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.


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….?