Saturday, 27 February 2010

A bigger bed

Spent last night all alone in my goddaughter's huge house in Archway, North London. She is now living full-time in Vancouver and the house has been sold, but she gave me a key and also said that if I wanted it, I could have her kingsize bed with Tempur mattress.

Now, for the last three years I have been sleeping in a hard, lumpy single bed which Mr G has had for years. My goddaughter's bed looked like a vast ocean. I pulled back the duvet, feeling as if I had just drunk Alice's shrinking potion and crept in. It was like sinking into firm quicksand as the memory foam gave beneath every pressure point. Extend a heel, feel it sink. Turn over, and feel the sand/foam tip and squidge and mould. It was very weird. In fact, I almost felt seasick. Slightly queasy, anyway, though that could have been the result of Cafe Rouge's pan fried Dover Sole, grilled courgettes and half a bottle of wine. Oh, and another glass at the pub afterwards, with my friend who had a special offer coupon entitling us to a free bottle of vino with our meal.

One thing I quickly noticed was that, caught in the mattress's soft embrace (or trapped in the quicksand), I didn't toss and turn as I normally did. I was still awake at gone 2 am due to a noisy party down the street, but I did nod off eventually, and when I awoke, it was to find that - miracle! - I had no back ache or neck ache.

Now I have to decide whether to have the enormous bed, or let my goddaughter's parents have it, as they want it too. Really, I should give it to them. Two of them, both tall, and a six foot six bed. That's a good match. Whereas there is only one of me and I'm five foot four. Also, big beds require big bedrooms, which will affect my property search and rule out the fab flat in Highgate with the small bedroom. I would probably be better off keeping my double bed (which is in storage along with the rest of my life) and buying the same mattress, but in double bed size. On the other hand, Tempur mattresses cost over £1000 and I could have this one for free...
Oh, what shall I do?

Friday, 26 February 2010

3 flowers on my orchid

Soon the fourth blossom will be out and I think I see a bud for a fifth. It is truly magnificent. (I only took the poor plant out in the cold for a few moments while I took the photograph. Hope it hasn't caught a chill!)

Thursday, 25 February 2010

There is no queue...

I'm going to sound like a grumpy old woman now, which indeed I am! When I was growing up, I was taught to 'wait my turn' and never push in front of anybody else when queuing for anything, be it bus or shop till. I'm trying to remember when the queue system started to break down. I think it was in the '80s. It started with schoolchildren who, when the bus came, surged forward in an unbreakable mass, like one large animal, and poured onto the bus, trampling and shoving any poor adult who got in their way, even if said adult was in the queue first. In vain did the bus driver shout, "One at a time, wait your turn!" Their voice could not be heard over the shrieking hubbub that sounded as if feeding time had occurred simultaneously at both monkey house and parrot enclosure.

Now, in Uxbridge where I unfortunately live, everyone is at it. A few oldsters with good old values like me still do our best to take our place and wait our rightful turn, but in vain. With a university and several schools nearby, mobs of ten foot teenagers, some with suspicious smelling cigarettes in their hands, lurk behind the bus shelter and race to be first on the bus as if trying for Olympic gold. Belligerent looking foreign ladies in huge coats, carrying enormous bags with gold lavatory chain handles, march straight to the front of the queue, set their chins, square their shoulders and block the passage of those who were there long before them.

So today I decided, 'If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.' Ignoring those who were seated on the narrow bench, I arranged myself artfully with my bags between my feet (I'd bought two op art cat-patterned cushions from the Past Times sale and a pair of cheapo BHS jeans) and leaned against the inside of the shelter, nearest the stop sign. Large foreign lady in fur coat appeared and stood right in front of me. Scrawny little Chinese grandma scuttled into position on my left. The bus came. I was blocked in. 'Right,' thought I, 'I'm not having this', and my new assertive self barged between the pair of them and got on the bus first. And had my choice of seats. And wondered where everyone else had got to. And then, just, as my stop-at-every-stop bus started up, I looked round and saw everyone else climbing onto the express bus behind it. That could have got me home in ten minutes in just three stops. My mental language was extremely blue.

But it's perfectly true. As my title says, there is no queue any more. The queue is dead. Long live the scrum.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Second flowering

Three year's ago, Mr G's step-daughter gave me an orchid for my birthday. I over-watered it and the flowers died and I have neglected it ever since as someone told me that it wouldn't flower again. Then, a few months ago, I found it was still just about alive and I repotted it. Just look at it now! I think it's saying thanks for giving it a second chance.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

A new problem!

Woke up in the night with a searing pain in my leg. Got up and hobbled to the loo. This morning the pain has settled into spasms. Five minutes of pain-free time is followed by a surge of pain that makes my leg feel weak and wobbly and incapable of holding me up. Could it be the result of having a heavy cat sleeping on my stretched-out legs for over an hour at a time?

In addition, my stomach feels worse than it did before I started taking Mebeverine. I've looked at various posts about Mebeverine and most people find it works very quickly. My GP warmed me that with some people, it takes three months to have any effect. Three months!!! I'm finding the tablets troublesome to take because they have to be swallowed 20 minutes before a meal. That's fine when it's you preparing the meal, but if you're snatching a sandwich on the go and have just 20 minutes to eat it in, or are having a snack in a theatre interval, or dining at a friend's house (how can you ask them to tell you exactly when dinner will be served when they are stirring pots with a glass of wine in one hand and chatting to guests?), or eating out a restaurant not knowing how long it will take before your food arrives, then how do you do it? I somehow think that I'll reach the end of this packet (a month's supply) then give up!

It was lovely seeing my sister. Shame it's always for such a short time. Their 3 am taxi came and went and I wasn't even aware of it as the earplugs worked really well. We awoke to empty rooms, and several bags of stuff our visitors had left behind, to be picked up on the way home. Oh, and, for some reason, quite a number of rather battered bananas!

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Bloody technology!

Anyone know why Blogspot won't let you cut and paste a news article into your blog? It keeps telling me 'Meta tag not allowed' and it comes out as gobbledy-gook. Please tell me how you have got round the problem.

Red sky at morning...

Sailor's or shepherd's warning, according to where you live! Beautiful though, isn't it? This was taken from the upstairs bedroom window at around 7 am.

Friday, 19 February 2010

My sister's holidays

I have never known anybody have so many holidays as my sister. Even before she retired, she and husband No. 3 went away four or five times a year. Now they've revved up and having spent Christmas away, they then went away for another three weeks skiing in the Southern French Alps. They've been back less than three weeks and now they are off horse-riding in Uruguay. The taxi is coming for them at 3 am (groan!) to whisk them to Terminal 3.

Last year they spent five weeks in the Himalayas and climbed to Everest Base Camp. Talk about intrepid. They're no spring chickens, either, being 61 and 67 apiece. Wish I was half so fit! As for me, I haven't had a holiday for five years. This is partly due to Mr Grumpy's strokes, which left me with nobody to go away with (and I couldn't leave him, either), partly to do with the fact that my favourite hotel in Turkey closed, and a large part to do with the fact that my stomach was too unpredictable to plan ahead.

Now I am on Mebeverine (I think; packet is downstairs so can't check) for IBS, following my visit to the GP on Monday. I do hope it will work. If it does, it will transform my life as at last I shall be able to make arrangements - and keep them!

PS. One thing I forgot to mention is that (now don't forget that this isn't my house, and if it was, it would be arranged more sensibly) both guest rooms contain one single bed apiece. This is a converted bungalow and Mr G sleeps upstairs in solitary splendour, on my double mattress as three years ago I decamped to one of the single beds because of his habit of falling asleep watching telly. I can only sleep in perfect peace and he snores as well. AND gets up at 5 am, whereas I tend to go to bed at 12 and rise at 8-ish.

So it suits me much better to sleep alone. But as my sister and her hubby will be in a guest room each, that leaves me to share with Mr G. I have already moved the following upstairs: eyeshade; earplugs; half a sleeping tablet, a relic from a Spanish holiday when you used to be able to buy them over the counter; a bottle of water; my book (doorstep thick copy of Wolf Hall which I ordered from the library at a cost of 50p, much cheaper than buying the book itself). Perhaps I should add a large bottle of gin to the list! Next door's cat is mountaineering up my back so I have to stop typing. More tomorrow...

Monday, 15 February 2010


My friend Jacula said on her blog that her mum had had one and that she was on the list for one, too. So am I. I went to the doc's this morning and told her of all my tummy troubles and as well as prescribing some pills for irritable bowel syndrome, she is sending me for a colonoscopy.

I last had one in 2002 and they found and removed several polyps, none of which were malignant thank goodness. I used to get polyps in the womb and had several minor ops to remove them. I seem to be a polypy sort of person. Just call me Polyp Parrot! On the last occasion, I had a colonoscopy and endoscopy in the same session, which is when they found my stomach ulcers. Although I was sedated, the colonoscopy was extremely painful, involving much shoving and pushing and I kept coming round yelling in pain and they had to give me more sedation.

The leaflet said you should bring somebody with you as you'd be too woozy to remember what the doctors told you. I couldn't find anyone, and I was. I just dimly recall them saying I had 'ulceration and inflammation of the duodenum' and that they'd removed some polyps. They also said the pain had been caused by the fact that I had the twistiest guts they'd ever encountered and they had great difficulty getting the camera up. Three days later I left for a holiday in Turkey and had a horrible time, as having had my guts beaten up made me feel as if I had permanent severe period pains. So I can't say I'm looking forward to having it done again.

I'm also going for blood tests including liver function and cholesterol, which has never been checked in my life. I said to the doc that I was getting a full MOT and she said she thought everyone should have one every so often. Now I'm off to the chiropractor to have my neck graunched. Bedtime tonight will involve a liberal coating of Biofreeze!

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Not seeing my daughter AGAIN!

I am in tears. My daughter, who I haven't seen for 3 years, is just 20 miles away at her boyfriend's and I have been banned from seeing her because the only way of getting to the village is by car, which means Mr G would have to drive me, and neither of them want to catch his virus. He knew his friends and their kids all had it. Why, oh why did he have to go and see them? God knows when I'll ever get to see her again. Getting to see her in Devon is almost impossible for a non-driver like me. Not only that, but you have to book her up weeks in advance and anything can go wrong, such as wretched signal failures, or my ulcer, and I have lost account of the amount of cash I have wasted on train tickets for trips that couldn't happen at the last minute. I am sooooo depressed.

Thursday, 11 February 2010


Our friends with the kiddies have all had it over the last few days (and the two youngest have had chickenpox, too). Mr G sees one or more of them every day and now he is down with it. Throwing up and squits and temperature of 104F. Not good. Hope I'm not next.

The friend I had lunch with today has stomach attacks that sound just like mine and as a result, she never makes any morning appointments just in case. I generally feel a lot better by lunchtime and so does she. She never goes anywhere without a bottle of Collis Brown's mixture in her bag. I always take that on holiday with me as it is brilliant at settling turbulent tums that are on the verge of the trots but are not quite there! The effects aren't quite so 'binding' as Immodium and the like. Talking of binding, every day on the way to school, my bus used to pass a large white house with a brass plaque by the door bearing the name, Dr Endbinder. I used to think what a great name for a gastro-enterology or haemorrhoid specialist, but he was probably a psychiatrist!

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Stomach ache again

I had a whole day planned out today. Two flats to go and see, a walk in the park with a friend, dinner with her later, staying the night in my goddaughter's London house to which I have a key, and returning tomorrow. But now I've had to cancel everything because my bloody stomach is playing up AGAIN!

I wouldn't mind if I'd gorged on prawn curry, but I deliberately took it very easy and ate the blandest things possible yesterday. Porridge for breakfast. Poached egg on toast for lunch and a baked potato with a rasher of bacon and some salad for dinner. What could be wrong with that? But I awoke around 3.3o am with the most horrendous stomach ache. Lay there till 5, got up (found Mr G already up), made a hot water bottle, took a Buscopan (for IBS and stomach cramps) and, between dashes to the loo, crawled back to bed.

Finally arose at 9, left various messages for friend and estate agent, and am now shivering in my cold office (only 52F despite the fan heater), feeling very sorry for myself and at my wits' end. I can't take any more of having my life dominated by my guts. I rang to make a doctor's appointment and the only one they had this week clashed with my chiropractor's appointment. They told me to ring back on Friday, when their computer will let them allot appointments for next week.

Over the last few months, my weight has dropped from over 10 stone to 9st 3lbs without me trying. I think it's time I got myself properly checked out...

Sunday, 7 February 2010

The curse of the daily parrot

I don't know about you, but I find that nicknames can be funny, yet even the funniest can have a cruel edge to them if you look hard enough. The first nickname I ever had, which stuck to me for a couple of years in Primary School, was Squirrel. Now, on the face of it, you could say I earned this one fair and square. At the time, the only squirrels in Liverpool's parks and gardens were the native red ones, and I had red hair. But the edge was this: squirrels hoard their food and the other kids were making fun of the fact that I carefully hung onto every rubber band, pencil, crayon, piece of paper and bit of string I could find. My pockets bulged with old conkers from the year before. I kept stray gloves I'd found, hoping to find its mate. People knew they could come to me if they ever needed a sticking plaster, peppermint or spare hanky. I was a walking village store. I was just like my dad, who hoarded things in the shed in case they should ever 'come in useful'.

My grammar school days were, miraculously, nickname free. Scroll forward to my second job as an advertorial writer for the Kilburn Times in North-West London. Here, I became known as Lorn the Porn. This moniker was extremely clairvoyant because it would be another eight years before I actually started writing freelance smut for men's magazines to supplement my income. The tag 'Porn' was partly to do with the fact that it rhymed with 'Lorn', partly to do with the fact that I loved a dirty joke, but mainly to do with the office trip to a sauna. This was the free-lovin' 1970s and a unisex sauna opened in Swiss Cottage. They offered the newspaper staff a free visit in return for what they hoped would be some free advertorial. Naturally, as a crowd of high-spirited twenty-somethings, we couldn't wait to disrobe in the steamy pine cubicle. And guess whose fluffy white towel fell off? Next day, I found a salacious limerick propped on my typewriter, all about a young lady called Lorna who was a peculiar species of fauna and had an affair in the sauna! (Did I? I can't remember - but then, we did bring some bottles of wine in with us as well...)

My next job was for a rock music magazine. I shared an office with five guys and gained the nickname Polly Parrot. This was deserved, according to them, because of the way I dressed in bright, clashing colours and the way I squawked to my friends down the phone. They devoted an entire wall in the office to anything remotely 'parrotic': labels from Polyfilla and Polyhose, pictures of me with a parrot's head stuck over my own, etc. I became very friendly with the editor and his wife Louise, a friendship that endured through their split-up and her subsequent remarriage, until her death last year, and for thirty whole years they called me Parrot, Polly, or Prott, sending me birthday cards with parrots on, and presents with a parrot connection.

Fast-forward to the late '80s and a boyfriend who, noting my predilection for orange jam on toast in the mornings nicknamed me Marmalade. No cruel edge to that one, unless it indicated that my once flaming red locks were by now fading to a kind of red-gold colour. That one stuck for a while. In fact, I really liked it. It was far better than that allotted me by a guy with whom I had a very short-lived relationship, who used to call me Fuck-Nose, a pun on the fact that when we were driving, I could never read a map and always got us lost, so that when asked where we were, the answer was... Why he changed the spelling, I just don't know. Maybe he couldn't spell. It was certainly nothing to do with soixante-neuf!

Yesterday, I read my daughter's Facebook page and found a friend of hers had posted a comment saying, 'Have fun on your birthday with the Ginger Winger.' I immediately assumed that meant me, as I was supposed to be there on her birthday, and I am ginger, and yes, I do winge. Well, what would you have thought? I felt a bit upset. Nobody knows what anyone says about them behind their back, and to find out I was called the Ginger Winger stung a bit.

So I texted her and said, 'Sorry the Ginger Winger couldn't make your party.' Shortly afterwards came the reply: 'He did. He's here. He's my cat!!!!! LOLxxx.'

My over-active imagination had got the better of me on that occasion. Ginger Winger, indeed! Though it would have been rather appropriate. Just a teensy bit...

It's very sad that there is nobody to call me Parrot any longer. It became part of my personality. Parrot was my noisy, flamboyant side. When my friend and her first husband split and he knew I would no longer be visiting him like I had done frequently when they were together, he said, as a farewell, 'I am putting the curse of the daily parrot on you. You'll see a parrot every day.' It worked. I couldn't open a magazine or switch on the telly without seeing a bloody parrot!

But, there is a postscript... Ever since my friend died (this is my writer friend who died at the end of last October), there have been green parakeets visiting my garden every day. The curse of the daily parrot has been redoubled. There is always one who stands out from the flock, the one who squawks loudest, or does acrobatics from a tree branch with one beady eye on me. And when I see it, I always say, "Hello, Louise!"

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Passport photos

The local chemist advertises a passport photo service, so I went along and had mine done in order to renew my passport. I did my best not to smile and to look straight at the camera, but I've just had a letter saying my pictures have been rejected because they can't see my eyes clearly enough. I always understood that if you normally wear glasses, you should keep them on for your passport photo. Now this letter tells me I must take them off! Without them, I look nothing like the normal 'me'. Nobody would recognise me! Still, I must do what they want or my new passport will never arrive. (Not that it really matters. I have great difficulty going anywhere, so I'll probably never go abroad again.)

Friday, 5 February 2010

Daughters and sons, women and men, hammers and roses

I didn't go. I couldn't go. And it wasn't just the travel problems. This was the very first time ever that I had the chance to spend my own daughter's birthday with her. The first time in 41 years (yes, she is an unbelievable 41 today) and I blew it. I was too swamped with feelings. I wanted her to myself. I wanted to spend time with her on her own. Not with her adoptive mum and auntie, not with her boyfriend. Just me and her. But I couldn't have it. I shall probably never have it. And so I went down with a blinding headache.

I tried explaining how I felt to Mr Grumpy, but he turned round and said, "You'll never get what you want. Her birthday has to be the way she wants, it's not about you." Well sorry, it IS about me! I was patient and yearning for 36 years. In all that time, I never knew if she was even still alive. I didn't know where she was, how she'd done at school, whether she'd gone to college, what job she was doing, if she was married, or if I had grandchildren. I didn't even know if she knew she was adopted. She might have been a druggy drop-out. She might have been dead. She might have moved abroad. I didn't know anything. It was a blank wall and I had a huge, gaping hole inside me, a vacuum that nothing else could fill.

Since I have found her, I am gradually learning how to love. Looking back, no wonder I never had a relationship that lasted longer than two years. No wonder I slept with so many men. Having severed the strongest bond, that of mother to child, I could not form any sort of attachment with anybody else. I think I am nicer now, warmer, less brittle. That closed off part of me is now open, but with it comes pain and self-searching. I need time with my grown-up daughter, just the two of us. A holiday together would be great. Is this too much to ask?

Not having seen her for two years is ridiculous. Part of it is down to Mr G's strokes, that made me not want to leave him alone for a good year or so, but then, when I booked a wonderful first class non-refundable cheapie-in-advance ticket, she cancelled me saying she had to catch up on work and I was gutted and it felt like a rejection, which I'm sure it wasn't. It made me wary of booking more train tickets, though. Not being able to drive is a complete pain. If I could, I could simply have drifted down there today or tomorrow in my own time instead of being a slave to the vagaries of public transport.

So there we have it. I am in a difficult position and every time I get put on the spot, I get ill. It's a kind of performance anxiety, maybe - come to think of it, when I was briefly a performing singer-songwriter in the 1970s, I used to get such dreadful stage fright that I had to give up in the end. And at school, when I was called on to play piano for the school assembly, I used to cut my finger with the bread knife to get out of playing, because I felt so nervous and pressurised. I have definitely got a problem. But I still don't think Mr G is right when he said it's all about my daughter and what she wants, and not about me. He doesn't know the agonies I went through all those years. He is much harder than me. He has a son he hasn't seen for years because they fell out. I don't know how he feels about it because he won't say. We are made of different stuff. Slugs and snails and puppy dog's tails? I don't think so. More like hammers and pails and six inch nails. And as for me, sugar and spice and all things nice? More like marshmallow and roses and kittens' pink noses.


Signal failure at my local station. If it isn't mended by 11, I won't be able to go. I am on tenterhooks, whatever a tenterhook is!

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Off to Devon

I'm off to Devon tomorrow for my daughter's birthday. This will also be my chance to meet her much younger boyfriend, with whom she's getting very serious. Needless to say, my stomach is outperforming itself, filling me with pain and nausea and sending me shooting off to the loo at inconvenient intervals. I shall probably stick to soup today, to try and be in some semblance of reasonable shape so I can travel tomorrow. An hour and half on the Tube to Waterloo, then three hours on the train to Honiton. When I get there, there will be no luxurious bedroom waiting for me, but a doss-house full of people from all over the UK who have gathered for her birthday and will be sleeping on the sofa, in the hayloft and anywhere they can find somewhere to pitch a sleeping bag.

She has frequently berated me for giving her a birthday at the start of February. Her party last year was snowed off but this year it looks as if all we'll have is pouring rain. Nice! I haven't actually seen her for two years, though we keep in touch via text, phone and email. It's a strange relationship, really. As I did without her for 36 years, two years of not seeing her seems nothing, after the sheer wonder of finding her after all that time.

She lives with her adoptive mum and I feel awkward around her - an interloper, an inconvenience; a threat, even. That's one reason I haven't gone there much. She is perfectly polite and civil to me, but I sense a tension and that makes my stomach even worse. In fact, I wish I didn't have to go at all and that my daughter would come up to London instead. But she works nearly every night of the week doing online tarot readings, so that makes it difficult for her to travel. I suppose I will just have to fill myself with pills and force myself onto that train.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010


I did my normal waking up in the middle of the night, then thought: that's funny, there's rather a lot of traffic going past. Perhaps I've only been asleep for half an hour. Picked up the clock and pressed the button to illuminate the face, and found it was ten past seven. I had slept for a full, unbroken eight hours. I cannot tell you how rare this is to have such a long sleep without any pills or swigs of Night Nurse.

But do I feel better for it? Well, I don't feel tired, that's for sure, but my flaming stomach feels very unsettled. I think I shall just have to pluck up the courage to slash my finger with the lancet that comes with the York Test kit, that has been sitting in the kitchen for a fortnight because I am too much of a wimp to wound myself in the cause of finding out what foods I am sensitive to. Oh, to be able to make travel plans again. I was looking at a website for Leptis Magna in Libya today. Now that's a place I'd like to visit, with all that Roman architecture. It's also home to the Gorgon's head seen above, which is a little what I looked like when I got up. But hey, don't you need jabs to visit Africa? Needles... another thing I can't abide. Perhaps I'd better stick with holidaying in Devon.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010


A friend and I had a chat about synchronicity last Saturday and agreed that things tend to happen when they happen, for a reason. Having had a lift to an overground train station, which made the journey to Ealing much quicker than the 50 minute slog there by bus, I decided I would get the same train back, which was the Heathrow Connect train.

My friend and I rabbited on for a bit longer than we'd intended, then I set out for the station, only to find a load of paramedics and police rushing in. I headed for my platform, to find a policeman barring the way. As I stood there wondering what was going on, a teenage boy came stumbling down the steps looking pale and burbling about all the blood. Later, I discovered that if my friend and I hadn't talked for those few minutes longer, I would have been there just in time to witness the horrible death of some poor man beneath the wheels of the Heathrow Connect train. Synchronicity?

I have just had another rather odd example of it. I had a card through the door to say there was a letter for me at the parcel office which hadn't been delivered because of insufficient postage and it would cost me £1.50 to retrieve it. Just before I got to the office, as Mr Grumpy was literally turning into the driveway, I had a call from Foxtons estate agents to tell me about a house for sale. It was too expensive and I told them so. Are you still with me? There is a purpose to all this preamble! For once, there was no queue so I went straight up to the window and passed them the card. They gave me the letter and I recognised the writing of a slightly loony friend who photocopies his favourite cartoons and sends them to me once a month. They normally end up in the bin a few minutes later.

"I'm not paying £1.50 for that," I said, and asked them to throw it away for me. Then I noticed... He always uses a secondhand envelope and this was a Foxtons one! I'm starting to feel a little spooked.

Monday, 1 February 2010


One of my favourite poems is February, by Francis Brett Young. I learned it as a kid in school and can still quote it today, 50 years on! Here is a link to it.