Who Are These Little Hitlers Who Rule Our Daily Lives?

Some weeks ago I received one of those letters from my electricity supplier telling me that a particular electricity meter in my house had to be replaced!  I had not complained about it and had no trouble with it but they said it was a 'legal requirement'.  In fact it was the most recently installed meter, of that I am pretty sure. I was told to make a suitable appointment.  Which I did.  At what time? Any time from 8am to 1pm today.

Now mine is a very weird house. 
It was not originally built as an ordinary house but as a stable block.  So there's the middle part, and adjoining it, what was once a tiny cottage.
On the other side is a very small studio.  It has all been knocked together now and nothing is separate except for the darned meters. Each of these parts of the house has to have its own separate electricity supply with meter and on/off system.  I did try once to get in onto one system but the electricity people wanted  practically to demolish the front half of the wall to put all the supplies together, and charge a fortune into the bargain.  I declined. It is this tiny studio that required (so they said) a new meter.

So I waited and the man arrived at 12.20.  A nice strong looking man, armed with his huge tool box.  Now all these meters are in one place, on a switchboard, so to speak.  But the one to be replaced was at the top - naturally.  Having removed the front cover (invented by me in 1962) the young man asked me the height of this meter.  'Well the door is 6'6" and I guess it's another couple of feet right to the ceiling' said I.  'Ah ha!  Since this meter was installed we have new rules now' said the young man.  'Really?' said I 'and what might they be?'  Well, it turned out that he was not allowed to climb to such dizzy heights.  In disbelief I remarked that the meter is regulary read without problems and that anyway, I did have a selection of varying height step-ladders.  Quick intake of breath again as he uttered the dreaded words 'ELF 'N Safety'  I pointed out that he could at least try before turning down the job and if his steps were not good enough, then he could use mine.  Another sharp intake of breath and shaking his head as though he had decided against climbing Everest in minus 150 degrees fahrenheit, he explained that he was not allowed to use my steps and that if he fell I would be responsible.  I laughed and pointed out that he would land on the carpet and he couldn't possible fall from a couple of steps and why assume that he would fall anyway and don't be so silly etc.  I also explained that until only 3 years ago I used to climb into my clocktower regulary to wind the clock, and for that I used a ladder without breaking every bone in my body.  And I was twice as old as he was - perhaps 3 times.  But he was not amused. 'No I can't do it.  I'm not allowed to climb so high, and if an inspector came and saw that I'd done the job from such a height - I'd be in big trouble.'  Not to be beaten I almost screamed at him 'Well you must have the next size stepladder in your van - go and get it and I'll hold it while you change the meter and I'll break your fall, since you are so convinced that you will fall - so go and get another ladder'  That was the last straw.  Common sense like that?  NEVER.  And so he left stating that another appointment would be made and he'd come with a mate.

So shaking my head in disbelief I sank into my chair with the telephone, ready to make a full complaint to this over rich, overcharging, milk-sop electricity company.   I pointed out that 10 feet was hardly reaching for the sky, that the van their man was using surely had room for 2 or 3 sets of steps?  Not just one and the smallest at that! And here we were sending young men out to Afghanistan and firemen up ladders and so on, and what kind of rule is it that prevents a perfectly normal everyday job being done (if it must be done, remember I hadn't asked for it)  Oh much sympathy did I get, but certainly the young lady taking down my complaint was very polite and said I would definitely hear from someone soon.

And much good that will do. You and I know that it will do no good at all.  We are allowing ourselves to be overruled by those faceless little Hitlers sitting in Brussels who have nothing better to do than dream up the the next idiotic set of rules to blight our everyday lives.  It was not so long ago that a young boy drowned while a couple of so called police assistants stood by and watched because the river was more than a foot deep. 

Well that was a jolly good old rant and at least I have got it off my chest.  Sometimes you feel you've just got to tell someone.

                         I AM NOT A FAN

Who Could Ever Wish This Summer To End?

As I look out across the now green grass I remember a really wonderful summer.  Short and to the point you might say.  A summer making a statement.  

But what a battle it was to start with!  Memories are short, I know, but can we ever forget the cold of last Spring?  Would the summer ever begin?  I heard that said over and over again as we shivered and wondered whatever to do about the summer bedding plants.  We were all feeling upset, not only for ourselves and our rising heating costs, but for the garden centres and all the people who work outside.  Remember?  And the fashion shops were so disheartened, full of summery prints, about as useful then as a chocolate teapot.  My little swimming pool remained tightly covered and piled with snow, still host to playful skating birds trying to keep warm just like the rest of us.  And then suddenly, as if it had woken up and remembered that this was England and almost July, and it had better get started.  And start it did.  So I could now plant into my polytunnel all the desperate little plants - cabbages, lettuces, tomatoes, courgettes, melons and rhubarb.  Yippee they seemed to shout - now there'll be some legroom!  They had been crowding each other out in my greenhouse for weeks.  And that was the start of our beautiful summer of 2013.  All about six weeks late of course, but all buzzing with life.  And I must say that for the first time ever, I was so thrilled with what was happening in the tunnel that I even photographed the cabbages and lettuces because I have never grown such perfect unblemished things in my whole life. And that is more or less how the entire summer carried on.  But I think that perhaps is enough of vegetable talk
I wrote in my last post about my adventures into trying to earn a bit of pocketmoney and the disaster that turned into.  So I have steered clear of that kind of thing because I have never heard of anyone having any success making money on the web.  I did start listing many books on Amazon.  I called myself (still do) Pearlsboox and actually got rid of quite a few off my shelves and happily made room for others, because I do quite a lot of reading these days and winter is coming on so I need the space.  But even this occupation is weird.  I have written about this before in an earlier post and nothing has changed.  I still find that the stranger and more peculiar the book is,  the quicker it will sell.  No novels, few autobiographies except if they are definitely odd.  Reading up on the subject of selling books on Amazon, I find
the best sales are for definite 'way out' books.  Remote poets go well,  for example I recently sold a book of poems by an unknown poet - at least he was to me and had languished on the shelves, mostly unread for years.  I sold it to a buyer who turned out to be his grandson.  Other books about herbs and witches and curtain making have done well and if only I could find 'A History of Peat Bogs through the Ages'  or 'The Boys Bumper Book Of Worms and their Diseases' that would go as fast.  If I could ever be bothered I would ransack bookshops for such items and maybe make a mint.!!    But no, this year I swam more than in any year since I first had my little pool mark1 almost 50 years ago.  Plenty of time for books and anyway what is left listed on my website just doesn't seem to sell, so I only look now and then to see what's going on.  No,  Robin my son is not holding me up in this picture (as if)  he'd  just tried to duck me and I was having none of it.  I was just wondering if there might be a few days left for the odd barbeque?  We have had a quite a few this year which again has been why this past summer has been so enjoyable.

I did have a lovely time on 'The Orient Express' in March - whilst it was still freezing cold.  A friend had reached her 85th birthday - hence the twenties cap in the photo -
and she had been kind enough to invite me along with some other friends from old theatre days and her more recent travel guiding days.  Such a luxurious train and serving the most delicious and beautifully prepared food.  They really do give service that is so rare these days.  We went along the south coast to Hastings and Dover and Ramsgate and Whitstable.  I declined the oysters offered in Whitstable as I had bad memories of them, but most of the company had them and everyone thoroughly enjoyed them.  Apart from the foggy cold weather outside, we had the most enjoyable day.  So lovely to be with old friends.  Quite memorable.

Apart from my dear friend Paul Kelly having about 30 of his books published on Kindle which was great cause for happy celebration,  just a few things have weighed heavily this year.  One was the ending of a friendship of many years duration on the web and the other was the death of a very sweet young friend.  The first was caused by money.  How right was Shakespeare when he said 'neither a lender not a borrower be'.     A ridiculous situation which could have been so easily resolved,  but that's life I guess.  The second was the sudden death through breast cancer of my dear Hungarian friend Gabi.  She was only 42.  Alas, she told no one and was a total believer in herbal cures and refused to accept her condition until it was too late.  God bless you Gabi, I will never forget you or your kindness when Francis and I visited Budapest as guests of the BBC.  Francis Rentoul was the real guest as he featured in a publication being celebrated  and I accompanied him.  After all, he was 90  at the time.  We were looked after by Gabi and her associate Bela who has remained a friend ever since.  Francis has been gone 5 years now and how sorry he would have been that this has happened. As you might have read in a previous post, I, too, had breast Cancer but I was one of the lucky ones.  All it did to me was to stop me thinking about working again, although I know I am more than capable.  But at my age I can't dwell upon that too much - I just take each day as it comes and I certainly am not complaining. 

But Gabi would be the last person to have me end this post on a miserable note so I will say that one of the happiest things to happen this summer was an old colleague Robin Squires came across my name on the 'linkedin' website and got in touch.  He came to see me for lunch one day and did we have a load of catching up to do!  He told me of many of his most recent and exciting projects, the one he happened to be busy with then was this, do visit the site, you'll find it engrossing I know.  http://www.lavenderdays.org
Then he came again with a small 'band' comprising himself and a wonderful  couple of entertainers.  Just my kind of music and I simply love Lynda's voice.
Do please visit this website and see them in action
Lynda Styan - Red Hot Ukelele / Vocal Duo!

Red Hot Duo  
Robb himself is a most prolific script writer and has many projects on the go right now and he works closely with Lynda and her marvellous ukelele duo.  So on that happy note I shall say adieu until the next time.


Yes, finally I have given in.  I found a reason to sound off!  I wonder just how many get caught in this nasty little web of lies and deceit called 'UPSELLING'.  It is not that I didn't wish to contribute to my blog - it's just that who the dickens would be interested anyway?  Nothing exciting has happened.  At my age who would expect it to?  The book cover shown here was published just about the time I was born,   So there!  Is anyone still alive out there?  Well OK so I have got started .  Now what?  I'll start with today.  And what a morning! This is how it all began.

Last evening, at about 5pm,I had switched off my computer and retired for the evening to a load of boring television which I very soon tired of.   I have a second laptop in my sitting room, so I thought I'd switch that one on and see if anyone had written to me lately.  Yes a couple of old emails from a week or so ago.  And a few spam mails and another that I thought I'd open.  So I did.  A presentaion from a young man being very persuasive about the fact that he was giving away his system of making money on the Internet.  Yes, giving it away.  I actually listened to it right the way through.  Hmm, thought I, not bad, I'll take another look tomorrow on my proper computer, so I sent the mail through to myself and switched off.  This morning I woke up, had breakfast, did the usual odd chores (such an exciting life these days) and went to start up my computer to see what the day would bring.  And yes, there it was, the mail I had sent to myself last night with all the info from that nice young man about a jolly good way to earn a few bob (actually quite a few million bob) on the internet with a little effort and precious little money.  In fact no money at all.  It was free.  Take note - FREE!  And soon I would be rich.

So I was 'sucked in'.  I opened it up again and listened to the sales pitch to be sure I really did like what I was hearing.  I then did what was asked of me, I put in my name and email address and lo!  Up came what was to be the start of a villainous route to ruin (had I not been so Internet savvy finally).  First of all I considered that whatever I was to get, I would of course need a domain name and a hosting company and for this I was prepared to pay, up to a small amount anyway.  So I filled in my details, chose my name for the website which was to be full of lovely freebies and arranged for a year's hosting.  (So you see it wasn't really FREE at all)  That done I hit the final button for my credit card to be debited and to be taken to my lovely new website which they said would follow and my business would start immediately bringing me in lots of money.  And that's when the trouble started.  Up came a page which said "wait you must have one of the following packages"  - these showed how many hits would be guaranteed over what period of time.  And the price?  $997 reduced to $197 just for me!  I scrolled down in a panic and found a tiny message 'no thanks - take me to my site'  I clicked again and up came another offer This time for fewer hits over a lesser time and costing $90.  I scrolled again and hit the 'take me to my site button.  But it kept on and on.  Another offer and another, each one making it clear to me that without at least a few of these packages there was no hope of my ever making a sale from this wondrous new site I had spent $166 for.  So I signed out and searched for the company and their address which I found.  I emailed them saying I had obviously been mistaken in purchasing this item and stating that I was not prepared to spend any more money in the present financial climate and please would they cancel my order.  Details of which I had carefully put into notebook and was able to give clearly.  Within a few minutes I received a reply stating that they would help with the offers by reducing the prices for shorter times, or would I please give my reasons for wishing to cancel.  I explained that I had been 'taken in' by the presentation by the young man, who had been so convincing that I had believed him that everything was 'FREE' This must have been accepted and to their credit they cancelled the order and I breathed a sigh of relief. 

But all this just goes to show how easy it is to be taken in by a good presentation.  I can't tell you how many times I have kicked myself for falling for it.  It was just too good to be true.  How many times have we heard that said?  An old codger like me?  Taken in like that?  Well now I can get on with things that matter and these I will tell you about shortly because they all concern what is going on in my greenhouse and with the atrocious weather I am at daggers with!  'Bye for now!

In the Mood To Start Again

Disgraceful - That's what I call it. I have simply not wanted to come and update my blog for so long.  I wonder if it is an age thing?  I went across to Wordpress a short while ago because so many people say how wonderful they are - and how much better than this one is.  So I thought I'd give it a try.  But I haven't got too far I am ashamed to say.  In fact I have had to print off their loads of instructions and I have almost fallen asleep reading them.

So here I am back again.  Not that anyone could possibly give a hoot for anything I might have to say BUT....
I might as well say it, as it is a kind of therapy.  Recreation if you like.  Almost four years ago, when I first decided to get it all off my chest, I really did find that it helped. My life had changed so much since the demise of- first of all Giorgio -and then dear Francis, both within a short distance of each other.  I had found myself, for the first time in my life, quite alone.  Now that's not so bad when you are young but it's not so good when you are old.  Especially if, like me, you don't really like joining things, and going to clubs for the elderly or whatever.  I mailed out to a few people I knew and got a lot of replies back, so it wasn't as if I was just talking to myself.

I'll get the nasty bit out of the way immediately.  In the picture above and to the right I have my darling old cat Billy in my arms and solo.  Heaven knows how old he really was but I do know the people I homed him from did not tell me the truth.  I was in touch with his previous owner's daughter out in New Zealand and she gave me dates that made old Billy something of a dinasaur!!!  But I really loved his gentle ways and great intelligence.  A kind animal who died on Christmas eve last.  I miss him but Daisy has come into her own and is now TOPCAT
and no mistake. 
So now I am looking back to remember what I have been up to since we last spoke.  I think I told you about my joining the adult education classes didn't I? I tried Bridge for a couple of seasons, and even gave my conservatory over as a venue for private sessions with about twelve players on a weekly basis.  It wasn't that I found Bridge difficult.  I like mathematics. But I just didn't enjoy it!

Can't say the same for the writing classes.  Except that they weren't writing classes.  They were listening and showing off classes.  We listened to whatever we each had dreamed up for the topic we had been given by the class master.  Very nice but not exactly learning anything about the actual subject.  I must say that the writers were simply marvellous and the different takes on the subjects were a joy to listen to. BUT.....The French classes drove me to frenzy because I was ahead of them all (BIG HEAD) and the drama reading classes became the subject for a farce.  Listening to old men and women (I was one) reading roles meant for 20 year olds was nothing short of depressing.  So I bottomed out as they say.  Apart from the fact that as an old pro, it is hard to playread in an amateur way.  It is just not fair to oneself or to the assembled group.  Also the chairs get very hard after 90 minutes!!!

And that brings me up to last summer.  Not a good one was it?  Weather was dodgy and we only had sporadic sunshine. I hardly used my swimming pool at all last year!  So everything crossed for a better situation this year.  Such a darned good pool is this one.  All plastic, it came from Canada and is now in its eleventh year.  It is the third one I have had in the garden and a total joy compared to the previous ones.  They were all metal and needed total repainting and derusting every 2 years.  This one is all plastic and nothing like the chore of the older ones.  It is my little bit of luxury each year when the weather is kind to us.  I hope I can still manage to get in and out, poor old soul!  Right now it is greenhouse time.  Much work to be done and I am happy to say that I have started. Because of the price of plants from the garden centres and the catalogues I am starting from seed much more this year.  February seems a good time to start and I have already done some of the hanging baskets and about twenty seed trays.
I am very fortunate in that I have a long polytunnel right down the bottom and out of sight in my garden, as well as the more presentable
glass greenhouse.  It is here that I have planted the seeds for the flowers and the few vegetables that I love to grow each year.  Having a large garden means that one really does need lots of plants.  I must say the seedsmen have become very mean too!  Time was when a packet of seeds was just that - a packet of seeds.  Now you have to read the back of the pack to see how many seeds.  Sometimes as low as five.  Imagine a hundred weight!!! Trillions of pounds or dollars that would bring in!  Last year and the year before I tried nasturtiums for the first time.  They were fabulous both in the hanging baskets and against the wall so I have sowed quite a lot again this year.  Hoping for a good crop of tomatoes, too.  They usually are very good from the polytunnel and are a boon for freezing and cooking throughout the winter.  Not that I do so much these days, but still, it is nice to have the produce from the garden.  At least you know it is fresh and not full of chemicals.

One of things I got up to  last summer - around September - I decided to try my hand at selling some books on Amazon. I have so many and I know my family will just chuck 'em out at my demise, so why not sell some?  I signed up and called myself Pearlsboox and actually sold quite a few.  I have got my list of titles up to about 230 odd. Each time I sell one I try to add another.  Not easy though.  I have found that the really weird books sell best.  Celtic Poems, History of Coconut Matting Through the Ages, Boys Own book of Warts and Pimples etc that sort of thing.  True.  Novels hardly sell at all.  Biographies hardy ever, unless it is by some weirdy of old.  But you never know.  Things have become very slow now.  February and a few months after Christmas I daresay it is to be expected.  One thing I will not do is to sell books at a penny as so many sellers do.  They must be crazy with the cost of postage and packing.  I will not insult the author.  I have asked Amazon why they permit it but they are not sympathetic.  Still I find that even with similar books priced so low, mine seem to sell at a fair price, and if they don't sell- so what?  They are stilll here and nothing's lost.
I also ventured into E-bay too.  Got rid of a few dresses that I'd never worn and a few handbags and odds and ends.  But again, it is not something to go into seriously unless you have a good product wanted by everyone and are prepared to take on a shop. Loads of great eBooks to be found here Like boot fairs I think Ebay is becoming too big.  You used to be able to go to a boot sale and find bargains from people's attics and homes.  Things that were interesting and perhaps old and valuable.  But there are now so many TV programmes about making money at boot sales and fairs that the meaning has gone out of the window.  Go to Ebay now and you will find Marks and Spencer and Harrods and Tesco there.  Not what it was once all about.  But business is business and nothing stays the same forever, more's the pity sometimes.  I found out about an American website that was for Arts and Crafts recently so I listed a group of matted prints I had mounted of 3 film posters.  They do not photgraph very well
and look much better in fact than here, so I doubt I'll sell them.  Nothing ventured as they say.  Apart from this I have had quite a few nice things happen this past year.  I won a small 'big' prize on a premium bond and was asked to contribute to a DVD which was being produced by the British Film Institute of a movie I had appeared in way back in the sixties.!!!  Of the cast, only myself and one of the actresses was still around.  The Italian leading lady was in Italy and didn't feel up to travelling, although she wrote for the DVD cover.  Happy to say that both the writer Glyn Christian and the Director were still hale and hearty.  It was one of the most enjoyable things - meeting up with people I had not seen for over forty years. My goodness!  But it was fun.  I also met a young teacher, he was actually doing a 'paper' on the director of this movie, from Eastbourne.  He is coming to my house in a couple of weeks to see a DVD which I was given, also by the British Film Institute of a production in the sixties by the BBC of a 'Play of the Week' called "Lee Oswald - Assassin" That too brought back a lot of memories.  The part of Lee Oswald was to have been played by Montgomery Clift. but something happened and a young American called Tony Bill played the part
instead.  He is, I believe, now a big Hollywood producer, but then he was a protegee of Frank Sinatra, so we were told.  Anyway there were two periods of activity which were really weird for me.  Not just a question of remembering, but actually seeing yourself as you were all those years ago.  Moving around and talking.  And no chins or lost waistlines either. ODD to be sure.

I shall finish here now.  I really will be sure to come back again soon.  Take care.

In The Words Of The Old Song............


Well they can say that again! Very beautiful is the snow I know, but one can have too much of a good thing. Just as we thought Spring was on its way with a sign of life from the daffodils, wham! Back comes the winter with a vengeance. But are we disheartened NEVER! Things are bursting out in the greenhouse, it is the same every year. I have left all till later for sowing but it has all caught up with me and boxes of flower seedlings all need thinning out and some are big enough to be planted out but one dare not, even things like sweet peas and nasturtiums which ought to be planted outside might shrivel up in these cold nights. But I do need to be able to move, and big as the greenhouse is, it is never big enough at the start of a season. But I did have to make room by getting the veges into the ground because they were getting straggley. If thay fail we can always plant the seeds again outside. In the polytunnel the potatoes are flourishing rather earlier than usual and I am delighted with the sight of rows and rows of strawberries which I decided to move from outside as they were such a problem with all the netting needed to keep the birds off. Now I hope picking them will be less of an art form (oh the very thought of summer). Yes please compare these two pictures. Same spot in my garden at rather different times. So can you wonder I am yearning for the spring?

But all that apart (while we wait) I must say that one of the most enjoyable things I have done recently is to attend the party of a very old friend down in Eastbourne. This was Roy Patrick and his friend Bill Allison who live in a beautiful house, full of wondrous memorabilia from Roy’s days as an actor and Producer and Bill’s as a Sea Captain and latterly an actor. A veritable Aladdin’s cave of a house and one I could have spent hours in just looking through the pictures and mementos that were displayed with tasteful elegance everywhere. Roy and I worked together for the first and only time way back in 1949 when I was only just beginning to think of going into the theatre as a career. I am quite alarmed as I realise that this is 61 years ago. But mustn’t dwell upon that. We are both still here and enjoying life. Here is a picture of Roy then and now.
 Well, back to normality again tomorrow and no parties in sight for the foreseeable future. Next on the date list is another session of my writing class. The topic we were given is one that caused me a bit of worry because it was titled
"In a Rut" I am very lucky because I can hardly ever remember that this happened to me - ever. So I really did have to wrack my brains and try to recall a very 'down' time. It was so long ago. I was almost tempted to write it as if it had happened to someone else, but gradually I can remember a time many years ago. Well here is the tale, not very long, for what it's worth.


So OK it’s a pretty miserable title. But being in a rut is a pretty miserable thing. Isn’t it? Haven’t you ever been in a rut? I think I have. But not too often. In fact I can only think of one time in my life when I could have applied that term to myself. And I consider myself lucky to be able to say that. So when was it? I can remember that I had given up all efforts at the time. Efforts to get out of it I mean.

I think I must have been depressed. Something I am not ever prepared to give into these days. But this was way back in the late fifties. Personal problems were at the bottom of it all. And to my shame I must have given in to them.

Then the phone rang.

A man I will always remember was end of the line. “Get here to my office at about 4 today. Wonderful job and you’d be perfect for it” “But John” I said (his name was John Parsons) I am not up to an interview, I look awful, haven’t slept properly for days and have totally lost confidence in myself”

“Listen” came the stern reply. “I don’t give a fig for all that. There’s no one else I know who could do this, so get you face on, do your hair and come here looking as if you mean it!!!” Down went the phone. What time was it? 1.30, time for a sandwich, I could ask Mother to pick Robin up from school, but look at me. 26 years and I look 50. Bloody men, yessir, bloody men!!! One man in particular was on my mind of course. Was this me talking? Me – who’d had a wonderful time and only been away from Newcastle a couple of weeks? What on earth was I doing giving up like this? Get out of this rut woman. Oh God, look at the time. What could I do about myself? Look at my hair, look at my face, and what the hell could I wear? I think it was late spring and I do recall a lovely grey/blue silk suit I had bought for a rather elegant role I had played in Newcastle. Yes the colour was a good one for me. But look at my hair. Long and blonde, it hadn’t been done for ages. So I feverishly brushed and brushed, and on went the slap. Wow, I was looking better already. What time was it? 3 o’clock Mother was OK to collect Robin, I’d grabbed the sandwich. I took a deep breath and headed for the tube to Leicester Square. Can you believe it but the fare was fourpence hapenny!!

I made for the nearest bank of phone booths, put in my 2 old pennies and called John Parsons. He was head of the Pathe film studios in Wardour Street and we had met only once when I was enquiring about possible work in any of the many documentaries Pathe turned out at the time.

“Well I am here and who shall I ask for please?” “Knew you’d make it” said John. “Just ask for me and I’ll give you all the gen once you get to my office.” So I climbed the stairs and walked up Charing cross road. Turned left at Shaftesbury Avenue, crossed the road and walked right down the length of Wardour Street to number 142. Got the lift to the top floor and was taken into the office. My spirits rose when John told me I was looking great. A cup of coffee was brought and I found out that the publicity group for Good Housekeeping magazine and Woman’s Realm from Odhams Press were on their way to meet me, because they wanted a good face and personality for the following year’s TV commercials to be transmitted each Monday night for the foreseeable future. They were bringing the scripts, knew what I had done, seen photos (Oh God!) and were prepared to offer me the job. I don’t remember too much, but I know I left the office walking on air.

This turned out to be the job that turned my fortunes round. I never looked back after that. And I never forgot John Parsons who’d had such faith in me. The fees were excellent, I had to learn the lines and the shots pretty quickly because it was always so very last minute but I will forever cherish my days working at Presbury’s Studios on Dean street.  In between times I did publicity jobs all over England and Scotland for Woman magazine, Ideal Home, Woman’s Realm and Good Housekeeping. Those magazines have totally changed their persona now, but then they were really what we might call classy now. On one occasion I even spoke to the Vatican because there was an article about the Pope. The Good Housekeeping Event at Olympia was another great time for me because I met up with so many real celebrities of the day. Barbara Goalan, Jean Simmons, Bandleader Ted Heath. Oh I am so lucky to have been offered that job and to have been made to get out of the rut.

So on that rather happier note I'll sign off for this time and promise I'll be back a little later in the year.  'BYE.

Will This Winter EVER End?

Well will it ever? I can't be the only one saying this - can I?

Looks very beautiful I know but one can have too much of a good thing, especially if, like me, you found yourself unable to get the car out of the garage for 12 days. Not actually because of the snow either. No, the slabs in front of the garage doors had been pushed up from the ground by the heavy frosts just before the snow. And when finally I did manage it, the poor wretched vehicle had put in its own protest and revealed a totally flat battery! First time ever in my life. And I know I was not alone. My mind did occasionally go back to 1961 when we'd had a far worse winter than this. But I was almost forty years younger then and whizzing around on a sledge was something I relished along with Robin. Ou sont les neiges d'antan? HMM!

Well now I have pulled myself together and actually have made a start in my greenhouse preparing for what I hope will be a lovely spring and summer. All very well to sit back and moan, but hey it is winter! So into the greenhouse I went and did a major clear up. Many cactus had turned to a foul smelling jelly worthy of the best Dr. Who potions. Usually I heat the greenhouse to just above freezing point but really, the cost of electricity has determined that I no longer run to this luxury. You can see some here in this picture. Happily my huge roof hitting specimins were intact and so far I have sown up about 20 trays of various seeds.
Alas it will be ages before the greenhouse starts to look like this again.
Today we are being poured upon so I
have decided that another afternoon will
be spent sowing another batch. Actually I am doing far more vegetables this year and am starting
the seeds off in the greenhouse, so that I have just the number of plants
I need before getting them transplanted into my huge polytunnel
which I hope and pray will last another year or two after the damage
done by the fox or badger. We never did prove who the villain was who made several shredded holes in it last year. My gardening lads were quite pleased with the sonic things I had bought which we hope were responsible for aiding its (or their) departure.
Now I mustn't give the impression that I am idle for the rest of the time. Oh dear me no. I still persist with learning how to play Bridge. Sometimes I actually enjoy it except that I do not like the really ardent players who do nothing but talk about it. And do a long winded post mortem at the end of a game. We do have laughs sometimes and once I have sorted out what I am doing at the bidding stage I find it all quite enjoyable. Then I have a computer class at U3A which is usually very good especially if we get an interesting speaker. My really favourite class though is the Writing For Pleasure. It always amazes me how many and varied ideas come forth from one subject by 15 odd people. The last class asked for a subject called "SCANDINAVIAN" For what it is worth here is my offering.


In 1945 Arthur Miller wrote his first novel. It was called ‘FOCUS’ and centred on a man inadvertantly caught up in anti semitism in New York.

Remember this was just after a world war fought over racial hatred by the Nazis. The principal player in this story is a Mr Newman whose vanity stopped him wearing spectacles until he was really forced to. Then he bought a pair and once on they made him look decidedly Jewish. He wasn’t. He was just an Anglo American. The nasty story goes from there. It was actually turned into a Drama for BBC television in the late sixties and starred the late artistes Ray McAnally and my dear friend Vivien Merchant (the first wife of Harold Pinter). I had a small part in it as Mr Newman’s secretary.

Somewhere between these two events I found myself in New York, en route eventually to Los Angeles. I had been involved in a series of television programmes written by an American, Robert Fromm who

was a self employed script editor, and Jewish, working on television production in London. We became friends and kept in touch after he returned home to New York. So when I knew I was to be in New York for a few days, I asked him if he could suggest some decent, and not too expensive place I could stay.

‘You won’t stay anywhere but with my family’ came the immediate response in that amazingly hospitable American fashion, and that is why I found myself esconsed in Long Island with one of the loveliest families I ever had the privelege of knowing. I am happy to say that I was able to return their offer a few times during the next few years both in London and in Guildford.

Anyway, at the time of my arrival Robert and his wife, Miki, with their family of four boys were on vacation, and heading towards the last few days before he would be commuting daily into New York, where his offices were, and would take me with him.

Long Island to Manhatten daily? I kept my feelings to myself, Americans don’t turn a hair at this kind of thing and I certainly was not going to let my side down. But there were a few days yet before all that so I was allowed to sleep off my jetlag and after a couple of lovely easy going days it was announced that we would all be going to their club, where we would enjoy indoor sports and a super meal and drinks afterwards. They did this regularly I was told, and I was delighted. The nearest thing to this kind of place for us in England I daresay, is a Country Club. So we all scrambled into the family’s huge car and off we went. Never had I seen a car park like the one at this Country Club. People who came here were certainly not from just anywhere. Nor were they short of the odd dollar. A couple of people arrived at the same time and shouted hello, whilst, at the same time giving me some funny looks. Miki went a few steps ahead to announce our arrival - after all there were seven of us. Suddenly she let out a stifled scream, rushed back and grabbed Robert’s arm and looked at me in horror. “Oh Christ you aren’t Jewish” she yelled. “They won’t let her in if she’s not Jewish” she blurted out the words almost in a panic. I couldn’t believe my ears. I was flabbergasted. Suddenly little Jeffrey (spelt with a J) piped up. “I know, say she’s the Swedish au pair come to look after me”. Genius - pure genius and from one so young, he was only eight after all. Robert looked shattered as he knew the rules were exceptionally harsh in this area as a direct reprisal for what was still going on in Manhattan.

It is hard to believe but even then Jewish people were not welcome in many New York Hotels and restaurants. Even after fighting a world war against the Nazi regime. I was really shocked and terribly embarrassed for both my friends. “Could we ask you to pretend to be our au pair?” Miki whispered in my ear. Swedish I thought. Don’t speak a word. Supposing someone spoke to me? Danish just the same, Norwegian - oh help. “OK” I said, “I’ll just speak with an accent and pretend I understand nothing.

So after a long rigmarole at the door when I held on to Jeffrey’s hand in the most attentive way I could manage, in we went after much signing of books and frantic thankyous. I was finally signed in as Scandinavian Nursing staff to Mr and Mrs Fromm. Guest. That was that.

Well the evening was fine. I thought it wise to not say too much too loudly and we had a marvellous time with skittles and bowls. I played my part well I believe because I avoided everyone except to give a big smile and turn in another direction. The menu was in a kind of American Yiddish and I asked that they choose for me. It was scrumptious. I must have said a hundred times to the waiter ‘ferry goot,’ ‘ ferry goot.’ I was introduced to various people and said Ja Ja Helo Helo. I remember I smiled a lot and nodded my head and laughed in a weird way as Scandinavians might have done, after all what did I know? But none of us was prepared for what followed.

At about 11pm (4 in the morning for my still partly jetlagged body) we all left and headed towards the car. (I have thought long and hard about this but shouldn’t bumble bees be in bed after dark?) Suddenly there was Robert hitting his head and banging his ear frantically with his fists. He was really distressed and kept saying something had flown into his ear and was buzzing, buzzing. Miki took the wheel and we headed for a hospital. The three older boys were really not sure whether to laugh or cry, but Miki and Robert were really worried. We got to the hospital on Long Island, and believe me it was far worse than anything you have ever seen here. They were never going to be seen. So I took over and rushed around until I found a doctor and dragged him to where my friend was by this time almost passed out. My mind goes fuzzy after this as I can only remember Miki frantically trying to comfort her husband as he was taken to the operating theatre, jerking and shuddering in horrible misery. The boys flopped out on benches and I must have dozed off. Until I saw Miki with the doctor advising her that we should all go home and be back at 7am to collect the now calm and beeless Robert. “And please Mrs Fromm, thank your Swedish friend for finding me so quickly. Or it would have been far worse.” Seems I had just carried on with my funny accent at the hospital and it must have gone down well enough to get the necessary done and quickly. All this comes back with a vengeance every time I hear about anything Scandinavian, or even just the word.

Isn’t it weird that I had started this little fable off with Arthur Miller and his story of Jewish anti semitism? But how else could it have been told?

Apart from this kind of thing the whole of last year was not without its woes and excitements. One of the woes was that my son, Robin, was made reduntant from his job as an antique car auction house manager. But the woe didn't last. Robin had been in business for himself many years before he took on that particular job, so it didn't need much imagination to know what he would do next! Actually I am pleased in a way about the redundancy because Robin had always been in business for himself for many years. He is well respected and knows his business inside out. They are a very nice lot of people within that industry too. All united by a love of old and classic motor cars. They all seem to care for each other and take a huge interest in other people with the same interests. They also do lovely ‘functions’ as well and in fact I went on one with them towards the end of the summer. So everything crossed for Robin’s success with his Sports and Classic Cars Business.

The other great event was the wedding of my Grand-Daughter Sarah to Giles.

This took place in a wonderful setting at the time of the first snow of this past winter. Right in the heart of Surrey. I know I am biased but Sarah was a real Snow Princess at her wedding. Her Mother, Ann, had done a wonderful job of organizing the entire thing and making the dresses for Sarah and her bridesmaids. A lovely day. Grandmothers are allowed to wax lyrical.

See you again soon. Bye for now.

And so a Year has Passed.

Yes, a whole year, plus a bit, has gone by since I came here to unload my feelings. It did help, I would be foolish to say it hadn't, but has the situation changed? Hardly, in some respects. A little bit in others. I cannot really say that I am happy with the amount of time I find myself alone. At the same time I know of many people who actually envy me this situation. Well, it takes all sorts...I guess.

I often wonder if one has had too much at the start of life it evens out at the end? Does one feel rather lost because there have been so many times when there were not enough hours in the day? I guess so in my case at least.

So what would you have done, or what did you do when suddenly you found yourself rattling around instead of bustling around? I did find my darling cats a bit restricting. Time was when I had a girl friend who would willingly come and stay, but she is no longer an option. So I have resigned myself to not going anywhere too far. Try to keep busy within the perameters of home sweet home. So you look around.

I found out about The University of the Third Age. Third age is anything over 50. There seemed to be a lot going on there. So I joined a Bridge class and a Computer Club. I am not too good at the Bridge and I really wish I liked it more, but I will persevere. Actually it was almost enough last year because I also did a private course of lessons at my house for Bridge every week. These things plus the fact that there was a bumper crop of everything in my polytunnel in the summer kept me somewhat occupied. My little swimming pool got more than its fair share of use too, bad summer or not. The previous year Darling Feri had not been well enough so we hadn't used it too often. Even when we'd gone on holiday to Cornwall he hadn't wanted to move from the hotel. Not that it mattered because the Nare, near St. Austell is so completely comfortable there is no need to leave it if you don't wish to.

But now we are heading towards winter. The frosts have taken their toll on the last of the annuals in the garden and I must start to look ahead. How to fill the days? I decided to expand my interests in U3A. Thought I'd carry on with the Bridge but go again from the beginning, because I hadn't really got the hang of it when I started. As well as joining the second year class!! Ambitious or what? A bit of French conversation caught my eye, so I'll do that - only once a month. And then another thing I had never considered, for myself anyway, "Writing for Pleasure" Hm don't know how I'll make out at that, but I like the sound of it so I enrolled. Instead of telling you all about it I will simply lay out my first 'offering' so that you may judge whether or not I should continue. Here goes: Funny title but that's not my fault.


"There I was, sitting in, and part of a group whose intent was “writing for pleasure”. Only my second attendance and I had been impressed. I had listened to some very interesting renditions of various ideas given the session before. I had not at that point contributed anything, thinking myself totally unable to compete. (The previous session had been absolutely brilliant). Never could I ever hope to compete with such imagination. Anyway, there we were and at the end of the 2 hours a short list was read out for our next session. (Homework, like we were back in school) I couldn’t of course find my pen to write the instructions for the next session down, but I did remember one – 38.

Weird thought I. 38? What the heck did he imagine we could do with that? Man’s potty. 38!! You might as well try to remember what you were up to at the age of 38, quite a long way back, but even so by then I’d been at my present house for ten years and my son was already 18!! Cripes.

What about the 38 bus? Used to take me from Oxford Street to Victoria if I couldn’t be bothered to walk down to Marble Arch to catch the no 2. Same time, nothing much ever happened on that route, although I did once have a long chat with Anthony Wedgwood Ben – he of the silly hats, slushy esses, filthy pipe and cups of tea. He leapt off before we got to Victoria, saying he had to catch the 52 to get home. (Well he lived at Holland Park, so it did make sense) He’d said he was a fan because he remembered I was Sister Vernon in Emergency Ward 10 some time before. Quite chuffed I was. And come to think of it - where was I going? Back to my flat in St. George’s Drive, number 38 on the corner of Clarendon Street. Weird.

Then of course there was 38 shillings. There I stopped. That figure was something life-saving to me once. How? What had led me to think that? Well I was in Leeds in the early fifties and working in weekly, twice nightly rep. I look back and wonder how we ever did it. A new play every week and 2 shows every day, 6. and 8.30! But at the time it was marvellous. I was 21 and the man in my life some 7 years older and our baby was but a few months old. D (I won't identify him) was engaged as the “young character man”. This covered roles from young farmers with funny accents to old solicitors, soldiers and butlers. Occasionally he got a leading role. He had already done a full season. While I had been some miles away in Rochdale until the season ended and I was looking around for the next job.

I, had been engaged to play young leads. Tall and blonde I had passed the severest of tests at the home of a Mr Harry Hanson, owner of a huge number of repertory companies around the country at the time, Hastings, Bradford, Skipton, Keighley, with his star company being in Leeds. He lived in Warlingham in Surrey, (in fact his nickname was The Duchess of Warlingham for pretty obvious reasons.) I trailed out for my audition to his fantastic house. We didn’t have cars in those days. He had asked me not to prepare anything, which in itself was odd, because I had at my fingertips St Joan, Ophelia, Mata Hari and Rosalind from As You Like It - all the usual audition pieces.

But upon arrival I was given a copy of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. This, I was told, was Mr Hanson’s favourite play. I had a warming cup of something and then leafed through the pages preparing to read the leading role (after all there really is only one young woman’s role) The young –unnamed heroine. But no. To my dismay Mr Hanson read those lines and I filled in with all the rest. Stage directions and all. Took two hours and several cups of hot milk and Horlicks because he thought I needed fattening up at the time. But I was IN! We discussed salary – no one used agents in those days for repertory work, and we discussed my domestic arrangements since D was already up there in Leeds.

My Mother had agreed to take the baby and I was to travel up to Leeds 10 days later. I was over the moon. You might say why on earth should anyone want such a job? Well, so that D and I could be together for one thing, and the money was good (£12 a week which with D's salary would make us stinking rich) and believe it or not to be a member of The Court Players was something to aim for in those days. The theatre was the Theatre Royal, opposite Hagenbach’s, the coffee shop. Sadly it is no longer there. A bus station has taken its place. But it was from the Theatre Royal Leeds that the first Northern Television show was transmitted. Donald Peers, an unknown Frankie Vaughn and the wondrous Gracie Fields topped the bill. But I digress. Back to 38.

I loved Leeds. I loved the theatre, the audiences, the company and the producer. But the season took its toll on me. Week after week I was cast in long and arduous roles. Agatha Christie, then Tennessee Williams, followed by Noel Coward, Ivor Novello – all who wrote tremendous parts for women. Poor me. My only consolation was that I got consistently good notices and never dried on stage. But offstage? That was another matter.

Our producer was a dear man called Laurie Storm.

He was a kind and thoughtful man as well as a delightful producer. He could see what was happening to me privately. So he spoke to Mr Hanson and a scheme was devised whereby I would finish one play on the Saturday night, then not be cast in the next one and turn up to rehearse the one following that for the Tuesday morning. That way I could go to London for a whole weekend and not even have to rush back. Oh lovely British Railways. A sleeper train left Leeds at 11.40pm arriving at King’s Cross for breakfast after a good night’s sleep. I would spend all of Sunday and Monday with Mother and the baby and return to Leeds by 8am on Tuesday. Special offer 38 shillings return! The company even paid. I was made to do this at least another twice during that season. And it saved my life. Unhappily it did not save my relationship but we do still speak after all these years and much water under the bridge.

And my baby is fifty something!!

By the way, if I had posted this to you it would have cost me 38 pence!"

So now you know what I am trying to fill the days with. There is also the computer club, but that is just a bit of technical keeping up with the Jones's so to speak. We usually get a speaker who will discuss something to do with everyday computing, like the full use of "Word" or we might spend time visiting members' favourite websites!! I really think I will like the writing best of all. But time will tell. I will only ever be able to write about something I know. See what subjects they throw at me and learn from everyone else I expect. One subject tackled in many different ways. Hope they don't pick Bridge! All humour will disappear if they do. Dreadful attitude, pull yourself together girl!

So now I shall sign off and think about what the next subject might be. In a couple of weeks or so. Till then keep well and keep smiling.