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!