The technology of yesteryear…….

ends up donated.

If you have ever considered yourself to be ever so slightly past it, please be consoled.  You cannot possibly be more past it than passed-on technology.  How capacious is your drawer of music cassettes?  Do you still remember how to use a pencil to wind the tape back in again, when it has snagged in the machine?

We are not talking classic cars here, though they won’t be quite as classic when the petrol runs out.  The OH is betting on hydrogen, which I think will prove to be an interesting way of making rain explode.

The Father-In-Law, bless him, was wedded in equal amounts to assembling drawers full of gadgets and specialised gadget improvement, sharpening, enhancing and storage items.  One of the first things I noticed in my boyfriend’s  parent’s kitchen was the rack for storing Tupperware basin lids.*  It was fastened to the wall on a special, almost metal, doodad which had a lengthy chromed double pole with notches that extended, on the extension poles, to the edge of the kitchen workbench, handily rendering that part of the workbench unavailable for working on.  The many, many round lids were hooked on the poles in order of size.  The titchiest one, the size of half a crown, invited the mind of the viewer to boggle at the modest size of receptacle which the lid would fit. It may well have been the very handy, one-pickled-onion saver.  This was nested in all the other bowls and taking up at least half of the cupboard beneath.  Conveniently anyone wishing to utilise the biggest bowl lid would only have had to remove the other forty five lids to access it.  This whopper was large enough to seal the bowl big enough to keep a whole sheep’s head in, so handy for broth and inconvenient for the sheep.

And yet I married into this family, fool to myself that I am.

When the M-I-L had sadly passed on, the F-I-L took to visiting with gifts.  My newish husband received his school plimsoll bag with its cargo of ball bearings with less joy than you might expect.  My tin-like heart had already been tempered by the pre-nuptial gift of a nineteen thirties toaster, boxed and in working order if you ignored the so-called electrical wiring, which was unravelling like hairy string. The metal appliance had drop-down sides, in each of which you placed a slice of bread.  When the bread sides nearest to the unshielded electrical curly wires, (which heated up when you plugged the appliance into a wall socket, sometimes before you switched it on,) had reached the requisite shade of black, you could turn the bread by grasping the Bakelite handles and opening the sides. The bread slid down, flipping as it slid, so that putting the handles back up permitted both sides to be carbonised.

When we married, then being in possession of multiple toasters**, we donated the gadget to a museum of wartime life.  Six months later, dropping by to see our donation on display, we found it unavailable to view, unless you were invited in to the curator’s kitchen, where they were using it to make toast.

Step-M-I-L made donation of her intended’s treasured early vacuum cleaner a condition of marriage, wishing to keep her ankles intact.  The cleaner had a business end shaped like the head of a hammerhead shark.  The ‘ears’ were twin exhausts, capable of scorching both armchair legs simultaneously, whilst failing to suck up even light dust.  As a safety measure the, for want of a better description, electrical lead, was nice and short, enabling you to rearrange fluff in at least a foot radius of the socket.  I was always surprised there was not a nineteen-twenties maid in a black outfit, pleated pinafore and starched Art Deco cap in the broom cupboard with it.  The vacuum went straight to a museum.  The F-I-L was quite indignant at the amazement expressed by the museum staff at the existence of the artefact, ‘It was,’ he spluttered, ‘still working.  It could do lino, you know!’***

The unalloyed joy with which donations of ancient conveniences are received by museum staff is directly in reverse to their numbers.  A friend who worked in museums assures me there is no museum left that would welcome a flat iron.  Starting in the seventeenth century, the wonderful convenience of a solid lump of metal with a flat base, the base resting on the outside of a stove with a fire inside and rows of iron shelves round it, was the imaginatively named flat iron.  Each cooling flattener was replaced on the stove to warm again and a freshly snatched hot iron pressed into service.  Consequently flat irons were never singular items. In time, self-heating iron interiors were various.  The friend was at the museum when it was donated a gas iron.  The genuine burning gas flame inside the hollow metal lump being kept supplied by a rubber hosepipe, was, naturally, only as safe as the perishing hose.  How widely irons were used, when clothes were only washed at the end of a season, you may wonder.  The over-all pinafore visited the laundry with a frequency not enjoyed by the clothing underneath.  Washing the goodness out of woollen combinations was thought to promote the likelihood of catching chills.  Therefore all the clothing between the inner, unwashed, layer and the outer, starchy white pinafore or smock, could hardly be considered besmirched at all.  In a letter to her sister, Jane Austen bemoans the disintegration of a blue silk dress, stored in tissue over the winter and blames the failure on the silk, sold as washing silk not being ‘washing’ silk at all, not that she had tried to wash it.

Photographs of eminent Victorians feature concertina trousers.  There is a well-known one of Dickens, looking freshly pulled through a hedge backwards and one of Isambard Kingdom Brunel with a massive hat and fold-a-long trousers, though he was, of course, one of us, the undertall, in fact he was shorter than I am.  If he’d starched his trousers, and then applied a flat iron, he might have been able to look me in the eye, until it rained.

Along with the handy gas iron, capable of setting the ironing board on fire with ease, the gas poker was a popular household convenience.  In the semi in which I grew up, there were four open fires, each with a handy gas point next to the hearth and one gas fire upstairs which was considered amazingly modern for cutting out the middle man, so to speak, by burning the gas directly, rather than using it to set fire to coal.  The startling modernity of the gas fire, coupled with the extremely handy way in which all the rooms already had the wood floors painted black for a foot in from all the walls, was a major selling point; moreover the coal house in the back garden had a random outdoor cupboard joined on to it as an extra, for storing your wood. There was also a large rainwater barrel.  Washing your hair with rainwater was known to make it much softer, once you’d picked the cobwebs off it.  There was also a half door at the back, for the fishwife to rest her basket on while she was filleting, and carpet up the middle of the stairs, already. I moved into this marvel of the atomic age when I was three, but survived.  My mother used to light the lounge fire with a gas poker, paraffin, screwed up newspaper and a flat sheet of paper held across the front of the fire to help it draw. What it often drew was the sheet of newspaper, alight, up the chimney.  They chose white and gold wallpaper, so must have been young enough to be optimistic.  I have inherited the picture which was above that fireplace. Dark it is.  A portrait, possibly.

I have personal experience of the fragility of gas mantles, having stayed in my aunt’s gas-lit caravan with a friend.  The noise the mantles make when breaking is: crick, whoof.  The black mark up the wall is quite distinctive too.

At the back of my wardrobe in a box there’s an early nineteen eighties ladies’ electronic razor, conveniently the size of a shovel. It is rechargeably cordless and the charge will last long enough to do one and a half armpits, or half a leg.  I have the original store receipt, the carboard box and cloth for polishing the plastic case of this expensive item so handy for any lady weightlifter with the leisure to shave half a leg at a go.  I am biding my time to donate, waiting until I am certain no owner of my Father-In-Law’s stripe is still using one.  Then I shall swoop with my donation, using subsequent visits to observe the state of the curator’s legs, if the wondrous gifted item is not prominently on display with three spotlights.

It is difficult to say when, exactly, the laughable technology of yesteryear either becomes a valuable antique or gets reinvented as the latest thing. No one would have bet £.s. d. on the Victorian mangle being electrified and re presented as a die cutting machine for hobbyists and craftsmen, but it has been.  Other has-beens have possibilities, think of a new use for a Poss stick, an internal combustion engine starting handle, or a dumb waiter and you could be behind Mr Dyson in the queue at the bank.

Describing my refusal to espouse social media, smartphones or even my lack of facility with the TV remote, I am inclined to cite dislike of technology.  This is not strictly accurate, Victorian technology I find fascinating and on Tudor wood technology I can wax positively lyrical.

I like a bit of time to catch up, because I’m not past it at all, just timely.


*The Queen, famously, keeps her breakfast cereal in Tupperware boxes.  If she has the top-of-the-range box lid storage thingy it will not be as quaint as my In-Laws’, it will be regal.  In time museums will fight for it, obviously.

**Modern Wedding anniversary gifts.

1st.  Toaster repair vouchers.

2nd. Bed leg castor glue.

3rd. Carpet stick tape to stop mats wandering around.

4th. Dishwasher door seal replacement.

5th. Take-out dinner vouchers.

6th. Private detective gift certificates.

7th. Twin lawyer consultations.

8th. Social media slag-off templates.

9th. Put-you-up single bed.

10th. Engagement ring.

11th. Toaster repair vouchers.


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The gift of sight.

As I have been discharged by the surgeon and declared fit, I deem it time to bang on about my cataracts and the absence thereof.

People who have stuff, such as working intestines, no cancer, no pain and all five senses in good order, have absolutely no idea how lucky they are.  Not a clue.

People who have an ability, such as digestion, and lose it in an accident, or bungled surgery, have every right to bemoan their lot, acutely aware as they are of their loss and the problems the loss causes them.  Difficulties such as constant pain, loss of function and independence reduce your world to four walls and sometimes just a bed.  The pandemic has given everyone a taste of the frustration and hopelessness that is the daily lot of some of us.  I sincerely hope we retain our sympathy as the world improves and the health situation eases. I never really had a carefree youth because I had my mother. I was always in puzzlement about health matters when I was kept at home to see the doctor because my mother fancied some attention or sent to school in awful pain with my appendix because she was going out shopping.  My stoicism was a survival trait, unallied to pain or the need for relief from it.  I know I’m not alone in this attitude – my lovely old neighbour once remarked at the start of his heart troubles, before he got proper help, that he was not sure how much pain was the right amount to have.  The ideal answer is: none, though this age of drugs and painkillers is a relatively new phenomenon in human history.  Frailty of various kinds is known to have assailed famous historical figures but not stopped them achieving.  We think of Julius Caesar who had a malady which caused fainting and falling and may have been epilepsy; Horatio Nelson who was almost as short as me, had frequent bouts of dysentery and malaria, and lost an eye and an arm; and Queen Anne who had eighteen pregnancies, none of the resulting children surviving to adulthood.

You don’t have to be a slave building some great monument by hauling blocks of stone somewhere else, or some consumptive literary genius, to suffer from health problems, anyone can do it.  Neither do you have to be Queen Victoria to be slightly undertall, or Emperor Claudius to have cerebral palsy, anyone can be born a bit substandard.  If you have always wanted different coloured hair or eyes, or longer legs or less humorous toes, you’ll be right in there with me, I’m sure.

But how many people are substandard from birth and then get accidentally put right?

Well, there’s me……………

I am aware that my left eye has always been imperfect, it is not aligned exactly to the other eye, I’ve got a bit of a squint.  This is the eye that developed the cataract all on its own in an: oh let’s give up and stop working, sort of way, years ago.  Gradually things became dim. Keen readers will be aware of the decline of my proof reading skills.  One of the reasons I was so enthusiastically employed by magazines was my facility with proof reading.  They knew they could ask for five hundred words to go to press in two hours and just operate the pagination programme without needing to spell, grammar and fact check first.  Time is money.

You may also recall the dreadful accident that caused the development of the cataract in my good eye, when the OH tilted the entire fridge towards me including a box of screwdrivers he had just rested on the shiny top, that caught my eye literally.  I still think it was only the hard plastic contact lens that saved my eye from bursting.

The gradual diminution of my sight was never more obvious than when the hospital stopped all the cataract surgery in the pandemic to help cancer patients from another hospital.  I didn’t just approve of this move, as a cancer patient myself I stood up and cheered, I thought it was The Right Thing To Do and was glad to wait.

I knew that I was living in a bit of a fog.  Supermarket shopping was confined to the rows of shelves I could see.  There could be shrink-wrapped dragons on the upper shelves, for all I was aware.  One inch away from the TV I could almost read the programme guide, but it didn’t matter as watching fog in a box is a pretty pointless activity.  I was driving only three streets away, very slowly and, in the garden, getting some startled close-ups of snails and other slow-moving grabbable creatures, though the overall picture was just general swathes of colour.

I have described, previously, how my skill at memorising bus timetables was rendered unnecessary by the provision of spectacles first at age sixteen.  It was a revelation that buses had numbers on the front to identify them and their destination.  What a good idea! How very easy!  You couldn’t have done that to a Georgian horse pulling a cart.  The spectacles were provided when my answer to the direction to copy the notes on the board was: board, what board?

But spectacles are supplied on the basis of: try this, is it better?  It was definitely better than awful and I had become very good at discerning letters of the alphabet from vague outlines and had unwittingly learned by heart most cardboard optician’s sight charts and I could always read the close eye test and frequently read out loud the bit that said ‘Printed in Letterpress Monotype, Optical Supplies Ltd. 35 Chard Street, Gastown.’

However my cataract surgeon took no notice of any of that.  He corrected my right eye to normal and my left eye to a bit short sighted.  So I can read this, but, also…………

At six in the morning little birds are very active in my garden.  They swoop and fly everywhere. Blue tits take a bath in the bird bath and then drink the bathwater.  I CAN WATCH THEM DOING IT. Yesterday I had to interrupt my neighbour, who was talking to me, to tell her she had blue eyes.  At the tops of trees there are leaves, in fact there are leaves all over trees and I can see every one of them.  I can see where the ridge tiles on the house at right angles to mine have not been laid with even gaps.  I can see every blade of grass on the lawn.  I have just watched a squirrel jumping across the lawn, if he stops to scratch I might be able to see his fleas.

I can’t stop drawing.  I can’t believe how easy it is when you can see where the edges are.  When the children two houses away watch cartoons in the bedroom I can too, through the window.

Other people have spots and hairs.  You know that thing about British teeth? Absolutely true.

Hardly anybody’s clothes fit them.  Don’t people walk funny? The kitchen floor is filthy, and I’ve just washed it.  I can see the individual tufts of wool in the carpet that I bought for the lounge. I still like it, even if it doesn’t look like a renaissance painting.

Art!  There are dozens of art galleries I need to revisit!  I can watch a film at the cinema instead of guessing from the sound track.

The glass oven door is so you can watch the dinner inside, burning.

I can count the weeds on the lawn from this upstairs window.  Hang on.

147, mostly daisies.

I would probably not have had the cataract surgery if I had not had the accident because I still had one good eye and you see with your brain.

The S&H was born by C section, as they lifted him out and up, he turned from lilac to pink and opened his eyes.  And was surprised and delighted.  All that morning he looked at everything and you could almost watch the cogs in his brain whirring.  When he eventually slept, just after lunch time, it was only because his brain needed to catch up.

I feel the same.


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Itching for Britain.

You should believe in your beliefs, I believe.  Furthermore I believe I should set a good example in this matter and I believe I did not.

Tuesday night is the last night on which I slept, through the night, in the manner, in which, I think, normal people are prone to do.  I cannot remember exactly because I have lost the sleep of reason and am no longer normal.

Husband reading paper: What are you laughing at?

Reader: She says she’s no longer normal.

HRP: I thought that’s why you read it.

On Thursday night, swollen ‘twixt neck and knee and unable to find a place to place any place of me without it swelling and itching, approximately five sisquetillion times worse than in the photo, (previous blog, scroll down) I bravely co-opted the OH.

He likes his sleep the OH.

I was desperate.

The OH found the phone number of NHS direct, I phoned them.  Yes I phoned a medical helpline in the middle of a pandemic.

HRP: Now what has she done?

Reader: She’s very optimistic, you’ve got to give her that.

There was a solid ten minutes of : we are busy, if you cannot breathe try a bit harder.  Then there was ten minutes of: there’s a pandemic on, had you not noticed?  Then there was five minutes of: if you are dying, hang up and then try this very long number which we are only going to tell you once.  Then there was a lady with an accent so thick you could have cut it into slices with a butter knife and spread it on toast, topped off with some very idiosyncratic grammar.  For several minutes, utilising all the skills I had acquired teaching English in the language school, I did the fifty questions which must only be answered with the answers on the sheet she was holding, so that we can proceed to the next question.  A mere ten minutes of questions established whether or not I was exhibiting coronavirus symptoms to determine if I had accessed the correct service and a variety of numbers if I had not.

Half an hour after I had dialled the number, my identity was established.  Always a help when trying to help (or not as the case turned out) to find out who it is you are trying to help and always useful to understand the English spelling of a tricky and unusual name such as: Jane, I find, don’t you?*

Half an hour into the conversation the OH, whose desire to assist had been prompted by the sight of a wife resembling an inflated red balloon with fingers and feet sticking out of the sphere, lost the desire and sloped off to bed.

The gods of You Should Help Your Wife were on my side, however.  I had awoken his prostate.  As I itched for Britain he put in a bid for the 2024 DampOlympics.  How glad I was that I had spent the extra on reinforced underlay for the carpet between his bed and the bathroom!  For it is rather jolly to feel vindicated as a person of reason in the midst of telephone helplines, which, come to think of it, urgently need renaming with a name that is fit for purpose.

That afternoon I had taken an anti inflammatory prescribed for the OH, Fexofenadine.  It had worked briefly.  I had also at hand an over-the-counter anti-histamine, whose leaflet of contra-indications were practically a verbatim (despite being written) description of Yours Truly’s current state of being.  As in: do not take this if you look like this.

I would not, as I did, which information, in small, easily understood sentences, I conveyed to the listener on the helpline.

A few times.

A few more times elicited the response that it was almost certainly inadvisable to take the over-the-counter remedy, coupled with vast surprise at the matchy matchy nature of the written script and my state of being.

The caller gave out the potentially helpful information that she had been joined by a pharmacist.


But she would not let me talk to the pharmacist as I had TAKEN A MEDICINE PRESCRIBED FOR SOMEONE ELSE WHO WAS NOT ME.

The last five minutes of the hour were occupied with the advice to hang up and ring the GP in the morning.  The telephone assistant was so helpful she said she herself would book me a call to the doctor.  She was on it like a car bonnet.  With no further action on my part, the GP would ring me solicitously in the AM, alert as a lurcher with a downed duck in sight, ready to prescribe medicine for the person the medicine was to be prescribed for and no other human.

HRP: What are you tutting for?

Reader: Remember that set-to I had with that receptionist?

HRP: Oh, that!

Reader:  Just like that.

As I hung up the phone on an hour and a half of my life that I would never get back, I noticed that my arm, which had been resting on the marble top of the wash stand, was quite a bit less inflated than the other arm.

Therefore the next ten minutes were spent with both arms resting on the marble.

I did try for thighs on the marble, small of the back on the marble, ears on the marble, midriff on the marble.

Assiduously, I assure you.  However, the pensionable may struggle at five in the AM to hoist parts of their person on to a waist level Edwardian wash stand.  I certainly did.

I eventually discovered that the key to curtailing the itching was to get cold.

Fortunately it is August in Britain, therefore quite chilly.

Reader: Ooh, remind me to find the hot water bottle for tonight.

HRP: Will it stop you putting your feet on me to warm up?

Reader:  Maybe.

Then I remembered that I had not put the dustbin out.  Gambling that the neighbours would all be abed, I put the dustbin out wearing very very little clothing.  Me, not the bin.  No one passed by to remark that they were seeing more of me than usual.  Reluctantly I returned to the warmish indoors and spent the rest of the night doing wash stand, bed, wash stand bed, as you do.

The first time you can ring the doctor’s in the morning is 8.30, exactly at 8.30 there were 22 people ahead of me in the queue.  When I finally accessed the receptionist, I discovered that the helpline direct had indeed arranged for a call from the doctor in the late afternoon, as it was non-urgent.

So, the doctor’s receptionist being sympathetic, the doctor rang half an hour later.  I told him I was in post surgical isolation and could only let him see my rash if he was willing to direct his computer to my blog.

Which he did.

Two readers!

In perfect English (as he is) in a five minute conversation all was established, the rash identified as a post-surgical over-reaction to insect bites and Fexofenadine, but much stronger than the OH’s, prescribed.

The OH in bed, informed, did after half an hour get up of his own volition and fetch it, and I took the One-A-Day pill, once.  And after two hours the swellin’ subsided.

Reader:  Oh she’s alright.


Reader: Oh hang on……

By bed time it had thoroughly worn off.


Three o clock arms on the washstand, half past hair on the wash stand.

Do you know how it is when you give up and decide to sit up and read and, when you put your glasses on (because you are no longer short sighted) and the passage of the arm of the glasses sets off a furious itching behind your ear?  And then all the curly bits inside your ear join in and swell too. No?  Lucky you.

I was terrified the swelling would get to my face and I would scratch and dislodge the recent implant in my eye.  My ears were swollen like a prize winning boxer, leather belt and gold shield.

Terrified with the terror of terribly tired at four in the morning.

I interrupt this blog to go downstairs and get the next dose of Fexofenadine for it is ten sixteen, exactly 24 hours since the last dose.

And then I bethought me.

Reader:  Finally, she’s thinking!

HRP: You could take a leaf out of that book.

Reader:  You can talk!

HRP: No, I’m trying to read, in case you hadn’t noticed.

Serrapeptase!  My serrapeptase!  The classed-as-a-health-food enzyme that saves me from polymyalgia rheumatica – it’s an anti-inflammatory!

Three doses at hourly intervals later, the itching everywhere except in my hair and on my hands (which look like I’m wearing inflated red rubber gloves) has subsided.  Even the thighs, which were extreme.  You know when you have cheap mass catering and they do pigs in blankets as tiny expensive sausages encased in massive huge cheap puff pasty rolls? Like that.

And then it was eight o’ clock and a mere two and a half hours to the next Fexofenadine, so I kept my fat itchy fingers busy writing this.

I should have thought of the Serrapeptase sooner.  I should have kept the faith and believed in an enzyme which is of proven assistance rather than an advertised so-called helpline.

I should have known what I know instead of believing anything that can be looked up on a phone.  With age comes marginal wisdom, there to be used, if you remember to do so.

I hope with great sincerity that this is the last blog on the subject of itching.  The last three nights I could have given the Singing Detective a run for his money, that’s for sure.

In the insufficiently-chilly night I recalled a film about the French Foreign Legion (in my defence it was half past two and I was swollen) in which some poor wrong-doer was either staked out on an anthill in the sand, or buried up to the neck with wriggly things, I forget which, but if they have ever done this for real, you want to avoid joining the French Foreign Legion, you really do, no matter how bleak the supermarket chiller cabinet is for vegetarians in barbecue season.  No really.  Anyway, you wouldn’t suit the hat.


*Ken I quoll yeeuw Jen? Jeeyan?

No, call me stupid, that will do.

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Revenge of the Triffid.

I was an idiot.  (You may have worked this out.)

I foolishly labelled my lush and magnificent tomato plant ‘A Triffid’.

It did not like it and got its own back.

The last two posts have been about the garden because I have been having my cataracts done.  This is a thing which is both less and more bother than you would think, though on present evidence, by gum is it worth it.**  I have not been reporting on this for the theoretical learning wot I have got in the way the world works. As in: crow about something and the wheel will fall off, be modest and get on with it and yours will be the earth and everything that’s in it and what is more, you’ll be a man my son.  Rudyard Kipling, Margaret Thatcher and me, we all support this view of things. So I have carefully not been mentioning my eye in case it exploded.

However, it is still surgery and no matter how trouble-free modern surgery may be, it is nevertheless a bit of an insult to the body and should be treated with respect.

After surgery on the first eye, I came a cropper ten days later shifting massive pots full of soil and carrying statues round the garden, like you do.  Well I do, and I believe they do it in the Iron Man competition too, though they may not have had a cataract done just ten days previously.  My done eye, which had been fine, developed a white ring round it which was just like a contact lens about to drop out and becoming detached in a way that garrulous neighbours do not when you have left the last of the milk and sugar on high while you just pop out to the bin.

I lay flat, put the antibiotic drops in and crossed my fingers and toes, while cursing myself roundly and, indeed in other geometric terms too, I was quite annoyed with myself.  The day after the day after, all was well and it was a check up.

Having got away with stupidity you would think I would be more sensible for the second eye, wouldn’t you? (Welcome new reader!)

Yesterday, the day after the surgery on Tuesday, I realised the tomato plant had not been watered.  A plant 12 feet high requires a couple of gallons a day, at least.

As I (hereinafter referred to as ‘The Fool’) had not watered it, I thought I would do it by can with feed in the watering can.

This requires me to crawl into the jungle with the can, under the canopy, far from civilisation,


Some jungle resident, thinking I had come to nick its tomatoes, bit me.

Indoors I asked the OH to check my hair for signs of life.  This was my mistake.  I should have got fully undressed and hosed myself down with disinfectant.

During the evening the bites all down my arm became itchy, rapidly followed by everything else.  By midnight I could not lie still and had an itchy rash everywhere like this one on my arm.*


Everything swelled.  Do you remember Suellen, the poisoned dwarf who lived at Southfork by the pool in a howling gale?  Categorised as Swellin’ by Terry Wogan.  I was more swollen than Swellin’.  My swellin’ was swellin’ until I was swole, as a whole.

Thankfully the OH, who has medication for things you haven’t even heard of, crikey we designed the kitchen around the need for drawers for his pills, had very powerful anti-histamine, of the light blue touch paper and retire variety.

By three in the morning it had begun to take effect and today I just have a rash round my middle like a jammed lifebelt.

I am going to vouchsafe you a thingy that may help you in the future.

It is: after surgery, rest up.


Today I shall simply perpetrate art, but only if the pencil is not too heavy.

* I did not take the photograph of my arm for this blog, the OH took it on his phone so he could say to the ambulance people ‘But it was only like this an hour ago.’

**Yes, it is.


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The tale of the triffid tomato.

Back in the spring when we were still locked down, it was permissible to take my sewing machine to another town where a shop could repair it under guarantee.

The return journey was paused to visit a strange supermarket, such a thing, at the time, constituting a wildly exciting day out. (And, reader, when we went to collect the machine we visited the same previously unknown supermarket, even though there was food in the house.  Obviously because we needed to use the facilities provided for the elderly bladder and not just because we were having a jolly when we should have been sitting at home being miserable.  Though to be fair we were masked, squirted and gloved.  Well I was gloved.  The only time in the last eighteen months that I have been out without gloves was when the hospital receptionist forced me to take them off because ‘only the doctors are allowed to wear gloves’.  They will besmirch her fingers with devil’s snot when she gets to Hell, in my opinion.  Just saying.’)

In this marginally sumptuous venue I purchased a little tomato plant.  I grew it on in the sunroom and repotted it twice before planting it outside in a16 inch pot  With Richard Jackson’s Root Booster and some Easyfeed.

Here are some of the tomatoes which have fallen upon the ground.

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You may wonder why I am not picking them all before they drop.  Good question.

Here is the 16 inch pot.

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Underneath the plant, which is so gigantic I have had to support it with a garden chair.

Like this.


It has climbed up over the substantial wire obelisk, which is buried in there somewhere, and is now venturing behind the drain pipe.

Next week I expect to be able to lean out of my bedroom window and pick tomatoes.

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There are many tomatoes.

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Many, many cherry tomatoes.  There is also a cucumber plant. which was standing on a table, which has now been overgrown by the triffid, and is starting to produce cucumbers interwoven with the tomato vine.

I await the eager cry of Tarzan: Ergle ergle ergle ergle err, can I have a tomato sandwich please?

Yes of course he can, there is plenty, or maybe, planty.

I wish I could email you some through the ether.

Picked off the vine and shoved in the gob, summer has arrived.


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As it is August, I had to go out in the rain to photograph my lilies before they go over.

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Even from inside the house, through the French window they are pretty good.

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I was quite quick with the lily beetle spray this year.  It has paid off, strong growth in the leaf stage seems to produce better blooms, possibly because the plant is not using all its energy to fight the attack.  If you go outside and turn the other way on the steps you see this:

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The cascade is rooted in several different pots.

I went out to the front garden,where a gentleman walking past, stopped so as not to get in shot and remarked on how beautiful the lilies are.

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I agree, even those in pots doing their first year are good this time.

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You can appreciate the use of them by Victorian artists as symbolic of all things angelic.  Considering that these are bulbs that anyone can grow, that are readily available and not expensive, (and these are not the giant lilies, just ordinary Asiatic lilies) they really are out of this world, even in an English garden,in the rain.

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Unto man the creator gifted creativity and suggested he create; unto his five-year old, the devil gave three pots of micro-fine glitter in different colours and suggested she mix them. By sprinkling.

Glitter is actually another element in the Periodic table but no one has mentioned it, for fear of reprisals.

The maths of glitter is terrifying.

Glitter is so cost effective as a decoration, it confounds accountants because it has a unique negative/positive value, with age bias, in that the younger the child you give it to, the further it will go.

One pot of glitter 12, yes twelve millimetres tall, just 12 that was all it was, not even an inch, can coat three carpets, the hall stairs and landing and right in the inside of the cracks in a wooden floor, far, far beyond the reach of any vacuum.

Glitter has a half-life of six million trillion aeons, squared.

Glitter is repulsed by thin, sensible smears of glue but attracted to dry hair.

It duththn’t thaste nithe.

Come on then, James Dyson, come on you and your pet hair removal machines, stitch this if you think you’re hard enough.

Glitter attaches more readily to the side of the very sticky tape than it does to the face. (Of the tape, but not of the people.)

If you had these friends, right, you’d known since student days, right, like in that T.V.series but not as pretty, also with less hair and bigger thighs, and they had done tons better than you had and had a much bigger house and better cars and shinier teeth and then had two very perfect children, going on social media to say ner ner nee nee ner is so last century.  Just give the children mega packs of art glitter (you can get it in fifty ml. tubes in packs of twelve.)

The thing that Christopher Robin hates most, is sand between the toes.  That’s because he never had glitter in his underpants.

If a person gives their grandchild a pot of glitter at half past ten in the morning, how long will it take to coat the entire house?*

Glitter is cheaper than drugs but has effects that are probably similar on the contact lenses.

At times of social unrest, MPs are suggesting giving the Police glitter guns but the Refuse Collectors unions are on the promise of a walk-out if the bill is passed.

Psychiatrists have recommended changing the name from glitter to something less attractive, certainly nothing that will prompt cries of delight.  Muck, radioactive sewerage and gob, have been mooted.

Shooting of the new Bates Motel Terror movie has been held up.  Carpenters and set decorators have completed the dungeon, shower room, and torture chamber but want extra for building the craft room with glitter pit and static machine.


*The time it takes to say: ‘Or would you prefer stickers?’

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Somebody at the door.

This is the week the granddaughter comes to stay on her own, her parents deeming her old enough at the age of five to stay so fay away from them.  They may also consider me old enough to look after her, though personally I wonder if I’m a little irresponsible.

The only occurrence booked is a visit to The Children’s Play Village.  There is also Stopping In to get the phone call from the shower engineer on Wednesday about exactly when the shower engineer will be arriving on Thursday to fix the OH’s shower.  He tugged it in exasperation, frequently his default setting, thus breaking a safety doodah, which, having broken, causes the water to cascade down the back of the shower, testing the impermeability of the impermeable (hopefully) panels.

The rest of the time I have had a request for endless art and craft.

When I was a child my mother used to say that she wished they had shares in Sellotape, I got through so much of it.  At the time, in the early Fifties, you could get two types of sticky stuff.  There was clear sticky tape, Sellotape, which was quite expensive and came in a blue tin, in one width.  There was also cow gum of various sorts, which was basically boiled hooves.  It was opaque and came in a bottle with a rubber tip.  To access the glue you took a sharp knife, craft knives not having been invented, and cut along the depression on the angled tip.  When you pressed the tip on a surface, the cut opened slightly, a small amount of opaque glue flooded a little bit on to the surface and failed to adhere anything to anything, except dust.  It was not sufficiently sticky to stick a sheet of paper, with glue applied, facing glue side down, to the lino, even if you stood on it a lot.  I was bought a book, which I enjoyed, about making models with one piece of paper and no glue at all, just folding and creasing.  When I went to stay with my grandmother we stuck scraps in a scrap book with glue made from flour and water, in a saucer, if you’d added a lump of fat and a sprinkle of salt, you’d have had pastry.

My granddaughter has a box of things, bought for her and an entire room full of crafty stuff, bought for me.  Life has moved on.  But the glint in her eye, when she decides she’s going to make something, is me all over again.

Waiting 65 years for me all over again, is such a surprise for someone who came from an orphanage.  If you had parents who were like you and children who were like you, lucky you.  For me, it is a huge surprise.  The S&H is like me in temperament.  He is endlessly patient and can teach computing to dolts without even breathing heavily or changing his tone of voice and he always sees the funny side of everything. His creativity, however was always bound up with the computer; aged eleven, he wrote an entire computer game, called the Garden Game in which you got points for stamping on slugs.  He may well have been watching his mother in the garden.  He can draw and cartoon well but isn’t really interested.

The GDD and me, how will this be?

I’ll tell you next week,when I know myself.


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Seasonal lagging.

Before we get started, I would like to clear up any misapprehensions concerning the title.  Much as I love Australia and assorted rellies therein, this is not a timely warning about getting up in the loft and wrapping bandages round your pipes, on the off-chance of snow. The planet is fractious, no doubt of that.  It got used to a sky full of polluting aeroplanes and rivers disgorging rubbish into the sea and then we went into lockdown and stopped.  It’s like living on sweets and chocolates and then going on a health doodah, featuring mainly water, your skin will react.  Oh yes, I speak as a person with troublesome intestines, who has lost nearly a stone and gained a zit the size of Cornwall.

But it’s not about that, you’ll be relieved to know.

It’s about catching up. It isn’t an age thing, I’ve done it forever.  It’s fashion, diet, prevailing trends, in which I’m always playing catch up.  The reason we are always playing catch up is the global nature of everything on the planet and commerce.  In the sixteenth century you could be a wit in your own village and world famous as far as you were concerned, especially if you never embarked upon the arduous journey to the next village.  What with sowing enough seed to have extra crops so you could sell some to hire a donkey and a pair of shoes, most people never bothered. Like some mediaeval Amazon, peddlers visited, sometimes as often as once a year. To make up for the deficiency, if you had a really massive village, as many as, say, five cottages, there might be several peddlers a year.  They weren’t all fashionistas, though the original haberdasher was a seller of clothing for men.  In a cod piece you never had to worry if you dressed left or right, you dressed up, which makes some of our shocking fashions seem a bit on the tame side.  If you were a village woman a few hundred years ago, you’d be waiting for the chapman to call.  He was an itinerant peddler possibly peddling the ribbons from the narrow weaver, or the stuff to tie all your clothes together, the cord made by the braider.  If you were peckish you’d be hoping for an itinerant kedger, or fisherman, from whom we get kedgeree, which was the one complete dish I could eat in small amounts a couple of years ago, so I’d have been glad to see him.  Less so for the duffer, a peddler of very cheap goods; the borler, who made cheap clothing and the raffman, who dealt in saleable rubbish.

They are, of course, all online now and it’s only a few hundred years since newspapers were invented here, in coffee houses, people not wishing to talk to each other early in the AM even then.  Instantly influencers were on it like a cart bonnet:  buyeth thy panniers, full hoops are so last century! Which must have been a blow to tranqueters everywhere.  These makers of hoops may well have been sunk in gloom, ready to shuffle off their metal coils, not realising they only had to wait a century or so for the crinoline, or another century after that for the hula hoop.  Never give up; in fashion what goes around comes around, eventually.

Which brings me back to the seasonal lagging.  I have it, badly.  It’s not just online influencers telling me purple eyebrows are so last week, it’s a lack of enthusiasm on my part.  I think my desire to look forward in time was depleted by years of writing for magazines, ahead of time.  Six months ahead, mostly.  This is the reason we have Christmas in July on all the shopping channels; they’ve just finished making ten tonnes of fake snow and are bursting to flog it, or have taken delivery of six containers of fairy lights and only have a corner of the warehouse to cram them all into.  Not that I am saying all such televisual peregrinators are raffmen and I do recall sitting in the garden writing a magazine pantomime in a heatwave and wondering if anyone would want it.  When the festivities commenced, six months hence, I was lauded as being on the ball, in the spirit and generally up to speed, though I never had time to bask in the comments, I was too busy inventing beach umbrellas and dressing dolls in bikinis as the snow fell.

These days I just lack enthusiasm because of age. I have retired friends who wonder every year if it’s worth taking the Christmas decorations down.  They are not alone, there’s a plethora of raffmen online who will sell you exactly the same strings of fairy lights for barbeques that they were selling for the tree a while ago.  In fact, it’s the same picture, with a different caption.  It’s always barbeque season somewhere.

I also lack enthusiasm because of weather patterns and changeability.  When I taught at the language college everyone’s favourite witticism, that translated readily and that you could say in class, was that Britain has a lovely climate and dreadful weather.  That really is the reason I am lukewarm and the heating is on.  I can’t buy sleeveless tops in May, it’s just too optimistic.  Thin pyjamas with tiny shorts in April?  I’m not even going to try them on.  But here we are in July and not only do I quite fancy a sleeveless top, the duffers are selling them for next to nothing because they are bursting to fill the chapman’s tray with winter coats.  The other advantage to me is that recently purchased items do not lurk in a bag in a cupboard so that I am discovering a pair of bagged shorts in a clear-out in January.  I retrieve the item from the drive where the delivery peregrinator has chucked it, disinfect the mailbag, don my gloves, get the tongs, open the bag and wear the item in three days, just like that!

There is also the surprise discovery that, as you get older, despite having more relatives than you used to have, you get pickier.  You realise a preference for quality, which, coupled with the knowledge that Raffmen make clothing on the small size to save costs, so that anyone over fifty needs to go up about three sizes to have a chance of even getting a forearm into the trouser leg and waving without breaking their fingers.  Better quality clothing lasts longer; if you still own six really good tee-shirts bought in a sale, why would you want a seventh from the duffer?  Besides which I know I wear the stuff I have and don’t want to end up like Sam Pepys.

The honest (because he wrote in code and didn’t think anyone would read it) diarist bangs on for weeks about a suit trimmed with sliver lace, which he is having made.  There is one very like the description in the clothing museum in Bath. On and on he goes about how he is going to put one over his friends, how very jealous they will be, how extremely keen the cognoscenti will be to be introduced to the man in the silver suit and so on.  By the time he takes delivery of the suit we are all bored to tears. He tries it on, walks up and down his bedroom in it and asks the opinion of the wife, which turns out to be that’s it’s a bit OTT and will make her look dowdy.

He never wore it out.  It possibly turned into his gardening suit, or maybe was donated to a peregrinator, who would not be able to beg in it, not even for cold kedgeree.

There are advantages to lagging.  Not buying the item du jour, only to find by the time it gets delivered it is so last week.

I would like you to remember this, next time you go cruising up the Big River retailer and other places late at night when you are tired. I will endeavour to remember it too and, even, not act upon it! The raffmen now have ethereal container ships, on which they sit with the tills open, twenty-four seven, while we do the peregrinating.

Fashion is the same as it always was; a load of hoopla and tranqueters.  I would sing Anything Goes if I didn’t know that a Col Porteur is a travelling bible salesman.  Which proves there is nothing new under the sun, therefore it’s always better to lag.

Stay on top!  Be behind! Back on out, the lagging is lovely!


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How much do you love your writing instruments?

That bad hmm?  Join the club.

I’ve been trying to have a clear out, it’s been going on for days.  I have huge numbers of writing instruments, despite the fact that the writing instrument I usually use is a laptop.  It was years via the typewriter I was given age eight (still in the loft and likely to stay there; it does not possess a semi colon, poor little thing,) the word processor and the first computer, that the pen fell from my hand.

However, a mere flex of the fingers and it is back.  Eleven jars of them sitting on this table.  In the tidy up they have been sorted and categorised, rearranged and regrouped so I can find them. like some ‘take your partners, do see do,’ for pens, which, helpful as is its intention, has not caused the automatic pencil to surface.

It’s a major thing, an automatic pencil.  For years I cleaved unto the cheap plastic ones until I bought a proper one.  This it is, that has turned up missing.  It looks ordinary.  It could almost be in disguise as a ballpoint pen, except that I do not allow ball point pens, anywhere.  They flock, unbidden to the jar on the kitchen windowsill, but I did not buy them, neither did I put them there.  I’m sorry but I do not like them. The barrels are always warm and always feel like plastic.  One of the more difficult requests of my mother’s in her final years was for a packet (a packet!  As if one wasn’t bad enough) of plastic retractable ball point pens.  In different colours!  Horrors and shoctrick shocks.  I thought I had been properly brought up but it turns out I had been adopted.  By ball point pen users.  I had to buy them multiple times, the carers used them and then lost them.  They passed from hand to hand, like good time pens who didn’t give a damn and would stick their nibs out for anyone with a thumb on their button.

A pen is like a cat.  It needs love and stroking and an owner.

I do love teeny tiny 0.1mm fibre tips.  They are a benefit of civilization.  I have an actual box with gold edges I bought off a shopping channel with numerous colours of them, each living in a little silk lined-ish depression.  They are brilliant if you are drawing or painting to outline so unobtrusively, the viewer can be unwittingly directed to look at what you wish to show them.  Glorious.  I do have a working set or six in plastic wallets and am quite likely to keep the posh set for special occasions until they dry out.

Oh where has my nice automatic pencil disappeared to?

It has a buddy who is an automatic eraser, who is missing it and quite bereft.

I first saw an automatic eraser at portraiture.  This was a class run by the local art shop full of artists drawing a hired model in a room altogether, breathing on each other without masks.  Long ago and far away, when we could do such things.  In this class I watched a retired teacher erase an entire portrait with an automatic eraser and thought him louche, at least.  Then like a major drugs hit, one leaped into my hand and I was gone.  Then I bought the nice automatic pencil that was not the cheap plastic one and they looked so good together.  One doing the drawing, one doing the rubbing out, like a drug dealer and his hitman, they wandered into separate  jars from time to time but always ended up together. Now the eraser lurks, alone, waiting for work.

Oh where is my automatic pencil?

There is a website which I am reluctant to tell you about.  Sign up, they do great emails.  I love them. I will tell you in a footnote, no sooner, or lose you forever and it will cost you, if I push this lot on to you.

I have been lurking.  You can purchase automatic pencils that cost hundreds of pounds.  You can change the currency to your own coinage and it will cost you hundreds of whatever you trade in and they ship worldwide.  Sorry, sorry sorry.

Hours.  I have spent so many hours looking for my next automatic pencil, there may be disappointment if the original pot occupant turns up.  He’ll have to be a back-up if he does.

Yes my writing instruments acquire pronouns.  You already know I think plants are people, are you surprised?

There is little doubt that some writing instruments are herd animals. One wooden colouring pencil alone, is just a lost sheep, regardless of its colour.  Packs of thin fibre tips in differing grades of thinness are a class, take out the ultra thin one and lose it and the others will speedily start wandering round your desk, looking for it.  Some will end up on the floor, lose their caps and just generally behave like the gang who came with the good-looking one (who got a ride in a limo, early doors) at a night club.  The waste bin is their ultimate destination, wasted, inkless, we all know that.

I am trying not to visit this website too often, in case I inadvertently, or, even, advertently, stray into the fountain pen section.

Oh fountain pens!  They’ve come on quite a lot since they used to empty themselves in your blazer pocket.  This was the wool blazer that got dry cleaned once a year.  Only blue ink was allowed in exams. or, to be precise, for any form of school essay.  Black ink was for teachers, prison officers and, probably, counterfeiters. You could express yourself, though it was not encouraged, by your shade of blue.  One girl had pale blue verging on turquoise, she never married, no one was surprised.

Fountain pens are still noticeable in International Diplomacy.  Whichever residence of the head of government the nice table is situated in, the clusterers around it are brandishing fountain pens.  We have not yet reached the point in history where a thumbprint on an electronic device can change history.  They couldn’t give a signee each the device to take home.  What would they do, email it?  The day will come, underline my words, (0.1mm, fluorescent orange) when someone hands the young signee the fountain pen and he doesn’t know how to work it. To be fair, Ancient Egyptian tomb decorators may have made the same joke about chisels, ‘I hear they’re writing with fish juice on papyrus, Honkinhorn, that’s not going to last, is it?  Pass us the number three pyramid end, could you?’  ‘Here, Battersbyisis, you can’t chisel on grass mate!’  (Both fall about laughing, sideways.)

I wonder who designs presentation pens?  The item has to look incredibly expensive but only be good enough for one go.  They probably segue into it from designing kitchen blenders that say they can chop ice and lawn mowers advertised to be able to do long grass.  And have you noticed with the International Peace Treaty (good till next Tuesday) signing pens, they are never given the box to keep it in.  Years later you could be saying: Yes I have the pen that was used to sign the Treaty of Macclesfield, um, it’s here in this drawer, somewhere.  No it isn’t.  Hang on, it must have rolled to the back, let me just…………oh now, that’s pulled the drawer out.  Oh look! There’s my packet of giant blue paperclips, oh good, I’ve been looking for them.’

So I will endeavour not to stray into the fountain pen section, or special offers and deffo, deffo, deffo NOT limited editions.  Or LAST FEW, Nothing has bigger puppy eyes than a lone pen.

The only thing I love more than writing instruments is writing with writing instruments, though collecting writing instruments comes a close second.

Well, here it is, don’t say I didn’t warn you.  Get a cup of tea first.


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