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I am a writer - late developer since I wasn't published until I was 50. I have now written 23 novels, numerous short stories and articles.


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Sunday, 10 August 2014

What is Looitis?  It’s a reasonable question for, though many suffer from it, often they are unaware  that they do.  Basically it is a fear if being loced in the lavatory.  All my life I have been afflicted with looitis.  It can strike anywhere, abroad or at home.  As I grow older it is getting worse which is a constant source of amusement to friends and family.
      I have lost count of the Gents I have mistakenly entered sometimes with quite an aggressive response, no doubt they think I am interested in their dangly bits – as if?
    Old ladies, in extremis hurl themselves at me.  The police were nearly called to a German Beer Cellar after I had blundered into the Gents for the fifth time!  It’s not simply the locks I can prove to be death to the interiors too.  Taps have a tendency to come off when I touch them and the resultant flooding leads to unpopularity.  I broke a loo pan once by standing on it in a vain attempt to see if anyone could rescue me – those cubicles are quite small and claustrophobia can easily set in.  Hand dryers die on me.  And I have to abandon any loo which has revolving doors – you don’t want to know!
    Recently I was at the BRI hospital in Bristol – a wonderful and caring institute.  The call of nature became evident.  A nurse insisted on guiding me though I said I could manage.  There in all its porcelain splendor stood the Disabled Loo, the sight of which gladdens the heart of anyone who is the least bit handicapped.             
     “If you get into difficulties press the orange button,” she said as she left.  I locked the door.
     I do wish that the disabled were consulted as to where and what they needed.  This was a prime example – the grab bars were virtually useless since they were too short, the loo paper was impossible to access given it was too far back.  The floor covering was slippery and with the short grab handles getting up was difficult – so I removed a shoe which always helps.  Slowly but surely I became upright. Putting out a hand for my crutch I knocked it flying across the room.  At this point zap the lights went off.
    I couldn’t find my shoe, despite being sure I knew where it was but this search inadvertently made me move away from the security of the toilet. Fortunately I felt the tap and hung onto it for dear life accidently pushing it so that a jet of water shot out to soak me and make the floor wet and more slippery. 
    This incident made me jump back – well not jump exactly but made me shuffle further into the room which, incidentally, was huge! Losing contact with the bog and the basin made me feel even more vulnerable. Where was my crutch – please behave, I have heard every crutch joke there is.  Panic began to grow, I could be here for a long time, had no one not noticed  . . .  and then the light went back on. 
     The cool cat – well, I like to think I am - who had gone in was no more, instead a wild eyed, wet, OAP with one shoe on effusively thanked the nurse who appeared in a flurry. 
    “Why didn’t you pull the orange alarm?” she asked.
    “I would have had I been able to see it!”
     “You should have moved about more, the light wouldn’t go off then.”
     “I was virtually doing a bloody tango . . .’
        Supported by the nurse I re-entered the waiting room to a chorus of “Three old ladies got locked in the lavatory . . .”  I pretended to be amused . . One friend upon being told of my adventure wittily pointed out – with a schoolboy snigger - that having a Motion Sensor Light  really IS a joke.

Rereading this I realise it doesn’t beat the time I sat on a special loo seat tor the disabled.  Settling down it suddenly took off and with me hanging on for dear life shot across the bathroom floor as if we were on the Cresta Run!

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Many of the events of history are nearer than we think.  Take the first World War, it has always been in the background of my life – stories of relatives who survived and those who didn’t.  I’d read the poems and wept over them and  Goodbye to All  That – by Roert Graves, a great book. 
     I toured the cemeteries of France, my fascination with the history made more real.  July 1st, 1972 we found ourselves, by accident, having a picnic on the front line of the Somme offensive but also on the very anniversary of its start. We all shivered as history clustered around us – the dawn start, by nightfall 20,000 of our soldiers dead.  ‘That’s only  56 years ago.” My eldest son had worked out.
“And Ma, only 21 years before you were born”  I told him no to be ridiculous, he wasn’t  it was true.  History is old, history is ages away, but you know, it’s not!

Between the wars, in 1922 my father, got talking to an old man outside a pub in Bourton on the Water.  Asked what he did, he replied he was in the navy.  “Then this will interest you.  You see, my father fought at the Battle of Trafalgar.” 
    At first my father was cynical but then working out the dates it became clear that it could be true.  Dad was born in 1900 so 95 years separated him from the battle.  The old man was, it transpired, in his mid-nineties.  He would have been born in approx. 1827  so his tale was likely to be true.  So I knew a man, who met a man, who was sired by a veteran of Trafalgar.

Now for the story of the ring.  In the late 50s I admired a ring worn by my husband’s grandmother who was a very imperious woman.  The ring was made of two large pearls, one pink and one black. “Would you like to try it on?”  Would I?  “It was Marie Antoinette’s.” she announced as if possessing such an object was routine.  I too was cynical.
      “How do you know it was?”  In retrospect this was rather rude of me.
      “Because when I was a very young gal, I knew a very old woman whose mother had been lady in waiting to the Queen – it was a present from her.”  This was accompanied by a withering look of such ferocity that I vowed never to question anything she said, ever!
        I should have asked for her name but even without I think it is true.
        Phyll Burgh was born in 1877 so she was separated from the Queen’s death by 84 years.  She said she was very young and the gift was from a very old lady -why didn’t I ask how old they both had been?  If the Queen’s attendant was young did she marry and become a mother after the execution of Marie Antionette?  If so, it is feasible.
        And the ring?  Was I left it?  Sadly no.  As she grew older she became very vague and no one knows what happened to it.  I just hope that whoever has it knows its story.

If any of you have had these brushes with history, please tell us.

Monday, 5 May 2014

It’s hard to admit but the inevitable has happened and I have to acknowledge my age is catching up with me – as yet I refuse to say it has totally caught up!
         What happened to change my attitude.  We moved house.  They say that the stress of moving is second to divorce or death of a loved one.  I had always laughed at this concept, what softies people are was my conclusion.  House moving for me was a regular occurrence – this was my 30th to date – I always approached it with optimism and excitement.  A new house, a new beginning, new friends and a chance to get rid of things and to finally sort out the drawers, which, I promised myself every New Year I would keep tidy and which every year were neglected and so full one had difficulty shutting them – until a moving date was arranged.
        Were we making the right choice never entered my mind – mansion, new build or cottage the anticipation was great and was, I thought, similar to the first day back at school or starting to write a new novel.
       This time the muddle we created doesn’t get any better after three weeks of taking possession the removal boxes await my attention, loads of them.  My theory is that at night they have orgies and create more boxes to empty.
       It’s not as if we are dumbing down, no way, this house is larger than move number 29 was, so sorting should be easier.  Wrong!  This house is cluttered to the roof top with my things.
      ‘ You own too much,  you’ve got to get rid of some stuff . . .’  This is the opinion of my long suffering daughter who is already custodian to loads of books, coffee tables, curtains and linen.   It’s easy to say but hard to do.  How can I possibly choose when most of my stuff – how I hate that word - for what is stuff to some is treasure to me. 
      For example, I have some hideous ornaments of dogs – presents from my children when young, how can I throw them away?  I have virtually every birthday, valentine and Christmas card sent me.  I have hats I never wear but remind me of the day I wore them and the happiness I encountered.  I do sometimes throw things out – witness the scores of champagne bottles I once jettisoned, it was hard for on each one I had written what we had been celebrating when we had drunk it. 
       Then there are the paintings.  I love them all, the walls of my homes are normally crowded with them, each one tells me where it wants to go – I used to hang them myself, now the arthritis in my elbows won’t let me so they stand forlorn waiting to put up.  Old age is not for wimps my friend Felicity told me.
       I’d best not start on the clothes.  Suffice to say the optimist I am always hopes I will one day get in those that are too small for me, and the logical me says best to keep everything that is too big incase I get larger.  To compound the problem I’ve bought some new – mainly to cheer me up.
       I am tired of the struggle.  Fed up with doing too much.  Fearful of the knowledge that I can no longer do what I used to do.   Am I old?  Too old for this moving lark.
        Depression loomed large until a friend’s mother said it was time I acknowledged I was old.  Unwittingly she is my savior.  Old?  Me? B******* say I as I open yet another box

Sunday, 9 February 2014
                                    The Silly Things We Say

"It’s a small world we live in," I said the other day to my friend Andrew.
"What a cliché.  Can't you think of something more original to say than that?” he growled.  Poor soul, I begin to feel sorry for him for he's reached the age when he’s beginning to show definite signs of turning into a grumpy old man.
‘The problem is they are clichés because they say what is true and so are often repeated.”  I responded, feeling quite grumpy myself as my position as a writer appeared to be under attack and, in my opinion, wrongly for this really was a case in point - I’d just discovered that a friend’s great-grandfather had had an affair with another friend’s great-grandmother and my mother-in-law knew them both - now is that strange or is that strange?
Mind you, these were exceptional circumstances when only a cliché would do.  However it got me thinking about sayings in general.  And we really do use some odd ones.
Lets imagine a middle aged woman who has just discovered that her husband has run off with his secretary who is a good two decades younger than her, far prettier and also fun.  A splendid rant at the unfairness of it all is called for which makes her feel a lot better until a friend pipes up with - 
“At least you can take comfort that there’s always someone worse off than you!  She then proceeds to illustrate this by telling her, invariably, of a person who has just been diagnosed with some awful disease. 
“I’m sorry for your friend, but I don’t care.  It’s my husband who has done a bunk,” our middle-aged woman snaps, and rightly so. “You’ll be telling me next that her cat is pregnant.” 
“How did you know?“ 
It is at this point that you wouldn’t be surprised nor would you criticise the spurned wife if she chose to clock them over the head with a flat iron.
Here’s another.  What about a girl or boy, it doesn’t matter which, who is certain they have met the love of their lives; they are wallowing in the bliss of pure love and passion - and then they get unceremoniously ditched. 
Never mind there are plenty more fish in the sea.”  Some prat consoles them.  So what on earth is the point of that?  This poor soul isn’t interested in fish.  It’s the love of their lives they want and yearn for.  I suppose if you were a manic fisherman it might be of interest but who wants to kiss a guppy when it’s their prince they long for?
One that can cover numerous eventualities, from death to losing your wallet, from getting the sack to finding your favourite dish in the restaurant is “Off” from going bankrupt to getting a spot before a big dance:  It was meant to be . . .something better will turn up.  Oh, yes?  Who says?
  I will confess to often using that particular cliché when the purchase of a house you’ve set your heart on falls through.  And in that case, I’ve discovered, it’s often true.  I’ve lost count, in my peripatetic live, of the number of times a sale has collapsed and we’ve ended up with a far nicer home. 
A leopard never changes his spots.  How daft is that.  Just think about it for a minute, why on earth would a leopard want to change his spots? I’m sure they are perfectly happy the way they are.  And who knows, if they did change their spots maybe their mums wouldn’t recognise them.  And in any case, how would they go about it?  In the jungle or wherever leopards live.
And why is it just leopards?  What’s so special about them?  What about Zebras changing their stripes, or ladybirds, and how about Gloucester Old Spot?  Why persecute the leopards?
A stitch in time saves nine.   Who counted?  That’s plain silly, it could be more but then on the other hand it might be less.
It never rains but it pours.  Oh no it doesn’t.  What’s a shower?  Hardly a downpour is it?  Perhaps you could say that in all honesty in the tropics but not here.
Every cloud has a silver lining.  No it doesn’t.  We’ve all seen clouds there ain’t no silver there.
Life is what you make it.  No it isn’t.  Life happens - if you could control it then we’d all be whatever we wanted.  Personally I would be a brunette, beautiful slim, rich and with a seductive low laugh, not the snort I ended up with.
The grass is always greener.  That is just not true. I can look out of my window and prove to you that is a lie.
There are a couple of new ones I’ve noticed.  What goes around comes around.  Now what exactly does that mean?  If some kind soul would explain it to me.  And the other is I’ll give it 110% don’t trust whoever promises you that, don’t you know it doesn’t exist!

This article first appeared in the CGA magazine.