Foaming At The Mouth




I am somewhat annoyed.

What has rattled this normally placid person's cage? It's the vast number of angry people out there, that's what. And I mean they are REALLY angry.

I know people whose default setting is permanent peevishness but it’s gone beyond that. Look on the internet and you will find video upon video of people losing it. They are trolling on Twitter, furious on Facebook, incensed on Instagram, wicked as a snake on WhatsApp and snapping on Snapchat.

I have a wide circle of friends of all political persuasions. Lovely people. Lovely, that is until some political issue rears its ugly head. Then many of these perfectly pleasant people metamorphose into ranting ideologues completely unable to tolerate another person's point of view.

My Facebook pages are full of vitriol.  I expect people to be passionate about their political beliefs but some of the posts transcend that. People "de-friend" others right, left and centre for being politically too right, too left or too centre. 

They regurgitate fake news and unsubstantiated statistics in the manner of Moses descending the mountain with tablets of stone.

I read a post and think to myself, "That can't be right, surely?" Then, just a couple of minutes’ research show that the statistics quoted or the story shared are fabrications. Or they shout FAKE NEWS at everything, fake or not. Why don't people check things before sharing them? See, now I'm angry too.

Then there are the cyber-bully trolls who viciously attack anyone who doesn't share their narrow view of the world. God help you  if you are blessed with less than average looks, any argument you put forward will be immediately nullified because you are fat, old, bald, have a big nose, whatever. If you are a woman in the public eye you could be threatened with the most heinous of "punishments" from rape to murder for having the temerity to offer up an opinion.

Who is this army of cowardly judgemental people with so much time on their hands they can be bothered to write a tweet or fill in a comment form to write something inane or just plain nasty? Who sits down to write horrible things about people they have never met? It's the only time I feel sorry for celebrities who come in for blistering attacks because of the way they look or some inadvertent slip of the tongue.



The sound of teeth gnashing and the sight of veins popping assault my senses daily. I am metaphorically covered head to toe in spit spewing from the mouths of the splenetic.

Turn on your TV and you will see angry people shouting at angry people. Look in your local newspaper or read the local groups on Facebook and you will see people incandescent with rage because there is a van parked with one wheel on the pavement or their packet of 50 turkey twizzlers contains 49.

Anger knows no religion, social class, political persuasion or gender. Various Christians, Jews and Muslims are angry at people who don't share their views. The poor are angry at the rich for not sharing enough, the rich are angry at the poor for taking too much. Political parties are angrily tearing themselves apart. The jobless are angry they are unemployed and the employed are angry they are being exploited. Men are angry at women and women are angry at men. Reasoned debate has been replaced by clashing horns, the winner the person who can shout the loudest.

Of course, not all anger is bad. There is positive anger when we rage at the injustices of the world and vow to do something about it.

But you have to pick your battles. Walk a mile in the other man's moccasins. And chill. Just chill.

  • (I first published something similar to this a couple of years ago but have now rewritten and, hopefully (!) improved.)




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The Past Is a Foreign Country



I RARELY ride in the backs of cars these days. The other day, though, I found myself in the back seat and had to be reminded to fasten my seat-belt. As I was clunk-clicking, a memory came to me of when I was a child.

My father was driving along the country roads and I was standing up in the back of the car, as we kids did in those days, so I could see where we were going. He met another car, a rare occurrence in my neck of the woods in the 1950s (yes, I'm that old!), braked sharpish and I went flying over the seat into the well of the passenger seat. Luckily I was unhurt, and it was a lesson learnt. For years afterwards, though, the incident was never used as a salutary warning but as something to joke about - but that's my family for you!



It made me think of all the other madcap adventures we had as children. We tore around getting up to mischief before going home, dirty but happy and our parents none the wiser.

Living on a farm we were sent out to play in acres of fields where we climbed trees, built dens and generally created mayhem. There is a family picture of my brother standing up precariously on a branch of a tall tree. You can see from the picture that it is impossible to climb down from that tree. What happened was that his older sister - not me! - used a ladder to inveigle him up there, persuaded him to stand up and had then taken his picture.

We played on farm machinery with spikes and spinning wheels yet never hurt ourselves.  We crossed fields full of animals without a moment's hesitation. We played in animal pens no doubt full of harmful bugs. We built "houses" out of bales of hay or straw not worried that they would collapse on top of us.  Don't get me wrong, this is not the type of thing I am advocating. Looking back, it sounds foolhardy at the very least. I guess my brothers and sisters and I were just lucky that we never did ourselves any serious damage.

All these memories brought on an uncharacteristic nostalgic streak. I tend to look forward rather than harp about "the good old days"   when, to quote the cliché, we always left our front door unlocked. In any case, burglars would have had slim pickings in our house with my tenant farmer parents having seven children to bring up.  There was no family silver, no valuable heirlooms and no hidden safe, only a meat safe in the cool room (called the dairy, as all farming families know).

I hate to turn into one of those "everything was better in the good old days" people - but some things were. Our elders and betters seemed to be blessed with rather more common sense than they are today. You could climb a ladder at work without having a week of health and safety training, Food was food, My mother would  have mocked us unmercifully if we had all demanded different dishes at dinner. You ate what was put in front of you or you didn't eat at all. There were no food scares with certain items good for you one week and likely to give you a slow painful death the next.

In my little corner of North Devon there was very little crime, probably because there was a policeman living in every big village. We had one television with two channels, BBC and ITV (showing my age again) and we were not allowed to say we were "bored" - if you did, some job would soon be found for you.

There were no mobile phones so no trolling and sexting. If you made a fool of yourself it was all forgotten in a week and not recorded forever in a video that's gone viral.

There were no phone calls from people trying to scam you out of your money. There were no home computers so I never received an email from some poor African prince whose father had died in a bloody coup offering to give me hundreds of thousands of pounds in return for helping him to get his money out of the country. Of course, he'll need all my bank details...  Which reminds me I must reply to this email from Melania Trump. She inadvertently calls herself Melanin but I suppose she's got it wrong because English isn't her first language. Anyway, she wants to give me $60 million, which is very nice of her. I didn't even realise she knew me but they probably get the Devon Life magazine in the White House and she reads my column. Off now to reply and get that $60 million.




I know that in my nostalgic mood I am looking back through rose-coloured glasses.

Plenty of things have improved since I was a child; I don't look back fondly on everything. There were lots of -isms knocking about when I was young - including sexism and racism. Homophobia was par for the course and no one thought twice about paying women less than men for doing exactly the same job.  I'm not hankering back to the days of polio and TB.

 Now I just wish there was a happy medium and more common sense came into play rather than relying on rules and regulations.

You don't need a law to tell you that poking yourself in the eyes with a red-hot poker is going to make you blind.



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Gardening: I Tried, It Died



The pictures you see on this post are ALL FROM MY GARDEN. But before you get the wrong idea  about my horticultural skills I should perhaps admit they have been planted by my brother.

Let’s not beat about the bush, I am never going to be a gardener. It was hard to admit as I come from a family jam-packed to the greenhouse rafters with growers whose green fingers can produce a productive vegetable plot, a manicured lawn and an extravaganza of flowers, without seemingly breaking sweat.

But the gardening gene passed me by. And as I surveyed the patch of weeds, the dozens of pots whose plants had withered and died on the vine and the tangle of brambles which like stubborn squatters refused to leave no matter how much I threatened them or cut off their water, I finally realised the garden had gone to pot - and I don't mean it was full of medicinal plants. 




I finally threw in in the trowel and accepted my brother's offer of help.

The trouble is, my heart just isn’t in it. I love the planning - the reading of books, surfing the net and making lists. The theory is fine, it’s the practice I have trouble with. While others love being out in the open air producing order out of chaos and beauty out of ugliness, I just find it a long, hard slog.

I dig up weeds and they return. I plant seedlings and the slugs get them. I sweep up leaves and after one puff of wind the garden is covered again. I prune shrubs, turn around and they have regrown - stronger and higher than before. My perennials act like annuals, and my annuals take one look at my garden and decide to give up the ghost. I forget to water and neglect the dead-heading.




I mentioned all this to my brother who, newly-retired, offered to come and tame my pitiful plot. Wonderful though this is, having relatives helping you out does have its pitfalls. For a start he’s family so is not restrained by the bounds of politeness.

The first week he brought his heavy duty strimmer and his loppers. He took one look at the overgrown shrubs at the bottom of my garden, sighed, and said: “Next week I’ll bring my chainsaw.” He wasn’t joking.




And I have found a bunch of things that make my brother roll his eyes.

Him: Why is the shed door propped open? It’s really damp in there.
Me: A stray cat comes into my garden sometimes and I don’t like to think of him out in the rain.

Him: You do know some of these seeds are five years out of date?
Me: I keep forgetting where I’ve put them and then buy new ones.
Him: (Shaking his head) So many seeds and so few flowers.

Him: Why have you got so many broken plant pots?
Me: Don’t people break them up, or something, and put them in the bottom of other pots?
Him: Mutters something about having enough to fill all the pots in a garden centre.

Him: Why have you got so many pots with dead plants?
Me: I keep thinking that with a shower or two of rain they might come back to life again.
He sighs.

Him: (Listening to me chattering away indoors). Are you talking to me?
Me: No, the cat.
Him: She probably knows as much about gardening as you do.

And then there are the questions to which I have no answer.

‘Are your worms still alive?’ he asked. I was shocked by this question but then I realised he was talking about my wormery. To be honest I had no idea as I just open the lid and chuck in my vegetable peelings. But I said, in a triumph of hope over experience, of course they are! He lifted the lid, poked around a bit and said: ‘Good God, yes they are!’ He’s looking forward to testing out the liquid feed. 

I feel ridiculously proud. Liquid feed, huh? Who’d-a thought.


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Happy May Day


Chawleigh Primary School maypole dancing. That's me, kneeling, far right.




Happy May Day, everyone. Here's a piece I wrote for my Maid In Devon column for  Devon Life magazine back in 2016. Apologies to my friends from abroad, it's very "English" and you may not have a clue what I'm wittering on about in parts!


The Month of May

MAY is an important month in my family's calendar. I have two older sisters and one brother all with birthdays on May 2 and all born in different years. I don't know what the odds are on this occurring but they must be pretty high.

I have pictures of one of those sisters as May Queen at Chawleigh Primary School in about 1950 and others of my niece who was May Queen at Torrington in the 1970s. Then there is the one of me in all my gap-toothed, permed hair glory, posing with classmates just before dancing around the maypole at Chawleigh when I was seven or eight. The picture is in black and white (see above) but I can clearly remember that yellow nylon dress with the smocking and how much I loved it. It was one of the few items of clothing I had that wasn't a hand-me-down from my sisters or one of my many cousins.

May Day was, of course, originally a pagan festival marking the beginning of summer and hopefully a big improvement in the weather. It has its origins in the Roman festival of Flora, goddess of fruit and flowers. Maypole dancing began when people cut down young trees, planted them in the ground and danced around them to celebrate the end of winter. Nobody at the time could possibly have imagined hordes of children, all with two left feet, getting tangled up in ribbons to the exasperated sighs of a poor teacher, although our primary school performance went seamlessly thanks to the assiduous training of the patient Miss Hillman.

May 1st is also the feast day of English missionary to the Frankish Empire, Saint Walpurga (or Walburga - spellings vary). She too was a maid in Devon. She was born in the county in the 700s and had an impeccable theological pedigree. She was the niece of St Boniface and sister of two more missionaries and saints. She had aristocratic roots, her father being Richard the Pilgrim, one of the underkings of the West Saxons. He too was later made a saint. If having three siblings born on the same day is unlikely, what are the odds on one family having five saints in two generations?

I am surmising that this saintly tribe's stamping ground was Mid Devon as St Boniface was reputedly born in Crediton.  While her father and brothers were converting the Frankish heathens, Walpurga was sent to an abbey in Wimborne where she learned to write and studied Latin, rare training for a woman in her day. In fact, later in life she wrote a biography of her brother Winibald, making her one of England and Germany’s first female authors. In 748 she travelled across the Continent to help St Boniface is his missionary work.

I feel an affinity to St Walpurga and her family. I went to grammar school in Crediton, was confirmed in the town's Church of the Holy Cross which has close connections to St Boniface, and my birthday is on June 5, St Boniface Day. One of my brothers has a birthday on St Walpurga's Feast Day on February 25. Then there is the writing - and, tenuous link, I have Latin O-Level! However, I have none of her saintliness or zeal to convert heathens being a very much "live and let live" type of person.

Legend has it that it was thanks to St Boniface that we put up a Christmas tree each year. He had arrived in Hesse, now a central German state, on his missionary crusade. There he announced he would destroy their pagan gods and felled the sacred giant oak of Geismar which was dedicated to Thor. He chopped down the oak and the branches fell into the shape of a cross. As it fell it crushed all the other trees in the vicinity except for one little fir tree - the origin of the Christmas tree, or so the story goes.

Ironically, since Walpurga had done so much to stamp out pagan rituals, the eve of St Walpurga's Day on May 1st is Walpurgisnacht (Walpurga's Night) also known as Witches' Night when it was believed the sorcerers and witches of Germany gathered for a meeting on Brocken, the highest peak in the Harz Mountains to dance with the devil.  We did none of that at Chawleigh Primary School, confining our celebrations to maypole dancing watched by proud parents and followed by sandwiches, cake and lemonade in the classroom.

Incidentally, St Walpurga is the patron saint of hydrophobia (fear of water) and sailors and was the inspiration for the name of Walburga Black, the mother of Sirius Black in J K Rowling's Harry Potter books.  

You can start your May Day celebrations after you have bathed your face in the morning dew at sunrise - a tradition guaranteed to make the plainest girl beautiful. It also, it is said, makes you immune to freckles, sunburn and wrinkles, although I prefer to put my faith in factor 30 sun screen lotion.  If I am miraculously turned into a wrinkle-free beauty, you will know my dunk into the dew has worked. 

There is another tradition that if you roll naked in the dew you will be blessed with "great beauty of person". I might venture out to wash my face but as for baring all, I think it best not to scare the horses.


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Living In Devon



Glorious Devon.


I have new neighbours. Like a lot of people they have upped sticks from the city and retired to God’s own county of Devon where they had previously spent many a happy holiday. 

They know that living here is going to be very different from being on vacation. For a start, they are in a country village, not a bustling coastal town, so it will be much quieter. They will have to cope with the drawbacks of living in a rural area, like the fact that they will have to drive miles for their celeriac unless the don't mind replacing it with turnips or swedes - we have plenty of those in our one and only shop which is part of the service station.



They said they were quite happy about the move - until they made the mistake of visiting an internet forum and asking people's advice about living in Devon. Among all the exhortations to "go for it" were one or two warning them about the insularity of the local people. One person said you had to have "three generations in the churchyard" before you were accepted.

I was surprised at this view and more than a little offended.  I personally know of no local person who gives the cold shoulder to people who have not lived here since the year dot.

In fact, a recent Cambridge University study concluded that Devonshire people were among the friendliest in the country. In my experience, they have a natural reticence which can be misconstrued as being stand-offish but dig deeper and you will find people full of the milk of human kindness. I know, I am a Devonian. I have human kindness milk coming out my ears.

I always welcome new neighbours. I'm not the type to take round a home-baked cake; I don't want to poison them. But I'm very happy to do what I'm good at - offer unsolicited advice! So here are a few tips for becoming part of the community




1. Support local events even if you hate the sound of them. How do you know that you wouldn't like ferret racing or a game at the village fete called "splat the rat" unless you've had a go? You might think you would rather be at home with your feet up watching soaps on TV but the local panto is always hilarious and a good night out. Many participants are surprisingly talented and then there are all those "in" jokes. If you have made the effort to fit in with village life you might even understand one or two of them. The show will probably be within walking distance of your house and in a village hall next to the pub. What's not to like?




2. Learn to love tractors. They will hold up the traffic for miles if you are in a hurry. However, if you have plenty of time, they will immediately pull into a passing place or turn off the road. That's just the way it is. Tractors are a vital part of country life. If you need a bit more persuading, visit a tractor rally (yes, there is such a thing).

3. Buy local. Devonshire produce is the best in the world, from vegetables grown in our rich red soil to beef from our Red Ruby cows grazing on lush green pastures. Obviously Devon makes the best pasties and produces the best clotted cream - eschew those Cornish imposters. 




4. Accept that there will be certain times of the year when the air will be more unsavoury than a London smog in 1952. The smells of the countryside can occasionally be a little ripe.  It’s only good natural dung being spread on fields and silage being made. Offset that with the smell of fresh air during the rest of the year, freshly mown grass, wild flowers and the whiff of cooking pasties wafting in the air. It's a small price to pay.





5. And finally, living here is not necessarily about finding the right people but BEING the right person. Don't expect too many Devonians to pop round to welcome you with open arms, although some will. Try to fit in and you will see just how friendly the natives are. I’d be happy to welcome new neighbours to my house – if they bring a cake with them I’ll be their friend forever. 

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Missing A Gene



I don't know where I was when the practical gene was handed out. Maybe I was hiding under the bed covers reading a book with a torch – I did a lot of that kind of thing in my youth – because it completely passed me by. 

It’s all the more puzzling because each one of my six brothers and sisters was born with practicality oozing from their fingertips. From a young age they could garden, cook, sew and paint pictures. They could turn their hands to building work and decorating. They could ice a cake and plaster a wall or knit a jumper and paint a skirting with an innate sense of the right thing to do. My two sisters are both brilliant artists. 

I can’t turn my hand to anything without extensive research via the internet, reading books on the subject and asking tradesmen for advice. I can buy all the right equipment to go with my new-found knowledge - and it'll still turn out like a project undertaken by a moderately competent six-year-old.

My heart starts to thud in memory of my dire days in Domestic Science at school trying to do battle with flour and butter in a vain bid to produce the perfect shortcrust pastry or Victoria sponge.

I spent hours creaming together butter and sugar until my wrists screamed out for mercy. I rubbed fat into flour using the tips of my fingers trying to make it resemble “fine breadcrumbs” but mine still turned out like builder’s mortar. On reflection, builder’s mortar probably tasted better than any pastry I produced.

The gardening gene is also in hiding, skulking under a patch of goosegrass and nettles.  While brothers and sisters boast of their hoard of perfect beetroot and potatoes, I’m outside with scissors snipping the tops off weedy looking lettuces to put into a salad.

But siblings kindly keep me supplied with lots of veg - probably worried that the better half is in danger of developing scurvy. They tend to look at him pityingly as they carry in the carrots.

They also bring round pots of chutneys and pickles. I tried making chutney once. It resembled vegetable soup rather than chutney and tasted of onion and vinegar and not much else.

At least when it comes to cooking I have perfected one meal. I am, even if I do say so myself, a dab hand at roasts. Sunday is the day of the week when lots of family members come round for a traditional dinner. After years of practice, my roast potatoes are crisp on the outside and floury in the middle and I can cook the meat and veg perfectly. I must admit I have to rely on Aunt Bessie for the Yorkshires.

My sister always brings along pudding. I haven’t yet read enough cookery books or visited enough Nigella Lawson and Gordon Ramsay websites to dare to tackle anything as complicated as a blackberry and apple pie. In any case, who wants pastry that tastes like mortar?




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Red Faces All Round






One of my friends told me about an embarrassing incident when out with her four-year-old daughter. She was in a queue at the supermarket and in front of her was a woman with tattoos on her arms. Her daughter, having been told off for a similar incident only hours before, said loudly: "Look, mummy, that lady's been drawing on herself with felt tips. Tell her she's naughty." My friend suddenly remembered she had to find something at the opposite end of the supermarket!

This got me thinking about embarrassing moments. When I was a trainee reporter on a local newspaper I was given the very important task of telephoning a man who had grown a giant marrow. One of my first comments to him was, "I hear you've got a particularly big one." At the time I was sharing an office with three male reporters who all started laughing so much they had to leave the room.

Another friend recalls the time she was in a posh restaurant having an informal interview with a managing director. She was extremely nervous. In an effort to break the ice, he told a mildly amusing story at which my friend broke out into nervous guffaws of laughter. She had just taken a drink and she laughed so much that wine spurted out of her nose all over the crisp white tablecloth. She didn't get the job.

Then there was the friend who was telling her colleagues all about the woman in reception wearing a hideous trouser suit. She described it in detail as dark grey with red lapels and turn-ups and really, really wide trousers. She was laughing as she described the outfit and - you've guessed it - one of the workmates said, 'That's my wife'. 

Then there was the child whose school was holding a pyjama day in aid of charity. In the morning instead of school uniform, she put on her PJs with the little pictures of Snoopy all over them. But when she got to school she was the only one in PJs because she'd got the wrong day! The teachers felt so sorry for her they had a collection in the staff room and she made nearly £50 for charity - so it wasn't all bad!
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Growing Old Disgracefully





I'M not that fussed about getting old.

Really I'm not.

Really.

I don't live in some image-obsessed city where a wrinkle has to be sand-blasted to oblivion lest anyone thinks you are over 30 but in rural England where we are, on the whole, very much more laid back about looks. I don't worry that where I live designer clothes mean a waxed jacket and wellies with a jaunty design rather than Victoria Beckham and Versace.

But the thing I really hate about getting old is the time it takes to try to show a vaguely presentable face to the world.

I know it's a vanity thing but I don't yet want grey hair. Further down the line I will no doubt decide to grow grey gracefully but for now I cover up those stray grey strands. Being a cheapskate I don't go to some expensive salon to be pampered, I do it myself at home. Do you young whippersnappers out there know how long it takes to colour your hair? By the time I've wet hair, towel dried it, lathered up colour solution, left it on the hair to "take", rinsed it off, conditioned it and dried it, it's another time of day. The sun has already risen over the yard arm and I haven't yet had time to pour myself a whiskey.

Every morning I put on my make-up. It's no longer possible to put a tiny whisper of foundation on dewy skin with a slick of eye shadow and a pout of lipstick. Oh no. I now need "equipment", including a large trowel and repointing tool (not quite, but nearly!), and industrial-strength foundation that doesn't creep insidiously into cracks and stick there like cement in crazy paving. I can spend an age trying to get myself looking half way presentable - and still end up looking like an old bat.

Then there's shopping. You can't just waltz into Top Shop you know, whisk a tiny little top off the rail and buy it. No, you have to approach shopping like a military campaign. Line up all the tops in front of you and bark questions at them. Would you make me look like mutton dressed as lamb or, worse, a member of the Boring Old Duffers Club? Are you too bright, too dull, too young, too old, too "out there" by half? I need clothes that feel comfortable but, like the harvest, make sure all is safely gathered in. By the time I've whittled the contenders down to a manageable number, I've lost interest and have to sit down with a nice cup of tea and a currant bun.

Then there are your beauty routines, set up in a vain attempt to stop everything from expanding, collapsing and plummeting south. I use the word "beauty" loosely, resembling as I do Black Beauty more than Beautiful Girl but, anyway, there are cleansers, toners, face creams, face exercises (oh yes, I have a book about "facercise" and when once in a blue moon I attempt to do them I do a passable impression of Miss England Gurning Champion 1945), body lotion….. deep breath ….. eye cream, hand cream, foot cream, skin tightening cream and cuticle cream when the only cream I'm really interested in is clotted cream and Ben and Jerry's ice cream.

If I did everything I was supposed to I'd start getting ready for bed at lunchtime, aiming to get my head on the pillow by midnight.

So, as I told the dearly beloved, I have made a decision. I have decided to cut my beauty routines to a bare minimum. He stared at me for a full minute before saying, "Is that wise?"

Serve him right when I start to look like Margaret Rutherford on a bad day.

Actress Margaret Rutherford

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Boots Not Made For Walking



These boots are made for walking, Nancy Sinatra told us in the 1960s. But it seems these days, these boots and shoes are made for tottering into a function looking like you’ve already drunk a bottle or three of wine.  The vertiginous heels you see women stumbling about in are certainly not made for walking.

I was watching the celebs stagger into an awards ceremony and only one thing occurred to me: “Why? Dear God, why?”

It pains me. Not the shoes, because  I don’t wear these towering five or six inch heels, having given up fashion for comfort some years ago.

It pains me because of what these shoes represent. Why are women hobbling themselves so they can’t stride out and take their rightful place in the world? Is looking good more important than being strong? In my view it is the equivalent of Chinese foot-binding – designed to keep women in their place.

Let me give you a little history lesson.

You can’t hear me but I’ve got my lecturing voice on – the one that makes my nephews’ and nieces’ eyes roll back into their heads with the expression, “I suppose I’d better look as if I’m listening to the boring old fart.”

Back in the mists of time it became the custom in China to bind tightly young girls’ feet so they couldn’t grow.
It was considered attractive and men liked it – of course they did, for some scholars say foot-binding subjugated women by making them more dependent on men. It restricted their movements and enforced their chastity, since women with bound feet were physically incapable of venturing far from their homes.

Let me tell you this process in detail (turn away now if you are squeamish).


Take a child of between four and seven and soak her feet in warm water or animal blood with herbs. Cut her toenails and give her a foot massage. So far, so good.... except for the animal blood.

But then you have to break all the girl’s toes except the big toes and wrap the feet extremely tightly and painfully in cloth, forcing those broken toes back towards the heel.

Each day, unwrap the feet and rebind them, pushing the toes back under the foot arch which will break under the strain.

This means the feet never get beyond three to four inches (7.5cms to 10cms) in length. If you can’t imagine how small this is, take a look at a ruler or tape measure.



In a euphemism that beggars belief to 20th century ears, this was called turning your feet into three- inch “golden lotuses”.  And these “golden lotuses” were seen as the ultimate erogenous zone, with Qing dynasty pornographic books listing 48 different ways of playing with women’s feet.


Personally I’d rather have huge clown feet which no one except a chiropodist ever touched, but that’s probably just me.

Thankfully, footbinding was banned in 1912, although some of the more rural Chinese villages continued the practice quite late into the 20th century.

Now, however, "hobbling" feet has become a status symbol yet again, although it's something women have done to themselves rather than have it imposed on them by men.  

Women who gasp in horror at any unhealthy junk food passing their lips don't seem to mind the prospect of  bunions, bony growths, hammer toes, foot pain and “pump bumps”, where straps and the rigid backs of pump-style shoes cause a bony enlargement on the heel.

I know, I’m old and boring, and admittedly some of these shoes do look rather stunning. But as my mother used to say to me when I refused to wear my school mac out in the pouring rain: “Pride feels no pain.”




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Partwork Pitfalls



Much as I would love to crochet my own lifesize model of the The Santa Maria ("In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue…"), I won't be buying a partwork magazine which teaches me how to assemble it and supplies the wool.

For my readers overseas who might not be familiar with the partwork magazine concept, they are publications on sale each month that usually have a "free gift" towards building a model, learning how to do something or starting a collection.

I'm using the word "free" loosely, as although the gift may be free, the magazines certainly are not. The publishers often sucker you in with a low priced first issue, a reasonably priced second issue and thereafter magazines costing so much you need to take out a mortgage to create a six-inch high model of Kim Kardashian.

Hence there was the magazine which provided parts to build the Mallard locomotive. The first part was a mere 50p but subsequent issues cost £7.99 ($10). There were 130 parts so the cost of completing this model locomotive was a staggering £1,031.21 ($1,300) - and it would take you two and a half years to do it.

Then there was a recent partwork series that taught you how to draw. Free gifts over the series included a pencil, ruler, rubber, paintbrush and paints. Sounds great, doesn't it? Until you realise the magazines were £5 each and the series was 100 issues. How many respected instruction books or actual lessons could you buy for £500 ($640)?

Undeterred you embark on a mission to build the Eiffel Tower and ending up paying out more than the cost of the original structure!

There is always the possibility that things could go horribly wrong. The publishers could go out of business mid series or your local newsagent could stop stocking the magazine. One man spent three years and £350 ($450) on a series of magazines teaching him how to build a model of The Bounty, only for six of the pieces he sent away for to go missing in the post - and no more pieces were available at that time. To say he was not best pleased is an understatement - in fact he mutinied (see what I did there?).

So if the urge ever comes over me to buy a series of magazines teaching me how to build Ironside's van, I will instead get a kit. Think there's no such kit available? Think again!



Before you leave:

You can follow me on: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. As you can see, I have far too much to say for myself.
  • Please feel free to leave a comment. I love to hear from you and will reply and visit your blog, if you have one, if I can. 
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