15 December 2015


I have posted this many times because it once brought me fame! The reason for this repeat and more to come is due to domestic circumstances not being what they once were due to Joe's medical setback. Hope newcomers to this blog will enjoy this story.

A MAN IN MY LIFE (Lady Denman Cup Winner 1988)

The room is so quiet that if you stood outside the door you would suppose it to be unoccupied; but there is an abundance of sound: crackling firewood, squealing chair springs, the vibrating window when a plane takes wing, the tap of steel needles, and the expletives when I drop a stitch. You might hear these sounds if you listen hard but you would not see Jeffrey's wicked endeavours to make me lose count, my voice rising with each enumeration as I walk two fingers along the pin, determined to outwit the arm-waving comedian and cursing the misfortune of being saddled with an imbecilic brother. The mantel clock proclaims its own opinion, issuing dull thuds, which are supposed to be reverberating chimes. Two o'clock, and the rest of the day to get through. Even the fire-logs serve to emphasise the hour, a pair of charred timber chunks spilling to the hearth. I toe to safety the smithereens of charcoal and inhale the intoxicating smell of burning wood as I study the flames, remembering my youth, when Jeffrey persistently devised new ways to destroy my concentration and the strife at school when homework was inadequately completed.
The dreadful clacking of Jeffrey's dentures infiltrates the reverie, transporting me to present time like an exploding bomb. First I am ensconced in daydreams, then, suddenly, I encounter reality head-on. Unexpectedly, my brother's grinning countenance brings a swelling to my throat. Family features: grizzled hair, bristly brows and pointed nose, except that Jeffrey now has pendulous jowls, skin dark with liver-spots, and hazel eyes mottled with age. At eighty-five he should be past indulging in puerility, but it is too late for him to change and, anyway, I am fond of his desultory ribbing. Occasionally.
While he gazes at me in his silly fashion, I set the rocking chair in motion, anxious to start the next stage of the complicated pattern yet hesitant in case Jeffrey renews the struggle for power. He looks docile enough, sitting erect like a spectator waiting for the show to begin, but I never know when he will embark on another wild prank. In two minutes I could be despising him; in three, I could be storming to pack his bag and return him to the home from which I delivered him, beseeching the dear Lord to explain why a man in my life is so essential.
My confession might shock you. If you could witness this scene of cosy domesticity you might think I am satisfied with my life, that my days consist of snug tête-à-têtes and happy reminiscences or that the daily woman's duties give me ample time to knit and amuse my brother. But how can I expect her to clean the mess that incontinence affords, or supervise his eating, and encourage him to aim for his mouth instead of his shirt? And yet, on reflection, your assessment could be right. Beneath the grievances, you might detect a glimmer of the affection I feel, for despite intensifying bouts of wrath and irritation I love the old fool to pieces.
Pleased that Jeffrey has settled to read I resume my occupation. Pins clicking furiously, my thoughts roam the years, evoking instances of his outlandish behaviour. Though his impaired mental state drives me to distraction he can be enormously entertaining; like now, as he absorbs the printed word, contorting his lips and nose as if they are moulded from rubber.

In the shadow of a frivolous father and two ebullient brothers, Jeffrey grew vague and bewildered before his time. As a consequence he relied on me for support, seeing me as an island of sanity in the midst of a chaotic existence. That's why I never married. The concept of leaving my guileless brother to fend for himself was inconceivable, though lately I long to be free of obligation. Notwithstanding, the good days outweigh the bad. In fact, until the onset of true dementia, most were agreeable; funny even, if an old man's waywardness can so be called.   
As dotage accelerated, Jeffrey became quite adventurous. At seventy, equipped with his pensioner's pass, he toured the county for bargains. But his logic left much to be desired. He once travelled a distance to save twenty-pence on melon, then spent ten times that amount on chocolate. I still remember his gleeful look when he produced the melon and the box of chocolates, and my incredulity.
The fingers are flying now and the rocker's going like a swing as I call to mind that day we waited in Woolworths for our brother to end a discourse with a chum. Thirty minutes trudging round counters, failed attempts to resist Jeffrey's pestering at the photograph booth and the endless wait for obscure pictures. Secretly chuckling, I recall Jeffrey's restlessness and his entreaties for a go on the weighing machine - several times - for the sheer joy of cramming weight cards in his pockets, which on the journey home were distributed among the passengers on the bus, his laughter so infectious that the whole of the upper deck joined in.
My feeble eyes are filling up; it always happens when I reproduce the images of bygone days. A pity they couldn't stay the same.
You should see Jeffrey now, playing peek-a-boo around the Daily Mail. I pretend not to notice his buffoonery. I could curb him but he's been in enough trouble since the episode next door. Unbeknown to me, on the days when I allowed him out alone, he developed the custom of going in the neighbouring gate and walking into Miss Smedley's house demanding tea. Initially she humoured him with biscuits or a cake, but when he burst in and ordered tea and toasted soldiers, with no regard for her undressed state, she ceased to think it amusing. He's now on tight rein lest the woman carries out her threat to call the police.
The room is dimming now that the winter sun has disappeared, and the fire needs banking. The clock thumps its message home. Four o'clock, it says. Time for tea. My daydreaming has taken me to girlhood and back, through teen-years to adulthood. And Jeffrey's cardigan is almost done. If the Almighty is willing I will finish it tomorrow, that is if Jeffrey deigns to let me get on. But then I'd worry. Since silence is an alien characteristic I wouldn't know if he was behaving or indisposed. Oh, if you could see him playing his game, retreating behind the paper like a guilty schoolboy whenever he catches my eye. I cannot help sniggering at his expression, a fooled-you kind of look, the sort meted out when my counting goes completely awry. I am tempted to teach him a lesson and leave his cardigan sleeveless but I cannot succumb to spite. You see, he won't have many more birthday gifts, and I won't have the foolish fun that life with him has brought.
See his face, see the way he peers at me like the simpleton he is. My throat constricts at the sight of him. Dear God, don't take him yet. For my sake, give him a year or two more.

13 December 2015


2014 - WI members went for their pre-booked Christmas lunch at Westfield Court Hotel, a venue that had been used for several years. Every Christmas we booked again for the following year. It was surprising, therefore, to be told that in future the numbers attending would be a minimum of 30. Bearing in mind that we only went there once a year it was impossible to know if we could reach the required number. ‘Bring friends,’ was the sarcastic response when I said we might not be able to make it. Not the response one would expect from someone running a business. To my mind it would have been better to raise prices if money was the issue.

So after a lot of thought and asking round the area we came up with two alternatives: the local carvery and the local golf club... investigation to follow since Christmas events have to be booked WELL in advance.

The members were given the choice, which we thought would be based on cost, but the vote went for the dearest one... the Golf Club. Apparently wedding receptions are held there, along with special birthdays, and several people told me that the food and venue was good. With so many folk emphasising the good points, it was only natural to opt for the Club.

2015 - Christmas arrived with more excitement. It wasn’t often we ate at a golf club so the enthusiasm was understandable. On the day at the end of November we turned up in our Sunday best and were ushered into a very smart room with a wonderful view of the golf links from two enormous windows... obviously a place for spectators. There were three large circular tables with decorations swaying over each. Place names indicated our choice of food (we’d had the choice of three for each course) and little silver boxes containing balloons, party poppers and whistles ... the sort of touch that make you feel you’re somewhere special.

And then it was time to eat. Some of the girls treated themselves to wine, I stuck with water
(honestly) as I was chauffeur to another member. The soup arrived, which was excellent, and then the main course. I had chosen turkey since it was a Christmas meal, and I have to say it was cooked just right. I had my favourite panna cotta to finish and that too was excellent. All in all it was a good occasion, one to be repeated next year.

Or so I thought!

It wasn’t until I received a phone call from a member, during which she said how awful the food had been (she chose a different course to me) and that she was going to write to the Club to complain, that I realised all had not been well. Further enquiries revealed that other members didn’t care much for the food either. What was mine, then... was it a special for the President? I couldn’t see that happening but I did see that next year’s plans would have to be changed. Maybe the carvery could offer more quality for less cash. I have been there before and enjoyed it, and am invited to another so I’ll find out. Otherwise... oh dear, I can see a few head-scratching months ahead for yours truly.  

06 December 2015


Following on from last week’s post about eyesight, I have another issue that I’d like to share. Not literally, of course, although...... no, perhaps not!

Every month I have my feet seen to by a podiatrist, once known as a chiropodist. Just like the opticians we knew and loved are now known as optometrists, and most physiotherapists as chiropractors. But I’m getting away from the point.

Friday was the day of the appointment so I went happily along knowing that pretty soon the feet would have respite, and so would I. Don’t misunderstand me, my feet aren’t bad, in fact, the podiatrist, oh to hell with it, let’s call him by his proper name, Steve. Steve often tells me the feet are pretty good for my age. I agreed with that until the following day when I woke with a chronic pain in the right foot. Pain, swelling and redness at the base of the big toe. And they were only seen to the day before!

By this time, of course, it’s weekend and no-one to consult. The pain got worse, and there was a certain amount of numbness in the toe. I could hardly walk. Well, I could, but a walk was more like a stumble, with arms gripping furniture en route. Laughable if you’re a spectator! Believe me, it went on all day and I was understandably fed-up as well as worried. On top of this, I had trouble getting a shoe or slipper on and that worried me even more in case I was making it, whatever IT was, worse.

(picture form internet)
It’s a bunion, I thought, and actually convinced myself of that. I checked with Google and found a site filled with advice on what to do. Separate the toes, it said, put a wad of cotton wool there to keep the toes apart. I did and I could swear I felt some relief. I remembered there was a family connection with bunions, my mother having had two removed, and that didn’t bear thinking about either. She couldn’t walk for weeks after the operation and had to wear black surgical boots which she hated. Perhaps it runs in the family, I thought, hoping against hope that it didn’t.

That night, I couldn’t sleep for the pain and in the end I swallowed a couple of paracetamol in the hope that they would help me get to dreamland. They did ... what a relief.

A friend who popped in on Sunday morning asked what Steve had done to the foot. Like me, she blamed the expert. The pain was even worse and I was really beginning to fret. There was nothing for it ... I had to go back to Steve.

8 o’clock Monday morning, I phoned and told him the tale. ‘Drive straight over,’ he said. Always assuming I could drive!! No worries there, I could drive better than walk. Actually the pain seemed to have subsided a little although the area of complaint was still an unhealthy red.

After a fleeting examination Steve declared ‘It’s not a bunion’ and then decided to keep me guessing which was, of course, impossible since my mind was hell bent on thinking only of bunions.

‘It’s GOUT!’

Gout? What the hell was he talking about?

Then he told me that without a doubt I’d had an attack of arthritis (which I do
get in other areas) aggravated by the very damp weather, and it had pinpointed the toe area. Hence the gout! He recommended a stiff course of paracetamol and ibuprofen for one day which should remove both redness and pain. ‘Go all out,’ he said, ‘knock it on the head.’ I couldn’t get to the chemist fast enough.

I have always associated gout with overweight, heavy drinking males, which I’m not. Just fancy, a slim thing like me afflicted with gout. Whatever next?!

In order to add a bit of colour to this post I looked on the internet for suitable pictures. I found some of bunions ... wowee ... so now I'm thanking the good Lord that my problem was gout!

29 November 2015


(picture from

I wrote about this before - see here - when I first discovered there was a problem so I guess this is an update of where I am now.  

I want to explain about the problem I have with reading blogs that have coloured or white text on black or very dark background. Actually it’s the background that’s the problem. Anything black or navy defeats me... clothing, for example. When I wash and dry dark coloured items I can’t see to fold them ready to be put away. The light always has to go on so I can see what I’m doing. It never used to be so; I always prided myself on having good eyesight.

Never take eyesight for granted. We don’t appreciate it until it starts to decline, as in my case. I thought Macular Degeneration was something that happened to other people, not me. I’m only just starting down the path but already I’ve stopped laughing. It’s so inconvenient, as well. If I’m shown something by someone I have to back off because it’s a strain to the eyes to focus close up. Fortunately I can enlarge the font for most computer work but typing figures in columns is beyond me since enlarging tends to throw columns off screen. I had to resign as Joe’s secretary because of it. 

One of the hardest things is trying to read blogs with dark backgrounds and I was very pleased when one of my blogging friends changed the colour of his font. Thank you, Larry. I appreciate it. Sometimes it’s a struggle but at the moment I’m coping. However, I dread to think what it will be like in future. I hope bloggers will understand if I disappear from their blogs. It won’t be for any reason other than being unable to follow what they’ve written.

(picture from
It has its funny side, though. When I type email messages I have to check and recheck that there are no errors ... even then I miss some. You see I used to be an ace typist with an official high speed of a hundred-and-something wpm (words per minute). I forget the exact figure but it was high, nearer 200 if my memory serves me right. Well, I still have that speed but the brain interferes with my decision of where to place fingers on keyboard. I have told it to stop interfering but I’m ignored so I’m stuck with typing and reading and fervently hoping I spot all the errors. 

22 November 2015

Regretfully, this is the world we live in.....

Another teenager murdered. A respectable 15 year old who had the world in front of her, a girl who should be rejoicing in life. Instead she is murdered and only God knows what she went through before the end. The police found her mobile phone first, and then some of her clothes, and then her body – in a field. Two men charged, one with murder and having sex with a child, the other with grooming and having sex with a child. Their ages.... 27 and 28. I feel sick and very upset thinking about it.

Unfortunately, she’s not the only one who is treated this way, and what do we do about it? Damn all! I have aired my views before and was amazed by the controversial replies. We had hanging once and I would advocate that it was brought it back. Let’s face it ... prison is neither deterrent nor punishment to those who would commit such crimes. 

I agree that careful steps need to be taken before hanging someone but the American knows how to deal with it. Some say hanging is no deterrent but at least it removes some of the scum we seem to be rearing in vast numbers.

My heart bleeds for the parents of murdered victims. How could you live with the knowledge that someone hurt your child? I am surprised our government hasn’t done something about it. I think they’re scared of facing the truth, scared of upsetting people, scared to make a decision in case it upsets their followers.

I can’t bring the girl back but by heck I can curse those that killed her... and hope that one day we get back to being a caring community no longer littered by scum.  

15 November 2015

Where I am and where I want to be...

Adelaide Hoodlass
who was responsible for the start of the Women's Institute
100 years ago

Doesn't time fly? It seems only five minutes since I blogged about an invitation to stand as President of my local Women's Institute. In fact, that was two years ago. 

Last Thursday was Election Day, always a nervous time for me in case I didn’t get anything or everything right. I wrote my presentation well in advance and kept updating it as the weeks went by and it seemed to go down well. I’m not the only one who has to report, the secretary (new to the job) has to present one, as does the treasurer. Mind you, the treasurer had more to worry about than I did but it’s no consolation on the day. I tried to introduce some humour before getting down to the nitty-gritty and that raised a smile from the audience members. Actually it was a good thing to do because it made me relax more.

I am not a good speaker. I dare not even try to talk without the written word to refer to. However I did practice reading with plenty of pauses and lots of looking up at the members. I have read about public speaking but it doesn’t come easy to me. Nerves play a big part; even if my subject is familiar and well known I still fear making a hash of it. Oh how I admire those who can stand there and talk for an hour without a hitch. But I’m okay with a script in front of me.

I had made my mind up in advance about what I wanted to do and decided that I would stand down if someone else put their hand up. Being President is a worrying job sometimes. No matter what you do to encourage enthusiasm it never seems to work. We’re an ageing institute, you see. Everyone has been there and done that and doesn’t want to do it again. Under those circumstances there’s only so much we can achieve.  The Women’s Institute does great things but it’s younger people who keep it going. I never thought I’d say that but we have to be realistic. All the oldies want is a cup of tea and a chat and to listen to a good speaker. Anything else would be hard work.

I was voted in. An honour really, but after thanking them for their confidence I told the members I would only serve for one more year.... adding that three years was more than enough for anyone. I shall be 82 next May (you can raise your hands in horror or merely smile) so I’ve reached the stage of wanting to take it easy. Being president doesn’t allow that to happen because there’s always things to dream up, plan, and arrange. I’m running out of steam so that back seat is beginning to beckon.

I can’t complain, I’ve had it good in the WI. I moved up the ladder quite quickly and took on responsible jobs; I was County Chairman for four years which was a big responsibility but enjoyable so I can’t complain that I haven’t seen life in the WI. 

08 November 2015


(picture courtesy of
(picture from internet)
Old houses are not geared to modern technology. When we moved into our present home, twenty-four years ago, there were plug sockets to spare but not now, not with the laptops, Broadband connection, printers, scanners, land-line phones, lamps, electric shavers, hair dryers and tongs, televisions, radios, kettles, irons, washing machines, dishwashers, portable fires, lamps, and even more that need regular charging, like mobile phones and iPads. Admittedly some don’t need to be plugged in all the time but they’re in the minority. Then there’s all the extension leads needed to extend devices to the areas we want them. It’s not always possible to arrange furniture so that electrical items can be used where we want them, therefore extension leads and adaptors are vital assets. They run along the base of walls like starving white snakes, from electric sockets to wherever the next lamp is situated.  Other cables run across desks and counters, tucked in for safety. You should see my computer desk... you can’t see the desk for strewn wiring. Have you ever tried to tidy wires so they look respectable?

I had everything arranged to my liking but didn’t take into account the age of certain items which meant purchasing new stuff. And isn’t it strange how things pack up at the same time as if they've waged war and decided to leave the family that had given them house room for so long. Lamps seem 
to be the in-thing for deserting an already sinking ship. First the Mother-and-Child lamp packed up beyond repair. I take it you know what I mean but if not, well, an M&C lamp is an up-light (that’s mother) with a smaller light attached (that’s the child). It’s the only style of lamp that throws light everywhere ... up and around. After the anguish of losing that source of light, a smaller bedside lamp gave up the ghost. Fortunately (bad choice of word under the circumstances) I had other smaller lamps stored in a cupboard in case of emergencies such as this.  Out they came and one by one they broke and became unusable. It was time to go shopping.

I purchased a few smaller lamps together with their permitted bulbs in the mistaken idea that they would solve my problem. That’s when I discovered that all electric light bulbs are now designed to save energy, which means they don’t have the strength or lighting capacity they used to have. I am
told it’s called mood lighting. Obviously they don’t cater for my mood. So, now I am working in dimmed light which is no good at all. I need light to see with. Naked bulbs would be ideal since shades just dim the light even more but appearances do count. I mean, visitors would think we’d hit rock bottom. I would suggest moving but I don’t think that would go down well, especially since Joe is still suffering. It wouldn’t be fair, would it?

Somewhat reluctantly we have ordered another M&C light for the simple reason that I can’t see a damn thing in the ‘office’ I work in. It’s like working in the war years when using electricity was frowned on. And with my eyesight the way it is I need as much light as I can get so I can’t wait for the new M&C to arrive. The only drawback is assembling it. It’s not a job for the elderly but fortunately I have a wonderful cleaning lady who has a handy husband. Heehee I don’t know if he’s aware that she promised his help when the item arrives. 

01 November 2015


(picture courtesy of

November was the month, many years ago, when I was seriously burnt, and had the misfortune to be in hospital when victims of bonfire and firework ‘accidents’ were admitted. I felt obliged to write the following prose and poem, at the same time incorporating other monstrous November scenes.

The Prose

November is perhaps the most moving month of the year, steeped in tradition and teeming with expectancy.  Why yearn for sunnier climes or a terracotta tan when November's seasonal pulchritude comes free of charge. Broad avenues, awash with colour and piled high with copper jewels: red-gold gems, cascading from majestic trees, making way for fresh creations of embryonic buds.

Natural beauty contrasts sharply with more morbid attractions. Searing bonfires concoct a vivid tableau. Orange flames triumphantly lick the feet of man-made guys, egged on by a jubilant audience gobbling sausages and baked potatoes. Historical, traditional, and macabre, as are the fireworks: pretty explosives noisily winging, gloriously beguiling.

Scarlet poppies adorning our attire signify remembrance for the soldiers who fought for liberation … the war dead, who gave us optimism. Yields of mistletoe and holly and sometimes early snow prompt thoughts of Christmas celebrations, of nativity, and gatherings of families and friends.
Thus, November is a month of diverse elements: breathtaking, poignant, and sad. But it is never dull and those who claim that it is should examine its true potential, and wrest a soupçon of comfort from the depths of the sombre monotony that exists solely within their hearts.

This is November.    Enjoy.
The Poem
Broad avenues awash with colour,
Red gold gems tumbling to the ground;
Evolution preparing fresh creation,
Embryonic buds already sound.

Beyond the mists stem glowing vistas.
Nature sighs in resignation,
No challenger for graphic scenes
Of morbid fascination.

Poppies, red and unembellished,
Symbols of commemoration
To men in bloody trenches; soldiers
Sacrificing lives to give us liberation.

Carousals of darting, searing fire,
Triumphant flames of orange hue,
Incited by beholders’ hearty cheers
To kiss the feet of guys, and maybe you.

Motley fireworks, spectacular and loud,
Spiralling in the darkening night,
Gripping young ones, riveting them to pain.
Inevitably their shocking plight.

Advance through crumbly autumn leaves
Amidst displays of deciduous attraction,
But heed the groans as flames descend
And human euphoria condones the action.

18 October 2015


Almost hidden by a spreading crab-apple tree she watched as he selected another card from his wallet and inserted it into the dimly lit cash point. It was a red card, the one he used before was blue. Two accounts by the look of it.  He withdrew a wad of notes on the blue so it would be interesting to see how much he got on the red. Eve’s eyes widened when she saw the size of the second bundle. What she wouldn’t give to have some of that in her collecting box.

The bank was an old establishment one, built in the 1800’s in what was now a tree-lined esplanade. Elegant, if old buildings were your thing; and it smelled of money. The area was inhabited by a wealthy section of society, which is why she was here. If she couldn’t get a bit of that wealth here she wasn’t the girl she thought she was. Material things were important but unavailable without cash, that’s why she had two jobs. Fundraising was her main one, temping for the agency was just a fill-in. Not for her the impoverishment suffered by her parents and grandparents, or the persistent complaints that life treated them unfairly. Nor could she adopt her sister’s lifestyle of living off her friends which was the cause of the rift in their relationship.

After pocketing the money in his rather gaudy jacket the young man glanced round before moving away from the machine.  Seeing his face startled Eve, convincing her that she knew him from somewhere. She racked her brains trying to remember. Perhaps he frequented her usual coffee bar, or maybe the wine bar where she and Hazel spent Friday nights? Apart from the weekly visits to the laundrette she didn’t go anywhere else, only work, and he definitely wasn’t an employee at March and McDonalds.

Eve switched the collection box to her left hand to relieve the numbness in her fingers. Colleagues had warned that the coins would weigh heavy after a while but she thought leather gloves would ease that. Only she hadn’t realised how difficult it would be handling tiny charity pins with gloves on. She could call it a day but was eager to win the contest for the one who collected the most for the city’s deprived children. She didn’t win many things; she simply wasn’t the competitive type, or hadn’t been until her sister Flossie announced her engagement to someone called Fred and asked for support with the wedding arrangements. Now she was all out making those arrangements, or rather finding the money to pay for it all. The parents weren’t in a position to fork out willy-nilly for all Flossie’s fancy ideas and Fred wasn’t much help. According to Flossie he ignored hints like he’d gone deaf. He was regarded as a well-respected member of the community, albeit a community at the far end of the land; Scotland, to be precise, which couldn’t be further away from their family’s Cornish home town. Even so, he didn’t seem to have much money.
None of the family had known she was courting, let alone soon to be wed. Their mother naturally came to the conclusion her daughter was pregnant but the next few months revealed no sign of ensuing parenthood. Eve could only assume that Florence and Frederick were truly and simply in love. It was such a pity he didn’t earn enough to pay for their wedding.

By seven o’clock Eve had had enough. She was cold and miserable. Her feet throbbed and she longed for a cup of hot coffee and something warm to eat. Since the workers and shoppers had gone home the walkway seemed deserted, there was just her to watch the activity of the shopkeepers shutting their shops. She had thought of waiting for the evening cinema goers but the bitter cold was making her head ache. Somewhat reluctantly she moved towards the bus stop, stopping only to adjust the chiffon scarf around her neck and search for her gloves. In one of her rare moments of self pity she wondered why she had volunteered to sell charity pins on such a foul day. Eve suddenly thought about the good-looking guy at the cash machine. And all that money. The charity would really like that. And the children would benefit.

A bout of shivering decided Eve that enough was enough. A drink was called for to warm her. The Royal Oak wasn’t far away; maybe she could pop in for a coffee.  All day opening was in her favour, before that the pubs wouldn’t dream of serving coffee. She might even get to sell a few more pins.


More bravely than she felt, Eve walked into the pub. The warmth hit her, but the smell of ale almost choked her. The place was packed out with office workers, suited men with ties and high heeled well-dressed women. She glanced round, looking for a table and quickly realising the futility of such a thing. Instead she pushed through the crowd, heading towards the bar, catching her scarf as it slid from her neck.

It was only after bumping into a woman with a glass in her hand that she noticed the guy at the far end of the bar, the one she’d seen at the cash machine. He had his back to her but she’d know that jacket anywhere. It wasn’t everyone who wore such a colourful coat, green stripes on a yellow base. Eve pushed past a party of noisy drinkers to get a better view.

The move enabled her to see his reflection in the long mirror behind the bar. He was very handsome but now she realised she didn’t know him at all. That could be remedied, she thought, fully intending to head over to where he was leaning on the bar, nonchalant, like he hadn’t a care in the world, talking to a skinny jean-clad youth. Eve pushed closer. She had no idea what she would say to him but, hey, this was a pub... anything goes in a pub.
‘Yes, miss?’

Although she wasn’t looking in his direction the barman obviously thought Eve wanted a drink. And why not? After all she’d come in here with that in mind, though she couldn’t see anyone else drinking coffee. Without too much hesitation she decided to order a glass of Sauvignon and waited while a new bottle was opened. It made a lovely sound as the liquid flowed into a stemmed glass; it quite made her mouth water. It was at that point she heard a commotion behind her. Glass in hand she turned to look, heard someone say ‘Well, it must be here somewhere.’

A group of people were searching for something on the floor. Eve looked down wondering if she would spot anything. And there it was. It had been kicked under the bar’s foot rail, unseen in the crush, and only inches away from her right foot.

Taking a quick sip of wine, Eve replaced the glass on the bar, the movement causing the scarf to slither, as chiffon does, right off her neck. It shimmered as it landed in a small heap by her left foot. She bent to retrieve it.


In the privacy of the ladies cloakroom she examined the wallet, shiny brown leather, small enough to slip into a pocket.  Without opening it she could see that it bulged with notes. The boss at the charity base would be pleased to have so much money for the children, she thought, as she moved towards the door. Or even her sister! But her aim was not to steal; instead she would use it as an introduction to that exceedingly handsome young man who need never know how tempted she was!

11 October 2015


So, the UK is now fully committed to providing fewer plastic bags to shoppers. Of course we can still have one if we pay for it. 5p in English money ... not exactly a break the bank figure, is it? I wonder how many will pay up rather than carry their own bag(s) to the store? 

The fracas has started already. One guy refused to pay his 5p which forced the assistance to transfer everything from plastic bag to wire basket. Guy wanted to take the basket out to his car but his request demand wasn’t met. There wasn’t exactly a punch-up but things were heated enough to be televised. Now I’m wondering why the cameras were there in the first place?! 

Does anyone remember the days when paper carriers were used, you know, those recyclable things ousted for the sake of plastic. We used to carry groceries home in paper bags, ones without handles, hugging them tight in fear of dropping something, all the time fancying ourselves as being American. Yes, we had a Safeways and loved it. Then came Walmart, quickly followed by ASDA. I can’t remember who introduced the plastic bag but I seem to remember ASDA were first to have personalised carriers. My illusion of carrying ‘American’ paper bags like the people in films was quickly dashed.

Before that there were baskets. Oh boy, was I proud to use my pretty basket (which I still have, by the way) but that was pre-housewife days when not much shopping was done. I couldn’t imagine carrying grocery in a basket these days. Far too heavy! No, these days I get stuff delivered.

So now, when shopping I take fold-up bags which are permanently kept in handbag, purse, or car. They weigh nothing and open easily. The only thing about not having plastic bags is that there’s nothing to put the rubbish in. Still, we have wheelie bins for that. 

04 October 2015


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A few years ago I decided to trace the paternal side of the family name. Little did I know that two other family members were doing the same. They got a lot further than me but they kept me informed of discoveries. However, I use the word discoveries loosely since everyone came to a dead end. They were using the internet and everything was going well until the name disappeared. At the time I blamed the Net, little realising that our family name was non-existent before a certain decade.

Quite literally ... non-existent. 
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When investigation revealed that the name had a starting point but no history, my Aunt Florence claimed that she didn’t really know who she was. She wasn’t joking, either... deep down she was quite upset. Anyway, we got as far as tracing her aunt who, she already knew, had four children all with the family name as we know it now. However, the children’s mother never married and bore a completely different name to them.  

Family members had their own ideas and came up with various invented stories of what happened. My favourite was that the relative in question was a lady’s maid who courted the son of the family she worked for.

Whoever the father was there was no record and he definitely did not bear the family name that we know. No, the name started with the four children, their mother having a completely different surname. Was it invented? I guess we’ll never know.

The more romantic of us dreamed up the tale that great-great-aunt courted a man who refused or was unable to marry the mother of his children. I visualise her waiting patiently while her lover lived the life of a toff, never letting on how he spent those furtive hours in the company of what would then be called a ‘slut’.

Perhaps he came from a wealthy family, with servants, one that looked down on relationships such as the one he entered and kept going for several years. Perhaps they were wealthy and of some standing in society. Think of the shame if they knew of their son’s behaviour and the fact that he had four bastard children. Perhaps they did know, perhaps his grandparents forbade marriage, threatening to cut him off from the family without funds to live on. What a tragedy that would be. But, no, my feeling is that the whole affair was kept secret in order that great-great aunt could continue working for the family. I mean, she did end up with four children needing to be clothed and fed.  

Another suggestion was that he was a criminal but I didn’t go along with that idea. If that was the case it would be his name that needed to be changed, not his kids. The main question in my mind is: why not name the children after their mother?

I remember meeting my four great-aunts, very respectable, nice people who, like their mother, never married. I wonder why?  How I would like to go back and question them but of course it’s too late. And to think this all came about because of a desire to trace ancestors, a task made more difficult because the name came out of nowhere and there’s nobody left to question. 

27 September 2015


Bowie Greene watched the small smooth-skinned creature slither behind the rock formation like a furtive whisper. Despite the arid conditions, the area was strikingly fertile. Low-lying gorse edged the rough mountain paths, rising almost to touch the self-seeded wild flowers spilling from crevices. Still hunkered after checking his boot laces, Bowie surveyed the cloud-free July sky, a fusion of blues streaked with the white vapour trails of military jets. Like an abstract painting. He sniffed the air and inhaled the minty freshness of his surroundings before springing to his feet. Hitching his rifle he plodded on, determined to overcome his fear.
The stony path zigzagged upwards for a hundred yards before changing its gradient. Running his hand around his neck to wipe away a gathering of sweat, Bowie braced himself for the ascent. He’d done this trek a thousand times. Knew every undulation, boulder, blade of grass. Long ago, when youth and health went hand in hand, he’d even done it blindfolded for a bet. But in all these years he’d never made it to the top.  No climber ever had. It was known locally as a mountain because of the climbing involved, incredibly steep in parts. From the ground the apex looked as if someone had given it a blonde wig. No-one had yet discovered what was up there to give it that appearance.
Gripping an arching slab, Bowie swung his body to a higher level. The rock was more angular, jutting cruelly towards his shin. His breathing quickened as he tried to dispel a straight-jacket sense of unease. He had reached the spot where once he’d taken ill. The fear of what can happen on Blonde Mountain still haunted him. Remembering Bernadette’s taunt, he pressed on. Driving his boots hard into the ground, he mustered every ounce of willpower and forced himself to pass the man-sized column of rock known to regular climbers as Ugly. The precise site of the heart attack.
It was a Wednesday when it happened, Bernadette’s birthday. He was hurrying. On that occasion he’d been content just to climb, leaving behind his ambition. He reasoned that he could do it and take the commissioned photographs in plenty of time … and would have if the weather had stayed calm.
He remembered shrugging off the discomfort in his arm, concentrating his mind on his wife.  She had been fraught for weeks over the shop; it was only fair to give her more of his time. He and Jamie had planned to take her out to dinner. Going up Blonde Mountain had been a mistake given the circumstances, but he wasn’t to know that at the time. When the pain worsened he had stopped near Dixon’s Dike to swallow a couple of painkillers and then advanced towards Ugly.
The final blow came shortly afterwards, half way to Ugly, wedged in a crevice where he’d paused to adjust his thinking. Should he go back or carry on? How much more would Bernadette take of his wild craving to reach the summit? The kick came right at that point. Knocked him sideways. He’d fallen 200 yards, crashing against the rock face, bouncing, until he landed on a ledge. And blacked out.
The rescue team found him. Surgeons saved his leg and treated his heart condition. They said he was a lucky man. Bowie knew he was, he was grateful, yet still the zenith of Blonde Mountain claimed his attention. Like most climbers he wouldn’t rest until he achieved his goal. So many times he had almost made it; so many times he’d failed. 

Bernadette was furious over his insane desire to try again, her criticism wordy and threatening. She spoke of divorce if he didn’t start to see sense. You’re too old, she said. It’s time you packed it in. She was generous, criticising him instead of using selfish reasons. Bowie knew she had plenty of those, fear being the main one, loneliness another.
Bowie feared losing Bernadette but pigheadedness overruled all emotion. Now he wondered what had possessed him to come up here. To escape his wife’s accusations or to prove her wrong? Ever since the outburst a week ago, when she fiercely charged him with having no spunk, his morale had been crushed. The only remedy had been to climb, to prove that he was still good at it. Bernadette thought the deal with the magazine was the main incentive but to Bowie the second photographic commission was merely an excuse. He would climb into the clouds to achieve personal fulfilment.

The route now was straightforward. Bowie had reached a plateau that enabled him to rest. He leaned against rock and looked out. He could see the village, a simple speck on a map of green fields. Unstrapping his back pack he removed the rifle and maneuvered the pack so that he could reach the camera and binoculars. As he did so he felt tingling in his stomach. Nerves! Suddenly alert, he twisted on his heel, aiming the rifle as he spun round. He stared at the rock. Nothing there, yet he could have sworn he heard stealthy shuffling. 

Unexpectedly nervous, sensing something was close by, he tightened his grip on the gun. Shivered, yet there was sweat on his face. Slowly, he turned. Saw the dog. It was like no dog Bowie had ever seen. Huge head, long body, stumpy tail. Unusual colouring; an indeterminate shade that reminded Bowie of wallpaper paste. Round his neck was a black band of dark fur that resembled a collar. Even as Bowie watched the creature disappeared, seeming to slither rather than run round the rock formation. Bowie lowered the rifle, wondering if this was the fabled animal climbers talked about. It was always referred to in local pubs as the Blonde dog. Some said it was the keeper of the mountain. Bowie had laughed at the idiocy of such a theory. However, if what he witnessed was not a familiar four-legged breed of domesticated pet then the whole episode must have been a mirage.  A hallucination!

After taking a batch of photographs, Bowie repacked the equipment, adjusted the climbing ropes, and moved on. An unexpected gloominess had settled upon him, a cloud formation that he didn’t like obliterated the sun. He once told Jamie that when clouds came the rock face lost its friendliness.  His son had laughed, unable to understand that rock could be friendly. He moved slowly, hesitantly, remembering the weather change he’d experienced before. That almost fatal day!  Ahead he saw something glide round a rock. An impression rather than a sighting but he knew it was the creature he had seen before. Probably didn’t like the wind that was getting up. 

When it came the rain was like a deluge, stinging Bowie’s face, the sharpness causing him to close his eyes. He struggled to adjust his helmet, pull the side flaps over his years, returned the goggles to his eyes. He hated both. It killed the freedom of a climb but he recognized the merit in taking safety precautions. He wasn’t a fair weather climber. It would take the hand of God to stop him climbing in a storm.

The dog reappeared and stayed in front of him. His coat was like a beacon in the growing murk. Bowie made no attempt to catch him up. The short distance between them was somehow comforting as if the dog was measuring the route in stages. At the end of this section Bowie would climb again. The thought made him feel exhilarated. At one point the animal paused, turned his head to look at Bowie, and snarled. A deep rumbling sound that echoed against the rock.

‘It’s okay, Blonde,’ said Bowie, thinking it was up to him to soothe the dog’s trepidation.  The dog trotted forward. Bowie wondered why he had called him Blonde since he wasn’t convinced that climbers’ tales had any foundation. The dog seemed stronger somehow, his carriage more assured. Dominant! It struck Bowie that the dog thought he’d taken over.

The weather worsened. Rain sliced through the air, the wind driving it full force. Bowie was unsure of his footing. His boots slid instead of holding him firm and his hands were icy cold. There were better gloves in his pack but he had no time to get them out. The dog, though still ahead, stood perfectly still as if on guard. ‘What shall I do, Blonde,’ asked Bowie, moving tentatively along the narrow ledge towards the dog. He wasn’t quite prepared to fight his way down.  The dog lay down in Bowie’s path, preventing another move forward. He looked at Bowie with unflinching eyes that were like small fires. Daring him to move! Bits of rock shifted beneath Bowie’s boots, tumbled off the ledge into the whirling space that an hour ago had been so tranquil. Behind the dog a boulder became dislodged and hurtled towards home base. It was as well he’d stopped at that point. Bowie began to feel scared, hoping his heart would hold out if conditions deteriorated even more.

The dog eased himself onto all fours, growled twice, inclining his great head as if indicating that Bowie should follow. Bowie did. He inched after the animal, exercising caution as he circumnavigated a rocky projection. His feet felt heavy. He could barely feel his hands. He longed for a cigarette and remembered what it was that made him pack up. It was a Wednesday, Bernadette’s birthday.

Rounding the projection, he suddenly stopped. In front of him was the huge mouth of a cave. The dog sat at one side of the entrance like a guard dog. Ignoring the attacking rain, Bowie stood open-mouthed and stared. In all the years he’d climbed the mountain he had never before seen a cave. The dog walked in a little way, stopped, looked at Bowie as if urging him to follow.

It was a typical cave, small and dry, enough room for Bowie to lie down if required. Initials and messages were scratched on the grimy walls. Bowie squatted on the floor and shrugged off his pack. A message near where he laid the gun was ‘next time will bring medal for the damn dog.’ Bowie looked at the animal for inspiration about why he needed a medal. The animal’s long body filled the width of the entrance as he lay there looking out at the teeming rain, head on one side, an ear raised like he was listening for something. Bowie called him, tried to make friends. The dog resisted all sound, stayed still as a statue, listening and looking out.

The noise of the rock fall was colossal,  vibrations so fierce Bowie thought the whole mountain was collapsing. He dug his heels into the ground, tensed his body against the cave wall, too scared to think about anything except how the hell he was going to survive. He prayed like he’d never prayed before, wishing he’d heeded Bernadette’s advice. He didn’t know if he’d even see her again. The tears were hot in his eyes, sobs rose, bursting wretchedly from him, adding weight to alarm. If only he’d stayed home where he belonged.

The dog nudged his head under Bowie’s arm. Seeking comfort? Oh my god, thought Bowie, the dog needs saving as well. Moving his head up to Bowie’s face, the animal licked his cheek. Bowie threw his arms around his neck and hugged him hard. ‘It’s okay, buddy,’ he whispered. ‘I’ll save you.’

They sat there, man and dog, waiting for conditions to steady. The rain was abating and Bowie could have sworn he saw a flash of light on the rock. He was afraid to look outside, afraid at what he might see. Blonde began to fidget, rose leisurely and went to the entrance. Looked out, turned back and barked at Bowie. As he crawled to join him, Bowie could have sworn there was a smile on his face. 

Looking out, seeing the blue sky Bowie would never have guessed he’d been caught in such a violent storm. Still on his knees he moved further out, saw the damage done to his beloved mountain. His elation quickly disappeared when he saw that the whole of the route he had taken had gone.  Not a ledge was left to walk on.  ‘What do I do now, Buddy?’

The dog wagged his short tail, moved to join Bowie outside. He barked once and trotted off to the right. Came back, looked at Bowie, barked again, and trotted off. To the right.

Realising he should follow, Bowie went back for his pack and rifle, then stepped out to join the waiting dog. They were on a well worn trail with just enough width for a single person to walk, hitherto unseen by Bowie who thought he knew everything about the mountain. He followed the dog. The downhill walk was easy, patches of soaked grass already steaming in the sun.  Occasionally the animal turned to check that Bowie was still there. Bowie kept checking the way they’d come, seeing the split in the mountain where the rocks had come loose, knowing that he could have been killed. Silently he thanked the Lord for giving him another chance of life.

As he trudged behind Blonde, Bowie remembered the etchings on the wall of the cave, and the one that read: next time will bring medal for the damn dog. The damn dog that had saved Bowie’s life and probably the lives of many others. He wondered how he’d never heard of the animal’s lifesaving activities before. And what was that he’d said: that only the hand of God would stop him climbing in a storm.

‘Hey, Buddy,’ ‘he called. ‘You’re not God are you?

But the animal had vanished, seemingly into thin air.