The all England women’s flab championships, the final.

You join me here on Centre Court for the final, on such a windy day.  Jim, do you remember ever having such a windy day?

Other than sixty-three, two-oh-eight and seventeen, no.

It is unprecedently windy, yes.

No, there was sixty-three, two-oh-eight and seventeen, I just said.

But it is very windy.

Yes and twenty-twelve, come to think of it.

And here they come now out onto the field.  Flapover and Bunion.  Bunion is quite a surprise, isn’t she Jim?

Well she has come out of the ranks but some of us have been watching her, certainly.

Have we?

Well I have.  She did well in the Hungry competition and came second in the American All-Eaters in March.

Yes but she hasn’t got the practised flab of Flapover, has she?

No, maybe not, but she has put on half a stone since March, mostly on the legs.

Yes but she’s never going to beat Flapover’s double chin, is she?

Oh I don’t think anyone could do that, it’s halfway down her chest.

And here they are now, stripping off to the reinforced elastic underwear.  My goodness, Bunion has magnificent spare tyres!  Three of them!

No, it’s five.

Are you sure?

I’ve been studying her form from beach photographs, if you look there’s a little one just under where the bra wire would be, if you could see it, and another resting on the stomach.

I thought that was a loose pink belt.

Easy mistake to make Jilly.

Not a mistake as such. Jim.  More an alternative observation.  And..they’re off!  Bunion is at the table immediately, flattening three pies in one go with her bingo wings!

She did this in March.  It is an inspired opening move.

I won’t argue with you there, Jim, even though you are very repetitive.

Makes a change.

Repetition doesn’t, it’s the same old same old, you have a limited vocabulary, I think.  Ooh, look at that!  Flapover has just squashed six sausage rolls down her cleavage!

Inspired, Jilly, absolutely inspired, ooh!

Oh wow, the audience is on its feet, Bunion has sat on three curries simultaneously!  It’s match point!

Yes it is!  Oh a win on the gravy!  It’s gone off the table and right into the audience!  There’s a gentleman on the front row absolutely covered! And that takes the first set.  New bowls will be called and a reset of the table.

And Bunion and Flapover are towelling down now. My goodness, Jim, this is shaping up to be a historic match.

An historic match, Jilly, an historic match.

I’m the senior presenter here, I’ll say what I like.

And if you’re wrong, Ill tell you.  And here come the tables for the second service.  Looks like soup and assorted salad vegetables.

Oh and there goes Flapover, straight on to the tomatoes!

Oh my goodness, she’s covered the umpire!

It’s the thighs, Jim, it’s thighpower, no tomato can resist them.

Oh look, look!  Bunion is landing her entire stomach in the soup tureen!  It’s a tidal wave, Jilly, watch out!

Oh I say!  We got splashed right up here in the commentary box.  It’s all up your jacket, you should have worn a bib.

White wasn’t a good choice, that’s for sure.  It’s in your hair, have you ever seen such a thing?

It’s turning out to be a magnificent final, Jim and it’s dripping off your tieNow there goes Bunion, kneeling on the aubergines, ooh now, she’s sitting in the Caesar salad and bouncing!  Oh there’s croutons everywhere!

That’s the second set to Bunion, in an inspired move.  Can Flapover recover Jilly? 

I doubt it, Jim.  Both girls are breathing very hard.  I think the last seated squash took it out of Bunion and no mistake.  I just hope she has something in reserve for the pudding round, Jim.

Here comes the third service table now, Jilly.  There are very large jellies and Oh!  Trifle.  This is set to be an epic final.

And they’re off! Bunion has inserted profiteroles in every single one of her spare tyres and she is playing her ribs with a serving spoon, Jim!

Inspired move, Jilly.  The crowd is on its feet.

Shouldn’t that be the crowd is on their feet, Jim?  I think you’ve got that wrong.

No. I am right and also ooh!  That trifle went miles, Jilly, absolutely miles.

No, you’re exaggerating.  And now Flapover is chasing Bunion with  a vat of jelly!  Oh dangerous move, if she slips, Bunion could well get the point.

Or the jelly.  Oh. Flapover is following up with a double breasted bingo wing to the ice cream tub.

But Bunion is hurling herself off the umpire’s chair into the Pavlova!  It’s a white-out!

But Flapover is coming back with a double buttock prune squash!

And Bunion responds with a full body millefeuille!  We haven’t seen one of these since eighty-three!

No, ninety-two, in the finals.  Oh there go the cherries!  And to top it off, a quadruple chin to the Chocolate Junket!

Magnificent!  Sprinkles everywhere.  That’s a win for Bunion Jim, completely unseeded, how wonderful.

Told you so.

And here is the Duchess, who was in the front row in a plastic mac, presenting the girls with the silver indigestion tablet and the gold bottle of Pink Stomach Medicine.

And the crowd is on its feet.  And it’s slipping down.  And it’s up again, and it’s down.  And it’s up.

Yes, all right, you always over do it.

No I don’t, oh they’re down again!  Ha ha.

Just shut up. And we hand over to the newsroom.  Are you licking my shoulder?



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The Frank Sinatra method of meditation 2.

If you enjoyed the last blog about the Frank Sinatra method of meditation for beginners, also known as the meditation of six things, here is a guided meditation.

Long term readers (hello, if you would like a badge email me your snail address) may be aware that I am unable to stay very serious for very long.  Yes I know this is a serious subject but it’s me.

Looking all over the Internet for the meditation of six things, which I cannot recall first finding, or where I found it, but not, it turns out, the Internet, I found plenty of guided meditations.  Here, to help you relax and switch off, people ring bells at you and tell you what to think, which obviously I’m going to have a go at.

There is a slight drawback which is that this site is not noise enabled.  Even if it could be, I wouldn’t.  This is for readers, a dwindling tribe of very bright, very quiet people, my tribe, our lot.

So here’s the bell.   Clang.

If you really want to meditate and don’t know how, part 1 is serious and does work, and will switch off your worries a treat.  If you have practised you can now switch off your worries at will, (there must be money left in my account because I have got the plastic card in my hand) (ice cream cannot have any calories in it because it melts, look), and must be ready for a little light relief.

I have studied the guided meditations carefully, they just tell you what to think, take you through it, and then ring bells.

Here goes.

Are you sitting comfortably?  If not fetch another chocolate bar and a cardi.


Start off by breathing, breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out.  (repetitive, I know but you get that with breathing.)

I am going to describe six things I can see.

Looking between the pillars I can’t see much at all.  There is quite a lot of sand blowing about.  It’s a sandstorm really.  In fact it’s just yellow out there. Breathe out.

Rushing up the steps is a cat.  The cat is black with white paws.  The cat has stopped on the top step because it has seen me.  The cat is licking its front leg and now it is spitting with its tongue out because its leg is covered in sand.  The cat has probably come in from the library, now it is heading off in the direction of the kitchen.

Coming from the direction of the kitchen is Djosa, a fan bearer.  She is wearing a linen shift dress and dragging six fans, I can see from here that the bottom fan is broken, it is shedding feathers.  The cat has got one of the feathers and is running away with it.  Now Djosa has dropped the fans and is chasing the cat.

I can see a pile of fans.  The fans have long handles with gold paint which has worn off, mostly.  The top fan has the expensive turquoise paint on the handle, it’s made with ground lapis.  The feathers are very large, the ones on the outside ring are in two colours, where they fit into the central boss they are white and round the edge they are dark blue.  I don’t know what bird they are from.  Maybe they’re imported.

I can see Djosa again, with a feather.  To be exact with a broken feather and an annoyed expression.  Now I can see Djosa picking up the fans.  Three more feathers have fallen out, the workshops are going to be busy, if they don’t get them mended before the Inundation they’ll never get done, not that it matters because it’ll be cooler anyway.

What else can I see?  I can see a table, it has lion legs and on the top, which is covered with scrolls, I know there are lotus patterns.  It’s half behind the pillar, so if I am only describing what I can see, I can see half a table, with two lion legs ending in gold feet.


Six things I can hear.  Well I can hear the sandstorm.  Everyone can.  It sounds like roaring then it changes direction and sounds like whistling, now it’s roaring again.  I’m just glad I don’t have to go out in it.

I can hear someone shouting and the noise of metal being thrown.  Oh here comes the cat with something in its mouth, chased by the cook with an empty pan that clangs on the pillar because the cook isn’t looking where she is running, she’s just trying to catch the cat.  She doesn’t, what she catches is sight of me, sitting quietly.  She stops, she bows, now I can hear the pan clanging on the ground, then she prostrates, then she gets up, with difficulty because she is fat (never trust a thin cook, what are they feeding you?) and chases after the cat, who is long gone.  Silently.

It’s gone quiet again.  Ooh, I can hear a little lizard running up the pillar in front of me.  I can just hear its little sticky feet.

I can still hear the sandstorm.  That’s the problem with sandstorms, you can’t really hear anything else.

It’s quieter in here.  Shall I send for a musician, or is that cheating?  Can I say I can’t hear musicians in detail?  There’s a new young one who plays a lute.  He is an apprentice.  Absolute rubbish with sweaty fingers.  He tries so hard.  It’s an easy job but he makes it sound difficult.  He makes it sound like an Ibis being strangled.

I can hear my skirt rustle.  The linen is soft, it’s the gold embroidery that makes the noise.


Six things I can smell.

Easy, there’s the river, all year round, every day and all night.  Why anyone would build a palace so near to a river I cannot imagine.  I know we have to get the drinking water out of it, I know that it’s less work for the workers, I know we need the water for the crops, I know it’s a benefit for the Inundation to come up to the steps, I know it makes it easier for the priests to bless the water.  But.  The smell!  I know the Inundation is the smell of the country’s prosperity.  I know.  I was taught it from being a child, but can no one smell it like I do?

I’m supposed to be thinking calmly.  I can smell…cooking coming from the kitchens.  It’s the sickly smell of that barley porridge again.

I can smell…my own perfume.  What a relief.  It smells like flowers, I love it.  I have bottles sealed with resin to go in my tomb.  You never know what the Elysian fields might smell of, if it’s eternity I’d like to smell nice forever.

I’m not supposed to be describing things I can hear but there is a loud clanging noise approaching.  It sounds like someone hitting a marble floor with a frying pan.  Repeatedly.

Oh, here comes the cat straight up the steps and under my chair.  I’ll just rearrange my skirt.

Do I look as if I have seen a cat, just sitting here calmly?  Yes you can prostrate yourself all you like, I don’t have to tell you.  Yes, off you go, you and your noisy pan.

Things I can smell. Hmm.  Fish.  Now why would that be?


Six things I can feel.  The cushion on this chair is very lumpy.  I wonder what it is stuffed with? If it’s camel hair it was a very old, very stiff camel.

I can feel the embroidery round the back of my legs, squashed by the chair leg.  Gold thread might look great but it’s metal, you know, hard, like a frying pan, and I’m supposed to wear it. I’d like to see the priests wearing a frying pan, I really would.

The sandstorm has died down, I can feel a cool breeze.  I can also feel the sweat running down the back of my neck where the wig lining is tight.

I can feel the edge of the book roll, which I’m sitting on.  I’m meant to be reading it this afternoon, not sitting meditating, but it is so hot. I don’t feel like translating Greek when it’s hot.  I just don’t.  I think I’ll put the book on the floor and pick up the cat.

Come on, you come up here with me.  Now I can feel cat fur.  There.  Settle down.  I’ll tell you what I feel like.  I feel like a nap.  You too?  Why not?  There.  Nice cat.  You’re safe with me, if the cook tries to get you we’ll feed her to the crocodiles.

I do feel sleepy.  We both do.


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The Frank Sinatra method of meditation for carers. 1.

I have written about the importance of caring for the carer, because if they go down with ill health brought on by stress the demented cared-for person is utterly stuffed.

However, there are some cases in which the carer is never going to get a break, such as  if the cared for and carer are sharing a house as husband and wife, child and parent or any other inescapable relationship.

If actual physical time away is impossible then mental time out is what is required.  The nature of caring often makes this impossible; worry is all pervasive.  It’s first on your mind when you open your eyes in the morning and last thing on your mind at night, when the worry prevents sleep.

When I went to Al-Anon family groups, initially back in 2011, I found plenty of literature for families of addicts advising that mediation would help, but the tone of the advice was akin to: meditate on that!  Where: think about – would have substituted quite nicely.

I was looking for help and finding none when fortuitously through my letterbox came a leaflet from the local Buddhist group offering classes in meditation.  I went for a while until I had learned what meditation is and how to do it.  Meditation is not a prompt to worry about things you cannot fix, rather it is a way to switch off the thinking altogether, it’s a holiday for your head.

It does not have to be taught by any particular religion and can be of benefit to all belief systems including those who have none.

I was taught how to switch off the worrying before I became my mother’s keeper and used this learned skill to help me when I had a few moments off from caring about her.  Sometimes the instruction to just concentrate on my breathing didn’t work.  The worry was overwhelming, as was the urgency of needing to respond to numerous crises.

I cannot remember how or where I found this meditation that worked for me and is so easy even a beginner can do it.  I have looked all over the Internet to find it elsewhere but cannot, so I pass it on, and feel sure it will help anyone who needs time off in their thinking, or a way to stop their mind going fruitlessly round and round the same topic.

I have called it the Frank Sinatra method because Jesus said ‘do’, Buddha said ‘be’ but Frank Sinatra sang ‘do be do be do dah dah dah dah dah, do be do be do, da da da da da* and really it is that easy.  Easy listening easy doing.

First find a place to be alone without distraction for a few minutes.  Switch everything off.  I did it in my garden shed.  Out of doors in the good weather is wonderful.  But if push comes to shove, do it in the bathroom with the door locked.

All you need is somewhere to sit, alone.  A comfy chair, a garden chair, the floor, just sit down alone and upright, but if you are really poorly, it can be done lying down.

Now, having got comfortable and made sure you will not be interrupted, take a few breaths in and out, perhaps counting to six on the in breath and six on the outbreath, because the other name for this is

The meditation of six things.

It is based on four of your senses.  Begin with sight.  Name and describe in detail six things you can see. The level of detail is: I can see the wall in front of me, it is green, there are wobbly bits in the painting where the white wall joins it, there is a radiator fastened to it which has twenty one pipes in two rows, joined at the top middle and base.  The wall below the radiator has a narrow varnished wooden skirting board………….

And so on, you get the idea.  You may find it easier, when you begin, to do the description out loud.  Just describe what you see.  Do it non- judgementally, so there is no need to add the bit of paint you missed and start worrying about when you should paint again.  Just describe as fully as you can and when there is no more to say about the first thing move on to the second thing and describe that.  I find it helpful to keep count on my fingers.

When you have described six things you can see, move on to six things you can hear.  Use similar detail, not just: I can hear a bus.  But: I can hear a bus changing gear, there is quite a high note to the engine as it makes its way up the hill, the noise has changed as it reaches the bus stop………

Then when you have six things you can hear under your finger move on to six things you can smell.  This is quite tricky.  I admit to occasionally adding my deodorant to the list, usually at the end, though if you haven’t emptied the bin recently, you may have more smells to describe, in detail.

Last of the four senses, and probably the most difficult, is feeling.  I usually find the edge of the chair and the way it is digging into the back of my legs, first, the roughness of my clothing somewhere in the middle and the way my hair is tickling exactly my temple just above my ear and before it gets to the end of my eyebrow…………

You get the idea.  When you get to the end if the description has been adequate, you will have switched off the worry.  On very difficult days, if the worry comes back immediately, go back to the beginning but describe six different things from the first six that you can see, then six different things you can hear, six different things you can smell and six different things you can feel.

Readers are so bright (you are, you know, I can tell by the comments)  I will not trouble you with an explanation of why that other sense, taste, is not included, though if you ever get jammed in a revolving door with someone who has added this sense, just sing Frank to them as you wait for the fire brigade.

That is it:  Do be do be do for four senses and six things counted off on your increasingly relaxed fingers.

It doesn’t cure the underlying problem, it doesn’t cure the sick person you are caring for but it gives you a holiday from worry in your head.  It calms your frantic brain.  You will find at the end of it that your shoulders have dropped, all your tense muscles will have relaxed and that you can return to your caring role in a better frame of mind to be more effective.  Or, depending on the time of day that you do it, that you can let the worries go and get a good night’s sleep.


*it turned out so right, for Strangers in the Night. (Just in case you couldn’t remember and I’ve inadvertently given you something else to worry about.)


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Holidays for carers.

A fraught subject, I believe.

Experienced readers (hello) will know that in the five plus years that I was a carer for my demented mother I never took a day off.  In all the years I was looking after my mother-in-law I didn’t either.  I couldn’t, the in-laws descended every fortnight for four days, I had a baby and increasingly less money.  The experienced reader knows that I ended both terms of responsibility with cancer; I am certain brought on by stress.

I have never been much of a one for holidays, I never had the money.  If one of you is taking a holiday in the pub every night, that is it for holidays.  When we went to Rome I took a couple of notebooks in case I had to work and interview someone (I didn’t really have the concept of not working.)  I also think sitting on a beach with a load of strangers, nurturing your melanomas is a bit pointless.  I do like a foreign museum. We went to the Hague for work for the OH, and while he was in meetings I went to the Mauritshuis, which was astounding.  They had hung the Girl with a Pearl Earring just above head level on invisible wires.  Seemingly as if she were a tall person in the crowd looking back over her shoulder at you.  The painting looks like a hologram and the actual work far surpasses any reproduction or image you may have seen.  You wait for her to breathe or speak.  You can pop your Jackson Pollocks up your Mondrian for me, people that look better than real and beautiful landscapes are where it’s at for me.

So you could say that not having a holiday whilst doing the caring was not that unusual for me and I would have to agree.

When SMIL’s daughter emailed to say she was planning a holiday and what did I think, I was encouraging.  Very soon after diagnosis SMIL and I had a talk.  She knew she was not getting out of it alive.  She knew I had had cancer twice after being the carer and she was frightened that her daughter, who had already had cancer, would get it again after caring for her.  I made no promises, because I don’t, but all my interactions subsequently have been focussed on getting SMIL’s daughter out of this alive and well.  In my time as carer I had no one to go to, even for a quick moan and I don’t think it helped.  The OH as usual disappeared into the pub, which is his way of dealing with difficulty, so I was left alone worrying until bedtime.  This circumstance, is of course, the reason for dementia diaries.  I am always here, if you are a carer and want an ear just click on the box at the bottom that says ‘leave a comment’, your email will come to me and I will reply.  I will not tell you what to do but I have endless sympathy and big ears.

So I encouraged SMIL’s daughter, thinking maybe a week away somewhere.  However, what the daughter was planning was a month away travelling in foreign countries.  Holiday of a lifetime sort of style.

If you put a relative into a care home, the home then legally has a duty of care.  If you are the next of kin, in order to cover themselves and prove they are doing their duty, they will then contact the next of kin if anything untoward occurs.  The experienced reader knows that as soon as a demented person feels themselves to be slighted, abandoned or if they detect any variation from the norm they will act up.

I hardly need to tell you what happened next.  The home phoned the daughter nearly every day.  SMIL had had a fall, SMIL had been threatened by another resident, SMIL had bitten one of the staff.  At one point she looked poorly so they called paramedics who carted her off to hospital, just to make sure.  The Home called me at half past six in the morning to say they couldn’t get hold of the daughter but felt duty bound to tell me SMIL was back in the care home, had had a good cooked breakfast, was full of the joys of spring, having had a nice outing, and was now tucked up in bed.

There are still three weeks of the daughter’s holiday left.  I did request the care home to ring me instead, because an alarmed phone call every day had left the daughter on aeroplane standby and living off her nerves, though she said bravely in her email that she was glad to be involved.

In the week SMIL has been at her worst.  As she was throwing the phone away or attacking the carers, and difficult to talk to,  I sent a little parcel midweek with a card, a jigsaw and some sweets.  SMIL must have received it this morning, her language was just slurring but the tone was cheerful and she wasn’t being vicious to anyone.

Caring for someone with dementia is a balancing act.  On one end of the scales is the demented person’s health and well being, on the other end, that of the carer.

I also have friends caring for family members who have planned holidays with the demented person, not far, familiar and not long, knowing it may be the last holiday.  I know of two of these so far.  It is and it isn’t a holiday because there is no break from caring if you are taking the demented person with you.

A lot, of course, depends on what stage of the illness the demented person is at.  In the later stages, or with some types of dementia, anything that is out of the usual will add to the problems.  So, whilst I do not give advice here, if you are used to having a holiday every year in the same place, this is ideal for demented people as long as the disease is not too far advanced.  I would think maybe arrange an alternative carer for a few days afterwards, to recover from the holiday yourself.

You may well say that the best course is to wait until the caring job is finished and then have a good holiday, but as you know, by the end of it I was broken, ill and skint.

Perhaps your best course as a carer is to build-in rest days from the start.  Maybe alternative care one day a week in which you are incommunicado unless in case of imminent death, or some such.

The problem with constant communication, is constant communication.  I think, in caring, that is the thing you need to find a way of switching off.  At first in the disease it may benefit you to know what your demented person is doing all the time but as time marches on and the disease wears you down, you need time off worrying.  This is not being uncaring because no amount of worrying will cure the disease or make it go away  but a holiday from worry will fortify the carer so that they can continue to care as long as is required.

I personally believe that exercise, fresh air and meditation are as helpful as anything.  And plenty of sleep.  In sleep your own brain will sort it all out for you.  Recent research may implicate insufficient sleep as one of the triggers for dementia.

Get your zeddz and go for a walk, caring for someone with dementia may be the hardest thing you ever do, if you are doing it, I hope it is.  Well done for caring however you do it, stepping up instead of running away is brave and will take more out of you than you knew you had to give.  I salute you.


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Changing landscapes part 2 of part 3, (or possibly, part 4).


Welcome back, you’re just in time to see the feller demolish the trunk.  Although it looks like a stick from here, if you compare it to the chap standing on what is left of the trunk, you can see it is bigger than him.


He quickly chopped off the rest of the thinner part of the trunk before cutting a slice out of the main trunk, and then cutting into the side of the slice.  The main trunk fell so fast, I didn’t catch it on camera.

Now all that is left to do


is to sit on the bit that is left and wait for a very substantial tractor..


which has come for a bit of a takeaway.

I shall miss these trees which have removed so much pollution from traffic.  I do hope they plant more trees.

Trees are good.


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Changing landscapes part three.

When I heard the buzz of power tools this morning I thought it was either my neighbour in his garage, or maybe the final end of no mow May on the green.

I was wrong.


It was April when a storm brought down one of the Plane trees on the green near my house crashing into the other tree next to it, scroll back to Changing Landscapes parts 1 and 2 to see what happened then.

Now someone has decided that the tall partial tree that was left is not safe.  It is sandwiched between a busy road junction, which will get busier when the new tiny housing estate further to the left of the first road you can see is finished, and a roundabout.  If the tree fell the likelihood of it falling on nothing much, unless it does it in the dead of night, is slight.

I am sad to see it go, but it is interesting to watch, as are the tree fellers (and there were three of them) who seem oblivious to danger.


By the time I had found my camera, the first branch had gone and the chipper had arrived.  The feller is wedged in the fork with a portable chainsaw and his mates are clearing the ground underneath.


He quickly chopped off the second branch until only one is left.  He now no longer has the fork to stand in.


Whoa! Down it goes.

I will now have to do Changing landscapes part 3 in 2 parts, because my blog programme doesn’t like too many pictures at once.


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Plate spinning.

There’s likely to be a bit of radio silence from me for a while; I am sculpting for mould making.  This is one of those disciplines that takes a while on the run up.  I have learned over the course of thirty years, but always remember, as I get ready for it, how truly dreadful my first efforts were for a number of years.

Having spent so many years interviewing artists, I know that there is nothing unusual in this.  Many artists working in easier mediums such as polymer clays use commercial moulds to begin the process, so that they have a correctly sized model on which to base further sculpting and tweaking, I have interviewed a number of people doing this.  I am also aware of a number of miniature artists using purchased kits to base a diorama on, there is also an entire industry of people dressing bought items, whether shelves, beds, dolls or anything else.  There are assemblers in most branches of miniaturism, including everything from house furnishers and decorators to accessories such as prams and tables.

There is nothing wrong with any of this, one of the features that makes the hobby so welcoming, is its inclusivity.  Whatever your skill level, there is room for you.  If you wish to extend your skill, there’s another scale you haven’t tried yet, another era, a different fantasy and everything in the world miniaturised, which is basically, what the hobby encompasses.  If it wasn’t called miniatures, it could be called cosmopoly quite nicely.

Truly original artists in all disciplines are a bit thin on the ground.  Original porcelain doll artists, defined as  making the original sculpture, starting with nothing, then making moulds from hand produced components, pouring them in porcelain, firing, china painting, assembling and dressing, not so many of them.  People making the entire doll out of porcelain, rather than extremities on a soft body…well, there’s me.

There are artists working in other mediums that are multiple process.  Of all the ceramicists, working in different clays, there are probably single figures in this country.  Glassblowers, again single figures.  Metal workers, a few.  Wood turners a few more, joiners and house builders, several.  Original needle workers, not many, picture painters, very few.

The way in which more items in the full size real world are made by computer and machine are beginning to be echoed in miniature.  How much longer artists will continue to produce artefacts made by hand and eye in miniature is anyone’s guess.  The instantaneous gratification of computer games could be said to be educating generations who will be unwilling to invest years of practice and learning to make something.

Undeterred by 3D printers, spray paints and other forms of magic, or by the interesting possibility of failure at every level, I am nevertheless sculpting again.

Some of the sculptures will not see the light of day.  There’s an ornament already more likely to see the dark of bin.  A doll that will almost certainly have a different set of thighs, even though the current set fits the calves perfectly.  There’s the head of a nasty auntie that is so awful I don’t think you’ll buy her; I may or may not make a mould and do a couple but I have so few glass eyes left, I’m not going to fit them in a doll no one wants.

And there’s the rub in another direction; there’s always a book on my show table for visitors to write what they would like to see, the result of which is an encapsulation of the difference between the inside of my head and the inside of the requester’s.

One of the other considerations is the plate spinning aspect of it all.  I make dolls in many scales, I make ornaments, in many scales, I do bas relief pictures.  Unlike the film I cannot do everything, every scale, all at once.  As soon as I feel I have the 24th scale dolls up to speed, someone will be asking why the 12th scale are thin on the ground and if there are any new ones.  There have to be new ones, for collectors.  Before I was a maker, I was a collector.  I still am and know the joy of pouncing on the new thing before anyone else and the triumph of bearing it home and feeling for a good few seconds that my collection is complete.

I am currently sculpting 12th scale dolls and dragon ornaments.  If you have requests now is the time to make them before I clean the two part epoxy putty out from under my fingernails, off the carpet, the edge of several scalpels, the ends of my fringe.  I’m OK for disposable gloves, thanks to Covid, they get trashed in the process of one parting the two part putty.

Next week I will start mould making, there will be plaster everywhere.

Anything you fancy?


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Not yoga for the knocking on.

Because I am married to a man we have two gigantic televisions.  He bought the second one for himself, believing the first, which is the size of a rugby team fridge sat on by an overweight hippopotamus, to be inadequate for his needs.

The second is so massive it takes up the entire top of a large chest of drawers in the sun room.  It is exhausting for the eyes constantly darting hither and yon in a futile attempt to gain some understanding of an experience as immersive as washing your socks under Niagara Falls.

However on the first television, which lives on a swivelling special TV platform thing anchored to the wall with coach bolts, which itself had to be adapted for the TV with a bit of wood and a couple of dozen huge screws through the metal frame (that’s how we roll round here, Shangri La with duct tape), I made a discovery.

Hidden among the Box sets (which paradoxically have no discernable box anywhere and should probably be called unboxed sets, which sounds like a school jumble sale) I found a whole lot of fitness videos.  These did feature men who looked like balloon animals, to be sure, fairly heavily, and also, women with thin arms, who I hate, but also: yoga!

I last did yoga in the 1970s.  It was quite a thing, a recent discovery in England.  We had yoghurt in the 1960s and economically took away some letters a decade later to discover yoga.  With added A, possibly for attitude.  We also had silversmithing, which I did at night school, and macrame which I did not, treasuring sanity.

The yoga was served two ways: in the church hall by a teacher and in a book called Yoga for Health, which may still be up in the loft.  I partook of both and enjoyed them.

Rediscovering yoga hidden among the box sets, I found it had not changed much.  I however, had.

Now there’s an unexpected surprise.  Forty years on and I appear to have changed physically.  I must check my picture of Doll Maker Grey up in the loft, behind the bookcase and see if it is smirking.

What has actually changed most notably are the transformations wrought by surgery and lack of.  The latest lot has left me with a stomach like a beach ball. You know those exercises in the gym where you roll around on a big ball?   I don’t need to, got my own.

‘So,’ intones the teacher, in a calm and measured voice (because this is yoga and we are not going for the burn –or any other small Scottish stream) ‘let’s just fold up the mountain.’  Fine, absolutely fine, I am willing to fold up the mountain except that I seem to have the Epcot Centre in the way.

Then there is Downward Facing Dog.  I am barking mad to fetch this but utterly unable due to two broken toes.

This is the lack of surgery part of Crumbling Jane.  The first toe was broken fifteen years ago in Australia when the OH crowding ahead of me into a bar at lunch time, finding it to be shut stepped back in horror and his crocs on to my bare toe.  You could hear the crunch from here to Bondi Beach cobber.  By the time we got home three weeks later and I got to the doc (do you remember that?  No?  Too young?  Well in 2008 and for the previous fifty years, there had been a system whereby, if you were poorly, you rang the surgery and made an appointment via a receptionist, subsequently going at a specified time that day to consult the medic. Seems like a dream of lost Utopia, now, dunnit?) it was too late.  The toe had set sticking up in the air.  It did not help that this was a toe previously broken inadvertently sliding on a recently polished school hall floor and not showing up on Xray.

The toe, also the second, on the other foot, was a casualty of lockdown.  Desperate to extend the summer as a winter of lockdown loomed, I was wearing sandals, no socks, in November and walking into the bed drawer, heard the crunch again.  I did not go to the hospital, which was solid with Covid sneezes, or ring the doctor, who was hiding.  Instead I watched my toe go black and heal stuck up in the air.  It stopped hurting after a few months.

To do the Downward Facing Dog, you need bones.  You bend your feet so you are standing on your toes, put your hands on the floor and go walkies, backwards.  On your bent toes.


I also cannot do the thing where you hold your arms up above your head.  (If there’s a robbery in the bank when I’m in there getting fifteen quid for portraiture, I am so stuffed.)  I have a long nail and five screws in my right shoulder. 


However, quitters never win, winners never quit. (You already know this if you follow the Hollywood award season, one shoe on the red carpet and we will never hear the end of it.  Best At Pretending To Be Someone Else.  Best At Doing Hairstyles For Someone Pretending To Be Someone Else.  Best at Photographing Them Doing It. Etc.)

Therefore I have decided to invent Yoga for the Challenged.  I have come up with a load of poses.

Beached Whale (Prone on the lino, hoping a neighbour will look in the kitchen window and has a key, still.  Breathe in.)

Seated Pasta.  (With or without a box set, your choice.)

Kneeling Stuck. (Shuffle to the edge of the sofa, wish it had handles and breathe out.)

Inter pose Recovery. (Watching videos of cats doing funny things, or picking your teeth, depending on time available.)

Donning Socks.  (Best done prior to discovering the bit of the carpet where the orange juice got spilt with your bare yoga feet.)

Upward Facing Having a Nice Lie Down.  (On the bed, if you like.)

Warrior Two and A Bit (On the drive with the bin men, or in the porch as the delivery man runs away from the mangled parcel.)

And, to finish

Bag Of Chips.

Thank you for attending the class.  Flobberlop.


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Oh ! Computers!

There is such a lot in the news at present about AI.  When it takes over I fear I will be the first against the wall.

My father bought a word processor (possibly off the back of a van) because he wanted to be up to date.  This was undoubtedly an ambition in one who had not even touched an electric typewriter because he had had a secretary for that.  He then took great delight for the next few years in being unable to make the processor do anything he wanted and took greater delight in telling of friends his age who had defenestrated their computers in frustrated rage.  After he died I looked for the word processor, but it had vanished (and I did check outside under the windowsills).

I find myself now turning into that aged and frustrated person.  The tech is utterly beyond me.  I know I do a blog and have done so for nearly fifteen years.  But I can do this because the S&H who has a degree in computers, taught his idiot mother how to do a blog and, to help matters along I just do exactly what he told me.  If you are looking for anything fancy (though we did jointly do a moving cartoon, long, long ago) look elsewhere.  You’ll get words here and also, pictures. To qualify: nice ones, and, in focus.

The OH however thinks he knows what to do with computers.  To be fair it was he who started this family off on the computers, buying a keyboard and watching the BBC programmes on how to programme on a Saturday morning.  He plugged the keyboard into the TV and words appeared on the screen.  He saved his work Hello.  How are you?  on to a cassette in the tripe recorder so that he could begin again next Saturday.  I, meanwhile, was teaching exam crammer classes and the S&H was left with the OH while I did so.  Thus it was that the S&H learned to press escape or delete while the OH was thinking what to do next and then roll away laughing, because this was before he could even walk.

So in our house computers were boys’ toys and I thought they were just a fad, which will be proved wrong when the AI takes over any day now.

Joining in about twenty years later, I suddenly realised you could use computers to write books and to shop and to keep up with long distance friends.

So the latest novel, written with an ever more complex operating system has been messed about with by the OH trying to help, but actually getting annoyed and shouting.  Now my page numbers have disappeared, the text is in three boxes across the screen and it’s the same on the memory stick and I am so frustrated I keep thinking what a satisfying crash there will be as the laptop exits the full length upstairs window.

I am so grateful the S&H has his mother’s temperament.  Patient and a natural teacher is he.  It looks as if he has found an idiot mother app thingy to help with extracting extracts.  I knew how to do this but don’t since the latest update.  Why has nobody invented Windows Idiot yet?  Why all these all singing, all dancing updates?  What we need is a Seniors Operating System.  The SOS should have a calm voiced very nice lady who can be available on a phone without being played Vivaldi in a queue, know exactly what idiot thing you have done and how to put things back as they were.

The S&H did have his own firm for a while which did exactly that.  He anticipated businesses would be as rubbish as his mother but still need to be helped and would pay for the help.  He’s a clever lad who has given this up in favour of a wage, which is a good thing, because he also inherited his mother’s business brains which are minute and dusty.

If the novel ever gets sufficiently organised in the computer to be sent off again and then gets published, it will be a miracle.  The books will be printed on vellum and encased in little gold boxes, probably.  Do you recall the ancient gospel dragged out for the coronation, carefully carried round on a velvet cushion?  Like that, only more so.

I believe the tech got above itself.  The words are still what count.  However, the medium is the message, which is why, when you defenestrate your laptop, you are merely striking the happy medium, and shouldn’t be blamed, at all.


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How to be happy.

There are many religions and belief systems that will tell you how to live your life.  Many wars have been fought, simply because people believed different things.  Belief is just that, no matter how true you hold your beliefs to be, or how historical you claim their foundation to be to prove your belief.  It continually amazes me that the most powerful force on the planet is thought.  You cannot see it, touch it, draw a picture of it, carve it in stone or make an engineered model of it, yet thought alone can cause death, life and everything in between.

Given that thought is one of the major motive forces on the planet effective among the human population, it should be incredibly easy to be happy.  Happiness is thought, is it not?

If what I have been doing for the past fourteen years is write my thoughts down here, it should be simple to show you how to be happy.  It is, after all, just a thought.

Perhaps it is.

Yesterday morning for the first time in a week I managed to speak to SMIL.  She has been getting up, having breakfast and going back to bed and back to sleep, she gets up for lunch and then sleeps in  a chair in the afternoon.  I never ask anyone to wake her; she either needs the sleep because of her dementia, or she is choosing not to be in the care home but in a different place in her dreams.  Sometimes, if they take a while to connect me to the part of the care home where the severely affected residents live, one of whom SMIL is, I hear the cries, arguments, endless radio music, bright brittle cheering along of the staff and I think I would choose to be somewhere else too.  Moreover there is not going to be any escape.  The chances of SMIL recovering from Alzheimer’s disease and being able to live an independent life again, are slim and none.  Besides, her daughter has either let or sold her house.  A person with dementia does not qualify for free assistance while they still have savings of £23,250.  That amount saved alone would not produce enough income to run a house, once any pension and savings have been used up, your local council has a duty to care for you, until then you will have to pay for help, if your doctor has told you that you have dementia and are not safe to be left alone.

While SMIL was sleeping all the time I rang at different times in the day without success.  Seeing the lie of the land midweek, I sent a card and some little bars of chocolate.  Yesterday morning I talked to SMIL who was surprisingly lucid.  I asked if she needed anything, she said ‘no’ with an effort, I asked if she was in pain but she did not reply (she is prescribed permanent painkillers, but I like to check from time to time) and at the end of me chatting on she managed a ‘bye’.  She was obviously present during the conversation and understanding.

Would it be worse to be in a care home, with dementia, understanding where you are, or in a care home, with dementia not understanding where you are?

After I had talked to SMIL I put the lockdown library out on the drive.  I had been a bit late doing so; I was trying to make up my mind whether the forecast thunder would eventuate.  So I was out with the books to see a young and very dirty man arrive.  He was wheeling a red bicycle and carrying an originally white bag across his body.  He read the sign on the side of the cart, asking: What’s all this about?

I amended the sign a little while ago, removing all the Covid precautions.  The notice now says that the books, jigsaws, crafting items and sweets are for anyone to take, that you do not have to bring anything back if you forget or do not want to and that donations are welcomed.

I explained that the book lending had started in the pandemic as an attempt to make people happy when they were very unhappy.  The young man said he was homeless and very unhappy.  He was obviously a reader.  I reiterated that he could take as many books as he liked and didn’t have to bring them back, he could leave them with charities somewhere else.  We exchanged smiles, he asked my name and told me his.  He said he was known for playing his guitar under a bridge in a nearby town.  We talked of books, he said he liked reading, I said I thought books were a good way of putting your head in an other place if you were not where you wanted to be.  I fetched a huge fantasy saga book from the garage, that I thought might be to his taste.  I think he was probably only in his thirties.  He asked if he could take sweets, took one little packet and tried to give me a coin.  I refused, giving him a handful of sweets and he began crying, at the same time peeling the wrapper off a chew and putting it in his mouth whole.

He showed me the line on the side of his neck where he had tried to cut his own throat.  I said I had tried to commit suicide several times as a teenager and had some understanding of despair but that I hoped this was the turn round in his luck and that things would get better.

He wiped his tears on the back of his hand and shook my hand twice.  His hand was very dirty but I noticed he was sober and present, fully aware of his circumstances, polite, communicative and a keen reader.

Here is a thought and two questions.  By which circumstance do you develop dementia?  We know the mechanism but not what sets it in motion.  The life path of the demented person, who can no longer think for themselves is entirely dependant on the good will and resourcefulness of their relatives, if they have some.

By which set of circumstances do you end up living on the street?  How does that happen if you are polite, young, strong, literate?  Do you have no family who would help, when people who are rude, aggressive and unpleasant enjoy life in the bosom of their families, well-paid jobs and entertain no expectation of life being otherwise?

One of the ways I make myself happy is to count my blessings at the end of every day.  After I close my eyes and before I go to sleep I literally enumerate the good things that happened in the day and remind myself why I am lucky.  Sometimes if I am in pain or in fear  I have ended up just being thankful that there are doctors and that I have access to them and that is one blessing and all I can manage.

Sometimes, such as yesterday the blessings fall thick and fast.

I have a roof over my head and a bed to sleep in which are mine and do not belong to a care home.  As this may not always be the case I am extra grateful right now.

I was able a little bit to bring sanity and cheerful news to my Step-mother-in-law.  I was able to give some books and some sweets to someone who needed them.

I have some common sense acquired in living to know that it is my lot to help others as much as I can within my means and that I am not currently called upon to do so in a way that makes me ill or depletes me, as I have been in the past.

There was a longer list but I fell asleep happily.

I recommend a detailing of your attitude of gratitude as a way of being happy.  It takes practice to perfect.  It is not a belief system.  It will fail in extreme circumstances but work again if you start doing it again when circumstances permit.

If you were happy every day of your life you might never know it.  But if you are a sundial and mark the happy days, you will know when you are happy.  That in itself is a life skill.  It is a way to train your brain to be happy, anyone who can think can do it.

Clouds underline the sunshine.


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