Monday, 5 December 2011


A rather irritating thing occurred to me a few weeks ago – initially I let it go, but then almost exactly the same thing happened again this morning. It has really got up my nose which means I should probably write it all down, take it to the window and chuck it out with the rest of the mental garbage I insist on drowning myself with.

So, here goes.......

First, a snippet of background: My back and leg problems have left me in a bit of a state. I try not to use my walking stick – I have a hate/hate relationship with the blessed thing - it's a symbol of everything that is wrong with me and I stubbornly refuse to lie down and give in (at least to the outside world).  I live in a rural area (8 miles to the nearest shop) so I rely on the car.  I have also shoved my pride up my backside and accepted a blue mobility badge, which entitles me to park nearer to places and has admittedly been a great help.

When I received the badge, one of the first things my parents said to me was “well, you'll have to limp more than you do when you get out of the car; otherwise people will think you are cheating”. I was horrified at this suggestion. I have nothing to hide, I didn't blag my way to easy parking - I cannot walk 60/70m without resting and my application was fully supported by my GP, hospital consultant and physio, but it just shows the suspicious society we have sadly become. Now the general consensus is that everyone else is working the system and no-one (especially the law-abiding tax-payer) likes to think they are being short-changed by what they see as the privileges of others – the 'big society' sure is a leaky bucket.

Still, the brush sweeps wide and paints a lovely shade of stereotype. Although a number of people will fit the bill, we now seem to have a media situation where anyone on benefits is probably a 'cheat'; all single-mothers are pony-tailed, teenage miscreants wearing large gold hooped earrings (widows are also single-mothers, but let's not worry about that, it doesn't fit the argument). Oh, and don't forget those pesky teenagers who are all trouble-making hoodies; or how you can only be considered disabled if you are in a wheelchair; not to mention all mental health patients will most certainly push innocent strangers under trains at some point; or all Londoners are either the Notting Hill set or cheeky chappy cockney wide-boys etc., etc.,........I could go on.

But hold on a minute, I've been a few of these. I was born in the East End, and although I am generally cheerful, I don't spend my waking hours walking around with my thumbs in my braces, saying “gawd blimey guv, strike a light, those apple & pears have knackered me out today”. I've been a single-mother (sans ponytail/ earrings); I am now unable to work and have been on benefits in the past (which is not a lot of money for quite a lot of humiliation in the assessment tests). I have suffered mental health problems through depression – but I have never felt the urge to hurt anybody - and now I suppose I'm considered disabled, but I am resisting the wheelchair with all my might.  

However, as it turned out, it would seem that my parents were right...

Which (finally) brings me to my:

'bug up the nose episode of the week.....'

I had parked in a disabled bay outside the supermarket; it was busy and quite a few of the other disabled bays had cars with people sitting in them, presumably while their other half did the shopping, which you are not supposed to do, but is actually quite common practice. Anyway, as I was getting my bag out, an old boy, who was a complete stranger to me, came marching over and demanded to know the 'nature of my disability'. I was so shocked, I told him to mind his own business – whereupon he gave out a diatribe about how his wife was in a wheelchair, implying that she needed the space more than me. Perhaps she did, and I would have been happy to have moved on, if her other half hadn't gone into the “attack mode” straight away. It may have been wrong, but he was told in no uncertain circumstances where to go and I limped off into the supermarket with steam coming out of my ears.

It happened again today, when another old chap accused me of not being disabled – purely on the grounds of what I look like.   He also got a flea in his ear, because I would like to ask: what the hell is a disabled person supposed to look like? And why should they have to look like it? I have spent most of my adult life working in the Artificial Limb Centre in Roehampton, where the doctors and prosthetists work extremely hard to help patients function and appear aesthetically as near normal as possible. Most of the time you couldn't even tell if someone was wearing an artificial limb or not and surely that's the way it should be. 

 The sad thing is that this guy was convinced he was in the right and once he realised I was entitled to park in the spot, he accused me of not displaying the badge properly (it was clearly on show on the dashboard, he just hadn't bothered to look).  He made all of his assumptions and accusations completely without grounds and then refused to take responsibility for them.  The whole episode was unpleasant, upsetting and unnecessary and in the end he marched off without so much of an apology, kiss your ass or anything.  He had no understanding that people who have needs (whether physically or mentally) come in all different guises and need help for all different reasons - some of which will not be immediately visible.  Books and covers come to mind.

I know I am extremely vain and I go out of my way not to look my age or display what is wrong with me.  In fact, I have actually heard someone say:”well, she doesn't look very disabled,” and this observation was made when I have been sitting inside the car.  Well, thanks very much, but I don't want to wear a t-shirt that shouts:


if it's all the same - not because I'm ashamed, but because as far as I'm concerned, that is certainly not what defines me as a human being.

So, I shall still continue to have Pink blaring out of the car stereo when I pull up into a disabled parking bay and I shall refuse to dress my age; I shall keep wearing the eye-liner and Jackie O sunglasses and my only concession to the Daily Mail/Express disabled stereotype are my flat shoes and my stick (which I plan to cover in shiny diamante stickers). As I refuse to conform, I expect I shall be having a few more “discussions” like the one I had today with certain members of the Big Society, which seem to be mostly old boys in Waitrose car-parks. 

I hear so much hullabaloo about equal rights for the disabled and yet, when you try to remain equal, you are immediately labelled (yet again) with blagging the system. The bottom line is you can't have it both ways.

End of rant.....

Tuesday, 8 November 2011


As the half-term holidays waves goodbye, so the 9 year old trundles back into the school playground with a heavy heart and an even heavier rucksack that would do a Gurkha proud, because deep within the bowels of that rucksack..... lies the dreaded half-term homework.

We have had a few “issues” this week with the homework and I'll be honest here – 90% of the trouble is me. For I am a perfectionist. I can blame my father all I like for this trait (and I frequently do) but in the end it's really up to me to control it. For instance, when child No.3 brings home a school project requiring a castle to be built entirely from household materials, I watch her at work.....and I watch....and I watch... and I try really hard, but I just can't do it; there I am, hovering round the empty Carlsberg Lager box and various toilet rolls with a pair of safety scissors and my glue gun. I just can't leave her alone to build the blessed thing without offering “constructive” advice.

ME: “What's that supposed to be?”

YUMYUM: (9 year old daughter): “It's a turret. Can't you tell?”

ME: (aghast) “That's not a turret. THIS is a turret!” (proudly producing a masterpiece that I just happened to have made earlier from the inside of a Thirst Pockets kitchen roll). “ You know, you have to be accurate about these things; for instance, what kind of architectural style does your castle represent?”

YUMYUM: (thinks hard)..... “uhmm....the Fairyland style?”

ME: “Okaay – well yes, that's a good start..... carry on....” (silently places the other 3 matching turrets I just happened to have made earlier on the dining room table and slopes off)

Then came the English homework:

Q.1. Retell the story of Theseus & the Minotaur in your own words.

Firstly, let me just say that the classics are a subject very close to my heart. I studied them with the Open University and unfortunately, I can be a bit of a purist (ok, pedant) about the subject.

I can still remember squeaking at the cartoon film: “It's Heracles not Hercules! That's Roman, you Disney plebs - it's HAIR...A...CLEES not HER...KEW...LEES!! And YumYum saying: “mum, shut-up, the people in the second row are staring at us”. (side-note: even as I am typing this, Microsoft is telling me that 'Heracles' is misspelt – unlike the word 'Hercules'. I feel an e-mail coming on, but I digress).

spot the difference           

Anyway, YumYum goes off to write up her essay and I know I shouldn't have looked, but I did...

ME: “Er, I don't think that's quite right”

YUYUM: Giving me that 'here we go again' look.

ME: “Well, I just don't think Ariadne would say that to Theseus – after all, she was meant to be in love with him.
Own up woman, what have you done with me trews?

YUMYUM: “and?”

ME: “And maybe I'm a bit old fashioned, but if you're in love with someone who is about to face certain death in the middle of a labyrinth at the hands of a bloodthirsty monster - would you really say: “Listen Theseus, here's the deal. Luckily for you I  just happen to have this brilliant magic sword and a ball of silken thread.......”

YUMYUM:I would say that” (one pities any future boyfriends – they may have their work cut out there).

Of course, she may have a point, for Theseus ends up abandoning Ariadne on the island of Naxos.  Perhaps he finally wanted to prove who really wore the trousers......

Now husband pipes up.

OTHER HALF: The question says “in your own words”. They are her own words. That's how kids talk and that's the kind of things they hear on tv and read in books now. Enid Blyton is dead. Long live the Horrible Histories and Nickelodeon.

..and here we have a fine example of
an Early English Gothic style
Castle from the Fairyland Period
So I let it go. It pains me greatly but I know that sometimes I have to step back because there is a fine line between helping and taking over or controlling. My intentions are well meant, but I have to consider the long term effect they will have on my daughter. I need to give her the space and freedom to grow and learn in her own way and only wield the double-sided tape when she really wants me to.

My castle is not her castle.

End note: Ariadne's bolshieness earned YumYum a credit, while the castle won first prize.

Monday, 26 September 2011


This song often gets stuck in my head when sipping a latte......
To the tune of 'Streets of London' and with apologies to Ralph McTell (I hope he doesn't get too cross if he ever finds out about it)

Have you seen the old man
sitting there in the corner,
flicking thru the paper
with a worn out sigh.
In his eyes you'll see no light
they're deadened by a too-long life.
Yesterday's hero - reading yesterday' s news

So how can you tell me you're lonely
and say for you that the sun don't shine?
Well, let me take you by the hand and lead you through the seats in Costas.
I'll show you something to make you change your mind.

And have you seen the young girl
sitting glued to her iPhone,
staring at her lap through her unbrushed hair.
She's no time for smiling;
She just keeps right on typing.
Checking every minute - for a text that's never there.

So how can you tell me you're lonely
And say for you that the sun don't shine?
Well, let me take you by the hand and lead you through the seats in Costas.
I'll show you something to make you change your mind.

And in the bookshop cafe at a quarter to eleven,
you will always find me - sitting there on my own.
Looking at the world
over the rim of my laptop;
editing a novel -
that the world will never know.

So how can you tell me you're lonely
And say for you that the sun don't shine?
Well, let me take you by the hand and lead you through the seats in Costas.
I'll show you something to make you change your mind

Monday, 19 September 2011


This week I thought I would tell the sorry story of the birthday cake I bought my middle daughter for her  birthday last year (apologies to early Twitter followers who have already heard it).

Even though my two eldest daughters are now grown up (28 and 30 years – how can that possibly be, I ask?) I still don my mummy loves you hat and celebrate their birthday much more than I do my own. I buy a cake, a card and a present with a big bow on it and my husband always says: “they're not kids anymore”, but I don't care (the youngest on still is – she's only 9) and I carry on anyway – because they are, and always will be, my lilttle girls.

Anyway, middle daughter's birthday comes around in September and so I buys the present, I buys the wrapping paper and the big bow, I buys the card and I buys the cake. Here is the cake:
1st prize for realism
I thought it was a bit different and we had a cat once when middle daughter was growing up, so I bought it and proudly showed it to husband.

“Ahh, we meet again, Mr Bond”, says husband in his best 007 arch villain voice.  

“Shut up” says I, “some people just don't appreciate culinary art”, and I start to stick candles in it. Now, in real life,the kitty cake looked much cuter than the picture (which gives a more 'freaky' impression) however, stick a load of candles in it and you get... well, you get a nightmare that can be used to threaten little kids and old people. Imagine a sort of Tiddles meets Pinhead from Hellraiser and you get the picture.
I think I've got something
 in my eye....

By now husband is wetting himself laughing at my attempts to make the Pinhead Tiddles more palatable, but unfortunately, once you put the candles into a cake, they leave a mark. So, if you then remove them from the poor creature's head, you are left with a load of holes and a cake that now looks like a pox-ridden cat from the dark ages. Even I had to admit it wasn't looking good.

Later, I take a phone call from the birthday girl herself:

Me (in best sunny Doris Day voice): How's my little birthday girl? What would you like for your prezzie?

Middle Daughter (in best Eeyore with haemarroids voice): My life sucks. I want a new job, a new place to live and a boyfriend.

Me (looking worriedly at the pox-ridden kitty): Well, that's nice darling.... I'll see what I can do....

I was a bit put out at this point – I mean, she could have at least asked for something manageable, like world peace or a cure for headlice. Suddenly, it seemed to me that the bottle of Britney perfume waiting to be wrapped up in a large bow, wasn't quite going to cut it as a suitable present.

Come on in - room for plenty more
Still, the next day we pack poor Tiddles and the bottle of Britney into the back of the car and start the 90 mile trek down to London to wish Eeyore a happy birthday. This journey inolves roughly a two-and-a-half hour slog around the M25 - and anyone that does the route will tell you there is another circle in Dantes Inferno and that is known to the hapless commuter as: 'The Dartford Bridge'. This Divine Comedy usually involves sitting for well over an hour in a 7 mile tailback of half a million cars and paying £1.50 toll fee for the privilege of crossing the River Styx. You go from a dozen lanes at the tollbooths out into just 4 on the other side, and the only way to do it is to close your eyes and put your foot down on the accelerator, then it's every car (or 12-wheeled truck) for himself.

So, having successfully completed this deathly trial, we finally arrive tired, late and dishevelled at the birthday tea in South London. At this point, I would just like to say that a pox-ridden, Pinhead Tiddles does not travel well. It had taken a bit of a battering in it's box and had started to sweat. Now 'road-kill' Krueger would have been a better description.

Undeterred, I proudly lit the candles (giving road-kill Krueger Tiddles rather haunting and ethereal glow) and we all sang happy birthday to Eeyore, to whom the birthday fairy had not been kind – neither supplying a new job, a new place to live nor indeed a new boyfriend* – there was however, a bottle of Britney, £30 in Next vouchers and a Jamie Oliver cookbook, so it wasn't all doom and gloom.......

Here Kitty, Kitty
….at least it wasn't until it came to cutting the cake. For one thing, the cake designers at Waitrose had not taken into account is the squeamishness/sentimentality of your average English female. The birthday girl baulked at sticking a knife into Tiddles – even if it did look like Pinhead Krueger road-kill – and when husband (who had had enough of all this birthday histrionics after a 4 hour drive through the 10th circle of  Dantes Hell) grabbed the knife, announcing: “oh good grief, you are 28 years old for heaven's sake!” before cutting Tiddles' head off and slicing up it's body – there were squeals of disapproval and nobody really wanted to eat it.

The upshot of all this was that I ended up bringing the decapitated, Kruegeresque, pox-ridden head of Tiddles back home and, after 15 minutes of sitting looking at it, looking back at me, I gave it a decent burial and chucked it in the bin.
Happy Birthday!
(2nd prize for realism)
I have learned my lesson. Never buy a cake that you have to decapitate. Boring, but safe cakes from now on... I just need to work out how to wrap up world peace and put a large bow on it.......

*Since September 2010 the Christmas Fairy has come up trumps with the new job and new place to live - the boyfriend however, is still elusive.....

Friday, 9 September 2011


This week heralded the first day back at school after the six week summer holiday break.  My youngest daughter, YumYum is 9 years old and has finally left the safety of her fluffy, warm primary school nest and flown out into the big wide world that is the middle school (we still have three tiers here in West Suffolk: Primary School until the age of 9; Middle school until the age of 13 and then it's off to High School with you).

 The bell goes in three minutes...
10-4  Did you remember your PE kit?
Primary school days start at 9.05am. Which meant that YumYum did not roll out of bed until 8.15am, get dressed until 8.45am and then we would bomb it down the A43 at 8.58am to do a handbrake turn into the school road,with me chucking her out of the car door into the grounds of the school, Starsky & Hutch style (original series).

Middle school however, starts at 8.30am!! I'll repeat that, because it takes some believing: 8 flipping 30! IN THE MORNING!! Now, this is a big shock to the system – for the both of us. We don't “do” mornings. In fact, I only “do” about an hour between 10 and 11am, but that's by-the-by. Anyway, we managed to miss the school bus on the first day (start as you mean to go on I suppose) which meant I ended up taking YumYum into the school gates myself.

Of course, I have heard a lot about school gate etiquette:  the yummy mummies; the clothes, the make-up, the behaviour - and being an “older” mother myself (ahem) I suppose could I loosely come under that heading.

So here is what I wore for my first day at middle school gates. From the top:

Hair: Loose chignon;
Face: Natural style eye make-up. Lip gloss;
Top: Floaty, handkerchief style with cropped cardigan;
Bottom: Palazzo pants;
Feet: Flat pumps;
This isn't me btw
Accessories: Large scarf. Large sunglasses. Large Handbag. Large amount of perfume.

Pretty neat huh? Look at me everybody: it's Sadie Frost meets Zsa Zsa Gabor. Fantastic.

Now, let's look at what is really going on here.

Hair: Didn't have time to have a shower and wash it (ok, I own up - I couldn't be bothered). Resulting Barnet* has had a ton of Batiste dry shampoo sprayed into it so I can do nothing but hurriedly pin it up with a hairslide in the hope it stays put - at least until I get back into the car.

Face: Natural concealer to hide the bags and black circles under my eyes which are the inevitable result of too many late nights and broken sleep. Lip gloss is actually just a Chapstick, because lips are dehydrated through too much vino the night before (and probably another cause of the eye-bags/black circles and greasy hair if I'm honest).

Curse you Waitrose and your
oh so tasty iced buns
Top: Floaty to hide the Quatermass Experiment that is my waistline (I blame the menopause - the Waitrose iced buns have nothing to do with it I tell you). The cropped cardigan is ideal for hiding the chicken/bingo wings, the likes of which can only be found elsewhere on a plate at Nandos.

Bottom: Palazzo pants have a threefold benefit. 1. Elasticated waist (see Quatermass Experiment above). 2. Covers up abnormally large thighs (again, see Quatermass above) 3. Covers up legs which are in dire need of waxing: oh, they're not quite at the Wayne Rooney hair transplant stage you understand, more of a gentle bees knees stage.... if you know what I mean.

Crap! I'm still wearing my Louboutins!

Feet: Flat pumps because toenails need repainting - plus I need to drive like the devil to get to the school gates before the bell goes and heels are a handicap....
ask Lewis Hamilton.

Accessories: Large scarf because it's flaming cold that time of the morning and it also hides a well-developed turkey neck (see also Nandos above);

Large sunglasses because it's ridiculous o'clock in the morning and I haven't had any coffee to wake me up, so my eyes make me look like a mole caught in a spotlight (a black furry creature that is, not the skin type of mole). Not to mention that I managed to get some of the natural make-up concealer into my eye before we left and now it won't stop watering.;

Large handbag because I need to carry around:  1. a large supply of painkillers; 
2. a fold-up walking stick; 
3. a book for reading in the coffee shop (which immediately follows school gate appearance) 
4. a Waitrose iced bun to eat later;
5. a half-scrawled list telling me what I am meant to be doing after coffee shop and iced bun;

Large amount of perfume mainly to disguise the disgusting lack of shower (see above).

So you see, being a school gate yummy mummy is not all it's cracked up to be. You have to think on your feet (or flat pumps in my case) and because behind every “natural” flair, there is a natural disaster.....
Good morning teacher
Yes, you can "have a quick word" 

*For non-UK viewers: Barnet is cockney slang for Barnet Fair = hair.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011


I suppose my 9 year old daughter leads a privileged life.  At the moment we are in a position where we are able to send her to Drama School and pay for piano lessons.  She is in the Cathedral Junior Girls choir, has a garden of about half an acre to play in and can spend the afternoon sitting in a tree in the paddock, just reading a book.

Some people may think that my daughter and I live in a rarefied air - but I know and appreciate how lucky I am, because life hasn't always been that way.

Not a million years ago I was working full-time in a stressful job while struggling as a single parent of two daughters.  I had nothing but toast for my tea so that the girls could eat properly and I could keep the roof over our heads.  I have lived at both ends of the spectrum and, to be perfectly honest, I know which bit I prefer.

Which brings me to something that happened earlier today.

This morning I had just been in the coffee shop with my daughter.  She had been drinking a babychino whilst reading Harry Potter. All very civilised.  As we came out we heard a woman raising her voice and cussing quite loudly (which is unusual in Bury St Edmunds - because even the wearing of a loud jumper in the town square can lead to letters being written to the Bury Free Press).  Anyway, this very large, angry woman was shabbily dressed, wearing a dirty pair of leopard-print slippers and wedged into an ill-fitting NHS wheelchair that had obviously seen better days.   And in-between the puffs of her cigarette, the loud diatribe went something like this:

"Get a f*ckin' move on.  We're 45 minutes late.  You keep f*ckin' messing about - what's the matter with you?  It's me that's gonna get a gobfull when we turn up late, not you.  F*ckin' move Stephanie!"

Poor Stephanie was trying to push this haridan on wheels up an incline in town.  It was very hard work; her head was down and her arms were held out straight as she tried to manoeuvre the unwieldy machine.  The temperature today was in the 80s, the invalid was heavy (and I'm being polite here) and wasn't helping at all.  In fact, she was leaning back in the chair, smoking a roll-up whilst laying the law down.  On top of all this, there were 2 Argos catalogues hanging from the handles (and they're not light).  Poor old hapless Stephanie indeed.

The thing was.......Poor Stephanie was also only about 11 or 12 years old - roughly 2 or 3 years older than my daughter.

The child didn't answer back.  She just kept her head down and went right on pushing.

The striking difference between the lives of Stephanie and my daughter made me so angry that I was near to tears.  Stephanie was obviously the carer for her mum and the whipping boy for all her ills.  I could not believe that Stephanie could be the cause of her mother's disability.....but she was certainly paying for it.

And in this so-called Big Society, no-one helped.....including me.  My instinct was to give the mother a piece of my mind, sling her fags in the bin and park her at the bottom of a big hill while I took Stephanie for a babychino and 2 chapters of the 'Deathly Hallows'.  I wanted to get whoever had supplied that totally unsuitable wheelchair to sort the mother out with a self-propelling chair with the right sized wheels.  The NHS has no excuse when it comes to providing someone with the proper wheelchair (especially if that person cannot afford to buy one specifically suitable to their needs).  I used to work in the Artificial Limb Fitting Centre in Roehampton and I get very antsy about stupid, basic wheelchairs - they're not for long-term use - but I see (mainly) old people being pushed around in them all the time.  I wanted to push the chair up the incline myself - just to help the child out - and this from a woman who cannot pick up a 2L bottle of milk.  So what did I do?

Yup, you guessed it, I did nothing.

No, not exactly nothing... I got angry that Stephanie's life could be like that in this day and age - her childhood was fast disappearing down the throat of her mother - and anyone who has read this blog will know I tend to get on my soapbox about the rights of children.  I got angry that the problem of child carers is not one that gets raised very often  by the media.  The BBC says that there maybe 4 times more young carers in the UK than the 175,000 officially recognised and many live without the proper support from Social Services/Agencies*.  I can (and do) give money to Children in Need and sit in front of my tv watching Pudsey and the gang plead for their cause.  I can tut and shake my head, but the pictures on the tv screen are sanitised, the glass of the telly protects me from any awkwardness I feel at the plight of those children.  When you come face to face with it in real life, it's a different matter.

Now, I don't know Stephanie or her background and the situation may not have actually been as bad as it looked.  I may have been influenced by the disdainful lack of respect the mother showed her child - the effing and jeffing, the cigarette smoking and the apparent total selfishness.  But then I don't know the mother's background either.  I only know that I didn't feel able to confront them or "interfere" and it doesn't sit right with me.

I got angry that every child deserves a childhood and I stood by and did nothing.

 Big Society my arse.


Wednesday, 27 July 2011


I am going through a mid-life writing crisis. My award-winning novel which was destined to be turned into an Oscar-winning film starring Colin Firth, now languishes in a drawer marked “BLEUGH! – UTTER CODSWALLOP – START AGAIN”. My blog languishes in the ether, gathering on-line dust and my brain languishes in never-land, gathering pixie dust.

Because every time I sit down to write/tweet/blog - all I can think of is: what's the point? Admittedly, I have had this feeling about the blog for quite a time. Initially, it started off as a kind of letting off steam therapy to deal with being physically impaired. I imagined that any real purpose to it would become clear as I went along. In fact, the reverse was true.

I suppose everyone goes through this stage at some time in their lives -  where they question any “job” they are doing. I bet even the Queen has moments of doubt You know, halfway through another Royal Variety Performance when she is listening to a Brucie catchphrase for the hundredth time – I wonder if she ever feels like chucking her ermine slippers at the next interminable dance act and saying:  “Right!  That's it!  One has had it up to here with all this vacuous hokum and bunk. One is orff to breed rainbow trout in the Highlands. See ya later suckers”.

See ya!  Wouldn't wanna be ya!

I've mulled it over and over as to why I should feel this way right now. Maybe it's the lack of feeling “purposeful”. The menopause has screwed with my mind and swiped me around the head with a bucket of cold mortality. When I was younger my life would never end.  Now, even though I'm trying not to look, I know the finishing line is out there, and that thought has certainly been more pronounced since I've been ill. So, rather like leaving your homework until 7pm on Sunday night, I'm feeling time is running out and I haven't done anything yet. In fact, I even googled “how long have you got after menopause”. Google had no answers – only advertisements.

And of course, with my spaghetti puddle of a brain I then ponder the purpose of being purposeful:

Me: Why not be happy with just “being?”

Brain: Because you want to leave something behind. Because you don't want your life to have been for nothing.

Me: Why?

Brain: I don't know, what you asking me for? Ask Google.

For a moment, last week I thought I had cracked the block. A slightly amusing thing happened whilst I was being slowly pierced by accupuncture needles. Now another time, I would have written about it, either here or on Twitter. But then Mr Doubt looks up from behind his newspaper, taps his pipe on the table and says: “who cares? Who wants to read that nonsense anyway? And even though you are surprised that people read it - don't say you couldn't care less if no-one reads it – because you do”. So I said nothing about it. I wrote nothing. I tweeted....nothing.

So here we are, moping about without purpose, without anything worthy/interesting enough to blog about or Tweet about – and all the while the notion that I am wasting precious time is gnawing away at the keyboard.

My muse has gone out for a fag and I don't know how to tempt her back......

Sunday, 3 July 2011

7 DAYS WITH MUGGINS by Guest Blogger: Milly the Brownie

Last week my youngest daughter had to look after "Milly the Brownie" (the Brownie pack mascot).  She was very enthusiastic about it:  "I need to look after her and care for her every day for a whole week", she said.
She lasted approximately 4 hours.

For the rest of the time it was just Milly and Muggins (me). So this week I am handing over to guest blogger: Milly the Brownie and her photographic record of 7 days in Bury St Edmunds...... 

Camera-phone photos by Mama Tiara 
Words by Milly the Brownie (don't ask)

Well, here we are on our first stop:  The Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds
It's a garden on the site of the old Abbey (see what they did there?)
It's very popular with tourists and the local teenagers
Nice lawn....

These are the ruins of the old Abbey (well, they certainly look spoiled to me)
That's St Edmundsbury Cathedral in the background just popping up from behind the bushes
The local teenagers like to sit around here -
In fact, there's probably a couple of them on the other side of that wall right now...

Ah, now this is the Angel Hotel.
It's on Angel Hill (hmm, seems to be a pattern forming here)
Previous guests are rumoured to include Angelina Jolie, Pierce Brosnan and Charles Dickens (who mentioned it in the Pickwick Papers)
I don't think they were here all at the same time though
And what the dickens Angelina Jolie was doing round these parts, goodness only knows......she might have been lost or something....
Nice car

Anyway, they hold a large market here in the main town square every Wednesday and Saturday.
The stall-holders all have very nasally voices and sound like cockneys.
They shout things like:

"C'mon gells. Git yer best b'nanas 'ere - only a panned-a-panned!"

Which roughly translated means:

"Lovely ladies.  Do come and buy our exotic fresh bananas.  You can purchase 16 ounces of them for only 100 of the Queen's English pennies. Which is a very reasonable  price indeed!"

Back home
She says she is on a diet, but I can't say Muggins would qualify for a Brownies "healthy eating" badge...

Although her 5-a-day regime does seem to include an awful lot of grapes....

Oh dear, she says I have to stop embarrassing her.
So she has dragged me out again to the new(ish) shopping centre in Bury St Edmunds
Which is nice...
Ooh look!  You can just see Debenhams there in the background - and it looks like Clarks are having a bit of a sale as well
Now we are off to her favourite haunt.  The place where she seems to spend most of her time (and money)

NO, NO!!!! Not there!!
You silly Brownie!

Ah, this is where you can find her most days.  Earplugs in. Skinny latte and a laptop.  
She pretends she is writing a world-famous, blockbuster novel that will be turned into an Oscar winning film, with Colin Firth playing the leading man.
However, I can tell you that behind that screen, she is actually reading the latest copy of Grazia and checking on Twitter
Oh, no....I've gone too far....she's grabbing me by my plaits...Ouch! that hurts..... Brownie battering...that's what this is.... Gahh, she's stuffing me back in her bag and threatening to return me to Brown Owl....Let me out...LET ME OUT!!....I HAVE BROWNIE RIGHTS YOU KNOW.......

Well, thank you Milly the Brownie for that in-depth and educational look at everyday life in Suffolk.  The Bury St Edmunds Tourist Board will get back to you....

Tuesday, 28 June 2011


Darling, I've seen this wonderful
pair of shoes......

I have always wanted to live in the country - ever since I saw Catherine Zeta Jones floating about in “Darling Buds of May” - I had visions of making jam to go with my freshly baked, home-made bread; of hanging out great billowing lines of pure, white washing; of shooing chickens from around my feet; of butterflies blowing in the breeze through a sun-dappled orchard, of the drowsy humming of a bumble bee.....

So, 12 years ago I bought into the dream and left London for a sleepy Suffolk village. However, here are just some of the things they don't mention in the brochure.........

Totally unsuitable for avoiding cow pats
 or attending Summer Fayres in the rain

  • You can bin the Jimmy Choos. They are absolutely rubbish for walking through a village which  hardly has any pavements: This is especially so in the spring (rain), summer (dust), autumn (mud) and winter (snow). Likewise, you can replace the delicately embroidered wool coat with a battered old wax jacket for the same reason
  • You get an abundance of "mobile units" turning up at the village green.  Here we have a mobile library; a mobile barber; a mobile vet; a mobile dentist and a mobile police station. However, can you get a pizza delivered?  Not on your nelly. - you're out of delivery range.  Swings and roundabouts I suppose.
We should have turned
 left  at Albuquerque  -
this isn't Fulham Broadway
  • You regularly get to play:  “let's all hunt the road sign”.  This is a particularly favourite game of mine, whereby you blithely follow at least a dozen, clearly marked road signs to some remote hamlet, only to find they disappear completely and you have no idea of: a) where you are because the GPS signal is weak,  or b) where you are going because you are now surrounded by miles and miles of open space. Family fun in the school holidays guaranteed;

Another casualty

  • You can ditch the make-up. No amount of MAC transparent finishing powder is going to help when you are trying to scoop up a dead rabbit, armed with nothing but 2 long-handle shovels and a pair of rubber gloves.

  • People talk to you. Strangers. Checkout cashiers. Restaurant staff.  GP receptionists. Upon my arrival, I spent the first 6 months clutching my mobile phone to my chest because I thought they wanted to mug me. Turned out they were actually being friendly..
  • Folks are also more trusting here. I have seen laptops and handbags left unattended in coffee shops whilst the owners goes to the toilet. Car Sat Navs and portable DVD players left in full view without a care. Not to mention numerous babies left strapped in car seats and toddlers playing with the stereo/indicators, whilst the parents pop into school or a shop. Stuff that makes you go: “whoah! That's really not a good idea....;
One of the locals
  • Your 9 year old daughter can go into town wearing welly boots, blue eyeshadow and fairy wings all at the same time and no-one will bat an eyelid. Actually, could go into town wearing welly boots, blue eyeshadow and fairy wings and no-one would say anything! Now, try doing that on a Saturday night round the Elephant & Castle;  
  • Growing vegetables is not as easy as Alan Titchmarsh would have you believe.   I imagined my faux-French, farmhouse-style dining room table groaning under the weight of my very own harvest. Oh, how we would relish in the knowledge that everything we produced was organic and wholesome and tasty. The reality of course, was entirely different:
          Crops produced so far =
    Alan's table
    Carrots: 9 -  either too small to peel/cook or had already been tasted  by some bug;
    Peas: tons – we had boiled peas, stir-fried peas, raw peas, pea soup, pea and ham soup, pea risotto, peas au gratin, rice and peas, creamed peas and braised peas.  I never want to see another one of those tiny green blighters again;
    Parsnips1 - very small & misshapen.... more of a novelty item really.....;
    Easy peasy
    The lettuce was slightly more successful, but it has its limits. I mean, there is only so much of the stuff you can eat before you die of boredom - even if you do try to liven it up with a few peas.
    As for my home-made bread and jam - well, they probably deserve a blog-post of their own and our poor survival rate in keeping goldfish put us off from rearing any other livestock, so the chickens remain pie in the sky.
    I'm still here after 12 years. I doubt Catherine Zeta Jones would last 12 days.

Monday, 20 June 2011


but in another world, he would have been called Spike (Jones or Milligan) and had his own radio show. He has made me cry with laughter and cry with frustration over his pig-headedness and negativity. He has been ridiculously brave and is amazingly talented, yet he goes through life determined not to be noticed. So, although it will probably annoy him something rotten (if he ever finds out that is), I am going to “announce” him on the internet.

My dad: (all of this is absolutely true)

I never forget a face!  Photo by Rex
was a self-employed signwriter (old style, you know, the kind that had to do an apprenticeship) who used to do all the old theatre posters for the West End (before computers). I remember in the 1970s he did an enormous poster for the old Raymond Revue Bar in Soho and we came home from school to find 20 foot high posters of lovely ladies in 'artistic poses' drying in the front room. Mother wasn't best pleased, but it was a well-paid contract at the time;

He paints watercolours and vehemently maintains they are not very good (here are some of his paintings – I sneakily took some photos from his portfolio.  There are more on the 'paintings' page – you decide....);

copyright:  Bert
Don't be fooled boys and girls

He also did a caricature of Gene Wilder for some play he was in at the time. Mr Wilder hated it and told him so. I have never watched Willy Wonka since;

My Dad and I didn't speak for at least 6 months when I was a teenager. All over some boy whose name we have both forgotten;

He once jumped into the Thames to rescue a tourist who had fallen in the water while holding her baby (successful):

Pen & Ink  Copyright:  Bert
He has also climbed down onto the tracks in a South London tube station to help up an old chap who had managed to fall down the side (successful);

And gave the kiss of life to a guy who had had a heart attack at a dance he and mother were attending (unsuccessful – he was upset about that for a long time);

My Dad has lost at least 2 pairs of (expensive) glasses in the River Thames whilst leaning over to look at ducks (again, mother unimpressed);

He did all the gold lettering in the main sculpture hall of the Victoria & Albert Museum;

And helped with the mural on the back wall of the Tate Modern restaurant (top floor, if you're ever up there – food isn't bad and it has fantastic views across the Thames);
Copyright:  Bert

My Dad once came out of the changing rooms of the swimming pool sans glasses and, on going through a door that he thought led to the pool, went out through a fire exit instead and ended up on the street outside in his trunks;

Despite being quite skinny, he still managed to get himself well and truly stuck half-way down a swimming pool flume - much to the annoyance of the queue of kids behind him and the hysterics of his family who were watching from the sidelines (I got stitch from laughing at that one);

He once let himself into the hotel room he had been given the key to – only to find two old ladies already in there getting changed for dinner (the hotel apologised – mother unimpressed):

Copyright: Bert

And mistakenly went to a wrong wedding reception – realised halfway through the first drink that he didn't know either the bride or the groom and, cool as a cucumber, picked up his present from the gift table and left (mother mortified)

My Dad loves jazz and the blues. One of his favourite LPs is by Clarence Frogman Henry;

He once went out specifically to buy a tie for a bit of a do he was going to with mother (she had given him strict instructions). He came back with a border collie puppy that he had seen in a pet shop. His explanation that “it looked sad, so I bought it”, cut little ice with mother. The dog's name was Judy and as far as I can remember, it's main reason for living seemed to be to poop in the hallway and attempt to eat the living room carpet single handedly (pawedly ?) I cannot relate my mother's response to this as this is a family blog, but it went along the lines of: *&@*^%”!$@ dog!!!.... you get the picture.... Note: he was so excited about the puppy, he forgot about the tie...

Mixed media  Copyright: Bert

He is a huge fan of all things obscure and obtuse. Other children were brought up on lullabies like rock-a-by-baby; I was brought up on the Ying Tong song. He knows all the words to Milligan's part in the 'Fresh Fruit Song' and regularly sings it to the delight of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren..... and the annoyance of mother;

He has a box in his shed, full of “stuff” which intrigues the above mentioned children – especially the duck-caller;

He also thought it would be great fun to make a stink bomb with his 14 year old great-grandson at my house last Christmas. Making stink bombs when you are 72 years old should be admired I suppose, but both mother and I were unimpressed at that one;

My Dad scares the hell out of me with his health sometimes and I dread the day he will no longer be here to make me laugh;
One of his favourites: Horses Ass
Copyright:  Bert

My Dad sometimes looks very small.....and old;

It took me a long time to treasure my dad. But I do.

For Father's Day