Thursday, December 24, 2009

Marooned on Christmas Eve

We have lots of supplies and luxuries - especially after receiving a Fortnum and Mason’s Hamper from our family in Australia but I had planned to nip down to the town today to get some little extra gifts for MTL; he has already had and worn his main present and who knows – in spite of his stoic exterior, there could be a little boy inside disappointed not to have something under the tree. Some of us never quite grow up. However unless the ice melts I have to be sensible and stay put.

Here’s a timely homily to all you busy housewives:-

The shortest way to do many things is to do only one thing at once.

Samuel Smiles (1812-1904)

This made me smile – from Alan Bennett’s ‘Writing Home’

Gore Vidal is being interviewed on Start the Week along with Richard (Watership Down) Adams. Adams is asked what he thought of Vidal’s new novel about Lincoln.

’I thought it was meretricious.’

‘Really?’says Gore. ‘Well, meretricious and a happy new year.’

Love it.

I hesitate to say I'll be dormant for a few days as it often signals a daily post but I aim to do some delayed writing so see you when I see you.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Late Night News Flash

Eryl has had her operation. It was successful and she is on the road to recovery. As usual, with a major abdominal op, she will have to take it easy for 6 weeks after she is back home. On behalf of Steve her husband and Bob her son many thanks for all the good thoughts.
Lights in the High Street

The Tree in the Square
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Good will to all Men

We had it during the war. It thrived during my time training as a nurse and it is still abroad today. I have just been listening to a radio programme and hearing of kindnesses to neighbours, the elderly and complete strangers. In one of the suburbs people were stranded in a John Lewis car park – the staff came out to try to dig them out from the snow and when that failed took them back in the store – gave them hot drinks , toys for the children and let them sleep overnight in the beds. One very pregnant lady was taken to a hotel to have a comfortable night’s sleep.
An 80 year old in Wales cancelled her hair appointment and the hairdressing staff collected her – did her hair and took her home. Yet another woman took complete strangers - whose car was stranded – into her home to sleep on her sofa.
Good News

From Eryl's husband last night:-

yes it was great news. She is still a very sick girl but at least we now know it is not life threatening. She will still need an operation but time will heal her and she will soon be back to the Eryl we know and love. Thank you so much for your messages, it means a lot to Eryl as well as myself and Bob

Sun's out today.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Our Eryl

I was concerned last night to see on Kim's blog that Eryl is seriously ill in hospital. There is a page on Facebook 'hugs for Eryl' where you can leave a message or if - like me - you are unfamiliar with Facebook her husband Steve has asked that you e-mail a message to him and he is going to print them all out and put them in a scrap book to help to keep Eryl's spirits up. The e-mail address is
I know those of you who have the pleasure of knowing Eryl and her writing will join me in sending loving wishes for a complete recovery and to know she is in our thoughts and prayers.
More info and updates on Kim's Ramblings of the Bearded One.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter is a cumin’

Already we have a fine dusting of snow. Coats baint what they used to be my DIL and I agreed as we braved the elements to dine out on Saturday. The neat, close fitting coats of this season are rubbish at keeping one cosy and we delved into our wardrobes for warmth and comfort. DIL came up with an ancient, original Biba which looks like old squirrel from a distance but is very closely packed, soft velvety wool stuff, I found an old black silken- soft, cavernous coat which envelopes so one can wear vests and cardies, combs and liberty bodices under it – and no-one the wiser.

Room for twenty!

Biba - not old squirrel

Up close and snug as a bug.
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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Coffee with…

Potato crisps, mint sausage rolls, cheesy bits with a spicy flavour, mini chocolate ├ęclairs and Joy had made a strudel which was so much nicer than Christmas cake. Although Margaret and Malcolm will be leaving in January (it can’t all go wrong again) they are doing Christmas for their children and grand- children and I admired the prettiest piece of seasonal d├ęcor I have seen; a gold tree with tiny lights placed on a mirror Margaret had spotted at a boot sale which fitted exactly a circular table she had and the table was scattered with tiny glass ornaments she had bought from Bastins - our El Cheapo store. Pure Glass Menagerie.

Margaret had a proper stable but I preferred my actors and why have a glitter ball in a stable? Margaret said it was probably the moon but in a stable?? Poor Jackie was bruised from a fall – can someone please find out how to stop terrible cramp – but spirits were high and we reminisced on our various traumas over 24 years of friendship and how each of us have had our load lightened, in turn. by the quartet.

Malcolm popped his head round the door; and was offered strudel.

‘Has it got nuts?’

Did he have an allergy? But no…

‘I like my nuts,’ he said helping himself to a luscious piece.

It was sherry instead of mulled wine – must have got it wrong but there’s plenty of time yet and we have another date after Christmas.

Margaret's pretty tree.

Now that's a stable in a convenient alcove -but a glitter ball?
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Friday, December 18, 2009

The cigar box just won't do!

I'm off to have a Christmas coffee with the girls. There may be mulled wine:)
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Run off my feet!

Next week should be a breeze but we have family coming on Friday, I have two appointments tomorrow and I’ve decided to make it Christmassy (how many more one wonders) and am knee deep in holly, spruce, red berries from unnamed bushes, ivy - all from the garden and – inevitably with the accompanying wild life. The thing is I’m not very good at it and although MTL assures me it looks very festive I think the ladies who deck with glitter would not approve. Who cares?

I do love my crib scene; I should try to replace the old cigar box which passes for a stable but it’s just the right size to store the Sheperds, Kings.The Family and even the animals. I’m happy with the tree- miraculously both sets of lights work. There is always a moment when the tree looks just right but one always goes on from there - OTT - but that’s Christmas for you.

I like a bit of beef at Christmas and here’s mine. At this time of year I write lots of cheques and am down to my last one with ne’er a new cheque book in sight . It seems they are to be phased out to save the Bankers time and money. I am not completely antedeluvian – I use the internet – clearly - and I use a debit card when I feel like it but still I am outraged on my behalf and all the many older people who would be lost without a cheque book. Let’s have some grey power here!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

And then, and then…?

Did any UK viewers see the second and final episode of ‘Small Island’? I taped it but because of the Sports Awards it started late and my tape ran out before the end.

The last thing I saw was where Queenie the white Londoner had given her baby Michael to the Jamaican couple Hortense and Gilbert to give the baby a better chance in life ( it was the forties).

Did Queenie ever discover that the father of the baby was Hortense’s first love? Did Hortense find out that the father of the baby was her first love? Did Michael ever appear again?

I really need to know.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

Christmas lunch at the Carew Arms aka the Crocombe Inn.

It worked well last year so we decided to have an early Christmas dinner without any of the hassle and chose one of our favourite inns. It was the first day of their festive menu which was as follows. BTW as usual I was quite hungry and forgot to take a photo of the starter.

First Courses

Consomme of porcini mushrooms with hazelnut and mushroom dumplings

Parma ham, melon and warm goat’s cheese salad served with a redcurrant and mint dressing. ( I loved the flavour of this)

Chargrilled vegetables and ricotta terrine with a tomato and lime chutney served with granary toast.

Smoked salmon mousse served with crushed black pepper, dill and mustard dressing and wholemeal toast. (This was MTL’s choice)

Main Courses

Traditional roast turkey with chestnut, prune and Armagnac stuffing and festive trimmings (we both had this).

Fillet of Scotch beef with wild mushroom and Madeira sauce.

Brochette of salmon, scallops and monkfish served with a hollandaise sauce.

Wild mushroom, couscous and nut roast served on a bed of cabbage, oranges and juniper berries with an

apricot and port sauce.

All served with Fresh Seasonal Winter Vegetables.

Desserts and Cheese

Luxury Black Forest trifle-(moi - having a seventies moment)

White and dark chocolate profiteroles with Cointreau cream.

Christmas pudding with brandy cream. (MTL’s choice)

A selection of British and continental cheeses served with a homemade apple, apricot and date chutney and walnut bread.

To Finish

Coffee, tea or infusions with homemade chocolate truffles.

We were warmly greeted and told we could have lunch in the bar with a fire or a table in the sun – we chose the latter so we could look out at the garden in between chomps. It was delightful and I promise you neither of us ate anything for the rest of the day.

Crowcombe with the hectic Christmas rush.

We got our wished for lovely day

We chose a sunny table
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Those small roast potatoes were heavenly and the honeyed parsnips.

Trifle for moddom

Christmas pud for himself.
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Friday, December 11, 2009

News Flash!

If you can get BBC2 tomorrow at 2.50pm is my favourite film ever- I know where I'm Going with one of my favourite actresses - Wendy Hiller, Barry Norman says it's a beautifully told story, a romance for thinking adults. It convinced me that Scotland was the most romantic place on earth.
Below is a video about Wendy. I met her in the fifties and she really was a darling.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Alan Bennett - a nice northern lad.
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Alan Revisited

Since I bought the LP Beyond the Fringe in 1961 I’ve been a fan of Alan Bennett. The other three members of the hilarious quartet were Dudley Moore, Peter Cook and Jonathan Miller. They all went on to do other things but I stayed faithful to Alan. Well he was a nice northern lad – albeit from over the border in Leeds. He is a prolific playwright both for stage and television and this week has seen a Bennett Fest on BBC TV where each night we have had Bennett on Bennett, Mark Lawson on Bennett, some of his plays and a selection of his Talking Heads. His so-called ‘cosiness’ is banished forever when he tells of an expletive a friend had employed to describe the writer.

A highlight for me is when he is talking about his family – he can become his mother in a flash capturing what he calls ’an incurable disease of the vowels.’ She had the odd spell in hospital with depression, and whilst walking along the corridor she said:
‘See this woman coming along? She’s tried to commit suicide three times,’ and then with a bright smile and head on one side to the unfortunate woman –‘’Ello!’
This gallows humour gets me every time.

Like many talented people he is ‘afraid of being found out,’ and believes that you are only a writer when you are actually writing. Even being diagnosed with colon cancer in 1997 didn’t stem the flow and his latest play The Habit of Art opened at The National last month. He has the ability to get under his character’s skin and they don’t have to be maladjusted or disabled northerners. I particularly enjoyed a second viewing of A Question of Attribution - concerning Anthony Blunt the art historian’s role as the fourth man in the real life Cambridge spy ring and was quite convinced by his portrayal of Her Majesty. Then there was the tragic vicar’s wife played by Maggie Smith who found love at last with an Indian shop- keeper in Bed among the Lentils, A chip in the Sugar and so much more.

How I envied those WI members in the Yorkshire village where he has a cottage. They had him for a whole evening. For many years we had a cottage in a nearby village and I would occasionally amble slowly past his house longing to catch a glimpse of him but sadly never did. It’s not too late if you would like to catch some:
tonight on BBC4 10pm Bennett on Bennett 10.10pm Talking Heads with Penelope Wilton and 10.50pm Our Winnie.

A favourite quote:
‘To be brought up in Leeds in the 40s was to learn early on the quite useful lesson that life is generally something that happens elsewhere.’
In my case substitute Waterfoot for Leeds and you’re cooking with gas.

It’s a beautiful day today and so hope it will be tomorrow when we go to Crocombe for our Christmas lunch – it’s lovely in the sunshine.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The Gastronomic History of the Christmas Turkey

On the first day of Christmas my true love said to me

I’m glad we bought fresh turkey and a proper Christmas tree

On the second day of Christmas much laughter could be heard

As we tucked into our turkey – a most delicious bird.

On the third we entertained the people from next door

The turkey tasted just as good as it had the day before.

Day Four- relations came to stay ( poor Gran is looking old)

We finished up the Christmas pud and ate the turkey cold!

On the fifth day of Christmas outside the snowflakes flurried

But we were nice and warm inside for we had our turkey curried!

On the sixth day I must admit the Christmas spirit died

The children fought and bickered, we ate turkey rissoles fried!

Day seven, to cheer us up we tried a Christmas ballad

And then sat down to struggle through a dreary turkey salad.

Day eight and nerves were getting frayed; the dog had run for shelter

I served turkey pancakes, with a glass of Alka Seltzer!

On day nine our cat left home. By lunchtime Dad was blotto

He said he must have a drink to face turkey risotto!

By the tenth day the booze had gone ( except our homemade brew)

As if that was not bad enough we suffered turkey stew.

On the eleventh day of Christmas the Christmas tree was moulting

The mince pies were hard as rock, the turkey was revolting!

On the twelfth day my true love had a smile upon his lips

The guests had gone, the turkey too, and we dined on fish and chips!

I found this type written piece amongst the Christmas decorations; I don’t know the author but they sure loved exclamation marks. Nothing could have been as revolting as the turkey porridge MTL made one year.

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Monday, December 07, 2009

A Trigger

Something I read on Kate's( side-bar) blog made me think of this lovely old song. I hope you like it too.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Sir Laurence Olivier

To redress the balance after the frightening Entertainer photo

Below with Greer Garson on the set of Pride and Prejudice. The other leading actor of his day was Sir John Gielgud. They were very different: Sir Larry - physical, sexy and you could see and marvel at the wheels working, whereas Sir John was more ethereal, cerebral and not sexy. It always reminded me of the difference between those two great dancers: Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly with the same differences.

I remember being stunned when Sir Larry walked on stage holding a rose (which his wife had just given him)
as Othello and somehow he had morphed into Paul Robeson with the deep baritone voice to match. The again in the Dance of Death when he did a Hitler - like skip in a dramatic part of the play.
Sir John was more subtle and could take you by surprise. In Ivanov at a matinee at the Phoenix theatre he made the hair on the back of my neck stand up three times - probably my most thrilling experience in in the theatre
.., where as

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Friday, December 04, 2009

Laurence Olivier as Archie Rice in John Osborne's The Entertainer.
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A Rude Awakening

I awoke to the phone ringing incessantly but by the time I got downstairs it had stopped. No message – no record of who phoned and it was 1.45 am. Unable to sleep – instead of counting sheep I thought of book titles – as is my wont just now. Out of nowhere came There’ll always be an England. Could I remember the words?
We sang them often enough at our Sunday School Concert Parties. Most of the performers were either very young or old (as they seemed to us kids) the ones in between had been called up and were fighting for King and country.

There was always Dear little Donkey sung by a demented spinster with a sweet quavery voice - until she hit the high notes with a deafening screech and her eyes would water -whether with emotion or the effort we never could make out.
A married couple – but not to each other - would sing The Indian Love Song and one realised how talented Nelson Eddy and Jeanette MacDonald were.

The highlight would be when Jack Storey – a well known comedian- came on stage – a real life Archie Rice with his black patent leather hair, toothbrush moustache and garish tartan suit carrying a candle in a jam jar. An air- raid siren would sound…

‘Jerry’s over!’
‘Never mind! We’ll mop it up in’t morning!’

How we kids howled with laughter.
At the end of the show the finale would be representatives of the Forces marching on in uniform plus Brittania with helmet and swathed in Union Jacks and the rest of the performers with great fervour would sing:-
There'll always be an England,
words & music Ross Parker & Hughie Charles

I give you a toast Ladies and gentlemen,
I give you a toast Ladies and gentlemen
May this fair land we love so well,
In Dignity and freedom dwell.
while worlds may change and go awry,
Whilst there is still one voice to cry!---

There'll always be an England,
While there's a country lane.
Wherever there's a cottage small
Beside a field of grain
There'll always be an England
While there's a busy street.
Wherever there's a turning wheel
A million marching feet.
Red, white and blue
What does it mean to you?
Surely you're proud
Shout it loud
Britons awake!
The Empire too
We can depend on you.
Freedom remains
These are the chains
Nothing can break.
There'll always be an England
And England shall be free
If England means as much to you
As England means to me.

By the last verse the tempo would slow down, the passion would increase and the resounding finish would inspire us all with feel-good patriotism.
I suppose it would be considered frightfully non PC nowadays but it got us through a difficult time. Can you imagine sweets being rationed? I must have drifted off because the next thing I knew it was nearly seven am and I realised I could go downstairs and stuff myself silly with Belgian chocolates if I wanted to. Common sense prevailed and I settled for cinnamon porridge with honey.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Lunch Out

I had a glorious lie-in this morning. Yesterday was a late celebration for Margaret’s birthday, it was my turn to drive and as usual I was a bag of nerves getting ready. I had booked a table for lunch at the White Horse in Washford but I had to decide how to amuse the other three between 10.30am and 12.30am with weather that made serving coffee out of the boot of the car an ordeal.

My brainwave was to go down through the town and park at The Factory Shop - a favourite of most of our visitors. In a rare dry spell we had coffee first and a long chat sitting in the car and then ambled into the store. This was a great success and at 11. 45 I suggested we should wend our way. A pair of fur- lined boots, a pair of slippers and three sweaters were bought and the prices elicited smiles all round.

Margaret was looking particularly perky in a new red coat with a smart funnel neck. The last time we met she was devastated as the house chain she was in had broken and all seven couples toppled over like dominoes. Then after days of uncertainty suddenly it was mended again but everybody decided they didn’t want move before Christmas.

‘Margaret when will it be really, really certain it is all going to go through?’

‘On the day we all move and we all have to move at the same time.’

‘And when will that be?’

‘We don’t know - possibly the second week in January.’

Cripes! The good news is Margaret reckons this won’t be our last lunch out.

They seemed pleased that I had chosen the White Horse – it’s always fun to watch the animals in the field by the car park and the roaring fire was very welcome as we were made to feel.

The landlord looked dubious when I asked if there was any exciting non – alcoholic drink for the driver but he found a berry drink which was better than the eternal diet coke. We all began to relax and settled in for a couple of hours of eating, drinking and talking – all of which we are quite good at. There was plenty of time for us to unburden ourselves and catch up with news.
We don’t do texting and Margaret - with all her house related doings kept finding an envelope shape on her mobile. She did read the instructions as to how to down load it but in the end asked her daughter to do it.

‘Mum you’ve got 60 messages’
If you have elderly P’s with mobiles make sure they understand texting before you text them. It doesn’t come naturally to us.

Delicious chilli con carne, naughty garlic bread and courgette crumble with brie followed by treacle sponge and lemon brulee were respectively enjoyed and then as customary, the birthday girl went to powder her nose whilst we paid the bill. Even I was feeling mellow now so I invited then back for tea. The driving was fine except for one moment in the car park when I noticed an unfamiliar red light and found I was moving off with the brake on. I blame the berry drink.

By the time the girls left we all had broad smiles on our faces and I felt grateful for their friendship and unfailing support.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

A small Problem

I wish I were more of a technocrat but I have to be realistic, celebrate the fact that I can just about find my way around a computer and accept there is a limit to any further progress I could make. At present I am revising my potential book and sending four chapters at a time to a friend who is reading it for me. When I first started sending out to agents some months back I used snail mail which is time consuming and expensive. Whilst dealing with agents I learned about attachments – sending copy attached to an email - and that is what I am doing now.

I have the whole thing in a Word document so I work on the relevant four chapters and then copy and paste them onto a separate document and email that as an attachment. I’m still quite nervous doing this so I always click on the attachment to check it is all there. The problem is the page numbers on the original document aren’t transferred. As my friend prints them out this could be a problem if the pages were disturbed. Is there a simple remedy? Nothing too complicated as my heart is in my mouth every time I do it.