Monday, August 30, 2010

And so it goes.

Dear Friends

I’ve just finished packing. Not for a holiday – our October week in Fremington has been cancelled to give us time to recover. A loved one is having major surgery on Thursday DV, and I am going too. Do you remember a couple of weeks ago I asked for your good vibes, wishes, prayers – whatever is relevant to you - and then I put them on hold. Now is the time to gather them round us.

As they used to say in business letters:

Thank you in anticipation.


P.S. Enjoy Dinah and the lovely song - an old favourite. Keep the faith.

The Blue Ball Inn aka the Sand Piper - Countisbury

The last time we came here was 15 years ago with my late brother and his wife. Much larger than I remember. Shame about the weather.

Lots of lovely wine and the ale is said to be good. This is the main road between Lynton and Porlock and it has seen a lot of history.
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Blue Ball Inn aka the Sand Piper contd.
Inside is cosy and inviting

Large menu which French son approved of.

This is Countisbury at the edge of Exmoor. The Doone Valley is close by and Lynton and Lymouth are one and a half miles away down a breathtaking steep hill bordered by the sea.

This is Countisbury Church just across from the inn. That's the tip of my umbrella - the weather was atrocious. But we has a great time.
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Friday, August 27, 2010

Visit to Cheltenham

Here comes our train - to a flowerless Taunton

First view of Cheltenham - they did have flowers at the entrance.
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Margaret has done three of these tapestries chronicling their married life. I asked who would get them when they kick the bucket and she said they would probably end up on the tip. I don't believe it for a moment

This delightful hill with waving grasses is a boon from their windows. The garden is 5 months old and an Aladdin's cave of precious plants

A lovely bright sitting room

There are two of these chairs which I loved - so comfy. Malcolm's father had them made in his factory in the twenties. Very arts and crafts
. For years they have been stuck in the garage but now with bright new covers they have come home. They recline too. That's Margaret
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Cheltenham contd

Our last view of Cheltenham - should be at the bottom but I haven't time to fiddle:)

Margaret's beautiful fairy plates. she gave me Sweet Pea as a parting gift.

Down sizing means Malcolm's study has shrunk.
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Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Flying Missile and the Fox.

The three of us – Jackie, Joy and I set off at 8.30 am with Joy at the wheel to arrive in good time at Taunton station for the Edinburgh train which would drop us at Cheltenham. Parking was fine and I got a ticket for ten hours - £4.60. Jackie’s daughter had booked the rail tickets on line and we were to collect the tickets at the station by means of a giant machine. This took a little time.

W expected to get three return tickets or maybe six each way tickets. In fact we got thirteen and there was much time spent with each of us perusing them, to work out why we had thirteen tickets. Jackie assured us we had already paid the correct amount so if they chose to give us extra tickets – tant pis – as they say in France. We decide to split them, with Jackie in charge of six and Joy in charge of the remaining seven.

What’s happened to Taunton station? It used to be a picture of blooming flower beds but there was not a bloom in sight. We estimated where our coach would be – wrongly as it turned out - and then had a long wobbly trundle through the coaches which seemed to be keen not to declare their identity. Eventually we found the correct coach and there were our seats - fully occupied. One look at our faces and as one man the interlopers rose to relinquish them. The girls were seated behind me and all was well until the affable ticket inspector appeared. There was some badinage about the number of tickets but he regretfully pointed out that the ones he required – Taunton to Cheltenham were missing.

Both Jackie and Joy then did a search of their equally capacious handbags whilst the ticket inspector’s affability faded somewhat. Together the girls decided that

‘Pat must have them.’


To humour them I did a perfunctory search and reminded them of the sharing out of the tickets. Then Jackie waved the paper work which listed all the bookings and the ticket inspector accepted that as proof we had paid for the missing tickets. He assured us that had it been another ticket inspector we would have had to pay again.

Moral: keep all paper work with you at all times.

Some time after 11a.m. we arrived at Cheltenham Spa and there at the very spot where we were going to dismount was a smiling Margaret. There were hugs and non stop chatter whilst she ushered us into the car and whisked us off to her new home. As we were admiring the front garden (Malcolm had brought with him a lorry load of his precious plants) Jackie sneezed, pulled her handkerchief out of her pocket along with the missing tickets.

Coffee calmed us down and we chatted non stop whilst Margaret and Malcolm prepared lunch, chicken breasts wrapped in bacon stuffed with delicious cheesy ooze, Cornish potatoes, broccoli, carrots and a yummy leek sauce. We christened the new dining room – each room had been stacked with furniture whist the extensions and decorations had taken place. All is complete now apart from the finishing of a utility room.

The reason for moving was to downsize and be near to their daughters. With all amenities close by, excellent transport and all that Cheltenham has to offer (the Literary Festival for instance which MTL and I enjoyed some time back) they certainly seem to have done the right thing and are both very happy.

There was talk of a drive round in the afternoon but the weather worsened and we were all happy to slump and chill with one of Margaret’s daughters (who we all knew) and granddaughter arriving to provide the cabaret. The garden and house were admired and gradually we caught up with the last six months. The three of us felt completely taken care of; Margaret had worked out exactly when we should leave for the station and meanwhile we would have a delicious tea – in the kitchen this time.

All too soon we were back on the station and Margaret insisted on phoning our homes to tell them the train was running late. The journey back to Taunton was much quieter – we could sit anywhere and the sun made it a lovely evening. The journey however was slow and wearisome, the sun was replaced by a harvest moon (according to Jackie) and we realised the drive back to Taunton would be in the dark. Not what we had planned.

We were just over the permitted ten hours but there were no penalties and we set off on the last leg of our journey. Joy was a little concerned about a red triangle on the dash board but all seemed to be working as usual so decided to ignore it. As we left the town and got on the bendy, hilly A358 a ‘Red Route’ we all screeched when a flying missile hit the windscreen and went hurtling past.

‘Oh I must have left my walking stick on the car.’ said Joy. The traffic behind caused Joy to drive a little faster than we would have liked but the rest of the drive was uneventful until we all screeched again. There was what looked like a dog sitting terrified in the glare of the headlights. Joy swerved violently into what would have been the oncoming traffic if our guardian Angel had been asleep. It was a fox of course and no way would you get an animal lover like Joy to do the ‘drive straight on’ theory of the safest way to deal with it.

We both agreed that Joy was a brick and also that we should not repeat the travelling experience. No-one spoilt us like Margaret had always done and we have been lucky to have her for so long in our lives. We could only be happy for her that all has turned out so well.

Some photos later.

P.S. Of course we had dessert - two - equally delicious.

P.P.S. We happened to cover the same road the next day with our French son. No trace of fox or walking stick and I think French son was teasing when he said he spotted an overturned car in a field.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Rita Hayworth - this does her more justice than the one below
She had a low hairline on her brow which had to be waxed. Nobody's perfect.
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The rain it raineth on the just

And also on the unjust fella:

But chiefly on the just, because

The unjust steals the just’s umbrella.

Lord Bowen 1853/1894

Il pleure dans mon coeur

Comme il pleut sur la ville.

There is weeping in my heart as it rains on the city.

Paul Verlaine 1844/1896

I thought we were in danger of being washed down the hill last night. Forget cats and dogs; it was raining rhinos and elephants.

We did have a small catastrophe later on. There was an almighty crash which set my heart a flutter – we were in different parts of the house- MTL joined me in the hall and we stared at a four foot wall clock which inexplicably had crashed down from the top landing gouging paintwork, plaster and wall paper en route. It has never worked during my reign and will suddenly set off chimes for no reason so as far as I am concerned its time is up and I never want to see it again.

Tomorrow should be fun: Joy picks Jackie and me up at 8.30am to drive us to Taunton where we get a train to Cheltenham. If all goes to plan Margaret will meet us at the other end and we will spend the day with her inspecting her new house and garden and generally catching up on the last six months. There may be tears.

When we get back home – pretty late - I shall have the pleasure of seeing our French son who is visiting for a few days to help us through a busy time. On Tuesday for instance we have three separate appointments in different parts of Taunton which require accurate timing. I’m hoping there may be a chance to stock up on make up which I can only get in Taunton.

So next week my posts and visits will be haphazard. Plus ca change…

Whenever I talk of rain I always think of that marvellous film based on a Somerset Maugham story which I think was called Rain but the film was Miss Sadie Thompson. If you get a chance to see the film do – it’s stayed with me for decades. Rita was sensational and Jose Ferrer such a swine (as he was meant to be)

Rita Hayworth as Miss Sadie Thompson

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Just one of the Few

Seventy years ago today Winston Churchill (Winnie) uttered the immortal words:

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few

We – the British Public were the many and the few were men like Robert Doe (Bob) fighter pilots in the Second World War.

Bob was recognised as an ‘Ace’ after winning five air battles in his first week of fighting in August 1940. In 1940 he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross "for his outstanding dash and an eagerness to engage the enemy at close quarters", to which was added a bar after he was shot down over Dorset later the same year.

He was also awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his inspirational leadership during service in India - being one of only two men to be awarded this.

I met Bob in the sixties when he was a tall, balding, attractive man – great fun at parties and he and his tall raven haired wife made a striking couple. I had no idea of his war-time fame until many years later when I saw him being interviewed on TV.

Bob died this year at the age of 89. RIP

Wing Commander Robert Doe 1920 / 2010

Winston Churchill(Winnie)
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Thursday, August 19, 2010

News Flash

Like Mapstew yesterday - whose daughter did brilliantly in her exams - I am happy to say Alice has achieved the University of her choice and will be studying English and American Studies. Bethan also did well with the same grades - 2 x As and a B. She also has the University of her choice but not the same as Alice so it will be a long distance relationship. Well done girls.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Feeling a little inadequate

Important Man: you’d better give me your mobile number.

Pat: Oh shall I phone your secretary and give it to her?

Important Man: don’t you have it with you?

Pat: er no. I have it written in my diary.

Important Man: …?

Pat ( scrabbling in handbag) Oh I changed my handbag so my diary isn’t here. Sorry.

Important Man: Just text it to me.

Pat: I don’t text. I…

Important Man: – with the hint of a sigh. Just phone my secretary.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Alice and Bethan’s Summer Holiday

Alice is my grand-daughter and she and her friend Bethan – both 18 year olds have just left school, are waiting for their A level results and opted to spend their summer holiday working in an orphanage in Mexico. Here is Alice’s account:-

Puerto Vallarta is a city in Jalisco, Mexico where I spent 3 weeks this summer, volunteering at an orphanage with a friend. It has many of the marks of a popular American tourist destination, and yet manages to maintain the charm of a small Mexican town, rich in culture and traditional values.

The orphanage we worked at was a short bus ride from the centre, or Malecon, but it was almost like a different country. The Malecon is home to beautiful beaches, scattered with local people trying to sell bracelets, small toys and fake tattoos to anyone and everyone (the phrase 'no gracias' could be repeated hundreds of times during a day at the beach!) The centre also contains bars, restaurants and souvenir shops where I shamelessly purchased unnecessary Mexican paraphernalia: sombreros, maracas, the lot.

The orphanage was located in a small residential area, placed at the top of a steep slope, the walk up to which was often more tiring than the subsequent 5 hour shift, particularly when you consider the 35 degree heat.

Although I don't speak any Spanish, there wasn't a real language barrier with the kids.

I organised my volunteer work with a British company, and there were around 35 other British volunteers at the orphanage, so the children are used to English speaking volunteers and, although they don't really speak any English, there is a certain universal level of understanding. Some phrases you would pick up in your first shift, such as "caballito!" from the mouth of an excited child, caballito meaning piggyback, and "no los hagas!" being said by one of the nannies, which means 'don't do that.'

Day to day work at the orphanage was so rewarding; sometimes you would spend the day just sitting with the children reading or watching a bit of television before going to play outside, but you always came away feeling you'd been a huge help (and also very tired!)

All the children were real characters, within a few days you would know who to look out for and who were the cheeky ones. There was Angel for example, ironically named since he had a bit of a temper and the only English he knew was "stinky," which he'd shout at all the volunteers at least once a day. Still, his personality really shone through, and after a few days with him I ended up teaching him numbers; he learnt 1 - 10 in English and he taught me 1 - 10 in Spanish, so we both came away with something!

At times the work was quite heartbreaking. Hearing some of the children's stories made me truly appreciate how blessed I am to have my family supporting me. Some of the children suffered from mental disorders and physical disabilities. They had such a sense of fun though; I could spend a whole shift outside with them, laughing and playing, and then feel guilty for calling it work!

I'd really love to do something similar again, and am already thinking about next summer. Working with children has always appealed to me and my time at the orphanage definitely confirmed this interest.

Below are a few pictures from my time there. The children adored having their picture taken, often trying to grab the camera themselves. They also had a fondness for taking volunteers sunglasses, which you can see from the photos!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The children

Bethan and Alice with children

Bethan and child

Alice and child
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Bethan and Alice - Angel nearest camera.

Alice giving a piggy back

Little girl with purloined shades

The beach
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This post was inspired by Madame Defarge's beautiful post (see side bar) Tears to a Brass I
Thanks to Milady de Languor for reminding me that the film was called Brassed Off
You may cry:)

Friday, August 13, 2010

Florida in 2003

Photos taken by my son. I've never been to Florida. The bird life look fascinating.

Thought for the day: we talk a lot in Blogland about positive thinking. I believe in it and regard it as a suit of armour one can don to protect against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. But what when one wakes in the middle of the night and the armour is on the chair by the bed and one is beset by doubts and fears before there is time to reach out. What then? Is there a chain mail sleep wear?

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010


I haven't felt like this since VE Day. At noon we watched in the garden as the Red Devils jumped - as if they were going to land in the garden. I stood on the picnic table - camera in hand with MTL grabbing my ankles. As always happens when I get excited my camera jammed so I just wallowed in the spectacle.

The Red Arrows were due at 3.30pm and I can't find the words to describe what I felt. It couldn't have been more emotional if they had been my kin. They plummetted and swooped - sometimes gone before one could find them but the display was generous and if anyone in Minehead didn't see them they must have been asleep. By then I had jettisoned the camera and it was a bit heart breaking - especially when they made a heart and then an arrow piercing it. Thankfully I had down loaded the photos but nothing beats the live performance.
Red Arrows and Red Devils I salute you.

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Sunrise from the balcony

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Bits and Pieces

Monday went well and we got the perfect parking place. One of the people we saw was Dawn French’s doppelganger with her Corrrrrrnish accent which brightened the day. We were done by lunch time, so called at the super big nursery for lunch and bought some bulbs: 25 Crocus Ruby Giant, 12 Iris Pauline and 12 Crocus Striped Beauty - purple, striped lilac and deep blue. Hopefully next week I’ll have time to finish the pots and let Karen do the bulbs. I never seem to get them deep enough although these are quite small.

I also renewed our depleted fat balls – the birds seem to be shunning us – and had the delight of watching a cheeky shrew sitting atop of one - inside the feeder. He munched happily, waited till I had brought my camera from upstairs and then shot off before I could focus.

Today’s excitement is a visit from the Red Arrows over Minehead. For days it looked as if they wouldn’t make it – they were grounded when engineers detected a crack in the ejector seat of one of the planes based at RAF Valley on Anglesey. Now the MOD have confirmed they have been cleared to fly following safety checks. I believe the Red Devils – the official parachute display team of the Parachute Regiment will also appear.

I shall try to catch some of the action from the balcony but, although we overlook a deep bowl, there are many old tall trees around and I can’t spare the time to go down to the town today.

Acknowledged as one of the world’s premier aerobatic teams, The Red Arrows are the public face of the Royal Air Force. The Red Arrows exist to demonstrate the professional excellence of the RAF and promote recruitment to the RAF. Evidence shows that The Red Arrows have inspired a significant number of people to join the RAF, both as officers and airmen, and to all trades, not just aircrew.

The Team contributes to Defence Diplomacy, and supports wider British interests through the promotion of British industry overseas. The Hawk aircraft flown by the Team and most of its components are all British made. Thus during overseas tours The Red Arrows demonstrate both British skill and British technology to an enormous number of people each year.

An early start tomorrow for another trip to Taunton. I’ll try to work on the book I wanted to tell you about.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Everything stops when the music stops

I saw Sergio Tiempi play Venezuelan music - he is Venezuelan - on TV yesterday and it was sublime. I can't find it on you tube but this will give you a glimmer.

Off to Taunton today.

Friday, August 06, 2010


State of stopped flow, stagnation. Rather like I feel today with regard to writing a post. I did consider enlightening you with the longest words in the English language but by the time I’d typed honorificabilitudinitatibus I was glazing over. However – just for Randall (see sidebar) here is a German one:


I’m not going into Mary Poppins and that song, but you all know the Welsh place with 58 letters and which means the church of St Mary in a hollow of white hazel, near to the rapid whirlpool and St Tysilio church, near to a red cave.

The longest English surname is said to be Featherstonehaugh which as we all know is pronounced Fanshaw.

(Courtesy of the Wordsworth Dictionary of Phrase and Fable which has found its way into the upstairs loo).

Today’s good news is that dementia can be staved off by eating copious amounts of fresh fruit and veg. Many people have thought – why be tested – Alzheimer’s is incurable, but it seems the right diet and continuing education can delay the progress of the disease. After the perfect peach I had yesterday eating fresh fruit and veg is no hardship for me.

The other good news is my grand daughter is back safe and sound from Puerto Vallarta and - as she knows I will be much occupied next week - will do a post for me and asks we keep fingers crossed for her A level results.

I now understand what you devotees of To kill a Mockingbird felt. I am reading my very own copy and it is balm to my soul. I want to tell you about another book I have just enjoyed but need to concentrate and collect my thoughts. I’ll try to make good use of the waiting around that next week promises and post it. I haven’t got the next book to read in mind – which always panics me slightly. I did consider The Third Man by Peter Mandelson but it sounds like a damp squib.

I’m going to follow my own advice of how to keep on an even keel by doing some routine stuff that doesn’t engage deep thought: some ironing and potting. My new baby chrysanthemums are looking sturdy enough to move out of their medium sized pots into ginormous ones. I need six so must turf out some plants which haven’t cut the mustard visually. I must remember to keep my pelvic floor taut when lifting.

Happy weekend all:)

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