Sunday, June 29, 2008

All done and Dorseted.


Thank you all who crossed fingers for us. It’s been lovely. We had forgotten how beautiful Dorset is. It’s the bloomiest, blossomiest, lushiest, rosiest, and honeyiest of counties and only the narrow back-roads prohibit perfection.

We were renting Dairy Cottage on a farm, a mile from Whitchurch Canonicorum which itself was a mile from the A35. We stopped for lunch at the local pub – the Five Bells.

‘I’m Pat,’ said the friendly land- lady.

‘Snap!’ I said.

We agreed that certain names labelled you to a particular decade and remembered some famous British Pats – Kirkwood, a musical comedy star and Roc of film fame but we drove ourselves dotty trying to remember the third Pat – also musical comedy. Granny P may come up trumps.

Over a cattle grid we found the farm and cottage in a wonderful open space with views in all directions. There were beautiful flowers everywhere, a large lily- bedecked pond with rare ducks, guinea fowl and two miniature dachshunds. The surrounding fields had lambs and goats that talked all the time and watched our every move. We were free to wander everywhere but were warned that sometimes the heifers are in one of the fields and easily get freaked and stampede. Occasionally a young farm hand from a neighbouring farm would tear round on his tractor ye- haarring like an escapee from the Wild West – which tickled us.

I felt sorry for the slightly grumpy dachshund - older and larger than his honey coloured, puppy friend who was simply adorable. The week before the people renting the cottage had gone out and left the French windows open; so Little Sunshine went in and removed the ladies panties – drying on the bath, and presented them to her owner. The owner then had to decide what to do with them; if she returned then round the bath and got it wrong it would look weird. In the end she told the panties owner exactly what had happened. All the animals had personalities – they were kept as pets and their antics kept us amused for hours.

I wanted to visit the church – ‘The Cathedral of the Vale’ – the Church of Saint Candida and Holy Cross. It shares the distinction to which only Westminster Abbey can lay claim of having the relics of a patron saint in the shrine (Saint Candida in this instance) and was a major centre of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages.

Apart from Saint Candida, the famous journalist Sir Robin Day has his ashes buried outside the church door and Sir George Somers, who inspired Shakespeare to write ‘The Tempest.’ Sir George sailed with Raleigh and took part in the colonisation of Virginia and was ship wrecked on a coral island near Bermuda -Bermoothes in the play. He settled in Virginia but died in 1610, on returning to Bermuda for supplies. His heart was buried in Virginia but his body is buried in the church.

Some of you may remember a crime of the Cold War in 1978 when Georgi Markov was assassinated on Waterloo Bridge by a communist agent, using a gas gun disguised as an umbrella to inject the victim with a pin – sized pellet of the lethal toxin Ricin.

His grave is here and oddly on Friday June 20th – last week- Richard Edwards in the Daily Telegraph writes that the crime is being reinvestigated by Scotland Yard – thirty years later. That’s enough excitement for now. More later - with pics.

If you wish to see more of the cottage click on and put Whitchurch Canonicorum in Search slot.

Dairy Cottage on the left.
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Thursday, June 19, 2008

£12.50 from Lulu. Click on Peach on side bar for all info.

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A Quick Chat


Some time ago it was pointed out to me that in early posts it was difficult to distinguish the past from the present and # 1 son suggested I had two headings : ‘Story contd,’ and ‘Asides.’ Just lately people have been brave enough to peruse the archives so I am now making sure that at least each episode of the story of my Imperfect Past is labelled ‘Story contd.’ For non-techie me it is quite a laborious job and I have done about five months and hope to complete it shortly. Just discovered there is another four months to do, so shortly will be more longly.

I have now got my story - up to date – on one document, and my step-son has shown me how to put it on a USB memory stick instead of faffing around burning CD’s. Any comments welcomed. That was a good happening. A less good one was when the glass dropped out of my delicate specs – for no particular reason other than I dropped them. They are now altogether again but at present I’m wearing my # 2 pair and # 3 in the garden. (So please ‘scuse errors)

Yesterday I received my copy of ‘You’re not the only one’ compiled by Sarah Peach. I am trying to save it for my holiday but have started it already and – of course – made sure my own offering was there. It will be a comfort to have something absorbing if the weather is foul. So on Friday we are off to Dorset – fingers crossed we stay the course this time. It should be stress free as we are in a cottage with complete freedom to do nothing if we feel like it.

See you all when I get back and please don’t run away.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

B----r Blogger!

What is referred to as the third photo down has been switched - yet again -to the first photo. Hope it makes sense:)
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Garden Gossip


I don't care for hanging baskets but I love pots; they are readily accessible, easy to move and can brighten up a dull spot. The pale delicate plant is such good value - Nemesia - in lots of delicate colours - comes up smiling each year, blooms for yonks and is fragrant. One of my favourites. These are some of the pots and are in the early stages. By the time I post this you won't see pots for flowers.

Blogger is teasing me and the third photo down should be under this copy.

The acanthus - the structurarl plant leaning in the left foreground is for the chop. Last year there were about 8 spikes and it's overpowering for the bed I think. I really must uncover the fountain soon.
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I never tire of this lovely rose - New Dawn. Normally there is a mass of blue flowers on the right of the arbour - the potato flower, but it was heavily pruned in the autumn and is sulking a bit. We have just had a week of mostly sunshine which has taken us unawares.

This is a new rose planted by Karen. One is told that roses won't do in an old rose bed, but Karen reckons if you dig deep enough and pad it with dried blood ( sweat and tears) all will be well.
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Monday, June 16, 2008

The Letter

If this were played upon a stage now,

I could condemn it as an improbable fiction.

Twelfth Night


William Shakespeare

Story contd.

The letter was from Maddie, my sister in America. She came to visit twice a year when she was in Europe on business. She would write telling me her dates and usually a list of things she would like me to do or get for her – which used to drive me nuts when the children were little, and my hands were full. It was the usual sort of letter until half way down the page … she said wasn’t it sad - Jamie’s wife had died.

It seemed so strange that she should mention it as an afterthought – but then she wasn’t to know that for thirty years I had quashed all thoughts of Jamie, and he only appeared in my dreams. He had married someone else; he had three children so he was off limits, off my radar. Now, he was in trouble and I thought of the young man I had loved all these years. No matter what the cost to my pride and self- protection I knew I had to reach out to him. But how?

I could phone Maddie and ask her to ask Liam for his address. Liam was Jamie’s brother and Maddie saw him and his wife frequently. But I didn’t want to involve anybody else. Too many people had interfered all those years back; this was between Jamie and me. I realised my hands were shaking and I had to sit down and try to calm myself before driving to the shop. I would decide later what to do. All day long I thought of nothing else, and the staff must have thought I was in another world. I was.

By the time I got home I had decided I would write to him. After all he was an old, old friend and it was the norm for me to write a letter of condolence in such circumstances. I knew his name of course, and that he lived in a Cheshire town and that was all. Quivering like an aspen, I got directory enquiries and asked the operator if she would give me the address.

‘We’re not an address service,’ she told me firmly ‘and anyway there are two people of that name. I can give you the phone numbers.’

I panicked – no way could I find the courage to ring up out of the blue.

‘Oh please tell me the address. His wife has died – I don’t want to speak to him I just want to write a letter of condolence.’

Something in my voice must have registered with her and she gave me both addresses. Whoever you are, wherever you are – bless you for that.

One of the houses had the same number as ours so I decided to take a chance and send it to that one and let fate decide. Once I had made the decision I felt much calmer. Now all I had to do was decide what to say. My handwriting was a worry; it had always been untidy and had worsened with the years – these days I have to type to be legible but this letter had to be handwritten.

I wrote a reasonably neat letter- eventually - and ended by saying that the letter didn’t require an answer but if ever I could do anything, to just let me know. Later Jamie said he had just got back from visiting his mother in Scotland and there was a pile of letters on the mat and he had recognised my hand writing immediately.

Once I had posted it I felt at peace. I had done what I had to do and now it was out of my hands.

For my nineteenth birthday Jamie had given me a lovely orangey- coral, mohair scarf with a note saying:

Isocyanides are red,

Cyanides are blue,

Here is a scarf,

Hope it suits you.

I had kept the note, so was familiar with his handwriting and instantly recognised his letter which arrived within a few days. I wondered if the blood pounding away like that did any harm – my whole frame seemed to shake. I needn’t have worried; his letter was warm and friendly and he said he had only just received my letter as he had been visiting his mother. He said it was good to hear from me.

He told me of his children – he had a married daughter, one son at university and one thirteen and 3/4 year old son still at home. He said his daughter had just moved house in London and that he visualised visiting her in the New Year but in any event he would try to contact me by phone when he was next in London and perhaps we could meet somewhere for lunch. He thanked me for remembering to give my married name as he didn’t know it and he sent his regards to Maddie when I next saw her

At last I had exorcised that ghastly memory of walking away from Jamie in Moseley Street Bus Station thirty years earlier. Whatever happened in the future I could let go of the unhappiness and guilt and be at peace with myself. It was the 31st of October 1978. I had plenty to keep me busy. The boys would be home for Christmas and mum and dad were coming down. The New Year would be here soon enough.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day - wherever you are!

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Extra Guests


Seems like little French girls are not too different to litttle English girls.
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Wednesday, June 11, 2008



French family arriving tomorrow and am floundering a little. Please forgive me if I am sparse hither and yon - till I get sorted.
Lynmouth on an open top bus


It is early and I may have typed Lynton in error. Lynmouth is at sea level and Lynton is the town above which may be reached by road or funicular.
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top of our world

Looking back towards Selworthy Beacon

The spire-less church at Porlock

Margaret and Joy.
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Impossible to convey the sheerness of the drop

On top of Exmoor

Passing from Somerset into Devon
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Looking towards the harbour

The unusual wall - common to the area

Looking up the valley

Arriving at the bus station in Lynmouth
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Looking back from whence we came

The rocky beach - many left from the great Flood disaster of the fifties

Sunshine is Lynmouth
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Our transport home

Something to look at whilst waiting for the bus.

Summer has come to Lynton

Can you see the funicular?
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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

War Child


It’s been a while since I had anything published so when I heard

  • Peach
  • was compiling a book of stories, to raise money for the charity War Child I was keen to offer something. It is a great charity and helps the thousands of children who are affected by war each year. The book is excellent value with a wide variety of over a hundred stories by many different writers. If you wish to obtain a copy and support the children you can order one here.

  • Lulu
  • The book is ‘You’re not the only one.’ And is £12.50

    If, perchance my links don’t work just click on Peach who has all the information. And thank you Peach for including my story.

    Monday, June 09, 2008

    Hold very tight!


    We four friends mustered at Minehead bus stop and thanked Heaven for clement weather. Some of our quartet were more enthusiastic than others, about mounting to the top, open deck but as I pointed out that had been the whole point and no –one was prepared to sit downstairs, alone, without the obligatory blether. Had we boarded at the station we would have had a better choice of seats and two of us sat backwards – but that was fine. We quickly became aware of the height of the bus and the lowness of the trees and there was a lot of ducking and diving in parts. Once through Porlock where we saw the spire –less church (legend has it that it was stolen and placed on the unfinished Culbone Church) we slowly climbed up onto Exmoor for stunning views of the Bristol Channel, Wales and the moor. It was too early for heather and only a smattering of gorse but we saw clumps of rhododendrons in the distance.

    We reached 1,200’ before the dramatic descent into Lynmouth, with views to die for; no photograph can convey the frighteningly sheer drops. We dismounted in warm sunshine and ambled to a coffee house where we learned that decaff is cheaper than normal coffee because the manufacturers sell the caffeine – so our host told us. There is an almost vertical funicular up to the sister town Lynton but we were content to browse round the shops in Lynmouth and welcome the summer at last.

    We were spoilt for choice for a lunch venue though four people never see things the same way; eventually we chose a place which looked fine from outside but seemed dark inside. We asked for a table for four and although mine host didn’t quite grimace churlishly we sat down feeling we were in the way. When Joy said she didn’t feel welcome that was enough and, as one man we left. Finally we settled on Riverside Cottage. After entering through the wrong door we came across the owner who was run off her feet but gave us a beaming mile and said she would be with us in a moment. Result!

    Lunch turned out to be our usual jolly affair and when we thanked our hostess she said it was people like us who made all the work worth while. On our return journey we braved the top deck again but the weather had clouded over and we were blown to bits. The total journey cost £4.90 but we four with our new bus passes didn’t pay a bean.

    Photos to follow.

    Sunday, June 08, 2008

    A Day in June

    From The Vision of Sir Launfal by James Russell Lowell

    And what is so rare as a day in June?
    Then, if ever, come perfect days;
    Then heaven tries earth if it be in tune,
    And over it softly her warm ear lays;
    Whether we look, or whether we listen,
    We hear life murmur, or see it glisten;
    Every clod feels a stir of might,
    An instinct within it that reaches and towers,
    And, groping blindly above it for light,
    Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers.

    That's how it's been this afternoon despite the bumble bees - sitting in the sun. reading and drinking a Kir Royale. Just one thing: when I had to recite the above at Sunday school after 'glisten' it was:

    'Here in the summer night the spirit waits the silence, the????? and the moonlight.'

    Mind you the minister's wife was very romantic so maybe she put in her own two pennorth?

    Friday, June 06, 2008

    Sally's Doves - see below.
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    … And to wait.

    Story contd

    Let us then be up and doing,

    With a heart for any fate;

    Still achieving, still pursuing,

    Learn to labour and to wait.

    Henry Longfellow 1807 -1882

    Whenever I dust my little doves I think of Sally; she gave them to me. We always kept in touch but in later years we lived in different parts of the country and didn’t meet in person. Some time back I was watching a TV programme about Elizabeth David, when suddenly I heard that old familiar voice and it was Sally being interviewed in her home. She was obviously old and frail but there was nothing grey about her and I was delighted to see her sand- gold hair and a pretty blue scarf and toning cushion on the sofa that complemented her blue eyes.

    Her mother had been a glamour puss and used to berate Sally for not taking more trouble with her appearance. She told Sally that this was a form of arrogance. Sally told me her mother had had a face lift – a rarity in those days. She kept it a secret and people just remarked how well she looked. She even dared to alter her DOB on her passport. As soon as the programme was over I phoned Sally and we had a lovely chat about the old days. To my amazement she told me her age which had always been a state secret. I promised her I would never tell anyone and I haven’t – indeed have forgotten it. The last words she spoke to me were:

    ‘Pat we did have fun didn’t we?’

    Such glorious fun, Sally.

    When I got back from France there was an urgent message from Julia. It was Julia who saved my bacon when my leading lady in ‘Family Dance’ had succumbed to a tummy bug. Now she was in trouble. She was producing JB Priestley’s play ’An Inspector Calls’ with a London firm and the young female lead – although exactly right in appearance for the role - simply was unable to learn the part. They had tried everything – to no avail - and Julia was desperate. Julia and her husband had separated and she was struggling to afford to continue living in her charming house. Professional producing provided a vital part of her income and she couldn’t afford to have a dent in her reputation. Just ten days to learn a part, in a play I was unfamiliar with. No probs – thanks to Byron.

    I had to get my partner, Mary’s agreement as it would mean ten days away from the shop and I had just been on holiday. However Mary had a back which seized up from time to time, and she would be totally incapacitated, as far as the shop was concerned. She readily agreed knowing that I would catch up with my usual book work, once the play was over.

    My plan was to spend three days lying doggo, learning an act a day, and then go with Julia to London for rehearsals, every day until the performances. The fact that I was years older than the character didn’t worry anyone and for once I was grateful to look younger than my age.

    I played the part of Sheila Birling, the daughter of a middle class family in the forties. She is very excited about her recent engagement and the family is thrown into chaos when an Inspector calls, regarding the suicide of a young girl. It is typical Priestly with twists and turns and cliff hangers. As the play progresses Sheila feels genuine guilt and remorse for her selfish and thoughtless behaviour and becomes rebellious to her parents. Each member of the family are implicated in the girl’s death.

    Once I had learned the lines and the moves there was no time to do other than play it as truthfully as possible; sometimes this is more effective than endless theorising about motives and how one was feeling at that particular moment. The cast were very supportive and helpful – even the girl I had replaced, who had stayed on to help back stage. She was so thankful to be off the hook. The play was successful, Julia was ecstatic and I had a lovely letter of thanks and flowers from the chairman of the firm.

    I was feeling quite pleased with myself and then I got a letter from America; a letter that rocked my world and in an instant I was that troubled girl of nineteen again.

    Tuesday, June 03, 2008

    I go with the Flo.


    In the forties we student nurses were taught to revere Florence Nightingale and she was always a hero of mine. I even wrote a play about her – just before it became fashionable to denigrate her place in history. In my opinion they were missing the point; Florence was the last person to see herself as a ministering angel. Even Parthe, her sister complained bitterly after a spell in bed,

    Florence is a dreadful nurse.’

    She had that rare combination of great intellect and the will and the power to get things done.

    As a young woman she had an epiphany in the garden when she was told she must do God’s will. This resulted in her sacrificing marriage to a man she loved, and pursuing a nursing career at a time when a nurse was a Sarah Gamp- like figure – a blowsy drunk - and no parent would allow their daughter to dream of becoming a nurse. Florence persisted and ended up at Scutari in the Crimea. The tragedy was that the hospital was built on a sewer and the drinking water was polluted by remains of a dead horse which resulted in many deaths and severely damaged her own health

    This knowledge nearly destroyed Florence and she wanted to bare her soul but was prevented by the Government, led by Palmerston who wished to keep the scandal quiet.

    Norman Stone’s play on BBC 1 last Sunday evening focussed on the period after her return from the Crimea and ended 54 years before her death. I had found trying to cover her long life in one play extremely difficult but it seemed a shame to just give details of the most important work she did in a footnote to the play.

    She lived the rest of her life as a semi reclusive invalid and from her sofa campaigned for public health reforms and the recognition of the nursing profession and worked relentlessly for reform in hospital, in the army and in public health. Although she never went to India she had a profound effect on welfare in that country. She was a brilliant statistician and wrote 200 books.

    Stone in an interview quotes an NHS nurse who maintained that if everyone had followed Florence’s maxims as far as standards of cleanliness is concerned there would be no MRSA in this country. We certainly followed them in the fifties. When did it all change?

    Monday, June 02, 2008

    The Dream.


    ‘Well,’ as MTL said: ‘there’s always Mendelssohn’s music.’

    On the coach there were only two other men; clearly ballet was not so popular with our old boys. We were blessed with clement weather so MTL could sit drinking coffee al fresco, whilst I checked the shops, which were close by, once we had passed the road works. Lunch was at ‘Henry’s’. I had a nutty brown sandwich with egg Florentine, baby tomatoes, spinach and red onion which was unusual but tasty, followed by a toasted brioche with a sort of fruit compote and ice cream – again not the norm but delicious.

    The theatre was new to us and what I have noticed about Cardiff is the buildings we have visited seem to be spacious. This theatre has clean lines – much less ornate than the Bath one and sitting in the circle one appreciated the airiness. On entering the auditorium we were surprised to see the cast on stage as if they were a ballet group warming up for a class. MTL commented on how they all looked terribly young and I pointed out that was because we were terribly old.

    Secretly I hoped they weren’t going to be dressed in practice clothes throughout but I need not have worried.

    David Nixon, a Canadian from Ontario is the Artistic Director of the Northern Ballet Company and he, with co - director Patricia Doyle created this Olivier award nominated version of ‘a Midsummer Night’s Dream’. The dancers are a ballet company, about to go on tour and the time is the 1940’s so there are gorgeous New Look costumes. Theseus and Hippolyta assume the roles of Artistic Director and Principal Dancer. What at first seems to be a ballet studio with barre, turns into a moving train which transports the Company to a world of fairies and floating beds.

    As the train enters a tunnel en route for Edinburgh the dream begins.

    The choreography brings the play and its characters to life and the wit and skill has one laughing out loud. Right from the first movements in the studio the action is mesmerising and when the music starts one is enchanted. I never found the Bottom bit very funny but there are delightful comic characters including the character of the Wardrobe Master, a very tall lanky Steven Wheeler who plays it as camp as Christmas. If you love music, spectacle, witty dancing and great entertainment don’t miss it.

    The weather broke on our return journey and traffic came to a halt on the motorway after a bad accident involving a camper van which must have skidded over onto the other side and seemed to have demolished an oncoming car. Then from Bridgwater the roads were flooded and I couldn’t help noticing that most of the houses on the outskirts had made their gardens into hard standings. As we passed a country side- road we saw a farm worker up to his waist in water, his vehicle submerged and the fire engine approaching him. He waved to us with a big grin on his face. That’s the Somerset way.

    Our destination

    Cardiff was not looking it's best.

    Henry's - a pleasant place for lunch.
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    Some of the dancers.

    Floods outside Bridgwater
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