If it weren’t for the gates and the crowds it could be any London street.
But Downing St is no ordinary street. And number 10 is no ordinary house. It vies with the White House as the most important political building anywhere in the world in modern times. For the past 275 years, many of the most important decisions affecting Britain have been taken behind its front door. And some of the most famous political figures of modern history have lived and worked at Number 10.
In addition to being the official residence of the British Prime Minister it’s also the PM’s office and the place where the Prime Minister entertains guests from British Royalty to presidents of the United States and other world leaders.
The façade is deceptive. When you see the front door on TV news you imagine a small town house but in reality it’s much larger than it appears.
In the early 18th century number 10 was joined to a more spacious and elegant building behind it. It’s also taken over much of number 12 which is reached by a corridor that runs through number 11- the official residence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
I actually experienced the inside of 10 Downing Street in 2015 when we were invited on a private tour. It was the summer vacation and number 10 was being cleaned.
We were shown all the public rooms, not the PM’s own rooms or his office but virtually everywhere else.
The public rooms, used for entertaining dignitaries, are the height of opulence. Chandeliers, fine art, porcelain, elegant furniture and the kind of carpets you might see in stately homes.
The walls of the spiral staircase are adorned with framed photographs of all the Prime Ministers down through the years. On the ground floor one can see group pictures of all the different PMs with their cabinets from the past to the present, complete with everyone’s autographs.
The highlight of our tour was seeing the cabinet room, its table covered with a green baize cloth. One chair was not pushed in but kept at an angle and that, we were told, is where the prime minister always sits. In another room, similar in size but grander, we saw the long table that’s used for ministerial banquets.
Afterwards, to our amusement, when we walked back down the street and out through the gates we were photographed by tourists who clearly thought we must have been special visitors. And for a while we had felt that we were.
It’s said that everyone remembers the birth of their first child. Ours is etched in my memory.
Janice had gone to bed early. There I was watching “The Great Escape” when there was a piercing scream from upstairs followed by a loud thump.
“Johnny!” I heard her yell. “I need you!” I leapt upstairs.
There was Janice, lying in a pool of water.
“My waters have broken.” She was sobbing.
“Phone Joan the midwife! Get her to come NOW!”
I tried to calm her down.
“But you’re not due yet.”
So I did, only to be told that Joan was out and would get back to me. There were no mobile phones back then. We were stuck. And Janice was literally stuck on the bed. I tried to move the wet sheet from under her, but she just screamed at me.
“Johnny, I think the baby’s coming!”
I panicked then, I can tell you. I was desperately trying to remember what they’d said at the hospital. Something about keeping calm and not panicking!
“Keep calm,” I said, in my best soothing voice.
She screamed back at me, “I am calm!”
The phone rang. It was the midwife and I managed to gabble what had happened. “Stay calm,” she said.
“Aaarghhh!” yelled Janice.
“I’m not going to be able to get there. Have you seen outside?”
I glanced out of the window. Snow!
“Have you timed her contractions?”
“They’re coming frequently,” I replied, as Janice yelled again, this time with a supressed grunt.
“If it’s happening this fast, it’ll be fine.”
I don’t know who was breathing more rapidly, me or Janice. She had starting panting like a dog on a hot day.
“Aargh!” screamed Janice. “It’s coming!”
Between her legs I could see this pale lump. The baby’s head!
Joan was reassuring. “No need to do anything. Just support the head with your hands as it comes out.”
There was a wounded animal cry from Janice as more of the baby’s head appeared.
“Pant!” urged the midwife.
“Pant!” I shouted.
Janice panted. And then in a moment, it was all over. Our son slid out between Janice’s legs.
“Now lift baby onto your wife’s tummy.”
Janice reached down to touch our son. Was he alive?
Then the magic moment when he cried. We were crying too.
“You’re amazing,” I told her. “I’m so proud of you.”
“Don’t touch the cord.” The midwife was still there on the phone. “Cover your wife and child. An ambulance is on its way.”
Janice had put our boy to her breast. His little toes were curled up in ecstasy.
“Hello son,” she whispered, “I’ve been wanting to meet you for a long time.”
And do you know, he opened his eyes and looked right at her.
There was a ring at the door.
“Congratulations!” The ambulance man beamed. “What’s his name?”
“Noah.” We both said it together.
“Ah,” smiled the ambulance guy, surveying the soaking wet bed.
The writers’ group I attend set the task of writing 450-500 words on the topic of, “A tight situation”.
I brainstormed various ideas of difficult situations and came up with this idea. Hope you enjoy reading it. Please feel free to comment below and let me know what you think.
The bells of Westminster Abbey tolled the hour.
“It is time.” said someone sombrely.
In the ensuing silence there was a loud yell.
“Mum”, whispered Tom, “they’ll hear you on TV.”
“This is a disaster. I’ve laddered my stockings! What am I going to do?”
She nudged the young woman next to her.
“Kate, have you got a spare pair of tights on you?”
Kate silently shook her head and put her finger to her lips as the TV cameras swung towards them.
“Oh heck,” muttered Camilla, “what the hell shall I do?”
She looked around furtively. No one appeared to be watching. A quick fumble under her skirt and she had unfastened the stockings from her suspender belt. Thank goodness she still wore them – so much easier to get off. At least, that’s what Charles had always said.
“Quick,” she whispered to Kate, “pass me your tights!”
“That’s crazy! We can’t swap tights!”
“Of course not!”
Kate looked relieved.
“I’ll wear yours and you can go bare legged. You’re young enough to get away with it. No one will notice. But I can’t appear in front of the cameras with a huge ladder for all the world to see.”
“I can’t take them off here. We’ll have to go to the ladies’ room.”
“OK. You go first.”
Kate was seated at the end so it was easy for her to slip away. A few minutes later she was back, with the tights balled up in her hand.”
“Here you go.”
“You’re a star.” Camilla smiled.
“Be quick. It’s nearly time.”
Camilla didn’t want to draw attention to herself, so she sidled along, smiling benignly at people who nodded to her as she made her way to the back of the Abbey. But where was the loo? She started to panic. It was no good, she would have to nip outside and do the deed hidden around the corner.
With minutes to spare, she saw the sign. Ladies. At least it wasn’t gender neutral! She crept into a stall and quickly put the tights on. Thank goodness they fitted.
The clock struck two followed by a loud fanfare.
Kate was looking around and at the same time trying to remain the serene and smiling Kate the world knew and loved.
“Don’t panic, I’m back!” Camilla smiled at Kate with relief. “All done. And just in time. The procession is about to begin.”
Breakfast the following morning was a very quiet affair since Charles had stopped speaking to her.
The most momentous day of his life and nothing had been written about him! Not a sausage.
Instead, there was page after page of photos of Camilla and Kate. And to top it all, there was a close-up of Camilla unfastening her suspender and several pictures of a bare legged Kate in the photo line-up.
As for the headline, it read: “A tight situation for King Charles 3rd!”
I wrote this blog in the early days of Covid. It’s amazing to remember what our lives were like then.
Holidays are upon us. Where are you going? Will it be Brighton, Bournemouth or Southend this year?
Or maybe somewhere a little less crowded? Barnard Castle perhaps?
Holidaying in the UK is something OH (other half) and I thought we’d be doing when we were too old, too infirm, too tired and too ill to go anywhere else.
We said we’re not getting any younger – let’s seize the day. Travel the world, explore as much as we can because who knows what’s around the corner? Well, now we know!
I’m not only thinking of the pandemic but also of Brexit which is going to stymie many people’s travel plans. With the increased cost of travel insurance, health cover and flights – Covid or not, travel is sadly not going to be the same in the future.
So here we all are seeking out the best beaches in the UK – of which there are plenty – as long as everyone else hasn’t had the same idea of where to go. When the weather’s good and the water’s clean then you can’t beat anywhere in the UK for a holiday. Even the food nowadays is better, thank goodness.
A little over a year ago we were in Thailand. OH (other half) had a meeting in Bangkok so we thought we’d travel there a little earlier and chill out on a beach somewhere. We ended up choosing a fabulous resort on the island of Koh Samui, a short plane ride from Bangkok.
When I see someone on TV having what looks like a fantastic meal, I start salivating. So I won’t get you metaphorically salivating by telling you how wonderful this place was or describing the beautiful pool, the stunning scenery, the glorious beaches and the mouth watering food. I will leave all that to your imagination.
Instead I will tell you about our penultimate day.
There were kayaks on the beach so we thought we’d go out in one. That was our first mistake. OH (other half) had paddled (if that’s the right word) a kayak a few weeks previously. But that was on a calm lake in the Cotswolds. The water here was calm. Or so we thought. That was our second mistake. We had spent most of the holiday swimming in the pool because the sea here – although beautifully warm – turned out to be incredibly shallow. Or so we thought. It was evening. No one was around aside from the guy who was manning the kayaks. He made us put on life jackets which we did reluctantly.
Out we paddled to the line of buoys (our third mistake) – over which one was not meant to cross because there was a coral reef. As we drew closer to the buoys something odd happened. Waves started to roll towards us. Waves in the Pacific. Who knew? OH attempted to steer the kayak so that we did not cross over the buoys. And you can probably guess what happened next. The boat overturned and we fell out. And instead of the shallow water we had been expecting the sea came right up to our chests. Or, in my case, being only 5 foot one and a half inches tall, up to my neck. But we could stand. So that was good. We upturned the kayak and took off our life jackets as they were pretty cumbersome.
Then OH let out a yell. (He may even have sworn.) The camera! Before the holiday OH had bought a waterproof camera. Unbeknown to me he had brought it with on this trip and had left it on the floor of the boat. It was gone. Somewhere beneath the Pacific ocean was our camera with all our holiday photos. Lost and gone forever. We were distraught. We looked around for a while but the water was getting deeper and the night was beginning to fall. So we headed back with the kayak in tow. Not swimming but walking. Not waving but drowning.
Our man on the beach barely spoke English. We tried to explain about the lost camera. He tried to explain that the beach staff would try and find it in the morning when the tide had turned. Yet another mistake on our part. Who knew there were tides in the Pacific? No wonder he had insisted on the life jackets.
That evening I googled – as you do – lost cameras and found this incredible story of a camera that had been lost and found two years later.
The next evening was our last night on the island. The staff hadn’t found our camera so we decided to have one last look. This time, no kayak. No life jackets. Just face masks. Not the Covid kind. Think big goggles.
We walked out to where we thought the kayak had overturned. Again the water was very deep. We started diving down to look. We swam and dived all along the side of the line of buoys. But no joy. It could have been anywhere. We had not expected to find it. Nevertheless I felt disappointed at the loss of all those wonderful photos we had taken. Sights we would never see again.
OH suggested that we separate. He would look a little further in while I stayed closer to the buoys. And thus we made our way swimming and diving back towards our starting point. All of a sudden there was a loud yell from OH. Not a yell which said I’ve been stung but a yell of joy. He had found it! Looking down he had spotted the camera’s lanyard floating on the sea bed. We could not believe our luck. Who would have thought it? To say we were overjoyed is an understatement.
And amazingly, it was still working perfectly.
Have a good weekend – wherever you are in the world. Thanks for reading my blog. See you next week!
I don’t often write fiction that’s just based on dialogue so thought I’d have a go.
Let me know what you think.
Strange meeting you here, he said. How many years has it been?
I looked at the guy but I just couldn’t place him. Was it a former boyfriend? A lover even.
Maybe an old colleague?
I’m sorry, I said. But I’ve forgotten your name.
He didn’t look put out so maybe he hadn’t been anyone important in my life. That was a relief.
I’d be really hurt if I bumped into someone from the past and they didn’t remember my name!
Derek French, he said smiling
Derek French. I was none the wiser.
This probably sounds rude, I said, but where do I know you from?
You seriously don’t remember?
No, otherwise I wouldn’t be asking you.
We were at school together.
I’m sorry, I only remember my friends and they were all girls
I taught you for English, he said. If I remember you were pretty good. One of the best in the class, in fact.
Ah, that explains it. I would never have known your first name. We called you Frenchie! I’m surprised you remember me.
I’ve never forgotten you he said, which sent my alarm bells ringing. What are you doing now?
Nothing exciting. I’m actually in between jobs at the moment. What about you? Are you still teaching?
He hesitated just for a moment before replying. I gave up teaching a long time ago. Or should I say it gave me up.
Just then a woman about my age joined us and linked arms with his. Derek, she said, do you want to introduce us?
This is Charlotte, he said. My wife.
And this is … she asked
He smiled awkwardly. I’m sorry but I don’t remember your name. I recognised you of course. You haven’t changed a bit but the name … he trailed off embarrassed.
Ah yes, Jane.
Charlotte was dragging on his arm, keen to be away.
Well, good to see you again Jane. And he was gone.
Something niggled me about this meeting so when I got home I googled his name.
It turned out that not long after I left the school that Charlotte had been a pupil in his class. She must have been about ten years or so younger than him when they began their affair, which if my memory served me correctly, was not the first time he had had a relationship with one of his pupils.
Well, at least this one had lasted. However, the school had not approved and he had been sacked.
Odd though that he said he had never forgotten me. I wonder why?
There was once a prince who lived in the most beautiful palace. Everyone loved him.
But was he happy? No.
Nobody loves me, he said.
There was only one person whom he had ever truly loved, but she died.
And he cried bitter tears. Not just for her. But for himself.
Where his tears had fallen flowers grew and soon the palace was surrounded by thousands of flowers, all with messages declaring love for the prince.
But was he happy? No.
Nobody loves me, he said mournfully.
The prince grew up and had many friends and colleagues who cared about him. Countless women fell in and out of love with him.
But was he happy? No.
Then the prince fell deeply in love with a beautiful woman and for a while he was happy. But his new love told him that he was not happy and that his life was not worth living. So the two of them agreed to leave everything and everyone he knew to start a new life for themselves.
But was he happy? No.
Nobody loves me, was his mantra. He took every opportunity to tell people how he felt. Eventually he told his father, I don’t want to be a prince any more.
That’s fine with me, said his dad, but then you can no longer live in a palace. We will still call you prince but you can no longer expect to have all the good things that go with the title.
The prince moved to a new country far away where he had a beautiful house, servants, two beautiful children and everything his heart desired. But was he happy? No.
He started to take pills and other drugs hoping they would make him happy.
The prince complained to anyone in the world who would listen that his father had been cruel, that his wicked stepmother hated him and that his family, whom he had chosen to leave, did not want him.
Everyone he met wanted to hear what he had to say about his old life compared to the new one.
I was not happy, he said. No one listened to me, he said. Everyone wanted a piece of me, he said.
Advisors told him, you must tell the world how you feel, how you have been mistreated.
And so he did.
He gave interviews to the newspapers, appeared on TV and even blogged – with some help and encouragement from his beautiful wife – on his very own web site.
But still he was not happy.
So he wrote a book which everyone read. It sold millions of copies all over the world and made the prince even richer than he had ever been before. But not any happier.
I would like to be able to tell you that this is a mere fairy tale. But, sadly, it is all true.
And it looks like the prince is going to live unhappily ever after.
Today is Holocaust Memorial Day. I recently watched a very powerful documentary on BBC4 TV. It was called, "The US and the Holocaust".
I believe it is still available in the UK on iPlayer. There are three episodes, each two hours long. I urge you to watch it even if you think, as I did, that you know all there is to know about the subject.
I’d also like to share with you this poem I wrote last year.
This candle I light because we are without power. I nurse our new born son in the dark.
This candle I light because it is my birthday. Make a secret wish. Don’t tell a soul or else it won’t come true.
This candle I light just for fun. And because I like its fragrance.
This candle I light for romance. Candlelight is flattering in the dark.
This candle I light in a student bedsit and listen to the gravelly voice of Bob Dylan for the very first time.
This candle I light in a village church asking for prayers for someone gravely ill. I’ve never done this before.
This candle I light is a centre piece at our first born’s wedding feast.
This candle I light at the opera in Verona. A giant amphitheatre lit by a thousand candles glowing in the dark.
This candle I light to light all the other candles on the eight branched Chanukah menorah that belonged to my mother.
This candle I light to welcome in the Sabbath. We break bread, drink wine and count our blessings.
This candle I light in memory of a loved one on the anniversary of their passing.
This candle I light to remember all the loved ones we have lost during Covid.
This candle I light for all the dead souls of Ukraine. May their memory be a blessing.
This candle I light is a symbol of love and peace and hope and grief and remembrance.
This candle I light as a Memorial for the 6 million men, women and children who were murdered in the Holocaust just for being Jewish.
The writers’ group I attend (Watford Writers) regularly sets a writing task with a topic and a word count. The stories or poems are posted online for us to mark without our knowing who wrote what. It is only once the deadline for marking has passed that we discover who the authors were. You can read all these stories on our website – http://www.watfordwriters.org
“Flash fiction” is what we normally call very short story with a word count of 500 words or less.
I tend to overwrite and then need to cut down, taking out all unnecessary words.
Last week’s topic was, appropriately, on the subject of “Deadline”.
This is what I wrote.
Do comment below and let me know what you think and if you enjoyed reading it.
Six months ago something happened that changed my life.
Joe and me had always done the lottery ever since we first got together. Our numbers were always the same. My birthday. His birthday. Our wedding day. That’s how romantic we were!
We were so used to not winning that we didn’t even bother to watch it on the telly anymore. Then mum phoned us up very excited.
“Weren’t those your numbers?” she asked me. At first I didn’t realise what she was talking about.
“The lottery!” She screamed at me down the phone. We checked the numbers and couldn’t believe it. They were our numbers! But there was just one small problem. Where was the ticket? Joe said that he always put it in the same place. But it wasn’t there. We searched high and low. Amazing what we found in some of our cupboards but not the one thing we were looking for.
I was despairing. What we could only do with all that money!
There was about six months until the deadline so Joe said to give it time. Over the next few months we turned the house upside down. We also turned on one another. I blamed him. He blamed me. We both blamed my mother. She drove me crazy, phoning every day asking if we’d found it yet.
It was making me ill. I couldn’t sleep at night for wondering where the thing was. And, also planning in my head how we’d spend the money once we had it. It was the only thing we could talk about. And then we just stopped talking. Joe thought I’d accidentally thrown it away. He sulked like only Joe can and walked around the house with a mean, moody face.
I started taking it out on him because he was the one that had hidden the ticket in the first place. I picked on him all the time. In the end he waltzed off and slept in the spare bedroom.
And then he started staying late at work. After a while, he stopped coming home at all. Friends said they’d seen him chatting up the barmaid at the Rose & Crown. I said she was welcome to him for all I care.
As for the ticket, I didn’t stop looking. You only have 180 days and the deadline was fast approaching. Where could the damn thing be?
Joe didn’t come home. He didn’t even phone to see how I was. Next thing I knew he had moved in with that blonde bimbo. I thought she’d soon tire of him but they stayed together.
The weeks passed. And so did the deadline.
And then last week, I saw Joe with that blonde bitch getting out of a Porsche. He must have found the ticket and cashed it in without telling me, the bastard.
The French girl I had been corresponding with was called Sylvie and lived in Paris. I was fifteen years old and had been invited to stay with her. I was so excited at the thought of seeing Paris for the first time.
She was the only child of what seemed to me to be rather elderly parents and extremely mollycoddled. Her parents struck me as overly protective – we were not allowed out at all. Although Sylvie was fifteen they still treated her as a child. She even looked and dressed like a kid. “Sylvie is like me”, said her mother. “She won’t develop or start her periods till she’s 18.” Sylvie’s father would take her on to his lap and call her my petite chou fleur – my little cauliflower.
It was only years later that I realised that my French penfriend’s parents’ apartment on the Avenue Victor Hugo was on one of the wealthiest roads in Paris. Yet, even though we were a short stroll from the Arc de Triomphe I was never shown any of the sights – not even the Eiffel tower!
I slept on an uncomfortable chaise longue in their living room, a room filled with dark antique furniture. Sometimes Sylvie’s father would burst into the room when I was getting dressed. An accident, I thought, until he began playing footsie with me under the dining room table!
After a few days of not adventuring out in Paris we drove to their villa in Dunkirk, a dark gloomy house where everything was covered in dust sheets. Sylvie’s mother did not cook. There was an elderly unsmiling housekeeper who produced barely edible meals – totally unrelated to any French food I had had before or since.
Every day we would go to the beach. The tide would be far out and madame wouldn’t allow us to swim until three hours after eating, by which time it was time to go home. Sylvie and I played cache cache (hide and seek) on the beach with children much younger than ourselves. The most fun I had was the day I buried my French penfriend up to her neck in the sand.
Every evening was the same. We would play cards and then go to bed early. I would ask if we could go out in the evening but was always told, no. One time I saw that there was going to be a fair and begged if we could go. To my amazement I got my way but we were only allowed to walk through the fair and not to stop.
One day Sylvie’s father shoved the day’s newspaper in front of me. Marilyn Monroe’s photograph was emblazoned all over the front page. She had died. “She was a whore” he spat but then, to him, any woman who wore lipstick, was a whore. It was the 4th August 1962.
I couldn’t wait to get back to Paris and maybe some sightseeing but it was not to be. My parents, who were away on holiday, had written to me and I had replied saying what a miserable time I was having. There were only a few days left when one day my parents arrived unexpectedly and insisted on taking me out sightseeing. I had a wonderful whirlwind tour of the Eifel Tower, the Champs Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe. On my very last night they took me to the Lido nightclub to see its famous cabaret. On being told of their plans, Sylvie’s father was appalled. “The Lido? But you are only 15. There are naked women there.” He was positively salivating.
I sat with my parents at a table close to the stage. It seemed odd to be eating food whilst half naked women posed nearby. At that time the performers were forbidden from moving. Instead they formed artistic tableaus with feathers and other ornaments hiding any of the bits that Monsieur would like to have seen.
Needless to say, I never wrote to my pen-pal again but I still know how to say the names of all the playing cards in French!
81 years ago today, on December 7 1941, hundreds of Japanese fighter planes made a surprise attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbor. 2,403 Americans died that day and another thousand were wounded. It was this that finally persuaded Franklin Roosevelt to enter the Second World War.
I wrote this poem after visiting the Arizona Memorial in 2014.
If you think you don’t like his music, try listening to Suzanne, That’s no way to say goodbye, I’m your man, Dance me to the end of love, Alexandra leaving – then tell me there is no melody.
And, of course, everyone knows Hallelujah – though I don’t think it’s his best by any means. If you listen to the lyrics, you will wonder why it’s a song children sing!
The thing about Leonard Cohen is that his songs can never be background music. You have to listen to the words!
Fair enough, he didn’t have a great voice – even in his youth.
This next poem of mine is not so much about Leonard Cohen but more about a nostalgia for the past.
As they say, nostalgia isn’t what it used to be!
In bed with Leonard Cohen
I want to be back.
Back sitting on someone’s floor
at a party I’ve gate-crashed,
listening to some gorgeous long haired guy
singing, ‘Suzanne takes you down’.
And I want to see again
those photos of Elvis
having his hair cut for the army.
And I want to be again
sneaking into my first X film,
hiding cigarettes from my parents,
holding hands with someone I’ve only just met
dancing obscenely close in some Soho cellar.
I want to be kissed again
for the very first time.
I want to hear Buddy Holly on a juke box.
Sip my first coke in a Wimpy bar,
my first rum and coke in a real bar.
I want to be hearing Dylan,
The Everly Brothers,
for the very first time.
I want to be hugged by my mum and dad.
I want to be back.
Take me back.
But here I am
in bed with Leonard Cohen
and his ‘Book of Longing’.
Longing to be back.
Those of you who enjoy my poems may like to know that a book of my poetry, “Wonderland” is available. The cost is £6.50 including postage within the UK. If you’d like a copy, please contact me through this blog. Simply comment below. Thank you!
My dear friend, the late Mel Stein, was a man of many talents. Aside from being a wonderful husband, father, grandfather and good friend to so many, he was also an accomplished writer with more than 20 books to his name. Among many other things he was also a sports lawyer, broadcaster, song writer and a visiting professor at Coventry University.
He also had a gift for writing poetry. Not that long ago he sent me some of the poems he had written. I was particularly moved by this one which he had left untitled.
I have called it, “Trains”.
Children always love trains, The moment of excitement when the whistle blows. The doors close and the station Gently disappears behind the tracks. Children always love trains, The thrill of the countryside flashing past, The packed lunch and the questions, Are we nearly there yet? Children always love trains, Until the door is shut and there is no air, No toys, no food, no light, And questions remain unanswered. They are welcomed by dogs and guards, Dragged screaming from their mothers, A single teddy abandoned on the rain-soaked platform. Children always love trains.
With grateful thanks to Mel’s wife, Marilyn, for letting me post his poem here.
For the first three months of Covid I was blogging every single day.
I posted this blog in May, 2020.
Looking back, it’s hard to believe what our lives were like then.
Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, I have these blogs to remind me – and you – of how crazy things were then.
“Where is the life that late I led? Where is it now? Totally dead.” Kiss Me Kate
Whatever happened to joined up thinking?
Well, what do you know? As a response to public demand (I joke) cleaners are now allowed to go into people’s homes, which is great if you’re not able to cope with the work yourself. But many people who work as cleaners – ours included – don’t drive. They travel on the tube and buses to get to their destinations. They may come from homes where they are living with a large number of others. So, much as I would like not to have to clean our home any more, I will pass on that one. Yet, I cannot enter our children’s homes unless of course I decide to become their cleaner!
People can now meet up with a friend or a member of their family but only one person at a time and only as long as they practise social distancing – did that word ever exist in our language before this? So, I could meet up with one of our children – at a safe distance – and then OH (other half) could meet up with them. All of us have been in lockdown. None of us have gone anywhere except for walks. But we can only meet up with our children one at a time. What is the thinking behind that?
Yet, when we walk on the field near our home we see all the dog walkers gathering in groups together chatting away – a few feet apart from one another but certainly far more than one to one.
Our children cannot come inside our home and we cannot go into theirs. However, we are allowed to put our house on the market. Complete strangers can come and view it as long as they keep their distance. So, does that mean that if our children wanted to view our home that they could come inside it? And vice versa?
At very little notice for the teachers, small children are going to be allowed to return to school. How are young children going to practise social distancing? How are the children going to be kept apart at playtime?
Will the teachers and other workers at the school wear masks? Won’t the children find this a little scary and intimidating?
We are told that parents can choose whether or not to send their children to school. Won’t this create two different classes of school kids?
And what about the staff, the dinner ladies, the cleaners, the caretaker, the teaching assistants – are they all going to get PPE?
How are the parents going to return to work if they can’t turn to their parents (the children’s grandparents) for childcare as many of them did before?
Where is the joined up thinking in all this?
What’s the hurry? Why not wait till September for children to return to school? Or even January if necessary? And if children are to go back to school, why not start with the older children who will understand the need for social distancing? They are the ones who have been more affected by the lockdown. Many of them have exams. Surely it would make far more sense to start with them? And even if they were allowed to return to school, someone would need to still be at home to care for their younger siblings. So how can their parents return to work?
I can cope with missing all the things we used to do. I don’t mind not having holidays, going out for meals, seeing friends, going to the theatre, the cinema, travelling on public transport and so on. But, like so many of our friends, I am missing spending time with our grandchildren. Touching them. Cuddling them. Holding them. Kissing them. No amount of telephone calls, Zoom, Face Time, WhatsApp or other screen time can replace this.
I was six at the time of the Coronation and had not long been at school. The day before my mother dressed me in a red, white and blue dress. I remember the teacher, Miss Wren (amazing that I can still remember her name) lifting me up onto her desk to show the whole class.
At that time, we lived off a main road which had very little traffic – there were far fewer cars then. The centre of the road for its whole mile long length was greensward. Today it is a dual carriageway without any grass at all but back then it was a quiet backwater.
To celebrate the coronation there was going to be a fete with bunting, stalls, tug of war, egg and spoon races and other games. All the local people had gathered on the green in the middle of the road.
***I remember there was a fancy dress competition. My mother had the idea to dress me up as a salad girl. She covered my white knickers with lettuce leaves and hung slices of egg and cucumber around my neck and bare chest. On my head I wore a tiara of tomatoes.
All the kids had to walk round in a wide circle in front of the judges. Behind me was a lad of about 9 who had been dressed up to look like what we then called, a red Indian warrior. His face and body had been vividly decorated in war paint and over his face he wore a very scary mask. I had to walk round and round in front of this kid and I was terrified. I left the circle a few times but was persuaded to go back. It felt like the warrior was chasing me and I could not wait for the parade to finish. To my surprise, I won though I don’t remember what I received as a prize. I was just pleased and relieved to escape what for me had been a very frightening experience.***
At the end of the fete all the children were presented with a miniature golden coach and horses. I don’t remember what happened to mine which is a shame as it would have been a lovely thing to pass on to my children. We were also given a book which I still own. It has full colour pictures of the Queen and all the dignitaries and clergymen in their ceremonial robes. It shows the route they took from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey.
I can still remember the tune and most of the words of a song we all sang at that time:
“In a golden coach there’s a heart of gold riding through old London town
With the sweetest Queen the world’s ever seen wearing her golden crown.
As she rides in state through the palace gate, her beauty the whole world will see
In a golden coach there’s a heart of gold that belongs to you and me.”
The Queen was there for most of my lifetime. It’s hard to think of life going on without her.
***I found this old photo recently and realised that the fancy dress competition did not, in fact, take place at the time of the Queen’s Coronation! It was actually held at a holiday camp at Bognor Regis! And, from the photo, it looks like I was closer to three than six years old!
Of all the tributes I have read, I found this one, from the BBC’s Royal correspondent, Jonny Dymond, one of the most moving. He said: “This is the moment history stops; for a minute, an hour, for a day or a week, this is the moment history stops.”
Readers from outside the UK may not know of this well known programme which has been on the radio since 1942. You are asked to imagine that you are stranded on a desert island and to choose which eight pieces of music you would like to have with you – assuming you have something on which to play them! Over the years many famous people have given their choices and their explanations for them. From Marlene Dietrich to George Clooney.
Given that we are all now, to a larger or lesser extent, in isolation, my writers’ group asked us to imagine what music we would like to hear if we were stranded on a desert island.
This was my choice. It would be interesting to know if you agree with it and/or what music you would choose. I…
I am reposting this poem of mine in memory of my good friend, Mel Stein, who died last week.
Mel and I first met when I was a teenager. I was introduced to him by a mutual friend when strap hanging on the tube in the rush hour. I was already working as a copywriter at a London ad agency and Mel was a law student at King’s College, University of London.
“You must meet Mel,” she had said. “You both write poetry.”
And that began nearly sixty years of a lasting friendship.
I didn’t share Mel’s love of football but we did share a love of Leonard Cohen.
When I posted this poem, Mel emailed, “This is the best thing I’ve read of yours. Excellent.”
Yet another task from my writers’ group. We were asked to choose the first line from any classic novel and turn it into a piece of flash fiction.
My choice was the novel, “I Capture The Castle” by Dodie Smith – the author of 101 Dalmations.
The first line is – I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.
Now read on.
FOR THE ATTENTION OF DR CYRIL
Tuesday 16th May
I write this sitting in the kitchen sink.
I’ve no idea how I got here or why. At least, the sink is dry.
Wednesday 18th May
Yesterday a neighbour brought me back home. It appears I was wandering down the road in my nighty. I don’t remember a thing.
Friday 20th May
My daughter phoned me today. Our neighbour had the gall to phone her and tell her what happened a couple of days ago. What a nerve! I don’t phone her son when she does something stupid.
Monday 23rd May
The kids have been nagging me to do something about my forgetfulness so I’ve made an appointment to see my GP. In the meantime, the doctor suggests I keep notes – hence this journal.
Tuesday 24 May
I stayed home today. I feel a bit nervous about going out after what happened the other day.
Wed 25th May
Something odd happened today. I decided to drive into Watford to go shopping – the first time since the pandemic. I know the way backwards and found my way there easily. Parking was straightforward and I even remembered where I had left the car. BUT I couldn’t find my way home. I know this sounds crazy but I drove round and round the link road because I had no idea what exit to take. Yet I’ve done this thousands of times over the years. I ended up phoning my daughter Alice and having to ask her the way. I felt such a fool. I won’t repeat what she said to me but she made me feel like I was ten years old and that she was my mother. You would never have found me speaking to my parents like that.
Saturday 28th May
The children came round this afternoon for tea. All went well. At least I remembered they were coming!
Monday 30th May
I felt incredibly sad today – I don’t know why. I miss not seeing the children. It’s time I had them round for tea.
Wed 1 June
I had a phone call out of the blue today from our GP practice. They want me to come in and have some kind of test.
Monday 6 June
Well, that was a waste of time. I saw one of the practice nurses and she asked me lots of silly questions. I had to draw the numbers on a clock face and try to remember stuff she had said to me. As if!
Tuesday 7 June
It seems my GP has referred me to the hospital for a brain thingy though I don’t know what good that will do.
I received a call from Watford General today. It seemed I missed an appointment there.
Writing flash fiction is a particular skill. You are given a word count which you must not exceed. There lies the problem for me as I tend to over write and then have to drastically cut down!
Recently in the writers’ group I attend (nowadays we tend to “meet” on Zoom – which has been a life saver these past two years) we were asked to write on the subject of “next door” in 450-500 words.
I initially had the idea of writing about next door neighbours but thought that would be the obvious choice. As I used to say to my writing students, your first thought is not usually your best!
I then came up with the rather cheeky idea of incorporating the words next door into my story – as you will see in the first paragraph.
Hope you like it. Do comment below and let me know what you think.
Notes from a diary
I saw him again today as I was coming out of Next. He was waiting at the door. The minute he saw I had seen him he turned away and fiddled with his phone.
My face felt clammy and I could feel my heart beating faster. This was no coincidence. It was the third time this week that he had turned up in the same place as me.
When mum phoned this evening, I told her what had happened. You’ve got to report it to the police, she said.
I sighed wearily.
It’s no good mum. I’ve tried and they’re just not interested. To have your ex following you around is par for the course to them. One of them joked to me that he must be really smitten. They don’t seem to consider it as stalking. He’ll have to kill me before they sit up and take notice!
Come home for a bit, mum suggested.
How can I? I need to be in Watford for my job. I’ve only been at Next for a few weeks and I really love it there. I said I’d see her at the weekend and left it at that.
Aside from that one time when I spoke to the police, I haven’t told anyone other than mum. I can’t help feeling it’s my fault somehow that he’s following me. One of the young coppers asked, had I done anything to encourage him? As if. It’s not as if we had been going out for that long. I only knew him for a few months. It was fine at first. I liked the fact that he was very attentive. It was flattering that he wanted to spend every spare moment with me.
After he moved in, that’s when he became more controlling, even to the point of taking away my phone. It all became too much and I tried to break it off a number of times. He went crazy, threatening to kill himself if I kicked him out. I didn’t know what to do.
In the end I just didn’t go home. I told him mum was ill and that I was going to see her. But instead, I went for the Next interview and got this job at Watford. One of the girls there is letting me stay at hers for a while. But now, somehow or other, he’s tracked me down. Maybe he’s hacked into my Facebook account? I’m so scared. I just don’t know what to do. I can’t live my life like this forever looking over my shoulder.
How old was she?
Only 23, poor thing.
These notes we’ve found aren’t very helpful. I’m going round to her mother’s again to see if she has a photo of the lad. The name we were given turned out to be false.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he’s done this kind of thing before. We need to find him before he does it again.
I’m pleased that so many of you liked my recent post, “Writing Poetry” where I posted a four line ditty. I wonder if people liked it because they thought it was a great poem (it’s not!) or simply because it was short and took no time to read! If that’s the case you may not wish to read today’s post as the poem is a much longer – though, to my mind, a much better – one.
The challenge in my writers’ group (watfordwriters.org) was to write a 40 line poem on the subject of peace. You may have read the poem, “3 am” I posted recently which was on the same theme. I’m pleased to say my fellow writers really liked it and that it came second in our writing competition.
This poem, “encounter” was my attempt to write about the theme of peace in a different kind of way. If you like it, please let me know or I will be tempted to write only four line poems in the future! 😉
In the writers’ group I attend (watfordwriters.org) we were asked to write a poem on the topic of peace. One immediately thinks of Ukraine and other war torn places in the world. On the other hand, peace could mean a moment of reflection, an idyllic country scene or even – as some saw it – the ultimate peace.
As you will see from the poem below, I decided to write about a different kind of peace – one that might resonate with many of you reading this.
Please let me know what you think. I would love to receive your comments.
I barely kept a diary growing up. But I always wrote poetry. Like most teenagers, my poems were full of angst. It’s interesting to look back on them now and see myself as I was then.
Here’s a poem I wrote way back in 1963 when staying at a favourite aunt and uncle’s home. My uncle would get cross with me for playing loud music and then leaving the room. I would immediately go into another room and do the exact same thing! Something all kids probably did then. And, no doubt, still do today.
Here’s a piece of flash fiction I wrote in response to the writing prompt of the word “wave”.
One has had to learn so much in such a short time.
One was thrust into things, so to speak. One had never gone to school, never mixed with other children. One knew nothing about life other than what one had gleaned from the governess and the nanny. Mummy was always far too busy. One had a hard enough time learning how to curtsey to her. And then one had to have elocution lessons – one thought that one already spoke the King’s English but there you are.
“Lilibet”, mummy used to say, “Why can’t you be more like your sister? She is so elegant. Look how she stands and walks. Try to be more like her, poppet.”
And even now, all these years later, Philip will still tease, “Stand up properly cabbage! You are the Queen you know.”
The hardest thing one ever had to learn was how to wave properly. One just couldn’t get the hang of it.
Daddy said, “Don’t worry poppet. It’s not as if you’ll ever be queen.”
But mummy, nanny and everyone in the Royal Household just kept on and on. You do it too vigorously, they all said.
“Gently does it your Royal Highness”, they would say, “or your arm will tire with all that waving.”
One wanted to be out riding or walking the corgis. Instead one had to waste morning after morning learning to wave.
One despised all the protocol. One doesn’t want or need to have one’s hair styled every day. And wearing make-up was an anathema to me. Who needs lippy when mucking out the horses? Philip agreed. He was so understanding. “I love you as you are cabbage”, he used to say – and still does.
In the end one had to have this ghastly manicure because one was going to be seen at some awful function somewhere. The beastly varnish wasn’t bloody drying so I waved my hands about a bit.
My valet jumped in the air excitedly. “By George she’s got it,” he shouted. “Her Royal Highness is waving!”
In my writers’ group (watfordwriters.org) we were asked to come up with a poem or story that encapsulated the past 100 years.
My idea was to write a poem about some of the inventions that had taken place between 1918 and 2018.
This weekend many of us will be celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee – 70 years of her reign. On Saturday 4th June, my fellow Watford poets and I will be taking part in the Jubilee events which are being held at the historic bandstand in Watford’s Cassiobury Park.
We shall be reading poems and stories appropriate to the occasion and I shall be reading this. Let me know what you think!
Ode to Invention
Who would have dreamt at the end of the war
what wonderful things we’d have in store?
In 1918, although unintended,
the radio circuit was invented.
In 1919 what do you know –
we then had short wave radio.
And at breakfast, what did we love most?
A cup of tea with pop up toast.
If your Tommy gun, invented in 1920,
went off for fun – we had Band Aid in plenty.
In 1923 cars on the road were a very rare sight,
but they still invented the traffic light.
Cinema goers were in seventh heaven
When the talkies arrived in 27.
Antibiotics in 28 –
sadly, for many, came too late.
But thanks to Fleming and penicillin
most of us can carry on living.
From 39 to 45
we were lucky to survive.
Who was to know when the war began
the evil that man would do to man?
1947 made parents happy
with the invention of the disposable nappy.
Health care was in a very bad state
till the NHS started in 48.
Hardly an invention, but nevertheless,
where would we be with no NHS?
1950s rock music would not have gone far
without the first electric guitar.
And with your transistor in 52
you could take your music along with you.
In 53, Watson and Crick they say,
discovered the secret to DNA
and there was colour TV in the USA.
If your heart was dicky in 59
the Pacemaker was invented just in time.
Sex had never been much fun
till the pill came along in 61.
And things were moving on apace
with Yuri Gagarin – first man in space.
In 67 you could have fun
eating your microwave dinner for one.
And then what joy in 69 –
man walked on the moon for the very first time.
That was also the year of Concorde’s first flight,
If, like me, you have more years behind you than you have ahead, you may find yourself looking back from time to time and remembering things past. As they say, nostalgia isn’t what it used to be!
In our writing group we were asked to write about a location and I found myself thinking about the street where I grew up.
Here’s what I wrote.
The home of my childhood was in a little close on the borders of Cricklewood and Goldersgreen in North London. Our house was a small rented semi with, what seemed to me at the time, a vast back garden.
Our next door neighbour’s garden backed on to the Handley Page Airplane Factory and every day we would hear the strident sound of the factory hooter summoning the workers. Until the late 1920s the factory site was extensive. I have found out through researching this piece that our road and the adjacent roads were actually built on the site of the original factory. The nearby streets, which were my route to school, were once the site of a huge aerodrome.
Like all children growing up in the 50s we played in the street, often not returning home till dusk. In the middle of the close was what we children called, “the bushes”. A tangle of undergrowth and unkempt shrubs where we would play hide and seek, fairies and witches, cowboys and Indians. We would also dig for ‘treasure’ coming home with shards of pottery – that’s probably where I first became interested in collecting blue and white china!
At the start of the close was a red phone box where, when we had nothing better to do, we would make random phone calls to strangers telling them to expect us for tea – and then put down the phone. Near the entrance to the close was where the teddy boys gathered on their two wheelers, spinning the bike chains in their hands. To my 9 year old gaze they appeared very scary and threatening. That’s where I first heard the F word. When I asked its meaning I was simply told it was ‘the king of all the swear words’ and they diplomatically left it at that.
We knew all our neighbours. Mr and Mrs Evans in the house attached to ours had a budgie and cat that sent each other Christmas cards. Every bedtime I would hear Mr Evans calling their cat, “Joey” and I did not settle down to sleep until I knew that it was safely indoors for the night.
On the other side of our house, separated by a shared driveway, lived the Taylors. Most of the tradesmen – the milkman, coal man and rag and bone man – still used horse drawn vehicles. After their visits, Mrs Taylor would shovel up the horse manure for her flower beds. I liked to peer over the fence and admire their garden. In the middle of their lawn sat a bird bath, something I always coveted – and a bird bath was one of the first things I purchased for our garden once we had our own home.
Every November 5th the street would have its own firework party. For days beforehand the men would pile up the wood in preparation for the huge fire they lit on bonfire night. At the top sat a lifelike guy which had been put together by the older kids. My parents would not allow me to be at the bonfire so I ended up watching the fireworks from our front room window.
In the summer the girls would meet on one another’s front porches. Our favourite game was ‘schools’ where we would take it in turns to play the role of teacher and pupils. At the side of our house was a derelict garden shed and this is where anyone pretending to be naughty would be sent to stand in the corner. One such day when everyone had gone home for the night and I was about to go indoors, a little voice called, “can I come out now?” I had completely forgotten one of the girls and she had been quietly waiting all this time! I felt terrible. Even more so when she died some months later. I always felt that somehow I had something to do with her death and the guilt stayed with me for a long time.
About 25 years ago I was passing through my old neighbourhood and couldn’t resist driving into the close.
The bushes in the middle were still there but not as a remembered them. They were neatly manicured and spaced well apart. Nowhere for hide and seek, I thought sadly.
I bravely knocked at the front door of our old house and the owners kindly let me in round the side to look at the back garden. To my disappointment it was nothing like as big as I remembered.
Today I looked back at this post which I blogged at the start of lockdown. It is interesting to be reminded of what lockdown was like then.
It’s also great to see that more people are viewing my blog. Over 14,000 since I began. There were 55 views of “51 Years” which is heartening. Most viewers hail from the UK or the USA but I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see that my blog has also had visitors from India, Romania, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand, Ecuador, Philippines, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, Ireland, Turkey, Kenya, Spain – even France! If you are one of those – thank you!
HERE IS THE BLOG I WROTE BACK IN JUNE 2020.
When your own OH (other half) is curious enough to ask what are you going to be blogging about today, you know that you must be doing something right.
A few blog statistics for you.
23 people viewed my last blog. The breakdown was 13 people from the UK, 4 from Uganda, 2 from the Netherlands, 2 from the USA, 1 from Austria and 1 from Romania.
Yesterday I also gained two new followers which makes the number of you who have actually signed up to this blog around 200. So thank you! And an especial thank you to those of you who take the trouble to email or comment on the blog page. It’s very motivating to know that people are actually enjoying reading what I write!
I have actually been blogging my poetry since 2011. Those were generally irregular blogs – a handful a year. Since I have been blogging every day my viewing figures have shot up. From 2013 to the start of lockdown, 8306 people had visited my blog. Since lockdown that number has increased by well over a thousand! I’ve also been astonished by the number of people on LinkedIn who are reading my blogs. If you are one of them – thank you!
Then there are the Facebookers who “like” my blog post but don’t actually read it. What’s the point of that? I’d much rather they’d go to the blog and like it there where a “like” actually means something. But that’s Facebook for you. Full of people liking fluffy kittens, cute babies, twee sayings and photos of other people’s holidays – in the days when there were such things as holidays.
We are now told that we are coming out of hibernation. Like my blogger friend Mel, I think BJ is doing far too much far too soon much in the same way as he did far too little far too late. Time will tell. I’m not in any hurry to get out there just yet.
I have to admit that there have been aspects of the lockdown I have enjoyed. Relished even. Not having to think about what to wear is one – or at least only having to think about the top half for my Zoom appearances. Not wearing make-up – not that I ever wore much before. Not caring about the streaks of grey showing in my now long hair. Like Boris’s ideas for coming out of lockdown, it has all been quite liberating.
Another thing I loved about the lockdown was the empty roads and lack of traffic. For a few weeks families reclaimed the streets and it was a joy to see children being able to cycle again in the road just as they had done in my childhood. Seeing photos of London empty of traffic was eerie and at the same time thrilling.
At the start, like everyone else, I was savouring the birdsong when I could hear it above the sound of building work. Where we live, the lockdown seems to have liberated all those people who had been wanting to have work done on their homes. For the past few months we have had to put up with the noise of drilling, banging and hammering. In this beautiful weather it would be lovely to be able to have the windows open but all this building work has sometimes made for an unpleasant experience. A neighbour down the road has building work noise so loud that it has set her dogs off barking so we have that to contend with as well.
And now we’ve all been given permission to sit in our gardens with friends it seems such a shame that this pleasure will be blighted by the sound of work going on. Whenever we go for our walks we count the number of skips. Interestingly, there are two houses now for sale in our road and two more just round the corner. More noisy building work to come no doubt!
On a good day, lockdown has sometimes felt like the Sundays of my childhood. The only activity would have been the sight of men mowing their lawns or hosing down their cars. The highlight of the week then would have been the Sunday drive out into the country. Very little traffic except for what my dad would contemptuously call the ‘Sunday drivers.’ One could whizz through towns and villages because all the shops would be closed – just like it has been for the past few months.
But now the traffic is back to normal. Not a new normal. But, sadly, the old normal. Traffic jams. Fumes. Pollution. And with drivers who are – if anything – a little bit more inconsiderate than they were before. Another thing we have to thank the lockdown for.
The hammering has stopped and I’m off to sit in the garden while I can. See you again soon.
Sadly, not my age but the number of years OH (other half) and I have been married.Today isour wedding anniversary.
We met on the day of the Oxford & Cambridge Boat Race in 1969. Ever romantic, we became engaged on Valentine’s Day, 1970 and wed on the 25th April, 1971. A lifetime ago.
Some months before my wedding my mother showed me the headband she had worn when she had married my dad, way back on 15th June, 1936. She had kept it all those years hoping that, in the future, her daughter would wear it on her wedding day.
The headband looked stunning in my mother’s wedding photo. As did she. But now, sadly, it had rusted and could no longer be worn. Instead, my mother contacted her niece, Irene, in Chicago and recounted the story. Irene was going to be coming to my wedding and brought with her the headband her daughter (also called Andrea) had worn for her wedding day. My cousin Andrea (hello Andi!) and I have been in touch through airmail and email since we were thirteen. She is like the sister I never had – albeit nearly 4000 miles away.
Our wedding, true to Jewish tradition, was held under a Chuppah (a wedding canopy) in a London Synagogue. Afterwards, my dad, so happy and excited, rushed to be the first to kiss the bride. And, in so doing, dislodged my headband so it became wonky!
Last week my writers’ group (watfordwriters.org) held a poetry competition. The idea was to write a poem on the theme of The Ornament. After some thought, I came up with the idea of writing about that day when my mother had showed me the headband she had worn at her wedding.
Here is the poem. Do let me know what you think of it in the comment box below.
The bridal headband
My mum unwrapped the yellowed tissue paper Here it is, she said I kept it for you There it was A band of pearls and silken flowers with a hint of gold She picked it up Oh so gently in her careworn hands and held it out to me Pearls dropped on to the carpet one by one and rolled away. I kept it for you, she said For your wedding day I was crying softly Mum, it’s broken I know, she said sadly But keep it as a token.
It is said that you don’t choose a cat but that it chooses you. This was definitely true in our case.
The story of Jason
When we were first married, a lifetime ago, we lived in East London. Our next door neighbours had a handsome ginger cat called Jason. We mistakenly thought this was after Jason of the Golden Fleece but he was more prosaically named after the Blue Peter cat Jason!
Jason would visit us on a regular basis and our flat became his second home. We made the cardinal mistake of feeding him which meant of course that he visited us frequently. We could never understand why our neighbours had bothered to get a cat because they clearly weren’t cat lovers, often leaving him out in the rain where his piteous mewing would mean that we would rescue him and bring him indoors. Sometimes they forgot to feed him altogether (or at least that’s what Jason led us to believe but he might have been enjoying double rations) so we were often doing that too. It was easy to imagine that he was our cat and not theirs.
Our kitchen had a small breakfast bar overlooking the communal garden. One lunchtime we were sitting at the counter enjoying our tomato soup. It was a bright sunny day and we had left the window wide open. All of a sudden Jason jumped in through the window landing paws first in my bowl of soup. With a yelp of pain he leapt right out again. He sat outside on the patio frantically licking and licking at his once white paws which were now stained bright orange. It was weeks before the orange colour disappeared and many months before we ever thought of having tomato soup again!
When our first child was born we began looking to move and found a new home in Hertfordshire. I could not bear the idea of leaving Jason behind and would lie in bed at night thinking of different ways of taking him with us. It even crossed my mind to kidnap him. After all, I reckoned, they didn’t appear to care anything about him and he deserved a good home.
The day came for us to move and I summoned up the courage to speak to our next door neighbour. I knocked timidly at her front door. “I’ve come to say goodbye Kathy,” I said. “We are really going to miss your cat. I wish we could have him,” I blurted out. To my amazement she replied: “You can. We don’t want him. We’ve always wanted a dog and now we’ll be able to have one.” So there it was. Just like that. We were cat owners.
The following day, OH (other half) returned to our old address to collect Jason and bring him home where he became a much loved member of our family for many happy years.
Are you enjoying reading my poetry? If so, you might like to buy a signed copy of my poetry book, Wonderland. It contains many of the poems I have blogged and also some you haven’t seen before. If you live in the UK, the cost is £5.00 plus £1.50 postage. If you are one of my followers from overseas, please contact me in the comment box below. Let me know where in the world you live and I will let you know the cost of postage and packing. With every purchase you make I will be giving a 25% donation to the refugees from Ukraine. Thank you!
In 1961 there was a memorably creative advertising poster campaign in the States which featured photographs of non-Jewish New Yorkers (Asian and Native American amongst others) enjoying Levy’s rye bread. The campaign slogan was, “You don’t have to be Jewish to love Levy’s real Jewish Rye.”
The ad was a first for its time. It was witty, memorable and demonstrated diversity at a time when that was not being done.
And that is why, following on from my previous blog about Chanukah, I thought I would share with you this lovely Chanukah song from YouTube. It is heart warming, tender, moving and truthful. And, what’s more, you don’t have to be Jewish to appreciate it!
This is a re-post of a blog I wrote in 2020 when Covid was rampant and Donald Trump was still in the White House.
My meeting with the President
Because Donald Trump is in quarantine in the White House with Covid-19 I was able to arrange to meet with him on Zoom.
The famous orange hair was now grey and suited him much better. His face was thinner and he looked more normal, if that is a word that could ever be applied to him.
I noticed that his fingernails were bitten right down to the quick and that there was a food stain on his normally immaculate shirt front.
He sounded a lot less cocky than usual.
“Good to meet you Agatha. Where are you from?
Watford? What State is that in?”
I didn’t correct him on my name or his geography as I wanted to be able to continue our conversation.
“My aide tells me you like poetry,” he continued. “I do too. Bigly. I know more poems that anyone else. You know this one? The boy stood on the burning deck, eating a threepenny Walls, a little bit fell down his neck and paralysed his …. My English nanny taught me that one.
Don’t believe all that that stuff you read about me. It’s all fake news. Like that stuff about Melania not living at the White House.
She wanted to paint the house pink but the aides said it couldn’t happen. You can’t call it the Pink House, they said. So she had a bit of a huff. And that’s why she went away for all those months. But we’re very close. If we weren’t close how is it that she also got this Chinese flu? Tell me that!”
“What do you think of Boris?” I asked him.
“Boris who? Your guy in the UK? I like him. He’s just like me don’t you think? Same hair and everything. I preferred Theresa May though. Did you see how I got her to hold my hand by pretending I needed support going down those stairs?” He sniggered. “I don’t suppose she’d want to hold my hand now!”
“So what about you Agatha? Tell me about yourself. Do you see my tweets? I bet you’re thinking how does he get to tweet when he’s so ill? I have a team of course. Or as I call them my tweem. Just like all those programmes you watch on TV – they all have teams of writers so of course I have a team.
That’s not to say I don’t write the odd tweet when I’m taking a dump in the middle of the night.
Did you watch the debate? I really kicked Biden’s ass. Did you see how he kept interrupting me all the time? I couldn’t get a word in. Stupid man with his stupid mask but not as bad as that nasty Clinton woman.
Hey Agatha I gotta go. They want to take me to some hospital to make it look like this is a lot more serious than it is. Reckon it’s going to win me a lot of sympathy votes.
It was good listening to all you had to say. And don’t forget to vote for me on 3 November. Bye now.”