Saturday 29 December 2007


After lunch we are setting off for a nice country house hotel about a 40 minutes drive away for our annual family Christmas get-together. It is also a belated birthday treat for my beloved who turned 65 in the autumn but didn’t feel up to it at the time.

This year may be the last time we can orchestrate this because the children are all growing up and moving away. Each year it becomes more and more difficult to get everyone synchronised. But this year it will be a “full house”.

Starting with the eldest, there is my daughter, her husband and three boys. Two boys are still at school and the eldest (26) is just about to start an obscenely overpaid job in the City of London as an economist. Yesterday they moved into a new house. This daughter lives life on the edge but the move is wild even for her. The central heating and electrics need attention and everyone tried to persuade her to delay moving until they were fixed.

Naturally she ignored wise advice and now they are in a house that has stood empty for several months, with no central heating, no cooker and dodgy electrics. They could normally have stayed with us, but we are in the middle of a renovation programme ourselves and only have one small spare bedroom. For me this is the stuff that nightmares are made of and I would do anything to be able to fix things for her, but I can’t.

Next is my younger daughter who recently resigned her directorship with our company and is moving to an exciting new life in France in the New Year together with her husband and the three youngest children.

Her three older children are staying here. One is a handsome chef with an eye for the ladies, another is a guitar playing, singing all around Mr Nice Guy who is reading mathematics at university and, last but not least, is their beautiful sister who works in our business and is the daughter of our two wonderful great granddaughters. Our granddaughters’ sporty partner will also be enjoying the festivities with us.

Then comes my dearly beloved’s lovely daughter. She and her family moved down from Scotland to help us with our retirement “exit strategy”. After being thrown in at the deep end she became a fellow director in our company and will, I am sure, take the company on to new heights. Her husband is a designer in London and the boys are in primary school.

Also joining us will be a talented young lady who has worked with us for 15 years and is now a fellow director and surrogate daughter. With her will be her tolerant and handsome husband and their young son.

So … there you have it - 25 of us and a very mixed bag aged from 4 to 67. We love being together but as a group have outgrown most of our houses and certainly all of my energy! So - hotel here we come, are you readyfor this?

Have a very happy and prosperous New Year.

Thursday 27 December 2007


I like to think that I am a GOOD CITIZEN. I recycle whenever possible, I take my own M&S bags when I shop at M&S, my own Sainsbury’s bags when I shop at Sainsbury’s, my own Tesco bags when I shop at Tesco etc. (I refuse to be seen with Morrison bags), I get black looks from shop assistants when I ask them not to put my one small purchase into a plastic bag, and I don’t make unnecessary car journeys preferring to multi-task my trips.

I admit that I do drive a powerful car, but my husband (thankfully) refuses to allow me to drive a car below my station! I know, this all sounds hypocritical bearing in mind the car I drive and my world travel log of the last few months, but I was fed up with being blamed by WORLD LEADERS for being the cause of global warming.

So what happens? “Hi, someone stole my recycling box, can I have another one please” “Can I have your postcode?” I comply. “Your area has been issued with green recycling bags” “I didn’t get any” “can I have your full name and address please”. Like a numpty I comply again. “thank you” “is that it? are you going to issue me with green recycling bags” “your area has already been issued with bags” “but I didn’t get any” “you can use cardboard boxes, carrier bags or white plastic bags for the recycling”. OK, I got the point, I realised that I had reached the point of diminishing returns and I’m too old to waste valuable living time arguing the toss with a bolshi telephonist.

So here we have it. The Council has decided, in it’s wisdom, and against my wishes to stop the sensible policy of issuing reusable boxes and now insists that everything is put into plastic bags (but not a black plastic bag because that is for waste only). I feel that this is a triumph for the shopkeepers who remember me haughtily refusing their wretched plastic bags. Now I am an avid plastic bag gather again.

And do you know the worst thing about this? One day my husband and I watched the bin men putting everything into the same waste vehicle. But, as I say, I don’t have enough life left to fight this sort of madness.

Recycling credibility will remain shot to pieces unless the really culprits are bought to justice. And who are the real culprits? Oil companies, toy manufacturers, bacon, cheese and other food producers that everyone hates because of the amount of hardcore packaging they make us struggle with to get to the goods, etc. Ah, but that would might interfere with marketing, profits and, god forbid, tax receipts. That is why this planet is in crisis. Greed and money, not poor Joe public. I say bollocks to the lot of them.

Do you know, before I got grumpy I was quite a nice person. Happy New Year.

Monday 24 December 2007


This morning we took delivery of the spiral staircase that will go from our super duper new bedroom up to our new super duper dressing room/gym. As my dearly beloved is not feeling up to parr I was quite alarmed that the delivery man would need help to off load the stairs. He assured me that he only wanted to know where to put it.

I called my husband and when he came down the driver said “what’s up mate, flu?”. My husband replied “no, I had a tumour removed from my bladder last week”. I thought the guy was going to feint. He blurted out “blimey mate, that really is unwell”. This made us laugh. Black humour in the middle of trauma.

On a lighter note Wife in the North’s recent post “Postcard from Frankfurt” reminded me of a trip we took to Florence. We decided to stay in idyllic sounding hillside ex-monastery. Well it sounded great on t’internet! In reality the rooms were very monk like, but who wants to live like a monk (apart from a monk of course)! To be fair though, the views were to die for and the bill was very up-market.

To get into Florence we had to catch a dirty Italian train filled with dirty Italian commuters, having first purchased our tickets from the unfathomable ticket machine. Each morning was a challenge.

On the third morning we had booked to go on a guided tour that left from outside the Santa Maria Novella railway station in Florence at 0900. This meant that we would have to leave early in the morning and eat at McD’s before hopping on the tour bus. Our friend eats by the clock and was alarmed that we might miss-time our arrival in Florence and he would then, God forbid, be too late for breakfast.

When the train pulled into the station I had a strange foreboding. The destination on the train was unfamiliar but it did say Florence. I expressed my doubts but our friend said why wouldn’t it be going to where we wanted. It said Florence? There was no arguing with this logic so on we climbed. Sure enough we eventually stopped at Campo di Marte, which was the stop before ours, but to my horror everyone got off. This made me very, very twitchy, but again our friend re-assured us that we must be on the right train because we had passed through this station before. Where else would it be going but Florence. Wrong!!

It pulled out of the station and did a sharp right turn. Now this was certainly not right. Not to worry though, we would just get off at the next station and catch a taxi back. Wrong!!

We disembarked at the next station. It was a very big station with many platforms but absolutely no human presence at all. Zinch. No staff, no telephon and certainly no cab rank. We were stuck in a wilderness in the middle of a huge Italian city with 15 minutes to get to our very expensive prepaid guided tour with our ravenous panicky friend breathing down our necks. Impossible? I would have thought so, but we were, after all, in Italy.

It’s a long story, but suffice to say that our route back to our destination involved a man sitting reading his morning paper in the sun, who spoke no English, miraculously conveying to us that we could get to where we needed to go by bus, but first we had to purchase tickets from the coffee kiosk (don’t ask) and then catch the No.4 bus. I seemed to be the only one of our party that understood the coffee kiosk bit, so while they hared off to main road to catch the bus, I took off in the opposite direction for the kiosk.

A mad, hungry friend is a powerful incentive to get him to food, quickly, and I knew where the bus tickets were sold. They thought I had gone mad until I finally caught up with them clutching four bus tickets in my hand. OK, the No.4 bus - but going in which direction? I ran up to a young man at the bus stop who was a student from Poland and spoke perfect English (as they all do, are we the only clueless idiots in the EU?) and took pity on us, so much so that he insisted on accompanying us to the place where we were to catch the guided tour just in time to pile onto the bus, on time but foodless!

As luck would have it our first stop was at a stunning view on the hill overlooking Florence that happened to be near a café. Unfortunately food took precedence over tour and we had wonderful croissants, coffee and, more important, a contented friend. The day was saved.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Monday 17 December 2007


Are we the generation that refuses to retire? An example is Michael Caine who has made 30 films since retiring, Cliff Richard who, love him or loathe him, looks better every year and Joni Mitchell who has just announced a comeback tour. Even the Spice Girls have jumped on our bandwagon. Sorry girls, you have to be a wrinkly to come back from retirement!

Then there are the oldies that never retired in the first place like David Attenborough, (who, I admit, is a different generation to me), Ronnie Wood who will rock ‘til he drops (out of a coconut tree?) and let’s not forget one of the most famous old age pensions in the world our beloved Queen. I have been watching The Monarch on TV and she leaves us all standing. She is tireless, alert, articulate, interested, gracious and smart. How does she do it? Oh yes, I’m in good company.

Talking about TV shows, we recently watched the Gerry Robinson programme on the National Health Service. Remember, the NHS - the 4th largest employer in the world? Despite funding being increased by 50% to £100 billion a year the waiting lists are still horrendous, the computer systems are unwieldy, outdated and not fit for purpose, and there are systemic inefficiencies throughout the entire service.

One year on from his previous programme when he re-visited one of our most successful hospitals in Rotherham and where he uncovered staggering problems we were amazed to find that his recommendations had been embraced and staff had new, envigoured attitudes.

But wait, all is not well. The Government have announced another “initiative” that is about to undermine all the good done. No wonder everyone is so demoralised. Gerry Robinson put it well. He said something to the effect that the Government issues policy directives but has no way of managing and monitoring them. It’s like telling a child to tidy up his bedroom and expecting him to do it. It just ain’t going to happen.

I, like many, many others, can recount tales of catastrophic failures from personal experience. Old Grumpy has had a low pelvic pain since mid August and now he is very anaemic. The pain was so bad in October that it caused us to cut short our “New England in the Fall” trip. He has private health care and was duly referred to a consultant who arranged for a biopsy to take place “on a Thursday”!

When the biopsy finally took place TWO WEEKS later it took another THREE WEEKS before the Consultant gave him the good news that the results were OK. However, he said that he would keep an eye of things and made an appointment to see him again in the New Year.

My husband wasn’t happy with this because he was still in pain and was now feeling exhausted all the time. He went to see his GP who ran tests, discovered the anaemia and asked the consultant to carry out a more thorough investigation. So here we are, 4 months after first consulting the doctor, back at the beginning again. In the meantime my poor husband is still in pain and is so exhausted that it is an effort for him to get out of bed.

Today he goes for another investigation under general aenesthetic which may (or may not) finally uncover the problem.

Wednesday 12 December 2007


Following a comment on my blog in which I wrote "Well Swearing Mother, you said all that without one fucking swear word! Are you rehabilitating yourself?"

This prompted an EMAIL, no less, from DogLover the patron saint, saviour, grammar/spelling expert, self appointed censor of all bloggers and great fan of WITN. Watch out, he’s scouring the blogs right now. This paragraph alone will give him enough to work on for at least a week. It will throw him into a frenzy of indignation. So…… he wrote:-

If she is rehabilitating herself, I approve.

Swearwords don't shock me, though you may be surprised to hear that. I think I have probably used most of them in my time!

You see, I am all against the modern trend of "dumbing-down". What is the benefit of it? It was started on TV, I imagine, so that a greater viewing audience could be attracted - from the unwashed and uneducated. I don't see why the rest of us have to lower our standards to follow suit.

I think that, instead, we should try to contribute to blogs with the best quality that we can manage. Cutting out unthinking swearwords and putting carefully considered alternatives in their place - there are usually several possibilities, with pleasing shades of difference.

That's why I sometimes object. It's also why I sometimes mention spelling mistakes. And try to use good grammar myself. Let's present something that looks good, makes sense and is interesting for others to read.

I replied that he should get a life!! I do, actually, totally agree with him but my fingers take over and swear, mis-spell and write inappropriate and grammatically incorrect comments. What can I do?

Tuesday 4 December 2007


Another long, lingering, boozy lunch with my Ab-Fab friend on Saturday. She had me in fits of laughter when she was describing her first visit to New York to visit her beautiful son.

She had been instructed to telephone him when the plane landed for directions on how to get to E34th Street using the air train, where he would meet her.

Ahhh! The only fault with that plan was that her mobile didn’t work in NYC. So….. she got off the plane in a state of panic, not knowing where she was going, where she was staying and wondering if she was destined to become a bag lady in Manhatten.

She actually managed to buy a ticket to Manhatten all on her own, but still had the problem of how to ring son. But help was at hand – the NYPD, and a rather georgeous NYP at that!

Using her most perfectest English voice she pointed to her mobile and said "My cell ‘phone doesn't work here and my son is meeting me in MANHATTEN and I need to let him know I am here so – COULD I PLEASE USE YOUR ‘PHONE?!" The NYP looked at her as though she had gone out (as you would expect him to) and said " No Ma'am"

She then came completely unglued and said "No you just don't understand, my ‘phone doesn't work, so how can I contact my son and without speaking to him I don’t know where I’m going or how to get there. Please, please, help me". With that he moves his arm 5 degrees and pointing to a wall immediately next to where she was standing on which was situated a public telephone and said "You can use that" "Thank you, thank you so much"

"Sorry to bother you again" (best English accent) " but what denomination do I have to put in here?" holding out her hand of small change. Sigh. He takes the correct money, puts it in the ‘phone.

Then age came into the equation. Her arms were not long enough to read son’s telephone number. Extending her arm didn’t help much but a blurred number eventually came into vision and she dials, wrong number, tries a second time, still wrong number. She then turns again to NYP and says "Sorry, sorry, really sorry but this number isn't working on this ‘phone". NYP sighs again, takes the phone and paper and dials the number and it connects, Son answers, she tells him she is in JFK and the most wonderful police officer in the world has helped her. NYP sighs again!!!

So duly sorted she thanks NYP and moves towards the barrier, bowing and scraping looking back at NYP as she moves forward saying repeated how grateful she was for all his help - thank you, thank you, thank you. Then she gets her luggage wedged in the barrier gate. The gates close on her and her luggage and she’s stuck in a maelstrom.

One over-worked, underpaid NYP rescue her plus luggage from the jaws of death, open the side gate, and send her on her on her way. One last parting tap on the shoulder – pointing "Ma'am MANHATTEN is that way"

The frightening thing is that my dear friend is going to Dubai for a week on business. God help Dubai! I reminded her that it is a “dry” country. She said not where she’s going it isn’t!

After a hilarious lunch we bad each other a fond farewell. She was going to look after here granddaughters for the afternoon and I was going to take a “window of opportunity” to power nap before my mad great granddaughters descended for their weekly Saturday night riot at Nanny and Granddad’s house!

Wednesday 28 November 2007


In our family we play a guessing game with the children that starts off “is it bigger than a breadbin and smaller than a house?” “Yes” and may go on something like “is it bigger than a table and smaller than a room?” etc until you get the size established then the questions become more specific. It’s great fun and the children love it.

I was reminded of this game when three of my young grandchildren came to stay while their parents were in France finalising details of their imminent move there. The children’s lunch boxes are only a smidgen smaller than breadbins!

The first time I saw the four year old lugging this enormous box out of school I couldn’t believe it. It was nearly as big as him. Now I know why. Typical contents are one ham sandwich (no butter), piece of fruit; meringue cone thingy (wrapped in kitchen paper); small box of dried fruit; chocolate rice crispy biscuit; petit filous (with spoon); bottle of water; carton of apple juice and a second piece of kitchen roll to be used as a table cloth.

Preparing the boxes was like a military operation. The containers for the fruit and the drinks were named and had to go into the correct box. Needless to say I fell down badly at this hurdle and was severely reprimanded by the little girl that evening. The little boy sometimes takes a pepperoni. The little girl likes a sandwich of home prepared tuna, sweet corn and mayo. She doesn’t, however, like pepperoni or a box of dried fruit and so on. To my great relief the eldest boy packed his own box.

And then there was the other stuff they had to take with them. Swimming gear this day, PE gear that day etc. By the time we left the house I was exhausted. And then there was the stuff they trawled back home with them after school. Notes from the school, party invitations, precious treasures made at school that day and, naturally, the empty lunch boxes and swimming/muddy PE gear.

Life was so much simpler when my children were young. They were shooed out of the house to walk to school and fend for themselves. No swimming and for PE they simply took off their tunic and blouse! I am going to start a campaign to bring back childhood deprivation and independence. The children love it and the adults are not so wrung out all the time.

Monday 26 November 2007


I read a great thing in the newspaper yesterday. It was an interview with Michel Cane in which he was asked “what happened to the retirement you announced 12 years ago”. He replied “Of course, I’ve made 12 pictures and won an Oscar since then. That’s typical of me. I suppose what’s changed since I at least mentally retired is that I’m in a situation now where I’ll only do movies that I can’t turn down.

What a wonderful answer. People keep stumbling over me lurking around in the office, look surprised and blurt out “I thought you had retired”. I usually say something mad like “not yet sunshine”. If only I could explain my situation in such a pithy informative way without revealing the total cretin that I am.

He is right of course. I can now choose not to be bored to death in long tedious meetings. I can now wander into a meeting and if I don’t like the sound of it I can wander out again. Occasionally the meetings are very inspirational and then I stay and contribute (whether they like it or not!) I like to think that they benefit from the wisdom of my experience.

However, there is one meeting that they won’t let me in to and that is the monthly leadership meeting. They say that I am too intimidating and would stop the flow of communication. People would become more guarded and it simply wouldn’t work. I say bullshit! One day I will become non-compliant and crash the meeting and tell them a thing or two!

Some may say (and do) that I am hampering the process of handing the business over to the younger, smarter generation. I say deal with it. I earned the right to be weird. I worshipped at the alter of owing more money than a small African country, staying up all night in a blue funk thinking “this won’t work”, not having holidays or days off for years on end, answering the telephone in the middle of the night to support our claim of being a 24/7 service. Need I go on?

Oh I do love my life!

Wednesday 21 November 2007


Oh Gordy, Gordy, Gordy, what are you going to do now one of your junior officials has downloaded bank and personal details of 25M of your disloyal subject onto two CDs that have gone missing? Are you going to fall on your sword or at the very least admit that you rule over a shambolic bunch of loosers?

Are you going to stop idiots like your Chancellor Alistair Darling making a prat of himself on national TV by claiming that the processes and procedures are correct and this should not have happened.

So what process authorises an official from the National Audit Office to request this information over the telephone from a “junior official” at the Inland Revenue who then compliantly downloads it on to two CD’s and couriers it off?

Aren’t there safeguards in place to stop this happening? I only have to try using my Visa card abroad to have a security check slapped on it. No security checks in place here though eh?

And why courier it off? Oh I can understand using a courier instead of your very own Royal Mail which is spasmodically on strike and never reliable anyway but have your minions never heard of electonic transfers? Is there something here that I’m not quite understanding?

And we are being told not to worry. There is no proof this information has got into the wrong hands (no proof that it hasn’t either) but be vigilant and report any unusual transactions to the bank. Huh! Now there is another bunch of loosers.

How did we ever get into this sorry state? Your government is totally incompetent, your politicians and civil servants are liars, the banks have led us to the brink of Armageddon with their greed, sick people are being denied medical help and drugs, and patients that are “lucky” enough to get treatment are contracting “hospital acquired” super bugs which are killing them. .

In the meantime we are being lectured about global warning, bullied into recycling and told to measure our carbon footprint. And what is your government doing with the environmental taxes being levied on us? Are they ring-fenced to develop renewable energy. Are they hell!

And while I’m on the subject of incompetence Gordy, what about the NHS? The forth largest employer in the world and they still complain of staff shortages. What’s that all about?
Oh Lordy, Lordy, Lordy, Gordy, Gordy, Gordy.

Wednesday 14 November 2007


I was tagged for the crazy 8's meme by Laurie so here I go:-

8 things I’m passionate about

My husband (does he count as a thing?)
My family
My friends
My business
This country (England, Ireland, Scotland & Wales)
Shouting and swearing at the morning TV news because of injustices
Removing Gordon Brown from Office

8 things I want to do before I die

Stop swearing
Out live my husband (he would never cope without me)
Out live my children
Out live my grandchildren
Out live my great grandhildren
Lose weight
Be massively rich
See my house renovations finished

8 things I say often

Any cuss word
Don’t jump on that settee
Get off that table
Look at this house, it’s like a bomb’s hit it
What do you want for dinner?
I’ve had it, I’ m off!
Thank you (well, maybe not that often!)

8 books I’ve read recently or am still reading

Parellel Worlds, Michio Kaku
The Amish, Donald B Kraybill
Seize the House –When Nixon met Mao, Margaret Macmillan
Genome, Matt Ridley
Half of a Yellow Sun, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Bonfires of Vanity, Tom Wolfe
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, Paul Torday
Double Cross, James Patterson

8 songs I could listen to over and over and do

Love is all around, Marty Pellow
You are always on my mind, Willie Nelson
This Old Road, Kris Kristoffersen
The Beatle, Help
I can’t get no satisfation, Rolling Stones
Mr Tamborine Man, Bob Dylan
Everything I do, Brian Adams
Hotel California, Eagles

8 things that attract me to my best friends

Understanding (them understanding me that is)
Vulnerability (I don’t like people that think they know it all)
Lack of smugness (is that gramatically correct?)
Shared likes

8 people I think should do Crazy 8s

over sixty now
Cristal jigsaw
Valleys mam
Wake up and smell the coffee
Stinking Billy
Marla Fauchier Baltes
Frog in the fieldDulwich Mum

Monday 12 November 2007


My highly supercharged bestest friend emailed me:-


1. What in heaven's name is a HD TV? Is this an (note the use of "an" rather than "a" before an "h" in case you think me illiterate) high density TV with the capacity of a 250 tog duvet that you only get out of when you spy a sighting of Chris Tarrant, Anne Robinson or Jeremy Clarkson???? Why the hell have one in the first place 'cos there ain't much else available.

2. Why travel all the way to New England to see autumn leaves, as you say, when the most beautiful are in your own back garden (and perchance in your house 'cos the roofs not yet back on properly). ‘Cos at £1.04.99 per litre of diesel it is cheaper to go to New England?

3. What is the true meaning of discombobulated. Is that something to do with the day we first met, when Old Grumpy, his sister and brother-in-law went off in a Ford Anglia to sort out their brother???? And you and I were later told off for being irresponsible when their car ran out of petrol, they pushed it back 'cos no-one had any money on them, and we'd let the fire go out!!!!

and I say yet again............ TAKE ME BACK, COUNTRY ROADS - and long live your blogs!!!!

Love you xxx Lunch soon!!!!


1. My first question is what the hell are you on about with your “an” and “a” – have you finally lost the plot? But I must admit that you do have a good point about why have it anyway? We are currently in the middle of the “silly season” for good programmes and now I have the all singing, all dancing SKY HD digibox there’s nothing worth watching!

2. Amen on the cost of fuel. The fact that I can travel once around the globe cheaper than drive from London to Manchester is one of the first issues I will deal with when I come to power.
3. Your recall of our very first meeting sums us up very nicely. In a word – mad!

Friday 9 November 2007


Why did we travel all the way to USA to see ”New England in the Fall” when we have such a wonderful autumn display in this country? This photograph was taken in my own backyard. Apologies for the crap photograph again, but it gives a flavour of the beautiful colours.

I guess the thing about “New England in the Fall” is that there is so much of it. Trees for hundreds of thousands of miles.

Trees to the left of you, trees to the right
No bloody place to go without a tree in sight.
Visitors known as “leaf peepers” staying overnight.
Drive around from here to there on a schedule so tight
To see the colours red and gold shining out so bright
Motoring miles to see the trees before catching a flight
Back home. Why?

On another subject all together. I went to the funeral of a colleagues’ mother last week. He said such wonderful things about her and as he spoke he glowed, smiled and even laughed a little. It was so good to see him remember her with such love and devotion. I never knew her, but I wished I had. When I spoke to him later in the week he said that the family had been so immersed in her long illness and he just wanted to remember the good times. If someone speaks of me that way I feel my live will have been well lived.

Friday 2 November 2007


When I first attempted retirement I was very discombobulated. After spending nearly 20 years building up a business with my husband it was difficult to stand down and let others take the strain. And how do you stop being passionate? I don’t know how that one works.

How to fill my endless days, that was the question. I have always hated shopping so that wasn’t an option. I can’t see the sense in hauling myself around hot shops carrying heavy stuff and fighting smelly crowds at checkouts. The only checkouts I use are on my computer. Shopping from the comfort of my own home (as they say) is my bag. You could say that I am your original online shopper.

I tried taking myself off to Switzerland to keep out of the way of progress, I tried becoming a (huh!) housewife? I tried to be a lady that lunched, but nothing worked apart from my one spectacular success, which was squandering the inheritance money. On that very subject, I see the QE2 is having a 3 month farewell cruise next year. That would blow a nice hole in the inheritance wouldn’t it? Very tempting.

Despite all these activities I was still drawn back into the office to feel the buzz. Then I discovered blogging. My early blogs were greatly misunderstood and I must admit that I did upset a few people. Old grumpy tried to explain that they should have expected my blogs to be slightly controversial. I am, after all, crazy. He is so sweet to me.

My blogs were banned from the office website and then old grumpy lobbied and got them reinstated, albeit that they are buried so deep that no-one can find them. There is also a caution that the blog is “the slightly deranged writings of a woman dealing with retirement. Oh, and she's our old boss. Contains strong language”. I still find that offensive, but hey, I have to keep my thoughts on that subject to myself. I think they should embrace and exault my wit and talent, but they don’t seem to think like me. Sad faced gits.

And then my house lost its hat, my home shrank to almost nothing and I had nowhere to work. I was allocated a place on the office mezzanine floor where I now blog away to my hearts content. I look out over the fields, surveying my empire from this lofty position, and watch the comings and goings of the great and good down our “walk of shame”. Now and then I even venture into the business world below, cause mayhem, then withdraw to count my victories. Very satisfying.

And today they should deliver my new HD digibox. Yes, I can honestly say I life is good.

Wednesday 31 October 2007


When we returned from America we settled down to watch some of our favourite programmes that I had set to record on the digibox. But the box decided different! Some programmes had “failed”, some had faulty sound and some just were not there at all. Now, old grumpy does not react at all well when the digibox gives out strange messages and arbitrarily decides not to record a show that I know I have set up. He blames a) me and b) the digibox and moans that between us (me and the digibox) we have to find a solution.

So how do I resolve this problem? Get a new digibox? This one has served us long and well and I feel a certain loyalty towards it so it is with great reluctance that I decide the box has to go. Having made the decision and pumped up with new confidence I then get adventurous. If I have to get a new box then I'll get an HD digibox.

Not being very technically minded I 'phone Sky and speak to a very nice, heavily accented, young man who explains the advantages of the new HD digibox. After several confusing minutes I eventually think, yes, yes, that sounds good, let’s go for it. But knowing how impetuous I can be my daughter had cautioned “Before you go ahead and order you should make sure that an HD digibox works with a non-HD TV”. So sensible!

“Does this HD digibox work with a non-HD TV?” Stunned silence. “You don’t have an HD TV?” “Well, (brightly) yes I do, but not in that room” Many bemused moments later the young man decides that I am a dead loss as far as this sale goes and proceeds to offer me “a free consultation in your own home to discuss the benefits of our Sky talk/TV/broadband package” “Will this make an HD digibox work with a non-HD TV?” Again a stunned silence. “No” “Well thank you very much for your kind offer, but I think that in this instance I will decline the free consultation”.

Damn, now where do I go from here? I know, “discuss” again with old grumpy, let him decide. Good move. He decides to move the HD TV from the bedroom into the sitting room and the expensive Bang Olufsen non HD TV from the sitting room to our bedroom. The Bang Olufsen is really heavy and needs two hefty men to move and the HD TV needs an MA in electrical engineering to get it to work again in the new location. Then there is the problem of the speakers. The HD TV is a wired in home cinema system and a major job to relocate and the Bang Olufsen speakers won’t work with the HD TV. Impasse.

Once the HD TV is installed in the sitting room the digibox starts working again, (wouldn't you know it!) and what we actually have is an aerial problem. New decisions needed here! Get the man out to fix the aerial, order a new HD digibox anyway because we are too knackered to think the whole thing through again, rewire all the speakers and hey presto, we have a working system (maybe) just in time for moving the whole thing around again when the building work is complete. Happy days!

Do you know, I think that I am actually beginning to like retirement now because I can sit and write rubbish like this all day long.

PS - Dear DogLover. You once reprimanded me for using the "F" word and held up wifeinthenorth as an example of how to write without resorting to swearing. If you read one of her recent blog "Postcards No.2" you will see that she swears too! So there!!

Saturday 27 October 2007


It has never been more obvious to me that age is merely a state of mind than when Menzies Campbell resigned recently because he was being taunted about his age. He is younger than me, and is the same generation as Mick Jagger, Cliff Richard and Paul McCartney. The only difference? He grew up. Moral? Don’t grow up. I never will!!

And neither will my fishy friend. This week she reported that her new credit card had not arrived. Here’s how that one went:

Having paid my accounts on time, as a good person does, (unlike when I was 30) I had no problem ‘phoning the credit card company to alert them that my new card had not arrived.

"Wait until the end of the month" says the girl on the end of the phone "It was sent out 15 days ago" Eh??

"OK - as it was sent 15 days ago do you think that it may be lost? Postal strike and all that? Do you think you should be a little concerned - and more to the point, should I not be concerned?"

"Well " she says" it's up to you (yawn, yawn) but if you want to use your account in the next few days perhaps you should just hope it arrives in time. If I cancel your account now and report a lost card you will have to wait for up to 10 days to get new account, card and PIN. We don't want to cause you any concern"

I stop myself saying anything about concern that my bloody credit card is floating around the British Postal system somewhere. In my best Karma self I say politely "CANCEL NOW - that is C.A.N.C.E.L - NOW" and hey that has caused me no concern at all in saying it!!!

A week later the "old" new card has still not arrived - nor has the "new" new card but hey, who's concerned.????? Certainly not the guys who charge 27.5%APR.

Take me home country roads…..

By the way I have just read your blog about your adventures with the Dr's receptionist. OMG!!!! I have an idea. We should set up a vigilante group - zimmer frames at the fore - we will overcome. I am starting to have the slightest inkling of the mind-set of a suicide bomber!!!!!

I say again - take me back, country roads...............

Again I say, age is merely a state of mind. Who can possibly realise that these genteel older folk harbour such thoughts of madness and mayhem?

Monday 22 October 2007


Himself had an eye operation in August and although it’s early days his sight has not improved as well as anticipated. He is, naturally, feeling a little bit down and finding it hard to get motivated. I mentioned this to my lady that lunches and it resulted in this exchange of emails.

“Tell him from me to get a grip or I’ll come round and lash him with a wet hosepipe. He told me that once - with love and concern. Now it’s time for me to reciprocate - with love and concern!”

“He would probably enjoy it if you came round and lashed him with a wet hosepipe! Kinky bugger.”

“Am loading car with hosepipes to fill the Millenium Dome – tell him to be ready!!!”

“He waited in anticipation all night. Standing in a corner with his wet suit on and an orange in his mouth. He is exhausted!…and very, very disappointed ”.

“I spent the night in a huge water tank on the Norfolk coast after the Lincolnshire RSPCA picked me up en-route thinking I was a giant octopus. Sorry to have disappointed”

You couldn’t make it up could you?

Friday 19 October 2007


Didn't I do well in the squandering the inheritance stakes this year? I think that I can honestly say "pat that girl on the back - MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!"

And a PS on HUFF THE MAGIC DRAGON. I forgot to mention that the surgery gave me a copy of the letter that we then fax off to the hospital from our office 1st time! Strange that!! And when we arrived at the hospital they said that in total they had received the fax from the surgery five times. But the email the surgery had tried sending had never reach them.

And PPS this is what our friend had to say on the subject:

"I thought your description of getting a fax over to the hospital was brilliant. That's exactly how these things happen and our practice would do it exactly the same way. The idea of faxing seems to un-nerve people who ought to know how to do it. I think that doctors are to blame for not making sure how their offices work, but then they themselves have never had any experience of office work and rely on their practice managers to run an efficient office. If they haven't got a good one, they probably don't know he/she isn't any good! It takes our practice several days to get out a letter dictated by the doctor in one's presence!"

He followed that email up a few days later with this actual experience:

"Is that the MRI centre? Have you received a letter from my doctor? I saw her on 10th October and it's the 18th now"

"No, we've got nothing here - perhaps it's been caught by the postal strike"

"I'll get them to fax a copy to you, then"

"May I speak to the practice manager, please. Has the doctor sent the letter to the MRI centre?"

"Yes, it's dated 11th October"

"It hasn't reached them - will you please fax a copy to them"

"I'll need the fax number ... "

"I have it here - it's xxxx xxxxx"

"Thanks - we'll fax the letter off"

[Half an hour later] "MRI centre here - we have the fax from your surgery. Could you come in at 4.45 pm on Monday, 22nd October?"

"Yes, thanks. What will it cost?"

"Well normally it is £500 for an immediate appointment, but £425 after 7 days, but the letter was dated 11th October, so we'll charge you £295 as if you'd had to wait 14 days"

"Thanks" [Thinks "Thank goodness schools don't teach maths nowadays!"]

Moral of this tale: It seems some offices are efficient and willing.

And PPPS What has been the outcome of my complaining to the HR Manager? Zilch.

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Tuesday 16 October 2007


My feet haven’t touched ground since I got home. So how come I’m retired and have so much stuff to do? This weekend our granddaughters two girls stayed for a sleep over on Saturday night, our daughters two boys slept over on Sunday night and yet another daughters two boys are staying for a week while she is in Turkey.

In the middle of all this we had a medical crisis. Following an examination the doctor was to arrange a hospital appointment. “They will probably telephone you with the appointment because of the postal strike”. What does he then do? Sends the referral letter by mail! Naturally it doesn’t reach the hospital because there is, as he quite rightly pointed out, a postal strike. Now forgive me for being gob-smacked, but for someone that purports to be intelligent, wasn't that a stupid thing to do?

By mid-morning yesterday I decided to ring the hospital and they confirm the letter had, indeed, not been received (surprise, surprise), but if we arranged to have it faxed over they had a cancellation at 04.30 pm.

“Hi, the doctor wrote for a hospital appointment, but (trying hard not to sound smugly sarcastic) because of the postal strike the hospital hasn’t received it, can you fax it over please?”

“Just a minute (lots of huffs and puffs and several minutes later) the secretary is at lunch can you ring back?” "OK".

After thinking about this I ring back. “Actually I would rather not wait until the secretary gets back, can you fax it over now please?” “OK”. That was easy.

“Hi, the surgery are faxing over the referral letter” “Do you know who the consultant is, because some consultants like to deal with their own mail and it might be in a drawer. If I know who it is I'll go and have a look?” How sensible.

“Hi, could you give me the name of the consultant” Duly given and the information telephoned over to the hospital

“Hi, have you received the fax from the surgery yet” “No” “OK, I’ll give them another call”.

“Hi, the fax hasn’t been received yet” “We’re still trying to fax it over” “OK”.

“Hi, this is the practice secretary. I have no record of you having requested this referral to be faxed. We mailed it on 11th”. Her tone was very confrontational and again I resist the urge to mention the mail strike. “No, we didn’t ask for it to be faxed, but now the hospital has not received it because of the postal strike (there I go again) they asked for it to be faxed” “Oh, I see, OK we’ll fax it”.

In the meantime the hospital receptionist entered the loop calling the surgery and me several times. Still no fax.

A simple request had resulted in dozens of telephone calls between me, the surgery and the hospital, culminating in me jumping into my car, storming into the surgery, upsetting everyone and reporting one of the reception staff.

As I walked in I heard the receptionist say to the secretary “she gave me the wrong fax number”. She then looked at me and said “You gave me the wrong fax number” ”Or maybe you wrote it down wrong?” “I didn’t write it down wrong you gave me the wrong number. Now the hospital has given me another number and we still can’t get it through. Their fax isn’t working”. So, now the hospital is included in her accusations. An increasingly heated exchange went back and forth for a while. Impasse!!

She then turned her back on me, started muttering “She did give me the wrong number”, picked up her handbag and marched off to lunch. I was furious It was quite likely that I had given her the wrong number, but I couldn’t be sure, so how could she be so sure. “I want to speak to the Practice Manager” “We don’t have a Practice Manager, do you mean the HR Manager” “I don’t know what I mean, (steam coming out of my ears) I just want to report that receptionists appalling attitude”. They got the message. I was quickly trollied into a side room and given the professional smarm treatment until I finally submitted. I don’t have enough life left in me to fight these wars anymore. That’s how they get away with it.

Thursday 11 October 2007


My mad friend and co-blogger sent me this little ditty that she suggests should be sung to the melody of the Beetles song. If you saw us in the street you would think we were two ladies that lunch (which we are, except we partake in liquid vallium lunches!) but I cannot stress how mad we really are.

The wind is up, the sky is grey
Expect nought else, it's Saturday
Dear Prudence
Life's a whole load of crap!

Born's house next door needs to be done
AT LAST the builder has returned
Dear Prudence
Let's give him a big clap (or smack round the ear for having disappeared for three weeks)

The Company's sold, New owners in
No change to us, How it's always "bin"
Dear Prudence
Yeah!!!We'll carry on 'til we wrap

The tooth's stopped hurting, that is sound
Still need NHS but they're not found
Need dentist
Let us look at the map

Have "pulled" a rib, can cope with pain
At my age tell me how I don't do it again (please!! This is the second one this year)
Dear Prudence
Don't let any of them snap!!!

Have seen your blog and where you are
Have wished to goodness I was there
Dear Prudence
Send the airline tickets asap

So here I am on Saturday
Just wishing I was far away
Dear Prudence
Could I please win Camelot, buy my Granny flat in Manhatten, holiday in the sun over winter and get a new body soonest

Tuesday 9 October 2007


So here we sit in JFK

Trying to while the hours away

Trying not to eat the stuff

That makes me fat - and that is rough

Trying to be alert and gay

Wishing boredom would go away

The airport lounge is dull as hell

A good book they do not sell

But count your blessings I was taught

So thank the lord and pass the port

Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

Sunday 7 October 2007


In the few square miles around this hotel we were able to add to the list of biggest, 1st, etc.

In Intercourse (I kid you not) they claim to have "the world's largest collection of country knives".

In Harrisburg they claim to have the "most humongous teddy bear store on earth".

They claim that Hershy county is the "sweetest place on earth". I'm not sure that Cadbury would agree with that statement.

By 1915 it was claimed that Milton Hershy had "the largest chocolate factory in the world'.

And, last, but not least in the Hearshy Museum they claim to have the "8th wonder of the world. John Fiester's scientifically marvelous and artistically beautiful monumental apolostolic clock". Personally I prefer on the in Prague.

We visited an Amish House Museum and enjoyed a guided tour. It was very thought provoking commentary by a very knowlegable guide.

The Amish originally came from Switzerland (not a lot of people know that, I thought they were Dutch) and their way of life is very attractive in todays busy world.

But, I asked myself, if I was an Amish would I be allowed to squander the inheritance, indeed would I be allowed to squander full stop? I came to the conclusion that I am probably constitutionally incapable of behaving myself suffice to be Amish. Pity, because I think I would have been an asset to them.

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Saturday 6 October 2007


Our NEW ENGLAND IN THE FALL tour was dramatically changed yesterday when we saw the motel that we had booked into.

I was beginning to have doubts about the soundness of spending three days and nights in rural Vermont. Beautiful though it is, it is very "Deliverance". Our friend comes from Oregan and had wondered what made the settlers move across country.

In Vermont we had our answer. They had made the push west because they decided that they didn't want to stay and mate with their own kin. That is a little harsh because it is such a beautiful place, but still, I wouldn't like to walk in the woods alone at night.

The state is empty apart from this one motel that is on a busy road. The worst of two worlds! So on we moved to Albany, the State Capitol of New York.

So now our tour now is how many State Capitols and we squeee into two weeks. So far we have:

Boston, State Capitol of Mass - done that.

Albany, State Capitol of New York - done that.

Concord, State Capitol of New Hampshire - done that.

Providence, State Capitol of Rhode Island - done that.

Harrisburg, State Capitol of Pennsylvania - done that.

Annapolis, State Capitol of Maryland - going to do that.

So here we are in Amish country in a beautiful Hilton Hotel ready to hit the road tomorrow to photograph the poor innocent people of this state.

By the way, NEW ENGLAND IN THE FALL. Wonderful, wonderful colours and scenery, but after hundreds of thousands of acres of empty roads and more bloody trees we thought "let's get the hell out of here before we fall off the planet".

By the, by the way, when we left the "The Bates Motel" mine hoste announced he was a refridgeration expert and offered to fix our faulty vehicle aircon. We agreed, he announced we hadn't set the conrols right, fixed them - not, and yesterday we spent a hellish day with temperatures in the mid 80's and all the windows open.

We swapped the wonderfully comfortable eight seater top of the range vehicle for a very inferior and very small saloon car, but at least it has aircon that works and with tempertures still crazilly high we sure need it.
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Thursday 4 October 2007


In my travels I have noticed that every town/region/country has a USP. In this small area of New Hampshire they have the oldest continuously used theatre in the country (the Colonial Theatre in Bethlehem), the longest candy counter IN THE WORLD (23' long in Littleton) and the first cog railway IN THE WORLD (on Mt Washington).

These claims sometimes sound pretty dubious to me and I think someone should start recording them because I'm sure they "overlap".

I can't remember all the biggest, fattest, oldest widest, most expensive claims that I've ever heard but I know I have mentioned that the defibulator and aircon was invented and first used in Belfast where they also have two of the the largest cranes IN THE WORLD. Incidentally, I love Belfast.

In Denver they have, if my memory serves me right, the oldest newspaper in the USA and many, many other world beating claims. Incidentally, I love Denver.

In New York they had the first skyscraper IN THE WORLD. Incidentally, I love New York.

In Boston they have the oldest commissioned war ship IN THE WORLD. Old Ironsides. Undefeated in (I think) 38 battles. It earned it's name when it had taken a particularly hard pounding and someone commented "is that ship made of iron or something? (I paraphrase!). To retain it's commission it is sailed for one hour once a year. Now is that useless information or what? Incidentally, I really love Boston.

London had the first subway trains! We are not so good with promoting this wonderfulest, bestest, brightest thing. Too self depreciating. It might sound too boastful. Incidentally, I love London.

One random memory I just had was when we were travelling back to our hotel on the New York subway into our carriage stepped a man who announced to all and sundry in a VERY LOUD AND ANGRY voice. "I was a gunner in the US army" at which time I thought "oh fuck, where's the gun". "I was in Dessert Storm and now I have applied for welfare. What I want from you people is money for something to eat". For several minutes he glared at us. No-one moved a muscle and then to everyones relief he moved on to the next carriage where we heard him make the same announcement. Whew! That was a close one. If he's going to shoot, let him do it in the next carriage! Incidentally, I love New York.

Tomorrow we move on to Vermont. If you don't hear from us to a while, make enquires as to our welfare at the Bates Motes.

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Originally uploaded by anninfotel

Wednesday 3 October 2007


Here we are in New Hampshire staying at the "Bates Motel". Only kidding, except it really does feel like an upmarket Bates Motel.

The owner has an unnerving habit of suddenly appearing at your side and takes great pains in telling us that he is an ex-marine and this is his home that he is welcoming us into.

He gave us the rules "if you want your room cleaned don't leave the "do not disturb" notice on your door" What? "and don't leave any belongings on anything. I don't touch belongings. If your belongings are on anything I won't clean it" What? "And if you want trash emptied you godda tell me otherwise I won't do it" What? "And no swingers or parties". Definately, what? "Coffee is available from 0700" (It wasn't) and breakfast is sharp at 8.30 (it was, despite the fact that everyone had been waiting since 7.30!).

His wife Carol had prepared yoghurt and granola, sausage and pancakes. Not exactly a cullinary delight that took much effort - and for this we waited until 8.30. You godda be kidding.

As I type he is lurking in the background and I'm terrified in case he appears at my shoulder and reads this guff.

But despite his best efforts we had a good day with delightful people who are building a house and run a website called

The autumn colours are quite disappointing at the moment, but the good company and food more than makes up for that. As the days progress hopefully the colours will become more vivid. Although that's a poison challice, because it needs to rain for the colours to come out and we don't want rain. Today has been a really pleasant and sunny day and that is how we would like it to remain.

We took our laundry in for a "wash and fold" service this morning. We asked what time she closed "you want it tonight!" she reeled back in horror. We timidly consulted each other and decided that tomorrow would do "Well, whatever suits you, tomorrow?" "Make up your mind - do you want it today or tomorrow?". Then she saw my husband, smiled and was putty in his hands. She agreed that today would be fine. How does he do that? I asked him "How do you do that?" "easy!". I want to kill him again.

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Tuesday 2 October 2007


Clues: crab, cream pie, tea party - BOSTON -Yeh!!

Impression - compact, safe, clean, WASPish. Home to the Kennedy clan, and the American War of Independence. Like Belfast, it is a diddy place with a big, big heart and many claims to fame.

We have done three trolley tours, one walking tour and one harbour tour and now I am an expert. So what's new!

We have eaten in a first class fish restaurant (Anthony's on Pier 4), a kooky place where the staff insult the diners (Dick's Last Resort), the oldest Italian restaurant for lunch , an over expensive breakfast in the Marriott and finally The Old Parker Hotel, inventor of the Boston Cream Pie where Mau Tsi Tonge once worked (if that's how you spell it) and where we ate - Boston Cream Pie. Tomorrow we plan to have breakfast in McD and then head out of town to rural Bethlehém to see NEW ENGLAND IN THE FALL.

What have we learned in Boston? Many things that other cities have claimed. The biggest, first, original, tallest whatevers. The suspension bridge is a replica of the Sydney Harbour Bridge but bigger. So wide in fact that they are planning to install lights underneath the bridge because the fish are becoming disorientated in the dark!

But I forgive them their dodgy claims. It is a wonderfully compact and interesting city with a friendly and humourous population.

Acid test - would we come back, yes we would.


Three guesses where we are. Clues::- yellow cabs, big apple,
New York cheesecake. Got it? Wrong! We are on the train to Boston. Moral of this? Don't be taken in by the obvious. Just travelling though Conneticut.

I am overhearing a conversation with another group of passengers. American: "I travelled across Switzerland in a train and it was 1st class", "Like Orient Express?" "No, but very good" "I happen to live in Switzerland and I know the train you speak of. We had a terrible summer there". I want to get involved "I have been on the Orient Express, and the summer in Switzerland was great compared to England", but I resist! Hard for me to do that!

So, New York. The taxi from JFK must have been the worse taxi in town. Beat up and shabby, no aircon. (temperature of 85F and humid) and a driver that didn't speak English.

So. New York. Impressions. I like the humour and smartness of the natives. Almost European in style. Not very American at all.

There was a UN congress in session and the security had to be seen to be believed. I thought I was back on the Orient Express again. Our hotel was being used by diplomats so there were many shaddowy FBI/CIA/Security/dog handler characters around. I was tempted to point out to a guy in the lift that he had a wire growing out of his neck, but I resisted. Probably the thought of being wrestled to the ground and dragged off to god knows where acted as a deterant. Mind you he was cute so it might not have been all that bad!

On our first day we took a couple of tour buses. The first guide was very informative, but incomprehensible he had a very heavy black accent- is it very un PC to say black? Well.fuck it, black was what he was and black was what he sounded like and no-one could understand him.

The second tour guide was very irritating, he called us "my friends" - well I for one was not his friend. By the end of the tour I wanted to kill him.

Highlights of New York were meeting up with my mad mates beautiful son who has become a native New Yorker and, incidentally, too tall and thin/being moved by Ground Zero/having a great lunch in Wall Street (I can testify that lunch in NOT for wimps) and viewing Mathatten at night from the Statten Island Ferry.

We saw all of Manhatten including Central Park, the UN Empire and Chrysler biuldings, Brooklyn, in short - all of Manhatten. Our feet are sore and our legs ache, but we had a great time.

Let's hope that Boston is equally as good.

Monday 24 September 2007


The photographs are from our “Family Fun” yesterday. (I was going to say our “Family Fun” day yesterday, but that seemed odd, but “Family Fun” yesterday seems even odder. I suppose it should be “Family Fun Day” Sunday, or “Family Fun Day” yesterday, luckily it wasn’t “Family Fun” today because its raining – whatever!). I should add, again, that I am very bad at taking photographs.

So ..... on to other subjects. Why are all my friends mad? Don’t’ answer that! Here’s another email from my maddest friend. When I read it to my husband he didn’t have a clue what she was talking about. I did! OK, you ready for this? Here we go:-

"What is it about borns???? They are the things that make you seriously re-assess those earlier days when you were ready to demonstrate against abortion at any cost!!!!

And as to cost, they are the things that have completely emptied your bank account of money, your life of any moving on into retirement with ease, and dragged every heart- string into a complete mish-mash.

But borns are borns and without them why would we want to get up in the morning?????

Oh dear friend of mine, without borns wouldn't life be so much easier - we could have missed all the worry, all the heart-ache, all the anger and all the total desperation.

But I guess we'd have missed all the laughs, prides and intrigues too. Bring on the Borns - if only to give them a real smack!!!!!

Just getting a "born" moment of my chest!!!!!! And can't think of anyone who understands more than you xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx "

Oh I understand in spades! Anyone else need an explanation?

Sunday 23 September 2007


A good cup of tea sorts out all the problems! The pile of rubble stacked up beside the wall are my roof tiles. My roof is crying out for its hat. Please Mr Builders have mercy on my roof.
Builder at work
Originally uploaded by anninfotel

Saturday 22 September 2007


Whenever we crossed a border we had a new engine and driver. As we passed into Italy there was a distinct change in speed. We hurtled through the night rocking and rolling all over the place. One of the Orient Express crew later said they thought the engine driver was a Ferrari owner! Result – we ended up at Venice Mestre station at 07.30 am and as we were not expect into Venice Ferroviaría until 10.10 am there we sat in our nightigowns waiting for our breakfast while bored Italians peered through the windows and took photographs.

Sudden activity. Our steward “knocked us up” one last time. “We will go into Venice earlier than scheduled. Get ready.” We did. Nothing happened. We finally arrived in Venice Ferroviaria (10 minutes away) at 10.30 am.

No welcoming committee, only tired, lethargic Italian porters who lost our luggage. Our “local host” was new to the job and was totally out of her depth. There were four in our group. Three going on to the airport for the 05.00 pm flight to Gatwick and my good friend who was taking the 02.45 pm train to Switzerland.

The Orient Express Reception Desk lady packed up and left us to it. It took quite a bit of shouting to finally locate the luggage two hours later. May I say this? It was a typical Italian cock up! And no-one gave a toss except our heroic “local host” who stuck with us throughout. What an initiation to the job!

Main memories of the trip? In chronological order.

The guide in Istanbul who was interesting, entertaining and knowledgeable.

The Orient Express host who went into a pharmacy in Istanbul to get advice and medication for my sinus problem.

The cost of a glass of wine at the Chiragan Palace Hotel, Istanbul. £12!

The totally unexpected “Bon voyage” ceremony at Istanbul the first of many such ceremonies.

The beauty of the train, the excellence of the food and the charm of the cabin and restaurant staff.

Fellow passengers who were so pleasant and sociable.

The awesome and humbling welcome we received in Bucherest.

The private venues that were opened up on our behalf in Bucherest and Budapest.

The attention to detail.

The way it all fell apart in Italy!
I had an interesting conversation with one of my fellow Gatwick passengers. She said “so - are you retired or not?” Good question. I then went on to describe the business and, as usual, became quite animated. “What I have been doing is step back from the day to day running of the business, but still keep “in the loop” with the global stuff. This gives me a reason for getting up in the morning and keeps me crazy” to which she replied “I don’t thing that you are ever going to walk away from that. You are so passionate about everything, especially the future”. Amen.

Friday 21 September 2007


We rejoined the train at 10.20 am and were scheduled to arrive in Vienna at 2.18 pm. Actual arrival time? Sometime after 3.30 pm! Tut! Tut!

When our cabin steward offered us mid morning tea and home made cakes I begged him on bended knees not to bring me any more food. He ignored me. I ate the cakes!

Lunch at 12.30pm was:-

Chicken oysters and morels in a light pastry case

Gratined pike-perch fillet and soft water crayfish (I had steak), with braised fennel and sweet garlic and parsley potatoe (their spelling, not mine. So, they really are human after all)

Gingerbread cottage cheese blancmange and stewed apricots with almond milk.

Colombian coffee.

We have become so used to musical welcomes and farewells that Vienna proved to be a bit of an anti-climax. We figured that they would probably keep the best to last and expected big things. The Vienna Boys Choir at least, maybe an odd philharmonic orchestra or two?

It was tipping it down when we arrived and the Orient Express “excellence team“ handed us all umbrellas as we disembarked. The “local hosts” then sped us through the station at high speed.

At each turn we thought “where are they hiding the welcome committee, will it be around this corner”- no – “will it be around this one” – no. It began to dawn on us that there wasn’t one! How dare they treat us like mere peasants? Obviously Vienna was not overawed by Orient Express tourists.

Our itinerary was a city tour by coach following the famous “Ringstrasse” past the Opera House, Imperial Palace, City Hall ending in Heroes’ Square. We would then visit a traditional Kaffeehaus, the Café Griensteidl, and then ride in a “Flaker” horse draw carriage through Vienna’s old town.

A few tables had reserved for us in the Kaffehaus. What was this? They hadn’t even banned the local populous! Shame on them! I was force fed apple strudel (delicious) and our group was offered and consumed rich chocolate cakes wash down with Viennese coffee which is coffee and a glass of water, originated by poor students who could linger longer and shelter from the rain.

And did it rain? It rained and rained. We had to have the hood up in our horse drawn carriage so we saw nothing of the city, but we shared our carriage with a very interesting couple from Boston, USA. Earlier in the week the lady had appalled another couple from Boston, UK by exclaiming, “Oh! I didn’t know there was another Boston”. The couple from Boston, UK soon put her right on that score.

My friend and I really “bonded” with them on the short tour. He was the supplier of one of the components in MRI’s worldwide. Their story was so interesting. He had been in the US Forces for five years and then studied engineering. They had a young family and life was very, very tough for 12 years. He started a small business that was struggling and then he recognised a niche in the market.

I asked if he was retired and she said “He would find it so difficult to retire, he struggled so hard in the beginning and is now so passionate about the company. He and really looks after the staff and feels a responsibility towards them. No I don’t think he can do that”. Empathy!!

After the horse drawn carriage ride the “local hosts”, who were faultless, decided that we would continue the tour in the coaches. Our guide pointed out one hotel that has a “Presidential Suite” which was unfortunately occupied by Mick Jagger when President Bush visited. He was accommodated in another hotel that was, ironically, within shooting distance of the Iraq Embassy. Her words!

She ended the tour by declaring that Austrians were pretty smart people. They had convinced the world that Wagner was Austrian and Hitler was German. Boom! Boom!
Back to the train for our last dinner with complimentary champagne and so to bed. Tomorrow we arrive at our destination. Venice.
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Wednesday 19 September 2007


Same routine, after our cabin steward had bought our breakfast tray of two pastries, two rolls, a croissant, fresh fruit, jam, butter and coffee we received our schedule for the day.

Arrive Budapest at the Alan Pease time of 1002 am where local guides would escort us on a tour of the city starting with the historic Buda part – Castle District, Fishermen’s Bastion and St Matthew’s Church. The tour would end at the Hotel Sofitel around 1.50 pm where a buffet lunch was arranged. At 7.00 pm we would take a short river cruise on the Danube and then on to the “Club Akademia” in the Magyar Academy of Science palace for a Hungarian dinner.

During the visit to Buda it had been arranged that we would use the toilet facilities at the Hilton Hotel so that our important little bots would not have to be exposed in public loos.

The tour guide asked us if this was the beginning or end of our trip, we said nearly the end, to which he replied “Oh in that case this is just NABC to you, are you familiar with that term?” “No” “It means Not Another Bloody Church”. Oh how we laughed, ha! ha! ha! But actually he was quite right. I must admit all the culture was beginning to confuse.

That’s just reminded me of something the Istanbul guide said “What is the difference between a tourist and a hitchhiker? Five minutes, be back here at precisely 1100, five minutes late and you’ll be a hitchhiker!”.

Our short river trip was cancelled due to the fact that the Danube was flooding (I would have thought a boat was the safest place to be, but no matter!) So – straight to the Academy of Science. An absolutely magnificent building where Hungarian Scientists have met and studied for generations. Our gala dinner was in the library that had been cleared of books! Especially for us! Wow!

I was bought my usual alternative to the fish dish and we were entertained by Hungarian musicians, including an outstanding violinist.

One of our dining companions was a really interesting elderly American who must have been a “someone” in his time. He had a military bearing and said he had advised the American Government on the feasibility of repatriating the Christians and Moslems following the Croatian/Bosnian war. He said no way, they just don’t get on together.

Throughout the journey I had noticed that he was writing snippets in a notebook. I asked him what he was writing. He said “I write poetry and essays and gain inspiration from the odd and quirky comments that people make. I believe that quirkiness is the essence of the real person”. He added “I should really be more disciplined and write them up, but I just keep the jottings. One day I plan to get more organised”. I told him about my blog and he was very interested. I thought it would be a device he could use to “tidy himself up” as it were.

I noticed that the drunker I got the more he was writing in his little notebook. “What was that, can you repeat it?” “Repeat what?” “That last sentence” “What last sentence – blah, blah, blah”. Funny how much philosophy I can spout when I’m drunk, and it’s all so interesting! Oh! We had such a jolly time my new friend and I.
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Tuesday 18 September 2007


Following our visit to Bucherest we were to rejoin the train at 1010 for a short journey to the mountain town of Sinaia. Scheduled to arrive at 1146 (that Alan Pease thing again!) for a short visit to the Sinaia Monastery, lunch at a private venue at Foisor, formerly summer residence of the Royal family. After lunch local hosts would accompany us on a short walk through the park to Peles Castle and back to the train that would depart at 1715. Sounded good to me. Following a fully armed police escort back to Bucharest Nord Station and a wonderful choir to send us on our way we settled back on the train with morning tea and home made biscuits.

Another musical welcome greeted us at Sinaia station and coaches took us up to the Monastery. Naturally, all the side roads had been blocked off by police cars to allow this precious cargo of visitors free and unfettered passage. The scary thing was that we were beginning to expect this royal treatment.

Lunch was a superb buffet, but with a difference. The buffet dishes were on our individual tables and served to us by waiters. The fish items were pointed out to be by my waiter so that I didn’t have to sully my very important lips with something unpalatable! Musicians, singers and dancers provided entertainment during the meal.

After lunch security guards with walky-talkies shadowed us as we took the short walk through the woods to Peles Castle. As we came in sight of the castle we could see people streaming out. They were actually emptying the bloody castle for us! The guided tour took 40 minutes (as scheduled) and then we saw the people being ushered back in again with special protectors on their shoes so that they didn’t spoil the precious rugs. We had been allowed to walk without shoe protectors. As one of our party said “do they think our shoes are cleaner than theirs?”
Back down the mountain again, same process, side streets blocked off, a goodbye musical extravaganza, Budapest here we come.

Monday 17 September 2007


Our schedule was presented to us after breakfast. We were to attach provided labels to our overnight luggage for onward transportation to the Athenee Palace Hilton Hotel and, following lunch on the train, would arrive at Bucharest Nord station at 2.07 pm (they must have been to an Alan Pease semina). Then a "drive by" visit to past The People's Palace, the Metropolitan Church and then an exclusive visit to Ceausescu's private residence, usually not open to the public.

First, lunch on the train:-
Scrambled eggs and caviar: Bark mushrooms and chives (no caviar for me) Broiled lobster with white truffle butter, buttered string beans and bacon, potato pancake (steak for me) Caramalized apple tarlet and vanilla whipped cream Colombian coffee.

Our lunch companions were a retired Lloyds Underwriter and his wife. They were charming and we all commented on the lushness of the Romanian countryside and the fact that if they ever got their commercial act together they had good resources, including oil fields!
Istanbul bad us farewell with drums and dancers, Bucharest welcomed us at 0207 pm with police. Our guide said to have the Orient Express in town is newsworthy (literarily it was on TV that night). Police had cordoned off the station and we were escorted to our coaches through a corridor of armed police. Heavy man!

During our "city drive around" our guide told us of the night that Ceausescu fled town. In December 1989 following a series of riots he attempted to appease the people by giving a speech in which he offered a derisory increase in wages. The people were not impressed and he ordered the soldiers to open fire on the protesters.

When our guide heard of the shootings she decided that this was the last straw and went to join the protestors (first having changed her underwear in case she was shot - as you do). 162 people were killed in University Square that night. Most were peaceful students. She said that, as in Prague, they were putting flowers into the guns of the soldiers. Fearing for their lives Ceauşescu and his wife fled by helicopter to seek sanctuary in a military compound in the Countryside. Three days later they were tried by a new interim government and shot!

I was so impressed with her bravery and I told her it had been living proof to the world that good can triumph over evil. I feel quite tearful.

That evening we had gala dinner in the Art Museum's magnificent Mirror Room, which hosts the event twice a year for the Orient Express. After a cocktail reception we were led into dinner where the seating was random. When they started to serve the first course, fish, my plate was one of the first to be bought out. No fish! Wow, attention to detail, how did they do that? There was a full evening of entertainment from Romania musicians and an opera singer. My companion said at this stage that her husband would have suggested he meet her back at the hotel. I had been thinking exactly the same; my husband would have been looking for an "exit strategy" the minute he walked in the place. It was very, very highbrow and, if I was to criticise, the music was too loud and we couldn't hear ourselves talk.


Today we join the train. Our schedule - pack and ring the concierge between 0900/1100 for luggage to be collected, check out and be in the reception area at 1230 for a brief visit to Asia and then onto the train at 1550.

Our visit to the Asian part of Istanbul was not a disappointment. Our regular guide was on top form again and, as our Irish friends would say, the crack was great. We did the normal touristy visit to a grand palace but the thing that sticks in my mind most was the drive back when someone asked him about the terrible slum area we were driving through.

He said that at one time people were allowed to build on waste ground, live in the property for 5 years and then claim legal title. Catch! It had to be erected in 24 hours! Hence, hovels were thrown up overnight and then added to later, creating “hovel dwellings” that are odd shapes and literally glued and pasted together.

OK, that’s interesting, but the real interesting bit was when he started talking about his time working as a researcher for a politician. (I knew there was more to him than being a simple tour guide!). He discovered that an opposition candidate was living in an illegal dwelling (he didn’t explain the exact circumstances), but he recommended to his boss that they should publicise this fact and go heavy with it, which they did. Unfortunately they hadn’t thought it through because 30% of the population lives in illegal dwellings. Goodbye politics, hello tour guiding. Pity, he would have made a great politician. He very nearly had me signed up to Islam - only kidding!

So – Asia, been there, done that, now to join the train. We were met at the station entrance by Orient Express staff and escorted through onto the platform. As we appeared on the platform a Turkish band struck up. It was overwhelming because we hadn’t expected an official send off. A red carpet had been rolled out and the Orient Express cabin and restaurant staff, all suited and booted, were standing to attention beside the carriages.

After we had dried our eyes and stopped being awe struck we slowly started trickling along the red carpet toward our allocated carriage to be welcomed by our cabin steward. When we had recovered from the shock of admiring the beautifully preserved and renovated train we then wondered how we would survive in the diddy cabins that would be our home for the next 6 days.

So - off we went to the cheers and waves of the crowds. When we finally got underway it was a bit of an anti-climax. Now what would we do? Much like Christmas, OK we’ve opened the presents, now what do we do for kicks? We sat in our cabins with the communicating door open just looking at each other, very uncomfortable with the whole situation. Finally we decided to organise ourselves and think what we would wear to dinner that evening. After all, we have to dress up in suitable attire or, the literature warns us, we will be asked to take our dinner in our cabins. The shame of that would be too much to bear!

In the midst of getting ourselves organised we had “the visit” from our smiley Carribean cabin steward, who explained how everything worked and then stated that he would "knock us up" for breakfast. The first time he said this I ignored it, but when he repeated it I felt I had to say something. "Were do you come from?", "wellllll' I have a very mixed background...", "no, I mean where have you been living, France?". This puzzled him "noooooo, I live in England, why?", "do you tell everyone you will knock them up", now he is really puzzled "yes, why", "do you realise that it's slang for getting a girl pregnant?". He lept back in shock and threw his hands in the air "Oh my Lord, are you sure?", "yes, do you say it to all you passengers", "yes I do, I have been saying it for three years, you can't see that I'm going red, but I am". He screamed with laughter, "oh my god, I don't believe I have been doing that, why has no-one told me before?", "because this is the Orient Express and probably everyone is too polite to say anything to you". Now everytime we meet we have uncontrolable giggling fits as I ask him to "knock me up again".

Finally, to the dinner. We duly dressed up and were, thankfully, not asked to return to our cabin. First hurdle overcome. Our dinner companions were the two retired ladies that had led us astray in Istanbul. The menu was:-

Steamed turbot cutlet and melted leeks. Saffron sauce.

Tender Turkish lamb fillet and creamed black olives. Eggplant, tomato, succhini, pepper and sweet onions au gratin, road potatoes.

Choice of fine cheeses

Dark chocolate, mint and quince dessert

Colombian coffee.

Or if that did not suite a full A la carte menu!

I don’t eat fish and asked to miss the 1st course. “No, madam, we will bring you an alternative, would you like asparagus?”. Great, I love asparagus.

And so to bed. Our day cabin had been transformed into a bedroom in our absence and fed, tired and happy we hurtled through the night to our next destination, Bucharest.