Sometimes I feel like an escapee from a home for the permanently bewildered.

Life becomes more and more of a mystery to me as the years go by – some days I can waste hours looking for the pen that I was writing with a minute ago and that has now, inexplicably, vanished or the loaf of bread that I bought yesterday is nowhere to be found!   And then on top of that I am left in a permanent state of confusion by practically every aspect of modern life.   I’m not a luddite – I can use a computer and I have apps to park my car and download train tickets – in fact I think I’m quite good on all of that but still there is scarcely a day goes past when I don’t read something that makes me think that, as PG Wodehouse would have said, it’s time I handed in my dinner pail.   There is just so much I don’t understand.   Take the Harry and Meghan – we can hardly avoid doing so at the moment – Rachel Johnson wrote that Meghan had a more exotic background than Harry.   I think that sounds glamorous and rather to be envied but apparently it is racist and she has now apologised for writing this and says she would never do such a thing again!   As for the speculation about the colour of their baby  I obviously don’t know the context but I can’t see why Harry and Meghan should be so offended by this.   Given the choice I imagine that most people would choose Meghan’s colouring over Harry’s!  It is only too easy to take offence – one of my favourite sayings is  ‘He who takes offence when no offence is intended is a fool’.   

When I was young and dinosaurs roamed the earth there were three classes of Englishman (and yes, if we’re going to be woke about it, this meant mankind and that was all encompassing and included women).   We had Upper Class, Middle Class and Working Class.    Social conversation was quite proscribed – you couldn’t discuss Politics, Religion, Money or Sex.   Men, presumably talked about cars, sport, travel, farming, or hunting, shooting and fishing (although maybe that was only in my life as a farmer’s daughter).   Women talked about children, fashion, cooking and gardening – known by my misogynistic family as ‘ribbon talk’.      I’m sure all the other subjects were discussed but behind closed doors and in those carefree days before the advent of social media most people kept their views to themselves and their nearest and dearest.    Today someone only has to have a passing thought before they post it somewhere and immediately someone else disagrees with them.     Many things are far better – we live in a much more fluid society.   All those years ago you were probably Protestant, although we did know a few Roman Catholics.  Today you can be anything from Pagan to Jedi Knight.  Living on a farm outside small market town I don’t remember there being any Jews in the neighbourhood as for anything more exotic we didn’t even have a Chinese or Indian restaurant.   As for black people – there weren’t any in rural England – the first time I actually spoke to someone with a black skin was when I was in my twenties.   I can’t believe that this would happen today.

Food was pretty limited as well – If you had asked for an avocado in the local town you would have been eyed with deep suspicion and no one would have known what you were talking about.  If you gave a party everyone just ate what was on offer or went hungry – there were no vegans, no lactose intolerant, gluten free, pescatarians.   It has to be said that we lived off a pretty boring diet. Presumably people did have food allergies but I never knew about them.    We didn’t have takeaways – Wimpey bars were the first to sell hamburgers in the UK and they opened in London in 1954 and I’m pretty sure they didn’t reach my neck of the woods for years.   Hamburgers were an exciting, foreign food.  

Our world was smaller with limited choices, but it was simpler.   There were men and there were women and not much in-between.   There were one or two famous cases of people changing sex, but this was headline news.   Today there is a mind numbing array of terms for sex and gender none of which I understand.   You were heterosexual or you kept quiet.  There were plenty same sex couples living together but it never occurred (to me at any rate) that they were anything other than friends.   This was just after the war and many women lost their chance to marry and most of us had a maiden aunt and if she decided to live with a same sex companion we took that at face value.   Today not only is everyone out and proud but they insist on telling you about their sexuality – they even ask on forms.   What possible interest can it be to anybody unless they want to have sex with you?  

Everybody on the BBC spoke with the same clipped and quite boring accent – but regional accents are very much the norm today.  Then it was the BBC way or the highway particularly as regards to pronunciation.   Who of my generation could forget Angela Ripon talking about Zimbawe.    I love regional accents – particularly northern ones and local dialect – round these parts a bumblebee is known as a dumbledore and at one point there was a fear of these dying out.   However, the pedant in me still finds ‘innit’, ‘like’ and ‘you know’ very irritating.

Fashion was quite prescribed too – women followed magazines that told them if skirts were up or down this season or if pink was the new navy.   Today anything goes.   My teenage granddaughter dresses really imaginatively and I am envious when I remember that I was forced into tweed skirts and scratchy Shetland wool jumpers.   I was only allowed to wear trousers for playing outside at home or jodhpurs for riding.   The freedom is lovely but it was difficult enough knowing what to wear then but somehow even more difficult when anything goes.

However I’m an optimist and I still believe that there are many things that are better today and unless we want to curl up and die we had better learn to live with them but I still found this headline confusing on so many levels – Trans Comedian Plays the Piano With Her Penis.

It’s a dog’s life.

Now that is becoming easier to choose your identity I would like to identify as a Labrador.    What’s not to like about that – plenty of love, nice warm bed, lots of exercise and most important of all masses of food – not just what’s given to you but whatever you can steal as well..   If you’re a doggy person, dogs are part of your family.   We dote on them and we are bereft when they die.   We also feel free to embarrass them by putting reindeer antlers on them  – viz the faces above full of patience and embarrassment.   They allow us to dress them up, carry them around in bags – not Labradors obviously but tiny little chihuahuas.    You can, if you so wish, buy your dog an extensive wardrobe.    In some ways dogs are better because they can’t object if you force them to wear a pink tutu – although I think you might be risking it with a Pitbull.    My son says that I treat dogs and children the same and expect the same results – I’m not sure that I actually command my grandchildren to ‘Sit’ on my word, but I do think there any many parallels.  In particular, too many (in my opinion) parents are frightened of disciplining both their dogs and their children in case they stop loving them.    I’m not suggesting that you more you beat them the more they’ll adore you, although dogs to have a tendency to love their masters however unkind they are.   Cats, who are arguably much more discriminating would just leave anyone who didn’t treat them with the respect they think they deserve, but dogs will wag their tails in what they imagine is an ingratiating manner when they suspect that you are cross with them. 

I think it was in Country Life magazine where they said that dogs are better than a partner because the later you come home the more excited they are to see you.   There are many other good things about your dog.  They never complain if you want to spend time with your friends.   They don’t care If you call them by the wrong name.   They don’t care if the house is untidy and they don’t mind if you don’t tell them you love them all the time. 

Dogs have no sense of anticipation – they don’t look forward to Christmas they just enjoy it when it arrives.   When they get old, smelly and incontinent and you have to make the awful decision to take them to the vet, they are blissfully unaware of what is about to happen unlike your old aunt who may also be old, smelly and incontinent but you can’t very well say ‘We thought we’d take you to the doctor on Thursday and have you put down’, although that solution might well suit everyone!

Dogs also have innate good taste (not necessarily about food – having just seen one of mine devour a cow pat) but regarding the people they like.   I remember a beater on a shoot some years ago being offered a well known brand of pasty.   He declined saying ‘My grandson gave me one of those recently, I tried it but it was so nasty that I gave it to the dog,.   He ate it but he had to lick his own a**e afterwards to take the taste away.

My dogs don’t watch television but if they did I’m quite certain they wouldn’t be watching Vardy v Rooney – what on earth is that about?   It wasn’t very interesting when it was actually happening I can’t think that it will be better now.  Dogs, on the other hand, will happily stare at a tree for hours after a squirrel has disappeared up it – but I can see the point in that.

Not everyone loves dogs but my life would be much emptier without my four legged friends.  

Here’s wishing everyone a Happy New Year and just to be going on with …..

What Goes Around Comes Around.

We took care of our children when they were young and needed us, but as soon as the table turns and we get old (at least in their eyes) they think we are incapable and want to interfere with our lives.   The is an ad on the radio where a man rings his mother ‘Hi Mum’ he says  ‘I don’t want to disturb your listening to  Simon and Garfunkel or whatever it is you’re listening to (bit patronising) but you ought to think about Equity release – you mustn’t worry about me, just take the money out and then you can do the things you want to do, like repair the car and visit Aunt Pat in Ireland’.   Poor old Mum must be living in a hovel if all the equity release from her house is going give her is a couple of thousand pounds.

As we get older our brains atrophy – well we don’t necessarily think they do but the younger generation do.   We obviously don’t know anything – particularly about babies – even though many of us have succeeded in raising our own children to adulthood we did it all wrong.   We put them to sleep on their front, their sides, their back – don’t we know how dangerous these positions are – they have to be hung up by their heels – that is the only safe way!   We ate cheese and liver while we were pregnant – didn’t we realise how dangerous that was?   And some of us drank!   How irresponsible we were.   We still think that we can drive and live in fear of our children confiscating our car keys.   Our children think our houses are unhygienic.   Is it because we aren’t obsessed with germs or that our failing eyesight doesn’t see the dirt!   My mother’s house was filthy from the smeary glasses and sticky surfaces to the balls of dust visible to me (though presumably not to her) under the sofa.   My house may not be pristine – I doubt that anyone other than a Labrador would want to eat off my kitchen floor but it is hardly Ptomaine Towers.   My digestion is fine but this may be because I regularly eat food that is past it’s sell by date.   After the family have been to stay I often have to delve into the bin to rescue perfectly good tins that have been discarded because they are a couple of years beyond their allotted time.  

Much of our knowledge is considered worthless – and probably rather boring – we are living history.    We remember when there weren’t any seat belts.   We’re not too worried (at least I’m not ) about having to turn down the heating after a childhood spent in a freezing house where I had to put on dressing gown and slippers over pyjamas to run down an icy passage to the bathroom where the floor was covered in cold unwelcoming lino.   We wore jumpers indoors in the winter.   The idea of wearing a t-shirt in the house during the cold months would have been unthinkable.

We supervised our children’s every move when we were conscientious parents, and now they want to supervise ours.   My son would like me to wear one of those alarms round my neck in case I ‘have a fall’.   I have tried to explain to him that only old people ‘have a fall’ – I ‘fall over’ – that is quite different.   I regularly go flat on my face while out with the dogs when I trip over a tree root or put my foot down a rabbit hole, but so far I have managed to get up and carry on without any serious injury to anything apart from my dignity.   I confess that I don’t exactly spring to my feet as I might have done once, but this doesn’t mean that I am ready for the emergency services to turn up in force whenever I stumble.   He has however put a tracker on my ‘phone, so presumably if I have a heart attack while out and about someone will be able to locate my lifeless body.   I see advertisements for wonderful ‘retirement’ complexes and I think that they must be quite nice for old people, but then I realise the I am old – probably a lot older than the people in the ads who are seen ‘enjoying a joke’ with a member of staff – and it must be lovely if you are lonely or infirm but the most important thing is to avoid either of those things.  

Many years ago on a skiing holiday we bumped into John, at a restaurant on the top of the mountain.   He was looking worried.   He told us that he had just finished lunch when he was approached by a fellow guest from his hotel who had asked if she could borrow £100.   John imagined that she didn’t have enough money on her to pay for lunch (this was in the days before everyone had credit cards) so he lent her the money.   She then explained that she had just had her 80th birthday and that she wanted to try para-gliding.   Her children had thrown up their hands in horror and ‘forbidden’ her from doing any such thing, so now that they had all gone off to ski she had decided to launch herself from the top of the mountain.   She had set off in tandem with an experienced instructor.   John spent an anxious few hours until the old lady turned up for dinner that night none the worse for wear.   I assumed he was worried that if anything had happened her family would have held him responsible but my husband thought he was probably much more worried that he might not get his money back!   Her family were simply furious with her – on the rather unreasonable grounds that she had returned safely.    I thought it was completely splendid of her and rather hope that I might have the courage to do the same.    Most of us remember certain seminal moments in our lives – where we were when JFK was shot or Diana. Princess of Wales died and for the young it will doubtless be where they were when the heard the news about our late Queen.   I remember vividly the first time an attractive man offered me his seat and I realised to my horror that he wasn’t flirting with me but doing it out of respect for my advanced years!!!   So what can we do about anno domini?   Not much except keep moving, keep using our brains and most important of all keep laughing.


Are you an Endangered Species?

Does anyone else feel as though they belong to an endangered species?   I certainly do.   For a start I am over 75 (I know, I can’t believe it either!) and whenever I read an article about fashion or make up they give tips for the teens, 20s, 30s, 40, 50s and 60s but after that I presume we are supposed to put a paper bag over our heads or else stay at home wearing a baggy tweed skirt and an ancient cardigan sucking on a Werthers Original (jolly nice too!).   Some of my contemporaries still use frosted blue eyeshadow – goodness knows where they find it, it wasn’t very flattering in its day and it does no favours to the crepey old eyelid and as for the much beloved (by every celeb) smoky eye – at my age it makes me look as though I haven’t slept for a month.   Here we go with the information– I have spent this month looking up fascinating facts on my friend Mr Google and I now know that approximately 10% of the population of the UK is over 75.

I lived in the countryside and when I was young we were a much more rural economy.   Agriculture employed thousands of people and they knew where their food came from and what went on in the countryside.   Now most farm buildings have been turned into holiday lets.   My family has some tents in the woods for glamping – and one punter recently asked my daughter-in-law if there were any dangerous animals in the woods.   She said, as though expecting to impress with her general knowledge, that she knew there were no tigers or lions, but how about bears?   I presume she was thinking of the old song:
 “If you go down in the woods today, you’d better not go alone
It’s lovely down in the woods today, but safer to stay at home
For every bear that ever there was
Will gather there for certain because
Today’s the day the teddy bears have their picnic”  

I think she may have missed a key word there!

I heard a couple of other things recently that made me despair about the level of knowledge regarding the countryside.  One was asking about chickens being pregnant and the other was someone thinking that potatoes grew on bushes!   Mark you my brother was, like me, a farmer’s child, and he once drew my father a picture of a duck with four legs.   When I was at school we didn’t have Sex Ed but we learnt about reproduction in rabbits.   My grandchildren know far more about the sex lives of humans than I did, or probably do even now, but I’m probably way ahead of them on rabbits..   I’m still confused by binary and non-binary – and please don’t try to explain – I think this should be on a need to know basis and, and I have no need, or indeed needs in that direction.  Approximately 17% of us live in rural areas.   I have no idea why I have started looking up all these percentages – I think it may have something to do with my addiction to Google.   As a child the encyclopaedia Britannica played a very important role in our lives.   We constantly looked things up but the whole world ran at a slower pace then and facts remained the same for years.   Roger Bannister broke the 4 minute mile and that record stayed in place for 46 days!!  So,Mr Google has proved that things did change even then, but I’m pretty sure it would have remained in the encyclopaedia until the next edition came out.

Food is another area where I am rapidly becoming a minority.   I don’t have any allergies or intolerances – unfortunately I can (and do!) eat everything, much to the despair of my doctor, who patiently explains to me that in order to lose weight I have to eat less – who knew!   I am (obviously) an omnivore in a world increasingly full of vegans, vegetarians, pescatarians and flexitarians.  These statistics are fun!    I have just found out that 44% of people have allergies and about another 10% have intolerances.   And on top of that 10% are vegetarian and 4% are vegans.   Not sure what difference all that makes to my assertion that I belong to a minority group.
On top of all of this, I was privately educated at boarding schools – which means that my parents paid a fortune for me to receive a cursory education – but I did learn how to address a duchess, to curtsey and how to answer an invitation – and to live under the most appalling conditions with one bath a week and inedible food!   That was privilege in those days – presumably it was meant to toughen us up and in that it was pretty successful.   My peers and I don’t whinge (much).  I’ve managed to live a more comfortable life since then but if I had been sent to prison for any reason in the years immediately after leaving school it would have been a piece of cake!   Just for fun let’s see how many of us had the advantages (using the word loosely) of a private school. Apparently it is just over 5%.   Needless to say, I was expelled from school for reasons that I don’t need to go into here!
Moving on to tattoos – something I don’t really understand.   I’m a great believer in freedom of choice and it appears that an awful lot of people are enamoured of tattoos but I can’t understand why.   I can imagine that a percentage will get them after a drunken night out when it seems like a terrific idea.   I’m getting addicted to these statistics and I’ve found out that 42% of women in this country have tattoos versus only 29% of men and that seems surprising), but there don’t seem to be any figures about regretting the inking.   
And finally, I live alone – something that only 14% of us do in this country.   It is surprisingly restful living by oneself.   If my husband was still alive it would be wonderful but nobody could be a substitute for him and even if I could find someone I’m fairly confident that they wouldn’t fancy living with me!!  

Bucket List anybody?

I’ve never had a bucket list – I can’t think that I am alone in having the unrealistic and unlikely belief that I, uniquely among the human race, am immortal.   If I had a strong faith I would presumably believe that I was going on to a better (or maybe worse) place, but whilst I’d like to think that, I’m not entirely convinced and in the meantime I can’t believe that that I’m going to leave this life, particularly not while it is so much fun.   But back to bucket lists.  As is my wont I spotted a ridiculous story in the press the other day about a terminally ill man who mooned a police speed camera because it was on his bucket list!   That struck me as being so sad – if he had wanted to moon a bus full of ladies on a WI outing who might have been a bit shocked, I could have, sort of, understood that, but a police speed camera.   And, of course the police who nowadays seem to be singularly lacking in a sense in humour went in like gang busters in large numbers and wrestled the wretched man to the ground and probably tasered him too for good measure. 

Why is it called a bucket list?  Presumably because it is made up of things you want to do before you kick the bucket. But it has made me think about it for the first time and consider what, if anything, might be on mine.  

One thing might be to finish A La Recherche du Temps Perdu by Marcel Proust,   I  have it on audiobook and I believe that the entire thing is over 70 hours worth of listening,   He is the most brilliant but also verbose writer, he never used one word if he could cram in a hundred. I listen while I’m taking the dogs for a walk and have managed about four hours so far!   I have done quite a few of the things I wanted to do such as had a book published, learnt another language, won a prize for the biggest marrow in a local pub show, watched humpback whales off the coast of Nantucket and I also started, and continued to write this blog!   Obviously, some things are now out of time like winning Wimbledon, which I have never wanted to do or winning the Nobel Prize for Literature which I might have dreamed about.  Others like sky diving or running for Parliament I have never fancied even if they might in theory still be possible.   An old friend of mine went up in a hot air balloon for her 90th birthday, hopefully if I reach that age I will be drinking a glass of champagne with my feet firmly on the ground not sitting toothless in a care home surrounded by family telling me I’m marvellous because I can still manage to suck on a bit of cake!  

But Marcel Proust aside, what else might be on my bucket list?   The trouble is things like staying healthy and not falling over (or indeed having a fall – there’s a subtle difference there.   Everyone falls over, but only the old ‘have a fall’!) are on going!   See my grandchildren grow up and be happy is certainly my greatest wish, but not something I can control.   If I leave them some money when I die (if you’re reading this don’t get your hopes up) it might make them happy but would hardly be a bucket list item as I won’t be there to see them raise a glass to me.  

So there it is, (Marcel Proust aside) an empty bucket list – although maybe I should get another Labrador puppy!!!

Mad dogs and Englishmen!  

Butter wouldn’t melt – but she has a suspiciously dirty face!

Doesn’t matter how depressed you are, a dog will always cheer you up – I have five black Labs – they are good natured, enthusiastic, loving and incredibly greedy and my youngest Incy is not just a glass half full dog, but a glass over-flowing dog!   At a trip to the Vet she’s ‘Oh goody, goody, the vet, I love the vet, there are other animals and smells and shelves of dog food and I get a biscuit – hooray, hooray.’   She is no master criminal,  when I get home she will come towards me wiggling and wriggling with a silly expression in her face that says ‘You’ll notice that the cheese is missing, it was me, but I couldn’t help it, I was hungry and I’m very, very, sorry!’    The older and wiser dogs remain lying on their beds – it may be that they have stolen the cheese and are the masterminds behind it all, but Incy is determined to bring the missing cheese to my attention.  However, sometimes there is no doubt who is to bame as in the incidents of the cornflour and the Frosties!

The Silly Season!   I know that’s supposed to be August, but this weather has definitely fried a few of my remaining brain cells so here goes with some even more random thoughts than normal!

Radio 4 becomes increasingly niche with its broadcasts – one could argue that 28sh Days Later – the story of menstruation applies to half the population but even though I am a woman, that ship sailed long ago and the few moments that I inadvertently heard the other day made me feel quite queasy.  It happens and we deal with it – I’m not interested in the details and if I was I could find out without having to hear all about it in the middle of the day on the radio.   My generation were just told to get on with it.  That’s considered a terrible thing today when we’re supposed to discuss the hell out of everything.

It is an ever more confusing world – girls think they should be allowed to go out in barely there clothes – skirts split to the crotch and plunging tops without fear of assault.   In an ideal world where all men were gentlemen, didn’t drink and had had most of their testosterone removed this might be the case, but in the real world just because you ought to be able to do something doesn’t mean you should.   Trains should run on time and they usually do – particularly in Switzerland, but sometimes we have to change plans when they are cancelled or late.   Of course, we ought to try and change things for the better but in the meantime, we have to deal with how things are and not how we’d like them to be.

As for MPs – perfectly OK by me if one wants to transition or change gender – that would be their choice and shouldn’t affect any ability to represent their constituents – in fact might be a help if someone can see both sides of the coin so to speak.   But not sure that fleeing the scene of a car accident shows the right qualities for a public servant but worse by far is that he was wearing high heels, pearls and a black leather mini skirt (I also saw it described as PVC – not sure which is worse) – presumably he was fleeing from the fashion police!

How did human beings survive without the constant bossy warnings we get bombarded with day by day – in this heatwave surely we can work out whether to put on sunscreen or to have a drink of water without being told to do so by some government appointed nanny.   Does every pond have to have a notice beside it saying ‘Deep Water’?

I thought this notice was particularly useful!  Just in case it wasn’t completely clear.

Because I always seem to manage to lower the tone of every conversation,  I had to include this story from the Mail online (I know, I know,  I shouldn’t read it – but I probably shouldn’t have had that glass of wine or that piece of cheese either)  It is becoming more and more like a cross between the late lamented News of the World with ‘Freddie Starr ate my Hamster’ type headlines and the National Enquirer featuring such uplifting stories as ‘Kourtney Kardashian’s hottest braless looks over the years’.   Anyway, as usual I have digressed – the headline said,  ‘British Man, 40, is found dead and woman seriously injured after erotic game went tragically wrong in luxury £350-a-night Florence hotel’.   Of course, we don’t know the full story yet, but Florence – the most magical city on earth with its wealth of art and museums, beautiful churches and squares – and you end up like that!   As so often I ask myself why?   I think I must have led a very sheltered life.


One of the joys of getting older is that we can become grumpier – of all Snow White’s companions of restricted growth we identify most with Grumpy. Being old is partially a state of mind.   We are aware that we’ll never win Wimbledon although some of us still believe we can still race our grandchildren across the lawn.     We don’t need to look back all the time. Much pleasure can be obtained by simply saying ‘No’.  you don’t have to do anything if you don’t want to do it you can just say No without trying to justify it. I do make an exception for dancing when I tell people that no one wants to see an old woman dancing – particularly if she is drunk as would probably be the case if I ventured onto the dance floor.  At a wedding the other day an extremely drunk young man kept asking me to dance. I suspect that all his peers had turned him down and he was working his way through the guests and I had to be quite firm to reject his persistence but the thought of us dancing and him falling and pulling me down with him presented me a horribly unedifying picture!
And one of the main things that makes me grumpy (or grumpier than usual) is cliché ridden journalism. Anyone over sixty who lives alone and can still drive a car is referred to as ‘fiercely independent’ – I have never said that about anyone, any more than I have called anyone a Toff – a word much beloved by the tabloids. Gossip columns used to be filled with euphemisms – probably not so much today but then one knew that Confirmed Bachelor = Homosexual. Vivacious = drunk. Glamorous = Tarty.  Party loving = Hooker.  Popular girl about town = Slapper. Don’t think they bother today but just come straight out with it.
But there is still a lot of lazy journalism about – not all redheads are feisty or fiery, nor indeed are all abs toned – in fact most of my friends have flabs rather than abs.
Luxury mansion – I have friends who live in big houses but I would never refer to them like that.
Some words are rarely spoken, and only seen in print. Spotted (as in seen enjoying a meal not actual spots as in Greater Spotted Woodpecker) Plucky. Steamy. Sporting – as in sporting an outfit, racy, stunning
“Spotted enjoying a steamy kiss plucky Chardonnay sports a racy, revealing outfit while her stunning companion flaunts his toned abs!”
Pop – as in the doctor asking you to ‘pop up onto the bed’ or ‘just pop your top of’ – My top has sometimes been in danger of popping off after a heavy meal but in real life I would take it off and then get up on to the bed!
In the case of the young emojis seem to have replaced language – the trouble is that jokes frequently misfire or fall flat in a text.  Apparently an upside down smiling face indicates irony – which in itself is quite ironic as (like most Americans) machines have no sense of irony. The best definition I ever heard of that is the story (probably apocryphal) attributed to Noel Coward when an American woman asked him to explain irony to her and he replied ‘If I said that I was pleased to meet you – that would be ironic’.
Other words that confuse me – mark you it doesn’t take much to confuse me – are trope and meme.  According to Dr Google there are hundreds of synonyms for Trope – including cliché, platitude, concept and stereotype – so I have no idea why we need Trope. As for Meme, much beloved by teenagers, I’m pretty sure that very few of them know the derivation of the word that is a unit of cultural information spread by imitation. The term meme (from the Greek mimema, meaning “imitated”). Language changes all the time and I quite like that – although it is sometimes quite difficult to keep up. If we were sent back into history we would probably have very little difficulty in understanding people from a hundred years ago but if we were fast forwarded 100 years we more than likely wouldn’t understand a word!
Words that we take for granted and understand today such as emoji, google, Instagram or trans, would have meant absolutely nothing to a previous generation and other words like gay, catfish and tablet no longer only mean happy, bottom feeding fish and something brought down from Mount Sinai by Moses. (just for clarification they are now homosexual/lesbian, tricking someone on the internet and a hand held computer.)
Phrases best avoided in novels include:
Also, she rolled her eyes across the room and, his breath came in short pants.   There are numerous others and although you usually know what the author means it is distracting!



Some people have hidden depths, but I think I have not very well disguised shallows.   I suffer from FTTTSD – Failure to take things seriously disorder.   I do try to concentrate on the more serious things in life but I am very easily distracted.   If I had been born seventy years later I would undoubtedly have been diagnosed with ADHD – I just consider it a butterfly mind, flitting from one trivial subject to another.   But today it has to be a ‘Disorder’ and then you will be subjected to counselling.   This is obviously very helpful in many cases, but there are so many people who claim to suffer from OCD because they go back to check that they have locked the front door.   I do that all the time but I don’t think of it as being anything other than being absent minded.   There are countless others:   I just Googled them –

AD: adjustment disorder. …

ASPD: antisocial personality disorder. …

ADD: attention deficit disorder. …

ADHD: attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. …

AvPD: avoidant personality disorder. …

BED: binge eating disorder. …

BDD: body dysmorphic disorder. …

BPD: borderline personality disorder……

And we’ve only got to ‘B’ – the list goes on and on.

When someone is trying to explain theory of relativity or the respective merits of the classic Scott Moncreiff translation of Proust as opposed to the later one by Christopher Prendergast and I am thoughtfully stroking my chin as though listening intently but more often than not I am surreptitiously feeling for any stray hairs on my chin.

Maastricht Treaty – no idea what that is about, but I can name all the Kardashian sisters , (I’m not proud of that but I can) not so much the children who have weird names like Thunder and Blizzard.   Poor little mites.   As for Elon Musk who has two children but someone called Grimes whose given names were Claire Elise Boucher – fairly innocuous and I can see if you wanted to be famous you might wish to change them, but to call your children Exa Dark Sideræl and X Æ A-Xii – you can at least pronounce the first one but the second one! No idea what sex it is but even if your father is the richest man in the world all but the creepiest most  sycophantic children are bound to tease you – it is almost a racing certainty that they will change it to John or Mary at some point in later life!

And to prove my point on the triviality of my brain here are some of the fascinating things that have popped into my mind recently after spending an evening sitting next to an erudite and highly respected intellectual who had absolutely no small talk (and obviously I have no ‘big’ talk).   I’m sure he was the most interesting man but he was so dry he made the Kalahari seem quite refreshing!

So in order of absolutely no importance:

Haloumi – why?   I used to nibble the erasers at the end of my pencils at school but I never thought of grilling them and making a meal out of them.

Coming Out – when I was young this was something young girls did in order to be exposed (not literally!) to suitable young men.   When an old friend of mine told a gay American that she had had a coming out dance he was very impressed that she was brave enough to do that in the l960s.

Wagatha – even I can’t raise any interest in that! – what was it about other than two very rich women with too much time on their hands.  

The Met Gala (Did you see any photos of that?)    Apparently it is known as “fashion’s biggest night out,” In reality a fancy dress  party for very rich grown ups.   As far as I could see it is the night when elegance bites the dust.

Complementary/Complimentary Therapy – I like the idea of a therapist who tells you you’re looking lovely.

Adenoids – when I was young children often had theirs removed – I had no idea why but I do know that nowadays half the people you hear on the radio should have had their removed to stop that irritating adenoidal whiny voice that I seem to hear far too often.

Underarm hair – I heard someone on the radio say that she had dyed hers green as some sort of protest against shaving it! I must have misheard or it is a joke and I am rapidly losing my sense of humour.

I’ve noticed how food keeps having new buzzwords.   There have been Drizzle, Coulis, Rocket,  Samphire, Kimchi and Star Anise to name but a few and it is the same with health,   Dyslexia was one of the early ones, PTSD and then maybe Asperger’s came next and at the moment it is the menopause and periods.   People can suffer terribly from all these things but inevitably they are trivialised when people say they are suffering from PTSD because their dog has died.   I adore my dogs and am heartbroken when one dies but to compare this to something that a soldier may have gone through in Afghanistan is just wrong.

But keeping the best until last I read the other day that an ‘Intimate health brand has launched uterus-shaped cereal to encourage period based conversations’ – they are actually dyed red with beetroot and are meant to encourage families to have these conversations over breakfast!  They even helpfully include conversation prompts in the box!   I so often think the world has gone mad but the lunatics really are running the asylum now.

Stop Global Whining!

We’ve always been a nation of moaners – nothing wrong with that – it’s good to ring up a friend and have a good moan, but whining is something else.   Moaning is cathartic, whining isn’t.   It doesn’t even sound nice.   People in romantic novels sometimes moan with pleasure (at least they did a hundred years ago when I still read them and didn’t flick through the pages of passion until they settled down to a vivid description of a greedy lunch), but nobody whines with pleasure (unless they do so in S & M literature – not a genre I’m familiar with.)

If I ring a friend and ask if she’s got five minutes because I want a moan it is usually something trivial like some old bat driving along in the middle of the road at 20 mph – not very serious but irritating.   But a whiner is different, it would turn the minor annoyance of the slow driver into a diatribe about how it had ruined her day and I’m writing usually ‘she’ here because most of the people I moan to (and let’s face it occasionally whine – nobody’s perfect) are women. We all know people who, when you ask them how they are, will say ‘I’ve broken my leg which is a real bore, but I’m really getting the hang of my crutches and I’m getting all of my shopping on line.’   As compared to those who say ‘I’ve got the most terrible cold – the heating in the cinema wasn’t working and I can’t stay in bed because I’ve got a delivery arriving, I’ll have to drag myself out of bed…..’   Whiners are very draining but you can often end a good moan by laughing at yourself.   A sense of perspective helps – you wouldn’t moan about an aching hip to someone who had just had a leg amputated, but that wouldn’t deflect the professional whiner.   We all know those Debbie Downers – those people who can always find something to complain about and can scarcely be bothered to ask you how things are going in your life.  

Complaining is something else again and can be quite an art form.   Messrs Sue, Grabbit and Runne must be doing really well in these litigious days where there is no such thing as an accident and something is always some else’s fault. I write quite a lot of brilliant letters of complaint, in my mind in the middle of the night when I can’t sleep.   Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) those flowery, literary phrases that seemed like pure inspiration at 3.30 in the morning turn out to be banal, trite and cliché ridden in the cold light of day.   Of course, the French have the best phrase – L’esprit de l’escalier.   It is so annoying as you drive away from a situation where someone has stolen your parking space, and the perfect riposte comes into your mind, but you can’t turn round and go back to announce ‘the smaller the dick, the bigger the car’ – or something equally pithy!!!  However, I do sometimes manage a good verbal complaint when in the heat of the moment.   My husband used to cringe with embarrassment as I let someone have it with both barrels!   I remember once when we had waited over an hour for our first course in a restaurant and a girl at the next table who was supposed to be having a birthday lunch with her parents was in tears because she had to go back to work without having eaten anything.   I finally managed to get hold of the manager who came up with the most ridiculous excuse saying they were very busy and I pointed out that if a restaurant wasn’t busy at lunchtime it wasn’t going to last very long.    I managed to get the birthday girl and her family a free lunch before we walked out and went somewhere else as I pointed out to the manager that would free up a table and they would be less busy!

We are so spoilt nowadays when we don’t have very much to complain about.   Heating bills are going up but most of us can turn down the thermostat and put on another jumper.   Shops sometimes run out of items we want but in this we never see rows or empty shelves.   We might have to wait for our new hip but at least we can probably get one eventually unlike our grandparents.   It’s great to have a good moan but there’s no need to whine and I’m not complaining!

The Good Old Days?

It’s a phrase you hear so often, particularly in my age group – The Good Old Days – things were so much better in the Old Days! But were they? Rose tinted hindsight can make us believe that everything about our youth was golden. Life was so much simpler then – in some ways it was, but not necessarily better. Not many children today would put up with school food as we knew it! My grandchildren get a choice! We ate what we were given or presumably we would have starved. I don’t remember a single child who was allergic to any food – certainly no one would have been allowed to be a vegetarian or Heaven forfend, a vegan. We wouldn’t have known what that was – the nearest we came to it was learning about herbivores in biology. Home food wasn’t much better – but at least the Brussel Sprouts weren’t actually put on before church although they were certainly on the mushy side and an avocado pear (as they were called) was unbelievably exotic. If you had asked for one in the local town you would have been eyed with deep suspicion. I remember when our farm manager’s daughter went to France on a school trip and her mother told me that she had a terrible time as she obviously couldn’t eat anything because there was garlic in everything!

If you were at boarding school, as I was, there would have been no point in complaining about anything. In the Good Old Days we didn’t have mobile phones to contact our parents and moan about how much we hated school. We were made to write home once a week and we believed, although I’m not sure this was ever substantiated, that our letters were read and censored. If children today tell their parents they’re unhappy the parents bend over backwards to rectify matters – when I was young we were just told to buck up. No one cared if children, particularly boys, were beaten at school. I remember my brother showing me, with pride, scars that he had acquired from a thrashing he has received for some small misdemeanour.
Medicine certainly wasn’t better when we were young. Penicillin only became available in 1945 and I remember when I got pneumonia I was treated with the sulphonamide M&B. It was given in an enormous pill the texture of chalk and it had to be ground up and mixed with jam before I could swallow it!!! You frequently saw children with their legs in callipers as the result of polio. The vaccination against measles was only invented in 1963 and before that we all got it and happily everyone I knew survived, but many didn’t. As for dentistry – it was very expensive and I do remember that the local blacksmith (who I was told had taken a correspondence course in dentistry) would pull a tooth for the price of a pint – I have a feeling that not many women availed themselves of this service. However, my dentist told me that in the 1920s fathers would take their daughters to have all their teeth pulled (presumably not by the local blacksmith) and have her fitted for some dentures as a present for her 21st birthday to make it easier for her to find a husband as she would never have toothache or the need to see a dentist!
Communication is a million times better today – we can be in touch with our family and friends. Parents can anxiously track their gap year children – although I’m sure there are many times when they’d prefer not to know that they are inside a club in Thailand at 4.00 am! A far cry from the stilted, expensive, three minute conversations we had every Christmas with my grandparents in Scotland.
And as for snobbery – Nanny, who was mainly responsible for bringing us up, was the most terrific snob and there was a long list of things that were beyond the pale! Being car sick was frightfully common! I’m not sure if I was horrible little snob or that I just have a naturally strong constitution, but I have never been car sick. Complaining about one’s feet was common! This could have been because we, as highly privileged children, used to be taken to the children’s shoe department of some large store where when we tried on shoes we stood on a platform with our feet under an x-ray and there were three viewing holes, one for the wearer, one for the salesman and one for the parent. We all looked earnestly at the picture of our toes wiggling about showing how much room for growth there was in the shoe. As far as I know none of my generation got cancer of the foot as a result of this, presumably highly dangerous, practice. However, it did mean that we always had well- fitting shoes.
Many prejudices have disappeared, after all homosexuality was illegal and as far as any black people – they simply didn’t come into my life in the English countryside. As for anyone being transgender or a transvestite – if they existed they suffered in silence. Although sometimes I wish that everyone was not so ‘out and proud’ today. All I require from my Member of Parliament is that he look after the interest of his constituents and I have no desire to know the details of his sex life. Who he does what to and with whom should, in my opinion, be his own affair.
So, of course there are things that were better when we were young but every generation thinks theirs was the best. My father felt so sorry for me being young in the Swinging Sixties as he compared it to his youth. As he put it, when he was young singers wanted to look like a prince and but in the Sixties young princes wanted to look like a pop star. Long haired oiks filled the society pages of the glossy magazines and he was appalled. His parents felt the same about their generation and were horrified to think that their children might have to grow up without any servants!!!
There is no point in bemoaning the past – the present is all we’ve got so we might as well enjoy it!