vision of the perfect, satisfying (but not too satisfying) ending. So I'm  not getting down to it (many writers will understand this syndrome). Much better to leave it where it is, pregnant with brilliant possibilities, than actually to do it, and face disillusion.

I love our larder. I love being able to walk in and see exactly what there is, rather than open lots of drawers and cupboards. But it's a long time since I could see what there was in our larder. Plus, it needed a good clean.

I have to say, I've had a horrible afternoon. An afternoon of long-ago sell-by dates*, of scatterings of rice grains and crumbs, and, strangely, multiple half-used packs of toasted almonds. There was insect life, too. Silverfish, and what may have been weevils. Adrian would have photographed them. I just cleaned carefully round them. Oh, and a huge jar of pickled gherkins, which I once needed for a recipe, but which over time had morphed into what looked like primitive, grey amphibians.

The job is now done. Do I feel satisfied, now that everything is in neat rows and and least some things are still within their sell-by dates? Not at all. I just feel tired, my back aches, and I still haven't finished that novel.

*I once had, and treasured, a tin of anchovies dated 1987. I think they belonged to my father. I wonder what happened to them.

Monday 7 September 2015

Two records broken

I broke two records last last week:

1. I had two letters published in The Times* in less than three weeks.  (I don't usually blow my own trumpet, but this is such a small trumpet, I thought I'd give it a quick puff.)

2. I posted my least popular post ever. Sigh.

*Serious ones, too. I usually write silly silly ones as I don't have the right kind of brain for Big Issues and Politics.

Friday 4 September 2015

Tuesday 1 September 2015

A self-assembly rant

The words "self-assembly" strike fear into my very heart. Time was when things arrived whole and ready-made.They looked like whatever they were supposed to be.  But no more. Things that should have bulk and shape arrive in flat boxes with lots of screws (apart from the one that's always missing), and sheets of incomprehensible instructions.

So I left the cardboard box in the hallway for about a week, plucking up courage to open it. Then I thought,   how hard can it be, assembling a scooter for a two-year-old, especially for a woman (me) who fixed the broken interior of the dishwasher with string?

Readers, last night, I opened the box. There were screws - boy, were there screws - and flimsy spanners and allen keys (you always have to have those), and the kind of wordless instructions consisting of little picures of A fitting into B, and then D and E following fast. But they didn't. Not for me. It took me over an hour just to attach the handlebars with the kind of tiny spanner you might get out of a  Christmas cracker (the wrong size, and it kept slipping).

After an entire evening of frustration and pure rage, the scooter was almost done, But I couldn't fit the two main parts together, and worst of all, there were TWO SCREW LEFT OVER. What if a precoius grandson were to perish because for the want of two screw? It doesn't bear thinking about.

So lovely neighbour Alan (nothing to do with keys) now has it. He'll fix it. He knows about these things. I just hope that one day, he comes to me for help, and I can show him how to fix his dishwasher with string.

Monday 31 August 2015

Magpie 283

I am the wife of Nanki Poo,
With, sadly, not enough to do.
So I look at flowers
For hours.

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

Sunday 30 August 2015

My least favourite hymn, and why

Years ago, I won a competition in the Guardian for writing an alternative, non-green version of We Plough  the Fields and Scatter. I won a Christmas pudding (which arrived in the post, rather flat. But it was a prize, and I quite like Christmas pudding in small doses).

 I always thought All Things Bright and Beautiful could benefit from similar treatment. I hate that hymn, not least because it's so selective. It only includes the nice things, and leaves out everything else. (People choose it for weddings, and we sing at quite a few weddings as we are both in the church choir, so I've had a lot of time to think about it.)  Here's what I mean:

But wait! Who made the cockroach?
The bugs that cause disease?
The locust and the clothes moth,
The house flies and the fleas?

All things base and horrible,
All slimy things that crawl.
All things bite- and stingable -
Well, someone made them all.


Saturday 29 August 2015

Aga saga

You know that thing where there's an electricity cut, and you think, never mind. Let's just put the kettle on/watch a DVD/or (perish the thought) do the ironing, only to realise that of course, you can't? Well, it's a bit like that when the Aga breaks down.

"Never mind," I say to John. "We can have toast instead." It's Saturday. Cooked breakfast day).
"Ha!" He smirks. "How are you going to make toast?" (To the uninitiated, Aga people make toast inside a kind of metal tennis racquet placed on a hot plate. Quaint, but it works. They/we do not have toasters.)

We've had to buy a (very cheap) electric kettle, because Aga people put the kettle on the Aga. The kitchen is cold, because the Aga makes it cosy (too cosy, according to one son, who goes around in a skimpy teeshirt all year round. But we like cosy. It's what we're used to). I have just lovingly  hung the washing round the now stone cold Aga, because that's what Aga people do, forgetting that the Aga is no hotter than anywhere else in the house.  I've left it there because....well, just because. No. I'll be honest. I just can't be bothered to move it.

I recently posted about Sod's law. Well, it was Sod's law that put the Aga out of commission late on Friday afternoon, at the start of a bank holiday weekend. And the Aga technicians are all away for the holiday. Because that's what Aga technicians do.

Roll on Tuesday. Happy bank holiday to one and all.

Monday 24 August 2015

It doesn't seem that long ago...

...that he, just fourteen months her senior, was hitting her on the head with a biscuit tin lid (to find out what would happen. She cried); that she wept when he was sick at playgroup; that he wept because he wanted the Fisher Price record player we had given her for Christmas, and not the toy garage, painstakingly made by his father. That they fought - oh, how they fought - in the back of the car, on walks, at home...any location was just fine.

This year, they each (separately) took their families to the US for a holiday. And the best day? According to the grandchildren, it was the day they all met up on Manhatten Beach, and this photo was taken.

(All together now) - aaaaaah!

Saturday 22 August 2015

Now for the commercial...

Like many writers, I'm appalling at advertising my books. I've even been known to find myself unable to sell copies at a book group meeting when I've been specifically invited to do just that. But after some difficulty in getting hold of my editor (my emails were being accidentally binned), he's managed to get the Kindle price for The Birds, the Beas and Other Secrets down to a reasonable price, so please forgive my posting this short extract (for the first time ever, I've advertised this novel on Facebook, and wanted people to have a taster before they they think of buying it). I  know some of my followers have already bought and read the novel (and I'm really grateful to them), but for anyone who hasn't, I'd love you to give it a go. Down from over £10 (!), it's now just £3.12p.

The mother in the novel is based on my own eccentric mother, and the primrose story is entirely true. I shall never know how she got away with it.

We did have fun, didn’t we?” It’s as though she is reading my thoughts. “Do you remember the time I sent a note to school and we went picking primroses?”

Oh yes!”

A blue and white spring day, a dapple of bright new leaves, and the primroses like stars in the chalky soil, their faces turned to the sun. We picked the slender pink stems, sniffing the perfume of the flowers, and filled a basket with them, then sat on our coats on the ground (“Don’t sit on the wet grass; you’ll get piles.” “Piles of what?” “Never you mind.”) to eat our picnic lunch of crisp rolls and ham and apples. It never occurred to me at the time to question what we were doing. My mother always reasoned that we were her children, and if she wanted us out of school for a day, then that was her right.

What did you say in the note?”

What note?”

The note you wrote to the school on the primrose day.”

I forget.” Her eyes start wandering again, then return with a snap. “On yes! I said you had your period!”

Mum!” I was ten years old at the time, my chest as flat as a board, my body smooth and hairless as a plum.

Well what did you expect me to say?” And of course, as usual, there is no answer to that.

And Deirdre and the cowpat. Do you remember that?”

Blowing up cowpats with Lucas and his friends in the field behind our house, choosing a nice ripe one (“crisp on the top, with a squidgy middle,” advised Lucas, the expert); our excitement, watching the smouldering firework, waiting for the explosion; and the sheer joy when a particularly messy one erupted in a fountain of green sludge, splattering the blonde ringlets and nice clean frock of prissy Deirdre from next door. Oh, Deirdre! If you could see yourself! We rolled in the grass, kicking our heels, convulsed with mirth, while Deirdre, howling and outraged, ran home to tell her mummy what bad, bad children we all were.

What’ll your mum say?” One of Lucas’s friends asked anxiously.

Oh, Mum’ll laugh.”

Mum laughed. She tried to tell us off, but was so proud of the inventiveness of Lucas, and so entertained at the fate of prissy Deirdre, that she failed utterly. But she promised Deirdre's mother that we would all be “dealt with.”

Whatever that means,” said Mum, dishing out chocolate biscuits and orange juice. “Poor child. She doesn’t stand a chance, with a mother like that. But I suppose she had it coming to her.”

I wonder what happened to her?” she muses now.


Prissy Deirdre.”

Married, with a nice little semi with net curtains, a Peter-and-Jane family and a husband who washes the car on Sundays.”
For the cowpat idea, I'm indebted to my two younger sons. My lovely neice, Hannah, was the hapless victim.

Tuesday 18 August 2015

One of the reasons I left nursing... the many, largely unnecessary, courses nurses were suddenly  required  to go on. I think one of the things that finally finished me off was the so-called "reflective exercise". You "reflect" on a particular task, think about how it went, and then - wait for it - WRITE about it! Below is a summary of this wonderful innovation, which is, sadly, still alive and well. And downright ridiculous.

  • Identifying your feelings;
  • Evaluating the experience;
  • Analysing the experience;
  • Drawing conclusions, including alternative actions, that you could have taken;
  • Drawing up an action plan for the future.
  •  This, dear reader, is what used to be known as learning from experience. When my son B was a toddler, he put his fingers in a hot cup of tea (I know. My fault, but that's another story). He cried. Whenever I mentioned the word "hot" for the next few days, he cried again. He had learnt that tea is hot. Did he go away and think about it, and then write about it? No. Astonishingly, he didn't. He didn't need to. He had learnt. And he wasn't yet two years old. He's now a father of two himself, and he still doesn't put his fingers in hot cups of tea. Astonishing, isn't it?

    But I, at forty-something, was expected to do go away and write about things I'd been doing for years, and reflect on them. And then write about them. I had four children, an overworked husband,  a job, and was also a Relate consellor and writer. I didn't have time to faff around doing this ridiculous thing I'd been told to do.

    This has been brought to my mind because my daughter  is a practice nurse. She does a lot of cervical smears. She's been doing them for years. But - wait for it - she's now required to take a selection of these "experiences" and write about them.

    Well, she's not going to do it. Neither would I. To use an expression beloved of of my eldest son (who doesn't put his fingers in hot cups of tea, either): I'd rather have bowel surgery in the woods with a stick. Really.

    Saturday 15 August 2015

    Technical-speak v naked stupidity

    There are certain times in my life when, listening to someone explaining something, a kind of curtain comes down, like a safety curtain at the theatre. On this is written, in bold letters:


    And whatever the other person is saying turns into a kind of auditory mush. It's usually computer-speak. This morning, it was banking.

    So.  I went into my bank, wanting to transfer some money from one account to another. A nice young man was helping me.

    NYM (indicating a bank card): is this a debit or credit card?
    Me: mmm....we're never quite sure (true)
    NYM: because if it blah....long might not be able...blah...
    Me: could you repeat that, please?
    NYM: of course. Sort code...blah...short number...blah...customer account...blah...
    Me (feeling really, really stupid, and quite unbelievably bored): I bet you're glad there's not a queue behind me (not funny, but I felt I ought to say something to show him I was still alive)
    NYM (smiling thinly): all you have to do...blah...transfer...blah...PIN....blah...Shall I do it for you?
    Me: yes please!
    NYM: blah blah blah blah blah blah blah. There. All done.
    Me: thank you. Grovel grovel grovel.
    NYM: you're welcome blah blah blah.....

    Phew. Out again into the sunshine. I'll never make a banker.

    Thursday 13 August 2015

    Another pointless death in Texas

    Yesterday evening, a young, healthy man died. He was 28, and put to death by lethal injection in the same way you might put down a sick animal. Yes, he may (just may. No one can be certain) have murdered someone years ago. And if he did, then he needed to be punished. But as for so many in the US, he was killed in cold blood, after years in solitary confinement, with no opportunity for redemption; no hope of any kind. What a terrible waste.

    The excerpt below was sent to all of us who write to death row inmates in Texas by our amazing, indefatigable coordinator, Margaret. She had received it from her own contact in Texas. These people  work tirelessly to end the barbaric practice of capital punishment, currently  taking place in one of the most supposedly "civilised" countries in the world; a country that is among the first to criticise abuses of human rights in other parts of the world. Once again, I appeal to anyone who feels they could write to one of these prisoners to do so. I can tell you how to go about it. My relationship with "my" prisoner has been incredibly rewarding, and has taught me so much. Please?

    We have made it back, driving the long, sombering ride from Huntsville to Houston. The trip back is always a time for reflection and quiet conversation about the person executed, the system as a whole and how we can do our best to fight this system. Today was even more sombering. Leaving the Walls, driving down Hwy 190 to the intersection of 45, we realized we were behind the hearse carrying Daniel. I followed it for awhile, talking to Yancy and Nena in the car and became so saddened that I had to speed up to get away. Knowing that the person in the hearse was a living, viable human an hour ago and now, is dead. Dead because of the system. Dead for no logical reason. Leaving behind his mother, sister, god-mother, child, extended family, close friends and pen pals. While we were standing outside the Walls, I had the fortune of speaking with a high school friend and his friend and after the execution, I extended my condolences to the family. The execution itself was especially surreal tonight. The law enforcement went above and beyond to rev the motorcycles and cause more pain for the family of Daniel while they are inside the Death House. However, we were encouraged by the people who just show up to see what is going on and give their quiet support. The family from England was especially moved by not only what was going on but the actual atmosphere, especially when the motorcycles started. The TDC personal behind the caution tape openly sneering at us and the huge press conference that was taking place as we left the Walls was the ultimate insult. I would imagine the TDC personnel had no apologies to the family of Daniel for these motorcycles. ABOLISH THE DEATH PENALTY AND REST IN PEACE, DANIEL LOPEZ.

    Friday 7 August 2015

    Please say hallo to Blue

    After my last fall (and I really hope it was my last) I finally decided my family were right, and it was time to sell Fairfax and buy a quieter model. It was a very hard decision, but Fairfax has gone to a lovely new owner, and I have  bought Bleu Harvest Moon (aka Blue). He's sweet and good natured, and I'm very lucky. He kindly consented to pose for this photo.

    Tuesday 4 August 2015

    They have been warned...

    Eldest son, wife and children have just landed in the USA. This is the sign outside their first hotel. They are going on to explore Death Valley, Furnace Creek and other delights. Death Valley is the hottest place on earth. Think hire car + hottest place on earth + three kids in the back + often (apparently) no mobile signal (plus cancer risks, as above)..

     I shall be awfully relieved when they get home.

    Thursday 30 July 2015

    RIP Gustav

     My five-year-old grandson wanted a pet. His parents, trying to avoid the problem, bought him  a clam from the fishmongers. They named him Gustav. Sadly, Gustav was left out in the sun, and perished. Undeterred, they bought Gustav 11, and put him in a tank of water. He too perished.

    "What's the point of a pet with no brain?" I asked Son on the phone, when told this sad news.
    "Don't clams have brains?" asked Son.
    Following a short interval for the purposes of googling clams, Son said, "clams don't have brains."

    So it's back to the drawing board (currently, the idea being goldfish).

    Watch this space for a series of very sad posts on the subject of children's pets, and their tendency almost invariably to come to a sticky end. There's more to come....

    Monday 27 July 2015

    Thoughts on sod's law

    Written after a very wet christening, and dedicated to the memory of my late father, who always referred to this as "the law of undesirable coincidences"

    The law of Murphy, or of Sod* -
    Some call it fate, some call it God.
    You put two socks in the machine,
    Just one comes out. See what I mean?
    You leave  your brolly in the hall -
    The drought will end, the rain will fall.
    But should you try to pray for rain,
    Behold! The sun comes out again!

    The lesson I have learnt from this?
    Accept things just the way they iss.
    Accept the sock, the sun, the rain.
    You'll never feel let down again.

    *The disheartening laws of Murphy and Sod. When things go wrong, anywhere in the English-speaking world, we are likely to invoke one of them. Some people think the two are the same.

    Sunday 19 July 2015

    Dear physiotherapist

    You're a nice girl, and undoubtedly you know your stuff, but when I come to you with an ankle ligament injury, I don't necessarily want to be told the following:

     My right calf is bigger than my left.
    So? Am is supposed to care? Is there anything I should do about it? No? Then let's forget it can we? It seems to me quite irrelevant.

    I can't stand on tiptoe. 
    I already know this. I told you last week. It's due to nerve damage from one of my spinal fractures. But I really don't mind. It's a long time since I felt the need to stand on tiptoe. In fact I didn't even know I couldn't do it before the last physio explained it to me. Years ago. I leave this kind of things to my dancing granddaugher, P (the only member of my family who reads this). Say hallo to everyone, P!

    My back is stiff
    Of course my back is stiff! I've broken it twice (see above), and one vertebra is viertually entirely missing. You know that, too. And no, I don't want to do any more exercises for it, thank you. A stiff back is now part of who I am.

    My knees turn out (or is it in? I can't remember)
    This hasn't impeded me in any way, either. Look, I'm getting older. Things go wrong. I don't want you to discover any more evidence of decrepitude.

    Now. Please can we get back to my ankle? After all, that's what I came about...

    Monday 13 July 2015

    Magpie 278

    As she wandered along the railway track,
    People cried, "there will soon be a train on her!"
    But "don't worry" the old station master replied,
    "That's the ghost of poor Anna Karenina."

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

    Tuesday 7 July 2015

    Of insects

    Adrian takes - and posts - wonderful photos of insects. He seems to love them all. I, on the other hand do not love them all, but I do respect them. When I see a tiny storm fly, and think there's a minute heart beating inside it, I am full of admiration. For clever as we are, no-one has yet managed to make anything so miraculous.

    But. There are some insects I am willing to destroy.

    1. Wasps. When I just happen to meet one, that's fine, but when I see a child almost eating one on his sandwich, it's time for action.

    2. Houseflies. Outside the house, that's fine. But indoors, crawling over food (and I know where those dirty little feet have been), or buzzing round the bedroom (I have a horrible fantasy of one falling into my mouth while I'm asleep), then a quick swat. I was once given this useful hint: always swat a fly from the front, as they can't take off backwards. Trust me. This works.

    3. Clothes moths. I wouldn't  mind so much if these ate a complete garment. I might even forget I'd ever had that gament in the first place. But oh no. They have to indulge in a kind of taster menu, taking one bite out of every garment in the drawer. This is greedy and selfish, and punishable by death.

    However, I rescue many, including the following:

    1.  Spiders. I hoover up their belongings and escort them outside. We have a lot of those anorexic spindly ones, with untidy webs, and they  make a lot of mess.

    2. Daddy long legs. These seem to me the be the most useless of insects. They dance about randomly, using up energy and leaving their legs all over the window sill. In fact, I'm not sure why they have legs at all. Their children - leather jackets - are most unattractive. Daddy long legs don't eat, but I suppose they have sex of some kind because of the children (see above). These are easy to scoop up in one hand and throw out of the nearest window.

    3. Moths and butterflies (obviously).

    4. Anything small and crawly that's come in with me from the garden.

    Friday 3 July 2015

    Ten things you will never hear me say

    1. Ride on a roller coaster? I'd love to!

    2. Your computer's playing up? Just leave it to me. I'll fix it.

    3. Peanut butter in my sandwich, please.

    4. I think I'll start with the prawns. And please make sure all their faces, whiskers, little boiled eyes etc are left on.

    5. You lie on the beach, and I'll stand near the edge of this cliff and photograph you from a hundred feet above.

    6. I'm running up a little outfit to wear at the weekend.

    7. Ditto curtains (but I shan't wear those, of course).

    8. Bungee jumping? Count me in!

    9. I'm never getting on a horse again after that last fall.*

    10. Time spent blogging couldn't possibly be spent doing something more useful.

    *Dear reader, I got back on on Monday, and am now paying for it, having exacerbated a  pulled ligament in my ankle. Physio, exercises, and Time...... Oh, and no riding, of course. Sigh.

    What single thing would you never, ever say?

    Tuesday 30 June 2015

    Drink up your greens

    My son's solution to a non-greens-loving son: make a "milkshake" with (wait for it) spinach, banana and strawberries. His children loved it. It looks a bit like very dirty pond water, thickened with macerated pondweed and tadpoles.

    If you'd like the recipe, I'm sure he'd be happy to oblige.As for me,  I think I'll give it a miss.

    Wednesday 17 June 2015

    Telephonic ambulance-chasers

    I have recently been besieged by a particularly nasty kind of cold call.

    A year ago, I had a  horrible accident, knocking a woman off her bike. Neither John nor I saw her, and to this day, I have no idea how it happened. It was one of the worst moments of my life, as for a few long seconds, I really thought she was dead. But she was quite amazingly forgiving and nice about it, the police were kindness itself, and I had to go on a (very useful) Driver Awareness course. End of. Or so I thought.

    Then the calls started to come, on both landline and mobile. I'd had an accident, hadn't   I? I might be due compensation. One text regularly specifies a sum of over £3000 which awaits me, if only I'd call them.

    Quite apart from the small matter of confidentiality (who exactly leaked my details to these scumbags?), these calls are a real nuisance. But the other day. I did get my own back. Just a bit.

    Yes. I said. I'd had a horrible accident. I'd lost both legs, and was in a very sorry state.

    Ooooh! Both legs? The glee was audible. I was immediately passed on to someone higher up the chain. We discussed my terrible problem and then I told the man on the phone that it was quite untrue and that there was nothing wrong with me. He was enraged.

    "It is very bad to tell these lies!" said he.
    "Well, it's very bad to pursue people in this disgusting way," I told him, and rang off.

    But the calls keep on coming. They are horrible and unsettling, and pander to the worst in everyone involved. I don't like being rude to cold callers (my preferred option is to tell them I'm dead. It works every time, and is at least not unkind). They have a living to earn. But these really are the pits.

    Sunday 14 June 2015

    Magpie 274

    She was brooding upstairs in her bedroom,
    Abandoned, depressed and alone,
    But was roused by her mum
    Shouting "hurry, dear! Come!
    For here's Ivy for you, on the phone!"

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

    Saturday 13 June 2015

    The chamber pot and the truncheon

    Cleaning out the fridge last week (unable to ride because of my very painful a**se, I've reached the bottom of the barrel where activities are concerned), I fell to thinking of my granny ( as you do).

    For the last part of her life, Granny lived alone. Under her bed, there were two items: a truncheon and a chamber pot. The truncheon was for fighting off intruders, and the chamber pot was...a chamber pot (though while she used it I will never know, since the loo was a mere couple of yards from her bedroom).

    At the time, I found this quite endearing; even  amusing. Now, I think: how sad. Here was this overweight 87-year-old, lonely, quite incapable of wielding a truncheon, but having it there anyway to "protect" her; a triumph of optimisim over reality.  She had never lived on her own before widowhood struck, and now she lived for the letters of which her busy, thoughtless family didn't send nearly enough. And our visits.

    She used to take me for walks along the sea front to get "sea air", clutching me in one hand and holding onto her hat with the other, while winds lashed the hotel fronts and sensible people stayed indoors. She always burnt toast (to this day, the smell of burnt toast still reminds me of Granny). She read me old-fashioned moral tales; The cuckoo Clock, a Peep Behind the Scenes. Later on, I read her the novels of Jane Austen. 

    She died a few months after being knocked over by a car, having walked the mile to the shops in the pouring rain. She had never been in hospital in her life, and she was terrified.

    I did what I could, but I wish I had understood then what I do now. But sadly, it's too late.

    Wednesday 10 June 2015

    Travelling in comfort

    Instead of suffering the way we did on our last flight (post here), my two  youngest grandsons travelled last week in comfort, and could even catch up on a bit of work on the way.

    Some people have all the luck.

    Friday 5 June 2015

    I have now been saved twice by this...

     If you haven't the time to see it, it's a kind of horse airbag. It's a thin gilet type jacket which inflates in a tenth of a second as the saddle. It's brilliant. This morning, I landed from a considerable height (the horse had leapt in the air) onto a hard gravel drive, and was protected like Michelin man. Okay, so it hurt, and I'm sore, but otherwise I'm fine. I wouldn't be without this.

    And the horse? We're not speaking at the moment, so I wouldn't know.