This post may get a bit serious – as I am concerned about the parlous state of the nation. I refer, of course, to the dog’s-BREXIT with which we are now faced. Anarchy looms, innit?  But worry not – we have  Choices.  And these are?

  •  (a) A second Referendum.
  •  (b) A General Election –  (“What ANOTHER one…?”)
  •  (c) Leave the EU with No Deal
  •  (d) Leave with Mrs. May’s deal – which includes the Dreaded ‘Backstop’

So, (a) is plain silly.  “We didn’t like the result of the first one, so we’re having another  one… Tell you what, how about we go for “Best Of Three?”;  (b) is a Cunning Plan by J.Corbyn to get into Government;  (c) equals Economic Catastrophe;  and (d) – plus Backstop – actually means “we have left the EU but we are still part of it so we haven’t REALLY left at all.”  Or to coin a phrase “Yeah, but no, but yeah, but no, but yeah.”

What do you think of it so far?

Yes, it’s rubbish.  And why are some politicians banging on about getting  No Deal ‘off the table’?  Surely No Deal is a bargaining chip?

Picture the scene in the Soukh.  You are haggling with the chap in the turban for a rug.  He has dropped the price a bit, but not enough.  What do you say?  “Well – don’t worry – I’m going to buy this rug anyway – but could you go down a bit more for me?”  Or do you say “Right – that’s it – I’m walking away,” and stump off?  It’s all a bluff, but it’s part of negotiation.  (Says she, who couldn’t get 5p. off a cracked tea-pot at a Boot Sale.)

Delay Brexit-ing.  Hm…… Could be the answer – but then uncertainty, which the Economy abhors as much as Nature does a vacuum, will just hang around for longer.

As my ex-flat-mate’s mother’s charlady used to say as she sat down with her cuppa,  “Ah well, I don’t know – do you?”

Aren’t you glad you aren’t Theresa May?  Although she seems to be managing.  Bearing witness to proof of the phrase “If you can keep your head while all those around you are losing theirs and blaming it on you – possibly you don’t understand the situation…”

Have you had enough?  Thought so.  Shall we turn our attention to the Season of Misseds and Mellow Goodie-Bags?

Yes the BAFTA’s – the OSCARS and the GOLDEN GLOBES have passed us by in a flash of Red Carpet and  Manolo Blahniks  leaving us wondering what it was all about.  As you know, I ‘abstained’ from the BAFTA vote this year (Funny Left Hand and Tennis Elbow Syndrome makes it a bit tricky loading the DVD-Player).  However – I did manage to look at some of the Short-List screeners and  I am going to give honorable mention to the winner in the BAFTA ‘Best Picture’ Category – “BLACKKKLANSMAN” here.    It has deserved all the accolades it received,  although it didn’t quite make Best Picture at the Oscars – but then what do THEY know anyway?

“An American biographical crime-film” (WIKIPEDIA description) does not do this picture justice – although it is indeed based on the memoir of the same name by a US police-detective –RON STALWORTH – published in 1974.

RON STALWORTH, the first black detective in the Colorado Springs Police Department, is the film’s protagonist – the action takes place in the 1970’s and follows Ron, as he sets out to infiltrate and expose the local chapter of the KuKluxKlan.

A serious subject, but there is a huge amount of dark and ironic humour in  this piece which throws both the cruelty and the idiocy of racial prejudices into sharp relief.  For example, Ron, posing as a white racist,  talks frequently on the telephone to WALTER BREACHWAY, the local KKK convenor.  Ron smiles cheerfully  as he curses all ‘niggers’, saying how much he hates the ‘fuckers’, and  listens enthusiastically to Walter’s similar invective in response.  Breachway is fooled by Ron’s grammatical speech patterns into thinking he is talking to another white man – so no holds are barred, while the black Ron Stalworth takes it all in and agrees in order to gain his confidence further.  One of the KKK aims, according to Breachway, is ‘to make America great again’.  (Where have we heard that before?)

So far so good, as far as ‘infiltration’ goes.  However, trouble arises when Ron is invited and agrees to go to a local KKK Meeting with Breachway and other members of the Klan.  Big problem – Ron is the wrong colour – so it is expedient that another detective from the Intelligence Department impersonates him.  This is the role his colleague FLIP ZIMMERMAN accepts – Flip being the ‘right’ colour.

However, Flip is Jewish – a fact which had meant little to him until he was thrust into the centre of a group of racists.  The farcical element of a Jew impersonating a black man at KuKlaxKlan meetings is not overlooked by the writers and producers of this film and yields more material for black (no pun intended) comedy. However, what we are dealing with is nasty stuff.

Stalworth now begins regular telephone conversations with DAVID DUKE – the KKK ‘Grand Wizard’ – thus infiltrating the group further.  On the way he meets PATRICE, a young black activist, in favour of violent protest.  This complicates matters as he rather falls for her, but needs to ‘use’ her for information – thus betraying her trust.  (Ron is firmly against her extremism.)

In the end, the vicious KKK members are all killed accidentally by their own bomb – the Colorado Springs Police Department congratulates itself on the successful closure of the case and the film ends with footage of the Charlottesville 2017  ‘Unite the Right’ Rally and President Trump’s equivocating speech – followed by a shot of the Stars & Stripes in full colour, slowly turning to black-and-white as it falls in flames.

It’s strong stuff – but its message deserves to be heard – especially since its message is delivered with so much humour and humanity.  ‘The Guardian’ calls it  –   “Masterful…entertaining…but more frightening than it is funny…”     OK – but personally I thought it got that balance right.




And now, after all that seriousness , we come to “One-Hundred-And-One Things To Do With A Ball Of Putty”.  Yes- that is where the trail of the Funny Left Hand leads – to the Neuro-Physiotherapy Ward of the DGH.

So far I have had two Physio sessions (privately) and  one on the NHS – plus a cortisone injection in my left elbow, courtesy of my GP’s Surgery.  And I have this ball of builders’ putty in a poly-bag which I squeeze regularly according to a list of printed  instructions, with accompanying diagrams.  And things are getting better – but at a snail’s pace – this being the nature of Physio, I am told.  The cortisone injection appears to have ‘worked’ and I think the actual inflammation in my left elbow and forearms has subsided.  I am, however left with damage to my superstructure meaning  my arms and hands are weak and floppy from months of disuse!   So – ‘Putty-Squeezin’ Is Us’.  I am gaining a Ph.D in the number of positions in which you can hold a ball of putty in one hand – but I will spare you the details.

The Neuro-Boffins still hover – the NHS Physio lady is keen that I get to see them, but as they are so over-subscribed I think my condition will be better before they get to me.  Apparently, all the nerves in your neck come out through your elbows and a scan of my neck is what they are after.  But my information is that, if an operation on my neck is indicated, I am too old, and it is too dangerous, for it to be offered.  In any event it is my view that this is simple ‘Tennis Elbow’ caused by dragging a wheeled cabin bag through various airports last year.  I know the exercise knackered me on each of the four occasions – but I didn’t know that I was doing such orthopaedic damage.  This year we are going for “ASSISTANCE”….at all airports.

Anyway I can tell you that last week I held a knife-and-fork in both hands to eat a steak-and-ale pie when Jim took me out to dinner in the local Gastro-Pub.  This may mean nothing to you guys, but it is the first time I have eaten a meal without resorting to a fork only – held in the right hand-  for 6 months.  (On bad days it has been no fork – just hands!)  Progress, eh?


I must say I am gaining some sympathy for the unfortunate ‘subtitling’ gang.  I have been experimenting with some “Speech Recognition” software (due to the FLH Syndrome) and one’s voice doesn’t half produce some funny printed results on screen.  Perhaps it’s all down to people’s poor diction?

However,  I offer you  “..the male there has been pushing its way all through the night..” (Yes, love, I know what these males can be like) – and, In Sport, it would appear also that Manchester United have been “salivating all night” due to a recent victory.  Back to the weather forecast now – (and this is possibly good news)  “the fog is very sick this morning…”.  All together now –   “Aaaaahhhhh”


Well – what has been happening to the pair since the last report?  This being winter – not a lot.   All the same, Valentine’s Day was celebrated lovingly with one-dozen red roses (Marks & Spencer’s best), a card and dinner out at the new Italian up the road (Jim).  Jude sent a card with affectionate Teddy-Bears on it which, despite its First-Class stamp, arrived at Jim’s two days late – and Jim stayed the night with Jude and drove home in his bedroom slippers, leaving his shoes in Jude’s hall.


Remember that driving your car in monogrammed velvet slippers is a bit tricky – to say nothing of walking up your muddy path to your front door……..

PS:  The ‘Chalk Circle’website is now up and running.  Please visit












Well, hello, there 2019 – will you solve the Brexit deadlock for us?  (Don’t let’s hold our breath..)

Happy New Year, anyway – we will have to do the best that we can with it. It surely cannot be ALL bad can it?   (Don’t answer that.)

This may be a much shorter Blog than usual, Dear Readers, as your Blogger is finding using the computer keyboard more and more difficult (blogger it).  Diagnoses of the Funnny Left Hand Syndrome have been flying around and now have settled as Tendonitis (inflamed tendons to you) – commonly known as “tennis elbow” – affecting nerves in both elbows – because the inflammation is compressing them.  Sadly, in my case the condition should be called “Computer-Keyboard Elbow” as Blogging and writing loads of Flash Fiction has caused my Affliction (did you see what I did there?  A poem has arisen unbidden – and there’s another – almost.  The Girl Can’t Help It, obvs.)  Any road up, as they say in Purley, the effect is that both my hands have lost strength and the ability to manipulate small objects so I am frequently to be spotted standing outside my front door weeping because (a) I cannot get the key in the lock, and (b) because I lack the strength to turn it once it is in position,  Downstairs neighbour, John, from Flat No.2 is being very helpful, but I think he could be getting fed-up with letting me in me fairly soon.

The list of things I can no longer do is getting longer and longer but includes doing up buttons (no clean duvet-covers have been employed on my bed since before Christmas), zipping-up zips (can’t wear my smart winter ankle-boots with the fur round the top) opening bottles and cartons – in fact opening ANYTHING in new packaging. Imagine trying to go about your daily life wearing a pair of oven-mitts and you have got the picture.  Add to that the deep joy of discovering that Tennis Elbow can last for TWO YEARS (many thanks, Wikipedia) and you get an even clearer picture.

After much pleading weeping wailing and gnashing of teeth I managed to achieve a Physiotherapy “assessment” (cost £46) 6 weeks after the diagnosis was made (delay due to Christmas) which produced the promise of a referral to an NHS Rheumatologist and further investigations regarding the ‘Polymyalgia’ episode (See Blog No.52 – if you can be bothered) and  the ‘underlying causes’ of my problem which might be complex  –  ‘have you had your neck X-Rayed?….’    Look, it’s Tennis Elbow – if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, swims like a duck… etc.  Anyway, the promise was that I would receive a telephone call from the Physio lady the next day.   Which didn’t happen.  The following week their long-suffering and hard-working Receptionist rang with a message  informing me there were ‘difficulties’ obtaining my Polymalgia records from my Surgery.  This was followed by a silence so long and deep that I asked the Physio lady, by e-mail,  to ‘get in touch’.  The long-suffering and hard-working Receptionist replied with the news that my Physiotherapist was now on  Annual Leave – but I could consult with another of their practitioners for the fee of £46 – i.e., start the process all over again and pay the Registration Fee once more….. Offer one couldn’t refuse innit?

Enough said.  The serious issue here would seem to be that the huge pressures on NHS services is resulting in an upsurge in Private Medical practices who see opportunities for making loadsamoney.  The unfortunate patient is thus left wondering how much she/he can trust the opinions and suggested treatment-courses of these people and how much is Solicitor/Conveyancing-Delay-Syndrome (no disrespect to decent solicitors, of whom there are many, of course.)

I will now, in fairness, say that the Physiotherapy Practice has apologised profusely (using the services of their Long-Suffering and Hardworking Receptionist once more) and I have an appointment with ‘my’ Physio lady on Tuesday for the usual (i.e., non-assessment) fee.  But what a struggle.  And probably  it has been as tiring to read about as it was to experience.  Sorry about that.

Now for the good news.  Unexpectedly, a grey envelope bearing the logo ‘NHS’ plopped through my letterbox yesterday offering me an appointment in the ‘Neurology  Physiotherapy Unit’  at the General Hospital in a fortnight’s time.  I had no idea there was such a medical discipline as Neurological Physio – but it sounds as if that is precisely what I need and I think my excellent GP, who has been copied in to my pathetic e-mails to the aforementioned  Physio practice, has rescued me at last with a referral to the right people in the right place at the right time.  Good man – and  if I were not committed to wedding my electric blanket I would consider tying the knot with him – although there might be the small problem of his wife to deal with first.

Enough already – no more medi-speak – it is the season of Golden Globes, Oscars and BAFTA’s for which reason the wooden stand upon which my telly reposes is surrounded by about 199 DVD “Screeners” of BAFTA hopefuls – all marked ‘For Your Consideration’.  Sadly for them I only ever ‘consider’ those that make it through to the Short List and this year I have Abstained from voting altogether while we get my muscular-skeletal problems sorted.  So I need only watch those I really fancy.  So far I have fancied MARY QUEEN OF SCOTS – pretty good value historical film – but the script could have been better;  STAN & OLLIE – totally incomprehensible due to no subtitles and poor quality sound recording;  ALL IS TRUE (ditto) and THE FAVOURITE – aptly named because so far it certainly is mine.

THE FAVOURITE is described as a ‘Period Comedy Drama’, and is set during the reign of Queen Anne – while England engaged in war with the French overseas (her army led by John Churchill, the first Duke of Marlborough and Winston’s heroic ancestor) and, at home, Duck-Racing was popular.  The Queen herself, a sad and unbalanced creature cherishing her seventeen pet rabbits, each of which represents one of her dead infants, relies heavily for governance on Lady Sarah Churchill (wife of John) with whom she has been bezzie mates since they were children.  The stage is thus set, as I am sure you can appreciate, for scenes of farce reaching levels of such British eccentricity that all one can do is fall in the aisles laughing.

The brilliance of this film lies in its impeccable recreation of this particular period in English history, the wonderful acting and the sparkling script.  How is this for an exchange between Lady Churchill and her monarch?

LADY SARAH;  Who did your make-up?”

QUEEN ANNE;  The new girl.  What do you think?

LADY SARAH; You look like a badger.

QUEEN ANNE; How DARE you speak like that to me!

LADY SARAH;  Love speaks truthfully.  If you want flattery look elsewhere. Now, what do you look like?

QUEEN ANNE (Sadly):  I look like a badger.

 OLIVIA COLMAN is up for a ‘Best Actress’ Award for her wonderful, hysterical, desperate and human portrayal of the Queen whom most people have forgotten about – Sarah Churchill is played by RACHEL WEISZ and Abigail Masham (the ‘favourite’ of the title) by EMMA STONE.  And the plot concerns how Mistress Masham dislodges Lady Churchill as the Queen’s lover and confidante, while battles political and military rage around them.  How much historical accuracy there is could be debatable – although there are Lady Sarah’s own memoirs and Sir Winston Churchill’s biography of the Duke of Marlborough out there to refer to.

Costumes, hair, sets, props – all absolutely right and in keeping with the Queen Anne era.  It was filmed in Hatfield House and Hampton Court Palace;  Cinematography by ROBBIE RYAN; Director YORGOS LANTHIMOS.  DEBORAH DAVIS and TONY MCNAMARA were the excellent writers.

“THE NEW YORK TIMES” calls this film “farce with teeth” and I don’t think I can better that description,  Go and see it as soon as.


The weather forecasts continue to delight with surreal images – “There will be more bricks in the cloud and the sunshine will be coming through” – that should be nice so long as you duck while the bricks are dropping.  And if anyone can unpick this sentence for me then the Jude’s Blog Dairy Milk Medal is yours.  “The reason for those is overnight camp just vomiting with loads of minus three minus for degrees..”  ???  A programme on healthy eating and and how much rice and pasta we should consume told me  “The correct awesome for these guys is Jew handfuls..” and ended politely with the words “..Queue for being with us..”   Not sure I would bother – I suppose it would depend how long the queue was.  Anyway, you will no doubt be pleased to learn that the winner of The Australian Open is “Jack-at-the-Edge”.


 Jude-et-Jim at Christmas;  What can one say?  Cooking was kept simple due to Jude being in oven-mitts (see previous).  A two-bird roast of turkey plus pheasant with a plum-and-ginger stuffing was roasted as per instructions and turned out nice again;  roast potatoes were provided by Aunt Bessie, parsnips, carrots and red-cabbage courtesy of COOK – Petits-Pois-a-la-Francais were actually produced by Jude – as was the Cranberry Sauce and the pigs-not-in-blankets – Bread Sauce by Messrs Marks & Spencer (“serves 6” – but in Jude’s case only enough for ONE).  Mulled Wine (easy-peasy – even in oven-mitts though Jim had to slice the oranges and chop up the bits of apple) was swilled down as pressies were opened and a weeny bottle of Prosecco went with the feast.  And afterwards all they wanted to do was slump in front of the telly watching re-runs of MORECAMBE & WISE with bowls of uneaten Christmas Pud on their laps.  New Year was more of the same, except food was Beef Stroganoff from Waitrose and the entertainment was Jude-et-Jim wrapped round each other watching the fireworks on TV.  Listen, Festive Happiness is a Hug and the Central Heating turned up.  You need to remember how elderly the pair now are.

Do you want to hear all about the Burns Night Supper Jude prepared on Saturday – using the haggis bought at Inverness Airport last May (see Blog No.53)?  No?  Thought not.


Always remember that when using the computer keyboard “the elbows should be supported”  (source; my GP).  And if you can work out how that is to be achieved your Blogger would be pleased to hear from you.


So here it is, Merry Christmas – everybody’s having fun…… as the Bard wrote.

I thought that this year, I had truly nailed it.  Sitting here all ready for the festivities – Xmas Pudding in the store-cupboard, “Two-Bird Roast” ordered, cards written and sent, pressies wrapped, Christmas Tree up,  Brussells in the veggie drawer – ten packets of Sainsbury’s Bread Sauce Mix on the dried goods shelf – hair a fetching purple-and-gold colour – nails Fairy-Godmother sparkly – still three days to go – brilliant.  Then, guess what?  My eyeliner ran out.  Dried up without warning.  Bummer – because I can only wear Clinique stuff on my eyes or they go all red, puffed-up and itchy (not a good look)  – however, without eye-make-up I look like a ferret peering for the light.  So Something Had To Be Done.

Reluctantly, therefore, I set off for the Town Centre and Debenham’s – the only place stocking luxury items like Clinique – in the middle of the Christmas rush, rubbing shoulders with the sort of people who hadn’t got themselves ready early, unlike my goodself, and were therefore in a panic and pretty bad-tempered – PLUS they had bagged all the parking.  Enough said.  However, my mission was accomplished and I returned home triumphant bearing fresh eyeliner – just as the Christmas Tree lights failed.

Luckily Jim is coming on Christmas Eve (so’s he can have a stocking to open on Christmas morning – bless…) and his first Jim-job will be FIXING THE LIGHTS.

Why do we do all this?  Have you considered that, if women as a sex, died out, the whole ritual would die also?  Think about it.   Who does all the present-buying, wrapping, shopping, cooking,  decorating,  stressing..?  Women.  We are mad – we have let the whole business get out of hand.

Speaking of which, I am sure you are all agog to hear news of my Funny Left Hand syndrome and will be anxious to know if I have a diagnosis yet.

You may remember that I sought help via the Private Medical sector – since the NHS were overloaded and it seemed as if the problem was neurological rather than orthopaedic in origin.

I do not want to go into too much detail over this, because I think my story is rather serious and not a matter for light-heartedness, which is my usual way of dealing with such small personal disasters as come my way.  But this was something different.

Suffice it to say that I met with a “Consultant Neurologist” at this Private Hospital who knew less about Neurology than does my window-cleaner.  Having forced me to have my Blood-Pressure taken before I had even got my coat off, despite my protestations that I have White Coat Syndrome, he then stripped me to my knickers in order to test my reflexes with a rubber hammer.  After I had dressed, he asked no questions about my general health but launched into an inquisition concerning my family – did anyone have epilepsy?  Parkinson’s Disease?  Muscular Dystrophy?  He wondered if I had considered the possibility that this might be a brain tumour?   “You see – at your age, things  Go Wrong…”

Deciding that I appeared to have weakness in both hands and forearms, he discarded the idea of a brain-tumour (which would have affected one side only) and settled for Motor Neurone Disease.  However, not to worry as he knew a really good Neurologist I could go to,  “You will have to travel to King’s Cross Hospital. But he is The Best.”

Luckily Jim was with me because I was rigid with terror by this time and he helped me out of the Consulting Room and got me back home while I jabbered and shook and wept – “I’ve got Motor Neurone Disease!  What shall I do?”  “The man is a prat” replied Jim – wisely making two mugs of tea.

It was the next day before I got my sensible head on (it isn’t used very often) googled Motor Neurone Disease and realised I had NONE of the symptoms listed – including “weight-loss” (if only!).  Then I thought it through.  The Private Sector is aware that the NHS has an 8-month backlog for Neurology cases.  It is also aware that neurological disorders worry people.  So, how about getting hold of those worried people, who can afford to ‘jump the queue’ and worry them further – worry them into spending all their money on extensive and pointless investigative procedures just to ‘put their minds at rest’?  Nice little earner, or what?

In effect this young ‘Doctor’ (describing himself as a ‘Neurological Consultant’) was ‘pimping’ for his mate at King’s Cross Hospital  – (he who was ‘the best’) and I have to presume this person DOES have neurological qualifications of some sort. But his mate has none – in fact I wonder if he is even medically-qualified at all.

All the same, something obviously was wrong with the Funny Left Hand, and its Right Hand was showing signs of going the same way.  So, if not Motor Neurone Disease – what was up?  And then I wondered whether the frequent, although not severe, aching in both my elbows was relevant – and the tendency for my hand to shake when I tried to hold heavy objects – like a full kettle, for example.  And I remembered that was what happened twenty years ago when I had “Tennis Elbow”.  I was playing no tennis now, but my elbows were certainly painful.  Had I developed arthritic elbows?  Is such a condition possible?  Good old Wikipedia revealed that it was indeed possible, and, more to the point, could frequently cause compression of the Ulnar Nerve (the Funny Bone to you) – leading to “weakness between the forefinger and thumb”…..  Gotcha.

I sent a letter to my GP telling him I refused to have anything to do with opinions held, or referrals made, by the ‘Consultant’  I had seen at the Private Hospital, and suggesting that we looked for a diagnosis “closer to home” – i.e., my aching elbows (which I had not reported to him when I first visited him with the Funny Left Hand).  My GP sent me to the General Hospital for X-Rays – which came back “normal”.  No arthritis.  “I don’t get it,” I said to him on the telephone.  “My elbows really hurt and I cannot turn my left hand palm upwards now..”  There was a pause.   “Say that again..”    “I cannot turn my left arm palm upwards.  I’ve just noticed it.”  “You get that with Tennis Elbow” my GP said.  “You have tendonitis.”   I asked if that would make my forefinger droop. “Give me a minute… Mm – yes, yes it would.  You need physiotherapy..  yes – it’s classic Tennis Elbow.”  He then told me he had received a letter from the ‘Consultant’ informing him that he wanted to investigate me for Motor Neurone Disease.

Two days later I was telephoned by King’s Cross Hospital “Accident & Emergency Department” enquiring if I was making an appointment with them….

If you are now smelling a large rat or a heap of ten-day-old fish, you are not alone.  But what to do about this outrage escapes me.  At best it is unprofessionalism and at worst it is actual criminality.  It needs reporting – but I am not sure I want the hassle. I shall leave it to my doctor to decide.  At least he should no longer be referring people to that hospital, innit?

Oh, and by the way, he closed our telephone conversation  with the words “I shall be opening up the Surgery tomorrow – for you to run it.”

And the “Neurological Consultant” has just sent his bill –  for £250.



The Beeb has noticed that we have just passed the Shortest Day, and is telling me that “the Knights will start getting brighter every day from now on…”.  However, the little games with drones at Gatwick “have created Paintball People all over the world…”  Wonder what THEY look like?  And, finally, beware!  Some strange beings made their appearance last year during the Big Freeze when they were “out in force” every night– and they are back.  “Merry Critters everyone.”



What can one say?  The last few weeks have been full of angst and worry as J et J clung to each other, wondering how they were going to manage if Jude had Motor Neurone Disease.

They managed to enjoy the “launch” of “STRATA” and enjoy a couple of Christmas Lunches and a large quantity of Pigs-in-Blankets – plus pull a few crackers, but it must be said that the run-up to Christmas has had a dark shadow across it this year.  No matter how sensible you are, there is always that hour at 3.00.a.m. when fears and doubts assail even tough old things like Jude et Jim who have been around the block and Seen It All before.  Never mind, Jude has made her first Physio appointment for January – all Christmas veggies have been bought pre-prepared and Jim visits Jude on Christmas Eve armed with a very sharp carving knife and a packet of Aunt Bessie’s Frozen Roast Potatoes.  So the Funny Left Hand is NOT going to spoil their fun after all.



Always remember that. at your age, sometimes Things Go Wrong – but equally sometimes They Don’t.  Hold that thought.




I said there would be exciting news on the literary front for the next Blog – and indeed there is.  See below.

“STRATA – Slices through the Human Landscape” – a new short Anthology of short short stories will be on the market from 30th November.  And when I say “short” I mean no story is more than 350 words long so no-one will be able to say “I don’t have time to read these”.

Seriously, though, my Writer’s Group – CHALK CIRCLE – decided to try writing “Flash Fiction” – a relatively new genre of which you may not have heard before.  Then again, perhaps you have.  If you have, you will realise that your tale must be compressed so that it takes no more than around 500 words to tell.  And you know what?  That’s not easy.

We decided to go one better and limit ourselves to 350 words  –  making it even harder.  Yes – we challenged ourselves – because we are silly like that – and all six of us sat down and tried to produce something that fulfilled the criteria.  Some of our stuff was “so-so” – but some of it was excellent so we chose two of the best pieces from everyone – ending up with 12 pieces of “micro-fiction” in Anthology form – which we are calling “STRATA” and are publishing on November 30th.  Yes, guys, it will be available in a bookshop near you, if you live in the East Sussex area – and at £5 a copy it is a “steal”.  A “stocking-filler” I think – innit?  Look for the striking front cover.


Our front cover is, in fact, something of a “coup”.  Drawn by the V. & A’s Illustrator-of-the-Year, JOHN VERNON LORD – it is iconic.  OK, it was lucky that he lived next-door-but-two to one of our members in Ditchling and she asked him if he would do it and he said ‘yes’  – but then, such a distinguished artist would not have agreed if what we had produced was rubbish, now would he?

I have invited my fellow CHALK-CIRCLE writer, Jayne Block to contribute to this post, as my  ‘Guest Writer ‘ – you might be interested to hear of her struggles to write “Flash Fiction”. ( I did say that this “compression” is not easy, didn’t I?) 

Triumph and Tribulation  (By Jayne Block)

Who would have thought that a writing exercise would end up being published? 

As a newbie to Chalk Circle in Spring 2018 I was invited to contribute to an Anthology the other five members had been developing.

I had a short story I liked that originated from a writing exercise where I had begun by writing a list of words beginning with the same 2 letters.  For some reason I had chosen ‘Tr’ and came up with a  list of 20  –   from which I chose 3.  We were given 10 minutes to scribble down a story using all three of the chosen words – in my case, trip; triumph and tribulation.  I decided to put my main character on a road-trip in the desert with a broken-down Triumph motorcycle, and after 2 minutes of anguished writer’s block a story evolved..  After the writing session, I liked the idea so much I expanded it to 1000 words – thus too long for the Anthology.  The limit for that was 350 words. I cut it back to what I thought were its barest bones.

It was returned to me with the suggestion that if I could cut down even more it would work very well as the final story in the Anthology.  Cut it down even more? ‘  I felt I had already given it a ‘savage’ cut, as Judy would say.  But I sat down at my computer and whittled away at it.

I found that cutting it down kept the essence of the story but got rid of every superfluous detail.  It was immensely satisfying.  Up until then, I had mainly been working on editing a 120,000 word novel involving sorting out plot flaws, character inconsistencies, grammar, style, pace – an endless list really.   To have a story finished in so few words was a triumph in itself.

I am happy everyone liked it, and it now has pride of place as the last story in the Anthology; a girl in a desert with a broken down motorbike while the sun is setting, wondering if she is ever going to get out of this Goddamn place alive.

Jayne’s piece of micro-fiction is a great read – but novelist and poet CATHERINE SMITH has described all our work as “beautifully-formed jewels of story-telling..”  and that is praise indeed.

“STRATA” will also be available as an e-book on our website

So that’s this month’s excitement, and, believe me, it has taken up a lot of time and attention.  Made even tougher by my latest geriatric affliction  -“DEAD LEFT HAND” – of which I spoke in Blog No.55/56.  The Doctor looked at it and said “I don’t think this is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – I don’t know what it is.  But I know that the NHS will consider it so unimportant that you will wait until you are 95 before they get round to it.  I am going to have to mention a dirty word to you.  Money.”

So last Monday saw me trotting into the Private Hospital round the corner to see their Private Specialist in Dead Hands.  He looked at it and said “I can tell you what this is NOT – but I don’t know what it is.  I think your next port of call is the Neurology Department.”  Then he sent me his bill for £200.

Apparently there is an 8-month Waiting List for the NHS Neurology Department at the General Hospital.  I have spoken to the hand in question and it has said it would be OK to wait 8 months so long as it doesn’t get any deader or produce weird signs of some deeper complication elsewhere.  “At your age,” it reminded me “I could be ANYTHING.”

Therefore, I am now in the queue for the Neurologists, and am taking the Polymyalgia Approach – Wait And See.  Meanwhile, although using the computer keyboard is presenting problems, I have developed ‘coping strategies’ elsewhere.  For instance, my bra’s are now stapled up (Jim and his stapling gun), stepped into, and wriggled up the body into position – I no longer wear tights, but ‘pop-sox’ and have given up cooking, relying on lovely meals from COOK, or M & S, which are quite a treat.  Jim has bought me an electric tin-opener and now hot-water-bottle-filling is a thing of the past as he has also brought over a spare electric blanket.  This last is so wonderful I would like to marry it, but Jim says I cannot marry an electric blanket.   Well – we shall see about that.  I can be very persuasive when I am in love.


The Weather Forecast continues to delight – “..some of these showers have Ian Hendry at  times..” and it seems there may also be “..localised thunder leading to fighting and travel disruption..”  In the general news the state of Britain’s High Streets continues to decline with “empty and bacon-chops” and on Sunday 11th November the Queen attended “a Service of Her Membranes in Westminster Abbey..”  Good for her. Plus if anyone can offer suggestions as to the meaning of the following gem, then the Jude’s Blog Dairy Milk Medal awaits them;

“…with fixing they goes ooh…”  ?????



Jim has decided that the Hobbit homestead requires a lot of attention and too much time has been spent recently having fun with Jude instead of cutting the grass, trimming the hedge, picking the apples, making the marmalade and repairing the many electronic devices which are strewn around his dining room.  So he and Jude have not spent as much time together as usual and Jude was not with him to tell him to watch out as he sliced through his left hand with a faulty hedge-trimmer.  Such an injury is bad news when a chap is on blood-thinning medication, but Jim, being a practical man, leapt into his car, bleeding copiously, and drove to A & E where they saw him promptly, sewed him up (8 stitches) gave him a tetanus jab and sent him home.  Jude did not hear about this drama until it was all over and she is damned glad she didn’t.  But the result, as you may already have worked out, is that both Jude AND Jim now have only one hand each.  Bummer.

However, although they have been getting on with their lives on their own for a bit, there has been some Jude-et-Jim socialising – mostly involving Eating Out – therefore a few Thai Curries and the odd Lasagne or two have been consumed – but they have also had their cultural “fix”.  Last Wednesday they visited the Multiplex to see “THE NUTCRACKER & THE FOUR REALMS” – a delightful, Christmassy Extravaganza presented by Mr.Disney on his best blingy form.

The Press Releases describe it as “an American Fantasy Adventure” and seem to think it suitable for 6-to-12-year-olds.  “Don’t go without the kids..” says one reviewer.  Well, Jude would like to tell you that two octogenarians sat there (without any kids) and absolutely loved it.  It presents a snowy wonderland, spreading it out for you to eat with your eyes like Christmas Cake – amazing costumes, make-up, set-design – all marvellous.  This is just as well as Jude et Jim were able to hear and understand only about 10% of the dialogue – but, hey, you can’t have everything.  Who cares?  Most of us know the story anyway.  Sadly the worst offender as far as diction went was the “star”, the youthful  MCKENZIE FOY, playing CLARA – and I would respectfully suggest she gets some voice-coaching before her career goes any further.  Sorry, but it must be said.

However, this is a mainly visual experience – ballerina MISTY COPELAND offers beautiful solo performances as the BALLERINA PRINCESS, fake snow swirls, clowns tumble, animatronic mice run away with golden keys, tin soldiers come to life –  it’s all there.  And in the end Clara finds that her dead mother’s final gift to her is her courage.  Happy Endings ‘R Us.

WRITER – ASHLEIGH POWELL  (based on the short story “The Nutcracker & the Mouse King” by E.T.H. Hoffmann’ and Marius Petipa’s “NUTCRACKER” ballet)




Go and see it – and don’t take any kids with you – they will only spoil your fun by wanting the loo and ice-creams…..

TIPS FOR OVER-70-YEAR-OLDS;   Stuck for small Christmas-present idea?  Find a copy of STRATA” – better still – find lots of copies and give them to EVERYONE…






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I have been in Majorca (see pic.above) – the magical holiday island  – for a week and am relaxed, tanned and another 5lbs.heavier.  Also very discombobulated about the total loss of Blog No.55 which was never issued and now has to share a spot with Blog No. 56 (why did I ever start all this??)

Computers are meant to save us time – which they do – but they are also sent to madden us and cost us money and energy.  Especially when they lose their hard-drive.  Not that I know precisely what the hard-drive is but I realise it is something pretty fundamental to the works and that without it not much happens when you log on.  I must be kind – I must be fair;  this computer has been with me since the year 2000 so I suppose 18 years of use has taken its toll!  This explains why Blog No.55 never appeared – and the Majorcan holiday explains why Blog No.56 is a fortnight late.

So what has been happening to your blogger these eight long weeks?  The local air-show (AIRBOURNE) zoomed across the August Bank Holiday weekend and I put on my usual genteel luncheon party (Coronation Chicken and a spiced rice salad, since you ask – followed by a messy Eaton Mess) – accompanied by Prosecco and a rather nice white brought along by a guest – plus Diet Cokes for those of us driving or weight-watching.  Yes – the first two days of the show were excellent, but on the third day the Lord decreed that the heavens should open and the clouds should lower, so the genteel lunch party remained just that and, as far as aircraft were concerned, none took part.  Sad.  Except we all enjoyed each other’s company and had what is known up North as a reet laugh – so the fact that the engines roaring overhead –  the aerobatics and wing-walking above the sea – were missing , was not a drawback.   In fact, if you ask me, it was an advantage.  But then, I have always hated AIRBOURNE anyway – I just invite my friends over to watch  it because THEY enjoy it so much and I am a really nice person…….

In September, realising I had too much money in my savings account and bearing in mind that you can’t take it with you, I decided to splash out and get the droopy curtain in my sitting room fixed by a wonderful man rejoicing in the Trade Name of “Mr.Trax”, although after a couple of days I felt emboldened to call him ‘Douglas’.  Douglas fixed my recalcitrant curtain track, intended to work via a pull-cord, the entire hydraulics of which had broken down –  resulting in a miserable, sagging look to the hangings around my wonderful bow-windows with far-reaching views of the Downs and the sea (sorry – I thought I was an Estate Agent then..) with speed and professionalism.  Douglas is one of the ‘old school’ – takes pride In his work and doesn’t charge an arm and a leg.  Money well spent and elegant curtains again – less reminiscent of a neglected bed-sit in Neasden (casting no aspersions on Neasden, of course;  some of my best friends come from…… no, they don’t actually.)

Now to aches, pains and the debilitating afflictions of the elderly, which I know you all enjoy hearing about.  Where were we with that?  Ah.  Yes.  The fake Polymyalgia – the disorder that the Surgery could not diagnose with any confidence, so they decided to leave it and see what happened.  What happened was that my excellent osteopath, Helen, suggested an extended course of high-dosage Vitamin D.  And guess what?  After three months matters are hugely improved – there remain some little bits of stubborn muscular discomfort, but generally the picture is much better than heretofore.  (Good word that, don’t you think?  ‘Heretofore’ – I recommend it to you – doesn’t get used enough, unless you are preparing legal documents.)

So, the old bat is much better, you are thinking.  Wrong, because the old bat has developed a new condition to make her life miserable – Dead Left Hand.  Well, that’s what I am calling it.  I suddenly have a left hand which has lost all strength and dangles uselessly at the end of my arm like a limp piece of sea-weed, index finger leaning forward and little finger refusing the join the others but sticking out like a, I would say sore-thumb, but I might be accused of Mixing Metaphors.  This hand will not open cans or milk-bottles, or juice, or biscuits or packets of bacon – in fact, will not open anything including doors – nor will it do up bra’s or pull up knickers or tights.  I have taken to wearing a swim-suit beneath my clothes as that is the only underpinning I can struggle into.  It will not chop onions or peel apples or squeeze lemons, so I live on micro-waved meals;   it will not hold a fork properly so I eat US style cutting up meat with knife in right-hand then swapping fork to right-hand and forking the stuff in.  Pizza crust presents such a problem that Mr.Hobbit has to cut it up for me – and you can forget squeezing shampoo or shower-gel out of plastic bottles.  As for typing – it takes three-times as long as it did because of all the corrections that need to be made, so you are very lucky to be getting this post at all.  The jury is out as to what this is, but my guess is Carpal Tunnel Syndrome – although the lady in the Pharmacy thinks it could be Trigger Finger.  (Bang! Bang!)  Whatever it is, I hope my Doctor will tell me more shortly.  And then you will all be informed, of course.

Today, in aid of Not Taking It With Me, I have just had a new shower unit installed – a more old-bat-user-friendly item than the one that was here before. I no longer have a one-metre high step to mount in order to get in, and there is a folding-chair within should I wish to take the weight off my dogs while I am washing my hair.  Nice.  And it fits into the space where the old one went perfectly.  And, the guys only took 4 hours fitting it and taking the old one away and only drank four cups of tea and demolished one packet of biscuits while they were at it.  Cheap at the price.   (£8,000, actually, so maybe not cheap – but I had it done BECAUSE I’M WORTH IT!)



These get madder and madder – as far as the weather goes you may be interested to know that “a bitter fog” is on the way and that it stays “Chilean till the weekend” – in sport, England has eaten Ireland for a place in the play-off”  but the prize must go this month to “Strictly Come Dancing” and the male celeb whose Cha-Cha-Cha caused one of the judges to tell him that he “certainly gave it some Willy tonight..”




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Well, obvs. the main news is the trip to Majorca, although in passing perhaps it is worth mentioning that the two went off to see “MAMA MIA  – HERE WE GO AGAIN”  at the end of August.

This is described as “a musical romantic comedy” and if you saw Version No.1 you will know to expect lots of colour, flashy costumes and loads of ABBA songs.  Which is fine if you like ABBA songs, and let’s be honest, who doesn’t?  The films stars MERYL STREEP as “DONNA SHERIDAN” and LILY JAMES as her daughter, also “DONNA SHERIDAN” – and cross-cuts and flashes-back between  the present-day and the 1970’s in a fashion designed to give the viewer motion-sickness – certainly left Jude et Jim pretty confused.  Sorry, but the only good thing about this film is the music – it is just not a patch on the first “MAMA MIA” and Jude was left wondering why they bothered to make this one at all.  The Director is Ol Parker (Who he?)

Now to the Main Event – the holiday in Majorca, which is always lovely, but always has its first day ruined by the rigours of the actual journey and the sheer Hell that the ordinary traveller is put through at airports.  Why is it that your Departure Gate is always the one furthest from the Departure Lounge?  And why are most of the “Travelators” en-route out of order?  And why are there staircases to climb up (and then down again) while dragging your cabin-bag, meaning you have to try and carry it and some fast, kind, and very young person behind swoops on it, lifts  it above their head and says “I’ll take this for you”, dumps it at the foot of the stairs and vanishes into the throng before you can say “Thank-you”?  (Bless them – let no-one tell you The Young are a waste of space.)

Anyway, this year, as they puffed along, Jude said to Jim “Do you see any other 80-plus-year-olds walking this route?”.  “No,” said Jim, looking round.  At which point, tooting loudly, an open-sided vehicle driven by an airport-employee trundled past us bearing six of them (over-80-year-olds).  Jude et Jim Saw the Light.  Apparently you only have to ask the Airline, or the Airport itself for such assistance, and it is yours!  Maybe one needs a Doctor’s letter, but Jude’s is well-trained and usually does what is requested of him.

So next year, the two will be on one of those chuggy, tooting vehicles, waving regally to the masses as they surge along heaving their luggage.  What’s not to like?

It took them most of the next day to recover – but Majorca is lovely and the Time-Share villa is peaceful and air-conditioned and serviced by jolly maids to whom one only needs to say “Hola” and the washing-up is done and the beds made. that it is impossible to feel stressed out for long.  Half-an-hour in the pool and half-an-hour on the sun-lounger soaking up more Vitamin D (see above) was all that was required to recharge the batteries and the next day, off they went in their self-drive hired OPEL, driving on the right-hand -side of the road and arguing about what instruction the sat.nav. lady had just given, to their favespot – Porto Christo (see pic.)

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But Porto-Chisto, for the first  time in living memory, decided that the rains should fall and the thunder should rumble and the little Promenade should be ankle-deep in running water – and that all the small coffee-shops should be stuffed with people, sitting steaming gently.

“Good for business,” said Jude et Jim to the chap who served them dos Americanos.  “No,” said he, “we like it quieter – we can’t manage all these people..”  Some folks are never  satisfied, are they?

After that, the sun shone, the temperature climbed and J et J had their usual lovely time.  However, Jude has always said that it is impossible to get a bad meal on Majorca – and they discovered somewhere that managed it on this trip.  Admittedly it was in the tourist hub of Calor Millor, and was unpromisingly called “THE HOLLYWOOD BAR” so they should have been prepared for the quasi-American burger-type menu.  The freshly-squeezed Majorcan orange-juice was available, however, so the Hollywood Bar sort of redeemed itself with that.

Inevitably the days vanished and before they had got thoroughly unwound and relaxed it was time to contemplate the damned Airport Experience again.  Enough said – next time Jude et Jim go through Gatwick it will be in a four-wheeled vehicle with a uniformed driver.  (Just saying.)

And now it is OCTOBER.  Jude had a sight of the First Mince Pie of 2018 at the beginning of September in the Co-Op and wondered if it was worth a Letter To The Times but decided against it – since Selfridge’s Christmas Shop probably opened at the end of August as per.   Nothing will stop the onrush of the Festering Season, so let’s all just  lie back and think of England while it has its wicked way with us all.

November’s Blog will contain exciting news of the Literary front – so Watch This Space.


TIPS FOR OVER-SEVENTY-YEAR-OLDS;  Next time you are stumbling from the  Airport Lounge to the Departure Gate – thumb a lift.


Images by
Mr. Hobbit



It comes to something when the most excitement you experience over a month is the purchase of a new Hoover –  but the carpet was looking a little like the floor of the Care Home in which my beloved Mum ended her days.  Crumb-bestrewn.  In my defence it must be said that I do not have either a Dining Room or space for a table in my microscopic kitchen, so I eat perched on my sitting room sofa in front of a small folding table – from which vantage point I can view “ANTIQUES ROADSHOW” or “CORONATION STREET” or whatever takes my fancy while I shovel in food – paying more attention to the telly than the eating process (as you do) resulting in the creation of Crumb City.   My excellent cleaner, Keef, does a brilliant job destroying this with his Heavy Duty HENRY – but Keef only comes once a fortnight and Things Build Up.  Which is why I have a non-heavy-duty, light-weight thingy I use for spot-cleaning.  This useful tool died a week ago.  Well, it was certainly dead by the time Jim had disembowelled it to try to find the source of its problems (the main symptom of which was that it no longer worked when switched on and powered-up)  and declared it beyond the help of Hobbit-Care.  This might have been because he wasn’t sure how to re-assemble it but either way a new hoover-purchase was indicated.

I found just what I wanted in Curry’s Sale, took it from its display point and heaved it over to a salesperson who looked at it and then spent some time on his keyboard only to tell me that the Computer Said No.   And it said No because this particular, sale-price model, was no longer in stock in ANY of Curry’s outlets.  And not expected to be in stock again until next March, if then.  So why put it on display, I politely asked?  “We have to,” he said.

There is no arguing with logic, so I chose another one which he obligingly carried to the car for me, and I have to say it performs its duties quite satisfactorily, so that is the end of  the exciting news for this month.

I lie, of course.  I am also, now, the proud possessor of one of those ‘Lifeline’ things you hang round your neck in case you fall and break your back in the shower.  In the event of such a catastrophe you just press the little button and all the staff from the local Age-Concern come tearing round to help you, together with the local cops and an ambulance..  Or something.  The nice chap who fitted it all up for me said “This is a valuable tool which we hope you never have to use.”  Too right.

So all that was a bit exciting too – not quite as exciting as the purchase of the hoover, but close.  Anyway, those of us with (or without) Polymyalgia cannot be too careful – apparently the condition can make you dizzy.  That’s if you have it – which in my case is still Not Proven.

In the meantime I am taking vast doses of Vitamin D – which appears to be helping.  I will keep you posted on this one.

I would say my trip to London for a reunion lunch with old BBC colleagues was excitement – except it was more pure terror.  Think about it.  A journey from the South-Coast to North London (King’s Cross, to be precise) involving a drive to the station and the worry of parking, a train journey to Victoria, a tube trip to King’s Cross and a taxi-ride to the venue in temperatures forecast to be in the 30’s with the usual unreliable train-services…. OMG.

Well, terrorised I might have been at the prospect of all this – but in fact completely needlessly.  Plenty of parking, no problems with any trains, obliging taxi-driver who knew where the venue was, and, best of all, THE ROTUNDA is a wonderful brasserie/bar place right on Regents’ Canal.  With a marvellous greensward (good word, ‘greensward’ doncher think?) leading to the water’s edge, some lovely shade and a gentle breeze.  That this oasis was in the middle of London was hard to believe.  And as we all sat there, chatting, drinking, eating and laughing – a flotilla of swans, plus their cygnets, gave us a float-by.  A great time was had by all, although, sadly the sticks outnumbered the people (some needing two) and there was one wheelchair amongst us – but it all goes to prove there is Life After the BBC and Grow Old Along With Me – The Best Is Yet To Be!

Another excitement is my Writers’ Group, CHALK CIRCLE,  launching its Anthology of “Microfiction” on line and in paper-back.  To be called “STRATA” it contains short tales (each no more than 300 words) embodying “slices through the human landscape”.  Each of us has contributed two pieces – so ten in all, and illustrations will be by JOHN VERNON LORD (of “THE GIANT JAM-SANDWICH” fame).  So that will be happening in September and if you want to know how to access our stuff, details will follow, so Watch This Space and remember, You Heard It Here First!

SUBTITLE CORNER;   Apparently, “Interest rates are likely to rise this year and taxis are likely to follow them….”  And, as far as the weather goes   “If the odd thumpetty shower Mrs. you, it will remain sonny..”  Good to know.


Jude et Jim have resumed their cultural pursuits with a visit to their favourite Out-Of-Town Private Cinema to see “THE HAPPY PRINCE” – the five-star-rated biopic of OSCAR WILDE’S final years.  “A superstar on the skids” as one reviewer described it.

The Director is RUPERT EVERETT, the Screenplay is by RUPERT EVERETT and the starring role of OSCAR WILDE is taken by RUPERT EVERETT, so without doubt this little-known tale was close to Mr.Everett’s heart.  And he does do it justice.  “It proves a film can be both bleak and warm-spirited as befits its mighty subject.” (David Edelstein)

What can one say?  This is a marvellous, heart-breaking, touching story of the decline and death of a literary genius, and starts in the room in Paris in which he died (of which apparently he said “Either this wallpaper goes or I do..”) and weaves to and fro and back and forth through the scenes in his past life, visiting ghosts and shadows while dwelling also in the present-day, in an artfully-constructed manner, capturing the decline and fall of a hugely gifted man.  This is a true tragedy, in the exact sense of the word – the tale of a heroic figure, of nobility and stature, brought down by his own flaws and errors.

Oscar Wilde leaves prison feeling moderately optimistic about the future, and contemplating returning to his long-suffering wife, Constance – absolutely certain the awful Alfred, Lord Douglas (‘Bosie’) was now left behind – never to be revisited.  But, as he always said “I can resist anything except temptation” the temptation of Bosie proves stronger than he had believed and he falls back into his lover’s arms – as a result of which Constance, who is now sick herself – actually with Multiple Sclerosis (although the film hints at syphillis, contracted from Oscar) withdraws his allowance.  Bosie’s promises of money from his family prove as insubstantial as his affections and a future of boozy destitution is now all that is on offer.  Throughout this he is supported by his two loyal friends, ROBBIE ROSS his Literary Editor and REGGIE TURNER a writer – who are present at his deathbed.  He immerses himself in the Parisian, artistic demi-monde world where he still finds admiration and the moment when he sings “The Boy I Love Is Up In The Gallery”  to a Montmartre audience of drunken revellers bring tears to the eyes, with its doubles-entendres”  and its sense of wasted and lost love.  Well, it brought tears to Jude’s eyes anyway.

Oscar Wilde actually died of cerebral meningitis – whether this was brought on by syphillis or not, no-one knows.  Jude googled this to discover the precise cause of his death is still something of a mystery.

This film is a masterpiece.  Rupert Everettt’s performance is stupendous in its tenderness, its egotism its sadness and its brilliance.


Go see.

Apart from all this, Jude’s other excitement was a £50 gift from Uncle Ernie which went on treating Jim to Avocado & Prawns followed by a Pizza Marinare in the local Italian, while Jude had Parma Ham and Melon followed by a thoroughly healthy. Brown Rice Risotto.  No, she didn’t think you could use Brown Rice for risotto either, but they manage to do it here.  Luvly Jubbly.

TIPS FOR OVER-SEVENTY-YEAR-OLDS;  “For pains in the leg and the bum and the knee – try lashings and lashings of Vitamin D..”  (Anon.)




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 at 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 crammed 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.