It’s a Topsy Turvy World!

When Shakespeare wrote about the seven ages of man it seemed quite clear on the surface but when you look closely it is more like the seven ages of contradiction.   No sooner do you learn a new skill than it is all change.   When a baby burps the parents ooh and aah and congratulate the little mite.   But fast forward twenty years and see how popular it is now.  Likewise baby’s first attempts at walking and talking are roundly applauded.  They are encouraged to speak and toddle and turn somersaults whenever they feel like it.   No sooner have they  mastered these skills than they are being told not to show off   And so it goes on.   There is much praise when little Johnny first sleeps through the night – his parents boast about what a good sleeper he is.   Hit the teenage years though and those same parents are now complaining that much bigger Johnny won’t get up.   Music is another bone of contention – the tunes (or not) that the teenager loves are played at the full volume to a chorus of parents demanding that the sound is turned down, but a few years later and those same parents are being asked by their children if they need to have their music on so loud.   A nice clean plate is something much desired by parents and often rewarded with a sweet or an icecream.   Then suddenly, with puberty, food can become an issue.  Some parents are desperately trying to persuade their borderline anorexic child to eat whilst others are hoping to prevent their chubbier offspring from a lifetime of weight problems.  Tiny children are easy to dress – they don’t hold much power in either having an opinion or a financial option but surprsingly quickly little girls develop strong views and based on current trends seem to be aiming for the junior prostitute look.   Parents desperately try to persuade them into clothes they consider to be more suitable but young girls want a look that they feel is more likely to feature on the cover of a magazine.   We don’t want them to look too old for their age and yet it won’t be long before children are begging their parents not to appear as mutton dressed as lamb.  

Every four year old will tell you firmly that they are four and a half or four and three quarters, but in the middle years people tend to be a bit opaque about their age until they hit the final furlong.   I’ve heard old ladies say about a recently departed friend ‘I’ve no idea why she died, she was only 86.   I’m 88’.   My mother used to say that as you got older you should add years on in the hopes that people will think you’re marvellous for seventy (as well they should if you are in fact only 60), but it can be disappointing if you add ten years to your age  but fail to get gasps of astonishment at how amazing you are for your years.

Babies aren’t worried about making friends they are completely indifferent to other children until they start to totter about and gradually it becomes a learning curve about how to make friends.   They have to learn to share their toys and play nicely.   When people get towards the end of their lives I have noticed that they (and I include myself in this group) become much more intolerant and quite selfish.   I’ve done my bit of sharing my toys and playing nicely now I’m entering, what is rightfully called, my second childhood, I can see myself becoming more and more difficult.   This could, however, be a family thing.   When my grandmother was in her eighties she was going on holiday, but the friend she was going with had to cancel because she fell and broke her hip.   Instead of being sympathetic my grandmother was furious and never spoke to her friend again and she justified this by claiming that her oldest friend had always be a terribile hypochondriac.   Similarly, my mother fell out with an old friend who develiped pneumonia while they were on holiday together and had to be flown home.   My mother was livid and maintained that her friend had only pretended to be ill in order to draw attention to herself.   I don’t think they ever spoke again!  My gosh, my family and friends have got a lot to look forward to in the coming years.

Possessions are another thing – children are incredibly careless and forever leaving their sports bag on the bus or their shoes under their bed and then claiming that they have no knowledge of where these objects are.   Then there is the period of adulthood when one seems to spend an inordinate amount of time searching for other people’s things.   But I have now reached the age where my own things disappear.  I decide to do the crossword so I find a pen and make sure it works – I live by myself so I have no idea who it is who replaces pens that don’t work back into the pot!   To continue, I find the pen and go to do the crossword,  then the telephone rings.  After a brief coversation I go back to the crossword only to find that the pen has disappeared.   I search every room in the house – even going to the attic in case a poltergeist has mysteriously whisked it up there.   Finally I admit defeat and find another pen – I then return to the crossword to discover that the original pen is on the table but now the crossword has vanished.  That is the point when I decide that it is time to write down any important information for the family while I can still remember it.   I go to get some paper to write the list but when I come back – guess what – no pen.   I think I need a drink.

If only closed minds came with closed mouths!

Sex education at my school was a diagram drawn on the blackboard of rabbits mating.   I was brought up on a farm so I had some idea of what went on, but my generation were incredibly ignorant.     It took me years to work out what  lesbians could possibly do, although I did have a fantastic crush on a girl, but that was because she played Mr Darcy in the school production of Pride and Prejudice and in my wildest imaginings I only dreamt that we might walk hand in hand while I recited some moving poetry to her whilst gazing into her eyes.   Along with most adolescents I quite fancied myself as a poet, but as my poetic efforts owed more to William Mcgonagall than Sylvia Plath the chances are that that the emotion that I would have stirred in her bosom would have been mirth.   As teenagers we were all unsatisfied with our bodies and my dream of looking like Rita Hayworth was wildly unrealistic – I was 5’ 9” at the age of twelve, wore thick glasses and had braces on my teeth.  I was built more in the Charles Atlas mould (he was the Arnold Schwarzenegger of his day) who advertised that upon receipt of a sum of money he would send you an exercise regime that would transform you from a seven stone weakling into a magnificent specimen of a man.   Apparently, the fear of every seven stone weakling was that, whilst on the beach, a larger man would kick sand in his face, but presumably once you had the exercise book you could hurl it into his face if all else failed.   But as usual I have digressed from my point of the bliss (or otherwise) of ignorance.  There must have been transgender people around in my youth, but we knew nothing about such things.   I had no idea that there was any chance of my changing to become a man – despite always playing the male part in school plays and only ever learning to dance backwards as a boy!      It was just as well, because, although at the time, I might have jumped at the chance of altering [SS1] my gender – I was the archetypal tomboy – later on, once I discovered ‘love’, I wouldn’t have changed for the world.   I adore the company of men, but not the idea of being one.  

I was at an all girls’ boarding school and all the staff were female.  I imagine that some of them were lesbians, certainly several of them lived together in shared accommodation.   What they got up to behind closed doors was up to them –  we had no idea.   The only member of staff I remember being married was the German mistress because, to our huge delight, she referred to her husband as Farty.   She must have noticed that whenever she talked about her home life she was surrounded by sniggering girls, but she never gave any gave any indication that she knew how much hilarity the name caused. I really can’t believe that knowing anything about our teachers’ private lives would have improved the quality of the teaching.   We didn’t know anything about their political affiliations’ either, although I imagine that as I was at a private school there weren’t many communists amongst the staff – although contact with some of us, horrible entitled snobs that we were, might have turned the truest, bluest Tory red.  

We didn’t know much about the world either.   We’d just come of a war with Germany and Japan and our relatives had seen and done terrible things, but they didn’t talk about them.   Jeremy Clarkson’s father-in-law won the VC (Victoria Cross) but his own daughter didn’t find out about this until after his death.   It is impossible to imagine that happening today.   Not only would it have been all over Facebook, Twitter, etc. but he would have been offered counselling for PTSD whether he wanted it or not.   Presumably he didn’t feel that his family needed to know about his war. 

My mother was an endless source of scurrilous gossip about the goings in in society both before and after the war.   People behaved extremely badly with drugs and strange sexual goings on.   Rumours abounded, but for the most part nothing was made public and most people did not know about their idols’ feet of clay.

Today we have an almost insatiable desire to know everything about ‘celebrities’ – via the Facebook/Hello culture?    Kim Kardashian is in many ways a remarkable young woman – she has given vast amounts of money to charity and worked on prison reform, added to which she is incredibly hard-working.   Just think of the effort it must take to look the way she does.   And yet if I see an article about her, I confess I am most interested in her bum and what she has done to get it to be that extraordinary shape.  I despise myself for this interest in trivia, but I cannot be alone judging by the plethora of magazines and massive on-line presence of ‘celebrities’.    It is still true in Hollywood that ‘coming out’ can be death to a career of any actor wanting to play the romantic lead or an action hero.   However, one good thing to come out of the pandemic is that we don’t seem to have quite so many actors giving us their opinions of political matters.   Instead, we are exhorted to follow the science which is a bit like trying to follow Medusa and end up completely entangled in the serpents’ heads as the science twists and turns.   Perhaps the minutiae of celebrities’ lives does add to the gaiety of nations in these troubled times and Kim Kardashian’s unreal figure may lift our spirits.   But, do we need read of actors opining about their family dramas where they haven’t (along with thousands of other people) been able to see their relatives but maybe we prefer this to seeing photos of celebs sunning themselves on golden sands whilst sipping a cocktail as we look out on to mud sodden fields.  In that case ignorance would definitely be bliss.


 [SS1]

Are you a town mouse or a country mouse?

Are you a country mouse or a town mouse or do you have a foot in both camps? 

QUESTION        A         BC
What kind of car do you drive?                      Latest spec 4 x 4Five year old 4 x 4Ancient Land Rover Defender
What’s in the warming oven of your Aga?The instructionsMeringuesAn orphan lamb
What do you shoot with?My new iPhone has a marvellous cameraMy godfather left me quite a decent pair of shotgunsDepends what I’m shooting.  
When you don’t want to cook what do you do?Does Deliveroo deliver outside the M25?Take a casserole out of the freezer.Pop down to the chippy.
What colour are your wellies?Navy and tan DubarryGreenNo idea – too muddy to tell
What do you do if offered a brace of pheasants?Refuse – you’ve no idea how to cook them.Ask if they are oven ready.Accept with thanks.
What do wear on Sunday?Tomato red cords with blue jumperSuit and tie – must look tidy for churchOveralls
What do you wear during the weekSuit and tie – must look tidy in the cityTomato red cords with blue jumperOveralls
How do you get on with your neighbours?Fine – don’t know them.Fine – they know my children.Fine – they knew my grandparents.
Do you eat seasonal vegetables?No idea- is asparagus in season?Always get mine from Waitrose and try to buy British.Get mine out of the garden.
What eggs to you buy?Burford Brown Free RangeLocal Farm ShopFrom own chickens
DogsLabradoodleLurcherSeveral Labradors and a brace of Springers.
Go to London (or other major city)During the weekOnce a monthNever
Holiday destinationCaribbean and/or VerbierLodge in ScotlandDay trip to Country Show
BeltGucciOld school oneBailer twine  
MagazineCountry LifeThe FieldFarmer’s Weekly
Do you wash your hands after touching animals?AlwaysSometimesOnly if they look dirty
What is QuornHealthy Meat substitute  Laboratory created vegetarian optionA hunt
How many birds can you identifySwan, peacock and probably a robin.About 30 with the aid of Collins book of Garden birdsThose that are legal to shoot, when they are in season and if the are good to eat.
What do you do for cultural stimulationGo to the operaGo to the theatreGo to the pub

Mostly As – You are definitely Tommy Town Mouse.   You like the country from a safe distance.   A luxury country house hotel or staying with friends who have efficient central heating and rooms with en-suite bathrooms.   A nice walk on a sunny day in the dry – otherwise it is better seen from behind glass.   The countryside is very noisy and draughty.

Mostly Bs – You straddle the fence on this.   You are keen to be part of the country squirearchy – but wouldn’t want to give up all ties to the city.   Where would you get your hair cut for one thing?   The countryside would be improved if there were more people like you living there, then it wouldn’t be quite so muddy and disorganised.   You will probably stand for election to the Parish Council so that you can try and sort things out

Mostly Cs –  You are a dyed in the wool country person.   You don’t approve of change and resent these incomers who are only here five minutes before they are trying to improve things.   What’s wrong with the old ways – they were all right for our ancestors.   Too much health and safety putting notices up everywhere to state the bleeding obvious ‘Danger Deep Water’ ‘Now Wash your Hands’ ‘Beware of the Dog’. Just leave well alone.

Life is far too important to take seriously.

It will not come as a surprise to anyone who knows me to learn that I was a bit of a rebel at school.   In fact, I got expelled.    I was caught one evening in the Japanese Garden after I had persuaded Terry, the boy who delivered the meat, to come there and teach me how to French kiss.   I was a very tall girl and he had to stand on a log which didn’t add to the romance of the occasion.   Suffice to say I told my friends that it was completely disgusting and that Hell would have to freeze over before I did that again!  Adding to the failure of the evening was the fact that I was caught and our headmistress, a monumental snob, was furious, I suspect that had I been caught with a duke’s son rather than the butcher’s boy I would have been forgiven, as it was, I was expelled.   At the moment it does feel as though we are all back at school with the Government acting like bossy teachers.   ‘Rules are rules and whilst most of you are obeying them, there are some, and you know who you are, are not.   If you don’t start obeying these rules the whole school will be punished.’     Of course, there must be rules to get us out of this dire situation, but maybe it would be better to enforce the ones in place already than to crack down on innocent old ladies stopping to catch their breath on a park bench, or someone daring to take a cup of coffee on a walk. 

In any case we need to get through this, and they say laughter is the best medicine.   Having a really good laugh does wonders for the spirits and if there was ever a time when we needed a good giggle it is now.   I’m hopeless at remembering jokes but one of my all time favourites is the old Bob Monkhouse one – ‘I want to die peacefully in my sleep, like my father, not screaming and terrified like his passengers’.   So why does that make me laugh?   If you analyse it, there is nothing funny about it.   It is describing a tragedy, albeit a fictitious one.   But analysing humour is impossible.   When people tell you a joke and you don’t laugh they sometimes make the terrible error of trying to explain it to you.    Everyone likes to think they have a good sense of humour – apparently on dating websites one of the most desirable qualities is GSOH – but rather like no one ever admits to being a bad driver, no one is ever going to put NSOH (No Sense of Humour) as part of their dating profile.   Just for the sake of interest/research and general mental well being I looked up the ten funniest jokes from the Edinburgh Festival in 2019 and they’re listed below.   Obviously, I have a fantastic sense of humour, but some of them mystified me – didn’t even produce a smile.

The winners were:

1.)  “I keep randomly shouting out ‘Broccoli’ and ‘Cauliflower’ – I think I might have florets”.

2.)  ”Someone stole my antidepressants. Whoever they are, I hope they’re happy

3.)  ”What’s driving Brexit? From here it looks like it’s probably the Duke of Edinburgh”

4.)  “A cowboy asked me if I could help him round up 18 cows. I said, ‘Yes, of course. – That’s 20 cows’”

5.)  “A thesaurus is great. There’s no other word for it”

6.)  “Sleep is my favourite thing in the world. It’s the reason I get up in the morning”
7.)  “I accidentally booked myself onto an escapology course; I’m really struggling to get out   of it”

8.)  “After learning six hours of basic semaphore, I was flagging

9.)  “To be or not to be a horse rider, that is Equestrian”

10.)  “I’ve got an Eton-themed advent calendar, where all the doors are opened for me by my dad’s contacts”

I thought the first one was quite funny.   I thought 2, 5, 7 and 8 were OK and 9 was clever.   Being a bit thick, I didn’t understand 4 to begin with – have got it now!   Didn’t think 3, 6 or 10 were funny at all.   Doubtless other people will have a completely different point of view. Also, it has something to do with they way you tell them.   We all know people who can make you weep with laughter telling you how they got a parking ticket and yet others who can make your jaw ache from trying not to yawn when they tell you ‘a funny story’.  Always a bad sign when someone says ‘I’m going to tell you something really amusing’ – I think I’ll be the judge of that.

What a delight it is when you meet someone who shares your sense of humour but equally how disconcerting when you meet someone who has absolutely no sense of humour.   Do you think these people recognise each other and naturally gravitate together?

Inappropriate moments to laugh include funerals and during sermons and lectures.   I once had the terrible experience of having to attend a long and, in my opinion, extremely boring talk, on health and safety at work.   I was sitting about four rows from the front, but everyone else (who must have been forewarned) went much further back so I was in the direct line of fire.   I fell asleep quite early only to be woken by the speaker asking loudly,  ‘Am I boring you?’ I think we all knew the answer to that one, but I lied and denied it.   I then sat digging my nails into my palms to try and keep awake.   He ended his talk with a series of slides that he had taken whilst on holiday and I got the most appalling giggles as I imagined his wretched wife posing in front of an ancient church,  waiting patiently for her husband to take a snap of her while all the time he was busy taking a picture of some scaffolding that infringed health and safety regulations.  There was a shot of the inside of a luxury hotel with a sofa blocking the fire exit and another one of a man smoking while re-fuelling his car.   Hardly your typical holiday pics.   I had the feeling that while his family leafed through brochures to try and find a resort with beautiful beaches and atmospheric little tavernas he would be looking for somewhere with a lot of re-development going on so that he could seek out building sites where he might find workmen contravening regulations by not wearing a helmet or a high viz jacket.   I have just discovered, to my delight that there is a website called Safetyphoto which features endless photos of Hazards in the Workplace.   Probably not many other people would find this funny, but then I’ve never laughed at clowns. 

The wonderful thing about laughter is that it is infectious.  Seeing out takes of actors ‘corpsing’ is enough to set anyone off.   I’m not that interested in cricket, but I defy anyone to listen to the clip of Brian Johnson and Jonathon Agnew dissolving into uncontrollable mirth over a stupid remark about someone getting their leg over.   It is so silly, but so entertaining.   We are lucky to be living through this pandemic in this computer age – at the touch of a mouse we have access to some of the funniest moments on television, radio or the written word.   Whatever turns you and whatever makes you laugh.

COVID BRAIN

My son used to say that I had the concentration span of a goldfish – I think this might be a bit unfair to goldfish.   Particularly at the moment.   I have noticed things getting far worse during Covid.   The plots of television ads are about the most challenging things I can manage.   There was one on this Christmas about a carrot that runs away and meets a hedgehog in the snow (why wasn’t it hibernating?) And then Father Christmas finds the carrot and takes it home – where presumably it will be chopped up and eaten – they are hardly going to keep it as a pet!   I found the plot quite difficult to follow so bang goes any chance of my finally finishing all seven volumes Marcel Proust’s The Remembrance of Things Past.   When my son was born my friends and I lamented our ‘baby brains’ – we couldn’t concentrate on anything for more than a few minutes, but at least we had our little bundles of joy as an excuse.   Now I have Covid Brain and all I have to blame for it as those harbingers of gloom, Hancock, Whitty and Johnson.   OK – it might not be their fault, but we always like to shoot the messenger.    If I try to read a newspaper or listen to the news for any length of time I become like the character played by John Laurie in Dad’s Army who went round saying “We’re doomed, we’re doomed”. 

I only hope all those learned lawyers who are supposed to be poring over all 1200 pages of the Brexit deal aren’t suffering from the same thing.   Like most people (I imagine) I always tick the box that says I have read the terms and conditions when I buy something – of course I haven’t – has anyone, ever?     However it is probably quite important that this document is scrutinised fairly carefully – we don’t want people skim reading it going  ‘Yada, yada, yada…that all looks fine’ only for us to discover in the years to come that it is now illegal for us to send cheese to Europe unless it is flavoured with pineapple or that all our lambs have to have been fed on human excrement.

In any case the result of Covid Brain means that I half read things and half listen to things and as a result half know very little about very little.   My conversation is getting even more boring than, it was before – even the dogs start yawning when I talk to them!   On the bright side I have learnt some things (on the basis that a little learning is a dangerous thing I am presumably the equivalent of an Exocet missile).   Amongst other things I have found out that you are more likely to get a virus on your computer (not Covid obviously) from visiting a religious website than a porn one and that a lot of murderers look up how to kill their victims on the internet.   We don’t know how many people get away with murder because obviously the successful ones don’t get caught, but some of the ones that do get caught must be as dumb as brushes.   Even someone with an IQ in single figures must realise that if you Google where to put a knife into someone to make sure they die, you are likely to get found out.

My butterfly mind flits from subject to subject so that many stories become a jumble of words.   I can read Shakespeare – his language is still comprehensible even if I don’t use ‘Forsooth’ or ‘Prithee’ very often but now it gets more and more impossible every day.   There’s BLM, Me Too, Trans and Cis (I know, I had to look that one up!) and LBGQT+ not to mention LOL and other text words.   ROFL I knew but KPC I had to look up – just so you know apparently it means ‘Keeping Parents Clueless’, obviously Grandparents come with built in cluelessness!   With some of the more important stories of the year such as Black Lives Matter, transgender issues and Me Too – there is so much information out there – is it real or is it fake news?   I just get increasingly muddled and it doesn’t take much to overload my brain.  

And don’t get me started on Radio 4 – I used to have that on all day long – not anymore.  Marks and Spencer – bastion of knickers for those of mature years – has over the past years tried to attract younger customers.  That’s never going to happen – none of my grandchildren want to buy a skirt from a shop where they might bump into their grandmother looking for a bra!!!   It’s the same with Radio 4 – surely the vast majority of their listeners are the over fifties.   Many of us are retired and at the moment forced to remain at home.   I am the only person in my family, whose ages run through three generations, from 12 to 76, who listens to Radio 4.   I used to listen to it all day long – I wasn’t interested in everything, but I often learnt things and I was frequently entertained.   Recently that happens less and less.   First of all, poetry.  I like poetry but I can hardly ever listen to it on the radio – what is it with the ‘poetry’ voice?   Then there are bodily functions – at my age I know about menstruation, the menopause, stress incontinence, wind – trapped or otherwise, and it would be interesting to have a programme dedicated to medical matters, thus giving the listeners a choice.  However, if I’m just sitting down to a cup of coffee and a biscuit, I’m don’t want to have a full description of the symptoms of endometriosis!   Likewise transgender issues are interesting, so is  different sexuality, race is an important topic as is feminism, but most of the time listeners just want to be entertained – drama, with plays that some of us can understand, book programmes ditto, travel, the arts, science.    Just don’t get me started on the Archers.   Hideous storylines at the moment more suited to East Enders.   Happily, I’m Sorry I haven’t a Clue is still with us – can’t think why it hasn’t been culled long ago for not being PC.   Unfortunately, The News Quiz has been taken over by people who confuse insults with humour.   Of course, Donald Trump’s appearance has been a topic of mirth – but still!      

However, I shall soldier on – don’t fancy the alternative – and once I have finished the Mr Men books I shall graduate to Peter and Jane and leave Marcel Proust for later – much later!   In the meantime, I spotted this cutting below in The Oldie!   I hope it makes you smile as much as it did me!

Here’s wishing everyone a Happy and Healthy New Year.

Does it ever get cold on the moral high ground?

We’ve all been there – yes, you have – the disapproving look you give when your best friend’s had too much to drink. Just like you’ve never done that! I’m only human, you take the moral high ground but they are smug.
It’s all about perspective.

I’m only humanYou take the Moral High GroundThey are unbearably smug  
I got drunkYou wouldn’t get drunk as it would be irresponsible  They never drink  
My children are goodYour children good citizensTheir children perfect
I’m going to give up smokingYou’ve given up smoking to protect others from the dangers of passive smoking.They’ve never smoked
  I had an affairYour marriage vows are sacredTheir husband loves them too much for them to have an affair.
I’m going on a diet next week because I want to buy a new dressYou’re on a diet because you owe it to your family to stay healthyThey’ve never dieted because they are naturally slim
I stole some sweets when I was a childYou wouldn’t be able to sleep at night if you stole somethingThey have never felt the need to steal.
I’m always getting parking ticketsYou never park thoughtlessly.They use public transport.
I know I shouldn’t gossip but …You don’t gossip because it can be hurtful.They don’t gossip, they only repeat what they’ve been told
I’ve spent lockdown faffing aboutYou’ve spent lockdown helping others and learning another language.They’ve spent lockdown working harder than ever at home while looking after their family.
I get up about 8.00 am and have a strong cup of coffee and a cigarette.You get up at 7.00 am to meditate before the day beginsThey always up at 6.00 am as they have so much to do.
I’d love to have a nose jobYou wouldn’t spend money on a nose job, you’d rather spend the money on your childrenTheir nose is perfect
I read trashy novelsYou read improving books to your blind neighbourThey never have time to read.

You get the picture! This pandemic has been pretty testing and we are all doing our best (most of us anyway) but there will always be someone who is doing it better than you. Don’t worry about it. None of us are perfect and it is our imperfections that make us so loveable – at least that is what I tell myself. We’re human beings, we’re fallible and we need to remember this. Sometimes people (particularly us oldies) say the wrong thing – we use a word that we’re not supposed to! When I was young a pouffe was a cushioned footstool. We had a big squishy leather one at home. Then it became Poof which was (according to my friend Mr Google) a word invented by Monty Python and was Extremely Disparaging and Offensive, a contemptuous term used to refer to a gay man. However, it can also be used to describe a sudden disappearance, as in, ‘once you’ve used it, poof—it’s gone’. Can we use it – can’t we use it? Too much for my poor old brain. And then there’s Gay. There was a wonderful book called Our Hearts Were Young Gay. written in the 1940s by Cornelia Otis Skinner about two girls in Paris in the 1920s. It’s going to a big disappointment to any unsuspecting young person who happens to pick it up in a second hand bookshop.
Anyway, we’ve got Christmas to get through. The human spirit is pretty amazing and we will make the best of it. Just try reading some wartime accounts of life in England in those far off days. We may be suffering – but at least most of us are doing it with central heating and no food rationing!

Happy Christmas!

What a bummer!

This is a different sort of post – hopefully it will make you smile but also maybe think a bit about the sort of medical things that I, for one, try not to think about!
The whole procedure was fairly unpleasant but worth doing whatever the result. As they say Knowledge is power.

20/10/20
At the moment it isn’t a pain in the arse, but it might become one. One of the joys of old age is that you get to play pooh sticks! The doctor tells you to poo on a stick and send it off. Usually it comes back saying there is nothing to worry about, but not this time. The doctor rings to tell me they have found blood. A bit surprising as I have had no symptoms. He tries to reassure me by saying that I am generally fit and well and that it is probably a polyp but nevertheless it scares me shitless (almost literally) because I have to have a colonoscopy. I Google bowel cancer immediately and am preparing for life with a colostomy bag as we speak. I think I’ll handle that better than death. On the plus side by daughter-in-law is on the Keto diet, but I have to say the ‘you’ve got to have a colonoscopy’ diet beats the hell out of that! My friend Dr Google tells me a change in bowel habits and losing weight are the main signs of bowel cancer – at the moment I’ve got both. Hopefully this will make a very funny story in years to come but at the moment I am waiting with bated breath whilst reading in the paper about the number of people dying during Covid 19 because they couldn’t get their cancer treatments! I veer between imagining being told ‘Whoops, sorry, we made a mistake and there is nothing wrong with you’ and ‘Whoops, sorry you have a very aggressive tumour, we can’t do anything, you had better go home and arrange your funeral. Obviously, I am hoping for something in the middle like the ever popular polyp.
22/10/20
It’s hard to find the humour in a situation when every day seems to bring some more horrors. I’ve got the grandchildren for half term so am trying to be jolly Granny and not whiny, bitch Granny. I sit in dread of them asking innocently while watching the ads on television, if I have a funeral plan. My landline has not been working so I imagine the hospital has been trying to contact me but failing. However, I get a letter this morning telling me to go for a Coved test next Thursday and then isolate until 2nd November when I have the ‘procedure’. A nurse is going to ring me on Monday to talk me through it. I believe I have to take something that will tie me to the loo for several hours. Can’t wait for that!
28/10/20
Covid test tomorrow which means I won’t be able to go out so that will give me plenty of time to worry and imagine all the terrible things that might be lurking in my future (not to mention my bowel) It some ways it is a bit like having a baby – for everyone who tells you it will be fine there is one who tells you scary stories of people who died a fortnight after the test or who had a heart attack the next day or having the most enormous inoperable tumour – my personal favourite.
29/10/20
Had the Covid test this morning – not as bad as I was anticipating. All done with great efficiency, a lot of hand washing and taking of temperatures. Re the colonoscopy the internet is a mine of information. I must be one of the few grandmothers left who hasn’t had a least one. I ‘m told that they pump you full of air to get a better view and that the recovery area afterwards is full of respectable women waiting to be discharged accompanied a concerto of farts resounding round the area like the scene in Blazing Saddles after the cowboys eat the bean stew. Looking forward to that!
01/11/20
Just had last meal – feel a bit like the condemned man – and now about to take the sachet. Am intending to retreat into the loo with my iPad and Kindle to try and take my mind off my bottom. Unkind friends have said that my thoughts seldom go much above my waist – maybe in my younger days and for quite a different reason. Today I suspect my thoughts will be lowered once more.
02/11/20
Phew!!!!! All’s well that ends well – I think. When I arrived the nurse asked what I was doing there. I told her that I had been asked to come in and as I’m quite an obedient person, here I was. She then me that at my age people are only asked to have a test if there is something wrong. I, attempting to lighten the moment, suggested that my GP’s surgery had obviously thought I was much younger than my age. ‘I don’t think that’s likely’ she said rather unnecessarily. Admittedly she wasn’t seeing my best side at that particular moment. During the procedure they found a couple of polyps but didn’t seem unduly worried, although they will send them off for a biopsy and as long as they are negative I don’t have to go back for three years – that’ll be something to look forward to in my even older age. It was both fascinating and painful. I complained that I didn’t get nearly enough pain relief or sedation – very unpleasant but quite interesting travelling down the bowel on a television screen. Nurses very kind and good. No gas pumped into me and therefore no Blazing Saddles moment afterwards – we were decorum itself and apart from my stomach making a lot of noises in the evening I’ve had no ill effects.

13/11/20
Well, Friday 13th wasn’t unlucky for me – happy postscript to all the above is a letter from the hospital to say they polyps are benign! They do want to see me again in three years – not unless they give me the good drugs next time! It wasn’t a pleasant experience but at the moment I feel as if I had lost a penny and found a fiver.

Go on, you’ll enjoy it!

Live and let Live has always been my motto.   Obviously if someone told me they were going to rob a bank I would probably try to dissuade them, I might even ring the police if I thought they were serious.   Although I suppose it would depend on how I was feeling about banks at the time.  Like most people of my generation I don’t like a sneak – as a child there was a constant cry of ‘Don’t tell tales’ when my brother and I complained about each other.   And I think something similar should apply to unsolicited advice!    But people love putting their oar in.   It can be so annoying.     I’ve got mirrors and a clever screen in my car that helps me reverse I don’t need somebody gesticulating wildly behind me when I am happily and safely negotiating my way out of a parking space.   Lovely to know they are there and that I could call upon them if required but unless I ask I think you can assume I’m fine.   Obviously if I was about to run over a small child or hit another car I would appreciate a heads up!  

But moving on from that, what is it about people always wanting you to do things you know you won’t enjoy?   Playing tennis for example – I never enjoyed playing tennis even when I was young, but that seldom stopped friends trying to persuade me however much I assured them that a) I have always been hopeless at tennis b) I wore glasses and they got steamed up if I ran around and c) I looked like shit in tennis clothes.   If you go to New Hampshire in the summer there are people running around in cute white tennis dresses with visors and Ralph Lauren sweaters draped over the shoulders – they are all size six and below, they have perfect teeth and long tanned limbs.   If I looked like that, I would never be off a tennis court.  

When I was a child reading during the hours of daylight, unless it was absolutely tipping it down,  was tantamount to a criminal offence.   We would be forced out for ‘a walk’ that was not only considered to be good for us, but we were always told ‘we’d enjoy it once we were out’.   It must have been deeply ingrained in me, because when I went to Australia and my son was six months old I used to take him out for a walk every day in his pram, and then leave him to sleep in the garden in his pram for his rest.   A concept completely alien to Australians.   My mother, sometimes prone to exaggeration and not the most maternal of women, claimed that I got frostbite on my cheeks as child because I was left in the garden in my pram in a snowstorm when she forgot about me!

Other activities that I have never participated in (despite many forcible suggestions) include going on a cruise and playing bridge.

‘You must go on a cruise, you’d love it’.   If I had a pound…..etc.   I know what would happen if I went on a cruise.   The first night I would get stuck into the bar with an incredibly jolly couple while all the other dreary passengers had an early night.   When I woke the next morning with a stonking hangover I would realise that I had managed to get extremely drunk and it would not take long for me to discover that the very jolly couple were in fact crashing bores.   Thereafter whenever I tried to go into the bar or restaurant they would be there waving madly and crying ‘We’ve saved you a seat’.   The whole cruise would be spent hiding, thus rather defeating the object of the exercise.

As for bridge.   I’m far too stupid, have no card sense, a terrible memory and my maths is rubbish.   I suspect that I would spend the entire time being shouted at or feeling completely useless.   It seems to take up a long time and, to my mind, ruins a good meal and conversation, although most of my friends would disagree. 

Sailing – there’s another thing.   I love going on a boat that has a large sundeck, a well stocked bar and is moored in the Aegean.   A small sailing boat in the English Channel skippered by a normally mild-mannered and peaceable man who suddenly starts screaming at me in a foreign language about aft and starboard and sheets and heads while I am trying to shelter from a howling gale, is not my idea of fun however much friends try to convince one otherwise. 

Television – ‘Have you seen The Crown?  You’d love it.’   I haven’t got time to see The Crown (and I’m quite confident that I wouldn’t love it) I’m far too busy watching ‘I Lived with a Killer’ and ‘Married to a Psychopath’ to watch such tittle tattle.   And as for Ikea!  Don’t get me started.  Why do people insist that I’d love it, it’s so amazing apparently that you can spend a whole day there.   Why would I want to spend a whole day in Ikea?  I’m sure it’s a wonderful shop and I’m told the meatballs are to die for, but I still think I’ll pass.  

Many years ago a girlfriend of mine gave me a list of things she had never done and these included going to a multi-storey car park, been in a lift on her own and gone for a walk after dark in the country.   These ‘non’ events were as a result of fear – she had a vivid imagination and lived with the constant dread of a mad axe man waiting amongst parked cars in order to leap out and murder her.   I used to think that she was being inordinately neurotic but it was her choice.   I don’t think I ever tried to get her to change her mind, on the other hand I am increasingly impatient with friends who appear to be unwilling or unable to do anything with a computer.   People who want to write me a cheque for instance instead of just transferring the money – but I realise that this is completely hypocritical!   Just as it is my choice not to go on a cruise it is their choice to continue to write cheques.   I think on balance I still believe in Live and Let Live, unless it is going to affect me!   In the meantime if there’s something I want to do, I’ll do it – trust me.  Otherwise, just leave me alone to be a grumpy old woman

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.