Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Glimpse of Antigua

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Sunday Sermon

Geography is not my strong point; yesterday – at a lunch party - I learned that Montenegro was not in South America but near Serbia.  At the second year at grammar school in the forties, in addition to all the usual subjects you had to choose two subjects from Art, History, Latin and Geography.  I chose Art and History despite the fact that you had to have Latin for University.  I don’t remember ever seriously considering going to University and couldn’t wait to get out into the real world.

My # 1 son and DIL are presently celebrating 25 years marriage in Antigua so he thoughtfully sent me a map.  It’s roughly SE of Haiti with Cuba up at the top left.
It looks beautiful – see below.
He says:
Antiguans are so laid back it's unbelievable and Health & Safety just haven't reached here yet.  That's mainly good but there seems to be a law against indicating or driving in a straight line which makes things interesting.  In the capital there are loads of skinny dogs wandering around, presumably stray.  It's just normal to them but for Jenny it's very distressing as they look in poor shape and risk being hit by cars on a regular basis.


Once you get away from the tourist hotels and yacht marinas, there's quite a bit of poverty.  And like anywhere there's a certain amount of drug and alcohol abuse.  But I like it.  99% of the people are warm, friendly and will do anything for you.  Even the hawkers on the beach are always polite and when you say no, smile and move on.  I dread to think what any Antiguan would think of his first trip to London.

This made me laugh: Seventy years ago the late, lovely gentleman Roy Plomley started the renowned radio programme - Desert Island Discs and one of the castaways was the delectable Brigitte Bardot.  When asked what she would like to take with her to the island she said:
“Er penus” which caused – it is said – Roy to blush.  In fact what she said was:
” ‘appiness,”

Every time the decorators come to a window they remove the curtains and my roots won’t allow me to re-hang then without first washing, ironing and - in some cases repairing.  Here’s hoping the washer holds out.
 It’s all going to be lovely!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ah Tosca!
When I was a child my Dad bought from an old farmer for ten shillings, an ancient album of vinyl records which was the complete Tosca with photos of the Italian artristes.  If you can imagine all those records encased in a heavy book-like cover- fraying at the edges ingrained with dust.
I played it endlessly and not knowing the story made it up in my mind's eye.
When evertually I saw Maria Callas  - on TV alas- my story wasn't far out.  Just listen tothe music.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tuesday Twaddle

I almost missed the anniversary of starting Past Imperfect – six years ago, January 14th to be exact.  One of my better moves – thanks #1son (have a Happy Silver Wedding anniversary in Antigua), and all the many bloggers who encouraged and helped me.

Whilst I think of it – norovirus – seems to be popping up all over the place – our hospital has closed wards a number of times lately and hotels and cruise ships are particularly vulnerable.  Here’s what Gill Charlton said in Telegraph travel:

Norovirus is contracted by touching surfaces such as stair rails, lift buttons and salad servers which have been infected by a previous user.  Another common way to catch the virus is to shake hands with someone who has recently coughed into their hand.
The best way to avoid catching norovirus is to be scrupulous about hand hygiene. Wash your hands for at least 10 seconds in soap and warm water before eating anything.  Steer clear of open buffets or take food from the back of the dish.
Most importantly buy a bottle off Boots Anti-Viral Hand Foam which is alcohol free and manufactured by Byotrol.
When the Holland America cruise line introduced a trial of this hand sanitizer on its ships, it found that norovirus all but disappeared.  It works much more effectively than traditional sanitizers because as well as killing germs on your hands, it gives an ongoing protection against 99.9% of viruses and bacteria for up to 6 hours

I have always leaned towards Lady Macbeth as far as hand washing is concerned but this sanitizer is top of my shopping list.  Let’s hope they don’t run out of the stuff.

On Sunday night I watched an episode of Call the Midwife, it has an excellent cast and the voice of Vanessa Redgrave as the mature Jenny.  Jennifer Worth was a midwife in London’s East End in the fifties and she chronicles life as it was then for the poor in Dockland with its seamy underbelly of brothels, the Kray brothers and flea- infested slums.  I found it to be true to the essence of the book and Miranda Hart the comedy actress is a delight as Chummy aka Camilla, Fortescue Cholmely-Browne who can’t ride a bike for toffee and is always knocking things over.
In fact the author wrote to Miranda and told her she envisaged her in the part.  It is just so sad that Jennifer died last July aged 75 before she could see the TV version.  The remaining four episodes are on my must- see list.

Immediately after that came the first episode of Birdsong Sebastian Faulk’s love story set in WW1.  I seem to remember finding the book a little disjointed and found the TV version the same with its flitting from the gruesome trench warfare to the lyrical love scenes in the Amiens country-side, without warning.  And I found the long lingering shots on the hero and heroine – beautiful as they are –interminable.  It must be a very difficult book to film, I thought Joseph Mawle as Jack Firebrace was excellent and will certainly watch the final episode next Sunday  BBC1 9pm.

Looking at photos of hamamelis - witch hazel, my version seems to be named Orange Peel and they say smells of marmalade.  The scent is much more exotic then marmalade IMO, but there is a clean citrussy kick

Monday, January 23, 2012

Yesterday's blooming garden

Camellias- pink and white.


The witch hazel made me hoot with joy - I thought we'd lost it . I have some in the house and it has a divine scent.

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Some progress on first attic room

Second attic room - this was my office originally.

The large grey object houses an ancient roll top bath.

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Thursday, January 19, 2012

I blame Daphne!

She it was who persuaded me to cast my bread upon the waters (my story) last summer. Last week it was a pleasant surprise to receive a request for the whole script, but as the family were due and I knew I’d have to do a certain amount of editing I had a moment’s panic.  I had all 300 pages printed out but as Eric famously said:-
“All the notes are there – not necessarily in the right order.”

Someone said once that publishers didn’t like a whole script to be sent by email because it used up a computer.  However after spending the whole week–end at the computer – with breaks to rustle up scrambled eggs and smoked salmon on muffins and a full roast dinner for my long suffering family - I was relieved to learn an email would be acceptable.

Then our long awaited handyman came – with reinforcements – to fix the attic windows which recently let in copious amounts of rain and are now stripping both rooms and decorating.  I have been deputed to choose carpets and wall colours.  The plan is they will continue downwards till they reach the hall.  MTL has rather taken the wind out of my sails because for so long I have been suggesting we do a little more decorating instead of the eternal boring maintenance jobs that I’d given up.

And the third thing – it’s always three isn’t it?  The third thing was we had to arrange MTL’s – hopefully final scan – before seeing the surgeon late February to see if all is as it should be.  As there was a gap this week at the hospital we went yesterday.  I drove back in the rush hour in the dark and it was horrible.  My back and neck were hurting – from tension I suspect – and I took my hand off the wheel to ease my neck and hit the verge which frightened the bejasus out of me.

“It’s alright – just slow down a little,”  MTL’s calming words had the desired effect and we reached home safely.
I’m still experimenting with photos so either above or below will be shots of the attic in progress.  Picasa will decide.
The attic - a work in progress

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

Something's come up!

Nothing bad but I have to work flat out till its done and have to let everything else be.  Sorry - back soon I hope.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Dickens of a Play

The holiday diet of Dickens on TV ended with two nights of The Mystery of Edwin Drood - his last unfinished novel. He intended it to be published in twelve monthly instalments but he got up one morning with toothache, became very ill and died having only completed six.
It was once performed as a musical with the audience, each night, given the choice of three endings.

Now dramatised by Gwyneth Hughes, it is a dark piece with lust, sexual jealousy, murder and racism fuelled by liberal doses of laudanum doled out by a motherly Julia Mckenzie.  John Jasper the drug addicted choir master is obsessed with his nephew’s fiancĂ©e – Rosa Bud.
“Your bud has been plucked!” is a line Jasper fiendishly shouts to his nephew. 
The nephew – Edwin Drood is played by Freddie Fox and Rosa Bud by Tamzin Merchant.  The two of them together look like perfect innocent children making the dastardly Jasper seem like Lucifer himself.

Freddie Fox is the son of the brilliant actors Edward Fox (Day of the Jackal) and  Joanna David.  His sister is Emilia Fox, his uncle - James Fox (The Servant) and his cousin is Laurence Fox, co- star of Lewis – another British acting dynasty.
Jasper is played with chilling menace by Matthew Rhys and if he wasn’t the gay brother in the American TV show Brother’s and Sisters I’m a Dutchman.

At first with Jasper throttling his nephew, the story seems clear but nothing is as it seems and one is gripped to the end to discover who did what.  Certainly Edward disappears and the finger points to Jasper.
 The manuscript is in the Victoria and Albert Museum written at a frantic pace with crossings out and corrections – right up to the time he died and it isn’t clear if even Dickens knew how it was going to end.  His last written word was ‘appetite.’

Dickens makes even the smallest characters interesting and the actors do him proud; Rory Kinnear (yes he is the son of that late, great character actor Roy Kinnear who tragically died falling from a horse in the film Return of the Musketeers) plays the Reverend Crisparkle who seems to be developing an attachment to Edwin’s illegitimate sister.  Alun Armstrong plays the kindly lawyer whose clerk was a joy to watch, played – I think - by Alfie Davis.

I love the way Dickens clearly portrays the difference between good and evil and it was great to end a Dickens fest on an unfamiliar play that kept one guessing to the end.  The cathedral crypt, the graveyard, the music and the tantalising snippets of Matthew Rhys’ glorious voice letting rip makes me want to watch it again.

The photograph depicts Matthew Rhys as John Jasper, Tamsin Merchant as Rosa Bud and Freddie Fox as Edwin Drood in The Mystery of Edwin Drood.  BBC2
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Tuesday, January 10, 2012


  I was ten years old when sweet rationing came in and twenty three when it ended.  I had/have a sweet tooth and boy friends tended to be graded by their generosity with the sweet stuff.
Puberty was well over by the time I could binge, otherwise I would have been known as Spotty Muldoon.

Now I can take it or leave it and never buy it for myself yet the larder shelf is always laden with the stuff.  Inevitably after Christmas there were boxes of Thornton’s – probably my favourite – champagne truffles from the hamper, Ferrero Rocher and a big chocolate owl from a grand-son.  They all have a sell–by date so I consider it a duty to ‘use by.’

Yesterday was a wineless day so my treat was going to be a Ferroro Rocher or four.  They are not ideal – a bit too large for my mouth to taste it all over at the same time so I feel I’m missing something.  They were in a plastic oblong see- through container and it took me an hour to open it.  And I broke a nail dammit!  In the end I used/ruined a tiny pair of nail scissors.  I challenge you to do it in less.

I have the box with me now to remind me of the spelling and I am longing to pop one in my mouth but my craving time is in the evening and if I start having treats in the middle of the afternoon there’s no knowing where it will all end.

On the subject of sell by dates, the Wiltshire family are coming this week-end so I had a quick scan and found two bottles of oil – practically prehistoric.  They were ditched and replaced and on checking the date of the new bottle it said:
DEC 12 02:10.
What do you make of that?

Happily there was a free phone number also on the bottle so I rang for an explanation.
I’m sure the brainy ones have sussed it already but for others like me it means:
 Sell by date Dec 12 and that it was bottled on the second of the tenth month.  Who knew?  Anyhow the pleasant girl I was speaking to is going to suggest they make it clearer.

Buster bulletin:
Yesterday he just sat in his basket and had a poorly eye but today – for no particular reason -he bucked up and has gone from 1/10 to 5/10.

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Sunday, January 08, 2012

 Happy Birthday David!

This always makes me laugh.

Friday, January 06, 2012


January 6th is Epiphany and also the day Christmas decorations should be removed.  If you are superstitious – don’t panic – do as I have done – take them down and sort them and put away when you have time.

Good news today – my grandson-dog Buster is out of hospital (RVC) and hopefully with a further 2 weeks antibiotics  will be back to his old self,  Jubilation all round – he’s been missed so much by his immediate family.  He was allowed visitors yesterday and I’m sure that gave him the boost he needed.

Sad news from the daughters of an old friend; she died just before Christmas but it was such a loving letter saying how very lucky and privileged they felt to have been her daughters and described her as ‘our lovely Mum.’

Her grandchildren wrote their own poem and two grand –daughters read it out at the Service.  They had found the poem ‘I am Free’ amongst her papers so that was also read out.

I am Free.

Don’t grieve for me, for now I’m free,
I’m following paths God made for me.
I took his hand, I heard him call…
Then turned, and bid farewell to all.

I could not stay another day,
To laugh, to love, to sing, to play.
Tasks left undone must stay that way.
I found my peace… at close of day.

And if parting left a void
Then fill it with remembered joys.
A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss,
Ah yes, these things I too will miss.

Be not burdened, deep with sorrow
I wish you the sunshine of tomorrow.
My life’s been full…I’ve savoured much.
Good friends, good times…
A loved one’s touch.

Perhaps my time seemed all too brief,
Don’t lengthen it now with undue grief.
Lift up your heart and share with me,
God wants me now …he set me free.
Shannon Lee Moseley

I remember her with great affection; when I first went to live with MTL I was a stranger in a strange town and some people looked askance at this person who turned up out of nowhere.  Being old-fashioned I think MTL would have liked to have kept me hidden until we were safely married but Pearl and her husband were old and trusted friends and when we met them for lunch she went out of her way to make me feel welcome and at home.  After lunch she said:
‘MTL had got his bounce back,’ which was very reassuring to me and we became firm friends.

One couple dropped in to leave their car as they were going abroad on holiday.  Surprised to see this strange lady they assumed I was one of the Scottish cousins.
‘A kissing cousin,’ MTL remarked later.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Worth repeating

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.
Walt Emerson

Life is like riding a bicycle- in order to keep your balance you must keep moving.
Albert Einstein

Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open.
John Barrymore

Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.
Albert Einstein

The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.
Mark Twain

The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us.

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.
Mahatma Ghandi

Prosperity is not without many fears and distastes, and adversity is not without comfort and hopes.
Francis Bacon

Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.
Winston Churchill

There’s much to be said for challenging fate instead of ducking behind it.
Diana Trilling

Diana Trilling was the one name I was unfamiliar with.  She was married to the literary critic Lionel Trilling and was a writer and reviewer for The Nation magazine.  Our own Martin Amis said of her:

In New York, Diana Trilling is regarded with the suspicious awe customarily reserved for the city's senior literary ladies. Whenever I announced my intention of going along to interview her, people looked at me with trepidation, a new respect, a certain holy dread. I felt I was about to enter the lion's den — or the den of the literary lioness, which is often just as dangerous."

Diana Trilling 1905-1996
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Monday, January 02, 2012

Everyone Sang

Suddenly this morning - as bright sunshine glowed from the east - Sassoon’s poem came to life:

Everyone suddenly burst out singing;
And I was filled with such delight
As prisoned birds must find in freedom,
Winging wildly across the white
Orchards and dark green fields, on – on – and out of sight.

Everyone’s voice was suddenly lifted;
And beauty came like the setting sun:
My heart was shaken with tears, and horror
Drifted away…O but Everyone
Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will
 never be done

Siegfried Sassoon

Never before have I seen a rose and a daffodil bloom together in my garden in January and I am filled with hope and optimism.  As David Attenborough says:
’It’s a wonderful world!’  We should make the most of it.

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