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.

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!