Saturday, 31 May 2008

More boys' toys

Mr G is in his element. Not only did his new 12 megapixel digital camera arrive today (Megxon K2, £80 from eBay), but he went to B&Q and spend £135 on a new lawnmower, having decided the freebie he got from my friend wasn't worth the cost of repairing. Now he has two old ones to get rid of. They will probably be consigned to the no-go zone at the bottom of the garden where bonfires happen and the nettles and brambles provide a home for the Lone Hornet (don't ask, just follow the scorch marks in the grass where I have run away from it at top speed) and lots of butterflies.

Already, he has fired off an email to the lawnmower helpline and is impatiently awaiting a reply on the vexing subject of why it is so hard to start. There are mutterings about taking it back to B&Q and exchanging it for another model, but not till he's finished cutting the grass! I tried and couldn't start it. Do they make easy-start mowers for weak-handed women like me? Or is it called A Gardener?

Friday, 30 May 2008

Cat akimbo

There was a book called Yoga For Cats. Here is Flad, trying out one of the positions, then sleeping it off afterwards. He does love sprawling with four paws to the wind! I gave Mr G a cat's bum tea towel holder for Christmas. It kept falling off the wall, so he found another use for it. Men!

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Mr Grumpy's new toys (incorporating Daily Joke #4)

We visited a friend in Barnet on Monday and came back with a petrol lawnmower. Broken, of course. Having proved itself too heavy for my friend to lift in and out of her shed, it had lurked amongst the spidery plantpots for a good five years or so. Now Mr G has a raison d'etre. He keeps diving off to Halfords and other such stores, getting parts for it. The house is full of the stink of petrol. With any luck, it will occupy him for a few more days, though trying to do things with his right hand, the stroke-affected one, gives him awful cramp.

Some men use 'just popping out for a packet of fags' (or a bar of chocolate) as cover for scurrilous behaviour of one sort or another. One friend was cooking lunch when her bloke popped to the newsagents for something and didn't reappear for three days. He had been to France with his mates and hadn't dared tell her he had arranged it.

Even worse was what happened to another close friend. It was Christmas Day. She was cooking Christmas dinner. He 'popped to the shop' and never, ever came back. He moved in with another woman down the street and she was left with congealing turkey and dried up roasties and floods of heartbroken tears.

On Monday, it was Mr G's turn to say, 'Just popping to the shops, dear'. An hour later, he reappeared looking slightly sheepish. Shortly before we left for lunch with my friend, he rolled up his sleeve, removed a blood-soaked dressing, and showed me what he'd really 'popped' for; a new tattoo. It is the Chinese word for Licentious and it covers up the grotty, fading 007 tat that he had done in gaol in the 1960s. He's planning to have the Chinese for 'venerable, wise old git' tattooed on the other arm.

Whatever next? Hope it won't be like the joke about the Jamaican guy a girl met and fell for on holiday. As they prepared to get their legs over each other, she was a bit put out to see he had 'Wendy' tattooed on a sensitive part of his anatomy. "Oh," she said jealously. "Is that your girlfriend?" He laughed and replied, "No. Once I get really turned on, you'll see it says, 'welcome to Jamaica, have a nice day!'"

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

A poke in the eye

Facebook. Don't. Ever. My daughter insisted I joined, in order to be able to visit her page. So I duly filled in my details (how I hate doing that; who knows what cyber-stalkers are crouching like gremlins waiting to pounce on my email address and... what's this? Date of birth? No way! No escape, though. Facebook demands you fill in your DOB as you have to be over 13 to join), and then found her page. And what a conglomeration of complexities it was. I couldn't make head or tail of it, thus proving how many decades over 13 I am. The page was littered with photos, messages, links to websites and games... no wonder she spends all day on it.

I spoke to her last night and asked her what 'pokes' were, as there is a place to press if you want to poke someone. I was told that there are all kinds of pokes, including kinky pokes. I most definitely do not want some stranger giving me one of those. I thought I was joining just as a visitor, but oh no. Once you join, you are given a page (what? where?) and now, every five mins, I get an email from Facebook telling me someone I've never heard of wants to be my friend. I wish I had never done it. No way am I going to stick my photo on, and if anyone kinky-pokes me, they'll get a virtual poke in the eye by return. I'm perfectly satisfied with my good old blog!

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Tragic chores

Eva, a very sweet, beautiful girl I knew, a talented writer, who shared the Special Events Chair at my writers' group, has died aged 31 of cancer. I am still reeling. I knew she was ill, but not that ill. In fact, last time we spoke she thought she was improving and was looking forward to returning to work.

When this happens so unfairly to someone who had her whole life ahead of her, it doesn't half make you think how bloody lucky you are to have survived so far. My father's words ring in my ears: "When you get to my age, my dear, every day's a bonus." He was 84 when he said that and he lived another 700 or so days.

When someone dies, you are faced with a ghastly decision: do you erase them from your address book? Delete them from your phone? This morning, I deleted my friend's number from my cellphone and her email address from my computer's contacts list. I felt terrible as I did it, as if I were denying her existence, wiping her from history, even though it was only my phone and my computer's history. I still can't bring myself to delete my great friend Barbara who died in July last year. She lives on in my address book and in my Birthday Book, too, where there are at least ten undeleted people who are no longer with us.

Spookily, five of them are Pisceans like me, which seems rather significant and very worrying. It would be interesting to conduct a survey to see if people born under certain signs live longer than others. Or maybe I would rather not know. Perhaps the Pisces motto should be, 'live fast, die young'; in which case, being way past youth, it's high time I did a bit of high living.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Murder on the loo!

Look away now, all you arachnaphobes. There I was, perched peacefully on the bog this morning when suddenly, my eyes were drawn to a scuffle on the radiator in front of me. One very large long-leggety spider (known as the Daddy Long-Legs Spider) massacred and cannibalised a smaller one of the same species, right before my eyes! It grabbed it, wrapped its struggling relative up in thick web, then proceeded to drag it behind the radiator, presumably to eat it in peace. Ugh! I shall examine the toilet roll carefully in future, to make sure the spider isn't lurking between the folds, waiting to ambush its prey (or give me such a shock that I shall never need Senokot again!).

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Bloody cholesterol!

Literally! I have had a Boots cholesterol test kit lurking in the kitchen for ages as, being too cowardly to prick my own finger with the lancet (!) supplied with the kit, I was waiting for a natural accident to occur. Today it did. I slashed my little finger on the razor sharp edge of the copper tape that had arrived to protect my plant pots from slugs.
"Quick! Open the kit!" I shrieked to Mr Grumpy, while dripping blood all over the kitchen floor.
"I can't read it, I haven't got my glasses on," grumped Mr G.
"Quickly! I'm bleeding to death here," I moaned, cupping a palmful of blood that had run down from my fingertip.
Without glancing at the instructions, he ripped open a cardboard thingy and said, "Put some blood here." I blotted my finger against it and smeared the designated spot with blood. "Now wait three minutes," he said.
I gave it five for good measure, then looked. All I could see was a splodge of blood. Then, and only then, I read the instructions. The blood should have been dripped onto the outside of the kit, not the inside, it should not have been touched with the finger and the three minutes was vital for accuracy. So I still don't know if my cholesterol is okay.
This is my third attempt. My first was when a cholesterol testing van parked outside Sainsburys about two years ago. "Oh good," I declared to Mr G. "I'll go and get it tested." Then I saw the sign that said, £15. Bugger that, thought I and walked away. The second was when I booked an appointment at the local chemist. When I turned up, I was informed that the guy who did the tests had left and they no longer offered the service. All I can say is, hope it will be fourth time lucky, before I either expire of blood loss or attack Mr G with the lancet for wasting another £5-worth of kit!

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Injury time

4.30 pm. New petrol-driven hedge trimmers have arrived. So far Mr G has cut his finger, hacked a big gouge in his thigh and dripped blood all over the kitchen. I think he is having fun. But will there be much of him left by the end of the day or will I have to get out the Superglue?

Mr Grumpy blows himself up

350 feet of garden means an awful lot of hedge. Especially as the garden is 50 ft wide, too. Having given away his heavy petrol hedge trimmers last year, thinking that, after his strokes, he'd never be able to use them again, he decided to try and prune a veritable thicket of privet, bramble and conifers with the small electric ones. Bad idea. A nasty noise, a smell of burning plastic, followed by a sheet of flame and an electric shock sent Mr G flying over the hedge to land on his posterior in something prickly.

I was in Cornwall. Mr G only ever decides to do something dangerous when I am not around. Such as the day a few weeks after his strokes when he decided to see if he could cycle to town, 5 km each way. Going there is downhill and the brakes are on the right side of the bike. As his right hand was paralysed, he couldn't apply the brake and had to head full tilt into the railings surrounding the RAF camp in order to stop. Another bad idea.

Anyway, Mr G, who, if he had hair, would now resemble the chaps in the 118 118 TV ad, with brain slightly more addled than when I left for my holiday, has now bought some new heavy duty petrol trimmers on eBay. This morning he was up at 6, putting on his shoes "in case they arrive early." He keeps rushing to the front door (well, stumbling is a more accurate word), like a kid at Christmas, to see if his big present to himself has arrived yet. I sense another accident just waiting to happen...

Photo shows Mr G and Felix, aka Flad. (In other words, I named the cat Felix, Mr G insisted on calling him Flad, short for Flathead as, when he was a kit, the poor animal looked as if his head had been compressed in the birth canal and I jokingly called him Flathead, and now the poor creature has to answer to two main names plus a lot of minor ones, such as *$&*#*!)

Sunday, 18 May 2008

The rain it rainethed every day

Well, it rained, then it rained, then it rained some more. I had taken one pair of trainers made out of some kind of fabric, a pair of Clarks sports sandals and a pair of flip-flops, swimsuit, clothes more suited to the Costa Brava than the Costa Cornwall, and, thank heavens, a fleece and a mac. All I needed were the latter, plus a vital item that I couldn't carry, that being welllies. I lost count of the number of times my trainers and two pairs of socks got wringing wet, requiring me to repair to my hotel room and dry them out in front of the fan-heater. I swear that the raindrops in Cornish grass are as large as tennis balls compared to the delicate London pearls that sparkle so prettily on the garden plants. And as well as the grass being ten times wetter, so is the rain!

My friends in St Agnes were as hospitable as ever and we had fun laying down some tracks on my mate's new digital recording device, a Samson Zoom H4, and her Mixcraft software. Normally, I hate the sound of my own singing voice, which sounds something like a Liverpudlian Mary Hopkin with a cold, but, dare I blow my own trumpet, I sounded rather good, and my harmonies with myself weren't bad, either. I was in awe the way my friend rapidly mastered the intricacies of both recorder and software without even RTFM-ing, as there wasn't a manual!

I was scheduled to stay till tomorrow, but Mr G blew himself up so I came home early. More on that story anon. Now, having spend all last Wednesday night and Thursday confined to my hotel room with the squits and cold shivers (oh, everyone's had that, the pharmacist assured me when, pale-faced and sleepless-eyed, I staggered in for Diaralyte), I am about to eat a welcome-home bacteria burger that Mr Grumpy is cooking on his barbecue. See you tomorrow, if I survive.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Travel phobia

I am the world's worst traveller. I pack remedies for every ailment from piles and eczema, to athlete's foot, just to go to Cornwall for five days. I am like Auntie Vera in those old Giles cartoons, trailing round with a large bag of pills, with a hanky held to her ever-dripping nose. Just imagine me on Safari! No, don't go there. I'd need an elephant just to carry my medications.

The thought of having to get to an airport at a specific time makes my guts writhe and my temples pound with migraine. Then, if a delay is announced once I have psyched myself up and actually got there, my whole body goes on strike. Cystitis, the trots, an outbreak of heat rash, Beri Beri... you name it, I get it.

I don't think I'd be any better even if I were rich and had my own private jet. I just have travel phobia, exactly the same as the stage fright I used to get when I was a folk singer. Even when I was a kid at school, I used to cut my finger with a kitchen knife just so as to get out of sitting on the stage playing the piano for assembly, as the very thought of it made me tremble and feel sick. I am a complete wimp. However, hope might be on the horizon. My homoeopath has prescribed a mix of Bach flower remedies, scleranthus, wild oat and, er, something else. My friend in Cornwall has them. I am prepared to be dosed. I may just come up smelling of roses.

Going West!

My copper tape still hasn't come, my tomatoes are decimated, one entire pot of violas has been chomped and not nearly enough slugs have met an alcoholic doom. Bring on the hedgehogs! Where are they when you need them? I haven't seen any yet this year. Last year, a large adult hedgepig was killed on the road outside our house. Mr G's house, I mean. There is no 'ours' about it. I was very, very sad.

Tomorrow I take a train to Cornwall and hope the weather is set fair for rock-pooling and generally wallowing around like an old hippy. I'm staying in a B&B (£40 a night - eek!) as I crave my own space and the chance to watch telly in bed, which I can't do at home. It also means that if my stomach is bad, which it is today, as I've clocked up 7 trips to the loo, I have somewhere to retreat to without inconveniencing my friends. I could even do another thing I can never do at home and have an afternoon nap.

So, it's 'bye from me till next week, when I shall let you know if my friend has mastered her new recording machine and I have laid down any tracks of my songs, which is something I've wanted to do for years. Now, where did I put my anti-sea-urchin-and-weaver-fish beach shoes? Or any beach shoes, come to that? And as for a swimsuit... The Atlantic? In May? Forget it!

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Slug Pubs

My reader Jacula suggested a slug pub as a way of dealing with the pests by natural means. The method is, slug drinks beer, slug gets drunk, slug can't get out and drowns happy. Mr Grumpy insisted on emptying an entire can of Carling into an empty paint pot. I used a lid as a saucer, thinking they would be able to climb in and get drunk more easily. Singing, "I'll tak the high road and ye'll tak the low road" in a bad Highlands accent that sounded like Scouse meets Glaswegian on a Saturday night, I set out the pubs, complete with sign.

One inquisitive black slug immediately started investigating, so I wiped a little beery trail across the deck and up the side of the paint pot. It took him some while to reach the rim of the pot, but he made it. Meanwhile, an army was advancing on the Low Road pub. This morning, I was surprised to see that the High Road pub had claimed many more victims than the Low Road. I think they were so drunk that they couldn't get back up the side and out again whereas, with the Low Road, they were still able to weave a sticky route back to wherever they came from. Or my violas.

Saturday, 10 May 2008


Before I even planted my violas, while they were still in their polystyrene tray, the slugs had found them. I picked at least a dozen vile, slimy bodies off before I planted them in pots yesteday. Then we had a thunderstorm, which resulted in a mad slug orgy. There were yellow ones, black, grey, you name it, all slithering across the lawn towards my flowerpots. I rushed out and emptied half a drum of salt all round the pots, but a few still made it through, though I rejoiced in the sight of several blobs of slime on the salty edges of the pods.

I don't want to use slug pellets that might poison the cat and the birds, so I have sent for some copper tape. You wind it round the pots and it reacts with the slug slime and gives them a nasty electric shock. Mind you, these slugs have got muscles. They will probably think I've provided a thrilling sex aid and will multiply like mad. I will wake up one morning, open the curtain and see a sea of rippling, slithering slime in place of a lawn. I feel a science fiction story coming on. The Slime Machine. 2008, A Slug Odyssey. Snailien. Gastro pubs will become gastropod pubs and serve raviola and salad.

I shall let you know if the copper tape works. That's if there are any violas left by the time it arrives.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Binbags in the attic

Saying hello to your summer wardrobe again, all those light, colourful skirts and dresses and tops that have been packed away for the last six months, is like meeting old friends who you haven't seen for ages. There are some new friends amongst my old, familiar clothes - floaty tops, a blue skirt that I have no recollection of buying, a long, sparkly kaftan. Where on earth did they come from? Did they sneak away from someone else's binbags in the attic, in order to visit mine? Or did I snatch them off a sale rail in a moment of madness last dreary August, then not get a chance to wear them because the sun didn't come out again till now?

It's boosted my spirits, getting out all my lovely, floaty things, ironing linen, washing cotton, checking carefully for moths (none, I'm pleased to say). There was a moment of breath-holding as I tried things on and hoped and prayed that I hadn't grown too fat for them, but my bulges seem to be in the same places they were last summer.

Now I have the problem of reacquainting myself with my summer sandal collection. This is vast, and useless. Almost every pair gives me blisters. Several are already in the boot sale bag. Yesterday, I walked a mile to M&S and a mile back in toe-post sandals and now have a skinned toe so can't even wear flip-flops. Another pair of softest pale blue leather have a strap that fastens round the ankle, that is fashioned for people with fetlocks halfway up their calves. None of the Velcro on the straps coincides with its corresponding counterpart. They just don't fit. Methinks they are made for Clementine who, in the famous song, wore 'herring boxes without topses' for sandals. I would gladly give her these, if she had not 'fallen into the foaming brine'.

So I have the frocks, I just don't have the comfy shoes to go with them. Guess I shall have to wrap my tender toes in sticking plasters and hobble through till Autumn.

Cat among the flowers

Cats always know the best spots to lie, where they not only get shade but look cute, too! Here is Flad, posing by plants old and new. I have crippled myself potting up fuchsias and violas and am ponging of Biofreeze (totally recommended, has reduced back, neck and shoulder pain by about 75% so I feel much brighter than I did when I creaked out of bed this morning!).

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Daily Joke #3

A Red Indian chief is very constipated. He goes to the chemists in town, holds up his hand in Indian fashion and says, "How. Big Chief no s**t." They give him some Beechams Pills and tell him to come back if there is no result.

Two days later the chief is back. "How. Big Chief still no s**t." This time they give him Syrup of Figs.

Two days later he's back. "How. Big Chief still no s**t." This time they give him Castor Oil and tell him to drink the whole bottle.

They are just locking up for the night when there is a faint scratching at the door. They look down and there, on his hands and knees, looking white, shaken and a mere shadow of his former self, is the chief. "H-h-how," he stutters feebly. "Big s**t, no Chief!"

Smoked out!

Yesterday, Mr G ripped out a huge section of hedge which had died, owing to the man next door having creosoted his fence. He dragged it down to the bottom of the garden (300 feet away) and lit a bonfire. It smelt very fragrant but, as there was no wind, a huge plume of smoke hung in the air and deposited ash over a wide area. This morning it was still smouldering.

I had gone to bed late as I am enthralled with Phillippa Gregory's book, The Other Boleyn Girl, and was still reading at 1 am. I was awoken by the binmen at six and had just fallen asleep again when, BANG, BANG at the door. I peeped through the curtains and a strange and belligerent looking man was standing there, the shaven-headed, chunky, testosterone-fuelled type. I couldn't see his tattoos but I just knew he'd have a Union Jack and a bulldog somewhere.

I wasn't prepared to answer the door in my nightie, so I ran barefooted through the house and found Mr G down the bottom of the garden, admiring the remains of his bonfire. He came back, answered the door and I caught the odd words such as "Smoked me out!" "Not allowed to have bonfires."

Mr G is quite adamant that, as the foot of his garden is so far from any houses, he IS allowed to have bonfires. The man lives two doors away and has never spoken to us in the ten years he's been there. Mr G muttered threats about the broadband connection to the man's garden shed. If you see a figure flitting over the fence in the moonlight holding a pair of wire cutters, you know who it will be. I hate neighbour disputes myself, and the man did offer to take the garden cuttings to the tip for us, which I thought was very nice, but Mr G is fired up and on the warpath. I really do think it's time I moved before missiles start flying.

The sun has got his hat on, tra-la

The doctors say we all need 20 minutes exposure to sunlight twice a week in order to maintain our levels of Vitamin D. Well, I'm making sure I stock up! The weather has been so glorious that I feel relaxed, well, cheerful and... and... well, as if I'm on holiday. I have been neglecting my work, spending my time with Gro-bags and tomato plant seedlings, plus 30 tiny violas that I got from Homebase for an unbelievable 10p!

Found a frog today, stuck in the overflow tank for the pond. He couldn't get out, so Mr Grumpy captured him and transferred him to the pond itself where he clung to a ledge looking rather scared. Although there is an overhang all the way round, I hope he will be able to climb out via the trailing plant stems. Otherwise, I shall have to devise a frog ladder.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Daily Joke #2

Bloke sees ad in pet shop window: TALKING CENTIPEDE, £500.
Hm, he thinks: bit more expensive than the clit-licking frog they were
advertising the other day
, but nevertheless he goes in, pays for it and
takes his new pet home.

After half an hour, he opens the small box it lives in and asks it,
"Would you liken to go out for a pint?"
No reply. Raising his voice, he bellows, "I said, would you like to go out
for a pint?"
Centipede pops his head out of the box and says, "Okay, no need to shout,
I heard you the first time. Give me a chance to put my flaming shoes on!!!"

If patience is a virtue...

... then I must be elevated to the sainthood by now. It's two months since my soon to be ex-agent gave my first three chapters to a publisher and he still hasn't heard back from them. I am in limbo, 9000 words from the end, sort of at the last camp before ascending the Himalayan peak, but without oxygen. Or that's how it feels. Where is my ice axe?

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Blood groups

I lost a baby at the age of 45 when I was three months pregnant. I would have had a teenage son now. (Heavens above, just think of that! I'm not sure I could have coped, though I was devastated back then.) I assumed the miscarriage was to do with the fact that my fibroids had grown back, despite a previous operation. Indeed the doc said that although I could still conceive, it would be difficult for me to carry because embryo would find it difficult implanting on a womb wall covered in lumps and bumps.

But... there may also have been another reason. Today, I spoke with the ex-boyfriend who was my lost baby's father. He rang having read my blog and guess what? He, like my goddaughter, is Rhesus Negative, while I am R+. He is A-, I am B+. Maybe that contributed to my miscarriage. He had to have his blood changed at birth and he, like me, was a forceps delivery. He still has a dent in his head while I was so badly bruised that my mother didn't see me for 24 hours as I was having special nursing. The left side of my head was particularly badly damaged and I have suffered from left-sided migraines all my life and, in addition, the top teeth didn't form properly on the left-hand side. The wisdom tooth was completely hollow inside and I have lost most of those teeth and have bridges and crowns. (Funny how 'crown over troubled water' doesn't quite have the same ring to it!)

This has given me tons to think about. I'd heard about blue babies before, but I'm going to hit Google now and find out more. I'm also interested in the blood-changing. Do they find out the baby's blood group and if it's A-, change it to A+, or do they fill it full of Group O (my mother's blood group) which is compatible with all the others? Wish I'd got that one. I got my dad's group instead. The whole subject is quite fascinating. Wonder if animals have different blood groups, too?

Daily joke #1

To brighten up the doom and gloom, I have decided to put a daily joke on my blog. If you don't like rude ones, avert thy eyes, my innocent friend!

Woman sees sign in pet shop window: CLITORIS-LICKING FROG, £50.
'Ooh!' she thinks. 'I could just do with one of those.'
She goes in and asks, "Can I see the clitoris-licking frog that's advertised
in the window, please?"
The man behind the counter licks his lips and says, "Bonjour!"

(PS The super frog image was taken from which is well worth a visit.)

Monday, 5 May 2008

Out of sorts

Woke up at 5 am today aware of the fact that I felt thoroughly out of sorts. I had forgotten to take my prebiotics last night so my stomach felt bloated and painful. In addition, my ulcer was smarting away in my midriff - it feels as if someone has scoured the inside of my stomach with a prickly Brillo pad - and my neck and shoulder muscles are tight, giving me a headache. What a way to start a lovely, sunny day.

Of course, I have been very upset about my god-daughter for the last few days, so I suppose this hasn't helped. Last night's dinner wasn't exactly a gourmet delight, either. Potatoes that went grey during cooking, resulting in mash that looked as if it had been scraped off a muddy floor, and tasteless sausages from Somerfield. The only thing I enjoyed was a grilled tomato with basil sprinkled on it, and a handful of steamed green beans.

Tomorrow, I hope to be going off to sunny Cornwall, so I hope my symptoms will have cleared up. I shall have something plain and simple tonight, such as fish, poached or grilled, or a light veggie pasta. Then, fingers crossed that I'll feel well enough to head to Paddington at 9am.

Losing a baby

My poor god-daughter has lost her baby. It was her first pregnancy. Unknown to her, she has a Rhesus Negative blood group while her husband is Rhesus Positive and this, combined with low progesterone production, combined to cause problems. When she told me she was pregnant, I was thrilled to bits. It also touched a deep, deep part of me relating to my own pregnancy with the daughter I was forced to give up for adoption in the 1960s, my gorgeous, perfect baby. I came out of the maternity ward, handed her over to social workers, then went to an all-night party to drown my sorrows. Halfway through it, my milk came in. The pain was agonising. I had to go back to the hospital next day for tablets to dry up the milk. Following that, I had two blank years of feeling nothing for anybody or anything, culminating in a marriage to a man I hardly knew.

When I heard the news that my god-daughter, who I love dearly, was expecting, I cried for an entire day, pouring cathartic tears, that maybe I should have wept all those years ago. After the crying bout was over, I was on Cloud Nine, dying to be a great-godmum. Now, I am devastated, both for her, because of the agony she has been through and the deep grief she and her husband are experiencing, and for me, too, because it feels like losing my own daughter all over again. I hope that now they know about the blood groups, the gynaecologist will give her the proper medical help she needs next time round, and I hope that the 'next time' won't be too far off. She is 34 and doesn't want to leave it too much longer.

Book news: I am having to axe an entire chapter because it just didn't work. And my agent still hasn't emailed me the list of potential new agents he was going to give me. But then, it is Bank Holiday and I'm sure he has much better things to do with his time. He and his wife have bought a wonderful mansion in Devon that they rent out to holidaymakers. if anyone is interested. And now my font and type size seems to have gone funny!

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Freedom? What Freedom?

I am currently disenfranchised, as Mr Grumpy didn't want me to register as living at his house, so I had no chance to vote in the election for London Mayor. If I had done, I would certainly not have voted for Boris. Having reached 'a certain age', and as a lifetime non-driver, I couldn't wait to get my Freedom Pass. Bus travel is essential where I live, to get to the shops and station. On my miserable income, I certainly couldn't afford to spend five or ten pounds getting to where I am meeting a friend, before even buying my coffee and cake.

The Freedom Pass is the one thing that makes getting old and poor a little easier. It is a perk I feel I have earned after a lifetime of paying into the system. I jumped for joy when I heard that the free travel pass was to extend to most of the country. Yet the Tories pledge to take this benefit away, and the free bus travel for under sixteens. Do they think everyone has cars and don't need it? What about the elderly who develop bad eyesight, like my father did, and have their driving licence taken away? Is it fair to doubly clobber them by making them pay for bus and tube travel? And what about making Britain greener? Free travel passes mean fewer cars burning our dwindling resources and polluting the atmosphere.

I fear the Tory Party have always been the Selfish Party, pledged to make the rich richer, hoping the poor will crawl under a stone and not bother them. Well, I have every intention of bothering them. In the Sixties, I was a CND member and went on Ban the Bomb marches. For the last forty years I have been a 'sleeper' in terms of political protest, but now my dander is up, my sense of justice is fuming and seething away and if it comes to forming a political pressure group - the OAP Party, perhaps (Angry Old Pensioners), or the PPR Party (Protect Pensioners' Rights), or even the SOF Party (Save Our Freedom), I shall do it.

I have a trailblazing hero, an elderly neighbour called Kevin who made a stand for pensioners by refusing to pay his council tax, protesting that it wasn't right that elderly retired people on miniscule pensions should be made to pay the full amount. He was taken to court time after time, but eventually ill-health forced him to give up his solo fight. What the over sixties need is more Kevins. People who don't just moan about it but get out there and do it. For now, I shall bide my time, but if there is the slightest whiff of Boris axing the Freedom Pass, I shall be in his face, guns blazing. Well, metaphorically at least.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Then and now

Mr Grumpy used to say, "Thank you for being you." He used to tell me that I'd brought the sunshine back into his house, following the death of his soulmate and the departure of her children back to their dad. He used to give me flowers and write me poems and take me out for meals. He brought me glasses of wine in the bath and leaped to my aid when the computer went wrong. When I went to Turkey after two dates with Mr G, intending to stay all summer, he came and brought me back after a fortnight, promising me wonderful things. None of them materialised and he blamed it on me, saying I was 'always too busy' so he didn't dare plan anything. But all he had to do was ask, 'are you free on such and such a date'?

I think one of the big problems in our relationship is that I am still trying to earn a living and he isn't. So he grumbles when I spend five hours on the computer doing a book report for a company, saying he doesn't see me all day. Around four, I long to lounge on the sofa for an hour with a coffee, watching a recording of a favourite TV show, but no, Mr G is there before me watching endless re-runs of Time Team and Top Gear, so back up the stairs I trail, back to the computer for there is simply nowhere else to go, no private space, nothing else to do in this house, or in this area, but work. There are no parks to walk in, no courses to attend, no musical events, no folk club, no poetry readings, nothing for someone with my sorts of interests. There are church choirs, there is line-dancing, but there is nothing cultural whatsoever. I am marooned in a grey street full of bungalows, mouldering, going crazy, my ulcer and IBS and insomnia all getting worse.

On the plus side, and it was only a little plus but a very colourful, sweet one, the peacock butterfly, such a battered specimen that I was surprised he could still fly (he reminded me of me), posed on some appleblossom for me, so I was able to photograph him (or her) at last.

Friday, 2 May 2008

More agent woe

Well, having decided I'd be better off with a female agent, my soon-to-be-ex male one asked his female business partner if she would represent me and she said no. It's a great shame because I met her once when she came to give a talk to Women Writers' Network and I really liked her. But she wasn't very enthusiastic about my book which, strangely, after saying he knows nothing about the women's commercial fiction market, my male agent likes.

All of which leaves me precisely nowhere, with a book that he encouraged me to write, and me left high and dry with no-one to sell it for me. It's very hard to sell a book these days without an agent. Many publishers won't read submissions from agentless authors. They are bombarded with so many thousands of manuscripts per year that they use agents as a filtering process, which means they could be missing out on brilliant books by writers who haven't found an agent. The whole process is desperately unfair. What publishers should do is employ more freelancers like me to plough through the tottering heaps of manuscripts and give their writers a fair chance.

Once upon a time I had a job reading the slushpile for Scholastic Books, till they decided they couldn't afford to pay £10 an hour for the privilege and were going to do it all in-house. This means that some poor trainee is paid to read the first couple of pages of each and, on this skimpy glimpse, decide their fate. Last time I was in their offices, there were manuscrips literally falling out of cupboards and lying in heaps on the floor. Maybe it's time I offered them my services again. Yet... do I really want to be reading other people's books when I could be writing my own?