Sunday 31 December 2017

The truth about feathers

When a little white  feather emerged from a cushion, my grandson and I fell to discussing its provenance. And I, for one, almost wish we hadn't. Apparently, feathers are obtained in three ways. Firstly, they come from dead birds. Secondly, they are "gathered" by grooming the birds (pretty roughly, by the sound of it). But worst of all, and this happens on a grand scale, they are plucked from live birds, often tearing the skin so badly that it has to be stitched (no anaesthetic, needless to say). Then when the feathers grow again, the whole process is repeated. Cyclical torture for the birds involved.

I was appalled, and also ashamed that I had never even questioned the origins of the feathers in our pillows, cushions and duvets. How can we check what is inside cushions when we buy them, and whether the welfare of the birds who provided them has been given any consideration? Do vegetarians use down-filled pillows? Am I the only person who didn't  know all this? And why is there no campaigning against this awful practice? Thoughts, please.

Saturday 23 December 2017

Happy Christmas... everyone who reads this, and  to all writers especially, a very inspired and successful new year.
    (This wreath was crocheted by my amazing daughter-in-law.)

Sunday 17 December 2017

Seasonal celebrity overkill

Am I the only person who doesn't need or want "celebrities" at Christmas? Every single TV programme seems to be dominated by them, and I haven't even heard of most of them. Let's hear it for ordinary, normal people for a change. As for the so called celebrities, I think we should bag them all up and send them into the Australain jungle for good. They can chew kangaroos' testicles and steep themselves in mealy worms and entertain each other, and we ordinary mortals can get on with our lives unimpeded.

There! I feel better now.

Tuesday 12 December 2017

Lessons learnt during rail travel. No. 2

As one or two people may know, I recently posted here about an unfortunate experience getting on the wrong train. From this, I learnt the valuable lesson: if your train leaves early, YOU'RE ON THE WRONG TRAIN.

Well, I've just done it again. And learnt a second valuable lesson: if you have booked seat no. 49 in carriage B, and carriage B doesn't have a seat 49, you're also ON THE WRONG TRAIN.

In both cases, I  didn't  realise my mistake until the train had got going. Someone has helpfully pointed out that these things always happen in threes, so I eagerly await lesson no. 3.

Suggestions, anyone?

Tuesday 5 December 2017

The joy of giving?

I love buying presents. I love looking for, and I hope finding, the right present, wrapping it nicely, and it being A SURPRISE. But this doesn't happen any more. What happens is lists, like wedding present lists, and conversations that go like this (Mabel is nearly at the end of her shopping, her tether and this conversation. Mabel is On Tablets):

Mabel: so I'm  giving Giles the train and Ebony the Lego?
Josephine: no, no! He's getting the train from Auntie Loo, and Ebony isn't into Lego any more.
Mabel: then what would Ebony like?
Josephine: The doll that pees and sh**s  (there is such a thing. My daughter was given one long before she had babies that also p.......oh, never mind)
Mabel: but...oh dear... then what can I get for Giles?
Josephine: the sit-on Ferrari? (Mabel can't afford the Ferrari, so she goes out and shoots herself. Problem solved.)

I know lists are probably easier, because eventually Giles will get his Ferrari and Ebony her revolting doll. But I feel for poor Mabel. Sadly, unlike her, I don't have a pistol.

(And if any of my family read this, please don't take offence. I just wanted to give you a SURPRISE, even if you didn't need one.)

Friday 1 December 2017

An interview with the "Knicker Lady"

For fun, I'm going to conduct two or three interview with interesting older women in unusual jobs. Where better to start than from, as it were, the bottom? Enter Rosemary Hawthorne, aka "The Knicker Lady". Rosemary is wife to a retired vicar, mother of seven, and grandmother of many more. She talks about knickers.

Me: how did this all start?

Rosemary: I went to RADA and trained as an actress, but married young, and gave up acting to start a family. I started off with an interest in "top" clothes and was always fascinated by clothes and costume - the way they develop character and tell a  story. Clothes are not only practical; they can also be entertainment. I started to collect costumes when I was stuck at home with the kids.

Me: and the talks?

Rosemary: while the children were still small and money was short, I was asked to give a talk on clothes generally. I was paid £8.

Me: and the knickers?

Rosemary: I gave more talks, and started to show a few bits from my collection of underwear. I discovered that this made the audience laugh, and that's where it all started. Someone suggested that I ought to write a book about knickers, and this was published as A Brief History of Unmentionables. There was insufficient publicity, and the book didn't sell until it was reissued - with extensive editing - by a new publisher, this time as "Knickers. An Intimate Appraisal." This was a huge success. The vicars/knickers thing helped, of course.

Me: and then?

Rosemary: I was invited everywhere: the North, Wales, South coast - you name it. I've spoken to Rotary Clubs, as after-dinner speaker, to magistrates, all-male, mixed groups - you name it. I must have given several hundred talks. And after my husband retired, I did some theatre tours as well.

Me: what is it about knickers?

Rosemary: they're funny, just a bit naughty. I have to keep it fun; entertain, but not shock; put in a bit of history.

Me: and your collection of knickers?

Rosemary: I found that I needed to have "actuals" rather than, for example, slides. Real knickers. I've now got between 300-400 pairs, including Queen Victoria's knickers. The talks work for groups of mixed ages and sexes, and make very good ice-breakers.

Me: what's the most embarrassing question you've been asked?

Rosemary (sighing): someone always asks what knickers I'm wearing.

Me: and your reply?

Rosemary (laughs): clean ones!

Take it from me, Rosemary's talks are brilliant, and very funny. To see this beautiful, very petite figure flitting about a stage waving a pair of bloomers twice her size is something not to be missed.

Here you can see Rosemary in action.

Tuesday 28 November 2017

Royal engagement

I know, I know. Everyone's talking about it, either to rejoice or to tut  about the fuss, and the expense, and the privilege blah blah blah.

I know for a fact that several of my (esteemed) followers are against the royal family, but I think we're incredibly lucky. We have a Queen who is the envy of (much of) the world;  who is loyal, charming, dutiful, and best of all, apolitical. When I think of politics, I see grey mist. With the royal family, it's colour and coaches and stunning horses (oh, those horses!), and happy, cheering crowds. Billions of people around the world watched the last royal wedding. Who or what can match that? Like it or not, our royal family give a great deal of pleasure to a great many people. And I'm one of them. After all, no one has to take any interest if they don't want to. Just don't read the papers for a week or so.

I've no idea what the future will hold once the Queen has gone,  but for the moment, we have a royal family to be proud of. At a cost of just 50p a year each.

I, for one, think that's a bargain.

(I'm also a huge fan of Meghan Markle, not least because Suits is our favourite TV programme, but I know that's beside the point.)

Monday 20 November 2017

Dead Ernest lives again

This is the new cover for Dead Ernest, which is being re-issued in the new year by Sapere Books. I think it's much better than the old one, except that Ernest would probably  have cleaned his boots. But you can't win 'em all, and I really love it. (.And Ernest's still dead, so he can't complain.)

Wednesday 15 November 2017

Farewell, womags...

Sadly, I've decided not to write any more magazine stories. Since writing longer fiction, I've found the short stories harder and harder, and I no longer enjoy writing them as I used to do. Time was when I was earning about the same writing them as I was in my (part time) nursing job, but I just can't do it any more. I've lost both the urge and the knack. Plus, changes in some of the magazines have been sad and difficult for all of us, with familiar names vanishing. Perhaps it's just that I'm getting old...

I sold my first short story to Woman's Realm nearly forty years ago, so it probably really is time to say goodbye. But it's been fun; sometimes disappointing, sometimes rewarding, and over the years, I collected my fair share of rejections. My last short story appeared in November's W W Fiction Special. That magazine and I go back a long way, so it seemed a fitting place to end.

Sunday 12 November 2017

Lest we forget

     My thirteen-year-old grandson has just written  this. It says it all.

Thursday 9 November 2017

The hell that is children's parties

Watching the BBC's very funny series, Motherland, I was put in mind of my own experience of giving children's parties. And there were many. Among other things, I learnt never to:

1. Give a party that lasts more than an hour and a half (if the invitation says "2pm - 5.30pm, the mummy concerned is a beginner. She won't make that mistake again). 

2. Invite the naughtiest boy in the class. I know, I know. It's cruel to leave one child out, but by the time he's opened all the presents and trashed the cake, you'll see what I mean. And that leads me to:

3. Invite the whole class. Unless you live in an unbreakable castle, with sturdy ramparts and electric fencing round the moat, the whole class will be TOO MANY.

4. Invite the parents in with the children. They won't help; they'll stand round gossiping and expect tea, and probably wine. Plus, they'll see what a hash you're making of things, and you won't be able to shout at their child.

5. Leave the doors unlocked. At one memorable party, about ten little girls danced out into the garden and disappeared.

6. Let small guests into bedrooms. My daughter was mortified when a bevy of small boys broke into her bedroom and trashed it.

7. Admittedly this is unlikely to happen, but don't  let the birthday child make a speech. At one party, my youngest son decided to stand on a chair and give a vote of (undeserved) thanks to me. He was promptly heckled, and reduced to tears.

8. Encourage your child to request a cake in the shape of something (Batman, a fairy castle, Barbie's horse etc). Tell him or her the the best cakes come in the shape of a cake. I have in my time made cakes in the shapes of, among other things, various animals, a farm, a truck etc. This takes hours, and the results invariably taste horrible.

9. And finally, don't give another party if you can help it. Ask your child to invite one civilised and well-behaved friend and take them both to the zoo, the cinema, Macdonalds - anywhere but your home. Your child won't get as many presents, it's true, but he or she is unlikely to end up in tears. And he'll have a calm, happy parent. Which, as we all know, is the thing every child needs most 😀

Friday 3 November 2017

A painful lesson

So there I was, sitting in my booked seat on the train home from London, with my book at the ready and a relaxing hour of travel ahead. It had been a lovely day - lunch with some of my Macmillan writer friends, and dinner with a son. All was well with the world. Or so I thought...

When the train started early, I felt smug. Good thing I got here on time, I thought.  How sad that all those people who arrive on time will miss it. Ah, hubris...for nemesis was soon to follow.

For slowly, a thought came to me. Trains don't usually leave early (fifteen minutes early, to be precise). Better check the booking ticket attached to the seat. I turned and looked at it. Oxford, it said. OXFORD! I didn't want to go to Oxford! Panic!

With help from a lovely man with the right kind of mobile, which had all the trains and times on it, I discovered that my (Oxford) train would arrive at Reading about 5 minutes before my (home) train. a five minute window in which to change trains. Hm. Reading is a very big station. Time to get professional help.

To cut a long (or longer) story short(er), I found a lovely guard, and the man selling snacks, both equipped with those right kinds of phones, with timetables, and updates. My (Oxford) train was running late; my (home) train was on time. Bugger.

But with much encouragement from both, I did what for me is quite a sprint up and down escalators between platforms, and just caught my (home) train. Phew.


I have been repeating this mantra to myself ever since. (Oh, and I wrote to Great Western Railways to congratulate them on their wonderful staff. I do hope my two helpers get the message.)

Thursday 2 November 2017

Trial by media

I am absolutely appalled at the treatment of Kevin Spacey and others in the press and other media in the latest spate of sex accusations. What have we come to? Whatever happened to innocent until proved guilty? "Sleazy Spacey" was the Sun's headline, and even the Times had a front page photo and half page spread.

Now, I have no idea whether or not he's guilty, but whatever the final verdict, the affect on his career, his life and his family will be devastating, as it will be with Fallon et al. And of course, if they are found to be guilty, they must pay the price. But what if they're innocent?

Meanwhile, "unnamed" individuals come forward with more accusations, for their anonymity is of course protected. I am no defender of sexual offenders. In my many years of counselling, I came across a great number of people who had been seriously sexually abused, and many cases were quite heart-rending; lives and relationships destroyed for ever. But it is because crimes such as these are so serious that we should be very careful about how we treat suspects before they are convicted.

As for the lesser offences, is there any woman alive who hasn't  had an uninvited male hand on her knee? (I have, and worse).  Very unpleasant, I agree, but hardly on the same level as sexual abuse. And it's usually perfectly possible to move away.

Saturday 28 October 2017



I'm not a particular fan of Halloween, but my crazy daughter is, and having discovered that at 16,  her children have outgrown Halloween parties, she's having one herself. Although not bothered about the party, her daughter did carve this amazing pumpkin for it. She gets her artistic talent from her (this)grandmother, naturally...

So - if you're into Halloween, have a happy one!

Wednesday 11 October 2017

The best sight in the world...

...has been that of wonderful A the Aga man, finally fixing our Aga. We've been without it for two weeks, and haver subsisted on cheap pub meals and ready meals, plus a couple of disastrous microwave-cooked meals (by me). The salmon parcels, with leeks, peas and fromage frais, was particularly revolting. A the Aga man lives on ready meals, but I don't  know how he can. All those E numbers...But he looks well on it, and we love, love, love him!

Monday 9 October 2017

Some good writing news

It's all happened rather quickly, but a new publishing company, Sapere Books, want to take on my existing three novels, and are looking at my fourth and fifth.  I'm really pleased, as they will now be given a good push and some of the publicity they haven't had before. The Birds, the Bees and Other Secrets will also have a new name, which I hope will now deter people from buying it as a sex manual for their kids (it's been atracting the wrong kind of attention!).

I've been hoping for some time for some good news, and I'm sure this will be worth the wait. Please be happy for me!

Wednesday 4 October 2017

My shopping habit in a nutshell

This sign, seen in a favourite shop in Devizes, was made for people like me. In fact in this very place I recently saw something, pondered, finally decided and....poof! It was gone. I never learn

Saturday 30 September 2017

Open letter to the Aga people

Dear Aga  People

Our Aga has gone out. It needs a new part. I'm very cross, not because it's gone wrong (things go wrong all the time) but because you make things both expensive and very difficult. My anger has been building up for some years, hence this list of accumulated complaints.

1. When we inherited this Aga, eighteen years ago, we were told we needed special pots and pans. We don't. That's absolute b******s. My old pans were and still are just fine.
2. I was encouraged to go on a special course, because I'd need it in order to cook on an Aga. That, too was b******s. The Aga is a simple beast. It has a hot oven and a cool one, and ditto the two plates. Using it is child's play.
3. The nice man from the gas board said he could fit the spare part in five minutes, but you won't let him. It has to be fitted by a special Aga person, at great expense. The Aga person no doubt has an Aga degree.
4. The Aga girl I spoke to on the phone was rude. When she told me they'd need a photo of the Aga before she could send the part (a photo? Has the world gone mad?), and I (reasonably) asked why they needed it, she said "we just do". That was rude. I'm not a child.
5. The bit that's gone wrong is tiny, and no doubt would be cheap. But oh no. We have to buy the entire unit at the cost of about £500. £500! I could buy a new washing machine for that.

In conclusion, you Aga people need to get real. Being precious about an ancient iron cooker, which has to be the simplest of designs, one step up from a camp fire,  is ridiculous. Get off your high horses and stop being ridiculous.

Yours etc.

Wednesday 27 September 2017

A verse and a competition

"I wandered lonely as a cloud" -
That's not my favourite verse.
Albeit that it's famous and
That there are many worse.
Wordsworth had little else to do
But scribble lines like these,
And dream of yellow daffodils
That danced beneath the trees.
But spare a thought for Dorothy*
Who beavered at the sink,
And washed his shirts and cooked his meals -
Doesn't it make you think?

Okay. Now for the competition. Please write a short poem starting with the same first line, and if there are enough entries, then a (very small) prize will be forthcoming for the best. (You're quite right. I have some much better things to do, but I'm just not doing them.)

*Wordsworth's sister

Tuesday 26 September 2017

Small talk

Who needs language?

Sunday 17 September 2017

Hello, autumn wardrobe, and an advertisement

The colour magazine of our Sunday paper invites readers to "say hello to your autumn wardrobe". Well, hello, autumn wardrobe, but haven't we met before?

The short answer is, yes. Last autumn/winter, and several more autumns and winters before that. My autumn wardrobe and I are old friends. It consists of jeans, shirts and sweaters. Oh, and boots. I love boots. My wardrobe contains clothes, not "pieces". "Pieces" is a pretentious word for clothes (either that, or I've yet to discover when a clothe becomes a piece).

But wait....what have we here? A new - yes, new - navy cashmere sweater, courtesy of Uniqlo. Now, I don't usually post advertisements, but if you haven't tried Uniqlo cashmere, then I urge you to do so. It's wonderfully comfortable, not too expensive,  and most importantly of all, it NEVER BOBBLES! Bobble-free cashmere is a rarity. I had my last navy one for years, and when it finally died, it was as bobble-free as the day it was born. In fact, I actually wore it until it was thread-bare as well as bobble-free.

I do have to confess to new boots, as well, but you (I) can never have enough boots.

Have you said hello to your autumn wardrobe?

(Note to Uniqlo: you're very welcome. But now you come to mention it, a gift voucher would be lovely. Thank you.)

Monday 11 September 2017

Finally losing it

In trying to say something to John, I've just come out with this bewildering aphorism: "let him who is without stone cast the first greenhouse".

Now, I know what I meant, but I doubt whether anyone else would, and I've decided that the last miserable wits are finally trickling out of my poor wretched head. Worrying isn't it? Well, it certainly worries me.

Is this kind of thing happening to anyone else?

Friday 8 September 2017

Dreams and sandwiches

Graham has posted on his blog about his dreams, and this set me thinking about mine. Last night I dreamt I was making lamb and red currant jelly sandwiches (not something I've ever made, I might add). What did you dream about last night (no cheating)? I know I've posted about this before, and asked the same question, but dreams fascinate me.

Monday 4 September 2017

A haiku

This is a haiku.
I'm not a great fan myself;
I can't see the point.

Any comments in the form of haikus, please. And if you like them, please do tell me why (in haiku form as well, of course).

Thursday 31 August 2017

Perfect bank holiday weekend

Our family have just had the most fantastic bank holiday weekend in a Jacobean mansion on the Somerset/Dorset border. Eighteen of us (my children their partners and their children) had a wonderful time playing silly games and consuming industrial amounts of food and drink. Special thanks to Nicola and Cosima for masterminding the Sunday lunch. A real banquet.

The photo is of my two youngest sons and youngest grandchildren on the way back from the pub (no holiday is complete without a pub, right?)

Monday 14 August 2017


According to author Robert McCrum, in his new book Every Third Thought, every third thought of those of us over 65 is about death.

I have never seen death mentioned in a blog post (apart from in the context of personal bereavement), and thinking about it now, that seems strange. After all, life and death are the two basics we all have in common. We are alive, and we are going to die.

I fall into McCrum's age bracket, and yes. I think about death a lot. And it's not a prospect I relish. I feel like Woody Allen, who famously said that he wasn't afraid of death; he just didn't want to be around when it happened. I think I feel the same. I do have a fragile faith, but will it stand up to this final challenge? Quite possibly not. I regularly read the late great Elizabeth Kubler-Ross's book, Life After Death, because I find it comforting. She was a doctor who worked all her life with dying people, and she had no doubt at all that there is a (good) life after death. Am I pathetic? Quite possibly.

And yet it is hard to imagine a futureless ( for me) world. I remember laying out the body of a twenty-two-year-old girl. This was terribly sad, as these things alway are. But what I found especially poignant was that she had painted her toenails (blue). She knew she was going to die, and she was very frightened, but those sky blue toenails were like a small fragment of hope; a little stake in a future which wasn't to be.

And I can understand that.

Wednesday 9 August 2017

Uses for an outsize cardboard box: No. 1

Well, since Amazon have declined to repossess their box (see previous post) I shall put it to good use. This is use no. 1. The photo is of all of my descendants (apart from one, who was born later. It's an old photo). No matter that we can no longer go up the kitchen stairs; I like seeing my family, and the two ancient jugs inherited from my parents.

Monday 7 August 2017

A very dull post about a box

When this box arrived, I wondered whether I'd ordered a small bed or a fridge in my sleep. But no. It simply contained a (horse's) girth, as seen draped over the box. Oh - and lots of that drapey brown paper beloved of Amazon, to fill up the considerable space around it.

Now I have three problems:

1. This  thing will have to stand in the kitchen until I've tried the girth for size (I've been ill, and haven't been near the horse for a week), as I shall have to use the box if I need to return the girth. The box takes up a lot of room.

2. The box will take a lot of flattening, and will be hard to fit into the little recycling bags we're given.

3. Managing my indignation at this sheer waste.

So - I shall email Amazon and ask them to collect their box (which is presumably now my box) as I am giving it back. They can deal with it.

That's all.

Saturday 22 July 2017

Happy Birthday!

I've only just realised that this year marks the tenth birthday of my first novel, Dead Ernest. It doesn't seem possible that ten years have gone by. Like a first baby, there's something very special about a first novel, and I was disappointed when the publisher stopped issuing it in paperback. But lots of people liked it, including Andrew Davies (of Pride and Prejudice fame), who loved it, and a TV producer wanted to make it into a film, bu sadly, failed to get the necessary financial backing. She even had a well-known actress interested in playing the lead .Luckily, I didn't get too excited, as I had long since learnt that disappointment is built in to the writing game. But it would have been nice....

If you'd like to give Ernest (and me) a birthday present, please buy the Kindle version (or a second-hand copy) from Amazon. I know the Kindle is £4.72 ( and I've badgered the publisher to bring down the price), but it would make one writer (and one dead hero) very happy...

Thursday 20 July 2017

The gas man and déjà vu

This has just happened again. It happens every year, and some years I mention it and some years I don't. This year's gas man was Gary. We liked Gary 😀

And we're still alive. And so is the boiler. I've just thrown away the "do not use this appliance" label, as I always do, but maybe I should have saved it for next year. Sigh.

Tuesday 11 July 2017

Of feet and doormats

This morning, I had a bewildering experience in a hardware shop. Picture the scene. Man in front of me completing his transaction; me behind him queueing with a new doormat (life in the fast lane, eh?).

Man: I'll finish and let this gentleman (me) buy his mat.
Me (hurt): I'm a woman!
Man (apologetically): I was looking at your feet.

These are my feet, above, as exhibited this morning. Do they look like male feet? Please tell me they don't. The woman behind the counter was literally crying with laughter. I was just...crying.

Friday 7 July 2017

Brooklyn Beckham...

...has published  a book of photographs: What I See. It is flying high in the Amazon listings, although I gather the photos are rather poor.

Two things:

1. Of course, as a struggling writer*, I envy his success, and the fact that a name undoubtedly gets you places. But -

2. Do people really have to be quite so nasty (read the reviews)? The photos may be bad, but if Penguin, no less, were prepared to publish it, he'd have been a fool to say no. Would you have turned down a deal from, Penguin? I certainly wouldn't. And his name must be a handicap as well as a help, for how will he ever know whether something he has done is good or bad, when the name of Beckham will inevitably open doors wherever he goes? He's only eighteen. I genuinely hope that he's not hurt by those reviews, but that his parents have prepared him for this sort of unkindness.

*Please read my books! Just saying...

Tuesday 4 July 2017

Not-so-tiny triplets

Sixteen years ago, my daughter had triplets. It was a mad time of feeding, dressing, nappy-changing etc, and I tried to do my bit. Now, quite suddenly, they have grown up. I can hardly believe it.  Here they are on their way to the school prom.

Where have those tiny babies gone?

Monday 3 July 2017

Thoughts on watches

This is a very expensive watch - just under £7000, and that's in the sale. Personally, I think it's bit vulgar, but each to his/her (in this case) own.

I've been thinking about watches. I've lost count of the number of watches I've given to children, husbands, grandchildren, and am constantly bewildered by the variety of prices among watches which often look basically identical. You can buy a perfectly good watch for about £20 (I have a plastic one for riding - £10, and lovely bright red). When buying presents, I probably spend more than I need to as I don't like feeling mean, but I never spend a huge amount.

And watch advertisements....think about it. Who really needs a watch that's accurate too within  a tenth of a second in a million years? How long exactly are people expecting to live? And how many watch-owners are going to dive to hundreds of feet under water, which seems to be what a lot of watches are made for? When all you really need is one that won't die in the shower?

And then there's the infuriating advert "you never really own this watch....just hold it in trust for the next generation". What? Imagine the conversation:

"Son, here's my watch. I've been keeping it in trust for you."
"What, that old thing? Nah. Thanks all the same .I think I'll give it a miss."

But for those lucky few who will live, largely underwater,  for a million years, and have grateful offspring (who are presumably equally blessed in the longevity stakes), watches such as these could be just the answer.

Thursday 29 June 2017

A nice new recipe

Every so often I am inspired to create an amazing new dish, like my  Thrice baked lemon meringue pie. This happened again yesterday.

Specially mixed Mediterranean vegetables:
1. Toss sliced peppers, courgettes, red onions and cherry tomatoes in herbs, seasoning and olive oil.
2. Roast in a hot oven for about forty minutes.
3. Carefully remove the tin with the cooked vegetables.
4. Upend the tin onto the floor. Ensure all the vegetable have fallen out. There should be a big oily pool of grease with the veg scattered about in it.
5. Using a large fish slice, scoop all the veg back into the tin. By this time, they will be well mixed.
6. Serve.

Cook's note: this doesn't work so well if the floor is carpeted. It also helps if the floor is clean (ish).

Monday 26 June 2017

Warning - this post could cause offence

This made me laugh, I'm afraid. Aren't children just the sweetest? Hmm....

Wednesday 21 June 2017

Adrian would have known

When you flew in through the window
You were very cross
And buzzy.
I helped you to leave
But you weren't grateful at all.
I googled hornet,
Just in case.
But you are bombus lapidarius,
And a queen, at that.
Do you sting?
I suspect that you do.
This is one for Adrian, I thought.
(I also thought,
Is this a poem?
Probably not.
But I've read

Tuesday 20 June 2017

A rant to X

I can't really say this to her; it would be infantile. I need to be very grown-up when I confront her. So I shall rant here. Feel free to ignore a very angry post.

"X - what right did you think you had to walk into my horse's box and cut, yes CUT, his mane? You don't work at the yard; nobody asked you to do this. But you took it upon  your interfering self to mutilate MY horse. The mane looks TERRIBLE. It looks as though a child has been at it with a pair of blunt scissors. You know full well that a mane should never, ever, be cut. It should be pulled*. You have always considered yourself to be something of an expert, so you should know this. Blue has (had) a lovely mane. It didn't need anything done to it. I am furious (I rarely get very angry, but this time I am).

"I didn't know what to do with all this anger, so I'm spilling it out onto my blog, which I'm quite sure you've  never even heard of, never mind read. When I see you, I shall try very hard to be civilised, but you will sulk, which is what you always do if anyone annoys you. But I don't do the sulking thing because it's childish. I shall be the bigger person (I actually am the bigger person, being several inches taller than you). I shall try to control myself as best I can. And hope very much that you can find some explanation for your extraordinary behaviour. (What I would really like to do is go into your horse's box and cut his mane OFF. But I shan't. Sadly.)"

I shall probably see X tomorrow. I'll let you know how adult/ sensible I manage to be....

*Anyone in the know will know that a horse's mane is never cut; the hair is pulled out in such a way as to leave a natural looking line. This does not hurt the horse!

Saturday 17 June 2017

Of blackbirds

We have a pair of blackbirds nesting in our courtyard. We are trying to be very quiet, as the last pair a couple of years ago deserted, because, I suppose, we were making too much noise. I've been watching them flying to and fro,with beakfuls of insects, and it set me thinking. Do they plan, or is it all instinct? Do two blackbirds get together and decide to build a nest, or do they decide to put a twig in a hedge, then another, then another etc until lo! a nest is formed?

And the eggs. Do they know there's a baby in each egg, or does that, too, happen in instinctive stage by instinctive stage? Are they surprised when each egg hatches? Pleased? Proud? And do they feed these babies instinctively, or do they have feelings for them?

I'm not looking for answers here, because I feel we humans have to have an answer for everything (eg 'a bird sings because its marking its territory.' Why can't a bird be singing just because it's a lovely day and it feels like it?), and I'm sure we're often wrong.

But I'm glad we have the blackbirds sharing our tiny courtyard. It feels like a privilege. And I shall go on watching them and keeping very, very quiet.....

Monday 12 June 2017

Bee orchids

At this time of year, when I'm riding, I like to visit the wild orchids which grow in abundance on the Pewsey downs. Today, three of us went in search of bee orchids, which only seem to grow in one area. These fascinating plants have always intrigued me, but it's years since I saw any, before we discovered a small scattering of them last year.

That's all. (The horses were not permitted to eat them.)

Thursday 8 June 2017

Thoughts of my grandmother

As I struggle with things computer-related, my thoughts sometimes turn to my grandmother (above with my cousin on her knee). For I finally understand how she felt about phone boxes.

If we tried to coax Granny into a phone box, she would back away as though it were full of ravaging beasts. Press Button A? Button B? She couldn't. She just couldn't. I know now that that familiar mist so well known to me was descending before her eyes, and she knew that she couldn't deal with anything so complicated.

Brought up in a house full of servants, where people wrote letters, real letters, that arrived the same day, and in a world of horses and carts, she lived through two world wars ( she spent the second one hiding under the piano).She successfully mastered the wireless and the telephone, and would watch other people's televisions. Phone boxes were a step too far.

She spent her later years, widowed and  alone, sleeping in a bed which has two items under it: a chamber pot and a truncheon. How she proposed to reach, never mind wield, a truncheon in the event of an intruder I have no idea. I'm not sure how she even managed the chamber pot (Granny was not small, living on bread and cheese and sweet milky coffee). Now I shall never know.

But I finally understand about the phone box. I just wish I had understood at the time.

(I may have posted about this before, but no matter...)

Friday 19 May 2017

Start your Christmas shopping now!

For I have found the perfect present for the person who has everything: a subscription to the Flat Earth Society. At only $12, it comes with an inscribed medallion (flat, of course) and a certificate. And the recipient it almost certain not to be a member already, so s/he will undoubtedly be surprised. Delight will, of course, be optional.

Not at all. You're most welcome.

Tuesday 16 May 2017

Opinions, please!

I'd love any comments/opinions on my new Website if you have a moment, please. (Currently recuperating from another gravity-assisted horse adventure, so thought I'd revisit my neglected blog....)

Friday 28 April 2017

One reason why I write to a death row prisoner

Texas death row inmates spend an average of more than 14 years awaiting execution in solitary confinement, posited by UT-Austin researchers as akin to torture, an assessment shared by several human rights organizations.
The study comes amid a backdrop of prolific capital punishment in Texas, a state that executes more prisoners than any other state - by far. This year alone, 4 people have been put to death through the use of the drug Pentobarbital for various crimes: Christopher Wilkins, 48, executed Jan. 11; Terry Darnell Edwards, 43, executed Jan. 26; Rolando Ruiz, 44, put to death on March 7; and James Bigby, 61, executed March 14 (Source: Death Penalty Information Center).

The 4 prisoners put to death this year all had been awaiting execution for years, and in once case decades. Wilkins had the shortest wait at 8 years, while Bigby sat on death row for 25 years, according to data collected by the Death Penalty Information Center.

The prisoner with the longest time on death row is Raymond Riles, who has been sitting on death row for more than 41 years. Due to mental illness, he was previously considered ineligible to be executed, but prison officials said he could become eligible given continual testing of his mental state. In 1985, Riles attempted suicide by setting his prison cell on fire.

I have nothing to add to this damming report, except to say, again, that the prisoners in Texas are kept in solitary confinement ALL the time. "My" prisoner is currently in despair.

Tuesday 25 April 2017

Memory lane in the loft

 My son J and memory lane were made for each other. Home for the night, he decided to explore the loft (he's told me not to go up there  as there's no ladder). Here he is (or here are his feet). He's reading an old uni newspaper. That's about all I saw of him yesterday (his feet; not the newspaper). He went through his stuff, but sadly left most of it behind. He has a lovely new house, and clutter wouldn't look good. He also has a wife, who probably doesn't want it any more than we do.

That's all.

Thursday 20 April 2017

Pinky and Washing Instrutions share a good read

As you can see, they can't put it down. Basic Theology for Fallen Women in paperback. They couldn't decide who should have it first, so they're having to share it. Pinky likes the story, apart from the sexy bits (sex is a sore point with Pinky, because he can't...well, you know. Sour grapes and all that). Washing Instructions, who is a bit woolly-headed (well,  look at him), likes the nice shiny cover and the new cover illustration.

There's a new Kindle edition, too. Only £2.41. Just the price of a pint of beer, and that's without the pork scratchings. And it lasts much longer...

Monday 3 April 2017

The art of collecting clutter

The market for books on uncluttering your home is already flooded. I had one once, and a close friend has just sent me another. There's an article about a Japanese de-clutterer in today's Times (it's apparently the in thing in Japan). But I'm beginning to wonder whether it's really such a bad thing, hoarding clutter. I have a love-hate relationship with mine, and lack the determination to reduce it, because it's easier to love (keep) clutter than to hate (get rid of it).

A random (ie the nearest) drawer yields - among other things - the following:
An old mobile ( no drawer should be without one of these),
String (ditto).
A rather grubby half used candle.
A packet of ibuprofen; probably out of date and only two tablets left.
A very ancient first aid kit in a tin, inherited I think from my in-laws, and practically empty.
(And these are the tip of the iceberg.)

I looked at these things, and then put them back. Why? Because I have a certain fondness for their familiar randomness, and because I can't be bothered to sort them out and put them all in the Right Place (largely, the bin).

How do you feel about clutter? (I'd particularly like to hear from people who are attached to theirs, as that will make me feel better.)

Sunday 19 March 2017

Introducing Pinky and Washing Instructions

Meet Pinky and Washing Instructions. They were the first Christmas presents my youngest son ever had (he was ten days old), and they languish here, sometimes cuddled by grandchildren but mostly ignored. I thought they deserved a post to cheer them up (Washing Instructions is particularly grumpy. You only have to look at his face).

Pinky is so-called because that's what's on his label. The same goes for Washing Instructions. The names stuck, as is the way with names. I think Washing Instructions did have a bath once, a long time ago. He's probably due another. So is Pinky.

That's all really.  It's not that I haven't got enough to do; it's just that I don't feel like doing it.

Sunday 5 March 2017

Soggy bottoms, and other stories

A friend and I were discussing culinary disasters, and she thought a book of them would be a good idea. I'm not so sure about the book, but  thought the above would be quite a good title.

If you've nothing better to do, or the writing has ground to a halt, do post a culinary disaster of your own as a comment. I'd love to know I'm not alone.

As for mine, I'll spare you the stuffed breast of lamb, which still makes me shudder after all these years, and the thrice baked lemon meringue pie, but here is the fresh fruit jelly (which may have had a mention in the past, but no matter. At least it serves as a warning).

It looked so beautiful in the photo, the fresh fruits shinning like jewels in their flawless casing of fruit juice jelly. Easy, I thought. What could possibly go wrong? Well, I started off well enough, but I should have remembered that when giving a dinner party, never, ever make something that has to be Turned Out. Thus, when it came to that moment, I upended my jelly very carefully onto a serving place, where it sat uncertainly, quivering slightly (I was quivering too, by this stage). Then slowly slowly, quiveringly, it sank to its knees and keeled over in an unsightly pile of....well, jelly. I had to scoop its remains into a serving dish. Not the same at all.

Now, over to you.

Thursday 23 February 2017

How long are you going to live?

There's a delightful new test doing the rounds which you can try to get the answer. This is what you do:

Cross your legs, while standing.
Sit down on the floor without touching anything at all, legs still crossed.
Rise again, without touching anything (including the floor).

That's it.  Deduct a point out of ten every time you wobble or reach out to touch anything. Apparently 0-3 points and you're in trouble. You can find this on YouTube, and see an athletic young man smilingly sinking, then rising again like Venus from the foam. I suspect he's been practising.

Gentle readers, I tried this. I wobbled, I touched everything in sight, and ended up more or less like an upturned beetle, limbs waving helplessly. According to this test, I'm already dead. I suspect that all over the country, there are other poor souls similarly placed, floundering helplessly on a thousand bedroom floors before trotting off to put their affairs in order.

Do try it and let me know how you get on. 

Sunday 12 February 2017

An anniversary

Twenty-five years ago today, my husband died. We have marked it by sending flowers to his grave (sadly, too far for us to travel), and by thinking about him.

One of the many hard things about losing a partner is that there is only one of you left to hold all those memories that were once shared. Here, just for him, are just a few of the things I remember:

The way you wooed me with a heart-shaped Valentine arrangement of fresh snowdrops, sent through the post.
How soon afterwards we spent Easter in the Yorkshire Dales, and you wrote me a poem afterwards.
How we married just five months to the day after our first date, which shocked my poor grandmother.
Our 2000 mile honeymoon round Europe in your leaky MG.
The hours we spent gazing in sheer astonishment at our first baby, because we simply couldn't believe we had produced this perfect, home-made human being.
The way you put up with my moods.
That catastrophic elderflower wine (what was that dark cloud that formed in the middle of the jar? In the end, we had to mix it with lemonade to make it drinkable).
The way I put up with your insatiable need to create things, from an observatory (which took months and even nights to complete) to a completely new school (which took years, and which is now flourishing).
Your passion for teashops and curries (not necessarily together).
And perhaps most of all, your utter kindness and generosity.

Thank you. For everything.

Friday 20 January 2017

La la la la la...

😡Are we the only people on the planet to think this awful film is just a load of tosh? We sat through it last nigh, dreaming of our fish and chips (we only have fish and chips after the cinema - house rule) and of paint drying. Hardly any dialogue, ditto storyline, a lot of half-hearted dancing - please tell me we're not alone.(This post is mainly because I want to try out my new computer, which terrifies me.)

Sunday 15 January 2017

Don't say it with flowers...

....say it with words. This came to me the other day, as I approach the 25th anniversary of my husband's death;  the realisation that "saying it with flowers" can be a cop out. Flowers are lovely, but they can also be used as an alternative to words people don't know how to say (I've done it myself).

When my husband died, we were inundated with flowers, and they were beautiful. But I can't remember who sent them. What I do remember is the brave people who came to our house, not knowing what state we were in (terrible), and listened, and hugged us and wept with us.

I remember in particular one couple I didn't really know well, and didn't especially count as friends. But they came straight away, and I remember how courageous and thoughtful I thought they were. Because it does take courage to confront someone else's tragedy; it is hard to know what to say. But say it anyway. That's what I've learnt. Say it with words.

Monday 9 January 2017

Some useful information about bears

I found this just now while clearing out my old computer prior to getting a new one. I may have posted it before, but I think it bears (ha!) repeating. You might thank me one day.

Monday 2 January 2017

My theory of the last chocolate biscuit

John and I were discussing the nature of selfishness ( as you do), and I realised something. The selfish person isn't the one who takes the last chocolate biscuit*, because no one takes the last chocolate biscuit. No. The really selfish person is the one who takes the last but one chocolate biscuit in the knowledge that since nobody will be bold enough to take the very last chocolate biscuit, this is, in effect, the last one. Thus the wily selfish person has done a selfish thing, but leaves without a stain on his character (but with a delicious chocolate biscuit), because what he's done is fine, isn't it? Meanwhile, the last chocolate biscuit remains in splendid isolation on its crummy plate, safe in the knowledge that no one will be greedy enough to eat it (at least, in public).

Well, that's my theory, anyway. Happy new year!

*This also applies to the last smoked salmon sandwich.