Saturday, 30 June 2012

Good deed for the day?

I had a weird thing happen today. I was walking down the road to the Post Office and passed a delivery van. The driver was getting a signature for a parcel and another package was propped up against the back of the van. I was carrying two big boxes containing birthday presents, and could only just manage to carry them

The courier got back in his white van and drove off, leaving the package that had been propped up against the back doors of the van in the road! I couldn't run after him because of my boxes, so I picked it up and added it to the pile I was carrying and asked in the post office if they could do anything with it, but all they could do was return to sender, some mail order company in Oldham.

The address of the person whose parcel it was wasn't far away so I walked round there. It was an opticians with two flats above. A man was standing at the top floor window so I yelled up and he came down but said nobody by that name lived there. 

I took the package home, looked up the number of the courier company and rang them. They left me hanging on listening to awful diddly music for ages, so I gave up. Then I looked up the mail order co. and rang them. They gave me the number for Littlewoods, who they supplied goods for. More diddly-widdly-piddly music. Gave up again! Now I'm going to take the into the opticians on Monday and it doesn't belong to anyone there, I'll return it to Oldham. The label says the contents are a pair of 'Twit-Twoo boys' curtains'. I looked them up. They are blue, with owls on, and the manufacturer is Ladybird (remember that Woolworth's brand?) and I discovered Woolies still exists as a mail order firm. 

I must have racked up a helluva phone bill. This is what you get for being a good Samaritan! 

No, this isn't me, but that's about the size of the parcels!

Sunday, 24 June 2012

The House of Mystery

Sometimes, in the minutes between waking up and coming to full consciousness, when the mind is still free-floating, clinging to the thready vapours of dreams, and deliberate thoughts such as 'What have I got to do today?' have not yet formed, interesting things can happen. In this period when real life seems suspended, I have had poems form, melodies create themselves, ideas for novels pop up.

Today, I woke with the words of a Leonard Cohen song I haven't heard since the 1970s running through my head: 'Seems so long ago Nancy was alone. Looking at the Late Late Show through a semi-precious stone/In the House of Honesty her father was on trial./In the House of Mystery there was no-one at all/There was no-one at all...'

The song, Seems So Long Ago, Nancy, about a girl who commits suicide by shooting herself, was on the album Songs From a Room. My local chemist's shop in South End Green, Hampstead, was called The House of Mistry and every time I played the song, that phrase made me smile. The song always intrigued me. Why was Nancy's father on trial? What had he done? Why did she shoot herself? What was the 'House of Mystery'? Was it spirituality? Was it death? Did she want her friends to make a suicide pact with her?

There was no Google in those days, of course. Although my friends discussed it earnestly late at night over bottles of wine and funny cigarettes, we gave up and I had completely forgotten the song until this morning. I got up with Leonard's lugubrious voice clanging sonorously in my head like a mossy old bell and straight away I wondered if there was a message for me in the song. There had to be, otherwise why did I wake up with it on my mind? I don't know anyone called Nancy. I don't know anyone with a gun (at least, I hope not; I've sometimes wondered what Mr Grumpy keeps in the hole under the floorboards which he scooted his computer chair over when I once walked into his office without knocking); I hope I don't know anyone who is thinking of suicide. The dread thought struck me (and was instantly dismissed): 'am I going to hear some bad news today?' 

As soon as I'd finished breakfast, I decided to key the song lyrics into Google and see what came up. And I found a fascinating article written by the niece of the actual, real-life Nancy. Here it is:

And I found out there was a message for me in it. Nancy had gone mad after her parents had forced her to give up her illegitimate baby in the Sixties. I, of course, had had to give up my own baby, back in 1969. Several times in the year before she died, my mother asked plaintively, "Isn't there any way you could find your daughter? I would so love to meet her." At the time, I didn't know how.

I didn't find R till nine years later.When I did, and was telling her all about my family, I told her Mum's name and she blanched and said that very same name had been in her head for years and she had always felt someone called Muriel was her guardian angel. Yesterday, I wrote up the story of the supernatural experiences I had had when my mum died for a book called Death Is Not Goodbye, that is being collated by an acquaintance. It is Mum's birthday in a few days' time. I think I now know why the song came to me. Now I just have to chew over the resonances. Hamlet said, 'There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.' Shakespeare knew so much, didn't he? He was definitely tapped into The House of Mystery!

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Prince Philip and I have something in common..

This blog started as a place for me to moan about all my ailments and discuss the various remedies I had tried. In recent months, I haven't mentioned illnesses much at all, apart from teeth and colds, but now, in common with the Duke of Edinburgh during the Queen's Jubilee celebrations, I have a bladder infection.

It started a week ago last Monday while I was flat-sitting in Highgate and I think it was sparked off by helping myself to a bottle of my friend's white wine (with her permission, of course. She had three cartons of it hidden beside the sofa). It was very dry and acidic and the next day I was in awful pain from my ulcerated duodenum and I always find that when I get an ulcer attack, I get cystitis symptoms too. Even as a child, if I ate any tart, acidic fruit such as gooseberries, or accepted an acid drop sweet from a pal in primary school, I would get a burning inside that went all the way to my bladder and kept me running to the loo. Doctor after doctor has dismissed it and told me there is no connection, but I know there is, even if it's referred pain.

I went to the chemist and got some Oasis. I took the 2-day course but was no better, so next, I went to Boots and got some Cystopurin which tastes unbelievably vile, as if someone had mixed cranberries with a heavy dose of saccharin and added a pinch of bad egg. I was also taking half a teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate dissolved in a little warm water every few hours. That usually works a treat, making my system nice and alkaline again, but this time it didn't work, though my stomach pain subsided (it lasted four days and ruined my stay in Highgate).

So I bought more Oasis and by now, I felt as if someone had sewn nettle leaves into my knicker gusset, so I knew I had thrush, too. I bought some Canestan One-Shot, slapped on the cream and downed the anti-fungal pill last night. Then I went to sleep, at around ten-fifteen as I was exhausted.

At what seemed like the middle of the night, I woke up needing the loo. I looked at the clock. The big hand said 11. I had only slept for about an hour. For the rest of the night I was in bed, then out of bed, at intervals ranging from twenty minutes to an hour. I was wishing I had an ejector to seat to boing me from bed to bog and back again..

I finally got up and seven, waited till the doctor's surgery opened at eight and rang them. This is the day that many doctors and NHS employers in Britain decided to go on strike, but luckily for me, they hadn't at my surgery. I got an emergency appointment and saw a rather dour female doc who gave me a tiny plastic container to pee in.

It must be easy for a man. They can just point and pee. But for us ladies... First you miss it on one side, then you miss it on the other and pee all over your hand. By now you are running out of pee, but you have one last go at centring the bottle and finally get a few drops inside... and running all over the outside and the label! It didn't help that I was still wearing my raincoat and had my heavy bag slung around my neck!

I grabbed some loo paper and dried the outside of the container, which felt revoltingly warm. I took it back into the surgery and she dipped a coloured stick into it and said I did have an infection, and wrote me out a prescription for an antibiotic I'd never had before, called Nitrofurantoin. Of course, I gaily gobbled the pill (four a day, with food, I'm going to get really fat) before reading the leaflet. Inform your GP or pharmacist if you are going to take, or have taken, any of the following, it said. Two things leapt off the list, both of which I had taken within the last 24 hours. Indigestion remedies containing magnesium, and Diphenhydramine, which was in the off-the-shelf sleep remedy I took last night, before the cystitis kicked in.

So either I shall get better, or I shall start foaming at the mouth and pegging out, whichever happens first. Oh, and the final thing it said was, do not take alcohol as it will make the side effects of the drug worse. It can make you feel very drowsy. Oh good. Pass the wine then!

PS. Another side effect is that your 'end products' can turn orange. I'm sure I remember seeing orange monkey poo in the zoo. Maybe the scientists have missed a discovery: they've found the drug that can reverse evolution. Put us all on Nitrofurantoin and in 100 years we'll all have turned into Neanderthals... I'm sure there are a few living in my street already.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Red hot!!!

Last night I reached the first sex scene in Fifty Shades. Oh boy! Although I spend decades writing erotica for men's magazines, this puts all my saucy words in the shade. The scene where Grey seduces Ana contains the most sizzling sex writing I have ever read. It kept me awake way beyond 2 am. All I can say is, PHWOOAARRR!

Off to the dentist's now for an hour and a half of torture. I shall imagine I am Anastasia Steele and it's not the dentist's chair but a leather chair in Grey's playroom in which I am strapped and about to be... well, I'll think up that particular fantasy later. And I honestly thought I'd lost interest in sex. This book should be prescribed on the NHS, it's better than Viagra!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Fifty Shades of Grey

I'd just finished a Patricia Cornwell Scarpetta novel, which annoyed me by relying too much on the reader's memory of what had taken place in previous books, and was casting around for my next 'book at bedtime', this being the only time of the day when I can relax and read without the blaring of TV, radio and whatever Mr G is listening to on his computer. My eye alighted on the recently arrived (second-hand from Amazon) erotic bestseller.

I've got as far as Pg 87 - not bad for three nights; no wonder I wake up red-eyed - and despite gritting my teeth at the breathless, first person narrative, the dodgy punctuation and the bloopers that Arrow Books' editors failed to pick up, such as the same adjective used twice in one sentence, I am reluctantly finding myself gripped.

E L James's strongpoint is the way she conveys emotions. She gets right inside the head of her heroine, Anastasia, and although the tone is pure Mills & Boon, I am hooked and can't wait to reach the point where they finally... well, you know! Expect a report from the point of no return!

Incidentally, I just visited the author's website (was surprised to find out she lives in West London, unless there is a West London in the USA) and discovered that there is a musical soundtrack to accompany each book. Wonder if it comes complete with BDSM noises-off and orgasmic groans? Excuse me while I switch my speakers on...

Saturday, 9 June 2012


I am off later to flat-sit in Highgate again. I've already got several things planned. Sunday night sing-song in the Victoria pub in Highgate with old friend Anita at the piano, Monday lunch with old friend who's about to go into hospital for the first time in all his 75 years, Tuesday to a Bauhaus exhibition at the Barbican and on Wednesday, with any luck, the rain will hold off for a bit and I'll be able to have a walk on Hampstead Heath.

Home Thursday as my friend's relatives are arriving, which is rotten luck for me as it's the Highgate Festival on Sat 16th and I was so hoping I would still be able to stay in the flat. I shall have to trek over from Hillingdon for it as the dog show is a must-see!

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Deadly jewel

"Oh, what a beautiful beetle!" I exclaimed this morning when I saw three of these on my lavender plant. It was iridescent green with ruby stripes and looked like a jewelled brooch. (Click the photo to enlarge it and see the bug in all its glory.)

I thought perhaps it was something rare so I Googled 'shiny beetles'... and then I found it. It's called a Rosemary Leaf Beetle (Chrysolina Americana) and it infests sage, rosemary and lavender plants and kills them, first by nibbling the new shoots as adults, then by breeding and producing larvae that eat the leaves.

The info on the various gardening sites said all you can do to get rid of them is to pull them all off and squash them. I couldn't bring myself to do that, but I had a bucket of water handy so I threw them all in and squirted some Astonish kitchen cleaner in after them. That did the job very quickly indeed - but I hate killing any living creature, even a beautiful jewel of a beetle that is deadly to my plants!

Here's a link to someone else's photo of one (Paul Scott on Flickr) which is much better than mine and shows it close up in all its glory.
Interestingly, the photo was taken in Hanwell, near Southall, which is only three miles from where I live. This is the first time in 15 years that I have seen them in the garden so they must be spreading west!

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Summer Market

The local butcher and his partner - they of the five boys - organised a summer market yesterday. I did point out that it might be a bad weekend to do it, as lots of people would be doing their own Jubilee things, but they went ahead anyway and I did a second-hand clothes stall. It was a shame that, in five hours, we only got five customers, as the stalls were wonderful (apart from mine; well, you can't do much to make a clothes rail look nice, can you?).

The bread and cake stall was fabulous. I bought a loaf and it is honestly the best bread I have ever eaten. Normally, I have toast for breakfast but this is so lovely that I am having my marmalade on plain bread instead. The baker has a shop in Iver, Buckinghamshire.

This lady knits dolls and makes them according to British Standards, with safe fillings, etc. I bought a pair of rabbits, a boy and a girl (the girl bunny wearing the green tutu in the photo), for my godchildren. (Jacula, you make super knitted toys. Why not do a craft stall like hers?)

Her friend crochets and this was her stall. The butcher's partner bought the white hat in the centre. I thought they were tea cosies!

Wish I'd taken a photo of the jewellery stall where everything was handmade and sold for charity. There will be another market at the end of June so I hope we get better weather and more customers.

Saturday, 2 June 2012


I know I'm not allowed in her room. She says it's because I might have fleas. That's so mean, especially as she puts this horrible sticky stuff on the back of my neck to kill off my hoppy little friends. She does it so sneakily, too. Pretends to stroke me so I get all relaxed and purry, then suddenly I am aware of a nasty pong and a horrid wet feeling on the back of my neck, so I dig all my claws into her legs very hard, jump off her lap and gallop through the cat flap, making sure it slams shut with a horrible clatter just to annoy her.

It was a hot evening and she had propped her door open. The familiar smell of HER came wafting out and there was this comfy looking bed and I thought if I hid behind her handbag, she just mightn't notice I was there and I could stay all night. I was just indulging in a little licking (well, there just might be the odd superflea lurking that's resistant to the neck goo) and was making such a loud splashing and munching sound that by the time I saw her standing in the doorway with THAT look on her face, it was too late. I'm in the doghouse again. Well, can't say the cat-house, can I?