Friday, 29 April 2011

The Wedding

I proclaimed stoutly to all my non-royalist friends that I wasn't going to watch, but in the end I did (sorry, folks!). Watching it me feel linked to all all the royal weddings of the past and I sat there trying to imagine them in similar coaches, being cheered all the way (or the opposite in the case of Henry V111) and imagine the behaviour of the ragamuffin hoi polloi in those days, in sheer contrast to today's very well dressed 'commoners'.

I adored Kate's dress. It was perfect. She looked beautiful. At one point, she did a big, gulping swallow and I thought she was trying not to cry. She was very controlled but once or twice she seemed nervous and emotional, and William shot her reassuring little smiles. The Queen looked lovely in her sunshine yellow and Prince Phillip is so handsome for a man of almost 9o. I could fancy him if I met him in the old folks' home - he could share my zimmer frame any time!

It was a glorious, faultless occasion and had such a feel-good factor that I, for one, am still smiling.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011


Jumpers out, socks on, scarves unpacked. Where are the gloves and woolly hat? The temperature here has dropped 20 degrees F since yesterday.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Poem for Good Friday

Today I am happy
I am wearing clothes in my favourite colours
Turquoise, aqua, mauve and gold
Even my shoes are greeny-blue
As the fresh leaves tenderly stroke
The soft, calm blue of the sky
And as last night's dew sparkles in the grass
I feel more utterly
Settled comfortably into myself
Than I have for 30 turbulent years
And today - who knows? - I may
Take up a brush again and paint

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Silver threads amongst the gold

I noticed with a shock yesterday that my hair is going from ginger to white, bypassing grey completely. I'm comforting myself with the thought that plenty of people half my age have gone grey (and even white) so my natural colour has had a jolly good innings and my outlay on hairdressers has been minimal. In fact, I spend several decades just going once a year to have the split ends trimmed off.

Now, though, my tresses are going to need regular maintenance. I would love to go back to the glorious copper shade my hair used to be - I still have a lock of my hair that was cut off when I was 17 and it's almost conker-coloured - but the dye manufacturers don't seem to have achieved the correct shade and whenever I have had it coloured, it ends up autumn leaf auburn (too dark for my freckly skin tone), or not red enough.

Last time I had it done, I went through the whole process, had the final rinse and when the stylist produced the mirror, it didn't look any different. "I thought it was going to look redder," I moaned. "Okay, I'll do it again," she said. This time, it did look a little more vibrant. Three weeks on and it had all washed out. Apparently, red is the least stable hair colour and washes out far quicker than other shades.

Time to become a blonde? Or shall I just buy a wig?

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Down in Devon

Pepe and his pal Ginger

Has Pepe seen a frog?

View from the front of the house

It was just a quick trip, Tuesday to Thursday, and it rained all Wednesday, but I managed to take a few photos while the sun was still shining. My daughter's new puppy, Pepe, who is 12 weeks old, is gorgeous and Ginger, the 13-year-old neutered tom, is behaving like a mother towards him, licking his face clean and cuffing him when he gets too boisterous.

It must have been very difficult for my daughter's adoptive mum to adjust to her birth mum entering her life, but each time we meet things feel easier between us and this time, shortly after I got home, my daughter sent me a text saying her mum really likes me and is glad R and I found each other. This gave me a warm glow.

I loved being there, sitting in their peaceful living room reading a Bill Bryson book and gazing at the exquisite scenery beyond the window. I really didn't want to come home. On the train back, my heart sank as we neared Clapham Junction and the houses grew taller, meaner and closer together. It was as if the very air was compressed and I could almost feel my lungs contracting and rejecting the city fumes after being full of glorious fresh air.

I now feel discontented... kind of disconnected, unsure where I belong, pulled in too many directions. Yet I know that I must reject any thoughts of living in the country, owing to the fact that I can't drive and never will, having booked three driving tests in the past and being too scared to turn up for them. I suppose there's always those electric bicycles! Knowing my luck, though, the battery would run out halfway up a hill and I'd have to push it four miles home with all my shopping. Maybe it would be better to buy a donkey!

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Cherry blossom

I took this one because of the red tulips in the background, like a splodge of scarlet lipstick. Here is one of them in close-up.

This was the misty garden at 8 o'clock this morning, with the sun filtering through the blossom. Spring really is my favourite time of year.

Shrink my stuff!

That's what I've got to do. That tottering heap of boxes in the storage unit has been costing me a vast £200 a month for the last five years. No, I don't want to 'do the math'. Some of it was in a different, slightly cheaper unit for four years before that, while I was renting a part-furnished flat in Highgate.

Yesterday, I put in an offer on a 1-bed flat in Highgate. I shall need a mortgage for it, but that mortgage will cost less than the storage unit fee and for that I will be able to walk to Hampstead Heath, use a station that is about three minutes away instead of the present three miles, and see my friends every few days rather than every few weeks - months, in some cases, owing to the amount of times I have to cancel because of my wretched stomach problems.

Now, as you all know, I am a writer and editor and I work from home. I need space for office stuff and books and stationery. I also need peace and quiet. So how on earth am I going to squeeze into a one-bedroom flat? Well, it has a cellar that will house a good few boxes. It also has a garden and where there is a garden, there is the possibility of a garden office. Of course, that will be dependent on building regulations and obtaining the permission of the other three flat owners, but if my offer is accepted, I shall make it a condition of sale that the present owner asks permission of the others and gets it in writing.

I am in love, not with the flat, but the garden. It has a pond that's teeming with frogs and sticklebacks. The owner wants to sell to a nature-lover. That's me! Oddly enough, as soon as I walked into the place it felt familiar. When the owner said she bought it from a gay guy with a small white dog, it jogged my memory and I realised I had viewed it seven years ago, too, and the gay man told me he and his partner were moving to Brighton. I didn't buy it then because the cellar floor was under three inches of water. It was a burst pipe that has now been fixed, but the present owner has taken no chances and has her stuff (a couple of cases and about five boxes rather than a whole unit full) piled upon metal tables, which is just what I shall do.

If I get it. If I can shrink my stuff... Wonder if I could start a new trend for cellar sales?

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Steeleye Span at the Beck Theatre



It's a good 14 years since I last saw Steeleye play. That was at the Festival Hall, if I remember rightly. Last night I saw them at the Beck in Hayes, which is a great little theatre with a good slope so that you can always see over the heads of the people in the row in front. Mind you, the drinks aren't cheap. £2 for a bottle of Coke! But hey, it's all part of the experience, especially once I had chucked a £2.50 slug brandy into it. Well, nobody was handing round the spliffs!

Maddy Prior must be my age at least and her hair, once long and black, is now short, silver and tipped with chestnut - it looked very nice. She is no longer the sylphlike dancer who whirled around the stage but she did manage an Irish jig in a statuesque fashion. Her voice has improved no end, though. What was once a slightly shrill soprano is now full and and she can belt out the bluesy notes when she wants to. Sadly, founder member Tim Hart passed away two years ago of lung cancer, on the La Gomera, one of the Canary Islands.

The audience had, like me, matured along with the band. The couple next to me said they were old hippies and had the original vinyl LPs from the 1970s. They live on a boat and as the gentleman was in a wheelchair, I asked how he managed to get down into the saloon. "Spiral staircase," he explained. I assume he leaves his chair up top somewhere and hauls and slides his way down.

I was at the end of a row, right in front of a speaker, and after 2 1/2 hours I was half deaf with a cricked neck, resulting in my waking up with a migraine today and having to cancel lunch with friends. Oh dear. Seems like I'm too old to rock 'n' roll and too young to die!

The gig ended with a rousing version of the Steeleye anthem All Around My Hat, part of which was sung unaccompanied by us, the audience. I can proudly say that I gave it some welly and now have the sore throat to prove it.

There was one song they sang called Let Her Go Down, about a sinking ship, that reduced me to tears, partly because the lyrics and harmonies were so moving and partly because it reminded me of the songs Louise used to sing with the Falmouth Shout shanty group. I shall have to buy the album and learn it. When I was in my twenties, if I felt sad and wanted a good cry, I always used to listen to Leonard Cohen - Bird on a Wire, So Long, Marianne, Traveller's Song... always guaranteed to elicit tears of nostalgie about poignant love won and lost. Now it is songs about the sea that are affecting me. But then, I am a Pisces whose father worked in shipping and whose great-grandfather was a Swedish sea captain and marine artist. Thinking about it, there aren't many happy songs about the sea, are there? All I can think of is What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor? To which my answer is give him more rum!

Monday, 4 April 2011

Spring shower

My winter pansies have been blooming since early December. They have kept on through all that snow and ice we had. Here they are, their velvety faces sprinkled by an April shower.