Wednesday, November 29, 2006



Story contd.

It was good to be part of the work force again.  I liked the Sister – she was like a robin – small with a curved bosom and tiny stick like legs.  After a couple of days she complimented me on how nice the children were looking and I knew we would get on well.  The other Staff Nurse, Nurse Kerry I was not so sure about.  Mostly she was in the side wards looking after private patients but I could tell from the questions she was asking that she was not entirely welcoming.  At coffee time she asked me when I would take my fortnight’s holiday as she intended such and such a time.  I said I usually had two weeks in the summer and two weeks in the winter.

‘But you’re only entitled to a fortnight, as a part-time nurse.’ she said.
I knew this wasn’t so from my experience in Sheffield.  I told her that we had had a month a year there and then thought no more about it.  I was relieved when she was off the ward as she watched me like a hawk, waiting to criticise anything I did.  I reckoned if Sister was happy with my work, it was no concern of hers.  I had just finished a bed bath and was cleaning the trolley in the sluice when she came in watching my every move.

‘Oh don’t you wear your wedding ring?’ she asked.
‘Of course I do.  I never take it off.’  I looked down at the third finger of my left hand and it was naked.  I had lost weight since I had been married and it must have slipped off in the water whilst I was washing the child.  The water that I had just emptied down the sluice. I’d been married for just a year and the most important symbol; my gold wedding ring had just gone down the pan. I felt a quick chill of fear and my heart pounded.  Was this an omen?  Was my marriage going down the pan also?

Sister was very sympathetic and rang for the engineer.  He examined the sluice and undid some valves but after he had poked around a bit he shook his head; the force of the water and the flushing had swooshed my ring in to the bowels of Stockport – gone for ever.  When I told William he was not pleased but when he saw how upset I was he said it was no problem – we would get another but it would have to be an inexpensive one.  I didn’t care about that – it could be five thousand carat gold but it would never replace the real one.

The next day I had other things to worry about.  Matron sent for me and said it had been brought to her notice that I had been unsettling the other nurses by telling them that the holiday system was unfair.  Then she went into a long spiel of how much she admired my old matron and the Training School and she had always done her best to be fair to everyone until I ended up assuring her that I would happily accept the conditions of the hospital as long as I worked there and what I had said was purely an observation.  I had no intention of inciting nurses to revolt – far from it.  Unions were beginning to appear in nursing and to me the possibility of nurses going on strike was totally abhorrent.  The patients – the children - came first, now and forever as far as I was concerned. Things are different now alas.

When I got back on the ward I noticed Kerry was avoiding me which suited me fine.  From now on I would be very wary of what I said to her.  My first instincts had been right.  She was a devious, cowardly sycophant and if my good relationship with Sister upset her –hard cheese!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006




Mum’s voice calling up the stairs.

I woke up – MTL still asleep beside me.  Mum died nearly seven years ago.  Isn’t it strange when that happens?  Was she calling me because I have an early appointment?  Was she reminding me it is Son no 1’s birthday today?  It doesn’t upset me.  On the contrary.  Like the song:-

‘I’m just a little girl lost in the wood,
I know that I,
Would if I could,
Have someone watch over me.

I intend to do the same.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Story Contd:-

I was offered and accepted a job on the Children’s Ward at Stockport. As soon as my training school was mentioned it was smiles all round and ‘how soon can you start?’ Dodie was coming for the weekend and then I would start the job the following Monday. On the Saturday morning William and I sat in the rear of the Motoring School car (I don’t think the instructor was keen but Dodie insisted) whilst she had a ‘refresher’. It was a disaster!

The instructor asked her to reverse out of the parking space (the car park was almost empty – fortunately) but this was not easy as Dodie’s arthritis restricted her movement. It was difficult for her to turn her head round, and she kept getting her hearing aid wire caught on her glasses. She adjusted her hearing aid and then couldn’t hear what he said. We were slowly getting hysterical in the back.

It didn’t look as if we were going anywhere very fast so the instructor decide to test her eyesight and ask her to read various number plates. We had all the palaver of her cleaning her ’specs and getting the wind screen wipers going but it didn’t really help. Her eyesight was not good. By now the instructor’s patience was wearing a little threadbare and he called a halt. He said it was impossible for him to refresh her driving skills and that it would be unsafe for her to drive a car with sight and hearing impairment and limited movement.

William and I were in total agreement and Dodie cheered up when he said he wouldn’t charge her for the lesson. We took her for coffee and cakes to prepare her for the interview with Mrs Fell later on. Over coffee Dodie said she wasn’t worried about not being able to drive – the world was full of road hogs nowadays – Mrs Fell’s gardener had driven her up to now and as far as Dodie was concerned he could continue to do so.

William was keen to see what sort of household his mother might be living in so we all appeared on Mrs Fell’s doorstep. It was an imposing house with a lovely garden in one of the posh villages near Altrincham. Her cleaning lady answered the door and invited us in. We were shown into a dark, frowsty drawing room, where Mrs Fell was sitting in a high -backed wing chair with a rolled up newspaper in her hand. She wore tinted glasses and the way she leant forward and peered at us indicated that she was also visually impaired. An ancient terrier type dog – Major - was sitting at her feet.

We introduced ourselves and asked if we could look round the garden whilst she and Dodie got to know each other. After a suitable interval we went back inside where the two old ladies seemed to be getting on well. They shared an interest in dogs and gardens and Mrs Fell was anxious to demonstrate Major’s tricks. She rose from her chair and peering down at the dog, now also on his feet, she told him to,
‘Die for your country Major!’
Major might have been a little hard of hearing – he also was quite elderly- as he just wagged his tail.
Mrs Fell’s voice got louder and firmer.
‘Die for your country Major!’
To encourage him she started belting the poor creature with the rolled up newspaper until at last he got the message and sank to the ground. Sighs of relief all round and old Major got a doggie choc.

Back at the flat Dodie told us she had accepted the job and to our surprise was very
enthusiastic. There was a cook/ housekeeper, a cleaner and a gardener; Dodie's brief was to act as companion to her employer and as they had much in common – including late husbands who had served in WW1- she didn’t visualise any problem. She would have plenty of time off to come and visit us – it couldn’t be better. I had to admire her courage but I sent a silent prayer on high that her days off wouldn’t be every week-end. William seemed quite happy. The plan was that we should join Dodie in Norfolk next week-end and help her prepare the house for letting.

‘Mummy will let us have any furniture or linen we need for the flat,’ William said cheerfully.
Goody goody gumdrops!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Is this a record? Primroses in my garden November 26 2006  Posted by Picasa

Saturday, November 25, 2006


To avoid confusion I will adopt Andrew M’s idea of entitling any post other than ‘the story’ as ‘Asides’ and the story as ‘Story contd'. As long as I remember that is!

There is a new series on BBC2 Wed 8 pm – ‘Oz & James’s Big Wine Adventure’ which is quietly enjoyable and made me laugh out loud a couple of times. They are a pair of vaguely familiar odd-balls who clearly drive each other nuts and are fun to watch. A bonus is visiting ‘France Profonde’ and learning more about wine.

I still haven’t watched ‘Jam and Jerusalem’ but have it on tape and hope to be delighted this week-end. This week-end BTW, is probably when you should think about abroad Christmas cards. I don’t want to be the only one with my nose to the grind-stone. Have a good week-end!

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Seagull at Appledore 
Instow from Appledore 
Appledore from Instow  Posted by Picasa
A wet start 
How to fire a musket 
Model of Britannia made by a dock worker who served on Britannis  Posted by Picasa
Charles Kingsley 
The Long Bridge 
Boats - Bideford  Posted by Picasa
Rusty Bucket Bideford 
The New Torridge Bridge 
The Royal Hotel (cream buildingcentre)  Posted by Picasa

Back – sated and sorted. Instow is a waterside village situated between Barnstaple to the north and Bideford to the south in North Devon. There is a sandy beach on the mouth of the Taw and Torridge estuaries and lots of messing around in boats. Immediately opposite is Appledore a port and ship building town. The whole area is known as Tarka country from Henry Williamson’s tale of Tarka the otter

In the 1930’s Cicely Courtneige (Two dozen double damask dinner napkins) used to rent a cottage and holiday in Instow with husband Jack Hulbert, his brother Claude and their children. Another famous visitor was Robertson Hare but he came solely for the cricket. In the late thirties a very young Elizabeth Taylor used to play on the beach. I know this thanks to a magnificent tome in our hotel room: ‘Instow: a History’ written by Alison Grant and others, to mark the millennium. It took the Instowites twenty months of research and is a valuable insight into how life was before the advent of the motor car.

Appledore is where the writer and photographer Daniel Farson ended his days. I knew him in the fifties as a fresh faced, charming young man. In the late fifties he found fame, became one of the Soho drinkers and carousers and became an alcoholic. He wrote a book on Francis Bacon which was published after Bacon’s death. Sorry Doc!

We visited Torrington and had lunch at the Black Horse Inn in a room with elderly local ladies. We noticed how different the local accent was to Somerset and as they unselfconsciously chatted to each other whilst scoffing enormous helpings I thought what rich pickings this would be for a writer of bucolic comedies. In fact Jennifer Saunders who wrote ‘Absolutely Fabulous’ lives nearby and her new series ‘Jam and Jerusalem’ is imminent on TV. All the usual suspects, including Jo Lumley and Dawn French are part of a fantastic troupe so, not to be missed I think. We caught the tag end of an ‘experience’ where people dressed as peasants of yesteryear, took you through ‘the experience’. We just caught the demonstration of how to fire a cannon ball which I’m sure will come in useful one of these days.

We were blighted by the weather but, undaunted we drove to Bideford – still a working port and referred to in ‘Westward Ho!’ by Charles Kingsley, I think it was the poet – postman Edward Capern who referred to Bideford as the ‘little white town’.
Sir Walter Raleigh is believed to have brought his first cargo of tobacco to Bideford. Spanning the river Torridge is the ancient Long Bridge with its 24 arches. It was first built in 1280 as a pack horse bridge. It gave up its wooden origins centuries ago and now is a sturdy stone structure. The original wooden bridge replaces a ford which was responsible for the name – Bideford – by the ford. The bridge is built at a slight angle to withstand the forces of the tides. The arches vary in size, possibly because of fluctuating amounts of money available. Two arches collapsed in 1968 causing considerable disruption and the town had to rely on ferries. Clearly another bridge was needed and in 1987 the Torridge Bridge was opened.

On the eastern side of the old bridge is the Royal Hotel. In the late 17c it was a private residence, then a workhouse, a prison and finally an hotel. Inside there is a magnificent oak staircase which leads to the Kingsley drawing room where – yes you’ve guessed it – Charles Kingsley wrote part of ‘Westward ho!’ Hands up those who have read it! Granny P I’ll bet!
In its Green Room there is a plaque of ‘Combined Operations’ recording the fact that many far-reaching decisions were made there by officers in WW11. I have to admit that I eschewed visiting the Royal Hotel as it meant a long gusty walk over the bridge and it was bucketing down. Next time maybe. No matter how grisly the weather, it was always a pleasure to get back to a hot bath, a Kir and a delicious meal

Saturday, November 18, 2006

We shall be here for a few days to celebrate our 27th WA. see you on Thursday.  Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 17, 2006



It just didn’t make sense.  Dodie had a lovely home and garden.  She had a good social life in Norfolk, playing bridge in the winter, croquet in the summer and tennis parties on the lawn.  If she needed extra cash she could and did, from time to time, let half the house out to service families.  If she wanted to be closer to family, it would make more sense for her to move to Hampshire where William’s brother Mark and his wife Fleur now lived.  At least they had bought a house and were settled with their children.  But as William said ‘When Mummy makes her mind up…’

I didn’t think when I said yes to William I was marrying his mother also but maybe William felt like that about my family, although Mum and Dad were very happy to get on with their own lives now we had all left home.  Evan was married to his fiancée, Helen who was also a nurse,  Maddie was teaching at a boarding school in Scotland where her son Matthew was boarding, and Gran spent half the time with her other daughter, Janet and family, in the States.

The truth was William was the apple of her eye. There was no point in worrying about it: we moved into our new flat, bought curtain material – a Jacobean print for the living room and a pretty blue satin with a fleur de lys pattern for the bedrooms. I’ve never liked a lot of patterns but Mrs Cooper had come up trumps and had all the walls painted a harmless magnolia so we could afford some but that was the last time I chose a patterned carpet.  Our social life improved; William had friends from his earlier stint at Metro Vickers and we would all meet up in one of the coffee shops on Saturday mornings and plan the rest of the week-end.

I had plenty to keep me occupied, but after buying two Parker Knoll armchairs our money was getting scarce and it was time to start earning again.  I had been thrilled when William opened a Post Office Account in my name but came down to earth when he explained that this was so we could both withdraw on the same day in an emergency.  There was a limit on how much you could withdraw in one day.  Think again Patricia!

I would have liked a change from nursing.  Working part-time was not the same and I missed the continuity and the camaraderie.  When I walked through the hat shop I thought what fun it would be to work there.  I loved fashion and helping someone to choose the perfect hat seemed an admirable job but alas they were fully staffed so I had to look elsewhere.

I didn’t have any luck in Altrincham but there was a hospital with a Children’s Ward in Stockport – a neighbouring town.  I applied and was told to come for an n interview.  It meant walking down through the town to the bus station and then a cross country bus ride.  I would have to change at the hospital so if I worked 9am to 3pm it would be like a full day’s work.  As long as they had a vacancy I should be fine.  The last thing I wanted to do was travel into Manchester.

Dodie wrote in her weekly letter that she also had an interview with a Mrs Fell – an elderly widow who lived in one of the wealthy villages nearby.  Originally the rich in the surrounding area use to get their staff from Altrincham.  Dodie said she would stay with us for the interview and could we arrange for her to have a refresher driving lesson as she felt that would be an asset.  As far as O knew she hadn’t been near a car for years but William dutifully arranged a lesson and we waited, with bated breath to see how things would turn out.

Thursday, November 16, 2006


Do watch it if you can!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


A present from Mum, some years ago.

'No spring, nor Summer Beauty hath such grace,
As I have seen in one Autumsnal face.'
John Donne c.1571-1631 Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Back in our tiny eyrie I couldn’t stop thinking of the splendid flat in Altrincham. Men seem to be able to just switch off and just see what happens but on Monday night when William got home from work, there was no mistaking the delight on his face. Mr Cooper had phoned him and said his mother-in –law would be happy for us to have the flat. The rent she wanted was within our capability and was quite reasonable. God bless Mrs Barber!

The next day, after work I rushed round to Cole’s Store and – calamity - my dining room suite was gone. However they had only taken it from the windows and I managed to secure it – to be collected at a future date. Happiness! And to crown it all we were going with Mum and Dad at the week-end to Barry in Wales, sharing a caravan. They were going on their motor bike and side-car and we were going on William’s motor bike. It just felt a bit unstable on the pillion after having ridden in a sidecar for years – but beggars can’t be choosers!

We met up with them and arranged a rendezvous to stop for coffee. We seemed to be going rather fast for my liking and zooming in and out of traffic when suddenly there was a bang and everything went black. When I came to I was lying on the side of the road, surrounded by people and a strange man was undoing my blouse. I sat up quickly and asked him what he thought he was doing.
‘I’m just making sure tight clothing isn’t restricting your breathing,’ he said, ‘I’ve done a course in first-aid.’
‘I’m perfectly alright thank you. Thank you very much – I’m fine!’ I looked around for William. Ah there he was – bending anxiously over that blasted bike. He didn’t look as if he had been injured – just his pride dented maybe.

We had been very lucky. We didn’t wear protective clothing or safety helmets – no-one did. My left foot was sore, there was a bit of blood (the bike had fallen on it) and I felt shocked, but by the time Mum and Dad caught up with us we were able to reassure them. One thing was certain – no way was I going on that bike again. William and motor bikes just didn’t go!

It was decided that William would take the bike to the nearby garage and then continue to Barry – either on the bike or public transport and I would travel with my parents. I rather hoped Mum would insist I rode in the side-car but she didn’t and I spent a nervous hour or so, cringing away from the overtaking traffic.
‘Dad can’t you drive nearer the kerb – the traffic’s ever so close.’
‘No I can’t! I’ve got your Mum in there remember!’
My fault for making light of my condition.

Much later in the day we all converged on the caravan. By now the weather had broken and we looked out on a turbulent sea through windows blurred with torrential rain. All week-end. I spent most of the time curled up with a book and the other three played Monotony – endlessly. The week-end had been a washout and we were all relieved to get back to our respective homes. I still have a scar on my foot but there was no lasting damage.

The next few weeks I spent happy hours sketching the flat from memory and deciding what would go where. I wished I had the window measurements so that I could get on with the curtains but as we were on the first floor we could manage without for a while. Dodie was going to let us have an old chest of drawers. It was bow- fronted and I had seen a mahogany stand up mirror which would transform it into an attractive dressing table. We bought a carpet from Coles. It also had a Jacobean design and would cover a fair bit of the living room and I would polish the surrounding floor boards.

At last it was time to leave Sheffield, my job and our tiny flat. We had been reasonably happy there but I couldn’t wait to start our new life in Cheshire. Then in the weekly letter from Dodie she said that now we were going to be settled she was going to let the house and come north to be near us. She would try to get a job as a companion where they would accept one dog – Havoc. An old friend had agreed to have the two dachshunds. Dodie was a pensioner – totally deaf without her hearing aid, had arthritis and a dicky heart. For once I was speechless

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Ned and Sarah's Wood  Posted by Picasa

Broughton Manor
June 30th 1915

Dearest Ned,

Papa showed me the letter you left for him this morning. It has taken me all day to compose myself sufficiently to write to you so please forgive me if these pages are a little tear-stained.

Papa explained to me that when the other lads in the village joined up, you felt constrained to do the same in spite of the fact that you are not yet eighteen. You asked him to keep the date of your birth a secret and I assure you he will do so. You have always been big and strong even when we first met when we were twelve. Do you remember?

I am sure the authorities won’t doubt your age and Papa and I agree that it is a very noble thing you are doing: to join the Accrington Friends fighting for King and Country in the war to end all wars. I just wish we could have said goodbye but I understand that would have been too painful for both of us.

For the last five years we have seen each other every day and although I realise we come from different stations in life; you an under gardener and I the daughter of the lord of the manor, I believe that whatever happens, one day we will be together for ever.

Since dear Mama passed away Papa has come to realise how important it is to be near one’s loved ones. That is why I was allowed to be educated at home. I know he thinks well of you and I feel sure by the time this war is over the class system will not be so divisive and people will be judged on their character and not their bank balance.

I am sending you a flower – not one of your beloved roses but a simple bluebell which I picked from Ramsden Wood today. When you see the gaudy poppies of Flanders (not to mention the Mademoiselles from Armentieres) I hope it will remind you of home. You should smell the white garden this evening – it is intoxicating and the moonlight gives it an other- worldly feeling. I look up at it and imagine you doing the same. Are you thinking of us at home?

Now Ned I want you to put the Kibosh on the Kaiser and come home safely. Do you remember our song ‘My true love has my heart.
And I have his.’?
I am singing it now my dearest one. I pray we meet again before the leaves drop from the giant oaks.
All my love,

PS Don’t worry about your mother I shall visit her regularly.


I first posted this on the anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. Forgive me for repeating it but I feel the two letters should be together.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Sarah’s Secret

The note of alarm in my grandson’s voice caused me to rush downstairs as fast as the stair-lift could carry me. He was in the study with my antique compendium on the desk in front of him- its doors wide open.
‘Oh Sam you haven’t!’

Sam was fascinated by the little rolls of paper inside the compendium and the small brass screws one turned to adjust the day, month and year. I had bought it at a sale on my last visit to Lancashire and the date was fixed at the 1st July 1916. I felt something momentous must have happened on this date and told Sam we should not alter it out of respect for the previous owner.

‘I didn’t touch the date Gran. Honestly! I just touched this little knob and the drawer shot out.’
A secret drawer! And there was something in it. With shaking hands I gently retrieved a letter, a newspaper cutting and something wrapped in yellowed tissue which looked like a crushed bluebell. With help from Sam I read the following letter:

Dear Lord Barraclough,

I am sending you my resignation as under-gardener with an ache in my heart. Me and the lads from the village have signed up for the Accrington Pals and we are being shipped out tomorrow. Being a big lad they didn’t question my age, and the date of my 18th birthday must be our little secret. It is a comfort to know my mother will be looked after as you do with all your retainers.

I shall miss looking after Miss Sarah’s roses but I believe the poppies in Flanders are a sight to be seen. As a true patriot I know you will understand. I must do my best for King and country. We are going to put the kibosh on the Kaiser and beat the Hun. We’ll be back in Blighty- victorious by the time the bluebells are out in Ramsgill Wood.
Always your faithful servant,
Ned Owens

PS: Please say goodbye to Miss Sarah and give her my best.
The newspaper cutting’s headline said:

584 men were killed, missing or wounded.

I thought back to when I bought the compendium. I was sad to see Broughton Manor for sale. The family had died out with the death of the old, unmarried daughter Sarah. There were two portraits of her in the sale which I coveted but they were way out of my price range. One as a lovely young girl, in a bluebell wood, and one as a frail old lady, looking so sad it made me want to weep.

‘Don’t get upset Gran. We can put it all back and pretend we never found it,’
I looked at my grand-son. Thank God he would not be sacrificed like Ned. That awful war and the one after it had been wars to end all wars. Hadn’t they?

I wrote this, some time ago, for Remembrance Day.
NOVEMBER 11th 2006

'They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn,
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.'

Friday, November 10, 2006


We were to present ourselves at the hat –shop sometime in the morning and as we walked up the main street from the station I thought what a pleasant town Altrincham was and how convenient it would be to live there with its shops, transport, and easy access to countryside. I was told it had a splendid market which would delight Mum and Gran. We found the shop near a convergence of roads; next door was a delicatessen called Willey’s – very handy for a quick snack, if a bit expensive. There were trees in sight which softened the landscape. I gave William a quick ‘fingers crossed’ before we entered the shop.

A neat looking lady with pearl ear-rings introduced herself as Clarice the assistant and took us through to a small back room with a blazing fire. There were three women; Mrs Barber, the grandmother – a tiny lady with tight white curls, Mrs Cooper the mother – Mr Cooper’s wife – about 60, short, plump and what I call ‘posh Cheshire’ and married daughter Elaine who was vacating the flat. I felt an instant connection with the grand-mother whose gimlet eyes looked right through you. In spite of her age you knew that she was the boss and I longed for her approval. The other two I was not so sure of.

William started to introduce us both and started stammering which seemed to embarrass the two younger women so I said that this was William, my husband, and I was Pat and we were very grateful to have this opportunity to look over the flat. Mrs Cooper said of course they had to give it some thought with the access being through the shop so they couldn’t promise anything whereupon the Grandma told her grand-daughter Elaine to take us up and show us the flat as we may not like it anyway.

We followed Elaine up the stairs and turned left down a passage into a large living room. There was a fireplace, a tall window which looked out behind the shop, and an alcove with shelves – just crying out for ornaments, and art deco wall lights. Through a door a couple of steps took you down into a medium sized kitchen with another long window, then through a door into a super bathroom. The couple had had it done when they first got married and Elaine was obviously reluctant to leave it behind. The room was large and the suite was a pretty green. Coloured suites were a great luxury – this was before the days of the dreaded avocado and I was charmed.

Back to the top of the stairs a door ahead led us into a double sized bed-room and then into an even larger sized bed- room. Both the bedroom windows looked out onto the main street. You could see where their furniture had been so it was a bit shabby; there were acres of bare floor and it was going to need yards and yards of curtaining but already I pictured a blazing fire – our Welsh dresser and furniture and lots of space to have the family and parties.

‘Have you seen enough?’ Elaine asked.
‘Could I just quickly go round again please?’ She nodded and I raced round trying to absorb every detail whilst William asked her about transport to Trafford Park.
Downstairs we thanked them for letting us see the flat and I said I thought it was lovely and we would love to rent it if they thought we would be suitable. The mother said they would have to give it some thought but old Mrs Barber said her son in law would be in touch the next week.

We went to have a coffee and a chat.
‘Oh William it would be so marvellous living there. Everything is perfect. Do you think they’ll let us have it? The mother and daughter didn’t seem mad keen.’
‘We just have to be patient. There’ll be other places I’m sure.’
‘But we’ll never find anywhere as good as that and we’ve had enough of living in one room and our furniture will look so good and I know just …’
‘We haven’t got any furniture.’
‘Oh William sometimes you’re such a wet blanket!’
But he was right of course – we’d just have to wait and see!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

One of MTL's birthday cards. I'm not sure of the significance of the old biddy in the background!  Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Young at Heart
See above for anyone who wishes to know more about the choir.

The last thing I wanted to see on Monday night was a bunch of oldies making asses of themselves, but I thought it was time to give More4 a chance. After listening to Eileen Hall aged 92, a GI Bride, giving it large with the Clash’s ‘Should I Stay Or Should I Go?’ with her deep gutsy voice, I was hooked. The average age of the group is 80; most of them seem to live in their own homes but Eileen lives in a residential home and is the only resident to have a front door key as by the time she gets back from rehearsal everybody, including the staff is in bed.

The documentary is such good entertainment it is bound to be shown to a wider audience so do watch it if you get the chance. They are a choir from Massachusetts and the programme is a chronicle of six weeks of rehearsals building up to a concert in their hometown, Northampton. They are led by a younger, exceedingly patient man, Bob Gilman, who gets them singing – not twilight ballads - but renditions of songs by bands such as OutKast, the Clash and Radiohead.

Stephen Walker’s film demonstrates how these very old folk live for the choir and some die for it – with no regrets, as they it gives them the friendship and fulfilment that enriches their lives. Many of them have had near death experiences and Bob asks one of the old ladies if she had seen the ‘bright light’.
‘Well I just wouldn’t look!’ she said amid laughter.

It is very sad when two of the stalwarts die in the same week when they are about to perform for prison inmates who are sitting on the grass in the open. You see the odd flicker on those hardened faces as the old folk sing Coldplay’s ’Fix you’, Dylan’s ‘Forever Young’ and Bowie’s ‘Golden Years.’ When the concert is over the convicts rise, cheering and the choir, slowly and haltingly, move closer to them until they merge and there are hugs and tears.
‘You are in my heart,’ one man told an old lady.

The concert was a sell-out with queues all down the main street. When Fred, a frail but feisty old man who had made a come back, after severe health problems, was helped into his chair at the front of the stage still attached to his oxygen; you could hear a pin drop. He sang most beautifully to honour his late friends. There are some hilarious moments – not least the director’s terror as he is driven by one of the few pensioners who can still see to drive – in theory. Don’t miss it!
  Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 07, 2006



  1. William can we get the dining room suite on Saturday?

  2. What dining room suite?

  3. You know the one I showed you in Cole’s window; a Welsh dresser and a refectory table and the chairs were covered in a lovely Jacobean print.  Oh and one of them was a carver.  Remember?

  4. Oh yes!  Well we certainly can’t get it now.

  5. Why not?
W. Because we’re going back to Manchester – we haven’t got anywhere to live and the chances are we’ll have to settle for another furnished flat – and then what will we do with all that  furniture.  You have to think these things through.
P.  But William I have thought it through.  For a start I am not going to settle for a furnished flat and the store have said once we’ve bought it they’ll keep it for us until we’re ready for it.
W.  We can do all these things in good time.  You may find something you like better when we get to Manchester.  There’s no rush.
P.  You don’t understand.  I know I won’t see anything I like better.  This is exactly what I want.  You aren’t interested in décor but it’s really important to me.  I don’t mind leaving the practical things to you – you’re so much better at it but please let me get on with the home-making.  We’ve got the money.  Honestly William I really don’t want to lose it.
W.  Well I can’t talk about it now – I’ll be late for work.

Frustration!  Our time in Sheffield was coming to an end and I had to face up to an uncertain future and uncertainty was a state I found most difficult to cope with.  I needed to count our blessings.  William was near the end of his apprenticeship, had a secure job and excellent prospects.  We both had reasonable health and I should be able to get a job in the Manchester area but we had nowhere to live.  And some of the areas round Manchester were really dismal and depressing.

That night William came bounding up the stairs with a big grin on his face.
‘We can’t get that dining room suite this week-end…’
‘Well don’t think I’m giving up on it because…’
‘Just listen for a minute!’

William had had a phone call at work from a Mr Cooper he had worked for at the Manchester branch.  It seemed his mother-in-law had a hat shop in Altrincham and over it was a two-bed-roomed flat.  This had been occupied by his daughter and her husband but now they had bought a house and the flat was empty.  The thing was that to get to the flat you had to go through the shop so it was vital that the old lady (she was 90) had someone she felt she could trust.  Mr Cooper had obviously put in a good word for William but he didn’t know me and Mrs Barber (his M in L) wanted to meet both of us.

I knew Altrincham – it was a pleasant leafy town with good shops and the flat. which was on one of the shopping streets was unfurnished.  We just had to make a good impression.  The week-end couldn’t come quickly enough and then we put on our best bibs and tuckers and set of to be interviewed.
The Dresser  Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 06, 2006



I first met Bill in 1953 when I started modelling – in fact on my first job where I had to play a frightened wife.  Not difficult as I was scared stiff but Bill was so friendly and did all he could to give me confidence.  At that time he was a ‘resting ‘actor.  
He came from a theatrical family – his father Leo was a skilled musical comedy actor and Bill himself, over a long career was an excellent leading man.

Everybody would recognise his voice – the voice of Schweppes when he whispered ‘Schhh! You know who.’
I can’t believe he was 81.  In my mind he will always be tall, handsome, debonair and a sweetie. R.I.P.
P with Bill  Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 05, 2006



“The primrose way to the everlasting bonfire.”
Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’

“The three great elements of modern civilisation, Gunpowder, Printing and the Protestant Religion,”
Thomas Carlyle ‘State of German Literature’

“Please to remember
The Fifth of November,
Gunpowder treason and plot;
We know no reason
Why gunpowder treason
Should ever be forgot.”

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Birthday Boy

November 4th is my husband’s birthday. As it was a lovely sunny day – a rarity in November – we went out to lunch. We drove via Dunster and Wheddon Cross to Exford. No sign of any hunting and very little of the season’s falling of leaves. There are two hotels in Exford but we tend to favour the Crown with its charming water garden.

We both chose grilled chicken with ‘champ mash’. I love any mash and this turned out to be champignon and was surrounded by delicious gravy. Afterwards My husband had B & B pudding with custard, and I had a dainty crème brulee with fruit compote ‘cos I’m a lady. We wandered round the village and marvelled at hardy souls at the other pub eating out by the river in shirt sleeves – the temperature
just above freezing. The village green is the greenest green you’ve ever seen.

We drove back over Exmoor – saw ponies and something in the channel which could have been a dredger. Then we saw a pony galloping hell for leather along the coast. What was he late for one wondered? Dropping down Porlock Hill I caught a glimpse of a sign saying Porlock was twinned with somewhere in Belgium. I will try to find out where – as I know the Belgian connection will be avid to know.

We called at a nursery and I got a beautiful scarlet cyclamen plant for a poorly neighbour. I couldn’t understand why the flowers were so big – apparently because it was in indoor one. It was beautifully gift wrapped and incredibly priced at £3.49. Sorry Judy – I should have taken a photo but I have delivered it already. Another year – another dollar!
The White Horse 
The Crown  Posted by Picasa
The Crown's Water Garden 
  Posted by Picasa
The greenest green 
Exford in November  Posted by Picasa
Bristol Channel 
Exmoor  Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Marion Stein - Lady Harewood on left  Posted by Picasa

Back on duty at the hospital, excitement was running high. The new children’s department, Thornbury, was completed and was to have a grand opening. We were delighted that Marion Stein was to be the opener. Marion Stein was a beautiful concert pianist – born in Vienna and in 1949 had married Lord Harewood – always a lover of classical music. His father was Lord Lascelles who married to the Princess Royal – our present Queen’s aunt – so it was almost like having Royalty do the deed.
Sadly her marriage was dissolved in 1967 and in 1973 she married the leader of the Liberal Party the Right Honourable Jeremy Thorpe who famously said,
’Greater love hath no man than that he lay down his friends for his life.’
When his political life ended in scandal she stood by him.

Thornbury was a mile or so away, but the main Hospital was spruced up with an array of flowers planted in the bit of ground in front of the Hospital, I was amused to see they planted the flowers in little pots which were removed after the visit. Sweet!
Matron told me I would be working at Thornbury which meant getting a different bus to take me to work. Then she said I would be in charge of the theatre there, which gave me pause for thought. After managing to lose the poison cupboard keys whilst in training, my theatre experience was limited. However it turned out that it was mainly a medical department and the only operations would be for pyloric stenosis and tracheotomies.

Pyloric stenosis is when the passage between a baby’s stomach and small bowel becomes thickened and stops the milk from getting through. This results in the baby having projectile vomiting. An incision is made into the muscle enlarging the pylorus thus relieving the obstruction. We were told that this operation had been discovered by accident when a surgeon nicked the muscle. A tracheotomy is creating an opening in the windpipe to assist breathing and provide more oxygen to the lungs.

We didn’t have sterile packs then, so all the instruments had to be sterilised and the trolleys set up and Heaven help you if something was forgotten. I resolved to get to know those two operations backwards so all would go smoothly during the ops. The trouble was the surgeon was so impressed he asked Matron if I could be transferred to his theatre in the main Hospital. Not bloody likely I thought. Matron agreed that as our time in Sheffield was soon to end it wasn’t worth uprooting me again.

As the little theatre was not very busy I spent a lot of time cleaning and sorting out cupboards. One day I came across a bottle containing a brightly coloured liquid and idly removed the stopper to smell it. My head started to swim and there was a loud thumping noise. I realised in time, it must be an anaesthetic liquid, replaced the stopper and kept well away from that cupboard.

William and I loved to go to the cinema and one film that made a great impression about this time was Tennessee Williams’s ‘Streetcar named Desire.’ starring Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando. It was electrifying. No-one ever came near Marlon in his prime and although Vivien’s beauty was fading she proved once and for all that she could teach Larry a thing or two about screen acting. I felt such empathy with the character Blanche Dubois and was convinced I would either have an early death or end up incarcerated in a mad house. Happily I got it wrong!
Vivien Leigh and Curt Maldon in 'Streetcar named Desire'  Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

BEFORE THE FALL  Posted by Picasa