Saturday, October 30, 2021

Anything but news

Yesterday someone was asking me about my journey to Denver next week. This person is intelligent, switched-on, politically aware, caring, and tries to live her life according to strict ethical principles.

I told her I was flying to Heathrow to catch the plane rather than having Dave drive me there, because of Insulate Britain. She said: 'What's Insulate Britain?' 

'You know,' I said, 'they're an offshoot of Extinction Rebellion and they keep gluing themselves to motorways in the south east. They're protesting about the government's inaction on the climate. Haven't you seen it in the news?'

'I gave up reading the news. It was making me depressed.'

I know just how she feels. I tell people I'm not reading the news because it's so upsetting, but I am still skimming the headlines everyday and reading two or three stories in depth. Also, I'm still writing to my MP and she is still writing back, toeing the crap party line.

Anyway, if you too find the news too much to bear, here is my list of suggestions of things to do in bed alone on these dark autumnal mornings:

  • read a good book
  • play in Procreate on your iPad making art. 
  • do a word puzzle. I like Typeshift. 
  • look at all the fashion clothing sites you like to see clothes you have no intention of buying, except that then you alight upon a decently-priced soft cotton boiler suit in navy that would be perfect for painting in and then when you click on 'buy' find they have sold out in your size. 
  • check the hour by hour weather forecast to see when you can go out and get some fresh air without getting soaked. 
  • try writing a blog post in an email to yourself with your new apple pencil and marvel at the way it translates handwriting into print.
  • look up and realise that it is finally light and you can draw the blinds. 

    And now, some autumn photographs for you.

    Tuesday, October 26, 2021

    Battling but lucky

    Isn't it amazing how things that seem insuperable when you're ill or under the weather magically appear possible when you're feeling sprightly?

    All the time I was ill I was whittling about getting tested to fly to America. Which was the right test to have? Was it really acceptable to have a rapid antigen test (i.e. lateral flow test) and not a full blown PCR? And would things change before my travel date of November 9th?

    Why has arranging this trip been so laden with anxiety? It's not really because the list of things to get sorted out has been longer than usual:

    • Visa waiver
    • NHS certificate of vaccination - will paper do or should I get digital as a back up?
    • Research and book tests - which? and from whom? and when?
    • Travel insurance (which boils down for me to medical insurance if I'm going to the USA)
    • Plane ticket - which route? how to be sure of getting to Heathrow now Insulate Britain are still gluing themselves to motorways?
    • Medication for the plane flight
    • Extra normal medication for while I am away
    • US dollars
    • Presents for all the family
    • Decision on which of my small paintings to give to Isaac and Wendy

    The girls at the reservoir

    Our Christmas kitchen

    The corner of the bedroom

    Usually I have everything sorted out and arranged at least two weeks before the flight. But this time I can't, because I have to be tested within 3 days of the flight so added to the admin is the huge anxiety attached to not being 100% sure I am going until I get my fit to fly test result, which will probably arrive 2 days before the flight. I never used to be an anxious person. It's crept upon me in the last two years. One of my sisters also feels more anxious than she did when she was younger.

    I got a text from my GP last week inviting me to my booster shot and it was booked in for last Saturday. I was so excited. How very strange to be excited about getting a jab. This is a weird world we live in now. 

    They gave me the flu shot in the other arm and on Sunday I couldn't get out of bed. I also felt so low about everything, that the thought crossed my mind as to how much easier it would be to be dead than to live through another year of this UK pandemic half-life where no indoor public space is safe because of government intransigence and stupidity.

    Then on Monday morning I was better, my head was clear and everything was  possible, and I was well enough for a bike ride! 

    It's made me think about all those people who are ill and not fit to work and are being hassled by the DWP, telling them to apply for jobs, and/or to jump through ridiculous hoops in order to get their puny welfare benefits. And then there are all the people who deal with health issues and go to work everyday.

    I am a lucky woman. I am usually healthy, I have a good and accessible GP, I have been vaccinated three times, I have a pension, and I have enough money to fly to see my family. I am very thankful.

    Wednesday, October 20, 2021


    Yippee! First day free of antibiotics. I am happy I had them, of course,  because they cured my complaint, but the side effects of the medication were horrid.

    The other good news - Yippee! - is that I am going to Colorado in November to see Isaac and Wendy and the girls -


    My ticket is booked, and now I am trying to make sense of  tests and testing times. 

    These are certainly testing times. I was horrified when getting my travel insurance that my recent illness has cost me £200 extra this year. And my last provider wouldn't even offer me an annual policy. 

    Dave came into the study when I was wrestling with this and when he heard the prices he said : "Could you just go there and die if you were ill?"

    I hooted with laughter. 

    Later he came in and said it wasn't so bad. I should think of the cost of the holiday as being the cost of two holidays - with me away, he gets a holiday too.'ve got to love 'em.

    We are currently glued to a Netflix series called Love on the Spectrum, about aspies trying to start dating. It's respectfully and beautifully done. It's touching and excruciating and very moving. What a harsh and difficult world it is for aspies. I wish they were more understood.

    It just occurred to me that this is where I should recommend my novel  - But I Told You Last Year That I Loved You - for those of you who haven't read it. 

    An Amazon reviewer said this - 

    This book is an entertaining read while introducing some nuggets of revelation and ahah moments for anyone who has ever wondered if a friend or acquaintance or ... perhaps even partner actually is an alien, or just wired very differently!

    I enjoyed "But I Told You Last Year That I Loved You...." so much that I have, so far, bought 5 copies as gifts for friends and relations not just because they will undoubtedly gain pleasure from reading it but also a discussion starter about how things can be...

    Thursday, October 14, 2021

    The underpants conundrum and other trivia

    I am still not well, but while I've been lounging around feeling useless I've been wondering about several things, some of which stem from the too-much-television I've been watching.

    Firstly, what's happened to Grace and Frankie? The latest four episodes released are absolutely dire. They're not funny, they're crass. Do they have different scriptwriters? After six great series is the show going to crash and burn on the last?

    And what has happened to Jane Fonda? She's always looked unnaturally 'lovely' for her age and I've grown used to it, and as her on-screen character has developed into a softer person, her appearance has not mattered so much. But in these latest episodes her wrinkle-less face is looking grotesque, and more like a doll-like mask. Has anyone else noticed that?

    Secondly, against my socialist principles I have been working my way through Downton Abbey and loving it. It's really just a high-class soap, isn't it? But can someone tell me why Lady Mary talks in that peculiar way? I don't mean the poshness I mean the cadence of her speech. It is so unnatural, it makes her character seem even colder than her behaviour already suggests. What a nasty piece of work she is. Her kindness to Anna is her only saving grace. How could Matthew be so besotted with her?

    Thirdly, I've had a revelation about wrinkles. In September I saw Mel, my sax teacher and friend, after 18 months of online-only contact. Mel is 20 years younger than me. She said 'Well, you haven't changed,' and I said 'Except for more wrinkles.'

    And without hesitation she said 'When I look at you I don't see the wrinkles.'

    And I realised she wasn't being tactful, she was telling the truth. Because after the initial meeting, when you're talking to someone you don't look at their wrinkles. You look at their eyes and their mouth. It made me feel a whole lot better, because now my jowls have sunk, for the first time ever I have been thinking that if my puritan scruples would let me - in other words if I was a  different person - I might think about having a facelift. But I am me and I won't.

    Photo by Isaac: Me in 2015

    Photo by Wendy: me in March 2020

    Dave is still puzzling over an article he read in the weekend paper about a woman journalist (of 46) who had plastic surgery on just about every part of her body and is now pleased with her appearance. She got all of it free because she's a journalist, but a lot of it will have to be repeated and she will have to pay for that. What he just said was 'We don't need a cult of youth, we need a cult of wisdom.' Rock on, Dave.

    On the other hand, his underpants problem has re-emerged and he goes to the chest of drawers in the morning bewailing the demise of his current set of pants, and the impossiblility of finding others that would be up to the mark.

    In case you are new to the blog, I quote from an earlier blog post, and book -

    “So what do you think the perfect underpant needs?” I said.

    “Security, material that shrugs off stains, adequate ventilation – possibly assisted – and a reliable fastening. It’s about time persons of quality gave their attention to the comfort and protection of the nation’s manhood. Paxman tried a few years ago – do you remember all that kerfuffle on the Today programme? Nothing happened. Next thing you know, Prince Charles will be muscling in with the Poundbury Pant and the Prince’s Truss.” 

    Today he described himself as the Don Quixote of the underpant Grail.

    Then he said: 'Do you think Paxman was bought off?'

    OK. I've written the blog, and now the question is - do I feel strong enough to  get showered and dressed? or shall I go back to bed?

    Wednesday, October 13, 2021

    In bed

    I’m ill, and won’t be blogging till I’m better.

    I asked Dave why he wasn’t going to Sheffield and he said ‘Well, if I came home and found a cadaver it wouldn’t be very encouraging.’

    Here - a propos of nothing - is an early morning photo of Askrigg I took when we were staying there last week.

    Monday, October 11, 2021

    A brand new blog

    Do you remember Di McDougall who in the comments section on my blog goes under the name of Marmee? She has been reading my blog for at least ten years, and she wrote a guest post on here last March, telling us about her experience of Covid in South Africa.

    Guess what?  She has begun her own blog and it's terrific. I commend it to you.

    Plus, I'm going to add a link to it at the side of my blog with the other links.

    I wish you good luck, Di, and look forward to reading your blog in the years to come. 

    Thursday, October 07, 2021

    Time away with the sibs

    The news was making me anxious last week, but after 5 days away in Wensleydale with my sibs, and a news blackout, I feel so relaxed I may give up reading the news forever.

    It rained a lot, but that made the many waterfalls worth visiting. This time we didn't go to Aysgarth Falls, but we saw Mill Gill Force, West Burton Falls, Cotter Force and Hardraw Force.

    Here, for example, is Mill Gill Force, which has featured on the blog before

    And here is Hardraw Force

    Jonty and I climbed up and walked above and around it

    Here's the top of the waterfall. The small yellow circle shows you how small the people at the bottom look.

    Hardraw is where Kevin Costner made an appearance in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves, and where my brother Jonty used to walk behind the waterfall carrying a glass of beer, to see if he could do it without spilling it. (FYI Jonty was also the first streaker in Hawes.)

    We drove more than usual because of the rain. This included a trip up to Tan Hill, the highest pub in the British Isles. It was too wet and cold to stand outside and take a photo so I took one of the stunning front cover of a book about the pub. Just look at that fabulous sky.

    There is a large porch at Tan Hill which they leave unlocked night and day so that anyone lost in a storm can take shelter. When we were there it was full of sodden anoraks. The sodden people were in the bar.

    The rain didn't spoil the holiday. We still had a lot of laughs. 

    Driving up there on the motorway during a chat about online and texted scams, one sister asked me to text a reply to her husband as she hadn't got her glasses on. That sister's communications are notably succinct (I still remember a text she got while away from home that said 'All fine. Hen dead') so I didn't bother adding a kiss at the end. 

    Then my other sister's phone pinged, and as she was driving she asked me to text her husband back (as if I was her). I typed the brief response and wondered how many kisses to add. Neither of my sisters are as soppy as me, so I finished with one kiss.

    'Thanks, Sue. How many kisses did you put?'


    'Oh my God, he'll think it's a scam!'

    One morning during one of our leisurely breakfasts I was telling the others about my recent annual check up at the doctor's. The nurse came to the waiting room and asked me to step onto a machine in the corner that would weigh and measure me and take my blood pressure simultaneously. 

    I told them I'd protested to the nurse that I was wearing my boots and my coat and how much would that add to my weight?

    Jen said: 'What about your false boob? That adds extra weight.'

    'Not that much,' I said.

    'Weigh it!'

    Much laughter.

    I found some scales in the holiday cottage kitchen cupboard.

    For the record it weighs 250gms.

    It was so wonderful to be all together after two years since the last time (though we missed Pete, who because of Covid restrictions didn't feel able to come.)

    We argue and snap at each other from time to time - of course we do - but I find a deep down comfort in being with them all. I am struggling to express where this comfort comes from. Is it because I have known them all my life, and we all loved our parents and our childhoods?  There are some stark differences between us but there is something underlying that means we accept those differences and see there are far more important things at stake than whether we agree on the need for the monarchy, whether Robert Peston looks grubby, or how to cook baked potatoes.

    We certainly all agree that the £20 cut to Universal Credit is cruel.

    I just found an earlier blog post from five years ago exploring this conundrum.
    "Four sibs are keen ornithologists. One sees a bird that's been pointed out to them, and thinks: "Yes. And?"

    One objects to a milk carton on the breakfast table, two think that coming down to breakfast in pyjamas is a capital crime, and the others are baffled by the strictures (although two protest at an electric kettle left on the table.) It's complicated.

    Four like background music. One prefers silence.

    Four are technophiles. One's a technophobe.

    Four sibs are tough stoics. One is a wuss.

    Three have cats, one prefers dogs, and one has hens and brought eggs for us all. 

    Two think Mrs Brown's Boys is funny. Two think Mrs Brown's Boys is beyond the pale. I forgot to ask the other one.

    Three are foodies. Two consider cooking to be a tedious necessity.

    Two are monarchists. Three are republicans. (N.B. the lower case r.)

    Two sit in bed in the morning reading the news on their iPads and fuming about the current government. The others don't, but are nevertheless prone to the fuming bit. 

    I suspect that Venn diagrams drawn up by my sibs would highlight different things.

    Our undisputed commonalities would be our love of Wensleydale and our love for each other. Priceless."

    Our family circa 1958