Sunday, February 27, 2011

A bientot!

Our French family are safely back in Tours – it’s been a delightful visit. The children: G a 16 year old boy – a keen chess player, hoping to study medicine, D a thirteen year old boy – noted for his one –liners (‘but you are going to be dead’ , when I asked him if he would come alone to visit when he was a big boy)- now a pianist who wants to be a cosmonaut and E, an eight year old little girl with long, soft curling hair and an angelic demeanour – perfectly capable of holding her own if she feels her brothers are invading her space.

I shall miss the sight of Papa and son playing chess, of little E writing a journal of her holiday (and in French too – joke) and the neat row of boots scrubbed by Papa after a visit to The Tropiquaria, the local Zoo with very muddy grounds. We ate out with them twice – lunch at The Blue Ball where D was given permission to play the piano, and dinner at the Bistro where we are now recognised and treated royally.

Eating out with the young can be a trial but the conduct of our French three was exemplary. What helps is the two brothers enjoy each other’s company – unlike two of their uncles- and E enjoys being one of the grown –ups and when she’s had enough just curls up on one of the sofas and has a zizzzz.

G still adores Mr Kipling’s apple pies. They all love salt and vinegar crisps – which they don’t have in France, HP sauce, tomato ketchup and Marmite and I suspect the clothes shops in Minehead and Taunton have had one of their better weeks. I still have the beautiful roses they brought and the champagne was sublime.

I had a phone call from the doctor I saw about my shoulder/neck. The x-ray showed some erosion of the cervical bones and disc but as # 1 son says you’d expect it at my age. I think she said the pain makes the muscle go into spasm – or was it the other way round? She was pleased when I told her the pain had stopped after the massage/manipulation and we agreed I should drop the anti inflammatory tabs etc but keep them to hand. The pain killers I dropped days ago. I asked her if there was anything to worry about and she said only if I get pins and needles or numbness in the arm. I intend to continue with the physio and exercises.

Tomorrow we go to Taunton for MTL’s CCT scan which should show what effect the chemo has had and then a week later we see the oncologist so – everything crossed.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Night to Remember

After the hoo ha, all was quiet and at last we were alone. A bed had been moved into your father’s study with its fearsome draughts from the enormous sash window. The empty champagne glasses and the bulbous brass door knob gleamed in the dying firelight - the cream – tiled fifties fireplace at odds with the Victorian skirting boards and picture rails, but before central heating, we were thankful for some extra warmth on that icy February night.

Through a chink in the curtains I glimpsed daffodils, ghostly in the moonlight. Too excited to sleep I studied my new love - your hair the colour of treacle toffee, darker than your brother’s golden syrup coloured hair and you a whole pound heavier. You snuffled and PING the milk came in. I’d eschewed the champagne brought by my sister and husband, so no tummy ache for you. Too excited to sleep I relished this precious time with you before the rest of our world joined us. What larks we’d have.

Happy Birthday darling!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Monday Monday!

Two tips: do you remember last year when my grand-son fell from a rock into the sea just below Hunter’s Moon and learned the lesson: always get Grandma to look after your iphone when mucking about. Sticking it on the Aga was not the answer. Too late now for Tom but had he encased it in rice, all the moisture would have been absorbed. So I am reliable informed.

Secondly, if like me you enjoy boiled egg and soldiers, salt the toast NOT the egg or you’ll be salting fruitlessly all lunch time.

Yesterday I visited our new hospital. It has the look of a thirties Odeon. It was deluging so no photo. I only saw the large reception hall, the x-ray department and the Physio upstairs. The staff are still finding their way around but seem pleased with their new surroundings. Sadly it’s now just too far to walk – close to the super markets.

After having my neck x- rayed (seems that is the problem and the shoulder is just a spin-off) I ignored the lift and found the Physio. There is a high security element so you don’t walk in anywhere without identifying yourself. No waiting around apart from our being quite early – as usual. I met the therapist who was a New Zealander who I took to and happily answered her questions about pain levels and general life style. She was helpful, reassuring and when she offered to give me a treatment I gratefully accepted. Lying face down I felt every part of my upper body having a thorough going over and felt so light headed I was laughing out loud at times. She found a knot in my right scapula which clicked every time she massaged it and was the trigger point.

She told me she was just about to leave for her home land till mid March and would I like another therapist to continue. She gave me confidence and hope that the problem could be eliminated so I decide to wait for her return. Meanwhile I have anti –inflammatory tabs and tabs to combat any resulting indigestion, neck exercises, trunk exercises and the tip that any warm applications are good.

Now I can enjoy our French family – five in all – who arrive this afternoon and prove to the middle grand child that I am not dead yet. Forgive me if I’m not around – it’s going to be busy.

PS: sorry folks - just realised that it's Tuesday Tuesday. Time flies when you're having fun.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Don't you love period pieces?

Anna Maxwell Martin and David Morrissey.
See you at 9pm sharp!
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Sunday Night Treat

Some author’s names have stayed in a special compartment of my girlhood memory: Angela Brazil, Richmal Crompton, Margaret Mitchell, Louisa. M. Alcott and Winifred Holtby. Winifred Holtby wrote South Riding in the 1930’s and it was published posthumously. Set in a fictional part of Yorkshire – there is no South Riding – it tells the story of Sarah Burton an inspirational teacher. Her fiancée is killed in WW1 and she returns from London to Yorkshire – her birth place – to become head of a grammar school. Sarah is a gutsy heroine – she needs to be to make any headway in the male council dominated Yorkshire.

The novel has been adapted by Andrew Davies who has such titles as Middlemarch, Pride and Prejudice and Vanity Fair already under his belt. The cast includes Anna Maxwell Martin as Sarah and Douglas Henshall and David Morrissey are the two male leads. The fantastic cast include Penelope Wilton and Peter Firth. There are three parts on Sundays at 9pm on BBC 1.

I always pictured Wendy Hiller in the part – remember Shaw’s Major Barbara – but I’m sure Anna Maxwell Martin won’t disappoint. I wouldn’t miss it for the world so must record the third episode of The Promise – a dissection of the Palestinian and Jewish problems in the forties – more enthralling than it sounds.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Stage is set!

Orchestra and Beginners please!

Come on! What['s keeping you?
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Friday, February 18, 2011

Something I sing to myself when I'm feeling blue. Wish I could whistle.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

It's a New Day!

And I'm feeling good! If you want to know why click on Saoirse on my side bar. It's pronounced seersha and means freedom( courtesy of Mapstew.)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Trying to be green.

Don’t get me a Valentine’s card this year. The one you got last year was so lovely you can use it every year from now on – just sign it each year – it had about six pages.’

‘Thems’ were my green intentions – also specific shopping is not so easy for MTL now. But somehow he had already bought one. However we have cut down on chocolates –just four heart shaped ones and I gave one to Sheila. And we have decided not to eat the special meal we bought as we still have gorgeous beef to eat up.

I made a great big fuss about nothing. The meal I was getting in such a stew about yesterday was ace – you can always tell by the total concentration folk give when they are eating it. We had a pleasant week-end and went to the Bistro Saturday night where we were all tempted by their pies, mash and gravy with different flavours for each. I had minty lamb pie, cheesy mash and garlic gravy. We decided the French, due next week – all five - would love it

The desserts were delicious – I had a boozy chocolate brulee and J had a passion fruit concoction. The next morning I asked DIL if she wanted to see some shots I’d taken and she said didn’t I remember I had shown them to her the night before? I said I probably had more than one glass of wine so tend to be hazy about events. It seems I had a kir before we left because the pub where younger son likes to have a drink first, sometimes has vinegary wine. Then DIL persuaded me to have a sweet wine and then I had a glass with the meal – as you do. Oh and then the boozy dessert so you can see I was practically on the floor.

Last October when I visited them for a few days my son trying out a new camera did a video, talking to me about my childhood, the war, his grandparents, his father and general family history. I had mixed feelings about watching it. Playing a part on stage is one thing – being me, alone on camera, another kettle of fish. Actually it wasn’t too cringe making and here’s why. I was physically very comfortable – curled up on a bed with cushions propping the potentially achy parts and I found it quite comforting to be fondling one of the big soft floppy toys that happened to be close by.

My interviewer was encouraging, attentive, relaxed and humorous. Throw in a glass of wine and voila. I was relieved with what I saw and although it still has to be edited, it made me laugh. Wish I could think who it reminded me of.

Comfy on Camera
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Sunday, February 13, 2011

Betty Garrett 1919-2011 RIP

All followers of Old Old Lady of the Hills (Naomi side bar)- a dear friend of Betty for many years, will feel sad at this news.
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Saturday, February 12, 2011


I have this thing about accuracy. Tomorrow I'm roasting a prime sirloin joint of beef. It weighs 1.045kg. It requires 30 mins per 450g plus 30 mins. How long shall I cook it?
The brains are watching an old Randolph Scott movie.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Jack Evans Barnes 1932 - 1999

Some time ago I donated a cup, as an English Literature prize to my old school BRGS , in memory of my brother. Yesterday I received a sweet thank you card, forwarded by the school.

Dear Mr Barnes,
Just to say a large thank-you for the cup for English GCSE!
I really enjoy english, and take english Literature at A-level so to be awarded the cup was for me a great honour.
After the completion of my A-levels I hope to study medicine at university and to be able to have shown I have achieved a mark of excellence in a subject will hopefully help me to win a place and allow me to follow my dreams.
Thank you once again!
Charlotte Bradbury

Jack would be tickled pink!

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Rainin’ again!

I still remember the gloom laden voice of my grandmother when it rained on a Monday – Wash Day as written on tablets of stone. My spirits would sink until I learned to laugh at the ridiculous theatricality of it.

It’s raining relentlessly today but as MTL says:

‘It’s warmer and the wind’s dropped.’ Dunkirk spirit?

The weather and sunlight do seem to affect one’s spirits. Ponita ( side bar) who lives in the centre of Canada says :

Pat, we have tons of sunshine here. It is the one thing that makes the winters livable here... dazzlingly brilliant sun with crystal clear blue skies. Just don't go outside!! ;-)

This is a time of year when vulnerable people can sink into a depression, sometimes for no apparent reason. Are there more cases of depression in a country like Britain, which can have endless gray, gloomy days compared with somewhere like California for instance? Have you any thoughts on this?

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

What did I tell you?

First signs of Spring two days ago.

Today - my very own daffodils. Actully I didn't plant them deep enough so they were falling over but who cares - you don't have to be Constance Spry to make the first daffodils look enchanting.

Webster was much posessed by death
And saw the skull beneath the skin
Daffodil bulbs instead of balls
Stared from the sockets of the eyes.
T.S. Eliot 1888-1965
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Monday, February 07, 2011

You can say that again!

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.

Albert Camus

Numbing the pain for a while will make it worse when you finally feel it.

J.K. Rowling

After all is said and done, a lot more will be said than done.


Start every day off with a smile and get it over with.

W.C. Fields

I am not young enough to know everything.

Oscar Wilde

Hard work never killed anybody, but why take a chance?

Edgar Bergen

A word to the wise ain’t necessary – it’s the stupid

ones that need the advice.

Bill Cosby

I never hated a man enough to give him his diamonds back.

Zsa Zsa Gabor

With every experience, you alone are painting your own canvas, thought by thought, choice by choice.

Ophra Winfrey

Procrastination is the thief of time.

Edward Young

I don’t feel old. I don’t feel anything until noon. Then it’s time for my nap.

Bob Hope

Justice delayed is justice denied

William Gladstone

A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.

Winston Churchill

Idealism is what precedes experience; cynicism is what follows.

David T. Wolf

Every once in a while take the scenic route.

H. Jackson Brown JR

J, K, Rowling

Zsa Zsa Gabor and husband

W. C. Fields

Oscar Wilde
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Sunday, February 06, 2011

A Song for Sunday

Friday, February 04, 2011

Tide's out!

As you can see yesterday was brighter. By the time I finished at the hairdresser's it was too late to leave Minehead so we ended up at the Quay Inn. It seems they are still doing half price meals
until mid February. Below is looking south towards the harbour. You can just see Wales across the water
Looking north towards Butlin's and the golf course.

The Quay Inn and the lower slopes of North Hill.

The birds are singing their heads off even before it gets light. The must mean Spring is a cumin'!
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Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Helena Bonham Carter and Colin Firth.
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It Puzzled me for Years.

‘Have you got any chocolate?

It was the second time I had seen William – ten days after we met at the hospital dance and we were going to the flicks. He might as well know my weaknesses straight off - I was just 20 and still suffering from the trauma of sweet rationing which continued long after the end of the war.

‘I’ll go and get some but there’s something I should tell you - I have a stammer.’

One of the first things that attracted me to him was his beautiful speaking voice – a little like a young Roger Livesey and although we had chatted pretty well non stop there had been no trace of a stammer. As soon as we went in the sweet shop William’s jaw seemed to be paralysed and he couldn’t utter. The first of many dilemmas: did I speak for him or wait with the shop keeper in an increasingly embarrassed silence.

In the end I spoke up saying which was my preference. Later he told me he had had the stammer as long as he could remember but it got really bad when he was about eleven and his parents – both school teachers - had scraped up the money to send him up to London to be treated by Lionel Logue – an Australian speech therapist who was treating the King’s younger son who became King.

‘No way was I going to let this trick cyclist teach me how to speak!’ With my northern pragmatism this seemed like cutting off your nose to spite your face. It was even more of a puzzle when I realised how much he loved and respected his quite elderly parents and for years I couldn’t understand how he could waste their hard earned money like that.

The stammer never stopped him doing what he wanted to do. He had served in the navy, opting to be a rating rather than an officer like his brother, and had just finished at university where he got a first class honours. Later a friend told me he was in the debating society and when he was told his allotted speaking time was up insisted he should have longer as he had a stammer.

After the cinema – without hesitation, ten days into our relationship, he asked me to marry him. I noticed at the dance he had happily chatted to Matron – a rare occurrence. No shrinking violet he.


Back to the future and in the consultant’s waiting room we had just started our coffee – espresso for MTL and latte for me when Doctor F popped his head round the door and said they were running early.

‘Oooh good – we’re hoping to go to the cinema!’

He was pleased with all the results he’d been monitoring, noted MTL had put on some weight, and after an examination made an appointment for March after he had had the results of a scan to be taken in late February. He said as the cancer had been quite aggressive he wanted to make sure all was well.

Perfect timing: by the time we reached the cinema there was time to eat the bacon sarnies I had made and we were seated by 1 pm agog. Eryl told me to take tissues and I felt a prickle from the very first shot when I absorbed the art nouveau décor. But there were no tears – I was transfixed – a little girl again, and stayed rapt till the glorious end.

When you see Bertie’s anger and scorn at Lionel’s antics and multiply then by a hundred you would get some idea of that young boy’s attitude and now I could see clearly how it happened. What a pity he didn’t have the equivalent of a young Queen Mum to encourage and nurture him. One of his grandsons ( William died before he was born) also has a stammer but he is much more amenable to treatment and doesn’t let it impede him in any way.

The acting is superb but Helena Bonham Carter was an absolute joy. She looked incredibly like the young Bowes Lyon, more beautiful but most importantly she got Elizabeth’s natural charm and class. Some actors think it is enough to talk posh and I commend *Australian Guy Pearce for getting Edward’s gamey type of speech so accurately. I enjoyed Geoffrey Rush's performance. As he walked towards the camera with a slight swagger I recognised someone from that period - was it Noel Coward?

If you can keep a cinema audience in a breathless hush I think one might say the film worked. It truly is magnificent, I couldn’t fault it and that doesn’t often happen. You don’t have to be British but my God I felt proud of what that film portrayed. After an unprecedently difficult start, Bertie went on to be a much loved king – with the help and support of Elizabeth his wife. We were so fortunate not to have ended up with the weak and selfish Edward who ended his days not very happily with Mrs Simpson.

As the audience filed out I noted many of them were very elderly women with many sticks and wheel chairs. That would account for the silence: they had all been little girls again for a couple of hours.

* Actually Guy Pearce was born in the UK and went to Australia aged three.