Monday 21 May 2007


Friends thought my young man should be made aware of the fact that I was writing bad things about him. They were also nervously questioning me “does he know that you call him “old grumpy”? Oh how we laughed, old grumpy and me. Of course he didn’t mind. Of course he knew my fond nickname for him.

…..And then I stop calling him “old grumpy”. Why? Everyone probably assumed that I had at last seen the error of my ways and politely refrained from asking where, oh where, had Mr Grumpy gone? Had he gone to mow a meadow, hoho? I’ll let you into a little secret - he had disappeared and been replaced by this unconditionally smiley and co-operative human being.

But on Saturday, mid-afternoon, old grumpy returned. “I’m going to lay down” he snapped. “OK” trying to keep the panic out of my voice and a cheery, optimistic look on my face. In case I missed the point he growled “I’ve got a headache”. Old grumpy strikes again. “Fine” I smiled through gritted teeth, in case he had missed MY point!

Up until then we’d had had a fantastic day, the sun was shining, we were having a great laugh and had lunched on oven cooked sausages and onions in fresh baguettes followed by fresh cream apple turnovers. Simple pleasures. Life could not have been sweeter. Was it something I said? Nah, surely not!

Now the skies are dark again, nothing is pleasing and it’s raining bad moods all over the place. The sun has disappeared behind the big black cloud that is hovering, waiting for an excuse to envelop us. Even a breakfast trip this morning with his pop star friend didn’t cheer him up and reading this will certainly not help!

Oh well, it was good while it lasted. Have a good day y’ll!

Friday 18 May 2007


This week I got lost. Not only did I get lost, I got lost three times in one journey and not, I might add, in the outback. I got lost driving through Peterborough the town I like to call a shopping experience. I am very familiar with this town. One time, before I started getting lost, I could have probably driven through it with my eyes shut, in fact I frequently did if my better half was at the wheel. So how the hell did I get lost? Beats me!

I know that I took the right route but it led me to a strange place that I didn’t recognise, so I re-orientated myself until I was not in a strange place, only to wind up in a strange place again, and again.

The problem is that my old grey matter is seizing up and needs reviving BIG TIME. So I bought a BlackBerry email and internet to go thingy. When I confessed what I had done to IT they looked horrified. “NO!” they said with their eyes. With their mouths they smiled and were very polite and supportive. “Yes, we can help you” “No, it’s no problem, no problem at all” whilst thinking “This is the daft old bat that can’t even use a landline let alone an email and internet to go thingy. Heavens above” or some such thoughts. More probably they thought “Bollocks!”

Even the lady on the ‘phone when I bought it didn’t seem very enthusiastic about my chances. “You don’t even know your mobile number and you’re buying a BlackBerry email and internet to go thingy!!!?”

Well today it arrived. And do you know what? They are all right! Bollocks.

Tuesday 15 May 2007


My paper didn’t arrive this morning. My paper bearer is at an exhibition in Birmingham. How can I eat my lunch without a paper. How can I have a power nap without having eaten lunch? When I was a high-flying executive I could have solved these insurmountable problems. What is happening to me?

In desperation I re-read the Sunday magazine. It reassures me that if I’m aged 50 to 80 and can afford 20p a day, I’M IN!” That’s me! I qualify! What am I in? A smiling actress looks at me from the page “You may be surprised to learn that the average cost of a funeral is now £2,168”.

Strangely enough I recently discussed this very fact with my good friend DogLover. This outrageous cost was precisely the reason that had prompted him to take his wife to her funeral in the back of his estate car.

OK, so we have established that I know the cost of a funeral. What else. I’m told that the Guaranteed Over 50 Plan is life insurance that really can help provide me with life-long peace of mind. How? If I die in the first two year they will pay out all the premiums I have paid.

There is an over-rider. I should be aware that depending on how long I live, I could find myself paying in more than the cash sum paid out. Obviously they have heard of my efforts to squander the inheritance money.

Peace of mind? Excuse me? I think not. Peace of mind is a 20p a day plan for me to live forever, not a plan to die and leave my heirs more money than they can shake a stick at. I think, in this instance, I’ll pass up on this offer.

Sunday 13 May 2007


My captivity started with my own foolish words last Thursday. “Would you like me to pick the girls up from school?” “If you want” shortly followed by a text “Wd u be able to have girls over nite? Their uniforms were clean on 2day so are ok for 2mo! X” Damn, I walked right into that one!

My poor granddaughter suffers migraine and was in the throws of a bad one. I should be sympathetic, but I’m way, way too selfish for that. Ask me for sympathy when it doesn’t affect my well-being, sleep routine or bank balance. But hey, I could manage one night of sacrifice couldn’t I? Wrong - make that three nights of sacrifice!

And it started off so well. We hadn’t seen them for a few days and to start with they were full of laughter and cuddles, which rapidly turned into scowls and grumpiness (that was me) culminating in a “I don’t like being in this house” “why? don’t you like us” “I like granddad and my sister, but I don’t like you”.

That’s probably because I don’t agree that they should have Smarties, chocolate biscuits and crisps for breakfast. I also maintain that they shouldn’t be allowed to dictate which aisles we go up in the supermarket and have their pick of any toy, sweet, DVD, machine gun, base ball bat or hand grenade that takes their fancy. I am a firm believer in spare the rod and you spoil the child. These two childs are, for sure, well beyond ruined.

On the other hand granddad thinks they’re wonderful. He beams “look at them, isn’t it sweet the way they trash the living room?” “look, they’ve tipped their food all over the floor again, isn’t that cute”.

But look at them out of the window full of sunshine and laughter riding their bikes up the drive, hear the poor mite with the poorly chest coughing herself to sleep, see the little darlings asleep looking like angels and all the frustrations of the day melt away.

Granddad is right, they are a gift from God, we are truly blest and this afternoon has been so quiet I could cry. In the words of Kris Kristofferson “freedoms just another word for nothing left to lose”. Thank goodness I don’t really want freedom.

Friday 11 May 2007


We always thought getting old would be a breeze but it’s the things that go with age that aren’t at all breezy. Stiff bones, deteriorating eyesight, deafness and forgetfulness - all designed to make life a little bit tricky.

The love of my life is getting slightly deaf which can sometimes result in puzzlement and confusion. Recently he had a conversation with a friend who said he would send his CV. My dearly beloved thanked, came off the ‘phone and wondered “Now why would he want a job? He’s 70 and retired”. I was able to throw some light on his quandary. “You daft bugger, he’s a musician isn’t he?” “Yes, but we wouldn’t employ a musician anyway” “No, but he may want to send you his CD”!

Age related involuntary groans that accompany any movement are also extremely annoying. Whenever I get up from a chair this noise happens. It doesn’t make getting up any easier or less painful so what’s that all about?

After having dinner with a couple of friends we all lumbered away from the table making assorted odd noises, rubbing various painful bones and generally looking like a bunch of bent over stiff old penguins. It was so grotesque that the couple at the next table burst out laughing. I smiled and turning to them said “you may laugh, but trust me this will be you one day”. Their merriment turned to horror.

Wednesday 9 May 2007


We are just back from Stockholm, a very interesting place and well worth another visit. In fact my husband said he could live there, but I think that it's a bit cold in the winter. I know that I'm ignorant, but I really hadn't realised how far north it is.

71 museums and we managed to visit 2. The Vasa and the Nobel museums. We also did guided tours of City Hall where the Nobel Prize dinner is held and the Royal Palace. Fascinating.

My friend and I even managed to catch the changing of the guard at the Palace. Well when I say “we” I really mean “she”. We got confused, which isn’t difficult. We had been told the changing of the guard was on at 1315, but when we arrived at the Palace at 1200 - what do you know -they were changing the guard! OK – not very impressive, but we saw it.

The English speaking tour of the Royal Apartments was not until 1400 so we did what all good Brits do – went out to lunch. Just after ordering we heard the band strike up. Our ears pricked up. Could it be that this was the REAL changing of the guard? Leaving two husbands to supervise the serving of the lunch we ran around the corner just in time to see the new guard being marched into the square and disappear behind a wall of bodies.

Not to be deterred my friend, being a brave lass from Northern Ireland and having lived through the “troubles”, left the safe haven of the cordoned off area, where we could see nothing but Swedish backs, and stood right out in the open beside the official photographers. No fear there!

The guys with guns were not happy with this arrangement, but Swedes are terminally polite so they only looked and very kindly didn’t shoot. Luckily they were not of the Viking variety of Swede. I bottled out. I wasn’t totally convinced of their hospitality, maybe because I had never lived through the “troubles” and I’m not used to people with guns being mad with me.

Before long others in the crowd, encouraged by the bravery of this little lady from Belfast, also defied the cordon, the guns, the glares and joined her. The guys with guns were now getting visibly perturbed, trying to act like hard men. But my mate stood her ground and was not at all intimidated.

As I said, I missed the changing of the guard, but witnessed instead death defying heroism. Much more entertaining.

Then she spotted someone in the crowd who looked remarkably like our rogue taxi driver and was terrified. Which only goes to show that some people are scared of guns and some people are scared of gums.

Tuesday 8 May 2007


On our recent travels we have engaged some delightful and very interesting taxi drivers. I guess to be a successful taxi driving you should have a keen eye, razor wit and a profound interest in humankind. The taxi drivers of Belfast have all these qualities in spades. Each one has his own “take” on the past “troubles” and the future prospects of the city. Their observations are fascinating, rich in history and very passionate. A city of philosophers who have kissed the blarney stone.

In Scotland our taxi driver, on hearing our destination, said he had worked at the Singer Sewing Machine factory with a guy from that village when he was younger. “That guy” turned out to be one of my young man’s childhood friends. They had a good Scottish blether about this and that, and my young man was able to inform the driver where their mutual friend could be found drinking on a Friday night. This bought us a good discount on the fare! Result!!

But it was in Stockholm that we had our most exciting and unforgettable experience. We hailed a taxi. Through the half opened window I passed a card bearing the name of our unpronounceable hotel. The driver was wearing nail varnish which should have alerted me to the fact that this was not your usual run of the mill alpha macho male.

It wasn’t until we were underway that we all noticed his extreme oddity. He was very old and decrepit (even by our standards) with grey stubble on his head and chin, a hair lip, no teeth, long varnished nails, earrings, bangles on his wrists and a ladies hairbrush in his side pocket. OK……..too late to get twitchy (unless we were prepared to jump from a moving vehicle) so we chose to ignore all the bad vibes and “act British” as though there was nothing unusual going on here.

Now I can “act British” as much as you want, but don’t try to rip me off. Do that and you can forget the “stiff British upper lip” and in its place comes “belligerent stiff British bulldog”. I think you can get my drift here can't you? Right - he did try to rip us off. The journey into the city usually cost about £15, he was asking double. Out came the bulldog.

Foreigners are ignorant and usually unschooled in the intricacies of the English language and as I didn’t want him to misunderstand me I simply yelled at the top of my voice “too much". As anticipated, he understood this simple phrase and started yelling back in gibberish. I continued to shout “too much, too much”. He quickly gave in to my superiority and reduced his rate to £25. I continued yelling “too much, too much - £16 - no more”, “come into the hotel” and got out of the taxi. One of my travelling companions duly handed him the equivalent of £16 and also got out. Well…this enraged him beyond belief. He recognised that I was the one making the decisions here and ran up yelling in foreign at me and spitting in my face.

People that know me well know not to yell (especially in foreign) and spit in my face. It makes me mad and that’s not nice. The pen, being mightier than the sword, appeared in my hand and brandishing it I continued yelling “give me your driver’s number” and maybe a few other choice words thrown in for good effect. For a few short seconds we stood toe to toe screaming at each other. I won. He left. Now he knows not to mess with us Brits. Rule Britannia.

Wednesday 2 May 2007


Several years ago we went to the cinema in Leicester Square with a couple of friends to see a Michael Cane film called Ashanti. Afterwards we all agree that it was a truly awful film. In fact we agreed that it was probably the worse film we had ever seen in our whole lives when up piped a little voice “Yes, I read it was a dreadful film”. We all rounded on her “for f... sake why didn’t you tell us that before we went in?” We have never let her forget this “Ashanti moment”.

This Monday I had another “Ashanti moment”. On Friday I read a review of a James Taylor concert. As we are hell bent on squandering the inheritance money we have a pretty tight schedule at the moment (Ireland last week and Stockholm this week) but we thought it would be worth sandwiching this concert in between.

I went on line and found out that his next, and last, concert was in Glasgow, tried booking tickets and after several failed attempts finally managed to acquire the last two tickets available.

We duly travelled up to Scotland on Sunday and on Monday evening shipped up at the venue. Nice venue, very excited, when old brain box pipes up “when I saw him on TV he seemed too full of himself, much too serious”. What! All this way and now you tell me that!! It this instance though it turned out to be a false “Ashanti moment” because he was actually very, very good. Another old-time rebel rouser.

I don’t like to brag, but what is it about my generation that makes us so amazing, especially the women. Yesterday I read that the divorce rate is falling across the board apart from women their 60’s, where it’s rising. Why? Contrary to popular belief it’s not because the old man has found a young blond, it’s because we are the happening generation and don’t take crap from anyone. It’s goodbye to boring old blokes who throw their weight around and hello Costa Brava - here we come with our share of house equity in our hot little hands. 60 is the new 20!

In 1957 women in their 60’s spent 6 hours 39 minutes a week cleaning house, now we spend 3 hours 40 minutes (I actually spend 0 hours). Too busy travelling, having full body massages, and discovering the pleasures of self-indulgence and pampering. Via Las Vegas!

Tuesday 1 May 2007


Years ago we visited Denver, Colorado and were greatly impressed with their claims of being “the biggest” “the first” “the greatest”. It seemed that outside of Denver the world didn’t exist. Dumped in the middle of arid land, in the middle of nowhere, it self-promoted itself into “the place to be”. Our American friends became frustrated with our tales of facts and wonders. You could almost hear them mutter under their breath “Bloody Denver, Denver, Denver I wish they would shut up about it”. Well now we will shut up. We have discovered …da-da-da..…BELFAST!

Did you know that Belfast has the largest dry dock in the world

Did you know that Belfast has the bigges cranes in the world (Samson and Delilah)?

Did you know that Belfast has the oldest English language newspaper in the World that was the first to print news of the French Revolution and The American Declaration of Independence?

Did you know that the defibrillator was invented and first used in Belfast?

Did you know that air-conditioning was invented and first used in Belfast?

Did you know that Doctors come to train in Belfast because they are world experts in the treatment of gunshot wounds and bomb trauma?

Did you know that Lord Baden-Powell (the founder of the scout movement) served in the army in Belfast and used to ride his horse to the local pub? OK, not a particularly amazing fact. But what is amazing is that he wouldn’t dismount. He simply rode into the pub, drank his Guinness and then went home to sleep it off. Now that’s a bit of English weirdness!

Oh! I could go on, but I won't

Belfast is an off the wall and wonderful place. Although we were obviously aware of the “troubles” it’s impossible to get a feel for what it's really like unless you go there. Thank goodness the city is now peaceful but they do say that coming up to the beginning of the marching season on the 12th July the tension between Catholics and Protestants begins to mount again.

The "peace wall" is still there to minimize intercommunal sectarian violence between them. The barriers themselves consist of iron, brick, and steel walls mainly 20/25 feet high (although local folklaw claims that in some sections it has recently been extended to a height of 50’!), topped with metal netting. The four crossing gates are closed at night.

Bearing in mind that this is a city about the size of Leicester it’s hard to it take it all in. A taxi driver told us that to this day local “war lords” control the streets and anyone with a problem goes to them to sort out, not the police. But…it’s the second safest city in the world, the safest city being Tokyo.

I remember in the 1950’/60’ the East End of London was ruled by gangsters and there was very little street crime their either. The little oich tearawys were too scared to misbehave or they would end up propping up the motorway. Maybe we should ask the “war lords” to run the county. Oh! My mistake – they do!!