Seeing Red With King Charles

It's not often official portraits cause controversy. 
No, they can be quite boring but King Charles III's latest picture has made many see red.

Why is that?
Um, well it IS very red. Very, very red, which prompted one critic to wonder if  the King's "grandkids helped colour it in with crayons". 

If it's not been painted by one of his grandchildren, who did paint it?
It was created by respected artist Jonathan Yeo and depicts the king in the bright red uniform of the Welsh Guards against a red background. The portrait also shows a red butterfly hovering over his shoulder. According to the artist, the tiny butterfly symbolises the king's initiatives relating to environmental protection.

How did Jonathan Yeo get the job? 
It wasn't via this ad dreamed up by one wag. Wanted: painter for official portrait of His Majesty King Charles. Must have prior portrait experience. Ability to make painting a portal into the nether realm and a conduit for millennia old evil non essential but desirable.

So what have people been saying?
Predictably the portrait caused a storm on X (Twitter).

Do X people like it?
It's fair to say it's had mixed reviews. Apart from its artistic merits there have been a few conspiracy theories raising their ugly heads.

Like what?
One said that copying, pasting and flipping the portrait reveals a sinister face resembling Baphomet, the deity associated with the Knights Templar. He was depicted as being half-human, half-animal with a goat-like head and was originally drawn by French occultist Eliphas Levi the 1800s.

So it wasn't universally appreciated on X, I take it.
No, here's one post: "King Charles new portrait is absolutely fecking hideous, looks like he is burning in hell." Here's another: "... it's also quite obviously the cursed painting containing the souls of a million dead."

SOMEONE liked it, surely.
Oh yes, it's had many positive comments. Here's one: "Actually think this is a fucking brilliant portrait. And an amazing likeness of him. I feel like I can see his dad and even his uncle in there a little bit." 

What did the King himself think of it?
He's made no official comment but it seems Queen Camilla likes it. She reportedly looked at the painting and told Yeo, “Yes, you’ve got him.”

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See You Later Alligator

Wally the alligator who has gone missing.

Why are telling me about Joie Henney's pet called Wally?
Wally is an emotional support pet and he's gone missing.

Very sad but why is it big news?
Wally is an alligator.

Ah, wouldn't be my choice but each to their own.
Joie says Wally has helped relieve his depression for a nearly a decade.

So what happened?
Joie took Wally with him to his holiday home in Brunswick, Georgia, where he was stolen, probably by pranksters, and dumped at a nearby property.

Authorities came to collect it and then released Wally into a 438,000-acre swamp dozens of miles away.

Oh dear. Poor Joie.
Joie is distraught and has turned to TikTok, where Wally has 143,000 followers, for help.

See you later, alligator. We hope.
"We need all the help we can get to bring my baby back," Mr Henney said in a tearful video posted on TikTok, where Wally has 143,000 followers.

So Joe hasn't given up hope.
No he's praying someone will bring Wally home and make it snappy.

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Mike's Whale Of A Time

Why is everyone talking about a lobster diver called Mike Packard?
He was swallowed by a whale.

Very Biblical. So what happened?
Mike  was diving for lobsters at Herring Cove Beach in Massachusetts and, like I said, he got swallowed whole by a humpback whale.

Yikes! Yikes and ouch!
Indeed. He was completely inside the whale and thought he was a goner.

He's here to tell the tale so presumably he wasn't.
No. Mike was obviously not to the whale's taste. Humpbacks normally hoover up krill, plankton and small fish.

How did Mike escape this fishy encounter?
Fishy? Whales are mammals. Do you know nothing?

Sorry. My bad. Back to my question. How did he escape?
He didn't so much escape but was regurgitated. The whale began shaking its head and resurfaced. The next thing Mike knew he was outside in the water. 

Then he was rescued?
Yes, he was picked up by his friend in their fishing boat and taken to Cape Cod Hospital. He wasn't badly injured and was home the same day.

This happened in 2021 so why are you telling me about it now?
There's film about to be released, set for screenings over the coming weeks at the New Hampshire Film Festival.

What's it called?
In The Whale but I think they've missed a trick. They should have called it Whale Meat Again.

Ah, based he old World War Two song We'll Meet Again. Topical..
Best I could do  with short notice.

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North Korea Doesn't Dig Alan Titchmarsh

Our Alan in those subversive jeans.

Shock! Horror! Alan Titchmarsh has been banned by North Korean TV. Or, to be more precise, his JEANS have!

My British friends will know how mind-boggling it is for our "national treasure" Alan to have courted controversy in that most authoritarian of dictatorships. My friends from foreign shores are probably saying,  'Alan who?'

Let me enlighten you via his Wikepedia entry. 'Alan Fred Titchmarsh is an English gardener and broadcaster. After working as a professional gardener and a gardening journalist, he became a writer, and a radio and television presenter.' No mention on Wiki of his subversive tendencies, I notice.

Or even of the subversive tendencies of his jeans which are, according to North Korea, 'a symbol of American imperialism'. Alan, Alan, you little devil.

It's not the only time Alan's sartorial choices have come under fire. The Times criticised his zip-neck sweaters and described his cable knit sweater with a leather zip tip as "egregious" (outstandingly bad or shocking).

Alan replied in typical fashion by saying "egregious" wasn't included on the label but merely "hand wash only"!

I'll give the final word to Alan himself here on Instagram.

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Counting Your Blessings

Several of my Facebook  friends have been doing that exercise where you count three blessings a day for five days. It doesn't hurt to sit down and realise how blessed  you are. I know how lucky I am to have a great man (even if he's not perfect, see below) and a brilliant family (if slightly mad). I'm healthy (mostly), wealthy (compared to 90% of the world, if not to Bill Gates) and wise (yes, I did say, wise).

However...sometimes petty annoyances jump up and bite me on the bum.

Things that have annoyed me this week:

1 The man is, as I may have mentioned before, the untidiest person in the world. People don't quite believe me when I try to explain just how untidy he is. But now I have proof. I bought a nice big box of PG Tips which I should have put in the larder immediately but foolishly left on the worktop. When I got home he had opened the box. A normal person would have removed the cellophane and run their thumb along the perforations to make a nice flap which you could close again. But not the man, oh no. This is how the box looked when he'd finished with it.

I rest my case.

2 My annoyances seem to be of my own making because, secondly, I stupidly filled in a Conservative party online questionnaire. I thought I may as well make my views known on a variety of subjects, more in hope than expectation.  But since then I have been inundated with emails from Conservative MPs, all seeking my support on a variety of Tory policies. GO AWAY AND LEAVE ME ALONE.

3 I had to phone the Inland Revenue this week about my tax code. After all that "press 1 for this, press 2 for that malarkey,  I was put on hold on a loop  - music, message ("thank you for waiting, one of our advisors will be with you as soon as possible"), music, message, music, message, music, message for what seemed like an eternity. I'm using the word "music" quite loosely. Its plinky plonkiness was so abysmal that I wanted to tear my ears off and transplant them on to a mouse.  Must admit, though, when I finally got through,my query dealt with efficiently and quickly.

4 I live in rural Devon so roads are it is winding with few places where it is safe to overtake. I'm fairly patient behind farm vehicles because I know they will soon turn off  but this week I got stuck behind an old Ford Escort. My heart sinks whenever I arrive behind a car and all you can see are  two fluffy white heads barely peeking above the seats. It's a tricky road and you have to be careful BUT THAT'S NO REASON TO DRIVE AT 20mph AROUND THE BENDS AND BARELY SPEED UP ALONG THE STRAIGHTISH BITS. Then, blow me down, when they finally reached a stretch of road where it was possible to overtake, the driver suddenly found his accelerator and hared along at the rate of knots, before braking violently and taking the next bend at 20mph.

There are several other annoyances I could mention, but I'll leave those for another day.

Goodbye, and don't forget to count your blessings.

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Christmas Decorations

A post on one of my favourites blogs (The Misadventures of Widowhood) reminded me that 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. 

The man 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 chocolates in the other and getting in my way.

At least I've got the Christmas decorations down to a fine art. 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.

 learnt the lesson and now I like to think my house is more minimally and tastefully decorated - a few well-placed candles, the odd festive ornament and a small tree with a colour scheme and only a few bells and whistles. That's always the plan, anyway, until young relatives conspire to throw a spanner in the works of my dream of turning my house into a vision of blue and white loveliness.

They wander in, admire the decorations and then cry out, mortally offended: "Where's that candleholder I made you when I was in Year Two?" So it's back into the decorations box to dig out a misshapen lump of glittery purple plaster with a hole in the middle and the broken candle lying limply at its side. Hence, scattered among the elegant ornaments is a Father Christmas wearing sun-glasses, an angel with two broken wings and a crooked halo and a selection of papier mache tree hangings in various shapes and sizes. 

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Car Sharing Dilemma

Wouldn't mind sharing my car with this little dude!

I have heard all the dire warnings about global warming so to complain about car sharing seems inappropriate.

But I’m going to anyway.

For a start, you can’t do any of those antisocial things like spit, fart and chew baccy. I don’t particularly want to spit, fart and chew baccy – but I want to feel I can if the mood takes me. And I’m never sure of the etiquette . Radio on or radio off? My passenger might not like my choice of Gran Radio – the channel that puts glamour into incontinence pads. But give them the choice, and you can bet your life you'll be subjected to some dire 60s country and western channel. There’s only so many times you can hear a mountain gal sing about her love for poor old dying Yeller without tossing her the humane killer.

So the radio is off and I have to, horror of horrors, make conversation. For some of these people I would feign unconsciousness to get away from at a party, but here I am trapped inside this metal tube with some gormless idiot chuntering on beside me for 20 miles.

I used to give a teenager from my village a lift to college. I'm not sure what she was studying - I'm not sure she knew what she was studying - but her area of expertise was relationships. I'd nod sagely at pearls of wisdom like, "Well Kelly thinks that Tyler fancies her but I could tell her for nothing that actually he thinks she's a total minger and I know for an absolute fact that he fancies Chantelle but I saw her snogging Dazza in the bus shelter and he's supposed to be going out with Mimi but I don't know what he sees in her, she's such a total scuzz-bucket and not fussy with it either, if you know what I mean, just ask Bruno, he chucked her because he was fed up of finding her with her tongue down other lads' throats and when he caught her with Simon - yes, that Simon - who's totally ancient and must be nearly 30, well he had no choice but to give her the elbow. "


I'm not sure who was worse, her or the young lad who in a year of lifts never said one word apart from the occasional grunt which I took was either a yes or no answer to the odd question I'd throw his way. Then there was the trainee hairdresser who had no conversation at all unless it related to hair and all its associated products.

That's the trouble with living in a village with only an intermittent bus service, mums knock on your door and ask if you can ferry their little darlings to town.

I think I might trade my car in for an old taxi cab and make sure the interconnecting window is well and truly shut. Then I can sit back, turn on Gran Radio and spit out the window.

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Don't Fall For The Spammers' Tricks

I get very depressed when I start thinking about all those villains spread across the globe who only want to con me and part me from my cash.

Recently I was contacted by a "police officer" telling me he had arrested a woman who had fraudulently tried to use a credit card registered to my address. He sounded very realistic - gave me his police number, contact details etc etc.

Then he told me to dial 999 (equivalent to 911 in many countries) to get a crime number etc for insurance purposes.

So far, so plausible. I was getting really worried that someone had cloned my credit card until he said to dial 999 while he was still on the phone. Alarm bells started to ring in my head. I told him I wouldn't dial 999 until he had hung up, at which point he terminated the call. A quick check on the internet revealed this is a well-known scam.

Practically every day I encounter spam emails and telephone calls from crooks trying to part me from my hard-earned money.

I get emails from "friends" who have been stranded while on holiday and only need me to transfer £2,000 to a bank account so they can get back home to dear old Britain. My friends must be a dopey lot - because they're ALWAYS getting into trouble somewhere in the world!

There's the African president who would like to send me billions of pounds because he can't get the money out of his country after his father died of beri-beri and there was a military a coup. I'm puzzled why he picked on the bank account of an old Devon maid like me into which to deposit millions of £s - but soooo honoured. Must remember to send him all my bank details a.s.a.p.

I've lost count of the number of competitions and lotteries I've won, which is a miracle because I haven't entered any competitions or lotteries.

Then there are this blog's spam comments that, thankfully, my blog provider usually intercepts. Some slip through, though. Yesterday I got this one but I'm not sure that it's spam. What do you think?

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I think it's genuine. I must click through....

Here's another:

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What is even more depressing than the snake oil salesmen and the con artists thinking you just might fall for their spiel is that there must be people out there who actually do get conned or the crooks would be out of business.

Who in their right mind thinks they have won $1,000,000 in the Louisiana state lottery when they've never bought a ticket or visited the place? Why would Prince Mtobobo choose an ordinary person who's never been further than Sorrento in Italy as a conduit through which to send billions of Djiboutian francs, or whatever? Or that a website which advertises itself as "the go-get premier agency for lucid collaring" is genuine?

Some people almost deserve everything they get.

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My Life With Kale

I was reading one of my favourite blogs when the poster mentioned kale! It brought back memories of "my life with kale" which I posted about back in the year dot. So here's the post again, just in case you'd like to read it! I've shortened it slightly from the original - it seemed a bit wordy!

My Life With Kale

He doesn't say them often, but I love it when the better half utters those three little words guaranteed to warm a woman's heart: "Let's eat out."

Invariably these days, there it is on the menu. Kale. It's everywhere you look, on every cookery programme, in all the top chefs' recipe books and practically every Sunday supplement extols its virtues . 

Not that I have anything against kale. I like kale. I was brought up on kale. It grew like a weed and was one of the things that we fed to the cows on our farm in the winter. Then my mother boiled it to death and fed it to us. If there was any left over, it went into bubble and squeak.

But now it's not so much a food as a fashion accessory. Kale is cool.

In restaurants it is tarted up and served with a flourish. No waiter has ever said to me: "Eat it up, it'll give you curly hair," like my mother used to say. Come to think of it, there was a variety of food she claimed would give you curly hair, from crusts on your bread to liver. I swallowed the line along with the kale, crusts and liver and have to report that left to its own devices my hair is straight as a pound of candles.

On one menu I spotted kale served as a salad with pancetta, parmesan and lemon juice. I gave that a miss. Raw kale, I thought, was a step too far until I was further into the whole gussied up kale experience. But then I really enjoyed a dish that included braised kale with bacon and cider so I thought I would look on the internet for kale inspiration. What an eye-opener that was.

There was potato, kale and fennel hash, sauted kale with broccoli and feta (kale AND broccoli? I feel healthier just reading that) and curried kale with coconut. Even as a reborn kale gourmet I thought currying it sounded a bit too far out - but I might give it a go one day. 

I wish my mother had known that boiling wasn’t the only option. You can steam it, cream it, butter it and braise it.

 I even came across a video: How to Make Wilted Kale with Bacon and Vinegar and watched a woman doing exactly what it said, wilting kale and adding bacon and vinegar. I learnt nothing and that was one minute and thirty-seven seconds of my life I am never going to get back. 

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