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

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

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

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

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

And this one – a bit surreal!

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

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

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

And finally, a topical one for Corona virus shortages:

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

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

You’re only young once, but you can be immature forever

 I started writing this in those distant days before the dreaded virus hit us!   Now that the first feelings of shell-shock and fear have dissipated somewhat and the human spirit is beginning to triumph in lots of small ways I thought that I would attempt to finish this and then moving forward try to find some humour in social distancing!   So here goes with the blog I started all those weeks ago.

I love my grandchildren, they are full of enthusiasm and energy and sometimes some of it rubs off.  At whatever age you are the urge to jump in a puddle should never go away.   And children’s jokes don’t change – bums and farts are always funny.   And seeing things through children’s eyes can bring back memories of a distant childhood.   But then…there are the things that make you feel  hundred years old.   The fact that happened ‘the other day’ in my mind turns out to be something that they are learning in history.   However, even to me it seems extraordinary that I was actually an adult when homosexuality was still punishable by a prison sentence.   As for language – the ‘N’ word was in common usage – you could go into any haberdashers and ask for a skein of wool in ‘N’ brown.   How weird is that? I get that a lot of things that happened in my lifetime are not being taught as history in school. So how did it happen?   How did I get this old?  I still feel just the same and am quite surprised that people don’t ask for my ID when I am buying a bottle of wine!   I know that I look like a very old lady to my grandchildren but apparently I look like a very old lady to everyone.   Grandchildren do keep you young in a sense, but when I text – using one finger and imagine that I am pretty modern – they snigger as they text using both their dexterous little thumbs.   And if I need to do anything with my phone – the smart one that is far smarter than I am – then the grandchildren can do in a nano second what takes me hours of Googling and searching You Tube to work out.  Same applies to my PC, my car and even household gadgets.   I have a vacuum cleaner that has an IQ higher than mine.  I like to think that I can still ski – I was never very proficient, but I do enjoy it and the mountains and it is wonderful to go to the mountains with all the family including the children who are very kind, but incredibly patronising, when they say ‘Well done Granny, you did really well there’, when I have negotiated a green run without falling over.

And to round off there are two things I read recently that reminded my how much time has passed since I was young.   The first was from Jeremy Paxman who said ‘I explained that once upon a time we used to write with ink and then pressed absorbent paper on to it to stop it smudging.   It was as if I was explaining Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle to my dog Derek’.   He was trying to buy blotting paper!

The second was that apparently nearly two thirds of Millennials can’t work out how an iron works!   So I suppose it is, as always, horses for courses.   And in these uncertain times we need to pool our skills and help each other.  Let us all try to stay safe and well and get the next generation to help us FaceTime, WhatsApp, Zoom – anything else we can do to say in touch and stop us being lonely.

Older and Wiser?

I‘d like to think old age does bring wisdom.   The Chinese have great respect for the elderly but in this country it is only too easy to become invisible and ignored with age.   I’m determined that won’t happen to me so this year I’m trying to learn new things.   To be precise – two new things.   First, I hope I have finally learnt is that the trick to losing weight is that there is no trick.     Losing money is easy – just buy diet books.  I’ve bought them all.   The Scarsdale diet, the Cabbage diet, the Atkins diet, the grapefruit diet…  I’ve taken pills and I’ve had injections.   In the sixties there was a diet ‘doctor’ – I use the word loosely – who injected you through your tights and gave pills that were reputed to contain tapeworm eggs.   Everyone went there – the waiting room was filled with film stars and models – all of whom claimed, when interviewed, that they owed their amazing figures to exercise and a sensible diet.   Of course, that is the way to lose weight – eat less and exercise more!  It’s not exactly rocket science.  So why is it that whenever I see an ad pop up on my computer for a new ‘miracle’ way to lose weight I have to click on it to see.   ‘Lose a 14 lbs in a fortnight’ – what’s not to like about that?   Lose £14 in a minute by buying this amazing diet book more like.   But hope springs eternal and all that.   ‘This is not a diet’ they proclaim maintaining that it is an entirely new method of losing weight all based on science.  I know all about the so called science in ads.   In a previous life I was a freelance copywriter for an advertising agency and I once wrote an extremely successful campaign for a (now defunct) skincare company – I don’t think that my campaign had anything to do with the death of the company.  This company was very old fashioned and they advertised their skin care products in The Lady.   My grandmother used their vanishing cream.   Not as I fervently wished as a child that it would make her vanish – she was a terrifying old bat, nor indeed did it make wrinkles vanish, it was called vanishing cream because it was supposed to be so light it vanished on the skin.   In any case I was asked to write a series of ads for this skin care range.  The amount I knew about the subject could have been written on a postage stamp but a few trips to the library (in those far off pre-Google days that was what we did) gave me plenty of facts about the dermis and the epidermis.   I wrote in glowing (and completely fictional terms) about the benefits of the different products.  The appeared below a moody photograph of a beautiful young woman.  The client loved them and so too did the customer.   Sadly anno domini overtook the customers as my grandmother’s generation died off.   The cod science remains but I think that today blatant lies are discouraged!  

The other important thing that I have learnt with age is the secret of packing.   My husband always thought it was highly amusing to ask just before we left the house when the pantechnicon was arriving or even more amusingly he would remind me that I had forgotten the kitchen sink from which you will gather that packing light has never been my forte.   But no longer – I am determined to take only essentials with me the next time I go abroad.   While it is good to be prepared for every eventuality, it has to be said that I have never been asked unexpectedly to go to a ball whilst on a week’s package holiday in a ski resort.   This time it will be a pair of jeans, a couple of T shirts, a pair of ski pants and three or four tops.   On the other hand I might just slip in a pair of stilettos just in case and perhaps a couple of cashmere jumpers – I’ve never yet stayed anywhere in the mountains where the central heating has failed, but there is always a first time.    And I’m sure there’ll be a corner in my case for that ball gown – after all you never know.

EMOJIS

Emojis – What’s the Emoji for ‘What the f*** does this mean?  If you Google emojis to try and find out what they are trying to say they give you helpful definitions such as ‘Grinning Face’, ‘Grinning Face with big eyes’, ‘Grinning face with smiling eyes’ and finally ’Beaming face with smiling eyes’  That is far too subtle for me.  I can manage ‘happy face’ and possibly ‘sarcastic smile’ but I’m not sure I do more degrees of smiling.   However, what I don’t want to do is send someone a wink by trying to be ‘cool’ and ‘down with the kids’ only to discover that it means ‘Do you fancy a shag?’ Particularly not if I send it to my accountant in that fleeting moment of smugness after I have filled in my tax return!

As for the rude ones!   Apparently two fried eggs don’t mean ‘Let’s do lunch’ but I’d like to see you naked – again a minefield for the old and innocent.   An aubergine doesn’t mean ’I was thinking of making Moussaka this evening’ – it is ‘emoji’ for a penis!  Why?   It’s been a while, but I don’t remember ever seeing one that looked like that!   I feel I have to look all these things up as I don’t want to inadvertently say something completely inappropriate – I am having a very interesting time!   I have just discovered that ‘raindrops’ are shorthand for masturbation.  I may not have much imagination, but I can think of no circumstances in which I would find the word or symbol for masturbation useful in a text.  But I suppose that is my age.   In fact I think that if might be safer just to go emojiless for the time being unless we invent some new ones for ‘I think I need a Zimmer frame’, ‘I’ve lost my hearing aids’ or  ‘I didn’t sleep a wink last night – did you?’   Maybe I could make my fortune by inventing a whole new glossary.  

FOMO vs JOMO

I only learnt what FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) meant a few years ago, but now there is the even better JOMO (Joy of Missing Out).   That wonderful feeling when you know you’ve got an evening in front of the fire with a good book and don’t have to go and have drinks with the neighbours.  Sadly I’ve become rather adept at lying – I’m too superstitious to use the excuse of being ill – that is sure to tempt fate and I’d probably succumb to some nasty lurgy immediately, but grandchildren are an excellent excuse – everyone gets brownie points for doing granny duty, and no one can guilt you out of that one!   It is lucky that our desires change as we get older – I longed for ringworm as a child, I thought it sounded quite glamorous.   I was a great animal lover and had newts, frogs and toads that I had caught in the wild and incarcerated in a large tank in the nursery.  Happily for them they were usually released by my father after a few days on the grounds that they wanted to go back and see their families!   I suppose I imagined that I might be able to make a pet of a cute little ringworm – no one explained me that the name was a misnomer and there were no worms involved only a fungus!   I also longed to be to be able to do cartwheels and to break and arm or leg so that I would have a plaster that my friends wold sign.   I did eventually manage to do cartwheels but I was in my fifties when I first broke my arm and was in plaster by which time the desire to have it covered in signatures had dissipated[SS1] .

Old age brings many tribulations but there are compensations and JOMO is definitely one of them.   I never went to Studio 54 in New York, in fact I never went to New York during the time it was there, but if I had been there I certainly wouldn’t have got in – I would never have been cool enough, but I would definitely have felt a pang of regret or envy.   A clear case of FOMO.   No longer.   I would happily relinquish any chance of going there – in fact I would pay good money not to have to go to a club, any club, that involved a lot of noise, crowded rooms and standing around.   There is a local venue called YOYO which is short for You’re Only Young Once – for which thank heaven.   Arguably our youth passes us by too quickly but being frozen in time would become increasingly weird as the years went by.   There are so many things to worry about for the young – I’m very glad that I didn’t waste money on plastic surgery when I was young – having a perfect body was more a wistful fantasy than something I was prepared to spend money on, although dieting did play a big part in my life.   As I once said to my late husband ‘I’d do anything to lose weight’, to which he retorted, rather unnecessarily, ‘Except eat less’!   FOMO indeed when I measured myself against my friends who all seemed to be effortlessly slim, but in that case my FOMO was for another potato or an extra slice of cake.

I went to a funeral recently and obviously one doesn’t suffer FOMO on those occasions, but I was giving a friend a lift and when we arrived for the wake cars were being directed into a field, however the man in charge waved me on towards the house.   Once we had driven past him my friend told me she was sure he meant us to go into another field.   ‘No’, I said, ’I think he thought we were very important’.   However I wasn’t completely convinced as no other cars were going directly to the house, although as soon as we had parked in the field we did see several other cars being directed down the drive.   When we left some time later I was, as frequently happens, hoist on my own petard.   It was not the VIPs who were being directed towards the house, but the halt, lame, elderly and infirm!  A bit of misplaced FOMO there.

However I am not completely immune from FOMO due to an incursble Amazon habit.   The other day my car wouldn’t start snd a friend produced this great portable pack with jump leads which you can use to start a vehicle comletely independently of another vehicle.   I had barely got into my house before I was on the computer ordering one for myself.   Another friend had this amazing heated jacket – I simply had to have one.   FOMO reared it’s ugly head with a vengeance – the desperate need in the afternoon for something that I hadn’t known I wanted that morning.


 [SS1]

Age Inappropriate

So, Christmas has come and gone – all jolly good fun and filled with family but it seems to put the rest of life on hold for at least a month.   If, heaven help you, a plumber or electrician is required, it will always have to be in the New Year.   Thank goodness for our computers and online shopping.   Amazon never sleeps and sometimes things seem to arrive almost before you’ve ordered them.   The disconcerting thing is the ads that pop up all the time.  I believe they are created by Algorithms.

 Algorithms are very clever things – I’m not quite sure I really understand them, but I think it is something to do with Big Brother learning all about us.   So, I imagine there is an algorithm that tells the big computer in the sky – The Cloud? – that I am an elderly widow.   Thus, ads pop up all over the place, suggesting that I pre-pay for my funeral.   (I have no intention of doing that – I’ll be dead, I don’t care what happens.  Obviously, I’d like to imagine my family prostrate with grief when I die and a church full of people sobbing their hearts out followed by a magnificent wake with champagne flowing like water as a large congregation vie with each other to tell witty anecdotes about me.   However, as I’m not going to be there it doesn’t really matter.   I will leave it to them to choose whether to use some of their inheritance on a fancy funeral or a trip to Mauritius – I think I know what I’d choose.   I’d like to think that my nearest and dearest would give me a reasonable send off and if I died next week quite a few people would probably want to come – if only to make sure that I was really dead – but if I hang on until I’m 90 then it will probably be a tiny affair with a handful of my contemporaries who are mobile enough and not completely gaga so that shouldn’t cost much – not more than a cup of tea in the village hall for five centenarians!)

But back to the Algorithms – there are Zimmer frames and mobility scooters – I’ve just paid for my skiing trip so I ‘m rather hoping I won’t need either of those for a while – however a good fall on the slopes might mean I’m in the market for both.   Sometimes in the morning if I’m feeling particularly stiff a walk-in bath does sound like a good option as I heave myself out of the water.   However, I feel that if might be the thin end of the wedge and that losing some weight would be a far better plan.   Also I’m not quite sure how they work – do you have to get in, sit down, close the side and then sit there getting cold while the bath fills up and then the reverse when you have finished.   I have to confess I haven’t researched this very thoroughly – I’m sure there will time for that in the years to come.   Talking of heaving myself out of the water I get constant pop up ads and emails about wonder diets/wonder pills to help me lose weight.   How do they know?  Do they check the size of the clothes I order online?  I quite like imagining that instead of some out of this world machine there are some algorithm elves, possibly those that have been let go from Santa’s workshop, who sit up in the Cloud making decisions about us all.   When they are feeling mischievous they might send information on a particularly depressing looking retirement home or perhaps worse they could put up some pretty clothes which turn out to be available only up to size 12.  Incontinence pads whilst undoubtedly very useful in their place would hardly be cheery things to pour over in that post Christmas gloom.   Certainly if there is any chance that your grandchildren might want to use your computer you need to check it thoroughly first unless you want them asking you if you can take your teeth out or are you using that special new Dentofix.  

Big Brother does seem to have a slightly better idea about us all now – at least something has worked out that not only can I not sustain an erection but without extensive, expensive and probably very painful surgery I’m not able to have an erection at all.   I wonder if I suddenly started ordering motorcycle helmets or scuba diving equipment would they change their minds about me and start putting in pop up ads for tattoo parlours or leather jackets.

I am not sure if it an algorithm that corrects my spelling or grammar.   Texting is a minefield as any slang or family word can be altered beyond all recognition and make texts unreadable and then for some reason a text will send itself in the middle of a word.  Part of the problem is that I don’t have tiny elf fingers.   I watch the grandchildren texting with their thumbs at lightning speed.   My thumbs sure far too big and arthritic.   I can, on the other hand, touch type at a pretty good speed, although spell check hasn’t helped that.   My very first job, back in the dark ages, was typing contracts In a solicitor’s office on a manual typewriter using carbon paper – if you don’t know what that is you can Google it!   There was no such thing as Tippex (you may have to Google that too) and any mistake had to be carefully scraped off the page with a razor blade – thinking about it I have no idea why more of us didn’t use them to slit our wrists.   It did however make us very accurate typists, a skill that took ages to learn and has now been surpassed by five year old children who are able to text long screeds in a matter of moments.   Shirley Conran famously said that Life was too short to Stuff a Mushroom now it seems that Life is too short to learn to Touch Type while in this new age of Vegetarian Rules it is about to be compulsory to Stuff a Mushroom.

I was thinking of buying a German Shepherd, but I didn’t want to learn another language just to have a dog.

Someone I know told me the other day that while on holiday in Spain he developed an ear infection after swimming.   He was recommended to go to an English speaking doctor in the resort.   When he went into his office he announced “I’m Mutt and Jeff” the doctor smiled politely and said ‘Good morning Mr Geoff.’  Presumably he thought he was a holidaying sheep farmer – Mutton Geoff.   If we know that someone speaks English there is a temptation to imagine that they understand every idiom and slang expression of our ever changing language.   I have known elderly foreigners with impeccable English who interlace their conversation with expressions such as ‘it’s the cat’s pyjamas’ or ‘top hole’ and the ever popular ‘bottoms up’ when sharing a drink because they learnt their English from childhood visits and the books of P G Wodehouse.

It is a generalisation  but we Brits are not known for our linguistic skills.   English is usually the lingua franca and we expect that other people will understand us.   There are three methods of being understood by foreigners who don’t speak English, the first is to shout loudly, the second is to put in foreign words regardless of the country you are in.   My grandfather who spent time in India because of the family business, spoke a little Hindi – it was the only language other than English that he spoke, so that when in France, he tried to communicate with people he would try shouting first but if that failed he would try Hindi on the grounds that both Hindi and French were foreign languages.  The third method is to add an ‘o’ to English words to make then sound a bit more foreign or to make up words.  I once went shopping with an old family friend who assured me he spoke Spanish.   I was somewhat astonished when he confidently asked the shopkeeper for ‘un packetio of conflakios per favore’.    The shopkeeper was obviously used to this because he didn’t turn a hair but handed over a packet of cereal.   My mother was an intelligent and quite a well travelled woman but she always referred to the pre-Euro Spanish currency as Piasters instead of Pesetas.   An old cousin had a house in Spain and when her god-children came to stay she used to ask the cook to make them gateau for tea.  The cook, who unsurprisingly didn’t speak French, did her best and the children were given stew for tea every day until it was eventually discovered that she thought she was being asked to give them gato which is the Spanish word for cat.   She was buying rabbit in the market every day as she was unable to find suitable cats for these strange English people.

There was a book published by a war correspondent in the 1990s called ‘Has Anyone Here Been Raped and Speaks English?’ about his time in South East Asia.   A pretty cynical title, but the thought behind it was that it was more likely to find an English speaking victim than to find a reporter who spoke the local language.   However things are changing, young people today travel and hopefully have an interest in other languages   I was delighted and surprised to hear a party of school children asking a policeman in the local town for directions and to hear him answering them in fluent French.  

The most memorable days usually end with the dirtiest clothes.

“Babbling Brook Meadows?”

Dirty, smelly, noisy – no, these are not the three dwarves that Snow White rejected but adjectives that describe the countryside.   I am a farmer’s daughter and I played in mud as a child and I live with mud as an adult.   I’m used to mud and noise and smells.   I know that some people like you to take off your shoes before you go into their house, but I would discourage anyone who tried to remove their footwear in order to come into my house – their feet would get extremely grubby if they walked barefoot on my floor.  

The countryside attracts all sorts of people from those who listen to the Archers and rent a beautifully appointed cottage for a fortnight in July and then move out of town fondly imagining that winter in the countryside will be all cosy log fires and mulled wine in local pubs,   And the other sort who buy some land and are going to get down and dirty as hobby farmers.   But one thing that is easy to forget is that the countryside is not a theme park.   So many people move here with a fantasy in mind of a rural idyll.   The rented cottage will have been renovated to the highest standards and it will doubtless have the ubiquitous wood burner for the odd chilly night and probably a neatly stacked pile of logs outside the back door.   The roof will not leak nor will the windows let in draughts.    This is summer.   It might rain but if you don’t actually live there you can stay indoors with a good book or Netflix.   There will be meadows with cows and sheep in them.   If they’re lucky they might see a fox, or a badger or a deer and think how charming they are.   Once the newcomers have bought their own property it will very different.   They may not find the wild life nearly so charming when they dig holes in the lawn or defecate on the back step.   They will discover why country dwellers say that wood warms you three times.   First when you chop down the three, second when you stack the wood and finally when you burn it.    

A family moved into our village some years ago and then complained indignantly it was very noisy.  They had moved from a peaceful tree lined suburb where every blade of grass was apparently manicured by hand and they had not been expecting to be woken up by agricultural vehicles driving noisily past their door at 6.00 am.  

Then there is nature red in tooth and claw.    You cannot escape it – country roads are littered with corpses.   Roadkill is everywhere.   And much livestock is bred to be eaten.   Some ‘townie’ friends of mine were very startled when, whilst staying on a farm they asked the farmers’ five-year-old child if the piglets had names and the blonde haired, blue eyed moppet told them they were called Sausage and Bacon.   And it you decide to keep chickens there is the fox to contend with – nothing is more depressing than going out in the morning and discovering piles of feathers but not a chicken in sight.   It happens to everyone who keeps chickens, often because they haven’t been shut up, but the fox is an opportunist and will take advantage of every tiny breach in the fence.   And at night the noises of the foxes’ sex life are blood curdling.   It sounds as though a child is being tortured and horribly murdered.   Sparrow hawks will swoop on to the bird table and snatch a small songbird from under your eyes.   After slugs have decimated your garden you too will feel like murder.  

The weather will play a much bigger part in your life – gales that bring branches down and block roads.  Piles of wet leaves that lie in wait treacherous and slippery.   Water in the road covering potholes that have been the ruin of many a tyre.   And if it’s not too wet, there’s a drought and all those immaculately planted hanging baskets will wither and die.

The pace of life in the country is different too – people don’t go into a shop just to buy something they go for and exchange of news.   It can be very frustrating for the newcomer who just wants to buy a pork chop or a pound of sausages (yes, we still use pounds) to have to wait for a seemingly interminable conversation about Mrs Brown’s cousin’s son’s hernia operation or the rumoured closure of a local road.   Obviously the weather will have to be discussed too – if it’s sunny it’s bound to rain later, if it is raining there will be debate as to whether is it set in for the day or if it might clear up before the end of the day.

The hobby farmers get all of that as they valiantly try to tackle the mud.   They’d like to plough the fields and scatter but often the weather defeats them.   They harvest miserable, slug infested sprouts with chilblain covered fingers in the dead of winter.   They dig up carrots that seem satisfactorily heavy until the mud has been washed off and there remains a pathetic, deformed root which when peeled will leave a mere couple of mouthfuls.   They will take their chickens to the vet when they are looking a little peaky.   Old country folk wring their necks not to be cruel but practical.   Sick chickens sometimes get better but they usually die whether they go to the vet or not.

But the worst thing you can do is to imagine that you can change the countryside.   Don’t ty to make it cleaner, tidier, quieter or get rid of all the mud.   Far better to cut your losses and head back to town.  

You don’t stop laughing when you grown old, you grow old when you stop laughing.

They say that 70 is the new 50 and certainly my grandmother was an old lady at 70 and spent most of her time reading or knitting.   The most exercise she took was a short walk, probably leaning on the arm of her daughter.   I know people in their 80s (and in one case 90s) who still play tennis, but 75 is still old.   I am reminded of this when things that happened (in my opinion) quite recently are history to other people.  I had a flat in Chelsea in the 1960s and I must have led a very pure life because I can remember most of it.   And my memories go back much further than that.  

Communication was so different.   People wrote to each other (letters, actual letters) not exactly with a quill pen, but certainly a fountain pen.   The telephone was used very sparingly.  At home there was a telephone in the farm office for use by my father and his secretary.  There was one other ‘phone in a box off the hall.   We were allowed to use that – sparingly – there was no dial, you picked up the receiver and waited for the operator to ask you what number you wanted.   If you didn’t know the number she would look it up for you.   She was a mine of information.   If, for example, I wanted to ring the cinema and she might say ‘Oh, there’s not point in ringing now I’ve just seen the manager going to lunch.’   And if you wanted to find out the time of the film or what was showing that night she would usually be able to tell you – together with a critique of the film.  

My grandmother lived in Scotland and in about August we would book a ‘trunk’ call to her for Christmas Day.   On Christmas morning we would all sit around the telephone expectantly waiting for the call to come through.   Then we had a fascinating three minutes with each of us wishing each other a Happy Christmas, asking what the weather was like and how we all were.   Then the operator would chip in and ask if my father wanted to pay for another three minutes.  He never did so we hung up having established the fact that we were all hoping for a Happy Christmas, the weather was the weather and everyone was in reasonable health.  

If my father came back to earth he would be completely mystified by the fact that every single person walking along the street was looking at a small rectangular object, sometimes chatting at the same time.   I find it very useful as I talk to myself all the time and I fondly imagine, probably erroneously, that people walking past me imagine that I am on my mobile, although they almost certainly think I’m a dotty old bag.

We got a television when I was nine – it was a tremendous affair.  A large piece of dark furniture with doors that pend to reveal a screen about the size of a book.   Once this was turned on there was a wait for the set to ‘warm up’.    We were allowed to watch Children’s Hour and then the set was turned off and the doors closed until my father was ready to watch the news later.   I’m pretty sure that my father imagined that watching for any length of time would wear it out.   As I remember it there was only one channel to start with and everything closed down at about 11.00 pm.   All the same it was pretty exciting.   We had to wait to see or hear the next episode of a serial, unlike the instant gratification of today.

And then shopping – sweets loomed large in our life.   We would  bicycle down to the local town when we got our pocket money to visit the sweet shop.   This was the only place you could buy sweets.   There were no supermarkets and at the garage someone came out and filled the car up – there was no shop attached.   Once we were old enough to go to the town on our own we would take our haul of sherbert dips and gobstoppers to the Rec.   Sometimes we would even buy a bottle of Tizer, much disapproved of at home, as for some reason it was considered common, although for some obscure reason Lucozade was deemed to have medicinal properties and we were allowed that when we were ill.

When I look back it was another more innocent world where swigging illicit Tizer was a major sin.    My godson was amazed to hear that we had bicycles when I was young -I think’ I heard him say to my son, ‘that it was probably a Pennyfarthing’.   I’m quite proud to be living history.  

If you really want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.

Do you think that God sits up on a cloud and looks down on the world in despair?   He must have some way of relieving his stress and I don’t imagine that he wiles away the hours playing celestial solitaire.   I think he amuses himself by playing tricks on us.  

In every place I have ever worked there has been a golden rule – you never say the ‘Q’ word.   But someone always does.   Everyone is relaxed and calm, discussing the new boy in the mail room’s appalling body odour or looking at videos of cats on You Tube and then some idiot says ‘Quiet today isn’t it?’    Wham – chaos breaks out.   ‘Phones ring off the hook, people arrive with an urgent problem, the fire alarm goes off.   It’s just the same on the road.   My husband was neurotic about travelling and traffic jams – he would rather go to Essex via Birmingham than spend twenty minutes stationary in a jam.   But I couldn’t help myself as we went sailing along at 70 miles an hour (or knowing him considerably faster)  happy in the knowledge that we were going to arrive in plenty of time and then I would open my big mouth “Roads are lovely and clear today’. I’d say and within minutes we would hit a ten-mile tailback.  

As for appearance – that is a minefield.   I‘m sure that one of God’s cheeriest  moments must have been the variation on the spinach on the teeth when he allowed me to leave the Ladies in a very swanky restaurant feeling full of confidence.   There I was with a handsome, rich date and I could see that I was really turning heads as I crossed the room to my table.   People were smiling as they looked at me, I fondly imagined that they were envying my poise and sophistication.   It was only when I sat down that the smug glow evaporated when I realised that I had a tail of loo paper attached to my knickers that had been trailing behind me as I crossed the floor.    

I have often admired ski trousers in brilliant white but have never considered buying one for myself – apart from anything else I would be worried that with the size of my bottom small children might try to ski down me under the impression that my butt was a nursery slope.   But I know that with my luck it is far more likely is that on getting ona chair lift first thing in the morning I would fail to notice a small frozen piece of chocolate.   Of course, after I’d sat on the chocolate it would not longer be frozen but would be melted and stuck to the seat of my pristine white trousers!   I’ve actually seen this happen to a woman who was on the lift in front of me.   The initial sense of schadenfreude gave way to a quandry.   If this had happened to me would I have wanted to be told or not?   There would very little one could do at the top of a mountain and a miserable day would follow as I tried to manoeuvre my backside away from everyone, and I would imagine people pointing and laughing and to be fair it wouldn’t only be in my imagination, they probably would be sniggering even if they refrained from pointing.   On the other hand it would be terrible to arrive back into the chalet or hotel for the evening and to discover this brown patch on the back of my trousers and not know for how long it had been there.  

Dogs, our faithful companions, are great levellers and always ready to teach you humility.  Many years ago I was asked to stay with a boyfriend’s parents.   I was very keen to impress them despite the fact that they didn’t like dogs.   At that time I had a black Labrador called Meg.   I assured the boyfriend that Meg was impeccably behaved and had never put a foot wrong in her entire life.   Somehow he persuaded his parents that Meg was not as other dogs and I was allowed to take her to their house.   At first all went well.   Meg lay quietly by my side all evening, but then came time for bed.   I was told that Meg would be sleeping in the garage.   She went in quite happily so I thought that all would be well.   I was just falling asleep when the howling started.   I couldn’t bear it so I crept downstairs and got her out of the garage to take her upstairs.   She went crazy and skittered all along the polished wooden floor to my bedroom.   I didn’t notice the damage her claws had done until the morning when my boyfriend’s father handed me a tin of polish and I was sent upstairs to repair the damage.   Meg came with me a sat quietly by my side while I worked.   After breakfast my boyfriend’s mother went upstairs to get her handbag ready for church.   Shouts of outrage came from upstairs – she had stepped into a revenge turd that Meg had deposited outside her bedroom!   The was a certain froideur in the party as we set off for church leaving Meg in the kitchen.   I had obviously been unnerved by the way the weekend was turning out as I knew only too well that it is never safe to leave a Labrador in a kitchen with food.   It has recently been discovered that Labradors have part of their DNA (which I share) that makes it impossible for them to resist food.   When we got back from church the chicken that had been on the side waiting to go into the oven had disappeared.   Despite my protestations that Meg would never had done anything like that lunch – a couple of slices of cold ham – was eaten in a frosty silence, only broken when Meg was violently sick and brought up the bouquet garni that had been in the chicken.   I never saw the boyfriend again.