27 July 2019

It is no good pretending.

It's no good pretending! I must take a break because the back pains are too strong now. Sitting at the laptop is a real huge problem. Hopefully, on occasions, I might be able to read (and reply) to your blog entries but one thing I do know ... I SHALL MISS YOU ALL. 

Here is a poem that only reflects the way I should feel. 


There is nothing the matter with me,
I am as healthy as can be.
I have arthritis in both my knees
And when I talk, I talk with a wheeze.
My pulse is weak, and my blood is thin
But I’m awfully well for the shape I’m in.
Old age is golden, I’ve heard it said
But sometimes I wonder as I get into bed.
With my ears in a drawer, my teeth in a cup,
My eyes on the table until I wake up.
Ere sleep comes to me, I say to myself
Is there anything else I could lay on the shelf?
How do I know that my youth is all spent?
Well, my get up and go got up and went.
But I don’t really mind when I think with a grin
Of all the grand places my ‘get up’ has been.
I get up in the morning and dust off my wits
Then pick up the paper and read the ‘obits’.
If my name is still missing, I know I’m not dead
So, I have a good breakfast and go back to bed.
The moral is this, as this tale I unfold
That for you and me who are now growing old
T'is better to say ‘I’m fine’ with a grin
Than to let then all know the real shape you’re in.

21 July 2019


Aggie Partridge paused at the foot of the stairs and surveyed the room, looking across a sea of ceramic floor tiles to the marble pillars and wrought-iron tables. Sergio's Basement Pizza Parlour was a lot bigger than she had been led to believe. Italian and small she might tolerate; Italian and huge, like this place, was formidable. Still, it wasn't every day Pam treated her to lunch so she'd better not grouse too much, especially as she wanted to test her daughter's reaction to the situation with Sam.

A swarthy Italian waiter took their raincoats and hung Aggie's umbrella in a special stand, grinning at the yellow duck's head which he said looked like the real thing. Raising her eyes heavenwards, Aggie brushed a strand of silvery hair from the corner of one rheumy eye. She was attired in widow's weeds although her period of mourning had long since elapsed and no member of the family could persuade her to dress otherwise.

Pam was still gathering her belongings when the waiter beckoned them to follow. Aggie nudged her arm. 'Come on,' she urged, 'let’s get it over with.' Without waiting she trailed in the man's wake, one liver-spotted hand gripping the chair backs for support, wickedly emulating his lumbering gait.

The smell emanating from the kitchen was tantalizing though Aggie hadn't a clue what it was. Her knowledge of foreign food only went as far as the local Chinese takeaway.

Pam Partridge donned her reading glasses. Opening the menu, she asked her mother if she fancied pizza or spaghetti.

Aggie fiddled with her ear. 'Don't know, I'm sure. You'll have to choose for me.'

'You could have fish, if you'd prefer.'

Locating the passage devoted to fish, Aggie ran her finger down the list of strange sounding names, repeatedly muttering 'Gee whiz' and 'Saints preserve us.' She measured the length of one.

'Ara-gos-ta. What's that?'


She tried another. 'Cal-a-mari.'


'Ugh! Forget the fish.' Aggie thumbed the pages to the pasta section and read, 'Cann-ell-oni. Pasta tubes stuffed with meat and covered with savoury white sauce. I'll have that.'

Ignoring the waiter's inability to hide his mirth, Pam ordered cannelloni for two with a dish of mixed salad and a bottle of Orvieto.

Twenty minutes later, time Aggie spent perusing sketches of Pompei and Amalfi, a parade of waiters in crisp open-necked shirts emerged from the kitchen and proceeded to serve their food. One of them impressed Aggie no end when he flourished a large mulberry-coloured napkin into her lap.

'Gee whiz! That's some service,' she remarked as he left, 'but one bloke would have been enough.' Grabbing a fork, she stabbed it into the cannelloni. 'Here goes. My very first taste of Italian grub.' She sampled the pasta. 'Hey! This is good,' she exclaimed, waving her fork like a flag. 'Bet Sam's never tried this.' She tasted the wine, decided she liked it, and drank some more. Perhaps at Christmas… she and Sam….

'How is your Mr Wilding?' Pam dabbed her mouth with the napkin.

Aggie's fleecy hair, reflecting her heightened colour, was like melting candy-floss. She felt warm inside. And why not? Sam might be an ordinary window-cleaner but he was respectable. He obviously appreciated her though he hadn't actually said as much. She flushed, further remembering last night, the kiss he plonked on the end of her nose and her, afterwards, tossing about in bed. Unable to sleep … at her age.

'Come on, Mother. Tell all.'

Absently swabbing a segment of pasta in the remaining sauce, Aggie mumbled that Mr Wilding was fine. Her daughter smiled knowingly. Just like her Dad, she was. He'd sit there silently grinning, making out he could read her thoughts. And he usually could. Perhaps Pam could too; perhaps she knew exactly how Sam was affecting her. Taking a deep breath, Aggie went straight to the point. 'What do you think of him?'

Pam cupped her wineglass and considered the question. She put the glass down and clasped her hands, leaning her forearms on the table. 'He's ... comfortable. Agreeable. Kind. Sociable. That's my assessment. What's yours?'

'I think I like him.'

'Think?' Pam broke off a morsel of bread roll. 'How much do you think you like him?'

Aggie planted a finger on pursed lips. Not yet. Not until you know for sure. Aloud she said, 'Come off it, girl. Women my age don't go in for romancing. Got enough to do existing without men hindering us.' But her churning stomach and rapidly beating heart told a different tale. If only she could decide if they were symptoms of some debilitating malady or indications of love.

'I think you've got it bad, Mother. Otherwise you wouldn't have agreed to come here today. It's not in you to go places you don't care for unless there's good reason.'

Aggie was astonished. 'Am I so obvious?'

'Yes, Mother. That's how I know what's in the wind with you and Sam.' Burrowing in her raffia bag, Pam withdrew a small box and passed it across the table. 'Teaspoons,' she said. 'To bring you luck.'

As Aggie lifted the cellophane lid, her mind galloped over forty-two years to her courting days, when her sister bought teaspoons for the same reason. She fingered the smooth steel and felt suddenly jubilant. The first ones brought her luck; perhaps these would too.

Pam nodded, as if she could read her thoughts. 'He's a good man, Mother. I like him. Now what would you like for dessert? Profiteroles?'

Aggie dumped her napkin on the table. 'No, thanks. I've got better things to do than sit here devouring profiteroles.'

In the process of pushing back her chair, she collided with a hovering waiter. 'Out of my way,' she cried. 'I've got a man to catch.' Leaving Pam red-faced and goggling, she dodged a marble pillar and scooted to the exit where she grabbed her mac and duck's head brolly, and to the amusement of the head waiter scuttled up the stairs singing Arrivederci, Rome at the top of her piping voice.

17 July 2019

Well, it made me smile!

An award should go to the United Airlines gate agent in New York for being smart and funny, while making her point, when confronted with a passenger who probably deserved to fly as cargo.

For all of you out there who have had to deal with an irate customer, this one is for you.

A crowded United Airlines flight was cancelled.

A single agent was rebooking a long line of inconvenienced travellers.

Suddenly, an angry passenger pushed his way to the desk. He slapped his ticket on the counter and said, "I HAVE to be on this flight and it has to be FIRST CLASS."

The agent replied, "I'm sorry, sir. I'll be happy to try to help you, but I've got to help these folks first; and then I'm sure we'll be able to work something out."

The passenger was unimpressed.

He asked loudly, so that the passengers behind him could hear, "DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHO I AM?"

Without hesitating, the agent smiled and grabbed her public address microphone.

"May I have your attention, please?" she began, her voice heard clearly throughout the terminal.

"We have a passenger here at Gate 14 who does not know who he is.  If anyone can help him with his identity, please come to Gate 14." 

With the folks behind him in line laughing hysterically, the man glared at the United Airlines agent, gritted his teeth, and said, "F*** You!" Without flinching, she smiled and said, "I'm sorry sir, you'll have to get in line for that, too."

13 July 2019


I have a system which enables me to call for help when or if needed. It is run by AGE CONCERN and  works like this:

I am supplied with a push-button that I wear all the time and if I have a serious problem, I can press the button to call for help. 

The connection is with the house phone via a small loudspeaker. Periodically I am contacted by those who use the switchboard I am connected to. In return I am expected to test the button at least once a month which is nice because I get to chat with the operator at the other end. The contact is to ascertain my state of mind or health. 

For 3 years everything has worked to plan but two days ago my landline died. Oh boy did I panic!  I had the mobile but that was no good if I wanted to contact Age Concern. The whole system was geared to house phone only. Talk about panic!

First priority was to get the house phone sorted. Fortunately, Age Concern could contact me over the loudspeaker, the panic was because I couldn’t contact them or anyone else.

Four days, I was told. Four days of being out of contact with the outside world. Four days in which to avoid needing help.  HELP! I could feel tears forming and tried very hard to fight them. Four days out of contact wasn’t ideal. I mean, what if I had an accident or something, who would even know?

But I need not have worried. That very day I had this email……
Your service should be up and
running again         

We're sorry you've had problems with your phone service. Everything should be working okay now. If you set up call diversion, you can cancel it by dialling #21# from your landline.

If you've got broadband, you might need to restart your hub and wait up to three days for the speed to get back to normal. 
I was grateful, but I wasn't going to ask why I was told I must wait four days before I got the line working.

10 July 2019


1. Gardener shifted the pampas before turning his attention to the front lawn then moving on to work on the back garden, tree and bush pruning and the like.

2. What a nice few days we had, and now we’re back to freezing temps and permanent wind and rain.

3. Is forgetfulness a feature of growing old?

4. Had new radiator fitted, hope it lasts longer than one installed two years ago. Booked same guy to clean gas fire later in year.

5. Two deliveries of food – one I usually have and another on trial.

6. Jigsaw completed. Pity one piece was split in two, too tiny to repair. In readiness for passing on, I wrote a note of explanation, popped it and the two pieces in an envelope. At least the jigsaw can still be done. Pity the back problem is put down to the leaning across jigsaw table.

7. How old to you have to be to have memory failure?

8. Recent suffering with back pain made me wonder why, and then I realised that it was worse when I worked on a jigsaw puzzle.

9. My odd job boy came to sweep the yard and garden paths. Pity it rained!

10. Blogs with black or red backgrounds are difficult for me to read. Guess my eyesight needs fixing.

06 July 2019

NOISES IN THE NIGHT (by request)

Nearly midnight. From where she sat Shelly Cunningham could see the flickering shadows on the dividing wall. She tightened the belt of her dressing gown as if the action would protect her from evil. The pink robe was cosy, a little too warm for the time of year but she needed the comfort it afforded her.

The wall was new a couple of months ago; the neighbours had got rid of rickety fencing in favour of solid brick. Easier to climb than a wobbly wooden fence. The flat was situated on a main road, bedroom at the front, lounge at the rear with views side and back. The Star Inn was on the opposite side of the road. Even at this late hour the busker played his spoons outside the pub, a regular sight when special functions were held. Shelly used to sit on her bed and watch through the window but not so much these days. In any case, now that the nights were drawing in, the pub gardens would soon be empty and the customers either closeted inside or at home.  

She hated this area. It was a main thoroughfare, noisy, untidy, and alive with traffic.  Pizza boxes and cigarette packets were strewn ad infinitum and nobody gave a damn. Shelley and nearby residents were forever clearing their front gardens after the revellers had gone.  

Shelley’s flat occupied the entire ground floor of a converted old house. She and Daniel had been lucky to get it at a time when housing was in short supply. Daniel lasted a year; he couldn’t stand the noisy neighbourhood. It was the best thing, really. They did nothing but argue and, apart from that, he didn’t get on well with the guy upstairs. Continually moaned about him. Shelley suspected he was jealous of Reg Carney’s laid back approach to life.

The upstairs flat had been empty since Reg died. He was killed by falling from some scaffolding, an unfortunate accident considering he was a scaffolder by trade and should have known better than to step into thin air. Still, accidents do happen. At least she had been able to take care of Lisa, his cat, and even she had now departed from this world.

For all his faults Reg had represented security, another soul in their rambling building. He didn’t intrude on Shelly and she kept her distance as much as she could. However, having a man nearby was a comfort when drunks were at large. When he found one totally inebriated man roaming in the yard he dealt with him pretty swiftly. The yard was shared, Reg had his own section of the garden and Shelley had hers. They had their own sheds and took turns mowing the grass. The arrangement was good. Nowadays Shelley wished she could go back to it; if only Reg hadn’t died.

Every night for a week she had seen the shadows dancing on the wall. Every night she willed herself not to panic, especially when she heard a disturbance at three o’clock in the morning. At first she thought there was an animal outside but the noises seemed more human: subdued breathless gasps as if someone was climbing the wall. Yet there was no-one there. She was braver in the beginning, now she was reluctant even to peer through the window.

The wall was about five feet high, easily seen from both main room and kitchen. That first night she was too scared to go to bed, imagining the worst, like someone breaking in while she lay sleeping? For hours she sat in the darkened room, breathing erratically, unwilling to switch on the light. She didn’t want to be seen ...watching.

Tonight, while taking a bath, she heard noises outside: footsteps, the rasping bolt on the side gate, someone entering the yard, the clang of metal against metal. Whoever it was had put something in the galvanised bin and let the lid crash down. Reg used to dispose of rubbish like that, raising the lid and letting it fall without any thought that she might be startled by the noise. It crossed her mind that the culprit could have been a boozed-up patron from the pub, in which case a request would have to be submitted to the landlord for additional security. Only padlocks and barbed wire would keep drunkards out.

Shelly was irate, wished she’d not chosen to take a bath at that time. In a bold moment she felt that nothing would have given her greater pleasure than to accost the person who was using her yard as a rubbish dump. Yes, it was easy to be heroic behind closed doors. She considered calling the police. The only thing that stopped her was the foolishness of her story. Could you come round, officer, I think there’s someone putting rubbish in my bin. She rang a couple of friends but neither of them answered the phone. Eventually, during a lucid flash, she reminded herself that the doors were all locked and bolted so nobody could get into the house.

For the first time in ages she wished Daniel was still around. For all his faults he would have protected her from intruders. He would have put those enormous fists to good use, and probably arrested for it. He wasn’t the gentlest of men when roused, as she knew to her cost. It had taken a long time for the mental bruises to fade. 

Thinking a cup of tea would calm her she went into the kitchen to fill the kettle. Almost immediately fear overtook her. The sink was too near the back door ... if anyone was out there she would be seen. Oh how she wished she’d thought to put a curtain up at the window. Tomorrow, she would definitely buy some material. Dismissing the idea of tea, she grabbed a bottle of Evian from the fridge and went back to the lounge. Settled in the armchair, tugging the gown closer to her body, she wondered why she didn’t just go to bed. But she knew sleep would not be forthcoming while her nerves were raw. She would only toss and turn and worry herself silly.

A car’s headlights lit up part of the garden, moved slowly to reflect on the ceiling as the driver negotiated the crossing. Mesmerising! The mantel clock ticked in rhythm with her breathing, when it chimed the quarter hour she jumped. Rapid heartbeats heralding trepidation. Even as she tried to calm down there was a noise outside. A cough. A serious cry. Shelley froze, grabbed her mobile phone, remembered it was dead. If only she’d charged it when she had the chance. Still seated in the chair, she peered through the window.  As if someone had flicked a switch the scene changed. The car light had gone, the flickering had stopped. Except for the distant mewing of a cat it was deathly quiet.

An hour must have passed before Shelly plucked up the courage to look outside. There was a French window in the lounge that led straight onto the garden. If she went that way she would be able to peer round the end of the house and see if any damage had been caused by the intruder. She was pretty sure he’d gone. Maybe he’d fallen off the wall and killed himself.

Armed with an iron poker, Shelly opened the French door, lifted her robe and crept out, stepping over the single step onto paving slabs, alternate colours, a whim of her ex. A distant owl hooted. The garden looked eerie in the moonlight. A train rumbled through the valley and a sudden wind whistled through the trees; loose tentacles of Russian vine waved, one glanced against her neck. She spun round, felt the cold tremor run down her spine.

She tightened her grip on the poker. The feel of a weapon in her hand gave her the confidence to peer round the edge of the house. All quiet. Stealthily she eased her body round until she faced the brick wall, in time to see a cat leap up; black as a witch’s cat with gleaming yellow eyes. Without hesitation it disappeared to the other side.


Feeling foolish, Shelly shook her head to dismiss the weird thought.

Further up the yard, nestled between two small hydrangea bushes, was the refuse bin. Glimmers of moonlight played on the hard black plastic. Rooted to the spot she stared in disbelief, unable to believe her stupidity.  How long ago was it that the council replaced the metal bin with plastic?

As if the devil was on her tail Shelly hurriedly retraced her steps, shot through the door, slammed it shut and shot the bolts. One slipper lost in her haste. She leaned against the door, beset by a series of involuntary shivers, relieved that she was safely inside. With her ice-cold hands on her cheeks, she forced herself to breathe normally. It had been Lisa, she was sure of it. She had looked after that cat long enough to know... it... was... her. Yet, how could it be when the cat had died in her arms.

With a sudden intake of breath, she remembered ... Lisa’s medallion, found in the soil when she wrenched out a bunch of creeping ivy.

... and the phone call, days after; the silence when she’d answered, reminiscent of a call when Reg died ... when his ex-wife was too choked to speak. For a few minutes all she’d heard was someone sobbing. But that recent call ... although the line was live she felt there was no-one there. Just static; indistinct and ghostly.

... and the scratching at the back door. Lisa wanting to come in. Only Lisa, like Reg, was dead. She had died in her arms. The vet said she would suffer terrible agony if he didn’t put her down. Shelley remembered thinking it was fortunate that Reg didn’t know what she had done. Reg would never have counselled the idea of killing his cat.

Slowly exhaling, she recalled the footsteps, one late evening, loud and purposeful on the floor above, around the time the landlord was paying spasmodic visits. She had gone to the front door to say hello, to check if he’d decided what to do with the property, found Reg’s door locked; the landlord ... gone? With all the strange noises she wasn’t sure he’d been there at all.

Gyrating her head to relieve the tension in her neck, she felt certain she was going mad. Normal people didn’t see ghosts or hear noises in the night; therefore she must be going off her rocker. Her sister always said there were more insane people outside the asylums than in. Perhaps she was one of them. Perhaps she was due for a visit from men in white coats? The phone rang as that thought passed through her mind. She hesitated for a moment, then went to answer it. Nobody ever rang at this hour unless it was an emergency.

As she walked up the hall she heard music: soft, but getting louder. Pink Floyd. One of Reg’s old favourites, the one he played over and over until she felt like screeching. Reaching the phone, she lifted the receiver, whispered into it. ‘Hello’.


The receiver crashed down so hard it almost fractured the cradle. She felt sick in the pit of her stomach. Her head pounded, her brain felt like cotton wool. She tried to scream but no sound came. Whoever it was sounded just like Reg. Groping her way down the hall, hand over hand, using the wall for support, she felt something warm brush against her leg.

Lisa moved her head against her shin, just like she did when she was alive.