The Forsythia Saga

I blame Felicity Kendall – yes, I know the Good Life was a long time ago (I was young, that’s how long ago!), but I still blame her for making the rest of us think dungarees are high fashion. This is a delusion which hits me annually, something to do with the sap rising, spring donning her verdant garlands and going walkabout and all that.  So, dressed like an escapee from Dexys Midnight Runners, I set off for the local garden centre, that Aladdin’s Cave of floral treasures with strange-sounding names, populated by even stranger people, some of whom appeared to have been impaled on sticks and were leaking straw from various orifices. ‘Those,’ my-brother-in-law, informed me loftily, ‘are scarecrows’. I don’t know who asked him – he was only there on Sherpa duty.

Schlepping up and down the serried ranks of green, growing things, I could feel my excitement levels donging like on that old fairground machine-thing people used to hit with a mallet! Here was everything I needed to make my life complete (once I thought it might be a 1960s stereogram, but that’s another blog).  How had I managed to live for the last (cough!) years without benefit of Ceanothus? What a paltry, joyless existence sans Choisya (Mexican Orange Blossom to the uninitiated, which I was until recently)! Forsythia, Californian Lilac, Clematis, Jasmine! Whistling up the Sherpa, I loaded him down with them all and proceeded towards the herbs in a maniacal fashion appropriating plants as I went. Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. I can see why Simon & Garfunkel stopped short at that point as, apart from lavender (dilly dilly), it’s difficult to get marjoram, mint and coriander to rhyme nicely.

At the check-out, the bill came as something of a shock, but you get what you pay for and you can’t put a price on the garden of your dreams.  Sadly, the wonderful, romantic, Mediterranean oasis of mine is still in the REM stage as, somehow, I never got round to planting my bounty and now it languishes outside, waving little leafy appendages drowning-man like, and casting looks of deep despair through the window, which is why I insist on keeping the curtains closed.

Felicity Kendall and the Good Life! Dungarees with sex appeal? Come on Eileen, I’m not falling for that one again . . . until next year, perhaps, when the sap starts to rise. With any luck, though, it might run into the falling hormones and stop at my ankles. Anyone for football?

Like A Bird on a Pyre

Thanks to a miraculous event i.e. the appearance of the sun for more than five minutes, the silly season has come early this year. It’s time to dive for cover as the fowl (not a spelling mistake), carcinogenic smoke from the neighbour’s Barbie belches over the fence, followed by gales of drunken laughter and more belches – this time from the neighbour himself.  The smell of sizzling flesh is everywhere making one nostalgic for the funeral pyres of Old Calcutta even if, like me, one has never been to Old Calcutta. Elvis may have left the building, but he’s come to the Barbie in fine voice, glory glory alleluia – or could that be the neighbour again indulging in a spot of ye old off-key Karaoke? Yep! And now he’s moved on to Sting and is apparently watching me, or watching you. One thing he isn’t watching is the Barbie and a shout goes up as the fence catches fire. A moment later, I can see him through the ever increasing gap pouring XXXX on the flames in a futile attempt to douse them. The man is clearly the devil in disguise and I swear there is a lot of fence mending to be done before this wooden heart will will ever love him tender again – or even tolerate him.

A Packet of Roosters, Two Lamb Chops and a 1960s Stereogram, Please

Ramsgate is better known for its Royal Harbour and architectural heritage (Pugin woz ere), than as a shopping Mecca, especially now that many of the shops have relocated further afield to Westwood Cross . Therefore, one might think it safe to let an impulse shopper like me out without a carer.  One would be wrong, which is why I am now giving house room to a massive, great, partially working 1960s stereogram, which I somehow managed to convince myself was the missing key to eternal happiness.  I wouldn’t mind, but I only went out for a packet of spuds and a couple of lamb chops. My mistake was in taking the car, because then I had to park it, and if I had walked, then I wouldn’t have had to park it, and so I wouldn’t have come within an ass’s roar of the second-hand (make that fifty-hand) furniture store.  But lo it came to pass that I had to pass it and then after I had passed it, it occurred to me that we were in need of a wardrobe for the spare room. So I actually retraced my steps and ventured inside, even though the woodworms were all out openly sunning themselves and chewing the fat (or the wood) on the ancient furniture outside. I should explain that, at the moment, I am suffering from a Victorian period (which is a different kind of women’s problem, in that it involves lots of oak, aspidistras and stuffed birds in glass cases).  To wit, Ikea simply would not do.  I wanted wood, real wood from real trees. I wanted craftsmanship that had lasted for a hundred years, drawers that didn’t fall apart (don’t be smart!), carvings and cabriole legs (shut up!).  You get the picture? What I got was a 1960s stereogram with a turntable that turns, only not at the right speed (or could it be that James Blunt has developed a shocking speech impediment?), and an impressive looking radio that looks as though it might communicate with aliens. In fact the whole thing might even be an alien.

‘It  could have been worse,’ I told my long-suffering husband later, when he opened his mouth to lodge an objection.  ‘I was very tempted by the 20ft Indian Totem Pole.’ Besides, it was our third wedding anniversary and he hadn’t bought me a present. Ladies and Gentlemen, you heard it here first – there will not be a fourth.  On a happier note, though, the stereogram does have cabriole legs (and just a teeny weeny bit of wood worm)!

Time To Call Time on Time Team?

Scene 1. Ext. A field in  Biggin Little-on- the-Mole

Phil-the-hat-Harding is peering excitedly into a rain-filled trench.  We know he is excited because the voiceover tells us he is, as in ‘Phil is excited as he peers into the rain-filled trench, where Carenza is up to her kagool in muck’.


Oooo aaaahr, Cretinza, is that . . . could that be a . . . waaaahl?


****s sake, Phil, how many times? It’s Carenza! Yes, it’s a wall. The clue is in the bricks.

Phil-the-Hat  turns and beckons furiously to the rest of the team who appear to be poring intellectually over a geophys chart. A slip of the camera angle reveals it is actually a copy of this month’s Fossil Fetish.


Ere, lads, come and see this ere waaahl.

The team, led by Tony-the-Baldrick- Robinson, shamble over as fast as their collective age of 1004will allow. Tony peers into the ditch as the others crowd round.


It is! It really is. It’s a . . .  wall. Well done Cortina! Is it Saxon or Roman?

Mick-of-the-clown-hair –Aston (and really dodgy woolly pullies) roughly elbows Tony out of the way.


That’s never a wall, Crepuscular. This ere is a richuaaal site. See that there unidentifiable something. That might have been used as an instrument of some kind or maybe an offering to the Gods.


Aaahr, Mick lad, yer don’t know yer tesserae from yer testicles.

It’s a waaahl, roih enuff. Finest waaahl oi’ve seen in these ere parts.


Could it be part of a Roman villa? A bath house?


Aaahr, could be, one of the waaahls.


This is such an exciting find, guys. What are we going to do with it?

Phil-the-hat-Harding, Mick-of-the-clown-hair-Aston, Carenza-the-sane-much-younger-and-female-one (all together)

Do with it? What we always do, moron. Bury the damn thing, so some other prat can come along in a hundred years and dig it all back up again.

Tony reaches down and helps Carenza out of the ditch.


Hey, Carrera, fancy a drink with a very old fossil? We could talk about my days as lead singer with Kajagool gool.


Dear Lord, put me up against the wall and shoot me!

And so say all of us. Time Team – have you no homes to go to?

Nineteen and Topless in Thanet

Oh, that caught your eye didn’t it – the Benny Hill double entendre, but that of which I speak is nothing to do with me divesting myself of my upper garments or anyone else, come to that.  I am speaking of one of the great loves of my life, my trusty, ancient little MX5 Roadster, Jago ( totally impractical and with a boot the size of a gnome’s knapsack). And, yesterday, for the first time this year, I put the top down and hit the open roads. “Oh, what dust clouds I shall make! What carts I shall fling into the ditch!” said Toad of Toad Hall, and I know exactly how he felt.  There truly is something exhilarating about pootling around the highways and byways, especially at this time of the year when the trees are laden with blossomy blossoms and the plants all seem to have overdosed on Viagra.  Leaving lovely Thanet behind, we headed for the serpentine back roads around Sandwich, Deal and Canterbury, with ‘the husband’ moaning that we’d better be back in time for the start of the Grand Prix – philistine! Within minutes we were deep in the tranquil heart of the countryside with the sun beating down on our heads and the scent of Mother Nature’s Chanel all around us. You know, there is a wonderful freedom in not having a definite plan or destination, in simply chucking away the map and Sat Navs and following willy nilly the signposts to Pluck’s Gutter or Little Mongeham, purely because you like the name and the visions they conjure up.

Emerging from beneath a cornucopic canopy of trees (somewhere near Ham and Sandwich, I think – someone had nicked the sign again, so I can’t be sure), my mind dug deep for a better way of describing it and came up with Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem, Pied Beauty. “Glory be to God for dappled things . . . “

A short while later we breasted a rise, stopped the car and stood for a while drinking in a vernal panorama of fields in their various states of growth. I had in my head a vision of the sewing circles of old, where industrious ladies gathered together to create wonderful patchwork quilts. Here, the quilt was green in the main, albeit of every shade and hue, with a couple of more sober patches in browns and duns. But, at some point, the Scarlet O’Hara of the quilting circle had happened along and brazenly thrown her blingy, in-your-face, rape-seed gold into the mix, adding a discordant but irresistible note.  Apart from politics, rape fields are the one thing upon which hubby and I violently disagree. He says they are vulgar. I say they are a thing of beauty, most wondrous to behold. He says they stink of cats’ pee. I say they stink of cats’ pee. Okay, we agree on the latter.

We got back in the car and drove on, past scented hedgerows already bustling with insect life, tiny flies with filigree wings, cabbage white butterflies and bees anxious to get on with the business of dunking themselves in nectar. Once, we found ourselves trailing behind an ASBO pheasant who, with no thought for the Green Cross Code, sauntered casually up the centre of the road.  It’s fair to say his attitude was definitely of two fingers up in the air variety, but I don’t reckon much to his longevity. Here and there we passed a real-live farm with real-live animals, sheep and cows yawning lazily in their enclosures, grazing desultorily or herding together for a communal kip –  all that yawning and grazing will knacker you.

We passed centuries old inns of the Chocolate Box type, The Dog and Duck, The Blazing Donkey, tempted, but staunchly refraining from going in and getting blotto in their enticing courtyard gardens. Here and there, shy bluebells played peek-a-boo from amid clumps of shady woodland.  Honestly, it didn’t get much better. Not for the first time, I thanked my lucky stars that I had made the decision to leave the grimy backyard of London for the fertile Garden of England. I was just about to express this thought to my husband, my heart full of poetry, my eyes quite shiny from the emotion of it all, when a very large incontinent rook flew overhead . . .

PS. We did get home for the start of the Grand Prix –  but he was washing his hair!

A Right Bunch of Silly Billies

I had a phone call today from an old friend I hadn’t seen for some time, a true Mrs Malaprop and one of the funniest people I know.  She was calling to invite me to her wedding to a very nice man “who wasn’t after her big house” and she knew this because he had said so to her son at their engagement party.  Like you do! He was also fifty-five to her seventy-eight, but she wasn’t one of those cougar mummies.  Perish the thought! She’d only bothered getting engaged, because he “could put a great leg under him on the dance floor and good jivers are hard to find”.  As I laughed at the image this conjured up, I recalled her divorce several years before when her solicitor had instructed a bannister.  To my credit, I refrained from making the obvious crack about wooden performances and, wooden or not, Bannister-Boy did secure the big house in which her fiancé affected no interest.  She was similarly excited the day her degree eyesight came through and I can still see her running down the street waving it triumphantly over her head and yelling that she would soon be divorced. She rang off eventually but not before issuing a dire warning that should her ex caused any trouble at the nuptials she would erope all over him. Think volcanoes.

She left me with a grin on my face and the memory of other funny incidents caused by mishearing what someone has said. Like, the day I sent my five-year-old son (many years ago) to close the front door on account of the draught and he returned livid because there was no giraffe.  My ex husband routinely butchered the lyrics of one of Paul Young’s hits – “every time you go away, you take a piece of meat with you”.  On another memorable occasion, the florist said it with flowers by sending him packing with a flea in his ear. His crime? Asking for silly billies. To be fair, English was not his first language, but  I have never since looked at a Bizzie Lizzie in the same way.

Nor am I exempt from wax build up in the ears.  At mass, as a child, I regularly misheard “show us thine advocate” for show us thine advo cake. The advo cake never did materialise and if I’d known then what I know now, I’d have eroped all over the priest.

Fitness – It’s a mug’s game – How I gave it the finger!

It’s that time of the year again when the sight of the sun shining through a dusty window brings on a panic  attack. Not because the window is dusty (who cares), but because it is a reminder that sooner, rather than later, one’s pasty white limbs are going to have to emerge from their cocoon of thick tights, long sleeves and longer hemlines and put themselves on public display.  This year, I vowed things would be different. This year, I would be prepared. This year I would not need hypnotherapy to confront my fear of sh . . . sho . . . shor . . . shorts!  In a nutshell, I was going to get fit! I was pleased with this intention and things got off to a good start with a trip out to St Margaret’s Bay (a rather beautiful part of Kent).  The intention was to go for a brisk walk along the cliff tops, whilst keeping a weather eye out over the English Channel for signs of a Napoleonic  invasion. Actually that phobia belongs to my husband who, in a past life, might even have been Nelson.  I wouldn’t tell everyone this, but as we were going to sleep last night, he leaned across and whispered lovingly in my ear ‘Kiss me, Hardy.’  I digress.  The intention, as I say was to kick off my get-fit campaign by going for a nice walk and, indeed, we reached our destination with no trouble. That came just as we got out of the car and I managed to catch my finger in the door, which my other half promptly locked, thereby ensuring no means of escape.  By the time my screams penetrated his brain, the damage had been well and truly done and, upon its release, my finger looked like the leavings of a sausage after a Rottweiler has had a go. Our walk, therefore, turned out to be no more than a step – two, actually – one out of the car and one back in.

Was I defeated? No! Bloodied and bowed? Hell, yes, but being made of stern stuff, I vowed not to let  a semi-amputated finger scupper (Napoleon/Nelson again!) my plans and so, two days later, I set off for my local gym and an appointment with Biceps Brian. I looked the part – I really did. New trackie bottoms, ample tee-shirt, brand new trainers (all singing, all dancing with interchangeable soles that promise to make your calves look like Linford Christie’s in only five minutes a week).  Alas, all the machines required pulling or pushing , a big no-no with a bloodied, broken, lacerated finger.  And so BB (we were on intimate terms in a very short space of time – parting with hard cash facilitates these matters) advised me to stick with the treadmill.  I did, for fifteen minutes, till the skin of my heel stuck to my brand new trainer.  I peg-legged home – in my stocking feet. Fitness? Pah, it’s a mug’s game! Now, does anyone know who stocks opaque tights throughout the summer?

Help Somebody Pinched My Eyelids

All right, I knew that sounds weird, but it’s true.  Allow me to present the facts. This morning, as usual, I applied a light dusting of eye-shadow to my eyelids. An hour later, I happened to catch sight of myself in the mirror and, guess what, the eye-shadow was still there, only it had migrated to my brow bone. Why? Because, someone had pinched my eyelids. I swear. I went to bed with eyelids, woke up with eyelids and an hour later they were no more. In a panic I phoned my best friend.

“You too?” she screeched. Really, this was just too bizarre. I had visions of the thief, a burly five o’clock shadowed man with a striped jumper, a mask across his eyes and a large sack over his shoulder marked ‘eyelids’.   I was breathless with the horror of it all.

‘What! Someone pinched your eyelids too?”

She is one of life’s screechers, so she screeched again. “No! My hand, dummy. Someone pinched my hand and left an old lady one in its place, with thin skin, blue veins and an-“. There was a perceptible pause here as she built up to the shocking denouement. “AGE spot!”

I kid you not, I had to go and lie down.  Two hours later, the palpitations were just beginning to subside, the perspiration on my forehead beginning to dry, when the phone rang. Loud sobbing poured out into my ear, followed by a strangled hiccup of despair.

“Oh, Taz, you’ll never guess what happened.”

“Someone pinched your eyelids?” I hazarded. “Or your hand, and left an old lady one in its place with thin skin, blue veins and an aaaa…aaa….aaaaaa. . .AGE spot?’ (Took me a while, but I got there.)

“No!’ The sobbing escalated into a full-on tsunami. “My husband. Somebody pinched my husband. And you know we’ve  been married for nearly forty years . . .”

I banged the phone down in disgust. Self! Self! Self!  Really, some people have got nothing to worry about!