Category Archives: Random thoughts.

General blogs about current affairs.

The Feeder.


Katia lived with a hoarder; her house was stuffed to the brim.  Over the years and to hide her embarrassment she had made something of a joke about it with her friends. They were happy to support her valiant attempts to stay on top of it and from time to time would call round and help her organise the chaos of furniture, especially chairs, cupboards and tables lifted from skips.  They laughed with her as she described her husband as `potty` or `barmy` or any other amusing adjective to distract them from her increasing dismay.

One time she decided to go away and stayed away for some years as she had had enough and needed a change of scenery.  When she returned, she found six bicycle skeletons in the back garden, propping up half a ton of old wood resting against the tumbledown fence. In the outhouses were more bicycles, more wood and lots of odd pieces of marble he had painstakingly carried to the house from a nearby stone masons.  It took two skips to sort out the garden and the house, which looked like a bomb site.  After negotiations he agreed to part with some of the wood, but the bikes and the marble remained.

Every conversation became a battle ground. In the side entrance to the house Katia found a load of floorboards he`d had secretly delivered. She enquired why and he told her they may `come in useful`.  She pleaded with him to at least meet her halfway and allow her to take some of the stuff down to the local tip. He retaliated by bringing more things home and hiding them in the attic, in cupboards, in the recently acquired garden shed.

One time, Katia had a clear up and discovered six hefty, extending lamps which he told her were for when he sorted out a studio for his painting. In his bedroom and even though he did not play, there were no less than five guitars.  In the attic, bags of clothes from thirty years ago which he said he would one day slim into. An entire wardrobe was host to hundreds of tubes of artists` oil paints and dozens of unused canvases leaned up against the wall of the spare bedroom.  He hadn`t painted for years, which was a shame because he was a very talented painter.

Katia became quite depressed and sad and when he noticed he asked, `What is wrong?` She told him she found his collections difficult to live with.

To satisfy his deep need to surround himself with `stuff` but also worried that Katia might leave again, he changed tactics. He started to bring home food. He would go out to the supermarket just before closing time, when he knew prices would dramatically drop. Standing up and pulling on his braces he would announce in a loud voice, `I`m not going to bring any food back.`

Katia would sigh and the following day inside the fridge she would find six iceberg lettuces, three large punnets of mushrooms, half a dozen blocks of blue cheese, several heads of broccoli and enough meat to feed a small army.  She became used to throwing away food that was well past its sell by date, packets of salad leaves that were beginning to rot, potatoes going green and sprouting, bendy carrots and squishy oranges and lemons with beautifully coloured, pale green powdery mould appearing on the skin.  One time he came home with a huge plastic bag containing fifty hard boiled eggs. Katia pickled them and gave them away as Christmas presents.

Katia hated throwing food away.  She became adept at creating a meal from diverse and unusual groceries, for he never cooked.  One day they might have Duchy of Cornwall organic asparagus spears with Thai fish cakes and spinach. Another it might be a salad with spicy venison burgers and sweet potato fries. The freezer was full of dead animals and fish with their heads still on.  This distressed Katia as she preferred not to eat meat and kept to a mostly vegetarian diet with a lot of pulses thrown in.

When she explained to him that she felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of fresh food he was purchasing, after all there was just the two of them, he met her consternation by bringing home two dozen tins of spiced cauliflower soup and six large cans of mackerel in tomato sauce.

So Katia worked out how to live with this strange man who, in spite of it all,  she loved.  Before he arose, she would cook or bake or shred or pickle or mix. Her sottaceti pickled vegetables became legendary, her cakes sought after by family and friends, her banana bread recipe asked for on social media.  She wrote a book, she called it, `Living with a Feeder.` She was invited to guest on local radio and television stations and to her great delight, was offered payment for her appearances.

Although she had retired, Katia eventually opened a consultancy to inform and assist people and professionals who lived or worked with hoarders. She called it `Get Down and Get Dirty plc`.   It became a massive commercial success.

With the proceeds Katia bought herself a small villa in Tenerife where from time to time she would escape to sit in the sun, her kindle in one hand, a gin and tonic in the other and a kitchen full of nothing other than several small bottles of Budweiser on ice and the occasional packet of Twiglets.


The End.

The strange case of the snow lady and the disappearing boobalinkas.


In the early nineteen eighties, Tony and I bought our house on The Avenue in Acocks Green. I was working as the co-ordinator of Rape Crisis in Birmingham at that time and Tony was an art teacher.  He was also a potter and he loved to create unusual ceramics.

One year we enjoyed a particularly snowy winter, I do miss the snowy winters I am very much a winter person and I love the cold weather. I can become quite low in the summer months, so I suppose I have the opposite of SAD. Anyway…….

Tony decided to build a snow lady in the back garden. She was magnificent standing almost six feet high. We were so pleased with her;  we lay her on our wheelbarrow and wheeled her round to the front of the house for everyone to enjoy.

Snow lady

One of our neighbours commented that she didn`t exactly strike a blow for women`s liberation (that was your pa Nicky Hopkins) so we decided to paint a bikini on her, to cover her modesty. Tony was also a portrait painter, so we had no problem in finding some suitable paint and immediately covered her with a blue and yellow striped bikini, she looked great!

The following day we arose and were perplexed to discover that during the night, someone had removed her icy breasts. A double mastectomy for our lovely snow queen, the children were most upset! We decided that when we had all returned from work and school, we would rebuild her.

When he came home, Tony called in at the corner shop to buy some milk. The man who owned the shop greeted him with, “Ah Tony! I was hoping you`d call in, I think I have something belonging to you.” Crossing over to his large shop freezer he opened up the lid. Reaching down he stood up beaming broadly, holding our lovely snow lady`s boobalinkas, one in each hand.  He had found them, kicked half way down the street by boys I expect.

Tony walked across the road to our house, with a jubilant smile upon his face, he smacked those boobies back on our snow queen. I am happy to report, they did not go missing again – for the duration of that wonderful, snowy winter.

Have a very happy Christmas everyone!

The old girls` reunion.


When I was a girl, I attended King Edwards V1 Camp Hill School for girls. The school was once situated just a few minutes from Birmingham city centre but in 1958, it was relocated to a new build in Vicarage Road in Kings Heath. Yesterday the girls` school celebrated its 60th anniversary and I decided to go for old time`s sake. I wasn`t quite sure what to expect but when I arrived the place was already buzzing with about 200 old gals turning up to see what changes had taken place over the decades, many of them using zimmer frames, walking sticks and wheelchairs as their mode of transport.

In the assembly hall, the impressive sliding doors that used to open up every morning while we took our seats, had gone and been replaced by solid walls. Echoes of `Friday Songs` rang in my head and memories of the sixth form girls up on the balcony singing `Ring Out Ye Crystal Spheres` and all of us assembled singing `The Night Song` as a round from The Little Sweep, came flooding in to my mind. Our music teacher Miss Flowers would be on the stage in one of her enormous variety of home-made dresses, every one created from an identical pattern to show off her rather curvaceous figure, swinging her baton and stamping her kitten heeled foot on the parquet flooring.

We eventually sat down for a dinner which was served to us in the old dining hall by ladies who looked like Mrs. Overall, after which  I had a good old explore. The gym and changing rooms area hadn`t altered much. I recalled the gym teacher Miss Howard who some girls loved but I loathed, reading a letter I had written excusing me from hockey because of period pains.  I would tell any lie to get out of hockey.  She examined it and said,  “Are you sure your mother wrote this Helen?”  and I responded with all the haughtiness that I could muster, “Are you insinuating that my mother is a liar Miss Howard?”  Oh the cheek of me!

King Edwards was and remains, a terribly privileged place to be. In those days we had to sit the Eleven Plus exam and if your marks were high enough it secured your scholarship which is what happened in my case. My father who was a socialist was horrified, my mother, always a true blue, was over the moon. I think she was proud because King Edwards boasted at the time that their pupils represented the top two percent of the country`s intellects, the crème de la creme. However I struggled there for all kinds of reasons and at dinner I sat opposite a woman who had also struggled. Our parents had never been wealthy, the majority of King Edwards` pupils that I went to school with came from wealthy to extremely wealthy backgrounds. We shared how we had never really fitted in and how the uniform cost our parents an arm and a leg. I never went on school trips abroad, it would have been impossible for my mother and father to find the money.  I always felt on the outside and I could not wait to leave.

I was thought of as a bit of a rebel and I think this was because I often questioned the teachers and challenged their views, something that was not encouraged at King Edwards in those days of pupil subservience.  In spite of this, I made some good friends there, two of whom have been my lifelong friends so if I can take anything from school, that would be the most valuable thing for me. Many of the teachers did not like me, I still don`t really understand why. Perhaps some of them were jealous, I was pretty and popular with the boys who were schooled next door, I was vocal and I liked to entertain my schoolfriends by being amusing (no change there then.)  Perhaps I made them feel ancient.  I especially loathed Miss crump the art teacher who was a midget with cropped ginger hair. It was a mutual loathing.  She wore tweed jackets and skirts with woollen ankle socks and brogues and always smelt of old fags. She wrote notes on packets of Park Drive, she was vile and she always marked me down in art, even though I was very good at pencil sketching particularly. She described me as lazy which I am not and she said so frequently to the art class. I was so happy when I finally got a new and handsome art teacher, what was his name?  He had a beard and he was lovely and in my fourth year my Crump days were finally over!

For any of my old pals reading this, you may recall Miss Lacy (geography) who had an enormous tumour in her stomach, she looked permanently nine months pregnant and initially would not have it removed as she was a Christian Scientist.  I am reliably informed in the end, Miss Lacy underwent the knife so that must have been quite an operation.

Miss Howard (sports) developed bone cancer and lost her battle for life. When I found out in my adulthood I regretted how horrible I had been to her as a kid. Especially at shower time after sports when I always refused to take my kit off in front of her and only ever washed my feet as Miss Howard was reputed to be a lesbian and as a result, many of us judgmental and extremely naïve young girls, kept a wide berth. Poor Miss Howard!  I would probably like her now.

Mr. Letch who used to sit on the desk and write on the board with his feet because he had no hands, moved to become Lord Mayor down on the south coast somewhere.

Miss Miller, the terribly upper class and scarily intimidating head mistress who spoke with a plum in her mouth, retired and was replaced by Miss Manderville who was the exact opposite apparently and was incredibly loved from all the accounts I heard yesterday. There were also many tales of raising money for the swimming pool. The penny races up the school drive and other fund-raising activities went on for years. I left the year it was being built and went there to swim a few times after I had left school, but it was a disappointing pool, very small after all that effort.

I left the reunion during the after-dinner speeches. I was getting to the point where I remembered all the reasons why I was so unhappy at grammar school and why I left the moment I was legally allowed to. I looked around the assembly hall at the audience gathered there yesterday. The entire audience was white and I would hazard most of the women there were quite well off judging from the designer dresses and handbags evident all over the shop.  I am happy to report that from walking around the corridors it is also very evident from photographs everywhere that the school now reflects the diversity of Birmingham`s BAME communities but I wonder how it supports those pupils who do not come from wealthy backgrounds and how it makes them feel included and valued.

Oh! The old stagnant pond is still there at the front of the school. As I drove away I recalled us being instructed to get a water snail for a biology lesson and I brought mine in and placed it in clean tap water where, during the course of the lesson the poor thing died. The teacher spoke to me as though I were the most imbecilic person she had ever met because I had not understood that this major change to the snail`s environment would finish it off.

So! Cheers King Edwards. My time there taught me to broaden my view of the world and eventually took my politics to the left. It made me realise that you can be as intelligent as Pythagoras however, this does not necessarily mean you have emotional intelligence. Most of all it has taught me how important inclusion is, it would be a sad, dull and deprived world without it.

So take that and shove it up your jacksy Donald.

Going round the sciatica bend……


It`s no fun having sciatica. It really bloody hurts, it feels like two gnarled old men have cut a long incision into the back of your thigh, dug in their fingers to take hold of your ham strings and then both are proceeding to pull mightily, in opposite directions like a ham string tug of war. The resulting pain sends what feels like electric shocks shooting down my buttocks and onwards towards my knees making every step a mini torture. It`s vile and relentless. I can`t stand up straight and so I walk along in a stoop, like a really old lady which is slightly less painful. My GP sent me to a physiotherapist who gave me a whole set of exercises to do which are in practice, Iyengar yoga. I find that they do help but only after you are able to get over that initial pain barrier so that you can actually carry the exercises out!

Sciatica is so awful, some women describe it as being on a par, painwise, with childbirth and I would agree with that. So I have to take a shed load of painkillers to numb it. I have tried Co-codemol (puts me to sleep) Naproxen (didn`t have any effect) and Ibuprofen which works but only if I take enough to knock out the whole of Birmingham. My GP recently offered me Tramadol but this is what the web says about Tramadol….

Tramadol is used to treat moderate to severe pain. … Fatal side effects can occur if you use tramadol with alcohol, or with other drugs that cause drowsiness or slow your breathing. … Tramadol can interact with many other drugs and cause dangerous side effects or death.

Death is a bit of a bothersome side effect, so I think I`ll stick to a G & T in the evening thank you very much, it works really well for me. Yes it`s no fun having sciatica.

Meanwhile, when in the park retrieving my dog`s ball (that is the singular readers) which he hardly ever brings back to me, I have devised the sciatica knee bend, done with a straight back I can even rise up again afterwards. I sit down to peel vegetables, I enjoy piping hot baths and I spend my weekend break pottering which is lovely. So I`m very lucky really, it could be a lot worse.  Life is good.

I am an anarchist!


As many of my readers know, I am employed with the Alzheimer`s Society as a Dementia Support kind of a person and as such, I get to visit lots of the various workshops we put on for our service users and their carers. One of the more popular ones is called “Singing for the Brain.” The local group near where I work in Solihull often entertains as many as fifty people and the facilitator arrives with his guitar and strums us through about an hour`s worth of songs from the mid nineteen hundreds upwards, through the century. We still sing It`s a Long Way to Tipperary” and “Roll Out the Barrel” occasionally interspersed with “Yellow Submarine, Rhinestone Cowboy and When I`m 64.”  Songs of their eras.  Everyone is linked together by bunting, which is passed around the circle as our strummer sings hello to each participant by their first name. It`s a really successful, sociable occasion and it helps people to feel they are still part of their community, even if they are quite far along the path of dementia.

I was pondering, how will the Singing for the Brain groups change and adapt as we move further into the 21st Century?

I find it hard to imagine a whole group of OAP`s singing “Smack my Bitch Up” or “Anarchy in the UK,” but it is a possibility. Personally I shall be singing, “Georgia On My Mind, California and whole mix of Sarah Bareilles, especially “Gravity,” which I love.

What will you be singing if you develop dementia?

Globally, dementia is one of the world`s biggest killers and we currently have 850,000 people diagnosed in the UK. It is so prevalent that many people think it is a natural part of ageing but it isn`t. It is a disease that kills the brain and it can be a devastating illness, which is why groups like Singing for the Brain are so important in making life more bearable for people with dementia, their families and carers. It is still possible to have a life when you are diagnosed with dementia.

On the 21st of September, it is World Dementia Day. You can help by ringing your local branch of Alzheimer`s Society which is present all over the globe, and becoming a Dementia Friend.

Together we can and we will, create a world without dementia. The number to ring if you are in the UK is:

0300 222 1122

It`s free.



Chewing it over.


The other day I was recalling the time when I worked as an advocate for parents with learning disabilities. I often accompanied families to court as almost all of them were heavily embroiled in child protection proceedings.  Over time I got to know many of the judges and some of them had a fearsome and quite deserved reputation.  Some of them were lovely characters and warm, one in particular liked the barristers and me to bring in home made cup cakes and sausage rolls to court and she would enjoy them in her private rooms.

One day I turned up and all the courts were full, they were spilling over actually so this particular hearing was held in some rooms at the back of the building. As is my habit, I was chewing on some Wrigleys that morning, you can sometimes sit about for hours waiting to be heard and my mouth gets so dry. I don`t know what made me think it was ok to keep my Wrigleys in my mouth when we were called in but that is what I did. I took a seat at the back of the court and looked at the judge. I had not met her before.  To put it politely, she was a very large lady and she had the most enormous bosom I have ever seen in my life. Her breasts were at least twice the size of her head and were swathed in her very capacious black silks.  As she moved about shuffling papers around, her enormous boobs hung and swung like big, soft pendulums, over the polished wood of her desk. So mesmerised was I by this fascinating site, when she asked me for my name I quite forgot where I was and answered her quite naturally with a smile.

It all happened so quickly, for a moment I was confused as to exactly what was unfolding. Raising her billowy arm and pointing at me with a great, long finger nail, her deep voice boomed out over the court room, “ARE YOU CHEWING GUM?”

I immediately turned into a quivering five year old and meekly replied in a tiny voice which is most unlike me, “Yes m`am.”


Red faced I got up to make my way to the door when suddenly, all hell was let loose.  The court alarm started to ring out in an even more deafening fashion than the judge`s voice.  It all became a bit shambolic, barristers ran hither and thither, security people with worried expressions appeared as if from nowhere and other people in the room did not know what to do.  When it had quietened down and everyone was settled again and I had disposed of the offending gum, I was told that in raising her arm to oust me, one of the judge`s enormous mammaries had hit the court alarm button, situated on the top of her desk.

I don`t think I have laughed so much in ages. Discreetly. With no chewing gum!





Yes we have no bananas!


It`s no secret, I`ve told most of my family and close friends, I had a couple of biopsies earlier this week for small lumps in my left breast, undetected by me yet discovered by a mammogram, I get the results next Monday. DON`T EVER FORGET TO GO FOR YOUR MAMMOGRAM LADIES!  Very important.

My mum had breast cancer and so did my gran` so it`s been in the back of my mind that I might also get it one day although several nurses have told me over the years that I am at no more significant risk than any other member of the population.  Honestly, I have always found that hard to believe and I`m still going to ask for genetic counselling I think, to satisfy my curiosity.

So in a strange way, I felt almost a sense of relief when I was shown my mammogram because now at last I can face it, whatever it is and deal with it. I know it might be nothing at all to worry about but I have seen the ultra sound and I`m one third of a nurse so I`m pretty sure what the results will be.  I`m only facing what thousands of women in the UK and millions all over the world face every day, united in sisterhood and occasionally, brotherhood as men can get breast cancer too.

If I have cancer then I have decided to rename it banana. In my mind this disempowers it and anyway, it makes me smile.  No offence bananas.

Some members of my family (you know who you are) have already begun singing to me;  “All my life, I`ve been a-kissing, your right breast `cos the left one`s missing…. “   which my mother also put up with when she was first diagnosed at around the same age as me. Mum continued to live out her life, minus one breast (“I was so disappointed Helen, I`ve only lost two pounds!”) irreverently, with much laughter and always surrounded by good friends and family who loved her very much so if it`s not very good news and I find out I`ve got banana, I s`pect I shall do the same. As my dear mum used to say to me, I have no intention of popping off just yet.

So – all prayers are welcome here. Any crass comments or politically incorrect jokes will not be found at all offensive, I could do with a laugh. Fingers crossed and I`ll keep you posted.



I`m going like Elsie.


There are few feelings so sad and so difficult to manage as the awful ones we experience when the love of our life falls out of love with us.  It can take years to recover and our hearts remain forever wounded by the past. It`s a struggle to place aside the time when the relationship was still real and images of our lost love appear unsolicited again and again in our thoughts and our dreams.  It`s enough to drive you over the edge and in my case, it very nearly did.  I wanted to write this piece to offer some hope for those of us who are struggling, I`m still here in spite of the madness that engulfed my every moment of every day when I lost my love and to reassure anyone who may be in the place where I was a decade ago, that it`s possible to survive and move on with your life.   It hits me again from time to time and I have to employ all I have learned over the years, not to indulge or I would surely drive myself crazy. So that`s my first suggestion; do not drown yourself in thinking about the past!

Easier said than done.

Having spent some months gradually dying from the emotional fallout, I woke up one morning and thought,  “I must do something about this.”  I purchased a book by Paul McKenna called `I can Mend Your Broken Heart` which helped tremendously.  It`s full of exercises that help to change the way that you think. It taught me how to stop dwelling on my lost love and honestly, it was a life saver so thank you for that Mr. McKenna.  Once I was on a more even keel, I joined a dating site, Plenty of Fish.  I met plenty, many of them shocking liars. I dated a few, became friends with two one of whom was to the far right but I think I educated him. Slept with several, I have enough stories I am writing the book. Can you imagine being in bed with someone who keeps repeating, “oh dear, oh dear.”?  I did. Or getting in to bed with someone who looks like Jabba the Hut?  I did.  Or watching someone pumping up their erection with a plastic contraption because he has cardio vascular disease? I did. For a short while I became a charity fuck.  Some of the men I met were truly sad and some were wonderful, as in “Hello it`s only me.”  A man who liked to dress up as a Viking and who wanted me to be his wench, a lovely man but I am no man`s wench.  I learned aromatherapy and a few men from POF regularly came to my house for their free massage. I really enjoyed that and there was no sex involved but the neighbours must have thought I was running a knocking shop. Not that I care.  And then I met a man who I really liked and moved in with him. Hey ho, it didn`t work out but it doesn`t matter because when we finally parted ways, we parted amicably which is by far the best way.

I`m 62 now and I don`t know if I will meet anyone who will ever return to me the passion, the insanity, the beautiful intimacy or the depth of love that I felt then but I`ve had a lot of laughs and a few tears on my way to finding out so do not despair. I reckon there are two ways in which we might leave this life, the first is Peggy Lee singing “ Is that all there is?”

The second is Liza Minelli singing Cabaret

So it`s up to you dear reader if you are feeling sad. I know which way I`m going.  I`m going like Elsie.

Good old Fucking Fred!


My dad was a real gent. Raised modestly by quite staid parents he was always a courteous man. The most I ever head him swear in my entire life was to say “hell`s bells and buckets of blood.” Honestly. My father never swore.

Dad used to wear a cap while out walking with his dog Dinah. He would think nothing of doffing his cap to any person he felt to be of superior social standing to himself. This included the vicar who was at that time enjoying a full blooded affair with a married parishioner, the local primary school teachers some of whom were horrible, racist people who didn`t like children very much and our GP Dr. Hernan, who was a chronic alcoholic and whose wife had massive hoarding problems. My mother said that Dr. Hernan`s wife had newspapers going back to the dawn of time standing in huge, impassable columns all over their flat above the surgery on the Warwick Road.

My dad`s subserviant attitude used to infuriate my mother along with the myriad of other things that infuriated my mum about dad.  My father attended grammar school until he was 14 and was a clever man, he spoke fluent French and was a good all round academic yet he never felt comfortable with his peers. He much preferred to spend his time with working class men who smoked Park Drive, drank pints and called their missis “the wife”. Mum never understood this, she was not a frequent fan of live and let live, she was a huge social snob, intolerant in some situations and often referred to dad`s mates as `the peasants.`  Imagine what trouble she would have been in today!  I think mum thought that my dad`s friends took advantage of his soft nature, which they probably did, but hey, it`s a free world.

When dad was 65 he suffered a major heart attack which floored him.  After he had recovered he took a sedentary job as a telephonist in a local printing factory called Morcats. It was at Morcats that dad became great friends with a man called Fred, or Fucking Fred as my mother always referred to him.  People often accessed our flat around the back and I still have clear images in my head of my mother standing at the kitchen sink and gazing up the garden path muttering, “Here comes FF” as she angrily piled the dishes on to the draining board.

Dad had a need to be liked and in order to meet this need he would go out of his way to help people like Fucking Fred while sometimes neglecting the needs of his family, especially my ma!  They say we marry people who remind us of our parents. Apparently we do this in order to try and unravel the complicated relationships our parents had and make some kind of sense of them. In that case – I definitely married my dad. My ex old man has many friends who remind me of Fucking Fred. There`s Fucking Dick, Fucking Edward and Fucking Patricia to name but a few. Recently my ex cooked seventy curries for Fucking Dick. It took him three days to prepare them ready for a big birthday party. F.D. said thank you, apparently. My ex also does a fair bit for Fucking Edward including taking his flea ridden dog for long walks around Elmdon Park. Does F.E. ever take my dog Alfie for a long walk? Not bloody likely. As for Fucking Patricia, two years ago Tony rented her an allotment next to his. He pays £75 a year for her to enjoy the pleasure of sitting in the summer sun with him, drinking beer. I imagine that every now and then a happy sigh escapes her lips as they gaze at the weeds and brambles inhabiting their joint allotments and never grow a bloody thing. I view the arrangement he has with F.P. a bit like a horticultural escort service for OAP`s.

Who am I to make a judgement on the people my ex old man chooses to be his friends?  He`s a grown up. Yesterday I got quite cross and said so. I`d asked him if he felt like a mooch around all the charity shops and he turned my suggestion down saying that he was too hot and too tired. Half an hour later he had been beguiled sufficiently creatively by Fucking Patricia to go and pick her up and give her a lift down to the allotments. Then I realised how daft I was being. If that`s what he wants to do with his time why should I be offended? We`ve been divorced for twelve years now, we have our own separate lives and our own separate circle of close friends. Later, I apologised to him for being so grumpy, I explained that old habits die hard and that is all my responses are usually based on – old habits. He didn`t seem to mind and there is so much about him to care for and love.

I adored both my parents, I loved my pa`s gentle humour and I loved my mother`s ascerbic wit and her acid tongue that`d thin slice ham at a hundred paces but I don`t want to become bitter as I grow older like my mother did. So God give me the wisdom to keep my opinions to myself and let my ex old man enjoy being comfortable with himself, having a laugh and feeling at peace with just whoever he likes. That`s what it`s all about. 🙂

The day I toasted Helen Redstone`s cossie.


When I was a gal, I went to a posh school in Birmingham. Lots of the girls who attended were from really wealthy families and lived in great big mansions of houses in Moseley, Edgbaston and Harborne. Helen Redstone was one such a girl and her family had a beautiful, double fronted, plumptious house in Moseley, all decked out with deep red velvet curtains, soft carpets and expensive furnishings, it was indeed a lovely house and I occasionally accompanied Helen to her home after school, like friends do. On one such occasion I had gone to Helen`s pad specifically to borrow her posh black swimsuit as I hadn`t got one. I had swimming the next day at school and I didn`t want to miss it. More of that in a bit……

My family were not at all wealthy. Dad was a greengrocer until he was struck down with a massive heart attack in his sixties and had to find much more sedentary work. Our family flat which was situated over the shop, was large and rambling and I loved living there. We never had posh furniture, we never had gorgeous carpets but what we did have in abundance in our home, was masses and masses of love so I didn`t ever feel lacking, it didn`t occur to me how much my mum and dad struggled sometimes, to make ends meet.

I never really felt like I fitted in at my old school, lots of the kids at my school took drugs, especially speed and LSD which were de rigeur in the nineteen sixties. I never really got into drugs when I was at school, I smoked a bit of pot, I tried speed once. I wouldn`t have been able to afford a drug enhanced lifestyle even if I`d wanted it which I didn`t.

The day after swimming, my dad and I were in the kitchen. Dad was at the sink washing up and singing old army songs, (“her father came home late one night,” etc. etc.) . I was busy making myself some beans on toast. At that time I lived on beans on toast with great chunks of Lurpack butter melting into the bean juice and masses of salt sprinkled over the top. I never ditched the Lurpack but I have at least moved on to Lo-salt which is a bit of an improvement.

Anyways, unbenownst to me dad had draped Helen Redstone`s very expensive swimming costume over the grill. It was an eye level grill and being a titch, I didn`t spot it. I finally smelt something singeing and looking up with a cry of horror, I snatched the costume down from the grill – too late, the cossie was toasted to buggery and had a giant, melted hole bang in the middle of it.

Mrs. Redstone was none too pleased and immediately got on the phone to my mother. She demanded, in a rather uneccessarily rude fashion I have to say, that my mum reimburse her pronto for the cost of the cossie. It was a designer costume and had been purchased from Rackhams. It cost a whopping £12.50 which was about a week`s wages in those days. Mum scraped the money together and placing it in an envelope she penned a note to Mrs. R on her best Basildon Bond writing paper…….

Dear Mrs. Redstone,

I am so sorry to hear that you and your family are going through a difficult time financially. I do hope that things improve generally and meanwhile, please let me reimburse you for the cost of Helen`s swimsuit. I hope the money will see you through until you and your family meet with better times.

Kind regards,

Bess Pitt.

Sometimes my mum could be so embarrassing and now guess what? I am just like her! Seriously Helen, if you should ever stumble upon this blog, I was mortified the day I toasted your cossie, do you recall the incident?