Monday, 26 December 2016

Why I Will Live To Be One Hundred And Six

Being at a loose end this morning, and wide awake somewhat earlier than I chose to be, I opened the ghost of my kindle and started to read the bargain of the day of a while ago, which is called, 'The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of The Window And Disappeared,'

I hazarded twenty pence on this book in honour of its title, and I have read three pages and was so inspired that I reached  for this blog and began tapping.

I am going to live to be 106.

Some years ago, I was suckered by Gordon Brown, the then Chancellor of  the Exchequer into buying  into a scheme that was almost guaranteed to enhance my pension. It doesn't. It went down with the stock market and delivers into MY exchequer the sum of twenty pounds a month. I have to live to be one hundred and six to get my money back. And I will.

Hence my interest in stories about centenarians. I am going to be one of them, and I want pointers on how to do it in style.

In the course of the three pages that I have read, the hero has climbed out of a window in his carpet slippers and headed for the bus station. He is uncrashing his 100th Birthday Party, thus avoiding the mayor, his retinue,  and a surfeit of iced cake. I am cheering him on as he stops to rest his knees in a graveyard.

I am liking this man more and more. I have knees, and a fascination with graveyards. I love where this is going....

Sunday, 25 December 2016

All I can hear. ...

Is the ticking of the clock on the wall of my bedroom. I wonder at this, it's battery- driven:  no need for the  tick, but there you  are, and I am glad of it, a reminder that the clock is still telling time and is probably telling it right. 


It wasn't always so. For years on this morning our children would be bursting in ( in three minutes, 'not until eight 'o clock' was the rule!) faces glowing with excitement, my heart bursting with love  for them... ) 

Today all three of them will be sharing Christmas with their own children. They are delightful mothers with lovely husbands and beautiful children. I smile with deep, deep satisfaction. 

Job done.


Merry Christmas!


Tuesday, 20 December 2016


Thought for the Day. Courtesy of Father Richard Rohr:

Love, like forgiveness, is a decision. It’s a decision in your mind and in your heart. And you’d better make it early in the day, because once you’re a few hours into resentment, it’s too late. Already you’re angry at your husband or wife, and you’re upset because the paper boy didn’t deliver your newspaper. You see, when you’re not in love, you’ll use any excuse you can to be unhappy. You’ll use any excuse to be irritated. But you were unhappy before your husband or wife did anything or didn’t do anything, before the paperboy came or didn’t come. You were already unhappy, and they just occasioned it. The exact object for your unhappiness is actually arbitrary and illogical. Unhappiness just needs an object—and so does happiness and love. You have to recognize ahead of time when you are not living in love. This is surely why morning prayer is so important.


Gateway to Silence:
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

No, I Don't Know What MOOC Stands For ...

I have just uploaded my last assignment for the MOOC 'Naural History Illustration 101',

presented by the University of Newcastle (Auatralia) and hosted by EdX. It was a rendering of an elephant which in poor light and a squint is half-convincing. Despite it's shortcomings, I am very proud of it, and pleased to say that it helped me to my 75% overall mark. (Boosted, I confess, by studiying hard for 100% in the theory elements ... ) 

I will post it. Because it's a serious work, I have not given the subject a name, but his mother's called Mango. 

Natural history has always been a hobby of mine, though I am far more comfortable wielding a camera than a pencil, to be honest. Never mind, it was fun to do, great to learn a new skill, and free. 

Frankly, drawing other bits of the cosmos has been a very welcome distraction. It's hard not to imagine that the world is falling apart with the what-all that's happening in politics at the moment. Getting stuck into a tin of pencils is a wonderful antedote. 

What next? I quite fancy another practical course. Off to EdX to find something new to try. 

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Personal Log Stardate 3.722 (billion)

"If you want to make apple pie from scratch, first you have to create the universe."

This is a popular quote from the cosmologist Carl Sagan. I like it, it takes me from the everyday to the ultimate: a profound leap for one that takes just a moment to make. 

Thing are looking bleak at present, so much so that I am tempted to batten down the hatches, stick my head in the sand and hibernate for a decade.

What perturbs me is that it is fashionable to embrace lies to gain power, to encourage mistrust to hold on to it, to turn  a blind eye to the effects of greed and selfishness on those who cannot shield themselves from it: the poor, the unprotected, the marginalised. 

How can this be right?

It isn't.  All I can hope for now, is that one day the appeals to the worst in us will run it's course, and the liars, cheats, war-makers and fear-mongers will be vanquished. I am usually optimistic, but am struggling to remain so. I want the world to be a better place, but what I am seeing right now is pretty much an end-game. 

Such a pity. Because, to end with another Sagan quote:

"Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious."

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Sick of Politics? Here's Some Religion ...

This liturgical year draws to a close this week, Advent and the beautiful season of Christmas is approaching fast. 

Advent is a season of abstinence, I guess once upon a time it pretty much had to be, as there didn't use to be an abundance of food around here in December. I am reflecting on it. A period of abstinence will make the feast of Christ Mass so much more appreciated, Reflection ends with the thought that I shall start out with good intentions that will keep me going for a week. Tops. 

Now that our family have families of their own, Christmas is different. Last couple of years Ray and I have volunteered with the worthy folk, this year we might just pull in a waif and do good to them. Last time we tried this, the waif ensured he was too blotto to come to be done good to, which was almost a relief. I have put out feelers at the Salvation Army, but it might well be that my regulars have re-connected with their people, or heard that Friends at Christmas are doing a meal with all the trimmings at the Mission, an occasion which I know will be livelier than dinner-on-your-best -behaviour here. 

There's a growing thing about Big Name Christmas Adverts. I mention this as a matter of interest, do not ask me why, or, indeed, what. I am sticking to Netflix and the Beeb until New Year's Day. 

Television advertising brings out the Scrooge in me. 

I did see a funny posted by my friend Patsy,  who is, like me, both a Labour Party Member AND a Roman Catholic 👍🏻😘✝ So a shared idea of what's amusing might be expected. I will source the photo and post it,  eventually, but here's the gist: Dilliard's  Department Store scrimped on proofreading their Christmas ad this year, and have invited Satan into their Christmas Grotto ... 

Last Sunday was the feast of Christ the King. I love this one, A timely reminder just before the babe pops back into the manger,  that the Eternal One doesn't stay there all year. 

(Being a rather unorthodox Roman Catholic, the Eternal One embraces for me a universal concept of the Cosmos not a tiny God-in-a-box exclusive one.  If you are a person of faith this will mean something, if you're not, skip this bit.) 

Where was I? Momentarily distracted by a bright yellow helicopter hovering, very noisily, over my back garden. A quick examination of conscience turns up nothing actionable. 

I ought to get moving. The grandchildren are due soon and there are things to be done. 

Before I quit, as the great Dave Allen used to say, 

"May your God  go with you ... " 

Friday, 18 November 2016

I Wish I Could Write Like Alan Bennett

My husband and I have been very busy doing this and that. He plays chess and volunteers with the Samaritans, and I work with two charities that do practical things for other people who need them done. We both help out, with no arm-twisted needed, with our five grandchildren. Sometimes, we remember we ought to, so we go out on a date. 

Last week, I hauled him off to the Wildlife and Wetlands Centre at Slimbridge, about 30 miles from home. This week was his choice, so he booked tickets for 'A Live Interview with Alan Bennett' at the Guldhall Arts Centre in Gloucester. We had listened to Bennett's 'Diaries' read by himself over the wireless (definitely a word he uses) watched 'The History Boys' when it came on the telly, and taken ourselves off to the pictures to see, The Lady In A Van':pretty much a true account of a vagrant that parked outside his house and stayed there for years. To say that she enlivened his existence is an understatement.

The interview was prefaced by a documentary showing this affable introvert in a raincoat, shuffle his way apologetically through his extraordinary life, after which he was probed and prodded, In a verbal sense, by a respectable Sue McGregor, then the thousands of us watching the event in cultural centres across the UK tweeted questions, which Mr Bennett answered. 

It was charming. 

Alan Bennett picks up his material by standing next to people in queues and listening to them. I think you get a lot of material that way. 

"Tomorrow's my ninetieth birthday, It's disgusting," 

You can hear her saying it, can't you? Imagine a quiet, educated Yorkshire voice repeating it, and you're there.


Monday, 14 November 2016

Road Ahead Closed

Started out as an ordinary day, that is until the bus driver, as we do, you know it, refused to believe the 'Road Ahead Closed' sign and had to resort to a problematic three-point-turn in a busy but narrow high street. People on the bus immediately became best buddies, and began talking to each other, offering words of consolation and advice to the bus driver who was rapidly  coming to terms with what had all the makings of a very bad day.

I use the bus on principle. The first principle being that it's free because I was lucky enough to be born in 1950, the second, it's good for me and the environment because I get to walk a bit and the atmosphere is spared 20 minutes of toxic emissions. We are both chuffed. 

The walk through Gloucester from Worcester Street, past  the Cross, up Eastgate St to the Salvation Army Citadel was troubling. I counted five rough sleepers. I can't remember a time when the problem was so visible. 

I stayed at the SA long enough to make sandwiches, get the tea table set up and prepare the helpers' lunch. I'm easing back in slowly, after a granny break. Usually I stay to serve the tea and reconnect with the people who need a meal they don't need to pay for, or haven't the facilities to cook themselves. Next week, perhaps. 

I read the New Scientist on the bus home.  I don't read newspapers any more, because I am too old to find other people's opinions and celebrity gossip other than tiresome. It would help if I followed football, but I don't, so it's New Scientist for me. Excellent article on why Americans don't listen to one another any more, and a study of small scale projects here and there working to pull people back together. (It IS possible) This is more interesting to me than bad stats and worse commentary on why the President-Elect managed a win on a platform of, "I know nothing about how to run the country, and I'm gonna get rid of those that do ... " I am awash with anticipation as to how THAT'S going to work. 

Rest assured American readers, I am not picking on your country.  I am at least as cynical about politics here in the UK, only more so, because I have to live here. 

The walk up the hill from the bus stop took me last an amazing burning bush. I stopped to drink in the beauty of the Autumn colours, I picked some leaves to play with when I got home. There will be pictures. 

Now the day draws to a close. I have gazed at the Supermoon, watched Planet Earth ll on my iPad, and, in the bath, listened to Garrison Keiller's 'Writer's Almanac'. It's a treasure, people: a daily reminder of everything I love about the USA.  It's here:

Check out this cool episode:

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch. 


I made a collage under glass for my dressing table:

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Poppy Day

We always called it Poppy Day. My earliest memories are of grainy black and white TV pictures of hundreds of veterans marching to the Cenaph. The pictures changed from greyscale to HD and the veterans grew old, no longer marched, but were pushed in wheelchairs, and finally the British Expeditionary Force faded away ...


My Aunty's lodger was called Poppy ... He had been gassed in WW1, invalided out, and was too old to fight in WW2. He was billeted on Aunty: an evacuee from the blitz in London. He never returned home.


He was part of my childhood, he died when I was ten. I loved him, I mourned him. I never questioned him. I wished I had, but I was too young to ask. He was the first person I loved to die.


He never spoke of it. . The trenches, the shelling, the gas attack that bought him his passage home to Blighty, Not a word. I know only from the testimony of others.


My Aunty. She was a young and very beautiful widow during the war. I have only whispers of her conquests, but I know of her one true love. His name was Bill, he was in the parachute regiment. They were to marry, but he was killed. I don't think Aunty would have mentioned him, except for a peculiar piece of my own history.


Years after the war, I was about to marry a fellow student. It was 1971, we were young and in love, and of the options on offer, we chose the quirky one:we decided to get married. We had NO money, but I had a reasonable grant that bought the Paisley mini-dress from Marks and Spencer's, my husband-to-be borrowed the license money from my brother Adrian, and we were going to buy 7/6d brass circlet from Woolworth to do us for the wedding ring.


Before the big day, Aunty took me to one side and told me a story about a young airman whom she had loved, and whom she was going to marry the next time he was home on leave. But he never came home. He was killed in action. They had a ring ... Aunty gave me that ring, and Bill's 'wings'.


Both are dead now. Aunty never remarried, and I often wondered why. I do not know Bill's other name, but today, as I look down to the third finger on my left hand, I remember him.


Thursday, 10 November 2016


It's rewarding work, turning up at the Mission, serving food to vulnerable adults who don't mind listening to a few minutes of religion in exchange for a sausage roll, a bowl of soup, and some nice people to talk to for an hour or so.


I am full of existential guilt about it, because doing good makes me feel good, but I am reconciled to this since learning (EdX course 'Science of Happiness') that we are genetically programmed this way, and it helps species survival rates. So that's OK then.


It was my turn to give the talk. It's a tough gig. Most of the audience are appreciative, but I am very ambivalent about doing it. Anyway, I said I would, so I did.


Unfortunately, I spoke without notes, and close to the beginning of my 'put your trust not in men' homily, I accidentally called the President-Elect of the United States of America a narcissistic sociopath.


Michael got up and quietly informed me that if I was going to talk about Trump he was leaving. I kinda got the hint, and also the strong feeling that calling ANYONE a narcissistic sociopath wasn't exactly Christlike, so I rowed back and galloped to the finish, sitting down absolutely determined never, ever, to do the talk again.


Michael hadn't left, but I could see he was upset so I went over to him and let him tell me what a hypocrite I am ( I am, I am, it's true.) and then to give me his reasons for supporting Trump. I listened and I listened good.


Trump offers hope to people like him. Michael feels his voice is finally being heard. After I sincerely apologised for upsetting him, we had a real conversation. At the end of it I was both enlightened and chastened.


Michael was given up for adoption at birth, but his mother changed her mind, and struggled on for two years before giving him up for good. A string of foster homes followed, then a boarding school. Then prison ...


Michael, in his forties, is good-looking, and intelligent. As his story unfolded I offer up absolute respect for him: for having a completely shit life and not being totally crushed by it.


Yes, Michael gets that mysogyny and the racism don't look good, but he believes that's media hype, " The media lies. He's a good man with a family who wants to change the way the world is run ... "


Michael is sitting in a room with some very unhappy people with a food voucher in his hand looking for a job that's being done by someone in China and he wants the world to change in a way that would give him a life more like mine.


I wouldn't vote for Donald Trump in a million years, but after my conversation with Michael, I understand why people did.


I don't think my little homilies ever achieve much, and I sweat blood over them, but today mine achieved something. I made a monumental error of judgement, but as a result, I made a real connection with a young man whose opinions I really needed to hear.




Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Staying Up Late!

Following the US Presidential election. I'm not going to alienate anyone by expressing a preference for a candidate: I am just going to enjoy the buzz of watching democracy in action! 

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Feels like cheating ...

Off to Spain for five days! Temperatures in the mid-twenties. Yes, it does feel like cheating, as if God gave me November to endure and  I'm giving it the slip ...


Monday, 24 October 2016

I Haven't Written A Poem About Damon Runyon

I haven't written a poem about Damon Runyon

This, is an omission, so

Without his permission, (being impossible to obtain because

Nothing remains except, this figure in my head:

In short, he's dead)


I am thinking, as would he, eternally, In the present continuous, of mobsters

And their molls. Those Guys and Dolls, who are singing and dancing and murdering each other

With rampant inhibition - it being Prohibition - through

The highways and byways of New York

Through Speakeasys and Vaudeville,

Racetracks, playhouses and

This and That on Broadway:

Anyhow: here and there.


Cheesecake at Mindy's, out of town hucksters

Young ladies with high hopes,

Dealing them off the arm -


Safe-crackers. Pie-eaters, old ladies with attitude

Babies with Pop!




Love 'em all. New friends in a New World.

Delightfully, deliciously, sailing close to the wind

In a world of Romance and Danger. To which

I remain,


A stranger.


(Funny, where inspiration comes from.


Don't you think?


And now


I HAVE written a poem about Damon Runyon.)


I have also made the cheesecake. All the better for having ' a story that goes with it'. So this is for the cheesecake experts out there:










Sunday, 23 October 2016

Identity Theft

I remember the excitement of waking up one morning  and realising I was a citizen, not only of the United Kingdom, but of the European Union, too.

It meant something to me, it really did. Through the EU SOCRATES programme  I have worked with colleagues in France, Spain, Estonia, Romania and Austria. I have enjoyed the commonalities of our lives, and savoured our  differences. I have benefitted form freedom of movement and from ease of transfer. I have appreciated the work the EU institutions have done to maintain peace, secure human rights, and foster understanding between nations. 

And now it's over. I am not reconciled. I will never accept that this stupid, vicious, manic, forced separation from the Eiropean Union, that stole my right to citizenship from me, with the lies of egotistical, ambitious freaks like Boris Johnsom and xenophobic demagogues like Nigel Farage, was anything other than a woefully stupid act of political vandalism. 

The United Kingdom will break up. Our influence in the world will diminish, our prestige vanish - for what? So that some very stupid people, who are about to become immeasurably poorer, can say, "We've got our soevereignity back?" Dupes. Fools. Morons.

The worst aspect of the whole disaster, for now, are the hate crimes. People attacked on our streets for speaking another language. A man killed buying a pizza because he was Polish, a woman having her hijab torn from her face because she's a muslim. 

Frankly, I am ashamed of being Britiish right now. Deeply, deeply ashamed. If this is what, "Having our sovereignty back" means, you can bloody well keep it. 

So to the readers of this blog who are citizens of the European Union, who  must be wondering what the hell the British were thinking, all I can say, is: Your guess is as good as mine." Cherish your national identity AND your EU citizenship, and if you're ever tempted to throw it away, take a look at the disaster unfolding over here, and think again. 

To sum up: 

Brexit is Brexit 


Unmitigated F***ing Disaster is Unmitigated F***ing Disater

There! I've said it. 

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Motes and Beams

Today is Buble Study Day. 

A small group of us meet once a month at Chris' house in Aston Ingham. We catch up over tea and homemade cake, then sit together in silence for five minutes, allowing ourselves to just be, revelling in contemplation of the Author of Love, who is my dearest and closest friend. Some who read this will think me deluded, or crazy, but that's OK, you create your reality around your Significant Other and I'll create mine, and may you be as blessed as I am by it.


We are examining our worldview around the Gospel of Luke and we are, after many months, wrestling with Chapter Six. It's serious stuff, Jesus gets down to the nitty-gritty with anti-capitalist heresy like, "Blessed are the poor ..." We rich are a tad uncomfortable with the implications of THAT, and so we should be. We concluded that if Christians paid as much attention to the eight Beatitudes as they do to the ten Commandments, we'd have transformed the world a millennia ago. But there you are, we don't and we haven't.


Today we are hitting up against 'Do not judge.' This is some deal, because we judge the behaviour of others all the time, usually with the intent of making ourselves feel better at their expense. I can see we're going to have fun with this.


The Carpenter takes the metaphor of a speck of sawdust and a plank of wood. How we delight in offering to remove the slight blemish that obscures true vision in someone else, whilst ignoring the the bloody great plank that blinds ourselves to our own faults.


I got to thinking about this. 'Do not judge' isn't a wish, or an aspiration, or a polite suggestion:it's a command.


Wouldn't it be amazing if we Christians actually obeyed it? 

Buddhists routinely practise the cultivation of a non-judgemental mind. We Christians could do with the humility to recognise this as a great spiritual insight, and do likewise. 


I talk to God all the time, and sometimes I even wait for a response. Here's one that is relevant for today:


"You can have judgement, Mary, if you want it. I'll start with you, shall I?"

Tuesday, 18 October 2016


I read once that dreams help you to process experiences, and that you cannot dream about someone you don't know or haven't met. I can't say how true this is, but as I can't recall strangers in dreams it might be so.


I am scraping the barrel here. I have determined to write a blog post today, but my mind has gone blank, and a quick delve into my subconscious, has dragged up this really weird dream I had last night. Something must be going on, but what it is, I have no idea. I was back in a school that I worked in forty years ago, and I was incensed because I was the headteacher, but had just been ousted in a coup led by my good friend and all -round lovely person, Angela.


A little background here. I was never the headteacher of Newtons School, nor did I aspire to be. Angela is the sweetest person I know, and Pauline, a complete nonentity that I didn't know I'd remembered.


I was mad! I reasoned, cajoled, threatened, but Angela was adamant, a decision had been made at a meeting of The Church Singing Group that I had to go, and that was that, Pauline was taking over, and would I like to see the 'Situations Vacant' list?


Being a dream, the vacancies were on one of those rolling calendar ring-binder type of things that seemed to display only houses for sale. No-one thought this odd.

The situation was ludicrous, the plot incredible, but the FEELINGS! My, they were real! Anger, frustration, disappointment, futility, betrayal ...

It was a relief to wake up.

Maybe there IS something I need to come to terms with here. Stuff I thought I'd dealt with ...

Nope, not going there.

Thank you for reading everybody! See you in my dreams!



Friday, 14 October 2016

Johnny Appleseed Cake

It's windfall time, and Newent is awash with apples. My friend Jenny tells me a kindly soul in her village puts out bagfulls of Bramley apples with an invitation to fans to help themselves. Anyone who cooks with apples, knows that the huge, tart Bramley is the perfect choice, so this free supply is a godsend, and I am going to be a beneficiary. Thank you Jenny.

In return for the apples, I am giving away a great recipe. Americans will be familiar with it, and European readers who try it, will, I'm sure, love it. It's Johnny Appleseed Cake. It's the best fruit cake ever, and it's embarrassingly easy to make. Ta Ra!

Johnny Appleseed Cake


1/2 cup margarine or butter
1 3/4 cup sweetened applesauce
2 cups plain flour
1 cup sugar
1teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
1 3/4 teaspoons  mixed spices


Preheat oven to (350F 180C Gas 4)
Grease 8" square pan on bottom only
In a large saucepan melt the margarine/butter
Remove from heat and beat in all the remaining ingredients
Pour batter into tin spreading to the edges

Bake 30-35 minutes or until top springs back when touched

Serve warm with cream or ice cream 

NB Brits: Bake  like your Victorian great-great grandmother. Use a teacup!

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

I Went For A Walk

Squirrel Time

They they were, the little buggers,
Clasping - whatever -
Acorns and whatnot -
Between tiny paws and SCAMPERING 
Hither and -wherever.

Myself, I did a bit of foraging on
My own behalf. For I live
Amongst orchards, hemmed in by hedgerows
And there were blackberries. 

I have no more words for this yellow day,
So what I have to say is here in 

Number Five!

Grandchildren! What a delight!

When I, rather involuntarily, left work in 2009, one of my colleagues said, "Now you can spend more time with Rosie." And a light came on. With almost total recall, all the things about being the headteacher of a very small school that I DIDN'T enjoy (teaching NOT being among them ...) flashed before my eyes ... Taking the temperature of the water and logging it, so that nobody died of Legionnaire's Disease, putting salt down on the playground on frosty mornings, explaining to an inspector who should have known better, that serious inferences cannot be drawn from cohorts of eight ... And on and on ...

Rosie is the eldest of my grandchildren: she was the only one, back then, but now there are five ... And I adore them all. The latest addition to the clan was born a week ago today, and already it's as if he was always coming: we were just waiting for him to be here. He's the star in the photo below.

I have visited with them all this week. Here are the highlights:

Rosie, 9, now singing in her daddy's choir talking about the Christmas repertoire.

Abigail, 5, listening, wide-eyed through my dramatic re-telling of The Three Billy Goats Gruff, then remarking, "You used LOTS of adjectives, grandma!"

Sam, 2, running away and hiding under the table in the middle of a nappy change, "Go away! I''m busy!"

Frank, 8 months, giving me his stellar smile before crawling off commando -style to investigate the vacuum cleaner.

And now, Finley, a lovely warm bundle, sleeping soundly through all the fuss as he meets and greets his extended family.

I'm proud of them all, and am very thankful to my amazing daughters and sons-in-law, for allowing me to be part of their lives!

Finley, Auntie Kate and Mum, Hannah.



Tuesday, 4 October 2016


Abigail (5), Sam (2), and me (65) were out and about on Sunday evening.

"They've been fed and watered, they just need exercise!" my daughter said, handing me Sam's reins.

Fair enough, so did I.

We exhausted the possibilities of the limited play equipment at the local park, escaped it's confines, and headed for the bank that separated the tamed land from the wilds. 

"Conkers!" cried Sam, as my two joined the children gathering horse chestnuts by the handful. Then we had to throw them, catch them ( if we could), play hide and seek with them, roll them down the slide to hear the clatter, and, finally, pocket them and set off on other adventures. 

"Look grandma! A green tunnel!" Abigail was picking dandelion clocks and had discovered the shaded portal to the rest of the world - a footpath that led out into the fields.

So we ventured into the unknown, following the path through the hedgerow, watching our shadows lengthen as the sun sank behind us. 

When was the last time you went berrying? "Strawberry!" Sam cried, putting an unripe blackberry into his mouth and immediately regretting it. 

We ate our fill, staining hands and mouths, incidentally practising all kinds of fieldcraft, like identifying stinging nettles and avoiding them, no matter how tempting the nearby berries were. 

I continued Abigail's instruction on the identification of native plants. She was mildly interested .
Our most exciting find was an orange spider, which was unfortunate enough to catch our attention. I'd never seen one quite like it. 

I expect the children have already forgotten our excursion, but I won't. They grow so quickly, and soon dandelion clocks and the screech of a pheasant will hold no mystery or delight - but I shan't forget. Young children are enchanting companions: it was wonderful to shed sixty years and scoff blackberries and tell the time by dandelion again.

Sunday, 7 August 2016


I recently changed my Twitter bio. Laughably, and I know at least two of you will laugh, it was because I may have been a little defamatory, in a slightly ironic way, about the current hierarchy of the Labour Party, and rumours abound that even the faintest mocking tone might cost me my vote in the upcoming Labour Leadership election.  

 So let me state here and now, that every previous leader of the Labour Party has been a marvellous human being and an amazing individual who never, not once, made a mistake, not even when they invaded Iraq.  Be assured, I will have more to say on this matter in a few weeks.  

 So, back to my Twitter bio. Having removed a sentence or two, I thought carefully about what to replace them with. What, I thought am I like?

  "Joined the Labour Party during Jeremy Corbyn's leadership acceptance speech. Retired headteacher. Sci-fi addict. Brain the size of a plant." 

There you have it. Si-fi  addict. I have been binge-watching Star Trek Voyager since it appeared on Netflix. Captain Janeway wouldn't have allowed the pantomime farce that Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition has descended into, let me tell you. 

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

I Do Like To Be Beside The Sea-Side

As my dear Swiss friend Ruth said, "Why would Swiss people go to Dubai, when they could come to Wales!"

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

It's Tuesday Again!

Which is when I ALWAYS remember MicroblogMondays!

Thank you Mel and fellow bloggers for all your support.

Today, a poem:


I dreamed

I lived in the attic

And you, in the cellar

But we never passed on the stairs

This was just the way of it.


Then, last night,

You heard my laughter, and you opened the

Door to your subterranean apartment

And sat on the stairs with me.

We didn't talk.

There didn't seem any need.


Besides, I couldn't stop laughing.


Some dream eh?

Monday, 11 July 2016

About Town

Newent is a small town, with a long history. It has a medieval market that received it's charter in the twelfth century, it has an ieighteenth century church, a lake, and around 10 000 inhabitants of whom I am one. It is tucked away in the northern corner of Gloucestershire, three hours east of London and half an hour from Wales.

Yesterday I had cause to go about some business in town, so I paid twenty pence to park next to the lake, and set out to accomplish it.

The Library first. I use the library online mostly, downloading, for free, audio and e-books that sit under my hands here on my iPad, but I fancied holding a real book for a change. Quick check in the disaster-purse: the one that has so many nooks and crannies that I can never find anything in it, nothing. An even deeper scrutiny confirms my fear: no library card. Oh well, I'll chance it.

I explained to the librarian and she is wonderful." Do you have something with your name on? "

With pride, I draw my Labour Party membership card from my back pocket, and hand it over and am, after a quick check, able to pack in my bag a Grisham novel and a romance .

Next stop the doctors' surgery. I need a repeat prescription for my meds, and I've lost it. The pharmacist has to deal with losers like me all the time: "Name, first line of your address, medication" she says, not unkindly, handing me the 'write your details here if you've lost your repeat prescription' clipboard.

Now to the optician. Last Sunday, an arm fell off my spectacles and the temporary fix I'd cobbled with a pin and a pair of pliers is not aesthetically pleasing.

"I've lost a screw!" I explain to the unflappable receptionist. We both laugh at the ambiguity, and she offers to 'Look in the drawer," to find a replacement and effect a repair. "Finish your shopping and come back," she advises. ..

A woman a little younger than me turns from the florists window. It's Grace from Gloucester, who has come in on the 32 bus to rummage through the Charity Shops. She is a member of the congregation of Outdoor Church, of which I am a Trustee, and she is a friend. We stop to chat. I am a frequent shopper at the Charity Shops,. There is a regular turnover of stuff from my possession to theirs. We exchange pleasantries, and move on.

I have some grocery shopping to do: soft fruit, picked yesterday, from the green-grocer, and, from the Co-op, chickens (two for £7) and the Thursday sweetie 'bribe for good behaviour' for the grandchildren.' Who are my next stop.

There's a street vendor under the market house today, with a tempting array of loose summer tops. I succumb, and for £40 I am now the proud owner of a delightful outfit that will do for the Party party next week, and the Poetry Workshop on Saturday.

I sometimes put in a reminder that this blog is written for my grandchildren, and here it is: an ordinary day. Today the world is a happy place where kind people help an elderly woman who frequently loses things, and sometimes needs a little help to get by. I stop in amazement having written those words. "Good heavens! That's me!"


Believe it if you like X


Saturday, 9 July 2016

Why Labour Should Abandon Support for Trident


Underwater drones may make hiding a nuclear missile sub harder David Hambling

Will a rise in anti-submarine drones mean it's game over for Earth’s best hiding place 
for a nuclear deterrent as critics claim, wonders David Hambling

AS THE UK debates spending billions to update its nuclear missile submarines, critics 
claim that underwater drones will soon blow their cover, making the project pointless. 
Are they right?

In recent years, marine research has been transformed by a new type of uncrewed 
submarine known as a glider. Typically looking like torpedoes with wings, they don’t 
have a propeller, instead altering buoyancy in order to glide. This slow, frugal propulsion 
allows them to go for months on a single battery charge.

Gliders have been used for extended tracking of oil spills, pollution and fish. And they 
are near-silent, making them ideal for anti-submarine missions.

This would explain the proliferation of US navy glider projects, including the Persistent 
Littoral Undersea Surveillance system, the Littoral Battlespace Sensing-Glider and
stealth-bomber shaped Liberdade Series gliders.

The Chinese are also interested. Their first glider was launched in 2011 and there are 
now dozens of projects, with a focus on speed, endurance and getting multiple gliders 
to work together. Chinese state media reports its Haiyan glider has an anti-submarine role.

Anti-submarine drones will benefit from rapid gains in computing power, since the search 
is all about signal processing. Whichever detection method the drone uses, the challenge
 is telling signal from noise. Drones have the advantage: they now pack more processing 
power than submarines of a few decades ago, thanks to Moore’s law. New sensor types, 
including lasers that can pierce seawater, are making them more capable.

In addition, much US research focuses on multiple sensors networked in sparse arrays
. Small, cheap drones could be deployed to form arrays covering a wide area. That’s 
great for whales, as low-power sensors are less damaging than high-powered sonar, but 
bad for submarines trying to hide.

Aerial drones have spread rapidly in military and civilian life. When the successor to the
 UK’s Trident nuclear submarine fleet is launched in 15 years or so, it would be surprising
 if the seas were not full of robots waiting to follow its every move.

This article appeared in print under the headline “That sinking feeling”

David Hambling is a science writer. His latest book is Swarm Troopers: How small drones will conquer the world

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

On the Charisms of Jeremy Corbyn.

Collete and I are friends, and will remain so, but we did have a bit of a heated discussion on the EU Referendum and the failure of Jeremy Corbyn to deliver more than 63% of the Labour vote for Remain.

"He lacks charisma," she says. All I can say to that, is: I have been to hear him and it's not true. I guess it's what you believe charisma to be, that we're disagreeing over.

Here's an old, old story.

The people of Israel were ruled by Judges, who seemed, on the whole, to be doing a reasonable job, but the people of Israel got bored with them, so they went to the Lord God and said,

"We want a King. Everybody else has a King and we want one."

"Okay ..." said the Lord God, "But you do KNOW that a King will enrich himself at your expense, pick fights with your neighbours and send you off to die in his battles, don't you?"

"Yes, Yes," said the people, of Israel, "We know this, but never mind, we still want a King."

"So who do you want then?" asked the Lord God, eyeing up a few good people.

"Saul!" They said, "We want Saul!"

What?? asked the Lord God, in amazement.. "You want SAUL ? The donkey herdsman???

"Oh yes!" Said the the people of Israel, "WE WANT SAUL! WE WANT SAUL!!"

And why? Asked the Lord God, who sometimes will give you what you ask for, "Would you want a donkey herdsman to be your King??"

"Because" clamoured the people, "He has the qualities we want in a leader!" He's tall, dark, and handsome!"

The rest is history. You can read the whole disastrous story for yourself in the Bible in the Book of Kings.

I am tempted to let you work out what I want you to for yourself, and to infer from it that the clamour for anyone but Corbyn parallels the biblical narrative, but you might think it a bit of a stretch, and I am unwilling to leave it there.

There is more to charisma than being able to wow a crowd. Hitler aced THAT one. There are the charisms of an upright man who has battled sincerely for unpopular causes his entire career, because they are just. A man who doesn't fake manic enthusiasm for a trumped up cause, or tell lies to win an argument.

Honesty, sincerity and a passion for social justice are charisms too.

If the British people want a donkey-herder for a King, they'll get one. And when the nation devours itself in partisan strife, and the Labour Party commits political suicide, don't say you didn't know it was coming.

I told you so.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

SowingThe Wind

I remain an ardent member of the Twitterati, despite it's weakness, which is to say the opinions of other people, which are often not improved by being limited to 140 characters. It is, in fact, quite remarkable just how much bile, antagonism and profanity that can be  spewed  out  in so few words. 

I am not vile, only once rude ( for which I took a week of Twitter to cool down), and never, ever, profane. I am occasionally passionate, sometimes dismissive and, I like to think, once in a while, a tad humorous. I have been unfollowed by Cheltenham and blocked by Mark Steel: but no matter, one takes the rough with the smooth. 

I rarely listen to mainstream news any longer, though  I will put in a plug here for France24, non-partisan for sure, and a different perspective ... So my Twitterfeed keeps me up to date with all the goings-on. 

The discerning amongst you will spot a huge flaw in this strategy, especially if you factor in that I don't waste my wit on people who don't share my views, and I have no truck with the rude lot. Filtering my intake is good for my blood pressure, that's my excuse, and it's a good one. 

So it's on Twitter that I follow the abomination that is Donald Trump, with his vile views on practically every demographic except the crazy one, and the appalling farce that is the EU Referendum. 

Today, my TweetCommunity is a little peeved at the papers I would rather pull my own teeth than read, blaming Social Media for propagating the hatred that feeds  anger against LBGT, (Other) Faith Groups, Refugees and Immigrants. I would say that Social Media is a scary place if you don't have a strong stomach,  but Anti-Social Media must take responsibility too. Look at at THIS:

Sickening, isn't it? 

So a mad man with a gun and a knife brutally murders a member of the British Parliament, and everyone is rushing about trying to discover who is to blame?

I follow Donald Trump with horrified fascination and want to end by saying this:


And a beautiful, talented young mother dying in a pool of blood outside a library in a  quiet Yorkshire town. 

If you sow the wind, you reap the whirlwind. Just saying. 

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

On Vacation

On Vacation 

Last Sunday I was enjoying an afternoon out at the Three Shires Garden Centre with Ray and Rosie. Rosie who chose  this venue for a birthday treat, for its playground, hot chocolate and ice cream 

Today, I am eight thousand miles away boarding a Washington State Ferry at Friday Harbour for Sydney British Colombia. 

A short drive to Butchard Gardens followed, then two nights in the Empress Hotel, Victoria. 

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Redmond, Washington

It's raining, and I am on holiday in Redmond with my friend Carol and our hostess, Darlene. The rain is steady and vertical, but that's OK, because it's what keeps everything green.

Tuesday, 24 May 2016

The Ship That Flew

"It all started with a toothache ..." Doesn't seem much of an opening, but when I started reading this story to my grandchildren last week, it was with a thrill of nostalgia. 

I was eight years old, and my father gave me a book that had belonged to him. Hilda Lewis' children's classic, 'The Ship That Flew'. The little boat, once owned by Thor carried the four lovely 1940's middle class children across the world and back through time to all sorts of exciting adventures. 

I can't wait. Today, we tried to return the ship ( unsuccessfully)  to the old man who,sold it to Peter. Next week we will visit Matilda back in 1070, soon we shall be off to Egypt,,ancient and modern, then ... Who knows? It's been more than fifty years since I read it, and I can't remember. 

Friday, 20 May 2016

Gloucester City Mission

Two weeks ago GCM met for the last time at Park Street Mission. Here is a visual record of the last day: