Friday, February 29, 2008
Time to take Stock.
My trip to
# 1 son asked if he could have his birthday party there, minus adults, and we said yes provided there was no alcohol. He said no alcohol - no party - so there was no party. The good thing was he didn’t intend to deceive us which I applaud him for. We both took parenting seriously and spent as much time with them as they would allow. We often went to places of interest on Saturdays and I remember one that had a fortune teller in a caravan. William persuaded me to give it a try.
She spent some time studying my hands and she said I was not happily married but I would be eventually and would marry someone from my past. What a load of old codswallop I thought. I couldn’t think of a single person I would want to be married to. On Sundays we did ‘the walk’ and William would take us further and further each time, and then there was always a panic wondering if we would get to the pub before closing time.
The boys although both blonde and blue eyed were very different and had different tastes and talents. They both went on ski-ing and camping trips. I used to give them mini lectures about the importance of hygiene and the dangers of drugs. At least some of it got through; when I went to pick up the younger son after a cub week- end the cub-master was quite worried as my son hadn’t eaten all week-end. When I saw the trestle tables displaying uncovered food I understood why. I had told him never to eat anything a fly had been on. (Look it up -we did it in Biology). Between us we somehow managed to turn out two decent young men I think.
We had a glorious two weeks in
One year William and I took the rare decision to go on holiday together but with one of my old nursing friends (as referee?) – Vanessa who he approved of. It was to be taking a boat on the canals. William was always at his best on a boat and Vanessa and I enjoyed each other’s company and knew the boating couldn’t be too arduous on a canal.
The shop was running smoothly and we had a great team. The boys were now at secondary school and doing well according to their different capabilities; I had made some good friends in the theatre club and got plenty of acting and directing opportunities. I still had the odd upsetting dream about Jamie but on the whole I was content. Maddie had started working for publishers which meant travelling in
Just before we were due to go on the canal holiday with Vanessa, William walked into my room in the middle of the night and said he didn’t feel well. I put the bed-side light on, took one look at him and knew he was having a heart attack. Trying not to let him see my panic I sat him down and told him to just hang on and I would get the doctor straight away. I flew down to the hall and she answered immediately. She had just been out to a house in the same street – also a suspected heart attack- so that until we got the results we clung to the hope that it was just some infection. The doctor arrived very quickly – she said she could tell from my voice how urgent it was.
She did various tests with me still clutching William’s hand and trying to reassure him. The ambulance arrived soon after and the doctor told me to get dressed and to follow the ambulance in my car. I rushed into the boy’s bedrooms and told them that Dad wasn’t very well and I was going with him to hospital but he was going to be fine and I’d be back soon. They had no recollection of this the next morning and were furious with me. I phoned Vanessa and asked her to cancel the canal holiday. We were all in a state of shock.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Dan the Man
Years ago I was captivated by a Titania (Midsummernight’s Dream) with the most amazing facial bone structure. Decades later I saw the same face but this time it was a young man in a strange film- ‘My beautiful Launderette’. The young man was Daniel Day Lewis and I discovered that the girl was his mother Jill Balcon, who in turn was the daughter of Michael Balcon, who owned and ran the Ealing Studios in their hey day. Daniel’s father was Cecil Day Lewis – poet laureate, and Daniel’s wife is the daughter of the late Arthur Miller – distinguished Playwright.
You’d have to be pretty special to live up to a family of that ilk and Dan is – pretty special. So one would expect nothing less than the bravura performance he gives as Daniel Plainview in ‘There will be blood’ and today I hear he has received his well deserved Oscar. Yes - this was the film we chose to see on our disappointing Saturday. My first choice was ‘La vie en Rose’ but it was the wrong day. I still wish we had seen it; I didn’t really enjoy ‘There will be blood.’ It wasn’t just the violence – ‘No country for old men’ was even more so and I rated that highly.
Daniel plays a vicious monster dominating every frame and most of the characters are liars, cheats and hypocrites. MTL thought he sounded like Sean Connery but to me it was pure (if you’ll pardon the expression) John Huston. Close your eye and listen – if you are old enough to remember. The film moves along at a reasonable pace although there was one long close up on the beach when I found myself trying to distinguish between the character’s nose hair and his moustache. There is some beautiful orchestral music along with a weird angry bees buzzing sound which made me think of the yelping music Hitchcock used ‘Psycho’ so maybe it will catch on.
One thing puzzles me. When I was a teenager I read ‘Oil ‘by Upton Sinclair and all I remember of it was when I read the babies were thrown, by the Reds, into the scalding water. I even mentioned it in a blog a year or so ago. Did I imagine it or am I muddling it with something else. Certainly there was nothing like it in the film. Thankfully. Well done Daniel!
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Alas and alack…
We were up bright and early on Saturday and MTL popped out to get a paper when the phone rang. It was the birthday boy with the news that our grand-son had got the tummy bug that is plaguing their area and he wanted me to decide whether it was worth risking MTL and me getting it. We decided that I would discuss it with MTL and then phone him back. I rarely take health risks – certainly not where my husband is concerned – he takes enough himself – but it was my son’s birthday and I was so looking forward to a Sunday walk. I phoned my other DIL but as soon as I spoke to her I realised it just was not worth the risk. They themselves suffered it and she was certain we shouldn’t go. So we didn’t. We decided to cheer ourselves up – have an early lunch and go to the flicks, of which more later.
It’s odd when you have an unexpected free day. It seemed a good opportunity to do something I have been mulling over for ages. It’s a pipe dream to make a book of ‘Past Imperfect’. I am under no illusions of how difficult it would be to interest a publisher in the present literary climate, but at least I can start to clear the decks. At present all the posts are jumbled up together although everything is double- backed and burnt to CDs. After today’s efforts, I have listed all the posts in order and separated them from all the asides. My next step is to get it all on one document which should be well on the way to a first draft. I’m amazed to find the word count is over 89,000. Apart from more editing (I do edit all the time), cutting and shaping are needed.
Zinnia where are you when I need you? Off in foreign parts getting up to goodness knows what. I am in unfamiliar territory now so any advice will be appreciated. The trouble with disappointment – it engenders comfort eating. It must stop and I pledge to lose 7lbs by the summer (Indian or normal- who knows?)
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Friday, February 22, 2008
On the long drive up to Vermont Maddie told me a little of its history. In 1609 Samuel de Champlain sailed into the lake which was then named after him, and discovered
We had been invited to have dinner with Betty – an older friend of Maddie’s who ran a superior guest house with her husband. It had a lovely country house atmosphere and one of the long term guests looked very like George Sanders with a moustache. It was uncanny – for the rest of our holiday everywhere we went, George would be lurking in the back ground. In the garden photographing a gopher, he would be on the other side of the brook; walking the marble pavements in
It was a bit spooky because he never greeted us, but later when Maddie told Betty she said he regaled them each evening with what we had been getting up to, so it was quite harmless, and maybe he was looking out for us. Betty had had a privileged childhood and I was excited to meet her brother who had been at
On my last day we had met Barbara at the Russian Tea Rooms and I was aghast at the size of the tip expected, even worse than
‘Oh Maddie I can’t see for that damned chandelier!’
The overture started and slowly the chandeliers rose up to the ceiling and I could see everything. At this time Margot was 51 and Rudolf was 32 – he looked about 20 and she 16. They soared and plummeted like two love birds round the balcony steps. At the interval I sat utterly entranced, unable to speak, when the woman sitting in front said to her neighbour in a strong
‘Is that how it was Sadie – in the
‘Nah! We didn’t have a balcony.’ Sadie replied, and I was grateful to them for bringing me back down to earth- with a laugh.
Margot’s husband Tito Arias was a former Panamanian ambassador and as we stretched our legs we saw him being pushed around in his wheel chair. He had been shot and crippled six years earlier and Margot went on dancing as long as possible to pay for his care. She looked after him devotedly until his death, and by the time of her death from cancer in 1991 she was virtually penniless.
It was time to go home and I was looking forward to seeing the family and telling them all about my adventures. I took a large paperback- ‘Helter Skelter' to read on the plane, but most of the time I was dreaming of all the fun and excitement I had had and really feeling rejuvenated – a new woman in fact - and able to cope with whatever life threw at me.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
If you are interested in contributing to a book being written for charity go to
Zinnia Cyclamen ( click on side bar) and follow the link to Peach where you will find the following and all details.
Proceeds will go to WARCHILD ‘
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
After well over 50 years of theatre going I tend to muddle my Ibsens and Chekhovs There are similar themes; deep boredom and depression, the need to go to Moscow or a similar place, and dramatic gunshots which are farcical rather than tragic. I think it was Michael Redgrave who I saw originally - so it was along time ago. We took the – what MTL calls ‘the granny bus ‘ - to Bath and for once I took the time to suss out three restaurants near the theatre, with their telephone numbers. We have a couple more trips quite soon and it will be nice to have a change from the theatre restaurant.
I was really looking forward to the play as the cast looked interesting and it was a new translation by Stephen Mulrine. It has been called ‘theatre of nastroenie’ – full of mood and atmosphere. It is set on a crumbling Russian Estate which is run by Vanya and his niece Sonya for the benefit of Vanya’s brother in law – Serebryakov an ailing academic, also known as the Professor. He had been married to Vanya’s sister who died and in fact the property is now owned by Sonya but as she is a mere young woman, this tends to get over looked. When the professor – with his beautiful new wife - announces he may sell up all hell breaks loose.
Vanya is a typical Chekhovian hero – unhappy, drinks too much, a comic, tragic figure bewailing lost time, wasted lives and impossible loves. He develops a loathing for the Professor and calls him ‘a sort of scholarly kipper’. Vanya is in love with the professor’s wife Yelena who has an alabaster beauty and sizzles with latent sexuality. The doctor- Astrov - a frequent visitor, also develops a passion for Yelena and he in turn is adored by the plain little mouse that is Sonya. Vanya is devastated when he comes upon the doctor and Yelena in a passionate embrace - just when he is about to give her a bouquet.
It doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs but it is played in such a comic way that I feared the sadness of the ending would be diluted. I need not have worried.
Vanya is so self obsessed with his own misery he blithely ignores Sonya’s despair and the last scene, when the visitors depart, is deeply moving as Sonya tells him they will survive, they will rest and they will finish their lives. I always relish the swirling movement of the actors on stage in a Russian play and the whole play is a resounding success and finally moved me to tears.
Sonya Lou Brealey
Yelena Michelle Dockery
Vanya Nicholas Le Provost
Astrov Neil Pearson
Serebryakov Ronald Pickup
Monday, February 18, 2008
The last Goodbye
Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.
Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.
We went to a neighbour’s funeral on Friday. Usually the funerals we attend are either held in one of the local churches or the Crematorium – sometimes both. This was held in the Funeral Director’s Chapel of Rest and it was an interesting and helpful experience. Our friend died just before her 90th birthday which was to be a joint celebration with her son who will be celebrating his 65th Birthday. On the Saturday of the birthday week-end, next month, there will be drinks at the Railway Station to be followed by lunch on the steam train journey (first class) to Bishops Lydeard. The following day there is a buffet lunch with drinks at their home
Our friend has suffered these last few years with osteoporosis which has precluded her from following her interests – especially gardening. They had decided that whatever happened the arrangements would go ahead and they would also be a celebration of her life.
Attending the Chapel, which is local, was much easier than the 50 mile round trip to the Crematorium and was appreciated by the, mainly, elderly mourners. My dilemma is that, although MTL and I are believers we do not attend church and I would feel a little odd having a funeral there. It was very reassuring to see this ceremony. It was conducted by a silver haired woman dressed in a black gown with a wine red scarf, who radiated peace and goodness. I’m not sure if she was a vicar or a lay person but she was just right. The small organ was played by another mature lady and there was also some taped music. At the head of the room was a modern stained glass window and beneath that was a cloth- covered table/ altar/ coffin which was covered with flowers and the floor beneath was also bedecked with flowers that her friends had sent. We all knew she loved them – especially yellow ones.
We sang a hymn, there was a reading from Ecclesiastes and then the silver haired woman spoke about the life and family of our friend. It’s a shame that one has to wait for someone’s funeral to really get to know their life. There was a reading that was read at the Queen Mother’s funeral which starts…
‘You can shed tears that she is gone or you can smile because she lived.
You can close your eyes and pray she’ll come back or you can open your eyes and see all she’s left…’
We could leave donations in her memory to the Cat’s Protection League which caused me to give a wry grin to MTL who daily curses the cat who leaves its calling card in our drive. I feel relieved that there is an acceptable alternative to the Crematorium and the Church which is simple and more like MTL’s simple Church of Scotland and my Unitarian chapel.
Friday, February 15, 2008
Maddie and her husband were settled in an apartment in
It was my first flight and I was excited and nervous. I was sitting next to a young girl so we agreed to hold hands as we took off and chattered happily throughout the flight. Maddie had told me how to be picked up by a limousine which is a cross between a chauffeur driven car and a bus. I asked a fellow passenger what was her favourite place in the States and she said
When I tried to tip the driver at the end of the journey he said his mother came from
The next day Maddie said I should go into town with her, see her office and then spend the day sight seeing – on my own! On the train on the outskirts of the city I looked down to a sort of scene straight from hell- derelict buildings – it looked like a bomb site, and every other person I saw - they were black -seemed to be crippled or helpless. I had never seen anything like it and Maddie said to stop staring as people wouldn’t like it. This was 1970.
Her office building was a sky scraper and we whizzed up at a dizzying speed. Later Maddie told me that the receptionist had asked her if her sister was in the movies. All too soon I had to go and start sight – seeing and I felt quite lonely and wondered if maybe I should spend the day going up and down in the lift or elevator. Telling myself not to be such a wimp, I found myself on the pavement and asked the first reasonable looking man where the
If, like me, you are a member of the cinema generation, your first trip to America is magical – like stepping into the screen at the King’s Cinema in Waterfoot where one might see Andy Hardy, Clark Gable, Bette Davis or any of the screen gods and goddesses. Diners, drug stores and motels all had this romantic feel. After the Empire state building I went to the
I remembered I had the telephone number and address of the black American who had played Lord Windermere when we were fellow students on my drama course, some years back. Maddie said it was unlikely he would have stayed put, but his wife answered the phone and later Charles rang and said he’d love to meet up even though it meant a long train journey. In the end Charles, Barbara – an English friend of Maddies’s, Howard – a gay Chinese colleague of Maddie’s and Maddie and I met up in a splendid cocktail bar in the Plaza hotel. After a martini or two we were the best of buddies and went to inspect the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art. Then Howard thought he should take us to eat in
She explained it was a plea to stop the fighting in
As we waved farewell to Charles at the railway station we all agreed it had been a very special night. Maddie and I spent the night at Barbara’s apartment and I wondered how she ever slept - with the constant background of sirens on the street below. It would soon be the week-end and then we were off to
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Say it with Flowers
Hail, Bishop Valentine, whose day this is,
All the air is thy Diocese.
If you want to see beautiful flower arrangements click on Kenju (Side bar)- the expert. Sadly, I am of the stick ‘em in a vase and hope for the best - as you can see. Different flowers have different meanings. Here are some of them:
Anemones – my mother’s favourites means ‘I expect you.’
Bluebell – Kim and Zinnia’s favourite means ‘Our love will last’
Camellia – blooming in my garden now means ‘I am longing for you.’
Heather – ‘good luck.’
Love –in –a –mist. ‘Do you love me?’
Poppy ‘Please wait.’
Primrose ‘I might love you.’
Red rose ‘I love you.’
Sweet pea ‘Gratitude.’
Viola ‘Let’s take a chance on happiness.’
Will the Shake (as Hoss succinctly puts it) uses flowers all the time:-
‘And there is pansies- that’s for thoughts.’ Hamlet.
‘There’s Rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray love remember.’ Hamlet
‘I know a bank where the wild thyme blows...’ Midsummer- Night’s Dream.
‘Away before me to sweet beds of flowers’ Twelfth Night.
‘The flowers are sweet, their colour fresh and trim’ Venus and Adonis.
'The fairest flowers o’ the season.'
' Are our carnations and streak’d gillyvors’. The Winter’s Tale
‘Nay I am the very pink of courtesy.'
'Pink for flower.’ Romeo and Juliet.
‘These blue-veined violets whereon we lean,
Never can blab, nor know what we mean.’ Venus and Adonis
'There will we make our bed of roses
And a thousand fragrant posies.’ The Merry Wives of
‘Come sit thee down upon this flowery bed
While I thy amiable cheeks do coy,
And stick musk- roses in thy sleek smooth head.’ A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
This is a day early as we have to go to funeral tomorrow.
Would you be happy with flowers on Valentine’s Day, and which would you prefer?
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Make Thou my spirit pure and clear
As are the frosty skies,
Or this first snowdrop of the year
That in my bosom lies
St Agnes’ Eve.
Tennyson Alfred 1809-1892
When we first came to live here – in ’85 - we would drive on the road between Dunster and Dulverton, to the turning to the valley, park the car and wander – lonely as clouds - through the white carpeted wonderland. But its fame has spread and now there is no parking allowed and the road is closed to traffic. These days the council run a special bus from Wheddon Cross and one can leave one’s car in the pub car park. We caught the bus – the first - and were driven towards Exford, then took the turning towards Steart. Then a long, long drop into the bowels of the earth and I marvelled that MTL and I had walked that whole valley. At the bottom the bus deposited us and told us there would be a return bus a ten to and twenty past.
It was very cold – in spite of the weak winter sunshine and soggy underfoot. By the time we had finished the circular walk we realised we had missed the ten to and would have a chilly wait for the next one when - hey presto - a different bus appeared and we thawed inside it until the driver took off- driving to the far end of the valley to avoid the precipitous hill which we were certain it would never make.
We drove back home to collect MTL and thence to Porlock’s Ship Inn. Almost three years ago MTL had an atrial fibrillation episode whilst we were there with family, and we haven’t set foot in it since, so this was by way of laying a ghost (as long as it’s the ghost and not me said MTL.) The terrace was sunny but we slunk indoors and I was disappointed to find no fire.
‘It’s been manic!’ the waitress said – it did get busy later but seemed very quiet to us. Some of us had a hearty tomato and basil soup and some roast chicken plus accompaniments. We knew that grand- daughter was cooking a delicious pasta dish in the evening. Thank goodness for digital; I’m no great photographer but these are better than the white blurs I used to get.
Monday, February 11, 2008
Sunday, February 10, 2008
Friday, February 08, 2008
I had always known there was no future for Tim and me and I knew the end would be painful, but after what I had been through with Jamie, years ago, this was bearable, and I was in the driving seat calling the shots. I had no regrets and believed I deserved to suffer. It was time to come down to earth and accept that for me, romance had gone forever. How little we know. One day, driving through the town I saw an accident; a man was lying prostrate on a zebra crossing. I was overwhelmed with the realisation that if Tim had an accident and was lying helpless I would never know. I had to drive into a side street to have a blub
We had outgrown the shop and left our first floor eyrie on the High Street for a street- level emporium with a huge basement. It was in the road parallel to the High Street and facing the Common. The front of the shop was all plate glass with a small area near the door for a display window. Our accountant told us we could afford it and we enlisted all friends and family to help us decorate. Once more one of the big stores was refurbishing and we acquired three large glass- topped counters and various shelves and cupboards
Downstairs in the basement there were four stalls in the large room, which we made into changing rooms with bright orange curtains. Then there was a room where we kept all foot wear- hockey, soccer and rugger boots and gum boots. The riding boots – being more valuable, we kept upstairs – in view. There was a small office, loo and kitchen. The worst thing that happened was the time when we discovered someone had peed in a gum boot.
On the ground floor our desk was by the window, looking out on the common. We felt naked with all that glass so had a brass pole fitted and hung, what were then fashionable restaurant curtains, which came half way up the window so we could see all that was happening outside. One day I noticed rats on the common and was told that they follow the same tracks for years. No more picnics on the Common for me then.
We had fun choosing the type of lettering for our shop sign which ran the width of the shop and was most impressive. That was the easy part; the actual move was a nightmare and I have managed to block it out of my memory. We had to buy lots more hanging rails and vowed that this was definitely our last move. We had gradually built up our part- time staff and were now down to two partners again. I had urged Jan – our third partner, to have investigations to see why she couldn’t get pregnant and she was found to have fibroids. After having them removed – again with much encouragement, she became pregnant which we were very happy about in spite of losing such a treasure. It was a girl and Mary and I became god-mothers. We considered looking for another partner until our accountant assured us that we didn’t need one.
I got great pleasure from driving into the town, leaving my little sports car in the middle of the common and walking down - it always seemed to be sunny- towards our magnificent shop. Friends would pop in at lunch-time and we had a choice of at least half a dozen good places for lunch. There was little crime in those days, fortunately, because in the school holidays we were turning over vast sums of money and in term time we needed to have a large amount to pay the customers whose garments we had sold. In the busy periods there was little time to enter up all the sales on the customer’s cards so I would often go in and work when the boys were in bed.
On the whole things ran smoothly although one day some schoolboys came in larking about, using foul language and drinking coke. I spoke sharply to them and one of them spat at me. That sort of thing didn’t happen and I was very shaken. I wasn’t going to let it lie – how dare they behave like that in my shop? I managed to trace which school it was – from the uniform, and informed the head- master. Then I forgot about it until one afternoon that same boy came in and apologised. I asked him if his mother knew about it and he said no and, with tears in his eyes, asked me not to tell her. I asked him how he would feel if someone had spat at his mother. Both of us, I think felt quite emotional and I had to restrain myself from giving him a hug. Even in the late sixties William was shocked and said I should never stand up to them. How times have changed.
Footnote. Years later after being re-united with MTL, Julia my talented friend in the theatre club bumped into Tim on one of her frequent trips to town. They only had a quick chat and Tim was never very forth coming but it appears he was married and Julia told him I had married Jamie. We had been each other’s confidantes so of course he knew who Jamie was and was happy for me
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
This was a photo taken of the play ‘A day in the Death of Joe Egg.’ - Peter Nichol’s black comedy about a couple and their daughter, who was severely brain damaged at birth. The play is a mixture of black comedy and heart break. The author himself had a very handicapped child.
I played the mother – the chap playing the father was a born comedian which was right for the play and made the sadness even more poignant. The school girl who played my daughter had to remain mute throughout, and was a sweetie.
There is quite bit of talking to the audience and I decide to do one piece, whilst putting lipstick on at the same time. We were very well rehearsed and normally the prompt was totally reliable but I’m happy to see we rarely, if ever, needed her. However one night she lost concentration and prompted me on a pause I had made to apply lip-stick – as we had rehearsed fifty million times. One of my friends in the audience said my face didn’t move a muscle - but my eyes flashed. I was quite cross!