Wednesday, 30 September 2009

The last rays of summer

Next door's Bengal cat, Chimimi, mother of their other three beautiful felines, is quite well camouflaged amongst the drooping leaves of our cherry tree. (Not one cherry this year. Mr G pruned them severely last autumn and this year they developed leaf curl and were colonised by loads of ladybirds.) Chimimi is a fiendishly bright little cat. She can get into anything. We came down one morning and found that she had opened the breadbin and was asleep on a loaf. I was stroking her this morning, stopped to sip my tea and she gently patted my hand. I stroked her again, and told Mr Grumpy, who didn't believe me, until I stopped stroking and he saw her pat my hand again. No doubt about what she wanted!

Sunday, 27 September 2009


I'm keeping my fingers crossed and saying this in a whisper, but my tooth appears to be settling down. It's less painful than it's been in six months. I think I want to marry my dentist. Shame he has a wife already. He's Greek, around 50 and while he's operating inside my gob, I try to count the hairs on his extremely hirsute arms. He used a machine I've never had used on my before, which fizzes and goes beep. I think it was to cauterise the root canals and kill the infection. He said he would have to do it all over again before he could think about doing the crown. Another hour and a half of hair-counting and marvelling at their colour and springiness. They are all I can see as my specs have to be removed in order to place the safety goggles on my schnozz.

Had a visit from my oldest friend Claire, from Liverpool. We started primary school on the same day, she lived half a mile or so up the road from me and we were friends until our paths parted and she went to Calder High and I to the Liverpool Institute High School for Girls, Blackburne House which involved taking the bus into the centre of the city every day. I would far rather have gone to her school, but I won a Margaret Bryce Smith scholarship that entailed having to go to Blackburne House. (On the old photo from Booker Avenue County Primary School, Claire is fifth from right, second row in. Can you spot me? And have I posted this pic before? Can't remember!) It's great that we are still pals after all these years. She is now the proud grandma of three granddaughters, the last one born just three months ago. We went on a walk through the local woods today, dodging scarily huge hornets. No way will I be going back in there in a hurry! These things were like flying yellow chickens they were so big.

I had half a plan to visit the Regent St Festival today but another friend who was planning to go decided to sit in the garden instead as the weather is so gorgeous. Think I shall don my shorts and do the very same thing.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

The woe continues

Clambered bravely onto dentist's chair yesterday, full of bravado and weak jokes, but my jocular mood wore off when he stretched a sheet of green latex across my face (for a moment I thought he'd turned into a CSI-style crazy murderer), cut a hole in it for my nose, another for my tooth and stretched it tight across my mouth on metal skewers so that I looked like Hannibal Lecter posing for a spearmint gum ad. It was, he said, to prevent the chemicals he was using affecting the teeth on either side. I think it was to prevent me coming out with any more lame jokes and pathetic whimpers.

The tooth was reopened and re-excavated. He found more infection and discovered the Uxbridge dentist had perforated the root. He told me my root canals were very twisty and scelerotic, i.e. closed up. He had to twist and screw his cleaning rod into it. Finally, after he'd had to give me two extra shots of novocaine, he refilled it and told me not to bite on it.

Unfortunately, when I got home and the anaesthetic had worn off, I discovered that part of the filling was connecting with my bottom teeth every time I closed my mouth, resulting in a nasty ja of pain. Now I can't chew, can't eat and can only slurp soup. Bang goes my proposed trip to Cornwall next week.Will this nightmare every end? The dentist says if this treatment doesn't work, he has a Plan B. I hope it is to take the bloody thing out at last.

Friday, 25 September 2009


My stomach is churning, my knees are knocking. I'm about to start on the hour and a half journey to my old dentist in Victoria, to get the tooth that has plagued me all year properly seen to at last. I am such a coward when it comes to dentists. Not as much as Mr G, though. He hasn't seen a dentist since 1964, when he had some treatment in gaol, without an anaethetic, that left the nerve exposed and put him in such agony that now he prefers to lance his own abcesses and swill his mouth out with hydrogen peroxide, and pull his own teeth with a pair of pliers. Now, that would be fine in the Australian outback or on the Mongolian Steppes, but in London, where there are practices that specialise in nervous patients and will knock you right out if necessary (oh, why aren't I going to one of those?), his behaviour seems certifiably barking.

I'll post an update later, when I shall have either half a tooth left, or none at all.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Fall falls...

The 'season of mists and mellow fruitfulness' has begun in earnest (who's he?) and most of my summer clothes have remained on the hangers and in the plastic storage box for the third summer running. They used to get lots of use when I went to Turkey twice a year but now, they are a sad collection of strappy wisps smelling faintly of Ambre Solaire and Hawaiian Tropic. Oh, what memories sniffing them brings back!

My friend Jill has a couple of bags of my cast-offs in her loft and wanted me to do a car boot with her yesterday. But I have a deadline to finish a job and my eyes were glued to the screen all day as I electronically annotated 221 pages of a novel written by someone who had never heard of quotation marks, with the result that all the dialogue was mingled in one huge chunk and I had no idea at all of who was saying what. I am also five pages into the report I have to provide for the literary consultancy.

On Jill's return, she rang from her canalside home in Camden and announced that she had made £45 selling beauty products that she gets as freebies through her work as a health and beauty writer. "How much did my stuff make?" I asked, holding my breath, knowing I had original Betty Barclay dresses and Monsoon skirts in my bags. "Seven quid," was the reply, "and you need to donate £4 of that towards the pitch money." Thank God I didn't make the 25 mile, hour and a half trek by various tubes and buses to Gospel Oak and waste a day when I could be working, all for the sake of three measly squid!

Today, I have the last 100 pages to plough through. And Mr Grumpy has just had a go at me for grumbling because his friend and her children are on their way round and I dared to protest politely that I'm trying to work.

"I spend half my life trying to fit around your work," he groused. Well, what does he expect? I'm trying to earn a living still. I'm a working writer and editor and he is on disability benefit and we have a complete clash of lifestyles. I am outraged when people bring kids round and disturb my working hours, but this is his house, as he keeps on reminding me, and he can see who he wants when he wants. Yet another reminder that if I am ever to write another book, I have to move out.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Memories of a gentler age

I'd been to view a cottage and was standing on a bridge looking at the ducks when an elderly (even more elderly than me!) gentleman approached. I made a remark, he replied and we got talking. It turned out that, like me, he had been born in Liverpool so we got talking about all the changes there had been. There was a shopping trolley in the water (even in the deepest countryside I have seen rusty shopping trolleys in rivers, lakes and streams: do they go on their holidays and feel they have to have a swim?), and the old man informed me that a pair of swans used to live in that part of the river and some local kids had used the trolley to trap and kill the female, after which the male swam up and down, up and down for days, and eventually pined and died.

"You don't want to live around here," he said. "Too many thugs." This was a chap in, I guess, his late seventies, who had spent some years in the army. A man who had been brought up in the Liverpool slums but who had principles and a strong sense of fairness. I realised that we had both been brought up in gentler times, when people respected one another and before every house contained a screen saturated with violence that numbed and distorted the sense of right and wrong, that trivialised death - that, in reality, censored death. On the news we are told that viewers might find some scenes distressing, but the scenes of bodies being carried out of collapsed buildings, or lying in the street following a shooting, are nothing compared to the gory close-ups shown on CSI.

The trouble with death on TV series is that it seems quick and easy. No agonising writhings and screams, no long-drawn-out suffering. It's unreal. It's a fiction. As the 'feelies' mentioned in 1984 have yet to be invented, there is no way for a would-be thug to experience the death agonies of the victims of violence. Death has become a game. Kicking someone to death looks on TV like kicking a football. I know I shall be accused of being a fascist, but I can't help thinking that the teenage gangs who stab people to death should be forced to spent some time in Afghanistan facing a real enemy and knowing that this time it could be their turn to have their brains splattered on the pavement. Maybe, faced with such grim reality that's happening to them for a change, they would re-learn the value and preciousness of life. Or is this too much to hope for and today's youth have been brutalised out of all reason?

Monday, 14 September 2009

What is it?

Is it corn, wheat, barley or what? It must have sprouted from some birdseed and has rooted itself in a crack in the paving, all alone, no fellow ears of corn/barley/whatever to protect it from the buffeting winds. It managed to survive all the kids tearing around during Saturday night's party. One brave little plant. Can anyone name it?

Thursday, 10 September 2009

The night they invented Champagne

Christmas 2007 I was given a present of a bottle of the above. "Aha," thought I. "I'll keep this for a special occasion, like when I sell my next book, or buy my next house."

In the intervening 21 months, neither happened. Fed up with waiting for a special occasion, I promised my friend Joan that I would share the bottle with her for her birthday. Which was in June. And it's now September. Yes, I know. But finally last night we got together at our mutual friend Gerry's house and, as Gerry doesn't drink, Joan and I shared the bottle. It was excellent. I developed motormouth, Joan read us a short story she'd just written and I stayed the night on a bed with a divinely soft, squidgy memory foam mattress. It and the champagne were bliss. I drifted home on a sunny morning and have decided that when I do finally have a special occasion worth celebrating, I shall buy another bottle.

Of course it is Mr Grumpy's birthday this Saturday and he's having a party. Another reason to drink my champagne, before anyone else got their thieving hands on it. They can jolly well drink the Sainsbury's wine box I've bought, or the beers provided by Mr G. Or the pond. So there!

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Baking Soda

The Care2 website whose e-cards I often use, send me their newsletters. Today's contained the following suggestions for different uses of baking soda, alias Bicarbonate of Soda, which has been my companion for decades as it's the only thing that eases my hyperacidity and calms down my cystitis symptoms.

* * *


  • Remove buildup. Mix a small palm-full of baking soda to your shampoo to remove buildup from conditioners, mousses and hairsprays.
  • Dry shampoo. No time for a shampoo? Baking soda can be used as a dry shampoo when your hair is oily. Sprinkle some on your hair, comb through then quickly fluff your hair with a blow dryer.
  • Chlorine-damaged tresses. Mix 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda with 1 pint warm water.
  • Combs and brushes. Remove product and oil buildup by soaking your utensils in a bowl of warm water with about 3 tablespoons of baking soda. You can also add a splash of bleach.


  • Facial Exfoliant. In the palm of your hand, mix some baking soda with your facial cleanser to make a gentle exfoliant. Use circular motions to apply gently then rinse as usual for very soft skin.
  • Rough skin. This also works for the rough skin on elbows and feet. Make a thick paste with baking soda and water (about 3 parts baking soda to one part water) and scrub away.
  • Shaving. A solution of 1 tablespoon baking soda in a cup of water works as a pre-shave product of aftershave rinse for men with sensitive skin.


  • Tooth polish and whitener. Baking soda toothpastes have been long-time shelf staples for a reason. The baking soda works to freshen breathe and whiten and polish teeth. Dip a damp toothbrush in baking soda and brush away. My personal twist, dip a toothbrush with toothpaste in baking soda for mouth cleaning times two.
  • Toothbrush. Soak your tooth brush in a mixture of water and baking soda and let it soak overnight.


  • Soft cuticles. Scrubbing your nails or toenails with a nailbrush (or old toothbrush) dipped in baking soda will soften and gently exfoliate cuticles.

Saturday, 5 September 2009


My wardrobe is safe for the moment. Nobody was wearing anything from it in last night's EastEnders episode.

I booked an appointment at The Mole Clinic in London and went along yesterday. To while away the tube journey and take my mind off my tube terror (fear of being stuck underground for hours while dying to go to the loo) I dipped into The Secret. I had deliberately avoided reading it when it was trendy and everyone was spouting its wisdom and writing their wishes on pieces of paper so that the universe would do their bidding. Then I saw it cheap on Amazon and decided to give it a go. I found it surprisingly inspiring. I had a nasty stomach ache so I sent out some positive thoughts, telling myself, the universe and Uncle Tom Cobbley and all, that I didn't have a stomach ache and felt perfectly well. Coincidence or not, ten minutes later my stomach pains went (and no, I hadn't farted!)

I also sent out the positive thought that all my freckles and moles were fine and this turned out to be the case. Yes, even the large and ever expanding one on my leg that had gone knobbly round the edges. (The mole, not my leg.)

They are extremely thorough. I had to strip down to my knickers and bra then a young Aussie lass with a close-up lens with a light on it started with my hairline, went all over my face and behind my ears, then systematically checked me from head to toe. Not even the soles of my feet were overlooked. She tweaked my bra strap out of the way and looked beneath than. However, there was one vast area she didn't explore: my bum. Is that because nobody has ever got skin cancer on their derriere?

There were three small new black dots which I have to keep an eye on, and something on my forehead that might be the start of a scary-sounding but quite benign basal cell carcinoma. She took close-up photos of that to send off to my GP. But I got the all clear, bought a bottle of wine on the way home to celebrate and drank half of it last night.

I also wished for a £ six million win on the Euromillions, but no thrilling email has arrived so far. (I buy my tickets on line and every so often I get a Good News About Your Ticket email to tell me I've won a tenner - or, this week, £2 for my Lucky Number.) Still, the day has only just begun so there's still plenty of time for the news to arrive, as I sit here polishing my copy of The Secret.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

EastEnders stole my clothes!

It's happened again! No sooner do I start wearing something than a character on EastEnders appears in the same garment. It's as if there is a tunnel at the back of my wardrobe connected to the TV studio and every so often they go in and help themselves.

It started with an M&S t-shirt (see first pic.) I wore it, then Jane appeared on screen in it. Next, Stacey's mum Jean appeared in a top of mine (the purple one). Now, it's my black and white cotton dressing-gown that I bought specially for holidays as it's so light and folds down to nothing. Zainab's wearing it! Sadly, the younger, slimmer characters like Dawn Swann and Chelsea never borrow any of my clothes.

Now, EastEnders characters aren't famous for their good fashion sense so does this mean I have rock-bottom taste in clothes? (Perhaps...) Or does it just mean that, like most of us who are not blessed with millions in the bank, they shop at the high street chainstores? Yes, that must be it - phew! But I do wish they would wash and iron my clothes for me after borrowing them!