Friday, March 31, 2006

Listing to starboard

I might repeat to myself slowly and soothingly, a list of quotations beautiful from minds profound - if I can remember any of the damn things - Dorothy Parker

MaryB's post 'Meme de la meme' of 29th March has got me excited - I do like listing things. However, I reserve the right to not answer all 39 questions. (Do you think the list was originally 40 but someone chickened out on one of them along the way)?

  1. Who was the last person you high-fived? - last person I high-fived was grandson Thomas (but he had to show me how)
  2. If you were drafted to war, would you survive? - luckily I'm far too old
  3. Do you sleeping with TV on? - something I do frequently - at about 8pm on the sofa and not intentionally
  4. Have you ever drunk milk out of a carton? - no, we have bottles
  5. Have you ever won a spelling bee? - yes many, many, many years ago
  6. Have you ever been stung by a bee? - yes
  7. How fast can you type? - pretty fast but with a very small amount of fingers
  8. Are you afraid of the dark? - not any more
  9. Eye colour? - blue
  10. Have you ever made out at a drive-in? - don't have drive-ins here and the back row was always too cramped and public
  11. When was the last time you chose a bath over a shower? - months ago. However I've just stayed in an hotel that had a shower over a bath
  12. Do you knock on wood? - yes and if no hard surface is available I use my head
  13. I'm not answering this one out of pure embarassment
  14. Can you hula-hoop? - many, many, many years ago
  15. Are you good at keeping secrets? - yes - but isn't it annoying when you find out that everyone knows anyway
  16. Too soon to think about this one
  17. Do you know the Muffin Man? - not personally but I also know that he lives in Drury Lane
  18. Do you talk in your sleep? - so I'm told
  19. Who wrote the book of love? - which version?
  20. Have you ever flown a kite? - many, many, many years ago. Now I leave it to Thomas
  21. We don't have that saying here
  22. Do you consider yourself successful? - yes
  23. How many people are on your contact list of your cell? - don't know and can't be bothered to count them, but not many
  24. Have you ever asked for a pony? - no
  25. Plans for tomorrow? - no firm plans yet, will just see what comes along
  26. Can you juggle? - no more than three things at once these days
  27. Missing someone now? - no
  28. When was the last time you told someone 'I love you'? - too long ago. It's one of the things I don't say too often BUT everyone that I love dearly knows that I do (that is grammatically awful!)
  29. And truly meant it? - if I had said it, of course I would have meant it
  30. How often do you drink? - all the time. Must get the recommended 2 litres in there
  31. How are you feeling today? - great
  32. What do you say too much? - nothing in particular - but I know that I do complain a lot, a habit that I'm trying hard to break
  33. Have you ever been suspended or expelled from school? - no but I must confess to having played truant once or twice
  34. What are you looking forward to? - a holiday in Madeira in a couple of weeks time
  35. Have you ever crawled through a window? - probably get stuck if I tried
  36. Have you ever eaten dogfood? - not knowingly
  37. Can you handle the truth? - yes I think so
  38. Do you like green eggs and ham? - I like ham but don't quite know what green eggs are
  39. Any cool scars? - one under my chin from when I fell off my bike (many, many, many years ago). But not very cool is it?

Well I did it, and didn't miss too many. Thanks for that, MaryB and Tamar

Promises, promises

We must not promise what we ought not, lest we be called upon to perform what we cannot - Abraham Lincoln

As promised in a comment on one of MaryB's posts, here are my thoughts on a couple of really good books that I read whilst I was away:

The Food Taster by Peter Elbling. This is a book that I picked up on my expedition to the bookshops of Kingston upon Thames a few weeks ago. I'm not sure what attracted me to it but I'm certainly glad that something did. Set in the 16th century it is hugely atmospheric Renaissance story of love, death and intrigue. Lovely......

Pompeii by Robert Harris. This book I've picked up a few times but didn't fancy much. However, my lovely daughter Jo recommended it to me and, even better, lent it to me. This was another book I found hard to put down, again very atmospheric and well-crafted. Spookily it even mentioned the 3 tiered Roman aqueduct in the South of France which we saw on our trip to Avignon! Highly recommended.

Bridge on the River Rhone

This should have been posted a couple of days ago BUT I've been having a few problems with t'internet. I seem to have fixed them now but I have no idea how!!

A good holiday is one spent among people whose notions of time are vaguer than yours - J B Priestley

Hello - I've just returned from a lovely long weekend in Avignon which, in case you don't know, is in Provence on the way to Marseille. It is a charming and beautiful city, the centre of the catholic church and home to the popes for the best part of the 14th century. The Palais de Papes is a major attraction, even without a resident pope, and is massive ornate and pretentious. I have to admit that we didn't spend the whole day required to explore it; we just inspected and admired the outside and relaxed in the large square in front of it drinking coffee and people-watching.

Pont St. Benezet is the other famous Avignon landmark. Yes, the very same Pont d'Avignon that children almost everywhere must sing about (or they used to. I checked with a couple and they'd never heard of it!). This bridge was built, according to legend, by a shepherd boy, Benezet, after a vision of Jesus in 1177 told him to do so. Originally it crossed the Rhone with 22 arches, 2 chapels and stretched over the Ile de Barthelasse (one of the largest river islands in Europe) for approximately one kilometre to Villeneuve sur Avignon (where the cardinals built their palace) on the far side. After a serious flood in the 1660's, when the water rose a metre higher than the river, most of it was swept away and now all that remains are 4 arches 1 chapel and it doesn't reach very far at all.

So many other things to marvel at in and around this lovely place: Roman aqueducts, arenas, temples and so much more. The weather was more than kind to us and now Avignon is on my ever-growing list of places to revisit.

The only negative things I have to say are:

  • I did not like having to pick my way through dog shit to get where I had to go.
  • for a beautiful and very cultural city the authorities don't seem to take the problem of modern graffiti very seriously

However, they won't stop me going back.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Yesterday's news

..or even the day before yesterday's as I've only just got round to reading the papers.

I'm not going to relay my thoughts on politics; I really don't like swearing in print very much. Suffice it to say that you can trust their word, the only problem being you have to be very careful which particular word that is. No, on second thoughts, you can't trust any of their words.

First item to catch my eye was the lifetime achievement award award givcn to Tony Curtis by
Empire magazine
. I really like Tony Curtis, not so much for his great acting (although I think he is an under-rated actor), but because he was a true Hollywood 'star', very good looking, outstanding in Some Like it Hot and The Sweet Smell of Success and seems not to take himself too seriously. His other memorable role, for me, (and not necessarily for his acting skills) was in Spartacus. You warm to him when you hear that he recalls scoring minus zero in a school spelling test because he didn't spell his name right; he forgot to put the 't' in Schwartz.

A very small item that made me smile was a report from Oslo that because of a plumber's error the beer taps in a bar in Kristiansund only served water, while an apartment on the second floor of the same building had only beer coming out of its kitchen taps. Unfortunately the beer in the kitchen was flat.

There is an article about the 'ghosts on the supermarket shelves' - products that apparently still sell in their thousands, that have been around for ever and refuse to be killed off. First is Marmite but the bad news is that they're giving it a makeover and are putting it into one of those really user-unfriendly plastic squirty bottles! Now, if that turns out to be like the upside down squirty bottle that tomato ketchup is now in you'll squirt away for minutes with no result then, suddenly you'll get a bloody great dollop of the stuff on your toast, which ain't very nice!!
Then we have Angel Delight. This should bring back memories for Peter & Jo as I seem to remember that it was something they had for dessert quite frequently. Camp Coffee - now why this horrible stuff should sell is a great mystery to me. It's called coffe but it consists of 26% chicory, 4% coffee and the rest mostly sugar. According to a spokesman for the manufacturer it is mostly people of 84+ who still buy it. Now who buys Izal toilet paper? It surely must be the most unsuitable product in history for its purpose. It is reminiscent of school toilets in the '60s, with its shiny, onion skin texture and its whiff of disinfectant. There's also Pearce Duff's Blancmange Powder (solid custard with lumps), Farrow's Giant Marrowfat Processed Peas (I would eat nothing else as a child, but now I would eat anything else. Spam - well we all know what Monty Python did for that. Bird's Dream Topping, another '60s-'70s favourite with ingredients reading like a chemistry textbook.

In the 'Health' section a report outlined treatment by psychotherapist Bernie Wooder who prescribes films to help alleviate his clients' emotional troubles. A few examples: Rocky, Lawrence of Arabia help with lack of drive, Truly Madly Deeply, Ghost, Great Expectations are for bereavement, loss or a broken heart, The Money Pit for debt, Shirley Valentine, Muriel's Wedding for insecurity, Educating Rita for boredom, The Bridges of Madison County for dealing with having an affair.
I'm going off in a minute to compile my own list!

Finally - the 'Letters' page contained this little gem:

Sir: Breasts are not hemispherical (letter, 13 March). A simple method for determining the weight (mass) of a breast is as follows. The woman stands on bathroom scales, leaning forward, and records her weight. An assistant raises a bowl of water and fully immerses the breast. The decrease in weight registered on the scales is equal to the weight of the breast. This method works on any fleshy appendage which has the same density as water.

All of the above courtesy of The Independent> .

Thursday, March 09, 2006

A trip down Memory Lane

It's too early in the morning for it to be too early in the morning - Terry Pratchett

Here we are again, 2am and I'm wide awake. For the second night running I've gone to bed at a reasonable time, read until my eyelids doop turned off the light and ZAP!! - eyes wide open, brain in overdrive, husband snoring in blissful sleep. This is an inheritance from the last 2-3 years of my working life when this used to happen on a very regular basis. In those days my nocturnal ramblings were mostly work-related and unpleasant and many's the time I was in my office at 4.30am because that was the only way I could solve my problem, on its home ground. That's all over now, thank the Lord, and well & truly behind me but gone are the days when I would sleep through anything, even hurricanes.

Anyway I've decided to write this masterpiece now instead of later. I'm sitting with hot chocoate and good old pencil and paper as I think that sitting in front of a computer screen tapping away at a keyboard is conducive to lulling me to sleep. I'll post it after breakfast.

When I got up this morning (no yesterday morning) the sky was grey with rain-filled clouds, there was loads of housework waiting to be done and the breakfast newspaper was full of depressing news - the government caught in more lies, Tessa Jowell and the Italian job, the resignation of NHS boss over over a record £620 million pound black hole in finances (but please don't worry about him, Tony's giving him a peerage), the rape of an 11-year-old in a supermarket toilet and all sorts of other nasty stuff. So I thought: 'Sod it, I'm off to Kingston to research bookshops with coffee drinking facilities'. on went the lipstick, eyeliner and hair gel and off went I.

The scenic route was my journey of choice. It's a bit longer but more interesting. It also takes me through places connected with my life up until we moved here to Chertsey, some 36 years ago and for some reason today I felt particularly nostalgic about them.

First jog of the memory was Lower Sunbury. Sunbury on Thames was where I was raised from the age of 6 months and Lower Sunbury is the prettier bit of it, bordered by the River Thames. Although 2-3 miles from where I lived in Upper Sunbury, this is where I came a lot in my childhood and teens when the world seemed a lot safer and a 9/10-year-old could be out and about with a group of friends and no-one would worry. First there is the building belonging to Thames Water Authority where my Dad, who died when I was 11, worked for a short time one summer as a night-watchman. My mother and I used to walk there sometimes in the evening to keep him company.Then past the road where my first real love lived. Unfortunately the feelings were not reciprocated and he buggered off to County Durham early in the relationship. The next landmark is Monksbridge, a lovely house backing on to the river, where Edward VIII visited often when he was Prince of Wales but in later years was more famous as the home of Diana Dors and her infamous parties.

Now we go past the hairdresser/newsagent on the left (now boarded up) where I had a Saturday job and the open air swimming pool on the right where I never learnt to swim.

Hampton is next, still following the river, but no particular memories here - apart from the one of friends who were married in the church there in the '50s by a bogus vicar, so were not married at all. Quite a scandal in those days!! There are some lovely houses nearby including a villa used by David Garrick who built a temple dedicated to Shakespeare at the bottom of his garden. It's still there.

Past Bushy park, where there is a fairground every bank holiday, on to Hampton Court a wonderful place to visit.

Here I make a detour because I dislike driving through Kingston town centre and want to approach it from the other side so it's turn right over Hampton Court Bridge and straight on to Weston Green, Thames Ditton. This is a lovely memory; it's where we lived for about two years when we got married in 1963.

Now we come to a really exciting bit. There used to be, in Thames Ditton, a motorcycle dealership and workshop called Comerfords. I worked there up until I had Pete and one day, in front of me, sitting on a wall, there was.. Steve McQueen. Oh, he was gorgeous! Apparently he came over here sometimes to race his bikes and on this particular occasion he was using the workshop facilities.

And so into Kingston - loads of memories too numerous to bore you with now - because it was a huge part of my early working and married lives.

By the way, it seems that all of the big bookshops in Kingston (Borders, Waterstones and even WH Smith) have a Starbucks or similar in them now. Hoorah!!!!!


Brief Encounters

Apart from my dalliance (I wish) with Steve I have also been fortunate enough to encounter one or two other celebrities along the way:

Adam Faith gave me a lift to work once in his Rolls Royce. He was a really nice bloke.

I sat next to Jack Palance in a cinema in Leicester Square.

The Queen Mother's car had to stop behind a bus from which I was alighting on my way home from school. I got a nice smile and a wave.

I once spoke to Rod Steiger on the phone in my capacity as a telephonist at the GPO's Continental Exchange - my first job c.1956.



If, like me, you've reached the end of this post without falling asleep - thanks for your patience. Much appreciated.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Odds and book ends

jomoore was talking on her blog the other day about her love of stationery and stationery shops. This, I think, may be in our genes as I also could spend hours amongst the pens, papers, envelopes and oooh.... the plastic folders and lever arch files.

I also feel the same way about bookshops, where I browse through not only books but bookmarks, bookplates, cards, calendars and all of those other wonderful odds and ends that can be found in this wonderland. So.... here is my latest purchase:

Her left hand is holding a wine bottle, in case you're wondering.

To make me truly happy I would like our bookshops here to emulate those seen on American TV programmes and have a coffee shop on the premises. What bliss!!!

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Break a leg!!!

My only regret in the theatre is that I could never sit out front and watch me. - John Barrymore

Well, I did it. I can now delete one item from my list of things that I just can't do. Yes - my theatrical debut: (I'm the one on the left with the crown, btw)

The makeup must have been good because Pete says I looked so much like Queen Victoria that he's now got some sort of psychological issue. (Hang on, I wasn't wearing spepcial makeup so I must really look that old!!).

The show was good, the audience appreciative (filthy lot!) and we've got to do it all again next weekend. Great fun!!!!!"!!

Lots more photos on my flickr link if you have the time or inclination.

Friday, March 03, 2006

and the winner is...........

She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain. - Louisa May Alcott

It seems The Bookseller has awarded its annual Diagram Prize for Oddest Title of the Year to:

How People Who Don't Know They're Dead Attach Themselves to Unsuspecting Bystanders and What to Do About It by Gary Leon Hill (Red Wheel/Weiser). Apparently, this book provides "an explanation of the inexplicable".

Others in the shortlist were:

  • Bullying and Sexual Harassment: A Practical Handbook by Tina Stephens and Jane Hallas (Chandos, out next month). The final chapter of this fine reference work appears to be titled: "Where does it all end?" Apt question.
  • Rhino Horn Stockpile Management: Minimum Standards and Best Practices from East and Southern Africa by Simon Milledge (Traffic East Asia). This handy £10 paperback sounds highly dubious.
  • Ancient Starch Research by Robin Torrence and Huw J Barton (Berg). Presumably, a brilliant analysis of the latest methodology in finding old household starch.
  • Soil Nailing: Best Practice Guidance by A Phear (Construction Industry Research & Information Association). A tricky subject to hammer down.
  • Nessus, Snort and Ethereal Powertools (Elsevier). "If you have Snort, Nessus and Ethereal up and running and now you're ready to torque these tools to their fullest potential, then this book is for you."

Books that narrowly missed out on the shortlist:

Urogenital Manipulation; Dining Posture in Ancient Rome; and Circumcisions By Appointment: A View of Life in and Around Manchester in the Eighteenth Century.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Good news, bad news

I base my fashion taste on what doesn't itch - Gilda Radner 1946-1989)

Good news - thongs are out and boy pants are in. I'll reserve judgement until I've tried some.

Bad News - leggings are coming back. If you're thin your legs look like liquorice sticks, weigh anything over 100lbs and they look like badly stuffed black puddings

I've been doing some research of 1970's fashion - did we really wear those huge platform shoes and dreadful psychedelic printed dresses and shirts? Well, yes we did. Then came the '80s with big shoulders and 'power' dressing and big hair. Then came the '90s with....... what? I truly can't think of anything that belongs exclusively to that decade and the trend has continued into the '00s. Style seems to have disappeared and if you 'dress up' these days you are in the monority.

I'm off now to get changed into my jeans and t-shirt!!