ActorLaddie creeps the car down the side streets; I’m on navigation. The snow is a good six inches deep already and still falling. Not yet icy, though, thank goodness.
They’ll have gritted the main roads, we agree. And in the sidestreets, our only company are the foxes. Snow in the moonlight – exquisite.
It being a Tuesday, ActorLaddie and I have collected from school my niece’s children, Chantenay and Nantes. We are now picking strawberries and raspberries for our tea: the garden’s been rather neglected this year but the berries just did their own thing and we’ve ended up with plenty. Which is cool and groovy as Pa joins us for a meal on Tuesdays and he’s a good eater.
In the kitchen, we wash and strain the berries, then virtuously put the water on the sweet peas.
“Now we need to hull the strawberries,” I say. “That means, take the green bits off the ends. Some people cut them off with knives and some use their thumbs and sort of dig them out.”
Chantenay quietly goes to the kitchen cupboard where we keep the drinks, roots around in the back and reappears with an old plastic straw. She pushes it into the pointy end of the strawberry and it appears out the top with the green stalk neatly strawed up.
“That’s brilliant!” I say. “How did you know how to do that?”
Chantenay shrugs nonchalantly. “I saw it on YouTube.”
So that’s me told.
As I’m handing her this month’s bag of audiobooks, Miss Briar says “your hair looks lovely.”
I’m a little surprised as, running late this morning, which I was, for my mobile library round, what with feeding my sister’s cats, I’d roughly scraped back my hair (which, incidentally, needs both a wash and a cut) into an elastic band and pegged it out of the way.
I realise that sounds as if, had I not been running late, I’d be sporting some magnificent up-do. I wouldn’t. My hair would look the same but described a little more succinctly.Continue reading →
“The thing is,” says Pa, “every now and then, Sainsbury’s have an offer on chocolate oranges. Three for the price of two, that sort of thing. So…” He waves a hand in the general direction of the bed and shrugs.
The bed in the box-room at Ma and Pa’s house is stacked with an assortment of what I guess supermarkets would call ‘stocking fillers’. Post-it notes, socks, sherbert lemons, scented candles, tins of gin, chocolate raisins, pens, home-made Ma-malade and chocolate oranges. Many, many chocolate oranges. All the chocolate oranges, in fact.
ActorLaddie’s nephew, Alan-in-Australia, when he phoned to give his condolences, mentioned that he’d had a fancy for a chocolate orange the other day but none were to be found anywhere in Sydney. That’s how many chocolate oranges are in the box-room.Continue reading →
“And then this old bloke said, ‘I’m gonna call 999! If you don’t come and help me now, I’m gonna call 999.’ And the nurse – well, I think it was a nurse – one of the staff, anyway – told him he couldn’t call 999 from an A&E department. What did he think was going to happen? An ambulance crew is not going to come and treat him in A&E.”
“What was wrong with him?” I ask.
“Something to do with his leg, I think,” says ActorLaddie. “He had a sort of boot thing on it. Anyway, he then kind of grabbed at a passing doctor and said ‘I’ve been waiting for hours – why can’t you look at my leg?’ And the doctor stopped for a second, looked at the chap and said ‘because I have a patient who is dying.’ That shut him up for a bit.
“I wanted to say to him, be grateful that you are waiting in a wonderful hospital with amazing staff and resources none of which are going to charge you a penny. But I didn’t have the energy. I did think it, though, really, really loudly.”Continue reading →
Please don’t be shocked but, despite my alias, I’m not actually a fully-trained super-villain.
Nevertheless, I do have some advice for Mr Blofeld and the apparent myriad of optically-challenged hench-people currently battling James Bond in local picture houses.
Mate, change your ophthalmologist.Continue reading →
“Mrs Bantry was dreaming. Her sweet peas had just taken a First at the flower show. The vicar, dressed in cassock and surplice, was giving out the prizes in church. His wife wandered past, dressed in a bathing-suit, but as is the blessed habit of dreams this fact did not arouse the disapproval of the parish in the way it would assuredly have done in real life…
“Mrs Bantry was enjoying her dream a good deal. She usually did enjoy those early-morning dreams that were terminated by the arrival of early-morning tea. Somewhere in her inner consciousness was an awareness of the usual early-morning noises of the household. The rattle of the curtain-rings on the stairs as the housemaid drew them, the noises of the second housemaid’s dustpan and brush in the passage outside. In the distance the heavy noise of the front-door bolt being drawn back.
“Another day was beginning. In the meantime she must extract as much pleasure as possible from the flower show – for already its dream-like quality was becoming apparent…” (The Body in the Library)
So much like the early mornings in Jelly Towers, give or take the odd housemaid.Continue reading →
LovelyYoungColleague – like so many of my teacher friends – has had the year from Hell. Planning every night into the wee small hours: lessons for children who may or may not be in the classroom; may or may not have caught last week’s topic introduction; may have access to internet at home but, given the extreme poverty of the catchment, probably haven’t.Continue reading →
Dedicated with thanks to Matt, Claire and Lorraine
It being a really busy road – well, you know what Cockfosters is like at the best of times and today it’s pouring down – we were lucky to find a parking space so easily. “If you take her straight into the vets, I’ll sort out the parking meter,” I say.
So ActorLaddie sets off with Willow in the cat-carrier – heck, that’s seen better days. The carrier, that is, not Willow, who has been remarkably trouble-free in her sixteen years. So far.
The parking meter takes me a wee while to figure out. You have to feed it with these metal disk things called coins; they have a certain novelty value but I don’t see them catching on. Ticket in car, check. Car locked, check. Mask on, check. And off to the vets.
“I’m with the chap who has just come in with a cat,” I tell the receptionist.
“No-one’s come in with a cat,” she says to me. “We’re expecting Willow but no-one’s come in.” I go back out, look up and down the parade of shops but there’s no sign of a cat in a carrier with an elderly actor that’s seen better days. There is a sign for another vets down at the far end of the parade of shops. Could he have headed down there, by mistake? I ring his mobile and, eventually …
“Willow’s escaped from the carrier,” gasps ActorLaddie. “She went under a stationary lorry, run across the Cockfosters Road and down some side street. We’re trying to find her.”Continue reading →
I’m bored of Parkinson’s. Let’s talk about something else.
Perhaps she was disorientated by being on the first floor. They hadn’t been long in the rented accommodation where Harriet Neate was now living with her son Harry, his wife Millie and their children Violet (nearly eight) and Arthur (a toddler). For most of her life, she’d lived in the ground floor accommodation attached to the Beer Shop which was the family business. Perhaps she’d got up in the night and lost track of where she was. For whatever reason, in April 1934, at the age of seventy four, Harriet fell down the stairs and died. The timing could hardly have been worse.Continue reading →