Thursday 29 January 2015

Penge, limericks, and something to do while husband on the phone

My sister and I were discussing Penge (don't ask), and I said that its the kind of word that should feature in a limerick. But when I tried, I found out why nobody else had bothered. For nothing (except perhaps henge; not exactly a limerick-friendly word) rhymes with Penge...

There was a young lady from Penge,
Who fell out with her very best frenge.
But the young lady knew
That good frengeships are few,
So decided on making amenge.

I know. Terrible. But it does prove my point.

Monday 26 January 2015

Remembering the Holocaust

Tomorrow marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and is to be know as Holocaust Memorial Day. There have been several television programmes to mark the anniversary, and if you missed the programme about the indomitable 93-year-old Freddie Knoller on BBC 2 last week, do watch it if you can,  either on iPlayer or its repeat tomorrow evening. It's one of the most moving (and heartwarming) programmes I have ever seen.

Tomorrow, I shall think especially of my very dear friend M. M was born in England after her Jewish parents fled from the Nazis in Czechoslovakia, and while she was never there, she seems to have lived in the shadow of the  Holocaust all her life. Her parents - lovely, gentle people - always made me welcome when I lived near them as a student nurse, but there was a sadness about them that I've never forgotten. M told me that her father in particular suffered badly from survivors' guilt because of the family members who had died, and M seems to have taken it on herself, too. She is a lovely person, a gifted musician,  and has led a full and successful life. But it is there; that sadness that none of us non-Jews will ever really be able to understand.

So for some, the pain continues, and while I know we must all move on, just for tomorrow I shall think of M, and remember with love and affection her father* and mother, and all those like them, who live under that shadow.

*He was a jeweller, who made my first wedding ring. I still wear it on my right hand.

Saturday 24 January 2015

Reflections on hearing Hiawatha on Radio 4

Years ago, when just a schoolgirl,
For my homework, I learned poems
Off by heart. I would be tested
Standing up before my classmates,
Mocked and pilloried for errors.
Then one day, we all were given
Lines from Hiawatha's Childhood,
And I thought (though young and callow)
"Hiawatha" is a copout!
Not for Longfellow the problems
We all have with finding rhymes for
Words like 'oranges' and 'quietly'.
Not for Longfellow the challenge
Of the limerick or sonnet.
Longfellow has got off lightly!
On and on and on he rambles,
And I thought, there is no reason
Why this soporific poem
Should not ramble on for ever.
On and on and on and on and
On and on and on and
On and on and
On and on
And on.......

Tuesday 20 January 2015

Confession time

For some time the argument has not so much raged, as gently simmered: "real" book v Kindle.

We all seem to start off thus:

"Oh, I'd never get a Kindle. I like real books; the feel, the smell, the look of them. No Kindles for me".

Then we get a Kindle,  and we say it's "just for holiday reading", of course, because all those books are so heavy, aren't they? (We used to allocate almost a whole case just to books.)

Well I have a confession. I will always love proper books, made of paper, with real covers and pages you can turn (and look back through); books you can keep, books that 'furnish a room', books you can lend and browse through, boks that come with memories of when and where I read them.  But sometimes, just sometimes, I actually prefer a Kindle. I know. Awful isn't it.  But this realisation came to me last night, when I was reading a heavy paperback and eating an apple at the same time, and kept losing my place in the book. Just for a moment, I wished the book had been on Kindle.

There. I've said it. I feel much better now. Phew!

Saturday 17 January 2015

Never again...

...will I go for the "fine dining" experience. That's it. Over. Finished.

I've posted about this before, and it seems I never learn. I've posted about weird little garnishes and jus and little sprigs of this and that, and going home hungry at the end of it all. And I went back for more (why?) But on Tuesday, I took no.1 son for lunch, as a belated birthday celebration, and afterwards, I decided never again.

John is a foodie, and a great believer in visiting eating places that have been reviewed in the many periodicals he reads, and he suggested this one. It was nice enough; lovely friendly staff, and a pleasant atmosphere. But the dishes were so complicated that you needed a map and a book of instructions to find your way round them. What was this little trickle supposed to be? This tiny fragment? This colourful dot? Son's starter arrived in a wooden box, and had to be assembled in front of him, while he looked on, utterly bewildered. I can't remember what it was, but I know it involved a quail's egg.

Afterwards, he was scrupulously polite, and very sweet, but he did comment that "you just want your lunch, don't you?"  (It reminds me of the occasion when his sister was stressing about a dinner party she was giving. "Daisy, people just want pie," he told her.)


Monday 12 January 2015

My un-bucket list

John and I were discussing this yesterday evening, apropos the two climbers who are nearly at the top of El Capitan (above), a sheer rock face  that is supposed to be the hardest climb in the world . The ascent of  El Capitan went straight to the top of my un-bucket list, together with (in no particular order):

Bungee jumping.

Potholing. My late husband used to take schoolboys on potholing expeditions. The idea of lowering myself into a wet, dark hole in the ground for fun is totally bewildering. Taking children along too....well, no.

Eating crispy dog in Hong Kong.

Rolling down the Niagara Falls in a barrel.

Eating anything that's still alive.

Being stuck on a the M6 in a heat wave. If you haven't tried the M6, then don't.

Going down a sewer (though my mother would have said that of courseshould be able  to do this, because I'm a nurse. She seemed to think that nurses are immune to any kind of olfactory unpleasantness. Trust me. We aren't).

Reading Finnegan's Wake.

There are many more, but I won't bore you with them, What's on your un-bucket list?

Thursday 8 January 2015

Here we go again

It's that time of year again. Having exhorted us to fill our boots with exotic festive food, the newspapers and magazines are now full of the usual advice on how to shift the resultant weight and Get Fit. We must swim and walk and ride bikes and go to the gym (no mention, ever, of riding a horse) and jog. I see the miserable joggers, soaked to the skin, faces grimly determined, sloshing through roadside puddles, and I smile at them from the comfort of my car.

As for the diets....I've never understood the thinking behind "detoxing". Why would you want to drink hot water every morning before feasting on a kiwi fruit and two nuts? Gwynneth Paltrow is apparently detoxing on the juice of garden weeds. Apart from astonishment that Paltrow's garden has any weeds to juice, and a certain feeling of disgust, I'd just like to know, why? Who would even think of doing such a thing? How did it start? ("I'm just popping out to gather some weeds, darling. I thought the juice might  make a nice change"?)

And the diets. Today's Times suggests a week of meals that include such things as a quinoa salad, or a blueberry pancake for breakfast. Who has the time, never mind the inclination, to faff about with a blueberry pancake, cooked specially for oneself, first thing in the morning? What planet do these people live on?

Since I'm much the same  shape as I was in November   (barring my startling new nose.Remember
the nose?), I'm not changing anything about my lifestyle. Plus, I've broken my 'not-so-much-blogging this year'  resolution already. Damn.

Wednesday 7 January 2015

Have you got a special drawer like this?

I have. Several. In fact, nearly all my drawers are like this. And I'm not even a man.

Monday 5 January 2015


I'm having a little party on this blog. It's a kind of bring and buy, but without the money. All you have to do is bring a drink and a snack of your choice, and one unwanted Christmas gift from this last Christmas. Obviously tact is required, since the gift can't really come from someone who might read this blog (unlikely, but sod's law is always on the lookout). If you fancy anything anyone else has brought, then feel free to take it home with you. You may also share their snacks.

So, to start the party off, I'm going to bring a barrel of Old Timer bitter (Wadsworths brewery only bring it out at Christmas, and it's wonderful), pork scratchings, and for the gift, a beige candle in a tin. The candle smells strongly of dirty feet, so it might appeal to fetishists? Also, some liquorice-flavoured Thorntons Special Toffee.

Come on. Don't be shy.

Thursday 1 January 2015

It is a truth universally acknowledged...

.... that a woman in possession of four grown-up children must be in want of an equivalent number of daughters/sons-in-law. Well, with three of mine happily settled (marriage, mortgages, kids etc) I had an excited phone call last night from child no. 4 to say he'd just become engaged. This is fantastic news. For not only is his girlfriend (fiancée now!) lovely, but it's wonderful to hear them both sounding so happy.

The year has got off to a wonderful start. Happy new year, everyone.