Counting Your Blessings

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

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

Things that have annoyed me this week:

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

I rest my case.

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

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

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

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

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

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Christmas Decorations

A post on one of my favourites blogs (The Misadventures of Widowhood) reminded me that Christmas is just around the corner. It has, just like every year, crept up on me and here I sit with not a card written, present wrapped or yule log baked. I don't know why - it's the same date this year it has been for the last 2,000 or so years so I can't pretend it has come as a surprise. 

The man is better prepared than I am. He has been practising for Christmas for weeks now by wandering around the kitchen with a bottle of beer in one hand, a box of chocolates in the other and getting in my way.

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

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

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

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

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Car Sharing Dilemma

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

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

But I’m going to anyway.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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Don't Fall For The Spammers' Tricks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here's another:

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

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

Some people almost deserve everything they get.

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My Life With Kale

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

My Life With Kale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Michael Caine's New Film

Michael Caine the day he was knighted, with his wife Shakira

I was reading an interview with the wonderful Michael Caine in the Sunday papers. Michael, who is an astonishing 90 years old, has just made a new film called The Great Escaper.

It's about Bernard Jordan (played by Caine), an 89-year-old Navy veteran who absconded from a care home to go to the D-Day anniversary events in France in 2014.

Reading the article I remembered had written about Jordan at the time. Here's the original post below:

Bernard Jordan

I have a new hero.

He's not a handsome Clooney clone, dishing out the charm with the derring-do.

He's 89, somewhat bereft of teeth, with a white stubble which in no way could be construed as "designer".

The object of my affections is a Royal Navy veteran living in a care home in Hove, East Sussex, who when told he was not allowed to join the D-Day anniversary events in France, thought "bugger that for a game of soldiers" and set off anyway. Bernard Jordan hid his medals under his coat, told staff he was going for a walk and got on a coach that was Normandy-bound.

He checked into a hotel in Oustrelham, near Arromanches, and by the time anyone realised he was missing he was chatting to old soldiers on the beaches, no doubt moaning about the "younger generation" of 70 year olds.

Bernard is obviously compos mentis, physically capable and knows his own mind.

What struck me most about this story was not Bernard's ingenuity and sheer bloody-mindedness but what on earth gives anyone the right to ban a British person with freedoms that people of  his generation fought and died for to "ban" them from going on a journey, whether it is down the shops or to Timbuctoo.

At what age do people start treating you as a child again? If anyone said to me, "No, dear, you can't have another Cadbury's Creme Egg," that egg would soon be lodged where the sun don't shine still covered in its silver foil.

I appreciate he's in a care home and you can't have residents stripping down a motorbike in the bath or playing Vera Lynn records at full blast on the Dansette into the early hours of the morning, but to be refused to join old comrades on the Normandy beaches for a landmark anniversary? What kind of regime is that?

It's  the kind that Bernard risked his life to prevent.

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The Saga of Washing Instructions

Today the old man put his work jeans into the laundry basket and then laughed as he handed me the card pictured above. 

He had just found it in the pocket of his new jeans after wearing them for a week. Glad to report that no "excess surface dye" had contaminated his body, other clothing or the furniture. It made me think about washing instructions, which I usually glance at before washing the item for the first time but I'm going to start looking at them closely now after finding these examples on the internet! 

Then there were these two gems!

One disgruntled employer from France made their political views known. The bottom part of the next label says, "We are sorry our president is an idiot we didn't vote for him."

Finally, below are two giving some very useful information!

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Getting Fit

Say hello to cycle karaoke.

My older sister Peggy (aged 80) is fit as a butcher's dog. In fact, she is so fit is that she represents Great Britain for her age group in triathlons and aquathlons (yes, that is the correct spelling - not sure where the L came from but there you go). 

She recently became world champion in aquathlon and was on the last leg of becoming the triathlon world champion in Dusseldorf when some 19-year-old boy racer careered into her, knocking her off her bike and straight into hospital where after a few tests and a diagnosis of concussion, she promptly discharged herself. 

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

I think the target audience is people considerably younger than I am.  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.  Young people may look sexy as they twerk. 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 the singer Robbie Williams. 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". 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 healthily and move more. I have bought a state-of-the-art blender for all the veggies.

The better half told the pub the other night: "She'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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You can follow me on: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. As you can see, I have far too much to say for myself.