So here we are – as I predicted in Blog 52 – in “Flaming June” and I have to say that it is pretty nice down here, on the South coast today – although storm and tempest is forecast for tomorrow.  I ought to be making the best of this, and should be splashing about (illegally) in the outdoor pool at the local hotel, as is my wont.  But I have started doing this now and by the time I finish it the tempest will be making its appearance, no doubt.

I was, however, up betimes this morning, and have been relishing today’s beauty since 0800 hours by the 24-hour clock (you can tell I worked for the BBC…).  This early start may surprise regular readers who know I rarely shuffle into the kitchen to make my morning tea before 1000.  Let me explain.

Those of us who are elderly and infirm, such as your blogger, rely heavily on their Home Entertainment Systems (the telly, to you) for diversion and relaxation, and when such Entertainment Systems start displaying messages like “There is a fault – go to SKY.COM/FIX to correct this”  their blood-presssure tends to rise (see Blog No.52).

Apart from the fact that my computer is in my office and my television in my sitting room so any instructions received via the computer would mean my rushing into the sitting room to perform them, my keyboard skills do not extend to correcting a television systems fault, not being a trained engineer with a PHd. in computer sciences.  Which is why, last Sunday evening, found me burrowing into the plastic folder of instructions and information relating to my Sky contract, for the Customer Services telephone number.  Which I rang, waiting patiently for a robotic voice to answer and request I tell it clearly the reason for my call.  “My Sky box is malfunctioning” seemed to cover it.  “Your Sky-Box is malfunctioning?  Is that correct?  Please say Yes or No clearly”.  “YES!”  “You can correct this problem easily by going to Skydotcomforwardslashfix.  Is there anything else I can help you with today?”  “YES – I AM INCAPABLE OF MANAGING THIS.  I AM BLOODY-WELL EIGHTY-TWO AND….”  “Thank you for calling Sky.” CLICK.  Further rise in Blood-Pressure.

An alternative Customer Services number eventually produced a human-being who took me through a few manoeuvres using the remote control and then pronounced my Sky Box in need of replacement – an ex-Sky-Box – a Sky-Box that is no more and Gone To See Its Maker (why is this making me think of parrots??).  They would be sending out an undertaker to remove the corpse and replace it with a living Sky-Box.

Which they did this morning, and the appointed time was – ?  Yes.  8.00.a.m.  And as I had noticed that the digital function of my TV system was also telling me it had No Signal the engineer kindly looked into this problem also, found a connection had been broken – and so repaired it.  (Search For The Guilty: Who Broke The Connection?  I fear the finger of suspicion points at my cleaner, Keef, using the hoover a bit too enthusiastically round the back of the set.)

Where was I?  Yes – with a knackered Home Entertainment System which now is back to normal  Hooray.  “Coronation Street” here I come.

Which brings me to POLYMYALGIA.  I promised to reveal the results of my latest blood-test to you in respect of this disorder, and can only say that the phials of the red stuff that I produced for their inspection have been greeted by No Response whatsoever.  The tests were done 12 days ago and I suspect No News Is Good News.  Apart from that, the pain and discomfort I had been putting up with has eased somewhat, although it is still there.  It is probably that odd condition called, by doctors, “Anno Domini”.

SUBTITLE CORNER;  “The weather stained ripe for most of us but it is Chile today, with mysterious conditions moving yeast….”  In other news it would appear that “Caroline Blue-Tits is stepping down as Leader of the Green Party…”

Now to –


…..since this item is the main focus of this month’s Blog, being “OUR  JOURNEY TO THE WESTERN HIGHLANDS AND THE HEBRIDES” in celebration of Jude’s birthday.

Suffice it to say that this holiday nearly turned out to be The Holiday you need A Holiday to get over (have you had one of those then, Missus?).  Mainly this was due to the travel involved, although the flight to Edinburgh was uneventful and punctual enough.  Sadly things went downhill from there – the walk, wheeling an overloaded luggage-trolley, to the “Car Hire Centre” took them 15 minutes and when they arrived there they found a queue of NINETY people waiting at the Hertz counter – no priority provision for those who had pre-booked cars as Jude et Jim had done.  One-hour-and-thirty minutes later they took possession of  a nice Vauxhall something-or-other which was fine and dandy, although with rather a small boot for the amount of luggage it had to take (well – they didn’t know what to pack, did they?)

Because Jim (a Scot) wanted Jude to see the wonderful countryside between Edinburgh and their destination of Gairloch, in the Western Highlands, the long drive necessitated a halfway stop – and because the most popular weeks for holidays in the Scottish Highlands are the last two in May (BEFORE THE MIDGES, YOU SEE..) Jim had experienced some difficulties finding accommodation, settling for the HOTEL ONICH on Loch Onich.  Which it was.  Well, the back part was on Loch Onich – the front was on the Trunk Road from Edinburgh to Inverness, with Iceland, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda all busily hurrying their goods along in huge container lorries past the entrance.  And could anybody help them with their large amount of luggage (see previous para)? Er – in a word – no.  And when they had wrestled their cases up the (spiral) staircase to their room they were overjoyed to find that it faced the Trunk Road and not the Loch.  Quelle surprise!

Jim chose curry for dinner – why on earth go to Scotland for curry?  This got sent back in double-quick time and was replaced by salmon – which Jude had also chosen, and which was in fact quite delicious.  But the sleepless night which followed as the commerce of the United Kingdom carried on its business past their bedroom windows was far-from delicious.  Sleep-deprived and exhausted they continued their journey the next day through beautiful scenery which they were too knackered to notice.

It can only get better from here, don’t you think?  And it did.  Eventually – but not until they had arrived at their Hotel in Gairloch, where Jim had upgraded their room from “Double” to “Family” – in order to get more space – where they found that they had simply pushed a third bed into an ordinary Double so there was no room to get round.  There were six hangers in the (single) wardrobe, a bedside table and a dressing table – each containing three small drawers – and here were two people, staying a week.  With a lot of luggage (see previous paras.)  Switching on the telly demonstrated that the surrounding mountains were interfering with the signal, and the towel-rail in the bathroom was broken.

Enough already – as they say.  The smiling and charming staff at the Gairloch Hotel sorted the drawers (an extra small chest was provided) another two-dozen hangers appeared, someone fixed the telly so that it worked and someone else fixed the towel rail so that it heated up.  The view across the loch from the funiture-filled room was to die for, the bed was comfortable, and the food was delicious – featuring quite a lot of haggis – but Jude is fond of haggis.  What was not to like?

So they settled in happily enough – and saw sights and scenery which took their breath away – the Western Highlands of Scotland are majestic, stunning and unforgettable.  And it is not just the scenery – it is the awesome silence of it all.  There is a God.  Well, there is when confronted by such natural glories as seen by Jude et Jim.

They visited Blair Castle (nothing to do with Tone) at the foot of the Cairngorms, in the heart of the Atholl Estate of farmland, forestry, rivers, lochs and hills “full of natural beauty – and some of the best views across Highland Perthshire ” – it says here in the Brochure.  The Castle was a small mediaeval manor house, which grew into a fine Georgian Mansion and finally became a Victorian Castle in baronial style.  And it is a treasure-house, stuffed with beautiful things,  fascinating antiques and furniture, paintings, china, embroidery, Jacobite relics – period costumes – all reflecting its fascinating history.  The gardens are wonderful but Jude et Jim must confess they were too exhausted by the tour of the house itself to view them – but it was obvious they were worth a visit – had it not been imperative to have a cup of tea and a sit-down before driving back 40 miles to Gairloch.

And they visited Skye (on Jude’s ‘bucket-list’ because of its association with Bonnie Prince Charlie) and concluded the Young Pretender would no longer recognise it for motor-bikes and Visitors’ Centres – and as for “Speed bonnie boat like a bird on the wing – over the sea to Skye..” there isn’t even a Passenger-Ferry.  No.  It is a bally road-bridge (stuffed with motor-bikes….)  The lunch menu in the Visitors’  Centre offered “Jacket Potatoes Stuffed with Macaroni Cheese” – (at least these were not Deep Fried).

By the way, other gastronomic delights encountered in Highland Scotland were “Haggis-Stuffed Mushrooms” (not tried) and “”Local garlic-fried Wild Mushrooms on Home-Made Granary Toast, Topped With a Poached Duck’s Egg” – absolutely wonderful.  “Lobster & Chips” was also on offer somewhere (not tried but probably also wonderful…)

Jude’s birthday was celebrated by a visit to Inverewe Gardens, just north of Gairloch and dinner in a local Inn, where the waiting staff  tried to feed them in the Bar – alarm and confusion arising when it was pointed out that the reservation was for dinner in the Dining Room. Jim sent his scallops back and Jude can’t even remember what she ate.  But it was a Good Day.

Which cannot be said about the day of their return trip, when cancellations due to electric storms meant they spent six hours in Inverness airport waiting to get airborne – followed by an agonising hour at Gatwick hoping for their extensive luggage (see earlier paras) to arrive on a carousel which seemed to be no longer in service.  Jim was dispatched by Jude, after a half-hour wait, during which the belt moved not at all, to find out what was happening.  Unfortunately he then became trapped on the wrong side of the plate-glass door into Customs – unable to return because of alarmed doors and heavy Duty Security Men who grappled him to the ground as he attempted to force entry into Baggage Return.  Jude was left forlorn, as the carousel lurched into sudden life, unable to rescue aforementioned baggage due to size and weight of bags (qv) – but she was rescued by a kind Asian family who heaved the bags onto her trolley and held her hand on the journey into Customs to be reunited with Jim, who was, by this time, frothing a the mouth and ready to punch the Airport staff.

What can one say?  A lovely break – shame about the travel….. But Jude et Jim are definitely going back to those wonderful places and those slightly muddled but warm-hearted people again next year –  because Jude et Jim are devils for punishment.

And guess what Jude took away as a memento of her Scottish visit?  A Haggis.  Yes.  Got it squeezed into one of the (many) suitcases.

FOOTNOTE;  Jude took her Blood Pressure after all that stress – although she had been on some new medication from her excellent doctor for a month – to find it at 130. RESULT!

TIPS FOR OVER-SEVENTY-YEAR-OLDS;  To lower your Blood Pressure squeeze three beds into one small room and eat haggis.



It is the month of Blogging – When merry folks are jogging..”   Actually, no, got that a bit wrong.  But it is indeed the Merry Month of May when the hawthorn hangs heavy on the branch. the sun peeps shyly from the clouds…. and I realise another bleeding birthday is on the way.  Yes.  My Eighty-Twoth.  Lucky still to be here, innit?  And as I am celebrating this event in the Highlands of Scotland next week it seemed appropriate to get posting before I go – as when I get back, it will be Flaming June.  And where has May’s Blog got to, people will ask.  Possibly.

So here we go again.  And, as I recall I left everybody with a cliff-hanger concerning POLYMYALGIA last time – promising to keep my anxious readership informed of developments.

My early morning Blood-Test with Chelsea (born in Paddington, remember?) resulted in frantic telephone calls from the Surgery informing me that “inflammation levels were too high”.  I could have told them that because of the aches and pains in every muscle described in Blog No.51.  This was followed by a conversation with my GP and another prescription for the dreaded NAPROXEN (which led to the acid-reflux last time.)  The aches and pains were somewhat reduced by this course of treatment and then returned a week later.  In the meantime, I decided to take my Blood-Pressure with my little home monitor, which the GP requests I do annually at each birthday.  After hunting for the machine, finding all the batteries flat, turning out two drawers to find where I had put replacement batteries, fitting them into the gizmo and pressing START I was gobsmacked to find a reading of 190.  OMG – I am dying.  No – sit down, calm down dear, (it’s only a commercial) – take a break and do it again.  Reading now 162.  After another 20 minutes of calming down the lowest reading I could achieve was 158.  Not Good Enough for someone already on Blood Pressure medication.  (Are you still with me?  Do keep up…)  After one more conversation with the GP I was prescribed another little pill to take daily – I asked the Doctor if it was going to give me dementia and he said “there is no causal link established between this drug and dementia – but it might cause your ankles to swell..”  Nice.  As I picked it up, the pharmacist passed the package over to me saying “A word of advice my dear.  When you take the first one of these, make sure you are sitting down.”

Have now taken two weeks’ worth – no adverse effects yet.  Except my loving and supportive Jim keeps murmuring “Can’t stand women with fat ankles..”  Bastard.

And now the doctor has ordered another blood-test because I keep moaning about the aches and wotsits.  To be carried out when I get back from the Highlands and Islands.


“SAVE TIME – PAY-AT-THE-PUMP”  Now, there’s a thought.

“INSERT NECTAR CARD”    Ah.  Nectar Card in bag in car.  Run to car, open door, scrabble in bag – find Nectar Card. Run to pump once more.  Put card into slot.  “PLEASE INSERT NECTAR CARD CORRECTLY.” Remove card and turn it round.  Re-insert. “PLEASE INSERT NECTAR CARD CORRECTLY”.  Remove card and turn it over.  Re-insert.  “PLEASE INSERT NECTAR CARD CORRECTLY”.  Peer at minute diagram of how card should be inserted.  Cannot see it.  Return to car, open door, scrabble in bag for glasses.  Run to pump once more.  Peer at diagram with glasses on and insert card.  “PLEASE INSERT PAYMENT CARD”.  Find card I use for petrol purchases and insert.  “CARD REFUSED”.  WTF is going on here?  Remove card and return to car for an alternative card. Return with alternative card.  Drop alternative card into puddle at base of petrol pump.  Bend to retrieve and trail fringe of attractive poncho am wearing in puddle.  Scrabble for card which evades grasp. ….  Finally stand up, wet card in hand, poncho dripping and insert card.  “BEGIN FILLING”.  Pump hose just too short to reach.  Pull, and heave.  Hose reaches but is stretched so tight filling procedure keeps stopping automatically.  TANNOY; “WOULD THE CUSTOMER AT PUMP FIVE BURBLEBURBLE SOMETHING-OR-OTHER…..”.  Glance upwards and see sign “Pump 5” above me.  Finish filling, bung cap back, climb into car and make speedy getaway.

Now you know how to save time when you fill up at Sainsbury’s.  Wonderful, isn’t it?  Or is it me?

So – the Scottish Highlands beckon – the flights there and back are booked, the hotel is booked, the transport to and from airports is booked, the self-drive car is booked.  All is ready.  Except it isn’t because I have no idea what to pack.  I know what to pack for our holiday in Majorca in September – but what do you pack for Scotland in mid-May?  And is the dress-code for dinner a kilt and a twinset-and-pearls, or palazzo pants and a pashmina?  Will it be warm?  Will it be cold?  Will it be wet???  A frantic dash to M. & S. produced a variety of mid-weight tops and an unwearable couple of T-Shirts  –  and an even more panic-stricken forage round Sainsbury’s “TU” section was only slightly more useful.    Plus a check of what I already have in my wardrobe and chest-of-drawers reveals that I have a good variety of jumpers and “layering” items already.  And “layering” will be the order of the day.  And if the bally dress-code for the evening is skirt and blouse, then, tough, as I have some palazzo pants and a maxi-skirt which are going to get an airing.  So there.

Jim has been making lists of Things To Take and Things To Do for two weeks now.  And I haven’t even started so list-making begins tonight.  Sometimes I wonder if holidays are worth the stress….

SUBTITLE CORNER;   “A bloody bad start to the day will lead to a few shovels developing over the south-east with missed fox clearing in the west.  There is weak whether from Teheran which you can see further north…”    You would think that someone could work out sets of likely words for the weather forecast.  It’s the weather, for goodness sake.  We aren’t expecting “shovels” – we’re expecting “showers” and “mist” and “fog” – and how did “Teheran” get in on the act, instead of “a weak weather-front around..”?  A chance for some bright programmer to redesign the subtitling system here, I think.


Jude et Jim have resumed their picture-going habits and can report on two excellent pieces of cinema – “FUNNY COW” and “THERE IS NOTHING LIKE A DAME” – both seen at a small, privately-owned cinema in a town 15 miles away.  Apart from being a lovely venue the Picture-House boasts its own restaurant, just across the road, so this outing is beginning to be a regular.

“FUNNY COW” – stars MAXINE PEAK in a “tour-de-force performance as a female stand-up comedian in the 70’s and ’80’s,, trying to make her way in the culture of the Northern Working Men’s Clubs – and you don’t know whether to laugh or cry.  But from her rough and gruesome upbringing she finds material that earns her the soubriquet “Funny Cow”, and even some degree of fame.  TONY PITTS plays her husband and violent soul-mate “BOB”, while PADDY CONSIDINE” is her middle-class intellectual lover “ANGUS”. (In the end she breaks up with Angus because he never hits her, never shouts at her and never abuses her and the only way she can believe she is loved is through such behaviour.  It is what she is “used to”.)  There is a wonderful performance from ALAN ARMSTRONG as “LENNY” a worn-out, ageing stand-up comic who sees her talent and gives her a small amount of help, mostly in the form of ironic discouragement – watches her take his place on the billings and hangs himself from a lavatory-chain in the toilet at the back of one of the clubs.  As I say – you don’t know whether to laugh or cry.  But it’s worth deciding to do both.  Jude et Jim mostly laughed.

The Director is ADRIAN SHERGOLD; Camera TONY SLATER-LING and the Writer is TONY PITTS.

“NOTHING LIKE A DAME” is a documentary, made, it said at the end, by BBC FILMS, so good on dear old Auntie – she can still pull it off.

What can one say?  This is simple, “fly-on-the-wall” stuff, covering a jolly social gathering of four theatrical Dames and National Treasures;  DAME JUDY DENCH, DAME EILEEN ATKINSON; DAME JOAN PLOWRIGHT and DAME MAGGIE SMITH.  The point is that these ladies are so rich and funny in their conversation, memories and anecdotes that Jude et Jim would willingly have spent twice the time with them.  And it took Jude back to the days when, after the filming, the cast and the production team would all sit in the bar talking and laughing and laughing.  One can say many things about actors but on the whole they are amazingly good value socially.  The conversation between these old friends is interspersed with film of their early days and their youthful performances.  The whole thing is a joy, but not likely to be shown at your local Multiplex, so you would have to seek it out.

The Director is ROGER MITCHELL and the camerawork is by EBERT BOLTER.

And after that feast Jude et Jim dashed across the road for another feast in the Restaurant.

TIPS FOR OVER-SEVENTY-YEAR-OLDS;  Always pay for your petrol at the kiosk – it will save you time and keep your blood-pressure down.




















What is it with the NHS?  No, I don’t mean the under-staffing and the under-funding with which our poor health professionals struggle.  I mean the time-lines.

To me, morning starts around 0900 hours (you can tell I worked for the BBC, can’t you? Not just from the 24-hour clock but from the late start…) Yes – 9 o’clock is the right time to get out of bed, stagger into the kitchen, make a cuppa and spread my low-sugar marmalade on my low-carbohydrate Ryvita – flop on the sofa and watch “VICTORIA DERBYSHIRE” in my dressing gown, until the Weather Forecast (1000 hours).

Why, therefore, when I request  simple blood-test appointment at my local surgery do they suggest “7.30 a.m.?”  “7.45?” “..what about 8.10.?”  Are they mad? Don’t they realise that I don’t open my eyes and scratch my tummy until morning (i.e., 0900 hours)?

Well – so be it.  I managed to get an appointment at 0855, which they suggested (grudgingly, I thought).  And the whole process only takes two minutes!  You should just be able to “drop in” when you fancy for it.  (OK – I’m not serious – well, only slightly.)

And why, I hear you ask, am I having a blood-test anyway?  I know how much you like reading about my indispositions and how disappointed you must have been lately with no Acid-Reflux or Sciatica to report in these postings – so I decided to bring you Something Completely Different.  POLYMYALGIA.  Heard of it?  No, I thought not. Not unless you have been unlucky enough to suffer from it or been close to someone who did.

My valued osteopath (see previous Blogs) suggested I do some stair-walking to improve my “core-strength” which I started doing, but which, sadly, provoked severe muscle pain in my calves, buttocks and back of thighs; plus tops of arms (holding the stair-rail).  Despite Helen’s best efforts this has not eased at all and I have turned into a really stiff old bird, who cannot stoop to put on her tights or pick up stuff from the floor without screaming.  So the last time I went to her for treatment the word “Polymyalgia” was murmured, together with the information that a simple blood-test can demonstrate whether you have it or not.  When my GP opined that a blood-test “would do no harm” (i.e., go and have it done) I got on with it.  So, this morning, I responded to my 7.30.alarm call, got showered and dressed and tottered semi-conscious down to Primary-Health-Care-Centre-Land where a nice lady called Chelsea stuck a needle in my arm and got a syringe- full of the red stuff.  Disappointingly, when I asked her if she was born in Chelsea she said she was born in Paddington.  I suppose she couldn’t be given that name as it was already taken by a Peruvian bear.

I have googled Polymyalgia and apparently it is “eminently treatable”, makes no difference to your life-expectancy and sometimes spontaneously recovers without treatment anyway.  The bad news is that, in 10% of sufferers, the condition can develop into something which affects your arteries (“arteritis” for e.g., which is inflammation of the arteries in your head and gives you headaches and dizzy spells).  However, this data means that 90% of people just get better, so I hope I am one of those people and not one of the other people. As you would.  Or maybe I don’t have it at all.  The Surgery told me “no news is good news” which is code for “we can’t be bothered to tell you the result unless it is positive and you need further consultations”.  Hey-ho.  Worry not –  you, Dear Readers, will be Informed in due course.

Apart from my health concerns there are also concerns about my kitchen-lights to report.  When I moved here I spent quite a lot of money on having a new kitchen installed.  The existing one was 1970’s vintage, extremely small and rather apologetic about itself.  Nothing could be done regarding its size, but, with clever planning, we achieved loads more storage-space, a better lay-out and a bright modern look which was real “eye-candy”.  However, looks are not everything.  Beneath my smart new cupboards are a row of lights, intended to illuminate the shining work-surface below.  But one of them has given up the ghost.  A simple bulb-replacement, you might think.  Yes – but the the light is installed at such an angle that an ordinary person (Jim, if you want to know) cannot possibly remove and replace the bulb.  An expert is required.  Forward Mr.Don Foster, Electician Extraordinaire, who has already had a starring role in these bulletins.  After much struggling it was agreed the best solution was to REMOVE the light entirely and REPLACE it with a new one.  A matching replacement light was sourced, and fitted last week.  Let There Be Light!  But there wasn’t.  Well, not from the newly-fitted light anyway.  It would appear that it is the transformer which is at fault, which reposes (of course) behind the kitchen cupboards, requiring their complete removal for access.  Bummer.  Don and I have agreed the whole light fitting run had better be replaced.  So much for new, Designer Kitchens, eh?

Then there is The Car.  To trade in and buy new, or not to trade-in and buy new?  That is the Question.The engine is fine – but the bodywork leaves a certain amount to be desired.  £800’s worth, to be honest.  And it is now seven years old, although there are only 33,000 miles on the clock.  On the other hand, they have (after about 15 years) remodelled the Micra and its looks are to die for.  Trading mine in (“previous owner one careless lady driver”) is tempting.  Financially stupid – but tempting.  And, like Oscar Wilde, I can resist anything except temptation.  My garage will be getting automatic models of the new, sexy Micra in September  (your correspondent is too physically lazy to change gears these days) so we shall see whether I yield or not in due course.


Last month’s coverage of the BBC Weather Forecast efforts at subtitling caused so much amusement that I thought I would add it as a regular feature.  Here is this month’s effort

Red-bricks of rain for the Saudi’s this dirty – and he lent under.  Mist and Burke for the north with Snow-Lion until next Cheeseday.”

I bet the Snow Lion was a bit of fun – hopefully playful and not too fierce.  I believe “he lent under” to be “hail and thunder” and “Dirty” to be Thursday.  I leave you to work out which day of the week is “Cheeseday” and who the Saudis are.


Jude et Jim spent a jolly Easter together, in spite of the dreary weather those of us in the Saudis experienced.    Jude received a host of golden daffodils from Jim’s garden in a huge bunch together with a little gold-wrapped choccy rabbit with a bell round its neck and Jim received one of the finest plain chocolate Easter Eggs that Waitrose could produce.

They did nothing ‘cultural’ (yet again – they are waiting for the local Multiplex to stop showing kids-on-holiday-stuff) but Jude produced a rather delicious Tagine of Lamb (Lamb being historically and religiously linked with Easter – though Tagine less-so), which they consumed with a delightful bottle of white wine (a gift from a friend – yes, they do have some…) and followed by meringue-nests filled with raspberries-and-cream. This feast was rounded off by coffee and the head and ears of the milk-chocolate rabbit.  What was not to like?

TIPS FOR OVER-SEVENTY-YEAR-OLDS;   “Jude’s  Law” has now proved that the difficulty a person experiences in stooping is in direct proportion to the number of times that person drops things on the floor – therefore IMPROVE YOUR GRASP (or “Get a Grip”). Alternatively, try not to develop POLYMYALGIA.









There is a God!  Some of you may be lucky enough never to have had doubts on this matter – in which case I am envious of you!  I, however, have frequently doubted the existence of the Supreme Being – and certainly I have had doubts as to whether this Being, should It exist, has any interest in me and my small life.  Why would It?

Anyway, you may remember my unhappy experience with ORIENTAL RUGS (see Blog No.49) and my inability to order what I wanted due to the ineptitude of the Company selling them.   You may not realise how deeply disappointed I was about the failure of this transaction – but as my Bank Statement yesterday showed that my money had been restored to me by said inept Company (so they are not crooks, at least), I decided to have another go.  Lo and behold!  The site leapt onto my screen, with my chosen rug full-frontal and in big close-up – with a button saying “Buy Now” next to it, and, even better, the price was further reduced by another £100. So I clicked “Buy Now” and obligingly the screen asked me to fill in name, address and payment method – all the stuff you would expect.  The only problem was that it did not like, or trust, my Barclay’s Debit Card (known and honoured by thousands of outlets around the world – well, around East Sussex anyway).  Nothing would persuade it to allow me to buy the rug using that card, so I burrowed into my handbag and found another.  This one, they liked.  So it all went through and I have an e-mail from the Inept Company congratulating me on my purchase!  Result.  Thank you God.

And truly, He has taken pity on your unfortunate blogger – because last week I undertook quite a safari to a branch of J.Lewis Esq. (who had assured me, on the telephone, that they stocked Oriental Rugs) in search of this item.  When I arrived, after a journey of an-hour-and-three-quarters through a typhoon, I discovered that I had been misinformed and they stocked only modern, European-design rugs.  Where do they get these daft young men from, who answer your telephone call and make a total mess of everything?  (Yes, it was a young man who spoke for J.Lewis, just as it was a young man who garbled my address when I contacted the Inept Oriental Rug Company in the first place….)  So, yes –  God owed me one I think.

He has also been more than generous in respect of my bedroom slippers.  OK, you don’t know about them, but I attempted to order a pair of (Price Reduced) bedroom slippers from a catalogue via the electric telephone to be told they did not have my size in the colour I wanted (Plum, since you ask) but could offer me Tan only.  So I said no to the Tan, which, in truth, looked more like orange in the picture and who wants orange bedroom slippers?  Orange slippers are for Wilhelmina-No-Mates, don’t you agree?  So they said “sorry” and I  said “sorry” and put the phone down and thought that was the end of the matter.  A month passed during which time I searched for an alternative since the slippers I was then wearing were falling to pieces when, yesterday, I received a shoe-box-shaped parcel, which I opened (as you do) to find one pair of PLUM-COLOURED bedroom slippers in my size, with a note saying “Thank you for your Order” and charged at an even-lower price than the one advertised. And I am wearing them now and they are sooooo comfortable – my feet feel truly pampered.

We can add to that piece of good fortune the fact that Auntie Beeb, in her infinite wisdom and kindness to her Pensioners, has awarded me a TEN-POUND VOUCHER for winning the Caption Competition in “PROSPERO” – the BBC Retired Staff Magazine – this month –  AND it can be spent at “TOY’S’R’US” and “MATALAN”….!  Good old Auntie.   Luckily it can also be spent at BOOTS or ICELAND – so that’s OK.

I don’t think I shall give God credit for that bit of good fortune, though.  As the 11-year-old Margaret Roberts (later Thatcher) said to the teacher who awarded her a prize with the words,  “You are a lucky girl.” – “Luck had nothing to do with it;  I deserved it..”

But I am not happy.  (Apparently that is what the diminutive John Bercow said when an MP reversed into his car in the House of Commons car park.  “Well, which one are you then?” replied the MP.)  Seriously though, the situation with the Russian Bear is beginning to become alarming.  That a foreign agency should walk casually into a pizza-place in a quiet Cathedral City in this country, sprinkle some of the most deadly nerve-poisons developed by mankind around the place like grated Parmesan and then walk out as if nothing had happened, is outrageous.  It must not be countenanced and now I fear the start of some sort of cyber or germ-Cold Warfare.  And that is because we cannot let whoever authorised this get away with it and one thing will lead to another.  The fact that this nerve-agent is apparently of Russian origin looks like a pretty big clue.  I regret that our relationship with this huge and wonderful country, in which the ordinary people have suffered so terribly under their different tyrannical leaderships for centuries, has deteriorated so badly.  If anybody watched the television programme called “VLADIMIR PUTIN; THE NEW TSAR” the other night there were many clues there – and it would seem that the UK has to take some blame for the situation and for losing Putin’s trust – though I suspect losing Putin’s trust is phenomenally easy to do.

Then we have China, instituting what is in effect a Dictatorship – and don’t let’s forget North Korea.  I don’t like the sight of democracy vanishing around the world – do you?

On a lighter note – there are unmistakeable signs of spring around – but I fear this sweetness is to be short-lived, as the redoubtable Weather Forecasting Team on the telly are warning us of winds from Siberia again at the weekend with snow on Monday.  And while we are on the subject of the weather-forecast I thought you might like to see some lines garnered from the sub-titling available to those of us whose hearing is no longer 100%.  This gem is from a forecast over the recent Beast from the East period;

Snow will be turning to brains with sleepiness moving away crusties dangling – winds turning towards the least.  The critters will be out in force overnight…”   Better watch out for they critters, eh?  (FYI “crusties dangling” translates to “across East Anglia”.)

I do hope if the snow returns it won’t bring they critters with it.



Due to the extreme conditions recently, and the fact that the critters were out at night, Jude et Jim have not seen all that much of each other as Middle Earth was pretty-well cut off from civilisation for a few days.  They communicated by telephone, however, and Jude formed a picture of the Hobbit Cottage beneath a dome of snow with just its chimney poking out, smoking away, as the Hobbit within went about cooking his casseroles and baking his pies against the dire emergency of not being able to get down to “The Coop” (the Co-Op  – where most Hobbit supplies come from).  When eventually they did meet up there were many Hobbit-jobs for Jim to do (a grab-rail for the shower, goodness knows how many replacement bulbs requiring mountaineering work to insert, WD40 applications to doors and windows…. you name it.)  They have done nothing “cultural” lately as there is still a heap of BAFTA-provided DVD’s to go through so Jude let Jim watch “THE SHAPE OF WATER”  while she prepared a rather delicious lasagne this weekend.  “THE SHAPE OF WATER”, you may recall, won best Film at the Oscars.  In the UK this film was totally (and unfairly) rubbished as a “drippy, sentimental, love/fantasy” and awarded two stars at most.  And you know what?  Jude liked it.  She then wondered if her judgement had gone completely awry – but the Yanks demonstrated that she was not totally-off course.  It is an odd one – very weird, but touching.  Oh go and see it for yourselves – (you’ll probably hate it so you can blame Jude).  Jim is “not sure what to make of it.”

STOP-PRESS BY HOBBIT-PHONE;  Jim has just entered his Dark Room for the first time in about 10 years (he was a professional photographer in life) and discovered three of the drawers in there are housing a family of field-mice.  (Altogether now – Aaaahhhhh.) I am sorry to report that he has shoved them all out into the cold (including the babies).  Jude has told him they will die but Jim says that is the idea.  In fact, Jude thinks they will all come creeping back in again when he isn’t looking as that is What They Do.

TIPS FOR OVER-SEVENTY-YEAR-OLDS;  If there IS a God, maybe it behoves us to remember we might be meeting Him/Her/It sooner, rather than later….?





When I started writing these posts it was my intention that they should appear fortnightly.  However, I am getting tired of apologising for arriving late on your screens.  As the man said, when his wife asked him if he loved her – “I’m here, aren’t I?”  And indeed I am.  So just be grateful.   I can see it is about a month ago that I regaled you with tales of Christmas cheer and the wrong trousers, so here is my Valentine’s Day post and let’s all just accept that this Blog appears MONTHLY.  Quite frequently enough, I am sure you agree.

Well, here we are already  one-sixth into 2018 (my maths has never been good, but two months in does make it one-sixth of the way, doesn’t it?)  And what has 2018 done for us?  So far it’s delivered a ‘flu epidemic, near-breakdown of the NHS, the Oxfam sex-abuse scandal,  endless misjudgements on the Brexit front…and the news that humanity is poisoning all marine life from porpoises to plankton with plastic.  Nice. You know what?  Something tells me 2018 is going to be very similar to 2017 except we’ll all be a year older – though no wiser, it would appear.

Certainly I do not increase in wisdom as far as computers are concerned.  As soon as I approach mine it decides to be non-compliant.  Which is unfortunate since BAFTA voting is carried out On-Line, which means that every year I am traumatised by the system and have to ring the BAFTA Help-With-Voting line for assistance.  Oh the shame of it.  Especially since this time as soon as I asked the question I realised what the answer was:  in order to see the entire short-list of nominated films I needed to SCROLL DOWN.  Duh….Computer ONE; me ZERO.

But it has been an interesting few weeks – watching DVD’s of the hopefuls – and, of course, it is a privilege and one that I do take seriously.  If you want to know which films from the short list I would recommend you to go and see it comes down to “THE SHAPE OF WATER”;  “DARKEST HOUR”;  “WONDER”;  “PHANTOM THREAD”; “THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI”  and “GET OUT”.  I think that “FILM-STARS DON’T DIE IN LIVERPOOL” is probably a lot of fun, but, having watched 15 minutes of it without understanding a single word since it is all conducted in strong Liverpool dialect and no sub-titles were provided with the screener, I admit that I abandoned the attempt .

Voting closes tomorrow and my votes are now cast – I am unsure when the Awards Night is, but the lovely JOANNA LUMLEY will be ‘hosting’ so she should bring a little style to an otherwise long-drawn-out and often unedifying occasion.  Anyway – You Heard It Here First – Best Actor in a Leading Role will go to GARY OLDMAN for his performance as Winston Churchill in “DARKEST HOUR”.  Or I will eat my bobble hat.

As well as Voting-on-Line there is also Ordering-on-Line for inept users of the computer such as your blogger to contend with.  To be fair this next episode is not altogether the fault of the machine or its operator – but I’ll leave it to you to judge.  Last Wednesday (it could have been Tuesday, but I doubt you care which) in a fit of irritation with my three ancient and tattered Oriental rugs (which had formed the habit of lying in wait for me to trip me up so I could measure my length in the hall) I gave them to Charity.  “It’s them or me,” I said.  “Because I don’t fancy ending up on a trolley in the overstretched A&E Department of the District Hospital with a broken hip.”  I therefore disposed of them.  Good Riddance.  But the next morning my hall looked so bare and empty that, weakly, I went On Line searching for Oriental rugs.  After all, the reason the others were tripping me up was because they were old and had tangled matted fringes just right for catching a toe in – or so I reasoned.  A new one would not have these problems.  In the Olde Days (remember them?) I would have gone to Barkers of Kensington and looked through a heap of possible rugs in the Furniture Department  (Third Floor, as I recall).  But this is the Twenty-First Century so I repaired to my computer and googled RUGS (ORIENTAL) – getting rewarded with pages and pages from a wholesaler who was taking SIXTY-PERCENT OFF in its Winter Sale. Scrolling through all of these was quite a wonderful experience, if I am honest.  I got truly excited and identified a rug which was just the job to replace my three abandoned bits of carpeting;  sensible size, glorious colours and £389 reduced from £1,200.  Result! But then came the Ordering-on-Line bit and nowhere could I find where, as a new customer, I should start the process –  although for an Existing Customer with a password and an account number. it was obvious and easy.  After a frustrating ten minutes I clicked on the box saying “Contact Us” and was rewarded with a telephone number.  I rang this number and a helpful young American answered and took the number of the rug, and the number of my Debit Card and all my details.  Carefully I spelled out my address for him, letter by letter, and it seemed that everything went through.  “Ma’am, you will receive a confirmatory e-mail shortly,” he said.  And that is exactly what happened.  But the address given as mine on the confirmatory e-mail was so garbled and mis-spelt as to be unintelligible.  E-mailing them back instantly with corrections I received another  from them by return informing me that my order “cannnot be processed because the address is incorrect.”  Yes.  Been there, have you?

No amount of telephone entreaty would change their decision to cancel – something to do with protecting my Debit Card.  My money was being returned to my account as we spoke.  (It better had be.)  So – shall I risk starting the ordering process all over again or shall I conclude that I do not wish to do business with such a load of intellectually-challenged retards?  And go for minimalism in my hall – and Freedom From the Worry of Falls???  Answers on a postcard, please (same as last time;  and nobody answered THAT question either…)

Now – where did we get to with the sciatica?  Acid-Reflux is done-and-dusted, so the only outstanding medical problem must be the pain-in-the-bum.  Well, the kind doctor has prescribed Co-Codamol which doesn’t seem to do much – and which I note is an opiate to which I might become addicted (it’s all in the papers – we oldies are all becoming junkies).  I am sure it is a timely warning and meant for our good, but just try experiencing a pain that feels as if someone has taken a slice off you with a carving knife and is now rubbing the raw wound with salt and vinegar at 3.00.a.m. in the morning and see how much you care about getting an addiction.  A cup of Horlicks instead doesn’t do it.  However, I am sure we ought to bear it in mind that, when you stop needing them, then you stop taking them.  And as my sciatic pain appears to have resolved itself, that is precisely what I am doing.

The February daylight is fading fast and the February gale and rain are battering my sitting-room window, where, despite the double-glazing, the cold is penetrating so that my central-heating is having to be bolstered by a plug-in blow-heater.  But, Rejoice! Rejoice! –  tomorrow is the day all lovers can spend a fortune at their local bistro with a couple of heart-shaped red-balloons floating over their table and a “Specials” menu which is nowhere near as good as the usual menu with cooking of which the same can be said.  I thought about this and decided that It’s Not Gonna Happen.  So on the 14th Jim is invited to a dish of roast duck and marmalade-sauce – of which there should be a plentiful supply (see below) –  prepared by my own fair-hands with an avocado pear half to start with and a scoop of O’Kelly’s Chocolate-Brownie-and-Salted-Caramel ice cream to finish.  Yes – I know, I spoil him – but in the last three weeks he has fitted two new lavatory seats for me, mended the light over my hob, diagnosed the problem with my bedroom window catch and wired up my fractured bumper.  Let no-one say I am not grateful.

And so we come to –


Jude et Jim have not done much since they last posted.  The biggest excitement was missing the Residents’ New Year’s Lunch in the local hotel arranged my the Residents’ Committee of my block of flats.  This is always a delightful event and Jude et Jim enjoy it a lot – but Jude, who is getting more and more unreliable – put the invitation on the mantelpiece with the Christmas Cards, and removed it with them on January 6th, so she lost it.  Sent it for recycling., didn’t she?  But she remembered it was to be on a Sunday late in January and concluded it had to be Sunday 28th.  It was not until, on Friday 26th when she was asked by a neighbour why she and Jim had not been there that she realised it had been held on Sunday 21st.  It was a really good do, so they say.

Then of course Jude has been wrapped up in viewing DVD’s (see above) so Jim decided to improve the shining hour by making ten kilo’s of marmalade.  This took him four days but will keep him going until the summer.  (He is a bit like Pooh, with his pots of honey…..)  Jude et Jim have thus been physically separated a bit over the last weeks – but they did go to their beloved Thai restaurant on the Marina, beating their way through a howling gale to reach it last Saturday.  And it was really worth it.  Jim stayed the night so they were able to have breakfast and watch “The Andrew Marr Show” together on Sunday morning.  Very cosy.  And they also made up for lost time –  whatever you think that might be.


Beware of Oriental Rugs.

















Here we go again – “Apologies For Absence”.  I am sure you have been anxiously scanning your In-Boxes for signs of this Blog – only to be disappointed, day after day.  I can explain.  I have been having Christmas.  And New Year – as have all of you.  Other Things Have Been Happening, haven’t they?  (Oh, get a life, why don’t you…?)

I hope the Festering Season went as well as can be expected – expectations usually being high – only to be defeated by reality.

But speaking selfishly I enjoyed myself;  Christmas Day was spent at the Hobbit Cottage with a blazing fire, mulled wine and some hot sausage rolls and mince-pies brought in fresh from the oven by Jim’s next-door-neighbour all in her Christmas pinny.  Pressies were unwrapped, coffee was made and Jim’s speciality egg-and-bacon sandwiches appeared and disappeared – as did the mulled wine – and suddenly it was time for Her Maj.  After that we struggled into party-gear for evening dinner in our local smart (and expensive) hotel.   £90-a-head.  Oo-er, Missus.  But we got Buck’s Fizzes included, plus a four-course meal and coffee.  So we didn’t feel robbed, exactly.

Having decided to do no Christmas cooking (hence the visit to the Hotel) I had guests for Boxing Day – Jim and his son Quentin and my bezzie mate, Sandy.  So I did some Christmas cooking after all.  Ah well, the best-laid plans of thingy and wotsit gang aft pear-shaped.

For my Boxing-Day gathering I wore my new, velvet, green trousers, freshly-arrived by Mail Order from “The House of Bruar” (a Scottish company with excellent credentials.) Since I get too hot in trousers AND tights I tend to wear Pop-Sox underneath (you need to know this although you might think it Too Much Information) – meaning the top part of the trousers were in contact with my bare thighs.  (Sorry…) By the evening I had a rash from  knee to hip which itched like Hades, turned a bright shade of red and then kept me awake all night.  I’m not stupid;  I immediately identified the inside of the new trousers as the cause of the problem, took myself to the Pharmacy and returned, armed with E45, a Hydrocortisone cream and E45 Itch-Relief.  In three days the crisis was over, and the trousers taken to the cleaners.  Ah. but the tale does not end there.  Since I never do anything by halves I had ordered THREE pairs of these trousers;  one pair in a Christmassy red, which I wore on Christmas Day with no trouble at all, one pair in bottle-green and another pair in olive-green.  The bottle-green pair were the offenders and at the cleaners, but, a few days later I could be seen sporting the olive-green pair – later going to bed to itch and scratch most of the night.  Luckily I had plenty of unguents to spread all over.  Three days later, and the problem had disappeared.  Now I am left wondering what on earth this irritant was?  I suppose it must be the green dye they used – since the red pair gave me no trouble.    Any ideas?  (Answers on a postcard please….)

Anyway – all the jollity is now over, the decorations put away in their boxes and the Christmas Cards waiting for me to go through them and answer those who wrote me a letter inside.  (I mean a personal letter;  not one of those PR sheets people send, advertising their families.)  I am childish enough to hate it when all the pretties are down.  I miss my tree, with the fairy on the top.  That fairy is a piece of social history now;  bought in Shepherd’s Bush Market, round the corner from TV Centre, in 1974 she was.  That’s a lifetime ago.  Wonder where it all went?

But although mourning the Death of Christmas, I had a bit of merriment at Epiphany, when, on a chilly January Sunday I joined a coachload of other old ladies going to Brighton to see “HOLIDAY ON ICE” with friend, Sandy (see Para 4 above).

This is a beautiful spectacle with no intellectual content AT ALL (so quite restful in that regard.)  I love ice-dancing nearly as much as ballet-dancing – and there are similarities.  This year’s theme was “TIME” – all choreographed by DAVID LIU (who also choreographs for the Ice Theatre in New York) and performed with expert grace and skill by a young team of skaters from all corners of the globe.  It was a delight and sensibly formed of two hour-long halves with a nice lengthy interval in between so elderly bladders could get emptied.  (Sorry, again, but a spade is a spade…)  The whole afternoon was a completely joyous and stress-free experience.  We loved it.

So the days have flashed by bringing us to mid-January, the prospect of a cold snap and snow – and Jude’s lumbago week.  I know how much you enjoy reading about my various ailments and that you are going to miss my dilating upon ACID-REFLUX (because it’s better), so here is Something Completely Different.  My osteopath suggested, 6 weeks ago, that I should WALK from the basement of my block of flats to Floor 2 after parking my car, thus  getting some exercise and increasimg my “core strength”  I took her advice, but I think with too much enthusiasm because i managed to pull a muscle in my groin.  Over the weeks, this has morphed into tremendous discomfort in my left buttock (sorry, once more – I seem to have become a real pain-in-the-bum) which now presents itself like a red-hot poker going round and round in that area, affecting my left thigh (there I go again) and giving me a stiff and elderly walk and difficult nights  – as it’s uncomfortable.  I believe the hot-poker effect is probably caused by a trapped nerve and all I can say is, let’s none of us get old.  Because things happen.  On the other hand – I’m still here!  Which leads me to


After their jolly Christmas, Jude et Jim stayed up to see the New Year in – eating Jude’s End-Of-Christmas-Risotto (ham, turkey, sausage, stuffing…. anything left over, really) and drinking a tiny bottle of Prosecco between them.  They watched the national fireworks on telly and the local fireworks through the sitting-room windows, fell into bed around 1.00.a.m., and, at 11.00.a.m. watched the lovely New Year’s Day concert from Vienna. So, their Festive Season has, as John Le Mesurier said on his deathbed about his life “all been rather lovely..”

But the insanity of the Awards Season is now upon us, so Jude’s DVD-Player decided to celebrate by going U/S.  Jude suspected this was due to the heavy-gang from Sky installing a new Sky player in April, at the same time disconnecting other hardware with gay abandon.  Jude did not feel like a lengthy telephone conversation with the Believe-In-Better people themselves – which would inevitably involve her doing gymnastic manoeuvres behind her telly – pressing buttons with her big toe while holding down another button at the front of the set with her elbow….. (you-ve been there too, have you?) so decided to escape to the Hobbit Cottage (where all electronic devices were working normally) with a copy of her BAFTA screener for “DARKEST HOUR”  in her bandbag.

OMG – what a good film – and what a brilliant history lesson too (unlike “DUNKIRK” which missed several tricks on that score).

Jude was there at the time, in fact (well – only just; she was extremely young, natch) and, in 1940, the period upon which the action is focused, her only memory is that “we” were going to win and that Good Old Churchill would get us through.  Apparently this was by no means a certainty in anybody’s mind at that time – in particular HM Government which had managed to weld itself into some sort of emergency coalition, and installed Winston as Prime Minister, much against the better judgement of most of its members.

GARY OLDMAN plays CHURCHILL in a tour-de-force performance which will undoubtedly win him “Best Actor”, and KRISTIN SCOTT-THOMAS is his redoubtable wife, CLEMMIE in another performance which will probably bring her awards;  although (as Jude was there at the time – see above!) Jude’s memory of Clemmie was of a much more heavyweight personality than Scott-Thomas’s mildly ditzy and flirtatious offering.  That the Churchill’s were deeply in love and that their relationship was full of both tenderness and humour is not in dispute, however,  and is sensitively shown in the film.  But, it would appear, we nearly lost the war due to the Cabinet’s insistence on peace-negotiations with Hitler.  Churchill’s reply,  “When will the lesson be learned?  You cannot negotiate with the tiger when your head is in its mouth…” went some way to persuading them that confrontation was the only option.   ‘His thunderous prose is accurately represented – I believe it has been said by someone somewhere that “Churchall mobilised the English language and took it to war” and as a tiny child I remember his voice booming through the speakers of our small radio “Hitler says we are like a chicken whose neck is being wrung;  some chicken, some neck…” and the awed and positive response from my parents.  “Good old Churchill – he’ll get us through..”

Jude et Jim hugely admired the historical accuracy of this film (with the exception of one scene on the Underground where Churchill gathers the opinion of the British public as to whether they wished for conflict or appeasement) but perhaps it can be excused on the grounds of “Artistic Licence”.  They both learned many things they did not know about those days in early summer, 1940 when the freedom of the world was in the balance. Jude had no idea how fine that balance was – but she was very, very, young at the time…..

The writer, ANTHONY MCCARTEN should get an award for his brilliant script and deserves special mention.  The excellent Direction is by JOE WRIGHT.


Jude’s problems with her DVD Player were later solved by the excellent Don Foster, who happened to have a few hours free and managed to untangle the entrails of her “Home Cinema” system – discarding a large part of the small bowel, which appeared to be redundant to its successful function.  (Don Foster – the electrician – remember him?  Find him in earlier posts! – if you can be bothered to trawl through.)

And talking about entrails, is anybody watching BBC 2’s programme “SURGEONS; THE EDGE OF LIFE”?  Quite staggering – but not for the squeamish.


Be extremely careful about what you allow to touch your naked thighs……

















Oh my ears and whiskers – it appears that a month has passed since I last posted and we have moved from fireworks to Christmas Trees in no time at all.  All in a flash.  Which could have some relevance since my Writers’ Group – now re-launched as are engaged in writing “Flash Fiction” for future uploading on the web.  I have therefore been working on my contributions to this initiative and it’s been time-consuming.

We spent a morning discussing our rebranding (previously we had been “Sussex Scribes”) and decided “Chalk Circle” was the best suggestion – after discarding “Sussex Flashers” with regret, as non-viable.

“Flash Fiction” is a new genre – and very suited to the rush-rush, short-attention-span  age we live in since 500 words is the limit.  Your story should leave the reader wrong-footed and somewhat discombobulated and must NOT end with a joke or a death.  Hmm.  Quite a tough brief.  But I have managed three pieces.  If the group approves them they will be uploaded onto our website, so you should be able to read them.  I will try and provide you with a link.

So, obvs. you have spotted the Christmas Trees popping up everywhere (gets earlier and earlier every year, doesn’t it?) But this year I am not doing Christmas – or as “Margot” once memorably said in “The Good Life” –“Christmas is cancelled”.   Well not totally cancelled – you can have it if you like – but I am defo. Not Doing It.  For how many years have I got into the oven with the turkey on 25th December, together with the roast spuds and parsnips, later spending hot hours stirring bread-sauce and gravy?   50 I think.  Time to retire.  No more goose-stuffed-with-a-duck-stuffed-with-a-rabbit-stuffed-with-a-dormouse-stuffed-with-a-cockroach.  Them days is over.  This year we are going to a local hotel at 6.30.p.m., (sit down at 7.00.) and letting them do it all.  We get Father Christmas and carols thrown in I believe.

“What will you do with Christmas Morning?” – I hear you ask.  On Christmas Day I shall moysie over to Hobbitland and to the Hobbit Cottage and its huge log-fire, for an opening-pressie session, some mulled-wine and one of Mr.Hobbit’s speciality egg-and-bacon sarnies.  After that, some slumping in front of the telly, watching re-runs of “Morecambe & Wise”  and the Queen’s Speech is indicated.  All this may or may not be done accompanied by Mr.Hobbit’s son, who may, or may not, be over from Singapore, where he works as a Graphics Designer.  The reason we are unsure is that, having declared his intention three weeks ago, of visiting the Old Folks over Crimbo, we have been unable to verify his movements since.  That’s how it is with the youngsters (OK, he’s 50) nowadays, doncha find?  Yesterday, he telephoned his Dad and left a message saying, “Ring me back” – but as he omitted to leave a telephone number that presented Mr.Hobbit with a problem.  Duh….

A large section of my extended family is now Finnish (they all went to finnishing school) so their Christmases are spent in Helsinki feasting on reindeer meat on Christmas Eve and taking the little ones to visit Father Christmas in his own home.  So as we were not going to see them for this year’s festivities and as we all needed to view the new baby, they hit upon an excellent idea for a family get-together featuring turkey-gobbling.  Thanksgiving Sunday.  We have no links with the Pilgrim Fathers, we just like each other and we like turkey, so it seemed a good idea.  And it was so successful we are likely to repeat it year-on-year, if my nephew can tolerate the thought of cooking Christmas Dinner for ten people again.  He was a Cooking-Christmas- Dinner virgin – and he excelled himself, from the bird to the bread-sauce.   And my happiest memory of that afternoon is Jim, on all fours so that he can get level with the new arrival in his baby-bouncer, doing a full-on conversational male bonding-session.  Tavi is eight months old, and Jim slightly younger.

Apart from that excitement there has been the excitement of the “Noel Bridge Party”.  To some of you the phrase “Bridge-Party” may sound like an oxymoron but to elderly, bridge-playing British citizens it is big fun,  so long as it is accompanied by Christmas dinner, paper-hats, alcohol, evening dress, raffle-tickets and prizes.  Tick for all six in this case.  Listen – it’s a free country.  Whatever floats your boat….

Usually I have some political or social comment to make about here.  However, the BREXIT scene is so grim and worrying that I am not going to spoil the festive fun by mentioning it.  The “Royal Engagement” is more jolly so let’s focus on that.  Endless interviews with dear Harry who, despite early promise, has become a truly boring royal do not delight me, but I rather like the look and the sound of his lady-love.  I think she may bring light and life to the Windsor family so I wish them well.  What’s not to love?


Jim had a birthday this week.  But there was some confusion surrounding the date.  He thought he was going to be 82 on Tuesday 5th December – but, in fact,  his birthday fell on Monday December 4th, December 4th being the day upon which he was born. Sadly, Jude had booked herself up for the whole of December 4th – morning, afternoon and evening – but she blamed Jim for getting the date wrong.  As one would.  So there was not much celebrating on Monday for him.  He was also chagrined to be told that his age was now 83.

Jude is nothing if not loving and kind-hearted and realising December 4th was going to be a day on which she had to be engaged elsewhere, offered to give him a jolly birthday supper at home on Sunday, December 3rd and cooked him his favourite sea-bass, pan-fried and served with suckertash (yes – there really is a dish called “suckertash; it is not just a silly word invented by Sylvester the Cat)  followed by chocolate ice-cream so he was a happy hobbit.  He also received a small present from Jude – a gismo he can attach to his Smart Phone and watch things in “Virtual Reality”.  Jim likes nothing better than a gadget to play with and this kept him diverted most of the afternoon.  Until he realised he needed to purchase two spare parts to make it work properly.  Well, how was Jude to know?  Jude doesn’t do electronic gismos.

He did also get taken to his favourite restaurant the week before, for five courses followed by a bill with three figures at the bottom – all paid by Jude. Why the week before?  Because it is Christmas and the only table Jude could get was in November.  It is a tiny restaurant so getting booked-out is a frequent occurrence for the two guys who run it – which is excellent for them

Then there was the visit to the little Cinema in Uckfield where they saw “PADDINGTON 2”.  This is described as “A British Live-Action CGI animated adventure film” and it is full of thrills and spills involving one of this country’s favourite bears getting into a mess.  And no bear knows better how to get into a mess than Paddington.  Although Jude spent 31 years in the business, the miracle of CGI (computer-generated-imagery) is a mystery to her.  In her day they did “stop-frame animation” where little puppets were moved a fraction of an inch at a time while a film shot was taken – when, eventually, the whole film was run the little figures moved.  And it took a whole week to produce 3 minutes.  Jude knows about this because she used to do it.  Hour after hour after hour of it.  Believe it or not, it was rather fun.

Anyway, these visual effects were wondrous to behold, Paddington lived and breathed and walked among us – or he walked among the cast on the screen.

The plot concerns Paddington’s wish to earn money so he can purchases a rare “pop-up” book about London landmarks to give to his Aunt Lucie for her 100th birthday.  (Aaaahhh)  This involves him in window-cleaning (messy) hairdressing (also messy) and other occupations with assorted catastrophic (and messy) results.  Unfortunately this book is spotted by arch-villain, faded actor PHOENIX BUCHANAN, as a source of coded clues to hidden treasure and he steals it from the bookseller.  Paddington is wrongly convicted of the theft and ends up in prison (Aaaahhh) separated from his beloved and long-suffering human family – the Browns.  But being Paddington he brings life and fun to the prison (Aaahhh), eventually gets involved in a break-out, followed by a mad train chase after the wicked Phoenix Buchanan to retrieve the book – and it all ends well with the Browns reclaiming their orphaned bear, and a visit from Aunt Lucie, who, now she is visiting London for her 100th birthday, doesn’t need a pop-up book of London landmarks anyway.

The magical Visual Effects are by FRAMESTONE, the Director is PAUL KING and the Producer is DAVID HEYMAN (who produced “PADDINGTON 1”).  Lovely HUGH BONNEVILLE plays “Mr.Brown” and the wicked PHOENIX BUCHANAN is played by HUGH GRANT.  BEN WISHAW is the voice of PADDINGTON and IMELDA STAUNTON the voice of AUNT LUCIE.

Jude et Jim thought this was a very sweet film, just managing to stay the right side of yucky, which ought to be a big Christmas Box-Office success.  Jude et Jim were the oldest members of an audience where the average age appeared to be 3-and-a-half.  And all audience-members loved it.  Of course. Who did the most trips to the loo during the action, the three-year-olds or Jude et Jim, is open to debate.(Jude et Jim were drinking Diet Coke…the three-year-olds?  Well, they were just three-year-olds – needing a wee is what they do.)

MICHAEL BOND (BBC Cameraman) first invented and wrote about PADDINGTON -this script was written by PAUL KING and SIMON FARNABY.

Go on – take the kids.

Jude et Jim ended up, as usual, in the Cinema Restaurant opposite the picture-house and filled their faces with nice food, before driving home.

TIPS FOR OVER SEVENTY-YEAR-OLDS;   Do not go to the special Children’s Showing of a children’s film;  they will all be going to the loo when you want to.