Tuesday, 30 March 2010

A published poet!

Way back in the mists of hippy time I had a poem published. I still have the faded booklet it appeared in. A couple of years later, I had some accepted by the Camden Festival and was invited to read them, but wimped out at the last moment, though they did appear in print in the festival literature. Now I am to be published again, in South Bank Poetry Issue 6. They turned down all the serious, heartfelt poems I sent in and accepted the funny one. Typical! Odd thing is, it has a title that's almost identical to one my friend wrote, that appeared on the previous issue. Hers is called Love on the Underground and mine is called Underground Love. Talk about great minds thinking alike!

To stay with the poetic mood, here is a 'shortie' of mine. No, they didn't accept this one!


They ask if I'm missing the office.
I tell them I don't give a f***.
Just give me that soft feather duster
And a hoover on maximum suck!

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Another photo

Here is another of my daughter's photos. I can see a Roman soldier in it. How about you?

Extra piccies as promised

Two of my daughter's amazing photographs taken at Blackberry Camp, East Devon, plus one of her leaning against an appropriately named boat! She is getting some of her photos printed in A3 size and framed and hopes to sell them through a shop in Glastonbury. Incidentally, the knitted jacket she is wearing was one my mum (her gran, of course) knitted for me back in the mid '80s. She wanted something of her gran's and I am so glad I gave it to her, as she wears it almost every day in cold weather and feels linked to my mum, Muriel, when she wears it.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Weekend in Devon

Well, I made it down there. Southwest Trains are brilliant. In fact, it reminds me of travelling by train when I was a child, before the Beeching axe fell on so many local lines. The seats are really comfy, the loos are fine as long as you remember to press the Lock button (first time I used one of these new loos, I only pressed Close and was horrified when someone barged in while my knickers were still round my ankles!), there is a trolley service with sandwiches, water, tea, coffee, and even beer or a weeny tin of gin if you need it, and you pass through stations you've never heard of, through places you never noticed on the map, and gradually, the scenery gets hillier and greener till suddenly you're in luscious Devon.

My daughter and her adoptive mum live in the gorgeous house in the photo, and the front windows look out over the rolling green hills. They have bird feeders everywhere and I have never been so close to a spotted woodpecker. It was right outside my bedroom window, not more than two feet away. Their water comes from a spring and it tastes soft and wonderful, not a trace of chemicals. They have never had the water tested, and they are perfectly healthy. I wish London water tasted as good. I have filled a bottle with it and brought it back.

Saturday was wet, but yesterday morning we took a drive to the small fishing village of Beer. (Excuse the photo showing the sea going uphill, but I was standing on pebbles that sloped sharply down towards the waves.) As soon as I saw it, I wanted to live there, but so does everyone else who ever goes there, so the property prices are sky-high. I filled my pockets with seashells, like I did when I was five.

I have promised to go back in a few weeks' time when the bluebells are in bloom. By the way, my daughter has taken some fantastic photos of the local haunted woods. I shall copy some into a separate entry.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Off to Devon this time, I hope!

And it's raining. It would be. And as I don't want to take a big bag, just my small backpack, it means I can't take my boots for yomping through the mud. Hope someone will have some wellies I can borrow...

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Birthday blog

I've had a lovely birthday apart from one hiccup this morning. The phone rang and it was Barclaycard fraud dept wanting to check if I'd made certain purchases on my card. It was one of those damned tinny mechanical voices, it was hard to follow and involved a multitude of buttons to be pressed and right in the middle my neighbour arrived bearing baby, dog, toddler and flowers, and the toddler was beaming and trying to give me a card while I was still trying to listen and press buttons. It was crazy, but the upshot was I HAD bought those purple trousers on eBay and the bras from M&S online... and all the other stuff too. What a spendthrift I am.

The bras got returned today but unfortunately for moi, M&S were having a 50% off sale, so I arrived with two bras worth £15 and left with a sweater, some cargo pants and a frilly shirt worth twice as much. They saw me coming.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

I don't believe it!

The M&S bras were too big! I could have fitted both boobs into one cup! So how come a La Senza 38B is tiny and an M&S one is huge? I suppose I'll just have to go to an M&S branch tomorrow and return these and try some more on, which involves having to struggle out of all my winter layers (groan).

Monday, 15 March 2010

Cotton bras

I have developed what can only be described as a bra allergy. I itch where the straps pull tight when my shoulder blades move, and get red lines and itchy pimples where the flesh collides with the bra when I move my arms forward. I found a very old (we're talking a good fifteen years) cotton bra and it did the trick. Not a single itch. So I decided what I needed was a new cotton bra (at least one).

I went into Uxbridge. First stop was the lingerie department of Debenhams. They had lots of pretty, padded, lacy, flowery, scratchy bras but the only soft cotton ones were the sports bra type with no padding. Boy, do I need padding to prop up and shape my floppy poached egg boobs. If I could turn back the clock, I'd have had a boob job. No point now as I'll never get them out on the beach again, or even in bed unless the light is out. My tranny friend is now the proud possessor of a pair of DD cup size tits. Bitch! Anyway...

My next port of call was BHS where I couldn't find any in my size (38B, quite hard to find as manufacturers seem to forget that the 38 part refers to the breadth of your frame and not the size of your mammaries and only supply 38's in C and larger).

Finally, I hit La Senza where there were wall to wall sexy bras. I asked if they had any cotton ones and was led to a rack containing a not unpleasant bra in either black or white, with lace edging and a bow. I paid a tenner and bought a black in 38B.

Feeling thrilled, I got it home, ripped it from its pretty packaging (the sales assistant insisted on filling the shiny bag and the tissue paper with scented pink beads which naturally bounced all over the bedroom floor) and the first thing I noticed was that it wasn't cotton but Polyamide and Modal. Now, I'm not sure what Modal is but it's certainly not cotton. (Pause while I Google it.) In fact, it is 'reconstituted cellulose taken from beech trees, and similar to rayon. It felt soft enough, though so I put it on... well, I tried to put it on, but they must have mixed up inches and centimetres because I could barely get the clasp to meet at the back and even my poached eggs spilled out, squashed by the tiny cups. I think it was made for a Barbie doll.

I didn't take it back today to demand my money back as I have been on a memory foam mattress expedition (another story) but I shall tomorrow. In the meantime, I got fed up and ordered a pack of two cotton bras off the M&S website and have just had an email to tell me they are on their way. At least there will be one bra for each boob if they turn out to be too small!

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Still not a word

My friend still hasn't been in touch. I shall ring her on Sunday, because that's about the only time when she isn't working - though she often goes out doing walking or boating things. If I could drive, I would drive over to see her, though it's a fair old trip through the depths of the Essex countryside.

You don't realise what a vast area Essex is until you drive through it mile after mile, and see the way the countryside changes, and the pretty villages and vast skies and narrow lanes where you're suddenly surprised by the sight of boat masts and sails poking into the sky, as you didn't know you were near water. It reminds me a bit of Holland. What a quirky country that is. I love the way they encourage cycling,with really good cycling lanes everywhere that don't suddenly peter out and leave you floundering amongst the buses and lorries. And then there's the visual shock of driving down one of their long, straight country roads and seeing a boat sailing along at a higher level than the road, down a raised canal. I always felt free to express myself there. There's an artistic, eccentric vibe. One day I must go back.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Dog, too

Mr G's friend with the kids had brought their husky puppy along, too. Both Flad and I have fled, him heaven knows where, me upstairs with cheese sandwich - not quite so healthy as the food I'd intended to have. The dog came in handy as he enabled me to say, "I'd better take this sandwich somewhere else, otherwise he'll try to get it." He was jumping up, trying to lick my cheesy hand.
At least Flad will be able to get back in later. No wistful whiskery face at the window, wondering why he's been rejected from his own home.

Am I daft about Flad? Yes! We perfectly understand one another.

No lunch for me

My IBS pills must be taken 20 minutes before a meal. It is now 1.3o pm and I want my lunch, but half an hour ago, just as I was about to go downstairs from my office and take my pill, a friend of Mr G's rolled up. So I stayed upstairs, because I like to eat in peace and not have to make polite chit-chat and stupid jokes with Mr G's friend.

Then I heard a car door slam and thought, Great, he's gone, I can take my pill and have my lunch. But oh woe, it's even more visitors, the wife of Mr G's friend who owns the local butchers, with her baby and toddler. They will be here for HOURS and it will be absolutely impossible to make myself the nutritious lunch of steamed cabbage with pine nuts, salmon and fruit salad for afters that I was planning to make. There won't even be a spare chair to sit on. Oh HOW I wish I had my own home. I really can't stand camping out at Mr G's any longer.

A deathly silence

I fear my friend has taken massive umbrage at my request not to bring the dog with her this time. There has been no response at all. I'm torturing myself now, wondering if I could have phrased my text message better, if I sounded as if I was rejecting her. The last thing I want to do is upset her, or any of my friends. I am far too sensitive for my own good and this sometimes makes my spoken or written words seem clumsy, as I'm so busy falling over myself, trying to say the right thing in the right way. All I have ever wanted is to spread a little happiness amongst my friends, be sunny, cheerful, sympathetic, encouraging and accommodating, but there are times when this isn't enough, or isn't appropriate. In this case, it's Flad's happiness that has to come first.

I now have a rotten cold that's filling my head with gunk and making my ears buzz and my brain weigh as heavy as a sodden mattress. My eyes hurt and the itchy rash is back on my chest, so I have had to leave my bra off. (Haven't done this since the '60s, when my boobs were considerably firmer and perkier than they are today!) My spirits briefly soared when I got two emails from the Lottery people saying, Good news about your ticket! Oh wow, I thought, at last! The big win. I'll be able to buy the home of my dreams. But alas, it was a measly £10 for last night's draw, plus £2 for Dream Number. £12 won't even buy the doorknob. Rats!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Cats v Dogs 3

As Mr G will not consent to us shutting Flad in a room with a litter tray and some food and water, I have just sent my friend a long text message (she's on the road most of the day so you can't get her on the phone and she has no email at home) explaining that, as poor Flad is being bullied and beaten up by another cat, he needs access to his home 24/7 so she can't, on this occasion, bring the dog, though she is very welcome without it. I am positive she will send a stiff reply along the lines of, "Well, if my dog's not welcome, I'm not coming."

Really, as an animal owner, she should understand. She's a lovely, lively person who has come through a lot of personal difficulties, surviving cancer, moving from one country to another and starting her own successful business. She is an eternal optimist and inspiring, amusing company. I really do hope she will be sympathetic. If we lived closer to one another and she could just drop round for a couple of hours with the dog, it wouldn't be a problem. I remember her saying to me a few years ago that there were very few people she could visit now, as they all had cats and nobody wanted the dog. She was most upset when one of her relatives insisted she shut it in the garage all over Christmas as they didn't want their three cats upset. But... a dog owner has to see things from a cat owner's viewpoint, and vice versa. And everybody knows that, unless they have been brought up together, cats and dogs don't mix.

Why is it that, when I say 'cats and dogs', I instantly think of women and men? Sod the 'men are from Mars' business. I think I shall write a whole new book on the premise that women are feline and men are canine. Or has someone already done it, as happens to most of my good ideas?

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Cat v dog 2

I am right now trying to pluck up the courage to ring my friend and tell her she is welcome to come on her own, but she can't bring the dog. Poor old Flad's worst enemy, the bullying black cat, is back on the scene and is making him nervous as hell.

A year ago, it started coming in the garden and the result was a tremendous fight as Flad tried to defend his territory, during which he got his biggest canine ripped out at the root and came in pouring blood and couldn't eat properly for days. This was victory to Flad, because the bully stayed away. But now it is chancing its arm, or rather its paw, again and launching attacks on our elderly and slightly arthritic pet. It's younger, stronger and capable of doing a lot of damage. Last night Flad came hurtling through the catflap, tail like a bottlebrush, and took refuge beneath the coffee table in the corner of the lounge.

But imagine if the dog had been here and Flad couldn't come in/ He'd have no refuge anywhere and could end up badly injured. No, I can't risk it. So I'll just have to tell her. Wish me luck!

Monday, 8 March 2010

Having the works

What a day! I've been pulled, twisted, crunched, punctured, bled and peered at with a blinding flashlight. Then walked two miles home, stopping en route to buy two bags of heavy shopping.

1.30 was my appointment with the chiropractor (never the most pleasant and pain-free of procedures). The dermatology clinic at the local hospital was at 15.45, so to fill in the time I decided to get the blood tests done, the GP having given me a form to have my cholesterol, liver function, iron levels and various other things tested.

When I have had blood tests done before, I have taken my ticket and found there were about 50 people before me. Not this time. My ticket was No 45, and as I sat down, the screen was showing that No. 41 was already enjoying the sensation of a 'little prick'. I read a few pages of my book (A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, since you ask (harrowing, atmospheric, eye-opening), then suddenly it was my turn.

It didn't hurt much but when she asked me to 'make a fist', I couldn't, as my fingers are so stiff from osteoarthritis. She said my blood was coming out in blobs, so for a moment I worried that I had clots in my veins and that my red stuff was drying up as we spoke and I had a sudden urge to inject myself with a litre of red wine. But she got it flowing and I was fine as long as I didn't look. Not squeamish about anybody else's blood, I do feel a little queasy at seeing large quantities of my own leaving my body and filling up a test tube. My dad used to faint if he had to have a splinter removed from his finger. My mother was a nurse. I feature somewhere in between the two in terms of how much gore I can take.

Because the wait for the blood test was so quick, I found myself with over an hour to kill, so I went for a coffee and a bun. Chairs were in short supply in the cafeteria, so I parked myself with two nice ladies, one of whom told me that the previous week, she had arrived a mere three minutes late for an appointment at another hospital, owing to having been stopped at another desk and made to fill out a form, and they had refused to see her, which I found quite shocking, especially as she has to get around in a wheelchair.

Then I had a 40 minute wait in the Dermatology department for a follow-up consultation, having had something frozen off my forehead in December. Although there was only one person before me, they were running late. The nurse apologised, but all I could think of was that poor woman who had been refused her pre-op consultation through being three minutes late.

I finally got to see the consultant. "What did you have?" he asked. "I don't know. You tell me," I replied. He glanced at my notes. "I don't know, they don't say," he said, then picking up his flashlight he remarked, "but whatever it was, it seems to have gone. If it comes back again, go and see your GP." He decided it must have been a solar keratosis.

After this medical marathon, I staggered off to the bus stop. It was freezing. I waited and waited, and hordes of schoolkids kept arriving and massing around the bus stop. I decided I'd never get on and I was freezing my wotsits off, so I set off to walk home and was just between stops when the bus came. Isn't it just Sod's Law? Holding my scarf around my face as I get toothache when my face gets too cold, and my left eye streams uncontrollably, I marched back home, stopping at the local garage store (still called Somerfields but now stocking Co-op stuff) and bought all kinds of stuff I thought my sister might like for lunch tomorrow. She and bruv-in-law are on an overnight flight from Buenos Aires, following their rain forest/horse-riding holiday and will arrive around 1.30 am. Bet they'll be even more exhausted than I feel right now.

And now for that litre of red wine.....

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Spring flowers

Way back many decades ago when I was at Primary School, we learned a poem about the months and seasons of the year, one line of which was, if my memory serves me correctly:

March brings breezes loud and shrill - stirs the dancing daffodil.

I haven't seen any dancing daffodils yet, except for 99p a bunch in Marks and Spencer. (A bargain: my bunch lasted for over a week.) But today I noticed a bunch of scruffy purple crocuses in Mr G's front garden, right by where the rubbish and recycling bags get dumped once a week, and where all the crisp and chocolate wrappers dropped by passing schoolkids get blown. With four schools nearby, that's a lot of wrappers!

Sorry it's not a better photograph. Just as I was about to do my David Bailey impression in slippers and loads of woollies, a couple and a dog walked past and I was so embarrassed that I clicked the shutter once and scuttled back inside.

What flowers have you seen so far this year?

Friday, 5 March 2010

Dogs and cats

I have a good friend of many years' standing who I'm very fond of but don't often see as she lives in the wilds of East Essex in a caravan on the site of a garden centre, and I don't drive, and she works six days a week. She has asked if she can come and stay for a night over Easter - come one lunchtime and stay till lunchtime next day - which is great. Except....

Except that she has a dog, the love of her life, a little hairy Shi'tzu from whom she will not be parted. The two of them go everywhere together, even to work. It's quite a sweet little thing with huge, liquid brown eyes (and a hysterical yap which drives me mad). But...

... we have Flad, who is getting on in years and is very nervous by nature, and completely terrified of dogs. Last time my friend came, I had great difficulty enticing him back into the house after they had gone, and he was clingy and neurotic for days. I think the poor thing thought he had been rejected in favour of the mutt.

So, much as I want to see my friend, I can't dump the dog. Oh dear...

I adore Flad. I love him so much that, after I'd agreed yesterday that my friend could come, I then fell asleep and had the most dreadful nightmare in which poor old Flad was cowering on the floor, belly up in submission position, being yapped at by my friend's dog, then somebody else came in and brought a huge German Shepherd which walked over and put its great paw on Flad's chest. Flad seemed to faint. He passed right out and I picked him up and cradled him in my arms, and realised to my horror that my beloved pet was dead - he had died of shock.

I woke up sobbing, with my heart pounding, and now wish I'd never agreed that my friend could come because it's just not fair on poor Flad, who isn't terribly bright, and is a very dependent cat, rather stiff and rheumaticky, who wouldn't do well if forced to sleep out in the cold rather than on the armchair in front of the log-burning stove, which is what he usually does.

A few years ago, I was torturing myself mentally about exactly the same thing, as friend and previous dog were due to come for Christmas. How I wished that she would come sans dog. Then blow me down, she sent me a text to say it would be just her for Christmas. I rang to ask why and - please believe me, I hadn't put a curse on it or anything - the poor dog had died. I wouldn't wish it on her latest pet, I just wish she didn't have to bring it but her mantra is 'love me, love my dog'. But I love my cat! Help!

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Barbara Windsor dream

I had the oddest dream last night. In it, I kept bumping into Barbara Windsor (for non-British readers, she is a tiny blonde, now in her seventies, who first made a name for herself in the 1960s when her bikini top popped off during morning exercises in the movie Carry on Camping. She now appears on our screens four nights a week as the owner of the Queen Vic pub in the Eastenders soap), and we became tentative friends, though we were not yet on visiting or even phoning terms.

I was out in London's West End with my ex-literary agent who was wearing a hideous blue suit and red tie (sorry, Robin!). I had popped into a posh shop for a look around, leaving him lurking up the road somewhere, and who should come in but Babs. We had a chat and it suddenly occurred to me that if she was looking for a ghost writer, I was the perfect person. But I knew it would be wrong to force the idea on her, so I told her I was working as a writer and book editor and hoped she would come up with the idea herself. At last we swapped phone numbers and suddenly - ting, lightbulb moment - she came out with it. She was thinking of writing a new, no holds barred version of her life story and I might be the perfect person to do it, especially as I had an agent all lined up and waiting (just as if someone as famous as her would need one).

Let's hope it was a good omen and something brilliant comes my way, even if it isn't Barbara Windsor's life story!

PS: I just looked up the meanings of dreams and, on the subject of dreaming about celebrities, I found the following:

Famous folks in our dreams are telling us to "Go for it" by integrating the positive qualities we admire in them into our own personalities. Reflect upon what this person symbolizes for you. The primary qualities you admire may not necessariy be fame, beauty or money. You may place greater value on psychological aspects such as their drive or even recovery from an addiction or tragedy. Get in touch with these aspects of yourself and work to bring them into focus and manifestation.

Perhaps, being older than me, she is a role model, showing me one can still shine like a star at 74! Look at the artful way in which she folds her hands, to disguise the signs of aging. See - I've learned something from her already!

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Ghastly mistake

Saw a very nice house on Friday but didn't want to buy it as it was a) too dear, and b) too far from the station. Estate agents always want feedback so I rang yesterday and told them I'd liked it but it was out of my price range because I could only afford £X. This was no way meant to be an offer, but the next thing was, the agent rang me and said, "Well done, they've accepted your offer!"

I did not know what to do, or which way to turn. I knew this young couple were desperate to sell. They had angelic 2-year-old twins and had a larger place lined up to buy, and had lost two buyers. I had to ring the agent back, once I'd stopped reeling, and say I'd never intended to put in an offer and it was all a dreadful accident. This is why I invented the word 'orapedology': the art of opening one's mouth and inserting one's foot.

New bird table

When Mr Grumpy had his strokes in June 2007, he was totally paralysed down one side. He has worked and worked on his body to get the movement back and over the last two days he has made this bird table, modelled on one Simon King talked about on a BBC TV nature programme.

Our last bird table lasted all of five days because, as soon as we realised it had become a feeding ground for the local sparrowhawk, Mr G took it down. But this design protects small birds from predation as the sparrowhawk can't swoop in and grab one. I think the fact that he has been able to make it from scratch, sawing all the wood and putting it together, is a tremendous achievement. As soon as I spy any birds using it, I shall put a photo on my Hillingdon Wildlife blog, too.