The four stages of man are infancy, childhood, adolescence, and obsolescence.

Nobody plans on becoming obsolete, but suddenly we are.   One minute we are at the cutting edge of life – right up there with the ‘in crowd’ then suddenly we are old farts.   Sometimes I feel that I should be put in a glass box and trotted round to schools as a piece of living history.  


Take sex – well you can definitely take it because I don’t want it.   I now flip through or fast forward through sex scenes in books and films – when he starts to rip the thin silk from her bosom I’m off.   I’m delighted for (other) old people to have sex, I just don’t want to hear about it.   On the whole scrotums (should that be scrota?) look as though they are in need of a good iron and most naked old people look like wrinkled cheap linen suits – or is that just me? 

Recently, I heard a woman complaining that she had been traumatised that because of Covid 19 her husband couldn’t come to their baby scan with her.   We didn’t have scans and fathers were only tolerated in the delivery room and certainly not encouraged.   My husband was of a squeamish nature and on father’s night at ante natal classes he fainted when the redoubtable Betty Parsons drew a diagram on the whiteboard.   The last thing I wanted was to have him in with me when I was actually giving birth.   In the old days men were actively discouraged from being present and I’m sure that my grandfather was at his club when his children were born.   I think my father was in the hospital for my arrival but he was almost certainly handing out and smoking a cigar on the ward! 

Don’t think I’m one of those people who constantly maintain that life was better in the old days – some of it was and some of it wasn’t.   Satnav is the most marvellous thing – and has probably saved a lot of marriages when the husband has to argue with Tom Tom rather than have a go at his wife for losing her place in the map – or perhaps that was just my marriage?   Communication now is brilliant – what would we have done without Zoom, Skype, Houseparty, et al in lockdown?   Online research – it is amazing to have all that information at our fingertips.   The old Enclyopaedias were great, but never up to date – they became obsolete the moment they were published.

But not everything is better – the bossiness of notices.   They drive me crazy when I’m out and about  – ‘Danger deep water’ ‘Don’t drive when tired’ ‘Don’t drink and drive’ (all very sensible but we’re either walking on our own or driving, and have therefore passed our driving tests, we’re not ten years old, and then there’s my personal favourite ‘Keep apart two chevrons’ – what on earth does that mean?   (Please don’t write and tell me – I can work it out it just offends me as it is not even grammatical.)   As for indoors – ‘Keep away from children’ presumably a direction and not a lifestyle choice.   There are very few people who would leave a two year old alone to play with an opened bottle of bleach.   As for Serving Suggestions – do I really need a picture of a water biscuit with a morsel of cheese on it so that I can work out what to do with it?   And a wonderful one I heard the other day – a washing powder that gets rid of invisible stains – excuse me!   An oxymoron if ever I heard one.   Shirley Conran famously wrote that life was too short to stuff a mushroom – it is certainly too short to be dealing with ‘invisible stains’.  

Just in passing we are in the middle of an obesity crisis – in those far distant days of my youth when we had to walk or cycle everywhere and there were no fast foods or takeaways people were not so fat.   Food as quite dull – women were sometimes described as being good plain cooks which was a reflection on their cooking skills and meant as a compliment not a comment on their morals or their appearance.   There were no TV chefs until the advent of Fanny Craddock and her hapless husband Johnny who appeared in the 1950s but her cooking was very dated by today’s standards relying a lot on radish rosettes and piped potato.   Now there is food on every corner and people eat everywhere (we were only allowed to eat ice-cream in the street) and Macdonalds are offering a triple cheeseburger for £2.19!  

When I was seventeen I was sent, as an innocent abroad, to live with a family in Spain.   It was an incredibly exciting but terrifying time.   The father of one of my father’s friends was an extremely charming Spanish grandee with impeccable, if rather dated, English.  He often said that things were ‘The cat’s pyjamas’ and the expression ‘top hole’ peppered his speech.   One day he asked me for my advice.   He confided in me that, when in London, he always stayed at the Cumberland Hotel, as in his youth he had been told that it was ‘fast’, but he was under the impression that this was no longer the case.  Could I recommend a ‘fast’ hotel for him?   I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about.  I now imagine that he meant somewhere that you could go with someone other than your wife with no questions asked.   I had spent my childhood on a farm in Kent or boarding school and visits to London were mainly to go to the dentist and London hotels, fast or otherwise, did not come in to my life.   This was in 1960 – just before the advent of Swinging London – if only he had asked me again five years later I would have been able to tell him that nobody cared any longer.   It happens to us all – eventually we swap fast hotels for life in the slow lane and we start to become obsolete.

The More I Think the More Confused I Get.

It’s not necessary for us oldies to understand everything that goes on in the modern world, but one doesn’t want to live life in a state of total confusion.   We have little Tuk Tuks for tourists round our way which seem to me to be more useful and more fun that Tik Tok, but then what do I know?  

I keep getting little notifications that pop up on my computer,   Now I grant you, I am not the most sympathetic person In the world, even my best friends will tell you that it is no good complaining to me about a cold as I belong to the ‘Oh come on, pull yourself together’ school of medicine, but even so why do I get a message saying ‘You May Like’ followed a news story of some hideous tragedy such as a toddler crushed by a lorry or a pensioner hacked to death with a machete.   Just what sort of person do they think I am?   Very perplexing. 

If you write a book, before you send it to a publisher you can employ the services of a Sensitivity Reader – it will not come as a surprise to anyone who knows me to read that I am unclear as to what they do.   My guess would be that will point out to you that you don’t have enough women/ethnic minority/disabled/gay or lesbian characters.   If you’ve written the book it is possible that you may have noticed this yourself.   I’m pretty sure that Jane Austen didn’t have a sensitivity reader to inform her of all these faults in her books and they’d certainly never get published today.   And as far as I can see actors are now only allowed to play themselves.   Obviously, you can’t play someone of a different colour or sex, or sexuality any more, can you?   If you are able bodied can you play someone with a disability?   What about playing someone older – isn’t that ageist?   Or putting on/taking off weight for a part – fattist/thinnist – are these words?   I’ve just asked Geoffrey (Google) and apparently it is Sizeism!  Who knew?  Appropos of that I recently heard a very irritating woman on Radio 4, with one of those condescending Nanny voices, talking to the nation about weight loss.   Apparently, she is one of the Government’s highly paid Obesity Advisors and she came up with the revolutionary thought that eating too much will make you put on weight and that exercise is good for you.   If only we’d known this life would have been so different!

Time was when everyone was very uptight and rules were strict.   Homosexuality was illegal.   When I was young pornography was very much behind closed doors.   Most girls were either virgins (or at least professed to be) when they married.   Children born out of wedlock were illegitimate and a cause of great shame within a family.   There were homes for unmarried mothers!   Then came the swinging sixties and life became a lot more liberal.   We had page 3 girls and Lady Chatterley’s Lover and the pill.   Life changed when our generation invented sex and drugs and rock and roll.   I had a flat in Chelsea and we genuinely believed that we were the first people to enjoy fun and freedom.   I walked around in a fog as despite being extremely short-sighted we were warned that ‘Men never make passes at girls who wear glasses’ and as far as I remember despite Women’s Lib my one ambition was that men should make passes at me.   Luckily for us despite men in those days not knowing their boundaries we wore such impenetrable underwear that we were mostly pretty safe.   Anyone who is old enough to remember the joys of the panty girdle or roll on will know what I mean.   If getting into it was difficult,  getting out of it was well nigh impossible and any man trying to undress you was liable to end up with a dislocated thumb.   The Pill may have been around but you had to buy a wedding ring from Woolworth’s and invent a husband before you could have any form of contraception and as far as I know the pill was only for married women.

It’s all change now.   Girls run around half naked – I bet none of them own a vest.   I read that in the north of England on cold nights girls rub themselves down with Deep Heat rather than spoil their look by wearing a coat.   So, despite putting everything on display men are only supposed to window shop.   It must be very confusing for young men.   We seem to be becoming a nation with secret lives where Page 3 girls and nudie calendars are forbidden but I regularly get asked to look at a website of ‘Hot Asian Babes’ – I may be confused but I think the computer is just as confused as it seems to believe that I am a cold-hearted, sexually active man!   As for free speech – does Speaker’s Corner still exist?  I think so, but I very much doubt that it is the bastion of outlandish views that it once was.   Islington seems to dictate what we are allowed to think and therefore say. As Voltaire apparently didn’t say – I think it was one of his friends expressing his beliefs – “I wholly disapprove of what you say—but will defend to the death your right to say it.”    We have to agree with that surely.   I’m not entirely sure exactly what JK Rowling said, but It doesn’t really matter.   If you disagree with her you don’t have to buy her books.   There was a film many years ago called Fahrenheit 451 set in a dystopian world where books were banned – the title coming from the temperature at which books burned.   When it came out it echoed Hitler’s Germany – and we all know where that led.   I recently learnt about Virtue Signalling which is apparently the action or practice of publicly expressing opinions or sentiments intended to demonstrate one’s good character or the moral correctness of one’s position on a particular issue. It is noticeable how often virtue signalling consists of saying you hate things.

Young minds may be able to keep up with the changes but I haven’t got a hope.   Every time I turn round something is different.   Take spelling for example – if someone, in a text, spells Your for You’re – is this ironic?  Fat fingers? Auto-correct? Ignorance?   How am I supposed to know?   My inner pedant longs to criticise but this is not the way to make friends and almost certainly my own fat fingers/auto-correct would turn my perfectly formed, literate text into gobbledygook

And to return to a more flippant subject there is a ad on television at the moment for fabric conditioner which claims that it will remove smells from your room and your furniture and will allow you to wear your clothes for another day! In my view that would be the most effective deterrent for unwanted passes yet invented.

Finally, and this may be a bit niche, but almost the worst thing about this whole pandemic is that they are discussing toe-curling sex on the Archers.   No! No! No! It is just wrong.  They should be discussing the harvest and jam making.

A BUSYBODY’S WORK IS NEVER DONE.

What with the heatwave, grandchildren and the autumn harvest my few remaining brain cells have gone into meltdown and are hiding in the dark recesses of my brain.

Like the Elephant’s Child I was born with satiable curtiosities. Kind people might refer to this as taking an intelligent interest in things, but unfortunately owing to my innately shallow nature I have to admit that I am just extremely nosy.   Apparently my first words were ‘What that?’   And I still want to know.   In my youth I was an avid eavesdropper, but sadly my hearing is no longer up to this unless I am lucky enough to come across people having a screaming row.   Pre Covid 19 supermarkets were a rich source of titbits.   I could linger over the herbs for ages if there was a good matrimonial going on by the adjacent sauces.   When I was young there were things called ‘party lines’ that meant you had to share your telephone with someone else!   I am a bit vague as to how it actually worked (I think it happened because there physically not enough cables) but I do remember that if you picked up the ‘phone to make a call there would often be someone else on it talking to a friend.   Most people found this annoying but I thought it was fascinating.   Here was a window into someone else’s life.   It was the same with actual windows into people’s houses as seen from a train.  The stories that you could make up and if only I hadn’t been so busy being nosy I might have put my imagination to good use and written The Girl on the Train..   

There is an unworn dress in my wardrobe that I was forced to buy because, whilst at a country fair, I saw a woman pass out.   Desperate to find out what was wrong I stayed at the next door stall going through racks of unsuitable dresses until the St John’s Ambulance arrived.   I’m not completely heartless, there were people with her and as it turned out the lady in question had succumbed to a combination of sunshine and alcohol, but, having spent so long on the other stall I felt duty bound to buy a dress.

Postcards are obviously fair game – I am incapable of entering a block of flats without checking to see if there is any interesting mail in the hall and would certainly read any postcard that happened to be lying around.   I wouldn’t go so far as to open someone else’s letter, but if it was right there in front of me it would be very difficult to resist reading it.   Bathroom cabinets are just begging to be inspected.   I don’t think I have ever used the knowledge of someone owning athlete’s foot powder or cream for haemorrhoids against them – I’m not a blackmailer, just, as I may have mentioned, incurably nosy.   And I don’t store this knowledge for any nefarious purpose, although I do sometimes see myself as a latter day Miss Marple.   However, unlike St Mary Mead there is a rather a dearth of murders in my village.   In our neighbourhood Watch newsletter the most we get is the information that two men in a white van have been seen acting suspiciously and that a local farm has had a chainsaw stolen from his barn.  I scan the surrounding area for white vans with two men who could be acting suspiciously – unfortunately I am mostly spoilt for choice.   What two men in a white van don’t look suspicious?    At the moment this is most likely because they are worried that Boris’s obesity police are going to nick them for wolfing down a high calorie snack.    An old gamekeeper once told me that his grandson had offered him a pasty from a well known company, and he said to me ‘It was so disgusting, I couldn’t finish it so I gave it to the dog and even he had to lick his own arse afterwards to take the taste away’.   Oh dear, I’ve lowered the tone again.   

Back to my nosiness.   It does cause my butterfly brain to hover over all sorts of strange subjects – in a pub quiz when it comes to trivia I’m your woman.   For example I can name all the Kardashian sisters and I know that a cockroach can live for several weeks without its head.   Facts that are not necessarily connected and this is not information that will be much use in every day life but facts that stick in my brain long after I have forgotten my pin number.

Idle curiosity that makes me wonder about the modern world.  What is Tik Tok?  I don’t imagine that it will ever be part of my life but it is probably important to be aware of it.   On the other hand I’d be a pretty sad Grandmother if I was posting things on it.   Do you post on Tik Tok?   I have no idea.

Tattoos – there’s another thing.   Why?   I don’t mind what anyone does, within reason as long as they aren’t harming anyone else, but why does anyone actually want a tattoo?   It is a total mystery to me.

And what about the expression ‘See you Later’?  I bought some petrol last week at a motorway service station and the boy at the till said this to me cheerily after I had paid – I should be used to it by now as it is ubiquitous but it still catches me unawares – was this boy the grandchild of one of my friends, did he live somewhere near me?  Somehow, I think not.

So, what to do with this nosiness?  I’ve already established that I missed the boat with The Girl on the Train?   Or missed the train even!   So, how can I put it to good use?  Some friends of my parents once heard late night screams coming from a neighbouring flat and they assumed that the young couple who lived their with in the throes of passion so they, after some deliberation, decided not to call the police.   The next day they it turned out that the wretched girl had been stabbed after an unpleasant domestic row.   Happily, she survived, but not thanks to the neighbours who weren’t, as it turned out, nosy enough.   On the other hand interfering in other people’s lives is not a very British way to behave, at least it never was, we used to be a nation of live and let live.   Not any more.   Covid seems to have brought out the worst and the best in us.  Lovely, helpful WhatsApp groups have sprung up all over the place.   But so too has an unpleasant habit of snitching on other people.   If we all stay in our own bubbles and never venture out this wretched disease will stay with us forever, some people may be pushing it a bit too far, but if our neighbours have a party and we’re nervous we should just stay away, not call the police, shouldn’t we?    

Maybe I shall just have to resign myself to being the trivia expert on any quiz team and hope that there are some questions for us butterfly brains and that they are not all about History, Geography and Sport – topics, that by necessity, I leave to others. 

If I’m not Woke, please don’t wake me!

I think I’d really prefer to stay asleep.   Living in a rural part of England our main topics of conversation as we idly pick straw from our hair are usually about chickens or fly-tipping.  Subjects we find fascinating.   But I have always led a rich fantasy life.   As a child I was constantly rescuing people from burning buildings or stopping a bolting horse.   Or I would have been should any of these scenarios ever have presented themselves to me.  Of course, in my fantasies I was an ethereal orphan and not a sturdy farmer’s daughter.  But as an old wrinklie I still have my fantasies.  I imagine being asked to a sophisticated dinner party where I am surrounded by the witty intelligentsia who hang on my every word as I fascinate the whole room.   However, I am not going to be able to do this until I am woke.   According to Mr Google Woke means:  Alert to injustice in society, especially racism.   But what is injustice and what is racism?   I have friends who refer to black people as ‘coloured’ and they believe that this is polite, but it is confusing, as I understand it you can refer to ‘people of colour’ or ‘black’ but not ‘coloured’.   I think that it is the intent that matters and to take offence at everything is a waste of time and energy as Buddha said ‘anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die’  Wise old bird Buddha even if he was never going to be the poster boy for Weight Watchers.  My son who is very tall regularly gets asked ‘what’s the weather like up there?’ or sometimes ‘Aren’t you tall’, in case he hadn’t noticed.   Equally thin people get comments about their weight on the other hand it would be considered much ruder and more insulting to point out how short or fat someone was.

As Oscar Wilde said ‘A gentleman is never unintentionally rude’.

Most of us try not to offend but when things change so rapidly it is difficult to keep up.   I just learned this morning that calling someone Karen is a huge insult!   

According to my friend Mr Google, Karen is a pejorative term used in the US and other English-speaking countries for a woman perceived to be entitled or demanding beyond the scope of what is considered appropriate or necessary. A common stereotype is that of a racist white woman who uses her privilege to demand her own way at the expense of others.   I’ve been known to do that as I’ve stolen a car parking space from under the nose of another motorist when I’ve been in a hurry.

How unfortunate if it happens to be your name.   I was at school with a girl called Gay – no idea what happened to her but that can’t have been fun as she grew up, unless, of course, she was.

I get more and more confused, I just can’t keep up – have I been cancelled?  Should I be worried, what does it even mean?   The first time I heard about any of this was when I read that some famous actress (of whom unfortunately I had never heard) had been cancelled because her equally famous boyfriend (who I had never heard of either) is a Republican and (along with millions of other Americans) voted for Donald Trump.   (One might well ask ‘Why?’, but that is another whole story).   You could argue that this is very foolish, but surely not a reason for ‘cancelling’ someone.   Again, according to Mr Google (we are such close friends now that maybe I should allocate him a first name – Geoffrey Google perhaps?)  I am very behindhand (something that should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me) because their definition of it comes from 2019. To cancel someone (usually a celebrity or other well-known figure) means to stop giving support to that person. The act of cancelling could entail boycotting an actor’s movies or no longer reading or promoting a writer’s works.

On a slightly different note, but still something to cause me great confusion is that Elle Macpherson, who always seemed like a nice, healthy looking Australian girl, turns out to be totally Gwyneth Paltrow bonkers.   Amongst other weird things she believes in (bubbling water to sanitize your food – why?) she also believes in Fecal Microbiota Therapy – if you’re interested look it up, but probably not while you’re eating!   And talking of Gwyneth Paltrow, did you see that she is selling as candle that smells like her vagina – I kid you not!   And what is more it costs £317.48 + tax – a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘One born every minute.’    Who buys this?   Do you buy it for yourself?  For your partner?   Why would you or indeed your partner want to smell Gwyneth Paltrow’s vagina?   I would have thought that no one in their right mind, with the possible exception of Mr Gwyneth Paltrow or maybe a previous Mr Gwyneth Paltrow in a spirit of nostalgia, would even consider this.   What about the reverse of this – would a candle that smelt of George Clooney’s balls be a winner?   My mother was on a train about a hundred years ago when a man suddenly asked her ‘Can I smell you c***?’ to which she replied ‘Christ I hope not, I had a bath this morning.’  Women were more robust in those days.   At any rate she said that was what she said although I wonder if this was not L’esprit de l’escalier, but it made me laugh anyway.

When I was 15 a friend of my father’s squeezed my boobs at a party (probably during the Gay Gordons – which was a popular dance and not a homosexual singing group) – I was thrilled and thought it most exciting – I do however think that it might have been him that suffered from PTSD if had gone any further and discovered that my ample bosom owed more to my brother’s rugby socks than to nature.

Would Mr Darcy send a Dick Pic?

In the days of Jane Austen courtship was a gentler and more elegant affair (albeit possibly more commercial – pity the poor girl who was destined to remain a spinster or become a governess). After Mr Darcy proposes to Eliza Bennett and has been turned down he writes her a letter which he hands her the next day and part of it reads: `Be not alarmed, Madam, on receiving this letter by the apprehension of its containing any repetition of those sentiments, or renewal of those offers, which were last night so disgusting to you.’
Whatever might have disgusted her it wasn’t a dick pic and I am pretty certain that Elizabeth Bennett wouldn’t have recognised a dick pic.
What did you do during lockdown? Did you learn Origami? Russian? Do Zoom Pilates? I have spent much of it watching television that I consider educational but my family dismiss as rubbish. You shouldn’t knock programmes such as Catfish or 90 Day Fiancé until you’ve tried them. A fascinating window into modern life and the reason I know about Dick pics! Apparently after meeting online and messaging back and forth you are ready to move on to the next level in your relationship and that is when he sends you a dick pic and then it is only polite for you to send him a picture of your hoo hah. I think I can leave it to your imagination to work out what a hoo hah is!
The vocabulary is certainly confusing for someone of my generation – when I was young a G & T meant a gin and tonic now I imagine it means gay and transgender
Catfish was a creepy looking bottom feeder and now it is a human creepy bottom feeder who lurks on the internet pretends to be someone he or she isn’t to reel in their prey.
Pansexual is a fashionable word and apparently it means you’ll shag anything and not Jamie Oliver on pancake day
Just to complicate things further cisgender is a word used to describe gender identity. Straight, on the other hand, is used to describe sexual orientation.
Being cisgender isn’t the same thing as being straight, but they can overlap: People can be both cisgender and straight. Honestly I think I’m going to have to go and lie down with a wet towel over my head.

As for online dating sites there are far too many to mention.
On Tinder apparently you swipe right if you fancy someone – how humiliating it would be if no one ever swiped right! Do you know about this?
Grindr is the world’s largest social networking app for gay, bi, trans, and queer people. Probably not much use to me – I think that Ocado would be more my line.
Plenty of Fish – there seem to be a lot of Catfish on there – perhaps it is the name. I don’t suffer from particularly low self esteem but if an incredibly hot looking man professed undying love for me after a few weeks of texting and then told me he had been kidnapped and needed money to pay the ransom, I’m pretty sure I would smell a rat!
How different it all is from the days when my mother started The Marriage Bureau (in 1939) It was the first ‘dating’ agency of it’s kind and was exclusively for marriage. Of course times were as strange then in their own way. For example one of the questions that was asked was ‘Would you allow your wife to work after marriage? ‘ .
As girls we were warned to be aware at all times – men only want one thing so we were advised to be careful. The one thing in those days was sex and not money. We took offence based on how attractive the man was. Nowadays the messages are so unclear. There are companies advertising clothes for young women that leave nothing to the imagination and yet women seem to think that you can dress like a hooker and expect men to look but not say or do anything. I rather miss the days of wolf whistles. It could be quite cheering on a dismal Monday morning to get some whistles of appreciation from a building site when on the way to work.

On the other hand change is sometimes very much for the better. This is an actual extract from a sex education school textbook for girls, printed in the early 60’s in the UK.
When retiring to the bedroom, prepare yourself for bed as promptly as possible. Whilst feminine hygiene is of the utmost importance, your tired husband does not want to queue for the bathroom, as he would have to do for his train. But remember to look your best when going to bed. Try to achieve a look that is welcoming without being obvious. If you need to apply face-cream or hair-rollers wait until he is asleep as this can be shocking to a man last thing at night.
When it comes to the possibility of intimate relations with your husband it is important to remember your marriage vows and in particular your commitment to obey him. If he feels that he needs to sleep immediately then so be it. In all things be led by your husband’s wishes; do not pressure him in any way to stimulate intimacy. Should your husband suggest congress then agree humbly all the while being mindful that a man’s satisfaction is more important than a woman’s. When he reaches his moment of fulfilment a small moan from yourself is encouraging to him and quite sufficient to indicate any enjoyment that you may have had.
Should your husband suggest any of the more unusual practices be obedient and uncomplaining but register any reluctance by remaining silent. It is likely that your husband will then fall promptly asleep so adjust your clothing, freshen up and apply your night-time face and hair care products. You may then set the alarm so that you can arise shortly before him in the morning. This will enable you to have his morning cup of tea ready when he awakes.

And this was in the ‘Swinging 60s’!

As for preferences the biggest taboo today seems to be smoking and when I was young it didn’t really come into it – everyone smoked all the time. This makes quite a neat link to my only contribution to BLM – pulling down statues – presumably all that children in the future will be taught about Sir Walter Raleigh is that he was a ‘very naughty man’ – after all he has been responsible for more deaths than anyone else by bringing us tobacco and potatoes!

Common Sense is not so Common.

Graduates from the University of Stating the Bleeding Obvious.  Now there’s a pandemic.   So much that ‘research shows’ or ‘scientists claim’ appears to be simple common sense.

For example, we’re told that people in care homes are more vulnerable to this virus – what exhaustive research went into finding that out?  Every death is a tragedy, but most people would imagine that older, frailer people who are no longer able to live in their own homes might be more susceptible to illness.   And they have found out that looking after a family member with Alzheimer’s is likely to make someone more isolated and lonely than someone who is not.  Finally, they have discovered that the virus can be spread though sex – well who would have thunk that!   It may have been a long time but I can just about remember the technicalities and I’m not sure how socially distanced sex would be possible.  Phone sex?

With too much time on my hands, I am spending hours delving into Google.   I don’t know what sort of profile I’m creating but I keep getting pop-ups that tell me “These 5 incredible erection superfoods will keep you hard for HOURS”.   However, I digress, I did look to see what ridiculous research is out there and these are some of my favourites.

Study shows beneficial effect of electric fans in extreme heat and humidity: You know that space heater you’ve been firing up every time the temperature climbs above 90º in August? Turns out you’ve been going about it all wrong. If you don’t have air conditioning, it seems that “fans” (which move “air” with the help of a cunning arrangement of rotating “blades”) can actually make you feel cooler. That, at least, was the news from a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) last February. Still to come: “Why Snow-Blower Use Declines in July.”

And

Study shows benefit of higher quality screening colonoscopies: Don’t you just hate those low-quality colonoscopies? You know, the ones when the doctor looks at your ears, checks your throat and pronounces, “That’s one fine colon you’ve got there, friend”? Now there’s a better way to go about things, according to JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association), and that’s to be sure to have timely, high quality screenings instead. That may be bad news for “Colon Bob, Your $5 Colonoscopy Man,” but it’s good news for the rest of us.

And my own particular favourite

Spiderman Doesn’t Exist: After an extensive analysis, researchers at Cambridge University have concluded that the larger a person is, the more adhesives he would need to stick to a wall, making it virtually impossible for a normal sized human being to have the characteristics of Spiderman. “If a human, for example, wanted to climb up a wall the way a gecko does, we’d need impractically large sticky feet — and shoes in European size 145 or US size 114,” said Walter Federle, senior author also from Cambridge’s Department of Zoology. As for Batman, the jury’s still out.

The problem with science and research is that it is difficult to separate fact from fact.   Following the science is a bit like trying to get out of Hampton Court Maze – there are too many twists and turns.   We won’t know whether we did right or wrong until all this is over.  There is an expression about not being able to see the wood for the trees and we need to get some perspective on it.   At the moment it is like comparing a banana with an orange and a pineapple.   We have no idea how other countries are measuring their figures. But one thing is certain when all this is over and most of the world is struggling to regain some form of solvency and to pay their mortgages there will be scientists rubbing their hands with glee as they are commissioned to do endless studies and research and to come up with REPORTS.   These will not add to the gaiety of nations in any way but maybe they will give us ‘people to blame’.  

Money won’t buy happiness, but it will pay the salaries of a large research staff to study the problem.

The Past is a Foreign Country

When I think back to my childhood and compare it to life today I can’t imagine how any of us thrived.   How the world has changed – Not so long ago I was sitting in my office listening to Radio 4 discussing periods, vulvas and vaginas!   I very much doubt that my parents ever discussed these things even between themselves and they certainly would never have expected to hear those words coming out of the ‘wireless’!   My father probably thought a Vulva was a Swedish car (Oh, come on!   Of course he didn’t, but you have to love the old jokes!)

According to Radio 4 people are talking more about vulvas these days – not people I know.   Why would people want to talk about this?   Are bottoms going to be the next thing – hang on a second we’re onto bowel movements.   My word, is nothing sacred?  When I was growing up these things just weren’t discussed.   My brother and I used to giggle uncontrollably about bottoms and Nanny used to say, ‘There’s nothing funny about bottoms – everyone’s got one’.   Apparently now although we all have the same parts we have to put photos up on Facebook – this is true – there is a Facebook page devoted to the vulva!   In my view they’re called private parts for a reason!    I’ve managed 76 years without looking at this subject too closely and I think I’ll keep it that way.  

And the other day it was all about pornography and masturbation.   When I was young and dinosaurs roamed the earth there was a lot more innocence about.   Of course things went on – but mostly in private.   I remember my maiden aunt (and I’m pretty sure she was a maiden in the true sense of the word) asking my father what f*** was?   She had seen it in a book with the asterisks and had no idea what it was and when my father told her the word she had no idea what it meant!   Imagine someone who had never heard that word today when it is the only adjective that some people know.

There are, of course, loads of things about modern world that are miles better.   Communication for one – keeping in touch has never been easier.   My grandchildren aged eleven and twelve have a lot of independence because of their mobile ‘phones.  They understand and use HouseParty, Zoom, Skype.    When I was young a telephone call was a big deal, in order to speak to my grandparents in Scotland at Christmas we had to book a trunk call in August!  And after all that we spent the allotted three minutes of comparing the weather in Scotland and Kent.

We had a cook – almost everyone I knew had a cook, but the tyranny of cook ruled our lives.   Breakfast was at 8.00 am – coming down after 9.00 meant no breakfast – there was no question of popping into the kitchen and making a cup of coffee!   Lunch was a 1.00, tea at 4.00 and dinner at 8.00.   And as for asking someone to lunch on the spur of the moment – we practically had to give cook a month’s notice.   And post-war food was predictably boring – avocados were an unheard of luxury only available in London restaurants.   We had a roast on Sunday with over cooked, home grown vegetables.   Rissoles made from the leftover joint, on Monday, chops on Tuesday, and so on until fish on Friday.  Puddings were either stewed fruit or rice pudding.   Half the house seemed to be taken up with bottles of preserved fruit and tomatoes.   Salad as a meal was a couple of slices of ham, a sliced hard boiled egg, bit of lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes with salad cream.   But we did have fun as children running wild in the farm doing things that would give health and safety a heart attack but there were no video games or computers and the television was a small screen scarcely bigger than a cigarette packet encased in a large piece of brown furniture.   About ten minutes before the programme was about to start the doors were opened and the television was turned on to ‘warm up’.   We would sit gazing at this tiny black and white rectangle and once the programme was over it would be turned off and the doors shut again.

Everything is much more relaxed now – my grandchildren will come and talk to me while I’m having a bath, something I would never have dreamt of doing with my own grandparents, indeed I very much doubt that they had ever seen each other in the bath.   That seems to be a lovely thing – my grandchildren confide in me about all sorts of things.   On the other hand informality can be a bit disconcerting.   People I’ve never met regularly ring me up and call me by my first name and it sounds a bit pompous to ask them to all me Mrs Sykes so I let it go, but it still sounds strange.

Language is another thing that is complicated – words change their meaning, sometimes as if they were out to trap you.   When I was young there was a colour brown that you could ask for quite happily in John Lewis – yes, we did have a colour called N***** brown!  We didn’t think anything of it – I never related it to race – I didn’t know any people of another race.   I was brought up on a farm in the depths of rural England and we had a neighbour who had married a French woman – that was as exotic as it got.   At some point we started to talk about coloured people – this was meant to be polite – now they are black or people of colour, a subtle difference.   We talked about Mongols and Spastics – we didn’t mean to be offensive, they were the words in in common parlance and we didn’t know any better.   People with mental health issues were loonies.   If someone was gay (or queer as we called them) you spoke about it in hushed tones – not only was it illegal but you assumed that people were ashamed of it.   Now everyone can be who they want to be, hopefully without fear of being bullied.  I do, however, miss the word gay in its original sense.   A gay party used to be light hearted fun.  

Illegitimate children were another source of deep shame – and were usually either adopted or brought up by their grandparents believing their mother was their aunt.   And other words suddenly change – the other day I heard someone saying that a friend wearing a blue scarf made her eyes ‘pop’ – apparently this is a good thing not as when I was young an indication of a thyroid condition.  

So in order to survive old age and indeed to enjoy it we have to embrace the best of the modern world and not look back too much to bemoan the alterations – we can be as nostalgic as we like but not all changes are for the worse.

Grumpy Old Woman

This Spring, amidst the virus, I’m definitely channelling my inner grumpy old woman.    The list of things that make me grumpy grows daily.

People wearing masks and gloves and then picking over fruit and veg with them on as if just wearing the gloves makes them safe.   Then driving off still wearing the gloves.   And masks that cover the mouth but not the nose.

People who get to the check out and then spend an inordinate amount of time rummaging around in the bottom of their bag for their wallet/purse as if it has come as a complete surprise to them that they might be asked to pay and then counting out their money with finger and thumb held out at arm’s length.   For £5.75 use contactless FFS!  

People who tell you they are busy, busy, busy, and loving lockdown.   Apparently they are building a new shed, learning Mandarin while inventing recipes and sending them out to all the family.   Why aren’t they slobbing in front of the television, eating junk food, drinking too much and getting fat like the rest of us?

And the people who claim they are slobbing out in front of the television, eating junk food, drinking too much and getting fat, when I’m pretty sure they are actually building a new shed, learning…… etc.,, but don’t want to sound too smug.

Experts – for every opinion there is a counter opinion.   Everyone is an expert and as there is no news except the virus, all the news is the virus and in order to fill our screens, radio and newspapers they have to write about the virus and for every unsung hero or heart-warming story about a stray kitten there are acres of blank space that has to be filled with dire predictions about the future.   Some days it appears as though us oldies will be in lockdown for the rest of our lives and at other times as though the whole world will be forced to wear protective clothing at all times – this will of course eliminate the need for any beauty treatments so that could be a plus.   But I digress from my deep-seated grumpiness.  

When mad cow disease appeared in 1993 180,000 cows were killed and the pundits predicted that 500,000 people would die from it.    In actual fact 150 people died in the UK.   In 1967 scientists predicted that there would be world famine by 1975 and in the 1970s scientists were predicting a new Ice Age by the year 2000.   When did that suddenly change?   One of the advantages of old age is that you learn to take scientists and their predictions with a pinch of salt.  Of course, many of them are quite correct, and in normal times they are fewer and further apart so we can examine them and digest them and filter out those that simply aren’t true.   But in normal times we have other things to be getting on with and these are far from normal times.   The pundits are in their element.   I can imagine this must be a wonderful time for them.   A life spent in relatively solitary intellectual study and research and all at once the world wants to know you and to hear your views.   It must be quite heady stuff.   

More dire predictions – just today we have been told to prepare for nine new waves (one source) and six new waves (another source) of the virus to reoccur in the next few months.   At best this has to be a guestimate – or the dreaded algorithm again I suppose. I don’t think anyone knows what is going to happen but everyone has an opinion.   It is Brexit all over again but this time there is no escape by flying off to a tropical island to sit in the sun and drink cocktails.

And what about perfectly healthy people, in areas where it is impossible to get on to the online deliveries, who insist on having all their shopping delivered even though (at least in our area) all local shops are taking every precaution with hand sanitisers, and plastic shields to keep the staff away from the customers and supermarkets are allowing people into the shop in very small numbers and operating a one way system.

This pandemic is also bringing out the inner dictator in some people.   Council officials, police officers, and members of the general public who seem to think it is incumbent on them to act as if they were the school prefect or some other Jobsworth.     I think you can take it as read that I was never a prefect.  But we all recognise those people who always like to take it that little bit further.   When I was walking my dogs yesterday I saw a woman come towards me with her dog on a lead.   When she saw me she stopped and waved me away.   I got off the track I was walking along and made both my dogs to sit, off the lead, while we waited for her to come past.  I could tell from her expression that she was dying to tell me to put my dogs on a lead, but as they never moved a muscle despite the fact that her dog was lunging hard on its lead, trying to get to mine, she couldn’t say anything and I’m perfectly certain that I ruined her day because she was unable to give me a good dressing down.  

My goodness, all this ranting has made me thirsty and the sun is very nearly over the yardarm – whatever that means, so it must be time for a drink.

SOME REASONS TO BE CHEERFUL DURING SOCIAL DISTANCING – SOME RANDOM THOUGHTS

In order to survive this virus we have to think of ways to keep ourselves amused:

Jokes are one way and some people seem to be able to find the best ones.   My mobile, laptop and PC ping several times a day with things that make me laugh.  

Clothes are making me cheerful too – I don’t have to buy any or think about them. I am wearing all my wardrobe failures – those items that hang in the back of the wardrobe making you feel guilty every time you look at them.   That lime green chiffon skirt that seemed so attractive after three glasses of wine at lunch with your best friend.  That skimpy top you bought off the internet because it looked so amazing on the size six model forgetting that scaling it up to  a size 20 wouldn’t necessarily work, or the floral stretch leggings from an insomniac visit to the shopping channel.   No one’s going to see you so you can wear them with impunity.  

Houseparty is another thing that keep me cheerful – my grandchildren contact me via this and we play games – most of the time I have no idea what I’m doing, but we have fun.   They are being incredible:  stoic, cheerful, resilient and laughing at Granny and a bit with me too!

The deep freeze is an another area of satisfaction – diving into the depth is proving very interesting.  I ate a delicious lamb curry two days ago that was dated 2014.  The pumpkin soup from 2012 was not such a success – I have a feeling that it wasn’t very nice when I made it originally so I thought that instead of pouring it down the sink I would freeze it, in the fond hope that time would improve it.   It didn’t – so I have now poured it down the sink eighteen years later.   Rather a waste of deep freeze space and electricity. 

Using up leftovers is a bit of a lost art that we are re-discovering.   My father, a very frugal Scot, could base an entire meal around a tablespoonful of left over gravy.   He used to make some very aptly names rock cakes out of stale bread and then the uneaten ones (of which there were many) would be made into some sort of disgusting pudding which eventualy ended up being fed to the birds and as final resort the Labradors.   I am thinking of writing a book on 1001 things to do with leftover  mince!  

Another pleasure is that the tide of junk mail that used to come through my letterbox is drying up.   It has worried me for ages that vast number of trees have been cut down to produce all these espensive catalogues which are mostly binned unread.   Maybe this will stop for good now.   We can find almost everything we want on line (including love) so we don’t need to destroy the rain forests.

And another thing – financially things are going to be very tough for many people, but on the plus side we are not spending as much of  the money we do have on travel, holidays, hair, manicures, clothes, resatuarants, pubs and on and on! 

The sound of the  birds in the trees – the dawn chorus is ear splitting.  

And the community spirit is amazing – our little village has a WhatsApp group where people ask every day whether anyone needs anything.   And it seems to be the same in all villages.

—- * * * —

And on a less cheerful and more sobering note the topic of domestic violence is in the news.  I am sure unless we have been in that situation ourselves few of us can imagine the horror of being trapped inside with someone who you are terrified of and who hits you.   The strongest mesasge that we can give to girls (and indeed women) is that if a man hits you HE DOES NOT LOVE YOU.   It doesn’t matter what he says or what you have done.   He can apologise all he wants, but if he does it once and you stay with him – HE WILL DO IT AGAIN.   Mothers, sisters, friends have to make sure that every woman knows this and acts on it.   Women are killed every day by violent partners, partners who have apolgised and promised to change countless times.    They don’t and they won’t.   One strike and they should be out.  

Keep well, keep safe and keep indoors.  

Your Grandparents went to war, all you are being asked to do is sit on a couch. You can do this

I live alone so in some ways self-isolation is a bit more of the same.  I can go to bed when I want and get up when I want and slob about in old t shirts and trackie bottoms – so no change there then!   I’m saving money by not going to the hairdresser, going out to lunch or buying any new clothes.   I’m a bit worried that I might frighten my grandchildren when we FaceTime so I make an effort to at least brush my hair in case they ring when I’m not expecting them.   As one of the ‘worried well’ I am constantly checking to see what symptoms I’ve got.  So far – none.   I do have chronic rhinitis, which makes my nose run whenever I go out into the fresh air and I cough occasionally.   I’m not going out but, at the moment, I reckon I could clear a shop by just clearing my throat.   A friend of mine was on a train the other day when a man started to cough and the entire carriage glared at him as he gasped ‘biscuit’.   A crumb had gone down the wrong way.  Luckily we Brits don’t go in for lynching – much.

We certainly all need a laugh to lift our spirits so I thought I would try and find some silly old jokes that make me laugh and put them into this blog.  

I like this one – black humour but I think it’s funny.

Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He’s not breathing so his friend calls 911. ‘My friend is dead! What should I do?” The operator replies, “Calm down sir, first make sure that he’s really dead.” There’s a silence, then a loud bang. Back on the phone, the guy says, “Ok, now what?”

And this one – a bit surreal!

And the Lord said unto John “Come forth and you will receive eternal life” but John came fifth and he won a toaster.

And probably my favourite joke of all time from Bob Monkhouse:

“I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my father. Not screaming and terrified like his passengers.”

And finally, a topical one for Corona virus shortages:

“The last time I was in Spain I got through six Jeffrey Archer novels. I must remember to take enough toilet paper next time.”

And now for something completely different!  Perhaps we should use this time for a bit of self improvement, heaven knows in my case there’s plenty of room for it.   I am going to try and become more tolerant (Hark! Is that my family sniggering and muttering ‘as if?’)  For starters I must stop my tendency to correct peoples’ texts. I am not the apostrophe police.   Channelling my inner Grumpy Old Woman.   Sitting at home shouting at the television/radio.   I heard a woman on the Radio 4 state this afternoon that there were only 100 grey or English partridge (our native bird) left in this country and yet according to the Game Conservancy there are approximately 43,000 breeding pairs.   Slight discrepancy there!  On the other hand, the ‘new and improved’ tolerant me thinks it is possible that I misheard her so before I write to BBC as Disgusted from Hampshire I need to check that.   But then we do have the ultimate irritation.   The Smug – they dwell amongst us and they will always rise!   You know who you are – the self-isolaters who have been getting up at 6.30 as usual, washing their hair, putting on full make-up and then downstairs to bake a cake before breakfast to take to the local old folks’ home!   Their children are doing their schoolwork and after they have finished that they are knitting blankets for the homeless.   Daddy has painted the garden shed and is busy making lovely educational wooden toys for the children.   I don’t think so – they are probably at the gin like everyone else!  Tolerance can only take me so far!