Wednesday, October 31, 2007
We went south to Bideford and bought Christmas presents. Not as daft as it seems because we see the French family in November for MTL's Birthdday lunch and the French PO tend to panic at Christmas and will return parcels from England rather than deliver them.
MTL thought I should photograph the crane.
On a murky day we drove north through Barnstaple and watched surfers at Braunton sands.
I prayed for a good day to do some of the Tarka Trail
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Doing what Maddie said.
I had found a delightful primary school for the boys. It was a Church of England school next to the
It was quite clear that William was not going to be my instructor. He would lean out of the car apologising to all and sundry whilst I quietly fumed. Hard up as we were, we decided that six professional lessons should do the trick. Our car was now an old Wolseley – with a running board and I was to learn on a Mini. The instructor was a pleasant young man and told me I must not attempt to drive our car until I had passed the test as the controls were different. This meant I was expected to pass with six lessons and no practice.
Actually I found the lessons the most exciting thing that I had done in ages and would lie in bed at night going through all the motions. By now we all had our own bedrooms; it lessened the squabbles between the boys and as William was a lark to my owl it made sense. Once when my old nursing friend Annie was staying she was shocked when William threw my nightie down the stairs so I wouldn’t disturb him when I went to bed. I suppose we were a bit odd.
After my first lesson the instructor said, with a hint of surprise,
‘You’re not bad. When you got in the car I thought you were going to find it difficult.’
That taught me such a lot about body language so I practised giving off the right vibes and by the time I took my test that examiner had to believe I was totally confident, assured and safe. It worked and I passed first time. That’s six lessons and no practice. Oh had I said that already?
The same day one of the boys had a hospital appointment so I decided to drive them in the Wolseley. Not a brilliant idea – I still had to get used to the different controls. On the way to the hospital – the very hospital which is now cited, to my horror, as the worst in
We had a nasty turning right out of the road into the oncoming traffic and the only way to do it safely was to inch out. Every morning this woman with her hair scraped back in a steel grey bun, would cycle towards me and just as she had passed would hiss
‘You’re well out!’
It drove me nuts because she always managed to say it when it was too late for her to hear my valid explanation. One day I was so cross I yelled
‘Silly old cow!’
Naturally then for years the boys would say
‘Oh look Mummy! It’s the silly old cow.’
Now I was mobile the world seemed an exciting place with endless possibilities. At last I could think about getting a job but until both boys were at school it had to fit in with the couple of hours I was free each day. Where to start?
Saturday, October 27, 2007
I met these two charmers outside the Post Office at Instow - as sweet and well behaved as they looked. Chatting to their owner he told me he was feeling a bit on edge because he had a hospital appointment for a check up. He had been clear for two years and was going to walk his dogs to calm himself. Fingers crossed that all is well.
There will be more Instow Pics next week - after the next episode of Past Imperfect. And then there is the penultimate Coleridge Way Walk which did for my big toe nails alas. I'm going to be busy.
Friday, October 26, 2007
Just listened to a new story 'Captain Dan' by Devin on the Story teller's blog (see side bar). It's great to hear the different voices and accents and helps one to; visualise the person.
Today the Sussex kids are taking us out for an early Birthday lunch for MTL - it's not until early November. At tea-time we are having a large chocolate cake lavishly decorated by James aged seven. It would be very rude of me not to partake:)
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
I'm really missing visiting my friends but back to normal next week. Yesterday I bought- with the help of the kids - a microphone. Not for chat rooms or any of that nonsense but for Kim and Eryl's new Storyteller's Blog. See side bar.
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Friday, October 19, 2007
That’s the holiday over and the Commodore lived up to its reputation of being a lovely restful holiday place with delicious food and a caring staff. The weather was, in turn; dull, foul, and latterly, great when I did part of the Tarka Trail. Pix later.
Have noted requests and will do my best but realistically normality will be resumed when guests leave Sunday week. I hope the grand –children will help me iron out a few problems and tidy up the site.
Kath fancy you having kin in Barnstaple – it’s an interesting town but not great to drive through. Nea, I’ll be around when things quieten down. Hoss, you’ll always be a genius to me. Sam, I sympathise – I had to keep checking and rechecking. Doc you were beaten by a girl and you will have to learn to live with it. Savannah, I’m getting busier by the minute. Naomi and I’m finding the cross-words are getting harder and harder. Shane that’s for me to know… Anna – it’ll be a job for the grand-kids – not MTL! Kim that sounds more Ayres than Emerson?
So – as Mum used to say - which drove us all nuts – all hands to the pump!
Saturday, October 13, 2007
The next two weeks are going to be busy so my presence will be spasmodic. We are going to Instow (between Barnstaple and Bideford) you remember surely? Then the Hertfordshire family come for half term followed by the Sussex family for their half term.
I’ll try to put the comp answers up before I go – I don’t want to get lynched. Having got the house all spick and span to last for some time, a recalcitrant workman turned up today and did a bit of demolishing. Yesterday I had my hair colour highlighted for the first time for 25 years and MTL is treating me like a blonde.
OK! Time is up. Here are the answers:
1 Sophie Tucker
2 Jeremy Thorpe
3 Samuel Johnson
4 Scott Fitzgerald
5 Jane Austen
6 Oscar Wilde
7 Franklyn D Roosevelt
8 Queen Victoria
9 GB Shaw
10 Jean Paul Sartre
11 Robert Browning
12 Laurence Sterne.
By my reckoning Sam is the winner with Doctor Maroon second and Tan Lucy Pez third (all on side bar)
Catherine deserves a special mention as she was the only one to recognise Jean Paul Sarte. Jeremy Thorpe is worth a google when you read his quote for the second time. Please check results –you know what I’m like. Congrats and thanks to all who took part.
Keep the faith – I’ll be back soon.xoxoxoxox
Friday, October 12, 2007
Some of you enjoyed the matching of quotes and writers when I did it previously so here are a further twelve quotes and twelve names. They are mixed nationalities to give everyone a chance. They aren’t easy but have a go and - need I say - no googling or equivalent please.
Here are the Quotes:
1 I’ve been poor and I’ve been rich. Rich is better.
2 Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his friends for his life.
3 Oats. A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland supports the people.
4. In the real dark night of the soul it is always three o’clock in the morning.
5. A woman, especially if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.
6. All women become like their mother. That is their tragedy. No man does. That’s his.
7. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself
8 He speaks to me as if I were public meeting.
9 Every man over forty is a scoundrel
10 Hell is other people
11 If you get simple beauty and nought else,
You get about the best thing God invents
12 Writing, when properly managed (as you may be sure I think mine is) is but a different name for conversation.
Here are those who wrote or spoke the words.
A Scott Fitzgerald
B Oscar Wilde
C Jeremy Thorpe
D Samuel Johnson
E Jane Austen
F Franklyn Roosevelt
G Sophie Tucker
H Laurence Sterne
I Queen Victoria
J Jean Paul Sartre
K Robert Browning
L George Bernard Shaw.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
In a recent comment box both Zinnia and Four D agreed that it is preferable to have reading material in the smallest room. Zinnia said:-
‘Books in the loo is an essential if you ask me. Poetry, mostly, or books of letters, or flash fiction, that kind of thing. Novels or books of longer stories or essays are a bad idea because if someone gets interested you can't get them out of there and end up with a crowd of people hopping up and down outside.’
I thought it would be interesting to see what others thought and I went to check what I had in there at present. Here’s what I found:-
1 Life’s little treasure book on Wisdom
2 Eats Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss
3 Beat Stress by Leslie Kenton
4 Selected poems by TS Elliot
5 Warning by Jenny Joseph
6 Best of Blogs by Peter Kuhns& Adrienne Crew
7 Escapes from Dartmoor Prison by Trevor James
8 How to take pictures by Kodak
9 Photographer’s Handbook by Michael Busselle and John Freeman
10 Quotations – Concise Dictionary.
Something for all tastes? What about you?
I am in the middle of reading ‘Charlotte Sometimes’ by Penelope Farmer and enjoying it (aka Granny P), and have saved ‘My Boy friend is a Twat’ by Zoë McCarthy to take away with me at the week-end.
Sunday, October 07, 2007
With two small boys and a large house to look after I was kept pretty busy and the milk dried up at six months. Son# 1 was active as ever and we decided to send him to a little nursery school for a few hours in the morning to prevent him killing himself or his brother. It was run by a vibrant mother of three boys who was determined that her children would be privately educated. This involved sending them to a nearby private school until they were old enough to go to prep school from whence she expected them to go to a famous public school. I believe these names mean different things in the States; suffice it to say that this was going to cost an enormous amount of money and meant a degree of privation for the family.
She and I became friendly and she almost convinced me this was the way to go. I even bought a small red blazer as part of the private school uniform. William and I had long discussions about it and he pointed out that we would have to sacrifice family holidays in order to afford it. I remembered my childhood – Blackpool when we were tots, cycling holidays, youth hostelling and the unforgettable camping holidays in the Lake District. I couldn’t deprive my boys of that sort of childhood. We were both agreed about this so I started to investigate the local state schools.
Cynthia, the nursery school owner was quite a social creature and we were invited to one of her Sunday morning sherry parties. The house was even bigger than ours and twice as draughty and to compensate I drank rather more sherry than was good for me. It seemed to me that all the people there were on a different plane with different aspirations. They knew of my brief moment of fame so I was welcomed but I didn’t feel comfortable and I resolved I wasn’t going to become what I can only describe as a snob. In spite of the drink we got home safely but I hated the feeling of the ground coming up to meet me and decided fortified wines were not for me.
The money I earned modelling had disappeared, mainly on buying things for the house and I was now financially dependant on William. I didn’t enjoy this at all and matters came to a head when I asked for money to buy a new bathing costume for our holiday and - after quite a lengthy campaign - he said no. I remember going out into the garden, staring up at the sky – choked with tears and vowing I would never go hungry again. No of course that was Scarlett O’Hara - I was hardly hungry but I made myself a pledge that somehow how I would become independent again.
Married women then, had a duty to look after their husbands, children, house and garden. That was women’s work; so we cooked and cleaned, bottled and preserved, laundered and ironed, knitted and darned and made do and mended. Hubby would be greeted in the evening with a fresh, pretty little wifey and after a restorative snifter he would kiss the children goodnight and sit down to a delicious home-cooked meal prepared by the lady of the house. It didn’t always work out quite like that. There was a feeling of unrest in the air. We were into the sixties and about to have Women’s Lib make waves and change our lives for ever.
I had a lovely home, a good husband and two delightful little boys and I was unhappy. Maddie and her husband used to come over most week-ends – first shopping in Tunbridge Wells and then dropping in to play with the children and share our supper. They usually brought little gifts for the boys and a bottle of wine and I looked forward to their visits. One evening Maddie and I were washing up after eating a nourishing goulash; she asked me what was wrong and I started to weep. I got a ‘no nonsense ‘ pep talk from her and she suggested I should take a part- time job, have driving lessons, join a theatre club and take a lover. I remember feeling quite shocked. Within a month I had done as she suggested. As she said later
‘I didn’t mean all at once.’
And I didn’t quite do everything she suggested. Naturally.
Friday, October 05, 2007
We’re having a bit of a Fry Fest here in the UK at present to celebrate his 50th Birthday. I have had to revise my – less than charitable - view of Stephen formed mainly as a Pavlovian reaction to his stint in prison and his deserting a new play which then failed. I last wrote about him to give an account of his brilliant and intensely personal TV programme ‘Secret Life of a Manic Depressive’, for friends who were unable to watch it. After such a searingly honest account one couldn’t fail to be more compassionate and understanding.
The programme itself was a ray of light shining on the hidden murky depths that mental illness is regularly consigned to and gave comfort to thousands of sufferers who previously felt shunned and stigmatised.
Now he is doing the same for HIV sufferers – honest as ever about his gay status and turning a critical but compassionate eye on them. Stephen’s first love at Cambridge, Kim Harris is now almost blind and is HIV positive through his partner who has now died.
‘Of all the ways to leave a party – it’s one of the most agonising.’ said Kim
One of the saddest cases was a teen-age girl who contracted HIV in the womb and is now dying of Aids
Stephen himself had to have a blood test 23 years ago before he could buy a property.
There are now three times more cases of HIV positive than there were ten years ago. I couldn’t help reflecting that it is ten year since Diana died – another shiner of light on murky depths. New infections in heterosexuals outnumber those in homosexuals and there is almost a Russian roulette attitude adopted by members of both gay and straight members of society. There are 70,000 cases of people infected with HIV in the UK. Some of the attitudes were frightening: safe sex was the exception rather than the rule, two out of five didn’t use condoms when drunk and no-one asked if each other had been tested.
Stephen travelled to the townships of South Africa where 346,000 died of Aids last year. 90% could be saved with access to drugs but the government don’t believe that HIV leads to Aids and there is an absence of a strong public message. There is to be a second programme of ‘HIV and me’ and one can only hope it has the same salutary effect as his documentary on mental illness.
Stephen has also taken part recently in ‘Who do you think you are?’ where celebrities discover their forebears and roots. Typically, instead of the usual back up of experts, Stephen appeared to do it all himself with the help of his lap-top. This involved him travelling to Vienna, where he discovered a woman who had installed a plaque commemorating his Austrian family, in the building where they had lived before being murdered during the holocaust and when he saw it he wept. It was very moving to see this great bear of a man showing his tiny mother the garden in Norfolk where she had played as a child. As usual Stephen was frank and open about his Jewishness.
‘Fifty – not out’ was the programme that finally demolished any remaining prejudice. Friends as diverse as Prince Charles and Jonathan Ross and including luminaries of stage and screen such as Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thomson, Imelda Staunton – too many to name - and many who had known him since Cambridge speak of him with awe and affection. When Hugh Laurie (playing the lead in ‘House’ in the US) spoke of his old partner in the Bertie Wooster series it was plain to see his love for his old friend.
Stephen Fry – actor, writer, comic, wit, raconteur and brilliant interviewer you are a national treasure. Imagine what it must be like to have him as a friend; one would never have to Google again. Below is a small taste of his comic talent.
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go, yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more, day by day,
You tell me of our future that you planned;
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray,
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve;
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad
Christina Georgina Rossetti
Dandelion and both Granny and Randall- see side bar - helped me to learn how to put a You tube on my blog. We may all live to regret it, but meanwhile - on yet another grey murky day here in UK - have a listen. It cheered my deep sadness when # 1 son went to Uni
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
The Jewel in the Crown
When you come to live here in West Somerset, sooner or later you will be asked if you have seen North Hill; the jewel in the crown. The first time I saw it was when the girls and I had arranged to have our first day out together but I carelessly fractured my leg and had a full length plaster cast and didn’t want to budge. Margaret wasn’t taking no for an answer and I was piled in the back seat of the car (we were only three in those days) and shown this delightful place, where we had our first picnic.
Visitors get their first glimpse when they reach Halsway Hill on the A358 from
To the left is moorland – in summer a purple and gold patchwork of bell heather and western gorse; with vistas over Dunkery Beacon it is the perfect picnic place. On the right is the
A large area of North Hill is known as Camp Hill because from 1890 to 1914 it was a summer training ground, first of the Old Volunteers and subsequently the Territorials.
In the early forties the road was metalled and from 1942 to 1945 the area was used as a tank training ground. After the war the National Trust was about to break up the road and allow the hill to return to its original moor land state but, thanks to the intervention of local councils this unique access was preserved and can be enjoyed by all, regardless of mobility.
Some years ago I was compiling an A to Z of West Somerset and met Harry Dootson one of the soldiers billeted on the hill. He had come down from
‘It was the most beautiful place I had seen. I thought I was in heaven.’
He was posted abroad but later returned to Minehead.
‘I saw many interesting and lovely places but none as beautiful as my first view of Minehead from North Hill. To ensure my residency I married a local girl.’
Selworthy Beacon is 1013’and footpaths lead onto Hurlstone Point down to the beach and the unspoilt
‘But what if you’re blown over to
‘I shall just look back at the place where I was really happy.’
Summer evenings are special on the hill and favoured guests have the perfect digestif, being whisked to the end of the road and quaffing coffee and liqueurs whilst watching the sun slowly sinking into the sparkling sea.