Shopping in Waitrose - You Get a Better Class of People



My friends who are not from the UK may never heard of our supermarket Waitrose. It’s a great store with high quality goods but it does have the reputation of being, shall we say, the supermarket of choice for the middle and upper classes who don’t mind paying more for products if it means not having to rub shoulders with us hoi polloi. It’s the antithesis of Walmarts.

So when Waitrose asked its customers to tweet about why they shopped there, they got more than they bargained for. Tweets had to begin with the phrase, “I shop at Waitrose because…” It was the ideal opportunity for the country to have a laugh at the store’s expense with made up comments interspersed among the genuine - and I'm not sure which is which!

Like this one: I shop at Waitrose because I once heard a woman tell her child, "Don’t rummage in the reduced bin, darling, someone from the golf club might see you."

Another wag wrote: I shop in Waitrose because I heard a 6-year-old boy say, “Daddy, does Lego have a ‘t’ at the end, like Merlot?”

Then there was: I shop at Waitrose because I was once in the Holloway Road branch and heard a dad say, "Put the papaya down, Hermione!" Similarly: I shop at Waitrose because Jocasta simply
WON ’T eat any other supermarket’s sun-ripened guava. And another:  Mum to her two kids, aged around seven: “What type of bread would you like to dip into your mussels?”

Some were more surreal: I shop at Waitrose because Tabitha and Tarquin only eat phoenix eggs that have been collected by wizards who share their values.



Then there was a Twitter account called Overheard in Waitrose, with posts like these: “Jemima, you’ll have to take the rosemary off the focaccia before we feed the ducks. Darling, they can’t digest it!” and “Husband: ‘Non-organic apples, darling?’ Wife: ‘Stop making a fuss. They’re for the horses.’

Waitrose customers demand high quality if this is to be believed: “Well, I don’t understand how you can’t have organic courgettes. What is this? Beirut?”

Even the children of Waitrose customers are demanding: “Mummy, you must get me more quinoa, otherwise I’ll be a laughing stock during lunch at school,” and “Max, what do you want in your packed lunches, salami Milano or prosciutto in your ciabattas?”

And finally, someone must have been listening to me before writing this (I wish!): “I would cook scampi for dinner, but I just don’t feel I could do it justice after the way our butler cooked it on holiday."



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Let's Get Flirting



There I was lackadaisically (lackadaisical is my default setting these days) surfing the net when I came across one of those lists that proliferate. You know, the 100 Ways To Lance A Boil type of thing.

This one was 10 Flirting Tips. I don’t know why I started reading it. I'm over 60 and have been in a happy relationship for 35 years. If I flutter my eyelashes, men don't rush towards me with lustful intent but with handkerchiefs thinking I've picked up some dust in my eye while bending down to tie the laces of my sensible shoes.

This one began, "If you've ever been the subject of an accomplished flirt, you'll know how flattering it can be." I racked my brains and could just about remember a man telling me I was beautiful in 1984. I told the better half and he threatened to confiscate the man's white stick and send his dog to kennels. Oh, har-de-har.

This list promised to have me "flirting like a professional in no time". Are there professional flirters? It was never mentioned as an option by my careers adviser when I was at school. No, all the girls were advised to be nurses, teachers or secretaries. Hopefully, women's horizons have broadened somewhat since those unenlightened days back in the year dot.

Anyway, top of the list was "start a conversation". Hmm, I've got that one down. I can witter on about nothing with the best of them. So what words of wisdom do I need to impart?

"The best opening line is to say hello." 

Wow! Who'd a thought... But thank God for that. I thought I was going to have to read up on Einstein's theory of relativity or compare and contrast the Scottish law system of the 18th and 21st centuries.

Then there was, "Be enthusiastic." I've tried that but it's difficult to look fascinated when a man is telling you in great detail about his collection of 1930s back scratchers or droning on about his journey around the M25. My eyes tend to glaze over and a smile like a death mask fixes itself to my face.

"Be playful," was number three. I don’t really know what that means. But I'm going to invite the next man I have my eye on to a game of darts or Monopoly. That should do it.

There was "go it alone". Sensible advice. I've known many a man run for the hills as my girlfriends and I, a little tipsy after drinking too much red wine, have approached like a pack of hyenas after a wildebeest. Others included things like "make eye contact but don't stare" although they didn't specify at what point a flirtatious look turns into a "help, is this woman a serial killer?" stare.

I must also "compliment him". That's difficult with men who are my age. What do  you say? "I notice those false teeth of yours fit very snugly" or, "The light is glinting quite fetchingly off the top of your bald head."

"Use props". What, like this?
But the one that got me flummoxed was "use props". I'm not sure what that entails. I suppose I could go to a party carrying the head of Bottom the ass from A Midsummer Night's Dream, but is that flirting or more "steer clear of this lunatic"? I suspect the latter. Reading on, I discovered it meant wearing a distinctive piece of jewellery or carrying a foreign newspaper to get the conversation rolling. 

That's kind of a relief, although I have a  feeling that if I walk into a party wearing my best party frock carrying a newspaper under my arm I might as well be wearing a placard that says, "Do not approach!"

Then it occurred to me that I already do a lot of those tips so I can't understand why I don't have men falling at my feet. Well, I could have men falling at my feet, but only when they trip over my Bottom's head.


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Fit To Drop



My older sister Peggy (aged 75) is fit as a butcher's dog. In fact, so fit is she that she represents Great Britain for her age group in triathlon. She's off to Australia this week to take part in the world championships.

So my thoughts have turned to getting fit. It's just a question of eating fewer calories than I burn - what could be easier...?

In my quest for bodily perfection - or at least the desire not to be winched out of a bedroom window by a crane when I die - I trawled the internet for hints and inspiration and came across a website called 24 Fun And Exciting Ways To Lose Weight!. The exclamation mark is theirs, not mine. My 30-plus years working on newspapers gave me a horror of exclamation marks - unless they actually do punctuate an exclamation. Various editors have referred to them as screamers, gaspers, shriekers and a dog's cock. Not sure of that last one, but there it is.

I digress - anything rather than address the issue at hand…which is losing weight and getting fit.

I think the target audience of this website is people considerably younger than I.  For the 25 tips include hula hooping and playing with a Frisbee.  You won't catch me out in the park flinging a Frisbee about. The young people in my family find me embarrassing enough without throwing a plastic disc at me and watching it fly past my head as I flap my hands and try to catch it.  I briefly considered hula hooping but was afraid I wouldn't be able to find one big enough to fit round me. Difficult to hula-hoop with something resembling a snug belt.

Some of the suggestions sounded quite racy to an old woman like me. "Try twerking," I was advised.  These thrusting, suggestive moves were made popular by a young songstress called Miley Cyrus. Well, Miley, they may look sexy when you do them. When I try I look like I’m at the local fair with a ferret down my trousers. Strip aerobics was another one.  The idea is to learn moves similar to a striptease and get fit while doing it but not, praise be, strip completely in class. Well, that's a relief - and a bigger relief, I'm sure, to my potential classmates.  I discounted pole dancing and belly dancing for similar reasons.

There was one suggestion that proudly proclaimed "age no bar!" (again, their exclamation mark, not mine). It's something called Bokwa which, I was told, is popular with Robbie Williams, another  popular singer, I believe.  It requires using your feet to draw letters or numbers while doing "cardio to music". I can think of a few words I could draw but probably not suitable to repeat them here.

I’m in two minds about whether to “say hello to cycle karaoke!" (again, their exclamation mark). The concept is that singing is an indicator of your heart rate and the aim, as far as I could ascertain, is to sound like you’re on 60-a-day and have just run a marathon. If you don’t, you are not working hard enough.

Bizarrely, it suggests you do this in the gym so if you find yourself next to a seemingly mad woman on a static bike belting out hits from the musicals, it'll be me trying keeping fit. No need to call the men in white coats.

On second thoughts, I think I might revert to my original idea and just try to eat less and move more. I have  a wonderful extractor/blender that makes lovely smoothies, soups and dips so I can get lots of fruit and vegetables down me and I have started walking more.

The better half told the pub the other night: "The woman's on a diet and she's lost 100 pounds." Everyone looked suitably impressed until he added: "That's what she spent on some kitchen gadget for her vegetables.”

He'd better watch out or bits of him will be in it.


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Abbreviations? ELI5 (Explain Like I’m 5)



I am indebted to my blogging friend Darla for reminding me of how tortuous some modern abbreviations are. (Read her blog HERE.)

A while ago I wrote a column about this for Devon Life and I'm sharing it below:

HDLR.

Sorry, am I confusing you? That stands for Hello Devon Life Readers. I could have written it out in full in the first place but it seems mandatory these days to pepper all articles, social media posts and correspondence with abbreviations.

I made that one up but there are thousands of internet abbreviations that all young people appear to have learned without even trying. If only subjects like French, algebra and English grammar could be assimilated so easily.

This need to reduce everything to its smallest possible form first came to my attention when one of my Twitter follower's profiles included a plea to potential followers, NRWNJ. I had to look it up and found out it meant No Right Wing Nut Jobs. How effective that plea has been I’m not sure. Are right wing nut jobs any more familiar with abbreviations than left wing nut jobs? Probably not.

Then I had a message which included IYKWIM (If You Know What I Mean), which is ironic as I had to look it up.

I logged on to a local sales page on Facebook and the very first post included the letters sfs. I didn’t have a clue what this meant - Sausages For Sunday? Sales Frustration Syndrome? - so I had to look it up. Apparently it means "still for sale", which makes sense. The next post included sstc which I worked out for myself as "sold subject to contract". I'm presuming that was correct but as I didn't want a beige Dralon sofa I didn't bother to check if I were right.

I can understand why there are a lot of abbreviations on Twitter as you are limited to 140 characters, although there is a trial on at the moment and some users are allowed 280. In my opinion 140 characters is 140 too many for some people, but that's another story.  But I don't see the point in confusing someone (i.e. me) with impenetrable abbreviations when the character count is unlimited.

So it was that one commenter on a website story I read gave some frankly ludicrous medical advice to a poor man suffering from frequent headaches.  At least the commenter had the grace to add IANAD on the bottom. IANAD? That stands for I Am Not A Doctor. This, apparently, is quite a common rider on the internet but if you don't know what it means and can't be bothered to look it up, you could end up following some very strange medical procedures. If you have advised someone that the topical application of boiled cow dung, raisins and cottonwool will cure a particularly nasty boil, you should maybe add IANAD and pray to God the sufferer knows what it means.

After coming across these abbreviations I thought I'd better drag myself into 2018 and see what other tortuous short forms Devon's young whippersnappers were using to communicate.

While perusing the millions of internet articles that read as if they have been written by a semi-literate child, I'm going to start asking WDYMBT (What Do You Mean By That?).

Another one that might be quite handy for all you Percy Pedantics is FTFY (Fixed That For You). This is routinely used in internet comments to correct the grammar of the writer. Umph, not sure about that one. Seems a sure-fire way to lose friends, if you ask me.

Miss Knowall here could write AMA - Ask Me Anything. I'm fairly easy-going so when I have imparted my words of wisdom I can respond HTH (Happy To Help).

If I agree with an article and want to give the writer a little bit of positive reinforcement I can tell them MTFBWY (May The Force Be With You). Then there’s TL;DR (Too Long;Didn’t Read). This is written if a person doesn't want to read an entire article but has something to say anyway.

I certainly will not be using DFTBA, even to my family and closest friends. I'm sure all of them would think my body had been taken over by aliens if I ever told them Don't Forget To Be Awesome. And it could be dangerous to add CCW (Comments and Criticism Welcome) to any of my online witterings.

But when it comes to complicated articles, here’s one I really need: ELI5 (Explain Like I’m 5).


Before you leave:
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When I Am An Old Woman




My 35-year-old neighbour popped in for a cup of tea and chat. The conversation turned to "women of a certain age". My friend believes she is now "of that certain age" and has officially lost it. "It" being that certain something that young women have - that makes men want to help them and impress them without them doing anything. The more unscrupulous may be all too well aware of this power and use it to their advantage - manipulative, yes, sexist, of course, but useful nevertheless.

After oversleeping she'd had a mad scramble to get out of the house and get to work on time and had forgotten to put on her seat-belt. She was flagged down by a policeman who she swears wasn't a day over 14. She said she shamelessly fluttered her eyelashes and apologised in a girly, breathy voice .

Instead of rising to the occasion like Sir Lancelot coming to the aid of a damsel in distress, he looked as uncomfortable as if he were being propositioned by his maiden aunt. The final nail in the coffin was when he produced a fixed penalty ticket and called her madam. Not "miss" or "honey" but, horror of horrors, MADAM. She has felt depressed ever since.

I can't remember the day I lost it, "it" being so far back in the mists of time, but I remember the day I realised I was getting old. I walked into a shoe shop and rejected a pair of the most beautiful high-heeled strappy sandals in favour of a comfy pair of shoes.

At least, I consoled myself, I hadn't bought slip-ons on the grounds that they were easier to put on than strappy sandals.

Age has also precluded me from buying other desirable objects of apparel. The thought of wearing a thong makes my cheeks red - and not the ones on my face. The bolero is another garment I have caressed longingly in the shops. I even slipped one on but decided a little bolero top that stopped short of my nipples was not a good look. I am aware, before you remind me, that a bolero isn't supposed to stop short of your nipples, but look, I'm no longer a perky young thing so my nipples aren't quite as high-riding as they once were.

Ugg boots made me look like Big Foot on the rampage and in skinny jeans my legs looked like two over-stuffed salamis. Last year the ethnic peasant look was everywhere. In mine, instead of looking like a skittish gipsy girl I more closely resembled, well, a peasant. And one of those short stocky Eastern European peasants who's been eating too much borscht and dumplings.

So I've given up trying to look fashionable and have settled for looking Bohemian instead - a bit like the woman in Jenny Joseph's Warning poem: "When I am an old woman I shall wear purple and a red hat which doesn't go and which doesn't suit me."

I don't yet have a red hat but I do have a purple cardigan. I will reject beige in favour of clashing colours, book a safari rather than a week in Cleethorpes and drink tequila rather than sherry.
I intend to grow old disgracefully.


Before you leave:

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Camera Phone Cat Snaps



You call it medicine, I call it a gross invasion of privacy.

I’m looking for a new phone. I don’t require much from a phone - I’m not a teenager with one welded to my hand, living my whole life in cyberspace. I’m a grumpy old woman who wants to phone firms to harangue them for their laxity of service and to send sarcastic messages to my friends and family. That’s all.

A good camera would be nice. My current phone takes pictures but by the time I've got on to the right programme and clicked all the right buttons it’s another time of day. Sometimes the subject matter has emigrated to Australia or grown into an adult before I can select the right button.

The other day, though, I actually managed to take a good photo. The cat was ill. To spare her blushes, I won’t tell you her symptoms. Suffice it to say the cure involved liquid paraffin and an indoor litterbox.



The better half helped me administer the medicine which was quite a success... for after wrapping her in a towel, I only had three deep scratches and a tetanus jab to show for it. He then went to work.

A couple of hours later, she had used her litterbox. I was so pleased I phoned the other half to tell him.

“Do you want me to take a picture to send you?” I asked excitedly.

A big sigh wafted across the airwaves. “No, you’re all right,” he replied drily.

I took one anyway and despite its pin sharpness, depth of colour and novel theme, I don’t think it’s going to win any photographic awards.




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Learning From Dr Mark Sloan

Dr Mark Sloan, a role model for wannabe multi-taskers

I am a big believer in carpe diem (seize the day, as I’m sure you all know). Unfortunately, belief doesn’t always translate to action. There are times when very little diem gets carped and I drift through the day doing minimal housework, maximum reading, minimal freelance work and maximum faffing about thinking about what I should be doing.

But I always get up in the morning full of good intentions with all kinds of worked planned, including industrial-strength cleaning, getting to grips with the jungle that is my garden and writing a best-seller before the sun is over the yard arm

I always write a list but occasionally writing the list takes longer than doing the work. So my guest bedroom remains a dumping ground for anything in the house that doesn’t have a natural home, the garden could still have undiscovered species of animals in it, hiding in the undergrowth, for all I know and the novel remains a concept rather than a reality.

So it was I found myself trying to fill in some gaps in my education by catching up on Charles Dickens. He knew how to tell a good tale, that one. Unfortunately he never quite learned to tell a good tale succinctly. You can’t finish one of his novels in one sitting.

It doesn’t help that I have developed the old lady habit of falling asleep in the chair after lunch. One minute I am watching News At One and the next Dr Mark Sloan is half way through solving a grisly mystery in Diagnosis Murder. He’s a full time doctor in a busy hospital and still finds time for some very successful sleuthing.

There’s him tackling a triple heart bypass before breakfast, dealing with the victims of a head-on train crash before lunch, tracking down a vicious drugs baron in the afternoon and still finding time in the evening for a great social life with his fellow doctors and that dopey policeman son of his who doesn’t seem able to wipe his backside without his dad's help.

But I intend to turn over a new leaf and tomorrow I plan to solve global warming and put an end to war, pestilence and famine before I lay my head on the pillow in the evening. 

So that’s Wednesday taken care off but what am I going to do on Thursday?





Before you leave:
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Why Dogs Bite People

Biggles? Really?
And you call ME a bitch...
Oh the indignity...

I'm feeling sheepish and I just want everybody to buzz off, permanently.

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My (Brief) Life As A Chicken Farmer


I recently had a 10-week freelance gig editing two magazines called Country Smallholding  and Your Chickens . I was brought up on a farm so it wasn't exactly a foreign language to me - although terms like coccidiosis and chalazae had me reaching for the dictionary.
We always had chickens, bantams and guinea fowl running about when I was a child - all so free range that you'd occasionally come across a nest in a hedge containing clutch of eggs. And then there was the time I looked after my sister's chickens while she was away in Turkey.
I wasn't worried - expert chicken farmer that I was (in my own head). I was more concerned about keeping some plants alive in her polytunnel, what with my propensity for killing anything green as soon as I look at it.
I wasn’t upset that I was most definitely second choice for this task. Her son was supposed to be on chicken duty but he had been called away to work on Guernsey – a bit far to pop back to chuck a bit of corn about. He gave me very detailed instructions about how to care for the chickens, a cockerel and one broody hen and how to water plants without over-watering when the soil began to feel dry.
I could tell by the look on his face that he didn’t consider me quite up to the job and expected to return to chicken carnage and plant annihilation.
So there I was, wellies at the ready, a chicken farmer and horticulturist by default. Days one, two, three and four went swimmingly. No sudden deaths, plants still green(ish), eggs being laid – all was well with the world. What could be easier than making sure a few chickens had food and water?
By day five I had become complacent and was even enjoying my brief stint as a hoary-handed daughter of the soil. Then it all went horribly wrong. I had been filling up the water-bowls near the fence but then I spotted another bowl further away and thought I would fill that one up as well.
The chickens were interested and started to gather around, clucking contentedly as happy chickens do. They had been drinking from here quite a lot and it had been raining so the area around the bowl was a bit messy.
The next thing I knew I was slipping on the mud, arms flapping like a demented overgrown Buff Orpington; then flat on my back, chickens squawking and scattering in all directions...except for one big protective cockerel who stood staring at me with a baleful glare in his eye.
I took one look at his razor-sharp beak and his air of evil intent and, I admit, might have overreacted a tad. Moving quicker than I have in 30 years, I leapt back onto my feet and ran as fast as my little short fat legs would carry me. Outside the pen I saw Cocky Scissor-Beak strutting away. I swear he was shaking his feathered head in bemused despair.
I was covered in mud and chicken shit, my only consolation some free range eggs for my breakfast.
Oh, and a couple of the plants had started to look a bit iffy too.
And what do those terms mean?
  • Chalazae: The cords that anchor the yolk to the shell in the egg.
  • Coccidiosis: An intestinal disease in a chicken.
What a column, hey, entertaining AND educational!

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Big Dick Energy - You've Either Got It Or You Haven't

Toffee doesn't think she has it. But she does.

I tweeted the other day that if I never hear about Big Dick Energy again, it won't be a day too soon.  Most people are fed up to the back teeth with reading about it. But that's not going to stop me writing about it…

If you've been holidaying in the Siberian wastes without your phone over the last couple of weeks, you might not know what I'm talking about. Explanation: it's nothing to do with the size of a man's manhood (thankfully - I can't cope with all that smutty business. I'm a buttoned up Brit). It's all to do with charisma and confidence. People who light up a room have it. Those who suck the energy out of it don't; those people have SDE (Small Dick Energy).

Now I find myself looking at everyone and labelling them as BDE or SDE - often they're in between so I label them ADE (Average Dick Energy), which I guess is most people.

Although it's nothing to do with "size", that's how the whole thing began when Ariana Grande tweeted and soon deleted  about how generously endowed her fiancé Pete Davidson was (eww - too much information, Ariana). In the way of social media, the whole thing escalated and evolved. In fact, so removed is it now from men's body parts, it's acknowledged that women have it too.

It is confidence without arrogance, a quiet assurance. It's about not trying too hard, about being happy with who you are and not feeling the need to put others down to make yourself feel better. It’s about radiating energy that attracts people and gives the impression you have your life together. People with BDE make others feel good. 

Conversely, those with LDE exude a toxic masculinity, arrogance, pettiness and an in-your-face attitude.

In a way it's a comforting concept. We women may know handsome, successful men who we'd walk across broken glass to avoid - and other men don't really understand why. And then there are the average looking men who always have women buzzing around them. You'd never attach the #metoo hashtag to this man.

Of course, it's the same with men. They might think they want a Victoria's Secret model to hang out with but they so often prefer a sassy confident woman who's good company and makes them feel good about themselves. Not that a Victoria's Secret model can't have BDE but it's not a prerequisite of the job.

What I find fascinating is that your BDE could be my LDE. Harry Styles has been held up as a man with BDE but, maybe I'm just too old, he's just a little boy to me. And Robert Downey Jr?  No, definitely not.

So who are your BDEs? Here are ten off the top of my head. It's not my definitive list; I'll have changed my mind by tomorrow. In fact, I'm already changing my mind...

  1. Dame Judi Dench
  2. England football team manager Gareth Southgate (but definitely not his predecessor Sam Allardyce)
  3. Tom Hanks (but not Leonardo Di Caprio)
  4. Meryl Streep
  5. Michelle Obama (but not Hillary Clinton - and that's nothing to do with their politics)
  6. Hugh Jackman
  7. Comedian Jo Brand
  8. Sir David Attenborough
  9. Writer Anne Cleeves (not 100% sure about this one as I've never seen her interviewed but she writes as if she has BDE)
  10. Prince Harry (but not Prince William - he's ADE in my rating)

Before you leave:
  • 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. 
  • Look in left column under Grounds For Divorce, Or Proof That I'm Living With A Madman for some short posts about the man I share my life with. (If you're reading on a phone it will be somewhere else - possibly at the top).
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Class Act


Jim-jams woven from the pubic hair of Peruvian peasants.
Not really, but they could have been!

THERE was much mocking laughter this evening when one of us sitting at my kitchen table revealed she had just bought a plain linen duvet cover for £200. £200? For that money I would have expected the bed, a couple of wardrobes, a brass bedstead and George Clooney thrown in.

We decided she'd become very middle-class. You know the middle-class - they're those people with names like Tiggy and Tarquin who live in large houses with stripped pine floors that give them splinters and have Agas in the kitchen they don't know how to use.

Tiggy and Tarquin sleep in bedrooms with Victorian cast iron fireplaces that haven't seen a flame since 1852, wearing pyjamas woven by Amazonian Indians from the pubic hair of Peruvian peasant women. They breakfast on wholegrain muesli drizzled with organic macrobiotic natural low-fat yak's piss and plates of guava harvested by an endangered species of colobus monkey.

After breakfast they take a power walk to work, counting their carbon footprints as they go, returning home for a dinner of mountain goat testicles and beans cooked in an authentic Moroccan tagine they picked up for a song in a delightful little souk while on holiday.

Some divine guava.
In the evening their good friends Jools (who's something high up in the Beeb) and Jocasta drop by. Jocasta has decided to be "just a mum" for a while and extols the virtues of motherhood, "the hardest job in the world", which she manages with the help of "only" two nannies, a housekeeper, a cleaner and a gardener. She’s still breast-feeding little Leo even though he's leaving his Montessori nursery next week for a little prep school which a second cousin twice removed of Wills and Harry used to attend.

Finally, it's off to bed on a futon made from wood from sustainable forests to read books printed on recycled paper before switching off that lava lamp (a post-modern ironic statement - very retro-chic and jolly amusing) to dream of a holiday in a little villa in Tuscany ...... who knows, Wills and Kate may drop by.

I am, of course, only (half) joking. Although born working class, I am becoming more middle-class every day. I don't own an Aga but I would love one. And I love a bit fancy pants posh grub occasionally.

Even so, it's time to put on my flat cap, butter the bread with dripping and take the whippet for a walk while the chip pan heats up.


Before you leave:
  • 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.
  • Look in left column under Grounds For Divorce, Or Proof That I'm Living With A Madman for some short posts about the man I share my life with. (If you're reading on a phone it will be somewhere else - possibly at the top).
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Feeling Blue About Genes



How I think I look (left); how I actually look (right).

YOU see those ads for genetic tests all over the TV. One gob of spit and someone can tell you that your ancestors are a mixture of Outer Mongolian, Native American, Australian aborigine with, I'm pretty sure in my case, the lion's share of Common Peasant.

I live in Devon in the UK, a county that shares a border with Cornwall, so I was surprised to read that genetically I have little in common with my Cornish cousins. I have more in common with Anglo Saxons than Celts, which upsets me because I have always believed that underneath my short dumpy exterior was a tall, red-headed, feisty warrior woman trying to get out.

Unfortunately, what I actually am is a stumpwort to the bone. This is a term coined for the local people by poet Sylvia Plath when she came to live in Devon with husband and later poet laureate Ted Hughes. It doesn't sound a very flattering term but it is a wonderful word! I’m not sure what was in her mind but in my stumpwort brain it conjured up people who were short, dark, didn’t mind living in inhospitable places - and were possibly poisonous. That’s OK. I can live with that.

So what, I wonder, are the characteristics of us Devonian stumpworts? From personal experience I should say our good points are that we are, generally speaking, hard-working, stoic and loyal.

We stumpworts are not given to wild outpourings of emotion but espouse that stiff upper lip - far better in my opinion than that kind of emotional diarrhoea that makes people bare their most private souls on TV and the internet these days. No, give me a stiff upper lip any day. I much prefer repression to expression and I don't care that psychologists say that "keeping it in" is bad for you. I believe that letting it all out is even worse.  Every day I am subjected to some private outpouring that I think would have been much better kept behind closed doors. 

If I'm sounding like a killjoy, let me get on to the stumpwort's dry sense of humour with deadpan comments delivered in such a way that no one quite knows whether you are joking or not. The trick is to say the most outrageous thing and immediately follow it up with something mundane, without cracking a smile. The listener is left wondering, “Did I really hear that?” But we are not as witty as we think we are which is why a teacher once wrote on my school report, “Patricia suffers from a misplaced sense of humour.” My parents laughed out loud at that one, their sense of humour being somewhat misplaced as well.

Then there is the stumpwort's complete refusal to be impressed by anyone, which is why celebrities like to visit or make their homes in Devon. I reckon Angelina Jolie could walk into our local and all that would happen is that someone would look up and say "aye, aye," in greeting and get back to their cider and discussing the farm-gate price of milk.

So I'm proud to be a repressed, self-controlled stumpwort. We may not be the most beautiful things that God ever made but we have our uses. 


Before you leave:
  • 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.
  • Look in left column under Grounds For Divorce, Or Proof That I'm Living With A Madman for some short posts about the man I share my life with. (If you're reading on a phone it will be somewhere else - possibly at the top).
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How To Sound Like A Football Expert Even If You're A Numpty



As World Cup fever sweeps the land and the sounds of the iconic It's Coming Home ring in your ears, you may be one of those people sitting there feeling like a numpty as everybody except you seems to know what the hell is going on and who all the players are. So I've cobbled together a little crib sheet so you can sound vaguely knowledgeable as England take on Croatia in the semi-finals.

The first thing you should know is that all true male England fans genuinely believe that with the right breaks they would be playing for their country or managing the team - and that they know better than anyone on the pitch or manager Gareth Southgate.

Right, so here are a few facts about the players, so you at least know which club they play for - and there's the odd comment you can throw into the mix that might impress or surprise one or two people.

There is a squad of 23 players and here they are:



No, she's not in the squad. This is Harry Kane's little girl Ivy in a picture posted on Instagram

Captain Harry Kane, 28, born in Walthamstow, London (captain of the team, he's not in the Army or anything).
Plays for Tottenham Hotspur, signing for them at the age of 11.
A few details: The Guardian ranked Kane the fifth-best footballer on the planet in 2017. Kane abstains from alcohol during the football season and has a full-time chef to optimise his nutrition. He went to school with his fiancee Katie Goodland, who is pregnant. They already have a little girl called Ivy. Manager Gareth Southgate applauded Kane's “belief in being able to score every time he plays.”
You can say: "He's such an inspirational captain," and, "He could well win the Golden Boot [awarded to the player with the most goals]."

Jesse Lingard, 25, born in Warrington
Plays for Manchester Utd . He joined Manchester United's youth academy at the age of seven and progressed through the age groups.
A few details: He was part of the Manchester United team that won the 2010–11 FA Youth Cup. He is a cousin of Everton women's player Gabrielle George. He's been  hailed world football's social media king with messages like these on Twitter @jesselingard and Instagram @jesselingard:



You can say: "I love Lingard's Twitter and Instagram accounts, don't you?" or "Lingard's work rate is phenomenal."

Goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, 24, born in Washington, Tyne and Wear.
Plays for Everton, signed from Sunderland for £25m.
A few details: Third most expensive goalkeeper in history, most expensive British goalkeeper of all time. Criticised for being too short to be a goalkeeper at 6ft 1in but is now happily proving everyone wrong. So far he has hardly put a foot - or hand - wrong. But you know how it is in football, a few bad moves and he's the enemy again.
You can say: "At least he's proving his worth as the most expensive British goalkeeper ever," if he's doing well, or "God, you never would have thought he was the most expensive British goalkeeper ever," if he's having a mare of a game.


This is what Kyling is all about! 
Kyle Walker, 28, born in Sheffield
Plays for Manchester City, signed from Tottenham for £45m.
A few details: His first big club was Sheffield Utd and at the age of 18 he joined Northampton on loan. He'd never driven  on the motorway before so his dad made him follow him and his mum down the M1. Walker said: "My dad was petrified of me driving on the motorway and thought I was going to kill myself or something." He started a bizarre internet trend with people imitating the position he was in when treated for cramp, soon dubbed "kyling".
You can say: "Let's hope he's man of the match like he was against Sweden in that friendly in 2011," or "If he scores I'm going to start Kyling!"

Eric Dier, 24, born in Cheltenham
Plays for Tottenham Hotspur, signed for Sporting CP (Portugal) for £5m in 2014
A few details: Dier moved to Portugal when he was 7 after his mother was offered a job running the hospitality programme at UEFA Euro 2004.  In 2010, his parents returned to England while Dier remained in Portugal, living at Sporting CP's academy. He is the grandson of Ted Croker, a former secretary of FA. He became an England World Cup hero when he scored the winner in a penalty shoot-out against Colombia.
You can say: "He's so versatile. It's good to have a player , who can play midfield, centre back AND right back," and, "His confidence has soared since he scored that penalty."

Phil Jones, 26, born in Preston
Plays for Manchester Utd, signed from Blackburn for an undisclosed sum, believed to be around £16.5m in 2011.
A few details:  Known for his physical power and build, Jones has been called a "jack of all trades" for his ability to play at centre-back, right-back or as a defensive midfielder. He is also known for the faces he pulls while playing. In fact there's a Twitter account @facesofphiljones that includes posts like the one below:



You can say: "I love that Twitter account with all those pictures of Phil Jones pulling faces. It's a riot!" and, "He always looks so comfortable on the ball."

John Stones, 24, born in Barnsley
Plays for Manchester City, signed from Everton for £47.5m in 2016
A few details: He was the world's second most expensive defender in history, behind David Luiz. He was pictured with some heavy-looking strapping and ice around his left calf after the Belgium game. Thankfully, it seems to have done him no harm and he was back playing brilliantly in the 2-0 defeat of Sweden.
You can say: "Lothar Matthaus [captain of Germany when they won the World Cup in 1990] believes Stones is one of the best defenders in the game." 

Harry Maguire, 25, born in Sheffield
Plays for Leicester, signed from Hull for £12m in 2017.
A few details: Maguire's brothers, Joe and Laurence, are also footballers, Joe at Fleetwood Town and Laurence at Chesterfield. Spanish midfield Cesc Fabregas raved about Maguire in his column for the Daily Telegraph. An England fan last week got a tattoo of Harry Maguire's face on his chest.
You can say: "Well, if Fabregas is raving about him, you gotta sit up and take notice," and "He's been immaculate in England's back three."

Jordan Henderson, 28, born Sunderland
Plays for Liverpool, signed from Sunderland in 2011 for an undisclosed fee thought to be around £16m-£20m.
A few details: Jordan Henderson is England's lucky charm.  Henderson extended his unbeaten record in an England shirt to 30 matches (he didn't play in the Belgium game) in the match again Sweden.
You can say: "Thank God missing that penalty against Colombia hasn't affected him," and, "His positional understanding is remarkable."

Raheem Sterling, 23, born in Kingston, Jamaica
Plays for Manchester City, signing from Liverpool for £44m, one of the most expensive footballers of all time.
A few details:  He's probably one of the most controversial of the England players and is often picked on by the Press. He was criticised for having an M16 rifle tattooed on his leg by the Press and  by anti-violence groups but he said that the tattoo had a deeper meaning and referred to his father who was killed when Sterling was two years old. He's a bit of a Marmite player with the public - you either love him or hate him.

You can say: "I hope that rifle tattoo means he can shoot at goal. Geddit?" or, "At least he always shows a willingness to run behind the other team's defence."

Kieran Trippier, 27, born in Bury
Plays for Tottenham Hotspur, signed from Burnley for a reported £3.5m
A few details: Trippier joined Manchester City's academy at the age of nine but his family are Manchester United fans. He is a David Beckham fan. He said: "Beckham was the one I always looked up to. The technique, his crossing, on the move or set pieces. He is the one I used to look up to on crossing the ball.”

You can say: "You can see he's moulded his game on Beckham's. He's got that style about him."

Dele Alli, 22, born Milton Keynes
Plays for Tottenham Hotspur, signed from MK Dons in 2015 for £5m
A few details: Alli watches the best players to try to learn from their style of play, including Lionel Messi, Xabi Alonso, Andrés Iniesta and Xavi as well as his idol Steven Gerrard.  His teammate Harry Winks described Alli as being like Fernandinho, but Dele Alli has described his own playing style as "a cross between Gerrard and Yaya Touré."  In a bit of footballer's cliche, his girlfriend is lingerie model Ruby Mae.

You can say: If he's doing well, "He says he's a cross between Steven Gerrard and Yaya Toure and I can see why." If he's doing badly, "He says he's a cross between Steven Gerrard and Yaya Toure. My ass."

Trent Alexander-Arnold, 19, born in Liverpool
Plays for Liverpool, spotted at the age of a 6 at a community summer camp by academy coach Ian Barrigan who offered him the chance to train at the academy.
A few details: In 2015 he was singled out in his autobiography by former Liverpool and England captain Steven Gerrard, who tipped him to have a bright future at the club. He is the nephew of former Reading and Millwall footballer, and former Manchester United club secretary John Alexander.  His maternal grandmother, Doreen Carling, was once a girlfriend of former United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, before moving to New York City. 
You can say: "Did you know Alexander-Arnold's grandmother was once a girlfriend of Alex Ferguson?"

Danny Rose, 28, born in Doncaster.
Plays for Tottenham Hotspur, signed from Leeds for £1m in 2007.
A few details: Rose's younger brother Mitch Rose plays for Grimsby Town. He is the cousin of footballer Michael Rankine, whose uncle Mark Rankine also played professional football. He was also eligible to play for Jamaica through his Jamaican grandfather.

You can say: If he's playing well: "Thank God he signed for England and not Jamaica." If he's playing badly, "He should have signed for Jamaica, not England."

Jamie Vardy, 31, born in Sheffield
Plays for Leicester City, signed from non-league Fleetwood Town for £1m in 2012, a non-league record.
A few details:  Before turning professional, Vardy combined playing non-League football with a job as a technician making medical splints. In 2007 when playing for Stocksbridge Park Steels, he received a conviction for assault following an incident outside a pub, and had to play with an electronic tag fitted for six months.
You can say: "I bet he's the only England player who's ever played football with an electronic tag!"

Goalkeeper Jack Butland, 25, born in Bristol
Plays for Stoke City, signed from Birmingham for around £3.3m.
A few details: Like Nick Pope (see below), he's unlikely to play unless Jordan Pickford is injured or England are 7-0 up near the end of the match (we wish...). In January 2014, Butland had his car, an Audi RS5, stolen from his house in Walsall. In December 2015, Butland donated £5,000 to the Great Britain women's deaf football team.
You can say: "Liverpool should sign Butland. They need a good goalkeeper, although Klopp seems to be sticking with Karius."

Danny Welbeck, 27, born in Manchester
Plays for Arsenal, signed from Manchester Utd for £16m in 2014
A few details: He is known for his work-rate and has been described as strong, quick, and good in the air. Welbeck was a regular for England’s youth sides and both he and Rose were part of the squad for the U17 World Cup in 2007. Alongside them was Tristan Plummer - now a regular on hit Channel 4 show Gogglebox
You can say: "Fancy Welbeck and Rose playing with Tristan Plummer from Gogglebox in the England under-17s."

Gary Cahill, 32, born in Dronfield, Derbyshire
Plays for Chelsea, signed from Bolton for around £7m in 2012
A few details: Cahill almost did not make the squad this summer – Gareth Southgate dropped him for the March friendlies – and it was only his late-season improvement for Chelsea, winning back his place, that got him into the squad.
You can say: If he's playing well, "Thank God Southgate decided to include him in the squad." If he's playing badly, "Why the hell Southgate included him in the squad I'll never know."

Fabian Delph, 28, born Bradford
Plays for Manchester City, signed from Aston Villa for a reported £8m in 2015.
A few details:  In 2008 he was convicted of drink-driving. He has a vegan diet.  He left the England squad briefly to return home to be at the birth of his daughter. He said the dramatic penalty shoot-out with Colombia sent his wife Natalie into labour!
You can say: "I wonder what effect being a vegan has on his fitness?"

Ashley Young, 33 (he had his 33rd birthday on July 9), born Stevenage
Plays for Manchester Utd, signed from Aston Villa in 2011 for an undisclosed sum believed to be around £15m-£20m
A few details: Ashley Young has courted controversy, having been accused of diving by the press and has been spoken to by former managers Sir Alex Ferguson and David Moyes about diving to gain an unfair advantage. His "hero and role model" is Ian Wright.
You can say: "That corner kick against Sweden was a belter!"

Marcus Rashford, 20, Wythenshaw, born Manchester
Plays for Manchester Utd, after joining the academy system at the age of 7.
A few details: On 25 February 2016 Rashford played in a UEFA Europa League match, scoring two goals in a 5-1 win. This made him Manchester Utd's youngest ever scorer in European competition, beating George Best's record. He was born on Halloween.
You can say: "He scares me, that boy. Well, he was born on Halloween."

Ruben Loftus-Cheek, 22, born Lewisham
Plays for Chelsea, signing for them at the age of 8
A few details: Loftus-Cheek was compared to Germany great Michael Ballack by former Chelsea and England manager Glenn Hoddle, who said that: "He reminds me of Ballack – physically and the way he plays", and went on to say: "He gets in the box and he moves well off the ball."
You can say: "He gets in the box and he moves well off the ball."

Goalkeeper Nick Pope, 26, born in Soham
Plays for Burnley, signed from Charlton Athletic for an undisclosed sum
A few details:  England penalty hero Eric Dier credited Nick Pope with helping him with his technique from 12 yards.  Although Pope didn't play in the game against Colombia, Dier has thanked him for  helping him prepare for penalties. 
You can say: "He's played well for Burnley. It's a shame we haven't seen more of him but you couldn't leave out Pickford after that Colombia game."

So there you are, a few hints and tips to turn you into a footballing expert.

Before you leave:
  • 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. (If some of the comments on this post don't make sense it was because there was a video which I have deleted because no one could see it - I'd make a good IT person weep.
  • Look in left column under Grounds For Divorce, Or Proof That I'm Living With A Madman for some short posts about the man I share my life with. (If you're reading on a phone it will be somewhere else - possibly at the top).
  • You really don't want to miss my next post. It could be my best one ever (or not... who knows)! Enter your email address below and FeedBurner will tell you every time there's an update.


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