Friday, July 31, 2009

A Quick Chat before I get on.

I was showing my lovely new help our lovely new TV which has its own special duster and she said she had one just like it – only bigger. That’ll teach me to stop feeling a twinge of guilt when we indulge ourselves. I haven’t quite (at all) mastered the recorder ; when I try to record it seems to slip back into analogue but help will soon be at hand when the family come in August.

I was speaking to my grand –daughter last night on the phone and was delighted to discover she – a sixth former – does voluntary work 2 or 3 times a week in the holidays with young children, discussing the books they are reading. I’ve noticed before she seems to enjoy working with young children; she’s slightly older than I was when I left home to look after children from the slums of Manchester before starting training.

Today I am seeing a consultant to decide whether or not to have an op. As it will mean a certain amount of rest and recuperation afterwards I shall feel happier when I make a decision and can fit it in with family visits, holidays etc. It isn’t anything life threatening – just a nuisance which I’d like to fix whilst I’m still fit and healthy to withstand an op.

I’m sure there will be a bit of waiting around so I must remember to take a book. I’m in memoir mode just now and loved Winifred Foley’s A child in the Forest –a story of the life and hardships of a child living as the daughter of a Forest of Dean miner in the twenties. She writes vividly about her loving but poverty stricken family and her voice is that of a gutsy little girl who has the rare ability to make you laugh and cry with her.

Ah well this won’t get my toenails painted. Have a nice week-end and if you are in the UK don’t forget your umbrella ella ella ella.

URL is:

Thursday, July 30, 2009

It’s Thursday so it must be Bratislava

Tom, now a little older has just finished his first year at Uni.. He has worked hard to good effect, made some money working in a clothes shop in the holidays and is presently touring Europe – mainly by train - with his girl friend. So far they have done Brussels, Amsterdam, Cologne, Berlin, Prague, Vienna and Bratislava. Today they go on to Budapest, Zagreb, Venice, Bologna, Rome, Milan, Zurich, Bern ,Geneva, Barcelona, Madrid and Lisbon which takes them to the 14th of August.

But of course the highlight of the vacation will be later in August when he comes west to his doting grandmother’s in Somerset.

Amsterdam, Vienna, Venice, Bologna, Rome, Barcelona and Lisbon I have visited – the rest are all Greek to me. On my first visit to Rome I was with someone who knew Latin and insisted on translating every statue. It was very hot.

Below are photos taken by my son in 2003. The Pieta by Michelangelo is in St Peter’s in the Vatican. It is an incredibly moving sculpture and one of my old friends whose son had been killed in a car accident had to leave the cathedral when she saw it. It was too painful for her to look at.

Rome 2003

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

To Honey - a Daughter.

Late last night I doused the last of my candles, checked dashboard and was delighted to read good news about Honey. Her daughter Pema was born 'in pure joy' yesterday morning. Visit her to see a lovely photo of a radiant Honey and her little daughter.
I find - in my excitement - I left the computer on all night. Thank you for all the candles, good wishes and prayers.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Monday, July 27, 2009

Monday Musing

A kiss can be a comma, a question mark or an exclamation point.

That’s basic spelling that every woman ought to know.


Laughter has no foreign accent

Paul Lowney

We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.

Norman MacEwan

Who being loved, is poor?

Oscar Wilde

Often the difference between a successful marriage and a mediocre one consists of leaving about three or four things a day unsaid.

Harlan Miller

He who makes no mistakes never makes anything.

English Proverb

Better is a neighbour who is near than a brother far off.

Proverbs 27:10

The woman who obeys her husband rules him

Spanish proverb

Originality does not consist in saying what no one has ever said before, but in saying exactly what you think yourself.

James FitzJames Stephen

Tomorrow is the 28th of July and

Honey will be having a caesarean. She was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer when she was 24 weeks pregnant and has a limited amount of time to live. She says:

The cesarean is still booked for the 28th July. And here is my request.
Light a candle, light a candle for Pema and I that day any time we'll be needing your strength. I don't think I've ever felt so weak and unprepared for surgery in my life but it must happen and all must go well. Send us a prayer or a thought, a wish of love and light that candle.
Thank you.

Saturday, July 25, 2009


Especially for those too polite to admit they couldn't read it.

Dear Leah,

I stand before you- naked without my bloomers- on the cyber stage, bracing myself for the slings and arrows my handwriting will no doubt elicit.

I was very tempted to use MTL's handwriting which is lovely and loopy and entirely respectable, but honesty prevailed.

Years ago I had my handwriting analysed and was told it bore resemblance to that of someone who had lived in a nunnery for many years. Make of that what you will. I have tortured you for long enough.

Warm wishes
The Handwriting Game

Against all my principles I'm submitting this wretched specimen simply because Leah ( see side roll - I'm too unnerved for
html) asked me to.

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Friday, July 24, 2009

Let's hear it for Harriet!

Harriet Nolan is a 13 yr old student at my old school Bacup and Rawtenstall Grammar School. She wrote this song 'Cry' and won first prize at 'Rossendale's got Talent'.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A Gift for Joy

Whilst Joy waa making the coffee we - Jackie , Margaret and I - made an assignation to scour the town for a gift from us for her 80th birthday in August. Yesterday, after searching four estabishments we returned to the one that not only had something we all liked but also had the perfect assistant with a warm smile. Next we had to choose a card and I was glad the girls didn't jib when i suggested we got one without the big 80. Then we got pretty wrapping paper embossed with lavender flowers and pretty lilac-ish ribbon.

We were all busy, so parted as sooon as the job was done. When I got home I realised I had taken my camera and forgotten to use it - so involved were we in getting the right gift. Margaret dropped something in on her way home and I persuaded her to have a coffee whilst I unpacked - did the deed and repacked. Margaret will do the final gift wrap and we plan to present Joy with it on her birthday outing with us in August.

The Garden Group are taking her out for tea at a special garden place and she has been given the honour of opening a new garden - created by The Townswomen's Guild - for Minehead's Steam Railway Station. Looking at the girls the other day I asked Jackie who was 80 some years back, why some people - the same sort of age - seemed so old and she said it was because they had given up. It seems such a pity.

A litttle box for rings and things

A frame for a special photo

Joy can keep orchids going for years and has lived abroad for many years.

Did we choose well?
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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Saturday night at Pinnochio's

Good job we booked. Even though we were early at 6.30 pm they were turning people away. The food is good Italian the prices reasonable and there is a pleasant ambience. At that time of night you get the golden oldies - except they are more silver than gold and they are reasonably well behaved. On the whole.

MTL's Spotted Dick looked inviting and my cheese cake - vanilla and toffee was unusual and is making my mouth water even now.

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Ther's old Pinocchio watching over things.

Through the door leads to here but with the skylights it was rather warm

We sat near the piano- in case we felt like a sing song.

Now that's what I'm talking about: spag bog- deeelicious.
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Monday, July 20, 2009

Monday Mitherings

This lucious hedge borders Joy's garden. In bloom it is a mass of pale pink blossom. I thik it may be some sort of prunus. Joy showed us her newish carpet where- inadvertantly - she had spilt a glass of red wine. Not a trace of a stain because she had immediately doused it in white wine. Her only regret - it was qite a good vintage.

This precious stone set in a silver sea...
was how Monsieur Pierre described the tiny room he had for me in the sixties on the left bank
. It was like the inside of a courtesan's hat box. From my balcony this morning you can just sea the silver strip that is our sea

This is just for Kevin in case he can recognise the tall yellow flower with a dark reddish velvety leaf. Click to embiggen.
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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Rainin' Agen!

That was my grandmother's doomladen cry when the heavens dared to open on a Monday morning. It was the law in the thirites in working class homes, that Monday was washday. It took Tuesday and Wednesday for the drying and the starching. Thursday was ironing and Friday airing.
We are having so much rain here just now the west country is becoming the wet country.

Sadly this is not a world wide state of affairs. Below are photos I took of the Lake Palace hotel in Udaipur - before I got a digital camera. Now at monsoon time the lake is bone dry and the children are playng cricket where once we sailed.
Oooh! the sun's come out. I'm off.
The Lake Palace Hotel at Udaipur

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Writing Game

Some time ago I came upon a blog written by an English man in prison in America – Jon’s Jail Journal It was a gripping story of his experiences whilst incarcerated in Madison Street jail in Phoenix, Arizona. It was a prison run by the notorious Sheriff Joseph Arpaio who boasted that it cost more to feed the guard dogs than the prisoners, who put women in chains and outraged human rights campaigners. Towards the end of his sentence he asked a guard how the Sheriff got away with the inhuman conditions rife in his jail and was told that the world had no idea what went on in there. Jon aka Shaun Attwood decided it was time to change that.

He started to write a memoir:

‘Green Bologna and Pink Boxers: Surviving Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Jail is an account of my journey through America’s most notorious jail system, a netherworld revolving around gang violence, drug use and racism. It provides a revealing glimpse into the tragedy, brutality, comedy and eccentricity of jail life and the men inside. It is also a story of my redemption, as incarceration leads to introspection, and a passion for literature, philosophy, and yoga. The book ends with me starting Jon’s Jail Journal, exposing the conditions in the jail’

An organisation - The Koestler Trust gave Shaun the unique opportunity to be mentored by Sally Hinchcliffe, a published author with an M.A. in Creative Writing from London University.

I once wrote to Sally to ask her advice about getting published and she took the trouble to give me excellent advice the main gist of which was to find an agent which - eventually - I did.

Shaun hoped to get published as soon as he got out of prison but Sally told him if he was seeking immediate results he needed to find another occupation. That getting published can take years; his book should be presented in the right way because he only had one shot with each publisher and the book in its present form would be rejected,

The mentoring sessions are of immense value to any would be writers IMO and Shaun is very fortunate to have them.

If you scroll down you get links to each mentoring session which I found illuminating and helpful.

Incidentally ‘Out of a clear Sky’ by Sally Hinchcliffe is a rattling good story and gave me a taste for a psychological thriller. I’m presently enjoying ‘Cut Short’ by Leigh Russell one of our own bloggers.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Showers again today

I'm off to see the girls.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


This is a tasty Chilli con Carne I made over the week-end before the beans are added and before it's garnished with fresh parsley. It is a weight watcher's recipe with lots of carrot and mushrooms in it. Normally I have it with garlic bread but # 2 son wanted rice in addition
I cooked Basmati rice following the instructions to the letter and it came out as great clotted globules - to my dismay
In spite of the appearance it tasted OK but next time I cooked plain brown rice and its nutty crunchiness was much more to my taste.

Our new kitchen window - almost complete. The old one let in so much wind one got wind blown just washing up.

Who can remember the name of these scarlet flowers. The variety is Robiniae and normmally they grow fairly wild in an orange colour . Click to enlarge, embiggen or inflate:)
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Monday, July 13, 2009

Before the Hen's Arrival

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The choice for the family for Saturday night was Chinese, Italian or Indian and they chose the latter. We have two excellent Indian restaurants but one is on the outskirts so lately for convenience, we have opted for the Taj Mahal. It’s the custom to have a drink first in a rather rowdy pub – just so one doesn’t become too hidebound in the quiet life. The main problem was the height of the seats which almost required a block and tackle to anchor ones rear to same.

Duty done MTL and I set off with our brollies to reach the restaurant having parked the car nearby. We were greeted warmly and shown to a table which seemed a bit cramped so I asked for a larger one. The head waiter regretted that there was one but it was near the kitchen and I said that was the one we usually had so all was well. There seemed to be more waiters then guests and with each course we would have at least four waiters asking for our order.

Then a very large hen party arrived dressed in gymslips - hence the reason for the large number of staff. I asked one of the ladies if they were celebrating the end of A levels which pleased them no end. A pretty diminutive girl was getting married in August – lots of time to recover - and I was told she was a fire fighter. They were on holiday and were also real ale fans and Morris dancers and – she told me - they dance holding their ale mugs. Do you have a drink afterwards I asked? Afterwards, during and before she admitted with a grin. We couldn’t make out why there would be just one male amongst them but thought it would be impolite to ask.

Meanwhile DIL and I chose varieties of Tandoori chicken- convinced there would be a lower fat content, the vegetable rice was perfect and the yoghourt and mint sauce divine. The men had lots of curry and accessories and even with four healthy appetites there was lots left over. I was please to see the next table asked for doggie bags but I have learned my lesson. The last time I did it and left MTL and step daughter to enjoy it remained untouched. Such a waste!

The desserts were those pictured ones which arrive all frozen and we had gooseberry fool – (# 2 son’s favourite) at home so we passed but we did indulge in Jamaican, Irish and I can’t remember the other one – coffee. At home – over a digestif my son and I discovered we had the same name dyslexia – Hilary and Heather become as one and it is impossible to remember which syllable to emphasise in a name like Jolene for example, which can be pretty annoying to the people concerned. We’ve never had treatment or counselling for it – just have to grin and bear it

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Care instructions

Turning my jeans inside out before washing I noticed the label saying:-

Remove your jeans before washing.

Drat! I was really looking forward to the spin cycle.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Two for the price of one.

The plays were Chekhov’s Swansong, where an elderly clown drunkenly regrets his failure to have been a serious actor, whilst an aged prompt - the only person left in the deserted theatre - tries to comfort him. Gradually one realised that the old soak was Peter Bowles and one marvelled at his ability to play two demanding leading parts in one afternoon. But The Browning Version was the thing for me. Since producing Terence Rattigan’s The Deep Blue Sea and Separate Tables in another life, he has been one of my favourite playwrights and no-one does desperate women like himself. He was gay you know.

There was a 20 minute interval between the plays – surely necessary for Peter Bowles to transform himself from an old drunk into the impeccable school master Crocker-Harris. We were wedged right in the centre of the stalls and I was telling Margaret how the beautiful decoration on the theatre walls reminded me of the Taj Mahal when - oh joy – there was Sir Peter Hall- looking more like Fu Manchu than ever, returning to his seat at the rear. It's years since I last saw him and he has aged quite a bit but the afternoon proved he has lost none of his talent to get actors to be amazing. The luck of the draw- one of our ladies was sitting near him and got her programme signed.

Some of you may remember Michael Redgrave giving the performance of his career in the film with Jean Kent and Nigel (sex on legs) Patrick. When Jean and Nigel had their illicit affair, it was steamy windows all round. Crocker-Harris is an embittered, school master who feels his life has been a failure. His health is failing; his marriage is failing and with the derision of his pupils life is very bleak until a young boy, Taplow, one of his pupils, gives him a present which makes him think perhaps he hasn’t been a complete washout His wife resents her husband’s lack of success and is having an affair with a young master.

To complete his despair Crocker Harris is being forced to retire with the probability of no pension. The unexpected kindness from one of his students touches him deeply. Margaret had wondered if The Browning Version was to do with Robert Browning. Come to think of it there was a Browning connection; Taplow buys Crocker-​Harris the Brown­ing ver­sion of the Agamem­non, and inscribes, in Greek, the ded­i­ca­tion “God from afar looks gra­ciously on a gentle master.”

I love it when a combination of the skill of the writer and the art of the actors make me want to shout and encourage or hiss and boo. I didn’t I promise you but there were a few gasps. It is a heart- breaking story of remorse and atonement and we both felt transported by the end of the play when we helped to raise the roof. We walked down to the coach in that dream like state that happens when one has been touched by something magical on stage.

PS Noticing the peg top skirt, fitted bosom, silk stockings and heels reminded me of how very sexy our formal dress was in the forties before the New Look. The air positively sizzled with it.

The Browning Version

Charles Edwards
Candida Gubbins
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Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Snowed Under

Oh dear! It’s a week of appointments, workmen, chores, shopping and catching up. With family at the week–end I must get my head down or chaos will ensue. I must have taken my eye off the ball.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Our Trip to Bath

Margaret turned up promptly at 8.40 am and after checking we had drinks for the coach, travel sick tablets for Margaret and camera for me, MTL drove us down to the coach which came almost immediately. We were able to choose our seats apart from the front two: one for Liz and husband as the organiser and one for a lady and friend who have mobility problems.

‘Do you feel liberated?’ asked Liz seeing me minus MTL.

‘No, just a little sad.’ I told her.

Once we set off Margaret and I embarked on a relaxed chat that lasted all day. Any sadness soon evaporated except for one brief moment when it hit me how much I would miss Margaret - after 24 years of close friendship - when she and Malcolm sell their house and go to live in Cheltenham to be near their daughters. I told her it wasn’t that we saw on another all that often but the knowledge that she was just up the lane. We have seen one another through some dark times. To my surprise Margaret got emotional so we concentrated on enjoying the day.

One of the good things about travelling on the coach: you can see into people’s gardens – far more than you see in a car. We decided that rather than race round shops, museums etc we would concentrate on finding a pleasant place for lunch and not have to rush to get to the theatre in time. The performance started at 2.30pm

And we arrived in Bath about 11.30am.

I decide to show Margaret some of the eating places I knew and let her choose. Wandering up to the theatre area we passed through a square which has an intriguing posh shop that sells experienced posh clothes. In other words: second hand. It was a two floor treasure trove full of eye catching garments and accessories. The customers were bright young things with children – two of whom were running wild- completely unchecked and managed to knock over a screen and create bedlam. Not conducive to a quiet browse but I spotted a beautiful brand new silk scarf celebrating the Centenary of Federation in Australia. In January 1901 the six separate colonies joined together to form the Commonwealth of Australia and I have now become an integral part of the celebration – which was in 2001. Hope my Aussie pals forgive the tardiness.

After inspecting the eating places near the theatre Margaret chose- to my delight - Los Iguanas where I knew the food was good and as it was such a warm day we ate al fresco, under an enormous umbrella. The ambience and service were faultless and I managed to demolish a large chilli con carne leaving only one tortilla. Margaret had wraps round chicken and delicious goodies. We had wine – red for her, white for me, iced water with lemon and Hagen Daas ice cream – in fruitless effort to cut the cals; green and black chocolate for M and the creamiest, clottiest vanillaiest concoction for me. Then we waddled into the beautiful theatre – the best was yet to come.

Normally the weather has been so unfriendly that I had failed to notice the collection of hand prints of actors in the court yard. See photo below. It was fun comparing ours with the likes of Joan Collins, John Mills and daughters, Edward Fox, Penelope Keith and many more.

More later…

Bath Time

A street in Bath

The Theatre Royal on the left and Beau Brummel's house on the right - now a restaurant

Dear Margaret - how I shall miss her.
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Monday, July 06, 2009

The Fountain

Thes are just for Judy and LOM
I apologise if you are sick of seeing this. As my old head boy said when he saw it :
'You have ideas above your station Pat.'
And why not?
For some reason my right click won't work in Dashboard hence the long links.

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Sunday, July 05, 2009

Day of rest?

Today I’m going to empty the fountain of Ran Cid rain water (no relation to El) – clean it – ugh – fill it – yay – and commission it. Hopefully.
I know I could suck up a tube to start it to self empty but what with swine ’flu - to say nothing of legionnaires’ disease I think manually is best.

Hope I don’t miss the men’s final and BTW how can Serena Williams win a stupendous ladies doubles wearing a long sleeved sweater - as immaculate at the end of the match as the beginning? No sweat.

Friday, July 03, 2009

That’s Life!

Just when I found my store of sugar free spearmint flavoured gum, having lost it and replaced it, I lost a filling so that’s the end of that. Want any gum chum?
I had a fright yesterday; MTL went to Taunton for a special dental appointment (as opposed to our local dentist). Normally I go with him but as we have our lovely handyman and joiner friend - who are replacing one of the kitchen windows - someone had to be here to make the tea.

Neither of us can bear to be unpunctual so he left in really good time. Ten minutes after he was due for his appointment the receptionist phoned to ask if he had left, as normally he was very punctual. Immediately I was beset with fears and she asked me if he had a mobile. He has - it’s always in the car and he hardly ever uses it. Our DIL gave it to him so we would both have one but we are both dilatory about using them.

The receptionist, sensing my angst promised to get him to phone as soon as he arrived. Meanwhile lovely handyman assured me that at this time of day the traffic to Taunton is all stop–start, interminably. Sure enough after another 10 minutes MTL phoned and all was well. I seem to have spent decades waiting anxiously at the gate for someone to come home. How those gallant wives and mothers of armed forces cope is a mystery to me.

MTL’s foot is better but he still doesn’t feel like trailing round a city so rather than cancel as we did with the ballet in Cardiff, he suggested I invite my pal Margaret to accompany me to a Peter Hall production of ‘The Browning Version and Swan song’ in Bath tomorrow. Margaret is delighted so it should be fun.

Sheila – my new help - comes today which has given me the energy to clean the balconies and do odd bits of spring cleaning. There’s a lot to be said for extra help; I always had it previously but during thirty years with MTL our privacy seemed too precious to squander, but if we stay here – and neither of us can face moving – it is pretty vital now.

Forgive my burbling on. And if you want a truly inspirational post you can’t do better than read Honey
For sheer courage she takes some beating.

Have a good week-end.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Is there anyone there?

What’s going on? When I leave my in-box the latest email sits neatly at the bottom of the column. It always has until three days ago when it was replaced by an email I received in 2006 from my sister in the States reminding me that it was the date of her late husband’s birthday and that it was nine years since he died. How strange I thought and had a long scroll to get back to today. It now happens every time I leave my in-box.

My late mother always believed that her mother – my Grandmother - could always get in touch with her – usually through dreams and my sister and I sort of feel the same way about Mum; blame the Irish in us. Is she trying to tell me something? I have just sent an email to my sister and await her answer.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Life is a roller coaster

Reminded me of this song - which seems quite fitting just now.