The Secret Of Happiness




You may not have noticed it but at the top of this blog is my motto: The secret of happiness: be nice and have a laugh.

I am a firm believer in that. It goes on to say: "and in the words of Miss Piggy, never eat more than you can lift". But that's another story, we'll ignore that for now.

The vitriol that passes for reasoned argument these days is frightening. Some of the trolls on social media are vicious, cruel and often, it seems, mentally certifiable. What happened to the phrase "agree to disagree"? I live with a man who has strong views on just about everything, from climate change and Brexit to how Manchester United will fare under manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. But he likes to be challenged, to hear the other point of view, to have a reasoned discussion.

I have worked with people from all walks of life and many of them are my Facebook friends. They have differing views on politics and global issues. Unfortunately, a few of them will not tolerate a difference of opinion. Occasionally they "unfriend" people who disagree with them. I've got to a stage where I refuse to engage. I won't comment on political posts. Maybe it's cowardice on my part but it makes for a much more peaceful life.

So what made me write this post? I happened across the following Mark Twain excerpt from his Letters from the Earth: Uncensored Writings. It really struck a chord with me.


“Man is the Reasoning Animal. Such is the claim. I think it is open to dispute. Indeed, my experiments have proven to me that he is the Unreasoning Animal... In truth, man is incurably foolish. Simple things which other animals easily learn, he is incapable of learning. Among my experiments was this. In an hour I taught a cat and a dog to be friends. I put them in a cage. In another hour I taught them to be friends with a rabbit. In the course of two days I was able to add a fox, a goose, a squirrel and some doves. Finally a monkey. They lived together in peace; even affectionately.

Next, in another cage I confined an Irish Catholic from Tipperary, and as soon as he seemed tame I added a Scotch Presbyterian from Aberdeen. Next a Turk from Constantinople; a Greek Christian from Crete; an Armenian; a Methodist from the wilds of Arkansas; a Buddhist from China; a Brahman from Benares. Finally, a Salvation Army Colonel from Wapping. Then I stayed away for two whole days. When I came back to note results, the cage of Higher Animals was all right, but in the other there was but a chaos of gory odds and ends of turbans and fezzes and plaids and bones and flesh--not a specimen left alive. These Reasoning Animals had disagreed on a theological detail and carried the matter to a Higher Court.” 

Before you leave:

You can follow me on: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. As you can see, I have far too much to say for myself.
  • Please feel free to leave a comment. I love to hear from you and will reply and visit your blog, if you have one, if I can. 
  • You really don't want to miss my next post. It could be my best one ever (or not... who knows)! Enter your email top right and FeedBurner will tell you every time there's an update.


  • Amazon's Best Kept Secret

Strictly Boring


Anne Widdecombe in Strictly Come Dancing


On Wednesday morning I had to haul my sorry ass out of bed at the ungodly hour of 5.30am.

But it was OK, I’m more of a morning person than an evening person, unlike the dearly beloved who, I swear, would still be in bed when I get home in the evening if he didn’t have my tender ministrations to start his day - a few kicks to the leg and loud swearing in his ear. What would he do without me?

Conversely, if we go out I’m ready for bed almost before I’ve put on my party harvest festivals (all is safely gathered in) while he’s flexing his muscles to prop up a bar until dawn.

I’m fine until midnight then, like Cinderella minus the youth, beauty and glam frock, I’m ready to flee.

So I was more than a little miffed to read that evening people tend to be more creative, intelligent, humorous and extroverted.

Morning people, on the other hand, are more optimistic, proactive and conscientious. Conscientious? How bloody boring is that? Sounds like the class swot – the one who can reel off the causes of the First World War without drawing breath.

I’m sure Anne Widdecombe was conscientious at school but you wouldn’t want her behind you in a conga line at a drunken New Year’s Eve party, would you? [For all my non-Brit friends, Anne Widdecombe is an ex-politician not noted for her sparkling wit and repartee but IS noted for making an absolute prat of herself on Strictly Come Dancing, which is like your Dancing With The Stars.]

So I’m going to strive to be an evening person. I’ll add a few more brushstrokes to my masterpiece before going to a party where I dazzle everyone with my scintillating conversation and provoke gales of laughter with my witty bon mots.

Then again, I could do the housework before going to work and in the evening fall asleep in front of the television with a book in one hand, a bar of chocolate in the other and a gin and tonic on the coffee table.

Come to think of it, I think I’ll stay a morning person. Don’t wake me when you come in.


How do you see your future? Here's mine.

Before you leave:

You can follow me on: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. As you can see, I have far too much to say for myself.
  • Please feel free to leave a comment. I love to hear from you and will reply and visit your blog, if you have one, if I can. 
  • 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 top right and FeedBurner will tell you every time there's an update.

Amazon's best kept secret

  




I Have Seen The Future - And I Like It



LEFT to my own devices without the steadying hand of the dearly beloved I think I would rapidly turn into one of those mad women who live on their own in a tumbledown cottage on the edge of the village, surrounded by books and animals.

I can imagine it now.

I will be the one about whom mothers warn their children. "Don't hit your brother or Mad Woman will come and get you."

"If you carry on eating so much junk food you'll end up looking like Mad Woman."

Then the children will start teasing each other at school: "You love that Mad Woman, you do. She's your girlfriend, she is. You kiss her, you do."

I'll be the one walking down the street wearing a moving and purring "fur coat", pushing a pram full of cats and 'useful' items I have foraged from dustbins, dogs following at my heels.

Underneath my "fur coat" I will wear every single stitch of clothing I possess. I will laugh out loud for no apparent reason and talk to trees and walls. No one apart from the most intrepid social worker will ever visit me because my house will smell of cat pee and wild garlic with a subtle aroma of boiled cabbage and mould.

Legends will spring up about me having "treasure" buried in my garden and hordes of small boys with spades will dig big holes in the night and I'll never even notice because the garden is in such a state.

No one will dare hurt me because they'll be afraid I'll put a curse on them. I'll spend my days sitting in front of the fire reading, stopping only to eat stew made from roadkill and wild plants.

I'll never need buy another scrap of make-up or stitch of clothing, making do with what I already have until the end of my days.

Then when night falls I'll be kept warm in bed by four collie dogs and 25 cats who will eat me when I die.

Can't wait.

NEXT POST: Strictly Boring


Before you leave:

You can follow me on: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. As you can see, I have far too much to say for myself.
  • Please feel free to leave a comment. I love to hear from you and will reply and visit your blog, if you have one, if I can. 
  • 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 top right and FeedBurner will tell you every time there's an update.

It's All A Matter Of Scale




Sitting around my kitchen table last night one of my friends confessed she had driven too close to a parked car and hit her wing mirror.

No great damage done. The other car was fine and hers just needed the cover replacing on the mirror. She said her husband tut-tutted in that superior way men have on the rare occasions they are better at something than we are and muttered on about women having no spatial awareness.

I told her it was nothing to do with spatial awareness. Some women have difficulty judging lengths and distances because men have been telling us since they could form whole sentences that the distance between their thumb and forefinger is 12 inches (sorry, rude joke there!) No wonder we're confused.

It's all a matter of scale.

Elder sister can remember when she was five or six our eldest brother, a whole two years older than her and therefore a man of the world, trying to explain the vast scale of London.

We lived on a farm in rural England and he explained patiently that London was at least as wide as the distance from our house to the gate down the road - about a quarter of a mile - and she was really impressed that there was a city in the world as big as that.

A quick search of the internet reveals London in fact measures some 607 square miles so big brother was slightly out in his calculations! 

So, yes, when it comes to scale and proportion, ladies, take no notice of the men in your life. Look it up on the internet - which is ALWAYS totally accurate, isn't it?




Before you leave:

You can follow me on: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. As you can see, I have far too much to say for myself.
  • Please feel free to leave a comment. I love to hear from you and will reply and visit your blog, if you have one, if I can. 
  • 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 top right and FeedBurner will tell you every time there's an update.

Amazon's best kept secret

  






Rhubarbgate




Today I have been talking rhubarb.

I don't mean I was a film extra pretending to chatter away in the background - but I was discussing that love-it-or-hate-it garden staple with my neighbour.

I was reminded of my late mother who loved her rhubarb. It was a truth, universally acknowledged in my family, that a single woman who came knocking on my mother's door was in want of rhubarb (little literary reference there as the better-read among you will no doubt recognise).

She tried to foist sticks of rhubarb on all her unsuspecting visitors. I was wise to her tricks and refused to accept any unless it was cooked, covered with pastry or crumble and with a jug of custard beside it.

However, there was the time I succumbed to her blandishments and took home a bundle of  raw rhubarb.

Now, cooking is not my forte. In fact, anything that is at all practical and useful is not my forte. If you want a stiffly-worded letter written to a utility firm, I'm you're man, but don't ask me to look after your house plants while you're on holiday. Not unless you want to come home to plant carnage.

Mother wittered on about putting some bicarb in when cooking the rhubarb to reduce the acidity - so I did.

I made a very tasty crumble and the dearly beloved devoured it. He even had second helpings and  later that day, thirds.

When my mother asked him if he had liked the rhubarb crumble he said he did - but unfortunately it seemed to have had a detrimental effect on his digestive system.

Ah.

When we were alone my mother asked me how much bicarb I had put in the crumble.

She had told me to add a "pinch". What the hell is a "pinch" anyway? I can't remember exactly how much bicarb I had added but it was more than a heaped teaspoon but less than a heaped dessertspoon. That would do it, said my mother while shaking her head in despair.

The dearly beloved has now completely forgotten Rhubarbgate so don't remind him, please. All healthy relationships have their little secrets. Don't they?

Before you leave:

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

Please feel free to leave a comment. I love to hear from you and will reply and visit your blog, if you have one, if I can.
  • 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 top right and FeedBurner will tell you every time there's an update.


Amazon's best kept secret

  





Bookmark and Share

A Question of Age






THERE was a young man in the supermarket queue in front of me buying some beer. He seemed a decent enough lad but he looked young. The shop assistant was obviously suspicious that he might be buying booze to alleviate the pain of having to do history homework so she asked him for some ID.

He looked offended and said, “But I’m 22!”

Oh how I felt for that young man as he rifled through his wallet for some proof that he was a man of the world and not a shifty teenager buying booze for him and his spotty mates to drink in the park while making lewd comments about young women walking past.

For age is a funny thing. When I was young I always looked much younger than my years – a fact that was very galling to a wannabe wild-child clubber who at 18 looked 12.

Looking young when I was in my teens and 20s was a cross I learned to bear. It had many downsides. Boys one or two years older than me wouldn’t give me a second glance while I was at school, being more attracted to the “cool” girls with their supercilious smiles and coltish flaring nostrils and who, in retrospective, looked about 30, while I had to fight off the attentions of boys with scabby knees and snotty noses from the yawning chasm of two forms below me.

Old men patted me on the head a lot (no doubt the reason why I’m short) and called me “dear” in a patronising tone of voice – very galling to an ultra-sophisticated (in my own estimation, if not in anyone else’s) 18-year-old. In pubs I had to hide away or drink Coca Cola.

I wore “grown-up” clothes, always had a cigarette dangling from lips and plastered on the make-up. Sadly, it was all to no avail. It made me look as if I’d raided my mother’s wardrobe and stolen her Woodbines and Rimmell strawberry crush lipstick.

At 25 I was still passing for 16 which I must admit, was handy for getting in on a child’s ticket at various attractions but had very few other benefits.

Then I reached 30. At one minute to midnight on the eve of my birthday I looked 16; at midnight everything dropped, folded, shrivelled in some places and ballooned in others. At one minute past midnight I looked like an old bag.

At no stage of my life have I ever looked in my 20s – those prime years of most women’s lives when they’re old enough to know what they want and young enough to get it.

These days, however, I’ve settled into my skin, even if there is rather too much of it. I have given up trying to look - or act - sophisticated and have settled for what I like to think is Bohemian Chic but which in reality is more Matronly Eclectic. Never mind, at least I no longer smoke and I've given up the strawberry crush lipstick in favour of strawberries and cream - so much more satisfying whatever age you are.

Before you leave:

You can follow me on: FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Pinterest. As you can see, I have far too much to say for myself.
  • Please feel free to leave a comment. I love to hear from you and will reply and visit your blog, if you have one, if I can. 
  • 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 top right and FeedBurner will tell you every time there's an update.

Amazon's best kept secret

  

My New Favourite Person







I have discovered a new heroine

Xantippe was the wife of Greek philosopher Socrates and mother of their three sons. She has been portrayed through history as scolding, quarrelsome, nagging and irritable. All qualities I admire greatly. 

She lived with four males so what else did you expect of the poor bloody woman? I expect she was picking up socks and damp towels all day long, the combined smell from four farting men turning her normally sanguine personality incandescent with rage.

But Socrates said he chose her precisely because of her argumentative spirit, which impressed me no end, although he did go on to spoil it a bit when he added that, she was "the hardest to get along with of all the women there are, "  so he reckoned  if he could get along with her, he could get on with anyone.

He also said, rather ungallantly: "The goose is tolerated because it lays eggs and hatches young ones; so also must it be with his wife, for she bore him children."

There are lots of stories of Xantippe's rages and jealous nature. In one she stamped on a large and beautiful cake sent to Socrates by one Alcibiades.  I had to look up Alcibiades, expecting to find a   description of some trollop who ought to know better - and was more than a little surprised to find Alcibiades was a man.

In another it is said she became so angry with her husband that she poured the contents of a chamber pot over his head. Socrates was "philosophical" about the incident, saying: “After thunder comes the rain.” Ho, ho, ho.

If that was the quality of his "jokes", then I'm not surprised that Xantippe comes over as a little pissed off.

Personally, I like the sound of her. However, I may get a little cross with the dearly beloved occasionally but I have never yet poured wee over his head.

Before you leave:

You can follow me on: FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Pinterest. As you can see, I have far too much to say for myself.
  • Please feel free to leave a comment. I love to hear from you and will reply and visit your blog, if you have one, if I can. 
  • 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 top of page on right and FeedBurner will tell you every time there's an update.


Amazon's best kept secret

  

Boris, Brexit and Bitter Divorces


The rest of the world may be looking at us Brits as if we've been seized by a collective madness, what with Brexit and having Boris Johnson, a man who looks like he's been dragged through a briar hedge backwards, as our Prime Minister.
It's kind of you to worry (or, more likely, gloat) but have no fear, we'll be fine in the end. Somehow we always are. It may seem we as a nation are tearing ourselves apart but it's when the chips are down that we come into our own. 
Whatever your views on Brexit, I'm sure we can all agree on one thing ... please God, let it be over. It’s all been dragging on for far too long. Make the decision and we'll live with it, for better or worse, for richer or poorer. Because we have no choice.
It's not as if the Luftwaffe is raining bombs down on our heads. We are not fearfully watching the skies for doodlebugs and flying bombs. We are not fighting in the trenches. We are seeking a divorce - or rather, the politicians are seeking a divorce on our behalf - and like most divorces, things are getting acrimonious. But once the dust has settled and we’ve finally agreed who gets custody of the cat and have split the record collection down the middle, we can go back to being friends again. Can’t we?
Europe is feeling a bit like a woman scorned and is doing its best to punish us. We are acting like a man who doesn't want to give up half of what he's worked hard for. We want our cake and eat it too.
But we will always have shared interests and common values. We are all democratic nations who want to see a peaceful world. We need each other.
More importantly our children, who will inherit what we leave behind, need a united Europe, even if we are living in separate houses.





Before you leave:

You can follow me on: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. As you can see, I have far too much to say for myself.
  • Please feel free to leave a comment. I love to hear from you and will reply and visit your blog, if you have one, if I can. 
  • 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 top right and FeedBurner will tell you every time there's an update.


Amazon's best kept secret

  

Tea And Sympathy Please




I am feeling rather sorry for myself having contracted the dreaded lurgy which has robbed me of my voice - not necessarily a bad thing, or so say various friends and relatives.

So I have been staying indoors and pampering myself.  I have to pamper myself as I work from home and there is no one else to dispense tea and sympathy along with the paracetamol. Not that I've taken any paracetamol. I never take cold or flu medicine as I believe that if you let the lurgy run its course without impediment, the sooner it disappears. I swear this is true. My colds usually last way under a week while the better half's seem to go on for ever. Well it feels like forever as he's such a bad patient. One sniffle and his usual jolly countenance disappears in a cloud of moaning, sniffing and sighing - and nose-blowing loud enough to wake the dead.

One downside is that everyone has been keeping their distance not wanting to catch my germs. I've only had the cat to talk to and, quite frankly she’s not a great conversationalist although her pained look when she’s hungry and her bowl is empty speaks volumes.

When he is ill the dearly beloved flops about like a marooned sturgeon but I have tried to keep busy to keep my mind off my not-wellness.

I have even been cooking a proper tea every evening. By "proper", I mean something vaguely hot. I'm not Nigella Lawson. Or even Fanny Cradock. Some of my American and younger friends had never heard of Fanny Cradock, one of the first television cooks, so I directed them to a YouTube video where she is wittering on about lubricating a dry bird (oo-er) - you can watch it below.  They’re now fans. Look at the state of that Christmas tree at the beginning and the way she refers to the turkey, native to America, as "the British national bird"! 

Anyway, my voice is getting back to normal now, thank you for asking. It’s still a bit husky which I thought sounded sexy. The dearly beloved, however, says I sound like a raddled 70-year-old emphysemic chain smoker.







Before you leave:

You can follow me on: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. As you can see, I have far too much to say for myself.
  • Please feel free to leave a comment. I love to hear from you and will reply and visit your blog, if you have one, if I can. 
  • You really don't want to miss my next post. It could be my best one ever (or not... who knows)! Enter your email top right and FeedBurner will tell you every time there's an update.





Foaming At The Mouth




I am somewhat annoyed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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




Before you leave:

You can follow me on: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. As you can see, I have far too much to say for myself.
  • Please feel free to leave a comment. I love to hear from you and will reply and visit your blog, if you have one, if I can. 
  • 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  top right and FeedBurner will tell you every time there's an update.







The Past Is a Foreign Country



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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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



Before you leave:

You can follow me on: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. As you can see, I have far too much to say for myself.
  • Please feel free to leave a comment. I love to hear from you and will reply and visit your blog, if you have one, if I can. 
  • 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 top right and FeedBurner will tell you every time there's an update.




Who's 'woke'?





"Woke" is a word much bandied about at the moment. I'm sure you're all much more "woke" than I am and didn't have to look it up in the urban dictionary to see what it meant! Basically, it's being hyper-aware of social issues.

It's a word much used - and demonstrated - by university students and commenters on Twitter.

I came across this BBC clip from Tracey Ullman Breaks The News and it really made me laugh. Hope you can have a giggle too.

Click HERE to play the clip.

Before you leave:

You can follow me on: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. As you can see, I have far too much to say for myself.
  • Please feel free to leave a comment. I love to hear from you and will reply and visit your blog, if you have one, if I can. 
  • 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 top right and FeedBurner will tell you every time there's an update.


Amazon's Best Kept Secret - Great Discounts On Overstocked Or Clearance Items



Gardening: I Tried, It Died



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

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

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




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

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

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




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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Before you leave:

You can follow me on: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. As you can see, I have far too much to say for myself.
  • Please feel free to leave a comment. I love to hear from you and will reply and visit your blog, if you have one, if I can. 
  • 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 top right and FeedBurner will tell you every time there's an update.





Happy May Day


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




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


The Month of May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Before you leave:

You can follow me on: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. As you can see, I have far too much to say for myself.
  • Please feel free to leave a comment. I love to hear from you and will reply and visit your blog, if you have one, if I can. 
  • 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 top right and FeedBurner will tell you every time there's an update.




Living In Devon



Glorious Devon.


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

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




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

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

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

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




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




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

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




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





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

Before you leave:

You can follow me on: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. As you can see, I have far too much to say for myself.
  • Please feel free to leave a comment. I love to hear from you and will reply and visit your blog, if you have one, if I can. 
  • 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 top right and FeedBurner will tell you every time there's an update.