29 May 2018


(Extracts from A Gentleman Publisher’s Commonplace Book by John G Murray)


‘Sex has become a serious international problem for which a solution hasn’t yet been found.’
(Introduction to a The Truth about Sex submitted by A M Macrae 1968)

‘The girl was beheaded, chopped into pieces and placed in a trunk but was not interfered with.’
(From a Fleet Street report)

‘What has one wheel and flies?’
‘A wheelbarrow full of manure!’
(A riddle from John Piper)

‘What is funny about legs?’
‘The bottom is at the top!’
(A riddle from a lady of 92)

 ‘I’m afraid,’ said a woman on entering a shoe shop, ‘that one of my feet is larger than the other.’
‘Oh no, madam,’ exclaimed the salesman, ‘if anything one is smaller.’

‘Exclusive Universal Tailors.’

‘Sole joint agents.’
(Sign outside a house)

‘Tattooed lady wishes to meet gentleman with similar views.’
(Advertisement from the agony column of the Observer)

‘Ears pierced while you wait’
(Notice in a Cork jeweller’s window)

‘St Margaret’s School of the Immaculate Conception for Girls’
and underneath
‘Preparatory for Boys’
(Sign outside a school in Berkshire)

Q. ‘What’s the difference between a snowman and a snow woman?’
A. ‘Snowballs.’
(Riddle from Anne Ridler)

A warden in the dark outside an air raid shelter during the war asked, ‘Are there any pregnant women here?’
A young cockney shouted, ‘Give us a chance, guv’, we’ve only been ‘ere ten minutes.’

Hotel notice: ‘If requiring breakfast please hang on door knob before 7am.’

‘Due to staff shortage the automatic ticket machines are not in use.’
(Notice in Farringdon Underground Station)

Wording on a form sent out by a Government department in 1962:
‘Separate departments on the same premises are treated as separate premises for this purpose where separate branches of work which are commonly carried on as separate business in separate premises are carried on in separate departments of the same premises’

‘Baths may be had by arrangement with the manageress only.’
(Notice in a Southport hotel)

‘Horse manure bagged 25p. Do it yourself 10p.’ 
(Advertisement outside a Sussex farm)

25 May 2018

Cat Comforts

Why, when I go to sit down, I find Charlie the cat is already there. It doesn’t matter which chair, he tries them all, but his favourite is the rocker, which is also mine. Second favourite is the sofa!

It is funny to see him rocking when he jumps on the chair but he seems to like it. I have noticed that he changes position frequently, presumably in order to experience more rocking.

In the meantime, I am relegated to another seat from which I disregard the look of disdain on the cat’s face. I swear he thinks all chairs are made for him.

Is it common for cats to take over the household furnishings? 
I don’t think Lee did it, many moons ago. Lee was white with black markings and a very feminine cat. Her legs reminded me of the Queen Ann legs you see on old furniture. She had such a precise way of placing her feet on the ground and if it was muddy outside she would select the right way to go, just like a Victorian lady.

One thing I do recall, though, is the way she loved me. Literally! She would leap onto my lap then stretch up to put her arms (legs) round my neck. She did that for eighteen years, until she got so poorly the vet advised putting her down. She clung to me that day, arms (legs) around my neck, and stayed there until the end.

I think Charlie will always be a cat that likes a fuss and likes to come on my lap but there is an independence about him that is rather cute. One thing that I like about him is that he talks to me - in his own language, of course. For example, if he gets caught in the rain he hurries back to me to complain, in loud cat language, and he won’t stop until I get a towel to dry him, even in the middle of the night. Don’t you just love pets that don’t understand time?

21 May 2018

ARTISTIC TALENTS, a repeat from February 2010

Aren't old photographs fascinating? This is my Mom and Dad's wedding picture. Dad was the eldest of six, the last was yet to be born. Look at the outfits worn by granddad and grandma on the left. And don't they look happy? Only the best man had a smile on his face ... perhaps he knew something they didn't. Here's a more modern one, taken when I was a child. The rest of the grandchildren came later. I've added the names for ease of identification.

And here's Mom and Dad on their own, you can tell by the style of photograph that it's an old one

Whatever the character of the photographs, they elicit forgotten memories that are worth savouring. Here are some of mine for your amusement.

My family on my Dad’s side was both musical and artistic. Starting with my grandfather who ‘played piano by ear’ the family members developed their own form of music, playing the piano, dancing or singing. Most were artistic … woodwork, craft-work, art or dramatics. Only now, as I look back, do I recognise the surfeit of talent in the family.

In view of the fact that I was a downtrodden child, with a mother who offered no praise or encouragement and constantly reminded me to know my placespeak when spoken to, and what will neighbours think when they look at you? (referring to my habit of leaving coats undone) I went through life thinking I had neither appeal nor aptitude. Only now do realise I wasn’t too bad at a lot of things, especially craftwork and writing.

My Dad was an artist, too, but although he was good at drawing his imagination and creativity was not with the arts. He was a wiz with wood. By trade a carpenter and joiner, if there was wood to be turned he was your man. He loved to surprise Mom and me, doing things in the home when we were out. New bits and pieces would appear. I particularly remember door handles, big and extraordinary works of art that were the talk of the neighbourhood.

As a child I was the proud possessor of a magnificent fully furnished dolls house, a dolls cradle, pencil cases, 3-tier needlework boxes, and a wonderful desk and stool, tongue and grooved to perfection. When I married he delighted in creating things for my new home, a radio stand that was an exact wooden replica of the bird bath, a cork topped, carved legged card table that was the envy of the family and fought over when he died. I still have the desk.


The youngest sibling, my Uncle Norman, was musical. I don’t recall him ever playing an instrument but he sure could sing. He had a fine voice that reached the rafters in church. From birth he was a sufferer of osteogenesis imperfecta, better known as brittle bone disease. Judging by his stunted growth you would not have expected him to have such a fine singing voice. He sang with a well known choir for years and was a popular member of an amateur dramatics group run by the church drama group. Nearly always the star of the show, people would ask if Norman had a part before they bought tickets. They knew they’d have a good laugh if he was in the show. He is no longer with us but his memory lives on for many folk.


Encouraged by Ann, Norman’s wife, who is acclaimed for her work with oils, Aunt Florence took up painting. She delighted in transferring images of her garden to paper, with which she taught me everything I needed to know about plant life. However, her special talent was marquetry, producing wonderful pictures from different types of wood veneer.

Three Scottish cousins played in the National Youth Orchestra, but the one who shot to fame was Susan: noted concert pianist, writer, and pride of the family. She was the first girl to enter the music faculty at Kings CollegeCambridge, and is to this day a joy to listen to.

My musical career (said with tongue-in-cheek) started when Mom sent me for piano lessons given by an elderly professor of music, at any rate he seemed old to me. I did quite well, gaining two certificates from the Imperial School of Music. The third attempt would have been a doddle if the examiner hadn’t stopped me playing, pointed to a random piece in the sheet music, and ordered me to ‘start again from there….’ That’s when I realised he knew I was playing from memory. 


I couldn’t read music … but my memory was fantastic.


The Professor was a dirty old man. He would sit beside his pupils close enough for legs to touch. He liked to squeeze young girls’ thighs as they played.

I was very young and shy and scared of adults, always fearing what they would say. I couldn’t fight him nor could I tell my parents. Mom would just accuse me of lying. My immature brain decided that if I memorised everything I could get away from him faster, hence the discovery of fraud at my music examination.

In those days girls kept that sort of thing to themselves. I guess we were ashamed to admit, actually to put into words that a dirty old man was stroking their thighs. How embarrassing was that? 

The stroking didn’t stop at the thigh. I remember my skirt being pulled right up and fingers tugging at the elastic round the knicker leg. I remember making the excuse of wanting the toilet in order to jump off the piano stool and get away from him. 

I began to miss lessons, played truant, naively thinking no-one would notice. One day I caught a bus into town, while at home the police were organising a search party. Oooo the hiding I got for causing everyone so much worry! None of that ‘are you all right’ rubbish.

But that, as they say, is another story.

15 May 2018


(photo by

When I was a five-year-old child (yes, I remember) I had to be farmed out so that my parents could go to work without worrying about me. An incident happened that I have never forgotten. Actually, it was the start of WW2 so for seven years I spent many happy hours playing with their son.

Don’t worry I am not going to labour on about those years with Carrie and Fred, just one incident that happened during a weekend spent back home with my parents.

It was Christmas and my mother gave me the job of opening the Christmas cards and displaying them on our piano. On one ‘opening session’ I opened a card from Carrie and Fred, a pretty card if I remember rightly, one that had a sort of rough edge to it. My mother, always one to speak her mind, labelled it as a second hand card that had once had an inner page on which to write a greeting.

‘It’s one of last year’s cards’, exclaimed my mother. ‘She’s torn out the middle pages and used the card again’.

I thought it was a clever idea.

The card had arrived in a parcel that contained a Christmas gift for me which necessitated a thank you letter. I wrote my thanks in my best handwriting and in my innocence included a ‘Mommy said…’

The two women didn’t speak for a long time after that and the feud went on for years. All arrangements for my time with the family were dealt with by my Dad.

I guess that was the time I learned to keep my mouth shut!

13 May 2018


1.   Google is trying to get me involved with all sorts. Conversation with man/photo, known as Google Hangouts.  Apparently to stop this happening again I have to cancel it on Google Profile which is…. where?

2.   I have frequent conversations with Charlie but he never answers back. Can I take it that a loving nuzzle is a replacement for ‘yes’?

3.   Having lived through WW2 is it reasonable to feel scared at the way our politicians are behaving?

4.   Never call a cat ‘Marmalade’. A neighbour once had a ginger tom, a cat who loved being out at night. Neighbour used to go out and call him no matter what time it was. Marmalade! Marmalade! Her voice would shriek through the dark which either annoyed or amused her neighbours.

5.   And now, in keeping with the current breakdown trend, the bottom part of my double oven has packed up. Next….

6.   Next is good… £10 refund on a grocery order because one item wasn’t right. The refund was more than the original cost. Also found two incorrect items because there wasn’t time to check whilst delivery guy was there. Sent email. Reply stated that the driver hadn’t enough time so they were going to increase it by adding extra seconds! I shall definitely continue shopping at that store.

7.   When I was a young girl my aunt religiously taught me the names of flowers but now I’ve grown old I can’t remember them.

8.   Got thanked by refuse collectors for stacking unwanted cardboard in a way that made their job easier.

9.   The bottom half of the double electric cooker has given up the ghost. To join in the fun the large freezer is bleeping at me, which indicates old age. Mustn’t grumble. Decision, buy smaller one. Anyway, the tall one costs too much since it only has to freeze a few things. We bought it around 25 years ago which proves it was a good buy. Good buy or not, I am still going to say goodbye to it.

10. That’s all… it’s respite time!

12 May 2018


Phone calls from ‘unavailable’ are usually from people who either have nothing better to do or selling something I don’t want. I do NOT answer calls with no name or number. I’m referring to the land line, I never got funny callers on the mobile phone, until now, and this was a real beauty! Read on…


Well, I would if I could remember doing something wrong but honestly I plead NOT GUILTY of ANYTHING. If you don’t hear from me for a few years you’ll know I was arrested and locked up. I worry about Charlie if I do get locked up for something I didn’t do.

Seriously,  isn't it time phone companies put a stop to these pests?

08 May 2018


It was there, wedged deep in her imagination, as monumental a dwelling as any other she could remember; not monumental in the true sense, but remarkable in its importance. She could visualize the latticed casement-windows; the crooked chimney with its four pots issuing smoke even in summer; the old-fashioned roses around the low, warped door, its thorny offshoots stealing towards the brass horseshoe, displayed with a kind of imperious pride ... if domiciles were capable of possessing such sentiments. The image was as true as any photograph; only, however detailed a photograph it could not immortalise the smells of the place: the aroma of Weetabix, warm milk and honey that greeted each day, and the farmyard odour ever present beyond the cottage door. Ascending into the endlessly azure sky were two granolithic gate pillars, tops like pyramids and girths as wide, it seemed, as the chicken house. It was where she would climb to watch the cows come by for milking.

She allowed her mind to wander the surrounding sunlit lanes, hopscotching shadows the way she used to, frequently interrupting the game to perform handstands against crumbling walls, or select the longest grasses to tickle her father's neck. And then, prompted by thoughts of her father and his favourite pastime, she recalled those restful periods when, surrounded by angling paraphernalia, she quietly watched the salmon leap in the Herefordshire river. Yes, it was there, immutably lodged in her imagination, and that's what she wanted to find; it was what she'd been searching for this past hour.

Vida Maitland reversed the Renault onto a bumpy dirt path and switched off the engine, thinking in her frustration that if anyone told her to move she'd probably explode. She had been driving from one coterie of cottages to the next, coasting unnamed narrow lanes, none of which had passing places, and had even enquired in isolated shops, but no-one knew the location of the place she sought. Despondently, she unscrewed a beaker of orange juice and took a sip, seriously wondering if the journey had been a waste of time. Balancing the beaker on her knee, one finger curled round it's base, she leaned back and closed her eyes, willing the picture to return. Her mind's eye travelled the lanes, giving way at crossroads, unnecessarily since hers was the only car. It was then, during one of the mandatory pauses, that she saw where she had gone wrong. The signpost in the foreground was askew; it pointed straight ahead instead of sending her to the left: to Verdun Cottage.

Forgetting the beaker, she shot up and swiftly started the engine, unaware of the orange juice seeping through her tights. She drove recklessly in her eagerness, bidden by memories to visit the cottage she remembered so well; to see the sheep and the goats, and the arbor with the overhead brush of honeysuckle, and the wilderness garden to the side of the farm, all set in the heart of pasture-land and encouragingly near the river.

A second signpost told her to turn right. This she did and as she rounded the corner, lo and behold, she saw it: Verdun Cottage, as beautiful as it ever was, but significantly smaller. She stopped the car and wrenched the brake, staring disbelievingly at the scene. The granolithic gate supports, the crooked chimney, and the door with the strong-smelling roses, were, after the enlargement in her mind, almost fairylike in size. The chicken house which she was sure had been at the side, by the back door which opened onto the farm, was now by the stone wall which ran along the lane.

Slowly, she climbed out of the immaculate red Renault, and walked towards the restyled structure, looking for evidence of a busy farm. But all she could see were the relics of bygone days: a delapidated tractor parked alongside a gang of rusted milk churns, a disused pig trough, and a roll of chicken wire with a duration's grass growing through.

'Not thinking of buying it, are you, m'dear?' The full-toned voice belonged to a wizened old man with a twinkling eye and a straw in his mouth.

Vida gulped and incoherently gabbled something about visiting a childhood haunt. 'For holidays,' she whispered, unable to take her eyes off the bobbing straw; and, without another word being spoken, she knew she'd been right to come. Her memory had played tricks over the cottage, nothing was as she remembered, but the ageing farmer, with his white hair and unshorn chin, wearing the same impish grin and bearing the same, familiar, rustic scents, made the excursion wonderfully worthwhile. The crooked chimney might be crumbling, the roses might be holding the woodwork intact, and the monstrous gate pillars might be too big for such a bantam property, but this was where she wanted to be.

Impulsively, she reached out to touch the farmer's skinny arm. 'If you're thinking of selling,' she said, 'I'm definitely buying.'

02 May 2018




I was mid-teens when the above photograph was taken. I’d been mad about ballroom dancing for a couple of years but before that I was into ice skating, so the footwork and change of rhythm was difficult to overcome. It was a bit like having two left feet. Of course, those were the days when dancing was elegant and romantic; now when I watch couples dance I wonder where they get their energy. Those modern contortions were never allowed in my day.

Dance teachers, man and wife, well known ballroom champions, had opened a school in my area. I just had to go and see what it was like. I was very nervous when I arrived but they put me at ease by giving me some private tuition before everyone else arrived. However, the kindness swiftly turned to stern chastisements when instructions were not carried out to the letter. Everyone suffered the same fate until they learned to get it right.

MEDALS 1950-51

Eventually I got it right enough to enter the medals game. Starting with the bronze, I swiftly moved on to silver, and then gold. It wasn’t hard … all I had to do was dance.


My partner Dennis was much older than me but we danced together very well and practised often. He was a bit of a comedian, always made me laugh when I shouldn’t. We could be dancing a serious waltz and he would suddenly whip out his false teeth and imitate Winston Churchill. As you can imagine, this got us in awful trouble with the teacher.


Competition dancing requires a ball gown and my mother had me measured in no time. The result can be seen above. Considering everything was rationed, obtaining such a dress was a luxury; I often wonder how she managed to get such a lovely thing with so few available coupons. But that, as they say, is another story. The dress was lovely, made from parachute silk. I felt quite swanky when it swirled luxuriantly on bare legs.

The first heat was held at a local ballroom. A very swish gold and red place that made me hold my breath when I entered, and it was there I made my debut in the glamorous dancing world.
Although my mother acted like mother of the bride contestant, fussing here and tweaking there, a team of helpers organised by the school was there to see to the appearance of entrants. My short hair was washed and glossed and then coated in goose-grease which guaranteed it would stay in place. It did. In fact it stayed in place for several days, even shampoo wouldn’t shift it. It was still there when the photograph was taken at a local studio … a special sitting organised by Mom.

The actual dance performances were enjoyable, but the amount of palms being crossed was unbelievable. Dennis and I knew we wouldn’t win before we started, and … before we started, we KNEW who would. Nevertheless we had a great time and mother was overjoyed to receive compliments on the ball gown. You’d think she made it herself, the way she carried on. But that, as they say, is another story.

At eighteen I was persuaded by the teacher to add to my medal collection, training for the first gold bar to attach to the gold medal. It was hard work and pleasurable but I never got to take the exam. That was the year I had a serious burns accident which put me out of action for several months, or should I say forever. Skin grafts needed to heal and more attention given to learning to walk than dancing.


Times were still hard, and rationing was still an issue when it came to buying clothes. That was when I remembered the lovely ball gown packed away in a suitcase. I would sell it and save the coupons. After consultation with Mom’s friend, who owned a small dress shop, she agreed to try and sell it for me. It looked lovely in the shop window with the skirt fanned out to show off the black lace.
Wedding arrangements were made and carried out and I forgot about the dress, probably assuming it was still for sale. Until a friend reminded me! ‘Whatever happened to that white dress?’ she asked. I resolved to make urgent enquiries.

It transpired that Mom had withdrawn it from sale. Rescued, was the word she used … and the shopkeeper thought I knew. No dress, no cash, no apology or excuse. Years later I saw a photograph of Mom taken at an evening do wearing MY dress, altered to fit, minus the black lace.

I don’t dance now, Nellie the Elephant saw to that. Hubs and I attended a dinner dance, with lots of comic dances thrown in. Jigging about with Nellie was fine until the music speeded up, faster and faster it went, faster and faster I danced, until I got SUCH a pain in chest I thought I was having a heart attack. It took over an hour to recover! So, when anyone asks … I don’t dance!

01 May 2018


The layout of this blog is not good for displaying comments. My replies don’t match up and if someone wants to read my response to a comment they have to search for it.

I always reply to comments made but get extremely fed up when I can’t put my reply immediately after the comment. Other bloggers don’t seem to have the same problem as me.

It goes like this: I write a post, which is followed by a comment to that post. Now, if I want to respond to that comment it appears way down the list of followers. Apparently, comments go by date and if I don’t read them the second they’re published, I have to go to the bottom of the list.

It seems the only solution is to change the style of my blog but the question arises ….. how?