THE ADVENTURE OF THE MYSTERIOUS STRANGER

Georgina sighed again and squeezed the two pouches of fat that rolled over her hips.  She was watching herself in the wardrobe mirror, so she could see her bulging midriff as well.  She wondered if she should get a long-line bra.  She could certainly do with plenty of support.  If only she hadn’t been so greedy for so many years.  All those sandwiches and ice creams and slices of fruit cake.  All that lemonade and ginger beer and orange squash.  She groaned.

Her husband had explained to her so many times that it wasn’t a healthy way to eat, that you needed less food as you got older, that she should give up cream and butter.  He of course was as slim as a whip and lived on salads and yoghurt and wholemeal bread.  Oh it’s not fair, she thought rebelliously, I can’t be like that, I just can’t.

The phone rang, and she jumped guiltily and looked at the clock.  That would be him, and he’d ask if she’d been to the bank.  She hadn’t, and now she only just had time to collect the children from their after-school activities, and then after that the bank would be shut.  She thought of not answering, and then decided she’d rather have her telling off over the phone, and so picked up the receiver.  To her surprise, there was just silence.  Nothing.  Or maybe someone was breathing?

‘Hello?’ she said.  There was a noise like a sudden intake of breath, and then, unmistakably, a deep sigh.  She slammed the phone down.  A sex maniac! Gosh, how exciting!  I must phone Anne and tell her she thought.  She started to dial the number, and then stopped.  She had a vision of Anne’s face, lips pursed, rigid makeup, with its halo of starched hair.  Call the police, she would say, I don’t know what the world is coming to.  She decided not to tell Anne, suddenly remembered the time and hurried to get dressed so she could collect the children.

Later, in the evening, she told her husband about the call.  He wasn’t terribly interested.

‘I shouldn’t worry about just one, old girl,’ he said, ‘if it gets to be a regular thing, then we’ll sort it out.’

‘But I’m alone in the house,’ she said miserably, ‘if he got our number he’ll have the address too.  And he’ll know I’m here because I answer the phone.’

‘Well don’t answer it then,’ said Julian in his aren’t-I-wonderfully-patient tone.  Georgina’s eyes filled with tears.  If only dear old Timmy were still alive.  You didn’t have to be afraid of anything when he was around.  Julian wouldn’t let them have a dog now.  Too much trouble he said, Timmy had been disgusting and smelly towards the end, and the vet’s bills were enormous.

The phone calls did in fact continue.  Every day that week at exactly the same time, just before she dashed out to collect the children.  Julian still wasn’t very interested.  He told her to keep a whistle by the phone and blow it when the breathing started.  She didn’t want to because she thought it would be a bad idea to upset the man.  No telling what he might do.

Then on Friday a terribly exciting thing happened.  After the phone call she rushed out as usual and there was a man loitering – yes definitely loitering – just opposite the end of their cul-de-sac.  It must be him!

Georgina hurried on.  She would have to pass him.  Would he say anything?  He was a dirty shifty looking man, with his hands in his pockets and his shabby coat collar turned up round his neck.  As she drew level he glanced furtively at her and with a terrible shock she realised she knew him.  Yes!  She had seen that mean face and sideways glance somewhere before!

The man looked quickly away as she passed him.  That type can never look you straight in the eyes she thought.  But who was he?  And was it even him making the phone calls?  She hurried on.  She felt a surge of the old excitement.  If she’d had Timmy she’d have spoken to the man, oh yes she would!

Julian was so late home from work she didn’t have a chance to tell him that evening.  He spent most of Saturday at the golf club and Georgina was busy with the children.  Jane had ballet in the morning and Tim was going to a fancy-dress party in the afternoon.  In fact what with one thing and another she didn’t get a chance to mention it till Sunday lunchtime.

They were round at Anne’s.  Anne was a wonderful cook and Sunday lunch was the one full  meal Julian permitted himself each week.  Anne was so efficient she could sit with them all sipping a small sherry from a lead crystal glass while the dinner cooked itself.  Georgina’s Sunday lunches were never so well behaved!

Georgina was looking through the French windows watching the children play.  Anne’s three were so polite, so beautifully dressed and so totally characterless.  Even their names were virtually indistinguishable – Larry, Carrie and Harry.  Her own two at least had some personality.  The oldest, Jane, was an eight-year-old version of her father – supercilious and too clever by half.  Most of the time she treated her mother as if she were invisible.

Tim, who was five, was a sweet cuddly curly-haired little boy.  Julian said she babied him but he was her baby, and the only one in the family who seemed to care about her at all.  The five children were playing some silly cops and robbers game, racing round the garden shouting ‘bang’ and making machine gun noises.  No real-life adventures for them.  Anne wouldn’t let her three go to the corner sweet shop alone, even though Larry was nearly twelve.  Her thoughts were interrupted by Anne’s hearty husband James slapping her on the back.

‘Come on old George,’ he said, ‘can’t have you glooming by the window.  Come and tell us your news.’  It seemed to be an ideal opportunity to tell her story so she launched into it.  She kept glancing across at James.  It didn’t seem right for him to be there in Dick’s place.  Julian was reading a Sunday colour supplement but Anne was listening avidly.

‘Disgusting,’ she said at the end, ‘another filthy pervert. They should lock him up and throw away the key.’

‘But why should I recognise him?’ Georgina said excitedly, ‘it felt so queer somehow.’

‘Skeletons in the cupboard eh?’ said James jovially, ‘secrets from your murky past?’

‘I say,’ said Georgina excitedly, ‘do you think it could be someone from one of our adventures?  What do you think Ju?’

Anne blushed and glanced at her husband.  She hated to be reminded of their past.  Julian looked up in annoyance.  He hated being called ‘Ju’, and Georgina always forgot when she was excited.

‘I shouldn’t think so for a moment,’ he said abruptly, and went back to his magazine.  The awkward silence that followed was broken by the sound of the doorbell.  James went to answer it and they heard his loud voice say ‘Dick old chap, this is a nice surprise.’

‘Oh no,’ gasped Anne, the potatoes will never stretch to another.’  She had stood up, about to rush off to the kitchen, when Dick appeared and grabbed her round the waist.

‘Couldn’t wait for the brotherly greeting eh?’ he said, and kissed her on the cheek.

‘Will you want lunch?’ asked Anne anxiously.  He grinned at her.  Still the same old boyish grin the made the skin round his eyes crinkle up.

‘Gosh Anne,’ he said, ‘is that one of your marvellous roasts I can smell?’

‘You greedy thing,’ she said, but in a softened tone.  Few women could resist Dick’s grin.

‘I didn’t have time to eat breakfast this morning,’ he went on ruefully, ‘I was too busy doing the decent thing by an airhostess I met on the flight home yesterday and I’m knackered.  Then I realised I was going to pass your place on the way back from her flat so I thought I’d call in.’

Anne blushed and pulled away from him.  She knew that what he called the decent thing was anything but.  He was a salesman who travelled all over the world and he rarely spent the night alone.

All this time Georgina had been gazing up at him.  Dick!  Good old dear old Dick!  He’d understand, he hadn’t changed.  She watched him pour himself a large whisky and swallow it in a single gulp.  She couldn’t wait to tell him all about it.

In fact she had to wait till after lunch, when the children were sent to watch TV in their playroom.  Anne came back from loading the dishwasher carrying a tray of black coffees.  She wasn’t going to have any of them falling asleep and snoring the afternoon away.  Dick was halfway there already, all full of food and wine and brandy.

‘Gosh,’ exclaimed Georgina, ‘that was marvellous Anne.  I don’t believe I’ll ever be hungry again.’

‘You will, never fear,’ said Julian sourly.  Anne primped her lips a pintuck higher.  She disapproved of couples who niggled at each other in public.

‘Well I want to tell Dick my story,’ said Georgina sulkily, putting several lumps of sugar in her coffee.

‘Wassat old girl?’ said Dick muzzily from the depths of his armchair, ‘Goldilocks an’ the three bears?’

‘No you silly goose,’ she answered, and proceeded to tell him the whole thing.

‘You do understand, don’t you Dick,’ she said at the end, imploringly.

‘Yes I think so,’ said Dick thoughtfully, rubbing the stubble on his chin, ‘you think this chap has popped up out of one or our adventures and he’s up to something now.  Could be blackmail I suppose.  He must know we’d all prefer to forget those days.’  Georgina blushed bright red.

‘I wouldn’t,’ she cried, ‘they were wonderful times, we…’  Before she could go on, James stood up and spoke.

‘I want it made quite clear,’ he said solemnly, ‘that my wife and I will have nothing to do with this.  She was never a willing part of your silly goings on, and I’m certainly not having my name dragged into it.  No doubt you have things to do in the kitchen Anne, and I have things to do in the greenhouse.  I leave it to you three to sort this out with the minimum of fuss.’

‘Pompous twit,’ muttered Georgina crossly after they’d gone.

‘Be quiet,’ said Julian curtly, ‘he is actually quite right.  The golf club committee elections are due soon.  I’m not having my chances spoilt by this ridiculous business.  But what can we do about it?’

‘Look,’ said Dick, ‘I’ve got a few days off.  I’ll hang about tomorrow afternoon and if he turns up I’ll tackle him.  I’ll find out what he wants and square it with him one way or another.  You know me, I can usually get round people.’

‘OK,’ said Julian, not without some resentment.  Dick’s easy way of making friends galled him.  ‘Just be careful on the money side will you?  It’s lettuce to you, but I’ve got a family to feed.’

‘Sure,’ said Dick with a grin, ‘trust me.’

And for once Dick kept his word.  He turned up in the morning and took Georgina for lunch, a ploughman’s.  Lovely fresh bread, mature cheddar and pickled onions, washed down by Coke for Georgina and several pints of beer for Dick.  Then they went back to the house and waited for the phone to ring.  Georgina was so worried about the whole thing she had arranged for the children to go to a friend’s house after school.  She sat on the sofa biting her nails anxiously.

‘Lost your bottle old thing?’ asked Dick cheerfully.  She could only nod in agreement.  The phone rang.  She answered it while Dick sauntered off to the end of the road.  He didn’t come back for over an hour, by which time Georgina was frantic with worry.

‘Where on earth did you get to?’ she asked as she let him in, ‘I thought you must have been murdered or something?’

‘My word, you’ve turned into a poor specimen and no mistake,’ said Dick in surprise, ‘pour us a whisky, there’s a good girl.  Make it a large one.’  Her hand shook as she obeyed him.

‘What happened?’ she asked.

‘Well our friend was a pretty poor specimen too actually,’ he said, ‘turns out we sent him to prison in one of our little adventures.  Insists he was innocent of course.  He was phoning to ask for help but kept losing his nerve.  He thought you’d be the softest touch I suppose.  Anyway I gave him fifty quid and the name of a bloke who might give him a job.  That’s the last we’ll hear of him.’

‘How can you be so sure?’ aske Georgina miserably, ‘he must realise I haven’t got old Timmy any more.’

‘Oh trust me,’ said Dick, ‘I’m a fair judge of people.  I made it clear we wouldn’t come up with any more lolly.  Well, must be off old girl.  Got a date with a lovely lady.’

After Dick left, Georgina wandered aimlessly through the empty house.  The children weren’t due back for hours.  She went to the kitchen and cut two – no four – thick slices of crusty bread.  Spread them with butter and layered them with ham, sliced tomatoes, cheese and chutney.  Took a packet of crisps and a large slice of fruitcake.  Made a mug of cocoa and loaded her snack onto a tray.

She took it into the lounge and sat down to eat it.  On the coffee table was one of Jane’s library books. She leafed through it.  It seemed to be about a group of children on holiday who set out to catch some smugglers who were using a ruined old castle as their headquarters.  Taking a large bite out of a sandwich, Georgina settled down for a good read.

 

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DIARY OF A GENTELMANN

Year of our Lord 18–.

November 15th.  Damn good day, out with the hounds at dawn, back after dark.  Housekeeper complains of the mud and bloodstains on my britches.  Curse on English women and their finicking ways.

November 17th.  Dinner with the Parson, damn me if he didn’t match me glass for glass.  Housekeeper while helping me up the stairs, stopped halfway, muttering some nonsense about a Governess for the child.  What need of book learning for the girl?  A pretty wench will always make her way in the World.  If she were plain t’would be another matter.

November 21st. Rained all day.  What a climate, it puts me quite out of Humor.  Bored.  In need of exercise so mounted to the attic, up-ended the Trollop and at her with a will.  She may be as mad as my hat but by thunder she’s willing.

January 3rd.  Weather foul.  No hunting. Hey ho for London and the gaming tables.

January 10th.  Housekeeper writes that the West Wing is damp and the child grows difficult.  Write back suggesting she consult Steward and engage Governess – why cannot a woman see the simplest of solutions?

January 15th. Uncomfortable midnight visit from two large men in black.  Have decided to settle debts.    Back to the country for some hunting, and a tumble or two in the attic.

January 17th.  Damn the dog.  Damn the horse.  Damn this ancle. The merest sprain, say I to the Surgeon.  Sir, says he, you will keep within doors a sennight.

Bored.  Madam, say I to the Housekeeper, bring me the new Governess.  In she comes, face like a cow’s arse.  Damned amusing though, putting her through her paces.  Play for me, say I, pretending to know about music, also, bring me your drawings if you please Madam.  Prickly as hell she is, like all these plain women. Deigns to be offended, if you please, because I fail to recognise her as the wench who held the horse.  Explain all white women look the same to me, and had assumed it was the Gatekeeper’s Wyfe who assisted me after the horse threw me.

January 18th  Ancle hurts like the very devil.  New Governess obliges the Child to recite for me.  Mercifully her memory fails after two verses.  New Governess asks if Child is not much improved.  Cannot think how to answer.  Conversation tedious in the extreme, attempt to dismiss the woman.  Name escapes me of course.  Miss …er say I, Yes sir says she, what is it you require of me?  Your absence, Madam, I reply.  Thank the Lord for a ready wit!  Bored.  Must see if I can manage attic stairs tonight.

January 19th.  Locked!  Damn that architect.  Only one way into the damned attic.  Meet the Servant in the corridor with the key on her belt.   Madam, says she, is otherwise occupied.  By Jove say I, out of my way woman, I’ll occupy her.  Make to push past, damned woman fells me with a single blow.  Tell the Housekeeper I walked into a door.  At dinner tonight notice Miss Er’s looks are vastly improved.  Country air agrees with the wench.

February 14th.  Fell asleep reading Lusciouse Wymmen, candle set fire to bed.  Next thing I know Miss Er is in the room beating out the flames with her reticule.  Feel very low and shaken today – have never seen a woman in curl papers and face cream before.

February 15th.  Recovered. At dinner made fine joke about natural beauty being most desirable in a woman.  How Miss Er squirmed!  Must think up some more.

February  16th.  Out with the Hunt.  No foxes but several cats, a cockerel and the farmer’s Wyfe.  Took the attic stairs three at a time. Met the servant in the doorway.  (Note: something oddly appealing about a powerful woman.  Pity about the mustache).  Madam, says she, is entering a period of Celibacy in order to discover herself.  But she’s raving mad say I, and that takes no discovering.  No no says Mrs. Poole, flexing her biceps, ’tis nothing but her menstrual cycle, get ye hence, explore the art of self-abuse, for you shall have no more of your wicked ways here.

February 17th.  Brooding all day. The woman Poole exceeds her authority.  Am I not to be Master in my own house?  Try a ladder at the attic window, but find it’s too small to climb in.  Mrs Poole empties slop bucket over me as I am descending.  Tell Housekeeper I tripped up on a patch of mud.  Situation becoming desperate.  At dinner notice how Miss Er’s eyes gleam in the candlelight.  Damned if I can recall her first name.  Will call her Jayne.  Plain Jayne.

 February 25th.  Still barred from my own attic.  The Lord knows I am a reasonable and patient man, but I fear the time has come for action.  Since my Wyfe is denied me, the Governess will have to take her place.  Resolved to have Jayne Er this very night.

February 26th.  Late last night Housekeeper, hearing my fit of sneezing, informs me that all Governesses are taught to carry a bag of pepper for the defence of their Virtue.  Inform the woman I was merely searching the Library for a Learned Work when some dust set off the unfortunate attack.  She tells me the Library has been locked this many a year and the key is lost.

April 1st.  Attic still locked.  Plain Jayne still resists me.  The jade insists on marriage.

June 1st  Why not?  She knows nothing of the attic, and I am a man in torment.

 July 28th.  Damn damn damn damn.  Damn all Solicitors to hell.  Wedding stopped at last minute, attic door still barred, and farmer wants compensation for loss of Wyfe.  Told the impudent fellow to get himself another.  Jayne Er gone off in a sulk.  Never did like a woman with warts anyway.  How I miss Jamaica.  Spent the evening poring over favourite book, Blacke Wymmen in Interesting Poses.

August 31st.  Women!   Grace Poole comes to tell me she is the happiest woman alive and she is going to California to start a new life with my Wyfe!  Asks for one hundred pounds to found new Religion.  Offer the hussy a taste of my whip instead, they leave without so much as a goodbye!  Housekeeper has eloped with Gamekeeper.  Fell asleep over new book of woodcuts by famous explorer (Naked Wymmen I Have Known), knocked over candle and burned house to the ground.  All my hunting trophies gone forever!  Lost one hand and eyesight.

*********

June 5th.  Bored. New Housekeeper tells me she will take dictation.  Decide to take up diary again.

June 6th New Housekeeper reads letter from America.  All members of new Religion killed when asked to demonstrate faith in a snakepit.  Grace Poole strangled seventeen before one foolhardy serpent slid inside her skirts and bit her on the Buttock.  Both died in agony.  Jayne Er turns up and announces she will marry me.  Ask her if she’s still plain.  She says Sir, I cannot tell a lie, an enchantment was placed upon me so that I am now the fairest of women is it really true that you see nothing? Touched by this show of concern. Decide to marry the wench.

August 12th.  It’s a miracle, eyesight is returning.  Run to stables, saddle hunter and ride all day.  Later find Jayne in her parlour.  She looks up at me from her sewing.  A shaft of sunlight falls across her face – damn damn damn damn DAMN

Saving money in these difficult times

A member of the aristocracy, who prefers to remain anonymous, has been sharing her words of wisdom with our reporter Lesley Bown.

I was chatting to Bertie only the other day about this so-called ‘credit crunch.’  ‘Bertie,’ I said, ‘What about this so-called credit crunch?’  ‘Lunch?’ he said, ‘Jolly good idea old thing, ring the bell there’s a good girl.’  So, as usual, it was down to Yours Truly to come up with a solution.

And, as usual, I came up with a simply brilliant idea.  I was under the dryer down at Maison Kevin and I found myself leafing through an old copy of a camping and caravanning magazine.  It came to me in a flash – instead of popping across to Tuscany as per usual we would buy a caravan and save absolutely heaps of money.  After all, once you have bought it you can use it again and again, just like a Rolls or a Bentley.  Instantly I gave the order to cancel Country Life and join the Caravan and Motorhome Club.

A quick visit to a local dealer brought the alarming discovery that the Rolls has not got a tow bar (you’d think it would be standard equipment).  And that was the end of the caravan idea. Still I am not one to give up at the first hurdle.  Before you could say Featherstonehaugh Chomondley I had sold the Rolls back to the wretched man and replaced it with our very own motor camping van. Since the person at the garage assured me it was ‘pre-loved’, I naturally assumed that it already contained all the cons, mod or otherwise, that a person could desire.

It was the work of a moment to pop the dogs into the ‘garage’ (a large mysterious space at the back, quite big enough for a couple of Labradors) and with Bertie snoozing in the passenger seat we hit the open road.  I must have some gypsy blood sloshing around in amongst all the blue stuff because honestly, I was as excited as a gal at her first Regimental Dinner.  We had a map and a camping site guide.  Freedom beckoned!

Alas, our first trip was a disaster over which I shall draw a discreet veil, although I had a very stern word with the garage man on our return.  Pre-loved indeed.

I should have paid more attention to those pages of the magazine devoted to living on board and also to what I believe is called ‘customerizing’ one’s motor camping van. So I turned to the wisdom of the interwideweb and soon discovered the wonderful things that can be achieved with a little creative thought and a few basic DIY skills.  However there were some omissions in the articles that I have to say I found quite startling and which left me with no option but to work out my own solutions – more brilliance required from Yours Truly!  And thanks to me our vehicle is truly a palace on wheels and I feel it incumbent on me to share my knowledge with the world.

The first little tip is, however many berths you have in your ‘van it is simply foolish to allow the butler to use one of them.  The thing to do is to send the man on ahead with a pup tent, which will be quite adequate for his needs.  With judicious planning it should be possible for him to serve one’s breakfast at home and be on the camping site ready with lunch just as one arrives.

Next, there is no need to go to all the trouble and expense of procuring hothouse lilies, (although by all means, if the gardener is able to provide them, you may as well enjoy their scent).  But a few blooms from the rose garden in a simple cut glass vase will provide an elegant focal point for your living area.  I designed a shelf to fit in the gap between the washroom wall and the TV cupboard.  In walnut veneer with a French polished surface it is every bit as elegant as the Sheraton sofa table in the drawing room in the Manor.

Making the shelf was perfectly simple – there is a little man in the village who does all that sort of thing for one, and of course his wife is quite capable of making the new velvet curtains with swags and pelmets to replace the rather mean window dressings supplied with the van.  While she had the Singer out it took very little extra effort for her to add the finishing touches to the four poster that her husband had cleverly inserted into the space previously occupied by the very inadequate fixed bed.

Do not, of course, pack the best china.  The Sèvres dinner service is hardly appropriate and you can ‘rough it’ perfectly well with the second best Royal Worcester.  One little tip that is well worth remembering is that Grandma’s silver teapot is unbreakable and ideal for a camping ‘brew-up’, as I believe it’s called.

And finally do not waste part of your precious payload carrying logs, kindling and firelighters – they are heavy and try as you might you won’t find a fireplace anywhere in a motor caravan – something of an oversight that I intend to write to the manufacturers about.  Poor Bertie has to stick his feet under the grill to achieve his favourite toasty warm sensation in his lower limbs.

I think you’ll find that if you follow my advice you’ll have a perfectly charming time in your motoring home van without spending a fortune, and still manage to live in the style to which we are all accustomed.  However I do not recommend staying away from home for too long – after a week without fingerbowls even the strongest among us begins to quail!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SNOWFLAKE

Snowflake ©Lesley Bown 2019

So I’m like, Mum, I gotta go up town.  And she’s like ignoring me and I’m like – Mum, I really really gotta go up town, I got some serious shopping to do.  And she’s like ignoring me and I’m like shouting MOTHER!  Get your face outa that sudoku, you ain’t never gonna crack it and I gotta go shopping.  And she’s like, Get the bus.

Bus!  Bus!  I don’t get no buses, right.  So I go round Chelsee’s house, and we’re like watching tv news and there’s this like blown up bus and I’m like Oh my god, I coulda bin on that bus and she’s like no you never, you never even got outa bed till half past twelve, that was a early morning bus.  And I’m like yeah but, it coulda happened later on and I coulda took the bus and then she’da bin sorry for not giving me that lift.

Then I’m like, Let’s go shopping Chel and she’s like, No, I’m going up the countryside.  Some woman on radio says anyone can go.  I’m like, No, you’re kidding me and she goes Yeah, really they got plants and sheep and stuff and anyone can go right?

Plants and sheep?  Plants and sheep ain’t got no bling man, know what I mean?  So I’m like, Yeah, but the Tube’s closed and I’m not going on no bus never again and what they’re saying on tv is, like, is your journey really necessary?  Plus, Chel, plus where is it?  Eh?  Where is the countryside?  And she goes, S’alright, we can get a taxi.  Taxi’ll drop us off right there, plus the driver’s gonna know where it is, right?

So I’m going Listen, dummy, you don’t get no Wayne and Colleen going up no countryside, right?  She’s like, Wrong, doh, he goes up football, dunnee?  And football’s got grass innit?

So we’re going up the countryside to try the simple life, right, Chel’s got her mobile and we’ve got water and factor 20 and sunhats and money for the shops and she’s just doing her makeup while I phone for a taxi and guess what – no taxis.  Not one.

I’m like, There’s no taxis Chel let’s go up McDonalds and she’s like, No, we’ll go round my Nan’s and get a lift.  I’m like I am not going up no countryside with your Nan Chel and she’s like Get out that door girlfriend before I pushes you out.

So we’re up her Nan’s but there’s no sign of life, curtains all closed and that, I’m like Oh my god Chelsee your Nan’s only gone and snuffed it.  So Chelsea’s crying and I’m banging on the door and Fatima from next door comes round with the spare key (‘cos Nan’s always losing her key) and we go inside and run up the stairs and there’s Chelsea’s Nan in bed, she’s only got Winston the paper boy in there with her and she’s like You lot can just piss off I’m getting me leg over it’s all the rage for us old birds nowadays.

So Chelsea needs a fag after that lot and I’m like, Forget the countryside, right Chel?  And she’s like, No, I will not forget the countryside I have got my heart set on the countryside and I am going up the school field  ‘Course we both forget there ain’t no school field no more they put a Tesco’s there instead.  So we go in the Tesco and I’m like Let’s get a lamb tikka Chel, it’s a sheep innit?  And she’s like, has it got any plants in it?  So we get a sag alloo as well and some crisps and then we walk home and Mum’s like Give us a crisp then and I’m like What?  I just had to walk all the way from Tesco and now you want a crisp?  No lift no crisp, end of.

 

Book Review: “Pavarotti and Pancakes” by Francesco Granieri

Interesting book review.

Dan Santos Book Reviews

I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

“Pavarotti and Pancakes” is easily the best memoir I have read in the past ten years, Colin Powell’s and Tiger Woods’ included. It has the authenticity that makes a memoir respectable; a deep from the heart cry in the dark, if you will. Francesco’s writing enthralls; the style is compelling and reminiscent of the fireside storytelling tradition of Southern Europe. He certainly follows Hemingway’s advice to write hard and clear about what hurts.

The scene is familiar to those of us who share a Mediterranean heritage: strong emotions, a sense of family doom around each corner, intense loyalty and unrecognized courage. Put all of these together with the author’s incredible writing skills and you have a winner deserving The New York Times’ unparalleled praise and film makers rushing to buy the rights for what must be an Oscar winning…

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Mother’s Day Blues

I get the feeling from a few online things that Mother’s Day must be soon.  I do not do Mother’s Day, I’m not interested in a few tatty daffs and a lopsided drawing in return for a whole year of devotion.  Anyway it’s been thoroughly commercialised and is just another way of teaching kids to be consumers.

I’ve always said to my family Every Day Here Is Mother’s Day.  By which I meant try to have a little respect and lay the table once in a while without being asked.  And also bear in mind that this means you don’t have to spend your pocket money on tatty daffs.

It worked, with the pleasing side effect that it taught them to question convention.  Of course they also quickly realised that once a year there was one sure fire way to wind me up…

 

Why Do We Have the Oscars?

Silver Screenings

The first televised Academy Awards in 1953. Image: The Hollywood Reporter

No one can say for certain who gave the name “Oscar” to the Academy Awards statuette.

Bette Davis said it was she, because it reminded her of then-husband Harmon O. (Oscar) Nelson. Some say the Academy librarian, Margaret Herrick, named it after her Uncle Oscar. Hollywood columnist Sidney Skolsky says he named the statuette Oscar to “erase the phony dignity”.¹

But there is no disputing the driving force behind the Academy and its awards: MGM co-founder and producer, Louis B. Mayer.

According to the reproachful Anthony Holden, author of Behind the Oscar: The Secret History of the Academy Awards, the whole business started because Mayer wanted to build a beach house.

(Now, if you’ve been employed for any length of time, you know how it goes when your boss asks you to work…

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