I Can't Get No Customer Service

I recently had to phone a company because I was fed  up with their service and planned to hop over to a new provider. That's two hours of my life I will never get back. 

It all started so well - the phone rang and someone answered. Well, I thought someone had answered but it was in fact a recorded message . You know the ones, Press One for this, Press Two for that, Press Three for a full frontal lobotomy. After jabbing numbers for what felt like an eternity I was sorely tempted to Press Three. 

Anyhoo, I eventually got through to a department - whether it was the right department I will never know. Because the next message I got was, "Our operatives are busy, your call will be answered as soon as possible." So I waited. And waited. And waited. Still, I managed to get through War And Peace while I was waiting so that's one less book on my To Be Read list. 

Intermittently I got, "Your call is important to us. Please hold the line."

If my call is so bloody important, then answer the damn phone! If all that isn't apoplexy-inducing enough, there's the damn music - or musak; a 60s pop song played on a plinky plonky piano,  guaranteed to make you want to amputate your own ears with a rusty scythe.

I don't blame the operators, not that I got the chance to speak to a real human being. I know from my own experience of working for a big company that the golden era of Customer Service is long gone. An office full of knowledgeable professionals has been replaced by three teenagers in a cupboard in Lucknow.

I'm getting on a bit and conscious that I don't want to spend the twilight of my years on the phone while I Can't Get No Satisfaction for piano and strings assaults my ears.

I called it a day, logged into my website account and cancelled all my credit cards.

Strangely enough, within an hour, the company was trying to phone me. You don't get older without getting wiser.

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Fishing For Compliments

I'm always envious of those women whose husbands love to cook.  For our first few years together I was doubtful whether the better half even knew where our kitchen was if he hadn't actually made it and fitted it himself.

When I worked full-time I would have loved nothing better than to have arrived home to the aroma of a boeuf bourguignon simmering gently in the oven while he got out the blow torch in preparation for caramelising a crème brûlée.

No such luck. He was more likely to have been using a blow torch to solder a leaky pipe in the loo than for any culinary creation. For the better half is the man who whenever we go out for a meal studies the menu for an age and invariably picks soup, steak, and apple pie. 

Other dining companions may ask knowledgeably whether the mushroom medley includes chanterelles and shiitakes or whether the ceviche has been marinated in lime or lemon juice. The better half’s most burning question is always: "What’s the soup of the day?"

But then, just when I had resigned myself to being the sole provider of meals, one glorious day he decided he was going to cook. And what culinary delight did he cook up? Astonishingly it was fish in batter – made from scratch with fresh fish and batter he’d made himself. It was really lovely. A while later he added spaghetti bolognese to his repertoire. Also delicious. Sadly, since then his culinary inspiration has withered and died like a chip left floating in the deep-fat fryer.

Still, most weeks I do get a meal created by this culinary master. And the fish and chips now often come not just with peas but with a salad too and even a slice of lemon.

Be thankful for small mercies. 

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You can follow me on: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. As you can see, I have far too much to say for myself.

Catching Up On Social Media

I MIGHT be getting on a bit but I'm not averse to a bit of social media. I know how to Tweet, to Facebook, to Pinterest and to Instagram (and how to use nouns as verbs, apparently).

I am always amazed at the plethora of wonderful photographs. My feeds brim over with the most glorious pictures of the wonderful county where I live. Then there are all those people filling me with envy with photographs they have taken of glorious meals they are about to demolish in restaurants, or mouth-watering dishes they have created themselves.

I have restrained from sharing pictures of my supper, or "prison food" as the better half calls it, as I'm trying to keep my culinary inexpertise under wraps.

He runs a small business and doesn't really have time to engage in social media chit-chat so I have taken it upon myself to occasionally engage with social media on his behalf.

I can't say I'm an expert, although slightly more expert than he is. The trouble is neither of us grew up sharing our lives online. I have done the occasional selfie to add a head and shoulders picture to something but I really need one of those editing apps that can turn me into the smart, svelte professional woman I am in my head rather than one that makes me look like a creepy overweight old woman with a lady moustache and squint.

All my young friends seem to have a mobile phone welded permanently to their hands and you can't go to a wedding or party without one being thrust under your nose. Before the icing has set on the wedding cake there's a video of you on Facebook making a fool of yourself on the dance floor. At 5pm someone takes a picture of you stuffing your face with that wedding cake and at 5.01pm it's being "shared" all around the world.

I can't really complain as, much to the better half's chagrin, I am in the habit of posting all his rude comments (which are legion) to my friends on Facebook. His perennial moan is, "Don't go putting that on the internet!" I stare at him in disgust and say, "Of course, I won't" and quickly log on to impart some witticism.

For example, there was the time I was inspired by the Great British Bake Off and announced my intention to cook a cake.

"Save me a piece from the bottom," he said.

"Why the bottom?"

"Because that's where all the fruit will be."

You see, people, this is what I have to put up with and sharing his comments with my friends is the only way I have of getting my own back! I have threatened to put him on eBay:   "Man for sale. All reasonable offers considered," but he didn’t seem to mind, hoping he might get snapped up by someone like Jessica Alba.

At my age social media can be a double-edged sword. I wrote some witty riposte to one of my young colleagues on Facebook and she replied, "PMSL." I had to ask her what it stood for. "Pissed My Self Laughing," she said. I just about managed to refrain from pointing out that "myself" is all one word so it should in fact be PML, but my bon mots so often fall on stony ground with my young friends and I was worried I would get the reply YBOF (You Boring Old Fart).

The only acronym I'm going to use today is TTFN - which my older British friends might recognise as Ta Ta For Now but will totally bamboozle everyone else.

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Robert Mitchum and Jean Simmons

Robert Mitchum as athe creepy "priest" in Night of the Hunter.

I always liked Robert Mitchum as an actor. He had that air of menace which made him brilliant in films like The Night of the Hunter. I liked him even more after reading about him and Jean Simmons.

Jean Simmons, who was married to Stewart Granger, was acting in a  Howard Hughes film. Hughes was eager to start a sexual relationship with Simmons and kept harassing her. Granger put a stop to his advances by angrily telling Hughes over the phone: "Mr Howard bloody Hughes, you'll be sorry if you don't leave my wife alone."

Later when Simmons was in the film Angel Face, Hughes instructed director Otto Preminger to treat Simmons as roughly as possible. He reportedly told Preminger,  "I'm going to get even with that little bitch and you're going to help me."  

Mitchum and Simmons with Preminger

When filming one scene, Preminger insisted on repeated takes of Mitchum slapping Simmons harder and harder. Mitchum was uneasy at this instruction so he slapped Preminger hard in the face asking him, “Is that how you want it?”

Preminger retaliated by trying to fire Mitchum, but Howard Hughes refused. Hughes wanted Mitchum and Simmons even if Simmons didn't want him. 

With Preminger and Hughes bullying her, Simmons was lucky to have Mitchum around to protect her. 

Simmons and Mitchum in Angel Face

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A Point of View

From my sitting-room window I can see lovely views across the countryside including the church spires of two nearby villages and Dartmoor on the horizon.

Last week, as lockdown gradually eases, I had visits from my two sisters and one of my brothers. I sit here now, soothed by the purring of my cat, feeling that all's well with my world.

I was reminded, if I needed reminding, not only of how lucky I was to be born into a lovely family but also to have the good sense to be born in the glorious English county of Devon. 

Forget winning the lottery, owning a private jet, having the figure of a supermodel (I wish) or the muscles of a Mr Universe, it’s the little things in life that bring the most pleasure – or so I was reading the other day.
You’d think Richard Branson would be at his happiest clinching some mega-millions business deal while lounging on the beach of his own idyllic Necker Island in the Caribbean. Not a bit of it. He claims nothing brings him more pleasure than a mug of tea and one of his wife’s egg sandwiches.
Top-flight actors may well love the adulation but it’s not the flash of the photographer’s camera on the red carpet that brings them most contentment but the simple pleasures of hearth and home.
There can have been few more iconic actors than Cary Grant. But he said it wasn't until later in life that he felt true contentment after the birth of his daughter and later still settling down with his fifth wife Barbara. Incidentally, Barbara - then Barbara Harris - came from Tiverton in Devon so I'm not surprised! True contentment is so often found with a good old Devon maid - just ask my better half!
Superfit Olympic gold medal-winning heptathlete turned sports pundit and TV presenter Jessica Ennis-Hill said her favourite thing was never training or even standing on the podium to international acclaim.
No, she likes nothing better than settling down to watch the soap opera Coronation Street, which reminds her of being a child and makes her feel normal and relaxed.
As for the C-list celebrities, you would have thought they were happy enough with bosoms and lips that look like they’ve been inflated by a Li-lo pump and skin that has the appearance of having rolled around in gravy browning. But in a survey The Love Island crew, just like the rest of us, said there favourite things were hanging out with friends, relaxing in front of the TV and taking the dog for a walk, even if they were tottering along in six-inch heels – the celebrity, that is, not the dog.

So what floats your boat? A quick poll of my friends threw up a variety of occasions when they felt the most contented.

For one it was her dog welcoming her home, for another it was going for a walk in the woods, and for a male friend it was the first cool pint of beer after a busy day at work.

They liked settling down with a good book or watching a good film, cuddling up on the sofa with their better halves or brewing up a nice pot of tea.

All of them mentioned family moments, like a hug from a child or their kids doing well at school. Grandmas’ best moments were centred around their grandchildren.

I’m rather pleased that it’s not great wealth that brings the most happiness. In 20+ years of playing the lottery I have never won anything more than £45. I do, however, have a very nice teapot, a comfy sofa, a TV and plenty of family members to make me laugh.

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Please Read This. Thank You.

THERE I was walking down the street, my feet on the pavement but my head in the clouds. Coming in the other direction was a woman in very much the same frame of mind - and we collided. There followed one of those typically British conversations.

“I’m so sorry,” I said.

“No it was my fault.”

“No mine. I was miles away.”

“Me too.”

And we smiled at each other and went our separate ways.

How typically Devonian, I thought. For my friends from distant lands, Devon is a predominantly rural county in the South West of England.  We are mainly a laidback, friendly people and among the politest on the planet. 

I have rarely encountered bad manners in the county and I’m speaking as someone who worked at the coalface of local newspapers for many years. Very rarely was anyone rude to me, not even the man in court for fairly heinous offences who phoned to ask me to keep his case out of the paper. I told him that wasn’t possible and his response was, “Not even if I say please?” He was obviously well brought up in one respect, if not in others.

I like it that Devonians are mainly polite. I can't pretend that there aren't plenty of rude and thoughtless Devonians as well, unfortunately, but for most of us, politeness is a way of life. It’s not even a generation thing. All the children I know are taught to say "please" and "thank you" and to look after elderly relatives - well, at least my kind and caring young relatives do... and manage to look pleased as they do so! 

Politeness can go too far, of course. I do suffer a bit from the kind of politeness which when asked by the hairdresser if everything is OK, I reply: “Lovely, thank you,” and then go home to cry and cover all the mirrors. 

Have you been given a gift you don’t like? “Thank you so much,” you say, “That’s, um, interesting,” when what you really mean is, “I wouldn’t use it in public if my life depended upon it.”

As my mother often told me, “Good manners cost nothing,” and politeness oils the wheels of human interaction.

As the anonymity of the internet brings out the worst in some people, causing trolls to crawl out from under their stones to spout their vitriol, we should consider what writer Robert A Heinlein said:  “A dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot.”

Thank you for reading this post and I hope you liked it. But no worries if you didn't, it's perfectly fine. I will leave you with this thought from Theodore Roosevelt.

Politeness is a sign of dignity, not subservience.

Before you leave:

You can follow me on: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. My little tyrant of a cat has written a book called Not So Sweet Toffee - have a look if you want to!

A Lifetime of Memories

Yesterday it would have been my mother's 100th birthday. She always thought she was going to make the centenary and get her birthday card from the Queen* but in the end she left us at the age of 96 and 10 months. She was an incredible woman and I miss her more than I can say.

She left us with a lifetime of happy memories.  I hardly know where to begin to explain the joy of being my mother's daughter, for her defining quality was her sense of humour. Then there was her amazing generosity, her kindness and her unconditional love and support.

There are so many family stories about mum that I was spoilt for choice when writing this. Like the day Specsavers did a home visit to test her eyes. Poor man. She started reading the card, got to a letter she couldn't see and asked me what it was! Not really the point of an eye test, mum! Then when it came to picking a new frame, she put the glasses on and said crossly: "I can't see any better with them at all!" The man patiently explained that she was just picking frames and the lenses weren't in yet!

If her eyesight wasn't good, her hearing was worse. She had two hearing aids  -  not that they helped much as they were always in a drawer in her bedroom.  You could never quite pitch your tone at the right level. Speak too quietly and she'd tell you off for "mumbling"; talk too loudly and she'd indignantly say: "I'm not deaf you know!"

My late father trained a few racehorses and mum loved gambling! Every week she did a 50p "patent" which is a bet with three horses. She rarely won anything, her method of choosing horses often dictated by family names. No matter if the horse was 100-1, if it included a name of one of her children, on would go her money and that would be the last she'd see of it. 

There were all the family games including cricket in the imaginatively named Big Field with a five gallon drum as a wicket - and the day mum threw the cricket ball for dad to catch and it hit his nose which bled for hours - she was never allowed to forget that one. We played lots of card games and when we played partner whist we all wanted mum as a partner because Dad, not exactly known for his patience, would be furious if you dared forget the Queen of Hearts, or whatever, had already been played.


She was a hardy soul and she brought us up to be tough and uncomplaining. If you hurt yourself out playing there was no point in trying for the sympathy vote. Mum's reaction would always be a scathing "That's nothing!" If both your feet were facing the right way, there was obviously nothing wrong with you. If you did merit some kind of treatment, it was always the liberal application of that cure-all, Germolene.


Mum loved shopping, although there was the time she and my aunt got on the bus in their village at some ungodly hour in the morning for  a long trip to an out-of-town retail outlet and didn't get home until evening. Mum had felt sick on the bus, they were bored to tears after an hour and the sum total of their day's shopping consisted of a six-pack of socks for my uncle. "I don't think I'll be bothering with bus trips again," said Mum drily.

Whenever she couldn't get out and about much anymore she turned to shopping via Betterware, Kleeneze and Avon, which is why her sons have a selection of strange plastic items and her daughters plenty of bright blue eyeshadow. It's how one of her young friends who happened to mention he liked tea became the proud owner of a teabag squeezer while still at primary school. If anyone needs any spider repellent or shower head cleaner, see me. I’ve got cans of the stuff.

She lived with my brother who worked nights every other week. When got to to her 90s, my sisters and I took it in turns to stay the night because we didn't want her home alone.  If you were unlucky you drew the Monday straw because Mum was an avid soaps fan. You had to put up with Emmerdale, followed by Coronation Street followed by EastEnders and then, darn me, back to another episode of Coronation Street. We soon learned not to ask her anything about what was going on because that would necessitate a garbled half hour explanation of the plot.

I could go on all day about her funny little sayings, about all the thoughtful, wonderful things she did for us all but I'll stop there. So, Mum, happy 100th birthday and as it's Saturday, I'll have a bet on your behalf!

* For all my friends from abroad who may not know, the Queen sends a congratulatory message to those celebrating their 100th and 105th birthday and every year after, and also to couples celebrating their 60th, 65th and 70th wedding anniversaries and every subsequent year.  

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If you are a cat lover, my little diva has published her diary - Not So Sweet Toffee

Be My Valentine

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone. I'm sitting waiting in expectation for jewellery, red roses and chocolates in a heart-shaped box. Sadly, I know I'm waiting in vain. Here's an excerpt from a column I wrote for Devon Life magazine a few years back which will explain all.

Be My Valentine

I HOPE you’re all prepared for Valentine’s Day with tables booked, gifts wrapped and a suitably romantic card featuring hearts, flowers and loving verses.

Personally, I don’t worry about Valentine’s Day very much, romance being so far off the dearly beloved’s radar that it is practically in Deep Space Nine.

If I’m lucky I’ll get a bunch of flowers bought from our local service station. If I’m even luckier, he will drive straight home with them rather than leave them bouncing about in the back of his car for hours while he’s driving about for work.

For my part, I will buy him something like a bottle of aftershave knowing he would be happier with a pint or two of Pheasant Plucker real ale. I will get a card and write “from your secret admirer” inside and leave it on the doormat, as if there’s a chance he won’t know who it’s from. He will feign surprise and speculate it’s from a gorgeous girl he met in the pub. I will invariably reply: “I hope you remembered to give her back her white stick.”

If I’ve forgotten to buy a card I will find the one I sent him last year and put it in a new envelope. He’s never noticed.  Oh yes, hours of Valentine’s Day fun in our house!

When we first met it was all so different. He booked a table at a romantic Devon restaurant where we exchanged loving glances over chicken in a basket and pledged our undying love over peach melba. In those days flowers came via Interflora, not Texaco.

Still, after more than 30 years together he might be forgiven for allowing the gloss to wear off what some people consider the most romantic day of the year. If hearts and flowers aren’t his forte, he has many more important qualities like loyalty, support and the ability to make me laugh every day.

In any case, the origins of Valentine’s Day are violent and bloody rather than romantic. This is one version I read on the internet (so it’s BOUND to be true…). Valentine was a physician and priest who lived in Rome in the third century. At the time it was illegal for young men to marry because Emperor Claudius II wanted his men to be psyched up for battle rather than worried about their families back home. It’s difficult to concentrate on slinging that spear accurately if you’re concerned wife Agrippina may not have enough denarii to pay the candle merchant.

Valentine took a dim view of the wedding ban and married young couples in secret. He was caught and thrown into prison, tortured and beheaded. 

This legend may or may not be true - there are several other versions of the story and several other contenders for the title of St Valentine.

Like many other festivals it was probably the weaving together of the legend of the Christian St Valentine and the pagan feast of Lupercalia. During Lupercalia young women wrote their names on slips of paper and put them in a pot. The men would then each draw out a name and court the woman - a bit like modern online dating, I suppose. Altogether more disturbing was the practice of lashing young women with a leather whip during Lupercalia in the belief it would make girls more fertile.

Of course there are many people who have no “valentine” at all. Some are very happy with this state of affairs while others yearn for that special someone with whom to share their life. The more cynical among us have labelled Valentine’s Day a commercial trick played on us by card shops and florists and the even more cynical call it Singles Awareness Day.

Well, I hope you all get at least a card, even if it is last year’s recycled. I also hope it has a loving message, just like the one my friend received from her doctor boyfriend. It said: “You make my heart have premature ventricular contractions.” Now that’s what I call romance.


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I Resolve...To Get Through The Year

How are your New Year resolutions going? I read an article entitled New Year, New Me! in a magazine recently, apparently oblivious to the fact that most of us just want to see out this covid crisis without any disasters befalling our family and friends.  Any self-improvement regime feels surplus to requirements.

In a normal year I have committed most of the seven deadly sins - lust, gluttony, greed, laziness, wrath, envy and pride - in the course of just a couple of days over Christmas and come January I feel the need to make amends. Not this year, though, although God knows I am in dire need of some self-discipline when it comes self-improvement.

I haven't been to a hairdresser's for months and have inexpertly chopped at my locks with a pair of blunt scissors. Thank goodness for home hair dye or I would look like a grey sheep that has been shorn by a blind man. I have eaten too much cake and chocolate (no change there on any year!) and have started bingeing on TV series in a bid to take my mind off anything virus-related.

I don't know why I bother about resolutions in a normal year. I know that if I make six New Year resolutions in January, by February all six will have fallen by the wayside. I have hardly visited a shop since the covid crisis began so maybe I could resolve not to spend so much on online shopping and forego snapping up books and strange quirky items that catch my eye. Yes, I could definitely do that - apart from the books which are as necessary to me as breathing. And those little ear-rings in the shape of a cat are so cute…

So I'll make a resolution for us all. Get through the year without major trauma and welcome 2022 a stronger and better person. Good luck, everyone.

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.

If you're a cat lover you  might like this book written by my grumpy diva of a cat: Not So Sweet Toffee

Christmas Is Coming

Christmas is just around the corner. It has, just like every year, crept up on me and here I sit with not a card written, present wrapped or yule log baked. I don't know why - it's the same date this year it has been for the last 2,000 or so years so I can't pretend it has come as a surprise. In any case, Christmas adverts have been on the television for months and it felt like the shops were decked out with glitter, sparkle and corners of "gift ideas" the second the Easter eggs were cleared off the shelves.

Maybe that's the trouble. Christmas starts so early these days I become immune to its blandishments. The better half is better prepared than I am. He has been practising for Christmas for weeks now by wandering around the kitchen with a bottle of beer in one hand, a box of Cadbury's Roses in the other and getting in my way.

Still, over the years I have managed to get Christmas down to a fine art. I have pared down the festivities and streamlined the present conveyor belt so that it's not quite the faff it was. In our first Christmas together in our new house - many, many years ago - I decked our walls with boughs of holly, plus miles of streamers and tinsel. Every surface was covered with some sparkly festive ornament, from bowls of gold pebbles and pine cones to Christmas candles and miniature Santas. The tree was a work of art - a real one, naturally, so covered with gewgaws and baubles that it may as well have been artificial as not a green bough was to be seen.

 I, in my innocence, was delighted with the Santa's grotto ambiance - until January 6 when I had to take the whole blooming lot down again.

As for presents, the better half and I both come from big families and have quite a few young nephews and nieces between us. Lovely though they are and very polite, I could see that as they hit 13, the picture books and toy cars weren't quite going to cut it. They are invariably saving up for some piece of electronic gadgetry so a donation to the coffers is now always appreciated.

The better half and I are not exactly Mr and Mrs Romantic when it comes to gifts. We usually decide on something we both want and buy it in the January sales, which is how we got our television, tumbledrier and wooden floor in the sitting-room. Told you, pragmatic.

So I'm about to get started on the Christmas preparations and write my own list. I have already written my letter to Father Christmas.

Dear Santa, please may I have a fat bank account and a slim body. Please don't get them muddled up like you did last year.

Before you leave:

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Iodine and Germolene

This is an original Germolene tin. The cream is still being manufactured.

I have been thinking a lot about my late parents today. My better half and I were both blessed with brilliant parents and we were reminiscing about our childhoods last night. Not that our parents were the epitome of perfect parenthood. They had their moments! But we never doubted for one second their commitment to the family or their love for us.

Our conversation reminded me of an article I wrote for Devon Life magazine. It was written a while ago now so I'm sure everyone has forgotten it  - they had probably forgotten it 10 minutes after reading it! So I'll reproduce part of it below:

Iodine and Germolene

TODAY my friend could only stay for a quick cup of coffee because one of her children was off school with a sickness bug.

Off school? The only reason my parents would let me miss school was if I had limbs amputated or was in quarantine with the Black Death.

This hardy pair had three remedies – Germolene, iodine and my father’s patent medicine. Germolene was for minor injuries. All cuts, grazes, rashes, burns and bites were cured by the liberal application of the smelly, pink antiseptic gloop.

Iodine was for more serious injuries; for example, when bones were visible. My father, a farmer and horse trainer, had the unshakeable belief that if it didn’t kill the horses, then it wouldn’t kill us. If iodine stopped a horse’s hoof from going septic, then it would certainly sort out a kid’s cut. Believe me, you do not know pain until you have had neat iodine poured over an open wound.

For colds, coughs, flu and diseases of the respiratory system, my father’s patent medicine was whisky and sugar topped up with boiling water. This remedy certainly cured my cold when I was seven; I was violently sick all night and forgot all about my runny nose. Projectile vomiting? Take a carrier bag to school with you.

No matter how serious an injury I picked up while playing outdoors – broken limbs, blinding, disembowelment by one of my brothers - it would only merit a scathing, “That’s nothing!” from my mother as I was shown the door. If both your feet were facing the right way, there was obviously nothing wrong with you.

The attitude was that if you ignored an illness, it would go away. If you fought it off without outside interference, you would end up tougher. If you allowed a bug to take its course, you would be immune to it next time round. It’s an attitude that has stayed with me into adulthood. My reaction to any affliction that strikes me is, “That’s nothing!” and I carry on.

The dearly beloved has a similar attitude. The day after he had taken the tops off two of his fingers and scraped the skin almost to the bone after a nasty accident with an electric planer (don't ask...), he was up on the roof of his factory workshop to replace tiles, protecting his mangled hand by wrapping it in a polythene bag with string around the wrist.

Instead of berating him with wifely concern, I nodded approvingly. I only wished I'd had a bottle of iodine with me.

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Looking for a Christmas present for a cat lover? Here's one written by a cat who describes herself as a "prawn aficionado, diva, grumpy and rude! And she is definitely all of those things but very funny with it. Have a look here: http://bit.ly/wordsbytoffee

* * * * * * *

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Funny Tweets

It's an old Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times." Well, we are certainly living in "interesting" times at the moment. So if any of you need a little light relief from all the doom and gloom, take a look at these Tweets. They made me laugh. I hope they make you laugh too. 


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.

John O'Groats to Land's End

Facebook recently reminded me of a 2016 post when my sister and great-niece arrived at Land's End after cycling from John O'Groats. To my friends from other countries, these are the northernmost and southernmost points in Britain, John O'Groats in Scotland and Land's End on the tip of Cornwall. 

This in turn reminded me of an article I wrote at the time for our local magazine Devon Life. I include a slightly shortened account below:

Devon Life  

I HAVE a sister who puts me to shame. Peggy is 73 and still competes in triathlons and has a host of medals to prove it.  

As if that isn’t enough, a couple of months ago she and her grand-daughter Hannah, my great-niece, cycled from John O Groats to Land’s End. This 73-year-old and 13-year-old took on a journey of more than a thousand miles. I know the shortest road distance between the two points is just over 800 miles but, typical of my family, they had opted to take a guide book which detailed the scenic route. They cycled up mountains and down deep valleys and did detours to take in places of interest. 
Her long-suffering son Trevor (my nephew) drove the support vehicle (fancy name for a campervan) and was tearing his hair out at their sense (or rather lack) of direction.  At one point they phoned him to say they thought they had missed a turning after he had given very detailed directions and instructions about the name of the crossway with the huge signpost.

“No, we haven’t seen it,” they declared. They eventually realised they must have ridden past it.  Later in the evening after a large detour, my nephew looked at the photographs they had taken and there was a “selfie” of the two them, grinning inanely in front of that huge signpost. That lack of direction also saw them pushing their bikes through the centre of Glasgow, asking bemused Glaswegians how to get out of the city and back on track. 

Thus, a distance of 800 miles quite easily becomes one of a 1,000 miles plus.

My part in the proceedings was to look after my sister’s polytunnel while she was away. As I have mentioned before, I am to gardening what Agent Orange is to jungle warfare. Even so, I don't think my mother and brother needed to have laughed quite so hard when I told them I was gardener-in-chief while Peggy was away.

I don't understand gardening and I have no affinity with plants unless they are steamed, buttered and on my plate. I have searched in vain for this fine line between insufficient watering (i.e. dead) and over-watering (i.e. dead). I’ve never found it and therefore find myself hovering between a rock and a hard place, watering-can in hand.

Day One was fine. It was sunny. The radio was on. I turned on the hose and fetched watering cans full of water. I was also charged with feeding the fish in the pond and feeding the birds. The fish seemed pleased to see me, swimming to the surface to eat up their pellets. Peggy has had trouble with herons swooping down and finding their dinner but the sky was heron-free. The birds too were happy as I replenished the feeders.

I was feeling pretty proud of myself.  This “farming” business was a piece of cake.

A few days down the line and the leaves of the cucumber plants had started to turn yellow. A quick look on the internet and a trawl of friends’ opinions wasn’t much help. The problem could have been anything from over-watering, under-watering, spider mite, blight and a deficiency of magnesium in the soil. My solution to the problem was to pick off the yellow leaves and hide them in the compost heap.

Then there were the tomato plants which soon looked decidedly droopy. I was hoping they were weighed down with the promise of an abundant crop rather than burdened by the weight of my sister's expectations. Fat chance.

By the time Peggy returned home, everything seemed OK. However, the very next day, every single one of her tomato plants turned brown, withered and died. EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. They had succumbed to an air-borne blight which completely wiped them out.

She was kind enough not to blame me for that but I couldn’t help noticing her casting worried glances towards the fishpond and bird tables.

I jokingly said: “Where’s that net? Those dead fish won’t remove themselves!” Sadly, she didn’t think I was very funny!

Before you leave:

You can follow me on: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  As you can see, I have far too much to say for myself. The cat lovers among you may be interested in this book written by my cat (I know,,,,) Not So Sweet Toffee. It's had really good reviews - honest!

Living With Sir Rantsalot

The dearly beloved is not known for his reticence.  He is pretty laid back and easy to live with on the whole but there is a long list of things that make him cross, from politics to celebrities and football to fashion (please don't mention ripped jeans within his hearing).  Modern life in general tends to enrage him and he is not backward in coming forward, as my mother used to say.

It's best not to be in the same room when he's doing battle with his laptop. He's by no means a computer whizz kid - and patient he is not. And it's best not to be in the same county when he's reading the Sunday papers.

Coronavirus is, of course, saturating news coverage these days. He has no faith in anyone making the decisions.
"They are like effing school governors trying to run a tuck shop," he rants.  (I didn't dare tell him that school tuck shops probably only exist at Hogwarts these days, because Harry Potter is another thing he hates).

Then there was the rant about a gambling website. Every Saturday he spends the grand total of £2 on something called the Scoop6. It's a bit like a lottery. You have to get all six winners in six selected races - practically impossible but it's a lot of money if you win. He always logs on expectantly every Saturday afternoon thinking that the six nags he has chosen have all romped home ahead of the field. Sadly, two hours after the races are over, a significant proportion of them are still running!

This Saturday he was up early to pick out his horses. He logged on to the site and the rants began. It seems he was a bit early and not everything had yet been posted. Sarcasm dripped from him as he moaned: "Oh no, they can't get it all done before 8am - too much effing trouble for them," was the only comment fit repeating for my readers of a delicate disposition.

When the information did finally arrive, it was not arranged to his liking. Cue another rant. "Is it too much to effing ask that all the races are laid out side by side with the form beside each horse so you can actually see what is effing going on?" In the end he got in the car, drove to the shop and came home with a newspaper where everything is organised the way he likes it.

The sugar tax in a bid to cut down on childhood obesity was another issue that caught his eye. "Why should I pay tax on Coca Cola just because there's some stupid woman up the road drip-feeding it to her kids?"

Then there are his views on global warming, the "snowflake" generation, the education system, pathetic sitcoms on TV, the fact that manufacturers are making clothes smaller these days (yes, dear...), sport, other drivers and the internet, to name but a few.

He is so bad I have named him Sir Rantsalot. Not to his face obviously. Ha-ha.
The cat and I are used to his, shall we call them "strongly-held views?" and try to block our ears to them. We have sidled off to the other side of the house, his rants gradually fading to a distant rumble.

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If you are a cat lover - especially a lover of the grumpier members of the species, this is the book for you, written by Toffee who, despite her name, is the least sweet cat you can imagine. The world according to Toffee exists to serve her and woe betide anyone who forgets it. Paperback on left, Kindle version on right.


You can follow me on: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

A Visit To An Alien World

Tyre-fitter - or tire-fitter as my American friends write.

[Today I made my second trip in about four years to a tyre business to get a dodgy tyre replaced. I remembered writing about it at the time so I reproduce it below.]

Today I embarked on a hazardous trip to lands not previously explored (by me) with nothing to guide me save my trusty Sat Nav.

It was with some trepidation that I entered that mysterious land called Mid Devon Tyre Services. I looked around and saw I had achieved my object and tracked down an alien being called A Tyre Fitter.

I'm not used to this car business having been spoiled for years and years by having a company car. It was all done for me. A nice man came around at work and checked the tread. If a tyre needed replacing, it was replaced.

Since leaving the company, the dearly beloved has sorted out all my vehicle-related needs. Except today. He's too busy. He had done his usual check of my car and announced I needed a new tyre.

"But I've got three perfectly good tyres!" I tell  him. He looks at me as if I have crawled out from under a stone wearing a hat with the label BIMBO in the brim.

"Yes, sweetheart, tell that to the nice policeman when he stops you and to the magistrates when they fine you £200 and put three penalty points on your licence." He can be VERY sarcastic when he wants to be.

So I drive into this tyre-fitting place. I don't want to appear as if I'm a know-nothing woman who they can rip off. Even though I AM a know-nothing woman who they could quite easily rip off.

So I nonchalantly walk up to the desk, put my arm across the counter and look the assistant in the eye and say, "New tyre, please."

"No problem, madam, what do you want?"

What does he mean, "what do I want"? I've just told him. I want a new tyre. He looks at my puzzled face and reels off a list of options. I still look puzzled and he says he'll send someone to look at my car and see what tyres are already on there, then they can fit the same type. I blame the dearly beloved for not arming me with sufficient information.

So that's all sorted and I settle down to wait. But I realise I am losing the "I know what I'm doing" game so I wander over to the coffee machine - then they will know I have some mechanical skills at least. I don't know what I did but the coffee machine resolutely refuses to produce a beverage. Nice man comes over from behind the desk, presses a few buttons and I have my coffee.

I go back to the bench to drink my coffee and read a magazine dated June, 2011.

I'm half way through the quiz, Are You a Tomboy or a Girly Girl? when I'm told my car is ready. Now I shall never know whether I should be wearing oil-stained jeans or a flowery, floaty dress.

Man behind counter tells me how much I have to pay - one arm and one leg, it sounds like. There are lots of extra things on the bill like balancing, alignment and VAT. I blink, wonder briefly if I should query anything - but it all looks official. There's nothing on there that says "know-nothing woman rates apply", so I pay up.

I leave the tyre-fitting place feeling strangely and misguidedly proud of myself. I have an alien world and emerged intact

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.

*       *       *       *      *       *       *       *

If you are a cat lover - especially a lover of the grumpier members of the species, this is the book for you, written by Toffee who, despite her name, is the least sweet cat you can imagine. The world according to Toffee exists to serve her and woe betide anyone who forgets it. Paperback on left, Kindle version on right.


You can follow me on: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.