Friday, September 26, 2008

Off to Fremington!


Where is it?

Not a million miles from here – about 60 - and a couple of miles from Instow where we normally stay in the hotel.

Why aren’t we going to the super hotel?

We find just now - the freedom a cottage affords, is what suits us best. And it is a lovely cottage on the Tarka Trail. I hope to walk some more of it which hopefully will help me when I do the charity walk for Leukaemia Research with Ian Botham on October 10.

If you get bored why not dip into the archives and try not to stray too far away. Back in just over a week.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Griff Rhys Jones
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A robin redbreast in a cage
Puts all Heaven in a rage
William Blake 1757-1827

Ira furor brevis est.
Anger is a short madness.
Horace 65-8 B.C.

I know that ‘short madness’. I’d love to be a sweet old lady but the longer in the tooth I get the shorter my fuse. Last night I watched a documentary ‘Losing it’ with Griff Rhys Jones and straight away he admits to ‘getting cross’ and having a propensity to throw a wobbly. Having watched him over the years I have always looked on him as an amiable, bumbling sort of chap but immediately he showed a clip of him racing, surrounded by other boats and clearly wild with rage. I have experienced men becoming monsters behind the tiller and was always thankful that William, my first husband, even in the hairiest moments, kept his calm.

Loss of control can be funny as we were reminded with a clip of Fawlty Towers and John Cleese beating the mini to death but as Griff’s children pointed out it is not easy to live with; He paces and mutters, seething with rage; his wife keeps out of the way. His sister remembers when he was in a production at Stratford and through no fault of his own - the production was not going well; he had a toddler tantrum banging hands and feet.

Chatting to a make – up artist who used to work with him on ‘Smith and Jones’ she said he was hard work and not a joy, with moods and pacing up and down whereupon Griff showed he was clearly in denial by saying ‘I did not!’
According to Mental Health authorities, 1 in 10 people have temper problems. There was an amusing clip from ‘Not the 9 o’ clock News’ with Pamela Stephenson interviewing a man and a gorilla, and looking exactly as she now looks interviewing peoples for real, as a psychologist.

Griff was told it was genetic and he remembered his father was very crotchety. Men get angrier than women and the testosterone used by weight lifters shortens their life by 10 years; and experiment where sex offenders were emasculated so they were eunuchs lived 13 years longer. At this stage I wondered if I had heard correctly but that is what my notes said.

One of the people interviewed was Heston Blumenthal – the chef who uses strange ingredients. He told of an incident - driving home exhausted when he had a van driver give him the finger, whereupon Heston drove his car at the van and the van driver- terrified - ran off. Heston realised that a pedestrian could have been killed and that was his moment of truth when he knew he had to call a halt and regain control.

To my great shame I remembered an incident some years back when, in rage and frustration I hit a man twice my size. That stopped me short and horrified me sufficiently to avoid ever getting in that state again. One thing I do find helps, is when I can feel anger rising, to shout ‘Red light! Red light!’ in my head and stop, and breathe.

During the programme – although we miss the actual event we see Griff livid and laughing maniacally and recounting an experience he has just had with some builders which has left his car lacerated down one side. His wife remarked ruefully that she would take it into the garage and the men there would assume that she – not her husband was responsible. She admits he drives her crazy and she has come close to physical violence.

Griff sees himself as a crusader – if only people would do it right - there wouldn’t be a problem and when he said people were incompatible with him it was pointed out that he was the one not compatible that he should turn it round: you are making yourself angry not the other way round.

George Galloway said anger was like electricity – it could kill a man and it could save a baby’s life. He used it to rally people for a great cause when it was entirely justified and honourable and he told how he prepared for his court case in America when he mesmerised everybody by attacking – in a holier than thou manner – everybody in sight. What an actor!

A shocking statistic is that 1 in 3 nurses have suffered violence and abuse whilst on duty – that is a sign of the times and unheard of fifty years ago. Sharon Lee a nurse in Sheffield told of her experience and is now no longer able to work on a hospital ward.

Finally Griff walked and talked with his dear friend who had been his PA and was shocked to hear her talk about his terrible rages when she saw him kick a hole in a door. He tried to get her to say it was alright but she said she felt she was blotting paper having to soak all that rage up. He admitted later he wanted her to be like ‘Mummy’ and say it didn’t matter but she said it was a burden having someone off- load all that. This seemed to genuinely upset him – another sign of being in denial.

The second and last programme will show what he tries to do about it – trying to find a potential solution by boxing, meditation and an anger management course. I can’t wait.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Yesterday I installed Skype and an office thing which java kept nagging me about. Since then everything has gone haywire. I can't access my blog most of the time, and comments have the name of the sender and no message - either in my in-box or Dashboard. I have deleted the office thing but am at a loss to know how to get back to normal. Mozilla Firefox would seem to be the culprit.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Late Bloomers


God Almighty first planted a Garden. And indeed, it is the purest of human Pleasures.

Francis Bacon 1561-1626

I value my garden more for being full of blackbirds than of cherries, and very frankly give them fruit for their songs.


That second quote is more applicable to Naomi (side bar) than me.

MTL emulated Robert the Bruce today spending a happy hour watching the antics of two spiders – balancing betwixt the plants; a battle royal ensued with much twanging of webs and falling of spiders but in the end one ate the other. That’s nature for you.

Our ancient Michaelmas daisies are earning their keep by attracting hundreds of bees.

After many years at last my hibiscus is blooming

This bulb is welcome in the autumn

As Karen suggested I bought the rampant everlasting sweet pea two obelisks ,and the wretched plant has rampaged and NOT ONE BLOOM. One more chance next year and then it's curtains.

The interloper. Can you see how the honey suckle has crept intop the back porch? And is stating to bloom in mid september.
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This colour looks so great in the autumn

Plumbago - but again the blue is deep deep - not in the shot alas. Too much sun?

The second coming of this plant this summer.
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I love it when cyclamen just pop up anywhere

This Salvia is Cambridge blue - better than it shows in the shot

Is this the last rose of summer?
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Thursday, September 18, 2008


Looking up the 1929 crash I read these cheery words:

It was to take a generation — and a World War — to see any semblance of prosperity return.‘

I wasn’t born then but I remember the effects of the Depression and how one was always reading about some poor man jumping off a building. And sure enough WW2 got people off the dole and into the forces or factories.

Interestingly John Kenneth Galbraith had this to say:

‘It is a myth that the stock market crash of 1929 led to a wave of suicides. Suicides were actually higher when times were good. What did increase was the discovery of embezzlements after the crash because people had embezzled to put the money in the stock market with assurance that their profits would enable them to pay it back. With the crash, there was no money to pay back. And it was a myth that everyone was in the stock market. Only one-and a-half million of 120 million people were active in the stock market.’

I never understood – nor wish to – about bulls and bears, but apparently it isn’t wise to have more than £35,000 in one investment so that with Lloyds and HBOS merging if one had £35,000 in each of them say, one should move one of the £35,000 elsewhere. And – as Captain Manwaring says – we shouldn’t panic. Should things go pear shaped the government guarantees the £35,000 will be safe.

Oddly Northern Rock now seems to be one of the safest places to put one’s money. If you have just made the odd million from selling a house you are going to be busy scattering it hither and yon. The message seems to be – share it around and only play the stock market if you are prepared to lose it. I don’t believe in spreading gloom and am confident the powers that be will learn from 1929 how to avoid the worst happening. If you were born in the thirties tightening one’s belt is a common occurrence. So what’s new? Lionel Wheeler singing below is so evocative of that period.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Go with Flo and Jo

Florence Nightingale after Scutari.

Joanna Lumley with the man who saved her father's life; she is helping the Ghurkahs challenge the Home Secretary over settlement rights.
Credit Alex Broadway /WENN
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Flo – Florence Nightingale has always been a hero of mine; I even wrote a play about her. This involved a fair bit of research so I quickly learned that she was more of a brilliant administrator than a ministering angel; indeed Parthe, her sister, complained bitterly about Florence’s nursing abilities when under her care. She was a pioneer of the nursing profession and earned it the respect it deserved; she was a great reformer of public health in general and hospital sanitation in particular. She had learned about this the hard way in Scutari during the Crimean War. She was also a first rate statistician.

Many books have been written about her achievements and some have tried to tarnish her image. There was the view that Florencelooked down on Mary Seacole, the black nurse who treated Crimean war soldiers’ and Mary’s reputation soared to the detriment of Florence’s.

Richard Brooks, writing in the Daily Telegraph about a new biography by Mark Bostridge has as a headline: ‘Lady of the Lamp’ was on a nightly sex patrol,’

She ’toured the wards at night not to cast a caring eye over sick soldiers but to check that her nurses were not drinking with them or sharing their beds.’

Even as late as the forties and fifties matrons and sisters were intensely concerned with the behaviour of the nursing staff. How much more essential it would have been in the 1850’s when nurses were looked upon as Sara Gamps. And I’m perfectly sure she was also caring for her boys, for whom she had a great affection.

And as for the supposed rivalry betwixt the two nurses – ‘Bostridge has found out that Nightingale helped her financially when she faced bankruptcy.’

Bully for Bostridge and good on you Flo!

Jo – Joanna Lumley is a great one for crusades and I don’t always agree with her but this time I think she’s right on the money. Since I was a teenager I have had a great respect for the Ghurkhas. A member of my family and an old friend fought with them and had nothing but praise for them as valiant soldiers and decent human beings. It seems incredible to me that having fought for us, suffered for us and – in some cases given their lives for us, they are not allowed to live here. Shame on us.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Warminster Break.


MTL drove me to Taunton where I boarded a coach for Bristol which is presently an enormous building site. Sky scraper office blocks are transforming the city into a concrete jungle and already there are lots of snazzy office buildings to let, besides lots already in use. The Bristol coach station was very good – more like an airport and lots of helpful staff.

Next I boarded a coach which was going to drop me at Warminster but the driver asked if I would mind being dropped in the street. The official stop is a large car park and my son had made sure I could be under cover and seated should he be late (he had a 30 mile drive from work). As I hesitated, the driver decided he would stick to the official stop, which was just as well as my son was not pleased when I told him. The whole journey cost £11.50 round trip.

It was great to see the family and next day we dropped in to see my step- grandson and his beautiful little daughter. Incredibly she seemed to remember me, sat on my lap and was very affectionate before serving me with pretend coffee and cake and cauliflower and sweet corn and anything else she could lay her little hands on. The weather seemed to be holding out so we – son and I – drove to the Downs up Zig Zag hill and parked the car on Win Green or Win Hill. My son told me to imagine we were walking round South America – starting at the top (ooh we could go and see Guyana Gyal) walking down the east side – past Brazil and at Cape Horn – having done the longer part of the walk, we would have a reviving lunch; then on up the west coast, past the Andes and back to the car.

We were plagued with enormous puddles but with the help of my pole and my son I managed not to get my feet wet. I was wearing light- weight Aigle boots – very comfortable but not water- proof. I’m going to try spraying them. We had an interesting and varied walk – I think we saw Madonna’s house and it was all very peaceful except for the pheasants which were hiding in all the undergrowth and make a hell of a din as you walk past – such prima donnas! At last we reached the pretty village of Tollard Royal and with joyful anticipation went up the lane to the pub. You know how sometimes you get a premonition that something isn’t quite right? The pub was shrouded in scaffolding and very closed. We managed to ascertain that the nearest hostelry was four miles away – in the wrong direction.

As we bravely continued out of the village, on up the west coast of South America a man shouted to ask if we had lost a dog and I shouted, in turn, that it had been stalking us but was not ours. It was a dear little gingery cairny type so I do hope it finds its owner. Although the second part of the walk was meant to be shorter, there was an eternally long path at the end which went on and on and on; I found myself singing ‘The long and winding road.’ To lighten my spirits my son told me about a dotty aunt who was asking M about his family. M is married to B who is quite a bit older than M and they have two children.

Dotty aunt ‘How’s B?’

M ‘Oh she’s fine – thank you.’

Dotty aunt ‘Young?’

M thought – what the ---?

Dotty aunt ‘Young well too?’

You had to be there.

On the way back we were on the road that son uses regularly and he remembered once being deviated because of an accident and had seen a nice village with a pub. We found it – another pretty spot - but it was after three and the pub was closed. Driving on we saw the hotel where, local legend has it, the disgraced politician – John Profumo, in the fifties, shafted Christine Keeler and was later himself shafted and consigned to political oblivion. The name of the place? Shaftesbury. And then Profumo redeemed himself by doing good works for the rest of his life.

Back in Warminster we found a pub that was actually open and had a refreshing drink before joining another branch of the family for tea and cake.

After showers and changes we met yet more family and then DIL, # 2 son and I had a delicious Indian. This involved quite a lot of extra walking which I hadn’t anticipated and on the long, late walk to the car park I was cursing my heels so my big strong son carried me. When you think of it – it’s only fair – I carried him for monthsJ

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bristol bus station

Real and faux animals

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Lots of animals.

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We think this is Madonna's house.

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Nearly lunch time

Pretty village - Tollard Royal

It can't be closed. Can it?
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Back where we started

There's something so sweet about these two.

Another pretty spot

But the pub is closed
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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

A reason to be cheerful


In the forties – as I remember with great sadness – to be told your child had leukaemia was to receive a death sentence. How things have changed – a real success story, thanks to magnificent research, massively helped by noble individuals who have doggedly raised money to support Leukaemia Research. The work continues so I’m going to join Sir Ian Botham on October 10th – along with hundreds of others I’m sure, to do a sponsored 4 mile walk. Trouble is he does walk rather fast so I hope I can keep up, but I’m doing it come what. And having mentioned it here I can’t weasel out of it.

Tomorrow I have a long bus journey to Warminster to visit # 2 son and am looking forward to sitting and doing nothing. Hopefully after I get back on Friday, I can get back on track – house wise, blogwise and book wise. Chaos reigns but we are taking my step-daughter to eat Chinese tonight on a table near the fish tank apparently. Should be soothing.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

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I’m Disappointed but not Discouraged!


That phrase – used by Tennessee Williams in his play ‘The Glass Menagerie’ – will resonate with all writers attempting to get their manuscript published. He had – in spades - the diligence and tenacity every writer needs. Born in 1911 he had a rough childhood, with a father who was often drunk and sometimes violent, and who called his eldest son ‘Miss Nancy’. He attended the University of Missouri but his father insisted he should do his bit to get the family through the Depression and whilst Tom (his real name) was working at a shoe factory he started to write plays to alleviate the boredom. At 24 he had a nervous breakdown and recuperated with his grandparents who later supported him financially, so he could continue his education.

Whilst he was studying play writing at Iowa University he learned that his sister Rose, a sufferer of nervous ailments, had had a frontal lobotomy which left her with the mind of a young child. Tom changed his name to Tennessee and went to New York where he wrote his first one- act play. It closed at the end of an out- of -town run in Boston.

In 1942 he went to Hollywood; he was exempt from war service because of a heart condition, and offered a film outline ‘Portrait of a Girl in Glass’ which was rejected by MGM. So he turned it into a stage play; initially entitled ‘The Gentleman Caller’ and which ended up as ‘The Glass Menagerie.’ This was the play we went to see on Saturday in Bath.

It is a new production of the autobiographical play and has been lauded for its ‘high comedy and superb ensemble acting.’ I blinked when I read ‘high comedy’.

I have to come clean and tell you what I think.

Brenda Blethyn, an Oscar nominated actress plays the mother and also has been highly praised for her work. The daughter is clearly based on Rose and the son is Tom himself. The fourth character is a gentleman caller. In brief the mother is a faded southern belle who once famously entertained 17 gentlemen callers in a single afternoon. Her ambition now is to see her physically damaged, wallflower daughter receive a suitor and she bludgeons her son Tom to arrange a visit. The fourth character is the gentleman caller.

In my opinion high comedy has no place in this play. Excellent actress that she undoubtedly is BB is no faded southern belle. Like Dame Maggie Smith she has a distinctive voice which can either enhance a performance or become an irritant. Combined with an English version of a southern accent I found it to be the latter. The first act was very noisy and not the play I remembered. In the second act it got better and when the daughter and the gentleman caller were alone on stage it was sublime. I was totally engaged – hanging on every word and gasping when she stumbled in his arms and when he carelessly broke her precious glass unicorn. When they were about to kiss I stopped breathing. This was Tom’s play – haunting and lyrical and not being played for laughs.

The set, effects and music were all good. I must say that I am a lone voice; critics and audiences seem to be unanimous in their praise but I look back on Tom’s life and it sure wasn’t a barrel of laughs. Tom was played by Mark Arends and Laura and Jim were most beautifully played by Emma Hamilton and Andrew Langtree.

Tennessee's mother

Brenda Blethyn as Amanda Wingfield
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Friday, September 05, 2008

They’ve gone…


Excuse me whilst I pooter amongst a bit of verse which always soothes me - but first a song:-

Adieu Adieu kind friend adieu, adieu, adieu.

I can no longer stay with you, stay with you.

I’ll hang my hat on the weeping willow tree,

And may the world go well with thee.


Every parting gives a foretaste of death:

Every coming together again a foretaste of resurrection.

Arthur Schopenauer 1788-1860

Tis distance lends enchantment to the view,

And robes the mountain with its azure hue.

Thomas Campbell 1774-1849

You have sat too long for any good you have been doing.

Depart I say and let us have done with you,

In the name of God, go!

Oliver Cromwell1599-1658

Parting is all we know of Heaven,

And all we need of Hell.

Emily Dickinson 1830-1886

Partir c’est mourir un peu.

Edmond Harracourt 1856-1941

Tis Lethe’s gloom, but not its quiet-

The pain without the peace of death!

Tom Campbell 1777-1844

A last minute gift from K – a web-cam and I’ll down load Skype when I’ve cleared the deck a bit. After they left the bell rang and there was grand-daughter – she had left her MP3 charging. Another wet wave - and all gone.

We have a theatre trip tomorrow in Bath so I’m praying the rain holds off. On Monday MTL’s daughter arrives and on Wednesday I go to visit my # 2 son so lots to look forward to. So stop that snivelling!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Horns of a Dilemma


Jackie’s 84th birthday was in August but – as usual, we were all so busy we had to delay our l outing till September and then the Sussex family, who are leaving this month to settle in Australia (they have lived there in the past - for ten years, and our grand-daughter was born there) decided to come for a last visit this week. In the end I stuck to the first arrangement – without me the birthday outing would have been delayed yet again, and I knew the family wouldn’t miss me for a few a hours and anyway we all have to get used to missing each other.

The family were also going out to lunch but I couldn’t tell them where we were going as Joy was driving and it was her surprise. As soon as I got in the car I could tell that we were all looking forward to a few hours where we could chat – relieve our feelings and just chill. Very therapeutic. There was alternate sunshine and rain but it was sunny whilst we had coffee in the lovely village of Allerford and I took a photo opportunity. We were parked right opposite the old Village school – now a museum. We hadn’t visited it for years – Joy used to help out there, so we dropped in.

It is run by volunteers, many of them old in years but blessed with youthful enthusiasm for the bygone artifacts and ancient photographs in their care; but I could only photograph the School Room. Outside we had the opportunity of playing hopscotch where Margaret discovered she could no longer hop – maybe something to do with her new hip. She – from Bridgwater, in her childhood, played with a slippery stone which they slid on to the numbers whereas I, from Lancashire, used to throw a rough pebble. Joy experienced an unusual chat – up line when a gentleman asked her if she would show him how to play hopscotch.

Back in the car we drove onto Exmoor – through darkening skies - to Wheddon Cross to see the new re-vamped ‘Rest and be Thankful’ Inn, which we did, as we had managed to dodge the torrential rain. Lunch was our usual jolly catch – up and we managed to fix a date for our next delayed trip, for Joy’s birthday. We were appalled to hear that it would cost Margaret and husband £500 to travel up to Scotland to visit their son and family – so – having seen them recently, they are leaving it till next year At least they are in the same country; after September part of our family will be settled in Australia and it will be marvellous for them and I refuse to be sad – easy to say whilst they are still in the house.

Anyone for Hopscotch?

A shiny stone suitable for sliding
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The old School Room

Boy's boots and Abacus.
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