Friday, 30 April 2010

The day saved?

I deleted the last post as I realised I shouldn't have told the world about my finances. I just got carried away as I was so upset. Anyway, the estate agents have a mortgage department. At first, they said they could get me one but the repayments would be £450 a month, which I really didn't want at all. They asked if I had any other investments and when I mentioned an Isa, they said they could get me an interest only mortgage over ten years, with only £86 a month to pay. If I look on it as very cheap rent for a 3-bed house, I should be fine. I have never stayed anywhere for as long as ten years, anyway. Five years in one place has been my limit. I am a rolling stone!

Wednesday, 28 April 2010


I have found the perfect house. It's beautiful. Three bedrooms, no decorating to be done, a gorgeous garden with a water feature, and it's only ten minutes walk from the tube.

So what's the problem? Well, it's in the very place I'm trying to get away from. Uxbridge! And what's the point of having the perfect house if you have no friends to visit you in it? None of mine will make the journey to Uxbridge. I always have to trek out and see them. But in North London where they all live, I'd have to pay £325,000, which is the price of this house, for a one bed flat.

What am I going to do?

I could buy it as a temporary measure, so I can get all my stuff out of storage and sort it out, and clear my head whilst still being able to visit Mr G and Flad. Then I'd be back on the property ladder as prices seem to be soaring up again. Or I could continue to wait for that elusive property in North London to come my way. But I've been waiting so long that I don't think it ever will.

One thing's for sure. I can't stand camping out at Mr G's, not having a peaceful, warm study to work in and paying £200 per month for storage for very much longer...

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Seasick Steve

I am a huge fan of Seasick Steve. I have all his albums. So when I saw he was due to perform in concert at the Festival Hall in London, I raced to book a ticket and have got one single ticket at the end of a row at the front of the balcony. I should have a great view from there.

Last time I booked myself a concert ticket, for Richard Digance last month, I actually forgot to go. That's because I was going alone and there were no arrangements to make to meet anyone, so I forgot.

It's been years since Mr Grumpy would go to a concert or movie with me. He won't go for a drink as he's teetotal and won't go to pubs, and he won't go out for a meal since his strokes, as his throat sometimes closes up and he chokes because he's still a little bit paralysed in places. So when it comes to social life, I have to make my own. Hence my sad single ticket to Seasick Steve. But Seasick has such a feelgood act that I'm sure I shan't feel like a sad old singleton for long.


As I mentioned in my comment below my last entry, my scan has had to be postponed because I had a really bad tummy upset this morning. When I rang the hospital to see if I should still come tomorrow, they said no and are going to send me a new date. Was it psychomatic? Was it a result of eating reheated stew from the day before? Who knows. If it happens again next time, I shall take two Immodiums and hope for the best.

I have been going through my bags of summer stuff from not only last year but probably the last five years, chucking stuff out. Trouble is, the friend I do car boot sales with lives 25 miles away and I have to make several trips to her place on the tube, taking a couple of bags each time. Sometimes I think it would be much easier for Mr Grumpy to drive me and two binbags to the local RSPCA charity shop. The alternative is the several trips and then the gamble over whether I should stay at my friend's overnight ready for the 7 am queue at the gate of the school where the boot sale is, or whether to get the tube straight there and meet her at 8 to help her set up our stall, or if the weather is going to be good enough. (Which means me having to rise at 6 and hope the Metropolitan Line is working, a rare occurrence at weekends at the moment, due to engineering work.)

These boot sales are held monthly, so for a few days beforehand we avidly watch the weather forecasts and ring each other the day before for a 'do we, don't we' conversation. She did one on her own last year and took a couple of bags of my stuff and only made me £4. She gets lots of free makeup as she writes beauty articles, so she sells her freebies and makes about £50. The charity shop option is getting more and more tempting!

Monday, 26 April 2010

Another of my phobias

I have a phobia of not being able to get to a loo. I've had it all my life and it made coming home from university a particular nightmare because, if the coach was running late, it sometimes didn't stop at St Asaph to allow passengers a 'comfort stop', and way back then, coaches didn't have loos on board. I can remember one particularly agonising journey where I had to cross my legs all the way from Bangor, North Wales, to Liverpool. By the end of the journey, I was sweating, shaking, and thinking I was going to burst. I just made it to the toilets in Lime Street station.

I think I know where this particular fear came from. When I was four or five, I remember my mum showing me a photo of her old tom cat, Chummy, a huge tabby with torn ears and a look of a battered boxer about him, with his huge head and squashed-looking nose. I asked what had happened to him and she told me he had had a bladder problem and couldn't pee and his bladder had burst and killed him. The idea was so horrifying to me that I think, from that moment on, I became very conscious of making sure I peed as often as possible. And over the years, I developed a kind of irritable bladder condition, like permanent cystitis without the presence of any infection, but with burning in the bladder and a frequent need to 'go'.

It's a particular problem because of where I live; it takes an hour and a half on the tube to get to Uxbridge, then another half hour to get home from there, the last stretch being a ten minute walk from the bus stop. Imagine that after a meal with friends in London and a few glasses of wine. That's why I hardly ever go out!

On Wednesday, my greatest fear is happening. I am having one of those ultrasound x-rays like you have when you are pregnant. Yes, that's the one where you have to drink two pints of water and aren't allowed to go to the loo till after your scan. I am dreading it. I am losing sleep over it. What if I have an awful accident? You have to drink the water an hour before your scan, but I have to get to the hospital by means of... yes, that ten minute walk and then a bus journey. I'm in such a state that I'm contemplating ringing up tomorrow and cancelling it. Oh God!

Sunday, 25 April 2010


Looked at my blog this morning and thought, 'That's funny. Where have the photo of Flad on the bench and the one of me in a summer frock gone to? I know I put them on the blog yesterday.' What happens is that when you've just done something on one blog, that goes to the top of the list. I'd got used to Told You I was Ill appearing first, so I uploaded the pics into the wrong blog!

It's so sad that, after a week of perfect weather, it's pouring with rain for the London Marathon. I feel especially sorry for the disabled entrants who are spinning their wet wheels around the circuit. I feel they should all have big brollies over their wheelchairs.

As I lay musing in bed this morning, wondering how long I could postpone getting up, I suddenly had a eureka moment. I am a closet inventor. My first cousin Merv from Wales is a full-time inventor so it must run in the family. Apparently he has left me the rights to one of his inventions in his Will, but I'm not allowed to know what it is! Not until it's on the market, anyway.

But back to my invention. Seeing how easy it is for a ladder to tip over with somebody on it, I mentally invented ladder stabilisers; heavy blocks to fit the feet of the ladder into, to stop it swaying left or right. Bet somebody's already done it. A few years ago, having struggled to apply suncream to my back on the beach, I invented a back-spreader. Now someone else has thought of it and it's being sold in those funny little catalogues that drop out of newspapers (or arrive uncalled-for in the post), selling everything from incontinence aids to electronic mouse deterrents. (They don't work. I bought my sister one, she put it in their store room and the wretched rodents still ate all their mountaineering backpacks.)

Think I'll go back to bed with my cup of tea while I invent the wheelchair canopy...

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Empty Skies

In the week when the skies were empty
unscored by jet-stream needle-tracks
Earth bathed her wounds in heavenly blue
and salved herself in silver clouds
and the birds pealed out their healing songs
and we all breathed more deeply
we all slept more soundly
in a world which, for a magical week
was owned by the planet
and not by Man.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Poor old Flad

Poor old Flad. He was beaten up yet again last night by the big bruiser from next door, just when I'd managed to entice him back out into the garden, following his attack of nerves after the previous fight. Flad is such a gentle cat (unless you try to shove him in a cat basket - Mr Grumpy still bears the scars!). He is the only cat I have ever trusted to let me rub my face on his belly fur without gouging my eyes out. He never, ever does that disembowelling thing with his back feet that most cats do when you stroke their tummies.

They have an electric fence next door to keep their four expensive pedigree Bengal cats in. The smallest one has perfected the shed to shed leap and spends lots of time here. She and Flad tolerate each other. But Junior has decided that he will bear the pain of shoving through the electric wire for the pleasure of beating up Flad. Mr G is planning to do reinforcing things with wire mesh. I hope it works, or poor Flad will look even more depressed than he does in this photo.

Lunch with an old beau

I met Jim in 1980 at a post box in South Ealing Road and we went out for a few months. He was connected to the US navy and was working at the embassy in London. Since then, he's been all over the world but is now in the UK for a while and tracked me down via the internet. He wants to write thrillers when he retires in a few years' time and has asked my help in editing them for me. So yesterday we met up for the first time in almost 30 years. It was a glorious day and after lunch we went for a walk alongside the Grand Union Canal in Uxbridge. He hadn't changed. A bit bigger, maybe, but I'd have recognised him anywhere, even after all this time. Wonder if he thought the same about me, though? He didn't say!

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Hair disaster!

The hair... OMG, the hair! It just won't go right. I did what the hairdresser told me. I bought serum, I bought a heated styling brush, I tried my best but instead of the neatly curved locks, I have ended up with a care in the community pudding basin look. And I have lunch tomorrow with an old boyfriend I haven't seen for twenty years. What will he think of me? I think the next step is to buy a wig!!!

Friday, 16 April 2010

Depressed cat

Poor old Flad. He's been beaten up a couple of times recently and is very nervous about going out, and now Mr Grumpy has installed a new catflap which Flad refuses to use as it slams shut with a bang (magnets in the door strip) and he's terrified of it! He's spending all day curled up on the bed and how he manages to cross his legs for so long, I just don't know.

I persuaded him out this afternoon - it took a lot of doing - and now he hasn't come in for his dinner, which he always demands at 4 pm, as he has breakfast around 6 when Mr G gets up. Perhaps he's trying to conquer his agoraphobia by going walkabout. I hope he's not being held at bay by one or other of his two mortal enemies, Junior the big Bengal from next door, who keeps escaping even though they have an electric fence around the garden (I think he's dug a tunnel), and the terrible tom from four doors away.

Hair again!

A couple of my friends reckoned this is a nicer photo. Shame about the tarpaulin over the shed a neighbour has been building for the last two years!

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Glorious tulip

Only three appeared in the garden this year and this one was so magificent that I just had to photograph it.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Hair - the result

It hasn't been this short since I was 18!

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Hair today...

There's still no news about my friend. None of us has the slightest shred of hope. When my Gran died, my dad sighed, shrugged and announced, "Well... life must go on." My mother let her feelings out. Like me, she would cry when upset, and she couldn't understand why Dad didn't shed a tear. I think he did... inside. To the world, he did the true British 'stiff upper lip' act. I happen to think a good howl is healthy. But it's had to sob for someone who you're not sure is definitely dead. At last I understand a little of what people must go through when a loved one goes missing. It's like war. The telegram arrives - 'Missing in action, presumed dead.' That's all we can say about David.

I have a hair appointment today and have made a drastic decision. I have had my hair short twice in my life - when I was 18 and going off to Uni, and in the '80s when I was a magazine editor and had the power shoulders and big hair. Now that my hair is thinner and no longer as lustrous as it was when there was plenty of oestrogen floating around my body, I think it's time for the chop again. I was watching an old episode of CSI Las Vegas last night and in it Marg Helgenberger who plays Catherine Willlows had short hair that really complemented her high cheekbones and strong jawline. Then I switched over to C5 and saw an episode in which her hair was longer but she looked a lot older, and I realised that it was the hair that was doing it. The shorter cut looked young and perky, the long hair was draggy and drained her face. I wish I had a photo of her with her short, shaped style, because that's exactly what I want.

I was looking forward to a holiday in Turkey next month with my friend from Canada, who I haven't seen for ten years. She has been touring the Middle East and was intending to spend a month in Turkey and I had almost booked myself a cheap flight - and found us an apartment. It was lucky I didn't because she emailed yesterday to tell me her mum has been taken critically ill and she is having to fly home. More rotten news. Will life ever be happy and carefree again?

My missing friend

Sunday, 11 April 2010

On the cliff

How much courage does it take to jump off a cliff at high tide on the night of a full moon? How much desperation? Because that's what a friend of mine appears to have done. Local pals have been trying to contact him for a fortnight. The police were informed. His car was found parked on the cliff top. In his house, the essentials of his life, wallet, passport, keys etc., were found neatly lined up. The police said, 'There's a slim chance he's still alive. Have you ever heard of Reggie Perrin?'

But Reggie didn't leave a note. In this case, there was a note, the contents of which have not been revealed.

I suffer from vertigo. No way would I have the guts to do it. Someone would have to drug me first, then push me. He was a very sensitive, very private man. I held him in high esteem. I carried a bit of a torch for him. I had a fantasy that if I'd gone to live in Cornwall... But that dream died when my dear friend Louise died last year. Now there's a double reason why I'm glad I didn't buy a house there. But... how depressed he must have been. How lonely. How brave. I close my eyes and imagine the hard, piercing, white moonlight outlining the cliff's edge. I hear the roar of the high tide pounding the rocks. I take a deep breath. A step. Or perhaps I don't breathe at all. Just leap.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Tate Britain yesterday

I had arranged to meet two friends there. G and I had Christmas cards for J, who we hadn't seen as she'd been away in Tasmania. I was half an hour earlier and, having seen off the Big Issue seller with an irritable wave, spread myself on a bench in the sun, took my coat off and basked. I felt like a pigeon that flattens itself with all its feathers spread out in order to take the sun. Too soon, however, J turned up. She has to keep out of the sun as she's had a facial operation, so we went up to the Members Room for cappucino and a shared chunk of carrot cake. (Watching our waistlines.)

Before long, I had a text from G. 'Am walking over bridge from St Pauls. Be there in five.' I read it to J and we frowned. We couldn't think where she was. Then another text arrived. 'Here'. 'Go to members room' I texted. 'Is it on Level 7?' she typed back. 'No Level 7 here', I began, and started telling her to go left, down the stairs, past the loos, up some more stairs... Then it dawned on us. G had gone to the Tate Modern by mistake!

There is a ferry service between the Tates and 20 mins later G arrived, by which time I was sauntering round the Henry Moore Exhibition. Nothing moved me profoundly until I got to the room containing his drawings of miners and people sleeping on tube platforms during the war. Then I saw how, just with a black and white drawing, he had made them as solid, as symbolic, as immortal as if he had carved them in stone. I was astounded by the power of these drawings and the emotions they raised in me. I could have stayed there for hours. Four Grey Sleepers, Mother and Baby, and one of three people under a blanket transcended their subject and entered the spirit of poetry.

I staggered out and found my pals. By now it was quarter to one and G announced we should have lunch before the crowds flocked to the cafe. J and I looked at each other. "I suppose we should, otherwise we'll go to the Chris Ofili exhibition and won't eat till three." So down the hatch went more food, a quiche and salad in my case.

Ofili... astounding, dazzling, skilled, visionary, entertaining, dark undertones of magic, steamy jungle miasmas and a showman with colours and bling. Wow. Just wow.

Then G announced it was time for afternoon tea...

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Happy Birthday, Beth

Today is the birthday of my missing friend. Her name is Beth Cunningham. Beth and I first encountered each other in 1989 when she was living in the Middle East with her husband and she sent a short story in to Loving Magazine, when I was Fiction Editor. I published it, Beth, a talented writer, wrote more and then, when she came back to England, we met up and became friends.

Beth was one of those off the wall people who fizzed with new ideas, who had her own distinct image style that invited open-mouthed stares of admiration. Then her world collapsed due to a personal tragedy. Yet Beth bravely picked herself up. She started writing a book. She attended workshops to become a stand-up comedian. She travelled. She became bright, fizzy Beth again and meeting her felt like getting your batteries recharged. Some people are energy drainers. They are a like a negative magnetic force. Beth (and myself, I have been told), are positives; we are the putter-outers, the people who charge others (though one has to be careful not to be around too many energy-drainers as then you can get too drained yourself). When we got together, ideas zapped around our heads and nothing seemed impossible. Lunch with Beth was like a mini holiday.

One day, Beth announced she was moving to Scarborough, a place she had always liked very much. And then... I simply never heard from her again. At first I thought she was just settling in and would be in touch when she'd got herself sorted. But when months went by, I gradually came to the realisation that I'd been dumped. I couldn't think why. Our meetings were always so positive. We had laughs, we had fun. She told me I inspired her as far as her writing was concerned, and she certainly inspired me. I suppose she had her reasons and perhaps one was that she wanted to cut herself away from all reminders of her past and make a completely fresh start. This is a very brave thing to do. It's one I have often contemplated, but never had the courage to make the move - and anyway, there are too many people I couldn't bear to sever my ties with.

A wonderful poem I knew as a teenager and have been unable to trace since, was about just that: someone taking a train to a new place (To London the train gallops...) hoping to find change and happiness but instead discovering that what was waiting to greet them at the other end was none other than themself: My callow faith in movement ends. Perhaps/I am the place, and not the places me. I once ran to Paris to escape the trauma of having been dumped by my baby's father and being forced to have her adopted. I spent a week sitting miserably in a hotel room, crying, with the sunshiney streets of Paris outside meaning nothing to me. I hope Beth had the strength within her to break the bonds and build up a happy new life.

Wherever you are, brave Beth, I miss you. Happy Birthday!

Monday, 5 April 2010

Missive from the North Pole

I have decided to name my apology for an office the North Pole. It's an open plan area at the top of the house that faces north, and there are gaps around the badly fitted windows, through which the north wind blows and freezes my fingers and nose. Today, it's 58F at the North Pole; sounds warm(ish) but believe me, you soon grow chilly when you're sitting still, typing and 58 (15C) is just not a comfy temperature for me. Better than 43F though, which is what it was when we had that snow. Then, I was wearing thermals with three fleeces on top.

I'm working on the Fiesta horoscope column for June. I have an Ephemeris, I draw up the chart for the month, fill in all the movements of the planets, write down all the planetary aspects, then sit and think until a kind of pattern emerges for each star sign. As Fiesta is a men's (in other words, girlie) mag, all they are interested in is what's going to happen in their sex lives, so this is what I give them. I look at the cosmic picture and give it a sexual spin. Each column takes two days to do, and for that I earn the princely sum of £120. I used to get £200, but the internet has killed off the porno mags and their circulation is well down, so I agreed to shorten the column and accept less money.

At least it is regular monthly cash. My only other source of income is writing manuscript appraisals for which I earn much less for far more work! To think I was once editor of Loving Magazine, having the time of my life choosing romantic stories for it, and earning a nice, fat salary. One day, as soon as I find my own place to live, I shall start writing books again. That will be bliss indeed. But I can't write or even think creatively at the North Pole while stabbing at cold keys with blue fingers. I tried fingerless gloves but they were too clumsy to type in. I have a fan heater but that only stops me getting chilblains on my ankles. Roll on that big lottery win!

PS: Overheard whilst passing a couple at an outdoor cafe table when it was battering down with hail: Woman was shivering inside her plastic while man says with true British stoicism and irony, "At least it isn't raining!"

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Miserable Sunday

My friend who had invited herself (and dog) for Easter Sunday and Monday hadn't got in touch since I told her not to bring it, so I still expected her, thinking that she would have told me if she wasn't coming as I had said how very welcome she was sans chien. So I couldn't settle to a thing today. Couldn't write, couldn't go out, was jumping up and dashing to the window every time I heard a car door slam, checking my mobile and email every few minutes.

Now it is 6.25, the chicken is in the oven and I think I can safely say she isn't coming. We have been friends since 1972, been on holiday together, shared our deepest thoughts about life and belief systems, about men and personal problems (usually bracketed together!). So how can she have dropped me just because I told her the poor old cat was being beaten up and needed to stay indoors, and was terrified of dogs? Surely a true friend and animal lover would understand? At least I would have thought she'd have the courtesy to tell me if she was coming or not?

I feel very sad.

Saturday, 3 April 2010


Sorry I've been so quiet on my blog lately. I have had loads of work in, all of which takes ages to do and pays peanuts but it's stuff I love doing - reading book manuscripts and writing helpful critiques. Considering that the agency pays according to the length of the manuscript, this can mean I get paid only £50 for a short one, but still have to write a 2500 word report and it can take two days to do, so I certainly won't get rich. But at my age, the chances of finding a 'proper job' are nil.

Woke in the night with a terrible sore throat and am taking L-lysine and Vitamin C, Dr John Briffa's recommended cure for any incipient colds or viruses. It works well so long as you take it early enough. It also boosts your immune system if you're coming down with a cold sore or any type of herpes. I'm sure I have mentioned it before, but it's worth mentioning again as time and again I have found the results (or rather, lack of them as I haven't gone on to develop the cold, flu or whatever) quite miraculous.

The author of a book I edited a couple of years ago rang me today to tell me she is sending me a copy of the printed work. I just looked on Amazon and couldn't find it, which is a shame, as it is self-published by Athena and putting it on Amazon for you is one of the services they offer. She says it's there, but I have keyed in her name in the Mind, Body, Spirit section, and nilch. Very odd. Still, when it comes I'll photograph the cover and write about here and on Facebook, because it is a truly amazing book that offers an entirely new way of looking at life, the universe and everything. In fact, she may even have discovered that elusive 'secret of life' that philosophers and mystics have searched for throughout the centuries.