Wednesday, 28 December 2011

War Horse

The publicity about the Spielberg film, War Horse, nudged my memory and I have spent several days searching for an old green school exercise book in which I wrote the poems I composed as a child. At last I found it, having unearthed several useful things in the process such as a box of printer cartridges and a Sim card reader (which doesn't work, worse luck, as Mr G is right in the middle of trying to swap my contacts from my old Nokia to the new HTC smart phone he gave me for Christmas, and is currently admitting defeat).

My mother, who was born in 1908, learned to ride on cavalry horses, as the man in charge of them at the local barracks was sweet on her. When I was 11, my Auntie Edie gave me the money for ten riding lessons, and my mount was a grey cob called Bob, an ex-cavalry horse who, on decomission, had been bought for the local riding stable, which was run by hatchet-faced Miss Fitzpatrick, who wore her black hair scraped severely back into a hairnet and was always immaculately turned out in a well-fitting black riding jacket, cream twill britches and spotless boots.

Bob was by then in his thirties, quite old in horse years but he still had a gallop or two left in him. Somewhere in my storage unit I have a photograph of me riding him in Sefton Park, Liverpool, accompanied by Miss F on 16-hand-high Patch and another pupil on little 13hh Sugar Puff, which was published in the Liverpool Echo newspaper. If I ever find it, I shall show you. The riding school horses and ponies were all greys. I fell in love with horses, but was always a little scared of them and lacked the talent of my sister, who occasionally comments on this blog under the name of Merrylegs. As soon as she had somewhere to keep one, she bought her own horse and currently rides a gorgeous mare called Millie. Who, coincidentally, is grey. The equine wheel comes full circle.

The reason I was searching for the book was because I felt sure I had written a poem about Bob the cavalry horse, and indeed I had done, when I was 15. Here it is.

                 TO BOB

Does he ever think back to the days of old,
The old grey cob in the cobwebbed stall?
Can his eyes recollect all the scarlet and gold?
Do his ears still ring to the bugle's call?
He blows at the oats and he lips at the hay.
His tail flicks idly, his eyes half-close.
The white-haired cob, once iron grey,
Sways in a memory-clouded doze.

Saddle-less, riderless, galloping hard,
The grey cob joins in the victory ride.
Faintly through memory, battle-scarred,
The ones who lived and the ones who died,
Dream-hazed horses come cantering back.
The silver bugle rings strident and clear
O'er the scarlet-rimed field. Rifles, whiplashes crack
And the thundering cannons boom loud in his ear.

His head droops lower, his nostrils twitch
And a restless hoof stirs up dust in the straw...
But the sound of footsteps and swish of a switch
Blot out his dreams of the years before.
Saddled and bridled he stands in the yard
While the tight strap wrinkles his whiskery nose.
The riding instructress, with voice loud and hard,
Shouts out commands and obedient, he goes.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

A very Happy Christmas

Despite my fears and worries, I had a fabulous time over Christmas. Mr Grumpy did the turkey, I did the veg and two friends of his came for Christmas dinner. As they are both Israeli Jews, I was slightly worried that they wouldn't 'do' Christmas, so I carefully wrapped their gifts in plain gold paper and put Happy New Year on the labels. That went down fine, as did the food and wine.

Mr G and my sister went completely mad, buying me tons of wonderful things - a smart phone, a gorgeous silver-green fleece, a purple watch, perfume, some of my favourite  Burts Bees products... I felt quite humble unwrapping parcel after parcel. I haven't got Mr G his 'big present' yet as he wants an expensive electric razor but said I should wait for the sales - which are now on, but he hasn't told me the make and model number yet.

In the evening, we visited his friends with the five boys. I'm delighted to report that the 2-year-old is back to his normal boisterous self, plaguing the daylights out of his siblings and the long-suffering Husky dog (which is the same age as him and weighs 13.5 stones).

It was also lovely to see our next door neighbour out of hospital at last and back home in time for Christmas. He still has a long way to go in terms of mobility. He can only look straight ahead, can't move his neck left or right, and can't raise his arms very high, but somehow he managed to make 16 full-size Christmas cakes to give to all the medics at two separate hospitals who have helped him so much over the course of this year. Now that he's back, we don't see nearly as much of Chi Mimi, but I did find her in a yoga pose the other day, in a cat bed in the corner of our lounge, snugly sandwiched between two radiators. Cats pick all the comfiest spots, don't they? I hope that you all had a lovely time over Christmas, too.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

What is the point of a sprout?

I wrote this just now, after preparing a mountain of the things! Enjoy your Christmas dinner, one and all!


What is the point of a sprout?
While they’re cooking, they stink the house out!
But we buy the green horrors every December
And cut little crosses (that’s if we remember),
Then boil them or cream them,
Cremate them or steam them,
Add herbs or a paste
To disguise their vile taste.
We make sure we’ve got plenty
And hope they’re ‘al dente’.
In a dish they are plopped
With some holly on top.
They’re now so good-looking
That we’re proud of our cooking.
Then we hear the shouts:
“No thanks. We hate sprouts!”

So – what is the point of a sprout?
I think that the jury’s still out.

Today's horoscope

My Rick Levine horoscope for today reads:

Your world may seem a bit surreal now because you're able to see further into your future as the Capricorn New Moon stirs your 11th House of Hopes and Dreams. Fortunately, you can use your imagination to create the next phase of your life. Although you might be tempted to lose yourself to fantasies, you can improve your chances for success by being practical while developing your vision of tomorrow.

And it gave me an idea. My poor friend Louise Cooper, who I still miss dreadfully, was a fantasy writer but it's a realm of writing I have never entered. So why don't I try? Perhaps this horoscope is giving me a message, a sign for the New Year. I feel my imagination stirring already!

Friday, 23 December 2011

Molly is wearing for Christmas...

... a pretty, sheer black kaftan with silvery embroidery, over a black t-shirt with silver sequins on the neckline. Both from charity shops. Aren't I lucky having such good charity shops nearby!

The Last Straw!

I received one of those brown envelopes in the post that you know never bring good tidings. It was my tax bill. They want £3000 by the end of January. It can't be right, as I only earned £9,000 last year, but if it is correct, bang goes my hope of a dental implant! Oh, Happy New Year!!!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

The tooth saga continueth...

I visited the dentist on Wednesday. The verdict was an infected root (again!) and she gave me a prescription for Amoxicillin, the antibiotic I can't drink alcohol with because it causes stomach pains and nausea. (Not Ampicillin, I got that wrong.) She suggested I doubled the dose for the first two days, i.e. 2 pills three times a day, as she had prescribed the 250 mg version rather than the stronger 500 mg, then cut down to one three times a day for the next three days, making a 5 day course in all.

An hour after taking the first double dose, I felt sick, cold and wobbly. Thinking it was just stress due to being told that the cost of root canal treatment by their specialist was £795, I ignored it and took the second double dose at 9 pm. We had an overnight visitor who I was looking forward to sharing a drink with, but not only was there no alcohol, there was no sleep, either, as I got the stomach pains, nausea and diarrhoea without a drop of booze having touched my lips, and was trotting to the loo all night.

I dozed off around 4 am and started awake at 6.20, having remembered that Mr G had 2 tons of logs being delivered at 7 am and our visitor had parked right on the spot where they were due to be decanted. Could I ask her to move her car, I wondered? I listened at her door but she was snoring peacefully. I then woke Mr Grumpy, who was EXCEEDINGLY grumpy. I felt our friend's coat pocket and her car keys were in it, but he reckoned he could manage.

The logs turned up bang on the dot and were almost decanted onto her bright green Smart Car, which would have turned it into a squashed Kermit. Then the bin men came, then the recycling lorry, and I went back to bed feeling like death, with a bucket next to me just in case, as I felt so sick.

A friend of Mr G's, hearing my tale of woe, suggested calling my GP to see if she could prescribe a different antibiotic. I did that but they said I must ring the dentist and ask what she would recommend. Erythromycin. I have to ring after 2 pm to find out if the GP has agreed to give me a prescription.

'What shall I do if it flares up over Christmas?' I asked the dentist. Why do these things always happen on Bank Holidays? The problem with the tooth above, which was removed last month, started on Good Friday two years ago. 'Ring me,' she said. Come on! How could I ring her when she'll be with her family eating Christmas dinner? I'd rather call one of those 24 hour emergency clinics, even though she told me not even to think about it! In fact, I'd rather call any big, strong, male dentist right now and ask him to use the strength of his mighty forearms and muscular fingers to whip it out in one minute flat, rather than have that woman spend 3/4 of an hour ripping my head off like she did last month and then charge me £250 for the privilege.

One way or another, I am thoroughly dreading Christmas.

PS The tooth is now throbbing quite nastily. Not bloody fair! 

Sunday, 18 December 2011

I hate teeth!

Having only just recovered from having my tooth out, I now have toothache in another tooth, the first one my new dentist worked on, giving me a nice new white filling to replace the old amalgam one. I fear I have an abcess in it and will have to be on antibiotics over Christmas, which means no nice, festive glasses of wine.

Some people can drink while on antibiotics with no nasty consequences. If I'm on ampicillin and take so much as one sip of alcohol, I get violent stomach pains. Maybe there is no abcess. Perhaps the filling got damaged while the tooth above it was being removed. My fingers are crossed that it's that, as I have a very nice bottle of wine that I won in a Tombola at a Christmas fair, that I've been saving and looking forward to drinking over Christmas. We have a friend coming to stay tomorrow who is rather partial to a drop of vino. Rather TOO partial. In fact, I'd better hide the bottle now and save it for New Year's Eve!

Here is a photo of me that was taken by my writer and photographer friend Joan - (visit her blog at - after we had been to an exhibition at the Royal Academy last Tuesday. I'm not a very photogenic person and I'm sure she must have airbrushed the wrinkles out! It looks quite festive so perhaps I'll use it for next year's Christmas card. Wonder if I'll have any teeth left by then?

Monday, 12 December 2011

This week Molly is wearing...

A deep blue velvet charity shop top with sleeves of some clever material, like old-fashioned 'shot silk', that looks either blue or bronze according to how the light catches it. I paid about £3 for it, so it's one of my bargains, but I think I should have accessorised it with something long, gold and dangly rather than that short blue necklace.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Keep the home fires burning!

There's nothing like a wood-burning stove. Flad is always so excited when Mr G sets the logs burning every evening.


I stubbed my toe so badly on the leg of the bed last month that I had to stop going to my dance classes as it was so painful. Now that the bruise is creeping up from the nailbed, you can see why!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Those last few awkward presents

There are always one or two, aren't there? You know what I mean. Those people who, for various reasons, are really difficult to buy Christmas presents for. I have just come back from three hours of plodding round the shops in search of the following:
(i) Something for our dear 97-year-old next door neighbour who is crippled and half blind but possessed of a heart of gold
(ii) Something for Mr Grumpy's nephew and his wife, whose tastes I haven't a clue about. Last year I gave them a picture frame for photos of their latest grandchild. The year before I gave them an ornate candle
(iii) Something for Mr G's step-daughter, who had her 29th birthday last week (one present already given), and has just bought her first flat (DAB radio already purchased as a flat-warming gift)

When it comes to (i), there are only two things she really appreciates, house plants and Lindt chocolate. But last time I was round there she said she couldn't cope with any more plants and she already had a fridge full of bars of Lindt!

(iii) said she would like one of the fashionable knitted ponchos, but it had to be beige, with no pattern, and look groovy rather than grannyfied. Well, in the whole of Uxbridge, which has two shopping malls, I could not find one poncho without an Aztec-style pattern on it. So I couldn't cross (iii) off my list.

As for (ii), I was in Debenhams and saw a stack of large boxes of yummy Thorntons chocs, reduced from £15 to £9 'for today only'. Perfect, I thought; they can share them with the rest of their family. I queued to pay and had just handed over the cash when the lady behind me said, "They're doing those same boxes for £5 in Tesco's." Guess who works in Tesco? Mr G's nephew's wife!!! How could I give her a present that she would think I'd only paid a fiver for! I turned, glared at the woman and said, "You know what? You've just ruined my day, especially as the Co-op has ripped me off for £3 as well." (I got back from yesterday's food shop to find I'd been charged twice for a single item but it was too cold to walk the mile back there and another mile back home.) Do you know what the lady behind me said? She smiled sweetly and assured me, "You must have some good karma coming your way then."

I got home in a really bad mood, exacerbated by the fact that my bottle of water had sprung a leak in my handbag and I'd had to sit upstairs on the bus surrounded by a gaggle of foul-mouthed young Asian students - female at that! I thought Indian girls were better brought up than that but all I could hear was effing this and effing that. We'd run out of coffee and Mr G had gone to Sainsburys but forgotten to get our favourite brand. I had bought a jar of M&S coffee, have just made myself an eagerly anticipated cup and found it to be quite vile. Grrrr!

So now I am sitting here with the three awkward presents still to get. Unless... Maybe I can convert (i) to Thorntons. She might even think they're Lindt! Good. That's settled. As for (iii), I'll give her a gift voucher and she can spend three hours trekking round the ruddy shops. At least the sales will be on.

But (ii)... Oh dear! Back to the shops, I suppose, praying for inspiration. Maybe that good karma will visit me just in time.

Monday, 5 December 2011


I had a lovely few days back on my home turf in Highgate, where I lived from 2001-2007. My friend's first floor flat has huge French doors out onto a balcony with a wonderful view. Between the delicate tracery of deleafed branches you can see all the central London landmarks like the Eye and the Gherkin, sparkling at night just like a glittery Christmas card.

I had been warned that the boiler was a bit dodgy. It worked fine up to about 17 degrees C, and then it overheated and had to be turned off. I managed OK, though. I wasn't in a lot during the day, and 17C is warmer than at Mr G's house (when I got back today, it was 9C in my bedroom!). I also enjoyed sinking into my friend's gently moulding memory foam mattress, but the first night I was there, I awoke at 3.35 am having had a terrifying nightmare.

Yes, I know other people's dreams can be boring to listen to, but I want to note this one down as it's the first nightmare I have had for months. I was in West London, high up in a building, when I heard an explosion and saw thick black smoke pouring from some factory or industrial building. I went home, grabbed my passport and netbook and managed to find a taxi just as a thick fog of choking fumes was starting to spread over Hayes and Hillingdon.

"Head south!" I told the cabbie, and promptly got on my phone and rang Mr G, the next door neighbours and my friend K and told them to leave the area fast as I knew the fumes were deadly poisonous and if they didn't get away, they'd die. Then an agonising thought hit me. Poor Flad was going to die. I hadn't been able to find him and I knew he would be choked to death. I woke up crying my eyes out. And coughing. I think I can blame my friend's feather duvet and pillows for that, as I am slightly allergic to feathers.

Last night I went to a pub down the road where an old aquaintance, Anita, plays the piano on Sundays. I got there around 9.15 and the bar was empty, but by 10pm people were filtering in. There was a group of young women who were part of a theatrical troupe and one of them, called Charlotte, had a remarkable voice. She can't have been more than 22, but she had the voice of an angel, strong, pure and bang on the note. It sent a thrill through you. The others all had good voices, too and, along with everyone in the pub, we belted out songs from the shows till 1.30am!

I was starving when I got in and made tea and toast and staggered to bed around 2.15, but couldn't get to sleep. It was getting light by the time I dozed off. Next thing I knew, it was gone 10am. The room was cold and I turned on the boiler. Nothing. Turned on the tap. Cold water. Oh dear. I rang the plumber, texted my friend who was still in Madrid, then headed for home and was so sleepy I almost left one of my bags on the train from Paddington to Hayes. I was heavily laden, having been to a Christmas Fayre on behalf of the animal rescue charity that another friend works for, and bought jam, cards and books. I'd also bought a pair of purple velvet trousers from a charity shop.

This afternoon, I was so knackered that I slept from 3 till 5.30 and can hardly keep my eyes open now. But that dream... Perhaps it is telling me that Mr G's area is toxic for me. Indeed, since I've been here my creativity has dried up and I have just turned down the chance to write two compilation books for kiddies about fairies and dinosaurs, simply because I haven't got a warm, quiet, undisturbed place to write them. Roll on the New Year and a new home!