18 March 2015

Is is just me?

I've always taken the view that a car is a metal box on four wheels designed to get me from A to B. I can't be arsed whether it's brand new, a status symbol, has a hundred gizmos and does 200 mph. I just want it to get me to my destination. My wonderful aged T-reg (16 years old, no central locking, no power steering, not even a CD player but still going like a dream) is more than enough for me. It'll be no surprise then that I have never watched a single episode of Top Gear  and so I do not have the slightest regard for Jeremy Clarkson that the rest of the nation seem to have, if all the recent fuss is anything to go on. But, aside from all that, let's look at the evidence. This is a grown man of fifty something who, after a long day, apparently threw a strop after he was served soup and a cold platter instead of the steak he fancied. The hotel chef had dared to go home after 10pm (probably after an even more exhausting day than Mr Clarkson will ever experience). Furthermore, we are told, Clarkson lashed out physically at his producer because of it. So why is everyone signing petitions to keep him in his job and treating him like the victim?  Is this the behaviour of someone you would like to know? If he were a work colleague of yours, would you be less worshipful?  If he were a child, you'd surely send him to his bed or the naughty step. Which, I think, is what the BBC should do with him. Anything else will surely give him a bigger stroppier head than it seems he already has.  As for ITV lurking in the wings for a chance to nab him for their schedules  for some astronomical sum, they should be ashamed of themselves, as they are only rewarding bad behaviour. It's tantamount to taking him to Disneyland because he's attacked his granny. Or is it just me?

13 March 2015

Red carpet

The Baftas and Oscars have been and gone, so I was surprised to find myself belatedly getting a gong myself. The lovely Flowerpot nominated me a couple of weeks ago for a blog award on her Flowerpot Days blog. I have been very tardy in responding to the challenge, but am keen to rectify that now, so am donning my ball gown, high heels and bling to teeter along the red carpet and start the ceremony.

Here are the rules for accepting this particular award:
  1. Thank the person who nominated you, and link to their blog
  2. Nominate other blogs and provide a link where they may be found
  3. Go to their blog, leave a comment to let them know they have been nominated, and where to find the information they need to accept.
  4. Then  mention three things that inspired you the most during the past few weeks. 

1. So, first a very big thank you to Flowerpot for nominating me. I love her blog Flowerpot Days because she writes so lovingly about Cornwall where she lives and works. (Her stories reminds me of my lovely honeymoon in Cornwall many decades ago, where Greg and I once considered living,  if only we could have got work down there. We fell in love with Polperro and went for job interviews in Plymouth, but it wasn't to be and London beckoned instead).
2. There are so many blogs I read and return to and they are all good in so many different ways, or else I would not go back to them time after time, but three stand out for me at present and are worthy of this award. The first is Hippo at Hippo on The Lawn who writes a pretty good read on all manner of subjects about his life in Angola.  The second is  Kellogsville with her blog A Guiding Life, as she is a mine of inspiration in keeping young people busy with all sorts of projects. The third is Nota Bene and his blog Don't Panic. RTFM - if you don't have a social life, you can live one through him - I don't know how he finds the time to sleep, but he is a mine of information on culture and things to do!
3. Done
4. Three things that have inspired me the most during the past few weeks
  • my wonderful daughter - she is doing more and more in hospital as she is 98% of the way to becoming a doctor. She rings me regularly and tells me snippets of what she has been doing and I am so proud of the mature way she already approaches things and deals with them. I can't say I was that level-headed at her age. I am so proud of her.
  • the lovely man I have been employing to do all sorts of odd jobs for me - on the roof, the brickwork and fences. He always rings first to warn me he is on his way, arrives bang on the dot, does an extremely professional job in so many different tasks for a reasonable cost and always tidies up after himself. Furthermore, he declines all offers of tea or coffee, as he prefers to get on with the job. An absolute gem and worth keeping in the contacts book for future work.
  • good friends - I have two very close friends who have stuck by me through thick and thin since we met at university and have never failed to deliver.
Well, that's it. Thank you again Flowerpot for thinking of me and I pass the baton on to the three above.  Won't be a mo -  I'm just going to kick off those high heels and have a glass of champagne with George Clooney and Richard Gere .........

05 March 2015


The appropriate gift for a fifth wedding anniversary is wood apparently. Quite who in their wisdom first decided on this is anyone's guess. Why wood, for heaven's sake? But then again why paper for the first and tin for the tenth?  Champagne might be a better choice or a long-service medal. But wood? What are you supposed to do with that? Bash one another over the head with it?

Tomorrow is the fifth anniversary since Greg died. I can barely believe five years have passed. I used to hate it when he was away from home for more than a few days. Occasionally we might have the odd week apart if I went away on business or he had to go off with the BBC to cover something for a report. But I could never have envisaged I would ever spend five weeks without him, let alone five years.

Till death us do part. Vows taken thirty-nine years ago with hardly a thought that they might one day actually mean something. That death would us part. I mean, honestly, who thinks about death on their wedding day? I suppose if I did ever think about it, it meant that we'd grow old together until one of us was struck down by sheer old age. We'd totter about in our carpet slippers in our double room in an old folk's home until one of us simply fell off our zimmer frame. The reality was far from that. Twenty-eight years of wedded bliss, another six of alcoholic hell ending in his death and now five as a widow. 

Surely, I'm too young to be a widow? I'm often told I look even younger than fifty and I feel it too. Somebody told me the other day I don't even look old enough to have a 24-year-old daughter. (If you are trying to envisage what I look like, I am a cross between Twiggy and Lulu -  I kinda look a lot like Twiggy in this picture - here (from the neck up obviously, though to be fair less sticklike from the neck down!)   I don't feel old. The very word "widow" makes me feel a hundred years old. It's one of those words in the English language that immediately has negative connotations. 

I have a photo of Greg on my study wall behind my laptop. I look at it daily. Sometimes I talk to it.   I might tell him what he's missing in the world's news; or in our own life; or how Kay's getting on; or how bloody lucky he is to have got off scotfree with some of the problems I'm facing with the house at the moment. When we were together, he would help put the bins out or unload the dishwasher (both jobs I absolutely hate - in fact owning a dishwasher at all was Greg's idea - I actually much prefer the therapeutic hands-in-sink  option). Now it's me every time that  puts the bins out and unloads the dishwasher. He smiles down on me from the photo frame beatifically, as if it's all the same to him. "You're on your own with this" he seems to say. "Not my problem any more".

He will of course eternally be the sixty-years he was when he died, but at the same time he will have missed out on the experiences I or Kay or the world have had since in the last five years. He will never see Kay graduate and take her first steps as a doctor; nor will he take her down the aisle and see her married with a family. So, on this wooden anniversary of his death, touch wood, wherever he is now, I hope he is happy and his suffering was worth it. As for me, I shall never ever truly know why he chose to go down that path, but it's time I moved on and stopped looking back, counting the years, or I'll never see the wood for the trees.


23 February 2015


I consider myself to be reasonably able to negotiate new technology, given I am now retired, living alone and do not always have my daughter around most of the time to fall back on at times when technology defeats me. So it has been a little frustrating that there are some of you out there - particularly those who write Wordpress blogs, where, try as I might, I cannot leave a comment. There is one blog in particular where I have tried to leave comments time after time over the last few months. The comment box is there. It has my correct blogname, email address and blog address. I write my comment, press "submit" and the comment never appears. At first I hoped it was just waiting for blog administrator's approval before being published, but that was not the reason as weeks later the comments still don't appear. I have even googled for advice on what to do if my comment won't appear, but that seems to draw a blank, as the answers seem to be directed at the blog owner not being able to receive comments, rather than the commenter not being able to leave comments.

So if you use Wordpress, live in the USA, are going through a bad patch  and don't get any comments from me, it is not for the want of me trying! If anyone else has any ideas what I am doing wrong, let me know.
courtesy of pixshark.com

17 February 2015


I've been enjoying watching the BBC2 series Inside the Commons not least because, when - in a previous life - I was a Civil Servant, a part of my work involved having to draft replies for Parliamentary Questions; or brief Secretaries of State and Royals for visits; or submit support for Honours nominations; or answer MPs' questions on all sorts affecting their constituencies. It has therefore been interesting to see the inner workings of the hallowed halls where my hard work over several decades landed up.

But oh my word, had I by mistake tuned in to Children's Playhour or something? Considering the British Parliament and democratic system has been long revered all over the world, it was something of a shock to see the juvenile way they carry on. I know we've been accustomed to seeing TV coverage of the daily shenanigans between Cameron and Miliband where they duck and dive at one another with only a table to keep them apart.

You stole my lollipop.
Well, you took my model dinosaur.
Well, I'm going to tell teacher, so there.

We've also heard the excited baying of the House like a load of sheep. But Members deliberately playing for time and sabotaging Private Members' Bills by first interrupting them in mid-speech and then talking for as long as they can (even according to William Hague for as long as 24-hours) to prevent the Member reading out his bill.... that really is childish. Or camping out all night in the corridor next to the relevant office to make sure their bill is first in the queue. I thought that only happened the night before the Harrods' or Apple sale. Fancy all that being the envy of the world! It's all a little bit like this.......

11 February 2015

One Day at a Time

I realised the other day that it must be six months since I last went to an Al-Anon meeting.  I have been so preoccupied caring for my mother and her broken knee, that I have completely got out of my usual routine.  In any case, I had been thinking I wouldn't go any more, as I have never really got the complete hang of Al-Anon, like some people do. I can't take comfort from a Higher Power, as frankly I don't have a clue what my Higher Power is. I don't have a sponsor. I find it hard to open up in front of strangers (believe it or not). I get tongue-tied, as we sit around in a circle,  and dread the silences when it is obviously my turn in the group to speak but I have nothing to contribute, yet all eyes are secretly willing me to speak, as I am the only one who hasn't spoken yet and there are still 20 minutes of meeting time left.  The silences can be so awkward. I end up gibbering a load of irrelevant rubbish and wishing the ground would swallow me up. I don't find it helps me get things out of my system. More the reverse. More nerve-wracking. Why do I put myself through it? Some people go to several meetings in different locations in a week, declare they are soooo pleased to be at the meeting, as they couldn't get through another day without it.  I am definitely not one of those.  So, no, I am not comfortable with Al-Anon meetings. In fact I have found writing this blog has helped me far more to get inner strength and get things out of my system. However, that is not to say I have not found Al-Anon useful at all. The tips, literature, slogans, sometimes just knowing you are not the only person in the whole wide world going through alcoholic hell - all help. Of all the things I have picked up at the Al-Anon meetings I have gone to, there is one slogan which has always stood out head and shoulders above the rest of the advice.

One Day at a Time.

I found it useful not only when I was trying to cope, when my alcoholic was alive, but it is a very good tool for using in the rest of my life too. Whether you are living with an alcoholic or not, there are always times when things get on top of you, mount up, overcome you, seem impossible, or drown you. Too many things to do, too many bills to pay, too many problems to deal with, not enough time, not enough patience, not enough energy. Where to start? How to start?

One Day at a Time.

There's a Chinese proverb which says something along the lines of "A  journey of a thousand miles starts with the very first step". In other words, make a start, keep plodding along and eventually you will get to the destination, however far away it may seem.

One Day at a Time.

If you make a list of all the things that need doing, breaking down items into further subsections if they are complicated, you'll know what you are faced with. It might seem insurmountable, but prioritise and start with the most urgent. We all need a roof over our head, food, water and warmth, so I assume that  is at the top of the list, alongside a source of money obviously. Everything else drops into place behind that depending on its urgency, necessity and personal requirements.

One Day at a Time.

Start by dealing with the most urgent. If it all seems too much, just deal with one thing each day. In one week, you'll have crossed seven things off your list. The feeling of achievement, pride and relief in being able to cross those things off the list is immense. It is surprising how over the weeks, those things get whittled down. Of course things get added to the list too, as life goes on, but again just prioritise them, slip them to the top of the list or the bottom or the middle, depending on how important they are.

One Day at a Time.

You probably think I'm stating the blimmin obvious, but sometimes we are too deep in a rut, too emotionally wrung out to see the wood for the trees. Particularly if we are living with an alcoholic and juggling many balls in the air, dealing with the crazy rollercoaster of an alcoholic  relationship.

One Day at a Time.

This has helped me so many times to live with the alcoholic, accept his death, deal with the aftermath and pick myself up to carry on as a single parent to my 23-year-old daughter (still dependant on me as she is at uni) and as a carer to my 91-year old disabled mother. There have been times over the last five years, when, although Greg is dead, the legacy created by his alcoholism and death have caused problems in my life or Kay's. This has helped propel us forward. 

If you are finding life is getting on top of you, just try it.

One Day at a Time.



03 February 2015

I'll get it done if it kills me

I've decided it's a new year and about time I try to envigorate all the plans I had to get the house up to scratch since Greg died. Knocked back last autumn by the setback of the rain coming through the roof, coupled with the untimely accident of  my mother's broken knee, I got off track somewhat and everything was put on hold. Onwards and upwards, I have decided it can wait no longer.

I've shortlisted a roofer to come and sort the roof out and blow the guarantee with the original roofer who put it on 2 years ago. Work on that starts in a week or so. I'm getting someone to sort out my front door which suddenly won't shut properly without slamming it so hard, it causes the whole neighbourhood to quake. I'm also trawling for builders to do a bit of cementwork between brickwork, where it has come a bit loose. I've arranged for someone to repair my fence which started to loll to one side, when my neighbour decided to have their garden landscaped and had a go at it from their side. Once that's done, I'm getting two new bathrooms. I'm finally sick of the Sixties-style yellow suite and grey tiles in one of them and peach suite and white tiles in the other. Why is it Vintage can be OK in clothes but not in baths? So I am a busy bee.

I'm a little perturbed  by the amount of unsolicited mail  I'm getting offering me life insurance or urging me to consider saving for my own funeral. Is someone trying to tell me something?

19 January 2015

A load of bullshihtzu

Twice a week I make a point of getting up really early to be in the local park by 8am. Over the years when I used to walk Snoopy, I made a lot of dogwalker friends and nowadays, even though Snoopy has gone to that big park in the sky, I still like to catch up with my park friends, chew the cud, put the world to rights and connect with their dogs.  As people go, they really are lovely people - after all if they love their dogs to bits, as they seem to, they are my kind of people. The bracing morning walks in all weathers also helps me get a bit of fresh air and some decent exercise beyond riding the vacuum cleaner and raiding of the fridge.

In the past year there have been some new dog additions on the block:
  •  two Labradoodles (half Labrador, half Poodle)
  •  two Cockapoos (half Cocker Spaniel, half Poodle)
  •  a Pekeapoo (half Poodle, half Pekingese)
  •  a jackhuahua (half Jack Russell, half Chihuahau)
  •  a bullshihztu ( half bull terrier, half Shihtzu) 

courtesy of cartoonstock.com
Last week I met the cutest furriest 12-week old fluffball of a puppy I have ever seen and was told he was a Schnoodle (half Schnauzer and half Poodle). His owner was training him well and he can already sit, lie down and all but do a backward somersault on command.

On that basis, my beloved Snoopy ought to have been called a Mansation or an Alsachester Terrier, because he was half Alsation(German Shepherd) and half Manchester Terrier.

Forgive me if I am wrong, but didn't we just used to call them mongrels or crossbreeds?  To be honest what a lot of bull terrier/shihtzu crosses. 
My Mansatian - one in a trillion

07 January 2015


Something happened over the Christmas period that upset me greatly. I don't want to go into detail here but suffice to say it was a shock and it took me best part of ten days to get over the sickening feeling I felt to my very core. It's taken me a good few years to get over Greg's death and feel relaxed about the past events, not so angry, more understanding about the depression he was probably going through and why he had turned to alcohol. But in an instant I was transported back to the old feelings of insecurity, madness and rollercoasters. I had all but forgiven him, missed him even, but suddenly I was so angry again at how he had ruined everything in his wake. It would seem you are never free from the insane hold that the alcoholic has over you, even when they are long departed. I appreciate I am not giving much away for you to understand, but right now, I just want to crawl into my shell and pull the proverbial covers over my head.

01 January 2015



19 December 2014

Christmas is coming.....

I'm usually very organised as a rule and can be irritatingly prepared for all sorts. Christmas is usually approached with the same precision as fighting a military campaign which is why this year has been quite a shock. I found myself at the beginning of December with no cards even bought, let alone written. No presents bought either. No decorations. No advanced food preparations. Sans anything! Not like me at all. In my defence, I plead total lack of time. What with the rain damage to my house  back in the autumn and the upheaval that caused, together with my mother fracturing her knee and needing 18-hours-a day care from me, it left me very little time for anything else.

I am pleased to say that has now been remedied. Cards have been sent; presents have not only been bought (thank God for Amazon) but also wrapped (sorry, am I irritating anyone yet?); food lists have been checked and food bought. Turkey's in the freezer; I've made three batches of  red cabbage to my German grandmother's recipe and frozen them; I've made and frozen a big batch of cranberry sauce. Yesterday they came to collect the chair I was on about in my last post.  Having received my "yours disgusted letter", it gavanised them into action. While I waited in for them, I spent 6 hours decorating the tree and the rooms. I'm definitely getting there.

Kay comes home on Saturday, so I am looking forward to spending a week together with her. My mum is coming to stay for a few days too and her cousin is also invited for the two main days, staying overnight on the 25th. One guest bed is already made up, the other two will get done early next week. Where I'll sleep goodness knows, but I'll need to get up early to put the albatross turkey in the oven, so may sleep Cinderella-style in the kitchen (only joking)!

The stairs are  looking festive

A warm welcome for my guests

Happy Christmas!

All that remains is for me to wish you all a lovely Christmas and a happy, healthy 2015. Thank you so much for all your comments over the year. I may not respond to each one individually, but I do appreciate them neverthless. May your Christmas be merry (but not too much in terms of alcohol!)

 Love  Addy

09 December 2014


I seem to be surrounded by jobsworths and incompetence at the moment. My already-complicated life is made even worse by people who stick to the rules and can't think out of the box.   

The first instance is the ambulance collection service that our local hospital operates to take patients between the hospital and their homes. I make it clear that this service is not the same as the ambulances you get when you dial 999. The ambulance collection service uses minibus-type ambulances with ramps for wheelchairs or stretchers and only have about 5 seats maximum. They are used purely to take incapacitated patients home after their hospital stay (hence some are on stretchers) or to appointments if walking is difficult.  I encountered this service for the first time when  my mother was discharged from hospital after she broke her knee and was barely able to walk. Unable to cope on her own at home, she opted to come and stay with me for what turned out to be six weeks. During that time we had several appointments at the hospital either at the fracture clinic or for heart scans or to see consultants.  As her leg had to be kept straight, it was in a foam brace with velcro straps but did the same job as a plaster cast. It therefore required the ambulance service to turn up at my house, carry her down two flights of stairs in a carry-chair, put her in the ambulance with her leg stretched out and drive her to her appointment, then do the whole thing in reverse once the appointment was finished. I was given a phone number and I had to book this service every time, days in advance. Each time I was told we had to be ready for collection 2.5 hours ahead of the appointment. It meant that for an appointment at 2pm, say, we had to be ready and waiting at 11.30am. It could mean having a really early lunch or snacking instead in case there was a sudden ring at the doorbell. There was always a lot of waiting, just in case they were early.

In reality, the ambulance usually turned up about an hour before, so there had been a lot of useless hanging around, but we understood the problems, as we were never the only patients on board and they often had to pick patients up after us before they set off to the hospital. At the end of the appointment, you could wait around in the hospital foyer for anything up to five hours to be  taken home again. On average it was two hours, but the five-hour one put us off ever using it again, as we didn't get home until 9pm! Again we were not the only ones going home, so we had to hang around for others to be collected from wards or clinics.

The crews were by and large very lovely people who were caring beyond the call of duty. We saw some of them several times and got to know them very well. On the last occasion, however, the crew that collected us from home had a jobsworth who wouldn't lift my mother down the stairs with her leg outstretched because he might hurt his back and he moaned and groaned more than my mother whose knee he tried to yank into a bent position without any prior warning to make her easier to carry. Once in the ambulance, he lay down on the empty stretcher and closed his eyes for the entire journey, while his colleague drove us to the hospital. If her knee ever heals, it will be no thanks to him.

Still on the hospital theme, my mother was discharged from hospital in early October with two items issued by Occupational Therapy: a zimmer frame and an upright leather armchair at the right height to help her stand up and sit down with a gammy knee. In truth, she did not really like the chair. It was too uncomfortable for her arthritic back, but she put up with it, hoping the hospital knew best. When my mother went back to her flat two weeks ago, there was certainly no room for the chair, so I rang the telephone number on the back of the chair for the equipment agency to collect it. Herein started my nightmare.

We can't collect it as it is not registered to your address.
        Where is it registered, then?
 At the hospital address.
 So how do I get rid of it?

You either need to take it back to the hospital or get the hospital to register it to your address and then we can collect it from you.

But I am telling you now what my address is.

Sorry. You either need to take it back to the hospital or get the hospital to register it to your address and then we can collect it from you.
Last week, I rang the hospital and spoke to the Occupational Therapist who sounded a bit vague when I explained the problem, but she cheerily told me to leave it with her and try ringing the equipment agency again on Monday, which I did yesterday.

We can't collect it as it is not registered to your address.

Well look, this is silly, isnt it? I can't keep ringing you and the hospital and getting nowhere. Why don't you just collect it from me. My addresss is...

Sorry. You either need to take it back to the hospital or get the hospital to register it to your address and then we can collect it from you. Maybe you could take it to the hospital?

The chair is up two flights of stairs. I am 64 years old and a widow.  Even if I could single-handedly carry a huge leather armchair down to the ground floor, how am I going to get it in my car?

Well, in that case,  get the hospital to register it to your address and then we can collect it from you.

Look,  I am sick of being piggy in the middle.  I'm telling you now, if you do not collect the chair by the end of the week, it will end up on the tip.


It would break my heart to see it on the tip so I rang the Occuptional Therapist again yesterday  .......12 times. Each time I was told she was at a meeting/on a ward round/at lunch/assessing a patient/not there/in Timbuktu/ gone homeEach time I left a message for her to ring me to see how the chair could be re-registered under my address. I finally got hold of her this morning! She's promised to get back to me. Hmm. Watch this space. I'm not over-confident.

Meanwhile I was due to have a new radiator put in my bedroom last Thursday. The two men who turned up told me they had only been allocated two hours for a five-hour job, so it was rearranged for today. I got a call this morning from the gas company to say, one of them is off sick, so the job has been rescheduled for next week. Hopefully, third time lucky.

Yep, I'm not dreaming. It's not the first day of April either. Life can be a bitch.

03 December 2014

Good times and bad times

It was my birthday at the weekend and I spent it up north with Kay who spoiled me rotten. She treated me to a night at the ballet, made me a birthday cake, took me shopping and we went for a bracing walk across the Moors. It was a lovely weekend to recharge my batteries after the last tiring six weeks looking after my mother with the wonky broken knee.

Back home on Monday, I discovered some scum had tried to forge another of my cheques for nearly £3000, (see the end of this when it happened earlier in the year) but the bank fortunately managed to stop it going through, alerted by the fact that the cheque's serial number was some 400 cheques into the future from the last cheque I signed last week! I spent all day sorting it out and was all stressed out again.

Today my mother is going for an 8-week check on her knee. At the six week check they said it had still not healed, so wanted to give it another 2 weeks before deciding whether they need to operate and wire it together. A bit of a worry considering she is 91 years old. Fingers crossed it won't come to that.  I'm taking her to the hospital by car as the minibus ambulance transport to every appointment has not been without its problems. We used it because mum needed to be carried down my stairs while she was staying with me and couldn't bend her leg to get into a car. However for the last hospital appointment the minibus ambulance driver who collected her bent her knee without warning to make it easier for him to carry her, despite knowing she shouldn't bend it, and at the end of our appointment we had to wait FIVE HOURS in the hospital lobby for an ambulance to take us back home again, as they were all out on journeys. Never again, declared my mother, so we are attempting the journey in my car today. Wish me luck!
Broken Leg coloring page | Super Coloring

24 November 2014

O what a lovely War

There's been a lot of fuss about the Sainsbury's Christmas advert depicting the Christmas 1914 truce between the British and Germans in The Great War. A lot of it negative, accusing Sainbury's of capitalising on the horrors of war for financial gain. Critics also say the uniforms are too squeaky-clean and nothing like the blood- and guts-covered mess the real soldiers faced. Come on, this an advert not an accurate blockbuster trying to scoop up an Oscar. The point of the advert was surely not its accuracy to detail but the overall mesage that in the middle of horror, humans can rise above that to be nice to one another. Surely the true spirit of Christmas. Also, unless I am very naive, when all's said and done, aren't all adverts for financial gain? 

As one who had grandfathers on both sides of that war, I do not find the advert in the least offensive and it comes a week after I saw the BBC series The Passing Bells, which I thoroughly enjoyed (if that is the right word) for its portrayal of two young boys on opposite sides, from ordinary families, dragged into a war they didn't understand and quickly wanting out of it. The Germans as a race weren't evil, any more than the British were. The soldiers on both sides were just puppets dancing to the tune of their masters. If you haven't seen it, it The Passing Bells is still available on bbc-iplayer or on DVD. 

18 November 2014

Family matters

I was chuffed to get all your supportive comments about tattoos. I thought we must be the last family in the universe not to have them and was steeling myself for a load of hateful venom in return, but I was wrong. Many of you feel the same way as me and it was reassuring that there is some common sense left in the world.

Here are some lilies presented to my mother the other day - they are such an unusual colour. I cannot say I have ever seen lilies that colour before. In fact in reality they are a much darker electrifying purple.

Other news... I had to go to a family funeral last week down at Hastings. I had to get two trains with six minutes between them. I should have known better. Man can engineer a spacecraft which takes ten years to reach and land punctually on a speeding comet (see here the amazing achievement of Philae) but Southeastern could not get my first train to do a fifteen-minute journey on time and and I arrived at the connecting station 12 minutes late thus missing my second train. Thank heavens I had originally arranged to get to Hastings with an hour to spare, so I could first meet up with a relative and have a coffee before the funeral. Being late meant I missed the coffee/catch-up but got a taxi straight from the station to the crematorium with ten minutes to spare.

As an only child, I have always felt I missed out on the joys of having brothers or sisters, but it seems it's not all it's cracked up to be. The two sons of the deceased were always close as children and young men. Then they went to different universities, got wives and children, in one case got divorced and remarried and have ended up arch-enemies. Nobody quite knows what has caused the vitriolic rift but apparently there is much harking back by one of them to childhood resentments. The younger one lives in Australia now and came over for his father's last few days but the older one, who lives in Scotland and was staying in his father's house for the last few weeks, would not even meet up with his younger brother, let alone talk to him. They made sure they did not bump into one another during visits to the deathbed at the hospital and the older one refused to have the younger one at the wake afterwards. I felt so sorry for the younger one, as he genuinely has no idea what he has done wrong. He originally said he would avoid the funeral altogether, but turned up at the eleventh hour, sobbed his heart out during the service, and then magically disappeared with his car into the sunset, before we had all had a chance even to leave the chapel, so we never got to say goodbye before his return to Australia. Apparently the younger one has waived his rights to the whole inheritance as he does not want to put up a fight. So sad to see two men, both lovely as individuals, being so divided. Their parents would turn in their graves. Maybe being an only child has its compensations  after all!

11 November 2014

Giving me the needle

I realise what I am about to say may upset, offend or stir up a hornets' nest. But I am going to say it anyway and wait for a hundredweight of hate-mail to drop in my in-box. I expect I am in an infinitesimally small minority here, but I think anyone who consciously gets a tattoo is mad, sixpence short of a shilling, a pepperoni short of a pizza, or more appropriately a picture short of a gallery. I say "consciously", as I know there are those out there who after a night of drunken debauchery wake up next morning not only clutching their overhung heads but a sore spot somewhere on their body, declaring their undying love for Sharon, whoever she might be. 

In my day, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and it took only 6 months to get to Australia and back on a slow boat to, well, Australia, only sailors got tattoos. Big burly blokes would come home from their travels with M.U.M across their knuckles or exotic birds carved onto their forearms. Skull and crossbones were quite popular too, presumably added on afterwards when M.U.M looked a bit naff. Come to think of it, a lot of those tattoos would have probably been done "unconsciously" when the ship pulled into port and the lads went wild in the nearest town. 

But now? Unless the whole world has joined the Navy, someone please tell me what the point of a tattoo is? Call me old-fashioned, but why does every woman (or man) with less than a full set of brain cells feel the need to go through the pain to end up with a star behind their ear or a swallow on their shoulder?  Don't get me started on the ones that have an entire tabloid-size picture on their............

back or chest. Why and why again? I know it's a generational thing. It masquerades as a fashion statement, just like mini skirts, punk hair, platform heels and hot pants were. But at least hair could be grown out or clothes  relegated to the back of the wardrobe or the charity shop. Even piercings can be corrected when the mood wears off by just letting the holes close up. But with tattoos, what if, in years to come, you hate the tattoo or the reason you had it done?

Can you imagine what people with tattoos are going to look like when they are old and wrinkly? The star will look like a squished spider, the swallow will look like a tit (well, I suppose it was ever thus), and the rose garden will look unkempt and needing a definite dead-heading. If they require surgery, as inevitably people do as they age, will the "You'll never walk alone" scrolled across their abdomen be changed to "You'll never walk" plus a ropey scar across the rest?


Can you imagine living with the same wallpaper for the rest of your life? You'd fancy a bit of a change wouldn't you, but you can't do that with tattoos. Unless you have more painful sessions to cover it with something else or leave a horrendous scar. What if Sharon runs off with the man next door? You're either going to have to look in earnest for another Sharon to date or incur the eternal wrath of a Tracy or Emily who has to look at it for the duration of your time with her.

I've heard the excuse, well, mine is in a discreet place, so nobody can see it. So again, what is the bloody point? You might just as well look for a few moles instead and join the dots up. At least the design would be unique. And if nobody can see it, you included, you might just as well stick a plaster on your back or show off your haemorrhoid scar to full effect. Why bother with a tattoo?

Another reason I've heard is that it has a special meaning, such as it represents the birth of a child or a special place visited. Why not be satisfied with a photo or memento instead? Does a tattoo really make it any more special? At least you can get a photo out and share it at a dinner party. Then again, maybe you can with a tattoo. Depends on the party, I suppose.

I often look at press photos of gorgeous celebs in expensive evening dresses with that tasteless tattoo peering out like a sore thumb. It so spoils the look.  All hopes of elegance sails out the window to me. Tramp stamps.  They look like tramps not ladies. And why do women over fifty who ought to have more common sense feel the need to have them? I saw a particularly wrinkly specimen at the supermarket checkout the other day. Wrinkles everywhere and a bouquet of something etched across her entire upper chest and snakes all down her arms.  It was definitely not an attractive sight. She looked like Nora Batty gone mental.

Tattoos used to be a sign of being a bit of a rebel. In fact, you're more of a rebel if you DON'T have a tattoo these days, as at least it shows you have a mind of your own rather than following the herd. If Kay ever succumbs to the idiocy, I'll know the world has gone mad, but thank God for the moment she has not got one. If she ever did, I'd run away.......and join the Navy, but I certainly wouldn't be getting a tattoo!

03 November 2014

The Tower Revisited

Kay was home for the weekend. I say "home". In fact she was out for some of the time - flitting in and out, as young people do, catching up with old friends, burning the candle at both ends, recharging the batteries on home cooking and much needed TLC. We had some quality time together on Saturday afternoon, travelling to the Tower (once again for me) to see the poppy display and wandering along the riverbank as the sun set. 

What bright spark decided to close the nearest Underground station to the Tower (Tower Hill) for enginering works on one of the busiest weekends for the Tower  (namely school half-term holiday and the weekend before Remembrance Sunday when the poppy display is almost at its crescendo)? The crowds for miles were amazing as they thought of inventive ways to get there and then stand at least ten-deep to study the sea of red all around the moat. Here are some  pictures of our our afternoon in London.

View of the City from the South Bank

It took us over 20 minutes to queue to get onto the Bridge

I wonder whether Boris Johnson ever gets a bit dizzy

We could see the enormous line of crowds from across the river

The sea of blood

Trying to get a photo!

The marshalls (in yellow jackets) getting the crowd to go in a one-way direction

An orderly queue

Time to head home

The Shard on the South Bank

29 October 2014

One year on

How time marches on. It's a year since Snoopy died. I cannot believe a whole year has passed.  I still miss him like mad. If truth be told, I was more upset at his passing than that of Greg's. I guess because Greg in his last year or two was so difficult to deal with, whereas Snoopy was a loyal, loving being right up to his last breath. People keep asking when I am going to get another dog, but for now I don't feel I could, as it would seem disloyal to him. He was such a wonderful dog. He is irreplaceable.

23 October 2014

Day at The Tower

A very good friend/relation on Greg's side of the family contacted me a few weeks ago to say she was coming down to London from Scotland and could we meet up. We agreed to meet yesterday, long before my mother had her fall and broke her knee, so I was not sure whether I would be able to keep to the agreement. However, my mother is managing OK to get from her bed to to the ensuite with the help of a zimmer and urged me to have a day off for a change.  I made sure she was stocked up with a year's day's supply of sandwiches, yoghurt and drink in a coolbag and set off on my journey to The Tower! Both my friend and I wanted to see the poppy display there.

I knew it was going to be crowded before I left the tube station, as hoards of pensioners were disembarking from the train with me and surging up the stairs to the exit. Having met my friend, this was the sight that greeted us as we emerged at the Tower.

so many people

I managed to push my way to the barrier to get one half-decent photo, but had to take it quickly as thousands were waiting to swap places with me.

I managed to get a few more shots....

It takes quite a while to assemble just one poppy let alone thousands

As always when I am at The Tower, I always love to go along the river a a few steps further and wander around St Catherine's Dock.

This time, we stumbled upon Gloriana, the royal barge commissioned as a tribute to the Queen for her Diamond Jubilee Pageant.

We had a late lunch at the Dicken's Inn (in the background of the last picture), an atmospheric old place that always summons up visions of Bill Sykes kicking Nancy out of the way as he enjoys a pint. It was beautiful weather too so a much needed recharge to my batteries.


16 October 2014

Rapunzel's Tower

Why did I never notice I had so many stairs in my house before?  Forty to be precise. Five flights of 8 stairs between my six levels. To remind those of you who can be bothered, my house looks like this in cross-section with the staircase going through the middle vertical connecting the six levels:
I try to describe my house to strangers over the phone. It has six levels - well not from the outside of course, but from the inside. I tried explaining it to the house insurance company when I had the roof leak. I've tried explaining it to the social workers who are responsible for my mother while she stays with me following her recent hospital stay. They think I live in some quirky lighthouse in the middle of the sea of London. A room on every level with a staircase up or down to somewhere else. Sometimes, I feel like Rapunzel looking down from the window at the top.

Because my elderly mum has broken her knee, because she cannot stand or walk very well, because she has a brace strapped over her leg to keep it straight, because she cannot cope yet living on her own, despite the hospital in their wisdom abruptly chucking her out after only a week in their care, she has moved in with me - on level 4.  She has sole occupation of my bedroom and my ensuite. I have been banished to the bedroom on level 5. The kitchen is on level 1. The front door on level 2. So many stairs inbetween. So many cups of tea, coffee and meals for the patient.  Delivering post, newspapers and medicine to the sickbed. Entertaining social workers and agency carers about needs and finances and long-term plans. Up, down, up, down... I'm cream-crackered and then still have to climb from the kitchen to my bedroom (32 stairs) to fall into bed at night.

Yesterday there was an appointment (the first time her knee has been addressed since the fall) at the fracture clinic. The hospital had laid on ambulance transport to take her there and back. I was not allowed on board so had to drive separately to attend the appointment with her. Afterwards, when I got home, I waited for the ambulance to return with her. Some two hours later Mum returned in an ambulance with a young girl pushing her in a wheelchair to the front door. On opening the front door (level 2), I pointed out that there were two flights of stairs to the patient's bedroom on level 4. The girl's face dropped. She was all on her own. My mum bravely suggested she try to climb the 16 stairs and so she did, albeit every step taking about 30 seconds to climb. So much for resting the knee straight, as the doctor ordered! Who sends a patient with a broken leg home from the fracture clinic in an ambulance with only one paramedic to drive and get them back into their home?

Anyone know of any bungalows for sale?

06 October 2014

A nice break in more than one sense

I spent a few days last week in Eastbourne. It was meant to be a treat for my dear 91-year-old Mum who used to live there until I wrenched her out of her lovely big house and moved her to a small retirement flat near me in London last October. We wanted to see old friends, visit old haunts and take in some sea air to see us through the winter. Mum hasn't had a holiday in ten years, so was really looking forward to it.

The first few days were lovely and on the very first morning I even managed a brisk walk along the promenade at 7am before the dogwalkers and joggers got out..............

We had a nice view from our hotel room

watched lovely sunrises

It was sad to see the poor old pier after the recent fire
but they are working on it to get it ready for next season.

At the moment it looks like the Titanic on stilts

We had a few laughs

Sat and watched the sea with loads of others
All was going so well.........

until my mother fell up some stairs at the hotel (she was sober, honestly!) and fractured her kneecap. We spent the last day of our four-day holiday here..........

Mum was transferred by ambulance up to a London hospital on Thursday evening (where she still remains) and I followed on the next day by car with all our belongings. Not quite the visit to old haunts nor the kind of break we were expecting!