Monday, December 31, 2007

Onward and upward



Ring out the old, ring in the new,

Ring, happy bells, across the snow:

The year is going, let him go;

Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;

Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;

Ring out the thousand wars of old,

Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Alfred Lord Tennyson

Back in one piece, despite ‘flu germs and fog on the journey. Our last visit to the farmhouse, though a little sad, was a happy, energising one. The children were a joy; the youngest grandson who still believes – most of the time - in Father Christmas said it was a great time because you could ask for anything – didn’t matter how big it was – anything: ‘because NOBODY PAYS’ His Mummy then had to explain that Santa doesn’t like greedy little boys. On Christmas Eve he held aloft two family Christmas stockings and said:

‘I have a pronouncement to make: these stockings have to be filled NOW or they won’t get filled a TALL!’

I said he would make a jolly good head- master but he said that school was his worst hobby.

Our fifteen year old grand-daughter brought a tear to her mother’s and my eyes when she gave her a beautiful album of photos and copy she had been assembling secretly, of her mother’s life up till now. Flash, the cat, went berserk on the polished floors, with wrapping paper and string and blotted his copy book by up- chucking his salmon treat on one of the rugs.

We enjoyed the Christingle Service where the vicar had taken up ventriloquism. I said there should be oranges for Grandmas and grandson said I could have his orange as long as he had the sweets.

We went to Crawley to see ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ Snow White was played by Kellie Shirley, an excellent East Enders actress but she was blighted by a black wig and an uninspiring Prince. The parts of the Wicked Queen, Nurse Gertie, Muddles and the Forest Fairy were played with terrific gusto, in the old-fashioned way and we all enjoyed it.

Travel Lodges made the journey a piece of cake and they were nicely refurbished. Little Chef has moved a bit up market and one can get grilled salmon, a minty choc with coffee, a concoction of fruit yoghourt and granola for breakfast, to say nothing of the Belgian waffle (Hi girls!)doused in vanilla ice cream and maple syrup. We thought it was sweet that they have a peeing pole for dogs on the green, and in case the dogs can’t read there is a picture of a dog atop the pole.

BTW we heard two smashing radio programmes on BBC 4 which wiled away the journey: Count Arthur Strong, which if you have had a northern childhood, particularly in the thirties and forties – is an utter delight, and we both laughed out loud. The other was a writer who went on a cruise ship as a host to the lonely old ladies – all highly respectable and decorous but you had to be able to dance – keeping a distance of six inches betwixt at all times, of course. Most of the hosts were retired and married and seemed to love it. How about it- some of you dishy older men? If nothing else you’d get posts out of it.

The photos below are random as I didn’t want to just repeat last years. The card is one of the ones our grand-daughter made for us.

It was good to get back to messages from my cyber friends. Thank you all and I’ll be round to see you as soon as poss. Here’s hoping for a happy, healthy, peaceful year to one and all. God Bless.

Random Christmas photos

The lovely Indian bedspread in our room

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Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat,
Please put a penny in an old man's hat.
If you haven't a penny, a ha'penny will do,
If you haven't got a ha'penny, God bless you.

Happy holiday everybody and see you in about a week.
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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Teacher’s Pet – part 2

Story contd.

The day of the show - our final day – was a mad flurry of dress rehearsals, lighting plotting and last minute costume adjustments. Everyone had worked hard and although the dress rehearsal didn’t go without a hitch - that probably boded well for the actual performance Charles, my black American friend gave a natural dignity to his part of Lord Windermere and fortunately the director saw the folly of giving him white gloves to wear, which was too close to Al Johnson for comfort,

Being in the lighting box with Gary was a piece of cake as he was very hands on and did most of it himself, but I had studied the lighting plots and felt I knew a little more about the subject now, other than the useful snippet that Strand pink was the most flattering light for ladies. It was fascinating how one could lift or darken the mood with light and music. All in all the week had taught me a lot about stage craft and I couldn’t wait to get back to the theatre club and do my own production. I knew from the people I had worked with on ‘The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll’ that I could get together that all important back- stage team - so vital before you even think of the actors.

There was one part of the play where Gary wanted a black-out and it was dependant on the timing of what was happening on stage; he said he would keep an eye on the action with his arm raised and at the right moment would drop his arm and I would pull the lever that would plunge the stage into darkness. Meanwhile we had a couple of hours before the show and I planned to crash and try to catch up with all the late nights I had been having. However Gary said he wanted to speak to me alone, and as we were all leaving tomorrow this was the last chance we would get, so I agreed to meet him in the pub as soon as I had changed.

The pub was empty when I got there, apart from Gary sitting by the window looking concerned – very unusual for him. We had soft drinks because of the show and I asked Gary what he wanted to talk to me about. The evening sun shining through the window gave him a golden glow and although he wasn’t conventionally handsome I found his titian hair and freckles and above all his happy nature immensely appealing. I was aware of the woman behind the bar who seemed very interested in our conversation. I realised there had been a mutual attraction between us but was also conscious that Gary was a very popular guy and had young women coming up to him constantly asking for his help, advice or opinion on all sorts of things. I had had a fantastic week with a great bunch of people from all over the world and Gary had made me feel a desirable young woman, for the first time in years. But this was time out from my real life; I would keep in touch with some of the students but I knew the friendship with Gary had to end here.

Gary said he had had a chequered career and although married had been a bit of a philanderer, but this was the first time he had felt really serious. Neither of us was free but he knew I wasn’t happy and that probably nothing could come of it for years. Even though we lived far apart he wanted to keep in touch. I was in turmoil. It sounded so reasonable but I had never imagined anything continuing after the end of the course and I tried to explain why I couldn’t keep in touch with him.

We were going round in circles and it was time to get back to the college. In the lighting box I tried to concentrate on the play which seemed to be going well. It went so much better with an audience and you could see the actors rising to the occasion as each bit of laughter and applause gave them fresh impetus. My mind was still whirling and Gary’s words were ringing in my ears.

‘We must see each other again Pat.’

I vaguely saw him lift his arm in the air and when he dropped it I froze. Whether it was a combination of exhaustion and stress I don’t know but I was paralysed. Gary hurtled towards me, grabbed the lever and saved the day.

After the show it was party time and everybody was on a high. I apologised to Gary for letting him down but he said it was his fault for bringing up such a difficult topic at the wrong time. Knowing that most of us would never meet again we partied for the last time, till the early hours.

The next morning with the car packed with all those books that had never been opened, Gary looked on as I hugged and said goodbye to my new friends. Just as I was about to drive off he came over, hugged me and said.

‘See you next week!’

I felt sad in the car. It reminded me of school at the end of the year when I always used to cry at ‘Lord dismiss us with thy blessings.’ I told myself Gary probably just wanted another scalp to add to his collection and I had been right to be firm.

When I reached home William and the boys were out so I collapsed into bed and slept for hours.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Your feet’s too big


Your feet's too big!
Don't want ya 'cause your feet's too big!
Can't use ya 'cause your feet's too big!
I really hate ya 'cause your feet's too big!

Fats Waller

I don’t know why I have hung on to these shoes all these years. They did cost a lot even then, what with being Rayne’s (her Maj’s cobbler) and double and triple A fittings. It was fairly clear grand –daughters weren’t going to follow in Cinder’s footsteps. They just remind me of the days when I could flit round Bond Street all day, meet an old friend for lunch do the odd gallery in the afternoon, tea at Fullers, theatre in the evening and last train home and still have change from a five pound note. (That last bit’s a lie)
Dark grey heelesss.

Black patent - toeless

Gold and perspex? sandals

Cream - not yellow and perspex? sandals.
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Monday, December 17, 2007

A Handbaaaaaaag?


OscarWilde's Lady Bracknell would be horrified at the prices people seem prepared to pay for a handbag these days. Below is my favourite; it is cylindrical in shape with plenty of room for all the usual stuff, plus my umbrella , camera and mobile phone. There are separate pockets for car keys, house keys and lipstick and compact and an extra two I have yet to find a use for. It is frequently admired and onlythe other day they hygienist said it was just what she was looking for and had spent £150 on something she didn't like as much. I bought it two years ago in Truro in a half price sale and then as it was a special day a further
£2 was taken off.

Total cost £10.
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Friday, December 14, 2007

Teacher’s Pet - Part One

Story contd

I felt so euphoric driving away for my week of freedom I was tempted to waltz the car from side to side as Yves Montand did in ‘The Wages of Fear’ just before he drove his truck over the cliff. Common sense prevailed and I reached the town where the college was situated. It was very busy. The traffic crawled and I saw an elderly man motionless on the pavement. From his colour I think he was dead. There were people standing around him and I wondered if I had been there if I would have had the courage to do mouth to mouth.

At the college I was given a schedule for the week and shown to a block which housed single rooms, a kitchen and showers. I was early and the only one there. I had brought a pile of books in case I didn’t find anyone to talk to but I was too excited to read. The first person to arrive was a middle aged woman with a delightful Irish brogue. I made us some tea and made my first friend.

Gradually more students drifted in and by supper time I had met lots of them and began to relax. We were divided into two factions; those like me who were doing a production course and the acting group. You could tell from the look of the two main lecturers who was doing what – Hugh the acting lecturer with floppy hair an aesthetic face and dressed in a beautiful shirt, sweater and cords whilst Gary the producer’s lecturer, wore old jeans and a faded blue aertex shirt which I noticed matched his eyes. He had an old ARP * canvas bag which looked as if it had been through two world wars.

During supper I learned that some were old hands and had brought with them all the requirements for a bar which they ran, very efficiently, each night throughout the week. Beside the Irish lady I had got friendly with a white American male, a black American male and a young Malaysian boy. I began to feel at home and at ease. We could see from the schedules that we were going to be busy and were working towards a production of Lady Windermere’s Fan at the end of the week.

The first evening after supper we all met up in the library to introduce ourselves and get to know each other. Gary came and stood next to me saying that he had been cramped against a book-case. I pointed out that there was lots more room at the other end and he wandered off. I don’t know why I behaved like such a klutz unless it was an innate instinct for self preservation. He told me afterwards he felt intimidated by me. Great!

Thankfully next day I was more relaxed and started to enjoy the classes. The cast of the play was chosen and the production side were divided into lighting, wardrobe, makeup, set design and stage management. We would all have time with each but had just one responsibility for the play. I was going to be in the lighting box with Gary. The casting was interesting. Charles, the black American was to play Lord Windermere – he was both thrilled and terrified.

Gary was a great teacher, sitting casually on a meccano- like structure on stage, immensely practical – the ARP bag contained bits of wire and screws and various implements which he used to adjust lights, scenery or anything that required it. He radiated amiability and everyone liked him. He had recovered from our initial brush and went out of his way to make me feel I had something valuable to contribute. There were two Cambridge graduates in our group and their knowledge of literature in general was bottomless and they could quote reams of Christopher Fry at the drop of a hat. Gary convinced me that all the knowledge in the world didn’t amount to a can of beans if one didn’t have a sense of theatre. He said I had this and wanted to see me put it in action. Men! You know what Shirley Valentine said about them?

The fellowship and camaraderie was such I was reminded of my training days in hospital. One day William and the boys called in to see me en route to Wallace and Fleur's. William said he had never seen me so relaxed and I should try to stay like that when I came home. It was lovely to see the boys and gave me a reality check; like most of the female students I was getting rather fond of Gary. At one session a group of us were sitting on a broad shelf and Gary took off his tie, before demonstrating something and draped it over my ankle. It felt such an intimate thing to do; I could feel my cheeks aflame.

There were a couple of trips to the theatre and we saw a magnificent production of ‘The Royal Hunt of the Sun’. Sheila, the Irish girl, knew the star Colin Blakely and took me back stage after the show. We met the wonderful Robert Stephens and then Colin, who arranged to meet us for a drink before the evening show. It was all very exciting and all the time the pressure was building as we prepared for the performance of the play. I was thankful to be working back stage and didn’t have to worry about learning lines.

Bed-time got later and later as we stayed on talking and putting the world to rights as students have done since time immemorial. One beautiful moonlit night a gang of us drove to the beach and lit a fire. We sat round it and all took turns to sing or tell a story. I sang an operatic aria in faux Italian. It was actually gibberish but I had been doing it for years with family and friends so many of them – including ‘Gary were fooled. I think the darkness and the firelight gave me courage.

A couple of the group decided to go swimming although the tide was way out. As it got later and later we decided, reluctantly it was time to return to the college and found, to our dismay the two swimmers had not returned. Suddenly the beautiful evening turned into a nightmare. We split up into search parties and combed the enormous beach. We were all silent – apart from calling the names of the two missing students and I think we were all feeling the same emotion – dread. I was walking with two others along the coast parallel to the sea and at last we found two bedraggled figures huddled in the dunes. They had had a long walk out to the sea, had swum for a while and when they came out they were completely disorientated and could see no sign of us. The current must have swept them up the coast. We hugged them and wrapped them in towels and rugs and made our way back to the college; many of us sending silent prayers of thanks that disaster had been averted

*A.R.P. Air raid precautions.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Social Whirl


It takes a lot to get me out of a winter’s evening but when I got an e-mail from Alan, the only male member of our ex writer’s group, suggesting we meet up for dinner I was tempted. We had finally dwindled down to four – three gels and Alan – and although we all got too busy to meet regularly we enjoyed each other’s company and had kept in touch.

Full marks to Alan; he managed to organise it all and choose an evening that suited all and we arranged to meet in The Valiant Soldier in a village reasonably close to the gel’s separate villages. I was to be collected by Alan at 6.30 pm and we would meet the gels at 7pm in the pub. Alan is a very busy man with four teenagers and a demanding job so it was no surprise that he had the arrangements half an hour later in his head and this gave me time to eat two chocolate biscuits (they’re special and I need to get them out of the house) and a chocolate cherry liqueur which reminded me to take some for after the meal.

We usually see some wild life on Alan’s forays down the country lanes and had a fox dart across our bows. The pub was bedecked with Yule tide stuff and there were the obligatory roaring fires. There seems to be a lot of electric blue lights this year in our neck of the woods, which has never struck me as particularly Christmassy. The tree in the pub had masses of coloured, tiny lights which flashed on and off regularly and then worked themselves into a frenzy of blinks which I thought should probably – in these days of health and safety fascism- have carried a health warning.

It was great to catch up and we chatted seamlessly until the waitress came. It was pleasantly quiet with just a huddle of men at the far end and another dining couple. You had to choose what to eat from blackboards on the walls and I dithered between venison bourbignon and lamb noisette. After a discussion with the waitress I plumped for venison. Sadly this was ‘off’ so I had lamb, Alan and Di had duck and Anne had pork. The two ducks looked as if you put them together they would make a whole and my lamb was succulent with a lovely fruity sauce.

After that none of us felt really hungry but anyway demolished two lemon meringues and two apple crumbles with ice cream. After coffee we were astonished to find it was nearly 11pm and planned to have another – in the summer – somewhere where we could sit in the garden by a river, MTL was going to have an early night but was waiting up for me when I got home. Its not often I’m out on the razzle these days.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Persona non grata


A couple of times recently I have got the following message when clicking on to someone on my side bar:-
'This blog is open to invited readers only'

Then I''m invited to sign in and my google password is rejected. Unfortunately I don't have the e-mail address to check this isn't a mistake. I totally respect the right of a blogger to approve his or her readers but is there something more sinister afoot? I would hate it to happen to a friend.

Monday, December 10, 2007

. Monday Mutterings


Oh Praise be! Just four letters to write, the Sussex presents to wrap – which we’ll take with us, DV, and that’s Christmas preps over and done with. Now I can relax and think of the true meaning of Christmas. Time is rushing by – our eldest grand-son about to join the army, the next eldest – he of ‘Anything to do with Super Heroes’ has just passed 18 and also his driving test.

This is the last Christmas we shall spend in Sussex with the Sussex branch as in July they are returning to live in Australia, where our grand-daughter was born, fifteen years ago. They did live in the Sydney area and we had a wonderful visit with them when we did a round the world trip. This time they will live in the Brisbane area and sadly – as MTL can’t do long haul flights - we won’t be visiting them.

However they assure us they will be over frequently and as they have always been seasoned travellers I believe them. We have just waved goodbye to my younger son and wife after a pleasant visit. This lunchtime I did my special roast chicken beloved of the youngest grandson. It’s simply stuffed with two lemons, quartered, and two heads of garlic broken into unpeeled cloves, and a bunch of fresh thyme. It is always delightfully moist and a firm favourite. Searching for some red currant jelly I was scolded by my son for standing on a chair and given a little lecture on the reasons why I shouldn’t. Quite sweet really!

Isn’t it strange how sheer beauty can make you cry? This happened to me last night watching Alesha Dixon and her professional partner Matthew Cutler doing the Viennese waltz in the Strictly Come Dancing semi- final dance off. Simply magical.

Watching Cranford I’ll bet I’m not the only one to wonder what happened to Mattie’s late, lost love’s money. Those of us who haven’t read the book that is. There is a deserving case in dire need of it – but maybe I’m worrying needlessly

Friday, December 07, 2007

New Friends and Old

Story contd

I learned a lot working back stage on ‘The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll’ and had dreams of directing a play myself. At the wrap party Pete the director, introduced me to his wife, Julia. I had heard a lot about her. She was a writer, producer and actress and about ten years older than me. I heard her before I saw her and she was clearly a ball of fire – surrounded by a group of appreciative listeners whilst she held the floor. What intrigued me was the fact that she was lively and bouncy with black hair and a pale face but with tragic eyes. I recognised that look of a hidden sadness and when we were introduced the recognition was mutual.

We became friends – kindred spirits really - and when I saw her productions and saw her acting I realised how very talented she was. I told her I would be happy to help in any way in her next production although I was getting a variety of acting parts. I must have had a good report from Pete because she asked me to be assistant producer on her next play. She said I would have to take rehearsals when she was kept in town so it would be great experience.

Every year William and I took the boys on typical children’s holidays to Devon and Cornwall, Wales and the Lake District, Southwold, Frinton and sailing on the Broads. There would be Easter visits to cousins in Gloucester, week-ends withWallace and Fleur and trips to my parents in Lancashire. Apart from this, William and I had widely varying interests. I was something of a social butterfly and he was content with his books and music. His outdoor pursuits were walking, sailing and archery. We got into the habit of one of us looking after the children whilst the other went off and did their thing.

William was fortunate to have six weeks annual leave so when I saw an advertisement f or a drama course for acting or producing I asked William if he would mind if I went away for a week to do the production course. He was happy about it and we agreed that he would go sailing with his brother in the summer. We had started to make money in the shop. We now had an accountant as well as a solicitor. We wanted to do things properly – stay solvent, pay tax etc so Dave the accountant gave us an analysis book; on one half were Receipts which was all the money that came into the shop and the other half was Payments with columns for everything that was paid out. With his help we worked out our annual expenses with a bit extra for contingencies, divided that by 12 to estimate our monthly expenses. Dave suggested an approximate figure for the partners to withdraw each month but I had a better idea.

To make it more interesting and fun, I suggested that whatever the takings were each month we would subtract the monthly expenses and whatever was left over would be our salary. If we didn’t clear the expenses we would take nothing. Dave thought this was unnecessarily complicated but the other girls recognised what fun it would be each month to see what we’d get. I was happy to do the work. It’s the sort of thing I love to do. I still remember the glee when we had had a bumper month in the school holidays and the resigned shrugs when it was peanuts. Dave never understood.

Out of the blue I heard from a friend from our Epsom days. Beryl was one of the young mothers who had befriended me when I had my first baby. She and her husband had become very wealthy. He had left the large engineering firm he had worked for and set up in business with a partner. They had enormous success and gone public.

‘We’ve got this smashing house near Brighton; we’ve met lots of exciting new people, we’re gonna have a BIG party and we want you and William to come.’

I remembered she had once admitted to me – after a drink or two - that she fancied William – because of his brain, she said. I knew parties weren’t William’s scene but I wanted to see Beryl and was curious to see how her life had changed. The house was fantastic with beautiful views of the Downs. There were lots of impressive oils on the walls individually lit and the whole place reeked of opulence. It was the sixties; the women were very glamorous with legs and bosoms on show, and the men seemed to be in a uniform of black silk shirts with gold medallions round their necks.

I was very conscious of William being bored out of his mind and decided we would leave after supper which looked as if it was going to be delicious. Beryl had told me they had a covered swimming pool in the grounds over which was an apartment where they had two male lodgers who were air-line stewards. I told William I was going for a swim and then we would have supper and leave.

It was a fantastic pool with lovely plants and it was hot and steamy. I could just make out two men in the pool at the far end and assumed they were the stewards. I have never been a strong swimmer but it was so warm and inviting I decided to stick near the side and to do a length. When I was about half way there the men got out and I realised to my horror they were completely naked. I lost concentration, gasped, got my mouth full of water and panicked and floundered and yelled out. In flash the men were there and rescued me. They were sweet and said I only had to say. Just as they were lifting my shaking body out of the pool William walked in to see his wife in the arms of two naked men.

I wasn’t exactly dragged out by my hair but that’s what it felt like. We didn’t stay for supper, we didn’t say good-bye and on the journey home I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. It was too ridiculous both men were gay and I had done nothing wrong. When we got home to his dismay, William discovered he had some of Beryl’s precious silver cutlery in his pocket ready for the supper we never had. Then I laughed!

A week later driving in my little car to the country town where the college was situated I felt a rare thrill of delight. A week’s freedom!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Chit chat


Cranford continues on its delightful way, on BBC1, although I must say the cast seem to be dropping like flies. First we lost Mattie’s beloved sister( played by Eileen Atkins - so a great loss} then the younger heroine’s little brother fell victim to the croup – in spite of the administrations of the two doctors, but the loss that made me gasp with dismay was when Mattie’s long lost love went to meet his Maker. After a separation of thirty years and only a few weeks into their reunion he had gone off to Paris to give her time to think, got ill and died. It made me think how lucky MTL and I have been, after our 30 year separation, to have had 28 years.

In one of their rare moments together he gave her a book of Tennyson’s poems, as well as a bunch of primroses in bud. After his death she read aloud one of the poems which I thought was beautiful but I couldn’t remember it. On googling Cranford I came across this, which although very simple, seems apt.

My Husband - Poem

by Lillie Beard Cranford

My husband is a handsome man

Although he's old and gray.

To me he's still the same as when

We met one summer day.

His step was firm and very proud

And oh so debonair.

To me there is no one on earth

That with him could compare.

And as we journey down life's road

If I can hold his hand,

I'll have no fear while he is near

Life's hardships we'll withstand.

Lucky for me there is a repeat of last week’s episode on Sunday - before the next one, so I shall discover the name of Tennyson’s poem.

I am going today with the girls, to have coffee with an old Guild friend. Last week the girls brought Melissa here for coffee and we had gorgeous biscuits with lots left over and now I’m falling off the wagon at bedtime (the biscuit wagon that is) and eating them. Do not tell Kim. You remember Melissa is in her nineties and said the one thing she regretted was not sleeping with more men. Sadly she is getting very frail and we had a few tears and lots of hugs and kisses.

Here’s a bit of Wodehouse before bed- time (its Tuesday night here):-

All the unhappy marriages come from the husbands having brains. What good are brains to a man? They only unsettle him.

The Adventures of Sally

Monday, December 03, 2007

Bath Time


Saturday was a visit to Bath to see ‘A Comedy of Errors’. I thought about doing some shopping but the weather was stormy, the Christmas Market was in progress and Bath was bursting at the seams so we settled for coffee and a crossword before lunch.

The older I get the more I realise how a simple thing like booking a meal can make life so much easier – rather than leaving it to chance. I booked a table for lunch at Vaults the restaurant in the Theatre Royal but when we turned up there was no knowledge of the booking.

‘And I asked for an uncramped table and the manager said there would be no problem.’

The young lady said it was fine as there was plenty of room and showed us to a table for four. I was going to do a Shane (see sidebar) and photograph the nosh but I was so hungry I forgot. I had fish cakes and treacle sponge which slaked the hunger pangs. The theatre is very pretty but I could only take a few discreet shots and of course none when the curtain was up.

Waiting in the foyer whilst MTL went to powder his nose a man with a pony tail standing next to me said,

‘You and I will be the youngest people here. It’s all grey hair and bald patches.’

If that was a chat up line it was pretty unique. I smiled vaguely and went to meet MTL.

After the first half I felt a bit dismal and told myself Shakespeare’s comedies just didn’t do it for me. All I had in the interval was a handful of Smarties but my goodness what had the cast had? Suddenly all the lunacy – instead of being irritating became hilarious; the Hogarthian cast members - which at first had seemed old hat RSC stuff, now became riveting and their expressions and stances worthy of RA Portraits.

The balletic and acrobatic skills of some of them were breathtaking and there was a jolly good little band on stage throughout. It’s a very silly story concerning a ship- wrecked father, a mother who became an abbess, twin sons who later had servants who were also twin brothers and they all appear on the same island but the brothers and their servants are unaware of the existence of the others. Confused? It did make it a trifle unbelievable that the corresponding twins were identically dressed but I suppose that is poetic license.

The second half fairly zipped along and the audience roared at every opportunity. I still don’t understand what happened but am thankful that at least I enjoyed half of it.

Quite a tiring day – we had been out for almost twelve hours- but enjoyable.

Expresso for him, cappuccino for her.

An old building opposite the theatre.

The Theatre Royal Bath
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Inside the theatre

A beautiful overhead light.

Where I met the Pony-tail

The Restaurant - too hungry to do a Shane
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Friday, November 30, 2007

Three Smart Girls.

Story contd.

To business that we love we rise betime,

And go to with delight.

Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare

In spite of Spat’s dismay at my jumping the gun and advertising the shop before the premises were ours, we were thrilled when he told us that Mr Cartier had accepted us as tenants and the second floor was ours. During the next week we had five replies to our third partner ad and when we saw Jan walking up the path of Mary’s house we both knew she was the one. She was younger than us, petite with short brown curly hair and a slightly worried expression which vanished when a smile lit up her face and revealed her sparkling white teeth.

She told us she was married and although they had hoped for children it hadn’t happened. She had worked in offices all her life and had lots of book keeping experience but felt like a change and would be happy to be working part time. She had beautiful pink painted nails I remember. Over a cup of tea Mary and I exchanged one of our looks which meant we both were agreed and to snap her up at once ignoring the usual. ‘We’ll be in touch.’ How right we were.

The next week-end we were all at the shop – as we now called it – the three of us and our families – some painting, some amusing the children; fortunately there was a park close by. Even Mary’s old father came along and stuck an axe at the top of the stairs – in case of fire, he said. I never did work out what we were to do with it but fortunately the need never arose.

We had just one hanging rail to start with and almost enough clothes to fill it. The main room looked a trifle bare so Mary – who was quite artistic, filled the gaps with large flower arrangements. She persuaded me to join her in classes and I discovered the fantastic arrangements I did fell over when I took my hands away. Mary and I opened the shop at 9.30am having taken our children to school and then Jan relieved us at 3pm when we picked the children up from school. The intention was for Mary and I to do two days each whilst Jan did the late afternoons and we took turns with Saturday.

It was only necessary for one person to be there in those very early days but Mary and I were there most days, in the first flush of new love. One day I was hanging out of the window feeling rather like the ladies in Amsterdam must do, wondering how I could entice shoppers to come up and see me, when, to my horror I saw someone trying to get into my car. In those days one could park in the High Street all day. I tore down two flights of stairs, rushed up to the man and said.

‘What are you doing with my car?’

‘I’m trying to stop it rolling down the High St, ducks. You must have left the hand brake off and when I moved my van it started to roll.’

Embarrassing but at least I learned to always leave the car in first gear from then on.

We had fun thinking up ads in the local paper to announce the various school uniforms we were gradually stocking. This resulted in a visit from a rather pompous head master who told us that his school didn’t need any advertising and would we desist. Did he think we were doing it for his benefit? We had started selling all sports gear, lacrosse and hockey sticks and cricket bats etc. Then we discovered that he owned the sports shop opposite to us. In the end we decided that a bit of healthy competition was no bad thing and carried on.

We worked like beavers – spreading the word – our Beauty Counsellor experience proved very useful. The big problem was to overcome the snobbishness regarding second-hand clothes. Somehow we had to convince people it was the smart thing to do. That meant that the shop should always be pristine and the clothes immaculate. Much easier said than done when someone would bring in clothes on a hanger, swathed in polythene, with a cleaner’s ticket pinned to it and when one examined the garment it would be grubby and obviously has never been near a dry cleaner. The trick then was to tactfully say; unfortunately the cleaners haven’t made a very good job of it and advise them to complain. Mary was much better at this than I was, with my Lancashire frankness, but I learned - the hard way.

"The shop's great - if it weren't for the ****** customers"

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sweaters and Stuff
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Chit chat.


Its sweater time and I was annoyed to discover that one of my good ones had poky bits over the shoulders even though they had been on a hanger protected by unused shoulder pads. So I am reverting to my old method of hanging out to dry by using tights. Thread the tights through the neck of the sweater – the waist at the neck and the feet through the sleeves. You can then peg the sweater on the line without touching it – by pegging the waist and feet of the tights. I’m also reverting to my old way of packing them- simply rolling them in tissue paper. This last week-end I took a holdall instead of a suit-case so it was the only way to do it - and it worked.

Today is the birthday of my dear friend Margaret. We make a point of inexpensive gifts and I had given her some special biscuits and a pretty sparkly little box. She phoned this morning to thank me but was most thrilled with the wrapping paper. One of MTL’s present was wrapped in this pretty and tactile paper so I recycled it. Apparently it had an oriental design which is very apt as her daughter is even now in China to collect her new adopted daughter. Margaret is making a keepsake book for the little girl to see when she is older and has included some of the paper. I’m delighted at such a happy accident.

I was not so delighted this morning when I took my brand new, frighteningly expensive glasses out of their pink shiny case and felt a razor sharp edge on the hinge. They are beautiful, light as a feather and I had decided they were worth the expense but now feel upset that they should be flawed so soon. I have a silver compact mirror which developed the same fault and in spite of various fiddlings it has never been right. This is much more important. Of course I have taken them back and await developments. Fortunately my old ones are still useable.

On another grumpy note has anyone else had problems with site meter lately? I have been without for three days and missed it. It’s always nice to know that lots of people pop in even though they don’t comment and it feels quite lonely without it. Normal service is now resumed but I’ve lost those three days for ever.

‘We are having problems with the people who service your account’.

Whatever that means.

I’d like to end on a cheerful note so here it is: doh!

Monday, November 26, 2007

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This is the hotel in Hatch Beauchamp near Taunton, where we spent our 28th wedding anniversary. The original building dates back 200 years and used to be called ‘Templemore’- no-one knows why or when it was renamed ‘Farthings’. A farthing is an old coin of the realm and I think two made a halfpenny, so clearly there were four in an old penny. The farthing was first made in 1279 on the orders of King Edward. He ordered a round farthing to replace the practice of giving change by cutting a silver penny in half to provide change in pennies or cutting it into four to give change in ‘four things’ or farthings.

It is an elegant Georgian building on a quiet road which used to be the main road. There are large grounds with lots of unusual species of birds or fowl. The weather was cold but sunny so we wandered round the grounds and admired the turkeys.

‘Are they for Christmas?’ we asked a lady who was putting fresh plants into the many pots.

‘I don’t think they will be able to eat them - they talk to them.’

The hotel was warm and welcoming with fires and comfortable furniture. MTL had done the booking and we were in a Master bedroom – named ‘Garden’ – which was one of the nicest rooms I remember. Perhaps because it was November we got an good deal but I maintain it‘s because the booking was made by a man.

After an excellent dinner we chatted to two Welsh ladies – a mother and daughter. The daughter shared my love of mountains and told me of a haunting book ‘Menlove Edwards’ by Jim Perren which I didn’t know of and in return I told her of two of my favourites –‘The Last Blue Mountain’ by Ralph Barker and ‘The White Spider’ by Heinrich Harrer which have always fascinated me.

The next day the weather was bitter so we had a super breakfast to try to nail the rest of the Christmas shopping in Taunton. By lunch time it was done but neither of us could face lunch so we went to one of the many coffee shops that have sprung up (I blame ‘Cheers’). I had my sunglasses on – in spite of the rain- and managed to read that a cappuccino was £1.80 for a regular and more for a large. It was all very slick and most of the names were Greek to me so I very carefully asked for a regular cappuccino. Then another chap asked for £2 or whatever.

‘Why isn’t it £1.80 like it says on the wall?’

The whole place froze and everybody stared at me as if I had just kicked a cat.

Of course it was explained that (as it said on the notice but I hadn’t spotted it) there were two prices – one for taking away and one for drinking in. Was my face red? MTL was highly amused. You can take the lass out of Lancashire…

One of the nicest rooms I remember

Lots of light and space.

Tea for two.

Through the door our entrance hall and bathroom
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One of the dining rooms. We were on the left and the Welsh ladies on the right

Warm and comfortable.

The animals looked so happy and rushed towards us.

I love window seats and there was a teddy to look after us in our room.
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Mr Smarty pants and his harem

If this were America this little lot would be 'late' turkeys.

Little black ducks - so pretty.

Dreaming of a White Christmas. I'm sure he's safe.
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Friday, November 23, 2007

Another Anniversary!

Happiness in marriage is entirely a matter of chance.

Jane Austen 1775-1817


I know some of you must think I am a serial anniversaryist (and if that isn’t a word it is now) but this one – 23rd of NOVEMBER is bona fide our 28th wedding anniversary.

Sadly it’s not a pearl or diamond one - just orchid. However we are going to a new hotel to us - Farthings – on the other side of Taunton and MTL thinks it will be good. Just for one night only. More later:)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Our Very Own Shop

Story contd.

The next day Mary and I were off down the High Street with Ellie’s advice ringing in our ears; our aim – to find premises before the day was out. The first house agent we visited was a charming elderly gentleman who looked as if he had stepped out of Dickens. He was courtly with a pink and white skin, snowy hair and a waxed moustache. He was beautifully turned out with a bow tie, waistcoat and pale grey spats* which even in the early sixties was a rare sight.

We told him what we were looking for – both of us burbling excitedly whilst he regarded us benignly. When we were done he told us to wait whilst he looked at his files and slowly retired to a back room. We looked at each other and sighed, we knew we had to be patient but there was so much to do and we doubted that dear old Spats could ever do anything quickly. Eventually he returned holding a file and looking pleased with himself.

‘Now this may be just what you two young ladies are looking for. Look out of the window. Can you see on that building over there? See the name Berkeley Cartier? That is a gentleman who was an excellent tailor until he retired and he owns the building. As you can see there is still a tailor’s shop on the ground floor, there are offices on the first floor but the second floor is vacant.’

‘Oh please can we go and see it now?’

Spats twinkled at me over his pince- nez*.

‘Well now it’s usual for us to make an appointment first but I can see you are eager to get on. If my assistant is available I will find the keys and he will take you to see the premises.’

I wanted to hug him but restrained myself and Mary and I beamed at each other.

We entered a door on the street - next to the gentlemen’s outfitters; at the top of the stairs was a cloakroom which we would share with the offices at the end of the corridor. Up another flight of stairs were a small room with a window looking out onto a back yard and a large room at the front with two windows looking out onto the High street.

It all needed a coat of paint but the space was great and we were at the smart end of town – on the High Street no less. We hugged each other with excitement.

‘We definitely want it. Can you be sure to tell the old gentleman please?’

The assistant promised he would do so and Mary and I went and had a coffee whilst we planned our next move.

‘OK now we’ve got the premises. We’ve got to have the third partner – not just for the reasons Ellie said but also to help with the rent. If the three of us put in £50 each that should tide us over until we start making money.’

‘Do you think people will be bothered to climb the stairs?’

Mary looked a bit anxious.

‘Of course they will when they see what we have got to offer. The location is excellent and these are young mothers – two flights of stairs won’t bother them in the least.’

We knew none of our friends would be suitable as the third partner as they all had young children and we wanted someone quite free to fit around our commitments.

‘We’ll have to advertise. Let’s work out now what to say and we can drop it into the Courier and it will be out on Friday.’

Mary was used to my ‘do it then it’s done’ maxim so between us we managed an ad which was clear and direct.

Whilst we were in the newspaper offices I suggested we put in a second ad advertising our new shop. It had taken us days to come up with a name that satisfied us both and the sooner we opened the sooner we could start getting financially secure.

‘But we haven’t signed the lease yet’,

‘We know we are going to and this will give us a good start.’

So the second ad announced the advent of our new shop and asked for local school uniform in excellent condition. We learnt later that a local large store were concerned about this and objected to our presence in the High Street but eventually they came round, were quite friendly and even sold us some of their old shop fittings.

Spats however, when we went in to sign the lease looked sternly at me over his pince- nez.

‘I say, you jumped the gun rather, didn’t you?’

* Spats –short gaiter covering instep and reaching a little above the ankle.

* Pince –nez - pair of eye glasses with spring to clip on nose.

Results of ‘Who said (or wrote) that?’



  1. Does it matter? – losing your legs?

For people will always be kind

2 Great God! This is an awful place.

3 We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.

4 Life is short but sweet.

5 If only you small girls would listen to me, I would make of you the crème de

la crème.

6 I come from the haunts of coot and hern,

I make a sudden sally,

And sparkle out among the fern,

To bicker down the valley

7 Heaven cannot brook two sons, nor earth two masters

8 Give me chastity and continence, but not yet.

9 In nine cases out of ten a woman had better show more affection than she


10 Never throw stones at your mother,

You’ll be sorry for it when she’s dead,

Never throw stones at your mother,

Throw bricks at your father instead

11 Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough,

To get it ready for the plough.

12 An actor’s a guy who, if you ain’t talking about him, ain’t listening.


Seigfried Sassoon 1986-1967 wrote #1

Robert Falcon Scott 1868-1912 wrote #2

William Shakespeare 1564-1616 wrote #3

Sophocles 495-406 BC wrote #4

Muriel Spark 1918-2006 wrote #5

Alfred Lord Tennyson 1869-1892 wrote #6

Alexander the Great 356-323 BC wrote #7

St Augustin 354-430 wrote #8

Jane Austen 1775-1817 wrote #9

Brendan Behan 1923-1964 wrote #10

Sir John Betjman 1906-1984 wrote #11

Marlon Brando 1924- 2004 wrote #12


Nea came first with ten correct

Jan came second with eight correct

Sam came third with seven correct

Amy came fourth with four correct

Dandelion came fifth with three correct

Thanks to all participants and well done!

Where were the men?