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.

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