Monday, 30 June 2008

Good party, bad hangover


If you feel like death the day after a party, it's usually because the party was either very good, so you got carried away, or very bad so you needed to drown your sorrows. Mr G's 'first birthday party' (first year of surviving the two strokes he had on June 28th and 29th last year) on Saturday was the former, than goodness. We didn't get the hordes of screaming brats we were expecting and those youngsters who did come were very well behaved and soon had their noses in the weird coloured trifles Mr G had made - a green one, a turquoise one and a bright pink one, full of marshmallows and custard (think of the E numbers!).

I can remember saying something I shouldn't and hearing indrawn breaths. I fear it was something along the lines of having been with Mr G 11 years and he'd never wanted to make an honest woman out of me. That didn't go down well with his relatives. I might even have said I felt I had wasted the last decade. Oh dear. Luckily, more wine brought oblivion, and Sunday brought a near death experience where I felt too nauseous to raise my head from the pillow, but got dizzy just lying there as the bed kept revolving. And who was knocking at my head with a large hammer, trying to get in?

For some reason, I paired an orange top with orange trousers and looked like a follower of the Bagwani Shri Rajneesh, if that's how you spell his orange holiness's name. In the morning, I found wine stains on it, dunked it in cool water in the sink and all the dye came out. It is now in the charity shop bag. Shame, 'cos I liked it, but it's only going back to the place I got it from, in slightly faded condition, rather like myself.

Friday, 27 June 2008

The Waiting Game...

Still no response from Mustafa Carpet.

Got two photos on my mobile today, sent from Paxos by a longtime, and long time ago, lover whom my production editor (I was editing a romantic fiction magazine at the time) nicknamed Breakfast Time O'Bonk (after Lunchtime O'Booze in Private Eye) - Bob for short. He used to say goodbye to his wife then call at my flat on the way to work. 18 years ago but we've stayed friends. Oh, happy days. Wish I were in Paxos. Or Turkey. Is this a reaction to my terminal boredom? Or, as I live near Heathrow, Terminal 5 boredom?

Just remembered Paul Simon's Still Crazy After All These Years...

Saw an old lover on the street last night,
she seemed so glad to see me, I just smiled
and we talked about some old times
and we drank ourselves some beers,
still crazy after all these years.

Should I use this title as my epitaph, I wonder? Mind you, I might be genuinely crazy by the ti,e I topple off my perch. Whilst copying the lyrics off a website, I chanced upon an ad for a site dedicated to providing married people with illicit partners (www.lovinglinks.co.uk). Bob didn't need that back in 1990. He had me.

Frustration!

I emailed the Alan Rickman lookalike but no reply so far, not even in Turkish! By the way, if you want a bit of filthy entertainment, here is a very colourful list of Turkish swear words and their English translations. http://www.insultmonger.com/swearing/turkish.htm

Those Turks are extremely imaginative!

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Bolt from the Blue


Or perhaps an arrow from Cupid answer to my last posting?

It was 7.30 this morning and I was up, having been awake since 4.17; knowing the binmen and recycling collectors were coming around 6.30 and would wake me up, I couldn't get back to sleep. The phone went when I was in my study, next to where Mr G sleeps with the door open. I answered in a whisper, so as not to wake him. I was expecting to hear the voice of Mr G's friend who rings him every morning. Instead, I heard a voice saying, "Hello, it is Mustafa."

"You must have a wrong number," I automatically replied. But the voice was insistent. "It is Mustafa from Fethiye."

Now, Mustafa from Fethiye is the spitting image of my favourite actor, Alan Rickman, he of the Roman nose and sexy voice; he of Truly, Madly Deeply fame, and who played the sardonic Snape in the Harry Potter movies so wonderfully. Just change the hair shade to silver and it's the Turkish carpet man. Mustafa (labelled Mustafa Shag by one of my friends who knows him and Fethiye very well) is a one-time holiday romance of mine. But what was he doing ringing me at the crack of dawn and how did he get my number?

My heart was pounding faster and all was revealed when he said, "I have your friend Mary here." I met Mary on my recent trip to Cornwall. She was looking for somewhere laid back and sunny to spend a holiday before returning for some potentially nasty medical stuff. I suggested Fethiye, gave her my number and told her that if she went, she should look up Mustafa. Now I have what I wished I had had years ago - his phone number, his email address and his website! He asked when I was coming over. September, I promised.

Tee-hee. Tee-bloody-hee! Turkish Delight is on the menu and I shan't tell Mr Grumpy.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

PS

Maybe I need to have an affair.....

Dying of Boredom

You know that old saying about 'dying of boredom'? Well, I think it is actually possible, and I think that, at this rate, it won't be long before I am lying prone on the hearthrug with the cat trying to lick me back to life (or eating me, more like!). As Mr G never liked going out, even before his strokes, I had got used to eating out perhaps once a month when I managed to drag him, protesting all the way, to a local curry house or a pub for Sunday lunch.

Mr G hates pubs. He gave up drinking almost 40 year ago when the violent results of too much Jack Daniels landed him in gaol a couple of times. All power to his elbow that he kept off the booze and took degrees in law and sociology, culminating in a PhD. All I have is a lowly 2ii, due to, yes, too much booze, guitar playing and messing around with the opposite sex. But back to Mr G. Not only does he hate pubs, he doesn't see the point of sitting in a restaurant when you could have the same meal on a tray on your lap in front of the telly. He won't go to dinner parties because, since his strokes, his throat is funny and he often chokes on his food. He hates any sort of party because he hates most people and loathes polite conversation. He won't go to the cinema because he can download the movie and watch it from the comfort of his own sofa. I have a National Trust ticket and would love to go round some stately homes. I don't drive, so I require a chauffeur but even an offer to pay for the petrol doesn't work. 'Seen one pile of old bricks and you've seen them all,' says Mr G.

So where does that leave lively, gregarious me, who craves good conversation and swapping ideas with others? Mouldering indoors, is what. Plonked in front of the telly watching endless re-runs of CSI, unable even to go upstairs and do some writing for fear of being moaned at because he 'hasn't seen me all day', even though I've been in the same house. I have to work. I'm not retired, or, thank God, on disability benefit like he is. I am trying to scrape a few pennies together by working extremely hard for peanuts and once I've finished a job, in an ideal world I would get together with friends and go out for a drink or a meal. Instead, I'm stuck within the same four walls I've been inside all day, chafing at the bit, remembering when I was a teenager with my nose pressed to the window in the Liverpool suburb of West Allerton, watching everyone else out and about in the streets having a life, and wishing I could join them but my parents wouldn't let me. And now Mr G is in effect playing the same role, as he knows I need a lift from him even to get as far as the tube station and my mates all live 25 miles away. He may not be in gaol any longer, but I am.

When I met him 11 years ago, my health was okay-ish. My stomach played up, but only 20% of the time. Gradually, it's got worse, and now it's bad about 90% of the time, so even if I do makew arrangements, I almost always have to cancel them, or go out and flop palely in the corner like the spectre at the feast. I really do think I may be dying of boredom.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Garden of foxes



The vixen and four cubs appeared in the garden over the weekend. The largest cub has black legs and the smallest (see pic) is extremely cute but appears to be blind in one eye and is getting far too tame, venturing up onto the deck and peering through the patio doors. If we're careful, we'll acquire a new pet and as Mum has the mange, this might be bad news for the cat...

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Buscopan

Right up until we left to go to my friend's 60th last night, my stomach was giving me hell. I really didn't feel well enough to go to a party at all, but didn't want to let her down and besides, she has lots of interesting friends - poets, photographers, musicians, actors (Peckham is a very arty place these days) - who I was dying to meet.

Shortly before we left, I went through my pill cupboard in desperation and found three Buscopan tablets (for IBS) lurking in a packet. I took one and we set out, me still clutching my stomach through my sequinned flower-power skirt from Joe Brown's (www.joebrowns.co.uk for all clubbers, surfers and hippies of any age, especially if you're looking for purple tights!).

It's 25 miles from Hillingdon to Peckham. An hour later we had only covered ten of them. The traffic was one bonnet to bumper crawl. As the Brentford off-ramp loomed, we made the decision to turn for home, as the jam continued as far as the eye could see. Around the same time, I realised that my stomach ache had gone. When we got home, two hours after setting out, I decided 'waste not, want not', opened the bottle of fizzy M&S rose wine I had been taking to my friend's and slung a pizza in the oven. We ate around ten, Mr G went to bed around 11 and I stayed up till one, drinking, watching crap TV and reading The Intelligencer by Leslie Silbert, a fascinating crime thriller that jumps between Christopher Marlowe's spying career in the 16th century, to the present day.

At 3.30 am, I woke from a deep, dream-filled sleep to hear, "Meeeeeeeow!" at the bedroom door. Poor old Felix has a bad leg and is limping, so Mr G kindly left him asleep upstairs in my study and now he had decided it was breakfast time. I hauled my dozy carcase out of bed and fed him some cat bics, crawled back and was still awake when our little feathered friends started piercing my eardrums with their tweets. Then I slung some Benilyn down me and didn't wake again till the doorbell went at twenty past ten.

I guess this might be turning into the diary of a drug addict, but my stomach is OK this morning and I'm going to get in some more Buscopan as it appears to have worked a miracle. I can't imagine where those three pills came from. Maybe my goddaughter passed them onto me as she has stomach trouble, too. In fact, she and I seem to suffer from identical complaints which, as she is 30 years younger than me, is no fun for her. Still, she's off to Vancouver soon, so I am in deep envy.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

I might have know it

Yesterday I spoke too soon when I crowed about feeling fine following my night over overindulgence. If bad stomachs and hangovers can skip a day, then I am suffering the consequences 36 hours later. Horrible stomach ache and dashes to the loo, tired and aching all over. I've been thinking back to what I ate yesterday that could have caused it, and I suppose half a plain chocolate Bounty bar, a digestive biscuit slathered with peanut butter, several slices of fresh, crusty French loaf from M&S and, to cap it all, fish pie, is a pretty indigestible mixture. Will I ever learn?

I'm off to a friend's 60th tonight. I'm full of good intentions not to drink, not to take the odd toke of a passing spliff (we called them joints in my day) just for old times' sake, not to plunge face first into the wheel of brie my mate has bought for the occasion, but I can already hear my spectral tones echoing from the future, saying, 'I'm sure just one won't hurt.' I shall record my transgressions tomorrow, if I'm in any fit state.

Friday, 20 June 2008

A Surfeit of Spag

Last night I met up with friends in Highgate and, after giving the birthday boy his presents, we went to an Italian Restaurant in East Finchley. My cautious friend with the small appetite (she has stomach problems, too), stuck to a starter of avocado and mozzarella, with tomato and a small amount of salad. No wine, because she was driving. Birthday Boy and I had the works. He had a starter, then a pasta. I had a crayfish pasta with rocket salad, followed by an amoretto icecream.

Now, for the last few days my ulcer has been giving me hell. As I shovelled in my pasta, full of bravado owing the the two glasses of wine I'd consumed at another friends an hour earlier, and the small one I'd had at Birthday Boy's, and now the large one I was having with my meal, I was aware of a hot spice, chilli maybe, or paprika, adding zip to the flavour. But, in for a penny, in for £23, which was my share of the bill, so I continued to sup and shovel.

I spent the night on Careful Eater's flop-out single bed (she has just written a book on Digestive Health for Sheldon Press) and took a Nurofen for a slight headache, trying to nip the hangover in the bud. Then, after I'd swallowed I thought, Nurofen? Chilli? What am I doing to my poor inflamed tum!

Well, I woke up this morning, as all the best blues players sing (unless they've died in the night, in which case a ghostly voice quavers, 'Well, it seems like I didn't wake up this morning', and guess what? No headache, no stomach ache, in fact, for the first time in days, I feel fine. 'Woke up this morning feeling fine. No indigestion on my mind. Last night I ate a hot spag in the neighbourhood. Something tells me white wine and crayfish are good.' (Apologies to Herman's Hermits and the Halifax ad people!)

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Barbed wire in the midriff

That's what my ulcer feels like. The wretched thing has been playing up for the last week. On Monday I felt fine and Mr G insisted we share a microwaved frozen chicken curry, home-made by him a couple of weeks ago. Yesterday, I felt vile and had endless trips to the loo. Tomorrow I am meeting friends to celebrate a birthday and am hoping and praying I shall be OK as everyone is so fed up with my cancelling things so often. My stomach is a pain for everyone who knows me, not just me. In fact, Mr G had the cheek to say, 'What other man would take you on, with all the things you've got wrong with you.' He can bloody well talk!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

St Pancras PS

Did some reading-up on the embracing statue. Apparently, Ssculptor Paul Day was told that kissing was too risque (whaaaat?) and so they are merely rubbing noses? That could be construed as even ruder in some cultures! Here's what I found on the Web...

The custom well into the 20th Century was: Eskimos don't kiss; they rub noses. A Scots fur trader describes his experience in the 1960s. The girl reaches up and brings your face down to hers and holds the side of her nose against yours. That shows affection. But then she presses her nose against yours and rubs it slowly back and forth. That not only is considered passionate--it IS!

'Nuff said. Paul Day, grab that statue back and glue their lips together. Why stop at half measures?

Monday, 16 June 2008

Glorious St Pancras





I spent a lot of time surfing and eventually found a website for the Gibraltar Chronicle and emailed them the story and photo of Thelma. I hope they use it. Fingers crossed...

Before meeting my cousin last Thursday, I had a chance to explore the new, revamped St Pancras. There were lots of interesting, though highly priced, shops and bars, and large stretches of brick wall that seemed underutilised, especially on the upper floor, but I was knocked out by the sense of space and airiness, which was so enormous that you hardly noticed the Eurostar trains until you heard the echoing roar that denoted the start, or end, of a journey.

I loved the statue of Sir John Betjeman, though he looked somewhat lost in the vast emptiness that, to give the statue scale, I included a traveller in the background. By contrast, the statue of the 1930s couple fits the space but is impossible to look at properly owing to the fact that you can't get far enough away from it to take it all in. Maybe it is meant to be viewed from the Eurostar platform. I loved it and think it is a truly talented piece of work, adding grandeur to romance and stirring the imagination. Who are they? Are they greeting or parting? I incline towards parting, because of the strength, power and clinging desperation in their embrace. But perhaps others think differently.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Unknown Cousin from Gibraltar


My uncle had a wartime romance in Gibraltar with a lady called Mercedes Cipollene (or Chipolina, the spelling is not known, but it was pronounced Chipolina). The result was a daughter called Thelma who would be my first cousin and the half sister of the cousin I met yesterday. The photograph was sent to my uncle in, I think, 1947 and she looks about five, so she would be about 66 now. No doubt she is married and has a different surname, but we would love to find her. All ideas as to how to do this will be most welcome. The card is signed, From Thelma to Daddy, Love and kisses.

House-buying nightmare

I found the perfect house on the internet. In Camden, round the corner to my best friend. Housing association, four bedrooms, and I could buy a share and have cash left over for a rainy day. The estate agent was also the owner. It was part of his portfolio. I said I could have first crack at it as the agency knew me and I was a cash buyer. I saw it, opening my mouth to say, 'Yes, I'll take it,' when he said, 'Of course, you'll need time to think. I'll wait till I hear from you.' Like a fool, I thought this meant he wouldn't be showing it to anyone else till he heard from me.

I then had to go and meet my cousin from Wales, to hand over some treasured photos of his dad which I had found amongst my parents' things. His dad, my uncle, Selby died when he was 9 and then my cousin lost all his mementos of his father in a house fire. We went for coffee and a chat. Then I thought I had better ring the agent, but guess what? The email I'd printed out didn't have the phone number on it. By the time I got home, it was 6.30pm and the estate agency was closed.

I emailed, so the agent/owner would get it in the morning, but too late. He'd shown it to somebody who'd seen it after me, even though he'd said he preferred me as I was a cash buyer. He hadn't bothered to wait till he heard from me. I am completely gutted as that house was the answer to all my prayers. It was delapidated, it need new windows, new kitchen, stripping out and refurbishing and the garden was a wasteland as it had been rented out for years. But I would happily have done all that to be back in the swing of things and near my friend. Now what on earth am I going to do? I have to get out of Hillingdon or I shall go crazy! Hillingdon is all right for people who have friends and family there, but not for people who don't know a soul, as there is absolutely nothing to do, unless you want to do salsa dancin or join the church choir!

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Mr G latest

Having a cracked rib means you're in awful pain when you sneeze and cough So what's happened now? Mr Grumpy has caught a cold, that's what. He's coughing, snorting, sneezing and blowing and is thoroughly miserable - and grumping like mad. Who wouldn't? I am keeping my distance and wishing him an ultra speedy recovery.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Gazebo (2)

As Mr G was painfully dismantling the gazebo this morning, the bloody thing fell apart! A screw fell out and on closer examination, one of the metal struts had cracked. Now Mr G has packed it all up and limped painfully back to Halfords with it. Lord only knows how he heaved it in and out of the car.

I refused to watch. I did offer to go with him and help him carry it but he took one scornful look at my feeble arms and said, "What, honestly, can you do? Can you lift it?" I tried yesterday and almost gave myself a hernia. What's the betting he'll come back with another cracked rib? Or a hernia? I await the next Mr G health bulletin with trepidation. The Dettol spray and sticking plasters in the First Aid box are not enough. He needs a paramedic permanently on hand to patch him up and keep him going. Poor old sod!

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Mr Grumpy cracks a rib

Yes, there really is no stopping the wave of accidents afflicting Mr G. Some are down to post-stroke clumsiness, as he hasn't the strength and dexterity in his right hand that he used to have and others are caused by his habit of overestimating his capabilities.

Although of a thin, wiry build, Mr G has always had great upper body strength and used to climb overhangs. Not any more. Now he has cracked a rib lifting a very heavy box containing a Halford's gazebo (with sides). How does he know it's a cracked rib? Because he's done it before and knows the symptoms. Despite the pain, he put the thing up. Then he sneezed and oh, the agony. Now he can't twist or turn, blow his nose or laugh without going very pale and quiet, which is what Mr G does when he is in pain, as he isn't one who wants the world to know. Not like me. Everybody knows when I have a headache or a bad stomach. How else would they know to tiptoe quietly about, or avoid offering me curry?

When I first met Mr G, he used to suffer from violent headaches which he put down to migraine but which were probably precursors to his brain haemorrhage. He wouldn't tell me, he would just go quiet and snappy so I would get upset, wondering what I'd done or said wrong. For three years I put myself through emotional agonies, trying to figure out how I had annoyed him and he never, every told me it was just because he had a bad head.

When he had his brain haemorrhage, he collapsed while I was out, woke up on the floor, remembered he had to pick me up from the station three miles away, and though his vision was down to a pinpoint, he nevertheless drove, taking the motorhome as he figured if he had an accident, he'd have a greater chance of surviving. I got out of the station and found him lying on one of the benches in the motorhome. Seeing me, he got up, climbed into the driver's seat, drove home, then went to bed. Mr G never goes to bed with any ailment, not like yours truly, who takes to her pit when she feels something developing, in the hope of staving it off.

After five days of violent pain and disturbances to his vision, I finally nagged him into going to hospital. They had no beds and he was told to sit in a chair all night. 'I'm not doing that when I have a perfectly good bed at home," said Mr G, and promptly discharged himself. By this time, the hospital had lost his scans anyway. Next day, not feeling any better, he came back and they refused to readmit him and it was only due to his knowing someone on the board of the local health service that he got back in and finally got his diagnosis, that he'd had a major bleed at the back of the brain, the bit that they can't reach to operate on, in the Circle of Willis. Two weeks on and Mr G was laying a laminate floor in the new house I had bought. There really is no stopping the man. He is crazy, but he is a survivor. He won't let anything stop him. I bet that next time I come down the stairs he will be busy dismantling the gazebo, cracked rib or not.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Electric Cinema

The Electric Cinema in Portobello Road, Notting Hill, West London, is the oldest working cinema in Britain, having begun life in 1909. I bet they'll be having a great centenary celebration next year. I had arranged to see Sex and the City there with my goddaughter yesterday. I got off the bus in Holland Park Avenue at 12.50 - we were meeting at 1.30. Then my goddaughter rang to say she wouldn't be there until 1.45. I was in my element! There were charity shops galore, full of the kind of frippery worn by thin little rich girls. Designer mini-skirts covered in ruffles and bows. Silk trousers, the sort worn on cruises. I dreamed and browsed, then realised it was time to head for the cinema.

Well, I walked - past gorgeous cottages painted in pastel blue, lavender, pink; past shops selling weird clothes and antique jewellery; past a shop full of ancient statues lacking limbs, or even heads in some cases (what strange person would want a headless statue with no arms and only one leg, unless they had a thing about amputees?). And I walked... on and on, between stalls selling smelly handbags of badly cured leather, strings of hippy beads, velvet robes and hot dogs that smelled like gastro enteritis. Where was the wretched cinema?

I walked some more. I was getting hot, tired and thirsty. Goddaughter rang to say she'd be there in 5 mins but I'd been walked a good 20 and still hadn't got there. But at last I saw the blue sign up ahead and spotted her wafting towards me in a salmon-coloured kaftan and jeans. Inside, we sank with an airy squish into soft leather armchairs and put our aching feet up on leather foot-stools and watched Sex and the City whilst sipping iced mineral water from the bar. All the women around us seemed to be drinking wine, like the characters in the movie, and the laughter got more raucous as the film went on. It was really very funny. I loved the sharp wit and the way the characters had aged, yet were all in essence still the same, like all of us, I guess. A bit wrinklier, a bit fatter, a bit faded, a bit more acerbic or self-pitying at times, but still the same old people.

Afterwards we went to the Notting Hill Soho House club, goddaughter being a member. That almost spoiled the afternoon. It was nothing more than a shabby bar, with greasy food, salad drowned in oil, and a kindergarten next door, the screeches from which drowned conversation and turned what should have been a slightly up-market experience into a grotty ordeal. Apparently, the Soho, Chiswick and Soho branches of Soho House are excellent, but the Notting Hill one is definitely a Not-Nott. Don't go there. Well, you can't unless you're a member, anyway, and the waiting list for membership is miles long.

But the Electric Cinema is a fabulous experience and I thoroughly recommend it. Next time, I shall be drinking champagne.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Dyeing for a change!



It had to happen. It was time. I was fading fast and something drastic had to be done to save... my hair. From being the glorious red it was on the photo on the left, it had gradually, almost imperceptibly, crept down the road to brownish ginger. I didn't realise how bad it had got until I had arranged to meet a friend (a very blunt friend) at the station. "I walked right past you," she said. "I was looking for a redhead."

I am used to sour comments. Not that that makes me like them. From the day my mum told me I was ugly because, at 11, I had to wear glasses, and, at 15, that I had legs like tree trunks, and yet again, when I was around 45, that she hadn't recognised me on one of my visits, when I'd dressed in a very expensive new trendy jacket and had had a red rinse, and had thought, 'Who's that fat middle-aged woman with dyed hair, in the shrunken jacket, walking over the railway bridge with Dad?' Not one to mince her words, my mum, God rest her! It would have been her 100th birthday on June 28th... But I'm getting off the point. It was time to dye my hair and brighten up my persona for the summer. And here is the result. I don't think it's bad - but I can hear my mother's acid tones echoing in my ear... fat, middle-aged, dyed... but no shrunken jacket this time, just a shrunken wallet!

Sorting out the sheep from the goats (and the cows)

I haven't talked about my multifarious ailments for some time. They are the reason I started this blog, so now I feel duty-bound to have a whinge. My stomach has suddenly rebelled and the IBS has started up again. I realise I have forgotten to take my probiotics for a few days, so today I have gone back on them.

I have suspected for years that chocolate (cheap milk choc, that is, not good plain choc) and cow's milk have been causing me problems so today I bought some goat's milk in Tesco. It tastes lovely. I thought it would taste like a wrestler's armpit - you know that heavy, musky flavour goat products often have, so I was pleasantly surprised. I used it for my coffee and it made a decent cup, but guess what? Now my sinuses have started reacting and I am sniffling and throat-clearing in exactly the same way I do after cow's milk. Why? All the articles say that people who are sensitive to cow's milk have no problems with goat's, so why me?

Years ago, I had my allergies tested at a chemist's in Muswell Hill. They said I was allergic to both cow and sheep dairy products but was fine with goat products. So... why the sniffles? All theories gratefully received. In the meantime, I shall restrain myself from ordering a goat.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Male fashions



The most ridiculous sight has just walked past my study window. A bald man with glasses, aged about 45, wearing a navy suit jacket, black shorts and clumpy black shoes with no socks. Pur-lease! On the Continent men can get away with such outfits as their legs are tanned, toned, exfoliated and moisturised. There is most probably a dab of cologne behind the knees. Nowhere do you see the pallid slabs of calf, the hairy ankles that look like fat sausages sprouting black mould; the bony or pudgy knees, the flabby thighs that could do with three months of exercise-biking to make them an appealing shape. (Mind you, one could say the same about mine. Here are the before and after from Mr G's sneaky photo shoot in his motorhome - the very same vehicle that was stolen from his front garden shortly after his brain haemorrhage in 2000, when its insurance had just run out. Mr G doesn't have much luck. Neither do my shorts, from the look of them!)

Most British men do not have the legs - or the bottoms - for shorts. Which reminds me. I once had a boyfriend who hated his bottom. However, I didn't know that as he'd never told me. One day, he asked me how he looked in a new pair of jeans he'd bought. "They're okay-ish," I said. "But your bum does look a bit big in them." Whereupon this strapping six-footer with the lumberjack beard who worked for a top rock band burst into great, gasping sobs. I had found his Achilles heel - or rather, his Achilles arse. We broke up shortly after this, by which time Queen's song, Fat-Bottomed Girls was in the charts. Rock music had got its own back on me.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Birthdays and astrology

I keep a birthday book, which is a jolly useful thing to have. One thing I've noticed is that birthdays come in clusters. There is the March cluster (Pisceans, like me), then the largest bunch of all, the May/June cluster (Gemini and Cancer, 14 in the space of seven weeks), and the next peak happens in Virgo, September (5), followed by three Sagittarians and Capricorns in December, then three Aquarians including my daughter.

It's notable that there are no Aries people, unless you count my ex-husband who I haven't seen since 1979, only one Leo and one Taurean (odd, because I have two planets in Taurus and like the Taureans that I've met), one Scorpio and two Librans. There surely must be something astrological in it!

My family were all water signs, one Piscean (me), two Cancerians (Mum and my sister) and one Scorpio (Dad). For some odd reason, we were paired off at an early age, me with Mum and my sister with Dad, she being judged the more practical and tomboyish of us two. It was she who,though younger than me, was given the driving lessons. I was told I'd never be any good as I was too much of a dreamer. That stuck, and I never learned as I was far too nervous, perhaps on account of that early conditioning. We both had riding lessons but I was content to plod along on the quietest pony while my sister wanted to leap fences (and still does). Nature, or nurture? And do the planets really influence us? It's been proved that the moon does. I believe the others do, too. A particularly observant friend, Tony, who is an astrologer, noticed that when certain planets was in powerful position in the heavens, I always wore the colour that was ascribed to that planet. Indeed, I have a wardrobe containing every colour of the rainbow!