Friday, 12 August 2022

We've never had it so good.

All the windows are shut, on both sides of the house. Curtains are drawn, as are blinds. The only door wide open is the kitchen door, mainly to aid the heat from the ever-on Aga to escape. England is sweltering. There are two more days of extreme heat forecast before thunderstorms are predicted. All heat waves in England end in thunderstorms, we desperately need rain. This is all so very un-English; very few houses in the country have AC, up to now you are more likely to need functioning insulation to keep your house sheltered from the winter cold, also normally a moderate affair, Moderate temperatures is what the weather amounts to here, winter and summer, with rain more often than not. Not any longer.

Climate change is here. Many parts of the world suffer far worse than we do. Because I keep the windows wide open during the night and early morning and then march through the rooms sealing everything hermetically, it is bearably cool. I cannot imagine what people in small flats without easy access to greenery have to live with. Just like it was during lockdown, unimaginable. 

The weather has captured the main part of the news. The elderly are warned to stay hydrated, keep out of the sun, work as little as we can get away with, forget about BBQs because of fire danger. There is this panic in the air, as if heat is an enemy threatening our very existence.

As if we didn't have enough to contend with; after Covid - which is still rampant and predicted to be worse during winter - came Ukraine. The Russians are occupying the biggest nuclear power station in Europe which happens to be in Ukraine. Shelling and bombardment put the plant at risk and we are back to the fear of a nuclear holocaust in Europe. 

Want more? How about the energy crisis? Millions of people  in the UK face energy poverty. Eat or heat, that is the question. How do you tell your children that you cannot afford to keep them fed as well as warm? Energy bills have doubled this year and will again from October and then again increase in January. Add to that increased food bills, crops dying in fields and shortages on supermarket shelves, hosepipe bans and water shortages.

But there is always the government to make things better, isn't there? Oops, the Tories are shredding themselves and each other in a farcical fight to 'appoint' a new prime minister, after having finally got rid of the utterly incompetent and endless liar Johnson. So no help there, I'm afraid. 160.000 mostly white, mostly old, mostly middle-class members of the Tory party are about to decide this country's fate.

I have always felt that politics have no place in this blog, although nobody can possibly have got the impression that I am right wing. If I am to continue writing here then politics may come into it now and then.

So, some of you have asked, what happened, why have I gone awol? Thank you for your concern but I needed to withdraw for all sorts of reasons.  I have not been ill, nor more than usually depressed; all the same, I've missed writing. Maybe I'll catch up now.

Saturday, 9 April 2022

Decisions, Decisions........

my favourite Japanese Acer hidden under the shroud.

space - you need more?

Now that my desktop is back  I can finally get back to boring the pants off you. What fun. Why you keep on reading this drivel is a mystery to me.

For the past several weeks I have been in a state of permanent confusion. 
"What am I going to do, am I leaving, am I staying, what is best?" has been the refrain accompanying my days and sometimes nights. 

Nothing very dreadful has happened, but there are times when it seems that you have to make changes to your life; at the same time it is difficult to come to a decision that is both suitable and sensible.

It started with one of next door's scaffolders. "Lovely house you got here", he said, "must surely be worth a bit." The last time I had the house valued was more than five years ago, since then house prices have risen sharply and it is said that many town dwellers have seen the error of their ways during Covid and want to change to a calmer, greener pace of living. Working from home has made it possible and space and fresh air is now something to aspire to. 

more space, if you want to go exploring 

Space and fresh air I have aplenty, I needed an estate agent (realtor) to put a price on it. A smartly dressed man turned up in a largish gas guzzler with a bundle of glossy, colourful brochures under his arm. The brochures were specialist ones in their range of 'Fine and Country' properties, nothing commonplace and everyday for a property I had described to him on the phone as "with a location to die for". I wasn't even exaggerating, who else can say they live right next to an English Heritage castle ruin with three gates directly into its grounds? Estate agents in the UK have three requirements for properties out of the ordinary: location, location, location. 

'my castle'

The agent came up with an astonishing estimate, three times the price we had paid 23 years ago. The country housing market is in a fix, too many people chasing too few houses; that meant that the agent more or less begged me to put my house on the market NOW. With his firm. Quite innocently I mentioned that I had nowhere to go and that I'd have to dispose of lots of contents first. Oh yes, they'd be able to help all along the way, finding me somewhere to live and auctioning off my goods and surplus chattels. They do indeed have an auction house as part of their set-up, a reputable one (in case you are warning me off).

After quite some time and a long chat I finally managed to get him to the door without committing myself in any way. Since then I've been deliberating along these lines:

First and foremost: I like my house. It's large and so is the garden, but it is also convenient and comfortable. I know the village, my friends live here. I can afford modest help around house and garden and if (not when) I get too infirm to go upstairs I have a shower room downstairs and can turn my study into a bedroom. 

On the other hand, house and garden are too large for one elderly lady. I am a little isolated from the village and nobody ever comes all the way up the drive just on the off chance. Isolation means utter peace and quiet, and endless green space and fresh air around me. And then there's the neighbour and his shroud which is actually damaging a part of my garden for which they may not be willing to compensate me, in spite of having undertaken to do so officially. However, everything passes, as will the shroud.

the shroud along one side of my garden wall.
under it is their barn, their house is further away.

Then there's the money. I'd want to downsize of course, and although I'd have to pay a fair chunk for a new house I might have a (smaller) chunk of cash over. But, is that such a good idea? In the UK interest rates are minimal, inflation is high, property is the only valuable asset to have, unless you are rich, of course. I'm not.

All things considered, I think selling up and leaving my little haven now would be a bit silly. As I said, I like my house. I'll never find another location to equal it. When the time comes I will probably move into a retirement apartment, there is quite a choice in my county town and rather than move twice, once into a smaller house with garden now and later into a retirement apartment when living on my own becomes more difficult would surely use up more energy, nerves, stress as well as cash than is sensible..

the flower bed hidden under the shroud

I may be elderly (OK, I am) but mostly I forget about it. Unless admitting to my elderly status comes in useful, which it does, at times, particularly when I need physical assistance. Many elderly people start the gradual process of reorganising their last years much sooner than me and maybe I am being foolish. But, while I can, I would like to continue enjoying my garden in particular, for a little while longer.

Sorry, Mr. Estate Agent, but not just yet. Maybe next year, maybe never. I am not ready to discard my hand trowel for good.

PS: apart from the shroud picture all others were taken at different seasons.
It's a bit early for such splendour.

Friday, 8 April 2022

Success !! BigMac is home!!

Finally, my desktop is back. It's the gadget I use most of all, with a proper keyboard, a large monitor and an easy to follow OS. The computer doctor didn't need to install a new hard drive after all and the bill was relatively modest. I will now be able to post and comment again without breaking into a sweat. Life is hard and unpleasant enough without gadget troubles.

No need to comment, see you soon.

Thursday, 31 March 2022


 Another long delay. Not my fault this time, the mac is playing silly buggers. Amazing how these gadgets are missed when they are out of action. The big beast has been clamped under the digital doctor’s arm and unceremoniously   removed from the premises . Apparently it suffers from a malaise which afflicts the heart. A heart transplant may be on the cards.

I would have had quite a few items to share, which I will probably now forget about. The first man in shorts climbing hand over hand down the hill backwards,big bottom leading the way. A beautiful butterfly robbing a solitary blossom of nectar. A family gingerly climbing up the hill,also on all fours. I have had my hedge cut short and can now watch winter weary tourists perform their clumsy gyrations. It would be cruel  to laugh out loud.

And my neighbours, my blasted neighbours, they have covered a huge pile of scaffolding with a shroud,visible for miles  around.

I have my first bit of revenge planned and booked: I will be opening the garden at the end of June when the disastrous results will be clearly visible.

Wish me luck with my mean plans.

Thursday, 10 March 2022

Today I heard the tree speak

and this is what it said:

Got a date with spring
got to look me best.
of all the trees
I'll be the smartest dressed.

Perfumed breeze
 behind me ear.
pollen accessories
all in place.

Raindrop moisturizer
for me face.
sunlight tints
to spruce up the hair.

What's the good of being a tree
if you can't flaunt your beauty?

Winter, I was naked
exposed as can be.
Me wardrobe took off with the wind.

Life was a frosty slumber.
Now, spring, here I come.
Can't wait to slip in
to me little green number.

poem by
John Agard
from a 'Poem for every Night of the Year.

Tuesday, 8 March 2022

Just Saying

 Traditionally March is a difficult month for Russian rulers.

Stalin died March 5th,
Alexander II was murdered March 13th
Nikolaus II abdicated March 15th,
Ivan The Terrible died March 18th
Paul I was throttled March 24th

It's not that I am trying to suggest anything here but tradition is important!

Just saying.

(Not mine but an English friend's German friend sent this to her and she brought it to our German Conversation meeting this afternoon. I thought it might raise a giggle if I translated it for you.)

Thursday, 3 March 2022

Old Ladies

Just now I finished a phone call with a very old lady friend. Old in years, not so much old in friend years. One of these sweet old dears who rarely, if ever, have a bad word to say about anyone, gentle and mild, a white halo for hair, small in size, frail and delicate. Articulate, educated, well-mannered, a lady. Sometimes I have wished that she might drop the sweetness, even if just by accident and join the rough, crude, occasionally cross and sweary world I inhabit.

We got talking about Putin and the invasion of Ukraine. Is there anyone cognisant who doesn't? I said I want him dead, shot, eliminated.

"Shot?", she said. "Shooting is too good for him, I want him hung, drawn and quartered", she thundered, "I want him torn limb from limb". To my great delight the old lady was spitting nails. Obviously, I agree with her and told her so and it gives me hope that old does not automatically have to equate to lacking spirit.

Life is slowly, in minute increments, resuming pace. A well attended garden club meets monthly again in a village hall a twenty minute drive away. When I heard that two ladies (yes, oldish) from my neck of the woods were on the committee and would therefore go I asked for a lift. The driver very kindly agreed. These meetings take the form of a paid speaker giving an illustrated talk on their subject of choice with open questions at the end. I have in the past attended many such meetings elsewhere and enjoyed them and sometimes I didn't.

What is wrong with non-professional speakers? You'd think that, as they get paid, they'd get the basics right. The speaker that evening started by getting her microphone upside down, she then sat with her back to the audience staring down at her laptop, and mumbled her way through a very uninspiring talk with few and mainly boring photographs presented on the screen. How many beds of snowdrops can you take, how many pictures of men at work and heaps of earth waiting to be turned into flower beds? And finishing off with a picture of more old ladies crowding the cake counter in the cafeteria of the garden she was supposed to delight us with simply made me even more cross. All this and when you go to the rather famous garden's website you get some beautiful vistas.

As I had been given a lift by two friends active in the club I thought I'd better not say anything on the way home. Imagine how pleased I was when one of them said that the evening had been a waste of time, the speaker quite poor and not to be invited again. One of them asked the other if they should not point out to potential speakers that they should face the audience and speak clearly. "Not really," the other one said, "they might be offended". Such very good old lady manners, spend a boring evening rather than give offence.

The entire audience consisted of nice old ladies with just a sprinkling of old gentlemen. I didn't see anyone above middle height, under 65, and with any colour hair other than grey. I have a friend who says I am incredibly negative; she's right, of course. I must learn to stop being so judgemental and keep shtum, unless I find genuine cause for praise. I have my doubts, however, that I will succeed.

I have mentioned the German Conversation group before, well, we have commenced face-to-face meetings again; we are slowly working our way through "Die Deutsche Seele" (the German Soul) a many-paged book with essays on such German terms as Fussball, German Angst, Bauhaus, Wanderlust, all the way from A through to Z. Alternatively, we watch DVDs on German history, starting with the 9th Century and ending with the Weimar Republic, a thousand years later. That should keep us old ladies busy for some time to come.

All in all, life is picking up.