Saturday, December 30, 2006



“Where’s Granny P?
Startled I turned round to scan the throng in the scarlet carpeted church.  Granny P is a blogging friend and, to the best of my knowledge, in Spain with her Beloved.  Funny to think that she could be sitting next to me and I wouldn’t recognise her.  Beloved did do a sketch of her but it was topless and no-one in sight is remotely topless – far from it - as the beautifully decked church is heatless.

It was Christmas Eve and we had brought the children to the Christingle Service.  There were a few hiccups – the organist’s light wasn’t working so the tunes were a bit off key and a jolly man in a suit said the lady who should have taken the service was quite ill.  He lives in the house next door so was filling in and he asked all the children to come to the front, round the crib.

I was glad we had been early and had a good view of the children and the crib.  A two ft high, blonde minx evaded he mother’s grasp and was causing mayhem.  Another mother came out front to read from Luke, her docile little daughter holding her hand until the two ft BM spotted her and proceeded to bait her.  Docility disappeared – a struggle ensued and Luke was quickly terminated.

Back came the jocular vicar (did you guess the house next door was the vicarage?) disguised as a Bethlehem paparazzi.  He confused us all by taking photos of the kings and shepherds who were imaginary beings in the congregation.  It seemed Mary and Joseph weren’t photogenic enough so they were dismissed in favour of the kings with presents illustrating (I think) how we have lost sight of the true meaning of Christmas.

The children were asked what was missing from the crib scene and of course it was baby Jesus – because tomorrow was his birthday and if we wanted to see him we would have to be here at 9.30am.  We sang carols, prayed and then it was time for what all the children had been waiting for.  We didn’t do this when I was a child so forgive me if I get it wrong; the orange represents the world and the scarlet ribbon tied round it is the blood of Christ.  The four sweeties stuck on orange sticks represent the four corners of the earth; north , south , east and west and the candle on top is the light of Jesus’ love shining through out the world.

Health and Safety this year had decreed that the candles should not be lit until they had reached the church door.  In fact this proved more hazardous and my daughter in law narrowly stopped my coat from singeing,

Sad news on Christmas Day that James Brown had died.  RIP James and thanks for the memory.
Our youngest boy – aged six – is still a believer so we had left milk and a mince pie for Santa and a carrot for Rudolph – all demolished.  We opened our stockings in our dressing gowns and watched Flash the cat go manic with his toy mouse and then the wrapping paper.  By the time we all met up again we were dressed up to the nines and whilst the adults drank champagne the children eyed the presents under the tree.

Eor years I have agonised about the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’ – never more cruelly apparent than at Christmas.  I have had Christmases  that were stressed and unhappy and Christmases where I have worked hard in hospital and been joyous, and now I have learnt to be thankful for good fortune while it lasts and not waste it by fretting about the troubles of the world unless I can do something about it.

Lunch was my favourite – ham and turkey with every possible accoutrement and as we were all feeling a little full we decided to repair to the other room to watch Her Maj before pud.  Tradition is never more important than at Christmas.  How times change: she never said how pride (proud) she was but did let an orphan (often) sneak in.  I was surprised she didn’t mention our forces abroad but she had recorded a special message for them.  Maybe she was feeling like the DT correspondent whose dilemma was how to ’show richly deserved support for our troops without at the same time appearing to support Tony Blair’s grossly mistaken involvement with Iraq?’

A few tears shed, listening to the Carols from Kings Cambridge and one thought of distant loved ones, loved ones who have passed on and people all over the world.  I relished ‘The Vicar of Dibley’  ‘Driving Lessons’ and the wonderful original ‘Thirty Nine Steps’ with Robert Donat and Madeleine Carroll- surely the first of Hitchcock’s blondes?  You could almost see the old rascal salivating as he had her remove her silk stockings and then later replace them.  It was so nostalgic for MTL and me what with the Harris Tweed jackets reeking of sweat and tobacco smoke.  Oddly it made me think of the young Doccie Maroon.
THE VILLAGE CHURCH  Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

OH NO I DIDN'T Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, December 19, 2006




What a relief to get out for a day with no lists or responsibilities.  This was in lieu of Margaret’s birthday and it was Joy’s turn to drive and choose the destination.  The four of us were feeling high spirited especially when Margaret told us  her post breast cancer check was clear and she didn’t have to see them again for eighteen months.  Yippee!

The grey turgid day was not going to dampen our spirits and we drove to Minehead and stared at North Hill and the Bristol Channel which was not remotely resembling Homer’s ‘wine dark seas’.  The girls see much more of each other than I do as I resigned from the Townswomen’s Guild after twelve years.  It wasn’t totally ‘Jam and Jerusalem’ and I love my friends, but am too much of a loner for groups unless it is to do with something that I am passionately interested in like the theatre or writing.

At first everybody talked at once as I gradually caught up with the news – usually a fair amount of new joints (anatomical not dives!) and some sad departures.  Joy provided a flask of coffee and a tooth breaking gingery sweet meat which had come from the Lakes (Quarsan may know it) but it was not Kendal Mint Cake.  Continuing our journey through Washford and Williton we drove Joy mad guessing where we were going; the birthday trips are always a surprise known only to the driver and after twenty years of four birthday trips a year, it gets more and more difficult to come up with something new.

On the Taunton road we took a left to Bishop’s Liddiard.  ‘Ah!’ we chorused – bur no – on we drove and stopped outside a gateway where Judge Jeffries had hanged two rebels.  We drove into Cothelstone Manor and this was serendipity.  Unknown to Joy, Margaret – as a young girl had worked as a nanny to a wealthy family and had accompanied them on a visit to their friends at Cothelstone Manor.  She told us how beautiful it was and we could see the building through the trees with its long narrow windows.  I asked her if she ate with the family or was she consigned to the nursery.  She assured us she was treated as one of the family but of course this was post war.

We wandered round, visited the church and my camera battery ran out.  By now we were all longing for a ‘comfort stop’ so drove off for our lunch.  To our surprise we stopped at a peaceful crossroad with no pub, but a cafĂ© and a shop.  Joy had phoned them, booked a table and as they didn’t have a license we were allowed to take wine and they would charge us corkage.  Joy’s husband provided a good rose as we have mixed tastes and the staff had decorated our table in festive red and green.

It was a delightful little place – a bit like a ski lodge with windows all round and great landscapes to feast one’s eyes on should conversation dry up.  Fat chance!  The food was home cooked; three of us felt veggie and had parsnip and chestnut crumble which, with a jug of optional gravy was sooo delicious.  Jackie had a chicken dish, the wine flowed, cheeks glowed and the festive trifle was yummy.

Reluctantly we left the Pines, promising to come again soon and sampled the shop.  The lady who ran it had a farm and milked the cows every morning before opening the shop.  It was full of attractive gifts and although I had all my Christmas presents I bought a pretty bon bon dish and a compact calculator on which there was a girl who reminded me of one of my daughters in law.  In fact the one we are spending Christmas with - so she deserves an extra present.

On the way back we congratulated Joy on making a dreary winter’s day one of our goods ones.  May we have many more.
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Sunday, December 17, 2006


Saturday, December 16, 2006



I must learn to trust my instinct which was to have my computer final health check after Christmas before the five year insurance expired on January 6th.  However he-who-shall-be-blameless prevailed upon me to do it before Christmas.  If only one could just ring the store to make an appointment instead of ringing some number which could be in outer space for all I know, and where you are given 54 options before you get through to the right person who then gives you more options.

Fate smiled upon me and I spoke to someone who I could actually hear and understand, apart from some unintelligible number he asked me for.  After giving him every number I could see in my file it turned out he just wanted my house number – which we don’t have but he had a very peculiar way of saying ‘house.’

I felt a mild frisson when he said the appointment was for Tuesday at 2 pm.  The store is about 35 miles away and normally we allow a whole day to finish the job.  They assured me it would only be one and a half hours and there was nothing really wrong with my five year old computer so I tried to relax.  We turned up early which they were pleased about because the chap who was booked to do it was off sick.  I told the young chap what I would like, asked him to look at the printer which was useless and won’t let me change cartridges, and asked him to throw in a new mouse and keyboard for good measure.

There is a multiplex cinema nearby so we set off for a rare treat.  Love is…going to see ‘Casino Royal’ instead of ‘The Holiday’!  It’s probably the best James Bond film I have seen but I am not a fan.  I don’t know much about Ian Fleming but I suspect he didn’t like women.  He did have a drinking problem and was told if he didn’t cut down he would be dead soon and he should ration himself to one drink a day.  He researched and found the most alcoholic drink was green chartreuse and from thence that was his tipple.

It wasn’t the usual parade of blonde bimbos – the two leading actresses were brunettes who both came to a sticky end and then there was a blonde baddie who had her arm cut off.  Fortunately we didn’t see that – or were my eyes closed?  I have to say Dan is the man, with his perky pecs, craggy face and the bluest eyes.  I thought the end was nigh three times but at the fourth time it was finally over.  The cinema had good clean loos but however are we going to deal with the obesity problem when sweets and cokes are served in buckets?

Back at PC World nothing had happened.  I asked to see the manager, who apologised and told me he knew where I was coming from so I told him where I actually was coming from.  After more conversation he promised faithfully he would phone me later in the evening (which he didn’t) and in any case would phone as soon as it was ready.

The next day we were up early, ready to get it over and done with and at 3.30 pm somewhat enraged (is there a man alive who phones when he says he will?) I rang outer space again.  Eventually after all the options were recited yet again, they rang the store and told me my machine had been finished ten minutes ago.  By now it would have meant two long drives in the dark so that was another day gone and I started to realise how bereft I felt without the computer.

It is now safely back home and up and running but they have managed to lose  all my web addresses on my browser and for a time I couldn’t access my blog and kept being asked my user name and password which never works when I’m stressed.  I bet you have experienced all this and I know it’s like the trauma of giving birth – once it’s over you forget all the pain.

I didn’t get a new mouse and keyboard – wear and tear doesn’t count apparently.  My printer was useless so I now have a brand new HP which does lots of things but all I really needed was to print my Christmas letters which I have done.  There was a hairy moment when everything died as I was installing the printer – but the usual pulling out of plugs and replacing with a prayer, seemed to work.  I just have one wire with Perspex square on the end, spare, and I am not sure where to put it but will leave that just now.  I think I have earned my snifter tonight.  Bottoms up!

Friday, December 15, 2006



Just my luck!  Finally got my computer together again – more or less - and it’s ‘Girl’s Day Out’.  Be back later, meanwhile I’ll leave you with what Leo Abse – social reformer said recently.
‘I hope to die alive.  At the moment I have my marbles.’
Right on Leo!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006




By William Shakespeare

When icicles hang by the wall,And Dick the shepherd blows his nail,And Tom bears logs into the hall,And milk comes frozen home in pail,When blood is nipp'd and ways be foul,Then nightly sings the staring owl -To-who;Tu-whit, Tu-who, a merry note,While greasy Joan doth keel the pot.
When all aloud the wind doth blow,And coughing drowns the parson's saw,And birds sit brooding in the snow,And Marian's nose looks red and raw,When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl,Then nightly sings the staring owl -To-who;Tu-whit, Tu-who, a merry note,While greasy Joan doth keel the pot

And I’m off with my pooter for its final health check.  I hope to be up and running tomorrow but I may be gone some time!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

MORRISSEY  Posted by Picasa
JAMES BROWN  Posted by Picasa



Son No 1 has just taken his son and three friends to see Morrissey.  Over thirty years ago I drove him and three friends to see James Brown at the Rainbow Theatre.  Quite a frightening experience as the car was old and the lights weren’t working properly.  I had no idea where to park but saw a police van drive up and a jeans clad man jump out of it.

‘Excuse me officer, could you tell me where to park please?’  He glared at me and I realised that I was blowing his cover.  I whispered ‘Sorry!’ and he quickly told me where to park the car.  It was an interesting evening.  James Brown and I were the oldest people there and in spite of the startled looks from the other boys I found
myself on my feet, waving my arms in the air to ‘I’m a Sex Machine’
I just hope son No 1’s lights are better than mine were.

Grandson’s verdict - enjoyed the show but said a lot of the fans were pretentious, bald headed men jumping up and down and annoying everybody!
Not like Grandma then!

Friday, December 08, 2006




Soon after we returned from holiday we spent the evening with the couple next door who lived in the flat over the delicatessen.  They were charming, retired and had lived abroad working in the Colonial Service.  He was a cricket enthusiast and took us to a local match to teach us the rudiments of the game.  I started to get the hang of it and when someone hit the ball for six I applauded enthusiastically.
‘No, no, no!’ I was told,’ if you must clap you must do it slowly – languidly in a desultory fashion.’  He demonstrated and I got the idea.  I suppose one didn’t want to give anyone a big head or wake up all the nodding colonels.  What would he think of today’s crowds?  I dread to think.

We had a pleasant evening and they showed us an old desk and arm chair which they wanted to off load and wondered if they would be useful to us.  They wouldn’t take any money and we gratefully accepted.  It was August 15th 1952 and in the South West of England, not far from where I now live, a disaster was unfolding.

Lynmouth was a harbour side village and it was connected to its sister village Lynton by a Victorian Cliff Railway.  Thomas Gainsborough said it was ‘the most delightful place for a landscape painter this country can boast.’  In the twenty four hours before the flash flood, nine inches of rain had fallen on Exmoor – four miles away.  The water flowed off the moors into the confluence of the East Lyn and the West Lyn rivers at Watersmeet and formed a raging torrent between the steep gorges.  The force of the water carried 40,000 tons of boulders and tree trunks on the unsuspecting inhabitants.

It was about 9pm; villagers would probably be listening to the radio before bedtime and the residents of the Lyndale Hotel were probably relaxing over their after dinner coffee.  Water surged into the hotel and everybody fled to the first floor and then to the second floor.  Houses, cars and people were swept out to sea, as well as all the boats in the harbour. Four main road bridges were swept away.

A fisherman, Ken Oxenholme was in Lynmouth and desperately wanted to reach his wife and child who were in a caravan in the upper part of Lynton.  The road was impassable so he made his way up the steep gorge through the woods.  By now it was dark and through flashes of lightning he saw whole houses being swept away.  ‘They folded up like a pack of cards.’ He said.  He could hear the agonising screams of some of the inhabitants, most of whom he knew.

The devastation was total.  Thirty four people lost their lives and there were many injured.  One woman’s body was never claimed.  Four hundred and twenty people were rendered homeless.  There was no gas or electricity and troops and council workers were brought in to start to clear the devastation.

There was some speculation the flash flooding could have been caused by Ministry of Defence experiments in rain making.  By dropping dry ice onto clouds, the idea was to start a heavy storm which would hamper enemy movements.  The M.O.D. has always denied this.

We didn’t hear of this until the following day and couldn’t imagine the horror of such an experience.  A friend met one of the survivors returning from a disastrous holiday by train.  She was still in shock, had lost all her possessions but, as she said she still had a home, unlike the people of Lynmouth.

LYNMOUTH AUGUST 1952  Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, December 06, 2006




I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tideIs a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
John Masefield

Actually, sea sailing came later.  William was anxious that I should enjoy it and thought sailing on the Broads would be a gentle introduction.  We all met up in Yarmouth – there were six boats and crew.  Bertie, who had planned it all, was in charge.  His side kick was Cyril who was also his crew.  Bertie ordained that the skippers i.e. the husbands would meet up each morning to discuss the day’s sailing and the crew i.e. the wives would be informed in due course.  This was years before Women’s Lib but I have always had a Bolshie streak and the idea of the ‘men’ telling the ‘little women’ how they were going to spend each day of their holiday had me muttering.  Quite loudly.

The first task was to get the flotilla safely under the bridge and out the other side.  Bertie said he would go ahead and guide. All the boats would be tied to him and to each other and Cyril would bring up the rear in a small dinghy tied to one of the boats.  William, who had been brought up on the Broads knew that with wind and tide this was not going to work but he couldn’t persuade Bertie, so we quietly sailed through alone, moored the boat and watched from the bridge.

As soon as Bertie started leading the flotilla it all went horribly wrong. The boats caught up with him, overtook him and swirled around, bumping and banging whilst the crew frantically threw out their fenders – designed to protect the boats from damage. Skippers screamed at their crew to rescue all the cushions now floating in the river and Yarmouth came to a halt to watch the funniest sight they’d seen for years.  William tried to help by shouting instructions but couldn’t be heard over the melee.  Just when we thought we couldn’t laugh any more, Cyril who resembled an older Billy Bunter seemed to be going backwards, his stolid frame dwarfing the dinghy.  Sadly the rope attaching him to one of the boats had broken.

It was almost sun -set by the time everyone was on the other side of the bridge and it was decided that in future, a destination would be decided each morning and then we would all make our own way there and meet up in the evening.  Sounded good to me!  I was enjoying seeing William in his element.  He was a natural sailor and being on a boat brought out the best in him.  He worked hard to teach me about wind and tides and slowly I began to absorb it - mainly through hands on experience; getting the feel of finding the wind and learning when to come about when tacking.  Tacking is when you have to zig- zag to find the wind to push you forward and it is an art to know how long to leave it before yanking the tiller over and going on the other tack.  William was the most generous of sailors and there was no hogging the wheel as some men are wont to do.

I loved the Norfolk countryside with its rushes, reeds and prolific wild life; the only sounds bird song and the ripple of water as the breeze nudged us along.  Occasionally we would meet a motor cruiser or gin palace.  They were meant to give way to sail but the message hadn’t got through to some of the skippers, in their yachting caps and blazers, and we had some near misses.  There was always lots to do; lowering the mast when we came to a bridge, cooking, tidying up, cheesing the ropes but doing chores was  much more fun on a boat.  When we reached the open broad we could really let rip and cut through the water like a knife, heeling right over.  William encouraged me to go out alone in the little dinghy.  At first I was slowly drifting in circles and then the wind caught the sail, I pulled on the rope, hand on the tiller and whoosh- we were off and I was poised between elation and terror.

William took the photo and was so pleased with it he sent it to the Daily Express MISS ZIPP competition.
“A girl steers a boat thoughtfully, as serene as the sea she sails on.”
He won five guineas.  In fact we were tied up at the time.  No way would I go to sea dressed like that.
Miss Zipp  Posted by Picasa

Monday, December 04, 2006




Our next task was to clear up Dodie’s house ready for letting.  It was very late on Friday when we arrived so we had barely two days to do it.  In the broad unforgiving daylight it was clear that a thorough spring-cleaning was needed, followed by a few coats of paint but Dodie was more concerned that we should ’spud’.the drive i.e. pull out all the weeds embalmed in the gravel.  
‘Oh and by the way’ she told us, ‘some people are coming to look over the house sometime in the early evening.’  Great!

I left the drive to William and concentrated on the kitchen and bathroom.  After all I was part of this family now – honour was at stake.  I would always be a Northern lass at heart and cleanliness was next to godliness!   When I examined the old wooden plate rack on the wall, where we put the dishes to drain I faltered – just for a moment - and then started scrubbing.  By 5 pm we were exhausted.  Dodie had put fresh flowers everywhere and flicked a duster, so as far as she was concerned it was Show Time.

They arrived promptly at 6pm – a flight lieutenant and his wife, and we passed a pleasant hour on the veranda sipping amontillado and chatting.  They were dog lovers so were pleased to hear their dog would be welcome.  Eventually they had a brief trip round the house, and a longer one round the garden – which was in a much better state.  I did wonder if Dodie had deliberately chosen to show them round in the gloaming.

The upshot was they rented the house, Dodie moved up north to Mrs Fell’s and we inherited some extra furniture and linen.  I was becoming accustomed to married life.  William was kind and honest but not one for the romantic gesture.  Birthdays were remembered, but why would you need a card as well as a present?  And as for an eternity ring –we’d only been married for a year!  Sadly I realised that I would just have to lump it – he wasn’t going to change. He did have remarkable reflexes.  One night we came back to the flat and there was a mouse a few feet away.  With an enormous leap William pounced on it and killed it. (Animal lovers please note – nothing to do with me; I would have fled screaming!)  His brother was the same and once slapped a wasp away from a car driver’s face.  The car driver was none too pleased, but a slap was probably better than a sting.

Maddie had left the school in Scotland, where her son was a boarder, to become a stewardess with BOAC.  She was really enjoying flying round Europe – in those days it was rather more glamorous than just being a waitress in the sky.  She came to visit us, bringing a bottle of Chianti.  It was sitting in a raffia basket and was very decorative so after we drank it; I placed it on a shelf in the alcove.  One night we were awakened by an almighty bang.  Tremblingly we approached the living room, from whence the explosion had come, to find the bottle had exploded and left an obnoxious sticky deposit everywhere.  It had even leaked through onto the stairs.

Not long after this we were lying in bed one night when there was another terrific bang.  It came from outside the bedroom window, which looked out onto the main road. I gave William a wifely elbow to encourage him to investigate and as he crossed the room, he yelled.  Unfortunately, his bare foot snagged one of the nail heads protruding from the floor boards.  After I had dressed it I insisted he absolutely had to have an anti tetanus injection.  Reluctantly he agreed and the next day had the injection.  This caused a reaction and as a result he was off work for a week.  That took some living down.

William decided it was time to reveal his great passion to me: sailing, and in order to make it as palatable as possible he decided we would join a flotilla of sailing boats on the Broads for our summer holiday.  It would be a new experience – in the open air – and a break from work.  We could forget Dodie and all our responsibilities.  Something to look forward to.

Friday, December 01, 2006




There are some Christmas cards I could never throw away; the last one from my late mother; a snow scene of Scotney Castle Garden
‘All love Mum oxo.’ (Mum was famous for her oxo – two hugs and a kiss). the last one from my late sister in law
‘Please note Indian motif in brass on front.’ (we had just had a holiday in India) and the illustrated cards below – or above according to Blogger’s whim.

I am so glad I kept these – some of the Christmas cards I have had over the years from my friend Judy Powe; a gifted writer and illustrator despite being crippled with arthritis, cataracts and amputations.  The cards are prints from her originals.  Judy died last week.  R.I.P.
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